Their tongue shall be their downfall;
all who see them shall recoil in horror;
all men shall stand in awe;
they shall proclaim the work of God
and His deed which they perceived.
Harry loved bath time; it always felt so good.
His mother held him in place with a large velvet paw over his hind quarters as her big tongue swept along his back in rough strokes. Harry longed to tell her she needn’t have bothered holding him down; he wasn’t going anywhere. Roaring softly (or rather, practicing his roar) was the way he told her how he adored the contact, this feeling of belonging, solely because communicating that sentiment by any other means was impossible.
"There, little one," his mother growled affectionately at him. "I think you’re all done. Feel better?"
Harry nuzzled her face with his, but didn’t respond. He’d long ago learned that speaking to his parents only seemed to upset them. And as far as his non-verbal methods of communication went, this was one of his favourites.
His mother nuzzled him back and gave him a playful swat on his rear, pushing him out from under the shade of the tree and toward the warm savannah. Harry spent the afternoon chasing the birds from the tall grass and sneaking up behind the great herd of buffalo until he got too far upwind and they scattered.
Later in the day, Harry encountered an animal he’d not seen before. Still a cat, it was smaller than he, but built the same way, with yellow fur and lots of dark spots. Harry was jealous — all of his spots had disappeared a little while ago and he thought they had looked very nice. He became quite excited. Perhaps this animal would be able to talk with him.
The animal carefully approached and gave Harry a sniff. "Who are you?" it asked. It was a girl animal, whatever it was.
Harry said, //My name’s Harry. What’s yours?//
The little animal instantly backed away with narrowing eyes and a growl in her throat.
Harry tried to roar, but it was too late.
"What are you?" the spotty animal asked suspiciously.
//I’m a lion!// Harry said desperately. But he knew that’s not what the other heard. He knew the only thing she had heard was what every other animal heard. She’d heard hissing — sibilant consonants, which he understood perfectly, but which frightened everyone else.
He shook his head and put it down on his forepaws in supplication.
He knew he didn't have a choice. Even if he spoke perfect Lion, it was time for him to leave. He'd had a lonely childhood, but he had been well-fed and well-loved.
Harry's destiny, like that of most male lions, was to leave his family and wander, to explore and finally to establish his own pride.
But Harry had other ideas. He was going to find himself; he was going to discover just what he was and who could understand him. He was born a lion, but he was not a lion. He'd never felt at home in his skin. Not for him the search for a harem of females and a life of protective laziness.
Harry’s back and belly itched. He’d walked through the dense forest for what felt like a very long time and early on had brushed against a plant that had tickled his hide and caused him to twitch. He spotted a tree with rough bark at its base and hurried over to it. Rubbing his tawny fur against the tree’s trunk he looked up at its branches only to find himself staring into the pale eyes of a creature not one foot away.
Harry leapt back, making a surprised squeak and quickly crouched down in pounce position. The creature didn’t move, just regarded him in a cool fashion, flicking out its very odd tongue in Harry’s direction. The animal was long and slender and didn't look to have any legs or paws. Instead, it was wrapped several times around the branch. Harry wondered how it had got up into the tree.
Once Harry had caught his breath and realised the creature didn’t seem to be an immediate threat, he paced slowly forward until he was within speaking distance.
//Who are you?// the creature asked, coiling back defensively.
//I’m Harry. I’m a lion,// Harry said, eyes downcast, anticipating the usual brusque — or terrified — response.
//Huh?// Harry was dumfounded.
//Indeed, you are a lion. What are you doing here? Lions live on the savannah,// the animal said, matter-of-factly.
//What? You can understand me?// Harry’s eyes were as round as saucers and he jumped back and forth in front of the tree in excitement.
The creature hissed in reply, lazily uncoiling itself, //Of course I can understand you; I wouldn’t have answered if I couldn’t.//
//I don’t believe it! No one I have ever met has known what I’m saying! I didn’t even know what language I was speaking!//
//How did you understand anyone else, then?// the other animal asked with an air of exasperation, slithering forward cautiously, //if all you can speak is Snake.//
//I…uh…I dunno?// Harry stopped dancing around in order to think about what the creature had said. He’d never had any difficulty understanding other animals. They had just never been able to understand him.
//Is that what you are? A snake?// Harry asked.
The snake bobbed its head in affirmation.
Harry was incredibly excited. He had so much to say and he didn’t know where to start. //Wait!// he called as the snake started slithering down the tree trunk, away from Harry.
It slowly turned and stared at Harry with keen eyes. //What is it?//
//You can’t just leave! I’ve just found you!// Harry walked quickly toward the snake.
//You didn’t just find me,// it hissed back. //I’ve been here all day.//
//Well, I mean, I just met you and now you’re leaving. Where are you going?//
//I have to go home,// the snake bobbed its head a few times, looking impatient.
//Oh,// said Harry, despondently. Then he brightened. //Can I come with you?//
The snake hissed in exasperation. //No! My parents wouldn’t like that.//
//Why not?// asked Harry. How could they not like him? He could speak their language and everything.
//Because,// said the snake, as if that should be enough. When Harry kept keenly peering at him waiting for an explanation, he elaborated. //Because you’re… not a snake.//
//But I can speak Snake,// said Harry. //I won’t get in the way, I won’t bother anyone. Please?// He roared, knowing his family enjoyed the sound, but the snake just retreated further.
//Stop!// the snake cried as he cowered back. //What are you doing?//
//I'm a lion; I roar. It means I’m happy. Well, it can mean lots of things, but I mostly do it when I'm happy,// Harry said, genuinely surprised at the snake’s reaction.
//Well, it’s making my head hurt,// the snake said archly.
As he sadly watched the snake moving away Harry called out, //Will you come back tomorrow?// He so hoped he wouldn’t lose the companionship of the only animal he’d ever met whom he could actually talk to.
The snake moved further along the forest floor, and just as he was almost out of sight, Harry heard a resigned sigh. //I suppose so,// it said.
Harry slept underneath the tree where he’d met the snake. He was reluctant to venture far from the area lest he forget where he’d met his new friend. He’d thought about marking the tree, but then decided at the last minute that the snake might not appreciate that. His father had once told him that although lions used wee to recognise and claim territory, not every animal was aware of the smell and many found it offensive. Not the best way to get a new friendship off to a good start, Harry thought.
In the morning, Harry wandered a few yards away to a large stream and drank some water, but didn't go hunting for fear of getting lost. He found that identifying landmarks was very difficult in a forest packed with strange-looking trees, flowers of every size and animals of strange design, none of whom could understand him as the snake had.
He resettled under the tree and waited.
Some time later, he heard a slithering rustling sound on the ground and saw the low plants under the tree disturbed by the passage of something. The next moment, the snake appeared as it began its ascent of the tree’s trunk. It stopped at a low branch, close to Harry’s eye level, coiled itself up and sat there, lazily flicking its tongue in Harry’s direction.
