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Stinging Nettle and Milking Pails

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We must not look at goblin men,

We must not buy their fruits:

Who knows upon what soil they fed

Their hungry thirsty roots? 

 

Harry looked at him sometimes, with large eyes and a doe blink. Skylar may have had a mixture of his parents features, but his brother looked identical to his father.

Messy black hair, a similar complexion and tone of voice. His eyes were strikingly different, all his mother’s.

His personality, was something different.

“James!” their mother urged one night, quietly near the roaring fireplace, “we need to get that appointment.”

Skylar knew he wasn’t supposed to intrude, to listen to the conversation held behind closed doors.

“I know, Lils.” his father spoke back, holding her to try and soothe away the fear. “I know.”

Skylar hated, that he knew too.


 

There was something very wrong with his brother.

Not actually, but...but sometimes he just said things or did things oddly and Skylar would look at him because why would he do that?

Skylar walked next to his dad, giggling and holding his hand around his father’s few fingers. Next to him, Harry walked over the sidewalk as well, carefully hopping over the cracks and the small grasses that sprouted up.

“What are you doing, Harry dear?” their mother asked, a laugh in her voice and a smile on her lips.

Harry giggled happily, jumping over one surprisingly large crack, “I’ve got to hop over them! Or you’ll break your teeth!”

Lily Potter glanced at her husband, then back at her child in less than a second, “that’s a silly rhyme, dear. And you’ll break your mummy’s back!”

Harry’s face twitched into the smallest expression of confusion, then it faded as he spotted a hopscotch drawn onto the pavement.

He hopped over the flaky chalk, careful not to land on the lines. Skylar followed after, squealing as he nearly toppled on one poor hop.

Sometimes things felt just a little off.


 

It was like a piano off tune, a single note that rang out wrong but was impossible to detect in the middle of a symphony.

Twang

It rang out oddly.

Twang

Things felt strange.

Harry stood in the middle of the foyer, staring at the fireplace. He didn’t move, captivated by the flickering flame. It was enchanted anyways, impossible to burn on. It was necessary with two rambunctious twins in James’ family home. They had done a wonderful job, vanishing away after that fateful night with Skylar screaming and bloodied. They had thought Harry was dead until he woke up, dazed and lethargic from a stunner. Skylar was bathed in blood, Voldemort was nothing but a silken robe stained red on the floor.

They vanished with their children, and now, six years later, things were normal as they could imagine.

Calm and gentle, soothing in the forests they now lived in. The windows were wide, the geese from the nearby lake weren’t as mean as they could be. Lily had a garden, their fireplace was hooked up to the floo network and family visited whenever they could. The ramifications of the war were still boiling over, so hiding out of sight was the safest option for them.

Skylar loved it, the feel of pine needles under his feet and the way sap would get caught in Harry’s hair after they went off exploring. He loved the sunrises and sunsets, and the way the little fish in the nearby pond would nibble on his toes. It was paradise, wonderful and gentle.

Harry smiled, his eyes bright and round like the fawns they fed corn. His nose wrinkled the smallest bit, then he sneezed like a gunshot.

It made the birds swarm away, flapping in a circle to flee the area. They didn’t come back until the next morning.


 

Harry liked to watch the fire, to see it dance behind the magical barrier. It was quite beautiful, he didn’t think he’d have chances to really see it up close in the future.

“You sure like that, don’t you champ?”

Harry smiled and reached out, poking the magical barrier. It was warm, reflecting away the dangerous heat. “It’s pretty.”

James walked over, lowering himself carefully into a squat, “you’ve got to be careful not to touch fire though. It may burn you.”

“I know.” Harry whispered back, poking it again, “but it doesn’t hurt right now.”

James ruffled Harry’s hair, messing it up even further. “This is getting a bit wild, may need to give you a trim soon.”

Harry swatted at him trying not to giggle. “No! It’ll always be like this!”

The play fighting devolved into tickling, where Harry’s shrieks were like snarls.


 

Harry stood in front of the window, staring outside. It was winter, the moon was absent and the stars glittered like diamonds in the sky.

“Why are you going outside?” Harry asked quietly, eyes fixed on the darkness beyond the glass.

Skylar paused, the thick quilt bundled under his arms. “Mum said there’s shooting stars tonight? She’s out by the beach!”

Harry turned to glance at him, starlight shining on his cheek. “But...but it’s a new moon.”

Skylar stared at him incomprehensibly.

“There’s no moon.” Harry stressed again, eyes wide and anxious. “There’s no moon.”

“It...It comes back?” Skylar answered him confused, “It...it’ll be here tomorrow? Mum’s outside-.”

“She’s older.” Harry dismissed nervously, “you can’t go outside. It’s not safe.”

“I…” Skylar fumbled with the stitching on the quilt in his arms. “...but Mum’s outside.”

Harry watched him from inside the window, tracking his movements all the way to the beach.


 

When they were eight, learning muggle schooling at their mother’s request, Skylar found bird feather’s under Harry’s bed. He only noticed with a little fluffy tuft was swept out from under when he closed the door quickly.

Skylar dropped onto his knees, crawling and fumbling over the flooring to glance under curiously. There were more feathers, soft white ones that made him nearly sneeze. Thicker feathers as long as a finger, then even longer. Sharp and curled, they looked like quills except the rounded nub. Some of them had powder on it, dark like mud.

Skylar pulled a few out, grabbing a more solid handful of feathers. They were soft, and out from under the bed he could see how they shimmered in the lighting like gorgeous rainbows set on black.

