Actions

Work Header

Charred Paws and Heavy Coils

Chapter Text

Vernon swings, hits.

Her chest caves, breath stolen, ribs cracking.

He’s shouting at her but she’s learnt to block it out. Thinks about Hedwig and magic, the feel of sun on her face and snow beneath her bare feet and a world that isn’t pain but happiness.

She passes out, must have, because she wakes out in the cupboard with her tongue wet with the taste of iron and her left eye so swollen shut that it feels alien on her face. She spits, grimacing at the clump of blood and saliva that dribbles awkwardly on dry lips and wipes it on her sleeve. She’s dehydrated and her throat feels like cotton and shaved iron as she swallows.

It’s only the third week of the summer holidays and Harry looks down on her thin long fingers that won’t stop trembling and realizes that if he keeps it up, Vernon will have killed her before her fifteenth birthday and there’s absolutely no one out there who can be bothered to care.

She makes a noise, hand reaching up to drag through messy hair and grimaces at the fuzzy buzz beneath her fingers from where Vernon had shorn it all off on the second day back. She’s stick thin, her face sharp beneath her fingers and when she lifts her collar her chest is so flat that her breasts has shrunk to barely nothing.

She doubts anyone would recognise her as Harry Potter if it weren’t for the scar, red and burning beneath the pads of her fingers.

She listens, trying to pinpoint which time it is. The house is silent which means that either the Dursley’s are out or it’s night time. No puttering or huffing from her aunt, no loud television or the crunch of snacks from her cousin, no rustle of paper or complaints from her uncle.

She wonders if Petunia has wiped the blood from the kitchen table yet or if she expects her to do it.

“He’s going to kill me.” She tries the words out, rolls them carefully in her mouth. Her knuckles are bruised knobs on her hands and she stares at them. Imagines her wand gripped in her right, the feel of magic in her blood. If she had her wand she’d be able to get out. She’d run somewhere - anywhere. Scar up half her face and hide the lightning bolt in the mess of it. Colour her hair and leave for good.

She closes her eyes. Can practically hear the click of the lock and the taste of fresh air on her like the greatest burning relief that spreads through her-

Click.

The burning fades, dies, leaving her exhausted.

Harry stares at the door.

Fumbles, finds the knob.

It opens with a twist of her hand.

-

The bathroom is small but no-one pays her any mind when she slipps inside and the muted chatter of the patrons in the small fast food restaurant is a buzz barely registering at the back of her mind. She’s wearing a stolen hoodie and she lowers the hood of it, wincing at the sight of herself in the mirror.

It’s even worse than she’d expected. Her chin razor sharp, her nose awkward and pointy and her eye too big over sunken cheeks. Her left is so flushed shut that it looks grotesque and there’s pus weeping from an infected wound by the brow. She reaches out and the merest touch of her fingers makes a stream of pus and blood fall. She wipes it away hurriedly with a pad of toilet paper.

She needs to sterilize it or she risks the infection spreading to her eye and taking it with it.

She fumbles for the zippo in the riff-raff of things Dudley kept in his pockets, stares at it.

She leaves the bathroom smelling of seared flesh. It mixes with the ooze of the burgers and no one pays any head as she slips out, trembling hands pressed deep into her pockets and an ugly burn marring the left side of her face, hidden by the darkness of her hoodie.

-

She doesn’t dare to visit Gringotts.

The idea of someone recognising her, the fear of being put back into the hands of her relatives, makes her leave that part of London - fleeing to the dirtier parts. She scavengers trash bins for food, nearly sobbing with relief as she crams half of an old brown apple into her mouth and chews desperately. The juice, the soft flesh - it’s such a relief to her stomach that she laughs wetly into her knees as she slides down the bricks and collapses on the wet ground.

The saviour of the magical world sobbing over a rotten apple.

It’s a fucking joke.

-

The first few weeks she checks the newspapers daily. Digs them out from the trash bins and flips through them - keeping track of the dates as she licks grease from her fingers. But she’s moving constantly, getting further and further from the depths of London until she’s standing on the edge of a forest, paper dangling from her fingers.

It’s an idea.

It might be a stupid one but no one would be looking for the Girl-Who-Lived in the middle of a fucking forest and she’s tired and thin. There’s a stolen backpack hanging from her shoulder and there’s something terrifying building inside of her - something daring.

She breaks into a farm - steals a large knife, a smaller one. Scourges until she finds rope and thread, a saw and a club. She finds a half-empty bottle of coca cola which she empties and a smaller one she sticks onto the side of her backpack. Finds a large metal dunk and grins at the sight of it. She pulls out drawer after drawer, pauses. Stares long and hard at the gun she finds inside with two packages of shells.

She pockets those as well.

She finds a fleece blanket which she stuffs into the backpack, a large sized jacket made to stave of rain and shrugs it on, absolutely drowning in it, and a cap with faded words which she pulls over the growing strands of black hair on her head. Pulls on two thick woollen socks she finds and ties the heavy boots as tight as she can.

She vanishes as silently as she had arrived, a shadow in the night.

-

It’s cold and dark in the forest but having spent half her life in a dank cupboard without light she finds it surprisingly easy to navigate deeper into the forest under the low light of the moon creeping through the dense branches.

She walks for hours until her weak body decides that enough is enough and she collapses and buries down beneath the roots of a tree ripped from the ground. The earth is wet but she draws her hands into the sleeves of the jacket, tucks her neck down the collar and pulls the fleece around her shoulders and curls up to sleep as best as she can.

She wakes up mid-day, wiping sleep from her eyes.

She knows she needs to find water and establish some kind of camp but she wants to be far away from civilization before it becomes permanent. She also needs food and she shoulders her pack up and keeps an eye out for edible roots and plants from herbology, chewing some stale bread from the depth of her backpack, knowing it won’t last forever.

Thankfully it rains often in England and it’s easy to find puddles of water and she drinks it with relish, filling both plastic bottles up and carrying them along. It’s on her ninth day that she finds a small lake of water that makes her eyes widen and her bag drop to the ground. It’s absolutely perfect and Harry is giddy as she crouches out in a rock and peers into the depth. Little fish glitter beneath the surface and she knows - she knows she’s found the perfect place to put up camp.

She makes her actual camp a bit from the fresh water lake. It’s too open for her to be fully comfortable setting up beside it but she fills the metal dunk and drags it along with her until she finds a small clearing with thick canopy ahead which will help keep the rain from falling on her.

She hunts for sticks and dry grass, makes a fire with a click of her zippo and feeds it until its burning properly and makes a little raise from two bigger branches and places the dunk on it to boil and remove bacteria from the water.

-

She breaks off and collects larger sticks and starts propping them up into a makeshift tent, using rope to tie them near the top and keep them from being blown down. She pads the space between them with clumps of moss and fries fish caught by spear over the fire, eating with relish.

It nears the middle of autumn and berries joins the roots and fish diet and she’s got a routine of fetching and building a proper pile of firewood that she stores in the tent to keep dry the days it rain to make sure she can make a new fire.

She gets clever with traps - catching rabbits which she skins after trial and error. She gets lucky one day with a beehive and despite the many stings she’s grinning at the end of it, feeling accomplished as she licks honey from her fingers.

She puts flesh back on her bones but it turns to slim wired muscles from hard work and her breasts remains small. The reflection in the water turns less grim, happier. The scar is ugly but it hides the curse scar and she comes to like the girl reflected back at her.

She keeps her hair short, shearing it off before it climbs past her ear. It gets stringy and disgusting despite the baths in the lake if she keeps it longer and it’s handier, crammed beneath her hat.

Winter comes. Food gets scarcer. She snares rabbits and eats her dwindling stock of roots and dried berries. She’s shivering more than she’s not but she’s determined and edging on desperate the day she catches sight of the deer grazing some ten feet away from her she knows that it’s time to get the bigger prey.

The moon is full above her - casting light that catches in the icy crystals below her. Her breath mists in the cool air and there's a pounding in her chest, a stretch of something foreign and welcoming that becons at her with every step, slowly closing in.

Her nose flares, eyes dilating as she sinks lower and lower, until she's practically on all four and-

Then she is and her teeth sinks into a soft neck and there’s blood in her mouth and a dying screech beneath her and she holds it and shakes her head with instincts that slithers through her like an old friend and after a long struggle it finally stills beneath her.

She eats the flesh warm and steaming from death, barely chewing as she rips chunk after chunk that disappear down her gullet with gusto. Afterwards she licks her chops and clean blood from her paws where it’s spilled and somewhere in the back of her mind she thinks wolf.

-

It’s easier to keep warm in her animagus form and it opens up an entire new world of smells and opportunities.

A year ticks by.

Two.

In the back of her mind she’s aware of the danger of spending too much time as a wolf and less as a human but it’s easy to ignore when she’s crouching through the underbrush in spring, her eyes pinned on an grazing elk. It’s her largest pray yet and there’s with a darkly curling hunger she licks her chops and she presses her belly closer to the ground and moves slowly forward.

Its ears prickle and she stills, wind blowing towards her, hidden in the tall grass.

It looks around but then lowers its head back to the grass and she tenses, ready to lunge-

Something large and impossibly long lurches out from the opposite side of the clearing, wrapping its long thick body around the elk and sinking long fangs into the neck of the elk before the animal have time to realize what’s going on. The venom must be fast acting because it lurches, falls, the snake (and it is familiar, so so familiar) hissing in pleasure.

§Tonight I’m going to feast§ it hisses, tongue flickering. Its attention prickles and Harry freezes in place when golden slitted pupils narrow upon her. §Little Wolf§ it hisses. §You better stay away from my prey§ It opens its mouth wide in warning, revealing rows of teeth, and Harry takes a slow step backwards as her body twists and changes until she’s a dirty human girl crouching on all four.

§I won’t take your prey§ she hisses back.

The snake rears in surprise. §You speak?§ It unwinds slowly from the elk, gliding closer to Harry who remains still as it raises its body to peer at her, eye to eye. §What kind of creature are you to linger out here in the woods on your own?§

§One that is more wolf than human§ Harry tells her, both curious and wary of this large magnificent creature. §It is my home§

It hisses lowly. §I am Nagini, Little Wolf§ It winds around her, trapping her and Harry takes care not to tremble. §Why chose the vast forest as your home, hm? I know how you humans crave companionship§

§I got tired of the humans§ she tells the great creature. §All they do is lie and hurt§

Nagini reers. §You're a clever Little Wolf§ She buffs Harry’s face carefully. §Clever enough to be allowed a piece of my meal§ The snake decides.

Harry buffs her face back, hissing her thanks.

-

Nagini becomes a strange addition to her life after that, coming and going as she pleases.

Sometimes Harry will happen to her in the middle of a hunt - sometimes when she’s feeding and sometimes the enormous snakes drops down from the middle of absolutely nowhere and scares her half to death.

Sometimes Nagini is waiting for her back at her tent or, depending on the weather, crammed entirely inside it or sunning herself outside it.

The lake becomes a frequent haunt during late spring, summer and early autumn - Nagini sunning herself on the large rocky cliffs or half-drowning Harry by coiling over her shoulder with her large heavy body easily pressing the much smaller human down with a hiss of laughter.

She becomes better at anticipating the sudden surprise attacks, snapping back as she dances away from enormous fangs on light paws.

Summer turns to Autumn, Autumn to Winter.

Nagini appears one particularly cold night with a blanket in her mouth and curls around her trembling wolf form with a hiss and holds her until morning when Harry has to struggle to unfreeze her aching limbs.

Nagini isn’t overly impressed by her. §You’re a witch§ she hisses. §You don’t need a stick to warm a rock to curl against§.

Harry asks her to help her choose a good one.

Spring comes with a whisper in the back of her mind and a displeased Nagini who visits her as Harry is sitting naked by the lake, contemplating.

§My Speaker is being a very silly human today§ Nagini informs her, curling around her bare body to bask in the miniscule of sun peeking down at them, §I wish I had words to tell his followers to stop hiding and start helping but they are all being ridiculously unhelpful§ Nagini had snapped at their ankles when they came hurrying out of Tom’s office and all it had made them do was speed up instead of turning back.

§Snake-In-Disguise and Pretty-Words aren’t back yet?§ Harry inquires.

§No§ Nagini hisses sulkily.

Harry pets her head. §Poor, poor Nagini§ she hisses.

Nagini shoves her into the water with a sharp heave that makes her go tail over nose with a yelp.

-

Summer comes around and Harry is sprawled out in the sun, intimately entwined with Nagini. Coils around her, between her legs, pillowed beneath her head and a large head resting on top of her chest between her breasts.

This is how she first comes face to face with a human for the first time in almost three years.

Though, human, might be a relative term.

§Nagini§ The voice is lower than Nagini’s, huskier, but no less sensual. It’s also vaguely surprised, perhaps intrigued, and Harry cracks an eye open along with the reluctant snake on her chest.

Voldemort is leaning against a tree near her tent watching them both. His eyes are just as red as she remembers, his skin just as pale. Some forty, perhaps fifty years old in his skin, neatly combed dark hair on his head. He stands in black robes, his feet as bare as her own against the forest floor.

§Tom§ Nagini hisses back, her coils shifting and tensing with movement. §Did something happen?§

Harry shifts but Nagini coils tight, keeping and down and trapped amidst her heavily muscled body, apparently content by the shared warmth of her skin and the sun and unwilling to relinquish it.

§Narcissa informs me that you have not been in the mansion for weeks§. Both Harry and Nagini blinks at that and Harry realises that it’s probably true. It had been unusually hot and Nagini had lingered to enjoy it after they hunted down and dragged back a buck each to feed on. She’d been heavy and content and Harry had never denied her company.

Nagini hisses, a low noise. §We were sunbathing§ the snake informs her speaker.

§It looks pleasant§ his eyes linger for a second on bare breasts and the glittering coils over naked hips but Harry has lost all sense of modesty, meeting red eyes head-on when they finally seek her own. §I was unaware you were entertaining visitors... Care to introduce us?§

Nagini flicks her tongue and from her position and flitters over a perky nipple. §Tom, this is Little Wolf§

§Little Wolf?§ he echoes, raising a brow.

§It is my name§ Harry says, knowing that the name Harry Potter is sure to earn her a death sentence.

Tom jerks in a way that’s entirely unbecoming a Dark Lord. §You speak?§ he demands, taking a sudden and violent step forward. §Nagini, you did not tell me you’d met another speaker!§ His voice is low, warning in its tenor.

§Little Wolf is mine§ Nagini hisses back, rearing her entire upper-body. §I found her! She’s my snakeling!§ Harry understands abstractly that she’s suddenly become the ward of an enormous snake with enough bravado to challenge the Dark Lord.

Tom pauses, tilts his head, eyes sharp. §Snakeling?§

Harry doesn’t understand the pitch of his voice, the emotion in his face, but Nagini is coiled tight and it makes her hackles rise and she struggles until Nagini tenses around her with enough force to steal her breath away and she has no choice but to comply in her hold or be strangled.

Tom watches it all with unreadable eyes. §Mine§ Nagini warns, mouth opening, teeth bared in warning.

§I will not hurt your snakeling§ And he puts a strange emphasis on the word. §I was merely surprised, that’s all§. Nagini slowly relaxes enough that Harry can struggle into a sitting position, Nagini’s head drawing back, coils shifting until her head came to rest on her shoulder.

§So you are the reason Nagini has been complaining less of my absence§ Tom says finally, studying the dirty human child naked in the coils of his long-time friend. She’s young, short shorn black hair curling by the ears, her hips slim and her breasts barely a handful. She’s got all the signs of having spent too much time as an animagus - it’s visible by the yellow irises, the peak of her ears and the sharp points of her fangs behind pulled back lips. It’s in the curl of her back, as if she’s about to fall on all four and run. The cocking of her head as she listens.

Little Wolf, Nagini had called her, and it suits her.

She’s also a Speaker and it’s a struggle simple not to whisk her away.

§Nagini is always welcome here§ the girl hisses. By the flash of sharp white teeth the girl is just as protective of Nagini as Nagini of her.

§I am pleased to hear that§ he says, cautious of scaring her away, keeping his tone pleasant. §Any friend of Nagini’s is a friend of mine and I am happy to have found her in good company instead of sulking beneath a desk§.

§I do not sulk§ Nagini huffs.

Harry pats her head.

Nagini gives a hard enough squeeze to make her choke for air.

-

They’re curled in her tent, watching the dark clouds rolling in, and by the smell of wet in the air it’s about to rain. Nagini is easily curled around her, her upper body stretched out to rest her head on Harry’s crown with soft snake-like sighs of contentment. Harry might be nearly twice the size of a normal wolf but Nagini is a thick long cord of muscles and had easily wrestled her down to use as a combination of pillow and heater.

§Tom wants you to come around and play human with him§ Nagini informs her with a tone dripping with reluctance, burying her coils deeper into the fluffy fur beneath her, as if to keep her right there.

Harry opens a lazy yellow eye, her tail swishing with a buzz of of amusement because she knows that Nagini wouldn’t say it for anything. Not when the unwillingness is so clear to read.

Nagini must have sensed it because she huffs. §He made me a dozen mice§ she grudgingly admits, flicking her tail

Nagini has only gotten more possessive of her since Tom happened upon the two of them. Harry bears it with a grudging mess of patience and fondness as Nagini grooms her and curls around her and eats the carcasses she drags back for her in some sort of need to provide for her. The wolf part of her understands it, revels in it. She feels like a wolf pup suddenly, long-limbered and stumbling under the patient eyes of her mother.

She’s eighteen - she knows this in an abstract sort of way. But Nagini is there and real and warm and wonderful.

She huffs and swipes her tongue over the coil beneath her chin and Nagini hisses in pleasure.

She’s not going anywhere, she thinks, her deep happy sigh echoed by the other.

-

Harry fiddles with the long string she’d found, wiping sweat beading from the warm Autumn air. Normally she’d just use her spear or stalk the low water by the east of the lake where large fish lurk among the straw and snap them by her fangs or by sharp sticks. It’s hard work and not always doable and she finds herself fishing less and hunting more. But she’s found the string during a hunt and it had scratched at something at the back of her mind and before she knows it she’s making a fishing pole.

Her hands are strong and sure and she uses her knife to make a hack at the very top of the stick she’d carved herself and drags the cord in it, knotting tightly.

She uses an old soda can to make a glittering bait and takes a bit of rotting gut remaining from last moon’s hunt and fasten it to the makeshift hook.

She has a supply of mushroom, roots and berries waiting by her hut but it’s been awhile since she had a good fish. She thinks of fish filled with berries and cooked over the fire and licks her chops as she throws it out.

She’s patient.

As she sits she realizes with a muted sort of realization that it’s probably the most human thing she’s done for months. It’s pretty nice, she thinks. Sitting, waiting. It’s like stalking prey but it allows her to enjoy the warm air and soft breeze.

-

Autumn gets cold quickly, especially as the signs of winter starts creeping around the corner and she starts waking with frost beneath her paws. Her clothes are nearly completely ruined save the jacket which she’s fastened to the roof of the hut months ago when she rebuilt it to make more space for Nagini who’d woken her up to complain about it more than once. It’s more like a roof with one proper side-wall, the other half-patched to leave just enough room for something thick to slide through.

The first time Nagini sees it she stretches out with a hiss of deep pleasure, the better part of her in the sun, curled just enough around Harry to keep her from moving. It might be chillier but she solves that sleeping in fur around her rock which she has to remind herself to reheat as it gets colder.

She’s skinning the deer she’s dragged back from her hunt. It’s half-eaten which had lessened the strain of carrying it back but it had still been heavy and it’s a relief to sit down with the knife. She needs to replace the old one in the tent which has gotten torn and she misses the fresh scent of prey in her home.

It’s a pretty fur - soft brown spotted with colour.

Absently she raises a hand to her face and licks it clean as she frees the last bit of skin and checks to make sure the fire is ready to be used.

The good thing about the cold is that the meat spoils slower. During summer she’d become used to eating until she felt like puking and surviving on it for several moons before she made for another. It was the way of the snake and she loved stretching out with Nagini under the sun with a rounded belly, feeling fat and lazy.

But it’s cold today and the meat frozen and she rips the ribs apart and with a bit of adjustment throws them on the severed metal dunk that had once been used to boil water but now served as the perfect tool for cooking meat when she was hungry for something tasting less like coal and smoke.

She drags off her shirt and hangs it on a stick near the fire as she throws the food together with some wild herbs and roots and wait for it to cook.

-

Nagini huffs at the cold of the snow, her coils sinking deep into the white fluff. At least Tom is clever enough to get a proper den during the winter, burying beneath enough blankets that he’s warm and toasty enough for her to curl around for weeks. Her snakeling is stubborn and refuses to entertain the idea of digging a warm den to sleep in during winter.

Nagini is sort of half-tempted to make her one anyway. Perhaps by that tree by the lake…

Nagini slithers into the familiar clearing that’s become a second home to her, shaking snow from her coils. §Little Wolf?§ There’s no answer and Nagini tastes the air in the direction of the forest to check if her snakeling is hunting near when the smell, inexplicitly, comes from the den.

Nagini frowns.

The sun is high in the sky, glittering against the snow, and her snakeling is always up at now. She slithers towards the den of sticks and moss, through the hole her Little Wolf had made for her, and she rears at the sight of her snakeling. §Little Wolf?§ She brushes her snout against her scaleless little snake whose skin is flushed, mouth open in small pants, her entire body trembling.

Glassy yellow eyes open, a trembling hand reaching out for her, falling. §Nagiiinii§ the voice is weak and more hiss than words. Nagini buffs her nose beneath it and it slides listlessly down her back before hitting the snow. Nagini makes a low noise of distress.

She’s a snake - her scales are sleek and slick and she has no hands to hold with but she’s stubborn.

§Hold on Little Wolf§ She presses herself under the body that suddenly feels so small and frail, manoeuvres until her snakeling is hanging naked on her back.

She’s aware of every panting breath above her, the soft whines. She has to stop frequently to slide her little one further up as she keeps slipping down but at least the snow makes it easy on the arms and legs dragging against the ground.

Tom’s den appears after what feels like hours, gates opening to let her in and for the first time she doesn’t pay a single mind to the peacocks.

Tom is gone she knows so when the doors to the mansion swings open she coils left, scenting the air for the mate of Pretty-Words. She knows Sweet-Smells enjoy the upper floor and she has to wrap the end of her tail around her snakeling to keep her from sliding straight off her back. It’s slow and Little Wolf makes a distressed noise when they reach the top, shaking so badly that Nagini has no choice but to drop her off her back as she curls upon herself with a desperate noise. Nagini buffs her nose gently in reassurance before hurriedly slithering down the hall.

She finds Sweet-Smells talking with Pretty-Words by a desk and rears her entire body up until she towers over the both of them and hisses high and sharp to draw their attention.

Both startles, stepping back with wide-eyes. Pretty-Words recovers first, stepping neatly in front of his mate as he says something in a soothing voice, hands raised. But Nagini has no time for pretty words, yanking her head and hissing sharply at them to follow.

She makes another noise, another sharp jerk, rolling down and back out the room, waiting impatiently for them to understand what she wants when they don’t immediately scramble after her.

It is Sweet-Smells that hesitantly steps forward and Nagini hisses gently in praise. Little Wolf is hurt she wants to tell them. Hurry! But humans are stupid and cautious and normally she would have revelled in it.

But her snakeling is sick.

She slithers out, waiting until she hears twin-steps following, and slithers back down the hall, reaching her snakeling as there’s a gasp and hurried steps towards them while Nagini carefully curls around the back of her little one. Sweet-Smells hesitates for barely a moment but Nagini keeps herself flat and non-threatening, her eyes only for her Little Wolf.

-

“Lucius, you need to call Severus,” Narcissa demands as she brushes short sweaty strands away from the young face. It’s startling to see Tom’s companion so clearly distressed and she wonders how in the world the snake managed to drag a girl all the way to the mansion and up the stairs.

But all those concerns are brushed to the back of her mind as she draws her wand and drags it down the young body.

Fever, a high-one. Frostbite darkening the tip of her nose and toes.

“Nagini,” the snake flickers to attention. “I need to lift her.” She makes a motion to lift and gestures towards the guest room down the hall. Nagini slowly coils aside and she takes it as an agreement, flicking her wand to lighten the girl and gently scooping her up - aware of the enormous snake weaving anxiously by her feet as she leads the way, door opening with a press of her magic. The blankets folds back and she puts the girl down as gently as she can.

Nagini immediately slithers up beneath the cover, curling close with a hiss and buff of her nose against the girl’s. Dazed yellow eyes open in confusion and distress, a low hiss escaping human lips and immediately answered by a worried Nagini who presses closer.

“Was that-” Lucius gasps out but he’s interrupted by Severus who steps past him with a clinking bag floating by his side.

Narcissa fills him in and Severus starts pulling vials from his bag.

-

Lucius bends down to fire call Tom while his wife and friend stabilizes the girl. He knows his master is a busy man but another speaker is sure to be a concern to him.

“Lucius.” He’s in his Marvolo Gaunt shape, pale and powerful with only an illusion to mute the red of his eyes to something more human. He’s a powerful man, impatient, but he’s the key to revolutionizing a stagnant world and Lucius serves him with pride.

“Nagini arrived with a… companion.” Lucius says carefully. “Narcissa and Severus are with her.”

Tom’s eyes darkens, sharpening in interest. “I will be back in an hour. Keep her safe,” he says shortly and the fire flickers and dies.

Lucius straightens.

How… curious.

-

The girl is breathing much calmer, her cheeks still flushed, but she’s stopped trembling and Nagini curls carefully around her once they step away. The child shifts closer, twisting to throw a leg over a thick coil and press her face against soft scales. Her brow smooths out and Nagini hisses something low into her ear as she draws her tighter.

It looks like a mama python cradling her young and Narcissa throws a thoughtful look at the duo as they step out of the room.

Lucius is waiting for them outside, leaning against the bannister. “Tom is aware of her,” is the first thing he says when the door closes. “He’ll be returning in an hour.”

Severus raises a surprised brow. “I thought he was dining with the French Minister?”

“Apparently he’s cutting it short.” Lucius folds his arms as they digest the information.

“Am I the only one who’s wondering how Nagini managed to drag a naked sick girl right to our study without triggering any alarms?” Narcissa asks with a nod towards the steep stairs.

“Tom must have added her to the wards,” Lucius says after a moment of hesitation. “There’s no other reason she wasn’t blasted out the gate the second Nagini attempted to bring her past it.”

“Which begs the question just who she is,” Severus says darkly. “And just how much Tom trusts her to have extended such an invitation.”

“Considering how close she is with Nagini it could have been extended on her behalf,” Narcissa offers doubtfully. “But she’s a Parseltongue… We all know how much Tom longs for-” she bites the word off, buries it before it can escape.

She half-expects Tom to sweep up with a curl of his lips but there’s only the three of them.

“A fellow Speaker. One who has befriended his snappish Familiar.” Lucius finishes softly. “It’s not long-shot that he might have come to care for her through Nagini.”

“Considering how he’s always working…” Narcissa hums in agreement. “What a little mystery we got on our hands.” She hesitates. “Her eyes-”

“Too much time spent in her animagus form,” Severus shakes his head. “I haven’t seen anyone quite as severe except, perhaps, Wormtail.” The man had become fairly recognisable with his abnormally large front teeth, round ears and beady black eyes. A far cry from the watery eyed boy with a crooked smile that Severus remembered from his school days.

Lucius rubs his brow. “I think I’ll take a nap,” he says grouchily. “Knowing Tom and his temper he’ll be pacing the moment he arrives back.”

Severus and Narcissa exchange a look and he nods, accepting the chair she summons with a flick of her wand and pulls a book from his robes as Narcissa sets off after her husband.

-

§She’s going to be fine§ Tom hisses gently to his familiar, his eyes unreadable as he sits at the edge of the bed and extends a hand to gently press against her head. He’s known Nagini since he was just a young man and it’s rare to catch her in such a state of anxiety and worry, watching every puff from struggling lungs, every soft whimper answered with a gentle hiss to soothe.

He'd hurried back for her because for a long time Nagini had been all he had and he owes her more than he'll ever admit to.

When Nagini had claimed the girl as her snakeling, her child, he knew it had meant something. He was away a lot and he thought, perhaps Nagini had grown lonely, perhaps she had ventured out to find some sort of companion in the forest.

And she had.

But instead of the snake he’d expected he’d found a human child ensnared in her coils, ready to bare her teeth at him for upsetting Nagini. A child more wolf and snake than human, feral and distrusting.

§She scared me§ Nagini is shifting, withdrawing to press against him, seeking comfort. §She was so weak§ Her body remains against the girls but she presses her head against his hands and he strokes her gently.

§You saved her by bringing her here§ he soothes her. §She’s alive because of you§.

Nagini hisses in pleasure at the words and Tom pets her fondly.

-

Harry wakes in something that’s soft and foreign when she opens blurry eyes with a sharp hiss and she struggles her tired body into a sitting position. Blankets fall into her lap and she stares at them, unable make sense of soft whites and blues when she’d expected brown fur and the smell of wet moss.

She jerks, eyes widening as she looks around. Human, her instincts hiss at her, danger!.

The sheets beneath her are soaked and she hauls herself off the bed, stumbling in her stupid two-legged body, and curls down, shifting until she’s on all four. Her legs are still unsteady and trembling and she scents the air desperately for something familiar - stilling when she catches the scent of Nagini.

Her mind is tired and it feels like she’s slammed her body against the wall until it was bruised black and blue and it’s a struggle to make sense of anything past the blurry vision and unsteady legs.

She’s weak.

She needs Safetymomfriend-

And her mind locks on that scent - the scent of safety and home, the wolf inside of her crying out for the warmth and comfort of thick coils and a gentle hiss in her ears as she stumbles on unsteady legs towards the door and presses it open with her nose.

She thinks large as she creeps down the corridors, shuffling slowly down wooden stairs, pausing frequently.

The air smells of burning fire, food, the clinking of china but it drifts over her senses, mindlessly focused on the only thing that matters.

She shoves her shoulder against double doors, stumbles inside and ignores the humans as she moves one paw past the other towards Nagini who’s moved her head from the lap of Her Human at the sight of her. She’s hissing something but Harry only sees the soft pillowed nest beside her and near the burning fire and she’s oblivious to the stilled silence of the room as she puts both paws on the couch and attempts to heave herself up.

She gets one hind-leg up, slips, but a warm arm scoops against her butt - pushes her the last way and Harry collapses with a whine against Nagini’s coils with lidded eyes. She snuffles the soft coils, buffs her cheek against Nagini’s and makes a tired thump of her tail as Nagini coils around her, dragging her until she’s completely surrounded and safe.

She takes a long drawn out breath and chuffs contently

-

She’s got all the colours off the northern wolf - whites, greys, soft black. A thick pelt. But she’s also over twice the size and makes the large couch look small, doubly so with the enormous snake curled around her. Nagini is hissing softly and Tom keeps an half-ear to the comforting words as he tilts his head towards Narcissa and nods, allowing her to gently settle the warm afghan blanket over both snake and wolf before settling back down across them.

“She shouldn’t be out of bed,” Severus huffs but his eyes are studying the wolf now breathing softly by an enormously pleased Nagini who’s cuddled her in properly.

“She lives on her own in the forest,” Tom admits. “Her first instinct would have been to seek out safety.” That safety in this case happened to be the enormous familiar of the Dark Lord was an another thing entirely.

Narcissa raises her cup to her mouth and sips, the picture of calm and proper lady. But her eyes are worried, drifting frequently to the girl.

Tom hesitates. “I met her several months ago,” he admits. “You told me Nagini had been spending more and more time away and when I didn’t see her for several weeks I decided to hunt her down and see just what was holding her up.” He leans forward, elbows on his knees, one arm curled, the other a soft rest for his chin. “I found her entwined with a naked half-feral child. My first instinct was to bring her back. A speaker! I thought. She must come with me.” He glances to his familiar. “But Nagini was adamant - argued with me for days. She’s my snakeling! she said.” He rubs his face. “I didn’t have it in me to ruin something that so clearly made her happy.”

It’s a weakness, he knows that. It pains him to admit it, too. But these three people knows him best - are his most trusted. If he cannot tell them-

“Do you know who she is?” It’s Lucius, ever practical.

“No.” Tom glances at the child, remembers her short hair and golden eyes. “Nagini calls her ‘Little Wolf’ and she was reluctant to claim a name of her own during our meeting.”

“Depending on how much time she’s been out there she might have forgotten it entirely,” Severus weighs in. It’s the likely truth. Too much time as an animagus had reshaped the form of her face, her ears, her eyes, her entire body. It would be impossible to place just who she’d been unless she offered it up on her own or stopped turning wolf entirely, forcing her body to turn back. But depending on how long she’d been wolf it might not work anyway.

“What are you going to do with her?” Narcissa places her cup down on the table with a soft clink.

“Give her time to heal,” Tom says firmly. “I’ll talk with Nagini - see if she can be convinced to keep the child here until she’s completely healthy and it isn’t as cold outside. With how worried she’s been it might just be doable.”

“We’ll have to tell Draco,” Narcissa warns. “He’s coming back for the holidays with Blaise and I don’t think locking either of them up would be a good idea.” Her mouth curls in humour.

“It might be good for her to meet someone her own age,” Tom reluctantly agrees, lip curling. “We should get her some clothes - probably cotton and a bit big - she’ll probably shun anything that hinder her movement.”

“Get them in the same colours as her fur - psychologically it might be soothing, make her more inclined to wear them,” Severus offers.

Tom listens as they plan, feeling warm. The girl is a stranger, wild, and her only ties are to Nagini and through Nagini to him. They don’t need to help her but they will because it means something to him.

His soul is torn, split. But for just a moment it feels almost whole on the couch with his familiar and a wild-child surrounded by what can only be something he dare not name.

-

Harry wakes, stretches, feeling marginally better since last time she’d woken up as she immediately becomes aware of coils behind her back and turns her head to give a lick to the corner of Nagini’s mouth. Slitted eyes open to regard her and Harry softly thumps her tail as she presses closer to her Nagini, a soft rumble in her chest.

§You scared me, Little Wolf§ Nagini hisses and Harry stills the movement, ears folding back. §You are not setting a paw outside these walls until your breathing doesn’t sound like a wet rattle§ Nagini gives her a firm look and Harry quails.

She whines and pushes her nose under her chin, trying her best to look contrite.

§You are lucky Tom’s humans aren’t as stupid as the rest§ Nagini grumbles, but she nudges the large wolf head until she can scent it properly and Harry bears it patiently, tail thumping. §You need to eat§ Nagini decides, pushing the wolf until she has no choice but slide the rest of the way and land on unsteady paws. §Sweet-Smells brought you human fur and Tom says there’s soft food waiting for you - human food§ she adds at her snakeling’s look.

She looks at the child until she huffily complies, stretching until she’s naked and pulling on the grey cotton shorts and shrugs the white and black t-shirt over her head. It dangles almost to the hem of her shorts and Harry looks expectantly to her companion.

She’s hungry but nauseous and Nagini is probably right but it makes her uncomfortable to stand there knowing that there’s humans moving inside the house. Humans who, by Nagini’s words, had healed her. But still humans.

She thinks of Vernon’s heavy hand, the bruising grip of Petunia’s, the smash of her cousin’s knuckles against her face and grimaces as she trots after Nagini.

It’s a large house - a mansion, she thinks distantly - though the word means little to her. The wooden furniture and walls smells nice and there’s much of it and there’s little artificial smells which makes it bearable despite the claustrophobic feeling of being inside.

Nagini leads her to what can only be a dining room and there’s Tom, she’d recognise Nagini’s human anywhere.

Snape - she remembers Snape too. Black eyes, a crooked nose and soft oily hair falling by his chin. He’s the first to look up as she walks inside and she almost bares her teeth in warning least he tries anything.

The only two she can’t recall the name of are Sweet-Smells and Pretty-Words. Mr and Mrs Malfoy, she thinks, with a furrow of her brow as she recalls a small blond haired boy on a train platform. But it’s the most and she cocks her head as she hesitates by the doorway.

“Come here, don’t be shy.” It’s Mrs Malfoy and her smile is soft and warm. “Why don’t you sit down- I had some broth prepared for you when we heard you were awake.” Harry looks to Nagini who flicks her ankle with her tail and a look before slinking out the room to hunt for her own food.

Harry watches her leave, heart constricting with worry.

She drags a chair out two steps from Mrs Malfoy, aware of their eyes, and plops down on it - slumping almost immediately. A bowl appears, startling her minutely, but she remember school food appearing suddenly and sniffs it curiously. It smells like bird and there’s soft clumps inside the warm broth which she picks up and plops into her mouth, chewing hungrily.

She flicks her eyes up as Snape places a glass of water before her but he simply raises an eyebrow.

She knows that look.

She fumbles for what she knows are human words, knows and manages with an awkward curl of her lips: “Thank you.” It’s more hiss than proper English, more growl than pleasant British. But it’s a word and she’s pleased by herself for remembering it.

“You’re welcome,” he answers with that familiar soft drawl.

She flicks her eyes from one human to the other as she fishes for another lump, catching a minute wince from aristocratic faces as she licks her dirty fingers.

§Hello Tom§ she greets, because Parseltongue is much easier than human speak.

§Little Wolf§ he acknowledges. §You had Nagini in quite the state§ he informs her as she uses both hands to lift the glass and drinks carefully.

She cocks her head, placing the glass down. §I was sick?§ she says a bit unsurely. §It’s a bit fuzzy to be honest§ she fishes for another piece of chicken.

§You were quite lucky that Nagini found both Lucius and Narcissa at home§ Tom drawls and Harry nods thoughtfully at the names. §And of course Snape, our resident potions master§ he tilts his head to the dour man and Harry looks at him curiously.

§I don’t have anything to trade you for the help§ Harry says after a brief moment of hesitation, looking back to the Dark Lord.

Tom raises an eyebrow at her. §We wouldn’t make you pay for being sick. All you need to do is stay here until you're healthy enough that Nagini won't have a heart attack on your behalf§ he says this firmly before smirking. §Besides, Nagini would probably strangle me in my sleep if we did§ he adds dryly and Harry bares her teeth in wolfish agreement.

She drinks the broth by tilting the bowl until her stomach cries in protest and she knows she risks throwing it up instead. Tom is speaking with the humans but it’s a tiresome language for her ears and she doesn’t bother trying to keep up, shifting restlessly and wondering just where Nagini had gone and when she’d be back.

§Little Wolf§ she jerks, realizing she’s half-twisted on the chair on her knees trying to peer for her companion and looks up to Tom who’s eyes she cannot read. §Narcissa has offered to help you bath - Nagini will probably be back by the time you finish it§ it’s as much a command as an offer and Harry recalls her aunt’s wrinkled nose and sniffs herself curiously.

She smells of sickness, sour from sweat and grimaces in agreement.

When the woman rises Harry drops from her chair and trots obediently behind with only a moment of hesitation. She’s in Tom’s den. If smelling good will make him approve that’s what she’ll do.

Narcissa is speaking softly and Harry keeps half-an-ear open for familiar words and phrases, catching the gist of it as being a bit of an explanation for the den and something about her family. Harry looks at her - sees the blonde hair and soft skin. The curve of her hips and the swell of her hips - so different from Harry’s skinny body.

The bathroom is big and the fall of water is something foreign. The Dursley’s had never allowed her to take baths and their bathtub had remained been small and unused as Dudley outgrew it. Hogwarts preferred showers as well and the swim in the prefect bathroom had been less bathtub and more pool.

But this is clearly made for people to sit and lean back and enjoy the warmth and she strips before Narcissa can ask her to, catching a half-opened mouth from the corner of her eyes as she slides inside with a soft noise as her dirty fingers meets see-through water.

Like the snow melting in her hands in winter.

“Will you allow me to stay and help you?” Narcissa asks gently as Harry rolls in the water, splashing the little that is around her, and she looks up - grinning.

She’s never taken a bath before.

Narcissa shows her how to do it right and Harry is endlessly fascinated.

First she helps her wash up - explaining that the water would be too dirty if she just went in it. They drain it and then they refill it and Narcissa pours something that makes it grow white bubbles and Harry paws at them as the water climb up her hips to just below her breasts before Narcissa turns it off.

She’s rolled up her sleeves and tied back her hair as Harry puffs at the yellow duck she’d placed in the water, staring at its yellow skin and empty eyes as it glides over the surface.

She tenses when Narcissa first touches her, flinching and peering from her as she ducks warily. But Narcissa is gentle, careful, her voice soothing as she helps her with her hair and Harry melts at the first soft scratch of nails against her scalp.

Narcissa scrubs her neck and shoulders, down her back and front with clinical gentleness. She directs her to clean between her legs on her own and Harry nearly slips when she has to haul a foot up to have the nails cleaned and trimmed.

When Narcissa is finally done with her she feels squeaky clean and stands perfectly still, a bit wobbly on tired legs and sniffling a tiny bit as Narcissa help dry her down and dress her in a new pair of shorts, black, and a white t-shirt as she yawns.

“What a good girl you are,” Narcissa praises her gently and it stirs something distant and half-forgotten inside of her.

§You smell like you’ve been rolling in a field of flowers§ Nagini informs her as Narcissa nudges her down in the seat where she’d woken up earlier. She’s resting lazily in Tom’s lap who is playing what looks like chess with Severus whose brows are deeply furrowed in concentration.

§You would know§ Harry yawns, sniffling.

Severus looks up at the noise, says something that’s too far beyond her tired mind and leaves briefly. She blinks when there’s a potion suddenly dangling in front of her and makes a tired grab for it.

These humans are supposed to want to kill her, Harry knows, staring at it. If it wasn’t for the scar on her brow, covering up the lightning bolt shape, they would have stuck a knife in her back and been long gone with it. The name Harry Potter is a dangerous thing and she knows - she knows she can’t stay long.

Knows that trusting these humans would be a fool’s thing to do.

But she’s tired and sick and Nagini is right there and she raises it to her lips and swallows.

She’ll stay a week, she thinks as she stretches out and drops her head into Tom’s lap so she can curl around Nagini properly, throwing her leg over a thick coil and nose up until they’re cheek against cheek, Harry’s head on the side and Nagini moving to rest more firmly against her.

-

Tom stays frozen for several moments, rook dangling in his hand as the child makes herself comfortable in his lap like an overgrown human puppy.

Lucius makes a suspicious coughing noise and Severus has a hand over his mouth that isn’t discreet at all. Narcissa’s soft aww makes him twitch.

He decides to ignore her.

And if, by the third game, he has a hand on her brow, soothing creases from a dream, none of his followers dare to comment on it.

Chapter Text

Nagini wrestles her down until Harry is a puffing pouting mess beneath her, glaring balefully. §You’re not leaving until you’ve got that death wheeze taken care off§ Nagini hisses, hearing the wetness in her snakeling’s lung and resenting it.