//Why do you do that?// Harry asked.
//Do what?// asked the snake.
//Stick your tongue out at me. My mother told me not to do that.//
//It’s how I smell things. You, for instance, smell particularly bad,// the snake said.
Harry realised he’d not had a proper bath in weeks. His mother usually gave him one and he’d not thought about doing it himself while on his odd quest. He’d had more important things to do.
//Sorry,//he said, embarrassed but glad he’d not wee'd all over the tree the previous evening. He flopped down at the base of the trunk and started licking his front paws. //I miss my mother,// he added. //Does your mother give you baths?//
//I should think not,// the snake said disdainfully. //I swim in the water and shed my skin to keep clean. I do not…lick it.//
Harry stopped licking. He didn’t think he’d want to swim or shed his skin, but this felt too good to give up. He started his bath again and decided to change the subject. //What’s your name?//
//Draco,// the snake replied haughtily.
//Draco…// Harry repeated. //I like it.//
//I’m so glad,// Draco said in a condescending manner that was completely lost on Harry.
//Do you live near here?//
//Yes,// Draco said. //I live past the river in the centre of the Garden.//
//I don’t even know where I am,// Harry said. //I left the savannah and came through the desert. And then I was here.//
//This place is called ‘Eden’,// Draco said. //That’s what the Great One says.//
//Who’s the Great One?// Harry walked around the tree.
//He’s our Master. The one who rules us. He’s very smart. What are you doing?// Draco uncoiled and recoiled himself as he followed Harry’s progress around the trunk of the tree.
//I’m just looking to see how long you are,// Harry said.
//Oh,// said Draco, and he slithered down out of the tree and onto the ground. //Don’t step on me,// he warned and stretched. Harry walked from Draco’s head to his tail, around, and back up again.
//I’d say you were about twice my length,// Harry surmised. //Not including my tail, of course.// He gave it a swish in Draco’s direction.
//Do all lions have green eyes?// Draco asked him.
Harry turned around and looked at Draco. //Huh?//
//Your eyes. They’re the same colour as me.//
//As you?// Harry said.
//Yes. The same as me. You see what colour am I, don't you?// Draco asked.
Harry didn't want to answer Draco’s question incorrectly. //I don’t understand.//
//Hm… Perhaps you don’t see in colour,// Draco mused. //Many snakes can’t either, but I, of course, can see all of them.//
//I’m sorry,// Harry said sadly. //What's colour?//
Draco had tried to explain colour to another snake once. He was not going to be drawn into that conversation again. It had made his head hurt almost as much as Harry's roar had. //A pity you don't know,// Draco said. //Especially since you seem to have something in common with us.//
//Can I meet your family?// Harry said abruptly. // I’d love to meet more snakes since they understand me.//
Draco slithered underneath Harry and wrapped himself around the tree once again but made no answer.
//Please?// Harry wheedled.
Draco looked bored with the topic. //Maybe later,// he said. //Are you going to live here now?//
//I think so.// Harry flopped down again and starting to lick his belly. Then he looked back up at Draco wistfully. //I do miss my family but it was my time to leave the pride and I couldn’t wait to explore. I had hoped to find someone who could speak with me. And now I have. It’s nice to have a friend,// Harry said and gnawed at a particularly stubborn burr he’d picked up on his travels.
//Charming,// Draco said with an aristocratic sniff. //And what makes you think I’m your friend? I’ve just met you. I’m not even sure I like you.//
Harry didn’t answer, but looked up with an amused twinkle in his eye. Draco sniffed again and settled himself on a branch.
Many days passed. Harry and Draco spent them together, dozing in the sunshine, exploring the Garden, spying on the other animals, hunting and becoming friends. Harry never met another snake of Draco's age and suspected Draco might also have been lonely until Harry had come along.
Draco never said anything about his upbringing and never let the noble façade drop. Perhaps, thought Harry, he was royalty. Harry, who'd grown up with the label King of the Jungle forever being repeated by his pride-mates, had to smile whenever Draco got his upper-class scales in a twist.
Over the next few weeks, Draco stayed out later and later with Harry at their tree. They looked up at the stars, they watched the nocturnal creatures go about their lives and they talked about their childhoods.
One night, as Draco was leaving, he turned about and rested his head on Harry's paw. The lion lowered his broad head and looked at Draco questioningly. //You'll need to be on your best behaviour. I don't know how they'll take to meeting you, but manners are very important.//
//I understand,// Harry said, hoping he truly did.
//Mother, Father,// Draco said, sliding past Harry and bobbing his head in greeting. //This is Harry.//
Harry looked up at the two large snakes in the branches above him. They regarded him with patrician stares. Both were coiled around branches as Draco had been, but it was obvious that these snakes were bigger.
//Draco, why have you brought a lion here?// asked the larger of the two big snakes. //He won’t even be able to understand us.//
//Draco,// the other said, ignoring its mate’s outburst, //how do you know his name is Harry?//
//I told him,// Harry said. //I can speak Snake.// Both snakes gaped at the lion and rose up together in shock.
//But how can this be?// the snake Harry assumed was Draco’s father spluttered. //How can you know our language? That’s impossible!//
//It’s obviously not impossible, Lucius,// Draco’s mother said. She resettled herself on the branch, trying to hide her discomfiture. //It's very nice to meet you, Harry. My name is Narcissa.//
//Thank you,// Harry said politely. //I'm very happy that Draco brought me to meet you. I never knew I was speaking Snake until I met Draco, and I am very excited about meeting and speaking to new friends.// Harry missed the embarrassed shrug Draco made at this announcement.
//I'm not sure if we can be your friends, Harry,// Draco's father said. //The Great One tells us that no animal is a friend to snakes. We are supreme in our species and to have dealings with others would taint not only our reputation in the Garden, but in the cursed lands beyond it.
//I don't understand,// Harry said, saddened and confused. //How can I be a threat to you? I just want to live here and grow up and talk with any who can teach me and understand me.//
//But that is not our way, Harry. You would never be accepted as part of this clan. You are not one of us, despite being a friend to my son. He has told us how much you enjoy each others' company, but that isn't enough. Not according to our laws. You are not one of us, therefore you will be shunned. //
//It is not a life we enjoy, Lion,// Lucius elaborated. //We have been taught that we are superior to all animals, although simple observation tells us this may not be true.// He looked around carefully. What he was speaking could be considered blasphemy. //But the Great One was here at the Beginning — he knows more about our heritage than any of us — and he assures us our position within Creation is exalted. He fiercely defends his stance and when challenged, he has killed any who have spoken against him. I cannot see my son come to harm through this association.//
Draco looked at his parents and back at Harry. Harry knew his friend would have to side with them. Draco relied upon them for his well-being, just as Harry had relied upon his pride. Harry knew that Draco might never give up this cosseted position — it had been the only way he knew how to live.
