there’s no place like homeAuthor: trysloraCharacters/Pairings:
Albus Severus/James SiriusRating:
Albus Severus Potter - accidentally separated from the rest of the group
James Sirius Potter - crow/scarecrow
Harry Potter - chill wind
Kingsley Shacklebolt - traveling to investigate a supposed haunted location
Severus Snape - haunted house
with a hint of Ginny Weasley - pitch blackOther Warnings/Content:
anal sex, rimming, blow job, sibling incestWord Count:
9,393 words (eep)Summary/Description:
Al has no idea where he actually is, or how he got there, but he definitely knows, he’s not in England anymore…Author's Notes:
The first two prompts that jumped out at me were Al (accidentally separated) and James (scarecrow) and my brain happily said “Wizard of Oz AU, RIGHT??
. Um. So. There I was, figuring out who to put into the other roles, and what Al’s journey was, and how the hell Al could have sex with a scarecrow (because OW) and next thing I knew, I had nearly 10k of angsty cracktastic incestual fun with a happy ending. Er, sorry?
It’s cold. Chill enough that the breeze shivers through Al’s bones, deep into his soul, drenching him in ice until he shudders awake.
He’s on the ground.
Cold ground, hard ground, made of a dull greyish green brick.
And he hurts. So fucking much.
Al rolls over, crouches on his knees with his head down, pressed against the grating surface of the brick. His hands curl as he tries for traction, rolls his body slowly and pushes to kneeling upright.
“Is the good wizard being all right?”
“Merlin!” Al scuttles backwards, putting space between himself and the throng of house elves leaning far too close to him.
The one in front puts a hand up, and the others all stop mid-step, giving him that space.
“What did you call me?” Al asks, one hand pressed to his forehead. There’s a dull ache at the back of his head, and his eyes burn slightly as well. A bludger, right? A bludger to his side… no… he wasn’t on a broom. It wasn’t Quidditch.
The memory of what happened eludes him. And whatever it was, he’s pretty sure it didn’t involve several dozen house elves.
“You are the good wizard,” the elf repeats. “You have defeated the evil wizard.”
“I… what?” Al looks to where the elf points—to where every single house elf points—and spots a thick black space, like something exploded and a building collapsed. Two feet stick out from beneath the rubble, boots shiny and silvered with green filigree.
Al rubs his eyes, but the feet are still there. The rubble is still there, and the elves seem to be waiting patiently for him to say something. He pushes himself to a crouch, then stands slowly, towering over the small creatures that surround him. “Where am I?”
“You are in Hoz, good wizard,” the first house elf says. “I am being Marek, and we are thanking you for defeating the evil wizard. You have freed us.”
“Hogs… Hogsmeade?” Al mutters, taking a step back when the house elves chorus no
“Hoz,” Marek repeats. “You are in the land of Hoz, and we are now free elves.”
“Oz,” Al repeats slowly, and apparently it’s close enough to right for Marek to nod enthusiastically. “And… how did I come to be here?” he asks.
“You fell out of the sky when the house exploded and killed the evil wizard!” Marek explains.
“Oh.” Well, that sounds about right, except Al is pretty damned sure there was no tornado, no little dog, no evil witch, and—he glances down at the path under his feet—this definitely isn’t the yellow brick road. “I need to get home.” He gestures at the dull grey brick. “Is this the way to find the great wizard?”
The house elves all look at each other, then as one they take several steps backward. A moment later, Marek approaches hesitantly, crooks a finger. Al crouches down so that he can hear Marek whisper, “The brick road leads to the haunted castle. You don’t want to go there.”
Haunted castle. Huh. It’s no Emerald City, but Albus suspects that’s exactly where he should be going.
“It’s going to be a long walk, isn’t it.” It’s not a question, and Marek sighs when Al asks.
“Yes,” the elf says. “It is a terribly long walk.”
“Is there any other way of getting there?” Because Apparition would be nice, if he had any idea where he was going. Except, he has absolutely no idea where he’s going.
“The road is being the only way, good wizard,” Marek says sadly. “Thank you for killing the evil wizard. We have been pleased to know you, even so briefly.”
“Do you want me to stay longer?” Al asks, because maybe a nap wouldn’t be a bad idea, before the headache blooms into something that makes him sick up.
Marek glances at the others, shakes his head. “No. It is only that the good wizard will die along the path. No one reaches the haunted castle alive.”
It sounds like a challenge. Albus wasn’t a Gryffindor—that’s James and Lily—but he does have a stubborn streak a mile wide, and he’s great at self-preservation which should keep him alive along the way.
Besides. He has a feeling that haunted castle is the key to getting out of this mess.
“Do I at least get the shoes?” he asks, because he has a vague memory of the shoes being important. The key, maybe, if he could just remember exactly how.
Marek looks at the feet and the silvered boots, then shrugs. “If that is what the good wizard wants, then the good wizard shall have the boots,” he says.
A blink, and the shoes are on Al’s feet, as comfortable as if they’ve already been broken in. Al wiggles his toes, tests the fit, and it’s absolutely perfect. He takes a step along the road and the house elves cringe backwards again.
“Thank you,” he says to Marek.
The house elf shakes his head, wrings his hand. “Do not be thanking me, good wizard. You go to your doom.”
In the background, the toes of the evil wizard shrink and curl, disappearing from view. Al can’t think about that now; he has to get to the castle, and go home.
Someday Al is going to kill his brother for playing that Muggle movie so much when they were kids. Or his dad for bringing it home in the first place. Or whoever cast the spell that sent him into this weird magical trap that’s mimicking some Muggle story.
Right now, though, right now all he can think about is that he’s been walking for a few hours, his feet are starting to ache, and he has no wand. He can’t even manage a wandless spell—all he needs is a simple tiny flame from his fingertips so he can start a fire for warmth.
Some good wizard he is.
There has to be a way to do this, because the sun is going down and it’s getting cold. Al gathers up a pile of sticks, places them in a pyramid with three larger logs braced together, and smaller ones and leaves and straw piled to help start. Then he searches until he finds a long length of hawthorne and breaks it to about eleven inches long.