It’s cold and only getting worse, the wind rattling the windows and whistling sharply outside. Harry has taken to sulking longingly in the couch by the third day, growing restless and irritated at being trapped inside when everything about her longs for freedom.

She whines softly, giving the snake a long miserable look. Nagini makes the closest sound to a sigh a snake can make and wraps herself more firmly around the wolf, making sure to coil the thicker part of her as a pillow beneath a furry chin and over neck until she’s back front, flicking her tongue over a wet nose. Harry wrinkled it at the ticklish feeling and gives her a long swipe over her snout in return.

Nagini opens her mouth in irritation. §Silly Little Wolf§ she snaps her fangs. §There’s plenty to do inside if you take a good look§

Harry snuffles, glancing balefully out at the fluffy white snow calling her name to play.

They both look up at the sound of footsteps, Severus pausing at the doorway at the sight of the ensnared wolf and irritated snake. He gives the wolf a long-suffering look. “You tried to escape again, didn’t you?” He raises a brow as Harry looks away from him mulishly.

Nagini studies the human as he wrestles with himself visibly before opening his mouth. “If you promise not to touch anything you are welcome to follow me to the lab. I’m doing some brewing and if you behave I might allow you to help.”

Harry stills.

Nagini regards her snakeling contemplating whatever the human had suggested and eases her coils as the body shrinks and rearranges and Harry pushes a ring of coil from her head down her back to sit with her legs folded and head cocked. Severus averts his eyes, sending a prayer for patience in dealing with brats.

“I can use knife,” she offers. “I skin fish,” she makes a motion, tongue sticking out in fierce concentration, “very good,” she brags.

“Put something on.” Severus has a feeling he’s going to regret this. “And don’t you dare enter the lab before you do!" He sweeps out of the room.

§I’m going to go play in his lab§ she informs Nagini, straightening neatly and climbing out and trotting off in the direction of the dour man.

Nagini watches her go, naked.

She hissed in amusement and slithers away to see if Tom had been toasting up his bed yet.

-

Severus makes a noise and throws his cloak at her the second she walks in and she blinks at the large draping fabric and the man covering his eyes and cursing something foul.

-

Snape is as nitpicky as always, Harry decides, but without the sneers and cruelty reserved for one Harry Potter. He keeps a firm eye on her and she copies his moves carefully, struggling through the potion jargon as he explains what he’s doing and what is going to happen as he adds the ingredients she’s dicing, hacking, pressing and grounding.

Her ears grow tired quickly as she deciphers long-heard and long-forgotten words with a strange urge to please the man.

She looks at his large firm back, the seriousness and underlying passion for his work, the easy careful oh-so familiar movements as her own legs swing from the too-high chair.

She feels eleven again, back at that first day in school, before Snape had turned on her with all the hated of a boy who had spent seven years tormented while his tormentors were hailed as school heroes and later toasted by the entire world. The nerves, the eagerness of learning, wanting to be good at something.

It creeps through her, odding with the exhaustion, and she forces herself through drooping eyes until she’s practically swaying.

Snape pauses mid-word when there’s a thunk and a clang behind him and he swivels around to see the wolf-child sprawled out the workbench beside a perfectly diced pile of beetles. Mouth open and soft little snores, clad only in his cloak, making her look young despite her long-limbedness.

He hesitates, checks the potion and puts a stasis on it before tucking the cloak more firmly around her and hauling her up into his arms with the seeds of a grudging sort of respect.

-

Harry is not stalking her.

She’s just… watching.

Narcissa seems to be the one who spends the most amount of time at the mansion, often buried in books and working through heaps of paper with a dedication that is both startling and awing.

There’s a pair of fine glasses on her nose as she flips through the books in search of something or another but she looks up as Harry slinks through the door, firmly focused on the pillows, and it’s not her fault that Narcissa happens to be on the couch she was going to nap on.

That’s entirely on Narcissa.

Really.

She jumps, landing elegantly and flops down with an over exaggerated sigh of pleasure as she stretched her paws out and shoved her spine firmly against the leather with a content hum.

She peeks an eye open and lolls a tongue out at the soft laugh her show has garnered her. “Hello there Little Wolf,” Narcissa greets, reaching a hand out and scratching behind her ear in greeting.

The first time she’d done it Harry had nearly bitten her hand off. But Narcissa is a determined sort of person, she’s learning, and she only tenses for a second before she worms closer at the invitation and flops her head into a her lap with a sigh.

“It must be boring with everyone gone or busy,” Narcissa hums. “Draco isn’t returning home until tomorrow and both Severus and Lucius is working. Not to mention Tom.” She removes her glasses, folds them and puts them away to give the wolf in her lap her undivided attention. “How about the two of us do something fun together?”

Harry makes an inquiring noise, shifting and rolling onto her lap with a tilt of her head.

Narcissa doesn’t bat an eye at her nudeness, changing the scratching of floppy ears to scalp as Harry melts with a noise of contentment in her lap. “How about I read you a story?” Narcissa summons a folded up blanket from a nearby chair and drapes it over the young girl with a throw of her hand, makes sure she’s tucked in properly, before summoning a book with a beck of her fingers.

It hovers before her as Harry shuffles closer, curling beneath the afghan.

“Once upon a time…” Narcissa begins.

And she might not know it, but it’s the first time Harry Potter can ever remember being read a story.

-

Lucius knows his wife and he can tell she’s deep in thought as she removes her makeup and unclip the chain from her neck and gently puts it away. He can see it in the look of her eyes - the carefulness in her every move that’s normally smooth and unbothered.

He marks his page and puts the book aside as she nears him, pulling the cover back and drawing her into his arms with a sigh of contentment as he breathes in her sweet scent.

“You have something on that beautiful mind of yours,” he hums, trailing his fingers down her neck and pressing a kiss against her temple

She huffs and presses closer. “I read a bedtime story to the girl today,” she tells him, looking up at him with those fierce blue eyes which had made him a tongue tied teenager so many years ago.

“Oh?” He strokes a thumb under the right one, admiring the softness of her skin. “Did she react badly?”

His wife furrows her brow. “Not… badly per se, I think.” She hesitates. “She was… crying.”

“Did you read so badly?” He chokes a laugh as she elbows him. “Sorry, sorry.” He kissed her temple again, dragging his cheek against hers, knowing how much she hates the beginning of night-time bristles on his cheeks and getting a pinch for his troubles. “So, what happened?” he presses.

“She was clearly trying to hide it,” Narcissa sighs. “All curled up, melting from the slightest of touch - burying deeper and listening eagerly. She begged me for another one after the first finished - you should have heard her voice. She was struggling so badly to hide her tears.” She shakes her head. “If I didn’t know better-” she hesitates.

“That was the first bedtime story she’d ever been read,” Lucius finishes her thought.

Narcissa nods against his neck. “Poor thing didn’t know what to do with herself afterwards. She was as tense as a bowstring.” Lucius strokes her hair gently, knowing just how much this must have upset his wife.

Draco had been a blessing after two miscarriages and at the end it had nearly cost her both their lives. Their son had survived but it had robbed her of the prospect of carrying another child - had weakened her body and contained her to bed rest for nearly two years before she overcame it by sheer stubbornness alone. Lucius had never felt so helpless as he did those years - with his son in his arms and a wife who was so weak she couldn’t take a single step without him by her side.

He’d been so very afraid of losing her - torn between anger and love for his son and helplessness in the mess that had become his life after Tom’s fall at the hands of a child.

A child that had succumbed to the hands of her relatives just months after the Dark Lord had returned to take his revenge upon her. It was a horrible end and Tom had locked himself in the mansion for months after learning about it.

He shakes the thoughts of Harry Potter away from his mind and focuses back on his wife. “I think Severus likes her.”

Narcissa made a noise, sitting up suddenly to look at him. “What?” she demands and Lucius was hard-torn not to let his eyes drift down the beautiful nightgown and the long legs being throw over him as she straddles him.

“I caught him carrying her from his potion lab wrapped up in his cloak,” he tells her, lip twitching as she leans over him.

“But Severus hates children.” Narcissa stares at him as the other end of the sentence registered. “From his lab? The same place he nearly blew my head off for sticking it inside and let him know Tom was looking for him? That lab?” She made a noise of disbelief as he nodded, grin growing.

“You’re not going to let him forget that, are you?” She pokes his chest.

“Not at all,” he agrees pleasantly.

When Narcissa bends down to kiss him he meets her half-way with a groan as she rolled her hips. “Give him hell,” she whispers in his ears.

Lucius didn’t think it possible to love this woman any more but she proves him wrong every day. He kissed her neck as he flipped them over, pressing her down with his hips and summoned a long drawn out moan as he nosed his way down to a soft breast.

-

Harry stalks huffily through the house, nose still tingling from the smack Nagini had given her with a firm warning to stay as she left the house to hunt.

What does she think I am, a dog? she thought moodily as she trotted down the hallway, sniffing for either Narcissa or Snape and pausing when a new smell registered.

She cocks her head.

Narcissa had said something about Draco coming home from school, hadn’t she? And something about a friend who’d arrive for Christmas. Harry had counted the days and firmly expected to be back in the woods before then but it was only her fourth day in the house and there wasn’t even a Christmas tree up yet.

Pity that.

The Dursley’s always had a plastic tree because of allergies but the Malfoy’s seemed the sort to chop down and drag in an oversized thing and she sort of wanted that because she missed the smells of trees and wet earth.

Maybe she could ask?

She swung towards the new smell, catching Narcissa’s and Lucius’s intermingling with it and hesitates briefly. She remembers Petunia’s enthusiastic hugs, the firm guff pats and proud gleam in Vernon’s eyes as they welcomed Dudley back from Smeltings while she washed the windows in the living room, out of sight and out of mind.

Her own welcome had been a firm grip by her neck and a warning of severe pain if she tried anything, the locking of her stuff inside their bedroom least she attempted to take any of it, and then her - trapped inside her cupboard. Vernon had visited her that night to beat her bloody - to let her know that coming back was bad and that she should be thankful they were there to open their doors at all for her filthy creature like herself.

She stands still for a long while before turning firmly and escaping deeper into the house at the sound of laughter and steps getting closer.

-

“Have you seen Little Wolf, Severus?” Narcissa asks as dinner time got closer and closer and the girl was nowhere to be seen despite the smell of food. She grimaces a bit at the name but they hadn’t actually asked the girl if she had anything else to call her by and, frankly, the term felt awkward on her tongue. It was a name, in a way, but it felt more like Nagini’s name for her, perhaps Tom’s by extension.

Severus probably felt the same because she hadn’t actually heard him use it once and she’d probably choke on her tongue if he did.

“Not since this morning,” he tells her absently without looking up from his text.

“Lucius said the same.” She taps her chin, wondering where on earth she might have gone.

Severus pauses and Narcissa very carefully does not let her delight show. “Tom?”

“In Germany, left a couple of hours ago and he brought Nagini with him - something about a feast all for her.” That meant someone had screwed up and screwed up bad and the two of them were likely to be in a good mood if Tom’s solution meant a meal for his familiar.

Severus made the slightest of shifts but oh- Narcissa knew his tells. Knew he was worried but resolute not to show it.

“And I suppose dinner will be late if we don’t find her?” He raises an expectant brow.

“Of course,” Narcissa agrees fondly, allowing him the excuse

As he swept away she leaned back into her husband’s waiting arms and turned to give the corner of his mouth a soft kiss. “We should help him look,” she admonishes him when he passes her a glass of wine.

“You can’t tell me the idea of the dour potion master running around after an errant child doesn’t amuse you?” Lucius murmurs against her temple.

No, Narcissa suppose she couldn’t.

-

Severus wasn’t about to call out that ridiculous name she’d stuck herself with which made looking for her just the tiniest bit harder. He couldn’t use location spells since he didn’t have a name but he did increase the noise of his shoes and kept his ears open for a shift of noise, a scratch, a creak.

The girl was a restless creature and had a tendency to react involuntarily to touch and sound whether she was aware of it or not - head swivelling, ears twitching, eyes flicking - it was often minute but the shift of weight was a constant and all he needed was the slightest of -

He stills.

“I know you’re here,” he drawls, looking around, scanning for possible hideouts. He’d gone further than he’d expected - down the more unused paths of the Malfoy Manor which while still pristine has a stale scent lingering in the air. “Dinner's almost ready and Draco is expecting to meet you.” He strains his hearing. “Hiding away won’t solve anything,” he tells the empty air.

He looks left, to the small side-table with double doors, at the faintest of sounds. It was just large enough for a teen to cram herself into if she so wished and Severus crouches, loosening his cloak pre-emptively (because he was learning that finding her clothed was a bit of a gamble with a fifty-fifty chance of winning).

He yanks it open and she tumbles out buck-naked, wrapped in black before she had time to fully process it and blinking owlishly up at him as she lands on her butt.

Severus does not smirk but it was near. “You know, when I call for someone I expect them to answer,” he informs her. “I don’t particular enjoy wasting my time looking everywhere for runaway brats.”

She looks away from him sharply. “I was fine.” Her words were strange, heavy - as if her mouth had forgotten how to form them properly – but she was picking up words with an aptitude that meant she’d been fluid once. “Did not need look.”

“Narcissa is intent on withholding dinner unless you join us.” She jerks, staring up at him with vulnerable eyes and Severus mentally ticks the box for starvation with a heavy feeling that he’ll deny to the day of his death. “Or rather until you join us,” he amends. “So the quicker you come the sooner we’ll all have a hot meal in our bellies.”

She gnaws on her lower lip, looking young and hesitant. “Did not want -” she struggles to find the word. “Be in way,” she gets out finally, wrinkling her nose. “Family together again.” She shrugs a bit helplessly.

Severus wishes Tom was back - this was entirely not his expertise and she didn’t have a firm enough grasp of the language to make it easy to communicate.

“Narcissa and Lucius are perfectly capable of upholding more than one conversation at the table, I promise. And even so, I am there too.” He adds the last bit grudgingly.

Besides that Draco might be able to give them the tools to help handling the girl.

Draco had chosen to further his career in medicine and become a paediatrician at St Mungo's, something which had made his parents endlessly proud. It was hard work and long hours and little time for holidays but Draco was striving and Severus was reluctantly impressed by his godson for choosing something that went against everything he’d been during his Hogwarts years.

Draco would probably never admit to it but his chosen career had a lot to do with the death of the Girl-Who-Lived. Someone who had been hailed as a hero by the magical world and yet slipped so seriously under the cracks that no-one had noticed the abuse by the hands of her relatives until it cost her her life.

Draco had both hated and admired the girl and he’d gone very quiet when they read the news in the papers.

Severus had read the reports - had visited that small dingy cupboard that contained only a small cot and walls stained with enough blood to fuel his nightmares years to come. Lily’s child, dead by the brutal hands of her uncle. There’d been no body to recover and years later Severus still wonders what had become of it. Butchered and buried? Dumped in the water to bloat and rot? Cremated and scattered without a care? Left to become the food of hungry wild animals?

They’d been notified after muggle police had blocked off the home and a distressed Arabella Figg had fire called Dumbledore, weeping.

AUNT SHOOTS FAMILY AFTER DEATH OF HER NIECE
Hung herself in the kitchen.

She’s left a single letter behind, blotched with tears and a single sentence.

I’m so sorry, Lily

He sighs, focusing back on the yellow eyes of the wolf-child.

He holds out a hand. “Come on,” he says gruffly. “Time to meet my godson.”

-

Draco arches his spine after he hung the last robe into the wardrobe and folded the last pair of socks into its drawer. The last paper had been delivered, he had two books left he needed to finish during the holidays and he knew his mother wouldn’t mind him reading them as long as he timed it to their own busy hours.

He liked his apartment fine but home was home and it was good to be back.

Taking a quick shower he dresses in slacks and a simple button-up and rubs the back of his neck as he closed the door behind him and tracks his path to the dining room. He’d been endlessly curious since his father fire called him to let him know that the Dark Lord had a guest at the mansion. One who, apparently, lived on her own in the forest and who he had been informed was skittish of humans and spent most of her time following the Dark Lord’s familiar.

He might have thought it a joke if it wasn’t his father telling it.

The dining room is set up beautifully - the large windows towards the garden muted to hide the rattle of the harsh wind outside without covering up the flurry of white. Candles had been lightened and there’s some soft sort of music playing in the background, all instruments and light, almost airy.

He suspects Lucius had managed to snag the player before his wife. His mother had a fondness for jazz and took every opportunity to play it and Lucius every opportunity to make sure it wasn’t being played in the same room as himself. It had been an endless source for amusement in his youth and continued to be so.

“Mother.” He bends down to kiss Narcissa’s cheek in greeting, smiling and squeezing the hand that reaches out for his own.

“Did you settle in alright?” she inquires, eyes searching, while Lucius folds his newspaper aside to listen. Severus and the girl was nowhere to be seen but Draco figures they’d be there any moment as he takes his seat.

“As always,” he promises. “It’s good to be home, mother.” He smiles at her.

“I suppose you’ll be busy even during the holidays?” Lucius asks.

“Just the two books to finish.” Draco pours himself a glass of wine. “The rest has already been finished and I know how much the winter holidays mean for mother.” He shoots her a wink and catches the approving look from his father just before his attention is snared by the arrival of his godfather.

“Sev!” He rises, grinning and catching the dour man in a hug. “How have you been? Couldn’t even escape those potions of yours to greet your favourite godson?” The look he’s levelled with for the hug is entirely unimpressed but Draco is unperturbed. Sev might be a grouch but he’s secretly a softie with those he grudgingly accepts into his life

“You’re my only godson,” Severus drawls.

“Which automatically makes me your favourite.” Draco can’t help but poke, enjoying the long-suffering look that Severus gives him before he makes his way to his chair and sits down with a flourish of his cape that Draco doubted he’d ever be able to copy.

That left the girl who’d trailed after him, head tilted and bare toes flexing against the carpet. Unlike the fine robes of his parents and godfather she was wearing short black shorts that just barely peeked forth under a grey t-shirt that hung mid-thigh. She was taller than he’d expected, around the height of his nose if he was to gamble, but it was hard to tell her age by the form of her face. There was something coltish about her what with the long-limbedness and his eyes lingers on the livid scar on the upper part of her face and around her eye.

He notes the interference of long-term animagus transformation on her face, the flicker of wariness in her eyes, the way she rolls on the balls of her feet - ready to move at any given movement. Abuse, he thinks. Signs of long-term starvation and physical violence in the form of scars-

He smiles gently. “You must be the one father called ‘Little Wolf’,” he greets, making no move to offer his hand. She cocks her head, tiny locks of black hair moving with it.

“Hello.” Signs of verbal decline - a result of living on her own without contact with other humans or a direct result of abuse-

Draco gave the tiniest of sighs at his brain. Talk about being ruined by ones work. “You can call me Draco,” he offers. “There’s a lot of us Malfoy’s to go around after all.”

-

Harry is… torn.

Admittedly, a lot of of her memories of Draco Malfoy were bad. He’d been petty and cruel from the moment she didn’t shake his hand on the train after insulting her dead parents. From his tricks during their first year, the cruelty of his words in the second, the dementors in their third, the buttons that followed her around with the jeers in her fourth.

But it was one thing to recall a fourteen year old Draco Malfoy trying to fill too-big shoes and another to stand before one who was nearly a man, not quite as tall as his father but intimidating in his stature all the same - one who spoke softly and gently to her.

It was… startling and she had trouble connecting the two, had trouble making the jump of he’s not fourteen anymore and I’m not fourteen anymore into a way that made sense.

She rocks unsurely on the balls of her feet, seeking Nagini automatically in her distress.

Narcissa moves suddenly into her view, blocking her searching gaze, stopping the hunch of the beginning of a transformation to wolf with a gentle touch of her hand against her chin. Harry jerks, looking up, and she realized she’s breathing too fast and there was a tremble in her hands and -

And this was wrong - Draco was wrongwrongwrong and she was just a puppy wasn’t she? Nagini’s snakeling and it wasn’t making sense because Draco was older than he should be and she was - shecan’t’tbreatheand-

“Ssh, I need you to focus on my voice – breathe in-” and someone is holding her, who is-

“Out,” and she’s trying, she is, but everything was not right and she wants Nagini she wants-

“In,” Nagini to hold her, to curl around her and tell her everything alright and-

“Out,” be back in the forest where she doesn’t have to think about anything but living and eating and-

She lets out a long shuddering breath, quivering against the warm chest and strong arms wrapped around her and becoming aware of the tears dripping down her face and her own struggling body. Narcissa is holding her, coaching her with exaggerated breathes against her back and Snape is crouching before her, hands on her arms and there is blood on her arms and - and -

She slumps, trembling into Narcissa’s arms, her mind a blur and her body beyond her. “There we go,” a gentle voice against her ear, a soft hum. Snape releases her and takes a cautious step backwards, eyes unreadable, and Harry doesn’t want to see-

§Snakeling§ and Nagini is there and and Harry reaches for her desperately as the large long coils encircles her body, the soft rumble in her chest travelling through her body and Harry whimpers as she sinks deeper into the coils. §I am here§ Nagini sooths. §No one here is going to hurt you Little Wolf. You are safe, I am here§ and Harry clings to her familiarity, speech beyond her.

§Change for me little one, just so - oh you’re being so good for me§ Nagini whispers as her form rearranges and the muted senses of the wolf steals the last of her panic, making her slump with fine trembles running through her body, feeling exhausted.

Her eyes lids and she whimpers pitifully to soft hisses.

She doesn’t know how long they remain like so but Nagini shifts gently, carefully, when Harry is nearly completely asleep and she makes a soft noise of protest. §Tom is going to carry you to your room§ Nagini hushes gently. §Tom is safe§ she promises and Harry feels an arm around her chest, over her rump, a strong body lifting her up and shifting her until she was lying on her back, paws folding down and tail drawn between her legs.

She focuses on the soft slither of Nagini as she follows them down the hall and up the stairs and curls into the smallest ball she can be the moment she was on the mattress and Nagini follows her, encircling her in her protective coils.

-

“She’s asleep,” Tom says tiredly, stepping into the living room with a crack of his neck as he sinks down on the couch. Narcissa is tucked against Lucius sipping a large cup of tea and Severus looks up from where he’d been gazing into the fire.

Draco is browsing a thick journal, brow furrowed, mouth moving.

“Nagini said it wasn’t the first time she’s seen her like that.” Tom drags a hand through his hair, gazing at Narcissa with a quirk of his lips. “She was quite proud of you for constricting her as you did - she said that’s had been her own solution, too.”

Narcissa makes a soft noise, shaking her head. “Praise from the mighty Nagini herself.” She smiled weakly.

Truthfully the child’s reaction had terrified her - it had been so sudden and violent, breathing skyrocketing, nails clawing down arms and she looked ready to tear her face open before Narcissa and Severus managed to drag her down on the floor to keep her from hurting herself.

It had been the complete opposite of the girl poking the duck in the bathtub with a sort of helpless curiosity.

It was Lucius who had fire called Tom who arrived in all his glory, Nagini draped over his shoulder and already half-way off him as they stepped into the dining room. And if she’d ever doubted the bond between child and snake it had been completely blown away by the way she’d collapsed helplessly into Nagini’s constricting coils with pure unchallenged relief.

She sighs, tired from what should have been a bright evening with a perfect dinner to welcome her son back from his studies.

“I wonder what set her off,” Draco mumbles to himself. “Could have been anything, could have been nothing…” He closes the book, messing up his perfect hair with a rueful grin. “Don’t worry mother, you can take me out for lunch tomorrow and we’ll have a proper catch-up,” he offers, as if sensing her thoughts.

Lucius raised a brow. “I see how it is,” he huffs. “Severus, we’re taking the evening off to a bar tomorrow.”

Severus blanches. “What? No! Do you even remember what happened last time?” He demands.

“Not a thing.” Lucius admits breezily. “I’ll pick you up at nine.” He says, tapping his chin and left the room as Severus scrambles to follow.

“Lucius! Luce - we are not doing this again! I didn’t recover for weeks-

Draco stares after them before glancing at his mother. “Do I want to know?”

Tom snorts into his hand, mouth twitching.

-

Harry stares at the colouring paper and the colouring paper stares back at her. Narcissa had apologized in a hurry and left her with a pile of the goods, promising to be back before dinner time before she left arm and arm with Draco through the fireplace.

Nagini is sleeping on the couch under an extra strong lamp Tom had conjured for her and Harry had been left to her own device.

With colouring paper.

She puts it all out before her on the floor, folding her legs and peering through it curiously. Severus had bandaged up her lower arms earlier that morning and she has to resist the urge to scratch at them and instead focuses on pressing out a thick dollop of blue on the plate.

She did have some vague impression of doing it when she was very young at school but she’d spent more time in time-out thanks to Dudley than she’d ever spent colouring and making little paper creations with scissors and paper.

She makes a grab for the yellow.

-

Nagini stares at her snakeling and her snakeling stares guiltily back.

She’d taken a quick nap after snagging a boar from just outside the grounds and trusted that her Little Wolf wouldn’t get into too much trouble on her own.

Apparently she’d been wrong.

The girl had managed to cover herself from head to toe in paint, smearing bandages and hair alike, and had clearly made an attempt to wipe it off and only made it worse. It covered her face and stuck in her hair in thick yellow spikes, down her ears and up her left nostril. Her human fur was unrecognisable and she was sitting with her legs sprawled out, having been in the act of making a green snake down her leg.

§I ran out of paper§ Little Wolf offers sheepishly.

Severus choses that moment to make his appearance, halting in the doorway, face turning flat.

He made a turn. “I am so not dealing with this today,” he decides.

Nagini curls back down on the couch. §You stay there until Sweet-Smells return§ she tells her snakeling firmly. §You’ll probably kill yourself taking a bath at this rate…§ she grumbles.

-

“You’re quite the messy little thing, aren’t you?” Narcissa helps her step out of her shorts and t-shirt, folding them up before throwing them into the hamper.

It's hard not to react to the scars on her body no matter how many times she sees them but Narcissa doesn't want her to think them of something she needs to be ashamed of.

It's a tricky situation with how skittish she is and both Draco and Severus, the most well-versed in mind and healing, had recommended trust before answers. To take it slow and gentle least they touched upon something she wasn't able to handle.

It was also a matter of language barrier and encouraging her to regain the use of the English language. Tom said she spoke Parseltongue fluently which Draco had been visibly relieved to hear.

“Paint was fun,” the girl tells her, climbing into the bath and sitting down expectantly. Narcissa shakes her head and removes her own clothes, knowing that she’d get water and paint all over them if she tried to do it any other way, and steps into the bathtub together with the child.

The girl studied her curiously and Narcissa allows it as she turns the shower head on and checks the temperature before beginning the long arduous attempt at getting her completely paint free.

Most girls saw the naked bodies of their female relatives somehow or another when they were young. It set an expectation for what might be normal, a slated curiosity for how an older body might be different from her own - what she would grow into. Even Draco had seen her naked when he was still toddling around, asking about her ‘tiger stripes’ and the long scar from belly-button down, touching them possessively when he learnt he’d made them when he came into the world.

The child in the bathtub is giving her the same look, the same innocent peeking, as if she’d never seen a woman naked. Her body is still young, it had been starved and she had no hips and her breasts were flat against her ribcage. She had a small small sparse trail of black curls between her legs and beneath her arms and Narcissa knew how different she appeared comparatively.

She had stretch marks on her thighs and stomach from carrying Draco, her breasts were full from when they’d been filled with milk and her hips curved generously. She was blonde with a full set of curls between her legs and she was also getting older which meant her skin wasn’t as firm as it had been in her youth, especially around her tummy. Where Little Wolf’s small nipples perked hers were larger and lower.

So Narcissa lets her look until she is satisfied and back to fiddling with her toes.

It takes several rinses and a lot of soap before Narcissa feels satisfied enough to plug the bottom of the bathtub and allowing it to fill properly, adding some bubbles to distract the younger girl and sneaking in a green and blue duck when she isn’t looking.

The widening of her eyes as she released them from the bottom of the bathtub, hidden by the bubbles, made it worth it and she hides a grin as she pulls her a knee to her chest and rested her chin on it. The girl makes soft little noises as she funnels the ducks across the water, diving them beneath the bubbles with movement of her lips.

It takes a moment for Narcissa to realize she was making ‘quacking’ noises without actually making the sound.

As if she’d learnt early to play quietly and didn’t know how to do it any other way.

-

Tom has managed to curl up between seven pair of blankets, the one closest to his body soft, feathery and warm and the others heavier, keeping the toasty heat inside as the Dark Lord hisses in pleasure and wiggles deeper into the warmth.

It’s late and the fire is roaring in the fireplace, it’s soft crackling soothing to his ears and pulling him closer towards a deep sleep.

And he deserves it. The meeting with the French Minister had gone late and it had taken a fair amount of charisma and smooze to weave her into his palms again. And some expensive wine - wine that had left him tired when he finally steps through the fireplace, stripping his clothes off and finally sinking down beneath the long-awaited blankets.

He opens a single tired eye as the door cracks and there’s a soft click of paws against the floor. He draws the blankets closer and sits up just enough to look at the yellow eyes staring back at him from the darkness, shining in the light of the fire.

§Little Wolf?§ he hisses, taking note of the tremble in her paws, the low-folded ears and becoming aware of the soft whimpering noises she’s making. He sits up further, brows furrowing. §Nagini is out hunting§ he tells the searching eyes and snuffling nose. §Did you have a nightmare?§ he asked, keeping his voice low and soothing.

She whines in distress, sinking down on his carpet and looking so miserable that Tom knows he can’t just leave her there.

He sighs and reaches beneath the blankets, fumbling in one of the drawers for a pair of sleeping pants and pulls them on before sliding out from the heat with a hiss at the cool air. He crouches down beside her, unsure if she’d be receptive to his touch or not.

She whines and shuffles the tiniest of bits closer and Tom takes it as an invitation, reaching out to touch soft warm fur, smothering it down over her ears and neck. Repeats it. Stroking her softly, gently like the animal she’s very much is and isn’t and she crawls closer until she’s draped in his lap

He can feel the fine shivers in her body and knows that whatever she’d been dreaming about had truly upset her.

He wonders just what had driven a child to escape and live in a forest on her own - to seek the company of his Familiar before any other.

He sighs and reaches down to heave her up and into his arms with a startled wolfish yelp as he used a bare foot to nudge the blankets aside to give just enough to drop the wolf down and throw them over her. He ignores the wide-eyed yellow ones focused upon him as he crawls in on the opposite side, leaving a firm amount of space between them. §You can wait for Nagini here until she comes back§ he hisses grudgingly.

-

Forty minutes later he wakes to fur in his mouth and rolls a long-suffering look towards the ceiling as he shoves her down, grimacing at the drool on his chest and the fur he can already feel sticking to absolutely everything.

There’s a sleepy snake hiss from Nagini curling tighter around them both and Tom wonders when this became his life.

Chapter Text

Harry stalks through the house, the nails of her paws clicking against the floor as she follows her nose to the kitchen. She peers around herself, sniffing at the leg of the wooden furniture and the glossy fridge that wasn’t much different from a muggle one – lacking electricity but powered by a low hum of magic.
There’s a lack of plastic – the bread still warm, wrapped in a checkered fabric instead of the ready carved pieces in bags that she remembered from the Dursley’s.
Harry isn’t sure what she expected. Bonfires and elves working around the clock? She’d been in the Hogwarts kitchen after all and it wasn’t that different.

Her stomach gurgles and she eyes the fridge as she listens for anyone it the immediate vicinity.¨

Nothing.

She stretches up on her hind paws and with a bit of struggle gets the door open and gives it a shove with her shoulder as she breathes deeply. There were a lot of glass jars with all sort of pickled things, marmalade and jams. Cheese under glass covers on a colourful tray - eggs crowding in a bowl.

Harry’s eyes tracks up, up, up -

She swallows deeply, draws a sharp breath and her tongue lolls out as the scent of heavily chocolate bombards her nose, crawling down and through her with every breath until she’s panting. The fridge door puffs against her side - she gives it an impatient shove as she rises to place her paws on one of the middle planes and stretches until she was nose to nose with a piece of heaven.

It is round and layered, pink and white teasing on the sides of it. On top is a generous heap of dark chocolate lazily styled and crawling up the sides of the decorative strawberries.

Her stomach rumbles and the world fades around her.

She pushes down harder on the shelf, stretching, jaws opening for just a taste - just a tiny little lick-

The glass shelf cracks, breaks.

Harry yelps, slipping forward - shelves loosening under panicked paws, jars breaking, the chocolate cake slipping over her head and landing with a splat on her back. Eggs shatters and she falls into the mess beneath her with a crack of her chin against the floor of the fridge.

Paws scrambles, sliding and finally sprawling her out on her belly in her panic.

She stares at the mess in horror, ears folding low against her head, terrified eyes following the slow slide of a pickle jar before it topples and lands with a noise that makes her flinch low against the floor.

She hardly dare to breathe.

She heaves herself up, slowly, the chocolate cake sliding forgotten off her back and drooping into a sad pile on the floor. The fridge door bounces against a fallen shelf, unable to close, and Harry takes a trembling step backwards.

GET OUT! her mind howls and Harry spins blindly, her mind locking down on the singular need to escape as she skids around the corner, making for the doors.

She only avoids slamming against them because they open up from the other side and she narrowly avoids slamming with a dark hooded figure who only just managed to stumble out of her path with a noise of surprise before she darts past them and out into the heavy snowfall.

-

Fenrir stares after the odd mixture of wolf and food, sniffing to make sure he wasn’t getting the scents it wrong. It was a sour concoction of raw eggs, chocolate, pickle juice and a myriad of different things and he wonders when the the Dark Lord had gone and gotten himself a pet.

A messy one at that.

Lucius was probably having an aneurysm somewhere in the house and Fenrir chortles to himself as he closes the door behind him and shrugs off the outer cloak. Clad in ripped jeans and a half-buttoned shirt he struggles briefly with his boots before depositing them beneath the cloak with relief, his feet free from their imprisonment.

Cracking his neck and knuckles he sniffs for his Lord - deducing after a moment that the smell wasn’t fresh enough and shrugs as he headed off in search of something to eat instead. The Malfoy’s were always stacked and it was one of the few reasons he agreed to the mansion as a meeting place.

He sidesteps the mess of the fridge, gaze lingering for a moment before he focuses on a a lump of bread cooling on the stove. He’s smearing it with a package of butter he bravely rescued from the assault of dripping jar of mustard when he glances back at Lucius who had frozen mid-step into his kitchen.

Lucius for his part had seen the cloak and shoes and known just exactly the werewolf had wandered off and come to look for him since Tom wouldn’t be returning for a while.

“This.” Fenrir waggles his fingers over the mess. “Is entirely the result of your pet.” He shoves the bread into his mouth, chewing noisily.

“Pet?” Lucius echoes faintly, his eyes on the ruined chocolate cake. But then the words registers and he looks sharply to the other man. “Did you see where she went?”

“Wigt awt da fwont voor.” Fenrir points through a mouthful. He paused his chewing and raises a brow when Lucius swears - something he’d thought entirely beyond the refined man. Swallows. “Thing was absolutely dripping with food - it’s probably hiding somewhere on the grounds.” No way a dog was clever enough to get out those fortified gates.

He licks butter from his thumb.

“That thing is a child and an animagus.” Lucius gives him a sharp look. “The Dark Lord’s familiar is deeply enamoured with her and would be very upset if she was to return to find her gone.”

Fenrir feels cold sweat drip down his back as he stills.

Nagini was a terrifying entity in a good mood - he wasn’t exactly keen on seeing her in a rage.

“Won’t she just come back once she realizes how cold it is?” He follows Lucius as the younger man stalks out of the kitchen. “Kids ain’t stupid.”

“This one has spent I don’t know how many years living on her own with only Nagini for company in the middle of the woods,” Lucius says tersely. “She’s been abused, shies any and all sort of sudden movements and she’s scarred enough to look as if she stepped right out of a torture chamber.”

Fenrir stills, digesting the words, and then puts the bread aside and lunges for his cloak with a swear.

-

Fenrir is old. He’d been bitten when he was barely weaned off his mother’s milk and he should have died - too young to handle the transformations. But he’d prevailed and he’d grown up hearing what no one else did, shunned from the humans in the community he’d been born into until his mother had enough and fled with him to a werewolf settlement.

Werewolves were pack creatures by nature and Fenrir had been young and strong, challenging the Alpha with all the rage and bravado of youth at fifteen and won. A natural born Alpha, they called him. They hunt in pack, they sleep in pack - they take care of each other and the more in touch with their nature they were the more their senses grew.

It’s the difference between a tame wolf like Lupin who enjoyed playing human and whose senses faded and muted as his wolf twisted into something weak and rabid, and someone like Fenrir who was always side-by-side with his wolf, aware and listening, settling into something less human even outside the influence of the full moon.

It was his wolf he called for, senses sharpening as he sniffs the ground for the smell of canine intermingling with food. It should have been easy but it is cold and snow packs the smells, hiding her tracks. It was still fresh enough that Fenrir is confident he could track her even in his limited human form but the girl had had a head start and was ruled by fear while Fenrir has to track carefully least he loses her.

“Can’t you point her?” Fenrir asks, staring past the open gates and the large expanse of forest.

Lucius shakes his head. “We don’t know her name. She wasn’t very keen on sharing it.”

Fenrir would have turned and stared if it wasn’t busy ingraining her scent into his nose. What in the world had been happening between the last time he visited and now? The adoption of a feral no-name wolf-child and he wasn’t invited? Really.

How rude.

“I can track her but you’ll slow me down.” Fenrir glances back, just to see Lucius pretty face twist up. “Got anything she’ll respond to for me to use?”

Lucius made a reluctant face. “Nagini calls her Little Wolf,” he bites out.

Fenrir pictures the prim and proper Lucius Malfoy crying out for Little Wolf and snorts, shoulders shaking. “I’ll hunt the pup down.” He waves, disappearing quickly in the mess of flurry snow before Lucius could do something with that fancy stick of his.

Lucius remains still for several minutes before his cold fingers makes themselves reminded.

He spins and stalks back to the house.

-

Harry crashed over the cliff, tumbling down the cold tundra and scrambling for purchase in icy snow. Her fur is crusted and heavy and every breath rattles inside her lungs, wet and desperate.

It blows too hard for her to see more than a couple of feet before her and she heaves herself up on trembling legs, lurching forward.

Getawaygetawaygetaway- her mind cries as she makes her way blindly. She has no idea where the mansion is, doesn’t know how to get back to her home. She’s lost, trapped in the whirling wind and snow that bites through thick fur until she’s a trembling mess.

She yelps as something snaps beneath her and breaks through the soft skin between the pads of her paws and she sprawls out. Red stains white as she scrambles up, jumpong awkwardly with the paw drawn up, whimpering as she bends her head down to nose at it and give it a ginger lick.

She puts it down and continues stubbornly forward with a limp in the thick snow.

Her mind tumbles with images of a furious Vernon.

She can practically feel the tear of her flesh under the snap of leather and the pooling of warm blood spilling down her back. Hands much stronger than herself securing a belt around her wrists and behind her back - the burning gasps for air under water and her own cries rising in crescendo with his laughter as he pulls her out before shoving her back under.

It drowns the world around her until she’s practically back with him, long hair ensnared in a thick hand and trembling as he bears down upon her and she stumble to her knees in the snow and claws at her head with a whine, blood beading beneath her nails, unable to remember when she’d gone from wolf to human.

Snow turns to wooden floor beneath her and the walls of her cupboard closed around her, trapping her.

He’s the Dark Lord her mind whispers in an echo. If a simple muggle could tear you apart for existing, what do you think he would do to you for repaying kindness with ruin?

Harry slams her head down into the icy crystals of harsh snow beneath her, crying out for escape from her own mind.

“I’m not there!” she cries. “I’m not there!”

But her mind isn’t listening and the hunger pools in her belly, the smell of heady food as thick hands stroke down her bare hips - the tempting promise of food if she just allow him this one little thing-

”Sssssh.” A clawed hand presses down on her neck, digging in without drawing blood. The palm settled heavy and warm against her icy skin and she jerks, limbs tired and frozen stiff and unable to follow her command to get away as she strikes out blindly.

But the body doesn’t move - the grip doesn’t change. Steady and fast and there as her mind howls. “Just open your eyes, pup,” the gruff voice commands and Harry - Harry hadn’t even realized she’d closed them and struggles to pry them open until a warm thumb strokes away the ice crystals in her frozen lashes. She whimpers and squints through snow, trying to make sense of reality and memory and what she’s seeing.

She doesn’t recognise him. His hair wild and long, tumbling down a large muscled back. His fingers and toes all clawed and his cloak hanging over half-torn clothes, mindless to the frigid air whipping around them.

He grins when yellow meets grinning amber. “You must be the one Lucius called Little Wolf.” His voice is gruff and she jerks away from him, baring her fangs with a snarl. But he moves with her, strengthening his hold until it was sure to leave bruises, and when she falters he twists his grip and draws her sharply forward until she’s straddling his lap.

He radiates heat and Harry stikes out, her fangs snagging a thick muscled arm and sinking deep into the flesh. Blood fills her mouth and she gnashed her teeth until bone clicks beneath her fangs and twists her body, paws tearing at his skin, forced to swallow the blood that pools thick and heady in her mouth.

Instead of anger he laughs low and deep, a rumble that calls to her deeper instincts. “You’ve got quite the grip there, pup.” He pins her down with his heavy gaze. “You’re lucky Nagini claimed you first - I’m not nearly as patient normally.” And then he reaches down, grips her jaw and pries her off him with inhuman strength.

Her lips draws back but her mouth clicks shut when he growls deeply. Had she been wolf her ears would have folded back, her belly low against the ground and tail between her legs. Instead she freezes, stiff limbered and still as he manhandles her until she’s sitting properly in his lap, his chest large and warm against her back and his non-bleeding arm pressing against her ribs.

She’s naked and human but nothing stiffens beneath her and he noses against her neck like a fellow wolf.

Her limbs slowly loosens and she slumps, breathing hard as he presses down with fangs over the expanse of her neck, eyes closing. She draws a deep shuddering breath, whimpering as draws back but not completely - swiping his tongue over the wound, cleaning it patiently until the blood stops welling.

“I’ve never done that in this form before.” The man rubs down on her, scenting her, and Harry’s eyes lid against her will. “But you looked like you needed it.”

Harry’s draws a deep shuddering breath, her mind calmed into a muted buzz.

“You gave Lucius quite the fright.” The man tightens his grip on her when she stiffens. “He looked ready to run straight into the forest after you when he learnt you’d vanished.” He turns her eye to eye, hand heavy against her neck, a substitute for his fangs. “Why did you run little pup?” He strokes locks of black to the side and Harry becomes aware of the crusted mess of food and blood and snaps her fangs weakly, attempting to avert her eyes.

The man tsk’ed. “Running from your problems won’t fix anything,” he admonishes with a flick to her nose.

