The Last Human Child
Disclaimer: Not mine
The Stolen Child – William Butler Yeats
Warning: Child abuse, unspecified
My beta is currently working on another chapter of mine, so I don't want to overwhelm her. Thus, this may have mistakes. Actually, scratch that, it definitely will. I tried my best.
Summary: Seven years old, Harry hears and answers to the call of the Fey. Come away, o human child, to the waters and the wild, with a faery hand in hand, for the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.
Note: Radha, pronounced /Row-ah/
The Last Human Child
He hadn't meant to track mud into his Aunt Petunia's pristine kitchen, just like he hadn't meant to spend so much time in the garden after he had finished trimming the hedges and the begonias. But the mulch had felt so warm and welcoming under his fingers on that hot, mid-June noon. The earth under his nails and between his toes had been bliss, like a long, lazy, drawn out stretch that reawakens your bones, snapping everything back into place after a particularly satisfying nap. Added to the sweet, intoxicating scent of the leaves and flowers around him, before Harry had known what had happened he had fallen asleep underneath the bushes.
It had been perfectly peaceful for a timeless moment until Aunt Petunia's shrill voice shattered the hazy summer calm and demanded that Harry come inside at once and help her with supper. Abruptly and rudely woken from his blissful rest, Harry had dazedly hurried to her side on instinct alone, knowing from experience that he wouldn't like the consequences if he weren't in the kitchen within the next second.
Still in a sleepy stupor and barely even looking where he was going, he hadn't even realised that he was covered in dirt and debris from head to toe until he stepped onto her white linoleum floors and heard Aunt Petunia's piercing shriek of 'dirt', 'filth', and 'stupid freaks' shooing him forcibly back again. It was only when he was standing outside, ducking from the frying pan being thrown his way that he even realised what he had done. There were two things Aunt Petunia hated above all else, and that was dirt and Harry.
Paling rapidly at the sound of his Uncle's stampeding bulk making its way from the living room, where he had been sitting watching the nightly news on the telly, and towards the kitchen, Harry absently wondered if he would ever be let out of his cupboard again.
Much later that night, thoroughly shaken, cowering, and feeling the familiar ache of hunger gnawing at his insides, Harry lay on the floor, curled up in a ball, trying to become as small as possible and stuff himself into the far corner of his cupboard under the stairs. His shoulder pushed painfully against the metal edge of his cot and he was sure a bruise was forming as he sat, but he didn't dare move. The smallest sound could wake his uncle and that would send him pounding back down the stairs to continue what had already been an hour-long punishment for what he had called Harry's blatant insubordination of basic, reasonable household rules.
Harry hugged himself tighter than he previously thought possible and closed his eyes, dreaming of what it had felt like hours ago, resting under the blooming flower bushes, surrounded by only dirt and fresh air. He didn't know why, but it had comforted him so and oddly enough, he saw it as something the Dursleys couldn't take from him.
The rest of the night and into the morning passed in tense silence and small moments of rest before light began to shine through the slits at the top of the cupboard door again.
When he was finally let out the next morning to help with breakfast, Harry walked around on tiptoes until his aunt finally ordered him to go to the park with Dudley, who had said he 'needed Harry' for a game that called for five people. But Harry knew that the only ones who would be having any fun in this game would be Dudley and his friends, not Harry.
He wished he had some friends of his own, but everyone knew by now to stay well away from Dudley's weird cousin with the messy hair, freakish green eyes, and baggy clothes. Stay away or face Dudley's gang. And no kid was dumb enough to take on Dudley and his group of terrors just for Harry's sake. Harry couldn't really blame them either. If he could help it, he would stay away from Dudley and his friends at all costs too. Living with the class bully, though, certainly did not earn him any points.
The walk to the park, a few blocks away, was fairly uneventful by Harry's standards. Uncle Vernon walked behind them a ways, and Dudley, when he was sure his father wasn't looking, kicked rocks at Harry – usually missing – tripped Harry up by walking too close to him, while whispered threats in his ear of the 'fun' they were soon going to have, and pushed him down on the ground without even trying to make it look like an accident.
Uncle Vernon would just laugh and tell Dudley how he used to play rough with his friends when he was Dudley's age. That's my boy! Show him your strength! And then he would yell at Harry, calling him a pansy and telling him that he was the type of person that people would walk over all his life.
Harry didn't really understand why people would want to walk over him all the time, even Dudley didn't walk on Harry when he hurt him, but he knew from the tone his uncle used that no matter what he was really talking about, it wasn't a good thing. And it was no compliment to Harry either. It would be useless asking though, one rule he had learnt well in the Dursley household was 'don't ask questions'.
Once they had gotten to the park, Dudley spotted his friends and Uncle Vernon left to go find a bench under some shade, which meant that Harry was left alone for the moment to hide from Dudley and his friends for as long as he could.
