When Harry got to work Monday morning, his boss’ first words to him were, “Nicholas Hobbes is dead.”
Harry stopped in Arthur Weasley’s doorway, cocked his head, and said, “Good.”
The Minister of Magic’s pained expression informed Harry that that was the incorrect response.
“Killed by a vampire,” Arthur said. “His servants found him in his study, exsanguinated, his wand snapped in half.”
Harry, on the theory he was being told this for a reason, stepped into his boss’ office and shut the door.
“Killed, or turned?” he asked, resting one hip on the cushioned chair Arthur kept for visitors. It had been a long weekend of work, and he still hadn’t shaken off the exhaustion.
“Just killed,” Arthur said. “Although the servants did drive a stake of holly through his heart just to be sure.”
“That’s their story, anyway,” Harry muttered. At Arthur’s glance of mild reproof, Harry said, “Oh, come on. They’d probably been itching to do it for years. You know as well as I do what a bastard he was.”
Arthur sighed and ran a hand over his thinning rust–colored hair. “You might as well sit down properly, son. I’ll want you to take care of this one.”
Harry slid backward until he fell more or less into the soft chair and waited, one leg still dangling over the arm.
“Despite what we suspect about Hobbes’ … loyalties, the Ministry must take very seriously any such attack by a vampire. It’s only the Vam – the Compact that keeps them from being a serious threat to the wizarding world.”
Harry grinned at the realisation that the Minister of Magic had almost referred to the Vampire Compact of 1896 in the vernacular – as the younger Aurors did on the rare occasions it came up.
“This is the first breach of the Compact since the 1940s,” Arthur went on. “At that time, 11 wizards and witches died—”
“—history is part of the curriculum at Hogwarts, Minister,” Harry said, thinking he sounded like Hermione.
Arthur cleared his throat, embarrassed, and Harry felt bad. Since his promotion to Minister two years before, Arthur Weasley had striven to be both firm and fair to all, and to treat his son and his son’s best friend with the same firm fairness he used with any other Auror. Disrespect was a poor repayment for that.
“What more can you tell me, sir?” Harry shifted to sit properly, elbows on his knees and attention on his boss.
“According to his servants, Hobbes was working on some sort of … well, immortality potion. They didn’t know the particulars, but he disappeared from his home in Yorkshire for six days. That was five weeks ago now. No one saw him leave, no one saw him return, but four weeks ago the servants heard screams coming from his basement laboratory.”
“Naturally they didn’t investigate,” Harry said.
Arthur’s mouth stretched in a grim smile. “Hobbes had trained them well. The screams lasted a night, then stopped. Hobbes continued his work, showing no sign to his staff as to whether he was nearer success. Then, last night, he had a visitor.”
“Hm.” Nicholas Hobbes was suspected by the Ministry of having been a Death Eater. Harry, on the other hand, knew for a fact he was, having run across the man at more than one encounter with Voldemort before he’d finally managed to kill the snake–faced bastard two years ago. But – as in several other cases – there’d been no hard evidence, and the man had gone free. “Do you want me to question the servants, or investigate the house?”
Arthur shook his head. “You needn’t do either one. The servants gave their testimony. Look at this.” He pushed a parchment across the desk and Harry picked it up, unrolling it to see it was the testimony of Hobbes’ house elf, Gryslee. He scanned it with a speed born from long experience of the mostly useless testimony of semi–witnesses, stopping near the end of the scroll to glance up at his boss.
“He heard Hobbes say figerefundaro?”
“That’s what he claims.”
“That means … if Hobbes actually hit the vampire with that curse, he – or she – shouldn’t be too hard to track down.” Cunning, Harry thought, and very much in character; only a dark wizard would use his dying breath for such a curse.
Arthur nodded. “But he or she still would have to be a very powerful vampire to have killed a wizard of Hobbes’ ability.”
“This might have been a vengeance killing,” Harry said.
Arthur blinked at him. “Sorry?”
“What I mean is, this might not be a rogue breaking the Vampact. It might have been a one–off for personal reasons.”
“That doesn’t matter. This vampire has committed murder. He – or she – must be stopped.”
Harry got up. “Stopped?”
Arthur looked up at him soberly. “Brought in, if you can. If anyone can, you can. But if not…”
Harry nodded. “Understood.”
Arthur slid several parchments together into one roll and handed it to Harry. “The complete files. You shouldn’t need them, I’d think. Simply apparate to Hobbes’ study and follow the trail.”
Harry slid the scrolls into a pocket in his robes. “I hate Mondays.”
* * *
As so many things in his life seemed to do, the trail led Harry to Severus Snape.
Not directly, of course. First he passed through a medieval graveyard on the outskirts of York, then an abandoned farmhouse near Loch Lomond. The vampire traveled fast, despite having been severely hampered by the curse (presumably – the chilling thought that he was being misled to an isolated confrontation with a fully capable vampire had crossed his mind, but either way he had a job to do). Figerefundaro bound a vampire both to earth and to its human shape, eliminating its ease of travel and disguise, if not the majority of its power. All Harry had needed was a simple (simple for Harry, at least) tracking charm, based on Hobbes’ blood and cast at the scene of the … well, crime was a strong word when a fucker like Hobbes was the victim, Harry thought as he landed his broom in front of Snape’s apothecary shop in Hogsmeade.
He backed into the quiet street and observed the front of the building, his broom over his shoulder and his senses at full alert. The shop, of course, was closed at this hour, but light shone golden behind the curtains covering the broad windows on the first floor.
“Dark creatures,” Harry muttered as he focused on the tracking charm. The vampire was definitely up there. “I hate ‘em.”
It was a myth that vampires crumbled to dust at the first touch of the sun, but it was not a myth that they were at their most powerful, and most dangerous, at night. It was scant comfort that, in the day it had taken Harry to find him, the vampire had killed no one else. That only meant he would be all the hungrier now, and vampires were proof against a great deal of the magic that Aurors relied on in their work.
Harry cast one of his personalized revealing spells against the front of the shop; knowing Snape, the place was ensorcelled up to its rafters to prevent trespass and theft. If the vampire sucked the very life out of him before Harry could get through, well, that was Snape’s own fault. Wouldn’t take much sucking.
Then again, maybe they were sitting and having a chat, kindred spirits. “Vampire” was one of the nicer taunts students had exchanged about their potions professor when Harry was at Hogwarts.
A lot had changed since then, Harry thought, grinning as he stepped over the bouquets lying on the stone stoop, their flowers dewy from the evening’s rain. He had a fair idea the cards attached to the bouquets contained proposals of either marriage or less long–term liaisons; one of the biggest post–Voldemort surprises – and best sources of amusement amongst Harry and his friends – had been the way Snape’s trial (more accurately, his exoneration and the publication of the truth about his behind–enemy–lines efforts to bring down Voldemort, embellished and romanticised by none other than Rita Skeeter) had turned the once reviled teacher into a kind of Byronic antihero to wizarding society. According to reliable sources (Rosmerta and Minerva), witches of all ages, shapes and sizes regularly wrote him cloying letters and sashayed into his shop, ostensibly to buy skin creams or headache remedies, but in fact to sigh and bat their eyes at the studiously oblivious former Death Eater.
Using a wandless unspoken spell to crack Snape’s wards long enough for him to ease the front door open and slip inside, Harry fought back a chuckle at the image of the man he knew as a ruthless teacher and brutal dueling partner, a brilliant spy and cool–headed ally who had saved his life a dozen times over, fending off the cooing, fawning advances of hordes of homely middle–aged witches in pink hats and purple robes.
Then again, how do you know they’re homely and middle–aged, rather than young and beautiful? And how do you know he fends them off?
That thought wiped the smile off Harry’s face.
He set his Firebolt against the wall out of the way, then draped his invisibility cloak around himself, moving with easy stealth through the chilly dark shop, noting in passing how the streetlights gleamed off the perfectly clean glass cabinets and the bottles that lined the shelves. Why a man this fanatically neat couldn’t wash his hair a little more often … Harry shook his head and ascended the back stairs, grinning again as he spotted the wastepaper basket in a corner, overflowing with colorful, deckle–edged envelopes. Sealed with kisses, and unopened – all of them.
He’s the winner of Witches Weekly’s Most Romantic Recluse award – he doesn’t need to wash his hair.
At the top, light beckoned him to a half–open door at the end of the corridor. The charm told him the vampire was in there. Other magic told him Snape was in there too, alive and as well as ever. Harry eased his body sideways through the doorway.
Snape’s sitting room was sparse and tidy as the man himself, elegant and booklined, lit by lanterns in wall sconces, the fire in the corner hearth, and a candelabrum on the table. In the middle of it, Snape stood, in his shirtsleeves, facing a man – not a man, a vampire – whose resemblance to the potions master struck Harry a gentle backhand.
Stealthy, he eased closer, feeling the magical tensions singing silently through the air as the two men faced one another.
Snape looked … well, truthfully, as he always did. Pale and tense and arrant and a little threatened. His guest (if that was the appropriate word for a creature who might at any second leap at your neck and suck the life out of you) stood at ease, tall and elegant in a black cape, looking Snape up and down, a contemptuous examination which Snape withstood stoically.
“Radu would be turning over in his grave,” the vampire said, his accents educated, Eastern European.
Snape snorted. “If he had one. Didn’t his remains end up in a middens somewhere?”
“Do not mock your ancestors, who were greater than your understanding,” the vampire said.
“On the contrary, count, I think I understand my ancestors reasonably well.” Snape crossed his arms over his chest while the vampire’s brows rose and Harry’s jaw dropped. Radu. Ancestors. Count. His brain put one and one and one together and he shivered. He wasn’t hunting a vampire, he was hunting the vampire.
Harry forced himself to be still, nearly missing Snape’s next words as he fought down the shock.
“I have a passing familiarity with bloodsucking fiends from Hell.”
Dracula smiled. “But I am not from Hell, Severus. No more than you. I am a creature of God just as you are.”
“All the same you are here to suck my blood,” Snape said sourly. “Even if only metaphorically.”
Dracula spread his hands, a compelling gesture of entreaty. “I ask your help in the name of the family bond we share. You need commit no crime, no sin.”
“As if I were worried about that,” Snape said. He rubbed a hand over his temple, as if his head hurt. “You might as well tell me what you want. I’d like to have my supper.”
“I find myself … deprived of certain abilities,” Dracula said. “Without them I am … unable to travel at will or to disguise my presence as thoroughly as I should like.”
“And through what Byzantine course of logic has that become my problem?” Snape said, and Harry smiled. He had forgotten that there were things he liked about the greasy bastard. Well, almost forgotten.
Dracula trailed the fingers of one long white hand along the back of the sofa separating the two of them, his eyes on that delicate gesture. “One so hates to use words like debt … or obligation …”
“If you think I’m going to play procurer for your bloodsucking proclivities, you can go straight to Hell and take your debts and obligations with you.” Despite his brave words, Snape was nervous. Harry could see it in the tension of his body and eyes. He suspected that Dracula could smell it. The vampire appeared no older than Snape, though Harry knew he was several centuries old. His black hair, long like Snape’s, was bound tidily back, and his pale features hovered halfway between handsome and effete. They were most alike, Harry thought, in their black, compelling eyes, fixed on each other now in wary evaluation.
“I said I am deprived of certain abilities,” Dracula corrected. “Not the ones to which you refer. I do not need your help to feed. Indeed, despite your own fear and not insignificant magic, if I wished I could sate myself upon you tonight – to the heartbreak of your surprising legions of feminine admirers – and you could not stop me.”
Snape’s eyes narrowed and his nostrils flared; Harry was astonished the man didn’t reach for his wand, and more impressed than he liked to admit at how little of Snape’s very reasonable fear showed.
“You’re not here for that,” he said. “There are plenty of more sanguine individuals for you to drain without resorting to a dried–up creature such as myself.”
Dracula smiled, a charming, unbloodthirsty smile. “You are too hard on yourself, Severus. I’m well aware that a heart beats under that well–armored chest, and that your blood’s as warm as any man’s.”
If anything, the compliments seemed to make Snape even more uneasy.
“Why don’t you just tell me what you want?” he said, too quickly, and Harry wondered what he was trying to avoid.
“Perhaps your protection?”
Snape snorted. “From?”
“Your wizarding officials and their … police dogs?”
“Since when were you unable to avoid our pathetic Ministry representatives, Count?”
Harry saw chagrin pass over the count’s aquiline face and wondered if, after 400 years, the vampire let anything show accidentally. Was he genuinely seeking Snape’s sympathy? The idea almost made him laugh aloud.
“They are … closer behind me than I should like,” he admitted.
“Too bad,” Snape sneered.
“For instance, were you aware there is a handsome young Auror standing in some sort of magical cape,” he said, and Harry’s blood froze, “just over there in the corner?”
Snape essayed a dismissive half–glance in that direction. “I was waiting for him to give himself away with some clumsy move or uncouth sound of surprise, as he invariably used to do.”
Harry’s chilled blood boiled at that. He whipped the cloak off with a muttered curse and drew his wand, and both men – well, the man and the nosferatu – turned gracefully to face him.
“Mr Potter,” Snape drawled. “What an unexpected pleasure.”
“Either one of you,” Harry began, “can tell me what’s going on. I’m not choosy.”
“Surely you have heard enough to know,” Dracula said. “You have been here for nearly the entire conversation.”
“I know you two are related,” Harry said, “which, in retrospect, shouldn’t surprise me. I know you want something from him.” He nodded at Dracula, then Snape. “And I know you killed Nicholas Hobbes two nights ago, and that he cursed you with figerefundarobefore he died.”
“Aha!” Snape crowed. “That explains why you’re abasing yourself at my feet. Family bond indeed.”
“Are you really related to him?” Harry asked Snape.
Snape looked at him, a level stare with none of the usual expressions of contempt or mockery that Harry was familiar with.
“I am a descendant of his brother, Radu.”
“Radu the handsome?” Harry blurted.
Dracula smiled – well, smirked – and Snape flushed.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Harry said hastily.
“Like what, Potter?” Snape replied.
Determinedly, Harry said, “It wasn’t a comment on your …” Christ, he was making it worse. He never could say anything right around Snape.
“My what, Mr. Potter?” Snape said silkily.
Harry briefly considered saying ‘handsome is as handsome does’ but decided that would only get him hexed. He glanced at the vampire; he was looking at Harry and Snape with an interested, almost pleased expression.
“Nephew,” he said. “Be so kind as to introduce me to this most interesting young man.”
Harry boggled. “Nephew!”
Dracula shrugged. “Well, stretching a point.”
Stiffly, Snape said, “Harry Potter, Count Vlad Dracula; Potter, Dracula. If you two would like to get to know one another better, I’ll be happy to retire to the kitchen and start my supper.”
“I didn’t mean to be rude,” Harry said to Snape.
“Then Merlin help me if you ever do, Potter,” Snape growled. Harry realized, with some surprise, that Snape was sulking. He couldn’t possibly be genuinely insulted, could he? Surely he didn’t care what Harry thought of him, after all these years?
“Really, gentlemen, though informative, this little spat is beside the point,” Dracula said. “This lovely young man has come here to kill me.”
Snape glanced sidelong at Harry.
“Well, technically,” Harry began.
“Yes, yes, already dead, I know all about that rot,” Dracula waved it away. “I have no more wish to be destroyed than any creature you would call ‘living,’ Mr Potter. “
“It’s my duty to bring you to trial for the killing of Nicholas Hobbes,” Harry said.
“I cannot allow it,” Dracula said suavely.
“You’re speaking to the … wizard,” Snape said with distaste, “who killed Voldemort..”
Dracula’s eyes widened. “I see. That … alters the situation somewhat.”
Snape – to Harry’s blank astonishment – moved closer to him. Between him and the vampire, in fact.
“I cannot let you kill him,” he said. Both Dracula and Harry stared at Snape. “I owe him a life debt, no less than the blood debt I owe to my family.”
Dracula gave Snape a curious glance. “You’re bound head to toe in life debts, aren’t you, nephew?”
“Misspent youth,” Snape explained, adding, as if compelled to be honest, “and a fair portion of my adulthood, as well.”
“And if you are forced to choose between two of them?” Dracula challenged.
Harry glanced at Snape, taut as a bowstring, and found himself saying, “That might not be necessary.”
Snape looked at him over his shoulder, in ill–concealed surprise.
Harry shrugged. “The Ministry wants rid of him. Let’s face it, Hobbes is no loss to the wizarding world.”
“Nicholas Hobbes was vengeance,” the Count said. “I do not need – nor do I prefer – to kill in order to survive. It is unnecessary and sloppy, two things I despise. Most of my kindred feel the same way.”
Harry gave the Count a dubious look.
Snape snorted. “Christ, Potter, there’d be no use in a Compact otherwise. Use your head.”
“All right!” Harry snapped. “Between the two of you …”
“A piquant image,” Dracula purred, “but irrelevant at the moment.”
Harry flushed. Good God, the man – vampire – was flirting?
