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survivors of the wild

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They haven’t had a storm this bad in years.

Harry swears the entire house rattles with the force of it. It’s only a small, wooden home after all, and he’d had to patch up the roof three times last summer. They’ll be lucky if the whole thing doesn’t fly off at this point, with the way the rain is pounding on it.

Anne is yelling at Harry to check that all the windows upstairs are closed. She’s interrupted by a roar of thunder that sounds like its right above them. Upstairs, the window in his bedroom is still open, rain soaking the blanket on his bed a dark blue. He sighs after checking the windows, taking a moment to breathe at the top of the stairs and let himself get accustomed to the crashing sounds of the storm. He brushes a hand through his shoulder-length curls and leans his head against the wall. He’s not scared of storms, never has been, but he’ll probably be sent out to check on all the animals when he gets downstairs, and he dreads the chill he knows he’ll catch even in his heavy coat.

He must have missed the knock at the door, because when he enters the kitchen there’s four strangers and Bron, the old lighthouse keeper, huddled together with his mum. The sight of Bron isn’t so unusual – they’re the closest house to the lighthouse – but the strangers are certainly unusual. Anne breathes a sigh of relief when she sees him. “Oh, Harry, would you be a dear and please grab some blankets and fresh clothes?”

Harry nods silently, and goes back upstairs to grab two pairs of his mum’s clothes for the two women and some of his for the younger men. When he returns, Anne’s started a fire. She gives him a soft smile and takes the clothes, turning to Bron and the strangers. “Here, please take these. You can change upstairs if you’d like. You must be uncomfortable.”

“Thank you, Anne. We really appreciate this,” one of the women says, nodding her head with a smile. The group follows her, save Bron, who sticks by the fire. Harry’s always liked Bron. They go fishing every week and he always tells Harry the best stories from all the places he traveled before settling in Fernstart’s lighthouse

He shoots Harry a grin. “Didn’t expect any company tonight, I imagine.”

Harry raises his eyebrows and laughs. “Can’t say I did. Why on Earth are they here of all places? Who are they?”

Bron shoots a glance at Anne, who nods her head slightly. He keeps eye contact with Harry as he says, “They’re dragon riders. Got blown off course by the storm and saw the lighthouse. Lucky them there’s an actual town here. Brought them here and figured they could keep the dragons in your barns overnight so they don’t get rained on.”

Harry feels his mouth drop open. He chokes out, “You brought dragons here? They’re in the barns – our barns?”

Bron laughs, pulling his heavy coat a bit tighter around him. “You bet there are. Good thing they’re not too big, too. Almost didn’t fit in there.”

Harry stares at Anne, who just shrugs a little. “You’ve always wanted to see a dragon in person,” she says.

“Oh my god, mum.” Harry leans on the table.

Two of the male strangers return just then. One is a stocky, pale ginger with an easy smile, the other noticeably younger and blond. The blond sticks his hand out to Harry with a grin. “Hi, I’m Niall.”

The ginger follows suit. “I’m Ed.”

“I’m Harry. You’re dragon riders.” He feels his face flush immediately as the two of them chuckle, and he slaps a hand over his mouth.

Niall just laughs. “Well I’m barely one. Only been done with the academy for a few weeks now. But the others, yeah, they’re real riders.”

Ed rolls his eyes. “He’s a fine rider. But yes, we’re riders. We were headed to Occitens when the storm hit and it was too dangerous to fly.”

Harry nods, recognizing the name of the academy further north. “My, um, sister goes there. She’s not a rider yet, though, doesn’t have a dragon. Name’s Gemma?”

Niall’s eyes light up. “I know her! She’s one of my good friends. Smart as a whip. Funny, too.”

Anne grins from where she’s fixing a kettle to put on the fire. “She’s a good one.”

The women return now, gliding into the kitchen with a cool air. They’re both tall, one more so than the other, radiating a sort of dignity and power Harry could only dream of having. The taller, silver-haired one reaches out a hand to Harry. “Hello, I’m Allanna.” Her voice has a lilt to it and her features strike Harry as feline, with sharp lines and slanted eyebrows. She tucks a strand of glistening hair behind her ear, revealing a pointed ear. Harry blinks in wonder, realizing that she must be an elf.

“I’m Harry,” he mumbles.

The other one shakes his hand, as well. Harry breathes a sigh of relief as he determines she’s human. “I’m Laurel. It’s nice to meet you. We cannot thank you and your mother enough for letting us stay the night.”

Anne smiles warmly. “Oh, it’s no problem. Really, we don’t mind at all. It’s just me and Harry at the moment, anyways. My husband’s in Bellatona right now. Anyways, we have guest rooms upstairs you can stay in tonight. Do your, um, dragons need anything?”

Allanna and Laurel share a look, before Allanna fixes Anne with a kind grin. Harry didn’t notice the bag she’s carrying, but she tucks it a little closer to her body. “Thank you so much for your hospitality, Anne. We’ll stay out in the barns with our dragons tonight, however. We don’t want them getting lonely. And they’re okay, we all already ate today. Thank you.”

Anne blinks slowly, before nodding. “Oh, of course. Well, Harry can take some blankets out for you, then.”

Harry smiles sheepishly at them, shuffling back and forth on his feet.

Allanna glances out the window. The storm has died down a bit, but the rain still beats down heavily. “Thank you, really. We’ll be turning in tonight early, I believe. It’s later than I thought and we should wake up early to get to Occitens.”

“Oh, of course. Harry, can you grab those blankets and show them to the barns?” Anne says.

Bron is saying his goodbyes when Harry returns, arms full with all their spare blankets and decked out in his heavy rain coat. He nods goodbye to him. “I’ll see you next week, yeah? Usual time?”

“’Course, kid. See you then.” Bron waves and slips out the front door.

Anne covers the blankets up with a large towel to keep them dry for the short walk. Harry smiles awkwardly at the four strangers and nudges his own way out of the back door. “You can, uh, follow me.”

He walks a bit to the first barn, leading them through the smaller side door. There’s a twinge of nerves in his stomach. He’s all too aware that he’s about to face real live dragons for the first time ever and he can feel the panic clawing up his throat. “Um,” he says shortly. “I forgot a lantern. Sorry.”

“That’s alright,” Laurel says. She mutters, “Garjzla.” Harry doesn’t even try to contain his gasp as a ball of light flutters into being in her hand. She lifts it up and releases it, letting it hang in the air. It’s shockingly bright, illuminating the entire barn. The animal stalls are to the side, but there’s a large open space that they step into.

And fuck. There’s two huge creatures looming above them. They fill up the entire barn, staring down at him with gleaming eyes. One is a rich blue, with eyes to match, and the other is a dark, brooding red. Their scales glimmer softly in the light. Harry doesn’t realize he’s backing up until Niall lets out an “oof” as he runs into his chest. He steadies him from behind with a hand on his arm.

“There’s no need to be afraid,” Laurel chuckles. “These are mine and Allana’s dragons. They’re very nice.” Allanna lets out a short laugh at that. Laurel says, “I can take half of the blankets. Thank you for carrying them out here.”

“We’re in the next barn,” Niall chimes in, already walking out.

Harry lets Niall lead them to the next barn, only about a dozen feet separating the two. Once they’re inside, Niall repeats the spell Laurel had and sets the ball in the air to hang. Harry starts again at the sight of two dragons staring down at them again. They’re slightly smaller than the other two, but have eyes just as menacing and scales and claws just as gleaming. Niall steps over to the one with pale, icy blue scales. “Kvetha,” he says softly, petting its cheek as it bends its head down. “This is Rakr,” he says to Harry.

Ed does the same to his own dark, ash-colored dragon. “This is Lief.”

Niall’s dragon lets out a gruff hum and intones, “We can introduce ourselves, you know.”

Harry squeaks, jumping back so fast he hits his head against the side of the barn. He knows dragons can speak, of course, but it’s different hearing about it than having one stare you in the face and speak. The pale blue dragon seems to be laughing now, letting out deep, raspy snorts and sitting back on its haunches as much as it can with the low-hanging ceiling. Niall’s leant up against it now. “I’m assuming you’ve never met a dragon, then,” he says.

Harry nods shortly, still staring up at the massive creature.

“Do you want to feel my scales?” Rakr bends her head again to look at him, and Harry feels the wall stiff against his back, making him acutely aware he can’t back any more.

Harry glances over at Niall, who raises an eyebrow and shrugs. He mumbles, keeping his eyes at the dragon’s feet, “Um, yes?”

Rakr snorts again. “Come here, then.”

Harry raises his eyes, appraising the dragon, who just keeps a level gaze on him as he steps next to Niall. He can feel his heart in his throat, tightening it up uncomfortably. He really has always wanted to see a dragon in person and now he gets to touch one. Rakr bends her head again at him as he lifts a hand hesitantly to stroke along her shoulder. He lets out a little noise as he first touches them. They’re smoother than he expected even as they transition from scale to scale, cool on his palm, and so even he’s mesmerized. They’re such a pale, ice blue they almost look transparent, like newly-laid snow underneath a clear moon. After a bit, he steps back to get a good look at the whole dragon. Her eyes match her scales, only a bit bluer. There’s two small teeth sticking out on each side of her jaw, and she has sharp spikes running down her neck all the way to the end of the tail curled around her feet. She has huge feet with massive, pearly-white claws that match her spikes.

“Had your fill yet?” Rakr snorts, nudging at Niall’s shoulder and blinking slowly at Harry.

“Um,” he pauses, “Yeah. Thank you.”

“Here,” Niall says, holding his arms out. “You can give me the blankets.”

Harry blinks, “Yeah, of course.”

Niall takes the blankets and stands there for a second watching him. “Do you guys have any beer?”

“Uh,” Harry laughs a bit. “Yeah. You want some?”

His eyes light up. “Yes! Oh god. Haven’t had any this entire trip.”

Harry laughs shortly. “Ed, you want some?”

Ed affirms that yes, he does, and Harry makes his way back out to the house, pulling his coat tighter around him in the rain. Anne is just setting the last of the dishes from dinner that night into the sink to wash in the morning. “Hi, dear.” She gives him a soft smile. “Thank you for rolling with it tonight. I know it was unexpected.”

“Oh, it’s fine. I didn’t have plans tonight anyways.” He grabs a pack of beer out of the icebox, shooting Anne a grin. “Niall let me touch his dragon.”

Her eyes widen slightly but she just grins again. “That’s nice of him. I’ve met a few in my time. Always an experience. Can’t wait ‘til Gemma gets her own.”

Harry nods and rushes over to press a kiss to her cheek. “I know. Still can’t believe we have a rider in the family. I’ll see you in the morning.”

She points a finger at him as he opens the back door. “You still have to do your chores.”

“Of course!” he yells back. The rain is still falling heavily, and he hopes he doesn’t catch a chill from the beating of it.

Niall and Ed cheer when he returns, shoving fists in the air. “Atta boy!” Niall praises.

Harry laughs, extending a few bottles to them. They take them with huge grins and gestures Harry to sit with them. They’re both leaning on their dragons, who look like they’re trying to sleep, heads resting on the floor and eyes closed peacefully. He sits carefully between them.

“So what’s life like in – sorry, I don’t even know the name of this town,” Ed says, a sheepish smile on his face.

Harry lets out a sharp laugh. “I’m pretty sure the only people who really know about this town are the people that live in it. It’s Fernstart by the way.” He takes a moment to open his bottle and take a long pull. “Um, it’s not too bad. It’s slow, obviously. But we’ve all grown up together so we’ve do lots of dumb stuff to make it fun. The elders and stuff are kind of pains in the ass.”

“So what do you do?” Niall asks, leaning further into Rakr’s side. “And how old are you?”

“Twenty one. And I work in the bakery in the main town. It’s pretty small, but we make a lot of different stuff so people keep coming.” He shrugs. “I like it. It’s not quite as exciting as being a dragon rider, though.”

Niall shrugs. “Well, it sounds relaxing. Very…stable.”

Ed chimes in, “It’s not as exciting as you’d think.”

Harry raises a single eyebrow and takes a drink. Niall snorts and says, “Ok, it’s definitely not boring. But being a baker sounds nice, too.”

“I guess. Just not quite as impressive when you’re standing next to your sister, the rider.” He spins the bottle contemplatively in his hand. “But tell me more about what you guys do.”

“I work in Occiten’s music department, as well as do some work on Vroengard regarding music, but I’m also trained in defense, which is why I’m here.” Ed says, before he chokes on his beer a little then and he wipes at his mouth. “I mean it’s why I went on this trip. We were checking some of the defenses in um, Galfni Academy. Standard stuff.”

Harry furrows his eyebrows a bit, but just turns to look at Niall. He says, “Yeah, I just graduated from Occitens a few weeks ago and I’m an engineer of sorts, so I’m here to uh, work on the defenses too.”

“That’s so cool,” Harry sighs. “You got to go to the Beor Mountains. Where else have you been?”

“Only other cool place is Du Weldenvarden for me,” Niall says. “And Vroengard, of course.”

Ed nods. “Same for me, but I’ve also been to Surda, the Southern Islands, Illrea, and a few other cities like that.”

“I’ve only been to Bellatona and Dras-Leona. Got to see Helgrind from the outside.”

“Ah, never been there. Always wanted to see it, though. Heard it’s fucking creepy,” Niall says.

“It’s creepy even from just the outside, mate,” Harry says.

They talk for a bit longer, Niall going on about his mates and Ed talking in length about his work in music. After they’ve all polished off a third beer, Ed announces that they should sleep, as they’ll be waking early. Harry nods, promising to see them off in the morning, and totters back to the house and his own small bedroom.

***

The morning dawns cool, damp, and bright. Harry stumbles down to the kitchen and blinks in surprise at Ed, Laurel, and Allanna sitting at the table while his mum cooks breakfast. “Good morning, H!” she says cheerfully.

“Morning, mum,” he greets, taking a seat down at the table. He’s still rubbing the sleep out of his eyes when Laurel asks how he slept, and he mumbles out a seemingly acceptable answer. It’s too early to make proper words.

He’s only sat down for a few minutes before his mum is raising an eyebrow at him, a quiet reminder that he has to feed and check on the animals. He sends her pleading eyes before she rolls hers and gestures with the spatula.

It’s pleasant outside, even though the air feels more sticky and hot than usual from the storm last night. It’s so early the sky is still a pale orange. He goes to Niall’s and Ed’s barn first, hoping to find Niall. It’s empty of both the rider and dragons when he checks, though.

There’s a dragon in the next barn. It’s the dark red one, larger than Rakr or Lief, and it glares down at Harry, blocking his way into the rest of the barn. “I,” Harry starts. “I’m just feeding the animals.” He lifts the feed bags up to the dragon. It takes a long sniff of them and drops back to let him through.

He’s just finished feeding the horses and is moving on when he spots Niall. He’s dead asleep on the floor by the sheep, huddled around a large pile of blankets. Harry snorts, heading over to him. He can hear the dragon behind him shuffling around, probably keeping an eye on him. He finishes up the sheep before turning suddenly to wake up Niall.

“Hey, Ni-“

He trips on a patch of wet hay and falls, toppling over onto the pile of blankets next to him. He lets out a squeak of pain as he lands on top of him, but it’s drowned out by the sharp, angry growl of the dragon and Niall waking up and cursing.

“Fuck, mate – oh fuck!” he lets out, scrabbling up and staring at Harry with huge eyes.

Harry groans, rolling onto his back from where he’s face planted on the pile. And fuck, he realizes all at once that the blankets weren’t just blankets. There were covering up dragon eggs. There’s three, one blood red, one silvery, and one that looks like a giant opal, reflecting rainbows up at him. He doesn’t even realize the dragon’s perpetuated growl and Niall’s reaching out to tug him away until he’s reaching out and touching the opal egg. It’s just so bright, gleaming blues and reds and purples at him, and there’s something about it that calls to him like a beacon.

As soon as he touches it, the gleam of it brightens rapidly, the colors growing stronger and painting the walls. The colored lights dance on the walls and up his arm, probably shading his face and neck. He can see the lights reflecting off Niall, coloring his face with a large spot of purple and blue.

It’s over almost as soon as it starts, the dancing colors at least. Harry swears that the colors are brighter, still giving off a sharp glow. Niall’s staring at him with massive eyes, and he’s just opening his mouth to say something when there’s a splintering cracking noise.

They look down together to see a massive crack in the egg split along the top, all the way around the side of the egg.

They sit there in a drawn out silence for a few, long moments, the egg still glowing pretty colors.

“Fuck, Niall, did I break it?

Niall groans, running a hand through his blond hair. “No, dumbass. Fuck, they’re gonna kill me for this.”

“For what? I-“

“Harry.”

They whip around to see Allanna and Laurel standing at the door, Ed and Anne peeking behind them. It’s Allanna who spoke, and she stalks gracefully forward until she can crouch in front of the eggs. Her silver hair frames her sharp face and picks up the glow of the opal egg. She cocks her head curiously at Harry after turning the egg over, tracing the crack with a pale finger.

“Horan, you’re in big trouble for slacking on guarding these. But,” she pauses, still contemplating Harry. Her mouth twists up in a smirk and she says, “It appears we have a new rider.”

Harry’s mouth falls open. He says hastily, “No, no, I’m definitely not a rider.”

“Sorry to break it to you. But this doesn’t just happen when anyone touches an egg,” Allanna replies, standing upright again.

“I don’t have magic! I can’t be a rider.” Harry squirms from the intensity of her dark eyes. He’s still sprawled out on the floor next to Niall. He pushes himself to rest up on his forearms. “Maybe I just cracked it? I did fall on top of it.”

She blinks slowly before saying, “You would’ve have accidentally cracked it even if you weighed a thousand tons. Dragon eggs only crack when their rider first touches them.”

Laurel’s stepped up behind Allanna and she chimes in, “Sometimes rider don’t show magic until they find their dragon. It’s rare, but it happens.”

There’s silence as Harry stares up at the two of them. The only sound is the rain dripping off the roof of the barn and the dark red dragon dragging its tail across the ground. Harry can hear Niall breathing softly behind him, still in the position he was in when Harry tripped.

“Well,” Anne says. Her mouth is pressed into a tight line. She doesn’t look upset; there’s only a resigned look on her face. “What happens now?”

Allanna turns to face her. Harry and Niall take the opportunity to stand, helping each other avoid tripping over again. Allanna says, “We’ll take him to Occitens with us. The egg will hatch in two to three weeks, and Harry must be trained before it comes.”

“It’s extremely dangerous to have a dragon hatch to an untrained rider,” Laurel says. “Mostly because of the magic – it gets stronger when the dragon hatches, and we must be cautious that there are no abuses of power.”

Harry says, “I would never-“

“But people have,” Allanna interrupts shortly, turning to shoot him a sharp look. She turns back to Anne. “I know this is sudden. We can postpone leaving until midday to give you time to say goodbyes.”

Anne meets Harry’s eyes. She frowns at him and beckons him over. Harry’s feet feel unsteady and unnatural beneath him and he swears the room is spinning a little. “Thank you,” she says to Allanna, before she nudges Harry gently to get him to follow her.

She walks quickly to the house and pulls him into a hug as soon as the door shuts behind them. “Oh, baby,” she says. “Oh, H.” Her voice is choked up and she wraps her arms tighter around him.

He hugs back just as tight. His mind is whirling with questions, still trying to process how his entire life has changed in just ten minutes. “Do I have to go?” he asks softly.

She pulls back, keeping her hands on his arms. “Harry, yes. You can’t raise a dragon here, on your own. The best thing for you to do is go. And I know you wouldn’t turn this opportunity down for the world if it weren’t all so sudden. Besides, Gemma is there already, she’ll keep an eye on you.” She smiles softly. “I should have known both my children would be riders.”

“I just–“ he cuts himself off, wiping at the tears threatening to spill from his eyes. He’s overwhelmed with it, with how sudden the whole thing is happening. “I don’t even have magic.”

“H, they said that happens sometimes. I’m sure it will come soon.” She pats his cheek. “This wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t supposed to. Mistakes don’t happen with this kind of stuff. You’re going to be brilliant.”

He feels some of the tears spill over the edge. “I don’t even get to say goodbye to Robin.”

“He’ll understand. You can always send a letter, or use that new magic message Gemma used last time. Occitens isn’t too far away, you know.” She hands him a cloth to wipe his face. “It’s going to be okay, I promise. Imagine, H, you get to have your own dragon!”

He smiles at that, patting at his face with the cloth. “That will be cool, I guess.”

“Don’t be sad, love. I’m going to be sad, of course. Both of my baby birds have left the nest so suddenly. But I want you to be happy about this, okay? It’s not like you’re never going to see us again.”

Harry nods, a grin peeking out. “I can’t believe you called us baby birds.”

She laughs. “Of course I did. Now come now, we have to pack your stuff up.”

***

Harry’s teary again by midday. He’s leaving his home. Sure, it’s sleepy and boring. But it’s home. All his friends are here. He’s never expected to be a rider, especially since Gemma got magic at nineteen and left for the academy. Granted, she’s been waiting four years for a dragon, but Harry never thought he’d be joining her.

The group is all outside when they finally leave the house. They’re bustling about their own dragons, pulling at the straps of their saddles. Niall and Rakr are bickering at each other and Allanna appears to be in deep conversation with her own blue dragon, whispering in his ear.

Laurel grins at them when she sees them, tightening one last strap before turning around. “Harry, you’ll be flying with me. Karif here is the biggest dragon, so you’ll fit best on him.”

The dragon inclines his neck to look at him. His red eyes are only a little lighter than the deep burgundy of his scales. “There is no need to be afraid,” he says. His voice is even deeper than Rakr’s, growly in a strangely calming way. Harry swears he feels it through his whole body. Karif continues, “You will not fall off.”

Harry blinks rapidly at him. “Thank you,” he says, voice tilting at the end like a question.

The dragon nods. “I can tell you are afraid. Do not worry.”

“Alright, Karif,” Laurel laughs, patting his massive cheek. “Sorry,” she says to Harry. “We have strong emotional magic.”

“That’s ok,” Harry says slowly. The dragon is still watching him, but he’s drawn away as Allanna comes over with a cloth sack.

She lifts the edge of the cloth to reveal the opal egg, still glowing brightly. “This is your responsibility now. Be assured we will be keeping an eye on you at all times, but you must take care of it.”

Harry holds out his hand to let her place it carefully in his arms. It’s heavier than he expected, and large enough he needs both hands. “Do I need to keep it warm or anything?”

“No. There is nothing specific you have to do. But you must never leave it. This is extremely important. Do you understand?”

Harry nods hastily. “Yes, of course.”

“Excellent. Let’s get going, then.” She spins around and makes her way back to her dragon.

“Here, I’ll help you climb on,” Laurel says, waving him over.

Harry stares up at the dragon, who’s flexing his massive wings. The webbing of his wings is slightly lighter, like his eyes. He’s definitely the biggest, and Harry is shocked he managed to fit inside the barn last night. “How do I get on?”

“Look, there’s a strap here you can use to climb up. You can climb on top of his leg and he’ll crouch down so you can get on the saddle. You can use his spikes to help too. Here, I’ll take the egg for now.”

Harry nods. He slips a few times climbing on, but Laurel just grabs him and places his feet in the right place. It’s a strange feeling, sitting on a dragon. Karif’s neck stretches out in front of him, stark white spikes standing out against his red. He glances around then, seeing the rest of the rider securely perched on their dragons, strapping their legs into their saddles.

Laurel climbs on a thousand times more gracefully than he did, sliding on just behind him. She’s somehow managed to do it holding onto the egg, but she passes it to him now. “You can put this in the pouch right at the front, so you can keep an eye on it.”

He carefully zips the egg in, then asks, “So how do we do this? Are there reins we hold on to or what?”

She laughs. “No, that’s not necessary. You can either hold on to the spikes or the handles at the front. I’ll just hold on to you or the sides.” His eyebrows furrow, and she continues, “It’s easier to ride than you think, once you get used to it. You can stay on without holding anything if your dragon isn’t doing anything crazy. And once you start riding, you’ll understand how to move with the turns. It’s something you can’t really explain. Karif will just fly straight, though.”

“What about, like, directing him?”

“We can communicate in our minds through the bond.”

“Oh,” he says. “Gemma’s mentioned that.”

“Ready to take off?” Allanna calls.

Laurel calls back, “Ready here!” Ed and Niall both raise a thumbs up.

Allanna gives a short nod before her dragon is taking off with a short leap, beating wide blue wings only a few shades darker than the sky they’re flying up into. Laurel pinches his side, and he feels Karif move beneath him. Suddenly they’re taking off too, rising up into the sky. The beating of Karif’s wings is loud, especially combined with the air rushing around them. Harry’s heart is in his throat, and he can’t help but close his eyes against the wind and the sick feeling in his stomach.

They level out after what feels like ages, and Harry hesitantly opens his eyes again. His insides still feel all twisted up, but he can’t help the noise of wonder as he realizes that he’s actually flying on a dragon. The air is cold up here, causing goosebumps to rise on his arms. They must be flying over Leona Lake, as it’s dark blue beneath them. They’re so high up he can see ground beyond the blue, stretching out in shades of green and brown. It’s incredible, nothing he’d ever imagined he’d see.

“It’s cool, right?” Laurel asks behind her. The strength of her voice is a surprise to him, but he supposes she’s done this a million more times than he has.

“It’s–“ he stops, mind searching desperately for words that could possibly describe it. “It’s amazing. Absolutely amazing.”

“Well, this is gonna be all you soon, buddy.”

He feels the grin on his face before the thrill of the words sink in. For the first time all day, he feels real excitement for the life ahead of him.

***

The flight to Occitens isn’t long. He sees the mountains of the Spine long before they touch down, punching up into the sky in the distance. The academy is just inside the Spine, on the shores of Woodark Lake. There’s a massive stone building that looks a little like a castle built just at the bottom of a mountain next to an even larger stone structure. There’s a huge building on top of the mountain as well, and a few others scattered around.

Harry’s heart pounds as they make their descent, and the sick feeling comes again, rising up in his gut. He has to close his eyes again, trying to keep his insides together. The landing is softer than he imagined, only a gentle thump indicating that they’ve hit the ground. His stomach is still turning over and over.

Laurel helps him unstrap his legs from the saddle and jumps down. After he hands her the opal egg, she holds an arm out while he climbs down, much less gracefully than her.

There’s a good number of people about, lounging out by the lake in small groups or milling about. But the dragons capture Harry’s attention more. They’re mixed in with the humans, sometimes shielding their rider from the sun with their wing or letting them lean against them. They’re all of various sizes, some of them as large as Karif and others smaller than Rakr, the smallest dragon in their group of four.

The people are watching them as they climb off the dragons, shooting them curious looks. Harry feels self-conscious under their gaze, holding the cloth-covered egg closer to his chest.

“Hello, Allanna. Laurel.” There’s an older, white-haired man standing serenely in front of them. Harry stares in awe at the dragon behind him. It’s the biggest he’s seen yet, with burnt golden scales and matching eyes that are fixed right on Harry.

Allanna and Laurel both shake his hand. “Hello, Irving,” Allanna says.

“I’m sorry I don’t recall your names,” the man addresses Ed and Niall. The two hastily introduce themselves before he turns to Harry. “And you must be the new rider.”

Harry gapes at him. There’s no way he could have learned that so fast. Laurel chuckles and explains to him. “Older, experienced riders can communicate through their minds.”

Harry’s eyes only grow wider. Allanna just nods and says, “Yes, this is Harry Styles.”

Irving extends a hand to him, and Harry shakes it carefully. “I’m excited to meet you, Harry,” Irving says. “I’m Irving Azoff, Head Rider of Occitens Academy. We haven’t had a new rider in quite a few cycles, and the way you’ve come across your dragon is a little unusual, to say the least.”

“Yeah, I can’t say I was expecting it,” Harry says.

He nods. “Come inside, I can introduce you to the person that will be training you.”

He leads the group towards the castle-type building. When they reach it, Irving makes a small motion and the massive, dragon-sized door opens. The hall inside is large enough for the dragons to come inside. Niall explains quietly, “We call this the castle, by the way. There’s a lot of big rooms where they can accompany their riders to meetings and other important stuff. Upstairs, there’s rooms for all the riders in training without dragons and classrooms.”

“What was that other stone thing?”

“The lair.” He quirks an eyebrow. “I mean, I call it the lair, at least.”

Dumbass,” Rakr mutters under her breath beside them, still loud enough for Harry to hear.

