Title: Glory Be
Prompt: Veelas are strong and deadly and as such, are perfect assassins for hire. After his trial, Draco left behind his old life and embraced the creature inside of him. And he now gets paid to kill. When someone pays him to kill Harry Potter, he's not quite so sure he can go through with it…
Word Count: 33,000
Warning(s): Violence, death of original characters, angst, mild torture
Disclaimer:Harry Potter characters are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No profit is being made, and no copyright infringement is intended.
Notes: Hat tip to L. for the beta, as always. Incredible work. Written for freakingcrups in the 2013 Valentine Veela Fest.
Summary: Draco—Draco Malfoy, skilled assassin, powerful and wealthy Veela, former Death Eater—has always known what to do, where to go, who to kill. And then Harry Potter came along: Harry Potter, Unspeakable, former Auror, the most powerful wizard Draco has ever seen. And Draco catches a glimpse of glory he may be unable to live without.
Draco circled gently above the rocks, his head bent as he studied the snowy landscape beneath him. So much snow, so many boulders. Such stillness. He knew that there was life elsewhere, including human life, but in this particular corner of Siberia, there was nothing save the quiet.
Well, and one human, somewhere down there, toiling north in the snow with the secrets he thought he'd got away with stealing. And above, one Veela.
Draco smiled, feeling the cold blow through his teeth. Such an unequal contest. One could feel pity, if one did pity, if anyone worth being did pity.
A small plume of smoke rose from behind a hillock, and Draco turned in that direction, his wings beating and closing in great quiet. Veela weren't naturally silent flyers, but a lot of that came from the shrieking and fireball-flinging. Draco had studied owls, and learned and invented charms that would muffle the sound of his flight to be like theirs. Now he was among the best assassins in the world.
He had to be, considering some of the jobs he had been sent on. But he wouldn't have it any other way.
He flew until the smoke was beneath him and he could see the tiny fire set up next to the even tinier hut. The man Draco tracked was a wizard; he could have used Warming Charms. Which meant the fire was either for cooking and he was no good at the other household charms he should have studied, or he was sending a message of some kind.
Not for long.
Draco dipped his wings and circled lower. He had no fear of the man, who stomped his feet in the snow beside the fire, spotting him. His glamours protected him, enhancing the naturally pale colors of his hair, skin, and wings, and making him nearly invisible against the piling clouds. Down he came, and down.
At the last moment, the man looked up. Draco saw the face of his quarry—not that there was ever any doubt who it would be. Draco was too good at tracking.
But it was too late now, it had been the moment the man stole the secrets, and Draco's body was locked in the great, killing peregrine dive. He hit the man full front and center, in the chest, his boots driving in, his wings coming down and around as his prey fell sprawling in the snow, breaking the arm that rose towards him. The man screamed in agony as his wand flew away from him. Draco whirled one foot towards it and stepped on the wand, breaking it, then wheeled back and knelt on the man's chest.
The blue eyes in front of him widened. Then the wizard closed his eyes, whimpered, and began some plea for his life.
Draco didn't intend to listen. His hands closed around his prey's throat, and he wrenched and squeezed both at once, breaking the thief's neck and snapping his windpipe. He fell dead.
Little blood, Draco noticed, stepping back and scanning the body. A bit of it from the broken arm where the bone projected through the skin, nothing more.
Draco made a systematic search of the man's clothes, satchels, and hovel, recovering the list from the false bottom of a chest with a little sigh. Did no one ever think of original hiding places? He might weep, were the business not so profitable.
And were he not so happy to be alive, and killing.
He carried the body aloft and dropped it in the deepest snow he could find, sweeping more over it with casual scoops of his wings. The body might be found by someone determined enough, but there was no identification, and probably hungry predators would find him before then. Draco smiled to think of a tiger eating it. Perhaps that would repay the man's shade, to give back to the country he had stained with his presence.
When the body was covered, the fire smothered, the hovel destroyed, and several other interesting objects in Draco's possession, he rose, his wings out, his body aimed straight upwards, and soared back towards the Apparition point. Miles of snowy miles of countryscape he passed over, and he the deadliest thing in it.
It was a wonderful feeling.
Draco smiled as he received the bag of Galleons from the man in the black cloak. It was always a black cloak, for some reason. Draco considered his own silvery-grey robes, modified as necessary in the back when his wings were out, the ultimate in fashion statements, but no one else seemed to agree with him.
He took the money, bowed his head, and tried not to sound too eager as he said, "And the next assignment?"
Draco inclined his head again. That probably meant they didn't have work for him at the moment, but had passed his name on to someone who did. He didn't much care what they gave him, who he had to kill. Perhaps he would object to killing a Muggle, who couldn't present as interesting a challenge as a wizard, but so far no one had asked him to kill one. It was thieves instead, other assassins, Aurors, and people who went too far in blood feuds, too far in this case being defined as "not having enough money to hire a Veela assassin before someone else hired him first."
Draco had nearly made it to the door of the small room before the man called after him, "Is there anyone you couldn't kill?"
Draco turned around and looked at him. Of course, with his eyes concealed and his cloak pulled around his body tightly enough that it was difficult even to discern his shape, he arguably had the advantage, but he flinched back from Draco as if he didn't, bowing his head a little against the piercing factor of Draco's gaze.
"I haven't met him yet," Draco said. "I have more raw power than any wizard due to my heritage." He thought about calling and flexing his wings, but he kept them wrapped under his shirt most of the time he was on the ground, and it would be a bore to bring them out for someone who couldn't appreciate them. "And it's speed and strength that matters in these contests, even more than power."
The man seemed satisfied. At least, the hooded cloak nodded, and the voice repeated, "Work will be forthcoming."
Draco waited until he was outside to toss the bag of Galleons in the air again, smiling. That meant a real challenge, and that meant entertainment. Not that money didn't; Draco regularly spent his earnings on things he liked to do.
But for the sheer thrill, the rush of adrenaline and the gratification of the killing instincts that Draco possessed as a mixture of a Dark wizard and a Veela, it was hard to think of things he enjoyed doing more.
Draco Apparated home. His wings ached from the long flight through high cold air, and he wanted to pamper himself. At the moment, a roaring fire and the newest Dark grimoire he intended to acquire from a collector sounded ideal.
"We have a proposition for you."
Draco leaned back against the wall of the small cave that he'd been summoned to—an actual cave, this client was even more paranoid than some of them—and eyed his new employer critically. He wore the same heavy hooded cloak that seemed standard fare for those plotting mayhem from Death Eaters on down, but there were differences to be found from Draco's usual hirers even under that. His hands moved back and forth nervously, and he kept picking up the bag of Galleons and the sheaf of papers in front of him and putting them down again. Then he seemed to realize what he was doing and clasped his hands in his lap, lifting his head almost enough for Draco to see his face under the hood.
He wants me to kill someone dangerous. No, someone he fears personally. That made Draco suspect blood feud. Members of some pure-blood families would start believing superstitiously in the power of blood enemies they hadn't killed after a few tries. They might think even a Veela assassin was useless.
Draco had spent five years proving them otherwise. He had worn a shirt with slits today, so he extended his wings, and let the man gape at them for a moment, the way that his feathers sliced the air, the way the wings whispered like knives as he folded them back. "Does that reassure you I can get the job done?" he asked flatly. "Because I can."
The man watched him in rapt silence for a minute or two, then started and nodded. "We thought you might not want to go after him because you knew him," he said, and looked down at one particular piece of paper on the table. "But my—colleagues reminded me that that was ridiculous, that of course you knew him as an enemy."
Draco blinked, and licked his lips, while his heart sped up. His target was a former Death Eater, then, almost certainly. He had wanted to hunt one of them for a long time, but he disdained to use his skills for anything except money. "Give me his name."
The man hesitated, and hesitated, until Draco was close to reaching out and strangling him for the name. His excitement was keen enough to arouse, to blaze beneath his skin, and the man finally swallowed and gave in.
Draco blinked. Then he shook his head. He understood the reason for the man's secrecy, but he had become excited, in truth, over nothing.
"Harry Potter is an Unspeakable," he said. "Caught up in research and taking artifacts away from those deemed too incompetent to possess them, like all the rest of his kind. That isn't—that isn't something that makes him threatening. And he hasn't proven himself powerful, either. He acknowledged that the way he killed the Dark Lord was mere luck."
The man hesitated once more, then sat up. "Harry Potter is more than he seems, like all Unspeakables are," he stated. He tried to make it sound like the kind of flat statement Professor Snape would make, an absolute truth, but Draco saw through the assumption and sneered. The man continued speaking, his voice gone staccato with nervousness. "He's caused trouble for friends of mine. I assure you we need him removed."
Draco stood there and thought about it. It was true that the last wizard he had killed hadn't been particularly powerful, only hard to find. And if Potter had learned anything as an Unspeakable, then he could be challenging to track down, and he might have a few artifacts that could make their final confrontation more interesting.
But it still wasted Draco's time, and he was irritated that he had been summoned. Potter had spent years and years after the war painstakingly making sure everyone understood the truth of his mother's sacrifice and the debt the wizarding world owed to her, a Mudblood. Draco would rather have owed the debt to Potter, even with his wand and all, but he was convinced by the story. It was the only way Potter could have had protection against the Dark Lord when he was a baby and not yet the Master of the Elder Wand.
Perhaps he's still its master. That might make the challenge a little more interesting.
Draco didn't really think so, because he would have heard about that. But he did think he would have wasted a trip coming out here if he didn't accept the offer, and he hated to think of wasting time.
"I accept," he said crisply, nodding to the man. "Tell me where you want me to kill him, and give me all the information you have."
The hood sagged forwards, and the man whispered reassurances and thanks as he swept the papers together into a pile, followed by the Galleons, and gave them to him. Draco shook his head a little when he saw the number, twice the usual fee. These people feared Potter, then. It must be the result of artifacts he carried with him and not his personal skills. Everyone was agreed that he hadn't been the greatest Auror.
"Can you finish the kill within a fortnight?" the man asked.
Draco paused to stare at the man, until he squirmed as if he didn't know whether Draco or Potter was his greatest fear, after all. "I am unaccustomed to working under a time limit," Draco said coolly.
"I know you did it on your last case." The man must have had some remnant of courage after all, because he trembled but didn't back down in front of Draco's affronted gaze. "You had to find that thief before he released the secrets he'd taken."
Draco grunted. That was true. And it might be a similar case this time. Perhaps Potter was set to testify in a certain case—though Unspeakables rarely did so—or close to figuring out the location of a Dark artifact that would cost the man and his friends deeply.
"Fine," he said. "A fortnight it is, presuming that your information can tell me enough." He hefted the sheaf of papers.
The man stood and bowed to him. "He can die at any workable location. And anything else that you need to know, please feel free to ask us."
Draco thought of asking after their names, but he had done that once, as a joke, and immediately lost his contract. He didn't want to lose contracts. It would mean losing, ultimately, the thrill of challenge that prickled along his skin, and the opportunity that he would be able to have fun and earn money while doing so.
He settled for a polite nod to his employer, and turned away, the papers in hand, to learn more about his newest prey.
Harry Potter was boring.
Draco supposed he might not be to someone who believed the legends, or someone who was reading about his career on paper for the first time. Most of the time, the wizarding world considered Unspeakables dangerous. And they thought that transferring into them after a moderately successful career in the Aurors would make someone powerful and exciting, mysterious.
But Draco knew what Potter had been, or supposedly had promised to be. This was, indeed, boring.
He flicked through page after page of information, including details of the wards on Potter's private home, the wards on the Wesasley houses that he regularly visited, the restaurants he patronized, the people he was seen to spend time with at the Ministry other than the Weasleys. Potter didn't work his way up the ladder of power in the Ministry by currying favors and offering them, the way so many other people did, but then, he didn't have to. Other people fell over at the sound of his name.
But if you looked beneath the surface? No real power there, Draco thought, shaking his head. No awareness of what was going on. Potter hadn't been a good Auror because he didn't obey the rules. He couldn't get the rules through his head. That suggested someone who wasn't very smart.
And what did he do instead of trading on his fame, instead of making something of himself and claiming the victory that a full school of spectators had seen him win? Disclaimed it, said it was his mother's love, and then expected everyone to continue adoring him anyway. Draco wondered idly if it had been a shock when he was expected to work as an Auror, and then work for a transfer to the Unspeakables, instead of being granted it just because of who he was.
Yes, Potter pretended to modesty, but he seemed sincere in his desire for an ordinary life. And in that loss of potential, Draco found something to make his wings shoot out and then tense around his body in irritation.
Potter wasn't lying about his lack of power, at least. That would make him far less challenging to kill. He didn't even have Draco's wand anymore, which might have protected him and raised Draco's heartbeat a bit. He'd sent the hawthorn wand back to Draco after the war.
Draco glanced over at his wand, resting beside him on the couch in an honored place. He didn't use it in his kills; he preferred his Veela talents. But he wielded it in his normal, everyday life.
The life that other people thought he had, at least, the life of the millon-Galleon playboy. Draco went on holidays in expensive places and flirted with whoever he chose and bedded the vast majority of them. The Ministry had ceased watching him because they thought they had nothing to fear from him.
For a moment, the idea drifted across Draco's mind that Potter's lack of power and carefully humble stories might be the same kind of façade.
Then he dismissed the idea with a snort. No, Potter had told the truth because he was supposedly so honest and true and then discovered, too late, that his audience didn't respect honesty. Going after him would be a pleasure after all, Draco decided. It would remove a heavy waste of potential from the world.
It didn't take Draco long to choose the time or the place for the kill. Potter was an Unspeakable, and Draco respected the defenses of the Department of Mysteries in the way that he didn't respect Potter's power. Potter's home also had formidable wards on it, probably the gift of his contacts rather than products of his own ability.
So it had be a place outside both of them, and that meant as Potter was coming out of the Ministry one night, shaking his wrists and yawning and mumbling farewells to someone inside the building Draco couldn't see. Draco waited, his hands sinking into the side of the building he clutched. He wouldn't do this in front of witnesses. There weren't enough Veela assassins in the world to make it impossible if the witness tried to trace him back to his employers, and Draco didn't kill people he hadn't been hired to. Not challenging enough.
But no one else joined Potter, and he took a few steps towards the Apparition point that an increasingly paranoid Ministry had placed further and further from the protection of the walls. That took him into an alley. Shadows crowded the way. Draco arched his wings and could hear his own heartbeat crowding his ears, singing in them.
He came down and forwards, aimed at Potter's back, his wings beating in the same silence he had used to complete his last hunt in Siberia and his hair flying around him. His hands had claws on them at the moment, perfect carving instruments. His senses hummed with the presence of skin, of flesh, of blood-
Just as Draco drew his left hand back for the blow that would sever Potter's spinal column, shields flared into being around Potter, blue and white and left and front and back, and Potter spun around with his wand upraised and his eyes turned almost black in the changing shadows of his spells.
Draco rolled, tucking his feet close to his belly the way he would in a Quidditch flight and drawing his arms to his sides. His wings, however, had to beat madly to bear him up and away, and the trailing edge of the left one touched a purple shield.
The heat made Draco shriek aloud. It felt as though a gong had rung in his bones, a fierce, quivering musical note that changed the speed of his blood and the pace of his breath, and he wheeled drunkenly out of the sky, clanging into a building with a force that made his eyes go black.
From beneath him, Potter snarled a spell-a spell Draco had heard only once before, from one of his victims, a spell that no one was supposed to know unless they had Veela blood themselves. Which the Potter line manifestly didn't, and Draco refused to consider the possibility that a Mudblood could have.
The spell centered low in the middle of Draco's back, exactly where he would have placed it, and he screamed again as it rippled up and down his spine, heading for his wings, trying to break their connections to the flight muscles. Let Potter land that blow as it was meant, and Draco would never fly again.
Draco knew the remedy, luckily. He snatched his wand out of his belt and placed it on his right wing, chanting desperately. The magic raced through him and into the spreading force of Potter's, where they clashed like swaying cobras. Draco held his breath, trying to relax as much as possible. If his heart beat too hard, it would drive the curse through his body with his blood.
But his countercharm won, though Draco had the uneasy feeling it was only because this was his body and not because he was stronger. Potter's magic faded into nothing. Draco turned, clinging with his claws to the side of the building, and stared below, absently noting that blood was sliding into one of his eyes.
Potter stood beneath him, staring up. His wand dangled in his fingers as his glare found Draco's face.
"Malfoy?" he demanded.
Draco had one moment of confusion to act in, and he decided to take it. Potter was stronger and more aware than Draco had counted on, but that didn't mean he was strong enough to face this.
Draco flipped out from the building and dropped like a striking hawk, straight down. Potter's shields had diminished with his surprise. Emotion-based magic, then, and vulnerable to all the vagaries of someone's feelings. Potter would be hard-put to it use to magic at all when he was astonished or confused.
Draco accepted the shock of passing through the outer shields, the pain that made his muscles shudder, in return for the kill he was sure he would make. His legs were spread out in front of him, wings poised beside him. He would land on Potter's chest and shatter his sternum with a kick, break his arm with a wing the same way he had done to his victim on his last hunt, and then he would-
The shields in front of Draco tightened up, impossibly fast. No one should have been able to react to an attack coming at them as rapidly as Draco's, but Potter had, and Draco bounced flat on the shields. He squirmed for a second, trying to realign himself, trying to understand.
Then Potter took a step forwards beneath him, and Draco snapped into focus, his senses reporting the real world to him again, not the one he had made up out of his assumptions.
Draco always felt magic through his Veela senses as heat. Some wizards, ill-trained because of their own poor memories and their little power, felt like smoldering embers. Some more powerful ones, like McGonagall, were bonfires. And the vast majority fell in between, mostly candles, or hearthfires when they really pushed themselves. All the Weasleys were like that, for example.
The magic that beat and soared around Potter was like the heat from a forest fire, and filled Draco's face and nostrils with the same stinging sense of imminent doom.
Draco rolled from the first curse, rolled and fell, and then flew. His wings seemed to confuse Potter, or else he just wasn't used to fighting flying enemies; Draco dodged, and the magic went around him. He ended up on top of the building across the alley, turning to stare down, crouched on all fours with his wings arched and waving above him.