Harry doesn’t agree.

Running from the Dursley’s had been the best thing she’d ever done and the only reason she was alive to draw breath.

She forces a cold stiff jaw open. “I broke,” she hisses, tired of her own fumbling language. “Broke kitchen.” Kitchen, kitchen, kitchen - for how many hours had she slaved under the firm eye of her aunt before she could even reach the top of the stove?

“Got a bit too interested in that chocolate cake?” He makes a rumbling sound of amusement when she turns away. “I don’t blame you - I was almost tempted to take a bite even after it went flat on the floor,” he huffs, giving her a nose a little tug. “I don’t know what kind of wizards you think you’ve landed with.” He pins his eyes into hers. “But last time I wandered by neither Lucius nor Alpha was the sort to punish children for getting a bit too enthusiastic about food.” He brushes his fingers against her throat and she tucks her chin at the ticklish sensation. “Magic will have that fixed in a breeze and Lucius won’t have to lift a single fancy finger of his because he employs enough elves for a small army.”

Harry stares down at her fingers, at the left crusted with blood and piece’s of the branch trapped awkwardly in blood and flesh. He follows her attention and sighs, tugging at her fingers. “Yeah, you’re not heading out on your own looking like that,” he decides and Harry breathes in sharply when he rises, drawing her up with him and tucking her on his hip like a toddler, one hand under her rump as he swept his cloak around her shoulders.

Harry goes stiff in his grip, unsure what to do. She’s never been carried like this and her arms dangles uselessly by her sides until he takes his free hand and tugs them up around his shoulders with a pat before setting off in an easy jog back towards the mansion.

Slowly, hesitantly, she tightens her grip until she’s hugging him.

“I’m Fenrir by the way” He glances down at her, the wolf shining from his eyes. “Fenrir Greyback.”

And for just a second there was a brush, the slightest feathery reminder of a name she hadn’t dared to think for years; Remus.

-

Fenrir shakes the snow off his shoulders as the mansion appears through the flurry and Harry rubs a hand against her eyes, grimacing at her cold cheeks and the snow that has gathered against the side not pressed against the man’s warm chest.

The man drops her to the ground as they step inside and gives her a shove towards the blond who had clearly paused mid-stride, swivelling around to look straight at her.

Fenrir vanishes inside the house, nabbing his half-eaten sandwich on the way, and Harry takes a slow hesitant step forward, head tilting back to look into unreadable silver eyes. Lucius looks harried, Harry thinks, taking another step forward as her brow scrunches. His shirt is wrinkled and his hair messy from one too many hands carding through it in a hurry.

She looked down at her feet, clenching and unclenching her fists, feeling the splinters digging deeper into her flesh. “I’m sorry.” I shouldn’t have run, she wants to say. But my mind was screaming too loudly. But she can’t find the words and her shoulders stand tense and presses up against her ears as she sinks her head down.

A sigh and then a heavy cloak lands on her shoulder, weighing her down, and she looks up with startled eyes. “Sev will have a heart attack if he sees you naked one more time.” Lucius leans down, as if to share a secret. “I caught him hiding extra cloaks all around the house,” he entrusts her, reaching out to gently give her shoulder a squeeze.

And all Harry can think is; oh.

-

Nagini looks close to biting her when she returns home with Tom to find her huddled up by the fire with a heavily bandaged hand. §If you want to stay here with me so badly you just have to ask,§ she grumbles as she drapes herself over Harry’s shoulders and allows her to stroke her head. §You don’t need to go hunting for stupid excuses§ Her tongue flickers over the bandages.

-

“It’s quite the curious addition to the house you’ve got there, Alpha.” Fenrir throws a leg over the arm of the couch he’d claimed for himself. “She’s more wolf than most werewolves.”

Tom pauses where he’d been pulling out books and eyes the deceptively innocent looking man over his shoulder. “You met her then?”

“Met her, found her, carried her back.” He pops a grape into his mouth. “Found Lucius in quite the tizzy after she fled like the bats of hell were nipping her tail for getting just the tiniest bit too greedy,” he hums, spearing a green one on the tip of his claw and regarding it. “She the reason you requested me back?” There is a warning there and the muscles in Tom’s shoulder rolls as he drops from the last pin of the ladder and sinks elegantly into the waiting leather chair.

“Have I ever misused you so?” Tom inquires, eyes dark he bores them into the younger man. “Are you unhappy in my service, Fenrir?” He draws the name out admonishingly.

Fenrir straightens from his slouch immediately, lowering his head. “Of course not Alpha.” He averts his eyes submissively. “But you have to admit, a feral child might require someone familiar with that kind of mindset and it was a suspicious sort of coincidence.”

Tom reaches for his wine glass, swirling the liquid inside contemplatively. “That child is Nagini’s first and foremost,” he says finally. “She is staying here for now but it’s not a permanent solution and as soon as the weather allows it the two of them will be back tumbling under the sun.”

“You’ll release her? Just like that?” The idea was unfathomable to Fenrir who believed in pack first and foremost.

Tom glances at him as he catches the last snippet of his thought. “Nagini is her pack.”

“And Nagini is your pack.” Fenrir makes a grab for his own wine glass, peering over the rim. “What will you do the day she has to choose between the pup and yourself?” He drinks greedily, Adam’s apple bobbing

Tom watches the expensive wine dripping down a scruffy chin to land on his shirt, saying nothing as he taps his index finger against his knee.

“The thing about children are that once we claim them they have a tendency to bury close enough to our hearts that we place them first, mindless of how it might affect our lives.” He thinks of a particular sandy haired boy with bright eyes who had grown tired and haggard, his wolf thin and mad and his hair greying in what should have been his prime. “If Nagini loves that child the two of you walk a dangerous road.”

“What would you have me do then?” Tom asks after a long silence, tilting his head as Fenrir pours himself two more glasses. “I cannot force her to stay here - it would only anger them both.” There is a warning in the question, a limited patience.

“Visit them,” he suggests with a shrug. “Bribe them. A home with the promise of a warm bath and a full tummy goes a long way.” He drinks. “Besides, she shows all the signs of an attention starved pup looking for a lick of kindness and touch. It’s not like you’re setting out to tame a basilisk with a rock.”

Tom’s hand clenches around the glass for just a moment before relaxing. “You want me to get… involved with the child?” he bites out.

Fenrir chortles. “You make it sound so foul.” His amber eyes gleam. “Think of her as just another pet. You talk with your snake - it can’t be all that different?” He cocks a shaggy brow as he reaches for the expensive bottle, trading it for his empty glass with relish when his Alpha makes no sign of protest.

-

Harry dozes on the rug before the fire place as the adults talk above her. It isn’t until the voices grits with anger that she lifts her head to look up in concern and catches Snape’s abrupt departure by the swish of his robes just before he turns the corner.

“He’ll be back.” Narcissa put a hand on her husband’s shoulder. “He’s just upset.”

“For a good reason.” Lucius slumps back into the couch, massaging his brow to stave off the building headache. “Ever since Potter’s death he’s grown far more impatient and less keen on playing games with Dumbledore. He walks a dangerous line and he knows it.” Harry jerks at the sound of her name.

“Dumbledore’s painting her up as a martyr,” Tom growls. “It’s disgusting.”

“He’s the one who left her there with those monsters. It’s a wonder anyone is ready to swallow his words of her last dying wish.” Narcissa’s heart aches for the fourteen year old in the blood painted cupboard. “They should be tearing him apart not be eating from his hands.”

“He’ll use every last resource if it means he can keep the magical world slow and stagnant beneath his thumb.” Tom shook his head. “He’s been hounding Snape about the details of my own survival and resurrection… He’s growing more and more impatient.”

Harry furrows her brows as she listens, a strange heaviness in her chest. They thought her dead?

Truthfully she hadn’t considered what sort of rumours that might have blossomed after her disappearance but - death? Wasn’t there some sort of charm for that kind of thing? But then... if there was wouldn’t it have been easy to check if Voldemort was alive instead of swearing off the truth and slandering her name in the papers?

And now Dumbledore was using her name? After everything? The same man who had shot down her begging to stay at Hogwarts during the summer, to stay with the Weasleys’, to go anywhere but to the Dursley’s? The same man who said it can’t be that bad, my girl and shooed her out the door days after a man crumbled to dust beneath her hands and your family loves you, my girl after killing a giant basilisk in the chamber of secrets and nearly dying and still being sent back.

The same man who smiled as her only hope of a true home and family vanished on the back of a Hippogriff.

That man was using her death to further his agendas?

She doesn’t realize she’s been growling low and deep in her chest until Tom cautiously touches her side and she nearly tears his hand off as she whips around, teeth bared.

She stands up and stalks out of the room, fury alight in her heart.

-

“What was that?” Lucius stares after the furious wolf who looked ready to slaughter the first one to cross her path.

Tom stares at his hand, lips pursued, eyes thoughtful.

-

Harry nearly bowls Lucius over the day he and Narcissa steps inside with a giant tree floating behind them, arguing about the best way to get it through. She catches herself before she does though, prancing impatiently as she waits for it to get inside, making sure to keep most of her weight off her healing paw and finally planting her rump on the floor, tail beating against the floor, nearly vibrating.

Draco folds down beside her on the floor twenty minutes later when she’s slumped down, chin on her paws as she watches the two adults try and fail to get the tree through the open doors.

“They do this every year,” Draco confides her and she glances at him. “Get a too big tree, fail to get it through the door, argue until one of them gets mad enough to start cutting branches.” He takes a large sip from the cup in his hand and Harry sniffs at the combination of chocolate and- was that mint?

Draco hides a grin as the wolf draws up to peer more closely into his concoction, as if unsure her senses were telling her correctly. But there it was - a candy cane melting slowly in the warmth of the chocolate and he takes hold of it and gives it a little stir just to tease.

She levels him with the largest puppy eyes he’s ever seen and Draco throws his head back with a laugh. “I’ll make you one, come one.” He climbs to his feet and her tail wags as she hurries with him, nearly tripping him in her eagerness.

It is terribly endearing and reminds him of Pansy’s pug who was a sucker for anything sweet. Weaving in and out between his legs, having to duck to squeeze herself between, and tail going a mile a minute as she follows his every movement as he starts pulling down ingredients.

He heats the milk on the stove and pulls out their finest chocolate, breaking it into tiny pieces and adding one after another until she’s so wide-eye and disbelieving that it’s edging into an anxious anticipation before he stows it away. He stirs it until it is all melted and the kitchen smells like Christmas. “Do you want to add the candy cane on your own?” He holds out the package as a peace offering and there is a naked girl beside him before he can blink.

It is only the second time he’s seen her in this form. Something about him had clearly disturbed her that first meeting and she’d kept mainly to her wolf form after that. But Draco is patient these days - a far cry from the boy who would have levelled her with a wand and demanded an explanation.

So he takes the opportunity to study the scars from the corner of his eye as she gently, reverently, takes the candy cane from the offered package and plops it into the cup with such a face of delight, as if she’d never imagined such a thing for herself, that Draco worries for his heart.

There are deep scars - many old and stretched in such a way that they can only have appeared during her childhood years. They look like the remnants of lashes, broken glass and even knives. There is an explosion of scar tissue stretching across her upper back, as if someone had pressed her down against a stove as she struggled to get away, smearing and stretching melting skin.

Burns from liquid - oil, likely, by the depth - the scarring dripping down her shoulder and arm.

There are more scars by her hips, too, and over her rump and down the inside of her thighs - fine lines that could only have been made by something sharp, like a knife. There’s a puncture wound near the inside of her elbow that looks strangely out of place strange - broad and old, like someone had maybe shoved something blunt through her flesh.

He dismisses the newest ones as the scrapes and scars of a life in the wild. It just proved that she was strong and striving, marks of survival. It meant she had a good head of those shoulders on hers, having been on her own as her own and getting out with a strong and healthy body.

No sign of scurvy, her teeth white and clean, gums pink and healthy. Her hearing and smell were obviously sharp and if her vision was bad she didn’t seem to suffer for it, tracking him easily across the room with those eerie yellow eyes. There was no sign of wrongly healed bones but, then, magic could have been at help there because he didn’t doubt she’d taken her fair share of tumbles.

He tilts his attention back to her when she looks up to meet his eyes. “Thank you.” Her voice comes out gusty, less awkward, more what he imagined she might have sounded like if she hadn’t fled to the forest.

“You are very welcome.” He resists the urge to ruffle her hair at the hesitant smile.

Narcissa looks rumpled when they finally returns to find Lucius shooing branches out the door. The tree looked a bit dishevelled but stands tall and proud in the living room and there are rows of boxes just waiting to be unpacked.

Harry deposits her mug and shrugs on a shirt and a pair of shorts before settling down to get a good view of the whole spectacle, humming at the taste of chocolate and mint as she takes long careful sips, savouring it.

Draco joins his parents in digging through the boxes, pulling up marbles and glitter and unpacking and entire box of red candles that he leaves in a pile on the floor.

“Where did you place the little silver snakes?” Lucius asks, voice muffled.

“Red box.” Narcissa frees what looked some macabre and sad doll with a triumphant look.

“Are you sure-”

“I’m sure!” Narcissa snaps her head up from the box she’d half buried herself in and Lucius mutters something into his own.

Draco looks over to her. “Come here,” he beckons and Harry hesitates before placing the cup down and creeping closer.

Christmas with the Dursley’s had never been a happy thing. It was hard work for food she wouldn’t eat, present after present she could only watch in envy as her cousin tore open, face pressed desperately against the small brass bars of the peek hole deliberately left open.

Hogwarts had changed that but she’d never decorated the trees, only lingered to watch as the teachers flickered their wands and levitated without fuss or muss.

But the Malfoy’s looked ready to decorate it by hand as far as she could tell from the bickering between Narcissa and Lucius. No magic, no summoned house elves in sight which was just bizarre and not at all what she’d expected from them. They had always looked so prim and proper as she peered enviously towards her rival across the station, finding him in the warm arms of his mother while his father stood proud and tall with a firm supportive hand on his shoulder.

Family. It had always been an abstract word for her. Dead parents who supposedly loved her enough to sacrifice their lives (but never enough to live for her). Relatives who hated every living breathing fiber of her body and wanted her dead and gone (and had nearly succeeded in making is so)

Harry tries to not to look too eager as she crouches down beside the blond who smiles secretively at her as he pulls up a single ornament. Harry bends down, peering closer. Blinks.

There is a girl with hair that looks like it had gone through an attempt at being tamed but had been abandoned half-way through with a cowlick. She’s frowning, eyelids glittery blue, at a shorter boy with a brilliant flush on his face who shifts to look away from the taller girl, ears going even redder, before it looped.

“Mother and Father’s first Christmas together,” Draco confirms her thoughts and she takes it gently in her hands when he holds it out towards her. “Mother was quite the force when she was younger. Still is.”

“That’s the photo you decided show her, Draco?” Lucius twirls a blue frame from his box. “What about these simply beautiful baby photos of you? I mean this one with the dragon is just-” He ducks as his son lunges for him, laughing as he throws it over to Narcissa who darts over to Harry as Draco struggles against the arm thrown over his shoulder, pulling him close.

And Harry finds herself swept up in a whirlwind of memories.

Every single thing seemed to have a story tied to it and Harry admires the ugly decorations that Severus gifts them with every holiday, somehow getting them increasingly horrifying with their too big empty eyes and gaping maws.

Photos that spun alive in their frames, the little macabre dolls Narcissa’s mother had gifted her with, the decorative heads Lucius had gotten and promptly shoves away the second he draws them from his box, paling.

Along the line, when Narcissa is wrestling a purple doll from a struggling Lucius, Tom ambles inside with his own cup of warm chocolate and folda carefully down beside her, just a little way to the side.

Harry sits with her knees to her chest, chocolate gone, but Tom reaches out and offers her a new cup. Once she takes it he withdraws two candy canes from his pocket and offers her one of them. “Don’t let them fool you,” Tom says at her surprise, leaning towards her so the Malfoy’s wouldn’t hear him. “I’m the one who first showed Lucius the wonder of peppermint chocolate.”

He stirs his chocolate with a well-practised hand and Harry copies him before raising it to her lips, startling at the rich taste, different from the sweeter taste of Draco’s.

He lifts the corner of his lip at her look. “A dash of cream, some cinnamon.” He licks some foam from his lip. “A thumb full of secret.” He winks.

-

“You gave her some of your alcoholic cocoa, didn’t you?” Severus deadpans at the sight of snoring teen sprawled out before the fire in her human form with Nagini draped over her like a zig-zag of melting coils for blankets, mug hugged to her chest.

“It was just a pinch!” Tom defends himself.

Chapter Text

Harry dreams she’s looking out over a ring of kneeling Death Eaters. There are only two, other than herself, who are not wearing masks. Bellatrix, with her sharp cheeks, curls spilling down her back and a face ravaged by her time in Azkaban, eyes dark and huge in a too pale face. She’s pacing, seldom still these days, sweeping through the ranks, blind to the jerks and fearful eyes that track her.

The other is Pettigrew, too well-recognised by the Ministry to take a step outside Riddle Mansion. He’s hidden himself in the back, nose sniffing and back bent, front legs curved before him.

These men and women, they want to belong to her. They scramble to their knees at her very presence, kisses the hem of her robes over pale naked feet and lower their eyes before blood red irises digging into their own.

Ministry employees, Quidditch stars, husbands, wives, simple people waiting on tables, haughty business people who wear their robes tightly around their shoulders least they’re recognised. She knows them all – can taste their magic with a roll of her tongue and knows.

They are hers.

“Welcome.” She spreads her arms, knows the allure of her rippling power, feels the quiver in the room. “My loyal followers.”

The only one there from the Inner Circle is Bellatrix who craves her presence. Bellatrix who she met as a stubborn seventeen-year-old and who challenged everything she had stood for, found her the best, and devoted herself entirely. That same Bellatrix had been peeled open and raw until she bled at the edges for her loyalty.

“I am sure you have all taken part of the news.” She’s tall, the platform beneath her raised. It’s a deliberate play of power to let them know just who she is, what she is, and that she’s someone to look up to and strive towards. “That you’ve all heard about Dumbledore playing on the death of a dead child,” she hisses out the last words, lets just a bit of parseltongue lisp her words.

Her head is bare, her nose flat and she’s aware just how terrifying and otherworldly she is - something more infinitely and awe inspiring than Tom Riddle had ever been.

She thinks of Abraxas and his son and the terrified dark haired teen who had knelt by her feet seeking a better world.

“My lord.” It’s Yaxley who dares to take a step forward and she pins him in place. “They say that there was never a will written or opened.” His voice waver and his breath is hard but he does not falter. “It must be false, surely?”

She allows a smile to creep across her face, ignores his flinch. “Of course it is false.” She glides her eyes across every masked face. “Dumbledore enjoy his games and claiming the last will and hope of the dead golden girl is just enough to tug on the heartstrings of the rebels,” she hisses.

Rook, a simple Ministry worker, takes a daring step forward. “I’ve heard whispers about him being the one who placed her there in the first place.” He’s a clever man whose daughters had suffered under the racism and stigma of being a half-blood when they stepped onto the Hogwarts Express. “If we can prove it…” His eyes hunger.

“She was just a silly child.” It’s Dovan who snarls the words in disgust. “We should be focusing on taking over the Ministry, not cleaning up her reputation.”

She flicks her wand. ”Crucio.” It’s a half-purred word and he collapses screaming, howling, clawing on his chest until she lifts it with a twirl of her wand and he curls upon himself.

Bellatrix giggles. “Silly little Dove.” Her skirts fluffs behind her when she kneels over him, her own eyes alight in glee when his widens with terror. “Don’t you hear the whispers?” She cups her ear mockingly. “Her little aunty was imperiused, they say.” She grips his jaw in clawed hands, strong and unforgiving as she leans forward. “As long as the truth is hidden frogs croak falsehood until what happened is webbed up and forgotten.” His face bleeds from the gorges of her fingers, tearing when she beckons for her and Bellatrix dances over, placing a kiss on her cheek which she allows with a brush of her hand against black hair.

“Bellatrix speaks the truth.” Her voice is strong and sure and whips across the room. “Dumbledore is gambling on our inability to prove the truth.”

“The goblin’s won’t cooperate,” Vestan says slowly.

“But-” another Death Eater opens her mouth and the arguments weave through the ranks.

She sprawls down on her throne, eyes burning.

She’s going to prove the truth if it so is the-

-

Harry wakes slowly, blinking at the ceiling.

It is unusual for her to look through the eyes of the Dark Lord - though she often share dreams with Nagini. She had attributed it to their closeness - that it prevailed whatever bonded her to Voldemort in the first place, over won by her own feeling for his Familiar. But the lingering vestiges of the dream clings to her as she stretches a hand before her in the darkness of the room.

It’s healed. Severus had removed the bandages and given it a through scanning before she headed off to bed and the weather outside has calmed enough that not even Nagini can protest.

She’s going to leave.

No more baths with Narcissa - no more softly read stories and gentle scratching behind her ears in that place she never seems to be able to reach on her own.

No more potion sessions under Snape’s strict eyes and encouragement to use her words.

No more hot chocolate and envious eyes as she watched the closeness between parents and son, wishing she was in his place, the one to-

She cuts herself off with a snarl and rolls onto all four, shifting smoothly and drops to the floor on silent paws.

Getting attached to these people would be the same as death and it would throw everything she’s sacrificed for her freedom and life straight out the window.

She was fine on her own - happy sunning and swimming and hunting with only Nagini by her side.

She doesn’t need anyone else.

Narcissa would never have touched her so gently if she knew just who hid beneath the thick fur. Her eyes had always been cool across the station and Harry knows that she might as well have been dirt beneath her feet for all that Harry Potter had endeared herself to the woman during the World Cup.

Snape had spent years ridiculing her, tearing her down until she laid in bed with her eyes raw and nails scraping her scalp until they bled. He had made it certain, without doubt, that she would never be anything but the daughter of a bully - selfish and cruel.

Tom-

Tom had tortured her. In her first year, her second year, her fourth. He’d cast crucio upon her until her back bent and her vision whitened as the pain pierced through everything inch of her body. He had made her bow and duel after stealing her mother’s protection straight from her blood and her escape had been narrow, running on a broken leg to reach the dead Hufflepuff champion.

And Lucius - Lucius had been just another man in a robe drinking up her pain, the one behind the diary in her second year and near death at the fangs of the Basilisk.

It would be foolish to feel anything for these people.

-

The Mansion is dark, only the moon outside stretching in to light the halls in its glow. She pads down the stairs until she’s standing by the front door, waiting.

§We’re leaving then§ Nagini rubs against her side in a soft sinuous movement. §You will not say goodbye?§

She shakes her shaggy head and Nagini hisses without judgement as the doors open and the wind whips over and across them. §Mind you, Little Wolf, unless that little shelter of yours has gotten miraculously warmer I’m not staying for more than a few hours§ Her large body glides into the snow, the world alight in a glitter of white beneath the sunlight.

Harry hesitates for only a moment before she follows her.

-

The lake is completely frozen and Harry paws at the snow until her claws click against ice and noses at it. It smells thick and she can hear the swish of tail fin deep below her. Wind tugs at her fur as she pads back to her shelter to get her make-shift fishing pole and a large rock.

It takes several icy minutes of slamming the rock against the ice until her knuckles are raw and bleeding and she’s trembling from head to toe and her eyes are watering from the icy wind. But Harry has known harsher and she’s stubborn and when it finally cracks she’s triumphant.

She’s got liver from a rabbit which she places in her mouth until it thaws enough for her to hook and drop it down the cold dark depths.

She turns back to her wolf form with relief and grabs the stick carefully in her mouth before settling down.

She half-slumbers as she waits, dreaming of warm chocolate, a candy cane of white and red and wink of secrets.

-

It’s been two days since Nagini returned to Tom and Harry is pacing back and forth before her home. It’s cold and even the warmth of her rock isn’t able to soothe her. So she paces, back and forth until her paws are raw from shaved ice and she collapses, exhausted and free from dreams.

-

Harry dozes around a rabbit carcass, its little head tucked under her chin furry, soft and dead.

-

She finds herself at the edge of the forest at the farm she had broken into and robbed years ago. There’s a woman outside chopping wood in a thick checked fleece with a wind jacket thrown over it, hood lined with fur.

She pauses when another woman in only a nightgown steps outside, calling for her. The answering smile is warm and she slams the axe into the stump and opens her arms as the taller woman barrels into her, easily lifting her up and spinning her around until both collapse laughing into the snow with the second woman squealing from the cold.

They scuffle until the taller is sitting on top of the wood chopping-woman, a triumphant gleam in her eyes as she leans down and kisses her soundly.

Harry follows them around the farm, peering through the window of their kitchen, sees the decorated tree in the background and a pile of wrapped presents beneath it. Smells the cookies they bake, hears the soft emotion in their voices as they speak with each other.

She remains at the farm until she sun falls and the moon rises and long into the night.

-

She tucks her chin against her knees and stare out the frozen landscape.

The trees rises high and dark around her. It’s a calm night and the top layer of the untouched snow rolls softly across it with the whistling of the wind that tugs and sways the trees.

She’s torn the jacket from the top of her house and tugged ragtag pants up her hips. They’re more holes than fabric but they’re familiar - as is the cap on her head. She’s even wearing her boots, sans the socks that had been whittled to nothing months ago.

Harry buries her head in her arms.

She feels fifteen again.

-

The snow crunch beneath her paws and she lunges, colliding with the buck with all the gentleness of a lioness as she digs claws and fangs into neck and back and uses the momentum to drag them both down in a flurry of snow and kicking legs. It cries, a terrible sound of helplessness as it struggles beneath her but Harry is large and stubborn and her fangs sharp as she tightens her hold and whips her head back and forth.

Blood pool in her mouth as she swallows it eagerly, her senses vivid and alive with triumph at the sound of a beating heart making its last shuddering attempt at keeping the body alive before, finally, stilling completely in her hold.

She releases it, licking her chops and putting a paw on its mighty ribcage before leaning down and ripping its gut open. Rid of skin and fur it allows her a free path into muscles and organs and she ravages it hungrily, her stomach gurgling at the feel of fresh meat finally slipping down a starving gullet. She paws out the intestines and other unappetizing parts and she’s got blood all up her snout, brushing the fur above her eyes when she finally digs the enormous heart out from its ribs and drops it into the snow.

It’s at least four times as big her closed fist and her body ripples until she’s kneeling naked and lifts it to a hungry human mouth and puncture it with a mockery of fangs. Puny excuses of claws tears at it and blood spills down her chin, over her chest, down between her legs.

It’s Christmas Eve.

-

Harry lifts the bird, studies the hole straight through its chest, flattens her hand against its grey speckled wings and wonders what it’s like to fly.

The gun lies abandoned beside her, the smell of gunpowder tickling her nose. If it weren’t for the hole going straight through it the bird might have been alive. It’s so different from the fanged brutality she usually leaves behind her, the squish of a small body ensnared in one of her traps and flattened against the ground by a rock.

It is so small. It’s heart had been thrumming in its small chest, just at the edge of her senses, and the bag had been right there.

She’d brought the gun on a whim those years ago. Had only used it twice that first winter when she’d been so desperate for food that she’d gone dizzy just sitting up in the cold. A witch on her own without a wand in the middle of a forest?

It had saved her life.

It had robbed the bird of its.

She hugs the tiny body to her chest, lifts the gun, turns it gently in her hands. It is different from a wand - heavier but no less capable of destruction.

Only kinder.

She remembers the crucio that had robbed her of her identity, the imperio that had stolen her will over and over again until it couldn’t. Thinks of the heavy invisible hand on her back making her bow and the laughter of the robed men and women who had stood by to watch.

She strokes the side of the gun, thinks of Cedric with his wild hair and grey eyes burning triumphantly into her own as they grabbed the cup together.

They’d been happy, hadn’t they?

A flash of green, eyes wide with horror, dead.

The bird stares up at her with empty bead like eyes.

The gun is cold against her teeth, her tongue. It pushes her jaws wide and she swallows thick and hard against it, imagines her own eyes glassy beneath the moon.

Pushes against the trigger-

-

Nagini hisses in annoyance at the cold, her large coils sinking through the hardened surface and into the fluff beneath it. She longs for the warmth of the sun, to be curled around her little snakeling and listening to her soft gentle snuffles. To quiet the whimpers that arise rarely in her company with a soft sort of patience that is completely new and alien but there.

She hates the snow.

Hates the cold.

No one in the right mind would be living outside without a proper den to curl into and yet there is her snakeling, poking dying fire with the edge of a stick and staring blankly out before her. She’s wearing human fur at least which Nagini approves off.

She shivers again, missing the warmth of her speaker’s nest, pressing herself tight against her second human as she winds herself carefully around her, leeching her heat and the fire’s with a hiss of pleasure.

She buffs her snakeling in greeting and get a distracted one back, a curl of her mouth that Nagini recognises.

§I know that face§ Nagini flickers her tongue over a pink nose. §You’re brooding. Tom does it all the time§

§I’m not brooding§ Harry denies automatically.

The look Nagini gives her speaks volumes of her conviction.

§I’m thinking§ she huffs defensively. She wraps her fingers around her cold dirty toes. It’s hard to take a proper bath in winter and melting snow to scrub quickly in isn’t nearly the same as the warm baths with Narcissa.

Nagini watches her snakeling’s face go from distant to a downright sulky expression and rolls her eyes at the stubbornness of humans.

§You want something§ Nagini coils tightly around her, partly to preserve her own heat, partly to keep the younger from doing something silly like running. §You don’t have to play coy with me, Little Wolf§ She rubs her snout against her snakeling’s. §I am not blind§ she scolds lightly. §You liked it there. You wanted to stay with my Tom and his followers§ Nagini tightens her coils as the body in her hold ripples with tense muscles.

§I don’t§ Little Wolf denies.

§You do§ Nagini flicks her nose with her tail. §I don’t understand why it bothers you so§ Her coils glide over human skin as she shifts to lock her yellow eyes with her own golden ones. §I do not pretend to understand what drives a human to seek her life alone from others of her kind. Even snakes crave company - if for such a reason as to mate. It is not something to be ashamed of§

Little Wolf tries to lower her eyes but Nagini is a snake with an infinite kind of neck and follows her easily. §You didn’t want to me to meet Tom§ she tries.

Nagini opens her mouth, baring dripping fangs and a jaw large enough to swallow her entire body. §Do not use me as an excuse!§ she hisses sharply enough that Little Wolf flinches backwards, cowed.

§I’m sorry§ she apologizes weakly.

Nagini harrumphs and her buff is a bit harder than normal but Little Wolf knows she’s forgiven.

§I might have been selfish enough to keep you to myself§ Nagini says finally. §But I was also aware of how much the prospect of meeting humans frightened you§ She paused. §Perhaps I should have pressured you to meet Tom sooner than you did but I did not think you ready. Perhaps you aren’t even now.§ Nagini huffs. §I do not pretend to understand humans, trying to make sense of someone who is part canine at that?§ Nagini made a despairing noise. §Tom was bad enough§ she bemoans.

Harry sinks into the soft coils of Safetymomfriend and shimmies down until all that could be seen of her were her eyes peering out from a pattern of green black and grey. §How did you become so clever Nagini?§

§Years upon years of trying to keep Tom from accidentally killing himself§ she says flatly. §Mind you, he did actually end up killing himself even if he came back so now he’s much quicker at backing down when I get on his case§ and she sounds so smug Little Wolf snorts wetly in surprise but can’t help lower her eyes in shame because-

A suspicious face dives into her field of vision. §You haven’t been doing silly things have you, Little Wolf§ she bumps the tip of her snout against Harry’s nose, close enough that she struggles to keep her gaze.

And Harry thinks of the gun at the bottom of the lake and Nagini gives her such a look that she ducks her head. §I didn’t actually go through with it! she tries to defend herself.

Nagini valiantly does not throw herself off a cliff in horror because there’s two of them.

-

§They’re not going to throw you out§ Nagini hisses in exasperation. §You can step right in, take a bath, not freeze to death and be on your merry way back to your nest whenever you want§ The doors opened to an empty hallway.

§It doesn’t feel right§ Harry pads half-naked beside her, wearing only the jacket which she’d carried in her mouth on their way there. §I don’t like it when others enter my nest uninvited§

Nagini concedes to that. It was a fair point. §Then let’s go wait for Tom to come back§ she decides.

-

Tom does not collapse face down on the mattress but it is a near thing as he sits down heavily and presses a hand against his temples to stave off the building headache.

He’s still up to his ears in glamours and he shakes them off him with a tired slump of his shoulders.

Reducing the amount of horcruxes had restored parts of his looks but not nearly enough to go pass as a normal human. The colour to his cheeks, the pallor of his skin and the liquid red of his eyes had to be adjusted and hidden even with the rest of the world considering Voldemort nothing more than a snake-like monster.

No-one would associate the charismatic Marvolo Gaunt with Voldemort, except Albus, and without proof the old man could do nothing but keep his mouth shut and work against him from the shadows. But that didn’t mean he had to go add fuel to the suspicions his little flock of followers were attempting to spread.

The only ones who ever saw him as his true self was his Inner Circle. Considering he was living in Malfoy Mansion at the moment, with Riddle Manor being what it was, it would have drained him to keep it up around the clock. He had made an exception with Nagini’s snakeling skulking around least he scared her straight out the door but that had been a short time solution.

He unbuttons his shirt slowly and shrugs it off, pulling both shirts beneath it over his head with an impatient tug. He smooths a hand down his gaunt frame and grimaces at the feel of bones beneath his palm. The broadness of his shoulders and carefully chosen clothes hid it but naked there was no denying the chalky pallor and knobbly hips and ribs that could all be counted from afar.

The loss of glamour had also made his face sharper, the lilac bags beneath his eyes eerie.

He doesn’t need to look into the mirror to know how much more he had in common with Voldemort rather than Tom.

He drags a hand through his black hair, speckled with grey at the temples, and opens the door to his bathroom and his wand is in his hand before the view truly registers.

Nagini’s human pet is breast-deep in enough bubbles to overwhelm a small army and funneling his handmade lavender soaps on the white edges with enthusiasm. Nagini is in the bath with her, her head resting lazily on the edge, golden eyes opening to peer at him with a look that couldn’t be anything but unimpressed.

He fully expects a scream, a gaping jaw, a flinch of disgust - something. She had seen him as Tom Riddle would have been, not the gangly ghost of himself. But she doesn’t shy, doesn’t flinch. Her head tilts as she takes in the sight of the half-naked Dark Lord and she does release the two soaps, sheepishness at having been caught playing with them.

He looks to his Familiar who is clearly enjoying every bit of warmth seeping into her submerged coils. §Nagini§ It comes out raspier than he means to, edged with emotions he rather remain untoched.

§I’m sorry for taking up your bath without asking§ The girl drops her hands into the water. §You can join us if you want?§ She looks inquiringly at Nagini, as she was the one who should have been unsure of sharing a bath with the Dark Lord.

Tom stares at her, exhausted out of his mind, and just wanting a bath to clean up before collapsing into his warm bed. §Move§ he says finally and the girl does, scooting back and watching him curiously as he removes his pants and shoves at the tail that had risen to tickle the edge of his ribs as he slides into the water. §Stay on your side he warns her with a flat look at his Familiar who hisses in amusement.

She tilts her head but remains in place, reaching out only to grab a soap and tug it closer. §If you want to stay here you can stay here§ he hisses grudgingly as he closes his eyes. §As long as anything you hear within this walls are kept to your ears only§ He opens a liquid red eye to peer at her in warning.

The girl drops the soap in surprise and reaches out for him and Tom stills in surprise as hands, much rougher than his own, closed around his.

He stares down at them.

His hand, papery white, that even when softened under the glamours he wore remained eerie and inhumane, fingers long and spidery. Compared to his her hands were startlingly broad – no doubt aided by her transformations, her skin much darker, the skin rough and thick, fingers long and strong.

There’s something inhuman about them both, written in the yellow of her eyes and the red of his.

Tom is not only Tom and Voldemort is not only Voldemort. At times he forgets where one begins and the other ends. The child who stared in awe as the wardrobe burst aflame and the monster that succumbed to greed and fear and crumbled to dust under twin-pair of green eyes.

To his followers he is Lord Voldemort.

To the politicians he charms he is Marvolo Gaunt.

To Nagini he has always been and would always be just Tom.

But this child hadn’t hesitated to reach out for him, hadn’t screamed when she saw him with a body that was always cold and thin and lacking any sort of colour. Hadn’t shied to touch him even with him looking as he did. Hairless and bare save for the vainly restored hair on his head.

§You’re not afraid§ he says slowly, interrupting whatever she’d been about to say, and feeling a depth in the question he wasn’t quite ready to face.

Yellow eyes blinks and for a moment, just a second, Tom could have sworn there was a flash of another colour in their depth as she entwines their fingers, looking down at them. §You look like Tom§ she says, as if that answered anything.

He watched as the girl (and he really needed to find a better name for her because she might have been Nagini’s Little Wolf but he felt a sudden urge to give her a name of his own - an instinctive need to claim) guide the soaps with squeaks and splashes and the occasional soft noise, clearly in her own world as she relaxes completely in his company, either forgetting or not caring just who she was sharing a tub with.

As if she wasn’t sitting naked in the same bath as the Dark Lord Voldemort, towing his handmade soaps over the coils of his giant snake of Familiar. Their legs brushing together as Nagini shifts her large body to wind into their laps instead of remaining coiled beside them.

-

Severus shrugs his cloak off and is half-way through the sitting room when he pauses and looks sharply to the right at the Dark Lord on his stomach before the roaring fire, a thick afghan draped over his shoulders and the feral child across him wearing one of the button-ups Tom seemed to favour for his persona as Marvolo Gaunt. It dwarfs her frame, revealing just a peek of black boxers as she leans forward to shift a knight with a sharp click against the board.

Severus stares as they hiss to each other; something teasing flashing momentarily in red eyes as a pout settles on the face of the other.

Had they-

What.

He did not get paid nearly enough to handle this. In fact, Dumbledore was sure to owe him several pay raises by now they had gone conveniently forgotten. He suspects the old goat didn’t want him up and vanishing for a long-term vacation in the Bahamas.

He couldn’t deny he was tempted by the prospect.

“Severus.” His lord looks up in acknowledgement. “I hope the week hasn’t been too hard on you.”

It had.

Children after any sort of a holiday was a nightmare that deserved at least two cups of the finest whisky filched from Lucius secret cupboard in the guestroom on the second floor.

It was fine is what he means to say. “I’m raiding Lucius supply,” is what comes out.

It is strange to see him like - Tom is in his true form, looking bizarrely relaxed with his Familiar’s head resting her head on one shoulder. The Dark Lord wasn’t supposed to be a creature of self-consciousness but Severus knows him perhaps more intimately than Tom wishes to acknowledge. He made his potions, after all, and is the one to see him at his weakest and his strongest.

He had been there by his side as new followers shuddered in revulsion under his touch - had seen the way Lucius had barely been able to stomach the sight of him before he started regaining some of his old form. Had brewed the potion that gave him his hair back - still spent hours searching for a potion that would help him heal the rest of his body after the flash of resignation in red eyes.

Severus had the creeping feeling he had missed something vital and he doesn’t like it.

The child had left suddenly in the middle of the night without as much as a thank you or goodbye. It had clearly affected Narcissa who still had a small pile of Christmas presents stowed away in her wardrobe (and Lucius had sounded so tired when he told Severus about it and he had hated the look in his friend’s eye that said that perhaps Narcissa had been more taken by the child than either of them had initially expected and Lucius hadn’t known what to do about it).

And perhaps Severus had turned once or twice in his lab, expecting the girl to be there with a ready pile of ingredients and awaiting instructions, and found only silence but that was on him. It was only one of the hundred children that entered and left his life by the year.

But Tom - Tom had taken the time out of his schedule to play a game of chess with the child on the floor and Severus nearly chokes at what could only be a grin on his Lord’s face. “I don’t envy you,” Tom teases and Severus is tempted to press a hand his chest to reassure he wasn’t having the onset of an heart attack. “Take a rest, I already let Lucius know I moved the meeting to tomorrow.”

Severus doesn’t walk into the door on the way out.

It is a near thing.

-

Harry rolls in the snow, tongue lolling as she looks over her shoulder through the large window and the couch she had moved to give Nagini the best spot to join the fun without actually getting cold. She had been in a bad mood all morning and Harry knew it was best to leave her alone.

The couch was a compromise.

She’s digging a hole in the giant pile of snow she’s managed to compile in the middle of the garden when the doors behind her are yanked open. Half-buried, she wiggles to draw back and out when hands seized her hips and gives her a good pull back, releasing her as she swivels around. The movement sends the intruder stumbling back and into the snow and Harry’s snarl dies at the sight of furious ice blue eyes.

Her ears folds back against her head as wolf and woman stare at each other.

“You left.” Narcissa’s voice is raw with something Harry doesn’t understand.

She had left - it had been the understanding all the time. She had remained because leaving had meant death, it was never supposed to become a permanent thing.

“In the middle of the night,” Narcissa continues. “Without as much as a goodbye or an explanation.”

Harry knows Nagini had told Tom.

She doesn’t-

“Do you have any idea how worried I was?” And Harry feezes as the aristocratic woman stumbles up only to sink to her knees and pull her to her chest with strength she hadn’t expected. “You’re supposed to say goodbye.”

Harry stares uncomprehendingly over her shoulder, at Lucius who is leaning against the door-opening with unreadable eyes.

“It was just before Christmas,” Narcissa whispers into her ear, raw with things Harry has never grasped. “And all I could think of was you on your own in the cold as we ate warm food, drank hot chocolate and opened presents.”

Harry thinks of her relatives who locked her out in the snow on her sixth Christmas and who drew the curtains shut as she shivered hungry and alone in the garden while they feasted on the turkey she had spent hours helping her aunt prepare to perfection.

Thinks of her fifth Christmas as Vernon tore her letter to Santa up with a sneer and threw her into the cupboard with enough force to crack her head against the wall and left her with a splitting headache and vomit on her chest as she sobbed for help because somethingwaswrongandohgodhelpme-

Remembers her ninth Christmas, the time spent wrapping Dudley’s Christmas presents with resignation as her uncle’s gaze burned against her back, waiting.

The Dursley’s had never wanted her in their life and returning had only resulted in anger.

Her fur ripples as she shifts until she’s kneeling in Narcissa’s arms and Lucius bends down to tuck his cloak around her shoulders with a look before stepping inside, leaving them alone.

Narcissa cradles her face, locking icy blue with yellow. “Do you understand why I’m so upset?”

Harry wants to lie, say that she does, that it won’t happen again. But she doesn’t and she has no idea how to make Narcissa not look at her like that and it makes something twist in her chest.

She shakes her head.

