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Tradition

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    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.

Chapter Text

The trip to Marcone's current safe-house was mostly silent except Marcone's short explanation of where they were headed.
    “I've seen the inspection reports on the building you call a home and you are very lucky, Mr. Dresden, that the place has not fallen on you in your sleep,” Marcone said in a soft but commanding tone. Harry scoffed. “So while it is being repaired, there are several open rooms at my home.” It wasn't a question but it wasn't an order. Harry didn't want to push it, but he's Harry Dresden, he couldn't help the compulsion to talk back.
    “And if I said I'd rather stay under a troll-infested bridge?” Harry asked, voice smothered in sarcasm, like a good pb&j sandwich. Yum, sandwich, he thought. There was the possibility that Harry was more than a little hungry.
    “That would be unfortunate.” Harry held his breath for the order. “I hear Trolls are territorial.” And that was all Marcone said for the rest of the ride.
    They arrived a small house near lake Michigan sometime later. It was a one story cabin styled affair with white trim and a picket fence.
    “That's just wrong,” Harry cringed at the homely appearance. Houses like that belonged to people like the Carpenters or Murphy, not criminal masterminds. Marcone didn't reply to his comment. He ushered Harry inside, past a small living room, up some stairs, through what looked like the master bedroom, and into the attached bathroom. Harry stood in the doorway watching as John pulled out a first aid kit twice the size of Mister.
    “Mr. Dresden, if you'd care to sit on the edge of the tub, I could better clean your arm,” Marcone said as he washed his hands thoroughly. He looked on patiently as Harry sat indelicately on the porcelain edge of the giant claw-footed bath. He extended his arm out slowly. His hand shook violently. Harry took a deep breath, trying to calm his nerves. John waited till Harry’s breath had evened out and he'd opened his eyes before firmly grabbing the injured arm. He dabbed lightly at it with an alcohol doused pad. Harry hissed every time it came close to the shallow cut.
    “Shouldn't you be wearing gloves or something?” Harry asked, groggily remembering a first aid class he'd sat through for his PI certification.
    “We've already mixed our blood Mr. Dresden. I doubt a little more is going to change anything,” Marcone replied dryly. When the blood was cleared away there was a long skinny red line that extended from the bottom of his thumb joint to the middle of the inside of his elbow. It crossed two older scars that looked to have been claw marks. Marcone wrapped the arm snugly. “I suggest not getting it wet. We can change the bandage in the morning.”
    “What about you?” Harry asked. Only then remembering the matching wound on the other man. His new master. Just the thought made Harry a little nauseous.
    “I'll be fine. There is some food in the kitchen if you're hungry,” Marcone dismissed Harry with a wave out the door.
    “You're still bleeding, you realize that, right?” Harry asked. He was getting a little angry at the power imbalance already. If John was going to push him around and patch up his wounds then two could play at that game. Harry tugged the injured arm to himself and examined it. The mobsters cut was a little deeper and wasn't healing as fast as Harry's had. “Gloves?” A pair of light blue disposable gloves were instantly in front of him. He took them and put them on. They just barely stretched over his large hands. Harry began to methodically clean the arm.
    “Mr. Dresden, I feel the need to inform you that I am aware that you did not enter into this agreement completely of your free will. This is something I find troubling,” Marcone paused to gauge a reaction but all he saw was a slight tightening in Harry’s jaw. “While I can not give up the chance to have you on my side, I assure you that nothing of a similar nature will ever happen while you are in my care.”
    “What are you try to say?” Harry asked. He finished up the last of the clean up and moved on to bandaging.
    “What I am trying to say, is that I will not pimp you out at my earliest convenience,” A fierce light burned in John’s eyes as he told the wizard this. “You are one of my people now and that means you have my full protection.”
    “Great. I really hope that soothes your guilty conscience about owning a slave,” Harry replied. Marcone jerked at the bitter tone, a slight twitch backwards in his body, before reaching forwards and grabbing one of Harry's shoulders roughly. Harry jerked to try and break the bruising hold.
    “Do you not think I would set you free if I did not believe your precious White Council would just find another way to get rid of you. They are unworthy of your loyalty, Dresden. They don't protect your city. They don't protect you,” Marcone said cooly. Harry had finished wrapping his arm and now stood from the tub rim. John let him go.
    “So what? I should have sided with you? You're evil! You operate outside of the law! Think you're better than it!” Harry flailed his arms around, nearly knocking one into a wall.
    “We have laws, Dresden. Don't harm innocents or children and there are strict punishments for disobeying them. I know what your council would have done to the Carpenter girl if you had not stepped in.”
    “Leave her out of this!” Harry growled. Marcone took a step back and relaxed his posture.
    “You are right. Our tempers have risen too high. We should take a break and come back to this later,” Marcone began to put away the medical kit, slow and methodically. “I had intended only to engage you in conversation about your ordeal. Not argue over morality.”
    “Yeah, well, it sucks. That's all there's to say,” Harry went to rub a tired hand over his face only to see the blue gloves still encasing his hands. They had flecks of red on them now. He pulled them off slowly and tossed them in the wicker waste basket by the toilet.
    “Food?” Marcone questioned.
    “Not hungry,” Harry replied gruffly. With all the reminders of his situation, he had lost his appetite, again.
    “Very well, there should be a room down the hall made up for you. The door will be open,” Marcone dismissed him. Harry just shrugged and left. He hadn't the energy to fight this any more, at least not tonight.
    He left the master suite and found the open room easily enough. The room was easily twice the size of the one he had at home, as was the mattress. The walls were a pale blue with white trimmings and the floor a pale oak. The window faced east across the rippling water. The bed looked warm and inviting. Harry kicked off his shoes and socks and shucked his jeans. He buried himself under thick quilts and silk blankets. It wasn't till Harry was on the brink of sleep that he realized something; Marcone had yet to give him a single order.

