Natsu was not a complicated person. He loved his friends, he loved his dad, and he knew that it was important to grow stronger and always do the right thing. That’s just the way things were. Because he knew those things, he knew that Igneel was out there somewhere, because Igneel was his dad and he loved him, and Igneel was strong—too strong to die without a fight.
That was why Natsu had been confused when, once when he was asking people in the guild about Igneel, that slanty-eyed annoying ice mage shook his head. “Ignorance is bliss,” Gray had said. “Don’t go looking for disappointment.”
Natsu didn’t know what Gray had meant, so he assumed Snowflake had just been stupid at the time.
Natsu didn’t know what he meant, until that night days ago, when Natsu remembered everything. He had been happy just knowing that he was a fire dragon slayer, and that Igneel was his dad, and that he was a Fairy Tail mage—and all of those things were still true. But now, he remembered Mama and Papa, and he remembered that they were dead; he remembered his big brother, and that Zeref raised him from the dead to be a demon just to leave him.
His simple outlook on life was getting muddled very quickly.
He didn’t think he needed much to have his footing in life until it was crumbling beneath him, and everything he didn’t know he built crumbling with it.
“Hey Master, there’s a library here, right?”
Master Makarov opened one eye out of his previous meditative watching-the-guild state. “Yes? But it’s for reading and research, Natsu.”
“Yeah I know.”
There was a moment of surprised silence. “Well then.” Master cleared his throat. “The library is around the corner and down the stairs. Do pay mind to keep things in the same place, okay?”
Natsu wasn’t sure why Gramps was acting so weird about it. Yeah, it was Natsu’s first time going there, but it wasn’t like he didn’t know what it was for. Still, he heard a soft “he really did hit his head pretty hard” underneath the master’s breath, so Natsu ducked his head and headed for the library faster.
Since he first got separated from Igneel—since he came to this…this time—Natsu had not paid attention to much that didn’t pertain to his search for Igneel, but he wasn’t completely dumb. He knew some things. Like how demons were evil and scary, and one of the jobs of mages and mage guilds was to go beat them up.
At the time, it had been a fun fact; now, it was a confusing and a frightening problem, because Natsu was a guild mage and a demon, and he really, really wanted to stay in Fairy Tail.
There’s a new, floating memory of his brother, always saying “research is the key to success” (something Natsu remembered him saying to get out of doing things and go read more books) but he might as well try it now. That dragon that saved him in the forest would probably have more answers to Natsu’s new questions, but he wasn’t here right now, and Natsu wasn’t actually sure he knew how to find him. All he remembered was it being a mountain, which wasn’t as helpful in Fiore as he thought it would be.
(It would have been helpful information back where he grew up the first time, among the deserts and the plains, but it wasn’t here.)
Checking to make sure he was alone (he made sure Happy was asleep just for this), and keeping Igneel’s training in careful mind of always keeping an eye, ear, and nose out for trouble, Natsu got to work in the library, picking up anything he could find on demons…and on Zeref.
By the end of the day, Natsu had a good idea of why Acno had told him to keep his demon-ness a secret, and why he shouldn’t look for his brother.
He had research, but no idea what to do with any of it; despite this Natsu didn’t feel successful or blissful.
Another few days passed, and Natsu still didn’t know what to do. He tried to ignore it—to just forget he was a demon, or that his big brother was a bad guy—but something would come up, a phrase of conversation or a random memory, and Natsu was still tied up in knots about it.
He wished Igneel was here. Igneel knew about this, he was positive, and Igneel still loved Natsu…right? That other dragon, Acno, didn’t seem bothered by it either. Maybe dragons had a better history with demons than humans did. Or maybe, it was a ‘now’ thing. He was fuzzy on the details, but maybe…there were demons in the place he grew up? He wasn’t sure how valid the memory was, because some things were clearer from that time than others. They might have just been another species, or just funny-looking humans, and he was just getting his hopes up for nothing.
Nobody liked demons anymore—if they did at all—because demons did nasty things. Natsu would have been convinced he was just as bad if it weren’t for the fact that Igneel taught to always strike the bad things down, and Natsu was still alive. That meant something…right?
The guilt still lingered. Maybe he should leave Fairy Tail, which was awful, because he really loved Fairy Tail, despite everything he said when he first came and he was still thinking Igneel would come right back, but Igneel was last seen four hundred years ago, and there was…too much that could have happened to him.
He could try to go find Zeref. Every book said that Zeref was dead now, or at least mostly dead, but somehow Natsu was convinced he wasn’t. He had mentioned that curse anyway, and something about immortality, back when Zeref had tried to explain things to Natsu and Natsu screamed at him instead. (Maybe it was his fault Zeref left him; maybe it was his fault that Zeref went insane and turned evil, without Natsu there to make him stop.)
He realized he was just doing nothing but thinking again—even in the cozy spot in the woods that was supposed to be a good place—and looked up. Happy was staring at him funny.
“You’re crying again…”
Natsu jolted, feeling his face with his hand and furiously scrubbing everything away. Damnit! “I wasn’t crying!”
Happy frowned, sidling up closer to him and pressing his fuzzy kitten side against him. “You were. Are you sad?”
Was he? Of course, not; he couldn’t be…right? There was nothing to be sad over. He was just confused. So why did he feel so bad? “I…don’t know.”
