Fare thee well! thus disunited,
Torn from every nearer tie.
Seared in heart, and lone, and blighted
More than this I scarce can die.
- Lord Byron, Fare Thee Well, 1816
When Harry had first envisioned a career as an Auror, he had imagined himself and Ron in a variety of ridiculous, heroic scenarios: fighting crime together and saving the world—or at least the city—on a daily basis; thwarting the bad guy and his minions; having the opportunity to put into practice all that they had learned over the course of their time at Hogwarts. But never this: Harry stuck at his desk all day while the more experienced Aurors handled the major cases; filing paperwork and dealing with the most minor and pathetic of complaints while Ron sat scowling at his desk all day arranging his collection of confiscated wands. It was nothing short of depressing; this week alone the pair of them had visited the same elderly witch three times regarding a noise complaint.
Still, Harry had grown so accustomed to his boring routine that he was almost certain he was imagining it when, one rainy Tuesday afternoon, Draco Malfoy—whom Harry had not seen since the end of the war—appeared in his office, as if by appointment, and sat down in the chair across from him.
"Potter," the pale boy said, as Harry gaped at him and spilled luke-warm coffee over himself. "I see you're as graceful as always. Listen, I need your help with something."
Harry stared at him, face blank with shock. "My help? You ... You've got to be kidding, right?"
Malfoy mirrored Harry's deadpan expression. "I can assure you I'm not. I really do need your help." He glanced away then, as if he was ashamed to confess to such a thing; Harry couldn't help but think that there was something very off about the boy—apart from simply being Malfoy, of course.
"And there is that small matter of you owing me your life and all," Malfoy went on, still glancing out the window. His jaw was set. "I thought you'd leap at the chance to clear your debt to me."
Harry was stunned, certain now he was hallucinating. "Er, would you mind running that one by me again?" he asked weakly. "Since when do I owe you my life?"
Malfoy looked at him, and his eyes flashed with something not immediately identifiable. "Since now."
In a split-second, so quickly that all Harry saw was a blur of movement and color, Malfoy crossed the threshold of Harry's desk and had his hands—ice cold, so cold they burned through Harry's skin—wound around Harry's neck.
"I need your help," Malfoy growled, in a voice that didn't sound like his own. "I'm desperate and ... Damn it, Potter, you're my last ... goddamn ... hope! You know I could kill you right now, don't you? If I wanted to I-I could."
Harry tried to speak but couldn't; all that escaped his throat was a faint gurgling noise. He reached for his wand and found he couldn't move a muscle—all he could do was stare, helpless, into Malfoy's psychotic face.
What he saw there defied explanation.
It was almost as though someone had painted a picture of Malfoy's face and merged it with the characteristics of a slavering monster. The boy's irises, usually a stormy grey, were now swallowed with black, and the whites of his eyes were bloodshot, almost demonic-looking; his lip was curled back from his teeth, revealing pointed, razor-sharp incisors, and the sound coming from his throat could only be described as a snarl. Each blue vein beneath the surface of his pale skin was visible, too; bulging under his eyes, temples and his throat. He looked so perfectly monstrous that for a moment Harry was genuinely afraid for his life.
"You're a vampire," he wheezed, limbs flailing, before the thought even had time to take root inside his head. "You're a vampire," he said again as Malfoy released him, sending Harry's wheeled chair skidding back from the desk and slamming into the wall behind.
"And here I was thinking you never paid attention in class. That's right," Malfoy said, breathing hard, "I'm a vampire."
Harry closed his eyes, struggling for breath, and tried to let this information wash over him. Malfoy was a vampire—some time in the past three years, he had become a vampire. The how and why was a question for another day, however, as there was a vampire in Harry's office; a real, live vampire who had just threatened his life; and that meant only one thing: an Owl to Kingsley. Oh, and a brigade of qualified field Aurors. And lots and lots of paperwork.
But none of this seemed particularly important to Malfoy at present. In the interim he had seated himself in the chair opposite Harry's desk and was fiddling with Ron's old Sneakoscope, looking perfectly human again. Harry stared at him in disbelief.
"How did you get in here without tripping the detection charms?" he asked finally.
Malfoy shrugged his shoulders. "I have my ways." He set the Sneakoscope back down on the table and folded his hands in his lap. "I need your help," he declared again, glaring at Harry. "I have nowhere else to turn, and you're supposed to be the savior of the world, are you not? I need saving, and that's why I'm here." He made a dramatic gesture with his hands. "Please save me, oh great Harry Potter."
Harry made a face at him. "I was the savior of the world," he corrected, still reeling with shock. "Was. But that was three years ago. Now I'm just your average desk-jockey who sits on his behind all day and files petty complaints—I'm not even an Auror yet. If you've got a genuine concern, Malfoy, you'd best see Kingsley; I'm sure he'll handle it, but as for me? I can't help you." He cleared his throat then and leaned back in his comfortable leather chair. "Well, if that's all." He threw the door a pointed look. "I'm busy," he added for effect, and thumbed the pile of notes in front of him. "Lots of paperwork."
Malfoy was staring at him now as if he'd grown an extra head. "Would you mind telling me," he said in a dangerously quiet voice, "exactly when it was that you lost your testicles?"
Harry nearly choked on his own spit. "What?"
"I don't remember you being nearly so spineless," Malfoy went on as though he hadn't heard him. "I mean, a desk-job, Potter? Really? Here I am, your evil-arch-rival-come-vampire, sitting in your office, begging for your heroic assistance, and the best you can do is palm me off to Kingsley? You're a decrepit little worm and you know it. I suppose all those rumors about you defeating the Dark Lord by accident were true."
Harry snorted at this. He'd forgotten how foul and infuriating Malfoy could be. "This has got nothing to do with my credentials as a hero," he pointed out, "and everything to do with the fact that I hate you. Look, vampire or not, I don't really give a damn about your troubles—whatever they are, I'm sure you visited them upon yourself. If you've got a real concern for your safety, go on and see Kingsley—maybe even someone in the Department for Magical Creatures, but—"
This was, apparently, the wrong thing to say. Malfoy set his jaw and went bright pink, then red. Slowly, as Harry watched, his skin paled to white again, but not before his eyes darkened to black and his fangs protracted from his mouth, piercing his lower-lip. "I am not," he said, voice trembling with rage, "a magical creature. I'm a wizard! A wizard with a sickness!"
Harry laughed at him. Couldn't help it. "Tell that to your fangs, Malfoy."
Malfoy let out a cry of rage and covered his mouth with his hand. Within a split second he was gone, leaving Harry with no proof he'd really been sitting there a moment before but for a slammed door and a whirlwind of papers.
"So," said Harry, later on that night when he was at home and sitting next to a sweaty, dirt-streaked Ginny, "I saw Malfoy today."
"Oh," Ginny replied disinterestedly, remote in hand, flicking through the channels in search of her favorite Muggle television program. "And how is dear ferret-face these days? Still torturing puppies?"
"No," Harry said, watching his girlfriend carefully to gauge her reaction. "He's a vampire."
She frowned but otherwise did not react. "A vampire? Wow. Didn't see that one coming. Still, I can't say I'm totally shocked."
Harry sat up a little straighter. "What?"
She shrugged. "Makes good sense, really. What do you do when you want to abdicate your responsibility to Wizarding society? Become a vampire, of course. If he's not a wizard anymore he's not liable to our courts of law, is he? Vampires have their own way of handling matters of justice—he's not one of us anymore; he's one of them. That means Draco Malfoy, the Draco Malfoy who was a wizard, is dead. And so is his criminal record."
"I see," Harry said, attempting to digest all of this. He was glad at least one of them had a brain. "You've heard of this happening before, then?"
"What, wizards becoming vampires in order to evade justice?"
She shrugged again. "Sure. Well I know I've read about it, anyway." Frowning, she said, "Or maybe I've just heard Hermione prattling on about it, I'm not too sure. You know she studies stuff like that."
"Hm." Harry was silent for while as he thought. "He said something about needing my help; what do you think that was all about?"
"Wouldn't have the foggiest. Didn't he say?"