Chapter Text

Harry awoke to the smell of sizzling bacon. His mouth started salivating instantly and even when he remembered where he was and why, his hunger didn't leave him. It had been too long since he'd had something to eat. At least 24 hours. He rolled out of bed with a thump and gazed around the brightly lit room. The morning sun shown in Harry’s eyes and he did his best to block it. There was a pair of flannel pjs laying on a chest of drawers at the foot of the bed. The shirt was red and gold with little lions, the pants black with wands shooting spells. Harry put them on grudgingly, his own pants seeming to have disappeared.
    He trudged down into the orderly little kitchen, yawning loudly.
    “You know I hate those books,” Harry proclaimed over another yawn. Hendricks grunted at him from the stove. He had a simple apron tied over his button down shirt and was whisking eggs in a bowl.
    “Really? They're all about idiotic bravery and good winning over evil. One would think you'd love them.” Marcone said from the hallway, a foot behind Harry. Harry jumped and turned swiftly.
    “And child abuse,” Harry retorted. Marcone made a considering noise and filed that piece of information away for latter. “And inaccuracies. Also gingers. Evil gingers.” Harry gave Hendricks a sidelong look. Hendricks snorted and continued cooking.
    “I had wondered why you disliked Nathan so much,” Marcone said as he prepared his morning coffee.
    “Nathan?” Harry asked.
    “We can't all have wizard names, Dresden,” Hendricks said from the stove, flipping pancakes in the air. Show off, Harry thought.
    “You’re just jealous,” Harry stuck out his tongue.
    “Be careful Mr. Dresden. Nathan doesn't share food with children,” Marcone said.
    “I can be nice for bacon,” Harry wandered over to Hendricks and gave him a pat on the head. “See?”
    Marcone raised an eyebrow while Hendricks ignored the hand on his head. Harry decided to up the ante and wrapped Hendricks upper body in a bear hug.
    “Best of friends, that's what we are.” Harry singsonged. Hendricks elbowed him in the chest. Harry let go with a breath of air, staggering toward the table. Had either of them bothered to look over they would have seen Marcones white knuckled grip on his coffee mug.
    “You should sit down before Nathan decides to duct tape you to the ceiling,” Marcone suggested. Harry caught the not-a-order and decided to test some limits.
    “I'm good standing.”
    “As you wish.” Marcone replied, continuing to sip his coffee and read the news. “You should eat something though. We will be moving your things today and you'll need your energy.”
    “The hell we are,” Dresden said sharply. “My stuff is staying right where it is.”
    “I don’t think so. Renovations are scheduled to begin in two days. The sooner your things are moved the better. And that can be with your help or without,” Marcone smirked. “Though I'm sure Ms. Gard would love to get a look at your lab as she packs it.”
    Harry blushed. The way the mob boss had said lab made it clear what he really meant was porn stash. Not that Harry had one. But Bob did. “I'll do it myself,” he conceded. Hendricks placed two plates laden with food on the table. Harry sat and dug in instantly.
    “I would like to join you, if that's alright?” Marcone asked in the same voice that he then used to ask for the salt. Harry scowled.
    “Why don't you just order me? Why all this dancing around it?” Harry asked.
    “I'm trying to give you a choice, Mr. Dresden. I thought you'd appreciate keeping your free will,” Marcone grabbed the salt from the middle of the table and sprinkled it lightly on his eggs.
    “That's great until you decide it doesn’t work for you. And then what? It’s still called slavery and it isn’t pretty,”  Harry snipped back.
    “I am aware, that’s why I’m trying to give you what I can right now,” John said. From the corner of his eye he spied Hendricks exiting the kitchen. “I’m looking out for your best interest and, honestly Mr. Dresden, I believe that you’re not.”
    “What? You think I’m suicidal or something?” Harry asked. He scowled into his coffee.
    “Consciously? No. But you must see that the White Council has never done you any favors, will never trust you. You can do much more without them. You are capable of great things. I’d like to help you with that. If you’d let me,” Marcone reached across the table to rest his hand on top of Harry’s. Harry pulled back, sitting back in his chair. “Would you think about?”
    Harry nodded mutely. It was true that Harry had very few friends on the Council and those he did have were mostly wardens like Carlos. The few higher up friends he did have hadn’t been able to save him from his fate. But could he work with Marcone? The man had a strict moral code but that code allowed for drug dealing and prostitution. It would be only fair for Marcone to ask for some help in return for what he gave Harry.
    “The renovations shouldn’t take more than a few months and as soon as they’re done you can move back in,” Marcone finished off his breakfast and stood up, tucking in his chair. “If you give me two hours to wrap up some business, we can head over to your home and pick up your things.”
    “Yeah, all right,” Harry said. He was still lost in thought, not really hearing John.
    “Goodbye Mr. Dresden.” Marcone said. As he passed Harry’s chair he gave the wizard a light squeeze of the shoulder. The physical contact broke him out of his trance in time to see the last of a pinstripe suit leave the room.

