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Chapter Five: Afternoon Realizations

In his dream, he is flying. Clouds are passing by, white and fluffy and unceremoniously damp, and the bright rays of the sun above make the metallic bronze scales of the strong neck in front of him glitter beautifully. When he looks down, he can see the ground far beneath them, miniature trees and houses, some people, no more than tiny dots moving along the road.

<Indignation. Concern.> Not his own, though.

*They should be long gone by now.* A slightly worried, familiar voice sounds in his mind. *The order to leave the area was announced three weeks ago. Why do they have to wait till the last possible minute? Stubborn fools!*

Huge wings beat forcefully once, twice, and they climb up higher into the sapphire sky. As the air becomes even chillier, he bends closer over over the golden crest, ducking into the soft, shiny mane for shelter and more warmth. Though they are going at high speed, he knows that they could still take up the pace if need be.

*I'm going to drop lower so that we can get a better view of the front.*

Flexing his wings, the colossal body under him pulls into a slow dive, crossing through a low hanging grey cloud, before the air clears again and a horrible scene unfolds in front of their eyes.

The landscape is barren and desolate, grey and devastated. Smoke rises from various spots, some fires still burning, others smouldering. The stumps of many trees, indicating that a wood had once been here, stretch towards the sky in a wordless reproach. And all over the dark, tainted place figures are moving, hundreds of them, thousands, probably even more. Upon drawing nearer, he can make out details, groups of pale-skinned, dark-clad people with the distinct feeling of death and hunger about them, other bands that radiate fury and hatred, and occasional clutters of large, bulky forms towering over the humans around them; vampires, werewolves and giants. Dragons rear up when they become aware of their presence, roaring and breathing fire, but they are too far away to pose a threat to them, and even if they actually took flight they would be no match for the two of them, as they have already proved countless times. But there are so many of them, so many that they fill his entire vision, their lines reaching the horizon.

<Worry. Anger. A touch of fear.>

*Damn, they are getting more and more every day. We will have to act soon if we want to avoid an all-out war.*

Smoothly, the dive stalls and changes into a graceful arc that brings them near the front lines without putting them into attacking range. Just when they are about to turn back, an all too familiar sound rings over the Dark Lord's army, and they stop in mid-air, large wings beating steadily to keep them in position. Something is coming from the far end of the field, just out of sight, and it is approaching swiftly. A shudder runs through the warm body beneath him, and dread gathers in the pit of his stomach like an ice-cold liquid. A huge figure comes into view, and his heart misses a beat.

It is a dragon, black and charcoal, its scales absorbing the sunlight, drawing an aura of cold darkness around it. But it is no ordinary dragon. It is a dark, contorted mirror image of the beautiful creature whose neck he is clinging to at the moment.


<Fury. Disgust. Hatred.>

<An overwhelming urge to attack, to rush in and kill, rid the earth of the foul beast in front of them.>

<The hard effort to restrain ancient instincts, a brief struggle, then fierce determination.>

*We have to get back. Albus must know. Merlin, this changes everything and unfortunately not for the better. I feared all along that he would finally find one, but I was hoping... Well, it doesn't matter any more. We will deal with this, as we have dealt with everything he has thrown at us so far. Hang on, I'll make a sharp turn and push my speed a bit.*

Powerful muscles shift beneath him as the copper and golden dragon rushes trough a tricky turning manoeuvre, before hurrying back into the direction they came from. Behind them, he can hear the outraged scream of the dark dragon, but soon they are flying so fast that their momentum swallows all sounds. The cold wind bites into his face and tugs at his hair, and they are still going faster, faster...


Severus' eyes snap open, and he finds himself staring directly at the copper, bronze and golden face of his small dragon companion. Who is playing with the black tresses of his shoulder-length hair - so that was the tugging feeling in his dream.

'The dream... Now that was strange...'

He tries to recall parts of what he saw, but the details slip more quickly through his grasp the harder he struggles to remember, leaving him with a blurred, faint memory of what had happened.

A soft chirp shakes him out of his thoughts, and when he focuses his gaze he meets concerned emerald eyes. "It's alright, I am awake now," the Slytherin grumbles, slightly embarrassed by the other's proximity.

'Merlin, that is the second time in less than 24 hours. I should put a stop to it while I still have the chance.'

Putting his customary sneer into place, he pushes the dragon away from him. "I would appreciate it if you left me at least a faint semblance of private space," he says coldly.