Potter looked up at him fearlessly, no surprise left. His fingers played along his wand, and he nodded, his head turning slightly to the side. Draco knew he was calculating angles from which he could strike, ways he could kill. He would strike now with no pity and no weakness restraining his hand.
And Draco could only stare, not move to safety and plan another attempt later as he would ordinarily have, or close and finish it.
He could feel his face flushing, his chest expanding, his nostrils flaring to bring him the scent of Potter through the scent of the magic.
This was the sensation Draco had read about, but never thought to find. He trembled and crept close to the edge of the roof, though all his senses and his instincts were screaming to him about what a good target he would present to Potter that way.
His wings twisted and jerked, but Draco didn't know which direction they would launch him in if he rose from the roof now. Not away, though, of that he was fairly certain. And after hovering for a moment, he would descend. He didn't have much choice, not with the longing growing tight in his chest.
Potter took a step closer, face as intent as a flame, wand already weaving the beginning patterns of his next curse.
Draco should Obliviate him, at the very least, if he wasn't going to kill him. No, he should kill him. No, he should land in front of Potter and do his best to explain when he was stumbling over his own tongue in the process.
His heartbeat made his cheeks tingle. He stretched out a hand, and Potter ducked, interrupting his current spell, dashing into the shadow of a building. That was one good thing, at least, Draco's distant brain noted. That meant they couldn't close in a duel at the moment and hurt each other.
He didn't want to hurt Potter.
Draco grimaced. That rather put some of the plans he'd been making out of commission, if he couldn't continue with the kill.
But there was magic here. There was power. There was competence, from the way that Potter crouched in the shadow of the building and studied the alley for another way to attack Draco. There was refusal to retreat, a stubborn pride that Draco could read in the way Potter cocked his neck back and bared his teeth in a snarl.
There was so much that needed to be done, and things shifted in Draco's head until they found a new and comfortable purchase for themselves and he understood what needed to happen. He rose with careful sweeps of his wings, hovering over the middle of the alley, in plain sight and plain striking distance.
Potter fell back a step, as Draco had hoped, and watched for the trick instead of attacking immediately. Draco bowed his head and spread his hands, a gesture he thought Potter might know, the way he had known the spell that nearly deprived Draco of his wings.
Potter stiffened and straightened. Then he touched his wand to his throat, and his voice rose, cold and deep and strengthened with the Sonorus Charm. "You're mental, Malfoy."
Draco raised his head. The flush hadn't left his cheeks yet, and they still tingled as he stared at Potter and said softly, "I choose you."
Potter shook his head. It didn't look like the motion of trapped prey, the way Draco would have thought it would when he finally came to choose someone unsuspecting. "You were trying to kill me just a minute ago. You think I'll believe this?"
Draco took a deep breath, and his lungs snapped free of the invisible threads that wound around them. "Listen, Potter. A choosing is important to the Veela, more important than anything else. More important than earning money, or living a good life in wizarding society, unless that's what it takes to catch the chosen."
He smiled at Potter. His head was as icy clear and sparkling as the stars he had hunted under tonight. He could feel the tension outstanding between them shifting into a different kind of tension, at least on his end.
And Potter would understand soon enough. From the dawning comprehension on his face, he understood already and wanted to put it off. He didn't fall back, but he did raise one hand, fingers spread, as though that was enough to hold Draco back.
"I can't be your chosen," he said.
"Why not?" Draco asked, laughter, of a sort, bubbling in his throat. He was not sure that it was the laughter he would usually have chosen, but it worked, and it made a mad kind of sense, one that made him want to spin along with his wings full of wind. "Why the fuck not? You're the most powerful wizard I've ever met. Veela are attracted to power. Surely you know that."
And now his eyes were caressing Potter's shoulders, Potter's stance, Potter's green eyes, Potter's scar. Even his wild and untamed hair now looked as if it might be that way because of the power bursting through it. Draco rumbled and dropped closer, his wings backbeating air that drove down and made Potter's magic rise against it.
"You were trying to kill me just a minute ago," Potter repeated, but belief had crept into his face.
"Yes," Draco said. "Sometimes it happens that way. Now I know you. Now I'm coming." He dipped his wings for a dive down.
Potter folded his arms across his chest and bowed his head, and simple caution made Draco hesitate. He had no desire to lose his ability to fly because Potter didn't believe him yet.
Out of an area where no one should have been able to Apparate, out of a sheltered area the Ministry had tried to protect. Right from beneath the Veela who'd chosen him.
Draco could have attributed it to special Unspeakable permissions or an artifact he carried that allowed him to break through wards, but he knew what he wished to attribute it to: Potter's power. He flew home with a smug little smile breaking out on his face.
"What do you mean, you can't kill him?"
Draco shrugged with wide wings spread, and watched the face of his employer. Or, rather, the hooded cloak where his face hid. Draco wasn't curious to see it. He would learn enough by watching the man's actions and attending to the tones of his voice. A Veela's senses were more than keen enough for that.
Especially the senses of a Veela who had chosen. Ever since making his decision about Potter, Draco felt as if he had been breathing air like strong wine.
"He is much more powerful than I thought he was," Draco said, and lowered his eyes, tucking his wings in close to his body. Let them think he was crouching. Let them think anything, as long as they gave Draco enough clues to protect his chosen from other assassins in the future. "And he had an artifact with him, one that glowed with blue light..."
The man behind the table sat up and nearly let his cloak fall from his head, but snatched it back up at the last moment. "Blue light?" he whispered hoarsely. "Or white?"
How easy they made this, Draco thought. Then again, he had always known that fortune favored him. He bobbed his head a little, slowly. "It might have been white light," he murmured. "Or blue. It hit me so hard..." He clutched his hands to his head, which in some cases would have been ridiculous overacting, but which he knew was not so here.
The man shifted in place and gave a sound like a moan. Then he shook his head again. "You will return the fee we gave you, of course."
"Of course," Draco said, and tossed the pouch to him. He felt no tugging of the heartstrings to part with it. After all, he would have more than enough money to live on from the Potter vaults.
The fool looked almost more wretched to receive the money back, from the way he bobbed his head. Draco wanted to laugh, but contented himself with a sharp flirt of his wings. Do you think to hire another assassin to go after him? How will that one feel, to face me in all my power?
"It is imperative that we find someone who can destroy him," the man muttered. He gave Draco a look, or so Draco assumed, from the way the hood tilted. Draco stood silent and impassive, only the bobbing of his wings giving him away. And this man was not one of the rare ones who knew how to read Veela signals.
Potter is. A Veela must have taught him that spell.
The realization was not actually easy for Draco, because primarily it made him want to shriek in mindless jealousy and hunt down the other Veela who had dared to touch Potter. But certain civilized courtesies were expected, even in caves. He stood and waited for the fool to come to a conclusion.
"Do you know someone?" the man asked gingerly.
Draco wanted to laugh, it was so similar to the requests he had received in the past to introduce the requester to a Veela who hadn't chosen yet. But he was still being civilized, so he simply lowered his head and shook it. "I'm afraid not. I am the best I know of. I always make my kills. But not this time."
The fool must have known it, or he would have hired someone less expensive than Draco to take care of Potter. He visibly sagged towards his table. Draco watched him, and waited.
"We'll find someone." Finally, the fool waved his hand at him to indicate he could go.
Draco turned for the cave entrance feeling as though balloons were strapped beneath his wings. This was as close as he would get to permission to hunt Potter, chase Potter, touch Potter, corner Potter.
Of course, usually the choosing didn't involve the chase. Most Veela had potential partners surrounding them, they were courted rather than courting, and it was a matter of deciding who was most interested in and devoted to them, or who would please them most.
Potter would hardly welcome Draco's interest and attention. But Draco thought he would enjoy even that, and the disgusted looks Potter would certainly toss him when Draco pressed closer.
This is the way it should be. It's no wonder that I never found anyone who suited me before this. Someone who stands still isn't much of a challenge.
Draco sprawled full-length on his belly on the roof of the house next to Potter's, his breathing light and his wings fanning around him. It would have been impossible to land on Potter's house itself, with all its wards, but no such paranoia, or protections, excluded the neighbors on either side of him. They were old wizards who went to work on stolid, unexciting jobs in the Ministry, and didn't seem to care that an Unspeakable lived almost on top of them.
Draco's lips twitched. I'll be relieving their minds a little when I take Potter back to the Manor with me. There, I can present the chase to Potter in the light of a good deed.
He had already learned that Potter went to work in the Department of Mysteries early in the morning and didn't return until after dark, or perhaps late light in the case of the summer. It wasn't summer now, it was autumn, and Draco had used a glamour to conceal the brilliant white of his wings. He would be almost invisible flying against a cloudy sky, but not crouched on washed grey stone.
Darkness approached, and with it, Potter. Draco heard the pop of Apparition he had already learned to recognize on the street below him, and lifted his head.
Time for the show.
Draco waited until Potter walked up to the front gate of his garden and paused to do something complex with the web of wards around his property. That was the one disadvantage of such fearsome protections; they always took at least a moment to recognize even the person most keyed to them.
A moment was all an assassin as skilled as Draco needed.
He flung himself off the roof in a twisting, corkscrew plunge, straight towards Potter's back, towards where his wings would have grown if he had been a Veela. Potter whipped around to face him, a shield shimmering around him.
Draco wasn't trying to kill him, though. He had truly and honestly given that up, and wouldn't try to salve his lost pride with it again.
He pulled up right in front of Potter, though, less than an inch away from his shield, and bowed in midair, his wings humming and hovering and hammering. Potter stared at him. Draco smiled and turned his back with nothing more than a twitch of his shoulders, looking over one of them, stretching his wings wider and wider.
The message was clear for anyone with eyes to see. Look what a good flyer I am. Look how graceful, how skilled. You won't be ashamed by accepting me as your mate.
Potter, though, was blind in certain special ways that had nothing to do with his glasses. He made an alarming gesture with his wand, and Draco rolled away, somersaulting in midair. The curse crackled through Potter's shield and then the air beside him.
But it didn't touch his body, and that wasn't because Potter had decided to aim past him. Draco pulled up again and bowed a second time, hands insistently extended towards Potter. Potter couldn't miss that he was unarmed.
Potter simply watched him, body canted in a way that made Draco's mouth water, his head lifted.
And that power was there, all around him, the forest fire, the altar-fire burning to immolate lesser sacrifices, the holocaust.
Draco couldn't take his eyes from Potter. He burned to know how Potter had hidden his magic this long. It couldn't be a matter of glamours, not when magical creatures like Draco would have run into him and could have spread rumors when they sensed the truth. What was it? What did he do to make himself seem so much less than he was?
Not that Draco would tolerate that when Potter had accepted his choosing, of course. But it spoke to cleverness and skill of a different sort than Draco had ever believed Potter possessed, and that made him more interesting.
"Go away," Potter said, his words striking like blows from a whip.
"I don't want to," Draco said. "I chose you, and you ought to know what that means."
"I don't, as a matter of fact."
Draco's skin tingled, the sign that his chosen was lying to him. He sighed. "You do. I've selected you as the only one worthy to bear my company and share my bed on a permanent basis. It's like mating, but choosing is a more elegant word." He paused and darted what he knew was a wicked smile at Potter. "Chosen."
Potter shook his head. His face was still, his arm that held the wand steady, his stance still braced for violence or flight. Draco cocked his head and hummed. Had there ever been a chosen with the ability to match his? He thought not. "You don't understand what I'm saying. I refuse your choosing, and there has to be at least one person in the past who did that."
Draco tilted his head to the side to watch the view over Potter's shoulder. "Not many."
"Tell me about the ones who did." Potter held his eyes. "Did the Veela pursue them and rape them? Or respect their choices and let them get away?"
Draco smiled, feeling the thrill travel through his veins like sex, like the flutter of wings when he was getting ready for the killing dive. "You have to understand, Potter, that most of the time, Veela are the ones being sought for what they are, not being avoided."
"Bunch of bloody mind-rapists."
"You think it's the allure that makes people want us?" Draco clucked his tongue sharply. "And I had such hopes for you."
As he had hoped would happen, Potter drew a step closer at that, though Draco was afraid he would have to attribute it to curiosity and not Potter falling madly in love with his smile. "What is it, then?"
"We can focus on our chosen," Draco said. "Some people like that, the sensation of being cherished, cradled." In fact, he knew no one who didn't, but he granted magnanimously that Potter might have had to push that desire so far down his list of wants that he no longer felt it much. Most people wouldn't think the Savior of the Wizarding World needed to be held. "We can work together as a team with them, granting our intense magic and immense wills to the accomplishment of any project they desire." Ah, yes, Potter's eyes had grown brighter. "And we can bring them pleasure as intense as our magic." He folded his wings back along his body, dropping to the ground, and smiled at Potter.
Potter pondered him from closer, at least, though still without the focus that Draco would have liked, and then shook his head. "I don't think so."
Draco bowed his head, fooling Potter, in the same way he had the man who had recently employed him, into thinking he had given up. "May I ask why not?"
"What you offer sounds good," Potter said quietly. "Too good. Plus, you were trying to kill me a short time ago. Like hell I think you've switched your loyalties that fast."
Draco hummed. "And if I gave you information about the people trying to kill you? Would that prove that I've sufficiently abandoned that contract and now consider you mine to protect?"
Potter made a careless little gesture with one hand, as though he assumed Draco would never do such a thing. "Sure, if you had some information to offer. I know how assassins work. They don't betray their contracts, because no one would hire them again."
"They were hunting you because they fear you," Draco said, and waited a moment until Potter looked up and met his eyes. "I made up a story about being held away from you by intense blue light, and the man promptly asked if it was white. When I said it could have been, he looked ready to faint from fear."
Potter stared into the distance, and his face gradually hardened. Draco shivered in delight. It would be something beyond ordinary luck, beyond even the fortune that life had granted him so far, to have a chosen who could hunt at his side the way Potter's face promised he could.
"You know who they are," Draco whispered.
"I have an idea who one of them is," Potter said, moving his head like a charmed snake. "That doesn't mean-" He looked at Draco and nodded. "Perhaps I'll repay your favor with a favor, Malfoy."
"Becoming my chosen sounds more like a favor for you than me." Draco leaned a centimeter away from the wards, his head cocked to the side and his smile the kind he hoped would provoke Potter to attack. He wanted another glimpse of that battle-grace, that deadly dance on the killing field.
"I didn't mean that kind of favor." Potter stood taller. "Name what you want. Information. Money. A word whispered in the right ears."
"Information." Draco pressed forwards when Potter nodded. "Tell me the best way to win your heart."
Potter looked at him steadily for a moment. Then he said, "I feel sorry for anyone, human or Veela, wizard or Muggle, who's so obsessed with someone else that they can't stand on their own." And he turned away and slipped through the wards and into his house. The hole in the wards sealed before Draco could even think about attacking it.
Draco sighed and floated backwards, his wings fanning out around him again. He admired the curve of Potter's arse and the sway of his robes as he disappeared from view. A moment later, a light went on in one window of the modest stone house. It had the dull orange color of firelight. Draco imagined the room Potter probably stood in right now, restrained and simple in taste, and he imagined Potter's bedroom. No better than cotton sheets, surely, and a small bed, because Potter spent most of his time alone.
Draco imagined fucking him in that bed, and had to fly away and take care of his hard-on.
The way to a Gryffindor's heart is through his friends.
Not that Draco intended to ask them. Granger would give him tomes on Veela law that Draco already knew, and Weasley would cast first and ask questions later. Or he would try to persuade Draco to buy one of his brother's ridiculous practical jokes. Not that Draco would disdain that if it gained him what he wanted. He would put the joke in a place of honor on the mantle and glance at it now and then, to admire the object that had helped him win his chosen.
But he wanted to hear about the way they normally interacted with Potter, and what it was that had kept them together since their Hogwarts years, particularly as Weasley wasn't partnered with Potter in the Aurors anymore. Had they known about his deceptions, concealing his power and pretending to be nothing more than a research-obsessed scholar? Or were they part of the audience Potter was trying to fool?
Draco took a moment to hope, with sweetness running and flooding through him, that they were part of his audience. It would be a coup indeed to have been the only one to see behind his chosen's facade, to understand why there was someone here to love and honor. And it would reduce the competition for Potter's attention.
He waited until a Saturday, when Weasley had gone to work at the joke shop and Potter had gone in to work as he always did. He seemed to have no holidays. Draco looked forward to giving him those, as he looked forward to giving him a bed with silk sheets and any other present he desired.
Even time alone, if he needed it. It was the hardest thing for a Veela to give a chosen, but Draco also wanted to demonstrate his difference from other Veela, like the one who had apparently taught Potter that spell.
Draco Apparated in, like a normal wizard, and walked into the joke shop with his wings retracted and a glamour on. He paused when the bell rang above him as he opened the door, expecting a shower of confetti at the very least, but perhaps the Weasleys had now passed into some sort of Zen joke space where such efforts were remedial. Nothing happened except that two interested ginger heads turned towards him.
"Can we help you, sir?" It was the surviving twin-George, Draco remembered with a convulsive shake of his brain. He stepped around the counter and beamed at Draco. "We have a new variety of the Tongue-Breaker, if you'd like to try it."
"Oh, goodness, no." Draco affected a simpering accent and peered nearsightedly at the shelves in front of him. "But do you have a, a Wheeze that would make someone feel loved and appreciated? Someone special, someone who hides the majority of what he is away from the world because he is afraid the world may judge him for his past?"
No recognition in the Weasel's face. He only nodded enthusiastically and bounced around the shelves, pointing out crystals and necklaces and mirrors to Draco. Draco admired and hesitated and hummed and finally said, "Nothing here is quite right. Do you-do you have anything you keep for special customers?"
Weasel and his brother exchanged a glance. Then George nodded and picked up a key from behind the desk. "You could say this is confidential," he said, and winked at Draco. "So we'll ask that you not tell anyone else. Otherwise, we might have to have winged monkeys rip your intestines out your arse. You know how it is."
