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The night was still, and a little warm. The houses in the row were darkly quiet, occupants undisturbed. There was a quiet puffing sound, a gentle intrusion into the thick tranquility, and two men walked rather casually out of an impossibly narrow space between one yard and the next. Both were similarly dressed in short coats with massive hoods and long, wide-mouthed sleeves.

The men walked at an unhurried pace up the slight slope, side-by-side on the sidewalk. They didn't speak; one of them was tall and bulky in a well-fed way, wisps of red hair escaping from the shadows of his hood. The other was shorter, and more slender; his hood was down, and he had lots of wavy black hair which was combed into a careful fringe over his forehead. When the two passed under the first streetlight, one could see that he had bright green eyes.

If one was awake and looking, of course, they would see these odd strangers; that is, if one was awake and looking and the streetlight happened to stay lit, for as soon as the two men took a single step past it, the taller of the two raised his hand and clicked something. The streetlight and all its other brethren were snuffed out one by one, and the entire road was plunged in a darkness so solid it could almost be sliced.

The two men kept up their calm pace; it was like a Sunday morning stroll. They stopped in front of one of the houses, no different from the ones on either side of it, appearing just as dark and as still as the rest. The two men just looked at it for a few moments, then stepped forwards.

They disappeared. There was no fancy puff of smoke, no bright shower of sparks. If one was awake and looking out, they would have noticed that one moment the men were there, and the next, they were simply not.

...if one was awake, of course.

+

When Harry passed through the thick, invisible bubble that was simultaneously acting as a sound-barrier and a camouflage, the bustle and bright lights were enough to make him wince. He glanced over his shoulder, gazing at the quiet, darkened road. Looking forward again, he watched with Ron as Aurors swarmed over the house. All the windows and doors were open, but most of them were barely hanging off their hinges. Bright balls of light hovered overhead, illuminating the scene so harshly that the shadows of people and object huddled bleakly underfoot. Harry glanced at the few wizards standing at the edge of the bubble, maintaining the visual component of the shielding spell.

Bands of tape, glowing electric blue, were strung across the doorway. The words AUROR LINE DO NOT CROSS shimmered in the cool air. A reporter was barely obeying the command of the tape, standing on the tiny front stoop and peering inside the house.

Above all the activity, a loud scream was unfurling in the air. It was consistent in pitch and volume, and Harry felt the skin of his arms and the back of his neck prickle into gooseflesh.

He looked up at Ron. "Banshee?"

Ron pulled back his cowl and shook his head, slowly. "Banshees don't sound like that." His eyebrows clenched towards each other as he frowned. "Hurts your heart, doesn't it?"

Harry nodded. The keening was indeed agonizing to hear. It tore at the chest and scrabbled at the eardrums, and Harry found it a bit hard to breathe.

An Auror, Blake Samuels, ducked underneath the tape, gave the reporter a quick, impatient glance and then spotted Ron and Harry. Samuels hurried over, wand gripped tightly in her left hand.

"Chief, Auror Weasely," she greeted in a low murmur, absently using the new nickname the other Aurors had mischievously dubbed Harry when he'd been assigned the post of Acting Head Auror. It was just a temporary position until the Head Auror returned from her vacation, but Chief had stuck from that first day.

"It's...awful in there," Samuels said in a very heavy manner, a hard line furrowing the dark skin between her eyebrows. "You may want to brace yourself."

Harry and Ron exchanged quick glances, and then strode after Samuels, ducking underneath the crime-scene bands. As they passed through the foyer and headed for the wide staircase, the constant scream wavered for a few beats, dipped in volume and then continued. Harry paused near the foot of the staircase, looking at the pictures decorating the wall. A couple smiled out from all the images. In one of them, a lanky, narrow-faced man raced, feet bare, across what appeared to be a sloping backyard. The cuffs of his khaki trousers were turned half-way up his long legs, and his robes hung open, fluttering behind him as he ran. He laughed as he fled from a small woman storming in his wake, her thick black hair decorated with what seemed to be cake icing. Her blue gown was made of material that seemed to glitter in the bright sunlight as she chased him with a handful of cake.

