Hermione found what she presumed was the resting place of the sleeping Kalistar. The Vesper didn’t guard the room the way she thought they would, but she was right in her guess of they did keep the creature safe. The Kalistar rested in the center of the village in the unique building set up to house their new halfling. Deep in a hand carved underground basement was a tomb. Hermione could only guess what dwelled in this tomb because she couldn’t find a way to get inside.
“I just want to see the creature,” Hermione said reasonably. She was downstairs in the large entrance chamber which led out into the village. The afternoon air was warm as it flowed in on the breeze. Haille’s expression didn’t agree with her tone. Hermione rolled her eyes but she knew she wouldn’t seek any of the other shifters out. Haille was the most agreeable to her. He barely even referred to her as human anymore. Haille was her best bet to get what she wanted; she just needed to wear him down a bit. Hopefully with help from Malfoy.
“It is dangerous.” Haille huffed when Hermione snorted derisively. “The Kalistar is a powerful force and has been known to respond to human energy. I do not feel it is wise.”
“Have you woken it up before, then? Or has it woken up on its own?” Hermione asked, her curiosity peaked. Maybe if she just hung out enough in the basement the Kalistar would wake up from her presence.
“Not in our village, no,” Haille said gruffly. He glared at Hermione as if he could read her thoughts. “Incidences have happened, usually when humans have encroached on a village. The Kalistar are so intent on protecting the foolish mortals.”
“Foolish?” Hermione scoffed. “You do realize you all look like a bunch of beautiful, if not scarred, men, right?”
“Yes, and we hold our tribes in the middle of extremely dangerous, monster riddled magical forests,” Haille shot back. “Any human who would approach our village is either here to attack us, or they are complete imbeciles who deserve the painful deaths they receive.”
Hermione sighed. She raised her eyebrows and shrugged. She could hardly disagree with the logic of it. “Your Kalistar doesn’t seem to agree.”
“Yes, well there was an entire village who did and we won.” Done with the conversation, Haille stepped out into said village where the canopy of sheets above turned the center into a carnival of color. Hermione followed, not even remotely ready to give up. She would see the Kalistar. She had grown to like the Vesper these last few days and the more the dragons returned home, freshly wounded, the more she knew something needed to be done. They couldn’t continue on like this.
Malfoy agreed but in a distracted manner. He didn’t want to tell the Vesper what to do; he was just happy to be there. Hermione had a sinking suspicion Draco wouldn’t want to return to Hogwarts once the tour was over. She’d do her best to persuade him, but seeing Draco among the Vesper each day, Hermione knew he found a home. Even now as she approached while Kore taught him how to balance a spear, Draco looked more relaxed and happy than she could ever remember seeing him. He’d have to be; Hermione was fairly certain Malfoys didn’t hunt with spears.
“Malfoy, I need your help with something,” Hermione said before Haille could even open his mouth. The shifter narrowed his pretty violet eyes at her but that was it. He was a damn pussy cat, scars and all.
Draco brightened at her arrival. He pointed down the way where a target was set up and two spears already pierced the cloth covered blocks of hay. “Not quite the side of a barn, but I did manage to hit it. Twice.”
Hermione shook her head at another show of manly display that only seemed to get worse the more the Vesper insisted on hugging Draco. Draco was even dressing like them, in a pair of loose fitting pants and a light vest to cover his chest. His feet were bare; it had to be nudity for someone of his station to not where shoes everywhere. Draco also managed to get himself a nice gash on his stomach. Probably not to match the Vesper, so much as Draco kept getting distracted by pawing shifters. As if to prove her point, Haille swooped down and wrapped him tight in his embrace. Draco only made the slightest of squawks in protest as he nearly dropped the spear on his foot.
“You’re learning very fast, lovely halfling. Soon you will be skilled enough to travel the forest with us. There is so much to see out here.”
Draco nodded, a blush staining his cheek where Haille kissed. “Yes, well, I don’t want to be stuck in the village all the time.” He lifted his head, his questioning look turned to Hermione. “What did you need help with?”
Hermione watched Haille settle behind Draco with his arms wrapped around his waist. If he thought that was going to keep her from getting Draco to help, he had another thing coming. “I found the Kalistar, the sleeping one. It’s actually right under the halfling house.”