“Don’t be sad, Natsu! I’m here!”
That was true. Happy was Happy, so it was hard to be sad with his best cat friend around. (Would Happy leave if he knew what Natsu was? But then, Happy was a cat, so maybe he wouldn’t care?)
“Natsu?” a new voice called. Lisanna approached them from the path. “Are you okay?”
Great, now everyone knew he was being a baby, and being stupid. At least it was just Happy and Lisanna—but they were also his closest friends, and the people he was the most scared of never seeing again.
The pressure was building, and it was too much.
“If I was a demon,” he blurted. “Would you hate me?”
Lisanna sat down next to him with a big plop. “You’re not a demon, silly.”
“But I am!” Every insecurity exploded out of him, and even though he knew why he shouldn’t, he didn’t know what to do but to say it. “I forgot before, but I remember now, my brother turned me into a demon, but I don’t wanna be a bad demon and I don’t want to leave Fairy Tail.”
“H-hey slow down.” Lisanna was looking right at him with that concerned motherly look she got often. “What are you talking about?”
“I—” Natsu stopped himself. He did promise Acno to keep all these secrets, but they were hard. But maybe… If he told Lisanna and Happy, and even they hated him, then he would leave. He just needed to tell someone, because he couldn’t figure it out by himself. “Pinky promise not to tell anyone?”
Lisanna nodded once resolutely. Happy thrust his paw in the air with an “Aye!” Lisanna wrapped her tiny pinky around his, and Happy touched his pinky to theirs, and the deal was made.
Natsu breathed a sigh of relief, but now he actually had to talk. He drew his knees up to his chest without thinking. “I forgot my memories of before I met Igneel until I met a dragon in the woods who helped me remember—uh, he doesn’t want people to know he’s a dragon though.”
“That doctor that brought you home last week?”
“Yeah, him. He, uh, knew I was missing memories and helped me get them back. Before…before Igneel took me in, I had a brother. Well, I think I still have him, but he’s… Uh, he’s…” What was he? Alive? Evil? Cursed? Natsu didn’t want to think about it. “H-he saved my life by turning me into a demon.”
Lisanna was quiet, but she wasn’t yelling. He was pretty sure this was a good sign, but it still made him nervous. “So… you’re like my sister. Mira-nee is part demon now, but she’s still my sister, and she’s still herself.”
That was a good point. But Mirajane was still mostly just human. “Is it still the same if I’m an etherious demon?”
What did the books call it? “A…demon of the book of Zeref?”
At this, Lisanna’s eyes widened, though Happy still looked confused. “Those legends?” she whispered. “How did your brother do that?”
“Um…” Natsu looked down instead of at her and Happy. “My brother…is Zeref.”
Natsu dared to look at his two best friends, just to be met with more confusion than anger. “Isn’t…Zeref dead?” Lisanna asked shyly. “And some scary mythical dark mage? Natsu, are you sure you’re remembering correctly? Maybe it’s something else…”
“No!” He might have forgotten before, but he wasn’t crazy now! “I’m from four hundred years ago but Igneel sent me through some portal my brother made and I ended up in this time instead. My brother used to be normal. I don’t know why he made other demons, just that he made me one to save my life. He… I don’t know why he did all those awful things later, or if people thought he did those things because he was cursed and it’s not his fault—!”
“Shh, Natsu, it’s okay.” Lisanna held his hand, even though in the midst of his outburst, it turned rocky and red again. “You’re still you, right? You’ve been like this the whole time?”
He nodded slowly.
“Then you’re the same ‘you’ you were when I met you,” she declared easily. “Just because you remember doesn’t mean anything changes. Just now you know that you can do this.” Lisanna held his demon hand up in the air.
“You’re…You’re not scared of me?”
“No, silly.” Lisanna moved closer. “I…I used to be scared of demons, back when I was a little kid, but Mira-nee isn’t any different, and you’re not any different either. I still love both of you, and I know you won’t do anything bad.”
“Aye!” Happy agreed.
“I don’t…know much about Zeref,” she continued. “But you’re not him. You didn’t have anything to do with stuff he did, right?”
Natsu shook his head.
She smiled, and it was bright even if a little sad. “Mira-nee says and does some mean things sometimes, now, but I know she still loves me because she’s my sister. If your brother and your dad sent you to the future, I’m sure they were just looking out for you.”
Acno had said something similar. “Y-yeah, I guess so…”
“Oh, your hand is back to normal.”
Natsu looked down, and sure enough, the demon claws were gone.
“Can you control it?”
“Uh, not really. I’ve only done the hand by accident twice now. That’s all that I know I have, although…there might be more. Like with your sister.”
“Maybe Mira-nee can help you with it.”
The thought of more people knowing scared him in that moment. “N-no that’s okay. If…if I don’t go crazy, I really don’t want other people to know.”
Lisanna nodded. “A pinky promise is a solid agreement. Nobody will hear a peep from me if you don’t want it.”
Natsu relaxed. This went better than he thought, but then again, he was stupid for not believing in his friends. “So…you don’t think I’m going to turn into a monster?”
“Of course not! You’re a Fairy Tail mage!”
It was easy to believe Lisanna when she spoke like that, full of bright smiles and confidence. That afternoon, Natsu felt free of his burden, that secret that spoke of eerie realities.
So why did it never leave?