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Hellcat 2

SCENE TWO

“My life is over.”

“Your life is not over,” TJ said reasonably over the headset. It was drowned out by the sound of two light bulbs in Sean’s kitchen popping and showering glass to the tile floor.

Sean whirled, went to his computer setup, and slammed his palm on the switch for the power strip. Nothing changed. The strange symbol glowed in taunting mockery on all four of his computer screens. Fuck, the magic was feeding the current. This wasn’t good. He could feel his business along with his little scrap of independence dying right before his eyes.

“We’re not zoned for magic.” Sean’s shock was slowly giving way to anger. “There are over 30 apartments in this building; you can’t just go throwing in a magical element without the right buffers.” Not just an element, it was a magic practitioner. Spirit Movers were contracted only by the magically inclined. It wasn’t one fucked up magically cursed item, but a creator of all things magical about to come into his apartment building. It didn’t matter how much Sean invested in proper shielding, his technology was going to be a hunk of melted metal and plastic the moment a witch stepped into the building.

Four years. He had built this business up from nothing over the last four years. He slaved without breaks, starved more than he ate, and had only just gotten to the point where he could finally pay off the fucking loan it took to buy his equipment in the first place. This wasn’t allowed to happen. He couldn’t let this happen. This was his fucking life and he wasn’t just handing it over to some careless, spark happy witch.

“Sean? Hey, are you there?”

“Quiet,” Sean snapped automatically. He looked around his satisfyingly immaculate living room which doubled as his office. He just needed something big, like a bat. How did he live in the fucking city and not have a hunk of baseball bat to slug at intruders? Sean stomped into the kitchen and grabbed the tea kettle off the stove, thought better of it, and reached for a frying pan instead.

“Sean, talk to me. You’re doing that muttering thing. Tell me you’re not losing your shit.”

Sean snorted in irritation. “I’m not losing my shit. I’m just going to go down there and tell them to get the fuck away from my building.”

TJ sighed heavily. “Come on, you know you can’t…”

“Blunt force trauma can still hurt a witch, right? They’re still human, after all.”

“Wait,” TJ interrupted before Sean could storm out the door. “Just take a breath and hold the fuck on. This is a witch we’re talking about.”

“I don’t care if it’s the fucking mayor!” Sean wasn’t sure exactly when he started yelling, but yelling felt like the thing he needed to do. He swung his arm with the frying pan, satisfied by the heft of the object. “Witches have to abide by the same regulations as everyone else. Otherwise it’s chaos! I cannot handle fucking chaos.” Sean tried to take a calming breath, his face too flush and throat tight all of a sudden. “I’m just going to go down and calmly explain other people live in the building and bringing any sort of magic into an unbuffered space can lead to the total destruction of any and all electronics.” He swung the frying pan again, his mouth set in a grim line.

“Right, tell that to the ass end of their wand when they’re turning you into a toad. Just calm down, Sean. My shift is over in an hour. I’ll come by and talk to them for you.”

“Like fuck. I’m not waiting for you. The second they move all that shit in here, my computers will be fried. That’s thousands of dollars down the fucking toilet.” Sean stopped his erratic pacing and slapped his hand to his forehead. “Oh fuck, I’ll have to move. They’ll want references. Credit checks. Fuck, TJ, they’re going to want to talk to my parents.” The frying pan fell from his hand and clattered noisily to the tile floor. “I can’t do this. I can’t fucking do this. My life is over. I can’t run a business in the same building as a witch.”

“Breathe. Sean, there is no reason to believe any of that. You’re just making shit up in your head and…” Another light bulb blew overhead and Sean jumped in surprise. He scrambled blindly until his back slammed against the fridge. Feeling trapped, he glared at the bare socket which was glowing a suspicious purple. TJ continued, oblivious. “People work with witches all the time. Hell, witches are total entrepreneurs and not only hire a ton of freelancers like yourself, but also improve the local economy. I’m sure whoever is moving in has no interest in fucking up your business.”

Sean shook his head fiercely. Some days he just couldn’t understand how fucking naive TJ was. “The building isn’t zoned. I have it in fucking writing. I never would have started a tech based business in a building zoned for magic; I’m not an idiot. Magic kills tech.”

“Breathe,” TJ insisted while completely ignoring his brilliant point.

He did have it in writing and Sean stalked to the bedroom and went to the bookcase. He keyed in the combination and opened his personal safe and quickly riffled through the papers piled within. It took him a minute to find his agreement with the property management. “It’s in the third paragraph of the lease; no magical interference will be allowed into the apartment. This isn’t just about my business, this is basic regulations to be able to use a television or cell phone. You can’t run a fucking lamp around magic without fear of something fucking up.”

“Then call the property managers and yell at them,” TJ said as reasonably as possible. “For the love of fuck, just don’t pick a fight with a witch.”

Sean growled and headed back to the living room. He jumped and grabbed his chest when the overhead light exploded in shards and trickled into his hair. “Fuck!” he gasped as he brushed his blond hair free of glass. “TJ, if I could disconnect from you, I would have already. Take the batteries out of your phone; it won’t make a fucking difference. The witch isn’t even through the damn door yet and all the tech is fucked in the building.” Sean grabbed his keys from the bowl in the kitchen. “I’m going down there and telling them they’ve made a mistake. They’re out of zone and have to move their truck at least a quarter of a mile away.”

TJ sighed in exasperation. “No, you’re not, Sean. Just focus on your breathing. I’ll be down there in less than an hour. Fuck, I’ll blow the rest of my shift off. Just chill, and I’ll be right there.”

“I’m not fucking waiting! You didn’t see my setup!” Sean pointed to his glowing computer screens, only to roll his eyes when he realized TJ couldn’t see shit through the headset. “The only one else home this time of day is the elderly couple on the first floor. What exactly is Mr. and Mrs. Luthra going to do? They’re both probably having heart attacks from all their light bulbs explode.”

“Either that of they haven’t noticed,” TJ said, his voice even more even and soothing. “The Luthras are pretty laid back. Just calm down. I’m leaving now.”

Sean bared his teeth and growled. “Fuck you. I’m not a fucking five-year-old. I don’t need you to hold my fucking hand to deal with this. Fucking bullshit.” Still, Sean stopped his angry march to the front door stopped and stared warily at the cherry stained door.

“Uh huh.” TJ sounded distracted over the sound of a cage clicking shut and the excited mewls of a half dozen kittens. “Traffic shouldn’t be too bad this time of day. It’ll take ten minutes, top.”

“I go to the gym every fucking day. Every day. I don’t need your help. It’s right downstairs,” Sean insisted, his voice sharp.

“Yup, it’s pretty fucking awesome, man. I can’t drag myself to the gym consistently once a week, and you go every day.”

“Don’t condescend.” God, he hated his life. Fucking hated it. Sean crossed the distance and slammed his fist down on the door.

“You know I wouldn’t do that. I seriously wish I could work out. I’m going all flab since I left college.” TJ’s cheerful tone drained away, and in his mind’s eye, Sean could see his friend’s familiar, worried expression. “You know the path is different, Sean. You can’t get to the front door from the gym.”

“Fuck you.” Sean wasn’t sure if he was directing the curse at TJ or the light bulb that just exploded overhead. “My computers are going to be on fire the second they drag something magical through those doors.” He sounded determined, but when Sean grabbed the door handle, he couldn’t bring himself to turn it. Fuck. Motherfucker.

For a brief, unnerving moment Sean could see the path it would take to get from his apartment doors to downstairs. It was a twisted, crooked walk where the edges felt dark and every doorway led to a maze of hallways and potential danger. Sean’s heart pounded in his chest loud enough for him to finally notice over the sickening wave of heat lurching through him. What would happen once he was outside? The world would stretch out like an ocean of sky and pavement, where the towering skyscrapers were his only buffers to the lack of boundaries all around.

TJ’s voice broke through, calm and full of a reassuring smile. “Ten minutes, man. That’s it. You know how movers are; I bet they take an hour break before they even get started.”

Damn it. God fucking damn it. Sean huffed, stomped back to the living room, and threw himself into his roller chair. His hands were clammy with sweat. He rubbed them distractedly on his pants while the racing of his heart slowed to something bearable.

“Ten minutes,” Sean said too sharply as he fought to regain control of himself. “If they come through those doors with something computer destroying before you get here, I’m totally blaming you.”

“Fair enough.” TJ, as usual, was far too agreeable. Sean slumped in his seat and covered his eyes with his hands.

