It has been six months, three weeks, and four days since Draco Malfoy learned he was Veela and he had yet to find his mate. The 21-year-old Healer had scoured both St. Mungo's and the Ministry since learning of his affliction, but he had little success. On the odd weekend he would catch a whiff of her at the Ministry, but all scent trails would lead to a dead end either at a fireplace or at an apparition point.
His father was growing impatient with him and he understood his father's ire. Finding and bonding with his mate would not only ensure the continuance of the Malfoy line (something his father found of great importance), but also ensure that he would live past his 22nd birthday.
"Are you even trying to find her?" his father had once asked him in exasperation.
"Of course, I am, Father!" he had replied. "I do want to continue living, you know."
"If you had truly attempted to find her, you would have found her by now," his father had answered and then stormed off out of the study.
Draco did not know what else he could do. All his spare time was already spent looking for her—the elusive woman whose scent he only occasionally happens upon, and his friends were hardly any help.
"Draco, mate, are you sure you haven't been hallucinating?" Blaise had once asked.
"I think he only thinks he smells her," Theo had added. "His Veela side's only giving him a clue about her. He hasn't really smelled her."
"I think the stress of looking for her has gotten to you, Drake," Pansy had declared.
But Draco knew the truth. He hadn't been hallucinating, it was not merely a clue from his Veela, and it certainly wasn't the result of stress. So he had tried sniffing around the Ministry to see where the scent is strongest, but he had been sent out, and when he had protested, they had threatened to lock him up in the Janus Thickey Ward of St. Mungo's. He hadn't attempted such audaciousness again, but in that one instance he had learned that the faint scent was concentrated in the Auror Offices, or rather, the waiting area of the Auror Offices, as only Aurors and Officials on business were allowed in the Offices themselves. That told him his elusive Mate often visited an Auror, and the thought sickened him.
The whole day after that he spent in bed moaning, and his mother had berated him for it, telling him that if he wanted to live, he had to convince his Mate to accept him, even if she were already in a romantic relationship.
"Stop moping!" she had exclaimed. "I cannot believe my son has turned out to be so spineless!"
"But mother!" he had said. "I don't want to force her."
"And you won't. You'll just have to make her see you are much better suited to her than her current beau is to her."
So Draco had cultivated friendships with the Aurors, even Potter and Weasley, but none of them carried even a whiff of his Mate—not anymore, at least, and not again for a long while. And that told him that his Mate was not romantically involved with any of them, that they were merely friends—it was a thought that heartened him until he realized that meant he was hardly any closer to finding out her identity since she did not meet any of the Aurors often.
As the months went on, Draco grew more and more restless and more and more disheartened. His parents, on the other hand, doubled their efforts in helping him find his Mate. His mother had thrown twice as many charity balls as she normally would have in a period of six months and Draco had been forced to attend all of them and endure the attentions of females other than his Mate.
December found Draco moping in the library of the Manor. He was close to giving up. He had developed insomnia from the many nights he had tossed and turned longing for his Mate; he could not even take a proper nap during the day due to his job, and many had noted the decline of his health. He had brushed aside any inquiry regarding his well-being and downplayed its seriousness to his boss. He knew there was no cure, and he would only steadily get worse until he dies if his Mate wasn't found.
"Maybe I am not meant to find her," he remarked to his father. His father only whacked him on the side of the head, told him to get his act together, and stormed off.
Lucius Malfoy had only ever wanted the best for his son, and he had always striven to give him that, but he had not always succeeded and it seemed to him that he just might fail him in this most crucial way. He compiled lists of names of eligible pure-blood witches his age, and then lists of those who weren't his age, and then given the lists to his wife Narcissa to invite to her balls, but none of them had caught the attention of his Veela of a son.
He had then expanded the search to pure-blood witches on the continent and even to witches across the pond; still none of them were his son's Mate. He would have invited even those from Asia and Africa, but Narcissa had made him see reason, reminding him that Veela Mates usually come from the same country and that it was very likely their son had already encountered the witch—he had detected her scent at the Ministry, after all.
It was only then that Lucius had conceded and had begrudgingly accepted that perhaps his son's Mate was not a pure-blood. So he had compiled lists of half-bloods in Great Britain and then lists of Muggle-borns to invite, but neither list produced results.
"This is horrible, Cissy!" he cried. "Our son is destined to marry a Muggle!"
He was truly distressed, so Narcissa had held back her laugh and reminded him that the woman had been to the Ministry, which meant that she was magical, but that had only caused to further disturb him and he continued to cry.
"That's even worse!" he sniffed. "A magical living among Muggles! Oh, Cissy, what are we going to do?"
"Lucius, dear," Narcissa said in an attempt to placate her husband. "You do realize that not all the witches were able to attend my balls, don't you?"