"No," Harry answered, and lay down on the couch with his head in Ginny's lap. "He sort of ... left before I could get anything out of him."
Ginny laughed at the two men squabbling on the screen and then let out a sigh, dropping the remote onto the coffee table. "Never mind about him," she said, stroking Harry's unruly hair back from his forehead. "If it's important I'm sure you'll see him again."
As if on cue a loud knock resounded throughout the small apartment. Both Ginny and Harry jumped—neither were expecting visitors tonight.
"I'll get it," Ginny announced, before Harry had a chance to voice the same words. "It's probably Mum with extra dinner."
"But we've already eaten," Harry pointed out, sitting up.
"I know, I know," Ginny bemoaned as she got to her feet. "But you know what Mum's like; she's convinced we can't feed ourselves."
Harry sank back into the couch and glued his eyes to the television, secretly praying that it was indeed Mrs. Weasley at the door with food—while Harry loved most everything about Ginny, she was a terrible cook. 'Molly Dinners', as he had taken to calling them inside his head, were always the better option. That or take-out.
"Harry!" Ginny shrieked from the small foyer, causing him to jump for the second time that evening. "It's for you!"
"Who is it?" Harry ventured crabbily, refusing to get up off his arse unless it was important.
"Just come here!"
"Ugh. Fine," he said under his breath, and hauled himself off of the couch, "but if it's only Ron I'm going to hex him. And you..."
Part of him was almost glad when he rounded the entryway and saw Malfoy slouched against the doorway, looking more uncomfortable than Harry had ever seen him. The expression on his face made Harry feel almost delightful.
"Evening, Potter," Malfoy said sulkily. "Just came by so we could finish our little chat." He glanced over Harry's shoulder. "Hope I'm not interrupting anything."
Harry snorted and folded his arms across his chest. "You are, actually. How do you know where I live?"
Mimicking Harry's posture, Malfoy looked away and shrugged his shoulders. "Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies—"
"Not good enough," Harry interrupted, placing a firm hand on Ginny's shoulder and stepping between her and Malfoy. He had his reasons for not trusting Vampire Malfoy around his edible-looking girlfriend.
"How do you know where I live?" he asked again. "And what the hell do you want?"
Malfoy still wouldn't look at Harry. "We didn't get to finish our little chat earlier," he grumbled. "That's why I'm here. Like I said before, I need your help. Please, Potter." At this he looked like he was swallowing nails. "It's ... important."
"You stormed out of my office today," Harry reminded the boy blandly. "Left in a blur, actually, but that's hardly the point. You're the one who decided to end our little discussion today, not me."
"You offended me and I overreacted," Malfoy admitted, looking, for all intents and purposes, as if he wanted to smush Harry's face into the pavement. "It won't happen again."
Harry smirked and looked over his shoulder at Ginny, who was staring at Malfoy with a look of unbridled astonishment on her face. "I told him to try the Department for the Protection of Magical Creatures and he completely flipped," he informed her with a snigger, sure she'd find humor in this.
Predictably, Ginny let out a soft snort of laughter, though she still seemed transfixed by the sight of Vampire Malfoy on her doorstep. "Heh. Malfoy. A magical creature. That's just ... priceless."
Malfoy had gone very red once more. "I am not a magical creature," he informed them through his teeth. "I am a wizard with a sickness."
Harry shrugged at him. "Bummer." Sighing, he stepped away from the door and said, "Come on, Gin. Price is Right's about to start and I don't want to miss it."
"Be right there," she answered in a distant voice.
"Er, Gin?" Harry frowned at his girlfriend. She was still staring at Malfoy, almost as if she was trapped in a trance.
With a jolt of alarm, Harry gripped her upper-arm and shook her bodily. "Gin? Gi-in? Earth to Gin!" Receiving nil reaction, he scowled and rounded on Malfoy.
"What have you done to her?" he barked, making a fist and preparing to pummel the blond boy if necessary, supernatural entity or not. "Whatever you're doing to her, stop it! Gin might be susceptible to your ... your vampire mojo, but I can assure you I am not!"
Malfoy looked at Harry as if he was retarded, while Ginny broke her silence to say, "Quiet now, Harry. He isn't doing anything to me, I'm just ... looking. Yes, just looking. It's quite the spectacle, isn't it? It's still him only ... new and ... and improved. How astonishing..."
Harry and Malfoy shared a look of abject disgust.
"Get her away before she mauls me," Malfoy sighed, stepping away from the door and studying his fingernails. The look on his face said Ginny's reaction to him was not unique. "You and I need to talk. Alone."
Harry bit his lip. "Fine," he snapped. Slamming the door in Malfoy's face, he turned to Ginny, who blinked a few times and shook her head.
"Sorry about that," she said sheepishly, clearing her throat. "It's just that he's so—"
"Ugh." Harry made a sour face and held up a hand to stop her. "Please, Gin, don't. Just ... don't say anything else. For my sake."
Ginny closed her mouth and made a zipping gesture with her fingers. "Not another word." The tips of her ears glowed red, just as Ron's did when he was embarrassed or angry.
Sighing, Harry stepped forward and placed his hands on her shoulders. "I better find out what he wants, alright? I'm sorry about all of this."
Ginny shrugged. "It's not your fault. But he does know where we live now," she reminded Harry, biting her lower-lip. "That's not a good thing. I want you to find out how he found us."
"I will," Harry promised her. "Just go on upstairs while we talk, though, will you? Please?"
Ginny looked mildly put-out at this and Harry groaned. "I know, I know, you hate it when I try to keep you out of things; but it's not like that, okay? Not this time. I don't trust him, that's all. He's a vampire, Gin, and you know what that means—he might look like Malfoy, but he's not really. Not anymore. He's a monster—a killer. You do know most curses won't even work on him now?"
Ginny offered a half-smile and nodded. "I know. I trust you. I just wish you'd trust me to help you."
Harry offered her a tight-lipped smile in return. "I do," he began, "I do. But I don't know why he's really here. I don't know what he wants from us and one thing's for certain: I don't trust him. I don't trust him near you and I want to make sure you're safe, alright?"
With a wistful smile, Ginny cupped his cheek and stroked his skin with her thumb. "Alright." She turned to leave before pausing, her smile fading to a frown. "Be careful though, won't you?" she asked him. "I ... I don't trust him either. Watch your back, Harry."
"I will," Harry promised her softly as she trudged up the stairs in her muddy Quidditch boots.
When he swung the front door open, Malfoy was still standing there with a sour look on his face. "I heard all of that," he informed Harry with a petulant scowl. "It's rude to talk about people behind their backs, you know."
Harry tried to appear nonchalant at this, but truthfully he was a little unnerved that Malfoy was able to hear a hushed conversation from behind a closed door.
"You're not a person, though," he informed the blond boy finally, folding his arms over his chest. "And didn't your mother ever teach you it was rude to eavesdrop?"
Malfoy's grey eyes glittered with malice but otherwise he kept his temper in check. This was very un-Malfoy-like behavior. Harry surmised whatever it was Malfoy wanted, only Harry was able to give it to him. Little else would explain Malfoy's uncharacteristic restraint.
"Can we talk now?" Malfoy asked after a moment.
Harry let out a defeated sigh. "Fine," he said. "Let's talk." He turned his back on Malfoy then and began to walk toward the lounge-room, assuming Malfoy would follow. When it became evident, however, that he would not, Harry frowned and turned back to the still-ajar door where Malfoy still stood, looking as if he was choking on nails.
"Well are you coming or not?" Harry asked him slowly. "Jesus, Malfoy. Do I have to wipe your arse for you, too?"
Malfoy winced at this, closed his eyes, and let out a breath. "I can't," he said in a voice so low Harry barely heard him.
"Can't what?" Harry prodded.
"I can't ... I can't come in," Malfoy forced out, skin darkening with humiliation. "Not unless you invite me. It's a vampire thing."
Harry stood there a moment, letting this newly-acquired piece of information sink in. Now that he thought about it he vaguely recalled learning about this very scenario in DADA, and back then Lupin had advised the class to never, ever invite a vampire into your home—once you extended an invitation to one it was good for a lifetime. And Harry was certainly not about to give Draco Malfoy a lifetime pass into his abode.
