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The Path Less Traveled

Chapter Text

The demon surveyed the room, taking in the scents and sounds.

 

Only once or twice a century was a demon from the Realm permitted to cross the divide into the Earthworld. He had no intentions of wasting the opportunity afforded to him, and it seemed that luck was on his side tonight. In only the second house he had visited, he had found exactly what he was looking for. The room contained a bed, and in that bed lay an animagus and, more importantly, a witch who was a carrier - a human magic user who was capable of carrying a creature’s child.

 

From the scent of the room, it was clear that the couple were trying for a child but had yet to be successful. The witch was fertile, but it was well known that animagi found it difficult to conceive, and needed all the help they could get from fertility potions for both partners. A fact that made the demon feel a brief pang of guilt - the drive to find a mate and have children was something he understood well, along with the frustration that came with being unable to do so - but it was quickly buried under a wave of anticipation. The animagus had the rest of his life to try for a child of his own, but it could be another a century before another demon was permitted to enter the Earthworld, and could be millennia before he himself had another opportunity to do so. The conditions were too perfect to back out now just because it would set back the animagus’ family plans.

 

Drifting forwards, the demon used a tendril of his magic and the essence of the animagus to form a body for himself. It took a few moments to adjust to having a body again, then it took a few more to adjust to the differences in this body compared to his own. How in the Realm did humans avoid falling on their face without a tail to balance them? Once he was sure that an attempt to walk would not result in an embarrassing face-plant, he made his way over to the mirror attached to the back of the bedroom door.

 

He smirked. He looked good - in a kind of soft, fleshy, why-is-there-no-tail, very human way. The body formation had worked like…well, magic.

 

The body was almost an exact clone of the animagus that lay sleeping in the bed. There were a few discrepancies, some features that had carried over from his true body that currently lay comatose back in the Realm. His eyes were slitted, and glowed slightly in the dark of the room, and his teeth were just a little too sharp to be human, but there was nothing that would raise suspicion in the low light.

 

The use of a quick illusion ensured that the witch would not notice that there were two versions of her mate in the room, and a sleeping spell would keep the animagus in a deep sleep until the demon left. Slipping over to the bed, the demon gently rolled the sleeping animagus to the very edge of the large bed so he would not get in the way.

 

Disguise in place and potential competitor taken care of, the demon set about doing what he had come here to do: ensuring the continuation of his line.

As he lay next to the witch he reached out with his magic, banishing any remaining traces of the animagus’ essence, as his hands and mouth were occupied giving the witch a very pleasurable wake up call. Amid moans of pleasure and murmurs of “James”, unnoticed pulses of magic prepared her body for the ordeal of carrying a demon child in a human body, tweaking the natural biology of the witch into something that would better suit the needs of the child she would be carrying. There was a final eruption of magic as they screamed out their climax, forcing the first few days worth of development to happen in seconds; to any medical scan, it appear as though the witch had conceived over a week ago.

 

Confident that the continuation of his line was assured, the demon spent several minutes lying next to the witch, who was lost in her after glow and rapidly falling asleep again, marvelling over the tiny pulses of magic he could already feel from the little bundle of cells. A little bundle of cells that would grow into his son or daughter. A son or daughter that he would never get to see.

 

With that sobering thought, the last of the sated haze that had surrounded him vanished. Most of his task was complete, but he still had a few finishing touched to add. First and foremost was doing as much as he could to protect the life he had just created. He would be an absent father, there was no way to avoid that, but that did not mean he would be an uncaring one.

 

Once again, he reached out with his magic, showing far more care and delicacy now than he had with anything since crossing the divide. Ever so gently, he cradled the minute presence with his magic, being extremely careful not to overpower the tiny pulses of magic coming from the tiny magic core that was already beginning to develop. Painstakingly slowly, he swaddled the tiny presence in protective magic, first placing layers of supportive magic to help the baby grow into its full potential in the womb, then wrapping it in general protective magic that would keep away illnesses and minor accidents while the baby was newborn and unable to protect itself, and finally placing a complex web of unique demonic magic to protect the child from malignant magic and life threatening physical harm.

 

Well over an hour later, he finally drew his magic back. The child was now as protected as he could possibly manage. He would just have to hope his efforts kept his child away from harm, and trust the child’s mother and ‘father’ to keep them safe and raise them well. It was the closest a Realm demon could get to raising their Earthworld young.

 

Task complete, the demon reluctantly began removing any evidence of his presence in the room. Rolling the sleeping animagus back into his position in the centre of the bed, cuddled up to his mate, the demon dismantled the illusion and cut off the magic feeding the sleeping spell. It would take a couple of hours for the spell to completely dissipate but the animagus would wake up naturally in the morning, unaware that any magic had been cast on him. With a final sweep of the room to ensure no traces of his magic had been left, the demon allowed his constructed body to dissolve and submitted to the force pulling him back across the divide to the Realm and into his waiting body. His connection to the Earthworld now severed, he could only continue with his life and hope his future son or daughter grew up strong, healthy and happy.

 

Back in the bedroom, the animagus and now pregnant witch slept on, unaware of a prophecy being made several miles away and what fate had in store for them and their unborn child.

Chapter Text

Harry was once again sitting outside Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour, a place where he had spent the majority of his time since the events of the last few days. Since blowing up Marge Dursley. Since worrying he would be expelled from Hogwarts. Since being told, by the Minister of Magic himself, that he was to stay in Diagon Alley and not venture into muggle London on his own.

 Harry had been thrilled with this turn of events!

 He was ecstatic at the idea of having the remainder of his summer Dursley-free. He could get up whenever he pleased, eat whatever he wanted and spend all day indulging himself in whatever he felt like doing.

 More importantly, he had as much access to magic as he could desire. Legally, of course, he could not actually cast any magic himself, but Harry had always been more concerned about whether not he would be caught breaking the rules than he was about actually playing by them. In a place as filled with magic as Diagon Alley, nobody would be able tell if he was casting magic or not. The sheer volume of magic surrounding him had already overwhelmed his Trace, and rendered it temporarily dormant. It would only start detecting his magic use again once he was away from adult witches and wizards.

 Besides, the Trace only detected wizarding magic. Creature magic would not be picked up on. The only way for spell casting done by one of the creature races to be picked up by the Trace was for the creature to cast a wizard-made spell. Harry had found this out the hard way last summer when Dobby the house elf cast a Hovering charm on his aunt’s cake, and Harry, being the only known magical presence in the household, had been issued with a warning letter about underage magic. The Trace had only been set off when Dobby used the wizard-made Hovering charm, and not when the mad elf first used elf magic to appear in Harry’s room, or even before that, when he was intercepting Harry’s mail.

 So the last few days had been highly enjoyable. Rather than days filled with chores, abuse from the Dursleys and being forced to follow Dudley’s diet plan, he had spent his time shopping, enjoying easy access to magic, and indulging in as much junk food as he could eat. He had managed to make a good start on getting his homework done, and had already done all his necessary school shopping. Tom, the owner and bar keeper of the Leaky Cauldron, kept him well fed with excellent food, and made sure he didn’t get too carried away with late nights and lazy mornings. Harry could safely say that his new found freedom (and getting away with blowing up Marge Dursley) had made this his best summer yet.

 However, this new found freedom was not the only reason the raven-haired boy was glad to be away from the Dursleys. This summer would have been a significant and memorable one even without Marge Dursley’s visit and subsequent unorthodox departure from the Dursley household. For this summer had been the summer of Harry’s thirteenth birthday.

 For an ordinary wizard, their thirteenth birthday was a rather unimportant event. It marked their entry into their teen years, and for Hogwarts students it signified that they were now approaching their third year and would be able to go on trips to Hogsmeade village at the weekend, but that was about the extent of events linked to the average wizards’ thirteenth birthday.

 Harry Potter, however, was not an average wizard. He was a demon. More precisely, he was a submissive demon. And for a submissive demon, their thirteenth birthday was a significant birthday indeed. On a submissive demon’s thirteenth birthday, they came into the first stage of their creature inheritance.

 There was little visible difference, beyond the normal changes any thirteen year old wizard would expect at that age. He looked a little brighter and healthier than had he had looked before his birthday, but most would attribute that to being back in the wizarding world and out of the care of his muggle relatives.

 However, any creature with an advanced sense of smell or a particular sensitivity to magic would know immediately that something was different. His scent and magic had changed from that of an ordinary wizard child, to that of a submissive demon. A scouting submissive demon.

 Harry Potter was making his first inroads into finding a mate.

 This was the main reason the emerald-eyed demon was so glad to be in the wizarding world and able to explore by himself.

 Demons were not the most plentiful of the creature races and the likelihood of encountering a dominant demon in the suburbs of Surrey, in a neighbourhood that was anathema to everything out of the ordinary, were slim to none. If he wanted it to be known that there was a scouting submissive demon around, Diagon Alley was the place to be. As the magical capital of wizarding Britain, it was guaranteed that there would be dominants who visited on a regular basis.

 Of course, if Harry wanted the best chance of finding potential mates, there was another place he could go. Knockturn Alley had a reputation amongst the wizards for being an evil place, filled with Dark magic and Dark wizards. However anybody who had been in Gryffindor House for more than twelve months knew that only the top end of the Alley - the end immediately visible from Diagon Alley - belonged to the Dark wizards. The rest belonged to the creature races.

 However knowing this and feeling confident enough to visit the Alley were two very different things, Harry was discovering. He knew that most races of creature were very protective of any and all submissives, regardless of which race the submissive belonged to, and that once he got to the Creature District he would be perfectly safe - safer than he was sitting here in broad daylight in Diagon Alley, even. But that still left the issue of actually getting to the Creature District.

 Harry could vividly recall his Flooing mishap last year, and landing in the Dark District. He was in no hurry to repeat the experience. As cool as the Weasley twins may have found the idea, Harry had found the experience terrifying, and he didn’t feel any better prepared to deal with place now than he had twelve months ago.

 A sudden hand on his shoulder made him jump, jerking him out of his thoughts. Looking up, he saw Florean Fortescue smiling down at him and telling him that the ice-cream parlour was approaching closing time.

 He smiled sheepishly as he realised that he had been staring at the entrance to Knockturn Alley, completely neglecting his homework in favour of morose thoughts about his current lack of confidence which was setting back his scouting plans.

 Realistically, he knew that finding a mate within his first couple of days back in the wizarding world was unlikely to happen. Nor was he helping matters by not openly advertising his interest in looking for a mate. That didn’t stop him from being frustrated at his utter lack of progress, or conflicted about how to move on from the rut he found himself in.

 Each creature race had its own set of mating rituals. These rituals were usually part instinct, and part tradition passed down through generations. Demons like Harry - Realm-Sired demons - did not have any ancestors to pass down their traditions; their mothers were not demons, and their sires did not stay in this world for any longer than it took to ensure the conception of a child. As a result Realm-Sired demons relied exclusively on their instincts, and the small amount of innate knowledge of their species passed on in the magic given to them by their sires, when it came to the how-to’s and wherefores of mating.

 This dependance on instinct led to a rather odd set of social rules, that seemed paradoxically rigid and flexible at the same time. There was no real tradition surrounding the initiation of a mate-ship, only the rules and processes dictated by instinct. This left a lot of room for improvisation, and for the demons involved to run things in whatever way suited them best; there were no mate meetings, bonding contracts or official introductions to society like there were for many creature races. Despite the flexibility in the options available to them, however, there were still some rules, and those rules were absolute. As they were entirely instinct driven, any demon caught breaking the laws would be viewed as an out of control animal who either could not or would not listen to their instincts, and they would be exiled or executed by the Demon Council.

 The fundamental rule of the demonic culture was that everything revolved around the submissives. Despite the titles of submissive and dominant, it was actually the submissives who held the most power in their society, and the laws were heavily biased in the submissives’ favour. When it came to mating, this meant that everything was done at the submissives pace; a rather unhelpful fact for Harry, who had no idea where to go from here, and had no traditions to fall back on.

 At the moment Harry was only scouting: a biological process triggered by alterations to his hormones and magic when he turned thirteen, and that he had as much control over as an ordinary teenager did over puberty. For as long as he was still only scouting, the ball was very much in his court and any interaction with dominants would have to be initiated by him. If he wanted interested dominants to start approaching him, he would have to start advertising his search for a mate.

 Advertising his search for a mate was not much different to scouting, the only real difference being that the pheromones he emitted would be inviting and enticing to dominants, rather than warning them off approaching him. Unlike scouting, Harry had a level of control over whether he was advertising or not; once the initial process of advertising had started, he could turn it on and off at will, to avoid being hounded by dominants whenever he went out.

 However, this was still not a great deal of help to the frustrated submissive, because he would only be able to emit the appealing advertising pheromones when he was feeling confident and sure in his search for a mate. Right now he was still adjusting to the change in his instincts, and was too off balance and nervous about the idea of Courting and mating to begin advertising. Combined with his reluctance to make the first move by entering Knockturn’s Creature District, it meant his search was going nowhere fast.

 With a last, frustrated glance at the entrance of Knockturn Alley, Harry packed away the mostly untouched homework and made his way back to his room in the Leaky Cauldron. Maybe tomorrow would be the day he managed to scrape together the courage to venture into Knockturn.

 For now, he needed some real food and a good night’s sleep.

 

§`§`§`§`§`§`§`§`§`§

 

It was incredibly frustrating having a submissive so close, but being unable to approach or express any interest to them.

 Shax had not encountered a submissive he was genuinely interested in for centuries. The last Realm-Sired demon had been born just over a century ago, and he had been a dominant; it had been two and a half centuries since the birth of the last Realm-Sired submissive, and she had been a vain, vapid little girl who Shax would have sooner fed to a dragon than mated with.

 He had only just celebrated his first century, just barely old enough to be interested in finding a mate the last time he had felt a strong pull towards a submissive, which had been over four centuries ago. That submissive had rejected him for being too young. In hindsight, he found her decision to go for an older, more experienced dominant to be perfectly understandable, even if at the time it had been crushing.

 He had never felt such a strong desire for a submissive since then, though he was sure that was more to do with his very high standards and picky tastes than any left-over issues from being rejected so early on. Now he was over 500 years old and he had no intentions of letting this opportunity slip through his fingers.

 If he was less fussy in his choice of mate, he could have been mated long ago. While Realm-Sired submissives were rare, there were far more Earth-Sired submissives around, but Shax was adamant that his mate would be Realm-Sired like himself.

 It was a known fact amongst demons that Realm-Sired demons were more powerful, and closer to their instincts and magic than Earth-Sired demons were.The very nature of their conception meant that they were exposed to a vast quantities of extremely powerful, unique magic from the very first moment of their existence, and that kind of exposure had lasting effects. Without the support and assistance of a demon parent, Realm-Sired demons were also forced to pay more attention to their instincts, and were more in-tune with them than most Earth-Sired demons could ever hope to be.

 This closeness to their instincts, and the urges that made their race what they were, meant that it was extremely rare for any Realm-Sired demon to be called up before the Demon Council for breaking a law. They were just too dependant on their instincts to be able to ignore them, relying on them entirely to know how to navigate the society they were born into, while Earth-Sired demons would be taught by their parents how their society worked and what to expect at the different stages of their life, and so did not necessarily need to pay a lot of attention to their instincts.

 It was this complacency that was often found in Earth-Sired submissives that made Shax prefer the idea of having a Realm-Sired mate. Far too many Earth-Sired submissives were prone to deciding that being part of a matriarchal society put them in charge of everything. Not that Shax advocated trying to keep submissives repressed and obedient - a demonic society was supposed to be matriarchal, and he was perfectly happy for it to stay that way - but he had heard, and witnessed, horror stories that had happened to Earth-Sired submissives who had refused to let their dominants do their job, and had ended up injured or even died as a result of their casual dismissal of their instincts.

 While it was not impossible for a Realm-Sired submissive to ignore their instincts to such an extent, it was far more unlikely to happen, which also meant a Realm-Sired mate was less likely to get annoyed when Shax was unable to suppress certain instincts that may annoy a submissive who was less in-tune with their more primal nature.

 The small raven-haired demon who had recently appeared in Diagon Alley seemed perfect to Shax, and he was far more interested in this submissive than he had been in any other, including the submissive who had rejected him all that time ago.

 Unfortunately, it appeared that he was not the only dominant demon to think such things. While no dominant could approach the newly emerged submissive, that did not prevent them from watching and admiring him from a distance. Nor did it prevent them from fighting over him.

 With the numerous instant travel options available to magic users it hadn’t taken long for word to spread that there was a scouting submissive demon in Diagon Alley. Since the day of the emerald-eyed demon’s arrival dominant demons had been flocking to Knockturn Alley, unable to get closer to the submissive in case it was taken as an uninvited approach but not willing to be further away in case the sub chose that day to take his scouting a step further. Had there been no fighting between the dominants to determine who had the right to make the first advances once they were welcomed, the poor sub would have been swamped by dominants clamouring for his attention the second he started advertising.

 It was, of course, ultimately the submissives choice who would be acknowledged and who would be ignored; forcing attentions on a submissive who did not want them was not something that would be tolerated from any dominant, regardless of who they were or how many fights they had won. The fighting behind the scenes simply reduced the number of dominants the submissives had to deal with at once. It also helped prevent fights from occurring in front of the submissive, as most submissives found any excessive violence distressing.

 So far Shax had remained comfortably at the top of the pecking order. There were not many who were confident enough to challenge him, with most challenges coming from barely of age, cocky younger dominants who were yet to get a true grasp of their abilities and limits, and he had easily won all his fights so far. It was not through luck that he had managed to establish, control, and maintain possession of the largest and busiest demon territory in Britain. He was the oldest unmated Realm-Sired demon in Britain, and probably in the world, and he was easily the eldest of the demons who had appeared so far, the second eldest demon here being a century younger than he was.

 All the victories in the world would be useless, however, unless the submissive they were all fighting over began making some real moves towards finding a mate. Until the submissive began advertising his search, or at least made his first trip into Knockturn, all the dominants could do was sit around and wait for him to do something and fight with each other. And a lot of dominants had now gathered. This was easily the biggest gathering Shax had seen in a centuries; he was sure that the submissive would be stunned when he finally made an appearance in Knockturn Alley and realised just how many dominants were eagerly waiting to meet him.

 However, if many more dominants arrived before the submissive started considering and inevitably rejecting some potential mates, the fights that were breaking out were going to end up resulting in fatalities. Their race was not designed to have so many dominants in such close proximity for any length of time, with nothing to distract them from each other. If the submissive was actively searching for a mate, then they would all be too busy vying for his attention to bother with each other much, and any rejected dominants would not remain in the area for long. All this waiting, though, was driving tensions higher, which resulted in bloodier, more frequent fights. Their species was rare enough as it was, without dominants dying left and right because of fights over submissives.

 Still, just because Shax himself could not approach the evasive sub - he would never dream of being so uncouth as to break the strict courting laws - did not mean that he could not use the resources he had available to him to bend the rules, and help things along a little.

 Owning a large portion of the businesses in Knockturn Alley, and running various illegal underground Black Markets throughout both muggle and magical Britain, meant that Shax had a whole host of creatures working for him. He provided work to those who were not usually be able to get it because of the various Ministry laws regarding their race, and though that work was not always legal, it did pay well. The creatures who worked for him were usually extremely grateful to have a job, and were extremely loyal to their employer. Most were more than willing to be involved in less than legal activities, especially when for many of them being employed at all was illegal in itself, and even those who were not comfortable with working on the wrong side of the law, were happy enough to turn a blind eye and keep their employer’s secrets. Shax felt it was about time that he put some of the vast resources he had available to some use.

 The law that no dominant or alpha could approach a submissive demon until the submissive made the first move was absolute and unchangeable. However, there were no rules preventing other people from approaching the sub. As long as the person to approach the submissive was not a dominant or an alpha of any race, and they showed the appropriate level of respect to an unmated, scouting submissive, it was perfectly acceptable for them to help speed the process along a little.

 Shax had a werewolf to talk to.

Chapter Text

“Is anyone sitting here?”

Startled, Harry’s head shot up, “Er, sorry?”

Standing behind the chair across from him was a huge man. Not quite Hagrid huge, but well over six feet tall and wider than most men. At least the short, brown-blonde hair made him look less wild than Hagrid, despite the huge muscles. And he was carrying an ice-cream. It is hard to look wild and fierce while carrying an ice-cream.

The man smiled. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to make you jump. Do you mind if I sit here?”

“Uh, yeah, sure. Sit down,” Harry stammered, watching in bemusement as the man sat down and put the ice-cream on the table.

Being seated did nothing to make the guy look smaller. He was easily twice, if not three times as wide as Harry, and the raven haired demon wouldn’t have been surprised if the stranger claimed to be able to bench-press a car. Even while the man was sitting down, all Harry could think was ‘huge’.

“Hi. I’m Timothy,” the man - Timothy - said, after a moment of awkward silence while Harry stared and tried not to stare at the same time.

“You’re a werewolf!” Harry blurted, then he blushed. “Sorry, that was rude. Er…I’m Harry.”

Timothy chuckled, but did glance around to see if anyone had overheard the exclamation. Werewolves had one of the worst reputations of all the Creature Races, and he didn’t particularly feel like being hounded out of Diagon Alley by irate wizards.

“It’s fine, just please try to avoid announcing it to the whole Alley. You know how pissy wizards get,” Timothy said, flicking up a low level silencing charm that would stop conversation being overheard, but wouldn’t block out loud noises.

Harry nodded wordlessly. He did have a good idea of how badly some wizards reacted to knowing there was a Creature in their vicinity, though he had never actually witnessed it for himself. Even if had not known, he was hardly going to deliberately make life difficult for a man who looked like he could crush him with one hand.

The silence stretched awkwardly again.

Harry tried to return his attention to the last of his Charms homework, but it was difficult to concentrate with a werewolf sitting across from him, watching him. It didn’t help that he had no idea why the werewolf had approached him. It could simply be an overeager potential mate who was disregarding etiquette and (very rudely) making his bid known before any competitors got a chance. The werewolf didn’t feel like an alpha though.

Admittedly, the only werewolves Harry had met before were hereditary werewolves who had yet to reach their majorities. He was fairly certain that Timothy was a bitten werewolf. However, even before their majority, an alpha had a distinctive feel to their magic that Timothy lacked. Unless bitten alphas felt different to hereditary ones. Harry wasn’t sure.

As the silence stretched, Harry couldn’t avoid his thoughts running to the werewolf packs that had joined Voldemort. Only two packs had allied with the mad wizard, and both had been denounced by the other werewolves and the ruling body of the were-community, but Harry could feel himself tensing as he contemplated the possibility that this werewolf was one of them. Not that it was likely that the local Creatures would tolerate the presence of a Creature who had defected to the Dark. Still, it would be just his kind of luck if…

“You can relax you know.” A dry voice broke into his thoughts. “I’m not going to do anything to you. My alpha would have my hide if he thought I was even contemplating harming an omega. I don’t even want to think about what my boss would do to me.”

“Oh. I, er, sorry. I didn’t really think you were going to do anything, I just…” Harry trailed off, ducking his head in embarrassment and fiddling with the end of his quill. Timothy chuckled.

“Don’t worry about it. I’m the strange werewolf who randomly sat down with you. I don’t blame you for thinking I’m not quite right in the head.”

Deciding that letting the werewolf believe Harry had been wondering about his mental stability was better than telling him that Harry had actually been wondering if he was a member of one of the outcast packs, Harry searched for a change of subject.

“So what pack are you from?”

“The Knockturn Pack. I was pretty lucky really, I was bitten by my alpha and was introduced to the pack straight away. I’ve never had to deal with the madness that affects lone wolves, and our pack has a sponsor, so the Boss employs anyone who needs work,” Timothy replied looking pleased that Harry was relaxing a little and talking, rather than sitting tensed like a deer waiting to be pounced on.

“You’re a beta then?” Harry half asked, half stated, trying not to let the relief show in his voice. The idea of any dominant or alpha approaching him so blatantly made him feel very uncomfortable. He may not be a great follower of rules but he would not consider a mate who ignored etiquette and forced their attentions on him in such a manner.

“You thought-? No! No. It’s no wonder you were getting so tense. No, I’m one hundred percent beta wolf. I thought you’d be able to tell, or I would said something,” Timothy reassured him hurriedly. “My alpha really would kill me if I started looking for a mate without permission. There’ll be no mating proposals from me, don’t worry.”

“I didn’t think you were an alpha but you are the first bitten werewolf I’ve met, and the first adult one. I wasn’t sure if that would make a difference to what I could sense from you or not,” Harry shrugged, feeling a little more confident now that they had something to talk about.

“It does make a difference but the presence of any alpha is pretty hard to mistake. Most of us bittens are betas, though. I don’t think there are any bitten alphas in Britain right now. No acknowledged ones, at least,” the giant werewolf finished darkly.

Sensing that they were straying towards an uncomfortable topic, Harry tried to steer the topic back to more neutral subjects.

“So you’re from an urban pack? I’ve only met a few cubs from a rural pack before. The last urban werewolf left Hogwarts the year before I started, I think. And it’s not often that-”

“-a wild pack will allow one of their cubs to be around so many wizards,” Timothy finished for him, nodding. “There haven’t been many cubs around recently, though numbers are starting to climb again. Most new wolves have been bitten, like me, so there’s been no need to ship them off to school. The omegas are only just beginning to feel safe enough to carry again since the war, so there’ll probably be a baby boom soon. Not that it makes a lot of difference to our pack. The alpha’s still unmated, so we won’t be seeing any cubs until that changes. You’ll be well out of Hogwarts before any new cubs are starting.”

Harry nodded with a grin. “I really don’t envy the House Leader in those years. Ours is run ragged just trying to keep a handle on us lot. My friends and I don’t help, we’ve already knocked years off Oliver’s life in just the two years we’ve been there.”

“You’re the school trouble maker?” Timothy asked dubiously as he gave Harry a once over. It wasn’t unheard of for a submissive to be rebellious but most didn’t usually actively seek out mischief, and Harry looked as innocent as they came. Which perhaps should have been the first clue that he wasn’t quiet, meek and obedient.

“I’m not sure about that. The competition for the title of Chief Trouble Maker is pretty stiff,” Harry laughed, thinking of the Weasley twins. “I think I hold the record for the most unique kinds of trouble to get into though. I have a knack for finding myself in weird, House points losing situations. Or points winning. It really seems to depend on how well I handle the trouble and who catches me.”

Timothy laughed, “I don’t envy your future mate. I bet you’re going to run them ragged.”

Harry smiled innocently. “I don’t go looking for trouble. It just finds me.”

“I’ll bet,” Timothy snorted. “So, you’re starting your third year? What options are you taking?”

“Care of Magical Creatures and Runes.”

“No Divination?” Timothy asked with a grin. “I’ve heard that the subject is easy and the professor is a real gem. She can predict anything, as long as it involves your immediate and dramatic suffering. A true gift to the world, that third eye of hers.”

“You took divination then?” Harry grinned as the werewolf shrugged.

“The subject is easy. And the mad old bat does wear enough jewellery to sparkle like a gem. Still not tempted?”

Harry shook his head, chuckling, “My friends are taking it, so they can do all the divining for me. Hermione is already scarily good at predicting what is going on, especially when it involves me or Ron getting into trouble. I’m not sure she needs extra lessons.”

“Speaking of teachers who are gems, is that History homework I see?” Timothy asked, tilting his head to get a better look at the parchment Harry had in front of him. “Is Binns still teaching?”

The raven haired demon groaned, “Please don’t. It’s bad enough having to sit through his lessons and do the homework, without talking about him as well. He’s a ghost, how does he even mark homework?!”

“He bribes Ravenclaw seventh years with extra credit to mark it for him,” Timothy answered without missing a beat.

“Really?”

“No idea, but that was the leading theory when I was at Hogwarts. Of course that would require him actually being aware that he has students, so maybe that’s not how he does it. House elves, maybe?” the werewolf mused, grinning at Harry.

“You went to Hogwarts? What House were you?”

“Hufflepuff. Keep all comments to yourself or I’ll put a badger in your bed and see how harmless you find them then,” Timothy threatened jokingly.

“The House of the Giant Mint Humbugs,” Harry grinned, recalling one of the Weasley twin’s more creative pranking efforts.

“The House of the what?”

“Nothing. Nothing at all. I definitely don’t have pictures.”

“Pictures?” Timothy parroted, looking torn between confusion and amusement. “I’m not sure I want to know. You’re a Gryffindor, I’m guessing. House of the brave and bold and truly idiotic.”

“Oi! You forgot courageous and borderline suicidal,” Harry mock pouted, before nodding exaggeratedly. “Yep, the finest House in Hogwarts. The best quidditch team too.”

“Do you play?”

“Absolutely. I’ve been Gryffindor’s seeker since my first year,” Harry said proudly. “At first I thought I was going to be kicked out or put into detention until I was forty for chasing a classmate and making a steep dive the first time I’d ever even held a broom. Completely threw me when I was told that I was on the House team.”

“Chaser. I didn’t join until my third year, and nearly got myself knocked out in my first match…”

The conversation quickly moved from House teams, to professional teams and bickering over which teams were best (“The Magpies, really? They were flattened last season. 670-290 in their last match, how could you even stand to look at their colours?”), which teams they both agreed weren’t worth the brooms they flew on (“I have no idea why Ron supports the Cannons, but don’t tell him I said that they suck. I have to share a dorm with him, and I’ll never hear the end of it.”), and recent disappointments with the international team (“Why he was given management of the England team, I’ll never know. We’re going to be crushed in the next World Cup if they don’t pull their finger out! That last match against Wales was painful to watch. They scored fifty - fifty! - in a six hour match.”).

Gradually, conversation petered out until they were sitting in a silence that was far more comfortable than it had been when Timothy had first taken a seat at the table. Harry returned his attention to his homework and the actions of Wendelin the Weird during the witch-hunting of the Middle Ages.

“So,” Timothy said after a while, breaking the silence, “are you planning to be around Diagon for long?”

“Until term starts, if everything goes to plan,” Harry replied, looking up from his nearly completed essay.

“Are you doing anything tomorrow?” Harry shook his head silently and Timothy continued, “Then do you want to meet up again some time tomorrow?”

Seeing Harry’s slightly wary look, the werewolf quickly added, “Beta, remember? It isn’t a Courting offer or anything. You just seem to spend a lot of time on your own. I thought you might like some company, is all.”

Harry nodded slowly. It had been getting lonely, sitting here and wandering around Diagon Alley on his own, and it would be another week or two before Ron and Hermione returned from their holidays and could join him.

“Yeah, okay. I’ll be here again for most of the day, just come and find me. I will be doing homework again though, so I might not be very talkative.”

“I think I’m talkative enough for both of us. According to my alpha, I can talk all the hind legs off a Sleipnir,” laughed Timothy. “I’ll come and find you in the afternoon. I’m on the graveyard shift tonight, so I won’t be conscious until at least two tomorrow. It should give you time to get some work done before I come along and pester you.”

Harry just nodded, smiling as Timothy left. He may not be making any progress on the mating front, but at least his day had had some variety, and so would tomorrow.

 

§`§`§`§`§`§`§`§`§`§

 

“That looks horrendously complicated.”

Harry jumped in his seat, just managing to grab his ink bottle before it tipped over and spilled ink over the essay he had spent the last few hours writing.

“Don’t do that!” he gasped, pressing a hand to his heart. “Make some noise or something next time.”

“Sorry,” grinned an unrepentant looking werewolf. “So, what are you doing?”

“Potions,” Harry grumbled, glaring at the huge werewolf.

“Aww, you look cute when you’re angry, Harry.”

“I’m not angry Timmy, just exasperated. My best friend has Gemini for brothers - I’m used to the annoying,” Harry said with a sweet smile.

“Please don’t call me Timmy. My grandmother called me Timmy,” Timothy whined, screwing his face up in distaste.

“Don’t sneak up on me then.”

“Deal,” the werewolf said with a grin as he slipped his bulk into the seat across from Harry. The demon rolled his eyes, but smiled in amusement at the childish werewolf.

Silence fell between them as Harry turned his attention back to a diagram in one of his textbooks. Timothy spent a few minutes trying to read the tiny, cramped text of the book and Harry’s untidy scrawl upside down. Eventually he gave up; neither were clearly legible, especially upside down, and he was only able to read the odd word.

“Ok, what is that? It looks like an assassin’s how-to guide.”

“What?” laughed Harry, looking up from his work in surprise.

“I’m serious! It’s a list of toxic substances and how they affect the body. Who decided telling teenagers how to kill each other was a good idea?” Timothy exclaimed dramatically.

“It’s just potions,” Harry said, rolling his eyes. “Although Snape probably wouldn’t complain if we did try to off each other in lessons,” he mused. “As long as it was Slytherin doing the damage to Gryffindors, and Gryffindors just dying quietly.”

“So what are you studying that requires you to know the ten most toxic plants found in your average forest?”

“What sort of forests are you exploring that have Fanged Rafflesia in them?” Harry asked, amused.

“I’m an urban wolf!” Timothy protested. “I don’t even know how to find berries in the forest, let alone what the plants are called. Heck, I don’t even know where the nearest forest is! And you haven’t answered my question.”

“Snape, being the git that he is, has set us more homework than all the other teachers combined: ‘Explore the properties of ten toxic ingredients used in medicinal potions. Compare and contrast their effects in potions and their effects in raw form. Choose one ingredient and explain how the toxic properties are lost during the brewing process and why the ingredient is necessary for the medicinal potion it is used in’. A minimum of seven feet, no more than ten.” Harry sat back with a huff.

“Right.” Timothy blinked. “Well, I’d offer my assistance but I barely scraped a ‘Poor’ in my potions O.W.L.. I’m a menace in the potions lab. I wouldn’t be surprised if the cauldron I blew up in my fifth year is still melted into the ceiling.”

Harry burst out laughing.

“That was yours?”

“‘Was’? Does that mean it isn’t still there?” Harry shook his head at the honestly disappointed, albeit amused, look on the werewolf’s face. “My lasting mark on the school, gone.”

“It was still there until about three weeks before the end of term,” Harry said, grinning. “A classmate of mine had a truly spectacular potions accident and finally brought down the cauldron embedded in the ceiling, along with half the ceiling. Snape nearly had an aneurism. Neville may actually be rivalling me now for number of points lost in a single lesson. It so worth the loss of points to see the look on Snape’s face.”

“I was taught by Slughorn. Snape only started when I was doing my N.E.W.T.s, and I think everyone was relieved I was out of the potions classroom by then. Old Sluggy found me impossible to deal with. I think by the end he considered it a success if I made it out of a lesson without blowing my eyebrows off.”

“Snape wouldn’t be satisfied if I produced Mastery quality potions,” Harry snorted. “That’s why I’m doing all this,” he waved a hand at the tottering stacks of books around him, and the various screwed up and scribbled on pieces of parchment that littered the table. “If I don’t hand in something worth an ‘O’, or at least an ‘E’, he won’t even give me an ‘A’. Biased git,” he finished contemptuously.

Timothy raised his eyebrows. “Everyone used to say he was biased towards his own House, but I didn’t think he was so bad.”

“I don’t think he is with most people,” Harry shrugged. “He snaps and docks points constantly but my dorm mates seem to get their work graded fairly. He just despises me.”

“Why?” Timothy asked, frowning when Harry sighed and shrugged.

“No idea. I think it has something to do with my ‘father’. That’s all I ever hear from Snape: ‘strutting around school, just like your father’, ‘think you’re above the rules, just like your father’, ‘breathing air, just like your father’,” Harry mocked, with a passable imitation of Snape’s sneer. He tilted his head thoughtfully. “Although, I think I am beginning to make him hate me on my own merits,” he admitted. “It is true that I’m not really one for rule following, and I get away with far more than even he thinks,” Harry confided with a grin.

“Oh?” asked the the carefully blank-faced werewolf. He did not look amused at Snape’s treatment of Harry, or Harry’s attitude towards Snape’s behaviour. “And what, precisely, have you done to deserve his attitude towards you?” Now he was scowling and Harry doubted that he would find anything Harry had done to be sufficient justification of Snape’s attitude. Not that Harry believed Snape did have a good reason for treating him the way he did but he did wonder how much of Timothy’s anger was because he liked Harry, and how much of it was the ‘protect all submissives’ attitude werewolves were known for.

“Well, I did fly a car to school last year. Mostly got away with it too.” Harry grinned as the frown fell from Timothy’s face to be replaced by a look of incredulity.

“You flew…? What? How did you…? Why?” Timothy stammered, his brain struggling to process the idea that the tiny, apparently extremely mischievous submissive had flown a car, of all things, to school. ‘Not one for the rules’ indeed. Shax would either love the little demon, or be driven half mad by him. Or both. Timothy’s money was on both. “Where did you even get a flying car?”

“It belonged to my friend’s dad. We couldn’t get onto the platform for the train because a mad house elf was determined to stop me going back to Hogwarts - a long story,” Harry said quickly, seeing the look on Timothy’s face. “The car was in the car park and it just seemed like a good idea at the time.”

“Oh yeah, I can see exactly how you jumped from ‘we’ve missed the train’ to ‘let’s steal a car and fly to school’,” Timothy snarked, still looking shocked. “Didn’t you have an owl or guardians to wait for? How were you not seen?”

“Um, we kind of were,” Harry said, ducking his head sheepishly. “It was in the paper and everything.”

Timothy frowned for a moment, before seemingly remembering the article. He shook his head incredulously. The little raven haired demon was definitely going to drive Shax mad.

“The rules breaker comment is well earned then,” the werewolf said lamely after a moment of stunned silence. “It’s still no reason to dock your grade and treat you so badly. You’re hardly the first trouble maker Hogwarts has seen. You might be the first to fly a car to school though,” he finished in a mutter.

Harry shrugged. “He’s hated me since day one. I was shouted at for taking notes, for Merlin’s sake! Me existing seems to be enough reason for him to dock points and give detention.”

A wordless growl was his reply. Harry rolled his eyes at the werewolf.

“The concern is appreciated but like I said, I drive him nuts even without whatever misplaced hatred he had for me before he met me. The grades he give me don’t really matter. As long as I do the work I can still get a decent O.W.L., which is what people actually care about. It’s easier to just grin and bear it - and cause as much chaos for him as I can.”

“Is there nobody you can talk to about it?” Timothy asked, not willing to brush it off the way Harry was. Abusing any cub was bad enough - and inheritance or no, Harry was still only a cub - but the abuse of a submissive cub that he was rapidly becoming friends with pulled at every protective instinct Timothy had.

“Who would I tell?” Harry retorted, raising his eyebrows. “Dumbledore is a two-faced, bigoted old goat who pretends to care about discrimination and abuse when it suits him. McGonagall already knows but can’t do anything to stop it because Dumbledore practically condones it. Even if I complain to the other staff, they would be unlikely to be any more successful at stopping it than McGonagall. If they even tried. Most staff would give me a pat on the head, tell me that that’s just the way Snape is and it’s not just me he acts like that towards, and to do my best to avoid antagonising him so there’s no reason for me to be in trouble with him.”

“So they already know?”

“It is hard to miss.”

Timothy nodded unhappily, a quiet growl still rumbling in his chest. As much as he didn’t like the situation there wasn’t anything he could do about it alone. Nobody in the wizarding world valued a werewolf’s opinion and a werewolf trying to report a case of child abuse would be laughed out of the Child Welfare office - and probably into a holding cell.

Silence fell between them, Timothy lost in his thoughts and Harry returning his attention back to his homework. The only noise was made by Harry rifling through his textbooks and notes, occasionally muttering a few choice words about Snape, potions and some things said professor could do with his cauldron that Timothy wasn’t sure were physically possible.

There wasn’t a great deal for the werewolf to do while Harry worked, other than people watch and eat more ice-cream than could possibly be healthy. He still managed to enjoy himself; sitting around eating ice-cream while he listened to Harry muttering at his essay was more relaxed than anything he would be doing if he was spending the day with his pack. Hearing a particularly creative litany of curses from the demon, he looked over in amusement.

And choked on his ice-cream.

The sounds of the werewolf choking made Harry look up from the diagram he was trying to decipher - it supposedly showed how hemlock root interacted with powered bicorn horn; Harry though it looked more like spiders waging war with a giant worm, but if he wrote that, Snape may finally snap and kill him.

“Are you ok?” he asked, concern marred by amusement showing on his face.

“You’re Harry Potter!” Timothy spluttered, ignoring the puddle of ice-cream slowly forming where he had knocked over his sundae.

“Really? Are you sure, because I’ve been having an identity crisis lately,” Harry said sarcastically.

“But…but you’re Harry Potter.”

“Yeees,” Harry drawled. “I thought you’d already figured that out? You’ve been sitting there for two days now. How did you not see my scar before now? And how many other thirteen year old Harrys do you know?”

“You have a long fringe and it’s not like I was looking for a lightning bolt shaped scar on your forehead,” Timothy said defensively. “Although now you mention it, there aren’t any other kids around your age called Harry. None that I know of anyway. Your name kind of became a symbol for the defeat of the Dark. For a while calling your child Harry was sort of like naming your cub Merlin. A lot for a cub to live up to,” Timothy said thoughtfully, before catching sight of Harry’s scowl.

“Sorry! Sorry,” the giant werewolf held his hands up in surrender. “It just surprised me. I wasn’t expecting the Boy-Who-Lived to be a demon."

“You’re not the first to say that,” Harry said, still scowling. “I don’t know why everyone expects me to be a perfectly ordinary wizard. I survived the Killing Curse. As a baby. How was that not a hint that I’m not normal?”

“I suppose mystical demon knowledge would explain some things,” Timothy nodded. Harry snorted.

“More like an over-compensating, very protective demon sire would explain some things.”

“Er, if you say so. Not much is actually known about demons - you’re a very touchy race when it comes to your secrets,” Timothy shrugged. All he knew about demons was the list of do’s and don’ts he had been given by his alpha when he joined the pack after being bitten, and that was more than most people knew.

“I know,” Harry said with a grin. “It drives Hermione up the wall because she can’t do any research about me, and she hates knowing that there is something she doesn’t know. The Gryffindor dominants are going to be walking on eggshells around me this year,” he chuckled. “Apparently the only universal knowledge about demons is that dominants upset a submissive on pain of death.”

“That is exaggerated isn’t it?” Timothy asked hesitantly.

He was not at all reassured by Harry’s dismissive shrug.

“It depends on the sub and the dominants around at the time, I suppose,” Harry said after a moment’s thought. “Instinctively, the first response when a submissive demon feels threatened or upset is to retreat to a dominant who will protect them. It is then up to the dominant to go about defending or reassuring the sub in whatever way they feel is best. Not being a dominant I don’t know what the instinctive response to a threat is for them, though I imagine it is violent. In reality it doesn’t always work quite like that; personally I’m more likely to curse a threat six ways to Sunday. Any nearby dom can help if they want, but I can handle myself just fine,” Harry shrugged. “But then I am known for breaking the mould.”

“That was not at all reassuring,” Timothy said dryly. “I thought submissive demons didn’t like violence?”

“We don’t. That doesn’t mean we can’t be good at it, or adapt to it. I wouldn’t have lasted this long if I hid and cried at the first signs of violence around me. Besides, when doms are fighting it’s-” Harry snapped his mouth shut and blushed.

“Oh? When doms are fighting it’s what?” Timothy prodded, grinning at Harry’s embarrassment. Harry glared. “Aw, you can’t stop there. I was finding it very educational - it’s the most I’ve ever been told about submissive demons. So what about fighting doms?”

Harry’s embarrassed squeak of “Nothing!” was too much for the werewolf, who laughed so hard his entire body shook.

“I hate you,” Harry moaned, burying his flaming face in his arms.

“You know,” Timothy said once he had calmed down enough to speak, “I really don’t envy you your search for a mate. They’re rabid enough without having the whole Boy-Who-Lived thing on top.”

“I’d kind of guessed,” Harry shrugged. “It shouldn’t make a difference. I’m going to be weeding out unsuitable doms anyway; anybody just after my fame should be caught in the process.”

There wasn’t much to say to that - asking about a submissives mating plans was rude, even if you were friends - so Timothy just nodded.

“So are you planning to spend all your summer doing homework?” the werewolf asked, eyeing the potions book at his elbow with distaste. “Or can you take a day off to do something adventurous?”

“If this essay wasn’t so bloody complicated I’d have finished all my homework by now,” Harry grumbled. “I feel like I should warn you that ‘adventurous’ can be dangerous around me. Flying car, remember?”

Timothy chuckled, “Well maybe not quite that adventurous, but there should be a safe level of adventure between ‘eating ice-cream’ and ‘flying car of death’.”

Harry grinned, “Maybe.”

“If you can’t go shopping without it turning into an event, then there really is no hope for you.”

“Then last year’s events say there is no hope for me. Unless ending up on the front page of the Prophet while doing my school shopping doesn’t count as an event.”

“Seriously? Did you drink a bad batch of Felicis last year or something?” Timothy asked incredulously.

“Felicis?”

“Felix Felicis. Luck potion.”

“Oh. Not as far as I know. Stuff just happens to me. My own special brand of luck, I suppose.”

Timothy laughed. “Well if you could keep that special luck under control, we can do something more exciting than potions homework. Do you think I’ll be enough protection, or shall I bring along an Auror squad?”

“You can leave the Aurors behind if you promise that you don’t need to be on a leash,” Harry retorted, sticking his tongue out at the amused werewolf.

“Where are you staying? Or do you want to meet here again?”

“The Leaky Cauldron. I’ll meet you in the bar. Is ten ok?”

Timothy nodded before saying his goodbyes and heading back towards Knockturn Alley. Hopefully he would make some progress tomorrow and would be able to persuade the rather rebellious submissive to venture into Knockturn. He didn’t want to push too hard though; Harry clearly had reasons for being reluctant - he certainly didn't seem like the type to be scared off by the unknown - and Timothy was worried that pushing too hard would scare the small demon away. Not only would his boss kill him for it, he didn’t want to upset Harry. The easy going, trusting little demon was growing on him and he didn’t want to ruin that budding friendship.

Chapter Text

It wasn’t hard to spot Timothy at the bar. The six-foot-something werwolf was a head taller than everyone else, and was wearing a muggle ensemble of red chequered shirt, jeans and work boots that was attracting the attention of the other patrons. The Leaky Cauldron was odd like that; people could wear anything from robes, to full body cloaks, to bright purple turbans that reeked of garlic and had a Dark Lord hiding beneath it, but it was always the muggle clothes that people would cast disapproving glances at.

 “Is there a plan for the day or are we just seeing what happens?” Harry asked once he had greeted the werewolf, swiping at the hand that tried to ruffle his hair.

 “I always have a plan. Step one is getting you into something less wizardy. Or going to Gringotts. Which step one do you want to do first?” Timothy asked, looking down at Harry who snorted.

 “Very well planned out. Gringotts first. People stare more if I’m in muggle clothes,” Harry decided.

 “Do you have your vault key? It’ll be faster if I take it now, then we can deal with the goblins in one go,” Timothy asked, tucking the key Harry handed him securely into his pocket.

 What Harry hadn’t taken into account was that even if he wasn’t wearing muggle clothes, Timothy was and he was attracting the stares Harry was trying to avoid. Fortunately the werewolf could be intimidating when he wished to be, and people quickly avoided eye-contact upon seeing his scowl. By the time they made it to Gringotts far less people were staring than would have been had Harry been on his own, muggle clothes or no.

 This visit to Gringotts was rather different to the visits he had made in the past with Hagrid, the Weasleys or by himself. Timothy ignored the people waiting in line for one of the tellers at an open desk, and instead stalked up to a closed desk away from the wizards. Scowling even more viciously now than he had been when they were walking through the Alley, he flicked the closed sign onto the floor behind the desk. It immediately attracted the attention of the goblins and one quickly made their way over, looking irate.

 “Finally! I don’t have all day,” Timothy growled before the goblin had a chance to open his mouth. “We’re going to these vaults, then we need to exchange some galleons for pound sterling,” he continued, ignoring the goblin’s snarl and tossing Harry’s vault key onto the desk, along with another that Harry didn’t recognise but presumed belonged to the werewolf.

 “Very well,” sneered the goblin, “I will summon-“

 “Which part of ‘I don’t have all day’ don’t you understand?” Timothy interrupted. “Take us yourself. Or are you so incompetent your Cart Rights have been revoked?” He raised an eyebrow mockingly.

 The werewolf and goblin glared at each other, snarling lowly. Harry just stood quietly, trying to look cool and indifferent and not utterly bemused by what was going on. He didn’t really know what was going on but even a first year only barely aware of their instincts could recognise posturing for dominance when they saw it, and if you weren’t one of the ones doing the posturing it was better to be quiet and unobtrusive until dominance had been established. So the raven haired demon stood quietly as the two older creatures continued to glare and snarl.

 Finally the goblin lowered his gaze.

 “This way please,” the goblin said stiffly, but the previous hostility was absent from his tone.

 Timothy placed a hand on Harry’s shoulder to steer him after the goblin. As he touched Harry’s shoulder he looked surprisingly hesitant for someone who had just engaged in a snarling match with an angry goblin. It was only as the werewolf cast him an apologetic glance that Harry remembered that werewolves were far more tactile than many other creatures, and manhandling anyone other than a subordinate pack mate was considered rude and offensive. Demons were far less concerned by it, as long as the party being manhandled wasn’t distressed or unwilling, so Harry gave the giant werewolf a small smile and allowed the hand on his shoulder to guide him along the corridors towards the carts.

 The cart ride was just as fast and thrilling as usual, and this time Harry had a companion who enjoyed it as much as he did. Harry’s vault was the first stop and at Timothy’s instruction he scooped up enough galleons to buy all his school supplies twice over. Exactly what Timothy was expecting him to buy Harry wasn't sure, but as the gold he removed barely made a dent in the pile left in his vault he wasn’t too concerned about it.

 When they got back into the cart they headed deeper into Gringotts than Harry had ever been. Even the visit to vault 713 in the summer before his first year hadn’t taken him this far into the depths of Gringotts. At one point they passed a huge waterfall, getting sprayed by the mist that reached the track.

 “Thief’s Downfall,” Timothy explained at Harry’s enquiring look. They both ignored the disgruntled looking goblin who clearly didn’t want the secrets of Gringotts’ security measures to be shared. “One of the less aggressive defences Gringotts has. It breaks through disguises and stops any enchantments. The mist can only do lower level stuff, but I’ve been told that when it’s fully activated the water pours directly over the track and being soaked by it can even stop the Unforgivables. Wouldn’t recommend testing that though.”

 Harry nodded, fascinated, and glanced back over his shoulder but the waterfall was already out of sight. They continued on down, passing old vaults that had dragons guarding them, and Harry was sure he spotted a sphinx outside one vault, but it was gone before he could take a second look.

 Eventually they came to a stop outside an ancient looking vault that had a door etched with runes. Harry had only done a bit of reading for his Ancient Runes class, but he was reasonably sure he recognised the Futhorc runes for heritage and stone. He stopped looking so closely after he spotted a rune that he thought translated into ‘scorch’. There was a keyhole but Harry doubted that a key was all the intimidating door required to be opened. He was proved correct when Timothy used the back of the key to slice open his palm before putting the now bloodied key into the lock and turning it.

 A series of thunks could be heard as the locks opened, and the door swung open to reveal the contents of the vault. The mound of gold inside made the contents of Harry’s vault look like a handful of knuts. If this was Timothy’s vault, Harry wondered why he worked at all.

 “It’s not mine,” Timothy said, seemingly reading Harry’s thoughts. “I’m just fortunate enough to be trusted with unlimited access.”

 Before Harry could ask who the vault belonged to - perhaps it was a pack vault? Werewolves were known for sharing wealth with kith and kin, and a large pack would need a lot of money to sustain all its members - Timothy had disappeared inside. Judging by the clinking sounds, the werewolf was scooping up even more money than he had told Harry to pick up. A few minutes later, Timothy emerged from the vault with a grin that quickly vanished as he looked to the goblin. With a nod of his head he signalled for the goblin to take them back to the surface and another fast-paced cart ride began.

 Once they reached the surface, Timothy led the way back to the teller’s desk. With an impatient air that Harry still found bemusing, the werewolf demanded their money be exchanged for pound sterling.

 “And at the goblin exchange rate, if you would, not that measly offer you con the ignorant humans with,” the enormous werewolf added with a warning look as the goblin turned to make the exchange.

 With an angry snarl, the goblin fiddled with something on the gilded scales before dropping the money pouches onto one side and watching carefully as the other side filled with stacks of British muggle money. Once the scales had determined the values of either side to be equal, the muggle money vanished and was replaced by the galleons, sickles and knuts from the money pouches. Still growling under his breath, the bank teller dumped the money pouches onto to the desk and placed two ordinary looking debit cards next to them.

 “I presume you know how these work?” sneered the goblin, giving Harry a contemptuous look as though he knew that Harry had no idea what was going on. Instead of letting it get to him, the young demon lifted an eyebrow and stared challengingly back. He may not understand the reason for all the posturing and snarling the two older creatures were doing, but he refused to seem meek in front of the bank teller who was clearly trying to put Harry down in an attempt to sooth his own bruised ego.

 Timothy didn’t bother replying. He simply scooped up the money pouches and the two little pieces of plastic and pocketed them. With a single, curt nod to the goblin, he placed his hand on Harry’s shoulder again - less hesitantly this time - and steered him towards the door. The second they were outside, the werewolf dropped his hand back to his side with another apologetic look to Harry.

 Harry waited until they were out of ear shot of the goblin guards before he turned to look up at the not-quite-seven-foot-tall werewolf. “Ok…what was that about?”

 “What was what about?” Timothy asked in a voice that suggested he knew exactly what Harry was asking about.

 “That! In the bank. All the snarling and posturing and demanding everything be done faster,” Harry said, waving his hands around.

 “Oh, that,” Timothy grinned and ruffled Harry’s hair, earning himself a scowl as Harry tried to flatten it again. “That, my fluffy haired little friend, is how you get good customer service from the goblins.”

 “Competing for dominance over every little thing you ask for is good customer service?” Harry asked dubiously.

 “Close enough. There would have been less posturing if you hadn’t been there. Normally they don’t argue but asking to go to a new vault, and with a cub tagging along - wipe that look off your face, you’re under seventeen, you’re a cub - meant they felt that they may get some leeway. Obviously that didn’t happen. Can’t give goblins an inch or they’ll take a mile,” Timothy explained cheerfully. At least, Harry presumed he thought he was explaining.

 “I don’t understand,” Harry admitted as they stepped through the archway to the Leaky Cauldron. “Goblins aren’t really covered much at Hogwarts. Unless you count History of Magic, but I don’t think I’ve ever been conscious through an entire lesson so that doesn’t count. If you’ve established dominance once, why did you have to establish it again?”

 “I’ll explain while you get less wizardy looking,” Timothy said, herding the demon towards the stairs. “Unless you want me to stay down here?”

 “As long as you’re not going to watch me as I get changed I don’t mind where you wait. You may as well come up; I want to know what was going on with the goblins.”

 “No peeking,” Timothy agreed, following Harry upstairs and into his room.

 “What sort of clothes do I need?” Harry asked, flipping open his trunk. Timothy was surprised at how few clothes the trunk contained. The wardrobe in the room stood open and empty, so unless Harry had stashed his clothes under his bed, he was traveling very light.

 “Anything suitably muggle,” he answered, eyeing the clothes in the trunk. Most of them were muggle but they looked old and faded, and smelled faintly of a human who certainly wasn’t Harry, even pre-inheritance. He watched as the demon plucked out a top that had been screwed in a ball, and seemed to contain far more material than someone Harry’s size would need.

 “Oi! No peeking!”

 Timothy whirled around dramatically, covering his eyes. “Right. No peeking. Promise!” he exclaimed, making Harry laugh.

 “So, goblins?” Harry prompted as he started to pull his robes off.

 “Yes, goblins,” Timothy said, lowering his hands away from his face and keeping his gaze firmly on the door in front of him, not turning his head even as he began to speak. “Goblins respect three things: power, money, and not being human - in ascending order. No self-respecting goblin will deal fairly with a human, ever. They hate them more than a snidget hates quidditch. Creature races will always get better treatment than humans, unless they’ve done something to piss the goblins off. But I’m guessing you already knew that?”

 Harry made noise of agreement, before asking, “So what was the snarling about, if we were going to get better treatment just for not being human?”

 “Money and power. I don’t know exactly how the system works, but vault keys have a way of informing goblins of precisely how much money that vault contains and how much money other vaults that that vault is connected to contains. Your personal vault contains a decent amount, so your family vault must contain more than enough gold to get the goblin’s attention. And you got a glimpse of how much gold is in the vault I used - it’s like a niffler’s wet dream in there.” Harry gave a muffled snort of laughter. Timothy resisted the urge to turn around and see what was taking so long. The last thing he wanted was to have to explain to Shax why he saw Harry half naked.

 “So that was the money aspect more than covered. That just left power. If you don’t have the full trio - money, power and non-human status - the little bastards will still try to walk all over you, they’ll just be a little politer about it than they usually are. Magical power, political power, being connected to the right people; any power is good to a goblin. On my own I don’t have a great deal of power but my pack is pretty influential, which gives me an advantage, and my magic levels are a bit above average. Wolf-wise I’m not even close to alpha levels of power, but I’m one of the top betas in the pack. Overall it puts me on level that makes the goblins wary of messing me about, but not quite high enough to be completely immune to them testing me when they think they’ve spotted a weakness.”

 “Huh. Why don’t they teach that at Hogwarts?” Harry asked. “Or at least in Gryffindor,” he amended, imagining how the Slytherin’s would react to a lesson on goblin politics.

 “Most people don’t know about it, and those who do don’t see a lot of point in sharing it. I only know because of my pack and my job; I have to deal with goblins pretty often, so I need to know how to handle them. As most people don’t meet all three requirements the information isn’t spread around much because lots of people find it irrelevant to their own dealings with goblins,” Timothy answered with a shrug. “Are you done yet? You could have tried on your entire wardrobe by now, what’s taking so long?”

 “You can turn around. I’m done.”

 With an exaggerated sigh of relief, Timothy turned away from the door.

 “Bloody hell, you really were trying on the whole wardrobe!” he exclaimed as he looked around the room.

 Harry was sitting on the bed tying the laces of his slightly tatty trainers. Around him clothes had been dropped onto the bed, the floor and even tossed over the wardrobe door. The outfit Harry had finally settled on was a plain grey t-shirt, faded jeans and the worn trainers he had just finished lacing up.

 “Well, if you’re finally ready, let’s go,” Timothy said, holding the door open as Harry grabbed his jacket (also old looking and smelling of the unfamiliar human, Timothy noted) and slipped out into the corridor.

 As they stepped out into muggle London, Harry recalled the warning the Minister had given him about staying in Diagon Alley. He quickly dismissed it; nobody had given him a real reason to stay in the wizarding world, other than it being safer for him to be alone there. As long as he was with somebody - an adult somebody - he saw no reason why he shouldn’t spend a day enjoying himself in muggle London. He trusted Timothy to be able to keep him safe, even if the muggles did somehow manage to pose a threat.

 Despite living only an hour away from the city for most of his life, this was the first time Harry had visited muggle London other than to catch the Hogwarts Express. Any time the Dursleys visited London - often to buy birthday and Christmas presents for Dudley - Harry had been left with Mrs. Figg and her many cats and kneazles. Not that Harry minded too much; he’d rather spend a day looking at old photographs of Mrs. Figg’s cats than following the Dursley’s around, being shown all the things they would never buy him and carrying shopping bags full of gifts for Dudley.

 Timothy, however, knew London very well and had a destination in mind. Harry followed him, trying to take in all the sights without getting left behind in the crowd. It reminded him of his first visit to Diagon Alley - following a giant of a man through crowded streets full of interesting looking shops - only with more people and less magic. The muggle shop displays were impressive but they couldn’t rival the displays seen in the windows of shops like Quality Quidditch Supplies and Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment.

 Harry was reconsidering the wisdom of allowing Timothy to choose the first shop as he stared up at the front of the expensive looking tailors they had stopped outside.

 “I don’t need a suit,” he protested as the werewolf shooed him inside.

 “Of course you do. Everyone should have at least one proper suit. You never know when you might need it,” Timothy said cheerfully as he stepped into the shop after Harry, blocking the demon’s escape route.

 “I never go anywhere in the muggle world!” the teenager hissed quietly. “Why would I-“

 His protest was cut off by the appearance of man who looked far too happy to see them in Harry’s opinion. Did he really have to smile so much?

 “Ah, Timothy. Back again so soon? I do hope there is nothing wrong with your last purchase,” the man said, Timothy’s hand engulfing his as they shook hands.

 “Everything is perfect, as usual,” Timothy grinned. “I’m here for this scruffy looking oik,” he jerked a thumb at Harry, ignoring the cry of “Scruffy looking?” from the indignant demon.

 “Of course. Step this way sirs.”

 What followed was a series of measurements and questions about things Harry hadn’t even known existed. How many different shades of blue could there possibly be, and why were there so many materials that clothes could be made out of? Fortunately Timothy was well versed in suit buying, and the tailor seemed to be used to dealing with monosyllabic teenagers who answered in shrugs and vague gestures when asked their opinion on which shirt they preferred with which tie.

 Over an hour later, they finally made it out of the shop, Harry now the proud (albeit reluctant) owner of two complete suits. The teenager was still insisting that he didn’t need one suit, never mind two, but Timothy had been adamant, and Harry wouldn’t have felt comfortable leaving without buying something after the tailor had spent so much time with them.

 “When am I going to wear them? The only time I’m not in the wizarding world is when I’m at the Dursley’s for summer. Then I’m lucky if I get to go further than the local park,” Harry complained as Timothy stepped into an alleyway to shrink and pocket the bags.

 “You never know,” was the chipper response. “Sometimes you want something other than robes or a t-shirt and jeans. I’m just making sure you’re prepared. Who are the Dursleys?”

 “My aunt and uncle,” Harry answered, trailing after the cheerful werewolf. If Harry didn’t know better, he’d swear Timothy was enjoying torturing him. “Please say we aren’t buying any more formal clothes.”

 “Nope. High street stores selling fashionable teenagers’ clothes only from now on, I promise.”

 True to his word, the next shop they visited was filled with teenagers and popular brand names. Harry recognised several of the brands from the clothes Dudley and his friends had been wearing this summer, and a few of less expensive ones from the hand-me-downs he had been given when Dudley outgrew them.

 The demon watched on, torn between fascination and horror as Timothy went around plucking up tops and trousers, and putting very few back down, until he was holding more clothes than Harry had ever owned at one time. The horror - and amusement - only grew as he was shooed towards the dressing rooms and realised the werewolf wanted him to try them all on.

 “You know,” Timothy observed as he nudged Harry into one of the dressing rooms, “for someone who tried on his entire wardrobe this morning, you don’t seem to like clothes shopping much.”

 “It’s not exactly something I do a lot of,” Harry grumbled pulling the curtain across the doorway and turning to the pile clothes he had brought in with him - the rest where on a chair next to Timothy, ready to be handed over once he’d made his way through the first pile. “Most of my clothes are hand-me-downs from my cousin.”

 “You’re one of the richest thirteen year olds I’ve met. Why don’t you buy new clothes for yourself? You could easily afford it.”

 “I’d have to explain where I got new clothes to my aunt and uncle, and I am not telling Vernon that my parents left me a mountain of gold. Could you pass me the green version of this?” he asked, pulling of a red jumper and tossing it through the curtain to Timothy.

 The werewolf passed him the jumper he asked for with a frown. He absent-mindedly folded the red jumper as he thought over what Harry had just revealed. There were a lot of things he didn’t know about the teenager - unsurprising as he’d only known him for a few days - but the more he heard about Harry’s childhood, the more he thought that there was something seriously wrong with it. Still, now was not the time or place to be asking awkward questions about the way Harry was treated by the adults in his life, so Timothy allowed himself to be distracted by the demons questions about which shirt looked better and general whining about the number of clothes he had to try on.

 Several hours later Harry wasn’t sure he would be able to fit all his new clothes into his trunk. Every time he had put back something he liked in an attempt to limit his spending, Timothy had picked it straight back up and bought it for him. The demon wasn’t sure if that was a werewolf thing, or just a Timothy thing. Or if it had something to do with him. Werewolves were known for sharing their wealth and resources with their pack, and friends were considered a sort of extended pack, but Harry didn’t think it was normal for a werewolf to spend as much on a new friend as Timothy had spent on him, even if the werewolf did have access to as much money as Timothy did. He didn’t think it was charity per se - after all, Timothy had seen and even commented on how much money Harry had - but it was more than Harry was comfortable accepting. However the stubborn werewolf wouldn’t take no for answer and bought the clothes anyway, so Harry had little choice but to take them.

 “So, is there a reason you’re not spending the summer with your aunt and uncle?” Timothy asked casually as a waiter seated them at a table. They were both starving after a day spent shopping and neither of them felt like pub food, which was all Diagon Alley offered unless you went to one of the upmarket restaurants, so they stopped at a little muggle family restaurant.

 “Sorry?” Harry said, startled. He really didn’t want to discuss his aunt and uncle with the overprotective werewolf. Timothy had been outraged at how Snape treated him, how would he handle learning about Vernon and Dudley? Or the summer’s events with Marge?

 “You said you spend your summers with your aunt and uncle. I just wondering why you weren’t with them this summer?”

 “Oh, well, inheritance and Scouting and stuff. My relatives are muggles - their house isn’t exactly the best place to look for a mate, is it?” Harry asked rhetorically, fiddling with the corner of his menu.

 Timothy was torn, unsure which topic to pursue. The waiter took advantage of the lull in conversation and came over to take their order.

 “How’s that going ?” Timothy asked finally, once the waiter had gone. “The Scouting? I mean, I’ve been taking up all your time recently but I hardly count. Had you made any progress before I started bugging you?”

 “Er, not really,” Harry mumbled. This wasn’t much better than discussing the Dursleys. Admitting that he was too much of a coward to step foot in the Alley where Timothy’s pack lived seemed like a childish fear. He did know that Knockturn wasn’t as bad as the wizards made it out to be but that didn’t stop his apprehension.

 “I though you started Scouting straight after your birthday? I haven’t screwed up your plans, have I?” the werewolf asked, a little worried. He didn’t know a great deal about the demon mating process but a lot of it seemed to be planned out well in advance if what he had seen from the dominant demons currently infesting Knockturn was anything to go by.

 “No, you haven’t. Plans don’t really do well around me, so I don’t usually bother making them. Improvising and going with the flow are things I’m much better at,” Harry explained, hoping that would be enough to get Timothy to drop the subject. Sadly not.