Dracula continued. “Nicholas Hobbes kidnapped a female vampire of my acquaintance and … let us simply say that he used her in one of his … experiments. I do not permit my kin to be abused. I killed him for that reason and for no other. I am not a casual murderer, Mr Potter, and I have no intention of committing any other acts of …”
“Vengeance?” Harry supplied. “Even if that’s true, you need to leave Britain. I can’t defend letting you go otherwise. I may not be able to defend it anyway, but the Ministry’s jurisdiction ends at our borders. Once you’re past them, you’re no longer my responsibility.”
Dracula spread his hands again, poorly feigning helplessness. “I should like nothing better, Mr Potter. Your damp English climate, you know. Not to mention your puritanical maidens, of both sexes.” He glanced at Snape, who sneered, and Harry blinked. What was that all about?
“However,” the Count went on, “thanks to Mr Hobbes’ … bequest—” He smiled faintly – “I find that I shall need a … guardian in my sojourn back to my native lands. Otherwise I shall be left far too vulnerable in the daylight hours to trust that I should arrive home intact.”
“You want me to escort your body home?” Snape said. Dracula winced delicately.
“I wish you wouldn’t put it that way,” he said. “It is morbid and pessimistic.”
Like nobody’s ever accused Snape of that before, Harry thought, saying, “So all you want is an escort, and you’ll leave?”
“I came to see Severus with no other intention than that,” Dracula averred, hands folded unthreateningly before him.
Harry looked at Snape. “Will you do it?”
“Are you leaving me a choice?”
Harry considered, not failing to notice the unhappiness on Snape’s face. Thought you were done with being someone’s puppet, didn’t you, professor? He remembered well the look on Snape’s face after he’d been cleared – after Harry’d killed Voldemort and spoken at Snape’s trial and the dust had all settled and they’d offered Snape the Order of Merlin. He had never been able to precisely define that expression beyond the obvious contempt and unutterable impatience, but it had taught him that he really had no idea what made this man tick.
“Well,” he said, “I could do it.”
Snape’s eyes widened. “No.”
“Indeed,” Dracula cut in smoothly. “It would give me a chance to get better acquainted with this most interesting young wizard.”
Harry shot the smiling vampire a look and Snape said:
“I’ll do it.”
“What’s wrong with me doing it?” Harry asked, as if he were offended. “You think I can’t manage to escort a coffin a few hundred miles?”
Snape turned to face him. “You cannot seriously wish to.”
Harry considered his options. He knew Arthur Weasley well enough to know his boss would prefer to settle the issue with as little trouble, and as little bloodshed, as possible. And unlike Fudge or Scrimgeour, Arthur had no grudges against anyone, human or nonhuman.
He put away his wand. “I never liked that prick Hobbes anyway, and I owe you a lot, so—”
“Don’t even think of going there, Potter,” Snape cut in. “The last thing in the world I want is any favor from you.”
“That I doubt,” Dracula put in, offering his relative a nasty smile. “However, I have no objection to Mr Potter … policing your actions to be sure you—”
“It’s not Snape’s actions I’m worried about,” Harry said coldly. “I’m answerable for your behaviour if I let you go. I need to be sure you’re out of the country.”
Snape sneered. “Thank you for that vote of confidence.”
“I trust you, whether you believe it or not,” Harry said. “I learned that the hard way.”
“You learn everything the hard way,” Snape muttered.
Harry gamely ignored that. “But this isn’t about you. The Minister wants him gone. He assigned me to see to it. In that sense, it’s my responsibility. Certainly more mine than yours. We all – the whole wizarding world – owe you more than we can ever repay.”
“You might have silenced that loathsome Skeeter woman,” Snape muttered, “if you’re so keen on helping me.”
“Sorry,” Harry said, fighting a grin. “You’re a hero whether you like it or not. Welcome to the club.”
Snape curled his lip but said nothing.
“Anyway,” Harry said, “I’m willing to do it, and I can see you’d rather not, so …”
“I cannot imagine why not,” Dracula said. “I happen to be an excellent traveling companion.”
Still watching Harry, Snape said, “He has no idea what it would mean, being in such close confines with you for that many days.”
“How many days?” Harry asked.
“You cannot apparate or fly with the Count in this condition,” Snape explained. “The curse requires –”
“I know,” Harry cut in. “He has to remain in contact with the earth.”
Visibly irked by the interruption, Snape went on, “That means land travel. That means either the train or a Muggle automobile.”
Harry considered that. “Never thought I’d have to say it, but thank goodness for the Chunnel, then. Can you drive, Snape?”
“Of course not.”
“Well, I can. That sort of settles it, don’t you think?”
“There are trains, Mr Potter. There’s no need for you to put yourself out.”
“Why is it you don’t want me involved?” Harry asked. “Is there something about this whole deal you’re not telling me?”
“The both of you might accompany me,” Dracula said. “It will give you each someone to talk to while I’m resting, and give me a greater level of entertain— that is, of protection – when I am abroad.”
“You won’t be going too far abroad, if I’m with you,” Harry said. “The whole point of this is to keep you from—”
“I’ve already told you I do not need to kill in order to feed,” Dracula said, his silky tone acquiring an edge. “Do you doubt my word?” His black eyes captured Harry’s – a nearly visceral binding – and a shiver ran across the skin between Harry’s shoulder blades.
“Stop it,” Snape said. Harry blinked and the vampire turned his eyes to Snape, bowing his head.
Realising he’d raised his wand again, instinctively, Harry lowered it, easing his tight grip.
“When can you be ready to leave?” Snape asked Harry.
Harry shrugged. “Immediately. I have my wand. Anything else I might need I can get with that.”
“Might I at least have my dinner before we go?” Snape whined.
“You’re coming too?” Harry said.
“I’m not about to allow you and him to travel to Romania un—” He cut himself off and headed for a door that, presumably, led to his kitchen and long–delayed dinner.
“Un what?” Harry prodded. Dracula edged away from the fire, nearer to Harry, though not threateningly close. A light flared in the other room and metallic sounds, as of pots and pans clattering, carried faintly to his ears.
“Unchaperoned, I think, is the word my nephew refused to permit himself,” the vampire said.
“Unchaperoned? When did this become a date?”
Dracula crossed his arms, glanced toward the kitchen, and said, “Not yet.”
* * *
Harry woke up with a jolt – realized his head was resting on Snape’s shoulder – and jumped back. The resulting noise and movement woke Snape too. He blinked at the coffin on the seat across from them, in its charmed guise as a bass fiddle case, then glanced at Harry.
“Sorry,” Harry said automatically, feeling his face blaze.
“For what now?” Snape asked, his voice fuzzy with sleep.
“If you don’t know, then nothing,” Harry said, getting up to stretch and move around the compartment. His eyes kept darting to the coffin and finally Snape said:
“It’s an hour to dusk. He’s not likely to rise before the sun goes down.”
Harry glance at Snape, sprawled on the seat in a long black mac, slacks and jumper. It was somehow more disorienting to see Snape pretending to be a Muggle than it was to be traveling with the undead.
“He’s able to move about in daytime, though,” he pointed out.
“However, given that we are requiring that he feed only when absolutely necessary, he will conserve his strength.” Snape got up, let his coat fall from his shoulders, then turned and shoved it onto the rack behind him, stretching just a little, as though his back were stiff. Harry’s eyes naturally took the stem to stern tour.
When Snape turned and reseated himself Harry hurried to the window. “Do you mind?”
Snape nodded. “Not at all. The air in this compartment is thick with insanity.”
Harry smirked and opened the window a crack, letting in cool, damp evening air. He watched random grey buildings flash past and wondered briefly where they were, still in France or already crossed over into Germany. A glance at his watch told him they were about an hour outside Munich, if the train was on schedule.
“Do you really think this is a mistake?” he asked, sitting near the window – a couple of dignity–preserving feet from Snape.
“I think it is a potential disaster. That said, it also seems to have been the least bad in a spate of unfortunate options.”
Harry leaned back, staring blankly at the passing countryside. “I can’t believe I’m escorting a vampire – the vampire – to freedom.”
“Against your principles?”
Harry let his head loll in Snape’s direction. “It’s against my sense of self–preservation to spend several days in close quarters with a bloodsucking creature of the night with nothing between us but his word. Would you say that’s a principle?”
Snape actually smiled. “I’d offer my congratulations on your having at last acquired better judgment except that your presence here contradicts the premise.” The smile quirked. “And my own suggests I’ve no more sense than you when it comes down to it.”
“You … well, Dracula said you owed him.”
“The … family bond is a strong one,” Snape said.
“Blood’s thicker than water, eh?” Harry said, and snickered.
“Do shut up, Potter.”
Harry leaned into the corner of the seat and did so, returning to their last conversation, early that morning, when they’d gone to collect the Count and his convenient carrying case, hidden in the cellar of a ruined church outside Canterbury.
* * *
“So,” Harry began, and staunchly ignored Snape’s instant sigh. “How long have you known you were … you know, family?” He waved vaguely between Snape and the church as they walked up the overgrown path through the misty graveyard.
“All my life,” Snape answered surprisingly – that is, Harry was surprised Snape answered at all. “My family places great emphasis on lineage.”
“And you’ve known all these years that he was alive – well, not dead – I mean —”
“I know what you mean,” Snape said. “No. Not until last night.” He glanced at Harry, clearly expecting him to doubt it.
“It must’ve been quite a surprise then.”
“I’ve seldom had a greater,” Snape admitted. “Or a less pleasant.”
“Hm. That’s saying something, given your history,” Harry remarked.
“Little of that took me by surprise, Mr Potter,” Snape said drily.
Harry smiled in silent acknowledgement.
They found the coffin where its occupant had told them it would be, and loaded it into the back of the paneled truck Harry had rented to take them to Waterloo and the tunnel train. Harry’d argued for driving the whole way as quicker and more convenient, but Snape had vociferously defended taking the train.
Seeing how tense the man was in the little van, Harry couldn’t regret relenting.
“So is your family proud of having vampires in its lineage?” he asked as he bounced the van along the rutted lane toward the road. “Or were they ashamed of it?”
“We had no control over it one way or the other,” Snape replied, one hand clutching the door handle, the other braced on the dashboard. “The family is an ancient one, and … there is nothing inherently evil, despite how myth would have it, in vampirism, any more than in lycanthropy. It is an affliction, not a moral failing.”
“I know,” Harry said, patiently, “but it’s also a real problem.”
“It’s not inherited,” Snape snapped – Harry attributed his short tone to his nervousness about being in a car. “Vlad and Radu are the only known vampires in our family line. It was an historical fact, not a living reality, to me.”
“Until yesterday.” They reached the road and Harry pulled onto it, accelerating.
“Must you maintain this insane level of speed?”
“Yes,” Harry said, smiling. “It’s posted, and it’s the speed everyone else is driving at. It’ll be faster when we hit the motorway. Try to relax. I do know what I’m doing.”
Snape’s silence eloquently expressed his doubt.
* * *
When they parked the van at Waterloo around 9 a.m., they discovered they couldn’t shrink the coffin. Harry tried and failed, and Snape explained something about living beings, which didn’t seem to Harry to apply in Dracula’s case, but he let it go. Instead they charmed it to look like a bass fiddle case and carried it onto the tunnel train between them, using wingardium leviosa to ease the weight.
Claiming a quartet of seats, they settled in for the ride, Snape grumbling about being unable to get a compartment and Harry spreading maps and Eurail schedules on the table and promising a first–class carriage as soon as they reached Paris. The wizarding trains in Europe were quickly proven not to be a viable option, being considerably more limited in schedules and stops than the Muggle variety.
“Stop in Munich, but we don’t change trains, I think,” Harry muttered as he traced their path. “Then on to Budapest. We may have to spend the night there and get the next train in the morning.”
Snape didn’t respond.
Then, “You realise we’ll have to get a car from Bucharest?” Harry said, his finger on the spot on the map where their train options vanished.
“If we must, we must,” Snape said. “At the moment our more pressing concern is having some form of privacy at nightfall, when our … bass fiddle comes to life.”
Harry snorted a laugh. “We’ll be in Paris in plenty of time to transfer. We’ll get a private coach one way or the other.”
* * *
They bustled off the train in Paris quickly, each pretending to bear one end of the bass fiddle, and took the Metro from Gare du Nord to Gare de l’Est, where a pile of charmed Muggle cash and a couple of quiet confundus charms got them and their insensate companion into a sleeper car bound for Budapest by way of Munich. Thus they found themselves, by early afternoon, slumped on a garishly coloured banquette seat in a tiny but private compartment, Dracula and container on the seat across from them, humming through the outskirts of Paris. Harry barely had time to realise how tired he was before he’d fallen asleep.
* * *
Just as the train reached the edge of Munich, the sun sank and Dracula arose; it was unexpectedly hilarious to see the vampire climb gracefully out of what appeared to be a bass fiddle case stretched across the opposite banquette.
Harry covered his mouth and pretended to cough. Snape gave him a look that told him to grow up. He stuck his tongue out at Snape.
Dracula hesitated, glanced at the coffin, and actually chuckled.
“Ingenious,” he admitted. “Fortunately I’m many centuries too old to worry about false dignity.” He pushed the coffin upright, without evident effort, and shoved it into the corner. Harry, knowing from personal experience that the thing had to weigh at least 300 pounds, boggled.
“Do you mind if I stretch my limbs?” he said, moving to the door.
Harry’s wand was in his hand in an instant; he cast a quick locking spell on the door, then said, “Yes.”
Snape got up. “Don’t be ridiculous, Potter.” He stretched a little, arms behind his back. “Why don’t we all take a stroll to the dining car and see what Muggle inedibles are in the offing?”
In direct response, Harry’s stomach rumbled. He got up as well, bumping into Snape as the train shifted.
“Sorry. Good idea. I’m starved.” He glanced at Dracula, who responded with that charming smile that made the back of Harry’s neck prickle. He wondered how that sort of smile would look on Snape’s face. Then shivered.
“I expect I can wait a bit before I require sustenance, Mr Potter,” the vampire said. “Tomorrow night will be soon enough.”
Harry shook his head, caught by the dilemma. He knew the vampire had to feed, and Dracula had sworn to them he would kill no one, but the idea of standing by while the creature fed off some innocent bystander made all his internal alarms jangle.
“If you wouldn’t mind,” Snape said. Harry blinked up at Snape.
“The door, Potter.”
“Oh.” He slipped out his wand again, unlocked the door, and tucked it away.
Dracula opened it and stood back. “After you.”
Harry hesitated, but Snape – startlingly – grabbed his arm and pushed him through. “Don’t be melodramatic.”
Harry almost snapped back, but stopped himself. He was fully aware that Snape’s suggestion of the dining car was a compromise to allow Dracula to, as he described it, stretch his limbs, while still keeping him in sight. He appreciated Snape’s quick thinking.
In the dining car Snape had what smelled like a fairly bland curry while Harry wolfed down a cheeseburger and coke and Dracula sat across from them, watching them eat and artfully toying with a plastic glass of cheap wine.
“May I ask a personal question, Mr Potter?” the vampire said once they’d done.
“You are not married?”
Harry nearly spat out his coke. Choking it down, he said, “What?”
Snape pushed away his half–eaten bowl in evident disgust – though with the food or the question Harry couldn’t guess.
“It’s a simple enough query,” Dracula said, lounging back in the seat, a study in black–clad elegance and ease. “Are you married?”
“No. Not even dating at the moment. Why in hell would you care?”
“No doubt your work keeps you too busy for a meaningful relationship,” Dracula said.
“Sometimes. Mostly I just don’t meet anyone I can really talk to. Talk to honestly. People get … nervous.”
“I can imagine,” Dracula purred. “You’ve lived a unique life. Few people would readily understand your power. What has been asked of you, the things you’ve had to do.”
Harry nodded, surprised. “That’s it. I end up editing my conversation, my feelings … eventually I stop communicating with them entirely. It just doesn’t – why the hell am I even telling you this?” Harry groused. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Snape suppressing a smirk.
“What’s so damn’ funny?” He snapped, flushing.
Snape gave him a look. “You. In another five minutes you’ll be explaining your favorite sexual position.”
Dracula smiled that damned smile and Harry squirmed a little in his seat. Only he could find himself in this position, caught between a disturbingly attractive nosferatu and a former professor for whom he’d long felt …
Harry shook off his foolish thoughts, said quite deliberately, “I don’t have a favorite. I like them all.” He’d be damned if he was going to let these two embarrass him. He was a grown man, not a little boy. “I’m not ashamed about liking sex, Snape. Count.” He included the vampire in his statement. “Even when I’m not actually having any, as is the case at present.”
“The goal of most men and women is to find someone to love,” Dracula said. “When I was a breathing man I was too taken up with power – political power – to worry about that more tender side of life. Now…” He shrugged. “It is very unlikely I should find someone to share eternity with.”
“You assume you have eternity before you,” Snape muttered.