He smirked. "On second thought," he said, taking his dad's old leather jacket off the hook near the door and throwing it over his shoulders, "I think we'd better just talk outside. By the way, have you eaten tonight?"
Malfoy threw him a dark look. "Please," he said, sounding utterly disgusted, "if you're worried I'm going to attack you, you needn't flatter yourself. Your blood probably tastes rank and I can assure you that you don't look at all tempting to me. I'd rather feed off of a diseased goat."
Harry stared at him. "Ouch," he said, almost meaning it. "That was cold."
"I can see you're all torn up," Malfoy replied, rolling his eyes.
Harry stepped out onto the porch and folded his arms again. It was a cool, clear night, the firmament glittering over their heads. He blew into his hands to warm them and sat down on the front steps, waiting for Malfoy to join him. He was well aware the other boy was right behind him and could attack at any moment, but he refused to be afraid. After all, he'd once taken on the most powerful Dark Wizard of his generation—what was one piddly little vampire?
He looked over his shoulder at Malfoy, who was still standing there awkwardly, wearing nothing but a thin white button-down shirt. "Aren't you cold?" Harry asked him.
"No," Malfoy replied shortly. "I'm dead; I don't feel the cold."
Harry stared at him. "Er ... okay. Well then, are you going to sit down and tell me why you're here?"
"I'd prefer to stand if it's all the same to you," Malfoy answered primly. "Sitting makes me feel vulnerable."
"Um, okay," Harry said, unnerved by the other boy's overshare. "Thanks for the heads-up." He gestured for Malfoy to stand in front of him. His heart skipped a beat when the boy appeared, quite suddenly, in front of him not a second later.
Harry inhaled sharply. "Would you mind not bloody doing that? It's not polite."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Malfoy said, looking down at him with a blank expression.
"Apparating like that," Harry mumbled.
"I wasn't Apparating," Malfoy said in a dry tone. "Couldn't if I tried."
"Then how did you do that?"
"Move so fast."
Malfoy shrugged. "It's a vampire thing. I can't always help it."
"I see." Harry eyed the boy up and down. "You look so young," he opined.
Malfoy appeared faintly embarrassed by this. His color darkened and he glanced away. "I'm the same age as you," he grumbled.
"I know that," said Harry, impatiently. "How old were you when you were turned, though? I haven't seen you since the War ended. Have you been ... you know ... a vampire all this time?"
Malfoy was quiet for a significant length of time. Finally, he said, "I'd just turned eighteen."
"Wow," was all Harry could think of to say. "You'll be eighteen forever, then. How unfortunate."
This seemed to pain Malfoy some. He closed his eyes and bowed his head. "No," he said, very quietly. "I won't. I don't want to ... I don't want to be this ... this thing anymore. I want to be who I was born to be. Nothing is worth this." He looked at Harry. "I want to be a wizard again."
Harry tried to look sympathetic. "Rotten luck," he said, shrugging. "Honestly, though, I don't think there's any going back from—" He made a sweeping gesture at Malfoy's body— "this. It's like you said—you're dead, right?"
Malfoy bit his lip and stared off into the distance. "You're wrong. I can change this; I know I can. This was never meant to be permanent, you know."
Harry gave the boy a reproachful look. "Just till the law was off your tail, then, eh?"
"Something like that," Malfoy conceded. He cleared his throat. "Anyhow, I came to you for help. I know we've had our differences, but—"
Harry laughed heartily. "Our differences? Malfoy, we've hated each other's guts from the moment we met. Let's not try to re-write history, now."
Malfoy stared down at him coldly. "I'm not, and that's not exactly true, is it?"
"Yes it is," Harry argued. "We were born enemies, Malfoy, don't try to paint it any other way. Look, you need my help? Fine. Just don't try to pretend we're anything we're not, please. It's awkward and embarrassing."
"I liked you just fine until you snubbed me," Malfoy snapped, ignoring him. The look on his face was positively dangerous.
Harry stared at him in astonishment. "Pardon?"
"You heard me," Malfoy said bitterly. "I liked you. I liked you and you rejected me. End of story."
"Shut up for a moment, will you? As I was saying," Malfoy went on, very pink in the cheeks now, "I need your help and I have nowhere else to turn. My family won't see me, not while I'm like this, I've shamed them, and there's no one left I can trust. I need you, Potter. You, Granger, even bloody Weasley—the whole damn Dream Team."
Harry was genuinely confused now. "You need us for what exactly?"
Malfoy took a deep breath. "The three of you defeated the Dark Lord. Compared to him, this should be a cinch. You're the only ones who can—who will—help me."
"What are you—"
"The man who turned me," Malfoy blurted out. "His name is Xavier."
Harry stared at Malfoy expectantly. "And that means what to me?"
Malfoy clenched a fist and cast his eyes to his feet. "He's the head of the London clan—"
Harry burst out laughing. There was nothing else for it. "Clan?" he repeated, struggling to catch his breath between fits of laughter. "You make it sound like—"
"It's no laughing matter." Malfoy fixed Harry with his best death-stare. "He's over five-hundred years old and unprecedentedly powerful—you have no idea what I'm up against."
Harry rolled his eyes at him. "Fine," he sighed. "What have you done to piss him off, then?"
Malfoy turned his back on Harry and bowed his head to the wind. After several moments of silence he finally spoke: "When I came to him and requested to be Turned, he welcomed me into the fold—the inner circle—almost immediately. He told me I was his greatest acquisition in over a century. I wasn't sure what he meant then, only that he liked me; his true intentions didn't become apparent until much later."
"Skip the prologue and get to the point," Harry said impatiently.
"But I was careless with whom I confided in regarding my plans," Malfoy went on, turning back to Harry. "It wasn't long before Xavier realized I didn't intend to stay; that I was only using the clan to achieve my own ends—to him I became just another oppressor, one more Wizard with an over-inflated ego, trying to exploit them. He flew into a rage, threatened to kill me. He said I'd betrayed him; that I'd betrayed all of them."
Malfoy took a long breath. "Loyalty is a vital trait if one wishes to survive amongst a vampire clan," he explained in a strained voice. "I think you can see my dilemma."
Harry snorted. "You can say that again." Malfoy was a Slytherin, a slimy little self-serving worm—even dead, Harry doubted that had changed much for the boy.
"Anyhow," Malfoy went on, "he tortured me until I begged for mercy, pleaded with him to reconsider. He granted me clemency at the last minute—but not until I made him a promise."
Harry frowned and waited for Malfoy to continue. "Go on." The other boy looked pained—tortured, even.
"He made me enter a Blood Bond with him," Malfoy said in a whisper.
Harry stared at him blankly. "I don't get it. What's a Blood Bond?"
"It's ancient magic," said Malfoy, stuffing his hands in his pockets. "It's the penultimate commitment among vampires, generally reserved for lovers and lifelong partners. Once two vampires have been joined by a Blood Bond, they're inseparable for life. It gives the pair access to one another's thoughts and feelings; even separated by continents, he'll always know where I am..."
Harry took a moment to digest this. He couldn't recall having learned any of this in his limited classes on vampires. "Right," he said finally. "So what you're really saying is that you ... you married this guy."
Malfoy hugged his arms close to himself and closed his eyes. "A Blood Bond is nothing so maudlin as human marriage, but if you must look at it like that, then I suppose so, yes."
Harry made a face. "Gross," he muttered. The very thought made his stomach churn. "Anyway, where exactly do I come into this?"
"Xavier likes to keep me chained to him, like some sort of pet," Malfoy explained with evident disgust. "I escaped the nest a few days ago and I've been on the run ever since, but I'll never last without the help of a witch or wizard. I need you, Potter."
Harry, attempting to disregard the fact Malfoy had just said the word 'nest', said, "Why me? Why not one of your old Slytherin buddies?"
"I'll die before I trust a snake," Malfoy said shortly. "I need you. I know I can trust you, Potter. You and your friends are far too noble for your own good. I know you won't betray me to those who would capture me and return me to him."
