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A Road Less Traveled By

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ARoadLessTraveledBy

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost - The Road not Taken

wings

 

Harry took a calming breath before he opened the door to Grimmauld place for the eleventh time that day. It wouldn’t do to let his frustration run away from him. They shouldn’t have taken down the dozen charms and wards that kept the place hidden during the war, but Molly had said the Fidelius was not a proper house charm for a proper Wizarding home.

Harry was positively sure Molly had never been called upon at least sixty times a day.

He would tell her that next time he visited the Burrow, whenever that would be, and ask Bill to help him weave some wards around his house to keep unwanted visitors from reaching the front door.

“What?” he asked before he saw who was standing so forlornly on his doorstep. “Oh, it’s you.”

He frowned, shifted his stance, and glanced up and down the street, making sure the man standing there was alone.

“What do you want?”

“Potter,” his visitor said with only a hint of a sneer. “I need your help.”

After another glance at the seemingly empty street, Harry motioned the man to come in.

“This better be good,” he said and walked into the Living room. “Because I think I paid my debts to you and your mother both at your trials, Malfoy.”

Draco fidgeted. He never fidgeted. He hadn’t in the seven years they’d known each other.

“You did, it’s not that, it’s-”

He stammered and hunched his shoulders. Draco never hunched his shoulders.

“It’s my father.”

“No,” Harry replied calmly.

Draco bit his lip and made an awkward move forward, like he’d been about to kneel at Harry’s feet.

“You don’t understand,” he begged. “He’s my father!”

Harry shook his head and looked away. “No,” he repeated. “Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t speak up for Lucius Malfoy. There’s too much at stake.”

He turned back and Draco froze beneath his piercing stare. “To say your father didn’t deserve a sentence in Azkaban would be to say that the Death Eaters weren’t that bad after all. It would send out a message that it’s perfectly fine to go about raping, torturing and killing Muggles or invading castles inhabited by schoolchildren.”

He stopped and frowned at the incredulous look on Draco’s face.

“I’m sure you won’t let yourself think badly of your own father, but you’re not naive enough to think Death Eater meetings involved tea and beauty treatments.”

A touch of the old Draco shone through for a second as he scrunched up his nose and narrowed his eyes. “I was there, wasn’t I?”

Harry just stared for a moment as Draco tried to regain his composure. Of course Draco had been there. It still left a bad taste in his mouth that he’d told the entire Wizengamot the man shouldn’t be punished for his crimes.

It wasn’t like he was forced to say it. No, he’d made that decision all by himself, despite his friends’ loud protests. A life for a life: Draco’s for his.

At least with Draco Harry didn’t have to worry he’d fall back into old patterns.

“Right, anything else?”

Draco once again showed he wasn’t above begging. “Please, Potter. You saw him at the end; you saw he was just following out of fear. You know he deflected!”

“All I know is that your father is a coward, Draco. You repented; you renounced Voldemort, his ideas and the means he used to bring them to fruition. Your father cowed under the rule of a mad man, but whole heartedly stood beside him while he was valued by his Lord. He only deflected when he saw old Tom hadn’t managed to kill me, again.”

Draco looked up at him, his silver eyes shining with unshed tears.

“He’s all I have. Everyone else is gone,” he said. His words were barely more than a whisper.

“Your mother-”

“Is dead,” Draco interrupted him. “The Aurors ruled her death a suicide this morning.”

Breathing in deeply, Harry turned and looked out into the garden through a grimy window.

He felt a slight pang of sadness to hear of Narcissa's death. It’s not like they had any sort of bond between them, but he envied the love she had shown for Draco. That night in the Forbidden Forest he’d felt it by proxy.

That slight pang disturbed his hard fought calm, forcing his controlled emotions to the surface, and that, more than anything, made him decide.

“Fine, I’ll speak at his trial,” he whispered and turned back to face Draco. “But I won’t lie for him. I’ll testify that his mental state at the end of the war was compromising his ability to make rational decisions, but I’ll not be asking the Wizengamot to pardon his crimes. Not like I did for you.”

“Thank you, Pot-.” Draco shook his head and opened his mouth again. “Harry. Thank you, Harry.”

Then he did the most peculiar thing. Like seven years previously, Draco held out his hand.

This time it wasn’t with a haughty look on his face, telling Harry he should feel lucky to be accepting a Malfoy’s hand in friendship. No, this time he seemed to be nearly nervous about the gesture.

Harry reached out and shook it.

“Thank you,” Draco repeated. “It’ll be November 16th. I’ll see you there.”

“Yeah, sure,” Harry replied.

Once the door had closed behind Draco, Harry was again left alone in the entryway. He breathed out while he slowly, almost painfully lifted off his shirt. The air behind his shoulders shifted with movement like there was something there, but not entirely. Harry’s head twitched to the side a few times and he breathed in through his nose. He pressed a steadying hand to the door, nails digging into the wood slightly as his forehead rested against the hallway wall. The air shimmered once more and a pair of folded scaly wings appeared at his back. In an oily metallic grey color just shy of silver, they shone iridescent in the light glinting through the little window above the door.

A ripple almost like a shiver ran through them, and Harry focused on releasing a controlled breath as the sharp colour faded to a creamy white in feathers as soft as silk. A ruffle and another shiver forced them to unfold just a bit, hinting at the sheer size of those wings.

Harry took off his glasses and threw them on a side-table while rubbing his eyes with his other hand. He really needed a pair with non-prescription lenses if he was going to keep up hiding what he was. His old pair now only managed to make his eyes hurt.

The Floo flared and a familiar voice immediately called out.

“Harry? Harry!” Hermione yelled loud enough to be heard back at Hogwarts. Her voice annoyed him more than was warranted, and he breathed in through his teeth, trying to stop his feathers from turning back into silver grey scales.

“Harry? Are you home? Oh!”