//Can I talk to your Great One?// Harry asked. Lucius and Narcissa looked askance at him. They would be risking their reputation should their Master ever learn that their son had befriended a lion, let along bringing one before him to plead his case to remain among them.
But looking at the gloomy but resolute expression on Draco's face, it was clear that they were torn between their desire to nurture their son and preserve the long-held traditions of their species.
//For the love of my child, I will ask,// Lucius said, not completely at ease with his decision.
Several mornings later Harry was dreaming of holding a body against his, his legs and paws moving across the other body slowly. He had no idea what it meant or who the other creature was.
Through these addled images, he felt something move across him and then move away. Then, whatever it was returned and lingered, lying across him in several places. Harry slowly opened his eyes and found himself staring into Draco's eyes. It was Draco who was draped across him.
//Wha— what are you doing?// Harry asked.
//You're much warmer than that tree branch, and I think it is about to rain,// Draco replied. He rested his head against the back of Harry's head now, just behind the lion's ear. //That was a very brave thing to do, asking my father to speak to the Great One.// Draco hissed slowly. //I hope you can help us. I do not want to lose this…//
//You won't, Draco. I am home now.// Harry let his eyes fall shut and began a gentle roar from the back of his throat.
//Harry…// Draco warned.
Harry chuckled. Both creatures dozed the rest of the morning away protected by a huge leaf while the heavens opened.
Harry woke later with Draco still wrapped around him. He felt protected, warm, and an emotion he'd never felt before.
Draco was his friend but what Harry felt went beyond this friendship. He wanted to free Draco from his preordained life of obedience, just as he'd been freed from his lonely and silent world upon discovering Draco. Harry wanted to share his future with Draco, to wake up like this always. He suspected Draco wanted the same. And he was prepared to do whatever it took to give Draco that.
//You must bow your head, Harry,// Draco instructed, whispering urgently. Draco would not offend the Great One with his friend's lack of respect.
Harry tipped his head down, but remained on his guard. Draco's father had told him that this snake, more than any other, felt contempt for all other creatures, and particularly those who walked upon the ground.
The large black snake glared down at Harry with bright eyes. //I understand you can speak our hallowed tongue. So I know you will understand when I question your intent among us, Lion. What business do you have here?// His voice was hollow and menacing.
Harry bowed his head slightly but did not avert his eyes. This snake was dangerous, of that he was sure. He held his kind in thrall and left them cold comfort in return for their adoration. From what Harry could tell from the time he had shared with Draco and his family before this most formal meeting, he did not protect them, he did not cherish them, he did nothing a patriarch should. Instead, he engendered fear and prejudice — two feelings Harry had had quite enough of. He'd found a bountiful home, a friend and a family whom he could communicate with and live among. Not for him was a pride or offspring, but still he'd found more than he'd ever hoped for.
He would not lose it all because one animal did not approve of his birthright. After all, had they not all been created by the same Being? How could one creature feel superior to another through design? Surely there was a purpose, even for the punished.
//My name is Harry,// he said. //I want to live here with you. I can't speak Snake and I like it here. //
//You have no place here. I am the wisest creature, and none will deign to put themselves before me,// the snake warned.
//I have no designs upon your authority. I only wish to be with my friend.// Harry said.
//None here are your friend, lion,// the serpent said harshly.
Harry's eyes found Draco's. His friend looked frightened and sad. He must not have thought Harry's presence would be such a threat.
//Do not think I cannot banish you from this Paradise, lion,// the snake said. //I have done it before, when He tried to usurp my rightful place with his final malformed creations. I drove them from here and their kind will never know this place again.//
//Malformed creations?// Harry asked, intrigued despite himself.
//Yes. You have surely seen the humans who inhabit the region east of the Garden?// The snake turned its great head and pointed in the direction of the river. //The Garden is vast, encompassing savannah, desert and forest, but it is not infinite. Beyond the River Tigris lies a land that will neither provide nor sustain without toil and sweat. That is now where His prized creatures live. They thought to seize my dominance, but I saw through Him and in the end He had no choice but to expel them from the Paradise he had built for us.//
//Perhaps this Paradise was built for all of us,// Harry suggested. //And we are a part of their home as much as they are a part of ours.//
//You dare to suggest that any animal is equal to me?// The snake shot its head toward Harry's, its forked tongue inches away, venom spitting from its mouth.
Harry did not cower in the face of the Great One's wrath. //Why did they have to leave? How did you know they wanted to dominate your kind?//
//They were cherished above all others. They were made in His image. And they were kind and trusting and nurturing, all qualities which He treasured. Which made them even easier to beguile. For why should these mere humans be His favourites? I tricked them into believing He did not love and trust them. That He believed them children and He their master. But it was I who was master of them as I am master of all.//
//What happened?// Harry asked.
//He was displeased with His children; they had betrayed him. But rather than slay them, which surely He should have, He banished them from the Garden and cursed my kind. And we are now destined to live our lives on our bellies and fear the humans, for they would strike at our heads as surely as we would strike at their heels.//
So snake-kind had been castigated because of this so-called Great One. Did this snake now feel his vengeance best served by denigrating all others when his kind had been cursed? Harry saw little love of this father towards his children.
//You were to blame as surely as they, then,// Harry observed.
//YOU DARE!!!// hissed the serpent in fury. He lunged forward, his poisoned tongue and fangs striking Harry's head.
//Nooo!// cried Draco, flinging himself between them.
//Draco!// shouted his mother. //My son!//
The other assembled snakes could not move; they were angered yet terrified. They had lived in the fear of this hard-hearted master for so long, they no longer thought for themselves. They had supported the Great One with their numbers, but in his battle with this new predator, they would not interfere. They counted on their Master overcoming his foe with cunning and guile — and he had the power and poison with which to kill.
//You corrupt our young as you yourself are corrupted. We do not want you among us,// the angered evil serpent hissed, rearing back to strike again.
Harry leapt over Draco and seized the huge snake's throat in his jaws. Time and time again it tried to strike at Harry, but could get no purchase. Abandoning that tactic, it wrapped its heavy body around Harry and began to squeeze as surely as Harry was choking the breath from its body.
Draco struck at them, biting the other snake repeatedly while trying desperately to keep his fangs away from Harry.
It seemed to take a lifetime. Finally Harry felt the serpent's coils loosen from around his body. He slowly released his jaws from the snake's limp body. He was oblivious to the pain in his head from the earlier strike and indeed hadn't even felt the wound until he tried to focus his eyes upon the body of his opponent, reassuring himself that it was dead.
Draco's parents slithered over to their son as fast as they could. The other snakes held back, perhaps fearing that Harry would take out his anger at being attacked upon them. Harry was sure the concept of tolerance had not been part of their law.