Anyways,” Niall continues, shooting the dragon a look. “It’s where all the dragons and their riders stay. It was supposed to be where just all the dragons sleep but all the riders always stayed with their dragons so now there’s just a bunch of empty rooms upstairs here.”

Harry nods. It’s a lot to take in. Irving is leading them down a hallway, the high ceilings decorated with murals and colored glass and bright paintings. There are a few hallways leading off and they pass quite a few rooms with doors just as massive as the one outside. There are huge windows, too, letting in bright light and giving glimpses of the lake and the dragons outside.

Eventually, they enter a room with windows facing the lake and a table taking up a lot of the room. There is a man standing by the table, with thick eyebrows and scruff at his chin. He greets Irving and the women and nods at Niall and Ed, eyeing Harry curiously.

Allanna sets the bag of eggs gently on the table. Harry watches as Irving pulls out the blood red and the silver eggs, inspecting them before setting them down carefully. “These are new. There was a new rider at both academies, yes?”

Laurel nods. “Yes, a boy at Galfni and a girl at Reisa. Both had been in training for multiple years.” Harry recognizes the names of the two other dragon rider academies, one in the elven Du Weldenvarden and one in the Beor Mountains, inhabited mostly by dwarves and Urgals.

Irving asks, “No unreported incidents other than the night in Fernstart and Harry?”

“Of course,” Allanna says coolly.

“Excellent,” he says, before turning around to face Harry. “May I see your egg?”

Harry starts a little, throwing a glance at Allanna and Laurel, who both nod quickly. “Sure,” he says slowly. He holds the egg out to Irving, who takes it carefully and uncovers it.

“Just as beautiful as I remember,” he says. He traces the crack and smiles widely at Harry. “This one’s has returned many times already. We’ve been waiting on her quite a while.”

Harry’s not sure what that means, but he nods solemnly. “I’m uh, very happy to have her.”

Irving hands the egg back before saying, “Now, I’m aware you don’t have magic yet. That is correct?”

“Yes.”

“Well,” he says. “That’s unusual, but not unheard of. Since your egg will hatch in mere weeks, your training will be sped up so you learn all the basics in time for the hatching.” Irving gestures to the young man beside him. “Much of your training will be under Liam Payne. He is assigned to you alone until the egg hatches. Your real mentor, Louis Tomlinson, will be arriving in a few days. They are two of the best riders we have, despite their ages, and I am sure they will teach you as much as possible.”

Harry nods again. “Thank you,” he says hesitantly.

Liam steps forward. “Here, I’ll show you to your room upstairs.”

Harry follows him out, back down the hall a bit, and up a grand staircase. “I’m Liam, by the way. Thought I should introduce myself proper. I’m a professor here. I teach history and other stuff. So I’ll be teaching all the stuff you have to now that’s not psychical or magical. When Louis gets here he’ll teach you defense and physical stuff. Not that I’m not good at that stuff, but he’s the best.”

Harry nods, still trying to take in everything around him. Liam gives him a grin. “I’m sorry, I know this all must be overwhelming. But,” he emphasizes as they make it to the second floor. “I got you a room right next to someone pretty cool.”

Harry just raises an eyebrow, mind whirling with all the new information, as Liam walks a little down the hallway. He points at an unassuming door to the left and says, “That’s yours, but let’s say hi to someone first. I told them to wait up.”

He knocks on the door to the right. A voice yells from inside and there’s a shuffling before the door swings open. Harry gasps at the sight of Gemma, almost dropping the egg in his rush to hug her. Liam swiftly takes it from him so he can bear hug her.

She’s sputtering out, “Harry, H, what in the world are you doing here?” Her eyebrows are furrowed in confusion but her eyes are bright. “Oh, I missed you so much!” She pulls back a bit to look at him. “I’m so happy to see you, but what the hell are you doing here?”

“I, um.” He pauses, unsure of how to say it. He pulls back and takes the covered egg back from Liam. “There were some riders that stayed in our barns during a storm and I may have tripped on an egg.”

He uncovers an edge of the egg, letting the colored glow paint Gemma’s blond hair multicolored. Her eyes widen, mouth dropping open a bit. “H, that’s yours?”

“I…well, yeah I think so. Yes,” he says hesitantly.

She hugs him again, careful to not smash the egg too much between them. “Well, this is surprising. How was mum?”

“She was sad, but she realized it was what it is.”

“I didn’t even know you had magic!”

“I, um.” He shuffles his feet awkwardly. “I don’t, yet.”

She frowns, eyes confused. “That’s…unconventional.”

He shrugs. “Always have been a little odd, haven’t I?”

She laughs, ruffling his hair. “And look how fucking long your hair is now! Proper wild child, aren’t you?”

He giggles, petting his curls nicely. “I like it.”

Liam interrupts, “Gemma, what do you have today?”

“I’m just working on my research, I have a meeting with my advisor later. I assume you’re coming with a load of eggs, H, so I’ll have to see when I’m scheduled to go meet them. But other than that I’m free.”

“Come with us, for a bit then. We’re just gonna show Harry around today and start him off with some of the basics.”

She nods. “Let me just grab my stuff.” She disappears inside for a minute, and reappears with a satchel hung on her waist.

Liam unlocks Harry’s room and leads them inside. It’s nice, with a large window facing the lake with dark blue curtains to pull over. There’s a desk, a table, a mirror, and a bed – nothing extravagant.

Liam picks up something from the bed. “This is to carry your egg around. Here, let me put it on you.”

The thing fits on him like a sling, with a lined pouch in the front across his chest. Liam takes the egg and zips it into the pouch. He feels silly, with a sling across his chest and a bulge that reminds him of an off-kilter pregnant belly.

Gemma laughs. “Yeah, we call you guys expecting riders because of those slings.”

He pouts, prompting Gemma to ruffle his hair again. Liam laughs too, leading them out of the room and down the stairs again. “How much did Niall tell you?”

“Just about this building and the, um, lair.”

Liam snorts. “Of course he calls it the lair. Most normal people call it the nest. How much do you know about what we do here?”

Gemma says, “I’ve explained some stuff to him, like the basic structure of class and training.”

“Yeah.” Harry nods, remembering the small bits of information Gemma would give them on visits. “Class until early afternoon. Dragon and psychical training in the afternoons, right?”

“That’s right. It’s extremely unusual for riders to get a dragon within a year of training, so everyone completely basic core classes in that time. After that, you just keep learning more and having more advanced classes. You know about the egg rotations?”

“A little?”

Liam says, “There are eggs rotating from academy to academy every month. That’s what you ran into with your egg. They only move a maximum of five at a time. It’s not unusual at all for eggs to not choose riders for multiple rotations of all three academies.” He gestures vaguely at Harry’s chest, where the egg is pressed firmly against him. “That one’s been in rotation for almost four years now, which is a little long.”

Gemma nods. “I’ve been seeing it for a while.”

Liam continues, “So every month every rider in training sees the eggs that come in and touches each one to see if it’s their egg. Then the eggs stay at the academy for a month before rotating. Kind of a weird process, I know.”

They’re leaving the castle now. It’s gotten a bit cooler outside, a slight breeze coming off the lake. There’s less people milling around now, save for a group still gathered by the lake. Liam points at the sky, where there’s a group of three dragons performing swoops and sharp turns. “They’re practicing flight maneuvers. We have fields to the left and right to practice on-the-ground fighting. We also do a lot of training within the Spine.”

Harry’s eyes widen. “Really?”

“Of course. That’s why we’re here, after all. Plus, there’s great hunting.”

He starts leading him over to the massive stone structure. It’s a little bit away from the castle and towers over it. There’s giant holes in the side of it. Harry watches a white dragon fly into a gape at the top. “Do you want to meet Miremel? That’s my dragon.”

“Sure,” Harry says.

Liam grins, walking into one of the holes and leading them through a huge, upward-leading tunnel. The tunnel is surprisingly well lit by glowing balls of light, like the ones Niall and Allanna made back in Fernstart. “This goes all the way into the mountain. It’s even bigger than you’d think.”

They stop after a bit, peeling off into another tunnel. There seem to be a million tunnels branching off and stone doors. Eventually Liam stops at a stone door and leans forward, muttering something into its surface. It slides open easily, going down into the floor. Gemma laughs at Harry’s wide eyes and mouth. “Magic, H,” she says. “You should probably get used to it.”

“Mirie!” Liam calls, trotting over to a sleeping, bright red dragon. Harry takes in the room. It’s more of a cave, really, but it’s the perfect temperature and well-lit, and there’s furniture. Harry definitely sees a couch and a bed and even what looks like a little kitchen. It’s actually very cozy feeling, with rows of book shelves and random knickknacks.

Gemma nudges him forward to meet the dragon. She lifts her head lazily, blinking open her big eyes. “Hello, Harry,” a deep voice grumbles out.

“Hi, um, Miremel,” he says.

She nods her head deeply, then turns to Gemma. “Hi, Gemma. How’s your research?”

“Great, thank you. Made a lot of progress yesterday.” She reaches out a hand to pet at her cheek, the dragon letting out a rough, pleased hum.

Liam says, “I’ll let you sleep some more, I’m just gonna explain some stuff to Harry.”

He gestures at him to sit down on the couch. Gemma sits next to him and Liam takes the footstool after grabbing a heavy book from one of the bookshelves. He hands it to Harry. It says Kvaedi abr Shur’tugal on the front in gold script, standing out against the black cover.

“It means ‘Script of Dragon Riders’,” Liam says. “It’s the oldest and most important manuscript we have. It’s written entirely in the Ancient Language on the left, with a translation on the right. It’s basically everything that it means to be a rider. All of our rules, standards, duties. Every copy is printed on Vroengard and enchanted to be edited as needed. It’s changed quite a bit over time.” He pauses, cocking his head to the side. “You’ll have to read the entire thing. It is the only thing I will be actually testing you on. You have to understand everything in it.”

Harry presses his lips together, opening the book to the first few pages. The pages are worn in and yellowing.

“So, I’ll be teaching you all this kind of stuff and Louis will be teaching you the rest, basically. You’re going to be working longer than the rest of the riders in training because your egg is hatching in only a few weeks. We’ll go over some of the Script today, and we’re gonna try to get your magic to work. Sound good?” Liam asks.

Harry gives him the biggest grin he can. “Absolutely”.

***

Liam takes him back outside to sit by the lake as they start going over the Script together. It’s basically reinforcement of the duties of the riders. At the heart, their basic duty is to serve as peacekeepers in a diplomat-soldier role, removed from ties of species. Alagaesia is peaceful in the hundreds of years after the Rider War, so Liam explains how their roles have shifted to include more scholarly duties than in the past, as well as the development of the engineers, who work on improving technologies in the land, and healers, who work on improving health practices.

“There’s tons of stuff, though. We have groups of riders that just explore other lands, and there’s even some that are going into the Hadarac Desert soon. We have ones that focus on the wellbeing of the land, ones that go and help specific towns in times of trouble, all sorts of stuff,” Liam says.

Harry nods. “So you can do any of that?”

“Of course. A rider can basically do anything as long as it’s in line with the Script and leaders are aware that they’re doing it.”

Harry runs a hand through his hair, letting out a sigh. They’ve been at it for hours, Liam talking on and on. The sun is just starting to set, orange light turning the lake into fiery sparkles. Gemma had kissed him on the head a while ago and explained she had to go, promising to find him for dinner. There are no more dragons in the sky now, but there are more people around now than ever, some making their way towards the stable-looking buildings beside the castle with their dragons, others flying right into the nest, and some going into the castle.

“Alright,” Liam says, shutting the book and standing up. “We’re done for the day. Usually, we’re going to have to go past dinner but you need some time to adjust.”

“Oh, thank god,” Harry mumbles, letting out a sigh of relief.

Liam laughs. “We’re starting on magic tomorrow, might drop in on one of the elementary classes. But we’ll get dinner now, yeah?”

Harry nods eagerly, having ignored the rumblings of his stomach for a while. He pushes himself up, too. They’re almost to the castle, where Liam explains the dining hall is, when Liam pauses and turns with a grin. “Are you thrown off by dead animals?”

Harry starts, eyes wide. “Yes, no? I’m not sure?”

“Look.” Liam gestures to the sky. There’s a group of dragons flying over the mountain. They all land by a large stone by the lake a ways down. “That’s a dragon hunting party. They go out in the Spine without riders – it’s like dragon bonding time.”

Liam’s dragon trots over, sunset oranges gleaming off ruby scales. She nuzzles Liam, letting him pet her cheek affectionately. “Hi, Harry,” she says again, watching him with large, sharp eyes.

“Hello,” he says back, shuffling on his feet and resting his hand on his egg.

Liam and Miremel seem to have a silent conversation then, looking at each other and nodding occasionally. Harry recalls what he’s been told about rider and dragon bonds, and their ability to speak and feel each other emotions through it.

Harry smiles at her when she goes, murmuring a thank you and watching her turn to go back to the rock, where the rest of the dragons are spread around. Liam takes him into the castle, down the arching hallway, and into a huge room with long, wooden tables full of people sitting to eat. He leads him to the far side, where there’s a buffet of food.

“My god,” Harry says. “This is more food than I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Liam snorts, loading up his plate with food. Harry follows him hesitantly. “Here, Gemma’s at a table over there,” Liam says, pointing.

They sit next to Gemma, who ruffles Harry’s hair affectionately. Niall and Ed are there, too. The woman next to Gemma introduces herself as Sophia; the younger, brown-haired lad is Josh, the taller lad is Nick, and the dark-haired one is Zayn. He’s so pretty Harry’s sure he must be part elvish.

Nick leans over, a teasing grin on his face. “Never thought we’d have two Styles here.”

Harry shrugs. “I didn’t either.”

Josh watches him with wide eyes. “Do you actually not have magic?”

Gemma coughs on her bite. “Josh. Don’t be rude.”

“Um,” Harry hesitates. “No, I don’t yet.”

Niall points a fork at the rest of them, a fierce look on his face. “Hey, it’s rare but normal. None of you be mean to him.”

“Aw, thanks Niall,” Harry laughs. “So, are all of you riders?”

“Us four are riders,” Sophia responds, gesturing to herself, Zayn, Niall, and Ed. “And these ones are in training,” she says, pointing to the rest.

Harry nods. “What do you guys do?”

He listens as they explain, fascinated with all the things they’re each planning to do. He’s also trying to ignore the stares he can feel, face a little hot and embarrassed with the way a pair of younger girls are blatantly whispering to each other and staring. He’s going to assume what they’re saying isn’t good, based on the furrowed eyebrows and occasional dark looks.

Gemma nudges him gently. “Ignore them,” she whispers. “You’re just a little unusual, not a freak show.” She says the last part loudly, shooting a glare around.

Harry giggles, nudging her back. “Maybe I am,” he teases with a wiggle of his eyebrows.

She rolls her eyes. “You’re the weirdest little brother ever.”

He shrugs, knocking her shoulder and taking another bite.

***

Harry dreams of a man with thin, tattooed wrists and soft, fringed caramel hair that night. He’s petting through Harry’s curls, murmuring something in his ear as they fly on the back of a pitch black dragon. He’s behind him, one arm wrapped tightly around him and the other in his hair, chin resting on his shoulder.

He can’t tell what the man is saying, but he’s holding him close, occasionally resting a hand on his cheek after smoothing down a curl. He’s got the bluest eyes Harry’s ever seen when he turns around to look at him, and the softest smile.

He wakes up the next morning swearing he can still feel the dragon’s black scales beneath his hands.

***

Harry feels awful. He really does, because Liam’s tried everything in the four days he’s been here.

He’s taken him flying during a rain storm, made him dive to the bottom of the lake, explore the Spine, set up a million sneak attacks to scare him into it, and even set up meetings with their best magic user to try a hundred different energy rituals with him and his egg.

None of it works.

Gemma just keeps saying that maybe he hasn’t found his affinity. Every rider has one area they’re particularly good in. Gemma’s was stone and earth. Harry vividly remembers exploring the nearest mountain to Fernstart and Gemma bending a surprise rock slide around them and freezing all the rocks in place.

He sees all of the whispers, too. As word passes that he still doesn’t have his magic, the curious, confused looks spread and spread until he feels like a caged animal. No matter the number of glares Sophia, Gemma, Zayn, and Niall shoot, they can’t stop the gossip from spreading around the academy.

“Well,” Liam sighs, plopping down at the table they’re all sitting at. “Louis got here this morning. Maybe he’ll have an idea.”

Niall nods, eyes widening as he shoves more eggs in his mouth. “I’m sure he will. Tommo’s a fuckin’ lad!”

Gemma takes another sip of coffee. “Yeah, he really is one of the best.”

“Why wasn’t he here when I came?” Harry asks curiously.

“Was out on rotation with the eggs for six months, went to Vroengard for like a week or so doing stuff up there,” Sophia explains.

“Does he do that a lot, moving the eggs around?” Harry asks.

Liam nods. “That’s his main duty. That and training. You can ask him about it, though. He slept through breakfast but he’ll meet us out on the fields when we’re done.” He pauses, sipping his orange juice. “You’ll like him.”

“Everyone likes him,” Niall says. Nick snorts into his coffee, and Sophia hits him on the shoulder. Niall rolls his eyes. “Ignore Nick. They have some weird macho man competition.”

“We do not!” Nick exclaims. “He’s just a prick.”

They stay for a few more minutes. Harry really likes the little group. They’re all really different, but Harry loves watching them all bicker and tease each other, and they like having him around. The last few days, he’s met Gemma in Sophia’s cave in the nest after training and hung out with the lot of them until he and Gemma can’t keep their eyes open and walk back to the castle together.

He and Liam head towards the training fields on the south side of the lake, where not many people go. Harry can make out a black dragon from a while away. He’s reminded suddenly of the dragon from his dream, the smooth scales under his palms and the wind pushing his long hair back into the other man’s hand.

The dragon’s rider is hot. Like, really hot. He’s absolutely beautiful – bright blue eyes and soft, fringed hair. His cheekbones are sharp and he has a little bit of scruff. The trousers he’s wearing cling to his muscled thighs perfectly and his collarbones peek out of the scoop of his dark red shirt.

“Harry, this is Louis. Louis, this is Harry,” Liam introduces.

Louis sticks a hand out with a grin. Harry recognizes the tattoos on his wrist with a start. They’re the same ones from the man in his dream, and it hits him that this is the man he’d seen. He’s ridden his own dragon with him before, his hands have carded through his hair, rested on his cheek.

He sticks his own hand out after an awkward pause and shakes Louis’. He can feel the blush on his cheeks spreading, making his face feel hot. Louis really does have the bluest eyes he’s ever seen. “Hi,” he mumbles slowly.

“It’s nice to meet you, Harry,” Louis says. And fuck, he has a lovely voice too. It’s high, just a little raspy and Harry remembers him murmuring into his ear in the dream. He can perfectly imagine Louis gasping his name in desperation, head falling back on Harry’s shoulder.

Louis pulls his hand back, but he doesn’t get far, fingers still holding Harry’s. “Uh,” Louis starts, glancing down.

There’s a dark green vine wrapped around their wrists holding their hands together. It’s grown down Harry’s arm and leg, just sprouting out of the grass next to his foot. Harry tries tugging his own hand away, but the vine doesn’t show any signs of breaking.

“H!” Liam looks ecstatic, eyes crinkling and a smile spread across his face. “That was you, right?”

“Um,” Harry says awkwardly. “It wasn’t you?”

Louis snorts. “Of course it wasn’t him. Now, do you mind controlling your magic and making this thing go away?”

Harry fishmouths, Louis watching him with a raised eyebrow. Oh god, his hand is probably so sweaty and gross, and he’s literally attached to it. “I don’t know how?” Harry says awkwardly.

“He’s never used magic before, Louis,” Liam explains.

Louis’ eyes widen. “I mean, I knew he didn’t have it before, but you couldn’t get it to work in the four days he’s been here?” he asks incredulously.

Liam shrugs. “We tried everything.”

Harry stares at the vine, overly conscious of their hands still tied together. Now, it’s sprouted fully-grown leaves, opening them up towards the sun. Louis sighs loudly. “How much of the Ancient Language do you know?” he asks Harry.

Harry glances at Liam. “Just what Liam’s taught me. I’ve been studying the books, too. But I don’t remember any that would make this go away.”

Louis blinks rapidly a few times. His gaze makes Harry feels even hotter. His blush is probably all too noticeable at this point. “Ok,” Louis says slowly. “Why don’t you try brakka? It means reduce.”

Harry nods, only able to glance up once to meet his eyes before refocusing on the vine. “Brakka,” he says. The word sounds strange to his ear.

The vine draws back, though, untangling itself from their hands and slinking back down Harry’s arm and leg. It disappears into the ground without a trace of its existence.

“Well,” Louis says, finally drawing back his hand and holding it with his other. “That was exciting. I’m going to assume you have a strong affinity for nature magic, then.”

Liam claps his hands together. “Fucking finally, H. No offense.”

Harry laughs nervously, running a hand through his hair. “Sorry about that.”

Louis shrugs. “It’s fine. Let’s start with a magic lesson, though. We don’t want you running around growing vines everywhere.” He leans on his dragon, resting his back on the side of her leg. “This is Garza, by the way.”

“Hello,” the dragon rumbles. Her voice is higher than the other dragons Harry’s met. She lowers her head to look at him. She has bright blue eyes like Louis, and they stand out against the starkness of her deep black scales.

“Hi, Garza.” Harry inclines his head.

“Alright, then. Let’s get into it,” Louis says. He picks a stone up from the ground holds it out on a flat hand towards Harry. “Lift this stone.”

It’s one of the things Liam’s been trying to get him to do for days. He easily remembers the words now. “Stenr Reisa,” he says, staring at the stone and lifting his hand up. He almost jolts as a thrill races through his body, tingling down his raised hand. His body feels electrified, like it’s suddenly come to life. He swears the egg is thrumming against his chest.

The stone lifts a few inches into the air. Harry laughs, lifting his other hand to cover his mouth. It hovers just above Louis’ hand, shaking a little. 

Louis grins, too. It’s small, but definitely there. “Throw it in the lake, now,” he says.

Harry can feel the connection between him and the stone, can feel his energy reaching out to grasp it. He clenches his hand and flicks his wrist towards the lake, turning his head to watch the stone fly and disappear into the waters with a plonk.

“Good,” Louis says. “I’m sure Liam’s told you this, but the most important thing you can do at this stage is learn to control your magic. Your ability of magic is limited by your knowledge of the Ancient Language, unless it’s your affinity. That means that if something scares, threatens, or causes you to feel strong emotions, you may use that affinity without even thinking of it and do something dangerous. You might do it for no reason at all.” He pauses, stroking Garza’s shoulder absently. “So, we’ll work on testing exactly what it is you can do today, as well as simple spells like the stone one.”

Harry smiles. The egg is still thrumming on his chest, and he rests a hand on it. “Ok, that sounds good.”

Liam slaps a hand on his shoulder. “Ok, H. I’m gonna leave you. I’ll see you for lunch?”

“Of course.” Harry nods.

He’s acutely aware that he and Louis are alone now. Louis gives him a long look, down his body and back up to his face. “Can I see your egg?” He asks suddenly.

Harry starts. “I...um, of course.”

Louis steps forward. He smiles softly at him. “Sorry, I’m curious. I transport eggs a lot, so I’m wondering if it’s one I know.”

“It’s ok. I don’t mind,” Harry says. He unzips the pouch, carefully pulling the opal egg out. It’s unusually hot and still thrumming a little, bright colors glowing and bleeding onto his fingers.

Louis’ grinning, and he reaches out a hand. “Do you mind?” Harry shakes his head, and Louis strokes the egg gently. “Oh, I’ve definitely had her before. A few times, actually. Was always kind of hoping she’d hatch for someone at Occitens.”

Harry’s so focused on Louis he doesn’t notice Garza leaning forward to nose at the egg, too. The dragon touches the egg softly with her long snout, closing her blue eyes briefly. “She’s quite stubborn,” she murmurs, voice low. “Fiesty.”

Louis looks up at Harry, cocking his hand. “It’s a wonder she chose to hatch for a completely untrained boy without magic.” Harry flushes, hot embarrassment making him feel small. Louis touches his hand, staring at him. “I’m not knocking you down. It’s just a curiosity. Anyways, you have magic now and we’re going to get you ready to meet her. Trust me.”

Harry nods, focused completely on Louis’ bright eyes. He really is gorgeous, definitely the most beautiful person he’s ever seen. Louis draws back then, shooting him a wide grin and pointing down. “Did you notice the flowers?”

There are tiny pink flowers blooming around their feet. Harry gasps, shuffling his feet and twisting around to look at them. They’re spread out in a circle around them, waving a little in the wind and bright in the sunshine.

Louis laughs. “Let’s start, then, before you bury us in them.”

Harry zips the egg back into the sling as Louis starts walking towards the woods of the Spine nearby. He motions at Harry to wait as he disappears inside, leaving Harry with Garza. He reappears a few minutes later, holding a large rock with smaller ones piled on top, with a few branches. He drops them on the ground and fixes Harry with a look. “Do you know the words to stop these if I threw them at you?”

“Um, I think so?” Harry says, racking his mind for the words.

Louis snorts. “Well, I hope you know them.”

He’s lifting one without further warning and pelting it at Harry. Harry yelps before shouting, “Letta stenr!”

It doesn’t work – the stone hits his arm with a thump, making Harry jump with a gasp. “Ow, that fucking hurt!”

Louis shrugs. “You forgot orya. It’s letta orya stenr. Should’ve told me if you didn’t know.

Harry frowns. He’s about to respond when Louis’ throwing another one. Harry shouts, “Letta orya stenr!” The stone halts midair and falls to the ground.

“Why the hell are you just throwing stuff at me?” Harry exclaims.

Louis puts a hand on his hip. “You need to learn how to react quickly and remember the words. We’ll work on other types of spells, too. But I need to test the strength of your power, as well.”

Harry’s still frowning. “You could just warn me.”

Louis snorts. “You wish, newbie. Here, I want you to let your affinity stop it this time. Don’t say anything.”

“You want me to stand here and let you throw a rock at me?”

No,” Louis rolls his eyes. “I want you to trust your affinity and use that. It’s one of your greatest strengths.”

Harry presses his lips together in a line. “Ok.”

“I was gonna do it whether you said ‘ok’ or not,” Louis says, already picking up another, bigger stone and hurling it at him.

Harry feels his heart in his throat, closing his eyes and imagining the stone stopping. He opens his eyes after a moment. There’s a slim tree standing in front of him, small leaves already opening up. Louis is taking a step and throwing another one before he can take it in, and he channels the energy he can feel pulsing in his palms into growing another, large tree to stop the stone. Louis’ grinning at him like a maniac, wide grin splitting his face. He’s about to throw another one when Harry stops him, throwing his energy into growing a vine to tie Louis’ arm to his side.

Louis looks up with a smile after trying to wiggle out of the vine. “Brilliant. Now can you get this thing off me?”

Garza is clawing at the vine when he gets there, stark white claws trying to cut it from Louis. “I can’t cut it,” she grumbles, shooting Harry a glare.

Louis’ eyebrows shoot up. “Really? Shit, Harry.”

Harry shrugs. “Brakka,” he says, letting the vine grow back into the ground.

“I’d say that’s pretty strong nature magic,” Louis says, patting a frustrated-looking Garza on the snout. “This is gonna be fun.”

***

Harry is exhausted by lunchtime. Louis had kept coming up with more inventive ways to test his magic, moving away from just throwing stones at him. They’d learned he couldn’t manipulate water or stones without using the Ancient Language, but could manipulate trees and anything else green and living without a word. Harry’s energy is ebbing away from exhaustion when Louis says they’re done for the morning and can get lunch.

“Oh thank god,” he says, letting his shoulders slump down.

“Don’t relax too much,” Louis warns. “I could be training you at any time.”

Harry pouts. “Can’t I have a second to relax?”

Louis snorts. “No. You’re my student now. Liam’s been too soft on you. I can already tell. Now we have to get you to stop sprouting flowers everywhere.”

Harry blushes. He had been growing flowers left and right throughout the morning. Sometimes they climb up his or Louis’ legs even, always a bright color with big petals.

Louis says goodbye to Garza as she parts to grab a midday snack from the latest hunting party. Harry asks him, “So what’s your affinity, then?

Louis frowns for a moment, before saying, “Strength and defense. I’m abnormally strong and fast, and I’m excellent at defensive spells and wards.”

“Wards?”