Harry chanced a glance around the park for somewhere safe. The swing sets were too out in the open, as was the climbing frame. Uncle Vernon was sitting with some of the other distracted parents by the fence, and on the other side of the park was a line of trees that bathed the back of the playing field in shadow. Dudley and his friends were currently making their way to the slide, which was for smaller children; they would all be too big for it. Not that that would stop them from breaking yet another thing that wasn't theirs.
Looking to his left, to his right, and finding himself still, for all intents and purposes, invisible to all present, Harry took a chance and ran as swiftly as his feet would carry him to the shady grouping of trees ahead. Dudley was afraid of the dark, so his cousin wouldn't be coming after him any time soon. If Harry could only find a good hiding spot for a while, he could…
The trees were a cool relief from the beating sun overhead. Harry wiped his palms against his oversized jeans that had once belonged to Dudley a few years ago and tilted his head back to look at the crisscrossing leaves overhead and the patterns they made against the blue, cloudless sky.
His senses were immediately assaulted with a sweet, musky smell that he would venture to say from looking around his surroundings came from the wild roses growing in the patches of sunlight between the gaps in the trees. All else was bathed in shadow and Harry found himself jumping at the slightest hint of movement and noise around him. Though he wasn't afraid of the dark there was something about this forest that put him on alert. He wasn't entirely sure he was supposed to be here, but anything was better than being out there in Dudley's line of vision.
Deciding to ignore the odd prickling in the back of his neck for the moment, Harry kept walking, feeling a renewed bound in his steps, urging him onward. He didn't want to go back, he wanted to explore, wanted to stay beneath the shady grove, which was infinitely better than anything he'd found in his aunt's gardens.
The world took on a different, wilder look in this one little pocket of nature that hadn't yet been overrun with suburban houses, motorways, and shopping centres. This was untouched and laid open before him like the pages of his favourite books. So like any curious child, Harry forged ahead and began to wander around the little woodland haven, making his way among the wildflowers, ferns, and briers, though still being wary of where he stepped.
Twigs snapped and pine needles crackled beneath his feet. Harry twined his fingers around a passing branch and laughed gaily as the leaves tickled his fingers in a parody of a handshake. Amusing himself all the while, Harry walked further and further into the woods, beyond the point he had been sure he would have encountered a chain-link fence marking the property for some company or factory, or even someone's back garden or the road. But instead the trees went deeper and deeper, and seemed to be getting darker and darker.
All sounds from the playground had ceased long ago, and it was only when he had briefly paused in his movement and merrymaking that a sound caught his ears, forcing him to halt in his play abruptly and freeze where he stood, warily taking in his surroundings.
Something was different. A niggling thought in the back of his mind told him that he was not in the same forest anymore. How that was possible he didn't know, but there was no mistaking the sudden shimmer in the surrounding air, nor the lack of petrol fumes, distinct odour of tar under the hot sun, and cessation of all sounds of suburbia on a hot summer day. He suddenly felt very much alone.
And then he heard it again.
He was sure of it this time, for on the wind, in the trees, from the very ground he heard a deep, sweet, melodic rhythm. Or maybe it was humming. He couldn't be sure. But nonetheless, an enchanting music had begun to steal through the forest like nothing Harry had ever heard before. And he stood for a moment, captivated, not wanting to move but to just listen and enjoy. His thoughts felt a little hazy, but it didn't matter; all that mattered was the music.
Then suddenly, the wind picked up and blew playfully through the leaves. It ruffled his hair and coaxed his head to turn to the side, where he saw a flash of colour, bright blue and maybe yellow. Too big to be a butterfly. Perhaps a bird of some sort? He turned his head again as he heard a rustling in a bush to his left. And again he caught sight of a flicker of shimmering colour dancing out of sight as fast as a hummingbird's wings. And then it was gone.
The strange apparitions seemed to shake him from his contented daze for a moment, and Harry came to, blinking. The mesmerising music momentarily lost its hold and the sinking, familiar claws of fear crept up to take hold of Harry, gripping him tighter and tighter in their grasp. It dawned on him that not only was he alone, but he had walked a very long way now for several hours, at least – though his sense of time was certainly skewed at best at this point– and by the time he got back to the Dursleys' –if he could even find his way – he would be in for a world of trouble.
The eerie prickling feeling of being followed increased tenfold as well, and no longer did Harry feel as safe and excited to be able to explore as he had only a minute ago. That thing he had just seen, whatever it was, was so close, it must have been following him. But it couldn't be Dudley, right? Was it possible that he had pushed past his fear of the dark to come follow Harry with his gang and try to frighten his cousin for trying to run away in the first place? Harry Hunting had always been good motivation for Dudley to do just about anything, it seemed.