"So she isn't interested?" her husband wailed.
"No, no, I'm sure she is, but she must be busy," she replied
"Busy?" he asked. "Why would she be busy?"
"Well, not all the witches are well-off," she started. "Most of the half-bloods and Muggle-borns have to work, you know."
Her husband only wailed and repeated to himself, "It's the end of the Malfoys! We'll no longer be pure-blood."
Draco Malfoy heard his fathers hysterics and sighed loudly. Ever since he could remember, his father would cry to his mother about the most trivial of things and she would soothe and placate him, then he would go out in public and start bossing people around. It's a wonder he had appeared intimidating to anyone at all.
He had wanted to talk to his father about finding his Veela Mate again, but he decided he did not want to deal with his hysterical Veela of a father. He did not understand how his mother could put up with him. He supposed that it was no wonder that she was his father's Mate. He could not imagine anyone else even trying to put up with his father when he became hysterical.
Draco made his way to the fields, near the forest, past the gardens to cool off and to think. He often went there when he wanted to be alone. His parents could easily call for him if he stayed at the Manor and the house-elves would easily find him there, but out on the fields in his Animagus form, no one would disturb him.
He ran on his two feet, then galloped on four hooves. He trotted past the Malfoy Property Boundary Line and to the vast fields no one had lain any claim to. He broke to a canter on the hills and trotted to a lake beside the woods and lapped up the water that never froze during winter.
A whinnying sound caught his attention. He turned and cautiously made his way toward the sound. A bay mare was caught in the barbed wire fence of a grouchy rancher. Draco slowly approached the mare neighing reassurances and transformed back into a human. He took out his wand and cut the wire with it then he led the mare to the lake and healed her wounds.
"There. That will have to do," he said as he patched up the last of her cuts. "I'm a Healer of humans not of animals."
Then he transfigured a rock into a curry comb and started brushing her coat. "You're a pretty thing, aintcha?" he murmured.
"You don't look like you belong to that nasty rancher," he continued, as he brushed her coat with a dandy brush. "I pity the cattle on his ranch."
He put down the dandy brush and turned it into a mane comb. "What were you doing in his field? Did you get stuck as he chased you off?"
"He's a mean one," he said as he brushed her tail. "Once I wandered into his field and he brought out a pitchfork to throw at me."
The mare neighed. He eyed the mare, who eyed him back and seemed to understand what he was saying. "It's true," Draco continued. "The next time I was near his field—near it, mind you, I wasn't even on it—I saw him watching me while holding a shot gun."
The mare shivered, and Draco put down the comb and turned it back into a rock. "Hey, now! I just brushed your mane. Don't go messing it up!" he said with a grin.
The mare stood up as if to bid her leave, and Draco stepped back and transformed back into a horse. "Where are you going?" he asked. "Do you want to go for a run?"
And so they did. He showed her all her favorite places in the area, and when they stopped for a rest, they touched noses as horses do. The mare smelled of spring time, though it was winter; she was as swift as an arrow and as light as a feather, and Draco was entranced. Wings sprouted on his back.
Startled, the mare fled with a fearful neigh. Draco tried to follow, but the nasty rancher was looking at him curiously, holding a shot gun, and the mare seemed not at all afraid of the grouch. She ran past him and he did not seem to notice.
Draco sighed and turned back. He knew that his wings could only mean one thing—he had found his Mate and his Mate was the mare. He wondered how his father would take the news.
Lucius Malfoy was ecstatic when he saw Draco coming back from his walk with wings on his back and he rushed to greet him as he entered the Manor.
"Draco, my lad," he said excitedly. "I see you've found her! Who is she?"
Draco stared at his father with a forlorn expression and shrugged and headed to his room. His father would not leave him without an answer and followed him up the steps.
"Father, please," he said brashly. "I—I'm not ready."
Draco turned away again. "I promise I'll answer your questions later," he said and continued up to his room, careful not to knock anything over with his wings along the way.
Lucius was perplexed, but let his son be, confident that he would be fine by supper time. Narcissa, however, was not so sure; she knew that her son was more like his father than he ever cared to admit. Whatever it was that was bothering him would continue to bother him until someone knocked some sense into him.
Supper was a quiet affair, but it was by no means peaceful. Lucius was giddy and could hardly sit still. Draco was morose and continuously avoided his father's eyes. Narcissa was bemused by the demeanor of her husband and her son and dominated the reserved conversation with remarks that would set her companions on edge.
"Come now, Draco," Lucius finally said. "Your mother and I are very excited to here about this new development. Whom did you encounter this afternoon that made your Veela wings erupt?"
Draco's morose demeanor became cantankerous. "I don't want to talk about it, Father," he snapped. The smile on his father's face dropped.