Samuels called out, "Chief?" Harry snapped his gaze away from his inspection of the other photographs, glancing up to Samuels and Ron at the very top of the flight. Harry hurried up, wincing as the shrill cry ratcheted up once more. He retrieved his wand from its holster within his sleeve, and cast a muffling charm on his ears, as the others had probably had already done.

The door to the bedroom hung onto its frame by one hinge. The atmosphere up here felt dense; layers of wild magic prickled at Harry's skin. The hair on his arms stood up, and for a moment he stood in the corridor, shifting his weight from one foot to another.

Samuels slid a bit of parchment into his palm and Harry lifted his hand to read what was written on it. It was part of her preliminary report:


victim: Joseph Baker, victim. 34, Ministry Potioneer, Ministry Labs. Acknowledged Veela Mate (6 yrs)
suspect: Valerie Yee, 36; Assistant Editor, WWN. Veela. (Mate: J. Baker)

Victim's co-worker (Angela Reid) called DMLE (00:14 hrs). Indicated that J. Baker left on-going experiments in labs at 8:15 pm, should have returned to night-shift; Reid contacted the Yee-Baker residence, heard shrieking through the Floo (app. 11:45 hrs).

DMLE response: 00:16 hrs. Coroner tentative estimate TOD at 8:25 pm.

Body? Harry mouthed, looking at Samuels' face as he handed back the parchment. She jerked her chin in the direction of the room. The medical examiner hadn't moved the victim as yet, which wasn't unusual; they might have been waiting for a lead Auror to show up.

Ron's lips moved through the words veela rep? Blake replied: Soon.

Harry nodded and squared his shoulders, stepping inside the room. The magic hovering in the air was nearly unbearable, like walking through molasses, but Harry stared at the bed. He'd been working as an Auror for nearly nine years, and had seen some awful crime scenes, but this one shot to the top of the list. Blood was everywhere: splatters of crimson dripped down the walls. Most of it was on the bed, but Harry didn't know if that was a good thing or a bad thing.

The tall thin body of Joseph Baker lay in the middle of that large bed, arms and legs spread wide. His torso was a mangled mess; skin torn into shreds, some of the organs ripped out and exposed to the bright balls of lumos hovering overhead. The victim's face, though pale, was oddly unmarked in comparison to the rest of the body.

Joseph Baker's head rested in the lap of his mate, from whom the constant mourning howl emanated. Her bloody hands cradled his head, fingers elongated into claws. She looked nothing like the woman in the photographs which decorated the stairwell walls. Valerie Yee had taken on her full Veela state: a powerful frame that was taller than Ron's, eyes fully black and staring wide; feathers sprouting from underneath her eyes and almost obscuring her hair; skin glowing with a dark, noxious light.

Her lips were parted to release that perpetual wail; Harry could see her white teeth, small and even. The front of the large shirt she wore was blood-soaked, and the material strained against her muscular arms.

The DMLE coroner stood to one corner of the bed, her arms folded over her chest. She spotted Ron and Harry, and stalked over to them, her eyes narrowing as she approached. Ron cast a bubble around them, cutting down on the Veela's cries. Harry unplugged his ears, raising his eyebrows at Amrita Gopal.

"Can't get closer to the body," Dr. Gopal said, voice crisp. "When we try to move him, she claws at us and her magic gets wilder." She wrinkled her nose. "And the screaming too, that doesn't help much."

"Veela Rep should show up in--" Samuels started, and Ron's muffling bubble rippled as someone new stepped into it.

"I'm here."

Harry felt his whole body go still, and laboured to turn his head. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Draco Malfoy standing behind them, looking at everyone else except Harry. The last time Harry had seen him, Malfoy's hair had been shorn quite low, just a fuzz of pale hair atop his head. Now, it was growing back, brushed in wisps across his wide forehead. The ends of his fringe brushed against his eyelashes as he blinked.

Draco Malfoy's Veela nature had manifested some time after he had served his community service. For all intents and purposes, Malfoy had disappeared into the Veela Nation, and emerged a few years ago to take up the post of Wizard-Veela Liaison Officer, attached to the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. He and Harry had begun interacting with each other at the Ministry and it was...pleasant. Really wonderful. Brilliant, really. Harry had been cautiously joyous for a few delirious months, until Malfoy had suddenly pulled away and seemed to take most of Harry with him.