 “Don’t you at least have a starting point?” Timothy asked curiously. “I haven’t done the whole finding a mate thing but I did date at school. Don’t you have some idea of what you are looking for? Looks, age, hobbies, stuff like that?”

 “I am not choosing a life partner based on his hobbies,” Harry rolled his eyes. “And obviously my first mate will be at least a hundred, but I’ve honestly not come up with a list of features I want him to have.”

 “‘Him’? Definitely male then?”

 “Obviously. It would be a tad hard to have kids with a female dominant, unless the kids weren’t biologically mine,” Harry pointed out with raised eyebrows. “All male submissive demons are gay, even the Earth-Sired male subs aren’t straight, despite the pretty common occurrence of weird quirks Earth-Sireds tend to have.”

 “I’m going to nod and agree, because honestly I have no clue. The dominants of your race are secretive. Asking even remotely invasive questions about the omegas of your race is just asking to be put in St. Mungo’s, and ‘are all your male subs gay’ is definitely considered invasive.”

 Harry rolled his eyes in exasperation. He really should have expected something like that. The dominants were supposed to be the protective ones, after all, and in Harry’s rather limited experience most dominants were prone to over reaction when it came to defending submissives.

 “Well, feel free to ask away now. I’m not going to be offended by you asking questions about demons or my dead-end Scouting. There’s not exactly much to tell about the latter anyway.”

 “Dead-end? You’ve only just started, how can you be at a dead-end already?”

 “Well, maybe not quite dead-end, but definitely going nowhere fast,” Harry shrugged.

 “Do you not want a mate at the moment then?” Timothy asked, puzzled.

 “I do, I'm just…not making much progress.”

 “What’s the issue?” Timothy prodded, seeing that he was going to have to drag this out of the submissive demon if he wanted to be able to help. “I’ve not dated in a while but I do remember how it works. Maybe I can help.”

 “It’s stupid,” Harry stalled.

 “I went through seven years of Hogwarts and I work in a nightclub. I’ve seen more than my fair share of stupid. Unless you’ve managed to turn the love of your life into a bright blue toucan in a drunken attempt to impress her - or him, for you - then there is no way you have the monopoly on stupid,” Timothy countered. “So spill. What’s up?”

 “It’s not even relationship related really. It’s just…stupid,” Harry insisted.

 “Bright. Blue. Toucan.”

 “But-“

 “Blue toucan.”

 “I’m-“

 “Toucan!”

 “Ok, ok. It’s not blue toucan stupid. You’ll still think I’m being an idiot though.”

 Timothy rolled his eyes and looked pointedly at the reluctantly amused demon.

 “Fine,” Harry said, throwing up his hands and nearly knocking over his drink. “I’m scared of Knockturn Alley.”

 “Oh. Why?” Timothy asked, curiously.

 “I told you you’d think it was stupid,” Harry muttered.

 “I don’t think it is stupid,” Timothy said rolling his eyes again as a waiter came over with their food. “I don’t really understand why you are scared of it, but I don’t think it's stupid. You know that no-one in the District would hurt you, right?”

 “I’m not worried about the Creature District - I want to go there! I just haven’t had the best experiences in the Dark District,” Harry grumbled. “It’s stu-“

 “Toucan!”

 “Will you stop saying that!” The demon’s scowl was ruined by the amused grin stretching across his face.

 “No,” Timothy said immediately, sipping his drink. “Not unless you stop calling yourself stupid.”

 Harry muttered something uncomplimentary under his breath, and turned his attention to his food. Timothy chuckled at the pouting demon, and followed his example, quickly inhaling his food. Harry was amazed that anyone could eat so quickly without putting their eating partners off their food. Ron could eat fast but you certainly didn’t want to sit across from him as he did so.

 “So it’s the Dark District that bothers you?” Timothy asked once most of his food had been eaten. Harry nodded, still eating - not everyone could eat like a starving cerberus. “What is it you’re worried about? And no, I don’t think whatever your answer is is stupid.”

 “I don’t exactly have good memories of the place,” Harry shrugged. “Plus I’m the Boy-Who-Lived, I’m not exactly popular with the Dark.”

 “If it is just getting through the Dark District that is an issue then I can definitely help,” Timothy offered with a smile. “I can escort you, if you want. Once you’re through the Dark District you’ll be fine, and you can always Floo back to the Leaky Cauldron if I’m not around to take you back for some reason.”

 Harry hesitated, twirling his fork in his fingers.

 “Are you sure you wouldn’t mind? There might not be a lot for you to do if I start talking to potential mates,” he said worriedly.

 “Harry, I live there,” the werewolf pointed out. “I can entertain myself. So, do you want to go?”

 “You’re sure you’re ok with it?”

 “Yes! I suggested it. Do you want to go to Knockturn Alley, yes or no?” Timothy asked exasperated, enunciating each word slowly. When Harry continued to hesitate, he sighed. “You can say no, you know. It was just an offer. I’m not going to be offended if you don’t want to go.”

 “No! I mean no, I’m not saying no,” Harry gabbled, much to Timothy’s amusement.

 “So that is a ‘yes Timothy, I would like to visit Knockturn’? Was that really so hard?”

 “Now you’re just being annoying on purpose,” grumbled Harry, crossing his arms over his chest with a mock scowl.

 “Yep!” the werewolf admitted cheerfully, sitting back as the waiter came to collect the plates, and asking for the bill. Once it was brought over, he snagged it and paid before Harry even got a chance to see it. “So, when do you want to go?”

 “Um…”

 “Tomorrow?”

 “Tomorrow?!” Harry absolutely did not squeak, even if he would admit to being a bit alarmed at the idea.

 “So not tomorrow? You know, getting answers out of you is like trying to question a sphinx.”

 Harry took a deep breath, calming himself. He had never liked waiting around when he had something he could do, and the longer he put off his visit to Knockturn the more frustrated his lack of progress would make him. Besides, it’s not like he had anything better to do tomorrow.

 “Yes, tomorrow,” he said once he was calmer, not dignifying the sphinx comment with an answer.

 “Afternoon? I’m working again tonight.”

 “Yeah, whenever. It’s not like I have any plans,” Harry agreed with a nod.

 “Four?”

 Harry nodded again with grin. It finally felt like he was making progress, potential though it was at the moment.

 Arrangements for tomorrow made, the conversation quickly switched to the upcoming Puddlemere United vs. the Montrose Magpies quidditch match. Two years under the tutelage of Oliver Wood had made Harry an avid United supporter, while Timothy was a lifelong Magpies fan. The upcoming match would determine which team was going to be knocked out of the running for the cup, and both werewolf and demon were adamant that their team would not be the one losing.

 “United’s keeper is a waste of space,” Timothy insisted as he held open the door to the Leaky Cauldron for Harry. “Even the fans agree!”

 “He is,” Harry agreed. Everybody in Gryffindor had heard Oliver’s rants and knew of his plans to apply for the position when he graduated at the end of this year. “But I could do better than the Magpie’s seeker. The snitch spent half the last match against the Arrows hovering at the end of his broom and he still managed to miss it!”

 “Don’t remind me,” Timothy groaned, thunking his head back against the wall as he waited for Harry to unlock the door to his room.

 “A bad keeper is one thing but you stand no chance without a half decent seeker,” Harry insisted as he let them into the room, blinking slightly at the mess. Perhaps he should have tidied up some of the clothes before they left this morning.

 “Seeker bias,” was the grumbled response. Harry shrugged and nodded unrepentantly.

 Timothy began emptying his pockets of all the shrunken bags that belonged to Harry, cancelling the shrinking charm as he passed them over to the wide-eyed demon. Harry couldn’t believe how much they had bought! He’d been aware that they had been in a lot of shops and bought quite a lot, but with all the bags disappearing into Timothy’s pocket he hadn’t really been keeping track of exactly how much they had. Now they were spilling off the bed and onto the floor.

 “Where in Merlin’s name am I going to put all of this?” Harry asked, stunned. There was no way even half of this would fit into his trunk, even with the inbuilt space expansion charm.

 “You could chuck out your old stuff,” Timothy suggested cheerfully. “No offence, but the clothes you’ve been wearing aren’t fit for rags. If you toss those out, you should have room.”

 “What would I say to the Dursleys when they see me with a whole new wardrobe and none of the clothes they gave me?”

 Timothy rolled his eyes, “Just tell them a friend bought them for you. It’s not even a lie - I did buy most of it, because you weren’t going to buy anything other than plain clothes even if you really liked the other stuff. Why would they care anyway? This way they don’t need to worry about getting new clothes for you, and you get to wear something in decent condition. It’s win-win.”

 “I don’t like flaunting my money,” Harry protested half-heartedly. He didn’t want to seem like an ungrateful brat by arguing and refusing to wear the clothes Timothy had bought for him, but nor did he want the Dursleys to know he had money, and lots of it.

 “You’re not flaunting anything,” Timothy reassured him. “Most of it was bought by me - and I couldn’t care less what your relatives think of my spending habits - and it’s not a crime to want new clothes.”

 Finally Harry gave in and pulled all of his old clothes out of his trunk, leaving only his school and quidditch uniforms and his Weasley jumpers. Everything else was piled in the centre of the room by slightly-too-gleeful Timothy, who promptly set fire to them and vanished the ashes.

 Even without his old clothes, not all of his new clothes fit into his trunk. Harry wondered how on earth the werewolf had managed to buy so much without him noticing, and when exactly he was supposed to wear it all. Hogwarts only required school uniform for classes and large events such as the Welcoming Feast, but even so that only left the evenings and weekends for wearing casual clothes - Harry now had enough clothes to be able to wear a new outfit every day for a fortnight without having to reuse anything. And he still didn’t believe he would ever need that suit Timothy had made him buy.

 “Do you ever clean your trunk out?” the huge werewolf asked, peering over Harry’s shoulder at the mess of balled up parchment, broken quills and old notes that littered the trunk bottom. “I swear I can smell dead things in there,” he added, wrinkling his nose.

 “That would be the potion ingredients,” Harry pointed out, “not some poor creature that crawled in and died.” But it was true that he hadn’t properly cleaned out his trunk since he bought it. There was a lot of stuff in there that he didn’t really need anymore, including some of his old textbooks.

 Hermione would be horrified at the idea of getting rid of any book, but honestly he didn’t see the need to keep the earlier volumes of the Standard Book of Spells when he had learnt most of the spells already and had the third volume that built on the previous two. Hogwarts had multiple copies of all the volumes anyway, along with many other first and second year books that he would only need to reference occasionally.

 Then something caught his eye.

 “My turn to burn things!” he declared. Scooping up a pile of books, he dropped them in a heap in the space Timothy had cleared for burning Dudley’s cast-offs and pulled out his wand. “Incendio.”

 He watched smugly as the Lockhart books began to burn.

 “I’m pretty sure that’s illegal,” Timothy commented mildly, keeping an eye on the fire in case it got out of hand.

 “As if there is any chance of my Trace still being active while I’m here,” Harry dismissed with a shrug. “Besides, if there was anything to get upset about it should be me hospitalising the author, not just burning his books. You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to do this.”

 “You hospitalised Lockhart?” Timothy asked incredulously. “How do you manage to get into so much trouble at school? When I was there the worst things we had were quidditch injuries and House rivalry incidents.”

 “Trouble just happens to me. Everyone else seems to be able to have a pretty normal school year, unless I’m involved. Lockhart was mostly to blame anyway; all I did was stand there as he tried to attack me. It back fired horribly, and he was shipped off to St. Mungo’s. I’m still not sure if it was demonic protective magic that caused it, or just the idiot’s sheer stupidity,” Harry mused.

 “He attacked you?!” Timothy growled, outraged. Lockhart had never had a large following in the Creature world - most of his books involved the defeat of various ‘dark and dangerous’ creatures, and no small amount of racism and discrimination against different creature races - but Harry had a sneaking suspicion that their passive dislike for the wizard was shortly going to become active hostility. He found it hard to feel sorry for the vain ponce.

 “Yes, he was teaching last year and a weird series of events led to him being cornered by two second years - me and my friend - and he felt attacking us was the only way out. It’s a long story though, and didn’t you say you were working tonight?”

 Timothy cast a Tempus and swore. “I’m going to have to run. This conversation is not over, and we will be discussing the Hogwarts’ staffs’ treatment of you,” he warned. “See you tomorrow at four. And put that fire out before you burn the place down.”

 Harry chuckled as he waved goodbye, and doused the fire as the door closed behind the rushing werewolf.

 

§`§`§`§`§`§`§`§`§`§

 

Timothy frowned as he straightened his shirt. He needed to make more of an effort to look presentable than usual tonight, and he’d spent longer with Harry than he had intended which had left little time to get showered and changed.

 The Boss was expecting an update tonight and the beta werewolf was nervous. Some of his news was very good news but he was unsure how Shax would take the rest of it. The demon wasn’t really the shoot the messenger type but that didn’t mean he wasn’t terrifying to be around when he was angry.

 With a deep, calming breath Timothy set out to the club. Fortunately the Fantastic Beasts nightclub was headquarters for most of Shax’s businesses and the block of apartments the Knockturn Pack shared was only around the corner, to allow the pack to remain close to the demon they worked for. He wouldn’t be very late for his meeting.

 “Hey Timmy boy! How’s the babysitting?” jeered one of the werewolves on the door of the club.

 Timothy grinned, showing far too many teeth. “I can’t complain. I get to spend my day sitting around eating ice-cream, and I have access to more money than I could use in three lifetimes. What’s not to like?” he asked, pushing past them dismissively. As he pulled open the door he glanced over his shoulder. “Oh, and Rikin? Call me Timmy again and I’ll feed you your own tail,” he said cheerfully.

 Inside he was surprised to see Domovoi, his alpha, pacing in front of the staircase that led up to the offices.

 “Where the hell have you been?” demanded the irate alpha the second he spotted the beta werewolf.

 Timothy blinked. “Shax assigned me to the demon sub. I’ve been in London with him,” he answered, gesturing vaguely towards the door behind him.

 “I know that,” his alpha snapped, making Timothy flinch slightly. The alpha werewolf was a half a foot shorter than him, but he was scary. “You were supposed to be in a meeting fifteen minutes ago. Are you trying to piss him off?”

 “I told you, I was in London,” Timothy said, feeling like a teenager trying to argue with his parents about curfew. He ducked the smack Domovoi aimed at his head.

 “Get upstairs and don’t come crying to me if you get stuck on delivery duty until your muzzle goes grey. You are supposed to be setting an example to the pups on the door, not turning up late with flimsy excuses! At least you got properly dressed, thank Merlin for small mercies,” Domovoi growled as he followed Timothy up the stairs. The larger werewolf wasn’t sure the alpha was even talking to him anymore, he seemed lost in his own ranting.

 At the top of the stairs a long corridor led deeper into the club. It was far longer than the dimensions of the building should allow, stretching on and occasionally branching off into another corridor. Even after working here for years Timothy still found the corridor rather intimidating, though he now felt like a naughty school boy being sent to see the headmaster; the first time he had made the walk to Shax’s office it had felt like he was going to meet the Devil. Although, when Shax was in a mood even Lucifer himself would watch his step around him.

 Stepping to the side, Timothy allowed his still scowling and muttering alpha to lead the way. The beta werewolf thought the alpha was overreacting to his tardiness. Shax may prefer punctuality - most people did - but he wasn’t particularly strict about it, and Timothy did have a good reason for being late. Not that he was going to voice these thoughts to his alpha. He quite liked the ability to breathe and Domovoi was slightly manic where Shax was concerned. The werwolf despised anything inconveniencing the demon, even more than the demon himself did.

 The walk to the office seemed even longer than usual with an annoyed alpha muttering under his breath as he led the way. When they finally reached the office Timothy obediently waited outside while his alpha went in first. It really was like being back in school, waiting to see the headmaster.

 A few minutes later the door opened and Domovoi’s head appeared for long enough to bark “In!” before disappearing again.

 “Good evening sir,” Timothy greeted Shax far more formally than he usually would. He could feel Domovoi’s glare boring holes into his back and had to squash down the rather suicidal urge to ask if he could get a drink from the bar before they started. It would amuse Shax but it would probably push Domovoi over the edge, so he resisted his insubordinate tendencies and sat quietly in the visitor’s chair in front of Shax’s desk.

 Trying to look meek and contrite was not easy when faced with a demon who looked far too amused by the situation. Clearly any annoyance Timothy’s tardiness had generated had been swept aside by the amusement of watching the trouble the werewolf was in with his alpha.

 “I got here eventually?” Timothy offered tentatively, after several seconds of silence while Shax fought not to laugh.

 Shax lost the battle and let out a snort of laughter as Domovoi snapped “Kirrin!”

 “Sorry Alpha,” the large werewolf said meekly, trying not to grin at the demon who was shaking with silent laughter. “I will endeavour to be more…er, punctual? Or respectful? I will endeavour to be more respectful in the future.”

 “Convincing,” Shax chuckled. This was one of the reasons he liked Timothy. The beta werewolf was a constant source of amusement and one of the few who didn’t waste time brown-nosing.

 Timothy pulled a kicked puppy look. “You think I’m lying to you?” he mock-pouted.

 “I think you are physically incapable of showing respect to your superiors,” Shax retorted dryly. “Now, if we could get to the reason you are here, before your alpha gives in to the urge to throttle you.”

 “Right, yes. The submissive,” the beta werewolf said, nodding enthusiastically. “He’s a Scouting demon submissive who likes chocolate ice-cream, hates potions homework and is obsessed with quidditch.” He finished with an innocent smile.

 He really should have been expecting the smack to the back of his head.

 “Kirrin, you are the single most irritating creature to have ever joined my pack,” Domovoi growled from behind him.

 “But you love me anyway?” Timothy said hopefully, tilting his head back, baring his throat to the two dominant Creatures in the room and looking at the exasperated amusement on his alpha’s face.

 “Yes, fortunately for you I have something of a soft spot for hopeless cases.”

 “I think I’m offended.”

 “Good. Now stop trying to wind us up or you’ll be on back to back shifts for the next three days,” Domovoi said, resting a hand on the back of the beta werewolf’s neck, part warning, part affection.

 As Domovoi rounded the desk to stand at Shax’s shoulder Timothy straightened in his seat, looking more businesslike than he had he even when he was being berated by his alpha downstairs.

 “Yes alpha,” he said, dipping his head respectfully before looking at Shax. “So, what do you want to know?”

 “Do you know what his plans are regarding finding a mate? Or why he hasn’t taken any steps so far?” Shax asked seriously. Before he found out anything else about the submissive, he needed to know what was holding the raven-haired demon back. The urge to find their first mate was extremely strong for a submissive and it became one of their primary concerns after their inheritance. However it would not be the first time a submissive’s natural instincts had been ignored or overridden by an outside force hoping to gain something from it. Such practices were unpleasant for the submissive involved and Shax would not tolerate it if that was the reason the little submissive hadn’t made any moves towards finding a mate.

 “His plans primarily seem to consist of winging it and hoping for the best. He is adamant that plans don’t agree with him and rarely work well around him,” Timothy said with a grin, knowing that Shax made contingency plans for contingency plans. Winging it wasn’t an option when he was juggling multiple businesses and dealing with both the legal and not so legal worlds.

 “So why hasn’t he done anything so far?” Shax pressed.

 “From what I can tell, he has very little - if any - support in this,” Timothy explained with a frown. “It doesn’t help that Knockturn is populated with Dark wizards at the top end. Demon or not, he is only thirteen and none of those wizards are friendly.”

 A low growl came from his alpha. Out of everyone in the room, Domovoi had the biggest issues with Dark wizards and those that supported them.

 “It’s a problem I’m dealing with, though,” Timothy continued. “If everything goes to plan I should be bringing him to the Alley tomorrow afternoon.”

 Shax blinked in surprise. “Tomorrow? You work fast.”

 “I like him,” Timothy grinned. “He has something of an attitude and a general disregard for rules and authority. Within reason, of course,” he added hurriedly at the unimpressed look on his alpha’s face. “He’s unsure and needs a confidence boost but I think he has high standards and is going to make any potential suitors work hard for it.”

 “You’ll like him then,” Domovoi chipped in from his spot at Shax’s shoulder.

 Shax did looked pleased at the news. A picky, demanding submissive would quickly discount the arrogant, young (and a few not so young) dominants who still thought they were the Realm’s gift to demon kind and that any submissive should be honoured to receive their attentions. Shax despised those dominants who didn’t give a submissive the respect they deserved, but no number of beatings in a dominance battle could cut a dominant down to size as effectively as a quick and disgusted rejection by a submissive.

 “You said he was unsupported?” Shax asked with a frown. “What about his parents, why aren’t they helping him?”

 “They died when he was a baby and current guardians are muggles,” Timothy said. “Not that they are likely to be much use anyway,” he continued with a growl. “I get the impression that his home life is…not the greatest.”

 The two dominants straightened, their gazes sharpening.

 “You think he is being abused?” Shax asked sharply.

 “He hasn’t said anything outright,” the beta werewolf said unhappily, “but he’s made a few comments that suggest something is not right, and some of his behaviour supports my suspicions.”

 Shax made an impatient noise when Timothy paused to gather his thoughts, and his courage. If the other two agreed with his suspicions then this could get unpleasant.

 “The most telling thing would be the comments he made today, and the condition of all of his muggle belongings” he started slowly. “I took him shopping in muggle London because the clothes he has been wearing are awful. I don’t think he owned anything that wasn’t second hand and at least four years old, other than his school clothes. And it’s not because he has no money. We went to Gringotts and his trust vault contains more than enough money to keep him comfortable for several years living a semi-luxurious lifestyle. But he refused to use much of it; he only bought the most basic things he could find, even if he saw something else he really liked, and he avoided anything that might make his relatives ask questions. He said that he didn’t want his uncle to know that he had money.”

 He paused again, hearing a low, rumbling growl beginning to build in his alpha’s chest. When Shax made an impatient gesture, he took a breath and continued.

 “Before that he also said that his relatives never take him anywhere. At first I thought it was just typical teenage moaning, that maybe his family wasn’t very well off so they didn’t go on fancy holidays, but combined with the other stuff, I’m not sure. He kept saying that he didn’t want to flaunt his money, but it seemed to have more to do with keeping it a complete secret than not making his relatives feel bad about their finical situation. And, thinking back, I think he was being serious when he said he rarely gets to go further than the local park.”

 “He is in Diagon Alley,” Domovoi pointed out, but he was scowling and the low growl was still rumbling in his chest.

 “Yeah, but he’s evasive about why he’s here. All he’ll say is that the muggle world isn’t a good place to look for a mate. Not untrue, but I really doubt it was the whole story.”

 Timothy shifted in his seat, wondering whether to share his other concerns or not. In for a knut, in for a galleon.

 “He’s also having issues with one of his teachers, who apparently despises him for unknown reasons. He thinks it has something to do with his father - the non-biological one, obviously - but he doesn’t know what.”

 By this time all three of them were growling lowly. Harry may have tried to pass the abuse off as nothing but if anything that only made Timothy more worried, and the more he thought about it the angrier he became at the situation.

 “I don’t know Snape well,” Timothy admitted, “but I do know that he has always been a biased git. Not to this extent though. He’s always docked House points for no reason but he didn't dock their grade, or so consistently attack one student.”

 “The submissive could be exaggerating,” Domovoi suggested, adopting the role of devil’s advocate. “It wouldn’t be the first time a teenager has decided the world is against him, or that the teacher of a subject they don’t do well in hates them and that is why their marks are bad.”

 Timothy shook his head slowly. “That’s true, but I don’t think it applies here. I’m no potions master” - he ignored his alpha’s snort - “but even I can tell he puts a lot of effort into his homework. He was in danger of being buried in a textbook avalanche when I was with him yesterday.”

 Shax and Domovoi looked extremely displeased. Their scowls were intimidating enough that Timothy briefly considered not sharing the last of his suspicions about Harry’s home life. He didn’t have any evidence, it was just one comment Harry had made that made him suspect. Still, if his suspicions were correct then it was something that needed dealing with as soon as possible, and Shax would be able to do more about it than he could.

 Steeling himself with a deep breath, the nervous werewolf stammered out, “I think - I think his relatives physically abuse him too.”

 Twin snarls broke out.

 An instinctive subservient whine left Timothy’s throat as he pushed his chair back, away from the two snarling dominant Creatures, and bared his throat submissively. He hated being the source of his alpha’s anger - this was true anger, not the affection tinged irritation from earlier - even if he was only the messenger. He hated being in the room with an angry Shax even more. His alpha was intimidating; Shax was downright terrifying. Knowing the two weren’t angry at him didn’t diminish the instinctive need to appease the two angry dominants.

 “Explain.”

 The curt command was all the beta werewolf needed to start explaining hurriedly.

 “During one of out conversations he made a comment about needing to be able to cope with violence to have lasted this long. It struck me as odd because hardly any submissives cope well with violence, and even those that do know how to handle themselves will avoid being in violent situations whenever possible. I could be making something out of nothing, but putting that comment with all his others, and some of his behaviour…” he trailed off with a shrug.

 “Do you know who his relatives are?” Shax asked in a voice that was far too level and calm. Even Domovoi looked wary of the demon.

 “The Dursleys. His aunt, uncle and cousin. Just the one cousin I think. At least, I could only smell one human on his clothes. Either his uncle or his cousin - probably his uncle - is called Vernon. That’s the only name I can remember him saying in connection to family,” Timothy answered promptly, wracking his brains for more information. “That’s all I can remember about them at the moment.”

 “Shax,” Domovoi began carefully, “what exactly are you planning?”

 “Nothing at the moment. I just want to know who they are and, maybe, find out where they live,” the demon answered in that far too calm voice.

 “Um, it’s not really my place, but you do plan to ask Harry what he thinks before you do anything, right?” Timothy asked hesitantly.

 If Harry really was being abused and wanted them to do something about his relatives, Timothy would be the first in line to deal with them (or maybe third in line - he didn’t want to get in Shax or Domovoi’s way), but he didn’t want anything to happen without Harry’s agreement. Submissives were all about family and weren’t very forgiving towards those that harmed them. The werewolf wasn’t sure if Harry considered his aunt and uncle family or just people he was unfortunate enough to share blood with, but he’d rather not find out by attacking the family only to have Harry come to their defence.

 “Of course I’ll ask. Or imply that something bad is going to happen to them and see how he responds. Same thing really,” Shax shrugged, looking far less angry than he had a moment ago.

 “I don’t think Harry will see it as the same thing,” Timothy protested half-heartedly. Once Shax had an made his mind up, it was very difficult to get him to change it. And Timothy only cared that Harry didn’t get hurt, which was unlikely to happen with a dominant demon mother-henning him, so the werewolf wasn’t too concerned, really.

 “So, his name is Harry?” Shax asked interestedly, shelving the Dursley issue until he had more information to work with. Like their home address.

 Timothy grinned mischievously, happy to drop the serious subject for now.

 “Yep. It’s his surname that might interest you most though.”

 Shax raised an eyebrow and made a get on with it gesture.

 “You’re not going to believe it, but that little submissive you’ve all been drooling over? He is Harry Potter!” Timothy said excitedly, practically vibrating in his seat.

 Domovoi was the first to break the stunned silence.

 “You didn’t fanboy all over him, did you?” he asked dryly, well aware of the beta werewolf’s somewhat inexplicable adoration of the young wizard (or demon, apparently) hero.

 “No! Well, not much. Only a tiny bit, for like two minutes. And he took it quite well. He was pretty sarcastic about it actually,” Timothy mused. “I don’t think he likes his fame all that much.”

 Domovoi rolled his eye’s at his subordinate werewolf’s excitement, but Shax was frowning.

 “This could cause problems.”

 “Problems?”

 “There are dominants here who only care about finding a submissive to mate with. They don’t care about the submissive’s wishes, and are only currently held back by fear of breaking the laws,” Shax explained. “Right now they will go to any lengths to get a mate, pushing the laws almost to their breaking point, only obeying them in word, not in spirit. Imagine how much worse they will be if they know that the submissive they are chasing after is Harry Potter.”

 “He is aware of that,” Timothy said after a moment. “He seems pretty confident that he can ‘weed them out’, as he put it.”

 Shax didn’t look very reassured. Harry had never experienced what dominants on the hunt for a mate could be like, and Shax doubted he truly knew what to expect.

 “There’s not much we can do anyway,” Timothy continued. “You two can’t approach him unless he comes to your first, and I’m a beta so I can’t interfere with a dominant trying to stake a claim on a submissive. I can offer my opinion to Harry, but I can’t stop it.”

 The three fell silent, Domovoi scowling at the wall, Timothy frowning down at the desk, and Shax twirling a pen in his fingers as he thought.

 Several minutes later the demon broke the contemplative silence.

 “There is nothing stopping you from introducing Mr. Potter to your pack,” he said slowly, going over the demonic and interspecies laws in his head. “That would, naturally, mean introducing him to your alpha. Mr. Potter is looking for his first mate, he will have little interest in any dominant who is not a demon.”

 The other two caught on quickly.

 “Any protective instincts towards him would be pack instincts,” Domovoi nodded, his scowl disappearing. “Which would make any interference on my part perfectly acceptable. Almost expected, if we get along well enough.”

 Timothy grinned, feeling happier knowing he had his alpha’s support. He was a perfectly capable adult but there were some situations he simply could not handle alone, and that was why he had a pack and an alpha.

 Domovoi grinned suddenly, gaining a wary look from Timothy and an exasperated look from Shax. The alpha werewolf grinning rarely meant good things for those around him.

 “You know,” Domovoi said cheerfully, “this could be fun.”

Chapter Text

Despite only arranging to meet Timothy at four, Harry had been in the Leaky Cauldron’s bar since noon. He was sitting at a table with a plate of sandwiches he had barely nibbled on and an open Runes textbook that he struggled to focus on for long enough to read. Nervous anticipation filled him, making him feel like he had before playing his first quidditch match.

It was finally happening! He was going to visit the Creature District and make a true start on his Scouting. No more days spent uselessly staring at Knockturn Alley, berating himself for being too much of a coward to brave it and go after something he truly wanted.

His head snapped up as the bell over the door jingled.

It was not Timothy.

Grumbling at his own overreaction, he checked his watch. 3.30pm, another thirty minutes until his escort was due to arrive. Just thirty minutes. He had already been here three and a half hours, how hard could waiting another thirty minutes be?

Very hard, Harry thought as he glanced at watch after what had felt like half an hour but had only really only been five minutes. Every time the bell over the jingled his head would snap up from the book he was supposed to be reading, hoping that Timothy had arrived early. It was going to give him whiplash if he carried on - the Leaky Cauldron was a very busy pub and people were coming and going constantly.

Finally, finally he spotted the bulky shape of Timothy entering through the door. There werewolf barely had a chance to glance around the room before Harry was on him, tugging him over to the table the small demon had commandeered for the afternoon.

“You’re ready to go then?” Timothy asked amused as Harry continued to drag him around, first venturing upstairs to drop off everything the demon wasn’t bringing with him, then back to the door leading to Diagon Alley. Harry was almost vibrating with excitement as they set off.

As they got closer to Knockturn Alley, however, the young demon began to feel increasingly nervous. He didn’t remember a great deal about his accidental trip to the Alley last year but what he did remember was not pleasant. Borgin and Burke’s had been creepy, the sinister feel of the shop not helped by witnessing Lucius Malfoy trying to sell what Harry suspected were illegal goods. Then the Alley itself had been scary with so many odd shops, unfamiliar faces and the aura of Darkness the place had.

The Darkness had of the place had been the worst thing. In his brief time in the wizarding world he had faced some very creepy magical creatures (the acromantula immediately sprang to mind) and met some odd beings (as much as he liked Hagrid, the half-giant wasn’t exactly normal), but none of them had been as intimidating as the Darkness that saturated the Dark District. The only things he had faced so far that were even comparable were Voldemort and the basilisk, each being inherently Dark and possessing their own Dark aura that was like a diluted version of what he felt in the Dark District.

It was that Darkness that made him take a step closer to Timothy as they reached the entrance to the Alley. The werewolf made no comment, simply clapping Harry on the shoulder - gently, to avoid sending the petite demon flying - and continued forwards into Knockturn. Harry pulled up the hood of his cloak and followed, keeping close to the large werewolf as they moved deeper into the Alley.

The raven haired demon examined the shops as they passed. Some of them weren’t much different to the shops in Diagon, with window displays of potions or clothes or everyday magic objects.
Other shops weren’t quite so innocent looking.

One shop looked like it sold body parts, while another had cages filled with creatures Harry was sure were more likely to appear in the Defence Against the Dark Arts curriculum than Care of Magical Creatures. A few shops, such as Borgin and Burke’s, radiated so much Dark magic that just looking at them for too long made Harry feel uncomfortable.

“Well, well. Dragging them in off the streets nice and young are we?” An oily voice dragged Harry’s attention away from the shops. “I didn’t know you beasts were getting so desperate.” The man said, leering at Harry’s cloaked form.

Timothy stepped between them with a snarl, drawing a few startled looks from passersby - nobody lingered once they saw where the noise was coming from. Glancing up, Harry was surprised to see the werewolf’s eyes flashing gold.The full moon wasn’t for another week or so and it took a lot to rile a werewolf enough for them to show wolf traits outside of the few days surrounding the full moon. The wizard’s arrogant smirk didn’t diminish but Harry could feel the wizard’s Dark aura snao around them defensively.

“Now, now, that’s a bit of an overreaction,” the wizard drawled but neither Creature missed how his hand now rested on his wand. “Quite unnecessary, unless you really do have something to hide?”

With effort Timothy pulled the wolf back enough to talk, though he could quiet the growl rumbling in his chest. “Of course we have things to hide. We’re good at it too, or have you forgotten who you are paying to keep your dirty dealings hidden from the Ministry?”

“Big words from a man relying on charity to hold a job. Your lot are too dependant on our money to stop hiding us. Besides, do you think the Ministry would side with a bunch of filthy beasts over respectable pureblood wizards?” the wizard sneered.

“Maybe not, but wouldn’t it be a shame if our services happened to lapse the same day the DMLE received an anonymous tip about your family’s black market trading? Imagine the scandal when the Prophet found out,” Timothy said calmly, not moving from his place in front of Harry. The wizard gritted his teeth glaring at the werewolf before storming off, muttering angrily about half-breeds.

“I can take care of myself you know,” Harry muttered once the wizard was gone. He hadn’t wanted to interfere in an argument he knew very little about but he didn’t want Timothy thinking that he couldn’t handle a single wizard being a racist arse. He hadn’t backed down from Lucius Malfoy at the end of the school year and he wasn’t about to start letting Dark wizards push him around now. The Dark District may set him on edge but he wasn’t some weak little submissive who needed a protecter to hide behind.

Timothy huffed. “If half of what you have told me about your antics so far is true I don’t doubt that you can take care of yourself. That doesn’t mean I’m going to abandon you to deal with everything by yourself, especially not here. I live here, I know more about how to handle the idiots here than you do, and it’s easier for me to deal with them than it would be for you, so I will deal with them.”

Harry scowled but didn’t argue. The werewolf’s argument made sense and knowing that Timothy hadn’t intervened just because Harry was a submissive made him feel better about it. He heard far too much ‘submissives should be protected’ from his housemates at school.

The advantage of the confrontation was that it had distracted Harry from his surroundings. By the time he had stopped in metal griping about the overprotectiveness of dominants they were almost in the Creature District. The worst of the Dark shops had been passed and most of the shops around them now sold Neutral (if legally questionable) goods that would be of interest to both wizards and Creatures.

With the Dark shops behind them Harry went back to studying the shop displays with renewed interested. It quickly became apparent that not all the buildings were shops. There were several pubs, some cafes and a few places that Harry didn’t get to look too closely at as Timothy hurried him past them, including one place called Veela’s Promise.

The transition from Dark District to Creature District was hard to miss. Passing under a stone archway, the Alley opened out into a large courtyard filled with cafes, shops and a few bars, with a street leading out of the square directly across fro the Knockturn entrance. It was also filled with Creatures.

Walking into the square reminded Harry of the first time he entered Gryffindor common room, his senses almost overwhelmed by the number of Creatures in one place. The Creature District was much more intense than Gryffindor Tower had been, having a greater number and variety of Creatures. Harry could see a group of goblins sitting outside one of the bars and even a banshee sticking to the shadows near a cafe. The other outstanding difference between Gryffindor Tower and the Creature District was the lack of children here. Only those who had come into their inheritance were allowed in the District, which meant Harry was likely the youngest person there.

Next to him, Timothy was grinning at the young submissive’s awe. Most people had their family to show them around for their first visit, so this was the first time the werewolf had had the opportunity to introduce someone to his home. Harry’s obvious delight at the place made him puff up proudly.

“Come on, there’s a place everybody who comes here should visit. You can gawk later, the square isn’t going anywhere,” Timothy teased giving Harry a nudge. Making sure the demon was following him, Timothy made a beeline for one of the more unusual - and popular - cafes in the square.

Harry recalled seeing photographs from one of the Dursley’s many holidays when they had visited a restaurant called the Rainforest Cafe. As impressive as the muggle jungle-themed restaurant had looked, it had nothing on the coffee house Timothy was leading him into. The building had no sign with a name as far as he could see, but it didn’t need one. Not many cafes had a doorway made of woven vines with loose hanging vines forming a curtain in place of a door.

Inside was no less impressive. The floor was carpeted in real grass and all the furniture seemed to be small, oddly shaped, but very much alive trees, with roots disappearing into the grass and small green shoots with leaves sprouting from the legs of tables and chairs. Looking up, Harry couldn’t see even a hint of ceiling as a thick canopy of leaves obscured it completely, and as he looked closer, the demon thought he could see movement in the treetops.

“Leena’s has that effect,” Timothy said smugly, delighted at Harry’s continued slack-jawed amazement at what the Creature District had to offer. He hoped that showing Harry what he was missing by staying away from the place would help the young demon overcome his fear of Knockturn Alley. He had not commented on it but that didn’t mean he had missed how uncomfortable Harry had been walking through the Dark District.

“Are the plants real?” Harry asked curiously. They certainly looked real, despite the odd shapes many had grown into to form tables and chairs. Then again, Harry had seen magic achieve some rather realistic looking impressions of nature since joining Hogwarts, the most impressive being the ceiling of the Great Hall.

“Mostly. Some of the canopy is just charmed ceiling so you can’t see the brickwork showing through. I think some of the grass is fake too, underneath tables and near the bar, to prevent spills making things too muddy,” Timothy answered tilting his head consideringly. “You’d have to ask Leena for more detail. She created this place from scratch. Before this,” he gestured at the foliage surrounding them, “it was a…er,” the werewolf paused, suddenly remembering that - inheritance aside - Harry was still only thirteen, and he had a very scary dominant who was quite particular about conduct around submissives looking out for him. “Let’s just say it was a strictly adults only establishment, until it was decided that places like that should be moved out of the square.”

“Timothy!” a voice snapped from over by the counter, making Harry jump. “Are you going to stand in everybody’s way nattering all day or were you planning to sit down at some point?”

“Now that you mention it, I think I will stand here all day,” he retorted sticking his tongue out at the woman who had snapped at him. Belying his words, the werewolf did make his way over to a seat by the counter, Harry trailing after him. He chuckled as the woman rolled her eyes at him.

“Harry meet Leena. Leena meet Harry, he’s a huge fan of your work.” Timothy grinned at the exasperated noises the two made.

“You, sit down and be quiet,” Leena said jabbing a finger at the puerile werewolf. Her scowl turned into a smile as she turned to Harry. “Like this big lummox said, I’m Leena. I own the cafe.”

“And rule it with an iron fist,” Timothy muttered, then yelped as he was bitten by what looked suspiciously like a juvenile Venomous Tentacular growing out of the underside of the counter.

“I said quiet, you,” Leena said without looking at the pouting werewolf, then continued talking to an amused Harry. “I don’t know what you did to deserve being stuck with this idiot but I feel sorry for you.”

“He’s not that bad,” Harry said, grinning as Timothy sat up a little straighter, “he just needs a mute button fitting.”

“You’re both evil,” the werewolf declared with a mock huff, crossing his arms over his wide chest and turning his back to them as the other two laughed.

“Here,” Leena said placing a mug of coffee in front of the large man. “A peace offering. Sort of. What kind of drinks do you like, Harry?”

“Um, what do you have?” Harry asked unsurely, at the same time as Timothy questioned suspiciously, “‘Sort of’ peace offering?”

Ignoring the brunette who was eyeing his coffee with distrust, Leena answered Harry. “There isn’t a set menu here. Once I know what kind of drinks you like - coffee, tea, milky, sweet, strong, decaf, unsweetened; that sort of thing - then I make whatever I think would suit your mood whenever you visit. If I make something you don’t like, bring it back and I’ll make you something else and I won’t give you that drink again. My plants never forget a presence so once I know what you like, I’ll always know,” she explained.

Deciding not to mention how creepy the idea of plants always being able to identify him was, Harry smiled. “That’s impressive. I’m not fussy about what I drink. I don’t like strong coffee though,” he said with a grimace, thinking of the drink Dean Thomas was addicted to. “Anything sweet is a safe bet.”

“Sweet and no strong coffee, that’s easy enough,” Leena smiled, jotting something down in a large book she had under the counter.

“Seriously, what did you do to my drink?” Timothy whined, still refusing to touch the coffee he had been given.

“I haven’t done anything to your drink, which you would know if you had spent more time drinking and less time whining. Or if you have used those wolfy senses of yours,” an exasperated Leena said as she started making a drink for Harry.

Timothy didn’t looked convinced. “Why is it only a ‘sort of’ peace offering then?”

“Because I’m filling you full of sugar and caffeine before unleashing you on your unsuspecting packmates. I think that counts as a passive-aggressive attack on your alpha.”

“Oh. Well. That’s ok then,” Timothy said happily, taking a swig of the coffee.

“Here you go, Harry. We’re starting you off with something simple, a vanilla latte. If you like it I’ll make something more adventurous for you next time,” the petite woman said setting a drink down in front of the demon.

“Thanks,” he said reflexively. Most of his attention was focused on the werewolf next to him. In Timothy’s hand the mug looked like a normal sized coffee mug but, as Harry watched him gulp the contents down, he realised that anything that looked normal sized when Timothy held it must be big. “What exactly did you give him?” he asked, turning to look at Leena. “And how much did you give him?”

“Very strong coffee with about three tablespoons of sugar dumped in it,” Leena said with a small, evil looking smile. “And enough of it to give a dragon jitters. If he wasn’t a werewolf I’d worry about him having heart palpitations when he finished it.”

Harry watched in fascinated horror as the werewolf drained the mug. Then Timothy asked for another.

“What did his alpha do to you to deserve this?” Harry asked Leena, sliding his stool away from the werewolf slightly, idly noting that the stool moved easily enough despite its roots. Mercifully the second mug Leena gave Timothy was much smaller.

“I do not like an alpha who allows his wolves to get so out of hand they decide to use my garden as a urinal,” Leena scowled.

Timothy turned bright red, choking on his coffee.

“That was one time! And it was the full moon, and I was really, really drunk!” Timothy protested. “It was mostly Rick’s fault anyway, and I’ve apologised like a hundred times. And believe me, Alpha did not let me get away with it, he took it out on my hide.”

“I am a dryad! That tree you urinated all over was a very special one!” the angry dryad hissed.

Harry’s jaw dropped as he looked between the scowling dryad and blushing werewolf. A giggle escaped him before he could stop it. He clapped a hand over his mouth, eyes wide as the other two looked at him.

“Sorry!” he squeaked out through his fingers.

Leena scowled at him for a moment before sighing. “It’s fine. I can see how the story is amusing to others, even if I don’t find it funny. That doesn’t mean that you,” she jabbed a finger at Timothy who held his hands up in surrender, “are forgiven.”

This time Harry let himself laugh.

“Be quiet you or I’ll tell everyone you giggled,” Timothy huffed.

“I can’t believe you peed on a dryad,” Harry laughed.

“You’re another one who is never going to let me forget it, aren’t you?” Timothy groaned, his head thudding onto the counter.

As Harry opened his mouth to reply, a soft chime indicated someone had come through the vine covered doorway. This had been happening the entire time they had been here - as Timothy has said, Leena’s was a very popular place - but this time Harry straightened in his seat.

This time the person who had entered was a dominant demon.

Chapter Text

Harry could feel the eyes of the dominant on his back as they approached the counter. He glanced at them out of the corner of his eye as they stopped on the other side of Timothy, well out of Harry’s personal space so they could not be accused of forcing their presence on a submissive.

Harry’s first thought was young.

He wasn’t sure how he knew - the dominant looked like any human in their twenties, and age prediction had never been a skill Harry had had before - but he was certain that this dominant was barely a century old. Only just old enough to be looking for a mate at all.

Nothing was said as the dominant waited for his drink then made his way over to a table on the other side of the cafe, avoiding eye-contact with Harry the entire time.

“So,” Timothy said slowly, tracking the movements of the dominant, “what happens now?”

“Well, it’s up to me to make the next move,” Harry said, taking a gulp of his latte.

“Next move?” Timothy parroted, confused. “Doesn’t that require him to have made a move? He hasn’t done anything, has he?”

“I’ll leave you two to it. Just remember, no fighting or fornicating in my cafe - take it outside!” Leena said sternly before moving off down the counter to talk to a goblin sitting further away. Timothy cackled as Harry blushed at the suggestion that he would do anything like that in front of so many people and with a complete stranger!

“Stop smirking,” the demon muttered, elbowing the amused werewolf in the ribs.

“I’m not smirking,” Timothy said, smirk still firmly in place. “And you haven’t explained why you’re making the next move when he,” he jerked his head in the direction of the dominant, “hasn’t done anything.”

“You have no concept of subtly, do you?” Harry said, rolling his eyes. “He came into the cafe while I’m here, that counts as him making a move.”

“Right…No, I still don't get it. How is getting coffee even close to making a move towards attracting a mate?”

“I’m still in the Scouting stage so approaching me directly isn’t allowed, but by coming to the Alley - into the territory where it is well known the doms are - I’m showing my interest without actually Advertising. It’s kind of hard to explain without you having the instincts that we have to guide us,” Harry frowned as he tried to think of a way to explain. “It’s sort of like a compromise between the rules about Scouting and the rules about Advertising; they can approach me indirectly by being more obvious about their interest, even if they can’t instigate anything. By coming into the cafe and making his presence so obvious, he’s making his move and expressing his interest - I can tell he is staring at me - but unless I go and talk to him, or starting talking to someone beneath him in the hierarchy that they must have established by now, this is as much as he can do until I start Advertising. Then they are all free to approach me whenever they like, unless I reject them,” Harry explained to the interested werewolf.

“Huh. Your mating habits have way more rules than ours do. And who the fuck decided to call it ‘Advertising’? That sounds,” he paused, rethinking what he had been about to say when he saw Harry’s raised eyebrow. “I think you’d hex me if I finished that sentence, so let’s just go for tacky. It sounds tacky.”

“Well cheers. If the rumours about how werewolves choose mates are true then you’re hardly the race to be making comments,” Harry snarked. “It’s called Advertising because that’s the nearest translation we have. The true word for it is in the language of Realm demons, they have a special word for it but the nearest translation in English would be something like ‘advertising the readiness to meet dominants and properly begin the Courting process’. That is a bit of a mouthful so ‘Advertising’ is easier, and any demon I mention it to will know what I mean.”

“Why not just use the Realm demon word?”

“Can’t,” Harry shrugged. “I’m not sure why but human vocal chords can’t make the right sounds to form the words for most of the Realm demon language. Earth-born demons have mostly human bodies, so we stick to english - or whatever our native language is.”

“I guess that makes sense. Still, couldn’t you have chosen a better word?” Timothy teased. Harry rolled his eyes and sipped his drink which was going cold but still tasted nice. “So what about the hierarchy thing? Anyone who has been in the District for the last few days has seen at least one fight between demons but what is it actually for? Demons don’t live in large groups so it can’t be like pack hierarchy.”

“From the submissives’ point of view? Not much other than who has the right to approach when. If I’m talking to a weaker dom, a stronger dom can join the conversation, or when I start Advertising - don’t say anything, you - the stronger doms have the right to approach first,” Harry shrugged. “It doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Some people might only be bothered about having the strongest mate but it seems like a pretty stupid way to choose a life partner to me. Of course, the whole hierarchy thing probably means more to a dominant but you’d have to ask a dom to find out what they get from it,” he said, finishing his drink.

“Yeah, I think I’ll pass on that. I’m not curious enough to risk getting my arse handed to me for prying,” Timothy said, wincing internally as he though of how Shax would react to the knowledge that Timothy had been asking so many questions about how the demon mating process worked. His only saving grace was that Harry had been happy to explain.

“I’m surprised the first dom to make any kind of move is so young,” Harry mused, glancing over his shoulder at said dominant.

“Maybe he’s the sacrificial lamb,” Timothy suggested, being much more obvious about his staring at the dom.

“Stop that,” Harry elbowed the werewolf. “Weren’t you taught that it is rude to stare? Honestly! And what is the ‘sacrificial lamb’ supposed to mean?”

“Well, with werewolves if an alpha is interested in an omega but the omega hasn’t shown any real signs of wanting a mate yet then the weakest beta of the pack is sent to test the waters. If the omega’s pack kick the beta’s arse or the omega gives an outright rejection, the alpha waits; if it all goes well for the beta, the alpha makes their move. Maybe it’s the same situation here,” the werewolf explained with a shrug.

“He’s here to see if he will be beaten up?” Harry questioned dubiously.

“Or rejected. Most likely rejected. No offence, but you don’t exactly look the part for people to expect you to beat him up, but if you aren’t interested in being approached you could reject him.”

“That does make sense, in a cowardly, man-up-and-take-your-own-risks kind of way,” Harry nodded slowly.

“So what are you planning on doing?”

Harry thought about it for a moment.

“Seeing if your theory is correct and messing with whichever dom sent him if it is," he answered eventually. "It would be an unfortunate backfire for them if I only showed interest in their sacrificial lamb, wouldn’t it?”

“So you’re going to lead the subordinate dom on to piss off the stronger dom?” Timothy frowned. That seemed a little cold.

“No, but unless the guy is a complete twit it is going to take more than one conversation to see if he is mate material. I doubt it will take long for the other dom to show up, if there is another dom,” Harry elaborated.

“I thought you said he is too young?”

“I said he is surprisingly young. If he was too young he wouldn’t be here.”

“Ok, so what’s your plan?”

“To talk to him,” Harry said with a shrug. “So I’m afraid I’ll be abandoning you for a while. Will you be here later?”

“Probably. Annoying Leena is a fun hobby. But just in case…Leena?” he called over to the dryad who was talking to someone in a full body cloak at the other end of the bar. She turned to look at them. “If I’m not here later can Harry use your Floo to get back?” he asked.

“Of course. Just Harry, mind. You can walk for all I care,” she said, smiling at Harry and glaring at Timothy.

“There you go, problem solved. If for some reason I’m not around just tell Leena you want to leave,” Timothy said, getting to his feet. “I’ll see if anyone from the pack is here and leave you to it. If you need me just ask Leena to show you where the pack usually sits. She usually makes us sit as far away from the bar as possible. I can’t imagine why,” he finished innocently.

“No, it’s a mystery,” Harry said dryly, also standing. “I guess I’ll see you later then.”

“Good luck. Have fun and remember, no fornicating in the cafe!”

“Timothy! You git!” Harry spluttered at the laughing werwolf, blushing. Muttering under his breath, the demon struggled to get his blush under control. He was not going to let the first impression the dominant had of him be a blushing, stammering mess.

Once his face had returned to its normal colour, he made his way over to the dominant.

“Hi. Er, do you mind if I sit here?” he asked awkwardly as the dominant stared at him. The awkwardness grew as the dominant continued to stare at him as if he couldn’t believe this was actually happening. “Um…is that a no?” Harry asked to break the awkward silence, cursing internally. Why couldn’t the innate knowledge he had been gifted with by his demon sire come with an inbuilt ‘how to approach a dominant without looking like an idiot’ guide?

Hearing his voice for a second time seemed to snap the dominant back to reality.

“Sorry! Please, sit down,” the dominant said, flushing. “Sorry, that was rude. I didn’t mean to ignore you but I wasn’t expecting you to approach me. And I’m making it worse, aren’t I? Sorry.”

Harry chuckled, suddenly feeling a lot less nervous. “It’s fine. It did take me a while to get around to it.” He suddenly felt oddly like he was on Timothy’s side of the first conversation he had with the werewolf a few days ago.

“I wouldn’t have been surprised if you hadn’t bothered. I’m the youngest and weakest here.”

“So?” Harry asked, raising an eyebrow. The question seemed to throw the young dominant.

“So everyone is saying I don’t have a chance. That someone barely old enough to take a mate isn’t even going to be considered,” he answered honestly, looking down at Harry’s hands to avoid his gaze.

Harry snorted. “Yeah? Well ‘everyone’ can go hug a fire-crab. I don’t need some up-himself dom telling me what I should be looking for in a mate. You're a candidate if I say you’re a candidate.”

The dominant blinked at the irritated tone, not sure how to respond.

“I’m Harry by the way. I forgot to say that earlier, sorry,” Harry said sheepishly.

“Oh! Yeah, I’m Damian. Damian Rowle,” the dominant said, offering a hand to shake. “My dads would smack me upside the head if they knew what a mess I’m making of this,” he said ruefully, shaking his head. “I’m not making the best first impression, am I?”

“You sound less socially awkward than I did when I met Timothy,” Harry said with a grin. “I’m surprised he didn’t leave to get away from the weird, babbling demon. Don’t tell him I said that, I’d never hear the end of it. He’s bad enough when he’s teasing me about my Scouting.”

“Is Timothy the werewolf you were with at the bar?”

“Yes, he’s part of the local pack. He can be as bad as my dorm-mates at times,” Harry grinned.

“I think I’ve seen him at Fantastic Beasts,” the dominant said nodding. “He’s always looked pretty serious when he’s there. I suppose he would have to be though. It is where all the dominants have been gathering to…you know,” he finished lamely.

Harry frowned, confused. “No, I don’t know,” he said shaking his head slowly. “Where the doms do what?”

“Where we…fight,” Damian hesitated on the last word. Harry raised his eyebrows.

“Ok. Is that a euphemism for something I’m missing or do you have some aversion to the word fight?” he said slowly.

“Well we aren’t supposed to talk about it with submissives. You don’t like violence and we’re meant to avoid subjects that might upset you,” the dominant said defensively.

“Seriously?” Harry asked incredulously. “Where are getting this advice? Please tell me not everyone is going to think stuff like that or else I’m going to get violent.”

“It’s not true then?” the young dominant asked, looking unsure.

“Well I don’t particularly like violence and if it has to happen I prefer it to happen away from me, but I’m not going to faint or burst into tears just because you mentioned a fight,” Harry said. He really hoped this was just because Damian was young and had been given bad information, and not something he should expect from all the dominants he met. He wasn’t kidding about the violence if they were all so overly cautious - he’d happily knock some sense into them. “I go to Hogwarts and I’m in Gryffindor, it’s pretty much guaranteed I’ll get into at least one House rivalry fight. Did you think that in thirteen years I’d never experienced violence in some way?” he asked, still not quite able to believe he was having to explain this.

“I have a sister who’s also a demon and she’s always been kept away from any fighting,” argued Damian, back to being defensive. Harry was just glad that at least the dominant didn’t consider arguing to be too distressing for him.

“Maybe it works like that for Earth-sired demons but I’ve never been coddled to the point that violence is a foreign concept.” Quite the opposite really, but he wasn’t going to tell Damian about his oh-so-loving relatives or his more adventurous school days. It was bad enough Timothy knew anything about them; he didn’t need a dominant who thought the word ‘fight’ would upset him asking questions about them. “Like I said, school isn't exactly violence free, despite the teachers’ best efforts. Plus I play quidditch which is definitely not violence free, especially against Slytherin, cheating gits that they are.”

“But submissives are supposed to be protect. That’s what dominants are for!” the young dominant protested.

“Yeah, but there is ‘protected’ and then there’s ‘wrapped so tightly in cottonwool we can barely breathe’” Harry pointed out. “If we’re never let near anything even remotely like conflict, how are we supposed to be effective heads of households and run a family? A dom and a sub are supposed to support each other, not have the sub always hidden away by the dom.”

“How are we supposed to protect you if we let you get involved in dangerous situations?” Damian asked, looking honestly confused.

“I’m not suggesting you let your submissive go out and fight dragons or something,” Harry very carefully did not think too hard about the basilisk he had killed a few weeks ago, “but trying to keep them away from any violence at all is ridiculous. Honestly, if I was treated like that it would take less than a week before I snapped and smothered you with a pillow. I don’t really want to watch people beat the living daylights out of each other or be involved in any real fights unless I have to, but I also don’t want to be kept away from quidditch or roughhousing with my Housemates - or hexing Draco’s poncey arse when he’s being a prat, which is pretty much always.”

“That doesn’t sound much like what I’ve been told submissives want from a dom. Even the dominants outside my family agree that protecting the submissives is paramount,” Damian sounded less disbelieving than he had previously but he still didn’t seem to be sold on the idea that submissives didn’t need to be treated like glass.

“So it’s better to have a submissive who is isolated and miserable because they never get to experience anything, as long as they are safe?” challenged Harry. Then he sighed. “Honestly, I’m probably not the best person to ask about this stuff. My inheritance happened less than a month ago, so I’m still experiencing instincts I didn’t know I had, and even the innate knowledge from being Realm-sired can only help so much. I don’t fully understand the instincts driving some thought processes and there are huge gaps in my knowledge about Earth-sired demons, and I definitely can’t tell you how every sub feels about everything. Still, instead of relying on preconceived notions given to you by other doms, why don’t you trying asking the submissives what they want? Some might like the whole über-protective thing, but others like me would find it really annoying.”

The young dominant looked rather dazed by the flood of information and advice that was almost the opposite of what he had been taught before. Harry ran his fingers through his hair, subconsciously flattening his fringe down over his forehead, and chuckled weakly.

“You know, this isn’t really how I imagined my first meeting going,” he said, smiling ruefully. “I’d planned on getting to know you, not lecturing you. Sorry.”

“No. No need to apologise. I usually only talk to other doms about this sort of thing. Hearing things from a subs point of view has been…interesting,” the dominant said with a sheepish grin. “Maybe we could start over? I’ll try to be less of an idiot this time.”

Harry nodded and opened his mouth to reply but was cut off by a derisive voice drawling, “How have you managed to screw up already, half-pint? Ten minutes alone and you’re already begging for a second chance.”

Harry had been distracted by his conversation with Damian and hand’t noticed the entry of another dominant. He did, however, notice how Damian shrank back and avoided meeting anyone’s eyes, looking embarrassed. Harry’s eyes narrowed. Hierarchy was one thing, but deliberately humiliating a weaker dominant - especially one so young, who had done nothing to deserve it - was unnecessary and did not endear the new dom to Harry.

“Can I help you?” Harry asked shortly, giving the new arrival an unimpressed look.

“If you drop the little kid and join me for a drink I can help you. A big strong dom to keep you satisfied, and I’m plenty big enough for you, babe,” the dom said, raising his eyebrows suggestively.

Harry snorted. This was more embarrassing to listen to than Lee Jordan’s attempts at flirting with the seventh year quarter-nymph last year, that time the twins had got him drunk.

“How old are you?” Harry asked, unimpressed.

The dominant looked taken aback for a moment, clearly not expecting such a curt response to his offer, but the cocky smirk quickly returned.

“153 years old. Plenty old enough to know how to please you, babe,” he answered, puffing up his chest and winking at Harry. The submissive demon wondered how badly Leena would take it if he hexed the prat in her cafe.

“Clearly not. Fuck off,” Harry said succinctly, turning back to Damian who looked torn between worry and amusement.

“What?” said the still nameless dominant. “You can’t just tell me to fuck off. I’m the stronger dom, I have the right to approach you while you’re talking to a weak little shit like him!” he protested angrily.

“You approached, I’m not interested. Now shoo,” Harry said, not even looking at the older demon.

“You can’t just dismiss me for no reason! We haven’t even had a conversation yet,” insisted the dominant.

Harry growled in frustration. A submissive demon’s growl was not as intimidating as a dominant’s but it did grab the attention of every dominant in hearing range - demon or otherwise. The noise level in the cafe dropped as the dominants broke off conversations, looking for the source of the growl and whatever was bothering the growling submissive.

Harry words carried clearly across the sudden quiet, “We have talked as much as we are going to. You had the right to approach me, you approached me. You have been nothing but crass and rude from the first word. Unsurprisingly, I am beyond not interested. I’ve told you to leave twice. If that was too difficult for you to understand, let me make it perfectly clear: I do not like you, I am not interested in you and unless you have a serious personality change I pity any submissive stupid enough to mate with you. I want you to leave. I do not want want to see you again. Ever. If I have to ask again, I will bring it to the attention of the Council. Is that clear enough for you?” Harry growled.

Halfway through Harry’s rant, silence had descended on the cafe. Fights were not uncommon in the Creature District but it was not often that a submissive was seen tearing into a dominant they were not related or mated too.

Several of the dominants tensed as it became clear that the dominant Harry had dismissed was not planning to leave. Instead he stepped towards the young submissive threateningly.

Harry slid his wand out of his pocket and gave his slowly building demonic magic a mental prod. It wasn’t fully developed yet, still more child’s magic than adult’s, but it was unusually conflict-orientated for a submissive and would give him an advantage if he did end up fighting.

Fortunately someone intervened before a fight broke out. Two someones, in fact.

“Enough! What the hell do you think you are doing?”

“Not in my shop! Get out if you can’t control yourself!”

Harry recognised Leena’s voice but it was the other, angry male voice that stopped the advancing dominant in his tracks.

“You have been asked to leave repeatedly. Leave now, before someone drags you up in front of the Council for indecent behaviour towards a submissive. They will already be hearing about this, don’t make it worse,” the voice growled getting closer.

Harry glanced away from the angry dominant, unsurprised to see that the speaker was another demon dominant. This new dominant seemed older than the other two, and much more confident - the real confidence that comes from tackling the challenges life throws at you, not the cocky bravado of youth. He also wasn’t bad to look at Harry noted, taking in his broad shoulders, strong jaw and what he could see of his toned body. All in all he was quite distracting Harry thought as he dragged his attention back to the angry dominant standing only a few feet away.

The two dominants glared at each other, growling.

“Not. In. My. Shop!” came the angry voice of Leena, this time accompanied by an ominous rustling of plants overhead. Before entering the wizarding world Harry had never really considered plants as dangerous - poisonous maybe, but not inherently dangerous. Then he had encountered Devil’s Snare and the Whomping Willow and his views had changed radically. He wondered how much more dangerous plants controlled by an angry dryad were than the violently reactive Snare and Willow. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know.

After a long, tense moment, the younger dominant finally began to retreat, watched carefully by the others in the cafe until he disappeared out the door.

A snort and a caustic comment from a goblin over by the door broke the tense silence. Conversations quickly started up again, the brief conflict seemingly forgotten, and Harry noticed Timothy watching him with concern. He smiled to the werewolf to show he was ok and watched as Timothy disappeared back to wherever he had been sitting before the fight.

“Well,” Harry said after a moment, looking between the older dominant who had helped him and Damian who had been watching wide-eyed. “That was fun.” He could have sworn he heard Timothy snorting.

“Are you ok?” the older dominant asked, looking concerned but not coming closer.

“I’m fine,” Harry said, putting his wand back into his pocket. He really needed a better place to keep it, fumbling to grab it out of his pocket whenever there was a confrontation could cause problems if situations like this became a regular occurrence. “I’ve met scarier things than him in the corridors at school.” He wasn’t exaggerating either, he thought, thinking back to Fluffy - he’d take an angry dominant over a Cerberus any day - but the dominants didn’t need to know that.

The dominant didn’t looked convinced but didn’t comment.

“Do you want to sit down?” Harry asked as the dominant made no move to come any closer but also seemed reluctant to leave. “If you ask if I’m sure I’ll throw the sugar bowl at you,” Harry threatened as the dominant opened his mouth to do just that. “Now sit!”

The dominant wisely didn’t argue, taking a seat as Damian warily slid the sugar bowl away from Harry. After his conversation with Harry, and seeing the submissive fully prepared to take on a dominant more than ten times his age, he had no doubt the submissive was not above throwing crockery at people who annoyed him.

“Is searching for a mate always this exciting?” Harry asked once everyone was settled.

“Not usually,” the older dominant answered slowly, not sure what to make of the feisty submissive.

“Just me then,” Harry sighed. “Typical.”

Neither dominant looked sure how to respond.

“I’ve made things awkward, haven’t I? You can talk you know, I don’t bite.”

“I’m trying to avoid being shouted at agin,” Damian joked with a small grin.

“I didn’t shout at you,” Harry protested.

“You did lecture me.”

“Ok, yes, I did, but it was for your own good! You were never going to get a mate thinking like that,” insisted Harry. “Please tell me you don’t believe the same things,” he said to older dominant, who looked amused at the exchange.

“What am I not supposed to believe?”

“Do you talk about fighting in front of submissives?” Harry asked. The dominant looked surprised. Whatever he had been expecting, it was not that.

“I suppose it depends on who I’m with. I wouldn’t talk about it in front of my mother but my sister doesn’t mind as long as I don’t give her any details, and I think my brother’s mate actually enjoys it, but she is a kelpie which might have something to do with it,” he answered after a moment.

“See!” Harry said to Damian. “It’s not just me.”

“Do I want to know?” the older dominant asked, half wary, half amused.

“Probably not,” Harry grinned. “I’m Harry by the way. I should have started with that, sorry. I’m not very good at this. ‘Mione would have hit me with a book by now if she was here,” he rambled. Maybe adding caffeine and sugar to the cocktail of excitement and nerves had been a bad idea. His brain-to-mouth filter seemed to be broken.

At least the dominants looked amused.

“Alexander,” the older dominant introduced himself, then looked expectantly at Damian.

“Oh, I’m Damian,” the young dominant said quickly, feeling a bit overwhelmed. This wasn’t how he had imagined his first interaction with a potential mate would go.

“Would either of you like a drink?” Alexander asked, taking charge as the other two didn’t seem to have a clue where to go from here. He wasn’t entirely happy to be helping out a rival dominant, but he doubted Damian would be much of threat to his chances and unless Harry chose to dismiss the younger dominant there wasn’t much Alexander could do about it.

While Alexander was getting drinks, Harry made a second attempt at getting to know Damian.

“So how old are you?” Harry asked curiously. “I’m not bothered by your age but it is a bit weird knowing you are at least a century old and still be thinking of you as young.”

