The cold bit like bitter truth as Harry trudged dejectedly through the brambles. Thorns snagged at his scarlet coat, ripping through the fibers without a care as the careful expression on his face grew careless with anger. He’d been talking to himself for the last hour. He’d vent again if it didn’t make him feel so insane.
“Let’s split up,” Ron had said, “We’ll cover more ground this way.”
More ground his ass. While the flip of the coin had anointed Ron with the lovely, mostly manicured, courtyard Harry had been sentenced to walk the woods alone. It was stupid really. He shouldn’t have been alone either way but both he and Ron had lived through far worse things than a few dark wizards here and there. What was the worst that could happen? He could die sure- but somehow that didn’t seem so bad.
Harry shook his head and let out a particularly angry grunt as a needy branch clung to the inside of his trouser leg. “Let, go, of, me-” He hissed through clenched teeth. Electricity flickered through him as green eyes narrowed in frustration. The night lights cast a fluorescent glow to his fingers, as a particularly sharp thorn tore through the pad of his thumb. He hissed, green light refracting in the drop of blood that beaded and slipped casually to the ground. He was about to swear- really. Call Ron over to at least get some company. They always say misery loves company, now don’t they? He thought bitterly as his head tipped back and he released a puff of hot air into the chill night sky.
He hadn’t realized how far he’d travelled til that point. So intent on getting through the undergrowth that the manor had all but faded into the night like a twisted mirage. Instead what lay in front of him was a slender tower, so covered in thorns it looked nearly black in the moonlight. He could smell the magic in the air, thick and cloying, sticking to his lashes and clogging his throat as the air shimmered to let him through the spell that concealed it.
“What in the-” Lips parted on a gasp, footsteps faltering with a tap-thud, Harry held his wand in front of him too late. He should’ve noticed sooner, noticed the heaviness in the air, the way the cold of the night seemed to get more bitter, more vicious, as if warning him away. Despite the obvious conclusion that he wasn’t supposed to be here- wasn’t supposed to find this tower- he didn’t feel any malicious intent from the spell surrounding him.
Trusting his instincts and taking one step forward as if moving through molasses he sighed. If only he hadn’t forgotten his damn glasses. The closer he got the more details came into focus. Thick vines climbed the cracked rock like vipers. They shifted and pulsed with the peppering of the wind. Leaves whistled, trees shook as Harry plodded his way forward to get a better look inside the window that was beginning to come into focus.
How he hadn’t noticed it from the start was beyond him. Nerves tingled through his fingers, toes dancing in his too big boots, a habit born from too many years of hand me downs. It’s like he could never quite figure out what size he was. Hermione had laughed at him the first time she took him shopping, not realizing the depth of his hurt. He’d laughed too, hard- til laughing hurt to much, and the heaviness behind his eyes seemed to creep too close to the surface to hide anymore. She hadn’t laughed after that. The next day when he’d gone to get dressed somehow every time he moved his clothes would shrink and grow to fit his size. Hermione was bloody brilliant. Too kind to say to his face how broken he was. Bloody Saint.
“Hello?” A tentative voice echoed through the valley and Harry flinched. He stopped in his tracks, fingers shaking despite how many times he’d done this exact thing. His heart rate picked up, tat tat tat against his breast bone as his fingers tightened their grip around his wand.
“Who is it?” He called, voice dipping low to sound more intimidating as he squared broad shoulders and widened his stance.
“Who are /you/?”
“I asked /you/ first,” His shoulders rose and he raised his wand, ready to hex the bollocks of whoever was up in the tower. The voice was soft, scratchy as if from disuse. Somehow refined despite the fear that seemed to want to creep into it’s tone. Didn’t really sound like someone trying to kill him, but you never know. He wished now more than ever that Ron hadn’t decided to fuck off. ‘Get this done quick mate, won’t even miss me,’ he’d said. Bollocks.
“I live here. You’re the one trespassing.” The voice got firmer, cracking on the first syllable and covered up by a little cough as he, because it was obvious now whoever was up there was a ‘he’, yelled down. “I didn’t come to your home uninvited and demand to know who /you/ were.”
“So who /are/ you?”
“I’m…” Harry paused, unsure if he should be giving out his full name to a stranger. He’d been stupid to split with Ron, but he wasn’t /that/ stupid. “I’m an Auror. Someone called to complain about a disturbance. I’m just here checking it out.”
“A /disturbance/?” The voice scoffed from above. Another little cough sounded and Harry took a tentative step forward towards the aging stone of the tower. He still had to crane his head back to even see up the bloody thing but as he got closer he saw the silhouette of a person sitting in the only window begin to solidify. “The only one disturbing anyone here is /you/.”
Harry laughed. Really? Because how ridiculous could you be? “That’s just lovely.”
The voice laughed, a tinkling sound like bells wafting through the valley. “I don’t entertain much.”
“I can imagine why. You live about 1000 meters in the air.”
The voice laughed again, harder this time. A little squawk sounded in the back of his mystery man’s throat. He seemed to be getting closer, his silhouette larger as he shifted to open the window pane and shove his head out. The nervous tingles in his fingers seemed to intensify, excitement twittering through him as his lips tipped up into a grin.
He was starting to be able to see details of the figure above him. Silken hair floated on the wind, catching the green light from the sky and refracting it as a pale face peeked over the edge of the window sill.