Ron spoke up, glancing at Harry out of the corner of his eye. "Malfoy, our coroner here needs to take care of the body."

Malfoy peered over their shoulders and his eyes widened. He swallowed hard, one hand fluttering up to clutch at the high collar. He swayed; Samuels reached out and grasped his elbow.

"Alright, there?" she asked, her voice very soft. "It's bad, we know."

"I--" Malfoy let out a slow breath and colour returned to his cheeks. "I know them. Very well."

"Then maybe you can get her to let go of the body," Gopal snapped. "She won't let us near."

"Alright." Malfoy hesitated, then stepped past Harry with a bare flicker of his eyes, exiting the bubble. Harry felt his heart sink all the way to his toes, but he kept his chin up and shook his head very slightly when Ron gave him a questioning tilt of his eyebrows. They watched as Malfoy picked his way across the room and knelt close to the bed.

Valerie Yee's midnight gaze shifted over to Malfoy and her keening stuttered, then melted away. The wild magic in the room lightened and then dissipated like mist in the sunlight. The air around her body shimmered and the Veela form shifted to the human appearance evident in the photographs downstairs. Ron cancelled his muffling bubble, and the quiet felt alien as it settled over the room.

Malfoy murmured something, and Valerie slumped over, bending at the waist so she could press her lips to the bloodless forehead.

"Val," Malfoy said, a little louder. "You need to let him go."

"I didn't mean it," she whispered, her voice cracking. "I didn't mean it."

"Don't say anything," Malfoy snapped, but that was as good as a confession as Harry had ever heard. Malfoy turned towards him, his eyes like ice-chips. "You can't take her into custody at the Ministry, Potter."

"I can't?" Harry pressed his lips tightly together for a moment. "Explain to me why I can't."

"Because she'll go into what we call loss feedback shock." Malfoy stared up at him steadily. "Her mate is dead. They were bonded very closely, and for a full-blood Veela, the effects can be detrimental. She could die."

Harry looked over at Valerie, who was being removed from the bed as carefully as Gopal could manage. Fine tremors wracked the Veela's body, and she pulled close at the blanket thrown over her shoulders.

"I have to take her in, Malfoy," Harry said, as gently as he could. "I need to question her."

"I'll go." Valerie sounded very distant. The eerie calm of her voice was a direct counterpoint to the way tears streamed down her cheeks. "There's nothing left for me here."

She did not resist when Ron put the manacles over her wrists. "We'll be quick as we can," Ron told Malfoy.

"I'll come with you." Malfoy got to his feet. "I'll need to take her back to Kraljevic Institute as soon as you're finished--"

"And when she recovers, we'll press charges as necessary," Harry said. He turned to Samuels, but not before he noted the hardness in Malfoy's eyes. "Could you fetch Angela Reid?"

Samuels nodded. "Yes, sir. She should still be on the night-shift at the Ministry's labs."

"I'll contact the rest of Blake's family," Ron said, taking up that duty as usual. Harry was always grateful when he did, because Ron was far better at dealing with grieving loved ones. He had that way of consoling even as he kept the blood-soaked details from pervading an already distressing experience. They didn't need Harry Potter talking to them about how their loss; sometimes, that made it a lot worse.

"Okay." Harry held up his wand. "Let's go."

+

Valerie Yee's suspect interview was very short.

"I killed my Joe," she said, head bent as she seemed to drag her way through every word. Her eyelids drooped and she ignored the cup of cold tea atop the metal table. Now and again, she shuddered, lips trembling. "I came home, and there was a stranger, in Joseph's clothes." She looked up at Samuels across the table, her eyes Veela-black again. "I thought he had done something to Joseph, and I...couldn't think."

She closed her eyes and put her forehead on the table, crying quietly. Samuels glanced towards the two-way mirror, where Harry stood in the observation room.

"Miss Yee?" Samuels prodded, and Valerie let out a low moan, clutching at her stomach. "Do you need us to call Malfoy?"

Valerie shook her head. "No. I'll finish." She straightened up, and wiped at her cheeks. "When it was over, I saw that it was my Joseph." She struggled to breathe. "What did I do? What did I do?"