It’s not a wand, but hopefully it’ll do.
The flame that comes when he casts is bigger and brighter than expected, sending the entire pile of wood into flames. Al hastily adds more logs to it, then crouches and holds his hands out, warming them. He keeps his makeshift wand stuck in his back pocket, the feel of it comforting in this strange space.
“Are you trying to burn this whole place down?”
Al comes to his feet, stick in hand and held out. “Who said that?”
“The one who’s going to burn if you’re not careful,” the voice responds dryly. It sounds familiar. Snarky.
“There’s no James here. No one but us scarecrows. Well, one scarecrow.” A rustling, and Al turns again to find a scarecrow hanging against a tree. “Made of straw, you know,” the scarecrow says, and Merlin, he looks so much like James. The scarecrow wiggles his hands with another rustling noise. “Don’t suppose you’re going to put that out.”
“What?” Al glances from the scarecrow to the fire that’s burning merrily.
There’s a soft choked noise, and it breaks Al’s heart to hear it, it sounds so much like James when he’s pretending not to be scared.
“Right, yes, okay.” Al casts, and water pours over the fire, putting it out with a billow of smoke. Al coughs, waves at the air in front of his face until it clears. “Of course, now I’m going to be cold.” There are warming charms, sure, but with how his stick is behaving, Al’s pretty sure he doesn’t want to try to cast anything on himself.
Apparently he’s already exploded once today; he doesn’t want to do it again.
“Can you get me down from here?” The scarecrow waves his arms and feet. “I’ve been stuck here forever, and all it takes is one careless traveler like you and I’ll be up in smoke.” The scarecrow pauses, softens his voice. “Thank you for putting the fire out. You’re a good one.”
“A good wizard, according to the—” Al cuts off, not sure if they’re house elves or something else here. “The little people. Back there. They tried to convince me that I shouldn’t take the brick road to the haunted castle.” When the scarecrow rustles again, Al carefully gets his arms around him, lifts him down.
The scarecrow wobbles on his feet, grips with remarkably tight hands on Al’s shoulders. “Well, they’re right,” the scarecrow says, too close to Al’s face, words somehow exhaled on a warm breath. The scarecrow stays where he is, leaning against Al. “Everyone comes to misery on this road. Look at me, hung up to scare things away and almost burned alive.”
“Well, I need the great wizard to send me home,” Al says plainly. When the scarecrow gives him a dubious look, he grumbles. “Don’t do that. I know, haunted castle, ghosts, but there has to be a great wizard there. Someone to end this spell that has me trapped here in Oz—”
“Hoz,” the scarecrow corrects.
“Whatever. Wherever. I just need to go home. Surely you need something from a great wizard…” Al trails off, because he knows there’s something. Besides. He looks and sounds so much like James, and right now, Al doesn’t want to be alone on this road. Whatever he’s walking into, it’d be better with his brother at his back.
Pretty much everything’s better with James at his back. James is the best partner Al could’ve ever asked for, perfect senior Auror to Al’s junior status, even if—Even if—
The memory escapes, just out of reach, and the ache begins behind his eyes again. “Fuck,” Al mutters, rubbing at his temple.
“Well, I did lose my memory,” the scarecrow muses. “Just woke up here, hanging on the tree, waiting for someone to come along. I suppose it would be nice if someone could restore my mind.”
“The great wizard can do it,” Al says, putting as much conviction in his voice as he can.
“Then I guess I’ll go along with you to see him,” the scarecrow says cheerily.
Good. That’s sorted then, as long as Al doesn’t think about the fact that it’s getting dark, he’s cold, and he’s sitting with a scarecrow that he wants to call James that isn’t actually James at all. He sinks to sit by the tree, leaning back and crossing his arms, trying to hold in his warmth. “If you can’t remember who you are, what should I call you?” At the scarecrow’s blank look, Al clarifies, “Your name.”
The scarecrow tilts his head, touches his chin. “Well, then. I’m a scarecrow, so I guess that’ll just have to do for now. You can call me Scarecrow.”
Not helpful at all. Al nods tightly. “I don’t suppose you can see in the dark, Scarecrow?”
“Not really, no. Eyes are made of buttons, you see.” Scarecrow taps the side of his head. “Head stuffed with straw, too.”
Al shivers. “Okay then. Guess we’re staying here. Without a fire so we don’t burn you up. But we can’t exactly travel in the dark, can we? Not without risking tripping over things, or falling off a cliff. Or dying. Which everyone says I’m going to anyway, and well, at this rate it might turn out to be of cold, then.”
Scarecrow crouches next to Al, leans into him. “Do you need to be warm?”
“Yeah.” Al’s voice catches in his throat. “I’m kind of freezing here.”
“Straw’s warm, and so’s my shirt. Can’t give it to you without falling apart, but you’re welcome to use me as a blanket.”
Al’s mouth opens. Closes. He licks his lips as Scarecrow stares at him, head-tilted like he’s looking somewhere inside of Al’s head and considering his thoughts. “Um,” Al says. “Okay. Yes. That’d be good. Better than freezing.”
It’s strange to lie down like this, out in the open in a strange place, just off the brick road. But they do, stretching out next to the tree, and in the end, Al uses Scarecrow’s arm as a pillow, his body as a blanket.
And if he thinks of James as he falls asleep, no one will ever know.
Scarecrow doesn’t keep the chill breeze from the back of Al’s neck, and he sleeps in fits and starts, burrowing closer and closer to Scarecrow as the night goes on. He wakes completely entangled, warmed by the strange heat of Scarecrow’s body, hips pressed to scratching, itchy hips. And Al is achingly hard.
Scarecrow touches Al’s cheek, doesn’t seem to notice the erection pressed against his straw body. “Are you rested and warm now?” Scarecrow asks.
Al nods once, tries to untangle himself. It’s slow going, letting Scarecrow pull away in a manner that keeps him from losing bits of straw. Al ends up sitting, his knees bent, hands looped across his knees as he tries to hide the tent in his trousers. “Did you sleep?”