Ignoring him, Dracula continued to address Harry. “Love is powerful magic, Mr Potter. I hope for your sake you find it.” After a pause, the faintest of mischievous twinkles sparked in the dark eyes. “My nephew, of course, has of late had countless offers from the fairer sex, all of which he has apparently spurned.”
Spots of color burned on Snape’s pale cheeks at the comment, but he seemed more angry than embarrassed. “I hadn’t thought you one for reading the gossip columns … uncle.”
Trying not to sound as curious as he was, Harry said, “I wondered about all that. Hasn’t there been …” Snape turned his glare on him, and Harry faltered. “Well, none of them interested you?”
“Don’t tell me you, too, have been following Skeeter’s nonsense in the Prophet.”
“Well.” Harry shrugged. “I talk to Minerva sometimes. She seemed to think you … um …”
“I um what, Mr Potter?” Snape challenged.
“That maybe you weren’t interested in women,” Harry said in a very small, fast voice. And blushed. Damn it.
Dracula laughed out loud, briefly drawing the attention of two elderly couples nibbling biscuits a few tables away.
Snape spoke through his teeth. “Is it beyond the realm of possibility that I am simply not interested in the sort of witch who would throw herself at a man merely because he has been unwillingly made into a celebrity by a ridiculous pen–wielding madwoman?”
Confused, Harry said, “Um … no?”
“Severus…” Dracula chided.
“Stay out of it,” Snape snapped.
“You are the most contrary descendant I’ve ever known.” The vampire set down the plastic wine glass and crossed his arms over his chest. “Tell this luscious young man the truth.”
“My truths,” Snape snarled, “are none of his business.” He got up, uncharacteristically awkward, bumping the table as he moved. “We should go back to the compartment now.” He left without waiting. Harry watched him go, then looked at Dracula.
“What was that all about?”
“Don’t you know?” the vampire said, rising. “Can’t you guess?”
Harry got up as well, shaking his head. “No one – in the entire course of my life and everything that’s happened in it – no one has ever just fucking told me things.” He gestured for Dracula to precede him up the narrow aisle. “Just once it would be brilliant if someone just told me. I can’t tell you how sick I am of hints and portents.”
Dracula chuckled softly, easing himself closer to Harry to speak across his ear.
“Severus finds you terribly attractive.”
Harry shivered. Then froze. Then drew back to stare at the vampire.
Dracula rolled his eyes. “This, perhaps, is why people don’t simply tell you things, Mr Potter. You seem to be one of those heedless, bulldozing young men who must find things out himself.” He turned and strode with catlike grace up the aisle. Harry blinked, opened and closed his mouth, and hurried after, the vampire’s words burning in his brain.
* * *
From somewhere, the count had collected a newspaper, which he proceeded to settle in and read while Snape sat in the corner and Harry knelt on the floor trying to figure out how to work the heater. He’d closed the window immediately upon returning to the compartment, but it was still uncomfortably cold, though Snape didn’t complain of it.
Finally Harry sat on the floor Indian–style. “I think it’s broken,” he admitted, then glanced up at Snape. The man simply rose, pulled his coat from the overhead rack, put it on, and sat back down.
“Sorry,” Harry said. He got up, pulled on his own coat, and sat in the opposite corner, pulling his feet up onto the seat and staring at Snape’s sulky profile.
Severus finds you terribly attractive.
Never would he have thought to hear those words all together in one sentence in that order. He certainly didn’t believe them. But why had the count said it? What could it benefit him? To distract Harry from keeping an eye on him? But he’d given his word he wouldn’t try to flee or hide or harm anyone, and Snape, along with history, indicated that Dracula’s word could be relied on. He had no reason to lie to Harry about such a thing. But … if it were true … if through some bizarre …
Harry shook his head. There was no way Snape felt anything but contempt and loathing for him. No way.
He drew his knees up close and rested his forehead on them. On the other hand, that insidious little voice said, you don’t have to like someone to want to …
“Look at the two of you,” Dracula said, lowering the newspaper and leaning back next to his coffin. “What a foolish waste of body heat.”
Harry raised his head, glanced at Snape. “Is he threatening us?”
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Dracula said. “Which, as I don’t sleep and therefore cannot dream, is neither here nor there. My nephew is shivering, and I can see your breath. Why do you not sit closer and share your living warmth?”
“Because Snape would kill me if I snuggled up to him,” Harry muttered.
Dracula smiled charmingly, and Harry thought, alarmed, that he was really quite handsome sometimes. But there was something … something strange …
“Severus, is that true?”
Snape hunched, arms tightening about his thin torso. “Yes.” He didn’t look at either of them.
Dracula raised his hands, a gesture of surrender. “I’ve done all I can do.”
Figuring out what was bothering him, Harry blurted, “I can see your breath.”
Snape and the Count exchanged a look.
“Is he always this—?” Dracula asked.
“Always,” Snape snapped.
Harry snorted irritably. “But vampires don’t need to breathe …”
“Anyone who speaks needs to breathe, Potter,” Snape said.
“You’re very short with the boy,” Dracula put in.
Harry, caught by his own stupidity, muttered, “I don’t know. I think sometimes I deserve it.”
Snape gave him a startled look.
“Sometimes,” Harry repeated forcefully.
“You won’t endear yourself to him by being so harsh, nephew,” Dracula said, and in anyone else – anyone human – Harry would have described his tone as fond.
“What makes you imagine I have the slightest desire to endear myself to him?” Snape said.
“Perhaps because he helped to prevent your going to Azkaban prison?” Dracula said. Harry gave him a surprised look.
“Even a vampire may read the newspapers, Mr Potter,” the count explained, rattling the paper in his hands. “I like to keep up on current events. And I have a keen interest in family.”
“He –” Harry felt himself blush, but pressed on. “He doesn’t have to be nice to me because of that. I only did what was right.”
A slow smile spread over the vampire’s face. “Then perhaps he ought to be ‘nice,’ as you put it, because otherwise he stands very little chance of—”
“I would appreciate it,” Snape said loudly, “if the two of you would cease talking about me as if I were not present and perfectly capable of explaining my own actions, should I so wish.”
Harry turned to face him. “So why aren’t you nicer to me?” If he wasn’t mistaken, he heard Dracula huff out a soft chuckle. Harry didn’t believe what the vampire had said to him in the dining car, he really didn’t. But …
“I’m not nice to anyone,” Snape said, not looking at him. “And you were always blathering on about not wanting to be different from everyone else.”
Harry found himself smiling almost before he realised why. “I didn’t know you paid any attention to my blatherings.”
“Sheer repetition brought them to my notice despite my best efforts.”
Harry considered mentioning that the man had had far more important things to think about in the three years since Snape had been a professor and Harry a student, but there was something oddly pleasing about Snape remembering anything he’d said – even if he used it as insult ammunition.
“Your actions on my behalf were no more for my sake personally than were mine for yours,” Snape went on.
“You’re going to a great deal of trouble to try to persuade Mr Potter of your abysmal opinion of him,” Dracula put in. “Why does it matter so much to you that he believe you loathe him?”
Harry winced. “Ouch. It’s not very pleasant put in a nutshell like that.” He glanced at Snape. “You know, maybe I didn’t testify out of any great love for you, but it’d be nice if you realised I’ve got over my childhood hatred. I didn’t know all the facts then.”
“You still don’t know all of them,” Snape muttered, but his tone was surrender.
“I know enough of them. Enough to be aware of what you did and what it must’ve cost you.”
Snape’s sour expression changed, turning distant, cool, and Harry wondered what particular grief he was remembering.
He finished his speech. “It doesn’t matter if you still hate me. I can live with it. But I don’t feel the same.”
“I’m thrilled,” Snape said.
“So if I snuggle up to you, will you still hex me?” Harry asked.
Harry glanced at Dracula, who shrugged.
* * *
The train arrived in Budapest in the afternoon. As Harry had expected, the next train to Bucharest departed in the morning, and they were left needing to find a place to stay the night.
They stood on the platform squinting into the low sun, the bass fiddle balanced between them.
“There,” Harry said, pleased his Hungarian was up to it. “A hotel.” He pointed at the tall, narrow whitewashed housefront with the sign “Hotel” over the façade.
Snape’s eyes darted at him in silent sarcasm, and Harry shrugged. “Closer is better. Less opportunity for disaster.”
Snape started across the road and Harry followed quickly – perforce, as Snape held one end of the coffin and he the other – thinking it wouldn’t kill the man to just once verbally acknowledge Harry’s good sense.
In the dimlit lobby, they stopped at the desk and Snape spoke to the bald head of the small man who stood with his back to them, fussily sorting a few pieces of paper into cubbyholes.
“A legjobb szobát.”
Harry stared for a second at Snape speaking Hungarian, then quickly cast a wandless translation charm, his fingers forming the spell below the level of the counter. The man turned around, looked at each of them and the bass fiddle case, and laughed a little, dusty laugh.
“Vicces?” Snape said, dry as burnt toast. Something is funny?
The man shook his head. “Nem. Szerencséje van, uram. A legjobb szobánk szabad.” No. You’re fortunate, sir. Our best room is available.
* * *
“The funny thing is,” Harry remarked, stopped in the doorway of the room. “I believe him. This probably is his best room.” He waited until Snape had set down his end of the coffin, in the corner just inside the door, then braced the top against the wall and shut the door behind them, locking it although he knew it was all but pointless.
The room was small and threadbare, though fairly clean: one bed, one chair, one lamp on one table, and a spartan bathroom visible through the only other door. Snape stood in the middle of the room on a rug that probably once had been vibrantly multicolored, now a sort of ragged swatch of muddy browns, surveying it with a cutting lack of expression.
“I’ve had worse,” Harry said cheerfully.
“As you were raised in a cupboard, forgive me for not taking your opinion regarding lodgings too seriously.” Snape went into the bathroom and shut the door. It immediately sprang open. He stopped and turned, not looking at Harry, and shut it more carefully.
Harry watched the door for a moment, hearing various tumbler and latch noises and creakings of hinges. At last he felt a tingle of magic from the bathroom and the latch clicked home. He grinned.
Then scowled. “I wasn’t raised in a cupboard.”
* * *
Leaving Harry poring over a smorgasbord of maps and train schedules (and casting occasional worried glances at the coffin, like a girl at a spider’s web), Snape went out for food and returned little more than half an hour later with a bag and two bottles of still water, one of which he dropped onto the bed at Harry’s side.
Harry looked at it. “Theodora. My favourite.” The heavy scents of meat and mustard made his nose tickle and his stomach clench; he got up, came to Snape’s side as the man unwrapped sausages and bread upon the small table, arranging the food in two neat and clearly defined piles. Harry filled his hands and sat back down, careful not to smear any food on the maps, which he needed, or the bed, which – it had occurred to him in Snape’s absence, with the force of a hammer to the head – he and Snape would somehow be sharing tonight.
He inhaled the food, greasy and spicy and delicious, and licked his fingers clean while surreptitiously watching his former teacher at the table. He already knew Snape dined like a cat, tidily, with visible distaste for getting food anywhere but inside his mouth. Though he ate with precision rather than gusto, Snape wasted no time finishing his portion. When he sucked a drop of mustard off his left middle finger, Harry laughed out loud.
“Enjoying the show?” Snape muttered, evidently undisturbed by Harry’s scrutiny.
Harry shrugged. “Well, for the price …”
Snape rolled his eyes and used a serviette for the remainder of his cleanup, to Harry’s disappointment. He drained his water bottle – the mustard was hot – and got up to gather the debris and throw it away.
Snape stood as well, but whatever he’d planned to do fell by the wayside when his gaze was caught by the narrow grimy windows.
Harry glanced that way and saw, through the threadbare curtains, the red of sunset dimming into darkness. He sidled to the wall beside the door and flipped the light switch, and 60 watts of yellow did their tired best to illuminate the room.
The bass fiddle case creaked, the sound ominous in the quiet room. Harry looked at Snape, guessing his own apprehension showed in his eyes. To his surprise, he saw it mirrored in Snape’s.
The case opened and Dracula stepped gracefully out, pale, hollow–cheeked and bright–eyed; this time Harry didn’t have the slightest urge to laugh. He slid his fingers into his wand pocket and grasped the cool wooden handle.
“Gentlemen,” Dracula said, dark eyes darting from Snape to Harry and back, his stillness suggesting wariness.
Harry edged left until he was in front of the doorknob, and Dracula turned to face him fully, his posture more exasperated than angry.
Harry felt his heart and breathing accelerate, his skin tight with anticipation, but the vampire didn’t move or speak, only watched him, eyes luminous, unreadable as a cat’s.
Snape growled, “Don’t be a fool.”
Startled, Harry glanced at him.
“You knew he’d have to feed,” Snape said. “You can’t stop him unless you plan to destroy him.”
Snape’s calm, reasonable tone startled Harry into realisation. He loosened his fingers on his wand, still tense, but aware Snape was right. He’d known Dracula couldn’t go more than a day or so without some sustenance, and it wasn’t as if he’d fooled himself they could bring the man – vampire – a sandwich and a bottle of wine.
“Sorry,” he said – to the count. “But … I don’t like it.”
Mildly, Dracula said, “It was not my choice, Mr Potter, I assure you.”
Meeting his stare – neither threatening nor hypnotic, merely ancient and philosophical – Harry felt his defensive posture melt. His reason warred with his instincts, battered them down and sat on them, alert for any flare–ups. He let go his wand, drew his hand from the pocket.
“I’m sorry,” he repeated with more feeling. “But I still don’t think it’s a good idea for you to go out … er … hunting while we’re here.”
“I would order in,” Dracula said, a hint of humor in an otherwise deadpan tone, “but there is no room service at this hotel.”
Harry laughed. He gave his word. If you don’t believe in that, this whole thing’s a farce. ”Okay.” He rubbed both hands over his face, shuddering. “Okay. Sorry.”
Abruptly, Snape got up. “How much do you need to hold you?”
Dracula looked at him, a long, measuring look that made Snape’s face redden.
“I’ve never precisely measured the minimum amount,” the vampire remarked, his tone mild, almost caressing. Something in it spurred Harry to concern.
“Wait a minute,” he began.
Snape, ignoring him, unbuttoned the top two buttons of his tunic. Harry felt himself flush – ridiculously.
“Do be sure to leave me enough for my own needs,” Snape said. “Which, I’ll grant, are minimal.”
Dracula smiled, facing Snape squarely, as if they were about to dance. “I have yet to kill anyone accidentally.”
“Hang on,” Harry blurted. “Are you … volunteering?”
“I don’t see anyone else here likely to,” Snape rejoined.
“It’s suspiciously like incest, don’t you think?” Dracula put in, though he reached up to lightly finger Snape’s open collar.
“Shut up,” Snape snapped, pulling away.
“I’m here as well,” Harry said. The Snape brow and the Dracula brow rose in identically elegant arches.
“Are you volunteering?” Snape asked.
Harry shrugged. “Better me than some poor innocent person off the streets.”
“I don’t think you realise…” Snape began.
“I’ve done my homework,” Harry said, adding, “professor.” He knew it would piss Snape off.
“Go ahead,” Snape said angrily. “Since the great and wise Auror Harry Potter is confident he knows all about it—” He turned away as if in disgust, but his palpable unease communicated itself to Harry.
He looked nervously at Dracula as the vampire turned to face him, head tilted questioningly, waiting to be sure Harry wouldn’t change his mind. “You won’t …”
“What? Kill you? Change you? Hardly. It’s to my advantage having two breathing escorts to my home. I need you both as aides, not competitors.”
Snape snorted. “I’m leaving.”
To his own surprise, Harry put out an arm, barring Snape’s way as he headed for the door.
“Stay,” he asked. “Please.”
Snape’s eyes raked his face. He ground his jaw a moment, shook his head, and backed away from the door.
“If you insist. You may regret having a witness, however.”
“Severus,” Dracula teased. “So missish.”
“Wait a minute,” Harry said. “What do you mean, missish? What’s – “
Dracula moved, in that scarily swift glide, to stand before Harry. He was a few inches taller – like Snape – and Harry had to crane back a bit to meet his eyes. Which, he realised a moment after, when his brain started to float, was a mistake.
“Don’t be afraid,” Dracula said softly, his expression intent but not fierce. “The …” His eyes flickered down to Harry’s neck, then up again, and Harry gulped. “The hurt is temporary, and the … process can be …” One hand rose, cool fingertips coming to rest along Harry’s neck. “… pleasurable.”
Harry began a protest that died in his throat as Dracula cocked his head and let his hand trail down Harry’s neck, resting against his collarbones.
“Your life–force is strong,” he said, his voice still low, insidious. “No wonder Severus is—”
“Feeling quite the voyeur,” Snape cut in, his complaint a harsh break in the seductive mood. Harry blinked as if awakened from a wet dream by a splash of cold water.
“Stop playing games and get on with it – uncle,” Snape added. Harry glanced past Dracula’s shoulder at Snape, seated on the very edge of the hard chair, his hands white–knuckled on the carven arms. Why was the man so … tense?