“Oh,” Draco blinked as his mind turned. “I’d like to meet it.”
Hermione grinned triumphant, but Haille only dismissively shrugged when Draco looked back imploringly. “Sorry, little one. None of us have the power alone to wake the creature. It must be a unified decision, the same as it took to put it to sleep. Since you have gotten your call under control, there is little reason for it.”
“Even if it would stop all the fighting?” Hermione asked in frustration. “How can you just sit back and let your dragons keep getting injured?”
“We’re not letting them,” Kore broke in. He was extremely tall and broad shouldered. “We fight back as good as we get.”
“Yes, because that’s helping things,” Hermione muttered. “If I have kids and they start getting brutally wounded, I’m totally going to care that at least they managed to equally maim their attackers. You need to talk to these people. Negotiate. Let them see you’re, well, people. Reasonable people—except when it comes to humans, yes, I’ve gathered that,” Hermione added with a frustrated sigh.
“You need to give them some time,” Draco said after a moment. “You can’t expect them to change everything overnight. They’re just getting used to me. They know I want to interact with humans and have promised to make that possible.”
“Eventually,” Haille agreed. “We will need to set up defenses to protect us all, humans and Vesper.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier to let the Kalistar do that?” Hermione asked. “Isn’t that part of its job?”
Kore and Haille exchanged uneasy glances. “The Kalistar aren’t forgiving creatures, human,” Kore explained. “They are dominant, aggressive, and difficult to control. There is a reason each village only has one. They will war with each other, and sometimes divide entire villages while fighting for control. Most young Kalistar are cast out by their own when they are born just to prevent this. They are difficult.”
Draco inhaled sharply. He pulled away from Haille to stare at the two shifters in disbelief. “You exile them? You throw them away like something less than garbage?”
“The Kalistar used to, yes,” Haille said with a pained expression on his face. “Now we have them sleep. It has been the kindest compromise we could make.”
“I don’t understand,” Hermione broke in. “I was told the Kalistar protected humans. That they protected the halflings and helped control them. How could the same creature—the one who supposedly tried to get humans and Vesper to stop fighting—be so dangerous and terrible? It doesn’t make sense.”
“We are creatures of duality,” Kore said flatly. “We fight our beast nature when it suits us. The Kalistar, when that creature loses to the beast, its power is too great to fight. It can pull us so much we become nothing more than raving, howling madness.”
Haille nodded and gently grabbed Draco’s hand. “You have seen it, halfling, with your own call. Think if you had done that intentionally to Matten and the young ones because you wanted something so great you didn’t care who had to bend. Without someone to balance the Kalistar, the creature is too powerful to be trusted.”
Draco nodded, but he didn’t fully understanding. Matten had told him the halflings balanced the Kalistar so him now in the village should be enough. The shifters didn’t want to wake the creature even with him there. Maybe they didn’t think he was staying.
Draco wanted to finish school; it was only a few more months. After that he’d figure out what he was going to do with the Vesper. Matten mentioned again about Draco being an ambassador. He didn’t know if that’s what he wanted… He just knew he was tired of worrying about the Vesper being hurt. His week was nearly over and twice the dragons returned bloody and crying in pain. At least Draco and Hermione were able to heal them so the scars weren’t permanent. He preferred they were never hurt in the first place.
“With Malfoy here, wouldn’t it be safe to wake up the Kalistar?” Hermione was thinking the same thing as him.
Again the shifters exchanged unreadable looks. Kore finally spoke, his voice a low growl. “They aren’t forgiving.”
Hermione was not one for theatrics. “Can you at least let me in the tomb? Just to see it?”
Haille snorted; her persistence was amusing, if not appealing. “Take her to Matten, halfling. He can let her in the chamber.”
Triumphant, Hermione quickly dragged a grumpy Draco down toward the huts where she last saw Matten heading.
Hermione brimmed with desire to get back down to the tomb of the Kalistar. Draco watched her out of the corner of his eye as they all sat on the dais; Hermione’s leg twitched as she shoveled dinner and wrote scratchy notes into her notebook. She lost all fear of the Vesper and he was grateful the villagers only had goodwill toward her. It gave him hope things could change for the pack with a little work.
