Giving up doesn't always mean you are weak;
sometimes it means that you are strong enough to let go.
The fae were fading and no-one knew exactly why.
"Voldemort's doing," Molly Weasley had stated quite darkly, and indeed, there had been rumours of Voldemort gouging into the heart of elemental magic for his own nightmarish reasons, disrupting the realm of the fae.
"Global warming," Ron had mused, and that was kind of funny except that it wasn't.
"Mayhap it is simply our time to enter deepest shadow," Brightharp remarked, and tilted narrow shoulders in a resigned manner. He was the representative of the fae, chosen to speak by his people. Harry had no idea if he was a politician or even some kind of king, but to Harry, he seemed to be the strongest of his kind. Brightharp continued: "The world moves on without us."
This, Harry thought, was the most bloody tragic thing he'd ever heard, and he'd lived a pretty tragic life. Maybe it was because he liked Brightharp very much, ever since the fae had slipped out of their glamoured hiding-places--invisible even to the Wizarding World--and pleaded for help.
The Wizarding world was in need of help itself, still reeling in the aftershocks of war, damaged and uncertain of the future. However, it was impossible to ignore the pleas of the fae; they were the people of legend and song, the main protectors of ancient elemental magic.
"It's already well out of our control," Brightharp said, sitting calmly in magically neutral room in the Ministry chosen by Shacklebolt. It was charmed to grand proportions in order to accommodate representatives from nearly every kind of sentient magical species; the werewolves had flatly refused Shacklebolt's invitation to meet with the fae, and the hags and giants hadn't seemed to care. The massive, oval-shaped table was packed with mostly humans, two veela (their allure politely tamped down), a clutch of scowling goblins and a small herd of house-elves, their eyes bright as they peered over the top of the table. There was one vampire, and he said nothing throughout the entire meeting; he simply stood in a corner filled with shadows, a large-brimmed hat obscuring his face. On the side of the room directly opposite to the vampire's dark corner, a quartet of centaurs stood in proud stillness. A deep pool in one corner held water of a shimmering blue-green colour and the mermaids seemed comfortable at the bottom of it, sitting amongst floating reeds and large rocks. From time to time they had floated right up out of the water, exposing their wet hair and shoulders.
Out of everyone else in the room, Brightharp held Harry's attention completely. He was tall, with thick curls of green hair and skin the shade of Harry's favourite chocolate. He moved like sunlight on the notes of a song; Harry thought he was breathtakingly beautiful. "We are making our preparations. We need to ensure that our responsibilities are accepted, and carried on."
"What kind of responsibilities?" a goblin called Ordrig asked from across the table, suspicion rasping in their voice. Brightharp gave him a look that could only have been described as indulgent.
"You all know the role of the fae," he said, his manner like that of a teacher giving a well-worn lesson. "We anchor the elements. We give them balance. We care for them and protect them. In exceptional cases, we become our element."
Shacklebolt, seated near the top of the table but not directly at it, folded his arms atop the darkly polished surface and released a slow sigh. "Can other species anchor as well as the fae?" he asked, his eyebrows angling towards each other. Brightharp stared down at the shining surface of the table, silent for a long moment.
Harry was seated directly across from him, flanked by Hermione and Mrs. Weasley. There were a few other fae, standing close around their spokesperson. They were hard to see: faint glimmers, or sometimes a slight movement that Harry perceived out of the corner of his eye when he was looking up towards Shacklebolt. These were the ones who remained so far, hanging onto this plane and their control of the elements with a grim sort of determination. Already, this control had slipped farther than anyone had expected: there were reports of increased earthquakes and hurricanes, massive whirlpools and exploding volcanoes.
The Muggles had all kinds of explanations for the current upheaval in nature, but the effects appeared to be far more drastic in the magical world. Spells which generated flames seemed to either give far too much or too little fire, but never the right amount which the caster wanted; aguamenti either produced a tidal wave or an unhelpful trickle. Temperature regulation charms blew icy-breeze, or dry desert winds; and just yesterday Harry had commiserated with Neville at the changing character of the soil in his greenhouses: what was loam today became sand or clay tomorrow.
"You are each strong in your own way," Brightharp finally answered, lifting his head again with a small smile. He looked around at the faces of his audience, his expression considering. When he met Harry's gaze, he held it for a very long time. "Yes, it is possible. The elementals of our nation have been a source of great pride to our people. Elemental magic may inhabit others, although that is quite rare." That small smile faded, but continued to haunt the corners of his thin lips. "I remember a human who was made elemental so many years ago, when I was yet quite young."
"Merlin," Hermione whispered beside Harry, and Brightharp's smile brightened.
"Yes," Brightharp said, simply.
"Only half- human," a goblin muttered from beside Ordrig. "Had fae blood, didn't he?"
"He was given dominion over more than one element. Not just because of his dual nature, you see, but more due to his magical strength," Brightharp mused. "Fire, if I recall well enough, and then over earth and its growing things." He sounded distant, as if he was moving backwards in time. Harry watched with a mounting kind of dismay as the edges of Brightharp's slender figure began to mute out from reality.
"Brightharp?" he said, and the fae visibly shook himself, returning to his former solidity. He responded to Harry's low call with a sweet smile and a brief dip of his head. Harry melted a little, and felt his heart clench. Brightharp would soon fade and disappear like so many of his kin. It wasn't fair, Harry thought, with an edge of desperation.
"We so few remain, and all that is left for us to do is release the final hold on our element." Brightharp nodded at the faint whispers of his people around him, sounding like a distant wind. "Our time runs thin, and…" He hesitated, and for the first time since Harry had met him, Brightharp seemed to gain an anxious air. "We have cared for the elements so long, you see…we simply wanted to know those who choose to take up what we must lay down."
Silence fell, so thick that Harry could feel it press against his skin like a brittle blanket. Then it was snapped to pieces when one of the centaurs stepped forward. She was dressed in battle-regalia, what Harry supposed was fancy-dress, and she clutched her spear with strong fingers. She seemed distinctly uncomfortable to be inside a human-made room with other species, but determination was sharp in her gaze.
"I am Ruari, of the Centaurs of the Hidden Forest," she said. "We have watched the fates of all Beasts and Beings entwined, and we accept."
"Goblins as well!" Ordrig said in a high, shrill tone. "We won't be left out of this one, not at all."
"The Veela nation agrees," one of the veela intoned in a soft voice, brushing his long hair out of his face.
A house-elf beside Hermione actually stood up on her chair and piped up in a surprisingly loud voice: "Clan of Elves are saying yes!"
A merman swam up to the surface and spoke a low, musical phrase that had no human words, as far as Harry was concerned, before returning to his spot amongst his people.
"The merfolk are in agreement," Brightharp said, obviously pleased at that response. "We can ensure that they have the majority of water-elementals." He gazed down with everyone else as the vampire spoke up.
"I have spoken to my people," he said and everyone near that end shrank away from the coffin-dark rasp of his voice. "Our council is linked by our minds, and we have decided: we cannot accept the burden of the fae. We already rule the darkness, and we are ruled by it."
Brightharp nodded, the relief in his eyes now tempered. "Thank you," he said in a low, tired voice and didn't seem as surprised as everyone else did when the vampire took a step back and disappeared into shadow.
Shacklebolt pursed his lips and said, "I've gotten the reports that fae have been appearing to wizards and witches, and many of our people are in favour of helping." He nodded, a decisive move. "I therefore take the responsibility to speak for the magical humans: we accept, and hope that we will live up to your legacy."
"You will." Brightharp's tone was very gentle. "This, we promise."
Harry glanced at Mrs. Weasley, who gave him a small, pained smile, before they both returned their attention to Brightharp.
"I think this is the last time you will ever see us in this reality," the fae said, and Harry felt as if someone had struck him in the chest with a hammer. "We are honoured at your response, and grateful. We don't know where we go when we leave here…but we carry you in our hearts."
Harry hung back after the meeting, helping to transport the centaurs and merpeople back to their respective homes. Most of the fae disappeared, but Brightharp remained near his chair, watching silently.
"Harry?" he finally called, and Harry swallowed, and turned to face him. Brightharp inclined his head. "Will you walk with me?"
Scattered about the Ministry were a few small gardens set into corners, impossible sunlight filtering from concrete ceilings and dancing over a few straggly plants. Harry and Brightharp had taken to walking around them after the successively larger meetings, talking together. Ministry employees hardly used the gardens in any case, and Harry was thankful for that. Brightharp smiled at the bravely struggling bushes as he and Harry now made a slow circuit on a tiny brick-lined path. A slight breeze danced through the space, brushing at Harry's hair.
Brightharp stopped walking, turning to look Harry right in the eye. "I remember you were the first human I spoke to--"
"--in my garden," Harry said, with a hollow laugh. "Right, I remember." It had been a bit of a shock to find this strange person standing among the rosebushes that were mostly under Neville's loving care. Brightharp had stared at him with those lovely eyes and said, "Will you help us?"
"I remember thinking that you had such an old soul," Brightharp said, "You are very sad now."
Harry nodded, hunching his shoulders. The wind gained a cool edge, and Harry shivered, rubbing at his own arms for a moment. Brightharp reached out and grasped Harry's wrists very gently. His touch felt like mist against Harry's skin.
"I'm glad that I've met you." Brightharp's gaze was direct and sincere. "In all my years, I have never met a being such as yourself. Your presence in my life, even at this time, is a joy and a comfort."
Overwhelmed, Harry murmured, "I wish you didn't have to leave."
"Shhh." Brightharp reached out and pulled Harry into his arms. "Hush, my wonder. You are a wonder, don't you know? We felt when you left this plane, and when you returned. We were amazed. It has been so long that a human has amazed us so."
Harry swallowed hard and pressed his face against Brightharp's chest. He felt Brightharp's mouth touch his hairline, a brief, light press.
"Harry," Brightharp said. "You must let go."
Harry closed his eyes; clenched them a bit too tightly, rather. Hot tears fought their way out. He'd been talking and walking with this man for weeks, and it felt as if Brightharp saw him the way no-one else did, understood him without judgement.
"Let go, Harry," Brightharp said, and after a few tortured breaths, Harry forced his arms to fall loose at his sides.
When he looked up, Brightharp was gone.
Blaise shifted his long frame in a chair, elbow on the plush arm propping his head up. His eyes drooped; he'd been keeping company with Draco for quite some here for about two hours. The room was small, and painted in a shade of green that closely resembled pea-soup. The chairs, at least, were quite comfortable, considering that they were in the middle of the Ministry, having been sent there from St. Mungo's. Beside him, Draco sat in a similar chair, one leg crossed over the other, fingers laced around the uppermost knee. He hadn't changed position since they'd been escorted here and asked to wait.