But no, he quickly dismissed that thought as soon as it came. Dudley moved about like an elephant on roller skates, which was nothing to say of the noise the group of them made just walking down the street together. This, whatever was out there, was too quiet, too –
And the sweet, compelling notes of music were back, stronger this time, piercing the air with a sudden urgency. This time it truly did sound like someone singing.
Someone was here.
Harry gasped and held tightly to the breath held in his lungs like he thought if he squeezed tight enough he could maybe disappear into thin air. Perhaps then, whatever singing being that was in the forest with him wouldn't see him and know he was here.
Just as he finished that thought, the beautiful trill was followed by musical words, and then, just as before, Harry became blind and deaf to all but the magic in the air and the alluring voice on the wind. The voice that called him to follow, to follow and listen and let all other thoughts wash away.
Come away, O human child
to the waters and the wild
with a faery hand in hand
Come away to greener pastures
filled with wonderment and laughter,
out of time and fear and human pride
Be rid of your tears and burdens
for nature's yet yours to hold in
the palm of your sweet hand
Come follow us now, dear child
Harken to our alluring call
These mortals be fools to leave you
and let you wander here at all
They are ignorant and blind
we dare not leave you behind,
but wish to keep your innocence in hand
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand
Out of the shadows of the trees came a faery. A faery, just like in the books Harry had found at the library that the Dursleys didn't like him to read. A faery with shimmering wings made up of the dancing colours he had glimpsed, glowing skin, and beauty beyond anything Harry had ever seen before. She was walking towards Harry with a hand raised towards him, smiling invitingly.
"Come with me, dear child," she whispered softly before bringing her palm up to the underside of her chin and blowing a breath of air across her fingers, causing a shimmering dust mixed with bits of moss and small leaves to scatter in the breeze towards Harry, straight into his face, making him inhale reflexively.
The beautiful faery said something else next, but Harry could not hear anything as he started coughing uncontrollably. And then, against his will his eyes began to close heavily, his senses dulled, and his body slumped forward to the ground, but not before being caught by willowy, yet strong arms that hoisted him up into the air to nestle against a warm body.
And now we shall leave, my child,
to the waters and the wild
in the arms of a faery fair;
Towards the Fey Court we shall fly
To come gather and then decide
the fate of one more child lost
But oh no, before we go
Is that a mark upon your soul?
Not your own, but cold and dark?
It will be cleansed at once, lest left to fester and rot
And with a swish of the faery's hand, a contorted, dark shadow rose from the lightning-shaped scar on the child's head. If one listened closely enough, they could hear a strangled scream rent the air as though heard from down the end a tunnel. And then it was quiet again and the child's entire body seemed to sigh in relief, sagging in the faery's arms.
Then with a clean and free soul that only a child can possess and choose to share willingly with those he wishes, the veil between the mortal and immortal realms was cut open and divided. From the mortal world stepped one faery and one human child, and into the immortal realm came out one faery and one fey child.
No more would Harry hear the yelling of his relatives, the jeering calls of his name; no more would he feel even the occasional force of an unkind hand, the cold of the hard floor without a blanket on a winter's night.
For with us he is going;
Solemn-eyed and unconscious he comes,
No longer human, this child,
Now drawn to the waters and the wild
With a faery hand in hand
From a world more full of weeping than he can understand
The earth and the world at large had turned over many times, witnessed many a new era, and seen and done as much good as bad since the last child had been brought forth from the mortal world. The humans had become more suspicious over the years, more cautious and wary. Though no longer did their fears and suspicions revolve around the supernatural or powers beyond their comprehension, but of each other. Little work was left for those faery-kind with the proclivity to cause trouble and sow discord.
Either way, parents seldom left their children unattended to wander through the wild greens alone anymore. And there was disturbingly less and less 'wild' left in the parts most populated by humans – desecrator who lay waste to Nature's bounties in selfish acts of cruelty and barbarism. Gone were the ways of old, the respect commanded, sacrifices given freely. Such insolence, such ill begotten arrogance and vanity!
Yet surprisingly, good things still came from the realm of humans. Innocent children not yet corrupted by the hateful, paltry purviews of men. Some grew up faster than others, some possessed greater penchants for the hubris of their antecessors, and some remained pure of heart and soul till death claimed them. Radha could tell that this small child she clutched in her arms belonged to the latter. It was certainly an odd twist of fate that brought him to her, so far from watchful human eyes.
Though most humans appeared more attentive of their children, controlling them on tighter leashes, stricter watches, and in smaller spaces that gave little room to run around and play, it was not the kind of sheltering the Fey approved of. Keeping their young from other's hands was not the same thing as caring for and cherishing their youth and innocence as Nature had decreed. It did however keep the handful of possibly wayward souls from the running recklessly into Fey territory and back into Nature's caress.
