When Harry had signed on as a warden he knew he was going to regret it, but not like this. There had to be something in the laws against this. He was sure it violated the 4th in some way. Giving people as gifts was definitely immoral. And giving Harry to the newly minted Baron Marcone was just spiteful.
“Cheer up Hoss, you only have to stay with him till he's dead and with the enemies he makes? You'll be free in no time.” Ebenezar gave him a grimace that was maybe supposed to be a smile.
“Yeah and in the meantime I get to be the scumbag's slave.” Harry muttered from the cell the white council had forced him into after breaking the news. “Why not give him a pony or some indecipherable book? You know, meaningful and useless?” Harry asked a little louder.
“It is, unfortunately, the traditional gift to give.” Eb informed him.
“Terrible tradition, even Tevye would agree with me.” Harry snarked. He pulled at the doors of the cell. They were still locked. “Seriously, you need to get me out of here. You can't let them do this.”
“Dammit kid, don't you know I want to help? They've got my hands tied.” The old wizard sighed. “It won’t be all bad. The oath only specifies that you be loyal to him, you can still be your stubborn ass self.”
“I won’t be me if I’m under his control.” Harry backed away from the cell bars and wrapped his arms around his bare torso. He flinched when he realized how defensive he looked. But the arms stayed where they were; the White Council's dungeon was cold. Ebenezar placed a hand on the bars. He wanted more than anything to take away those memories. And maybe bring Justin DuMorne back from the dead to kill him all over again.
“There is one thing I can do, but you're not going to like it,” Eb told him.
“Anything is better than losing your soul to a monster,” Harry replied. Never again, if he had any say in it.
“I could lock you away, inside your own mind. You wouldn't be you for a while but he also wouldn't be able to change you.” Ebenezar watched as Harry backed away further and shook his head violently.
“That would be just as bad, possibly worse. I'd rather take my chances as me then as some mindless puppet.” Harry's shoulders drop in resignation.
Luccio entered. She didn't look at Harry but spoke to Ebenezar. “It's time,” She said solemnly.
“Come on Cap, you can't do this,” Harry pleaded with her.
“It's not my choice, Wizard Dresden,” She whispered. She didn't look at him as she unlocked and unspelled the barred door. “Please,” she didn't finish her request but Harry knew what she wanted. Please, come quietly. Please, don't put up a fuss. Please, don't make me hurt you.
Harry just nodded and moved slowly to stand beside her. Eb's heavy hand landed on Harry's scared shoulder. He squeezed lightly. Harry set his jaw and let out a long breath.
“Lets get this over with.”
The meeting was on neutral ground, meaning a patch of land in the middle of nowhere. This time it was a field of purple grass in the nevernever. Two members of the Senior Council, McCoy and LaFortier, stood in the shade of a stone tree. Behind them was Harry. He was flanked by Luccio and another warden he'd never met. Harry was grateful they hadn't sent Morgan. He didn't think he could handle the other wizard's taunts.
A rift opened up a little ways away. Through the rippling lines of the world came Sigrun Gard followed by Hendricks and finally “Gentleman” Johnny Marcone, newest signature of the accords and Baron of Chicago. The Baron was not smiling as Harry had expected but was stone faced. Harry did his best to match it.
“Wizard McCoy, Wizard LaFortier,” Marcone acknowledged the robed wizards. Harry was unsurprised that the mobster knew their names. The man came more prepared than Captain America, the world's greatest boy scout. “Harry.” the tips of his mouth quirked up in a very, very small smile.
“It's Dresden to you, dirtball,” Harry growled. The unknown warden behind him gave Harry an elbow to the kidney. Marcone raised an eyebrow at the exchange but didn't comment. LaFortier stepped forward, gaze locked just above Marcone's eyes.