Intangible 25

Chapter Twenty-Four

Fawkes cooed softly to the rising dawn when Harry woke again. His awareness drew to the phoenix, Fawkes a warm shining flame glowing in his mind’s eye. He could feel the bird, a presence now within him sharing everything without fear or hesitation. Harry was extended, a piece of his soul contained within the magical bird. It was intense. Bizarre.

Harry wondered where Draco was seeing as Fawkes didn’t know. The pain was gone. Harry remained still with eyes closed, his focus consumed by the new awareness of his body. He was strong. He was very strong. What he thought were heavy, weighted wings were light and easily controlled with the right muscles. He flexed; in his mind Fawkes offered intelligence on how wings worked, even as Harry found something innate inside that already knew.

He was whole. Harry could feel his body from the tips of every ruffling feather, to his tail, to the antlers crowning his head would no longer fear ever tangling. He could feel; air brushed his flesh and his scales shifted with every movement of hand and talon. He was hyper sensitive. The pain was gone but he didn’t feel exactly as he should be. How he would be right, he wasn’t sure. All he knew was something was off.

Dumbledore was nowhere to be found but Harry had little doubt he’d return. He carefully stretched, feeling the weight of his body, the grace of his muscles as he unfurled, rose and sat with ease. The bed was clean and lacked any slashes, and his clothes replaced with thin pajama bottoms. His large wings prevented him from wearing a shirt. Harry pressed his fingers to the bed, amazed with the feel of it. He could feel again. He could smell, and things were solid. Real. He was real. When his ears heard sound, it wasn’t far away in an echo. The world was crisp and overly sharp; it was like looking through the world in new glasses, but for all his senses.

Harry was golden skinned. The black was faded from his flesh including his feathers, which look pure gold and metallic. He looked around the room and spotted a mirror by Madame Pomfrey’s office door but held himself back. He’d wait for Dumbledore. He had a feeling walking around near exits would be an issue for his headmaster at the moment.

Fawkes burred in his mind, a fluttery call. Harry turned and for a moment saw the bird how he used to, divided on different planes. He focused and the fire faded from the phoenix and feathers and details came into view. Yes, he was changed. He was back, different, and really hoped Draco would be allowed to visit soon.

“Awake, I see,” Dumbledore’s voice rang out. Harry turned to find Madame Pomfrey’s office door open and the headmaster standing just inside the doorway. Harry tilted his head, and his vision swam for a moment with all the different versions of Dumbledore to be seen. Colorful magic swirled around him; the fifth plane was so strong Harry had to blink and stare blankly at his bed for a while.

“How do you feel?” Dumbledore stepped into the room and closed the door behind him.

“Fine. A little disoriented.” Harry’s voice sounded low to him and his teeth were sharp against his lips. He ran his tongue between teeth and lips and frowned at the odd sensation. A smile quickly stretched his lips. He could feel! He hadn’t realized how dull touch was before until it was returned to him.

“Do you think I can have visitors soon?” Harry asked around his new teeth. He really wanted to see Draco. Touching would be different now. Better, somehow.

“Not yet. I’d like to establish how you’re feeling first.” Dumbledore spelled up a chair and sat across from Harry.

“I feel fine,” Harry repeated as he touched his lips. Would kissing Draco feel the same? Maybe better. Fingertips on his lips felt damn amazing. Everything felt amazing. His skin was nearly tingling, all fuzzy and warm.

“Are you hungry?” Dumbledore didn’t seem ready to argue with Harry on how he felt just yet. “It’s been months since you’ve had an actual meal.

His head cocked as Harry’s ears picked up the sounds of students far in the distance. It took him a moment to focus back on Dumbledore. “Sure, I guess. Whatever.” He blinked as magic fizzled in the air to the right of him. A visual burst of small fireworks appeared moments before a house elf popped in with a plate of food. Harry stared contemplatively where the creature popped away; he could feel the trail of magic lead down to the kitchens. This was going to take some getting used to.

Harry poked distracted at a chunk of chicken with his fork; the metal felt strange in his hands. It was like metal was half alive with an energy vibrating inside its hard form. He could feel Dumbledore staring at him, so he lifted his head and pasted a smile on his face. The more normal he looked, the faster he’d be allowed to get the out of there. “Smells intense,” Harry said as he indicated the food. “Like, the most food smelling food I’ve ever smelled. If a scent could glow, that’s how food smells.”

“Perhaps it’s a sign of hunger.” Dumbledore waved his hand encouragingly.

Harry nodded absentmindedly and brought the fork full of chicken closer to sniff. He licked his tongue out and jolted as his taste buds flared to life. Saliva immediately flooded his mouth. “Hell.” He bit down too quickly and flinched as he managed to bite the fork and his bottom lip at the same time with his strange fangs. Harry kept his head ducked to keep Dumbledore from seeing. He carefully removed the fork from his mouth and chewed slowly.

“Can you tell me what you remember?”

Harry stared at his plate as he carefully chewed around his tongue. He tried the mashed potatoes next,his nose picking up the scents of butter, salt and not enough pepper. “Pain. Voldemort tearing me to pieces.” Harry’s body flared at the words; his wings, antlers, tail, arms and legs all twinged in terrible memory. “Power. Awful power.” He bit down cautiously around the fork. The potatoes melted on his tongue while he metal extracted the instrument from between his teeth.

“You remember his power?” Dumbledore asked with brows furrowed.

“Not his.” Harry managed to swallow and not choke; another problem he didn’t expect. His body felt like it half belonged to someone else.

“The Vesper?” Dumbledore pressed. “When they interrupted the spell?”

Harry glanced up at the wizened man and his teeth clinked on the fork. Vesper. There were Vesper in the castle. “How’s Jaz?” Harry’s mind strayed back to a faded memory of the specialist falling to the ground when he finished his spell. Blood was haloed around his head.

“He’s perfectly well,” Dumbledore assured. “You remember them, then? How about before?”

Harry’s eyes flickered to Dumbledore and then to door behind the headmaster’s seated form. “I remember before.”

Dumbledore looked like he wanted to sigh; Harry wasn’t making things easy. “Tell me a story, Harry. Start the day you left here ready to go back to your relatives for the summer.”

Harry reached for his juice. He was forced to lick with the flat of his tongue once he realized his teeth were only going to continue to clink against the glass. “I finished sixth year. McGonagall was upset with my grades; she said I was distracted and disruptive,” Harry intoned without any heat. There was a bird outside the infirmary window. Except it wasn’t right outside, it was a mile away, in a tree, pecking on the bark in search of insects.

“You returned to your relatives. By train,” Dumbledore prodded when Harry turned silent and distracted again.

“Right. I didn’t want to go. I was worried about Malfoy.” Harry put his glass down and turned Dumbledore, who continued to stare at him. “Where is Malfoy?”

Dumbledore sat back and folded his hands. His body language created a wall between them Harry couldn’t help but discern with his new senses. “Would you like to see Mr. Malfoy?”

“Yeah. Definitely.” Harry smiled, then flinched again when he bit his lower lip on a sharp fang.

“Do you think Mr. Malfoy would like to see you?” Dumbledore’s gaze was oddly stern. Harry blinked at the odd question and rubbed his bleeding lip.

“Er, of course.” Harry tilted his head as he tried to think back on any reason Draco wouldn’t want to see him. “Did someone tell him about the will? Is he being pissy?” He licked his tongue out and blood filled his senses in a cacophony of tangy sweet metal. Harry gasped and stared at the tips of his fingers where he touched his lip. He tentatively licked the most red streaked one and tried to suppress a moan from the overwhelm of flavor.

“Harry, can you hear me?”

Harry snapped his gaze up, his fingers wet from his tongue. Everything thrummed around him; the air, the magic in the castle, Dumbledore across the room. It was hot… hazy. “Where is he?” Harry asked, his voice hoarse to his ears.

Sharp blue eyes met his and Dumbledore shimmered for a moment. He was fortifying. Defending. “Who, Harry?”

He was hiding something.

Harry turned from Dumbledore and switched his vision until the room was dark and magic swirled around him. He kept turning in his seat on the bed while he swept his gaze deep into the castle. He looked down toward the dungeons, up to the towers, and out onto the grounds. Nothing. No glow, no white, no Draco.

Harry took a steadying breath and forced his eyes to look at his hands. They fluctuated. His oddly gold skin charred at the edges around his fingertips as long black nails sprouted free. “Where’s Draco?”

“Do you think he wishes to see you?” Dumbledore asked again. The words were like prickling wounds to Harry’s skin.

“I don’t fucking care if he wants to see me. Where the hell is he?” Harry watched his fingers burn. Char rose up and splotched over his hands.