“I’m a scarecrow; we don’t sleep,” Scarecrow reminds him. “But if you are rested, then all is well.”
“Yeah. You were, um. Warm,” Al says. He presses the heel of his hand against his prick, tries to will it flaccid. “It was nice. You uh….” It’s not like anything here is going to follow him back into the real world, right? “You remind me of someone.”
“I do?” Scarecrow rises, tucks his straw back into his trousers and arranges his shirt properly. “Is this a good someone, or a bad someone?”
“It’s the best someone.” Al bites his tongue, doesn’t mention that he’s his brother. “His name is James. And he’s incredible.”
Scarecrow pauses, his hand inside his trousers as if he cups himself, even though Al knows there’s nothing there but straw. “Your voice—you love your James? He is who you want to get back to?”
Al feels the flush flooding his cheeks. “Among others. Yes,” he admits. “He doesn’t know. And he won’t, because there are complications. But I do. Love him.”
Scarecrow nods, pats Al scratchily on the shoulder. “Would it make it easier if you called me James?”
Like he did when he first saw him. Al tastes it on his tongue, James versus Scarecrow, then slowly shakes his head. “No. You’re just a scarecrow, and that’s fine. I think I need to look ahead to when I get home again, to James. I just need to know what the secret is.” He looks down at his feet, remembers something. “The thing is, if James were here, he’d know how to do it. It’s something to do with the shoes.”
Scarecrow crouches down, pokes at the boots. “They’re nice boots, well-crafted. But there’s nothing special about them. Dime a dozen, if you’re a fashion-oriented wizard. They do look good on you.” He pauses. “What should I call you?”
“Al.” He takes a step down the road, motions for Scarecrow to follow. “Shall we?”
Scarecrow falls into step beside him as they move through the small copse of trees, the road winding along. It opens up to thread between farms, and Al sees people moving in the distance. Cows. Horses. People plowing fields, and wheat waving in the chill fall breeze.
It’s just like home, except it’s not home at all.
The stones lose their greenish cast, darkening to a deeper grey. They’re cracked and worn, as if death itself traveled this way. It’s not a good feeling, and every instinct Al has tells him to turn around. “Why is the castle haunted?” he asks, desperate for something to distract him. He can see a forest in the distance, maybe another hour’s walk away; the road seems to stretch on forever and the darkness of the forest is daunting.
A groan answers, deep and rattling, off to the right.
Scarecrow grabs Al’s arm. “Did you hear that?”
“It wasn’t you?” Al asks, and Scarecrow shakes his head.
“It wasn’t me at all,” Scarecrow says. “I’d half hoped it was you. Do you think it will burn us?”
Al takes a cautious step toward the fence long the side of the road. There’s a farmhouse in the distance, and a long field between the fence and the house. The corn rises high enough, full enough that it should have been harvested days before, and Al swears he can see farm equipment peeking through the stalks.
Another long, low groan has Al on the fence, hopping over, while Scarecrow scrambles after him.
“What do you think it is?” Scarecrow asks, and Al reaches back, grips his hand, unwilling to lose him in the high corn.
There’s a path, and Al slowly threads his way through the maze between the stalks. “I don’t know,” Al whispers. “But I’m hoping it’s not going to try to kill us—oh fuck
.” He stops just in time, rocking backwards into Scarecrow to get away from the axe that’s raised high over head. “Merlin, what’s a suit of armor doing in the middle of a corn field?”
The groan is close now, loud and long, with small breaks.
Scarecrow has his hands on Al’s shoulders, pressed up against his back as he peers over Al’s shoulder. “I think he’s trying to say something.”
Not a suit of armor. A man made of tin.
Al takes the stick from his pocket and quickly conjures more than enough oil to lubricate the tin man’s joints and then some. His hands are still slick as he wipes them down on his trousers, hoping that they somehow end up clean again once he’s home.
The tin man’s jaw works, rotating, sliding side to side, before he speaks. “Thank you.”
The tin man’s eyes grow sad, brows drawing together. “I have no family,” the tin man says. “They’re long gone, else someone would have been here to oil my joints before I froze.”
Al’s heart is beating rabbit-fast in his chest, either despite or because of the way Scarecrow presses close to him from behind. It’s comforting, but at the same time, the more Al looks at the tin man, the more he sees his father, the great Harry Potter. From the tin hair, to the tin glasses, to the build—it’s Harry. He’s sure of it.
Except it’s not, not anymore than Scarecrow is James.
“We’re going to see the great wizard at the haunted castle,” Scarecrow offers. “If anyone knows how to find your family, it’d be him. He’s going to find my memory, and send Al home.”
The tin man blinks slowly, his arms finally lowering the axe as he groans. “That feels good. What great wizard?”
“There has to be one,” Al mutters, because he’s starting to doubt. Starting to wonder just what’s going on, and how long he’ll be here, and whether he truly can escape. Or maybe this is where he’ll be forever.
Maybe this is what happens after death, and that explosion was—no. He’s not going to think that way.
“We’re following the brick road to the haunted castle,” Al says firmly. “Because I know there’s a great wizard there who will know how to send me home.”
“Then he can find my family,” the tin man says. “So I’ll come with you.”
They decide to call him Tin.
He creaks when he walks, no matter how much oil Al adds to his joints, and Al’s certain that the whole world can hear them coming. But maybe that’s good, as the forest ahead is dark and foreboding. Al doesn’t want to scare anything into attacking out of fear.
On the other hand, there is absolutely no way they can hide from the predators, either.
“So,” Al says, trying to keep his voice light. “Tell me about your forests. Are we going to run into centaurs? Giant spiders?”
“What? Oh no,” Tin says. “But there’s a good chance we’ll meet up with lions or tigers or bears.”
“Oh my,” Scarecrow breathes. His straw hand brushes up against Al’s, their fingers entangle.
“Then I’ll protect us,” Al says, one hand firmly grasping Scarecrow, his hawthorne stick in the other. He holds the makeshift wand out, just in case, as they shuffle, rustle and clank down the road.