But this child had found a way to slip through the cracks. And from what Radha could see of his starved, pinched face, ill-fitting clothing that was obviously meant for a much bigger boy, and the terrifyingly light weight of him in her arms, he was not being cared for the way a child should be, prized as precious and beloved. What acts of wickedness this child had seen and been subjected to, she did not know.
This time there would be no call for a changeling to take the boy's place with the humans he named family, nor any explanation left by the magics of Nature to explain away his disappearance. The mortals could draw their own conclusions this time; it was highly doubtful any they could conceive would even draw breath at the truth.
Should she perhaps their fond pageant see? Lord, what fools these mortals be.
With a coltish grin, Radha, Head Collector of a long-disused order, sent up the beautiful, lilting words of the ancient tongue into the air and alerted the Court to their coming.
And past the faery ring;
Past halls of food and drink;
Past the forest dwellers who have come to see
The beautiful child
The sleeping child
The innocent child
Come home finally
News travelled fast in the Fey Realm, and its occupants travelled even faster. The Court had not been this full of all the races of the Fey since the last war of the wizards and the goblins, where the Sidhe Council had threatened to expel the goblins from Court if their continued warring with the humans risked further exposure of the Fey Realms. But this gathering was of a much more light-hearted and excited nature.
"The Collector has arrived!" A flurry of movement and a rise of voices up ahead signalled Harry and the faery's arrival.
The thick, close-growing trees suddenly opened up into a large clearing, about three acres across, made from a hollow in the ground; a natural concave that was currently filled to the brim and spilling over with representatives from most all the Fey races. There were faeries, pixies, and sprites, as well as naiads, Lares, the high Sidhe, phoukas, goblins, hobgoblins, satyrs, fauns, and imps, among many, many others, most no longer with names found in any human tongue.
"The Collector comes with arms full and heavy." The small imp that was announcing their arrival looked no older than the child in Radha's arms. She could easily be mistaken for a human child herself if not for the close-set eyes of a dazzling, bright blue no human could ever lay claim to, and the exceptionally small hands with slightly sharpened nails, all the better for pranking and trickery.
"Leucothoeh, clear a path for the child," Radha called to the herald, who promptly broke away from the crowd with a mirthful giggle, rushed to the Collector's side, and marched determinedly in front of the pair with her arms held wide theatrically before her. Slowly, beating back the swarming crowds, whom were all eagerly leaning forward, pressing up against one another to catch a glimpse of the child, the trio made their way to the centre of the hollow. At the heart of the hollow lay a smooth, stone altar set before two stark thrones of obsidian.
The moment Harry was laid down on the altar, an expectant hush fell over the assembly.
A child, a child
Bless Fate and Fee,
The quiet murmuring of a nearby brook and the musical whistling of the wind through the trees were the only sounds heard, for none present at council dared to even move let alone breath as they stared in captivated rapture at the child curled up on the dais. He was a sight they thought they'd never have the pleasure of seeing again.
Most Fey had been banned from entering human lands years ago, mainly to ensure the preservation of their kind. Recent increase in tragedies to the denizens of Tir Na Nog, largely due to tyrannical, vainglorious wizards rising unchecked in power in the mortal realm, and the loss of control of human faith and fear by the Fey made the human world a dangerous place to be for those belonging to the supernal stratum.
Magical and non-magical alike, humans were not to be trusted, but the magical ones especially seemed to have their own ideas of who held the most power in the world, myopically blinded by their own self-acclaimed privilege and pride. The non-magical, on the other hand, were just as dangerous in their own right, no longer holding the proper respect and fear for the supernatural – it was but a fanciful motif of entertainment for them now. And the loss of these boundaries was disconcerting for the Fey.
Quite rapidly, the rules that had once governed the world, set so snugly in stone, were changing, as alarmingly as though from rock to vapour. Nothing was safe anymore.
Too much was at stake; too much had already been lost. Unfortunately, these recent measures taken to preventing the disaster of the Fey peoples being ultimately exposed and degraded by mortal kind also inhibited them from continuing to pursue a common love and pastime; stealing human children.
But this child, oh this child had come to them.
The Collector bowed before the two obsidian thrones, which held Lady Aielia and Lord Ueriday, and then stepped to the side, announcing to all, "A child has heard and answered the Call. A child without a proper home has been brought to this court seeking shelter and love. I leave him in Your Hands, tread softly." With her part of the ritual done, Radha moved back and melded into the crowd.
A moment of silence passed as the gathered crowd stared captivated, watching the child's chest rise and fall easily in sleep. For the moment, Harry was blissfully unaware of the fact that he was currently receiving more attention from the entire Fey realm than any other had ever before for close to a millennia, following the Fey calendar.
