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The Beauty of Trees

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:: ::

What did the tree learn from the earth
to be able to talk with the sky?
- Pablo Neruda

:: ::

Draco Malfoy walked carefully down Diagon Alley, placing the port-key his mother had made into his pocket, taking care to not brush against any of the busy shoppers as they bustled past. None of them gave him a second look; his glamour presented a young man with dark-brown hair and brown eyes, nondescript in brown robes. Brown seemed to be the colour of the mundane, for people's eyes slid right over him as if the shade itself was a slippery surface. The material of the robe was very soft and just as warm, and he pulled it close to his throat, fending off the cool spring wind.

He stood across the street from the newly refurbished Ollivander's, waiting for the evening crowd to disperse; dusk was falling fairly quickly, shadows forming in the narrow service alleys between shops. The street-lamps, which hovered in mid-air at regular intervals along the cobbled street, glowed to life in a practiced sequence, warm yellow lights caught in decorative iron cages.

Draco set his jaw and crossed the street. He stood aside, allowing a tall, old wizard to exit the shop in a slow shuffle, bent almost in half and yet still taller than Draco himself, who had inherited his enviable height from his father.

"Merlin keep yeh," the old wizard rasped gratefully, pulling his tall, pointed hat over top of his mostly bald head, wisps of lank grey hair barely hanging on. Draco nodded coolly, watching as the wizard tottered slowly down the pavement, a thick cane gripped in one hand. Draco wondered briefly what a wizard his age would be doing in a wand shop, then shrugged.

Inside, it was wonderfully warm; Draco felt the heating charm woven in his robes adjust itself so he wasn't roasting. He removed his own hat, looking around the small room with a wry smile, remembering the first time he'd been taken into this shop. It was much the same, the dark-wood of the worn counter shiny and smooth from years of people resting their elbows against it. Long, narrow boxes, all a dark-tan colour, were stacked neatly on the counter, protective casings for their precious cargo. Beyond that, there were tall shelves stretching back, much farther than the outside length of the shop suggested. There was a glass cupboard on this side of the counter, displaying a collection of wand-polish and soft cloths that hadn't been here when Draco had last entered this shop and now he peered closely at the dark, tall bottles, reading the hand-written French labels with a little difficulty in the low light.

"Hello?" he called, as he turned away from the glass case. There was a movement at the end of the narrow corridor created by the shelves, someone leaning back to peer down at him. The person was seated at some work-area tucked in at the very end; Draco could now make out the straight wooden back of the chair. Draco approached the counter, wondering if the old man would know who he was, even behind the glamour and refuse to assist him. Well, he would know soon enough.

"Sorry! I didn't hear!" The person had gotten up and was approaching more rapidly than Ollivander should have, hands absently pushing wand-boxes back into their slots as he came closer. Draco held his breath as Harry Potter stepped out of the dark shadows of the corridor, smiling slightly in welcome as he pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose.

Potter looked absolutely rumpled, blue robes hanging off his shoulders. He looked nothing like the dashing hero over which the papers waxed lyrical over every day. His face, which had always appeared narrow to Draco, and pinched most of the time, appeared a little guarded, notwithstanding that small smile touching his lips; when he smiled like that, though, his eyes looked a little brighter. His hair was in dire need of a cut, as per usual; it was too long, curling onto his shoulders in a messy black fall. There were also strands of grey slipping in and out of the raven strands; Draco noticed this with a severe jolt. Potter was still just on the brink of adulthood, just as he was; how could he be greying already?

"Harry Potter," Draco muttered with disbelief, wondering if he was cursed; Potter shrugged, a reserved movement, but the expression in his eyes became fairly open as they fixed on Draco's glamoured face. Potter should really watch how he looks at people, Draco thought censoriously. It's disturbing. Suppose I was here for general revenge? He'd be smiling for naught.

"Yeah, that's me," Potter replied, and then took a deep breath: "No, I don't give autographs at work. No, I already give to charities and I am not interested in any more for now. No, I do not want to marry your sister." He looked at Draco's bemused face and pursed his lips. Potter's speech was subtly different, the accent shaded with a slight lilt; he sounded very much like Mr. Ollivander, Draco realised. "And if you're just here for a wand, it will be my pleasure to help you."

"I'm sure it's time to close the shop, Mr. Potter." Draco stepped back, feeling his stomach clench in disappointment and dismay. "I'll... I'll just be going, I don't want to--"

"No, I'll help you," Potter insisted, appearing as if he would clamber over the top of the counter to stop Draco from leaving. "If there's a problem I can't manage, I'll ring Mr. Ollivander, but I can help." He gave Draco a quick grin, and his eyes grew even brighter, almost twinkling, in fact. Draco stared at him, a sharp memory cutting into his mind, of those leafy-green eyes hidden behind swollen skin. He reached inside his robes and slowly withdrew his wand.