Under the heavy canopy of trees, the bricks are now dark grey, almost black. More are cracked than whole, nearly tripping Al several times. Scarecrow grabs him and holds him upright, as Tin clunks loudly onward.
It’s nice, for just a moment, to linger there with Scarecrow’s arms around him, breathing in deeply. Scarecrow’s face presses to Al’s cheek, and he can almost imagine it’s skin instead of straw-stuffed canvas, that he can smell the scent of James’s soap.
He is so fucking screwed.
The sudden roar is enough to send him stumbling back, tripping over Scarecrow so that they land in a heap on the brick. He can’t see Tin, separated from him by the monstrous creature in the road. The creature rears up on its hind legs, claws bared on heavy paws as it shakes its head, mane flying, and roars again.
“Lion!” Scarecrow yells, and the lion’s head swivels toward them, snarl raising its lip.
It bares its teeth, stalks closer on four feet, breath hot as it leans closer, opens its mouth—
“Kingsley?” Al says, because this lion
looks like Kingsley Shacklebolt
. His boss. Well, not his boss, exactly. Dad’s his boss. Shacklebolt is dad’s boss, and this is… oh shit.
“No!” Al jumps up, hand out, and ends up hitting the lion on the nose.
It rears back, whining, both paws coming up to cover its nose. Behind the lion, Tin drops his axe without hitting the lion.
“You hurt my nose,” the lion complains.
Al blinks. “You were going to bite us.”
“Eat us,” Scarecrow corrects. “Not that Tin or I would be very good to eat. He’s a bit crunchy, and I’m scratchy, but Al, now Al would make a good meal.”
“Thanks,” Al says dryly.
“I wasn’t going to eat or bite anyone,” the lion protests. “Just scare you a little. Get you off the road. It’s not safe.”
Tin puts the axe on his back, approaches the lion carefully. The lion lets Tin check his nose. “Not safe how?” Tin asks.
“It goes to the haunted castle,” the lion explains. “Everyone who passes this way dies and becomes a ghost.”
“Seems to be the popular thought, but we’re going anyway,” Al says. He pushes to his feet, holding out his hand to help Scarecrow to his feet. And if he helps Scarecrow balance for longer than he needs to, one arm around his waist, no one needs to know. “We need to see the great wizard so he can send me home.”
“And restore my memory,” Scarecrow says.
“And find my family,” Tin adds.
The lion sits back on his haunches, rumbles low in his throat. “There is no great wizard in the haunted castle.”
“There is,” Al says, even though absolutely no one has agreed with him. But there has to be, that’s how this story goes. He has to find the wizard of Oz—Hoz
—and get home. Otherwise he’ll be stuck here forever.
“He can find you your courage,” Scarecrow offers, and the lion snarls at him.
“I am not a coward,” Lion protests.
“You did fall back when he hit you on the nose,” Tin points out.
“I need to protect the people of Hoz, make sure they’re safe,” Lion declares firmly, voice resonant and deep. “Can the great wizard do that for me?”
Scarecrow and Tin look at Al, and Al supposes he made the wizard up, so he’s the authority. “Sure,” he says, trying to sound positive. “Of course he can.”
Lion steps cautiously onto the dark brick, pads forward a step before hesitating. “Are we going?”
Al hastens to catch up, gratified by the way Scarecrow doesn’t let go as they fall into step with the lion on one side, Tin on the other. “We’re going. We’re off to see the wizard.”
The path grows more disturbing, but they don’t meet any more companions. Which Al thinks is a positive. He’s already reeling from the strange idea that he’s walking along with James, being followed by his father and the Minister of Magic, and he doesn’t know how to take that. The fact that they’re also Tin and Lion doesn’t quite matter in his head; the dichotomy is there. And when they find a place to rest, Al is all too aware of the fact that it’s a chilly night again, and this time it’s not just him and Scarecrow.
Still. Tin arranges himself leaning up against a tree, and Lion sprawls across Tin’s legs. That leaves Scarecrow with Al, and they lie down, Scarecrow arranging Al until they’re tangled close together.
“Is this okay?” Scarecrow asks. “You seem almost as stiff as Tin.”
Parts of Al are absolutely, utterly, completely stiff. More stiff than he should be, considering he’s practically humping a scarecrow, and there are a sentient lion and tin man nearby.
He’s in Hoz. This isn’t the real world.
“Scarecrow?” Al asks quietly, and Scarecrow’s straw fingers drift across his shoulders.
“You know how you remind me of that guy I love?” Al asks quietly. Scarecrow’s fingers stop, cradling his shoulder. Al feels the nod in reply, and inhales roughly. “I was wondering if you’d mind if I pretended, just for tonight, that you’re him.”
“What do you think he’d do, if I were him?” Scarecrow asks, voice a rough whisper of air across the hay.
Al laughs bitterly, because he wouldn’t do anything. Couldn’t do anything. James can never know how Al feels, not truly. “He’d hold me,” he says, and that much is true. “And me, if I could be brave enough, I might kiss him.” There’s so much more, but Al closes his eyes, presses his hand against the flannel covered straw, and imagines that James’s chest rises and falls beneath his touch instead.
“If he doesn’t kiss you back, he’s an idiot,” Scarecrow murmurs, and he sounds so much like James that it aches deep in Al’s chest.
“I wish,” he murmurs, and Scarecrow rubs circles on his back.
As Al drifts into sleep, he swears he feels lips press against his forehead, swears he hears the words I love you, Al
whispered by his ear.
“That’s the haunted castle,” Al says slowly as he sees it rising in front of them. They still have a ways to go, the brick road winding back and forth on its way to the gate. There are flowers all along the road and he can smell their sweet scent, trying to lure him from the bricks, and that makes him all the more sure that he has to stay on the road. No matter how long it takes, no matter how much he wants to cut across the bends in the curve and take the most direct route there.
“That’s the haunted castle,” Scarecrow says. His hand is warm at the small of Al’s back, and Al can almost pretend it’s made of flesh not straw. “I feel like I should remember it.”