“Shouldn’t you care?” The only sign Dumbledore showed he noticed his line of questioning was enraging Harry was more shimmering as he increased his magical fortification. “Mr. Malfoy is an intelligent, willful young man. I believe he enjoys say in who he spends his time with. Now he can see you, he may not be so accessible to you. Isn’t that his right, Harry? Don’t we all, as individuals, have a right to decide who we wish to spend our time with?”

Harry stood abruptly. His tray clattered to the floor in a glitter of shattered glass and the dull crack of the plate. He glared at Dumbledore briefly before striding to the mirror on the opposite wall. “Aw, crap,” he hissed when he caught sight of his reflection. He was broad shouldered, his neck thicker, face fierce with wild green eyes beneath heavy brows. His lip was bleeding, which didn’t helping things much, nor did the massive antlers. Thankfully they flowed more up than out, or Harry would be taking out people left and right just by walking. Did Draco see him? Had he visited while he slept and saw how fierce he now looked? Was he repulsed? Afraid? Did he fucking hide himself away like a frightened mouse?

Harry snorted and rolled his eyes at his unfamiliar reflection. Not bloody likely.

So what the hell was Dumbledore on about? Harry turned and found Dumbledore was standing with his wand discreetly in his hand. “Sir, is there something you want to say to me?” Harry’s patience was worn thin by this very confusing, annoying conversation.

“You seem upset,” Dumbledore remarked carefully.

Harry narrowed his eyes as his power licked ever so subtly in the pit of his stomach. If he didn’t get a straight answer soon, he was going to demand one.

“Tell me about your mate.” Dumbledore’s eyes stayed tight on Harry’s twitching, black charred fingers.

Harry started at the question; something inside him twisted and called at the word ‘mate.’ He looked around the castle again, seeking Draco’s glowing form. “He’s missing.”

“No,” Dumbledore said swiftly. His hands moved wide and drew Harry’s attention. “Draco is fine. Tell me about him. Tell me a story about your mate.”

Harry’s eyes didn’t stray from Dumbledore’s strange motions. He nodded as his tongue flicked over his bleeding lip. “Uh, he’s my mate. I take care of him, protect him. I really want to find him so I can protect him, Sir.”

Dumbledore bowed his head in understanding. “How do you protect him?”

Harry shrug was uncertain. His gaze again drifted down to the right of Dumbledore to where Draco’s room was. “Kill things, I suppose.” He smirked, his fangs touching but not biting this time. “Killed Voldemort.”

“It was good you killed Voldemort, but there is no one else like him, Harry. No one you need to kill.”

Harry glanced up and noticed just how stiff Dumbledore was all of a sudden. “Sure, killing people is just a bit mad. I don’t have to kill people to protect Draco.” He would though. Lots of people. Soon, if someone didn’t tell him where Draco was already.

Dumbledore edged a half step toward the door. “You look tired, Harry. Would you like to sit?” His hand waved and pulled Harry’s gaze again.

“I’m good.” Harry eyed the windows. There was no way his new horns were going to fit out those little slitted windows, never mind his wings. He walked to them anyways just to see what Dumbledore would do. Nothing, at the moment. Harry knew he had him on the retreat. One little step toward the door revealed everything. Once that door was open…

“Harry, I can’t help but notice your skin is changing color,” Dumbledore said tersely. “Has anyone told you why that might be?”

“I’m upset,” Harry snapped as he glared out the window. “I woke up locked in a fucking room, and I can’t find Malfoy. And you—you keep asking inane questions!” He whirled and his wings unfurled wide and filled the space around him with smoothly charring feathers. “Why are you turning black, Harry? Will Malfoy want to see you, Harry? Here’s a fucking question for you, Sir. What the hell am I going to do to you if you don’t let me out of here!”

Dumbledore’s chin tilted and his eyes blazed in challenge as he stared Harry down. “That does seem to be the question we both want to know the answer to.”

The man was infuriating. Harry glared as the minutes ticked by, watching every shimmer of power, every drop of sweat on Dumbledore’s brow. Harry scowled and folded his wings tight against his bare back. “I’m not going to—”

The door leading to the hall suddenly slammed open, and Dumbledore and Harry jumped at the sound. Harry gaped when Narcissa Malfoy in all her petite, pristine fury pointed her wand straight at his chest. Behind her, two guards slumped on the ground at her feet. “Potter, what have you done with my son!”

Dawn streaked red across the sky. Draco blinked up, his lips parted in a long yawn. He carefully extracted his arm from the shifter next to him and stretched it over his head. The pelts were soft beneath him on the ground as he leaned back. The early spring air was chill but the bodies surrounding him kept him toasty. It ended up being hotter than sleeping in the bed inside.

Tomorrow he was expected to go back, to Hogwarts, to class, to numbness. To loneliness. How could he explain to Harry he was lonely there? Would he come back with him, or would Harry rather live with all his friends? Harry had a family in ways Draco never did. Sure, Harry never had parents, but Sirius and Remus were definitely his family. Draco’s parents were never a family but these Vesper… This was home. It was gloriously dysfunctional, hardly traditional, and innately right.

He was home.

Draco wondered how his ancestors dealt with it. They all fought so hard to remain human and battled the half of them who was yearning for more. Everyone eventually gave in to their nightmare and end up coming home. Many only found the Vesper after they had a family and children of their own. They had to give up their old life. They had to give the ring to the next generation of halfling. Once awakened, there was no going back. Draco, on the other hand, still had a choice.

He glanced up and found Hermione, notebook in hand blinking down at him from the doorway. Was she just getting back from the tomb?

“They finally got you in the pile, I see.” Hermione tiptoed over limbs and slippery hair to sit down next to Draco. He rolled his eyes and wrapped himself around a pillow for some protection from her amused gaze. “I’m not too surprised. I had to stop wearing the glasses days ago; you were glowing like the sun.”

“Yes, well, I like sex,” Draco grumbled. He peered through one eye at her while he tried not to blush. He didn’t want to blush. He didn’t want to be embarrassed even if a small part of him still was. He liked strong men, enjoyed anal sex, and apparently from more than one man at a time. He was a halfling, and that was who he was. Now if he could just get some very demanding green eyes into the mix, everything would be perfect.

“I imagine you have to, considering how much these guys do. They talk about you like you’re their queen bee. Er, king bee, in this case,” Hermione corrected with a smirk. “You have the most colorful plumage and glow the brightest, plus you have a mating call that can reach across miles. It would be very confusing if you didn’t enjoy sex. Definitely awkward.”

Draco nodded distractedly. His eyes frosted as he looked off in the distance. “I think I fucked something up last night. With the call. I need to figure out how to control it.” It was still this detached part of him, while his beast form was locked away in the other dimension. Even though that form kept demanding things and pulling with its call, Draco couldn’t fully reach it to gain power over it. Hell, sometimes the beast form was pulling him and he hardly noticed it enough to fight. He could have hurt people last night, and the thought was alarming.

Hermione hummed thoughtfully as she flipped through her notebook. She sat back to catch the morning light on the pages. “Do you think you’ll be coming back to Hogwarts tomorrow?” She asked nonchalantly. “Because if you don’t, I’d like you to do some more research on that Kalistar for me.”

Draco pulled from his worried thoughts to raise a brow at her. “Will you be visiting much?”

“God, yes, and not just because of the view I get at night from the window either.” Hermione beamed. “The way the Vesper control magic through the dimensions is fascinating. I never even thought of dimensional studies as a calling, but the more I see it in play, the more fascinated I am by it. Plus the anthropological level to the whole place. They’re a nearly undiscovered species. Three, really. I’m an academic at heart, and there is a treasure trove of information and power in this one village. And, like I said, the view is fantastic,” she added as she glanced over at the silvery pale men sleeping around Draco.

Draco gaped at her, at a loss for words; she just kept surprising him. He couldn’t help but wonder if his friends would ever want to visit him. Blaise was totally terrified of the dragons, but then again, Draco was too, starting out. Pansy would definitely love the pretty men, especially if they were beat up a bit. He scrunched his nose as he thought of any one of them looking out the window at him with the Vesper at night. Maybe visitors could be just a day thing.

“If I go back, it’s just going to be to check up on Potter,” Draco said after a long moment. “I just don’t think I fit anymore.”

Hermione snorted as she underlined something in her book. “Who the hell does? We’re all so different; it’s really the only thing that’s alike. We have the ability to do magic. At least here you’re definitely among those who understand you.”