He noted that Potter's slight frame drew taut, or at least, more taut than before, until he placed his wand on the surface of the counter. Potter looked down on it, and then bent close until his nose almost touched it. If Draco wasn't mistaken, he could have sworn that Potter either sniffed it or whispered to it. Or both.

"It doesn't work for me anymore," Draco said tightly. Potter's eyes flickered up to him, slices of glittering jade fixed on Draco, watching him carefully for a few moments from underneath a dark fan of lashes before lowering back to focus on the wand. "It used to... and it was taken from me. When it was returned, it worked for a while, not well, mind you, then simply stopped."

"May I?" Potter said in a low voice, one hand hovering over Draco's wand. Draco nodded sharply and Potter touched a forefinger to the side of the slender hawthorn branch. His fingers were surprisingly long and pale, a few old scabs and some new scars sliding underneath smooth skin. Potter grasped Draco's wand, cast different levels of Lumos, from a dim glimmer to a light so bright that Draco had to squeeze his eyes shut, still seeing a red glowing ball from behind his eyelids.

Potter muttered, cancelling the Lumos and levitating the boxes on the counter, causing them to pile up in threes and twos before returning them to their original order. Then he pointed the traitorous stick at Draco, and cast Finite Incantatem. Draco jerked back reflexively, as if he could avoid the sensation of the spell dissolving the careful layers of glamour placed by his mother earlier.

Draco was completely livid, yet Potter gave him a small smile.

"Works just fine for me, Malfoy," Potter said in a mild voice, handing the wand over. Draco tightened his fingers around the wood warmed by Potter's hand and resisted the urge to just poke Potter in the eye with it. He felt his upper lip curl out of habit and then, quite suddenly, felt extremely exhausted. His could feel his own magic clamouring inside, pressing right under his skin and tingling at his finger-tips. It was tiring him out; most times his magic simply had nowhere to go and so sat anxiously underneath dermis and epidermis, sliding impatiently along blood platelets. He blinked slowly, struggling with the desperate sensation of his magic, and Potter stared at him with dawning disquiet.

"Very well. Thank you, Potter, for your time." He inclined his head, feeling sour triumph at the surprise on Potter's face as he spun on the spot, hearing his boot-heels sound out muted clicks on the uneven floor.

"Wait a minute," Potter called as he yanked open the door and the bell tinkled with false merriment. "Wait, just wait, Malfoy."

Draco paused, breathing the cool night air in irritation.

"Come back," Potter said in a most beguiling tone; Draco forgot himself completely and turned in surprise. He let the door swing in again. "Just. Let me check something."

Draco turned back, barely catching Potter in the act of diving down behind the counter like an otter into water. There was an intense session of rummaging and Potter re-emerged, gripping one of the boxes tightly. He placed this one on the surface of the counter and backed away to pull a few more from the shelves, not taking his eyes from Draco, or turning his back. Draco rolled his eyes and Potter's mouth twisted as he returned to put these down as well.

He folded his arms and raised a dark eyebrow. "These are all hawthorn wands. Give them a try." He did not move as Draco stared at him suspiciously; his eyes were darkly shadowed. Draco went very slowly to the counter, and placed his hand on one box. Potter still did not move, just kept his arms folded across his chest. He was wearing some sort of tan-coloured working apron over his dark robes, made of rough, thick linen. There were many pockets on this apron, with the brown handles of tools sticking up out of them.

"Go on." Potter motioned with his chin and Draco's lips thinned. He went through each wand very quickly, flicking his wrist expertly, but as with his own wand, there was little or no reaction. Potter was looking in his face as he replaced the last one, a fairly short wand, in its box.

"Well. So, the hawthorn is not your tree anymore," he mused, and turned his head to the side, considering the shelves. "Okay. That happens."

"Does it," Draco said coldly, interested in spite of himself. Potter nodded in a slow manner, scratching his cheek absently.

"Um-hmm. After a traumatic event, or an epiphany, a person can lose the bond with their wand." Potter lifted one shoulder carelessly. "Mr. Ollivander says it happens."

"Or when it's taken from them." Draco wondered if his desperation was making him acidic, because he had promised his mother that he would be a bastion of politeness to Harry Potter and all those others who had testified on the behalf of her and himself. Quite possibly it was coming out as typical Malfoy condescension. It must have, because Potter's face slid out of that thoughtful softness and went hard.

"Yes. That as well. The wand might not affiliate with its original owner," he said stiffly and then rubbed his fingers over one eyebrow in an agitated stroke. "Look, I'm sorry. I didn't know at the time that… that would happen."

Draco felt his world shift around him. How many times had he lain in bed, staring up at the soft, curved material of the hangings, thinking of Harry Potter saying things such as this? These musings had carried him through nightmares that woke him with moans of horror, and now that it was here, it felt… anticlimactic.

"So am I," Draco said abruptly. "Sorry, that is. I doubt you can understand how sorry I am." He folded his lips over his teeth, mortified at the freedom of his tongue. He hadn't meant for that to escape at all, and now Potter was looking at him with surprise and a strange sort of pleasure, for apparently he was aware that Draco wasn't exactly referring to the situation with the wand.