It was a wing, and Skylar realized shockingly, that he could bend it and move it like it was still flapping.

Skylar clutched it to his shirt and took off running, “mum! Mum look at what I found!”

Harry was at the table, eating cereal with a spoon. He looked up curiously, but didn’t seem to care as Skylar held out his prize.

Lily choked, taking a step backwards in alarm. “I- Skylar set that down right now. Go wash your hands. Where on Earth did you find that?”

Skylar frowned and set the bird wing on the floor, hating how his stomach twisted at his mother’s reaction. She levitated the wing, moving it around to observe the weird nub where the bone stuck out. It looked a bit like chicken they ate.

“James!” Lily shouted, barely restrained panic, “ James? Skylar found a bird wing!”

They father emerged from somewhere, his expression faltering slightly although he kept a grin on his face.

“Hey buddy!” James cheered, ruffling Skylar’s hair as the boy scrubbed his fingers with soap. “Where did you find this pretty thing?”

Skylar perked up excitedly. “Under a bed!”

James’ face cast in shadow, Lily took the wing outside.

That night Harry and Skylar watched from the windows as they burned the wing, sprinkling something from a brand new ingredient bottle.

“What are they doing?” Skylar whispered, hands clutching his brother’s fingers.

“Burning it.” Harry responded without much interest, watching the fire flicker and smolder a fair distance away. “Rowen branches too.”

Skylar’s mouth curved into a little ‘O’ of interest. “Rowen?”

“Yeah,” Harry blinked back, shrugging his shoulders, “like, that rhyme? Something like, rowan making witches go away. Not like, witches witches, like mum. But old stuff, muggles.”

“Oh,” Skylar accepted before he yawned, “‘M tired.”

Harry hummed, and let his brother go to sleep.


 

There was salt around the edges of the door, small little grains set into the inlay on the wood of the doorframe. Harry noticed it first, pointing at it and poking it with gnawed on nails.

They had flowers on the table as decoration too, jars filled with berries preserved with wine. Harry told him they were from the rowan tree. The bright red colour was very pretty.


 

When they were nine, Remus and Sirius came over to celebrate their birthdays. They threw a party, invited friends and family to celebrate in the woods. They had lanterns hanging from the trees, ropes and swings set with levitating benches to hold those aloft as they succumbed to too much wine.

Harry grinned to much his face felt sore. Skylar laughed and ran with children his age, smearing his dirt with crushed grass and dirt. Harry watched from the trees and smiled like the sun.

“Don’t you want to go play with the children?” Lily asked him, looking pretty in her long skirt.

“Oh,” Harry blinked, like the idea had never occurred to him. “I...I don’t know. They don’t like me.”

Lily frowned and placed her hands on his shoulders. “Harry, Harry, that’s not a good thing to think. I’m sure they’d love to play with you.”

Harry chewed on his lip, eyes flickering to the forest that looked beautiful with all the lights. “I wanna stay with the trees, I think.”

Lily frowned, “are you sure? You can come with me and we can go find your dad?”

Harry shook his head, hair flopping into a messy mane. “No, I wanna stay with the trees.”

Lily smiled and nodded, “alright then. Tell the trees I say hello!”

She stood and walked over to the desert table, sneaking a cookie for her troubles.

“Lily,” Remus murmured, brushing past her to steal a small block of chocolate, “a moment?”

“Of course!” She spoke, slurred around the cookie. He escorted her a small distance, near the rose bushes which bloomed bright flowers.

“Your son,” Remus spoke, voice lower and gravely as his eyes flickered around the forest carefully, “I’m worried for him.”

Lily’s heart raced. “What’s wrong? Is someone going after Skylar-.”

“No no.” Remus hushed gently, face twitching ever so slightly as he peered around once again. On edge, disturbed. “Your other son. Harry.”

Harry?” Lily’s voice squeaked in surprise. “Harry? He- he’s never had a problem. He’s had less accidents than any other child!”

Remus’ eyes stared over her shoulder; at Harry. “...Did you ever have him looked at?”

“Of course we did!” She shushed back nervously. “The mediwizard said he was perfectly healthy. He said there may be some social problems from living so far away, but he hasn’t had any problems growing up!”

Remus’ eyes were golden as he watched him. “Really? Nothing wrong?”

“You sound like you expect there to be.” Lily accused although it was mostly nervous energy. “Is he sick? Remus can you... tell?”

“I think…” Remus trailed off quietly with an unusual twist of his face, “...that you should have him looked at again. There’s…”

Something off. Lily knew he’d say. Something wrong.

She knew, because she felt the same. When she woke up to find all the food rotten when it was fine the day before. When he seemed agoraphobic and refused to go outside some days and then seemed perfect the next day. When he would sneeze for hours with a peculiar look on his face but nothing to trigger allergies.

Lily exhaled shakily and nodded a little. Remus stiffened, and she felt a small tug on her skirt.

“Mum?” Harry asked quietly, looking up at her with large eyes and a round face. His baby fat made him seem like a cherub, cute and innocent. “Can I go to the lake?”

Lily could feel a low rumble. It took her a second to recognize it was coming from Remus.

“In a moment,” Lily smiled, knowing it shook on the edges. “I’m just talking to Remus.”

Harry looked up at Remus, smiling shyly. “Hello M- oh.”

Harry shuddered, a full body shake as he looked at Remus. He even made a small noise of discomfort, hair flopping around with the jolt of his body.

