DISCLAIMER: Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling.
There was just the thought. Just the one. Once more, the limp battered body picked itself up and dragged forward a few more inches. It had had paws once, it was sure of it. Weak hands scrabbled at the wet earth, clawing little divots of black mud free onto its slender fingers, nails chipped and broken. Up again. A little bit more ground gained. Worth the pain to move. Worth the pain to finish the thought and rest. Oh, rest. What a word. How long had it been since rest? Oh so very, very long. It couldn't even remember what it was like, but the concept was absolutely heavenly. A whisper of something dark ran through its mind and it froze, crouching close to the ground. Nothing came of it, so the figure continued its determined stubborn movement. Drag. Slump. Drag. Slump
And there was the pain of course. Great glittering crescendos etched in sapphire sparks. Funny, it had always thought pain would be a pulsing red.much like a wound. A sound that was more a yelp of pain then a laugh escaped its mouth. Funny the things that go through your mind when you're dying. But they are only fireflies on the edge of the all consuming void that is the thought. Dancing flickering inconsequential things. Nothing when compared to the thought. Darkness drawing its mind in and flowing through it like spilled ink.
Ink. There had been ink once, it was sure of it. Black and the scritter of quills across creamy parchment. Feathers, owls and golden glows. Creams and browns and tawny earthy colours, bisected with swooping black lines. Like butterflies of script. Swirling and dancing, making words and phrases flow. Conjurations and spells. Incantations. Magic words, even the letters seeming to have a life of their own. Solemn drone of Latin, pertaining to a higher purpose. Old language. But there's always older still. The harsh consonants of Egyptian. The lilt of Greek. The rasp of Sumerian. And back and back. To when there were no words at all. Cat's hiss and owl's gentle hoot and fox's high banshee shriek. Midnight creatures know magic best. It's the darkness in their blood. And they can see in the dark.
Darkness. It was too familiar with the concept. There were.things that lurked in the dark. Nasty biting hurting things. That hurt it. And scratched and clawed and bit. Making the sapphire sparks fly and sometimes edge towards violet as the blood was spilled. Laughter. Not its, no, never its, just one of the things that hovered around the outside of the thought. Whispers that it had become able to ignore as the burning imperative of the thought filled it and made it haul its nearly useless aching body towards whatever it was the thought commanded.
Red hair tangled in a mass down the curve of its white body, slashed with blacks and reds of other things less innocent. Dark crusted lines of blood and sweat crisscrossed in a dangerous game of tic-tac-toe, leaving barely a square of unmarked skin. The signs of knives and whips and blades and heat. It was cold here.
And then somehow it knew it had reached the place. A slip and a sigh and fur sprouted rapidly, blossoming to cover white skin like poppies in a field of snow. A fox lay there for a moment, shook its pointed muzzle dazedly and then crawled through the edge of the woods. Past the groundskeeper's cottage, and up the grassy slope to the school. Through a door someone had left open, slipping past the chattering students by keeping to the darker shadows. The fox watched them with bright black eyes, quivering with agony but knowing it would be over soon. It waited, panting noiselessly for breath, narrow jaws opening to reveal gleaming white teeth curved and pointed for killing and tearing. And then something unplanned and unexpected happened.
"Wot's we got here? Heyheyhey!" A grinning twisted face appeared in its field of vision and the fox yipped before cowering backwards into the dark corner it had found. "It's an ickle foxie! Aw, look it! Come out, come out, wherever you are!" The fox bared its teeth in defiance, and then nipped sharply at the hand that came in after it. "OI! That's not nice!" The fox managed to get past the hooting poltergeist and fled, brush streaming behind it, body close and down to the ground. A storm of things clattered behind it, hitting the ground and the fox forced its aching burning body to dodge and twist and jump the falling items. It fled among the students gaining screams of surprise and then yells of annoyance as Peeves continued to target the lithe red furred body.
With a yelp and a whine, the fox shifted upwards and flung itself at the one who had always protected it. Draco Malfoy went down in a crash of limbs as a redhaired missile dove at him. He almost swore and struck out at the person, until wide black and red eyes met his silver grey ones. And then anger took him over as he saw her. He brought his wand up, one arm protectively cradling the girl and yelled out a hex. "Impedimentia!" Peeves froze and Draco slowly got up, holding the red haired girl to his side.