He went down to the chamber to see the Kalistar and refused to go back since. The creature was a larger version of Karia, his pet when he was young. Draco never saw her, but with his eyes closed and fingers hovered over the golden dragon with wide antlers and long legs, he knew the truth. Karia was one of the exiled Vesper who was thrown away by her pack because there was already a Kalistar ruling. She sought Draco out because she didn’t wanted to be alone and he was a halfling. She protected him even before he knew he needed protecting. Then she grew ill from the sparking and without a pack to help her, she died while Draco was at school. Alone.
Things had to change. Draco didn’t know how, but he knew it couldn’t stay this way. Karia was sweet, gentle and kind. The Vesper said the Kalistar grew fierce once puberty hit, especially the males, but Draco couldn’t believe it. There had to be a better solution than having the creatures sleep their entire lives away.
“You are sad, Draco,” Matten observed. Draco nodded silently in reply. He had finished eating ages ago and was staring into the flames instead as he hoped to make sense of it all. Karia was this faint, special memory in his mind. She was his one true companion as a child. He never knew she suffered so much in such a short lifetime. He truly understood so little back then.
Matten shifted closer, pulled Draco into his embrace and held him in his lap. Draco closed his eyes as Matten hummed to him. A few of the shifters on the dais joined in while they lounged in the spring night air on pillows and furs. Nights were easier now Draco’s call was under control. It was even safe for him to visit the others under the canopy and listen to their stories. With a lot of farmers in the village, Draco heard the best tales. There was something about rooting in the dirt all day that gave you time to think of fanciful things, or at least that was how Seles explained it.
“Hmm. You are glowing again, sweet halfling. Is it already so late in the evening?” Matten teased as his fingers caressed up and down Draco’s arms.
“I’m not the moon, Matten,” Draco grumbled. His head fell back against his chest. “For all I know, I’m actually quite ugly and tanned in my other form. No glow at all.”
“For all you know, perhaps, but certainly not the case. You are glowing because you are content.” He brushed his lips to Draco’s ear. “You are comfortable with us and happy for touch. When you are happy, we cannot help but be happy too.”
Draco nodded lightly in agreement and stared up at Matten’s chin. He had the faintest nick right where his chin turned toward his throat, just visible in the low lighting. Draco let his eyes flicker to the side where the shifters on the dais slid smooth skinned to the ground, their silvery hair shimmering waterfalls of silk. Draco glowing meant shifters touching. Something he was growing used to, even anticipating.
“Do you wish to retreat inside?” Matten rested his chin on the top of Draco’s head.
Draco shrugged. He was comfortable enough. “Only if you want. I’m sure you must feel left out, babysitting me every night.”
“It is an honor.”
“It’s a chore. I’m not a fool, Matten,” Draco muttered with a huff. He was sick and tired of everyone trying to act like everything he did was so bloody brilliant. Matten purred softly, and Draco’s irritation faded as quickly as it came. He closed his eyes again and felt Matten’s chest rumble ever so lightly beneath him. He could hear the others, their soft, heated moans in the darkness of his eyelids. Draco smiled as more warm, tingling tendrils flowed over his skin.
“It is an honor to watch you, Draco.” Matten brushed strands of Draco’s hair from his face. “It is a gift to be able to touch you, even just to hold you.”
“Stop flattering me,” Draco murmured. He smiled wider when fingers touched tentatively down his neck. “Haille, I have warned you of what I will do if you insist on touching me there.”
Haille snorted softly from the right of him and touched Draco’s neck more boldly. “Sink your little dull teeth into me, halfling. See if I care. You make the nicest noises when I touch here, and that is what I want.”
“You say that now, but wait utill Granger hears,” Draco warned weakly as fire slowly rose up his skin. God, he missed sex. He missed Harry, he missed hard, wild touch, and he missed being fucked.
“Oh, lovely one, the little witch ran off to see our sleeping friend. There is no one to protect you from the big, bad Vesper.” Voices snickered at Haille’s taunting words, and Draco opened his eyes to look around the firelight. Hermione had left, likely to study the Kalistar deep in the basement, the ditzy Gryffindor. Staring back at him were a dozen hungry shifters, many who twisted on the dais as they chuckled at Draco’s expression. Three very familiar, wickedly smiling faces leaned right beside him. Draco glanced from Matten, Haille and Zyan, and his smile faded.