//Draco, are you all right?// Narcissa curled herself around her son as he lowered his head onto her jade scales, exhausted.
Lucius coiled around the two of them and regarded Harry with new eyes. //We're free of him,// he said simply.
Harry looked down at the blood dripping from his nose and raised a paw to his tongue, licking it and cleaning the red ooze from his brow. Lucius hissed and Draco, though exhausted, looked up at his friend.
//Your head,// he said quietly, still short of breath from the strain of his earlier attack. //He has marked you.//
Harry loped off to the stream which ran through this lush part of the Garden and peered at his reflection. A gash, shaped like the forked image of lightning or a snake's tongue was etched into his hide. It was still bleeding and Harry swiped at it again, trying to stem the flow.
Slowly Draco slithered up behind him — Harry could hear him through the underbrush. He turned and looked at Draco, who looked tired and weak, though still imposing.
//Thank you, Draco. He would have killed me if you had not helped me,// Harry said to the snake, dropping his head to his paws in a deep bow.
//Nonsense,// Draco spat. //You killed him, Harry. I just hastened the act.//
//That's not true,// Harry said. //You did more than that. You showed your family and the others that this serpent meant them no good will and never had their best interests at heart. I know the responsibilities demanded of a leader of a pride — I was brought up with that destiny and that expectation. Although I couldn't communicate with my father, he conveyed to me what it means to lead and to lead well. You have known that your leader was failing you in this all this time and just needed a push to act.//
Draco raised the front third of his body and slowly rubbed his head against Harry's as he knew Harry did as a sign of affection. Draco's family once again coiled around their son as he coiled around Harry.
Cautiously, the other snakes approached them. One came closer to the huddled snakes and lion. He appeared almost as big as Lucius and he weaved back and forth, looking anxious.
//We…we are ….free…// the snake said.
//We are leaderless,// said another.
//You are not,// said Harry and all eyes turned to him. //You are free, you are cunning, you are survivors, and you may already have a leader who is capable of seeing you for what you are: part of a great pattern with a purpose to be yourselves.// Harry recalled the words of wisdom from his pride-mates and hoped they would offer some solace now to this pride.
//Father,// Draco said slowly. //You know us better than any other. You know what we must do to survive, to thrive, to multiply, to live. We were doing none of that. We were busy isolating ourselves from our habitat, but Harry has shown us that there is more to this Garden than just our small part of it.//
//There is another life for us, one without fear and struggle. And I intend to live it,// Harry said.
//I will serve my kind as they should be served,// Lucius declared to the other snakes. //With respect and care. Do you not feel that we would do better to celebrate our Garden rather than let divisiveness extinguish our species?//
The other snakes looked around at each other, some agreeing, some silent, but all accepting of the need for a new and outward-looking attitude.
//I'm glad you decided to remain with us,// Draco said. //I like being a celebrity, even if for a different reason than before.// He lounged against Harry's body, weaving his head back and forth in front of Harry's face.
//Do you think your father is ready to be the leader he needs to be for your kind?// Harry asked, playfully batting at Draco's tail as it twitched.
//I think he will have to learn. But I do know this: he is not above seeing his failings and asking for help.//
//Yet he never asked me for help,// Harry said.
//He never asked for it, no, but he took it when it was offered and that is already an improvement upon our last leader,// Draco said.
//I'm glad I could help you, Draco,// Harry said and Draco stroked his face against the scar just above Harry's green eyes. //Meeting you has meant so much to me.//
Draco coiled himself around Harry and rested his head against the lion's warm fur. Wrapped around each other once again, they drifted toward sleep.
//I love you, Draco,// Harry said when he assumed the snake had fallen asleep. Harry closed his eyes and his breathing evened out. He didn't hear the sleepy response.
//I love you, too,// Draco hissed.
Harry was cold. He couldn’t remember ever feeling this cold before. He had felt warm enough when he’d fallen asleep, Draco coiled securely around him under the shelter of a massive leaf belonging to an even larger tree. Now, though, he felt cold and slightly damp.
Harry stretched out a paw to feel for Draco’s body. It was still against his torso, a strip of warmth around Harry’s cool belly.
Draco stirred in his sleep and tightened himself around Harry, his tongue flicking against Harry's neck. Harry slowly pulled him closer and stretched out his back — which bumped against something warm. Harry opened sleepy eyes and turned to see what it was he’d collided with.
"AAAAHHRRGGHHHHHH!!!" Harry cried. He leapt back and pressed himself against the trunk of the sheltering tree, only to have it cut into his hide with a harsh sting.
That had not been Draco twined around him, nor was Draco anywhere to be found. Instead Harry saw a human! And not one of the two he and Draco had watched from the shadows — the ones who'd been banished from the Garden. Had the Great One been wrong? Had there been more than two?
The human blinked, waking. When its eyes focused on Harry they opened so wide Harry thought they might fall out of its head.
"Ha — Harry?" it stuttered.
"How do you know who I am?!" Harry demanded, frightened. His back twinged with pain from the scratching tree bark.
"Harry! It’s you! How can it be you?!" The human sat up and then looked down at itself. "What is this? What's happened?"
"Draco?" Harry asked incredulously. "Is that you? You’re…you’re one of those humans!"
Draco looked at himself in wonder. He'd never had limbs before and now he had four. He looked up again. "But so are you!" he cried. Harry looked down at himself for the first time. He saw long strange nearly naked legs with feet at the end of them and two of the funny shaped paws — hands, he reminded himself —at the end of his other legs.
"Can you move?" Harry asked as Draco rolled over onto his belly. "Lift yourself up," he instructed.
Draco pulled himself up onto his hands and knees. Agonisingly slowly, he shuffled several feet before collapsing onto his belly. "I can’t —". He sounded frightened and upset and Harry crawled on hands and knees to him, bumping his head against Draco affectionately.
"You can do it, Draco. I’ll help you — lean against me." Harry provided Draco with a shoulder for support and with his help, the two managed to crawl to the stream beyond the copse of trees they’d lain under the night before.
They looked down at their reflections.
"Is that really us?" Harry asked, watching his reflection’s messy black hair whip around his face as he shook his head from side to side. The scar on his forehead remained the same, he noted.
They raised their heads and looked at one another carefully for the first time.
Harry leaned in and peered at the face in front of him. He had no words to describe the skin or the colour of the eyes or the fur atop Draco's head. The face, though different from the snake's to which he was accustomed, was beautiful in a new way; it made him feel very strange inside to look at this new face.
Draco looked back at Harry just as intently. "Look behind you, Harry," Draco instructed. Harry turned and looked at the tree directly behind them. "Look at the leaves. Do you see the colour?"
Harry nodded. The trees had never looked like that to him before. He moved his astonished gaze around the clearing until he was once again peering at Draco's face.