Chapter Text

    Mister was waiting outside when they arrived. He rammed himself into Harry’s shins, making him fumble the flat cardboard boxes. Harry shifted the boxes and leaned down to pet his cat. Marcone waited patiently behind, making a mental note to buy a cat tree.


    Harry walked down the stairs to his basement apartment. He let Mister in first, then entered himself, leaving the door open for Marcone. The small living room/kitchen was spotlessly clean, like only fairy maids can do, but still had the lived-in feel that Harry loved. Mouse padded over from the couch to lick at Harry’s hand. Harry dropped the boxes on the floor and leaned down to give Mouse a proper hello.


    “Hey boy,” Harry said as he scratched the dog/bear behind the ears.


    “Harry!” Thomas called from the bedroom, “I was wondering when you’d be back. I wanted to ask you....” Thomas trailed off as he entered the living room and spotted Marcone.


    “Ah, Mr. Wraith. I was under the impression that you were no longer living here.” Marcone said.


    “I’m not,” Thomas replied. He looked at the boxes piled on the floor and then at Harry. “Going somewhere?”


    “It’s a long story,” Harry winced. He hated not being able to tell his brother exactly what was going on but he didn’t want Marcone knowing how close Thomas was to him. “Marcone, could you take Mouse out back. He probably needs to use the giant dog’s room.”


    Marcone nodded and led the large dog outside. Though he wanted desperately to know what Harry’s ex was doing there, he also desired to give Harry as much freedom as he could.


    When the mobster had left, Harry motioned towards the second hand sofa and they both took a seat.
    “So,” Thomas said.


    “So,” Harry replied.


    “Finally hooked up with the gangster of love, I see,” Thomas said, waggling his eyebrows suggestively. Harry choked on air.


    “No, no, god no,” Harry denied firmly.


    “So you decided to move and thought the best person to help you lift a sofa was the mortal freeholding lord?” Thomas asked.


    “Not really,” Harry said. “More like he’s forcing the move and it was either his help or the scary valkyrie.”


    “Making you?” Thomas asked, frowning.


    “He hasn’t actually given a direct order but,” Harry stopped and studied his hands. He still didn’t really get Marcone’s whole attitude about the arrangement.


    “Oh, OH!” Thomas sucked in a large breath, “Shit man, seriously? I didn’t know anybody still did that. Most of us wouldn’t dare give up a soldier. Not with the war going on.”


    “It’s tradition, or that’s what they keep telling me. What did Lara give?” Harry asked.


    “Grimoire written in the language of the birds. Absolutely gorgeous, absolutely worthless,” Thomas stared off into the middle distance for a second before turning back to Harry, “Do you want me to kill him?” He asked, face deadly serious.


    “No, at least not yet. It’s not that bad, yet.” Harry confessed.


    “Emphasis on yet,” Thomas said.


    “He hasn’t given any orders. He keeps claiming he won’t,” Harry said. Thomas smiled.


    “He likes you,” Thomas taunted. He stopped laughing when he saw Harry’s pale face. “Harry?”


    “It doesn’t matter. We could never,” Harry rubbed his hands over his face, “Even if I did, feel that way.”