“You cast them to protect things,” Louis explains. They’re entering the dining hall now. Harry’s friends aren’t there yet, but he follows Louis to get food. He hesitates when Louis heads for a table until the man turns around with a raised eyebrow. “Aren’t you gonna sit with me?”

Harry feels the blush grow on his face. He glances down and crushes the single pink flower that’s grown between the stone cracks with his foot. “Of course,” he says.

They sit down at a table, and Harry can’t help but just watch Louis for a second as he sips his tea. “Are you just gonna sit there and stare at me, Curly?”

Harry blushes even more, staring down at his plate. “No,” he says defiantly, stabbing madly at his chicken.

He looks up to see Louis just smirking at him. He raises an eyebrow before biting into his sandwich. “What were you doing before you came here?” Harry asks.

“I was on Vroengard. Just got done with six months of rotating eggs, so I was helping arrange a few more rotations so I can break for a while. What were you doing before you came here?” he asks.

Harry pokes at his chicken, glancing up to see Louis staring at him. “I was a baker in my town. Fernstart. That’s where I’m from.”

Louis opens his mouth to say something before there’s a shout of “Tommo!” and a group of people are rushing to hug him. Niall’s patting him aggressively on the back, rattling off greetings, while the rest give him more tame hugs.

“Fuckin’ missed you,” Zayn says with a grin.

Sophia nods. “Been a while, Lou.”

They grab food and sit around them, bustling about and asking a million questions. Gemma comes in a bit later, wrapping Louis up in a giant hug with a happy shriek. She squeezes in next to Harry across from him. “Hey, H. How was training with this idiot today?”

Harry grins, catching Louis’ eye. “It was great. Watch this,” he says.

He cocks his head, focusing his energy. Louis smirks at him, shooting him a subtle wink. Harry giggles, and suddenly the entire table is bursting with red and yellow flowers. They’ve grown up the sides of the table from the cracks in the ground, filling the gaps between plates and cups with sweet-smelling blossoms.

The table erupts into cheers, and Gemma’s bear hugging him. “H, this in fantastic! Fuck, look at all this.”

Louis sighs. “Curly, don’t you think it was overkill to fill the entire table?” He lifts his hand up, where one’s managed to grow on top. “Was that even your intention?”

“No.” Harry shrugs. “It just sort of happened.”

“Yeah, mate, do you mind getting them out of here?” Niall asks. “I think there’s one in my shoe.”

Harry blushes and mutters, “Brakka.” The flowers recede back into the floor.

“How did you get it?” Sophia asks.

“Um,” Harry starts, staring aggressively into his water cup.

Louis interrupts with a wide grin. “He tied us together, like with a vine. One second we’re shaking hands and the next there’s a big green vine tying our hands together. Couldn’t pull apart or cut it or anything.”

The entire table bursts out laughing. Niall lets out a raucous laugh, banging the table with a hand. Harry groans and leans on the table, hiding his face in his hands. “Guys,” he groans. All that accomplishes is another soft laugh from Zayn.

Gemma’s watching them curiously, eyes flicking between him and Louis. “You didn’t get magic until you touched Louis?”

Harry feels himself blush again, deeper. He nods in confirmation. The table is still now, people watching him curiously.

Louis snorts, leaning heavily with one arm on the table. “I’m that good,” he says to Gemma, eyebrow quirked up. “Or maybe I’m just so hot I awakened something within him. Turned your brother into a man.”

Harry groans again, dropping his head on the table. The entire table is laughing again, Niall nearly wheezing. “I hate you,” he grumbles at Louis, peeking up at him. Louis just shrugs, taking a long sip of his water.

“You’re the one that tried to tie me down two seconds after meeting me,” Louis says.

Gemma’s still got a strange look on her face. As the table quiets back down into normal chatter, Harry asks quietly, “You okay?”

She nods suddenly, turning to him with bright eyes. “Oh, of course. Just thinking how odd it is that you’re nature and I’m earth.”

“Oh, you’re right! That’s so cool.” Harry grins. “Sibling power.”

Gemma laughs. “Mum will be so proud.”

***

They go back to a more regular schedule after that. Harry has lessons with Liam the next morning and training with Louis in the afternoon, with extra training from both after dinner. Liam teaches him a more exact history of the dragon riders than the one he learned in school back in Fernstart. Harry moans that he doesn’t understand why it’s important to learn the history in the short weeks he has before the dragon comes.

Liam fixes him with an intense look and says, “You have to understand the history and story of what you’re becoming a part of. There is a reason why we do things the way we do, there are traditions and a way of life that can’t be fully understood until you understand the context and reasons behind them.”

Harry just nods, eyes wide. Liam sighs, deflating a little. “I’m sorry. I know it’s tedious. But you’ll get it when you’ve been here longer. There are people out there that are against the way we do things. They’re very dangerous, and we want every rider to understand why we are how we are.”

Louis takes him to the same training grounds as yesterday again, hauling a large, long bag over his shoulder. They drag Liam along to help for a bit. Garza’s already waiting for them there, curled up as if she was just napping. She stands up slowly and shakes out her legs, greeting Louis by pressing her cheek to his and nodding deeply at Harry and Liam.

“Alright,” Louis says, dropping the bag. He opens it up to reveal a bunch of long, wooden poles with crosses of various sizes. He lifts one up and hands it to Harry. “This is your sword today.” He picks another one up and keeps it. “And this is mine.”

“Okay,” Harry says slowly, spinning the thing around by its handle. It’s got a cross near the bottom imitating a handle, and the part he’s holding is wrapped in black gauze of some sort.

“We’re gonna learn how to use these today.” Louis grins, twirling his own pole. “When you go to Vroengard, you’ll get your own sword made specifically for you. They’re really cool – they hold energy in the hilt and the stone, so if your own energy isn’t enough for something, you can draw on that.”

Harry nods, remembering the stories of riders he’s heard since he was young. “Do you still use them, though? It’s pretty peaceful now.”

Louis says, “More than you’d think. Especially for me and Garza, when you’re transporting the eggs you find plenty of uses.”

Garza blinks her blue eyes slowly. “There are many wild creatures that want to try their hand at eating dragon eggs. And rebel groups who try to steal eggs.”

Harry open his mouth immediately to ask a question, but Louis says quickly, “It’s not a problem. We keep it quiet, because there aren’t many of them and they’re easy to handle – we don’t want to alarm people.” He pauses, smacking the pole in his hand. “Besides, you need to know how to use it in case something does happen.”

He doesn’t wait for Harry to respond before instructing him to watch him and Liam demonstrate some of the maneuvers. Harry watches in fascination as they spar in perfect synchronization, Louis yelling out each of the moves as they perform them.

Louis brings it to an end a few minutes later, easily knocking Liam’s pole out of his hand. He turns to Harry with a giant grin. “Think you can do that?” he asks.

Harry sputters out, “Are you crazy?”

Liam snorts, retrieving his pole. “He’s kidding. We’ll show you the basic ones slower and then you can drill them.”

It turns out, Harry is really awful at sword fighting. Like truly awful. After teaching Harry the basic moves, they’d moved on to drilling them. They’ve been at it for hours, and Harry ends up tripping or dropping the pole or something else disastrous every time. Liam sat down a while away under a tree after a while, frustrated with the lack of progress. Harry’s pretty sure he’s napping now, head cocked in a funny angle.

“Ok, ok,” Louis says, dropping the pole. “Let’s take a break, yeah? Let me think of something new.”

He walks over to the lake, Harry and Garza following, and strips off his boots and socks before walking into the shallows. Harry follows suit, Garza right next to him. Louis strokes down her nose gently before stepping back. “She loves swimming,” he says shortly, before Garza is trotting through the water and diving, splashing Harry and Louis with water. Harry shakes out his damp curls and watches as Garza comes back above the water a while away, black head shaking off the water.

“Dragons can swim?” he asks.

Louis has his arms crossed, leaning back and watching the black dragon dive under again, tail flicking above the surface briefly. He grins at Harry. “Of course they can. The trick is tucking their wings in.”

Louis looks good like this. He’s got on another scoop neck today, and it’s damp from the splash. The way it clings to his tanned skin is intoxicating, but Harry can’t take his eyes off how bright his eyes are in the sun, especially with his wet fringe clinging to his forehead. Harry flicks his eyes away when he looks over, shuffling his bare feet in the sand.

He can feel Louis’ eyes on him now, and it makes his cheeks feel hot. He blurts out the first reasonable question he can think of. “So, um, can I see your sword?”

Louis blinks at him owlishly. “Is that an innuendo, Styles?”

Harry smacks a hand to his face. “Oh my god.”

“Jesus, Curly.” Louis starts laughing, bending over and holding his stomach. Even his laughter is pretty, high and sweet and just the perfect amount of rasp.

“I didn’t mean it like that!”

“Oh my god, mate.” Louis lets out one last soft laugh. “I know what you meant! And maybe. If you improve by dinner, I’ll show you it sometime.”

“Are you sure that’s not an innuendo?” Harry wiggles his eyebrows, cheeks dimpling.

Louis reaches over and smacks him in the arm. “Show some respect, I’m your mentor and you don’t even have a dragon yet.”

Harry snorts. His hands come up to hold the egg unconsciously, making him look like a pregnant woman. He’d put the sling back on after drilling, and it’s warm and solid against his chest.

“By the way,” Louis says. “We’re going for a run tonight, and I’m having Liam write up an exercise routine for you. Your stamina is shit.”

***

Sophia,” Harry groans, plopping down on the sofa next to her.

“What, H?” she asks, looking up from the letter she’s been writing and wringing out her hand.

“I have to go for a run with Louis. A run.”

“Of course you do,” she says. “I don’t know if you noticed, but baking doesn’t build a lot of muscle.”

“And you need muscle to ride a dragon,” Zayn chimes in. They’re in Sophia’s cave again, Niall and Zayn spread out on one sofa and Harry and Sophia on the other. Gemma had dragged Louis somewhere after dinner, and he’d promised to meet him in a few minutes.

Zayn’s puffing on a cigarette, flipping through an art book he’s taken of Sophia’s shelf. He’s taking a “creativity break” from his latest art project. Sophia lets Zayn and Louis smoke in here, since she’s one of the only caves with a window. And, she admits, she kind of likes the smell, and her dragon is rather fond of it.

Niall nods. “Psychical training’s the worst part. I was a right lard before I came here. Pretty sure I died every day the first month or so I was here.”

Harry groans, plopping his head back on the back of the sofa and hands resting on his egg. “Seems unnecessary.”

Sophia rolls her eyes. “You’ll be fine. Are you coming drinking with us on Saturday?”

Harry nods, remembering Niall rambling on about the stuff he’d gotten from the Beor Mountains while rotating the eggs.

“Good,” she says, starting to write again. “It’ll be fun. Sometimes we go into the nearby towns, but we’re just going by the lake this time. We have a spot that we really like.”

They lounge around for a little longer, making slow conversation, before there’s a knock at the door and Liam’s coming in. He’s got a strange, pinched look on his face.

“Is Louis ready yet?” Harry asks.

“Um, he’s still caught up with Gemma. So I’m gonna take you tonight,” he says, resting a hand on Harry’s shoulder.

Harry frowns. He’d been looking forward to going with Louis, couldn’t stop imagining how he’d look all sweaty and tired. But he shrugs, getting up and following Liam out into the Spine.

***

By the time Saturday rolls around, Harry is frustrated. Training has been weird, Louis giving him long, lingering looks but refusing to say more than necessary to him, eyes going wide every time Harry tries to banter with him like they had the first few days.

It’d been strange since the day after his first run with Liam. He’d sat across from Louis at lunch, asking him if he’d overslept because he’d been polishing his sword last night. He hadn’t laughed like Harry had expected, just snorted softly and glanced up shortly before staring determinedly at his omelet.

Liam had just shrugged when he’d asked and said he was probably tired. Niall just gives him a funny look when he brings it up, asking if they were talking about the same Louis.

“I swear, H, you’re not making any sense. Tommo is a riot,” Niall says. The moon is high in the sky and they’re hauling a few bags full of clinking bottles around the lake.

Harry shrugs. “Maybe he just decided he hates me.”

Niall snorts. “Pretty sure the only person he hates is Nick fucking Grimshaw. He definitely doesn’t hate you.”

They hit a forested part of the lake, and Niall leads him through it. They’re met with a cheer when they reach a little hollow right on the edge of the lake. There’s a few big tree roots where people are sitting in a ramshackle circle. The trees are parted enough to let some moonlight shine through, but there are a balls of light hanging in the air like fairy lights, giving the place a whimsical look.

“Alright, kiddos,” Niall says, dropping the bag in the middle. “Drink up!”

Niall and Sophia immediately coax him into doing shots of dwarven fire whiskey, knocking back the bottle again and again until Harry feels his head start to spin a little. The rest started a little bit ago, with Nick’s stash. Liam and Zayn are sharing a bottle of dark wine besides them, watching them and giggling together. It stains Zayn’s lips purple, and Harry takes a second to admire how the color looks on him.

“Where’s Louis?” Harry asks, looking around for him.

Sophia laughs. “You’re always looking for Louis.”

He pouts, pushing out his lip. “Shouldn’t you be taking care of your dragon?”

“She’s a grown woman.” She rolls her eyes. “Besides, she’s just out in the woods.”

“Pretty sure someone got the dragons a case of beer for themselves,” Zayn says. He’s got a cigarette now, taking slow, steady puffs. “And you are always looking for Louis. Does that have anything to do with how much you stare at him?”

The four of them laugh. Harry pouts again, reaching for the bag Niall brought. “Screw you guys, I need more alcohol.”

Harry and Niall wander off after a while, somehow running into a drinking game with Stan, Josh, and Nick. Harry’s entirely too conscious of Nick’s hand resting on his hip at first, but forgets it’s there entirely as the alcohol sinks heavily into his bloodstream. Nick tries to hold him back when Niall stumbles back to their group, but he mumbles something at him and peels his hand off.

Louis and Gemma are there when they get back, and it looks like they’ve been downing shots of their own, tipping back a bottle and giggling hysterically at each other. Harry lets out a happy cry, somehow managing to wiggle between the two of them to lean on Gemma.

Lou,” he says with a huff.

Louis grins widely at him, turning fully towards him. Harry feels hot under the attention he’s been craving for days. “Yes, Harold?”

“My name’s not Harold.” He taps rapidly on Gemma’s leg. “Gems, tell him my name isn’t Harold.”

She nods seriously. “Louis, my brother’s name is not Harold.”

“You’re the best,” Harry says, patting her knee nicely.

Louis laughs, reaching for a bottle of wine and taking a swig of it. Harry can’t tear his eyes away from his every movement. “Is Curly better? Maybe just Styles?”

Harry shakes his head, feeling the trees spin a little around him. “Just Harry.”

“Just Harry is a terrible nickname,” Louis declares, drinking the wine again. “What about Haz?”

“Everyone calls me that,” Harry says. He takes Louis’ bottle, drinking from it as well.

Louis frowns and takes the bottle back, leaning in towards Harry. “Something more personal then? Maybe your middle name?” He takes another drink and lowers his voice. “Babe? Baby?”

Louis is so close, close enough that Harry could lean forward and connect their lips in a heartbeat. He’s so fucking pretty, eyes glazed with the alcohol but still as bright as they look in the sun. The wine’s stained his lips, too, and he’s somehow even more gorgeous than Zayn. Harry would do anything to press their lips together, let Louis press him down on this tree root and do whatever he wants to him.

“You’re prettier than Zayn,” he says, leaning in even more.

Louis’ eyebrows furrow. “What did you just say?”

“Um,” he says. His brain is slow, cogs turning sluggishly in his head. “You’re prettier than Zayn?”

Hey,” Zayn says. Harry laughs, burying his head in Louis’ shoulder. He hadn’t realized Zayn was just on the other side of Louis.

“What did he say?” Niall asks. He’s on the ground somehow, leaning his back against the root.

Zayn replies loudly, “Said Louis is prettier than me.”

The entire group laughs, having caught on to the conversation. Harry hides his face in his hands, mind too slow to come up with a good response. Sophia pats his knee and says, “Poor baby.”

Louis draws Harry into his arms. Harry grins and presses his forehead to his shoulder to steady the world around him. Louis cries, “Stop with your tings at my boy!”

“Your boy?” Gemma asks, raising an eyebrow. Her eyes burn into them.

Louis runs a hand through Harry’s curls. “Someone’s gotta look out for him. All you guys wanna do is make fun of him,” he teases. “I’m basically the only one he can trust.”

Gemma gasps. “Not even your own sister, H?” Harry shrugs, turning over to stick his tongue out at her. She just rolls her eyes and leans over, bending and plucking a pink flower from the ground under Harry. Harry groans, realizing the ground all around him is covered in them, some of them crawling a few inches up people’s legs. Sophia’s even got one tucked behind her ear.

Niall draws them into a game of truth or dare at some point. Liam jumps into the lake fully clothed, Sophia admits to having a sex dream of Irving Azoff once, and Louis attempts a handstand that ends with him falling to the ground in a drunken tangle.

With a wheeze, Louis turns to Harry, who’s next after him. “Truth or dare?”

“Truth,” Harry says. “Think I’d lose my dinner if anyone made me move right now.”

“Alright,” Louis says, leaning on his elbow. “Tell me an embarrassing story about your love life.”

Harry wrinkles his nose. “Well what kind of story?”

“I don’t know,” he says. “Something funny.”

Harry crosses a leg over, adjusting his grip around his beer bottle. The world is still spinning, but Louis is steady beside him. He’s sure his tongue is still slow, dragging over his words and slurring them. “When I was seventeen I was hooking up with this guy, Robby –“

“I hated that guy,” Gemma interrupts, taking a gulp of her drink with a sneer. Harry starts, he’d almost forgotten the whole circle was listening in.

“Yeah, he was a huge dick,” Harry continues. “He didn’t even have a big dick. But I was giving him a, um, you know.” Louis raises his eyebrows with a laugh. “And I pulled off to take a breath, but then he came really suddenly and it went right up my nose.”

The group bursts into laughter. Niall’s still on the ground, rolling with the force of his laughter. “No fucking way,” he gasps.

“Yes,” Harry groans, covering his face. “It was awful. I was blowing my nose for an hour afterwards and it triggered my asthma so the guy had to grab my inhaler out of my desk drawer. He left as soon as I was okay, just handed me a bunch of tissues and walked out.”

Louis is barking with laughter beside him, arm curling hesitantly around Harry’s waist. “Ok, that was good. Really good.”

“My turn,” Harry mumbles. “Um, Louis, truth or dare?”

Louis taps his chin as if contemplating the choice, before laughing and saying, “Dare. Of course, don’t you know me by now, Harold?”

The beer bottle is making Harry’s palm cold and damp, and he rubs his right palm on his jeans as he thinks. His slow-turning mind grabs onto an idea, and he grins widely at him. “Show me your sword.”

Harry,” Gemma gasps, eyes bulging a little.

“No, no, oh my god,” Harry giggles. Everyone’s laughing now, particularly at Gemma’s horror. “His actual sword! I haven’t seen one yet!”

She presses two fingers to her temple. “Oh thank god. For future reference, I don’t need to hear about your sword or his sword ever, thank you very much.”

Louis says, “So you don’t want to hear about –“

“Nope!” she interrupts, shooting him a dark glare and a raised finger.

Louis laughs, standing and pulling Harry up by his hand. “C’mon, let’s go.”

Harry lets himself be pulled up, eyes wide. “Really?”

“Yes, really. C’mon, Garza can give us a ride. I’m not sure I trust you to walk without dying.”

***

Louis sits Harry down on his bed, patting his knee and telling him to stay put before opening up his dresser. They’re in a little, open subset of Louis’ cave that functions as Louis’ bedroom. Garza is just out of sight, curled up into her nest with her tail tucked over her nose. Harry’s pretty sure she was asleep the moment she laid down. Dragons seem to love napping, he thinks.

Louis twirls around dramatically, holding out a covered sword balanced on two hands. Harry reaches out a hand to touch it. The sheath is smooth and shiny jet black, covered in gold design. The hilt is black as well, with a bright blue gemstone where the blade meets the hilt. Harry traces the Garza written on the cover in the gold, and Louis flips it over to the other side where Louis is written.

“It’s so pretty,” Harry says softly.

Louis shrugs. “It’s a bit much, I guess. But it’s tradition. And they’re useful, even if they’re a little showy.”

“Can I see the inside, the blade?”

Louis cocks his head. “It’s not that exciting, and you’re still pretty drunk, babe, I–“

“I am not,” Harry says, pouting. “I’m perfectly fine, now.”

“Harry, you almost faceplanted walking in because you tripped on thin air. You told me you liked the way my face smelled.”

“But your face does smell nice.” Harry frowns.

Louis laughs. “I’ll open it up, just don’t touch, okay? It’s really sharp and I don’t want it to cut you.”

Harry nods. He even folds his hands up in his lap, tangling his fingers together and sitting up straight to show Louis how good he is. Louis tucks a curl behind Harry’s ear before unsheathing the sword, placing the cover on the bed beside Harry. The blade is solid black, shinier than the sheath and standing out against the matte of the hilt.

“Happy?” Louis asks, face soft.

He nods again. “Yes, thank you.”

Louis sheaths the sword again, placing it back in the dresser. He turns around and rests a hand on his hip. “Let me take you to your room now, I guess? It’s pretty late.”

Harry shakes his head, eyes wide. “Can’t I just stay here? The castle is so far.”

Louis opens his mouth for a second before closing it and watching him. His eyes are so soft, Harry thinks. Soft and the prettiest blue he’s ever seen in his whole life. Possibly the prettiest blue in all of Alagaesia, and probably all the lands beyond. Louis says, “Well, you’re right. I wouldn’t want to be an irresponsible mentor, you know.”

Harry’s grin takes over his face, dimples popping out in full force. He’s sure the flowers are growing again at his feet, probably even softer pink than usual. Louis smiles back before finding Harry a pair of soft sweats and a shirt to wear to sleep in. “You can just change here, if you’d like.”

Harry nods, standing up. He’s pulling off his shirt immediately, dropping it to the floor. He wants to know what Louis thinks, but he’s turning back to his dresser and digging through it. Harry frowns, unbuttoning his pants and sitting on the bed to pull them off. He hasn’t gotten this drunk in a while and fuck, he’s forgotten how hard it is to pull the skintight fabric off his ankles. “Louis?” he whines.

“Yeah?” He responds, turning around with clothes in his hands.

“Will you pull my jeans off?”

“Really, H?” Louis asks, laughing quietly.

Harry nods. “They’re really tight, okay?”

“Fine. One time, okay? Don’t come running to me every time your jeans are too tight,” Louis says, wagging a finger at him.

He bends over, pulling the fabric off Harry’s ankles. Harry likes him like this, bent over and taking care of him. Once the jeans are off and pooled on the floor, he straightens back up. Harry’s entirely too aware that he’s sitting there in just his pants, and he watches Louis give him a full-bodied look before his eyes snap back to his face. He grins at him, pleased with the way he turns back around and peels off his own shirt to change.

Once they’re both dressed, Harry climbs under the blankets. “Do you want me to take the couch?” Louis asks, voice halting awkwardly.

Harry pulls the blanket down so he can glare at him better. “Don’t be silly. I’m not kicking you out of your own bed. Come here.”

Louis gives him a long look before complying. He’s warm beside Harry, arm pressed against his. Harry turns his head to look at him. “Thanks for letting me stay.”

“Of course, love.” Louis turns to him, rolling over on to his side. “Are you good to sleep?”

“Yes, thank you.”

They lay there for a while, closing their eyes and trying to let exhaustion win. Louis breaks the silence, “Hey, maybe you should lie on your side. In case you throw up. It’s safer.”

Harry lets the words hang in the darkness for a second. “I can’t sleep on my side without someone cuddling me. I’ve tried.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” He nods, knowing Louis can’t see him. “I’m a little spoon. Like having arms around me.”

There’s silence for a few beats, before Louis says, “Well, I could be your big spoon. To keep you safe, of course.”

“Of course,” Harry repeats. “Really?”

“Yeah, roll over,” Louis says.

He does, and soon Louis’ wrapping his arms around him, pressing his chest to his back and pulling him against his body. “Like this?” Louis asks.

Harry hums softly. “Yes. This is perfect.”

Louis presses a soft kiss to his hair before they’re silent again. Harry’s almost asleep, lulled comfortably by the man’s presence, before Louis is speaking again. “H, you’re growing flowers again.”

Harry mutters, “Garjzla”, letting a soft glow appear hanging in the air. It’s true. The bed is covered in white flowers, growing up the sides of the bed through the cracks in the floor. Harry giggles. “Do you like them?”

“’Course I do,” Louis says. He picks one and smooths Harry’s curls back, tucking it behind his ear. “I love them.”

They fall asleep in a bed of white flowers, Louis’ arms wrapped around him and the opal egg warm against Harry’s chest.

***

The next two weeks are a blur sword fighting, magic, Liam’s history lessons, and an absurd amount of flowers. And Louis, of course, always Louis. Gemma teases him for it incessantly, but Harry’s pretty sure by now that his favorite place in the world is right next to Louis. The whole group gives them knowing looks, but nothing’s happened between them – other than Louis always petting his hair and calling him nicknames and once or twice letting him stay the night again when they all get drunk together.

He and Louis are working on magic until late one night, after a dinner where Gemma had poked at him and Sophia had teased him about his flushed cheeks and the vines crawling up the table. Louis’ taken him to close to the spot by the lake where they all gather regularly for parties, in a little hollow lined with soft grass.

Harry’s tired. Liam and Louis have been working him long hours, cramming his brain with more information than it could possibly hold. He’s aced most of the tests on the Script and can use nature magic almost as easily as breathing, but he’s still horrendous at sword fighting and using his magic as a weapon.

“Alright, break time,” Louis says, dropping the wood pole. He plops down on the grass, sticking his legs out and leaning back.

“I’m sorry I’m so awful,” Harry huffs, laying on his back to not crush the egg.

“Don’t be sorry. We all have things we’re bad at.”

“And what are you bad at?”

“Um,” Louis pauses. “Lots of stuff.”

Harry laughs. “Of course. You’re great at everything.” He strokes the egg, it’s warm on his chest.

“Not really,” he smirks. “I’m bad at a lot of things. You just don’t know it yet. Have you looked through the name book Liam gave you?”

“Yeah,” he says, recalling the book he’s poured over. “Made a list and everything, wanna see?”

Louis nods, and Harry pulls out the list he’s been keeping in his pocket. He unfolds it carefully, resting a hand on the opal egg. “Glaedra.”

Louis wrinkles his nose, flopping back and rolling onto his side. “Too historical. Plus, she’s not gold.”

Harry nods. “Ok, how about Kailandi?”

“Absolutely not. I had to do a full rotation once with this dick whose dragon was named something similar to that. She was awful.”

“Alright. Agiravelle?”

Louis shakes his head rapidly. “No, no, no. You have awful taste in names.”

“Really?” Harry raises an eyebrow and sits up. “Fine, tell me some you like.”

“Oh, c’mon you have to name your dragon yourself.”

Harry frowns. “C’mon, enlighten me.”

Louis gives him a long look before letting out a sigh. “Fine. Vervada?” Harry shakes his head, and Louis continues. “Ysla.”

Harry gives him a hard look. “No.”

“Alright, alright. Here, let’s see the egg. I need inspiration.”

Harry unzips the egg, taking it out carefully. It gleams bright as ever, colors gleaming in the moonlight. He grows a patch of soft moss and dark blue hydrangea flowers to rest it in, just like he’s taken to doing on his bed in the castle. Louis reaches out, pausing. “Can I?” Harry nods, and he strokes the egg with his small hand.

Harry reaches out, too, resting a hand next to Louis’. It should feel weird, much weirder than it does. He can’t help but notice how the egg glows brighter, almost like when he first found it. The rainbow colors are shining through his finger, the white behind them pure as ever.

“H,” Louis says softly. He drags his eyes away from the egg to meet his. “How do you feel about Opheila?”

“Opheila,” Harry repeats. The vowels roll over his tongue, soft and sweet. The name settles into his chest, a sense of rightness washing over him. He strokes the egg with a thumb, watching the colors dance. Louis is looking at him, eyes bright in the egg’s glow. “Opheila,” Harry says again.

The egg gleams brighter, colors growing more saturated. It’s lovely, surrounded by the dark hydrangea and absolutely alive beneath his palm. “You like it?” Louis asks.

“Yes.” He nods determinedly. “Her name will be Opheila.”