She rushed to his side and ran a small hand down the center of his back, grounding him in a way she’d learned to do in the past three months.

“What happened?” she asked.

Sweat beaded on Harry’s forehead and he reached up an arm to wipe it away, ashamed of this clear display of his lack of restraint. He’d never been good at controlling his emotions. There was only one reason this big secret wasn’t splashed across the front page of the Daily Prophet, and the irony of wanting to kiss Snape for teaching him to use the little bit of Occlumency he knew under great emotional stress was not lost on him.

“Malfoy,” Harry ground out through his teeth.

Hermione nodded seriously. “What did Draco want?”

He kept quiet for another minute and slowly his wings shimmered and disappeared. Then he picked up his shirt and wormed back into it.

“For me to help his father,” he said and made his way to the kitchen, avoiding her eyes. If she was going to scold him for giving into Draco’s pleas, he’d best fortify himself with a cup of strong coffee.

“So he provoked you when you refused him?” she asked, shaking her head as he held up the coffeepot to her. “Is that what happened?”

“I didn’t refuse him,” Harry started, but before he could explain, his friend was all over him.

“Harry! Are you insane?” she yelled. “I understood you helping Narcissa and I even accepted you wanting to save Draco, but how can you stand up for Lucius after all he’s done?”

He sat down and waited for her to stop huffing about. “I said no, but before I could get rid of him I lost control. I’d rather speak up for Lucius on my own terms than be blackmailed with Draco’s knowledge of my current predicament.”

She sank into the seat next to him and looked at him with concern. “Oh, Harry, why won’t you just tell everyone? Imagine the amount of good you could do for other non-human creatures everywhere? If they knew you were a-”

“No!” he jumped up, sending his chair flying across the kitchen. The only thing that distracted from its thump against the wooden cabinetry was the sound of fabric ripping. His wings were back, grey and menacing. Merciful Merlin! He wouldn't have a shirt left come Christmas. The razor sharp tips of his wings unfolded, aiming at Hermione as if she were a threat that needed to be dealt with.

He breathed heavily, trying to concentrate on clearing his mind and calming down.

Clear your mind, Potter. Let go of all emotions.’

Taunt wings softly vibrated as they expelled waves of menacing hatred. It was a vicious cycle that fed back more emotion to egg him on and enforce his offensive stance.

You’re not doing it, Potter. You will need more discipline than this. Focus, now.’

He thought of things that made him happy: His friends’ smiles, the smell that drifted through his open window in the morning when it rained, flying high up in the air.

He wondered briefly, if these wings would carry him, if he could fly without his broom.

Slowly his wings turned soft and white.

“Sorry, Mione.” He sounded young even to his own ears. “I can’t. You know I can’t. I won’t be that freak again, I can’t.”

“Harry, you’re not a freak,” she tried.

“I am every bit the freak my uncle told me I was. I’m a male Veela. How am I not a freak?”

Hermione slowly approached him and again rested her hand between his shoulder blades. Making the wings shimmer and disappear. It was disconcerting how quickly he’d come to feel naked without them.

“Just because it’s rare, it doesn’t make you a freak.”

“Parseltongue is rare. The Sight is rare. Hell, even the colour of my eyes is rare. Male Veelas, however, are wrong,” he replied, directing all his concentration to fight off the surge of emotion that threatened to overcome him once more. “I’m a freak of nature, a mess of faulty genetics. I’m not supposed to even exist.”

“Even if that’s true, you’re going to have to live with it, Harry,” Hermione said and picked up the chair he’d sat in. “Sit.”

He did so, immediately, and felt a little stupid when he looked up into her hazel eyes.

“Hiding away in this house isn’t going to make a difference. You need to accept who and what you are and move on. Live your life, Harry. You’ve earned that at least.”

“How?” he demanded. “You know what could happen? Bloody hell, you told me what could happen! How can I take that chance? What if it had been Draco? Have you ever thought about that? What if Draco had barged in here and I would’ve recognized him as my mate? He would’ve been forced to spend the rest of his natural life with me, Hermione! How can I go out, knowing that I’ll eventually push someone into that role?”

She hopped up on the table and swung her legs as she gazed down on him. “Is that why you won’t return Dean’s owls?”

Harry hated the sympathetic look on Hermione’s face. He didn’t want her pity.

“No. Yes. I-”

She sat down in the chair closest to his and took his hand between hers. “Harry, you were good together. You like him, don’t you? He might even be the answer to your problem. If you just talked to him, maybe you could get bonded. Don’t you want to be with someone?”

Harry didn’t respond. He wasn’t sure what to say, not really. Yeah, he wanted to be with someone, and he liked Dean. But bonding? Now?

“Don’t hide yourself away, Harry. You’re not fit to be a recluse.”

Harry flushed, heat rushing through his body. His already tense muscles put in some extra effort. “I’m not that bad!”

Biting his lip and looking away, he took another deep breath. ‘Clear your mind.’

“I can’t bloody well ask him to bond with me, Mione. I don’t even know if I like him that much.”

Hermione sighed and leaned back on her arms. “Well, think about it this way: What if it had been Draco? You cannot stop from seeing other people, even in your own house. You will probably not have the time to have a long relationship before you bond, but at the moment you at least have a choice. If you wait too long your heritage will make that choice for you, and there’s no telling whether you will even like your mate.”

“I know,” he said dejectedly. “I know, alright?”

She slid off the table and patted his shoulder. “Think about it. Talk to Ron. He’s been worried about you, and that goes for the rest of the family as well. It will be okay if you just tell them, Harry.”

“What if it’s one of them?”

“Would that be so bad? They’re all either bonded or single. You could do worse, a lot worse. And they all love you dearly.”

The Floo flared before he could respond, and he was once again alone with his thoughts.

 

 

wings

The morning of the 16th Harry had trouble getting out of bed. As he dragged himself off for a shower he barely managed to swallow back the bile that rose in his throat. In the bathroom, he had to grab the sink to stop himself from falling unceremoniously to the floor.