    Thomas sat awkwardly, unsure of the brotherly protocol. Having five half sisters had not prepared him. It didn’t help that the Raith children were taught not to show weakness, even to each other. In the end, Thomas placed a tentative hand on Harry’s shoulder and mumbled a, “Everything will work out.”


    The front door scraped open and a panting Mouse bounded over to lick at Harry’s face. Marcone froze at the doorway, taking in the image of the wizard PI pale, shaky, and on the verge of tears.


    “Mr. Raith can stay, if you’d like,” Marcone said. He was sure he had missed something important and it irked him.


    “Actually, I have to get to work,” Thomas said. He stood from the couch and pulled Harry up into a hug. It was a short bro hug, they were still working up to bear hugs and affectionate punches. Thomas took a moment to look over Marcone where he still stood in the door. The man was cool and loose with a blank poker face on. Only the lines of tension around his eyes and the whiting of his knuckles gave away any emotion. Protective, Thomas thought, and jealous. Marcone only moved at the last moment to let the vampire pass.


    “Good day, Mr. Raith,” he said.


    “Take care of him,” Thomas said icily, then louder, “Call me when you get set up at your new place. We’ll have a party,” Thomas left with one last reassuring smile at his little brother.


    The mob boss and the wizard stood in silence for several long moments before Harry drew in a deep breath.


    “I’ll get started on the lab, you can do the kitchen,” Harry said before retreating to the sub basement.