“I had my 100th birthday six months ago,” Damian said reluctantly. “My mating instincts only really kicked in a month or so ago. My mum didn’t want me to come here, saying it was too soon, but my dads pointed out that I had to make a start at some point and if my instincts say I’m ready then waiting longer isn’t going to do much.”

Harry nodded, not showing his surprise that Damian was so young.

“Do you have a big family, then?” he asked curiously. His only real experiences with family were the Dursleys and the Weasleys, who were at opposite ends of the spectrum in everything from family size to attitude towards others. The idea of family was fascinating to Harry, who had only ever been an observer of other people’s family.

“Not really, it’s pretty average by demon standards. There’s me, my mum, my three dads - two demons and werewolf - my sister who is demon, my younger brother and his twin sister who are both werewolves,” Damian shrugged. “I have a lot of extended family because of my dad’s pack but they aren’t blood related.”

As Damian was talking Alexander returned, levitating a tray in front of him. Handing out the drinks, he hesitated briefly before giving Harry his.

“Timothy emptied half a jar of sugar into your drink,” he admitted at Harry’s inquisitive look. “Leena didn’t seem too angry so I presumed you know him and that it’s ok, but I thought I’d warn you.”

“The sugar is kicking in then,” Harry said with an eye roll, taking the drink. “He’s almost as bad as the twins sometimes. If I grow feathers I’m hexing him.”

“Twins?” Damian questioned, eager to keep the conversation going and getting to know Harry better. “Trouble making siblings?”

“Trouble making, absolutely. They aren’t family though, just friends and housemates. I don’t have any siblings - I do have a cousin, but he doesn’t count,” Harry said, sipping his extremely sweet coffee. “My family isn’t very big. I live with my aunt, uncle and cousin and they are pretty much it.”

“That’s quite unusual for a demon,” Alexander commented. “Most demons have at least three parents, which generally means lots of cousins even if you don’t have lots of siblings.”

“Realm-sired,” Harry reminded them, pointing to himself. “Only need the one demon parent and he doesn’t stick around. For all I know I have thousands of cousins over in the Realm, but I still only have one here on Earth.”

“I’d never really thought about that,” Alexander mused. Realm-sired demons were not common and most Earth-sired demons gave little thought to how the family dynamics, or anything else that they took for granted, would work for a Realm-sired demon. “I guess Realm-sireds don’t usually have demon parents around to explain things to them either?”

Harry shook his head. “Nope. This,” he gestured at the three of them, “is the most interaction I’ve ever had with demons. The only interaction.”

“Does that make things difficult?” Damian frowned. “I mean, there are loads of things that my parents taught me about that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. Was it not weird hitting inheritance age without knowing it was coming?”

“I did know it was coming,” Harry answered simply. “We might not have demon parents to explain things to us but we aren’t completely clueless.”

“Being in Gryffindor must help,” Damian said thoughtfully. “You have that book about demons there.”

“You mean that diary thing? I suppose it’s kind of helpful for knowing what terminology we use for stages of mating and things like that. And as a brief sort of ‘how dominants see the world’ guide. It’s not so helpful for submissives though. Everything is written from a dom’s point of view, and it only covers the basics anyway.”

“Where do you get your information from, then?” Alexander asked. He knew a few Realm-sired demons but he had never really thought about their families or what life was like for them as they grew up. Those kind of topics weren’t discussed between dominants unless they were very close friends, and even then it usually took a good dose of fire-whiskey to get the conversation started. Now that the topic had been brought up he was curious.

“Just because our sires are absent doesn’t mean they left us to fend for ourselves completely,” Harry explained. He frowned as he considered the best way to explain the innate knowledge he, and every other Realm-sired demon had. “You know how when we sense other Creatures we feel it as a sort of warning signal from our magic, like a mental ‘pay attention’ nudge even if we haven’t seen, heard or smelt the Creature yet? We just know they are there and that either we have encountered their race before or not?” he waited for the two to nod. “Well the knowledge works a bit like that. It’s all wrapped up in my magic, waiting for me ask the questions so it can tell me the answers. Except less conscious than that, more like I’ve always known the answer and I’m only just really thinking about it consciously now. So when I wondered why I was different to my relatives I already knew I’m a demon, but that was the first time I really thought about what being a demon meant. It’s a bit like recalling the lyrics to a song you used to know by heart but now don’t sing very often; at first there are gaps when you try to recall the lyrics, but gradually you remember more and more until you realise you still know the whole song. Does that make any sense?”

“A bit,” Alexander said, looking puzzled. “So does that mean you just know everything you need to know, without anyone having to teach you anything?”

Harry shrugged. “Depends on what you mean by need to know. I know all the basics, like what to expect at the different stages of inheritance, how the mating process works and the non-negotiable do’s and don’ts of mating, how to access my magic, stuff like that. There is a lot I’m clueless about though. The knowledge I have is information a submissive Realm-sired demon needs, so I don’t know much about dominants beyond the basics and what was covered in that diary Gryffindor has. I suppose I’m also pretty clueless about Earth-sired demons, you don’t work off instinct as much as I do and that seems to make a bigger difference than I expected. And until I joined Hogwarts I didn’t know anything about other Creatures - I knew they existed because occasionally some people just felt different to normal humans, but I didn’t know what they were or anything.”

“Enough to be able to get by until someone taught you more, then,” Alexander mused.

“How come you don’t know this already?” Harry asked. “You look older than Damian - or that other dom - I would have though you’d know all this.”

“I’m 216,” he answered Harry’s unspoken query. “I may have been around for a while but the only other Realm-sired demons I know are dominants and dominants aren’t usually up for sharing their life stories, or at least not with other dominants. And as you’ve probably found, books on demons are quite hard to come by and of the few that do exist most are about Realm-borns and any information in them should be taken with a pinch of salt. Information about Earth-borns is passed on by word of mouth more than anything and Realm-sired-Earth-borns are pretty rare.”

“I suppose that does make sense. If there was more information to be found Gryffindor would probably have copies of it,” Harry said, swirling his drink in an attempt to dissolve some more of the sugar Timothy had dumped in it. Coffee really wasn’t something you were meant to chew.

“You know,” Harry chuckled after a few moments of silence, “this isn’t how I envisioned my first foray into finding a mate happening. I was expecting the get to know you part to be less like fact swapping.”

“It has been…different,” Alexander agreed with a grin.

“Don’t say it like that!” Harry mocked huffed. “That’s what Madame Pomfrey said about the twin’s idea of a get well gift at the end of my first year.”

“What did they send?” Damian asked, looking amused.

“A toilet seat,” Harry laughed. “I thought Madame Pomfrey was going to kill them. They signed it and everything! Filch was muttering death threats when he came to get it so he could repair the toilet they stole it from.”

“These twins sound like a handful,” Alexander chuckled, shaking his head in amusement.

“Oh they are. They drive our Head of House up the wall. Even Oliver doesn’t have complete control over them and he’s the House Leader. Gemini are tricky that way.”

“Gemini? That’s pretty rare. Explains a lot though,” the elder dominant said, surprised. “They’re still only listening to their parents then? I suppose school age is a bit young for finding a grounder but I don’t envy you lot for having to put up with them.”

“At least being friends with a Gemini pair means I don’t have problems with the half-púca,” Harry groused playfully. “I swear our year got the weirdest combination of races. It’s a miracle we haven’t blown up the Tower yet.”

Whatever response the dominants had was lost as something in Damian’s robes began to chime.

“Shoot! I completely forgot I was supposed to by babysitting for my uncles,” Damian said scrambling to his feet. “It was really nice meeting you, Harry. Hopefully I’ll see you again? Sorry for running off like this but I really need to go. Bye!” The young dom left in a flurry of robes, leaving the other two demons blinking.

“It is starting to get late,” Alexander noted with surprise as he pulled out a pocket watch. “I’m afraid I need to be going too. Do you have a way of getting home or…?”

“I’m fine, I just have a werewolf to track down,” Harry grinned mischievously. “He’s well trained, he should come if I whistle.”

“Oi! I heard that!” shouted Timothy from wherever Leena had exiled him to. Clearly not somewhere out of earshot.

“See? I’ll just follow the shouting to find my escort,” Harry grinned, making Alexander laugh.

“I’ll leave you to it then,” he smiled. “Will we be seeing more of you from now on?” he asked, not quite achieving the causal tone he was striving for.

“Probably,” Harry said as he stood. “It will be fun to torture Timothy by making him sit around and wait, if nothing else. Diagon gets boring after a while so I should be spending more of my time here. Feel free to come and chat if you see me around - there’s only so much werewolf insanity I can take.”

Alexander looked gobsmacked. Being given free rein to approach a submissive who hadn't even started Advertising yet was rare. Getting that permission after a single meeting was almost unheard of.

“Of course,” he said belatedly, realising he was gaping like an idiot. “I’d love to. It’s been interesting talking to you. I guess I’ll see you again at some point,” he caught himself before he started to ramble, saying a quick goodbye and leaving abruptly.

“I think you broke him.”

Harry nearly jumped out of his skin, turning to smack Timothy’s chest.

“Stop doing that!” the demon hissed, one hand pressed over his pounding heart.

“I didn’t do anything,” Timothy said innocently. “So what did you say to make him babble like that? ‘Xander usually prides himself on being all calm and collected.”

“I said he could come and talk to me whenever I’m in the District,” Harry said. “I like him.”

“What about the other one?” Timothy asked, shooing Harry towards the back of the cafe, to the table the werewolf had been using.

“He was nice but he was…”

“Young?”

“More like sheltered,” Harry said. “Or maybe naive would be a better word for it.”

“Aren’t they the same thing?” The question didn’t come from Timothy. There was another werewolf sitting at the table Timothy had prodded him over to.

“Harry this is Richard. Rick, Harry,” Timothy introduced. Harry was sure he had met more new people today than he had since his first week in Hogwarts.

“Hi! So you’re the demon Timothy has been pestering for the last few days. You poor soul,” the other werewolf said, offering a hand to shake.

“I can hardly complain. You’re his packmate, you’ve been putting up with him for longer than I have,” Harry grinned as they shook hands.

“I’m feeling bullied,” Timothy pouted. “You two aren’t allowed to be friends if you’re going to bond over picking on me.”

“Can we kidnap him for a night out then? If we aren’t allowed to bond over picking on you we can bond over drinks,” Rick suggested, smirking.

“In the bars you like to go to? Not likely,” Timothy scoffed.

“They aren’t that bad. Harry wants to go, don’t you Harry?” the smaller werewolf said, turing pleading eyes on the demon.

“Er, I’m only thirteen. I doubt I could get in anywhere,” Harry pointed out.

“Hm, didn’t think of that. We’ll have to stick to Knockturn then. They don’t care about age here, just inheritances and whether or not you’ve had yours,” Rick said, determined that they would go somewhere.

“Fine, as long as I choose where we go,” Timothy conceded. “And only if Harry wants to go - you’re not scaring away another friend because you won’t take no for an answer,” he continued firmly before turning to Harry. “So, do you want to go? We’ll be with you and you can call it a night whenever you want.”

Harry thought about it for a moment. He’d never done something like this before and by most people’s standards he was too young to be out clubbing. It wasn’t something he’d really thought about before, but he supposed that he had always expected that the first time he went out to a club it would be with his friends. Timothy was his friend though, and his other friends still had a few years before anywhere would consider them old enough to be in a bar. Going out with the two werewolves would also give him more opportunities to meet dominants - it was unlikely that all the dominants would be regular customers at Leena’s cafe.

“Alright,” he said eventually. He didn’t get a chance to say anything else. He suddenly had a hyperactive werewolf dragging him towards the door and muttering about clothes, leaving a bewildered Timothy blinking after them.

Eventually the larger werewolf’s brain kicked in and he followed the pair out the cafe. “Rick, you mad, clothes obsessed prat! He has clothes,” he said as he caught up to them. At least Harry was looking amused and not worried about the crazy werewolf who had kidnapped him to go clothes shopping.

“Only clothes bought by you. He can’t go out in those, you have no fashion sense!” insisted the smaller werewolf, resolutely dragging Harry along.

“Do I even get a say?” Harry asked, raising an eyebrow in amusement.

“No,” said Rick, pulling him through a doorway into a clothing store.

One outfit, Rick. I mean it. And keep it age appropriate,” Timothy warned, recognising a losing battle but not leaving the subordinate werewolf to do whatever he wanted. He had experience with what happened if Rick was left to his own devices.

“Fine, fine,” Rick said dismissively, still pulling Harry along behind him as he moved further into the shop.

“Can I have my arm back at some point?” asked Harry after they had done a full circuit of the shop, the giddy werewolf dragging him along the entire time.

“Oh, sorry,” Rick said, realeasing his arm with an apologetic look. “I didn’t mean to annoy you.”

“You just have a one track mind and completely forget about other people,” Timothy interrupted with a sigh. “Now, are you going to choose something from in here or not? If not, you can go to one other shop. I am not being dragged all over Knockturn as you look for the perfect outfit.”

“Fine! Spoilsport,” Rick huffed, heading back to the clothing racks and leaving a bemused Harry standing next to Timothy.

“Sorry about him,” Timothy sighed. “He can be a bit overenthusiastic for most people’s tastes. We try to get him to tone it down around strangers - not everyone is as tolerant as you are about being dragged off shopping by someone you've literally only just met - but only the Alpha really has any effect, and even he has to actually be with Rick to get him to listen.”

“He’s not as bad as two Housemates I can think of,” Harry shrugged. “At least Rick doesn’t deafen you with ear piercing squeals whenever he finds something exciting.”

“You say that now. See if you still think that after he has used you as his own personal dress-up doll.”

An hour later Harry was beginning to think Timothy was right. Even Lavender Brown’s obsession with makeup wasn’t this bad. He thought he’d tried a lot of clothes on when Timothy had taken him shopping in London, but right now he was sure he had tried on the entire shop twice, in different combinations.

On the bright side, they had finally found an outfit Rick was happy with. Harry privately thought it looked the same as some of the things Timothy had encouraged him to get - a simple shirt and slacks. Wisely he kept those thoughts to himself.

By the time Timothy managed to drag the clothes obsessed werewolf out of the shop, it was getting late. It was still light but the square was less busy than it had been and some shops were being to close for the night while others, that catered to nocturnal customers, were just opening.

“Er, guys?” Harry interrupted the werewolves’ tussling. “If I don’t get back soon someone is probably going to send out a search party.”

“Oh. Yeah. Didn’t think about that,” Timothy said, dropping Rick on the floor from where he had had him in a headlock. “Come on then, let’s get back before we’re accused of feeding you to a hag.”

Harry scoffed playfully, “A hag? That’s the best you could come up with? At least make it interesting, like an acromantula.”

“We live in Britain, there aren’t many acromantula around here in case you hadn’t noticed,” Timothy said dryly as he led the way back to the Dark District. Rick moved to Harry’s other side, the smaller werewolf still dwarfing the demon much to said demon’s chagrin.

“There’s a colony in Scotland. They’re actually kind of friendly, for giant spiders that eat everything that isn’t Hagrid. They let you ask questions and will even answer some of them before they try and eat you. They do still try to eat you though.”

“I’m not sure I want to know,” Timothy said after a pause. Rick just stared at the small demon incredulously. “You know, most kids get a dog, they don’t go looking for giant man-eating pets.”

“I have an owl. Aragog is Hagrid’s, not mine. Or maybe Hagrid is Aragog’s? He seemed possessive of him,” Harry mused, deciding to wind the werewolves up even more. “Anyway, dragons are kind of like dogs, aren’t they? They act kind of the same, just with less furniture chewing and more accidentally setting fire to things.”

The two werewolves stared at him, not sure if he was joking or not. Timothy suspected not, given Harry’s other stories.

With two werewolves flanking Harry and glaring at any wizards who looked their way, the trip through the Dark District was uneventful. The place still made Harry’s skin crawl though. Even having walked through the place with an escort and knowing what to expect didn’t make him feel better about it. Harry was sure Timothy noticed him moving closer as they passed some of the Darker shops, but once again the werewolf made no comment about it.

It was strange being in Diagon Alley so late. Where Knockturn had been shutting down the diurnal shops and opening the nocturnal ones, Diagon was almost completely deserted, with only Gringotts Bank still open. There were only three other people in the Alley; Olivander and Mr. Fortescue were just finishing up closing their shops for the night, and a lone wizard was leaving the bank. The only other signs of life were a shaggy black dog searching for scraps outside the ice cream parlour and the owls swooping in and out of the Owl Emporium as they hunted.

The walk back to the Leaky Cauldron was quicker than usual with no crowd to wade through. Harry greeted Tom at the bar and made his way up to his room with the two werewolves in tow.

Rick was refusing to relinquish the bag that held Harry’s new clothes, insisting that he would hang them up himself. Taking his cues from Timothy’s exasperated eye-roll, Harry decided it wasn’t worth arguing and let the smaller werewolf do as he pleased.

“Is every werewolf I make friends with going to insist on buying me clothes?” Harry asked as he watched Rick rummaging through his trunk, making noises of interest or shaking his head as he picked out each thing. Everything was put back carefully and neatly, but Harry noticed that the clothes Rick didn’t approve of were being placed at the very bottom of his trunk.

“Maybe not clothes - Rick’s got the monopoly on that - but buying things, certainly,” Timothy shrugged, chuckling as Harry groaned. “It’s a werewolf thing. Friends count as honorary pack, and we like being useful and providing things for packmates. Especially for a scrawny thing like you,” he laughed as he dodged Harry’s smack.

“I am not scrawny,” Harry huffed.

“Of course not,” Timothy patted him on the head, yelping when Harry caught him with a stinging hex.

“You deserved it,” Rick said without looking away from the contents of the trunk.

“How would you know?” Timothy scowled, rubbing his side. “You weren’t even looking!”

“You always deserve it,” the smaller werewolf reasoned as he shut and locked the trunk. “Besides, Harry’s too nice to hex you if you didn’t do something to deserve it.”

Timothy pouted.

“It was a stinging hex, you big baby,” Harry rolled his eyes. “It’s not going to kill you.”

“It might.”

“Definitely a Hufflepuff,” Harry muttered, grinning at Timothy’s noise of outrage.

A laughing Rick intervened as Timothy drew his wand to transfigure a pillow into a badger. Timothy allowed the smaller werewolf to pluck his wand out of his hand and shoo him towards the door.

“Out, you,” Rick said, pushing the larger, grumbling werewolf out into the corridor. “Harry we’ll see you tomorrow. I’ll come early to help you get ready,” he promised.

As the hyperactive werewolf disappeared with a wave, Harry wondered what he had let himself in for.

Chapter Text

Harry spent most of the day shut away in his room, checking over his homework and finishing the last few bits and pieces that needed doing. It was the first time since turning thirteen that he hadn’t had a nagging urge to go out looking for a mate. No doubt the urge would return soon but he was making the most of being able to concentrate fully on his homework. Hermione would be proud.

When he finally emerged from his room for food - he could only eat cauldron cakes and chocolate frogs for so long before his body demanded real food - he was surprised to see Rick sitting at the bar. Without Timothy’s massive form looming over him the fashion-conscious werewolf looked much bigger. The muscle mass didn’t bother him, as used to being towered over as he was, but the jittering leg and massive grin made him wary. He really hoped he wasn’t about to be dragged off for another impromptu shopping trip, his trunk would explode if it had to hold any more clothes.

Harry had barely moved three steps into the room before the werewolf spotted him.

“Harry!” Rick shouted, springing up off the barstool and grabbing the demon into a hug. “Finally! I’ve been sitting here waiting for ages. I was going to go up and find you but Alpha says I shouldn’t do stuff like that because people don’t want to be disturbed if they’re busy and I figured you were busy because Timothy says you usually sit outside. What were you doing?” he asked, looking quizzically at Harry. He carried on talking before Harry had chance to process the words being thrown at him. “Never mind, it doesn’t matter, you’re here now. The plans for tonight have changed, if you don’t mind putting off our night out until tomorrow? Are you doing anything the day after tomorrow?”

“Er, I don’t think so?” Harry answered hesitantly once he was sure the werewolf wasn’t going to continue talking and was waiting for an answer. Had he even taken a breath since he started talking?

“Do you want to go to a quidditch match? We have a spare ticket,” Rick offered, speaking at a normal pace now the pent-up excitement was out of his system.

“Really?” Harry said, surprised. “Who’s going?”

“The pack,” Rick shrugged. “Not all of us, but those who are interested. Which is most of us. Well, most of us not counting the pups but they aren’t coming because they’re in trouble for something. Not that they’re actually pups but they are young and they got in trouble with the Boss so they’re in even bigger trouble with Alpha and they’re working overtime to make up for whatever they did. I’m not sure what that was, something to do with attitude to customers or something. Anyway, we have a spare ticket if you want to come?”

“Are you sure?” Harry asked. “I only know two of you, would the rest of the pack not mind a stranger tagging along?”

Rick shrugged. “Alpha said I could invite you so it’s fine. The pack will love you, you should come and meet them.”

“If you’re sure I’m not imposing, then thank you,” Harry said with a grin. “Who is playing? It’s the Harpies isn’t it?”

“Harpies vs. Wasps,” Rick nodded, returning Harry’s grin. “Half the pack support the Wasps. That’s why so many of us are going. It’s like the default team to support if you don’t already support one before joining the pack.”

“Gryffindor’s default team is Puddlemere United. Even people who did support a different team originally are sometimes converted by the end of first year. Oliver is fanatical like that,” Harry laughed.

“A United fan? I bet Timothy loves that,” Rick snickered as he followed Harry to the bar to order food. Never one to pass up an opportunity for food Rick ordered something as well before they made their way over to a table in the corner.

“So what were you doing all day?” Rick asked curiously once they were sitting down and the food had appeared on the table. He’d been in Harry’s room and knew there wasn’t much to keep him entertained.

“Homework. It’s surprising what a difference it makes to your concentration when you don’t have your instincts screaming at you to find a mate,” Harry shrugged. “Even Snape can’t doubt that I put effort in this time. Not that something as measly as the truth has ever got in the way of his claims before.”

Rick screwed up his face in distaste. “Ick, homework. If there is one thing I like about university it is the lack of summer homework. Though the work we get throughout the year more than makes up for it.”

“You go to university?” Harry asked, surprised. Not many magicals bothered with a muggle education. Even muggleborns usually gave up their muggle roots in favour of living a magical lifestyle.

“Yep. Contrary to popular belief I do in fact have a brain and it is used for more than just giving fashion advice to those unfortunate souls with no taste who don’t know how to dress themselves.”

“What do you study?” Harry asked curiously. He felt a little bad about his previous opinion of the excitable werewolf. Like most people, he’d just seen the giddiness and somewhat childish behaviour and made the assumption the werewolf wasn’t the brightest bulb in the box. Admittedly he had known Rick for less than a day but he had thought he knew better than to jump to conclusions like that.

“Economics,” Rick replied, looking amused at Harry’s surprise. “The Boss Man sponsors any of us who want to go to uni or do an apprenticeship or something, as long as the skills we develop will be useful to him once we’re qualified.”

“Boss Man?” Harry parroted with a laugh.

“Most of the pack works for him, what else would we call him?” Rick defended. “Even I work for him in the summer, in an undergrad work experience position, and I’ll work for him when I graduate too, so Boss Man works perfectly. Unless Alpha’s around, then it’s Mr. Calvey or Sir. Alpha gets twitchy about disrespect.”

“So is economics interesting?”

“The reading can be dry but I think it’s interesting - I wouldn’t study it otherwise. It’s useful too. Not many wizards bother with stuff like that because purebloods own a lot of the market - though not quite as much as they like to think because they tend to ignore us Creatures and any investments we have - and they see muggle stuff as beneath them and won’t study any ‘muggle’ subjects. Some of the purebloods have good business sense but a lot don’t, which makes it easy to fleece them. It’s interesting comparing the muggle and magical economies because…” Rick was on a roll and didn’t look like he would be stopping his enthusiastic babbling any time soon.

Harry tried to focus because he didn’t want to offend the likeable werewolf, and some of the endless flood of information was interesting, but with his limited frame of reference a lot of it went over his head. It didn’t take long for the demon’s eyes to glaze over as he hmm’d and nodded at what he hoped were appropriate points. It was like listening to Hermione explain magical theory while he and Ron understood little past ‘wand movement’ and ‘incantation’.

Just as Harry began thinking up polite ways to get the subject away from economics he was saved by the arrival of Timothy.

“Oh you poor soul,” Timothy laughed as Harry sent him a pleading look. “How long have you been here?”

“A while,” Harry said, giving a mental sigh of relief as Rick finally stopped talking economics and greeted Timothy.

“Did you ask him about the match or have you just been yakking on about economics?” an amused Timothy asked.

“Of course I asked him!” Rick huffed. “I was sitting here for ages waiting for him, I wasn’t going to forget what I came for!”

“Just checking,” said Timothy, holding his hands up placatingly. “Are you coming then?” he asked Harry, who grinned and nodded.

“Definitely! I’ve never been to a professional match before. We listen to them in the common room sometimes but I’ve only ever seen House Cup games,” Harry said with an excited smile.

The werewolves couldn’t help but smile back. The demon’s smile lit up his face and he was almost vibrating with excitement. There would be a lot of competition to have Harry as a mate, Timothy thought, wondering idly if Shax had any idea how innocently appealing Harry could be.

“This will be a heck of a first match for you to see, then,” the older werewolf smiled. “The Wasps have been playing better than ever and the Harpies rarely have a bad game. It should be a close match.”

“And we have box seats,” Rick added enthusiastically.

“We do?” Timothy asked with raised eyebrows. While they did sometimes get box seats thanks to Shax’s fondness of discussing business deals at games, they usually stuck with ordinary tickets when it was just the pack going.

Rick nodded happily. “Alpha is coming too,” he explained. “And there’ll be a big group of us. It’s not as fun if we’re all spread out so we’re using the box.”

“Alpha’s coming?” Timothy repeated in surprise. “Why does nobody tell me anything?” he grumbled. He supposed he should have seen this coming. Domovoi had said that he wanted to meet Harry and going to a quidditch match was an easy way to avoid awkward moments. This way it seemed less like Timothy presenting Harry for his alpha’s approval. And didn't that sound all kinds of wrong, even in his head?

“Of course he is. This is shaping up to be the Wasp’s biggest game this year, it’s not one he’s going to want to miss,” said Rick, looking at Timothy like that should have been obvious.

“Good point well made,” Timothy nodded. Rick was right, Domovoi would have been going to the game anyway, demon submissive or no demon submissive. The fact that it gave him an easy way to meet Harry was just an added bonus - or a contrived bonus. Though it did raise the question of whether Shax would be joining them. Timothy didn’t even know if that would be allowed; the rules surrounding demons and mating didn’t make much sense to him.

“…this evening or are you staying here?” Timothy surfaced from his thoughts in time to catch the tail end of Rick’s question. The other two hadn’t noticed his internal musing and had carried on chatting.

“I hadn’t thought about it really. I’ve spent all day correcting my homework and the most of being able to really concentrate on it. It would be nice to be spend the evening in Leena’s, if you’re sure you don’t mind taking me.”

“You’ve put up with my yapping for the last couple of hours, least I can do is walk you to Leena’s,” Rick grinned.

Timothy smiled softly as he watched the younger werewolf joke with Harry. He doubted the demon knew how much it meant to Rick that Harry listened to his rambling and put up with his hyperactivity without ever making it seem like a chore. Even with the pack getting along as well as they did, Rick was often something of an outsider with many of the pack being less than patient with the excitable werewolf’s exuberance. The older werewolf hoped that the Alpha would like Harry as much as he thought he would. Regardless of how well Shax’s attempts at mating were, Harry would make a good friend to the pack. Timothy also suspected that the pack would help fill a gap in Harry’s life that the demon never acknowledged but felt all the same.

“Come on then, if we’re going,” he said eventually, after spending a while watching the younger two talk. “We’ll be here ’til Christmas if I leave you two to your yakking.”

“Pot, kettle, black!” protested Harry. “You can give a jabberknoll a run for its money once you get going.”

“Yes but unlike you two I was gifted with many skills, one of which is that most difficult art of walking and talking at the same time,” Timothy smirked, chivvying the spluttering youngsters out into Diagon Alley.

The trip through the Dark District was uneventful, with Harry sticking close to the werewolves and doing his best to ignore the skin crawling feeling the Darker shops gave him. Timothy still wouldn’t let him get too close to the place called Veela’s Promise, though Rick giggled at the discomforted look on the older werewolf’s face as he herded Harry along.

Leena’s was busy again, a constant trickle of people coming and going and several of the tables filled with chattering customers. Leena herself was happy to see Harry, less happy to see Timothy, and surprisingly affectionate towards Rick.

“I feel unloved,” Timothy declared as the dryad gave Rick a one-armed hugged over the counter and berated him for not visiting more often.

“You, feel free to visit as infrequently as possible,” retorted Leena, jabbing a finger into his huge chest. For a short woman with flowers braided into her hair she could be scary. If it wasn’t a magical impossibility Timothy would have sworn her tree was Devil’s Snare; unassuming until it was already too late.

Harry was pleasantly surprised to spot Damian, the young Dominant he had met yesterday, sitting at one of the tables. He made his way over after paying for the drink Leena handed him, leaving the werewolves at the counter.

“Hello again,” he smiled, sitting down across from the other demon, who once again looked surprised that Harry had approached him.

“Harry!” the answering smile was blinding. “How are you?”

“Fed up of homework,” Harry said pulling a face. “Potions was horrible and Transfiguration wasn’t much better.”

Damian pulled a sympathetic face. “Transfiguration was never my strong point. Potions wasn’t too bad. I managed to get a NEWT in it. That was a while ago though - some of the potions on the syllabus now weren’t even invented when I was at school.”

Harry blinked. He knew Damian was 100 years old but he’d never really thought about what that meant. The dominant gave off such a young and inexperienced vibe that Harry has trouble thinking of him as a hundred years old and not an unsure teenager.

“You’re not missing much,” Harry said after a moment. “Some of the potions are vaguely interesting but Snape effectively kills any enthusiasm we might have. Transfiguration is hard but at least Professor McGonagall doesn’t expect you to be NEWT ready in your first lesson,” he rolled his eyes.

“My potions professor wasn’t too bad,” Damian said. “He was pretty new and still all bright-eyed and eager about teaching. He just had an annoying habit of trying to get close to students with famous relatives and people who stood a good chance of being famous in later life. He was a decent teacher though.”

“Can we swap?” Harry pleaded playfully. “I can deal with someone fame-seeking if it means I never have to see Snape again.”

Damian laughed. “He can’t be that bad.”

“He hates me,” insisted Harry.

“How much of that is your fault?” Damian asked dryly. It seemed he had taken Harry’s lecture about not handling submissives with kid gloves seriously, or at least he was more confident about disagreeing with Harry specifically.

“It’s not my fault!” Harry protested. “At least, it wasn’t my fault at first. It might be slightly, maybe, a little bit my fault now,” he conceded at Damian’s disbelieving look.

Their conversation this time was more successful than yesterday’s attempts. Damian’s more confident attitude, and the lack of ignorant dominants interrupting, made it a much more enjoyable experience for Harry. As conversation moved away from school and onto other topics - careers and Damian’s family - Harry found himself revising his opinion of the young dominant. If this new found confidence was a permanent change he wouldn’t make a bad mate.

Harry’s thoughts ground to a halt. Where had that come from?

He had thought about mating in an abstract way, and had even discussed it with Timothy, but this was the first time he had seriously thought about it in a this-is-actually-happening way. It suddenly seemed a lot more real when he found himself subconsciously slapping a mental ‘definite maybe’ sticker onto a dominant.

“Harry?” Damian said, waving a hand in front of the submissive’s face. “Are you alright? You zoned out.”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Harry said dazedly, shaking his head a little. “Sorry, I got lot in thought. Homework killed my concentration,” he joked as Damian continued to look concerned. Perhaps the dominant wasn’t quite as over the whole ‘submissives are made of glass’ thing as Harry had thought.

Damian gave a small smile, still not looking entirely reassured, “Maybe you should call it a night? Not that I don’t enjoy talking to you but you must be tired for your eyes to glaze over like that,” he said, half teasing, half concerned.

“Yeah that’s probably a good idea,” Harry nodded, still feeling a bit dazed by his sudden sort-of-revelation. An early night would give him chance to completely digest the idea this was really, actually happening.

“Is that werewolf you were with yesterday here again? You shouldn’t walk back on your own,” Damian fretted. “Maybe you should ask Leena if you can use her Floo. I’d offer to walk you back but I don’t want to be presumptuous, my Dad would kill me if he found me being so forward - then my Mum would dig me up, revive me and lecture me on appropriate behaviour around Scouting submissives before killing me again.”

Harry laughed. “Breathe Damian! Timothy should still be around and even if he isn’t I can see Rick over by the counter. I’ll be fine, don’t worry.”

“Right, sorry,” the dominant blushed, shifting sheepishly. “I’ll see you tomorrow maybe, or later sometime? If you want to, of course.”

“I don’t know if it will be tomorrow but I’ll see you before I go back to school,” said Harry before Damian could launch into another round of second guessing himself. The confidence from their conversation seemed to have evaporated and they were back to the don’t-offend-the-submissive behaviour from yesterday.

“Ok then, I’ll see you later at some point. Are you sure you can get back-“

“I’m fine,” Harry said firmly, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. He smiled at Damian’s sheepish look. As annoying as the fretting was, Harry also found it slightly endearing. The young dominant didn’t seem to be able to keep himself from worrying, even knowing Harry was in safe hands, but it was borne out of a genuine concern, not a belief that Harry was incompetent.

Giving Damian a cheery wave, Harry made his way over to Rick and slid into the seat next to him.

“Are you done already?” asked Rick, looking surprised. “I thought you’d take longer, or at least be talking to more people.”

“I had an epiphany and it’s only just really sinking in,” Harry said, rolling his empty mug in his hands.

“Oh?” Rick turned more fully towards him, flicking a glance at the rest of the cafe over Harry’s shoulder before focusing on the teenager’s face. “What epiphany would that be?”

“I’m looking for a mate-”

“Didn’t you already know that?” Timothy’s voice interrupted from behind him, making him jump.

“Timothy!” yelped Harry. “For the love of-! Do you have to do that every time?!”

“It’s funny,” shrugged an unrepentant Timothy.

“I’m going to buy you a collar with a bell,” Harry growled.

“I didn’t know you were into games like that,” Timothy said with a suggestive waggle of his eyebrows.

Harry buried his head in his arms as Rick burst out laughing.

“You’re both evil and I hate you,” Harry declared, voice muffled. He lifted his head to look pleadingly at Leena, who was watching with amusement. “Leena, they’re being mean to me, make them stop,” he whined.

Timothy yelped, glaring down at the offending plant that had just nipped him.

“Not fair!” he pouted. “Rick was involved too, why isn’t he being attacked?”

“I like Rick, but both of you leave Harry alone. He’s the only sane one here, I don’t need you two rubbing off on him,” she said sternly.

Timothy yelped again.

“I didn’t do anything!” he protested, rubbing his stinging leg.

“You were thinking it, I took preventative measures. Not everybody’s mind lives in the gutter,” Leena scowled. Timothy pouted but didn’t deny it.

“So,” the werewolf said, turning to Harry, “about your epiphany. How can you have only just realised you are looking for a mate? What were you doing the rest of the time?”

“I haven’t only just realised,” Harry said exasperatedly. “It’s just…it has only just really sunk in. I’m looking for a mate.”

“This isn’t the start of some beginning-life crisis is it?” Timothy asked, peering at him warily. “Because I’m really not good at emotional stuff.”

“He’s really not,” Rick agreed cheerfully. “Once, Alpha left his niece alone with him when she was upset. We came back to a sea of balloon animals. For a young cub it would have a cute way to cheer them up but Jasmine is twenty.”

“It worked!,” Timothy defended. “She stopped crying.”

“Yeah, because she was too busy wondering what kind of insane person her uncle had left her alone with. She was probably trying to devise a way to escape without provoking the crazy person. There were, like, sixty balloon animals in your flat and they were all animated. Noisily animated. It was actually quite impressive for half an hour’s work,” mused Rick, as Harry shook with laughter and Leena - who had been listening as she made drinks for customers - rolled her eyes.

“I’m not having an emotional breakdown,” assured Harry once he had calmed down enough to talk. “It was just a bit of a shock to realise I’m subconsciously judging dominants’ suitability when I’m not even fully aware of it or thinking about it.”

The two werewolves looked unsure how to respond but Leena snorted.

“Instincts will do that to you after an inheritance,” she said dryly. “These two won’t know much about it, being bitten not born, but I remember coming into the main part of my inheritance. Before it I was just a girl who liked plants and had a special tree, then almost overnight I grew a small forest in my bedroom and I could feel the needs of every plant I came across. I was exhausted for days and the plants around me just kept growing. It came as quite a shock to realise I was subconsciously using magic to fulfil the plants’ needs,” she shrugged. “Other people can tell you what will happen, and you think you understand it and know what to expect, but it is still a shock to the system to discover all these extra instincts you didn’t have before,” she sighed as she handed fresh drinks to the three.

Harry was listening intently, he always enjoyed learning about other Creatures and how their race worked. Timothy was surprised the dryad was willing to share so much with him there. Usually he was snarked at or ignored.

“I can’t give much advice on the mating front, Dryads aren’t the mate-for-life type, but the advice for dealing with any new instincts is pretty much the same,” Leena continued, wiping down the coffee machine as vines holding a cloth and spray bottle appeared to wipe the counter. “Take them as they come, don’t try to fight or force them or you’ll get frustrated at best or, more likely, do yourself some damage. If you are blindsided by something try and take a bit of time to get used to the idea before carrying on. You can push through and carry on without a timeout if you need to but doing it too often is a sure-fire way to end up stressed and overwhelmed by it all. Everything will come in time, trying to rush it and grow up too fast will just make you burn out.”

Harry nodded thoughtfully. “Thanks for the advice. The stuff we learn in Gryffindor is useful but there’s not much on how to actually cope emotionally with the influx of new instincts. Plenty on what to expect physically and ability-wise — for some races, at least - and lots of information about ruling bodies and etiquette, but not a lot on how to handle the stress of all the changes.”

Leena glanced over her shoulder from where she was rearranging syrup bottles, giving him an odd look. “I don’t expect there would be,” she said, turning to look at him fully. “The House is there to allow Creatures to get an education without revealing ourselves to wizards, and to give children an opportunity to interact with members of other species on neutral ground. They teach you a bit about most Creatures to help prevent fights caused by ignorance of each other’s culture and habits, and to give those who don’t have another source of information a fighting chance. Guiding and supporting children emotionally through their inheritance is the parent’s responsibility, not the House’s; everything I told you is advice your parents should have given.”

Timothy shifted uncomfortably as Harry stared in silent surprise. It was the first time anyone had explained the reasons behind Gryffindor House’s founding to him. Most people just said it was the House for Creatures and left it at that.

“Uh, Leena?” Timothy muttered uncomfortably, glancing at Harry, trying to see if the demon had been offended by the comment about his parents, and giving the dryad a pointed look. Harry didn’t look upset or offended but the werewolf didn’t think it was appropriate to talk about what his parents should have been doing, and he doubted Harry would be willing to discuss how helpful his current guardians should be either. Leena seemed to get the message from Timothy’s uncharacteristically serious look, as she didn’t mention Harry’s parents again.

“Anyway,” she said briskly, drawing Harry out of his thoughts, “the point is, you don’t need to thank me and if you need any more advice, ask away. It doesn’t cost me anything and the more help you have the easier you’ll find things.” She walked off to the other end of the counter as soon as she finished speaking, not giving a startled Harry chance to respond.

Harry looked at the two werewolves; Timothy looked as surprised as Harry felt, but Rick was staring after Leena with an amused look.

“That was…abrupt,” Harry said after exchanging bemused looks with Timothy. Rick snickered.

“That’s Leena’s way of dealing with embarrassment,” he grinned. “If I didn’t know better I’d say she was feeling maternal with the way she’s worrying about you pushing yourself and overdoing it. I didn’t know Leena knew how to be maternal. Poor Harry. With werewolves, demons and a dryad being all protective of you, it’ll be a miracle if your sanity lasts until the end of the year,” he said, patting Harry’s head commiseratingly.

“As long as the maternal dryad isn’t as clothes obsessed as the protective werewolves, I think I’ll be fine,” Harry retorted. “But if anyone tries to make me go clothes shopping again I’ll…er…” he wracked his brain for a suitably horrendous threat. “I’ll make them spend an evening with Lockhart! He was enough to put me off caring about fashion, ever.”

“Why?! Why would you say that?” Timothy exclaimed, giving him a look of exaggerated horror. Harry turned to look at him questioningly but before he could ask what the problem was Rick started talking. And didn’t stop.

“Fashion isn’t as pointless as people think,” he started, in the same tone Oliver Wood used when someone asked what was so great about quidditch. Harry had a feeling it was going to be one of those talks, the kind only a true fanatic can give. The resigned expression on Timothy’s face was not reassuring. Harry was reluctantly impressed with the length and speed of Rick’s rant. He was talking as fast as Hermione had the time when Ron had suggested that homework didn’t matter as long as they could pass the end of year exams (Harry had privately agreed with the redhead but he wasn’t foolish enough to actually admit it out loud in Hermione’s earshot).

Timothy was clearly used to Rick launching into rants like this and had come prepared, pulling out a notebook that he was now scribbling in. When Harry glanced over to see if it was anything he could also use a distraction, he was surprised to see the werewolf using a muggle notebook and pen. Even muggleborn students quickly converted to using a quill and parchment once in the wizarding world, as the stationery they were used to would quickly disintegrate when put under the stress of magic with the simple spellcheck and correction spells all students used. Animal products could withstand far great magical exposure than the highly processed muggle products and quickly became the go-to option for all magicals, unless they spent a lot of time among muggles where parchment would attract attention.

Interest over the muggle origins of the werewolf’s stationery aside, the contents of the notebook seemed to be lists of names, numbers and little notes in illegible handwriting. Nothing Harry could use as a distraction. That left him with no option other than smiling, nodding and being told more about fashion than he’d ever wanted to know. After what seemed like an eternity to the bored stiff demon, the ranting werwolf finally drew his lecture to a close, prompting Timothy to give an exaggerated look at his watch.

“It’s a new record!” he cheered. “Harry is now the official holder of the record time for listening to one of your rants without having something to distract him or looking for an escape route. Really, he should get a medal or something for feats of inhuman endurance. Or in-demon endurance, whatever.”

Timothy’s comment sparked another round of bickering between the two werewolves and Harry shook his head, snickering. It was like listening to Hermione and Ron, only the two werewolves ended their squabbles on friendly terms, not in huffy silences and cold shoulders that could last for days. The two were still making sarcastic, snippy comments to each other as the trio left the cafe, with Harry chipping in with his own comment every now and then. He refused to pick a side but egged them on, amused by their antics.

The werewolves’ squabble came to a premature end when they parted ways in the square. Timothy headed further into Knockturn towards the heart of the werewolves territory, while at Rick’s insistence Harry decided to take the advice Leena had offered earlier and have an early night - the werewolf hinting that doing otherwise would be asking for trouble from the dryad - and Rick accompanied him through the Dark District.

Rick was about to bid Harry goodbye at the entrance to Knockturn when the demon surprised him, grabbing his sleeve and towing him along to the Leaky Cauldron.

“Harry? What are you doing?” asked the confused werewolf. He and Timothy may have escorted Harry back to his room last night but Rick had been under the impression that Harry didn’t mind navigating Diagon Alley alone, especially as the Alley was still open for business. Timothy had never said why Knockturn Alley was an issue beyond the normal wariness that surrounded an inexperienced person navigating the Dark District alone, but he had implied that it was only Knockturn that was a problem.

“Kidnapping you and dragging you to the Leaky Cauldron,” Harry answered cheerfully. “Don’t tell me that you of all people have a problem with someone spontaneously dragging you away?” he teased.

Rick laughed. “Touché. Although I think I prefer being being the kidnapper to being the kidnapee.”

“Ah well, I’ll release you soon,” Harry grinned. “I just need you to confirm where I’ll be tomorrow so I don’t accidentally cause another panic by going missing,” he explained as he pushed open the door to the Leaky Cauldron.

“A panic? Why would it cause a panic? And what do you mean another panic, when did you cause a panic?” Rick asked curiously, but Harry was already talking to Tom at the bar and didn’t answer.

“Hey Tom,” the demon greeted cheerfully. “I just wanted to let you know I won’t be here tomorrow night, or for most of the day after.”

“Oh? Where’ll you be instead, if you don’t mind me asking?” Tom questioned, giving Harry a look he wasn’t sure how to interpret.

“I’m going to the Harpies vs. Wasps match and the night before I’m staying with friends,” Harry explained excitedly, waving a hand towards Rick as he said friends. Rick waved awkwardly, still looking slightly bemused.

“He’s staying with you?” Tom asked Rick, looking at him carefully. Rick nodded enthusiastically.

“Yes, me and some of my other family and friends are all going together. Harry will be fine with us and we’ll bring him back in the evening after the match. Well, provided the match doesn’t end up being an epically long one, but that’s not really likely and if it did happen we’d just bring him back at whatever time it finished,” the werewolf reassured.

“Aye, ok lad. Thanks for letting me know, and you lads have fun. It should be a heck of a match,” the bartender said with a nod and a smile.

Harry thanked him and said goodbye to Rick before making his way upstairs with a grin. He couldn’t wait to see his first professional quidditch match!

Chapter Text

The next morning Harry woke feeling excited and slightly nervous. While he was mostly looking forward to going out with Timothy and Rick tonight, he was also a little nervous about what might happen. Knowing his luck something was bound to happen - it always did - and he didn’t think throwing alcohol into the mix would improve his chances of having a completely uneventful night out with friends. Add two rambunctious werwolves and all the dominant demons that would undoubtably be lurking around and Harry felt a bit of nervousness was justified.

Still, he knew the two werewolves would take care of him. Timothy seemed to have all but adopted him as pack and, though he wasn’t quite as familiar with Rick, the smaller werewolf also seemed to enjoy spending time with Harry.

It was odd for the demon, having friends outside Hogwarts, but he enjoyed it. He liked having friends with no teenage drama, loss of House points or ‘Harry is going Dark’ rumours getting in the way. He loved his House but they could annoyingly impulsive sometimes, quick to jump to conclusions and only apologising weeks later once the drama had blown over. It was nice not being one of the most mature in the group for once.

Eventually he dragged himself out of bed and into the bathroom to prepare for the day. Ignoring the mirror’s advice to tuck in his shirt, eat more greens and ‘for goodness sake, comb your hair’, he grinned at his reflection. Despite his protests about all the shopping, he did enjoy having good quality clothes for once. The simple white t-shirt, green open shirt and jeans may not be anything special to most people, but for Harry they were some of the best clothes he had ever owned.

Bouncing down the stairs to get breakfast, Harry paused in surprise as he saw Rick sitting at the bar. As Timothy had always met him later in the day he had presumed all the werewolves worked late and spent the morning catching up on sleep. A rather stupid assumption really, now that he thought about it.

“Hey Rick,” he greeted cheerfully once he’d placed his breakfast order with Tom. The food appeared as soon as he sat down. “What brings you here so early?” he asked lightly, picking up his knife and fork and offering the werewolf a slice of toast when he noticed him eying it. Werewolf metabolism was very impressive, unless you were trying to eat a meal in peace.

“Not much,” Rick said around a mouthful of toast. “I was just bored. Timothy’s working and you’re the only other person who puts up with my babbling,” he continued in a forced joking tone.

“What about the rest of your pack?” Harry asked curiously. “Not that I don’t want you here,” he added quickly.

“Oh, they all have stuff to do. They don’t need me underfoot all the time,” the werewolf mumbled, directing his gaze to the last of Harry’s toast instead of the demon’s face. With a half-hearted grumble Harry handed the toast over, more concerned with Rick’s subdued attitude than the loss of his breakfast.

“They’re all busy, other than you?” Harry asked, trying not to let the disbelief show in his voice.

Rick mumbled something in reply but Harry doubted a vampire would have been able to hear him, he was talking so quietly. Realising he wasn’t going to get an answer about what was bothering the werewolf, Harry changed the subject.

“So other than going out later, do you have any plans for the day?” he asked, kicking himself for not being able to think of a better topic of conversation. He wished Hermione was here, she always seemed to know how to deal with people who were upset. One of the perks of having kitsune blood he supposed.

“Well, before we go anywhere I’ll be making sure you and Timothy look presentable,” Rick answered, already looking happier. In contrast, Harry wanted to bang his head on the table; why did he have to open his big mouth? He’d hoped Rick would forget about him agreeing to let the werewolf dress him. “If I let you both dress yourselves Merlin only knows what you’d look like,” the werewolf continued, oblivious to (or ignoring) Harry’s internal self-berating. “Timothy would wear the first thing he scraped off the floor and after your little ‘fashion is not important’ remark yesterday, I clearly can’t trust you to dress yourself well, either.”

“I regret that comment more than you will ever know,” Harry grumbled, perusing the breakfast menu as he contemplated seconds. He was a growing boy who ate a lot, despite what Mrs. Weasley and that stupid mirror said.

Rick ignored him.

“You have the clothes but you need someone to teach you how to make an outfit. The ‘put on whatever you find’ approach will end up with you looking like her,” Rick said, tilting his head in the direction of a teenage witch who was wearing a blinding combination of animal print and neon colours. Dragon scale, leopard print and whatever that yellow monstrosity was did not go together well, Harry noted for future reference. Not that he even owned anything with leopard print, or that yellow - if he ever discovered he did, he was going to enlist Fred and George’s help in revenge pranking Timothy.

While Harry was distracted Rick stole the menu, ordering tea and bacon sandwiches for them both. He’d eat whatever Harry didn’t but the young demon looked like he could do with some good food, preferably in large quantities.

The food appeared quickly and Harry dug in, after thanking Rick, glad to have a distraction from the fashion advice. At least Rick looked happier now, Harry mused as he watched the werewolf eat (and honestly, where did all that food go? He’s yet to meet an overweight werewolf despite them eating their own bodyweight every day).

“Do you have plans for the day?” Rick asked as he mopped up the drips of sauce with the last bite of his sandwich.

“Um…” Harry shifted slightly in his seat. He wanted to go back to Knockturn Alley but he didn’t want to make a pest of himself by asking the werewolf to take him again.

The whole being afraid of Knockturn thing was getting frustrating. He had thought it would get easier after he’d been there a few times but the Dark District scared him as much as ever and he still didn’t get why. Sure, the place was Dark, had some unsavoury patrons and some downright creepy shops but there was nothing that should scare him so much. The shops weren’t much creepier than Snape’s dungeon, the patrons paid little attention to cloaked figures and had yet to cause any real trouble, and Harry had encountered Dark things before, so he didn’t understand what made Knockturn seem so scary.

“I can take you back to the District if you want,” Rick offered with a small smile, correctly guessing what the problem was. “It’s not a problem and you shouldn’t worry about asking. I’m not going to say no unless I have something important to do - and then I wouldn’t be here anyway - and it’s not exactly a trek to get there, so it’s not a bother.”

“Thanks. Sorry I’m such a pest,” Harry mumbled.

“Harry, for the last time: It. Is. Not. A. Bother,” Rick enunciated slowly. “The only bother is your unwillingness to ask,” the werewolf grumbled.

“Sorry for being a pest about that too,” Harry grinned. Rick chuckled and prodded him out of his seat.

“Come on then, let’s get you to Leena’s so you can flirt with all the handsome doms,” Rick teased, laughing at Harry’s blush. “Having you around has done wonders for Leena’s profits you know,” he said as they made their way through Diagon. “Not that it wasn’t popular anyway but I swear business has doubled for her since you started going. Once word got out that Leena’s is always the first place you go - and usually the only place you go - a constant stream of doms started dropping by, hoping to catch your attention. If you’re not careful Leena will kidnap you and display you in the window to attract more customers,” he joked. “Where the sub goes, the hopeful doms will follow, it seems. I’m surprised they haven’t set up camp in the Leaky Cauldron.”

Harry snorted. “They’d better not. Hanging around Leena’s is one thing but I’ll be having words with the Council if anyone is brazen enough to start coming to the place where I’m currently living. It would be like having them camp on my front lawn!”

Rick looked slightly surprised. “So demons don’t do things like that?”

“What?" Harry said, surprised. "No, and definitely not during Scouting. They might get away with it during Courting but only in the later stages, and only if I knew about it in advance and was ok with it. Anything else is the social equivalent of stalking a girl you like and sitting outside her window all night,” Harry explained, before giving Rick a curious look. “Do werewolves do it, then? You sounded surprised that demons don’t.”

“Not quite camping on their lawn, but deliberately invading territory is standard fare. Of course, you have to have expressed your interest first so that the omega’s pack knows what is going on - unless you like getting a hiding for trespass - but after that anything short of inviting yourself for dinner is generally tolerated, and even expected to extent. If you can get close and stalk them without being caught by the rest of their pack, then it shows you’re skilled and a good potential mate,” Rick shrugged. “I know, it sounds weird to other races,” he said with a grin at Harry’s look.

“I’m not really one to comment, given how I came to exist. I doubt my sire spent a lot of time chatting up my mother,” Harry said dryly.

Rick snorted but didn’t comment. The general opinion on how Realm-sired-Earth-born demons were conceived was mixed. Most Creatures didn’t hold it against the Realm-sired demons themselves - though there were always exceptions who were willing to blame the easy target - but few Creatures were happy with the way Realm demons sired their Earth-born offspring. After all, discovering that the child your pregnant mate was carrying was not yours, through no fault of their own, was hardly a joyous occasion.

“So,” Harry said after a moment, wanting the conversation to continue to distract him from the Dark District around him, “what are the plans for tonight?”

“I’m pretty sure we’ll be going to Fantastic Beasts because Timothy doesn’t trust me to pick a ‘respectable’ bar, and he has the imagination of troll when choosing one himself. And we both work for the owner so we get a staff discount, but mostly it’s because he has the imagination of a troll,” Rick insisted, pushing away a cloaked figure who stepped out of an alcove towards them. “If we’re lucky Timothy might be able to get us one of the VIP tables, but that can be a bit hit and miss. I’m not senior enough to get perks like that and Timothy ricochets between Alpha’s good side and his bad side, so how likely he is to get perks depends on what recent escapades he’s been on. It doesn’t really matter in the long run; there’s usually a good crowd in the main bit and trouble is rare. Well, trouble is common, almost everyone there is a Creature so fights are inevitable, but it rarely has a chance to escalate before the trouble makers get kicked out - and will you piss off!” the last was snarled as Rick turned on his heal to face the cloaked figure who was following them.

“But-“ the stranger tried to protest but was cut off by Rick’s growl.

“I don’t care. If you’re heading to the District, it’s right there,” he said, waving a hand towards the stone archway a few meters away. It was close enough that Harry could see the Creatures milling about in the square beyond. “You’ve been following a few steps behind since halfway through the Alley. If you have a problem you can come find me later. Right now: Piss. Off.”

“I don’t care about you,” the cloaked figure spat back. “I want Harry! He belongs with me you-“

The rest was cut off as Rick slammed the figured against the nearest shop front, ignoring the startled clamouring of the caged animals in the window display. Harry winced sympathetically at the resounding crack as the stranger’s head met the wall - that must have hurt.

The blow to the head hadn’t prevented the guy from drawing his wand, Harry noticed. Not that it did the stranger much good as Rick pinned his hand quickly, in a move that looked practiced, keeping the wand pointing harmlessly away.

The sight of a wand being drawn had the wizards in the small crowd that had gathered scattering. Plausible deniability was the mantra Knockturn wizards lived by - if you weren’t there for it, you couldn’t be held responsible for the outcome. The number of Creatures in the crowd, however, was slowly increasing. Most were dominants of various races. Some looked like they were just there to watch a fight, Harry noted with an eye-roll, but to his exasperation many of them were giving him concerned glances, worried about a submissive’s proximity to what could quickly become a very violent fight.

“Honestly, do you lot hide in the woodwork or something?” Harry exclaimed, throwing his arms up when he realised how many of the dominants were demons. “Not a hair to be seen most of the time but the second it looks like I might chip a nail you all appear like nifflers smelling gold!” Harry ranted, ignoring the growling werewolf and choking stranger behind him. Rick seemed to have things under control.

His rant had earned him more than a few bemused looks from the dominants but Harry could also hear a vaguely familiar chuckle coming from somewhere in the crowd. Looking for the source, he smiled widely when he spotted a familiar face.

“Alexander!” he called, giving the dominant a wave. The crowd parted quickly as he made his way over, closing up behind him just as rapidly to shield him from the potential fight. He resisted the urge to roll his eyes or comment, not feeling like giving a public speech on why submissives don’t always need to be hovered over. “Hi,” he grinned as he finally made it to the dark haired dominant.

“Hello Harry,” Alexander smiled, still looking amused and a little smug at being singled out by the submissive everyone was interested in. “In trouble again?”

“This isn’t trouble,” Harry denied with a mischievous grin. “It’s not trouble until someone visits the hospital wing. We had to come up with a scale, otherwise every other thing I do would be trouble. This way I only really get into trouble a couple of times a year,” he continued innocently, grinning evilly as Alexander frowned and the surrounding dominants started hissing and muttering unhappily. If they were going to be over-protective idiots he may as well get entertainment out of it. Besides, it was true; almost every time he and his friends got into trouble, at least one of them (usually him) had a visit to the hospital wing.

Harry turned at the sound of scuffling from the front of the crowd. He was too short to see over the shoulders of the others in the crowd but, judging by the noise, the stranger was trying to fight back despite being pinned to the wall. The crowd shifted restlessly as the scuffling sounds got louder, growls breaking out as spells were cast.

A sudden, loud crack rent the air and quiet descended on the alley. The cloaked figure had given up and disapparated.

Drama over, the crowd began to disperse quickly, most heading back into the Creature District. A few of the demons hung around for a few minutes but soon left when they realised Harry was happily chatting to Alexander. It didn’t take long for the two demons and the werewolf to be alone in the alley.

“Am I going to get shouted at?” Rick asked warily.

“No? Why would you be shouted at?” asked Harry, confused.

“Because you’re getting a reputation for shouting at people who act protective of you,” Rick deadpanned. “Timothy barely dares suggest anything that might sound like he’s being protective around you.”

“I’m not that bad,” Harry pouted, ignoring Alexander’s chuckling and Rick’s disbelieving look. “I just don’t like people trying to fight my battles for me when I’m doing fine on my own. I do know when to ask for help,” he insisted.

“Of course you do,” Rick said, leading the way into the square.

“I do!” Harry insisted again. “I ask you and Timothy for help walking through the Dark District, don’t I? And I’m not bothered that you took care of that guy back there.” That he wasn’t annoyed because it had all happened too fast for him to process what was going on before Rick had it well under control didn’t need to be mentioned, Harry thought. “I can accept help, I just don’t like being coddled.”

His two companions exchanged looks as Rick hummed noncommittally. Alexander didn’t comment but he couldn’t help thinking that the little raven-haired submissive was going to be a handful when he got older. Merlin, he was a handful now! Being his dominant would not be easy, he could tell that already and he barely knew the minx.

Alexander looked forward to the challenge. He just wondered how many of the younger dominants vying for the boy’s attention would also be up to it.

Chapter Text

It was several hours later that Harry rejoined Rick at his table in Leena’s coffee shop. Alexander had offered to buy Harry a coffee and had spent a little while chatting with him, getting to know one another a little better. Unfortunately he hadn’t been able to stay long and left as soon as he had finished his drink. Harry had extracted a promise to owl him before letting the dominant go (not that getting the dominant to agree had been difficult).

Since then he had been picking dominants at random and going over to introduce himself. Some conversations were over before they had barely begun, Harry knowing quickly that he and the dominant would never get along well enough to be mates. Others lasted longer before Harry found himself rejecting them as prospective mates, sometimes for reasons he himself wasn’t entirely sure of. A few, however, managed to catch his attention and hold it. Those dominants he agreed to meet with again or asked them to owl him if they weren’t sure they would be able to get back to Knockturn before Harry started back at school.

All in all it had been a successful day so far, so he was annoyed to have his good mood ruined by the sight of a group of werewolves gathered around an uncomfortable looking Rick. Although the werewolves must be packmates - an outsider group of werewolves hassling a Knockturn Pack member would have been seen off by now - Rick did not look happy or comfortable to be around them. The situation reminded Harry of Slytherins cornering one or two lone Gryffindors - a situation Harry had been in often enough with Malfoy and his cronies.

“Hey Rick, I’m not interrupting am I?” he asked as he planted himself next to the werewolf. Subtlety was not his strong suit, but as long as it got the other werewolves off Rick’s back he didn’t care how unsubtle his approach was.

“Hi Harry. No you’re not interrupting. I was just talking to some of my packmates,” the werewolf replied with a strained smile and a gesture towards the others sitting at the table. “Did you get tired of the adoring masses fawning all over you?” he asked with a grin that was a bit more genuine.

“Uh, don’t” Harry groaned, thudding his head on the table. “I swear some of these people have the maturity level of a three year old, and about the same manners. A few of them aren’t too bad though - they can at least go five minutes without making stupid innuendos. But enough about the exasperations of my love life, introduce me to your packmates.”

“Oh, yeah,” Rick said, smile dimming slightly. “Harry this is Rikin, Jason, Andrew - who prefers Andy - Edward and Leo. Guys this is Harry, the demon Timothy invited to the game tomorrow,” his tone held a slight hint of warning to Harry’s surprise.

The other werewolves all greeted Harry politely, wary of upsetting him. While they didn’t know much about the young demon, they did know that the Alpha had made it abundantly clear that upsetting the submissive, should they meet him, would be a Very Bad Thing. Anyone with half a brain knew that this meant the Boss was interested in the submissive, as little else could make Domovoi so insistent about behaviour, which made upsetting the submissive more than their hide was worth. As troublesome as Rikin and his little posse could be, even they had lines they knew not to cross.

“Will you be at the game tomorrow?” Harry asked innocently, correctly deducing that these were the ‘pups’ who had been forbidden to go to the match because of misbehaviour.

“No, we were asked to stay behind,” Rikin said with a tight smile, striving to be polite while in grumbled internally. “We can’t all go off and leave the territory unguarded, it’d be asking for a take-over.”

Harry hummed noncommittally. He didn’t even have to glance at Rick to see the irritation and denial at the made up explanation, the werewolf was so tense he could practically feel the outrage pouring off him. Besides, it was more fun if Harry acted ignorant to the reality of the situation. It was clear the werewolves didn’t want to offend him, and that Rikin had the same self-entitled attitude Malfoy had - poking the snake’s nest was always fun when they couldn’t bite back.

“I thought Timothy said some of your pack weren’t coming to the game because they don’t like quidditch?” he asked with a confused frown, giving a puzzled glance to Rick. “How many pack members need to be on the territory at any given time?” he directed his question at Rick, who was much more relaxed now he had realised Harry would not be taking Rikin’s side.

“Two or three normally,” Rick shrugged before one of the other werewolves could attempt to exaggerate the answer. “Depends how long the rest of the pack is gone for, how far away they’ll be, how hard they’ll be to contact, how difficult it would be for them to return at short notice, whether we’ve had trouble recently, how experienced the people left behind are, stuff like that. For the game, which is easy to get back from in a couple of minutes, only two people really need to be left. Of course it’s also-”

“Oh, shut up already! We don’t need your life story,” snapped one of the younger werewolves - Andy, Harry thought Rick had called him. Rick flinched slightly and snapped his mouth shut, making Harry frown.

“No, please continue,” he smiled at Rick and shot the others a dirty look that made them wince slightly. So much for not upsetting the demon. Hopefully he wouldn’t mention it to anyone so it wouldn’t make it back to the Alpha. Hoping to salvage the situation and get the demon on their side, Rikin gave Harry a sheepish smile.

“Sorry, Andy shouldn’t have snapped. That was rude,” he said, giving the other werewolf a pointed look to quell any protests, “but you have to stop Rick before he really gets going, otherwise he never shuts up. He doesn’t have a brain-to-mouth filter. If you get him started he’ll talk you into a coma and still carry on while you’re unconscious. You’ll see what I mean if you hang around the pack more; it gets on everybody’s nerves in the end,” Rikin explained, seeming to somehow miss the glare Harry was giving him as Rick shrank back in his seat.

It was only when one of the other werewolves elbowed him in the side that Rikin realised he’d made the situation worse. He flinched internally at the icy stare Harry was giving him.

“Just because you-”

“Oi!” A shout from across the cafe interrupted what would have been a spectacular dressing down. Harry twisted in his seat to see who had interrupted him. Whoever it was, the sight of them had made the pups blanch.

Striding towards them with a scowl was Timothy and another werewolf. Harry’s eyes widened as he took in the other werewolf’s size. He was huge. If Harry didn’t know better, he would think he was looking at Hagrid’s clean-shaven little brother. Even Timothy, as big as he was, looked almost averaged sized in comparison. The werewolf must have been seven feet tall, and wide enough to struggle fitting through normal sized doors. He also had the distinct feel of an Alpha werewolf which only made him seem even more intimidating, despite the perfectly calm look on his face.

“What do they feed you people?” Harry exclaimed, turning to Rick, who chuckled.

“Miracle-Gro?” Rick suggested with a laugh.

“I’m amazed you even know what that is, abysmal gardener that you are” Timothy, who had just reached their table, snorted. Then he rounded on the younger werewolves. “Where the fuck have you lot been? Do you think we don’t have better things to be doing than searching all over Knockturn for five pups who can’t even put the fucking effort in to make it to work on time?” he snarled, truly pissed off that he had had to spend the last half hour searching for them instead of enjoying his time off. To find them lazing around in Leena’s - undoubtedly making life difficult for Rick and, judging by the demon’s expression, getting under Harry’s skin as well - just pissed him off even more.

“Thank you, Timothy,” the gigantic werewolf said calmly, placing a hand on the angry werewolf’s shoulder and gently pushing him aside. “I don’t want to hear it,” he said, raising a hand as the pups started to make excuses. “You can explain to Alpha why you are over half an hour late for work. I’m sure he and Mr. Calvey would be fascinated to find out why you spent the last half hour here, upsetting a packmate and, if I’m not mistaken, the demon submissive who has been invited to join the pack at an event you yourselves will be missing due to previous infractions.” The pups paled even more. They hadn’t been expecting to have to explain themselves to the Boss directly. “All I needed was to know where you were. Now that I know you are safe and not in need of assistance, I trust you can make your own way to work? I needn’t remind you how displeased I will be if I have to come looking for you again. Next time I may be inclined to let Timothy deal with you,” he said, voice still mild as Timothy fumed next to him.