A few hours ago, Draco had been attempting to make his own sandwich for the first time in his life, more of a lark than anything else; they'd been a little bored, killing time after Draco's daily stint in community service. He'd convinced the remaining house-elves to hand over some slices of chicken and had tried to Accio some freshly-made bread from across the kitchen. Instead of the loaf flying towards him, a stream of flames exploded from the space just in front of the tip of his wand, charring the bread, the counter on which it sat, and leaving massive scorch marks on the wall. Then the flames twisted in the air, returning to Draco, encircling his body in a band of fire that seemed to speak in a crackling voice. Draco stood there, simply rigid, his eyes opened so wide that the grey seemed lost in the white. Blaise had never seen Draco like that before. It had been an interesting experience for all.
The Healers were sceptical when Blaise had dragged Draco to St. Mungo's a few minutes later, leaving the house-elves happily cleaning. Very sceptical, most likely because they were treating a Malfoy. Despite reports of the fire, there had been nothing wrong with Draco, at least not burn-wise. However, when blue flames danced up Draco's arms and scorched the fingers of a Healer without a bit of harm to Draco's pale skin or his clothing, the Healer had stared at him for a long moment, and then sent him off to the Ministry.
Blaise yawned. He was ever so bored. He sat up when the door opposite opened and a tiny woman stepped in. A pile of grey hair was pulled into a messy bun at the back of her head, and she had a round, lined face. Her eyes were a clear shade of brown, and she adjusted her woolly shawl about her shoulders.
"Right then," she said in a soft voice. "Here we are. Malfoy, is it? And?" She tilted her chin at Blaise, who gave her a wide smile.
"Blaise Zabini, Miss--?"
"Missus," she stressed sternly, but her mouth twitched. "Doreen McPherson at your service, and you're a devilish charmer, look at your face."
Blaise allowed his smile to gain a cheeky edge.
"Pleasure, I'm sure," Draco said from beside him in the tone of voice that indicated that he was anything but sure. "Are you a Ministry healer?"
"Me?" Doreen let out a light laugh, and settled laboriously into the remaining seat, a small sofa directly across from them. "No, dear, not I. I'm…a consultant, of a sorts."
"Are you." Draco's tone was very flat. Blaise rolled his eyes a little.
"Yes, really," Doreen answered, a little laugh in her bird-like voice. "Got fae-blood in me, haven't I?"
Blaise raised an eyebrow at her. "Fae-blood," he said, rolling the words around his mouth. He remembered reading something in the Prophet a few days ago, a ripple of excitement in the magical world that hadn't seemed to touch the Manor or its residents. There had been a few desultory conversations, but nothing more. Narcissa had been too busy refurbishing the spell-damaged structure of the old Malfoy home, and Draco's community service had left him feeling well miserable most of the time.
"You're an Elemental?" Blaise asked now, keenly interested.
Doreen wrinkled her nose at him and then shook her head. "No, dear. Not all fae, full-blood or not, are Elementals. The elemental magic just loves them quite a lot, in any case. More than anyone else, you might say."
"Used to," Draco said in a curiously hard voice. "Not anymore."
Doreen gazed at Draco for a few beats, and then said, quietly: "Right. Used to." One of her hands, resting in her lap, twitched briefly. "I felt them leave, you know. Most of us with fae-blood did. Like part of meself just stopped, and wasn't it a hard thing? For a moment, I thought all my own magic went with them, it were so awful."
Out of the corner of his eye, Blaise saw the slight jerk of Draco's head.
"You must be angry," Draco said after a long ribbon of silence unspooled around them. "Aren't you? You should have inherited the elemental magic, without question. The ones who had the blood of the fae, that is."
Doreen continued to stare at Draco as if she was trying to memorize his features. "Aye," she said, very slowly. "Some of us are right sad. Or angry, which is just bein' sad all dressed up in the dark. Usually, when someone with a bit of fae in them becomes Elemental, they choose to live among the full-blooded 'uns. They've faded from this world with the rest of them. Us others, we're all that's left, and whatever it was in the fae that the elemental magic liked, there's none of it anymore, because they’re gone. No more fae. No more Elementals among from them and their kin, never again."
She paused, breathing shallowly, her gaze now focused on the ground near her feet. A corner of her wrinkled mouth lifted in a brief, tired movement. "But you can't tell who the magic would go to. Those of the fae, they were the best for the magic at the time. Now they're not. For whatever reason, it's all on folks like you, Mr Malfoy. Fire's chosen you, so it has."
"No," Draco said in a perfectly conversational tone, but Blaise could see the way he gripped the arm of his chair. "I refuse. I do not accept."
"Not a matter of do or don't." Doreen finally looked up, and then fussed around her scarf. "Magic-folk chose to take it on from the fae, don't you read the papers? You've already been chosen, dear."
"No. I don't quite remember accepting," Draco said again, still in that very casual tone, but Blaise felt warmth filling the space beside them. He glanced down; blue flames flickered above the dark material of Draco's sleeve. Blaise leaned away, a bit. Doreen fixed her gaze on the flames, her eyes wide.
"I cannot," Draco said, staring down at the flames caressing his arms. "No. Please, I cannot."
"Take care of it," Doreen whispered. She sounded as if she might be crying, but when Blaise glanced at her, her face was rather composed. "It shall take care of you, Mr. Malfoy. That's what bein' an Elemental's about, you do understand."
Draco remained silent, almost glaring at the fire dancing delightedly on his arm. After a few beats, Draco's whole arm relaxed. The fire vanished as if it had never been. Blaise had the idea, however, that it was there still, somewhere: a part of Draco now, in his skin and hair and blood. Draco, who had a palpable fear of fire since the Battle at Hogwarts--and refused to tell Blaise the reason--was now apparently a fire Elemental.
Draco let out a long sigh. Blaise thought he sounded very tired.
Harry, half-asleep on the Express to Hogwarts, listened with one ear to the song of the wind as it raced the train. He sat snuggled against Hermione, a small leather-bound book almost falling from his loose fingers.
The book had belonged to Brightharp, and contained meandering notes about Elemental life. Harry liked to read it, because Brightharp had nice handwriting, and a random way of expression that amused Harry…and made him a little sad, too.
With the other ear, he heard Hermione's voice as she muttered over her own notebook, scribbling now and again. He made a soft noise of complaint as her movements jostled his head on her shoulder, and she shushed him absently. Dean and Ron were in the seat opposite, laughing quietly together as they played cards.
He opened his eyes abruptly, flinching so hard that he nearly slipped off the seat.
"It's changed," he said, sitting up so quickly that his head spun for a little. He felt his eyes widen at the excited twirling of the wind. "It's…Hogwart's changed."
"What?" Dean gazed at him with a slight frown. "How do you know that?"
"Um," Harry said, and actually felt his cheeks warm a little. It wasn't embarrassment, not exactly.
"The wind told him," Ron said, looking up from his fan of cards. "Didn't it?" Harry gave him a small smile and nodded. The wind did tell him, a chatty informer that had expressed to him the new shape of their school; not in words, because although wind understood human speech, it didn't like to use it. The wind spoke in the way it slipped around form and pressed against surfaces, and that was what it told Harry.
Hogwarts had been closed for over a year, a necessary but slow rebuilding of the structure and the magic around it. Harry had almost turned down the invitation to return, but Hermione had pleaded with him. By 'pleading', she really had simply said to him, "Oh Harry, just come back with us, and you can watch out for any other Elementals. Especially if they're younger ones," and that had been that, really.
Harry was surprised to feel excitement bubbling in his stomach. He hadn't expected that, really, not with a whole year off, and that solid melancholy which he'd dragged around behind himself after Brightharp's final fading. He hadn't expected to feel excited about anything again, really.
After they'd disembarked and watched the large contingent of firsties set off in the boats (many more students than Harry had ever recalled seeing, but not quite as high a number as he'd expected), he'd climbed into a waiting carriage with Ron, Hermione and Seamus, an expectant little smile curving his lips.
"Oh, wow," Hermione said when they rounded the final corner and the new shape of Hogwarts filled their field of view.
The castle, which Harry had always known as a tight cluster of tall structures which wore grey stone the way warriors wore armour, now seemed to reach across the land in a shade of soft cream. The lake surrounded the castle now. A massive barbican stood in front of the castle's new shape, and when the carriages drove onto it, Harry realised that the barbican was also a Quidditch pitch: the backs of the stands formed the walls, hoops on either end. A bridge over the lake-waters connected the barbican to the castle proper, which had a double row of walls: one outer ring which hummed with layers of protective magic, and an inner set which seemed thick enough to hold entire classrooms. There were four towers on each corner on the inner walls, but there were far more on the outer ring; at the tops of these, stone gargoyles sat rigidly, their gaze fixed in the distance.
"Brilliant," Ron said and Harry nodded; his smile felt wide on his face. As physically changed as Hogwarts was, it still felt like coming home.
The wind, smug with delight, whirled around the carriage. It told Harry that the space between the two sets of walls was quite substantial, far larger than it appeared: a part of the Forbidden Forest had been taken up in it.
Harry put his hand out the window, stroked the moving air and said, "Shhh, quiet a bit; let's see, then," and the loud rushing noise faded. When Harry glanced at the others in his carriage, he felt his cheeks warm at their expressions: wide grins from Ron and Hermione both, a kind of unsure curiosity on Seamus' face.
"What's it like?" Seamus asked, jerking his chin at the way Harry still had his hand out, fingers trailing over the unseen wind. Harry pulled his hand back, sensing the monumental pout of the wind. As an element, it was a bit spoilt, really.
"It's…odd, I guess?" Harry answered and Seamus nodded slowly.
"Your hair's different, too," Seamus said, leaning forward to fix an intent gaze on Harry's head. "I mean, the grey isn't bad, real distinguished and all, but sometimes it moves by itself. Did you know that?"
"The wind again," Ron said, a bit defensively on Harry's behalf. "Harry doesn't know it's doing that."
"It's being affectionate, I think," Hermione put in with enough authority that Seamus sat back in the seat, blinking at her. "It's happy that it's chosen Harry. Although I don't know why he's gone all grey."
"It's not all grey." Harry ran a hand through the thick strands of his hair; there was a solid patch of silvery-white hair that began at his temple and fell along the side of his face. He liked it and disliked it, because while it distracted from the jagged line of his scar (almost completely faded, now), the icy colour seemed to draw more attention to his face.
"Does it move by itself, really?" Harry asked Seamus now. "Or does it look that way because the wind's been at it?"