Chapter Text

As always, the sub basement was freezing. Harry grabbed the old terry cloth bathrobe and set to work, packing the tools of his trade neatly-ish into boxes. He left the copper ring for last, not looking forward to pulling out the silicon and calk. His nerves had settled some by the time he made it to the plastic baggies of herbs, so he didn’t jump as much as he might have when Bob spoke.
“Hey boss, what are we worki--OH MY GOD YOU GOT MARRIED!” The skull shouted, knocking down several romance novels. Harry made frantic shushing noises. “Why wasn’t I invited? I could have at least possessed the cat. Have him wear a little cat suit. Ooh ooh! I could have been the ring bearer.” Harry glared at the grinning skull.
“Harry?” Marcone called down the trap door, “I heard shouting. Is everything okay?”
“Just fine. Stubbed my toe,” Harry called back, “and you, shut it,” he harshly whispered. Bob stayed quiet for all of three seconds.
“Who was that? Didn’t sound like the vampire or the wizardlett,” Bob said.
“Shut it or I will leave you to be buried in this place.” Harry threatened. The skulls closed its jaw with an audible click. “And I’m not married. I’m enslaved,” Harry tossed a pair of tongs into a box with a little more force than was necessary. “Really not sure how you confused the two.”
“Well, boss, a lot of people would say they are one and the same,” Bob chuckled, Harry glared. “You forget that marriage use to be about what would give your family the most advantage.”
Harry didn’t reply, just grunted as he continued to sort things into boxes. By the time he was to the summoning circle he knew more about the history of matrimony than most scholars. He fetched a pair of pliers from a box and a small knife.
“The Oneida colony of New York advocated group marriage in which every woman was married to every man. They also had a committee to match parents using physical and mental health.” Bob said.
“Would you knock it off. I need to concentrate,” Harry grumbled as he knelt down next to the ring.
“I don’t know boss. You going to tell me what’s going on?” Bob asked. He sounded almost hurt by Harry’s secret keeping. Harry sighed.
“The White Council, in their infinite wisdom, thought I’d make a good gift for the newest member of the accords,” Harry said.
“Oh.” Bob said, “did you kiss to seal the deal?” The skull managed to waggle non existent eyebrows at him.
“No, blood transfusion,” Harry said. He gave a grunt as the metal came loose. One of the small jewels popped out of its bezel setting and rolled across the floor to the bottom of the step ladder. Harry left it in favor of prying up the rest of the circle. Several more stones fell out and clattered to the ground. All the while Harry was deep in thought. Would Bob know a way out? Some way to negate the deal or break the bond, what ever was called for. Bob would know, right? He was a spirit of intellect! It was his purpose to know.
Harry was broken out of his musings by the harsh ring of his old rotary phone. Harry dropped the box he was moving and lunged for the stairs. At the top Harry caught sight of Marcone’s hand hovering over the receiver. He was staring at Harry or, once Harry thought about it, the trap door that he had just emerged from.
“I’ll get that.” Harry said. Marcone nodded and went back to wiping down the kitchen cabinets. The small alcove that he called a kitchen was already emptied and packed and was most of the way through a thorough cleaning if the gleaming counters and ice box were anything to go by. Harry picked up the phone.
“Hello?” He said. There was loud static on the other side before a voice broke through.
“Mr. Dresden?” asked a loud feminine voice. There was some more static then it abruptly stopped. “Much better, sorry. I’m Marcy. You know my friend Mika. She said to call you if hinky stuff is happening.”
“Oh, okay,” Harry said. He shuffled about looking for some paper and a pencil to write notes on. He located a scrap of a neon pink poster for some band Molly had been chatting about but was at a loss for a pencil. There was a light tap on his shoulder and Harry turned to see Marcone holding a slim black pen. Harry took it with a nod. “You’re in Milwaukee right?”
“Yeah,” she said, “Mika is camping upstate so I couldn’t ask her whether or not this was important but,” Marcy paused and let out a large breath, “like three of the kids from my world religions class have gone goth and I know they’re all in a study group and it’s not just the clothes. They are paler and their eyes are bloodshot and none of them show up to class anymore which is so weird because they still go to the group and that group meets with the teacher and everything.”
Harry hmmmed and thought about the signs, trying to match them to anything he new. It sounded more like a cult than anything else but he should still investigate. This wasn’t at all an excuse to get away from Marcone. “I’ll look into it.”
“Awesome. Also, last thing, I know at least one of them is a hedge witch. He and Mika had the same mentor,” Marcy said, “Don’t know about the other two. The practicing community isn't very tight here. Mika’s been trying to form group meetings but no one wants to listen to someone whose trick is sensing poison. It would take someone with more authority and power to get those paranoid asses in a room together.”
It was a thought Harry had often had. Things would be so much easier if there was a system in place, not just for the newbies but for anyone that is in danger for being in the know. But there was always the problem of time. Warden duties had kept him too busy.
“So, yeah, that’s it,” Marcy said.
“I’m going to need you to answer some more questions,” Harry said. He went down the standard list, adding in a few he’d found useful over his years as a PI. Marcone continued to clean the kitchen but Harry had no doubt he was listening to each word. When he was done Harry hung up and turned to John who had moved on to packing the old paperbacks scattered around the living room.
“Need to go out of town for a few days,” Harry said. He quickly started forming a mental list of everything he might need.
“Milwaukee,” Marcone said. Not a question, just a statement.
“hmmm? yeah,” Harry said distractedly.
“How do you plan to get there?” Marcone asked. He continued to stack away books, faking disinterest.
“Uh Thomas’s boat, yeah, that’ll work.” Harry muttered out, barely audible to the other man. Harry moved away from the phone and into his bedroom to pack. Marcone followed, no longer pretending he wasn't concerned.
“Dangerous?” He asked.
“Probably not,” Harry replied and then paused “But needs looking into.”
Marcone nodded absently, already formulating plans in his head. Harry watched him carefully for a minute. When Marcone refocused on Harry's face, there was determination shining in his green eyes.
“Oh no!” Harry said too loudly, “You are not sending your goons with me.”
“By no means,” Marcone acquiesced, “They would not know how to help. I will go.”
“Like hell!” Harry shouted. There was no way he was taking his new master on a trip designed for him to escape.
“Mr. Dresden, you have a tendency toward self sacrifice that I am trying to curb. Letting you wander into what is sure to be a Ragnarok level of trouble is not going to happen. You need back up.” Marcone said. He lifted a placating hand when it looked like Harry wanted to argue further. “If you insist on going alone I will merely follow you, from a distance. It would be easier to allow me to acompany you.”
“No,” Harry gritted out from between clenched teeth. If Marcone wanted to track him, he was welcome to try, but Harry had been practicing veils with Molly and getting much better. He turned from the now silent mob boss and continued packing, putting thing for his trip in an old duffel bag and everything else in one of the cardboard boxes.
Eventually Marcone let out a near silent, “as you wish,” and moved to helping pack by refolding the things Harry had shoved into the bag. They worked in silence for several minutes till Harry seemed to have calmed some what. Marcone waited another breath before saying “Who were you talking to in your lab? It didn't sound like your apprentice.”
Harry jerked to a stop and stared before sputtering out, “N-no one, talking to myself. It's a wizard thing.” The lie was obvious, and bad, really bad.
“I was unaware you were such a skilled ventriloquist,” Marcone deadpanned, then he sighed. There would be no answer. Harry was to stubborn to share anything willingly with him. “Make sure they're out before the building is remodeled.”
Harry nodded, relieved at not having to reveal Bobs existence. The spirit of air and intellect was a pain in his ass but one he had grown too used to having in his life. Or at least, that's what the wizard told him self.

Chapter Text

The packing was finished in silence. The whole of Dresdens apartment fit in the small moving van with room to spare. It was a little depressing for the wizard to look at. Marcone loaded the last box and waited for Harry to throw in the duffel bag he had hanging from one shoulder.

“This is coming with me,” Harry said, shrugging the shoulder with the duffel on it. Marcone only nodded and closed the back of the van.

