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The Servants Song

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Harry put on his Invisibility Cloak, with its silver gray shimmer and the strange touch of woven water against his skin. He went out of the portrait, and found his way to the Headmaster's office. It troubled him, the Gaunt house that Voldemort's mother had grown up in, and 'Slytherin's ring' which Albus Dumbledore wore on his ruined hand.

At the Headmaster's office entrance, he spoke the password that let him within.

"Hello, Harry." Dumbledore spoke in greeting even as Harry was no where to be seen, Harry let the Invisibility Cloak fall open. He wasn't the surprised, only tired. For a moment Harry felt guilty for possibly making the Headmaster miss much needed sleep.

"Sir…" Harry greeted, eyes sliding about the room he had ruined before his fifth years end. Here were brightly painted eggs, there a silver Time-Turner with black and white sand, and the Sorting Hat snoozing on the three legged stool Harry had sat in to be sorted into Gryffindor. He avoided this way what his eyes most sought – Dumbledore's burnt looking hand, the ring with its black stone.

"Sir," Harry began again, closing his eyes for courage, "why are you wearing Slytherin's ring, the ring of Marvolo Gaunt – Voldemort's grandfather?" Harry did not bother to hide his confusion, his accusation. He wanted to know everything after having felt as if he was living his life bumbling about in the dark, the light – that should have been the prophesy, should have been Sirius Black to adopt him in third year.

Dumbledore gave a great shuddering sigh, and sat slumping, and it occurred to Harry how old Dumbledore truly was behind his twinkling blue eyes and snow white hair.

"I am an old man, Harry; I have as many regrets as anyone and some are much greater then the usual wizard realizes. You and I are not ordinary wizards, as I think you've come to realize. Once, you asked me what I saw in the Mirror of Erised: I see in it just the same as you do, a life of family and friends that I had and lost. This ring….Harry, it is not what you think it is…" Upon his finger, Dumbledore turned the ring, thoughtfully.

Harry was still and quiets, half fearing that if he moved – Dumbledore would send him away again.

"I gave you the Invisibility Cloak for it belonged to you, your birthright as your father's son, as it was passed to each generation – but the origin of this ring, and the origin of your Invisibility Cloak – even the origin of the Elder Wand I hold – they were brought about by brothers, the brothers Peverell – the Elder Wand for Antioch, the Resurrection Stone for Cadmus – and your great ancestor, Ignotus held the Invisibility Cloak." Dumbledore then set the Elder Wand on the desk for Harry to see, and the same for the ring which Harry could not turn his eyes from.

"Resurrection Stone?" Harry's voice was but a whisper.

"A cruel thing, it lets you only see the ghosts of those loved ones you have lost." Dumbledore sighs and looks out the window. Harry strides quickly to where it sits, and takes up the ring. The room fills with ghosts only he can see – Lily, his mom, his dad with his arm wrapped around her – Sirius with a smile, and Harry can't help but stumble back, tears filling his eyes. Dumbledore turns to face him, his good hand around the Elder Wand: "Accio!"

Maybe he means to help, maybe he means to take back the ring - but Harry is startled and thinks it's an attack, so he retaliates without thinking: "Expelliarmus!"

The Elder Wand flies from Dumbledore's hand, rolling to Harry's feet.

"Sir, I'm sorry. Here." Harry begins, standing up with the Elder Wand in his hand in offering, the Ring he likewise holds, trying not to look at the ghosts, his family, looking as baffled and confused as Dumbledore himself does. He does not take up his wand; instead he only shakes his head.

"It is yours now, fairly won." Dumbledore seems somehow relieved, it his Harry's turn to be confused. Dumbledore flicks his hand toward the fireplace, and it burns bright and hot. While he does this, he is looking at Harry, and so the sixteen year old knows something is horribly wrong when Dumbledore looks at him in the firelight and his eyes are wide and his face pale.

"Harry, oh Harry – you've broken it I fear." Harry turns to look over his shoulder which shimmers under the Invisibility Cloak, the silver Time-Turner is smashed, and not all the shimmering on his shoulders is his Cloak's doing. The sands of black and white are spattered over his skin and clothes. Harry tries to swipe it away, and when he looks to his hand, it is transparent.

"Sir!" Harry tries harder to get the sands off his clothes and skin, but it's no use. He's not solid, not even to himself.