Dracula chuckled and Harry’s eyes came back to him. The count moved around him, close, sinuous, like a cloak being draped over Harry’s shoulders. He rested his hands on Harry’s arms and stopped behind him, against him, his mouth against Harry’s ear, surprisingly warm. Soft.
“But the games,” Dracula said, “are a part of the … process.” His lips touched Harry’s neck, just below his ear. Harry shivered, watching Snape’s mouth open, just a little.
“Don’t be afraid,” Dracula whispered, although fear was the least of what Harry was feeling at the moment. Snape swallowed visibly and Harry felt the oddest throb in the pit of his stomach. He’d wanted Snape to stay because he didn’t trust Dracula to stop, not because … because …
Because you’re getting off on this, and you’re getting off even more on Snape watching you get off on this.
He shivered again, and Dracula’s arms slid around his chest, not tight, but supportive. One hand rested over Harry’s racing heart while the other touched his chin, tilting his head as Dracula delicately tasted the sensitive skin of his neck. He didn’t bite; it was as if … as if he were …
Kissing. Harry felt a groan rumble in his throat. The word is kissing, idiot.
Dracula licked him. “You taste of youth. And power,” he said. “I won’t need much of your essence.” He kissed again, licked, began to suck delicately – and Harry gasped, his half–arousal swelling into a full hard–on.
Snape flushed, his mouth falling open further, and what should have been humiliating – getting an erection practically in Severus Snape’s face – was even more exciting because Harry knew Snape could see it.
He felt an instant of hardness against his neck, then the needling prick of fangs piercing his skin. His knees buckled and the vampire held him up, holding him through the moment of full, hard–edged pain as his vein was pierced, steadying him as that pain dissipated into a weird swirl of rhythmic, aching pleasure. His vision blurred and he let his eyes close, Snape’s flushed face and glittering eyes imprinted on his retinas.
* * *
He came back to himself lying on the bed. He blinked and pushed himself up on his elbows with a mighty effort. He felt … dazed, almost drunk, and definitely aroused. Glancing down in a panic, he was relieved to see his baggy jeans didn’t reveal that last state.
A snort startled him, drawing his eyes. Snape sat in the chair, elbows on his knees, observing him. Behind him, the coffin was closed.
Feeling embarrassment heat his face – Snape obviously knew exactly what he’d been looking for – Harry coughed to clear his dry, thick throat. “How’d I get here?”
“A lifetime of acting without thinking, leaping without looking, foolishly trusting in luck to see you through the most dangerous situations. In short, by being Harry Potter.”
Harry closed his eyes, drawing on the reserve of patience he’d always found necessary when dealing with Snape.
“Where is he?”
“Out,” Snape said, and Harry jerked upright.
The look Snape gave him made him feel like a first year. “He gave his word, Mr Potter. You supplied all the sustenance he will need for tonight.”
Harry flopped back on the bed, mortified all over again. He felt … not violated, but somehow dirty. It wasn’t right, was it, that he’d … that he’d liked it?
“Why … why didn’t you tell me …”
“Tell you what?”
“That it was …” Harry swallowed roughly, turning his head on the pillow to look at Snape. “That it would be … like that.”
Weirdly, Snape didn’t attack him. He rested his forehead in one palm as if his head ached. “You said you knew.”
Harry laughed softly. “Since when do you believe me when I say I know anything?” He wasn’t angry at Snape; he knew he wouldn’t have let the man talk him out of it.
“Now you know,” Snape said tiredly.
Harry sat up. “I’m going to shower.” He rose, too fast, and his blood disdained to catch up with his body. He swayed, vision blurring, and Snape was in front of him, catching his arms, steadying him. Harry reached out automatically for balance and his hands ended up on Snape’s chest. He shook his head – he had no idea why; it never helped – and let Snape hold him up for a second. He’d forgotten the man’s wiry strength, the heat that radiated off him, his unique dark scent. Then again, they hadn’t touched since the night Harry had destroyed Voldemort.
“How much did he take?” he said. “I feel …” Drunk. Hot. Turned on. ”… weird.”
“That isn’t blood loss,” Snape said. His fingers clenched briefly on Harry’s arms and Harry looked at him; his face was slightly averted, his gaze flickering about, touching everything but Harry’s face, and Harry realised the man was embarrassed.
“Then what is it?” he asked, his voice gentling.
“The …” Snape’s jaw worked for a moment. “There is an aphrodisiacal quality to a vampire’s touch, scent, and especially saliva. It acts also as a mild intoxicant and, of course, anaesthetic.”
“Wow,” Harry said, and laughed, his body swaying toward Snape as if magnetised. “No wonder I feel like this. And I thought it was you.”
Snape’s head snapped up, eyes sparking with anger. He pushed Harry firmly away and turned his back.
“I’m sorry,” Harry said, confused. “I didn’t … I wasn’t …”
“Never mind,” Snape said. “Go have your shower.”
Harry reached out, touched Snape’s arm. “I didn’t—”
“Don’t.” Snape jerked away, then caught himself. “You … are not yourself. Go.” He nodded at the bathroom door and stepped around Harry, moving to the far side of the room.
Harry didn’t bother struggling with, or spelling, the door. He simply stripped and stepped into the tiny, utilitarian shower, turned on the trickle of body–temperature water, sighed at the lack of soap, and leaned against the tiled wall to let the water run over his body. He looked down at his cock, pointed uselessly at the wall, throbbing in counterpoint to his neck. He still felt half–asleep, but his dick had no patience with his muddled state. He braced his shoulder against the tiles and wrapped a wet hand around himself, thinking of Snape in the next room, thinking of Snape’s smouldering eyes on him while Dracula sucked at his …
“Oh…” He worked himself, without finesse, and came moments later with a sense of physical release but no pleasure.
Groping for a towel, he came up with a threadbare cloth no more than two foot square, and dried himself with a spell and a sigh, leaving the towel for Snape. He stepped out, realised he had only his old clothes, and cast a cleaning charm over them. He then pulled his handkerchief from the pocket of his jeans and transfigured it into pyjamas in an unfortunate paisley pattern. A glance in the foggy mirror showed him two surprisingly small red punctures on his throat. He rubbed them, feeling a shadow of arousal tickle down his throat at the pressure of his fingers across the tender spots. Weird.
When he came out Snape was sitting cross–legged on the very end of the bed, facing the bass fiddle case. His posture suggested he was meditating, but his hands were fisted around one another, working.
“Sorry,” Harry said softly, and sensed Snape’s startlement although the man didn’t jump.
“I didn’t mean to … to hurt your feelings,” he went on, laying his clothes across the back of the chair with his wand poking out of its pocket.
Snape laughed. “Potter, I have no feelings. Not in the sense you mean. There are things I want and things I hate, and that’s the extent of it.”
“Bullshit,” Harry muttered. He groped for a way to tell Snape that the vampire hadn’t caused his reaction, that he’d felt this attraction for a long time … and saw himself, in a group of those frumpy, giggling, middle–aged Skeeter–reading witches, leaving his bouquet on Snape’s doorstep.
Instantly, his confession flung itself on the sword of his pride. He watched the messy demise in his mind’s eye and mentally cursed his own cowardice.
Snape glanced back at him, took in the pyjamas with slightly widened eyes, and visibly bit back a laugh.
Mildly affronted, Harry crossed his arms. “I could just sleep starkers, you know. I did this out of consideration for you.”
Snape strangled another laugh. “It’s …” snort ”… most appreciated. I doubt it will matter, though.”
“How do you mean?”
“I don’t expect to sleep.”
“I don’t toss and turn. Never learned to,” he added wickedly. “Not enough room in a cupboard.”
“That doesn’t matter,” Snape said, ignoring the jibe. “I’m accustomed to sleeping alone. Unlike yourself, I’m sure.”
Harry laughed, not happily. “I’m not exactly used to sharing a bed.”
“Send all your lovers home afterward? You surprise me. Don’t rub at them. You’ll only irritate them.”
Harry snatched his hand away from his neck and sat on the edge of the bed. “There hasn’t been anyone to send home in a long time, not that that’s any of your business, really. On the rare occasions I have shared my bed, I would never do anything that cold. Not that that’s any of your business either. I’ll do my best to stay on my own side.”
Snape went into the bathroom – also having apparently given up on trying to properly close the door. Harry heroically refrained from peeking and a few minutes later Snape came out, his muggle clothes over his arm and a midnight blue nightshirt covering him from pale neck to paler shins.
Harry felt his brows rise and Snape said, “No, everything I own is not black. Happy?”
“Ecstatic,” Harry said, proud to’ve approximated Snape’s dry tone. “It suits you.”
Snape paused in laying his clothes over the arm of the chair, and Harry mentally gave himself five House points for surprising the man. He considered asking if Snape preferred one side of the bed to the other, but decided it would be easiest to just let the man get in first and get comfortable.
Then slither onto the bed as carefully as you can and try to take up as little room and covers as possible so he won’t hex you.
Harry sighed, grabbed his wand and performed an ordinary alarm spell on the door and window.
“That will only wake us when he returns,” Snape said, bending over the bed to turn back the covers.
“I’ll key it just to me if you’d prefer,” Harry said, hands upraised to alter the conjury.
“Don’t bother,” Snape muttered. “I’ll wake up when you jump anyway.”
Harry flushed hot at the image – the intimacy – Snape’s words created in his head. He tried not to watch as Snape lay down – distinctly, almost insultingly at the far side of the bed – and pulled the covers up to his chest.
Harry put his wand and glasses on the side table, turned off the light – after his nervous fingers missed the switch three times – and gingerly placed his own flinching body on the bed, making sure as much of himself as possible lined up with the mattress edge before he let even a single muscle untense.
He lay back onto the loftless pillow, drew the blankets up to his chin, and took a deep breath. Relax. Relax. Don’t think about Snape lying next to you in nothing but a nightshirt. Unless he’s got his smalls on. Unless he doesn’t wear smalls. Don’t think about his smalls. Relax.
He focused on breathing slowly, focused on making every muscle go limp, focused on letting the quiet and darkness of the room soak into him, so quiet he could hear Snape breathe, could feel the warmth of his body –
No. Don’t think about his body. Just relax and sleep. Relax. Relax.
Finally, Snape sighed. “For god’s sake, Potter, relax. You’re so tense I can bloody hear it.”
Harry sat up. “I’m sorry. I can’t help it.” He slithered out from under the blanket and got up. The cold hit him instantly.
“Where are you going?”
“I’ll sleep on the floor. Better for us both, probably.” He gathered up his coat and wrapped it around his body, pondering the likeliest spot – as far from Snape as possible, but still on the threadbare area rug.
He heard the bed shift as he knelt on the floor – and Snape grabbed his arm, pulling him to his feet again.
“You are beyond doubt the most stubborn, idiotic fool of a Gryffindor—” He pushed Harry onto the bed and crawled over him, a sudden, alarming intimacy of hands and elbows and knees—”I’ve ever had the unmitigated displeasure—” He pulled the blankets over them both – “of putting up with in my life.” He flopped down, pulling Harry against him, back to chest. “Notice that I am employing my inhuman restraint in order to not hex you for touching me. Now will you please relax and allow me to get some measure of sleep?”
Harry lay still, astounded, stiff as a board with surprise, skin tingling where Snape was … touching him.
Snape let him go and turned over so they were back to back, and that, and the warmth, gradually allowed Harry to breathe, to force each individual muscle to ease up.
Then he realised what Snape had said. And laughed.
“What is it now?” came the muffled, yet clearly irritated, query.
Harry turned his head toward Snape. “You made a joke. It was funny.”
“Go to sleep.”
“Sorry. Good night.”
* * *
In the morning Harry awoke with his face pressed into Snape’s shoulder and his erection pressed into Snape’s knee.
His instinctive reaction – a terrified start – woke Snape, and the two of them pushed away from one another in a kind of clumsy panic. After much thrashing and tangling of bedclothes, they each stood, panting, on either side of the bed.
Still clutching a handful of twisted sheet to his chest, Snape glared at him, his cheeks red, and when his gaze flicked down Harry cringed, turning away.
“Sorry!” He sat on the bed and twisted around to give Snape as good a glare as he was getting, but Snape had sat down as well, hunched over on his side of the bed, both hands still wrapped around a section of sheet, holding the wad to his chest like a teddy bear.
Harry covered his eyes with one hand for a moment, breathing deliberately, then grabbed his glasses, slid them on, and turned around again, farther this time, so he could see a slice of Snape’s downturned profile. Tight, flushed … he looked furious.
“Sorry,” he repeated. “But it’s a natural reaction to—” He stopped himself, blushing. Damn it. Was there anyone, ever, who could make him blush like Snape?
Into the silence, Snape said, “To what?”
“To waking up. To waking up with another warm body in the bed.” Defensive, Harry blurted, “You know, you’re not the most repulsive man in the world. Despite your best efforts. You even smell good. It’s not that strange for me to wake up next to you with a hard–on.”
Snape closed his eyes, jaw twitching.
“It’s not something I can control, you know,” Harry added.
Snape opened his eyes, speaking as if it hurt. “I realise that.”
“Then why are you angry?”
“I’m not angry.”
“You sound angry. You look—”
Snape bounced up from the bed, his back to Harry. “Might we discuss your overactive hormones at some other time? We have a nosferatu to transport, in case it’s slipped your mind.”
Harry got up and stormed into the bathroom, muttering, “At least I have hormones.”
“Nothing.” He slammed the bathroom door. It bounced open and he slammed it again, this time fastening it with a quick spell. Over the loo, he yanked his dick out, then sighed and waited for his erection to subside so he could take his morning piss. What a perfect way to cock up the day right from the start.
He remembered waking in the pre–dawn hours to the gentle tickle of his alarm spell, watching Dracula close the door behind him and glide silently to his coffin, opening it and then casting a glance and a wicked smile at Harry before slipping inside and closing the lid. As far as Harry could tell, Snape didn’t awaken, and Harry’d fallen asleep again quickly, lulled by the living warmth lying peacefully beside him.
Harry sighed, took a leak and washed up. Snape was a lot easier to get along with when he was asleep.
* * *
They ate the most unrelaxed breakfast Harry could ever remember having – which was going some – in the café next to the hotel, then waited on the platform, bass fiddle between them, for the train to Bucharest.
Harry stared blankly at the handful of passengers coming and going, sensing the anger radiating from the other side of the coffin. There was no way they could continue like this. When he was sure there was no one around to hear, Harry tried again.
Silence. A big woman with a reluctant child in tow passed in front of their bench, both damp from the drizzling rain that had begun at sunup.
“You don’t need to apologise.”
Harry froze. Then sat forward so he could look around the bulk of the fiddle case to see Snape’s face. Not that that told him anything.
Snape wouldn’t look at him. “As you said. It was a natural reaction to a warm body.”
Harry blinked. Nodded. “Oh. But …” He found that he didn’t at all like Snape thinking that he would’ve woken with that same hard–on from sleeping next to anyone. Rita Skeeter. Hagrid. Dolores Umbridge.
Harry shuddered. No; it wasn’t like that. But he didn’t know how to say it to that cold, stony profile. Doggedly he quested through his brain for the right words to express that perhaps – just perhaps – they could leave their old enmity behind and find some sort of common ground, perhaps even friendship, perhaps … perhaps, at some future point, even …
The arrival of the train drew Harry from his hopeless quest.
They wrestled the coffin onto the train, pinning two young women to the wall.
“Sorry,” Harry said when it became obvious Snape wasn’t going to bother.
The taller girl, a brunette with a head of luxuriantly curling hair, smiled, said in unaccented English, “No problem,” then looked down.
“Oh!” She stopped, beaming, and looked from Harry to Snape. “Which of you plays?”
Harry stopped; that made Snape stop and emit an impatient sigh. Harry noticed that both girls were carrying violin cases and felt his insides do that all–too–familiar plunge that announced “caught.”
“Are you with the orchestra?” the other girl said. “I thought we’d met everyone.” She had a long braid of smooth black hair and reminded Harry vaguely of Cho, which didn’t do his composure any good.
“Uh …” He cleverly stalled for time.
“Neither of us plays,” Snape put in, setting his end of the case on the train floor and turning toward the girls with that subtle flourish Harry had noticed and admired for years. “This is an inheritance, a very old instrument from which, sadly, neither I nor my company possess the ability to draw music. Therefore we are delivering it to a place where it can find a true home.”
Harry stared at Snape in amazement. “Wow.” Both girls turned their interested stares from Snape back to Harry and he felt his face flame.
“I mean, right.”
“What a shame you have to give it up,” the curly–haired girl said. “Is it going to a conservatory?”
Harry blinked expectantly at Snape, who sneered at him in the split–second before the young women turned back to him.
“It will remain in private hands,” Snape said.
“May we see it?” the other girl said, one hand extending toward the coffin.
“The case is locked,” Harry blurted. “We didn’t want to risk any damage.” He smiled at the girls, knowing he had to look like a blithering idiot.