“I'll have the boxes taken to your room at the house,” Marcone said and began to walk away.

“Wait!” Harry shouted then winced. He really wasn't good at showing mob bosses gratitude, mostly because he was sure it normally involved killing someone for them. “I, ah, that is, thanks for, you know.” Harry looked just over Marcones shoulder, trying to ignore the blush crawling up his cheeks.

“You are very welcome mister Dresden,” Marcone said, the smile evident in his voice even if Harry was trying not to look. “I will see you in Milwaukee.” With that he got in the black SUV idling next to the moving van.

“Right, see you...hey!” Harry stood flabbergasted. This man was impossible. More manipulating than the fae!

Harry just shook his head and headed to the only slightly blue beetle with mouse in the back and mister sitting in the drivers seat. He shoved his bag in the trunk with some effort and then muscles is way into the car, disrupting an irate mister.


Mouse and Mister were soon dropped off with a minimal explanation to the Carpenters.

“Renovating the place so can you keep them for a bit? Yes? Awesome.”

“Yes, I have somewhere to stay. No, it's not my car.”

And then he was off to Thomas boat. Having called Thomas earlier and cleared it, after a lot of assurances from Thomas that if anything happened to him, he was going to personally drain Marcone dry.

The water beetle hadn't changed since the last time Harry had needed to use it, down to the scorch mark on the side from a particularly nasty fae. Nope, not a thing had changed, except for the smug looking Mafia boss lounging near the bow. Harry gritted his teeth and climbed on board.

“What are you doing here, john?” Harry said with a growl. “We agreed I was going alone.”

“No, we agreed that I would be following you, and what better way to follow you than on the same ship,” Marcone gave him a tiger grin, “You should be happy I didn't hide and come out when we had already set sail. Believe me when I say I thought about it.” Harry didn't reply, just glared. Marcone stood and walked, prowled, closer. He stopped inches from just too close and waited for Harry to make a move. Harry stared him down. It was such a luxury to be able to look someone in the eyes and normally the lanky wizard would be enjoying it, but right that moment he was trying to reassert his dominance. That was definitely what he was doing, not staring soulfully into Johns eyes, Marcones eyes, the scumbags eyes! Damn it! He looked away and then quickly pushed passed John. He dropped his bag on the small bunk of the cabin and scrubbed a hand ruffly through his hair. What the hell was happening to him?

Chapter Text

When Harry had composed himself he left the cabin to begin the process of preparing the boat for sail only to find Marcone finishing winding up the rope that had previously been keeping them moored to the dock. Harry left him to it and headed to the helm. Steering the ship out of port and on to the open waves was relaxing and let him forget for a little while about his life problems. About Marcone, the white council, the danger he kept putting his friends in, all the things that want to kill him, everyone that was dead because of him, Justin. All of it washed through his head but for once he could look at all of it from a distance, like an outside observer instead of the person that had suffered. Objectively he knew everything that had happened to him up to this point should have driven him crazy. And maybe he was crazy. Maybe that was why he wasn't fighting Marcone harder. He was so tired of being the one to make the call. Or was it that Marcone had promised to take care of him. It was weak, right? To depend on someone else? Hadn't that been what he'd been fighting against with Lea and all the others that wanted him, his power? No, that wasn't right. They wanted to use him till he was worthless and then throw him aside. Like the White Council.

Then what was it Marcone wanted?

Harry was broken from his musings by the very object of his thoughts. Marcone had come to stand next to him and was just watching the water rush past.

“I want you to understand that just because I have joined you against your wishes, you should not perceive my actions as going back on my earlier words,” he paused and looked at Harry’s mostly still form, “I would do the same for anyone I think was about to go into a dangerous situation. It's a sign of my,” He paused again, looking for the right word.

“I get it,” Harry said, he still hadn't looked from the lake, “you don't want me to think you're a liar.”

“Not the word I would choose,” Marcone said, “dishonorable sounds more accurate.”

John could almost feel Harry's eyes roll.

“Mob boss, remember?” Harry replied.

“Honorable mob boss,” Marcone countered.

“Contradiction in terms.” Harry said. Marcone raised an eyebrow. Harry stole a glance at him, “Hey, I know big words.”

“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious doesn't count,” John said, smiling. Harry gave a small chuckle.

“Honestly, I have no idea when I'd use that,” Harry said, “Well, I thought about using it for a spell once but it was too long.”

Marcone's smile widened and they lapsed into a comfortable silence.