“In honor of your new position as Free-holding lord of Chicago, the White Council of Wizards would like to grace you with a gift,” The French wizard announced. He motioned one pale finger for Harry to move forward. Harry stubbornly stayed where he was until the wardens behind him gave a gentle shove. They didn't stop till he was level with LaFortier. “As is traditional, we gift you with one of our best warriors. The Wizard Dresden has been chosen to swear allegiance to you and your fiefdom. We hope you find this acceptable.”
Marcone's eyes widened slightly, the only sign of his surprise. Harry waited for him to gloat or at the very least look handsomely smug. Instead, he watched as a cold fury passed fleetingly over chiseled features before smoothing back to his blank mask. “More than,” He replied.
“Very good. If you will both hold out an arm,” LaFortier roughly grabbed Harry's wrist with a boney hand and tugged it forward. Harry shivered, the heat of the man's fingers making him feel the cool air on the rest of his skin. He really wished they hadn't seen fit to divest him of all his magic foci. And his shirt, the shirt part felt extremely unnecessary.
Marcone removed his suit jacket, handed it to Hendricks, and rolled up his sleeve in silence. He held out his arm, level with Harry’s. Harry did his best to not to fidget. Marcone shifted his gaze from the French wizard to Dresden's deep brown gaze. Their eyes locked. Harry felt the hairs on his whole back stand to attention. His gut clenched. He desperately wanted to look away but was caught in the mob boss's penetrating stare. Harry winced as a sharp pain lanced through his wrist and up his arm. Faintly he heard two voices chanting something and then he was speaking.
“I, Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, swear on my life to serve Jovanni Maletta, Baron of Chicago, to do as he commands, to give my life if he asks of it, to give my soul if he has need, until such time as he releases me,” Harry intoned. The words coursed out of him like the waves of the ocean, cutting away any resolve to stay silent.
“I, Jovanni Maletta, commonly known as John Marcone, accept your fealty, your life, and your soul, until such time as I deem you free. And in return I give my word to be honorable and true to you, Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, and all the people of Chicago.” Marcone replied, his eyes never once moving from Harry. There was a rush of moving energies and several gasps as the spell finished.
It cut off with an anticlimactic pop. The world hazed back in to view. Harry wobbled on his feet and was braced by Marcones sure grip on his inner elbow. He looked down at the drying blood mixed between their arms.
“That can't be sanitary,” Harry half mumbled. Marcone gave a short chuckle.
“You alright Hoss?” Ebenezar called out.
“Oh just peachy,” Harry griped, “not at all like a living nightmare.”
“I think, perhaps, it is time my people and I should be going.” Marcone addressed the statement to the senior wizards but gave Harry a gentle tug.
“Of course, and best of wishes with your new fiefdom,” LaFortier said. He bowed creakily and Marcone gave a stiff nod. LaFortier smiled, relieved, and turned to leave, the two wardens following. Luccio gave Harry one last pitying look before flanking the old wizard. McCoy waited till they were out of eyesight before grabbing Harry in a rough and quick hug. Harry just stood, not returning the hug or trying to end it. When Eb pulled back there was a hollow look in the young wizards eyes.
“Stay safe Hoss,” He said gruffly, then he turned and followed the path of the other wizards.
“I think it's time we leave, Mr. Dresden” Marcone said softly, hand back on Harry's inner arm. Harry nodded once. He shuffled after the group as Gard made another portal and they stepped through to a deserted corridor of the old Chicago Capitol building. Marcone stayed at his side the entire time, hand not guiding, but holding, as if tethering Harry to the here and now. Harry tried his best to shake off the feeling of hopelessness and replace it with his usual anger. Then something occurred to him.
“Who the hell is Jovanni Maletta?” Harry asked the silent party. The others froze.
“A man who died a long time ago, Mr. Dresden. If you like, we can discuss it later, in a more private venue,” Marcone said.
“Whatever,” Harry replied. His voice lacked any bite, his anger buried under the memories of horror. Harry jumped when Marcone's thumb began to rub gentle circles into his inner elbow. He jerked his arm away from the calloused fingers. Marcone continued walking out of the building with his body guards in front of him. Harry followed reluctantly.