Seamus nodded slowly. "I suppose that's it. Just looks weird."
"This is Harry we're talking about," Ron said, neatening the collar of his robes and tie. "He defines weird."
"Come on now," Harry groaned, and tumbled out of the carriage as soon as it came to a halt in the massive inner courtyard. The new Hogwarts rose around them in quiet, strong pride, and Harry smiled up at it.
"Welcome." Headmistress McGonagall's strong voice floated over the heads of the Seventh Years, both Lower and Upper groups. "Welcome home."
Harry, lodged in a squishy chair in between Luna and Neville, caught her eye and offered what he hoped was a bright grin. McGonagall gave him an affectionate scowl and returned her attention to the rest of the students gathered in this large new room assigned as a gathering area for all the Sevenths, separate and apart from their House common rooms. It was very nice, actually, with random groupings of mismatched armchairs, and tall thin paintings on the walls, like windows. Last night the new students had been sorted, and Harry had spent a night in the new Gryffindor tower, the wind trying to get his attention by whistling through a small hole in the window next to his head.
"There have been many changes," McGonagall continued, "as you all have noticed. There are now towers for all the Houses on all four corners of the castle, and they each have their own dungeons. Yes, Slytherins, we've kept that especially for you." She levelled a small smile at the knot of Slytherins in the far corner, and when Harry bent forwards a little to gauge their reaction, he noted the deadpan expression on nearly all their faces. That probably meant they were surprised at McGonagall's even teasing.
He inhaled, and blinked. A scent, rather faint but oddly insistent, seemed to tickle at his nostrils. It wasn't an offensive odour. As a matter of fact, it didn't smell one way or the other. It was just there, and he sat up from his comfortable slouch, head swivelling around in an attempt to determine the location of the scent. There; it was stronger in the direction of the Slytherins. He stared at them so hard that he supposed they felt the weight of his attention. A few of them squinted back at him, suspiciously. Draco Malfoy's blank glance was hardly worth returning, but when Harry's eyes met Zabini's, he blinked at the trace of humour he encountered.
Brightharp, Harry realised, a strange sensation rippling over his skin. Zabini looked a lot like Brightharp, tall and slim and lovely like a new morning. He smiled, tentatively, and Zabini's grin grew; it was very foxy, that smile, and rather attractive. Zabini flinched, and then turned to narrow his eyes at Malfoy, who sat there as if he just hadn't tried to gouge out Zabini's ribs with the pointy end of his elbow.
"The first year group is larger than normal, of course," McGonagall was saying, her voice barely filtering into Harry's attention. "And we've discovered that there is a high count of Elementals among them."
That snagged Harry's full attention. His head snapped back towards McGonagall. Neville let out a small snort of laughter at that, and Harry stepped on his nearest foot.
"We had considered changing the names of the Houses, to those of Elemental origin: Earth, Fire, Air and Water." McGonagall waited for the buzzing surge of conversation to die down. "The Board of Governors and the staff thought that it might be an idea worth pursuing, considering the rise in number of Elementals in the magical population. But we are proud of our Founders. All of them." Her steady gaze travelled slowly from one side of the room to the other. "And we will keep that tradition, with all its flaws and strengths, even as the physical structure of the school is so drastically altered."
"They haven't got rid of the locktopus," Luna murmured to Harry. "Which is a good thing."
"Quite," Harry agreed; he had absolutely no idea what a locktopus was.
"As part of our drive to improve interhouse communications, the staff and Board have instituted a new program: all students will have a liaison in a different House from their own; a house-sister or brother, if you will." Patiently, she waited for the rush of murmurs to die down. Outside, the wind knocked insistently on the window-panes. Harry twitched his head and it died down.
"Liaisons will be chosen by the Sorting Hat now. You are expected to communicate as much as possible. I expect the Sevenths, particularly the Upper group, to display the requisite maturity."
"Hear that, Harry?" Neville said. "Best behaviour, now."
"Because I'm well known for my rabble-rousing," Harry said, turning to wrinkle his nose with mock imperiousness. Neville grinned at him, unfolding his tall frame to stand up easily. Harry and Luna stood up as well, with a bit more struggling than Neville had displayed.
"I do hope I get a Gryff liason," Luna said as they made their way towards where the Headmistress waited with the Sorting Hat. "They're awful fun, aren't they?"
The phrase 'Slytherin Tower' was an odd one, and a bit hard to get used to. Quite a few of the lower-year Slytherins forgot that they had an actual tower now, and kept wandering towards the dungeons after dinner; the Upper years had to herd them back to the new dormitories like so many recalcitrant goats. Draco's room in the Slytherin Tower had a lot more light than the dungeons, and for that he was glad. He wouldn't need to use as much candles as before, or keep refreshing a lumos.
He sat at the bureau plat, the beautiful desk that had once resided in his mother's rooms. Narcissa had given it to him, mainly because she knew he always admired the decorative carving. He had pushed aside his assignments, and some of the work he'd been grading; quite a few of the Upper Sevenths were asked to be assistants to the professors. Draco had been grimly surprised to be listed as an assistant, which had been almost as great a shock as getting Granger as his liaison; Professor Snape's portrait had rolled his eyes when Draco had found him in a lonely corridor, underneath a staircase that went nowhere.
"I really don't care what you do or do not like," Snape had said, standing in his rigid pose as if he couldn't move, which Draco know was just an affectation for their current conversation. He'd seen Snape stalking through the paintings near to the Potions Laboratories, on his way to hassle Slughorn; he delighted in that past-time, the old snake. His robes were arranged in a smooth dark fall of heavy material and he balanced a glass stirring rod on his stained fingers. "Just so long as you don't go mewling all about it."
"I am not mewling." Draco had glared at him. "A little bit of compassion would have been fantastic, though. Granger is my liaison, of all people!"
Snape had levelled a dark-eyed gaze at him. "How unfortunate for you, Draco." His tone was a sarcastic draw. "Such a pity, your life is so very hard. As it is, I'm under no obligation to extend such unwarranted compassion, since I'm quite dead." He had whirled out of the frame with his robes storming around him, just as they had in life. A rush of guilt assailed Draco, shoved him in a corner of his brain and held him up, like a bandit. Mixed in with that was a sense of comfort; Snape was familiar, as unsympathetic as he was.
He was going through some documentation for the Manor, peering over the council tax forms. Blaise swept in, the smell of his soap billowing with him. Draco glanced at him; Blaise was wearing a pair of black drawstring linen trousers, and a white button-front shirt. The shirt was still open, showing off Blaise's muscular chest. It was a very nice chest, actually.
"Do you have that dark-blue blazer?" Blaise asked. He buttoned up his shirt and headed towards Draco's large wardrobe, pulling open the doors as if they were his. "And that green scarf? Ah, there they are."
"Go ahead, Blaise," Draco said, very dryly. "You can borrow my favourite blazer and scarf, so you can look stylish for your house liaison."
"It's not every day the Sorting Hat chooses Harry Potter for me," Blaise said, a sardonic smile on his mouth as he pulled out Draco's blazer and tugged them over his broad shoulders. Draco leaned back in his chair, admiring the entire effect. They were his clothes, yes, but Blaise was built like a supermodel; he made them look good. Blaise winked at him.
"Lucky you," Draco said, trying to smile to cover the dismissive curl of his lip.
"Lucky me," Blaise agreed. "Having Harry Potter as my house liaison is pretty fantastic. Very advantageous, wouldn't you say?"
"Possibly." Draco turned back to his paperwork. Feeling a little chilly, he turned to look at the fireplace. It ignited in a helpful fashion and in a few moments the room was warmer than before. Tower or not, there was still something dungeon-y in the air, and Draco appreciated it. The fire crackled at him, and Draco wrinkled his nose.
"And he's pretty fit." Blaise tied the scarf around his neck and conjured a mirror to check. Satisfied, he dropped another wink and strolled out of their shared room, long legs eating up the distance. Draco thought about Potter's fitness-rating and then rolled his eyes. Harry Potter, fit. Whatever.
"Hi," Harry said breathlessly when he skidded to a halt beside Blaise, who had been waiting outside the inner walls of the castle. There was indeed a very massive space between these and the outer walls, acres and acres dominated by some of the Forest. Harry wondered how the reconstruction team had done such a complete job so quickly, and how pissed off the centaurs were about it; then he remembered that the castle had done most of the work itself.
"Hi," Blaise said, smiling, and that scent hit Harry again, unmistakeable now. It was mouthwatering, and coming off Blaise in sultry waves.
"Oh," Harry said and forgot to think for a moment. Blaise looked at him out of the corner of his eye. Harry felt his cheeks flush, and then ducked his head, crooking up one corner of his mouth in a smile.
"Did you…have you heard about the new gargoyles?" he asked, pulling his light sweater tighter around his shoulders. Blaise glanced up, at the backs of the gargoyles.
"No, I haven't," Blaise said, indicating the beginnings of a path with one hand. They walked together, heading towards a surprisingly large river which seemed to come from the Lake itself, but Harry couldn't figure out where it started and where it ended. A tiny tentacle rose up out of the bubbling water, waved threateningly, and sank back down.
"Right, they're a part of Hogwarts' new defence system. Pretty brilliant, they can sense dark magic and all, and they'll fly off their perches to investigate, and even attack if the Headmistress or one of the professors orders it and I think I'm babbling now, I'm babbling, aren't I?" Harry peered up at Blaise through his eyelashes.
"A little babbling. But it's cute." Blaise smiled down at him. "Imagine that: the Saviour, cute."
"I'm not," Harry mumbled and rubbed at his nose. Blaise reached out and smoothed down his hair. Harry looked at him with wide eyes. "Um."
"Your hair was flipping all over," Blaise said. "I like the grey, too."
"Oh," Harry said and bit his lower lip. "I--thanks."
"This is brilliant, I think," Blaise said after a pause which wasn't as awkward as it could have been. "Talking with a Gryffindor without fighting or insults. Novel, I would say."
"Come on," Harry said, grinning up at him. "Was it all that bad?"
"Kind of." Blaise kept smiling at him like that and Harry simply couldn't help himself.
"You smell really nice. I don't know what cologne you're wearing, but it is incredible."
"I'm not wearing any cologne," Blaise said, now with a slightly confused edge to his smile. "But if you find my everyday aroma attractive, then thanks. That's very flattering."
"Oh Merlin," Harry said and tried not to look as if he was wishing the ground would swallow him up. The wind blasted in between them, trying to help Harry. Spluttering, Harry flapped his hands around; when he managed to convince it to calm down, and that entire debacle was over, Blaise was staring at him as if he couldn't decide whether to be amused or concerned.