Aenëus looks up at him in confusion, but he pointedly ignores him and stretches leisurely. The dragon's face brightens then in understanding, and rising, he copies the Potions Master's motions.

"Ouch! Boy, watch where you put those damn wings of yours!" Severus barks angrily as one of said wings hits him in the side of the face.

The dragon closes his wings at once and dives under the blanket, cowering away from the harsh tone of voice.

Sighing, the tall wizard closes his eyes and pinches the bridge of his nose. 'Merlin, I'm not suited to deal with an abused child-dragon. I am most certainly not a nice person, nor will I be able to change that fact overnight. I don't even think I would want to. Up until now, my demeanour and appearance have served their purpose quite well and kept most people were I prefer them: At a safe distance. Of course there has been the occasional exception, but this...

I could try and pretend to care, just act friendly. It would be an easy task. But I suppose he would know it, and he would loose his trust in me. But I cannot seriously consider opening up to him. He would be able to hurt me, to take advantage of my kindness. It would render me vulnerable, and that is a risk I simply cannot take.

Moreover, what would happen once he is returned to his former self? -No, that is a train of thought I really do not want to follow at the moment. Right now, I have to believe that this ...situation will not outlast the evening. Anything else shall be dealt with when it occurs.'

A soft touch at his hand startles him out of his brooding. He opens his eyes to see Aenëus nudging his fingers shyly, his muscles tense, the lower half of his body still covered by the blanket. Severus just stares at him for a long moment.

'He wants to trust. Even after what he has been through, he still wants to trust, the stupid little Gryffindor. But am I able to keep up with him? Slytherins are cautious, not brave. It's what keeps us alive.'

The dragon nuzzles his hand again, and looks up with fear and a plea in his bright green eyes.

'If only he was one of my little Snakes... But the Sorting Hat did want to put him into my House if what I saw in his memories is right...' Slowly, the wizard moves his hand and caresses the slender neck. Aenëus flinches, but doesn't move away, just stays in the same spot, trembling slightly.

'Oh well, it's just for one day after all...' Throwing caution to the winds for the moment, he draws the dragon onto his lap again, and strokes him gently. The small creature sighs in contentment and relaxes, snuggling up to him but leaving him room to be.

"I will let it pass this once," the Potions Master says in a low voice, "But I expect you to learn how to control those additional limbs you have acquired."

Aenëus blinks, chirps, and scrambles out of his lap to settle a few feet away on the bed. Opening one wing carefully, he takes it between his paws and stares at it in fascination, then lets go of it again and slowly, cautiously folds it back against his side. The tip drops down, and it is obvious that he will stumble over it should he try to walk. An expression of concentration appears on the delicate features, and several tries later, he finds a position that allows him maximal agility. Encouraged by his success, the little dragon bustles to the end of the bed and spreads his wings to their full span. It makes the room suddenly seem much smaller, since his range is at least four yards wide. Wonder and joy shine in the emerald eyes as he moves them tentatively, testing with careful, probing motions. Suddenly, mischief sparkles in the green depths and with half-spread wings, Aenëus jumps from the bed.

At first, everything goes well, and he glides into a low dive, but unfortunately, the room comes to an end all too soon. The little dragon tries frantically to stop before he can crash head first into the wall, and tumbles in a heap onto the floor with a loud squeal. He blinks in surprise, mewling, then starts sorting out his limbs, gives himself a shake, sits back on his haunches, and looks at the Potions Master.

And giggles.

Severus fights desperately to suppress the smile that threatens to find its way onto his face, but he can't keep the corners of his mouth from twitching upwards. Before long, the sight of a giggling dragon on top of the hilarious flight attempt proves too much for the worn out Slytherin and he chuckles, smirking at the small dragon in front of him.

Aenëus giggles some more, then climbs back up onto the bed, rubbing his head on the wizard's hand in a silent request to pet him. Smirk still in place, Severus complies.

The dragon half-closes his eyes in pleasure when his fingers smooth down the golden crest and stroke the bronze back between the folded wings. The reptilian creature starts humming deep in the back of his throat, and after a while the Slytherin realizes that the dragon is actually purring. He shakes his head in wonder while his little companion almost melts under his ministrations.