"What's happening?" Harry demands in a shout.

Dumbledore is not there anymore, Harry stands still but all the rest of the world is turning and twisting around him, and he's watching the world go backward. He stands still, but the world itself is moving. It's a blur, and Harry can do nothing but close his eyes and hang onto the only solid things upon him – the Elder Wand in his hand, the Resurrection Stone set in its ring, the Cloak about his shoulders. He wonders what he looks like to those who might catch a glimpse of him for a moment, perhaps a ghost.

Then it jolts to a stop and Harry is sick, shaking, bowed over in a garden.

"Nǐ zài zuò shénme zài huāyuán lǐ?" *

Harry shakes his head and looks up, and there is a man standing there, frowning at him. He's standing on the path, and Harry is kneeling on the dirt, getting sick on the grass and flowers. He's Chinese, Harry thinks with a stray thought for his once-girlfriend Cho. Seeing his face, his features, the man's lips twist in a sneer.

"Who are you?" Is the demand, thankfully in English, and Harry staggers to his feet as if drunk.

"Harry Potter." He answers, holding his heaving stomach as he puts his feet on the stone path – where they were probably supposed to be. He offers his hand, but it isn't taken, but looked down at disdainfully.

"Go away. Go back to where you come from, foreigner." The man in his fine rich clothes walks on, in a clearly cold rebuff of any desired meeting. For a moment, Harry has no idea what to do. He stands still and feels stupid.

"I would be glad to go – only tell me, where am I?" Harry sees that the back turned to him stands still as stone, and the man glances over his shoulder at him with a suspicion stirring in his dark eyes. His black hair falls like a striking waterfall against the fine clothes he wares as if a second skin. This man is wealthy, Harry realizes – and powerful here, if the force of his personality behind his eyes is to be guessed.

"I suppose you do not know who I am, either?" Snide, yes, but he's lost the condescending tone he'd first taken. Harry feels grateful for that much.

"No." Harry says it simply, for in this it is the truth.

"I am Yongxing, come - let us see if you are sincere." There is no where else for Harry to go, so he follows. They come to a pavilion in the midst of the garden, with silk walls and Yongxing does not as much as pause before pushing past such fine cloth. Harry follows, eyeing the walls and the height of the pavilion and something uneasy stirs within him, for what could be hiding within? He goes on, and inside is dim, shadows are all that are moving against the dark. There is, Harry thinks, nothing in here at first to see.

"Lady Lung Tien Lien." Yongxing speaks softly, as if waking a child - she rises up from the floor, stirring, startling to see with her white hide and glinting red eyes. She is a dragon. Harry does not move, does not dare. He knows this for some kind of trick, or trap, and there is only a silk curtain to keep her in here. It is no protection at all.

"Crown Prince Yongxing – I am pleased that you have come to visit me. Why do you speak English?" The white dragon, she speaks. Harry has never heard of such a thing, and finds himself staring. His fear is fled from him.

"This is Hālì Bōtè, he comes to greet you at my invitation." Yongxing throws him a look, partly puzzled. Harry steps forward, Lung Tien Lien raises up to look upon him, white wings unfolding to keep her balance. She looks awkward at this balance, but manages to meet his green eyes evenly with his green. It isn't his name, this Hālì Bōtè – but it isn't done to correct a Crown Prince in his own country. At least not when Harry thinks he may end up trapped here and does not want Yongxing for an enemy.

"Prince, he is but a foreigner. Why do you abide him to be here?" Harry has never seen a dragon sneer, but Lung Tien Lien manages it very well, by the curl of her lip and the gleam of her sharp teeth.

"He says he does not know me, does not know where he is. Tell me the truth by his tone, in judging a voice – no Celestial can fail." Yongxing tucks his folded arms into his sleeves and watches as teenager and dragon eye each other.

"Your mother's name, your father's name...?" Lung Tien Lien prompts, with a flick of her tail.

"Lily Evans before she married my father: James Potter was his name." Lung Tien Lien nods, her nostrils flaring. Harry wonders if there is a scent one gives off when lying, or if it's in the pounding of his heart, or by his temperature. There is something she can tell with her keener senses. He does not know what it is, so can not avoid it.

"Was, you mean they are gone - dead?" Yongxing asks, catching the past-tense.