Then Blaise chuckled, moving closer to Harry to pluck a small leaf out of his hair and that scent washed over Harry. I want him, he thought and the intensity of feeling surprised him. He wanted that smell around him, in him, filling him from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet. He actually shivered and Blaise pulled off his own scarf.
"Cold?" Without waiting for a response, Blaise tied the thick green material around Harry's neck, creating a loose knot underneath his chin. "There, better?"
"Yes," Harry said and inhaled deeply. The scarf; it was packed with Blaise's lovely smell. "Thanks. This is really nice."
"It's hand-woven, I think," Blaise said, sounding absent, and Harry paid attention to the rest of their conversation with half an ear, surreptitiously sniffing Blaise's scarf all the while.
When Blaise breezed in from his 'meeting' with Potter, Draco opened his mouth to demand where his scarf had gone and then lay there against his pillows, his brain gone offline for a moment.
"What?" Blaise asked, shrugging off Draco's jacket. "Oh, shit. I loaned Potter your scarf, please don't kill me. Don't kill him either, he's our beloved Hero. You've been through the convict thing already. In any case, when you've gotten past the whole Hero thing, he's kind of sweet."
Draco couldn't even focus on the utter tripe that Blaise was spewing right now. "I'm--" He shook his head, and blinked very deliberately. Why hadn't he ever noticed the way Blaise smelled? It was divine. "Are you wearing some kind of new cologne?"
"What?" Blaise shot him a quick glance. "No. You're the second person to say something like that, how odd." He grinned widely. "It's my natural bouquet, dear."
"Get over yourself, dear," Draco said, but he flung the sheets off his legs and got up out of bed, striding quickly over to Blaise. He grabbed Blaise's hand and pressed it to his face. That scent; it shot to his head and then took the express elevator down to his groin.
"Draco," Blaise murmured as Draco inhaled deeply. "What in the world are you--?"
Draco stepped close and kissed him; he'd slept with Blaise a few times before, but never with this determination firing in his blood.
"Draco," Blaise said between Draco's intense kisses. "Darling, you're setting things on fire."
"Oh fucking fuck," Draco said, tearing himself away from Blaise's mouth and trying to placate the excited flames. "No, go away. Stop it."
The fire tried to pounce on his mother's table, and Draco narrowed his eyes at it. It shrank back, chastened. When he'd finally got most of the sparks to disappear, he turned his attention back to Blaise.
Blaise's dark eyes surveyed him with interest. "I thought you'd managed to get me out of your system," he said. "Remember back in sixth year? When you were being all nefarious and Pansy thought you'd been shagging some Gryffindor under the quiet?"
"You were never in my system, Zabini," Draco said and spoiled this declaration by kissing Blaise again. "Come on, get your kit off, let's get to bed."
"It's so nice talking to him," Harry said to Hermione. They were in the room he shared with Ron, helping to mark Charms essays from a bunch of second years (who obviously hadn't been paying attention in class and good Godric, Jessie Fernandez, who taught you penmanship? Spider-crabs?). "He's funny, and charming and smart and he always smells so good."
"Smells?" Ron said from where he was trying to rewrite his own essay for Advanced Potions. "Zabini? He's poncey enough to use some special eau de something, anyway."
"You there, in the penny section: shut it," Harry advised. "I know not everyone had a wonderful time with their liaison, but kindly do not rain on my parade."
"At least you didn't get paired with Malfoy." Hermione sighed. "It's been ridiculous. All we do is sit on one of the benches near the Hufflepuff tower, stare off into the middle distance and make small talk about the landscaping. If he opens his mouth about anything else, I'll probably get offended on general principle and punch him in the face. Again."
"At least he's not actively trying to kill you," Ron said, comfortingly. "Next time, mention some Arithmancy equations. Heard he's quite good in it. Diminishes his general berkiness."
"Where'd you get that from?" Hermione asked, leaning forward over her desk to peer at Ron.
"Lisa Turpin," Ron said, and made a face at the mention of his liaison. "Apparently she's also the head of the Draco Malfoy fanclub." Ron shook his head slowly. "I mean, he has this bona-fide bad-boy image now. Works for some people."
"Really?" Harry thought about it, and then nodded after some slow minutes of consideration. "I can see that, I guess. If you look past the whole, you know." He waved his hands in the air, vaguely. "You know."
"No." Ron kept his tone blank and level, even though his eyes twinkled at Harry. "I have no idea what you mean, mate."
"Come on, Harry," Hermione said, shaking the end of her fluffy quill at Harry. "You were going on about how nice Zabini smelled?"
"I was," Harry said, and was about to scribble a note on Jessie Fernandez's parchment when he paused, a wrinkle on his brow. "Wait," he said, and dived to one side, going for Brightharp's diary. He flipped through the pages as carefully as he could and then stopped at an entry he'd read quite some time ago.
An Elemental mate, it said in Brightharp's careful hand,
It floats into your life and takes your heart.
In all my years
I have never smelled it
I have never had a true mate. I have only heard
on the wind
the song of an Elemental who has found that
This is how an Elemental knows their mate.
Sometimes it is another Elemental
Sometimes a human
or a centaur
I wonder what that smell is like?
"My god," Harry whispered and when Hermione made noises and grabby-hands, he let Brightharp's book go and she read it, her gaze skimming each line eagerly.
"Oh no," she said, and gave Harry a very sympathetic look. "He didn't have a mate. You could have been--"
"But he didn't smell the way Blaise does," Harry said. "I mean, I loved Brightharp, I really did. But Blaise…" He exhaled deeply, thinking of Blaise's intoxicating aroma.
"Do you really think he's your mate?" Ron asked, after a few beats of contented silence from Harry. "I mean, Gin's really out now, no hope for that anymore, is there--"
"Come on, Ron," Hermione said, exasperated.
"--but Zabini?" Ron continued. "Really?"
"I think so," Harry said, slowly. "I mean, I want to just get him into my bed."
"And with that, I'm off to mine," Ron said, and scarpered off.
Draco was bravely withstanding another interminable session with Granger (how he hated the Sorting Hat now), sitting on one of the benches scattered over the strip of land between the inner and outer walls, when he saw Blaise and Potter strolling together, some distance away down the gentle slope. Blaise's aroma floated towards him, filling his head it seemed, and he scowled at how Potter laughed with Blaise and touched his am.
"He's mine," he growled and got to his feet so fast that the muscles of his calves twinged.
"I'm sorry?" Granger asked from where she was perched as far away from him on the bench as possible. "What are you--Malfoy!"
He was up and striding towards Blaise and Potter before he even realised it. Behind him, the air warmed, a sure sign that fire would jump into the fray sooner rather than later. Blaise's smell grew the closer Draco approached. Draco wanted to grab him and hide him somewhere safe from Potter's grubby little hands.
"Draco?" he heard Blaise say, but it was very faint, very distant. He saw his hand reach out to snatch Potter away from Blaise. Flames engulfed his fingers, crackled over his skin. In a moment, it would roar magnificently, and anything in its path would be scorched.
Potter looked at him; his eyes were wide and very green, and a rush of wind buffeted Draco, extinguishing the flames.
Staggering back a few steps, Draco blinked rapidly at Potter's now furious scowl.
"Don't you touch him," Potter snapped. "He's mine."
"Er, what?" Blaise said, but Draco ignored him, just as how Potter ignored Granger when she rushed up to their tense little gathering.
"Is that so?" Draco stepped close again, hoping to use his greater height to intimidate Potter, who wasn't that much shorter anyway, and built very sturdily. "This Slytherin is yours? Just like that?"
"Not just like that." Potter's chin was tilted in an obnoxiously stubborn fashion. "I'm…I'm an Elemental. I know he's my mate. By his smell, I mean."
Blaise spluttered for a few beats, paused and then said, "Really?" with the same kind of speculative interest his mother displayed before she married another husband.
"Oh, Harry," Granger whispered, but Potter didn't even glance in her direction.
"The smell," Draco said, flatly. He clenched his fist and felt the warmth of fire leap in between his fingers. "Then you'd better fix your bloody nose, or I'll bloody it up for you."
"Get out of my face." Potter's voice was a dangerous hiss.
"I'll tell you something, Potter," Draco said, spitting out the last name as if it tasted bitter. "I'm an Elemental, too. Oh yes," he said with satisfaction when Potter's stupid eyes widened. "You're not that special. And I smell Blaise, so he's my mate."
"The fuck he is," Potter said, very levelly. There was absolutely no wind now; everything was eerily still.
"Quite," Draco said with his widest, most insincere smile. "In that, I did fuck my own mate a few nights ago, didn't I, Blaise?"
He lifted his gaze from Potter's to give Blaise a companionable smirk, which was actually a horrid mistake, because that wanker Potter hauled back and punched him. Draco felt his head snap to one side; and then he reacted very badly, he would admit later. It was just…Potter brought out the absolute worst in him, really, and by the worst he really meant they were scrapping it out on the ground as if they were in second year again and Draco had made some crack about Potter's absolutely vile choices in acquaintances.
It was very familiar, and horribly comforting in a rather violent way, especially with Blaise's smell lighting his whole world. Potter was very strong, at least as physically strong as Draco remembered (which was quite a lot). They both managed to get a few more punches in before they were hauled away from each other, held by the collars of their coats and jackets.
Both Blaise and Granger had their wands out, pointing at each of them. Draco felt like a disobedient kitten being held up by the scruff of his neck and he scowled at Blaise.
"Are you two actually fighting over little old me?" Blaise asked, a smug smile plastered all over his handsome features. "Why, such an honour, really."
"I wouldn't have to fight if this prick would just leave you alone," Draco said, his voice coming out in a snarl that was almost unrecognizable to himself. Blaise didn't recoil physically. However, his entire expression went coolly distant, as if he was mentally removing himself from Draco's influence. It was a little trick he'd pulled all the time when they were younger. Blaise had never been much affected by Draco's bribes and threats. As a matter of fact, he was probably the only Slytherin in Draco's year-group who displayed disdain to everyone. Pansy had once claimed that Blaise was an equal-opportunity hater.
He heaved in a calming breath, and tried to level out his tone. "I've known you for longer than him, anyhow. And he's a Gryffindor, for fuck's sake." That came out a bit whingy, and one side of Blaise's lips twitched in response. Draco felt a little rush of relief. Blaise was, for all intents and purposes, his closest friend. He felt he couldn't afford to lose any more.
"A detail much relieved by his current social status," Blaise said, now grinning. "And you've only known me since first year, Draco, just as he has."
"Really?" Granger tilted her head. "I thought you'd known each other forever."