Harry stepped out of the observation room, and crossed over to the other. It looked out into an interview room identical to the one in use by Samuels; Ron sat across from Angela Reid, the co-worker who had called. She was still dressed in her lab robes, and pulled at her hair with quick, sharp movements.

"I mean, how could Val have done that?" Angela was saying as Harry closed the door of the observation room. "She and Joseph were perfect."

"You knew them well?" Ron asked with a small smile, the very picture of a relaxed, friendly Auror.

"Oh, yeah." Angela snatched a biscuit from the plate between them, nibbling quickly at one side. "I knew Val before she bonded with Joe. Have you seen her? She's really lovely, isn't she?"

"Yeah," Ron agreed, but he stole a very quick glance towards the glass.

"I was at their bonding ceremony," Angela shared. "It was nice. They're so great together."

"Was it?" Ron leaned forward, and dropped his voice a little, without altering his smile. "So if they were so great together, what happened tonight?"

Angela shrugged, but it was a jerky movement. "Joseph usually goes home for a nap when we're on the night-shift. Like I told that other Auror, he didn't come back in time, so I called, 'cause I had to go home for a bit, myself." She said all of this in a quick rush, grabbing for another biscuit. "Is Val okay?" she asked, her mouth full.

Ron lied easily. "She's fine."

"Can I see her?" Angela leaned forward and blinked very rapidly. She had wide-set eyes over high cheekbones, her pale skin stretched taut. "I'm sure she needs to see a friend. It was a mistake, right? You're not going to send her to Azkaban?"

"You know we don't send anyone of the Veela nation to Azkaban," Ron reminded her, without answering her first question at all. "If they're sentenced under Wizarding law, then they're sent to the Raidne Security Facility. They can't be held in the general population, yeah?"

Angela deflated visibly. "Oh. Can I still see her, though?"

"Not right now." Ron got to his feet. "You're free to go, Miss Reid. We'll be in contact."

"Okay. Um, thank you." Angela got to her feet and stood there for a long moment as if she wanted to say something else. Then, she walked quickly towards the door and wrenched it open, exiting as if she was escaping.

Ron strolled out after her, and met Harry out in the corridor. "Got anything back from Gopal?"

"No, not yet. Let's take a walk down there now." Harry stuck his hands in the pockets of his pockets, and took a step down the corridor. The door at the very end swung open and Malfoy stepped through. Their gazes tangled together, and Harry felt as if he was in a plummeting lift. Malfoy stared at him, eyes wide; he turned his face away slightly, with what seemed to be some effort.

"I must take Valerie to Kraljevic now." Malfoy looked at the space somewhere between Ron's and Harry's shoulders, addressing the corridor in his deep voice. "The healers there are prepared to begin her treatment."

"I'll have Samuels put a tracking charm on her," Harry told him. "I must inform you, as the veela rep, that we're pressing charges."

Malfoy's stony regard wavered, and his jaw worked. Finally, finally, he looked straight into Harry's eyes, and Harry held his breath. He hoped that Malfoy couldn't see any emotion shining in his face...and on the other hand, Harry hoped he did.

"Val and Joe were perfect together," Malfoy said, his voice pitched so low that Harry strained to hear it. "Everyone knew of them in the Veela nation. If there was such a thing as a perfect bond, they had it. This--" he cast one hand in the air, almost helplessly. "This can't be right. Valerie would kill anyone who even looked askance at Joe, but--"

"Tell me something," Harry cut in, and Malfoy gave him a censorious glare, before pressing his lips together. "How is it that Veela identify their mates?"

Malfoy looked at him for a very long time. His gaze slid over Harry's face, lighting for a few beats on his forehead, his nose, his lips. Harry's felt very warm, and he suppressed the urge to pull at his collar. Malfoy's nostrils flared, and he seemed to take a very deep inhale before releasing it almost reluctantly.

"Veela know their mates by smell, of course," Malfoy answered, very softly, and then walked away.

Harry waited until he heard the door to the interview room open and close, before saying quite shortly, "Don't ask me about it, Ron."

"Ask you about what?" Ron shot back, continuing onwards towards the end of the corridor. "I'm not at all concerned that one minute you two were gone over each other and then it's like it's Hogwarts all over again, except with less fists," he threw over his shoulder, "because I actually like my blood pressure where it is, yeah?"