He’d been feeling a little weak and listless for a while now, but he’d pinned it on his ever growing depression over what he’d become. Now, however, he had to accept the fact that it was something else, something he stubbornly forced to the back of his mind.

He should go to St Mungo’s, he really should. They might have a short-term solution. But that would mean telling the Healers what he was and there was no way he was going to set himself up to be ridiculed by the likes of Rita Skeeter. Not again, and there was no way she wouldn’t find out.

Instead he dressed like a Wizard should, in loose dark purple robes that almost seemed black in the right light, and forced his feet into a pair of low-heeled boots.

The official witness summons had said two o’clock. It was almost time.

The Floo was even more nauseating than normal as he whirled his way to the Ministry, and he stumbled into the Atrium, landing on all fours. Harry swallowed back the bitter taste in his throat and looked up to see if anyone noticed his less than gracious entrance.

Great! Malfoy was standing a little to the right of the large hall, staring right at him. The prat stood right beside the larger than life statue in the middle of the fountain that Harry had vehemently voted against. Not that his protests had made even the slightest bit of difference. The thing reminded him of a picture he’d once seen in a children’s Bible portraying Jesus holding hands with children of all ages and colour. Instead, it was an eerie likeness of him, hands magnanimously joined with a plethora of different creatures and beings.

He couldn’t hold back the almost hysterical laugh at seeing the stone carved Veela staring admiringly up at her ‘Saviour’.

“Harry!” Draco yelled. “Over here! You’re just in time!”

He dragged himself to his feet and crossed the Atrium.

“Malfoy,” he said with a curt nod.

“Your testimony is last,” Draco said and looked away. “I want to thank you, Harry. The trial’s a mess. They used Veritaserum on him this time around, and the prosecution has already managed to overturn my father’s acquittal for his role in the first war.”

Harry’s eyes were drawn to the jerky movement of Draco’s fingers tapping against the dark burgundy of his velvet robes.

“I’m not going to lie,” he reminded him softly.

“I know,” Draco said as he smoothed out some non-existing creases in his clothes. “I’m not asking you to. I’m just saying that I’m thankful that you came. After listening to all of the testimonies, and hearing what he’s done from his own mouth, I’m not sure your words could even make the slightest bit of difference. I’ve resigned myself to the possibility that I’ll lose my father today, Harry, but I’m still thankful.”

He was trying to look brave, but Draco couldn’t hide the wet shine in his eyes as he looked up. Harry felt a knot form in his throat.

This wasn’t the first time he’d seen Draco without his aristocratic mask, but it was the first time he realised the bond between father and son wasn’t just one of blood. He’d never considered the possibility that Draco loved his father.

They made their way to the lifts together in silence after Harry turned over his Wand at the front desk.

Draco fidgeted with the hem of his sleeves the entire way down, while Harry tried his hardest to not get sick all over the floor. He had the rest of his, possibly short, life to feel sick. He just needed to get past this day unscathed.

The courtroom they entered was even larger than the one that held his trial in back in fifth year. Only this time the eyes of the Wizengamot didn’t look down on him in disgust when he took a seat in the middle.

Lucius Malfoy wasn’t there yet, though it wasn’t uncommon for the accused to be absent during witness statements. Maybe it was better this way because Harry wasn’t sure he could’ve said anything to help the man if he were staring him in the face.

Minister Shacklebolt stood up and smiled kindly at Harry. “Let the record state that Mr Harry James Potter is a witness to the defence. Mr Thripple, you may start.”

A short pudgy man stepped down from a small platform and made his way over to the chair Harry sat in.

“Mr Potter, in your opinion, was the accused, Lucius Malfoy, mentally capable of making decisions regarding his orders from He Who Must Not Be Named?” he asked with a pleasant smile on his face.

“I’m not-,” Harry started and cleared his throat. “I’m not entirely sure I can answer a question as general as that one, Sir, as the answer is rather complicated.”

“I’ll specify,” the man said. “During your short visit to the Malfoy Manor last year, how would you describe the accused? What was his psychological state at the time?”

Harry sighed. He didn’t want to, but he’d promised. “Mr Malfoy seemed erratic, afraid even. I don’t think he was making his decisions rationally but rather in fear of himself and his family being murdered by Voldemort, if he wouldn’t comply.”

“Thank you, Mr Potter. That is all.” Thripple said and stepped away, clearing the floor for a large blond man.

“Mr Smith, the witness is yours.” Kingsley said.

The prosecutor seemed even larger up close.

“Mr Potter, what are your professional qualifications?” he asked.

“I’m not-,” Harry started again. “What?”

“Qualifications, Mr Potter. Have you got any? I’m well aware of your current political standing as the Saviour of the Wizarding world, but what are your actual qualifications in the field of determining one’s state of mind? Did you secretly obtain mastery in Mind-Healing during your Horcrux hunt? Did you apprentice under Madam Pomfrey while at Hogwarts? Do Muggles teach their children psychology in pre-school perhaps?”

“N-no?” Harry swallowed thickly. His knuckles were white with the strain of clenching his fingers around the seat of his chair. Yes, this was a lot more like the last time he was in here, being charged for the use of Underaged Magic.

“So, you’ve been asked by the defense to provide testimony on a topic that is quite frankly out of your area of expertise?” the man leaned into him so far, Harry was forced to lower his eyes to avoid the piercing stare.

What did he ever do to the man?

He cleared his throat before answering in a soft voice. “Quite.”

Damn it! Calm the hell down! He felt the unmistaken signs spread over his back. Tingling, like an army of ants crawling up his spine. It would be just a few more second before his wings would force their way out of him.

Clear your mind! You’re safe! You are not threatened. Deep steady breaths.