Blaise glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, as if he was deciding whether to answer or not. Then he simply shrugged.
"Back off, Malfoy," Potter said, squirming until Granger cancelled the spell that kept him aloft. "You're just a jealous prick who wants what he doesn't deserve. That's pretty much your modus operandi, in any case."
"Let me down, Blaise," Draco said, "so I can plant my boot up his ass."
Potter glared at him, and then walked over to Blaise. He took Blaise's hand in his, stroking the back of it with his thumb while Draco contemplated murder.
"I'll see you around, Blaise," Potter said in a very warm, promising manner.
"Of course, Harry," Blaise said, just as warmly. "Oh, and remember you were about to return Draco's scarf? Before you two came to blows, that is."
A massive gale roared around them and then died abruptly. Potter stood looking at Blaise with the kind of expression one might have when struck by lightning. He released Blaise's hand, his own hands floating up in a dream-like fashion. He pulled at the scarf around his neck, a green one. Draco hadn't even noticed he had been wearing one, he had been so enraged at the thought of someone touching his mate, but…but that was his scarf. There was the D.M. in silver thread, right there on the hem that Glibby had sewn in ages ago.
"This is Malfoy's?" Potter's voice shook a little. "But it has your scent all over it." His cheeks went red. "That's why I keep stealing it."
"That's why I keep wearing it," Blaise said, and his smile was very kind.
No, Draco thought, because he'd actually worn that scarf to bed last night, falling asleep with Blaise's smell right against his nose. He'd been pretty pissed off this morning to find it gone. Nonononono, he moaned mentally and his jacket caught on fire. He found that when he was distressed, his flames tried to get too close to comfort him. Blaise let him go immediately, and Draco clenched his fists, forcing his will over the element. Blaise stared at him as Draco calmed himself and shrugged off the scorched remainder of his coat, and then looked towards Potter, who was receiving a similarly pensive expression from Granger.
"Harry?" Blaise said in a curiously gentle voice. Draco had never heard him use that tone before, and it made something clench in his stomach. "Harry, will you let me do something?"
"What?" Potter murmured, watching as Blaise edged closer to him.
"Just this," Blaise said and placed a finger under Potter's chin, tilting up his face. Draco felt his lips curl in annoyance as their mouth pressed together. He was about to dart forward and part them forcibly, but Granger's wand-arm was steady in his direction. Fine, let them kiss, then. Blaise would realise soon enough that St. Potter the Prudish was absolutely no choice at all.
Potter's mouth opened in a soft sigh, letting in Blaise's very talented tongue. Potter's hair moved in a rather creepy fashion, and Blaise ran his other hand through the dark strands with two or three calming strokes. Blaise pulled away and Potter stood there, blinking and appearing as if he was working out a four-sided arithmantic equation in his head.
"How was that?" Blaise asked.
"Very nice," Granger answered and bit the inside of her lip when Blaise gave her a withering glance. She adopted a contrite expression, even though her eyes seemed bright with interest. "Oh, you meant Harry. Harry, how was that?"
"Nice," Potter repeated and then wrinkled his brow. "But…well, I don't know why I thought you would taste like your scent." He actually blushed, and Draco refrained so hard from rolling his eyes that he might have damaged some eye-muscles.
"Right," Blaise said, and then walked over to Draco, holding one of his hands in front of Draco's face. That heady aroma practically took control of Draco's mind through his nose. He grabbed Blaise's hand and inhaled greedily before he could stop himself. This was the hand that had been stroking Potter's hair. When Draco realised that, he dropped Blaise's hand as if it had scalded him.
Granger said. "Oh Merlin, is he…? Oh, Merlin."
"Damn it, no," Potter said.
"Fuck my life, really," Draco said.
"All my social capital, gained and lost in the space of five minutes," Blaise said, mournfully. He seemed bereft for all of six seconds, before he brightened. "At least I got to snog the Wizarding Hero, right?"
"Alright," Hermione said, pushing her way into the room Harry now shared with Ron. She didn't have an armful of books, which was something that disappointed Harry greatly; additionally, there was a worried tilt to her eyebrows that Harry didn't like at all. She closed the door and then drew up short, staring at the stack of plates on Harry's small dresser. "Um."
Harry gave her his sourest stare, daring her to comment. Hermione, quite used to the sourest of Harry's stares, simply blinked at him.
"You didn't go to the Hall for dinner?" She squinted at the pastry in Ron's hands. "Again?"
"You know we're avoiding Malfoy," Ron said, very loyally. "Here, I saved you a plate."
Hermione shook her head and then sat at the end of Harry's bed, accepting the covered dish from Ron. "We can't hide out in your room forever, you know."
"Watch me," Harry said, and snuggled up in the blanket that Molly had knitted for him. Ron called it his sulky-blanket, and Harry was sure he was pouting up a storm right now, but with good reason. Ron had been properly sympathetic when Harry and Hermione had told him about…about Malfoy being Harry's elemental mate and what-not (and here, Harry shuddered inwardly), and then he'd laughed incredulously for an hour straight, getting all hysterical about it.
"You can't, Harry, you have classes and so on," Hermione said in that no-nonsense tone that annoyed Harry sometimes, and in response, he burrowed even deeper into the comforting folds of his sulky-blanket.
"Did you find anything?" he asked, voice muffled by the thick material. Hermione took a bite of the food Ron had saved for her and nodded as she chewed.
"Sort of. The fae didn't like writing much, and they were so secretive. It's hard finding anything written, but…" she handed her plate to Ron, who stole a bit of her pasta as she pulled a small book out of her pocket: small and hardbound, covered in green cloth. "This is the diary of Francis Gifford. He claims he grew up with fae…that they'd taken him as a baby and returned him to humans when he'd reached adulthood. He wrote this book, but most of the Wizarding world didn't take him too seriously."
"Yeah?" Harry watched her as she turned the pages very carefully; Ron, sitting behind her and chewing, peered over her shoulder.
"Right, so according to this, traditional fae relationships were polyamorous." Hermione grinned as both Ron and Harry made sounds of surprise. "They'd have their main partners but it was pretty much free love. I suppose it was the same until just recently. But here--" she held up the book so that they could see the heavy text. "See? Gifford says that 'they of Elemental character are set apart'."
Harry groaned and pulled a pillow over his head. "That doesn't help much."
"I know, Harry." Hermione tugged the pillow away. "I mean, I don't know if Elementals are like veela, they're serial monogamists, really…or like werewolves; they mate for life." Her shoulders lifted and then drooped, helplessly. "There's just not a lot of information out there. I'm sorry."
"That's okay." Harry reached out and patted her hand. "I'll just stay in here until it's time to leave school. No worries."
"Oh! There's something else." Hermione turned another page in Gifford's worn book, and read: "The Elemental relationship is upheld between tellar and telloi. I didn't know those words, so I had to look them up, and that was another hard find, I have to say. I think the root tel means 'this one' or 'this person'… it's in certain elf dialects as well, do you know?" She looked at Harry and Ron, and Harry blinked at her. "Glazing over. Right."
"Right," Harry and Ron said together.
"Yes, so….I did a bit more digging, and I think lar and loi might mean 'envelop' and 'release'." Her gaze was anxious, brown eyes wide. "That still doesn't really help, does it?"
"No, it really doesn't," Harry said, kindly. "But thanks for giving it a try, Hermione."
She nodded, and tried to rescue her plate from Ron, who relinquished it with sounds of complaint.
Harry let out an almost soundless sigh. "I wonder if Malfoy's having any more luck than we are."
"Here we are." Doreen set down a tray very carefully in front of Draco and Blaise, tea-things clattering lightly and custard creams nestled on small white doilies. Her house was quite large, and her living room was very simple and stylish, warm browns and deep oranges. "Got all my fancy stuff out for my two gentlemen visitors, haven't I?" She poured their cups and handed them over quickly before fixing one for herself.
"So lovely, Doreen," Blaise said, bravely chancing one of the biscuits. He took a bite of one and groaned as he chewed. "This is sweet, it's ridiculous."
"I have a mate," Draco said, tonelessly. He stared at the white cup and saucer in his hand as if it had appeared there suddenly.
"Oh! Have you?" Doreen settled back in her armchair, and beamed. "Another Elemental?"
"Yes." Draco tilted up his chin and looked at her squarely. "It's Harry Potter."
Doreen nearly dropped her own cup; hot tea sloshed over the wrinkled skin of one hand. "Oh, bloody--" She shook off the hot water as quickly as she could, and Blaise tossed a few healing spells with quick twitches of his wand. "Thank you, dear. Harry Potter! Well, can you imagine!"
"I can." Draco took a hard draught of his tea and nodded; it was very sweet, just the way he liked it. "I'm quite averse to the idea."
Doreen looked at him as if he'd cursed Merlin's name. "But he's Harry Potter. He must be a brilliant mate!"
Draco snorted into his tea. "I doubt that, really."
Blaise cut in smoothly before Draco did any more damage: "We thought you'd be able to tell us a bit more about Elemental mates, Doreen. There's nothing to be found, really."
"Horribly secretive, fae were," Doreen said with a kind of sad fondness. "And they didn't write much, they preferred to sing their stories. I do remember that my great-grandparents were Elemental mates, which was unusual but not unheard of, you know?"
Blaise nodded and nibbled another custard cream.
Doreen tapped her round chin and hummed. "My great-gran, Lilla, she was a water Elemental…and so was Emet, my great-grandad. I know for sure that she was tellar and he was telloi."
Draco frowned. "And what are those?"
"Well, let's see." The wrinkles in Doreen's brow deepened. "It's hard to translate, really." A faint blush stole up her cheeks. "I remember…once, Emet went into heat too early, and Lilla hadn't been close for them to go through it. The whole household was in disarray until Lilla hurried home. Emet nearly drowned us with rain. Fae Elementals, they never do anything by half." Her slightly embarrassed grin faded. "Or...that was how they were."
"Wait." Draco set down the cup and saucer on the centre-table, and then leaned forward intently. "Go again. Heat?"
"Yes, well." Doreen sipped her tea as if trying to brace herself. "Telloi, they go into heat. When I had a few years on me, Emet explained that it was an urge to be taken and claimed by his tellar. That was a very trying conversation. Quite like this one," she muttered into her cup.
"So how do you know who is…what are the words, again?" Draco asked.
Doreen blinked slowly, like a cat. "Tellar and Telloi."
"Yes, how do you know who is tellar and who is telloi?"
Doreen shrugged. "You just know, I suppose. Lilla said that Emet's scent grew more during his heat, so I dare-say that helped. Don't you want a biscuit, dear?" she asked, apparently desperate to change the subject.