Draco was confident George, at least, was capable of coming up with something that would make him feel like that, if not actually suffer it. "Oh, I promise!" He let his voice quaver, and looked up at the ceiling.
"Then I reckon we can show you this," George conceded, and unlocked a door at the back of the shop. It was well-hidden enough that Draco would have needed to go full Veela to find it.
Beyond was a room that smelled musky-sweet, rather like mildew, and Draco flinched back and clutched his gloved hands together. But George went in and brought out a box with silver hinges that he flipped gently open.
Inside lay a single potions vial, sparkling the exact green of Potter's eyes. Draco clapped his hands and took another risk. "Oh, that's brilliant, as you young people would say! It would match his eyes."
No suspicion, still, from Weasel. Draco hid an inner snort of contempt. No, they have no reason to suspect that Potter is hiding part of himself from the world.
He had to admit that that might be a consequence of Potter's Unspeakable job, rather than because he wanted to keep his friends in the dark. But it was a consequence that he would be happy to take advantage of anyway.
"You don't even know what it is yet." George balanced the box on his hands but exchanged an amused glance with the Weasel. "Are you sure that you want to buy it?"
"It still matches his eyes." Draco tried for his persona's defiant glare, and made both of them grin more widely. Good. The more different he looked from the confident assassin he was in reality, the less of a connection he would make in their minds between this glamour and his chosen's new mate.
"That's true," George said. "What you do with the potion, though, might change your mind. You should give it to him under a full moon. It'll make him see things through your eyes for a few minutes. Perceive himself the way you do him, for instance. Or if you show him a Pensieve memory, he'll know exactly what you were thinking and feeling at the time, not only see the expressions on your face and your actions." He grinned. "It's great for pointing out all the stupid things someone did while they were drunk."
Draco's hands itched. That invention was indeed brilliant, and he longed to steal the secret and sell it in contexts where it could do far more business-and far more damage-than the Weasleys knew.
But because it was also perfect for what he wanted to do with Potter, he nodded. "How much?"
After his persona had clapped his hands to his heart over the price and staggered around a bit, Draco gladly paid the required Galleons. He allowed the Weasleys to wrap the vial in Bubble Charms; it wouldn't do to show that he knew more sophisticated spells. He left the shop with the potion in its original box, tucked under his arm.
When he reached home, he put the box on a shelf in his most protected cupboard and dispelled the glamour. He was fairly sure that Weasley knew nothing about the way Potter had sealed off part of himself in a protected bubble. That left Granger.
"I hate to sound suspicious, Mr. Taedeson, but why have I never heard of you before?"
Draco leaned back in his chair and sighed a little. He was playing a wealthy businessman with more to do with his time now, and that required all sorts of different signals and clothes and mannerisms from the silly old man he had chosen to go for in the Weasleys' shop. "Fair enough, Mrs. Weasley-Granger." He had taken pains to learn Granger's married name before he came to see her. "But if you're going to refuse my aid simply because I prefer to be a bit reclusive, then we have nothing more to say to each other." He began to stand.
Granger stretched her hand out towards him, then frowned and snatched it back down to her side as though it had risen without her permission. "I didn't say that. I simply prefer to know the provenance of all the money that comes into the House-Elf Trust."
"You wish to know how I made it?" Draco raised his eyebrows and sat back down. "Could you not simply say that?"
"You said you were wealthy." Granger watched him, not moving away now but also not moving closer than her elbows, which were planted on her desk. "That usually connotes an understanding of how these things work."
"Have you often had wizards donate to you under false pretenses, Mrs. Granger-Weasley?"
For the first time, Granger flushed a bit. "Not so much false pretenses as wishing to say they had done so when they didn't want to benefit house-elves at all."
"I don't understand," Draco said, and let a bit of his natural contempt through to color his voice. "If you can use the money to benefit your cause, and they give you the money, and you do so, then why does it matter what their motive was for donating?"
"We don't send out publicity materials featuring the names of prominent donors and praising them for their gifts. You should know that, before you sign over any money to us."
"Ah." Draco nodded. He was more satisfied than ever that coming to Granger to check up on Potter was the right choice. She would be more likely to understand Potter's desire to keep away from the world, assuming she knew anything. "Well, it so happens that that fits with my personality. I prefer to stay away from the public."
Granger didn't blink, the same way Weasley hadn't as Draco ambled through his shop and dropped hints that could easily lead him to think of Potter. "Good," she said. "And how many Galleons were you planning on donating?"
Draco named a number that was ten more than he wanted, but from Granger's tiny nod, it was just within her parameters. She wrote down the number and the false contact information (well, not entirely false, but any owls sent to him there would wait for a long time before he picked them up) he gave her and accepted the pouch he handed to her with equanimity.
She did nothing else, however, and once again, Draco decided that he would have to risk a more direct gambit.
"You have the right to question me," Draco murmured as he stood up. "I don't begrudge you that. But I did think you would have some more sympathy for the desire to avoid the public gaze, considering Harry Potter is your friend."
Granger gave him a measured stare. "Harry chose to be an Unspeakable because he loves protecting people from Dark wizards, not because he thought it was a career that would cause the public to ignore him. If anything, they've been more curious than ever since he chose it."
Draco let himself blink a little. "But I had heard that he no longer lets anyone even tell the story of how he defeated You-Know-Who, attributing it to his mother instead."
Granger laughed. "That's known as truth, Mr. Taedeson, not anything else. Harry really isn't as powerful as everyone wants to think he is. That's ridiculous hero-worship fantasies." She let her hand rest on his bag of Galleons. "The same way that everyone wants to think house-elves are really willing servants all the time, and there's no way to make them more comfortable. They deal with what they want to be true instead of what is, and it ensures they never grow up-"
"I understand that," Draco said, and met her eyes, and let a hint of his true character through as he curled his lips in a tiny chiding smile. "Would I be here, donating to you, if I didn't understand that?"
Granger stopped, and put a hand over her heart as if she really thought that it might hammer its way out of her. Draco, with his superior Veela senses, could have told her that of course that wouldn't happen, but that would have meant revealing that he had those senses. "I'm sorry," she said. "I forget, there are so many people who need the lecture."
Draco gave a tiny shrug to show that she was forgiven. "Well, that makes Mr. Potter's motives more understandable, I suppose. But I would have thought a better end for his fame and power was to use them the way you have, to show people who strive against his goals that there is merit in meeting them instead."
"We all had our fame from the war. He chose to deal with it in his way. I choose to deal with it in mine."
Draco bowed, knowing when he had overstepped his lines, and retreated. He wondered if Granger would tell Potter about his asking after him, and then dismissed the notion. Even if she did, Potter knew Draco had chosen him. He had yet to face up to the implications of that choice, but it was hardly a surprise.
So. Neither Granger nor Weasley seem to understand the choice Potter made, and how it hides him away from everyone.
There is one more person who might know.
"I..." Draco's mother had always said that being able to blush on demand was a useful skill he should cultivate, and so it proved here. Draco, under another glamour, this time of a sandy-blond wizard considerably younger than he really was, ducked his head and looked up from under his fringe. "It's not really for me. It's for my little brother. Can you sign it to Daniel?"
Ginny Weasley smiled at him and swung her broom over her shoulder as she bent down to sign the napkin Draco had pressed on her. "Of course." Her face was still shiny with sweat from her successful game, but she took her time to talk to a random brat who wanted an autograph. Draco told himself that to maintain his mask as a respectful, adoring fan instead of leaping out with wings and claws on someone who had touched his chosen before he had. "Does Daniel want to be a Quidditch player himself someday?"
Draco grinned and answered in the bright tone that someone his apparent age and status might have used. "Very much, madam. And he'll be so honored you asked!"
Weasley laughed and finished signing her name with a flourish. "What position does he play?"
"Seeker." Draco blushed and corrected himself. "Well, he wants to play that, but I think...I think his glasses get in the way, madam. He can barely see the Snitch!"
"Call me Miss Weasley, please." Weasley fluffed her red hair out, and Draco stifled the urge to tell her she wasn't going to attract anyone here. "Madam makes me feel so old. And are you remembering that Harry Potter was the most successful Quidditch player of modern times, and he always wore glasses?"
"Well, I heard that he'd become an old recluse after the war." Draco gave his head an arrogant little toss. "How could someone like that be one of the most successful Quidditch players?"
Weasley straightened up. "He's my friend, he saved the world, and I'll thank you to speak of him with respect," she said quietly.
Draco cowered on the outside, while inside he wanted to snarl. So he once chose someone determined and defensive of him to be with. Why can't he give me the same chance? I would imitate Weasley's better qualities, but of course in a much nobler fashion.
"I'm sorry, ma-Miss Weasley," Draco said, and rubbed his hands together. "I didn't mean to ruin the autograph for Daniel. It's just-I've heard other people say the same thing about Mr. Potter, but I never saw him play, and it seems like-like anyone who loves the game wouldn't just give it up like that, you know?"
Weasley went on watching him for a while, then nodded and said, "Yes, I can see where that impression comes from." She was still far more distant than she had been at the beginning of the conversation, and Draco knew he had pissed her off. Well, maybe that was good. It might mean she was less likely to tell Potter of this conversation. "But he had more important things on his mind than the game."
I'm sure he did. Like making sure that none of his so-called friends would ever find out about this magic he's so desperate to conceal.
But the boy Draco was playing wouldn't say that, so he just widened his eyes and nodded gratefully, even as he said, "More important things than Quidditch?"
Weasley laughed and reached out to ruffle his hair. Draco endured it. It was for his chosen, after all. Then she handed him the napkin with the autograph and said, "Tell Daniel that I hope he gets the chance to become a Quidditch player, but I also hope that he focuses on something else. The game is wonderful, but we all have to retire someday."
"Is that why Mr. Potter became an Unspeakable?" Draco asked, beaming at her and trying to look as if he would faint at the same time, the way he probably would have looked if he was a teenager and one of his favorite Quidditch players had touched him like that. "Because he didn't want to have to retire?"
Weasley watched him thoughtfully. "Maybe," she said at last. "But I don't know everything about him even if I am one of his best friends, so don't go repeating that."
As if I would. Draco had to remind himself, again, that Weasley was dealing with what she saw in front of her, a young and apparently obsessed fan of herself, not Potter. As though Weasley's flying skill was anything to write home about compared to the way Draco soared during his kills and the way he remembered Potter flying.
"No, madam, I won't!" Draco said, and bobbed his head, and darted off, leaving Weasley to roll her eyes and look amused.
Draco waited until he was a good distance from the Quidditch pitch to drop his disguise and Apparate. His body was humming, and his brain set up a corresponding hum, as if they were two wheels connected on some deeper level.
He had learned enough to be fairly confident that Potter's friends didn't know what was happening with him, and that he had kept his magic a secret even from them. Draco wanted to know why, of course, but that was something he would hardly discover by asking them. Time to show Potter that he valued this choosing business seriously.
Time to go back to his chosen.
This time, Draco chose the morning instead of the evening for his confrontation with Potter, hoping the morning light would make Potter a little more charitable and welcoming, or at least less suspicious. Potter stepped out his front door and saw him waiting beyond the wards, rolled his eyes, and didn't abate one moment of the time he normally spent locking his door.
Draco leaned as close to the fence as he dared and continued to watch him. No, he hadn't made a mistake in his choosing. Potter's full strength wasn't visible as his hands flashed through the locking spells, but he was graceful, and quick, and he faced Draco with a complementary stubbornness to Draco's own glinting in his green eyes.
Good. We wouldn't want this to be too easy.
Draco spread his wings and stepped back a little from the fence, enough that Potter could get safely through his own gate. "I brought you a gift," he murmured, and held up the vase he had clasped out of sight beneath his left wing until that moment.
Potter stared at the plants in the vase for a solid moment, then looked at Draco. "And you think I wanted roses?"
Draco sniffed. It was a good thing Potter had other qualities, because Draco's choosing him for his observational ability would have meant he was disappointed. "You haven't looked beyond the obvious, have you?" he asked, and turned the vase to the side. The "roses" spilled over the sides, and nodded heavy heads towards the ground. "Cast a spell at them. It doesn't matter what spell, so long as it fits in the category of hexes or curses."
Potter watched him in silence. Just when Draco thought the temptation to make juvenile commentary would overcome the temptation Draco had offered him, he cast, and the spell sped towards Draco, opening wide wings, becoming a pulse of blue lightning that landed in the middle of the roses.
They spread their petals and snapped up the lightning. It took a moment, blackening their stems and veins along the way, but normal color returned in the time it took both Draco and Potter to blink. Then they looked like normal flowers again, perhaps a bit plumper than before.
Draco looked at Potter and opened his mouth to explain, but Potter's mouth already gaped, his body leaning forwards so that he was on his toes. It looked as though he could break into flight at any second. The grace stole Draco's breath, so he couldn't respond before Potter said, "Defense roses. I didn't think anyone knew how to breed them outside the Department of Mysteries."
Draco half-bowed his head, and said, "I take it that's why you don't have any here? Because they would be useful but also give away the kind of secrets you're into?"
Potter looked at him this time, and his eyes were as hard and shiny as mirrors. "You needn't act as though you have any concern about that, Malfoy," he said. "You discovered my secrets by accident."
"Memory Charms don't work well on Veela." Draco didn't back away, but turned towards Potter instead, holding out the vase of defense roses. "That's the only reason you haven't used it on me so far, right?"
"I have certain principles you don't need to hear about, and wouldn't understand anyway," Potter said, his voice low and charged and his arms folded. "You can give me the defense roses if you want, but that doesn't mean I'll be open to dating you. I don't have a view of debts and obligations in the way you would usually understand them, either."
"But you want them," Draco said, and turned the vase to the side again, purely for the way Potter's eyes followed it.
"Yes, I do," Potter finally said. "I don't see any harm in admitting that."
Draco half-bowed his head and held out the vase. Potter had to take it from his arms, so that at one point his hand came close to brushing Draco's elbow. Draco's breathing quickened, even from such simple contact, and he would have laughed aloud if he had been alone. Yes, he had made the right choice.
But laughing would drive Potter away, or at least make him think Draco held a much lower opinion of him than Draco really did. That was something to be avoided at all costs. Draco bowed his head and moved further back. "I hope you enjoy them," he said. "If you do want to thank me, then you might consider meeting me here." He drew out a piece of parchment with his address written on it and laid it carefully and ostentatiously on the ground.
Potter shook his head. "Meet you on ground that you know well and where you would have dozens of traps and defenses? No."
"I will lower my wards for you," Draco said, and reached up to pluck a feather from his wings. He had prepared for the gesture all morning; the anticipated pain hardly made him wince now. "I swear it by this feather." The plume glowed golden in his grip for a moment, then stilled. He threw it to Potter, letting it fall at his feet the way the parchment had.
Potter gaped at him. It made him a little less attractive, but Draco graciously conceded that his chosen couldn't have every advantage and virtue that would have occurred to him. He shut his mouth soon enough, anyway, and looked at the feather. "But a Veela can't break a vow sworn like that," he whispered.
Draco nodded, pleased Potter had got it without further prompting from him. "Exactly. Now do you see that I'm serious about taking you as my chosen?"
"I dislike the word taken." Potter's face had gone distant and still, as though listening to the ritual chanting of enemies. "That's what everyone thinks they'll do with me, take me and lock me up somewhere, or take me and prevent me from causing trouble, or take me and fuck me."
Draco grinned. "I'd like to do the last, but believe it or not, I am capable of controlling myself."
Potter considered him some more. Then he said, "You promised me more information on my enemies, and protection from them." When Draco nodded, he added, "How soon do you think you can get the information to me?"
"I could tell you more right here, but then I don't think you'd have the motivation to visit me," Draco said, and cast his eyes down with false modesty that he knew made Potter grind his teeth. He smiled a little despite himself. He wanted Potter to like him, but he also wanted to rile him up, challenge him, keep him interested. "I'll be home all day and tomorrow, Potter. Come visit me whenever you like."
And he spread his wings and fled into the sky, pleased with himself. He had intrigued Potter, he thought, and also shown himself gentle and willing and pliant.
For a certain definition of all those words, of course.
Draco felt the soft tremor of Apparition when Potter arrived at the spot in front of his door that evening, and stepped back with a smile, glancing around the room he'd told the house-elves to show Potter to. He thought it would be the best one: small, comfortable, without the horrible amount of gold and gems that his ancestors had sometimes thought themselves compelled to deposit on every single surface. The chairs were the sort you could sink into, the fire large, the room round and simple, without corners or angles where enemies could hide. Draco sat down in his own chosen chair and waited.
Potter came into his room shortly afterwards, and stopped.
Draco leaned his head back and smiled lazily at his chosen. He knew what he looked like ordinarily, but he had made a special effort tonight, just the way he had with the room. His wings draped and sprawled along the back of the chair at the bottoms, but rose in angled curves above his head. He wore pale robes that made him look like a sparkling statue in most places, and emphasized the slight rosy hue of his cheeks and eyelids. His hair shone soft as clouds around him when he stretched out a hand. "Harry," he whispered. "May I call you that?"
Harry's head came up, and Draco felt the sensation of a door shutting in his face. "You should know that I'm not susceptible to the allure."
"Even better." Draco kept his hand stretched out and his voice gentle. "Then when I earn a reaction from you, I can be sure it's genuine. Will you sit down?"
Harry watched him suspiciously for a single moment more, and then crossed the room and took the chair across from Draco. Draco inhaled in soft delight. Harry smelled like sweat and salt and ink and dust. A long day, then, and he would appreciate the comfort of what Draco could offer him all the more.
"I don't need a place like the Manor to be happy."
Harry must have seen some of Draco's wishes in his face, then. It was a risk, when a Veela was open to his chosen. Draco still didn't move, his hand or his expression or his body. "I know that. But you might want it. That's one of the reasons I'm ready to offer it to you."
"The Veela I've known in the past didn't care that much about my future wants." Harry shook his head. His face was lit by the fire in some wonderful and strange ways, like the sparks of light that seemed to glow deep in his eyes. Draco swallowed his delight. "They just wanted to have fun, and that was it."
