Harry was restless. He felt like he was full of energy that had no way of getting out as he was locked in his room as usual at the Dursleys for another long, dismal summer. The power had been building all day, and Harry knew that it would crest at midnight.
Harry has been warned that he would be receiving a power boost on his sixteenth birthday. He had been expecting a modest increase in his magic, but this felt like a storm under his skin. It just kept building and building with no end in sight. Harry began to fear what the power surge when the clock hit midnight on the 31st would be like. Meanwhile, he paced around and around the meagre few feet of his room.
As it got closer to the witching hour, he threw himself down on his bed and stared at the dull ceiling tiles with disinterest. His mind was spinning off in different directions, the main being the hope that the Ministry wouldn't come down on him for accidental magic when his inheritance hit him.
As midnight struck, Harry felt his vision tunnel and blackness pulling him under like a smothering blanket in the summer heat.
When he opened his eyes again, he found himself staring at what looked like a pale green sky. He started in shock and scrambled to sit up, looking around. The pale green sky wasn't the only weird thing he could see. He appeared to be sitting on the grassy ground in the middle of a clearing in the woods. Only the grass was a strange reddish-brown, and the trees in the forest were deep purple instead of brown. The leaves that crunched underfoot at least looked like the kind he would see at home in autumn. And to top it all off a few feet away from him lay Draco Malfoy, pale and pointy and….. unconscious.
As Harry gaped at the place, he found himself the blonde stirred and groaned rubbing his face as he sat up.
"What the hell did I do last night?" The blonde muttered to himself.
"I don't know what you did, but I would really like to know what I did to be stuck in this place with you of all people," Harry answered making the Slytherin jerk in shock and swivel his head rapidly to focus on Harry in shock. The blonde glared at Harry for a minute before turning his gaze to his surroundings and staring open-mouthed at the sights.
Harry would probably have been more amused by this rare crack in the cool facade Draco usually presented to the world if he wasn't just as shocked himself.
"Where the fuck are we?" Draco ground out his mouth snapping shut and a look of irritation crossing his features as he realized he was gaping.
"Well Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore." Harry snarked.
"Does that make you Dorothy in this scenario then?" Draco asked snorting, "Fitting, I suppose."
Harry gaped in surprise, again. He hadn't been expecting Draco to know the Wizard of Oz. He had first seen the movie in school when a substitute teacher had played it one time in primary school. It had struck a chord in Harry for some reason, and when he had found an old battered copy in the free books bin at his library, he had grabbed it and kept it safely hidden away in his cupboard among his other treasures.
The copy had finally fallen apart when he was ten from repeated readings and broken Harry's heart.
"You know muggle literature?" Harry asked eyes wide in shock.
Draco gave him one disdainful look and turned away.
"No thanks to my father." He muttered, "Severus is my godfather. He insisted on me knowing the 'classics' of muggle literature. I think he sold the idea to my father as something about knowing your enemy." Draco continued sullenly.
"You don't know everything about me, Potter." The blonde snapped, turning in place as he looked around.
"Never thought I did." Harry returned as he too took stock of their surroundings warily.
"Ok, this is annoying. Why the fuck am I stuck with you in this surreal place. If it's a dream, it's not a very good one." The blonde groused, folding his arms in front of him.
Harry couldn't help but agree with him, although he kept that fact to himself.
"What's the last thing you remember, Malfoy?" Harry asked, rubbing his forehead tiredly.
"I remember falling asleep in my bed at the Manor. I think." Draco answered thoughtfully, his trademark snark missing for once, "You?" He asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Lying in my bed at the Dursleys waiting for my magical inheritance to peak at midnight." Harry answered, "Doesn't answer the question of where the fuck we are or what we are doing here...together."
"Language, Harry, dear." A feminine voice said gently.
"Sorry," Harry muttered automatically rubbing the back of his neck even as both boys turned towards the voice.
Harry gaped at the woman in front of him. She was beautiful. It was the only thing he could tell for sure. Whether she was old or young, brunette or blonde, tall or short, he couldn't pinpoint. Her features seemed to shift and change as he looked so one minute she looked like his mother and another she looked like Hermione or some other female in his life. She was maiden, mother and crone all at once. Terrifying and comforting at the same time, and Harry didn't know what to make of her.