“Well, crap,” he whispered hoarsely. He peered up where Matten was smiling down, his hands holding Draco lightly but firmly in place. “I thought hugging was all this was about. Didn’t we decide?”
“We decided you needed to have the things that made you call, so that you would not drive us all mad,” Matten said carefully. “You have been getting very bright these last few nights. It has been difficult. Very difficult.”
Draco closed his eyes again, wishing he could deny it. He hadn’t dared touch himself after the fiasco of last time. His body was near aching with want, and it got worse at night with the Vesper’s scent strong in the air. Ever since Harry returned, Draco became this strange, sexual being who just couldn’t get enough. He allowed himself to linger outside with the Vesper and indulge in as much of the noises and scents he liked, sometimes even in the sights when he was feeling brave. It was the most he thought he was willing to go with this particular theme.
“Will it get as bad as the last time?” Draco asked, although he already knew the answer if they felt the need to swarm him so.
“It is just a touch. Just skin touching skin.” Matten soothed fingers over Draco’s arms again. “No one will have you. I give you my word.”
Draco sighed internally; even with him near dead, the Vesper were terrified of Harry and his claim on him. It was a wonder they hadn’t killed Potter, now he understood how dangerous halflings were to the Vesper if not properly contained. Draco was lucky Matten was so upstanding. Even in this, he knew he could trust the shifter.
Draco held his eyes shut and didn’t flinch the next time Haille touched his neck. Fingers lighted over him in soft strokes. Draco allowed himself to sink back. Matten relaxed around him, pulled him close while gently humming in his ear. Zyan, hands firm and sure, pressed into his sides and dragged down slowly. Draco’s hips rose up to meet the touch.
“Oh god. Okay, just… ha. Oh, hell,” Draco mumbled and whimpered as he lost track of just who was touching where. It was a lot of hands, and now, oh, mouths. Harry was not the only one with a tongue like that, and— “Fuck. Fucking hell,” Draco groaned as sharp teeth nipped into his hip and made him jerk.
Matten renewed his purr. His lips brushed gently to Draco’s neck while he gasped for air. Draco could feel Matten’s erection nuzzled against his ass cheek, but he seemed content to merely hold his squirming form. Zyan and Haille moved down his body, a steamy wave of heat and wet lips. Draco laughed weakly when his pants were suddenly pulled from him. He kept his eyes resolutely closed so he couldn’t guess just whose tongue was dipping lower to…
“My, he howls so,” Haille chuckled against his nipple, and Draco was forced to accept it was Zyan’s lips wrapped so unbelievably tight around his cock. Draco opened his eyes, and his hands sought out the shifter’s silky tangle of hair. Stormy gray eyes blinked up at him briefly. Zyan smiled wickedly around his prize before he pulled Draco’s length deeper into his hot mouth. Moaning, Draco rocked in pleasure.
“He is very good at that,” Matten whispered in his ear and smirked when Draco nodded mutely. “He enjoys giving pleasure. We all want you to have pleasure.”
Draco found himself very glad the Vesper were terrified of Harry. He apparently wasn’t terrified enough. Draco was quickly realizing he didn’t give a crap what Harry thought about him in the arms of another man—or many, in this case. It was probably a bad thing.
The Vesper weren’t people, or students, or even competition; they were beings half like Draco who understood the world a little different. Part of that understanding was when you were being suffocated by silvery hair and strong pale bodies, you enjoyed it. Draco watched Haille lick over his body and Zyan bob his head and he tried to remember why he was so afraid of this. It was good. Very good. Very right. Moans rose up around him, and in the distance Draco could hear a howl from one of the dragons, which was quickly answered by more.
Haille gasped. “Matten, he’s…”
“I feel it,” Matten muttered, and his hum rose louder. Draco blinked back at him, and his eyes slid across the scar on his face and rested on his pale blue eyes. Matten looked strained, his expression intense as he glared back at him. Draco wanted to smile, to reassure him everything was fine, but he couldn’t. He was hungry. Draco’s body ached for relief, and there were a hundred plus bodies there to help.