Draco looked away from that intense shade of green, feeling an uncomfortable wrench in his stomach. "I need a wand, Potter. Hopefully you can provide me with one. Once again, I'm in your debt."

Potter gave him a long look and then turned away, pulling at other boxes.

"Okay. Let's get to work."

:: ::

"Were you successful, dear?" his mother asked as he tried to sneak past the open door of her rooms. He sighed, brushing at the soot from the Floo. Potter had allowed him to use the fireplace in the shop, after Draco pointed out that he had removed the glamour that allowed Draco to move around without causing a scene. People seemed to associate light-blond hair with unmitigated evil, and Draco wasn't fond of being the centre of a rabid horde.

Now, Draco stepped right inside Narcissa's sitting room, which was cosier than one would credit her for. Large, over-stuffed arm-chairs were set around the fireplace. Narcissa, elegant and lovely in the midst of all this comfort, offered a sharp cheek to be kissed; Draco did his duty admirably.

"No, Mother." He decided not to tell her that Harry Potter worked at Ollivander's. She had developed a strange affinity for Potter, quelling Draco and his father with a frosty stare whenever any of them muttered darkly after seeing him in the paper. "But… the apprentice determined that I would need a custom-made wand."

"Is that so?" His mother’s eyes were wide and fixed on his; she seemed more optimistic than he did. "Then there’s hope," she continued with a bare curve of her thin lips. His father stalked past the open doorway, tossing them both an absently cool look. He appeared as a caged white tiger, terrible and almost lost. Draco gazed at the now-empty doorway, feeling his father’s presence slip over and away from them like a frayed silken robe. They were all under Ministry Watch, that is what they called it, where a smarmy official would enter their house twice a week and do inspections. They all would be sullen, while the official went gleefully through their belongings; at the end of these sanctioned visits, Lucius would retreat to his offices, sealing the door shut, as if Narcissa and Draco were even vaguely interested in disturbing him as he perused his bottles of cognac.

"Please excuse me, Mother," he told Narcissa. She raised pale eyebrows at him. "I have a Potions coursework to complete and send in with Achilles."

"Very well, darling," his mother said with a slightly wider smile. For some reason, as her eyes twinkled at him, he was forcibly reminded of Potter's eyes. They seemed to rise up in his memory, bright and clear, looking at him with a… a kind of hopeful friendliness.

"Draco?" His mother's voice broke into his reverie and he blinked. He had been wool-gathering almost completely, and it was a little disturbing. He gave her a tense smile and escaped from her quarters to his own.

The long curtains in his room were still open, letting in the still night, a flood of silvery moonlight falling across the floor to touch cool fingers against his wide bed. He sighed, and made his way over to the windows to pull them shut; usually, with a lazy turn of his wand, they would slide into place. He stood for a moment, hearing the calls of the white peacocks outside, watching them stalk around the back lawn regally.

White peacocks, not albino ones; his father had been careful in choosing them. Draco wasn't sure if he liked them. There was something… bland about white peacocks; cold and plain at the same time.

He watched them stride, their long feathers trailing on the dark grass. Suddenly, they took to flight, clumsily; the grass-cutting charm must have activated and startled them. They settled in the tops of the topiary, giving baleful stares to the active grass below. They ruffled their long feathers and Draco pursed his lips in faint amusement.

Thinking very deeply, he allowed his entrapped magic to slide along the sinews of his body, letting it course through his bones and start to twist them. This was the only reprieve his magic had from its imprisonment, and Draco was glad he had learnt this a little before… before all that disaster last year, for he might have died from magic poisoning by now.

He strolled around his room a few times in that state, and then returned to his human form, flexing his fingers as he stood in the shadows of the room; he pondered his Potions essay for the grand total of five seconds and simply stumbled over to his bed, curling up in it.

:: ::

If you would come to the shop, we can start your new wand as soon as possible.

:: ::

"Draco did not tell me that you were doing your apprenticeship inside this shop," Narcissa said in her cool voice, giving Draco a sharp look out of the corner of her eye. "If your owl this morning hadn't stopped at my desk, I would have still been unaware."

Draco tightened his lips and said nothing. Potter looked embarrassed on his behalf.

"It's okay," he replied in a low steady voice and Narcissa's expression told him that okay didn't even begin to fix it, but she would let it slide for now. "Er, I've spoken to Mr. Ollivander, and we have to go to the Grove."

Draco wasn't surprised that the old man was not dealing with them directly; being trapped in the private dungeons of someone's abode didn't do much for warm feelings. He wrinkled his nose at Potter. "The Grove?"

"Yes, that's where all the wands start. I can Apparate the two of you, I think. It's not very far."

Narcissa turned her head and managed to consider them both at the same time, before reaching out one hand tilted at a perfect, elegant angle towards Potter, who was still standing behind the counter. Draco rolled his eyes as Potter stared at his mother's hand for a long moment, before realising what was expected.