“It’s because I was worried.” Narcissa’s voice is so gentle but Harry can’t help the widening of her eyes as she automatically draws back, ready to turn from what can only be lies. But the older woman lurches after her, as if to grab her and prevent her from running, and instead falls forward, pressing the younger down further, trapping her.

Harry’s hands flexes in the snow, leaning against her half-built snow cave with Narcissa kneeling with her knees on each side of her thighs and Harry breathes in sharply from surprise.

She feels exposed and her fingers trembles. “I was worried,” Narcissa repeats, placing one hand into the snow beside Harry’s head so she can lean down further, never once breaking eye-contact. “I searched the entire house. Turned every pillow. I was half-beside myself with worry. What if someone else had entered the house? Had you left on your own? Could you find your way back in the snow?”

Harry makes a noise. “Lies!” She snarls. “Lieslieslies!” She twists but Narcissa slams her other hand down and flattens her back with her upper-body as she inhales sharply in shock.

“I was worried because I care for you!” Narcissa presses, eyes desperately willing the younger girl to understand. “I don’t know who hurt you but I have never once lied to you!” And Harry stills. “Not once,” Narcissa repeats, and her mouth is firm and stubborn.

They stare at each other.

“I was coming back,” she says petulantly.

“But I didn’t know that,” Narcissa’s voice is softer now, the look in her eyes making Harry uncomfortable.

“I was coming back,” she repeats and there’s something thick in her throat now. “I was.”

“Why didn’t you say goodbye to us?” Narcissa presses, eyes slowly softening.

Harry snarls and twists away from her gaze.

“Why?” Narcissa shifts closer. “Did someone do something that made you feel uncomfortable?” she presses, and there’s worry in her eyes now. “I know we aren’t always the gentlest of people-”

“No!” Harry growls and she hates herself for being the cause behind the crease between silvery blond brows. “Never you!” she gasps in panic.

“Then who?” The older woman presses and Harry can feel her chest pressing against hers with how close they are. “Severus? Lu-”

“Uncle,” she heaves the word out. “He never wanted-” and the burn in her eyes are back as the words spill from her tongue. “Said I made their life bad.” And it hurts to say it - to form words she’s thought but never voiced. “My fault,” and her voice breaks, “always pain-“ She trips over the words, cut off by a choked sob. “Painpainpain-”

And Narcissa is pulling her up and into her arms and Harry’s crying because Narcissa isn’t supposed to be kind - isn’t supposed to hold her like she’d always dreamt her mom would - because Narcissa is a Malfoy and Malfoys are supposed to be bad

“Everything is wrong,” she sobs.

Because her friends had known her for four years and were supposed to care but didn’t send a single letter while she was dying at the hands of her uncle and Narcissa worries for a girl she’s known for only a handful of days and-

She curls her fists into the back of Narcissa’s robes, presses closer. “Why did they leave me?” Harry sobs into her ear. “I was so hungry - always hungry.” She remembers a hand on her thigh creeping higher and higher and sobs harder. “And no one came!”

“Oh little one,” Narcissa draws her impossibly tighter and Harry cries and cries and cries.

-

Tom blows dust off an old lexicon of languages with triumph as Nagini stares from her spot on the couch. §Is saying it in another language supposed to make it cuter?§ she asks finally. §Because they all sound the same to me§

§A name isn’t something you just pick from nothing§ Tom shoots her a look.

§I forget that your alter-ego is literally an anagram for your full name and about as dramatic as they come.§ Nagini snickers. §Watch out! The Flight-From-Death is her-!§ she yelps when the rug wraps around her and drags her out of the room as she curses and hisses in fury until the door slams shut, blocking the noise.

Tom put the wand down, a scowl on his face and cheeks tinged pink.

Chapter Text

Harry wakes up mortified.

She lies completely still in the bed, her breathing too loud and her heart pounding in her ears as she tries to convince herself that she hadn’t just broken down on Narcissa over something so silly.

”I was worried because I care for you!”

Harry wants to laugh, wants to scream, wants to feel life crumble in her jaws.

Love is for children and Harry isn’t a child anymore. She’s nineteen - almost twenty. She is too old to play games and nurse false hopes. Narcissa could claim she cared all she wants but it was nothing more than the sort one might feel for a stray pet. As soon as they got bored with her, or realized who she really was, Harry knew it would end violently and it would be pure luck if she got out alive.

They’ll grow bored any day, her mind whispers, enjoy it while you can.

“You’re thinking too loud,” a voice grumbles from absolutely nowhere and Harry nearly has a heart attack when a large arm suddenly yanks her back against a firm chest. “Sleep.”

There’s a tickly of silvery blond hair on her cheek, lighter than Narcissa’s, and the chest is hard and flat against her back. The hand curls loosely by her stomach and it’s palm is broader than Tom’s but the fingers are shorter and they’re rougher than she’d expected of the aristocratic man.

Narcissa is there too and Harry remains still, frozen in place, as the woman tugs the blanket down at her husband’s hips further up around both their shoulders before pressing closer, hand entwining with Lucius’s near her belly.

“I didn’t want you to wake up on your own,” Narcissa breathes gently and she smells soft and clean, a scent that intermingles with Lucius muskier smell.

She closes her eyes, allows the older woman to curl tighter around her until they’re a tangle of limbs and arms and Lucius’s soft snores. “We used to do this for Draco,” Narcissa whispers into her ear and Harry can hear her heartbeat with her ear pressed to her chest. “Whenever he had a nightmare he’d come knocking, Robert the Dragon dangling from his hand, and with the largest eyes you can imagine - absolutely dripping with snot and tears.” She sounds so fond, so gentle when she speaks of Draco.

Harry doesn’t think anyone has ever spoken about her like that. As if what she’d done was somehow adorable, something to be cherished and remembered.

There had only ever been the Girl-Who-Lived dangling over her head, as if the death of her parents was something that deserved a toast and cheer and envy.

She remembers Ron who looked down at the sandwich his mother had made with a grimace that first day on the train while Harry sat without nothing, without food for five days and who had made the trade of candy and sandwich with relief as she snuck bits of it into her mouth when the boy couldn’t see.

Looks at the entwined hands by her stomach and tries to understand.

-

She wakes up half-squashed beneath the two of them hours later, so entangled she can hardly tell her own limbs from theirs. They’ve shuffled during the night and the soft satin of Lucius pyjamas is pressed against her chin, a leg thrown over her hip to keep her in place, and Narcissa is sprawled out over half of her back, snoring softly in her light blue nightgown.

-

Harry crouches low on the floor, her gaze narrowed on the light blonde crown of hair sprawled lazily in the sitting room. The noise fades away as she nears, her paws silent against the floor as she creeps closer, the picture of a hunter.

She crouches lower, practically flat against the floor, and her tongue swipes across her chops as she lunges.

A loud squeak of shock - tea and cup and plate flying through the air as a certain blonde heir suddenly finds himself with a lapful of wolf. Draco curses and yelps as the creature shifts, paws pressing down without care, getting heavier, before she lunges, using the blond’s chest as a springboard to steal the cookie that had accompanied his tea through the air and land in an awkward sprawl on the table with a rattle of cups and bowls that tip and spill.

Draco stares at her in shock, lap soaked and china broken, as she licks her chops of cookie crumbs.

Then she turns and neatly plucks the cookie off the little plate right beside her and crunches that too.

Blaise covers his mouth, shaking with laughter as Draco’s eyes narrows into slits. “You,,” he hisses.

The wolf turns towards him, still chewing.

Her eyes drifts back however and the chewing pauses when she becomes aware of the person sitting beside the blond. She hauls herself into a sitting position on the table and cocks her head, easily towering over them both at the new height.

She levels an expectant look at the blond. “Blaise, meet Little Wolf, Little Wolf - Blaise Zabini. He’s an old classmate from school.” Draco gestures between them, rubbing at his brow. “Do play nice?”

Blaise has already turned away to ruffle through his bag and withdraws a package of cookies triumphantly.

The wolf follows his every move carefully as he draws a crunchy cookie filled with bits of chocolate and waves it before her with a mischievous look. “Drake says you’re an animagus.” He turns the cookie mock contemplatively. “I’ve thought about becoming one myself for awhile now but there’s a severe lack of people to share their own experiences in becoming one. So I’ve had a bit of struggle.” He peers at her over the cookie and yellow eyes stares back, nonplussed. “You mind sharing a bit?” he holds up the package of cookies. “I’ll trade you, Ladra.”

Draco catches the movement and is throwing the afghan before she’d even finished transforming. It pools awkwardly in her lap when she doesn’t bother to catch it but Blaise’s eyes doesn’t flicker once to the bare breasts. Instead he studies her face and the yellow eyes that had remained from wolf to human, and he reaches out, hesitating when those intense eyes tracks his movement.

“May I?” he asks and the girl slowly leans forward and he shifts closer, brushing a finger over the sharp edge of an ear, fingers gently tracing over her brow, over the scar, and flattened his palm against the slope of her forehead. It was clear that her bone structure had shifted, though in a very unobtrusive way. The slant of her eyes, for one, the slight tufting of her brows…

As Blaise studies her Harry tries to recall if she’d known him but was drawing blank. His skin is dark and his hair short and coarse. Curiously his eyes are a dark sort of purple and she leans closer to make sure she isn’t imagining it.

“They’re quite pretty, aren’t they?” Draco hides a smile against the palm of his hand. She was balancing precariously on the edge of the table in her study, a childish sort of intensity to the way her attention focuses so completely.

Blaise shoots him a dry look. “You say that as if you didn’t walk into a tree in surprise the first time you caught it.”

Draco harrumphs, cheeks pink. “It’s hard to tell any colour in the dank dungeon light.”

Blaise throws an arm over his shoulder and draws him closer. “It was very flattering,” he assures him, placing a kiss on the older’s brow.

Harry suddenly puts both hands on Draco’s legs and leans forward until she is practically nose to nose with the blonde, sniffing. The afghan falls down on the floor and her knees press against the edge of the table, momentarily ignoring Blaise who was slowly drawing back, brows creasing in a mix of bemusement and curiosity.

Draco remains still and patient. “You.” Little Wolf’s brow creased. “You are mated.” Her nose flares. “A third smell?” she cocks her head.

Blaise gives her an impressed look and offers her a cookie which she accepts greedily, barely chewing as she crams it into her mouth with both hands. “Quite the nose you got there,” he says in admiration. “Draco and I joined up when we were still in school and about two years ago we broadened into a triad.”

“Triad?” Harry echoes, opening her mouth for a second cookie when Blaise offers it.

“Triad, trio, ménage á trios.” Blaise ticks it on his fingers, absently brushing crumbs off them. “Means that instead of hooking up in a monogamous relationship of two people, like Narcissa and Lucius, we are quite happy the three of us together. It’s called polyamory and it can include anything from three people to several more. Depends entirely on what sort of relationship you are looking for.” He gestures loosely.

Harry eyes the cookie box and he obliges her with a third which makes her whurr, pleased.

“It’s a good smell,” Harry decides, licking her fingers.

“I’m sure Ginny will be pleased to hear that.” Blaise closes the cookie package as he says it and Harry’s brain short circuits half-way into a puppy look.

“We-asley?” she echoes unsurely.

Both men still as Harry whines softly, shaking her head. She hadn’t thought that name in years and the blurry memory of red hair makes her chest hurt.

Harry knows that a lot of her memories are a mess. Some things she remembers with razor sharp clarity while others are fading, mixing and blurring. Especially name and faces - even Snape had taken a moment to remember and while she knew that Weasley meant siblings it was a blur to just what that entailed.

She remembers the twins, sort-of. Remembers coins and laughter and mischievous blue eyes if she strains her memory, as well as the G and the F on knitted sweaters.

Ginny - Ginny brought a memory of red hair and wet stone halls and the splash of a giant snake as its large body coils into the water in the Chamber as it spills from the open mouth of an enormous stone statue.

And Harry remembers the Chamber.

Remembers the dark eyes of the young Tom Riddle who’d stared at her, touched her scar and claimed kin.

“Y-yeah,” Draco draws a breath at the first shakiness. “Ginny Weasley, you’re right Little Wolf.” She blinks at him with her too big eyes and Draco’s heart aches.

It is possible that she is Ginny’s age, he thinks, but it is hard to tell. Sometimes she looks so young - closer to fourteen, perhaps fifteen. Other times she looked older, in her early twenties perhaps, when her brows furrows, her eyes distant, gaze heavy. It is the long-limbed coltish gait and not-quite-human-features that makes it hard to tell.

For just a second - just a moment - his mind drifts to furious emerald eyes behind round black glasses and long messy black hair surrounding a heart shaped face. The parseltongue, the colour -

Draco bites the inside of his cheek hard enough to draw blood.

Harry Potter is dead. No potion, no spell - nothing had pointed to the girl being alive and Draco knows just how much time and effort his godfather had put into looking for her. The photos that had been published of the cupboard, the blood, her aunt’s note begging for forgiveness -

Harry Potter is dead and Draco swallows back nausea.

He knows Narcissa had been entertaining the idea that she might have Black roots what with them being very distantly related to the Gaunt family. It fit with her colours and, considering how many had been blasted off that family tree, it wasn’t unlikely that she was a bastard to one of them. Also, considering no-one knew what had happened to Regulus Black and that Sirius Black might very well have managed to father a child before being locked up in Azkaban, what with his playboy rumors… Well.

Black was looking more and more likely every day and it fit with the approximate age of 15-25 that Narcissa had finally, exasperatedly, put her around.

If she had been at Hogwarts at the same time as them, younger or older, for even a little time, it would explain how she knew the name Ginny Weasley at least.

But unless she told them, or if they managed to drag her to Gringotts without causing a scene, it wasn’t likely they’d pin down an actual name. Not unless the Dark Lord made it a priority to know.

So many had started to vanish during his sixth year. Children disappearing and reappearing dead - sometimes mutilated, always with horror in their eyes. It made the school records pretty much useless and if Snape hadn’t recognised her by now it probably meant that the overlap of wolfish traits were more severe than they’d first expected.

Draco resists the urge to bury his face in his hands.

If he could officially take her as a patient he’d be pressing her to remember - gently. Try and guide her towards her memories, talk her through them.

But the Dark Lord had made it clear that as long as she was staying the house it was on Nagini’s terms and all the snake needed to draw the girl’s attention was slither into the room. She was also out a lot, sometimes for days at a time, spending more time as a wolf than a human, and she would disappear for hours for something simple as a bath.

It made it very, very hard to get anything out of her - especially with how much time he spent with his own studies at that. Even with him practically moving back to his parents mansion instead of being with his two partners it felt like an uphill battle with pretty much no wins.

Severus was perhaps the only one who was actually pressuring her sans himself. The dour potion master made it a point for her to verbally answer him and he’d walked in on him quizzing the wolfish girl on what they were doing and getting reasonable answers back, if short and awkward.

But now she’d clearly remembered Weasley - and not just any Weasley but their Ginny.

“Have you met her?” It’s Blaise and Draco shoots him a sharp look but his boyfriend ignores it. “She’s quite pretty - red hair, a gorgeous pair of brown eyes. Does a mean bat-bogey hex that keeps her brothers’ firmly off her tail when they try to go all protective on her. As if she needs it,” he scoffs and Draco feels a curl of warm fondness for his boyfriend.

Blaise had been quite incensed the first time he met Ginny’s brothers’ and they attempted to talk him down from dating their sister. He’d gone off quite spectacularly.

He was the son of a single mother who routinely landed in the hands of men who attempted to take control of her life because she was a single woman with a good fortune and wouldn’t it be better if she let a man handle her finances? or should she really work in such a dangerous profession when there was a house to take care off? It had made him sick that they were attempted the same with the woman he was coming to love, simply because of her gender.

He still got all stiff when he met them until either Ginny or Draco gave him a kiss at the corner of his mouth - something that never failed to make him relax.

Harry flexes her fingers, unsure why the name had shaken her so. Ginny had been the little sister of her friend and other than her second year she hadn’t really interacted much with the younger girl.

But she was in the same house as Tom Riddle sitting with two of his followers and Ginny - Ginny who had nearly died in the Chamber thanks to Lucius Malfoy and - she was dating them?

She snaps her teeth at nothing.

“Blood-traitors,” she bites out finally, turning and twisting into her wolf form in a single fluid movement before escaping to find Nagini.

-

Blaise stares after her for a long moment before he leans back and digs for a cookie. “Oh there was a memory there.” He bites off a piece, looking contemplative. “She’s quite infamous, our Ginny, though. It would have been easier of it was, say, me.” But she’d made no sign of recognising him at all. “And she had a panic attack when you two met?” he checks.

Draco folds his fingers together and shakes his head when Blaise offers him a cookie. “It’s likely that I reminded her of whatever made her take to the forest in the first place and there could be an endless amount of reasons for that.” Blaise glances at him in amusement when he catches the frustrated undertone.

“I think your Little Wolf remembers more than she’s willing to let on.” Blaise contemplated his cookie. “Considering she’s staying her willingly she’s likely raised by a dark or neutral family - that’s what you said, right?”

“She hasn’t reacted once to his title of Dark Lord, not even in curiosity, but Mother says she reacted oddly to Dumbledore’s.” Draco taps his chin. “It’s all speculation of course. Considering just how far Dumbledore has made it clear he’s willing to go she could very well be one of his victims and originally raised as a light witch.”

Blaise hums. “You mean she might consider this a safe place because it puts her out of old man’s hands?”

“Yes,” Draco agrees.

“Did she show any aversion to the Dark Lord when they first met?” Blaise wonders.

Draco shrugs. “Hard to tell. Sev says she was skittish with all of them and considering how long she might have been on her own - there’s just no good way to tell.”

Blaise flops down on his boyfriend’s lap. “Still, she knew Ginny.”

“Yeah, her and every other student between ’92 and ‘99,” Draco grumbles.

Blaise worms out of his sweater and shifts until he is lying front down on his boyfriend’s legs, stretching luxuriously. “Think we should introduce them?”

“It has been awhile since Father was forced to entertain a Weasley,” Draco muses.

Blaise snorts. “Please, you know how fond he is of her.”

They exchanged an amused look.

“It was a bit defensive, that last line - wasn’t it?” Draco says after a moment of silence.

“Think it’s personal?” Blaise inquires, groaning softly as Draco snakes a hand up his shirt and drags his nails down his back.

“There’s seven of them,” Draco snorts. “Considering the havoc left behind each and every Weasley I’d be surprised if half of Britain hadn’t taken offense to that family by now.”

“Drake?”

“Yes?”

“Your jealousy is showing.”

“Shut up, Blaise.”

-

Ida considers the darkly handsome man, leg neatly crossed and fingers tapping against the side of her leg.

“You’re quite the busy man, Mr Gaunt,” she says finally. “I’m not used to being turned down.”

“I’ve more than made up for it, have I not?” He raised a dark brow, leaning forward. And oh- he is handsome like this, isn’t he? The fire flickering over his face just right, sharpening the intense kind of mixture of danger and power that oozed of him.

She harrumphs. “You are lucky that Albus is not as clever as he likes to think he is.”

“Politics was never quite his thing,” Marvolo murmurs, pouring them both a glass of red. “Unless it involved a pretty young man. There’s a reason he chose the road of Headmaster before Minister.”

She swirls the wine, looking at him through her lashes. “Unlike you who gander on both sides?”

His mouth lifts in amusement. “Whatever gave it away?” He does give her a little tip of his glass in acknowledgement and she drinks soon after he’d swallowed a mouthful.

“You seem like the sort who’d find personality more attractive than what you’re sticking it inside,” she drawls crudely.

Marvolo chuckles, a deep rich sound that made colour rise to her cheeks momentarily before she catches herself and forces it down. “You are true to it, of course,” he allows her this little imagined triumph of his character. “I am not known to limit myself.”

“Which is why you’re having wine with the Princess of Sweden in the first place,” she acknowledges. “Some would say you’re playing far above your level.”

“Is that so?” He hums. “And what does the Princess herself say?” He peers at her over the rim of his glass.

Ida drinks the power that saturates the room, her pupils expanding as she leans forward. “I say I’m listening,” she purrs.

-

Harry lies flat against the forest floor as Nagini tugs at the mess of her hair.

They’d spent a week exploring the forest as the snow melted away and sun crawls teasingly across the sky until Harry nearly manages to yank her hair straight from their roots after tumbling down and turning mid-way to use her hands to slow down.

It had instead ended with branches in her hair and a severely exasperated snake who’d peered down at her from the steep muddy hillside.

Nagini might have a mouth filled with fangs that could snap the tiny branches with barely a thought but it didn’t make it easier to untangle them. Harry knows how much Nagini enjoys grooming her though and she is content to allow it until Nagini is satisfied and then she would take a knife to whatever mess remained.

§Do you think we’ll be able to swim outside soon?§ Harry askes, wiggling her toes.

§If you miss it that much I can throw you right in§ Nagini offers distractedly.

§You did that last winter§ Harry reminds her. §Nearly broke my jaw on the ice and I was halting for weeks§

Nagini snaps a stick and adds it to the growing pile beside them. §I thought you’d go right through§ The snake stares momentarily at the seed pod she’d found before she carefully drags it out.

§That’s why you throw a rock first§ Little Wolf hisses softly as Nagini yanks sharply on a stick. §So that the wolf-snake don’t go breaking limbs on accident§

Nagini pauses her grooming. §Is that how you think of yourself?§

Harry rolls over to look at her. §I am yours, right?§ She lifts her head automatically as Nagini curls around her, eyes oddly intent. Harry had always been fascinated by the intense golden colour - the slitted pupils hypnotic in their intensity.

§You should make it snake-wolf§ she hisses finally, yanking one last stick out, oddly gentle. §And go find Sweet-Smells or Pretty Words. At least they know something about grooming properly.§

§Are you saying I am bad at it?§ Little Wolf rubs herself against the heavy coils.

§I am saying you look less like a wolf and more like a hedgehog when you chop it§ Nagini informs her. §A really ugly hedgehog§ she adds when her Little Wolf gives her a baleful look.

Harry attempts to wrestle her down but Nagini was simply too long and too strong and soon she is huffing, flat on her back with an amused snake hovering above her.

Harry wiggles until she’s let up and flops down on her back instead with a chuff.

Her face furrows. §Nagini?§

§Yes, Little Snake-Wolf?§

Harry hesitates. §How come you decided to stick around despite knowing nothing about me?§

Nagini settles down on her chest, settling her broad head between her breasts. §Would you have preferred if I didn’t?§

§No!§ Harry snaps her jaws. §But you didn’t even ask for my name or anything§ she hesitates. §You still don’t know who I am…§ she averts her eyes, worrying her lower lip.

§Does it bother you? Me not knowing?§ Nagini’s tongue flickered over her jaw.

§Yes. No? I don’t know§ Harry drags a hand through her hair, got stuck and spends a moment untangling her fingers Nagini side-eyes her in exasperation.

§If you want to tell me, you will tell me§ Nagini hisses. §I do not particularly care though§ she affirms as an afterthought.

§But what if - what if I was someone bad?§ she demands. §What if I could ruin everything?§

Nagini blinks lazily. §I’d be tremendously interested in just what kind of power you think you harbour in that tiny body of yours she says flatly.

§Nagini§ Harry attempts to roll out from under her, fails and flops back down. §This is serious!§ she hisses.

§I know you are§ Nagini puffs her nose against her jaw. §And so am I§

§What about Tom then?§ Harry asks. §What if he cares?§

§Then that’s between you and Tom§ Nagini weights the body below her down further with her coils. §What brought this on?§ she demands. §You look ready to run and I am feeling too fat to chase you down§

Harry tenses her jaw.

§Snakeling§ Nagini warns.

§I’m just-§ Harry makes a noise of frustration. §Draco was asking questions.§ she grumbles finally. §As if - as if who I was means so much when I just want to forget her§ she admits.

Nagini stills momentarily at her snakeling’s confession before she curls up to hover right above her, locking gold and yellow.

§Admitting who you were won’t erase who you are today§ Nagini says firmly §You will always be my Little Wolf, my snakeling. I claimed you as such, before Tom, and he acknowledged that claim§

Harry feels her eyes burn. §It’s not as easy with the humans§ She ducks her chin. §I like taking baths with Narcissa and I like the food and the warmth and I get to spend even more time with you§ She looks up. §But they keep asking questions and I don’t want - Nagini, they can’t know who I am! It’ll ruin everything!§

Nagini hissed at her snakeling’s distress. §Have I let anything happen to you so far?§

Harry works her jaw. §You did nearly break my jaw on that ice just last year. And you keep trying to drown me during the summers-§

Nagini pins her with a flat stare.

§No§ she whispers finally. §You’ve kept me safe§

§And I will keep doing so§ Nagini hisses.

Harry curls around Safetymomfriend and buries her face in thick coils.

§Nagini?§

§Yes, Little Wolf?§

§Thank you§

§Go to sleep§ Nagini buffs her and Harry curls into her heavy coils until all she can smell and hear is family.

Nagini watches until her snakeling falls asleep before settling down with a sigh, mind troubled.

-

“Cissy!” Narcissa has approximately two seconds to turn and brace herself before a sooty Bellatrix collided head-on with her, nearly sending them both tumbling. “How’s my widdle little sister?” Narcissa automatically tucks a wayward curl from her sister’s face as she draws back, well aware of the futility as it is replaced by two more.

“I am well.” She feels a pang, like she always does, at the state of her sister. Azkaban had gorged her of her sensual beauty - leaving something hollow and dangerous in its wake and she forces herself not to linger on the thought. “I read in the papers you’ve had quite the feast. The Dark Lord must be happy with you.”

Narcissa allows herself a moment to just take in her sister as Bellatrix’s eyes sparkles. “He is.” And there’s something soft about her when she says it, something entirely lacking in all other circumstances.

She thinks of Rodolphus who had visited her often to consult and sometimes just to rant - lost in how to handle his wife who is barely a ghost of what she had been.

“She’s beautiful, when she thinks of him,” Rodolphus had confided, dragging fingers through his hair. “I just wish I knew how to make it stay.”

Narcissa doesn’t blame him - there’s something fierce about the love he feels for her sister despite her state. An acknowledgement that their Lord will always come first and a complete lack of resentment for it.

Lucius had commented on it once, a furrow in his brow, but Narcissa had never found it anything but admirable.

There are times, after hours of holding her down as her world fractures around her, that Bellatrix blinks awake, as from a dream. But those moments were rare and never lasted more than a handful of minutes.

Narcissa aches for them.

“Lucy says you have a new pet.” Bellatrix looks around expectantly.

Narcissa very much doubts her husband had said anything of the sort but Bellatrix had been a terrifying master of legilimens in her youth and Azkaban had honed and fractured it in spades. She seems to have narrow control of just who’s mind she was reading which meant she was more often than not close by Tom, Zafrina or Severus who were the best at occluding in the Inner Circle, save Fenrir who spent most of his time with his pack.

Bellatrix had taken a liking to the Black Widow and spent a lot of time at the Zabini household which meant that Narcissa got regular reports of her state thanks to her son’s boyfriend.

“She’s out with Nagini,” Narcissa beckons her sister along.

Bellatrix’s eyes glitter. “It’s true then? She’s a parseltongue?” she drags out the ‘s’ in the last word, wiggling her tongue.

“Quite so,” she agrees. “She’s a little skittish, Bella, so you have to be gentle,” she cautions.

Bellatrix rolls her eyes, her boots sounding noisily against the floor. “Play nice, play nice.” She sticks her tongue out. “Like with iddle widdle Draco.” She nods to herself.

“More like- remember Yowik?”

Bellatrix halts to think. “Andy’s dog,” she says after a moment, a brief glimmer of uncertainty before she straightens into a familiar arrogant gait. “He was always yapping.”

Yowik had been very quiet and a cat but their mother’s poodle, Tissle, had never quite shut up.

“And you had to treat him gentle.” Narcissa says, neither confirming or denying it. “He didn’t like loud noises, did he? Or unexpected touches?”

“Hated it.” Bellatrix looks at her with dark eyes. “I’ll behave, Cissy!” she promises, placing a wet smack on Narcissa’s cheek before she can blink. “Now! Feed me, sister! I want meat.” She spins, prancing off.

Chapter Text

“Thank you Miss Weasley.” Dumbledore’s voice is silky smooth and it takes all she has to smile and duck her head as he places a hand on her shoulder and squeezes. “Your parents died for a worthy cause and you honour them with your sacrifice.”

It’s your fault they’re dead, Ginny thinks as she feigns a blush on her face.

“Is there anything else?” He releases her and she resists scrubbing at the spot as he rounds the table, seating himself elegantly. He looks younger for each time she sees him and she wants to gnash her teeth in fury at the easy relaxation, the picture or grandfatherly gentleness.

She wonders if she imagines the auburn creeping into his beard or if it’s always been there. The mismatched robes he’d fancied during her school years has been exchanged for colourful but proper robes and she can’t remember the last time she saw his half-moon glasses.

“Let her go home, Albus.” Ginny stiffens at the new voice, young and rough, and automatically seeks the source. She finds him at the corner and it’s impossible to make out his features with him almost completely hidden by shadows. Seated on a chair that Ginny could have sworn hadn’t been there a second ago, draped lazily with one long leg thrown over the other.

There’s a wand in his hand being idly spun and the green of his eyes burn into the side of her face. “It’s been a long night and I need a cup of tea and a game of chess.”

“You always fancy a game of chess,” Dumbledore chuckles and his eyes twinkle and Ginny loathes him just a bit more for every breath he takes. “But you are of course correct. Go home, my girl, take a long bath and get some sleep. I will let you know when I need you next.”

“Of course, Herald.” She bows and excused herself, the door closing behind her just as the youth steps out from the shadows to place a hand on the old man’s shoulder.

Her eyes narrow.

Ginny takes the stairs down to the dungeons. She hisses the password and steps inside as the painting swings aside for her and lets out a long breath of relief. Severus is notoriously paranoid and his quarters are charmed to the max. They fold over her, acknowledging her with a squeeze that momentarily steals her breath.

“Ginevra,” he greets silkily, looking up from the pile of homework he’s correcting. He catches her look and grimaces in sympathy, reaching under his desk and pulling up a bottle of fire whisky and two glasses. “It’s not quite up to the standard of Lucius’s but it’s pretty near.” She sinks gratefully into the seat opposite him as he pours them both a thumb and puts the papers aside.

“I think our Lord is onto something,” she says, downing it and giving it a tiny shake to get a refill. “He’s definitely getting younger and he’s getting less careful about hiding it.” He doubles the next fill.

Snape rests his own glass in his palm, tapping his index momentarily against the amber liquid. “The public is getting hungrier,” he says finally. “They’ll probably take it as a sign.”

“The Light Lord returns again.” Ginny lets out a breath. “There was a boy in his office.”

Snape’s eyes sharpens on her. “A boy?”

“I couldn’t make out much of him. Average height, green eyes.” She shrugs. “They were clearly familiar with each other - he called him Albus, Sev. Demanded a cup of tea and a game of chess and Albus merely chuckled.”

Snape puts his glass down, untouched. “That is… troubling.”

“Are you meeting with the Dark Lord tonight?”

Snape glances at the piles of homework and pinches the bridge of his nose. “Seems like I have to.” He side-eyes her. “You staying the night?”

“If you don’t mind.” She slumps forward as Severus rises and she tracks his form tiredly. “I’ll do a bit of this,” she offers, tugging at the homework and huffing at the top work’s bad handwriting.

“You’re a darling,” he drawls.

As Snape vanished Ginny steals his glass, downing it, and pours herself another thumb. “Liquid patience,” she motivates herself as she drags the first pile before her. “Sev really needs to stop the three page parchment essays,” she grumbles as she set to work. “It’s no wonder he’s always exhausted.”

-

Ginny knows her family is broken.

It begins with Percy’s betrayal and consequent death after trusting the wrong person in the Ministry. Ginny can still hear her Mom’s wails echoing through her soul - the absolute despair as she cradled her son’s body, robbed of its innocence and life.

It’s followed by Ron who, grief stricken, swears his life to Dumbledore and after years has become one of his most devoted followers. ”He’s the only one who can make this right,” he’d told the newspapers in his last interview, tall and proud in his uniform. ”Harry deserved so much better than she got - we deserve so much more than we have! Voldemort needs to be stopped and everyone who follows him fed to the dementors where they can never hurt anyone again. For Harry!” He’d roared and the public had cried out with him.

It was nauseating, the way Harry’s name was cried in her death, as if the fourteen-year-old had ever had a chance to choose a side.

She hadn’t even had a chance to live.

Their parents hadn’t approved of the violence - the ‘take no prisoners’ morality that dogged his steps. They’d all felt like they were losing another brother, another son, and Ron - Ron just wasn’t stopping.

Their parents death sent him over the edge; swallowed him into the arms of Dumbledore.

Charlie, already distant, barely got back to them these days.

Fred and George had their business in Diagon Alley. Both of them had claimed neutrality in the war - dedicating their time to give a last cheer, just one more laugh, in a world that was steadily tilting off its axis. Ginny occasionally stopped by to visit them, to exchange gossip and check up on them.

She suspected they were aware of just where her loyalties truly lied but they never spoke of it.

Truthfully, Ginny recognised very little of her brothers these days. Doesn’t truly know where Bill were hiding other than that he’d been swallowed up in the ranks of the werewolf who’d bit him. Ginny wasn’t entirely sure about the entire situation, truthfully, but Severus had reassured her in his own gruff way.

Severus who had given her so much as the world broke around her.

If her eleven year old self, the one that had nearly died in the chamber, had been told she would one day end up serving the man who nearly killed her, she would have laughed.

She can still remember the rank smell, the cold water seeping through her robes, her hands crusty with her own blood from writing on the wall. And Harry, wet and dirty clutching a sword with wild green eyes as she held out her hand to help her up, her lower arm covered in blood but only a strange round scar at the crook of her elbow to show for it, her grin lopsided.

As if there hadn’t been the giant corpse of basilisk behind her, one of its fangs pierced through the diary of the boy she had come to trust.

Harry had come for her.

Had nearly died for her.

Even years later she can’t forget the feeling at the sight of her - her savior. The words you came for me lost in her throat as she reached out and was pulled up and steadied by surprising strength for such a small girl.

And she had been small, hadn’t she? Barely inches taller than Ginny.

That first year of Hogwarts had left her disillusioned and cynical and very much enamoured with the older girl.

Harry who sprawled exhausted and snored softly in her favourite chair by the fireplace as Ron and Hermione’s argument went from loud to whispers and finally sighs as one of them threw a blanket over her.

Harry who hummed softly when she thought no one could hear her.

Harry who was always the first to call out injustice and who didn’t falter even as the school turned against her over and over again.

Harry who always had a smile and a supportive shoulder to offer, no matter how exhausted she was.

Harry with her messy hair and sheepish grin as her fingers got tangled in it.

Harry who had ducked her head and sat so still the first time Hermione offered to braid her hair, as if breathing too loud would ruin the moment.

Harry who was as brilliant as she was kind.

Harry who died alone in a blood stained cupboard.

Ginny scrubs her face roughly, breathing heavily through her nose as she stares at the stone ceiling in Severus spare bedroom.

As Ron got more and more determined during their last years at Hogwarts Ginny had slunk to the shadows, troubled. Dumbledore was painting the world black and white, determined to cup all of Britain in his hands. He was suddenly being interviewed in the papers, his chair empty at the head table to fulfil business at the Ministry or attend galas.

Students who marked themselves as something special got called to his office and getting a golden envelope was turning into something of respect. Something to strive for. It came with special training and phoenixes pinned to their chests.

She’d met Blaise in her sixth year - had stumbled upon him surrounded by golden pins and violet eyes ablaze as he clutched his arm, arm wet with blood, and Ginny-

For just a moment-

For just a flicker of a second she’d been reminded of Harry.

It was in the curl of his mouth, the stance of his body and look in his eyes as he stood proud and refused to bend even in the face of overwhelmingly bad odds.

And Ginny had intervened. Had dragged the hoodie of her cloak over her head and blinded with smokes and tricks from the twin’s, dragging the bewildered boy with her and practically thrown them both into an empty cupboard.

Hearts pounding, and completely ignoring the blood dripping from between his fingers, the bastard had flirted with her.

And Ginny had laughed for the first time in months, disbelieving and just a bit hysterical as she dropped her forehead against his chest, shoulders shaking.

Blaise had led her to Draco and Draco had led her to Severus and Severus had led her to kneeling before a man who was so much like his sixteen year old self and yet nothing like him.

Dumbledore believed he was doing right by the world by locking it in his hands – the greater good, he called it. But it was slowing magical society down and Ginny woke every day to a world that felt stagnant. Muggleborns had been the answer to change but Dumbledore was using Harry’s name to ban them from his school, to turn them away, his influence stretching down the corridors of the Ministry.

She closes her eyes, mind hazy from the alcohol and feeling all the more exhausted for it. But it had served to lessen the anxiety in her chest at least and she tips her head back, staring up at the stone ceiling.

-

Harry’s nails clicked against the floor and the door closes behind her. She shakes her fur from morning dew and gives a sneeze at the stagnant indoor air.

Her stomach feels full and bloated from her hunt with Nagini so instead of making for the kitchen she turns left and trots towards the stairs that would bring her down to Severus potions. The heavy smell was unmistakable, no matter what spells he used to dampen the worst of it, and she both likes and dislikes the heaviness of it.

She’s two steps past the archway of the living room when something collides with her, hard.

Harry lashes out before she has time to think, instincts sinking fangs into a pale shoulder and blood spilling down her throat, and there’s a cackle above her as she’s wrestled down on her furry back. Fingers with nails as sharp claws dig into her sides and Harry kicks out with paws, tearing through heavy black skirts and tightening her jaws to the snap of bone.

“Bad little wolfie,” the woman purrs and Harry chokes as she, instead of pulling away, throws her entire weight down, prying sharp teeth and a gasping throat wide-open and she’s gagging - blood rolling down a throat as she struggles desperately for air.

A gurgled whine, her vision spotty from lack of air and her eyes roll to the back of her head-

“Bellatrix!” The command snaps through the air, sharp and unforgiving, and Harry is suddenly gasping and choking, paws scrabbling and stumbling blindly towards the figure she’s identified as safesafesafe.

Bellatrix raises her hands mock innocently, her eyes alight as she found the new figure.

“Sevvie,” she clucks. “Haven’t you ever heard of going knock knock knock, hmmm?”

Snape gives her a flat look. “There are, in fact, no doors in this hallway - unless you wanted me to knock as I left the study?” he asks wryly.

Bellatrix pouts at him. “Not the point.”

“It was the only point I heard.” He glances down to Harry who has practically moulded herself to his leg, snout stained and yellow eyes alight with wariness and fury. She’s perched ever so slightly in front of him, ready to lunge if the woman made any attempt to get closer. Lips already pulling back in a snarl, teeth gleaming sharply.

“She’s a very pretty birdie,” Bellatrix sings, getting to her feet and bending down, hands on her knees. She doesn’t seem to notice or care of the blood spilling down her arm, dripping to the floor and forming a small pool of liquid red. “Does the pretty little birdie want to play with auntie Bella?”

Harry shoulders lowers and she growls low - a noise that vibrates from the very depth of her chest.

Bellatrix smiles, eyes glittering. “When sissy told me you’d gotten a new pet I didn’t think it’d be quite so curious.” Her eyes doesn’t leave the golden of the wolf for a second. “You’re like me little birdie,” she taps her head knowingly. “Life didn’t leave you quite right.”

Severus shoots her a sharp glance.

“You’re running wolfie, on burning paws and with knives in your mind.” Her pupils dilate, swallowing whatever colour lurked in her iris. “You’re afraid, so afraid - it’s dark, your throat dry, broken and bleeding and he's going to kill me-” Bellatrix snaps her mouth close. “Who are you afraid of little wolf? Who haunts you even now in the halls of the Dark Lord himsel-”

“That’s enough!” Snape’s voice cracks through the air like a whip, halting Bellatrix who’d been advancing, and Harry who’d been steadily sinking lower to the floor. “Narcissa is in her study - go.” He points and two dark pair of eyes meet for a long moment before she uncoils, straightening herself up to her full height.

Bellatrix pouts. “Fine.” She throws her skirts out with a flourish. “Cissa hates getting blood on her carpets anyway.” She trotted off, calling loudly for her sister.

Severus stares after her for a long moment and then he sighs and sinks into an awkward crouch and Harry remains so very still, her mind awhirl. She dares to tilt her head to look at the other - at Severus who looks back at her with unfathomable eyes.

“You should not let her words get to you,” he says carefully. “Azkaban left very little of the old Bellatrix behind. She has always been clever in the mind arts but it has turned out to be a two-edged sword in her case. She saw too much - felt too much - and it fractured her. Her mind is always bleeding over the edges, searching, listening… and there’s nothing we, or she, can do to stop it.”

He hesitates. “I don’t know how much of what Bellatrix said is true but you can always talk to us if you’re -,” his mouth grimaces around the word, “afraid.” He looks at her, patient and out of his comfort zone but trying, for her. “No one is going to judge you.”

Harry presses the crown of her head into his chest, eyes closed and fine tremors running through her body. A hand, calloused and stained from potion making, settles against her neck, just lying there.

Harry wants to tell him - wants to tell him everything.

She is so very afraid they’ll kill her if she does.

So she keeps quiet like the coward she is.

-

Harry’s snoring on the couch when a smell, so intimately familiar tears her from her dreams.

She’s off the couch and in the kitchen before a single word can cross her mind and she very nearly bowls Lucius over when she realizes just what he’s removing from the oven.

She prances, almost tripping Lucius twice before the man got the plate onto the table, visibly frazzled, and Harry dives around the table and jumps onto her chair, tail wagging where it sticks out in the small space between the back of the seat. Paws neatly placed before her, hind legs straining to stay on the comparatively small chair, considering her size, and she licks her chops.

The heavy scent of treacle tart seemed to swallow all the sections of the room until she can’t smell anything else.

A chuckle and someone scooping a piece onto her plate. A chiding of having to be human to use the spoon and she’s cramming the first bit down her throat the second she has her hands around the plate and lifts it to her mouth to take a large bite.

And

Something

Snaps

The plate drops onto the table and Harry’s eyes dilate, drowning gold in black.

Her mind explodes with memories of fond looks, the heat of a sparkling fire and smuggled goods in plush red chairs - the warmth blossoming in her chest as blue eyes soften and an extra piece appears on her plate when she looks away for just a second and brown eyes so soft so soft as a blush creeps up freckled ears-

Her heart pounds hard inside her chest and someone is saying something but all she can smell is the treacle tart and all she can hear are the soft muffled words of-

There’s a roar in her mind and her world tilts on its axis and something tears as hair like fire and eyes raging in the colour of the sea burns into her and enough freckles to draw a galaxy dances at the edge of her vision and it’s like he’s there - warm and familiar, a hand on her shoulder and-

Harry can’t do this.

“Did you really forget about me, Harry?”