Chapter Text

Sometime later, as the sun started to set, a cup of coffee appeared in Harry's line of sight. The smell of the brown elixir was heavenly. He let go of the boat controls and grabbed for the cup taking it from John's hand. The coffee was followed up by a sandwich wrapped crisply in cellophane. With both hands full and devouring his first meal since breakfast, Harry didn't notice when John took the wheel. He continued not noticing till the sandwich was all gone and the mug drained. He looked up then, mostly hoping to find more food. Instead, he saw John, jacket removed and shirtsleeves rolled meticulously up past the elbow. His silver streaked hair had been tussled by the wind and was now falling a little into his face. Harry had the sudden urge to brush the hair from his eyes. He didn't. He stood for a long minute not doing anything, avoiding further introspection on this trip.

“Staring at someone like that, Mr. Dresden, is bound to give them ideas,” Marcone said with a small smirk. He made some adjustment to the controls, graceful fingers pulling Harry’s attention.

“Uh,” Harry said, he felt so very eloquent. “insert snarky comeback.” Marcone paused at this unorthodox reply. He looked at the lanky wizard. He was trembling slightly from the cold, had dark bags under his eyes, and his skin was paler than normal. Concern filled Marcone's eyes. Harry very nearly flinched at the look, not quite understanding what it was.

“Harry,” John said softly. He slowed the tugboat to a crawl. “I think you should rest.”

“I'm fine,” Harry said reflexively, he tried to muscle Marcone from the wheel. He was easily pushed away and turned toward the door and the rest of the boat. “Hey!” Harry protested.

“You need rest, and more food,” Marcone said, still pushing him, gentle but firm. “There is some of both waiting for you in the cabin.”

“'m not ti*yawn*red,” Harry said. His yawn was jaw cracking. “Yeah, alright fine. But you wake me the second we reach the dock. I am not above hexing your cellphone, for a month.”

“As you wish,” Marcone said. He finally maneuvered the sleepy wizard into the cabin and under the covers of the bed, barely managing to get his boots off before he had curled up and dropped off. “Sleep well my knight.” John leaned over him, brushing a few hairs from his forehead. “Sleep well.”

Chapter Text

Harry woke to a chilled breeze. He shivered and pulled the blanket closer. He was on the cusp of sleep again when the sound of voices filtered through the cabin door. It took no more than a second to place the light, melodic sounds of his godmother. In an instant Harry was standing and alert. The Leanansidhe's presence was never a good omen. He snatched his staff from its resting place next to the bunk and dashed to the door of the small boats cabin entrance. Harry paused to listen. He'd learnt his lesson on jumping into things unprepared.

“This is unacceptable,” The dulcet sounds of his godmother came through only muffled marginally by the metal walls between them. “any vows Harry my have made to you do not supersede the debt that my godson owes to me.”

“I disagree,” That was John, voice calm and smooth as ever. “Harry is mine.”

Harry growled under his breath. He didn't belong to anyone and never would. Only, only that wasn't true any more, was it? As of less than 48 hours ago, he belonged soul and body to the greatest criminal in Chicago. Pain shot through Harrys chest at the thought. His so hard fought for freedom extinguished by petty politicians.

Harry was pulled from the depths of his mind by the use of his name.

“For now, but you will die eventually mortal, and then Harry will be mine again,” Lea said, confidant in every word she said. As she had right to be. Marcone was mortal and he would die, like all mortals. Harry shuddered at the idea. Part of his mind suggested that it wasn't entirely because of the chaos that the Chicago underworld would devolve into.

“I don't think you understand. Harry is mine. As is his debt.” Marcone replied, voice low and dangerous. The hand clenching his staff gripped tighter as Harry realized what John was implying.

“You think I want anything from you?” The scorn in Leas voice was tempered with anger.

The metal door clanged as Harry pushed it open and stepped onto the deck. He was not about to let John Marcone take on his debt, no matter how much he disliked the scumbag. Lea looked completely unsurprised and gave her godson a small, if malicious, smile. She was standing on a small ice burg that was inches away from scraping the boat and left her standing a good 3 feet over Marcone. Not that she need the height advantage as she was at least 6 feet tall on her own. John only scowled, standing in the exact center of the wooden deck. Good, Harry thought, be annoyed that I'm interrupting your terrible plan. Harry smiled a little smug smile.

“As much fun as I'm sure you two are having discussing hair styling tips and the best way to mentally scar your minions, we have a job to be doing.” Harry said.

“It seems my godson does not enjoy being the topic of conversation.” Lea said with a smile.

“Harry, now really isn't the time to be throwing one of your tantrums,” Marcone said. “the grown-ups are talking,”

Harry snarled.

“Too damn bad,” He said and moved further out onto the deck. Marcones jaw tightened. “Listen, my debt is mine to pay. You don't get to play some mobster in tarnished armor saving the helpless damsel game. This is my life.” Harry nearly shouted the last part. Marcone frowned but it wasn't the frown of a thwarted villain. He almost looked disappointed.