The entire hollow held a collective breath as they examined the sleeping boy from head to toe, entranced at the way his small fingers curled against his cheek beneath his head, how his fringe draped messily and unevenly across his forehead, and his mouth moved silently every so often as though he was holding an imaginary conversation with someone in his dreams. And oh, what wondrous things must be filling his head as he slept! The dreams of the young, so carefree and sweet!
Finally, the Lord and Lady of the High Sidhe stood up from their thrones, and continued to let their gazes fall down upon the child, sighing in wonder at his auspicious arrival.
"A child," the Lady finally announced, raising her head regally to look at all those gathered and say her part of the ritual, "once mortal, now Fey, has been brought to Court. Who among us will gain the right to claim him as their own?"
And thus the invitation had been laid open for all to come forward and try to take the child as theirs. But with a fierce look in her eyes, Lady Aielia placed a hand softly atop the child's head in a silent, warning gesture that she would protect their charge from any of the Fey coming closer until a formal decision had been reached.
It was as the Lady was bending down to brush a lock of black hair from the child's forehead, her eyes immediately softening as she admired his sweet, youthful face relaxed in sleep, that Harry began to stir.
Torn from the scape of dreams
To look upon with new eyes
The lands of Tir Na Nog
Be welcome here, my child
Harry heard voices around him, felt a soft touch on his brow, and sensed comforting warmth surrounding him; however, the surface he was currently lying on was hard and cold. Harry wondered absently whether Dudley had already found him and finished playing with him, leaving him on the pavement, or maybe he'd dumped him on the seesaw after a thorough round of Harry Hunting.
But slowly his memories came trickling back to him and he remembered his surprisingly wonderful walk through the forest, the sweet, musical voice, and – and the faery!
Harry tensed. He couldn't recall much after looking into the magical creature's beautiful face; all he could say for certain was that it was a faery he had encountered. A real faery! Despite the Dursleys insistence that there was no such thing as magic, in his heart – a part of him he kept as guarded from his relatives as he could – he knew they were wrong. They just had to be. How could magic not exist? It had always been something that had been a part of him, how else could he explain all the weird things that happened to him at the oddest moments?
That hideous brown sweater, for one, with its horrid orange puffs on the front, which Aunt Petunia had tried to force him to wear; as though being forced to swim through Dudley's cast-offs each day wasn't enough. But right before their eyes it had started shrinking and shrinking rapidly, even as she had been wrestling it over his head, until it was almost the size of a pin. That had been one of his more successful experiences with magic.
Then there was that time with that large, fiery red bird appearing out of nowhere in his small cupboard one night after Harry had been on the receiving end of one of Dudley's more vicious beatings – all because Aunt Petunia had forgotten to buy him his favourite sweets at the store that morning. He, for Harry had instinctively known the bird to be male, had sung such a beautiful song that made Harry feel warm inside and out, not to mention sleepy. And when he had woken up the next morning, the bird having mysteriously disappeared just as it had came, all his cuts and bruises were healed, with him looking no worse for the wear than usual.
That bird had been magical, just like the faery. But where he had known the bird to be pure and good, Harry was not sure of the intentions of the faery, just that she was beautiful, her voice enchanting, and her power dangerous. But where did that leave Harry now?
He could smell the fresh air, musky like freshly dampened earth, and feel a warm breeze across the skin of his arms, but beyond the fact that he was outside, he wasn't sure where he was or who was with him.
Knowing from experience that keeping your eyes closed in the face of the unknown did nothing but make the fear and nervousness worse and his chest to feel tighter and tenser with each second passed, Harry took a steadying breath and opened his eyes.
The scene before him was one he could only describe in his dreams. Dreams, nightmares; they all seemed to blend into one and Harry wasn't sure whether to be terrified or just amazed. He was surrounded, swarmed, by creatures of every shape and size, and none of them human, that much was for sure. Beautiful and inspiring, grotesquely disfigured and terrifying, humanoid, animal-like, or something else from Nature entirely; all the creatures of legend had converged and somehow Harry had landed right amidst them.
And they were all staring at him.
It was hard to read the exact expressions on these beings' faces, seeing as many of their faces were constructed in ways that Harry had trouble identifying even where the mouth and eyes were. Most didn't have noses in the strictest sense, and ears seemed to be optional on several others, as well. The difficulty in that was that Harry had learnt that people's intentions made all the difference, no matter what mood, expression, or personality they presented at first.
As Harry was only seven years old, almost eight, these creatures could either be kind and caring or decide to hurt him terribly, and Harry would be powerless to stop them. And with all eyes turned on him, continuing to stare at him intensely, Harry knew that his presence had definitely not gone unnoticed in this absurdly foreign setting.