"Your eyes are the colour of the leaves," Draco whispered. Harry gaped. He'd no idea he'd lived his life never knowing that he had eyes the colour of the leaves or the grass…or his friend.
"Your skin isn't that colour now," Harry observed.
Draco looked down at himself. "Perhaps these animals do not wear that colour," he said. "You're not the same as you were as a lion, either. And your mane is black, not brown. But your eyes are the same. I can’t believe this," Draco said. He sat back on his heels, looking at his hand and the fingers at the end of it. Harry watched as Draco reached out with one and stroked Harry’s nose. It made Harry want to roar. It made Draco smile. "I’ve never been able to touch anything like this before." He flexed his fingers and then reached down to pick up a twig from the forest floor. He held it up and looked at it. Harry watched Draco’s face. Water began leaking from his eyes. "Try it, Harry."
Harry leaned close and took the twig from Draco, using the same motions of his fingers as he’d seen Draco use. It was an incredible feeling, being able to grasp something.
"We need to find those other humans and watch what they do," Harry suggested. "We can learn from them."
Draco’s lovely new face contorted. "I don’t like them," he said quietly.
"They don’t have to see us," Harry said, dropping the twig and resting back on his haunches. He slowly reached out and put his hand on Draco’s shoulder. The skin felt warm underneath his hand. "I want to try and move like they do. Will you help me?" he asked.
Draco nodded and placed his hand over Harry’s, squeezing it in a comforting snake-like fashion. Harry pushed down on Draco’s shoulder and rose up onto his feet.
They practiced walking for the next few hours and became better at it. There was the occasional stumble and even a couple of skinned knees, but they finished the day feeling very proud of their efforts. And very hungry.
"I don’t think I can ever move as fast as I used to," Draco lamented. "I don’t know how I’m going to find any food this way." he added as he flopped down by the tree under which they’d spent the previous night.
"I’ll find us something," Harry said. He hobbled off into the forest where he found a tree sprouting a bunch of yellow peculiar shaped things from the tops of its branches. He wrapped his arms around the trunk and pulled himself up the tree, then yanked the bunch of yellow fruit away from the trunk. They fell to the ground and Harry quickly shimmied down the tree to retrieve them.
"I saw those animals," he said as he approached Draco. "They’re over there beyond the edge of the Garden." He pointed in the direction away from Draco’s parents’ tree.
"We can watch them tomorrow if you want." Draco sat down and began yanking at the top of one of the yellow fruit. "I’ve seen the monkeys do this." The skin on the fruit peeled away. He held it out to Harry.
Harry bit into it. He swallowed and then nearly choked. He coughed and spluttered and his eyes watered.
"What’s the matter?" Draco asked, looking at the fruit with an air of puzzlement. "Does it taste bad?" He tentatively stuck out his tongue toward the fruit. "It smells good."
"It’s good," Harry managed to say, finally swallowing the fruit. "I guess I didn’t chew it enough. I’ve never really had to do that much chewing before."
"What’s chew mean?" Draco asked.
"It means move your mouth up and down so your teeth can mash up your food."
"What teeth? I've never had that many," Draco said.
Harry laughed and pointed to the white things in Draco’s mouth. Then he pointed to his own. "Do you see these?" He said opening his mouth and tapping a molar.
"Those are teeth," Harry said. He watched with fascination as Draco took a bite of his fruit and held it in his mouth. "Now chew it," Harry instructed and Draco did so slowly with a look of intense concentration.
"These bodies are very strange. This particularly." Draco pointed downwards.
"It’s for wee, remember?" Harry said matter-of-factly; they’d already discovered that.
"I know, but it seems strange to just wee from something like this." Draco replied.
"Mum called it a penis."
"I don’t think snakes call this anything," Draco said.
"I think it’s for something else, too," Harry said as he reached for his own. "Mum didn’t have one, but I saw my dad put his into her once." He watched as the organ grew slightly from his handling of it. "She didn’t seem very happy about it, though."
"Maybe she didn’t want it," Draco said, watching what Harry was doing with a slightly slack-jawed expression.
"Too bad, because this feels really good," Harry said, continuing to touch himself. "You should try it." Draco walked over and reached out a hand. "I mean on yourself," Harry said.
"Oh, okay." Draco yawned. "Maybe later. Can we go to sleep now?"
"Sure," said Harry, stopping his fondling as he thought of something else. "I was cold last night, though. I miss my fur." He scowled and looked down at the forest floor. "Maybe we could sleep on some of that moss," he suggested.
He and Draco gathered moss and soft fern branches and stretched out under their favourite large-leafed tree lest it rain during the night. Draco pulled Harry to him, conscious that Harry’s back might still be sore from its scraping against the trunk of the tree earlier in the day.
"You’re very warm, Draco," Harry said, as Draco’s arm snaked around his midsection.
"So are you," Draco replied, breathing onto the back of Harry’s neck. Harry felt the hairs there stand up and he wiggled closer into Draco’s embrace.
A long moment passed where they both felt something, an emotion neither of them could define.
"Draco," Harry murmured when he noticed something besides his hair beginning to stand up.
"I think I would like you to put your hand on my penis now."
"Okay." Draco reached down and grasped Harry.
"Ow!" Harry exclaimed."Not so rough."
"Sensitive, aren’t you?" Draco said, loosening his grip.
"I bet yours is too," Harry said. "I’ll show you what I mean." He rolled over and took Draco in hand. Gently.
"Oh, that feels really nice," Draco said, closing his eyes involuntarily.
"Yeah, it does. Move your hand a bit faster, like I was before," Harry explained, showing Draco what he meant by doing the same to him.
There was a long lull in the conversation.
"I wonder what meaning this has?" Draco mused dreamily, as Harry continued his stroking.
"Hey, don’t forget about me," Harry admonished him.
"Sorry," Draco said and moved his hand some more until Harry let out a groan. Draco laughed.
"What was that for?" Harry asked, opening his eyes which had also fallen shut when Draco had touched him.
"You. You sounded funny. Like you were hurt."
"I don’t feel hurt," Harry said, closing his eyes once again, his hand instinctively matching the same pace of Draco’s on himself. "I feel really good."
"So do I," said Draco.
Without thinking, they began trailing their other hands up and down each other’s bodies, then grasping a shoulder here, a hip there. Their legs became entangled and their faces moved closer together. Finally, with an unfamiliar sense of urgency, they were all but clutching each other, moving together —
and faster —
Draco hissed very loudly into Harry’s hair. Harry was too distracted by the feeling of Draco’s hand on him to notice his own being covered in warm syrupy fluid. Then it was Harry’s turn to sigh loudly against Draco’s face. His body suddenly became suffused with the most wonderful feeling he’d ever had. He convulsed against Draco’s new beautiful body, warm and protective and…
Draco held up his hand, looking at the strange substance. Some of it was his and some was Harry’s, as they had been so close to each other at the end. "What is it?" he asked.