Harry snorted. "You don't know anything about me or my friends. I mean, why would I help you? What's in it for me?"
Malfoy tilted his head to one side. "I could have killed you today," he reminded Harry. "I caught you off-guard—I could have had you if I'd wanted to; it would have been only too easy. But I didn't."
"And what does that prove?"
Malfoy sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose—Harry noticed as he did so that Malfoy had very bony, fragile-looking wrists. He reminded Harry of a bird. "If you help me, Potter, I swear on all that is holy you will never see me again. I'll donate my entire trust fund to whatever charity Granger's spruiking these days—do you know how many Galleons we're talking here? All I ask is that you and Granger stick your heads together and try to figure out a way to help protect me from Xavier. If he gets his hands on me now, after I've run from him, betrayed him a second time, he'll ensure I never see the light of day again."
"You can't see the light of day as it is," Harry remarked. "You're a vampire."
Malfoy narrowed his eyes. "You know what I mean."
Harry bit his lip and stared down at his clasped hands, his brain whirring noisily. Part of him wanted to laugh at Malfoy, to go inside and slam the door in his face. But Malfoy seemed genuinely afraid of this Xavier character, so much so that he'd sought out Harry Potter for amnesty. If he was sincere about this (and about the trust fund money) Harry supposed he could find it within himself to at least ask Hermione's opinion on the matter. After all, Malfoy had showed signs of reform toward the end of the war—perhaps Harry owed it to him.
"Fine," he said after a minute's silence. "I'll ask Hermione if she knows anything about this ... this Blood Bond, alright? See if maybe she can help you get out of it. Tell me how I can contact you, but don't show up at my house again. I don't trust you around my girlfriend. If I find out anything I'll contact you."
Malfoy nodded, looking genuinely surprised Harry had agreed to help him at all. He reached into his jacket and pulled out a folded piece of paper, proffering it to Harry. "Of course. And thanks, Potter. I mean it. Thank you."
"Whatever." Harry snatched the piece of paper from Malfoy's hand, stuffed it inside his jacket, and got to his feet, dusting off his jeans. "By the way, I'll be telling Hermione all about your trust-fund money, too, so you'd better be good for it."
"I am," Malfoy said earnestly. "You can have it; all of it. Money means very little to me these days, I can assure you."
"Yeah, well that's—" Harry paused mid-sentence, his senses rousing. He was sure he'd heard a rustle in the hedges surrounding the house, perhaps even footsteps. Breath quickening, his hand flew to his back-pocket, where he still kept his wand after all these years.
Harry put a finger to his lips. "Shut up," he hissed. "I think I heard something." He watched the blond boy from the corner of his eye. "You're an idiot, by the way," he grunted. "Completely bonkers. Some psychotic, deranged, obsessed old vampire's after you and you come here? I ought to—"
"Relax, would you?" Malfoy advised him calmly. "It's not Xavier."
Malfoy put his thumb and index finger between his lips and whistled. "Gabriel?" he whispered to someone unseen. "You can come out now. Potter won't harm you, I promise."
Thoroughly confused, Harry whirled around and let out an undignified yelp, thrusting his wand out in front of him. Behind him was a boy of around seventeen or eighteen, with long, curling black hair, unblemished white skin, and brilliant blue eyes. He was slender like Malfoy was—around the same height, too—and was dressed in tailored black trousers and a black leather jacket, the collar of which rested just below his chin. The look he wore told Harry he was unafraid of him.
"Harry Potter," the strange boy said. His expression remained stoic.
Harry drew himself up to his fullest height. "Who the hell are you and what are you doing in my front-garden?" he demanded. He refused to lower his wand.
The dark-haired boy ignored Harry's wand and stepped around him to get to Malfoy. He put an arm around Malfoy's shoulders—at which point Malfoy looked slightly uncomfortable—and held Harry's gaze unwaveringly. "My name is Gabriel," he stated. Harry detected a faint accent in his voice—maybe French. "I am here with Draco. Where he goes, I go."
Slowly, Harry lowered his wand. "That's ... nice," he said awkwardly, and cleared his throat. He wasn't quite sure what to say to this admission. "You're a vampire too, I take it?"
Gabriel gave a faint smile. "I am." After a long silence, he added, "Thank you for offering your aid to Draco, Harry Potter." He extended a hand to Harry and bowed his head. "My undying gratitude."
Harry took the proffered hand with no small amount of reluctance and gave an uneasy smile. "Sure." Catching Malfoy's eye for a second, he mouthed, "Boyfriend?" This was too much for one day, really. By the looks of things, Malfoy had gone and got himself a vampire lover. A male vampire lover. Ginny—Ron, too—was going to love this little tidbit of information.
Malfoy turned an unhealthy shade of pink. "We should go."
"Oh, don't be so hasty," Harry said with a smirk. He was finally beginning to enjoy himself now; Malfoy's humiliation was simply too delicious.
Rounding on Gabriel, he continued, "You must satisfy my curiosity, Gabriel. I have to confess, you and Draco here are the first vampires I've ever met. Might as well make the most of the opportunity, eh?"
"Of course," Gabriel replied with an polite nod. "Ask what you will. Any friend of Draco's is also a friend of mine."
Harry refrained from informing the boy that he and Malfoy were far from pals, and instead asked, "How old are you?"
"I was born in eighteen eighty-four," Gabriel answered simply, "and was reborn in nineteen-hundred at almost seventeen human years."
"So you're sixteen, then?"
"In a manner of speaking, yes."
Harry threw Malfoy a sly look and quietly said, "Cradle-snatcher." Gabriel only looked confused.
"So," Harry said, rounding on Gabriel once more, "how long have you known young Draco over here? I know he and I haven't seen one another in quite a while but we do go back. Way, way back." Malfoy threw Harry a quelling look at this. Clearly, someone was running from their shady past.
"I have not known him nearly long enough," Gabriel answered with a smile, appearing not to have noticed the exchange between Harry and Malfoy. He was gazing at the pointy blond boy now as though he was as radiant as a thousand burning suns, and Harry was forced to stifle a gagging noise. The entire thing was quite putrid, really, and he soon decided he'd rather seen enough.
Anyone who looked at Draco Malfoy like that wasn't worth talking to, and as far as Harry was concerned, both boys seemed as if they deserved each other, anyway. The pair of them looked like complete wankers. The way they dressed alone...
Not bothering to conceal the look of distaste on his face, Harry looked at Malfoy and said, "Anyway, good catch-up. But I'd best be off."
Malfoy narrowed his eyes at him. "I'll be hearing from you, then?" It seemed he trusted Harry about as much as Harry trusted him.
"Sure." Harry began backing away from the two boys and toward the house. "Like I said, I'd better get back in there to Gin," he explained with a gesture of his thumb. "She'll be worrying herself sick in there, what with me standing out here with a couple of vampires and all."
Gabriel frowned at this. "But you have nothing to fear from us."
Malfoy placed a quelling hand on Gabriel's forearm and said, "Never mind Potter, Gabe, he's only winding you up. He's well aware he has little to fear from us—after all, everyone knows Harry Potter is an exceptionally powerful wizard. One would be a great fool indeed to seek a quarrel with him." Fixing Harry with a sharp look, he added, "Do I have your word I'll hear from you soon?"
"Sure," Harry told him with a shrug. His cheeks were slightly pink with Malfoy's compliment but he chose not to dwell on it, choosing instead to ponder just when it was Malfoy had started talking like a character from a Shakespeare play. "If my word means anything to you, that is."
"It does," Malfoy replied. He bit his lip, looking as if he wanted to say something more but seemed to think better of it. He took Gabriel's hand, nodded once at Harry, and then they were gone.
Just like that, they were gone.
The next morning, Harry decided to take the day off. It was imperative if he wanted to get a hold of Hermione before next week: Thursday's were a day off for her, too—her only day off—even if she called them 'Study-Days' and spent them lobbying the Ministry for the increased freedom of non-wand-carrying magical creatures.
Now that Harry thought about it, Malfoy's plight ought to be right up her alley.