Suddenly, seeing that he was awake, all the creatures started speaking at once, chattering in all different tongues, pitches, ranges, and tones. He could barely distinguish one exclamation from another, and little of it made sense, just a deluge of noise assaulting his ears.
Were they shouting at him? Were they mad at him? Telling him to leave? Telling him what they were going to do to him, as Uncle Vernon sometimes liked to do or wished he could do to Harry? He never made good on any of his promises, but that never stopped him from making Harry squirm when he could.
But Harry was certain that whatever these creatures wanted to do with him, they would not hesitate to act out. He just didn't know what they wanted to do yet, they just kept staring at him, babbling on fervently. They all looked scary enough to hurt him, that was for sure.
And where they coming closer? It looked like they were coming closer!
Shaking on the spot and trying to make himself shrink with the force of his thoughts, he silently begged for some means of escape to appear soon. Please let this be a nightmare he could wake up from!
But then suddenly, above the roar he heard one clear, soothing voice that spoke words he could understand.
"We wish you no harm, child. Please, be calm."
Startled, Harry looked up and around into the face of a woman, though she was like no woman he had ever seen before.
With fiery red hair and a kind, smiling face she looked more like one of those queens and noble ladies depicted in picture books and fairy tales, with fine gowns and hair tied back prettily in twirls and knots. Much prettier than the ladies on the telly and in magazines with paint and big, fake smiles on their faces that Aunt Petunia liked to watch and read about. This lady wore no paint or scary look on her face, and Harry could tell that she was kind and had meant what she'd said.
Despite the combination of scary, beautiful, and deformed creatures that gathered round him, Harry felt a little calmer than before. He still wasn't sure of the group's intentions, but if this pretty lady and her husband, who stood next to her, stayed close at hand to protect him, he would be okay. Or at least he hoped they would be enough to protect him, they sure seemed powerful and important to him.
He slowly scooted back to be closer to the couple behind him, while darting furtive looks at the creatures that surrounded him on all sides, less than a meter away.
Looking fully into the face of the kind lady again, he gave a nod and a polite 'thank you, ma'am' to show that he had understood, just as his Aunt and Uncle had told him. He would not want the beautiful lady to think him rude or without manners, especially if they were willing to protect him in the face of this large, menacing crowd. She might have said they wished him no harm, but she did not specify who, so as far as he knew, she and her husband did not wish him any harm. He hadn't made a decision about the rest of the group yet.
Harry swivelled back in the direction of said crowd with his head bowed so he would not have to look any of the creatures in the eye, which made him miss the amused and slightly befuddled looks the Lord and Lady exchanged in response to his thanks and actions.
His insides not shaking as much as before and his breathing a little slower and easier now, Harry found that he could better understand the voices, all vying for his attention apparently. Far from being angry or upset at him, they all seemed to be calling to him to come with them. Each different group of creatures, few which Harry had ever seen before, let alone heard of, was literally singing to him in different languages, asking him to be their child.
Harry paused and blinked in astonishment as the rapid deluge of words flowed over him.
What were they on about? No one wanted Harry. Harry was not likable, not lovable, not worth anything. He knew that to be true; his aunt and uncle had told him so, many times in fact. His own parents hadn't wanted him so the Dursleys had been forced to take him into their home because no one else had wanted Harry either. So where did all these creatures suddenly come from, saying that they wanted him?
Maybe they identified him as an outcast, a monster like them. Wasn't that what Uncle Vernon called him? Monster, freak, devil, demon. Maybe he was just like them.
Seeing his confusion and sadness no doubt, the lady who was protecting him spoke again.
"You have been rescued from the mortal, human realm, child, to live amongst us as one of the Fey. You will be brought into a home from one among us here," she gestured to the gathered crowd, "where you will be taken care of and loved as one of our own." She smiled sweetly at him and chuckled at his astonished look, while brushing a hand through his hair again in a sweet caress.
It felt so comforting, so natural, even though Harry had never remembered feeling anything like it before. Aunt Petunia had certainly never looked at him like that before; he had only ever been looked at in anger or in disgust, like how you would greet the gunk on the bottom of your shoe. He liked the way the pretty lady looked at him, though, and the way she stroked his hair. It made him feel…he wasn't sure what, just good, and happy, and safe.
The lady then continued talking after a moment of staring down in loving rapture at the child. "But you see, little one, we have not had the great fortune of bringing a child from the mortal realm to live amongst us for many a blue moon. We are all anxious to hear the sweet laughter and see the innocent eyes of a child once again.
"So it should come as no surprise," she continued softly for Harry's ears alone, a small chuckle to her voice as she noticed she had Harry's rapt attention, "that all the races of the Fey are most eager to claim you as their own, to care for you and give you a home. And none wish to be outdone or outshone in a task as important as this."