The tingling subsided and Harry unclenched his jaw and looked up at the prosecutor, Mr Smith, calmly and seemingly unphased.

The man frowned and back up just enough to take the uncomfortable edge off.

“Mr Potter, in your honest, but clearly unprofessional opinion, do you think Lucius Malfoy is responsible for the crimes he’s confessed to committing in both the first and second war?”

Harry imagined the look on Draco’s face when he answered. Yet, this wasn’t about him, or about Draco. Lucius deserved punishment, and Harry had warned that he wouldn’t lie.

“From what I could tell Lucius Malfoy wholeheartedly supported Voldemort both times. Yes, he was afraid of a madman, but I think most of the crimes he committed with a clear state of mind.”

Again, the man leaned close but this time the dark whisper was for Harry’s ears alone: “Hypocrites disgust me.”

Harry closed his eyes again. He figured he deserved that. He was here as a witness for the defence of one of the most hardcore Death Eaters in the service of Voldemort. Third only to Peter Pettigrew and Bellatrix Lestrange, both who perished before the end of the war.”

“Thank you, Mr Potter.”

Harry didn’t look over to where he knew Draco was sitting. He wasn’t sure he would be able to keep his calm if he did. Not now that he figuratively signed his father’s death warrant.

“Redirect, Mr Thripple? No? Then you’re free to go, Harry,” Kingsley said. The mention of his first name was a small comfort, as had probably been intended. “We will be back here in an hour for the verdict.”

When everyone in the room stood up, Harry planned on quickly getting home, but Draco caught his arm just before he reached the lifts.

“I know this is a lot to ask,” he said softly. “But I would truly appreciate it if you could sit with me when they read the verdict.”

“Why?” Harry gently shook off the hand on his arm. He could feel unease rise up inside him. “I didn’t help his case a single iota. If I did anything, I dug his grave deeper than it already was.”

“No. No, he dug his own grave, and a fine job he did of it too.”

Draco looked away and closed his eyes.

“I can’t believe I’m about to tell you this,” he muttered, and sighed before looking back at Harry. “Right now you’re the closest thing I have to a friend, and if it’s not too much, I could use a friend when they sentence my father.”

Harry laid a hand on Draco’s shoulder, feeling surprised and a little touched by the man’s words.

“I know you’d rather see your father free, but Azkaban isn’t the end of the world. You’d still be able to visit him, and with the recent changes, it isn’t the horror it used to be.”

Draco’s eyes widened. “You don’t know? He won’t be sentenced to Azkaban, Harry. The prosecution is demanding the Dementor’s kiss.”

Harry took a step back with widened eyes, shocked more than anything else. It made sense in a way, but even the infamous Rodolphus Lestrange received a life sentence in Azkaban.

“I’m sorry.”

He didn’t know what else to say, and Draco shrugged without uttering another word. Still, Harry stayed and sat down beside Draco. Leaning his head against the wall and hoping the hour would go by swiftly.

Reporters descended upon the unlikely pair like hungry sharks, but Harry glared them off as best as he could. It was subtle, barely noticeable and hardly polite, but Harry didn’t care. At least something about being a Veela was useful, even if it was only to radiate a bit of menace and scare people off. It helped with the nausea that kept plaguing as well, though he really didn’t want to think about why.

Lucius looked horrid when they all but dragged him into the courtroom and shackled him to the chair Harry had been sitting in an hour earlier. His hair was lank and dirty, and the little skin Harry could see from his position behind the man was scratched and raw.

He felt a strangely protective anger rush through him, but he managed to breathe it away. They’d broken the once proud man. They’d hurt him, treated him like a dog, and judging by the way his head lolled to the side, they’d probably kept him awake for the entire duration of the trial.

He’d have another word with Kingsley about the treatment of prisoners by the Ministry. They were human-beings, despite the vile crimes they’d supposedly committed, and they should be treated that way.

“We’re gathered here for the verdict of Lord Lucius Malfoy of Wiltshire,” Kingsley said in a grave voice. “Mr Malfoy, is there any last statement you wish to add before we proceed?”

Harry couldn’t hold back a smile when the man lifted his head, stuck his nose in the air and straightened his shoulders. Not broken at all.

“No.” The voice sounded ragged, but still held the richness and darkness it previously had.

For some reason, Harry felt proud.

“Very well. Ms James, if you would read the verdict?”

A beautiful witch, only a few years older than Harry, stood up and unfolded a piece of parchment. “By unanimous vote, the Wizengamot finds Lucius Malfoy guilty of all charges. He is hereby sentenced to receive the Dementor’s kiss before the end of the week.”

Draco grabbed Harry’s hand and squeezed. Harry squeezed back, unable to find words of comfort.

Kingsley caught Harry’s eye and held it for a few seconds before he looked back at Lucius.

“Lucius Malfoy,” he said. “By ruling of the Wizengamot, your sentence will be carried out Friday, November 20th 1998. Until then you’ll be placed under house arrest by request of your son and heir, Draco Malfoy.”

Everyone spoke up at the same time with those words. It was unheard of, and the response outraged.

“Furthermore,” Kingsley bellowed, and the room quieted down. “From this day forward, you will be stripped of your title and fortune.”

The grip of Draco’s hand became fractionally tighter.

“However, I’ve been petitioned by young Mr Malfoy’s council on this issue, and in light of the arguments he has made on your son’s behalf, I will allow your title to be passed on to your heir. As for the Malfoy fortune, a total sum of 1 million Galleons must be paid in reparations. The remaining fortune will also be allowed to be passed on to your heir.”

Lucius turned his head to look at his son, but his eyes fell on Harry instead.

Something happened as their eyes met. Harry’s heart rate sped up dramatically and his skin flushed with heat. Before he could even consider a response, he felt like something punched his chest from the inside out. He gasped and tried to will his body to move, but it was like he was frozen under Lucius’s gaze.