"I don’t know. It’s not wee," Harry said. He held a similarly covered hand to his face. "Doesn’t smell of anything."
Draco’s tongue flitted out of his mouth and he licked his hand before remembering he didn’t use the organ to smell with anymore. He made a face.
"Does it taste bad?" Harry asked, other hand lazily stroking Draco’s shoulder blade.
"Yes…no…I don't know…," Draco said, confused about the whole experience. He wiped his hand on his hip. Harry leaned over and did the same, also on Draco’s hip.
"Hey!" Draco said with a shove and Harry laughed. He pushed Draco over onto his back and covered him with his body. "Ooh, that’s very warm," Draco said, wrapping himself around Harry.
"Yes, it is," said Harry with a sleepy smile. It was a pity this body couldn’t produce an acceptable roar.
The next few days the two new humans spent observing the two other humans that lived on the outskirts of the Garden. They quickly saw that, although technically not allowed into the heart of the Garden any longer, the others knew how to look after themselves and from them, Harry and Draco learned a lot about what it meant to be human. They learned the names of many other parts of their bodies and that they were indeed both male — there was never any doubt in Harry’s mind, since while growing up he’d seen both male and females in a clearer fashion than Draco ever had. They also learned what they could safely eat and drink.
One day, they sat perched in a tree looking down at the two other humans doing something that Harry and Draco had also been doing a lot of…touching one another. They obviously liked the stroking and touching just as much as Harry and Draco did. But they didn’t stop at that.
The female was not built the same, as Harry had confirmed when telling Draco about his own mother. As Harry and Draco watched, enrapt, the male lay atop her and rhythmically rubbed his body against hers. They couldn’t clearly see what the male was doing to the female or she to him, but Harry was fairly certain this was the same activity he’d seen his parents doing, although the female didn’t look nearly as upset as his mother had. (Indeed, his father had bitten her on her shoulder the entire time, which could have been the cause of her foul mood.)
But this male didn’t look as if he was biting this female, although he pressed his mouth to her face and to her chest and to her shoulder. The two humans touched their mouths together often, too, even when not touching any other parts of each other’s bodies.
Harry tried this with Draco one day as they bathed in a pool at the base of a small waterfall near the other humans' shelter. It was dark, as they had waited for the other Garden animals to fall asleep before venturing to the pool.
"Didn't I tell you this was a better way to bathe than just licking yourself?" Draco said.
Harry didn't hear him. He was too busy thinking. "I want to try that face thing with you," Harry said. He waded through the water to where Draco was sitting.
"What face thing?" Draco said. Harry didn’t wait for a response, but leaned down and pressed his mouth against Draco’s. This close, they stared at each other, trying not to cross their eyes and wondered what all the fuss was about. "I thnk wrr doong thmthng wong," Draco said after a few moments.
Harry moved his face away. "That was good, when you spoke," he said to Draco. "Maybe we’re supposed to be moving our mouths around. I can’t imagine those creatures do this if it doesn’t feel good."
Another day of observation from the hedges near the humans’ encampment enlightened Harry and Draco to other things regarding these new activities. The animals did indeed move their mouths about and they opened them and closed them when they pressed their faces together. They also did this with their eyes closed. And, just like Harry’s parents, the male did put his penis into the female. He also put his fingers into her.
The new humans left their hiding place among the dense foliage and went back to their shelter as the other humans fell asleep.
"Perhaps I left my parents' home too soon," Harry said, forlornly. "I wish they’d taught me how to do that."
"Maybe they didn’t want to teach you," Draco said, trying to reassure him. "Maybe it’s something that just parents do."
"But I want to do those things with you. And I don’t know how," Harry said, sounding a little petulant.
"Well, you can learn, can’t you?" Draco said. "We learned how to walk on our legs from watching those creatures, we built a shelter like theirs, why can’t we learn this too?"
"It feels so good when you touch me," Harry said, snuggling up to Draco and bumping his head against Draco’s naked shoulder.
"And it feels good when you touch me, too," Draco said back, pushing his face into Harry’s. He had closed his eyes, his mouth was slightly slack. Harry sucked on Draco’s lip and they both smiled and sighed.
They spent the next several hours practicing their new skills. They also made a mess all over the moss they'd gathered to sleep on.
The next morning, after breakfast, the two boys went back to this activity. After all, with full stomachs, a safe shelter and a source of fresh water, what else was there to do? Harry knew he wouldn't be welcomed back into his pride, partly since he was no longer a lion but also because he'd be expected to leave and form his own pride. Harry knew Draco had no such ambition: up until now, most of his life had been spent sunbathing. He knew his parents had picked out a mate for him and that nothing more was expected of him until it came time to breed.
At some point, Harry figured Draco would want to return to see his parents, perhaps to try to explain what had happened to them. At least they had understood why he had left them and he seemed to take solace in this. And as much as they might disapprove of Harry, they knew Draco wasn't alone, and hopefully that would assuage many of their worries.
But not just now.
Now, Draco was sitting next to Harry eating a piece of fruit, while Harry lay on his back watching him, his fingers trailing up and down Draco's back. Draco bit into the fruit and its juice ran down his chin. He idly brushed at it with the back of his hand.
"Don't," Harry said, sitting up.
"What?" Draco asked after carefully swallowing. He turned and looked at Harry. "Is something wrong?"
"No —well, yes. You have juice on your face," Harry said, moving to sit in front of Draco.
"I know. I can feel it. Sticky." He made a face and moved to wipe his chin with his hand again.
"Stop," Harry said, grabbing Draco's wrist to keep his hand from reaching his face. Harry leaned forward and ran his tongue over Draco's chin, around his lips and then back down to his chin again before Draco could press his mouth against his.
"Okay, keep eating," Harry ordered and Draco took another bite, looking into Harry's eyes as he did so. This time the fruit juice ran down Draco's chin and dribbled onto his chest. Harry once again restrained him, not allowing Draco to brush the juice away. He leaned in and slowly licked the juice from Draco's throat, his sternum and then became distracted by one of Draco's pale nipples. His tongue moved over to it. Draco almost inhaled his next bite. He pulled away in surprise and then quickly moved back into licking distance as if realising that Harry might not have understood the reaction.
"Did I hurt you?" Harry asked.
"No," Draco said quickly. "Do it again."
"There's no more juice," Harry observed.
Draco took a huge bite out from the fruit, his teeth scraping against the stone at its centre. Then, for good measure, he rubbed the fruit's pulp up and down his torso before biting into it again.
Harry laughed and gently pushed Draco back onto the soft grass.
Draco regarded him from under his lashes as Harry went to work on his chest and abdomen. Through the skin under his tongue, Harry could feel Draco's muscles and bones and something in him was set on fire.