Draco didn’t completely disagree, but he still didn’t want to go back. “Do you think Harry will like it here?” He was almost afraid to ask, afraid the answer would be the wrong one.

Hermione closed her notebook with a sigh and gave him her full attention. “You really want my opinion? I clearly remember you telling me I don’t understand people.”

Draco huffed as his stomach clenching nervously. “You’ve been his friend for six years. You have to have some sort of clue.” He snapped his mouth shut; Hermione still couldn’t figure out Weasley liked her.

“I think Harry will like to be where you are.” Hermione gnawed on her lip as she thought about it. “I’m not sure how he’s going to feel about you being around a bunch of very attractive men who want to have sex with you all the time. Actually, I’m pretty certain that’s going to piss him off.”

Draco’s stomach twisted a little more and he groaned, stretched out and buried his face into a pillow. “Jealous. Jaz said his type were jealous.”

“Yup.”

“But I’m a Vesper; we’re all like this,” Draco growled. “You said it yourself with my glowing plumage crap. He’s not allowed to get angry over my basic nature.”

Hermione tilted her head and observed Draco outright. “You’re as calm and happy as I have ever seen you, Malfoy. It’s like someone finally turned the lights on. You were such a terrible mess this last year. I really didn’t know if you were going to make it. Whatever Harry feels about you being here, that’s his issue, not yours. I might lose my library by saying this, but you shouldn’t come back. Why sacrifice a paradise with your own kind just to be, well, whatever it was you were pretending to be?”

“Straight,” Draco hissed bitterly. “It’s exhausting pretending to be something I’m not. I was fooling myself trying to be what my parents wanted.”

“Well, that’s at least one thing you’re never going to have to worry about,” Hermione said brightly while she returned to her notebook. “There is no way in hell your parents would ever come here.”

Narcissa was terrified of the Vesper. Something unclenched in Draco’s chest and he breathed a little easier. No, that was one thing he never had to worry about. Harry leaving him for sleeping with a pack of Vesper, maybe. His mother showing up? Never.

Draco’s thoughts drifted and he turned his gaze to the colorful canopy above, enthralled with its uniqueness. He felt so safe here, but he missed Harry. He didn’t even fully know if he was alive. His instincts said as much but Draco didn’t actually know. Harry suffered extensive damage from Voldemort’s attack; how long would it take to heal? If he returned to Hogwarts tomorrow, would Harry be able to walk yet? Was he awake and would he be willing to come to the village and meet the Vesper properly?

Draco really wanted Harry to like the Vesper. He really wanted the pack to like Harry. These were good people who lived here. They had gotten themselves in a mess with the humans, and kidnapping him didn’t help on that level, but Draco was ready to go back and settle that quick enough. He’d find a way for the tribe to live peacefully with the humans, even if the two groups might have to be completely separated and oblivious of each other.

His eyes slid over Haille’s smooth shoulder as Draco wondered how he would feel if Harry wanted to be with the shifters the way he was last night. Harry was probably as tall as the majority of them. Oh, but with a much rougher grip at times; Harry was definitely not afraid to have a wild, hard touch. Draco smiled, and his tongue lighted over his teeth as he fought back a hysterical laugh. Ah, he would manage. Extremely well.

Draco rolled to his knees, stood up and ignored Hermione’s curious stare. He padded nude around his pack of very pretty men, ready to shower and dress inside his new house. Tomorrow he’d see Harry, and hopefully he’d be awake. Draco smiled again and another laugh bubbled up he was barely able to squash down. God, it would be good. Seeing Harry like this—whole, alive, and with a home to return to—was going to be so fucking good.

Intangible 20

Chapter Nineteen

“You’re overreacting,” Remus warned. His voice held warmth even as he grabbed his lover by the waist and tackled him to the ground.

Sirius snarled in reply and considered transforming back into Padfoot to make things difficult on Remus. He relented on the idea and merely flipped Remus instead. “I’m going after him, sooner the better. Now either support me or get lost!” Remus was definitely a better wrestler than Sirius, even with his shorter reach. Sirius’s face went red from the effort of fighting the werewolf’s strong grip.

Ron quietly stepped out of the way when Remus grunted and fell back from Sirius’s shove and nearly toppled into the door he was trying to keep Sirius from escaping through.

Sirius was not only a manly crier, but also possessed a terrible temper. He was particularly protective of Draco since Harry asked for his help in caring for him. At his furious insistence, Blaise and Pansy took him to Draco’s room. Sirius promptly transformed into a large, black dog to scent for Draco’s presence which led to the castle exit. Remus had appeared then and tackled Sirius before he could run out the castle into the forest to chase after Draco and Hermione.

“If you would listen to a bloody word… Siri, the numbers are too great!” Remus got Sirius into a brutal headlock, and held him as still as he could. Sirius insisted on thrashing his legs in an attempt to kick him but couldn’t break free. “Twenty. There are possibly more in the woods unseen. They’re enraged by human scent. We need a plan, not a damn sacrifice!”

“The only sacrifice will be those bloody dragons!”

Ron waited patiently as he peered out through the dark windows in the direction Draco and Hermione had left over half an hour ago. If he thought it odd two grown men were fighting like first years, he gave no sign. His own brothers were the same—all of them—and likely weren’t going to change no matter how many years passed.

“You’ll put them both in danger. You need to calm down and take the time to plan.” Remus was always extra persuasive when inflicting pain.

Sirius gritted his teeth, not ready to give up yet. Harry was injured but alive. The only other living soul Sirius swore to protect was now off with a bunch of bloodthirsty dragons who, from what Harry suggested, would enjoy Draco in many carnal ways. Sirius’s guilt for allowing himself to be distracted by Harry’s condition only fueled his determination. Draco need him now.

“I know you’re worried, Siri,” Remus murmured in his ear. He relaxed his hold but didn’t releasing his steel grip. “We’re going to find him. We’ll clean a room out just for Draco.”

“Remi…”

“Harry can sleep right across. We can all go camping like you wanted by the lake. You just have to give us some time to plan.”

Sirius huffed in annoyance. He glanced sideways in the headlock and met Remus’s questioning gaze. “How much time?”

“How much ya got?” Remus smiled his ‘I know I’ve won’ smile. Sirius sighed and relented.

Ron watched cautiously as the two men stood and dusted off. He was careful to make sure he didn’t catch them doing anything too gooey; something he never worried about with his brothers, thankfully. “So, as I was saying, the spell Hermione crafted seemed to work. The creatures don’t like humans in general, but without the scent to trigger them, hopefully they won’t break out into killing rages.”

“Aye. Right, that.” Sirius combed his hair back into order while his eyes blazed. “Clearly they’re on a higher level of intelligence. Enough to manipulate Draco out the door through blackmail and possibly other ways. He was still wearing the ring, right?”

“Yeah. Harry mentioned Mr. McVicar was working on a spell to keep it attached, but I don’t know if he ever succeeded. His barrier sure seemed to work.” Except Draco willing walked outside it when he heard Harry was in danger.

Remus sighed and turned toward the Great Hall. “There is no guarantee by the time we find him Draco will still have the ring in his possession. We must plan for the possibility.”

Ron nodded as he followed to keep up with the men’s long strides. “Hermione understands the importance of the ring. As long as she’s there, I’m sure it will remain on Draco.” They fell silent, no one willing to voice how much danger she was in.

Blaise and Pansy were already in the Great Hall along with McGonagall, Severus and a number of the medical team who helped heal Harry. They were catching a late dinner after the difficult evening events.

Harry was stabilized and medics still worked on him in the hospital wing under Madame Pomfrey’s critical eye. Right now it looked like he would keep his arms, legs and possibly tail. The wings and antlers were still a toss up. Since they were less important for his immediate survival, no one was too concerned about it.

Ron felt strangely lonely as he sat across from Blaise and Pansy. Hermione wasn’t there and Harry, well, Harry hadn’t been there for a very long time. Hermione was Ron’s rock, his inspiration to stay strong if only to help her through the same difficulty he was going through. Without her everything felt empty.

“Has anyone heard about McVicar?” Sirius asked when he sat down and grabbed a plate of food. He was worried but not to the point he couldn’t eat. He saw it as a good sign he believed Harry would live. “He’s spoken to one of those creatures face to face, so I heard.”

“He will recover. Poppy is keeping him under observation.” Severus sipped his tea. His hand still revealed a small tremor. He was sore, but nothing worth going to bed over.

“Did the Vesper attack him?” Ron only heard snatches of what happened during Harry’s spell.