And she’s there too, her hair wild and refusing to be tamed and eyes alight with spun golden from the fire and a hand gently stroking long hair (she doesn’t have long hair) back from her face and tucking it behind her ear.

“About us?”

Harry

Can’t

BrEaThE

“Do you even know if we’re alive?”

“Did you ever stop to think about anyone but yourself?”

“What about S______?”

“My parents took you in like one of their own and this is how you repay them!”

Gentler.

“Why did you leave us, Harry?”

“Weren’t we friends?”

“The best of friends.”

She’s stumbling awayawayaway and she’s gasping and she can’t see anything past the two blurry figures - the only thing clear their eyes and their hair.

“You abandoned me!” And her voice is breaking and she’s crying and trembling and hyperventilating all the the same time. Someone kneels down beside her but she can’t tear her eyes away and she feels like she’s dying.

The girl (because she’s still a girl just like Harry who had never grown past fifteen and who still feels as helpless and lost as the child who turned her back to the world) kneels down before her and Harry feels hands on her body, feels something drawing her back and up against a firm chest, feels warm air against her ears but it doesn’t feel real, not like the girl.

A blurry hand, like smoke, brushes her cheek and brown eyes burn into her soul.

”Do you even remember our names, Harry Lily Potter?”

“I-” she gasps and her tongue knots on itself and no names fall from her tongue. She wrestles with her mind, her soul, struggling against the arms holding her, the whisper in her ear. She knows! Of course she knows! She does!

Hot tears fall over burning cheeks and she chokes on a desperate sob.

“I’m sorry!” She hacks and coughs and cries. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!

-

Lucius holds her until she’s cried herself into an exhausted sleep and even then she makes wet little hiccups against his chest. He sighs, smothering down tufty black strands and looks up at his wife.

The treacle tart has been vanished and the table emptied and there’s sadness and worry wrestling in his wife’s beautiful eyes.

“Draco did say something like this could happen,” she says finally. “What did he call it? Post-traumatic stress disorder? I never would have imagined treacle tart as a trigger.”

“She was clearly seeing someone who wasn’t there.” Lucius carefully hoists himself up and with the help of his wife they got the wolf-girl maneuvered into his arms. “And Severus told me about her meeting with Bellatrix. Your sister, apparently, claimed they were quite alike and implied that she was running from someone.”

“You don’t spend years hiding in the forest from just anyone,” Narcissa frowns.

He tightened his hold on her. “Narcissa, if she’s-”

“I know.” Narcissa cuts him off, sharper than she intended, and reaches out immediately to squeeze his shoulder. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” he says gently.

“There’s no way for us to check unless we involve Severus or manage to smuggle her to Gringotts without sending her into a panic attack. And I can’t - won’t - do that to him.” She looks up at him and Lucius grimaces.

“It would destroy him if we’re wrong.”

“And even if we’re right - what more can we do than what we already are with her like this?” She glanced at the large ugly scar swallowing nearly a third of the girl’s face. Sees the black hair and thinks of James Potter with his easy smile and messy hair, of Lily whose eyes had been green and clever and her hair as red as blood.

But her face is broken - her nose flatter, her lips thinner, the bones mashing into something not quite human with the sharper-than-normal teeth and the canines that sometimes poke into her lower lips. Of the pointy ears that sometimes twitch and the awkward long-limbedness.

If she’s honest with herself there’s something almost like a werewolf in her build - not quite wolf, not quite human.

If it wasn’t for the parseltongue she never would have even dared to think it.

There’s very little in this child that brings her mind to the small girl with a mess of tumbling black hair staring at the Hogwarts Express in awe. Her clothes too big, just a bit too roughened by the world, but grinning from ear to ear as she was caught between her friends, shoulders bumping and chatter falling eagerly between them.

Nothing that says that she’s the same girl that came tumbling out of the maze, clutching the dead body of her fellow champion and eyes burning for blood.

That Harry Potter would never have curled up in the Dark Lord’s lap or spent hours with Severus brewing potions. Wouldn’t be taking baths with the mother of the boy she’d hated or giggled as she wrestled with the enormous snake that was Tom’s familiar.

Which brings to mind that - if - this girl is Harry Potter. What, exactly, had driven her to escape into the forest and live there on her own instead of reaching of for her friends or proper authorities?

Narcissa reins herself in before the many what-ifs and whys could overwhelm her.

“We can only take it one day at the time,” she tells herself as much as her husband. “We just have to be… careful.”

“It’s a dangerous game to play,” Lucius reminds her.

“It’s a dangerous world to live in,” Narcissa tells him.

They share a look born from years of marriage and learnings the ins and outs of each other and knows they had an understanding. The gain if they were right - it would mean too much not to try. And if that meant keeping secrets for now they were ready to carry the consequences.

-

Tom steps into his room and feels all air leave his lungs with a whoosh at the sight that greets him. Curled up, naked save one of his boxers, limbs cradling his covers and red rimmed eyes blinking tiredly up at him from one of his many pillows.

§Narcissa and Lucius got called out§ Was his greeting, voice thick with exhaustion. §Can I stay with you?§

§Rough day?§ he changes into a pair of sleeping pants and climb onto the other side of the large bed, tugging the covers free and settling it over them both.

He doesn’t bother to protest when the other worms closer, settling her head onto his stomach, one hand curling into the waistband of his pants at his hipbone. §I couldn’t remember their names§ And she sounds to miserable that Tom grimaces and wishes Nagini was there and not plump and happy in Riddle Manor.

§I’ve got a name for you§ he hears himself saying and she twists to peer at him all curious like.

§A name? For me? Why?§

§Little Wolf is the name Nagini gave you§ He hesitates but dares to rest a hand on her head. §Would you be opposed to me giving you one of my own?§

She shakes her head against his stomach, eyes yellow and expectant. He finds his mouth twitching as he relaxes against the pillows. §Ignis§ he says simply.

§Ignis?§ she tastes it. §What does it mean?§ And she’s staring at him as if he’s gifted her with the finest of wines.

§Ask me again, once I know your true name§ he says, sensing her stilling against him. §I won’t force it§ he tells her. §But it is something you’re going to have to admit to eventually§

§I know§ A rustle as she curled back around until he could only see the back of her head. §Thank you, Tom§.

Chapter Text

Harry enjoys prowling around the mansion. It’s a large place with corridors winding deep and doors crowding on the sides, many locked but far more open, and portraits that sometimes pauses to greet her and inquiring of the lord and lady of the house and requesting her to send little messages to other portraits.

Sometimes they’re long and she struggles to remember them - repeating the words under her breath as she hurries down the corridor in search of the correct painting.

But there’s always someone willing to explain the meaning of the longer, heavier words. And there’s two giggling girls in one of the portraits in the south end of the house who enjoy riddles. Severus doesn’t seem to mind writing them down - spelling the words carefully under her gaze - so she can read them over and over to herself until she figures them out.

Reading is like unlocking a door rusted shut - it’s easy to see the words once she’s had them read to her but the first time she picks up a book (because Narcissa is out and Harry is curious about the little pile of colourful books) she gives up not two pages in and instead looks at the pictures because they make her head hurt less.

She enjoys the little knickknacks she finds, especially the seagreen rock she digs, sneezing, from beneath a dusty broken dresser in a long-forgotten room. Both her and the rock is wrestled into a bath after that escapade by Lucius who had taken one look at her dusty form and made a strange horrified noise.

Apparently he was a bit of a neatfreak.

He allows her to keep the rock and Harry enjoys fiddling with it in her human form.

Draco’s latest visit coincides with Harry actually being in the mansion and there’s dark circles beneath his eyes and a tiredness in the slump of his shoulders as Lucius draws him into a hug while Harry peers around the doorframe.

Draco is still a strange and abstract sort of thing in her life but he brings cookies and Harry is so very weak.

And something in her chest does a strange sort stutter when he looks up from his hands on the couch and, despite his tiredness, smiles at her, eyes lightening up as he pats the place beside him.

There’s a swoosh of movement and she lands neatly, turning and dropping her head heavily into his lap and snuffles at the pocket that’s bulging and he chuckles.

Harry’s tail wags, pleased.

“Blaise spoils you,” Draco says in fond amusement, flicking his wand to make the small container become large, revealing a collection of some twenty chocolate fudge cookies that makes Harry wanna go boneless in pleasure.

“Some of those better be for your father and I.” Narcissa says and kisses her son’s head in greeting and does the strange sort of silent communication before sinking into the couch opposite them.

Harry, who has just finished her third cookie and is licking crumbs from Draco’s fingers, freezes.

Lucius walks in with three cups of teas just in time to see Draco lunge for Harry who’d crammed her entire head into the container, mouth bulging with cookies and crumbs flying absolutely everywhere as Harry chokes in her franticness to chew them down.

That earns her a long firm scolding from Narcissa and she’s sulking on the floor, cookie crumbs magiced away, by the time the three have settled to talk.

-

Draco is pleasantly surprised by the entire thing and is hiding his smile least Narcissa looks up and catches him. There was trust in being so daring, no matter how weak she is to Blaise’s cookies. Ever since she’d stolen that cookie Blaise had gotten it into his head to make his own for Draco to bring, claiming that the little ladra deserves as many cookies as she wants with a cock of his hips and a challenge in his eyes.

Draco had sworn to his partners the wolf-girl had looked like she’d descended to paradise the first time she tried them and Blaise had preened.

Ginny had been amused when they told her about it and he’d caught them both gossiping about the best cookie recipes after work.

He has the strangest partners.

He reaches down and scratches a furry head and takes a sip of his tea with the other, brow furrowing as he contemplates the grumbly looking wolf. His mother had filled him in about the hallucination triggered by the treacle tart. He hadn’t been surprised - the signs were easy to catch if you knew what to look and he’d already caught her having a panic attack at the sight of him.

They were never a one-time thing and her tendency to zone out and seemingly not noticing how much time sometimes passed was one of many signs. A side effect of living outside without anything to track the time other than the rise and fall of the sun, he supposed. He had entertained the idea of putting clocks around the rooms of the mansion to see if she might take notice, and it would probably work if she was anyone but who she was. Humans were quickly trained to check the time - tempus one of the first spell taught. It was the sort of thing that became habit quickly the more social a person was.

But the wolf-girl lived more time outside the mansion than in it and the only thing she seemed to track by an approximation was how many days there were between people’s coming and going.

“- you think?”

Draco hums.

“Severus hasn’t come up with anything?”

“None,” Lucius leans back, folding his right leg on top of the left to form a triangle. “He’s been quite harried about the whole thing.”

“Considering how much of a menace an old Dumbledore is I don’t think we want to face one in his prime.” Draco frowns, scratching a twitching ear. “Aging potion would be too drastic and they’re often unstable and prone to failures and heavy with side-effects. It might be some kind of ritual? Blaise might be able to dig forth something at work.” He blows noisily through his nose.

“He’s getting bolder,” Narcissa says with a shake of her head.

Draco thinks about seeing Ron Weasley at the top of the podium - the roaring masses below him and the mania in his eyes. He’d been wearing full-Phoenix regalia, the bird stitched proudly over his heart and the cloak billowing behind him like wings and his eyes slanted with gold and red, a stark contrast against his pale skin. Dumbledore, clad in white, his beard much shorter and his hair tied back wearing the white cloak that was quickly becoming his signature wear, stepping up to lay a proud hand on his shoulder. The pride in blue eyes as they looked up to his mentor.

Thinks of the red flushed boy he’d insulted in the carriage that first day on the Hogwarts Express and grimaces.

“Did we get Carrows back?” he asks, shaking the remainder away.

“Half of him.” Lucius says bluntly and Narcissa grimaces in agreement. It’s a strange look on his mother’s face and he reaches out to put a hand on her knee instinctively.

“They took his soul.”

Draco swears he feels his heart stop. “No,” he whispers, horrified.

“He’s getting more and more ruthless.” Lucius put both feet back on the ground in favour to lean forward. “Tom was furious - executed Jones point-blank after breaking her mind into pieces and sent her head back in a burlap sack.”

It’s a kinder fate than Alectos. Those fed on by dementors would spend the rest of eternity trapped half-aware and suffering in the belly of the beasts, ravaged by hopelessness unless the dementor itself died. It was the sort of hush-hush the Ministry didn’t want to get out and Draco had thrown up the first time he heard about it.

It’s more merciful than death and more than they deserve, Dumbledore had claimed in the papers the first time it was touched upon, the picture of grandfatherly regret at the actions that ‘needed to be taken to end the war’.

“What about Amycus?”

“Furious,” Narcissa shakes her head. “The Dark Lord sent her to Greyback to have someone keep an eye on her least she does something drastic.”

“When this war is over we’re killing every last one of those creatures,” Draco says, white-knuckled with fury. A wet nose shoves against them and he glances down, forcing himself to relax at the sight of worried yellow eyes. A soft whine. “I’m okay, girl,” he finds himself saying, reaching out to stroke the fur on her head.

She chuffed, clearly disbelieving.

He found himself wondering what she’d think of the war - if she was in a state to contemplate the gray scales of it. He knew, they all knew, that she was a risk - a risk the Dark Lord was allowing because Nagini was his one true weakness (because the Dark Lord loved her and he would burn the world for her).

And Nagini’s Little Wolf was clearly carving a place for herself as well. Draco had heard his father, disbelievingly, sharing the new nickname their Lord and gifted her with. Knew that she sometimes crawled into his room to share the bed with the Dark Lord and his familiar and that it was being allowed.

Draco knows his parents - knows that the wolf-girl had long since passed from duty to something more. That sympathy for the strange lost girl had become care. Had become soft touches, reassurance, sharing bed and comforting her.

At this rate he would be surprised if he didn’t end up an unofficial brother by the end of the year. He wonders, a bit exasperated, if he’d be a big brother of a little brother.

“We should give you a name,” he finds himself saying. “A human name, I mean.” He smiles when she peers up at him. “Little Wolf sounds more like a fond epithet than a name.” He pokes her nose and she nips the tips of his fingers.

“It’s not a bad idea.” Lucius strokes his chin thoughtfully. “Even something as simple as Grey would be a befitting name.”

“We already have one wolf by the name Greyback hauling himself around.” Narcissa shoots it down. “Something in Latin perhaps?”

“Tom already did the Latin route,” Draco protests. “I say we go French.”

His parents share a look. “French is a beautiful language,” Narcissa says thoughtfully.

“It would be befitting,” Lucius agrees.

“Something delicate and feminine.” Narcissa decides. “Like a flower...” she trails off.

His parents exchange a long look and Draco fights a fidget as the wolf by his feet slowly draws into a sitting position, head tilted as she regards his parents.

“Lis.”

Narcissa looks at the wolf.

The wolf looks back.

Lily,” Lucius repeats.

He wonders why Lis looks at them as if she can’t quite believe they’re real.

-

“Lis is a good name,” Blaise says that evening as he tucks Ginny, who had fallen asleep practically the second she got past the door, into their bed and crawls in behind her to spoon her. Draco sees the worry in his eyes as he smooths back strands of red to kiss her temple.

Ginny had become a spy before they got together and Blaise had come very close to committing murder the night they found out about it. They had both seen what spying was doing to Severus and working for the man responsible for so much agony in her life on top of working in the Ministry where she regularly had to interact with her fanatical brother was taking a toll on her.

But Ginny is strong and stubborn and Blaise had never argued with her about it save that one night. But he worries - about them both. It’s in his nature and he takes it out in his baking which has a tendency to overload their cupboards during particularly stressful times.

Draco’s work isn’t dangerous - it’s long hours and exhaustion and mentally taxing in the hard cases. He’s still learning - assigned to a woman named Margaret Williams who is as hard as she’s fair. She gives him papers and books to read - asks questions that he spends sleepless night formulating thoughts and answers around.

He helps his parents and he’s a devout follower to the Dark Lord and spends hours with his boyfriend and girlfriend sorting through and hunting down information. Shaking the grapevines and listening to the gossip in the Ministry during off hours under the pretence of visiting his father.

Raids are far and few in-between - only targeted at the most fanatic and dangerous followers of Dumbledore and the Inner Circle, save Bellatrix, seldom joins in. Instead they’re preparing on waging war on a political level as Marvolo Gaunt’s name rises and spreads on the lips of the devout.

He’s put himself in danger on more than one occasion to find lost books and pages but most of the time he’s safe and Blaise knows it.

Ginny works directly under the nose of their biggest adversary and it’s enough to constrict their hearts.

Gryffindor bravery; he both loathes and loves it.

She wouldn’t be their Ginny without it.

He curls around them both after changing into his pyjamas - unlike Blaise who’d wiggled out of his jeans and t-shirt and kicked them off the bed. They help Ginny into one of her brother’s old shirts and Draco curls protectively around them both, tugging at Blaise’s hip to get him closer.

“Our little ladra is getting all grown-up with her own name and all. Next thing she’ll be dragging home boys and girls and drink until midnight and we’ll have to give her the talk,” Blaise says absently in a whisper and Draco chokes.

-

Harry doesn’t like losing control.

It is true that her mind isn’t right - she knows it. She has days she has to struggle to remember where she is and Nagini has caught her zoning out more than once. Buffing and prodding at her until she comes to and blinks down at her companion in confusion.

Nagini doesn’t like it - says it makes her taste like prey and sadness and always curls around her just a bit harder when they settle to rest.

She doesn’t know what it means. Is her mind broken? When did it happen? How did she go from spearing a sword through the mouth of a basilisk to struggling to remember half of her life?

It’s still there - she knows it is. She remember the face lurking beneath a purple turban, can still taste the despair on her tongue as hundreds of dementors circled from the sky to steal the soul of-

Her mind curls and she digs her fingers into her scalp with a whimper of confusion and pain.

She stares miserably out over the water and wishes she was only wolf - a real wolf. She stares down at her fleshy fur-free fingers and imagines grey dusted paws and black claws-

A scent burns past the rottenness of her thoughts and she spins around as a branch is politely broken to herald the arrival of the other.

Fury burns in the depth of her chest at the sight of the other wolf and she heaves herself up the stone with a growl. “You not welcome here!” Her voice comes out gravelly with promise of pain. This is her and Nagini’s home! How dare he - another wolf - just waltz in on her territory?

But Fenrir isn’t rising to the challenge - he thumps down, pants meeting damp ground as he stretches out with his palms flat against the ground behind him. Like a wolf baring its throat and belly.

Her lips curl back slowly, puzzled as the dark rumble in her chest dies out.

Because Fenrir is wolf - just like her - and he knows the cues in her body language - can read the provocation posed from the very tips of her toes to the glimmer in her eyes - but he’s not rising to it, instead there’s just trust and a daring sort of tilt to his chin.

She cocks her head, brow furrowing as she presses forward, crouching with one hand settling on his thigh, the other between the v of his legs and opens her mouth, slowly, cautiously, to press her teeth against the soft tissue of his throat.

She tenses as he moves but it’s only to nuzzle her neck and - oh - she goes limp in his grip, her wolf settled, and she curls into his lap. His laugh is a rumble inside a heavy chest and she presses her ear to soak it up.

“Your scent is practically soaked into the ground.” Fenrir says approvingly. “It is a good claim - close to both water and with a good spread of wildlife and healthy vegetation.” The clear appreciation does something for the wolf in her and it preens at the approval of another Alpha and she twists her neck to give his chin a lick. “I hope you won’t be opposed to the idea of sharing hunting grounds for a couple of weeks?”

Harry blinks up at him.

“We’ve been forced to temporarily relocate,” he tells her and presses his thumb against the flat of her nose. “Alpha was kind enough to offer the grounds for our use. There was a bit anxiety when the other’s caught your scent - you smell like quite the heady combination of big snake and wolf wrapped with the electric sort of sting of your magic,” he explains as her brows wrinkle. “I doubt Alpha would approve if I challenged you to the rights of your home when we’ll be gone in a couple of weeks.” There’s a sardonic sort of taste to his words, lips pulling back to show impressive teeth, almost as sharp as her own. “He is clever, Alpha, but he is human. I very much doubt he understands that your grounds is more than just a space to sleep.”

That he’d given his approval to challenge you and I’m playing nice, is implied but not said and Harry paws absently at the rough fabric of the jeans the other wears.

And then she stills because Fenrir was acknowledging her as a fellow Alpha under the rule of Prime Alpha.

The last time they met Fenrir had treated her like a pup but that had been off their lands, just between the two of them. And she was a pup - young and inexperienced. One didn’t exclude the other.

Fenrir doesn’t need to ask for permission. He is stronger, more experienced, he could have easily taken the lands. It would have angered Nagini but Harry doubt Tom would allow his familiar to kill one of his most trusted Death Eaters over a spat of who got to hunt where and Nagini would listen to him.

Fenrir was acknowledging her as Alpha.

And she preens at the knowledge. The honour of being recognised by someone like Fenrir who is older and wired thick with muscles and easily towering over her. An Alpha in his prime.

The Alpha acknowledged by the Dark Lord himself.

If Nagini was there she would have been furious to the very idea but Nagini is in Hungary with Tom and will be for weeks. And Fenrir had come to her. Wolf to wolf.

“We share,” she said decisively. “There is food aplenty.”

Fenrir nuzzles her neck and she tilts her head instinctively, allows fangs and tongue against the skin and feels something curl low and warm in her stomach as the man rumbles in approval, folding over her, a heavy palm flat against her stomach and legs drawing up to enfold her in his embrace. The smell of musk, of earth and wolf is encompassing, drowning out all else as he laps at her pulse point.

Her world narrows on the feeling and she squirms with a whine.

His laugh is warm and thick with pleasure as he draws back, giving her a scratchy nuzzle, his chin prickly with scruff. “Have you ever hunted with other wolves?” Harry is acutely aware of his hand low on her stomach, the warm air of his breath passing hardening nipples, his chin on her shoulder as she quivers.

She shakes her head.

He hums and Harry swallows a gasp of something and she becomes acutely aware of her own nakedness against the other’s clothed form. “You should join us the next moon.” He gives a last nip to her throat before slowly extracting himself from her and Harry bounces up, flustered and not understanding why as he rises to his full height.

There’s something sinful about the mixture of wolf-not-wolf in his movements and Harry has the absurd urge to reach out and touch.

“The other’s are all curious to meet you so you’re welcome to stop by. Might ease them a bit,” he offers.

And then he’s gone and Harry is left standing on her own by the water, her breath a quiver.

-

Harry spends about three weeks tracing the territory the werewolves had hallowed for themselves. It’s quite near her own tree and home but at a polite enough distance that they don’t cross paths unless Harry actively goes out of her way to meet them.

They swim at her lake and Harry watches and she feels… curious.

Frightened.

But curious all the same.

They’re a big pack and the first time she catches sight of more than ten of them at once she’s back at her camp, heart pounding and head static with panic. How could she have allowed this!? Humans? Here? She wants them gone and she nearly gags on the violent turn her mind makes, her vision flashing red.

She hunts until she’s bloated and sick and half asleep on-top of a dead bear.

She sleeps badly, mind awhirl, and she feels like she’s being watched constantly. She knows no-one is there - scents doesn’t lie and she traces her territory until she’s almost mad. Then she plants her rump on the ground and tries to get a hold of her mind that’s threatening to split unless she gets herself under control.

She wishes, miserably, for Nagini.

Fenrir doesn’t stop by. Rationally she knows that he’s waiting for her to come to him. He’d issued an invite and she’d made it very clear that she didn’t enjoy other’s on her territory. Had been ready to tear his throat out for the slight and she liked Fenrir.

And his pack is on her grounds, on the edges but still there and as the moon gets closer to a full circle she knows that it’s just a matter of time before they’ll tear right through it in their hunt as wolves.

The thought both terrifies and exhilarates her.

Wolves aren’t native in these forests. There are bear and wolverines and everything from small critters to birds of prey with enormous wingspans and orange furred foxes with black socked feet. But not wolves. Harry has never met a wolf as a wolf and werewolves are still human-wolves. Humans who, against their will, turns into wolves.

She remembers a man who hated his wolf and she wonders, bitterly, if Fenrir’s wolves are like that, too.

In the end she stalks around until she’s reasonably sure Fenrir is somewhat at the edge, probably at a good spot to keep an eye on his pack, before she daringly creeps up behind him. She breaks a pin, just like he had and he doesn’t even glance back, patting the ground beside him.

“About time,” he says gruffly and Harry seats herself, tense and awkward as several eyes swivel in her direction.

She opens her mouth, lips pulling back in the beginning of a snarl only to yelp as Fenrir reaches out and snags her by the neck, manhandling her until she’s on her back in his lap, her head against his stomach and paws in the air. She squirms and he rumbles as he reaches down and scratches her chest and oh.

Fenrir has magic fingers, she decides.

She tenses each time one of Fenrir’s pack ventures too close and only relaxes once Fenrir has scratched her into submission. But they never venture closer than a good few meters and Harry slowly begins to relax into the older wolf’s lap even if she never once closes her eyes.

Fenrir glances down at her occasionally but for most part he’s a quiet watcher, occasionally calling out something to one of the other werewolves passing by.

She’s a mess of anxiety as the night falls and Fenrir paws down an ear with a gentle thumb. “They won’t hurt you, pup.” His voice is gruff and scratchy and Harry presses closer, soaking up his presence as if it could ward off the world.

Family isn’t supposed to hurt you, she wants to say.

Friends aren’t supposed to abandon you to die broken and pleading, her mind whispers.

He was supposed to protect me, her heart whispered with a sob.

The scar around her eye remains as ugly and visible in her wolf form as it does in her human form and he strokes a scarred thumb over its edges. Tracing it. Memorising it by touch alone.

“I wish I knew who hurt you,” he tells her and she stares at him. “I would kill them in a heartbeat.” He bares his teeth in a snarl and Harry feels her breath catch in her throat. He snorts at her. “Don’t look so surprised.” He bends down and bump his nose against hers. “You’re a good kid. A bit banged up but good.”

-

Fenrir likes the pup, he admits it.

Meeting her in full panic mode had tugged at something inside of him. It odds with his instincts that simultaneously identifies her as Alpha and Pup and settles into a need to keep her close, to enfold her and keep her safe. Even now, in his arms, he tastes the bitter anxiety and fear that practically reeks from her.

It’s so different from the snarling woman who challenged him for entering her territory. Who had curled her toes, headless to her nudity and fully prepared to tear his throat out from where he stood.

When she had curled in his lap and so trustingly tilted her throat in submission his inner wolf had been so pleased that his eyes had lidded and he hadn’t been able to help himself, tasting sweat-stained skin.

He’d pulled away the moment he caught scent of her arousal. He doubted she’d been aware of the small little gasping breaths she’d been making, pupils blown wide and one hand clutching the space on her stomach where his hand had rested.

He hadn’t meant to trigger it, doubted she had any idea what it meant, but knowing it wasn’t right conflicted with how pleased he was that she’d trusted him enough to feel aroused in the first place.

 

Wolves were instinctual creatures and Fenrir and his wolf are one. There were none in his pack so closely entwined with their creature. Some of them still struggled to accept the pain that came with their transformations, edged with the bitterness that the moon had stolen away their ability to live normal everyday lives.

But the woman in his lap - she was more wolf than human. Head cocking, claws scratching, fangs peeking past thin lips and yellow eyes alight with a feral sort of wildness that was so much like his own.

And the wolf inside of her looks at him, saw a fellow wolf, and then trusted it.

She’d suffered terribly and it had broken something inside of her but she is still standing, tall-backed and growing with confidence. There was a glow in her eyes that was challenging the fear inside of her it had made him stop and think fellow Alpha when he had meant to simply inform the errant pup under his Alpha’s protection that his pack would be living near her.

Her movements are all wolf and it appeals to the primal parts of him – makes him step back and re-evaluate the situation before baring his throat; interested to see just how tightly entwined she was with her beast.

And she hadn’t disappointed.

All prowling crawl and savage beauty.

There was nothing sexy about a anxious puppy wolf ensnared by her own demons - but that woman? She who had challenged the beast inside of him?

He was interested to see just what she’d become under his Alpha.

Chapter Text

Not all werewolves are like Fenrir.

Harry had acknowledged that in the abstract sort of no two people are the same kind of way. Not in the most werewolves are actually content to play human all days but that one under the moon sort of way.

It odds with the fact that they were living in a forest under the rule of one of the most ruthless werewolf Alphas in existence. But they were all Death Eaters fighting to get better laws for their kin - the end goal of going back to live together in society with humans.

So maybe not so strange for humans who were not wolf, only carried one.

The majority of them are adults, forty and up. The prime in werewolf society. There are a total of three children - twin girls and a grouchy boy around fifteen who looked like he’d bitten into a rotten apple. A handful edges around the early twenties to their thirties and contained the packs only mated pair.

It was Fenrir who points it out, amused, as she tracks the two - sniffing the air with a sense of bemusement.

“They smell like one,” Harry acknowledged, a bit grudgingly.

It’s different from the way the smell of Draco entwined with Blaise and Ginny. More like one person separated into two, very little actually differing between them.

Most werewolf get together like humans - ring and all. One in a thousand shared a mark and were officially recognised as mated as opposed to partners. Some did both.

She’s lounging around in her human, wearing one of Fenrir’s shirts and boxers, fiddling with a strange colourful cube she’d been offered with a wink from the oldest in the pack. It was supposed to be aligned with the same colour on each side, he claimed.

It was turning out to be harder than she’d expected and she is aware of Fenrir’s increasing amusement as she got progressively more annoyed by it.

“There are those in the muggle world that can do that in seconds,” the werewolf drawls.

Harry shoots him a baleful look.

It is the day of the full moon and the sun hasn’t even reached its highest point in the sky. But there is an edge to the werewolves milling around, an increase in temper and awareness. Even Fenrir sits straighter - clear anticipation rolling through him.

It was a heady sort of feeling that made her want to be wolf - to feel the dirt beneath her paws and air ruffling through her fur. But she is determined to change with the others - to become wolf as the moon rises full and heavy above them.

She glances up at the sound of footsteps.

She is seated a stone throw away from Fenrir to allow herself his company while not having to interact with the members that came and went, seeking advice and conversation with their Alpha. Mostly she ignores them but -

Harry lifts her head to sniff the odd duo of smell that should have been opposite and unattractive together but instead intermingled into something guardedly heady. Hot sand and ink weaving with a smell that makes Harry think of wild flowers and paint.

It is the first time Harry sees them properly and not at a distance and her nose flares.

They stand at the same height but there the resemblance ends.

His hair is long and tied back, pale red, his eyes blue. Someone had swiped claws down his face, disfiguring the skin and dipping the corner of his mouth into a perpetual frown that looked odd beside the upward pull of the other side. His skin is dark from the sun and the combination of old worn band shirt and jeans coupled with the slouch of his shoulders made Harry, oddly, think of the large commercial posters she used to see at bus stops.

The girl is slender and the dress she wears flares around her ankles. Her hair is so pale that Harry wonders about the colour of her wolf; if the moon would catch and glow in her fur and whether her eyes would glow amber or the pale blue that tilts to meet her own. Earrings in the form of radishes dangled in her ears and one pale shoulder under thin straps were brutalized by the fanged mouth that had claimed and turned her.

Harry doesn’t even realize that she has stopped fiddling with the cube, eyes locked with eerie blue as the other smiles gently at her. “Hello there.” Her voice is soft like air and bells and Harry finds herself entranced.

Fenrir smirks in amusement. “Little Wolf - Lis,” he corrects, “this is Luna and her mate, Bill.”

Luna steps towards her on dirty soles and holds out her hand, palm up. Harry leans automatically towards it only to remember half-way a memory of palm-to-palm, a shake, and makes an aborted gesture to draw back when a hand gently catches her chin in a firm but kind grip.

Harry stills in surprise, ears twitching, nose flaring at the scent that washes over her.

She knows - abstractly - that women are expected to bleed.

She wasn’t deaf to commercials and late night whispers in the sleeping quarters as she pretended to be dead to the world, ears aflame as she curls her legs against her chest and touches her fingers to her nether lips and chewing the inside of her cheek raw in anxiety because is nothing right with me?

 

She thinks of the house cures for cramps and potions to stop the bleeding for months at a time that remained untouched and hidden in her trunk. Remembers the flock of girls from varied houses that had closed around a crying Slytherin with blood stained skirt and yelled at the laughing boys until their faces were aflame and Harry was left staring from her perch on the tree by the lake with a strange feeling in her chest.

Fenrir’s pack is more female than male and the smell of blood is underlying. She’d attributed it to wounds - at first - but it had been less cloying, intermingling with the smells she’d come to associate with both herself and Narcissa.

It had taken has an embarrassing amount of days to make the connection.

And the girl - she’s bleeding and Harry draws a curious breath even as she curls her toes in the earth.

Because it's a heady smell - wild.

“You have suffered,” Luna’s voice is gentle, a wisp, without particular emotional inflection, “I’m sorry.”

Harry’s brow furrows. “It is not your fault,” she says, working her tongue around the words, bemused.

Luna’s smile is kind, Harry thinks and it makes her fiddle even as she simultaneously wishes to draw away.

“You’re running with us werewolves tonight.” Fenrir’s eyes flickered momentarily to the moon before settling back to her. “Bill and Luna here volunteered to stay by your side to make sure no-one gets too rough with you.”

Her anger rears. “I do not need keeper!” she snaps, spine straightening.

“You are a wolf on my lands and my pack.” Fenrir doesn’t snarl but his eyes darkened with gold and warning.

Harry’s fingers curled but she averted her eyes in the truth of it.

A heavy hand settles on her shoulder and pulls her back against a strong chest, shifting to hold her there as he bends his head to nuzzle her neck. Harry grudgingly bares her throat, allowing the older Alpha to nip at the skin.

Harry realizes that Bill was watching her in interest while Luna had politely averted her eyes. Harry bares her teeth soundlessly.

The redhead smiled at her in response.

“Don’t worry Lis,” Bill says. “We don’t bite.” He winks.

But I do, Harry thinks rebelliously.

-

The moon reaches its highest point at midnight and that’s when it triggers the transformation from human skin to wolf. Bones breaking, shifting and rearranging as screams turns to howls and necks tilts to the moon.

Harry slips into her wolf form at the first crack of bones and is entranced as naked bodies gains fur, their back curving and flat teeth spilling to the ground as they were replaced by long needle sharp ones that gleamed in the moon’s light.

The smoothest transformation was without doubt Fenrir’s. He rose, far taller than his human self, with bulging muscles and a rich silver fur from which his eyes shone with a wild sort of freedom.

Luna and Bill had been equal at height and that remained even as wolves – both as wildly furry and broadened by muscles. But where Bill’s fur turn from a bright red to a mattered auburn Luna’s remain the colour of the moon and the radish earing in her left ear contrast against it.

It is breathtaking and Harry feels her heartbeat speeding up.

Some coats are spotted, a stripe of white fur against red, black against white, but the majority of them is some shade of brown or grey.

Fenrir’s fur is the finest and healthiest of the lot and it is easy to understand how he’d gained fame as Tom’s Alpha. Harry remembers only seeing one werewolf before and it had been weak and bony, barely a shade of what it was supposed to be, she realises as she looks around her.

But these men and women?

She feels the magic inside of her stir and rise – yellow eyes darkening into golden.

Harry steps forward, her shape rippling as she grows larger still.

Her coat had always been that of a grey wolf in winter – unchanging from her first turning. But now it grew sparser, shortening against her legs and body as she lost the winter fur and stepped into her summer coat, claws digging into the ground as her body cracked and grew.

She grows until she is the size of a horse – nearly eye to eye with Fenrir on his hind legs and her with all four paws on the ground.

Fenrir’s head tilts to acknowledge her as she steps forward and up beside him, as an equal. Bill and Luna’s wolves remain somewhere behind her as the moon sings through her, thrumming a song as ancient as time to the wolf that she was and the wolves around her.

Fenrir and Harry raises their snouts to the moon and howls as one.

-

Harry wakes up next to a nude Fenrir knowing that something has changed but unable to put her finger on what.

Her magic feels fuller, broader, and it's making her skin itch. The last of the Moon is releasing its claws on her and her memories are fuzzy.

She looks down a Fenrir - remembers running shoulder to shoulder with him. Her, an Alpha on his territory with his pack.

It shouldn't have been possible.

The rest of the pack is sleeping around them and Harry feels strangely and suddenly claustrophobic.

She climbs to her feet, stumbling at the vertigo of standing on two legs and not four.

Leaves humans and emotions behind her as she turns wolf.

-

One friend lying forgotten on a ground of black and white by the crown that proclaimed his dominion of chess. Eleven years old and already conquering.

The other stand before her, pale despite the darkness of her skin, and there’s trust in her eyes, her soul, as she holds out the bottle with only a single sip to take one of them through the flames.

“Harry – you’re a great witch, you know.”

“Harry – you’re a murderer, you know.”

And the eyes beneath her are blown wide with fear and agony as his skin burns and crumbles beneath her hands and there’s an old man chewing earwax and telling her it had been her right-

Harry wakes with a violent shudder that wrecks her body and a gasp swallowed in the depth of her throat. There’s dew clinging to her skin and she wipes crust from her eyes with the bottom of her palm as she hoists herself into a sitting position and stares out at her clearing.

It’s green and golden from moss and straws with swaying insects and a large spider net carefully woven between a growing bush and a tall young tree with a flutter of leaves. There’s a pile of ash where she’d cleared her space to cook and a trunk fit for two on two sides of it – one to sit and one to lean what remained of her ill-begotten things she’d stolen so many years ago. Two bottles of coca cola, the saw, her now useless zippo and the too-large boots that had split from overuse and gaped like two hungry mouths.

There’s the scratch-scratch of moving insects and burrowing animals, the flutter in the breeze and call of the birds above her. Beneath her the ground is damp and the stone Nagini helped her chose is cool against her bare hip.

She stares down at her hands resting in a lap of naked legs. Nails thick and sturdy but darkened by the dirt that inevitably makes its way beneath them. The fingers long and nimble, strong, the skin rough and sturdy.

The hands in her dream had been small and pale from a life in a cupboard with a stomach that never stopped hurting from hunger and ate desperately at the reserves of her body to stave it.

She becomes wolf, hands to paws, and loops her way towards the mansion.

-

There’s a reek of madness and a humming from dining room.

Broken china and a vase of dead flowers dripping water onto a leather covered chair and a hand covered in blood held up before the figure sprawled out her back on the walnut table.

A black dress with heavy skirts and a bodice pulled tight – boots lazed all the way to the knee.

“If it isn’t my little birdie!” The words are gleeful but the tone fluctuates and eyes that are neither there nor here drops towards her, blown wide with a brokenness that are as deliberate as it’s cruel. “Come here.” She pats her stomach.

Harry hesitates but then she’s moving, using an upturned chair to hoist herself up, claws clicking against wood as she loom above the other.

“I can hear you, you know?” Bellatrix reaches out with spidery fingers to touch her snout and Harry dips closer, allowing the surprisingly soft pads of the other stroke over the fine hairs, following the motion up to the coarser fur and twitching ears. “But it’s muted like this.” And there’s something raw in the way she says it that makes Harry press closer, feeling kinship without understanding.

“I have a cousin like you,” her eyes drifted, far away, in memory or exhaustion Harry couldn’t tell. “Thought he was so clever trying to keep it hidden – as if he could.” She snorts. “Always too loud.”

Tell me about him Harry thinks firmly and Bellatrix’s eyes flickers with momentary surprise.

Harry presses a paw against black skirts, finding the v of her spread legs and makes a show of sprawling out, resting her chin on the woman’s pelvis - expectantly peering up.

-

Rodolphus had always been the more rational of the twins while Rabastan had been like neither of their parents and outgoing in a way that was very unlike dark families and their often strict rules and expectations. He had been a force to be reckoned with and while it had mellowed as they aged the steady confidence and way of thinking outside the box had settled into a certain sort of charisma that made him popular among the other Ministry workers.

He had never been that. He was content by his brother’s side – had good grades and a promising future. He was the oldest, the one expected to carry on the Lestrange name and make their parents proud, and he had accepted it with a resolution not to fail them.

Rodolphus had married young to a girl of his parents choosing and neither of them had held any illusions to what it actually was.

Bellatrix was a devout follower of the Dark Lord – rising to become one of his best, one of his closest. She had no interest in taking care of their home or raising children and Rodolphus decided that being the best husband he could be meant supporting her every step of the way.

The Dark Lord would revolutionize the world and he, Rodolphus, would be able to tell anyone who asked that his wife had been one of his most trusted, a driving force in making the world much better than it was.

The brightest witch of their age, Rab had fondly called her.

And then Halloween 1980 happened and his world had crumbled around him.

He was thrown into prison along with his wife and brother and would spend years watching them both fracture – despairing and starving, robbed of their happy memories and locked away. Forgotten.

Nursing the flickering flame of hope in his chest – a prayer for his Lord’s return – he’d been unable to do anything as madness ravaged his wife and depression ate his brother.

It had barely gone a month of the whispered news before bricks shattered and He stepped into the hallway of their prison with Lucius and Severus by his side, wands drawn, just like it had always been, and red eyes alight with fury at their fates.

Fourteen years of waiting. Rewarded.

Most of them had been too weak to move – lifted by friends and strangers, swaddled in waiting cloaks to carry them back to land. Amycus Carrow had been the one to lift him up, her brother easily hoisting the bony form of his brother.

And the Dark Lord himself had kneeled to lift his wife into his arms.

You could take the prisoner out of Azkaban but never Azkaban out of the prisoner, was the saying.

Reality was cruel.

Rodolphus had fared perhaps the best – his wife the worst. He would have given anything in the world to get her back instead of the broken shell that remained. He hears the whispers of the other Death Eaters – that the only kindness that remained to be gifted her was a chance to die in the service of her Lord.

At his lowest points, after clutching the wretched, screaming shell of his wife for hours, he agrees and it shames him to the core of his magic.

Rabastan tells him that healing takes time – that there’s still a chance.

Rodolphus reads the newspapers, sees the aging creases creep from their greatest foe, and feels the proverbial noose tighten around his throat.

Tick

Tock

Tick

Tock

His impatience had for once exploded out on his wife and it is wild eyed and panting he stumbles into the Malfoy mansion after hours of searching.

Neither Narcissa nor Lucius are home, he knows they’re with the Dark Lord, but his Bella – she forgets things. Mixes and weaves until madness makes sense.

She wouldn’t have known.

He wipes soot from his face with impatience, strains the last of the wards politely holding back family and friends from entering during the house owners absence with a furious tug of his shoulder and stumbles, swearing beneath his breath –

Stills.

His wife is there and he’s strangely reminded of that first night a year after they had first been introduced to be bound as husband and wife. Sprawled out under the oak on Hogwarts grounds, panting and grinning as wildly as her – feeling just as daring. Sees the hound that is Bellatrix’s cousin in her mind’s eye, dangling back to back in rope with the gangly stag that had turned out to be James Potter and their little rat friend swinging from a rope in the antlers like a demented lamp belching balls of light.

