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Telling Elea about his illness put a huge weight on his back.

His otter experiment had lifted it, and, more than that, improved things between them by a great deal.

Seeing that Rabastan was not going to turn into some ravening monster and hurt anyone around him gave both a sense of relief.

He was not dangerous. Not dangerous at all.

It made him smile. Feel happy inside.

Even Gavin's chill attitude towards Rabastan couldn't put a damper on things.

Everything was fine again.

Two weeks after his little experiment, he'd arranged to take Elea out to the place where, prior to his revealing of his state of health, he'd run and flew in his animal forms. Where he was certain that no one would see and investigate. And thus, come to no harm from someone wanting to turn the creature they saw into some exotic artifact or beast of burden.

They flew out to the site on the carpet Rabastan had recently purchased, Elea snuggling against him while she held the picnic lunch in her lap.

It took about an hour's flight to reach it.

Once landed, Elea quickly set up everything, spreading out the blanket and taking out food and drink from the basket, before turning about to take in the scenery.

"I can see why you come here, love. This place is beautiful. All those trees. That hill over there. The flowers. Even that little stream we just passed. Lovely."

He smiled. His choice in coming here had less to do with how it looked and more to do with how well it suited his animal selves.

But, now that he thought about it, it was lovely.

"I could stay out here all day. Just lie on the grass, and feel the sun shining down."

Well. That was one way to pass the time out here. He was starting to think of other things they could do out here, away from everyone. Lots of them.

He quickly looked away. His imagination was getting the better of him.

Elea had noticed, though, and gave him a sly wink.

"So. You brought me out here because you wanted me to see your animal forms. This place seems appropriate enough to do that."

He nodded.

"I will show you them as they actually look," he said, "but I think first, it would be better to show you them in a way that might not be so intimidating."

"What's more intimidating than this wolf form you take?"

Before he sat down on the blanket, he pulled out a small envelope.

Back at the bar, he'd gone through the library to find pictures of the different animals he could be. With some spellwork he made copies of the ones he'd liked, placed them in the envelope, and brought them home.

"Here," he said, handing it over to Elea, "have a look."

"What's in that—"

The photographs slid out onto her lap.

"Oh!"

Scooping them up, she began to look at each one in turn, though now, they were slightly out of order.

"What manner of creatures are these?"

"Well, that one you are looking at now, is called a 'horse'. People on Earth keep them for many things, like riding, or work, or even just pets," he explained as she looked at a picture of a horse running in a field. "Some of them are big, like that one, and some are smaller. The smaller horses are called 'ponies'. I have no idea why."

She nodded, taking in all the details. The mane and tail were whipped up by the wind created by its movement.

It was, the more she thought about it, rather majestic.

"Do you look like this one?"

"Oh no. I look very different. See, that one is brown. When I'm a horse I'm all black."

The picture was placed back in the envelope, and she continued looking at the ones with horses in them, until she came to a picture of a tiny bird.

"And this animal is?"

"That is a swallow. It's as small as you think it is. Very fast, catches insects, and migrates when it gets cold."

"Why would you choose a small form? Why not bigger?"

"Small can be very useful," he said cryptically.

She gave him an inquiring look, but said nothing and continued on. There were only a couple swallow pictures to look at before she came to another one of a horse.

As Rabastan had pointed out, horses came in small, and so she figured that this one was a pony, rather than a full-sized horse.

It was cute. Just like that little bird.

More pictures of horses and birds, before she came to one of a much larger, much fiercer-looking bird.

It looked like something that would eat the poor, tiny swallow.

"And this one?" she asked, feeling sorry for any poor creature that came near it.

"That is an eagle. It's part of a group of birds people from my world call 'birds of prey', because they hunt other animals." He grinned, suddenly. "It's also one of my school's mascots."

"This thing?"

"Yeah. I like this bird. It soars high, and while it's not as fast as a swallow is, it can see and hear for miles around, because it has amazing eyes, and surprisingly good ears."

And it makes him look regal, the way the horse does.

Apparently he'd had something of an unrealised streak of vanity, or perhaps it was an instinctual recognition of a noble animal by someone from a noble parentage.

"Don't worry. It's not dangerous. Unless you're something small and furry."

Elea gave him a look that indicated she didn't see the humour in what he'd said.

More pictures. More swallows, more horses, more eagles. There were also some otters amongst them, and these she spent more time looking at.

She found that, despite the initial surprise at seeing it, she rather liked him as an otter. Small, furry, and rather adorable. The thought of something like an eagle carrying off the small, wet, slippery creature made her want to cry.

She came to a picture of a wolf, and Rabastan explained that his wolf and that one in the photograph were not exactly the same. The build was different, for one, but it was a good approximation of what to expect should she ever see him in that form.

They both silently prayed that if that ever happened, it would not be during an eclipse, as he had told her that the animal only experienced aggression during the time it was supposed to appear. Outside the time of change, it was rather docile.

Finally, when she was close to the end of the pictures, she came upon the last form.

"It looks like it could be a distant relative of Nall. Only... It's a lot bigger. And has spots."

"That, love, is a jaguar. It lives in something called a 'jungle', which is a bit like a normal forest, only hotter, wetter, and with all manner of strange plants and trees. And the animals are very colourful."

"I should like to see a jungle some day," she mused, examining the big cat.

"Maybe I will take you."

"You would? Oh, that would be wonderful."

She paused.

"Tell me about this animal."

"Well, it's a cat, and it lives in warm places, as I'd said. It's a predator, and eats other animals, and the people who live where it does revere it and consider it almost a god."

It seemed to him that Muggles tended to do that with large, powerful animals.

A few more photos, and then they were replaced back in the envelope.

"Now that you've shown me, what next?"

"First? Lunch. After that, I will show you in actuality an animal or two."

It did not take long to finish the first, and, having plenty of time left in the day, and soon, they were strolling around, taking in the scenery.

Rabastan picked a flower and, like someone half his age or younger, put it in Elea's hair.

She laughed and gave him a kiss.

"I have shown you in pictures," he'd said as he sat by the stream. Elea had kicked off her shoes and was splashing about as if she were a little girl. "What animal would you like to see first?"

A good question, she seemed to be thinking. He had a short list of animals, but picking one from the list wouldn't be easy.

"I'll stick with something that moves on the ground, first," she concluded. "I would like to see that jaguar. I want to see how much it actually does look like Nall."

Rabastan smiled. He'd warned her that the changes were weird, but unlike last time, she watched in fascination as he assumed the spotted form.

"Ohhhhh..."

Her tone was breathless.

"I can see why people hold it in high regard. You're so ... magnificent."

He rumbled his approval, and flicked his tail slightly.

Before he knew it, she was kneeling right next to him.

"You are beautiful like this," she whispered.

I'm glad you like this.

"You can show me the other animals another day. I think I should like to look at you like this for the rest of the day."

No horses or swallows?

She stroked his head.

"Maybe tomorrow. Or the day after."

He rumbled again.

Elea put an arm about his shoulders, and in response, he gave her the gentlest swipe of his rough tongue that he could.

"Come on, love," she said, getting up after several minutes. "Let's get back to our walk."

He gave an amused sound, and, as she got up, fell into step at her side.

He wished, for a moment, that there was someone else there to take their picture.

Elea and the jaguar.

It would be a wonderful addition to his photo album.

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Rabastan Lestrange

April 2016

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