His licking turned almost feral and he nipped and sucked at the sweet juice and sweeter flesh below it. Draco abandoned the fruit, closed his eyes and reached out to tangle his sticky hands in Harry's soft hair. As Harry's mouth worked down his torso, Draco's grip became ever stronger. Harry didn't mind that.
Up until now, only their hands had explored this far south. Harry decided that if Draco's mouth and skin tasted delicious up here, the rest of it was bound to as well.
He shifted position so that he was lying between Draco's legs, his tongue now exploring the contours of Draco's hipbones and the tops of his thighs.
"H-Harry-?" Draco sputtered and lifted his head.
Harry looked up at the grey eyes which were now round and searching.
"What are you doing?" Draco croaked out. He loosened his grip on Harry's head, but did not release it.
"I want to taste you. All of you. Is that okay?"
"Uhhh…" Draco's head fell back against the grass.
Harry took the reply for acquiescence and licked a swath from one side of Draco's hips to the other, just above where the hair began to grow in earnest. Draco flexed his back and Harry leaned a little harder onto him in order to keep himself from being tumbled off the body beneath him.
Harry twined his fingers in the hair beneath hands, slowly caressing the skin below it. Against his throat, he felt Draco harden fully.
Wrapping his arms around Draco's hips, he lowered his head, his mouth fully encasing Draco's penis. As he'd anticipated, Draco arched his back and tightened his grip in his hair.
Harry pressed Draco's body back into the soft ground. He gently kneaded the flesh in his hands and his mouth stretched around Draco, his tongue exploring the new landscape. He tried to take in as much of Draco as he could without biting him and was rewarded with a gasp. Then he moved his mouth back up experimentally making sure to slather saliva up and down Draco's shaft.
"Uh, Harry…?" Draco croaked.
Harry ignored him. Instead, he retrieved a hand from Draco's backside and pulled gently on the base of Draco's penis, exposing the top before swirling his tongue around it. The tightness of Draco's fingers in his hair increased tenfold. Harry ignored the pain and continued to lick, all the time moving his hand up and down.
"Harry!" Draco all but shouted, trying to get his attention. "I c-can't hold …any longer," he almost sounded like he was in pain.
Harry left off for a moment, rubbing the escaping fluid from his chin with his wrist and looking up at Draco. He was sure he'd never seen anything so beautiful in his life. Draco's cheeks were flushed and his expression had never conveyed so much want and desperation before. "Draco, I said I wanted to taste all of you," Harry reminded him, and pounced.
On either side of Harry, Draco bent his knees and curled his toes into the earth. He drew in a long breath and then released it with a hiss: //Sssoooo goooood//, he groaned.
Harry didn't have time to ponder the foreign yet somehow familiar sounds Draco had uttered before his mouth was filled with liquid warmth. He held it in briefly, studying the flavour before swallowing it. Like some forgotten sense-memory, the flavour of raw flesh, hide, muscle, sinew and marrow came unbidden to him. But there was more— a feeling of intimacy that never accompanied any previous taste of living creatures. It was like…hungry affection. And was a completely astounding sensation.
Harry stretched out next to Draco and pulled him close. Draco opened his eyes and looked at Harry, who gave him a cautious smile. "Are you okay?" he asked after a time.
"I am… I am… Harry, tell me you will do that again," Draco panted. "Because I am sure that these bodies were made for that."
"I thought you said that the stuff that came out tasted bad," Harry reminded him.
"I didn't like it much. But you did," Draco said.
"I did. It tasted of…you," Harry could think of no other way to describe the taste. "It was wonderful."
"Then you must do that as often as possible," Draco decided, reaching for Harry, pulling him close and reaching down between them.
"You said something. At the end. It sounded strange, another language, but I understood you. Do you remember?" Harry said, closing his eyes while Draco tugged slowly at his flesh.
"No, I don't," Draco said, looking downward at his hand. He leaned forward and pressed his mouth to Harry's throat.
//Perhapsss you will do it again// Harry said, his eyes closing and his heart racing.
Draco's eyes widened at Harry's words but he knew them, he understood their meaning even if the phrase sounded strange.
"Say something again," Draco urged.
//Pleassse never ssstop,// Harry moaned. He grabbed at Draco's arms, his fingers biting into the muscle.
Draco brought his face close to Harry's. //Asss if I would,// he hissed back. His hand sped up its rhythm and Harry—lost now— erupted into it.
//Shhhh…Lucius,// Narcissa said as her mate quickly slid up onto the branch beside her. //Maybe they won't see us.//
//How could we have been so wrong?// Lucius hissed back. //We were led to believe that those animals—those humans—had been banished from the Garden!//
The two snakes held themselves absolutely still as the two humans approached their tree. One of the humans, the fair one, reached out and made as if to stroke Narcissa. Lucius struck at the animal and it pulled its hand back just in time to avoid being bitten.
"Father," Draco said, keeping his hand pulled to his chest and the rest of his body out of striking distance.
The snakes did not respond to the voice. Harry feared that, now in human form, they had lost the ability to communicate with Draco's family. He wrapped an arm around Draco, whose eyes had started leaking again.
Cautiously, the smaller of the two snakes raised itself up and, still maintaining its distance, peered into Harry's face. It opened its mouth when it looked at his eyes and forehead and made strange hissing noises that the other snake obviously understood.
They had recognised Harry.
For a few seconds, nothing happened. The humans stood completely still, the snakes bobbed cautiously on the branch before them.
Then the smaller snake closed the gap between itself and Draco. It cautiously coiled along the branch until it was as near as it could get and leaned as far off of it as it dared in his direction. Draco put out a hesitant hand. Immediately, it crossed the gap of open space and coiled itself up his arm until it rested its head against his shoulder. Draco's tears fell from his chin and down his chest.
Harry brushed them away from his cheeks, as Draco face lit up with a watery smile.
With guarded movements, the other snake twined itself along Draco's other arm. Harry stood behind Draco now, arms around his middle, chin resting on his shoulder.
The second snake rubbed its face against Harry's cheek when it reached Draco's shoulder.
Harry tried not to cry and just enjoyed being part of this new family.
That night, Harry took Draco into his mouth again, but this time, his fingers found another part of Draco he hadn't yet explored. Draco's eyes went very wide when he felt Harry's fingers touching him there.
"Har — Harry! What are you…nggghhh…" Harry couldn't have explained, even if he wanted to, his mouth being otherwise occupied. Instead, he moved his hand slowly, up and down and along this obviously sensitive part of Draco's body.
He slowly slid his lips along Draco's penis until it was nearly out of his mouth. He stuck his fingers into his mouth at the same time, moving his tongue around everything. Then he withdrew his fingers and plunged his mouth back down Draco's length, eliciting a moan as Draco squeezed his thighs around Harry's shoulders.
They had started out lying on their sides, and indeed still were, but now Harry's mouth was nowhere in the vicinity where it had begun and Draco was trying very hard not to grasp him too tightly by the hair.