At the indicative nod to the group behind him, Harry looked back at the gathering creatures in wonder. They didn't seem so scary anymore, though many of them certainly were far from beautiful and terrifying in their own rights, nothing like the lady and her husband. But it didn't matter how pretty or ugly they were because they wanted him. Or so the pretty lady was telling him. They all wanted Harry to be a part of their family.
A rising hope bloomed in his chest at the thought. To be a part of a real family! He knew the Dursleys were not your typical mould of what families were like; Harry had seen other children from other families not being spoilt and pampered to the point of brattishness, but happy all the same. Harry had frequently longed to be taken away by one of those families, but it had never happened. Why would anyone want another burden to feed and clothe and put up with, as his aunt and uncle had explained to him practically every day?
But any one of these creatures here did want him. Did it matter that they were not human? From the Dursleys' description of him, he wasn't human either. Maybe he would fit in better here.
"If you will allow me," the lady continued genially, and to this Harry silently nodded his head, confusion and wonder still decorating his face, "here before you, you have the faeries, represented by Yarrow and Eishirt; the pixies, represented by Nepita, Iris, and Caspia; the merfolk, represented by Melusina…"
Harry listened as she went on like that, pointing to each party as she named them, introducing him to phoukas, goblins, imps, changelings, and other fantastical monsters, beings, and fiends that all grinned ravenously and adoringly at him in turn.
Some looked like they wanted nothing more than to spirit him away from where he sat and hide him greedily in whatever place they called home. Others looked at him adoringly, not unlike the kind lady behind him, and reminded him of the way some parents looked lovingly at their children, the nice families he sometimes saw in the park, walking on the streets, or while on the odd shopping trip with Aunt Petunia. And then there were those that just looked at him with intense curiosity, as though they had never seen a child before. And maybe they hadn't. Harry was most fearful of them, as he wasn't sure what they wanted from him, other than the fact that they just wanted to own him in some way or other.
When all the introductions had finally been made, Harry's head was spinning crazily with all the names, faces, different species, and display of such varying, wide-ranging expressions, that he wondered how he could possibly remember everything. And yet, all of it seemed to be sticking quite clearly up there somehow, not a detail missed. And then, just as he was settling every new little fact and figure into his mind, the games began anew.
The faery duo, one of the parties closest to him – a little too close, maybe – took a step forward together and spoke.
"We shall take the handsome child with mystical eyes of green and hair as dark as night. He will grow a pair of wings so fine and fly among us free, helping as we turn the Wheel of Time and attend to the changing of the seasons."
Harry's eyes, if possible, grew even wider at their heartfelt declaration. Did they really mean all that? Could he really grow a pair of wings and fly?
Right after Yarrow and Eishirt had stood down again, the pixie trio rose in the air and declared,
"Nay, we will be the ones to teach the child to fly upon the moon's light and dance in the shadowy glade while he learns the art of folding metal, melting gold, and carving silver."
The faery folk immediately scoffed at the mention of working with metals and hissed behind their hands that wood was the only royal element found on earth. Only humans found use and praise for the baser metals, they whispered loudly, snickering to one another at their little private joke.
Harry watched in amazement and slight fear at the fight he was sure was about to break out, but instead the three pixies just laughed mockingly at the faeries, stuck out their tongues, and twirled around in the air, purposefully kicking up a swirl of pixie dust into the faeries' faces as they alighted back down into the crowd again.
Far from retaliating in anger, though, the faeries just waved off the dust in disgust and turned their backs as though the tiny pixies were not worth the energy or time to work up a response.
Fascinated by the little interactions playing out before him, he almost missed the next group of females, whom the lady had called dryads, speaking their piece.
"He will run, he will leap, he will skip and jump and disappear among the trees and through the light. Oh what magics and powers he will know from the planets, the stars, and the heavens above!
Come learn the ancient secrets, child, come spin the webs and cast the spells of mystery and the sublime."
Spells? Magic? Jumping through light? That sounded amazing!
But just as he was getting caught up in one tale, the maiden referred to as a naiad spoke up in a sweet, clear voice, that sounded like water running through a stream.
"But I could take him for a swim and set his soul free from its binding; show him the dangers and infidelities humans lay. All waters would be his, the ocean his heart, and only the wind's call to answer to."
Harry sucked in a breath as he could almost feel himself drowning in the open air. He realised with a sudden longing that he had never been to any body of water before. Perhaps –
But before he could complete that thought, the vampyre of the Irish Sea, Leanansidhe whispered softly in a voice that carried through the entire hollow.
"Let me take him to my cavern below, where he will be an inspiration of light and hope to all who wish for an awakening into the Eternal Light."
And then Harry's head was spinning again. It all sounded so fascinating, so dangerous, so odd, so unreal. It was too much to take in all at once, though he continued to remember each detail, each word, each face looking at him while speaking of him as though he were not there.