Louis grins, stroking his thumb over Harry’s hand. “It’s lovely.”

The egg is growing brighter, more colored, and the colors are twinkling, shifting even more than when he first found her. “I think she likes it,” Harry says.

Louis nods, hand still resting on Harry’s. It’s warm in the hollow, the egg’s glow illuminating the trees around them. They rest for a while and let the soft sounds of the forest be the only sound. Harry’s quite fond of these quiet moments with Louis.

The silence is broken by the sound of the egg cracking. And sure enough, the egg’s crack is wider beneath their hands, spreading out in branches all over the surface. “Oh my god,” Harry murmurs, eyes locked on his egg. Louis pulls his hand away, sitting up to watch Harry scoot closer.

There’s a little white nose poking through the shell before long. Harry spares a thought to the strength of the little dragon already, able to burst through the unbreakable shell. She punches out with pearly white claws and soon the shell is crumpled beneath her.

She’s tiny compared to every other dragon he’s seen, the size of a small dog, and so bright. Her scales are just like the shell of the egg, the base color pure white and covered in splotches of reds and blues and purples, just like an opal. Her wings, when she spreads them, have rainbow-colored webbing between white spines. She’s got bright green eyes, and she peers up at Harry with them before letting out a loud squawk and shuffling close to him.

“Hi there,” Harry says, voice soft. He reaches out his right hand to her, fascinated with the way she watches him. “Opheila,” he murmurs.

She nods her head slightly before stepping forward and nuzzling Harry’s palm. There’s a flash of aching pain the moment her snout touches his palm, and Harry can’t help his gasp. The pain is so intense he shuts his eyes for a moment, clenching the hand that Opheila’s not touching into a fist. He knows it’s only his gedwëy ignasia, his Argetlam, the reason a rider’s powers double when they get their dragons and their physical tie to them.

When he draws his hand back, the silver spiraled gedwëy ignasia is bright on his palm. There’s no true words to describe it, but he can feel Opheila now in his mind through the bond that’s forged. Her presence in his head is just as real as his own thoughts.

Harry, she says to him through the bond. Her voice is smooth and silvery in his head, probably far removed from the gruff voice she’ll have when she speaks out loud.

Opheila, he says back.

She bares her teeth then in what Harry knows by now is a dragon smile and suddenly she’s jumping into his arms. He’s pushed onto his back with the force of it, Opheila perching on his chest. She presses her stark white cheek to his face, humming loudly. I have been waiting so long, she says. Harry can sense the relief through the bond, her euphoria at finally finding him. He feels flashbacks of frustration of waiting year after year to find her rider through the bond, as clear as his own emotions.

He’s overwhelmed by it, overwhelmed with the way his entire body is buzzing and Opheila’s thoughts and feelings are coming to him as clear as if she was speaking out loud. I’m sorry, he says back.

Don’t be, she pauses, drawing back to look him in the face. It isn’t your fault. I’m just so happy to have you.

Suddenly she spins around, crawling off Harry to stand in front of Louis. Harry sits up to watch her. He was right about her voice being different out loud, as it’s raspy and deep when she says to Louis, “Hello, Louis.”

Louis’ eyes widen. “Hello, Opheila,” he says back hesitantly. “You know who I am?”

She cocks her head. Harry can feel her amusement through the bond. “Of course I do,” she says.

“Oh,” Louis says. He pauses, seemingly considering something before nodding, almost to himself. “Well, it’s nice to meet you.”

She nods. “Of course.” She flips back around to look at Harry. “Can we get food now? I’m starving.”

***

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Opheila is a handful. And, apparently, has a massive appetite. She ate every bite of the food Garza brought her last night, and even she watched her with wide eyes. She seems to not know what to make of the little opal dragon, especially after she’d climbed up his tail to sit on his back. Louis had laughed hysterically over that, Garza’s eyes widening impossibly.

She’d been hard to calm down last night. They’d slept in Louis’ cave to avoid any damages to Harry’s room, and she’d been so curious about everything, asking Harry a million questions about his life through the bond. Harry had answered as many as he could before he was on the edge of dead sleep, and begged her to save some for the next day. Louis was already asleep on the other side of the bed, and she had pretended to sleep before waking Harry up again.

H, she said. She’d already taken to calling him H. Will you grow me the moss and the flowers? I can’t sleep.

The hydrangeas?

Yes, she confirmed. The dark blue ones.

Of course, he said. He grew the bed of moss as asked, surrounded by the hydrangeas. He hoped Louis didn’t mind a little dirt getting on the bed. She had sighed happily and wished him a good night, falling asleep.

Harry had felt her panic when they’d almost parted to eat breakfast in the morning, and elected to watch from afar as she’d eaten the dragons’ morning haul with Garza. She insists on sticking with him, too, to join his friends in the dining hall. Harry doesn’t mind, he rather enjoys the way she makes little comments to him and continues asking him questions.

People are watching when he goes into the dining hall with her. He wonders if she can tell how energetic she is already, constantly moving. Louis’ saved a seat on the end of the table for Harry, and she climbs up on his lap to sit there with him. Louis touches his waist gently in greeting.

Clingy, aren’t you? Harry teases through the bond.

She huffs, teasing back, You’re not the one who waited over four years for her rider.

She assesses the rest of the table carefully, and Harry can pick up some of her thoughts on them through the bond. He sends back their names, and she proceeds to greet them all out loud by name, making them laugh.

“Hi,” Sophia says back. “What’s your name?”

“Opheila,” the dragon responds, puffing out her chest a little.

“It’s nice to meet you,” Gemma says. She’s sitting across the table from them.

Opheila says nothing, just staring at her instead. Suddenly, she’s ducking under the table and popping up onto Gemma’s lap. Gemma lets out a gasp of surprise as the little opal dragon presses her cheek to Gemma’s. “Harry’s kin is my kin.”

“Oh,” Gemma says. “Of course.” She pets Opheila’s side carefully. Opheila touches her once more with her snout before ducking back under and going back to perching on Harry’s lap.

I like her, she says to Harry through the bond. Harry’s sure to send her back his relief at that. He has the feeling that she would be an absolute menace to anyone she doesn’t like.

“So are you guys leaving for Vroengard today or tomorrow?” Zayn asks.

“I was thinking today,” Louis responds. “We’ll pack all Harry’s stuff and take off after lunch. Garza should be able to take us all the way today.”

“What about Miremel?” Harry asks Liam.

Liam says, “Oh, I’m not going. It’s just you and Louis.”

“Oh,” Harry says. He hopes his cheeks aren’t as hot as they feel to him, but he’s sure there’s some pink flowers blooming under his feet. “Ok.”

“What, is that a bad thing?” Louis teases, pinching Harry’s side.

“No!” he says almost too hastily. “Absolutely not. That’s great.”

Sophia lifts one perfect eyebrow and snorts. Niall covers his mouth, but Harry knows he’s laughing from the way the rest of his face scrunches up. Louis just nods. “Good.”

The morning passes quickly. It doesn’t take long to move Harry’s stuff into an empty cave in the nest and pack a bag of clothes for their stay on Vroengard. Opheila doesn’t leave Harry’s side for an instant, always sure to climb on his lap when he sits and maintain touch contact every few minutes. Louis laughs, comments that he’d better appreciate her being so small now, because she’ll grow so fast she won’t be able to sit on his lap within days.

They eat lunch with their little group and have a round of hugs afterwards. He and Louis will be gone for over three months on Vroengard, and Gemma hugs him extra tight. They promise to send each other some of the magic messages Louis recently taught Harry how to do.

They’re all climbing on Garza before long. Harry climbs on before Louis, still clumsy and slipping a few times, and Opheila climbs up her tail again. Louis slides on gracefully behind them. Their bags are attached safely to the saddle, and Louis straps them both into the saddle.

“Ready, H?” Louis asks.

Harry asks Opheila if she’s ready, and she sends back a yes. She’s sitting between his legs, eagerness coming through the bond clearly. “Yes,” Harry says back.

“Alright, then,” Louis says. Garza’s taking off then, leaping into the sky and beating her dark wings until they’ve reached an unacceptable height, and she stabilizes and lets them soar on the air currents. Harry’s flown with Louis a few times, and the sick feeling in his stomach is almost gone. Opheila is sitting up, looking down and around with wide eyes. She’s so excited, and she sends Harry, I can’t wait to do this.

Me neither, he says back, resting a hand on her back.

She calms down soon, yawning deeply and curling up into a ball in front of Harry. She’s already grown overnight, a solid few inches taller. Should’ve gone to sleep earlier, Harry teases at her tiredness.

Yeah, yeah, shut up, she says, already falling asleep.

***

They take a short break on the beach by Narda, where Opheila plays in the shallows while Garza dives deep underwater, before moving on to the island of Vroengard. Harry doesn’t know what to expect from the dragon riders’ capital, the epitome of their entire world. They arrive after sunset, when the light is just burning out in the sky, the sand aglow with the orange light. It’s the place where most people visiting Vroengard visit first, and Harry can make out houses along the edges, and something that looks like Occiten’s dragon nest on the side of the mountains that occupy the entire island.

There’s two girls waiting on the beach when they touch down in the soft sand. One’s taller than the other, with blond hair and green eyes, and the other has deep blue hair. The shorter one lets out a little squeal and gives Louis a hug. “Louis, we missed you!”

The taller ones hugs him as well, and he introduces Harry. “This is Harry. Harry, this is Cara and Jade.”

They greet him warmly, Jade forgoing his extended hand to give him a huge. Opheila nudges his leg, and he introduces her as well. “Oh, and this is Opheila.”

Cara crouches down and reaches out a hand to her. “Hi, Opheila.”

The little opal dragon watches her for a moment before nudging at her hand. “Hello.”

Jade talks while Cara keeps playing with Opheila. “So, we’ll get you some food, yeah? And then there’s a few open caves you can sleep in tonight. What part of the island are you going to tomorrow?”

“Sunstar Bay. We’ll go to Doru Araeba at some point, to get a sword and saddle,” Louis says. Harry recognizes the name of Vroegnard’s main city.

“Ooh,” Cara hums, standing back up. “A few of my friends did training out there and they said it was amazing.”

Jade starts leading them towards one of the buildings. “I made sure my dragon saved some of the hunt for you guys,” she addresses Garza and points down the beach. “The stock is around the bend.”

Garza nudges Opheila to follow and starts walking across the sand in that direction. Opheila stands there, though, and stares up at Harry. He can feel her panic through the bond. It’s ok, you can go, I’ll just be inside here and you can reach me any time through the bond, he says.

Her anxiety stews for a little before she quips, Not leaving you. She presses herself against Harry’s legs, tail curling around an ankle.

Louis puts a hand on his waist gently, probably sensing the dragon’s distress. “Why doesn’t Opheila just join us for now? She’s been in her egg for so long she’s probably not anxious to leave you alone yet.”

Opheila nods, eyeing Louis. Harry bends down and offers to carry her through the bond. She agrees, and he picks her up and rest her against his chest. She’s still pretty large, but she lets out a happy sigh and rests her head on his shoulder. He sends her nice thoughts through the bond, and she presses her cheek to his, relief washing over her.

Garza seems to shrug and moves on down the beach, tail dragging a trail in the sand. Jade is watching curiously but just continues leading the way into the house. Cara starts talking about something and the moment of tension is broken, Louis’ laugh filling the night.

Jade brings them inside, explaining that she lives here permanently, but her dragon prefers to sleep outside and she prefers a house, so she sleeps on the open porch to be next to him. They sit down at the table and they make conversation while Jade brings out food. Opheila is almost napping on his chest, breathe evening out. Jade sets the last of the food out and pauses, “Here, I have some meat I keep in here if my dragon gets lazy, Opheila can have some.”

The dragon lifts her head at that, baring her teeth in a grin. “Thank you,” she says.

Jade sets a plate out for her in the corner, and Harry snorts at how much like a reptilian dog she looks like. Shut up, Opheila says, which only makes him laugh harder.

They stay overnight in the cave next to Cara and her girlfriend, Annie. Annie is lovely, with a curling smirk and sharp eyes. She and Cara are adorable, curling around each other like it’s the most natural thing in the world.

They sleep in the bed together again, and Harry makes the moss and hydrangea bed for her. Louis was right about magic doubling when your dragon hatches. Now that he’s settled down a bit, he can feel the magic thrumming through his veins. He’d been growing even more flowers and vines and the like, a couple of vines curling up Louis’ and even Jade’s legs during dinner.

There’s already a bed of flowers waiting for Louis when he joins Harry in bed. He laughs and says, “Is this your way of seducing me, H?”

Harry blushes, already willing some of them away. Louis rests a hand on his and frowns. “Aw, don’t get rid of them. I’ve grown quite fond of them.”

“You sure?”

“’Course I am. I like the white and pink ones the best.”

“Yeah?” Harry murmurs, letting the magic pour out and fill the bed more with the sweet-smelling blossoms.

“Yeah,” Louis repeats. They’re laying and facing each other, Opheila curled up between them. Louis pets one of his curls back, resting his hand on his cheek for a moment. One of the light balls is hanging above them, and Harry can make out how soft his eyes are.

The moment’s dragging on a beat too long when Opheila snorts and says, “Are you two going to sleep or just stare at each other all night?”

Louis giggles, covering his face with a hand. “Oh my god, Opheila.”

Harry groans and flops his head back down on the pillow. Really? He sends her.

I’ve been here for a day and I already know you two need to stop mooning over each other and get on with it, she huffs, rolling her eyes.

Harry sends her back some choice curses and lets himself fall asleep.

***

The flight to Sunstar Bay is short, and they arrive before noon. The Bay takes Harry’s breath away. It’s a semi-large enclosed bay surrounded by tall, rocky hills with a nest carved out and bright green flora all over. Harry’s never seen palm trees before, and he’s certainly never seen water that’s so many different shades of blue. He’s pretty sure those are dolphins leaping out of the waves, or maybe the sea lions Louis was talking about.

They touch down and Harry nudges Opheila awake. Louis helps them climb off Garza onto the warm sand. It’s warm, but the breeze cools it down to the perfect temperature. Opheila is already trotting towards the water when Louis gets off, as well. Garza gives Louis a pleading look, and he snorts and nods.

“Do you mind if Garza teaches Opheila how to swim?”

Harry nods after asking Opheila and receiving a yes through the bond. Her excitement is filling him too, making his limbs tingle a little. Harry helps Louis take Garza’s saddle off, undoing the complicated buckles and sliding them off her legs, along with their bags.

They watch Opheila follow Garza into the water until her neck. She’s grown again today, even more rapid than the previous day. Harry sends her encouraging thoughts when he senses her uncertainty. Garza will take care of you.

Garza must be saying the same thing, because she turns and nods at Garza, who’s looking at her from farther out. The older dragon dives under the water and a few seconds later, Opheila’s diving under as well. Delight floods the bond, filling up Harry’s senses. Louis touches his waist gently, smile soft, and motions him to sit down next to him. And Harry was wrong, because this is the bluest his eyes have ever looked. The bright sun above them is doing wonders, illuminating them and making them sparkle.

Opheila and Garza’s heads pop up farther out, splashing water around. Opheila’s lets out a little squawk and dives back under, followed by the black dragon. Harry leans on Louis, letting him rest a hand in his hair. “I didn’t bring sun cream,” Harry murmurs.

“I did,” Louis says. “Want some? We’ll probably be out in the sun a lot today.”

Harry nods, and Louis digs through his bag and hands him a tube. As he spreads it out over his arms, he asks, “What do we do now?”

“Well, the first few days will be you bonding with her alone. It’s important to make the bond between you two strong, especially in the early days. Then we’ll work on some more magic and testing the connection between you. Garza will give her flight lessons when she’s ready, then we’ll go to Doru

 

 Araeba to get your sword and saddle,” Louis says, taking the sun cream when he’s done and spreading it across his own face. “Oh, and Garza will teach her how to hunt.”

When the dragons have had their fill, Garza carries their belongings up into the nest and they settle into the nest. Their cave is open to the ocean, lending them an amazing view of the blue waters and the rocky shores that stretch out for miles. There’s also a heavy screen they can pull across in bad weather. Louis fixes them a quick lunch. After they’re done eating, Louis asks to see one of Harry’s rings. He hands it to him with a questioning look and tells him to stay put and disappears from the cave with Garza. He’s back within ten minutes, and leads Harry out of the cave to the shore again.

“Alright, I hid your ring out there.” He points north along the shore, where there’s a huge forest. “You and Opheila have to go find it.”

Harry and his dragon share a confused look. “That was my favorite ring,” Harry complains.

“That’s why you’re going to go find it,” Louis says with a raised eyebrow. “It’s bonding time.”

Harry opens his mouth to say something before Opheila says through the bond, It’s ok, H. I can do it.

Harry frowns at Louis but starts trotting towards the forest, Opheila bounding ahead a little. There’s a trail that leads into the forest, along the edge of the rocky cliffs so they can see the ocean. Hopefully, they can just take the trail until Opheila senses it, Harry thinks. When they’re disappearing into the forest, Louis calls out, “You can do it, babes!”

“Fuck off!” Harry calls back, a grin on his face.

The trail is beautiful, with the trees giving out views of the rocky cliffs and the waters. Opheila is energetic, and she bounds along, jumping on roots and random rocks. He asks, Have you sensed it yet?

Not yet, she says. I’ll let you know when I do.

They go on for a bit, Opheila occasionally holding back to press her side against Harry’s leg and letting Harry pat her back. They’ve been going for a while when Opheila sits down abruptly on a large tree root. I don’t think I can sense it, she says.

Harry sits next to her. ‘Course you can. I think you just need to concentrate, I can feel all your restless energy.

She rests her head on his knee. The sun is making her opal scales sparkle and shimmer, casting rainbow light onto the trees around them. I don’t know how to focus, she says.

Why don’t I try to help?

Opheila nods at him, watching him with catlike green eyes. He rests his hand on her smooth scales, closing his eyes and reaching out through the bond. He can almost feel her energy, her restlessness almost tangible. He touches it gently with his mind, and she lets him push calming thoughts through the bond. Harry can practically feel her body relax, head becoming heavier on his knee. When her mind is calm again, he sends her thoughts of the ring, letting her feel the memory when Gemma gave it to him for his eighteenth birthday. She’d brought it back from the academy with a smile, the little bit of turquoise in it bright in her palm.

Opheila sits up suddenly. I got it, she says, excitement bleeding through to Harry.

She bounds off, heading back the way they came and leaving the path to dive into the forest opposite the ocean. It’s darker in here, the trees thicker and more tangled. Opheila waits for him to catch up before leading him further into the woods. I can feel your aura on it, she says. It’s as clear as day.

They’re approaching another mountain, Harry thinks after a while as the ground slopes down. They’re next to a river now, the one they’d used a fallen tree to cross over earlier. The woods are thick, blocking a lot of what’s before them out. Soon, though, Harry becomes aware of the sound of rushing, splashing water. A little further on, and he gasps in wonder as he makes out a huge waterfall through the trees.

“My god,” he breathes out as they come fully onto the waterfall. It’s falling off a cliff pretty high above them, leading into a large pool that leads out to the river. It’s breathtaking, with the bright green moss on the side of the cliffs and the flowers that bloom by the waters and the sun that’s shining through the break in the trees.

Opheila is grinning at him, and she trots over to the side of the cliff, peering at the waterfall. I think it’s behind the waterfall.

Harry follows her as she steps out onto a rocky shelf of the cliff, steps sure as he keeps his eyes on his dragon. And Opheila was right. Behind the cliff, there’s a small cave, lined in moss and surprisingly cozy. Harry’s ring is sitting on the moss, gleaming in the soft light, and there’s a note beside it.

It reads: Congrats, O and H! Lots of love, be back for dinner. xx Louis :) P.S. the water is deep enough to jump in!

Harry grins, and Opheila snorts. She says, You could just kiss him and get it over with. He sends back his displeasure and she rolls her eyes. It’s gonna happen eventually. Whether you know it or not.

What does that mean?

Do you seriously not know? She huffs.

Know what?

She fixes him with her green eyes. I’m sure you’ll know soon enough.

He wrinkles his nose at her before peeking out behind the waterfall. Wanna go for a swim?

***

It continues the same way for a few days. Louis creates little challenges for them to work through, sometimes sending hints but always staying back to let them bond. There’s another searching mission, a few where Louis gives them mental challenges and puzzles to work through, and various other challenges. Harry’s grown quite fond of Sunstar Bay with all the exploring they’ve done. He likes the way there are always dolphins jumping and how seals will sometimes come up on the beach to sun, prompting Opheila to nose at them and get an angry flipper in her face in return. He likes how it’s just them and Louis and Garza, how there’s no one there to send them knowing looks when he stares at Louis too long and when he rests his head on his shoulder too long. He likes how they still share the bed, even though the cave has two perfectly good beds, and how Opheila had insisted on sleeping between them in the bed of moss and hydrangeas Harry’s grown for her until she’d hit the size of a horse one day and moved to beside the bed. Their bond is stronger than ever, and Harry’s taken to calling her Ophie.

Louis starts working their magic when he’s satisfied with them so far. Harry’s magic is definitely a lot stronger now, especially with how healthy their bond has grown. Louis teaches them more complicated spells and challenges that can only be solved with magic.

The most notable one is when Louis starts an avalanche on them. Harry’s still not quite sure why that was necessary, but Louis had taken them to the top of the hill and instructed them to walk a while down before yelling at them to duck. He and Opheila had managed to stop the entire thing, even though Harry couldn’t command stone and dirt as well as living plants.

Harry had huffed at Louis after that and refused to speak to him until Louis revealed that he’d found some sweet berries to make a cobbler of sorts that night.

Its morning now, and they’re sitting at the edge of their cave and watching the waves break on the shore below. It’s been a week now that they’ve been here, and Harry feels healthier than he ever has in his life. He and Louis are sharing one of the fruits they’d gathered yesterday now. “So,” Louis starts, picking off a bit of the peel. “Garza should teach her how to hunt today.”

Harry nods, watching Garza and Opheila where they’re out taking their morning swim. “I’m not sure she’ll let me out of her sights for very long. She’s gets really anxious whenever we’re apart, or even at the thought of it.”

Louis takes a bite and passes it to him. “I know,” he says. “I want to wait a little for her to get adjusted before you have a conversation about that. But, I was thinking. Why don’t we go out to the waterfall, and they can hunt in those woods? That way, they’re far enough out that they can actually hunt but we’re close enough she doesn’t get nervous.”

“Alright,” Harry says immediately. They haven’t been alone since Opheila hatches. Opheila looks a little hesitant when they make their way down to the beach and Louis proposes the idea, but Harry hugs her neck and assures her that he’ll be so close and she can check on them throughout the day. She huffs uneasily but agrees, nervous energy pulsing.

They gather snacks and take off down the trail, Garza weaving gracefully through the trees. Harry is amazed at how such a large creature can fit so seamlessly into the woods. Harry hugs Opheila once more when they reach the water fall, kissing her cheek and sending her soothing thoughts. He can feel her prickle of unease through the bond. You have to do this, you know you do, he tells her.

She agrees reluctantly, following Garza when she slithers into the woods. Harry remembers how Louis had explained that ground hunting was still vital to dragons, even though most preferred flying and diving upon prey, and being the more difficult skill, was taught first to young ones.

They’re alone now, and Harry can feel his heart beat a little faster. It feels like it’s been forever since he’s been alone in Louis’ presence. He loves his dragon, he really does, but he’s been craving Louis’ attention.

Louis peels off his shoes and rolls up his pants, sticking down by the water to stick his feet in. Harry joins him, sitting next to him and leaning back on his palms. “You two have been doing really well,” Louis comments.

“Yeah,” Harry says. He already can’t take his eyes off Louis; sometimes, it feels like he’s drawn to him by unseen force. “I never imagined this life, you know. But I couldn’t imagine doing anything else now.”

“You’re good, really good.” Louis grins. “I’m quite jealous of how easily you can make those flowers of yours.”

“What, these?” Harry asks, immediately growing a bunch of arching, bright orange day lilies around them. They grow high around them, hiding them away from the rest of the world, only the waterfall before them able to watch on.

Louis laughs. “Yes, those.”

“Tell me more about home,” he says suddenly. He’s been thinking about this, at night before he falls asleep. They haven’t had the chance to really talk in depth about their lives, only having opportunities before he passes out on the pillow or between training sessions. It feels like he hasn’t rested since he fell on the egg, but now he feels still, anchored by Louis. He wants to know everything about him, wants to hear stories about the town he grew up in by Petrovya and his siblings.

“Alright,” Louis says, leaning in closer. He tells Harry about how he’d basically raised his sisters alongside his mother before getting magic, how he doesn’t know his birth father and doesn’t care, because his mother’s new husband is kind and treats her like a queen, how he’s sad he missed the birth of his newest sister and brother, but the experience of holding them when he made it home was one of the most important moments in his life.

He talks about how he misses them, so much. How he’s planning a trip home soon to see them all again. He wants to make them proud, he says, even though his mother already says he’s the best son she could have asked for. His sisters love Garza. He’ll even let them go on short rides alone with her, trusting the dragon to be safe. His friends love her too, and he tells Harry about the adventures he’d had with his friend Stan back in school.

When he’s done, he asks Harry about his home. Harry didn’t even realize how close they were, but he rests a hand on top of Louis’ and tells him everything there is to know about Fernstart. He talks until his tongue grows tired, the way that Louis’ eyes watching him intoxicating.

He falls silent after a bit, content to just sit there with Louis and let the waterfall be the only sound. Louis’ tangled their fingers together, and the butterflies in his stomach are dancing. Harry’s not sure how long they sit together, the world turning around them, before Louis grins at him cockily and challenges him to a cannonball contest.

They make their way to the rocky edge by the cave, holding hands to balance each other, of course. Harry doesn’t mention that, yes, he was able to climb it perfectly safe before, because his hand is warm in his. Harry jumps in first, letting out a strangled scream as his body hits the water. When his head pops back up, Louis shouts, “I give it a 7!”

“A 7?” Harry yells back in exaggerated outrage. “That was at least an 8!”

“Sorry, babe.” Louis smirks. “I don’t make the rules. Here, rate me!”

Harry’s pretty sure his splash has to be smaller than his, but he declares it a 9 when his head bobs back up to the surface. Louis grins at him, swimming up next to him. “Of course it was. I’m clearly the superior cannonballer in this relationship.”

“Relationship?” Harry teases, smoothing back wet hair out of Louis’ face.

Louis presses his lips together, eyes bright and cheeks blushing just a little pink. He shakes his head with a smirk, swimming over to the rocky edge of the pool, where it’s still deep and they can float while hanging onto the rocks.

“We should try diving from the top one time,” Louis says, drawing in close to Harry.

“Yeah?” he asks, eyes solely focused on the perfect pink of his lips.

“Yeah,” Louis says. “Bet I could dive deeper than you.”

“What if you bash your head on the bottom?”

Louis laughs, eyes crinkling a little as he inches closer. They’re facing each other now, and Harry swears his eyes are watching his lips, too. “Not possible. Garza’s dived to the bottom before.”

“Hmm,” Harry hums softly, lost for words. Louis is right there, so close Harry could just lean in and kiss him. He can practically feel his lips on his, soft and perfect and everything he could ask for.

Louis takes one hand off the rock shelf and rests it on Harry’s cheek. “Your eyes match that moss,” he murmurs. “It’s gorgeous. You’re gorgeous.”

Harry breath hitches. He’s sure if Louis put a hand on his chest he could feel his heart pounding. “Not as gorgeous as you,” he says softly.

Louis smiles. “Impossible.”

Then he’s leaning in, eyes closing, and Harry lets his fall shut too. His mind is lost in thoughts of Louis, Louis, Louis. He knows it’ll be good, knows it’ll be right, and he couldn’t be anywhere else but in this moment. He can feel his breath, the ghost of his lips on his and –

Harry!

He jerks away, eyes opening. Opheila is bounding out of the woods, what looks like a deer caught between her jaws. Garza slinks out behind her, eyes gleaming. She sets the deer down and calls out loud, “Harry, look!”

Harry takes a second to catch his breath. “Ophie, that’s great. I’m so proud!”

He gives Louis an apologetic look. Louis just grins back, squeezing his hand in reassurance before letting go. “It’s alright,” he whispers under his breath. Harry smiles back, and swims over to climb out of the water and give her a giant hug for her accomplishment.