When Hermione's fireplace finally spat him out in the living-room at around midday, Harry was surprised to see Ron sitting in Hermione's favorite chair, a steaming mug of tea in hand, glassy eyes fixed to the fireplace. Harry dusted himself off, coughed up a lung, and stood in front of him, waving a hand over his eyes. "Ron? You in there somewhere, mate?"
Ron blinked once and looked up at Harry. "Oh. Hey, Harry. What are you doing here? I thought you were working today."
"I thought you were working today," Harry countered, raising an eyebrow at his friend. "Hermione home?"
"Oh, honestly," came Hermione's voice, floating from somewhere in the house. "Between the two of you I'll never get a study-day to myself, will I?"
Harry chuckled to himself and called, "You know you love it, Hermione. And besides, you do enough study as it is!"
He glanced back down at Ron, who still didn't look himself, and sharply recalled something Hermione had told him earlier in the week: Fred's birthday was coming up in a few days. While Harry knew this time of year was always hard on Ron, he never quite knew what to say that wouldn't make it worse and so said nothing at all.
After a tense few minutes of silence, Hermione flew into the living-room, hair unkempt and pinned up with a quill, and threw herself into Harry's arms, beaming. Vaguely, Harry was glad Ginny wasn't here to see this. Though Hermione was quite blissfully unaware of it, Ginny was often irrationally jealous of Harry and Hermione's friendship, convinced they shared 'history' or 'tension' or whatever else she was able to come up with to describe what was purely innocent friendship.
Thinking of this, and how much he treasured it, Harry squeezed Hermione back tighter, lifting her up off her feet, before he set her back down on the floor and took her by the shoulders. Releasing a deep breath, he looked into her eyes and said, "Well, do I have a story to tell the both of you. You'd better sit down."
By the time Harry was done bringing his friends up to speed on the whole Draco-Malfoy-is-a-vampire scandal, Ron was sitting on the edge of his seat, hanging on Harry's every word, while Hermione looked positively stunned, one hand covering her mouth.
"Oh, Harry," she said in a whisper. "I almost feel sorry for him; what he told you sounds awful."
Ron spun around in his seat to stare at her then, mouth agape, an expression of pure outrage on his face. "You feel sorry for him?" he echoed. "Have you somehow forgotten that that nasty little prat nearly got us all killed, more than once?"
Hermione rolled her eyes at him. "Shut up, Ron," she drawled. "I said 'almost'. Besides, I think it's you who's forgetting that it was Draco Malfoy who tried to save Harry's life once."
Ron threw Harry a look of disbelief. "What's she on about?"
Harry shrugged at him. "Remember that time the Snatchers captured us and took us all to Malfoy Manor? He told Bellatrix he couldn't recognize me but I know he did. I could see it in his eyes; he knew it was me. He knew it was me the second they hauled us through that door."
Ron raised a ginger eyebrow at this. "And you know that for sure, do you? Harry—"
"He knew," Harry interrupted, and looked down at his hands. "I know he knew."
Ron let out a breath of annoyance. "Fine. So he knew. But that doesn't change anything!" he said quickly, shaking a knobbly finger at Hermione. "He's still a giant bloody dick, and—"
"Mind your language, Ronald," Hermione put in quietly, primly lifting a cup of tea to her lips.
"And he still wouldn't help any single one of us if it came down to it!" Ron spat as if he hadn't heard her. "Come on, mate," he said, appealing to Harry now. "You can't seriously be considering helping him, can you?"
Harry looked down at his folded hands again. "Dunno," he mumbled with a shrug. "I mean, I know you're right," he said, looking up at Ron. "Don't get me wrong, I know that. But still, I dunno, there's something's different about him this time; he seems really scared. I don't know if I can walk away now. He came to me, you know? I mean, he was probably expecting me to slam the damn door in his face and yet he still tried!" He let out a low sigh. "I don't know ... I'm just not sure I can walk away from this. It wouldn't feel right."
Hermione was beaming at him now. "You're doing the right thing, Harry," she whispered, looking as if she wanted to throw her arms around him and weep on his shoulder. "I'm so proud of you, really."
"But if you really want to help him, Harry," Ron piped up, watching Hermione from the corner of his eye, "you know I'll back your play. I'll always back you, mate."
At this, Hermione's eyes watered. "Oh, Ron!" she said, and threw her arms around him. When they kissed, Harry averted his eyes. Watching his two best friends share affection still made him slightly uncomfortable—which was precisely why he chose never to be affectionate with Ginny when either Ron or Hermione were around.
When they finally broke apart, both pink-cheeked and looking guilty, Harry clapped his hands together and said, "Alright, so what now?"
Hermione chose her next words carefully. "Exactly what did he say he wanted from you, Harry?" she asked, tilting her head to one side. "If you want me to help you help him, then I'm going to need to know everything. What did he ask you for? Protection? A cure?"
Harry flushed. The word 'protection' made him feel awfully silly now, like they all still believed him to be some sort of hero. "He wants help hiding from this Xavier character," he said finally. "He says he can't hide without the help of a witch or wizard—he needs magic and now that he's a vampire, he's got none. If he can't stay hidden, whoever's after him's going to find him, aren't they?"
"And you're sure he said he and Xavier share a Blood Bond?"
Harry nodded. "Yep. That's what he said."
Hermione seemed troubled by this. "As far as I know, they're virtually impossible to break," she muttered to herself. "Generally, two vampires who share a Blood Bond don't want to break it; but I'll do some research, see what I can dig up. In the meantime, we'll look for something we can use to hide him. Sound like a plan?"
"Er, are you sure you're going to have time for all of this, Hermione?" asked Ron, still pink about the ears. "With everything else you've got on your plate?"
"Well I won't be doing it alone, will I?" Hermione asked him as if his question was stupid, and looked between both him and Harry. "You two'll be helping me, won't you?"
Ron's expression turned dour. "Yeah," he said, with a smile that looked more like a grimace. "'Course we will be."
Hermione looked mightily pleased by this. "Excellent. In fact, we can start this afternoon. You're not doing anything today, are you, Harry?"
Immediately, Harry began to regret his decision to actually help Ferret-Face out. "Nope," he bit out. "Nothing at all. Ron?"
Ron shot Harry a look that said "You'll pay for this later" and murmured, "Nope. I'm all yours, 'Mione."
Hermione beamed and practically leapt out of her seat. "Brilliant. Library, boys?"
Although Hermione and Ron shared a modest one-bedroom London flat, it had been foolish of anyone to assume Hermione would ever survive very long without her very own library to consult. Soon after she and Ron had moved in she'd set to work transforming the linen-closet into a impressively-sized personal library—a room large enough to house a polished oak desk and five chairs, rows upon rows of books stacked neatly on wooden shelves which rose to the ceiling, and even a small window that was charmed to always reflect the glittering London sky-line at night. Even Harry (who was not by any means what one would call a 'library person') had to admit that what Hermione had done with the space was extraordinary.
Within five minutes she was sitting across from Harry, next to Ron, with her head buried in a pile of books so high they obscured her face. "Do you think he's serious about that trust-fund money?" she pondered aloud as she speedily turned page after page. "Because if he is, I've got to say, I don't think I could—in good faith, anyway—turn the offer down. S.H.I.T.E. simply needs all the financial aid it can get."
Ron snorted into his cup and Harry was forced to cover his mouth with his palm in case Hermione saw him smirking. It was impossible to hear the girl say the acronym 'S.H.I.T.E.' with such perfect seriousness and remain straight-faced.
"He seemed pretty serious to me, Hermione," said Harry when he'd managed to wipe the smirk off of his face, lowering his hand and clearing his throat. "According to him, money means nothing to him anymore. All he wants is to be a wizard again."
Hermione pushed her stack of books aside and stared at Harry intently, eyes narrowed. "But that's impossible. He does know that, doesn't he?"
"Er, no," Harry replied honestly, scratching the back of his head. "I don't think he does, actually. He seems to think it's perfectly possible. Well that's the impression I got from him, anyway. When he mentioned being a wizard again I told him he was bonkers, that I didn't think it was possible at all, and he told me I was wrong. Git."