Harry pursed his lips against a smile, and then followed him towards Gopal's domain.

+

Stretched peacefully atop the slab, Joe Baker seemed as if he was asleep. The shiny grey cloth covering his body from chest to ankles was charmed to repel blood, obscuring most of the Y-incision.

Gopal and her assistant were washing their hands in the corner of the autopsy room when Harry, Ron and Samuels entered. Gopal glanced over her shoulder at them, acknowledging their presence with a sharp twitch of her eyebrows.

"Cause of death was trauma to the trunk and massive blood loss," Gopal stated in that casual manner that annoyed Harry at times. "She nearly took out all of his intestines in one strike."

Samuels made a sharp sound in the back of her throat. Gopal turned around, drying her hands on a paper towel.

"Are you going to be sick?" the assistant asked, rather brightly. "There's a bin over here, if you'd like?"

Samuels swallowed hard and shook her head. "No. I'll be fine," she answered, even though she seemed to bending slightly at the waist.

"But there was just one strike?" Harry asked, not moving from where he stood at a point exactly between the door and the autopsy table; for their part, Ron and Samuels hovered behind him.

Gopal nodded. "Just the one. A bit unusual in a Veela attack, they tend to go all out. And from the contents of his stomach, he'd had a cup of tea and some biscuits a few hours before he died. There was something in the tea."

Harry stared at Gopal, who gave him a blandly smug smile.

"What was in the tea, Amrita?" Harry finally ground out from between his teeth.

Gopal lifted her shoulders in an elaborate shrug. "When Cheryl and I separated it from the tea and all that, it just ended up being some odourless, colourless fluid. I have no idea what it is, except that at the genetic level it seems to be targeting the microorganisms in human skin. Maybe he was working on some new potion?"

Ron mused, "Microorganisms in the human skin? Doesn't that affect--"

"How people smell," Harry finished. "Samuels," he snapped and she straightened up quickly. "Contact Augustus Ogden, we need a search warrant for the Ministry's potions labs."

"Yes, sir," Samuels acknowledged, and exited the room with a flare of her red robes.

"Ron, call Professor Robispierre, tell her we're getting a warrant to search her labs in a few minutes."

"On it, boss." Ron saluted and Apparated from the spot.

"Later, Chief," Dr. Gopal said in her laconic fashion. Harry rolled his eyes at her, and stalked out of her autopsy room.

+

The Veela monitoring the front desk of the Kraljevic Institute gave Harry a very speculative look when he asked for Draco Malfoy.

"He's in Room 204, with Val Yee," she answered, her head held at an angle so she could stare at him out of the corner of her eye, and look down at him at the same time. "Shall I contact him so he'll know you'll be going up, Auror Potter?"

"Please do," Harry said and stepped back to walk towards the left, before pausing. "Do you know what Miss Yee's status is? Health-wise?"

"No," the Veela snapped and actually turned to stare at the gleaming front entrance of the institute, her brow thunderous. This told Harry a lot more than if she'd outlined the condition of Yee's health in detail. Harry made his way up to the second floor, and hesitated in front of 204 before rapping quietly on the wooden surface.

"Come in, Potter," Malfoy called out. He sat in a very large armchair beside a bed which was tilted up. Valerie Yee looked, for the lack of a better word, awful. When Harry had last seen her, she'd had long black hair curling down the middle of her back. Now, most of it was gone, and the skin of her closed eyelids was paper-thin. Translucent red flashes of spells hovered over her chest and face, charms to assist her breathing.

"She's not going to make it," Malfoy said in matter-of-fact tones, but his eyes gleamed in the dim of the room. "She's given up, no matter what the Healers here try."

"I'm sorry to hear that," Harry murmured. "I'd like to tell her something. Is she awake?"

"I don't know." Malfoy reached over and pressed his fingers to Val's closest wrist. She released a weak moan and shifted her hand away from his touch. "Val?"

She opened her eyelids as if they were weighed down. She looked at Malfoy and closed her eyes again.

"Valerie," Harry called out. Those brown eyes opened once more, such a huge struggle and her gaze slid towards Harry. "Valerie, Angela Reid did something to Joseph before he got home last night."