Harry falls asleep almost the moment his head hits the pillow that night, but he’s awake enough when Louis pulls him into his arms, Harry’s back flush against his chest. He wraps his arms around him and kisses his neck softly. Harry falls asleep warm and happy.

They wake up covered entirely in red blossoms.

***

The next morning is torture.

That’s probably a little overdramatic, but it feels like it to Harry. Opheila is still clingy, and whenever he and Louis get close enough to kiss she’s always popping up. At this point, Harry thinks she might be doing it to spite him, but he can still feel her anxiety through the bond. He can’t make himself tell her to stay away, so he just frowns at her every time.

“Alright.” Louis stands up after lunch. “I think you’re old enough to fly now,” he addresses Opheila.

“Yes!” Opheila leaps up from where she was gnawing on a bone, flapping her wings out, the light catching and sparkling in the colored webbing. They’re so big now they almost hit Harry in the face and she shoots an apology at him, although Harry’s sure she’s not too apologetic about it.

Garza snorts and noses at the opal dragon. “The best way to start is by forcing yourself into it,” Garza says, deep voice grumbling through the cave. “It’s hard to get the leap right when you don’t know how to do the wing motions.”

Opheila’s tail sways from side to side in her excitement. “How do I do that?”

Garza bares her teeth in a grin. “Repeat after me.”

The pitch black dragon takes a short run and leaps off the cliff, spreading her wings wide and catching the wind. Out of all the dragons he’s seen, Harry’s pretty sure she’s the most graceful. She cuts through the air with a purpose, performing intricate twists, striking a harsh black line in the sky.

“Well, are you going to join her or what?” Louis asks Opheila, a teasing grin on his face.

She huffs, staring out at Garza. Harry sends her encouraging thoughts, stepping beside her and resting a hand gently on her scales. Come on, you got this.

She cocks her head, sending back an affirmation to Harry and stepping back. Then she takes a running leap, jumping out over the edge. Harry lets out a shriek as he rushes to watch her fall towards the rocks below. She opens her wings after a second, though, catching herself and stabilizing herself. The relief is palpable through the bond, and they watch her climb clumsily through the air towards Garza, wings adjusting to the currents as she learns how to beat them the right way. They’re both yelling happily at each other through the bond, light words of happiness.

Harry’s only watching her for a minute when Louis is tugging him back further into the cave, hand hot on his waist. He pushes him down on the bed and sits next to him, pressing his forehead to Harry’s with his hands on his cheeks. Harry’s mind is spinning with the suddenness of it, but he leans in, practically on top of Louis’ lap.

Louis murmurs, “Been waiting forever to do this”, and kisses him. It’s everything Harry imagined, Louis’ lips soft and hot against his, making his heart beat heavy in his chest. It’s heady, but sweet. Harsh and eager, but gentle in a way that makes Harry feel delicate, taken care of. One of Louis’ hands move into his hair, pulling it just a little and making Harry moan softly in his throat. Harry wants him to push him back onto the bed, let the flowers tangle in their hair as Louis pushes inside, wrecking him in their bed of blossoms. He can feel the petals turning a brighter red as their body temperatures rise.

Louis trails his lips to his neck, biting down and making him moan. “Lou,” Harry breathes out.

“Yeah, baby,” Louis breathes. He pulls back a bit. “Are you okay with this?”

“More than okay,” he urges.

Louis nods and kisses him again, sliding his tongue in this time. Harry’s not sure how it’s both hard and soft, deep and shallow. At one point, he kisses down his neck, probably leaving a mark that’ll last for at least a few days. Harry holds his waist so hard he might have bruises later.

Harry’s not sure how much time passes before Louis is drawing back, leaning his forehead on his again. “Dragons are coming back,” he says, just as the two are landing on the ledge of the cave again.

Harry stands up unsteadily, greeting Opheila who rushes forward and presses her cheek to Harry’s. H, that was amazing, totally incredible. I can’t wait to fly with you. I can take off from the ground now too!

Harry gives her a hug, flooding their bond with congratulations. Her head is just taller than his now, and he struggles to wrap his arms around his broad chest now. She pulls back after a moment, fixing her eyes on him. Why is your head all swirly?

Harry blushes, lowering his eyes. Of course she could sense his whirling mind through the bond. I’ll tell you later, promise.

She nods deeply, saying that he better, but there’s a knowing dragon-y smirk on her face.

Louis leads them through a couple more magic exercises, before they prepare dinner together and eat it out by the beach. There’s a seal trying to soak up the last few rays of sun. Opheila doesn’t bother them anymore, unless she’s feeling restless and wants a flipper in her face. She’d offer to kill them for dinner once, and Garza had laughed at her and explained they had an obnoxiously thick layer of fat that only dragons way up north bothered with getting through.

The Bay is still the most beautiful place Harry’s ever been, and he loves how warm the water is still as it brushes up against their feet during their meal. Garza and Opheila go for a swim just as the sun starts sinking under the horizon. Opheila’s opal scales turn dusky and red-tinged in the light, while Garza’s deep black soaks it up.

Louis leans back and takes Harry’s hand, twisting their fingers together. “Can I tell you something?” he asks.

“Of course,” Harry says.

“I’m kind of crazy about you,” he says softly, eyes soft in the orange light of the sunset.

“Yeah?” Harry asks, scooting closer through the sand to him.

He nods, pressing his lips together. “Sort of since I first met you.”

Harry feels his grin spread, and he lifts their linked hands to kiss Louis’ hand. “I’m sort of gone for you, too.”

Louis absolutely lights up, splitting his eyes in half and making his eye crinkles come out in full force. “Oh, well that’s good.”

Harry giggles. “Yeah, I’d say it’s pretty good.”

He kisses him then, soft and sweet.

***

“The dragons are going hunting,” Louis says the next afternoon, after they’ve finished up some spell work on the beach.

“Oh, are we going out to the waterfall then?” He asks.

“Nope, now that she can fly, Garza convinced her to go to the same place but let us stay here.” He pauses and raises an eyebrow with a smirk. “So, they’re going hunting. Which leaves us alone.”

“Okay?” Harry asks, eyebrows furrowed in confusion. He gets it then, face flushing deeply. “Oh. Oh. Okay.”

Louis laughs, leaning his head on him. “Get with the program, Harold.”

Harry’s on edge until the dragons are taking off, and Harry watches Opheila leap into the air, even if she’s clumsy and fumbles on her way up. Louis’ dragging him immediately up to the cave. He sits them down on the bed and kisses Harry.

Harry’s not sure how long they’re kissing when Louis draws back and asks softly, “Can I blow you?”

“Yes, yes, want it,” Harry breathes out as Louis grins and starts unbuttoning his pants, peeling them down his legs. He asks him to stand for a second to help.

“Get these fucking things off,” he grumbles. Harry giggles, untangling his legs from the fabric. “Shirt, too.” Louis pushes him to sit on the bed when he’s in just his boxers and Harry’s cheeks are flush. “You look so good,” Louis says stepping between his legs and sinking to his knees. He keeps a warm hand on Harry’s thigh, just enough pressure to anchor them both.

“No, you do,” Harry gasps as Louis presses a kiss to his cloth-covered cock. He can feels himself getting hard already, just from his hot breath on his thighs.

Louis peels off the boxers slowly, eyes brightening at the sight of his hardening cock. He pumps it a few times in his hand, letting him get to full hardness before Louis is licking a fat stripe up the length. Harry lets out a hard breath as he presses soft kisses to it, digging his tongue into his slit. He looks incredibly like this, eyelashes feathering out against his cheek. He looks like an angel, he thinks.

He opens his eyes just as he sinks down on his cock, keeping eye contact as he takes him deep into his throat. And fuck, no one warned Harry that Louis could deepthroat. He groans and runs his fingers through his hair, making to push him further onto his cock, but Louis glares up at him. It’s a message he can do it all on his own. His throat flutters around him as he goes so deep he presses his nose to his skin before starting to bob up and down. Harry’s going to lose his mind, Louis’ mouth is tight and hot around him, lips stretched perfectly around him.

Louis pulls off, making Harry moan sadly, trying to gently pull him back with his hand. Louis shakes his head though, eyes teasing. He tongues at his head, making Harry gasp, before taking him back down again. He does it a few times, deepthroating then tonguing at his head.

Harry’s fighting to keep his eyes open on Louis, but it feels so good he has to let his head fall back a little with his eyes closed. Louis is tonguing at his head when he feels his hand brush down his cock and between his legs. He plays with his balls, rolling them softly with his hands.

“Lou,” he groans, eyes snapping open and making eye contact with Louis again. That’s what does him in, that and Louis’ wink. He comes with a gasp, closing his eyes again to let it wash over him.

“Baby,” Louis says, sitting next to him on the bed and tangling their fingers together.

“Let me do you.”

“You don’t have to.”

Harry grins. “I want to, I really want to.”

He slips onto his knees and mouths his way up the side of his dick with kisses and licks before taking him into his mouth. Louis’ cock is hard and heavy on his tongue. Fuck, Harry forgot how much he loves doing this, how he loves taking them so deep he almost goes crazy. It’s different with Louis, too, more intense. He wants to please him, wants to be good and perfect for him, although he thinks Louis would want him even if he wasn’t perfect.

Louis’ hip buck, pressing himself deeper. “Sorry, sorry,” Louis hisses.

“No, it’s ok.” He says after he pulls off briefly. “You can do it again, if you want.”

“Are you sure? I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Yes, I’m positive.” He grins.

Louis thrusts slowly, carefully into his mouth. He speeds up after a bit, pressing into his throat. “So good, H.”

Harry hums around him. He loves how hot it is, how deep he can take him. Louis comes with a broken moan, throwing his head back. Harry sucks him through it, licking gently at him when he’s done. He kisses his tip softly before crawling into his lap, kissing him until the dragons come home.

***

It happens again two days later.

Harry’s sure that he wants this, is pretty sure he wanted it since the first moment he laid eyes on Louis. Something is right about them, and it’s pure and good and safe. They’re constantly touching, Louis hand always on his waist or resting on his hand and Harry pushing Louis’ fringe out of his face. And Harry feels comfortable with him, feels like there’s something about Louis that he just understands. They connect on a deeper, unspoken level, and Harry knows he could tell him anything without worry.

Garza’s taking Opheila on a more extended hunting trip, per secretive request of Louis, and all Harry wants is Louis to press him into their bed. Opheila’s still been clingy the last two days, making it impossible for him to drag Louis off. After they take off, they’re stumbling into the cave and falling on the bed, a mess of giggles and pink cheeks. Louis presses Harry’s hands playfully to the bed above his head. “You know when I first saw you I thought you were some kind of angel?”

Harry laughs, a loud bark that makes him want to cover his mouth. “You’re joking.”

“No, I honestly thought that! And then you tied our wrists together with that vine and I knew I was fucked,” he says, pressing a kiss to his throat.

“You’re so lame,” Harry teases. “I can’t believe I’m with such a loser.”

Louis pouts, kissing him briefly on his nose. “You love it.”

Harry rolls his eyes, making Louis let out a sound of outrage and drop his hands. The moment changes from playful to tense in an instant, Louis’ face falling to a serious expression. “Lou, will you, um.”

“Will I what?”

“Will you fuck me?”

Louis’ eyes widen and he drops a hand to Harry’s chest where he’s propped above him. “Yes, of course I will. Are you sure you’re ready for that? I don’t want to rush it.”

“Yes, I’m sure. I’m not a virgin, you know.”

Louis snorts. “I just want to make sure you’re emotionally ready for it. Want to make it good for you.”

Harry’s breath hitches, caught in his throat as Louis trails his hand down his chest. “I think that’s the hottest thing you’ve ever said to me. But yes, I am ready and I want this with you. I’m sure.”

Louis beams and kisses him deep again, before getting up to dig through his bag for lube and a foil. They help each other undress, drawing it out by getting lost in kisses and touches. Finally, they’re both naked. “How do you want it?”

Harry tears his eyes away from his naked skin and says, “          However you want it. Not picky.”

Louis pauses for a second, considering. “Is on your back okay? Wanna see your face.”

Harry nods, moving up the bed and laying out on his back. Louis gives him another long kiss before hiking Harry’s legs up, propping them up so they’re bent. He pops open the bottle of lube with a soft pop and coats his fingers in it. He trails one finger down Harry’s cock and brushes the tip of it against his hole, making him whine. Louis kisses his thigh where it’s hooked around him and teases his rim, tracing around it.

“Please, Lou.”

Louis smiles. “Of course, baby.”

He presses his finger in slowly up to the knuckle. He gives Harry a second to get used to it before Harry’s begging for another. He scissors the two fingers, stroking the velvety walls and twisting them to get Harry ready for his cock. Harry’s letting out low moans, and he drops his head back on the pillow when Louis pushes in a third finger. Louis’ so good at this, twisting them so perfectly.

“Faster, Lou, faster, please,” he moans.

Louis nods, picking up the speed. He pumps and curls them, hitting Harry’s spot perfectly. It’s white hot pleasure, shaking out through his whole body and making him arch off the bed. “Lou, again, please.”

“Needy, aren’t we?” Louis teases, but he obliges, hitting the spot again and again until Harry’s melted back on the pillows, laying there and taking it. It’s not even his cock yet, and Harry’s floating with the pleasure. He wants Louis inside him, wants him to wreck him and fuck him until they go crazy with it.

“Babe, please,” he breathes out, voice hitching as Louis hits his prostate again.

“Sure you’re ready?”

“Yes, yes, positive.”

Louis presses another kiss to his thigh and pulls his fingers out. Harry can feel him pressed against his rim, and he throws his head back to prepare himself for it. The pressure never comes though, and suddenly Louis is slapping his thigh and hissing, “Fuck, H, put your clothes on! They’re back and Opheila’s coming up here!”

“Fuck,” Harry groans, scrabbling to find his pants on the floor. Louis throws his shirt at him, muttering under his breath. The urge to not be found naked by his own dragon makes him rush, it would be like getting caught by his sister or his mom.

He trips over his pant legs and tumbles over, cursing loudly. Louis grabs him with a shocked look on his face, and they lean against each other just staring, until Louis’ face breaks out into a barking laugh. Harry can’t help but laugh too, pressing his face into Louis’ shoulder.

“I feel like we just got caught screwing by our kids,” Louis laughs, wiping at his tearing eyes. Harry nods, straightening himself back up.

Opheila busts into the cave then and rushes to nuzzle Harry with her head, nearly knocking him over. She’s much taller than a horse now and she’s starting to get really cramped in the space next to the bed. Harry can sense her panic through the bond, and she sends, I’m sorry we’re back so soon. It was so far and I got so nervous and you weren’t answering me through the bond.

Fuck, that makes Harry feel horribly guilty, and he draws her into a bigger hug. No, I’m so sorry. I’m a bad rider, I shouldn’t have ignored you. I didn’t even realize you were calling for me. I’m sorry.

She hums against his cheek. It’s okay. Was just worried you were hurt.

Louis coughs then, shooting them an apologetic look. “Sorry to interrupt, but do you guys want lunch?”

Louis whispers in his ear while the dragons are eating a little way off. “I think you need to have the talk with Opheila.”

“The sex talk?” Harry nearly screeches, food dropping off his fork.

“What the fuck, no, H. She’s a dragon, for fucks sake! That’s what Garza’s for!”

“Oh my god.” Harry puts his bowl on his lap to rest his face in his hands for a second. “Thank god. I was so worried for a second.”

Louis snorts, rolling his eyes. “No. Definitely don’t worry about that. Dragons have tons of weird rules about that stuff that I’m not even gonna pretend to understand. I meant, that you need to have an honest discussion about her clinginess.”

“I wouldn’t say she’s clingy. Just…she gets panicky when we’re not together.”

“Which is understandable. She was in her egg for so long, she’s probably scared shitless of being left without a rider now that she finally has one.” He pauses, fixing his fringe. “It’s okay to need contact through the bond, but it’s unhealthy for her to feel so anxious. I’m assuming you didn’t contact her during her hunting trip?”

“No.” Harry swallows thickly, the guilt growing more on him.

“That’s okay. I should’ve reminded you. I got a little carried away too,” he says softly, reaching over to rest his hand on Harry’s. He coughs lightly. “Next time, we can take a pause if you’d like and you can reach out. It’s not good to get so lost you lose the connection. But, in general, you just need to reassure her that you’re not going anywhere and work through it gradually. And she needs to be able to trust that you’ll respond to her through the bond.”

Harry nods. “I’ll talk to her later.”

He and Opheila go sit out by the ocean later, tucked away on top of a hill and looking out at the sparkling water. There’s a raft of sea lions out floating. Opheila’s laid out, Harry resting on her side with her tail curled protectively around him. Her wings are tucked back, but he knows she would lay one over him in a heartbeat.

So, me and Louis are a thing now, he starts off with.

She laughs, sides rumbling and shaking Harry a little. I know. She laughs harder, eyes bright with mirth. I didn’t realize you felt the need to tell me. I knew, and I knew while I was still in my egg that you’d be together.

What do you mean?

She huffs softly, shuffling slightly. It’s hard to describe. I don’t understand it fully. I just knew that you two were meant for each other. I think that’s why I hatched when I did.

Dragon-y intuition?

Something like that, she laughs. And I’m sorry I keep interrupting you two.

No, I should be the sorry one. I’m not doing a good job of building trust by not staying tuned in to the bond. That’s my fault, and I don’t want you to feel bad about that. He strokes her side, turning to rest his cheek on her scales. I want to work on being apart, though. I don’t think it’s healthy that you feel so scared when we’re apart.

I’m sorry.

No, no. Harry assures her there’s no need to be sorry, no need to feel shame for her feelings. I just want us to have a healthier relationship. And I want you to know that I’m going to be better at staying in touch through the bond when you’re away. I promise I’m not going anywhere. I just want to make sure we can be apart without you being so anxious.

Ok, she says, voice softer and more hesitant. I understand what you’re saying. I want that too.

He smiles, petting her side gently. I’m not trying to say I don’t want you around, too. I just want us to trust each other that we can be apart and still stay in touch.

They fall asleep like that, only waking up when Louis comes searching for them later to come up to bed. They move Opheila’s bed over to where Garza sleeps, so she has more room and to try out a little distance, and Harry grows her a bed of moss, hydrangeas, and tall day lilies so grand she actually gets excited about sleeping just a little apart.

***

“You’ll love Doru Araeba,” Louis says, tightening one of the straps on Garza’s saddle. “It’s so cool. It’s amazing what they’ve done with it. I mean, you know it used to be a shit hole, right? All of Vroengard, before the riders came back. Took them decades to reverse all the pollution and get all the wildlife back. Doru Araeba was the worst, it was in ruins.” He pauses to secure their bags, paying extra attention to his own sword. “But it’s all rebuilt now, better than ever.”

Harry nods from where he’s leaning on Opheila’s sun-warmed scales. They’re traveling to the dragon riders’ capital to get Harry a saddle and a sword, and he couldn’t be more excited. Louis is too, a wide grin stuck on his face. He has a lot of friends there, from all the rotations he’s done transporting eggs.

Opheila flies beside them, stretching out her opal wings as far as they’ll go. She’s lost her noticeable clumsiness, but it’s clear she’s still learning to work the wind currents, still dipping awkwardly sometimes or getting pushed aside.

The flight to Doru Araeba is short. It’s in the far corner of the island, only about a half hour’s flight from Sunstar Bay. Louis pinches his side softly when they start flying around a giant, rocky mountain. “It’s just on the other side.”

When Garza makes the bend around the mountain’s curve, the city comes into sight. Harry can’t help the noise of wonder. “Louis, what is that?”

Louis rests his head on his shoulder, and Harry can practically feel his smile. “That, H, is Svellhjall, the crystal fortress. Resurrected from the dead.”

“Oh my god,” he breathes. The fortress is as tall as the mountain and looks like a diamond, with intricate carvings on the sides and what looks like a million swooping turrets and towers. It sparkles brightly, sunlight catching on the facets and almost blindly Harry at points. “It’s incredible.”

“It’s enchanted so you can’t see inside,” Louis explains. “But you get all the light inside, and the walls are lined with darker crystal so it doesn’t get disorienting. Look down, too.” He points below.

They’re flying over the rest of the city now. There’s a bustle of activity, with what must be hundreds of colorful buildings, all with the tops decorated intricately, and dragons interspersed with their riders. The streets are huge, large enough for twelve dragons across. There’s a beach by the coast with an array of ships tied to docks, all leading to a massive crystal gate that matches the fortress, which an empty beach with people down the coast. The gate goes around the entire city, stretching out so far Harry can barely see it. He can make out human-like figures and a few dragons patrolling it.

Garza lands on the open beach, which Louis explains is where all visiting riders land. There’s people on the docks and the beach, talking and laughing or hauling things like boxes to ships and back. Louis leads them to the gate, where there’s a thin red dragon and a golden-haired elven man stationed to the side.

The elf calls out, “Louis!” when he sees them, coming forward and pulling the man into a hug. “How are you? It’s great to see you!”

“I’m great, Donovan, really good. How are you?” He waves over to the dragon, greeting her as well, as the elf rambles for a little. The dragon nods at him and continues to scan the docks. Louis continues when Donovan wraps up, “This is Harry Styles and his dragon, Opheila. I’m training him.”

Donovan greets them warmly, as well. Louis explains, “He works for security here.”

The elf nods. “Lots of important things here. We have eyes and ears everywhere, so no funny business.” He wags a finger teasingly at him, but Harry gets the distinct impression he’s really not kidding. Donovan records their information, noting their purpose and writing down a quick description of Harry and Opheila. He explains quickly that it’s for security measures. There’s a lot of people in the city, and they keep track of all comings and goings because of the secrets and valuable things within the city.

“You’re good to go,” he says, putting down the pen with a grin. He presses a hand to the gate, opening it so they can pass through. Louis thanks him again, promising to catch up at some point soon.

The bustling activity is even more overwhelming now that he’s in it. There are all sorts of people milling around, and it reminds him of the markets Harry’s been to in Bellatona, with stores open on the sides with goods splayed out. There are some food places, but most of the stores are things he’s never seen before. Strange herbs and roots, crystals of every shape and size, a few places with cages of animals that he’s never seen before.

There’s every species in Alagaesia present. He’s seen elves before now, but he’s never seen dwarves or Urgals before. He lets out a gasp the first time he sees an Urgal, their huge, hair body looming, and he presses himself closer to Louis and begs Opheila to step a little closer, too.

“Do you like it?” Louis asks.

“It’s overwhelming. But amazing,” he says. Opheila agrees with him through the bond, tail flicking eagerly behind her.

“Here, we have to go get your saddle in a bit, but we can meet my friend first, so you can get a taste of it all.” He grabs his hand and pulls him forward, eventually ducking down a side path and turning into a store with a big, open door so Opheila and Garza can see inside.

The shop is dark, illuminated only by candles and outside light that pours in. It looks like the stores outside combined into one, all sorts of strange, magical items covering the walls, tables, and shelves. “Angelica!” Louis calls out. “It’s Louis!”

It’s silent for a moment, before a woman is bustling out from a curtain leading to the back. She’s wearing an elaborate, full-length gown with ruffled sleeves and a cape secured around her throat. Her fingers are completely decked out in rings, matching the necklaces on her chest. She shrieks, “Louis!” and pulls him into a tight hug.

He chuckles. “Hi, Angie.” He introduces Harry and Opheila. Angelica grins at the dragon, even walking across the shop to greet her. When she returns, Louis introduces her too. “Harry, this is Angelica. She’s a witch and herbalist, works closely with the higher-ups here.”

Angelica pats his cheek, making Harry flinch back and Opheila tense before she drops her hand. “Oh, I like this one. Nature magic, right? That’s my favorite.”

“Oh, um, yes,” Harry stutters, eyes wide.

“Sorry, witches can sense that stuff,” Louis explains. “She’s really good, too. Direct descendant of Angela, you know, the one that was friends with Eragon Shadeslayer.”

She snorts. “I know. Angela, Angelica. My line is all like that, not very creative.”

Harry nods, pretending to know that. He knows who Eragon Shadeslayer is, of course, everyone in Alagaesia knows that name, but he hasn’t heard of Angela. “Do you want to poke around the shop for a little?” Angelica asks. “New people are always pretty curious, and I’d love to catch up with Louis. Just read the labels and don’t touch anything that says don’t touch.”

Harry shrugs. He is pretty curious about all the little oddities, and he makes his way over to some of the herbs he’s never seen before, sniffing and reading the labels, sharing thoughts with Opheila. He notices a sleek black cat sitting on a stool watching him, and he smiles at it, remembering his own cats from home.

He’s just moving on to a table of roots when a distinctly not-Opheila presence touches his mind. Hi, Harry.

He whirls around, grasping at the table behind him and knocking a root off. The cat is sitting at his feet, perfectly straight and staring up at him with eyes that Harry swears are glowing. Angelica calls over with a laugh in her voice, “Sorry, that’s Solembum. Descendant of the one that traveled with Angela and the first Solembum, if you’re curious. He’s harmless.”

Harry lets out a breath, carefully setting the root back on the table but keeping an eye on the cat. He definitely doesn’t know who the first Solembum is, and he has no idea how or why they’d keep track of a cat’s descendants. And he certainly has no idea how it spoke to him.

Ever heard of a werecat? The cat flicks its tail, and Harry swears it’s laughing at him, voice light in his head. You can just speak at me like this, you know. Like your dragon.

Harry frowns, but tries it. No.

Well, I am one. And I can talk to you like this.

He brushes his hand along a shelf of books, dust coating his fingers. Why are you talking to me?

Just curious about Louis’ new boy.

Harry’s eyebrows knit in confusion. What does that mean?

I’ve never seen something like you two. Only heard stories. Harry sends back his confusion, and Solembum licks his paw before answering. What you two have is extremely rare. And very powerful. If you two combined magic, you could do incredible things. The cat pauses, cocking his head. Or very bad things.

Harry freezes, hand resting on a sparkling stone. I don’t understand.

Solembum flicks his tail, standing up. I’m sure you’ll find out soon. He dips his head at Harry, before slinking off to the back of the shop.

Harry stares blankly at the wall of the shop, covered in a colorful mural of a dragon, as his mind whirls. Solembum’s words bring back the memory of Opheila, small enough to fit on his lap at the time, saying “I’m sure you’ll know soon enough” about him and Louis. He has no idea what it means.

He’s brought out of his thoughts by Louis touching his waist, making him jump. “Hi, sorry, just me. Didn’t mean to startle you. Ready to go?”

Harry nods, letting Louis guide him out of the shop. Does Louis know what’s going on, or is it something everyone seems to know but them? He’s drawn out of his thoughts by the activity of the market, and Louis rambling on about the saddle maker. “He’s funny. You’ll like him.”

Louis leads them closer to the crystal fortress and down two side streets. They approach a giant wooden building that reminds Harry of a big, open barn, tall enough that dragons can go comfortably inside. Harry recognizes the smell of hide and leather from home. There’s a man working on something at a long, wooden table. He towers above them both, with broad shoulders and a gray, almost white, beard that matches his bushy eyebrows. He looks up when he notices them and smiles slightly.

“Tomlinson,” the man says. He takes a few steps forward and extends a hand out to Louis. Harry notices that he limps, one leg dragging slightly behind the other. “I assume this is the boy who needs the saddle.”

“Hi, I’m Harry Styles,” he says, shaking his hand as well. “This is Opheila.” He gestures.

The man’s eyes light up as he takes her in. He lets out a slight whistling noise. “What a beauty. It’s nice to meet you. I’m Ceunon.” Opheila perks up a bit at that, greeting him in her gruff voice.

“Alright, H. I’m gonna go tend to some business. I’ll be back for lunch and then dinner.” Louis hooks a hand around his waist and kisses his cheek.

“You’re leaving?”

Ceunon nods. “This’ll take all day. And I prefer to only be accompanied by riders and their dragons while working.”

“Oh.” Harry frowns, but kisses Louis on the cheek back. “I’ll see you later then.”

When Louis’ gone, Ceunon leads him further into the building. He stops when he reaches a huge, pale blue dragon, who seems to wake up from a nap when they enter. She’s massive, and Harry vaguely recalls something about dragons growing larger as they age, meaning she must be ancient. Harry wonders if Ceunon is as human as he appears.

Ceunon directs Harry to start take measurements while he pulls out giant pieces of leather, propping them up on a bench. He starts cutting it when he’s finished, throwing glances at the dragon every once in a while.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if you were a distant relative of Saphira Bjartskular,” the man addresses Opheila gruffly, dragging a giant knife through the material.