His thoughts became loud and jolting as he listened and watched as each race spun words like silken webs, urging him to follow them down some unknown path and into a whole new life where he wouldn't even be human anymore. Was he still even human now?
" –find warmth in our arms –"
" –take comfort within the earth and caverns and mines –"
" –play on the winds, ride the fierce storms, and take flight up to the mountains –"
" – fall asleep to the soft melodies of our voice and soothing strings of our harps –"
They all sounded so magical, so wonderful. Voices shouted and mingled and those that did not speak with words danced and called and sang and cried out in whatever language available to them, all in a passionate, zealous fervour to capture Harry's attention and call him to follow them home.
But though he no longer felt scared, seated so close to the Lord and Lady, who kept a hand on each of his shoulders in reassurance the entire time, the idea of choosing a complete stranger to go off with forever didn't seem right either. Didn't he get more time? More than just a few words of excitement and possibilities to help him choose?
And with that worry the doubt began to surge up again. Surely all these…people – if he could call them that; fey maybe – would not want him if they knew him?
There was a reason no one wanted him back home, his aunt and uncle told him the reasons frequently, and Dudley liked to add some creative ones in too just to stir the pot now and again. If these creatures only knew what Harry was really like. They would take him to their home and then realise what he was and decide they didn't want him anymore. That must have been how it was with the Dursleys, or even with his parents.
Harry leaned his head back to look into the eyes of the fair lady and tell her that they've made a mistake and taken the wrong child. He didn't deserve to go with any of them, though it was tempting to be offered an escape from the Dursleys. How would he tell them that they were better off putting him back where they'd found him? Still, surely another child would be more deserving of their care.
Luckily, the Lady seemed to sense Harry's misgivings the moment she looked into his face and spared him from having to speak.
Leaning forward, she turned him around, took his face in her hands, and laid a kiss on his brow. "You are a child of the Fey now, no matter which race you choose you will always have a home among all of us."
So there was no mistake? Harry was one of them now. There was no going back. He just had to choose the group he wanted to belong to. And they all did want him, as crazy as it was. Maybe it would be different here. Maybe he was supposed to be one of the Fey all along and that's why nobody wanted him before?
But…Harry looked up in wonder at the Lady, who was still smiling so sweetly at him… did they all want him?
The lady broke gaze with him then to look up with a regal set to her chin and declare to the hollow gathering, "All have who wish to care for the child have spoken and let their intentions be known. We shall let the child choose his own fate! For only he can know where he will truly be happy."
It was time. He had to decide. So soon!
He wasn't ready.
Harry gazed round the circle with wide eyes. They all seemed to promise lives of such excitement and freedom, and a sense of belonging to a group. So many wished to care for him, love him, and welcome him with open arms to their homes. He could already pick out at least twenty from the assembly who seemed most genuine in their offer, who would care for him like he'd always wanted.
And he would be a child of nature no matter how he chose, he would have a home among the trees and the grass and the waters and the wild, where he had always felt such comfort.
So how should he choose?
He looked back at the face of the Lady Protector, ruler of the High Sidhe, who was still smiling down at him with a look he had never seen before. She told him with her eyes that whatever he chose, it would be a good choice and she would be happy for him. But what was it that he wanted?
He wanted a mother. And a father. Was that too greedy of him to ask for?
Opening his mouth, he drew a steady breath to calm his racing heart and spoke hesitantly, hoping his final choice would not be rejected, and whispered, "Would it be okay… I mean – could I, could I go with…with you?" He looked right at her, into her beautiful blue eyes, and found that he couldn't, didn't want to look away.
Time stopped for a moment, in a way that Harry thought it would never start up again and he would never get his answer.
Maybe he had said the wrong thing. Maybe the fair lady and her husband weren't a choice at all and he had just ruined his chances of finding a home at last. Would they be mad at him now? Would they send him away and put him back in the human world? Would –
But then his thoughts were cut off completely; time had started again.
And then she smiled at him.
Taking her husband's hand and letting her other cup the side of Harry's face with a touch so gentle he felt himself ready to fall back into a restful, calming sleep at the slightest command, she nodded.
A loud cry rose up from the surrounding council, some in joyous celebration, others in anger and defeat, but Harry heard little of it.
Looking up into the faces of his soon-to-be new parents, Harry didn't think he'd ever smiled so wide before in his entire life.
It was perfect.
There he went, the once-human child,
to the waters and the wild
among the Fey at last
And leaving far behind
A world too distracted to cry
for the loss of their Saviour Boy
For never would he come to know first-hand
The truth all faeries tell,
That the world's more full of weeping than he can understand
A/N: I had it and I went with it. I hope it turned out okay… Thanks for reading!
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