Half expecting the other to drift off into slumber again - after all, he does have quite a bit to catch up on - Severus tenses a bit when the dragon suddenly lifts his head and sniffs the air. He is still wondering if something might be wrong when Aenëus sits up in his lap and sniffs again, tilting his head to one side. A moment later, he rises, nostrils still flaring and jumps from the bed, wings closed but slightly raised to help him balance. He is already halfway to the table when he pauses, rises on his haunches like a meerkat and twitters, making the wizard realize Poppy must have brought them something while they were asleep.

Sure enough, as he looks up at the table he sees a mug and a small bowl standing there, and now that he is paying attention, he can smell the faint scent of hot chocolate in the room. Lightly amused, he relaxes, and smiles inwardly at the Nurse's thoughtfulness as he gets up from the bed and walks over to the table. Aenëus follows him, chirping animatedly, his emerald eyes shining brightly.

Severus decides to make sure that the dark liquid is indeed hot chocolate. He takes a sip from both vessels and finds the drink in the mug to be hot and barely sweetened, just as he likes it, while the fluid in the bowl is warm and sugary. The little dragon, who has been watching him anxiously, makes a questioning sound and looks up at him expectantly.

"It seems Poppy had the foresight of providing us with some hot chocolate," he tells his companion and puts the bowl down in front of him. "Enjoy yourself."

Twittering excitedly, Aenëus scuttles to the bowl and sniffs at it thoroughly, then carefully dips his right front paw into the liquid, pulls it out and licks it clean. His eyes begin to sparkle, and he bends down swiftly to begin lapping up the warm drink.

Severus raises an eyebrow at his enthusiasm and smirks as he takes another sip from his mug, enjoying the harsh sweetness. A glance at the clock on one of the walls tells him that they still have another hour until lunch, but he is nevertheless surprised at how quickly the morning has passed so far.

'Well, he has certainly kept me busy,' the Potions Master thinks in amusement, 'But for the sake of both of us, I think we should give it a break, at least for the afternoon. A bit of nice, quiet reading should do the trick, and I still have that ancient tome I purchased in Diagon Alley the day before yesterday on my desk...'

Ten minutes later, the Slytherin is comfortably settled on the bed again with his book on his lap. The little dragon curls up at his side, sound asleep, but still hums softly as the black-clad wizard strokes his back gently with the hand that isn't holding the book. They spend the remaining time until lunch that way and when Poppy eventually opens the door, she smiles yet again at the charming picture they present.

"Finally awake, Severus?" she asks softly, directing two trays to the table with a gesture of her wand.

The Potions Master snorts. "Rest assured, Poppy, that this boy manages to be trouble no matter what form he takes. I am eternally grateful that he sleeps as much as he does, for otherwise once he would able to leave the Infirmary, I would have to stay to recover from the burdensome task of looking after him."

The Nurse chuckles softly. "Exaggerating as always, my dear colleague. So far the one thing I have noticed is that you have slept more in the last 24 hours than over the last week and you were not woken by a nightmare even once. With that in mind, I suggest you wake your little friend and eat your lunch. Both of you look like you could need it."

With a smile and a wink, she exits the room again, leaving behind a both amused and disgruntled Head of Slytherin and a purring dragon.

Sighing deeply, Severus decides to let Aenëus wake on his own, rises, and strides over to the table. Under the lids he finds grilled chicken, roasted potatoes and green salad on one tray, and a bowl of porridge on the other, both in generous amounts. As the smell of the food drifts across the room, the little dragon wrinkles his nose in his sleep, sniffs instinctively and stirs. Moments later he is fully awake again, and upon seeing that he is alone on the bed, he stretches with a huge yawn. He gives himself a good shake, then chirps and glances over to the tall wizard seated at the table.

An elegant, jet-black brow crooks inquiringly. "Well, what are you waiting for? A handwritten invitation?"

Aenëus twitters a slightly indignant response and saunters over to the ebony-haired Slytherin, who in turn puts the bowl on the floor. Severus watches as the little dragon sniffs the contents, takes the bowl clumsily between his front paws, and starts devouring his porridge. Then, with a roll of his eyes, the Potions Master turns towards his own plate and leans back to enjoy his meal.

That is, until he feels someone staring at him. At first, he ignores it and proceeds to eat his lunch, but once he has finished, he lifts his eyes from the table to find a pair of emerald ones gazing longingly at his leftovers.

Severus sighs. "Boy, I understand that you have a lot to catch up, but it will do you no good to strain your stomach now. Experience has shown that it is best to take things slowly and add the components step by step. If all goes well and that porridge stays where it is supposed to, Poppy might allow you something a bit more substantial for dinner."