“What?” Harry asks, eyes wide. He recognizes the name of Eragon Shadeslayer’s dragon, easily the most famous dragon of all time.

The man grunts, pausing to give Opheila a long look. She’s quiet for once, even through the bond, listening intently to the man’s words. “Opal is rare for a scale coloring. One of Saphira’s daughters mated with an opal male, and the coloring has been passed down the line a few times.” He pauses, taking a sip of the beer he’s been nursing. “I wouldn’t say this if you didn’t have the exact body type of Saphira’s line. Or, what I can sense is trademark Saphira Bjartskular stubbornness.”

Opheila grunts at that, swinging her head around to glare at the man. He just raises a bushy eyebrow. “I’ve worked with dragons my whole life. Can read them like the back of my hand.”

Opheila’s quiet for a long time, and Harry can feel her thoughts churning. Finally, she addresses Ceunon. “Thank you,” she says simply. “I admire Saphira Bjartskular, and hope to be like her someday.”

The man chuckles, turning back to his work. “I hear that from every dragon that comes in here. My guess is you’re one of the few that actually might do it.”

The opal dragon bares her teeth in a smile and nods deeply.

By the time they get to lunch, they have the beginnings of a saddle. Louis picks him up and takes him to a place that sells some of the best food Harry’s had. Opheila and Garza go off to find their own food, and Harry assures Opheila again that he’ll be right there through the bond. He doesn’t ask Louis about Solembum and Opheila’s comments, too lost in the wonder of Doru Araeba. The owner knows Louis, and tells Harry a story about him stumbling into the shop drunk a few years ago with a group of friends. Harry giggles and leans in closer to Louis, blushing when he puts his arm around his waist. He drops him back off at Ceunon’s with a chaste kiss, pressing his thumb into his dimple briefly.

It takes them hours to perfect the saddle. Harry’s tired when it’s finally finished, back sore and shoulders tight. But the saddle is beautiful. It’s just a shade darker than Louis’, with all the necessary straps in all the right places. Opheila’s excitement is infectious, and Harry can’t wait to strap himself in and take off.

Louis takes him to another place with dwarven food for an early dinner and even orders them a bottle of wine to share. The place is really nice, with candles and flowers on the table. Garza and Opheila wander off to find dinner for themselves.

“Did you change clothes?” Harry asks curiously, eyeing the blue button down and black pants he was wearing.

Louis adjusts the collar. “Yeah. Took all our stuff up to a room and, uh, wanted to look nice tonight.”

“Oh, well, you look really good. Wish I was dressed up a little nicer now.” He smiles and swirls the wine around his glass.

“No,” Louis says quickly. His eyes soften and he rests his hand on his. “You look lovely. I just wanted it to be a little special.”

Harry’s eyes widen and he leans forward. “Louis Tomlinson, are you sneak taking me on a date?”

Louis laughs, fixing his fringe and biting his lip. “Maybe.”

“Oh my god. You are. You sneak took me on a date!”

Louis laces their fingers together, face loose and soft and happy. “Yes, yes I did. Is that okay with you?”

Harry feels a little taken aback, but the butterflies are dancing in his tummy, making him feel warm. “It’s very much okay with me.”

“Good, because I’m quite enjoying myself.” Louis raises their linked hands to kiss Harry’s.

They’re just wrapping up their meal when Opheila reaches out. Can we try out the saddle now? I’ve been waiting for you lovebirds all night.

Harry snorts, sending back his own eagerness. “Opheila wants to go fly.”

Louis nods with a grin, finishing his glass of wine. “Let’s do it.”

He takes further down on the beach they landed on, where there’s no people milling around. The sun is only just setting, so there’s still plenty of light for now. Louis’ rattling off the instructions Harry’s already heard a hundred times as he climbs on the saddle. The straps are just like what he’s used to, and Louis runs around to make sure he’s secured them right.

“Alright, are you ready?” Louis asks, taking a few steps back.

Harry nods and asks Opheila, who sends back a yes. Ok, I’m gonna take off now. You good?

Yeah, he says back. Opheila’s nearly thrumming with excitement, and she takes off without a beat more.

It’s more intense without someone behind him, both more thrilling and terrifying. He’s left his hair down, and he can feel it whipping around his face and streaming behind him. They go up, up, higher until Opheila levels out.

He lets out a strangled yell, one of happiness and elation, and Opheila follows, a grumble tumbling out of her throat. He leans down, pressing his cheek to her neck and hugging her. Harry thought it would be way harder without someone behind him, but he loves the freedom, loves how he immediately starts learning how to move his body when Opheila tries taking a few turns.

Harry’s not sure how long they stay up, but it must be a while. By the time they land the light is entirely out of the sky, stars starting to peak out. The landing is a little rough, but by now Harry’s stomach has adjusted and he can enjoy the thrill instead of worrying about vomiting.

His legs are shaky when he unbuckles his legs and jumps down, but Louis is there. He catches him and pulls him into a hug, murmuring “I’m so proud of you” in his ear.

Harry nods against him, struggling to wipe the goofy grin off his face. “That was amazing, Lou.”

Louis kisses him. It grounds him to the earth again, like a rock. “You did so well. How’s your stomach?”

He assures him it’s fine, but Louis still asks him a few times throughout their walk to their room. They’re staying in a hotel of sorts, with big rooms built to hold dragons and riders. Harry grows Opheila her bed of course, and falls dead asleep in Louis’ arms the second they lay down.

***

Rose is eccentric, to say the least. She wears more jewelry than Angelica and dark, winged eyeliner with red lipstick. Her hair is a dark, shimmering gray that falls to her waist. She’s one of the few elves Harry’s seen who shows signs of aging, a sign of just how old she really is.

She takes one look at Opheila after being introduced and rushes off with one finger raised in the air and her knee-length skirt flying behind her. They’re waiting there for a while when she finally returns, carrying a giant, unpolished opal. She sets it on the table with a huff and turns to assess Opheila again. “What do you think? I’ve been waiting to use this forever.”

Opheila nudges at the stone with her snout before grinning toothily. “I love it.”

Rose scooches Louis out, but the man won’t leave without kissing Harry quickly on the cheek. “See you later, hun!”

“Hun?” Rose asks when he’s left, turning around with her hands on her waist and a playful grin on her face.

Rose’s red dragon lights the fire Rose uses to start melting the opal, and she explains that the opal isn’t really an opal. It’s a special sort of metal called brightsteel, this particular variety looks like opal, but it’s stronger and sturdier than any other metal. Rose is a whirl of energy, directing Harry to make tea and do various tasks in preparation.

When the metal is hot enough, Harry watches her manipulate it. Her magic must be some sort of metal ability, as she bends the metal as easily as breathing without a single word uttered. It takes her a while to get the shape just right, but it’s beautiful when it’s done.

The handle is opal with more white in it, and the blade itself is pure blues, reds, and purples. The gem in the hilt is a bright emerald, one that perfectly matches Opheila’s eyes. Rose takes the sword outside to sharpen, and Harry watches in wonder as the sparks fly around it. The elf has her metallic hair tied back, but it still whips around her face.

Finally, Rose hands it to him. “Now, we just need to place wards on it.”

“Wards?”

She nods. “You can store energy in the gem, and we’ll give it our enchantments to make it stronger.”

She leads him through the spells, drilling them before he speaks so he doesn’t twist the words. The work is draining, and Harry gets pulled entirely into it, losing track of the world besides Rose and Opheila, who he draws upon for strength.

Finally, Rose brings him out of his stupor with a grin. “It’s finished.”

Harry sighs in relief. Rose presents him with an opal sheath; one side has Opheila carved and the other has Harry, in the exact same writing that’s on Louis’. Opheila is pleased with the final product, giving it a long sniff and grinning at Rose. The old elf had chuckled and patted the dragon on the nose, startling her with her boldness.

Louis is waiting outside with Garza when Rose lets him go with a big hug and his promise to visit next time he was here. “How long were you waiting?” Harry asks.

“Not that long,” he says, straightening up from where he was leaning on his dragon. “Garza said Opheila said you were still working, so I waited for you.” He gives Harry a chaste kiss. “Can I see it, then?”

Harry pulls the sword out from the belt Rose had given him and holds it out on two hands. Louis lets a noise of appreciation, running a finger down its surface. “It’s beautiful,” he murmurs. “I love the colors.”

Harry grins. “Me too.”

“Alright.” He shoots Harry a grin. “I have another date planned. But we have to go home for it.”

“To Sunstar?”

Louis nods, kissing him quickly again. “I promise you’ll like it. I think. I hope.”

“Of course I like it. You couldn’t do something I didn’t like.”

Louis laughs, eye crinkles in full effect. “That was so sappy.”

Harry shrugs and tightens his hand in his. “Let’s go.”

***

Louis makes Harry wait in the cave with Opheila, with strict instructions to not leave until Garza gives Opheila the okay. Harry uses the time to wipe some spots of dirt off the dragon’s scales and try out some of the braids he’d seen around Doru Araeba. He gives up after a bit, leaving it loose.

The sun has been setting for a while when Opheila interrupts whatever Harry was saying to her and shoots him a big, toothy dragon grin. Follow me.

She takes him down the path Louis had sent them down the very first time. When she turns at the river, Harry pauses, getting the inkling he knows exactly where they’re going. He’s not surprised at all when they get to the waterfall, but Louis is nowhere to be seen.

Garza’s waiting there, though, and she bumps his shoulder gently with her snout and points over to the waterfall. He climbs up the slippery rocks, careful not to fall and ruin the date before it’s even begun.

Louis is standing in the middle of the little cave with a bunch of roses. The cave is lit with candles that are tucked into the soft moss, giving the place a comfortable glow. There’s a basket to the side and the moss is covered in one of the blankets Harry recognizes from their bed.

Louis hands him the rose with a soft smile. “Hi, beautiful.”

Harry can’t find words, so he just leans forward and pulls Louis into a deep kiss, the roses pressed between their bodies.  When they finally pull away, he murmurs, “Thank you. It’s so beautiful, Lou.”

Louis takes his hand, leading him into a sitting position. “I just wanted to make this special. I got dinner in Doru Araeba to go.”

He pulls out little bags of food from the basket. Harry laughs, taking one. “So that’s what you were hiding.”

“Yeah. Also the roses are enchanted, so they supposed to last forever. They’re from Angelica.”

Harry touches one of the petals softly, admiring how they almost gleam in the light. “They’re gorgeous. Really, thank you so much. This is incredible.”

The food is delicious, just the right amount of spice and flavor. They share another bottle of wine, one that Harry is almost positive sold for some ludicrously high price. He doesn’t take the flowers off his lap the whole time.

Louis sets his cup down on the moss when they’re done eating and takes one of Harry’s hands in his. “I need to tell you something.”

Harry raises an eyebrow and sets his own glass down to take Louis’ free hand in his free hand, so they’re facing each other holding both hands. “Ok.”

“Ok? Usually people get nervous when people say that,” Louis teases.

“Nah, not with you. You don’t make me nervous.”

“What do I make you, then?”

“Happy,” he says with a grin, leaning forward to kiss him on the nose. Harry loves watching the blush rise to his cheeks, loves how the wine’s stained his lips red when he bites them.

“Oh,” Louis says softly. “Well I hope you like what I have to say then.”

“Go for it.”

“Alright, um, we’re soulmates.” Louis presses his lips together into a line, eyes bright as he watches Harry.

“Oh,” Harry says, squeezing his hand. “You know, most people would just start out with asking someone to be their boyfriend, but I’m not gonna disagree with you.”

“No, I mean.” He pauses, licking his lip once. “It’s like, a thing. That’s why you didn’t get magic until you met me.”

Harry stares at him for a moment before going, “Wait, really? So that’s what Opheila and Solembum were talking about!” Louis gives him a confused look, and he explains, “They both told me some vague stuff about us being meant to be together and that I’d know soon enough. It makes sense now.”

Louis lifts Harry hand in his to kiss it. “So, are you okay with that?”

“Of course I am. Why wouldn’t I be?”

Louis’ eyebrows raise. “I mean, it’s kind of intense, isn’t it? We’re pretty young to be soulmates.”

Harry shrugs, eyes trained on Louis’. “I’ve wanted to get married and have kids since I was sixteen, I think.”

Louis grins, squeezing his hand. “There’s something else, too. Because we’re soulmates, we can bond. Similar to the bond we have with our dragons. It’ll sort of combine our magic, too. So we can draw on each other’s energy.”

Harry perks up, eyes brightening. “Wait, really? That sounds amazing.”

“Are you sure? I’ve heard it’s really intense. It’s a big deal.”

“Well, we don’t have to do it right now, do we?”

Louis shakes his head, smile soft and sweet. “No, of course not, baby. Why don’t we talk about it in the morning? We can plan it all out and make sure we’re ready for it.”

Harry nods, leaning forward to kiss him gently. When he pulls back, he asks, “How long have you known?”

“Gemma told me. A whole part of her research is about it, actually.”

Harry’s eyes widen. “Did anyone else know?”

“Um,” Louis says hesitantly. “Would you be mad if I said everyone in our friend group?”

“Oh my god.” Harry pulls his hands away to cover his face. He’s definitely blushing now, cheeks hot. “This is so embarrassing.”

Louis makes a noise, reaching forward to pull him into his arms. “H, no, don’t be sad. Please, no one thought it was weird or anything.”

“Lou, no. I’m not sad. I just feel embarrassed that I was so obvious and I didn’t even know if you felt the same and everyone probably thought it was so obvious,” Harry says, pressing his face into his shoulder.

“Babe, no. Even Gemma said it was cute.”

“I…” Harry pauses and pulls back to take Louis’ hands in his again. “Ok. Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

“Honestly, I just thought it was too much too soon. So much was happening and we had just met and I wanted to give you time. Is that okay?”

Harry nods determinedly, eyes soft. “Absolutely. I understand. I just wanted to know.”

“So, you’re okay with all of that?” Louis seems hesitant, nervous in a way that Harry’s never seen before. He just wants to wipe the consternation off his brow, see him smile again.

“Yes, absolutely. I’d rather be soulmates with you than anyone else in the world.”

A smile breaks out on Louis’ face, making his eyes shine in the light. “I like you a lot.”

“Yeah, just like?” Harry asks, shifting closer and unlinking their hands to cradle Louis’ face.

Louis just smirks and leans in to kiss him. And fuck, every time he kisses Louis it feels like the first time, butterflies dancing in his stomach and making his head spin. It’s intoxicating, heady and sweet and perfect.

Harry pulls back after a moment, a soft grin on his face. “You know, I had a dream about you before I met you.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, we were flying on Garza. When I actually met you, I sort of freaked out.”

Louis laughs. “Must be some soulmate shit.”

“Must be some soulmate shit,” Harry repeats with a giggle.

Louis pulls him into another kiss. It deepens after a bit, and eventually Louis pushes him back onto the blanket to lay on top of him. It’s not long before Harry feels him hard against his stomach. He lets out a soft whine, letting his hands drift down his sides to rest on his bum. He wants Louis inside him yesterday, wants to be close to him.

Louis pulls back after a second. “Do you want to … you know.”

Harry nods frantically. “Yes, yes. Please.”

Harry starts pulling off his clothes while Louis reaches into the basket for lube and a foil. “Presumptuous, much?” Harry teases.

Louis looks guilty for a second before Harry reaches out for his hand. The consternation melts off his face when he strokes his thumb down his skin, and he shoots him a wink. “Of course, baby.”

Harry leans back, watching him peel off his own clothes. Louis is gorgeous, the light from the candles making his skin gleam as his shirt hits the floor. Harry twists around to grab one of the red flowers he knows are covering the cave by now. When Louis sits down again, he tucks it behind his ear. Louis grins, holding up one finger.

The red flowers are indeed covering the cave now, growing on the walls and the ceiling and inching their way through the moss. Louis turns around, reaching for some of the flowers, and when he turns around, he has a flower crown in his hands. “Because you’re my prince.”

Harry feels the blush heat up his cheeks and he ducks his head partly to hide it and partly to let Louis tangle the crown into his curls. “Beautiful,” he sighs when it’s finished. “You’re gorgeous, baby.”

“You are, too.” Harry grins. “Now come here and fuck me.”

Louis’ finger is cool when it presses inside him, somehow more electric than when they’d tried a while back. He twists it, pressing up against his walls and making him let out a groan. He works his way up to two, then three. “You look so good like this, H.”

Harry nods frantically, overwhelmed by the feeling as he starts hitting his prostrate. He massages his fingers against it, making Harry arch up off the blanket. “Lou. Lou, please. I’m ready.”

Louis doesn’t let up, stroking his hip with one hand while still working his fingers. “You sure, baby?”

“Yes, yes. Please, babe.”

He nods, finally taking his fingers out. Harry whines at the emptiness, prompting Louis to squeeze his thigh to comfort him before opening the foil. Harry watches him put it on, squirming in anticipation.

“Are you sure you’re comfortable? I thought the moss was thick enough, but I don’t want to hurt your back,” Louis says, hovering over him.

Harry really shouldn’t be even more turned on by the question, but his cock twitches anyway. He can’t take his eyes off Louis’ cock. It’s hard and red and long and perfect, and Harry needs it in him now. “Babe, it’s really sweet you’re so concerned, but can you please just fuck me now?”

Louis grins, kissing his thigh. “Sure thing, sweetheart.”

The stretch is incredible when he presses in. The heat is overwhelming and he throws his head back on the blanket. He doesn’t realize he’s whimpering Lou until Louis is buried in him to the hilt and he’s licking into his mouth. They stay like that, Louis pressed him inside him, until Harry draws back and begs him to move.

And then Louis is fucking him, thrusting in over and over again and getting himself into a heady rhythm. Harry keens when he hits his spot again, twisting his legs around Louis’ waist. Louis hitches Harry’s legs up higher when he pulls out almost all the way, before fucking back in even deeper.

It’s good. It’s so good Harry loses himself in the feeling, clutching at Louis’ arms where they’re pressed to the ground by his head. “Lou,” he whimpers. “Babe, babe, Louis.”

Louis kisses him again, eating up his noises and pressing his tongue in deep. He’s drilling his spot now, making Harry twist him body with the pleasure. “Doing so good, baby. Look so good like this. Can’t believe I get to have you.”

It’s Louis’ sweet talk that drives him over the edge, the pleasure overwhelming him. He’s babbling again, unable to contain himself as the waves wash over him and he’s shooting white stripes onto Louis’ belly. Louis follows soon after, pressing into him with one last thrust and letting out a deep groan.

Louis brings him gently back into reality, reaching for a towel from the basket and wiping them both down. “You did so well, baby.”

Harry nods, curling onto his side when he’s finished. Louis immediately wraps himself around him, fitting his chest neatly to his back. Harry whispers, “Thank you. For this whole night. It was amazing. You’re amazing.”

Louis kisses his shoulder. “I just want to make you happy.”

“You do. You make me really happy.” He pauses, turning over a little to look at him. “I just want to make you happy, too.”

“You make me the happiest I’ve ever been,” he answers honestly, eyes shining with it.

Harry can feel himself falling asleep, and he turns back over and nods helplessly as exhaustion takes over him.

“Hey, H?” Louis says softly, right as he’s drifting off.

“Yeah?”

“I love you.”

Harry presses a kiss to his arm where it’s wrapped around him. “I love you, too.”

***

Zayn throws a party for them when they get back to Occitens, a few weeks after their trip to Doru Araeba. He sets up enchanted fairy lights all over the hollow, enlists Niall to pick up alcohol from the nearest town, and even convinces the kitchen to make them a cake. The cake, of course, just ends up with Harry getting his face shoved into it by Louis at some point in the night.

Harry’s sad they had to leave the beautiful island, but his heart is bursting from being back with his friends. He’d missed Niall’s loud laughter, Sophia’s quiet composure, and even Liam’s puppy dog eyes. And of course, his lovely, annoying sister. He can feel Louis’ quiet, calming presence in the back of his head, and he loves the way Louis is sitting right next to him, pressed into his side, but he doesn’t have to open his mouth to communicate with him.

They’re sitting around the fire, drinks in hand, when Sophia asks the question. “So, I’m assuming you two got your shit together.”

Harry blushes, leaning in closer to Louis. He can feel his amusement through the bond, warming him up. Louis answers with a huge grin, “Yeah, you can say that.”

Gemma twirls a piece of hair around her finger. “You got the soulmate shit figured out, then?”

Harry nods with a giggle. “Mhm. We, uh, did the bond and everything.”

Niall starts up a cheer, standing up to pull Harry up into a weird dance. He’s had more than his share of drinks, at this point, but Harry lets him lead him around, stumbling around in a circle. He can feel Louis’ fondness through the bond, bright and clear. Opheila’s bond is there, too, and she sends him a quick comment about how they need to try night flying. She’s out with Garza right now, but he and his dragon are always eager to spend time alone sometimes.

Niall finally lets him go with a barking laugh, making the group cheer and toast when he plops back down next to Louis. “To Louis and Harry, our favorite soulmates!” Zayn says.

Louis snorts after taking a giant sip. “We’re the only soulmates you know.”

Zayn shrugs, but before he can respond Liam is speaking. “Um, guys?” The group turns to him. He has a confused expression on his face, eyebrows nearly knit together. “I didn’t even know you guys were like, a thing.”

“What the hell do you mean?” Gemma asks. “Did you not notice them flirting like crazy?”

Liam’s mouth drops open. “I… No?”

Louis starts laughing, covering his face as it takes over his body. “Oh my god, Liam. I didn’t think I needed to tell you. I thought Gemma told you.”

Gemma nods. “Well, I told Niall to tell you. I had to go to a meeting.”

She swings around to stare at Niall. The blond boy just takes a huge gulp of his beer and shrugs. “I forgot.”

Harry starts laughing then, and then the whole group is. He barks out, “I can’t believe you didn’t notice. Looking back, I can’t believe that anyone in the entire academy couldn’t notice.”

Liam looks flabbergasted for a moment, but then his expression becomes just bemused. “Oh my god.”

“Realizing it now?” Zayn teases, patting his back.

“Oh my god,” Liam repeats, staring at the two of them like he’s running through every single time he’s seen them interact.

Harry just giggles and tucks himself further into Louis’ side, already sending Opheila the story of how Liam somehow missed the most obvious thing in the world.

***

“Harry? Harry?” Niall huffs. “You’re not even paying attention to me.”

Harry startles, torn away from watching Louis shrug into his jacket. “Sorry, what?”

The blond sighs, leaning back on Rakr’s icy blue side. “You know, I thought the honeymoon stage would be over by now.”

Harry laughs. “Sorry.”

“I mean, it makes sense. With the whole soulmate thing.” Niall shrugs, punching him gently in the arm. “But it’s gross. And also, I was asking you an important question.”

Harry punches him back. “See, you can’t even blame me. It’s all the soulmate magic. I wouldn’t be nearly as in love if that wasn’t a thing.”

Louis calls over from where he’s rifling through his bag again, “Hey, I heard that!”

“Love you, honey!” He calls back before turning again to Niall. “What was the question?”

Niall rolls his eyes. “Did you remember to restore energy in your sword like Louis told you?”

“Fuck!” He rushes off to his and Louis’ cave. He knew he’d forgotten something.

It’s been eight months since they got back from Vroengard. Eight months of continued training with Opheila: flight work, learning to fight with his actual sword, perfecting spells, Liam’s continued history lessons, and Louis. Always Louis. They’ve been working out exactly what it means that they’re soulmates, fueled by Gemma’s research.

They’d bonded right before they’d left Vroengard, about two weeks after exchanging ‘I love you’s. The memory is one Harry keeps close to his heart, refusing to tell Gemma too much when she’d questioned him. It had been one of the most intense moments of his life, but he’s loved every second of it since then.

The egg rotation they’re going on now is Harry’s last task before he gets to be a fully-fledged rider, and he’s excited to take off for about two months and get to see Du Weldenvarden and the Beor Mountains. Louis’ told him so many stories from each.

When Harry gets back, Donovan and Cara have joined the little group. The two had flown in from Vroengard last night with a bundle of four eggs. Louis had quietly explained to him that leaders in Doru Araeba were increasing the rotations by one and sending an extra person from Vroengard to each group because of an increase in rebel activity.

Harry remembers him kissing him deep last night and saying, “You know, I can feel your fear now. I promise it’ll be okay. Donovan’s one of the best they’ve got. And Cara’s not bad either.”

So Harry had let him kiss and fuck his worries away, getting lost in how good it was every time.

“Alright, babe.” Louis kisses him on the cheek in greeting now. “Ready to go?”

Harry nods. He’d said goodbye to everyone about an hour ago, promising to keep in touch. Niall, Cara, and Donovan are all saddled up, and he and Louis quickly scrabble up onto their own dragons. Louis is in charge, and when he takes off the rest follow.

***

They reach the edge of Du Weldenvarden the next day, midmorning. Opheila’s positively thrumming with excitement, tail flicking back and forth when they land. Louis is calmer, but he’s buzzing with it, too. Haven’t been here in a while, he shoots at Harry.

The trees are huge, towering high above the heads of all their dragons and a dark, deep green. All they can see behind their trunks is darkness. Two elves melt out of the shadows, dressed in long dark red robes. One of them has a dragon’s riders sword tucked in their belt, and Harry vaguely wonders where their dragon is.

Louis nods his head deeply, hand resting on the bag of eggs carefully resting on his hip. “Louis Tomlinson, coming from Occitens with four eggs from the academy.”

If the guards recognize the name, they don’t show it. The rider just asks, “Your group?”

Louis introduces each of them, then says, “We’re headed to Osilon, then we’ll move towards Ellesméra and the academy. Standard route.”

The shorter elf steps forward. “Okay to confirm identities?”

Louis nods. “Be my guest.”

The elf steps forward, reaching forward and pressing a hand to Louis’ forehead. Louis says to Harry through the bond, It’s a spell to confirm we are who we say we are. Very difficult magic.

Harry sends back his thanks as elf moves through them as his partner watches the rest. When they get to him, he freezes up at the touch of their mind, until their soothing voice reassures them to not worry. Harry just shuts his eyes and lets them poke around his head. They finally step back after a bit with a short nod.

“We must warn you,” says the rider. “There has been increased rebel activity along our northern border, and we encourage you to be more careful than usual within our borders.”

Louis presses his lips together, eyebrows furrowed. “Even more since the most recent report?”

The other guard nods. “Even more.”

Louis frowns but nods determinedly. “Thank you. We will take care.”

The guards disappear back into the forest, and when the group walks in, there’s no sign of them. Cara lets out a low whistle, waggling her dark eyebrows. “Someone needs to take those two out for a drink. Way too serious.”

Louis snorts and rolls his eyes. “Sure, why don’t you invite them to meet us at Osilon?”

Cara shrugs and turns in a circle, shouting, “Hey! Drinks on us tonight!”

Harry barks out a laugh, covering his mouth. He can feel Louis’ amusement through the bond, but Louis just shakes his head and says, “Alright, let’s go.”

They climb back on their dragons, taking off so that they’re flying just above the trees. The trees become slightly less thick after a few miles, giving short glimpses to the forest floor below. They stretched into the distance as far as their eyes could see. He sits far back on Opheila, twisting around to gage the sea of trees. Opheila is swift, thinner than most dragons but with longer wings, and she flies just behind Garza to her right. Cara is to his left, and Niall and Donovan fly behind.

Harry doesn’t even realize they’re arrived to the city when they have, but he realizes there is indeed a huge hollow ahead of them that Louis is headed towards. Louis signals to let him land first, and follow in order. Harry watches him dive into the trees, followed by Cara.

When he touches down in the hollow, he doesn’t see a city. The ground is covered with flowers, a variety so bright and lovely they out shine the gardens that Harry can grow. He can make out some twisting paths through the flowers.

Louis says to him through the bond, Look a little closer.

Harry shoots him a confused look, but his soulmate just points and raises his eyebrows. Harry sighs and turns back to the hollow. He cocks his head as he notices something off, and suddenly everything is shifting into focus. The strange-looking trees he’d taken to be part of the hollow were actually buildings, grown out of the ground to look like trees.

In fact, every building is different. Some of them are multiple floors, with little hidden balconies up top and some of them are covered in lichen with hidden, dark doors. It strikes him, then, what Louis has told him of the elves’ affinity towards nature, their inclination to mold themselves into nature instead of change it.

The elves appear out of seemingly nowhere, and Harry can only imagine the elves he’s met blending in perfectly with these graceful people. Their hair is silver and gold, like the elves he knows, and they wear it long; the women, at least to their waist, and the men, at least to their shoulders, with flowers braided in to the lengths.