“Oh,” Harry sniffled, nose scrunching in annoyance. “You smell like a dog.”

Remus’ low rumbling cut off with a choked exhale. “I- I’m sorry I- I have-.”

Remus turned and hurried off.

Lily made a note to schedule an appointment as soon as she could.


 

The doctor found nothing wrong.

Lily couldn’t shake the feeling that something was very, very, wrong.


 

Harry sat outside on the porch, playing with twigs and leaves he found. Skylar was a little ways off, learning to use a broom with James’ careful eye.

“Are you sure you don’t want to try?” Lily asked, making sure her son didn’t feel left out.

“I don’t belong in the sky.” Harry responded without a pause. “The sky is for the birds and others. I’m not an others.”

Lily’s mouth twitched as Harry cracked a twig loudly. “That’s not proper grammar.”

Harry glanced up quietly, “no. I’m not an others. An others belongs in the sky.”

“Others?” Lily tried to not show how confused she felt. “Are you talking about one thing? Than it would be other.”

“An Others isn’t a thing.” Harry responded instantly, not blinking. “An Others is scary, mummy.”

Skylar laughed as James dramatically flung himself onto the ground, rolling as if he fell from a much higher height. Harry cracked his sticks and aligned them on the ground. It looked scarily similar to a person.

“Okay,” Lily whispered, ignoring how terrified she felt. “Would you like to go swimming instead then?”

“No.” Harry didn’t glance up. “Mummy do you have any string? Can I make my doll with string?”

“Of course.” Lily smiled. It was strained.


 

When does a doll become a poppet?

When is it okay to burn it? Before, or after your child names it mummy.


 

“The trees are angry.” Harry sighed, like it was their fault. The rain came down harder, thunder rumbling as lightning flashed through the sky.

“Mum, it’s…” Skylar trailed off, unable to prevent himself from yelping as lightning filled the sky.

Harry frowned, gazing out the window. The branches on the trees were bending, slapping against the roof.

“Put a bowl of milk outside.” Harry mumbled tiredly, dozing off under a blanket. “Maybe it’s hungry.”

(They didn’t wake him, but they did what he said. The next morning, the milk was gone, and the storm hadn’t damaged a thing.)


 

Sirius and Remus were over, talking about the war and the way that life was good now. They could have moved back to a house in the city, to civilization and the world, but Harry couldn’t find it in him to leave the forest.

“Do you go running?” Harry asked from the stairwell, knowing Remus was they before he saw him. “At night when you change your form.”

Sirius stiffened and looked around. James twitched a little, Lily’s face was tight.

“Harry,” James began, “where’s your brother?”

“In the basement reading that book you got him.” Harry responded with a small leisure blink. “Do you run under the moon?”

“No.” Remus grumbled, sounding and looking pained. “That’s not safe.”

Harry’s face tilted in confusion. “..but...but that…”

“Harry,” Lily began with a shaky smile, “Remus could accidentally bite someone.”

“Then they’ll bite you back.” Harry spoke like it was obvious, like they weren’t understanding. “You couldn’t catch a werecat anyways.”

“A werecat?” Sirius whispered, throwing a baffled glance at James.

“There’s nowhere safe in London, Harry.” Remus sighed shakily. “I have a cage I use.”

“Oh.” Harry’s brows scrunched. He turned around, and descended into the basement. The topic wasn’t interesting enough for him.


 

The crows flew above him, shrieking and making noise as they circled. Harry thought that meant there was something dead in the forest, something starting to decay.

He followed them, quiet over the pine needles and respectful to the elm trees. They towered over him like a roof, shadowing the sky.

He didn’t find anything dead, but he did find a snake.

“Hello.” It said to him, and Harry looked at it delighted.

“Hello.” Harry said with a smile across his face. “Can I have your name?”

The snake bolted, slithering out of sight faster than Skylar could run.

Oh well.


 

“Can I have your name?” Harry asked the snake, stroking its back gently.

The snake trembled reeking of musk as its terror filled the air. It refused to talk back, until Harry left it on the ground and walked home.


 

“Can I have your name?” Harry asked the fish that nibbled at his toes. They didn’t understand him, neither did the crows or the birds that watched him from the nearby trees. The mud was cool and slippery under his toes, soft in a nice way. He could lay here for decades, basking in the warms of the sun and the company of the millions of eyes watching him.

Don’t tell him, the trees whispered fearfully, don’t tell him your name!

Harry smiled as he stroked a reaching branch of a nearby oak.

It shuddered under his fingers.


 

“Can I have your name?” Harry asked a snake when they were in muggle London, learning the buildings that their mother once saw. The muggles wore funny clothing, they wore shoes which were confiding and sore around his heels. He didn’t like it.

The zoo was interesting, tame and boring without the dragons or manticores. The reptiles watched him tiredly, dull and stupid without the wild instinct of the forests.

The python looked at him and flicked its tongue. “I don’t have a name.”

“Oh.” Harry frowned thoughtfully, “You’re a python.”

“I’m python.” The dumb snake confirmed, sprawling under its synthetic heated lamp.

“Can I have your name?” Harry asked again.

The python looked at him confused. “Python-.”

Harry smiled, the snake didn’t.


 

“Mum!” Skylar shrieked in alarm, pointing as on the other side of the thick glass, the massive South American python began to seize. It shook, curling and flailing. Throwing itself against the glass as it’s jaw dropped and its breathes heaved. Harry took a step back, having been watching the snake.