It had stolen a laugh from him that had made him blink in surprise and she’d twisted to look down at him. There had been something soft in her eyes that he’d glimpsed rarely in their marriage and then never after the war.

It isn’t the same.

But it’s what he’s reminded off as he stares at his wife whose eyes are focused and curious. She’s sitting cross-legged, a naked teenager curled up against her chest, breathing softly. They have the same black hair, the same gangly body Bellatrix had worn in her youth before she filled out.

They could have been mother and daughter.

But there’s also a wrongness to her and the skin is twisted and snarled, thickened by scars down her back and chest, roping over an arm and mixing with smaller ones. The ear amidst short shorn hair is pointed and there’s a flatness in her face that’s more animal than human.

Rodolphus steps closer, tries to see what has his wife locked in place.

Sees –

A burn scar. Mottled and pink, puckered and veiny where the flame had gone high and deep.

It takes him a moment to realize just what she’s tracing and he feels ice go down his spine as he follow the jagged path, sees the flame of irritation blossoming as the girl’s brows scrunches in her sleep, hands curling and eyes darting beneath her eyelids.

“Darling,” she hasn’t called him that in years and Rodolphus can’t move as Bellatrix raises her eyes to him, a clarity in her dark eyes that is as unfamiliar as it’s eerie. “I think I found Harry Potter.”

Chapter Text

Rodolphus studies his wife.

She’s humming something he doesn’t recognise. It’s a choppy tune, as if unfinished, or perhaps a haphazard mixture of bits of everything. It circles back to a low hum every now and then and he winces as she throws another book over her shoulder with a sharp click of her tongue.

They’re on the upper level in the hidden library through the invisible door in Narcissa and Lucius bedroom.

He feels like he’s trespassing but he doubts that leaving his wife to her own devices it a good idea.

He resists the urge to rub his arms.

Both Malfoy’s are notoriously defensive about their manor and not even the entirety of the Inner Circle has access to it. The Dark Lord had never demanded it and neither Malfoy was about to relinquish a free pass.

Rodolphus has an allowance, which is why he survived going through the wards, as his wife is the sister of the Lady of the House and he knows they’re not going to be happy with them for raiding their library. Or rather, with him for not making an attempt to stop his wife.

But down below Harry Potter is asleep on the table, nude. The lightning bolt shaped scar that had made her so famous had blossomed under their eyes when she’d dreamt and then faded as she grew less restless.

As if it had never been there.

Rodolphus doesn’t know what to do with the information.

Does the Dark Lord already know? What about Lucius and Narcissa? Snape?

He rubs at his jaw, feeling the stubble growing there and absently noting that he needs to shave.

He wasn’t sure what his wife had seen in the child that he had not but it made him clammy not to know and she hadn’t spoken a word since she put a name to the girl.

The girl.

He blew noisily through his nose.

He had only seen her pictures in the newspapers. The last photo of her at fourteen – a small thing with a tangle of long black hair and frighteningly owl like despite the determination in her eyes. It was one of the many photos taken during the Triwizard Tournament – after that, she had been dead.

Only not dead, it turned out. Just missing.

Asleep in the lap of Bellatrix Lestrange.

He can practically feel his headache growing by the minute.

His Bella would never keep this from the Dark Lord and Rodolphus wasn’t about to do anything of the sort either so at least they were on the same page. But he very much doubted that walking up to his Lord and proclaiming that the wolf-girl he’d been harbouring under his protection was the child who’d killed him almost twenty years ago would end well.

He frowns.

Half of him hates the girl – wants to kill her. Wants to hurt her.

If it hadn’t been for her they never would have gone to prison. His wife wouldn’t have gone mad. His brother’s smile wouldn’t be as hollow. Fourteen years in Azkaban, all because of a child.

She had cost him everything.

“Bella?” She doesn’t look up but her head tilts in acknowledgement of his tone. “Shouldn’t we do something with her? What if she leaves?”

“That little birdie has her wings clipped.” Bellatrix tilts her head back to peer at him with black eyes. “Knotted down and tied up.”

“Even a wingless bird will attempt to run.” He hesitates, then step inside. “We need to tell the Dark Lord.”

“He doesn’t want to know.”

Rodolphus pauses at her tone.

“What do you mean he doesn’t want to know?” It came out sharper than he meant to and he bites down on his tongue. But Bellatrix doesn’t seem to have noticed and there was an eerie mechanicalness to her as she picked up a new book after discarding another one.

“He likes it.” Bellatrix drums her fingers against her knee. “Not knowing. Means she’s just his and Nagini’s. Knowing who she is would ruin it.” Her speech is clearer than she usually is, lacking riddles and Rodolphus struggles with what to do. “At least right now.”

“He can’t just not know. We need to tell him!”

“And we will. She will.” Bellatrix is tapping her fingers in a familiar rhythm now, counting the letters in the words as she says them. “Not today.” She stops on her ring-finger and he knows from experience that it meant she had to add more. It had to end on her thumb. “Just not today.” This time she pauses on her thumb, twitching.

Visibly struggled with herself as she drags sharp dark eyes to dig into his own. “He’s the Dark Lord. He knows. He just doesn’t know. But we’ll prepare for the day that he does.” It stills on the thumb again and he swallows back the bubble of questions rising inside of him.

Because her focus is evaporation – gaze slipping and she’s tracing something on the floor, visibly slowing down. Her mind tumbling away from her grasp like sand running through fingers.

Rodolphus feels the anxiety in his chest – the loss of control egging what is already there. He knows he’ll sleep badly tonight. Maybe none at all.

He’s getting used to it. Not sleeping. Hadn’t slept much in Azkaban to begin with. Learns to function through the muddy exhaustion that slows his every move.

But it’s tiring.

Getting out of bed. Functioning.

Like there’s a giant gaping wound in his chest.

Flash before my eyes, now it’s time to die,” the same disjointed rhythmic humming, words wobbling as she forms them – as if forgotten mid-word and awkwardly found to finish it. “Burning in my brain, I can feel the flames. 

-

Bellatrix waits until her husband leaves.

Counts the silence that settles over her.

Harry Lily Potter.

Oh, she swallows the saliva that builds inside her mouth as the physical satisfaction settles over her in a response to the mental one. She had seen her Lord suffer from the loss – his greatest foe succumbing to violence in the hands of the family that were supposed to protect her from him under the machinations of the Goat.

Her Lord had seen himself in the girl. A fellow parseltongue, the same kind of childhood – there were even physical similarities.

Kinship.

”And the Dark Lord will mark them as their equal,” Severus had whispered that night many years ago.

It all came down to the scar.

Bellatrix hears every whisper, every thought flashing through the minds of others – it claws at her – demands attention. Filthy secrets pounding like the heart of a jackrabbit, trying to hide from her. But it’s impossible. Trying to not think of something only entices it. Makes it grow.

She hears her husband – even when he doesn’t mean to. It’s not his fault.

She digs her nail against the wood, gouging the lightning bolt she’s been tracing even deeper.

The scar.

It had whispered. Inflamed and reaching out for kin – sharing in hopes of finding.

It was ancient magic. Dark. Familiar. Like meeting an old lover in a dark room and recognising them from the press of their lips.

 

She’s a Black – the oldest, darkest family in all of Britain. One of the oldest in the world.

Her Lord had found the answer to immortality and she has a part of his soul hidden in the depths of her vault, safe.

She knows exactly what was hidden in that scar and what it means.

For her Lord.

For the world.

She pauses, considers. Nail resting at the top of the scar.

There is value in names.

The name Lord Voldemort had become synonymous with the monster under the bed and an avenging creature in the night, as terrifying as he was marvellous. Marvolo Gaunt exchanged in conversation with reverence and envy – lust and hate.

Harry Potter. Little Wolf. Lis. Ignis.

What she has was, what she is, what she can be, a promise.

The wood burns beneath her finger – charring it.

-

Harry scrubs her tongue against her arm to ride off the phantom sensation of hair going down her gullet. Shakes her head off the last traces of the vision and touches the fading burn of her scar. She’d followed Nagini on a hunt for a Hungarian Minister who’d done the mistake of attempting to humiliate the Dark Lord. The woman had instead ended up snake food.

The lingering sense of satisfaction fades slowly as she becomes aware of the world around her.

She’s on the dining table, nude and human. There’s an itch in her body – as if something inside of her is too big to be contained by the flesh she wears. Flexes her fingers.

Contemplates.

She knows werewolves are creatures of the Moon. Their curse linked their magic in a way that was beyond any other creature. There were none whose transformation was so violent and complete – robbing them of their very minds. Even vampires, ensnared in the deepest of bloodlust, regained an awareness.

It didn’t mean that could stop themselves.

Self-preservation overruling conscience.

But werewolves weren’t even given a chance. Being werewolf meant giving in to the most basic of instincts with a following euphoria that came from total and utter freedom. It could be as addicting as terrifying. Waking up only with that feeling – an awareness of one’s own capabilities.

No man imagined themselves capable of murder until it has been committed, it is said.

Being werewolf was baring oneself to that very capability over and over again. It meant that emotions tripled under the moon, taking physical shape with the transformation. A depressed wolf might turn up ragged and malnourished. A self-conscious wolf limp furred and indistinctive.

Harry wiggles her fingers – imagines mighty paws, three times the size of what they were supposed to be. Shudders and rolls onto her side to peer out the large windows overlooking the gardens.

Harry remembers the parchment on werewolves they had to write under Snape in her third year. There’d been a large part dedicated to speculations about werewolf origins.

As is common in history and myth it was often speculated that a woman had been somehow the one to blame – as was the moon often depicted to be of the female gender as a carrier of a grudge.

She’d lingered on the part that spoke about the moon turning human to find love to curb her loneliness. The moon had found love with a man who’d slighted her and ultimately resulted in the curse. That once every moon werewolves rose their snouts to the moon to sing his apology and beg for her forgiveness.

Another had been about a woman laying with a wolf and birthing that which would spread the curse through a bite. A third of a child who had fed from the teats of a wolf and believed himself wolf to the point that he turned wolf.

A popular origin story for the animagus transformation too, as it were.

But it was it always came back to the common wolf.

Werewolf magic had felt like something bubbling and spreading but also familiar. Like a demanding child tugging at one’s coat tails for attention and with it the accompanying feeling of stretching cramped limbs when she went from human to wolf.

And her magic had recognised it.

Supressed and bound and hardly used for more than heating rocks and making fires, it had reached out for that promised freedom. Had lapped up the call of the moon and made it her own.

She had grown as the wolves had – only larger, influenced by the earthy werewolf magic already crawling through the area and her own suppressed reserves. And now it was buzzing – once again contained in her body and unhappy with her for holding it down.

She closes her fist, opens it, and her magic jumps - pain exploding briefly as human nails cluttered to the table, replaced by black claws.

It was smooth – too smooth. As if the werewolf magic had loosened a block inside of her that she hadn’t even been aware of.

She gnaws on the inside of her cheek.

Fenrir should have killed her. There was nothing natural about two Alphas looping side-by-side as they had. Not as bound by their instincts as they were – he even more than herself.

But Harry recognised Fenrir as fellow wolf. It draws her to him even as something inside of her screams. But she doesn’t trust him – barely knows him. Interest and curiosity, recognising that he awakens something strange in her, is not confidence in him not harming her. Quite the opposite.

She knows Fenrir can and will hurt her if challenged and she will do the same.

Wolf tangling with wolf.

It’s an instinct and response that she understands. Craves. A recognition of her base drive.

Harry pressed her palms against her eyes. Quivering.

She knows that there’s something wrong with her. In her mind. Like a puzzle lacking the proper pieces to finish the whole picture. But she’s not stupid.

Fenrir is Alpha. But he’s not just any Alpha.

He’s the Alpha of the Dark Lord.

And last night Harry had run with him as an equal.

-

“Pick a card.”

“George-“

“A card, dear brother of mine.” The twin spreads them enticingly, lip quirked at the corner. He is half-dangling of the bannister above by the knees, a foot neatly hooked with a neat bit of magic to keep him from falling.

“He’s not going to do it.” Fred pops up from the basement cellar, ruffling dust from his hair. “He’s much too important to do measly little tricks with us.” He winks, throwing a bottle of golden liquid up and down in the palm of his hand.

Ron’s eyes focuses on the bottle before darting back to George who wiggles his eyebrows.

“The Herald is expecting me back before nightfall,” is what he says, reaching out and picking a card. It’s snatched out of his hand before he can get a proper look at it and he rolls his eyes. “Has the shipment arrived?” He turns to Fred, stepping neatly past his dangling brother.

“You know us, always on time!” George drops to the ground with a thud of his boots. “Or at least, mostly on time,” he corrects, flipping the card around to show an old man with white beard and a lantern in his hand. “Something you wish to share, Mr Hermit?”

Fred perks up, turning to peer at the card. “An old man carrying the lamp of truth – sounds familiar.” He pretends to grow thoughtful. “A guiding light in society…”

Ron took the card as Fred expectantly offered it to him. “I didn’t come her for cards.” He shoves it into the inner pocket of his coat.

The twins share a look.

“We are your brothers-“

“-so we’re not going to ask what it is for.” George presses three fingers and a puff of magic against the sealed compartment and Fred reaches over him to pull out a small deceptively innocent looking box.

He holds it up to eye level, as if squinting at it would bring deeper understanding. “You are aware of what exactly you’ve got here, don’t you brother?”

Ron’s hand tightens, leather gloves creaking. “I am not a fool.”

Fred shrugs. “That at least we had to ask-”

“- we went out on a limb for you,” George adds.

The box is offered, eyes shadowed as Ron reaches out and slowly takes it. Red against white gloves. He carefully slides it into his inner pocket where it settles right over his heart.

“We don’t take sides,” Fred says finally, as Ron turns to leave. “Do not ask this of us again.”

Ron pauses, boots heavy against the floor.

Raises a hand on acknowledgement.

The bell above the door chimes when he leaves - the crowd quickly parting for his white clad figure.

George lets out a huff of breath as he leans his chin on his brother’s shoulder. “Nothing good will come of that.”

“Nothing good ever comes these days.” Fred lifts the bottle of liquid gold to his eye. “Even with a bit of luck.”

George huffs. “He took the card, at least.” He wraps his arms around his brother. “And to think he used to run screaming at the sight of spiders. Never would have imagined him as a front figure in this whole mess.” He slouches, putting all his weight on his twin.

Fred lifts a brow. “Growing sentimental there old Georgie boy?” He tugs at a lock of red brushing his cheek. “What would Mom say, hearing you reminiscing like an old man?”

“She’d roll in her grave,” George drawls. “Merlin knows she wanted us all far away from this war.”

Molly had spent her last days weeping at the kitchen table. Devastated over the loss of Percy, Bill’s disappearance, Ron’s unfaltering vehemence and Ginny withdrawing deeper and deeper into herself. I don’t know what to do, she’d cried into Arthur’s shoulder, unaware of the twins extended ears dangling just out of sight. This war is tearing us apart!.

Fred pockets the Felix Felicis with a snort. “Man, she would have kittens.”

“Ron the right hand of the right side-” George agrees.

“- Ginny cozying up to leader of the left side-“ Fred adds.

“-Bill a bonafide werewolf,” they finished in unison.

A pause.

“At least Ginny got someone.”

“Ginny’s got two someone’s and one happens to be the son of Dad’s sworn arch-enemy.” They exchange strained grins.

Fred shrugs off his brother who grunts but plants himself on a nearby desk instead.

They had closed the shop for the day, a mix of sounds ticking away around them. Puffskeins begging for food with squeaky peeps, plumes of smoke and smell drifting through the air as bubbles from the large self-winding machine at the front popped. Most of the stuff were in a chaotic kind of mess none but themselves could make sense of (to the horror of their only employee).

“Have you heard back from Collins yet?”

“That man is as easy to get to as shoving a cactus up someone’s arse,” Fred grouches.

“That’s a no then,” George snickers, kicking his feet. “I told you we should have gone the other route.”

“Kidnapping someone so far up the Ministry would get us more attention than we want.” Fred blew noisily through his nose. “Besides, I thought we were playing the neutral route?”

“More like balancing on a very thin rope.” George nabs a puffskein that goes from hungry peeps to aggressively snuffling his fingers for food. “With a sibling on each side of the war…”

Fred makes a noise of agreement. “Being a big brother is hard.”

“Exhausting.”

“Sapping.”

“Taxing.”

“Tiresome.”

They exchanged dramatic looks, identical grins on their faces, the shadows beneath their eyes dark.

“Speaking of – have you heard from Ginny lately?” George asks, scratching the puffskein that had settled to gnaw on the pad of his thumb in disappointment. “She’s been looking tired.”

“Oh yeah, here.” Fred digs through his pockets and pulls up an envelope. “Met Zabini at the Ministry,” he clarifies when George raises an eyebrow.

“At least something came out of it,” George says approvingly, opening it.

He scans it quickly (already decoded by his twin). It was short, which meant Ginny was either busy, distracted, worried or tired. Not unusual and considering the upswing in riots and speeches made by the right side as of late, unsurprising.

He raises an eyebrow. “Sounds like she might have some news on Bill. You think he joined Greyback then?” He glances up.

“Sounds like it.” Fred flickers through a book, closes it and throws it off to the side. “Think we can get hold of him for a visit?”

“We can try,” George affirms. “If there’s anything that’ll get him through this war its sheer cleverness. If he doesn’t want to be found he’s not going to be found.” He contemplated. “Maybe give him a hint?”

Fred perked up, rummaging around for an empty sheet of paper as George put down the puffskein and filled up their food bowls.

As the dark settled the moon settled on a new piece of paper among the clutter already filling up the window to the shop.

WEREWOLVES WELCOME

Chapter Text

“Are you really going through with it?” A white gloved hand strokes over the small red box in the palm of his hand. It rose to a mouth that opened to snag the edge of a glove between teeth and carefully pulls it off, folding and putting it away in the front pocket of his jacket.

Ron doesn’t raise his eyes to look at the other but he is acutely aware of the green eyes that linger hungrily on the box.

“You know what it means,” the other persisted. “This could really come back to bite you in the arse,” he laughs and leather creaks as Ron’s fingers curls tightly around the box.

“Why are you here?”

“I just like being with you,” the other answers breezily, his eyes like glittering emeralds. “Can’t I spend time with my best mate?”

“You are not my anything,” Ron snarls, looking up for the first time to glare at his Herald’s pet project.

The boy cocks his head, messy hair falling down to brush his nose. “Touchy, touchy.” The other laughs again and Ron turns his eyes back on the box.

“It could kill you.” The other nibbles on a thumb, looking unconcerned. “Albus wouldn’t much like that, would he?” He peers up from below long lashes as he sinks deeper into the couch he’d claimed as his own, throwing his feet up on the nearby table with a clunk.

“Take the risk or lose the chance,” Ron says grimly and presses his thumb against the small rune at the opening of the box.

-

Remus buries his head deeper into the palms of his hands, a wretched sort of sound escaping him as he curls deeper into himself.

Sirius lingers in the doorway, his eyes hooded with exhaustion and pain as he takes a silent step backwards and carefully closes the door to the nursery with a thick swallow.

He finds Alastor in the kitchen – the old Auror hunched over parchments of half-finished plans, reports and maps. His previously dark grizzled hair was turning white with age and, if possible, the scars on his face looked even deeper in the pale light of the lamp dangling above him.

“How is he?”

Sirius skin itches which meant that the magic eye had spun to rest on him and he shuffles carefully into the kitchen to make himself a cup of tea. “Wrecked.” He drags a hand through his wild hair with a sigh. “Tonks?”

“Still no news,” Alastor says grimly. “There wasn’t enough blood at the scene to confirm her death.”

Which meant that, likely, the Metamorphmagus had been taken prisoner for information or something even more sinister.

“It’s just one thing after the other these days,” Sirius sighs as he sinks into the old cricked chair he had once sat in as a ten year old, eager and grinning as he teased his brother, bright and awaiting the owl that would be the first step to Hogwarts.

Now it was just as old, musty and lifeless as the rest of the house and not even his mother’s portrait could muster enough energy to scream these days.

“Have you heard from the old man?”

Alastor grunted. “Albus has been more elusive than normal,” he grudgingly admits. “There’s a ball on Halloween to which he requested extra security. Something about some introduction or other,” he waves his right hand - missing all fingers but the thumb. “Can’t mean anything good.”

“A ball.” Sirius repeats with a touch of hysteria. “Ted is dead, Tonks and ‘Dromeda is gone and we’re having a-“ he covers his mouth and curls on himself, looking away from the heavy gaze of the other. “What are we supposed to do?” he whispers.

Alastor slams his hand against the table, startling the former Azkaban prisoner badly. “We need to clear your name.”

Sirius stares at him. “What-“

“We should have done this years ago,” Alastor grumbles. “I’m not known as one of the best Auror’s for nothing. All we need is a rat.”

“Are you insane?” Sirius hisses. “We don’t need to free me – we need to find Tonks!”

Alastor levels him with a look. “I say we do both,” the grizzled Auror grunts. “You – we - are getting nowhere cooped up like this. We need to get out there!”

“Albus would kill us if we do anything to mess up the election plans.” Sirius glances behind him instinctively despite knowing that the wards would alert him if anyone entered the house or got near him. “Everyone knows that you’re his right man hand.”

“Was,” Alastor corrects.

“He’s a boy, not a man,” Sirius denies instinctively.

“He grew up,” Alastor says, voice heavy but not unkind as Sirius flinches.

Because Ron was the same age as Harry who would remain always fourteen, in memory, in death. It didn’t feel right to think of her best friend as anything but a perpetual teenager too, no matter how irrational it made him seem.

He sinks against the table. “Do you really think catching Wormtail might help us get Tonks back?”

“Who knows.” Alastor drags a hand through his paling hair and Sirius was momentarily reminded of Lucius and blanched, looking away least the Auror got it into his head to read his mind. “We don’t know who took her – it’s the best chance we got. For all of his faults he lives up to his animagus form.” He taps his deaf ear. “Those tiny ears hear a lot of things.”

Sirius frowns. “You don’t think the Death Eater’s got her?”

“I think,” Alastor says heavily, “this war stopped being black and white the day your goddaughter died.”

-

Narcissa looks up at the unfamiliar sound of bare feet slapping hard and fast against the wood and was gifted with the view of her husband taking a hurried step backwards to avoid being sent sprawled to the ground.

The hiss Nagini lets out is loud and cut short as the girl slammed into her, arms wrapping around coils, managing to pull Nagini haphazardly with her as she tumbles over. Heavy coils immediately slithers to wrap the wolf girl up, covering her nudeness as she practically disappears into the slick green patterned scales.

Narcissa had to turn away to hide a smile as a ruffled head of hair pops up, hissing even as she wiggles her arms out to throw them around the upperpart of Nagini’s body and rub her cheeks against the enormous familiar of the Dark Lord.

A low rumbly content growl was mixing with the hissing as Lis practically melted.

Beside her Severus drew a short sharp breath and Narcissa looks up at the dour man’s uncharacteristic reaction.

A hand rose to cover her mouth.

Tom was smiling.

It wasn’t a big smile – soft, content perhaps, almost gentle as he gazed down on his familiar and the wolf girl she’d adopted as her own. He was leaning against the wall, his hair still ruffled from his travels, a thick scarf wrapped around his shoulders and a simple but warm coat reaching almost to his knees. The cold wind had given the papery white skin a brush of almost purplish colour and his red eyes stood out starkly against it.

He looks younger, somehow, as he steps forward to steal a leaf from the girl’s hair with long fingers and she curls towards him, pressing her head up and forcing his fingers to spread, palm landing flat against her head. She hisses something and Tom responds, mouth curling in amusement, and Nagini lets out a long pleased hiss.

-

“Ignis – have dinner with me.”

Harry blinks against Tom’s chest, curled up and warm. Nagini is wound around them both, already doing the snake equivalent of snoring softly, her tongue tasting the air with every breath.

“Dinner?” she echoes, twisting under the covers so that they bunch around her shoulders as she turns to look at him. “Hunting together?” she checks, because that’s what Nagini means when she uses the word.

His chest lifts in a huff of air and he reaches out to tug at the edge of one of her oversized ears. “A human dinner,” he corrects, because Nagini is his familiar and she needs the same distinctions.

Harry shuffles. “We just ate,” she points out dubiously, her palm flattening against his stomach. “Hungry again?” she pressed down and Tom snorts as he reaches down to catch her hand, his palm against the back of it, long fingers curling to rest against hers.

“I was thinking,” he says as she presses her cheek against his chest, “a dinner in Sweden. They have the best elk steaks around and their forests are wide. They are supposed to have one of the largest grey wolf packs in Europe, too.”

She hums against his chest, warm and safe. “If it’s with Tom,” she agrees contently.

§Why are you digging a hole in the ground, Little Wolf?§ Nagini asks from her perch on a large heated rock Tom had left for her. They were still on mansion ground but by the edge and the wolf-snake was nine feet down in mud and working, her focus narrowed.

§There is something down here§ she answers distractedly, scooping a sludge of mud and stones up and throwing it over her shoulder.

Nagini, personally, couldn’t sense a thing but she knew her snakeling occasionally caught the scents of things she didn’t. Magic, deep old and reeking. Stones, coins, small knick-knacks. Things she occasionally kept and sometimes left right where she found them with a shudder.

Nagini wonders if her Little Wolf knows or if she was just naturally inclined to collect rune marks. The small seagreen rock she’d found in the mansion had a small Nova spell interwoven into it. Tom hadn’t been sure what sort of Nova-spell it was but it was dormant and unlikely to be a bad one, he’d said, as he looked it over.

She curls tighter around her rock as she studies her snakeling.

When she first met her Little Wolf the girl had been more wolf than human. Her language had been bad, even in parseltongue, and she’d been on the point of going off the edge of no turning back. She’d reeked of wild magic – the sort that buried beneath the skin and infected the very soul.

It wasn’t unlike the stink of werewolf magic that still clung to her days after her moon run. Nagini had made sure to rub both her and her speaker’s scent onto her wolf-snake but it still clung obnoxiously beneath her skin - but at least the mud was making good head on putting it out.

Nagini eyes a particularly large splatt off mud on her snakeling’s shoulder with a warm curl of satisfaction that bottoms from her possessiveness.

She’d been surprised the first time she saw her snakeling’s wolf form after returning. The form had always been oversized, sort of akin to one of those ponies that were more likely to leave her stomach aching than satisfy it. Strangely, her fur had never shed during summer season but kept the thick winter coat – as if stuck. Her coat had been entirely grey wolf – the mottled coat and white bellied fur giving it away.

Nagini wonders if her Little Wolf knows she is changing.

Before, it had been the girl taking shape of wolf. The moon run had connected them even further and the wolf was now stepping up to take the characteristics of the girl.

Its fur was darkening, already turning black at the thick fur of her neck and around her eyes and mouth and paws. The fur was shorter, coarser, summer fur rather than winter fur – for once in tune with the season. The paws were broadening and her legs had gotten lankier – as if preparing for something bigger.

Fenrir hadn’t been very clear on what happened during the moon run – only silent and introspective as he tried to get in touch with his wolf for some sort of explanation. “It was pleased,” Fenrir had told Tom. “Happy even.” But he’d been unable to say more on the subject when Tom pressed him.

Nagini still though they could have pressed the werewolf just a bit more but Tom hadn’t agreed.

Yet.

Nagini did not like not knowing what was happening to her wolfling.

Magic was… volatile at the best of times. It pulsed through her every second of the day, made her bigger when she wanted, smaller when she needed. It fed the connection between her and her speaker and, to a lesser extent, the bond between herself and the wolf-snake she’d claimed as her own.

Nagini had sensed the absolute turmoil of magic inside her Little Wolf the first day she met her. It was the sort that built and built, volatile and wild. Denial and refusal to use it except for the slick change between wolf and human.

She’d pushed the child to use it in small doses – simple things that took time when it wasn’t channelled through the wooden sticks humans insisted on using. It meant a bigger use of magic, another sort of strain, persistence and focus. Nagini had seen Tom do it plenty of times and it had worked with stabilizing her magic at least for the time.

But now it was as if the lid had been cracked wide open and Nagini wasn’t sure what to do about it.

She hisses low in displeasure.

§Hey, Nagini§ Little Wolf’s head pops up of the hole, hands digging into the mud to keep her from falling. She was absolutely filthy from head to toe, her hair standing up in muddy slicks and her teeth white against the brown and grey sludge. §There’s an entire chest down here§ She sounds delighted.

§And what are you going to do with it? Nagini pulls her upper body free, stretching out to peer down the hole before slithering back with a hiss of laughter. §You can’t get it up, can you?§

The girl scrambles up, feet and hands slipping and sliding awkwardly through the mud before she belly flopped down on the grass and rolled to pull the rest of her with her. She bounced back on her feet and Nagini flickered her tail in warning least the girl got it into her head to touch her but she stops and gives herself a good shake, thick blobs of mud splattering against the ground. §You think you can help? she asks eagerly.

Nagini eyes the muddy hole. §If you think I’m getting anywhere near that you don’t know me as well as I thought you did§ she says dryly. §You dug it deep enough that even I’ll have trouble getting out as long as I am.§

The girl chuffs, folding her arms.

Considers.

§Do you think Tom might help?§ She moves on the front of her feet, heels raised like a wolf as she traipsed around the hole. §He likes old stuff, right?§

Nagini tries very hard to picture Tom dropping into the muddy hole for whatever had drawn the girl’s attention.

§He does like old things§ Nagini hears herself agreeing and her snakeling flashes a wide grin before looping off towards the mansion. There was a clack of glass as she threw the door open followed by a swear and Pretty-Words shouting for her as she no doubt tracked mud everywhere.

Nagini sympathizes for all of five seconds, she didn’t like getting mud into her nest anymore than Sweet-Smells and Pretty-Words did, before hissing in laughter to herself as she slithered off to find something to sate her appetite.

-

“Dennis – Dennis, come on where are you-“ Colin flattens himself against the ground, breath caught in his throat as he strains his hearing for any sound of his little brother.

The explosion of spells around him is loud – trees groaning and falling, splintering under the force of the wreckage. He ducks as something explodes above him and squints through the debris, trying desperately to catch sight of the younger boy.

He knew it was a mistake bringing Dennis along – he knew it! But leaving him behind wasn’t any better, not when safe-houses were going up in flames by hour. “Dennis!” he hisses much louder than he should and clamps a hand over his mouth, swallowing, his heart pounding.

Weak, weak, weak. Merlin, he wasn’t good for anything. Couldn’t even keep his brother out of trouble!

He rolls aside and crawls forward among leaves and splatters of blood, over the dead body of a Death Eater and wiggles across a Phoenix, trying not to heave as his hand momentarily disappears into a chest that sunk like sticky warm yam beneath his fingers – the ribcage spelled away, leaving nothing to protect the organs.

He wipe it away on his shoulder, not daring to look.

“Dennis!” he calls desperately. “Please,” he whispers, feeling the burn of tears in his eyes and hating it. “Don’t feel sorry for yourself,” he hisses furiously. “Only assholes do that. Be strong, be strong, be strong-“ the cackling laughter of Bellatrix Lestrange makes him whimper as he presses down against the ground, praying as her footsteps tears past just meters from his hiding place, three Phoenixes on her heels – the rubies in the eyes of their masks glittering with malice and their coats spreading behind them like wings.

Colin never would have thought he’d come to associate such a beautiful creature with such malice.

“Denni-“

A foot slams into his side, kicking him out of the bushes to land on his back. He wheezes and rolls over, attempting to scramble onto his feet when a boot comes down hard on his ankle, snapping it simultaneously as a hand reaches down and grabs his wand from blood slick fingers.

Colin looks up wide with wide-eyes at the Second in Command of the Phoenix forces. The red hair unmistakeably, the only one who didn’t wear ruby stones over his eyes.

Instead crisp unforgiving blue eyes stared down at him like a giant stares down an ant.

“Ron-“ he gasps.

“Don’t call me with such familiarity, traitor.” The words are harsh but the tone is flat and Colin chokes thickly as he presses backwards, trying to put more distance between them.

“You need to stop them,” he fumbles. “We’re not doing anything bad-“

“You’re opposing the Herald.” There is nothing left of the fourteen year old boy who had stood side-by-side with Colin’s idol in the figure above him. “Opposing the road to a free world.”

“You stand for tyranny!” Colin cries desperately, his face wet. “The world deserves to know!”

“The world deserves no such thing!” the Commander snarls, his wand crackling as he takes a step forward.

“You never were one for knowledge, Ronald.”

Colin doesn’t dare to breathe.

It felt as if all the air had been sucked out of his lungs as he slowly turns his head to look at the figure stepping out from between the bushes.

Knee-high boots over dark jeans, a simple wine-red hoodie and a long dark blue coat open over it. Wild bushy hair spilling down her shoulders like a mane and intelligent eyes fixed on the Commander as she took a measured step forward, head cocking.

Ron twists with a snarl, the tip of his wand cracking with magic as he narrows on the other.

“Is that how you great an old friend?” Hermione raises an eyebrow. “And here I got your invite and all.” She raises her hand and Colin stared as lines of blue spread from the palm of her hand like sharp jagged shards of ice.

To his disbelief Ron’s mouth twists into a botched smile of amusement. “Should have known you’d fancy that one,” he says, his stance relaxing as he folds his arms. “I was sure you were off playing nice in Norway. Didn’t think I’d see you on the field ever again. Seems nostalgic, almost.” He raises a brow and her mouth curls in response.

“I wasn’t planning on opening mine until after a thorough study,” Hermione comments idly. “When I heard through the grapevine that you’d gotten your hands on one I knew there wasn’t much time for that. You never had much patience to begin with.”

“Why are you here, ‘Mione?” Ron spreads his arms.

“You know what opening the box meant.” Hermione points out as she leans against the rock behind her. “You’re lucky I had the second one.”

“Or unlucky,” Ron mutters and there is a shared look of amusement before the situation sobers them up.

“Whoever has the third or even fourth isn’t-“

“I know,” Ron snaps. “I know,” he repeats, calmer, taking a deep breath as he turns away.

“Why did you do it?” Hermione presses. “I thought you had everything you wanted.”

His face twists as he looks up at her and Colin’s heart stutters at the vulnerability in the depth of his eyes. “In what world is this anything like what we dreamt of?” He spread his arms.

“It won’t bring her back,” Hermione tries and his face goes ugly. She sighs. “And how were you planning on making this work?” She holds up her hand, spreading her fingers and showing off the pattern crawling over her fingers before meeting the focused eyes of the other.

Ron hesitates but lifts his arm, revealing a dancing pattern of red stretching stark red and vivid from the palm of his hand.

“We are two of four, Ron.” Hermione shakes her head. “As always you’re playing far over your head.”

“Shut up!” he snarls, leather creaking as his fist clenches. “You – you have no right to come here and criticize my decisions when you fled this war before it even begun you coward!” His eyes blazed and a curl of flame sweeps through his iris before disappearing. “Harry – she would have been so disappointed with you,” he spits with an ugly twist of his face.

The air turns frigid as Hermione takes a step forward and Ron takes a halting step backwards before catching himself, his back straight as he stares at the other.

“Are you sure I’m the one she’d be disappointed in?” Hermione challenges, her words sharp and cutting.

They stare at each other.

Hermione’s face twists and she shakes her head. “I don’t know why I came here.” She spins on her heel and split right through the anti-apparition ward with nary a sound and Ron curses as he slams his palm against the tree in an explosion of red that tears a hole right through it.

He stands there, panting, his eyes burning.

Colin realises the sound of fighting had long since dwindled to nothing, leaving only him and the Commander alone in the silence of the forest.

He doesn’t move.

Hardly dares to breathe.

Ron pulls back, laughing as he drags a hand through his hair and he drops down in a crouch before the other. “I didn’t plan to kill you,” he admits as Colin’s heart stutters. “But you could do a lot of harm with this information.”

A palm settles over his eyes, gentle almost.

“I’m sorry.”

Red exploded through the clearing.

-

Lucius had practically hauled her out by the scruff off her neck and tersely informed her that Tom was gone for the evening on an emergency. Both he and Severus had been dressed in the black robes of the Death Eaters and Harry hadn’t lingered.

The small drizzle was turning harder and it was only a matter of time before the muddy hole would be filled with water. Nagini was gone when she returned but she can feel the aching call inside of her and her mouth twists in determination as she stares into the muddy depth.

Something in the depth of the box she’d found in the pit was calling for her – it pulsed through her soul. For her, for her, for her, it whispers.

Irresistible.

She slips back down with a wet splash and hoists the trunk up into her arms, looking around. It was hard to climb with all four paws – too slick, too wet. It was an impossible task to consider with one arm occupied.

She looks around, lingering on the roots that stuck out of the muddy walls, and looks down on her bare feet. Already the water was ankle deep. She eyes the distance above her – at least twice her height.

Clenches her fist.

The trunk is heavy and even as she hoists it up she knows it is a foolish thing to do. But she bends her knees and supports the box on her shoulder – heaving upwards with a jump as she pushes hard. There is a wet slap as the heavy trunk collides with the edge and flips, falling back down and forcing Harry to squeeze against the wall to avoid getting her head cracked open like an egg.

She stares down at the wet wood in the water and something simultaneously anxious and angry crawls through her.

She heaves it up, at least three times her weight and this time - when she balances carefully into a crouch - she focuses her magic and pushes.

It shoots up like a rocket.

Harry gapes up after it for a good five seconds before she throws herself at the wall, scrambling upwards with her fingers stiff like claws to find the roots and rocks hidden in the increasingly slick mud and pulls herself upwards and over the edge with whoff of effort. She twists into her hands and knees and as the box spirals down towards her she shoots across the gap – colliding with it hard and curling around it, tumbling with a wince from the weight and force as she lands and skids on her side against the grass.

She coughs and pulls herself into a sitting position with a wince, making a fruitless attempt at wiping mud from her cheek and only smearing it further with dirty hands. Gives herself a little shake.

She grins in triumph and strokes her hand over the wet wood, pressing her ear against it. The strange hum of the call growing stronger the longer she listens – drowning out the sound of rain, the rumble of thunder and even the flash of lightning as clouds thickens above her.

Almost reverently she pries her fingers under the lid and cracks the lock open with a metallic creak and the sound of wet wood splintering. She curls around it as she twists it open, her eyes glitters with delight as she carefully reaches inside and curls her fingers around something small and pulls it against her chest as she kicks the chest away and back down into the hole.

Curiously, it feels light and empty without the small box and cracks into splinters as it hits the bottom.

She opens her hand carefully to reveal a five corner box in bright canary yellow.

There is nothing peculiar about it. Despite the apparent age of the box that had housed it the yellow colour was bright and untouched and it looked much akin to a small jewellery box - the larger sort that might carry a thick bracelet or a watch. There is a scratch of a rune at the mouth of it and as Harry reverently strokes her thumb over the small scorched mark it lightened up and reached out with a tongue of yellow to lick over the palm of her hand, leaving a tingling feeling behind.

The tongue withdrew, looking akin to something licking its lip after tasting something really good, before disappearing with a fizzle and the small lock clicks open.

Harry reaches out and pushes it open with careful fingers, her eyes wide and palms carefully cradling the small amber stone, box dropping forgotten to the ground.

It burns and flickers in her hand, as if alive, and it is hot against her skin where it lies flat in the palm of her hand. It is a small thing and as she strokes the tip of her index finger over its surface the whispers grows, her pupils dilating as the air around her stills.

Rain sizzles and disappears before it can touch her. Mud dries and cracks, falling to the ground as the edges of her shirt and shorts fizzles and curls.

The smell of burnt hair fills the air and the yellow in her eyes burns in the same fierce light of the stone as the skin on her hand cracks open and it slowly sinks into her, flawlessly knitting the skin back together over it.

For a moment, the world is still.

A breath.

Harry curls around her hand with a scream.

 

Chapter Text

Harry wakes choking on muddy water and coughs as she jerks into a sitting position and scrambles back until she hits the wall.

Shivers as she becomes aware of just how cold she is with the water reaching up past her hips and the redness of her hands beneath the mud as she lifts them up, staring at the perfectly flat skin of her palm.

It quivers and shakes but there is no light and when she pushes one cold, numb finger against her palm it’s soft and yielding beneath her touch.

If it wasn’t for the yellow box floating innocently beside her she would have thought it all a dream.

She looks up at the sky above her – tries to make sense of the time. Her hair is slick and wet with mud and she feels exhausted – as if coming awake after a too-long nap. Drowsy and cold.

It’s still raining but it’s a gentle sort of drizzle.

Any harder and she might have drowned before she had the chance to wake up.

She hugs herself as she stumbles to her feet and stares up at the slick walls that suddenly seem terribly high and every exhausted fibre in her body trembles. She puts her palm flat against it, watching as the greyish sludge slip over her fingers as she buries her fingers into it – trying to find some sort of purchase.

It hurts, burning strangely, every touch suddenly too much and she feels every stone hidden in the mud as she anchors her fingers for purchase with clenched teeth and twitching fingers.

She steals herself and springs forward, heaving upwards and pushing toes into the mud in an attempt to propel herself upwards. But her muscles cramps, energy stolen right out of her, and she ends up stumbling forward, feet splashing and barely clinging upright as she trembles.

She sniffles, wiping her face against her upper arm, eyes seeking for a solution with a growing pit in her stomach as her gaze stops on the large rock poking half-way out of the mud.

She drags her fingers out of the mud with a squelch, yanking her feet up roughly from the suctioning hold of the mud and forces herself across the distance, her fingers twitching and jerking as she forces her hands to grasp the rough surface and heaves down hard – pushing her weight against it and abruptly releasing it as it moves.

She chokes back a whine.

Stares at the sky and the rock and leans her forehead against the stone - staring at the rising water and her own trembling legs.

Draws a deep trembling breath.

She weaves her fingers together as best as she can and loops them over the rock and grips it hard.

Counts silently backwards from three. Heaves up and pushes one bare foot against the muddy wall as she attempts to swing the right up on the rocky surface. Her knee scrapes open and bleeds and her fingers cramps as she clings desperately and then it moves and Harry’s too tired, too weak -

She pulls back, over compensates and lands back in the water with a shiver that wrecks her entire body as water splashes up over her stomach and arms and face.

There’s a squelch as the rock tumbles after her.

It lands with a splash, muddy water rising above her as she’s yanked down and blacks out before the pain can even begin to register.

-

When she comes too she feels weak as a kitten and for a second she hardly dares to breathe.

She stares at the rock, heavy and grey, the blood bubbling from beneath it swirling in the muddy water like rust.

Harry paws trembling fingers down her right leg until it reaches the heavy slot of stone instead of her knee and pulls it slowly back up against her chest, hugging herself as she trembles.

She doesn’t know how long she sits in the hole, dozing.

Strange pictures dance before her eyes.