"Yes." Harry answers, short and abrupt: Lung Tien Lien's red eyes glint up at him – in them is a daring challenge, and it burns in him to meet it.

"Do you know where you are?" Harry shakes his head, and Lung Tien Lien hisses warningly. He answers aloud, shortly.

"No." Yongxing inhales and Lung Tien Lien meets his eyes in affirming what Harry says as truth.

"Do you know whose garden you are in?" Lung Tien Lien asks, and this question Harry thinks he may answer for what little he has figured out.

"His." Harry jerks his head toward Crown Prince Yongxing. Said Prince snorts in a most un-royal manner, but says nothing allowing the white dragon to go on questioning him.

"How did not come to be here?" For the first time he hesitates wondering if Lung Tien Lien – dragon or not – truly has some power in finding what he says is truth or lie. He does not understand how he came to be here – and that's the truth that he clings to.

"Time-Turner." Lung Tien Lien tilts her head, considering.

"You did not lie in thinking the garden is Yongxing's though it is mine in truth, so you were only wrong and that is no lie. You tell the truth again, in the manner of your travel – though I do not know what a Time-Turner may be, can you show me?" Harry closes his eyes, knowing he would not show her even if he knew the making of Time-Turners.

"No." Is all he says, and it is no lie.

"Then truly, you do not know where you are, where your home is. You have nothing here." Harry clenches his fists, and nods. Yongxing looks him over, and smiles at what he sees.

"By grace of the fact that you have done no harm to me and mine by opium, I would have you work for the Lady Lung Tien Lien and I for your keep – do not be fooled by us, we are but a handful among many who know anything of the West, your English, and your strangeness saves you – for we are strange too, stranger." Crown Prince Yongxing declares, and what choice does Harry have, really, but to work for this man? He has nothing but the Elder Wand – with which he may cast a spell to know north, but what help is that when he does not know where he is to start with? And the Invisibility Cloak he can use to escape – but to where, again - would he go?

The Resurrection Stone is all but useless to him, expect as a curiosity to sell, but any money made would not last long at all.

"Do you agree?" It is the white and red eyed Lung Tien Lien that asks. Harry answers as he must, and that is no lie.

"I do." He bows his head, helpless.

0o0o0

Prince Yongxing had gone away to bring back one of the Celestials, sent away as an egg, his name given before his hatching as Lung Tien Xiang. Harry was there to meet them at the port. An English ship with an English crew, speaking English. Harry stood quite still at the sight. He did not move, in fact, until Prince Yongxing put a hand on his shoulder, a frown upon his features.

"Harry, are you quite well?" His eyes scanned the faces of Prince Yongxing's fellow travelers.

"Where is Feng Li?" His eyes met Prince Yongxing's accusing and dark. Prince Yongxing had asked of him protection, and Harry had let Feng Li go overseas when it became clear that Harry himself would not be going. Harry did not know the reasons why, perhaps Yongxing feared to let him set eyes on an England Harry had known as home, although far into the future. He knew where he was now, and when. He had had to learn, to learn Chinese and make himself skilled and useful so to survive.

"He went overbroad after failing to kill the unworthy companion of Lung Tien Xiang." It was hissed into his ear, and Harry had thought that to be Feng Li's fate, so closed his eyes. His students were killed to kill, taught by the Master of Death himself. They were honored for that, and long lived – survivors just like Harry, orphans – Harry had never had to search for his students, when word got out that there was a man who could sometimes not be seen, who spoke with spirits of the dead, and whom could will anything to be or not to be – a wizard, a Master of Death; they had come to him. It was either teach them or fight them – and Harry could not afford so many enemies lucking about and waiting for him to fail, to make a mistake.

So he had thirty very good men, vying for his title, for his magical items: on the assumption that they would outlive him.

"What does Lung Tien Xiang think of his own companion?" Harry asks, as no other would dare. Servants are unloading the prince's things from the ship, loading them onto the carriages that Harry has brought here.

"Thinks the world, the stars, the very sea are all within his Captain's grasp, a great man, a worthy one to Temeraire." The foreign word for a sea's ship commander his hissed between them. This man, this Captain, Prince Yongxing very much dislikes.

"Temeraire, a French Captain?" Harry asked with a frown, for the word meant much – meant bold in rash and recklessness. Harry has never thought a Celestial would act in such a way and wonders if the new naming is true to Lung Tien Xiang's nature.