Valerie's lips, so dry that the skin was broken, parted in a silent question.

Harry approached the bed, and placed his hand on the wooden rail. "She gave him a potion to change his scent, just for a while. She knew about how Veela identified their mates and she thought---" Harry stopped and sighed. "She was in love with you. She thought she could break the bond that way, but…"

"It was dark," Malfoy said. "And all she could smell was a stranger in their bed, in her mate's clothes. That would drive a Veela insane."

"I'm so sorry to tell you this, Valerie," Harry said, for tears were streaming down her cheeks again. "We've arrested Angela. She's charged under the Veela-Mate Interference Act, and also as an accessory to manslaughter."

The red spells flashed in an urgent pattern and Malfoy jumped to his feet. Valerie's eyes were still wide open, her gaze frozen in Harry's direction, but her body had begun to convulse.

"You have to leave, Potter." Malfoy snapped his wand towards the door. A soft white light sped out of the end of his wand and passed through the wall right next to the door-jamb. Harry exited quickly, standing with his back against the wall; three Veela flew through the air near the high ceiling, looking like shadowy birds. They landed with a lightness that belied their great height, and ignored him as their bodies twisted to their human states, dressed in Healers' robes.

Harry waited until they shoved into the room, and then trudged down to the ground floor once more.

"Goodbye," the receptionist said as Harry went through the front doors. "And thank you."

+

Draco was sitting inside Harry's flat when he keyed his door open that evening. He had a glass of wine in one hand, one leg crossed over the other as he lounged in the armchair furthest away from entrance.

"Oh, hello," Harry said, and hung his cloak on the hooks by the door. He smoothed down the folds of the cloak, fussing over the collar and the sleeves. "It's a good thing I didn't change the wards to keep you out, right?"

Draco hummed, and took a sip of his wine. It was probably from a bottle that he had given Harry a few weeks before they broke up, one that Harry hadn't the heart to consume. Harry headed for his bedroom, changing his clothes and washing his face. Draco brooded over his wine as Harry padded out to the kitchen for a glass of juice.

Harry sat on the couch, on the end opposite to Draco's armchair, and finished off half his glass; Draco set down his glass on a side-table and sighed.

"Do you see now why I couldn't stay with you?" Draco asked, and Harry choked on a mouthful of juice. Eyes watering, he had to use the hem of his shirt to dab the corners of his mouth. He shook his head, ruefully.

"No," Harry said, very truthfully. "I don't."

"A Veela's frame of mind is dependent on the happiness of their Mate," Draco said, his tone tired as if he'd given this speech many times before. "If anything happened to you, like it did with Val and Joe--"

"You're talking as if I wasn't concerned with your happiness, too," Harry retorted and stared down at the juice still sloshing around in his glass. "I know it isn't as essential for a Mate than for a Veela, but. I...feel. A lot." He swallowed. "For you."

Draco said, "Harry, you know I don't want that lack of control," and Harry felt something inside him just crumble.

"Yes, I know. Alright," he said and leaned down to put his glass on the floor, beside the foot of the chair. "Okay." He brushed back his hair and scrubbed at his face with both hands, sighing heavily into the palms of his hands. "Okay," he repeated and let his hands fall from his face. He didn't know how he managed it, but he dredged up a smile from somewhere. Smiling didn't make the ache in his chest go away, but it actually eased that tightness somewhat.

"We're okay, right?" he asked, and Draco actually glared at him. Harry blinked. "What?"

"You know damn well I'm not 'okay'," Draco said in a tight manner and Harry gaped at him.

"I don't understand," Harry murmured, confused as Draco lurched up, stomped over to his armchair and knelt in front of him. "I just...I don't even get you, really," he said as Draco cupped his face in his big, warm hands and pulled him forward. Harry went willingly, and when their lips met, Harry felt Draco release a heavy breath.

Malfoy's mouth tasted like the wine he had been drinking. Harry tilted his head, deepening their kiss and when Draco got to his feet, Harry got up too, slinging his arms around his neck and holding on tight. Draco nipped at his lips and then broke away to press his nose into the crook of Harry's neck, drawing a very deep, very ragged breath.

"You always smell wonderful," he grumbled, voice muffled. "Damn you, you smell perfect."