“Not that he can remember. McVicar felt an interference in the spell, as if a power were trying to prevent him from continuing. The moment he completed his part, the pressure relented. He passed out from the sudden change.” Severus studied the swirling dark liquid in his cup as his thoughts strayed. “He was lucky; they both were. Zabini saw the creatures surround the room. The dragons had plenty of opportunity to attack. By the time it would take to fight through the protective wards in place for the spell, the beasts could have killed Potter and McVicar with ease. They honored Malfoy’s agreement. It’s something we need to consider when dealing with these Vesper.”

They refused to make a deal when it came to Hermione. Ron suppressed a shiver of fear.

Blaise, who was pushing his food around on his plate, spoke up. “It was only because Draco asked. The shifter Matten controlled all the others. He… I think he had a control over Draco, too. It was strange. Matten nearly did everything Draco asked. He would get this look on his face, almost like he was enthralled by him. But every time Draco got upset or started yelling, Matten would move his lips a certain way and Draco would turn weak and complacent.”

“It sounds like how Harry was with him,” Ron pointed out. “We were so worried Harry was going to, um, get a bit too rough with Malfoy,” he said with an awkward cough. “All Draco had to do was ask the ‘right way,’ as they both put it, and Harry was putty in his hands. Hell, and Harry is the only one who could make Malfoy do anything half the time. He couldn’t even talk to him but Malfoy listened.”

“It does sound like the species has some sort of basis in manipulation,” Remus mused. “I’ve heard of techniques being used on prey, especially allure, but never interspecies like this.”

“Knowing Hermione, she’ll have a book written on the subject by the time she gets back,” Pansy joked weakly as she ignored her food.

They all turned when Dumbledore walked in through the Great Hall doors. He looked as exhausted as the rest of them felt.

“He’s well, but things are still unclear as to what will be left of him,” Dumbledore raised his hand before anyone could think to ask questions. “I would like the students to come to my office so we can go over the events which transpired while we were engaged saving Mr. Potter. Remus and Sirius, you are of course welcome to stay the evening. I’m grateful to see you have not ended up in the forest just yet and hope you will help in our efforts. Minerva, if you would join me for a moment?”

Ron’s head of house got up stiffly to speak with Dumbledore about notifying Hermione’s parents of her absence. Blaise and Pansy finished their pumpkin juice before getting up as well and joining Ron on the other side of the table to wait.

“Do we tell him what Potter said? About Draco being his mate?” Pansy’s eyes darted to where Dumbledore was talking.

“Depends if Draco’s mother comes knocking again,” Blaise said. “If she finds out, she’ll kill Potter before he gets a chance to heal. I doubt a school full of teachers will stop that level of hate. She’d rather give Draco to the Vesper than to Potter.”

“Is it important?” Ron asked quietly. “Honestly? Pretty sure McVicar knows they’re having sex. What the hell does being a mate have to add to anything?” Harry had mentioned it once in the infirmary the other day while they were pulling information about Draco’s breakdown. Harry seemed almost reluctant to reveal the mating information and Ron didn’t know if it was something he was comfortable sharing.

Pansy bit her lip, and stepped closer to speak under her breath. “Didn’t it ever strike you as odd? I mean, it’s almost obsessive; that’s why we were all worried, after all. What do you think Potter is going to do once he finds out Draco is gone? Not just gone, but gone with the Vesper? It was all he talked about before the return spell.”

Ron took a deep breath and tried to think of his friend objectively. Harry had been mad last year in a lovestruck, testosterone riddled, but still sweet intentioned way. Anything concerning Malfoy pulled reactions from Harry so bizarre from his normal behavior. Even compared to normal human behavior. Hermione was the one to suspect Harry might have a beast, if only to explain his weird demeanor, but Ron shrugged it off. Voldemort was increasing his attacks, and Ron assumed Harry was just worrying for the guy he’d fallen for.

Given what the four friends had pulled out of Harry and Draco about the last couple weeks, maybe Pansy did have reason to worry. What exactly would Harry do once he woke up and realized Draco was off with the Vesper? Harry had transformed to defeat Voldemort all those many months ago, and he won. The power it took to defeat a monster like Voldemort was again in Harry’s grasp.

Harry’s human personality and body were preserved, held back by the odd time lapse of being thrown into the other realm. He was nearly human while invisible, while now he was fully transformed. Once awake, crazy powerful, and no longer human, Harry would wonder where his mate was. If Draco wasn’t there when Harry finally woke, there was no way to know what might happen.

“That could be dodgy,” Blaise muttered as he came to the same conclusion as Ron and Pansy.

Hermione mentioned the way her books were destroyed when Harry threw around raw magic in a fit. Ron now wondered about the stone bricks used to keep the castle together. It would all be the same to someone as powerful as Harry, especially if he was afraid for his mate.

The Vesper made no complaints when Draco and Hermione lit their path with twin lumos. They didn’t follow any walking trails in the beginning. They moved through heavy underbrush until they reached to an old stream bed. Dried up and filled with small stones and soft silt, they followed the winding pathway for what felt like an hour. After such, they crawled up the bank and twisted and whirled through a network of trails and paths deep in the forest. Once they were surrounded by trees, Draco refused to let Hermione stray even though she was far from terrified. After the Vesper killed the first of the silent creatures foolish enough to not get out of the invisible pack’s way, Hermione was more willing to take Draco’s arm and walk with him in the sheltered location.

The shifters brought Draco water, which he shared with Hermione. The temperature dropped during the night, and she huddled in her cloak until Hermione found the good sense to use a warming spell. Draco didn’t need one. The three shifters and ten dragons who surrounded him at all times gave off huge amounts of heat. He actually felt too warm; the constant exercise and press of bodies left him to flushed and fiery.

“Are you feeling okay?” Hermione whispered when Draco stumbled again and nearly dropped his wand. Far off to the right were sudden screams as an animal fell victim to the Vesper. The noise was just as suddenly muffled and silenced, and the air grew heavy in the stillness. “Malfoy, you’re shaking.” Hermione pulled her eyes from the darkness to glance up at him beside her. Draco was sweating, his eyes dark in the dim light as a strange smile twisted his lips.

“I’m fine,” Draco murmured. His eyes lost focus only to sharpen again when he nearly tripped. The ground was clearer here but roots and decay still littered the ground in places to steal his footing.

“You’re not.” Hermione slipped the glasses resting on her forehead down to her nose. She took them off because of how disconcerting it was to watch herself walk through the Vesper. They didn’t move out of the way for her and Draco insisted she stay close and away from the sounds of the dying. She watched and bit her tongue when Draco nearly took a header. The shifter Matten quickly caught him before he fell off the path.

At first she thought the shifters were taking advantage of the situation; their hands moved over Draco’s glowing beast form in lingered caresses every time he stumbled. Perhaps it would’ve been easier to believe. Hermione could see clearly how the shifters withdrew, their fingers brushing ever so lightly on Draco’s shoulders and back in farewell. Without their touch, soon enough Draco’s glow pulsed again. Moments after he became dizzy and the shifters flowed close to catch him.

“Malfoy, are they doing something to you?”

His head tilted and eyes downcast, it took Draco a moment to respond. “Doing?”

“To make you fall. You keep getting dizzy.” He stumbled again before Hermione finished her sentence. This time Matten grabbed Draco boldly around the waist. His strong arms kept him upright as the shifter moved right through Hermione.

“They’re just humming a little,” Draco admitted. He stopped trying to walk. Matten’s purr thrummed in his ear as he held him still.

You are tired, lovely halfling. Has the walk been too much?

Draco’s body didn’t feel tired, but his head did. His eyes kept insisting they close. He knew he should be wide awake, alert to the dangerous forest around him. He should be protecting Hermione, and make sure she was safe among the sea of invisible Vesper. He should be seeking out landmarks in case they took his wand and he needed to walk back instead of apparate. Draco noticed Hermione discretely mark their path as they wandered through the dark. He wanted to do the same, but exhaustion descended on him and he couldn’t seem to fight it.

Draco, you are not answering. Do not tell me you have fallen asleep?

Draco fluttered his eyes open, and grasped at the hand moving too familiarly over his waist. “I’m just a little tired.”

We can rest if you like. I will hold you and you can close your eyes. The pack will protect you even in the deep of the forest.

Draco smirked sleepily. “You’re not my bed.” He didn’t pull away, though, and his eyes fell shut and breathing slowed. Matten held him steady, his body warm and hard behind Draco, strong chin resting on the top of his bowed head.