"Oh!" he said, reaching behind himself and undoing his apron. He sent it away to the back with an almost absent twitch of his wand; Draco's jealousy in that moment knew no bounds. "Um, sorry."

Draco looked at his mother. You see what I had to put up with in school, his look expressed, this is our Wizarding Hero, just lovely. They might have won, but I wonder how.

Bear it out, his mother's slitted eyes returned as Potter scrambled around the counter and awkwardly grasped at Narcissa's hand with the tips of his fingers. He saved my son's life; he can do no wrong for me.

Draco sighed and jumped a little as Potter grabbed onto his hand and pulled him closer. Potter's hands were rough and scratchy, dragging over Draco's skin, but his grip around Draco's wrist was surprisingly gentle, fingers encircling the narrow wrist with a delicate care. Draco suddenly had a very clear view in his mind's eye on how Potter worked on the wands, tilting the slender wood down and whittling away the superfluous; he must take good care of them.

"Ready?" Potter asked and when they both nodded, he Apparated.

:: ::

I'll lie here and learn how, over their ground,
Trees make a long shadow and a light sound.
- Louise Bogan

:: ::

Draco opened his eyes as soon as he was standing steadily and Potter released his hand. The Grove was simply that, a collection of trees; but it was far larger than he expected. As far as his eye could see, tall, regal trees marched off in the distance, their crowns full and stretching to the afternoon sunlight. A misty light, tinted emerald, drifted down between sturdy trunks and a silence reached out in considering welcome.

"This is the Grove," Potter said, quite unnecessarily. Draco fidgeted a little, feeling the grass try to sneak up the leg of his black trousers as they stood near the edge of a small clearing.

"Quite lovely." Narcissa, the quintessential gardener, peered about them as a cool wind lifted Potter's hair and tried to tug it into shape. Draco could have told the wind that that particular black nest was resistant to tampering. "So, Mr. Potter. These are all magical trees."

"Yeah," Potter said, and smiled shyly. Draco blinked at him; he had never seen a shy smile on Potter's face before. His eyes crinkled at the corners, appearing even greener as his face was framed by the leafy display all around them; the breeze was still fighting a losing battle. "This location is a site of strong earth-magic. Mr. Ollivander's family has been growing these for years. Over there," and here he tilted his chin in an abstract direction. "That's where I've started mine. They grow awfully fast."

"Hmm," Draco said, twitching even more; his magic was starting a riot under his skin, trying to find an outlet. A sullen Healer in St. Mungo's had advised him to find some way to expel it a few times daily while trying to replace his wand, and it was nearly time to do so again.

"Thing is, since we're doing a custom-job, you'll have to find a tree that likes you."

Draco was so surprised at this foolishness that he actually forgot his tic. He and his mother stared at each other, and then gazed at Potter, who shrugged.

"If the tree doesn't like you, then the wand won't. So… uh, you have to… ask around." Potter gestured towards the trees around them, his pale fingers twitching in quick, nervous motions.

"Ask… around." Draco blinked at Potter, whose face was being cast in an unreadable expression. "Potter, I think you've finally gone and done what I've always suspected anyway: broken your brain."

"After what I've been through, do I care what you think?" Potter's eyes crackled green lightning at him and the wind died. He closed his eyes, obviously counting in his head, and then sighed. "Look, just trust me. I'm trying here. This is the best way I know. Actually, it's the only way, and if you don't try, it won't work."

"What should I try?!" Draco's annoyance and desperation boiled in his chest, sparking at his already agitated power. "Are you honestly asking me to go around and say, 'why hello there, Sir Elm, how do you do? I seem to be having a spot of trouble, see if you can help a fellow out'?!"

"Yes." Potter folded his arms over his chest, looking quite stubborn. "I do it all the time, it's not a problem."

"That's because you're mad!" Draco burst out and was about to descend into a well-needed rant, but his mother placed a hand on his arm and he had to swallow it down bitterly. She gazed up at him for a long moment, before shaking her head, such a slight movement that he had learned to read as a specimen of amused disapproval and then turned to Potter.

"May I suggest that we separate and... ask around? It may save some time, there are many trees."

"Yeah," Potter said gratefully. "Just talk, it'll be alright."

Draco didn't even wait; he stomped off, casting only one quick look over his shoulder to see his mother lifting the edge of her dark-blue robes, walking carefully in another direction as Potter remained in the clearing, watching Draco. He stumbled a little, not expecting that Potter would have been staring at him and Potter flushed, spinning on his heel and trotting away. Draco hurried through the cool space in between the trees, feeling his own face warm strangely.

:: ::

"Do you know that trees talk? Well, they do. They talk to each other, and they'll talk to you, if you will listen..."
- Tatanga Mani (Walking Buffalo)

:: ::

Draco sat grumpily in some random pine tree and ruffled his feathers, glaring all about. It was hard to feel grouchy when the sun was shining so prettily and everything smelled so nice, but Draco was managing quite fine. At least his magic was sated for the time being, soothed by his transformation and he didn't have to worry about that.