Apparently the girls had a fondness for blithering idiots.
“Well, since we’re going to be on this train together—” the curly–haired girl began.
Snape hefted his end of the case, almost knocking Harry over.
“We really must find our compartment,” he said, pulling. “If you’ll excuse us.”
Harry, dragged after Snape, worked a hand free and waved. “Nice meeting you!”
The girls exchanged a puzzled glance and waved back as Snape, Harry and bass fiddle case hurried down the corridor.
Inside their compartment Harry thunked his end of the coffin down, blew out a breath of air and said, “Hell. What’ve you got against pretty girls, Snape?”
He’d meant nothing by it, but Snape shot him a look so nasty Harry felt his skin sizzle.
“They were just being friendly,” he muttered.
“We are not here to be friendly,” Snape muttered back.
“Here on this train, or here on this planet?” Harry countered, flopping down into his seat.
“You are more than welcome to spend the remainder of the train ride in their company if you prefer,” Snape said. He didn’t quite flop into his seat, but there was a certain degree of petulance to his posture, Harry thought.
Mildly, he said, “Would it kill you to be ni—”
Snape snapped, “Yes. It would. Instantly. I have it in writing from my personal medi–wizard at St. Mungo’s. Are you satisfied now?” He crossed his arms and slumped.
Harry snorted. Then chuckled. Then snorted again.
Then said, “Well. If it’s a medical thing.”
* * *
Once the train was underway Harry went scavenging, returning to the compartment to brandish a handful of newspapers, two oatmeal cookies, and a fat paperback book with a luridly romantic cover.
Snape accepted the newspapers with scarcely a glance and Harry resorted to the paperback.
Two cookies and uncounted minutes later, Harry groaned.
“This is horrible.” He lowered the book to his lap. “Do women really like this kind of thing?”
Snape glanced at the cover – “Savage Surrender” – and snorted.
“I don’t purport to be anything resembling a good judge, but you have managed to absorb at least a quarter of it in relative silence. Surely it cannot be entirely uninteresting to you.”
Harry shook his head. “I keep waiting for it to stop being so … “
Snape arched a brow. “Flowery? Romantic? Saccharine?”
Harry blurted, “Filthy.”
Snape laughed. To the uninitiated it might’ve sounded like a hastily smothered cough, but Harry, pleased and embarrassed simultaneously, knew the truth.
“It is!” he insisted, turning it over and shoving it under Snape’s nose. “I mean, look at this.” He fingered the relevant passage.
Snape scanned it, then glanced sidelong at Harry. “Surely this sort of thing isn’t entirely unfamiliar to you.”
“Well …” Harry shrugged. “Sort of. I mean. It’s been … that is … there was a lot less … um … talking and a lot more …”
Snape chuckled and Harry’s face flared.
“It’s just not very realistic,” he said hastily. “I mean … as I recall.” It had been so long since his last intimacy with a girl that in truth it might’ve been just as the romance novel described; he really didn’t remember all that well. Which in part explained why he’d switched to the other team, he supposed.
“I mean, is that supposed to be … you know … erotic?” he went on, waving the book around as if he’d suddenly realised it was on fire.
Snape said drily, “I admit the heaving bosoms, cascading curls, full pouting lips and overwrought declarations of ecstasy do nothing for me.”
Harry shrugged again. “Well, that makes perfect sense if you’re—” He stopped himself so fast he nearly bit his tongue in two, but too late.
“If I’m what?” The last word snapped like a whip, and Harry flinched.
“You know. If you prefer …”
Snape’s eyebrows soared.
“… good writing?” Harry hazarded. Snape’s mouth twitched in a brutally quashed smile.
“Or men,” Harry added, deliberately breezy. “That’s probably my problem with this kind of stuff. Sex between two guys is a lot less …” He quested for an inoffensive word, sharply attuned for any reaction from the man next to him. “…pretty.”
“Pretty is overrated,” Snape said, mildly for him.
Harry chuckled. “I agree.” He closed the book and tossed it onto the opposite seat next to the coffin. “Is that why you won’t … well, why you’ve rejected all those witches who’ve been throwing themselves at you?”
Snape crossed his arms and slouched back in his seat, apparently perfectly at ease with the conversation – strange as that seemed to Harry.
“Their relative … prettiness –” he said the word as if it tasted sour – “is beside the point.”
“I meant because they’re women,” Harry clarified, every nerve ending prepared for instant self–defence – or surrender, whichever would save him.
Snape merely rolled his eyes. “This endless speculation about my sexual preferences is ridiculous. First that Skeeter baggage, then Minerva and all those …”
“Admirers?” Harry suggested with a smile. Snape shot him a look.
Harry shrugged. “I’m 21. I think about sex pretty often anyway. I wondered about those two girls we met in the corridor. I’ve even wondered about the count –” He didn’t fail to notice the alarm widening Snape’s eyes. “It’s not that strange that I’d wonder about you.”
“Wonder what?” Snape asked, almost fearfully.
“If you like men or women, for a start,” Harry said.
Snape slumped further, no longer so comfortable. “I don’t like anybody.”
“You know what I mean.” Harry leaned back, trying to be casual about the conversation. Suave, mature, devil–may–care. Two grown, sophisticated men discussing sex.
“My preference is for young, gorgeous, well–built men,” Snape said, bone–dry. He glanced at Harry as if expecting to have offended him. Harry met his gaze steadily.
“As for what I’m willing to settle for …”
Harry chuckled. “Fair enough. That explains the broken female hearts piled up against the door of your shop.”
“That’s their problem,” Snape muttered. “I never asked for that.”
“I think your … uncle is trying to play matchmaker for you.” Harry laughed. “Either that or he’s trying to get me killed.”
Snape’s head swiveled toward him, one brow arched. “What did he say?”
“He told me you were attracted to me,” Harry said – and suave and casual crumbled into hot and embarrassed in the space of eight words.
Snape went white, alarmingly white, as if unable to breathe. Harry found himself in the same state.
Then Snape’s eyes narrowed and his face flushed a dark, violent red.
“He … told … you … what?!”
Ignoring the cold trickle of disappointment in his stomach, Harry held up one hand. “Don’t worry. I think he was just trying to … you know … entertain himself. I fancy the idea of me … you know, coming on to you, and then you hexing me to the moon … was quite amusing to him.”
He lowered his hand as Snape stared at him, making no move to attack or shout. “I probably shouldn’t have mentioned it. Sorry.”
Snape turned away, tension still visible in the set of his head and back.
“Then again, it’s best that you know,” Harry said; you knew it had to be shite – why are you bothered by Snape’s reaction? ”I mean, know that he’s making these things up. So that, you know, if he says anything about me you’ll know not to trust him.”
The words startled Harry so much it took him several seconds to understand them.
“Oh. I don’t … anything. Lies.”
“Lies about what?”
“Anything. Look, he and I – we don’t have heart–to–heart chats. If he claims I said something about you – something bad – you should know it’s not the truth.”
“Because of course you would never say anything bad about me.”
“No,” Harry said. “I wouldn’t. At least, nothing you haven’t heard a million times.” He grinned at Snape, then continued, seriously. “After everything you’ve done? I know you think I’m stupid, but do you really think I’m that stupid?”
A tapping on the door saved Harry from whatever response Snape was pondering, and he slid open the door to reveal the two girls they’d nearly run over in the corridor.
“We found you!” the curly–haired girl said. She and her friend beamed at Harry and Snape. “We just wondered if you wanted to join us in the dining car for tea. I’m Melissa and this is Cate.”
Cate smiled on cue.
Harry got up. “Hi. I’m Harry, and this is … um … Se–Severus.”
“Severus,” Melissa said. “That’s a very unusual name. I like it. It rolls off the tongue.”
Snape got up and brushed by an open–mouthed Harry to shake the girls’ hands.
“A pleasure to see you again,” he said with a wicked smile. “In fact, we were just discussing you.”
Harry glared a warning and Snape looked at him, smiling on the outside, but – Harry knew it for a fact – sticking his tongue out at him on the inside.
“You were?” Melissa said, smiling back.
“Yes. Mr Potter was wondering about your sex—”
“Section!” Harry shouted, blushing. “What section – of – of the orchestra you’re in.” He shoved himself between Snape and the girls. “Why don’t we go get some tea and we can talk about it? It’s too crowded in here.” He bustled the startled girls into the corridor, saying over his shoulder, “Snape, you coming? No? You sure we can’t change your mind? Oh well, I’ll bring something back for you, all right? Great.” He slammed the door and pasted a grin on his face when the two girls looked at him in surprise.
* * *
An hour later when Harry crept sheepishly back to the compartment, he slid the door open to find Snape asleep, slouched sideways on the seat with his head against the window. His left arm was under him, his right hanging relaxed over the edge of the seat, fingers curled, swinging slightly with the motion of the train. He looked tired and peaceful and Harry suddenly felt guilty for running out as he’d done.
Then he felt stupid for feeling guilty; surely Snape had been happy to be rid of him. That made him feel sorry for himself for a moment, then he felt stupid again. Then he decided to give all the emoting a rest and just relax. Nothing he was likely to do for the rest of his life would be as difficult as that which he had already done; he often reminded himself of that when he got worked up. He tried to close the door quietly, but Snape started at the quiet thud and blinked at him for a moment.
“How was your date?”
His voice was low, rough from sleep, rubbing across something inside Harry that felt strange, but good.
“Bit of a let down,” he admitted, sitting. “Once they realized I didn’t know a violin from an accordion, they sort of lost interest.”
Snape pushed himself upright and scrubbed a hand over his eyes. Harry grinned; he looked, for an instant, like a little kid.
“What is the difference, anyway?” he joked.
“The violin is a musical instrument,” Snape said, still sounding sleepy but having obviously switched his sarcasm back on.
Harry laughed, then popped up again. “Would you like a pillow, or a blanket?” He reached for the storage compartment while Snape scowled at him.
“No,” he said finally. “Thank you.”
Harry sat down again. Asked, “Why wouldn’t you accept the Order of Merlin?”
The left–field question gave Snape no more than a moment’s pause.
“Because I am not proud of what I did. No one should be proud of what I did. I did it because I had to. It was ugly, it was filthy. It should not be … honored.” The word came out through clenched teeth. “It should be ... buried. Forgotten.” He turned to face the rain–streaked window.
Harry fought it, but in the end had to speak. “I’m sorry. I don’t agree with you, but I’m sorry.”
Snape snorted. “You don’t agree with me.”
“No. I don’t. What you did – what we did – was ugly. I don’t ever want to do it again, and I’d like to forget it too. But it was necessary. You did the dirty work – the work no one else would have had the balls to do. People need to remember that. They’ve got to. You know what the Muggles say – those who don’t study history are … um … condemned to repeat its errors.”
Snape turned to glare at him. “That is ridiculous tripe. Have you failed to notice that history consists of patterns?” He shook his head. “No evil man ever sees himself in history’s mirror. They all think they’re different. All of them.” He resumed staring out the window and Harry took up staring at the back of Snape’s head, still disagreeing but not wanting to argue further, feeling Snape’s words burrowing into his brain.
Finally he stood up again. “I didn’t bring you any tea. Would you like some?”
Snape’s chin dropped as he visibly elected to consider Harry’s words rather than ignore him. Then he turned his face briefly toward Harry, not meeting his eyes, and said, “Thank you.”
Harry beamed. “No problem.”
* * *
The sun was a red blur on the horizon when the bass fiddle case creaked open. Snape lowered his newspaper, Harry the romance novel he’d nearly finished. They exchanged a glance – Harry had no idea what was in it, but it felt like a moment of communion – then watched Dracula step out into the compartment.
“Good evening, gentlemen.”
The vampire faced them, tall, his face very white against the black of his clothing. He shrugged his cloak into position, brushed back a lock of stray hair with a quick, delicate gesture, and looked at Snape. Then Harry.
He smiled. “I’m pleased to see you are getting along better.”
Snape and Harry exchanged a surprised look.
“What makes you think that?” Harry said.
Dracula shrugged, a boneless, feline motion. “Oh, I can just tell.” He bent to peer out the window. “Another beautiful night.” Straightening, he sighed. “It is good to be back upon the soil of my birth. I feel better already.”
“Great,” Harry lied.
“We’re pulling in to the station,” Snape said, rising. Dracula raised a hand to symbolically block the door.
“If you’ll permit me. We are after all in my homeland. I would prefer a hotel with somewhat more …” he looked around airily, “… refined atmosphere than last night’s lodgings.”
“What difference does it make to you?” Harry asked, waving at the bass fiddle case.
The vampire smiled and cold snaked up his neck.
“It makes my after–dinner walks more pleasant,” Dracula said.
Harry got up and bumped into Snape as the train groaned to a stop.
“Sorry.” He caught himself against the backs of Snape’s arms; Snape shrugged him off.
“Some forethought would be an effective counterbalance to your clumsiness, Potter.”
Harry ground his jaw. “I bumped into you, I didn’t sever a bloody limb. Lighten up.”
“If by that you mean ignore your constant –”
Dracula opened the door with a flourish dramatic enough to silence both wizards.
“If the two of you would be so good as to cease flirting and collect my coffin, we might disembark.”
He swept out of the compartment.
Harry closed his mouth, muttered, “Sometimes I really want to just …”
“… hex the fangs right out of his mouth,” Snape concluded.
Harry almost choked on a laugh. “Glad he’s not my uncle.”
Snape gestured at the coffin. “Take an end, Potter, let’s not be all night about this. I’d like some supper.”
“I’m hungry as well,” Harry semi–argued. Then remembered Dracula would be too.
They collected the coffin and followed the vampire, Harry forced to smile at the servile image they presented. He didn’t doubt it amused Dracula to treat them as servants. Wonder if we’ll get a tip when we get wherever we’re going.
The vampire strode from the bustling station and into the street with head high, not shrinking from the view of the evening crowd.
Harry, after a moment of surprise that he could be so brazen, realised that there was nothing about him out of the ordinary at first glance anyway, except perhaps the old–fashioned, slightly dramatic clothing and the long hair. After all, a vampire who couldn’t blend in until the moment he or she struck would be a short–lived vampire.
Harry chuckled. Short–lived, short–undead. Whatever.
“Stop scratching those,” Snape said behind him.
Harry whipped his hand away from his neck. “What’s it to you?”
“You’ll only irritate them. Besides, you’re supposed to look as if you’re carrying your share of this blasted thing.”
They followed the count along busy roads lined with large office buildings in varying states of renovation; though not as busy as London or Paris, Bucharest had plenty of foot and road traffic at this evening hour. Harry and Snape had to be careful to not bump people while keeping Dracula in sight; the vampire walked swiftly, seeming entirely sure of wherever he was going.
After a few long blocks, Dracula stopped across the street from a very large, very grand, brightly lit hotel. Harry and Snape stopped beside him, and a slightly winded Harry glanced curiously at the vampire.
“Did you expect I should choose some shadowy, cobweb–festooned relic?” Dracula mocked him. “I have always been a devotee of modern conveniences.”
“Then why didn’t we take a taxi?” Harry groused, although of course with wingardium leviosa the coffin weighed nothing, and after hours cooped up on that train, the walk had at least gotten his …
… blood flowing.
Dracula smiled, exactly as though he could read Harry’s thought, then crossed the street to enter the hotel. Harry and Snape – Harry observed the man wasn’t even breathing hard, which pissed him off – followed.
The lobby was vast, all gleam and marble, with a grand staircase and – not surprisingly, Harry thought – very few people about. This wasn’t exactly the kind of hotel that would often get swamped with guests in a country like Romania. Or anywhere. He wondered what a room here would cost.
“Stop gawking like a country bumpkin and get after him,” Snape said, pushing the bass fiddle case into Harry from behind.
“Like you’ve ever stayed in a hotel this posh,” Harry muttered, loudly enough that he knew Snape heard him.
“You have no idea what sorts of hotels I’ve stayed in,” Snape sneered. “As a matter of fact, I’ve been ejected from better hotels than this.”
Harry chuckled. “Point for you, then. I guess. I’ve never even been inside a place this fancy.”
“As is evident by the trailing of your jaw on their clean floors,” Snape said. “I realise it’s your habit to draw attention to yourself, but do attempt to restrain your regrettable tendency toward spectacles.”
Harry looked back at him. “Spectacles?” He shoved said article up his nose very slowly, using his longest finger. “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.”
“Idiot,” Snape muttered.
Dracula was at the check–in desk by the time they caught up.
“Thank you,” he said to the thin–faced man behind the counter. “My friends will take care of that.” He moved away as if all of them were forgotten, strolling into the center of the high marble lobby, and the clerk looked at Harry and Snape.
The light bulb went on. Harry said, “I got it,” to Snape, set down his end of the coffin, and leaned over the counter to whisper “Confundocorporocreditus.”
The clerk blinked and his gaze glazed over. He fished into his wallet and pulled out a credit card, swiping it, then typing into the registration computer. Harry waited, smiling blandly, and Snape inched up beside him.