The poor animal began to bang itself against the glass, tongue hanging out of its mouth lazily as it repeated its movements over and over until snot bubbled and left an imprint.

“Merlin,” James cursed, grabbing Harry’s hand and hauling him and his brother out of the reptile house. The zoo staff poured in frantically, trying to calm the mad animal.

“Oh,” Harry exhaled quietly, a small whoosh of air. The word had no weight behind it.

Lily heard it, and couldn’t forget it.


 

“Do not give them your name.” Harry said to his brother, his brows furrowed with the seriousness of his words. “Don’t give away your name or you’ll give away yourself.”

“I- what do you mean?’ Skylar asked worriedly, “is someone trying to hurt us?”

Harry rolled his eyes. “Something is always trying to.”


 

“Can I have your name?” Harry asked the snake.

The snake told him. Harry told it to string itself out and let the crows peck out its brain.


 

They went to Diagon Alley to get their wands, excited and full of energy.

The pet shop screamed at him, owls looking ready to kill themselves instead of remaining in their cages. The snakes looked at him curiously, terrified but fascinated. The rabbits started gnawing, worried as their lower jaw bled.

“Hello.” Harry said to the snakes. The older ones lashed at the naive young ones, silencing them.

“Do not speak to it!” The snakes wailed at one another. Harry reached out, and pressed his fingers against the glass.

“Can I have your name?” Harry asked sweetly.

They hissed and hid, and Harry left the store.

The first time he walked into Ollivanders, half the wands on the shelves fell to the store. Rattling in their boxes, hurrying to get out.

“Oh,” Ollivander spoke, hesitant and unsure. He looked at Harry, then he looked through him. “I...This will...be a challenge.”

“Can I have your name?” Harry asked the man politely. Ollivander’s silver eyes flashed white.

“His name is Ollivander!” Skylar rolled his eyes teasingly, “It was on the sign!”

Maybe Harry was imagining it, but Ollivander seemed much more relaxed after.

“Ah, yes.” Ollivander wheezed, his voice a breeze. “The Potters...how exciting.”

Harry tilted his head curiously, and Ollivander skittered back.

The wands didn’t like him, the wands were quite afraid of him.

A wand made of Rowan made him yelp and pull his hand away, the skin of his palm burned and bubling like he grabbed a hot poker from the fire.

Ollivander stared at him, unblinkingly like the trees. “Hackberry. Hagberry. Cherry wood, it’s called.”

Harry took the wand offered, tracing over the hard straight wood. “Cherry? Cuckoo, cuckoo.”

 

 "Cuckoo, cherry tree,

Good bird tell me,

How many years before I die..."

 

Ollivander shuddered and shook his head, eyelids flickering as he shivered. “...”

“Harry look!” Skylar squealed, waving his wand- Rowan wood and something else. Harry hadn’t paid attention to remember it. Ollivander sagged with relief, Harry smiled and looked at his new wand.

They paid, and left. Harry humming out cuckoo, cuckoo


 

They bought supplies and placed them in pretty trunks, chatting about how excited they were.

Skylar was positive he would be placed in Gryffindor, after all, the Boy Who Lived should be in such a famous house. Both their parents, Lily and James had been in Gryffindor. It seemed outlandish to be in any other house.

Harry wasn’t so sure. It all felt off, a bit strange to think about although he couldn’t quite explain why.

They bought both of the boys an owl, gorgeous smart birds with large eyes and sharp talons. Skylar fell in love with his instantly. Harry’s own bit him until he bled blood.

Harry lapped it up, tugging his tongue over the scarlet beads. It tasted sickeningly thick, cloying on his tongue. Molasses too concentrated. The bird watched him, shaken to its core.

Skylar found new bird feathers under Harry’s bed.

His owl had run away.


 

Harry dreamed of sharp teeth, yellowed and drooling cream. Thick and salivating, stinking of mud and decaying debris.

Harry woke up with goop in his eyes, his stomach rumbling and cramping in its demand for sustenance. His mouth tasted like molasses, and mud caked under his fingernails. It dried there, flaking off as he absentmindedly cleaned the crevices of his fingers. His mouth tasted gross, like it always did in the morning.

He wondered if Hogwarts would help with his midnight cravings.


 

Harry set out apples, baked tarts golden on the edges. Skylar watched him curiously, his twin had been doing this for as long as he could remember.

“It’s to make the Sidhe happy.”’ Harry explained patiently, sprinkling some of the crumbs on the dirt itself. “They like the pastries.”

Skylar took one of the pastries and helpfully crumbled it on the ground. “Mum never told me about these ones.”

“Mum doesn’t like talking about them.” Harry defended with a small shrug, “most people find them scary. The Goblins used to be like them, the old magic. They have a bad reputation.”

“Why?” Skylar inquired, careful not to step on a flower.

“Some of the old magic defends itself.” Harry shrugged, “the lavellan can cure you off sickness, but they can poison the waters so badly they kill entire herds of cattle.”

“Wow.” Skylar responded, unsure of what to say. “And we’re making sure we don’t get poisoned?”

“Of course not.” Harry scoffed, brushing his hand against one of the trees affectionately. “I read a few books that dad kept in the attic from the old times. He doesn’t like to talk about the old type because most of the creatures tend to hurt us. I think we have a Cat Sith living in the woods, but I’m just offering to the Sidhe. I think they like knowing we haven’t forgotten them.”

Skylar didn’t know what a Cat Sith was, or a Sidhe, but he obediently helped sprinkle pastries.