He heard a rustle and cocked his head to one side, watching his mother walk around a particularly hoary-looking tree, considering it. He wanted to roll his eyes as she leaned close and said something. She nodded a little and then disappeared in another direction; Draco went back to sunning himself.

He really wasn't trying, admittedly. They had been returning to the Grove for a few days now, himself and his mother. While she and Potter divided the Grove into smaller sections and trampled around, he changed form and found some bough to sit in and while away the time.

He left the pine tree and landed on the ground, strutting off with his chest puffed out. This was probably the only time he felt like he used to, proud and daring. Well, possibly that was all his imagination, he didn't do daring so well, but he probably could still carry off proud.

Hearing a determined rustle from his left, he took to quick flight and hid himself in a willow, tucking in close to where the branch met the main trunk. Potter emerged from behind a cheerful group of cherry trees, a scratch on his jaw. He tapped his wand on his cheek, the small wound closing over and rubbed at the back of his neck, gazing around. Draco watched him carefully; he hadn't noticed how exhausted Potter's eyes were. Potter had on that horrible apron, and the pockets were filled with slender branches. Draco suddenly recalled that Potter had other wands to make; where did Potter find the time to do that when he had been spending nearly every day with Draco and Narcissa, exploring the massive Grove and conversing with the trees?

Draco shifted uncomfortably, and refused to feel contrite.

"Hello, yew!" Potter said and chuckled at his own feeble joke. He went to a tree quite close to Draco's willow and sat on the ground in front of it, dragging his knees up close to his chest. "I'm so tired, I'll just sit here with you a bit."

Draco angled his head in a sharp movement and watched as Potter wrapped his arms around his legs and let his head fall down a little, going quite still.

"He's such a berk," Potter said suddenly. "I bet he's somewhere around here, arsing about while we find a good tree for him."

Silence fell again, but it seemed to be of a soothing quality; there was something in the air, an undercurrent that Draco found himself straining to listen closely to, as if it were some sort of lovely music being played very far away.

"I know." Potter raised a hand to his hair, absently curling a stray black lock around one finger. "Sometimes I feel like punching him, right on his stupid pointy nose."

Draco wondered if he could sneer through his beak.

"But he's really..." Potter released his lock of hair and rubbed the opposite arm, smiling a little. "I had a dream about him, you know. Okay, maybe more than one. He's really... striking when he's not yelling or making those horrible faces, when he's smiling, you know? In my dreams, at least."

Draco nearly fell out of the willow. Striking? Potter thought he was striking? And, hang on, Potter was dreaming about him?

"I know," Potter said in a tiny voice after another long silence, this one more sympathetic. "I know, I know, it wouldn't work. I mean, I used to hear about him and Blaise, so it's not a matter of that, you know."

The stillness indicated that it did indeed know.

"But, yeah. Even... even if there was a chance of something, it would be a huge mess, people would be yelling at me and suspicious of him, and everyone would be all obviously you don't remember what he did! Just, a lot of that and I'm tired already just thinking about it. Besides, I remember what he did. It was a war. We were kids, still are." Potter continued to rub at his arm; the sound of his palm against the hardy material of his work-robes was a soft rustle. A gentle breeze touched at the trees and Potter looked up with a sleepy smile.

"Don't tell the wind!" he exclaimed with mock chastisement. "You know what a horrid gossip that is. By the time we're ready, the whole blasted Grove will know. Anyway, up!" Potter rose to his feet and brushed at the back of his robes, dislodging bits of leaves and grass, and then stretched with his hands raised over his head. "Thanks. By the way... do you think you want to give a branch? For Draco?"

The sound of his name coming so softly from Potter's mouth was... it was more enchanting than it should have been. The silence coming from the tree was quite doubtful, though.

"Yeah, I figured. But thanks, anyway."

Potter turned away, and then went still, looking at the ground underneath Draco's willow. He came right under the tree and bent to pick something up. Draco, craning his long neck, saw that it was one of his: long, striped and mottled brown, a wing-feather. Potter twirled it in between his fingers, and then, very slowly, tilted his head all the way back, looking straight up at Draco's position. Draco stared down back at him, peering through the corner of one slitted eye.

Potter's lips parted in surprise. "Oh. Hello."

Draco looked away and ruffled his long, brilliant tail-feathers.

"What are you doing up there?" Potter blinked up at him. "You can stay, if you want. As long as you like. Wow, you're gorgeous."

Draco preened in spite of himself and Potter laughed.

"I'll just take this," Potter said, holding out the feather. "I don't think you need it anymore, and I might be able to use it. I think you might like that."

Actually, Draco thought he would, and in spite of his human mind being mortified at all this displaying, his animal side let out a long, low call. Potter smiled again, giving a little wave before turning around to pick his way through the Grove.

Draco descended from the tree and changed to his rightful form, kneeling for a moment on the soft grass; he picked up a willow leaf from the ground and looked at it closely.