Draco smiled pleasantly, and wondered how he could find out the names of those Veela from Harry, so he could rip them apart. He probably couldn't actually, because it would upset Harry, but he really wanted to, nonetheless. "They hadn't chosen you. I did. Yes, Veela can play about if they want to, take multiple lovers. But a choosing is different."
"If it's my power, you ought to know I only get that strong when I'm angry." Harry gave him a pleasant smile in return, making Draco want to know all the thoughts it hid. "So I would disappoint you most of the time."
"I think I have the power to make you angrier than you think. And what about when you feel desire?"
For some reason, Harry turned pale. He turned his head away in the next instant, as if he sought to conceal his change of color in the red light of the flames, but Draco wasn't fooled. His hands twitched, wanting to reach out and turn Harry back, but he refrained. "I don't think you'd learn about that," Harry said casually. "Since we aren't going to get to that point."
"You showed your magic in bed," Draco said. "Maybe more than once. And someone got frightened, didn't they? The useless bastard. Or bitch," he added, after a moment of thinking. It could have been either one.
Harry flinched. But he had a practical side, it seemed, and wouldn't bother denying the truth after Draco had already guessed it. He faced Draco instead, his expression cool and distant, like a hawk's, and driving Draco's desire to insane levels. "It was a Veela I frightened, actually. So don't give me some load of bollocks about how you'll be above it all and not scared by anything I do. You can be."
"Again, that Veela hadn't chosen you." Draco leaned forwards in the chair and let his wings spread, fanning a delicate breeze of perfume towards Harry. He didn't know exactly what Harry smelled, because after a choosing a Veela's scent changed to become pleasing to the individual, rather like the scent of Amortentia did. From Harry's expression, though, it was enough to make his throat bob. "I have."
"You still haven't told me what that means, other than making you want to do things for me." Harry squinted at him. "And apparently making you smell like treacle tart."
"You picked up on that?" Draco felt his own pulse soar when Harry merely glared at him as if he was stupid. Yes. You're intelligent. Yes. I can work with that. "Of course you did. Listen, Harry. This is what it means."
He had never done anything like this for anyone, bared everything he was thinking and feeling, but then, he had never had a chosen, either. He felt as he had the night the wings had come bursting out of his back and he realized that his distant Veela heritage had manifested in him after all. This was the beginning of a wind he would have to ride.
"It means that I'll do anything you want, as long as you want it," Draco said, holding that green, firelit gaze. "It's about desire. It's about wanting to show myself off to you, because your attention is the most important thing. It's about you being the center of the universe for me, wanting to guard you from pain, wanting to make you writhe in pleasure."
"That sounds like obsession," Harry said flatly. "Which I've had more than enough experience of, in both Veela and humans, to know that I don't like it."
Draco shook his head. "Obsession means someone does something they like, even if you don't-"
"The way you're doing, haunting my house and inviting me here!"
"I have to ask." Draco spread his hands. "I can tell what you're feeling, but I don't know, instinctively, what you'd like. I can promise that I didn't compel you to show up here. You showed up because you were interested, curious, wary, or all three. I can give you someone to share your power with, someone who can't be frightened. I can give you someone you can trust your whole being to."
Harry shook his head again, but at least it looked as though he was a little more thoughtful than before. Draco leaned back with his hands around his knees this time, his wings drooping down, and waited, and hoped.
"I can't think about reordering my life for someone's whim," Harry said at last, as if he had given serious consideration to the whole of Draco's offer and that was it for him. "Giving up my job, trusting you with my secrets, enduring the outrage of my friends. I like my life the way it is now. There's no reason for me to change."
Draco stared at him, so many thoughts swimming through his head that he didn't know how he was supposed to pick one to address. In the end, he went with the most pressing. "What makes you think you would have to give up your job?"
Harry frowned and pushed his glasses up on his nose with an adorable gesture that made Draco want to shield him in his wings and not let him go. "Because it's a dangerous job, at least in the way that it exposes me sometimes to Dark magic and artifacts, and you wouldn't want me to do it? Don't most Veela not want their-mates in danger?"
"I would fight beside you if other assassins came after you." Draco spread his wings again, hoping that Harry was admiring the white, edged feathers along the tops, feathers that could cut like knives if he willed them to. "I would help you defeat Death Eaters. I can stalk and kill your enemies-"
"I wouldn't let you."
"No, but that's one of those fantasies that's nice to dream about in bed sometimes." Draco gave him a wistful smile. "The point is, I know you'll be in danger most of your life, simply because of who you are and who you irritate. I want to stand at your side. Not prevent you from facing your enemies."
Harry's head bobbed for a moment, and he swallowed, but he also spoke the next words through a clenched jaw that proved Draco hadn't won yet. "And what about my friends? You can't think that you'll get along."
Draco curled his lip. "For whatever reason, the company of those ridiculous friends is something you want. I can give you my tolerance and my silence, and my inevitably gracious response when one of them does something ugly that upsets you. Not to mention my comfort." This time, the gesture he made with his wings was more enveloping, and Harry turned red.
"You would still change my life by being there."
"Anything could change your life. Stepping out your front door in the morning could do that. Do you hate and resent the rest of the world for it as much as you seem to resent me? Or does your resentment come from something else?"
It was hard to look away from the demanding glitter of Harry's eyes, and equally hard to lower his own voice. Most Veela would court their chosen in a different way, more gently, with delicate touches to the crowns of their heads and offering them gifts that were softer than the defense roses Draco had given Harry.
But Draco couldn't do that, and he didn't see why he should be obliged to. He was panting instead, his head burning with the force of his own argument. Yes, he wanted this, and he was sure it was the right way to court Harry.
"You won't fit into it the way even an accident could." Harry's voice was low, precise, and the flush on his cheeks had changed to something that Draco thought more resembled the way he looked when he was angry. "I don't want you."
Draco winced and touched his chest for a second. Those words had gone home like a shard of ice in his heart.
But he wouldn't faint or whimper or do any of the other embarrassing Veela things until he was convinced that his chosen didn't want him, and at the moment, his body was still not convinced of that. He kept his voice down, mild. "Really? Then why not get up and walk out of my house right now? Why not refuse my gift?"
Harry glared at him.
"Because you're more practical than that. You wanted the defense roses to protect your home, and you intended all along to accept them despite the fact that it was me offering them." Draco spread out his fingers and began to count on them. "Because you have secrets, and hide them, and despite everything, it's a relief to talk with someone who knows the depth of your power. Because you can meet me on an equal level that you can't with your friends."
"Equal?" Harry's snort seemed to reach down into his stomach. "And you think you'll ever share my principles, or my adventures, or my courage?"
"I think those things aren't the only important things about you, or even the heart of you," Draco replied. He folded his wings tight to his body now and stood up. Harry remained sitting where he was, and his glare didn't change, which Draco thought were both hopeful signs. He circled gently around Harry, not taking his eyes off him. "If they were, you wouldn't have hidden things from your friends."
"You will harp on that, won't you?"
"I think it's important," Draco began, but he could tell from the way Harry's jaw had set that he would, quite possibly, not get anything more out of Harry than that, and he didn't want to alienate him, so he retreated to another subject dearer to him. "Why haven't you walked out of my house yet?"
"I'm not afraid of you." Harry did stand up to face him, but he had never looked less like he was about to retreat.
Draco inclined his head and smiled at him. "It pleases me to hear you say that."
"Because you think that'll make it easier to trap me, trick me?" Harry asked. He edged nearer, and Draco only wished it looked as if Harry was about to pounce on him. "I don't care for your tricks, Draco. You've said that you chose me, but you've also talked a great deal of nonsense. I still don't know what you want other than to have sex with me."
"To fight beside you, and give you the information I promised you." Draco picked up the piece of parchment lying on the table beside him. "This contains all the information I can remember about the people, and the place, where I was hired. I hope it might be useful to you." He held it out, but Harry didn't take it.
"What price do you want for your aid?" Harry asked. His voice came out as harshly as though he was gearing himself for battle right now.
"Nothing." Draco gave a polite little bow, still standing with the parchment extended, and tried not to think about how ridiculous he would look to several of his friends. Then he thought about Harry instead, and nothing else mattered.
"I insist that you let me pay you something." Harry tugged at the parchment-he was near enough to do that-and met Draco's eyes with that same determination not to flinch. "All the other Veela I've been associated with in the past let me."
Draco wanted to kill, but that wasn't productive right now. He pretended to consider the request from every angle, as though asking for the most he could, while Harry rocked back and forth on his heels and waited.
Then he said, "All right. A kiss."
Harry gaped at him, and then looked at the parchment, and his jaw thrust forwards. Draco wanted to laugh, but he was too hard. He moved in and let his fingers hover over Harry's shoulder at the same second as Harry nodded and said, "All right. I agree."
Draco swept Harry up with arms and wings, bringing him closer with the same strength he had used so often to break legs and crush windpipes. Harry gaped indignantly at him, but Draco was already kissing him, and lifting him off his feet, and the gape only made it easier for him to slide his tongue into Harry's mouth.
The sense of rightness was almost better than the warmth and the taste and the way that Harry's fingers curled around his own shoulders like talons, but not really. Draco knew he was where he was supposed to be, though, and kissing the person he was supposed to be. He had made the right choice. He wanted to crow.
Veela didn't do that, though. Veela kissed, and pressed with their wings delicately on their chosen's neck and back until they found the spots that made him groan, and they kept the pressure on, resisting the temptation to back away and leap up and down.
When Draco finally pulled away, his hair was in disarray from Harry tugging on it. Harry lowered his hands and stared at him.
"It didn't feel like that before," he whispered.
Draco gave him a merely pleasant smile, as much as he could, while his blood screamed for height and wind and the way he could have Harry with him. "Of course not. Those Veela hadn't chosen you. I told you that."
Harry closed his eyes for a moment, and then wrenched himself away abruptly. Draco let him go, just watching him as he moved around the room. This had not truly lessened his impatience-of course it hadn't-but he had had a taste, and that made him better able to put up with not having Harry in his arms.
"It's a trick," Harry said abruptly, spinning around to face him.
"Excuse me?" Draco kept his face blandly inquiring.
"You admitted you were hired to assassinate me." Harry pointed one trembling finger at him, noticed the finger was trembling, and snatched his hand back to his side. Draco let his smile deepen. Harry ignored that. "What is this but more-more of the same? Trying to get close to me, trying to disarm me around you, trying to show me that you've chosen me." His voice arched upwards, becoming so much uglier that Draco winced. "I was stupid to come here. Of course the information you gave me was a fake. You only wanted to get me relaxed enough that you could kill me."
Draco spread his wings and flew across the room at Harry, his arms extended.
Harry raised a snapping shield that clung tight to his skin, spitting sparks and anger everywhere, but Draco had halted far before that. He spread his arms, showing Harry the way he was pressed flat against the air several paces from him.
"I can't attack you," he whispered. "A Veela can't attack his chosen. That precaution is part of our nature. Otherwise, yes, there are some of us who might attack the people we desire in an attempt to force them into bed, or out of jealousy that they chose someone else. But we're held back. If I'm going to win you, it's with desire and patience, not because I get to force you."
Harry lowered his wand slowly, but the shield remained. He glared at Draco, and Draco looked back, calm and sober and gentle, but not yielding, either.
It frightens him to be seen for what he is.
"You don't know me," Harry whispered. "You may think you do, but you have no idea who I am, the kinds of things I've suffered, what I've gone through to secure a future for the wizarding world and my friends." Then he shut his mouth, hard, and seemed to squint at it, as if he was astonished to hear those sentiments coming out of him.
"I want to know you better, that's true." Draco spread his wings again, but this time to catch Harry's attention, to let him see the shimmering silver edges of the flight feathers and all the magnificence Draco could command, rather than trying to impress him. "Does that mean that I know nothing about you right now? No. I've already proven what I do know."
"I don't keep secrets from my friends," Harry whispered. "None that my job as an Unspeakable doesn't require me to keep."
Draco nodded. "But even an Unspeakable needs someone to talk to, someone to unload his burdens on. And I don't think you have anyone."
Harry laughed, a sound that seemed to boom off the walls with more echoes than strictly necessary. "You have no idea what an Unspeakable does, Malfoy, or you wouldn't say anything so stupid."
"I know that you keep silent about the job," Draco said. "But I also know, from some of the contracts I've had in the past, that the Ministry is concerned about the sanity of the Unspeakables if they say nothing to anyone. I don't think you say anything, do you? Not about your job, but about your magic, and your life. Do your friends even know that you dated a Veela at one time?"
Fire flickered around Harry, rising in delicate tongues of blue and white flame, filling the drawing room with the shadow of their being. Draco inhaled in delight, and found himself unable to take his eyes from Harry.
"They know as much as they need to know." A step forwards. Harry had his wand leveled at Draco's chest. "They don't say that I dated a Veela because the arrangement was much more casual than that." Another step, and this time it was obvious that Harry's wand was leveled at Draco's heart. "They know more about my past, my life, my future-"
"Not enough about right now, in other words," Draco said, and shook his head. "Really, you ought to be thanking God I chose you, Harry Potter. How would you have gone on without me, without becoming mad and burning down the Ministry one fine day?"
Harry was right next to him now, and because Draco didn't intend to harm him, even in play, they were touching chest to chest. Harry was glaring into his eyes, and Draco felt the subtle motions of his chest, and the motion of blood beneath his skin. He could have reached out and cupped Harry's chin. He didn't.
"Who are you now?" Draco whispered to him. "The Hero I thought I knew would never have hidden his magic, never become an Unspeakable, never had casual fucks with Veela. I can see him resisting me, but not with the words and for the reasons that you have. Who are you, the Harry Potter who lies to his friends?"
Harry fell back a step and lifted a hand as though smashing a wall down in front of Draco. Draco waited. Motion or not, he thought he was closer to knocking down Harry's walls than he ever had been.
"How I changed," Harry said at last, his voice as thick as tar, "is none of your business."
"I've made it mine by choosing you," Draco said. "And I want to know everything. You can't tell me enough. You won't weary me, won't make me back away. I want to be there." He snapped his wings open and shut. "And I'm a skilled assassin, too, you know. In addition to defending you from the people who wanted you dead, if there's someone you want dead...point me at them, and fire me."
Harry's gaze snapped to him, and Draco stared, enthralled. Harry-
Was considering it. And stricken, and sickened with himself, for considering it.
He turned away in the next instant, but there was no barrier between them now, created by Draco's magic or anything else, and he could go up to Harry and squeeze his shoulder. "Tell me who it is," he whispered. "Was. I'll assassinate them for free. You're my chosen. I choose to do this."
Harry shook his head, staring at the floor. "I shouldn't even have thought of it," he whispered. "It's horrible, the way I did."
Draco snorted. He had nothing to say to that, although he knew it might be hard to talk Harry out of that view. He turned Harry around and held him in his arms. Harry looked him in the eye, but looked as if he wanted to do a whole-body flinch that would carry him out of Draco's reach.
"Everyone has horrible thoughts sometimes," Draco whispered. "I think you have them, and know you have them, but you've kept them from your friends and a lot of other people who knew you in the past because they wouldn't understand them, or want to hear about them." He rubbed his chin against Harry's forehead, his breath quickening when the rough skin of the lightning bolt scar passed under his. "I won't judge you. I want to hear about them because I want to know everything."
Harry reached up and framed the side of Draco's head with his hand for a moment. Draco half-turned towards it and then froze, a bolt of paralyzing sweetness traveling through him.
"But I shouldn't encourage thoughts like that," Harry whispered, dropping his hand. "Yes, I have them sometimes, but I could do a lot more damage than a lot of other people could with them, because of the power I wield."
Draco opened his eyes and smiled. It was the first time he had heard Harry acknowledge his power. "If I offer to do something for you, a love-gift, how is it encouraging them?"
"I'm not going to let you kill people for me, Malfoy."
Draco's wings rattled. "I don't like it that you call me by that name. Could you use my first name? Please? As a courtesy to me?"
Harry moved slowly away from him, and Draco let him go because the only other option was restraining him, and that just wouldn't happen. He hadn't looked away from Draco, and Draco was able to stop his wings from moving with that. But he still ached and burned in his chest, under his heart, as though someone had splashed acid there.
Harry nodded slightly. "Draco. Fine." He checked, probably because of the smile that had spread over Draco's face, and added in a bemused tone, "That really-you really like it when I do that, don't you?"
"Of course I do," Draco whispered, and moved a stalking step forwards despite telling himself it wasn't a good idea, because he had to get close. "I told you. I want you. I love you. I chose you."
"Those things have to come after a long time." Harry's body was bent like a bow to get his head and chest away from Draco, but his feet hadn't moved.
"Not for a Veela," Draco said, and waited.
Harry's eyes widened, and went on widening. Draco could see the moment when belief arrived in him, as searing as the first signs of plague. Draco opened his wings and crooned softly, willing to welcome Harry in close and soothe him if he needed it. From the signs of his face, he probably did.
Harry turned and ran.
It took a massive effort, including grabbing and tugging on his own wings, but Draco managed to let Harry go. He stepped back and waited until he knew there was no longer a chance he would take off into the air and hunt Harry down. His past as an assassin was working against him here, in accord with his Veela instincts. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world to swoop above Harry, to snatch him up, to bind him to Draco's chest and lower his head-
Draco shook himself. Thinking about it would make it more likely to happen, and at the moment, Harry needed some distance to think about it.
But what Draco understood now was that Harry wasn't a coward, however much he had changed in other ways. He would come back to face the revelation, if only to try and dissuade Draco and get him out of his life.
Draco hummed and went to check how the house-elves were doing with the new room for Harry's wing. He still didn't know all Harry's favorite colors or the way the furniture would be arranged, but at least he could do measurements now to render the furniture comfortable, having held Harry in his arms.
And especially the bed.
It took two days for Harry to come and confront him again-less time than Draco had expected, more than he had hoped for. He had refused to go by Harry's house in that time, or watch him on his way out of work, or do anything other than think of his chosen and put out a few feelers into the shadows so he would know if the people who had hired him sent another assassin after Harry. He would protect from a distance, watch over his chosen from a distance, but Harry would have anything he wanted. Including time.