(The next morning, sprawled across the forest path, a large buck lay with its eyes blank and throat torn out from massive claws. Mum screamed and Dad instantly floo called Remus and Sirius who helped search the forest for a dragon or angry animal. Harry beamed so wide, Skylar was sure he’d set himself on fire.)


 

There were poppets in the forest, made of pine needles and sticks bound together with what looked like sap and sewing thread. Torn ratty feathers from doves and larks, tufts of wool from wild sheep.

They hung from the trees with nooses around their necks, swaying from the branches and silently watching along the path. Pentagrams made from shiny stones, gentle marks carved into the tree trunks.

The day Lily found them, the baskets and bowls of molded food and empty glasses of milk; she ran back to the house without saying a word. She knew of course of the old magic, the stories they used to pretend were real. The bogeymen, the monsters in the forests. The changeling children and the witches in the well.

“James,” She hushed quietly, hurrying to light the candles that smelled like peppermint and willow. “We need to move. Away from the forest.”

“What? Why?” James asked, quickly realizing the tone of voice. “Is it- Lil’s are you okay?”

“The forests.” She whispered, eyes wide and fairly chilled. “They’re watching us.”


 

The wind rattled coldly, and the trees watched with hungry eyes.

Harry dreamed of teeth, and an all consuming ravenous hunger.


 

Harry sat on the train and stared out the window, watching the forest and city pass in a blur.

“I’m so excited!” Skylar gushed happily, nearly vibrating in his seat. “ I can’t wait to get sorted!”

Harry hummed and peered out the window, fascinated by the speed they were moving.

The door opened and a red head came in, one Harry only distantly recognized. Skylar seemed to know the boy, they began to chatter in delight.

A rat squeaked, Harry’s eyes fixed on it with instant focus.

It quaked under his sight, twitching as Harry reached out to gently pick up the fat rodent.

“That’s Scabbers!” the red head explained, blissfully ignorant of the dirt near his nose. “He’s old, he was my brother’s pet rat.”’

Harry tilted his head as he held the rat up to his eyes. The rat seemed odd, a bit strange in odd ways. “That’s nice. Can I have him?”

The rat squeaked in alarm, Skylar fumbled over the odd request.

“You want him?” Ron gaped in surprise.

“Yeah,” Harry blinked slowly, “he’s interesting. I don’t have a pet and he looks tired.”

The rat began to thrash, Harry squeezed it slightly.

“I mean…” Skylar trailed off awkwardly, “...you don’t have a pet.”

Ron blinked in shock as Harry fished out a handful of coins. Ron guiltily accepted, and passed over the cage. Harry smiled so wide, his mouth looked like it couldn’t contain all his teeth.


 

“Potter! Harry!”

He walked down the gap, setting himself on the stool. The hat was lowered and both shuddered under the touch. Harry felt wrong, like he was submerged in chilly water. His breathing was shaky, his chest tightened and his teeth rattled in his mouth.

“Oh,” The hat whispered, winced and pained like the exchange was just as troublesome. “I...I don’t…”

Harry shuddered again and hunkered forward, barely aware of the thin quiet whine from deep in his throat.

“RAVENCLAW!” The hat wailed, as pained as Harry felt.

He slipped from the stool, one hand pressed against his temple as his head throbbed in pain.

He wobbly walked to the Ravenclaw table, taking a seat where there was a gap offered. Halfheartedly, Harry wiped the back of his hand against his mouth. He sniffled a little when he saw something bleeding.

“Oh! Here!” Someone older than him smiled, passing him a bowl of mashed potatoes.

And Harry was very very hungry.


 

“Hello,” Harry dreamed, distorted and tired. A wave of teeth, of blood and gore and the smell of pine and spiced milk.

The moon was full and bright and the world was so wonderful. A world full of sound and music, of distorted limbs and songs Harry didn’t remember.

Could you dream of a song without having heard of it before? Could you dream of laughter and the sparkling lights of Wil-O-Wisp at sunset?

“Hello,” Harry laughed like bells, and opened his mouth so wide.

Harry was very very hungry.


 

“Have you seen my rat?” Harry asked a week into term.

His year mate looked at him, and shrugged.


 

Magic was so fickle

So difficult.

Harry watched fire spark, watched feathers float, and found it somehow lacking.

They said the forest was forbidden. They said that it was off limits.

It wasn’t off limits to him. The forest seemed so welcoming at night, a bright pathway and a forest of strangers who seemed so nice to him.

“Hello,” Harry breathed with stars in his eyes, smiling at the spiders which eyed him warily, “it’s so wonderful to meet you.”


 

Skylar got a place on the Gryffindor Quidditch team, his parents were very proud.

Harry got notes here and there, but he didn’t care. Most of the letters arrived and were basic, small things he could respond to when he zoned out for transfiguration class.

That always seemed easy to him. Transforming something into something else. Changing its shape, changing its body.

Harry twisted a matchstick into a needle. Then into a feather than a flower stem. To a strand of wheat, to a steak-knife, back into a matchstick.

The teacher was an odd one. She was a cat, but a woman too. Not a Cat Sith, not something as regal as that.

(Harry knew he couldn’t give her milk, she’d only get sick from it.)


 

“Hello,” Harry whispered into the forests. The unicorns came closer, nuzzling against him with their fuzzy noses. The horns were sharp, bloodied and molting the velvet fuzz few rarely saw. Harry reached out, gently peeling away the silver blood and blackened skin. It tasted like cranberries.