“Yes sir,” Rikin stammered as the group clambered to their feet, looking torn between fleeing the giant werewolf’s well hidden anger and waiting to be dismissed so as not to invite more anger because of poor manners.

“Go, and if you are not in front of the Alpha in ten minutes I will want to know why,” the werewolf dismissed them, a faint hint of a growl finally showing in his voice. The pups went, filing rapidly through the door and sprinting off as soon as they made it out.

“I apologise for that,” the big werewolf said, turning to face Harry. “I am Aaron Firmin, the Knockturn Pack’s Second,” he introduced himself.

“Harry Potter,” Harry greeted, quiet enough that people at the surrounding tables couldn’t here over the chatter in the cafe.

“Yes, Timothy is quite taken with you,” Aaron teased with a smile. “The rest of the pack is looking forward to meeting you in person after listening to him natter on about you. I am sorry that you had to meet the pups before you met everyone else; they can be rather crass. I hope they did not upset you too badly?” he asked with a small frown. Rikin and his lot had caused enough trouble recently, without upsetting a submissive they had been specifically ordered not to offend.

“Not really,” Harry sighed. “Not directly, at least. I was more angry at the way they treated Rick. They were relatively polite to me,” he clarified at Timothy’s disbelieving noise, ignoring Rick’s murmur of protest.

Aaron nodded slowly, “Yes, I will be having words with them about that. Treating a packmate so reprehensibly will not be tolerated. I hope you will not judge us all by their example, the rest of the pack are far more tolerable.”

“I look forward to meeting them,” Harry smiled, already liking the calm, slightly formal sounding werewolf.

“Then I shall see you at the game tomorrow,” Aaron said with a nod. “Timothy, you have the rest of the day off. Thank you for your assistance.” With a farewell nod, Aaron turned on his heel and left to find his Alpha and the pups, who had better have shown up where they were told to.

“So,” Harry said after a moment of silence, “how dead do you think they are?”

“Fed-to-a-nundu dead,” Rick answered without missing a beat. Timothy nodded in agreement.

“Skipping work is bad enough. Being found spending that time picking on a pack member and annoying someone who is joining us as a guest of the pack tonight and tomorrow? They’ll be praying for the full moon to come faster by the time Alpha is done with them,” Timothy said, sounding slightly more gleeful at the prospect than he probably should have. “So what are you two munchkins up to now?”

“Munchkins?” Harry exclaimed in mock outrage. 

“Harry was taking a break from all the IQ-less dominants he’s been humouring,” Rick grinned as Timothy cackled at Harry’s outburst.

“They aren’t all IQ-less, just a terrifyingly large number of them are,” Harry corrected. “Maybe I should just adopt a kneazle? They offer the same level of companionship and intelligence as some of the idiots I’ve talked with in here,” he mused, setting off Timothy’s cackling again.

“They can’t all be bad,” Timothy reasoned once he had calmed down. “Maybe you need a different way of choosing who to approach? You should throw a dart into the crowd and go to talk to whoever it hits. At least you’ll have a conversation starter.”

“I am not throwing darts at potential future mates,” Harry said, smacking Timothy on the arm. “I think my random selection process is disturbing them enough without stabbing them with pointy things. And Leena would kill me! Or kill you for suggesting it and kick me out for doing it.”

“I think you should try the blonde in the corner,” Rick interjected. “He looks like he’d be good in bed,” he added.

Silence followed this proclamation as the other two stared. Several seconds passed before Harry blushed and Timothy howled with laughter.

“You are a special kind of evil,” Harry moaned as he buried his head in his hands. After spending several minutes ostensibly ignoring the cackling hyenas, Harry lifted his head. “You know what, I think I will go and say hi,” he said decisively. “If nothing else you’ve given me a talking point,” he grinned.

“You’re going to ask the unfamiliar dominant what he’s like in bed?” Timothy asked dubiously.

“Of course not!” Harry exclaimed. “I meant the insanity of my friends. Honestly, what kind of demon do you take me for? Don’t answer that!” he said quickly, pointing threateningly at the two werewolves, who were grinning at him. He huffed as they continued to grin at him. “Alright, I’ll go stammer and blush at the poor dom who will think I’m insane thanks to you two.”

“Good luck,” Timothy said cheerfully. “We’ll give you a shout when it’s time to go and get ready for tonight. Rick will want plenty of time to torture, I mean help you get ready.”

Harry chuckled and stood, waving goodbye to Timothy as Rick rounded on the bigger werewolf. The sound of the two squabbling was quickly lost in the background noise as Harry approached the demon Rick had pointed out. Despite the werewolves’ best efforts, Harry managed to control his blush as he sat in a chair across from the dominant. He was getting more confident about this whole approaching dominants thing. Even knowing lots of dominants were watching from a distance didn’t feel as overwhelming as it had at first.

“Hi, I’m Harry,” said Harry, offering a hand to shake. He’d also gotten much better at remembering to introduce himself before launching into a conversation.

“Owen Derwen,” the blonde smiled. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Harry.”

“You’re much calmer about it than some of the others have been,” Harry said wryly. “I half expected some of them to collapse in shock.”

“You have caused quite the stir,” Owen admitted. “Nobody was sure what to make of you confronting a dominant, or all the time you spend with werewolves who aren’t family. It’s unusual.”

“Good unusual or bad unusual?”

Owen shrugged. “That depends on the dom. Some like the predictability of a lot of submissives’ behaviour. Personally, I like the unusual. At work it makes my job more interesting, and at home I imagine it would make my life more interesting too,” he winked.

“What job do have?” Harry asked curiously.

“I’m a curse breaker. Maybe not the safest of jobs but it is interesting and the pay is good.”

“Really? My friend’s brother is a curse breaker. He works in Egypt,” Harry said, happy to have something less generic than school or quidditch to talk about, even if he didn’t know a great deal about curse breaking.

“He works for Gringotts then?” Owen stated more than asked. “Most Egypt-based curse breakers do. I only spent a couple of months there for training. Nobody does horrifically slow and painful deaths like the Egyptians,” the dominant paused for a moment, checking Harry’s reaction as he remembered he was talking to a submissive. A lot of submissives were squeamish about the details of his work but he needn’t have worried about Harry. The young demon was fascinated and it would take a lot more than the mention of a few deadly curses to put him off. “Once I finished my training I got a job with a private company in Norway and specialised in Nordic enchantments. It is based a lot more in rune-work than pure spell-work but the Norse ‘gods’ could be tricky bastards when they wanted to be.”

“Gods?” Harry repeated, eyes wide. He had never been a religious person - his aunt and uncle only attended church because it was the ‘proper’ thing to do, not out of any real belief, and they never took him - so it had never occurred to him that stories about gods may have some basis in fact.

“They weren’t real gods, just extremely talented families of magic users. They probably would have been on par with the Founders but they used runes more than spell casting,” the curse breaker explained, pleased to have an interested audience. “It’s a pity most of Europe focuses so much on spell work, it is amazing what a good understanding of runic magic enables you to do. Most people only use runes for setting permanent or extremely strong wards, it’s a waste. A true runes master can create enchantments more complex than spells alone can achieve, and the crafting possibilities are immense!” he enthused.

“I didn’t know runes could do so much,” Harry admitted. “I chose Ancient Runes as one of my options but nothing like that was mentioned in the information about the application of runes.”

“It wouldn’t be. Even so called ‘masters’ nowadays don’t make proper use of runes,” Owen snorted derisively. “Too much of it has been deemed dangerous or Dark. Blanket bans on entire branches are slowly killing the art. Spell-work is easier and is considered safer and more modern. Runes are not forgiving if you make mistakes whereas a good Healer can fix most spell damage quickly. Spells are easier to regulate as well. If someone is learning Dark spells it is obvious but everyone learns the same runes - it’s how you use them that matters. A benevolent runic array that purifies water uses the same runes as a harmful array that poisons, the difference lies in the orientation of the runes within the array. You wouldn’t know which array someone was using until they finished setting it, by which time it is active and takes a lot of work to undo. Then there are the branches I don’t know much about: body enhancements, rituals, scrying - though that is a cross between enchanting and divining. Lots of them have been banned in most countries for being ‘Dark’.”

Harry was fascinated. As a Realm-sired demon he had something of an affinity for magic languages, both written and spoken, and found their potential applications fascinating. Unfortunately, thanks to the wizards’ superiority complexes, very little was known about many of the languages used by various magical beasts and beings. They were seen novelties at best or signs of evil and Darkness at worst, so while being able to speak Gobbledegook and Mermish was deemed a fairly impressive, mildly useful skill, nobody cared to research the possible further applications of the languages. To find out that runes - which was really the wizards’ own magic language - had also fallen prey to the ridiculous Dark stigma was disappointing.

Still, Harry was interested and he doubted Owen would care too much about sticking to Ministry approved topics when discussing runes. They broke the laws just by being demons and having the audacity to continue breathing, what was a bit of forbidden knowledge going to hurt?

The raven haired demon spent the next few hours pestering the dominant with questions about runes, with the occasional question about curse breaking thrown in. Owen seemed amused at all the questions but answered them all patiently, no doubt delighted to have held Harry’s attention for so long. Not once had the green eyed teen’s attention wavered or shown signs of growing bored.

“I think your werewolf friend is trying to get your attention,” Owen said a few hours later as they sat in comfortable silence while Harry thought over everything he had learned.

Looking over in the direction of the table he had left the werewolves at, Harry saw that Timothy was indeed waving like a lunatic trying to get his attention. Once the werewolf saw that he had Harry’s attention, he started miming…something.

“Do you have any idea what that is supposed to mean?” Harry asked the blonde dominant. Owen looked equally as baffled as Harry felt.

“Not a clue. It looks like someone jinxed him with a miscast Tarantallegra,” said Owen raising an eyebrow. “Why doesn’t he just say whatever it is he’s trying to communicate? He’s close enough that he wouldn’t even have to shout much.”

“Don’t ask me. I fear the day I understand how his mind works,” Harry muttered in reply, before raising his voice slightly to carry across the cafe. “Timothy, I don’t speak interpretive dance! What is that,” he copied the arm-flailing movements the werewolf had been making, “supposed to mean?”

“It’s time to go,” Rick translated, electing to walk to Harry’s table and talk like a normal person rather than wave his arms around like a gnome that had stepped on a lightning bug.

“Why couldn’t he just say that?” Harry sighed exasperatedly. “Owen, it was brilliant meeting you. Will you be around in the next couple of days? I’d love to see you again and continue our chat,” Harry asked with a bright smile.

“Of course,” said the dominant, looking extremely pleased. “I have the rest of the month off so I’ll be around most days.”

“Great,” Harry grinned. “It’s been fascinating talking to you. Not many people can keep my short attention span focused for so long, Hermione will be owling you for tips when I tell her,” he laughed. With a last goodbye, he left with the werewolves.

The second they were out of earshot, Timothy and Rick burst out laughing.

“What are you two hyenas laughing about now?”

“Oh Merlin, did you see his face?” cackled Rick. Timothy nodded, laughing so hard he wasn’t making any noise, while Harry looked confused.

“I think you made him a very happy demon, Harry,” Timothy laughed once he had his breathing under control enough to speak.

“What?” Harry looked completely perplexed.

“Merlin, he was so proud he was preening,” Timothy gasped, setting Rick off again as Harry rolled his eyes.

“He was not. He was just happy he hadn’t bored me to tears like so many others did,” Harry grumbled. “Honestly, you two are like children! If this is what me and Ron are like when we’re together then I suddenly have a lot of sympathy for Hermione.”

That declaration did nothing to shut the two werewolves up, who were now laughing so hard the patrons of the Dark District were giving them sideways glances. They were still letting out the occasional chuckle as Harry let them into his room at the Leaky Cauldron.

“Right, into the shower you,” Rick ordered, recovering quickly and prodding Harry into the bathroom. “Do you have conditioner? No, of course you don’t, why bother taking care of your hair? Here take this, use it after shampooing.”

Harry blinked as a bottle of hair conditioner was shoved at him.

“Have you been carrying this around with you all day?” he asked incredulously.

“Shower!” Rick barked in reply, striding back into the bedroom and shutting the bathroom door. “And don’t take too long!” came the muffled order through the door.

Five minutes later a freshly showered Harry stuck his head around the bathroom door. “Do I have clothes or…?”

“Here,” Rick said, passing him a bundle of folded clothes. “Towel off your hair first then put these on. Put a dry towel over your shoulders once you’re dressed so you don’t drip water all over your shirt,” he instructed.

Doing as ordered, Harry quickly rubbed his hair with the towel before pulling on the chinos and sapphire blue, long sleeved shirt he had been given. He had a suspicious feeling the chinos were new, as he didn’t remember buying them, and he really hoped this would be the last of the clothes Rick would buy for him. He already had more than he knew what to do with.

Slinging a dry towel around his shoulders he padded back into the bedroom. The sight of Rick standing by the small dressing table (which Harry had been using as a desk until now) wielding a hairbrush seemed oddly foreboding. At some point the smaller werewolf must have made Timothy change as the older werewolf was sitting on the bed, pouting, wearing a polo-shirt and slacks rather than his previous shirt, vest and jeans.

“Time to get that mop you call hair under control,” Rick announced, dragging Harry over to the seat. The demon eyed the various bottles lined up on the table dubiously.

“Seriously, have you been carrying these around all day?” he asked again. “And did you bring a change of clothes for Timothy? Where did you carry it all?”

“I carry a lot of these bottles shrunk down in my pocket all the time in case I need them. The clothes I tucked into the storage pouch of my wallet to keep them clean. A quick ironing spell removes any wrinkles, and this way he can’t sneak off to pretend to get changed,” Rick explained as he attacked Harry’s hair. The teenager marvelled at the werewolf’s ability to make it sound like what he had done was a perfectly normal thing that everyone did.

Several bottles of hair products later, plus a few charms that Harry didn’t recognise, and the demon was getting fed up of the grooming session.

“How much longer can this take?” Harry whined. As far as he could tell his hair looked the same as ever. Maybe slightly fluffier and tidier than usual but nothing to justify the amount of time Rick had kept him pinned in the chair for.

“You know, you are a submissive, I thought you were all supposed to love pampering sessions like this,” Timothy teased with a smirk.

Harry threw one of the bottles at him.

“Git. You’re lucky Rick won’t let me move or I’d hex you for that. Contrary to popular belief we aren’t all born with an innate love of clothes and fashion.”

“Don’t let me hold you back, you’re done,” Rick grinned, stepping back.

With a wicked grin, Harry jumped up and snatched his wand from where it was lying on the windowsill, shooting a hiccuping jinx at Timothy.

“Ha-hic-rry,” whined the werewolf. “No f-hic-air.”

“I think its very fair,” shrugged the demon. “Maybe next time you’ll think before you speak.”

Over by the dressing table, Rick snorted, “Don’t hold your breath, nothing else has worked on him. Now, can I trust you children not to mess up my hard work while I get ready?” he asked. When the only answers he got were an innocent look from Harry and a rude hand gesture accompanied by a hiccup from Timothy he shook his head exasperatedly and disappeared into the bathroom.

“So how long do you think he’ll be?” Harry asked, eyeing a vengeful looking Timothy warily.

“Ha-hic-rry,” Timothy said warningly, “remove the da-hic-mn jinx.”

“Now let’s not be too hasty,” said Harry, backing away as Timothy advanced. “Rick will kill you if you mess up my hair,” he squeaked, darting to the side as Timothy lunged at him.

When Rick emerged from the bathroom it was to find Harry kneeling on the floor, clutching his sides and giggling uncontrollably, and Timothy releasing bubbles from his mouth every time he hiccuped or tried to speak.

“A-are we g-going now?” Harry stuttered through his giggles.

“I left you alone for five minutes!” Rick said throwing his hands up.

Finite incantatem,” Timtohy muttered, pointing his wand at himself then doing the same for Harry. “You have never only taken five minutes to get ready for anything,” he snorted at Rick.

“You’ve made a mess of your clothes,” Rick complained, ignoring Timothy’s comment in favour of inspecting the damage the two had done to their outfits. “Right, both of you stand still. You look like you just got out of a fight with Devil’s Snare.” Several spells later and Rick declared the two neat enough to leave.

“Finally!” Harry exclaimed, darting for the door before Rick could haul him back for any last minute adjustments. He had no idea how anyone could take so long to get ready for a night out and he never wanted to experience it again.

“It didn’t take that long,” Rick grumbled as Timothy copied Harry’s speedy exit. He caught up with them at the top of the stairs. Harry had stopped to pull his wand out, not wanting to use magic in front of everyone in the Leaky Cauldron and risk getting in trouble for underage magic.

“What are you doing?” asked a bemused Timothy as he watched the demon mutter something and tap his lightning bolt scar with his wand.

“Avoiding fan mobs,” Harry said, tucking his wand back into his pocket. “I usually only cast it once a day but your finite will have cancelled the one I cast this morning.”

“Fan mobs? How does it stop fan mobs?” the werewolf asked, following Harry down the stairs and over to the bar.

“Just a sec,” Harry said to Timothy before turning to Tom behind the bar. “Hey Tom, I’m going now. I should be back tomorrow at some point but I’m not sure when - depends how long the game takes,” Harry said with an excited grin. Tom smiled indulgently at the teen’s enthusiasm.

“Aye lad, enjoy yerself. Send us an owl if yer gonna be gone longer so I can hold off the search party,” he said with a wink, returning the wave Harry gave as he left.

“What were we talking about?” Harry asked as Timothy held the door open. “Oh, yeah, the spell. It hides my scar. If people don’t notice the scar, they usually don’t recognise me.”

“I can still see it,” Timothy said, peering at Harry’s forehead.

Harry nodded, “That’s because you’re looking for it. It’s just a masking charm to make it harder to notice, if you already know it’s there or I make it obvious by having my forehead uncovered then you can see through the spell. It stops people noticing it when I’m just chatting to them though, which is all I’m bothered about. It’s how I’ve been able to talk to so many dominants without having them salivating over the possibility of having the Boy-Who-Lived for a mate,” he explained.

“Huh. So is that why I didn’t notice it when I first met you?”

“Nope. I wasn’t using it then.”

Rick laughed.

“In my defence you have a really long fringe and I wasn’t exactly expecting it. And you spent most of the time with your head down, buried in books,” Timothy said defensively.

Harry laughed. “Calm down, I was joking. Yes, I was using it when I first met you,” he grinned. “You can relax, your excellent powers of observation are not being questioned.”

Rick laughed harder as Timothy pouted, “Meanie.”

By the time the trio made it to the square that marked the beginning of the Creature District, the switch over from diurnal businesses to nocturnal ones was almost complete. Leena’s cafe was still open, as were a couple of restaurants, but many of the shops were shut. Although, Harry realised as he looked around, some had not so much shut as changed. Before his eyes, a shop that sold specialised food stuffs and potions ingredients rotated until it showed a new front. The new shopfront had flyers in the window advertising a discount on A-negative blood and a buy two get one free offer on - Harry shudder slightly - human liver. Demon or not, the idea of eating human flesh turned his stomach - he didn’t judge those who needed or even just liked it but he tried not to think too hard about it.

The mix of Creatures in the square had changed too. While there were still a lot of goblins about (Harry wondered whether they ever slept or if they ran on the power of hostility alone) most of the Creatures he was used to seeing in the day - leprechauns, animagii, dryads and the rest - had gone. Instead, the square was filled with vampires, hags, oni and other nocturnal Creatures. Harry was pretty sure that the scruffy black dog with glowing white eyes, lying under one of the restaurant tables, was a full-blooded púca but he wasn’t about to test that theory.

“Is it just me or are there a lot of vamps out tonight?” Rick muttered to Timothy, glancing around the square.

Timothy shrugged. “A few more than normal, maybe. They don’t look like they want to cause trouble though, so it shouldn’t be an issue.”

“I don’t like it,” Rick complained quietly. “It creeps me out having so many around.”

“Relax, it’s just your instincts messing with you. The old vampires-are-the-enemy instinct fades the more exposure you get. Give a few years and you’ll barely notice it unless they’re being threatening,” Timothy reassured the younger werewolf. As Harry listened to Timothy coaching Rick on settling his instincts he wondered how long Rick had been a werewolf. He’d never really given it much thought but seeing the younger werewolf’s obvious inexperience like this made him wonder.

For the first time since coming to Knockturn Alley, Harry left the square and moved deeper into the Creature District. He wasn’t sure what he had been expecting but at first the place looked a lot like Diagon Alley, albiet more Creature friendly. Doorways wide enough for wings to fit through easily, iron and silver kept tucked safely away to avoid accidental contact, plaques giving blanket permission to enter to any non-hostile being, and other little things that didn’t seem like much but made the lives of Creatures who wanted to shop a little bit easier.

As they moved deeper, the buildings changed from shops to apartments, a few public service buildings - emergency blood blanks, a clinic for Creatures who needed a Healer but were unable or unwilling to hide their lack of humanity for St. Mungo’s, a financial advice office, various help points for getting in touch with different race’s ruling bodies, and a few other official looking buildings that had no sign to indicate their purpose - and the odd pub and club dotted around.

“Through there are the pack’s apartments,” Timothy said, pointing towards a short, gated side alley that opened out into a small courtyard. “You’ll get a better look later when we go to my place for the night.”

“Does all your pack live there?” asked Harry curiously, peering through the sturdy gate into what he could see of the dimly lit courtyard.

“Not always. Everyone has to stay for full moons but we can live where we want for the rest of the month,” explained Rick. “I live in student Halls during the semesters at uni, so I only live here for about half the year. Timothy and a few others live here full time and of course the Alpha lives here as well - it can’t really be the pack’s home if the Alpha lives somewhere else.”

“Do all packs have a communal home wherever their Alpha lives?” Harry asked, thinking of Damian’s father who was a werewolf. How did it work if an Alpha had a non-werewolf mate? Harry wasn’t sure he would like to live constantly surrounded by his mate’s pack, if he chose a werewolf as a mate.

Rick seemed surprised at the question. “As far as I know. I can’t think of any pack that doesn’t,” he replied, looking questioningly at Timothy.

“Maybe not exactly like our set-up but every pack has something similar,” he shrugged. “Most urban packs do what we did, buy a block of flats or an apartment complex big enough for everyone. Rural packs tend more towards having one or two houses with a lot of land, like a farm or a house out in the Lake District - if there isn’t enough room in the house, some of the pack sleep outside. And obviously wild packs don’t have houses at all and they usually stick together all the time. Most are nomadic but even the fixed packs prefer caves or dense forest for shelter over anything man-made - just using a tarp to shelter from the worst of the rain is looked down on by them. Completely nuts, the lot of them,” Timothy said shaking his head. Just the idea of washing in streams and cuddling together under animal hides for warmth made him long for a hot shower and his apartment’s central heating.

Harry pondered the new information. He’d have to ask Damian about his father’s pack and how he and his family fit into it. It wasn’t urgent information but he’d like to know in case he was ever considering a werewolf mate in the future.

He was brought out of his musing by a nudge to his side.

“This is it,” Timothy grinned, nodding his head at the building ahead of them.

The front of the building was black with cursive purple lettering spelling out ‘Fantastic Beasts’ above the door. A small animated dragon weaved through the letters, watching passersby and occasionally letting out a burst of flame, as a slightly larger nundu lounged beneath the words, tail flicking lazily as it washed a paw and eyed the people below. Small windows enabled Harry to see into the club, though it was too dark to see much more than a few tables and chairs. A queue was already starting to form outside but the bouncers on the door, both werewolves, called Timothy and Rick over.

“I hate you both right now,” the older of the two bouncers said in lieu of a greeting.

Timothy laughed, “You’re the one who decided you’d rather be on the doors than watch recalcitrant pups. If you’d sucked it up and spent an afternoon pup-sitting you could have been joining us.”

“Carry on like that and I’ll send you to the back of the line,” the bouncer growled playfully.

“Would you do that to your own packmate?” Timothy asked, covering his heart in mock hurt, prompting a laugh from the other werewolf.

“Lucky for you Alpha’s orders say I can’t. So who’s your friend? Looks a little young to be around here.”

“This is Harry. Harry, meet Lukas. Lukas, learn how to use your nose. If you can’t tell that Harry’s reached inheritance age, and is looking for a mate, then you need your nose checked,” Timothy said with a huff.

After a deep inhale Lukas shifted sheepishly, “Ah. In my defence the place is pretty busy and single scents are hard to separate. And the place has been swimming with demons recently.”

“You keep telling yourself that,” Timothy teased. “Now, are you going to let us in or make us stay here listening to you prattle on?”

“This is why people don’t like you,” Lukas scowled jokingly, pushing open the door. “In you go. Have fun, I’ll be around bright and early in the morning with an air horn.”

Chuckling, Timothy led the way inside, pausing as Harry stopped to read the sign stuck to the internal doors:

We ask that customers please refrain from: spell casting, enthralling, biting of any kind, changing or feeding from other patrons. No animal forms permitted on the dance floor or in the bar area. Please enquire at the bar for any special dietary needs. Thank you for your cooperation.

Raising an eyebrow Harry commented, “We should get one of these for the common room. It’s like living in a zoo sometimes.”

“And a sign would fix that?”

“Probably not but I can always hope,” shrugged the demon as he followed Timothy through the doors.

The inside of the club was split into three levels. Off to the left a short set of stairs led down to a dance floor with a stage along the far wall - Harry presumed there was a muffling charm on the stairs because while he could hear the music it was nowhere near as loud as he expected it to be. The middle level, that the trio were currently on, had a large central bar with tables and chairs scattered around. Towards the back of the room there were crowds of people gathered around what looked like pool tables but they had levitating balls and appeared to be shouting advice (or abuse) at the players. To the right another short set of stairs led up to an area filled with much more luxurious looking seating, with a smaller, fancier bar in the corner. A sign at the bottom of the stairs proclaimed the area to be ‘VIP Only’ and a well built werewolf (seriously, what were they feeding these people?) standing at the bottom of the steps deterred anyone from trying their luck at sneaking in.

The animal theme Harry had seen on the sign outside continued inside. A few tamer magical animals - unicorns, salamanders, erumpents - were carved, painted or otherwise depicted on table tops, the backs of chairs and dotted around in a few other places, but by far the most prominent creatures were the dragon and nundu that had been on the sign outside. All of the animals moved; tossing their heads, blinking and mimicking the actions of their real life counterparts. The dragons patrolled their territory protectively, letting loose small bursts of flame, while the nundus were silently watchful, causally washing themselves with the dismissive attitude cats excelled at. Sitting on the bar - Harry did a double take - was a velociraptor, of all things, that seemed to be acting as a tips jar. Occasionally someone would flick a coin in its direction and it would snatch the coin out of the air and gobble it down.

“Why is there a small dinosaur sitting on the bar?” Harry asked bemusedly.

“It collects tips. At the end of the night the staff tap it and it doles out their share. Anyone trying to claim a share that isn’t theirs gets bitten,” Timothy explained cheerfully.

Harry paused to digest this before asking, “But why a velociraptor?”

“Jurassic Park is a film that resonated with us deeply. By which I mean we saw film and decided we needed a pet raptor, so we made one in a combined, not-so-sober effort. Then we had nowhere to put it and it kept eating random things and biting people who tried to retrieve anything that didn’t belong to them. Now it collects tips for us.”

“That is…” Harry trailed off, lost for words.

“Completely ridiculous but also kind of amazing?” Rick suggested with a grin. Harry nodded wordlessly, watching as the raptor ate another shiny sickle. “Yeah, that’s what I thought when I first saw it.”

To Harry’s surprise, Timothy led them in the direction of the VIP area. The tattooed werewolf by the stairs eyed them curiously as they approached, gaze lingering on Harry.

“Is this a reward for good behaviour or because of your friend here?” the werewolf asked as they reached the bottom of the steps. Harry shifted uncomfortably under the werewolf’s gaze, the cold, blue eyed stare more intimidating than he had been used to receiving from his few meetings with other members of the pack.

“Alpha loves me,” Timothy grinned, earning a snort from the other werewolves.

“Because of your friend, then,” the unfamiliar werewolf concluded. “Unless you’ve done something amazing while I was busy?”

“I’m hurt. My own packmates don’t believe in me!” Timothy exclaimed dramatically.

“Your packmates know you spend as much time in trouble as you do making up for the trouble you caused,” Rick said dryly. “Thomas, this is Harry. Harry, this is Thomas - he’s not as scary as he looks once you get to know him.”

“Harry?” the blue eyes flicked back to Harry, less cold this time. “The same Harry Alpha mentioned?”

“Your Alpha talked about me?” Harry asked startled. He’d guessed that the pack Alpha knew about him, what with all the time Timothy had Rick had spent with him, but he didn’t expect to be a topic of conversation with the rest of the pack.

“Yes and yes,” Timothy answered both questions, turing to Harry. “You’re spending tonight and tomorrow with us, Alpha told the pack so they know you’re allowed to be around pack territory if they come across you on your own at some point,” he explained. Thomas raised an eyebrow and exchanged glances with Rick. Nothing Timothy had said was untrue but the Alpha’s warning hadn’t been quite as run of the mill as Timothy was implying. Harry, however, remained oblivious to the byplay between the werewolves and after a glance from Timothy, Thomas stayed quiet.

With a quick farewell to the tattooed werewolf, Timothy chivvied Harry up the stairs and told him to pick a place to sit. After a quick glance around he chose one of the booths that gave him a good view of the rest of the club. As they sat down, a menu materialised in front of each of them along with a guide for how to order without going to the bar and advice on how to use the various privacy options the booth offered.

“Should we get drinks and snacky foods or do you want something more filling?” Timothy asked as the other two perused the menu. The menu offered a much more varied range than could be found in any muggle or even wizarding establishment.

“We might as well get a bunch of finger foods and appetisers,” Rick said when Harry shrugged and said he didn’t mind what they did. “We’ll end up getting them later anyway, even if we eat a full meal now. Why don’t we get some of everything? Harry can try everything to see what he likes and there’ll be enough to keep you from whining about getting the hungries once you’ve had a few drinks.”

“As long as we avoid the specialised diet stuff, that’s fine by me,” Harry agreed, looking at some of the menu option with distaste. Knowing that some Creatures had diets he found a bit disturbing did not have the same effect as seeing long pig on the menu and knowing no-one would give him a second glance if he ordered it. Some of the other options seemed bizarre and were - for most customers - inedible, such as the variety dish of precious stones that Harry presumed were intended for golems and similar Creatures.

“Yeah, I think we can do without the concentrated blood jelly cubes,” Timothy agreed. “What about drinks? I know what Rick will have but what do you want?”

“I don’t know,” Harry said, reading through the drinks menu with a lost look. “Nothing alcoholic for now, unless you want to be carrying me out in a couple of hours.”

“Light weight,” Timothy teased. Harry shrugged.

“Thirteen year old teetotaller,” he pointed out. “I might be mature mentally but my body won’t catch up for a while yet. Besides, I’m like the size of one of your arms, I’ll always be a lightweight compared to you even if you didn't have werewolf metabolism.”

“Virgin cocktail then?” Rick suggested. “No alcohol but more interesting than spending the night on pumpkin juice and butterbeer.”

Harry shrugged a little and nodded, “Ok. Any suggestions? I don’t even know what half of this stuff is.”

“Well what sort of drinks do you like?” Timothy asked, flicking to the cocktails section of the drinks menu.

Harry shrugged again, “I don’t know, fruit juice? I like sweet things,” he offered hesitantly. It was difficult to know what he liked when he was used to water, milk or pumpkin juice being his only options. The Dursleys bought all sorts of different fizzy drinks and fruit juices - the latter for Petunia, as Dudley and Vernon wouldn’t drink anything that didn’t shave five years off their life expectancy with each bottle - but Harry was lucky if he got something as simple as orange juice or milk. At Hogwarts he could choose what he wanted but they didn’t have a great selection, the usual choices being milk, water, pumpkin juice or tea - even during House parties the first and second years were kept away from anything containing even small amounts of alcohol, including butterbeer, to prevent it from affecting their magic.

“How about mojito?” Timothy recommended. “It’s sweet and tastes good even without the alcohol. If you don’t like it I’ll drink it and we’ll get you something else to try.” Harry nodded in agreement.

Rapping the table with his knuckles three time, Timothy gave their order by speaking to the table. As he finished listing the huge variety of food they wanted he rapped the table again. This time a small section of the table stared glowing and the werewolf placed a Gringotts key into the glowing square. A bright flash confirmed the key as valid payment before their order started to appear. First to appear were their drinks, which were quickly followed by plates on bowls filled with finger foods until there was almost no space left on the table.

“I love VIP service,” Timothy grinned, reaching across the table to snag a bowl of olives. “Service at the bar is good but nothing beats the instant service you get here.”

“How do you cope in the muggle world? You’re barely patient enough to wait when the Leaky Cauldron is busy. Being in the muggle world must kill you, having to wait longer than five minutes for food,” Rick chuckled.

“I don’t eat out in the muggle world if I can avoid it,” the older werewolf said pulling a face. “They do everything so slowly. Thank Merlin for house elves, I don’t think I could cope with muggle-speed service everywhere.”

“There are house elves here?” Harry asked in surprise, thinking back to Dobby and the mad elf’s antics.

“Of course, most businesses have at least one and eating establishments usually have a crew of them. It’s cheaper than hiring people on to do all the cooking, cleaning, serving and so on. Most elves wouldn’t take money if you tried to make them and unlike your average wizard or Creature, they adore being given extra work. You’d need five wizards in place of one elf and they’d still probably do a worse job,” Rick replied.

“Huh, I’ve only ever met one house elf. He kept trying to kill me.”

“On the orders of his contract holder or…?”

“He was trying to save my life.”

“Right,” drawled Timothy. “That makes perfect sense. Do you know anyone normal?”

“Apparently not. Though in Dobby’s defence, anyone would go nuts serving the Malfoy family.”

“Hypocritical tossers,” Timothy sneered, surprising Harry with the venom in his tone. “Acting oh so superior to us inferior ‘half-breeds’, ignoring that their blood is hardly a shining example of purity. The wizards’ superiority complex is bad enough on its own without their hypocrisy thrown in.”

“You know, you used to be a wizard too,” Rick interjected with the air of one who has had this conversation many times before.

“Yes and I was an ignorant prat. And that was being a half-blood without the pureblood stick up my arse,” scowled Timothy.

“Right, anyway,” Harry interrupted, derailing an argument they had clearly had many times before. “Dobby was acting on his own. He was trying to keep me safe by keeping me away from Hogwarts but decided the best way to do that was have me maimed enough to not be able to stay there. In his own mind it made perfect sense, even if I could have done without the broken arm.”

“You have really weird friends,” Timothy decided after a moment.

“Oh believe me, I know,” Harry said, giving a pointed look at Timothy, who folded his arms and stuck his tongue out.

“You’re mean. I don’t want to talk about this any more,” Timothy sniffed with an exaggerated pout. “We should talk about something else,” he nodded decisively.

“We could persuade Harry to go and talk to whoever it is he keeps staring at by the bar,” Rick suggested innocently.

“What is it with you and my love life? I’m not staring at anyone,” Harry protested.

“Of course not.”

“I’m not!”

“I believe you. I’m obviously just imagining the way you don’t look away from the crowd down there for longer than it takes to have a drink,” Rick said agreeably while Timothy snickered.

“It’s just weird seeing so many demons in one place. There are at least three families and even more mated dominants without their submissives around,” Harry said defensively.

“It is pretty odd,” Timothy admitted, looking over the crowd curiously. “We don’t get that many demons in here normally. Are they here for you?”

“The unmated dominants are but I don’t see why the rest would be,” Harry frowned. “Maybe it’s an Earth-sired thing. Or there are a lot of young doms who are trying to get a mate for the first time and have overprotective parents hovering around. I really hope that’s not it. How awkward would that be?”

“If by ‘awkward’ you mean ‘hilarious to watch’ then very,” grinned Timothy. “Maybe you should go over and ask?”

“Merlin no. I’d be mobbed before I got half a sentence out. The unmated dominants outnumber the mated ones.”

“I thought you had all those ‘no talking to the submissive’ rules to prevent that?”

“Yes but all it takes is one dom who think it’s him I’m approaching, or one prat who thinks he’s above the rules, then it’s open season on the submissive with so many of them around,” Harry said pulling a face.

“Are you not going to talk to any of them then?” Rick asked. “I thought that was one reason for you coming here.”

“I hadn’t really thought this far ahead,” Harry admitted sheepishly. “I wasn’t expecting so many of them either, or for them to be gathered in a group like that. I thought it would be more like they are at Leena’s, not doing all that posturing.”

Very distracting posturing, he added silently, watching as two dominants squared up to each other, the demons around them watching with interest with the exception of a few submissives who hid behind their mates or avoided looking. Harry held his breath as one dominant loomed over the other, trying to use his size to intimidate. It didn’t work. The shorter dominant used the proximity to drive his hand into the other’s solar plexus, winding him, following up with a right hook, breaking the larger dominant’s nose. Harry watched raptly, torn between interest and horror knowing they were fighting because of him but unable to turn his gaze away.

The sudden appearance of two bouncers prevented the fight from escalating. Harry couldn't decide if he was relieved or disappointed. As much as he disliked violence, watching two dominants fighting over him appealed to his more primal side.

“That’s also been happening more than usual,” Timothy observed as the two demons were separated but not kicked out the club like most trouble makers would be.

“Yeah, that is definitely because of me,” Harry nodded absently as he watched the shorter of the two dominants, the one who he was sure would have won the fight had it continued. A few of the dominants noticed Harry looking in their direction - he wasn’t exactly being subtle - and winked or waved at him. The young demon quickly looked away, flushing slightly at being caught staring.

“Shut up,” he muttered at the snickering werewolves.

“Aww, you’re so cute when you’re embarrassed,” Timothy teased, reaching over to ruffle Harry’s hair.

“Timothy, you prat!”

Surprisingly the exclamation did not come from the annoyed demon, who had just batted away the offending hand, but an irritated Rick.

“It took ages to get that bird’s nest under control and now you’ve messed it up,” complained the younger werewolf, looking far more bothered about it than Harry did.

“Oops?” Timothy offered apologetically.

“Prat,” Rick said again, rolling his eyes.

“I didn’t mean to mess up your hard work. I was just trying to annoy Harry.”

“Prat,” this time the remark did come from Harry but the demon was grinning. Grinning a little too widely for Timothy’s comfort. “I think you need to make it up to us.”

“No fair! You don’t even care about your hair,” Timothy whined, doing his best impression of a petulant five year old.

“Not as much as Rick, maybe, but I did have to sit quietly while he took forever messing with it. And now you’ve mucked it up. I demand compensation,” Harry said, mimicking the superior attitude he was used to seeing from Malfoy. Rick snickered as the two mock glared at each other, until Timothy sighed and surrendered.

“Fine, you win. I most humbly apologise and beg for your forgiveness. How may this lowly mutt make up for his transgressions?” he simpered exaggeratedly, making the other two burst out laughing despite their attempts at keeping a straight face.

“You should go to the bar and get the next round of drinks,” Harry instructed.

“And invite over that demon. The short one Harry keeps staring at,” Rick added mischievously.

“Rick! Really, what is it with you and my love life?” Harry demanded. Rick shrugged.

“I’m living vicariously, I don’t have my own love life. And you keep looking at him, we should invite him over so you can actually talk to him instead of staring at his arse every time he leans over the pool table,” he retorted. “Not that it isn’t a very nice arse,” he added.

“I’m not staring at his arse!” Harry protested. Except maybe he was, just a little bit. So sue him, Rick was right, it was a very nice arse and Harry was only human…well, demon but the point stood. “I was just watching the hierarchy dynamic to avoid trouble later.”

“Uh huh. And the ‘hierarchy dynamic’ just so happens to have a nice arse,” the werewolf teased. “But really, you should let Timothy invite him over so we can all talk to him. What’s the point of having werewolf friends if you don’t use them to scare the bejesus out of potential suitors?”

Harry burst out laughing at the enthusiasm in Rick’s voice. “Ok, fine, invite him over,” he conceded with an amused shake of his head. “I suppose if he can’t deal with you two he’ll never be able to cope with the insanity that is my life.”

He swatted away Timothy’s hand when the werewolf reached out to ruffle his hair again as he stood. Scooping some snacks out of one of the dishes, the young demon watched Timothy wander off in the direction of the bar, grinning when the werewolf took a detour to talk to the dominant. The dominant looked surprised as Timothy tapped him on the shoulder, then gave a shocked glance over to the VIP area where Harry sat, but wasted no time in following the werewolf.

Harry gave Rick a grin, clinking his glass against the werewolf’s bottle when he raised it. This wasn’t how he had imagined his summer would go, he mused, but he couldn’t imagine it being much better. Befriending the two werewolves was the best thing that had happened to him since getting his Hogwarts letter and he was grateful for all the help they so easily gave him.

Laughing at a comment from Rick and watching a Timothy heading back towards them with an enthusiastic dominant in tow, Harry smiled happily. Tonight was shaping up to be a memorable one.

 

 

§`§`§`§`§`§`§`§`§`§

Upstairs, in a room with a window overlooking the club, Shax stood observing the raven-haired submissive. Domovoi stood by his shoulder, though the alpha werewolf was watching Shax more than the scene below.

“Are you going to approach him tonight?” the werewolf asked, breaking the silence. Shax gave him an expressionless look.

“I’m not going to approach a Scouting submissive without being invited,” he answered blandly. “There are enough idiots down there clamouring for attention. If I joined them I’d become another forgettable face in a sea of people who have little chance of being noticed.”

“Right,” Domovoi drawled, giving his boss and best friend of several decades an unimpressed look, “and instead you intend to impress him by hiding up here where he doesn’t know you exist and, what? Hope he’ll have an epiphany and realise the mate he wants is the one who stalks him but never says a word to him?”

“I’m not stalking him.”

“You have Timothy reporting back what he is doing on a daily basis and you are watching him from behind a one-way window as he spends an evening with friends,” Domovoi said bluntly, not one to sugar coat things when he thought his friend was acting like a love struck teenager too nervous to approach his crush. Albeit a teenager with access to an entire underground information network and stupid amounts of money, making it easy to watch the object of his affections from afar. “Short of sitting on his windowsill watching him sleep at night, you can’t get much more stalkerish.”

“This is coming from a man whose courting process revolves around stalking,” Shax said mildly with a raised eyebrow. Domovoi gave him a disapproving look back. As much as he respected the demon, Shax could be like a petulant pup sometimes, especially when he was nervous or worried but didn’t want to admit it.

“We make our intentions known before stalking our intended. You, however, are neither a werewolf nor following proper procedure for if you were,” he pointed out. “The lad goes back to school in September, watching from afar isn’t going to work for much longer,” he cautioned.

Silence fell between them again, each absorbed in their own thoughts. Domovoi was worried for his friend, knowing how much Shax was drawn to the submissive that had unknowingly stirred the demon population into a frenzy. For all the dominant demon’s confidence when it came to business and conducting himself on the shadier side of life, Shax’s experiences with family and mating had been disheartening to say the least. Even if the demon would never admit it, Domovoi knew he was as nervous as a pup going on his first real hunt and the werewolf dreaded to think what it would do to Shax if he was rejected by the first submissive he had shown real interest in for centuries.

“You could come to the game with us tomorrow,” Domovoi suggested half-heartedly. It was unlikely Shax would agree but it was worth a try. “Nobody can complain about you both being invited to the same social event and it would give you an opportunity to meet him without being one of the crowd.”

“I’m not inviting myself into his company and using loopholes in the law to avoid trouble with the Council,” Shax said firmly, his tone warning that further similar suggestions were unwelcome.

“Ah, so using Timothy as a first point of contact is part of some other plan that has nothing to do with loopholes,” Domovoi deadpanned.

“That was as much for Harry’s benefit as mine,” said Shax, not looking away from the window where he could see the submissive in question sitting with the two werewolves and another demon Shax vaguely recognised as one of the smarter youngsters. Smart enough to back down from challenging him, at least. “Having Timothy passing on information is a nice perk but I would have sent him regardless of any benefit to me. Harry’s hesitance to approach the Alley was concerning. Besides,” he glanced at Domovoi out the corner of his eye, lips quirking in a half-grin, “you should be thanking me. Timothy made a new friend.”

“That boy would befriend a bowtruckle if it stood still for long enough,” Domovoi grumbled good naturally. Shax gave him a dry look.

“Then why do you spend so much time complaining to me about how he has no friends you approve of? You seemed pleased when he got along with Harry.”

Domovoi shrugged, “Harry’s one of the few friends he has that isn’t a pack member or connected to his work. He could do with more friends that he doesn’t have to worry about being arrested for associating with.”

“Unless Harry’s species ever comes to light,” Shax snorted. “Last time I checked, knowingly associating with a demon carries a ten year Azkaban sentence.”

“Are you always this miserable when you’re pining?”

“I am not pining. Or miserable. I’m just pointing out the flaws in your argument.”

Domovoi raised a disbelieving eyebrow but said nothing.

The silence stretched, the two men watching the goings on in the club below, until Shax sighed and grumbled, “Your concern is noted and - mostly - appreciated but you can relax. I do know what I’m doing. If I do need your assistance, trust that I’ll ask for it. Until then treat Harry as you would any submissive. And for the love of Merlin, stop trying to set up ‘accidental’ meetings between the two of us before your pack catches on and tries to join in. I’m not sure everybody would survive their brand of ‘help’.”

Domovoi - who had been listening expressionlessly as he tried to work out whether this was his friend Shax complaining or his pack sponsor Mr. Calvey giving an order - snorted, eyes tracking to the result of his pack’s latest bright idea. The velociraptor stalked along the bar, snapping up the odd coin tossed its way and attracting a small crowd of curious onlookers. Habitually his gaze then bounced between the werewolves who had been responsible for trying to recreate Jurassic Park, eyes finally coming to rest back on Timothy.

The beta werewolf, oblivious to his Alpha’s gaze, had somehow managed to gather together a small crowd of demons without a fight breaking out. The seating arrangement had been shuffled around until Harry was sitting between the two werewolves, using them as buffer between himself and the dominants. For reasons Domovoi decided he was better off not knowing, the group had also been joined by a group of vampires, including Dracula’s youngest childe.

“If he causes an inter-racial incident I’ll kill him,” the Alpha said without heat. Next to him Shax hummed.

“Unlikely. Things are steady between your races at the moment and Timothy is quite talented at mixing business with pleasure,” Shax observed, looking over them with the critical eye of the pack sponsor. Then his tone lightened, “I’d be more concerned over who is going to pay for all the drinks they’re consuming.”

The corner of Domovoi’s mouth twitched up, “I almost feel sorry for those demons. The poor bastards won’t know what hit them, or their bank accounts.”

“He is good at his job,” Shax nodded. “Though I prefer him using his persuasive abilities for my benefit rather than to get a few unsuspecting dominants to pay his bar tab.”

“A fight hasn’t broken out yet,” Domovoi pointed out. “I think that qualifies as using his persuasive skills for your benefit.”

The words were barely out of his mouth when a new demon approached the group below, causing a few of the dominants to get to their feet. Shax and Domovoi couldn’t hear what was being said but it didn’t take a genius to deduce that the dominant was shouting at Harry. The other dominants reacted badly to whatever was being said and pounced on the newcomer.

As the two watched, werewolf bouncers flooded the area to break up the fight. Two wrestled with the angry dominant who was responsible for the trouble, eventually managing to restrain him and haul him out of the club. With Timothy’s help, the remaining three bouncers got the rest of the dominants to calm down. The vampires, who had been quietly observing the drama, laughed at a comment made by Rick, relaxing back into their seats. Once everyone was settled again, Timothy ordered a new round of drinks and the drama was quickly forgotten.

“You were saying?” Shax turned to Domovoi, who was still looking in the direction the dominant had been dragged off in.

“What are the chances that there are two dominant demons running around giving submissives a hard time?” Domovoi asked, ignoring Shax’s amused comment. The club owner smiled coldly.

“I imagine it is just the one,” he replied. “A situation I will soon resolve.”

“The lads will still have hold of him by the door if you want to, ah, see him off,” Domovoi said with a slight smile. His tone turned teasing - or as close to teasing as he got, “Better than standing around here, mooning over the submissive you are pining after.”

“The line, you’re toeing it,” Shax said mildly.

“Sorry sir,” Domovoi said neutrally. “Should I instruct Thomas to keep hold of the demon for you to deal with?”

“Don’t bother,” Shax said, turning away from the window and picking up a suit jacket off the couch behind him. “I’ll deal with it now. After all, I need something to distract me from the submissive I’m mooning over,” he said acerbically.

Domovoi winced internally but his tone remained neutral and respectful, “Yes sir. Should I expect you back later?”

“Unlikely. The Council like to drag out even the most cut and dried cases,” the demon said, shrugging the jacket on. “Shut up shop tonight. If I’m not back by morning you’ll need to do the debriefings too.”

Domovoi nodded.

“Right, off to the well of obfuscating and deliberating I go,” Shax muttered. “Enjoy the game tomorrow,” he said over his shoulder as he left.

Turning for one last glance into the club below before leaving to prepare for the tasks Shax had set him, Domovoi watched the little demon submissive who had befriended two of his wolves and caused such a stir in the Alley. Enjoy the game indeed. Tomorrow should be interesting.

Chapter Text

Harry woke up in an unfamiliar bed. For several seconds he had no idea where he was or why he felt like he hadn’t had a drink in days. Then he remembered the previous night.

The annoying dominant from his first day in Knockturn had returned and kicked up a fuss over not being invited to join the dominants at Harry’s table. The dominants who had been invited had not been happy with the idiot’s behaviour and had retaliated, causing a fight that had to be broken up by the club’s bouncers.

Timothy had taken the opportunity to buy everyone another round of drinks - ostensibly to help them forget the incident - and Harry had ended up drinking something that seemed to consist entirely of sugar and alcohol and was an alarming shade of blue. Which explained the dry mouth and headache, as the werewolf had been on a mission to get everyone drunk by then. Harry had stopped counting after his fifth drink, though he knew he hadn’t had nearly as much as the others, and Timothy had drunk enough for two people.

They had finally left the club at some point in the early hours of the morning, Timothy having to be guided by Thomas - a packmate and one of the bouncers who had helped break up the fight. After dumping Timothy onto the sofa in the open-plan living room, the tattooed werewolf had quickly shown Harry the guest room and left to make sure Rick didn’t burn the place down trying to make snacks in his own apartment.

Sitting up with a groan Harry cast a tempus, taking two attempts to get it right. As he suspected, it was far too early to be awake after getting back so late but years of early mornings for chores at the Dursleys’, classes at Hogwarts and quidditch practice meant his body clock would not be denied. Getting more sleep now would be impossible.

Muttering uncomplimentary things about over-enthusiastic werewolves under his breath, Harry dragged himself out of bed and fumbled around looking for clothes and the bathroom. He decided not to think too hard on where the change of clothes had come from, as he certainly hadn’t brought any with him. Several minutes of stumbling around and yawning later and the demon was finally somewhat presentable. He gave up on his hunt for shoes and socks for now and padded barefoot into the kitchen.

At some point in the night Timothy must have rediscovered the use of his legs as the sofa was now devoid of werewolf. Seeing no sign of the apartment’s owner, Harry figured Timothy wouldn’t mind if the demon started breakfast.

Sticking his head into the fridge to see what food was available, Harry’s brain finally woke up enough to notice an odd, niggling feeling in the back of his mind. Lifting out bacon, eggs and a bottle of orange juice he glanced around the quiet flat with a frown, trying to place the source of the feeling. Nothing stood out to him so he shook it off and concentrated on breakfast.

The smell of bacon lured Timothy out of his room. The werewolf appeared in a pair of tracksuit bottoms and a hoodie with a university logo printed on the front. Glaring at the window, he flopped into a chair at the large kitchen table, resting his head on the wooden surface.

“Why are you up so early?” he groaned, tilting his head to peer at Harry through one bleary eye.

“I’m always up early. I didn’t know you’d been to university,” Harry said, putting a glass of orange juice in front of the slumped werewolf.

“What? Oh, I didn’t. I stole this off Rick. Why are you cooking?”

“I thought you’d want breakfast and I didn’t think you’d mind me doing it. Sorry, I didn’t mean to be presumptuous,” Harry said, giving him an apologetic look.

“S’fine. Just surprised,” Timothy muttered, closing his eyes again.

Just as Harry thought the werewolf had fallen asleep slumped over the table, a knock on the door made them both jump.

“S’open,” Timothy lifted his head long enough to shout before thunking it back down onto the wood. At his shout, the door opened to admit a stream of chattering werewolves. The large werwolf groaned, covering his head with his arms and muttering something that sounded suspiciously like “I hate you all”.

“Timothy Kirrin, are you making your houseguest cook for you? Whatever would our dear Second say?” one werewolf asked in mock horror, while another helped himself to the contents of the fridge and yet another commandeered the toaster.

Harry watched in bemusement as even more werewolves invade the kitchen, one setting out condiments, another grabbing juice cartons and glasses, someone else making tea and coffee, yet another pulling out cereal boxes, and Thomas, the tattooed bouncer, started chopping fruit. By some miracle they all managed to avoid getting in each other’s way, manoeuvring around each other with a familiarity borne of experience. With most of the work taken away from him, Harry concentrated on not burning the sausage, bacon and eggs he had been left with.

A breakfast feast quickly built up on the kitchen table, with Timothy’s grumpy form slouching in the middle of it. Chatter and banter filled the flat (“How much did you drink last night?”, “Stop mutilating the cheese, you cheese fiend!”, “You’re getting jam everywhere! Merlin, it’s like having a monkey”) reminding Harry of breakfasts in the Great Hall, though this group were more closely knit than even the Lions’ House. Despite that, Harry didn’t feel excluded, being included in the banter as though he was always there (“Stab him with a fork if he steals any more bacon”, “So, starting bar fights already, eh?”, “Ow! You hit me! No fair, you can’t use weapons!”).

Finally all the food was done and everyone took a seat at the enormous table. Surprisingly, after the chaos of getting the food ready, dishing out the food was done in a quiet, orderly manner. Each platter of food was passed around in order of hierarchy, starting with Timothy as the host and Harry as the guest. It was very different to the clamouring and disorder Harry was used to seeing from Gryffindors or meals at the Weasleys’.

“Has Rick surfaced yet?” asked one of the werewolves across from Harry, glancing up and down the table. “We’re missing Fiona, Artemis and Nyx too.”

“Artemis and Nyx aren’t coming. Their sister has come back home from the States for the week and brought her boyfriend, so they’ve gone to scare the holy bejeezus out of him to check his ‘suitability’,” Thomas, who was sitting to Timothy’s right, answered. “I sent Fiona to make sure Rick gets up and joins us, so if we’re lucky we’ll see them some time before the next full moon. Oh, and Nyx said to pass on the message that when she finds out who stacked dirty cups and dishes against the cellar door behind the bar she’ll do something suitably violent to you, and she’s not explaining to the Boss why half of them ended up smashed beyond repair.”

All eyes turned to Timothy, who looked offended. “Oi! Not everything is my fault…I was only peripherally involved. It was mostly his fault,” he pointed his fork at Harry, who huffed.

“Was not! I just suggested that we should clear the table a bit before we caused an avalanche of plates and glasses. How was I supposed to know every dominant in earshot would take that as a challenge to see who could clear the table the fastest? Besides, I’m pretty sure they were leaving them on the bar, not behind it.”

Fortunately the door opened before Timothy could retort with another denial, derailing the argument. Rick stumbled through looking almost as bad as Timothy, albeit better dressed, with a brunette girl clinging to his arm. Shaking the girl - who Harry presumed was Fiona - off, the hungover werewolf made his way over to Timothy and Harry, dropping into the empty seat on Harry’s left.

“Bacon!” was the only greeting he offered as he fell on the plate of meat, piling a huge amount onto a slice of toast, smothering it in sauce and topping it with another slice of toast to make a sandwich that was more bacon than bread.

“Why do you smell funny?”

Harry nearly jumped out of his skin as the girl, Fiona, spoke from behind him. From his right he heard Thomas hissing something about inappropriate questions. Harry, whose brain was still not firing on all cylinders, looked at her blankly.

“Um…what?” he asked dumbly.

“Ignore her, Harry,” Thomas said. Turning to Fiona he growled, “You, sit down and eat. Alpha will be here in five minutes. And keep your questions to yourself if you don’t have anything polite to say.”

The female werewolf pouted but obediently found an empty seat at the end of the table and put together a plate of food.

“Do I smell funny?” Harry asked Timothy, who looked like he was trying to drown himself in a giant mug of coffee.

“You smell fine,” the werewolf mumbled, not lifting his head from where it rested on the rim of his mug.

Thomas sighed and grabbed Timothy by the back of his hoodie, dragging him off in the direction of the bathroom. A couple of minutes later there was a yelp, followed by a loud complaint about cold water and packmates of dubious parentage. A vindictive looking Thomas emerged from the bathroom to grab clean clothes for his victim.

While they were waiting for the Alpha to arrive, the werewolves who had finished eating started to collect the dirty plates. Harry got up to help but was quickly shooed back to his seat and plied with tea and biscuits, much to his bemusement. By the time Timothy emerged from the shower, with damp hair but looking much more awake and aware, most of the kitchen was tidy with only a few cups and plates of left over food still out.

“Huh,” Timothy said as he leant over the back of Harry’s chair to grab a teapot off the table. “Fiona was right, you do smell funny.”

Harry frowned, “Funny how? Bad funny?”

“Not bad, just different,” Timothy said giving him a considering look. The demon gave an indignant squawk as Timothy stooped to bury his nose in the messy black hair.

“Timothy, get off you prat!”

“Kirrin, what are you doing?” came an amusedly exasperated voice from the direction of the door. Harry turned to see the enormous werewolf he had met yesterday, the pack Second, holding the door open for another werewolf - the one who had spoken. Judging by the way every werewolf’s attention had snapped to the door when the guy had spoken, Harry guessed this was the Alpha.

“Smelling him,” Timothy answered, voice slightly muffled as he hadn’t bothered to lift his face out of Harry’s hair, turning his head to peer at the Alpha through the nest of hair instead. “He smells different to normal. Kind of…sweet?” the beta struggled to find an appropriate word.

The Alpha raised an eyebrow and inhaled deeply, eyes snapping to Harry’s face. “That could be problematic. Do you have anything to cover or disperse the pheromones? You’ll have idiots drooling after you all day otherwise.”

“What?” Harry said with a puzzled frown. His eyes widened in startled realisation. “Oh!”

That niggling feeling he’d had since he woke up pushed itself to the forefront of his mind. He was Advertising! No wonder the werewolves thought he smelled odd. The pheromones would have little effect on betas in regards to mating. They would be able to detect a strange undertone to his scent that wasn’t usually there but wouldn’t have the instinctive response to the pheromones that an alpha or dominant would.

“I’m an idiot,” Harry declared, thunking his head down on the table. How could he have ignored his instincts so much that it took someone pointing it out to him for him to realise he was Advertising? “Can I use your shower, Timothy?” he asked. He could stop the production of the Advertising pheromones at will, now that he was aware of it, but that wouldn’t immediately remove the scent from his skin. He would have to look into scent dispersal spells at some point.

Ten minutes later he was back in the kitchen, hair fluffed up from a drying charm and smelling strongly of cocoa butter. It wouldn’t have been his first choice but it was the only scented shower gel he could find and he suspected Timothy only had it because a previous guest left it here, as werewolves generally preferred odourless products. However he had needed something to cover up any lingering scent, so odourless shower gel hadn’t been an option. He was definitely looking at scent dispersal charms as soon as he had time.

“Not completely gone but better,” the Alpha grunted as he strolled over to Harry. “I’m Domovoi. Aaron said you’ve met him already. I presume the others introduced themselves?” he raised an eyebrow at Harry’s hesitant look. “Or not,” he said gruffly as Aaron sighed long-sufferingly.

“You have a pack of philistines,” he said to Domovoi, giving the pack a disapproving look. “Too focused on gorging themselves to remember basic manners.”

“Some of them were yours before they were mine,” Domovoi replied neutrally.

“Four of them and only one of them present. I trust you have introduced yourself, Thomas?” the giant werewolf said mildly, raising an eyebrow at Domovoi when the tattooed werewolf nodded.

Domovoi’s lips twitched in an aborted grin. “So you had so few that you had time to knock manners into them. I have a full time job preventing them from causing a civil war.”

“We aren’t that bad,” Timothy objected.

“Is there or is there not a velociraptor at Fantastic Beasts?” the Alpha asked pointedly. Timothy grinned sheepishly. “As I said, a full time job.”

“Is everybody ready to leave?” Aaron asked looking over the pack, some of whom were quite obviously not ready. “We will be leaving in half an hour. Be in the courtyard promptly.”

The kitchen emptied as quickly as it had filled, the sounds of laughing and bickering werewolves fading away until the apartment was silent. Harry shifted uncomfortably, not sure what to do now that it was just him, Timothy and the two alphas.

“I’m, er, going to find my shoes,” he said awkwardly, making a hurried escape to the guest room he had spent the night in.

He listened to the murmur of voices from the main room as he found his socks and pulled on his shoes. He could hear Timothy and Aaron but Domovoi was either being very quiet or not joining the conversation.

The pack Alpha was intimidating, even for an alpha werewolf. Where Aaron was enormous but mostly calm and mild mannered, Domovoi seemed larger than he truly was with an aura of tightly leashed ferocity and an effortless control of the large, rowdy pack. Harry would bet his Nimbus 2000 that the pack would rather mortally offend Aaron than do anything to invite their Alpha’s ire.

After dithering about, retying his shoes, neatening up the room and straightening his clothes, he finally ran out of things to waste time with and had to head back into the main room. As he stood in the doorway Timothy gave him a knowing look but didn’t call him on his hiding, continuing his conversation with Aaron and leaving Harry with no choice other than to talk to the Alpha.

“I never would have expected Harry Potter to be a demon. A submissive Realm-sired at that,” Domovoi said conversationally.

“Yeah, I get that a lot,” Harry said. “I don’t know what people think a fifteen month old wizard could have done though. Or a fifteen month old anything really - it’s not like I was personally responsible for what happened.”

Domovoi shrugged one shoulder, “Not many put that much thought into it. They’re just happy he was stopped and use you as a beacon of hope.”

“Because Merlin forbid anyone should think for themselves,” muttered Harry. “There’s only so much independent thought to go around, and the wizarding world might implode from the weight of the logic if more than three sensible decisions are made a year.”

Domovoi barked out a laugh, recalling a time Shax had said something similar. They would get along like a house on fire if Shax ever crawled out from under his rock of denial and talked to Harry.

“Oh, I like you,” the Alpha said with a small lip twitch that would be a smile on anyone else. “Keep that attitude up and you’ll fit right in with my lot. It’s almost a shame you’re only looking for a demon as your first mate.”

Harry stared him, gobsmacked. What was he supposed to say to that? Mercifully Timothy intervened before the silence became too awkward.

“No fair, I saw him first. He’s my demon, you already have one,” the beta whined.

“This one mopes less. I’m pulling rank and we’re swapping,” Domovoi deadpanned.

Timothy screwed up his face in an exaggerated grimace, “Ugh, thanks but no thanks. Mr Calvey’s scary. Harry just does that cute little scowly thing when he’s annoyed. I’m keeping him.”

“I do not do a ‘cute little scowly thing’,” Harry scowled.

At the same time, Aaron sighed, “Timothy, you’re not supposed to say no to your Alpha.”

“See, cute little scowly face,” Timothy pointed. Harry threw a cushion at him.

“Git.”

Aaron sighed again, massaging his forehead. “Fit right in indeed. You’ve acquired another one,” he said to Domovoi with a despairing look.

“Timothy acquired him, not me.”

“Hey, you were trying to steal him a second ago. Why’s he only mine when he’s misbehaving?” Timothy demanded.

“Alpha’s prerogative. Harry’s mine when he’s good and it’s your fault when he gets into mischief.”

“Or Harry is Harry’s when he’s good,” Harry butted in with a sweet smile. “But any misbehaviour is still Timothy’s fault,” he added, much to the werewolf’s protest.

“I can live with that. You’re a bit too young for my tastes anyway,” Domovoi smirked, pleased Harry hadn’t shied away from the banter even if he had been a bit thrown at first.

The Alpha would wait to see how Harry got along with the rest of the pack before making a final decision but he suspected there would be no problems sticking to the original plan and taking the young demon under his wing. The lad had the right attitude for holding his own in the pack and he looked like he could do with the additional support and protection the pack could offer. Besides, it had been too long since the pack had any real pups to look after - even the youngest pack members had already reached their majority. Domovoi had no plans to mate any time soon but taking Harry under his wing would give the pack someone who was still a pup, albeit an older pup, to dote on. It would do the pack good even if Shax’s mating plans didn’t work out - a pack wasn’t meant to go so long without pups.

First, however, he needed to see how well the pack took to the demon, which meant rounding them up and getting to the game.

“Right, let’s go and find the others before they turn the courtyard into a swimming pool. Again,” he said, giving Timothy a look.

“We’ve never done that! We talked about it but we’ve never actually done it,” Timothy defended. Harry looked at him incredulously.

“And you called me a trouble maker. Is there anything you haven’t done?”

“I was in Wales when they tried terraforming the dance floor in Beasts into a desert. I had to help with the clean up though. We were finding sand everywhere for weeks,” he complained.

“You are fortunate we have such a generous sponsor,” Aaron chastised. “Most would not be so tolerant.”

“You’re fortunate you have such a tolerant Alpha,” Domovoi grumbled. “Merlin knows anyone else would have skinned the lot of you before now. Now out with you, before we miss the game.”

By the time they made it to the courtyard most of the pack was there, awaiting the last few stragglers. While they waited Aaron used the opportunity to introduce each of the werewolves to Harry, who was left reeling from the list of names and knew he would forget half of them before they even made it to the match.

“They all answer to ‘Oi’, ‘you’ and ‘the idiot who…’ as well,” Domovoi added helpfully when he saw Harry’s slightly overwhelmed look.

“And you wonder where they get their manners from,” Aaron sighed.

“You do ok with the demons’ names,” Timothy said to Harry while the two alphas snarked at each other.

The demon grinned sheepishly, “Ah, not really. I don’t remember most of their names for longer than five minutes unless I find them interesting enough for me to want to continue a conversation with them.”

“Right you lot,” Domovoi’s voice rose over the chatter, making the pack go quiet. “We’re going. Anyone who’s not confident they know where we’re going find someone to side-along with. Timothy, you take Harry. Somebody else bring Lukas or we’ll be spending the rest of the day searching the moors for him,” he instructed.

“Have you side-apparated before?” Timothy asked Harry. The demon shook his head. “Ok, just hold my arm tight and take a deep breath when I say. It isn’t the most pleasant way to travel but it is fast.”