She growled at the frozen and shocked poltergeist, baring her teeth. "Kill you! Yarp!" She was small and lithe, hair spilling back from her forehead in an elegant widow's peak. Her hair shone and shifted in the candlelight like flames itself, untamed tendrils clung to her face and the whole liberally streaked with mud, leaves, brambles and blood. She looked like a wild, untamed spirit caught for merely a moment in the cloistered stone walls of Hogwarts. She looked like she didn't belong anywhere with walls, anywhere that people lived and loved and worked. Somewhere far distant where the rustle of leaves was the loudest sound, pierced occasionally by the dying scream of a rabbit. The twitter of birdsong and the sound of the wind through the trees. Not here. She swayed on her feet, teeth bared and eyes gleaming as she lifted her head in wordless defiance of them all.
"Vulpe, what the hell." Draco looked around at his wide-eyed peers. "Oh, do close your mouths. You'd think you'd never seen a naked woman before. Do grow up." Vulpe whined and he stroked her hair. "Not you, pet." She exhaled noisily in a mix of contentment and relief, then pushed her face into his chest, almost purring with happiness. Small darts of her tongue tasted his collarbone where it showed above the curve of his school shirt. He held her off from him for a moment and his eyes paled to icy slits of rage as he saw the wounds on her body. "Come, Vulpe." She twisted her head and looked at him carefully, before sighing and shifting downwards to her fox form. He picked her up and walked quickly to the infirmary, leaving Peeves floating in the hallway like a child's ballon and the rising tide of whispers swirling.
Vulpe pushed her head inside his shirt, and nipped lightly at his skin. He smiled slightly and caressed her intelligent pointed head. It would be.if not well, at least alright. Black tipped brush swept along the angle of his strong arm and she whined again, small black-stockinged paws pressing against him. He walked into the infirmary, knowing but not caring that students from all four houses were staring after him.
"You're being terribly untidy, Vulpe," he murmured to her. She gave him a look of reproach. "Bleeding all over the place like that." She snorted through her nose, and then bit down sharply on his wrist. "I think I deserved that." he chuckled slightly. She gave the wounded area a lick to seal the torn skin. A momentary sparkle of red and the teethmarks disappeared. He tapped her nose with a finger, reprimanding her and her eyes crossed to look at it, before an agile pink tongue licked it too. "You are the most unmanageable female I have ever had the misfortune to encounter. You manage to irritate me more then that mudblood, Granger." She bit down hard on his finger. "And we all know your opinion of me calling people that name. You did not have to reinforce it with your teeth." Her bark showed her low opinion of that statement. "Well, you would be right. You actually did." Her mouth fell open in a silent laugh. "Vixen," he said with true fondness.
"Mr Malfoy, and what brings you to the infirmary?" Madame Pomfrey bustled up and Draco kept walking to a spare bed.
"Be human, Vulpe." He placed her on the spotless white sheets and the fox looked at him with fear. "I will stay here, and I will watch you as you have watched me so many times. Be human." A shiver of trepidation rustled her tawny red fur and then she changed. Her coiled whipthin body shivered into humanity with a sigh. "Who did this?" He stroked the curve of her back, fingers slowly tracing the lines of blood.
"Can't tell you, little dragon mine. Can nevereverver tell you some things." Vulpe yawned. "Lost so dark, the blood wells up. Knives to glint and flame to burn." Suddenly he grasped her jaw and forced her mouth open, confirming what he thought he had seen. Holes where sharply pointed canines should have dropped in deadly gleaming curves. The bastards had taken her fangs. Red and black eyes watched him with amusement as he turned and punched the wall with a curse bit back behind his lips. "Pain like butterflies. So pretty." She arched her back, stretching and some of the scabbed over wounds broke open, sprinkling the sheets with red droplets. Pomfrey gasped in horror, the first sound the woman had made since Vulpe had taken on her human form. "Little dragon do not fret for what you cannot change, yarp." She barked once, then Snape came in with a rustle of his black robes. "Severus severe and sombre, came to see the foxling bite?" He frowned at her and then went to the side of the bed.
"Who did this, Vulpe?"
"I'll give to you the answer the Dark Lord gave me. Do not ask for what you cannot stand, darling boy." She reached up and patted his cheek comfortingly. "Voldemort crossed me one too many times of late, I have been most vexed. Do you know his snake tasted just like chicken?" She laughed in barking gasps.
"You ate his pet snake?" Draco sat down on the bed next to her and howled with laughter. Vulpe crawled into his lap and smiled up at him as his fingers started to comb through her hair.