In the dark, the pack was tangible to Draco. They were a strong presence that only ghosted away whenever moonlight broke through the trees. It was probably wrong to feel so safe with the night a blanket around him as he stood in the middle of the most dangerous forest he knew. They walked for hours and Draco didn’t have a clue where they were, or how to get back. A part of him knew the pack was powerful when together, a force that couldn’t be injured. This was their domain and he was safe.

“Matten, is he sick?” Hermione worriedly watched Draco fall asleep while Matten held him upright. The other two beautiful shifters brushed Draco’s hair with their fingers before they moved out toward the edges of the pack. They were called back and forth; sometimes to give direction when needed to the dragons, other times to return in just as important a ritual to touch Draco’s flesh.

I do not believe so. He was upset earlier and it can raise much power. It will tire young ones.

Hermione nodded, but was unsure whether to believe him. Draco was supposedly the first halfling the pack had found in years. Would they even know if something was wrong with him? Draco glowed with a golden light and looked nearly ethereal. Sometimes, Hermione feared, he looked angelic and dead.

“So, we’re just going to stand here until he wakes up?” She asked as she did little to keep the disbelief from her voice.

He would not like it if I carried him, Matten replied after a moment. His face lowered so he could press his cheek to the sleeping Draco’s.

“He wouldn’t like that either,” Hermione pointed out.

Matten smirked dismissively and kissed Draco’s cheek. He is one of us. He likes it.

Hermione shook her head with a huff. “He doesn’t even know you. You know him even less. If all your kind does is kill the humans you come across, how can you understand any of our customs?”

Why do you think your customs have anything to do with how we react to one another? Matten asked in counter. He is Vesper, like us. It is who he is when he is with us. Halfling yes, but Vesper still. All adore him, and he will adore all.

“That’s a huge assumption to make. He’s been terrified of your kind since the moment he knew you existed. Let’s face it; you haven’t really done much to prove you’re trustworthy.”

Matten pressed his palm to Draco’s chest with his fingers spread wide. He knows it in his heart. He cannot ignore his own, just as we cannot ignore him. No one will hurt him, human. It would be an injury to ourselves. His type strengthens us, unites us. We cherish such ability in our kind.

Hermione wasn’t convinced. She didn’t truly think the Vesper wanted to hurt Draco, but she had a strong suspicion what Draco felt were acceptable didn’t even reach the realm of what the Vesper wanted from him. The other shifters kept returning to run fingertips and palms over Draco while he slept. The dragons curled possessively at his feet, a blanketing field of scales and feathers.

“You make it sound like he’s some sort of prince,” she mused aloud. Hermione eyes fixed out into the dark forest where the rest of the Vesper glowed among the trees. They all faced out into the darkness as they watched for signs of danger.

That is too human a concept, Matten replied. His fingers glided down to Draco’s hand and the ring that glittered there. Think of a mother with many cubs. A gentle treasure who provides warmth and affection. One you wish to see and caress whenever you return home. Fierce when needed to keep the rebellious in line, but always a powerful soul who pushes the dark and chill away whenever he’s near. He would be our village fire. Our hearth.

Hermione bit her lip. Half of her wanted to laugh out loud at the idea of Malfoy being anyone’s ‘mother,’ as Matten put it. Draco’s mother was as cold hearted and distant as they came and it was unlikely he knew how to be any different. But Draco was different. He was different in a way that made Hermione worry the Vesper might have more power over him than she first thought. It wouldn’t be one shifter, or even the three present calling to Draco. It would be an entire village. It would be the family he never had but probably always dreamed of. Even as strange and bizarre as the Vesper were, that sort of promise could be attractive to anyone. Especially someone so alone and unloved for as long as Draco was.

Another shifter, the tallest of the three, approached again. Hermione noticed for the first time how his attention lingered too long on Draco’s hand. It was the one with the ring that kept him human. They could touch it and Draco was fast asleep, unable to prevent anyone from removing it. She flinched as she reached her hand right through the shifter’s arm and threaded her fingers with Draco’s, locking the ring in place.

Matten noticed from where his cheek rested on top of Draco’s head. Each breath he took ruffled his silky strands as he held him upright. Matten traced his hand down Draco’s arm. There was a ripple of movement as something shifted and changed in the shifter. When he reached where Hermione was holding Draco, Matten pressed his fingertips firmly to her knuckles.

She stiffened from the contact, tightened her grip and met Matten’s gaze challengingly. Was it a warning? A reminder the Vesper could harm her whenever they chose? She would fight him if she had to. Her magic would hurt them. She’d wake Draco, curse as many as she could, and apparate them as far away as possible if the Vesper thought to force this issue.

You are a fiery thing, like him. Matten’s eyes searched Hermione’s face. It will do you and him no good. You will see. He will come to us. He wants to. Matten released her hand without incident, and wrapped his arm around Draco’s chest.

Hermione’s flesh continued to tingle where Matten touched. They stood in the dark surrounded by the glowing, patient dragons and waited for Draco to wake.

Intangible 16

Chapter Fifteen

Harry couldn’t find Draco. He wasn’t in Herbology class and hadn’t left for the loo. It was only once he remembered to switch to the fifth plane to find Draco he felt his call. It was loud frantic and beyond insistent. Draco moved through the castle, past the Great Hall and toward the main doors. Harry quickly jumped down the flight of stairs he was on and ran to catch up. He wasn’t certain why he was running. Draco’s call felt wrong and a part of him had to make sure his mate was okay.

Harry paused at the bizarre scene of Narcissa standing in the hallway. The normally refined woman was frenzied. Her wand was out and her hands shook as she cast a locating spell out. The light glowed and shot ahead as it searched for Draco. Harry lingered long enough to hear her mutter something about the dragon ring. When he searched, he saw it glinting in her hand instead of on Draco’s finger. Harry took off without another thought. He ran full speed through the castle following the trail of light.

Draco didn’t see Severus Snape, who was rounding the dungeon stairs as he passed. He didn’t hear him with the blood rushing in his ears. He could feel the Vesper’s call pushing at the boundaries of his mind. Within him was only anger and terror. Need and emptiness. Far beneath it all was a cry for help to the only one who could stop the madness from overtaking him. But Harry wasn’t here and Draco couldn’t stop his feet.

He would never fear again. He would go to them, be done with it, and never fear another thought or want for another life.

What had Lucius felt when he took off the ring? He knew he would be transformed into the creature his brother became. Had his greater fear been for his own son’s safety than his own? Or did he feel the desire? There was a hot fire rushing over Draco’s skin even now. Had it been this wild madness pulsing an unceasing call that finally drove his father to pass the ring to the next Malfoy heir?

“Mr. Malfoy, can you hear me?”

Draco’s mind struggled as his walk remained steady. He took the ring off. Threw it somewhere in the hall. He needed the ring… No. No, he didn’t.

He didn’t need anything. They were outside. He didn’t need anything as long as his pack was there.

A hand grasped his shoulder. Draco started and stared into Severus’s black eyes. “Draco, you’re unwell. Come with me.”

Draco felt him try to push at his mind and compel him to obey. Severus was no watch for the Vesper; he was one mind battling twenty.

Draco tilted his head and his lashes lowered like he was listening to something far away. He abruptly pulled away and a laugh caught in his throat. Another bubbled forth and broke free and he hunched forward. Something tickled in his stomach. Power licked inside him and Draco pulled at it. A white glow rose forth and pushed Severus back. The small tables that lined the hall went careening after him as portraits flew from the walls and crashed in an array of splintering wood.

Laughter bubbled from Draco’s lips as he resumed his walk to the Vesper.

Severus couldn’t remember the last time he used magic on a student. There was a very extensive code of ethics handbook on this particular subject. It was so extensive he usually felt the best way to not get sued was to avoid the situation all together. That wasn’t an option now. Severus pushed all thoughts of consequence aside and cast a barrage of restraining spells on his current favorite pupil.

If Draco felt any of the spells, he showed no sign. He innately blocked the majority of Severus’s curses. An odd glow flared each time a spell came near and the magic bounced off ineffectively. The few that did hit, Draco walked off uncaring. Rope coiled around him and then abruptly fell to the ground limp. Fetter clamped to his ankles and wrists only to clatter open and crash to the ground. Strongly woven nets tore like spider silk beneath Draco’s glowing hands.

More concerning was the laughter; Draco sounded insane. The main entrance to the castle was just ahead and Draco moved with clear determination toward it. Dread tightened in Severus’s gut as he realized what exactly must be waiting on the other side of the doors.