Harry nodded as the werewolves around him began to disapparate with loud cracks that echoed like gunfire in the small courtyard.

“Deep breath now.”

Harry barely had time to obey before it felt like tight rubber bands were trying to force the breath back out of him. As suddenly as the pressure had appeared, it vanished. Harry exhaled gustily, sucking in another deep breath to calm his complaining stomach.

“Where are we?” he asked once he no longer felt like he was about to throw up, looking around the seemingly empty moorland.

“The apparition point for the Exmoor Stadium,” Timothy answered. “The stadium is in the middle of the Exmoor reservation, which is where we are now, about a fifteen minute walk that way,” he said, pointing off in a direction that looked indistinguishable to any other to Harry.

While they had been talking, Domovoi had been doing a headcount and handing out tickets. Satisfied that everyone had arrived and was in one piece, the Alpha led them off in the direction Timothy had pointed. Harry somehow ended up at the front of the pack, walking between Timothy and Thomas slightly behind the Alpha, despite starting at the back. Glancing around he spotted Rick at the back of the group talking to Aaron and Lukas, the werewolf who apparently had no sense of direction.

“Have you been to a match before?” Thomas asked conversationally after a few minutes of walking in silence.

“Not a professional one. Only at school,” Harry replied, slightly breathlessly. He wasn’t unfit but the werewolves had a much longer stride and the moorland wasn’t the easiest terrain to walk over, making it difficult to keep up.

“Your guardians have never taken you?” Domovoi slowed slightly as he turned to speak over his shoulder.

“They’re muggle. They wouldn’t be able to even if they were interested,” Harry said, barely noticing the change in pace as he imagined Vernon’s reaction if Harry asked him for quidditch tickets. Maybe he should try it some time, if he was lucky the man might have an aneurism. “I think my uncle is allergic to physical activity. Wild hippogriffs couldn’t drag him to something like this. The only sport he’s even slightly supportive of is my cousin’s boxing.”

“Surely they take an interest in quidditch, for your sake if nothing else?” Thomas asked.

“Nope. I doubt either of them could tell you what position I play, let alone how the game works,” Harry shrugged. He may not want the fuss that would no doubt come if the werewolves found out how the Dursleys treated him but he wasn’t going to pretend to be close to them either.

Thomas looked at him in surprise while Domovoi and Timothy stared ahead in stony silence. Thomas’ surprise quickly transformed into a shrewd look.

“Is their disinterest restricted purely to quidditch, or is that why you’re on your own in Diagonal Alley?” he asked astutely.

“They’re muggles. They don’t have much interest in magic in general, and it’s not like they can do much to help me find a mate. As long as I’m in one piece, they don’t mind what I do,” Harry evaded. He didn’t need Hermione’s deductive skills to know where the werewolf was trying to steer the conversation.

“You’re thirteen. Demon or not, and inheritance aside, you’re a bit on the young side to be living on your own,” Thomas pushed.

“Fudge didn’t think so,” Harry said shortly.

“Fudge? As in the Mister for Magic?” asked the startled werewolf. Harry nodded.

Thankfully before the interrogation could continue Domovoi came to a halt next to an outcrop of rocks. One of the wild exmoor ponies was using the rocks to scratch, part of its flank disappearing into the rock revealing that the rock was not as solid as it looked.

Shooing the pony away with an irritated grunt, Domovoi pulled out his ticket and stepped forward into the rock. The rest of the pack followed in single file, Harry being prodded through after Thomas by Timothy.

Stepping through the barrier the quiet, deserted moorland gave way to a riot of colour and noise. Throngs of people in brightly coloured robes milled about, some wearing replica Harpies’ or Wasps’ quidditch uniforms.

Wandering amongst the crowds were merchants selling various quidditch memorabilia: charmed banners with pictures of the team members flying around a flashing team name, which would (according to the advertisement) change to read ‘GOAL!’ with a celebrating team mascot whenever the team scored; player figurines that paraded around, showing off and interacting with other figurines they encountered; miniature replicas of the players’ brooms that came with information booklets detailing the reason behind the player’s choice of broom and their successes and failures; mascot toys that chanted the team motto and gave random facts about the team when squeezed; hats, gloves, scarves and robes in the team colours or fashioned after the players’ uniforms. Harry took it all in with a wide grin.

He toyed with the idea of buying Oliver a set of replica Harpies’ robes, chuckling as he imagined the look on the Puddlemere fanatic’s face if Harry gave them to him the next time he held quidditch practice at stupid-o’clock in the morning.

“What’s so funny?” Timothy asked curiously, looking around in an attempt to see what had amused the demon.

“I was picturing Oliver’s face if I gave him a full set of Harpies’ robes,” Harry grinned.

“He’s the Puddlemere fan, yes?” Timothy chuckled as Harry nodded.

“I could gift them to him as a thank you next time he decides that we all need to be at practice before sunrise,” the demon grinned evilly. “With the twins’ help I could get them to stick for a week. The only thing worse would be Cannons’ robes but I couldn’t cope with that much orange.”

Timothy laughed, “You are an evil, evil person. If you want to go get some let me know. Alpha won’t want you wandering off alone.”

Harry cocked his head, considering. “You know what, I think I will. Though if Hermione asks I’m blaming you as a terrible influence on innocent young demons.”

Timothy shrugged, not at all bothered by being blamed for Harry’s mischief making, and followed the teenager over to the nearest merchandise stand. By the time they made it back to the pack they were both giggling like naughty schoolboys.

“Kirrin, what have you done now?” Domovoi asked, honing in on them like a shark scenting blood - or an Alpha scenting mischief.

“Nothing,” singsonged the beta, not even trying to stifle his huge grin.

“Did you just buy a Harpies’ uniform?” one of the other betas demanded. Harry couldn’t remember what Aaron had called him, Elliot maybe?

“Stop being a spoilsport Edson,” Timothy said sticking his tongue out. “They were bought for a good cause, weren’t they Harry?”

“Yep,” Harry smirked. “Oliver won’t know what hit him.”

Edson was still scowling and Harry resisted the urge to roll his eyes. His type were the most annoying kind of quidditch fanatic, the ones who took offence at the idea of someone not liking their team or supporting a different one.

“Shove off, Edson,” Timothy rolled his eyes at the scowling werewolf. “Nobody cares if you approve or not.”

“He’s here with the pack. He could at least have the decency not to openly support the rival team,” the other werewolf insisted. Harry stared at him incredulously.

“Enough, you two,” Domovoi growled, smacking the two betas on the backs of their heads. “Derwen, I decide what is acceptable behaviour, not you. Harry can support whoever he likes. If it bothers you, feel free to leave.”

“Derwen?” Harry repeated curiously. “Are you related to Owen Derwen by any chance?”

The sulking werewolf shrugged, “He’s a distant cousin of some sort. He’s always out of the country though, so I don’t know him well. Why?”

“I met him yesterday. He’s nice.”

“I forgot he was back in the country. Yeah, he’s nice enough until something pisses him off. He’s got a bit of a temper.”

Timothy raised an eyebrow. “Aren’t you supposed to be singing his praises to encourage the interested submissive? I don’t think discussing his temper is very encouraging.”

“Do I look like his PR rep? Besides, he’s not that bad. He just gets shouty and can be a bit intimidating. Unless he’s really angry, then he gets growly and terrifying, but I don’t think that happens often.”

Harry shrugged. “I can handle a temper. It wouldn’t be the first time I got shouted at and it’s not like I don’t have a temper of my own.”

“Really?” Timothy said in mock surprise. “I have never seen any evidence of this. One would think such a temper might lead to you telling a certain dominant to shove his ego-“

Harry stomped on his foot.

“Ow! Alpha, Harry’s being mean to me,” Timothy whined.

“Good boy, Harry.” The praise came from several different directions simultaneously. Domovoi said it without looking away from his conversation, while Thomas and Rick made their way over.

“My whole pack is against me,” Timothy sniffled.

“We have to present a combined front against such overwhelming idiocy,” Thomas deadpanned.

“Yes, to tackle it one-on-one would be suicide. It would consume us all,” Rick continued, his serious tone ruined by his grin.

“Harry seems to be able to hold his own,” Edson mused as Timothy pouted.

“Harry is uniquely talented,” Thomas nodded. “He has the patience to put up with these two for days at a time.”

“Can we adopt him?” Edson asked. “We need someone other than the Alpha and Aaron who can put up with these two.”

“I’ll take Rick,” Harry said, noticing the dimming of the younger werewolf’s smile. “You’ll have to keep Timothy though. Even my powers aren’t great enough to do that much damage control.”

“And what has Timothy done to require damage control this time?” Aaron asked, joining them in time to hear Harry’s last comment.

“Nothing,” insisted Timothy.

“Yet,” Edson added with a grin.

“Quiet you. I’m not evening planning anything,” Timothy said. “Well, not really,” he added, thinking about Harry’s plan.

“Dare I ask?” Aaron asked dryly. Thomas shook his head.

“Best not. Plausible deniability is best when it’s not going to affect the pack.”

Aaron hummed sceptically. “If so, what led to a discussion about the level of damage control Timothy requires?”

“One of Edson’s cousins is a demon Harry likes,” Timothy said, as though that explained everything. Aaron raised an eyebrow but thought better of asking for clarification.

“Then I trust I can leave you to it without you causing an incident?” he asked pointedly, getting obedient nods all round. “Excellent. Play nice,” he added sternly, not having missed Domovoi’s intervention in the earlier argument. After another round of nods and promises to behave the Second strolled away to check on other pack members.

“You like my cousin then?” Edson asked Harry. The demon nodded.

“Something about him being one of the only ones there with an IQ,” Rick said with a grin. “Harry here is picky about his men,” he teased, patting the demon on the shoulder.

“Unlike you who chooses his men by who looks like they’d be good in bed,” Harry snarked.

“It worked didn’t it? You liked Owen and that guy with the nice arse from the club last night. What was his name?”

“Corey. And I was the one who saw him, you were just insistent that we invite him over.”

“But you liked him, so it was a good idea.”

“You also invited over that group of vampires and the youngest kept flirting with me.”

“Timothy invited them, I just pointed them out. Sanguini wasn’t that bad anyway, he was just interested,” Rick defended. The other werewolves were watching the back and forth with amusement.

“I’m not even looking for a vampire mate,” Harry protested.

“You don’t like vampires?” Thomas asked curiously. From what he’d seen last night the demon hadn’t minded being in the company of the bloodsuckers.

“I don’t mind vampires, I’m just not looking for one as a mate,” Harry clarified. “Although I could do without the stalker vampire fanboy at school. There’s only so many time a week you can hear ‘hey Harry’ before you start hexing things.”

“What are you looking for in a mate then?” Edson asked. “Demons only?”

“At the moment,” Harry nodded. “The first mate is always a demon. After that anything goes, as long as they’re long-lived enough.”

“So Sanguini might have a chance later,” Rick grinned. “He’s interested, long lived and a dominant to boot. What’s not to like?”

“What about out esteemed Alpha?” Edson suggested cheekily.

“Sorry, we already decided it’s not to be,” Harry laughed.

“Our Second then,” the werewolf pressed. “He’s an alpha too, even if he isn’t the Alpha.”

“Merlin no,” Harry shuddered. “No offence to Aaron. He’s a nice guy but he’s huge.”

The werewolves burst out laughing, drawing the attention of the surrounding crowd. Both Domovoi and Aaron looked over suspiciously but, seeing no signs of immediate trouble, decided to leave them to it.

“So what are you looking for in a mate?” Thomas asked again once they’d calmed down.

Harry shrugged. “Nothing specific. As long as they’re nice and respect me as a person. Oh, and be able to get past that ‘submissives are made of glass’ thing. You have no idea how annoying it is to have people censoring themselves constantly in case it upsets the poor, delicate submissive,” he said with an eye-roll.

“So your standards are older and not a prat?” Edson snorted. “How hard can that be?”

“You’d be surprised,” Harry grumbled. “Besides, they have to be interesting too. One of the many I met yesterday - Philip or something - was nice enough but, Merlin, was he boring. I’m surprised he knew something as exciting as a club existed given what the rest of his life sounded like. A low-level Ministry paper pusher in the Department of Memo Regulation - how is that even a thing? - and the most exciting social activity he has is a weekly Chocolate Frog Card Collectors Club meeting.”

“Better him than that troll-wit who keeps offering to fuck you and getting pissy when you tell him to shove it,” Timothy pointed out.

“Language Timothy,” Aaron chastised with a frown as he and Domovoi approached the group.

“Sorry. He was a git though. You should have heard the things he was saying,” Timothy frowned, Thomas nodding in agreement.

“His description of what we could do together if I followed him into the Alley was particularly vivid,” Harry said disparagingly.

“So was your description of where he could shove his ego and what you’d do with his wand if he even tried to hex you,” Rick grinned. “I thought the part about burying it so deep he would need a team of goblin excavators to get it out was particularly creative.”

“That was almost as amusing as the allusions to his mother’s unfortunate relationship with a bonnacon,” Timothy added.

“His reaction to that could have been better. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get hold of a brawling demon?” Thomas groused.

“About as difficult as keeping control of a pack of excitable werewolves with no sense, I’d imagine,” Aaron said mildly.

“In our defence, he deserved it and nobody got violent until he threatened Harry,” Timothy said. “It was the second time he’d made a nuisance of himself and even if the stupid innuendoes could be tolerated, threats of kidnap and forcing a mating bond couldn’t,” he growled.

Mating bonds were cherished in the Creature community. While not quite the soul bond many romance novels mooned over, it was a much closer bond than marriage could offer. Threatening to force a bond with someone was contemptible and even done in jest.

“There will not be a repeated,” Domovoi growled. “Mr. Calvey escorted the reprobate to the Demon Council after he was removed from the club last night. Seeing as neither had returned by this morning, I would guess the Council is looking into it.”

“Oh yay, bureaucracy,” Harry cheered sarcastically.

“You’re thirteen, how much bureaucracy can you have dealt with?” asked an amused Thomas.

“I had to inform the Council that I exist when I started Hogwarts,” Harry said. “You wouldn’t believe how bloody long it took. First they thought I’d mis-gendered myself, because Merlin forbid there be a male submissive Realm-sired demon around, then they wouldn’t believe I was who I said I was. Some dimwitted bimbo on the Council was insisting that I was lying to try and make myself more appealing to potential mates,” he said scathingly.

“I’m not sure you need help with that, if the demon infestation we’re currently suffering is any indication,” Edson snorted.

“What can I say? I’m fabulous,” Harry drawled in his best impression of Draco Malfoy, making the werewolves snicker.

“Which brings me to why we came over in the first place,” Domovoi said. “You need to get those pheromones back under control. Emitting them in the middle of the pack like this may not be too much of an issue but it’ll cause problems when you’re not in the centre of the group. You’ve got five minutes until we head to the Box.”

Harry swore, ignoring Aaron’s disapproving look. He hadn’t even noticed that was emitting Advertising pheromones again. Concentrating, he quickly managed to switch back to producing Scouting pheromones but it would be a while until the more potent Advertising pheromones were overwhelmed.

“I thought you could control it,” Timothy half-asked curiously.

“I can, it just takes some getting used to,” Harry grumbled. “It’s like reteaching your body to hold a different posture; at first you have to think about it and it’s easy to slip back into the old posture without thinking, but it gets steadily easier to maintain over time. Instinctively my body wants to be Advertising, even if it is inconvenient for me, so it reverts to that state when I stop thinking about it. It must have been triggered by the talk about what I’m looking for in a mate,” he shrugged. It was inconvenient but it would be a lot to hope for instant control over every new aspect of his inheritance and magic. At least he wasn’t setting fire to everything, he thought with a grin, thinking of his dorm-mate Seamus.

“And that’s enough questions about demons for you lot,” Domovoi said sternly, giving the curious betas a warning look. The last thing the pack needed was to offend Harry by asking prying questions about his rather secretive race and have their pack sponsor find out. Harry may be more open than most demons but that didn’t mean constant pestering would not irritate him. Domovoi being Shax’s best friend would not stop the demon punishing the pack if he felt it was deserved. He was extremely tolerant as it was, without pushing their luck with such a breach of demon etiquette when they knew better.

A loud chime rang out, making Harry jump and the bustle of the crowds quiet down for a moment before roaring to new heights.

“That’s the alert that the stadium is open,” Timothy explained to Harry as the two alphas rounded the pack up. A few minutes later and the pack had joined the swarm of people heading towards the stadium entrance.

The stadium could have passed as Hufflepuff’s own, if not for the wasps decorating the stands. Being the Wasps’ home ground, black and yellow dominated the stands with only the stands behind the hoops at the Away end of the pitch having a different colour scheme. Today it was green and gold, the Harpies’ colours, though Harry knew it was charmed to show the colours of whichever team was playing.

“Come on, we’ve got some of the best seats,” Timothy shouted over the noise of the crowd, steering Harry in the direction of the stairs.

The view from the Box was stunning. They weren’t in the Top Box so they weren’t quite central, but they were close enough for it not to matter. They had a clear view of both ends of the pitch and were high enough that they would be able to follow all of the action, even if the snitch decided to hide above the game as it sometimes did.

The covered area at the back of the Box, sheltered from the elements by a glass panel, was almost as impressive as the view from the open-air section at the front. A row of comfortable chairs were lined up behind the glass, offering a place to sit and watch the game in bad weather, with sections of the glass charmed to show magnified views of the areas of the pitch that could not been seen clearly from behind the glass. At the back, near the entrance to the staircase, was a counter piled high with snacks ranging from complementary Bertie Botts’ Every Flavour Beans (the Wimbourne Wasps’ sponsor) to Honeyduke’s finest chocolate. There was also a stocked minibar containing common wizarding beverages.

Along the back wall an enchanted chalkboard showed the score and listed various statistics from the game and about the players. Underneath that was a second chalkboard that listed odds and invited people to place bets on the game.

“Don’t tell people that’s here. It’s not exactly a regulation feature,” Timothy said when he noticed what Harry was looking at. “Don’t place any bets with it either. You’d have more luck gambling with a goblin. It’s one of the boss’ on the side business ventures.”

“Does it work?”

“For profit making? It’s ok. Broom racing does better because it’s smaller so people are less likely to kick up a fuss but it does well enough. And technically it’s all legal,” Timothy shrugged.

“Technically?”

“Gambling laws in the wizarding world are pretty lax,” he explained. “If we do get into trouble we can usually threaten to release details of Ludo Bagman’s gambling debts to the Prophet and the Ministry makes everything disappear. Failing that, you reroute everything through the goblins. They love to inconvenience wizards so they’ll make some obligatory grumbling noises but then leap on the opportunity. Even the most dedicated auror can only handle so much red tape and the DMLE only has so much in the budget for handling fees. If the case makes it through that then chances are all we have to do is pay a fine, and if they’re that dedicated they deserve the money.”

“You aren’t sharing sensitive information, are you Timothy?” Aaron asked pointedly. The beta smiled innocently.

“Just educating Harry on the finer points of our excellent judicial system.”

“Indeed. Unfortunately Mr. Potter’s education will have to come to a premature end. The game is starting,” the Second said, giving Timothy a warning look that Harry missed as he made his way excitedly to the seats outside. As the last few pack members took their seats, the commentator’s voice rumbled through the stadium.

“Welcome, wizards and witches, to the 1993 Holyhead Harpies vs. Wimbourne Wasps League Cup game!”

The crowd roared, drowning out the sonoroused voice. As they quietened, the voice continued, “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the pitch our fantastic Home team, the Wimbourne Wasps! Keeper Milton McCormack, Beaters Felix Quintin and Severine Ogden, Chasers Elaine Dayton, Wade Mina and Jasper Streton and the incredible Captain and Seeker, who brought this team to new heights, Laauuurence Whitby!”

The spectators in the home stands erupted, some cheering and others making the loud buzzing noise the Wasps’ fans were known for.

“And now the Away team, the glorious gals who have been playing in top form this season, the Holyhead Harpies! Keeper Florence Gladwin, Beaters Gretchen Wright and the fierce Captain Gwenog Jones, Chasers Wilda Griffiths, Gwenevere Alby and Lucretia Garrick, and Seeker Gilliaaaan Marie!”

This time the Harpies’ fans erupted into shouts and cheers, the noise in the stadium swelling as the Wasps’ supporters tried to drown out the oppositions cheering with their buzzing.

“Refereeing this match is ex-Magpies Chaser, Cormac McLeod. This is the decider folks! The Wasps’ and Harpies’ are neck-and-neck on points. Today’s victors will be joining the Arrows in the semi-finals while the losing team will battle the Falcons for fifth place in this year’s League Cup.”

“Won’t be much of battle against the Falcons unless they win their next match by sixty points or more,” Edson said over the noise of the crowd, getting a few agreeing nods.

Down on the pitch, the crate containing the balls had been brought out as the players got into position.

“Ladies and gentlemen, let the 1993 Harpies vs. Wasps match begin!”

As the commentator spoke, the balls were released. Harry’s eyes automatically followed the snitch, barely keeping the much faster professional snitch in sight as it zipped away from its confinement, until he was distracted by the quaffle being tossed into the air.

“And they’re off! Griffiths quickly takes possession of the quaffle. A relatively new addition to the team, only on her second season, but definitely showing her worth with a successful score rate of ninety percent so far. The Harpies’ formidable Chasers are slicing through the Wasps’ defence - Oh! That has to hurt! A skilful bludger shot by Ogden knocks the quaffle out of Garrick’s hands and the Wasps have the quaffle!”

Harry was torn between watching the superb play by the Chasers and tracking the Seekers’ progress. He had decided quickly that the Wasps had the better Seeker - they were simultaneously scanning for the snitch and marking the Harpies’ Seeker without tailing them, something Harry knew from experience was much harder than it looked.

Around him, the pack surged to their feet as the Wimbourne Chasers reached the scoring zone. They shouted encouragement as Wade Mina grabbed the quaffle deliberately dropped by Streton to avoid a bludger and took a shot at the hoops.

“Dammit,” Edson swore, dropping back into his seat with a groan as the Harpies’ Keeper made the save by the tips of her fingers. “Half an inch, just half an inch over and it would have-“

“Bounced off the hoop,” Harry pointed out. A werewolf behind him laughed.

“Don’t ruin his moping with your logic,” he teased, leaning across Harry to ruffle Edson’s hair. “He lives for the moments when he can sit here and tell the professionals how they should have done it.”

Edson knocked away the hand with a scowl but any retort he had was lost as commentator’s shout snapped their attention back to the game.

“Marie has seen the snitch!”

The crowd shot out of their seats as the green-clad Seeker dropped into a shallow but fast dive, streaking diagonally across the pitch, disrupting the Wasps’ Chasers formation as she cut through the players.

“Where is it?” one of the werewolves shouted over the noise of the crowd. “I can’t see it.”

“She’s heading towards the Harpies’ stands.”

“I don’t see it.”

“She’s feinting,” Edson shouted. Some of the pack disagreed but a lot were nodding.

“He’s right, look at Whitby!” Harry shouted, pointing at the Wasps’ Seeker who had aborted the chase and was climbing back up above the game.

The Holyhead Chasers had taken full advantage of the distraction caused by the Seekers’ drama. By the time most of the crowd had turned their attention back to the Chasers the Harpies had lined themselves up to shoot.

“The Harpies score! Ten-nil to the Harpies after an incredible tactical play by the entire Holyhead team!” the commentator exclaimed amid cheers and boos from the crowd.

From there the game really took off. The Harpies’ Chasers lived up to their reputation, barely letting the Wasps touch the quaffle for long enough to make it to the scoring zone. Evening the odds the Wasps’ Beaters were on top form, preventing several goals and ensuring the Harpies would be nursing several bruises by the end of the game. An hour into the game and the score was only 30-10 to the Harpies.

In the Box, Harry was grinning widely as the werewolves around him shouted and cheered as the Wasps scored again, bringing the score up to 30-20. Money was exchanging hands rapidly, accompanied by jokes and bickering as the game continued.

As time ran on the game got dirtier, both sides being awarded penalties when a fight broke out between two Beaters. A few minutes later the Harpies were awarded another penalty for a foul against their Seeker, Marie looking dazed after being barged into the stands.

“If the Wasps keep this up they’re going to lose on points from all the penalties they’re giving away,” Harry observed as the Holyhead Chaser took another successful penalty.

“It was worth it,” Edson said. “If Marie is too injured to play then the snitch is ours, and if she carries on while she’s injured the snitch is still ours. As long as they can keep less than a 150 point difference the penalties are worth it.”

“Keeping that gap might be difficult,” Harry said as the Harpies took possession of the quaffle again.

“It’s only 50-30,” refuted one of the other werewolves. “They have a ways to go yet if they want to widen the gap.”

“There hasn’t been a glimmer of the snitch though,” Timothy chipped in. “If the Harpies build up steam the gap could widen quickly. It wouldn’t be the first game they’ve won because the opposition was too focused on the snitch and they overtook on points.”

“It’s been a while since that happened to the Wasps,” Domovoi joined the debate. “Whitby works well under pressure. It might be close but he’s like a damn niffler when the points difference reaches a hundred or so. They’ve only lost one game on points since he joined and that was at the beginning of his career.”

The debate continued as the Harpies began to retaliate to the Wasps’ dirty play. Gwenog Jones’ infamous temper, which had already sparked briefly in the scrap with the Wasps’ Beater Quintin, had been ignited once again. Not content with simply sending a bludger at the Wasps’ Keeper, she hurled her beater’s bat too, hitting McCormack square in the chest and ensuring a successful goal.

As Wade Mina was lining up to take the Wasps’ penalty, one of the pack members to Harry’s left suddenly cried, “Snitch! By the Harpies’ tunnel!”

Amid confused and doubtful queries of “Where?” and “Are you sure?”, Harry spotted the glimmer of gold flitting lazily in the mouth of the tunnel as though it had been there the entire time.

“There, right in front of the tunnel,” he said pointing.

“Whitby has seen it!” Edson exclaimed, pointing at the yellow and black striped Seeker who was glancing towards the snitch frequently.

The Harpies’ Seeker didn’t appear to have noticed it, still scanning the sky above game level. Harry suspected she may have been concussed by the earlier foul. He remember Angelina being barged into the stands in his first ever game - she had been on a flying ban for three days after.

The second the quaffle entered the hoop, the Wasps’ Seeker dropped out of the sky like a falcon spotting a rabbit. Pulling up with his toes inches from the grass, he had missed the snitch by a second. As though sensing the chase was on the little golden ball was streaking away across the pitch, low enough that its wings grazed the blades of grass.

Whooping and hollering along with the pack and the rest of the Wasps’ supporters, Harry cheered the Seeker on. As long as Whitby didn’t lose sight of the snitch the win was his. The Harpies’ Seeker was struggling to make the hairpin turns, equilibrium thrown off as she favoured her left side. With the snitch clinging to the grass precision flying was paramount.

A well aimed bludger, courtesy of Captain Gwenog Jones, smacked into Whitby’s shoulder with a sickening crack, flinging him forwards onto his broom handle. With the ground speeding by less than a foot below his face and his right arm useless, he put on one last spurt of speed, positioning himself over the snitch. Instead of reaching out to catch it, and subsequently pitching himself into the ground face first, he let himself fall, landing on top of the frantically fluttering ball.

“Does that count?”

The question came from below the pack’s Box, carrying in the sudden quiet from the crowd.

“Should do,” Edson said, though he doubted the person who asked could hear him. “They allowed it in ’73 when the Arrows’ Seeker buried the snitch in the mud by elbowing it. This is sort of the same.”

“How do you even know that?” Thomas asked incredulously at the same time as the referee’s whistle blew, confirming Edson’s words.

“Wimbourne wins!” cried the commentator. “Let’s hope that shoulder heals well folks, it’s going to be a brutal semi-final for the Wasps. They’ll need their Captain in top form!”

The Wasps’ stands exploded, showers of yellow sparks and conjured wasps (without stings, Harry hoped) filled the air as they cheered, buzzing mockingly at the Harpies’ fans. In the Box, the pack was joining in with the cheering and sparks but a quick intervention by the Alpha prevented the conjuring of any wasps. Harry had feeling there was a story behind the threat of making anyone who conjured any sleep with the wasps they created.

The pack was jubilant. Even Harry, Timothy and the few other non-Wasps supporters were caught up in the excitement, joining in with the chanting and cheering as the Wasps’ fans slowly trickled out of the stadium.

Harry was completely blindsided when someone he had never met before slung an arm around his shoulders and kissed him a little too enthusiastically to simply be an inebriated Wasps’ supporter. A second later his senses caught up to what was happening and he realised he had been grabbed by another demon.

“Oi, get off!” he said wriggling out of their grip, bumping into Thomas’s back as he backed away.

“You ok there Harry?” the werewolf asked, glancing over his shoulder.

“Yeah, just a handsy dominant,” he said, ducking around the tattooed werewolf to put him between him and the dominant.

“Don’t be like that,” the dominant complained, reaching around Thomas to grab Harry’s shoulder.

“Watch it,” the werewolf growled, catching the demon’s wrist.

“Butt out, beta,” the demon spat back, jerking his wrist out of the werewolf’s grasp and stepping forwards threateningly.

“Is there a problem here?” Domovoi materialised beside them, placing himself firmly in front of Harry and Thomas, forcing the dominant to back up.

“I haven’t done anything wrong! He’s Advertising, I’m allowed to talk to him,” the demon protested, suddenly a lot less confident with an angry Alpha growling in his face.

“Funny, I didn’t hear a lot of talking going on when you kissed me,” Harry muttered, quelling under Domovoi’s disapproving look. When with werewolves do as werewolves do, which meant not interfering in a fight the Alpha had decided to take on, even if it was on your behalf. He could do that. Probably.

“I don’t care what rights you think you have to anything, threaten one of my pack again and I’ll send your body back to your Council as a warning,” Domovoi said quietly, voice perfectly even without a hint of a growl. It didn’t sound like idle threats and posturing to Harry. The dominant clearly agreed as he paled and retreated quickly, walking away as fast as he could without breaking into a run.

Domovoi grunted in satisfaction before turning to Harry. “Right you, middle of the pack. I know it’s not your fault but let’s try and avoid repeat incidences if we can.”

Avoiding a repeat turned out to be impossible, though most of the other dominants had better manners than the first guy and were smart enough to know threatening a werewolf surrounded by their pack would not end well.

At some point during the match, Harry had forgotten to keep suppressing his Advertising pheromones and everyone else had been too distracted to notice. Now the scent clung to him, inviting over every demon in scenting distance. Fortunately that wasn’t as many as it would have been if he had been in the Alley, as only a few had come to the game, and they had to at least try to be subtle to avoid attracting the attention of the wizards and witches around them. It was still enough to have Timothy and Rick in stitches and Domovoi rolling his eyes as Harry fended off the affections of the overeager dominants.

“Oh for the love of Merlin!” the exasperated demon growled as yet another dominant found a way to squeeze through the wall of werewolves to introduce himself to Harry. “Do you see the crowd of werewolves you had to fight your way through?” he asked the dominant who looked shocked at his outburst. Hesitantly the dominant nodded. “Then did it not occur to you that perhaps that could mean that I don’t want you fawning all over me?” Harry said through gritted teeth.

By this time the pack had stopped walking, preferring to watch the drama unfolding in their midst. Harry noticed that a few of them looked ready to intervene if things got out of hand but so far nobody made a move to interfere, which he was grateful for. He also noticed Thomas putting up a privacy ward, clearly remembering Harry’s rather loud rant last night, making the demon conceal a grin.

“But you’re Advertising,” protested the dominant, eyeing the watching werewolves warily.

“Yes, I am aware. I’m starting to hate that particular bit of submissive biology,” Harry grumbled. He really didn’t want to shout at the dominant; it wasn’t really the dominant’s fault he had happened to be the one approach too many that had made Harry snap.

“Why?” the dominant asked cautiously.

“Because it doesn’t bloody switch off and stay off and I end up being molested by idiots thinking with their dicks instead of their brains,” Harry snapped waspishly, gaining a few amused snorts from the observing werewolves and a despairing comment about vulgarity from Aaron.

“Well, that is why most subs are put on house arrest by their parents until they have it under control,” the dominant said thoughtlessly.

Harry stiffened, eyes narrowing. He heard one of the werewolves (who sounded suspiciously like Edson) murmur, “A galleon says he hexes him,” which prompted a round of betting on the outcome of the conversation. Apparently the pack would bet on anything if the opportunity arose.

Doing his best to ignore the pack, the submissive growled, “So I should stay home and lock myself away because you lot don’t have enough self-control to think about whether your advances really are welcome before you approach?”

“That’s not-“ the dominant tried to protest but Harry spoke over him.

“Because of course it’s not like it’s well known that Advertising is bloody difficult to control at first. It’s not like a damn wall of people stopping your approach should give you a bloody clue. No. The pheromones say I want to be swarmed by dominants so obviously it must be true,” Harry said scathingly, thankful for the privacy ward Thomas had put up as he’d gotten loud towards the end of his tirade.

The dominant blinked at him dumbly. After several seconds the silence was broken by one of the werewolves.

“Can we keep him? I call dibs.”

“Oi, I already called dibs,” objected Timothy.

“Actually,” Aaron deadpanned, “I do believe it was decided you only have ‘dibs’ on any misbehaviour. I seem to recall Harry claiming dibs on anything else to do with himself.”

“Spoil sport,” Timothy muttered, folding his arms with a pout.

The dominant demon watched the exchange in bemusement.

“Is he not already part of your pack?” he asked, confused and not at all sure what to make of the whole situation. A little bit of hostility wasn’t that unusual when approaching an Advertising submissive, especially not one so well guarded, but he was starting to feel like he had wandered into the fairies’ garden at some point. He knew he wasn’t the most intimidating demon around but he was used to being treated with a least a little bit of caution, yet the entire pack seemed to have completely forgotten about him. They were bickering over who had dibs on the submissive, while said submissive was still glaring at him like he expected a response, completely ignoring the pack of werewolves surrounding him.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that,” the dominant said to Harry apologetically after another minute of being ignored by the pack (who now seemed to be debating setting up a rota system Harry wanted no part of). “Of course I don’t expect you to stay locked up, I was just saying that a lot of submissives’ families do it for their safety.”

“Do you think he’s going to put down the shovel soon or is he digging for China?” Timothy said in a carrying whisper to the rest of the pack.

“If someone was looking at me like that, I’d be digging for China. Or the moon,” Edson muttered back, looking at the glower on Harry’s face.

“Can you dig to the moon?”

“He’s certainly trying.”

“Should we help-“ Timothy started.

You are not allowed to ‘help’ anything,” Domovoi interrupted. “If Harry needs help I’ll intervene but he seems to be doing quite well by himself.”

“He’s not the one I was offering to help,” Timothy muttered, quiet enough that only Thomas and Rick, who were standing next to him, could hear.

Harry, who had been ignoring the werewolves’ byplay, folded his arms and scowled at the dominant.

“So should I be worrying about my safety?” he challenged. “Is that the real reason you’ve all been following me like shadows? Looking for your first opportunity to molest me? Or are you all just worried about the poor, defenceless submissive who doesn’t have anyone to hold his hand?” he bit out.

The dominant threw his hands up in exasperation. “Is there an answer I can give that won’t get me into even more trouble?” he asked.

“Nope. You have the right to remain silent, anything you do say will be misinterpreted and used against you,” Timothy said cheerfully, quickly followed by, “Ow! What was that for. Ow! No fair, I can’t hit you back!”

“Kirrin!” Domovoi snapped. “What did I say about helping?”

“You’re all evil. Harry, save me!” the enormous werewolf darted towards the teenager and picked him up to use as a shield against his annoyed, but also secretly amused, Alpha.

“Timothy, you prat, put me down!” exclaimed the annoyed demon, squirming in the werewolf’s hold. “Bad mutt, no manhandling the demon,” he said, swatting at the hands gripping his sides.

Reluctantly the werewolf lowered him until his feet were touching the floor. “Now who’s going to protect me from evil Alphas?” he asked with a pout. Harry rolled his eyes.

“No idea, but if you grab me like that again I’ll be helping the ‘evil Alpha’ hide your body,” he said sweetly. “I’ve forgotten what I was saying now,” he huffed.

“Your fine companion here was struggling to extract his foot from his mouth and you were overreacting and misinterpreting everything he said as a threat to your independence. I think it’s the hormones,” Timothy said helpfully. Somewhere at the back of the pack, Rick muffled his snickers behind his hand - he doubted Harry would let that one go without revenge.

“I’ll give you ‘hormones’,” Harry muttered darkly. “And I was not overreacting!”

“Of course not,” the werewolf said agreeably. “The way you bristle at the slightest indication that someone is trying to protect you is perfectly reasonable,” he nodded.

Several of the pack snorted as Harry stared at him. The dominant demon stood around awkwardly, in the centre of the group yet forgotten.

“Timothy, this is why you’re not allowed to help,” Thomas said exasperatedly. “You’ve broken him.”

Harry shifted sheepishly. “I’m fine. I just didn’t realise that’s what everyone thought,” he said, ducking his head, embarrassed. He didn’t think he was overreacting. Too many people wanted to treat him like a kid or a delicate flower. But maybe he could try to be a bit less prickly about it.

“I’m, ah, sorry for shouting at you,” he said to the dominant. “Just…be less pushy in the future please?”

The dominant nodded, looking bewildered. He had expected to possibly be beaten up by an overprotective pack of werewolves when the submissive had first started shouting. He had not expected this. Whatever this was.

“Of course. You have my apologies,” he said, before saying a quick goodbye and making his escape before he could be dragged into more pack insanity.

The pack followed soon after, making their way back out onto the moor before one of the game officials could kick them out for loitering around the stadium. At the apparition point Harry once again side-alonged with Timothy to get back to the apartments.

“Celebratory drinks at Beasts in an hour, and a pack announcement. Let the others know if you see them,” Domovoi said before dismissing everyone to get changed into more appropriate clothing and relax for an hour.

Chapter Text

As the werewolves drifted off to do their own thing Harry found himself being tugged along by Rick, towards the beta’s room.

“Come on, you can use my shower. I have all the stuff for your hair at my place, and a better collection of scented shower gels,” the werewolf rambled as he dragged the demon along.

“Shouldn’t we go to Timothy’s flat first, to pick up my clothes? I don’t think they’ll let me in the club wearing this,” Harry said indicating his trainers, t-shirt and jeans combo. They were fine for going to a quidditch match but did not meet the club’s dress code.

“You can’t wear the same outfit twice in a row!” Rick said, scandalised, looking at Harry like the demon had suggested borrowing Dobby’s pillowcase for the afternoon. “I have a change of clothes for you in my flat.”

“What? Why? Did you buy me even more clothes or…?” Harry paused, shaking his head. “Actually, never mind. I’m not sure I want to know.”

“It’s your stuff, so you don’t need to have a fit about me buying you more clothes. I moved some of the stuff Timothy bought you to my place, so you’d have a few changes of clothes here,” Rick explained.

“Er, I appreciate the gesture, Rick, but personal boundaries?” Harry said uncomfortably. He knew the werewolf meant well but he would have preferred Rick to ask first.

The werewolf stopped dragging Harry along and let go of his arm suddenly.

“Oh,” he said, looking downcast. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think you’d mind. I just wanted to help. If you’re with the pack a lot it would save you from to-ing and fro-ing between here and the Leaky Cauldron. I guess that’s what Alpha meant about curbing my enthusiasm? I can give the stuff back if you want? I mean, I was going to give it back to you before you went back to school, obviously, but-“

“Rick,” Harry interrupted the upset werewolf. “Breathe. Calm down. I’m not really bothered about the clothes. You can keep them here permanently if you want. Merlin knows Timothy bought enough to last for the rest of Hogwarts, I’m not going to miss a few outfits. It’s just, ask next time, please? I’m not really comfortable with someone going through my stuff without my knowledge,” he said.

It was odd, playing the role of the responsible one in the conversation when the werewolf was at least five years his senior. It reminded him of his conversations with Damian, the dominant who felt like a teenager to him even though he knew the demon was already a century old. Only, with Rick it was even more bizarre because the werewolf was as mature as his age suggested, except in these odd moment when he would look like a child who knows he has done something wrong but doesn’t really understand what or why it was wrong.

“I will. I promise,” Rick said, nodding vigorously. The issue of personal boundaries was something the werewolf was slowly coming to understand but it was a work in progress for Timothy and the pack’s two alphas.

“Good. Thank you,” Harry said, then he gave the werewolf a grin. “Now, I believe you were in the middle of dragging me away for a torture - sorry, styling session?” he joked, dissipating the remains of Rick’s upset. “I still don’t understand why I can’t wear what I wore yesterday. I didn’t spill something on them or anything.”

Rick gave the demon a pained look. “Please stop talking, you’re making my soul bleed. You’ll be asking what’s wrong with sandals and socks in a minute.”

“Is that bad?” Harry asked innocently. “What about wearing clashing colours, or dressing entirely in neon animal print, or in lots of different animal prints combined, or-”

Rick groaned. “This is a cruel and unusual punishment,” he moaned. “I promise I won’t touch your stuff without asking again, just please stop talking. And doubly please never wear anything like that.”

Harry laughed, following Rick into his apartment. It was immediately obvious that Rick’s apartment was less luxurious than Timothy’s. Where Timothy had two reasonably large bedrooms, a bathroom and an open plan living room-kitchen with enough room to hold the entire pack comfortably, Rick’s apartment had only one bedroom - roughly the size of Timothy’s guest room - a kitchen and a living room with a couch that could pull out into a bed.

Rick’s bedroom could have been bigger, Harry realised, had he not taken up an entire wall with a giant wardrobe. It was big enough to hold Harry’s entire clothes collection twice over with room to spare.

“It’s not as big as Timothy’s place,” Rick said with a shrug. “Perks of hierarchy. Or lack of.”

“It’s still great. Way better than what I’m used to,” Harry said with a grin. It was true. Despite the small size the flat was nicely decorated and the furnishings were all good quality. Compared to his dorm in Gryffindor, the apartment was huge and there was no comparison between the nicely furnished flat and his pokey, threadbare room at the Dursleys’.

Rick gave him an odd look but nodded. “Thanks. Your clothes are on the bed. Get changed and I’ll sort out that nest you try to pass off as hair.”

“And we’re back to cruel and unusual punishments,” Harry muttered, laughing as Rick shooed him into the bedroom with a mock growl.

Changing quickly into the clothes laid out - an emerald green shirt with a stylised black dragon across the shoulders and black slacks - Harry wondered if Rick was also keeping hold of the clothes he had left lying around after his multiple outfit changes. He was surprised to realise that this was the first time he had given any thought to what was being done with the clothes he was changing out of. Normally he was far more conscious of what was happening to his belongings, having so few thanks to the Dursleys, but he hadn’t even thought about it when he left his clothes at Timothy’s.

“What do you want me to do with these clothes?” he asked Rick as he left the bedroom.

“Just leave them on the bed for now. I’ll put them away later,” the werewolf paused, remembering their conversation. “Or I’ll drop them off at the Leaky Cauldron later, if you prefer.”

“Whichever is easiest for you,” Harry shrugged with a smile. Spending time with the pack felt a lot like spending time with the Weasleys: easy and relaxed, without the guard he kept up around his sometimes fickle Housemates or the mask of the Boy-Who-Lived that he showed to the public.

“You might as well leave them here then,” Rick said as he dragged the demon over to a chair. “Stop squirming! You’d think I was trying to shave you bald with the fuss you’re making. Now, what was I saying? Oh, yeah: you should leave your clothes here in case of emergency. The Cauldron’s a bit of a trek if you need something quickly or just want a change of clothes.”

“What sort of emergencies are you expecting me to have?” asked Harry, amused at how seriously Rick took clothes and fashion.

“You have met the pack, yes? If you don’t have at least one top stained, shredded or permanently transfigured into something questionable before the end of the holidays then we’ll all know you really are a miracle worker,” Rick replied dryly as he tackled the demon’s hair.

“Transfigured? Who transfigured someone’s-? Actually, never mind. Why am I even asking?”

“Thomas. And keep your head still,” the werewolf reprimanded as Harry turned to stare at him.

Thomas, Thomas? Tattoos, bouncer, the only sensible one of the lot of you Thomas?” Harry asked incredulously.

“Yes, that Thomas. He only pretends to be the sensible one. He and Timothy did most of the work creating the raptor,” Rick said with amusement.

“And here I was thinking one of you might be sane,” Harry sighed dramatically.

“That would be Aaron. And the Alpha most of the time, though he has his moments too. It’s a wonder the Boss puts up with any of us, really,” Rick grinned. “Right, you’re done. Oh give over, it didn’t take that long,” the werewolf rolled his eyes as Harry scrambled out of the chair with a jubilant exclamation of freedom.

The teenager collapsed onto the couch to wait as Rick changed into something more suitable for the club. Given how long the werewolf took getting Harry ready the demon was expecting to be waiting for a while, so was surprised to see Rick appear only a few minutes later.

“How are you ready so fast when it takes you ten minutes just to do my hair?” Harry demanded.

“It helps that my hair doesn’t have a mind of its own,” Rick said dryly. “And I don’t look like I’m about to flee whenever someone even thinks about a hairbrush in my presence.”

Harry stuck his tongue out making Rick laugh.

“So what are we doing now?” the demon asked after a moment. “Are we going straight to the club?”

“We’ll go find Timothy first, then see if there’s anyone else he wants to collect before we go to Beasts. We’ve still got plenty of time,” Rick answered, looking at his watch.

Allowing himself to be shooed out of the room, Harry followed Rick down to Timothy’s flat. Rick didn’t bother to wait after knocking, walking straight into the flat to find a topless Timothy glaring at an equally annoyed looking woman. They had clearly been in the middle of an argument before Rick had knocked.

“Hiya Harry, Rick,” Timothy said over his shoulder before turning back to the woman. “Look, Nyx, you can ask the Alpha and if he says yes then I’ll help, but I’m telling you he won’t. Mr Calvey would have my head if he thought I was even contemplating bending the rules right now. The Guilds are in uproar enough at the moment without a low ranking grunt trying to work around the rules. Constantly pushing like this is why no-one wants to nominate you. Now, if you don’t mind?” Timothy said, holding the door open. Nyx growled and stormed out, shouldering past Rick on her way to the door. “Don’t forget the meeting,” Timothy called after her before shutting the door on her uncomplimentary reply.

Harry watched silently as Timothy disappeared to find a shirt. It was the first time he had seen the giant werewolf be serious without being angry at someone, other than a few fleeting glimpses of seriousness when they were in muggle London. Harry suddenly found it easy to see why Timothy was near the top of the pack hierarchy despite his often childish antics; when he wasn’t messing about he had quite a commanding presence, for a beta.

“Are you ready to go?” Timothy asked as he finished buttoning his shirt. “I need to call at Edson’s on the way out to drop off a couple of things before I forget about them,” he said, absently leafing through a stack of notebooks and putting some in a rucksack.

“Ok, we’re ready to go when you are,” Rick nodded before grinning. “Now stop looking like someone cursed your puffskein; your business face is freaking Harry out.”

“Some did curse my puffskein,” Timothy deadpanned. “Poor Tribble has never been the same since.”

“You have a puffskein? And you called it Tribble?” Rick asked incredulously.

“Had,” Timothy corrected, “and yes. He lives with one of the Alpha’s nephews now,” he said as he finished putting notebooks and boxes into the rucksack and zipped it up.

“I’m just going to pretend I know what you’re talking about,” Harry declared, watching the exchanging. “Are we going yet?”

“You don’t know what a tribble is?” Timothy asked in mock horror, all traces of his earlier seriousness gone.

“I’m not entirely sure what a puffskein is,” Harry admitted as followed Rick out of the flat.

“You say you’ve met an acromantula but you don’t know what a puffskein is?”

“First of all, meeting Aragog wasn’t my idea. Second, meeting a giant, man-eating spider has nothing to do with knowledge of puffskeins.”

“Who’s meeting a giant man-eating spider?”

The three turned to see Thomas juggling a stack of files as he tried to close his door.

“Harry is,” Rick answered, taking the files before Thomas dropped them.

“And why is Harry meeting man-eating spiders?” Thomas asked, shutting his door.

“Harry isn’t,” the teenager grumbled. “If Harry gets his way, he’ll never have to go near an acromantula nest again.”

“Again?” Thomas raised his eyebrows, taking the files back from Rick. “How, exactly, did you even come across one once?”

“It’s a long story?” Harry tried.

“I’ll bet. Where are we going?” the last was addressed to Timothy, who had turned away from the exit to head deeper into the building.

“I just need to call at Edson’s.”

“And you need an entourage because?”

“Leaving these two alone is bad for my sanity? And at least one of that stack your carrying must be for Edson so you might as well drop it off now,” Timothy answered, shouldering open the door to Edson’s apartment without knocking.

“Special delivery!” he shouted as he walked in, despite the four room apartment being small enough that talking at a normal volume could heard throughout the flat.

“Merlin, shout a little louder Timothy, there are silencing charms in Azkaban that didn’t shatter,” Edson grumbled, sticking his head into the main room to glare at the large werewolf.

After some clattering, banging and the sound of drawers opening and closing, Edson joined them in the front room, also holding a file. Harry was almost beginning to feel left out of the file-holding club.

“Here, you’ll need this,” Edson said, handing the file to Timothy in exchange for the rucksack. With a bit of file juggling, Thomas extracted a folder from the large pile he was carrying and handed it over to Edson.

“Do I want to know what’s in all of the files?” Harry asked curiously. Timothy shrugged.

“Work stuff. Believe it or not, we do have to act like responsible adults sometimes,” he grinned.

“Yes, even Timothy has to do some real work occasionally,” Edson said mockingly.

“Oi, I do as much work as you do. More, in fact.”

“Your ‘work’ looks an awful lot like sitting in the bar having drinks with people,” Edson snarked.

“Funny, I was just thinking your work looks very like being paid to watch sports.”

“Children,” Thomas broke in warningly. “Unless you want to explain to Alpha that we were late because I had to referee you two ladies swinging your handbags at each other, we should go.”

By the time they made it to the club most of the pack was already there, including some unfamiliar faces that hadn’t gone to the quidditch match. Instead of going to the VIP section Timothy guided Harry over to the large table the pack were using. Decorated with the image of a large black dragon, the table was set slightly apart from the others and as they got closer Harry realised there was a privacy charm surrounding it.

“This is the pack’s usual spot, where we have non-secret meetings and other stuff we want to keep away from our homes,” he told Harry as they joined the other werewolves. Thomas broke away from their group to take his stack of files upstairs, slipping away through a Staff Only door.

“Non-secret?” Harry raised an eyebrow. “Do you have a lot of secret meetings?”

“Of course, every Tuesday. How else could we concoct our dastardly plans to take over the world?” Timothy deadpanned. “Just last week we gathered to discuss the stealing of everyone’s left shoe.”

“And that would help world domination how, exactly?”

“Take over the world one annoyance at a time?”

“One annoyance at a time? You’ll be Emperor of the Universe by Thursday,” said an unfamiliar voice. Harry looked up as they were joined by a heavily scarred female werewolf.

“Ah, Artemis, your confidence in my abilities is flattering,” Timothy grinned. “So, does your sister still have a boyfriend?”

“We’ll see,” she replied with a smirk - the effect was quite terrifying as it stretched the scars on her face. “He held up to round one well enough but tomorrow they’re coming here. If sticks around after meeting some of you lot, he may just have a chance.”

“You’re slightly terrifying, has anyone ever told you that?” Timothy asked conversationally. “Also, speaking of your sisters, Nyx is at it again. If you could explain to her that I’m not her personal background-checking-service-cum-PR-rep it would be appreciated. If she keeps pushing she’s going to get into trouble and I’d rather not see a packmate end up on the wrong side of a Guild, even if she does bug the life out of me.”

Artemis frowned. “I’ll talk to her about it, though Merlin knows why this time would be any more effective than the last umpteen attempts.”

Harry listened quietly, silently debating whether to ask about Guilds. He was curious but, contrary to what Hermione and Snape may believe, he had learned over the past two years that satisfying his curiosity wasn’t always a good idea in the magical world.

“Introduce me to your friend,” Artemis instructed, blatantly changing the subject.

“Artemis meet Harry. Yes, that Harry and no, I did not fanboy-“

“He did,” Harry interjected.

“Hush you, I did not.”

“You choked on your ice cream and spilled it all over the table.”

“I was surprised,” Timothy defended.

“You also felt the need to tell me my own name repeatedly.”

“I had a sudden, insistent worry that you might be suffering from temporary amnesia.”

“At least he didn’t ask for your autograph,” Artemis said helpfully. “Did he?” she added doubtfully a second later.

“No!” Timothy exclaimed. “I’m not that bad.”

“I don’t understand why people make such a big deal about me anyway,” Harry grumbled.

“You survived the Killing Curse,” Artemis pointed out. “And killed Voldemort.”

“First of all, that only happened because of a one in a gazillion chance that had circumstances arrange themselves perfectly for a freak accident, none of which were controlled by me - unless I’m somehow responsible for my own conception. Secondly, no I didn’t,” Harry refuted, folding his arms stubbornly. Artemis frowned, looking ready to argue, but they were distracted by a shout asking what they wanted to drink.

Once everyone had ordered a drink the group of younger members the pack referred to as the pups were instructed to hand them out. An order they complied with reluctantly. Harry’s drink was thunked down in front of him by a scowling Rikin.

“Why are you even sitting over here? This is the pack’s table, you don’t belong here,” the young werewolf said petulantly. Harry wondered what had happened to the carefully polite attitude from the day before. Next to him Timothy and Artemis rumbled warningly.

“Pups do not get a say in who belongs and who does not,” growled Domovoi from the head of the table, where he was keeping an ear out for trouble even as he conversed with the werewolves around him. “He’s here at my invitation. Unless you think you can lead this pack better than I can, do your job and keep your trap shut.”

Sulking but not willing to push his luck, the pup continued to serve the drinks. Domovoi waited until everyone, including the late arrivals and Thomas (who had returned sans files), had drinks and were settled before standing. The pack immediately went silent, turning to the face the Alpha.

“A few quick announcements then you can all bugger off to continue doing whatever it was you were doing, or you can stay to celebrate the Wasps’ most recent victory.”

There was a loud cheer from the quidditch fans but it died down quickly.

“Right, first thing: those of you associated with Guilds, start answering your damned messages promptly. I’m not your post owl and I have enough to do without constantly having to tell them that you’re not dead, just lazy.

“Secondly, there’s going to be some switching around of staff positions and shifts in the club, so make sure you have all your paperwork up to date and complete. If you need help, ask. Try to claim you didn’t do it because you didn’t know how and you’ll be sleeping in the courtyard.

“Finally, some happier news. Today we welcome a new honorary member of the pack,” the Alpha paused as the pack broke out in excited murmurs, all glancing at a stunned looking Harry. “Harry Potter has demonstrated the ability to get along with all the pack members he has met to date and, I believe, has much to offer the pack. Not least his status as a pup, something this pack has been sorely missing. If you have any objections to adopting Mr Potter into the pack, now’s the time to make them known.”

“He’s only being offered a place because he’s a submissive demon who’s famous for having no parents,” Rikin called out immediately. Domovoi looked at him expressionlessly. “He doesn’t have anything to offer the pack, people just feel sorry for him. I vote we don’t adopt him, he’d just be a burden we don’t need.”

Harry flinched slightly at being called a burden. It was something he was far too used to hearing from the Dursleys, often accompanied by the epithet ‘freak’ or a smack for failing to complete some assigned task.

Domovoi scowled at the gobby youth, lip curling in the beginnings of a warning snarl.

“You have been told repeatedly that for as long as you behave like a recalcitrant pup, you will be treated as one. Pups do not get a vote or to voice their opinions on important pack matters. Sit and be silent,” he said coldly.

Flushing angrily Rikin slouched in his seat, glaring at the table top.

“Does anyone else have a more reasonable objection?” the Alpha asked in a more friendly tone once he was sure Rikin would behave.

“Was anything the pup said true, about why Harry is being offered a place in the pack?” Artemis asked pragmatically.

“To some extent, yes,” Domovoi said, inclining his head. “Not so much his being a demon, but his being a submissive without a family to support him. Bad enough that any pup be left on their own, without having to handle to trials of finding a dominant mate alone. As for his fame, having the Boy-Who-Lived as an ally could be beneficial to the pack. Public opinion may be fickle,” Harry wondered if the Alpha somehow knew about the Heir of Slytherin debacle last year, or if he was just one of the few people sensible enough to realise that fame wasn’t all love and adoring fans, “but his name will always carry some weight, which can be used to our advantage. At the very least, it is attention grabbing.”

Harry shifted in his seat, uncomfortable with being discussed like some sort of business investment while he was sitting right next to them. Artemis nodded thoughtfully, seemingly oblivious to the demon’s discomfort.

“It makes sense to me. Plus he’s cute. I have no objections,” she shrugged.

There was some more murmuring from the pack but nobody else asked any questions and gradually each of them nodded, voting to have Harry join the pack. The only one who still seemed to object was Rikin, who was still glaring at the dragon decorating the table top, though Harry suspected his objection was more out of spite than any serious disagreement.

Once he was satisfied no more objections would be forthcoming, Domovoi beckoned Harry to stand before him.

Gripping the demon’s shoulders, the Alpha asked, “Do you accept the place you are offered in this pack? If you accept you are agreeing to do what you can to work for the betterment of the pack, you are acknowledging that your actions reflect on the pack and that I am your primary authority figure - excluding your Council - and you will submit to my judgement and follow my instructions to the best of your ability. You are agreeing to allow the pack to protect and assist you, meaning you will inform me of any danger you find yourself in and you will ask for assistance when you need it. You will be exempt from the full moon rules - other than the rule to avoid being on another pack’s territory on the night of the full moon - but you are subject to all other pack laws and will punished accordingly if you break them. Do you understand?”

Harry nodded solemnly. “I understand and I am honoured to accept a place in your pack,” the demon said seriously, silently thanking the seventh year werewolf he had met in his first year at Hogwarts who had explained the basics of werewolf etiquette to him. He doubted the pack would have taken offence if he had been ignorant of the proper response but being able to conduct himself properly would creating a positive first impression.

Smiling Domovoi pulled Harry closer to rub their cheeks together, scent marking the demon.

“Welcome to the Knockturn Pack, pup,” the Alpha said, ruffling Harry’s hair. Domovoi stepped back and was immediately replaced by Aaron who repeated the actions, having to bend almost double to get low enough to rub cheeks.

One by one each member of the pack came forward in order of hierarchy to greet their newest pack member, repeating the actions and words of their Alpha. Even Rikin joined in, though his cheek rub was perfunctory and he may as well have told Harry to jump off a bridge for all the warmth in his welcome. Harry wasn’t as surprised as he might have been before spending a day with the pack when Rick was the second to last to greet him, with only Fiona following the talkative werewolf.

When Fiona stepped away, Domovoi stepped forward again, once again drawing the pack’s attention.

“I trust you will all look after our newest pup,” the Alpha said, gesturing for Harry to return to his seat. “Right, we’re done here. Go back to doing whatever it is you miscreants do in your spare time. If you need me, I’ll be at the bar,” he dismissed the gathered werewolves. “And Harry, see Aaron to discuss the things you need to know for now,” the Alpha added before he ambled over to the bar.

The pack dispersed much faster than they had arrived, some leaving the club, a few disappearing into the employee only sections and many migrating over to the pool tables. Thomas had vanished back into the hidden depths of the club as soon as the Alpha had released them and Timothy had followed Domovoi over to the bar, so Harry dragged a protesting Rick with him as he made his way over to the pack Second.

“Already below the newbie are you, Dick?” sneered Rikin, who hadn’t moved from his sulking spot.

“At least he gets a vote on pack matters, puppy,” Harry retorted with a sweet smile before turning his back on the ill-tempered werewolf and sitting across from Aaron, pulling Rick into the chair next to him.

“Causing trouble already?” Aaron asked mildly.

“He started it,” Harry protested. “Just because he got into trouble doesn’t mean he should get to take it out on Rick.”

Aaron smiled. “Very true Mr Potter. As it is, Mr Hartford has already been reprimanded for his behaviour toward packmates. If he persists he will find that there are far worse consequences than simply being stripped of his privileges. However we are not here to discuss Rikin’s attitude,” the Second sat forwards, resting his elbows of the table. “I will endeavour to keep this as brief as possible. I’m sure there are other things you would much rather be doing than listening to a lecture on conduct within the pack,” he said dryly.

Pausing thoughtfully, the enormous werewolf twisted in his seat to look over his shoulder at the pack members gathered around a pool table behind him.

“Lukas,” he called, making one of them turn to look at him enquiringly. “Find the pups and send them to me, please. I think they would do well to listen to a refresher on the rules along with Harry.”

The werewolf nodded and left. A few minutes later the summoned pups began to appear, some looking sullen and others nervous. Harry recognised them all from Leena’s the day before.

“Excellent, now that you are all here we can have a quick overview of the main pack laws,” Aaron said, leaning back in his chair. “The most important rule is that the Alpha’s word is law: his commands are to be followed, he has the final say on any pack issue and you will respect his authority. Domovoi is a good Alpha, if you listen to him and obey him he will do his utmost to help you and to protect you when you need it. He has improved life for a great number of urban werewolves over the years and continues to do so. All he asks in return is that you give him the respect he deserves.

“Secondly, your actions, or inaction, should never harm the pack. If you are aware of a risk to the pack inform either myself or the Alpha and we will decide how to deal with it. It is not your place to decide how a problem should be dealt with or whether it can be ignored.

“Third, treat your packmates with respect. Dominance battles, whether physical or otherwise, are an inevitable part of a healthy pack dynamic. However, once you have proven your dominance that is the end of it. The fighting stops and you will not continue unless the subordinate challenges you again. The hierarchy is in place to protect all pack members, not to enable the harassment of weaker members; the role of dominant members is to help protect weaker members who cannot protect themselves.

“Harry, as an omega - or submissive, in your case - the dominance rules are a little different. An omega is always higher in the hierarchy than a beta, regardless of fights won or lost. However it is only a partial ranking, mainly pertaining to the distribution of resources - you do not have any commanding power unless you prove yourself dominant to the packmate you are giving orders to. The betas will do their best to protect and assist you but they do not have to follow your orders,” Aaron paused as one of the pups made a derisive noise. “Something to share, Andrew?”

“He’s an omega. Everyone knows omegas are the lowest ranking - they’re breeders, not fighters,” the young werewolf said, folding his arms authoritatively. Aaron raised an eyebrow.

“Indeed they are, as you so eloquently put it, the ‘breeders’. Whether that precludes them from fighting is a matter you may wish to take up with Harry,” he said, giving the scowling demon an amused look. “However, you are mistaken in thinking that not being the fiercest pack members makes them unimportant. Omegas are the future of the pack. A pack cannot be stable unless it led by an alpha no matter how strong the betas are, and without omegas there would be no alphas. A beta’s pups can only ever be betas - if the pups are werewolves at all - and though an alpha is far more likely to have werewolf pups than a beta is, the only way for those pups to be anything other than betas is for them to come from an alpha-omega couple. Only omegas - and submissives - are capable of conceiving alphas and omegas, and they will only conceive when they feel it is safe. An omega that feels threatened or overly upset will not be able to conceive, regardless of how often they lie with a partner. That is why they are cherished and why no self-respecting pack would try and subjugate them just because they are often physically weaker,” he finished with a disapproving frown at the pup who had spoken.

None of the pups dared to argue the point, though some of them were still frowning and were clearly not convinced. Making a mental note to keep an eye on the more mutinous looking pups, Aaron continued detailing the pack laws.

“The rules regarding your personal safety are self-explanatory: do not deliberately put yourself or your packmates in harm’s way. If you ever find yourself in some form of non-imminent danger, inform the Alpha or myself immediately. Do not try to play the martyr in a misguided attempt to protect the pack or make our lives easier - our lives are much easier when we can trust you to come forward with your problems and the pack is safer when we are aware of any possible threats.”

Harry couldn’t help but feel that was being direct primarily at him. He somehow found it difficult to imagine Rikin or his gang allowing their lives to get harder in order to make other people’s lives easier.

“Nobody is obligated to live with the pack, though you will always have a home here should you wish to use it,” Aaron continued, ignoring the restless shifting of the bored pups. “If you do choose to live away from the pack, you must keep us informed about your current living conditions and ensure the Alpha and myself are keyed into your wards. If you ‘forget’ to key us into your wards we will rip them down and you will regret it,” he warned, the look in his eyes leaving no doubt that any attempts to evade this law would be met with extremely unpleasant consequences.

Giving the warning a few seconds to sink in, Aaron continued, “Our pack sponsor is Mr Calvey, the owner of this establishment,” he said, waving a hand towards the room they were sitting in. “His authority is second only to the Alpha’s, superseding even my authority, and you will treat him with the respect his position demands,” he paused, giving a thoughtful hum. “Harry, in this you will have to use your discretion as Mr Calvey is also a demon; etiquette demands of race trump pack hierarchy in this case. However, I trust you will not attempt to abuse the exceptions made for you,” the Second said, giving the demon a mild look that somehow conveyed exactly how much of a bad idea it would be to try and take advantage of the leeway being a demon gave him within the pack.

“Another exception from normal pack law, Harry, is that you are not obligated to join us on full moons. You are welcome to join us if you wish, although it may be rather challenging to do so when you are at school, but as you present no risk of harming others or exposing the pack you may - within reason - do as you wish on the night of the full moon. The only law you are required to follow is that you do not invade another pack’s territory on or around the full moon. It is as much for your protection as it is for maintaining the peace between packs.”

Harry frowned. “How would I be able to join you on full moons? I thought anyone who wasn’t a werewolf would be a risk of attack?” he asked, puzzled. Rikin snorted, looking at Harry like he was an idiot until Aaron made a warning sound.

“It is understandable to think that,” the Second said, giving Rikin a warning look. “To an outsider it would appear as though the only Creatures we tolerate when shifted are other werewolves. If you were a wizard it would be true that any attempt to join us on the full moon would put you in danger, as the natural instinct to infect and expand our pack would make the temptation to attack you difficult to resist.”

“Plus the overwhelming desire to end wizarding stupidity by eating them all,” Leo, one of the often better behaved pups, muttered to Andrew who was sitting next to him. Aaron chuckled slightly.

“Hm, that may indeed play some role in the temptation,” he agreed with a small smile. “However, as I was saying, a wizard would be in constant danger and - in the highly unlikely scenario we ever invited one to join the pack - they would be barred from joining us at the full moon for their own safety, unless they decided they wanted the bite. As a demon, you are not at risk of infection and therefore there is no natural instinct to attack other than the instinct to defend out territory; that is the main cause of werewolf attacks amongst Creatures. As a member of our pack you carry our scents, and so even when shifted we will recognise you as one of us, eliminating any risk of attack other than that caused by your actions.”