"A ship's name…." Prince Yongxing practically spits. Harry tries very hard not to smile or smirk. A sea Captain this man surely is.

"Lung Tien Lien has missed you." There is a longing in Yongxing's eyes that tells Harry the feeling is mutual. Harry waves the prince toward his servants and awaiting carriage. With good speed they will reach the palace before dusk for dinner.

"I have missed the both of you; it is good to be home." Yongxing admits softly, for his ears along to hear, before striding with all the arrogance born in his blood.

"Wait, wait – what are you doing with that? Why aren't you helping us load up this stuff?" The last question was addressed to Harry, making him take notice of the young man of twenty who looked sallow to the point of sickly, with sharp features and dark hair.

"I did not come here on this ship, sir. I am the servant of Jiaqing Emperor's royal family." Liu Bao, a relation of said Emperor's mother, comes forward chuckling kindly in amusement.

"This one we keep for his tongue and skills." Liu Bao winks, ruddy cheeked and hinting to sensuality and sexuality, feeling deviant, Harry playfully licks his lips at the older man, leering playfully. Liu Bao laughs out loud then, at the looks on English faces. They range from disgust, disbelief, and wide eyed blankness.

"Ah, ah, I jest! Hālì Bōtè is very good man, servant who makes us laugh, well paid bodyguard, fine magic's." Liu Bao bobs his head hurriedly, in an earnest admiring way, and addresses the harried youth who'd asked Harry to unload a ship when it was not his duty to do it.

"This is Arthur Hammond, be good to him, this one we may keep." Liu Bao looks better for having his laugh, heaving himself up in a carriage that sets off after Prince Yongxing's leaving Harry to sigh and fend for himself among men of his own England, a man out of time.

"A pleasure, Arthur Hammond – they call me Hālì Bōtè, but my name is Harry Potter. Let me see Lung Tien Xiang's Captain, and we will have this all go as smoothly as can be expected today." Arthur Hammond takes a frantic glance for all the things being packed off and on and away, shrugs and leads him back upon the ship. He flinches at the way that Harry calls the Celestial dragon by his Chinese name.

"Sir, are you really a servant – or, or a slave here?" Arthur Hammond asks more softly, in undertone. Harry knows what he looks like, a rich man – maybe a merchant – in silks and sashes.

"I assure you, I can come and go as I please, to Egypt or India, just as any English man might care to do. My services are only as a servant, and are not all men servants to someone in someway?" Harry smiles at the relief he sees in the younger man of no more then twenty years.

"Why not back to England? – it's clear it means something to you, from the way you stared…" Arthur stutters to a stop, at the look of forbidding that crosses Harry's features.

"I can never go back to the England that I knew, sir – and thank you not to say something of that kind in my hearing – or that of my employers - again. I have found a home here. I have a place here in China, and whatever skills that Liu Bao praises you for, he has known me longer. I know why England has sent the likes of you to China, and it is not for Lung Tien Xiang's sake that you've arrived, but for benefiting your own name and your English trade. There have been others – and if you dare insult me, there will be more after you." Harry keeps a smile on his face, despite the ferocity of his words. Arthur nods, and keeps nodding until a dragon's head peers over to glance toward the shore.

"That's Temeraire…Captain William Laurence can't be too far away." The dragon glances toward Harry, quickly, then away – as if caught spying and suddenly feeling shy.

"A pleasure, Temeraire – I will be your guide until we reach where we are going." Harry bows to the Celestial, who lowers his own head respectfully in return. A man steps forward and Harry knows him at once for the Captain. His presence is powerful, in a uniform that Harry can tell is hastily put on, his hair is braided back and blond, his eyes a keen and piercing blue. The blue of sky and sea, and this suits his background and future very well.

"And where are we going?" He asks, rudely, but understandably so in the demand.

"The Forbidden City." Harry answers, equally confident of his own way with a smile. He steps forward, boldly as the brass that shines on Laurence's jacket, and straightens his collar quiet casually. Captain William Laurence quickly indrawn breath is in surprise, but Harry only looks up at him through his lashes, still smiling silently.

Harry thinks he will like this Captain, this Celestial, for he feels calm and at home with them, here on a ship, his forefinger against the soft skin of the Captain's neck.