"Oh," Harry said, smiling as he ran his fingers through Draco's fine hair. "Well, you too. You always smell nice."

Draco laughed, a wild sound, and kissed Harry again, clutching at his waist, grabbing handfuls of his bottom. "Harry--" he groaned and Harry kissed him, fiercely.

"I'm your Mate," Harry told him, holding him by his shoulders, fingers curled and digging into Malfoy's flesh through his robes. "Aren't I?"

"Yes," Draco said. "You are. You've been, for months."

Harry shook him, and laughed tremulously. "Then why did you push me away?"

"Because I'm an idiot. And I didn't want anyone to get you through me, do you understand?" He took Harry's hands from his shoulders and held them in his. "Do you?"

"Do you understand that I love you?" Harry asked, and wrinkled his nose at the stunned look that crossed Draco's face. "You're the one with the Veela sense of smell, don't you pick up things like that?"

"Well, no," Draco admitted. "Sexual willingness, of course, but not--"

"Silly," Harry said and kissed him hard, again.

+

The first time they'd had sex, Draco had pondered over Harry's body as if it was a puzzle he needed to figure out before the morning. Now, Harry took him as if he had something to prove, and Draco was quite willing to be convinced. Naked together in bed, Harry straddled him, arms braced on either side of Draco's head and grinding down into his lap. Draco snapped his hips up, and stared up at Harry with his lips parted, the tip of his tongue darting out now and again. Harry had missed that thick, full feeling of Draco inside him, and he strove to keep it inside him as long as possible, riding with abandon.

"Slow down," Draco moaned, closing his eyes briefly. When he opened them again, they'd gone Veela-black. "Slow down. I'm about to co-come."

"Oh god." Harry shuddered over him. Draco gripped his waist and snatched his hands away when Harry winced; his fingers had shifted into claws, scratching the skin. Very fine feathers had sprouted along his pale arms, and he seemed to increase in size: shoulders broader, torso gaining more definition. In a daze, Harry watched these changes, and felt them as well, in Draco's length thickening inside him. Harry paused, gasping, before continuing at a far slower pace, testing the larger size; not painful, just slightly uncomfortable until he found the right angle again and jerked at the sensation. Good, that was good.

Draco went still, looking up at Harry with those unfathomable eyes. His chest moved rapidly as he took sharp, short breaths, nostrils flaring. Harry stopped moving as well for a moment, and then reached out slowly, for he felt that Draco would startle if he made any sudden moves. He gripped Draco's hands by the wrists, and placed them on back on his hips.

Harry smiled down at his stunned expression. "Never seen you like this before," he whispered and stroked Draco's jaw with one hand, trailing his fingers down the column of his throat to rest lightly on his chest.

"I've wanted to show you for the longest time," Draco answered in the same soft way. He blinked slowly. "Do you...like it?"

"Love it," Harry responded, and arched his back as he rocked up. When he slid back down, he rolled his hips in a slow circle on Draco's groin.

"Cruel," Draco groaned, and surged up, wrapping one arm around Harry's neck. He thrust up as Harry writhed, gasping against each other's mouths. Harry heard a loud roaring in his ears as he came, as if he stood right next to a huge bonfire. Draco's cock pushed into him for a few hard, shaking beats. Harry bent forward and bit him in the curve of his neck.

Draco choked out, "Fuck," and even though he throbbed inside Harry, his claws didn't scratch at all.

Harry chuckled as he was settled on his side, Draco's come dripping slowly out of him.

"Care to share the joke?" Draco asked as he conjured a washcloth and wiped Harry clean.

"Nothing," Harry asked and snuggled up to Draco's side, still in his Veela form. "How long will you stay like this?"

"I can change, if you like," Draco answered, and in a smooth second, he was back to his human form. He produced a mock-scowl as Harry stroked his quiescent prick. "You obviously liked it bigger."

"I like it on you," Harry said, and moulded himself against his Veela's side. Before he fell asleep, he felt Draco nosing his hair, snuffling deeply.

fin


and there grows in the mind a scent, it may be, of locust blossoms whose perfume is itself a wind moving to lead the mind away.
--William Carlos Williams Paterson, bk.3,'The Library'