“Yeah.” Al can understand that because he does remember it. He knows it, spent several years living inside the walls.
Only not the Hogwarts he remembers. This one is crawling with Dementors. They flow like black shadows all over the walls, slither along like darkness waiting to reach out and claim them.
They are death, waiting for anyone who happens near.
“I know what happened to your memory,” Al says slowly. “And your family, Tin. And to all the people of your land, Lion. Those things—those ghosts. They took them, stole their hearts and their hope, turned them into something like ghosts.”
“Can they give them back?” Tin asks, voice cracking.
Al offers oil, and Tin uses it for his jaw. It gives Al time to think, and when he glances over, Scarecrow is watching like he can see the thoughts percolating.
No, not really. What’s been done can’t be undone. And Al can’t think how any wizard would have Dementors protecting his castle unless it’s an evil wizard. Not a great wizard at all.
But Al still needs to get home, and it may take every single one of them to get into that castle. So he lies, “Yes, of course, Tin. We’ll get your family back. We’ll get Scarecrow’s memories back. And we’ll protect the people of Hoz. And then I’ll go home.”
“What about the ghosts?” Scarecrow asks, because of course he’s the practical one.
“We’ll deal with them when we get there,” Al says, linking arms with Scarecrow as they begin to walk.
It’s a long trudge, and it seems as if the castle remains just as far away, the road twisting back on itself over and over again. Lion growls as he sees the Dementors take notice, roars loudly when it looks as if one would approach.
The Dementors scatter, and Lion sits upright. “They’re scared of me,” he says. “I’ll attack them,” he snarls, and leaps before Al can stop him, bounding straight across the field of flowers.
He makes it almost to the next curve in the road, almost to the bricks, when he simply stops, keels over on his side and stays there.
“Lion!” Al yells, stopping when Scarecrow grabs him before he can step off the brick.
“It’s the poppies,” Scarecrow whispers. “Lion’s asleep. Look.” He gestures, and even from a distance they can see they way Lion’s chest rises and falls.
When they pass round the curve and pass close to Lion, Al can hear the rumble of his snores. “Should we leave him here?”
“We can’t drag him with us,” Tin says, although he lingers as if he’s considering it. “We need to carry his wishes with us to the wizard; then ask for him to be released.”
Any wizard who keeps people away with sleeping spells isn’t likely to want to protect the people of Hoz, but Al keeps his opinions to himself for now. He needs a plan, but he needs to know what he’s dealing with before he can make it. He’s going to win. Al’s not the kind of person who likes to lose.
The Dementors swarm while they’re on the final curve, close enough that the gates loom high overhead. Al brings his stick to bear, tries to find a warm and happy memory inside his heart to cast his Patronus.
He thinks of his mother cradling him when he was young, and a wisp of feathered light emerges from the end of the stick. A Dementor rises over him, the air chilled and frozen all around him, and Al struggles to breathe.
“Al!” Scarecrow shouts, and tugs at him.
In the distance, Al sees Tin frozen, mouth open in a scream as a Dementor sucks at his sweet memories. Al shivers, stumbles when Scarecrow pulls again.
“You have to move,” Scarecrow yells, too loud for standing this close.
“Why don’t they affect you?” Al asks, teeth chattering against the chill in his bones.
Scarecrow hesitates. “I can’t remember anything,” he says slowly. “They can’t steal the happiness I don’t have.”
The memory floods over Al, warms his bones and stiffens his cock at the same time. Love. The whisper of lips against his forehead, the heat of pleasure spreading through his body. He raises the hawthorne stick, whispers, “James,” and watches as his Patronus bursts forth and the Dementors scatter.
The gates creak open, and the road ends. Scarecrow fits his hand in Al’s and together they enter the haunted castle.
Hogwarts is broken. Shattered.
The walls are still standing in a mockery of former glory, but every single piece of brick is cracked. A voice rings out as they enter, echoing around them.
“Who dares disturb the Great and Powerful Wizard of Hoz!”
“He may be a great wizard, but I don’t think he’s a good wizard,” Scarecrow whispers, breath warm against Al’s ear.
Al sinks back against Scarecrow, grateful when Scarecrow takes his weight, arms wrapping around him from behind. “And not all that powerful if you haven’t heard of him before,” Al mutters.
It should feel good to proven right, that there truly is a great wizard waiting here in the haunted castle. He’s near the end of his quest. He can go home.
But nothing about this feels right, other than the way Scarecrow holds him.
And as right as that is, it’s so very wrong as well.
“What do we do now?” Scarecrow asks, and the problem is, Al doesn’t know.
He closes his eyes, holds up one hand to ask for quiet. Canvas scratches his cheeks just before warmth blooms under the touch of rough lips, a small kiss for luck.
“Who dares disturb the Great and Powerful Wizard of Hoz!”
The booming voice doesn’t ask a question. It rings out, expects a response. It isn’t directional. Al waits, silently standing there in the great hall of something that could have been Hogwarts once upon a time. He waits, unmoving, until the voice rings out a third time.
Al untangles himself from Scarecrow, takes his hand and draws him toward the Dungeons. “I know where he is,” he says. Al leads without delay, ignoring the rustling around them, the now-obvious little reactions to someone coming through. It’s all a farce, a gimmick to terrify those who attempt to come inside.
Not a bit of it is real.
As the descend, Al glances back at Scarecrow trailing after him. In the shadows of the darkened halls, it’s easy to see James instead of Scarecrow, to imagine that his brother follows him into his childhood dormitory. “You always wanted to see the inside of our house,” Al murmurs.
“I did.” Scarecrow plays along. “You wouldn’t let me in.”
“Couldn’t,” Al corrects, because he would’ve brought James into Slytherin if he could’ve. But he was younger, and James was that brash Gryffindor Quidditch captain that everyone in Slytherin loved to hate. By the time Al had any kind of weight to throw around in his house, James was gone, off training to be an Auror.