0o0o0

"You are courting Lao-ren-tze." There is accusation in Lung Tien Lien's gleaming red eyes. It does not surprise Harry that her eyes are keen enough to see, or that her tongue is sharp enough to say it first. Harry feels that he is being obvious, but can not help himself. Harry has to look up at her now, but that has not been all that has changed.

Yongxing had chosen her for his Celestial companion, and such ties were strong. As strong, she would doubtlessly claim, as that of Master and Servant. For her sake, for that tie of a Celestial companion he is no Crown Prince now, but only a Prince who will never be Emperor. To have been groomed for that throne, and then denied it, was in life's lot a cruel jest. It his right of blood to consent to be Lung Tien Lien's companion, or else she would have chosen Harry – who was…unsuitable, as unsuitable as Captain William Laurence for Lung Tien Xiang.

"Lady, what business of yours is it whom I take to my bed?" Boldly he asks this of her, knowing she can tell by his sharp tone that he honestly does not care what she thinks. Perhaps she will be offended by his crude wording and leave it be. Her wings fan wide above them, like the heaven's clouds. She is lovely, but for a twist of fate in her birth, she is white as the mourning colors and called cursed. It has hurt her, and there are times that she would only stop in her studies if Harry or Yongxing had not interrupted her, for food, for drink, for company, so lonely she often was.

It was not right, it was not just, but Harry could do nothing.

"He is a savage! A British man of sea war, who made poor Lung Tien Xiang into but a common fighting dragon of the air! He is not worthy of you and most certainly not of Lung Tien Xiang." Lung Tien Lien lowers her head so they are face to face. Harry continues to set out her food, all her favorite dishes. She will notice, and think this a gesture for peace between them, it will settle her. It is not that what Harry means in his gestures, it is an apology, a most final goodbye.

"His name is Temeraire." Green eyes meet red, and there is silence between them. Harry stands and walks away, as if it could be so simple.

0o0o0

"I did not mean for him to die, you must know this if nothing else." William Laurence has his hand upon Harry's shoulder, and his head bowed. Yongxing had died here, and Lung Tien Lien had fled from here with her companion and champion's lifeless body. The life he had been given, that he had built for himself in a strange land, it was gone and he could not find his place within it, he did not fit here – if ever he had.

"It was not Yongxing who sent the assassins for you, do you believe that Lao-ren-tze?" This man was the adopted son of the Emperor who was Yongxing's brother. Serving them, these sons of Emperors, and their dragons – it seemed Harry had forgotten who he was, or was becoming someone else.

"If not him, then who?…Temeraire was so sure." Harry takes a breath, and though he looks on the ground and its rubble, he sees gleaming red eyes accusing him of murder.

"You have made an enemy in Lung Tien Lien, and not known it - Yongxing went away to fetch you, and she knew – I would have gone away with you." William inhales in surprise, sharp and quick. He had suspected Harry would come away with him, to England and his homeland – but he had not dared ask.

"Now?" Harry might have changed his mind. Sharp green eyes glance to William.

"Now there is no choice in it, you do not know Lung Tien Lien as I do, she will see you dead – to hurt Temeraire, and all of Europe against you and yours, to spite your memory in history. What is there to keep me here now?" Harry turns toward William, he is warm and solid.

"You would be safer to stay here." William Laurence holds him tightly, giving away the lie to his words, that he would rather Harry be away from him.

"I am Sǐwáng Xué Shuòshì, the Master of Death – and those assassins sent to kill you, they were mine – I trained them, I made worthy of the work they did for the greater good, and they should have only answered to me. Lung Tien Lien knew that, and used that trust between the three of us, so well known to my assassins – to give orders in my name. You know something of honor, William Laurence – do you think I could live with myself, knowing that in my name you would be dead – that for my love and life here, Yongxing is no more?" William Laurence tenses, for he had not known Harry to be Sǐwáng Xué Shuòshì – but Harry hugs him tightly and lets him go – walking toward his rooms.

William Laurence watches him go, with a look around at the ruin – this disaster – and can do nothing but follow Harry. He wonders if he is really taking Harry away at all, or if Harry is taking him.

0o0o0

When Liu Bao comes to talk to Harry in the middle of the night, he is not sleeping – but awake and waiting.