He closed his eyes, squeezed Draco’s hand and breathed in through his teeth. Was Lucius breaking into his mind? Was that what this was? Without a Wand even?

His stomach lurched and he shuddered, bringing the familiar feeling of ants crawling up his spine.

He had to escape. Now! If he didn’t, the entire Wizarding world would know what he was.

He stood up and ripped his hand away from Draco, who tried to hold on to him. Kingsley’s voice murmured indistinctly in the background, but he couldn’t concentrate on the words.

Instead he rushed to the lift and rode up into the Atrium. He did not bother to repress the snarl aimed at the Ministry employee who just couldn’t manage to produce his wand as fast as Harry would’ve liked.

Within five minutes of Lucius’s verdict, Harry was back at Grimmauld place, his silver-gray wings prominent and unwilling to budge.

He tried Occluding, breathing exercises, even meditation, but nothing worked. When he Owled Hermione, she rushed over, but she couldn’t even get close enough to touch him. Her attempts only resulted in a few nasty cuts.

He curled up in a corner of his living room and she sat down in one of the armchairs, offering silent comfort by just being there.

The night was restless. His wings were uncomfortable, and the moment he did fall asleep it was only to be met with dreams plagued by visions of Malfoy. He could almost smell the man’s skin and feel the silky touch of the blond hair. He startled awake more than once, making a sound close to a screech that scared both himself and Hermione.

By morning Harry was exhausted, and his wings had slowly turned from grey to white.

“Harry, what happened?” Hermione asked when she was finally able to approach him. Though when she tried to touch him, his wings started darkening back to grey.

Harry closed his eyes again. “I don’t know. Malfoy did something to me.”

“Draco?”

“No, Lucius.”

Hermione furrowed her brows and sat down on the soft rug next to her friend, bringing her hand within an inch of his and caressing the floor the way she would’ve liked to caress Harry’s fingers. “What? How?”

“I don’t know. He was sentenced to be kissed and then he turned around and looked at me. It’s like he broke into my mind or something. Like something broke inside. I rushed home as fast as I could, but I can’t get my wings to go away any more,” he said in a small voice. “Do you think he knew? Is this his twisted way of revenge?”

“Oh, Harry,” she said and swallowed thickly. “I’m so, so sorry.”

She looked down at their hands almost touching, her fingers twitching to touch. It wasn't the worry, but resignation in her eyes that unnerved him.

“What? What did he do?” Harry said, and stood up. His wings ruffled and started to shift again, a knot forming in his gut.

“I think-,” she started, then stood up as well. Taking a step away, she gripped onto the back of one of the dining chairs. “Harry, what do you feel when you think about him? About his sentence?”

Immediately his heart rate sped up while the knot in his stomach gave a vicious yank. He keeled over and nearly cried of frustration. “What did he do, Hermione? Tell me! How do I stop this?”

“I’m sorry, Harry, you can’t,” she said. “I’m so sorry.”

She shifted on her feet and reached out before pulling her hands back. “We need to talk to Kingsley, to overturn the verdict. We need to stop Malfoy from getting kissed.”

“Hermione!”

“I’ll get on it right away, Harry. Don’t worry. They’ve got to overturn the verdict. They can’t take his soul now.”

Harry’s voice almost shook the house. “Hermione! What did he do to me?”

“Nothing,” she said softly. “He did nothing. It’s you.”

She paused and took a hesitant step towards him. He knew that look on her face. It reminded him of the way she'd been looking at him during the year they searched for Horcruxes. Looking back, those were the times he was sure she was realizing the darker truth about his scar but didn't want to say it out loud. Not wanting it to be real.

“Harry, he’s your mate.”

He stood there for a second as her words hit him. Then he stumbled and fell, the scales of his wings digging painfully into his thigh.

“No.” He can’t be.

“I’ll make an appointment with Kingsley right away. Harry, it’s going to be okay.”

She grabbed his arm, but he pulled back with a snarl. Lucius Malfoy. God, no! Anyone but him!

“Harry?”

Year after year he had barely survived the horrors that Malfoy and his band of snake-worshipping, arse-kissing, Muggle-torturing Death Eaters dished out to him. Even then, he'd let Draco persuade him to help out and then to stay with him. He acted like a Godforsaken Gryffindor for one more time in his miserable life, and this is what he got for it?

This was his reward?

“Harry, talk to me, please,” Hermione tried. “We've got to stop them!”

He finally looked up at his friend, who was watching him anxiously.

“No,” he said, firmly. “Leave it.”

“But Harry-”

He shook his head. “I’d rather die.”

“But Harry, don’t you get it? You will die if he gets kissed! It’s his soul you’re connected to, not his life!”

Harry stood up and unfolded his wings. They felt so natural in a way, though at this moment he had never hated them more.

“I don’t care, I won’t spend the rest of my life with Lucius Malfoy,” he said, staring at the small window in the corner of the room. The pane was too dirty to look out through. “Please go. I’d rather be alone now.”

“Harry, don’t be ridiculous!”

“Get out!” he yelled.

“All right! But don’t think this is the end of it, Harry Potter!”

Harry turned his back and with a little sigh Hermione left through the Floo, leaving him to destroy the living room in his desperation.

 

 

wings

The next day Hermione attempted to come back, of course, but he’d warded the Floo against her. Still, it was only a temporary measure. Harry knew she wasn’t going to give up. He wished she would just leave him alone, at least for now.

He should’ve guessed she’d pull out the big guns though, and she did, but Molly’s owls returned to the Burrow, their messages unopened. But it wasn’t until Ron came by, banging on the door like an Ogre, that Harry knew for sure Hermione had betrayed his trust.

Harry! Open up! I know you’re in there!”

He rested his head in his hand and waved his wand in the general direction of the door. “Accio Scotch,” the muttered command was followed quickly by a crash in the kitchen. Unsympathetic to the plight of the kitchen cabinetry, he dropped his wand just in time to snatch the bottle out of the air before it collided with his head.