Then the Floo chimed while Draco was frowning over some investments that hadn't worked out the way he wanted them to, and he looked up to see Harry's face floating in the flames.
Draco felt the relaxation start in the ends of his wings-which remained out all the time now, because he might need to fly to Harry's aid or hold him any time-and he slumped in the chair for a second before he sat up. "What can I do for you, Harry?" he asked.
"The information you gave me proved dangerous," Harry said shortly. "Someone had anti-Apparition wards up all around the Ministry when I came out this evening, and they delayed me until everyone else who might use this route had already left. Now seven or eight of them are after me. I ducked into a shop that's still open to use their Floo, but that won't hold them back for long."
Draco sat up again, and smiled. "I can reach you," he said, and spread his wings in silent answer when Harry stared at him. "Tell me which shop you're in. Which alley." His words came out clear and sharp and strident, and he felt as though his teeth were sparking.
Harry watched him one second more, then said, "I didn't call you because I wanted your help. I didn't even call you because I want to come through the Floo. That would leave them behind, and God knows when I'd have a chance of catching them again. I called you because I thought you might know more about them than I do."
"Harry." Draco kept his voice tolerant. "Which shop? Which alley?"
Harry finally sighed and said, "Tidy Tweeds. Off Potions Alley."
Draco nodded and soared straight up from his chair, through the broad-beamed drawing room, towards the roof, calling for house-elves to shut the Floo down as he did so. He reached the roof, squeezed through a window that he'd redesigned when he first came into his Veela heritage, and wheeled up high and dizzy towards the stars.
And then he set his wings and began to really fly, towards his chosen, who needed his help. The wind blurred around him. The cold stroked him. All his blood rushed into his flight muscles first, and then relaxed and circulated throughout his body, flooded with adrenaline, readying him for battle.
Normally, Draco liked to crouch on the roofs of buildings and spy out his prey. It was amazing how few people ever looked up unless they'd had some notice that they would be fighting winged enemies. It let Draco be aware of what was he was getting into, and it let anyone else shriek in surprise when he stooped down on them.
But this time, the wizards were occupied casting curses into the shop where Harry had taken shelter. Draco approved in principle of the fact that their enemies had hired multiple assassins this time, but not in practice.
He came in low, his wings set to gliding, and it was only when he was reaching out towards the heads of the two tallest wizards that they snapped their gazes up and began to gape.
Draco didn't give them time to react and warn the others; the others would just have to be warned by the deaths of their comrades. He snatched the heads in his arms and rolled, smashing them into each other, delighting in the sound of their skulls connecting. As they slumped to the ground, he kicked their legs out to the side, breaking one for each of them. He would have killed them, most of the time. The only thing that stopped him was the feeling Harry might not approve of that.
Then he completed his swoop across the alley and caught the wall of the shop, whirling around on the wall to face the rest, who were still in that initial stage of gape. They lifted their wands, all turning as one to face him.
That was stupid, Draco thought smugly as Harry exploded out of the shop behind them.
Something that looked like a Stunner, but orange and three-rayed, broke away from Harry's wand and hit three of his attackers in the back. Their mouths went wide in gasps of pain, a much more attractive look for them than the gape, and they slumped to the ground. Harry went on running over them, aiming for the mouth of the alley.
By this time, though, the three left, whom Draco had mentally tagged as the most experienced of the group, had recovered and were turning around. Well, two turned around, and the third tried to keep Draco covered. Harry had to turn and defend himself as stones began to puff into dust around him.
Draco idly stretched his wings and whirled into the air to dodge the first spell. Then he drew his own wand. Normally, he didn't use it in a combat like this, but most of the time, he had taken the precaution of disarming his enemy first. Not possible here, so needs must.
His first spell was defensive, a blocking spell that shattered a window with the curse that had been meant to shatter his bones. Draco set his wings out on either side of himself and beat strongly, and a wind blew down and took the stranger from his feet. Draco followed it up with another special curse.
The wizard screamed and began to claw at himself. To all appearances normal, he felt as though there were ants crawling under his skin. Draco kicked into a leisurely glide and made vines sprout from the cobblestones, binding his prey. He nodded. For now, that would do, and the suffering he experienced under the spell would go a short way towards making up for what this wizard had made Harry suffer.
Then Draco turned to help his chosen.
Harry had his back tucked against the doorway of a different shop and was trading hexes with the two wizards who had cornered him. One of them was a master duelist, as Draco could see at a glance, considering the speed with which he ducked and weaved and chose countercurses. Draco's mouth watered, and his wings twitched. He wanted to see the master fight Harry, who was a master in his own way.
That left one other wizard to take care of.
Draco rose straight up out of the alley, to the level where he could spread his wings to their full extent, and then turned, tucked them in close to his body, and came down in his falcon dive. His joined arms hit the interfering wizard like a hammer and spun him off his feet. He hit his head on a wall, and Draco nodded and settled next to him, binding him with more ordinary ropes while he watched the duel.
The duelist and Harry were similar in speed, in skill, in physical strength, if the way they shrugged off some of the minor side-spells that got through was any indication. But Draco knew the magical power that burned beneath Harry's shields, and he wanted to see the moment when Harry lost his temper and his dedication to hiding his strength and unleashed it to take care of the duel for him.
It took longer than Draco would have thought. Harry was cut, blood running down his forehead and his right arm, and Draco's wings twitched and his fingers grew claws as he watched. But he wanted to hold back for the treat he was sure was coming, and he wanted to show his chosen that he believed Harry could defend himself. So he waited.
Finally, the duelist shouted something that Draco couldn't make out entirely. It had the word "Weasley" in it, and that was enough.
One second, Harry was a panting, somewhat battered Unspeakable looking for the best way around his opponent's shields. The next moment, he flowed into a high-quality predator.
His first spell simply destroyed his opponent's shields, with brute strength delicately placed. His second spell lifted the opponent and spun him around in a circle, so fast that he vomited. Harry smiled with excellent good humor and waited until the spinning stopped, then gestured again, this time in a wand motion Draco didn't know.
Draco didn't hear the incantation, either, because Harry had chosen to make it nonverbal. But he heard the wizard's ribs break, one after another, up and down the entire range of them.
The man slumped to the ground, not even screaming before the pain simply knocked him unconscious. Harry stood there with the blood running, his eyes blazing, and Draco sat up in his position by the wall and broke into spontaneous applause. It clacked and cracked, because of the claws on his fingers.
Harry dropped into a crouch and pivoted on one heel to face him, deadly enough to make Draco pant in turn. Then Harry shut his eyes, and shook his head, and stuffed something real back behind the false facade. Draco wanted to howl, but contented himself with watching the transformation, the only one of Harry's friends who had ever seen it.
"Malfoy," Harry acknowledged, with a slow twist of his neck. He kept his eyes shut. Draco knew why, knew how hard it was to return from the hunter's mindset to the real world, and stopped his laugh only with an effort. Yes, this was the one for him. "I reckon you meant what you said. You came to help."
"Of course I did," Draco said. "Did you think I would leave my chosen to suffer alone?" He realized that his voice had deepened and slowed, as though he was speaking through honey, and eased away from the wall. He couldn't seem to look anywhere but at Harry. He couldn't seem to do anything but want to touch him. His hands were twitching with the effort, his claws withdrawing back into his fingers but the skin of his palms standing out from his hands in the effort to yearn towards him.
Harry saw that, and his eyes almost stood out of his head. He stared at Draco, who was slinking towards him. "Maybe you're a really good assassin, yeah," he muttered. "The best assassin ever, to win my trust this way."
"Have I won your trust, Harry?" Draco's chest was hollow with his longing, and he really couldn't wait any longer. "Good."
He crossed the ground beneath them in a few strides, his wings flaring out around him before he slammed them down on his back again. He didn't want his flight instincts to accidentally carry him past Harry.
Harry could have resisted, could have fended him off with spells or even a stern arm, but he didn't. After a single cautious look in Draco's direction, he accepted the embrace. Maybe the sight of the skin on Draco's hands rippling had convinced him he should.
Draco tucked his head into Harry's neck, trembling. His hands settled on Harry's hips, and he licked his lips. He wanted to hold, to kiss, to bite, to strike, and he didn't know which one should come first, which impulse was strongest.
"Why did you hold back like that?" Harry asked, his voice low and apparently without any emotion at all. "I've been reading about Veela since you told me, and I thought they were about protecting their chosen at all costs."
"I wanted to see you fight," Draco said. "And to show you that I can let you defend yourself, too."
Harry just stared at him, moving his head out from under Draco's chin in order to do so.
"What Veela want in their chosen has some things in common, but it also differs, because of course Veela are different people," Draco told him softly. "Someone who lives a normal life probably just wants a chosen who can hold a normal job and have children with them and live behind safe walls. But that isn't you, and that isn't me."
Harry closed his eyes. "I shouldn't have used that rib-breaking spell," he whispered. "He hadn't actually done anything wrong. He'd just threatened Ron, not hurt him."
"He tried to kill you," Draco said, and slowed his voice so that his words wouldn't vibrate too fast with his rage. "You don't think that's something wrong? I know you like to disguise yourself as a martyr, but really, Harry."
Harry shook his head. "He did something wrong," he said. "I just-I tried not to retaliate in a way that's more like revenge than retaliation, you know? And I did."
"He threatened your friends. Even if he didn't know how powerful you really were, he ought to know that's an invitation to suicide around Harry Potter."
"You know that?"
Draco reached out and gently shut Harry's dangling jaw. He looked so much better with his mouth only open enough to receive Draco's tongue or speak his words. "Of course I do. I would never try to hurt anyone you love. I want your full and willing cooperation with me, not you fighting me every step of the way."
"You understand that I could hurt you, I could kill you, even though you're a Veela assassin." Harry reached out and put his hand on Draco's chest over his heart. Draco closed his eyes and imagined pure magic flowing out of Harry, gripping and stopping his heartbeat.
His voice came out hoarse when he whispered, "Of course I know that. I knew that from the moment you almost made me flightless." He reached down and touched Harry's wrist, feeling the pulse beat there in turn. "It's one of the things that make you so attractive to me."
Harry said nothing. Draco opened his eyes and found a complicated expression on his face, almost a grimace, but his eyes were wide and solemn, and he touched Draco's face as though he was blind.
"You're so goddamn complex," Harry whispered. "Why couldn't you be simple?"
"I want you," Draco pointed out. "That's simple."
Harry shook his head slightly. "No one has ever wanted me when they knew about the magic."
Draco let his chest vibrate with his sublimated croon, and curved his wings as well as his arms around Harry, drawing him in. "That makes it all the better. I'm not your first friend, or your first lover, or even your first Veela lover, but at least I'm the first to know the truth about you, to accept you for who you really are."
"You understand why I keep it hidden?"
"No," Draco said frankly. "I think you should let it run free, hurt whoever it wants to hurt, and damn the consequences." Then he had to hold Harry as he tried to pull away again. "That doesn't mean I would expose you without your permission. You made the decision, and my chosen's decisions are sacred to me."
"Not when it contradicts something you want."
Draco smiled patiently. "But I don't think there will be many times when what you want contradicts what I want. Not now that we're coming to understand each other."
Harry seemed to have another opinion on that, but he bit his lip and kept quiet. Then he said, "We were talking about my magic. Why do you think I should let it run free? Do you—can't you even guess why I wanted to keep it hidden?"
"Because it isolated you from other people," Draco said. "Made you different. I know now that you don't like the attention, or at least don't care about it. Those stories you spread about your mother being responsible for the Dark Lord's defeat prove that."
"She was." Harry had a look on his face that threatened to become a mask.
"I know," Draco said. "I understand the way you perceive it, at least," he had to add, when Harry's eyebrows crept up towards his hairline. "But I think that trying to hide yourself is like trying to hide a mountain. Ultimately, its magnificence is going to shine through."
Harry shook his head. "The magic isn't magnificent. It's something that gets the better of me sometimes, the way it did in this fight, and the one against you."
"It could shine," Draco said, pressing his lips to the side of Harry's temple and holding them there as he closed his eyes, "if you let it."
Harry was still, as though listening. Draco hoped he was. He couldn't force Harry to change his mind; he wouldn't want to if he had the power, because that would mean Harry wasn't as strong as his magic said he was. But he did think that the secrecy had warped some of Harry's perceptions.
What could make Harry Potter lie to his friends, who accepted so many of his differences and tried to make him feel at home in the wizarding world?
Apparently, knowing powerful and harmful spells, and having a bit of a temper.
"You're the first person I've met since this developed who really doesn't seem afraid of me," Harry whispered. "Even the other Veela I knew was."
Draco nodded. "But have you given your friends the chance or the choice to say that they were afraid of you? By concealing it from them, I don't think you have. Would they really abandon you for being stronger than they thought you were?"
"I don't want them to have to deal with it." Harry was staring in the opposite direction, his mouth tucked down at the corners and his eyes squinting as if he struggled to read in strong light. "There are so many stupid things that would happen if other people knew. Questions about whether I was a Dark Lord, people asking me for even more help than they do now, the Daily Prophet trying to follow me around even more than they do. At least they accept that I can't talk candidly in interviews now because I'm an Unspeakable."
"That's the main reason you took that job?" Draco kept his voice gentle, although for him it wasn't really a question.
"There are other reasons," Harry said. "It was one of the main ones, though."
"Shame them with enough power, or frighten them, and you won't need to talk about yourself that much." Draco laid gentle fingers on his shoulder. "I would be happy to be the only you talked to about yourself."
"My friends will always have a piece of me." Harry squeezed his hand and laid it aside. "And I don't think I could ever make them leave me alone. This is the best compromise. Not perfect, but the best one."
"It involves hiding yourself away, and that hurts you," Draco said firmly. He was sure of his conclusion, seeing the dull sparkle in Harry's eyes, and the way his head lowered so his chin almost touched his chest. "I think you should find something else."
Harry abruptly gave a violent start and stared at the wizards lying on the stones. "Why are we talking about this in public? In front of enemies?"
"Because that was where you wanted to talk about it," Draco said comfortably, and spread his wings. "I can fly them to a secure location."
"That would be the Manor?" Harry smiled at him, but there was sharpness behind the smile.
"Yes, of course," Draco said, with a sharp smile of his own. "A wing where they can't interfere with anyone else, naturally."
Harry hesitated, looking towards the wizards. Then he sighed and said, "I should report them to my superiors and let them decide what to do with them, since they attacked me because of an artifact, or because I'm an Unspeakable, or both. But they also attacked me when I wasn't actually in pursuit of an artifact, and not actually on the job."
Draco kissed him on the cheek, then stepped back and turned towards the wizards. Harry was right behind him, ready to help with Levitation Charms and Lightening Charms. Draco scooped up two of them like cordwood and flew towards the mouth of the alley.
No one looked out of the shops to watch them go. Most people were at home by this hour of the evening, and the others were too afraid.
Let them be afraid, then. Harry can't consider the people who would fear him. There would always be someone. He deserves to have his freedom without caring about what they think.
Draco chose a wing for the wizards that had secure walls, even stronger wards, bare rooms without carpets or furniture that they could turn into weapons, private bathrooms that they could use without bothering him about it, no windows, and thick doors. The house-elves had their orders, to bring the prisoners the food they requested, within reason.
Draco had also chosen one wizard, the one whose ribs Harry had broken, healed his injuries enough to hurt instead of threaten his life, and brought him to the sitting room where he had entertained Harry once before. He thought Harry might be more comfortable interrogating the man in a familiar setting.
And this man was the one most likely to be cooperative, out of all of them.
Harry settled into a chair in front of the fire this time, and accepted a drink from Draco's hand. The house-elves could have served him, but Draco wanted to be the one to do it, and not just because he had an excuse to let his fingers linger in Harry's palm that way. Harry flushed and ducked his head. Draco kissed him on the wrist and stepped back.
Harry took a long moment to sip his drink and clear his throat, and probably compose his mind. Then he waved his wand, dispelling the enchantment that Draco had used to keep the prisoner asleep.
Even though he hadn't heard Draco speak that particular spell, and had no reason to know it. Draco licked his lips and held himself back as his emotions, and something else, swelled.
The man woke up with a blink, and fastened on Harry at once. "You know that my employers will come after me?" he said quietly. "If you let me go now, I may be able to put in a good word for you and convince them not to do that."
Harry smiled briefly. "I admire boldness," he said, in a tone Draco had never heard him use. "That doesn't mean I'll give you credit for it now." He stood up and took a piece of ice from his drink, holding it between his fingers as though he could see the world in its small, transparent surface. "You needn't think that," he went on, looking up. "There's no reason for you to—"
He flicked the ice forwards, and it clashed against the prisoner's face. He flinched on instinct, and the ice altered, or perhaps it had changed as it flew, and a large, gleaming beetle clawed its way up to the man's forehead, leaving small trails of blood on his cheeks. The prisoner was breathing harshly, trying to see what was on him and watch Harry at the same time.
The beetle settled above the man's eye. Harry smiled gently at him. "Do you know what that beetle does when it's created?" he asked. "It freezes anything it touches, if I want it to." He bowed his head. "It crawls in through any orifice it finds, and freezes you from the inside out."
Draco had to reach down and adjust himself.
"You're lying," the man whispered. "I never heard of a spell like that."
"And you were such a creative and promising duelist, too," Harry said, shaking his head. "I gave you more credit than you deserved. But I can assure you it will happen. Unless you prefer it not to happen and give me answers, of course."
The prisoner's breathing had hoarsened and grown harsher. His hands were tight on the arms of his chair. Draco thought about telling him that the chair wouldn't let him rise unless Draco willed it, but decided not to. Harry was doing a magnificent job on his own.
"I don't want to tell you about my employers," the man said. "What they could do to me is worse than what you could."
Harry smiled. "The ear, I think."
The ice beetle turned and crawled across the prisoner's forehead towards his right ear. Draco licked his lips and stepped up beside Harry, because if he couldn't pin him down and take what he most wanted right now, he had to at least touch him. Harry didn't jump when Draco touched his back. He did nothing but keep steely eyes on the man in front of him. He might have forgotten Draco was there.