The dragon blinks at him, then at the grilled chicken, then back at him and whines pitifully, his large green eyes begging shamelessly.

"Oh alright, I see you have to learn it the hard way. But do not complain if you get sick," the Slytherin growls. He takes a few pieces of chicken and potatoes and places them into the bowl on the floor.

His little companion chirps gratefully, then enthusiastically empties the bowl, sighs contentedly and returns to the bed to clean himself. Severus follows him, keeping the bowl at hand in case the dragon shows any signs of nausea, and resumes his reading position. When after a while nothing happens, he relaxes slightly, but continues to keep an eye on the copper creature. Fortunately, Aenëus seems to stick to the routine of most young, namely eating, sleeping and playing, and curls once again up at the wizard's side with his head on the other's lap.

The Slytherin shakes his head in wonder. 'It seems that little children have even tougher stomachs than teenagers, hard to believe as it is....'

The rest of the afternoon passes more leisurely. Severus reads his potions book while Aenëus sleeps and recovers.

When the little dragon wakes a few hours later, he sets off to explore the room, and sticks his nose into every corner and niche he can find. Several sneezes later, he finds his way to the window, and with immense effort manages to climb onto the sill.

Half an hour passes and Severus becomes uneasy, so he rises and moves over to the window to find out what has captured his companion's attention so thoroughly. At first, he doesn't see anything out of the ordinary, but on second look, he notices Hagrid working in his garden with Fang snuffling around. Aenëus stares down at them in rapt fascination, his green eyes dark and unreadable.

"That's Hagrid," Severus tells him in a low, calming voice. "Your friend Hagrid, the one with the unhealthy liking for dangerous monsters. Can you remember him?"

The dragon shudders, then he blinks and whimpers, shaking his head lightly as if trying to clear it.

"Potter - Aenëus - can you understand me? You must try to remember."

Aenëus moans and closes his eyes, now trembling violently. The Slytherin steps behind him and lays a soothing hand on his back, only to find the dragon tucking his head under his black robes once again. Sighing in frustration, the man circles his arms around the smaller figure and holds him until the trembling subsides.

'I just hope Albus comes soon. We need answers, and yet more questions arise with every moment.'

A vague memory of a book about dealing with children and youths flashes in his memory. Deciding it might be better to let some things rest at the moment, he sets the dragon down and transfigures his napkin into a small ball to distract his little companion from the distressing event. It works splendidly, and when much later a knock sounds from the door, Severus is once again absorbed into his potions text while Aenëus plays on the floor with the ball like a kitten.

The Potions Master scowls darkly at the closed door, keeping his wand in reach. 'Who might that be? Poppy does not knock because of Aenëus and Albus never knocks for whatever reason he has.'

Aloud, he growls: "Who is there?"

"It's me, Minerva. Albus spoke with me this morning. May I come in?" the familiar voice answers.

"As your presence here will hopefully lead to my being released from certain babysitting duties, you are more than welcome to do so."

The door opens. The Transfiguration teacher enters the room with a weary, tight-lipped expression on her face, which softens as soon as she sees the little dragon. She looks exhausted. Severus supposes that Albus gave her a fair share of the work before he left.

'With all that stubbornness and Gryffindor courage she is so proud of, we sometimes forget that her health is not what it used to be before the incident last year. Not that she would allow us to be easy on her, mind you...'

A rash movement catches his eye, and a moment later the warm body of the dragon, who made a dash for the bed in fright of the stranger, is pressed to his side. Severus rolls his eyes, but permits his little companion to slip under his arm. When he looks up again to his usually stern colleague, he can see amusement sparkling in her eyes.

"I can see where this might prove a bothersome task for you, my friend," she comments with a tight-lipped smile.

The Slytherin mock-growls. "I trust you to keep this between the two of us. I would rather not have my reputation ruined."

Minerva snorts. "No need to worry, Severus. Your little secret is safe with me."

"Now that set my mind at peace," he drawls, noticing that the dragon has calmed down a bit and is watching the two of them intently.

The other teacher seems to have noticed it, too, for she says softly: "Albus told me what happened, and he also mentioned his fear of humans. Nonetheless I need to have a look at him before I try anything."

"I think that will pose no problem as he has calmed down considerably since yesterday. Just keep in mind to refrain from making any abrupt or potentially threatening motions and give him time to get used to your proximity."