Come on, Harry! I thought I was supposed to be your best mate! How could you not tell me?”

He took a large gulp straight from the bottle and winced at the taste. He’d never been a heavy drinker, preferring a beer or a glass of wine on special occasions. He hadn’t even bought the Scotch himself. It was likely a remnant of one of the bottles Sirius had Mundungus Fletcher sneak into the house during Harry’s fifth year.

Harry! I’m not leaving until you talk to me!”

Picking up his wand from the floor, he flicked it at the front door then sat up straight and summoned two drinking glasses.

“Get in, shut up, and allow me to get pissed before we talk about this,” he instructed preemptively and shifted on his chair to allow his white wings more space.

“Whoah,” Ron exclaimed, his eyes roaming over the destroyed living room before coming to rest on a half naked Harry. “What happened in here, mate?”

Harry sighed and filled the two glasses. “Did I not just tell you to shut up?”

Ron landed heavily in one of the chairs and took the glass Harry offered. He made a noncommittal sound before he winked at his friend and took a sip. “The wings look kind of good on you.”

“Ha, bloody ha.”

“You should’ve told me,” Ron said, his voice turning somewhat rough. “I mean, I get why you didn’t, but you should’ve.”

Harry drank half his glass in one go and set it down with a bang. He watched his friend press his nails into the tiny decorative holes of the tablecloth, until Ron looked up with a surprisingly non accusatory look in his eyes.

“Bloody buggering hell. I mean, Lucius sodding Malfoy. What are you going to do?”

“I was going to get completely shitfaced and attempt to forget the reality that is my existence,” Harry replied with a sardonic chuckle.

Ron held up his own glass in a silent toast and swallowed down a large mouthful.

“Seriously,” he said after putting his glass down again. “Lucius Malfoy.”

Harry sighed. “Yeah.”

Ron’s gaze made another sweep through the room, ending on Harry. “The wings do look good though,” he reaffirmed with a grin.

Harry really had no reply to that, so he took another swig of Scotch and awarded his friend the two-fingered salute.

They drank and talked about nothing important. Ron made a point to curse every so often, always followed by the words ‘Lucius Malfoy’. Harry couldn’t say anything against the language as he would’ve been right up there with him, swearing like a bloody fisherman’s wife, if there was a chance it would have made the slightest bit of difference.

It wouldn't. He was completely fucked. Not a single way out of this.

He only had two choices, both equally unsatisfying. He could bond with a man who until recently had made a career of trying to draw Harry into a painful and agonizing death; a bond which required a certain level of intimacy he couldn’t imagine sharing with the other man.

Or he would die.

Simple, really.

They were going to take Malfoy’s soul on Friday morning. If Harry’s calculations were correct, he’d maybe have a day or two before he’d lose consciousness. By Tuesday next week, he would no longer be the Boy Who Lived.

It wasn’t a choice he wanted to make. Not now, not ever. Why hadn’t he just died that night in the Forbidden Forest? He’d made his peace back then. It wasn’t that he had wanted to die, but he’d resigned himself to the fact that it was inevitable.

Then he’d lived, only to become a freak a few months later.

“It’s all genetics, innit?” Ron said at some point. “Well, I always thought you were a bit feminine.”

Harry glared at his friend, who didn’t seem to notice.

“I mean, you’ve got to be a bit of a poofter to have your genes confuse you for a woman. Though I always suspected with the way you ogled after Malfoy. Junior, of course.”

“Ron,” Harry warned threateningly.

“Bit ironic though, that you’d be stuck with his father through some Veela instinct that just wants to safeguard the next generation, while you will never be able to produce offspring together.”

Harry deflated. It was ironic, to say the least, this whole mating thing.

Male Veela weren’t supposed to exist, but every decade or so there would be one. Ironically, they were almost identical to their female counterparts. A Veela matured at the age of 18, and if they hadn’t found a mate by then one would be chosen by instinct. An ideal mate would be strong enough to defend the nest and fertile enough to father a new generation of Veela. The mate would always be male.

“To be bonded to Malfoy, though.” Ron visibly shuddered. “You’re going to have to let him fuck you, aren’t you? I mean, the first time and all that rot? To complete the bond?”

Yet another thing Harry really didn’t want to think about, he mused with a shudder.

“Maybe we should go out, you know? To get you laid?”

Harry sighed. “I can’t.”

Ron stood up and reached out to a piece of wallpaper hanging loose, bringing it back up before letting it go and moving to a wooden shelf that dangled vertically from a single plug in the wall. “Of course you can. You should go and lose your virginity to some nice bloke, not Malfoy.” He looked back at Harry over his shoulder with a gentle smile.

“I literally can’t, Ron,” Harry replied, and filled both their glasses with more scotch. “Apart from the fact that I look like a decidedly more depressed version of Sesame Street’s Big Bird-”

“Whut?” Ron turned around, looking completely confused.

“There’s also the little problem of the link. This whole Veela mating thing is like a chemical castration with anyone besides the chosen mate.”

“Whut?” Ron repeated, gaping at him like he’d gone mad.

“Can’t get it up,” Harry confirmed, staring morosely at his glass. “Couldn’t even wank if I wanted to.”

Ron’s eyes widened. “Whoah, you mean-”

“There’s a reason Veela mate for life,” Harry said, deadpan. “They are physically unable to do otherwise.”

“Yeah, but girls don’t have knobs though, I mean Fleur could-”

“Ron, as much as I don’t want to talk about your brother’s wife’s sex life, no, she couldn’t. The Veela endocrine glands won’t activate the proper hormones to cause arousal without their mates. It’s actually the reason I would need to complete the bond.”

Ron shrugged. “Yeah, I figure a lifetime without orgasms is a bit bland, innit?”