"Who are you? And where are we?" He asked in a slightly strangled voice. Her changing looks, making him want to shut his eyes lest he get dizzy.
"I am Magic." The Lady said, "And this is my world. I brought both your minds here as you slept."
"Greetings my Lady. How may I be of service to one such as you?" Draco asked, throwing a nasty look at a still gaping Harry.
Harry had heard of Lady Magic, the creator of them all, but he had never expected to meet her in person. He hadn't really believed that she was real. For that matter, he was wondering if this was real or just all in his head.
"Oh, Harry dear, of course, it's happening in your heads, but that doesn't make it any less real." She said, making Harry jerk in shock. She had read his mind. He shook his head at himself. Of course, she had. She was Lady Magic after all, or a figment of his imagination but either way she had full access to his head. It made him uncomfortable that she could see his thoughts, but he just stayed silent listening to her as she continued.
"And Draco dear we are here so Harry may receive his magical inheritance as the first Pardus in a thousand years. He will then activate yours. He is alpha, so he comes first and from him the rest of you." The Lady answered, smiling kindly.
Draco gritted his teeth in anger. Why the hell did it always have to be about Potter? Everyone was always making much of the Chosen One. Draco was every bit as special as Potter. He knew this, but only Severus seemed to see this in school. All the other teachers thought the sun shone out of Potter's arse, he thought resentfully.
"Now Draco, you know that isn't true. You are just as special to me in your own way as Harry is; all my children are special to me. Besides, I need you to be his beta and second-in-command and help him in his task. I need both of you to help right the wrongs and restore the balance in your world. Tell me, my sons, will you help me restore the magical balance? If you do not learn to work together, Voldemort will win, and thanks to his cruel war and his genocide of muggle-borns magic will disappear from your world within a single generation." The Lady said in a quiet voice that nonetheless held weight.
Harry wasn't surprised that he had been chosen for this task. It seemed to be his lot in life to do these things, but he was astonished that he had to work with Draco Malfoy of all people. He sighed.
"As you will, my Lady." He answered softly his tiredness and inherent sadness that never seemed to leave him anymore still evident in his voice despite his best efforts.
Lady Magic smiled gently at him and stroked his cheek softly.
"I know little one, great weights have been placed on your shoulders. But it is because you have the strength to bear them. I wish I could have spared you your horrible childhood, but Dumbledore was a fool who refused to listen to reason. There are limits to my power in your world now, thanks to fools like him and Riddle." She said, "That is one of the things I wish you to change for me."
Harry shot a quick glance at Malfoy when the Lady mentioned his childhood and found the blonde wearing a puzzled frown. Harry did not want Draco of all people finding out about his horrible home life and taunting him about it. He shuddered to think about what the blonde boy would say if he knew about the cupboard under the stairs. On the other hand, if he had to work with Malfoy, maybe it would be better to find out precisely what the prat thought of him sooner rather than later. Besides the Lady hadn't left him much choice in keeping his secrets.
"Dumbledore believes that family begins and ends in blood. He doesn't think that blood family could ever be as bad as mine is." Harry said shrugging while he watched the strangely silent blonde out of the corner of his eye.
"Wait a minute. You said Pardus? We're going to be Pardus?" Draco asked shock evident in his voice.
"Indeed. There is a need for my spirit cats to rise again, and Harry will be leading you all as the strongest of your pack. You Draco will be his second-in-command. If you agree to work together, that is." Lady Magic answered a gentle smile on her confusing features.
Draco still grumbled in his mind about Harry being alpha, but the excitement of being one of the fabled spirit cats was drowning out his dissatisfaction.
"Umm, I'm sorry, but what exactly are Pardes...or whatever it was you said?" Harry asked, hesitantly.
He just knew that Malfoy was going to mock his ignorance, but he needed to know. True to form Draco opened his mouth to sneer but was quelled easily by a look from the Lady.
"Pardus are my spirit cats. My warriors. The ones I trust to do my bidding on your world. When you receive your inheritance, you will be able to shift into winged, big cats rather like Panthers with wings. You will also have other abilities which I will train you to use here before sending you back to your sleeping bodies." She said gently.
"Oh, but won't they miss us? I mean if it takes too long even my relatives will notice something." Harry asked, turning trusting green eyes on the Lady. For some reason, he couldn't pinpoint he trusted her implicitly even though this made him a little uncomfortable.