"They're really good," Blaise said, very helpfully.
Draco shook his head. "No, thank you," and he sat back to allow Blaise and Doreen to blather on about mundane things, those two words dancing around his head: tellar and telloi.
Heat! he thought incredulously, and reached for his tea-cup, his fire warming it in an absent-minded way before his fingers touched the porcelain. He looked up to see Doreen gazing at him with a muted expression, and then a smile crept onto her lips.
"Suits you, dear," she said, her voice low and quiet. "Suits you very well."
"Hey, just listen to me," Harry said, trying to calm Corie Branson, a first-year Muggleborn who was currently hanging upside-down from her broom. On the other side of the class, Madam Hooch stood with the rest of the firsties, braving the high winds with a severe expression.
"Mr. Potter!" Madam Hooch called, gripping her robes so that they wouldn't flap up over her head. "If you could do something about this mini-tornado, I'm sure we would all be quite grateful!"
"I know, I know," Harry muttered, trying to coax the command of the winds from a panicking Corie. She was a small, slim girl, and a powerful wind Elemental. Harry knew he was currently stronger than her, he could feel how the wind bent to him more willingly, but Corie's state of anxiety made her control far more unpredictable. Harry didn't want to hurt her, but the wind didn't know what to do right now, what with two of them basically giving opposing commands. As a matter of fact, he couldn't reach out right now and help her right herself. The gales right around her were hurricane force, and he didn't want to force them to do anything too quickly. She could get hurt. He wasn't sure if she had enough control right now to cushion her fall with her element, or even remember her ordinary magic.
Harry concentrated on a small coil of breeze, asking it to help him; he waited a beat and then sensed a slight break in the funnel of winds whipping around her. Now, he thought and his small tendril shot through, bumping gently into her side and flipping her over so she was sitting upright on her broom. Her thick, curly hair, which had been brushing the grass just a few moments ago, now stood straight up in the air. Her dark eyes blinked at him rapidly, and her mouth hung open. Harry gathered back control quickly and the high winds died down.
"Sorry," Corie whispered, tears filling her eyes. "I don't…I don't know how to--"
"It's fine." Harry carefully lifted her off the hovering broom, and cancelled the spell which kept it aloft. The broom fell to the grass with a soft whump. "You just need to…not panic so much? If you fell, I would have caught you, anyhow."
Her eyes widened so much that Harry could see whites all around the brown iris. "You?" she asked, squeaking a bit. Harry stifled a small grin.
"Yeah, sure." He put a hand on her shoulder and she actually spared it an astonished glance before returning her attention to his face, very intently. "I think the trick of it-- this whole Elemental thing, that is--the trick of it is to remember that the element depends on you for control, right? You're the anchor for it."
Corie nodded quickly. "I know, I get that," she said, her tone high with earnestness. "I do, it's just that…" her narrow shoulders shifted up and down. "I don't know why it chose me."
Harry felt his breath catch with surprise and understanding, and smiled down at her. "I think I can relate, really."
"You?" she said, in very much the same tone as before, and then giggled. The wind swirled around them, happy and excited, and Corie put out a hand, letting it curl under her fingers for a moment. "I think I'll try the broom again, then. All right?" She gave a determined nod, as if answering her own question, and held her hand out over her broom. "Up!" she commanded, and the broom obediently floated up into her grasp.
"Okay, just take it easy." Harry kept an eye on her wobbly motions as she rose. He watched her out of the corner of his eye even when he turned to help Madam Hooch with other firsties. There was something about her expression that filled his mind's eye, when she said she didn't know why it had chosen her.
It stuck to him when he finished the flying lesson with Madam Hooch, and went to his own classes. He took a walk to the Talking River in the afternoon, sitting on one of the benches and letting the wind carry tales about the warmth of the sun.
"Harry," Blaise said from right beside him and Harry jumped. The wind shrieked out its own surprise and Harry pressed one hand heavily over his thumping heart, giving Blaise a mock-wounded glare.
"Sorry," Blaise said, not appearing sorry at all. "Did I scare you?"
Harry opened his mouth to answer, something friendly and kind, because Blaise was still his house-liaison, and that was the entire point, wasn't it? To liaise, and all that. He opened his mouth and his mate's scent drifted into his lungs, and before Harry could stop himself, he was right up in Blaise's face, and for all intents and purposes, threatening him.
"Did you touch him?" he heard himself hissing. "You touched him, I can smell it. Don't you dare do it again."
He blinked, and focused on the feeling of his hair standing on edge, driven up by the howling wind. Blaise was leaning away from him, turned slightly to the side as if warding off a blow. His expression was a strange mix of surprise, amusement…and fear.
"Oh god, I am so sorry," Harry said, even as he leaped back, and mentally asked the wind to calm down. He pressed the back of a clenched fist to his lips, a hard, brief touch. "I…shit, I have no idea what the fuck that was."
"Right," Blaise said, dragging his way through the letters of the word very carefully. "Right," he said again, very quickly this time.
"Don't leave," Harry said, even as Blaise took a step back. "Or, if you leave, at least don't go running." He let out a weak laugh. "It's bad for my image."
"What image?" Blaise said, and it didn't sound like a joke, but at least he adjusted his stance. He didn't look as if he was about to sprint away from Harry.
"I'm really sorry," Harry told him again, and ducked his head. "Having you as my liaison is brilliant, really. I don't want to upset that."
Again, that odd mix of surprise and amusement flooded Blaise's face, and that was interesting; this time, instead of the fear, there was a quick flash of pleasure. Nearly everyone called Malfoy the Slytherin Ice Prince, but Hermione had once grumbled that those who said that had never met Zabini. Blaise could out-ice Malfoy any day with his constant dismissive attitude. Now that Harry had gotten to know him, there was a lot to him that Harry liked. Blaise had a nice, easy sense of humour underneath his chilly exterior, and when he smiled, it was a slow quiet thing that gave his gorgeous face a sweet tinge.
Harry blinked, and wondered about Malfoy: what was he like underneath the pale, sharp exterior? A former Death Eater, yes, but who had gone through his community service with a quiet sort of determination, as far as the reports claimed. And yes, Harry had convinced Shacklebolt to let him view Malfoy's parole record, which might or might not have been a moral thing to do, but he had been overcome with the need to know so much more about his…his mate.
"Maybe I'll try touching Draco less," Blaise said. "It's hard, you know, he's a good friend of mine, and we share the same room."
"Yes, of course," Harry said, nodding and trying to remember that just a few seconds ago, he had thought that Blaise was actually not a bad bloke. He didn't want to rush at Blaise for being in such close proximity to Malfoy all the time. It made him feel dizzy, this sudden and intense possessiveness.
"Can you tell him something for me?" Harry said, not giving himself a chance to over-think. "Tell him I'd like to meet with him."
Blaise's eyebrows were a pair of dark question-marks. "You want to see him," he stated, very flatly. "You want to meet with Draco?"
Harry bit the inside of his lip. "Er. Yes?"
"Wonderful," Blaise said, and set his mouth in a hard line before speaking once more. "I hope you don't intend to hurt him," he said, and he sounded very friendly in spite of the sudden stiffness in his expression. Harry looked at him, experiencing a satisfying sort of wonder.
"I'll try not to," Harry said, trying to be very truthful. "I mean, we have a history and all."
Blaise gave him a very long look and then shrugged, as if he could not care less.
"I'll tell him, then," was all he said, and Harry fought the trill of excitement in his chest. The wind kissed his cheek, and blasted off to corners unknown.
Draco stood outside the new Room of Hidden Things, staring at the ground as if in penitence; he'd already paced the requisite three times in front of it, and an arched wooden door had appeared. The Room of Hidden Things was nowhere near where it had been originally, but it still had the same guarded air about it. To be completely honest, wasn't quite sure how he'd found it. Potter's scent, probably. He ran a hand through his hair and then took hold of the handle, turning it.
The lock clicked; the door swung open slightly under the weight of his touch. Draco waited for a beat, and then pushed it open completely. The scent of his mate uncurled out of the widening space to greet him. Draco actually felt himself stagger a bit, internally. He clenched his fist and stepped inside fully, looking at the space in some detail before allowing himself to consider Potter's face. The Room had clothed itself in very neutral colours, and was more of the size of an office than any spatial arrangement it had taken on before. There was nothing there which told the story of his failures, or the death of his friend. That was good. Draco stood with his hands held behind his back, then turned his head slowly to give Harry Potter a long look, as unimpressed as he could make it.
Potter sat in very plush couch, one leg crossed over the other, one arm relaxed flat on the closest arm of the couch. His expression was as calm as the Room.
"Malfoy," Potter said and Draco didn't walk over to touch his lips, he didn't. That would have been completely unacceptable, going against any Malfoy standard ever made. No self-respecting Malfoy would show such blatant emotion to a potential lover.
How about to your mate, then, something asked in the back of his mind, and it had the voice of a feral fire.
"Potter," he said, and watched as Potter's eyelids fluttered slightly and his lips parted. Draco landed in the matching armchair, and rubbed at one eyebrow with tired fingers. "How are you?" he asked, and looked up, right into Potter's face.
"What? Oh." Potter frowned slightly. "I'm fine."
"Are you really?" Draco shook his head at himself. "I feel compelled to ask, Potter, don't read anything into it."
"I'm really fine." Potter looked at him with those fathomless eyes, green as a still lake. "Does it worry you if you're not sure?"
"Of course not," Draco spat and then felt the lie sit heavily on his chest. "Yes. Fuck it, yes, I'll worry if I'm not sure." He levelled a glare at Potter, who sat there serenely as if Draco's worst was nothing to him, and it probably wasn't, really. This speccy git had faced down the Dark Lord, the same Dark Lord who had lived in Draco's house for months and Draco hadn't the guts to even try and poison him; and he could have done it, too. Severus Snape had taught him to bottle death, after all.
"That's nice to hear," Potter said, and when Draco looked up at him in surprise, one side of his mouth twitched up. "Even if it's a bit odd coming from you, it's still nice."
"It's all biological, isn't it?" Draco asked, trying to dredge up a sneer but feeling really too tired for it. It was rather wearing, being annoyed and angry at someone all the time, especially when a very large part of himself really didn't feel up to it.
Potter arched a questioning eyebrow at him. "Have you been doing your own research? Into Elemental relationships, that is?"
"If by that you mean do I have a Granger doing all the legwork for me, then no, Potter," Draco said and Potter smiled. "But I've been talking to…my Elemental consultant."