Hermione frowned, tilted her head to one side then shook it, opened her mouth to say something only didn't, and quickly resumed perusing her books. Harry didn't say a word to her. He was well-accustomed to Hermione in study-mode.
"So he's a pouf, then, eh?" Ron inquired from across the table, a bland look on his face.
Hermione stopped concentrating long enough to give Ron's arm a sharp slap. "Ronald!" she chastised, using that voice Harry knew Ron hated—predictably, he cringed. "You can't say the word 'pouf' anymore—it isn't polite!"
"What?" Ron grumbled defensively, rubbing his arm. "I like poufs! They're ... fun. I mean, they know how to put on a good party, don't they? Tell her, Harry!"
"Er, yeah," Harry put in quickly. "Poufs are fun. Maybe not Malfoy, though. I don't think he's the fun sort of pouf, more of the wanky sort, but yeah. Ron's right."
Harry heard Hermione sigh loudly. "Oh, boys. Whatever shall we do with you." Her tone wasn't unkind. "Harry," she added, "why don't you take that book on protective enchantments—yes, that big red one there—and see if you can find anything. You're looking for something that'll work on anything—someone who isn't a witch or wizard."
Harry rolled his eyes and did as he was told. "Malfoy owes us," he decided under his breath. "Big time."
As the three of them sat there in the quiet, each with a book in front of them, sipping tea and eating Molly's home-made chocolate-chip biscuits, Harry thought it was almost like old times again.
"I think I've got something."
Harry set down his book, which for the last half-hour he'd only been pretending to read, and let out a sigh of relief. "What have you got?"
Hermione tucked a stray-lock of hair behind her ear and inhaled deeply. "Well," she began, "it isn't much but it's a start. It's a Concealment charm, very old, very basic magic, and it says here—" She turned her book around so that Harry could see it and pointed to the passage she was referring to— "that it'll work on pretty much anything, including Muggles and ... well, I suppose vampires, too."
"Excellent," said Harry, draining the last of his cold tea. "Just tell me what I have to do and I'll get out of your hair. I know where Malfoy's staying—well, for the moment, anyway—so whatever it is, I'll do it for him; I don't want you two getting involved. You didn't choose this—I did. And the less you see of Malfoy," he said, with a pointed look at Ron, "the better. He's still a slimy little toad. Only dead."
"Thank Merlin for small miracles," Ron muttered under his breath.
Hermione threw Ron a dirty look and said, "Well, for a start, Harry, you can help protect wherever it is he's staying using the basic concealment charms—you'll remember those from our little holiday in the Forest of Dean."
Ron's jaw tightened at this and Harry hastened to change the subject. "But that'll only protect where he's staying, won't it?" Harry asked. "What about when he's on the move? He's a vampire, Hermione, I don't think there's a Concealment charm in existence that's going to hide him."
Hermione narrowed her eyes at him and he promptly zipped his mouth. "I was getting to that," she said coldly. She pointed to a picture in the book she was holding. "This should do the trick—temporarily, anyway, while we look for something else. It's called a Charm bag."
"What's a Charm bag?" Harry asked her. "I've never heard of it before."
"That's because they're obsolete," Hermione explained. "You or I would never have need of one, we have wands for that, but for someone who is incapable of practicing magic, a Charm bag can be an excellent alternative."
"An alternative to what?" Ron asked grouchily.
"Well, they have many uses," said Hermione, "but the one I'm going to make will be used for protection and concealment."
"Wait," said Harry. "You're going to make one? Like right now?"
Hermione shrugged one shoulder. "It's all very simple, really." She turned the heavy book back toward herself and scanned the page over. "The list of ingredients contains nothing I don't already have in my storeroom, Harry. All I need to do is combine them in a small bag, tie it off, and seal it with an incantation; after that it'll be good to go. As long as Draco keeps the bag on his person at all times, anyone who tries to locate him using magic of any sort are going to find themselves chasing a dead end."
Harry stared at her. "You have your own storeroom?" he asked, genuinely surprised. "Like, a potions storeroom?"
Hermione blushed and kept her eyes fixed on her book. "You know I've always wanted my own," she said quietly. "Ever since first-year."
Harry stood outside the large, looming old house, the wind stirring through his hair, and checked the address Malfoy had given him for the hundredth time that evening. A couple brushed past him as he did so; when Harry turned to look at them, the female of the pair—an attractive blonde woman with painted red lips and a short black dress—threw him a flirtatious smile. Flushing, Harry averted his eyes from her and stuffed the crinkled piece of paper back into his pocket (Malfoy had such gay handwriting, he thought to himself) and unlatched the wrought-iron gate that opened onto the footpath.
He paused before going any further, a tight feeling settling in his stomach. He wondered again whether he was being foolish coming here alone, which he'd insisted upon doing despite Ron's, Hermione's, and Ginny's protests, and considered the possibility he was being set-up. Years of being pursued by Voldemort and his henchman had taught Harry never to trust anyone or anything, no matter how innocent it seemed. And even if he thought Malfoy was being straight with him about all of this, there was always the lurking possibility the boy was simply jerking Harry's chain—luring him to his death, even. Because Malfoy was far from innocent, and Harry wasn't about to start trusting him now.
He looked up at the house and attempted to memorize every detail, including all the possible exits. The house was huge and derelict and undoubtedly ancient—something straight out of a horror movie—with a wide wrap-around porch and a jungle of fragrant wisteria climbing all the way to the roof. This area of London was one of the oldest in the district, Harry had been told; perfect for vampires who couldn't move into the future.
What a cliche, he thought as he counted all the windows. Six all up, at the front alone. There were no lights on in the house, he noted too, only a faint gold glow emitting from the far-right window, flickering like candlelight. He drew his wand from his back-pocket and shoved it up his sleeve, closing the gate behind him.
The rotting stairs sagged beneath Harry's weight. He kept a tight grip on his wand as he reached the porch and tried to calm his rapid breathing. Carefully, so as to make minimal noise, he crept to the far-right window and squinted between the gauzy curtains. His heart hammered in his chest.
Malfoy was sat at a large dark-wood dining table alone, tapping his fingers upon the surface. The look on his face was pensive. The only light in the room came from an old candelabra at the center of the table, where several blood-red candles dripped wax onto the wood, and the boy's white-blond hair gleamed around his head like a halo; his skin was porcelain-white—whiter than it had ever been in life—as if he had been drained of blood.
Harry swallowed hard when Gabriel entered the room. The boy was bare-chested and dressed only in a pair of tight-fitting black trousers, dark-hair falling loose to his shoulders, graceful fingers holding the tapered stem of a wine-glass. It appeared to be full of a dark-red, almost-black substance that Harry sincerely hoped was wine.
Gabriel set the glass down on the table and put his arms around Malfoy from behind, murmuring something into his hair. Malfoy closed his eyes and nodded.
What Harry wouldn't have given for a pair of Extendable Ears.
The pair kissed soon afterward, Gabriel's hands on Malfoy's face, threading through his hair, Malfoy's arm hooked around Gabriel's waist, and all of a sudden Harry felt rather queasy; even if he couldn't quite bring himself to glance away.
Part of him was fascinated. Nauseatingly fascinated, he quickly added to himself. He was thankful at least he hadn't happened upon the two of them while they were having sex, if that was even something vampires did.
When they eventually broke apart, Gabriel said something else, to which Malfoy responded by making a face and burying his head in his hands. Confused, Harry decided this was probably his cue. It was time to announce his presence.
When he reached the front door he knocked thrice on the chipped white paint and waited patiently for it to open.
Unsurprisingly, it was Gabriel who came to the door. Still with no shirt. It was difficult for Harry to adequately see his face in the poor light. "Is Draco home?" he asked, knowing full well what the answer would be.
Gabriel offered him a slow smile. "Mr. Potter." He acknowledged Harry with a slight bow of his head. "Please, do come in. Draco's inside." He stepped back against the door, allowing Harry passage. Harry slipped past and into the house without taking his eyes off of the dark-haired boy, one hand still clutching his wand. He'd be damned before he trusted a couple of poncy little bloodsuckers.