“But I’ve been down here for another reason,” Scarecrow says, and Al stumbles, looks back at him. Scarecrow’s gaze is on the hall that leads past the entrance to the common room. Leads to exactly the place where they’re heading.
“Yeah,” Al says slowly. “Yeah, you have. To the Potions room.”
Scarecrow doesn’t need Al to lead him, so they walk side by side. Hand in hand at first, before Scarecrow’s arm steals around Al’s waist, fitting them close together. Hip to hip, Al’s hand resting on Scarecrow’s side as they hold each other.
In sync, like they are in the field. The perfect partners.
The voice booms out in the distance, trailing off as Al pushes the door open to the Potions room. “…and Powerful….”
The portraits that Al remembers are gone. The room is lined with dingy walls instead, cracked with water seeping through as if the lake might invade at any moment. Instead of the portrait, the man himself stands at the front of the room, before a sputtering flame and a bubbling cauldron. His hooked nose twitches, beady eyes narrowing to glare at Al. He beckons with one clawed finger, stringy hair swinging forward into his face with the movement. “How dare you,” the Wizard whispers. “How dare you disturb—”
“The Great and Powerful blah blah blah,” Al interrupts sharply. “We heard you. Several times. Everyone knows that only those idiots that’re insecure need to say how brilliant they are that loudly and that many times.”
Scarecrow snorts softly.
“Insolent boy,” the Wizard hisses. “You interrupt me in my home and insult me.”
“I just want to go home,” Al says firmly. “I want to go home. Scarecrow wants his memories. Tin wants his family, and Lion wants to protect the people of Hoz. And if you’re all that Great and Powerful, you’ll give those to us, and then we’ll be gone.”
The Wizard peers down that long nose, chin high as he regards Al with disdain. “And why should I bother to give you anything? Why would I reward you for interrupting me?”
Al smiles because the Great Wizard of Hoz—and his namesake—has made this easy for him. “Because if you don’t, then we know you can’t. And we know that the Great and Powerful Wizard is nothing more than a fake.”
“Hmph.” The Wizard turns away, the cauldron bubbling thicker with a snap of his fingers. Smoke invades the room, twists in tendrils that escape through the open door, snaking out and down the hall. “The Lion is a coward, prey to the whims around him.”
He gestures, and a mirror rises, showing the scene outdoors. In the field, flowers quiver in the silent image, then the Lion rolls over, comes to his feet with a mighty roar. He shakes his mane, and bounds away, the poppies no longer holding any influence. “If he can ignore the poppies, he can ignore any who try to influence him, and he’ll be able to do his job,” the Wizard says dryly.
“What about Tin?” Scarecrow asks. “The ghosts stole what little happiness he had left.”
The mirror’s focus shifts to where Tin stands frozen, one hand reached out to touch the sky. As they watch, Tin moves creakily, blinks with shaky tin eyelids, and looks around.
“I can’t restore his family,” the Wizard mutters. “But it’s not as if he needs them. All he needs is someone to take care of.”
Tin stalks forward, pauses, tilts his head as if listening. When he takes off at a run, the mirrors shivers in the attempt to catch up, the image shaking before it resolves again as Tin crouches down in front of a small child. Tin holds his arms out, and the child hugs him, while a woman watches, smiling down. She has another child on her hip, and a boy holds her hand.
Al bites his tongue before he whispers Mum
“And Scarecrow’s memories?” he asks stubbornly.
The Wizard’s gaze sharpens, his smile filled with crooked teeth and venom. “Are you so very certain that you want him to remember?”
No. Yes. Fuck, please, remember and then… and then…. Al bites his lip, nods. “Yes. I brought him to you so you could help him. Do that.”
He knows the moment Scarecrow remembers by the way Scarecrow steps away, fingers dropping from Al’s skin. He puts distance between them, finds a place by the wall and leans there, head tilted, chin in the air.
He is absolutely James in that moment, full of attitude and vigor, and ignoring Al as he stands there, trying not to let himself shake apart.
“As for you,” the Wizard murmurs.
Al keeps his back to the scarecrow, crosses his arms tightly. “I want to go home,” he says.
“All you need to do is speak and act on your heart’s desire,” the Wizard tells him.
“There’s no place like home,” Scarecrow murmurs, and Al remembers then.
He looks down at the boots, the filigree still shiny even after all that time walking. Al rises up on his toes, clicks his heels together once, and whispers, “There’s no place like home.” He closes his eyes, thinks of his bed, of his family. Thinks of James there with him, in the bed just a few feet from his while they were growing up, and he repeats the motion and the words twice more, nearly shouting on the third repetition, “There’s no place like home!”
He breathes in, air heavy in his lungs, and opens his eyes.
The Wizard shakes his head, turns back to the cauldron and sets it to stirring. The smoke hangs heavy in the air, sweet and full of musk.
When Al glances over his shoulder, Scarecrow raises one eyebrow. Shrugs.
“The question is, what makes any place a home?” the Wizard murmurs. He lays a hand on Al’s shoulder, squeezes tightly with bony fingers that press into his skin. “You have thirty minutes before the ghosts sweep through the castle and clear it of intruders. Mind the hourglass.”
Al blinks, and sees sand sifting slowly from top to bottom, the hourglass hanging mid-air above the cauldron, where it still bubbles merrily.
“You promised to send me home!” Al shouts, the Wizard’s robes slipping through his fingers as he grabs for him.
The Wizard turns slowly back, robes snapping about his legs. “All you need to do,” the Wizard says slowly, “is speak and act on your heart’s desire. You may believe you want to return to your world, but there is something you want more, Albus Severus Potter. I ask again: what makes it your home?”
Al’s hand falls slowly. “James,” he whispers.
The Wizard closes the distance between them, grips Al’s chin with slender fingertips, pinches deeply. “Consummate,” he hisses. “And you find your home.”
Al’s heart skips, his knees weak. His breath goes tight in his chest and he falls to his knees. A swish and a slam of the door, then a rustling before warm fingers skim across the back of his neck.
“Al,” Scarecrow says quietly, crouching down next to him. “Are you okay?”