"Doreen?" Potter's face lit up at Draco's slow nod, and he leaned forwards in his chair. "I know her! She's Brightharp's cousin, three-times removed, I think. She gave me a book of his."
"Who is this Brightharp?" Draco asked, trying to sound as if he didn't care. Potter licked his lips, and a flush stole up his cheeks.
"He was an Elemental fae. He was a friend," was all he said in a very quiet tone.
Quickly, so as to change the subject and get Potter's mind of that fae, Draco said, "At least you've heard about the tellar and the telloi? From all of Granger's research, that is."
"We have," Potter said. "It's all rather interesting."
"It is," Draco said, and inspected his fingernails. "You do understand that it's all about top and bottom, right?"
For a brief moment, Potter seemed confused, and then a frown gathered between his eyebrows. However, he didn't blush as Draco had expected, or seem flustered. He actually appeared thoughtful.
"Are you even gay, Potter?" Draco asked, feeling somewhat desperate. His fingertips itched. He wanted to stroke Potter's neck. Potter's chin lifted incrementally, as if he knew the urge within Draco's fingers.
"Why?" Potter asked, and the mischievous grin he flashed at Draco was positively criminal. "Does it matter to you?"
"Yes," Draco snapped and then shook his head. "No."
"When you make up your mind, you'll be sure to share it with me, right?" Potter said, very dryly.
Draco exhaled heavily. "I'll share something else in the meantime." He told Potter about what Doreen said about her great-grandparents, and at the end of the recount, Potter seemed extremely intrigued.
"It's like alphas and omegas for werewolves," Potter said. "I looked it up after Hermione mentioned them. Regular wolves don't really have such a strictly established structure, did you know that? But werewolves do." Potter actually pulled out a sheaf of parchment out of his pocket, and unfurled it to show Draco: The Applied Validity for Alpha/Omega Bonds In Relation to Werewolves, by Cornelia Locemtria. "She writes brilliant articles," Potter said, offhandedly.
"You read this?" Draco moved to sit on the couch so he could take the article and skim the text.
"Well, yes," Potter said; he leaned in, and sniffed at Draco's neck. Draco turned at the feel of his warm breath. "Sorry," Potter said, leaning away. Now, he blushed. "I couldn't help it--"
In all his years, few as they were, Draco never thought that he would be sitting in a couch and kissing Harry Potter. If someone had told him this a mere month ago, he would either have sneered at them or hexed them, or both at the same time. He found himself pressing Potter back against the couch, licking into his mouth hungrily. Yes; yes, he could taste Potter's scent; it was shocking and refreshing as a mint that had been packed into a snowball. He didn't even know where the article had gone to, he just lived the reality of Potter's smell, his strong arms and rocking hips.
He pulled away, and Potter followed him back, now pressing him against the seat-cushions. Their legs tangled together as Potter stretched out over him, and Draco parted his legs, allowing Potter's lean weight to settle against his thighs, to press the material of his pants and underpants against his cock. He could feel the heat of Potter's prick against his thigh, but his brain was only partly focussed on that at the moment. Mostly, it was caught up in a state of contentment. His mate was here. Fire leapt to life around them, encircling the couch.
He was flat on his back and he mustered the will to tear his lips away from Potter's kiss, turning his head to the side and gasping. Potter nuzzled his neck and licked at his ear.
"Stop," Draco said, pushing at Potter's chest. Potter paused, and then moved back; his lips were plump and red with kisses, eyes half-mast and sultry. He noticed the flames dancing around the couch, and his eyes widened some more. Draco opened his mouth to say something whilst gathering the willpower to put out the fire, but Potter pursed his lips and exhaled, a whistle without sound. A wall of wind shimmered around them and the flames puffed out quite willingly, leaving spires of smoke-scorched air. Draco blinked.
"Not good?" Potter asked, and at first, Draco thought it was just false-modesty about his wind putting out Draco's fires; but then he stared for a beat and realised that Potter was asking about that serious snogging session just now. His shoulders were pulled in close together, and while he regarded Draco with enviable poise, there was something about his air that was akin to someone preparing for a blow.
"No, not good," Draco said and closed his eyes against the wounded expression that flitted across Potter's face. He groaned. "I'm lying, of course, I'm sorry, but this is not what I want."
"Oh," Potter said, in a very small voice. "I suppose… I don't know how it works, but maybe it's not imperative like a Veela bond--"
"Apart from the fact that you're you, Potter, and I'm me," Draco cut in, resting his head heavily against the top of the sofa. "I hate feeling out of control. And this," he flapped one hand wildly between them, "is out of my control. We fought over Blaise last week; obviously you've forgotten."
"I haven't." Potter took his hand and Draco opened his eyes. Potter offered a small smile and then rubbed that hand as if Draco had suffered some kind of fainting-spell. "I have thought about it, and I think it's something worth trying. You and I. Don't you?"
He looked into Draco's face with all his power of earnestness, apparently. Draco had every suitable retort dancing at the tip of his tongue, from Malfoys and Death Eaters aren't exactly welcome in the Golden Boy's inner circle to we're far too different; but these defences were but a dessicated forest and a fire razed them all the ground in seconds.
Besides, how different were they, really? They were both Elementals, now.
"It…can be," he said, halting over each word in an uncharacteristic fashion. “Worth trying.”
"All right then," Potter said, as if that was that, and maybe it was.
"Ugh!" Harry said, stomping into his room and throwing his satchel in the general direction of his bed. It struck the side of the bed, and slid down to the floor pitifully. Harry glared at it and clenched his fists.
"Malfoy driving you up the wall again, is he?" Ron said from his bed, flipping through a few of his magazines. He flicked a wary gaze at Harry, who traced truncated shapes of rage in the air with his hands.
"He's mental!" Harry yelled, stomping over to kick his bag. "He's--he's--!" He stopped short of any proper description, eyes and hair wild. The strands of black and grey wavered in the rising breeze.
"Yeah," Ron said. "He is, completely."
"I just wish he'd just listen to me." Harry flopped face-down onto his bed and said something else, but his speech was muffled by the thick bedding. At least the gusts of wind were gone.
"What was that?" Ron asked, and changed one magazine for another.
Harry sat up with a huff. "He gets weird when I talk to anyone else and then goes off into the bloody Slytherin tower. Won't come out and have a chat, will he?" He grabbed a pillow and worried it with his hands. "But when I point out that he's just as close to Blaise as I am to, well, you--"
"Exactly," Ron said, easily. "Except for the part where we don't snog."
"That's what I said. We had a row over that, too." Harry groaned and scrubbed at his face with both hands. "At least they don't do that, not anymore. He says they hadn't in a long while and then the whole scent thing had crossed their wires or whatever."
Ron looked over his magazine. "How would you know if they'd snogged or not, anyway?"
"I'd smell him on Blaise," Harry said, darkly. The pages of Ron's magazines fluttered in a quick squall, and then settled down again.
"Look, Malfoy's a massive berk," Ron said, with feeling. He gave Harry a very severe look that he might have taken up from Hermione. "That's how he's always been, what did you expect? Think he'd change once you'd started with all the mate stuff? It's like asking him to be less pointy."
"Noooo." Harry pressed his face into his pillows again. "I just… aren't we all different now? We've been through so much."
There was a long silence from Ron's side, so much so that Harry raised his head a little and peeped at his friend. Ron was rubbing his knee in that contemplative manner he had, something he did when he was thinking of his next moves in chess.
"We have," Ron finally said. "All of us, yeah." He said nothing more, and Harry snuggled into his pillows more comfortably. He frowned at the memory of his argument with Malfoy…with Draco. It was probably the explosive result of many resentful years, and when fire had clothed the air around Draco's body at the most strident part of their quarrel, Harry had unthinkingly extinguished them all.
Draco had been livid, and quietly so. "Stop doing that," he'd said, his tone very flat. "You always do that."
"What?" Harry had scowled at him. "Not always. You always bloody exaggerate. I just…it looks very frightening."
"It's not," Draco had said, giving Harry all the weight of a silvery glare. "It's very protective of me." He blinked at Harry, as if he had just realised something himself.
"So's my wind," Harry retorted, dropping his eyelids to narrow slits. "You're not that special."
Of course, that set them both off again, and before Harry knew it, there was a windstorm around them, mixed in with flames. It was all childish and stupid and yet so very serious, because there was something in Draco that reached out to Harry, and something in Harry that reached out to him. In moments, they were on the floor in their room, the Room of Hidden Things, groping at hot skin and gasping at the sensation of their hard dicks pressed against the other. Harry wanted too many things at once. He just wanted to have Draco, everything be damned: the shocked air of the Wizarding media, the inquisitorial expressions of those who weren't very close to him.
It was so easy to straddle Draco and grind down against him, to hear his low panting. Draco gripped his hips, dragged his nails down Harry's back and then pushed him away when they both came, stalking off to a corner of the Room.
Harry had left; when he'd tried to get into Slytherin tower later, Draco had refused to see him. It had torn at a primal place inside Harry, deep in the marrow of his bones. He'd gone outside and let the winds run over him as he sat beside the river, perfectly warm in the middle of a tiny cyclone. He'd still been in a snit, though.
"Maybe you should have some actual sex," Ron said, sounding as if he was blushing and grinning at the same time.
"Please don't start." Harry reached for his sulky-blanket. "I've had this conversation with Gin, with Hermione and with Blaise. With everyone, really, even Luna. We can't decide who gets on top."
"Yes, well." Ron cleared his throat quite a few times.
"We fight over it." Harry sighed and curled himself into the sulky-blanket. "All the time."
Ron hummed faintly. "Right. Of course. You'd fight over everything, you two."
"Is this making you uncomfortable?" Harry asked, injecting a teasing note into his voice. "He's very stubborn about it." Harry twisted his mouth into a frown. "I am too. Mostly."
By now, Ron had his magazine right up to his face.
"Does it matter, though?" Harry murmured, mostly to himself. He plucked at some wayward thread on his blanket.
Ron grinned at him. "Can't ask me that. That's something you'll figure out for yourself. And you will," he said with a Dumbledorian twinkle. "Eventually."
"You'll have another cake, Draco," Narcissa said, and shared it out herself. "You as well, dearest Blaise."
"Thank you, Narcissa," Blaise said, oozing charm out of every pore. Draco gave him a very solid look out of the corner of his eye. Blaise smirked in return.
"I had expected to see Harry Potter," Narcissa said, taking a delicate sip of her tea. "When I invited you to come home for the weekend, I did not expect that you would abandon your mate."
"I haven't abandoned him, Mother." Draco tried to keep the agitation out of his voice, but Narcissa's face was a study in unimpressed. "He wouldn't have wanted to come here in any case."