"In here, Potter," Malfoy called from the other room. His voice sounded dull and listless.
Harry paused in the foyer a moment and looked around himself. Like Grimmauld Place, this house had almost certainly been very grand in its day, though the staircase was now rotted and sagging, the wallpaper browned and peeling back from the walls; the chandeliers were blanketed in cobwebs, and the air itself was full of mould and rot and decay. All of the furniture in the house was covered with white sheets (which themselves looked like they could do with a wash or five), almost as if whoever had owned the house had once intended to return.
Harry followed the candlelight into the other room.
"Potter," Malfoy replied. He was still sat at the table with his head in his hands.
"So I spoke with Hermione today," Harry informed him, getting straight to the point. He wasn't here to dilly-dally.
He studied Malfoy's posture while he waited for a response and wondered what was wrong with the boy—the stress of being hunted down, of hiding, most likely. Welcome to my world, dear Draco, he felt like saying. He could feel Gabriel's presence behind him so refrained from making snarky comments lest the shirtless vampire pounce on him from behind.
Malfoy lowered his hands and looked at him. "Enjoy the show?"
Harry frowned. "What are you talking about?"
Malfoy inhaled deeply. "I'm talking about you," he began, "lurking about outside my window like some common peeping tom."
"Oh." Harry had the decency to look embarrassed. "Sorry about that, I was just scoping the place out. How'd you know I was there?"
Malfoy let out a breath. "I didn't." He looked over Harry's shoulder. "He did. Gabriel's been around a lot longer than me. Not a lot gets past him, see."
Harry cast a glance over his shoulder at Gabriel, who smiled at him, and narrowed his eyes. "Supersonic hearing?"
"Pardon?" Gabriel looked confused.
"Never mind," Harry muttered, turning back to Malfoy. "Hermione, she ... she found something she thinks might help you. A Concealment Charm that'll work on a vampire."
Malfoy stood up, so quickly it was inhuman, and Harry flinched back from him.
"What is it?" the blond boy asked him eagerly.
"I thought I told you not to do that," Harry said between his teeth.
"Sorry," Malfoy said, without sounding sorry at all. "Can you tell me what it is? I haven't left the house since I came to see you and I'm ... I'm losing my mind here. Please?"
Rolling his eyes, Harry reached into his pocket and threw Hermione's Charm Bag at Malfoy, who caught it with a single jerk of his wrist. "It's a Charm Bag," Harry explained, watching as Malfoy stared at the small bag, made out of pink linen, in his hand. "As long as you keep it on you at all times he won't be able to find you."
"She said it'll work," Harry said abruptly. "And if she said it'll work, it'll bloody work. She'll look into finding a way to break your ... your Blood Bond, too, but until then the Charm Bag'll have to do."
Malfoy nodded his acquiescence and pocketed the bag. "Thanks, Potter," he said, making eye-contact for the first time. "And tell Granger I said thank you, too. I won't forget this."
Harry shrugged off Malfoy's gratitude. "As long as you don't forget the promise you made to Hermione, you can save your platitudes for someone who wants to hear them."
Malfoy bowed his head. "Alright, then." No one said a word for a long while.
"Look, I'll see you if anything else comes up, yeah?" Harry said, stuffing his hands in his pockets. "But I'd better get going."
Neither Malfoy nor Gabriel said anything.
"And look, I'm sorry about before," Harry added reluctantly, unsure why he was apologizing. He supposed it was just harder to be rude to Dead Malfoy than it was to be rude to Breathing Malfoy. "I didn't mean to invade your privacy, I was just—"
"Checking to make sure we weren't in here sacrificing virgins?" Malfoy asked with a soft snort of laughter. Something in his tone was off.
Harry flushed but forced a smile. "Yeah," he replied. "Something like that. Have a good night, then." He offered Gabriel a tight smile as he left the room, and felt the boy's glacial-blue eyes on him all the way to the front door.
The air outside had cooled considerably since Harry had been indoors. He inhaled a deep lungful as he descended the creaking staircase and slowly made his way back to the street, where he would Disapparate. The wind stirred through the trees lining the block, carrying with it the pungent scent of wisteria, and for a moment everything was perfectly still. Quiet. Too quiet.
He stopped at the wrought-iron gate and looked back at the dark house. A second later a shrill scream rang through the night, sending adrenaline pumping through his blood.
"Malfoy!" Harry shouted on impulse, and drew his wand. He ran back toward the house, up the stairs, and pounded on the door. "Malfoy!"
Harry stared at the door. It was Gabriel who had called his name, he was sure of it.
Like some jumped-up copper in an action film, Harry took a deep breath and kicked the door in as hard as he could. It didn't crash to the floor, as part of him had hoped it would, but it did fly open with a bang. He threw it aside and stormed into the house, fully alert and wand drawn in front of him, a curse on his lips.
"What the hell's going on?" he yelled into the quiet, eyes darting all over the place. He slowly made his way to the dining room, careful not to let his guard slip. "Malfoy, are you alright? Answer me!"
It took his eyes a moment to adjust to the light. The only source of light, the candelabra, had been knocked to the floor, leaving blood-red wax splattered all over the floorboards. Harry whispered, "Lumos!" and let out a gasp. There, by the fireplace, was the same flirtatious woman who had passed him on the street earlier. Harry knew it was her—the dress and the bright-red lipstick gave her away—but her face was now grotesque rather than beautiful. Locked in her grasp was Gabriel, a panicked look on his face, and her fangs were bared at Harry.
"Could it be you, Harry Potter?" the woman asked in a deceptively sweet voice. "I thought I recognized you out there, lovely. Father will be ever so pleased; he's always wanted to meet you."
Harry made a face at her. "What the hell are you doing?" he demanded, eyes fixed on Gabriel. "And where's Draco?"
"Draco's where he should be!" she snarled, tightening her hold on Gabriel, and Harry's heart sank. His help had come too late. "And that's where he's going to stay," she went on, narrowing her eyes to slits. "Xavier won't be fooled twice by that slippery little maggot."
Gabriel let out a yell and his features changed before Harry's eyes. His face, admittedly quite beautiful, became animalistic and full of rage. He bared his razor-sharp fangs and growled, low in his throat, each vein beneath the surface of his skin bulging. "Bitch," he spat, eyes swallowed with black. "I'll kill you for this!"
Harry tried to remain unmoved. He took a deep breath and said, "I won't ask you twice." His wand stayed steady and aloft, pointing straight at the blonde vampire. "Where is Draco?"
Panting, she stared Harry down, licking her fangs, and in a second threw Gabriel aside, sending something clattering to the floor, and launched herself at him with a shrill cry.
"Stupefy!" Harry yelled. A jet of red light shot from the tip of his wand and hit the female vampire in the center of the chest. She flew backward and hit the fireplace with a violent crash.
Harry let out a shaky breath and momentarily lowered his wand. He'd come here moderately prepared, thank Merlin. According to Hermione, Stupefy was one of the few curses known to work on vampires, giants and other magical creatures—still, it's effects on them were seriously reduced.
Gabriel stared up at Harry, wincing and clutching his ribs, and said, "You'd better get out of here while you still can. Xavier's here and he'll know you've been working to help Draco—he'll try to kill you, Harry. He can read Draco's thoughts at will."
The handsome boy's face was human-looking again. He looked over at the blonde she-vampire, who was still unconscious. "Stupefy won't keep her down for long," he said, following Harry's gaze. "You've only got a couple of minutes before she wakes up and when she does, she's going to want your blood."
Harry snorted. "I'm not afraid of her. I'm not afraid of any of you; no offense."
"None taken. I appreciate your bravery, though I think you'll find it lost on Xavier." Gabriel winced again; Harry suspected from the way the boy was moving that she-vampire had broken most of his ribs. "Here, take this."
Like Malfoy, Gabriel moved so quickly he was a blur. In a split-second he was standing in front of Harry, doubled-over in pain and clutching what appeared to be a wooden stake.