"Don't worry, no matter how much time passes in my realm, only a night will have passed in yours." The Lady answered. "Now, do you boys agree to try to work together to save Magic on your world?" She asked, looking between them.
Draco sneered at Potter one last time before turning to the Lady.
"How could I refuse you, my Lady?" He said sketching a short, courteous bow to her.
"Of course. It might be difficult. But I'm willing to try." Harry said with an apprehensive glance at Malfoy.
"Good. Now your first assignment is to talk to each other. You need to understand each other and yourselves before you can start learning to harness your powers." She said, turning to walk away. As she disappeared, her voice drifted back to them, "Play nice, boys." And she was gone.
Draco bared his teeth at Harry. 'He'd be damned if he spoke first. And there was no way he would follow the speccy git's orders as alpha.'
"So, umm….how have your holidays been so far Malfoy?" Harry asked, hesitantly. He wasn't happy about working with the blonde, but it seemed to be the only way so he would do his best.
Draco snorted, "Oh, just perfect. My holidays have been just perfect, Potter. What do you think? My father is in jail; my mother is a wreck who fled to the Continent to escape the Dark Lord's wrath, leaving me alone in the Manor with the house-elves. How do you think it's been?" He snapped glaring at Harry.
"It is not my fault your father was arrested. If he hadn't been stupid enough to pledge himself to that monster and attack my friends and me in the Ministry, he wouldn't have been arrested." Harry snapped back.
"Oh, yes, you and your perfect friends. You had no business being in the Ministry either. Your perfect friends who stunned us and ran off with you on some hare-brained scheme. What were you even doing there anyway?" Draco growled, folding his arms in front of him.
Harry's face fell at the reminder of what he had lost that night.
"Voldemort sent me a vision of him torturing my godfather in the Ministry. I was trying to save him, but instead, I ended up being the reason he died." Harry said in a soft, defeated voice.
"Sirius Black? You lot went there chasing after that criminal?" Draco asked gaping a little both at the defeated slump of Harry's shoulders and the new information. He had never seen the other boy so dulled and sad before.
"Don't you dare call him a criminal. He was completely innocent of all the charges. The only thing he was guilty of was breaking out of Azkaban, and since he shouldn't have been there in the first place, it doesn't count." Harry spat, his eyes full of green fire again.
"I have allowed you to show each other memories with just the touch of your hand while you are here. You may use this to help get to know each other better." The Lady's voice sounded in the wind.
Harry looked up at that then looked at Draco speculatively, "Would you like to see what really happened that night?" he asked. He would start with this and depending on how the blonde reacted to this painful memory would consider sharing the rest with Malfoy.
Malfoy nodded warily and reached out to take Harry's offered hand. A thrill of warmth went through Harry at the touch but he didn't have time to think about it before he was pulled into the memories of that day from the first painful vision from Voldemort till the final attempt by the monster to possess him, right up until they landed in the hospital wing afterwards Harry felt the memories bombard him renewing the pain of Sirius' death once again. When the memories stopped, Harry pulled his hand away gently opening his eyes to see the slightly shocked expression on the blonde's face.
"Y-you really fought him. And that's what he looks like now? H-how could anyone think that a monster like that would be worth following?" The blonde muttered almost to himself. Draco steeled himself and met Harry's eyes again.
"Sometimes, I wonder if my dad really is right about the things he believes." Draco said softly, "If he really believes as he seems to that serving at the feet of that monster is the right thing to do, and he's clearly wrong about that then what else is he wrong about?"
"I can tell you that muggles are not that different than wizards. They are incredibly inventive and capable; they have figured out so many ways of doing the things we do with magic in other ways. Alright so it takes them a little longer to do these things, but they still manage them just fine. Hermione's parents are muggles, and they are quite nice people." Harry answered, "They really don't deserve to be slaughtered just for their lack of magic. That would be like judging all wizards Dark based on just the Death Eaters and Voldemort. Not all muggles are magic hating arseholes….just my relatives." Harry finished softly.
"You keep insinuating that they are horrible. What exactly did they do to you that was so horrible? Not give you enough presents for Christmas?" Draco sneered. He was trying hard to reconcile all the things he had been taught was true with the recent revelations by Lady Magic and Harry.