No, he hadn't, Draco thought, before his instincts could clamor at him. Harry was leaning back slightly, just enough to press into Draco's palm. Draco bowed his head and closed his eyes.
The beetle started to slip into the man's ear. Harry nodded. "From here, it can most easily reach the brain," he told the prisoner conversationally. "Though I understand the sensation of your eardrum freezing and bursting is also exquisite."
The beetle stopped crawling. Harry tilted his head and examined the man from the side as though that would tell him something about whether the bloke was sincere. Draco was trembling, and he rested his hands on Harry's shoulders because he thought it wouldn't do any harm, now, either to his standing in Harry's eyes or to Harry's in the prisoner's.
"I'll tell you," the prisoner whispered. There was a dread fascination in his voice, and he stared at Harry almost the way Draco thought he had, when Harry surprised him with that Veela spell. "What are you? They told us you were a hero."
"You could say that," Harry said, although his body gave a single, hard shake that Draco felt through his hands resting on Harry's back. "You could definitely say that."
For some reason, the name "hero" upset him. Well, if he had lived a lie so long, then perhaps he no longer thought he had a right to claim it. Draco chirped into his ear and drew his hands gently down Harry's shoulders to the small of his back again.
"They wanted to kill you because you recently started working with one special artifact," the man whispered. "It would have been a bone flute, or it looked like a bone flute. They weren't clear."
Harry blinked. "What? That thing? But it didn't do anything! We've tested it for years, and it never reacted."
The man shivered. "My employer said that it used to belong to his family, and they used it to warn them of powerful enemies. But it was stolen, long ago. The Unspeakables could do anything they wanted, and never trigger it, because they weren't of his blood. But when you came near it, you were so strong that he still felt it warn him of your power, and he was afraid you would figure out some way to turn it around and use it. Or find him."
"Always the bloody power," Harry said, and his voice was light, but there was still something behind his words that made Draco hold him. "What else?"
"That's all I know," the man said, and shivered a little when the beetle on his head turned itself about with small clicking feet. "They warned us that we would need six or seven wizards just to take you on. That you'd somehow cast the Imperius Curse on the Veela assassin they sent after you before." He looked at Draco.
Draco gave him a wild smile back. If that was true, and someone had been observing him since he lied about his reasons for not hurting Harry, then his career as an assassin was probably finished. But he didn't care.
The man flinched harder from Draco's smile than he had from Harry's beetle, and then Harry said, "You don't have names?"
"I have—a location."
"I think that will do," Harry said. "You'll tell me—"
"Us," Draco corrected him, and studied the man for a moment. "Would I be correct in saying it's a cave, in the base of a mountain, with a rubble slope in front of it and pines on the slope right above the cave entrance?"
The man's face went more and more pale as Draco spoke steadily on. Then he said, "What did you need me for?"
"I'm starting to wonder that myself," Draco said cheerfully.
The man looked as if he was going to piss himself, and Draco didn't really want that, not all over one of his finest chairs. So he let Harry push his shoulder and glare at him, muttering something about how, no, they weren't going to execute the prisoners, and let Harry give the duelist a few more threats about what would happen if he tried to communicate this to his employers, and about how ice beetles could manifest anywhere, really, it was amazing, even in the middle of summer.
The man had nodded frantically so many times by then that Draco saw the need to break in. "I think he's intimidated enough, Harry."
"I am," the duelist whispered. "I won't betray you. I'll just leave, and go somewhere else. The Continent is nice at this time of year."
Draco squashed the impulse to say that the Continent was always nice, at least if you picked the right hotels. He was more worried about the way Harry's jaw was set, and the way he flinched, almost absently, when Draco touched him. Draco kept his hand in place anyway. He didn't want to let Harry go now.
He escorted the duelist outside the Manor, and leaned close when they were beyond the wards. "In case Harry Potter doesn't intimidate you enough," he said, "you might as well know that I'm his mate."
That made the duelist back away before he spun and ran. Draco chuckled, and went back inside. It was time to ask a few questions.
Harry was still sitting in the same room where Draco had left him, although this time holding a drink in his hands and staring emptily at the flames. He did stir when Draco shut the door behind him. "You don't think he'll betray us?"
Draco shook his head. "He'll live in fear for a time, and he certainly won't accept a contract against either of us." He crossed the room and stood to the side of the fire, spreading his wings so that the flames could warm the right one. "It's not true, you know."
"The information he gave us?" Harry flowed back to his feet, almost dropping his drink. "Why didn't you say so? Now we need to take one of the others and make them confess again, and that's always so tiresome—"
"Not that," Draco said, already wincing from his careless word choice. He should have remembered what Harry's job was and the paranoia it always instilled. He reached out and spread his hands, not forcing Harry back into the seat but preventing him from moving. "The thoughts you're having about yourself."
"You said the choosing didn't tell you what my thoughts were." Harry watched him in silence, head slanted towards the door still.
"But I know now," Draco said quietly. "Combined with the way you haven't talked about your magic to your friends, and the way you flinched when our informer said that the artifact reacted to your power."
Harry shut his eyes. "I don't want to talk about this right now."
"Oh, but I think we should," Draco said. "How long has it been since you spoke about it with someone, Harry? Ever?"
Harry sighed and took his seat again, his drink dangling to the point that the glass almost tipped. Draco didn't say anything. The feelings of his chosen were more important than a bit of alcohol on the carpet.
"I don't like it," Harry said at last. "My magic only ever does three things: makes people envious of me, or makes them afraid, or makes them think of ways they can use me." He tossed back his head and fastened his eyes on Draco. "I haven't figured out which category you fit into yet."
"Your magic makes me want you," Draco said. "That's all."
"And that's all," Harry said. "If I hadn't tried to use that spell to cut your wings off, you never would have known, and you never would have wanted me." He had a wistful note in his voice that would have worried Draco if any Time-Turners had still existed.
As it was, he knelt down in front of Harry and stared into his face. "Do I have to convince you all over again?" he snapped. "I thought you were past the first doubts and were beginning to accept that I want you."
"But it's my magic, nothing else," Harry said, and his eyes were weary beyond hope of resting. It made Draco want to take him to bed, but then, everything did that. The only unusual thing about this was what they would do if they were in bed right now. "That's the problem. Anyone only ever thinks about the political advantages they would get out of my magic, or the personal advantages, in your case. I'm not wanted for—anything else."
His hand trembled on the glass. Draco reached out and covered his hand. "Thank you for honoring me with that," he whispered.
Harry shook his head. "You don't get it. I want someone who would love me for who I am."
"But your magic is part of you," Draco whispered. "As much as your eyes or your fame or your heart or your sense of honor or your stubbornness. Why do you persist in thinking of it as something different?"
"Because it's like the scar," Harry said harshly, shoving back the fringe as if Draco would have forgotten what the lightning bolt looked like. "Another thing that makes me a freak."
Draco spread his wings wide and then draped them around Harry's shoulders like a cloak. Harry tried to stand, but Draco stood with him and shook his head. He'd been shaking it for what felt like long minutes, he thought, although he couldn't have, because Harry had only spoken those words a few seconds ago.
"Please don't call yourself that," he said. "Please don't."
Harry stared at him. "It—hurts you?"
"You can laugh if you want," Draco said. He didn't mind that. It would mean that Harry had at least acknowledged what he was saying, which meant he might not refer to himself like that again. "But that's because I'm a Veela, and that's the way I am. Don't say that. Please don't," he added again, when Harry looked as if he might pull away.
"I don't know what to say," Harry said. "Doesn't it bother you? Being a Veela, having no choice in who you choose?"
"I chose you," Draco said. "That's part of who I am. I can't run from it. I can rejoice in it and turn it to my advantage, though, the way I have. It seems to me that you would get away with a lot more and be a lot happier if you used your magic for something other than just defending your life."
"But in this case, I use it to hurt people."
Draco caught his hands. "Come out, then. Announce your magic. Announce that I'm backing you up, which will be true even if you reject me. Then you won't have as many enemies, and you can use it for things that don't frighten you as much."
"That vision is more tempting than it has any right to be," Harry muttered, shaking his head.
"Why right?" Draco kept his voice low, soothing, right around the edges of a croon without crossing over into one. "You have the right to do anything you want in this situation. They've already tried to kill you. They won't stop because you act humble. You have someone at your side to comfort you if your friends disapprove. It's really the perfect time to announce your magic to the world."
Harry stared at him, then shut his eyes with a weary chuckle. "Some of what you say isn't very comforting, you know."
"I'm sorry," Draco said simply. "I've never had a chosen before."
Harry's breath caught, and he leaned forwards to run a tender hand over Draco's scalp. Draco arched his head up, his neck and wings, bringing them closer to the best touch he'd ever felt.
"And then some of the time," Harry whispered, "you do more than all right."
Draco was hazily aware that Harry hadn't made the important choice about revealing his magic yet, and that he really should press him. But that marvelous hand was still in his hair, and he really didn't have the strength for anything except what he did next.
He leaned in and kissed Harry.
Harry's hand fell away, and Draco pressed closer, waiting for an answer. There was silence except for the beating of his heart and the rustle of his wings for long seconds.
Then Harry answered.
It was blindingly fast, and as strong as his magic. He wrapped his arms around Draco and kissed him, angry, pressing, demanding.
Draco flared his wings out so they wouldn't get crushed underneath him, and kissed back with all his heart. After a little while, Harry's clutch lessened, and he sat up to look at Draco, fierce in his gaze as a lion.
"I'm sick of it, of everyone challenging me and trying to kill me and not being able to have things I want," he said, his hair hanging in his eyes, his voice wild as Draco's blood. "Take me to bed. Make me feel good."
It was all Draco had been waiting for.
He scooped Harry up and flew out the window. Harry gasped once, but when Draco looked down to make sure he wasn't afraid, he realized he needn't have worried. Harry leaned out of his arms, scanning the grounds ahead.
Of course he did. He knew how to fly.
But not like this, and Draco knew that as if Harry himself had told him so. Harry was taking deep breaths, looking up at the stars and watching the night as though he had never seen it before. Never had someone to hold onto him and fly him in different directions.
Draco kissed the side of his face and lifted them higher and higher, until Harry made a little questioning sound in his arms. But Draco was almost there by then, the immense platform he had spent the afternoons since he chose Harry constructing. He laid Harry down gently in it, and stood on the edge, watching him.
Harry sat up and felt around him. Draco watched the changes in his face, delighting in the way his eyes widened when he felt the velvet rolls and edges beneath his fingers.
"Is this—a nest?" Harry laughed aloud, looking up at him, and because of what Harry had said earlier, Draco heard the delight and not the mockery in the sound.
He bent down and nuzzled Harry's hair, letting his breath stir it. "It is. I built it for you. It's not a place we have to spend a lot of time in, but it made me feel better when I thought you would go on rejecting me."
Harry touched the back of his neck as though uncertain of his welcome, but when Draco crooned at him and bent his head further, Harry grabbed him and kissed him ferociously again. Draco toppled into the nest, and beat his wings once, although he knew the platform was sturdy. All he'd really done was convert an ancient tree into a support pole and add reinforcing charms for the nest itself, which was wood on the outside.
"No one's ever built a nest for me before," Harry said into Draco's ear, while his hands explored the outer edges of Draco's wings this time. "Not even the other Veela I know."
"I keep telling you and telling you that Veela do special things for their chosen, but do you believe me?" Draco rolled his eyes as he settled on Harry's chest, letting the vibration of Harry's heart make him smile. "No."
"Well, it's hard to believe at first," Harry said, and looked up at Draco with his eyes painfully honest in the starlight. "That someone could want to do something for me that was just joyous."
Draco kissed the side of his face again and began, delicately, to feather his fingers over the buttons of Harry's shirt. "I think you're doing yourself and other people a disservice there," he murmured. "Your friends have done good things for you in the past." The more he could get Harry to think about his friends and what lying to them had done, the more comfortable he could get Harry with the notion of coming out about his magic.
Harry's eyes shut. "I've drifted away from them over the last few years," he whispered. "It was so easy just to blame my job for everything, and…"
His words were going in the direction of worry again, and Draco didn't want that. He rested his cheek on Harry's until Harry opened his eyes again, then murmured, "Your friends would want you to enjoy yourself. Why don't we do that right now, and worry about the politics later?"
Harry's smile was weak at first, and then became stronger as the moments passed and Draco watched it, enthralled. "Let's," Harry whispered, and pushed his body up against Draco's, letting Draco feel the erection he'd been dreaming about for the last week.
Draco licked Harry's face until he shut his eyes again, and then pulled his shirt off him altogether. Harry didn't flinch or shiver, thanks to the warm weight of Draco and feathers on top of him, but Draco did. He had to pull back to stare.
There were two long scars that he didn't understand, dark and puckered ones that came down towards Harry's waist in a V shape. Draco touched them with one hand and whined. He didn't mean to, but he had to know.
"That was one of the tests I had to pass to get accepted into the Unspeakables," Harry said quietly, running his hand down his chest and looking at the way his fingers lay on the scars as if he had never seen anything so fascinating. "I didn't know about it when I first decided to see if they would take me."
"They cast a curse at you?" Draco asked, deciding that he could, after all, speak without more whining, or spluttering.
Harry shook his head. "They put me into one of the artifacts they had lying about. And I don't want to talk about it, please."
His erection was flagging, and Draco knew that he couldn't have that. He reached down and stroked and squeezed Harry again until he relaxed and smiled, then kissed the scars. Harry gasped and reached down towards his head, then stopped his hand.
"Sensitive?" Draco asked, grinning up at him.
Harry nodded. His face was dark with a flush, but, especially knowing he had caused that flush, Draco could live with that. "No one's ever touched them before. At least, not that way."
With a tongue, Draco helpfully supplied, and he began to lick at them the way he had Harry's face, until Harry's legs were falling open and he was biting his fist to try and muffle some of the sounds he was making.
Draco reached up and removed Harry's fist, looking into his eyes, holding them until Harry nodded. Then he went back to the scars.
Harry made choked sounds, and cries, and grunts sometimes as Draco trailed his tongue over them. Then Draco made it to Harry's trousers, where the scars had always been leading him, and he reached up and delicately hooked his fingers into the waistband, watching Harry with lazy, sleepy eyes.
Harry swallowed once, and then nodded and tucked his legs in a little under Draco's weight so that Draco could take them off.
There were a few more scars on Harry's legs, and some of the ordinary marks that everyone got in day-to-day living: bruises, and welts, and striations. Draco still had to close his eyes when he saw them for the first time, the intensity of his feelings overwhelming him. He kissed beneath Harry's knee, and then reached down and took Harry's cock in hand.
Harry was writhing beneath him, soundless now, not because he was biting his fist but because he was apparently too far gone to make any noise. Draco smiled at his parted lips and bowed his head.
His first lick down Harry's cock had Harry blurting out, "Fuck, yes!"
"I'll take that as encouragement," Draco tried to say, but since he had his mouth around Harry's cock at the time, all it did was make Harry swear and yell at him some more. Draco hummed, and took Harry deeper, relaxing his throat as much as he could. It was still a little awkward, especially at the angle they were bent at.
But watching Harry's face as his mouth worked made it all worth it.
Harry was soaring. His head hung to the side, his mouth hung open, and whenever he tried to open his eyes, sheer pleasure made him close them again. His skin was slowly heating, and Draco knew that was from his magic, not his blush.
"I didn't know you could—" Harry slapped his hands down on his knees, almost hitting Draco's head, but Draco didn't mind. He had to pause in the way he was sucking Harry to watch him, anyway, because he was enthralled. Harry's chest heaved, and he managed to spit it out at last. "I didn't know Veela could make it that good."
Draco smiled. Yes, he was different, he was special, and that was one of the reasons he had embraced his heritage when it burst through, wings and claws and all. Of course, then he had thought the main result of embracing his heritage was that he got to have more money and possessions than the average wizard.
But there was something to be said for sharing yourself with your chosen, too. And Draco began to suck Harry again, softly, putting more strength into it, more sweetness, more allure, until Harry was bucking and crying.
Then Draco paused for a moment, so he could focus, and let his fingers rest on the scars on Harry's chest. Just as he sucked again, he focused his allure through his fingers, in a way that he had never done before with any of his other lovers but which seemed to come naturally.
Harry screamed. Then he came, and Draco swallowed so eagerly that it hurt his throat. He pulled back up and rested his hands on the scars, stroking them up and down.
No one else had done this to Harry. No one else could make him feel so good. Even another Veela wouldn't have that special connection to Harry that Draco would, the connection only Veela and chosen could have.
God, it made Draco feel so important and special and chosen, himself, that he could hardly stand it.
He spread his wings and tilted his head back, crying out to the sky. He thought there was a somewhat stunned silence in response, and then a few bird-calls came. And a long, trilling sound from far away that might have been another hunting Veela, accepting and acknowledging what Draco was telling them.
Then Harry was easing into him, kind of on Draco's lap and kind of into his arms considering the odd position they were holding in the nest, and his smile made Draco arch up to him, presenting his chest. Harry pressed him back into the velvet, watching him all the while.
"What do you want most?" he whispered.
Draco's mind exploded with desires, a hundred different possibilities, everything he could want and more. He wished that Harry had asked him an easier question. But in the end, there was one thing he could imagine, even if he had trouble describing it.
He wrapped his wings around Harry's back, bringing him closer, until Harry fell against his chest. Harry didn't try to pull back; in fact, his breathing quickened deliciously, and he tilted his head back as though waiting for a kiss.
Draco kissed him, but also arranged Harry so that Harry's arse was against his cock, and began to shift back and forth. It wasn't quite rocking, it wasn't quite thrusting. It was just their own movement, and the way the nest shifted around them as though in a high wind appealed to Draco's Veela instincts.
Harry laughed, and said, "All right," and nothing more.
It was hot inside the wings, sweltering. Draco watched the sweat work its way down Harry's face, and touched it with his thumbs to wipe it away. Harry clucked and sighed, but didn't open his eyes.
Then he did, and the sensation of being looked at like that made Draco's cock jerk.