Al shakes his head. He’s not okay, and he’s not sure he ever will be okay. This is the one thing—the one thing
—that he absolutely cannot have.
Except he’s here. In Hoz. He’s not home, this isn’t actually James, and none of this is real.
“I want James,” he whispers.
Light touch against his cheek, fingers cupping his face until Al turns and looks, and Scarecrow smiles at him gently. Scarecrow’s thumb slides across Al’s lower lip, and when Al blinks again, James whispers, “It’s okay. I want you, too.”
“James?” Al asks, clutching at his shirt. Bits of straw peek out, but the skin underneath is wonderfully warm and real. Al unbuttons the top, then pauses, looking James in the eye, waiting for permission. “Do you mean it?”
“Do you think I’d say something I don’t mean, Al?” James asks.
Al reaches up, cards his fingers through his hair to brush the straw away, bringing dark russet strands to life. “Fuck, James. I just—I keep thinking about you,” he admits, cheeks hot and body already achingly hard.
“Do you have any idea how hard it is to ignore you, Al?” James asks. He brings his other hand up, cradles Al’s face. “You’re always right there, my shadow. And you’re so bloody perfect.”
Al licks his lips, and James’s gaze tracks his tongue; that little bit of movement, of affirmation, makes Al smile. It makes him feel bold, and he picks open another button. “I’m going to undress you,” he says, and when James doesn’t object, he adds, “and I’m going to blow you.”
That’s all Al needs. He pulls on the shirt hard enough to pop the remaining buttons. Straw spills out, falls on the floor, but Al doesn’t care because James is underneath. Hot and hard muscles, and a bulge in his trousers that Al thinks is something more than straw. Al goes to his knees as he opens the fly, tugs down the trousers and brushes the straw away.
James tightens his fingers in Al’s hair. “Al, fuck….”
Al can’t respond to that, can’t say maybe next time
when he knows this is all he gets. Instead he grips James’s perfect arse and pulls him close, gets his mouth around the tip of his prick. James twists his fingers in Al’s hair, rocking forward, and Al obligingly takes him in, swallowing him deep.
It’s like that moment in a dream where everything’s perfect and he doesn’t have to worry about a gag reflex or breathing. James’s perfect prick slips into Al’s throat like they were made for each other, and Al swallows around him. With every small noise Al makes, James shudders, body shivering. Al’s own trousers are too tight, too much, and he wonders if he’s going to spill untouched, just from the way James fucks his face.
But James pulls out, a thin tendril of liquid stretching from the tip of his prick to Al’s lips. “You want more,” James murmurs, and Al shudders with hunger and need.
Every dream, every fantasy comes crashing in and he can’t decide which one he needs more. So many ideas, so many things that he desires, but he needs his heart’s desire right now. Al stands slowly, cradles James’s head and kisses him deeply. “I want to fuck you,” he murmurs against his brother’s lips.
They part, and James nods once. “Okay.”
Al struggles to strip quickly, tangling in his trousers until James helps him get everything off. His pants are soaked with pre-come, his prick dripping once it’s released. James wraps his hand around it, tightens his grip and strokes once, and Al groans loudly.
“You’re going to get me off before I get a chance to fuck you,” Al complains, and James chuckles.
“Then you’d better hurry up and get me ready,” James counters.
It’s the stuff of fantasies, the way James kneels on the floor, elbows and head down and arse up, knees slightly spread. Al holds his prick, has to stand there for a long moment to find his equilibrium before he can finally kneel down behind James and look his fill.
He nudges James’s cheeks apart, baring his puckered hole. Al can conjure lube, that would be easiest, but he wants to do this first since he may never have another chance. He lowers himself close enough to nip at one perfect cheek, then lick a stripe from James’s bollocks to his hole, swirling carefully.
James groans, sways back closer to Al’s touch.
Al focuses on opening him up, soaking his hole with spit, licking him until he relaxes, rim opening beneath his touch. Al presses in, just a bit, and James groans, swaying beneath his touch.
“More,” James whispers, and Al reaches for his hawthorne stick.
He conjures lube and it’s messy everywhere, all over his hands, sliding down James’s crack. Al manages to slide one finger in easily, and James cries out as Al works a second finger in beside it. Al twists, crooks his fingers as he works James open until he can take a third.
“Please,” James whines. “Fuck, Al, please. Fuck me.”
“Are you sure?” Al asks as he slicks his prick.
“As sure as I’ll ever be,” James says. “I love you, Al. Fuck me.”
Al lines up, slowly presses in. There’s resistance at first, the way James’s hole stretches to accommodate the thick head of Al’s prick. Al rocks back and forth until the tip goes in, and James shivers under his touch. “Okay?” Al asks, and James nods, pushing back as Al pushes forward, and they slide together, like lock and key.
“You feel good,” Al whispers, as James clenches around him, all hot, tight heat. “Merlin, you feel so good. I want to move, James, is that okay?”
“It’s okay,” James tells him, reaching back to clutch Al’s hip. “Fuck me. I need you to fuck me.”
Al cants his hips, pressing into James, then pulls back and pushes in again. James rocks under his touch until they’re swaying together, Al fucking him faster, harder as James cries out. James’s back bows, arse pressed high. Al reaches beneath him, gets a slick hand around James’s prick, and it’s still hard and hot and when Al strokes it, James cries out again.
Fuck, that’s beautiful.
Al presses kisses along James’s back, nips at his shoulders. “Come for me,” he whispers. “Fuck, you’re gorgeous, James. I want you to come for me, come while I’m fucking you. Please, just please. Please
“Al….” James comes with his name on his lips, in a long, loud groan. He clenches down tightly, and Al shudders on a thrust, feels the orgasm building in his thighs. He thrusts harder and harder, following James as he slides limply down in the aftermath of his orgasm, and then Al is coming, too.
He spurts once inside of James, then pulls out, thick white ropes of fluid covering James’s back and arse. Al’s knees go weak in the aftermath, and he falls forward, catching himself before he crushes James.