She dreams she’s rat buried low in the dank cells of a prison, hearing the screams, watching the dark haggard form of the man she had once loved. Pounding with wretched fear and regret as she weeps miserably and her own cowardliness.

She dreams she’s dancing with her father before a fountain, autumn leaves spilling around them and a whisper of forever love as a hand pushes gently against the forming bulge in her belly and soft lips against her cheek.

For a moment she feels as large as the universe, floating high beyond clouds and she twists to look at the moon where a wolf and a dog sits hip to hip, singing mournfully. As she watches the wolf ages, fur receding and its limbs cracking as its voice tapering out into a sob as a man curls naked beside the grim faced dog.

Another and she’s a stag filled to the brim with mischief and joy as the girl on her back spreads her arms and laughs, her red hair tumbling behind her – as if flying. They tear through the forest, the moon bright and whole above them.

The picture melts and she’s thirteen again, her arms spread and laughing, whooping and hollering for joy with her hair tumbling behind her as wings beat beneath her, feeling free for the first time in her life-

“- Wolf!” She jerks groggily and she realises someone is holding her, shaking her body by the arm looped around her chest, pressing her back against them. She’s feeling nauseous as she pries her eyes open and groans miserably.

She’s still in the hole and she realises with a tired start that she’s nearly up to her nose in water, the only thing keeping her from going under the arm holding her against a straining chest. “Thank Merlin you’re awake.” A voice breathes against her ear and she tilts her head weakly to look – seeing only a spill of muddy red hair as her vision blurs. “Blaise is fetching his mother – she’s a healer and she’s going to help us get you out of here, okay?” The voice is familiar, confident where she expects shyness, their grip sure. “Drake is raiding Sev’s supplies, so, I’m sorry – but you ended up stuck here with me.” There’s a touch of wry self-awareness as she says it.

“W-w-what-“ Harry trembles so hard she bites hole in the inside of her cheek and she whimpers. The woman holding her tightens her hold, pulling tighter, Harry’s head against her stomach, grounding her.

“The Dark Lord’s familiar got extremely hissy during the meeting,” the woman continues. “Lucius stepped out and fire called Drake to have him check up on you. Blaise and I, we just tagged along. I don’t know how long you’ve been down here but it’s nearly two a.m. and it’s been roughly twenty minutes since I dropped down here. They should be back any moment.” She sounds exhausted but there was no faltering in the grip, as if she was so used to feeling tired that it’d become the norm, strength pushing through despite it.

“M-m-my leg.” Her tongue twisted oddly over the words, as it too thick for her mouth, and the woman lifts her free hand to brushes muddy hair away from her eyes. Her brain feels cottony and it was getting increasingly hard to hold onto thoughts when the wolf inside of her was muddling into panic.

“It’s going to be okay.” She repeats. “We’ll get you out. It’s going to be okay.” And she hefts her up, pressing her chin down against the crown of Harry’s head as she speaks reassurances, holding her firm and safe and with determination even as shivers chased up her arms.

Harry is too cold to even tremble.

“Ginevra,” the voice came from above and both of them jerk up, Harry significantly slower and with a dose of vertigo that makes her groan.

A woman with skin so dark she nearly melts into the night sky behind her is peering down at them. Despite the heavy rain weighing the long thin braids on her head and dripping down her nose she was one of the single most beautiful women Harry had ever seen in her life.

Blaise popped up beside her, panting.

“Draco flooed over to Lestranges to get more supplies,” he says as the woman draws her wand. He peers towards her and then the woman behind Harry. “Think we can do this?”

“Don’t ask silly questions, dear.” The woman shoos him aside. “Ginny, I need you to feel down her leg – how much of it is stuck beneath the rock?”

Harry stills, both at the name and at the grip tightening and a hand slipping down along her hip, down her thigh and tracing carefully over the end of her leg. “It’s cut off just above her knee.” Ginny reports back and Harry drinks the sound of her voice, struggling with the familiarity and with how it had changed, darker and rougher and steady. “Anything below it is completely shattered.”

“Pupils?”

Harry feels her head being tilted and stills at the sight of those familiar brown eyes searching hers without recognition. “Dilated – she’s bleeding from the back of her head so it’s likely a concussion.” She frowns as she pulls Harry more firmly against her chest. “She’s ice cold, Zafrina– tips of her fingers and lips are blue and she’s stopped shivering.”

“Sev had at least six bottles of Skelegro just lying around.” Draco appears, peering over the edge and smiles at her when Harry instinctively angles her head towards the familiar voice and locks on. “Hey there Little Wolf. Got yourself into quite the situation there, huh?”

She whines softly in response, struggling for words but finding nothing.

Whimpers.

Ginny’s arm tightens around her and above her Zafrina’s eyes furrows. Draco was, however, used to her nonverbal cues and grimaced in sympathy. “Don’t worry. You’re in real good hands there. Ginny, the woman who is holding you? That’s my girlfriend. I’d trust her with my life.” As Draco spoke Zafrina began murmuring softly and a golden glow spun out and settled down over them. “The woman in charge is Blaise’s mother and whenever there’s a crisis she’s the first one the Dark Lord turns to after, well, Sev of course. And that’s only because he hoards enough potions to knit up an army of people.” He winks.

“Blaise, you’re going to be the one to lift the stone.” Zafrina says finally. “Precision work is best left to gentle hands.” And then, before anyone could say anything, she slipped over the edge and landed with a splash into the water, her dress billowing out around her before she smothered it down into the muddy water.

This close Harry can see the brush of gold over her eyelids and she tracks her fuzzily. “Gin, Blaise is going to life the rock and you and I are going to have to stabilize and pull her out from under here. In this small place a stretcher will be impossible but I know a spell that’ll bind her leg.” Zafrina’s eyes shifts to the wolf-girl. “To be frank? This is going to hurt. Your leg is practically mush at the moment and the longer it remains under the more the cold and dirt will mess up the healing.”

Harry’s skin ripples with nerves and she shifts to seek out Draco.

But Zafrina catches her chin and forced Harry’s attention back to her despite the weak snarl it garners her. “This is your body – you need to understand what is going to happen to you. I need you not to panic, do you understand me? You cannot shift into your wolf form under any circumstance. It has the potential to completely ruin your leg.”

Zafrina taps her nose to emphasis and Harry holds her gaze for several seconds before giving a single nod and leaning more firmly against Ginny even as her skin crawls and mind whines in confusion and rising panic.

She was not touching that heap of emotions with a ten feet pole until she was safe and sound with Nagini and To-

Harry’s brain fizzled and she forcefully focused her attention on not changing as the rock shifts and her wolf thrashes inside of her - teeth sharpening and claws shooting from her nailbeds. She arches as fur ripples down her arms and legs and the redhead behind her swears and pulls her arms tight against her body as Harry automatically twists to get her paws on the ground and –

No, she snarls, fighting it back. Not now, not now, not now-

She gasps as pain suddenly explodes through her and someone is shouting and glowing cords of green and gold wraps around the ruins of her leg as she is pulled backwards.

Pain triggers fear and fear triggers change and her chest cracks and shifts as she scrambles to draw it back, to prevent it, even as her eyes rolls backwards and her claws finds soft skin and digs deep – drawing blood.

Someone Swears loudly and the scent of copper tickles her nose as she whines and twists and hands pushed her down-

held her down-

White hot panic explodes through her and if it weren’t for cold sleek heavy coils wrapping around her she would have been wolf and – and -

§I’m here§ Nagini’s cold nose pressed against her own and Harry whines and attempted to shift closer even as she was being swallowed by thick coils.

She slowly becomes aware of her short trembling breaths and the panic that sends shivers up and down her body. §No one is hurting you. You’re panicking but you’re safe. The humans were just trying to help you§

§They were holding me down§ Harry hisses, and she isboth trembling and panting and it feels like her brain is both rattling and burning inside her head. §Uncle would always-§ she chokes, §And he didn’t stop – he never stopped and I didn’t want it I didn’t like it and he always held me down and-§

§I’m here§Nagini cooes and Harry and curls and trembles and never wants to be anywhere but within Nagini’s coils ever again. §Your leg is a mess. We need the humans to fix it§Harry shakes her head and her vision darkens as her brain rattles. 

§Yes we do, Little Wolf§ Nagini circles tighter and Harry is distantly aware of a murmuring of voices somewhere around her as she melts into the tightness and familiarity but doesn’t stop trembling.

Trust. Love. Nagini was safety. Nagini wouldn’t let them –

§I want to go home§ Harry whispered, feeling small and tired and weak from surprises and phantoms nipping at her heels. She was completely done with holes for a life-time.

§You’ll sleep with me tonight§ Nagini croons softly. §As soon as your leg is fixed you can sleep for as long as you wish and I’ll make sure Tom delivers a thick roast each for us so we don’t have to leave for at least a moon-turn and-§

-

“You can approach her now.”

Zafrina glances sharply at the Dark Lord who was crouching near his familiar, a shield above them to keep the drizzle of rain away.

He’d arrived with Nagini in an explosion of black smoke and his familiar had practically exploded into action, curling around the half-turned child in a way that might have appeared brutal if it wasn’t for the mindful way she avoided the bloody mess of her leg still encased in green and gold binding magic.

His face is set in stone and he’d gotten increasingly tense as he listened to whatever was being exchanged between the two.

She glances at her son and his two chosen ones who were talking quietly between themselves.

Likely Lucius and Severus had been left to handle the meeting as the Dark Lord left in person to handle his familiar’s worry. Zafrina wasn’t quite sure what to do with the information but at least the youngsters didn’t look terribly surprised.

But then, they hadn’t been there at the rise of the Dark Lord either – had no way to comprehend just what this kind of change could mean for them all.

“Are you sure?” It was Blaise and Zafrina silently applaudes her son for not flinching as the Dark Lord’s red eyes settles on him, heavy and brooding.

“Nagini will hold her. Just… fix it.” He waves his hand.

It was Ginny who stepped forward first, her eyes contemplative as she knelt down beside the two.

Nagini uncurled enough to leave the entirety of the wolf-girl’s leg bare, the hem of the short dragged up almost all the way to her crotch. She was trembling, the sort of quivers that shook from the bottom of one’s core, and it made the leg tremble despite the bindings.

She reaches out, hesitating, and then strokes her fingers gently against the girl’s thigh, to let her know she was there.

Draco settles within eyesight of the yellow eyes peering out from amidst thick coils and his heart clenches at the pain and fear that struggles against the tiredness inside of them. “Hey there,” he says gently as Zafrina steps forward with one last lingering look in the Dark Lord and sinks down beside the redhead, Blaise just a step behind. “This is the second time I set you off, huh?”

She blinks.

“Well, maybe not me personally,” he agrees. “But I am aware of some of your triggers. Should have been able to figure out that the stress and all just piling up on you would have to get out somehow.”

A hand wiggles out from amidst the coils and Draco hooks his index and middle fingers with the two offered by the other. “Bad ‘mories,” she confesses, eyes deep with shame that wouldn’t hold his.

He glances at Ginny who gave him a silent thumbs-up as she watched their third and his mother work over the leg with hurried whispers.

“I’m impressed though.” He admits, tilting his head towards the hole she’d dug. “That takes some determination.” He pulls up a leg to rest his arm on, going for loose and relaxed, cold muddy water soaking through his pants.

Nagini hisses something and Lis hissed back, her eyes briefly replaced by muddy tuffs of hair as she twisted to rub her nose against the snake’s. As always he felt a burning curiosity at the sound of the language, wondering just what sort of things were exchanged between them.

“’s a big hole,” Lis agrees, her words more mangled than they had been in months. “’ot st’k.”

“Yeah, we noticed,” he agrees with a sympathetic grimace.

He glances towards the Dark Lord who had leaned over to converse quietly with his familiar and Draco reclons the wolf-girl was too out of it to notice. Her eyes heavily dilated and she couldn’t quite focus on him properly.

“’u came,” Lis says suddenly, fingers curling weakly.

Draco tightened his grip. “Of course we did,” he says gently. “You mean a lot to us.”

“’no one ever helped before,” Lis confesses tiredly. “evr’thing just ‘urt.”

Draco stares at the girl who the world had mangled and broken until she was left with warped bits and pieces that wouldn’t fit together. Filled with fear and pain and panic and too much wolf and too little human.

Feels guilty for reasons he doesn’t understand as he shifts and threads their fingers together, gripping them tightly as he sent a score of concentrated heat through his palm into her. The Dark Lord had already settled such a spell on Nagini’s skin but the girl looked so cold and miserable that he couldn’t help himself.

Sometimes he wonders what she might have been without the wolf, without Nagini, without them. If she’d eventually gone full-wolf, just another mindless animal.

He wonders what she might have been if she’d never disappeared into the forest. If someone had helped her before she reached the point of no-return. If someone had only offered her a hand.-

“Mother is going to be in a tizzy when she hears about this,” Draco finds himself saying. “She’s in Bulgaria in meeting with their Minister of Magic so I couldn’t contact her. It’ll eat her up that you were hurt under her protection.”

“’s not her fault.” Lis protests as Blaise reaches over and digs through the case of bottles Draco had brought with him, taking three and ducking back behind coils.

“Mother’s are like that.” Draco confides. “They’d die to protect their children.” Father’s too, he thought, but doesn’t voice. He knew his mother and Lis were particularly close and while another in his position might have been jealous he felt only relieved that the wolf-child had someone to turn to – to teach her that it was okay to be loved and cared for.

He hums softly as her eyes flutters close, the rain falling around them.

-

Zafrina had, with the help of her son, managed to heal the girl’s leg up to the point that she just needed rest and time to heal the last of it. The blood loss had been the most worrisome considering they didn’t know how long she’d been stuck in the hole but other than a severe bout of tiredness she seemed fine once they got her warm and settled inside.

Tom had been reading when she knocked on the door and looks relaxed as he opens, a look that suited him well.

 

The bottles she was carrying clinks as she steps inside and the Dark Lord closes the door behind her.

On the bed the girl is wearing a too-large red button-up shirt and a pair of boxers, her legs in a broad V. Nagini had circled around her back to rest her head on the good leg and the girl had the other settled out of way to give space the gathering of gobstones in green and blue in front of her.

She looks up as the door closes and Zafrina gets her first good luck on the girl in whole.

The yellow eyes meets her with curiosity and a hint of wariness, head cocked and brow furrowed. The colour was entirely animalistic – a clear warning to her nature, a wolf wearing human skin, the girl lost in it. There’s a coltish sort of look to her, limbs to long, hands and feet broad, ears rounded into points, nose flattened into something more akin to a wolf’s snout.

Most telling was the way her back curled, shoulders shifting, like a dog sitting to attention in the face of something that interested it.

It was even in the slant of the eyes and the sharpness of a canine sticking out over her lip.

“You are Bla-ise’s mother.” The words rolled oddly in the girl’s mouth, stilted, as if she had to focus to find the proper way to form her words. Like a human mouth working the long snout of a wolf. Or a wolf trying to work the small mouth of a human. “You helped. In the hole.” She clarifies and looks to the Dark Lord, hissing.

He hisses back in the dark rolling tongue of Parseltongue and the girl hums as she cocks her head.

“My name is Zafrina.” She considered the girl. “Blaise speaks warmly of you.”

“He makes the best cookies.” The girl perked up. “Is he here too?”

Zafrina’s mouth twitches. “He is – but.” She raises a hand as the girl brightened, “He’s asleep, as is his partners. And you have a leg that needs to be looked at.” The girl ducks her head and Zafrina strongly suspects that if she’d been wolf her ears would have folded back.

“It’s fine.” She says and there is a note of petulance in her tone, mixed with anxiety. It was enough to stir Nagini who tightened the coils wrapped around the girl’s waist in reassurance with a soft hiss.

“Ignis.” It is the Dark Lord and Zafrina zeroes on him in sharp curiosity at the name “We spoke about this.” He is wearing dark slacks and a sharp grey button-up shirt and in the Marvolo Gaunt glamour. His shoulders are relaxed despite the many papers spread around him and his glasses rests on tip of his nose.

Someone had lightened a scented candle and the entire thing was so entirely domestic that Zafrina had to blink twice to make sure she wasn’t imagining it. Because the Dark Lord, dare she say it, looked content.

She felt humbled to be allowed to see him like this – to see them both like this.

The girl, Lis, as Draco had called her, shifts anxiously and looks up to meet Zafrina’s eyes as she steps closer to the warmth of the roaring fire.

Stills.

“You have-“ she stumbles for the word and hisses something to the Dark Lord who glances up briefly at Zafrina.

“Amethyst,” he tells her with a flicker of amusement.

“Amethyst,” she spells the word slowly and with concentration, “eyes. Like Blaise.”

“And you have yellow eyes like a wolf.” Zafrina returns as she put the bottles down on the rug.

They had wrapped the leg in bandages and it looked promisingly free from pus and blood, bandages reasonably clean. As she reaches out with her magic she feels the spell keeping it elevated just above the bed as well as the slight pulse of a weak stasis that kept the girl from moving it too much without actually sticking her to the bed.

She’d recognise that magical thumbprint anywhere and only just kept herself from glancing at the Dark Lord.

When Blaise had said the two were close she never would have imagined anything like this. She’d have a chat with him about underselling information.

But then, he might not be aware. None of them could had predicted the absolute mess things had become after New Years with plans having to be put aside and work doubled. He’d complained to her more than once about how little he’d seen of either of his partners – sometimes going for weeks with nary a word. She knew how much it had torn on him. How much he worried and struggled against the need to have them safe and close.

“They’re pretty.” The girl kept a very firm eye on her hands as Zafrina carefully began unwrapping the bandages.

“My mother had the same eyes,” Zafrina tells her, pretending not to notice how she attempts to shrink from her touch while simultaneously being unable to do so. Whatever had set her off still lingered in the lines of her face, anxiousness written in the way she watches her work. “It’s usually just been the women of the Zabini family who inherits it but Blaise lucked out too.”

“Pretty eyes.” The girl hums. “Pretty boy. It fits.”

Zafrina’s mouth relaxes into a smile as she glances up at the younger. “You think he’s pretty?”

Her head cocks to the side. “Isn’t he?” Her brow furrows. “Draco says he is.” She pauses and glances over at the Dark Lord who raises his head at the feeling of eyes on him. “Tom is pretty too.” She tells him earnestly, either unaware or oblivious to the way the Dark Lord stills at her words.

He clears his throat. “Thank you.” Zafrina’s eyes widens and she ducks her head least he realised anyone had seen the faint brush of colour on his cheeks, swallowing down a laugh.

The Dark Lord had been called many things but she doubted pretty was one of them.

The girl wiggles her toes and wrinkles her nose as her leg was bared and Tom stopped pretending to read to scan it over.

The Skelegro had regrown the bone but the skin was still bruised darkly. Zafrina hums as she moves her hand slowly over the skin, her magic dipping and tasting for any sign of infection or abnormality in the knitted spidery scars that stretched from ankle to knee.

Finding none she straightened and smiled at the younger.

“It’s healing nicely. I think all we need is a bit of bruise salve and you need to take it easy for the next week or so and you’ll be as good as new.”

There were many ways to heal a bone with magic and Skelego was of them. But it was also the one with the most risk for complications even as it offered the best result which was why it was only used in cases of emergencies.

It was more common to wrap up the limb, settle it with magic and then just wait it out. Wizards and witches tended to heal up quicker than muggles with the magic circling through their veins anyway.

Some even learnt how to direct their own magic to stop the bleeding and seal up wounds – it was common in Aurors for example. Among her fellow Death Eater’s as well.

But the girl had had her entire left shattered and it had been easier to just remove the bone entirely and let it regrow properly.

She was frankly relieved it was healing as well as it was and let out a tiny sigh as she bent down to fish for a roll of bandages. Paused as curious fingers brushes against one of her many braids and caught them in a gentle grip before she could draw back.. The girl twitched and attempted to jerk back but Zafrina gave a gentle reassuring squeeze as she straightened up.

“You should ask before touching,” she chides gently before releasing her grip.

The girl, whose lip had pulled up to bare her teeth, paused and she ducked her head. “I’m sorry.” She peers up through her lashes, her mouth hidden in the collar of her shirt, something almost shy in her gaze. “I like them,” she says. “Your braids-“ the girl reaches up to touch her own short messy hair and aborted the motion almost guiltily, letting her hands fall into her lap.

“Did you -,” Zafrina glanced briefly at the Dark Lord who was tapping his wand absently against his temple as he read. “Did you have long hair, before?”

The girl’s eyes sought her own and there was something so profoundly lost of them that Zafrina’s heart gave a lurch. “I think… I think I did.” She spread her fingers, studying them as her brow furrowed in thought. “I – I flew.” She said this slowly, contemplatively. “And- and she… would braid it for me. Said – she said it only made the mess worse if I didn’t” The last sentence came rushing out of her almost triumphantly and Zafrina could almost see the girl lurking beneath the wolf and wildness when she looked up with glittering eyes. “I remember – I remember that.” She sounded both sad and happy, nostalgic perhaps.

Zafrina wonders how self-aware the girl really was. How much the mess of her memories truly bothered her.

“I could grow it out for you if you want?” She offers, twirling her wand to direct the bandages out and around the leg, wrapping it quickly and neatly. It was ill-suited for field patch ups but she’d already done it once by hand and her magic remembered it well enough, needing just a little nudge.

The girl’s face scrunched up so quickly that Zafrina was startled into a laugh. “No thank you,” she says firmly as Zafrina gave the bandages a tug to make sure it didn’t sit too tight or too loose.

“I could make you a small braid.” She made sure to telegraph her movement as she leaned forward and gave a little tug on a patch of hair by her ear, “right here.”

Her eyes widened and her hand rose; “With a-“ and here she glanced at Zafrina for confirmation before she finished reaching out to touch the golden bead in the closest braid she could reach.

“Bead.” Zafrina supplied the word gently as the girl drew back. “And I think I have just the thing.” She taps the girl’s nose with a smile that was slowly, almost shyly, shared.

-

Blaise stumbled tiredly into the kitchen and was nearly bowled over by a giant wolf who wasted no time sniffing eagerly at his pockets, going as far as attempting to cram her nose down the closets one.

For a second he didn’t quite comprehend what he was looking at.

The wolf was larger for one. Instead of reaching his hip it was at least as high as his chest and its fur was darker, a spread of black that had enveloped its entire head and was crawling up the paws and down the wagging tail. Someone had lengthened the fur by its ear and woven the strands together, leaving a silver bead with a small sun carved into it.

But it was undoubtedly Lis who planted her rump on the floor and folded her ears back, looking accusingly up at him.

It was too early for his brain to compute.

“It’s seven,” he presses a palm against her nose and stumbles past her, “in the morning. No cookies before breakfast.” He gropes for the coffee maker as she follows along with a slight limp.

But she was taking care to keep the majority of her weight on the other three legs and he could see why his mother had allowed the change.

Padding from kitchen to dining room with a steaming cup of coffee he found his two partners talking quietly, the ridiculous morning people that they were.

“Morning.” He bent down and pressed his lips to Ginny’s cheek and to Draco’s mouth when he turned his head to meet him.

The giant wolf who disappeared momentarily before returning dragging an enormous plush thing which she dropped by his seat and sunk down into with a ridiculously pleased noise.

Blaise stared.

“Ginny thought the floor looked too hard,” Draco offers as an explanation, his mouth twitching in amusement. “Lis has been dragging it around with her all morning.”

“How long have you even been awake?” Blaise demands as Draco prodded a readymade bowl of oatmeal, honey and raisins towards him.

The two exchanged glances. “Four, I think?” Ginny offers.

Blaise twitches,

“To be fair we did sleep most of the day yesterday.” Ginny tilts her head, eyes glittering. “Zafrina said to let you know we’re having dinner at her place on Sunday.”

“Of course she already left. She’s even worse than you two,” Blaise shoves a spoonful into his mouth and slumped tiredly against the table as he chewed.

 Ginny absently brushed his ankle with sock-clad feet and Blaise sighs contently as he soaks in the fact that he was sitting down together with his two lovers for the first time in weeks.

It was still raining outside and the soft noise was soothing as he listened to Ginny and Draco talk quietly between themselves – something about leather and runes.

Incurable workaholics the two of them.

He glances down at Lis who opens a single yellow eye to peer back. “And how come you’re going all black, huh? Been up to no good while I was gone, huh, ladra?” Her tail gave a thump and she yawns wide, showing of sharp white teeth before smacking them shut with a lazy grin.

“Father said she ran with the werewolves.” Draco dangled down a bit of bacon to a mouth that gobbles it up in a gulp.

“Fenrir is here?” Ginny asked in interest. She liked the werewolf – Fenrir was sharp and blunt and simultaneously everything people feared about werewolves and nothing like it.

“Temporarily,” Draco nodded. “It’s near Lis’s hunting grounds, I think.”

Blaise noted in interest the way Lis peered towards Ginny and belatedly recalled their conversation early spring.

He gave Draco a little nudge with his foot and gave a meaningful look between the two females when he looked up with a raised brow.

It took a second before Draco’s eyes widened and he gave a little huh as he dropped another bacon into a waiting maw, looking contemplative as Lis chewed, swallowed and licked her chops.

“Lis,” he says slowly and the wolf tilts her head to attention. “Earlier this year you recognised Ginny’s name. Ginny Weasley. Do you remember?” Sitting up Lis was large enough that she could easily see Ginny over Draco and her ears folded back as the redhead looked curiously towards the wolf.

Lis ear twitched and she looked away.

Ginny slowly put the fork in her hand down and Blaise knew that look - her twin brother’s had the same look whenever they had something planned and blithely denied any accusations of such.

Whatever connection Lis had to Gin – well, his lover would undoubtedly find out about it before their stay was over. They were set to remain in Malfoy manor for at least a month, after all, what with the news from last night.

They weren’t the only ones either – Blaise suspected that the entirety of the Inner Circle would probably end up either at Riddle Manor or Malfoy Manor by the end of the week.

He found himself strangely anticipating it.

Chapter Text

“How are they?” Fenrir glances up from the small blue haired pup sleeping against his chest. Their breath is warm, a spell for silence woven around them to avoid waking them up.

It hits him how profoundly strange it is to see Bellatrix like this – her hair limp and something dull in her eyes as she stares down at the bundle in his arms. He winces as a wall of legilimence slams into him and momentarily grits his teeth as the witch crouches down to see the pup better.

Realises that she’s intensifying the onslaught on him to avoid tearing apart the frail mind of the newborn. She ghosts a finger up a plush cheek, only just avoiding tearing the skin with the sharpness of her nail. “There’s very little left of either,” he says bluntly because Bellatrix has never been one to be coddled or deceived.

Her powers pry and he lowers his walls least she tears them apart. Allows her to see her sister dead and abandoned against a tree, her metamorphmagus child sprawled on the middle of the ground with her stomach round and full as the ritual sucks the life from her body.

He’d recognised the boy from Snape’s descriptions – a youth with emerald eyes and sharp grin as he spun to intercept the werewolf. A boy who hadn’t taken long to realise he’d taken water far over his head as Fenrir’s natural resistance to spells sent the red and gold sparkles careening off him with hardly more than a ruffle of his fur.

Had fled in an explosion of grey smoke.

Fenrir had picked the two bodies with him and the Pack healer had delivered the pup from their mother’s still body and it was, somehow, strong and healthy. Already its hair was circling through colour and he’d opened its nappy to different surprises when he’d changed it.

A natural metamorphmagus from their very first breath. A little witchard.

But he doubted Bellatrix saw any of those things as she looked down on the child that had survived both her sister and niece, for all that she denied that part of her family.

“I want to see them.”

Fenrir hauls himself to his feet as Bellatrix rose and stepped back from them.

Luna was two steps from his side and gently took the child from his arms, cradling it against her chest as Bill stepped up to put a hand on her shoulder and peer down at the small pup with a soft noise as it yawned and smacked its lips.

He shot them a contemplative look as he stepped away, Bellatrix at his heel.

He doubted either surviving Black sister would make a claim to the child – it was too dangerous, especially when they didn’t know why the boy had done what he did. But both the Weasleys and Lovegoods were old pureblood families.

He saw little reason for either side to agree to it and he made a reminder to himself to suggest it to Narcissa, the less volatile of the remaining sisters, during the next Inner Circle meeting.

He jerks his head to the guard at the tent and opens the flap. Inside the bodies of Andromeda Black and Nymphadora Tonks are still, as if in death, if not for the fact that their chests rose and fell, eyes open and lifeless.

The dark witch slowly stepped inside, her hand curling around the hand of her sister, fingers pressing against the pulse on her wrist.

Fenrir didn’t doubt her legilimence was burrowing deep, trying to find any sign of life and finding none as her grip tightened, knuckles white.

“I would like a moment alone with my sister.”

He stepped outside, the tent flapping shut behind him and he had one of the magic users ward the tent from any visitors with a clenching of his teeth.

-

”Here.” Tom took a knee, his long fingers settling over her own, gently unwinding the mess she’d made of the laces. Harry felt her irritation at being unable to do something as simple as tying a shoe bleed away a she followed his gentle nudging, holding where he told her too as he did a little loop and then pulled until a neat little bow remained. “There we go. Now, try the other one.”

Her brow furrows in concentration, the rusty familiarity of the motion tickling the back of her brain as she loops and pull.

It wasn’t as neat as the one Tom had helped with, the right loop larger than the left and it didn’t sit flat against the shoe. But when she looked up there was a hand waiting for her, easily pulling her to her feet, an arm sliding over her back to pull her against his side in front of the mirror.

She looks at Tom first, clad in his Marvolo Gaunt persona, his back straight and his hair neatly combed. The grey button-up shirt over a soft V-neck sweater suits him and he’d rolled the sleeves up just enough to show the watch on his wrist. Her eyes linger on it, noting the simplicity to it, a simple leather band and nondescript face and a small hand on the side of it to wind it up.

He notices her looking and lifts it up for her to study. “It was my grandfather’s,” he tells her as she reaches out to stroke her fingers over it curiously. The band was old but well taken care off and soft in the way that old leather got.

“Grandfather’s?” she repeats, peering up at him.

“It’s good handiwork, especially for its time. It didn’t feel right to let it go forgotten.” He extracts his hand from her grip and squeezes the hand on his shoulder. “Now, look into the mirror.”

She does so slowly, seeking herself and stilling at what she sees reflected back.

She’s nearly as tall as Tom – her hair black, the fringe longer and messier than the rest, the small braid with the sun bead dangling by her ear. The scar on her face is as vivid as always, spidery pink and white from the flames that she’d ravaged it with – stretching over her eyelid and up towards the fringe of her hair, hiding another scar entirely. Black jeans with the hem rolled up with ankle high dark brown boots and a thick comfy grey sweater and-

It makes her look older, less like the fourteen-year-old she remembered being and more like the nineteen, almost twenty-year-old woman she was learning to be.

It was like looking at a stranger, yellow eyes vivid and as intense where they studied her back.

“What do you think?” He considers her expression as Harry cocks her head, watching the mirror image follow the motion.

“Different,” she says after a long moment of silence, glancing up at him.

“It’s just for tonight.” He squeezes her shoulder before releasing her and stepping back.

Harry automatically turns with the motion and follows with one last lingering look at the young woman in the mirror.

He helps her into a red coat and gives her braid a little tug. “Why don’t you find Nagini and let her know we’ll be gone for the evening?” he suggests and her eyes brightened, bobbing her head and ducking out into the hallway, hissing loudly for his familiar.

His face softens for a moment before he straightens and brushed his hand over his own black coat, feeling the corners of the box in its pocket.

-

Narcissa lowers her wand, letting the protective barrier fade as she takes the last step up to the front doors that automatically opened to welcome her. Warm air immediately blew out, enveloping her as she gave a long shuddering sigh and slowly began the arduous task of removing her outerwear.

She could have used magic, of course, but there was something in the mechanical task that made her shoulders slowly ease down. Untying the boots and stepping out of them, carefully placing them aside. Unwinding her scarf and throwing it around the throat of the hanger, her coat joining it before carefully being hung with her cloche settling over the smooth surface of the hook.

She wavered over the more proper shoes with low heels before stealing her husband’s soft slippers and gave them a little nudge to shrink to fit her feet.

She allows herself a moment to just luxate in the silence.

The Bulgarian Minister had taken far too much time and she’d been anxious for the break and to get back even before Bella got hold of her with the grim news of Andy and her daughter.

She was determined to get a glass of her husband’s most expensive scotch and curl up with a good book when there was a pitter-patter of hurried feet that made her abruptly remember just who else was in the house and glanced up reflexively.

And drew a sharp breath in shock as Lis appeared at the top of the stairs.

The girl was obviously looking for Nagini, a hiss on her lip and a slight crouch to her step, wary. Because Nagini habitually appeared from all sorts of strange places to pull the wolf-girl down with her in a flurry of thick coils in some strange sort of snake-wolf version of hide and seek.

There was something otherworldly about her features – the sort of inhumanness that Tom often odded with. The short hair and broad palms with long fingers and the almost prowling way of moving drew something androgynous over her features. But the coat was red and warm and feminine in the way it settled over her slim hips. The jeans were just a size or two larger than tight and the boots were polished up to perfection.

She looked like a young woman and something inside Narcissa’s chest tightened at the realization.

For a second it didn’t look like Lis had seen her but then her nose flared and she paused half-way across the space towards the east wing and spun, her eyes lightening up in a brilliant shade supported by the warm colour of her coat.

“Narcissa!” She had but a moment to spread her arms and brace herself before she had an armful of child burying into her chest and reflexively enfolded her as she breathed in deeply.

The smell of wolf and pine crept up her nose, eased the tension from her muscles as she hugged the girl back just as tightly.

“Missed you,” Lis breathes and pushes forward, pressing her cheek against Narcissa’s in a mirror of the scent sharing she did with Nagini and a soft hum of contentment as she breathed in deeply.

As if memorising her scent.

“Lis,” she says faintly, blinking back something wet from her eyes. “I.” She clears her throat. “I didn’t recognise you there for a second.” She loosened her hold and the girl wiggles back to peer up at her with the same open and warm eyes she’d come to love, a canine tooth peeking over the edge of her lip as she grins.

“Tom is taking me to dinner.” Narcissa reaches out, her fingers sliding through the messy fringe, nothing that someone had cut the sides shorter and lightened it by the ear to make a small braid. She touched the bead at the end of it and felt Zafrina’s fading magic from previous ownership brush against her fingers.

“Is he now?” She made an exaggerated motion of shaking her head. “But you can’t go out like that.” She enjoys the way the other’s head cocks, like a dog listening for something potentially interesting.

“Can’t?”

“He’s taking you to a fine restaurant, isn’t he?” Narcissa checks and Lis nods, a sort of anticipatory air settling about her. “And he bought new clothes and everything for you?”

“Even underwear,” Lis shares seriously, patting at her hip, and Narcissa heroically swallows a grin as she reaches out and threads her fingers with the youngers.

“Come.”

Lis palm is warm and calloused against her own and she follows eagerly as Narcissa leads them to her and Lucius’ bedroom. She nudges the other down on the bed and pulls out the top drawer of her dresser, humming as she sorts through the different pieces inside of it.

She can practically feel Lis struggling to stay still and not bounce up to peer over her shoulder and smiles to herself as she separates a chain of silver from the other’s, hiding it inside her hand after a long lingering look.

“Close your eyes,” she says softly and Lis obliges, twitching as Narcissa settles a palm reassuringly against her chest before she reached around and gently secured the chain around her neck, tugging at the piece to settle in the middle, resting her index against it as she admires the picture Lis made with it.

“Did you know that the peacocks in our yard have a very short history?” She settles down beside the other. “Lucius was very flamboyant in his youth and he decided, the day before our wedding, that nothing our parents could put together would be extravagant enough.” Her mouth curls softly in fond memory. “So he snuck out in the middle of the night and arranged for a secret delivery as we made our vows. It didn’t turn out quite like he expected.” She can still recall Lucius horrified face with perfect clarity as the air filled with twenty-some male peacocks, all with their feathers spread wide in fright and making an unholy noise as they pirouetted from the sky “But they come to symbolize our family and our love.”

Lis opens an eye to peer at her curiously and Narcissa wordlessly summons the mirror from across the room, enjoying the way the younger’s eyes widened at the sight of the outlined peacock feather in small expensive stones dangling around her neck.

She’s growing up, her mind whispers as the girl presses her hand against the mirror, slowly she’s finding herself and one day… she won’t need me anymore.

Lis throws her arms around her neck and Narcissa’s heart aches as she pulls the other against herself, wishing she could hold her forever.

At least… that day is not today.

-

She was pleasantly buzzed when her son found her to inform her what had been going around during her absence.

She downed another shot and decided that if it wasn’t stress from handling her children that finally did her in it was probably the end of the world.

-

Her breath chills in the cold air and Tom patiently allows her to sniff around, drinking in the smells of the wild-life and the different sort of trees and nature that spanned around them.

“We’re far up north,” he tells her as she presses her palms into the crunchy, almost icy snow. “Go further down the country and you’ll find much more pleasant weather.” He had his hands shoved into his pockets, his shoulders relaxed as he watched her.

“I smell wolf.” She bounces up towards him, wide-eyed. “Not Fenrir wolf. Not… me wolf. But wolf.” She sounds bemused by the conclusion, absently giving her shoulders a little shake to rid of the snow that had fallen from the trees she’d disturbed.

He reaches out and brushes snow from her hair and she peers up at him with wolf-yellow eyes.

“Dinner first,” he tells her, amused and a bit fond at the way she perks up (she did remind him of Nagini promised a particularly taste morsel when she did that). “Then we can explore.”

He continues the trek and Ignis bounces off occasionally when something or the other caught her attention. She found frosted berries and different bushes and trees from which she broke off pieces and brought back for his inspection and he named those he recognised, speculating about those he didn’t.

There wasn’t much that grew in winter but that which did was green and against the white of the snow it was nothing short of a winter wonderland and Ignis was delighted.

It was a simple, almost childish sort of appreciation for the world around her and he ducks his chin deeper into his scarf to hide a soft smile.

He’d deliberately transported them a good hour from the restaurant and he kept his pace slow as she vanished between the trees, occasionally sending out a brush of magic to make sure she hadn’t gone far.

When the smell of human was inevitably caught by her she sidled up by him, wary and glancing up towards him, as if to reassure herself he was there by her side.

It was painfully endearing.

There was a woman in a sharp black suit, woollen cap and a thick heavy cloak waiting outside the cabin that slowly came into view. It wasn’t particularly large and it was the sort that had been built by hand with thick timber stocks. There was an enormous enclosure protected by a wooden fence that stretched far into the darkness of the forest where reindeer with enormous horns threaded through the snow.

Several noses lifted, flaring as they smelled their approach.

On the top of the cabin a red, green yellow and blue striped flag fluttered in the wind – a half blue and half red circle settled a bit to the left of the middle. The woman straightened and lifted her hand in a wave as they approached.

“Välkommen till de kalla fjällen i Dalarna,” she spoke, her eyes lingering on the duo of yellow and red eyes. “Har ni reserverat tid?”

“Table for two,” Tom says smoothly.

“Table for two it is,” she said without faltering, the accent strangely blank, stepping back and pushing the door open. “Roland, bord för två – snabba på!” She hollered inside before turning her attention back to the two of them. “My friend will be with you shortly. Feel free to hang off your coats in the hallway and make sure to give your feet a good stomp to rid of the snow.” She winks and Tom gives the younger a little push to make her step inside.

He unbuttons his coat and hands it up with his scarf as Ignis peers around cautiously, scenting out the different smells.

He tugs her towards him and relived her off her coat as well and she bore it patiently even as she craned her neck around, tensing as someone approached.

Tom raised a curious eyebrow at the peacock feather in silver and stones that dangled around her neck and hummed quietly to himself as he took a step forward to intercept the man who was lingering on Ignis with a hint of too much interest.

He cleared his throat, his eyes dark as the other jerked and then quailed under his look. “A table by the window would suit us nicely, I believe,” he says smoothly and Roland’s face went red at the warning in his yes.

Tom was pleased further reproach wouldn’t be necessary as the boy straightened professionally, if a bit pink-cheeked, as he showed them to the table and stepped away to fetch tableware and menus.

It was a booth suited for four people – the benches carved in wood and a red horse with colourful paint standing guard by the unlit candle. It might have come off as cold and hard if it wasn’t for the enormous roaring fire taking up half a wall with two elderly women in thick knitted sweaters beside it.

There was a younger male couple near the door, one wearing a cap to keep his bald head warm as the door swung open every now and then letting in the cold.

Ignis settles onto the bench with her back against the wall and Tom allows it even as his senses prickles as he takes the opposite.

The waiter returned, lightning the candle and putting down a plate and bowl each with the accompanying silverware. A moment later he brought a basket of steaming fresh bread and a bottle of cold water, pulling a menu each from under his arm and holding them out with only the slightest hint of sheepishness as he refused to meet eithers eye.

Tom folds the menu aside in favour of watching Ignis narrow her eyes at the bread and the steam that warned eager hands away.

“It’s run by squibs,” he tells her as she reluctantly focuses on him instead. “Except the cook.”

“That’s why the bread was so fast,” she hums, looking ridiculously comfy in her thick sweater. “I want meat.” She pins him with an expectant stare.

Tom huffs fondly. “Demanding little thing.” He obligingly opens the menu however, aware of how twitchy she got among humans and doing what he could to ease her wariness.

It was both an outing of pleasure and trial, after all. To see how she’d handle it.

He ordered them both reindeer steak with red wine sauce, potato and root vegetables after a first course of sweet potato soup. Finally decided on a wine he liked and ordered it with two glasses and an accompanying glass of elderberry juice after a moment of contemplation with a personal smile of amusement.

Dessert would be decided on afterwards but he’d spied at least three different chocolate desserts and he suspected the lava cake would be right up her alley.

He waved the waiter away after the drinks were delivered and poured them both as soft music settled over their table alongside a privacy ward to keep their conversation to a soft murmur to anyone who attempted to listen in.

“I see Narcissa gave you a gift before we left,” he comments, lifting his own glass and taking a sip as Ignis inspects hers. She sniffs it before swallowing, pausing as she contemplated the taste and slowly swallowed it down with a shifty so-so look before looking up at him with inquiry. “The peacocks is an unfortunate theme for that family.”

At least Nagini enjoyed hunting the things even if she’d been told not to kill them unnecessarily. He suspected one or two might have disappeared down her gullet from sheer laziness before meeting Ignis.

“Narcissa said family.” Ignis huffs, looking contemplative as she swallows more wine, licking her lips.

“Does is bother you?” he asks curiously, pushing the glass of elderflower towards her as she placed the wine down and she substituted it curiously.

“No,” she says firmly. “I like Narcissa.” Her brow furrows in the way that meant she was struggling for words. §But Nagini is safetymomfriend§ she says finally, the claim coming across odd in the language of the snakes that was more often than not feelings translated into an approximation of language.