"Did you ask him?" Narcissa looked around, as if the answer to this question was written somewhere on the elaborate boiserie. "I've done so much to the Manor, changed up quite a few things, you know."
"You've done brilliantly," Blaise said.
"Thank you, my dear," Narcissa said, ignoring Draco's glower. "I've tried, really. I've made the place all bright. I've done up a nice set of rooms on the wing nearest the gardens, and then you're home with no mate to present to your mother. Harry Potter's your mate of all people, and you're not taking advantage of that at all. Your father's not here to help repair our reputation, you do realise. It's up to you and I."
"It's not as if he's for you," Draco grumbled, fixating on that part. Narcissa sniffed.
"I suppose you've gone and been a Malfoy, somehow," she said and Draco blinked incredulously. "It might suit you to use your Black charm, at times. He could have wanted to come, you know. He probably thought it would be a wonderfully fresh start, for everyone."
"You can't know that," Draco said, looking down into his teacup. When he had told Potter--Harry--that he would be going home for the weekend, Harry had seemed expectant, his face bright and hopeful. When Draco had said nothing more, Harry's face had gone blank in half a heartbeat.
"Have fun," he'd said, turning on his heel and marching off. "Say hello to your mum for me."
Draco felt a little ill in his stomach at the memory of Harry's back, moving away from him. The cakes, he told himself as he shifted in his chair. He had given up on sweets for some time, having so many just now would have an adverse effect, wouldn't it?
His heart; it was racing in his chest. He could feel the heavy thumping of his blood in his ears. The whole world seemed to freeze for a few long breaths, and then start again, but far too slowly. His mother opened her mouth to speak, but she was moving through molasses. Draco turned his head, looking towards the nearest Floo on the opposite side of the room.
It was going to ignite. A call was going to burst up into the centre of it, powered by the vibrant element which fell under Draco's control. He could feel the air gathering into vibrating molecules.
"Harry," he said, and got up out of his chair before the name finished ringing in the air. Green sparks flickered in the Floo as he walked towards it, moving too fast and too slow. He reached out, both with his hand and with his mind, and held onto the heart of his element, feeling it pulse in the ends of his nerves. The fire took hold of him, lovingly, carefully, and dragged him through space and time.
He stepped out of the other end of the Floo-call, and nearly trampled Granger, who had been kneeling in front of the Floo, in the middle of making a call to him.
"Sorry, sorry," he said absently, and reeled, nearly blinded by Harry's scent. "Where--" he stopped, and inhaled a deep breath. "Merlin. Where is he?"
Someone was calling his name and gripping his shoulder. He felt the heat at his back as the fire hurled itself up to defend him, but he realised that this someone was Granger and so he asked the fire to stand down; it did.
"Malfoy," Granger said urgently. "Stop and listen to me, or I'll hex you."
"Talk," he growled. "You don't have much time."
"We know," another voice said, and had the Weasel been inside here this whole time? How odd. Weasley's face was red as his hair, and he looked as if he was about to implode, but he stood in front of a door with his arms crossed. Draco blinked. He was in the sitting area which served the Gryffindor Upper Sevenths, similar to the one for the Slytherins. Harry was behind that door, waiting for him.
"Harry's in heat," Weasley said and grimaced so hard that it was almost comical, if Draco hadn't been so distracted at the moment. "He says he's sure of it, I don't even want to think about how--"
"If it's anything like werewolves," Granger cut in, quickly and desperately, "anything at all, you're supposed to be taking care of your omega during his heat. That's Harry to you. He's your omega."
"What are you even saying, Granger?!" Draco asked, hands clenched into fists so that he wouldn't simply shove her away. The air grew warm but Weasley didn't move. Granger grabbed both his shoulders now, shaking him slightly.
"He's your telloi," Granger said, clearly enunciating each word. "You’re his tellar. He's been an absolute berk when you've been away, completely out of sorts, and it's gotten worse. If he isn't happy or content during--" she paused, and then went on: "During sex, it could be painful for him, and very distressing. Do you understand?"
"Yes," Draco said and glared when Granger shook him again. "Yes, damnit, I understand."
"You hurt him," Granger said. "I hurt you." She let him go, uncurling her grip, finger by finger like an oath. Draco went towards the door and stared at Weasley, who stepped aside only after giving Draco a long look.
Draco opened the door and stepped in, closing it behind him. Harry stood in the middle of the room, between the two large beds, his hands wrapped around himself. He was wearing a white, long-sleeved shirt, part of their uniform, and nothing else.
"I don't know what to do," Harry said, shuddering. "I can't…think. Come here, we have to do something."
Draco tugged of his clothes, shivering at the edge of the wind inside the room. Harry gazed at him with dark eyes, and when Draco reached to him, he took a few hesitant steps and then stopped, gaining a wary air.
"You need this just as much as I do," Draco grated out, all sense nearly overwhelmed by the proximity and the readiness of his mate. "Don't make this any harder than it needs to be."
He expected Harry to make a joke of it, to drop his regard to Draco's erection and say something with that dry wit of his, but Harry just stared in his face as if he expected something very important to happen. Draco took a step towards him, hands held palm-up. Another step, and Harry's lips parted, but he shrunk back as if Draco would strike him. That action felt as if Harry had shoved him off a cliff.
"No, no," Draco whispered, crooned it, really. No, no, he would never hurt him. He suddenly had the very clear insight that his peace of mind was directly tied to Harry's well-being. He was like the Hogwart's gargoyles now, forever watchful, prepared for any strike. Instinctively, he lowered himself to one knee, looking up at Harry. He was the dominant now, apparently, and that was a responsibility he wasn't sure he could handle.
He waited, though, and didn't move until Harry seemed to relax and then approached him with two light steps, as if he was walking on air. Harry touched his face, and then fell upon him, moaning nonsense and rubbing himself against Draco, breath hitching at every upstroke.
"Wait," Draco said, and Harry froze, panting. "We need to do this on the bed. All right?"
"Right," Harry said, blinking rapidly. "Okay. That's mine over there." He got to his feet and pulled Draco in the right direction. He gave Draco a hard and hungry kiss, walking backwards and tumbling to sit on the edge of the unmade bed. Draco put his hands under the material of Harry's shirt, easing it off his shoulders. He felt so good under Draco's hands and he placed one knee in between Harry's legs, almost on his bollocks. Harry scooted back, and Draco followed, bending to catch his mouth in another kiss; and so they went backwards together, moving in rough tandem until Harry's back was finally against the pillows.
Harry moaned as Draco's body covered his. However, Draco took his time with Harry's trembling body, running the point of his tongue around Harry's nipples and the flats of his hands over Harry's flanks. Harry arched up into him, murmuring this moment and tugging demandingly on Draco's hair the next.
Draco slid a hand down the back of Harry's thigh, and when he slipped a finger inside Harry's hole, he found it wet and ready. Harry groaned and tossed his head from side to side as Draco stared down at him.
"I….I," Harry said, his skin feverish under Draco's hands and tongue. "I got ready for you. I just had to, I felt I was going crazy." He looked up at Draco and licked his lips. "You make me mental."
Draco actually found the strength to smile down at him. "Is it worth it?"
"I'll tell you in a few years," Harry said and parted his legs even wider. They both groaned as the head of Draco's prick nudged up against his slick entrance. Draco paused, holding himself back and Harry actually whined. Draco bit his bottom lip as he pressed his way inside Harry, watching as Harry writhed under him and was warm-tight all around him and he thought, wildly, I will kill for him. Harry Potter would probably never know that, and Draco might never tell him, but Draco would do that, for him.
Fire erupted in the air above them, and Draco pulled back, and pushed in again, deeper this time. Harry seemed to resist him for a moment, and his whole body went rigid. Wind descended on the hovering spikes of fire and put out nearly all of them, except one; that last one dropped to a small blue flicker.
Draco stopped, even though his groin screamed at him not to. "Are you all right?" he said, his own voice sounding strangled to his own ears. "Harry?"
Harry looked up at him, pushed up on his elbows, fingers gripping the sheets. For an interminable moment, he seemed as if he was going to push Draco off and roll away. His body shimmered on the edge of some internal debate.
Then, he let go completely and Draco slid home.
"Mmm," Harry said, lying back and sounding content as Draco pressed his forehead to the sweaty curve of his neck. The wind coaxed the single spire of fire to a larger blaze, which split into an obedient circle of blue fire. "I think this is better. Isn't that better?"
"Yes." Draco licked his neck. "It is."
"You can move," Harry said, with a twitch of his hips. "Come on, hurry."
"You're a bossy telloi," Draco told him and moved in him. Harry gave him a small smile and then sighed as Draco kissed him. His breath filled Draco's hot mouth, his lungs. They moved in waves together, and Draco thought that his flames would burn down Harry's room, or scorch their flesh; but Harry's wind tempered them, coaxed them into spiralling funnels of light, and did not let them go out.
Harry gripped his arse with both hands, pulling Draco into himself with urgent little squeezes of his fingers.
"Harder," Harry said, burning Draco up with his gaze. Draco gave him harder, and bit his lower lip while he was at it. Harry laughed and pinched his side. Draco laughed even as he came, body shuddering against Harry, who gasped and arched up, and let out a sharp sob as his cock pulsed between them. Draco's arms gave out, just in time, and he settled as carefully as he could against Harry's sweaty skin. He felt Harry's chest move quickly against his, and it was comforting.
Draco rolled off him as soon as he got his breath back.
"What?" Harry said, voice thick with drowsiness. Draco wanted to sleep too, but he had to check. Summoning a wet cloth, he pushed up Harry's legs, and asked for all of the fires to go out, leaving a bit of one to give him light. Harry went back up on his elbows, watching Draco curiously. Draco wiped away the thin dribble of his own semen from Harry's hole, stroking the puckered rim carefully. "Hey, wait, stop," Harry said, pulling back and sitting up, making a face as he did so.
"Does it hurt?" Draco asked, sitting up himself. "Did I--"
"I'm fine," Harry said. "A bit sore, but I've just had a cock up my arse, so. You know. Expected."
He laughed a little, and it sounded a bit like the wind singing; Draco liked hearing it, and so he smiled too. He leaned over and pressed a kiss to his mate's mouth. Harry tilted his head and parted his lips.
"You taste warm," Harry said when they pulled apart rather reluctantly.
"I can show you warmer," Draco said, and kissed him again. "I'll start fires for you." At Harry's slight frown, he added. "I'll let you put some out, if you like."
Harry's mouth quirked to one side. He pursed those lips and blew wind at Draco's little flame; it twisted into beautiful swirls, and went out.