An elven woman steps forward. She has bright yellow flowers tucked into her hair, dressed in greens and muted colors like the rest of the elves. “Louis Tomlinson,” she says, inclining her head to the rest of them. “Welcome back to Osilon.” Her eyes flick to the rest of them. “I’m Aryelle, head rider here.”

“Hello, Aryelle.” Louis shakes the elf’s hand. “Lovely to see you again.”

Aryelle smiles at the rest of them before saying, “Follow me, yes? I will take you to my home.”

She leads them further through the hollow, and Harry realizes it extends even further than he thought. Aryelle has a deeper elven accent than anyone he’s heard before, and she speaks softly to them. “Osilon is a mainly agricultural city. Our farms are to the east,” she gestures vaguely. “Third largest settlement in the forest. Ellesméra, of course, is the largest.”

She keeps talking for a bit, before finally leading them into a home tucked away in a dip, covered in twisting birch trees. She stops before they enter and addresses the dragons, “My apologies, my home is not built for dragons to come inside. My own dragon will come soon to keep you company.”

The six riders go inside, and Louis sets the bag of eggs on the table. Aryelle carefully opens it, laying the eggs out. “Beautiful,” she murmurs. “Only one that’s come around again. You’ll be leaving in the morning, I presume?” She waits for Louis to nod before continuing. “Well, you’ve come just in time. We are having a celebration today, for our latest successful harvest.”

Louis’ eyes brighten, and Harry can feel his delight through the bond. “Oh, great. We look forward to it.”

The elf smiles, twirling some dark hair around her finger. “Good. Here, let me show you your quarters.”

Their bedrooms are built up in the trees. The dragons can fly up, but Aryelle leads them up a staircase built into the trunk. “I assume you and Harry will be staying together?”

Harry feels the blush rise on his cheeks, but Louis just nods. Aryelle leads them to a room and gestures them to enter. Before she shuts the door, she says, “You will hear the music beginning when the festivities are starting. You are welcome at any time.”

The room is beautiful, with a large open side that shows the trees beyond them. It’s built entirely out of wood, and it looks like something Harry could do with his own magic, growing it as a part of the tree itself. There’s a little couch area, a separate room that Harry assumes is a bathroom, and a large bed.

Garza flies in through the open side first, landing first on the open balcony, followed shortly by Opheila. There’s a large space in the room lined with what looks like a blanket. Opheila sniffs at it curiously, and Harry assures her he’ll make her bed later.

Opheila shoots him a toothy grin. Do you mind if me and Garza go exploring? Aryelle’s dragon said he’ll take us somewhere cool.

Of course. I’m sure me and Lou will find something to do.

She snorts, rolling her eyes and sitting back on her haunches. Oh, I know you will. Harry groans, pressing his head to her chest. She nuzzles him gently, eyes bright with mirth. I will see you later then, at the celebration.

He nods, drawing back. After she and Garza take off, Louis sits on the bed and pats the spot next to him. “How are we gonna fill the time?”

Harry laughs, brushing Louis’ fringe off his face. “I don’t know. What do you think we should do?”

Louis smirks and lunges forward, pulling him into a deep kiss. It’s hot and heady and wonderful, and Harry pushes him back on the bed. He pushes up Louis’ shirt, resting his hands on his stomach. He loves Louis’ stomach, loves that it’s not perfectly flat.

“Want to fuck me?” Louis asks when Harry pulls back for air.

Harry nods frantically, already slithering back off the bed to grab lube and a foil from their bag. Harry usually prefers to bottom, he likes when Louis tells him what to do and he likes to please him, but something about the journey makes him want this instead. When he turns around, Louis is just in his boxers.

“Babe,” he breathes out, returning to the bed and tucking a few fingers under the hem. “You look so good.”

“C’mon, H, take your off, please.”

Harry pulls his shirt off immediately and struggles to pull his jeans off, hopping on one foot to get the fabric off his other ankle. He can feel Louis’ amusement through the bond, and he shoots him a glare. “What, I didn’t say anything,” Louis says.

He’s finally got the jeans off, and he puts his hands on his hips. He’d forgone boxers today, so he stands there naked. “You remember we have a soulmate bond right?”

Louis lets out a bark of laughter. “Just come here, baby.”

Harry peels Louis’ boxers off slowly, savoring the way they reveal his already hardening cock. Harry loves his cock, loves the way it fills him up so well. He presses kisses to his golden, compact thighs as he pulls them down. He loves his thighs too, loves every part of him.

“Front or back, babe?”

“Wanna be on hands and knees,” Louis says, already crawling up onto his knees.

Harry coats his fingers with lube while Louis gets into position. He rests a hand on his waist and traces his rim with his other hand. Harry presses in with one finger, maybe just a little too quick. But Louis likes it like that, and he lets out a deep groan. It’s not long before Harry’s adding another, pumping them quickly. He knows he’s found his spot when Louis arches his back, pushing his bum higher into Harry’s hands.

He works that spot for a little longer before adding another finger. Louis is clutching at the sheets below him, letting out the prettiest moans. “Ready, babe?”

Louis nods. “Yes.”

Harry rubs his cock between his cheeks for a moment, admiring the way his cheeks pillow around it, before pressing in. He doesn’t take his time, pressing in deep and letting Louis getting adjusted. Louis is moaning at him to move before long, and Harry pulls out almost all the way before fucking in again.

He establishes a rhythm almost instantly, attuned to Louis’ feelings through the bond. He can feel his pleasure, feels how his mind is unraveling as Harry fucks him hard. He can tell what Louis likes most, and he gives everything he has to him. Louis lets out a deep groan and he collapses to his forearms, resting his cheek on a pillow. “Baby,” he breathes out.

“Feel so good, Lou. So tight.”

The angle lets him fuck even deeper, and he can hit Louis’ spot repeatedly now. Harry fucks the little “ah”s out of him, until Louis finally seizes up and gasps “Harry” as he comes. He follows shortly, letting out a grunt when he releases, too.

“Love you,” he says, pulling out and flopping on the bed next to him.

Louis turns over on his side, reaching out to pet a curl. “Love you more.”

Harry giggles. “We are not doing this again.”

“Doing what?” Louis asks, eyes wide.

“The thing where we try to convince each other we love them more.”

Louis smirks, scooting closer to pull him into a hug. “Well, I do love you more.”

“Oh my god,” Harry laughs, letting himself be drawn into Louis. “I hate you. I hate you more.”

Louis just kisses him until they’re both exhausted, falling asleep on the bed that Harry’s filled entirely with pink flowers.

***

They’re waken up later by the sounds of music. It’s jaunty and whimsical, unlike anything Harry’s heard before, with lutes, a harp and a voice that sings in the Ancient Language. Louis grins at him, tapping gently on his thigh to the beat. They lay there for a bit, just listening to the magical sound, before Louis eventually says, “We should get a move on.”

They get dressed in the nicest clothes they brought. A soft dark green button down for Harry, and a sky blue top for Louis. They both take two of the eggs, keeping them securely on their hips in bags. Louis untangles Harry’s necklaces with a soft grin before pushing him out the door.

The main hollow is completely changed when they make it down the stairs. There’s a long wooden table stretching out across it, covered in a million different types of food. The elves are all milling around now, some dancing, some joining along in singing the songs, and some eating at the table. There’s a group of five elves playing instruments, two with Cherrywood harps and two with pipes, and one with her voice.

An elf swoops in front of them with two wooden goblets. “Drink up, riders,” they say, before joining a group of dancers.

Louis raises an eyebrow at him and they toast. The liquid is clear, and it blazes down Harry’s throat, making him gasp. It makes his toes and fingers tingle, and he gives Louis a wide-eyed look.

“It’s Faelnirv,” Louis says with a laugh. “Made from elderberries and spun moonbeams.”

“Moonbeams?”

“Yup. Don’t ask me, ask the elves.” Louis shrugs.

Opheila and Garza are trotting up to them then, and Harry offers Opheila a taste of the Faelnirv. Her eyes widen happily when she tastes it, tail flicking as she spreads her wings a little. Can you get me more of that?

A few minutes later, Louis and Harry are eating the delicious food at the table with refilled goblets. The dragons have a large bowl of the drink each, and Harry laughs at Opheila’s eagerness. The food was delicious: warm bread, honeycakes, all sorts of ripe, perfect berries made into different dishes, and vegetables that even Opheila sniffs at curiously.

Cara and Niall join them at some point, emerging from a tangle of dancers with sweat beading on their foreheads. “You gotta try that,” Niall gasps, plopping down next to Harry. “Those elves have some moves.”

“Moves?” Harry teases, taking another sip of the drink. It’s making his whole body tingle, and he can feel his energy levels rising as it sinks into his blood.

Niall nods. “Gave me some flowers, too.” He points to his hair, where white blossoms are tucked into his blond locks. “They’d love you.”

Harry feels Louis’ excitement levels spike, and he tugs at Harry’s curls. “Oh my god, we’re going in there as soon as you’re done. You’ll fit right in.”

Harry giggles, pressing a kiss to his nose. Cara makes a gagging noise and takes another chug of her own drink. “You two are gross,” she says.

“No worse than you and Annie,” Louis shoots back.

She shrugs, a smirk on her lips. “Fair play, Lou.”

True to his word, Louis tugs him into the dancing crowd by his hand the moment he finishes his plate and drink. Opheila sends him a bemused ‘Good luck’ as they dive in.

An elven woman grabs on to them immediately, shooting Louis a playful wink as she starts spinning him around, directing him in the movements. Louis gets swept up, too, but he seems to know the dance a little, feet more nimble than Harry’s. He finds himself tripping over his own feet on multiple occasions.

The first elf passes him along to another with a smirk after a few minutes. He’s got long, golden locks and he lifts a delicate flower crown to Harry’s head. His fingers are nimble as he braids it into Harry’s curls, and he tucks in more flowers after the crown is secured to the top of his head. He presses a kiss to his forehead before spinning him around and placing him gently in Louis’ arms.

Louis has a flower crown on too, one that perfectly matches Harry’s. His cheeks are flush, face a little red, but he just starts twirling around with Harry. The music spins in the night air around them, and the dancing bodies are light, airy, whereas theirs are heavy, stuck together in the sweetest embrace.

The music stalls for a moment, and Louis presses what feels like a hundred kisses to his face. “I love you so much, soulmate.”

“I love you, too, soulmate.”

Harry’s not sure how long they dance for, but Niall finds them later still stuck to each other, just spinning around in lazy circles. He snorts at the two of them, pulling them out of the crowd with the promise of dessert. Opheila gives him a long, lazy nuzzle when they return.

He gives her a big hug. You should have a crown, too, he says, and he grows her a crown of bright pink and blue flowers and trails them down her neck. They intertwine with her spikes all the way down to the tip of her tail, giving her the appearance of a scaly woodland creature.

She snorts and presses her cheek to his, amusement bursting through the bond. Lovely.

There’s sweets on the table now, all sorts of magnificent things that Harry couldn’t even imagine. Niall hands them some sort of cake. It’s delicious – some sort of chocolate fruit mix, and Harry can’t help the noise of pleasure he lets out when he takes a bite. Louis wiggles an eyebrow at him, pressing a thumb to the corner of his mouth to clean off a crumb.

The elven drink is settled comfortably into his bloodstream now, making his entire body buzz with energy. The same feeling is pulsing off Louis through the bond, and he pulls him in for a short kiss. We should go on an adventure, he says.

Louis cocks his head. What do you propose?

You’ve been here before, show me something amazing.

He deliberates for a moment, before his eyes light up. Follow me.

Harry tells Opheila the plan quickly, and she assures him she could find him in a heartbeat if needed. Louis tells Niall that they’re turning in for the night, then laces their fingers together and pulls them through the crowd. They manage to slip out unnoticed when Louis finds the path he’s looking for.

He takes them back into the forest, but the trees aren’t nearly as dark and intimidating as they seemed before. Despite the darkness, they’re friendlier, and Harry can feel the magic coursing through them. It’s not too long until Louis squeezes his hand a little bit harder, and they’re walking into a clearing inhabited by a giant willow tree.

The tree is shorter than the ones around it, maybe half as tall, but the branches reach far farther. They fall gracefully, brushing the ground with delicate green leaves. Louis walks forward, pulling Harry along, and pushes the branches aside to go underneath. The branches form a tent above them, hiding them from the outside world entirely.

Treavam Hjarta abr Osilon,” Louis says, voice soft. “The Tree Heart of Osilon.”

“It’s beautiful,” Harry murmurs, hand still clutched in Louis’.

“Watch this.” Louis walks to the twisted, bulbous trunk of the tree, raising a hand to its surface. There’s some sort of large jewel embedded in the wood, and when Louis touches it, it bursts alive into a bright blue. Harry watches in wonder as the leaves light up, a glow moving through them to the very tips and leaving them sparkling and bright.

“This tree has been a symbol and gathering place for almost as long as Osilon has existed. There used to be a river here,” Louis says, stepping back and tacking his hand off the jewel. “But it kept flooding, taking out parts of the city and the farms every time. They moved the river, but that left this tree without the proper water source it needed. So, they enchanted this sapphire to keep the tree alive. They come here every morning to reenergize it, and all those who visit are expected to give it energy, as well.”

“So that’s what you just did?”

Louis nods, turning to face him. “This is one of my favorite places in Du Weldenvarden. It’s kind of simple, though. Do you like it?”

Harry squeezes his head. “I love it. It’s gorgeous.”

Louis’ face breaks out into a grin, and he leans forward to press a kiss to his temple. “You know, we can still hear the music out here.” He pulls back, tucking one hand behind his back, the other still in Harry’s, and gives him an over exaggerated bow. “Would you like to dance?”

Harry mimics a curtsy. “Of course, my lord.”

Louis teaches him where to place his hand, directing him in a gentle voice and moving his hand when he doesn’t understand. “I’m assuming you’ve never ballroom danced, then?”

“No? Have you?”

“I’ve done some dancing,” Louis says, grin plastered to his face. “Just follow my lead.”

Harry’s awful at it, and he can feel his cheeks blooming with color when he steps on Louis’ feet repeatedly. Louis is graceful, though, taking it all in stride as he does his best to twirl them beneath the glittering leaves. Louis’ just opening his mouth to say something when Harry trips, somehow pushing Louis to the ground and landing on top of him.

They lay there in stunned silence for a moment, the elves’ music the only sound, before Louis is bursting into laughter, throwing his head back on the grass. Harry’s joining after only a second, clutching at Louis’ shirt as he laughs so hard tears start gleaming in his eyes. He rolls off him, falling onto the grass beside him.

It feels like they’re laughing for eternity before they calm down, laid out on their backs and staring up at the willow tree. “This is beautiful, Louis. Really.”

“You like it?”

“I love it.” He sits up, leaning over Louis to press a kiss to his face.

“You know,” Louis says, eyes fixed on Harry’s. “I’d fuck you right here if I didn’t know the tree would tattle on us.”

“The tree?” Harry asks, raising an eyebrow.

Louis nods. “Don’t underestimate the elves’ ability to talk to plants.” He sits up, brushing his fringe out of his face and taking Harry’s hands again.

“Oh,” Harry lets out a soft gasp. “I, um, should probably clear these flowers out.”

There’s hundreds of flowers covering the ground now. They’re a pale white, reflecting the leaves’ glow so they almost look like little moons.

Louis just smiles, shaking his head. “You know, I don’t think the elves will mind. I think they’ll quite like them, actually.”

Harry kisses him, then. It’s sweet, soft and gentle in the way he does it when he feels overwhelmed with love for his soulmate. He can feel Louis’ soul reaching out to his, can envision them spinning together and dancing more gracefully than their physical bodies ever could. He wonders if he would see them if he opened his eyes, flying above them and brushing the willow leaves.

He remembers every moment of them bonding. Remembers practicing the spell with Opheila, repeating them for her until she nodded her great head, and remembers the thrill and anticipation in the days leading up to it. They’d gone back to the waterfall, staying out by the pool so their dragons could be with them.

The spell wasn’t too difficult, and Harry’s not sure he’ll ever find words to describe the feeling when they spoke them to each other. They’d sat cross-legged, hands clasped together and dragons overlooking. The first touch of Louis’ mind was euphoric, heady and wonderful but calming. Louis’ presence was soothing, always comforting and soft, and his soul was just the same. Garza was gentle, too, touching his mind briefly with her higher voice and receding to the back so he could focus on Louis.

Soulmate bonding is exhausting, it turns out, and when it was finished, they’d fallen together as easily as breathing. They’d let the dragons cover them with their wings, letting them fall asleep together by the side of the water.

Now, beneath the willow, they drown in each other.

***

They’re woken up in the morning by Niall knocking repeatedly on their door, yelling at them to get up. Louis groans, throwing a pillow at the door. It doesn’t even make it all the way there, falling short a few feet before it.

They’d stumbled back to their room only when the music had stopped last night, and Harry’s eyes are screaming at him to fall back asleep, even though Harry is sure it’s much later than they’d usually wake. They do get up, though, dressing in new clothes and adding an extra layer of padding to the eggs in their bags.

The hollow is almost completely empty when they make it down, table cleared and no sign of festivities to be seen. There’s a few elves million around, having chats outside their homes or stepping out to greet the morning with a grin. Aryelle meets them, taking back to her home, where Niall, Cara, and Donovan are tucking into leftovers.

“Nice of you to join us,” Cara snorts, shooting them a playful wink.

Louis shrugs, stealing a honeycake off her plate. “Good morning.”

Aryelle laughs softly, almost sounding like chimes. There’s still flowers tucked into her hair, and she hands them both a plate. “Did you enjoy the celebration, then?”

Harry nods enthusiastically. There’s still flowers tucked into both his and Louis’ hair, too, he notices, but he doesn’t bother to take them out. “It was lovely. Really. Thank you for letting us go.”

“Of course,” she says immediately, sitting across from him to eat her own breakfast. “We welcome guests to our celebrations with open arms, as long as they are respectful of our ways.”

When they’re finished eating, Louis pats his bag absently. “We should leave soon.”

Aryelle nods, standing up to lead them back to their rooms. It doesn’t take too long to pack up, but it’s starting to get into the afternoon by the time they leave.

***

They stay in Rhadvhi, a small settlement north of Ellesméra, that night. They’ll only have a two hour flight in the morning to reach the academy. The settlement is much less impressive than Osilon, at least half the size and lacking the grandeur of the place. But the head rider is kind, and he leads them to quarters situated on the ground. He’s the only rider in the settlement, and the dragon quarters are not much more than a tall wooden building with open faces for individual rooms and curtains to give the allusion of privacy.

“Excited to reach the academy tomorrow?” Louis asks, leaning on the wall absently watching Harry wash his face.

Harry dries his face with a towel and remarks, “Absolutely. It’ll be nice to actually stay there, get to see what it’s like to stay with elves.”

Louis smiles, laughing shortly. “You know, they’re actually just like us when you get to know them and they let down their guard. They get way less formal, like last night.”

“Really?”

“I swear. They can drink even Niall under the table, too.”

“Huh,” Harry says, crossing his arms in thoughts. “Can’t wait to see that.”

“Oh, I’m sure Niall will challenge them to some sort of ridiculous drinking game at some point.” He kisses him, tongue trailing along his lip before he pulls back. “C’mon, let’s go to bed.”

***

Harry’s woken up in the middle of the night by Louis screaming “Harry!” through the bond.

He jolts straight up in bed, pulling the cover over him in instinct. There’s a distinctly not-Louis figure standing at the foot of the bed, but Louis is nowhere to be seen. The figure curses and starts running out through the curtains. Harry follows the pull of the bond, jumping out of the bed to the end of the bed. Louis is crumpled up on the floor, eyes wide with pain. His leg is twisted up weirdly beneath him, and Harry can feel his pain through the bond like it’s his own.

Lou,” he gasps.

Harry, stop him! Stop Donovan, he has the eggs!

Harry doesn’t tear himself away until Louis assures him it’s only his leg, and then he’s running after the elf, grabbing his sword off the table. The dragons are dead asleep, and Harry can feel an unnatural drowsiness in Opheila. Garza’s the same when he reaches out to her, silent and unresponsive.

Niall’s fighting Donovan when he gets outside, swords flashing in the pale moonlight, and Cara’s taking on a rider he’s never seen before. Both their dragons are grappling with the attackers’. Harry knows he won’t be able to take Donovan on with his sword, but he throws his magic at him, growing vines up his legs to freeze him. Niall’s reaching out to take the bag of eggs back when two more dragons and riders burst out of the shadows, knocking Harry down with a blast of energy and beating back Niall and Cara.

There’s something off about the magic, something that seeps into Harry’s skin with an ugly bleakness, none of the liveliness of the magic he knows. Donovan is taking off on his own dragon before Harry can even get to his feet, while the other three take on Niall and Cara.

Opheila’s only just now stirring, mind sluggish and tired, so he throws more magic towards the riders. One of them easily twists out of the way of his blast and knocks him back down with a flick of their wrist. His arms and legs are frozen, pinned to the ground so he can’t move an inch. He’s able to crane his head enough to watch the three riders overpower Niall and Cara, knocking them and their dragons out with some sort of black cloud.

The magic takes over just as the riders fly off after Donovan, making everything go black as he falls unconscious.

He wakes up to Opheila making whimpering noises and nudging at him with her snout. She’s curled around him, wings hiding him from the outside world. As he comes to, her fear floods him through the bond. As soon as he’s able to, he croaks out, “Ophie?”

She lets out an overjoyed, bark-like noise, curling tighter around him and pressing her cheek to his. Her eyes are as wide as fishbowls, the green stormy and fearful. She says, I was so worried. I couldn’t reach you.

I’m sorry, I tried to stop them but they were so strong. He can feel her mind back to working order, but he asks anyway. Are you okay?

Yes, the spell wore off a while ago. Please, don’t think this is on you at all. Louis said there’s nothing anyone could have done, with them hopped up on some sort of twisted magic.

He sits straight up, reaching out for Louis through the bond. He can feel him, faint and weak. Opheila must feel his need to see him, because she uncovers him with her opal wing, tucking it back around her own body. Louis is on the bed, propped up on pillow, with Cara wrapping some gauze-like material around his leg and Garza’s laid her giant head next to his body. Her giant blue eyes are somber.

His eyes light up when he sees Harry, but his voice is weak when he breathes out, “H.”

“Lou.” Opheila uncurls herself, letting him up to stumble to him. She follows, and Harry rests a hand on her scales as he sits on the edge of the bed and pulls him into a gentle hug. “Are you okay?”

He can already tell that he isn’t. His presence is weak through the bond, tired and depleted. “I’m okay, H. Just a little…I’m not sure how to say this. How about I just start from the top with what we’ve figured out?” Harry nods, petting a hand through his soulmate’s fringe. “Donovan’s been working for the rebels. Was probably smuggling eggs to them through Doru Araeba, but they must have been plotting something bigger for a while, and when he was put on rotation they went for it. I don’t think they expected this much trouble with this. Donovan put us all under a deep sleep spell, but I must have reached out to you to combine our magic and broke it while he was getting the eggs, which broke it for all of you. He broke my leg while we were fighting, and threatened to kill me if I resisted, so he was able to jack most of my power.”

“What do you mean he jacked your power, he stole it?” Harry interrupts, eyes wide.

“Essentially, yes. He numbed my power and stole most of my energy, so I have very limited magic right now.”

“Why would they do that?” Harry squeezes his hand.

Cara interrupts, “Louis’ one of the biggest threats to them. He could’ve easily stopped all four riders, even if they were overcharged with magic, all on his own.” She sits next to them, breathing out a long sigh.

Louis presses his lips into a line. “They were hopped up on some type of dark magic, by the way. There was something wrong with it, and they were all using more magic than should have been possible.”

Harry nods, one hand still pressed to Opheila’s scales and the other holding Louis’ hand. “Could you really take them all out on your own?”

Louis opens his mouth to respond, but Cara’s speaking before he can. She snorts and says, “Of course he can. Solar magic is no joke, and Louis’ probably the strongest user that we know.”

“Solar magic?” Harry asks, eyes wide.

Louis nods sheepishly. “Yeah, kind of forgot to mention that. It’s kind of intense and dangerous, so I was gonna show you at some point but it got away from me.” He frowns. “And now I can barely do anything.”

Harry’s silent for a second, keeping his eyes down and stroking his thumb along Louis’ hand. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Louis’ eyes are sincere, and Harry can feel his stress through the bond. “I was worried it would scare you. I wasn’t kidding when I said it was dangerous.” He pauses for a moment, then continues softly. “I first showed magic by lighting my house on fire and nearly killed my entire family.”

Cara waggles her eyebrows. “He can disintegrate people, too. That’s pretty cool.”

Louis shoots her an amused look. “That’s true, actually. But, um, I’ve had people avoid me or not want to be friends because they’re scared of it.”

“Lou,” he says gently, lifting his hand to kiss it. “I could never be scared of you. I’m just disappointed you didn’t tell me.”

“I’m sorry.” And Harry can feel it too, the guilt pouring through the bond.

“Just promise to tell me anything else important, okay?”

Louis nods rapidly, eyes wide. “I promise.”

“Good,” Harry says, leaning forward to kiss him.

Louis pulls away after a minute. “I hate oranges.”

“Is this you telling me important things?”

He nods, kissing him quickly again. “And trout. I don’t know why, I just hate it.”

Harry giggles and kisses him on the corner of his mouth. “Please, tell me more.”

Cara interrupts then with a long sigh. Her eyes are amused, though, and she gives them a small smile. “Not to interrupt, lovebirds, but we sort of have some eggs and some rebels to track down.”

Harry frowns, giving Louis a long look. “Can you walk?”

He nods. “I think so. Cara did her best to fix it, but the magic is all wrong so she couldn’t do much. The head rider got me some crutches.”

Harry helps him up on to the crutches, holding his hand until he’s able to limp around on them, Garza prowling behind him like a guard dog. Niall’s talking to the head rider, gesturing with his hands and pointing to the map they’ve pinned to a tree. There’s a group of riders Harry’s never seen before, but Louis greets them one by one, still leaning on Harry’s side.

“H, this is Rhia, the head rider at the elven academy. Rhia, this is Harry, the rider in training that came along with us.”

The elf shakes his hand, a somber expression on her face. She introduces the rest of the riders, naming them as some of the best the academy has to offer. “We’re going to figure out where they are,” she explains. “It may take a few days to do it, but we’re expecting to be able to locate their main base. As you’ve probably figured out, it’s extremely important that we destroy their ability to use the kind of magic that they are.”

“What kind of magic is it anyway?” Harry asks.

“A variant of the old dark magic.” She presses her lips together, eyes dark.

“Oh,” Harry says softly, eyes wide. He clutches onto Louis’ waist a little harder.

“What do you want us to do, Rhia?” Louis asks.

“Well,” she starts. “There’s not really much that you can do, with your magic numbed and the leg, but we need to figure out how to get it back to you. So, you’re probably going to have to go with us. But we’ll assign someone to guard you.”

“I can do that,” Harry says quickly.

The elf pauses for a moment, eyeing him carefully. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea. You’re only a rider in training.”

Harry ignores the blush rising on his cheeks. “But if I’m Louis’ soulmate, can’t we combine our magic? I can make him stronger.”

Rhia’s eyes widen, and she glances at Niall before turning back. “I was not aware of this. You will have to be there, then.”

Harry grins. “I’ll take care of him. Promise.”

The elf just gives them a short nod before continuing planning with the rest of the riders. Louis blushes pressing his face as well as he can into Harry’s shoulder. “Baby,” he whispers.

Harry presses a kiss to the side of his face, gentle and soft. “I will, you know. I’d do anything.”

***

It does take them days to track down the eggs. They use the glimpses the four of them caught and the feel of the energy that they’d felt in their magic. In the end, it’s their magic that does them in. Rhia says they did everything to disguise their dark, twisted magic, but there’s no way their riders couldn’t have tracked it down eventually. They’d caught the trail of it, following it to the edge of Du Weldenvarden and beyond, going back each day to the forest. They’d finally found the nest, as they were calling it, tucked away in the deserted lands north of Alagaesia, where the pull of their magic was too strong to be anything else.

They’d worked out the workings of the spell on Louis. It was some sort of spell designed to leech power from someone to give to someone else, and unless Donovan had transferred the energy, it would still be his. He, Harry, Niall, and Cara were to seek him out while the rest of the riders destroyed the nest and the source of the magic.