“My actions?” Harry questioned.

“Instincts rule during the full moon and we will be less tolerant of certain behaviours while shifted than we are during the rest of the month when rational thought is easier. Some things that normally would not bother us may be taken as a challenging for dominance and we would respond accordingly, which could cause quite a bit of damage. If you do decide to join us for a full moon you will be taught exactly how to behave to reduce the risk of tweaking anyone’s tail,” Aaron explained.

Harry nodded in understanding. He was rather curious about what it would be like to be around a werewolf pack on the full moon. Unfortunately, the next full moon wasn’t until he was back at Hogwarts so it would be a while before he had an opportunity to find out.

“As you are still under eighteen, Harry, you are counted as a pup, so punishments for infractions will not be as harsh as they would be for older pack members. The rest of you, however,” Aaron said, giving the other gathered ‘pups’ a hard look, “have not been true pups for some time. It is past time you acted like the adults you are. Avoiding your duties and behaving with ideas above your station will no longer be tolerated. The Alpha has been extremely lenient so far; clean up your act before he decides you need a more lasting lesson.”

The pups exchanged worried looks, some looking nervous at the thought of what the Alpha would consider a lasting lesson. Satisfied that his warning had had an impact of at least a few of the pups, the Second dismissed them, keeping Harry and Rick at the table.

“That is it for on rules for now. If you have questions at any point your packmates will be happy to answer, as would Domovoi and I. Although, I would beware of asking Rikin anything at the moment,” he said with a small frown. Something really needed to be done to correct the attitude of the eldest pup who was so often the ringleader in the trouble the pups caused. He would bring it up with Domovoi later.

“The last few things we need to deal with are your living arrangements and your time at school,” the Second said, returning to the task at hand. “First of all, would you like to move here to live with the pack for the rest of summer?”

Harry shook his head. He quickly explained about the Ministry’s panic when he went ‘missing’, giving an abridged version of the events that led to him leaving the Dursleys, concluding, “So I’d love to join you but it would raise too many questions.”

Aaron nodded thoughtfully. “We will work around it, then. You will not walk through the Dark District alone. Flooing would be easiest but could also raise questions about where you keeping flooing to. For the time being I will arrange to always have someone near the Leaky Cauldron when you are there, to escort you here when you need it. I am aware that Rick and Timothy have so far been able to accompany you each day but they may not always be available. Perhaps something with a protean charm could work,” he mused. “I will discuss it with the Alpha and let you know once we have something.”

Harry nodded, relieved that he wouldn’t have to keep asking Timothy and Rick to escort him. They may have said they didn’t mind but Harry couldn’t help but feel like a pest. At least this way it was all arranged in advanced, saving him the awkwardness of asking constantly.

“When you are at school you will keep us updated on what you are up to. We expect at least one owl a week, and more if there is anything important going on. We don’t need a blow-by-blow account of every assignment you receive but you will keep us informed about your grades and any trouble you get into - which means everything from detentions to visits to the hospital wing,” Aaron said, giving Harry a stern look. “You are hardly expected to become a straight O student overnight, but you will apply yourself and do your best. If you fail a subject, you had better have an excellent reason why.”

Harry pulled a face but nodded. Regular owls would be easy - it would be nice to have someone outside of Hogwarts to talk to - but putting real effort into his classes and homework would be a pain. He’d rather liked all the free time doing the bare minimum to pass had given him. At least Hermione would be pleased with his new work ethic.

“It would be preferable if you spent school holidays with the pack but we will shelve that issue for now. Your celebrity status may make things difficult if people want to know where you are suddenly vanishing off to. It will be another thing to ask the Alpha about.”

“I could just tell people I’m going to the Dursleys’, then come here instead?” Harry suggested. Aaron gave a noncommittal hum, mentally filing away the name Dursley for later. He knew the Alpha was interested in learning as much as he could about Harry’s family.

“We shall see what the Alpha says. The last thing we need to discuss is your mating,” he said, looking amused when Harry gave an embarrassed groan. “Largely we will leave you to handle it as you see fit. You have different rules and traditions surrounding your mating process than werewolves do, and it is rather well known that most demons prefer not to spread around the details of how it works. Although, you do seem to be the exception to that rule,” he said, lips quirking into a grin.

“Story of my life,” Harry muttered.

“Yes, well, some rules still apply to you: you will always have at least one packmate around when meeting new dominants; you will introduce any dominant you are considering as a mate to the Alpha and myself before pursuing a more permanent relationship; and you will respect any veto the Alpha gives on mates - you may ask why he rejected them, you may even ask him to reconsidered, but you will not go behind his back. Is that understood?”

Harry nodded, hoping that they were coming to the end of the lecture. He wanted to make a good impression and show that he was taking his adoption in the pack seriously but the talk had been going on for what felt like hours.

Noticing the teenager’s boredom, Aaron said with amusement, “That is all for now, unless you have any questions?”

“No, I’m good,” Harry said a little too quickly, already on the edge of his seat as he waited for the Second to tell him he could leave. Next to him Rick was watching in amusement, enjoying being the observer rather than the one people were fed up of listening to for once.

“Off you go then,” Aaron said waving them away. “Clearly you’re going to be useless until you have had a chance to get the celebrations out of your system. I am sure Rick or one of the others will be able to answer any questions you may have later.”

Not waiting around for a second dismissal, and risking the Second thinking of more rules to explain, Harry thanked the giant werewolf for his time and escaped, dragging a highly amused Rick with him. Seeing that Timothy was still talking with the Alpha at the bar, Harry tugged Rick down to the end of the large pack table, dropping into a chair next to Edson.

“You survived the lecture, I see,” Edson grinned, laughing at Harry’s groan. “Don’t worry, if you’re a good boy you’ll only have to hear it once.”

“So you can expect to hear it at least once a week,” Rick teased the demon. Edson looked at the younger werewolf in surprise before grinning.

“I suppose hanging around Timothy is bound to get you into trouble,” he nodded.

Rick gave a small grin, “I don’t think Harry needs help in the trouble department. If his stories are anything to go by he may be even worse than Timothy.”

“I’m not that bad…mostly,” Harry protested with a grin.

“Oh really?” Edson challenged with a mischievous grin. “Tell me Harry, have you ever played ‘Never Have I Ever’?”

He grinned when Harry nodded. “Excellent. How about we play it now? We can see who is more trouble prone, you or Timothy.”

Harry agreed, on the proviso that he wouldn’t be expected to drink alcohol. He had to return to the Leaky Cauldron later and, while underage drinking wasn’t quite as frowned upon in the wizarding world, it wouldn’t look good if he returned unable to walk straight. Edson nodded, shouting down the table for someone to get fresh drinks and asking who wanted to join. There were some surprised looks when Rick said he’d join them but Edson just shrugged and sent him off to the bar with a couple of other low ranking pack members to get the drinks.

Once everyone was settled with drink, and quick warning had been given to keep things clean while Harry was there and Aaron was in earshot, Edson started the game.

“Never have I ever lost more than twenty House points in one go,” the werewolf grinned as almost everyone drank. Those who didn’t were mainly people who hadn’t attended Hogwarts.

Harry smirked, saying with a bit of a challenge in his voice, “Never have I ever lost fifty points in one go.” Far fewer drank that time, some giving Harry slightly disapproving, yet amused looks as he drank.

From there the game really kicked off, some suggestions staying quite mild while others blame more and more ridiculous: “Never have I ever charmed someone’s watch to wolf-whistle whenever they walk past a girl.”, “Never have I ever released a hundred chocolate frogs into someone’s bed - while they were sleeping.”, “Never have I ever hidden a bowtruckle in someone’s potted plant.”, “Never have I ever made a pureblood dance the Macarena.”.

It didn’t take long for the pack to conclude that Harry may be just as much trouble as Timothy, if currently less well practised. Some things raised questions that more senior pack members filed away for another time or to bring up with the Alpha, such as Harry drinking to “Never have I ever frustrated a teacher to the point of hexing me.”

Halfway through, Timothy finished his conversation with the Alpha and joined them, making the game take an even more ridiculous turn than it already had as the werewolves got steadily drunker. Eventually the game devolved into individual conversations as people gradually lost interest and broke away from the main group.

As the evening wore on, the Alpha left his spot by the bar and rejoined the pack at the table. Harry noticed that between them, Domovoi and Aaron managed to spend time talking to every member of the thirty strong pack.

Later in the evening, when a few of the pack were discussing getting food, Harry was surprised to see a dominant demon approach the table. Very few dominants had bothered him throughout the afternoon - he had been much better about keeping a handle on his Advertising and the pack had served as an effective deterrent to the few dominants who had looked like they might want to try their luck anyway.

He was even more surprised when the dominant bypassed him completely, only giving him a cursory glance that seemed to be aimed at the pack in general rather than him specifically. For a moment Harry wondered if the dominant was mated but quickly discarded the idea as he got closer - it was obvious the demon was single. The submissive didn’t know whether to be relieved or insulted by the lack of attention. He was certainly intrigued.

He watched curiously as the dominant made a beeline for the Alpha, stopping behind Domovoi’s chair and leaning over to speak to him.

“Who is that?” Harry asked Timothy, looking appreciatively at the well dressed dominant. Harry may not have been a fashion connoisseur but he could certainly appreciate the way the cut of the suit emphasised the dominant’s broad shoulders and trim waist.

“That’s the boos,” Timothy answered, glancing over with a slight frown. “Mr. Calvey. Pretty odd to see him down here when he’s working. Something must be going on.”

Indeed something did seem to be going on as, not long after Timothy had spoken, the hurried conversation between the demon and the Alpha came to and end and Domovoi stood. Catching Aaron’s eye and receiving an understanding nod the Alpha left, disappearing through the same door as Thomas had used earlier, followed by a few other werewolves.

As the dominant started to follow he paused, turning to face Harry.

“While I would love to stop and talk, I’m afraid I’m needed elsewhere,” he said, giving Harry a smile. The teenager blushed as he realised he had been caught staring and had started Advertising again in an unconscious effort to attract the dominant’s attention. Apparently his control was only good when he wasn’t drooling over smartly dressed dominants with enough self-control to not immediately start fawning over him. “Perhaps if you return another night we can talk and get to know one another a little better?” the dominant suggested. “I am Shax Calvey, by the way” he added, offering a hand to shake.

“Harry. And yeah, that’d be great,” Harry said as they shook hands.

“Excellent. I’m sure one of the pack would be happy to help you find your way back on a day when I have an evening free,” Shax smiled and nodded farewell before following after Domovoi.

Harry watched him go (and Rick could stop sniggering because he was not staring at the dominant’s, admittedly very nice, arse as he left) before turning to Timothy.

“That was…odd. But in a good way.”

“Odd?”

“Usually the dominants are falling over themselves to talk to me. You’ve seen them do it,” Harry said.

“True. I don’t think the Bossman is capable of being that…spontaneous or unreserved though,” the werewolf mused. “He never does anything without have at least three backup plans. Having you around has made him act with more spontaneity than I’ve seen since I started working for him.”

“What do you mean? This is the first time I’ve ever seen him,” Harry said, confused.

“Oh, um,” Timothy shifted uncomfortably. He hadn’t meant to say that much. “Well, he’s kind of been watching you for a while, I guess? And doing stuff like taking the dominant to your Council last night was more sudden than he usually does things. Normally he’d think it over for a day, or three, before acting.”

Harry frowned. Timothy wouldn’t be so bothered if that was all Shax had done.

“What else,” he prodded, knowing his suspicions were correct when the werewolf looked uncomfortable again.

“Don’t get mad? He also asked me to check on you when you weren’t coming into the Alley,” Timothy said apologetically, knowing the demon wouldn’t take it well.

“So the only reason you spoke to me,” Harry said slowly, “was because your boss told you to?”

“Um, yes and no? I mean, yes I probably wouldn’t have talked to you if Shax hadn’t sent me to make sure you were ok, but he didn’t make me keep talking to you or anything else,” Timothy explained quickly.

Harry nodded slowly, unsuccessfully trying to stamp down feelings of betrayal. The more the thought tumbled around inside his head, the angrier he felt.

“I think I should go back to the Leaky Cauldron,” he said slowly a few minutes later, not wanting to start shouting at the werwolf while surrounded by the pack.

“Harry?” Timothy said hesitantly.

“I told Tom I’d back tonight, I should go before it gets late,” Harry said shortly.

Timothy nodded reluctantly. “I’ll walk you back,” he said getting up. He let Aaron know they were leaving and followed Harry out quietly.

Most of the talk was spent in silence. Timothy kept sending Harry little glances, knowing the demon was angry and wanting to explain but not sure how to do so without making the situation worse. It would probably be best to let the demon get over his initial anger and then try to explain.

Harry was oblivious to the looks, staring at the ground as he fumed. He was fed up and kind of hurt that once again he was being befriended for what he was rather than who, only this time it was because he was a submissive demon rather than his status as the Boy-Who-Lived.

“Just do you know, the Alpha’s decision to offer you a place in the pack had nothing to do with Shax,” Timothy said abruptly as they reached the archway for the Leaky Cauldron. “If he was doing it to help Shax he'd have declared you a Friend to the pack, not invited you into the pack.”

Harry looked startled.

“I didn’t think that. I’m just annoyed and don’t want to talk.”

Timothy nodded hesitantly. “Ok, I’ll leave you be then. It might not be me picking you up tomorrow if Domovoi needs all hands on deck, but Aaron will make sure someone is here.”

Harry nodded curtly. “Ok. I’ll see you whenever, then,” he said, stepping into the inn.

He waved at Tom to show he was back but didn’t stop to talk, making his way up to his room. He wanted to owl Hermione - she always knew what to say in situations like this.

§`§`§`§`§`§`§`§`§`§

“So that’s it then?” Domovoi said challengingly as he placed a stack of folders on Shax’s desk. “You were standing next to him - you were actually talking! - and you immediately about-faced and retreated back under your rock?”

“I did not ‘retreat’,” Shax refuted. “In case you haven’t noticed, we’re rather busy at the moment. I could hardly drag you all away from your party and then stay down there to enjoy myself.”

“Bull,” the werewolf said bluntly. “You’ve spent all day working. You finished any priority work you could do before you came to round any of us up, and the only remaining stuff is things you can’t do until someone else has done their bit. This,” he waved a hand at the paperwork on the table, “is all everyday club stuff. Nothing urgent.”

Shax barely glanced up from his paperwork.

“It is not just paperwork for the club. The Guild-“

“Is always in a bloody tizz about something. They’re already panicking over the events for next year. The only real issue right now is this Azkaban drama and that hardly falls under your purview,” Domovoi interrupted with a scowl. He was half tempted to drag the demon back to Harry and stick him to a chair until he had to talk to the submissive.

“Yes, because after an unprecedented breakout from what is supposed to be one of the highest security prisons in the world there is absolutely no-one asking for information we haven’t managed to get hold of yet, or wanting a laundry list of protective items. And of course the other Guilds are suddenly supplying themselves with everything they need and giving us a well deserved break,” Shax said scathingly.

Anyone else would have backed down and tried to placate the irate demon. Domovoi snorted and raised an unimpressed eyebrow.

“The Warders and Mercs might be rushed off their feet but the only new thing you’re dealing with is new intel,” the Alpha said shortly. He hoped that if he could unpick enough of Shax’s arguments while Harry was still in the club, maybe this time he could get the dominant to see sense and go and talk to Harry. “Everyone else might be yammering for extra supplies and special security measures but we both know you always have extra everything in case something like this happens. And you’re hardly running a one-man operation - having a night off isn’t going to bring everything to a grinding halt.”

“I’m beginning to think I may have actually got more work done if I had stayed in the bar,” Shax muttered as he sealed a letter and dropped it into his outbox.

Domovoi growled in frustration. Give him Rikin and his merry band of idiots any day, at least he could smack some sense into them. He tried changing tack.

“Well I hope for your sake you don’t leave it too long. You’ve already tipped your hand.”

“What?” Shax looked up, properly focusing on Domovoi for the first time since the werewolf entered the office.

“Harry now knows you own the place. He’s not stupid, he’s going to get suspicious that the werewolves he met just happen to be the same ones you sponsor. And if what I’ve seen so far is any indication, he’s going to be pissed off when he works it out,” Domovoi shrugged. He wasn’t actually sure how much Harry knew, or whether the little demon would work it out or not, but it certainly seemed plausible that he could.

Now that he thought about it the Alpha realised that he might have to do some damage control if that did happen. Adopting the teenager into the pack had made the lad his responsibility and he’d ben damned if he let Shax’s inability to interact with the submissive like a normal person affect Harry’s trust in the pack.

For the first time Shax looked slightly worried.

“You think he’ll take it that badly?”

“Shax, it’s starting to piss me off and I’m not the one you’re stalking by proxy,” Domovoi said dryly, wondering how someone who was normally so quick on the uptake could be so dense when it came to a certain raven haired submissive.

“I’ll talk to him tomorrow,” Shax decided.

“And what’s wrong with now?”

“He’s not here anymore. He left about half an hour ago,” Shax said, picking up the file on the top of the stack Domovoi had brought.

The Alpha blinked. “How do you know that?” he asked incredulously. Even he hadn’t known and he was the boy’s Alpha. Shax hadn’t even left the office since coming back upstairs.

“I felt him leave,” Shax shrugged.

“From all the way up here?”

“His presence is distinctive,” the demon said, before relenting under Domovoi’s slightly disbelieving stare. “And he’s constantly followed by a silent entourage. It’s hard to miss that many demons making a simultaneous exit. For all you call me a stalker, they’re the ones who are actually hiding in the shadows and following him everywhere but his bedroom.”

“I may have to see what I can do to dissuade that behaviour,” Domovoi frowned. He wondered why Timothy hadn’t mentioned it.

Silence fell between them as Shax busied himself with paperwork and Domovoi contemplated the problems raised by Harry’s adoption and possible solutions. Only the scratch of a quill and the occasional, brief visit from another member of staff or the pack broke the quiet.

Shax didn’t look up from his work until he had read through and signed off on all the files Domovoi had brought in.

“So,” he said, stretching, “what can you tell me about this newest pack member of yours?”

Domovoi gathered up the files with a smirk.

“Oh no, you’ve just been explaining how very busy you are. I couldn’t possibly waste any of your valuable time with idle gossip like that,” he deadpanned.

He quickly made his escape as a stunned Shax gaped at him, shutting the door as the demon’s inventive name calling started. The demon would probably make him pay for that later but he couldn’t bring himself to care.

He was going to make Shax talk to Harry if it killed him.

Chapter Text

A/N: I was practising animating fire and decided to make a sign for Fantastic Beasts:


 photo FBSign_zpstpkdkenw.gif

A night’s sleep hadn’t left Harry any less annoyed. Normally he would talk to Hermione, who was always a voice of reason in these things, but talking via owl took a while and she hadn’t had chance to reply to his letter yet. Talking to other pack members wasn’t an option either, given who was involved, and talking to other demons was definitely out as most of them would be less than helpful as they tried to use the situation to their own advantage.

That only left one option.

“Sweet merciful Mother, I’m living the cliche! You do know I don’t serve alcohol, yes? And I wouldn’t add to the cliche by giving you any if I did,” Leena said, folding her arms and leaning against the counter as she watched Harry.

The demon couldn’t help but chuckle. It was true; add in a bar and a few strong drinks and it would be a classic ‘depressed patron seeks comfort from the understanding bartender’ scene. Minus the understanding bartender part. Leena, apparently, did not believe in pandering to emotions with kind words and comfort when sarcasm and mocking were still options.

“So, what caused this tragic breakup?” the dryad asked, raising an eyebrow. “I thought you two were best friends forever and ever, bonded over a terrible sense of humour and the maturity level of four year olds. Did he steal your cookies?”

Harry glared at her, the effect ruined by his twitching lips. “You’re terrible at this whole comfort and advice thing. I thought you were supposed to make me feel better?”

“I missed my classes on offering comfort; I was too busy mopping up the angst being dripped all over the floor. Advice I can do, sparingly. It is rather ironic that my tree is a weeping willow,” she smirked.

“I thought it was a birch?” Harry said, puzzled. The name on her business cards said Leena Birchwood.

“That is my name, it has nothing to do with what my tree is any more than your name dictates your career,” Leena explained with an eye roll. “Or do you have a ceramics business I am unaware of?”

“Well, no but-“

“Exactly. Now come on, tell me what’s happening between you and Timothy before your many admirers start invading my shop,” she said, moving over to the coffee maker as more people came in.

Harry sighed and summarised the situation for her.

“May the forests give me strength,” the dryad muttered when Harry was finished. “Ok, so, advice and comfort. There there, who’s a little soldier? That’s comfort sorted,” she said, patting a reluctantly amused Harry’s head. “Advice is a bit more challenging. Are you angry at Timothy or the situation? As much as I don’t like the idiot, Timothy was just following orders when he spoke to you the first time and he didn’t actually know who you were to care about how you felt about it. I doubt any later interactions were done under order - like it or not, you’re not that important and even Timothy has more important things to do that follow you around all the time. He may have kept an eye on you if ordered but he isn’t the type to befriend someone because he was told to.”

Harry blinked dumbly. He was used to talks like this being given gently by Hermione, not being bludgeoned with them by someone who didn’t care if he was offended or not. Leena looked at him expectantly, making him realised she actually wanted an answer to her question.

“Er. I guess I’m more angry at the situation?” he answered hesitantly. While he was hurt that Timothy hadn’t told him about Shax sooner, he more annoyed at once again having events orchestrated around him by people who felt it was ‘for his own good’, and frustrated with himself for not realising what was happening sooner.

“Because?” Leena prompted.

“Well, what you said,” Harry frowned. “Timothy was only doing as he was told by his boss when he first talked to me. That’s not really what I was angry about anyway; I was more angry that people are trying to control me again and he didn’t tell me.”

“So you’re angry at him for not going against his Alpha?”

“Well…” Harry’s frown deepened. Leena sighed long sufferingly.

“Does it really make any difference anyway?” she asked.

“I don’t know, that’s what I’m trying to work out!”

Leena rubbed her forehead.

“Do I need to use sock puppets to get the message across? I thought these work-it-out-yourself Q&A sessions were supposed to make things easier? You are angry at Timothy because he is the most obvious target for your anger towards a situation you don’t like, that he is not actually the cause of. I think it is safe to say that your friendship is largely unchanged - the only difference is that you met by design rather than chance. If you really need to be angry at someone, there are better targets than Timothy. Be angry at the person responsible for the situation,” she said with a sigh.

“So you think I should be angry at Calvey?” Harry asked.

“No. I think you are overreacting and should just let it go. Nobody was trying to upset you and the whole situation came about because people were concerned about you. You clearly feel it is not over until you have someone to blame. So blame the cause of the mess and deal with it before someone slips and hurts themselves in that angst you’re leaking all over my shop.”

“You know, you were actually being sort of helpful right up until that part about the angst,” Harry said, amused despite himself. “So you’re saying I should go and shout at Shax and get it out of my system?”

“I don’t recall saying that but if that is what you do please let me know. I’ll bring popcorn,” Leena said with an evil grin. “Now shoo. I have things to be doing. I’m sure you can find one of my customers to bother.”

Laughing, Harry left, taking his coffee with him. Settling himself at an empty table he cautiously decided to try Advertising properly for the first time. He quickly discovered that when he was consciously trying to alter his pheromone release it was much easier to control the strength as well, letting out only a trickle of pheromones rather than the flood that had saturated him yesterday.

Suddenly recalling Aaron’s lecture about pack rules Harry swore quietly, scanning the cafe for any sign of one of the pack. He let out a relieved breath when he spotted the sisters Artemis and Nyx over in the corner. He wasn’t sure they were aware he was there but as long as they were around it should be enough to keep him out of trouble.

It didn’t take long for the pheromones to draw in dominants. They seemed more restrained than yesterday - Harry wasn’t sure if that was because there were less pheromones or because word about his hissy fit yesterday had spread - but he still quickly found himself being swamped.

“Everybody sit down and keep your hands to yourself,” he growled after enduring a few minutes of handshaking, shoulder squeezing and generally unwanted contact.

The dominants sat.

“Thank you,” Harry sighed. “I thought you lot had a hierarchy to prevent mob-the-submissive sessions?”

“We do,” one dominant offered, “but it’s not like we each get a sticker with our rank on it. We,” he gestured at the other five dominants sitting at the table with him, “are all on the same level, or thereabouts, so none of us can see off all the others.”

“Oh yay me,” Harry drawled. “You could try to make it sound slightly less like you are dogs fighting over a prime steak. If you are all staying, could you try to talk one at once? Talking to six people simultaneously is kind of difficult.”

“But then one person could monopolise your time,” objected another dominant. Harry gave him a dirty look.

“Then he would be saying something I am interested in hearing and I would thank the rest of you to have some manners and not butt into the conversation like simple minded horses,” he said disparagingly, irritated at the idea of his time being something they had a right to divide up between them without his input. “Clamouring at me like confused gnomes isn’t going to make me want to talk to you.”

Harry was starting to feel like he should hand out advice flyers: ’10 Ways To Talk To A Submissive Without Being An Ignoramus’. He had only been Advertising for a day and it already seemed like more trouble than it was worth. At least when he was Scouting dominants kept their hands to themselves.

“Ok,” he sighed. “Let’s try it one at a time. Introduce yourself and tell me a bit about you. If you have a problem doing it this way, feel free to leave.”

The teenager felt a bit ridiculous sitting there as six grown men introduced themselves, telling him their name, age and occupation. It felt more like he was conducting a job interview than trying to find the person he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.

At least most of them had interesting jobs - there were some advantages to being so long lived, and having the time to gain the skills needed for more difficult career paths was one of them. Harry probably would have given up and gone back to the Leaky Cauldron if he had had to sit here and discuss what was happening in the Department of Overworked Underlings.

“What do you do in the Department of Mysteries?” he asked a dominant called Titus curiously. He would be the first to admit he knew nothing about the inner workings of the Ministry of Magic, but at least ‘Department of Mysteries’ sounded more interesting than ‘Department of Memo Regulation’ (which he still found it difficult to believe was really a thing).

“Predominantly research. I’m afraid I can’t give you any details or-“

“You’d have to kill me?” Harry joked.

The dominant looked alarmed.

“Of course not! I would have to obliviate you, certainly, but I’d give up my job before I would kill a submissive!” Titus said vehemently. Harry sighed but decided it wasn’t worth the effort to explain a muggle joke to someone who clearly had little experience of the muggle world.

“Never mind, it’s a muggle thing,” he said. A few of the other dominants looked amused, clearly familiar with the joke.

“Muggles kill people who they think know too much? I knew they were barbaric but that is appalling!” the dominant looked scandalised.

Harry wasn’t sure why; the Creature community knew more than they liked to admit about silencing people permanently to keep a secret. And after the last couple of school years, Harry knew muggles certainly didn’t have the monopoly on barbaric practices.

“They don’t usually,” he said. “They tend to prefer big conspiracies,” he added, swallowing a grin, unable to resist poking fun at Titus’s view on muggles. The entire ‘muggles are inferior beasts’ attitude irritated him. He may not have any particular love of muggles - the residents of Privet Drive had seen to that - but the idea that they were completely inferior to those with magic rubbed him the wrong way. Anyone with even a basic knowledge of muggles knew that their ‘handicap’ of being magicless had not prevented, or even slowed, their development as a society.

“Oh, I don’t know. Some of them can get pretty touchy about that Official Secrets Act and those hush-hush Black Ops missions,” one of the other dominants - Marcus - said with a mischievous grin, having picked up on Harry’s intentions. Harry couldn’t help grinning back.

“I think there are laws against MI6 just sending out someone to shoot you for knowing a secret,” the submissive deadpanned. “You have to stumble across, or be part of, a giant conspiracy first. Then they’ll send all the assassins they have after you,” he added.

“That’s barbaric!” Titus exclaimed.

“That’s Hollywood,” Harry said innocently as Marcus took a gulp of his drink to hide his grin.

A red-headed dominant, who wouldn’t have looked out of place amongst the Weasleys, rolled his eyes.

“I think Hollywood is too focused on potential velociraptor attacks to bother with conspiracy theories at the moment,” he said dryly.

Harry laughed.

“True. Jurassic Park does seem to be doing well,” he agreed. “I haven’t seen it myself, though I have seen a brilliant raptor replica at Fantastic Beasts. It would be cool to go and see it.”

“Why not go and see it now? I could take you,” Octavius, the red-head, offered. Harry raised his eyebrows.

“Nice try,” he said dryly. The dominant shrugged, unrepentant.

Titus finally caught on to the joke, realising he was being mocked somehow. It had taken long enough, Harry thought. The dominant still didn’t understand exactly what the joke was, he just knew it was being made at his expense. He folded his arms and scowled.

“So if you can’t give me details, can you at least give me a hint about what sort of things you research?” Harry asked, taking pity on the sulking dominant.

Titus looked considering, torn between maintaining the secrets and air of mystery of his department or impressing Harry with his job. Eventually the desire to impress won out; the secrets were only relevant to wizards for the most part anyway and the Secrecy Oath they swore was not as binding as people expected.

“Well,” he said slowly, milking the mysterious nature of his department as much as he could. “I can’t say much, but I can tell you that my sub-department deal with the mind: how we interact with magic on a mental level and why the mind-arts work.”

“Mind-arts?” Harry asked blankly. He wasn’t aware that wizards could use mind magic beyond compulsion spells and some potions. He knew some Creature’s dealt heavily with mind magic and mental influence - vampires, incubi and veela coming immediately to mind - but it had never occurred to him that wizards may have developed mental magic of their own.

“Occlumency and Legilimency,” the dominant explained. “Neither are particularly well known or practiced any more amongst wizards - the mind-arts are one of their many dying arts. They require a high level of will power and focus, as well as a level of independent thinking that most wizards lack,” he said sneeringly.

“What do they do?” asked Harry curiously. He was learning more about the wizarding world in these last few days than in his entire time at Hogwarts.

“Occlumency is the defence of the mind. It primarily defends against Legilimency, as it is beyond wizards to imagine that they may not be the most talented race at whichever branches of magic they deign to try their hand at,” there was some nodding and a few disparaging remarks about the arrogance of wizards, “but the more skilled Occlumens could present a level of resistance to some weaker mental attacks by veela and the like.”

“So Legilimency is offensive mental magic?” Harry half-questioned.

“Yes, and even less frequently learned that Occlumency. Despite what semantic objections practitioners may make, Legilimency is essentially what muggles would call mind reading. It allows the caster to access the mind of another person and view snippets of their memories. For the most part it is a passive skill, allowing you to watch but not influence another’s mind,” Titus explained, enjoying Harry’s focused attention.

“How do you know if someone is using it?” Harry asked, wondering if it had ever been used on him. That could be rather problematic.

“Prolonged eye contact, sudden headaches, someone brandishing a wand in your face and screaming ‘legilimens’: it really depends on how skilled and subtle the caster is,” the dominant shrugged.

“It can’t be used against us, though,” one of the other dominants assured Harry, realising what was bothering the submissive.

Titus made a disagreeing noise.

“Of course it can. Some Creatures may have natural mental defences but we do not,” he said, too irritated at what he saw as another dominant trying to muscle in on his time with Harry to notice Harry’s worry and the other dominant’s attempts at reassuring the teen. The other dominant, Nero, scowled.

“Fine,” he bit out. “Techincally we are susceptible to it, but it still can’t be used to uncover secrets about our status as Creatures or any other secrets about Creatures. The protection of the Covenant prevents it,” he said glaring at Titus, daring the other dominant to contradict him and worry Harry further.

“That is true,” Titus conceded. “However relying on the Covenant’s protection alone would be a foolish way to protect your mind. It will protect secrets to do with Creatures but everything else would be as open as an untrained wizard’s mind.”

Marcus smirked. “Or I could rely on my drow ancestry to keep my mind safe. Not even a vampire can get through these natural shields without having to take a bite out of me first,” he said, tapping his temple.

“That’s hardly the same as Occlumency, thought, is it?” Titus snapped, annoyed at yet another dominant encroaching on his conversation with Harry and disputing his facts. “They shield against different things.”

“Yeah, but a drow - or someone carrying drow traits - learning Occlumency is like putting a padlock on your Gringotts vault in case someone turns up with lock-picks,” Marcus shrugged, winding Titus up further.

Harry watched in amusement as the argument between the two dominants escalated into a debate too complicated for Harry to understand. After a couple of minutes, the submissive concluded that the two wouldn’t be turning their attention back to him any time soon.

“So,” he said, looking at the blonde dominant sitting across from him, “while we wait for these two to remember the rest of us exist, why don’t you tell me about yourself?”

It was a decision Harry quickly regretted. The blonde was polite and obviously keen to impress but he didn’t seem capable of holding a conversation about anything other than his job (running an alternative foods store and small apothecary somewhere in Cardiff) and quidditch. While Harry was as much of a quidditch fan as any teenage boy, there was only so long he could spend discussing the sport with a potential mate. A mutual enjoyment of quidditch was hardly something to base a mateship on (regardless of what Oliver Wood may tell people). Even attempts to discuss the blonde’s family or Harry’s time at Hogwarts somehow ended up coming back to quidditch or the shop.

The dominant sitting next to Harry seemed to find it highly amusing, ignoring Harry’s pleading looks to be rescued from the repetitive conversation and even offering occasional comments to keep the blonde dominant talking. Every time the blonde showed signs of ending the conversation the smirking dominant would ask a question, prompting another in-depth analysis of the League teams.

Eventually Harry gave into temptation and kicked him in the shin.

The yelp the dominant let out was extremely satisfying and completely worth the startled looked their table got from the rest of the cafe.

“You kicked me!” the dominant exclaimed.

“You were being a git and you knew it,” Harry retorted, folding his arms unrepentantly.

“I was only encouraging the conversation,” the dominant,Tobias, said with a pout that was oddly reminiscent of Timothy’s But-I-Was-Helping look.

“I’m not afraid to kick you again,” Harry warned, unable to prevent his lips quirking into a grin.

“I’ll kick you back,” Tobias threatened, returning the grin, ignoring the scandalised looks the other dominants were giving him.

“And here I thought you were all so dedicated to making sure my delicate, peach-like skin doesn’t bruise,” Harry teased, feeling more relaxed with Tobias than he had with the others. If the dominant had been a hundred or so years younger Harry would have thought he was Timothy’s brother, their personalities were so similar.

“Oh I was,” the dominant said with a faux-serious nod. “But then I saw how much of daredevil you are. Sitting in a cafe without an armed guard, how do you cope with the adrenaline rush? I guess I’ll have to throw out that protective, human-sized hamster ball I was going to keep you in if we ever became mates,” he said, hanging his head sadly and sighing.

“If you have human-sized hamster ball I forbid you from throwing it out,” Harry laughed. “I’ll make sure I always wear it when I attend dangerous classes, like potions. It might affect my performance some but I’m sure the Professor won’t mind. It’s for my safety after all.”

The other dominants were watching the exchange with bemusement. This was not how they were used to submissives behaving, although Tobias’s unorthodox approach that many had condemned in the past and told him would keep him mateless for life seemed to be working wonders with the green eyed submissive.

Unfortunately Harry’s fun was cut short by the arrival of a disapproving Aaron. Any objections the dominant demons may have had to their time with Harry being encroached upon by an alpha werewolf were cut short by getting an up-close view of the sheer size of the werewolf. Dominant demons or not, Aaron was seven feet of alpha werewolf with the muscle to match and he currently looked displeased - even six against one, they would avoid a fight if they could.

“Harry, do you recall out conversation last night about rules?” the Second asked, ignoring the other demons entirely.

“Er, most of it? It was kind of long,” Harry replied honestly. Aaron gave him a look that conveyed precisely how well pleading ignorance as an excuse was going to work.

“Hmm, and I don’t suppose one of the thing you do remember happens to be the rule regarding meetings such as this?” the behemoth asked, giving a significant look to the listening demons. The dominants wisely decided that now would be a good time to make themselves scarce, slipping away with quick farewells to Harry.

The submissive barely acknowledged them as he looked around the cafe with a sinking feeling. Artemis and Nyx had disappeared at some point and, as far as Harry could see, there were no other pack members around.

“There should always be a pack member nearby when I’m meeting dominants,” Harry answered when Aaron made an expectant noise.

“And do you have anyone with you in case of trouble?”

“No. But Artemis and Nyx were here earlier!” Harry protested.

Aaron gave him a skeptical look.

“Were they aware you were counting them as your protection?” he asked. He very much doubted it. Nyx may be irresponsible enough to wander off during a duty like that but Artemis never would.

“Well, no…but they were still here,” Harry argued half-heartedly. He didn’t need to look at the Second to that argument wasn’t going to fly.

As expected Aaron simply raised an eyebrow, completely unswayed by the protest, and instructed, “Come with me.”

Reluctantly Harry followed the werewolf out of the cafe and deeper into Knockturn, mentally kicking himself for getting into trouble less than twelve hours after his adoption. He didn’t want the Alpha to think he didn’t appreciate his acceptance into the pack.

Keeping up with Aaron’s long legs had Harry practically jogging behind the large werewolf as they made their way to the pack’s apartment block. Rather than take him to the residential side of the grounds, Aaron guided Harry over to a small common room, keeping one massive hand on the young demon’s shoulder as he steered him past the few gathered werewolves.

“In trouble already puppy?”

Harry stiffened as he heard Rikin’s sneering tone.

“Couldn’t even make it a day before acting out. I told you a non-werewolf has no place in a pack. Maybe the Alpha will see sense and get rid of you,” the young werewolf continued.

Aaron didn’t even pause in his walk to his office, “I will be seeing you in my office next, Mr Hartford.”

“In trouble again, puppy?” one of the watching werewolves smirked at Rikin. “As far as I remember it took you less than an hour to get into trouble when the Alpha accepted your lot. A day later you’d been grounded, hadn’t you? Having to babysit you is the worst job the Alpha ever gave me.”

Rikin flushed angrily but Aaron cut in before he could retort.

“Enough. If you cannot maintain a civil attitude while together then separate and find other ways to occupy your time. Rikin, do not even think about it,” he added as the young werewolf stood up to leave. “If you are not sitting here waiting when I finish with Harry I will escort you straight to the Alpha, and you can explain to him why you went missing again.”

Sulkily Rikin dropped back into his chair, ignoring Andrew and Leo as they tried to coax him out of his tantrum. With a small, exasperated sigh Aaron unlocked his office door and gently pushed Harry inside.

“Please don’t take Rikin’s words to heart,” the Second said as he guided Harry to a seat. “Prior to being bitten he led a rather…privileged lifestyle and the adjustment to pack dynamics was a rather large culture shock. He still finds it difficult to adjust to newcomers.”

“So he’s a spoilt brat who spits his dummy out every time something doesn’t go his way and you just let him be a git to everyone,” Harry muttered resentfully, thinking of Draco Malfoy and all the times the pampered Slytherin had gotten off lightly despite instigating fights, and Dudley Dursley who could do no wrong in his parents’ eyes despite numerous school reports to the contrary.

Aaron gave him a disapproving look, making Harry hunch his shoulders. The pack Second had mastered the I’m-Disappointed-In-You look that Dumbledore always strived for when giving someone a telling off disguised as a meaningful talk.

“As much as I will not allow Rikin to make snide comments about you, you may not make them about him. How the Alpha and I choose to discipline other pack members is not your concern,” the Second said sternly.

“But he’s a complete git to Rick and nobody does anything!” Harry protested, his tone less angry and more upset than he had intended.

Aaron softened slightly. “Yes, it has recently come to our attention that Mr Hartford has been behaving in an unacceptable manner towards Mr Milton. That was an oversight on our part and we doing what we can to rectify it. However,” and the stern look was back in his eyes, “pack discipline is not your responsibility. If you have concerns you will inform us and we will deal with it as we see fit.”

Harry nodded reluctantly. Relying on those in positions of authority had never worked for him in the past but he wasn’t going to push the issue. Not when he was already in trouble.

“Now, we didn’t come here to discuss your packmates,” Aaron said, sitting forward to rest his elbows on his knees. “You know which rule you broke?” he waited for Harry’s nod before continuing. “Do you know why you should not have been alone when meeting unfamiliar dominants?”

“Because you told me not to,” Harry said. People made rules and you either obeyed them or were punished, that’s all there was to it as far as Harry was concerned.

Aaron sighed. “While it is important for you to follow the rules we put in place, there is more to the reason why than simply ‘because we said so’. Why do you think we want you to have someone with you when meeting dominants?”

“For my safety?” Harry answered, making an educated guest. In his experience rules fell into one of two categories: safety and discipline. The Dursleys had only ever given him rules in the hope that he would break them and earn a punishment. It was only a few lectures from teachers and Hermione that had introduced him to the concept of rules that were in place to keep him safe, though they seemed to believe that most rules were for his own good.

“Hmm, I would be more convinced that you understood if you had not chosen the most ambiguous answer possible,” Aaron said mildly, a little concerned that Harry did genuinely seem to think that the rules had been put in place for the sake of it. “At least this makes finding an appropriate punishment simpler.”

Harry shifted nervously. While he doubted the pack would agree with Vernon Dursley’s ideas of appropriate punishment, he didn’t really know what was considered a normal punishment outside of school - he could hardly be given a detention or lose points.

Aaron was watching the young demon’s reactions carefully, taking note of everything he would need to tell the Alpha later. He hadn’t seen Domovoi since the Alpha had disappeared with Shax last night but he knew the Alpha would want an update how Harry was settling in, and so far the Second had a few concerns.

Pushing aside those concerns for the time being, the pack Second addressed Harry’s punishment.

“As you do not appear to understand the reasoning behind the rules we have set, you will write out all the potential dangers posed by meeting unfamiliar dominants alone, how those dangers may be abated by having a packmate in the vicinity, and conclude with why you think the rule is in place,” he told the demon, who looked torn between relief that it wasn’t something worse and disgust at the thought of writing another essay when he had only just finished his homework.

“How long does it need to be?” he asked, resigned to spending the next couple of hours working on it.

“As long as is needed for you to cover everything you can think of. I am not testing your essay writing abilities. You don’t even have to write in full sentences if it is easier to bullet point your thoughts. I simply want to ensure you honestly think about it, and having you write those thoughts down is the simplest way of doing so,” Aaron explained. He had quickly come to the conclusion that Harry responded best to explanations of why he was being asked to do things, rather than bull-headed insistence that he do as he is told. It seemed that the teenager wasn’t accustomed to receiving explanations but once he had them he was much more agreeable.

Harry nodded slowly. He wasn’t convinced that this would work the way Aaron thought it would but at least it would be more useful than writing lines or completing menial tasks while he ‘thought about his behaviour’. There was, however, one glaring problem he could see.

“What if I can’t think of anything to write?” he asked worriedly. It was bad enough he had gotten into trouble so quickly, he didn’t want Aaron thinking he was shirking his punishment too.

“I’m sure you will be able to think of at least one or two things to write,” Aaron said. “If you honestly cannot think of even one reason why meeting dominants alone could be dangerous then come back here and tell me, and we will discuss it.”

Privately Aaron thought that if Harry genuinely couldn’t think of even one thing to write then they had much bigger concerns than an incomplete punishment.

“Ok,” Harry nodded, feeling more reassured than he wanted to admit.

“There is a small library just off the common room. There should be stationery for you to use in there. Send Rikin in as you leave,” the Second said, dismissing him.

§`§`§`§`§`§`§`§`§`§

Three hours later Harry dropped his pen and stretched. The essay Aaron had given him had been more useful than he had anticipated. After spending the first hour staring blankly at the parchment, wondering what he was supposed to write, ideas had gradually come to him until he had managed to fill over a foot of parchment. While he still thought it was overkill to be accompanied by a packmate at all times, he did have a better idea of why Aaron and Domovoi thought it was necessary.

Gathering his essay and making sure the desk he had been working at was tidy, the demon made his way back to Aaron’s office. The common room was busier than it had been earlier, with a few tired looking werewolves complaining about having to pull all-nighters.

“He might not answer. He’s with the Alpha,” one of the exhausted looking werewolves said as Harry knocked on the office door. He really could have done without knowing that, Harry thought, suddenly feeling nervous as he heard a shout to come in.

Entering the office he handed the parchment to the Second, glancing unsurely at Domovoi. The Alpha offered him a nod of greeting before sitting back to watch Aaron read through Harry’s work.

Aaron found himself pleasantly surprised by the essay. It was obvious that Harry had put effort into it, which was more than some pups would have done, and to his relief after the conversation they had had earlier, it seemed the demon did understand the risks posed by meeting unfamiliar dominants alone. That, however, did not mean the submissive completely agreed with the rules he was given, Aaron thought, raising an eyebrow as he reached the conclusion of the essay.

Reading over Aaron’s shoulder, Domovoi chuckled.

“It was going well until ‘the result of dominants’ obsessive mother-henning’,” the Alpha said, fortunately looking more amused than annoyed.

Harry flushed. He had gotten a bit fed up towards the end and hadn’t really considered that someone would be reading what he wrote as he finished his conclusion. Now that he thought about it, it would have been easy for the two alphas to take offence at the last few comments.

“Your belief that we are overreacting aside, you seem to have a better understanding of our reasons now than you did earlier,” Aaron concluded. “I trust this means you won’t forget again?”

Harry agreed but added, “Do I really have to when I’m at Leena’s? It’s not like she’d let them do anything anyway.”

“For now the rule applies everywhere. If I change my mind I’ll let you know but don’t hold your breath,” Domovoi said gruffly. While he could see Harry’s point about it being a bit excessive he had no plans to change anything: better overprotective than regretful if something did happen.

“I believe Timothy and Richard are at Timothy’s flat, if you would like to join them. Or there are a number of people in the common room. Go where you wish but don’t leave the apartment complex alone,” Aaron said, waving a hand towards the door.

Taking the hint, Harry left. Deliberating for moment he decided to go and find Rick and Timothy. He was no longer as angry with Timothy as he had been, thanks to Leena, but he wasn’t sure he had completely forgiven the werewolf for not telling him sooner.

“Harry!” Rick exclaimed happily as he yanked open Timothy’s door. “Where’ve you been? Lukas said Aaron sent him to get you this morning because me and Timothy were busy but he left you at Leena’s and no-one we asked had seen you since then - well, Artemis said she saw you talking to Leena but she left before you so she doesn’t know where went after and you weren’t there when we looked, so where were you?”

Harry stared at him, momentarily stunned by the avalanche of words.

“In the little library next to the common room,” he answered after taking a moment to process Rick’s babble.

“Really? Why?” Rick asked curiously.

“I may have slightly, maybe, got myself into trouble this morning,” Harry grinned, finding the situation more amusing than worrying now that he knew the Alpha and Second weren’t angry with him.

“Getting into trouble already? Rebel,” Rick teased, making Harry chuckle.

“Rebel and proud,” the demon smirked. “Now are you going to let me in or are we going to stand in the doorway all day?”

“Oh, yeah, come in,” Rick said stepping back to let Harry through, having only just realised he was blocking the doorway.

“Harry,” Timothy greeted warily from the sofa. The demon didn’t seemed as angry as he had last night but the werewolf didn’t want to push his luck.

“Hello Timothy,” Harry said a little stiffly, leaving Timothy with no doubt that he was still annoyed but hopeful that he wasn’t as angry as the night before.

Rick seemed oblivious to the tension between the two - or maybe he was deliberately ignoring it, Harry wasn’t sure - as he chivvied the demon over to a seat and went to get him a drink.

“Would it help if I apologised?” Timothy asked as Rick rummaged in the cold cupboard.

“Probably not,” Harry said honestly. “Would you mean it if you did?”

Timothy shrugged, “Not really. I am sorry that it upset you but I’m not sorry about following orders from my - our - pack sponsor.”

Harry nodded. He hadn’t really expected anything different after his talk with Leena.

“So what are we doing?” Rick asked as he handed Harry a drink and, to Harry’s surprise, a sandwich. “What? You don’t eat enough,” he told Harry when noticed the demon’s surprise.

“I eat. I’m just naturally skinny,” Harry grumbled, accepting the sandwich. Rick gave him a skeptical look.

“Eat,” he instructed.

Rolling his eyes Harry obeyed, demolishing the sandwich in quick bites.

“So, plans?” Rick asked again, glancing between Harry and Timothy.

Harry shrugged, swallowing the last of the sandwich.

“I don’t know. I was going to spend the rest of the day hanging around Leena’s, talking to dominants but it feels like that’s all I’ve been doing lately,” the demon said, looking to Timothy for ideas. The werewolf looked thoughtful.

“You fly, don’t you? We could go to the broom park. I’ve not had a chance to fly for a while,” he suggested.

“A broom park?” repeated Harry quizzically.

“You know, like a muggle skate park but for flying,” Timothy explained.

“They have those?”

“Of course. Where do you think people go when they want to fly? Most people don’t own enough land to fly at home and we can hardly go for a fly around the block when there are muggles about,” Timothy said, surprised that Harry didn’t already know.

“That’s…actually a really good idea,” Harry said, impressed. Rick snorted.

“Yes, wizards have been known to have those occasionally. Not often, mind, but it happens,” he said. “So are we going?”

“Yeah!” Harry said enthusiastically. “If you want to,” he added quickly, looking at Rick.

“As long as you don’t mind being terrorised by my awful flying skills,” Rick grinned.

“Come on then. We’ll see if Edson wants to come too,” Timothy said, standing and stretching. “We’ll never hear the end of it if we go flying and don’t invite him.”

Edson was surrounded by sheaves of paper and rolls of parchment when they found him, glaring at numbers scrawled across a page and muttering about ‘thieving goblin bastards’. With a longing look at the broom in Timothy’s hand, he reluctantly declined their offer but said that he would join them if he finished soon.

By the time they got to the Leaky Cauldron to pick up Harry’s broom, Harry was practically vibrating with excitement. It had never occurred to him that there might be somewhere he could go to fly during the holidays. When he had stayed with the Weasleys they had stuck to flying in the orchard and nobody had suggested going anywhere else.

“Apparate or floo?” Rick asked as he started to lead the way out of Harry’s room. When no-one answered he turned to see Timothy gaping at Harry’s broom.

“You have a Nimbus 2000?” he said weakly. “You’re thirteen! Even Edson doesn’t have a Nimbus and he lives and breathes flying!”

“I got it in my first year when I got onto the team. It’s not that impressive,” Harry said uncomfortably. “The entire Slytherin team have 2001’s.”

Timothy looked like he might faint.

“2001’s?” he repeated, giving Rick a desperate look. “I want to go back to Hogwarts. Why weren’t top of the line brooms being handed out like sweets when I was there?”

“Don’t look at me,” Rick said. “I didn’t even go to Hogwarts. I didn’t have a broom either, until recently.”

“Is it Hufflepuff’s turn to get top of line brooms this year? If Hufflepuff get Firebolts I demand you bring me one. I’m an alumnus, dammit, I deserve one too!” Timothy insisted to Harry.

“I really doubt anyone is going to buy the entire Hufflepuff team Firebolts. Slytherin only got 2001’s because Malfoy had to buy his way onto the team,” Harry said with an eye roll. “But,” he added before Timothy could protest, “I promise that if anyone gets a Firebolt this year I’ll tell you who they are so you can pester them into letting you drool over it.”

Rick rolled his eyes. “I pity the poor soul who gets a Firebolt if that is the fate awaiting them,” he said. “Now. Park? Apparate or floo?”

“Apparate,” Harry said quickly. “I hate flooing.”

“Apparition it is.”

The broom park was even better than Harry had imagined. A large part of it was exactly how the teenager had imagined it would be: a large, grassy field with a few goal hoops for games of pick-up quidditch and a smaller, cordoned off area for young children on toy brooms. In addition to this was both an amateur sized quidditch pitch and a smaller five-aside pitch. However the thing Harry was most looking forward to trying was the racetrack around the perimeter of the park.

With a starting point hovering forty feet up, the racecourse consisted of an undulating series of obstacles continuing in a large oval around the perimeter of the park until the finishing point, which hovered twenty feet above the starting platform. The obstacles contained everything from hoops to fly through, to series of poles to weave around, over and under, to targets hovering less than five feet off the ground that needed to be tapped as the racer passed by. Some of the obstacles could be up to a hundred feet in the air. To Harry it was a goldmine of the kind of flying usually deemed too dangerous to do at Hogwarts.

“Hold it,” Timothy said, grabbing Harry by the scruff as the teen made to head straight for the racecourse. “You’re not going near that thing until I’ve seen you fly. Domovoi would have my hide.”

“Youngest Seeker in a century. I’m really, really good at flying, I promise. Please let me go?” Harry tried hopefully, giving Timothy a wide-eyed pleading look.

Timothy snorted.

“Domovoi scares me far more than puppy eyes will ever be able to persuade me,” the werewolf said, hauling Harry over to a relatively empty corner of the field. “Now stop arguing, get on your broom and we’ll know soon enough if you’re good enough to not get yourself killed on the racecourse.”

“What do you want me to do?” Harry sighed, mounting his broom and hovering in the air.

“You play for your House team, don’t you? Run through all your warm-up exercises. That way I know you’re unlikely to pull something either.”

Harry looked at him dubiously.

All of them or the ones most people use?” he asked.

“What’s the difference?”

“An Oliver-style warm-up ensures we’re prepared for everything short of a dragon invading the pitch. It’ll also take until midnight. A normal-person warm-up is what sane people do before a match,” Harry clarified.

“You really weren’t kidding when you called him a fanatic, were you?” Timothy marvelled. “Normal warm-up, then, though at some point I want to see the fanatical warm-up too.”

Nodding, and ignoring the last comment in the hope the werewolf would forget about it, Harry kicked off to start the first of a series of laps, short dives and quick-turn exercises. Making a point to the observing werewolves he deliberately made his laps a little faster, dives a little steeper and turns a little sharper than normal to show off what he could do. When he finally landed back in front of Timothy he was much warmer and grinning like a loon.

“Do I pass?” he asked in an overly sweet tone.

“Keep up the attitude and you’ll be in with the toddlers,” Timothy replied in an equally sweet voice. “You pass. Stay off the level three course - the stuff in red - until you’ve got to grips with the first two levels. And don’t even think of ‘sneaking’ on when I’m not looking,” he added warningly when Harry gave him an innocent look. “I will notice and I will confiscate your broom until you go back to school.”

“Fine, baby steps only,” the demon groused, folding his arms. “Anything else? Maybe I should wear a suit of armour in case I bang my elbow?”

Timothy raised an eyebrow at the teen’s attitude. He knew Harry still wasn’t happy with him after discovering that he had been acting on Shax’s orders when they originally started talking, but he wasn’t about to let the pup injure himself in a fit of rebelliousness. Whether Harry liked it or not, Timothy was the more senior pack member and was more than capable of pulling rank when it was needed. Wrapping one giant hand around the handle of Harry’s broom, he waited until the teen looked at him.

“I don’t care how angry you are at me, you will obey the rules I put in place for your safety. If you don’t listen and decide to do something stupid to spite me we will be back on pack grounds and in the Alpha’s office before your head has stopped spinning from the apparition. You’ll be explaining to him why you thought you were above rules put in place by a senior pack member. And believe me when I say you’ll be lucky if he lets you step foot out of the courtyard if he thinks you don’t take your own safety seriously,” the werewolf said, his face showing exactly how serious he was.

Behind him Rick watched silently, hoping Harry would recognise that Timothy was never going to joke around when it came to Harry’s safety. No pack member would.

“Fine, I get it. Stay away from the red obstacles and no stupid stunts. I’ll be good. Can I go now?” Harry snapped. He wanted to be angry and rebel against the limitations on his freedom but part of him - the part that wasn’t currently sulking at Timothy or chaffing at the loss of the autonomy he usually enjoyed away from the Dursleys - recognised that the werewolf was not being unreasonable. The rules were all things he could imagine Mrs Weasley giving to one of her many children - restrictions put in place to keep them safe, not to stop them having fun, unlike the Dursleys’ many rules. But just because Harry knew that didn’t mean he had to like it.

Once he got to the racecourse his scowl quickly melted away to be replaced by a grin. Looking out from the starting platform the course looked even more impressive than it had on the ground. In one corner of the platform was a sign containing a map of the course; an explanation of each obstacle and how it should be passed; and a key showing the obstacle colours - red, blue and yellow - and their corresponding difficulty level - three, two and one respectively. Underneath the sign was a smaller notice announcing that with advanced booking black, silver and gold level obstacles could also be provided for team training upon presentation of appropriate qualification certificates.

Opposite the sign were bins containing coloured bibs that flyers were required to wear while on the course. Grumbling a bit over the unfairness of being restricted to level two Harry plucked up a blue bib, starting when a roll of parchment and a self-inking quill appeared in front of him. The parchment contained a document reading:

Colour: Blue
Flying Level: Amateur - Intermediate
Flyer may use obstacles: Yellow, Blue
Flyer must give way to: Red, Black, Silver, Gold

By signing this document and flying on the course, the Flyer declares that they are 11 years of age or older, have appropriate flying experience for a course of difficulty level: Blue, and agree to abide by the Rules and Guidelines of Broomstick Racing, Ed. 4, IBRS (1990). (An overview of the guidelines may be seen at starting platforms of all IBRS sanctioned courses. A full copy may be viewed for free upon request at any IBRS sanctioned course or purchased for 5 knuts)

Please tick the box below if you would like your course results to be recorded and held for possible viewing by IBRS Team Scouts. (Copies of recorded results may be requested by the Flyer. Result records may be destroyed at any time by sending an owl to IBRS Records)

Signed:

Grinning, Harry checked the box and signed his name. He didn’t care about being scouted but it would be amusing to have a record of his results to rub in Malfoy’s face; concrete proof that regardless of how much money and how many tall tales Malfoy had, Harry was the better flyer. He would just have to work on getting Timothy to let him try the red course so there was no way Malfoy could dispute the results.

With the document signed and the blue bib donned, Harry made his way to the edge of the platform. A thrill of excitement curled in his stomach as he peered over the edge. Thirty feet seemed a great deal higher standing at the top and looking down. From where he was Harry could see that there were only a handful of people on the racecourse, most wearing yellow bibs. As much as he loved quidditch, the demon couldn’t understand how people could choose the relatively sedate game over the opportunity to fly on a course like this. The course was like all his favourite parts of quidditch rolled into one, with nothing to detract from the sheer joy of flying.

His first lap was slow as he figured out where each obstacle was and how to manoeuvre through them. Some of the obstacles were much tricker than they looked: such as the horizontal poles that had to be circled, requiring a barrel-roll while doubling back on himself if he wanted to pass through them quickly; and the zigzag between parallel rows of eight targets that had to be tapped, that were much closer together than they looked from the ground, and had bludger-like projectiles ricocheting between them which Harry hadn’t noticed until he was in the middle of them. Overall it was far more challenging than he had anticipated.

Harry loved it.

His second round was much faster and his third round took less than half the time his first round had. By the time he had completed his third run he was very grateful for the refreshments stand on the finishing platform. He collapsed gratefully into a seat. He planned to do at least one more run before going to find Timothy and Rick but first he was going to sit here on the nice, quiet finishing platform and try not to sound too much like a dying hippogriff as he got his breath back.

He really should have known better than to expect it to remain quiet for long.

“You’re a very impressive flyer,” an unfamiliar voice said, the owner of the voice sitting in the chair next to Harry’s and resting his broom against the chair-arm.

Harry cracked one eye open to glare at the newcomer.

“I’m completely sure I’m not Advertising right now,” he told the dominant pointedly, glad his breathing had returned to normal already. The last thing he wanted was to be gasping for breath as he talked to the intruder.

“You aren’t,” the dominant agreed.

“Then you are here because?” the teen asked, too high on the excitement of his recent flight to really get angry but wanting the dominant to know he was not pleased.

“I work for a broom manufacturer. I come here to test new models,” the dominant explained casually.

Opening both eyes and straightening up, Harry looked curiously at the broom propped up between them. Sure enough, it wasn’t any model Harry recognised, though it closely resembled some of Comet’s Pegasus series - known for their smooth ride but sometime unpredictable in adverse weather conditions. However, the submissive demon was not about to allow himself to be distracted by a sneak-peek at Comet’s potential new release.

“That’s nice,” he nodded agreeably. “It still doesn’t explain why you invited yourself over here.”

“We’re in a public venue, it’s not my fault if we happen to cross paths,” the dominant defended.

“There are plenty of other seats you could have chosen to use,” Harry pointed out.

“So I wanted to talk to the pretty submissive who has caught everyone’s attention. Is that really such a crime?” the dominant said, giving up any attempt to pretend the meeting was pure chance.

“Fortunately for you, a loophole in the Law says no. And I am not pretty,” Harry growled. “At the very least you could have had the manners to ask if you could join me, first.”

“But that would have required me to approach without permission to ask permission. Better to go the whole way and simply invite myself - at least I was guaranteed to get a chance to talk this way,” the dominant smirked. “And I do think you’re pretty, especially all flushed and scowly like that.”

Harry glared at him. Snatching up his broom, the submissive had launched himself off the platform and though the racecourse exit before the dominant had registered him leaving. He didn’t look back to see if the dominant was following but quickly found Timothy and Rick. Unsurprisingly the werewolves had found a spot where they could easily see who was coming and going from the racetrack and could watch Harry’s attempts at flying the course.

“What happened to you?” Timothy asked, surprised by Harry’s sudden appearance and obvious agitation.

“Some idiot dominant decided to invite himself over to talk. He didn’t seem to be taking the hint that I didn’t want him around, so I left,” Harry explained, catching the quaffle Rick threw at him. He was pretty sure the werewolf had been aiming for Timothy, not him, but Rick was living proof that being a werewolf did not necessitate good hand-eye coordination.

Harry physically leaving the dominant’s presence had apparently been too subtle a clue. The teen had barely had time to toss the quaffle back at Timothy before the older demon found them.

“Oh for fucks sake, would you piss off?” Harry growled as the dominant came to a stop in the air next to him, less than an arm’s length away.

“Don’t be like that,” the dominant said with a hopeful grin. “We barely got a chance to talk.”

“In case you missed it, my leaving was a hint that the conversation was over. I swear to Merlin, if you touch me I will hex you so hard you won’t be able to sit on that broom!” he threatened as the dominant reached towards him.

“You’re cute when you’re being all fierce,” the dominant said with the same condescending, indulgent grin he’d had the entire time. Ignoring Harry’s threat the dominant leant over to brush a hand through the submissive’s hair and squeeze his shoulder.

Timothy moved to intervene but barely had a chance to turn his broom before Harry had his wand out. It was really quite fortunate for the dominant that, thanks to Rick’s poor flying skills, they were barely eight feet off the ground, as he let out a howl and collapsed sideways off his broom. The noise he was making attracted the attention of one of the park’s medi-wizards, who made his way over looking concerned.

“He’s ok,” Harry said with a grin, stifling a chuckle. “He just misjudged the landing after a drop-dive. Overbalanced and landed in a delicate position.”

“Oh,” the medi-wizard looked down at the whimpering figure, who had curled into a ball, and gave a sympathetic wince. “Ouch. Not much I can do about that, I’m afraid, unless he wants an icepack?”

For some reason Harry seemed to find this inordinately amusing.

“No, thank you,” Timothy said when it became clear the demon was giggling too much to answer. “I think he’s had enough of flying for one day. We’ll just be heading home.” He looked down at the dominant’s pale face. “Well, once he can stand up, anyway.”

Satisfied that he was not needed the medi-wizard nodded and flew back to his post. As soon as he was gone, Harry stopped stifling his chuckles and clutched his broom as he laughed.

“You should have let him have the icepack,” the submissive said with an evil grin.

“What did you do to him?” Timothy asked, hauling the still groaning demon to his feet and making him limp towards the apparition point. If they stayed much longer the medi-wizard would return and insist on examining the injured demon.

“It’s a spell Angelina Johnson teaches to every submissive she meets,” Harry said with a slightly demented grin. He held onto Rick’s arm as Timothy side-alonged the dominant, landing just outside the gates to the pack’s home.

“I suddenly feel as though I should be afraid of the next generation of omegas,” Timothy mused, letting the demon drop to the floor again as he tapped the gate with his wand.

“The spell is called Blue Balls,” Harry said, thoroughly enjoying the wince both werewolves gave. “Invented by submissives, for submissives - a protection against dominants who don’t respect the word ‘no’. From what I was told, it has an effect that is like being hit in the nuts, hard, and then having them encased in ice - but with none of the numbing that real ice eventually causes. It also causes a quite literal and unpleasant case of blue balls,” Harry explained. “It doesn’t cause any physical damage though.”

Both werewolves had gone pale.

“I am never, ever, ever going near any of your Housemates. Ever,” Timothy said fervently as Rick nodded firmly in agreement. “When does it wear off?”

“The initial effects, after about fifteen minutes. The blue balls? Supposedly until either the caster lifts it or the victim ‘understands the error of their ways and is truly repentant’ but I think that just means it lasts for a long time,” Harry shrugged.

“Yeah, definitely staying away from your Housemates. I think you’ve just given me a complex about submissives,” Timothy shuddered.

“Was it difficult to learn?” Rick asked curiously, paying no attention to the horrified look Timothy was giving him. “It sounds like a complex spell. At least three activation tiers, a double-duration, not to mention a quadruple active effect with a slight body modification element which-“

“I don’t know how complex it is, though you’ve given me an idea. It was a bit difficult to learn but it was one of the first spells we were taught in first year - in House only, of course - so most people can do it by second year,” Harry shrugged.

“How do you practise it? Wouldn’t you need to cast it on someone to know it is working?” Timothy asked with morbid curiosity.

“That would be telling. I can’t give away all the House secrets,” Harry said, his evil grin reappearing.

“What House secrets?” Thomas’ voice broke in. Harry turned to see the tattooed werewolf standing behind the gate but making no move to open it. “Who’s that? And why do you two look like you’ve seen a dementor?”

“Our newest pack member is a dark hole of pure evil disguised as a fluffy haired harmless bundle of fun,” Timothy informed Thomas seriously.

“Okay,” Thomas said slowly. “Does that have something to do with why there is a demon on the floor clutching himself?”

“I did warn him,” Harry muttered.

“That you did,” Timothy agreed. “Although, I’m not sure any level of warning would have prepared him for what you did.”

“Maybe next time he’ll remember that ‘no, leave me alone’ means ‘no, leave me alone’.”

“I’m sure he will, if he ever has the balls to go near a submissive again - pun absolutely intended,” Timothy smirked.

“What did you do? Kick him?” Thomas asked curiously. Timothy grinned.