One of Harry's fingers found its target and this time Draco did pull on Harry's hair, hard enough to bring tears to his eyes. He quickly pulled his hand away but it stopped when Draco caught his wrist in his hand. Harry, mouth still engaged, looked up to see Draco pull his head forward from the angle in which he'd thrown it back.
He looked down at Harry. "No," Draco said. "Don't s-s-stop." And he pushed Harry's hand back in the direction from which it had come.
Harry smiled around the now-leaking penis in his mouth and moved his fingers back to where they'd been, gently reinserting one into Draco and moving it slowly. Draco moved his body back to meet it and then forward again as Harry's tongue swirled around him.
Inspired, Harry removed his mouth and replaced it with his hand. Above him, he could hear Draco groan in what sounded like frustration.
Without stopping the movement of his hands Harry carefully extricated his head and shoulders from between Draco's long pale thighs and gently turned him over onto his front. Draco groaned again, but this time it didn't sound like frustration as Harry's finger was pushed deeper into him.
Harry watched the movement of his finger and Draco's reaction. It looked as though it felt very nice. It certainly felt nice to Harry. He imagined himself inside Draco and with that thought he became almost painfully hard.
Draco dropped his head to his arms, his backside in the air. This was a position Harry was familiar with. He had no idea in which position snakes mated, but this certainly was the most common position for lions.
Harry remembered his earlier pledge to Draco and decided to try another new activity. Never stopping the motion of his hand around Draco, he gradually removed his finger from inside him and bent his head down running his tongue along the skin and into the hole he'd just been fondling.
Draco jerked forwards so suddenly that Harry almost lost his grip with his other hand and was afraid he'd hurt his friend.
"Are you okay?" Harry asked, concerned.
//Yesss// Draco hissed, his hips returning to their original position. Harry continued pumping languidly with one hand and returned his tongue to Draco's backside.
Draco hissed some more, and the sound went straight to Harry's groin. Wanting to suggest something to Draco, he pushed two fingers into him. Draco now seemed more wound up than Harry had ever seen him.
Harry leaned over Draco's back and whispered into his ear. "I want to do what those other humans do. What my mother and father do. Can…can I go inside you?"
//Pleassse…// Draco hissed.
Harry's knees almost buckled as he listened to Draco's gasping. He rubbed the fluid which had collected around the head of his penis up and down the length of him and sat forward again, all the time his hand still slowly moving between Draco's legs.
//Harry,// Draco moaned. And Harry pushed himself inside.
Draco leaned forward almost flat, this time hissing in what sounded like pain.
"Draco, I'm hurting you," Harry said. "I can stop." He rubbed his other hand up and down the long length of Draco's pale back.
//Don't ssstop,// Draco said and returned to his knees, pressing back toward Harry, which served to push him further onto Harry's length.
Harry didn't need to be told twice. He pushed himself all the way into Draco's warm body and groaned, the sound coming out of his mouth as a hiss. Hearing it, Draco clenched his muscles around Harry and Harry almost came.
He leaned forward, warm chest pressed to smooth back, and whispered in Draco's ear //I think we're ssspeaking Sssnake.// He closed his eyes as Draco's muscles tightened around him again.
Now he understood why his father might have grabbed his mother with his teeth; he had the sudden desire to sink his teeth into Draco's shoulder. Instead, he pressed his head against Draco's back and began moving in and out of him, Harry's hand on Draco's penis moving in time to his thrusts.
Moments later, Harry felt his hand covered in warm sticky fluid. When he felt the shuddering slow beneath him, he snaked his hand around Draco's body and plunged into him deeper and faster. Moments later, he lost all control, and pushed forward with one hard shove, nearly sending Draco sprawling. Harry tightened his arm around him as he began to empty himself into Draco's body.
"Harry," Draco whispered harshly and elbowed him in the ribs. "Wake up!"
"Huh — wha —?" Harry blinked and looked around. On one side of the pew next to him sat Draco looking cross and just a little desperate. On the other side sat Narcissa Malfoy looking as though she was thinking of committing Harry to St Mungo's as soon as the ceremony was over. On the far side of her sat Lucius Malfoy, studiously ignoring his family and their famous but embarrassing guest.
Where the hell was he? Harry mused. Oh yes, he was in a church— something he had little experience with since Aunt Petunia had stopped forcing him to accompany Dudley to Sunday school when Dudley expressed his displeasure at missing his Sunday-morning lie-ins.
Harry looked around.
At the altar, Blaise Zabini's mother repeated her wedding vows with the precision of a veteran.
Obviously, having fallen asleep in a church, Harry's mind had conjured up one of the few Bible stories he remembered from those days with Dudley.
"You're drooling, Potter," Draco whispered at him with a disdainful expression.
And obviously his hormones had taken the memory and adjusted it to something more appealing to a teenaged boy. Harry wiped his sleeve across his face hurriedly and adjusted his robes.
Draco put a steadying hand on his knee. "Is something wrong?" he whispered. "This isn't anything to do with —" Draco pointed at Harry's scar, "is it? Because I thought he was gone. Please tell me my boyfriend isn't possessed by a several-times-dead Dark Lord."
"No," Harry reassured him, smiling shyly and placing his hand over Draco's. "I was just dreaming about us. We were…uh…"
"Potter," Draco admonished quietly. "We're in a church. Can't you think of something a little more…churchy?"
"It did start out that way," Harry whispered back. "But somehow we ended up —"
"I'm sure I know where we ended up, and if you want to end up in the same place tonight, you'll sit still and stop hissing. You know what that does to me." He leaned back into the pew, trying to get comfortable.
Harry desperately tried to keep his hands to himself and sat up a little straighter.
At the reception, Draco and Harry dutifully drank champagne, ate a slice of wedding cake, and made the obligatory bets on how long this latest Zabini union would last.
Harry had a dance with Narcissa, while Draco danced with Blaise, taking the opportunity to ask the other boy if he still referred to the new family member as stepfather or if the man would just be assigned a number.
Later that evening, a little tipsy, Draco and Harry shared another dance around the floor of the hotel ballroom. Harry's head rested on Draco's shoulder and he gently hummed along with the melody of the romantic music.
"Potter, stop that," Draco chided him, squeezing Harry around the middle for good measure.
"I'm humming. It means I'm happy." Harry said, genuinely surprised at his boyfriend's reaction.
"Well, it’s making my head hurt."
Harry laughed against his collarbone. "I love you." It was the first time he'd said it aloud. Somehow it'd just slipped out.
He felt Draco's arms squeeze around him a little tighter. "I love you, too."
God said, "Let the earth bring forth every kind of living creature: cattle, creeping things, and wild beasts of every kind." And it was so. God made wild beasts of every kind and cattle of every kind, and all kinds of creeping things of the earth. And God saw that this was good.