“Malfoy, you’ve left me no other recourse,” Severus announced as he raised his wand. “If I can’t restrain you, then I must attack.” It was an action absolutely prohibited in the dusty tome of ethics. The sleeves of his black cloak billowed with his movements as Severus sent a hailstorm of bludgers down on Draco. If he was lucky, he’d break enough of his bones to keep him from getting out the front door.

Harry rounded the corner the same moment a blinding light encased Draco. He ducked as bludgers exploded out and smashed into the stone walls along with Severus. The shrapnel went through Harry and left him unharmed but the great power Draco was giving off felt like a tidal wave as it tried to push him back. It was breathtaking. Intense and wild. He found Draco within the bright light looking like some sort of angelic demon.

Harry opened his arms to Draco’s power. He pulled the magic to him, stole it from the air and away from the walls where Severus was crumpled and bleeding. Pain lanced through Harry’s shoulder blade, and then the other. It was a screaming, soul wrenching fire, like maybe he once had extra arms and they’d been torn from his flesh and bone. Harry kept pulling and absorbing the power even as the pain increased to near crippling.

He pulled until Draco finally stopped his steps. Draco wavered where he was stood. He was staring at the floor laughing hysterically while tears streamed down his face.

Harry’s arms didn’t want to move as pain continued to flare through his back. He kept them stretched wide as he stumbled to Draco. He pulled every bit of power Draco dared to release against him until he didn’t dare any longer.

“Draco.”

Draco stiffened and his laughter faded. Harry didn’t step any closer. Narcissa had the ring and he didn’t want to transform Draco by accident. “Draco, go put the ring back on.”

Draco grimaced. “You can’t fucking make me, Potter.”

Harry growled and pulsed his power out. It filled the hallway and pushed at Draco like crashing waves, again and again until Draco shook with the exertion to stand. “Put on the fucking ring!”

“No!” Draco held his hands out, raised his head and laughed one loud exultation. “All of them. Every fucking Malfoy heir became a monster. I will too. So why the fuck not now?”

“You’re not a monster. Damn it, Draco, you’re not!”

Draco scoffed, his eyes flashing. “I am! I feel it inside. They’re calling me. And… and I want to go. I can’t stop it. I fucking want to go!”

Harry shook his head fiercely as he fought his instinct to grab Draco and hold him until he was himself again. “It doesn’t matter. It’s just a call, not who you are! Stay with me, Draco. Want me more. I know you do. You know you do. They don’t matter as long as you have me. You’ll always have me, Draco.”

It was too much. Draco fell to his knees with his head clutched in his hands. “You lie. Even now covered in blood. You’re covered in blood and dead.”

He wanted so badly to reach out to Draco, to hold him and rock him until his tears dried. Even if Draco was wearing the ring, Harry’s arms refused to move. “I’m here. I’m still here and you’re here. It’s going to be okay. For right now. This moment, right now, we’re both here. We’re together. And you… you’re so fucking beautiful. It hurts to look at you, you’re so beautiful.” It wasn’t a lie; Harry’s eyes watered the longer he stared at Draco’s hunched form.

“Draco, you just keep crying and I’ll be right here. No one is going to hurt you because I’m not going anywhere,” Harry promised softly.

Not once had anyone ever told Draco crying was okay. He let out a loud gasp as another laugh fought with his tears. It was funny. He suddenly had so much power brimming inside yet he’d never felt this powerless in his entire life.

God, he was so fucked. They were outside waiting for him. Angry. They were vicious and angry as they demanded Draco come to them. Why did they hate him so yet insist he answer? Draco curled in on himself and tried to block the sharp feeling of teeth, claws and hot breath. They were as fucked up as he was as they called for the things in life which repulsed and sickened.

“Harry?” he whispered hoarsely.

“I’m right here.”

Draco nodded and rested his head on the cold floor. Dust and tears filled his senses. Harry sounded far away, a soft echo in his ears. It was real, though. Harry was real, at least for now. “Call me. Please,” he begged. “I can’t move from the door.”

“I, uh, I don’t know if I can right now.”

Draco groaned as he turned his head but he couldn’t see Harry. He sensed him fine enough. Harry felt strong and his power pushed down, an invisible barrier pinning him in place. Draco raised his gaze. Narcissa stalked down the other end of the hall, her eyes nearly as wild as her crazy sister’s. Dumbledore followed swiftly behind her. Draco watched his mother and struggled not to laugh at her fearful expression. He failed and his body shook with each expulsion.

Narcissa didn’t say anything as she crouched beside Draco, grabbed his hand, and placed the ring on his finger. Draco closed his eyes as the world lurched around him and his stomach twisted in nausea. Narcissa again placed her hands on him. She rubbed his back in slow circles until sobs tore from Draco at the knowledge of how foreign it was to have her touch him.

Dumbledore saw to Severus and spelled the splintered furniture and thrown rugs into some sort of semblance while Draco fell apart. Everyone else seemed capable of pulling things back together while Draco was at the point where it all just unraveled. He didn’t know if he was ever going to get back to the other side when the world was so upside down. His mother was trying to comfort him. It only made him hurt as he remembered every time she denied a simple connection.

Dark blue robes swirled in his vision. Dumbledore crouched beside him and his aged hand touched Draco’s head carefully like maybe he was wounded. Draco flinched and realized with a start he was injured.

“What stopped you? What stopped the call?” Dumbledore gingerly probed at his wound before taking out his wand and casting a spell to stop the bleeding.

Draco hesitated. They didn’t need to know the call was still there, he just wasn’t listening to it. “Harry fixed it.”

Narcissa jolted as if struck. Her head reared up as she looked around the hallway. “Potter? That damnable boy is here?”

Dumbledore got to his feet. “Mrs. Malfoy, Harry is hardly…”

“Yes, mother. Harry is here,” Draco spat out. He glared at his mother as he sat up. “My boyfriend is here and he’s able to keep me from the Vesper with simple willpower.”

Narcissa pulled away. She sat on the floor and stared at Draco like he was something she’d never seen before. She swallowed and reached out to touch his shoulder. “We’ll take you home. Your father installed wards against the Vesper in the manor. You’ll be…”

“No!” Draco found his anger again. It frothed up the same way the laughter did. “I can’t be with him if I’m home. He’s all I fucking care about!”

“Draco, please, it’s nonsense.”

Draco braced his hands on the floor. “I love him.”

Narcissa hissed and her eyes narrowed on his rebellious expression. “Love,” she spat. “You’d choose your father’s oldest enemy over your family?”

Draco smiled viciously. “Every fucking chance I get, mother. On my knees, on my back; any fucking way he wants. I’m his and he’s mine.”

“Don’t be vulgar with me. He’s an abomination to pureblood kind with his soiled bloodline and welcoming in those worthless, mudblooded beasts into our circles. His kind would water us down until no one has a speck of power left. He would…”

“Shit. Shut the fuck up, you crazy bitch! My pureblood ancestor fucked dragons to gain your so called ‘pure’ power. My uncle is likely on his knees spreading to an entire pack as we speak, if they didn’t kill him years ago. You. You bore a fucking half human, half Vesper into this world and you’d condemn muggles for being soiled? Do you even hear yourself, mother?”

Narcissa didn’t; her pale skin turned pink with anger. She stood with her hands fisted at her sides. “We’ll speak of this no more. I’ll leave the paperwork with your headmaster. You’ll sign it and be ready for the ceremony a week from today at eight o’clock sharp.”

Draco stared at his mother in disbelief, mouth gaped open. He pushed himself to his feet and swayed. The ring made his dizzy and his anger more so. He took a steadying breath. “Fuck you.”

“It would be the only thing you haven’t fucked, I would think,” Narcissa said with a disdainful sniff.

Laughter hit Draco hard and he doubled over. When he caught his breath he looked up at Narcissa through his hair. “Fuck you and the Malfoy name and your fucking blood hate. I’m not marrying her.”

“Oh, you are. If you want any sort of life, you’ll marry Serene and stop talking nonsense of Potter and mudbloods. As if they’re anything compared to us.”

Draco wasn’t sure if he was angry or just so exasperated with his mother and how blind she was to the world. “I don’t know if you’ve fucking noticed, but I don’t want any sort of life! I’ve been a goddamn zombie for the last year. I was just about to walk out the fucking door and live with creatures almost as fucking hateful as you—Almost! Fuck you and your fucking manipulative money and power.”

Narcissa’s hand twitched toward he wand as rage filled her eyes. “Do you think I can’t make you? Do you think power is just some silly idea and not the ultimate in controlling every element in this world including insubordinate, foolish children? We’ve endured for centuries and believe me, we will continue because we have the power to control the weak willed.”