"Try none at all, Malfoy. The first present I remember getting was Hedwig and Hagrid gave her to me on my eleventh birthday. My relatives hate magic with a vengeance they didn't tell me I was a wizard and denied categorically the existence of magic. Anytime I did what I now know was accidental magic, they beat me and locked me in my cupboard and starved me. Oh, and until I started Hogwarts my bedroom was a cupboard under the stairs after we got my first Hogwarts letter they moved me into my cousin's second bedroom. They also made me cook and clean and do all the yard work from the time I could walk and talk. I didn't exactly lead the life of a pampered prince that you did Malfoy." Harry ranted too furious to notice the disbelief and sympathy in Draco's face.
"Why didn't someone do anything about it? How could anyone leave a magical child to suffer like this? Surely Dumbledore or-or the Ministry would have had someone monitoring your situation?" Draco said, shocked at these revelations. Along with the rest of the magical world, he had believed that the Chosen One lived a life of pampered luxury with his muggle relatives.
"The magical world doesn't care. As long as I continue to fight their battles for them, they couldn't care less if I lived or died. Maybe my friends would care, well, Hermione would. Ron is going to be mad about these new powers now. I have my doubts as to whether our friendship will survive this. Especially this thing with you being my second." Harry said sighing.
"I never really understood what you saw in the Weasel anyway. Granger for all that she is a mudblood is at least smart and loyal." Draco drawled and rapidly found himself pinned to the ground by an unseen force and Harry glaring into his face.
"Don't you dare call her that. Just because she's muggle-born doesn't make her less than you. She's much smarter than you or me. If this is going to work, then you will learn to respect muggle-borns." Harry hissed into his face, and he pointed his wand at Draco, keeping him pressed into the ground.
"I have to agree with Harry about that Draco. You will learn to respect muggle-borns. They are closer to the magic that the so-called purebloods as I personally chose them to bear the magic. Without muggle-borns, the magical world would stagnate and disappear in just a couple of generations. Why do you think I wish you to stop Riddle? Tom needs to be put out of his misery. Send him to me sooner rather than later, and I am counting on you, both of you to do this." Lady Magic said appearing suddenly next to them. Draco glared angrily at them both before nodding faintly.
"Let him up, Harry dear. Now I really must insist that you boys not fight. No insulting each other's friends or family. Harry, you may tell Draco the truth about Voldemort and Lucius but no insults. No fighting you two." She said before she faded away.
Harry huffed unhappily and allowed the spell to dissipate. He wasn't entirely sure which spell he had used or how he had managed to do it so fast, and it unsettled him a little. He still kept a wary eye out for retaliation from Malfoy, but the blonde seemed to be lost in his own thoughts.
Draco's mind was racing, The Lady herself had said that muggle-borns should be respected and she couldn't be wrong. Exactly how wrong was his father about the world they lived in and his place in it? Was he even right about anything? Granted Lucius wasn't the most loving or demonstrative of parents, but he had always made sure that Draco never lacked anything he wanted, except the time and attention of his parents. Now he had to wonder if he should throw out every belief and thought his father had given him and start from scratch.
"That would not be a bad idea" The Lady's voice whispered through his mind. Draco nodded to himself. He could do this. The Lady had faith in him. He was going to be one of her trusted spirit cats and help lead the magical world into a new age. He would make his family proud of him even if he couldn't follow all the tenets his family set out for him.
Draco straightened a new determination in his steely grey eyes, "My father told me about what happened at the end of the Tri-wizard tournament, but I have a feeling that he was biased and wrong. Would you mind showing me that memory?" he asked, looking up at the green-eyed boy.
Harry was not sure how to handle this new Draco. The blonde had not reacted at all like he had expected him to. There had been no teasing or taunting about his rotten childhood or mocking about Sirius. In fact, other than the slur against Hermione, it was almost as if he was a very different boy than Harry had known all these years.
Harry nodded and reached out his hand for Draco to take, watching with the blonde as the memory of landing in the graveyard with Cedric and Wormtail casually killing Cedric started to move past his mind's eye. When the memory reached the point where Harry landed in Hogwarts, holding Cedric's body, Harry pulled his hand away, ending the flow of memories.
Draco opened his eyes blinking slowly.
"I still can't believe that you stood up to him like that. And my father and the other Death Eaters bowing and scraping like they were his servants. How could he follow a man who treats him like that?" Draco said almost like he was thinking aloud, a new respect for Harry in his eyes.