"Hālì Bōtè, you are leaving." It is not a question, for Liu Bao knows and is only saying what – by now – even the Jiaqing Emperor knows. Harry nods acknowledgement of the fact, and when Liu Bao makes a gesture for Harry to follow him – he does so.

The Jiaqing Emperor and the Crown Prince Mianning are waiting for Harry. He had expected no less then this. They meet as equals here.

"You have been loyal to our family, Sǐwáng Xué Shuòshì. Though my brother's name must be marred, it is best that the English – and the French - do not think that we are an Empire controlled by our Celestial dragons, Yongxing would understand this." Harry clenches his fists, so the Chinese people must think their Prince – Harry's friend – a traitor against his own brother, for the sake of Temeraire – and William Laurence.

"So it must be." Harry agrees, softly and full of regret.

"You do not think Lung Tien Xiang would be happy, with Prince Miankai?" At the Jiaqing Emperor's words, Harry only shakes his head, a gesture in the negative. Lung Tien Lien had thought the ten year old boy so worthy, but he knew both William Laurence and Temeraire, and knew this was not to be.

"And nor do I, Jiaqing Emperor. He has chosen a companion worthy of the name." Liu Bao agrees with a sigh.

"Very well for the foreigners to think Yongxing a traitor to me, a curse brought about upon him by a Celestial of white mourning; let my people think – but a companion of a Celestial not being of my family? They will revolt." Jiaqing Emperor continues, and Crown Prince Mianning frowns with worry – for it will be his Empire to inherit, one that may be split between two Emperors for the sake of Celestial twins. It would also distress the twin Celestial's mother, Lung Tien Qian – whose health and respect Jiaqing Emperor held to his heart.

"William Laurence, Emperor, is a man whose family is a distant descendent of English royalty, for his father is Lord Allendale - he sits in the House of Lords, for his seat at Wollaton Hall in Nottinghamshire." Jiaqing Emperor nods thoughtfully, and Crown PrinceMianning is smiling.

"Then he is worthy of adoption." Liu Bao declares, with a wave of his hand.

"An adopted fourth son would be worthy as royalty to have a Celestial companion, but could never be Emperor." Crown PrinceMianning agrees, for his favor, having for his companion Temeraire's twin Lung Tien Chuan.

Harry bows his head in agreement, pleased. He bows his way out of the lives of the royal Chinese family he has served with all his skills, for to stay he had had to be skilled, and in that skill was his success and survival. He leaves them now, but is not pleased by it – as they are not glad to see him go.

0o0o0

"You speak Durzagh, the dragon language." This does Tenzing Tharkay accuses him of, around the fireside, within eyesight and earshot of the twenty feral dragons. Harry had spoken with them in a hissing tongue that they were so besotted by, they followed and hunted for Harry – and thus for all his 'guests', as they called those he traveled with. William Laurence does not trust their guide Tharkay, and stiffens at the tone of accusation against Harry – whom he nightly shares a bedroll in the same tent.

"I do not." Harry answers calmly, and Temeraire turns his head toward them. His eyes shine with curiosity.

"They understand you – explain it." Tharkay demands with a wave of his hand toward them- those twenty feral, and Harry only smiles at the mystery of it, the puzzle none had been able to solve. Never before had Harry felt so inclined to answer. Gong Su, who has traveled from China to cook for Temeraire, looks up ant him and meets his eyes knowingly.

In China, it is known that the Sǐwáng Xué Shuòshì speaks Shétou de shé, to make even the dragons obey him – and the lore is that, like men, the Sǐwáng Xué Shuòshì has his dragon assassins. The people do not fear, for the Sǐwáng Xué Shuòshì is loyal to the royal family and its friends. Gong Su knows, and knows too that William Laurence is the adopted fourth son of the Emperor - who does not yet have sons of his own. It would not be strange to send the Sǐwáng Xué Shuòshì with an adopted son of the Emperor to be sure that sons were born to him in foreign lands, where the ways were strange and there were dangers. If Sǐwáng Xué Shuòshì guards the bed and sleeping tent of the Emperor's adopted sonless fourth son, it is none of Gong Su's concern – he is a simple cook, and will serve and help the man who has hired him the best he can.

"I speak Shétou de shé, the tongues of serpents." Harry shrugs at this, with a tight smile. Tharkay, aware of the look between Harry and Gong Su, does not press him. The proof of what he says is simple is in the truth that the dragons understand him, and think so highly of a clever tongued man who can make himself understood – when before all men had done was yell at them and shoo them away from a dinner they didn't have to hunt.