The unicorns licked the blood from his cheek.


 

There was something off with Professor Quirrel.

Harry watched him, feeling the whispers and the small twists in what felt wrong.

He watched him from the windows, smelling his path through the forest. Skylar was supposed to have detention, fighting with that Malfoy boy.

Harry walked across footprints, staring into the forest.

Centaurs spotted him, they shrieked and scattered. Harry smiled, his mouth wide and wider until teeth glimmered like knives.

The pine trees trembled, caresses against his skin. A werebeast rumbled, and Harry shushed it without words.

Hello, the trees said.

Harry traced the thick sap that oozed from busted pores.

 

 

O woman, washing beside the river,

Hush-a-by baby, babe not mine,

My woeful wail, do you pity never?

Hush-a-by baby, babe not mine.

“Hello,” Harry whispered back, squinting at the curious eyes of a beast in the forest. The forest was called forbidden, but a lifetime ago it was known as the dark forest. The forgotten forest. How many creatures begged to be remembered?

“Are you lonely?” Harry asked quietly, careful to not let his nails bite the bark of the tree. “Are you hungry?”

Yes, the forest spoke to him longingly. Can I have your name?

Harry grinned, and followed the whispers deeper still.


 

There was a creature feasting from a unicorn.

(Harry dreamed of feasting, and he was so hungry. )


 

“Professor Quirrel has vanished from our home-.”

Harry speared a potato, and chowed it down in record time.


 

Harry dreamed of teeth, and of nursery rhymes he didn’t remember.

They moved that school year into a new home, tall and ornate in the middle of London. There were no trees or plants, only smog and the haze where Harry could pretend to see the stars.

Everything stank of pollution and poison, of tar and taint that stuck to the window sills. No matter how much Harry scrubbed, it felt foul and wrong. There was no magic in the air, only alley cats and the emaciated mongrel birds which watched him with hungry eyes.

“Are you a witch or, are you a fairy?” Harry mumbled in the small twisted version of what could have been a rhyme. “Or are you the wife, of Michael Cleary?”

He hummed it, for hours and hours as the lamp posts flickered and the night grew colder.


 

“What’s a changeling, mum?” Skylar asked at breakfast. They would be returning to school soon, with thousands of eyes looking to their hero of a son.

Lily jolted in surprise. “A changeling? Those are old stories. Before wizards and witches made peace with magic.” Lily soothed over his worries. “Back in the age of Merlin, dear.”

Skylar frowned slightly. “But what are they?”

“Shapeshifters I think.” Lily hummed, trying to ease the chill on her shoulders. “There were fae and druids back then. Spirits in the trees, and the water. Changelings were shapeshifters that took the form of children, it scared the muggles quite so. They were likely something like a boggart.”

Skylar frowned so grave his face looked pinched. “Are they still around?”

Lily tried to laugh, but found the sound caught in her throat. “I doubt it. You’d have to ask your father, he likely has records somewhere.”

Skylar looked down at his hands. “Harry knows about fae and stuff.”

“Well.” Lily said quietly. “You shouldn’t bother yourself with grim things.”


 

Let us out! The pixies screamed

Harry looked at them, his chin in his palm as the Ravenclaws muttered to one another.

Lockhart was wrong, he was twisted and vile. He was an impostor in a skin too large for him, preened and pampered like a bird on its last feather.

Let us out! The pixies screamed, vile and vulgar. Harry looked at their sharp wings, their needle fangs and drooling mouths.

Why? Harry asked.

We are wild, not tame. They spat back, ferociously slamming against the metal bars of their cage.

Harry hummed quietly, tapping his fingers against his desk.

Lockhart bothered him. He fit his skin quite poorly. He conformed to his image horribly, out of touch and out of disguise. Harry felt offended, and he didn’t know why.

We want to kill this man. The Pixies urged him.

Lockhart opened his cage.

(What a pity, that pixies were not born to steal lives. They cursed his food, and turned it to ash for every day after.)


 

There was a girl with silver eyes, watching him in the common room. Curled around a book, with hair pinned back by rows of fish bones.

Harry found the smell alluring, the aroma of sage and spiced pumpkin. She watched him without blinking, and something repelled him back like heat from fire.

He watched her when he could. She didn’t have any shoes. He wondered if coblynau had snuck inside the tower, snatching things from unsuspecting a students to feed their growing horde.

He didn’t think of it much, but smiled slightly when he found a plate of pumpkin bread sitting silently on his bedside table.


 

“Hello.” She said to him, taking a careful seat next to him. Her necklace was made from cork, it stank of something repulsive.

“Hello.” Harry greeted in turn, “may I have your name?”

Her eyes flashed, and Harry tilted his head curiously.

“Forgive me,” she began slowly and hesitantly, “I must have had much on my mind. I am named Luna Lovegood, may I have your name?”

Harry’s eyebrows lifted, his jaw dropped into a silent gape.

He threw his head back and laughed, delighted beyond words.


 

“Where are your shoes?” Harry asked curiously, writing the assigned essay for Potions.

Luna wiggled her toes, humming to herself without care. “I think the nargles stole them again, they tend to come back when I need them.”

Harry licked his lip, the air felt thick. “Nargles? I didn’t know they lived here. They live in Africa, Luna.”

Luna shrugged dismissively, “things always return.”

Harry hummed tunelessly, and continued working on his essay.

Luna didn’t seem surprised later that day, when all of the shoes of Ravenclaw first years were exchanged with rotting deer skin.