The older witch nods, and slowly approaches the bed. Aenëus tenses slightly and observes her every movement, but relaxes when the Potions Master's hand begins stroking his bronze and golden chest and the two Professors continue their light banter. Before long, Minerva is sitting next to them on the mattress with the dragon between herself and her colleague. As the rust-red creature begins to realize that she means no harm, he cautiously draws a bit nearer and eyes her curiously.

"Go on, boy, she will not hurt you, being your Head of House and all, I suppose," Severus tells the little one.

Aenëus twitters and moves to the witch's side, sniffing the offered hand carefully and finally allowing her to touch him, though he flinches at first and doesn't look very comfortable with it.

"Remarkable," she murmurs, "I knew he had more talent than he let on, but this... I would never have guessed. I suppose I will have a long talk with my student once he is back to his human form."

"When can we try the spell?"

Minerva looks up at him over the dragon. "As soon as you deem him calm enough. He needs to be relaxed, or the Restoring Spell will hurt him and I would rather avoid having him panic."

"You want to do it now?" The Slytherin frowns. "I thought Albus..."

"The Headmaster left for Romania this morning in order to have a comprehensive talk with Charlie Weasley about dragons. He made a floo call two hours ago and told me he would not make it back today and stay there overnight, kindly requesting that I cast the spell."

Her pursed lips tell him the nature of the old wizard's request and he knows it must have been his usual, friendly way of conveying an order.

"I understand," he says calmly, letting his expression show her that he really did. "And I think that since you are not only a Transfiguration Professor but also an Animagus yourself he made a wise choice."

A part of her stiffness vanishes and he realizes she is relieved by his approval. 'Silly Gryffindor, she should know better.'

"I suggest you let him sniff your wand and then give me a minute to draw his attention to me. I will tell you when we are ready."

Minerva nods, then slowly draws her wand out of her sleeve, holding it out for the dragon to examine. Aenëus sniffs it briefly and seems to dismiss it as harmless. Her fellow teacher sighs and beckons his little companion to return to him.

"Come here, boy. Time to settle down again."

Aenëus chirps and obeyed eagerly, crawling onto the wizard's lap and pushing his head against one of the pale, long-fingered hands like a cat. Severus fulfills his wish and caresses the spots he has learned the dragon likes best, while he murmurs soothing nonsense in his enticing, dark voice. His charge sighs and once again turns into a humming puddle under his adept hands, eyes closed, tail wound around the Slytherin's waist.

'If all goes well now, this will be the last time I have a purring dragon on my lap to cuddle with, much less the Boy-Who-Lived,' he ponders in amusement. But instead of the relief he expected, a feeling of emptiness and loss accompanies the thought, and an irrational fear of threatening loneliness rises in his chest.

'Damn, what is wrong with me? I should be grateful to be able to return to my dungeons and finally get a little peace down there.' Angry at himself for his rebellious emotions, he forces himself to relax before his uneasiness has a chance to distress the small dragon.

"I think now would be a good moment," he mutters to his colleague.

She nods. Seconds later, the bright blue-white flash of light that accompanies the Restoring Spell envelops the rust-red body of the dragon.

Aenëus' eyes snap open and he jerks into a sitting position in Severus' lap with a squeal. Then the light vanishes, leaving both teachers staring at him in astonishment.

Nothing happened.

The little copper and golden dragon shudders and gives himself a shake, then looks up at the Potions Master with a reproachful expression. Not being a successful spy for nothing, the black-haired wizard regains his composure quickly and strokes his companion soothingly.

"She didn't hurt you, now did she?" he murmurs.

Aenëus makes an indignant sound, but lays down again and snuggles against the warm human body.

Severus raises his gaze at his colleague to find the older witch still staring at the little dragon with round eyes. "Do you have an idea why it did not work?" he asks her softly.

"I... but that cannot be... No, Severus, I do not know why the spell has failed. The only explanation that I know of is that...," she pauses.

"Is what?" he snaps.

"...The only possibility for the spell to fail is that this is not an Animagus," she whispers in a shaken voice.

Onyx eyes widen in surprise. "You mean this is not Harry Potter?"

Minerva shakes her head. "I did not say that. I only told you that he is most likely no Animagus."

"But how is that possible? And what else could he be?" he demands harshly.