Harry was watching him as though—as though he had accepted everything Draco was trying to tell him, as though it mattered to him that Draco had chosen him, as though this was something normal, or at least something he could accept. He reached out and took Draco's shoulders in his hands, and pressed down harder with his arse.
Draco shut his eyes and climaxed, his wings fluttering out as wide as banners. He was aware, on some level, of Harry reaching out, catching one of the wings, and bringing it back in to wrap around himself. He didn't know which one because he couldn't open his eyes. The pleasure darted and flamed through him like small arrows.
He had had experiences that were a shadow of this before, of course. He had dreamed often enough of what it would be like, with his chosen. But that was not the same as knowing what it was like, and he turned his head and rested his chin on Harry's shoulder with a small sigh.
Draco opened his eyes. Harry was leaning on him still, watching him. "Did I go that far away?" he asked.
"It felt like it," Harry said, with a little shrug. "I knew—I mean, I've had some lovers before who were happy to be with me, and they showed it. But never like that." His voice was soft and reverent, and so were the fingers he trailed across Draco's chest.
"You believe that you're the only one I could have chosen, then?" Draco caught his fingers and kissed them, one by one. He thought of the way Harry's fingers could wield a wand, and his own could grow claws, and smiled. "You know that I would kill for you, or defend you if you wanted it? That I love you?"
"I understand that it's different for Veela," Harry said. "I don't know—I don't know if I can say I love you yet. I don't know how long it will be before I can say that."
"But you're thinking about it," Draco said, curling himself even more strongly around Harry, their foreheads together and their eyes blinking into each other's. "About what I can do for you. You trust me."
Harry nodded slowly. "I still don't know if telling everyone about my magic would be the best course."
"You experienced that with me, and you still don't know?" Draco folded his hands into his chest and frowned at Harry. "How can you say that?"
Harry smiled at him. There were shadows in his eyes still, but Draco at least knew that he could chase them away for a time. That was a great revelation, worth having. "I mean that it's not like you embracing your Veela side," he said. "You didn't lie to anyone about that, and you used it for something that you—liked."
Draco noticed he faltered on the last words. It was impossible to miss, when they were so close Harry was breathing into his mouth. He nuzzled Harry's cheek and whispered, "I won't kill anymore, if you don't want me to. I have more than enough money without an assassin's career."
"I don't, I don't know," Harry said, and leaned in further until Draco had trouble focusing on his eyes. "It's just, I'm so used to hiding that I don't know what I would really gain by coming out, you know? It's going to upset my friends enough that a Veela chose me, and that the Veela is you."
"Let them go fuck themselves, then," Draco said, but sighed when he saw Harry's headtilt. "I know that's not a choice for you. But you can't prevent them from being upset, so you might as well go big. And your lies can't protect you anymore, not if your enemies already suspect how powerful you are and want you dead because of that."
Harry grunted and spent a few moments massaging the backs of Draco's hands. It wasn't that Draco wasn't appreciative, but he did finally nudge his head against Harry's to get him to go on.
"You'll be with me?" Harry whispered.
Draco leaned further back in the nest, cradling Harry on his chest with hands and gaze. "Yes," he whispered. "As much as you want, as much as you'll let me. I told you that. Are you beginning to believe it now that we've had sex?"
Harry's laughter was muffled against his chest, but he looked up, and let the starlight shine into his eyes so Draco could see them, could understand the light he saw there and the sudden lightness in his own chest. "Yes," Harry whispered. "I'll—accept it. I shouldn't be so comforted that a Veela assassin is standing next to me, but things have changed."
"Tell me why they've changed most of all." Draco combed his fingers down and up, along Harry's cheeks and around his nose. "I know it's not just because a Veela chose you. You've been involved with Veela before."
"There's someone who knows the worst of me." Harry took a breath that should have reached deep enough to inflate his heart. "And accepts it."
"What's the worst of you?" Draco whispered against his ear. "That you lied? I think your friends can forgive you for that. That you have powerful magic you didn't immediately tell anyone about? I have that, too."
"That I hurt someone," Harry said. "Twice, in fact. That I tortured someone with my magic, and you didn't so much as blink."
"I'm an assassin," Draco said, and curled himself around Harry. "Why should I blanch and flinch from what you do, when I've hunted and killed people?"
Harry rolled himself over to look up at Draco. Draco touched his face again, and held him there. Harry's breath mingled with Draco's again and again, until Draco's heartbeat had slowed almost to nonexistence, before Harry spoke.
"I've changed," Harry whispered. "All these things I've seen with the Unspeakables, all the things from the war I never told anyone about, all the shit I went through as an Auror…it changed me." He took a breath that would have suited someone about to fling himself from a cliff. "I'm worried that my friends will think I'm not a good person anymore."
Draco kissed his eyelids until they shut, held his hands until they stopped moving. Then he fanned his wings down and embraced Harry from the sides.
This was the heart and center of it, he thought. The fear Harry had circled around, the real reason he hadn't told his friends about his magic, the thing that had made him turn away from every chance he had possessed to confess it.
"You've been through so much," he whispered, not caring that his voice had descended to the kind of croon a Veela often used with a wounded chosen. Harry was wounded. It didn't matter that the injuries weren't visible. "It would be remarkable if you hadn't changed, if you were still the same naïve child you used to be."
"But Ron and Hermione haven't changed." Harry's whisper was small to lose itself in the darkness.
"Do you know that?" Draco had to ask. "You've kept so much of yourself from them. How well do you know them, now?"
Harry stared at him, then closed his eyes and sighed. "Why do you keep making so much sense?"
"Because I'm a Veela with a stubborn chosen who might never do anything at all if I wasn't there to urge him into doing it," Draco said, and ran his fingers up and down Harry's spine, feeling the knobs of it. "And I love you. That's the way it works, for me. I made my peace with it long ago." He paused, but Harry kept his eyes shut and didn't say anything. "It sounds like you have a lot in your life to make peace with."
"I tortured someone tonight."
"I've killed plenty of people for money," Draco countered. "I might have killed you if you hadn't proven yourself strong enough to be worthy of me. You have the right to recoil from me in disgust, but we've already established that you're not."
Harry sighed without opening his eyes. "I'm not worried you'll flinch from me, not now. I'm still thinking about what Ron and Hermione will say."
"They can't say anything unless you give them the chance to, by being honest with them in return." Draco traced his cheek over Harry's forehead, his nose, his hair. "Will you? I'll stand beside you or leave you alone with them, whichever you prefer, but you have to say something to them, I think. This is eating you alive."
Harry's head moved in a slow nod. "I think I have to." He looked up at Draco. "But we have to find and stop the people who want to assassinate me first."
Draco crooned, watching Harry's face change as Draco's chest bounced beneath him. "That's always the priority. But I can tell you a lot about them, because of the time I spent as an assassin. And I'm sure I can manage to find the cave again."
"How can we be sure that they're going to be there to meet us?"
Draco smiled and drew the claws that had suddenly grown on his fingers—gently—through Harry's hair again. "I think you can leave that to me, like the good little former assassin I am."
Draco swooped down in full sight of the cave, landing in front of it and stretching his wings up and to the sides. He folded them slowly, and let his arms also fold slowly and naturally across his chest. Anyone looking at him should see a powerful and fearful Veela assassin, one they would be wary of crossing.
Or one they might like to hire.
Draco remained there for half-an-hour before he saw the first face peering out of the cave. Maybe they had been there all along, but Draco didn't think so. A concealed entrance into the cave, a tunnel under the rock, was a better guess. He didn't move, though, just let them stare at him and take his measure.
The face withdrew. Draco smiled, and let the smile sparkle, his wings unfold. But he only flapped once before folding them again.
Finally, a hooded figure stepped out of the cave and beckoned to him. Draco walked the short distance between the cave and his landing place rather than flying it. He let his hips roll and his head tilt back, a sharp smile still riding his lips.
"You said that you knew where Harry Potter was?" The cloaked figure's voice was hoarse, and of course disguised by Merlin knew how many auditory charms.
"I have him, and I can deliver him to you." Draco let his head dip in a shallow nod that was the only acknowledgement this man who had conspired to kill his chosen deserved. He could feel the rest of the fury bubbling under the surface, but he refused to let it out. He had to think of Harry's long-term good, not the short-term pleasures of killing. "For the right price."
The man looked back into the cave and apparently communicated with the other people there in some way that Draco couldn't read. Then he turned back and nodded, beckoning again. Draco ducked after him into the cave.
There were several guards waiting with upraised wands just inside the entrance. Draco ignored them. A Veela in defense of his chosen would mow through them, and this confined space only meant his wings would serve as more effective shields.
Two men sat behind the rough stone table Draco had seen before, and one of them leaned forwards. "So. You took Harry Potter prisoner because he refused to mate with you?"
That was the story Draco had spread to them, but it only proved whoever had accepted it and allowed him to come here knew nothing about Veela. Which only made this easier, and somewhat calmed Draco's contempt. He let his wings droop down in front of him, shielding his chest and ready to fling outwards as weapons, not that they knew that, and nodded. "And he's the most stubborn bastard a Veela ever tried to mate."
The man who hadn't spoken yet tapped the other on the shoulder, and that one sat back so this one could lean forwards. Perhaps basic caution, Draco thought, or some absurd belief that one was "equal" to another when he did that. As if equality had much to do with the process of power. "You're willing to give him to us just because of that?"
"He won't give me what I want," Draco said, with an internal flinch. Draco would know the words as a lie, but Harry might not. "He never will. I know that particular look in someone's eyes. So I'm giving him to you."
"For a price," said the man who'd spoken first, as the other leaned back.
Draco nodded. "I want to make sure that you give me the next contract you have, and pay me twice as much as you would any other assassin. I knew I would lose some time that I could have used to hunt when I was trying to convince Potter to mate with me, but I had no idea how much."
The men whispered to each other for a while. It was audible to Draco, given his Veela hearing, but they said nothing important, and he was more occupied with listening to the slight sounds near the cave entrance instead.
Then the second one leaned towards him and said, "We agree, provided that you deliver Potter safely to us, complete with any possessions he may have been carrying at the time you captured him."
They think he has that bloodline artifact that revealed his power to them, Draco thought, and curled his lip in gentle mockery as he said, "Agreed. Where and when do you want him delivered?"
Another conference. Draco listened, and yes, the small sounds behind him had moved close enough that he could have touched the person with a wing. Good. The only part of this plan that had concerned Draco was the one where they moved past the guards in such a way that they didn't alert them.
But they were joined now, and they could do anything when they were together.
"We want him here," said the original speaker at last, turning back around. "As soon as you can fetch him. We will wait while you go for him." He folded his arms and inclined his head a little, as though he was doing Draco a great favor.
"Oh, well, that won't take long," Draco said comfortably, and spread his wings as though he would take off and fly right out the entrance of the cave. "Given that I thought you would agree, and brought him along already."
He had decided that he had to say that line, in spite of Harry arguing against it, because he had to watch, and rejoice, in the way their faces changed as Harry flung the Invisibility Cloak off over his head and unleashed his magic on them.
His magic shone. In this close, confined space, Draco could see the blue twitches and edges to the fire Harry had chosen, and feel the way it raised the hair on his arms, not because Harry was his chosen but simply because being close to that much magic was like being close to lightning. Draco laughed, and let his hands rest on Harry's hips, drawing him close and shielding him with his wings as the two speakers behind the table fell bound in fire and the guards attacked.
Draco's wings bounced the spells off, and one of the guards fell screaming, clutching his leg, from his own curse deflected. Draco laughed again, and raised his wings high to anticipate a spell that someone had tried to send down at them by making it ricochet off the cavern roof, and then whirled around, placing Harry safely behind him as the rest of the guards left made a concerted charge.
But Harry didn't think he should be protected, and stepped up to Draco's side, his eyes glowing with excitement, and once more called his fire.
Draco took a sheer, shivering moment of pleasure to appreciate it, the phoenix fire that moved at Harry's will and obeyed him without an incantation. It coiled around the limbs of the guards, binding most of them in place. One slipped off to the side and tried to curse Harry.
Draco took off in a single short hop and wrapped his wings around the guard, wrenching with them and with his hands. The guard's arms broke first, then his neck. Draco nosed at him to make sure he was dead before flying back to Harry.
Harry was staring at him. Draco cocked his head. Harry hadn't seen him kill before, but he certainly knew that Draco could, and Draco had warned him he would kill anyone unnecessary to learning the names of their enemies.
Harry licked his lips. "How messed up is it that I found you beautiful?" he whispered.
Draco took his hands. He didn't care they were in the middle of a cave full of people bound in ropes of fire that crackled warningly at them if they moved. Most of them were lying on the floor and couldn't see very well anyway. He ran his claws lightly over Harry's knuckles and whispered, "Not any more messed up than it is that you're so beautiful and powerful yourself."
He kissed Harry hard enough to bruise his lips and bring some blood, and would have done anything else he wanted if Harry hadn't pulled away and turned towards the men on the floor behind the table. Draco sighed a little and followed him. He had to admit that he admired Harry's dedication to his own safety, but he could have waited a few seconds.
Harry crouched beside the men and used his wand to create the wind that flicked the hoods back from their faces. Draco approved. He wouldn't have wanted his chosen touching them.
Harry said, "Ah."
Draco looked into their faces, but didn't see anything familiar. One man was dull-faced, with copper-colored hair that made Draco perk up for a moment, but the shock on Harry's face wasn't the kind that would appear if the man was related to the Weasleys somehow. The other had a long, flowing dark beard, and dark hair, and dark eyes, and dark glasses. Harry pulled them off and stared into the man's face.
"Who is it?" Draco asked, since it was the second man Harry seemed to be concentrating on.
"Felix Derringer," Harry said, and leaned his wand against Derringer's throat. His voice remained steady, but Draco could feel the magic building, storm-like, and stretched his wings towards it. "He used to work for us, but he was caught taking artifacts home and selling them. That's—unacceptable."
Draco squeezed Harry's shoulder. "And what about his companion?" he asked, nodding at the copper-haired man. "Is he unimportant enough that I can kill him?"
Harry glanced at him, then shrugged. "He's more than likely a dupe," he said, ignoring the way the man flinched from his words. "Or maybe the one who claimed that he knew the true extent of my power because of a blood-linked artifact. Maybe that's even true. But we need to keep him alive to question for right now."
Draco sighed and let his wings tremble. "You're never any fun, Harry."
Harry stiffened, and then relaxed. He could recognize teasing when he heard it, Draco thought approvingly, and reached out to slide his wing up and down Harry's spine, back and forth and in gentle, upwards-sweeping circles.
At that moment, Derringer decided the best thing to do would be to try and escape. Draco recognized the tremble of his muscles, and started to turn towards him, but Harry had already seen it, and reacted.
And what a reaction, Draco thought, his arms vibrating as he stared up at the floating Derringer. Harry's magic had reacted this time without visible light or noise. Derringer had simply hurtled into the air and now hung there with his limbs stretched out on an unseen rack. Draco bit the inside of his cheek and licked his lips.
Then Harry closed his eyes, and lowered his head. Draco slid his palm beneath his chin and tilted it up again, ignoring the second man. He was whimpering, and lay still. He must be a little smarter than Derringer, if he knew that reacting the way his partner had would earn him that same fate.
"Look at me," Draco whispered. "Are you about to be ashamed by what you just did? Because he's someone else who would have been pleased to see you die, and for a stupid grudge."
Harry shook his head. "I'm ashamed because I would have done something else to him," he whispered. "Something more than I needed to do to hold him prisoner or interrogate him. That's—not the person I want to become."
Draco purred disagreeably under his breath and said, "Do you want me to take care of them?"
Harry lifted his head again, and at least the fire was back in his eyes. "We can't kill them until we know what they know, I said." There came another whimper from the man lying on the floor, which both of them ignored.
"I know," Draco said. "I promise not to kill them, or even harm them permanently. You can take them and the others to the Unspeakables when I'm done. But let me handle this, for once. I know how men like this work. I can get the information you need from them, and it'll be the truth. Let me do this for you, do the hard things." He petted Harry's hair, stroking down to his neck as Harry arched against him like a cat.
Harry hesitated for long enough that Draco didn't know which way he'd jump. Then he tilted his head back, and sighed. Draco saw the soft gleam of his eyes before he closed them.
Draco bent over Harry and kissed him again, wrapping his wings around them so that they would have at least one private moment in a cave full the bound and gagged. Then he turned to Derringer and called him down to the floor. He felt the tug of Harry's magic, and knew that Harry could have resisted the pull and kept the man floating if he wanted to.
That only made it all the sweeter when Harry let go because Draco had asked him to, and let Draco do something for his chosen.
There's never been something I did better than choosing him, Draco thought, with a glance over his shoulder, and went humming to his work.
"So you didn't really have to torture them all that much, then."
Harry's head was leaning on his shoulder, and Draco stroked his hair slowly up and down, his eyes closing as they touched. They were once again back in the sitting room of the Manor where Harry had come to meet him, where they had tortured the master duelist, but this time, Draco considered that Harry was appropriately relaxed to fit in with the color scheme.
"No." Draco yawned and shifted Harry's head so that it fit better between his collarbone and his chin. "A lot of the men like that are cowards at heart. They hire assassins not because they don't have the skills to kill someone else, but because they're so frightened at the thought of seeing a face grow pale and blood spurt."
"I'm not overly fond of it myself," Harry said, his fingers tightening for a moment in the edge of Draco's cloak.
Draco turned his head and rubbed his nose against the side of Harry's neck. "But you can do it, when you have to," he said. "That's the difference. When I was coming at you, you didn't hold back. You cast the most powerful spell you knew at me, because it was absolutely necessary to get me out of the sky and stop me attacking you."
"And you don't…resent that?"
Draco laughed and leaned his head more strongly against Harry's, his laughter vibrating strangely in his own chest. There were some things that a Veela could only do after he had acquired his chosen, and some of the purrs were one of them. "Why should I? I thought you were brilliant. That was what convinced me to choose you, you know."
"That I almost killed you." Harry's voice was flat, and, Draco feared, more than a little incredulous.