"Willow tree," he tried, suddenly feeling very tired. "Willow, what do you think?"

The leaves simply whispered under the influence of the wind; Draco closed his eyes, and felt his magic begin its restless struggle.

:: ::

"Talking to trees?" Lucius said, in a pale imitation of his former glorious disdain. "My, my. How far the mighty fallen."

"Yes, of course, we know how that feels," Narcissa said absently as she bustled about, searching for some embroidered shawl. "Draco, are we quite ready?"

"Imagine what the papers would say if they found out about this." Lucius was practically rubbing his hands together in dark glee; Draco sighed at the pleased gleam in his eyes. Lovely; his father would find some way to tell the Prophet, the reporters would crowd Harry to find out, Harry would naturally assume that Draco and his family had let the Kneazle out of the bag and refuse to finish his wand. He opened his mouth to try and turn his father away from this route, but his mother beat him to it.

"I'm sure you have our finances to sort out, rather than begin a campaign against Harry Potter's strange tendencies. Those tendencies he's been using diligently to help our son." Narcissa turned, finding a house-elf standing with her shawl and taking it with a pleased sound. "You do want to help our only son, don't you, Lucius my dear?" She looked up at Lucius with large eyes and Draco wanted to laugh at his father's set expression.

"Of course I do, darling," Lucius snapped, tugging at the collar of his robes. "But--"

"Yes, we both do," Narcissa said firmly and stepped up to Lucius, kissing his mouth quite firmly. Draco raised his eyebrows at this sudden display, for Narcissa wasn't one to openly do such things; but since her visits to the Grove, she seemed to have become more… more forceful. One would even say vigorous, for she had a healthy tinge to her alabaster skin. Her hair, now loose and long down her back, seemed to glow in the early morning light streaming through the tall windows of the main entry. She stepped back from Lucius, untangling his grip from her hair and giving a prim smirk at her husband's still-pursed lips.

"After we return, may we spend some time together, Lucius? I know you've been under stress." Narcissa's voice was low and sultry. Draco made a face and then winced as she pinched his arm before taking him by the elbow. Lucius cleared his throat and raised his chin, a haughty tilt at odds with the dazed cast in his eyes.

"Yes. Well, of course, darling. Whatever you wish." He spun on his heel and marched off. Narcissa twisted her mouth in amusement and looked up at Draco, who suddenly really saw his mother for maybe the first time since he was eleven years old, saw just how beautiful she was. How much she loved him and his father. Impulsively, he gave her a one-armed hug around her shoulders, feeling strangely content. She was here for him. She always was.

"I'm ready," he said softly, and Narcissa Apparated them to Ollivander's.

Of course, because Draco had terrible luck, they found themselves among a small copse of red-hair. Harry was standing behind the counter, smiling indulgently at the Weaslette, while Granger and the Weasel were inspecting the display cupboard in the corner. Loony Lovegood was standing beside Harry in her own wand-apprentice apron. Her eyes were pale and very unsurprised at the presence of Draco and his mother inside Ollivander's. Everyone turned their heads slowly and gazed at them. Draco stood up to his full, impressive height and gave them all the most bland look that he dared, even while standing as close to his mother as he could.

"Hey," Potter said in a low, soothing voice as everyone still gazed warily at each other. "Remember I told you I was helping Malfoy with his wand?"

"Yeah," the Weasel muttered stiffly. "Yeah, you did, mate."

Another awkward moment evolved quickly around them and Draco saw the Weaslette staring at him appraisingly. Potter glanced at the side of her face, gave Draco a quick look and bit his bottom lip.

"Good day," Narcissa said and stepped from behind Draco's protective stance. "How do you do?" She held out a pale hand and the Weasleys and Granger gaped at it; Draco could see exactly what was going through their minds: Our mother killed your sister.

There was another long pause and Draco began to feel desperate at his mother's outstretched hand, hovering there alone in the gloom of the shop. They would leave it hanging, just as Potter did when they were younger. It would be a signal of the eternal breach between two sides and it would never be fixed, never. That was just the way things were, and there was nothing--

Draco nearly had a heart attack as the Weasel stepped forward and took Narcissa's tiny hand in his large, rough one. He gave it a single, solemn shake and stepped back, raising ginger eyebrows at Harry, who nodded gratefully as Granger shook her hand as well.

Loony said brightly, "You never forgot to send food down to us," as she shook Narcissa's fingertips and Narcissa nodded. Draco, who hadn't known this, blinked at the top of his mother's head as she took the Weaslette's hand. Draco contented himself with giving them all a sharp incline of his head, which they returned. The Girl Weasley's gaze was still heavy on his Draco's face; a little sad, as well.

"We'll see you at dinner, Harry," Granger said softly, and kissed Harry on the cheek before they all trooped out. Draco noticed that the Girl Weasley only gave Harry a short pat on his hand, before walking out as quickly as she could with her head bent low.