“What exactly do you think I am trying to do, Mr. Dresden?” Marcone asked.

“Sure up your investment,” Harry answered automatically. Marcone shook his head and turned back to the Leanansidhe.

“My argument stands,” John said.

Lea looked long between the two of them, evaluating them and coming to a conclusion. Bright fire like hair cascaded over her shoulders and partially blocked one eye from view. Finally she nodded softly to herself.

“Yes.” She said simply.

“Then if I clear his debt before my death, you will free him of any obligation towards yourself and your court?” John asked. There was strain in his shoulders. Barely noticeable, but there all the same. Harry ground his teeth together.

“Don't do this,” Harry said. It came out as a mixture of begging and command.

“It is already done my dear godson,” Lea said. She descended from her ice platform and offered her hand to the newly made Baron. John took the hand and they shook solemnly before Lea pulled him forward swiftly and kissed him deeply. The kiss lasted less than a second and then she was gone. John straightened himself slowly, not keen on facing Harry. He had taken another choice from a man that had so few left. But it was in an effort to free him. He only hoped Harry would see it that way. In time.

Chapter Text

Harry wanted to punch him. In the jaw. Hard. He resisted the impulse but enjoyed the fantasy for a few seconds. Instead, he glared at Marcone and gritted his teeth. Marcone looked back, face calm and seemingly untroubled. Then he glanced down quickly and back up. His eyebrow quirked up and a small, amused smile tugged at his lips.

“You're barefoot.” Marcone said. Harry was floored by the absurdity of the comment. He wondered if Marcone had possibly lost his mind. And then the cold of the wood deck started to seep through the thin material of his socks. Harry shifted his feet a bit, trying to find relief from the biting cold.

“Perhaps we should go inside?” Marcone asked and gestured toward the cabin door.

“No,” Harry said, mostly to be contradictory. He resumed glaring.

“As you wish,” Marcone said gently but moved closer to the doorway. “Personally, I find frost bite to be unpleasant.”

Harry felt fierce anger surge through him. How dare he! How dare he treat this like it was nothing! Harry growled and stalked forward, pushing Marcone against the side of the boat.

“No,” Harry said. “No, we are not going to brush this under the rug. You've taken something from me. I will not let you do this!” He was near screaming at the end, hands tightly fisted in the material of Marcones shirt. In a flash their positions were reversed. A sharp breath of air escaped Harrys lungs as his back connected with the metal wall.

Marcone looked directly into Harrys eyes for a minute while they were pressed close, touching from almost knee to chest. Harry still felt the anger burning in his veins but was in control of it now. Slowly Marcone leaned away and loosened his grip.

“I understand your anger,” Marcone said, letting out a long breath. “but right now I don't care.”

The anger started to take over again but Marcone shook him a little.

“No,” Marcone said with every ounce of authority he had. “you need to hear this. I don't care because your connections to the winter court are going to corrupt you. I can't let that happen. You are the best shot my city has at surviving this war and its fallout. And I will do everything in my power to see that you are there to save it when it needs you. If that means I have to take your debts, I will. You are more important than you seem to think.” Marcone let out a sigh and moved his hands up to grab the sides of Harrys neck. Harry just stared, unable to do more than breath. “One day I will die. I need to know my city is in safe hands when that happens. Do you understand?”

“I,” Harry licked his lips and nodded. He felt something in his stomach lurch at the idea of John Marcone dying. Harry knew he was mortal but the man still felt larger than life. Chicago with out the Gentleman? It didn't even compute. Slowly Harry brought up his hands to grip Johns wrists. “I'm still pissed at you,” Harry said softly, “Stars and stones, do you really understand what you've done?”

Marcone shook his head and let out a laugh. It was obvious what he was thinking.

“Yeah, okay, you probably do. In way more detail than is necessary.” Harry relented. “You're an ass, still.” Harry pulled himself away and turned to the cabin. “This still isn't over, I'm not going to forgive you for this.”

“Not today,” Marcone said, more to himself than Harry. Harry heard anyway and gritted his teeth. Not ever, if Harry had his way. The debt he (had) owed Lea was (had been) a weight on his shoulders since the deal was made. He shuddered as the sense memory of winter cold hands on him. He pushed the thought deep into his subconscious with the rest of the things he NEVER thought about. The fact remained, the debt had been his and now it was gone. The first of many parts of himself he was sure to loose. Harry sunk to the small bunk and placed his head in his hands. Piece by piece he would surrender himself to Marcone, no choice, no will in the matter. He would become the monster he had always feared himself to be. Chained to Marcone. One of the lesser evils, sure, but still Evil, capital E and all. Harry scrubbed his hands through his hair roughly, letting out a long sigh.