The computer beeped a few times and the clerk pulled out a pair of plastic room keys, programmed them, and handed them to Harry.
“There you are, sir,” he said, his voice as blurry as his gaze. “Seventh floor. Enjoy your stay.”
“Thanks.” Harry lifted his end of the case and Snape did the same. Harry turned back to the counter to say, “Lift?” and the clerk pointed.
“Thanks.” He led the way. Dracula was already waiting by the doors, which slid open as they arrived.
“What was that spell?” Snape finally said once they were inside.
Harry grinned. “My idea, but the twins worked out the actual spell. Basically whoever’s on the receiving end uses the corporate plastic to pay the charge. There’s a variant for personal credit cards, but that clerk probably couldn’t afford to pay for a suite here.”
“That’s quite underhanded,” Snape said.
“Would you rather sleep in the street?” Harry replied. “Tell me this place can’t afford to donate one suite for one night without breaking the bank.”
Snape’s lip twitched. “I was approving, not criticising.”
Harry blushed. “Oh. Sorry.”
Dracula, leaning on the shiny–smooth wall of the lift with his arms crossed, smiled.
“Will you please,” Snape growled, “stop that.”
* * *
“Well.” Harry blew out an impressed breath. “This is a lot better than last night.”
He let go of his end of the coffin and made a circuit of the suite, which boasted a sitting room, a bedroom with a huge bed – he didn’t know whether to be glad or sorry about that, but he was very careful not to look at Snape or Dracula immediately after – and an elegant bathroom with a claw–footed tub and modern shower.
“Not bad,” he said, coming out of the bathroom. Snape was at the windows and Dracula just inside the door, surveying the room with faint disdain. What he found lacking, Harry couldn’t imagine.
“You want to bath while I find some supper, or vice versa?” Harry asked Snape. The man looked at him, startled.
“I’d like a long soak, myself, so p’raps you should go first and I’ll order room service.”
“On the house,” Snape said.
Harry grinned. “Of course. What would you like?”
He ended up ordering a couple of steaks, with potatoes, salad, bread and wine while Snape went in to bath, wolfing his share down in when it arrived.
Dracula sat lounging in a cushy chair, watching him eat, one hand fingering the television remote, the corners of his generous mouth turned up in amusement.
“Planning to watch telly?” Harry asked after the last bite of steak, dabbing his mouth and glancing at the bathroom door. Snape was sure taking his time in there.
“No, though I admire the technology, I prefer doing to watching others pretend to do. Although I have been known to watch the ballet from time to time on the public access channels.”
Harry looked at him, wondering if he was kidding. Then he remembered another question he’d meant to ask.
“What do you plan to do about the curse?”
Dracula shrugged a shoulder as if dismissing a fallen leaf. “Find someone to remove it. Or –” a flash of teeth to acknowledge the irony of the word – “live with it. Curses tend to wear off eventually.”
“Do they?” Harry prodded, and Dracula glanced at him.
“So I’ve found.”
The bathroom door opened to a rush of pine–scented steam and Snape, in a green hotel robe, stepped out. His wet hair was slicked back, accentuating his beaky nose and sharp cheekbones, and the robe opened in a V down his pale chest, showing a sprinkling of black hair.
Harry felt a rush of warmth in his stomach and got to his feet, bashing his shin on the table leg.
“Your supper’s here; steak, potato, salad. It’s still hot. I mean, except for the salad, of course, that’s not hot.” He backed away from the table as Snape advanced, neither of them looking the other in the eye, each moving slowly, warily, as if expecting the other to attack.
Staring at the table, Snape said, “Thank you. The bathroom is at your disposal.”
“Oh.” Harry moved toward the bath. Stopped. Made a dash at the table, grabbed his wine glass, and circled around Snape with an apologetic smile on his face. “Sorry. Enjoy your dinner.”
Dracula’s tsking followed him into the bathroom until he’d shut the door.
Idiot. What the hell is wrong with you? You’re acting like a bloody little girl.
He thunked the wine glass on the marble counter and turned the bath taps on full blast, hot, then began dumping foamy things into the tub.
Just bath. Bath, feed the vampire, go to bed …
But there was no innocent way to continue that line of thought. It led to him, aroused, and Snape, alone together in a hotel room with a huge and inviting bed.
Harry set his glasses on the counter, shed his clothes, cleaned them with a quick spell, collected his wine glass and slid into the tub, briefly distracted by the pleasure of the hot soapy water against his skin. He sipped his wine and slid a hand between his legs. He could wank in here, easily, but somehow … he didn’t want to. He wanted …
Did he really want Dracula sucking his blood? He thought about it, sipping the wine and idly stroking himself. It was arousing, yes, of course, but … it wasn’t really that, was it? It was …
Snape. Dracula and the erotic spell he cast had become a possible means to an end for him, Harry realized, and that end was Snape.
He shook his head, chuckling. You are bloody pathetic if you need a vampire as a matchmaker, Potter. Bloody pathetic.
He chuckled again and drained his wine.
* * *
Half an hour later he came out of the bathroom wrapped in one of the thick complimentary robes, rubbing his wet hair with a towel.
Snape and Dracula sat at the small dining table near the windows, the tidy remnants of Snape’s meal between them, each holding a glass of wine.
They glanced up at him – up and down – and Harry got the distinct impression they’d been discussing him.
“Comparing notes?” he asked.
“On?” Snape asked.
Harry shrugged. “Wine? Magic? Terrorizing people?”
Dracula smiled. Snape didn’t.
“Perhaps we were discussing you,” the vampire said.
Harry draped the towel over one shoulder. “Short conversation, I should think. Unless Snape was regaling you with my faults.”
“Now now,” Dracula said. “I believe Severus and I would agree that you are considerably more than the sum of your faults.”
Snape’s mouth quirked, and Harry chuckled wryly. “Thanks loads, Count.”
Dracula set down his wine glass, a deliberate motion that drew Harry’s and Snape’s gazes, as the vampire had no doubt intended.
“Pleasant as it is to sample a fine wine, I’m afraid I require the sustenance of a more recent vintage.” He rose and Harry caught his gaze – caught and was caught. Heat flashed up from his toes throughout his body. making the robe suddenly far too heavy and warm.
“There is something particularly enticing about a young man, freshly scrubbed and glowing with vitality.” He glided toward Harry, stopping an intimate smattering of inches away, and reached out, running his knuckles up and down the lapels of the downy robe, finally resting his fingers on Harry’s collarbones.
Harry swallowed. Already his body, his blood, his skin hummed with new–woken hunger. How was it Dracula could get him from zero to half–hard with barely a touch?
His mind said, in Snape’s voice: Vampire, idiot.
“Is it safe?” he asked, though he remembered that it took three bites plus a blood exchange to turn someone.
Dracula smiled at him, and his traitor dick throbbed.
“Of course not,” the vampire said, hands delicately framing Harry’s body, drawing him close irresistibly, yet without force. “Nothing real is safe. Harry.” He tilted his head, seeming to inhale the scent of Harry’s skin, or his breath, savoring Harry’s life essence, eyes lidded and glittering.
“Young men are historically delightfully free of modesty,” Dracula observed, sliding his fingers down to the belt of the robe. Harry’s eyes followed, then rose to again lock with the vampire’s, feeling that black stare swirl his thoughts and stir his blood, dizzying mind and body.
His brain offered up the weak thought that he ought to be careful, he ought to be afraid – but the whirlpool sucked that thought down into darkness, and spat back a kind of gleeful abandon. If he was going to do this – and he clearly was – he might as well plunge in and enjoy it.
“Do you want to see me?” he asked. A faint sound drew his gaze briefly to Snape, still seated behind Dracula at the table, as the man set his own wine glass down, awkwardly, clinking it into a plate. Harry noticed that Dracula had positioned himself to be out of Snape’s line of sight – he wondered if that was deliberate, then smiled at himself for doubting it. The vampire was playing with both of them. Right this moment, Harry didn’t mind at all.
Dracula smiled, his voice a husky half whisper. “If you don’t mind.”
Harry undid the robe and let it and the towel fall from his shoulders, unable to keep his eyes from searching out Snape’s face. After all, he knew what Dracula was after; it was Snape’s response he hungered for.
And Snape’s eyes were on him, raking his body before fastening again on his face, and that – of all things – that hot stare made the arousal wind tighter in his stomach.
“Ah.” Dracula glided his fingertips from Harry’s belly button to his neck. Harry shivered. “A veritable feast. But where to begin?” He passed a thumb across the old bites and Harry shivered again. “Not here, I think. Too tender, still.” He drew back and his eyes met Harry’s. “I wouldn’t wish to hurt you.”
He leaned in slowly, and no exhalation warned Harry’s skin before the soft lips touched his adam’s apple, hot tongue tracing the curve down to his collarbone.
Body humming with desire, Harry reached out automatically – then caught himself. What was he thinking?
“You may touch me if you wish,” the count said, for Harry’s ears only, and his hand slid strong over Harry’s, pressed his hesitant fingers to his chest. How could he be so warm, as if with life? “I no longer respond as breathing men, but I am just as capable of arousal … in my own way …” He slid his free hand to Harry’s waist, moving closer, his lips brushing Harry’s cheek. “And I enjoy being touched by my lovers.”
Harry said, “I’m not …” Dracula’s hand curled around the curve of his hip, fingertips edging into the tender crevice between, and he had to remember what he was saying. “… not your lover.”
The tip of Harry’s hard cock brushed against the smooth fabric of Dracula’s trousers – brushed, then pressed when Dracula drew him closer – and he bit down on a whimper.
“Perhaps not,” Dracula whispered. “After all, I am not human. There is nothing like one’s own kind, in the end.”
Harry breathed in, too turned on to argue, but it was true. Even the vampire’s scent, spicy and alluring, felt like … like a spell, like a cologne, like … he couldn’t name it, beyond “not human.” His brainstem knew it, but no other part of him seemed to care. He moved his hand up, to where the V of Dracula’s shirt opened to reveal his pale skin, pale like Snape’s, soft but strange under Harry’s hand, almost … metallic, he would have said, if that were not ridiculous. Skin was skin, flesh was flesh – even if no heart beat underneath.
Dracula cupped his arm then, raising it, his mouth tickling kisses from shoulder to the tender inside of the elbow, and Harry shivered yet again at the quick flash of teeth before the count set his fangs to the skin there. The pain was bad, no easier the second time, but just as brief, blurring quickly into a simmering erotic pleasure.
Dracula held him close while he drank, not letting Harry rut against him as he needed to, needed to badly. Harry groaned as fire pulsed through him, shuddering against Dracula’s body, and when he raised his eyes, again, to Snape, the sight of him leaning forward in that chair, black eyes locked onto Harry, one hand open and pressed between his spread legs, made Harry’s cock throb so hard he gasped, an instant from coming.
Then Dracula pulled out, pulled away, and pain stabbed through his entire arm. He cried out and Snape was on his feet, the flush of arousal not hiding his sudden concern.
Dracula licked his lips – the sight made Harry’s arm throb again – and turned Harry by his shoulders toward Snape.
“Hold this for me, will you?” He pushed, gently, and Harry bumped into Snape’s chest. “I’m going out for a while. Take good care of him, nephew.”
And he was gone.
Harry leaned against Snape, throbbing, aching for touch, for friction, heat …
Snape grasped his shoulders, easing him upright.
Harry inhaled … yes. That was it. Warm, breathing, aroused … the rich, bittersweetsalt of Snape’s living flesh.
“Yes…” He rubbed against the man like a cat, pulling clumsily at the cloth between him and his goal, burying his face in the man’s neck, filling his lungs with his scent.Please … yes …
“Pot – Harry – wait –” Again Snape pushed him back, just a little, and directed him toward the bedroom, ignoring Harry’s hands wandering, probing the robe for weakness, any opening, any slight brush of living skin.
They stopped next to the bed and Harry immediately resumed his attack on the knot, his stupid fingers unable to work the thick cotton loose. Snape interposed his own and undid the belt. Then stopped, one hand extended halfway toward Harry.
“Do you …”
Harry looked up, glazed and gasping with need, to see Snape gesturing toward him as though to offer a hand job.
“Do you wish me to—”
Harry’s swallowed Snape’s offer midword, feeling him go stiff with startlement as he slithered himself under that damned robe. His tongue met teeth for a moment, then Snape emitted a muffled sound and opened; that and the hard cock pressing against his stomach burned away any remaining doubt. Harry yanked the robe from Snape’s shoulders, thrust with his tongue and his hips, and they fell back onto the bed, bounced once, and settled into a writhing mass of hot damp skin and soft hungry lips.
Harry sucked Snape’s tongue into his mouth and felt hands creep around him to mold themselves to his head and his ass. He let both be maneuvered into whatever position Snape seemed to prefer, thrusting against Snape’s thrusts, answering moan for moan.
It was Snape who broke for air – Harry, personally, didn’t see the need to stop something so bloody glorious for anything so unnecessary as breathing – panting harshly against Harry’s neck even as both his hands tried to force their bodies even tighter together. But Harry had other plans. He wanted to see and taste every inch of Snape while he could, and here he was, spread out panting and glistening under him …
Harry began at Snape’s throat and worked his way down, too fast, but he was so hard he hurt, so hungry he abandoned both dark nipples after the briefest of sucking nibbles, despite the delightful little indrawn gasps Snape let out. He rose up to see his goal, and Snape’s fat cock sprang up from his belly to demand Harry’s attention.
Nowhere near as quickly, Snape’s head came up as well. “Pot—what are you –”
Harry licked his lips and buried that cock in his throat, slowly, tongue tasting every inch, feeling Snape pulse against the back of his throat, hearing the raspy cry of disbelief from the man writhing under him.
Snape’s hands clutched spasmodically at his head; he felt Snape’s balls tighten even as he cupped them, mapping their shape with his fingers.
Snape growled out some garbled noise and thrust, and Harry sucked, tongue and lips working the hard length. His mouth filled with spurts of fluid, bitter shots he swallowed eagerly until Snape abruptly softened, in his mouth, all over his body, slumping onto the bed with a drawn–out groan that made Harry smile around his final mouthful of come. He swallowed and crawled into a more comfortable position that just happened to be half atop Snape, his wet aching cock pressed into the man’s wiry thigh. He wondered if Snape would let him … probably not.
He reached down to his own cock – it wouldn’t take much now – but Snape grabbed him and rolled them both over, pushing Harry’s hand away, holding it back. He bent his head, hair tickling over Harry’s heated skin, and placed precise sucking kisses across his chest.
Harry grunted, humping the air as Snape’s teeth on his nipples sent needling jolts to his cock. God, fabulous, it was fabulous, but he needed to come, so badly …
Snape let go his hand and wrapped his fingers around Harry’s cock, fingers brilliant in their ability to torture, to slide, to squeeze just … just … not enough.
“God … god … Snape … please …”
Snape’s mouth moved, velvety, gentle, across his throat, finding the tiny pinpricks of Dracula’s first feeding, still sensitive, itchy, demanding.
Snape licked them and Harry gasped at the tingle that sparked through his body. Then Snape began to suck and stars exploded in Harry’s brain and gut and balls and he arched as though electrified, coming in hard, full–bodied bursts that finally left him a shivering, liquefying lump of flesh.
Darkness enfolded him.
* * *
They awoke in an overheated tangle, sunlight blaring through the crack in the curtains onto the bed like a spotlight.
Consciousness and realisation splashed over Harry at once, not unlike two buckets of ice water. He scrambled out of the bed, gasping, seared by embarrassment. He stumbled and fell against the chair, tangling with it for one painful moment before he could wrest himself free and turn around.
Snape was looking at him. Blankly, as far as Harry could tell through the long strands of black hair hanging in fetching disarray around his face. In contrast to his body’s defensive leap, his brain was obviously suicidal, judging by the way it made Harry’s gaze travel down that pale, wiry body, from dark nipples to the cock and balls draped contentedly against one sparsely haired thigh—
“Potter,” Snape ground out the word and Harry jumped.
“Oh. Shit.” He backed into the chair again, hands upraised. Where was his wand? “God. Snape. I’m sorry. Shit—”
Snape sat up slowly, groaning, and dropped his forehead into his hands. “Your entire body is blushing,” he muttered.
Mortification flared through him and Harry grabbed his clothes, struggling into them with as much flailing and racket as if they were actively fighting him.
“I’m sorry.” His fingers wouldn’t work, his feet wouldn’t move, his balance had deserted him – and Jesus. In spite of everything, he was at half mast, well on his way to flying colors. Fuck.
“God. Snape … I’m so sorry.” Where the bloody hell … he scanned the room wildly. His wand couldn’t have got up and walked out. “I’m … I –”
“Stop it.” Though curt, Snape’s voice wasn’t angry, and Harry stopped.
Snape raised his head. “You were … not yourself.”
Yes I was, Harry thought.