"Well, I'll be in charge," Loony said in that papery voice of hers. "Tell that ash in the south corner that I'll be over in two days, Harry, after the full-moon." Draco watched her as she pattered off to the back-rooms, humming softly to herself. Of course Loony would be some sort of tree-communicator, that was a given; it was Potter that surprised Draco. Probably that was Potter's function on this plane, to constantly keep Draco on his toes.

"Let's go." Harry's voice was low and rough, and he cleared his throat. Narcissa gave him one of her small smiles and Harry blinked at her; one corner of his mouth quirked up.

"If we're quite ready," Draco said from between tight lips. Harry's smile dimmed a little as he turned large, hopeful eyes in Draco's direction. For some reason, Draco could not bear that expression, and so he looked away, considering the wand-boxes. He felt Harry's hand encircle his wrist slowly, fingers light and warm against his racing pulse. He dropped his gaze but still saw Harry's bright eyes in his mind's eye, as Harry's magic snatched them from inside the shop.

:: ::

Be flexible
Remember your roots
Enjoy the view!
-'Advice from a Tree', by Ilan Shamir

:: ::

"Where's Mrs. Malfoy?" Harry asked as soon as Draco opened the door to the shop. He raised his wand. Draco flinched. "I'm just removing the glamour, Malfoy," Harry said slowly and his wand sliced through the air deliberately.

"You drew your wand on me, Potter, what was I to think," Draco griped, but there was little heat behind it. "Mother went to a meeting with our lawyer, if you absolutely have to know. She sends her greetings." A faint smile touched Harry's surprisingly red mouth and he poked absently at a small basket that was sitting on the counter. Draco peered at it. "What's that for?"

Harry raised one shoulder in a quick shrug, but he was not looking at Draco's face. "I was thinking, and don't you dare say that I mustn't hurt myself doing that." Here, Draco closed his mouth, swallowing those very words. "Right, I was thinking we should try something else. Relax more around the trees, I guess."

Draco, who had done nothing so far but relax around the trees, simply said, "So we'll have a bit of a picnic, then, from what I can see with your little basket there."

"Yeah." Harry hoisted the basket and reached out his hand; they were both surprised as Draco took it automatically, their fingers sliding around each other's. There was a long, quiet moment and Draco parted his lips to say something, feeling a light thrill as Harry's eyes dropped to his mouth.

"Why are you holding hands?" Lovegood asked curiously over Harry's shoulder, raising her light eyebrows as they both jumped and snatched their hands away. "Oh, you're going to the Grove again. Good, Harry, I need a branch from the small holly, the one with the bowtruckle?"

"I thought you and that bowtruckle had a disagreement." Harry smoothed his hands over his apron and gave Draco quick, darting glances out of the corner of his eye. Lovegood grinned and reached into her pocket, taking out a small, clear bottle filled with squirming woodlice.

"Right," Harry said dryly, taking the bottle. "I'll just bribe it with these, then."

Shrinking both the basket and the bottle, Harry stepped close to Draco, staring resolutely at a point somewhere near Draco's shoulder. Draco took a deep, bracing breath; Potter smelled like the outdoors, like sweet grass being warmed by the morning sun. Almost against his will, he saw his own hand reaching out to wrap around Potter's.

"Do have some fun," Lovegood said indulgently as she polished the surface of the counter. "And don't let that bowtruckle bully you, Harry!"

"Er, well," Harry said nonsensically, now staring up at Draco's face. Draco tightened his lips, and made to pull away, for evidently Potter was fairly nonplussed at having his hand taken by Draco Malfoy; but what was to be expected, anyway.

Harry tightened his own grip, and took another step. They were ever so close together and it was a bit of a clichéd moment for Draco to find himself caught up in looking at Harry Potter's eyes, that he almost didn't notice that they had already arrived at the Grove.

"You Apparate very well, Potter," Draco blurted and tamped down the urge to kick himself. Of course Harry would. He had heard all about Potter and his friends popping in and out of the countryside. "Hardly a loud noise."

"Yeah." Potter released his hand slowly. "I've had the practice." He cleared his throat again and looked around, the wind playing in his hair with its usual delight. "We can go see about that branch for Luna, and then we can have lunch. If that's fine with you."

Draco considered him, and then allowed himself to smile a little. Harry's eyes were huge behind his glasses. "Yes. That's fine with me."

:: ::

There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden,
but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it.
- Minnie Aumonier

:: ::

"Why not an Auror, Potter?" Draco asked as he opened a sandwich and made a face at the tuna spread inside. They were sitting on a blanket transfigured from a patch of grass near a slight slope, the trees crowding close and inspecting their picnic. Harry peered at the sandwich Draco was offering him peremptorily and exchanged it for his own chicken one with a sigh. The holly tree with its cantankerous little bowtruckle was just a few feet away; if Draco squinted, he would be able to see the stick-like creature munching happily on its treats.

"I don't know." Harry bit into the sandwich, tilting his head as he chewed. "I didn't really fancy the idea, to tell you the truth."