Harry left Malfoy to his thoughts for a few minutes as it seemed that the blonde had a lot of new ideas to assimilate.
Finally, the blonde turned to look at Harry, "Why does Lady Magic want to stop Riddle? Who is Riddle?" he asked.
"Tom Marvolo Riddle is Voldemort's real name. His squib mother named him after his muggle father. Voldemort is himself at best a half-blood with daddy issues that he insists on taking out on the world." Harry answered, disdainfully.
Draco gaped as he realized that his proud pureblood father willingly followed a man who was the son of a squib. It was possible his father didn't know, but Draco didn't think so. He shuddered as another deeply held conviction crumbled under the force of this new knowledge. It was widely known that Dumbledore was a half-blood and Voldemort feared him more than anyone other than Harry who was himself a half-blood. It shattered his beliefs that the three most powerful wizards alive were all half-bloods, not purebloods as he had been taught. Draco sighed; he would have to think about this. He felt like he had run miles with no respite, rearranging his deeply held beliefs was as exhausting as a four-hour-long Quidditch game.
Harry watched the conflicting emotions flit across Malfoy's face too fast for him to really make out what they were.
"Do you think you can work with me? After what you just learned?" Harry asked.
The blonde looked up startled from his thoughts and smiled wryly at Harry, "Yeah, I think so. Just don't expect me to follow your orders without question." He said.
Harry snorted, "As if." He held out a hand to the blonde, "Truce?" he asked.
"Truce," Draco answered, taking the offered hand even as his mind replayed the rejected handshake from their first train journey.
"I'm glad you boys decided to work together." The Lady said, appearing next to Harry soundlessly and startling both boys, "Now, you will both need training in shifting your forms as well as your other abilities. You, Harry, as alpha will have control over all four of the elements and you, Draco, as his beta will be able to control both water and fire. In addition, you will need to practice your shadow-travel skills, as well. In addition, you will need to test out your soul-sensing abilities so that you may find your soul-mates when you return to your own realm." She said, ignoring their surprise.
"Umm…my Lady, what is shadow-travel? And we get soul-mates?" Harry asked, hesitantly at the end of her speech. He wasn't sure he wanted all that power, but it would help defeat Voldemort so he would take it. Draco hesitated to agree with anything Harry had said, but he wanted to know the answers to those questions as well, so he listened carefully to her response.
"Dislocation is like Apparition but not as noisy. You can travel nearly soundlessly from place to place as I just did. You can travel through any wards that are currently in use in your realm. I think you boys will find it very useful as it does not require a wand just like your control of the elemental magic does not require a wand. And yes for all the burdens I must place on you, you will have the pleasure of finding your perfect match, someone who will be everything you need and love you as no one else can or will." The Lady answered.
Harry grimaced slightly, "No offence my Lady, but it just seems like one more thing that is not under my control." He said, ignoring Draco's snort and focusing on The Lady.
"You will be able to find your soulmate child, whether you or they decide to do anything about it and let your relationship blossom is entirely up to you. All I can do is offer you this gift to do with as you choose."The Lady answered gently.
"Thank you." Harry answered quietly, "I'm not trying to be ungrateful my Lady….it's just…" he trailed off.
"I understand, my son. Dumbledore has made sure to make you feel like every aspect of your life is under his control, and you are powerless while also throwing you into every life-threatening situation possible. Don't worry. With the powers you will have after tonight, you will never feel powerless again." The Lady said a quick flash of anger in her eyes as she mentioned Dumbledore's name.
"I don't think he really meant to make me feel that way." Harry began slowly, not sure if he should defend the old man when he did agree with what she said but unable to help himself.
"I agree, he didn't mean to, but the results speak for themselves, don't you think?" She answered, and Harry reluctantly nodded, "He is not a bad man, but the power and fame following his defeat of Grindelwald have gone to his head, and he began to believe his own hype that he could do no wrong. He needs a lesson in humility, and he recently got one. But never mind that. This is the time for you boys to train and get to know each other better so you can work together. You will need to be in perfect control so you can train the rest of your pack as they reveal themselves to you and come into their gifts." She finished and turned gesturing for them to follow.
The boys exchanged glances and followed her into an arena that appeared in front of them.