“Are you leaving? Now that you see there is no ‘disturbance’?” He questioned. He sounded less bitter now, curiosity leaking into the words as posh lips pressed pretty syllables into the night air.
“I mean-” Harry looked around, no sign of Ron, no sign of anything really, just crickets and the occasional firebug. “I suppose I could stay for a moment.” His brow furrowed, breath puffing into the air as he rubbed his frostbitten hands together for warmth. “Don’t suppose you could let me up there, could you?” There was a better chance of getting warm up there than down here. A nice fire sounded lovely… He shuddered.
“See- now I wish I could.” And he really sounded like he /did/, “But sadly, I have no wand, no ladder, and the spells here are fairly stubborn about who comes up and-” he paused. The ‘who comes down’ part of his sentence was lost as he drifted off, sighing from what felt like miles above.
“Ah.” Harry frowned. He tucked thick fingers into the creases of his elbows, forgetting for a moment that he was in fact a wizard and /could/ in fact solve both the heating problem and the transportation problem. “You can’t come down?”
“Why?” He could feel his anxiety pick up, flickering like wild fire through his frame as his hair seemed to stand on end. Had he somehow stumbled upon a prisoner? Of who? What could he have possibly done to be locked away at the top of a tower like this? Suspicions bitter kiss ate it’s way through his heart.
“I’ve never been down. Not for many years anyway,” He sounded wistful, ignoring the question expertly “I’d fly but my wings are clipped.”
“/Wings?/” Shit. Harry’d said that aloud.
“Yes. Can’t you see them?” The voice rose a little, confusion flickering through his tone as the window seemed to flutter. Only it wasn’t the window, and as Harry squinted and focused in as close as he could he was able to see the silhouette of two very large, very beautiful wings. They fluttered in the pale light, seeming to sparkle as green danced across silken fibers and a cloud of white rose like a beacon from heaven behind him.
“Bloody hell. You /do/ have wings.” He was shocked. /Wings/ when was the last time he’d heard of a wizard with wings? Never. Shit. He was so out of his depth here. Harry fidgeted, shifting from foot to foot, realizing when silence rang through the valley that he’d managed to put both feet in his mouth at the same time. “They’re beautiful-” He stuttered honestly, trying to cover up his blunder as his cheeks flushed and he waited for a response.
“Thank you,” The voice was pleased, though a little shy as he heard shuffling from above. “I suppose if I can’t come down- and you can’t come up, we’re at an impass, are we not?”
“We are.” Harry nodded, green eyes flashing with determination. It was frustrating to no end that he still couldn’t make out the face above him. Curiosity bit across him as his lips shifted into a cocky grin. The vines. Of course the bloody vines. “Any nasty spells on those vines of yours?”
There was a pause as the man above seemed to think, “No- You’re not seriously thinking of climbing them though? You do realize how high up I am, don’t you?”
There was a snort and a laugh as the stranger seemed to get a kick out of his bravado. “Alright. You may climb them- but if you fall there’s no one here to catch you.”
With that sobering thought and a dare Harry started on his way. Each vine wrapped tight beneath thick fingers, the pricks from the thorns earlier adding a nasty bite to each meter he travelled. He could do this. He was a bloody Auror, for god’s sake. They’d done physical training for months in preparation for going out in the field and he wasn’t about to fail at a bit of simple ‘rope climbing.’
Harry slipped a few feet from the top, pain coursing through his fingers as the muscles seized and a pained gasp was ripped from parted lips. Just as he felt the give of the wall and cold air caressing the back of his scarlet uniform a slender hand sprung from the darkness and snatched his wrist with a nasty tug.
Breathless and terrified, Harry was pulled up, up, up, over the window sill and plummeted to the hard wooden floor with a resounding /thunk./
Above him stood the most gorgeous creature he had ever seen. The man’s chest heaved, sweat glistening prettily across his temple as grey eyes flashed with both relief and wariness. Giant wings the span of twice his length spread out behind him, feathers shuddering with each breath through petal pink lips.
“Thank you,” Harry breathed, sure he’d found an angel as his pulse continued to betray him, jackrabbiting through the silent room.
“Yes, well. I’m not a bloody monster. I wasn’t about to let you fall to your death when I could reach down and grab you.” The man hissed through his teeth, cheeks red with embarrassment and shoulders shaking with tension as he took a few tentative steps back. “You never did tell me your name-”
“Harry-” He was breathless with excitement, moving to stand and brushing the dust from his knees as he eagerly offered a hand forward. He slowed halfway through, noticing the tense curve to the other man’s long slender neck. Veins danced like blue lace under his skin as guarded silver eyes trailed after the roughness of the palm extended towards him. Gently he smiled, exhaling and trying to exude as much calming energy as he could. The last thing he wanted was to spook him now that he’d climbed for god knows how long just to get a look. “And you are?”
“Draco,” Slender fingers clasped his own as Draco’s eyes shifted to the open window. He was still tense, though less so, retracting the smoothness of his cool fingers and folding his arms as his hackles seemed to raise, “Nice to meet you.” The last part was added out of politeness, a “proper” upbringing obvious in the way the words bit across plump lips and sharp tenor.
“Likewise.” Harry smiled, trying not to tower as he rose to his full height and offered the beautiful creature in front of him as much calm as he could muster.