Draco lifted his head and used his fingers to comb Harry's fringe back from his scar. Harry watched him with eyes as flat as his voice, but made no move to pull away. Draco touched the lightning bolt scar, and wondered for a fleeting moment how many people Harry had permitted this particular intimacy.
Well, it didn't matter, because no one else was going to have it now, and Draco could only be grateful to Harry's past lovers for teaching him so much about how to protect himself.
"People have always admired and feared you for this scar," Draco whispered into Harry's ear. "The symbol of the way you avoided death. The symbol of your mother's love, if we're going to pretend that story is true."
"It is." Harry's voice had dropped lower still, but he made no move to lean back from Draco's touch, which Draco counted as enough of a triumph for right now. "She's the real hero, not me. She's the one who should be honored with statues."
Draco nodded patiently. He wasn't going to be the one to explain to Harry how much less fun it was to honor the dead than the living. If he hadn't understood it yet, he wouldn't in the course of one conversation.
"Well," he said, "I admire you for your ability to avoid death, too, but I admire you for the way you defend yourself. Your strength, your skill, your speed, your power. All of those are part of you, and all of those are part of the reason you're alive. What can I do but love you desperately for them?"
Harry's breath caught, and he tilted his head back far enough to stare Draco in the eye. "You think—you think that you love me?"
"I said that before, didn't I?" Draco continued on with his smooth stroking, his head bowed so they were eye to eye. "I'm sure I did. And it's the natural conclusion, anyway. A Veela doesn't choose someone he knows he'll hate."
"Not knows, but I think that you don't know if you love me or not." Harry reached up a hesitant hand and closed his fingers over Draco's. "And I don't want you to be with me without—I don't know, Draco. I suppose I'm still not used to this. I expect you to act like someone would who was taking me as a regular lover. But that's not really the way it works, is it?"
Draco laughed in delight and rubbed his cheek against Harry's neck again. "Now you understand. No, it's not. I know that you're pure human, and you haven't had the chance to get used to this the way I have. But I've been Veela for years now, and while I didn't really think I would find a chosen in you, I've long since accepted the idea that I'd have one."
Harry closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. "I—see. Draco…"
"I know you aren't going to reject me," Draco whispered into his ear. "Because you wouldn't come this far with someone you intended to reject."
Harry half-smiled and shook his head. "No," he said. "But I want to know if this is going to be best for your health and happiness." He raised a hand to touch Draco's wing this time, and Draco shivered, the caress going through him like a dart. "Do you think you'll be all right with someone who still doubts you, someone who used to hate you, someone hunted by half the wizarding world?"
Draco nodded, drowning in gentleness, in the words. Harry wasn't his completely yet, but he worried for Draco's happiness. That was no small thing, in Draco's personal canon of love.
"I will," he whispered, opening his eyes to look at Harry. "Because you're who you are, strong and brave and perfect." He rested his hands on Harry's shoulders for a moment. "And you aren't even rejecting me because I'm an assassin and I kill people."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Well, I do rather expect you not to do that anymore, you know."
His voice shook, and Draco realized abruptly where a lot of Harry's hesitations were coming from. He seized Harry's hand and held it, bringing it to his mouth. Harry moaned quietly as Draco's tongue scrubbed back and forth between his fingers.
"No," Draco whispered again, when his mouth was free. "Of course I won't. I did it to earn money, but also because I could, because it was a careless exercise of strength and power that Veela have over humans. Now that I have you, I have someone I want to impress. I don't need the job anymore."
"But I don't want to force you…" Harry's voice trailed off.
Draco had to laugh. "At the same time as you don't want me killing anyone." Again he touched Harry's fingers with his tongue, and again Harry tilted his head back and closed his eyes. "Yes, I know, Harry. But you are going to change my life, the way I'm going to change yours."
"What way's that?" Harry opened one eye.
"We'll be honest with each other, and make each other be honest," Draco said. "I'll be standing behind you when you make your announcement about the magic and the people hunting you to the wizarding world, and you'll be with me when I make my announcement to everyone else about my chosen."
Harry tucked his head down into Draco's chest and closed his eyes. "Yes, I'll be there. We'll both be there," he whispered.
"Good," Draco said, and kissed his scar and his eyelids and his hands before leaning back again. "Now. What I found out from Derringer and his compatriots is exactly what we thought it was. They wanted to murder you because of a stupid grudge. Well, I think there were other people backing them who were more sincerely afraid of you and thought having you dead would make their criminal lives easier, but that was the motive of the people who actually hired me. The others were smart enough to send Derringer and his incompetent friend to do the dirty work."
Harry nodded without opening his eyes. "Do you think you can find these other people who were connected to them?"
Draco flexed his shoulders, although he didn't have his wings out right now. "They gave me the names. We'll speak them together, in front of the wizarding world, and then the Unspeakables and the Aurors will help us hunt them down."
Harry blinked a little. "You're serious about a formal announcement in front of everyone that we're bonded now?"
"Weren't you?" Draco grinned a little when Harry looked at him. "Yes, I am. For a Veela, it's an important part of the choosing process. You make your choice, and you present it to the chosen first, so they can have time to get used to it. And then you present it to everyone else, so they know not to choose what you've claimed."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Of course you do. Is the possessiveness the most important aspect of this to you?"
"Of course not," Draco said. "You are."
Harry's smile flashed into full being across his face, and he leaned forwards to kiss Draco. "Good answer," he whispered, while Draco stretched under his mouth and let his wings come out after all.
"Draco?" Harry whispered, when they had kissed hard enough and for long enough to tip Draco into a sort of daze.
"Hmmm?" Draco forced his eyes open against the pressure of pleasure to hold them closed. Harry was smiling at him with the kind of adoration in his eyes that made Draco's heart quicken until it felt as though it was beating in his flight feathers.
"Take me to bed."
They didn't go back to the nest after all, although Draco would have been happy to lift Harry and take him there. They moved to the bed in the room at the top of the Manor, the bed that Draco only slept in when he wanted to be really self-indulgent and luxurious, or when he needed to relax after a rare wound.
"I want to see all of you," Harry said, when Draco asked him why that choice. "And this is a side that I haven't come to terms with yet."
Given that Harry had chosen this, Draco shouldn't have stood by the doorway with his heart beating in his throat and his hand unable to move away from the wall, as though he actually needed the support. But he did anyway, and Harry stood in the center of the room and slowly turned around, passing silent judgment on the décor and the furnishings.
The walls were thick with tapestries, because Draco liked textures. They depicted flight in all its forms: dragons soaring over snow-covered mountains, phoenixes dancing rebirth, dragonflies hovering above glittering streams, butterflies emerging from the cocoon, peacocks fluttering awkwardly into the air before the glory of their tails, and of course Veela with widespread wings in silent display before an unseen chosen. Harry reached out and touched the blue-and-white tapestry nearest the bed, which showed swans in flight across a night sky, and then turned towards Draco with a surprised little exclamation.
"It feels like feathers!"
Draco inclined his head. He didn't think he could speak yet. In fact, he was sure he couldn't. He just stood there, and watched Harry explore.
The room was wide, with a door on the far wall that led to a bathroom, and a soft grey carpet on the floor. The only piece of furniture, other than the sleek mahogany desk where Draco kept some of his earnings from his assassinations, was the giant bed in the center of the room.
Harry approached it slowly.
He looked tiny beside it, beside the looming posts that almost reached the ceiling, and the sweep of canopies like netted wings, and the sheets that sprawled over it, the quiet, dark green of a forest—not because of Slytherin colors, but because Draco knew he would look stunning kneeling in the middle of that, with his white wings spread around him and his pale skin gleaming. Harry touched the thick pillows and stared at the blankets that could drown a dragon, and Draco's breath caught as he realized how thoroughly he had prepared the place for his chosen. Not that he knew Harry would be his chosen at the time, but—
Instinct isn't wrong. Not about things like this.
Harry turned around, and Draco saw the smile that spread across his face, even wider and more relaxed than the one he'd shown Draco downstairs. Harry's hands went to the buttons on his shirt, and he popped the first one.
Draco covered the distance between them fast enough to make himself dizzy. But he was crooning, and his head was filled with light and determination, and there was nothing else that had to separate them anymore.
He took Harry's fingers gently, reverently, from the buttons, and undid them himself, after first doing up the one Harry had undone. Harry watched him with wise eyes, dark ones. Eyes that had seen a lot of innocence die out of the world. Eyes that had seen power, and accepted it now.
Eyes that trusted Draco to do this for him.
Draco kissed him and herded him gently into the bed when he'd removed his clothes. He folded them himself and put them on the desk. No house-elf would come into this room to tend to them. Harry Potter in his bed, dark hair as shocking a contrast against Draco's sheets as white would have been, his eyes made the brighter by them, was a sight for his gaze alone.
Then Draco arched his neck and began, at last, to display for his chosen.
He wheeled in the middle of the room, wings spread wide, arms lifted as he showed off his strength and speed. He had already stripped off his shirt, and reached now for his pants. Harry's breath quickened. Draco crooned and ducked his head down slyly.
Then he took off and flew around the room. The high ceilings and wide-spaced walls were there for other reasons, too.
Harry lay back on the pillows and gaped at the sight of him flying. Powerful, perfect, quick, poised, especially when Draco backwinged above the bed and landed softly beside Harry, reaching out to trail his fingers down Harry's chest and some of the scars that lived there.
Harry surged up, grabbing him and kissing him fiercely.
They wrestled in the middle of the bed, sporting like lions in the springtime, Harry's power singing around them in time with Draco's croon. Draco discovered his wings were beating out the tune, too, and let out a soft, contented warble. This was what he had been waiting for, although he hadn't known his own preferences all that well until now, a chosen who could match him in all the ways that counted.
It wasn't Harry's power that had made Draco choose him, or not Harry's power alone. It was all the things that came with that power, all it promised.
They passed from the wrestling into kissing, and passionate touching, until Draco was between Harry's legs, and Harry's feet were on his shoulders, ankles a breath away from his wings. Draco smiled down at Harry as he rubbed lube between his hands, Summoned from the desk by who knew which one of them. Harry's eyes were darting to his wings, looking as though he worried about whether a kick from him could crumple Draco's flight feathers, but Draco wished he wouldn't worry about anything so ridiculous.
Draco liked that sense of danger.
He slid his fingers into Harry, but not for long, because Harry was already tapping him lightly on the shoulder to tell him to get on with it, and Draco was feeling a bit impatient himself. He slid into Harry with a gasp and settled there, head bowed, wings beating time to a different tune now, restricted by the way he knelt.
"I want it," Harry said, in a voice that cracked down the middle, but was still deep enough to sound like a snarl from a blackened cave.
Draco opened his eyes, and smiled at Harry—brilliantly, because he didn't know how else to smile—and began to rock and stroke forwards. He used his knees, his hands, his arms, his wings, all of those, as well as the magic that drummed under his skin for a Veela chosen alone. It was meant to make them relax and give it up, after they'd already made the choice and come here.
Show them the Veela meant it.
Show him I mean it, Draco thought, dizzy with love and power, and Harry opened his eyes and smiled up at him.
Draco knew he could go faster, and he did, straightforward and true as a bird soaring home. Harry dug his fingers into the sheets, and looked pleased about how soft they were, and did it again. The fire flickered in the hearth on the far side of the room, and the tapestry of swans blew back and forth, and the pale, stern faces of the Veela in the other tapestry Harry had stared at blazed like stars.
There was so much darkness around them. So much light. Draco pressed inwards, and held himself there for a moment, wings fluttering, while he directed the magic down and into Harry.
Harry's pleasure started with a surprised little twist of his mouth, as though he didn't know what he was feeling. Then he arched his head back and cried out, and the muscles in his neck corded and trembled. He went on rising, in body and in voice, his hips leaving the bed and his voice turning into a plea, as he emptied himself.
And Draco had the control to wait, not to come, until he had seen Harry safely through and could follow, because that was one of the things Veela could do for their chosen.
Afterwards, he had the same ability to raise his wings in the air like floating flowers and bring them down like shadowy veils around them both, oh so lightly, oh so softly.
"What are you going to do to show your power?"
Harry spent some time studying his formal robes in the mirror without answering. He had taken over an office in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement to do his dressing in, and Draco approved. When an Unspeakable walked into the Department and demanded a room in that tone of voice, people moved.
But Draco had felt the tremor of power in Harry's voice, and seen the way he wore his fringe brushed in a natural way, so that it had as much chance of falling away from his scar as obscuring it, and knew it was more than that. These people were giving place to Harry Potter. Maybe unwillingly, maybe in surprise. Harry Potter was supposed to be the timid little Hero who gave credit to everyone else for his successes, not someone who announced that he would be holding a meeting with the press to make an important announcement in half an hour and he needed a room to prepare his formal robes in the meanwhile.
And certainly not someone who took a known Veela into the room with him.
Harry finally turned away from the mirror and faced Draco. His jaw was set, but although his eyes were dark, they were also clear. Draco loved that. He knew that Harry wasn't doing this because Draco wanted him to, wasn't doing this because Draco had forced him to, but had chosen this.
If he hadn't wanted to, no force on earth could have moved him.
Draco loved his chosen as much for that as for anything.
"Wait and see," Harry answered, and walked out of the room, pausing minutely before the door to lift his head and straighten his back. Draco followed him with head cocked, wondering for a moment if he was imitating someone.
The truth hit him like an arrow. No. Harry was walking the way he naturally should do, the way he never did in the Ministry, because then someone might start suspecting his power or wanting him to do something for them.
Draco's wings came out. He couldn't help it. He had planned to wait until they were in front of the public and he could claim Harry as his chosen, but at least he could fold them back and have them in waiting on his shoulders instead of pulling all the attention away from Harry.
He could see the side of Harry's face as he walked in profile ahead, and made out the quirk of the smile, the way that it relaxed Harry and dropped even more strength into his stride. Just from the sight of Draco's wings.
Draco walked out into the eye of the public delirious with love.
Harry nodded to the people waiting in the Atrium of the Ministry, but Draco didn't think he noticed the reporters and the Ministry officials and the concerned Head Auror leaning forwards to stare at him. Maybe his fellow Unspeakables.
Certainly his friends, who were both in the front row and looked at him wonderingly when he stepped off the lifts with Draco behind him.
Harry faced them, and although he'd cast Sonorus on his throat so that his words could reach everyone in the room, his voice sounded soft anyway when he said, "Thank you for coming." Draco watched Granger's eyes widen and dart between him and Harry. She'd figured out part of it, at least, probably after seeing the curves of Draco's wings over his shoulders. "I wanted to announce several things to you."
There was shifting among the Unspeakables now. Draco wondered if they thought Harry had chosen this very public method to betray the secrets of their order.
Draco didn't give them the chance to worry about it. He snarled and flashed his wings out, and they fell silent in shock, giving Harry the chance to speak.
"First," Harry said, "I've been hunted by several men, one of them a former Unspeakable, who thought my power was too dangerous to them to leave me alone. They hired at least eight assassins to go after me. I have list of their names, and of their allies', which include some people in high places. I'll expect full cooperation from the Ministry in the effort to track them down."
Cameras flashed, or began to flash harder than they had so far, and someone yelled a question in a hoarse voice. Harry gave no sign that he'd noticed, instead continuing, and because his voice was the louder one, the questioner was silenced. Draco's wings flashed again, but this time, he might be the only one who recognized it for a sign of approval.
"Second," Harry said, "I became an Unspeakable for many reasons, some good, some not as good. I do believe that my mother was the one who saved the wizarding world by giving me her protection against Voldemort, and she's the one who should be honored as the true hero for defeating him." Draco laughed aloud at the way so many people still flinched at Voldemort's name. Well, they would learn a better source of fear soon.
"But I'm more powerful than I ever let anyone know," Harry said. He was looking at his friends, and his face was bright with love and hope. Draco knew they would realize what he felt for them. They damn well better, or Draco would scrub the floor with their faces until they did. "I was afraid of what might happen to me if anyone knew, afraid that someone I loved would reject me for having that power and that violence. To show you what I mean…"
He held his hand out, and Draco was sure that everyone felt the surge of magic leaping from Harry, but he didn't use his wand.
The rebuilt Fountain in the center of the Atrium drifted gently off the floor. Draco's feet left it at the same time. He hovered in the air near the ceiling, and spread his wings so he could show off to best advantage.
He was the only one hanging up there—the only one, he realized as he saw the pale faces staring up at him, who wouldn't be afraid of this evidence of what Harry's power could do. Preferably not the only one who realized the immense control that Harry was exercising to only lift two objects in all that vast room, though, and so would be impressed.
Draco spread his wings further and let Harry spin him around, rotate him and turn him like he was on a wheel. Then he came gently back to earth and stepped up behind Harry, his wings spread and enfolding him. He kept the curves low enough so that everyone who mattered could still Harry's face over the top of them.
Granger was gaping at Harry, or maybe at the two of them together. Weasley stared in much the same way, except that his mouth was wider. But neither of them frowned or screamed or demanded answers the way people behind them did.
Then Granger smiled.
Draco felt Harry sway against him, and knew that he was probably in no shape to make the final announcement they had planned on. Well, Draco could make it for him. It was more properly Draco's announcement anyway.
"I'm a Veela," he said, to state the obvious to some of the idiots in the room who wouldn't have got it. He stretched his wings wide and sheltered Harry that way, under their shadow, as the Fountain settled back onto its base. "Harry is my chosen. That means I protect him from people who try to hurt him, and guard his back, and walk at his side, and sleep in his bed." He flashed his wings shut again, this time completely enfolding Harry for a moment before he retracted them to his back. "Any questions?"
There were, of course. But Granger had stepped forwards and laid her hand on Harry's arm from one side, and Weasley had done the same from the other. And Harry's eyes had light in them when he looked at his friends that kept Draco from being as jealous as he would have done.
So the questions didn't matter. What did was the light in Harry's face, in his eyes, in Draco's heart, in Draco's blood.
What mattered was that Harry turned around and kissed him, right in front of his friends and the Unspeakables and Rita Skeeter and all.
What mattered was that a certain darkness had passed, and the glory of their futures was just beginning.