"I heard they offered you a Junior Auror position." Draco sipped his iced tea; it was a bit sweet, he found.

Harry picked up another sandwich, brushing a leaf out of his hair as he considered it. "They did. I heard you got an offer too."

"Yes," Draco said noncommittally, not wanting to give any information away. Minister Shacklebolt had approached him about contract work for a new curse-breaking section of the Ministry.

"You have served your punishment," Shacklebolt had told him in that slow, deep voice of his. "It would be a pity to let a brain like yours go to waste." It was good to know that Shacklebolt wasn't a fool.

Potter interrupted his musings now with: "Oh! Um, I have something to show you."

"Me?" Draco watched as Harry reached over, leaning almost against him to get his folded apron. Harry paused, realising he was literally crowded against Draco's lean form and blushed, drawing back.

"Yes, if… if you want to see it, you don't have to if you don't--"

"Oh, for Asgard's sake." Draco grasped the neat bundle of cloth that Harry had withdrawn and pulled it open. A feather fell out, settling into his lap. He stared at it, wondering, for the familiar brown feather had a faint grey glow around it, like droplets of light clinging to the fine barbs. His magic purred along his bones, feeling more settled for the first time in a long while.

"I can use it for your wand," Harry murmured, picking up the feather carefully. "See? It's full of magical energy. Mr. Ollivander did this Revealing spell. It can work. When your magic is channelled through the core of your new wand, this is what keeps it focused. And the wood, when you find a responsive one, that protects the core. This is why you need a tree that likes you. So it can look after all your magic."

Draco turned the feather over, marvelling. "I had no idea that… that you could do that. You could have told me that before, Potter."

Harry frowned a little, but managed to look pleased at the same time; he shifted closer, and Draco didn’t know if it was his magic feeling content, or the quiet joy in the day, but he felt serene.

Another leaf fell in Harry's hair and he turned his head, looking up at whatever tree was doing the mischief. Draco went very still, trying to pick up on whatever Harry was hearing to make him smile like that. He tried very hard, putting all his effort into it for the very first time, and his magic rushed excitedly towards his fingertips, expectant and fast. The feather glowed even more.

He held his breath… there. There it was.

It was very faint. It was like singing, like a choir performing their encore on the wireless, turned down nearly all the way. Draco found that the more he tried to concentrate on it, the quieter it got, and so he just let it go. Lovely, low whispers, but one was more insistent than most and Draco looked at a curious Harry.

"Potter, where are your trees?" Draco asked suddenly. Harry looked at him in surprise and then wordlessly pointed in a southerly direction. Draco gazed at him for a long moment, gaze flickering over that pale forehead and dark hair, dropping to look at the parted lips. He noted Harry's small smile with one of his own and then nodded, getting to his feet and wandering off.

:: ::

The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass,
speaks to me….

And my heart soars.
- Chief Dan George

:: ::

"Ah," Harry said softly as he looked up at Draco in his Animagus form, sitting comfortably in a rowan tree. "Here you are. One day, you have to give me an eye-feather for a wand. When you want, I mean."

An eye-feather, iridescent in green, blue and brownish-orange, drifted down from the rowan. Harry held out a pale, scarred hand and it settled in his palm.

"Thank you." Draco watched as Harry inspected the feather closely, smiling gently at it. "I always thought you'd be pure-white, like the ones at your house." Those green eyes, almost the same bright colour as the one in the freely given eye-feather, as warm as the contented trees dozing happily in the sun all around them, returned to Draco. "But... it works better for you this way. I think so, at least."

Draco considered changing his form, but the rowan was so very welcoming; so he remained within its convivial embrace for awhile longer. When he had approached the area where Harry had planted his first wand-trees, he had felt a kind of silent greeting across a small dell, as if a long-lost sibling was waving at him happily from a distance, beckoning him closer.

He had gone past hazels and alders, ignored oaks and elms, and stood before a smug-looking tree, hardy and with a rounded crown. Strangely, it was already in flower, a bit too early in the year for those lovely white petals. When Draco reached out a hand to touch it, he felt some of his excitable magic go gratefully out of him, finally locating a friendly conduit.

"This is it?" Harry now asked, smiling a little. Draco called out in affirmative and Harry watched as he spread his wings and sailed out of the tree, a rowan branch clutched in his beak. Harry watched closely as he placed it carefully on the ground at Harry's feet. Draco encircled the other boy once, waiting as he bent to grasp the proffered branch, before straightening up out of his animal form and into his human one.

"This is it," he said softly. "One of yours. It likes me a lot."

"I know," Harry said, just as low. He stroked the bright eye-feather absently across his own cheek, and then, almost impulsively, reached out and touched the curve of Draco's jaw with it. Draco breathed out slowly, watching Harry's hooded, expectant eyes. "It told me so."



| Draco's | Animagus | Form |

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Quotes taken from here: Trees: Quotes, Poems, Proverbs, Maxims, Links