"I did. She swore and spat and hissed, but I won." She caught up his hand and studied it intently. "I won, Reynard take it, I did. Damn snake hissing and spitting venom and eating my mice thank you very much. I crawled down her throat and ripped her apart from the inside." She sucked on one of his fingers thoughtfully, before licking his palm. "Been so long, dragon. When can we go hunting again? Forgotten what you taste like." Snape coughed. Her eyes flicked upwards. "Oh, don't expect me to act human. Because I'm not and I refuse to act like it. And I like the way my dragon tastes."
"Yes, Vulpe, we know you're not human and no one would dare accuse you of being so." Snape looked down his nose at her and she smiled back with a gleam of amusement in her eyes.
"Bite, snicker, snap oh dark and brooding one. Would it kill you to wash your hair once or twice a year? Do you melt in water? I'm pretty sure you can't have forgotten the time I upended a bucket of water over your head back in your third year at this godsdamned heap of stone and spells." Draco snorted back laughter even as he started to bandage her wounds with a practiced hand. Snape's eyebrows went upwards. "I really do abhor this place. Like cats."
"And we do know how you despise and loathe the wretched bundles of fur and claws."
"Couldn't forget them."
"Stupid whiny useless bootlickers. Yarp!"
"Quite." Draco rolled her onto her stomach and she kicked out at him lazily. Pomfrey watched them with a type of horror. "Never did like dogs. They're so incredibly useless when it comes to magic."
"And who wants a dog when they can have a fox?"
"Indeed." Snape coughed again, and a pair of gray eyes and a pair of black on red swung to look at him.
"If Vulpe is staying.here, in human form for an extended length of time, it might prove advisable if she had some clothing." Vulpe blew him a kiss and he sent her a withering glare. "Who helped you out? I know you could not escape the bonds by yourself." Vulpe gazed at him inscrutably, weighing up her options.
"A vampire. Dark and hurting with hair like the stars of the night he walks in and tired, so tired." Her voice took on a singsong lilt. "Beloved sin come again with the sweet darkness rolling in like storms over the tops of the trees." She got up and swayed slowly, head upturned and eyes closed. "Darkness pressing in like a lover's caress and the sting of the ice cuts to the bone when the lover is gone. Blood spilling on innocent hands to corruption and the lightning strikes where it will. Fire blazing three and three and one, all with their part to play." Her voice rang upwards. "Delirium singing hand to heart and the dragon takes wing on the light of a virgin's prayer. Fire swept close like butterflies in autumn." Flames crackled along her skin. "The burning is coming and we are not ready. The earth weeps for her children of midnight and magic will flee if balance is not righted." She looked at the door as Dumbledore came in and yipped with laughter. "Child of light, turn your head and hide your eyes. The Darkness coming is worse then this pitiful fool you have neglected to kill. You have a problem with killing him for some reason. Any animal could tell you that you don't let a snake keep its head." She twisted back to Draco and swayed over to him, before falling forwards.
"Vulpe, goddamn it!" He caught her awkwardly and she cooed at him, wrapping one of her legs around his. "I thought we did settle this."
"Nevereverver, dragon mine." She licked the side of his face. "You're mine before you were the snake's. fire in your heart and soul, and you'll nevereverver get me out." She bit down on his ear, purring at the taste of blood. "I'm tired and I hurt and I'm oh so sick of being stuck like this." Draco held her then as she started to sob. "I want to go home!" She wailed, voice getting higher and higher as it approached a scream of heartsick agony.
"Vulpe! Quiet!" She reacted to his tone and slithered down to the floor, pressing her face to the ground and stilling her whimpers. He knelt down beside her and lifted her into his arms. "Well. Professor Snape if you would be so kind as to explain to Headmaster Dumbledore what is going on here." He lifted an eyebrow and Snape stared back with a blank face. "What I find amazing is that she managed to get through the Forbidden Forest stinking of blood like she did."
"Vulpe has always shown an amazing aptitude for tenacious cleverness in getting her own way," Snape said dryly. "Well, Albus, I suppose you would be needing some type of explaination." Draco cradled the crying Vulpe to his chest where she soon changed to her fox form. "Mr Malfoy, please take Vulpe to the Slytherin Dormitories. While I am aware that it is not customary school practice to have members of the opposite sex in the dormitories, I hope I can trust you, Draco."
"Of course, Professor." Draco nodded as he stood. Vulpe leapt from his arms to land on the floor in a scitter of claws. They set off together, fox limping at the heels of the white haired boy who continued to talk to her in quiet tones.
"Shall we retire to my office, Severus?"