“Halfling, lovely, you need to calm.” Haille pleaded as he turned Draco’s face. Confused, Draco couldn’t help but notice Zyan was lying on the ground, panting madly and moaning. Haille looked ready to fall with him; sweat dripped down his body and he kept swaying. Draco watched, motionless. Haille’s breath quickened as he stared back, and his long hair shimmered when his body shuddered again.
“Draco, please,” Matten tried, his voice a low, guttural growl. “Your call is too strong.” Haille fell to his hands and gasped on the ground. Zyan’s arm slipped over and pulled him close. Haille didn’t resist; he seemed relieved to not suffer alone as he tore the taller shifter’s clothes off. Draco watched and wondered who was going to win the struggle. They could have been fighting except they were pulling close, not pushing away. Each frantic bite was for pleasure, not to hurt no matter how wild the noises they made sounded.
Draco groaned; Haille was the victor. He pushed Zyan down onto his stomach and draped over him like a glittering curtain of silk and flesh. Zyan’s cries where muffled as more howls rang out closer this time. Draco sat up to watch, Matten’s hands keeping him from going too far. Draco pulled against them in his want to see more. He felt dizzy to see Zyan’s face as he gasped so desperately beneath Haille. Matten pulled him back forcefully, and Draco exhaled sharply as he felt his erection again, hard and demanding through his pants.
Draco eyes half closed as he reached a hand up and tangled his fingers into Matten’s shoulder length hair. Matten didn’t slow as he kissed down his neck with hard, needy motions. His tongue came next and Draco whimpered at the sensation. He loved when his neck was touched, bit, and sucked. “Yes. Oh, hell,” Draco moaned when Matten’s hands moved down his bare torso and he could feeling the absolute strength in his powerful arms.
“What do you want, Draco?” Matten growled. He sank his teeth into Draco’s neck, who hissed and rocked back for more.
“You know. You can’t not know,” Draco gasped out. Matten’s large hands were on his thighs, grasped under his legs and raised his knees.
“I need you to say it. I need to know it is true.” Matten ran his hands back down Draco’s long legs, caressed his inner thighs and spread them wide. “I am on the brink and do not wish to take.”
Draco laughed and howls rose up with the sound. “Fuck me, Matten. Before I lose my fucking mind and take you all with me.” He was with his pack, he wanted sex, and he was going to have some fucking amazing sex.
“Will be very upset he missed it,” Draco said with another sharp chuckle. Shit, they were all so afraid of Potter. Draco pressed back against Matten and rubbed against his body. He loved the hard muscles and each small, barely contained gasp. Matten gave a final, breaking groan. His questing fingers slid down between Draco’s cheeks, pushed in and stretched deep.
Draco gaped as his head slammed back against Matten’s chest, his entire body tense and fiery. “Oh fuck. Fuck yes. Fucking need it.” Draco knew the shifters did wandless magic, he just didn’t realized it involved lubing and stretching like a pro. He should have; they were very sexual. Draco was glad for because it explained why he readily pulled away and got to his knees like a desperate animal begging for it.
Matten curled around him and his mouth ran over his ear. Anticipation built in Draco, his body dripping in need. He could feel his wings and tail, the feathers crushed by the larger shifter. Draco spread his legs wider and whimpered at the first hot touch of Matten’s cock. It pushed against his entrance, unrelenting as it drove forward and sheathed deep inside his clenching flesh. Draco sobbed in agonizing joy. The howls were all around them now the dragons reached the center on the other side of the fire.
Draco lost track of things shortly after that, the heat and scent and madness too great to fight any longer. When Matten grew tired, Zyan wasn’t, and then Kore, and eventually Haille, who was covered in sharp bites and shallow wounds by the time he fucked Draco. Draco didn’t grow tired, not for hours, and he knew it was the way of what he was. Even with the ring on.
At some point the red haze of lust finally let up and they were all able to sleep. They curled up on the furs and pillows where Draco sprawled between a dozen long, hard bodies and soft hair. When he woke up, he wasn’t lost. No, he knew exactly where he was. Home, with his pack, in the middle of a terrible forest that would never be able to harm him. He was home, and he was content.