“Oh, it’s more serious than that,” Harry replied ominously. “Without a bond, the whole Veela endocrine system will eventually fail completely, causing certain death.”

“How long would that take?” Ron asked. He seemed decidedly less inebriated than five minutes prior.

“Weeks, months,” Harry answered. “Early symptoms are nausea, listlessness, insomnia and an inability to control one’s mood.”

“Oh.”

“Which I have been experiencing increasingly over the past few weeks.”

“Fuck.”

“Yes.”

“Fuck!” Ron slumped back down in his chair; taking the full glass Harry held out to him and nearly downing it in one go.

Harry copied him, wincing as the scotch burned through his esophagus. He couldn't blame Ron for the way he averted his eyes.

“Hermione didn’t tell me about that,” Ron said.

Harry sat up in his chair. “I don’t think Hermione knows. She’s only been researching Wizarding texts. I found a reference from a Squib scientist who did research on Veela in the 80’s.”

“Why didn’t you give it to her?”

Harry raised an eyebrow. “How do you think he researched the effects of the absence of a bond in Veela?”

“Huh?” Ron said and scrunched his brow. “Oh.”

In any other situation, watching the struggle of Ron’s expression from confusion to understanding would have been funny. “But that’s horrible!” he exclaimed when he finally reached his destination.

Harry rolled his eyes.

Eventually the light of dawn forced its way through the meager, grubby windows of Grimmauld Place. Ron stood up and stretched his muscles.

“So it’s a choice between Malfoy and death?” Ron asked sadly.

Harry nodded.

“I’m not sure which is worse.”

“No,” Harry said and pulled his best friend into a hug, not caring for the fact that his wings immediately turned a silvery grey.

“Well, I'll be there for you. All of us will be, whatever you do.”

Ron's breath tickled against Harry’s bare skin. It’s not like he could wear a shirt right now.

“Thanks, Ron.”

Ron gave him a weak smile and took a handful of Floo powder from a bowl on the mantelpiece. “Even silver, the wings still look good.”

Harry chuckled and watched his friend disappear in a burst of flames.

 

 

wings

On Thursday Harry made sure no one would bother him. As if it were not enough that he’d spend half the day crying, he'd also grown dramatically long nails overnight. His hands looked strangely claw-like with the sharp, black, steel-like talons protruding from the tips of his fingers.

A strange sense of calm had washed over him when the alcohol finally faded from his system.

Harry Potter was going to be bonded to Lucius bloody Malfoy.

He was going to allow those pales fingers to run caressingly over his skin. To let the older man mount him, taking the one thing that was supposed to be reserved for that special someone.

Harry chuckled darkly at the romance lacing his own thoughts. In all honestly he hadn't been saving his virginity, he just hadn't had the time to get rid of it in between staying alive, chasing Horcruxes and killing Dark Lords. But for the angst filled story of the wronged Boy hero it did seem strangely fitting.

Still, the idea that he would share something so intimate, so personal, with a man that hated him, was horrifying.

Those revelations, more than anything else, was what kept him from calling Minister Shacklebolt by Floo until very late that evening.

“Harry, what a lovely surprise!” Kingsley said. “Why don't you step through?”

“I'd rather not, if it's all the same to you, Minister. I'd prefer it if you could visit me here at Grimmauld Place.”

Kingsley raised his eyebrows, but stepped away from his desk and moved closer to the Floo. “Any particular reason? Are you in some sort of trouble, Harry?”

The laugh that left Harry's mouth was anything but humoured. “Please, I'll explain when you get here.”

The Minister nodded and motioned for Harry to clear his fireplace.

Within a few seconds the impressive man was standing in the remains of what was once a functional living room.

“What the devil happened here?” he exclaimed, surprised at the level of destruction. “I’ll call in the Aurors, dear lad. There will be an investigation. How did they break through your wards?”

“No one broke in, Minister,” Harry replied tightly.

Shacklebolt waved his hand dismissively at Harry, though still without looking at him. His old Auror training had kicked in as his eyes scanned the room, trying to figure out what could've done this. “It's Kingsley, you know that.”

“Kingsley then. No one broke in, I did it myself.”

The Minister finally turned to face Harry, only barely managing to stifle a gasp at the sight of him. Silence reigned for what felt like an eternity. “You're a Veela,” he finally spoke, the casual tone from earlier gone.

“Uhm, yes, I thought that much was obvious,” Harry replied with a straight face.

“Right, yes,” Kingsley said and sat down in one of the chairs that wasn't ruined. “So you didn't call me here to look at the ruins of your home?”

“No, it's just this room anyway. I have a problem with the execution of Lucius Malfoy's verdict tomorrow morning.”

Kingsley frowned and tensed his jaw. “I assume you have a reason for this request.?”

“It's not a request, Minister-”

“Kingsley.”

“Kingsley.” Harry sighed. “It's not a request, Kingsley. I'm not asking, I'm demanding the execution to be postponed until further notice, on the account of the Classification Act of 1811, section 4, clause 65.”

Harry was rather proud of the way that came out: calm, collected, and very mature.

Kingsley narrowed his eyes and stood up. “I beg your pardon?”

“I die with him now, so by Wizard Law, you can't execute him without trying and convicting me for the same crimes.”

Kingsley's normally deep calming voice sounded a bit strained when he next spoke. “I don't believe it. You bonded with Lucius Malfoy?”

Harry shook his head and rolled his eyes. “Don't look at me like that. Do you really think I would voluntarily bond with a Death Eater?”

Kingsley saw the sincerity in Harry's eyes and relaxed his stance.

Harry sighed. “I didn't. That was just another surprise to fuck up my already fucked up life. I didn't bond with him. He's my mate. Apparently.”

“Oh, Harry.”

Harry squared his shoulders. “Don't 'Oh, Harry' me. I don't need your pity. I just need to you to stop Malfoy getting kissed in the morning, so I can complete the bond and live unhappily ever after with a man who wouldn't think twice to kill me.”