"I... There are ancient legends, really ancient legends, Severus, from a time before the Founders decided to build Hogwarts. They tell of a battle between Darkness and Light, Dusk and Dawn, and an Age of Twilight in which a special kind of Shape-shifters fought side by side with the wizards and witches. But the only memories of that time are no more than the legend of a legend of a legend and scattered to the four winds."

Both are silent for a while, until the Slytherin finally speaks up again.

"I see. Are there ways to verify that it is doubtlessly Potter somewhere in that body?"

"Besides Legilimency you mean? Yes, there are a couple of spells, most of them out of bounds in these days."

The black-clad wizard snorts in an attempt to lighten the mood. "My dear Minerva, when has that ever posed a hindrance for those of your House?"

She huffs. "You are one to talk!"

"So you will do it?"

A sigh. "Yes."

"Good. What are the effects of the spell? Do I have to prepare him somehow?"

"No. That is one reason why the spells were banned, because you feel no more than a faint tingle and they tell way too much about your mental condition. Just remain calm and see to it that he does the same," she tells him.


The Transfiguration Professor takes a deep breath as her face turns into a mask of concentration, then mutters a few words in Latin.

Severus feels the dragon squirm as the tingle passes through his body, but apart from that he shows no reaction. "Well?"

Minerva's eyes become dark and worried, and she presses her lips tightly together.

"Do not test my patience, woman. What did you find out?" he snarls.

"This is definitely Harry Potter. But he does not know it. In fact, he knows almost nothing about who he is, who we are or what is happening to him. His mental state is that of a child, and by now he has learned that he can trust you, and that this seems to be a good place because he was given food and nobody has hurt him so far."

She looks the younger man in the eyes. "His memories are still there, but he seems to have locked them into his subconscious somehow. And he is afraid, Severus, scared to death by what they contain. I think that once he opens up to them again and accepts their contents, he might be able to change back into his human form. But to achieve that will be a hard piece of work for us, mainly for you."

The Potions Master groans. "Why me? We never got along well when he was still my student."

Minerva shoots him a stern look, then slowly reaches over and gently strokes the golden crest of the dragon. Severus can feel him tense up immediately.

The older witch pulls her hand back. "I take it you noticed his reaction to others. You are the one who saved him and brought him here, and he trusts only you without reservation. Anyone who wants to try to help him will not be able to do anything without that basis. Face it, my friend, if we want Harry back, it will be yours to accomplish. Poppy, Albus and I will help you as good as we can, but most of the task will lie with you."

The Slytherin heaves a deep sigh and looks down on the dozing dragon in his lap. "I understand your argument, although I cannot say that I like it. But I know what I owe to the Wizarding World and I will do my best to return its saviour to his former self. Is there anything else I should know?"

Minerva opens her mouth, but whatever she wanted to say is cut off by her younger colleague's soft gasp of pain.

Wide onyx eyes flicker down to where his right hand grasps his left forearm, and the burning pain increases steadily. He looks up to the other teacher, to see that she has paled and is gazing at his arm with a concerned expression.

"He is calling," Severus confirms.

Dark eyes behind rectangular glasses raise again to meet his own.

"I have to go or he will get suspicious. Will you stay here and watch over Aenëus?"

Sadness evident on her face, she nods. "I will take care of him. If you take care of yourself."

His lip curls into a slight smirk. "I will."

He gently disentangles himself from the dragon and begins to rise, but a pitiful whimper stops his motions. He turns back to see that Aenëus has woken and is looking up at him with worry darkening his emerald eyes. He nudges the wizard's hand gently with a soft whine. Sighing, Severus bends down and strokes the smooth copper cheek. The small dragon closes his eyes and leans into the caress.

"Don't worry, little one. I will be back soon."

Aenëus mewls miserably as he steps back.

"I promise."

Minerva puts a soothing hand on the bronze back, and the dragon chirps, very softly, his bright eyes still on the tall wizard.

"Go. We will wait for you," she says with an encouraging nod to the door.

"Thank you."

He is already halfway through when her voice halts him a last time. "Oh, Severus? Aenëus is a good name for him."

He leaves the Infirmary with a smile on his lips.

But as he hurries through the empty castle, the picture that remains in his mind is the worried glance that the dragon gave him, and what he read in those expressive eyes: a feeling of emptiness and loss, and an irrational fear of threatening loneliness.

Grimly, he steels his resolve. 'I will come back. I promised.'


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