"You will address me with respect, Draco," commanded Lucius. "You have promised to answer my questions, and you will keep your promise."
"I'm sorry, Father," he replied. Then sullenly, he said, "I don't know her. I don't know her name."
Lucius relaxed. "You could have simply said so," he said gently. "That's nothing to be ashamed of. I was slightly worried you didn't like her, but that's not possible. Of course, you would like her—"
"We can work on her accepting you," Lucius said. "Do you remember what she looks like? Perhaps I can help you identify her. She lives around here, doesn't she? I think the Perenelles have a winter retreat nearby—"
"Father," Draco interrupted. "She's a horse."
His father frowned and placed his fork down beside his plate. "That's not a nice thing to say about your Mate."
"I'm serious, Father," said Draco. "I was out on the fields when I met her. She's a horse."
Lucius avoided him for days after that.
Narcissa Malfoy had a hunch about who Draco's Mate might be and an inkling why she had not shown up at any Malfoy ball in the last few months. Draco's statement at supper three days ago had thrown her off, but it had conclusively made sense—after all, it was only proper that his Mate's Animagus form was also a horse.
"Silly boys," she thought as she made her way to the study where her husband was once again throwing a fit about the 'ultimate disgrace' of the Malfoys. "When will they realize that Draco's Mate isn't an animal? And when has anyone ever brought a horse into the Ministry?"
Draco was moping in his room when Blaise found him an hour before the annual Malfoy Winter Ball. He had been avoiding everyone since he had met the mare a week ago. He suspected his father was, too, since he had not been requested to attend any family meal since, and his mother who was usually much nosier than his father had been giving him space.
"Draco," said Blaise as he entered the bedroom. "I heard you've found your Mate."
Draco grunted and Blaise began poking through his friend's things. "Is she going to be here tonight?"
Draco shrugged. Blaise moved to the bookcase and began randomly taking out books, reading the synopsis, and dropping the uninteresting books on the floor. "Why has your father been going on about bestiality?"
"Merlin! Blaise, will you give it a rest?" Draco exclaimed as he stood and approached his friend. "And stop messing about my stuff!"
Draco grabbed the books and started straightening up the shelves. Blaise shrugged and laid down on the bed, making snow angels and rumpling the sheets. "I figured the best way to get you to talk is to aggravate you first," he said.
Draco growled at him.
"Are you actually growling at me? I thought your Animagus was a horse!" Blaise said in mock consternation.
"Shut it, Zabini," said Draco as he finished organizing his things. "What are you doing here?"
"I just came to check on you," he answered and then grinned cheekily. "It must have been hard to learn that you're so attached to your animal form that your Mate is also one. I heard you've been neighing and protesting the union."
Draco pushed him off the bed. Blaise laughed. "Neigh the horse sound and nay as in no. Get it?"
Draco whacked him on the head.
"Oh, come off it! It was just a joke," he said, but Draco did not appear amused. "Look," he continued. "Have you given thought to what you had smelled at the Ministry before?"
"What's that got to do with anything?"
"Your Mate, Draco."
"I already know who she is—what happened in the Ministry was just a fluke, perhaps I really was hallucinating or perhaps it was a only a clue. Besides, my wings didn't pop up."
"Even you're not that daft. Didn't it ever occur to you that they didn't pop up because she was not around you at the time?"
"Oh, come on!" Blaise said annoyed. "Look, whatever, man. Think what you want. You're so bloody stubborn. Let's just get you ready for the ball."
"I'm not going," Draco said petulantly.
"Well, you've got no choice," replied Blaise. "Your mother called me here to try to talk some sense to you and make sure you attend since you've been moping around. If you don't want to see sense—that's your call, but please go to the ball."
"You know something," Draco accused, but Blaise merely shrugged.
It took some more heckling before Draco acquiesced to go to the ball, which was held in the ballroom of the Manor. By the time he and Blaise arrived, they were late. Narcissa greeted them by the door and she did not look pleased.
"Draco, have I taught you nothing?" she asked. "Surely you know that it is improper for the host to be late for the ball."
"Aren't you the hostess, Mother?"
"As my son, you are required to attend and see this through till the end," she replied. "Besides, I was hoping to announce your engagement this evening."
"Engagement? But Mother—"
Narcissa raised her hand, palm facing front, and he stopped talking. "None of that," she said. "Now go greet the guests."
Draco was having a horrid time at the ball. His mother was already planning his engagement—to whom he did not know, but he was certain the horse he met last week wasn't invited. Blaise had abandoned him to play host to his mother's ball and had gone to the table where their school friends had congregated. He had hoped that he would not have to attend another of his mother's balls since he had found this Mate, but regrettably, that was not the case, so he endured the fawning of the unattached females, the stiff conversation with the males, and the tediously polite conversation with his elders.