“You … Dracula’s … feeding on you left you with an unnatural … hunger.” Snape shook his head. “I … should not have taken advantage of your … need, but there was no one to appease it besides myself. I know that you would not otherwise have …”
“No,” Harry said – then, realising how Snape would take that, he blurted, “I mean, you didn’t take advantage. Christ, if anyone did, I did. You helped me.” Oh shit. This was going all wrong. This wasn’t at all what he wanted to say, or the way he’d wanted it to happen. “I’m sorry that I forced myself on you.”
Very quietly, Snape said, “You didn’t.”
Harry stopped. Stared. How could Snape sit there, so calm, so … naked … after Harry’d been all over him in witless lust? The fact that they hadn’t awoken stuck together meant Snape had even courteously spelled them both clean after Harry’d fallen asleep like a selfish pig.
He spotted his wand. Under the fucking bed. Some Auror. Harry knelt down, grabbed it, then sat slouched on the floor beside the bed, staring at the patterned carpet in abject humiliation. “I’m sorry.”
Fingers touched his head. “Don’t—”
Stunned, Harry jerked his head up, but Snape was gone, heading into the bathroom.
“Oh. God.” Harry stopped, staring blankly at the door. He didn’t even really remember what had happened; although his body was telling him clearly he’d had a hell of a good sexual experience last night, his brain held only vague erotic images, touch blurring with taste, sight with scent, Snape with Dracula …
Harry shivered. How could he not know for sure what happened and still know it had been bloody awesome?
Awesome for you. What was it for him?
He was pacing in front of the door when Snape came out, fully dressed and his expression cloaked. Harry faced him, one question in his mind.
Snape handed him his glasses. “You left these in the bathroom.”
Derailed, Harry took them. “Oh. Thank you.”
Snape said nothing, and Harry asked his question.
“Did I …” He flushed again. “Did I at least …” He gave an uncouth wave toward Snape’s body and – to his astonishment – Snape blushed too, an unattractive dark mottling on his pale skin.
He brushed past Harry and levitated the coffin. “Let’s go.”
Relieved – reckon I did – Harry followed.
* * *
The station’s posted schedules revealed that trains into Dracula’s neck of the woods were common as blue moons.
“Nothing for it,” Harry said while Snape was still perusing the posted listings, as though hoping they’d change before his eyes. “We’ll have to get a car.”
Snape didn’t groan, but his expression suggested one. Harry smiled. If it gave him the upper hand, it was a good thing.
The clerk at the station pointed them to a rental agency and after two hours of what seemed to Harry deliberate misunderstandings and red tape – though that was possibly exacerbated by the rental agent having to talk to Harry, and vice versa, via the translations of a sullen Snape – they had temporary access to a battered Ford truck older than Harry. They hefted the bass fiddle case into the back (Harry wondering if vampires bruised, and if so, whether Dracula would be mad at them for bouncing him around) and piled into the cab, Snape looking around as if he thought everything he saw might bite.
Harry started the engine, digging around in the glove box for the maps while it warmed up.
“Hey – tapes.” He pulled out half a dozen battered cassette tapes and dumped them on the seat next to the sheaf of maps.
“What?” Snape said, alarmed.
“Music,” Harry explained. He took note that the petrol tank was full, put the truck into gear and released the brake. “Right. Where to?”
“North out of the city,” Snape said, picking up the maps and riffling them before plucking one out and unfolding it. There was something strange about seeing Snape doing something so mundane, something oddly domestic that Harry liked.
Snape set a fingertip to the map and traced upward. “Take the E60 highway north. Past Brasov we will have to ask the count for specific directions.”
“I thought everyone knew where Dracula’s castle is,” Harry said. “Isn’t it a tourist attraction?” He knew better, of course.
“And that would be precisely why the count no longer … resides there,” Snape said. “The family had a series of fortresses.”
“So no cut from the ticket sales, eh?” Harry rolled out onto the street, carefully, seeking signs for the highway. “Too bad.”
“I wouldn’t put it past the count to have a dummy corporation,” Snape said, folding the map on his lap so the relevant section faced up. Harry glanced at him to see the faintest of smirks pinching his mouth.
I kissed that mouth. That mouth kissed me …
Harry’s whole body flushed, painfully, and he wiggled in his seat, forcing his attention back to the road.
Once on the highway, headed north under a glorious blue sky across fertile wooded land toward distant green mountains, Harry fumbled around and slid a random tape into the player.
The first blast of thrash metal brought Snape’s wand whipping out, pointed at the tape deck. Harry held up a hand.
“Wait!” He popped the tape.
Visibly startled, Snape snapped, “I thought you said it was music.”
Harry tossed the tape onto the seat. “Yeah yeah. Everyone’s a critic. Pick one yourself.”
Snape gathered up a handful of the cassettes, sorting through them half–heartedly. “Surely the racket this vehicle makes is sufficient.”
“The idea is to drown out that racket with something more pleasant,” Harry replied.
* * *
A stint behind the slowest lorry Harry had ever imagined in his life, followed by a flat tyre that had him seriously considering cursing the rental company, ate several hours, so that late afternoon found Harry dirty, tired and scraped (never having changed a tyre, he’d been forced to wait until he could flag down another motorist for help), Snape irritatingly amused, and all three of them still some miles from Brasov.
With a tired sigh, Harry shoved in a tape he thought wouldn’t offend Snape’s sensibilities too much.
The Monkees started singing about The Last Train to Clarksville and Snape groaned.
“Can we not be subjected to that tripe?”
“If you have a preference in tripe, now’s the time to make it known,” Harry said. “I don’t want to doze off at the wheel.”
Snape found, and pressed, the button that ejected the tape.
“We’ll be in Brasov before long. We might as well stop the night there. We would not have reached the castle tonight in any case, and the final part of the route is little more than a track through the forest. You’ll want daylight, and we shall have to go slowly in any case.”
Harry glanced at him. They were both aware that the vampire would awake hungry, needing to feed.
“You need not—” Snape began.
“It’s not that,” Harry said immediately, then realised he had no idea what Snape had been going to say. He didn’t know how to explain that he didn’t mind Dracula feeding on him. He didn’t mind getting aroused by it, and he sure as bloody hell didn’t mind having Snape take care of that arousal. He only minded thinking that Snape felt obligated to … help, as if it were a burden he’d taken on because Harry had agreed to feed the vampire. Not because he had any desire to actually touch Harry.
Harry unclenched his suddenly aching hands from the wheel and forced himself to breathe.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“You need not sacrifice your …” Snape paused, gave up on whatever word he had planned. “Yourself to him again. I’m perfectly capable of taking a turn.”
“I don’t mind,” Harry said, shrugging as if it were all nothing to him. “I’m healthy.”
“I am as well, appearances to the contrary,” Snape muttered.
“I didn’t mean … I –” Harry bit down. Breathed in. Sighed out. “The thing that bothers me is the position it leaves you in, having to deal with … with a randy roommate. It’s not fair to you.”
“I’m not letting you go out in that condition,” Snape averred. “Merlin only knows who or what you might bring back.”
“I didn’t – I wasn’t suggesting that.” He twisted his hands around the wheel again, throttling imaginary demons. “You could always lock me in the loo or something, you know. Until I’m … better.” The word made him chuckle. “Then you wouldn’t have to … deal with me.” Another chuckle, this one sans amusement. “Touch me.”
“Of all the unpleasant things I’ve done in my life, touching you falls very far down the list, I can assure you.”
“Great.” Harry shook his head, slumping in the seat. “Brilliant. I beat out the Cruciatus Curse. I feel much better about the whole thing now. Thanks.”
Snape’s mouth pursed. “If you’d rather I locked you in the loo, I’ll do so.”
“I’d rather you didn’t use the word unpleasant when you talk about touching me.” Harry stopped himself, deliberately moderated his tone. “Even if it is unpleasant, you don’t have to say so.”
Snape sighed, a short, harsh sound, like a cough. “Would you rather I told you that running my hands over your nubile young body is the height of erotic pleasure for me, and that I long to do the same tonight, also bringing my mouth and other sensory regions into the plan, exploring every inch of your hot supple flesh until I learn what makes you scream? That I long to use that mouth of yours – and any other slick orifice – for my pleasure? That I would –”
“All right!” Harry squirmed in his seat. “Not while I’m driving.”
“Making you sick?” Snape observed sardonically.
“Making me hard,” Harry said, flushing.
Snape shot him a surprised glance. “Very funny.”
“It won’t be funny if I wrap us around a tree,” Harry said, shifting again and refocusing his glazing eyeballs on the road.
Snape stiffened. “No. That would not be funny. I take it back.”
Harry glanced at him. “Well, you don’t have to –”
“I take it back! Watch the road, Potter.”
* * *
Some time later, Harry glanced in the dirty rear–view mirror. “You know, I realise this is a main highway and all, but doesn’t it seem just a bit odd that that red sedan has been behind us the whole time?”
Snape peered at the rear–view, looking a little queasy.
“They’ve kept us in view the whole time,” Harry went on. “But they never tried to pass.”
“Thank Merlin for that,” Snape muttered.
“There’s three blokes in front,” Harry said. “Can’t tell how many in back.”
“What are you getting at?”
Harry crushed the steering wheel for a moment. “Just thinking about the fact that I saw them stopped on the road in front of the hotel when we left. Five blokes. Sort of standing about, you know?” He’d noticed them, in fact, because of the way they pointedly didn’twatch him and Snape lugging the bass fiddle case out of the hotel. “And they got in their car and drove off. I didn’t see them at the rental agency, but they got on the highway after us, and they’re still behind us.”
“Perhaps they’re going to Brasov,” Snape said.
Harry admitted that with a half shrug. “But … we’ve passed people and people have passed us –” Every time, Snape had flinched – “and we were stopped for a while with the whole tyre fiasco.” He thought then that the red car must have passed them, then stopped and waited, in order to fall in behind them again. “I mean, p’raps they stopped for lunch somewhere whilst I got the tyre fixed. But…”
He waited. Snape said nothing.
“Aren’t you going to tell me I’m paranoid or imagining things?”
“I’m going to tell you to slow down and keep your eyes on the road,” Snape said through clenched teeth.
* * *
Brasov was a beautiful city of old–fashioned stone buildings surrounded by the forest–blanketed mountains.
Harry pulled off to the side of the road at the edge of town as the sun sank behind those mountains, casting red light across the faces of the buildings.
“So. Where to?” He glanced toward the back of the truck. “Or shall we wake our tour guide and ask him?”
Snape sat back in his seat – almost relaxed, for the first time since he’d gotten into the vehicle. “The Hotel Aro. If you’ll drive on, I’ll give you directions.”
Harry glanced in the rear view mirror as he started the truck up again, but it was too dark to know if the car he saw parked by the roadside, a fewscore yards behind them, was the red sedan. He did notice that it pulled out after them, but from that point on he was too busy following Snape’s directions to look behind him.
The Hotel Aro was a big modern building, startling in its size and glare.
For some reason, though – possibly the look of them, or, more likely, of the car they’d arrived in – the only rooms available had one bed.
Without consulting Snape, Harry engaged one. Though tempted, he refused the porter’s aid and he and Snape carried Dracula upstairs to a clean, modern, characterless room.
Almost the instant they propped the bass fiddle case in a corner, Dracula stepped out with a flourish. “Ah. It feels good to be home.”
He went to the window, flinging the curtains aside with a casual disregard for the last flickers of sunlight.
Harry searched the little desk for those folders telling guests where to eat – he was starving.
“I hope you won’t mind if I take a little stroll,” Dracula said, turning to them. He smiled. “Before dinner.”
Harry stood up, blushing over what felt like acres of skin, and glanced at Snape. “Can we trust you to …”
“Stay out of trouble?” Dracula finished for him. “I assure you, that is the last thing I seek.”
“You won’t …” Harry stopped, cursing himself. What was it with him that suddenly he couldn’t finish a bloody sentence? Then the phrase ‘bloody sentence’ struck him and he almost giggled.
“Why would I,” Dracula replied to both spoken and unspoken halves of the question, “when I have such a luscious morsel as yourself willing to service me right here?”
Blushing again burned away any further stupid questions Harry might’ve had.
“Don’t hold supper for me,” Dracula waved and swept out the door with a swirl of his cape, leaving Harry to stare blankly as Snape closed the door behind him.
“I see where you get it from,” Harry remarked, and Snape gave him a level glare.
“The cloak thing, I mean,” Harry said, sweeping his hands out to the sides.
“I thought you were referring to the insufferable arrogance … thing,” Snape replied drily.
“You’re rather sufferable, these days, really,” Harry said, turning back to the desk. “At least in comparison.”
“At last, the Boy Who Lived can stand me.” Snape crossed to the window, yanking the curtains shut. “My life is complete.”
Running a finger down the list of local restaurants, Harry said, “What are you hungry for?” When he realised what he’d said, he jerked his head up.
Snape was staring at him. Then, as though some cosmic hypnotist had snapped his fingers, he blinked, saying blandly, “I recommend red meat.”
Harry fell into the desk chair, hot all over. “Oh, god ...” He choked back a giggle. “I can’t believe you said that.”
“I meant in order to keep up your protein and iron levels, you …” Snape shook his head, stomping toward the bathroom.
“… filthy minded?” Harry supplied.
“… prat,” Snape finished; the slamming of the bathroom door punctuated the sentence effectively.
Grinning, Harry adjusted himself, figured out how to call room service, and ordered two big, rare steaks with all the trimmings.
* * *
Harry was pacing the room waiting for the steaks when Snape came back out of the bathroom, freshly washed though still in his old muggle clothes. Harry beamed at him – then realised what he was doing and turned away.
“Er … I ordered room service. It should be up in 15 minutes or so.” He stopped at the window, peering unthinking down at the street in front of the hotel.
“What?” Snape was next to him in a moment.
Harry pointed down to the red sedan, parked under a street lamp. “That’s the same car.” He glanced at Snape. “I have a very bad feeling.”
Snape strode to the door. “Let’s find him.”
* * *
Harry employed the same tracking spell he’d used to find Dracula the first time. He all but ran, following the trail that told him the vampire was close, and Snape stayed on his heels. Both men kept their wands in their hands but held close to the bodies, out of sight of the few pedestrians they saw.
After a couple of blocks of narrow streets and tall houses, Harry turned down a dark, winding alleyway and broke into a run.
When he came out at the other end – Snape right behind him and not even panting – he saw Dracula walking along the deserted dead–end street.
In a split second, a man with a torch leap out from a black archway, astonishingly fast, and thrust the flaming end against Dracula’s back.
Flames shot up around the vampire. He stopped, spun, roaring something lost within the crackle of the flames. His attacker dropped the torch and scurried backward as four more men came out of the darkness to join him.
Harry pointed his wand, shouting, “Exstinguero!”
The flames whooshed inward, down to nothing – leaving a sooty, singed vampire with smoke rising from his clothing, and murder burning in his eyes.
“Why have you done this?” he demanded.
Harry had a brief moment of animal admiration for the men. They were pale as corpses, visibly shaking, but they stood together under the light of a weak streetlamp, crosses in their right fists, stakes in their left. Harry thought if it’d been him, he’d’ve run screaming.
One of them spoke and Harry remembered to quickly cast a translation spell on himself.
“—why we followed you.”
“Why?” Dracula answered in the same tongue. “What harm have I done you?”
Snape cast an obscurus spell around the entire street to ensure no passing muggles would see anything amiss.
The man who’d set Dracula afire spat, growled, “You are a vampire. You have harmed us and our families for centuries.”
The others finally noticed Harry and Snape standing across the street, wands out.
“Look!” One grabbed a mate and they started across the street, clearly intending to leave no witnesses. Dracula glanced that way and the man who’d wielded the torch chose that instant to lunge, grappling the count about the neck as if to strangle him.
“Shit,” Harry said as Dracula seized his attacker, wrenched him loose, and bared his teeth, bending over the futilely struggling man.
“I’ve got them,” Snape said as the two men ran toward them. Harry dodged those two, heard Snape’s calm petrificus behind him, and shouted at Dracula, far too late:
Harry caught the man as Dracula dropped him. He hadn’t bothered with the tidy erotic bites he’d used on Harry; the man’s neck was slashed, gaping, pulsing with blood, and Harry’s hands, arms and chest were smeared with warm gore in the time it took him to ease the man to the ground and learn that he was dead.
Of the last two, one backed away while the other stepped forward in a show of courage that would have been impressive had it not been so suicidally foolish.
“If you are not a creature of Satan,” the second man cried, “How is it that the cross –” he thrust it outward—”stops you?”
Dracula reached out and plucked the wooden icon from the man’s hand.
“It doesn’t,” he said with a smile, snapping the cross in half and dropping the pieces to the ground. “That’s merely a convenient fiction we like to maintain.” His other hand flashed out, catching the startled man by the throat, squeezing briefly with terrible strength before flinging the suddenly limp body aside, no less contemptuously than he had the cross.
Harry found himself standing, shaking, wand between him and the vampire. “Stop.” The word came out strong despite his own fear.