“Are you ready?”

Harry nods, fixing Louis’ fringe one last time. They’re sitting on the edge of their bed in a settlement on the edge of Du Weldenvarden, getting ready to storm the rebel nest. “Of course, I have to get you back to working order, don’t I?”

Louis grins and leans forward to kiss him. “Please be safe. Don’t do anything stupid.”

Harry laughs, tucking a curl behind his ear. “I’ll try.”

“Try?” Louis pouts. “How about ‘I will, Louis. Of course, my love’?”

“I will, Louis. Of course, my love,” Harry repeats, a smirk dancing on his lips.

Louis groans, grin wide as he pulls Harry to him by his sleeves. “Baby, don’t do that. I’m serious.”

Harry nods, locking their hands together. “I’ll be careful. I promise.”

Louis kisses him again then, deep and hot and a little frantic. He’s doing better these last few days, the riders from the academy able to speed up the healing process for his leg a little. They’ve been practicing sharing magic, taking it slow at first to not overwhelm Louis. But it’s as natural as breathing to Harry, giving energy to Louis and letting him manipulate it.

He’d been able to show him some of what his solar magic can do. Harry sees now what he was saying, can tell even from his weakened abilities that it’s no joke how strong he is. He’s still able to set things on fire, disintegrate a few small objects, and shoot daggers of sunbeams. His sunbeams are weaker than usual, he insists, but he’s still able to take out small trees just with one beam. He takes them out into the forest and shows Harry how he can warm them even when it’s freezing. Harry’s fascinated with it, how he can hold balls of sunshine right in his hands, even though they must be burning.

Louis’ little whimper draws Harry back to the present, and he gasps into his mouth as Louis trails his mouth down to bite at his neck. “Need some decoration before you go into the battle,” he whispers, smirk painted on his lips.

Harry moans as he bites down his neck, sucking a mark into his pale skin. “Babe,” he breathes out, tilting his head to the side to give Louis a better angle.

He’s just made the beginnings of a good, dark lovebite before Niall is pounding on their door shouting, “Let’s go, assholes! Rebels to fight, eggs to get back!”

Louis bursts out laughing, making Harry follow suit and start giggling, holding on to each other like they’re each other’s lifelines. “I love you,” Louis whispers softly.

“I love you, too. Always,” Harry says back.

He helps him stand up, hand steady on his waist. There’s a huge group of riders getting ready when they get outside, tightening the straps on their saddles and double checking their swords. It’s almost every full rider at the academy, and some riders from Vroengard and other settlements that were able to come. Niall and Cara wave to them from atop their own dragons. Harry helps Louis climb on Garza, the black dragon lowering herself as much as possible to the ground. He straps his crutches on to the saddle and tightens the leg loops for him.

“Good, babe?”

Louis nods, squeezing his hand. “Ready when you are.”

It’s maybe an hour’s flight to the nest, but they have to land out of sight of it and sneak closer through the small bit of forest by the nest. It’s nothing compared to the elven forest, but it’s enough to cover their approach, especially with the dark night concealing them. Harry reaches out for Louis through the bond, sending reassurance to him, as they weave around the trees and short bushes. Their group is large, nearly thirty riders, and their group of four stick together somewhere in the middle.

The nest is like the one back at Occitens, tunneled away into a mountain, but they’ve managed to scope out some of the entrances. They’re split up into groups of under ten, to go into three different ones. Rhia stops them all before going any further.

“Remember, we are not here to kill. We are here to get our eggs back and apprehend the rebels so we can shut down their magic.” She pauses, cool eyes sweeping across them. “If any of you find the elf Donovan, direct Louis Tomlinson and his group to him.”

When the group is ready, Louis gestures them to follow him, Harry just behind him to his right. They take off softly, flying low to the ground around to the left of the nest. Niall and Cara are right behind him, with two elven riders backing them up. They land softly by a small opening in the stone, tucked behind a tree.

Louis creates a small ball of light, muttering a spell under his breath to silence the click of Garza’s claws on the stone. They’re only in the tunnel for a few minutes before they turn a corner and come upon two human guards. Harry feeds Louis energy, letting him draw on his energy to knock them out neatly with a non-fatal heat stroke.

Eventually, they come into a large, cavernous room with tunnels branching out. One of the other groups is there, too, and a rider slinks over to whisper to Louis that they’ve knocked out about four guards. They’re only there for a moment before suddenly there’s a click of dragon claws and there’s riders swarming into the tunnel. The dark magic is palpable in the air, giving it a heavy quality.

The group springs into action, immediately putting up their wards and drawing their swords to pull energy from the stones in the hilts. Harry pushes energy to Louis, watches him shoot off sunbeams. It feels good in a strange way, letting Louis draw from him. His shots don’t hit directly, but he manages to knock one rider off their dragon.

One of the elven academy riders gestures down a tunnel. “Rhia said a scout found the eggs down there.”

They manage to escape down the tunnel, racing through the narrow walls further into the nest. They know they’ve found it when the sounds of fighting come through to them, and then they’re turning the corner into three riders fighting back one of their riders. Their rider is up against the wall, desperately blocking blows.

Louis shoots a sunbeam at one, and when the elf turns to block it, they both see that it’s Donovan. His face is dark, expression stormy as his golden hair whips around his face. He shoots a last blow at their rider, knocking their head back into the wall and letting another rebel freeze the dragon.

Harry spots the eggs against the wall before Donovan is whipping around to face them and shooting a blast in their direction. Louis blocks it quickly, but Harry is starting to feel the strain of it, and he realizes with a start that Donovan is leeching energy from Louis again, making his mind go fuzzy and slow.

Harry shoots his own blast out, but Donovan’s able to knock it back quickly. Niall and Cara are busy with the other two riders, and Louis is fading fast next to him, slumping to rest on Garza’s neck. A surge of protectiveness floods him, a blind fear and panic filling him.

He draws off Louis’ remaining energy, dipping back into his affinity and growing dark green vines so thick and fast that they tangle and trip his dragon and bind Donovan’s arms up around him. The elf lets out a scream of anger, wiggling around desperately. Opheila brings him over, stretching her neck out so he can climb onto the dragon next to him. Donovan is still able to use magic, and he hisses out a spell to freeze Harry, but Harry manages to ward against it. He’s opening his mouth to say another spell, but Harry grows the vine into his mouth, making him unable to utter a word.

He’s still drawing energy from Louis, and Harry’s sure he’s building up to a wordless spell in his affinity, so he pushes himself into his mind the way Louis described to him, searching for the thread of twisted magic. It’s not hard to find, the thread like an infection tethering Louis to him. He can feel Louis’ energy flowing into Donovan through it, a sick, dark poison.

Harry reaches out to Louis through the bond, latching onto his remaining magic and tangling it together with his to break the spell, muttering a mess of the Ancient Language and forcing the magic to reverse, flowing back into Louis.

Donovan lets out a muffled scream, eyes scrunched up in pain. Louis sits back up as the energy flows back to him, eyes wide as he takes in the situation. As soon as he’s back to his full magic, he targets Donovan and his dragon in a heatstroke so strong it knocks them both to the floor, Harry leaping back onto Opheila just in time before the dragon and Donovan collapses to the ground, knocked out.

Louis sits up on Garza, immediately twisting and shooting out sunbeams towards the riders grappling with Niall and Cara. They fall off their dragon, hitting the ground with a thump, but Louis is knocking them and their dragons unconscious before they can retaliate.

Harry’s never seen Louis look so beautiful, like some sort of vengeful angel. He’s almost glowing, the sun magic lighting him from within and making him practically sparkle, face bright. And this moment solidifies it for Harry – how much of a danger he is to those who cross him. He’s brilliant and dangerous, with the sort of just-so controlled power that could take out entire towns, but he’s good. Heroic and strong enough to contain his own power to yield it for the better.

“I’m gonna go help the others,” Louis shouts, turning on Garza to run back to the main room. He sends reassurance to Harry through the bond and a quick I love you. Harry sends him back the same, telling him to be safe. Now that he’s back to full energy, Harry’s sure he can take care of himself, especially as Louis’ confidence surges through the bond.

Niall and Cara wake up their own rider and work on freezing the three riders for the time being, so they won’t wake up and cause trouble.

The eggs are shelved neatly on a rack about Harry’s height, and there’s about twenty of them of all different colors. Louis was right, they must have been smuggling eggs out of Vroengard for a while to have so many. Opheila pokes at them with her snout, a contemplative look on her face.

I do not believe the dragons they have are their own, she says softly, unease flickering.

What do you mean?

I think they were able to enchant the dragons they have now to hatch for the wrong riders, she says. And were probably planning on doing the same for these eggs.

Harry frowns, resting a hand on her smooth scales. Dragon-y intuition?

She snorts. You could say that.

An hour later, they’ve gathered up all the rebels. It turns out, they’d only had eleven riders of their own, but they’d all been infected with the dark magic. They wake up the dragons first. The first one stirs gently before blinking up with giant, dark eyes at Rhia. He has scales the color of gunmetal, glimmering darkly.

The dragon speaks before Rhia can say anything, voice slow and rough. “You’re not here to rescue us, are you?”

Rhia’s eyebrows raise, but her face remains blank. “From the rebels?”

The dragon lets out a long, resigned huff. “Yes. All but four of us were forced to hatch and bond with the wrong riders.”

Rhia nods slowly, before crouching to look the dragon in the eye. “What is your name?”

The dragon’s eyes are dull. “I don’t have one.”

Rhia frowns shortly before schooling her face to a blank expression. “I am Rhia, head rider at the elven rider academy.” She pauses, eyes flickering down the dragon’s back. “What would you say if I told you we could break that bond?”

He sits up a little, wings shuffling on his back. “Can you really?”

“Yes. It is complicated magic, but we could break them all today if you wished.”

“And we could find our real riders?”

“If you chose to. We would not force you,” the rider says calmly, smoothing back her hair primly.

The dragon nods his head deeply. “I would be eternally grateful.”

Harry and Louis volunteer to gather the eggs while the other riders break the bonds, waking the dragons up one by one. When they’re back in the room with the eggs, Harry hops off Opheila to climb on Garza, sitting in front of Louis to face him. Louis’ eyes are soft when he cups his face with both hand, leaning in to press his forehead to his.

“I was so worried,” he murmurs. “Wasn’t sure if I could break it.”

Louis rests a hand on his waist. “I knew you could, baby. Could do anything you put your mind to.”

“Babe,” he says softly, giggling. “That’s so cheesy.”

Louis just smiles, pressing a chaste kiss to the corner of his mouth. “It’s true, though. You could do anything. You’re much more capable than you think you are.”

“Same for you, you know.”

Louis kisses him then, deep and strong but still soft. Louis knows just how to kiss him, knows how to make the butterflies dance and heat curl in his stomach. They only break apart when they hear the click of dragon claws and Niall and Rakr walk in to help with the eggs. 

They separate them up. Half of them are going back to Vroengard, but the others are being split between the academies. The eight freed dragons are splitting up, as well, two of them going to Occitens and the others dividing up between the academies. They’re putting a halt on the rotations for a few months until all the found eggs are hatched.

The dark gray dragon Rhia had spoken to is coming back with them, and Harry takes a moment after double-checking Louis’ saddle to say hello. They’re shifting restlessly, eyes turned up to the sky. They’d removed the poorly-made saddle for him, and he seems much more comfortable now. He’s smaller than the rest of the dragons, clearly younger, with an air of innocence about him.

“Hi, I’m Harry Styles,” he says, dipping his head as he walks in front of him.

The dragon eyes him cautiously, gaze dropping to his feet and back to his face. “I have no name to tell you.”

“That’s okay. I just wanted to check that you’re doing okay.” He shuffles his feet awkwardly.

The dragon hums lowly, eyes still fixed on him. “It feels wrong to not be with my rider. Unnatural.”

“Well, they’ll be at one of the academies. I’m sure you’ll find them soon.”

“I can feel them out there.” The dragon nods and cranes their head deeply. “There is something deeply familiar about you.”

“Me?” Harry asks, eyebrows raising.

“Something about your aura reminds me of that of my rider’s,” he says calmly, blinking his dark eyes slowly.

Harry’s about to respond when Louis calls over, “H, ready to go?”

Harry yells back yes, and says goodbye to the dragon. Opheila helps him climb up, and they take off after Harry’s strapped his legs to the saddle. The wind is cool on his face, and it feels good to just be back flying with Opheila, headed home.

Ok? Louis asks through the bond. He’s flying just to the left of him, and he shoots him a grin.

Yes, just really happy to be going home after this.

Harry can feel his relief through the bond too, and he rests a hand on Opheila’s opal scales as Louis says back, You know, I think they’ll grant you rider status after this. We should start thinking about what we want to do after leaving Occitens.

What if told you I just want to settle down somewhere and raise ten kids?

I’d say I’d give you as many as you want, Louis says back.

Yeah? Gonna get me a big house and lots of babies to fill it with?

He can feel the affection pouring through the bond, and Harry can make out Louis’ eye crinkles popping out as he says, Yes, baby. Wanna make you so happy you don’t know what to do with yourself.

Harry lets his love flood through the connection, filling it with brightness. Babe, I think I’m gonna let you fuck me so hard I can’t walk for days when we get home.

***

The sun is setting when they finally make it back to Occitens a few days later, and the orange light lights up the mountains around the academy. Woodark Lake sparkles with it, looking like a dark orange gem as they fly over it towards the nest.

People are just leaving dinner when they land, trailing out in little groups from the dining hall. Harry helps Louis climb down from the saddle and hop onto his crutches, keeping a hand steady on his waist. The gray dragon is looking around with wide, dark eyes, tail flicking restlessly and wings shuffling.

Liam and Zayn spot them the moment they come outside, rushing over and pulling them into hugs. “We were so worried, oh my god. Thank god you’re all safe,” Liam says, pressing his face to Niall’s shoulder.

Zayn nods. “We heard all about everything, we were so scared.”

“Well, Louis got a little busted up but we’re ok,” Cara says. “Nothing serious. We even got some dragons out of it!”

She gestures at the two rider-less dragons. The gray one is even more antsy now, his entire body tense and his eyes a little wild. He dips his head at Liam and Zayn and taps his claws restlessly on the ground.

The rest of their friend group filters out steadily, each one letting out cries of relief to see them back in one piece. Harry’s watching the dining hall door, waiting for Gemma, when someone taps him on the shoulder. He whirls around to face his sister, who pulls him into a hug immediately.

“Sorry, was taking a nap after researching. I just woke up,” she says quickly, faster than usual. Her eyes are wide and almost frantic, and her hair is all mussy. “I think I could sense you were back, maybe. Came here as quick as I could.”

Harry opens his mouth to greet her back, but suddenly she’s letting out a gasp and walking past him, a strange look in her eyes. She only takes a few steps when the gray dragon meets her, head bent to look her in the eyes. The dragon lets out a soft whine, reaching out to nuzzle her with his snout. Gemma lets out a high laugh when he pokes at her face, and she raises her hand to touch him.

She gasps when she touches his cheek, pulling her hand away with a pained noise. The dragon just lets out a deep, pleased sigh and presses his cheek to her, walking the rest of himself around her to curl his tail around her. When she lifts her hand again, Harry can see the silver gedwëy ignasia on her palm.

“So that’s where her dragon was,” Louis says quietly. They’re all gathered in a little circle, watching the gray dragon unfold his wings to hide his new rider away.

Cara lets out a little sigh. “That was actually really cute.”

Sophia laughs next to her, throwing her arm around her shoulder. “I feel like we’ve all been waiting for twelve years for that moment. C’mon, I think we need to start prep for a welcome back and congrats on the dragon party.”

Harry and Louis slip away while the rest of the group go off to Sophia’s room, sneaking off to their cave. Opheila rolls her eyes at them, choosing to go off with Garza to find the rest of the dragons. She shoots a bemused, You two are gross, at them and flicks her tail sassily before following the black dragon.

Harry pulls Louis over to the bed as soon as they enter the cave and gently pushes him onto his back. He lays the crutches next to the bed and climbs on top of his soulmate, careful to avoid jostling his broken leg. Louis looked so good today, always looks fucking beautiful, and he’s so good. He’s so good to him, so strong and smart and breathtaking. He just wants to make him feel good, to repay him for everything he’s given to him.

When they pull apart, Louis breathes out, “The flowers are gone.”

“Mhm,” Harry says, noticing for the first time that the bed is empty of the usual bright blossoms. “Do you miss them?”

Louis nods, lacing their fingers together with a grin. “Want to grow me some?”

“Of course, baby.” He reaches through the bond to him, growing flowers around them even brighter and fuller than usual, letting off a glow that reminds him of the Louis’ sunbeams. “Gonna keep them sunny for me, Mr. Sunshine?”

“Mr. Sunshine?” Louis laughs, reaching out to tuck a curl behind his ear.

Harry giggles, kissing down his neck a few times. “What do you prefer? Sun prince? My little sun prince?”

Louis huffs, a smirk on his face. “Sun daddy.”

Harry barks out a laugh, smacking him on the chest. “Don’t say that, oh my god. I hate you.”

“What, you don’t want me to be your daddy?”

Harry blushes deeply, pressing his cheek to Louis’ chest. “No.”

“Not even a little?”

Lou,” he whines, pausing for a moment. “Maybe a little.”

Louis smirks, eyes gleaming. “So that’s something to file away for later, yeah? I certainly wouldn’t mind it.”

Harry nods against his chest, still blushing darkly. “Ok,” he says softly, trailing his hand down Louis’ tattooed arm.

“You know what I just realized?” Louis asks with a sigh.

“What?”

He frowns deeply, eyebrows furrowing. “I can’t even fuck you with this stupid leg. I’m useless.”

“Babe, don’t say that.” Harry kisses him softly. “There’s still a way you can fuck me, you know.”

“Yeah?” he asks, raising an eyebrow.

“Well, I mean, I am a dragon rider now.”

Louis frowns even deeper, eyes confused. “And?”

“I guess you could say I’m pretty good at riding,” Harry says, giggling at the end.

Louis stares at him with a blank face before he busts out laughing, throwing his head back on the pillow. “Oh my god,” he wheezes.

Harry just wiggles his eyebrows, pressing kisses to Louis’ face. “That was a really good joke.”

“You can’t call your own joke a good joke!”

“Babe,” Harry pouts. “You said I could do anything.”

Louis snorts, cupping his cheek. “Of course, my love. Can you open yourself up for my cock now?”

Harry rolls his eyes but complies, rolling off the bed to grab lube and a foil from their bags. Louis’ eyes gleam dimly as he watches him undress, pulling his shirt off and then slipping ungracefully out of his jeans. He goes to help Louis get out of his before Louis stops him. “Wanna just watch you for a little, baby. That okay?”

Harry’s breath hitches, but he nods frantically. He lets Louis direct him to lay on his back next to him, pulling his legs up and teasing his hole. “That’s good, baby, so good,” Louis says, reaching over to rest a hand on his thigh. “You can put one in, now.”

Harry does, letting out a short moan as he feels his own velvety walls, pumping the finger slowly. He waits until Louis directs him to add another, scissoring them to prepare himself for the stretch. “Feel good, baby?” Louis asks, eyes dark.

“So good, Lou.”

“You can add another,” he directs. Harry tosses his head back as he pushes in a third, mind going a little fuzzy from Louis’ eyes devouring him. He loves the stretch of it, loves feeling filled up.

It isn’t long before he’s begging, “Please, Lou. I’m ready.”

“Sure, baby?”

Harry nods, hair swishing on the pillow. “Please. Wanna sit on your cock now.”

Louis lets out a low breathe, eyes darkening impossibly more. “Okay, love. Get to it, then.”

Harry helps him pull off his shirt and pants, careful of the leg. He fishes around for the foil with one hand, pumping Louis’ cock a few times with the other. He rolls the foil down his cock, pressing kisses to his thigh as he goes.

He straddles him, letting Louis’ cock rest between his cheeks. Louis says, “Wanna take my cock now, baby?”

Harry breathes out a yes, shifting to feel the drag of his cock on his skin. “Please.”

“Ok, baby, go for it,” Louis says, a soft grin on his face.

Harry lowers himself slowly, giving himself time to adjust. Louis’ cock is always so good, fills him up so nicely. He loves the thickness, loves how it feels pressing against his walls and how deeply Louis can fuck him with it. He moans Louis’ name as he bottoms out, his cock buried deep inside him. “Feels so good,” he sighs.

“You look so good,” Louis groans, hips moving just a little.

He raises himself back up, dropping down again. He starts riding in earnest, letting out gasps each time he bottoms out. He settles into an unsteady rhythm, the sound of skin slapping against skin the only sound in the room besides their moans. It’s still overwhelming, the way he can feel Louis’ pleasure through the bond like it’s his own, making the experience so much more intense.

Louis’ holding on his hips, and when he starts getting tired he helps him, bouncing him on his cock. “Feels amazing, baby. Doing so well for me.”

Harry groans, tightening his grip on Louis’ shoulders. “I love you.”

“I love you, too. So much, so much,” Louis gasps. Harry can feel him starting to lose it, mind untangling more with the feeling.

“Gonna come soon,” Harry moans, hair whipping around his face. His rhythm is even choppier now.

“Ok,” Louis whispers. It’s not long before he’s tensing up and groaning, “Come for me, come for me, baby.”

Harry nods, sinking down deep one more time so his cock is pressed up against his prostate, sending him over the edge completely. Louis comes moments after him, hands gripping his hips so tight there will probably be bruises tomorrow.

Harry slips off him, collapsing on the bed half on top of him. He’s not sure how long they lay there, gasping, before Louis is pulling him into a hug and a sweet kiss. “I’m so glad I met you,” he breathes out when they pull apart. “My life wouldn’t be the same if you hadn’t fallen on that egg.”

“Thank god for my clumsiness,” Harry laughs. Louis grins, stroking his thumb on Harry’s palm. His eyes are so soft and gentle when Harry says, “I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you.”

“Yeah?” Louis teases. “What would a charming young man like you want with a guy like me?”

Harry giggles, dimples breaking out on his cheeks. “Only about a million babies.”

Louis kisses his naked shoulder, breath warm on his skin. “I can’t wait.”

***

Four years later

“Rise and shine, sunshine. Today’s the day!”

Louis groans, flipping onto his back. Harry is sitting on the edge of the bed, long curls tied halfway up in a pleat to keep it out of his face. He looks radiant, dimples already popping out on his cheeks and lips a sweet, soft pink. “Baby,” Louis groans. “Five more minutes.”

Harry shakes his head, eyes wide and eager. “Nope. C’mon, babe, I made breakfast and everything. Aren’t you excited?”

Louis grins, pulling Harry towards him to press a kiss on the corner of his mouth. “’Course I am. You just kept me up late last night, you little minx.”

“Had to burn off that restless energy, yeah?” Harry hums, giving him a proper kiss.

“Baby, my breath stinks.”

“How many times do I have to tell you I don’t care?” Harry laughs, kissing him even deeper. He pulls away after a second. “Ok, up and at ‘em, babe.”

Louis groans but slides out of bed with a pout. Harry slaps him on the ass on his way out, promising to have a cup of tea ready for him in the kitchen. Louis lets out a breath as he pulls on pants. It’s overwhelming sometimes, how much he loves Harry with everything he has and how perfectly their lives have spun together.

They’ve been waiting for this day for so long, it feels like. Probably since the first moment they met and Harry tied them together with that vine. And four years, six matching tattoos, and one wedding later, they’re finally ready.

Harry slides Louis’ H mug across the table, taking a sip from his own L mug. “Alright, let’s go what happens next.”

“Again, baby? I think we’ve gone over this a thousand times.”

Harry sets a plate with a perfectly cooked omelet in front of him, sitting next to him with his own. “Humor me, babe.”

Louis rolls his eyes at him, an affectionate smirk on his face. “Anything for you, sweetheart. Okay, we go to the orphanage right after breakfast and work to pick them up. Then, we take her back here to the house and settle her into the room. I bought plenty of snacks in case she’s hungry, just like you’ve been telling me to all week. We let her meet Garza and Ophie after lunch, and spend the rest of the day playing games and getting adjusted. Tomorrow, she’ll meet Gemma and Anne, and then everyone else gets to meet her in waves so she doesn’t get overwhelmed.”

“And she starts school in the fall,” Harry says with an absent nod.

Louis laughs. “Yes, but that’s so far ahead we don’t have to think about it yet.”

Harry frowns. “I think I’m already sad to think about her leaving us.”

“Aw, baby.” Louis leans over to press a kiss to his cheek. “I’ll be sad, too. But let’s deal with that bridge when we cross it, yeah?”

Harry kisses him back. He knows that Louis will probably cry a river when she goes off to school. They’re both already so in love with her, with her perfect, dark curls and wide brown eyes.

Louis pulls back and hums softly, hand resting on Harry’s thigh. “We still need to finish up work.”

Harry frowns. “Can’t we put it off?”

“Baby,” Louis giggles. “No, c’mon.”

They live in a giant, open house on the island of Beirland, right on the eastern shore in a large town where a lot of their friends live. Most of the others ended up in the rest of the Southern Islands, which were inhabited entirely by dragon riders, and were only a short flight away. The group of them got together at least once a week, if not more.

Harry and Louis spend most of their time on Nia, though, a smaller island just off Beirland, where they run a farm that takes up the entire island and feeds all of the Southern Islands. They can see the island from their own home. It’s a different kind of farm than the most on the main land of Alagaesia, though. It’s wilder, with larger plants and more exotic types. Harry’s managed to revive some of the dying species there, and the island is full of all sorts of wonders. Harry’s particularly fond of the waterfall that’s a little bit like the one by Sunstar Bay.

The island combines their magic perfectly. They’d worked on Vroengard for a little, with Louis working security for Doru Araeba and Harry working to revive and take care of the massive, abandoned garden of the city. Three years ago, they’d been asked to come to Nia to bring it back to top form, as it had become barren over the thousands of years of improper farming. Together, they’ve been able to bring it completely back to life to a point where it absolutely thrives. Louis holds a security position for all the Southern Islands as well, always keeping an eye out for rebels or other dangers.

Opheila and Garza love the island, too, and spend most of their time out there exploring, helping them keep it in top working order, or transporting the loads of food to the other islands. They’ve both grown close with their old and new friends’ dragons, and Louis thinks Garza might be itching to lay eggs of her own soon, to pass on her line.

It’s been an amazing four years, and as Louis finishes up checking the wards on Nia, he realizes that there’s nothing he would change about it. Harry is everything he’s ever needed. Their marriage isn’t perfect, but they’ve grown together, always making each other their top priority.

They meet back in their home on Beirland, Harry’s eyes bright and his dimples popping out. Louis kisses him deep again, and excitement is coursing through the bond like electricity. “Nervous, baby?” Louis asks.

Harry shrugs, pulling him into a hug. “A little.”

“She’s going to love it. I promise, H.” He pauses, running a hand through his soulmate’s curls. “You’re going to be the best dad in the world.”

Harry hums into his shoulder, swaying slightly. “I think that’s you, actually.”

Louis laughs, kissing him once more. “I think we’ll share that, really.”

Garza’s nudging at the bond then, eager to set off. She’s been restless lately, and Harry’s starting to think there’s definitely some truth to Louis’ theory about her seeking motherhood soon. Her children would be incredible, he knows. Harry already feels bad for the unlucky sods who have to deal with Opheila’s children someday. Knowing how strong her blood is, they’ll probably come out just as stubborn and excitable as she still is today. God knows, though, he would never take another dragon over her.

As they hop on their dragons, Louis turns his thoughts to the beautiful little girl they’re on their way to adopt. More than anything, Louis knows that this is what they’re meant for – for raising their own little family. Life is about to get a lot more crazy for them, but this, him and Harry and their dragons and all the babies they’re going to have, means absolutely everything.

He can see it – him and Harry raising a brood of children as large as him and his own siblings. Harry cooking breakfast every morning and Louis getting them dressed, checking to make sure they’ve done their homework. Taking them to Nia to play in the sand and climb up Opheila’s opal scales to perch on her back. He can see it, and he knows it’s going to be wonderful.

I love you, Louis says after they’ve taken off, their dragons carrying up in the sky side by side, black and opal scales gleaming in the sun.

I love you, too. More than anything, Harry says back, pouring love through the bond.

Louis’ about to respond when Opheila pops in, letting out a snort as her opal webbing catches the wind. Louis catches her rolling her eyes. Are you two ever gonna stop being so gross together?