Kingsley gave a single curt nod and took a step towards the fireplace. “Have you registered with the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures?”

“No,” Harry replied. “But it wouldn't surprise me if Hermione's put my name in the registers already. She's known for quite some time now.”

Another nod. “I don't expect the Wizengamot will want to put The Boy Who Saved Us All up on trial for being a Death Eater. We don't enjoy making fools out of ourselves. I'll send over someone to adjust your Wards tomorrow, and you can expect Lucius Malfoy by noon on Saturday. You will have full responsibility for him: Where he goes, who he sees, etc. Though you will also be held accountable for his actions.”

Harry nodded in reply and averted his eyes. He'd figured as much.

“Oh, and Harry?”

Harry looked up and met concerned eyes.

“I will recommend his Magic be restricted for a minimum of one year. After that, it'll be up to you.”

The man sighed and shook his head. "This was not the outcome I had hoped for,” he said. “It seems like Malfoy’s being let off easy.”

Harry chuckled at that. “Somehow I don't think he will agree to that. Being bonded to a half-blood who ended his dream and all?”

“You have my sympathies, Harry. Good luck!”

 

 

wings

Hermione came banging on his door very early in the morning on Friday and stumbled most ungracefully when the door suddenly opened under her brutal fists.

Harry chuckled from his place at the other side of the hallway.

“Stop laughing. It isn’t funny.”

Harry turned to hide his smile. “Of course it isn’t,” he said and gestured for her to follow him into the living room.

“Well.” Hermione coughed lightly. “Are you sure redecorating your house is the right way to deal with your current predicament?”

Harry shrugged. “Certainly helped at the time.”

Hermione nodded and made her way to the kitchen briskly. “Tea?” she called over her shoulder as she left the living room.

Harry followed her but remained standing in the doorway to the kitchen, his hands sliding into the back pockets of his jeans. He watched her with a guarded expression as she bustled around his kitchen in her quest for proper cups and a teapot.

“I got an Owl late last night with a message I would’ve liked receiving from you, before I pulled all my hair out in distress over your possible demise.” She sounded angry, but he could feel there was more to it than that.

His wings darkened a fraction and inched protectively around his shoulders, shielding his arms a little.

“Still, I’m positively relieved that you’ve decided to pull your head from your arse and accept reality.”

She turned and carried a tray with a purple teapot Harry hadn’t known he owned and a pair of Royal Albert teacups to the table.

Her hands shook as she poured tea into the cups and sat down.

“Aren’t you going to join me?” she asked with a raised eyebrow, but Harry remained where he was.

“Fine,” she whispered, following the grain of the heavy wooden table with the nail of her finger.

She took a deep breath and looked back up at him.

“Why do I have the feeling I did something horrible?” Harry asked, pushing his shoulders forward, making himself just a fraction smaller.

Indignation flickered in Hermione’s eyes and her nostrils flared just before she opened her mouth. “You impossible prat!”

Harry took a step back, but remained more or less standing in the doorway.

“I’ve been the one to support you through all of this for months! Months, Harry!” she stood up from the table with watery eyes, a flush forming on her cheeks and neck. “I’ve been here through your moaning, and whining; your obvious depression! And that’s all right because I’m your friend! But then you just throw me out and leave me hanging, leaving me to think you’re about to do something really stupid, or better yet, stupidly do nothing!”

Harry blinked. “Er-”

“Do you have any idea what it’s been like to be your friend all these years? To know that you were going to be the one who had to face down the most powerful Dark Lord of all time? And don’t even mention the revelation that you were a bleeding Horcrux, Harry!”

“I-I,” Harry stuttered as Hermione took a few steps towards him, finger sharply pointed in his direction.

“But through all of that, I was there. I stuck with you and you bloody talked to me!” Her shoulders trembled under the sheer force of her emotions and she squeezed her eyes shut, unable to hold back the tears.

Fidgeting uncomfortably, Harry crossed his arms over his chest halfway, before shaking his hands slightly and shoving them into the front pockets of his jeans. He released the breath he’d been holding as quietly as possible, his gaze casting down to the floor.

“You confided in me,” she whispered. “Not Ron, not Dumbledore, nor anyone else. When things got bad, you always used to come to me.”

Harry’s shoulders slumped, heavy with guilt. He wanted to reach out and hug her, but he didn’t dare move.

“I love Ron with all my heart. He’s the man I want to spend my life with. But you and me, Harry, we’ve got something special, don’t we?”

It was hard to look at her. She was right. He’d pushed her away this week. It was something he’d never done before. He’d done it to everyone else, but not to her.

“Yes,” he answered. “I-.”

She closed the distance between them and took his head between her gentle hands, bringing his forehead to rest against hers. “I honestly thought I was going to lose you,” she said softly. “Don’t ever do that to me again.”

He folded his arms around her and nuzzled his nose into her hair softly, breathing in the familiar scent. She smelled wrong somehow. Her smell no longer caused snap visions of comfort and feeling at home. He wondered briefly what Malfoy would smell like, but pushed the thought away as fast as it’d arrived.

Hermione stepped away from him with a tiny smile and sat back down at the table. “Pull up your wings, Harry. Your feathers are getting dirty.”

He looked down and noticed the tips of his wings were dragging on the floor.

Taking a step into the kitchen, he spread them as wide as they would go. “I think it’s a little too late for that,” he snarked.

“Oh my gosh, Harry!”Hermione whispered in wonderment. “They are beautiful!”

Harry grimaced. “They are dirty,” he said. It was true. Dust coated most of the plumage and tiny splinters of wood were sticking out from in between. Oddly, some of the feathers in his wings didn’t seem to belong to him; they looked suspiciously like the goose feathers from the cushioning of the ruined chairs in the living room. “How on earth do I get them clean?” he whined. Hermione chuckled and shook her head.