Dumbledore abruptly placed a hand to Narcissa’s shoulder. Her eyes went wide and her body crumpled forward as if a great force were pushing her down. “You will not. Not in my school. Not to my student. It’s time to go, Mrs. Malfoy.”

Draco wasn’t done and he peered down to meet Narcissa’s surprised gaze. “I’m not weak willed, mother. I’m not weak at all. Cross me and I’ll show you just how powerful I am.”

Narcissa didn’t say anything. Her glare promised she’d have her way still. Dumbledore forced her back to his office to collect Draco’s ex-fiancé with Severus’s unconscious body floating behind them. Draco continued to sway as the corridor emptied. He closed his eyes with a sigh.

“Potter, are you still there?”

“Of course I am. I wasn’t sure if she’d be able to hear me.” Harry stepped closer to Draco but still didn’t touch him.

“Just me. Kust my ears today.” Draco sighed and moved toward Harry’s heat. He slid his hands around his waist. “Help me, Harry. I can’t push away from the door.”

Harry was silent for a long moment. Slowly, almost jaggedly, his arms fell to Draco’s shoulders and rested there heavily. “You were amazing. Absolutely breathtaking.”

“I was angry and out of my mind,” Draco muttered and pressed his face to Harry’s shoulder. “I’m still out of my fucking mind. What is it? Why are you hesitating?” Harry still wouldn’t pull him close. He wouldn’t hold him tight and pull his body away from the door like only he could.

“It’s nothing.” Harry slowly rubbed his arms down Draco’s back. When he pulled him closer, his hands shook in a way Draco never felt before and it filled him with fear. “You’re just amazing and I want to stand here with you for a while.”

Draco could tell Harry was lying but he didn’t know why he was lying. Draco swallowed hard and closed his eyes. With Harry wrapped around him, he pushed his foot forward and Harry took a step back in response. There was a howl from outside, an angry demanding call for him to stop what he was doing.

“Draco, I can do it,” Harry insisted even as his body shook.

“It’s okay. I’m going to have to figure it out on my own anyways, right?” Draco pushed his other foot forward. Harry steadied him when he swayed, his balance addled by the ring. Harry fell silent and let Draco slowly push the two of them backward down the hall. Neither spoke of the angry howls from outside.

“Where are the glasses?” Draco asked when he made it to the opening outside the Great Hall. When Harry remained stubbornly silent, Draco cast an accio. The lenses snapped in his hands after they flew down from the hallway above.

“Don’t do it, Malfoy. It’s not fucking worth it,” Harry rasped as he tried to grab the glasses from Draco’s hand.

“Shut the fuck up and let me decide what’s worth my attention.” Draco turned his head and pushed the round lenses on his nose. He stepped back so he could see all of Harry.

Tears stung the corners of his eyes but Draco refused to look away. He slowly walked around Harry and bit his lip as the devastation of blood and torn flesh came into view on his back. Draco slipped his hand forward and touched the damage lightly. Harry was oblivious to the sensation with so much pain already raw there.

“Is this because we fought? It got so bad…”

“No. You have nothing to do with this.” Harry turned as quickly as he could and grimacing from the pain. “Jaz said the damage is just catching up, uh, exponentially. That’s all.” Harry raised arms which didn’t want to raise and caressed Draco’s face softly.

Draco stared into his blazing green eyes and took in how Harry’s dark skin was littered with cuts and spatters of blood. He was lying again but Draco was unwilling to reveal he knew. If it allowed Harry to feel better by lying to him, he wouldn’t break the delusion.

Draco stood on tiptoes and kissed Harry’s frowning mouth.

“Can you walk or would you like to rest on me?” Draco’s palms smoothed over the blood soaked lines of Harry’s shoulders.

“I can walk fine,”Harry muttered. “The pain is minimal, just distracting. My arms are just resistant to normal motion.” He scowled down at his hands where his fingers twitched oddly.

“Harry?” Draco leaned closer and tried to pull his gaze. He missed seeing Harry’s eyes even if today they were surrounded by too much red.

“What do you need, Draco?” Harry asked, his eyes fixed on Draco’s face.

“I like your voice. I like hearing it again. It’s good to hear you again.” Draco watched as Harry slowly smiled at him.

“Yeah, well, it’s good to be heard, even though I’m sure I’ll say something to get myself in trouble.” He brushed his lips to Draco’s and his jaw tightened in pain from the simple movement. “Come on, let’s get you to Pomfrey. You can check on Snape and, well, it would be good if you had other people around to help.”

Draco licked his lips and nodded. He wasn’t going to argue with Harry about it. Not while he, well, looked nearly dead. Draco slipped the glasses off and folded them into his shirt pocket. With his arms around Harry’s back, they walked slowly to the hospital wing.

Sorcerer Slayer S65

SCENE SIXTY-FIVE

“Bed. Now,” Dr. Rob ordered the moment Fox stepped into his office.

Fox rolled his eyes, only to grab for the door frame when the room swayed. “Come on, Doc. I just want to see him.”

“You’re burning up. Have you slept at all?” Dr. Rob stood from his chair and stepped around his desk. His hand was wonderfully cool when he pressed it to Fox’s forehead. “You need to sleep.”

Fox huffed in frustration. “What I need is to talk to him. He’s awake, right?”

Dr. Rob’s mouth twisted down as he saw the way Fox’s bandages were seeping fluid and had stained his thin hospital robe. “Hold still.” He carefully peeled away the discolored bandages from Fox’s torso and his expression grew grim. “You shouldn’t be standing. Sit, sit.” He helped Fox to his desk and pushed a few things aside so he could sit in a position where Dr. Rob could see the slashes clearly. Fox, I’m sorry. These are definitely going to scar.”

Fox waved it off. He didn’t care if he turned fucking purple at the moment. “Whatever. Doc, can I just…?”

“Quiet.” Dr. Rob pressed fingers to his side where the flesh around the wounds was puffed and red. Fox hissed and grit his teeth to keep from crying out. “The salve got most of the poison, but not all of it. Your system is metabolizing the toxins too slowly. Fox, your shifter genes will keep you alive, but they can’t heal you when you’re moving around.” Rob gave him a sharp look. “You need to acknowledge the limitations of your body and rest.”

Fox groaned in annoyance. “I will, I promise. Please, can I see Vince now?”

“Fox…” Dr. Rob stared him down, only to suddenly peer closer with a concerned expression. Fox’s unique, orange eyes were glassy. “You’re delirious. You need to rest.”

“Damn it,” Fox whispered furiously and grabbed the desk to steady himself. “I just need to talk to him.”

“It can wait.” Rob bent down to examine the red edges of Fox’s torn skin. “We’re going to let this breathe for now.”

“It can’t wait!” Maybe his fever was bad because when Fox stood, the room spun drunkenly. He ignored it, too fixated on getting to Vincent to care. “Doc, I gotta tell him now. If Vince leaves, all he’s going to hear is a bunch of assholes blaming him or calling him a killer or some shit. He didn’t do anything wrong. I gotta tell him.”

Dr. Rob held him by the shoulders before Fox could collapse. “Fox, Vincent is in no state to leave just yet. There’s no need to get so worked up.”

Fox stared back with wide eyes pleading for him to understand. “He needs to know what he did was okay. He’s not bad. He’s not.”

Dr. Rob sighed and his shoulders slumped. “You’re going to drink some water.”

Fox blinked in confusion. “Uh, okay. Fine.”

“And take a fever reducer. You’re not leaving this office until we get your fever at safe levels.”

Fox inhaled sharply when he realized Dr. Rob had folded. “Will it put me to sleep?”

“No.” Dr. Rob’s eyes narrowed behind his glasses as he straightened. “The second you’re done speaking to Vincent, I’m spelling you to sleep and binding you to your bed. You desperately need sleep.”

Fox snorted in laughter and nearly spilled the potion when the healer handed to him. “Kinky, Doc. What would your girlfriend say?” They had all on more than one occasion scented perfume on Dr. Rob’s clothes. Fox glared at the mud colored potion a moment before he chugged it down as quick as he could. He grimaced from the bitter taste and nearly fell again. “Gross.”

Rob didn’t look amused by the joke or the fact his patient was determined to remain on his feet. “If I didn’t assume you were going to pass out on your own, I would have spelled you to sleep already. Take my arm. I don’t need you cracking your head open on the floor on top of everything else.”

“Aw, you know you love me.” Fox grinned winningly up at the healer. Dr. Rob tried his best not to smirk but didn’t quite manage it.