“Oh dear,” She sighed tiredly, “it looks like there’s a coblynau infestation.”


 

“Walk with me in the forest?” Luna asked him on a full moon. “I want to see the unicorns.”

Harry looked at her curiously. “It’s dangerous at night when the moon is full.”

Luna smiled shyly. “That’s why I want you to come with me.


 

There was a monster in the walls and Harry could hear it.

There was a monster in the walls, and Skylar was being blamed for it.


 

“There’s a white snake,” Harry began one night, dozing in front of the fireplace in the tower, “where when you burn it alive and eat its flesh, you can speak to all animals.”

Luna lay next to him, dozing in peace nearby. “That would be a lonely life.”

“Speaking to animals would never be that bad.” Harry defended without much interest, “you could talk to the geese to comfort them before you wrung their neck.”

“I’d rather speak to plants.” Luna spoke quietly, nearly falling asleep, “to know when grapes are ready to be made into wine.”

Harry tilted his head thoughtfully, “I can show you that.”


 

There was a monster in the walls that hungered, and Harry hungered too.


 

“May I have your name?” Harry asked the walls once.

“You think me foolish!” The walls hissed back, rattling the torch mounts. “Begone you corrupted creature! Feast beyond my sight!”

Harry stared at the wall in thought.

Skylar would have much on his plate.


 

Luna gave him bread and juice and he made sure her shoes never went missing again.


 

There was a basilisk in the pipes, and Harry listened to it move. It was so much work to bother with a basilisk, a creature of immense size and age. It could hurt him, he knew that.

“Skylar?” Harry asked, staring at nothing. He knew it was Skylar, invisible under their father’s cloak. “There’s a basilisk in the walls.”

What!” Skylar nearly screamed, throwing the cloak onto the floor. Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger stared back at him, with wide horrified eyes and shocked expressions. “A basilisk?”

“Yes,” Harry confirmed, “I’d call for help. It’s quite mad.”

Harry walked passed, and ignored how Ron said that he was quite mad.

Harry smiled, and ignored him.


 

Harry dreamed of teeth and the deep aching pit of his hunger.

Professor Lockhart was murdered by the basilisk, dragged away and never seen again.


 

Their dad was a head auror, and with combined forces and the knowledge of the plumbing, the basilisk was chased out into the Forbidden forest.

They couldn’t ever find it; the creature was far too old to ever succumb to overconfident humans.

Harry smiled, and showed Luna how the trees arched towards them, how the ants walked in a straight path towards the rampaging destruction of the basilisk.

“Am I safe here?” Luna asked him quietly, eyes wide as she peered at a blackberry bush that was quiet loud for their touch.

“You’re with me.” Harry shrugged, soothing the curious winds away. “Does that count?”


 

Harry was thirteen and he sometimes wondered why his nails were so fragile.

Ron and Hermione came over for summer, playing in their hallways. They said hello, friendly and all. The press conferences and media never cared for Harry, they cared for Skylar’s new broom or his academic scores.

Their mum taught them charms, how to make ink change colour.

Harry dried flowers in his window. Skylar said it looked girly, but Harry wanted to crush the petals and store them in a herb bag.


 

Ron and Hermione were good people, but they knew so little. Harry smiled at them, thin lips hiding sharp drooling fangs.

He wondered, for the first time, how the meat of Skylar’s arm would taste.


 

Remus was going to be teaching them, and Harry found it very interesting.

Remus was a man who feared the full moon and worshiped the new moon.

Harry, for reasons he couldn’t explain, was terrified of the empty sky.


 

“It’s so wonderful to see you again.” Luna beamed, her ears pierced with hanging silver that held preserved radishes. Harry almost gagged at the smell, jerking his head away at the sight.

“Don’t be silly.” Luna giggled with delight, “I didn’t soak them in salt water.”

“Thank Merlin for that.” Harry grimaced at the smell, “you’d stink up the entire Great Hall.”

Luna laughed, and offered him a cake she had purchased from Diagon. It tasted sweet and sticky on his tongue.

“I was thinking of offering cakes to the forest.” Luna piped up, “my father said that baked pastries would be good. Have you done that before?”

Harry hummed, licking the icing off his fingers. “I have. A cat sith offered me a deer.”

“A cat sith?” Luna gasped in surprise, “they’re still around? They’re very hard to please.”

Harry smiled and nibbled at his fingernails. “It took a long time to gain its trust.”

“Most of the old folk are like that.” Luna spoke with a secret smile. “Once you win them over, you’re unstoppable.”


 

“Are you a witch or

Are you a fairy?

Or are you the wife

of Michael Cleary?”

Luna sang and hopped along the cobblestone of the path leading outside. She was careful not to step on any of the cracks.


 

The boggart was released, and Harry felt like hissing.

Something about the creature made him feel odd. Like Lockhart but worse, like the sky itself was crashing. The boggart writhed, shifting from form to form, unable to settle. A gaussian blur on Harry’s sight before it settled on something indistinct. Something large and leathery with far too many teeth and a long flapping tail.

Harry eyed it in awe, the dozens of molars scattered across its body like scales on a dragon. The boggart writhed, shifting as a lethifold with a hunger for human flesh.

It screamed, twisting and darted right back into the cupboard it came from.

“Well.” Harry sighed dramatically, “I think it’s scared of me.”


 

“James, James listen to me, there is something very wrong with your son. No- no not Skylar. No, Harry…”

“...James no listen to me- James there’s something wrong with him.”