Dracula glanced at him, white–faced, eyes steely, gleaming. Inhuman.
“No more,” Harry said. “No more killing.”
It was pointless – the last man had already fled down an alley, with Snape in pursuit – but Dracula visibly calmed, seeming to shrink a little, stepping back from Harry’s upraised wand.
“As you wish.”
Harry caught his breath, stepping away from the blood–drenched body and catching his toe on the broken cross.
He looked down at the pieces, then up at the count.
“Doesn’t work at all, eh?”
Dracula, still a bit wild–eyed, shook his head.
“But what if someone finds out?” Harry said.
Dracula shrugged, settling his tattered, smoking clothes around him. “Generally speaking, those who learn it do not live long enough to tell the tale.”
Harry considered what he’d just seen. “I get you.”
Dracula regarded him for a long, unreadable moment.
“You don’t judge me,” he said then, as surprised as Harry’d heard him. “How many men have you killed?”
“As many as made me,” Harry said. “I was here as well, you know, count. I know you didn’t start this fight.”
Dracula straightened, his head tilting back, eyes now on the distance, or the distant past. “I never started any of them.”
Snape appeared from the alley where he’d followed the last attacker. Harry watched him examine the sprawled shapes of the two dead men and the two petrified men, sizing up the situation at a glance.
“Go,” he said. “I’ll take care of it.”
Harry began a protest and Snape turned sharply, grabbed his arm, shook him once.
“Potter. You’re head to toe blood. Get back to the hotel, now. I’ll take care of this. Obliviate anyone you see in the next ten minutes.”
Responding to the authority of Snape’s tone, Harry tucked his wand away.
“Don’t apparate,” Snape said, his voice stiletto sharp. “Walk. Look for witnesses. See to it they have nothing to report.”
Waking to good sense with a kind of start, Harry nodded. “Right.”
Snape had already forgotten him, moving to the bodies and saying mobilicorpus over them.
Dracula was gone.
* * *
Harry circled ‘round the back of the hotel and went through a service door, making himself invisible as he passed from outside to in, and staying that way until he was safely back in their room, brushing past the room service tray with hardly a glance.
The coffin was closed and he didn’t see Dracula as he made a beeline for the loo.
He soaked a flannel in hot water and began mechanically wiping his hands, arms, neck and face, rubbing mindlessly for five minutes before looking in the mirror to see what effect it’d had.
Then he crumpled the bloodstained flannel and dropped it into the basket. It was useless; he’d have to shower.
“What a waste.”
The count’s voice, hoarse, roughened but unmistakable. Harry whirled.
Dracula leaned in the doorway, still smoke–singed, his clothes in tatters, hair hanging about his shoulders.
Harry reached for his wand, holding it between himself and the Count.
“What are you going to do?” he asked, head tilted, hands outspread. “Avada Kedavra? That spell only works on the conventionally living.” He moved closer. “Anyway, you don’t really want to, do you?” Closer, so that the tip of Harry’s wand touched his chest, and Harry’s eyes were drawn to that spot, the tiny point of wood indenting the pale, strangely unburnt flesh.
“This is what you want,” Dracula hissed across his ear. He started, eyes flicking back up to the Count’s, black, gleaming, hungry.
Dracula drew back, both hands indicating himself, his exposed flesh and wild appearance. “You want this.” He grabbed Harry’s shoulders, squeezing with inhuman strength. Harry’s arms went limp and Dracula pulled their bodies hard together. His mouth covered Harry’s, and Harry opened helplessly to a hot, probing tongue, metallic, arousing, but not human.
The kiss seemed to force heat through him, into his cock, but he wrenched his mouth away even as he realised the metallic taste was blood.
Dracula let him go with a chuckle.
“You see, I know what you want.”
Shivering, Harry sank down onto the tub edge.
“It’s not you.” A confession, in other circumstances, but here it was a challenge.
Dracula smiled. “Oh, I know.” He gathered his hair in one hand, smoothed it down his back in a strangely catlike gesture, and left the bathroom.
Harry heard the coffin creak open and closed, and breathed again. He stripped, performed a scourgify or two on his clothes, and stepped into the hottest, longest shower he could stand.
* * *
Harry jumped up from the chair by the window, where he’d been watching the hotel entrance, when the door opened and Snape came in, looking years older.
Harry opened his mouth to ask if the deed was done. Then closed it against the asking of stupid questions. Instead he shut the door behind Snape and drew the cloak from shoulders bowed with weariness and concern.
Snape’s head snapped around, startlement at Harry’s gesture stark on the pale face.
Harry shrugged and hung the cloak on the rack by the door. “Are you all right?”
“They were asking for it,” Snape growled.
That was so completely not what Harry had been asking that it took him a moment to trace Snape’s line of thought.
“I’m sorry you had to be involved in this,” he said.
“I was no more involved than you,” Snape countered.
“Yes, but I’m an Auror. You keep a shop.”
“That does not render me weak or—”
Harry held up a hand, deflecting the hissed words. “That’s not what I meant. I only meant you chose to leave this sort of thing behind. So I’m sorry to drag you back into it.”
Snape dismissed that with a headshake, turning to the couch. “He is my ancestor.” He collected a folded blanket, squeezing it, twisting it. As if it were someone’s neck, Harry thought – or, perhaps, something in himself he wanted to strangle.
Harry found himself admitting, “I’m glad you’re here with me.” He was no less surprised than Snape at the words, and Snape turned to stare at him as if he’d sprouted fangs.
Harry shrugged. Snape dropped the blanket and went into the loo – to wash something of what they’d done off him, Harry supposed. He wandered to the bed, prodding it idly, too keyed up to sleep. He glanced at the coffin; Dracula wouldn’t need to feed from him tonight. That didn’t matter to him – didn’t affect what he wanted – but he had no idea how Snape would take it.
When Snape came out of the bathroom in his hotel–issue robe, he headed for the couch.
“Snape,” Harry blurted, and the man stopped, turning.
“Don’t—” Harry swallowed. “Don’t sleep on the couch.”
Snape’s mouth opened. Closed.
“Please,” Harry said.
Snape’s body moved closer, step by step, but his mouth kept him figuratively across the room.
“You … we should not …”
“I want to,” Harry said.
“It’s only the –”
“Maybe,” Harry said, though he doubted it. “But I still want to.” He drew in a long breath, hoping foolishly that the air contained the courage he couldn’t seem to find inside him. Strangely, it did. “If you don’t want to … if you’d rather not …”
“No,” Snape said, so quickly Harry felt both his ego and his cock swell instantly. “I don’t … mind.”
Harry smiled. “Good.” He bent, patting the bed nervously, then turned back the counterpane with clumsy hands.
Snape dropped his robe on a chair; Harry bit his tongue at the rush of heat in his belly from a glimpse of Snape’s cock, already swelling, as he slid his pale body between the covers.
Harry undressed quickly, turning off the light by the bed but leaving the light near the door. He wanted to be able to see.
He crawled under the blankets, then got on his hands and knees, rising up to loom over Snape, who lay still, warily observing him.
“Can…” He wet his lips. “Can I kiss you?”
“Why would you want to?”
Harry shrugged. It wasn’t a no, so he bent and stroked his parted lips across Snape’s, once, twice, before letting his tongue curl under Snape’s top lip. Snape seemed to start, or shiver, then sucked Harry’s tongue into his mouth, deep, nibbling on it until Harry’s brain began to short–circuit.
He pulled back, laughed, “That’s why I want to,” and started a detail–oriented taste–test of Snape’s neck and chest.
His cock pulsed at every little involuntary twitch or sound that Snape made when he nibbled here or suckled there.
At about belly button level, he sat up, flipped the covers off of them – it was getting decidedly warm – and said matter–of–factly, “I want to taste you.”
Snape’s erection surged against his chin at the words, and he smiled down at it before licking the damp head. It pulsed again and Harry laughed softly, taking the head into his mouth and sucking hard for a few seconds – delighting in the feel of Snape thrusting into his mouth – before popping free and raising his head to say, “You taste good.”
Snape made a garbled sound of protest–pleasure and pulled Harry upward, rolling until he was on top.
“You don’t want me to suck you off?” Harry managed to say before Snape silenced him with warm lips and a searching, eager tongue.
“You talk too much,” Snape growled. Harry wriggled happily under him and bit his tongue against words – though he made lots of sounds – as Snape explored his body with clever hands and ruthless teeth and agile tongue.
After a time that Harry had no desire to measure, or shorten, Snape’s warm mouth covered the bite on Harry’s arm and he melted, groaning, into a dark puddle of urgent need. With a massive effort, he pulled away. “Don’t.”
Snape stopped, raised his head, hair hanging in his face, eyes black in the dimness.
“I don’t … I want … I want it to be just you and me,” Harry said, suddenly nervous, unsure if Snape would understand him.
Snape went very still. “He didn’t … he hasn’t … fed from you tonight?”
“No.” Harry smiled tentatively. “Is that a problem?”
Snape stared for another instant, then kissed him. Hard. Then he slid his hands into Harry’s hair and kissed him more – kissed him as if his life depended on delivering the best kiss Harry had ever dreamed of.
When Harry could think and see again, he realised Snape had straddled him, sitting with his cock aligned to Harry’s. Eyes on Harry’s face, he rocked gently back and forth.
Harry grinned. “You look bloody sexy up there on top of me, former professor sir.”
Snape slid his hands along Harry’s erection and he felt the tingle of slick magic. Snape rose up a little and wrapped one hand around Harry’s erection.
When he realised what Snape was about to do, he had to bite nearly through his lip to keep from coming then and there.
“Oh my god … yes …” His fingers dug into Snape’s wiry thighs as the man grasped his cock and lowered himself around it.
“Oh … god … Snape …” Harry panted desperately, god, please don’t let me embarrass myself by coming right off, god he’s so hot, so fucking tight, oh Christ, I can’t believe it … His hips thrust, spastic, driven by need, and Snape gasped and jerked, arching back.
“Sorry – “ Harry clenched his teeth, holding himself still. “Sorry … you feel so good …” He petted Snape’s thighs in apology, but Snape caught his hands in a crushing grip.
“Don’t stop, don’t stop.” Snape bent over him, locking eyes, teeth bared, panting heavily against Harry’s face. “Don’t st – ah ...”
Harry obliged, letting his body – his desperately hard cock – lead the way, sliding in and out of that tight ring of muscle and staring as Snape’s lean pale body writhed above him. Seeing that – seeing Snape loose and ecstatic – made him crazy in some deep place, and he drove harder, faster, wrenching free of Snape’s clutching hands.
“Let me – I want to – touch you—” He wrapped his hands around Snape’s cock and worked it, worked himself and Snape, panting audibly. “God … so fucking good …”
“Yes…” Snape hissed. “Yes … Harry …”
Harry swelled and exploded inside him, coming in long, almost painful bursts. “Oh… god …” He couldn’t breathe or see or think – he was nothing but coming, coming until he was drained.
Then Snape stilled, shuddered around his cock, and spurted hot ejaculate across Harry’s chest and hands and face, groaning deep in his throat.
The drops hit Harry’s chin and cheeks, and even while he was still gasping for air he chuckled in sheer delight, letting go of Snape’s cock and trailing his fingers happily through the come on his chest and chin, and Snape, sweating and panting on top of him, met his eyes and … smiled.
* * *
They woke late, again tangled with one another, but this time the untangling, though still awkward, was peaceable. Harry sat up, then looked down at Snape and dared to smile.
“Good morning,” he ventured.
Snape blinked up at him, as if he were translating Harry’s words into his native tongue in his head.
Then he said good morning back and Harry felt as if someone had flung back the drapes to let the sun shine in.
Grinning, he suggested, “Breakfast? We can go downstairs or order in.”
Another processing delay before Snape said, “I have no preference.”
“No?” Harry said recklessly, ignoring the warning in his own head. “You don’t want me to feed you strawberries in bed or something?”
Snape’s mouth twitched. It took Harry a moment to realise it was a suppressed smile.
“I have generally refrained from mixing toying with foodstuffs and proximity to bedlinens.”
Harry smiled. “It’s not as if we have to do the wash after.”
Snape looked around the room as if seeking arguments. “True.”
Snape lay back, then grunted when Harry flopped unceremoniously across him to grab the bedside phone. “I’ll order room service.”
He felt Snape’s stomach tighten and bounce under his when he concluded the breakfast order with a request for a large bowl of strawberries.
* * *
They reached the castle in the afternoon at the end of the most tedious drive through gorgeous forested lands that Harry hoped ever to be subjected to. It was amazing how quickly one tired of beautiful scenery when one was bouncing along a rough dirt lane at about 10 mph. It didn’t help that Snape was more nervous than ever, clutching the dash with one hand and the door handle with the other, as if he were one more bounce from leaping to safety. Harry more than once bit back the shout “Will you relax?” figuring it would do more harm than good.
Finally they bumped across a rocky creek, through a narrow gorge, then up a broad curve with mountain on either side, going straight up on their left and precipitously down on the right.
Snape said, “At last.”
The castle stood at the edge of a tree–dotted plateau, forested mountains behind and all around, looking comparatively small and rather unlived in.
Harry snorted a laugh. After all, it was unlived in.
They stopped at a clearing a little downhill from the modest drawbridge. Dracula was already climbing out of the bass fiddle case when they got to the back of the truck.
“I vow, by my all of my ancestors …” he began darkly, and Harry’s hand twitched toward his wand.
“…I shall never again travel less than first class.” He hopped lithely out of the truck, closed the coffin, grabbed it by its bass fiddle case handle, and lifted it like an empty carpetbag, striding toward the castle.
“Er … shall I untransfigure it?” Harry asked, but Dracula ignored him.
“Never mind,” Snape said. “It’ll wear off eventually.”
They followed, stopping at the inner edge of the drawbridge when Dracula waved his free hand at the tall doors leading into the castle. They swung open, revealing a dim stone corridor and not much else.
“I don’t know about you,” Harry said, “But if he’s planning to invite us in for a cuppa …” He cocked his head, dubious. Snape’s mouth twitched.
Dracula turned in the doorway, and the afternoon sun tinged his pale face with red. He inclined his head to Harry, then looked at Snape.
“See you in Hell, nephew.”
“Not if I see you first,” Snape replied.
Dracula smiled and stepped back, and the doors of the castle slowly swung inward, shutting with a solid thud.
“Oh, no, don’t thank us or anything,” Harry called to the closed doors. “It was our pleasure. No. Really.” He glanced sidelong at Snape, smiled tentatively. “Family’s always a pain in the arse, isn’t it?”
Snape snorted. They turned and crossed the bridge, starting down the hill.
Snape said, “What will you tell the Ministry?”
“That he’s gone. And he won’t be back. That’s all they want to hear.” Harry hesitated, then, “Er … he will keep his word?”
“Yes.” Snape’s monosyllable was certain as the sunset.
Harry sighed. “I’ll be glad to get home.”
Another, “yes,” this one less heavy.
Harry cleared his throat. “Er…”
“Just spit it out, will you?” Snape demanded. “I can’t stand this mealy–mouthed hemming and hawing.”
Harry stopped, staring at Snape in astonishment. Then he started to laugh.
Snape stopped as well, hands fisted. “What…” he began, red blotches making their unsightly appearance on his thin cheeks.
“You’re just as scared about this as I am, aren’t you?” Harry said, still laughing. “You’re just as mixed up and completely off your nut, and you don’t know what to do about it any more than I do.”
“What in God’s name are you babbling about?” Snape said, his normally firm tone traitorously uneven.
“This,” Harry said, waving his hands vaguely between the two of them. “This thing. Us. You know. You know bloody well exactly what I’m talking about, so don’t stand there looking at me like that.” He felt his face flare with heat, but he guessed he was no redder than Snape.
His lip curling, Snape said, “There is no vampire to act as … go–between now.”
Harry felt abruptly calmer. “I know. I’m glad. Even though I don’t know …” He raised a hand. “I’m not entirely sure you won’t kill me …” He laid his palm flat on Snape’s stubble–roughened jaw. “If I do this.”
Snape’s eyes narrowed, as if with pain or suspicion, closing a moment before Harry’s mouth touched his, gently, inviting without intruding. Harry let his tongue seek lightly for admittance, and Snape allowed him in, his lips parting with a wariness Harry could feel. They tasted one another, careful, as if for the first time, and Harry drew back only when he felt the living warmth of it kindle into fire.
Their eyes met, holding for a long moment of speculation.
Snape cleared his throat delicately. “I don’t seem to have killed you.”
Harry smiled. “It’s early days.” He nodded toward the truck. “Let’s go home.”
“You do realise we might apparate home from here,” Snape observed.
Harry said, “We’ve got to take the truck back first.”
“It wouldn’t be honest to leave it here,” Harry said piously, chuckling when Snape sighed harder.
They parted at the front of the truck to go to their respective doors, and Harry paused, looking over the bonnet at Snape.
The man stopped, glancing up in surprise, possibly at the use of his given name.
Harry grinned. “Would you like to drive?”