“Oh no. Our little Harry-pup here is more imaginative than that and knows some truly terrifying spells. He’s going to scare all the dominants away at the rate he’s going. He’s certainly proved that he won’t let them walk all over him,” Timothy said, smirking. Then something in his mind clicked and he started cackling - he wondered if he should warn Shax about Harry’s spell repertoire or if he should let the demon find out the hard way.

“You haven’t castrated or otherwise permanently maimed him, have you?” Thomas asked Harry with a sigh.

“What? No! He might feel like I have but there’s no damage. Except some bruising, maybe, but the ground was fairly soft,” Harry shrugged.

“Ok. Good. The paperwork should be bearable then,” Thomas said, looking exasperated that paperwork should be needed at all.

The dominant chose that moment to stir, seemingly recovered from the spell’s more debilitating effects. Harry and the werewolves watched as he gingerly climbed to his feet, none of them offering to help.

“You little bastard,” the dominant hissed, taking a step forward.

“I’m not sure what happens if you’re hit by that spell twice in less than half an hour but I’m willing to find out,” Harry warned.

“You uncouth little beast. I’ll make sure you regret this,” the dominant threatened with a growl, keeping his distance. Hyperaware of the three watching werewolves and wary of angering them - or Harry, as he had no desire to suffer the effects of that spell again - the dominant retreated down the small side-alley until he reached the main Alley. He gave one last threatening glare to Harry and limped away.

“Why do I get the feeling that’s not the last I’ll see of him?” Harry sighed.

“Because your luck seems to bounce between amazing and so terrible it’s almost a conspiracy?” Rick offered.

“You could contact the Demon Council about him,” Timothy suggested. He wasn’t entirely sure what had happened, beyond what he and Rick had witnessed, but if it was enough to make Harry hex someone then it was probably reportable.

Harry pulled a face.

“The Council is a last resort,” he said. “I’d rather not have to bother with them if I can avoid it.”

“If you prefer,” Timothy shrugged. “We still need to let the Alpha know.”

Domovoi took the news better than Harry expected. He had been expecting either a Mrs Weasley-esque reaction, full of smothering overprotectiveness, or annoyance at Harry causing yet more trouble so soon. Instead, the Alpha simply told Harry he would respect the demon’s decision not to inform the Demon Council - for now - and that he would have the pack keep an eye out for any trouble the dominant may try to cause.

Then he dropped half a ton of paperwork onto the desk. A least, it seemed that way to Harry as the teen stared at the pile in trepidation.

“Fill these out by tonight. Thomas will help you,” the Alpha said before dismissing the four of them.

Harry looked at the stack in dismay, giving Thomas a pleading look. With a sigh the tattooed werewolf flicked through the pile as they found chairs in the pack common room.

“It’s not as bad as it looks. Mostly just needs signing,” he declared after a moment. “You’re only a pup, and a first time offender, so a lot of the usual stuff isn’t needed. And you didn’t maim the guy - paperwork for that is a bitch.”

“There’s usually more?” Harry asked, looking askance at the pile of forms that was at least twenty deep.

“Yes, it seems to be the Congregations’ favourite method of reducing inter-race disputes. Nobody wants to get into a fight over something petty if they have to spend the next six weeks filling out forms and attending hearings,” Thomas shrugged.

“And our paper pushing friend here knows more about that than anyone else in the pack. Our own pack secretary,” Timothy said, patting Thomas on the shoulder.

“The consequences of a misspent youth,” Thomas said dryly. “I don’t think there are any of these forms that I haven’t had to do myself at some point.”

“So what do I need to do?” Harry asked, tentatively looking through a few of the forms. “What’s a non-prey permit?”

“Nothing you need to worry about, just tick no and no and sign the bottom,” Thomas instructed, digging a self-inking quill out of somewhere and handing it over.

Following Thomas’ instructions, Harry painstakingly worked his way through all twenty-six forms. If it hadn’t been for the amount of box filling and dotted line signing it would have been an interesting experience. It certainly gave Harry a better understanding of how the peace was kept between so many races, when each had such different philosophies; every other paragraph contained a reference or three to Covenant bylaws and Creature treaties.

To Harry the Creature Covenant had simply been the Creature equivalent of the Statute of Secrecy - only predating the Statute by several centuries and being much better written, thus more effective. Now he realised there was much more to it than simply keeping a secret, it governed several aspects of Creature society. He wondered if the wizards’ Statute was as complex.

“Probably,” Thomas said when Harry asked. “Maybe not quite as complex - they’ve only got one race to worry about while the Covenant covers all of us. Plus the Covenant has been around longer so likely has more amendments than the Statute. I’m not an expert on wizard law though. Or any law. I just know my way around the paperwork.”

With the paperwork completed and filed, Harry opted to spend the remainder of the day in (relative) peace with the pack. While an evening in with the pack was hardly quiet, it did give him respite from dominants jockeying for his attention. The most irritating person he had to deal with was Rikin, whose issues with running off at the mouth were swiftly solved by excessive and gleeful use of conjured duct tape.

When an exasperated Aaron emerged to unstick Rikin and berate the people responsible, Harry made a sneaky get away. He wormed his way into the middle of a group of werewolves who heading to muggle London, waving goodbye to a snickering Rick as he used the other werewolves to disguise his own exit. He had a feeling that Aaron was deliberately not watching him but as long as he got away without another lecture he was happy to be humoured by the Second.

The demon broke away from the werewolves once they reached the Leaky Cauldron, heading to his room as they left for muggle London. It had been an odd day but it had ended well. Now he just hoped Hermione had a chance to write back to him soon.

§`§`§`§`§`§`§`§`§`§

Aaron watched, looking exasperated but inwardly amused, as Thomas and Timothy debated the merits of duct tape as a disciplinary tool. Rikin was sitting in the corner nursing his bruised ego and ranting at length about the revenge he would have on Harry for instigating the duct tape mummification. The demon in question had not-so-subtly snuck out at the first signs of trouble - or rather, at the first signs of the restoration of order.

The pack Second half-turned as he sensed his Alpha approaching from behind. Domovoi took one look at Aaron’s face and the copious amounts of shredded duct tape lying around and shook his head.

“I don’t want to know,” the Alpha said as Aaron opened his mouth to explain. “Is Harry still here?”

“No, he snuck off while I was de-mummifying Rikin,” Aaron said.

For a brief moment it looked like Domovoi would give into temptation and ask for details. Instead he sighed and asked, “How is he doing? He clearly isn’t shy around his packmates,” he nudged a piece of tape with his foot, “but I haven’t had a chance to talk to him, other than the five minutes in your office earlier. Shax is running himself ragged.”

“Is there something we should be concerned about?” asked Aaron.

“An idiot pack sponsor who is inventing work for himself so he has an excuse to hide instead of talking to the submissive he likes,” Domovoi snorted. “And a Black sighting was reported near London, so the ministry idiots are panicking and getting in the way of Guild investigations. A work in progress and business as usual, respectively.”

“Is the Black sighting genuine?”

Domovoi shrugged one shoulder, “Don’t care either way. One Black Dog isn’t a threat. He’s the wizards’ problem, we just need to worry about how he got out.”

“Any progress on that front?”

The Alpha gave a negative grunt. “He didn’t alter or damage the wards. That’s all we know for certain.”

“Isn’t that confidence inspiring,” Aaron said dryly. Domovoi snorted in agreement.

“The Warders are scrambling. The Mercs and Acquisitions lot are quietly delighted, even if Shax is hiding it well behind all his bitching. There’ve been mutterings about going back to the old ways if the Warders can’t correct whatever went wrong.”

“Would you go back if that did happen?” Aaron asked cautiously.

“Not for all the gold in Gringotts,” the Alpha snorted. “I don’t mind consulting but I had enough of membership the first time round,” he said darkly.

Aaron wisely changed the subject.

“I have a name to go with Harry’s relatives,” he offered. “The Dursleys. However, on a less positive note, I also have concerns over Harry’s views on authority. I suspect Timothy’s suspicions regarding the boy’s home-life are correct.”

Domovoi growled quietly as he silently instructed his Second to explain.

“It appears that he does not have much concern for his own safety. Nor does he truly understand that rules are in place for his safety and not our amusement,” Aaron started.

“He’s a pup. Last I checked, authority and their own safety are low in their priorities,” Domovoi pointed out with a raised eyebrow. “I recall Rikin being particularly rebellious.”

“Normally I would agree. However, Harry’s attitude and response to his punishment lead me to believe this is more than simple rebellion.”

Domovoi frowned. “He seemed ok to me when he came back with that essay you made him write.” The Alpha snorted. “Also, an essay? Really?”

Aaron looked unfazed. “Yes, an essay. He can hardly do extra shifts at the bar and I sincerely doubt he would learn anything from a cuff around the head. How else do you suggest I get the lesson across?”

“You could have had him prune the bushes around the Run. If they get any more out of hand that dryad is going to start whining about invasive species again,” the Alpha grumbled.

“And what would that have taught him, other than when he breaks the rules we use it to our advantage?” the Second asked mildly. He didn’t take the Alpha’s criticisms to heart, knowing that this nitpicking and generally making a minor nuisance of himself was how Domovoi vented his frustration. The Second would choose the pestering any day when the other option was the Alpha bottling it all up until he snapped and took it all out on the unfortunate pack member who was the last straw. “Besides,” he added with an amused look, “at the rate Rikin and company are going, we are going to have a shortage of menial tasks to hand out. Tidying up the Run can be next on the list. It should be done before the next moon.”

“Speaking of Rikin, is there a reason he was wrapped in duct tape?” Domovoi asked, finally giving in to curiosity.

Aaron sighed long sufferingly, his annoyance belied by the corners of his lips twitching into a grin.

“Mr Potter is currently figuring out his standing in the pack hierarchy. Precisely why that involves mummifying his packmates, I am uncertain. However I suspect Mr Kirrin may have been an influence.”

Domovoi blinked.

“Does that even count?” he asked before he could stop himself. “I suppose technically it does count as subduing his rival but unless…” he shook his head. “Over fifty years of running a pack and this lot still manages to pull things I’ve never even considered before.”

“They certainly have a talent for creative problem solving,” Aaron agreed. “As for whether it counts as a victory for Harry, that remains to be seen. I have my doubts. Rikin may have been physically subdued but he certainly didn’t appear to be accepting Harry’s dominance or authority.”

Domovoi snorted. ‘Not accepting’ was an understatement. Murderous was more like it.

“As long as their rivalry stays harmless, leave them to it. They’ll sort it out faster if we’re not sticking our snouts in,” he decided. “Is anyone else causing problems?”

“Not a problem, per say, but some of the pups may bear watching. Their views on omegas appear to fall closer into those shared by veela than I am comfortable with,” Aaron said carefully.

Domovoi scowled. A rivalry was one thing - a certain amount of one-upmanship was a sign of a healthy pack - but deliberately singling out an omega for being an omega was far more concerning. Neither he nor Aaron were young enough to have forgotten the consequences of many alphas and betas deciding omegas were the lesser gender. Born werewolf numbers were only just starting to climb again. He had seen first hand how slippery that particular slope could be and had no intentions of letting any of his pack step foot on it.

“Some lessons on the consequences of abusing omegas will be needed then,” he said in a hard voice. “If they think this pack will tolerate such behaviour, they are sadly mistaken.”

Aaron nodded in agreement before chuckling, “If Harry were a little older, I’d leave the matter in his hands. He seems to be doing a fine job of single-handedly disabusing the demon population of the notion that submissives need to be coddled.”

Domovoi smirked, rather proud of the chaos the little demon had managed to cause simply by being himself.

“They do seem to be finding it rather distressing, don’t they?”

Aaron rolled his eyes. “And you wonder why getting the pack to behave is like herding kneazles. If I didn’t know better I would swear you had a djinn ancestor hiding somewhere in your bloodline.”

“A little chaos is good for you,” Domovoi shrugged. “Too much order causes stagnation.”

“We’re werewolves. Maintaining order outside of the full moon is what allows us to remain strong during it,” Aaron argued in the voice of one who has had, and lost, this argument before.

“Yet here we are, one of the most chaotic - and, frankly, insane - packs, who also happen to be one of the strongest. The few stronger packs out there are also significantly older and better established; a few years down the line and not only will we catch up, we’ll overtake,” Domovoi said with the unshakeable certainty that had held the ragtag pack together throughout the years.

Any retort Aaron had was silenced, as it was every time they had this argument. Domovoi’s absolute confidence in the strength and ability of their, often unconventional, pack always served to remind the larger werewolf of why he had chosen to step down as Alpha and instead adopt the mantle of Second to the smaller werewolf. It was undeniable that, despite the chaos the pack embodied, they were one of the fastest rising packs he had ever heard of.

“We may have gotten sidetracked,” the Second said a few moments later, breaking the contemplative silence. “I believe we were supposed to be discussing Harry?”

“Yes,” Domovoi said, his face darkening. “You were telling me of your suspicions about his home-life.”

“Yes, well, in addition to his complete lack of trust in authority, he also displays a worrying apathy towards his relatives - an apathy they seem to return in full,” the Second frowned, thinking back to the few conversations he had had with Harry. “I’m not sure of the exact circumstances that led to him running away from home - I’m sure the lad thought he was being subtle about giving the abridged version but the story had holes I could lead a cerberus through - however I got the impression that it was the Ministry who were concerned to find him missing, not his relatives.”

“Why was the Ministry watching him at all? Are they still watching?” Domovoi asked with a frown, folding his arms and tapping his fingers as he considered the situation.

“I don’t think they were watching him, as such. They responded to a bout of accidental magic - blowing up his aunt, I believe - and panicked upon finding him missing. Presumably the manhunt was launched due to his celebrity status,” Aaron explained. “They are still keeping half an eye on him, but only by having the bar keeper make sure he is ok. Easy enough to work around.”

“He blew up his aunt?” Domovoi said with raised eyebrows. “That seems rather…morbid for a thirteen year old. Although I suppose those demonic tendencies have to appear at some point. Coming out of the proverbial closet with a literal bang, an interesting approach.”

Aaron gave him a flat look. “I am positive he meant ‘blew up’ as in inflated, not exploded,” he said dryly, resisting the urge to roll his eyes at his Alpha’s needling.

“Ah. How disappointing. Exploding would have been much more interesting.”

“Merlin save us,” Aaron muttered to the ceiling, “the Chief Lunatic is running the asylum.”

“I could be offended.”

“You could be a better influence. I blame you for everything wrong with this pack.”

“You sound like my grandmother.”

“Good, you should listen to your elders.”

“She was a terrifyingly insane lady who once screamed at a horntail until it got off her lawn, and she used to breed ridgeback dragons and set them on the neighbours’ kids when they stole apples off her tree. Her parting advice to me was threefold: ‘never’ is a dirty word; if I want people to follow, first I must lead; and not to add pixie dust to St. Elmo’s fire unless I want to spend a week tasting colours.”

“An…interesting lady. It also explains a lot about you,” Aaron said deadpanned.

“I could be offended.”

“Dear Merlin! Was Shax really that bad?” the larger werewolf exclaimed, throwing up his hands.

“I have no idea what you mean,” Domovoi said innocently.

“”You never torture me this much unless Shax has been driving you up the wall.”

“This is barely a fraction of what he’s been like to deal with since Harry appeared. He is impossible! I’m on the verge of leaving my gun and my wand in my office when I see him, just to reduce the temptation to bearable levels!” the Alpha ranted, scrubbing a hand over his face.

“Is there anything I can do?”

“Lock him in a room with Harry. Or throw Harry at him. Anything as long as the two of them talk!”

“They spoke last night,” Aaron pointed out. “It was brief but Harry seemed happy enough with he way it went.”

“It would have been better if the big jessie hadn’t hidden in his office since then,” Domovoi grumbled.

“Did they not arrange to see each other again?” the Second asked seriously. He hadn’t been paying a great deal of attention to the conversation between the demons but he was sure he had heard them agreeing to meet again at a better time.

“Supposedly today,” Domovoi said dubiously, “but, unless he’s reached a new level of stalking and really is invading the lad’s bedroom, he’s left it a bit late now.”

“Ah, so that is why you are sulking,” Aaron said insightfully.

“I could be offended.”

The larger werewolf gave an exasperated growl and pinched the bridge of his nose. Spying the pile of duct tape on the floor, a piece clinging to his shoe, the growl turned into a groan. It was like being surrounded by toddlers.

 

§`§`§`§`§`§`§`§`§`§

Harry woke to the sight of two owls glaring at each other at the foot of his bed. One of them was his own snowy owl, Hedwig, who was guarding her food and water dishes from the regal looking horned owl perched on the footboard.

Rolling to his feet with a groan, he scratched Hedwig’s chest in greeting before turning to the unfamiliar owl.

“Is that for me?” he asked softly, untying the letter when the owl stuck its leg out impatiently. As soon as the letter was removed the owl took off, so Harry presumed a reply was unnecessary.

The crimson writing on the envelope was unfamiliar. However, the crest printed on the back was vaguely familiar; rampant bears holding a crimson shield surrounded by oak leaves, with three black bats forming an inverted triangle on the face of the shield. Underneath the crest was a ribbon containing the words ‘sacrificium spirat vitam’.

Cracking the wax seal, Harry’s eyebrows rose as he realised who the letter was from. The Demon Council hadn’t contacted him since he had informed them of his existence when he was eleven.

Quickly skimming through the verbose letter he groaned and flopped back onto his bed. The Council wanted him to meet with a group of representatives to discuss his side of the disagreement with the aggressive dominant from the club. They would be arriving tomorrow to meet him in Knockturn. Making a note of the time and place with a sigh, he balled up the letter and tossed it into the fire - there was nothing really incriminating in the letter but better safe than sorry.

Turning to Hedwig he smiled and held his arm out for her to perch on.

“What have you got for me, girl?” he murmured, feeding her an owl treat and taking the letter.

He grinned when he recognised Hermione’s handwriting, settling back against his headboard and letting Hedwig perch on his knee. Gently running his fingers through the contented owl’s feathers, he chuckled as he read Hermione’s detailed description of her holiday. She was the only teenager he knew who could spend a fortnight in Japan and be more interested in the local magical library than in seeing the sights. His grin stretched even wider as he reached the bottom of the letter:

Regarding the problem you wrote to me about, it would be better to talk about it in person. Poor Hedwig would be exhausted carrying notes back and forth all the time!
I was going to spend this week reading through our new books (there is a fascinating chapter about strengthening solutions in the potions book; do you think I should include it in the essay or will it be too much?) and join you in Diagon at the weekend when the Weasley’s got back from Egypt, but my parents are going to a conference in London and said I could stay in Diagon with you for the night. I’ll be there tomorrow (Monday)!

See you soon,
Hermione

Folding the letter and carefully moving Hedwig onto the headboard without waking her, he rolled over to grab his wand and check the time.

10.00am.

Scrambling out of bed the demon shed his pyjamas on the way to the shower, rushing to get ready for the day. Hermione hadn’t specified a time but she was the embodiment of the saying ‘better an hour early than a minute late’. If she hadn’t arrived bright and early, he’d eat his wand.

With his hair still wet, but looking otherwise presentable, Harry bounded down the stairs, scanning the tables before he’d reached the bottom step. As he expected, he spotted a mass of bushy brown hair in one corner.

“Hermione!” he called as dodged around the morning crowd, narrowly missing a harried witch herding along three toddlers.

“Harry!” Hermione engulfed him in a tight hug. “How are you? You look great, are those new clothes? How has your summer been? Japan was amazing! Did you know they-“

Harry put a hand over her mouth, laughing.

“Slow down. My summer has been good. Not as incredible as yours sounds but it’s been great not having to deal with the Dursleys,” he smiled.

“You didn’t really blow up your aunt, did you?” Hermione asked with a disapproving frown.

“Well…” Harry said sheepishly.

“Oh Harry!” Hermione groaned. “You could have been expelled!”

“I didn’t mean to,” Harry protested. “She was calling my dad a drunk and stuff, then she started on my mum and I kind of lost it. I started yelling and the next thing I know she’s inflating and floating out through the back door.”

“You blew up your aunt?” asked a familiar voice. Harry was gratified when he wasn’t the only one to jump, though he was the only one to smack the sneaky werewolf in the chest.

“Edson! Merlin, you’re as bad as Timothy,” he grumbled.

“Impossible. Nobody’s as bad as Timothy,” Edson declared. “Who’s your friend? Is she old enough to join us a bit closer to home?”

“This is Hermione. Hermione, this is Edson, a member of the local Community - of the furry kind,” Harry introduced.

“Pleasure to meet you,” Hermione said with a nod.

“Likewise,” Edson said, tilting his head slightly as he returned the nod. “I know it’s impolite to ask a lady her age but…”

“I’m thirteen.”

“Ah. A bit on the young side then,” Edson said with a frown.

“I’m thirteen,” Harry objected.

“But you’re our special little snowflake,” Edson smirked, ruffling the demon’s hair. The damp hair stuck up in all directions, looking even wilder than usual.

“I’m not leaving Hermione here,” Harry insisted. “She’s only here for…” he looked at her questioningly.

“Until tomorrow morning,” she supplied.

“Right. She’s only here for the day, I can’t just abandon her.”

“I’ll be back at the weekend when the Weasleys get back from Egypt,” Hermione added.

“Not helping my case!”

Edson rolled his eyes, “She’s not coming to the Alley, Harry,” he said firmly. “Not until her inheritance. You know the rules.”

“They’re stupid rules.”

“They are important rules. If you haven’t had your inheritance, your magic isn’t stable enough to support the drain. It might not be much but it can seriously damage immature magic.”

“What drain?” Harry asked blankly.

Edson stared at him while Hermione rolled her eyes heavenward and muttered “Honestly!”

“You know, the magic needed for the wards and to maintain the Covenant?” the werewolf elaborated, glancing at Hermione. “I though they taught you this stuff in Gryffindor.”

“They do,” Hermione grumbled, “but some people weren’t paying attention.”

“When were we told that?”

“This year, just before summer. It was less than two months ago!”

“I had other things on my mind then, like the fact I was nearly eaten by a sixty foot snake!” Harry exclaimed.

“What?!” Edson yelped. “What snake? How does a snake reach sixty feet? There are basilisks smaller than that!”

“Oh, um…what are the chances that you won’t tell the rest of the pack?” Harry winced.

“Zero,” Edson said dryly.

“We should go somewhere a bit more private,” Hermione suggested, glancing around at the other occupants of the pub who were looking over curiously.

Harry nodded, leading the way up to his room. Once the door was shut he cast a basic privacy charm that would alert them if anyone approached the room.

“Harry! You can’t do magic outside of school, you’ll be expelled,” Hermione hissed.

Harry rolled his eyes. “Relax Hermione. You know the Trace doesn’t work around so much magic. Besides, if they do find out I’ll just say Edson cast it while I was near him,” he shrugged. Hermione grumbled but didn’t object.

The werewolf in question had sprawled across Harry’s bed and was giving the demon an expectant look.

“Well?” he prompted when it seemed Harry was going to remain silent. “Tell me about this basilisk-sized snake.”

“A basilisk was attacking students, I happened to encounter it, events involving a lot of panicked running around happened, and in the end nobody died. Except the basilisk, but nobody cares about that,” Harry said innocently.

Edson gave him a look and asked Hermione, “Is he always like this?”

“Evasive to the point of tearing your hair out? Not always, but annoyingly often. Mostly when he’s in the hospital wing, in trouble, or talking to Professor Snape,” Hermione said, giving Edson a searching look. While his concern wasn’t unwarranted, it was unusual for someone to be so concerned after knowing Harry for less than a week. Especially as werewolves were often largely indifferent about what happened to people outside of their family or…Her eyes widened. Turning on Harry, she snapped, “Harry Potter, is there something you forgot to tell me in your letter?”

“I didn’t forget, I just didn’t think it should go in a letter,” Harry defended. “What was I supposed to say? ‘My summer was great, I blew up my aunt and got adopted by werewolves’?”

“You could have hinted at it!”

“I did!”

“Not enough for anyone to know that’s what you meant.”

“That is a good thing,” Edson cut in before Harry could retort. “Letter interceptions by the Ministry may not be common practice now there’s no war, but that doesn’t mean they’ve stopped. Becoming complacent and including sensitive information in letters is dangerous,” he warned.

Hermione deflated.

“I know,” she said, biting her lip. “That’s why I came to Diagon early, because we want to talk about Harry’s inheritance. It’s just…this is huge, Harry! Are you sure it’s a good idea?”

Edson frowned, “Oi, that’s my pack you’re talking about.”

“Sorry, sorry. I didn’t mean it like that,” Hermione said, flapping her hands nervously. “But it’s a massive, life changing decision and it happened so fast,” she continued worriedly.

“I’m fine Hermione. The pack is great. They’ve all been really friendly. Well, except one but even he’s not too bad, really,” Harry smiled.

“Do my ears deceive me? You just said something nice about Rikin! Are you feeling ok?” Edson teased.

“Compared to Malfoy, Rikin’s practically an angel,” Harry laughed.

“Compared to Malfoy, everyone’s an angel,” Hermione said, rolling her eyes.

“But I get in trouble if I wrap Malfoy in duct tape,” Harry smirked. Edson chuckled while Hermione gave an exasperated huff.

“Between you and Timothy, Aaron’s muzzle will be grey before the next moon,” Edson laughed.

“I doubt I can do the same damage in the remaining week that Timothy’s done over the years. Aaron’s sanity is safe for now” Harry snorted.

“I don’t know, you could be that last push over the edge,” the werewolf mused. “None of us have ever been near a basilisk,” he continued, giving Harry a pointed look. “Nice redirection attempt but I negotiate with goblins - you’ll have to do better than that to distract me.”

Harry groaned.

“It really doesn’t matter. I’m fine, no-one died and the basilisk was killed. Nothing to worry about,” he insisted.

“It does matter,” Edson said firmly. “You’re pack. We need to know about things like that.”

“Why?” Harry sulked.

“Because near death experiences are traumatic and it’s our job to make sure you’re ok after something like that happened!” Edson exclaimed.

Hermione laughed.

“That’s going to be a full time job. The year isn’t over until Harry’s nearly got himself killed.”

“I’m not that bad,” Harry insisted.

“How many times have you nearly died since starting Hogwarts?” Hermione asked primly.

“…Three?”

“Last year alone,” Hermione huffed. “You need a keeper.”

“I did not nearly die three times last year,” Harry denied. “Twice, maybe.”

“Dobby, the basilisk, Lucius Malfoy. Lockhart wasn’t trying to kill you but the end result would have been virtually the same,” Hermione listed. “Oh, and the car, which was entirely your fault!”

“We didn’t nearly die in the car.”

“You could have!”

“But we didn’t!”

“Not the point!”

“Children!” Edson broke in, giving Harry a look caught between concern and fascination. “Four times in one year?”

“It sounds worse when you list them like that. And Hermione’s exaggerating how bad most of them were,” Harry protested. “Only two of them were really dangerous.”

“Oh, only two. That’s fine then,” Edson drawled sarcastically. “Most twelve year olds don’t have any near death experiences!”

“I’m fine.”

“Great. Then you won’t be bothered when I tell the Alpha.”

“Why do you have to tell him?” Harry moaned.

“He’s the Alpha,” Edson said exasperatedly.

“Yeah, but…”

“It will be good for you to have an adult looking out for you,” Hermione reasoned. “Merlin knows the Dursleys don’t care and Professor McGonagall is too busy to really know what’s happening. And Dumbledore actively encourages you!”

“Hermione!” Harry complained. “They’re going to go all overprotective-werewolves now.”

“Too bloody right we are,” Edson frowned. “”Then I’m going to tattoo the pack laws on your forehead. Which part of ‘share your problems’ don’t you understand?”

Hermione giggled as Harry sulked. Edson sighed.

“Clearly this conversation isn’t going anywhere. Are you definitely staying in Diagon for the day?” the werewolf asked. Harry nodded. “Right. I’ll send Lukas or someone to keep an eye on you, just in case, but I need to go get some work done.”

Harry pulled his face at having a babysitter but didn’t bother trying to protest. Once the werewolf was gone, Harry put the privacy charm back in place and joined Hermione on the bed.

“A werewolf pack, really Harry?” Hermione said, breaking the quiet.

“It’s not like I planned it,” Harry grumbled.

“You never do,” Hermione sighed. “So other than blowing up your aunt and joining a pack, how has your summer been?”

“Pretty good. Being at the Dursleys’ was as delightful as usual but at least I didn’t need to be rescued this time,” Harry said dryly. “Living in Diagon has been brilliant, and Knockturn Alley is amazing! Well, once you get through the Dark District - that makes my skin crawl.”

Hermione frowned disapprovingly at him. “You don’t go alone, do you?” she asked worriedly. “I know you have the cloak but all it would take is one person realising you’re there and you would be in so much trouble,” she fretted.

“I don’t go alone. Domovoi - the pack Alpha - wouldn’t let me step foot into the Dark District alone even if I wanted to,” Harry reassured her.

“Who did you go with? I presume the pack go with you now, but what about before you were adopted by them?” she asked with a puzzled frown. She couldn’t think of anyone who would be willing to escort him into Knockturn Alley. Well, nobody who wouldn’t try to harm him or tell everyone that the Boy-Who-Lived was going Dark.

“Timothy and Rick mainly. Timothy went with me the first time.”

“Timothy? You mentioned him before, in your letter,” Hermione said questioningly.

“He’s one of the pack. The first one I met,” Harry explained. “He’s also someone I’m not overly pleased with right now,” he added with a frown.

“How long have you known him?” Hermione asked with her own suspicious frown.

“Er, a week. Roughly,” Harry said. Had it really only been a week, he mused silently. It felt like much longer.

“A week! Harry! How could you go into Knockturn Alley with someone you only met a week ago? He could have done anything!” the bushy haired girl exploded, hands making an aborted move towards the demon - whether to hug him or smack him, she wasn’t sure.

Harry hoped she would never realise that he had meant a week in total, and had been considerably less familiar with Timothy during his first Knockturn trip.

“It was fine Hermione. It’s not like I wandered up to the first person I saw and asked them to take me. I got to know him first. We even went shopping in London.”

“You went into London with a complete stranger? Harry! Did nobody ever tell you not to get into cars with strangers? Or follow them into big cities where no-one will notice you go missing?” Hermione said exasperatedly.

“The Dursleys would have been delighted if I wandered off with a stranger. I’m surprised they didn’t actively encourage it,” Harry deadpanned. “Besides, it wasn’t as risky as you think.” Hermione gave him a disbelieving look. “No, really,” Harry insisted. “Before my inheritance it would have been a dangerous thing to do but now I have a constant entourage. Any time something happens, a bunch of dominants appear from nowhere and get all snarly at whatever the issue is.”

Hermione narrowed her eyes at him. “How much trouble have you got yourself into since getting here?” she asked suspiciously.

“None. Not much. Only a few hiccups in the mating process,” Harry said, raising his hands defensively. Hermione gave him a disbelieving look.

“Would your werewolf friends agree if I asked them?” she asked skeptically.

“They’d agree that it was all demon related,” Harry hedged.

Hermione sighed, “How bad was it?”

“Um…”

“Harry,” Hermione said warningly.

“The Demon Council want to talk to me.”

“What did you do?” Hermione asked, eyes wide with alarm.

“Nothing! Well, nothing I wasn’t entitled to do. Some dominants are really pushy and one was extra pushy and the Council got involved. But nothing dangerous happened. There was just a lot of shouting,” Harry explained hastily. To be honest even he didn’t really know what the Council wanted. “That’s kind of what I wanted your help with. The dominants, not the Council - I didn’t know about them until today.”

“What does the Council want if you aren’t in trouble?”

“My statement, I think,” Harry shrugged. Seeing that Hermione was’t going to let the matter rest he contained a sigh and quickly explained what had happened with the mouthy dominant.

“Is that what you wanted my help with?” Hermione asked unsurely. She didn’t know how she could help but she would try her best.

“What? No. I told you, even I don’t know what’s going on with them.”

“What do you need help with then?”

“I might be justifiably angry or I might be overreacting to something, but I want a second opinion. Or a third opinion, if you count Leena, but she mostly told me to stop angsting over nothing.”

“Angsting isn’t a word.”

“It is now,” Harry said, folding his arms stubbornly.

Hermione rolled her eyes. “What’s the problem then?”

Harry explained everything from the first time he met Timothy to the conversation they had in Fantastic Beasts the night he was adopted into the pack. Then he told her about his conversation with Leena and how he now wasn’t sure if he was overreacting or not.

“You are an idiot,” Hermione said definitively once he had finished. “How could you just wander off with someone you had only known for a day! He could have been working for anyone. You’re fortunate it was just a dominant who wanted to keep a closer eye on you.”

“It was fine. I’m a good judge of character.”

“Professor Quirrell,” Hermione said pointedly.

“Oh come on, how was I supposed to know he had Voldemort growing out the back of his head?”

“Exactly.”

“Fine, I’m an idiot who should be more careful. But what about the rest?”

“I think Leena’s advice was good, if a bit blunt,” Hermione said thoughtfully. “Even if Timothy had known you, following orders from his Alpha and pack sponsor would have been more important to him. Asking him to disobey would be like asking Ron to give up food for a week. Maybe he should have told you sooner but he probably didn’t want upset you.”

“I’m not upset. And I would have been less annoyed if he’d told me sooner,” Harry grumbled. Hermione arched her eyebrows.

“If he had told you on day one that his pack sponsor had sent him to check on you, would you have talked to him?”

“I might have,” the demon tried. Hermione gave him a look. “Ok, no. I wouldn’t have given him the time of day,” he admitted. “But if he’d told me the second or third time I met him, I would have at least been willing to listen to the reason why he had been sent.”

“Would it have been any different to him telling you now? You would still be angry at him. I don’t think he did anything with the intention of hurting you. Even keeping his original motivation a secret was at least partly done with your feelings in mind,” Hermione said thoughtfully. Worrying her lip, she hesitantly added, “I think he may have expected you to work it out yourself earlier.”

Harry frowned. “How was I supposed to work it out myself?”

“Why else would a beta werewolf in his twenties take interest in a thirteen year old demon? Most people aren’t as trusting as you. He probably expected you to suspect that more was going on than him thinking you were lonely.”

“So he goes behind my back and suddenly it’s my fault for not guessing he was up to something?” Harry demanded angrily.

“I’m not saying it’s your fault,” Hermione soothed. “But people cheating at the mating game is rather expected. We’ve had enough House talks to know that. Maybe the person you really need to talk to about it is Mr Calvey? Timothy is just the middleman who wants both parties to be happy. Mr Calvey is the one with questionable motives,” Hermione suggested.

Harry sighed.

“You’re right, I guess. I don’t know when I’d be able to talk to him though. I’ve only seen him once and he barely acknowledged my existence. I don’t know if he’s even interested in me,” the submissive frowned. It was an odd dichotomy of feelings, being annoyed at the dominant for sticking his nose in where it was not wanted, while also feeling irrationally upset at being of such little interest to the dominant that they had barely exchanged a few polite sentences. Stupid mating hormones.

Hermione looked amused and despairing.

“Harry, he sent one of his employees to look after you - stop pulling that face, you need a keeper sometimes! One of the higher ranking members, it sounds like, not some grunt he needed to invent work for. Whatever his reasons for not speaking to you, I honestly doubt it is because of lack of interest on his part,” she reassured. Privately she wondered if she could get five minutes alone with the mysterious dominant, to tell him exactly what she thought of these stupid games he was playing and the effect they had on Harry. While on the surface Harry was predominantly annoyed, underneath the veneer she could feel his upset, tinged with self-doubt.

“If you say so,” Harry said, not even trying to mask the doubt in his tone.

Hermione let it go, knowing that pushing it wouldn’t make him believe her any faster. Nagging him worked for many things but she had long since learnt that when it came to Harry’s self-worth, baby steps would be all that got through to him.

“So do I get to meet this pack of yours?” she asked with a smile.

Harry shrugged, “Some of them would probably be willing to come and spend a day in Diagon, but it’s not like I can make anyone come. Everyone outranks me.”

“They’ll come if you ask,” Hermione said confidently. “Werewolves are indulgent of cubs.”

“I’m not a cub,” Harry scowled.

“You’re thirteen. Werewolves only reach maturity at eighteen - they’ll think of you as a cub even if you don’t,” Hermione said. “Honestly, I’m surprised they are letting you stay here on your own.”

“I think people might have something to say if their precious Boy-Who-Lived suddenly had a bunch of twenty-something year old blokes camping in his room. And I had enough people thinking I was evil last year, without trying to move into Knockturn to be with the pack,” Harry snorted.

“They could rent one of the other rooms up here and stay there. They don’t need to be in your room,” Hermione pointed out.

“Don’t tell them that,” Harry huffed. “Aaron will think it’s a great idea, Timothy will move in, and I’ll wake up to badger striped hair and all my stuff being Hufflepuff colours.”

“I thought you were angry at Timothy?”

“I am.”

“You don’t sound very angry at him,” she said doubtfully.

“I’m guess I’m not as angry as I was,” Harry shrugged.

Hermione rolled her eyes, giving a mental exclamation of ‘Boys!’.

“Have you bought your school supplies yet?” she asked, changing the subject.

“Yeah. I got everything on my first day here. I’ve only really looked at the runes and defence books, though,” he replied with a small smile.

“Oh, runes looks so interesting! I owl ordered a few of my books as soon as we chose our subjects. Runes and arithmancy are supposed to be quite difficult so I wanted to get a good start in them. Do you think it’s too early to get the fourth and fifth year books? Some of the additional reading is from the fourth year books, but the booklist might change,” Hermione rambled as Harry half-listened with amusement. “What’s the defence book like?”

“Pretty good. A lot is about ‘Dark’ Creatures but most of it is as unbiased as wizards are capable of being,” Harry said thoughtfully.

“Maybe we’ll have a competent teacher this year,” Hermione said hopefully.

“Can’t be worse than Lockhart,” Harry snorted. “The best use I’ve ever had out of those books was burning them. I should suggest it to the other Gryffindors. We can have a giant ‘welcome back’ book burning. Seamus can light it,” the demon grinned.

“Harry!” Hermione said, her scandalised tone ruined by her giggling. “McGonagall would skin you alive and mount you on the wall as a warning to other students if you set her common room on fire. And then Oliver would resurrect you and kill you again for losing him his star Seeker.”

“Speaking of Oliver, look what I got for him,” Harry said with a mischievous grin, leaping up from the bed and rummaging in his trunk. Pulling out the Harpies’ robes, he held them up for Hermione to see.

“Um, they’re nice? I think I’m missing something. Why did you buy him women’s quidditch robes?” she said with a confused frown.

Harry sighed mournfully. “You just don’t appreciate my brilliance. Where’s Ron when I need him? He’d understand.”

“Egypt,” Hermione deadpanned. “He’d write more but it would probably kill poor Errol. Quidditch jokes will have to wait.”

Harry heaved a sigh, packing the robes away.

“If you’re not going to appreciate my pranking brilliance, do you want to go werewolf hunting?” he offered, shutting the trunk.

Heading down the stairs, Harry grinned as he spotted who was sitting at one of the tables.

“I thought you had a real job and actual responsibilities,” he said cheerfully as he dropped into a chair, careful not to jolt the table or knock over the open ink pot. “Edson said he was sending Lukas.”

“Are you saying Lukas doesn’t have a real job?” Thomas asked without looking up. “Paperwork can be done anywhere. No reason not to do it here when Edson has commandeered the lounge floo to yell at some official in France about the tournament next year.”

“I don’t even know if Lukas has a job. None of this paperwork is because of me, is it? Yesterday was traumatising enough. Which reminds me; the Demon Council wants to talk to me tomorrow. What am I supposed to do?” the demon asked blithely, gesturing for Hermione to take the seat next to him.

Thomas looked up with a glare. “Why are you only just mentioning this now? How am I supposed to help you when you give me no warning?” he said with a frustrated growl. Hermione looked unsurely between the intimidating werewolf and Harry’s relaxed posture.

“Hey, it’s not my fault. I only got the owl this morning,” the demon defended. “Is there a pack protocol I’m supposed to follow or anything? It’s about the dominant you wrestled with the other day, if that helps.”

“Bloody demons and their inability to recognise that the world doesn’t revolve around them,” the tattooed werewolf snarled under his breath.

Taken aback by the usually laid back werewolf’s attitude, Harry said, “Sorry, I was just asking. I can deal with it myself.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, of course you aren’t dealing with it alone,” Thomas frowned. “You’re the only demon I’m not pissed off with right now.”

“What about Mr Calvey?” Harry asked with raised eyebrows.

“If he wasn’t my pack sponsor I’d have drowned him in the Thames by now,” Thomas muttered.

“I thought werewolves were supposed to respect their pack sponsors as much as their Alpha?” Hermione asked. Thomas cocked his head at her.

“Who are you, exactly?” he asked, flicking his gaze to Harry expectantly.

“Thomas, this is Hermione. Hermione, Thomas; he’s not as scary as he looks,” Harry introduced.

“You’re getting as bad as the rest of them,” Thomas sighed. “Next you’ll be completely ignoring everyone’s existence when there is food around.”

“It’s not like you asked for an introduction,” Harry protested.

“To answer your question,” Thomas said to Hermione, ignoring Harry’s huff, “I do respect our pack sponsor. Shax is craftier than a sphinx on crafty juice, and has risen higher in Guild ranks than any other Creature in recorded history - not that he advertises his Creature status to the Guild. I respect the hell out of him. I also occasionally have the urge to hit him really hard in the face. He can be annoying like that.”

Hermione stared at the werewolf, wide-eyed. Just saying something like that about an authority figure went against everything she had been taught by her parents. Thomas rolled his eyes at her shock.

“Respecting someone and being their subordinate doesn’t mean taking their word as Merlin’s own,” he said exasperatedly. “I reserve the right to be pissed off when he’s being a demanding arse. He has a tendency to forget that not everyone feels the same way as he does about his plans, so we remind him. Sometimes with words, sometimes by reenacting Jurassic Park in his club. One day I might even hex him.”

“Can I join you for that?” Harry asked while Hermione was trying to process a view point so at odds with her own.

“Why do you want to hex our dear sponsor?” Thomas asked curiously.

“Because he’s spent a week spying on me,” Harry scowled.

“Ah. You found out then,” Thomas said delicately.

“You knew?!”

“There was a betting pool on when Timothy would tell you, or if you would find out by yourself first,” the werewolf said with a semi-apologetic shrug.

“Of course there was,” Harry muttered angrily, while Hermione gave the werewolf a disapproving frown. Thomas sighed.

“Shax can be a self-important bastard at times, but he was honestly trying to help this time. He was using Timothy to exploit loopholes in the laws but he’s been decent about it - he’s not asking for tips on how to ‘woo’ you, just making sure you’re ok,” Thomas explained frankly.

“I still want to hex him,” Harry muttered.

“So hex him,” the werewolf shrugged. “Then talk to him, before Domovoi decides to set fire to his office or something.”

“What?” Harry said, looking nonplussed. “Why would Domovoi set fire to his office?”

“Because Shax is inventing work for himself - and consequently the rest of us - to avoid Domovoi being able to force him to talk to you. For all his proxy-stalking, the idiot is terrified of having an actual conversation with you,” Thomas grumbled. “But don’t tell them I told you. They think they’re keeping it all a secret from the rest of us,” he added with a grin.

“Told you,” Hermione said to Harry smugly. “A man who sends werewolves to look after you is not ignoring you because he isn’t interested.”

“He only actually sent one werewolf. The rest of us followed along by ourselves because we’re a bunch of nosey bastards and you looked like a fun person. But other than that, she’s right,” Thomas said with a nod at Hermione. “Shax is interested, he just has difficulty showing it like a normal person.”

“Still gonna hex him.”

“Good. He deserves it and you’re the only one who can get away with it,” Thomas grinned.

“Is there even any point mentioning the Trace?” Hermione sighed.

“Which is worse, underage magic or hexing people you only have a passing familiarity with?” Harry mused.

“That depends. Are you using whatever it was you hexed that guy with yesterday?” Thomas asked.

“Probably not. It’s only supposed to be used on people who are harassing us or being a threat. I’m not happy with him but I’m not that annoyed,” Harry admitted.

“You actually used that spell?” Hermione said, looking alarmed. “Harry, you could have caused some serious damage if you did it wrong!”

“He deserved it,” Harry said stubbornly. “Now I get why we were taught it. Some dominants really don’t know how to make no as an answer.”

“Why didn’t you hex that prat in the club?” Thomas asked. “It would have made my life easier.”

“I didn’t want to scare the other dominants off,” Harry said sheepishly. “Besides, you had it handled.”

“I hate you. You are a terrible, terrible person. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to hold on to a struggling demon?”

“I love you too.”

Hermione watched the interaction with a smile. She knew Harry was unaware of how much his friends worried about him. When he told her he had joined a werewolf pack, that he had known for less than a week, she had cursed his impulsiveness. However, it seemed the Potter Luck had struck again, if all the pack were like Edson and Thomas. Harry needed someone who would look after him and take him to task when he did stupid, dangerous things. The pack seemed up to the job. Speaking of which…

“So, did Edson tell you about Harry’s adventure with a basilisk?” she asked Thomas brightly.

“Hermione!” Harry exclaimed, betrayed, as Thomas pinned him with a glare and a demand for an explanation.

Yes, she thought happily as the werewolf painstakingly extracted the story from the evasive teen, the pack would be good for Harry.

Chapter Text

Exactly what had made him think inviting the pack to join them in Diagon was a good idea, Harry didn't know. Between the combined efforts of Edson, Thomas and Hermione, more than half the pack were now familiar with the Basilisk Incident.

The response had been...unexpected. Rather than yelling and asking what on earth he had been thinking (the response he usually got from Hermione and Mrs Weasley) or peppering him with questions and requests for a blow-by-blow account of his adventures (the usual response from his Housemates), the pack's initial response had been to take bets on how Aaron would react when he found out. The current favourite was a tie between demanding twice daily updates while Harry was at school, or offering the services of one of the pack as a Defence teacher so they could keep an eye on the young demon. The potential third option of having half the pack move to Hogsmeade for the duration of Harry's stay at Hogwarts had only been vetoed because the nearby packs would react badly to the intrusion.

Domovoi's response hadn't even been worth speculating on. After the Alpha hit the roof and got the 'what the hell possessed you to do something so stupid' rant out of his system, Harry would spend the foreseeable future bubble-wrapped with a growly Alpha watching his every move. It went without saying that anyone making life difficult for Harry this year would greatly regret the decision. If the Alpha had his way Harry wouldn't be returning to school until they found a way for the pack to accompany him. Fortunately for Harry his absence would attract too much attention for pulling him out of school to be a viable option.

Hermione was torn between being scandalised at the blatant gambling (which the pack found hilarious and prompted another round of betting on if and when she would give into the temptation to scold them for it, and if she would join forces with Aaron), and delight at the obvious concern they showed towards her best friend.

With the basilisk story told, the werewolves had decided that retail therapy was needed. Or rather, the pack now had an excuse to go out and spend a ridiculous amount of money on their new cub. When Timothy had told Harry that the entire pack would want to buy stuff for him, the demon had hoped he was joking.

He had seriously underestimated how the pack felt about having a cub to spoil.

What had started as a simple wander around Diagon quickly snowballed into a buying spree unlike anything Harry had seen outside the buildup to Dudley's birthday. As Harry's friend, Hermione got dragged along too as the werewolves bought everything Harry could conceivably need for the upcoming year. The demon was thankful they limited themselves to practical items, otherwise he'd need the apartment Aaron had offered him just to store everything.

"Where are they getting the money? I thought most packs were...not well off," Hermione asked Harry quietly while the werewolves occupied themselves bickering over which potion ingredients a third year would need and which would be good to have 'just in case'. Harry had given up trying to stop them after the third futile protest over having Hedwig's feed and perch replaced. Now he settled for being grateful that only Timothy, Rick, Thomas and - surprisingly - Leo from Rikin's little posse, had joined them for the extended shopping trip. He wasn't sure he wanted to know what it would be like if all the pack had joined them.

Harry shrugged, replying quietly, "I'm not sure but I think most of the pack have jobs. They never seem short of money, at least."

Hermione looked almost impressed, "Really? I thought most werewolves struggled to find anywhere that will hire them."

"They do," Timothy said, making both teens jump. He grinned as Harry scowled at him. "Increased aggression around the full moon, needing at least two days off a month, the social stigma - it all makes it difficult to hold a job in most places. We're fortunate enough to have a business man as a pack sponsor. Most of us work for him and/or a Guild. Shax pays fairly, so with most of us working the pack has money to burn. To an extent."

"What are Guilds?" Hermione asked, looking to Harry who shrugged. Both of them looked at Timothy expectantly.

"Oh no. Guilds are not for cubs. You shouldn't even think about them before you're seventeen; they're dangerous," the large werewolf said firmly. As soon as the words left his mouth, he realised that playing the danger card was possibly the worst approach to take with Harry. "No," he said sternly before the teens could push the issue.

Sighing, they let the subject drop. They had seen that expression on enough adults to know that pushing wouldn't get them anywhere. Not right now, at least.

"You're wasting your time," Leo told them as they left the apothecary with more ingredients than Harry could possibly use in a year, even if he didn't hate potions. At the teens' questioning looks, he clarified, "Asking about the Guilds. It's a waste of time. Domovoi won't let anybody tell the younger pack members anything, even after we all turned eighteen. He'll deal with them for Mr Calvey's sake, and because half the pack are involved, but he really doesn't like them. Best I can tell they're the magical answer to the Mafia, only the Ministry works with them - buying their services - not trying to stop them like the muggle government," the young werewolf explained. Then he snorted, "With our Ministry, though, it's not surprising they're willing to outsource work to shady organisations."  

Hermione frowned at the disdain in the werewolf's voice as he talked about the Ministry. She had heard people in Gryffindor griping about the Ministry's general uselessness and bias, of course, but she hadn't expected adults to be equally disparaging. Harry was simply surprised the werewolf was being civil to him. He had expected all of Rikin's group to follow their leader's anti-Harry campaign.

"There's a magical mafia?" Hermione asked worriedly.

"I don't think the Guilds are exactly like the Mafia, but they share similarities. Everywhere has organised crime," Leo shrugged.

"I thought that was covered by You-Know-Who's Death Eaters," the part-kitsune said with a puzzled frown. Leo snorted.

"They were barely organised, let alone subtle enough to run an underground business focused on profit. They were terrorists, not a mafia."

"Death Eaters?" Harry repeated questioningly, receiving incredulous looks from the surrounding werewolves. "What?" he said defensively.

"Honestly Harry, haven't you read anything about the war?" Hermione asked, looking exasperated but not surprised that Harry didn't know something widely regarded as common knowledge about the war.

"Um, no? Everyone seems happy to tell me how awesome I am for stopping it without caring about the details, so I never bothered," the demon shrugged.

Hermione sighed but let it go, instead explaining, "Death Eaters were You-Know-Who's followers. Some of them were almost as feared as You-Know-Who himself. Most were purebloods, or Creatures who had had enough of their treatment by wizards, like Greyback."

Thomas let out a bitter bark of laughter. "Greyback doesn't give a shit about Creature rights or how he and his pack are treated. He's a raving lunatic who loves having any excuse to go out and kill, and he warped his pack right along with him. There's a reason the Alpha Pack refuse to acknowledge him as an Alpha."

"His pack just went along with it?" Hermione asked, appalled.

"A lot of them were reluctant at first, but like Thomas said, he warped them until they became as bad as him," Timothy said with a disgusted head shake.

"But why not leave or try to stop him if they didn't agree with him?" the part-kitsune frowned, trying to understand how someone could allow things like that to happen around them, or to them.

"I don't think it's that simple." Surprisingly it was Harry who answered, speaking slowly as he thought. "I mean, I'm not a werewolf but being part of the pack is more than just being offered a room and spending time with them. You trust the Alpha to take care of you and make the best decisions for the pack. Not blind obedience, but the way you listen to a good teacher, or Oliver as House Leader. Only more than that..." he trailed off, trying to think of an accurate comparison.

"Like you trust your parents," Leo supplied with an odd look to Harry. "The Alpha and Second are like parents to the pack. The Alpha is the stern 'father' that the pack trusts to be a provider and protector. The Second is the 'mother', keeping an eye on the emotional state of the pack and taking charge of the day-to-day things while the Alpha makes the bigger decisions for the pack."

Hermione scowled, "That's a chauvinistic view on the roles of men and women in the family. Just because someone is a mother doesn't make them less capable of being a provider and protector."

Leo held his hands up defensively. "Calm down, I didn't mean to offend. It's just a comparison most people understand. I don't think anyone could look at Aaron and think him an incapable protector, he's seven foot and built like brick shi-"

"Language," Thomas snapped, smacking the younger werewolf on the back of the head. "At least pretend to be respectful of your Second."

On the edge of the group, Rick snickered. "He's right though. Can you imagine someone telling Aaron he's the 'mother' of the pack and had to stay out of a fight because he's too delicate?"

"I'll give twenty galleons to anyone who spends the rest of the week calling Aaron and Domovoi mummy and daddy," Timothy laughed. He pouted when nobody took him up on the offer. "Really, no takers? Edson and Lukas would."

"Yes, and the three of you would whine until the full moon rose when Alpha gave you a hiding for it," Thomas rolled his eyes.

"If he gave us a hiding every time we made nuisances of ourselves, none of us would be able to walk. You included," Timothy snorted. Harry and Hermione looked alarmed.

"He beats you?" Hermione asked, horrified.

"Only if we do something epically stupid," Timothy shrugged. "Usually he has other punishments for when we do less serious but still stupid things."

"It's barbaric that he does it at all," the girl frowned.

"We're werewolves," Timothy said in disagreement, keeping his voice down as they entered a quiet stationery shop. "It might be brutal to some people but it's normal for us. Sometimes words and diplomacy aren't enough to get the message across, and people start pushing the boundaries if they get away with just a telling off. It's not like any permanent damage is done and any injuries we do get are healed by the full moon."

"What about members who don't heal so easily?" Hermione asked pointedly.

"We aren't neanderthals," Timothy frowned, annoyed at the insinuation that they would harm a packmate. "We don't do it for fun, we do it when it's needed to teach someone a lesson. Harry wouldn't gain anything from it, he's pack but he's not a werewolf. If anything it would just teach him that we can't be trusted."

"How does being beaten teach anyone anything?" Hermione scowled.

"Hermione, leave it," Harry said, seeing that Timothy was getting irritated. "Just take it as one of those things you don't have the instincts to understand and let it go. If it makes you feel better, I've spent the last week with them and haven't seen anything worse than happens in Gryffindor, even when Rikin and his group were in trouble for skipping work," the demon reassured, hoping the part-kitsune would let it go. For someone who had been plunged into a world of magic and told she wasn't even entirely human, Hermione was very accepting of a lot of Creature peculiarities. Sometimes, however, she would find something that would not mesh with her views and morals, and she would be like a dog with a bone.

Hermione huffed but capitulated - but not without one last dig. "Fine. I'm just worried about you."

Harry resisted the urge to roll his eyes, "Appreciated but unnecessary. The one time I got in trouble Aaron made me write an essay, and I've not seen anything worse happening to the others."

"Trust you to have gotten into trouble so quickly," Hermione teased. "What was your essay on?"

"The reasons why I shouldn't be alone when meeting dominants."

"Oh. That's actually a pretty good idea," Hermione said, looking surprised.

"Well someone needs to have them when you aren't around," Harry said dryly, picking up an enchanted diary and flicking through it while the werewolves were arguing over ink. He put the diary down with a grimace after accidentally activating the demo reminder and hearing a gratingly high pitched voice telling him to finish his project before the end of the week. "If half the stories the pack tell are true, Fred and George will idolise them."

"So we keep the Twins and the pack as far apart as possible for the good of the world?"

"Probably best," Harry agreed. "Though the look on Mrs Weasley's face might be worth it."

"You mean once she's finished hiding your body after killing you for encouraging her sons to be even more trouble?"

"You say that like I was the one responsible for the singing post owls."

"I made one comment about missing having a phone and being able to hear my parents' voices!"

"Well, you got to hear your mum's voice - and the voices of everyone else's parents. I'm still not convinced it was Parkinson's mum we heard; I swear that was a bloke."

"Harry, you are a man who will be 'mother' of your future children," Hermione pointed out.

"Yeah, but I'm not going to start calling myself Lady Potter or extolling the virtues of a 'true, pureblood Lady'. For a guy who supposedly finds homosexual relationships disgusting, Mr Parkinson certainly got as close to marrying another bloke as he could," Harry grumbled.

Hermione hmmed noncommittally before saying, "Harry, do you have any use for fifty feet of fine-grade parchment and a bundle of eagle quills?"

"What? No," Harry said, turning away from the shelf of magical calendars to give Hermione a puzzled look.

"You might want to stop them before they pay for it, then," she suggested, nodding towards the werewolves who had indeed gathered up an armful of the high quality stationery.

"I...what?" The demon turned to look and groaned. "Would you lot stop. What am I supposed to do with all that?"

"Send letters?" Leo suggested but didn't move any closer to the cashier, who was looked disappointed at the loss of such a big sale.

"To who? I'd have to write an entire essay for every letter I send to get through that much parchment before the end of the year," Harry insisted. "If you're going to insist on buying me stationery - and you really, really don't have to - at least buy the normal stuff instead of wasting your money on all that."

"You can't write important letters on school-grade parchment," Timothy argued.

"Unless I suddenly need to owl the Ministry, I'm not going to need the top quality stuff either," Harry argued stubbornly.

With a bit more arguing they finally reach a compromise of mid-grade parchment with a couple of feet of fine-grade for just in case, and Harry felt ridiculous having to argue them down from wasting money on him at all. It wasn't until they left the shop that Harry realised Rick had used the distraction of the argument to buy the quills and an ink set.

Harry groaned dramatically and thunked his head onto Hermione's shoulder. "Make them stop," he whined, voice muffled.

Hermione laughed, patting his hair, "There there. Think of it as practice at accepting gifts graciously."

"Why would I need practice?" Harry grumbled.

"Well hopefully you are going to be a bit more accepting than this when you're being Courted. You've got about a week before people will expect you to start making selections, haven't you?" Hermione said, raising her eyebrows.

Harry gaped at her. "Oh Merlin's saggy Y-fronts. Why me? This mating thing is going to kill me," he said fervently, even as he started constructing a mental list of dominants he would invite to start the official Courting process.

Hermione laughed, oblivious to the werewolves exchanging glances behind them. Any dominant Harry invited to Court him would have to pass a few little tests of their own.

"You need ice cream," Hermione declared, dragging the complaining demon behind her as the plotting werewolves followed.

§`§`§`§`§`§`§`§`§`§

The next morning Harry stared at his trunk, pondering what to wear.

Hermione's parents had arrived to pick her up bright and early, unsurprised to find the studious teenager holding a few bags of school supplies. What they didn't know was that Hermione hadn't actually bought them. They were the left overs that Harry been unable to fit into his trunk (he'd warned the werewolves that it wouldn't all fit but they hadn't listened) and he had insisted Hermione take them, under threat of owling everything to her if she didn't.

Without Hermione there to distract him, the meeting with Demon Council was at the forefront of his mind. He was suddenly very glad that a couple of the pack would be accompanying him, for the moral support if nothing else. Though he hadn't done anything wrong, and so shouldn't be in trouble, he didn't entirely trust the Council to take his word as a relative newcomer over the word of the dominant who had been around for much longer. Having been accused of lying about his own identity in the past did nothing to boost his confidence in the Council's impartiality.

It was almost a relief when three werewolves barged into his room without knocking. Knocking and waiting, Harry had learned, were only deemed necessary when entering a higher ranking pack member's personal space. Subordinates like Harry were subject to spontaneous werewolf invasions whenever their pack members felt like it.

"Oh good, you aren't dressed yet. Rick was having kittens," Timothy greeted cheerfully. Rick grumbled a denial as Thomas made his way across the room to perch on the windowsill. The two older werewolves were dressed in far smarter clothing than they usually chose to wear. Rick was dressed normally, but the younger werewolf always dressed like he was expecting to be pulled into a photo-shoot at any moment.

"I have no idea what I'm supposed to wear," Harry said, looking beseechingly at Rick. The werewolf snickered and, after looking for permission, rummaged through the demon's trunk purposefully.

"We were just going to come and pick you up," Timothy said idly, gesturing to himself and Thomas. "Then Rick started giving advice and talking about hairstyles and I don't even know what half the things he talked about are. It was easier to bring him with us than try to memorise all the instructions he was giving us," he continued as Rick triumphantly held up the suit Timothy had made Harry buy.

"Don't I need robes? I thought a suit would be too muggle," Harry asked, even as he started to change.

"Robes are wizard," Thomas shrugged. "Most Creatures don't care if you go wizard or muggle. As long as you don't go au naturel."

"You'd know," Timothy snickered. Thomas pointedly ignored him.

"Dress smart and you'll be fine," the tattooed werewolf said, giving the suit an approving look.

"Are you all coming with me?" Harry asked several minutes later as he sat through another round of Rick vs the Potter hair.

"Not me," Rick answered, combing something pleasantly fragranced through the unruly nest. "Meeting with Councils is above my pay grade. I'm just here as the pack stylist," he said with a grin.

"You're stuck with us two, I'm afraid," Timothy grinned. "Intimidation," he waved towards Thomas, "and diplomat," he finished with a gesture at himself.

"I'm doomed," Harry said dramatically, with a grin that belied his words. "I couldn't even get pack members assigned to their correct roles," he teased. He pointed at Thomas, who was leaning against the window, his folded arms showing off the impressive bulge of his biceps and his blue eyes cold even as his lips twitched up in a smirk. "Except you. You do intimidation very well. Very scary," the demon nodded approvingly.

"What about me?" Rick asked with faux hurt. Harry looked at him, considering.

"Well, you haven't turned my hair purple. I suppose you'll do," he said slowly.

"And me?" Timothy pouted.

Harry cocked his head, giving the large werewolf an evaluating look. "I guess you deserve some credit," the submissive said with reluctance. "For comedy value," he finished with a smirk.

"Mean," Timothy huffed as the other two laughed. Then he sobered. "But seriously, the two of us are escorting you as Pack representatives. Domovoi doesn't think we'll need to step in, but better safe than sorry."

"O-k. What does that mean?" Harry frowned. "Why would you need to step in?"

"You're pack," Thomas explained as Rick started packing his things away. "We don't know exactly what the Demon Council want with you, but if it is anything that would harm you or affect the pack we can get involved and-"

"Cause the interracial incident of the decade," Timothy said with a tight grin. For the first time since they entered the room, Harry noticed the tense set of the large werewolf's shoulders.

"And, at the very least postpone further talks until the Alpha is available," Thomas finished, giving Timothy a hard look.

"Interracial incident?" Harry repeated, raising his eyebrows. He had been focusing on the possibility that he was in trouble with the Council and how that would affect him. It hadn't even occurred to him that any problems he had with the Council could have further reaching consequences.

"That is unlikely to happen," Thomas said, giving Timothy a see-what-you've-done glare. "Timothy is worrying over an infinitesimal possibility."

"Easy for you to say," Timothy muttered. "You wouldn't be the one taking the first steps towards handling the biggest political incident since the centaurs tried to declare themselves independent."

Harry looked alarmed. "Why would it be such a big deal?" He asked, bewildered.

"If something happened, which is highly unlikely, it would be the first time in living memory that werewolves and demons would be at odds. It would create quite a stir as we are, historically, quite closely linked. Plus the offended pack would contain a demon who sided with them over the Council, making the situation even more convoluted," Thomas explained reluctantly, seeing that Harry wasn't going to let it go and deciding that being upfront about it was better than having him worry over whatever fictitious scenario his imagination concocted. "But it would take something extremely serious to get to that point. Timothy is only worrying because Nyx is a bitch and she brought it up, and he is a closet worrywart who is going to stress himself into St. Mungo's long term ward," the tattooed werewolf said reassuringly. Harry had the feeling the werewolf wasn't solely talking to him anymore.

"Um, not to interrupt, but shouldn't you be going?" Rick asked hesitantly.

Thomas cast a tempus and swore.

"Yes, we should," he said, herding them out. "Remember," he said to Harry as they hurried out, "we are here as pack Enforcers. We'll only interfere if there's a problem, and you'll be absolutely fine. There's no reason for you to be in trouble, they only want to talk."

Harry nodded, though the werewolf's words did little to ease the cold ball of nerves in his stomach. Timothy's uncharacteristic silence wasn't helping. The idea of the giant, laid back werewolf being nervous about anything was a foreign concept. The demon just hoped Thomas was right when he said Timothy was worrying unnecessarily.

The walk into Knockturn was more subdued than usual without Timothy's banter. Thomas was calm but quiet, keeping a careful eye on the people around them as they moved through the Dark District. Rick followed the lead of the older werewolves, walking along in silence until they reached the small side alley that led to the pack's apartment block.

"I'll see you later, I guess. Good luck," the young werewolf said, tugging Harry into a one-armed hug of encouragement. "You'll be fine."

Harry nodded with a nervous smile, fidgeting with the cuff of his suit jacket as he followed the other two werewolves deeper into the Creature District. They headed in the direction of Fantastic Beasts, but before they reached the club Timothy pointed them towards one of the many nondescript buildings lining the Alley.

The werewolves followed Harry in, flanking the demon as they approached the group waiting in the lobby. Harry wondered if this was how Malfoy felt with Crabbe and Goyle as his constant shadows in Hogwarts. If so, he could see why the spoilt Slytherin enjoyed it. Having two muscular bodyguards at your back was reassuring - though Harry doubted Crabbe and Goyle would be much use if there was ever a real fight. The werewolves, however, he was confident could handle themselves if something happened.

"Hello. I'm Harry," he said lamely when they reached the waiting demons.

There were four of them, all mated dominants who looked surprised at the presence of the werewolves. The eldest of the group - a tall, lanky demon who looked to be in his seventies, which Harry knew could put his age anywhere in the upper hundreds - stepped forward to greet him.

"Mr Potter, I am Councilman Foras. Forgive us, we were not expecting you to bring company," the demon said, eyeing the werewolves like he was trying find a polite way to tell them to beat it. Harry caught the look, smiling tightly as he shook Foras' hand.

"Well, you know what Alpha's are like. I'm lucky he only sent two Enforcers with me," the submissive said with a what-can-you-do shrug. "I was half expecting him to send half the pack, with me being the only submissive they have and a cub to boot," he said innocently.

Behind him, he could feel the nervous tension drain out of Timothy, to be replaced with a new kind of tension; the tension caused by holding back his laugh at the demon's shocked expressions.