"Oh, come on," Harry pleaded, staring at him. "You want me to stake her? Look, I didn't sign up to kill anybody—"
"Xavier'll kill you the first chance he gets," Gabriel informed him sharply, breathing hard. "He cares nothing for Wizard politics, either. I can assure you it won't be a hard decision for him to make. Anna Marie, too. They're both insane—they'd love nothing more than to stir up a scandal in the Wizarding world—"
"I see my reputation precedes me," said a silky voice from across the room.
Harry started and tore his eyes away from Gabriel. There by the French doors was a man of around twenty-five, perhaps older, wearing a black hoodie and trackpants—surprising attire for the beast who was supposed to be the most powerful vampire in London. He was of olive complexion, with long brown hair tied back from his face, and wore thick silver rings on each of his fingers. He had intense, deep-set green-gold eyes, and at the moment both were trained on Harry. Of the three vampires in the room he was probably the least beautiful, Harry thought, though that was hardly the point, for he also held a squirming Draco Malfoy in a choke-hold.
Harry couldn't tear his eyes away from the scene before him. The look of panic and desperation conveyed by Malfoy's gaze ensured that Harry would not leave this house until Malfoy was safe, Hero Complex be damned.
"Thank you, Gabriel," said Xavier then, "for that thrilling introduction. The truth, however, is somewhat less scandalous. Might I ask what you're doing here, Mr. Potter? Yes, I know very well who you are," he informed Harry without being asked. "Though I must admit I'm having quite a bit of difficulty understanding how vampire matters concern you. I believe this is a little outside your jurisdiction, no?"
Harry narrowed his eyes at the man. "Draco's a friend," he replied coolly, lying through his teeth. "What do you want with him?"
"Oh, I'm only taking back what is rightfully mine," Xavier answered innocently. "I'm sure you of all people can understand what it's like to lose something precious to you; something you love. Come along now, Draco," he murmured into Malfoy's ear, causing the blond boy to flinch. "Leave with me quietly and none of your little friends need be hurt. Fair compromise?"
Malfoy closed his eyes. When he opened them again he was staring straight at Gabriel, the expression on his face one of utter defeat. "Don't hurt him," he whispered, biting his lip and breathing through his nose. "Please. I'll go with you if you promise not to hurt him." This was the first time Harry had ever witnessed Draco Malfoy being anything even resembling selfless; it was slightly disconcerting.
"Not another word, Draco," Gabriel warned him, hands balled into fists. "I can protect myself. Not ... another ... word."
Malfoy's eyes fluttered closed once more. "Please, Gabriel."
Gabriel looked close to breaking point. His hands shook with emotion. "He's just a boy," he shouted at Xavier. The desperation in his tone was palpable. "Please just let him go; you can have anything you want, even me, just let him go!"
Harry rolled his eyes at all of them. "Alright, that's enough." All three (conscious) vampires stared at him.
"What?" Harry asked loudly. "Look, this is ridiculous," he explained. He stared directly at Xavier. "Sorry to burst your bubble, but Draco's not going anywhere with you, sunshine. He might be a vampire now but he was born a wizard. As far as we're concerned, he still belongs to us. And Gabriel?" Gabriel blinked at him. "Nobody's sacrificing their freedom for anyone else's, are we clear?"
The look on Xavier's face was utterly feral. "You dare challenge me, child?" he bellowed, fangs bared. Draco was shaking like a leaf in his arms.
Harry raised a brow at Xavier. "I wouldn't if I were you," he advised, managing to sound calmer than he felt. "Look, I've sort of got a good track record when it comes to smiting evil overlords, so are you sure you want to do this?"
Xavier's rage melted into a feral grin. "I'd be delighted."
Harry raised his wand then, another Stupefy on his lips, when Gabriel grabbed his arm and shouted, "No!"
Harry yanked his arm back, scowling. "What's your bloody problem?"
"Xavier, Harry," Gabriel reminded him, voice quivering. "He's got a wooden stake pointed right at Draco's back as we speak, hovering over his heart. You curse him and he kills Draco right in front of us." His eyes were watering. "Isn't that right, Xavier?"
Xavier's smirk washed away. "You know me too well, boy." He inhaled sharply and tightened his arms around Draco's neck. "Never," he began, "in all my years has a protege of mine given me such grief. Not even you, Gabe; hateful little turncoat that you are." He looked down at the boy in his arms and his expression turned thoughtful. "I gave you the world, Draco. All I wanted in return was your love, your loyalty, your utter devotion to me. Do you know how many fledgelings would have given me their eternity for the same privilege?" He lifted a lock of Draco's white-blond hair, twirled it around one finger, and let it go, shaking his head. "Alas, I will never understand your kind. Come, Anna Marie."
Harry's eyes widened and he looked over at the fireplace. The blonde she-vampire who had lay crumpled against it not a moment earlier was mysteriously vanished.
Harry swapped glances with both Draco and Gabriel and bowed his head, pinching the bridge of his nose. "She's behind me, isn't she?"
"What of the wizard boy, Xavier?" rasped she-vampire from behind him. "You know I can scarcely resist the lure of magical blood. It always tastes so ... sweet." Harry felt her cool breath against his neck and shivered.
"Not this one, my love," Xavier told her, and proceeded to drag Draco bodily toward the archway. "But I promise you, when we return to the nest I shall personally procure all the magical blood you can drink. Your loyalty to me shall not go unrewarded."
Harry could practically feel she-vampire's sycophantic glee from here. "You are too kind, Father," she simpered. Harry could feel her breath on him again. It was cold as a gust of winter wind.
He wrinkled his nose and took a deep breath. "Look," he began, addressing Xavier now, "you don't want to do this. It's going to cause all sorts of problems between your world and mine, and I'm sure you don't want that. I'm an Auror, you know." It felt less satisfying than he'd thought to gloat about his status now that he'd finally been given an opportunity to do so. "If you don't surrender to me now, appropriate action will be taken."
Xavier was staring at Harry now as if he'd never seen anything quite so peculiar. Eventually, he said, "Your laws do not apply to me. There is an understanding between the enforcers of your laws and mine-we do not interfere in each other's dealings. This is a vampire matter."
Harry glanced at Malfoy, who was limp now and looked as if he'd given up all hope, and said, "But Draco Malfoy is not a vampire."
Xavier laughed, raw and throaty. "Have you seen the boy?" Still chuckling, he forcibly took the blond boy's chin and forced him to bare his fangs. Malfoy colored with humiliation but barely struggled. Harry had never seen anything quite so sad. He knew then that he'd never be able to truly take pleasure in Malfoy's pain; in what he had become.
Xavier grinned at Harry's obvious discomfort. "He lies with us now." The look on his face told Harry that he was proud of what he'd made of Malfoy; that he saw the boy as one of his most beautiful creations.
Gabriel was on his knees. Anna Marie was laughing at him.
Harry took a deep breath. "Do what you will," he told Xavier. He looked at Anna Marie, and then at Gabriel. "I realize that I'm outnumbered; I can't stop you leaving this house. But you won't make it very far; that I can promise you. You won't get away with this."
Xavier appeared unconcerned by this. He stroked Draco's hair and licked his own lips. After a moment's silence he looked over Harry's shoulder and smirked. "Now, Anna."
There was a cold laugh, a stunned scream, and the sound of crunching bone.
It was so unprecedented that it was over before Harry had even had a chance to stop it.
Gabriel was collapsed on the floor, nothing but a trembling hand to support him, a wooden stake in his back. Blood gurgled around the wound and flowed freely over his perfect skin, pooling around his body in a macabre puddle.
Draco was screaming like a wounded animal; Harry had never heard anything quite so gut-wrenching. Not since the night Voldemort fell. He reached for his wand, heart racing; he needed to end this now. He whirled around, preparing to curse the she-vampire to hell and back before he slaughtered her, but she was gone.
The front door slammed shut. And then there was silence. No more screaming.
Harry whipped around to where Xavier had stood with Draco not a second before only to find that the room was emptied. They were gone. Draco was gone. Harry was alone. He looked down at Gabriel's body, collapsed in its own thickening blood, and experienced a harsh wave of sickness. Gabriel was dead.
~To be continued~