They curl together, and Al’s eyes close, heart hammering so hard he feels as if his chest would burst. He feels James’s lips against his temple, hears the whispered words I love you, Al
He wants to reply, but there’s nothing left of him, and when he opens his mouth, silence echoes.
In the distance, he hears a sharp laugh, and then nothing more than darkness.
Light wakes Al, and he lies there, eyes closed for as long as he can. There’s too much light to be the Potions room, too much light to be inside that dismal excuse for Hogwarts at all. It’s bright, too bright to sleep through, but at the same time, it’s nice to just lie there on a soft bed, surrounded by warmth, with James’s fingers carding through his hair.
“Feels good,” Al whispers, and the touch stops.
“Al?” James sounds choked. “Fuck, Al? Open your eyes, bloody hell, if you’re awake, open your eyes.”
Al blinks, opens his eyes long enough to wince at the brightness and turn his head, twisting toward James’s voice. He curls in on himself, drags a blanket up over his head before he dares open his eyes again. “Where are we?” Al asks, voice hoarse. “This isn’t the castle. Are Tin and Lion all right?”
“What?” James peels the blanket back, leans down close until he’s almost nose to nose with Al, eyes furrowed and worried. “You’re in St. Mungo’s, because you’re a bleeding idiot and jumped in front of a curse meant for me.”
They were on assignment—an easy one, perfect for a junior Auror who hasn’t properly earned his way yet, and a still green senior partner. But they were jumped in an alley, and the suspect panicked, threw a curse. Al didn’t even stop to think what it was, just shouted to disarm the suspect while he dove in front of James, knocking his brother out of the way.
He remembers pain, like every nerve in his body exploded.
Then he was in Hoz.
“How long have I been unconscious?” Al asks slowly.
“A week.” James tugs the blanket down, helps Al arrange himself on the bed so that he’s sitting up, and James can hitch up to sit next to him. James watches him intently, brushes the fringe from Al’s face. “I thought we’d lost you, and I—” His voice hitches. “I don’t know what I’d do without you, Al.”
“I was dreaming,” Al says slowly. “It was weird, and Kingsley was there for part of it.”
“He stopped by once to see how you were,” James admits.
“And Dad was in the dream, too. He was worried about losing his family.”
James pulls back slightly, gives Al a dark look. “Can you blame him? There you were, lying there like death, and Mum was arsed off at him and me for nearly losing you, and Lily was crying on Scorpius’s shoulder, and I felt like shit. Still feel like shit, because I should’ve protected you.”
“I was protecting you,” Al points out, but James wipes the words away with a cut of his hand.
“You’re my brother, and my partner, and I lo—” James cuts off. “It would’ve killed me if you’d killed yourself over me,” James mutters. “Been here since you came in. Nurses tried to throw me out, but Dad pulled some strings and made it so I could stay.”
“Yeah,” Al murmurs, because Scarecrow was the first person he found, and the one who was with him the whole way. “I knew you’d be there, and I knew you’d never leave me.”
James’s cheeks flush as his gaze drops. “I’m just glad you’re okay.” He pushes up, but Al catches his shirt before he can leave. “What?”
Al’s barely awake, and he’s almost died, and there is a possibility that he’s reading this wrong. But at the same time, if he isn’t reading this wrong, there’s probably not long before someone comes barging through this door and interrupts them. And Al doesn’t want to have to wait to ask this one small question. “Do you love me?” he whispers, and he tugs just hard enough for James to fall forward, his hands pressed against the mattress around Al. From that distance, Al can brush his lips against James’s mouth.
His heart’s hammering so hard it hurts. When James pulls back, Al whimpers, and it seems like they hang there in time, James leaning over him and staring down, their eyes locked.
“Please,” Al whispers. “All I wanted to do was come home, the entire time I was dreaming. And you’re my home.”
“Fuck.” A soft exhale, a whispered curse, and James leans forward again, kisses Al hard enough to steal his breath away. James moves his hand, presses it to Al’s chest, just over his heart, and Al brings his own hand up to curl over it, holding on.
There’s a knock on the door and they pull apart just before it opens.
“Al!” Mum rushes in, pushes between Al and James to hug him hard enough that it makes his back crackle and pop. “You’re awake.”
“I’m awake,” Al echoes, and he suffers through Mum poking at him to make sure he’s really conscious and the Healer asking him a hundred questions to prod at his mind and make sure he’s coherent. All the while Dad lingers on the edges of the room, and James stays nearby, close enough to touch but not actually bridging the distance between them.
When Al looks over, Dad flinches slightly. “We caught the suspect,” Dad says. “He’s in custody, admitted to the curse he used. It wasn’t a common one, so we had to bring in a portrait of Snape to consult.”
“Which explains the Wizard,” Al mutters. When Dad furrows his brow, Al shakes his head. “Nothing, I was dreaming. So you figured it out?”
“And you’re fine now,” Mum says.
Al nods. “I’m fine now.” His fingers twitch because he wants to reach out for James. “I’m home.”
If they think his choice of words is odd, they don’t say anything. The Healer clears them out after a time, but lets James stay when Al asks. Dad lingers at the door for a moment, and Al tilts his head, waits to see what he’ll say.
“Take some time off,” Dad finally says quietly. “Snape said you might relapse, and if you do, you shouldn’t be alone. Your Mum’s heading back out for a game, and she offered to stay but we’ve made other arrangements. We’ve moved your things into the spare room at James’s flat. You’re both off duty until Al’s better.”
“Thanks, Dad,” James says, mouth quirking. “And thanks, Head Auror Potter.”
Dad smiles slightly, ducks his head in acknowledgement, and leaves.
The door closes with a soft snikt.
James sits back on the edge of the bed, hip against Al’s hip. He reaches out to tangle their hands together, thumb brushing across the back of Al’s hands. “So you’re home,” he says quietly.
Al nods, brings his other hand up to touch James’s lip, marveling that he’s allowed to do this, that when he slides his fingers across, James nips at him, catches the tip of one finger gently before he lets go.
“Yeah,” Al exhales. “I’m okay. As long as you’re here, I’m home.”