Tom circles through the words, trying to pin down what she was actually asking. “Are you… afraid… Nagini would blame you?” he asks finally, leaning back as the waiter arrived with a hearty pot with soup that seemed to weigh nothing in his hands as he served. “For finding kin among humans?” he asks once the young man steps away.

The guilty look meant he was spot-on.

“She won’t.” He lifts a spoonful, blowing carefully as he does a brief check for potions and other ill wills. “Snakes do not operate on the same narrow views as humans.” He brings the spoon to his mouth and hums in appreciation as he swallows. “She did, however, claim you first.” He warns mildly, feeling a flash of protectiveness for his familiar.

“Nagini is first family,” the young woman agrees firmly, eyes meeting.

He holds her gaze for a moment before inclining his head in acceptance.

She dips the bread into the soup and shoves into her mouth, chewing happily and obviously pleased to have straightened it out.

He keeps the conversations simple – encouraging her to use human words as he subtly inquiries about her relations with the others in the house, trying to measure how safe she felt and what sort of connections she’d developed with the Death Eaters that stopped by.

He’d be bringing home the Inner Circle, after all. There just wasn’t any other choice. That Albus little pet project had gone after a claimed neutral and an allied light witch meant that he was both methodical and dangerous. Starting with someone he had inside information on meant that the next step was most likely to stretch that net to avoid Albus getting wind of it.

Of course, the old man had a habit of closing his eyes to that he didn’t wish to see so it was impossible to say how aware he truly was most days.

Still, he frowns as he takes another sip of his wine, enjoying its dry spiciness, to have gone after one of the Black sisters… that takes either guts or stupidity.

Or desperation, he amends after a moment, glancing on the girl across him.

They finished their main-course and Tom ordered them a lava-cake each and double espresso to go with his own. Ended up pushing half of the dessert to the begging eyes across the table in favour of sipping the bitter liquid as Ignis visibly restrained herself from licking the plate (whatever crash-course in dining etiquette young Malfoy had shoved down her throat at least so much had stuck, it seemed).

Tom suspected he might have been more concerned with propriety if he didn’t watch his familiar choke down a human or two every other month.

It was dark outside when they finally left and Tom ducked his head into his scarf as cold air chased the warmth away. Ignis was visibly relieved but she’d handled it well, all things considered, he decides.

He came to a halt and she took several steps before she noticed and turned towards him.

“We do not need to be back for several hours.” His breath ghosts the air. “I know you want to explore more.”

Her form folded seamlessly to that of a large wolf, its long legs easily stepping through the snow to peer into the depth of the trees.

It paused and turned towards him, its gaze heavy.

“Go on.” He raises a brow.

Ignis huffs and instead turned and covered the distance to press her head against his chest. He made a noise at the strength of the simple motion and reached out to card his fingers through the fur, huffing in amusement as he found a small braid by its ear and gave it a little tug.

“I’ll wait for you,” promises her.

But instead of leaving she gave a large shuddering sigh and Tom stilled and let his arm fall against his side as the last of the speckled fur disappeared into black and her form cracked and grew to easily challenge the size of a large horse. The gaze in her eyes darkened, turning primal, lessening the restrictions of humanity and leaving a creature unlike anything else in its wake as it shook its enormous body, as if to rid of the cobwebs.

They stood, eye to eye, and hers burned with intensity for a long moment before they lowered and she folded to the ground, expectant and waiting.

All he could hear was the large breaths of the beast and his own thudding heart as he stares down at her. Opens his mouth – closed it.

There is something heavy in the silence of the forest – the slow falling snow and the crunch of icy snow beneath his feet as he takes a step forward.

You showed me your world, it seemed to say, let me show you mine.

“Just this once,” he tells the beast, burying his finger into the coarse dark fur and holding it tight it as the beast rose large and heavy beneath him.

Wild magic seemed to crawl from her every pore until the air was so saturated that he didn’t have any choice but to breathe it in and his eyes dilated at the taste of it.

It chuffs, its enormous jaw turning into something that might have been an attempt at a grin.

Chapter Text

They move with snow in their hair and lungs filled with wild magic that makes their eyes glitter – pale spindely hands buried in coal black fur and glamours long shed as the world lightens with colours beyond name, singing with voices of those long forgotten and those never known.

Below him the large body of the beast moves ever forward as if guided by invisible hands, mighty in size and so alight with magic that he cannot stand to look at her.

He draws another breath, a gasp, and for a moment he forgets who he is.

For a moment he is beyond the names Tom Riddle, is untouched by the entity of Marvolo Gaunt and shed from the burden of Lord Voldemort.

The world ripples and nausea comes with a second breath as he bends down, squeezing his eyes shut and breathing in the scent of the beast and mistening to the sizzle of the snow beneath it.

He doesn’t know for how long they travel.

The night seem everlasting, time entirely beyond him, and the wolf ensnared by her own call until a gaping maw opens up before them and she slows, her stride long and hungry until she pauses at the very edge of the cliff with her nose tilting towards the bright wide moon beckoning above them.

He remembers to be Tom with his third breath as he tucks his nose into his scarf and blinks his eyes of the film that seems to cling to them.

“Where have you brought me?” The voice doesn’t sound like his own, far breathier and closer to something that might have been his in his youth and for a moment – a blink of time – the hands buried in midnight dark fur is aglow with the healthy pallor brought by sun.

It is gone in the next moment, a brush of a memory that refuses to linger, and he’s left with hands nearly purple from cold.

He forces his grip to loosen and he slides down with a low crunch of snow beneath his feet and steps forward to stand beside her.

He doesn’t look at her when her form ripples.

Says nothing as she reaches out for his hand with strong fingers that burn hot against his cold ones while another disappears down his pocket, removing the heavy weight with just a ghost of a touch before she steps away, head tilting up.

“If I look at you now I will now the truth.”

“You have always known.” Her voice echoes, simultaneously that of a young boy and a young girl and more magic than human or even wolf. “There are no one out there like you and there is no one out there like me. There is only us.”

He breathes out, watches the way the warmth mists in the cold.

“Why did you bring me here?”

“Because you, if anyone, deserved to know the truth.” He feels her eyes on him. “Because you allowed me to stay and to love someone who is half of your soul.”

And the looks at her then and for the first time it isn’t Little Wolf staring back at him - isn’t Ignis or Lis or any other name she’s been given under his roof.

Harry Lily Potter stares back at him, her back tall, her eyes green, the scar on her forehead burning.

Sees wild hair tumbling down her shoulders and daring and bravery that was never allowed to grow past the walls of the cupboard she’d died in. Features free from the burdens of the wolf and teeth white straight and blunt in her mouth.

This girl would have grown to be his enemy, would have faced him as the other half of a prophecy he’d sacrificed so much for.

“You’re dead.” The words are heavy in his mouth and the wild magic in the air stirs with the force behind them. “You died fourteen-years-old and afraid at the hands of your relatives.” His own magic rises wild and violent inside of him and the stone palmed from his jacket pulses in response, spider cracks of yellow running through her palm as she holds up her hands.

And suddenly it all makes sense and Tom throws his head back and laughs for neither can live while the other survives.

Like always the words rattles with power beyond him but for the first time he bites down and allows the mania to stretch his grin, eyes glittering as he spreads his hands, eyes never leaving hers. “I’m right, aren’t I?” he breathes.

Harry Lily Potter stares back at him, her smile just as wide, and there is nothing soft in her eyes as she turns her hand and offers him the stone of Salazar Slytherin.

-

She sneezes, blinking against the thick fog of her mind and the ashy taste in her mouth and twisting to bury her face into the scent that is Tom.

Familiar hands brushes through her hair and she nudges into it with a soft rumble of contentment.

She isn’t quite sure why she’s naked at the edge of a cliff, Tom’s cloak tucked gently around her and his eyes watching something beyond her, but she feels far more content than she has in months – as if something inside of her had settled into place between her last memory and now.

Wild magic still clings to her skin, a golden shimmer that will never truly leave, and when she tilts her eyes to look up at Tom he smiles at the sight of her eyes – one yellow of the wolf, the other a remnant of a child long dead.

Together they make something new.

The burn of the stone in the palm of her hand has long since faded and with it the call of the moon.

“Ignis.” Tom’s voice is soft – softer than he’d ever allowed it to be, even to Nagini. “Look at me.”

His voice beckons at her wolf but also something else – something deep, deep in her soul – and his red eyes entrances her.

“Harry Potter lived and died in that cupboard.”

The words ring in the silence between them, his eyes steady on her startled ones.

“Who you were, who you could have been, it doesn’t matter because Nagini found you first and she made you hers.” His voice rings with a truth that will not be challenged. “Made you ours.

She hardly dares to breathe, pinned beneath the burn of his magic and the intensity of his eyes.

When she was little she used to dream of a distant relative bringing her far away from the Dursley’s and a violence that only escalated no matter how good she is, no matter how she struggles, never measuring up – nothing to her but a name and a rough remark of parents who’d died young and foolish.

It is years before she learns the truth and suddenly she doesn’t even have her name – it becomes a whisper, a cry, something to be hailed at one turn, torn apart at another, and she’s surrounded by people who think they know her before she gets a word out her mouth.

Not even her parents are hers. They’re caught in memories of the people around her who watches her through them.

Nagini teaches her to be Little Wolf when she wanted to be nothing.

Lis comes with arms that folds around her without hesitation and something she’d never dared to ask for.

Ignis is a promise.

Run, her mind whispers.

Stay, her heart pleads.

She untangles a hand from Tom’s cloak, pressing it against his chest and over his heart, willing him to understand what she’s giving him as she spreads her fingers. “Yours,” she agrees, with all the faith and hope of someone being remade in the ashes of what had been.

It’s a promise made with the wild magic still clinging between them, anchored and burning with something far beyond them, the stone in her palm pulsing with the word, an answering spider web of green momentarily running through the cracks of his fingers before it fades.

-

Lucius startles and glances up at the heavy noise of Nagini dropping down in a pool of coils and thick muscles.

“What-“ Draco barely gets the word out before the doors open wide and Tom stumbles inside, pupils blown from the wild magic that still clings to the both of them with a sickening sweet scent that makes him take a step back and cover his nose before he catches himself.

Wild magic is dangerous – it’s ancient and volatile, stealing the minds of those unprepared to handle it and Tom’s grin is edging with mania but also something glorious, something wild and simultaneously charming as Lis steps up beside him with a shake of her hair that stirs the golden magic in the air before she looks at them.

Something has changed, Lucius thinks, looking at the two of them, at the yellow eye set beside a green one that is unmistakeably that of a dead-child.

Lis is down on her knees, welcoming Nagini with the same easy companionship that has always been there and Nagini rises high to meet her gaze, tasting the air and the magic that clings to both her snakeling and her Tom and snaps her jaw with a low hiss as her Little Wolf presses her cheek against hers.

§You reek§ Nagini grumbles at them. §Both of you§ But she returns the greeting, tightening her coils around her Snakeling who is wearing nothing but Tom’s cloak but is far warmer than she’s supposed to be – her fingers and toes untouched by frostbite despite the frost that still clings to them.

§Then make me smell like you§ Little Wolf snaps her teeth into a grin. §Let’s take a bath§ she urges.

“Tom,” Lucius doesn’t step forward, the magic is too potent, and Draco remains several steps behind him, out of sight. “What happened?”

“Call Severus,” he says instead of answering, red eyes alight when they meet her gaze. “Fenrir, Narcissa, Zafrina and Bellatrix as well. I think it’s about time we had ourselves a conversation.” He pauses, glancing towards his familiar who is already being coxed along by Lis up the stairs. “Make sure they’re all here two hours before the meeting tomorrow.”

And then, without another word, he turns to follow the two of them up the stairs.

Draco hesitantly steps up beside him and Lucius notes the way he’s got his shirt raised to cover his nose as he carefully stays away from the golden mist still clinging to the air of the doorway, eyes wide.

“I would know that colour anywhere,” Draco says with a tremble in his voice. “Was that-“

“What you saw here tonight – you can’t speak of it to anyone.” He pins him in place. “Not until Tom has given permission.”

Draco swallows, shaken and clearly out of his depth as he looks towards the stairs. “Ginny will know. There’s – you can’t hide that!” He gestures towards the stairs, something wild in his eyes. “Her scar was glowing for Merlin’s sake!”

“It will fade,” Lucius says with a surety he’s not convinced of. “Her eye will return to normal once the magic is out of their system. She’ll go back to being Lis-“

Draco hisses loudly. “Lis!” He takes a step backwards. “You named her after her goddamn mother and you expect to keep it a secret!?” For a second Lucius fears his son has lost it – the laughter that escapes his throat is edged with hysteria as he stumbles back against the wall and sinks down, scrubbing furiously at his face with his sleeves. “Harry Lily Potter was living right here, in our house, and you knew-“ the words break into a choked noise, thick with disbelief and something that threatens to turn into a sob.

Lucius kneels down before his son, aware of the guilt, misplaced as it had been, that had followed him in the wake of the death of the girl.

Wishes desperately Narcissa would be here because she had always been better with what to say and what to do when it came to their son.

“We didn’t keep it a secret out of cruelty,” he says finally as he puts a hand on his son’s shoulder to steady him, squeezing it gently. “You’ve seen her yourself – there’s very little left of what she was and what remains… She needs time to heal and find herself again and somehow she’s found comfort and companionship with Nagini and then – us.” He wasn’t blind – he’d seen the feather around her neck as she sunk down to hug Tom’s Familiar.

Narcissa might as well have signed the papers for adoption and made it official.  

“The Dark Lord killed her parents.”

Lucius doesn’t pretend to understand what makes a fourteen-year-old disappear off the face of the earth only to appear years later at the heels of a large snake to cozy-up with her parent’s killer.

“The world is a complicated place,” he settles for and Draco gives him a deeply unimpressed look and Lucius pretends not to see the way he wipes at the corner of his eyes with his sweater with a sniffle.

“I can’t believe Harry Potter is having a bath with the Dark Lord,” Draco mutters faintly after a long moment. “No one would believe me.”

Lucius valiantly struggles against the laugh that threatens to escape him.

-

§Nagini§

The large snake opens both of her golden eyes, twisting from her perch at the side of the bath to look at her snakeling. Tom opens a single red eye but soon closes it again, content to leave them to it.

§Yes Little Wolf?§

§You really don’t care who I was before?§

§No§ she agrees, stretching to wind around her Little Wolf’s neck, coils dropping into the hot water with a flick of her tail before she was nearly completely covered in white suds, head resting on her snakeling’s shoulder. §You are mine§ she hisses, content and happy and breathing in the last remnants of wild magic bleeding out of their systems. §That’s all that matters§

Her snakeling hums, butting her cheek gently against Nagini’s.

§The rest of the world won’t think the same§ she huffs, snapping her teeth in annoyance.

§Why would you care about them when you have us?§ Nagini buffs at her in return, settling her weight deliberately and making her snakeling yelp and push up with her feet against Tom to avoid slipping right under.

Tom opens his eyes, gaze unimpressed as Nagini cackles – a hissing sort of wet noise as she eases back.

§What do you want to do, Ignis?§ Tom tilts his head, his thin body submerged down to his chin with suds clinging to it. §You don’t have to be anyone but what you are now. You don’t have to fight the war and Narcissa has already as good as given you a place in the Malfoy family. You are free to live your life as you want§

§As long as you stay with me§ Nagini butts in, snapping her mouth inches in front of her snakeling’s face, to nary a flinch.

Little Wolf hesitates for a long moment, long enough that Nagini has manged to loop twice around Tom’s neck and come to rest on his head in what Tom correctly identifies as a sulk before the girl finally opens her mouth.

§I want to – help§

Tom and Nagini both look at her, identically caught off-guard.

§I don’t know what I can do-§ she pushes on, oblivious to their shock as she spreads her hands in the sudsy water, frustration rolling off her. §I’m not – I’m not what I was§ she finally grits out. §I don’t remember magic, not like – not like I used to§ it feels strange to admit it out loud. §My memories – language, it’s all jumbled up§

§So what?§ Nagini is the first to recover, Tom still looking vaguely pale beneath her. §We make new memories and you can learn new things§

Ignis chuffs silently, a mulish look in her face that is wholly wolf.

“Why-“ Tom gets through a strangled breath. “Why would you want to help me?”

He stares at her and she stares back, blinking green and yellow eyes.

“Because you are Tom,” the words are stilted but she pushes on, copying his sudden change of language. “I-“ she searches for the word. “I promised –“ she lies her palm at her chest, over her heart in an echo of what she’d done in the clearing over his. “Yours.”

“It doesn’t mean – I’m not asking you to join the war!” The water ripples as he straightens, jarring Nagini who hisses in displeasure, looking between the both of them in suspicion. “That’s the opposite of what I want!”

Ignis meets his gaze patiently. “I know.” And then she grins. “That is why. Good reason.”

“I killed your parents,” he pushes, suddenly annoyed and unable to pin-point why. “I killed that boy right in front of you-“

“Dumbledore-“ she interrupts, uncoiling in the water with her gaze blazing. “Left me to die.

The words settles heavily between them – a truth never spoken, never admitted before, tension running through her shoulders, water dripping from her short black hair and down the burn mark eating up the larger part of the left side of her face.

He sinks slowly back into the water and she chuffs, an annoyed noise that flares her nose.

“I got- out,” she says slowly, clumsily, willing him to understand. §If I stayed I would have been dead, I was starving and they were§ she swallows, touching a hand against the scars creeping up her neck. §He knew – I begged him not to let me back there, I told him that they were hurting me and he just – he sent me back there anyway and I-§ she tenses her fingers, skin stretching tight over white knuckles. §I was starving – so thin you could count every bone in my body. That’s what he did to his saviour§ she meets his gaze. §I don’t understand everything§ she admits in frustration. §I didn’t want to understand for a long time but -§ she meets his eyes. §I love Nagini and I love Narcissa and I love you. If I can help then I want to§  

Nagini remains silent as she watches Tom stare at her Little Wolf as if he can’t believe the words coming out of her mouth.

The wild magic still lingers between them and she lifts her hand from the water, turning it palm-up and flaring her fingers until yellow glows and spreads like cracks of fire.  

His flares green in response, darting through the water like lightning in a storm.

§I found this – in that hole§ she flexes her fingers. §It was calling for me§

§Yeah§ he leans his head back, throwing an arm over his eyes. §Of course it was§

§And you have one too§ she pushes stubbornly. §That’s why it happened tonight – whatever it was§

§Yes§ he admits after a long moment. §It was§

She tilts her head, watching him, and then looks to Nagini who hisses low.

§We really need to talk about your habit of picking up things reeking of magic§ the snake chastened.

Little Wolf whines at her words, a mournful noise accompanied by wide eyes that gain no sympathy from the golden pair of the other.

She chuffs, turning away with a harrumph that makes Nagini rise her tail to flick her nose as Tom watches the two of them from beneath the shadow of his arm.

§I’m having a meeting tomorrow – before I bring my Inner Circle into the halls of this house§ he says with resignation. §If you are going to do this – if you really want a part of all of this - then you will be there and you will tell them who you were before§

She makes a questioning noise, head cocking inquisitively, eyes intent but not running - ready to hear him out.

§You just said that it didn’t matter who I was§

§It does in the war§ he says simply, letting the implication settle in eyes that furrow.

§You really didn’t mean to make me fight§ she says finally, water moving as she rises tall, form bare and muscled and dark where she stares down at him, forcing him to tilt his head back in an acknowledging roll of his neck, waiting. §I will tell them, Tom – and then I won’t be Harry Potter, I will be Lis and I will be Little Wolf to Nagini and Ignis to you but no more Harry§

She doesn’t wait for a response, climbing over the edge and padding out on bare feet, no doubt to roll herself dry on his bed, her towel still folded by the sink.

He groans, sinking deeper into the water as Nagini drapes herself over his form, radiating amusement

§You have an insolent child§ he grumbles to her, stroking long fingers over her nose, but his eyes are soft – softer than they’ve been in many years. §But a good one§

§Like I’d settle for anyone but the best§ she hisses, nudging his chin.

§Do you think she realizes she has the grounds for changing the tidings of this entire war?§ Tom asks, staring up at the ceiling.

§No§ Nagini sighs contently.

Chapter Text

In the morning the last remains of wild magic has faded from her mind and body and she carefully slides from beneath Nagini’s heavy coils and up on bare feet to the bathroom where she carefully closes the door behind her and draws a slow breath before peering into the mirror.

The single green eye has drowned away, leaving only yellow, and she touches the pads of her fingers carefully against the raised pink skin surrounding her left eye.

“Harry Potter lived and died in that cupboard.”

She hums and then reaches for her toothbrush, grimacing at the taste of mint as she dutifully cleans her teeth as Narcissa insisted she do each morning and rinses her mouth with water before leaning back to peer out the door.

§Nagini, do you know if there’s more of the clothes I wore the other day?§ What she had had been ruined when she went from human to wolf – memories fading with the transformation, leaving her only with a sense of rightness that she can’t shake away.

The great snake uncoils from the thick sheets, down on the floor with a rustle of her body dragging against the ground

§Tom said he left something for you in here§ She nudges the door to Tom’s wardrobe open and rise tall to find the box Tom had carried in that morning. §Are you really sure?§ Nagini asks as her Little Wolf reaches over her, hoisting the box into her arms and dropping it down on the floor, legs folding together as she follows. §There are other ways to participate in this war§

Lis strokes her fingers over the box, a contemplative furrow to her brow.

§Yes§ she says finally. §I stand by what I said yesterday§

§Even if it means the world finding out who you were?§ Nagini curls up her body, muscles tensing beneath her heavy form to keep from falling over when the Familiar rests her head on her shoulder with a flick of her tongue. §Once you join this war there’s no going back and the risk is very much real§

Lis looks down at her hands – to the broad palms and thick skin, thinking of skeletal thin hands in a small cupboard where Harry Potter had met her end.

§I am sure§ she hisses and Nagini remains silent as she cracks the box open. 

-

Draco lies on his back between Ginny and Blaise until light creeps through the closed window and he gives up on getting any sort of rest.

Shifting he very, very carefully manoeuvres himself over his boyfriend’s sleeping body and makes his way out of the room, door clicking silently shut behind him before he breathes out.

He makes his way past his parent’s room and down the turns and silent corridors until he finds the balcony overlooking the backyard and breathes in the chilly morning air with a heavy heart as he looks out over the large grounds.

When he was little he liked to pull a towel around his shoulders and stand on a chair to overlook the same view – pretending he was the King and the peacocks wandering the grounds his servants. He would have a carefully scribbled parchment with him – reading seriously out loud, as If sharing his knowledge to the masses.

He wonders what Harry had done at the same age – what her childhood had been like, locked up in a cupboard and victim to her muggle relative’s violence.

He had seen the photos published in the newspapers, the blood, the final note from her aunt who’d shot her family dead in clear regret before taking her own life.

He hadn’t believed it for a long time.

Or rather, he couldn’t.

Harry Potter – the same girl who faced him down on the Quidditch pitch with determination and fury – the victim of abuse? 

The person rumoured to face down the Dark Lord in her first year, a Basilisk in her second, a werewolf and dementors in her third, she who had stood as the second winner of the Triwizard Tournament, the only survivor against the Dark Lord, only to be killed by the muggles who’d raised her?

It was laughable.

Only, it wasn’t anything of the sort, because it was very much real and no-one had suspected a thing despite the shining attention of the world focused upon her.

He remembers Harry Potter at fourteen with long black hair tightly braided by Granger for the tournament, side-by-side with the other champions, about to go up against students much older than herself, tension running through her very body, shoulders curled forward as badges flashed and twirled mockingly around her.

She wasn’t the Hogwarts Champion and the school had made it abjectly clear, the only support she had found in the fourth year Gryffindors and up.

She’d turned around, Draco remembers, searching for Granger and Weasley both in the crowd, straightening at the sight of them before tuning to face the labyrinth with new resolve in those eerie green eyes of hers.

He’d been jealous of that friendship once upon a time – the closeness, the absolute faith that put them on another level, untouchable by those around them. The Golden Trio. Ready to die for each other at eleven, a bond that had only evolved, ironed through hardship and impossible situations.

The picture won’t mash with the truth of Lis.

Lis who wormed her way into his mother’s heart with endearing mulishness and naivety but also resolve and daring, the victim of her own decision to remain as an animagus written in the slope of her forehead, the yellow of her eyes, the sharp teeth and ears and her broad palms and feet.

Lis who had been dragged naked and shivering into the mansion by the Dark Lord’s Familiar because she’d found home and love with the creature and, through it, a place at the side of the Dark Lord who had opened his home up to her.

Had he known who he was letting into his home from the very beginning? Draco wonders, leaning against the railing. Did she know who Nagini was when she met her in the forest?

Draco itches for one of his cigarettes but he knows his parents wouldn’t be very impressed to catch him with one and forces the urge down, patting down his pyjama pants for one of the caramels Blaise tended to sneak into his pockets for moments like this and sighs when he comes up empty.

“Looking for one of these?” Ginny smiles at him from the glass door, a toffee caramel between her thumb and middle finger when he swivels around.

“What are you doing awake?” he asks, catching the candy as she flicks it towards him, pulling the door shut behind her as she steps up to join him.

“It’s nearly six,” she tells him, hoisting herself up and over on the railing to let her legs dangle.

He’s both surprised and not to see her wearing a deceptively plain high-necked shirt in combination with her slacks, the robes hanging loosely on her shoulders, the large hood low on her back. It’s practical while aesthetically pleasing, different yet close to that worn by the Dark Lord’s Death Eaters, shirt carefully tucked in and secured by a thick belt. If he knew Ginny right there’s a knife or two secured near her back, in her boots, wand to the inside of her wrist and basilisk tooth somewhere on her person.

If he knows Blaise right there’s going to be an outfit waiting for him as well, something terribly unsubtle to back-up their redhead as she joins the meeting of the Inner Circle, not only as a blood traitor, but as a Weasley.

The sister of the right hand of Dumbledore, to be more precise.

And one of them.

He bites down on the candy, catching her amused smile at the corner of his eyes and determinedly staring out the grassy field while ignoring it.

“It’s going to be alright,” she tells him, as if reading his mind, red hair bright enough to look like flames when it catches in the sunlight at the tilt of her head. “Sev would have dragged me off on a mission or something if he honestly thought I was at risk. You worry too much.”

“I care too much not to,” he says around another crunch of the sugary treat. “I worry about you and I worry about Blaise and I worry about my parents and I worry Sev and I worry about Lis.” He watches as one of the peacocks flares his tail out, showing off for one of the females in a glitter of blue and green and rows of eye-like patterns waving through the air. “I never could have imagined this when I first started Hogwarts. Couldn’t imagine Dumbledore claiming the role of Herald. He was always – I always thought he loved H-Potter,” he stumbles over the name, “as a grandfather, you know? They always appeared to be so damn close and despite that – despite that-“ he can’t get the words out, hating the very idea of lying to his partner, and leaves her fill in the blanks as he lets out a harsh breath of air.

It wasn’t unusual for abuse victims to keep quiet, internalize it, blame themselves, unwilling to draw attention to it, he knew.

It wouldn’t have been strange for Harry Potter to never have told a soul.

But the pieces of Harry Potter alive in Lis had chosen a life as a wolf beside the Dark Lord’s companion rather than return to Hogwarts or ask for help and that added a weigh to the equation that opened up endless of possibilities.

For all that he had thought Harry Potter dead he hadn’t truly thought it to be at the hands of Dumbledore. He’d questioned it, of course, because Dumbledore had been the one closest to the Girl-Who-Lived outside her two friends but what would he have had to gain from it? His own saviour dead and gone and left to scramble in the aftermath.

But what would cause a fourteen-year-old to choose woods and solitude over her two best friends and someone, who for all intent and purpose, had served as a mentor to her?

To the point where she’d lost such a large chunk of her humanity that Draco knew she would never go back to what she had been.

Had she told Dumbledore?

Had the man known about the abuse and sent her back anyway?

Why?

You can ask her, her mind reminds him as he gnashes the last of the candy between his teeth. She’s alive, after all.

“What is really on your mind, Dragon?” Ginny leans towards him, eyes sharp. “When you came to bed last night you had been crying and you didn’t get a minute of sleep.” Her gaze searches his. “Something upset you.”

“I can’t say,” he admits with a hiss of breath, unwilling to lie. “Not unless the Dark Lord speaks about it first.”

Her mouth thins into a flat line but she doesn’t press, just like how he knows better than to ask about details from her spying.

It won’t stop her from digging, he knows, and he wonders what she would do if she knew just who is taking regular baths with the Dark Lord.

The door clacks open behind them and Blaise steps through, balancing a tray of fresh breakfast food, shirt and pants elegantly tailored to fit his form, the crest on his chest unmistakeably that of Ginny’s patronus, his high-necked shirt beneath the robes the perfect shade of her hair.

“Morning,” he greets them cheerfully.

-

Lis finds Narcissa two minutes after she’d stepped out of the fire place, careening around the corner with thick boots on her feet, and she only has a moment to blink before she’s lifted up and spun around by a body larger than what it had been, cloak spinning at the girl’s heels.

“Lis!” she gasps, staggering when she’s let down, barely able to catch the edge of her hat before the girl pushes forward, more like a cat than a wolf when she lets out a low content whurr as Narcissa automatically reaches to cord her fingers through short messy hair as the other presses close, inhales her scent.

Her conversation with Lucius still lingers at the back of her mind as she nudges the wolf-girl back, eyes searching for any hint of green in those brilliant yellow eyes and slowly relaxing when she finds none.

Plants a kiss on her forehead when a Lis cocks her head to the side in confusion and inquiry.

She understands what Lucius had said about change.

It’s subtle – as if she’s settled properly into her skin, a confidence that hadn’t been there before making her look taller, strength corded in muscles and steady shoulders, nose flaring as she breathes in the scents around her, her gaze steady on Narcissa’s in a way that overlaps her humanself with something entirely wolf.

Her forehead still sloped but it was less drastic while her nails had darkened and if Narcissa isn’t mistaken the points of her ears have grown even more prominent, the texture of the hair between her fingers closer to the fur of the wolf than what had remained of the human.

Wild magic.

She wonders where Tom had disappeared to – curious and wary as to what the night had brought him when it had had such a visible effect on the girl.

“You here for meeting?” Lis asks curiously, stealing the hat from her hand and hanging it up before reaching for her cloak when she shrugs it off her shoulders.

“I am,” Narcissa agrees, studying the girl thoughtfully as she holds out her scarf next. “Judging by your clothes I would gamble that you are too.”

Lis chuffs in agreement, managing to look simultaneously unsure and stubborn when she meets Narcissa’s eyes. “I promise Tom.” She puts her palm over her heart. “I tell. Important.”

“I hope you mean during the meeting before the Inner Circle arrives.” Narcissa beckons the girl along with her towards the kitchen for a bite of food and to prepare some tea.

“Yes,” Lis agrees seriously. “Secret.” She holds up a finger to her lip. “Important for war,” she says. “Not – to Lis.” She frowns. “Not to §Sweetmomhome§ either.” She bares her teeth, frustrated but willing the other to understand. “Not important to-“ She gestures helplessly between them as Narcissa pauses with half the cups on the tray. “But I tell. Because right to know. Because §Sweetmomhome§ right to know,” she clarifies, chin tilting up.

Narcissa’s fingers tremble around the cup before she remembers herself and gently places it down with a soft click.

It’s both sad and wonderful to see Lis like this. The soft looking sweater over a grey button-up that had been left un-tucked – muggle jeans from the night before traded for the black coarse fabric of something hardier and more expensive. She’s even wearing sturdy boots, a thick cloak resting on her shoulders.

She looks every inch a young woman ready to take her place in the war.

When she’d first taken her steps in the Malfoy manor on two feet it she had been hunched over, ready to transform in a heartbeat, nude more times than she was not, barely able to tolerate the cotton shorts and shirts they offered to her and struggling with the most basic of things.

Even now it is something she grudgingly wears but she bears them willingly, here, in front of Narcissa, in preparation of a meeting, wanting to make an impression and trusting Tom’s choice in clothes (because no-one but Tom would have a small stitched snake at the collar of the button-up, suspiciously familiar for all its simplicity where it folded over the throat of the sweater).

The light catches on the silver bead in the small braid at her ear – shining focus on the small sun Zafrina had chosen for her.

She knows what the girl is about to tell them.

Knows that the moment she does everything is going to shift.

Narcissa reaches out, finds the thin chain around the girl’s neck and pulls it out, adjusting it to rest around the neck of the collar in something that is less jewellery and something closer to claim as it settles on her chest.

“Why don’t you help me prepare something to eat?” she asks, stroking her thumb over the feather before she draws back. “I was thinking sandwiches – and maybe some cookies.”

Lis watches her for a moment, rolling back on her heels with searching eyes before her lips stretches, revealing rows of sharp teeth.

-

They sit in a circle of chairs and couches.

Narcissa and Lucius in one, Severus seated in a plush chair beside them, legs crossed, his eyes resting on Lis who sits immediately to the right of the Dark Lord, Familiar in her lap.

Bellatrix had claimed herself a seat immediately opposite her sister, next to Fenrir and then Zafrina whose braids were pulled back into an elegant bun tied in blue.

Those closest of the Inner Circle, as it had been before Tom crumbled to dust at the hands of a child.

Lis’s hand rests on top of Nagini’s head, her mouth in a thin line, cup untouched in front of her.

“Why did you call us here, Tom?” Severus asks as he reaches out to refill his cup, looking tired from a night of homework and brewing but his eyes are sharp – suspicious as they sweep over the only person misplaced in the room.

Not even Draco, Blaise or Ginevra had been invited.

Bellatrix is suspiciously quiet, her eyes locked on Lis, and Fenrir grimaces beside her, bearing the brunt of her legilimency as the only werewolf in the room, his mind stronger, steadier than the other’s save for the Dark Lord who she would never burden in such a way unless finding no other way.

Tom leans back.

“I have two things to discuss with you before we bring the rest of the Inner Circle into Malfoy manor,” Tom says, his smooth voice rolling through the room, a mix of contemplation and wariness in his eyes as he glances at Lis. “Both just so happen to pertain Ignis.”

The wolf-girl straightens, yellow eyes sharp and determined as they sweep from right to left, from Severus and then Narcissa, lingering her gaze on Zafrina who raises a curious eyebrow as the younger visibly gathers herself and gives a sharp look to them all.

“I want to join the war.” The words are slow, practiced, and rolls in a way that demand attention. “Tom has agreed,” she says, eyes challenging any denial. “But on condition.” She holds up a finger. “That I share truth of who I was,” she puts careful emphasis the word and Narcissa reaches for her husband’s hand, folding their fingers together and holding tight as Severus settles both feet on the ground, leaning forward with mouth already curling downwards.

“I am not her now but I was born Harry Lily Potter.”

You could have heard a pin drop but Lis refuses to lower her head as she pushes on. “I left – fourteen years old for forest. I would have-“ she clenches her teeth together, struggling to make her tongue obey her as Tom watches her quietly. “I would be dead if I – stayed.” She looks to Severus, meeting his black eyes with something vulnerable in her own. “I was – hurt. Scared.” She huffs, nose flaring as she glares down at her hands. “I told Albus and – no change. He sent me back there. Knowing.”

“So you left,” Fenrir muses from his seat, fingers drumming, a mix between surprise and interest intermingling in his eyes. “And then you met Nagini.”

She nods, visibly relieved to have her story helped along. “Yes,” she agrees. “Already wolf for – long time.” She gestures to Nagini. “Lonely. Nagini - friendship.” She swallows. “Safety.”

“Why didn’t you contact those friends of yours?” Severus demands from his seat, eyes dark and unfathomable. “Or Minerva! Merlin knows that woman would have done everything in her power to help you. She was absolutely devastated when she first heard about your supposed death.” There’s fury there, but also blame in the rasp of his voice.

“You can just say it, Sevvie,” Bellatrix drawls from her seat, not looking away from the yellow eyes that glances up towards her. “You are angry at yourself for not seeing what was so painfully obvious and you blame yourself for what happened to little Birdie here.” Her mouth stretches mockingly.

Lis’s mouth flattens. “Albus is – dangerous. Knew – then. He wants to win. No matter – price.” She gestures towards herself. “Piece in a game. Pawn.” She bares her teeth. “Dangerous.” She repeats. “I decide – I leave. My choice.” She gives Severus a look that makes his knuckles whiten. “Not Harry Potter – I Lis. And Ignis,” she looks to Tom. “Little Wolf to §Safetymomfriend§.” She last is a hiss, answered with a shift of the coils curled around her.

Severus’s gaze darts to Narcissa and Lucius, neither who looks surprised, and his eyes burn for a moment before he visibly struggles to collect himself and presses back into his seat with a tension that stiffens his back and neck.

“Thank you for telling us,” Zafrina says and Lis startles, looking towards her. “It must have been fate that brought Nagini into your path.” She glances towards Tom, wondering what he really thought about all of it. What thoughts and feelings had left him to accept the wolf-girl despite her being the cause of his fall - and then wonders made Lis accept the murderer of her parents so readily.

There’s a bond there, she knows, looking between the two of them. Complicated and new for all its depth with unresolved history that could be dangerous.

Lis nods. “Wolf forever if not – Nagini.” The truth is blunt, her shoulders rising in a shrug. “Never meant – return.” She grimaces, working her jaw tiredly as she stares at them. “Barely remembered – human. Memories still – bad. Messy. But – I learn new and I join war.”

“You’re really going to allow her?” Lucius asks from his seat, sipping his tea and avoiding the sharp look from the wolf girl who grumbles and reaches for a cookie as Nagini hisses something to her. “If she doesn’t remember magic what does she really have to offer us?”

Tom rolls his shoulders, loose and limber and as satisfied as a cat as he leans forward. “That actually brings us to the real reason for this meeting.”

Bellatrix’s grin, if possible, stretches even wider.

“You found it.”

Tom inclines his head and Bellatrix giggles, drawing her knees up on the couch, and hugging them tight to her chest as she stares at him and then to Lis, her eyes dark and glittering with triumph.

“I still don’t know who activated them.” Tom holds out his palm, flaring his powers in a sparkle on green energy. “But someone found one of the stones of the founders and woke them to life.”

Lucius draws a sharp breath, eyes wide as he leans forward.

“Who would be stupid enough to use one of those without knowing the consequences?” Severus demands as he focuses on the Dark Lord with sharp eyes. “Waking one-“

“Wakes them all,” Narcissa whispers, pale.

Tom nods, allowing the wild magic to settle with a whisper. “I first felt the call weeks ago and luckily I was able to get it before it got into the wrong hands.” He strokes a long finger over his palm. “I did not mean to claim it for myself but last night it was made very clear to me that I had already been accepted by it, no doubt aided by my blood.”

He looks to Lis who blinks at him.

“You wouldn’t remember it,” he tells her, reaching for her wrist and turning her palm up. “But the wild magic of Helga’s stone in your hand activated that in Salazar Slytherin’s, taking shape in a test I passed.” The green energy in his hand flows through her, yellow responding with a crackle of energy. “And you found yours buried in a hole,” he adds somewhat drily.

Her ears flicks and she offers him a sheepish grin.

“So that’s why you dug that thing,” Zafrina hums, sharpness in her eyes. “Those stones are supposed to be ruled by very old magic.”

“And Lis has already proven very sensitive to certain kinds of magic,” Narcissa murmurs, her eyes meeting yellow.

“Her animagus form is also that of a wolf – something never heard of before,” Fenrir adds, flashing an amused grin at the younger wolf who looks at him with wide-eyes. “Didn’t know that, did you? They say that werewolves claimed the wolf for themselves, beloved and craving the love of the moon that influence us, given shape and power by it. You felt it when you ran with us,” he adds, reaching for one of the blueberry muffins. “You were swallowed up completely by the wild magic that courses through us beneath the moon, influenced by something that shouldn’t have touched you at all.” He bites down, barely chewing before swallowing it.

“Did not know,” Lis admits slowly, glancing at her hand and the darkened nails she’d woken up to that morning. “Changed – after we ran. And then again.”

She looks to Tom, searching answers, and he sighs, brushing back strands of his hair.

“I have no answers for you, not today,” he admits to her, red eyes intent. “Albus has clearly been messing around with the wrong sort of magic lately and I have no answer to when it began, what lengths he could have gone, and I can’t say if it’s something you’ve inherited naturally from your parents.”

“Lily… was always sensitive to magic, even when we were young,” Severus offers distantly, refusing to look at the wolf girl as she peers towards him.

“What are those stones really, Alpha?” Fenrir breaks in, amber eyes alert and hungry as he nabs two more muffins, throwing one over to Lis with a snap of his wrist. “You say they are named after the founders of Hogwarts.”

“One for each,” Narcissa murmurs. “The loyalty of Helga Huffelpuff, the bravery of Godric Gryffindor, the acceptance of Rowena Ravenclaw, the cunning of Salazar Slytherin.”

“The traits change,” Lucius adds, leaning back. “Depending on the source. Acceptance, intelligence, wit, creativity, individuality – no house is ruled by one trait.” He splays his hands out. “What they do have in common is that they are all remains of the founder’s magic and the corner stones of Hogwarts creation to name one.”

Lis chews her muffin, glancing between the two Malfoys and then down to the palm of her hand and the warmth lingering just below the surface.

“They’re made from old magic, what we now call wild magic, before wands and focuses,” Tom offers, gaze distant. “There has always been rumours about them but most had thought them gone until someone went and woke one of them to life, playing with powers far beyond them.”

“There must always be four.” Narcissa looks to Lis. “The founders are a unity – their magic entwined to make Hogwarts that to this day it remains one of the hardiest places in the entire world, working outside the control of even the Headmaster with secrets ancient, deep and impossible.”

“Waking one of them would call the others,” Lucius says heavily. “And what makes them so dangerous is that they must be woken with intent.

Fenrir grimaces as he leans back, well-familiar with the dictation of human magic even if he was prevented from wielding it by law.

“So whatever this person wants they’ll need the power of all four stones to go through with it?” Zafrina checks, thinking the words over. “And each wielder have their own reason for picking up their stone.”

“The want and will of the Bird and our Lord,” Bellatrix croons, mania in her eyes.

Eyes look to Lis who blinks at them all and then very deliberately turns away.

“Yes,” Tom answers, eyes sharp on the wolf-girl for a moment before looking at them all. “The stones wouldn’t just accept any person – they have to be wholly and utterly devoted to an idea that aligns with a founder’s ideal. Gryffindor bravery? It can also be daring, nerve and courage and they’ve always had a streak of recklessness. It can mean a lot of things.”

“So the most stubborn person is the one whose magic is granted essentially?” Fenrir huffs. “And we have two of the stones… Hufflepuff and Slytherin.”

“It’s hard to say which one the more dangerous of the two is missing,” Lucius frowns.

“Ravenclaw wit or Gryffindor foolishness.” Severus pinches the bridge of his nose. “Sounds fantastic.”