 

The thestrals were so eerie, but Luna laughed even as they smeared gore on her hands. They were hungry, and had feasted on the carcass brought to them.

“They’re beautiful.” Luna breathed, grinning so wide. Harry grinned back, staying out of the beasts’ path but close enough to intervene if necessary.

The thestrals thrummed, delighted with the young girl which brought them such wonderful offerings.

“I like you.” Harry confessed with something sincere, “you’re very interesting.”

Luna grinned back, “I like you too, you wilde child.”


 

The moon was full, Harry roamed. A werewolf screamed.

(In his dreams, Harry screamed back.)


 

The summer came and Remus didn’t come over anymore.

Harry was invited to Luna’s house for a week. He went over, pausing in the threshold of the cozy house.

“Oh!” Luna gasped in alarm, nearly smacking herself. “I’m sorry I forgot! Please, come into my home!”

Harry breathed, and passed into the house.


 

“I love the ocean,” Luna sighed to him, snuggling into his side. “The kelpies and the water.”

“I’ve never seen it.” Harry confessed. “I’ve heard the music in the forest.”

“Did you drink their wine?” Luna asked curiously, “If you dance to the music and drink their wine, you’ll never leave.”

Harry laughed quietly, “they only keep the pretty ones, Luna. Do not drink or eat their foods, I couldn’t ever dare share you.”


 

The Triwizard cup burned bright, heating the air around them.

Even without the barrier, the heat burned Harry’s skin until he was sure it would melt from his bones.


 

“The fourth champion...Skylar Potter!”

Luna looked at Harry in worry, and Harry ignored her.

“Aren’t you worried?” Luna whispered to him in fear, “he’s your brother.”

“He is.” Harry confirmed, and reached for a drumstick.


 

There was a woman in Hogsmeade that played a harp, music so sweet to creatures ears they were drawn by the special sound.

Harry was helpless to refuse it, and he walked all night even as Luna begged him to come back. He walked through the forest, hand and hand with beasts and burdens, to the house near the forest from which the sweet music came.

For it is a fairy tune, the trees told him. The fairies will not suffer a mortal to sing their music while they dance on the grass.

Harry shivered, helpless to walk away from the sweet music. The creatures alongside him, invisible to the mortal eye trembled in the clutches of mortal voice.

But if a person sleeps on the rath the music will enter into her soul, and when she awakes she may sing the air she has heard in her dreams.


 

“There’s dragons in the forest.” Harry murmured, staring into the darkness with an itching desire for such sweet songs again.

“I don’t want you going back in there.” Luna whispered to him gently, “I’m afraid you won’t come back.”


 

Harry got a howler, over how he had been ignoring Skylar.

He ignored his family, and he ate and ate.

Harry was so hungry.


 

The second task was the black lake, filled with grindylo and a giant squid.

We will not protect him, the women whispered. Invisible to the eye. They frowned at Harry, displeased with his presence.

“I don’t care if you do.” Harry spoke out loud, knowing that Luna couldn’t understand. “I just want to say hello.”

The women bubbled to the surface, curious by why he had brought a girl along with him.

The human, is she yours?

“Yes,” Harry agreed simply. “She wants to watch you dance.”

We will not bless her.

“She doesn’t ask to be.”

The spirits were delighted. Luna gasped and gently traced her cork necklace as the women of the water formed, shifting in shapes of horses made of kelp. They darted in rainbows, flickering over the water. Lilies bloomed, and nymphs kissed Luna’s brow in greeting.

“Thank you,” Luna smiled to Harry, and humbly ducked her head.


 

A maze of creatures, of Will-O-Wisp.

Harry was bored, so he talked to Luna over things he didn’t remember learning.

“Tell me a story,” Luna whispered to him.

And Harry talked.

“The fairies will do wicked things sometimes,” Harry murmured gently, “Steal the milk when they get a chance, or skim the cream off the milk crocks.”

“Do they ever steal anything more?” Luna asked him rhetorically.

Harry couldn’t answer.


 

Things felt wrong to him.

Things felt very wrong.


 

“Do you know, that you can’t kill a fae with curses?” Luna told him, passing him a rune stone carved with a shaky hand, “that they only be borne again?”

“Why are you telling me this?” Harry accused.

Luna smiled at him sadly.


 

Skylar survived the maze, and Voldemort was reborn tainted and twisted. Screaming of something else, of something fake. Screamed of something botched because of a lie.

“I’m not him!” Skylar bawled, shaking in horror. “The- the- where’s Harry? Where’s Harry!”


 

“Oh Harry,” Luna whispered to him on the last day, when the world was spinning and honeysuckle filled the air.

Everything was so distorted and confusing and Harry dreamed of teeth and claws and he was so hungry.

“Oh Harry.” Luna whispered. “You’re not one of us.”


 

Harry dreamed of teeth, and then he remembered teeth.

A curse cannot kill a fae, a creature of magic and mischief.

He was so hungry.


 

Skylar woke, in the middle of summer when the heat permeated his room. The bed-sheets clung to him, his skin layered in salt.

He groggily reached for a lamp, and flickered it on.

Harry was over him, perched like a monster. Eyes wide and glazed, white and milky with no hint of green.

His mouth was wide, a grin spread larger and wider until it broke his skull and could fit a cauldron. He grinned, wide and drooling. He had more teeth than stars in the sky.

“Oh,” Skylar breathed shakily, feeling his heart pound in his throat. “You’re a changeling.”

Harry opened his mouth further.

He was so very hungry.