"Does it work, this Shétou de shé of yours with sea serpents?" Temeraire asks me, quiet and thoughtful; William Laurence shares a sad and knowing look with his young Celestial. Harry sighs and stretches, knowing his are not the only mysteries at this fireside. He does not share the suspicion his lover has within his heart for Tharkay, for that man seems one like Severus – loyal till the final dark of death, if as suspicious and curious as the day is long.

"I do not know, come to bed?" Harry looks to William Laurence with half-lidded eyes, and a smile. He likes how nice and red his Captain's blush is, even at sunset.

0o0o0

There is a kiss good-bye in France that Harry will never forget, for it happened in Paris, so-called the city of love, and broke his heart. William held his jaw just so with gentle palms, tilted to plunder and claim his mouth as if for the last time, fingers tangling in his hair, tongues dueling and teeth biting just enough to sting with blood that this was real, and happening, and hurt.

The sickness here is no threat to the French forces as the British would wish, against those wishes they three had went – he, William, and Temeraire too. It had chilled Harry, to realize that Temeraire had once had this sickness to, for the Celestials have always before been healthy. No illness had touched them since Grandfather – the first Celestial born of two Imperials, had hatched.

There had been but one thing to do, and all of the English set against them from the start.

"They will kill you, like any pirate – like any traitor. Please, please, do not do this." Harry pleads, not knowing in what language he speaks, if it is Chinese or English. William Laurence presses their foreheads together, eyes open and hurting just as deeply to the heart.

"I must, I am a traitor, and I can not let that taint my name like a coward, go on living with it until I die. I believe I am right, but they will never admit if I die like that. I have to do this, please, understand me." Harry does, but only gives his William frantic kisses on his stubble jaw and smooth neck, tempting.

"Take me with you." Harry asks softly, pressed firmly against William he feels his want, his lust for life and living.

"I would be a traitor too." Harry pleads, only take me with you.

William laughs, brokenly, for he would have sobbed otherwise.

"It is never easy with you, I would have naught to do with myself if I had not done this thing, and neither would you have – yet you let me do this to my life, and ask again I ruin the both of us." Captain William Laurence has known the battles of war upon sea, land, and sky – but the cost of this war being won, he feels raw and betrayed in turn by this side of war – war should not be decided by which country had a cure to a plague, and the victims on both sides of it were dragons who wanted nothing to do with war at all save to please their 'captains'.

"You can not return, Harry." Lung Tien Lien says softly, sadly, but unbending. She is white and gleaming, like pure snow. Temeraire would not go near her, and she would not let Harry out of her sight.

William kisses his brow, and bows his head.

"If I would ask one thing of you Napoleon Bonaparte, would you grant it?" Captain William Laurence, an English fighting man, asks this of a foreign king and emperor.

"Of course, sir, you are our savior." Napoleon Bonaparte looks curiously to him, and head still bowed, William holds Harry as if he'd never let go.

"Keep him safe, do not let him fight – he'd doom us all, ask Lung Tien Lien – please, what they called him in China." William lets go then, but Harry is still, for William has made this choice for them both – Harry had only asked to be taken here – to go with his Captain, but not to be taken back. That is the loop hole that William will use to convince Temeraire to go, not yet does the Celestial suspect that William will be a traitor, will stand trail, and will go to his grave to uphold his ideal of justice and law. Harry does not think he is the only man out of time with his kind; only William was born into it, and bore it with a steel spine.

He was the stronger, and Harry the stranger, William took one backward step, weeping.

"Sǐwáng Xué Shuòshì, the Master of Death stands before you – and Napoleon Bonaparte, if you dare set him loose to war – there will be no warring, only death." Lung Tien Lien brought her head to nudge at Harry's side, for Harry was staring and still and she did not like this – he wrapped her head lovingly in his arms and wept.

Lung Tien Lien crooned to him, sung in English, in Chinese, recalling all her scholarly lore, until the sky was too black for Harry to see any black dragon flying from France.

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Sir,

It is my pleasure to send word to you that William Laurence and Temeraire await you in New South Wales, Australia.

Sincerely my best wishes,

Arthur Hammond

British and Chinese Ministry

Lao-ren-tze's guest

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