"Alpha? I thought your parents were dead, how can you be part of a pack?" one of the Council members blurted. Harry frowned at him, ignoring the quiet rumbling coming from the werewolves.

"I'm adopted," he said. "Not that it's any of your business."

"But there are demon families waiting to adopt you, to help you through your mating," the dominant protested. The Council member standing beside him shot him a scathing look as Harry's eyebrows rose.

"Is that why so many mated dominants have been hanging around?" the teenager asked, the presence of all the mated demons in Kockturn Alley suddenly making a lot more sense. Part of him was relieved that they weren't all hovering parents who were reluctant to let their dominant sons compete for a mate alone. A larger part of him was pissed off at the audacity of the people, deciding he needed help and preparing to take him into their families without so much as a by your leave.

"Seriously, where do you get off, doing that? Who says I want to be adopted or need your help?" he asked furiously.

The Council member who was glaring at his colleague gave a displeased grumble, just shy of a growl.

"I assure you, that was not how it was supposed to be handled," he said to Harry, annoyance making his voice tight. "I am Councilman Achaz, Realm-sired. The offer of adoption and guidance was supposed to be just that: an offer. You may decline the offer if you prefer your current situation," he explained.

"Joining a demon family would be the best thing for him," the other Council member protested. Achaz gave him a disgusted look, while Foras and the demon who had yet to speak both had looks of people who had sat through this argument before. "Werewolves will not be able to give him proper guidance. A demon family will be able to protect him and offer proper advice on how to select the best mate."

Harry bristled, distantly noting that Achaz looked equally offended at the drivel the idiot was spouting, but it was Timothy who responded.

With a polite cough to draw attention, the werewolf said, in a calm, reasonable voice, "I'm sorry, we were under the impression that this meeting was to discuss an incident a few days prior. If we are here to discuss Harry's living arrangements then I am afraid our Alpha's presence will be required. If you do not mind waiting Thomas could see if he is available and request his presence. Otherwise, I am afraid the meeting will have to be postponed."

His polite calmness was a contrast to Thomas' tense posture and subvocal growl. It was suddenly much easier to picture the zany werewolf as a diplomat for the pack.

The Council representatives looked taken aback.

"No, no, this meeting has nothing to do with anybody's living arrangements," Councilman Foras said hurriedly. "There should be no reason to involve your Alpha."

Timothy nodded affably, "Then please ignore myself and my packmate. We are simply here to ensure Harry's safety, should anything happen."

The councilmen nodded, except for the acrimonious dominant who muttered under his breath, "Sending dogs for protection, as though we can't keep one sub safe."

Harry growled softly, not enough to cause alarm but enough to get everyone's attention.

"You can shut up," he snapped irritably, narrowing his eyes. "Who are you anyway? You have no right to make decisions about my life."

"I am Councilman Gregory. The Council has a responsibility to ensure all demons are as well taken care of as possible, especially submissives," the dominant responded snootily.

Harry snorted. "I think I'll stick with following my instincts, thanks."

The Realm-sired dominant, Achaz, gave him a pleased smirk.

"Good. Your instincts are a better guide than any manual," he said approvingly. "Something these earth-sireds seem to forget amongst all their rules and politics."

"Quite," Councilman Foras cut into the argument with a tone that suggested the next person to speak out of turn would find their immediate future very unpleasant. "Now, if we could please get to the matter at hand?" he looked at his fellow Council members for objections. Seeing none, he nodded, satisfied. "Excellent. Harry - may I call you Harry or would you prefer Mr Potter?"

Harry shrugged, "Whichever." It was unusual to be asked at all. Even complete strangers felt they had the right to address him as Harry thanks to his far too recognisable scar.

"Ok, Harry, this is Councilman Davis," Foras introduced the only demon who had yet to speak. "Now, we asked you to join us to discuss the incident that occurred in Knockturn Alley last week, involving  yourself and the dominant Paul Tauton. Do you know the incident we are discussing?"

"I think so. He's the one who wouldn't leave me alone in Fantastic Beasts," Harry nodded, relaxing slightly now no one was questioning his place with the pack.  

"Excellent. Now, would you be willing to accompany us to the Council Halls to give your statement?"

"Can Timothy and Thomas come?" Harry asked cautiously. He wouldn't be going anywhere without them, even if the werewolves had been willing to allow it.

"Of course," the elderly dominant assured. "We have no intentions of going against your Alpha's wishes."

"Even if we weren't aware of them until now," Councilman Gregory grumbled under his breath. Everyone ignored him, even as he muttered about proper protocol and keeping the Council informed.

Harry nodded to Foras, following the Council representatives to an ornate fireplace at the back of the lobby.

"Sacrificium spirat vitam," Councilman Davis said clearly as the fire flared green with floo powder. Councilman Gregory followed quickly, and the remaining two Council members looked at Harry expectantly.

"I hate flooing," Harry grumbled, eyeing the fireplace like he had been told to jump in sans floo powder.

"It is not the most comfortable manner of travel but I'm afraid we cannot apparate or portkey into the Halls," Councilman Foras said sympathetically.

"Let's hope I come out at the right grate this time," Harry sighed, causing the four older Creatures to exchange alarmed looks.

"You have fallen out at the wrong grate before?" Councilman Achaz asked with concern.

Harry nodded. "I ended up in Borgin and Burke's in the Dark District. Mrs Weasley nearly had a heart attack."

Thomas and Timothy exchanged looks, silently coming to an agreement. With a quick nod, Thomas strode forward and tossed a pinch of powder into the flames, quickly disappearing. Timothy placed a reassuring hand on Harry's shoulder, using it to propel him towards the fireplace.

"I'll go through with you so there are no mishaps," the werewolf said as he scooped up a handful of powder from the bag Achaz held out.

If Harry had thought flooing alone was up uncomfortable, it was nothing compared to flooing with company. Having Timothy's large arms wrapped around him made the already tight space claustrophobia inducing. When they landed, however, the demon was grateful for the tight grip the werewolf had on him, otherwise he would have tumbled head first out of the fireplace.

Stepping out into the room, Harry couldn't help gaping. Ostentatious didn't quite cover it. The room was decorated in black and red, accented with silver. A huge mosaic of the Council crest, made of onyx and red jasper, took up most of the floor. Being an entrance hall it contained little furniture, but the ebony benches with red velvet cushions that sat either side of the entrance doors and the black marble reception desk were impressive.

The Councilmen were waiting for the trio by a set of oversized double doors - more ebony, with silver handles and hinges - to the side of the reception desk. They watched Harry's reaction with amusement and a bit of smugness.

"If it's all like this, we should take one of those benches on the way out. How much do you think we'd get for an antique ebony bench in perfect condition?" Thomas muttered to Timothy, whose jaw tightened. Harry couldn't tell if it was annoyance or restrained humour.

"Six months of back to back graveyard shifts, demotion to Chief Floor Scrubber, and a hiding like you wouldn't believe," he muttered back, quiet enough that even Harry struggled to hear him.

"But the looks on their faces? Worth it," Thomas said, with no trace of the laugh in his tone showing in his stern, forbidding expression.

"Try to contain your kleptomania."

"What can I say, I'm a merc at heart. Profit over all," the tattooed werewolf said with a barely visible shrug.

"Mercenary, not thief, unless you switched professions while no-one was watching," Timothy retorted, resisting the urge to roll his eyes.

"Well, thief kind of comes under the boss' jurisdiction, doesn't it?" Thomas answered with another barely-there shoulder twitch that passed as a shrug.

"It's the Acquisitions Guild, not the Thief's Guild," Timothy hissed back with a faintly offended air.

"And it's herbology, not botany," Thomas snorted.

"What does that even mean?" Harry interrupted, also keeping his voice down, though he wasn't sure why they were whispering in the first place. Well, apart from the thing about stealing benches.

"That it's largely semantics and the two things may as well be the same," Thomas replied before Timothy could.

"That the two things are similar on the surface but very different in practice," Timothy corrected, side-eyeing the other werewolf.

Harry considered the two before snorting. "So they are alike enough that only the people involved understand or really care about the differences?" he asked, receiving a betrayed pout from Timothy and a smug look from Thomas.

"No."

"Exactly."

"Is everything ok over here?" Councilman Foras asked, coming over to where the trio were muttering at each other.

"We're fine," Harry said with a sunny smile. "Just a slight difference of opinion."

"Oh, about what?" the older demon asked, eyeing the werewolves like he'd dearly love a reason to kick them out.

"Herbology," Harry answered blithely.

"...Right," the dominant said with clear disbelief, but he didn't ask anymore questions. "If you would like to come this way, then."

The three of them followed obediently as Foras led the way over to the waiting demons and through the doors.

"Ok, no offence, but that thing is creepy," Timothy blurted, staring up at the enormous statue mounted on a plinth on the opposite side of the corridor.

"It's a demon. A Realm-born," said Councilman Achaz, sounding amused.

The trio gazed up at the granite demon, taking in the plate armour that appeared to be the demon's skin, the enormous horns that arched up from the forehead and curved back down to finish in sharp points at the nape of the neck, the wickedly sharp claws tipping each digit, and the long, muscular tail that ended in a flat, double serrated tip. The entire thing screamed deadly predator. Except the face. Not that the face was less deadly looking - those fangs would put a wendigo to shame - but the expression was one of amused tolerance, like a parent indulging a child's request to play house.

"You got the good genes, Harry," Thomas said, at the same time as Timothy asked, "Why is it wearing no pants?"

Hurry was beginning to rethink his earlier opinion that he could understand how Timothy made a good pack diplomat. Fortunately most of the Council representatives seemed amused or rolled their eyes. Only Councilman Gregory was making offended noises, but he was being ignored even by the other demons. The visiting trio had quickly concluded that the demon was only happy when his ego was being stroked, and had elected to interact with him as little as possible.

Councilman Achaz gave a brief history of the statue that Harry only half listened to - something about old summoning spells, Realm-born demons' indulgence of their earth-born offspring's requests, and a famous artist Harry had never heard of - before Councilman Foras got the group moving again. The old demon had the kind of smile that suggested the next person to cause an unnecessary delay would sincerely regret it.

Following Councilman Foras again they finally came to a stop in front of an unmarked door. Stepping into the room Harry wondered precisely how much room the Council Halls had, because they were in another mostly empty room. This time it was set up as a waiting room, with a few leather armchairs (black and red, of course, because Merlin forbid there be any variety), a coffee table, and a sideboard holding a jug of water and a few tumblers that looked like they were made of crystal. The doors on the far side of the room were a smaller replica of the grand black and silver doors in the entrance hall.

Turning to exchange an incredulous look with Timothy, Harry turned just in time to see the larger werewolf yanking Thomas away from something and giving him a quiet warning growl. Thankfully the Council members were too busy conferring with each other to notice. Harry wasn't sure he wanted to know what the werewolves were up to, he just hoped it wouldn't cause that diplomatic incident Timothy had been worried about.

"Right, Mr Potter," Councilman Foras said in a more formal tone than he had been using previously. "In a few moments we will join the rest of the Council through these doors. You are not on trial or making a plea, so we are conducting the meeting in one of the informal meeting rooms rather than the formal Courts," he explained with a reassuring smile. Harry wondered how much of a difference a change in venue would really make when he would still be standing before the entire Council. "You will be asked for your version of the events that took place on Friday 20th of August, after which the Council may ask you a few questions. All you must do is answer truthfully and in as much detail as possible. Do you understand?"

Harry bit back the urge to snap that he wasn't an idiot, and quietly confirmed that he understood. The werewolves were informed that they could enter the room, but were to remain by the door and not to speak unless they were addressed or it was an emergency. Thomas looked unhappy but Timothy agreed for both of them and the tattooed werewolf didn't argue.

Standing before the Council was simultaneously much less and much more nerve wracking than he had expected. Less because the majority of the eleven Council members looked friendlier and more welcoming than he had anticipated, though there were two submissives who looked hostile, one dominant - who was unmated - who looked a little too friendly, and Councilman Gregory who looked as self-absorbed as ever. However, even with the mostly friendly faces, the Council exuded a feeling of power unlike anything Harry had experienced before. Even the magic in Hogwarts didn't compare.

Hogwarts held a lot of power but it was undirected, mixed and largely docile. The Council's power was pure and focused, even when it was not actively being used, and it resonated with Harry's burgeoning demonic magic, coaxing it out and encouraging it to spread and mingle.

Suddenly the young demon had a much better understanding of how eleven demons - five dominants, five submissives and a Council Leader - could keep control of the entire demon population. He had no desire to get on the Council's bad side and have that power turned on him.

"Welcome, Mr Potter," the Council Leader said, clasping her hands on the desk in front of her. Looking at her nobody would ever guess she was the highest ranking person in an entire species.

In a smart but practical blouse and cardigan, with reading glasses hanging around her neck and a rather well-padded build, Harry thought she looked like someone who would offer him a comforting hug and a cup of tea if he came to them with a problem. She certainly didn't look like someone who would hunt down offenders, drag them to trial, and carry out sentences. Then again, Harry supposed he didn't look much like someone who would face off against a Dark Lord and win, or be able to slay a basilisk with a sword. Appearances were deceiving.

Unsure of the proper protocol for greeting the Council, he returned the greeting with a "Hello" that came out sounding meeker than he liked. The Council Leader smiled gently, which would have been reassuring if Harry wasn't currently wondering if she smiled like that before announcing someone's execution.

"There is no need to worry, Mr Potter, you are not in any trouble," she said in a warm but business like tone. "We need you to answer a few questions and then you may go. Hopefully we won't need to keep you long."

Harry nodded wordlessly.

"Can you confirm that you were approached by the dominant Paul Tauton in the establishment Fantastic Beasts on Friday 20th of August 1993?" she asked.

"I was approached by a dominant but I never found out his name," Harry replied, wary of confirming anything that may not be correct and could come back to bite him.

There was some murmuring by the Council, followed by rustling, before a stone basin containing a luminescent, silvery substance was passed to the Council Leader. She prodded it with her wand, making an image of a familiar demon rise out of the basin.

"Is this the dominant who approached you?"

"Yes," Harry confirmed, watching the misty figure revolve. The Council Leader nodded in satisfaction, the image and basin quickly disappearing.

"Could you please tell us everything you remember about the encounter. What was said and how people acted, as accurately as you remember," the Council Leader requested with that same reassuring smile, quill poised to take notes.

"Just the time in Fantastic Beasts, or both times I saw him?" Harry asked, shifting uncomfortably.

"Any encounters you had with him, please," she answered calmly, though the reactions of some of the other Council members made Harry think this was the first they had heard of a second encounter.

Harry told them everything he remembered, starting with how Tauton had interrupted his conversation with Damian, how Alexander had chased him off the first time, to how the bouncers at Fantastic Beasts had had to drag him out of the club because he refused to leave the second time. The Council remained impassive as he spoke, noting down names and places and other details they considered important. When he finished the room descended into silence as the Council considered the information they had been given.

"Can you please confirm for the records that your account is as accurate and detailed as you can recall?" The Council Leader requested several minutes later.

As Harry did so, a side door he hadn't noticed before opened and an aide hurried out. Leaning over, they were given whispered instructions before scurrying out again.

"Now my colleagues and I have some questions. Again, please answer as fully and accurately as you can. The more information we have, the sooner this matter can be put to rest."

Harry nodded, waiting quietly as the Council organised themselves. He watched the more hostile members cautiously, hoping they weren't going to use this as an opportunity to make his life difficult. Of course, his luck was never that good.

"During your first encounter, you said that you did not give dominant Paul Tauton an opportunity to have a conversation with you, despite him following correct etiquette in his approach. Do you feel this could have provoked the behaviour of Mr Tauton?" asked one of the submissive Council members. Harry was too taken aback by the question to fully register that she was another Realm-sired demon, though he felt her magic tease has as it recognised magic of similar origin to itself.

"You're blaming me?" he blurted before he could think. "How is his attitude problem my fault?"

The Council member smirked, looking pleased with herself. Harry wasn't sure what it was about his response that had put that look on her face.

"We are not trying to place blame on you, Mr Potter. We are gathering information to enable us to make the most informed decision possible. Please answer Councilwoman Ava's question," the Council Leader said calmly, with a slight disapproving edge to her tone. Harry wasn't sure if the disapproval was because of his tone or Councilwoman Ava's idiotic question. Or both.

He took a deep breath, trying to push down his temper, before answering. "No, I don't think being rejected excuses his actions. He isn't the only dominant I've rejected but none of the others behaved like him. It's my choice who I reject and why. If he wanted a chance, he should have made his first sentence to me something other than a stupid innuendo," he said, temper bubbling up again.

"So you do not feel it was unfair to reject one dominant immediately but accept the advances of the next dominant who approached you?" Councilwoman Ava pressed. Harry scowled, folding his arms mulishly.

"No I don't," he bit out. "I like Alexander, he was polite and didn't push. Tauton was a prat as soon as he opened his mouth. I decided I only wanted to speak to the dominant who wasn't behaving like he was only interested in getting me into bed."

"Looking at you track record, you have rejected a lot of dominants before the end of your first conversation. Do you not feel you are being too hasty?" Councilwoman Ava pushed.

Harry blinked. He hadn't been aware the Council knew anything about who he had spoken to or turned down, let alone that they had some sort of record of it. Nor did he see how it was relevant to his interaction with Tauton.

One of the other Council members clearly thought the same, as she raised her eyebrows at Councilwoman Ava. "How Mr Potter chooses to conduct his mating is entirely up to him. It has has little relevance to the current situation," she said, making Councilwoman Ava scowl.

"If he is being overeager to reject mating candidates it may be causing ill feelings amongst the un-mated dominants that will lead to more incidences like this," Ava said superciliously.

Harry gaped at her as low growls came from the werewolves standing beside the door. Even the other Council members were giving her shocked looks and raised eyebrows.

"If we have an upsurge of harassment or violence towards submissives from rejected dominants, then there is indeed a problem," Councilman Achaz said neutrally. "That problem, however, does not lie with the submissives. Every dominant at this table has experienced a harsh or hasty rejection, yet not one of us has even considered using it as a reason to attack a submissive, no matter how frustrated we were," he continued forbiddingly, insulted at the notion that a dominant could try and use their failure to attract a mate as justification for attacking one of the most protected members of their community.

Huffing, Councilwoman Ava looked over to the only un-mated dominant on the Council, clearly expecting an ally. The dominant raised an eyebrow at her expectant look.

"Achaz has the right of it," he said with a bored look. "I've seen submissives reject entire groups of dominants without saying a word to any of them, for things as mundane as their hair colour. How, when and why Mr Potter is rejecting potential mates is irrelevant to Mr Tauton's conduct."

Harry smirked, pleased to have the Council members supporting him over their colleague. Councilwoman Ava looked ready to object, but the Council Leader overrode her protests.

"How submissive Harry Potter conducts his mating is not of concern in this meeting. It will not be brought up again unless a solid reason is given for it's relevancy," the Council Leader declared with finality. Harry breathed a quiet sigh of relief. He already felt like he was bumbling blindly through his mating often enough, without having Council members poking holes in his approach.

"Mr Potter, you said that during your second encounter with Mr Tauton the sexual comments had increased in both quantity and severity. What kind of comments was making?" asked Councilman Davis.

"What do you mean?" Harry asked uncomfortably, feeling a blush starting to creep up his neck. He understood, objectively, that it was important that the Council knew what had happened, but that didn't mean he was eager to discuss it.

"Were they comments about his own sexual prowess or other dominants lack thereof? Was he attempting persuade or pressure you into engaging in sexual acts with him? Did he threaten or imply he would force himself upon you?" the Councilman clarified, voice even, ignoring Harry's discomforted fidgeting.

"Er, mostly the first - saying he would keep me satisfied where other dominants couldn't and stuff - but a bit of the second, too. He was saying that I should join him in the alley behind the club," Harry said, staring fixedly at the table the Council were sitting behind, face heating up with mortification as he avoided eye contact. He shifted uncomfortably, knowing the final thing he had to say was important but not wanting to see the Council's reaction. Steeling himself with a deep breath, he continued, "He only threatened to force himself on me once. He wasn't threatening to...you know.." He took another deep breath, resolving to find a hole to crawl into until the world forgot all about this once it was over. "It wasn't a, a sexual threat. He was threatening to force a bond," he finished quietly with a small wince.

Silence.

"Do you recall the exact wording Mr Tauton used when threatening you?" the Council Leader asked quietly after several seconds of heavy silence.

"Not word for word, but it was something along the lines of 'you'll lose that cocky attitude quickly if I bond you'," Harry answered, chewing his lip as he tried to recall the exact wording the dominant had used.

"Do you know why dominant Shax Calvey failed to mention this in his report of events when he brought dominant Tauton before us?" the Council Leader asked, her voice carefully neutral.

"I don't think he knew," Harry said honestly. "Wherever he was watching from I don't think he was close enough to hear what was being said, he just knew there had been an argument. The bouncers in the club kicked Tauton out after his last comment nearly caused a bar fight. I didn't even see Mr Calvey that night."

"Are you familiar with Mr Calvey?" Councilman Foras asked shrewdly.

"A bit," Harry deflected. He didn't want his issues with the pack sponsor's sneaky tactics brought to Council's attention unless he had no other choice. The less involvement they had in his mating the better. "I've only met him once, very briefly."

"You don't sound like you are fond of him," Councilwoman Ava said, narrowing her eyes. "Is he another you've rejected offhandedly? Is it possible he's using this...drama to try and impress you?" she pushed, an odd edge to her tone.

"I haven't rejected him, and I only met him after this whole thing happened. We spoke for less than five minutes," Harry said with a frown, wondering what the Councilwoman's problem with him was.

"So dominant Shax Calvey has been watching you without your knowledge?" the Councilwoman asked, as though such a thing was a great scandal.

"Don't sound so shocked. If following me around 'without my knowledge' is a crime, you'll be arresting most of the unmated population by tonight," Harry groused, barely containing a snort at the un-mated dominant's start of surprise. Did the dominants actually think they were being subtle when they followed him around like orphaned ducklings?

"No, it is not a crime. Annoying, but not illegal," the youngest Council member, a submissive who barely looked thirty, said with a teasing grin at the unmated dominant.

"Do you have any concerns about dominant Calvey's conduct?" the Council Leader asked, barely keeping the impatience out of her voice. When Harry said that he didn't - nothing he wanted to tell the Council, at least - she nodded sharply. "Very well. Councilwoman Ava, please refrain from comments and questions regarding Mr Potter's mating from now on. Each submissive is responsible for their own and it is not for us to interfere unless asked," she instructed.

The reprimanded Councilwoman scowled but didn't try to protest.

"Are there any more questions?" the Council Leader asked, looking up and down the table.

"I have one, however I believe it would come under questions about Mr Potter's mating," said a male submissive, who looked close in age to Councilman Foras, tapping his quill against his lip.

The Council Leader scrutinised his face. Satisfied with whatever she found, she turned to Harry. "It is up to you, Mr Potter. Are you comfortable answering another question about your mating?"

Harry blinked. "Er, yes?"

Nodding, the Councilman asked, "What kind of protection did you have during these encounters with dominant Tauton? Independence is an admirable notion, but putting yourself in unnecessary danger is foolish. If you are not adequately guarded we can provide protection for you to prevent a reoccurrence of such events."

Harry tamped down the initial urge to scoff at the suggestion of protection. Aaron's essay had made him more open to the idea of having others looking out for him - or at least more understanding that it was an attempt to help him, not to control him - even if he wasn't entirely happy about it. He couldn't, however, hold back a scowl.

"My pack is perfectly capable of protecting me," he bit out, surprised by the surge of anger he felt at these strangers who were questioning his pack's abilities.

"Like they protected you from Tauton?" Councilman Gregory sneered, giving the werewolves by the door a disgusted glance.

"Yes," Harry snapped. Why couldn't the odious dominant have continued to keep his mouth shut? "It was werewolves who stood up for me, and werewolves who removed Tauton before he could cause any more trouble. Then it was a werewolf who made sure the actions of one idiot didn't ruin my night. I trust my pack!" he finish in a near shout. He was taken aback by the fury that overtook him at the dominant calling his pack inadequate.

Councilwoman Ava chose that moment to open her mouth again. "There still remains your failure to keep us informed of your change in circumstance," she said smugly, delighted to have something to throw at him.

"I though the bureaucracy would be too much hippogriff shit to bother with, and what do you know? I was right!" Harry snarled before he could stop himself. Through his anger, he was vaguely aware of Thomas' suspiciously laugh-like cough, and Timothy rubbing a hand over his eyes. Harry himself was taken aback by his outburst. He had never spoken like that to an authority figure before, not even Snape (Aunt Marge didn't count, she was a hateful old hag that he occasionally had to tolerate, not a figure of authority to him). He was hardly Hermione, who would rather bottle up her anger until she spontaneously combusted than talk back to a teacher; he was cheeky and sometimes insolent (not that he would ever admit it within earshot of Snape) but he had never shouted and sworn, not even at Uncle Vernon.

"You think you are going to find a mate like this? No dominant is going to be interested in someone so crass and unrefined," Ava spat back.

Harry raised an unimpressed eyebrow, for a moment completely forgetting he was standing before the Council. This was just the submissives' version of a dominance fight, and he would be damned if he lost to this pathetic excuse of a Realm-sired demon.

"Tell that to the guys scrambling over each other to talk to me. And your unmated friend there, he certainly seems interested enough," Harry scoffed. The unmated dominant in question suddenly became very interested in reading his notes, having no desire to come between two scrapping submissives. Even the Council Leader was now sitting back in her chair, eyes bouncing between the two submissives with an air of amusement. It was clear that neither of them considered this a Council matter and were content to observe quietly until the two submissives finished their spat.

"Don't delude yourself. They all chase after the latest piece of arse to show up. They'll lose interest as soon as you open your mouth," Ava sneered.

"Sounds like your speaking from experience," Harry smirked. "What, are you afraid I'll snag the dominant you used to drool over before they turned you down?"

The snarl on Ava's face answered his question for him.

"That's it!" Harry crowed victoriously. Normally he would be more sympathetic but Ava had been a nuisance since he first announced himself to the Council, when she had accused him of lying about who he was, and today with the pathetic attempts to make him look bad. "You were turned down by your first choice of dominant and now you're afraid they'll pick me. That's why you've been a bitch towards me all the time," he declared triumphantly. He smirked, "Well, I haven't had anyone turn me down yet, and despite your best efforts nobody thinks less of my conduct - which is more than I can say for you. So I'd say I won that round, don't you think?"

"If you think this makes a difference, you little-"

"Enough," the Council Leader interrupted Ava's red-faced snarling. "You lost. Do not compound it by instigating another battle you will lose. A seat on the Council provides only a limited amount of status, as you well know."

Harry smiled smugly, knowing that once word got out (which it would - for such a secretive race, demons certainly enjoyed gossiping amongst themselves) he would be on equal footing with Councilwoman Ava in the submissive hierarchy. Not a bad position to start off in.

With the submissives' disagreement over, silence reigned for several moments.

Finally, the Council Leader sat forward and looked up and down the table again. "Any more questions?" When nobody moved to speak she nodded. "Very well. I believe we are done for now, Mr Potter."

"I can go?" Harry asked hopefully.

"There is a cafeteria and lounge you may wait in or, if you prefer, you are free to use the library. I'm afraid you can't leave the building just yet. We have summoned the dominants you mentioned to corroborate your version of events, and we may need to speak to you again," the Council Leader - whose name he still didn't know, Harry realised - said with an amused smile. "I apologise for taking up so much of your day but we would prefer to have this sorted before it is time for you to return to school."

Harry nodded, resisting the urge to groan. He was more glad than ever that he had Timothy and Thomas with him. At least he wouldn't be alone and bored while he waited.

Their first stop after they had been dismissed was the cafeteria. Werewolves required regular feeding, Harry had learned.

"That was more interesting than I thought it would be," Thomas commented, carrying a tray of food over to a coffee table surrounded by empty armchairs.

"Diplomacy is a lost art with you two," Timothy grumbled, snagging one of the plates of shepherd's pie.

"I wasn't that bad," Harry said, taking a muffin and fending off Thomas' efforts to make him eat a bowl of soup.

"You called one of the Council members a bitch. To her face. In front of the entire Council," Timothy said dryly.

Harry rubbed a hand through his hair. "Well, when you put it like that," he mumbled.

"I thought it was funny," Thomas said.

"You would," Timothy snarked.

"It wasn't as bad as you think," Harry said, mauling his muffin more than eating it.

"Calling a Council member a bitch is not as bad as I think?" Timothy asked dubiously.

Harry pulled a face. "It was a submissive thing, not a Council thing. Her sniping and trying to trip me up was just...a verbal dominance battle. She was using her position on the Council to try and get a leg up in the hierarchy," he explained. "Not responding to her would have looked worse than any reaction I had."

The werewolf shook his head. "I really don't understand demons."

"We are ancient and mysterious."

"Delirious, you mean," Thomas snorted.

Harry, very maturely, stuck his tongue out at the werewolf and threw a piece of muffin at him, huffing when Thomas caught it and popped it into his mouth. Timothy muttered something about juvenile hypocrites and forced cutlery into Thomas' hand before a food fight could start.

The next few minutes were dedicated to eating - or mutilating a muffin, on Harry's part - before Timothy broke the quiet, asking, "So what happens next?"

Harry looked up from his pile of crumbs and squashed cake. "With the Council? Dunno," he shrugged. "I guess they'll send someone to find us when they need us."

"What do we do until then?"

"I suppose we could try the library, unless you want to stay here," Harry suggested. He imagined the look on Hermione's face if she ever found out he had visited a library voluntarily without a threat to Hogwarts to motivate him.

"Would we be allowed in?" Timothy asked, indicating himself and Thomas. "I thought you demons were big on keeping your secrets and mysteries."

"I don't care about it," Harry shrugged. "If anyone makes a fuss, we can just leave." He didn't see the point in all the secrecy, especially with his packmates.

As it turned out, Timothy's concern was unnecessary. The library was more of a lounge room with books and the odd desk than a quiet place to study. The few others in the room were gathered around in small groups, most of them talking rather than reading, and they paid no attention to the trio's entry.

"Are demons aware that colours other than black and red exist?" Thomas asked, dropping into a black leather armchair and flinging the red velvet cushion at Timothy.

"They are very proud of their heritage. Unhealthy proud," Timothy answered, tossing the cushion back at the smaller werewolf.

Harry rolled his eyes at the two and wandered over to the books. Hermione would have a heart attack: Harry Potter, voluntarily reading! He was a bit disappointed to see that most of the books were ordinary, very similar to what he could find at Hogwarts, if more advanced. There were some that dealt with more obscure branches of magic, but nothing that looked like it couldn't be purchased in any wizarding bookshop.

Lifting down a book on runes and skimming through it, he quickly gave up on understanding it. Innate talents or not, there was no way he could make heads or tails of any of the theories mentioned in the heavy tome without some real instruction in the subject.

Putting the book back he continued wandering along the bookcase, eventually coming across the demon specific books. Most of them were not published books, instead looking like handwritten journals that had been duplicated to make more copies available, and several of them looked like someone had bound together loose rolls of parchment with a title page denoting the subject of the collection. Harry wasn't sure why he was surprised, now that he thought about it. It was illegal to publish texts on demons and had been for centuries; very few real books existed on the subjected, and the majority that did exist were under lock and ward in the Ministry. The few that were on the shelves before him were clearly old, the long-term stasis charm making them look worn and dusty even as it held them together.

Examining the books, he picked up a couple of books on demon physiology and one on the history of common Courting rituals. The former out of idle interest (magically inherited knowledge covered the basics, but he had no more idea of how his body truly worked than a human was able to sense the function of their pancreas), and the latter in the hopes that it would give him an idea of what to expect as his mating progressed. He was rapidly discovering that knowledge inherited from a being that lived in another world could only help so much when it came to puzzling out the workings of dominants' minds.

He made his way back over to the werewolves, dropping his chosen books onto the coffee table Thomas had dragged over to put his feet on. Nudging the werewolf's boots off the table (no feet on the coffee table was a hard and fast rule in the Dursley household, one Harry couldn't quite shake off), he waved a hand for the werewolves to help themselves. Both immediately reached for the physiology books.

"Best to know in advance if there's anything we need to look out for in the future," Thomas explained when Harry looked at them questioningly.

Harry settled down with the book on the history of Courting rituals. Less than ten pages in he was extremely glad he didn't live in the Dark Ages. It was no wonder wizards despised demons if superannuated Courting traditions required the sacrifice of a wizard's magic to be made to a submissive to demonstrate a dominant's abilities and dedication. Compared to that a bite from a werewolf or vampire looked tame.

Thankfully, Courting gifts became less macabre over time, though not necessarily less extravagant. There was nothing modest about gifting a potential mate with seven-league boots. A hand of glory was also rather impressive but headed back into the realm of the morbid, and Harry wasn't sure he even wanted to know what necropants were.

The gifting of a single highly powerful artefact was no longer common practice either, partially due to the difficulty of creating them and scarcity of resources, and partly because of the attention they attracted. Instead, most modern dominants would gift a series of smaller gifts to show that they understood the submissive and their wants and needs.

"Is this true?" Timothy's horrified voice broke into Harry's thoughts.

"What?" the submissive asked, looking up from the history book reluctantly. "Timothy!" he yelped when he saw the diagram the werewolf was pointing at in horrified fascination. "Merlin's balls, put that away!" he hissed when he realised exactly what the werewolf was staring at.

"But there are membranes, and morphing, and tearing. Why would anyone voluntarily go through that?" Timothy asked, still staring.

"It's called childbirth. Give me that," Harry said shortly, grabbing the book out of Timothy's hand and snapping it shut, face bright red.

"But...tearing," the giant werewolf repeated weakly.

"Why were you even looking at that?" the demon asked, blush refusing to recede. Maybe that whole secret keeping thing had some sense to it.

"I was curious. Besides, you're pack. We should know how this stuff works for demons so we can help in the future," Timothy defended, though his expression suggested he had learnt more than he had wanted.

"If anyone other than my mates are in the room when I'm giving birth, I will personally kill them, stuff them and mount them on the wall as a warning to others," Harry said seriously.

"Your mates or the person who shouldn't be there?" Thomas asked curiously.

"Both, I would imagine," someone behind them answered.

"Alexander!" Harry exclaimed happily, twisting in his seat to smile at the dominant.

"Harry. I hope I'm not interrupting?" the dominant said pleasantly.

"Not really. We're just waiting to be set free, and now Timothy needs therapy. Sit down," Harry grinned, scooting to the side to make more room on the couch. He rolled his eyes as Thomas pointedly shifted seats to sit in the space Harry had created, leaving the dominant with the armchair, ensuring Alexander kept his distance from Harry.

"You've been busy since I last saw you," the dominant commented as he sat in the freed seat, looking amused at the werewolf's protectiveness.

"I have to keep myself entertained somehow."

"Werewolves and Council trials?" Alexander questioned with a raised eyebrow.

"The werewolves aren't new, I just picked up more," Harry grinned. "And the trial wasn't my idea."

"Hmm. Perhaps not your idea, but much needed nonetheless. I always knew Tauton was an idiot but I don't believe anyone expected him to go to this extreme," Alexander growled in disgust.

"Welcome to the Potter Luck. It's a twenty-four-seven show, bring popcorn," Harry grumbled, slumping down in his seat.

"Potter?" Alexander repeated with a start.

"Shh, not so loud!" Harry spluttered, shooting upright to check none of the nearby demons had overheard.

"Calm down. We have a privacy ward up. Some of us are capable of thinking ahead," Thomas said, looking at Harry over the top of the book he had taken from Timothy.

"I've been keeping it quiet and using spells to hide my scar to avoid trouble," Harry explained to Alexander. "I suppose it's about time I introduced myself to you properly, though," he added with a small grin. "So, hi, I'm Harry Potter," he said, holding out his hand.

"Alexander Lowell, though most people call me Xander," Alexander replied, playing along with a smile. "Not that I blame you for doing so, with how people must react to knowing who you are, but how long were you planning to keep your identity a secret? How are you doing it, for that matter? Most glamour spells are all or nothing," the dominant asked curiously.

"I've been using a masking charm. It stops people paying attention to my scar or my resemblance to my parents."

"That is a creative use of masking charms. They are normally used in construction to keep the place looking tidy while work is being carried out. They hide any visible blemishes such as damage to masonry, and prevent people from focusing on the site unless they are already aware of the work being done. I wasn't aware it was safe to cast one on a person," Xander commented, amused.

"Are they? I didn't know that. My friend Hermione was the one who found it," Harry shrugged, wondering if Hermione had known it was a construction charm when she shared it with him. He had never questioned it, simply glad to have something to combat the points and whispers that plagued him whenever he was recognised. "Anyway, I decided I would use the charm and keep my name out of things so I don't get mobbed by people who only want to mate the Boy-Who-Lived. I'm only telling people my last name if I want them to Court me."

"..."

"I think you broke him," Timothy said cheerfully as Xander stared at Harry in shock.

Looking up from the book he had been reading (where he had pointedly skipped the entire section on demon reproduction), Thomas leant towards the stunned dominant and slowly extended a finger to prod him on the forehead.

"He lives," the tattooed werewolf deadpanned, returning to his book when Xander knocked his hand away.

"I...Courting? Really?" Xander asked weakly, brain still trying to process the casual statement from Harry.

"Only if you want to. It's not like I can make you," Harry said, striving for casual and falling short as tension leaked into his voice.

"Yes. Yes, of course I want to. I would be honoured to. You just caught me off guard. People usually make more of a production out of inviting a dominant to Court them," Xander said, still looking a bit dazed.

"How much fuss can be made out of 'would you like to Court me'?" Harry asked, scrunching his nose at the idea of turning a simple question into a performance.

"Well, you just threw it out there and waited for him to catch up. I think that is the opposite end of the making-a-fuss scale," Timothy pointed out with a grin. "Are you going to do it like that every time? If so, I'll be around to take pictures of their faces. For future nostalgia purposes, of course."

"Timothy, stop helping," Thomas said without looking up.

"Ok, I can see how people would make more of a fuss than I did, but still. I don't see why people would want to make a big song and dance about it," Harry said.

"That's because you are allergic to fanfare," Timothy said helpfully. "Some people like a big song and dance. Literally sometimes. Maybe more the dancing than the singing, unless they like being serenaded."

"Timothy. Helping," Thomas said.

"Yes, yes I am."

Xander looked between the two in amusement. Harry rolled his eyes, ignoring them.

"What do people usually do? Is there something I should be doing that I'm not?" the submissive asked, chewing his lip. He didn't feel any instinctive drive to make the Courting request an elaborate event but he didn't want to ignore a tradition the earth-sired demons had developed, if one existed.

"Nothing specific. How you choose to conduct your mating really is entirely up to you. There will always be people who don't approve, or want you to do something differently, but then they probably aren't people you would want to mate with anyway," Xander said with a shrug. "A lot of submissives nowadays opt for a party or formal meal to make their announcement. Some will invite any dominant they haven't outright rejected and announce who the lucky few are at the end of the night," he said with distaste. He had never thought much of those submissives who strung people along and got so many dominants' hopes up before rejecting the majority of them. It reeked of ego stroking and self-centredness. He had, on a few occasions, been chosen by such a submissive but had always ended up turning them down. "Others will have a small gathering or party but only invite those they have chosen."

"A party?" Harry repeated doubtfully.

"Timothy, don't help," Thomas said, pre-emptively cutting the larger werewolf off.

"A party, a ball, a meal. I heard about someone in New York who wrote the names of their chosen dominants on a banner and hung it on the side of skyscraper, though nobody is sure if that story is entirely true," Xander mused before shrugging at Harry's wide-eyed look. "But as I said, what you do is entirely up to you. There is no rule about how over or understated you can be. It's rather refreshing to have a submissive who is keeping things low key and not having to attend elaborate parties."

"Even when 'low key' means practically having to work it out for yourself?" Thomas asked, looking up from his book.

"Subtly is undervalued," Xander countered easily. "It separates those who are paying attention from those who are just going through the motions. It keeps people on their toes."

"Hmm." Timothy leant forwards to peer into Xander's face, getting uncomfortably close to the demon. Xander looked bemused but didn't pull back, letting Timothy stare.

"He seems genuinely supportive. I like him. For now," the werewolf said, sitting back after a long, uncomfortable minute of judgemental staring.

Harry looked between the three older Creatures before slouching further down in his chair and putting his hands over his face.

"Are you going to do this to every guy I ask to Court me?" he asked, voice muffled.

"Of course," Timothy said, sounding offended that Harry might have thought otherwise. "What sort of pack would we be if we didn't torture - ah, that is, test - any potential suitors for our omega?"

"At least you're not being crazy about it," the submissive sighed, resigned. "I half expected you to have an immediate throw down with anyone who I took vaguely seriously."

"Don't be daft," Thomas rolled his eyes. "We aren't completely uncivilised."

"Yes," Timothy agreed. "Regardless of what Aaron thinks, we are actually capable of recognising an inappropriate occasion for a wrestling match. Unless this place has some sort of gym, that'll have to wait."

Harry said nothing, just sliding a few inches further down in his chair with a groan. Alexander chuckled.

"Don't worry about it," the dominant reassured. "This isn't the first time something like this has happened to me. A lot of submissives have protective guardians; I once had an over-zealous, maternal drake try to gut me for standing too close to her daughter while we talked. A couple of betas aren't going to scare me off."

Thomas looked at him, considering. "Hm, no, I don't think we will. Not with you." He grinned viciously. "But we can put the fear of Magic into the weaker ones."

"You are enjoying this far too much," Harry groused at the werewolves. "Try not to scare everyone off. I'm already the first Realm-sired male submissive in centuries-"

"A millennia, really," Xander interjected cheerfully, earning a dirty look from the teenager. He raised his hands in surrender.

"In centuries, not to mention that whole 'you survived until your second birthday, you are Merlin-reborn' thing the wizards have going-"

"You do realise you have just set yourself up for being called mini-Merlin for the rest of your natural life, yes?" Timothy interrupted with a delighted grin.

"You haven't," Thomas disagreed. "He'll have forgotten about it by the time we leave. Or after seeing this."

He held up the book he was still holding, flipped to the page that had alarmed the larger werewolf earlier.

"Oh Merlin! Dammit, O'Malley, that is forever burned into my retinas, you git. Not even an obliviate can help me now," Timothy said, throwing a hand up to block out the book. He subsided into muttering that sounded suspiciously like "Why does there have to be tearing?"

"It'd take more than an obliviate to help you, recent mental scarring or no," the tattooed werewolf snorted, snapping the book shut. "You were saying?" he asked Harry.

"That I have more than enough attention for things outside my control already, without you lot conspiring to make me the world's first mateless submissive demon because you scared away my suitors in cruel and unusual ways," Harry huffed.

"I resent being called cruel. We use creative and unusual ways to ensure only the worthy come near our omega," Timothy proclaimed.

"I apologise in advance if you find yourself duct taped to the ceiling or turned into a miscellaneous woodland creature," Harry said Xander.

The dominant raised his eyebrows. "Does that happen a lot?"

"Rikin wasn't stuck to the ceiling so it doesn't count," Timothy said.

"And I have never turned anyone into a woodland creature," Thomas added, his gaze indicating who in their group might have been guilty of transfiguring someone into an animal.

"Yes you have."

"What? When?"

"That animagus a couple of years ago. You turned him into a weasel-cat thing."

"Pine marten, you twit," Thomas said long-sufferingly. "And it had nothing to do with me, it was his animal form. I just happened to scare him into it."

"He smelled feline," Timothy said disbelievingly.

"You literally couldn't identify a pine marten if one bit you, how would you know what they smell like?" Thomas challenged.

"Are you nervous yet?" Harry asked Xander, watching the two werewolves bicker.

"I maintain that two betas aren't going to scare me off," Xander replied calmly. "Though now I know to warn my family not to chase out any woodland animals they find in my house."

"You've let these two know where you live?" Harry asked dryly.

"No, but I doubt they would struggle to find out. They are resourceful and it is an open secret that the Knockturn Pack have connections to the Acquisitions Guild," the dominant shrugged.

"Acquisitions? I thought they, er, specialised in objects," the submissive said hesitantly, trying to avoid calling the Guild thieves even if Timothy hadn't exactly denied it earlier.

"I suppose the bulk of their profit would be made in acquiring physical objects, but they don't limit themselves to the acquisition of tangible things. For the right price they can get hold of anything from information to rare, out of use spells. Finding someone's address would be a simple matter for them," Xander explained, either not noticing or ignoring the werewolves' disapproving looks.

"Oh," Harry said, filing that information away to share with Hermione later. If there was one thing his kitsune friend could not stand it was being unable to find information on something that intrigued her, and Guilds had definitely caught her interest. "So the pack can easily find out where you live?"

"I would imagine so, yes," Xander said indifferently.

"You seem very calm about that," Harry noted, looking at the two werewolves who were watching the demons with a glint in their eye.

"If the idea of my home address being identifiable truly bothered me, I would have done more to hide it," the dominant shrugged.

"Have you ever had to catch a badger?" the submissive asked, still watching the clearly plotting werewolves. He wasn't sure whether or not he should be worried that he could already give a good guess at what the two were thinking of doing.

"A badger? No, I can't say that I have."

"You might want to practice, then," Harry said mischievously with a nod towards the werewolves, who were eyeing the dominant demon with a considering look. Xander returned the look, unflinching.

"Does your Alpha accept Gifting?" he asked the two betas, a polite, distant quality to his tone that hadn't been there previously.

"Possibly. Depends on circumstance," Timothy said interestedly.

"Would it be possible for you to-"

"Dominant Alexander Lowell? The Council will see you now," a voice interrupted. The aide Harry had seen in the meeting room with the Council was standing behind them, looking expectantly at Xander. The dominant nodded and stood.

"That's my summons. Harry, I'll owl you," he smiled at the submissive before turning a suspicious look on the werewolves. "Timothy, Thomas. It was good seeing you and I'll be sure to ward my house against you. And against stray wildlife."

With that said the dominant followed the aide out of the room.

"You aren't really going to find out where he lives and prank his house, are you?" Harry asked after a few moments of silence.

"Of course not. That would be a violation of his privacy and an abuse of our connections to the Guild," Timothy said. "Besides, he'd be expecting it now. We'll hit him at work instead."

"I can't tell if you are joking or not."

"Joking. Maybe," Thomas said, tilting his head in thought. "It depends on what Domovoi says about how he wants it handled."

"Right, because that's reassuring," Harry muttered, grabbing the journal he was reading earlier and cracking it open again.

After several minutes of unsuccessfully trying to get back into reading, Harry gave up. Unlike Hermione he didn't have the attention span to spend hours reading, even when he found the subject interesting.

"Do you want to explore?" he suggested when the werewolves looked up at the sound of the book closing. The two betas sprang to their feet like someone had set the couch on fire (Harry wondered what it said about his life now that he took a moment to check that the furniture was not, in fact, aflame). "You know, if you didn't want to stay in here you could have said something," the submissive frowned at the eagerness in the werewolves' actions. It was bad enough he had dragged them along to the Council Halls at all, without boring them to tears while they were here.

Thomas sighed. "We're here primarily as bodyguards, remember?"

"So?"

"So a bodyguard doesn't decide what we spend the day doing, we just make sure the person we're guarding is safe," he explained. In all honesty, this was more interesting than most bodyguarding jobs he had taken on in the past. Although, most of those had been taken through the Mercenary Guild and ended up being for politicians and rich people, who only wanted the status of having a bodyguard and led boring lives with little real danger to their person.

"Yeah but you're pack, too. We can do something we all find interesting," Harry insisted stubbornly.

"I'll keep that in mind," Thomas said neutrally. "Now, where do you want to go?"

"Where do you want to go?" Harry shot back mulishly.

The tattooed werewolf raised an eyebrow. "I couldn't care less where we go, as long as it won't get you into unnecessary trouble."

"Did you listen to a word I said?" Harry grumbled.

Thomas gave him a flat look. "I did and while the concern is appreciated, it is unnecessary. We are not here as packmates on a jaunt out. We're here for you, so if you want to sit in the library reading that is what we will do, if you want to explore, we'll explore. Consider us working bodyguard who have been hired to follow you around wherever you go."

"So you normally talk about stealing furniture when you're working?" the demon scowled as he put the books back and made his way to the door.

"No. Normally he just nicks it and we're left covering his tracks and preventing any fallout," Timothy muttered, holding the door for the other two.

"I never...hardly ever need someone to cover my tracks," Thomas groused.

Harry stared at the two of them. "You really steal stuff?"

"Only if it won't be missed, or they've been annoying," the tattooed werewolf said, unbothered by the admission.

"He has something of a kleptomania problem," Timothy confided with faux-sadness. "He's in denial of it, though."

"Please tell me you haven't stolen anything from here," Harry groaned.

"Not yet."

"Yet?!"

"Relax, I kept him away from the expensive crystal," said Timothy, which Harry found much less reassuring than the werewolf probably intended.

"Why did Alpha send you if he knows you're an incident waiting to happen?" Harry asked. "I thought we were trying to avoid a diplomatic incident?"

"He's the best bodyguard we have - well, excluding Aaron, but bringing an alpha gives the wrong impression - and the most experienced Enforcer. The benefits outweigh the risks. We just keep him away from anything shiny," Timothy explained.

"Artemis is the most experienced," Thomas corrected, ignoring the shiny dig.

"You're the most experienced who isn't likely to try and poison the Demon Council for being an inconvenience," Timothy clarified. "Artemis is my packmate and I love her, but she when she was born the doctors put a warning: danger of death sign above her cot. She has many, and terrifying, talents, but proportional response is not one of them."

"She's not that bad."

"She keeps wolfsbane next to the pepper in her kitchen, and when you were complaining about that idiot who wanted to recruit you and wouldn't take no for an answer, she gave you a vial of runespoor venom that she just happened to be be carrying around!"

Harry nearly fell over his own feet, he turned so quickly to stare at them. "She what?"

"She keeps wolfsbane with the spices. And belladonna in the cold cupboard. Unlabelled. Decline any offer to eat at her place if she invites you, she won't be offended," Thomas advised.

"Why does she even have them, let alone keep them in the kitchen?" Harry asked incredulously.

"She's heavily involved in the Potions and Acquisitions Guilds. And she is crazily protective of her pack and family," Timothy said.

"She's just crazy," Thomas snorted.

"What happened to 'she's not that bad'?"

"Well it's not like we would let her bring the contents of her kitchen with her. She's a good Enforcer," the smaller werewolf said. He glanced around with a frown. "Do either of you know where we are going?" he asked, twisting to look over his shoulder at the long corridor they had been on since leaving the library. "How big is this place?"

"Big," Timothy said helpfully. "I think it's enchanted like the Club is upstairs. Anyone who isn't keyed into the wards, or escorted by someone who is, and anyone wandering without a destination in mind just sees one straight, endless corridor. Or an extra long corridor that takes ten times as long to get anywhere, if they went for the more guest friendly option," he explained to Harry, seeing the demon's confused look. "Otherwise the Council must have as much underground space as Gringotts does. We must have been walking for at least five minutes now."

"Why is nothing signposted?" Harry complained, looking around at the identical black doors that lined the corridor.

"To make our lives difficult?"

"Do you want to continue or go back?" Thomas asked, squinting as he looked back the way they had come, trying to spot a break in the enchantment.

"Might as well continue, unless you want to go back to the cafe or library," Harry shrugged. "If we're needed they'll come and find us."

After several more minutes of wandering along the seemingly endless, uniform corridor, they finally found a break in the monotony in the form of a staircase. Thankfully there was also a sign by the stairs, giving them some idea of where they were going.

"Huh. They do have a gym," Timothy noted. "How many of Harry's would-be Courters do you think we can get through in a day?" he asked Thomas.

"None. Leave Xander alone," Harry huffed, setting off up the stairs.

"What about the others?" the giant werewolf asked, following the demon and resolving not to mention Xander in front of Harry again until he had chance to talk to Domovoi about it.

"What others?"

"The other dominants. I thought you were asking more than one to Court you."

"Well, yes, but I haven't asked anyone else yet," Harry frowned.

"So we've only got Xander to torture for now?" the werewolf asked. So much for that resolution.

"No. Leave my potential mates alone," Harry said, rolling his eyes.

"We need to know who the rest of the competition is first," Thomas chipped in helpfully.

Harry just groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"Does this place look familiar to you?" Timothy asked, looking around with a puzzled frown.

"It looks like the corridor outside the entrance hall," Thomas said. "Minus the creepy statue."

"Don't tell me we've just walked in a giant circle," Harry groused.

"I doubt it. I think this is another example of the Council's lack of variety in decorating choices," Thomas mused.

"So where are we?" Timothy asked.

"How should I know? Offices maybe? A second entrance? The nursery?"

"This place has a nursery?"

"Why are you asking me?"

"No, it doesn't have a nursery," Harry interrupted, rolling his eyes. "Or not on this floor, according to the sign. We could always open the door and look, instead of guessing," the demon suggested, gesturing towards the double doors a bit further along the corridor.

"After you then," Timothy said with a wave of his hand. "You're small, cute and much less likely to be cursed for sticking your nose in."

"Some bodyguard you are," Harry muttered.

"I did an on the spot risk assessment and concluded that sending in the adorable submissive demon was less likely to cause trouble than a strange werewolf. Now mush," Timothy said, shepherding the teen towards the doors.

Sighing, Harry opened the door and stuck his head through. He immediately retreated, letting the door fall shut and backing away to hide behind the werewolves.

"Please don't have seen me, please don't have seen me," he muttered as the werewolves looked down at him with concern. He cursed when the door opened. "He saw me."

"Who-"

"You! You little cretin," spat the dominant from the broom park, stepping out into the corridor and glaring at Harry.

Harry was very glad to have a wall of solid werewolf muscle between him and the snarling demon. Protests of independence aside, Harry was very aware he was only thirteen and he was currently facing a pissed off, mature dominant demon who had temporarily abandoned the 'submissives are made of glass' philosophy. Letting Thomas and Timothy play werewolf shields until the guy calmed down seemed like an excellent idea.

Thomas stepped forward, forcing the dominant to back up against the doors, until the only escape route for the demon was a demeaning shuffle along the wall. The tattooed werewolf didn't have Timothy's bulk - bulk that had moved to cover Harry more fully - but the way he held himself, like a wolf cornering prey it planned to maul for fun, and the ice cold glare made him look far more dangerous than the larger werewolf.

Harry suddenly recalled Leo's comment about the Guilds being like a magic mafia. If all Guild members could flip from light hearted packmate to 'the only reason I haven't killed you is because I don't want a scene' the way Thomas had then Harry could easily see how Leo's theory might be true. With that in mind Harry supposed he should intervene before he had to explain to the Council why there was a dead body on the first floor.

Sticking his head out from behind Timothy, which he knew looked ridiculous but was easier than trying to shift a mountain of werewolf muscle, he said, "Hello to you to."

"You assaulted me, you little shit! Do you have any idea what that spell does, you idiotic little brat? I could have you arrested," the demon snarled. Harry suspected the only thing keeping him from lunging were the two werewolves and the definite 'touch him and no one will find your body' vibes coming from Thomas.

"In my defence it was exactly that, in my defence," Harry retorted, feeling surprisingly ok with hiding behind the werewolves as he argued. Gender stereotypes were more tolerable when they were protecting you from attacks by angry demons.

"Defence against what? I wasn't threatening you! If that is how you react to a dominant taking an interest in you it's no wonder so many don't bother. Too much fucking trouble for an ungrateful little princess who thinks he's above the people bothering to waste their breath on him. Who wants that when there are plenty of other subs out there who would be flattered and enjoy the attention like a fucking normal person!"

Harry snarled. Not the relatively tame growl of an unhappy submissive, but a full throated demonic snarl that made his own hair stand on end. How dare this asshole stand there and tell him that he was in the wrong for not behaving like a touch starved puppy when a dominant acknowledged his existence! It didn't help that this was the second time today that he had been told he should shut up and be flattered by blatant harassment.

The two werewolves were rigid with tension and Harry could feel the growls rumbling through them. He'd bet his Cloak that if he could see their eyes they would be a bright, burning gold. Neither moved, waiting to see how Harry would respond.

"Normal?" the submissive repeated, voice harsh with the snarl he couldn't repress -not that he was trying very hard. He had had a lifetime of being called abnormal and a freak by the Dursleys, and if the wizarding world ever found out what he was they would turn on him faster than a goblin scenting gold. Even among other demons he was unusual, being a Realm-sired male submissive. It was bad enough that people thought him abnormal simply for being what he was; he'd be damned if he put up with it over his beliefs too.

"So is it normal to force yourself onto someone who was clearly happy by themselves? Is it normal to follow them when they are clearly trying to get away from you? Is it normal to fucking pet a complete stranger who has barely spoken to you, other than to tell you they aren't interested? If it is normal to find that flattering and attractive in a potential mate then I am pretty fucking glad that I'm not normal," he snarled, infuriated.

"Oh don't make it sound like I was some stalker in the bushes waiting to ambush the poor, innocent submissive," the dominant snarled back. "If you were that worried about dominants 'forcing' themselves on you, you wouldn't have left your bodyguards behind."

Harry gaped at him. For a second he seriously considered hexing the bastard again. Not that he thought it would make any difference to the idiot's attitude, but it would make Harry feel better.

"Now I'm really glad I hexed you. I hope you enjoy the after effects, you stuck up bastard!"

The dominant smirked. "We'll see how long I'm enjoying the effects after I report you to the Council for assault."

Harry scowled, then slowly smirked. "Have fun with that. I'm already here to discuss one fight with a dominant. It'll make Councilwoman Ava's day to have another reason to poke at my conduct. At this rate I'll end up with a reputation."

The dominant frowned, thrown by Harry's blasé attitude. He quickly regained his smirk when he decided the submissive was bluffing.

"See if you look so smug when you're called up in front of the Council," he sneered, shoving past the werewolves and stalking off down the corridor.

The werewolves watched him go with muted growls. When he disappeared around a corner that Harry could have sworn hadn't been there earlier, Timothy turned to look at the teen.

"The pack can step in if you want us to. You were already a member of the pack at the time he was harassing you. We have more right to get involved in this case than with the other," he offered with a concerned frown.

Harry shook his head. "You don't need to."

"Are you sure?" Thomas asked. "Assault will be treated more seriously than some verbal sparring with a dominant who was behaving inappropriately."

The submissive grinned. "I doubt it. I did hex him but if he insists on pushing it then he's going to end up with at least two counts of harassment, and that's if the Council vote in his favour."

"And what happens to you if they vote in his favour?" Thomas asked with narrowed eyes.

"No idea. Presumably some sort of 'bad Harry, don't do that' smack on the wrist. It wouldn't sit well with people if a submissive received a full punishment for defending themselves," he shrugged. "Not that people would think it was ok for it to happen to a dominant, either, but you've seen how weird dominants get about submissives being at risk."

"How sure of that are you?"

"Er, ninety percent? The pamphlet they sent only outlined absolute laws and gave a few conduct tips. A lot of it was about harassment and role neglect laws. Assault is, weirdly, less cut and dried than harassment laws are," Harry explained.

"They sent you a pamphlet?" Timothy said with raised eyebrows.

"Yes. I think it's to stop people trying to say they didn't know it was against the law if they do something. It seemed geared towards Realm-sireds. Although, most of the laws are based on the natural instincts we inherit from the Realm-borns, so really you would think Realm-sireds would be the least likely to break the most important ones, even if they didn't know about the laws," Harry mused.

"But a pamphlet, really?"

"Really really. They should have some here if you don't believe me. How else would I know anything about Demon Law?"

"I...never really thought about it?" the werewolf admitted. "Sending out information leaflets sounds risky though. What if a wizard gets hold of one?"

Harry shrugged. "Dunno. They only send them out when they've confirmed you're really a demon, and you have to bleed on it to activate it. I presume it will only work for demons, but I don't know if it has any other protections on it."

The conversation was interrupted by the doors opening again. Once again it was a familiar demon, but this time it was a friendly face.

"Damian! They dragged you in, too?" Harry greeted the young dominant with smile. It was still weird knowing someone was a centenarian but being unable to not think of them as young.

"Harry! What are you doing standing out here?" Damian asked.

"Discussing the pros and cons of sending out demon information pamphlets," Harry grinned. "My packmates aren't too approving."

Damian gave the two werewolves a wary look, as though he half expected them to go on a rampage over the issue. Harry doubted Thomas' default glare was helping matters.

"It's been done for centuries, certainly since before I was born. There hasn't been a big incident to date, that I know of," he offered hesitantly. "The only problem I've heard of is people not hiding or destroying them properly and being outed as demons themselves, but nobody has ever traced the information back to the Council or any other demon."

"I wasn't trying to criticise," Timothy defended. He ignored Harry's disbelieving snort. "It surprised me. I don't think the Alpha Pack would ever even consider something like that."

"It wouldn't really work for werewolves, though," Thomas mused. "Born were's are already part of a pack and teaching them is their Alpha's responsibility. Bittens are harder to keep tabs on but most of us get picked up by the local pack pretty quickly. The ones who really need information would be the Loners and, well," he grimaced, "that's a whole other cauldron of doxies, isn't it?"

"I suppose," Timothy said thoughtfully. "More people know what a werewolf is, too. Ministry propaganda might makes us out to be rabid beasts of the night but at least new werewolves don't suddenly turn furry and get left wondering what the hell is wrong with them."

"Neither do demons," Damian said defensively. "We have at least two demon parents, why would we be unaware of our heritage?"

"I meant for people in Harry's position. Those who don't have someone around to explain things to them. It's a lot harder to find any information at all on demons than it is for werewolves," Timothy said in a mild tone that somehow managed to come across as slightly threatening. It reminded Harry of the way Professor McGonagall could say thank you in a way that meant one more misstep would cost a hundred points and land him in detention until he was forty.

"Oh," Damian said, looking sheepish. "I didn't think of that. Realm-sireds are rare enough that I sort of forget they exist sometimes." His eyes shot wide and he turned to Harry. "No offence, Harry!"

"None taken. For the record, I wasn't left wondering what was happening to me. It's not like I woke up one morning and, bam, I'm a demon," the submissive said dryly. "I spent most of my time before Hogwarts wondering how I would find more people like me. People with magic, especially demons. Meeting other demons always felt like it would be important."

"What were you planning to do?" Damian asked curiously. The idea of not knowing a single other demon, or even a magic user, was difficult to wrap his head around.

Harry shrugged. "Dunno. Running around town hoping to bump into someone who could explain why some people didn't feel human and others felt like static electricity was as close as I got to having a plan. I didn't even know if there were any other demons in Britain."

"Thank Merlin for Hogwarts, then," Timothy said with a strained grin. It was hard to crack jokes when he was picturing his littlest packmate surrounded by faceless, cruel muggles, knowing he was different and didn't quite fit but being helpless to change anything.

Harry laughed. "Who would have thought that the world's most aggressively persistent post and a guy breaking into your house would be a good thing?"

"Someone broke into your house?" Damian asked with raised eyebrows.

"To be fair to Hagrid, he just knocked on the door. If we hadn't been in such a rickety old shack he probably wouldn't have knocked it off its hinges," Harry said, defending his friend. He didn't want anyone giving the half-giant a hard time over the circumstances surrounding Harry's introduction to the wizarding world. Hagrid's only fault in it all was not knowing his own strength and being beholden to Dumbledore.

"What are you all doing standing out here?"

The four of them jumped as an amused voice spoke.

"Discussing the life benefits of breaking and entering," Timothy quipped when he saw who had interrupted them.

"Am I going to have to dredge up the funds for legal representation?" the dominant asked dryly.

Harry narrowed his eyes at the sight of Shax Calvey. The dominant was dressed in a similar suit to the one Harry had seen him in on the night of his adoption into the pack, but the submissive's thoughts were far from appreciative this time. (Maybe a tiny bit appreciative - the cut of the suit was very flattering and Harry was a teenage boy. One corner of his brain was dedicated to being appreciative of hot dominants, even when he was annoyed at them).

"What are you doing here?" he scowled. He knew Shax was the pack sponsor, a position that demanded respect from the pack members, but right now he didn't care. They were demons on demon territory; Harry was going to deal with this as a purely demon matter, and if Domovoi didn't like it the Alpha could bite him.

Shax was taken aback by the less than friendly greeting. Admittedly he had only had one short encounter with the submissive, but Harry had seemed fine - eager, even - to talk to him then.

"The same reason you are here, I imagine," the dominant said with raised eyebrows. "Tauton's trial."

"I'd worked that much out for myself, thanks," Harry glowered. "I meant what are you doing here, specifically? I thought avoiding contact and spying were more your speed?"

The two werewolves winced. They had been expecting a confrontation of some sort, but not one so public.

Shax looked at the submissive cautiously. While he had been warned that Harry would not respond well to his long distance approach, he hadn't expected the young demon to be this angry. It was not how he had imagined his first protracted interaction with submissive to go. It didn't help that a young dominant - barely older than Harry himself in terms of maturity - was watching with interest.

"You are angry at me," he observed mildly.

"You think?" Harry growled.

"I'm not sure what I've done to invite this level of hostility but perhaps we should find somewhere more private for this conversation?" Shax suggested.

"You could just apologise," Damian commented. He hunched his shoulders defensively under Shax's scornful glare.

"Apologising without knowing exactly what it is I have done to offend is insulting to both our intelligences. I will apologise once I know it is something I am truly sorry for," the older demon drawled.

"Right, fine. Private discussion. Where should we go?" Harry huffed. Three confrontations with demons in one day, just what he'd been hoping for when he set out.

"I should go. The Council will want to see me soon anyway," Damian said hesitantly. "See you later, Harry. Timothy, Thomas. And, uh, Mr Calvey," the younger dominant added with an awkward nod, before making his escape down the corridor.

"If you add him to your list it's going to be like chasing Bambi on ice, when the pack get to him," Thomas said, watching the retreating dominant.

Timothy snorted but the two remaining demons weren't even listening. With a sigh Shax gestured for the group to follow him. Leading them back downstairs, the dominant came to a stop outside one of the many unmarked doors that lined the corridor.

"Thomas, Timothy, if you don't mind I'd ask you to wait out here. If the Council send for me let me know, otherwise I would prefer to be undisturbed," Shax instructed, placing a hand on the door handle. When the werewolves nodded in understanding, he twisted the handle and held the door open for open for Harry.

"After you."

Grumbling, Harry brushed past the dominant, doing his best to avoid body contact. He found himself in a small room with two sofas and coffee table in front of a lit hearth. It took him a moment to work out what was odd about the room; it was the only room he'd seen since entering the building that wasn't decorated in black and red.

He was pulled from his contemplation of the neutral colour scheme by Shax stepping into the room behind him. The door shut with a soft click, and privacy wards snapped into place.