His mother was looking at him approvingly from the other end of the room with his father beside her. It seemed he was no longer sulking about the last supper they had together and he wondered what his mother could have told him to calm him down.
It was an hour after he had gone down to the ballroom when he breathed it in—that sweet smell of spring. His wings were on his back and his senses were tingling, as he spun trying to locate where the smell was coming from. There by the doors talking to his mother was the most ethereal female he had ever encountered. She was smiling, and she looked radiant. Her brown locks had been piled up on her head and she had on a flowing floor-length gown of silver—classic, tasteful, elegant.
Draco rushed to her side and hugged her hard, inhaling that sweet scent only she had. Then he pulled her out the ballroom with him, deaf to her protests of wanting to stay at the ball. They went out to the gardens then he carried her in his arms and flew them to the roof of the Manor. She shrieked and hugged him tight, and he purred.
"Draco Malfoy!" she shrieked. "Put me down!"
He complied and sat her on the roof with his arms still around her and his wings shielding them from the cold. It was only then that he got a good look at her face.
"Granger?" he asked. "What are you doing here?"
"You dragged me here, you idiot!" she replied. "What were you thinking dragging me away from the ball like that?"
He stared at her unblinkingly. Then a grin formed on his face and he hugged her again. "It's you!" he cried. "I can't believe it's you! I'm so glad it's you!"
"Yes, it's me," she replied. She placed a hand on his chest to calm him.
"You weren't here before and Mother invited everyone. Then last week—I don't want to think about last week, but am I ever so glad it's you!" he rambled on.
"Shh! Yes, it's me," she said in an attempt to calm him.
Only then did he seem to notice his wings. "Hey! My wings are out."
She laughed. "Yes, they're out," she said. "Don't you dare put them back in; they're quite warm, and it's freezing out here."
"Why, Miss Granger!" he said in mock dismay. "It appears you wish to take advantage of me and my wings."
She giggled. "Yes, I do," she replied. "And if you knew what's best for you, you would not dare retract them."
He grinned then asked solemnly, "May I kiss you, Miss Granger?"
"Now, Mr. Malfoy, which of us is trying to take advantage of the other?" she quipped.
"It is only fair you pay for the use of my wings," he said gravely. "I demand a kiss in payment."
She laughed and leaned up and their lips touched and Draco thought he could kiss her forever and never tire of it. He tasted strawberries and raspberries and blueberries and he thought he had never tasted anything so sweet and never would again. When they broke apart, he rested his forehead against hers and enjoyed their proximity.
"Why have I not seen you before tonight?" he asked.
"I work at Hogwarts. I'm the Charms Professor," she replied. "And you have seen me before tonight."
He regarded her with a curious gaze and she answered his unspoken question. "Last week," she said. "Out on the fields."
Realization dawned on him, but she continued talking. "That was also when I saw your wings the first time."
"That was you?"
She grinned and nodded. "Why did you run?" he asked.
"Anyone would be freaked out," she said. "And that grouch of a rancher is my uncle."
He gaped at her disbelievingly. "That can't be!"
"It's true and you bad-mouthed him in front of me," she said cheekily. He groaned.
"I'm not taking back what I said. He's mean."
She laughed. "I will concede that point," she said. "He can be mean."
"Can be?" he scoffed. "You mean he is. I can't believe he'd tried to chase his niece off his field."
"In his defense," she replied hotly, "he has always been protective of his ranch and he does not know about my magical ability."
He pinched her cheek. "You made me believe I was destined for a horse."
"It's not funny."
"It is!" she giggled. "Your mother filled me in on your Mate hunting. How could you believe that when you've caught a whiff of me at the Ministry."
"Blaise had convinced me I had been hallucinating," he muttered. "What were you doing at the Ministry anyway?"
"Visiting my friends, of course."
"Ah, Potter and Weasley."
"They told me you've become friends."
"We have," he said. "That was after I caught your scent in their waiting area."
He caressed her cheek and leaned down to take in her scent again. "Are you okay with this?" he asked. "Are you alright with me being a Veela?"
She reached up to touch his face. "I am," she said. "I went back, you know."
She grabbed his face with her hands and he looked her in the eyes. "I went back to the lake every day after that. You weren't there."
"I was hiding. I thought my mate was a horse."
"I know that now, but back then I wondered why you hadn't deigned to show up again," she said. "Your mother wrote me three months ago telling me she thought I was your Mate, but I did not believe her till I saw your wings. And then I freaked out."
He chuckled. "My mother was always remarkably sharp."
When Draco showed up back at the ball with Hermione's arm in his to formally presented her to his parents, his mother looked at his father with a silent challenge in her eyes. His father crossed his arms and pouted and appeared as petulant as he could while maintaining his dignity in public. Finally, he said, "At least she's not an animal."