Chapter: 14 of 35 - Understanding
Pairings: Asher/Anita/Jean-Claude, Anita/Nathaniel, Harry/Nathaniel/Draco, Harry/Draco, Anita/Micah
Rating: R/15 or NC17/18
Summary: Harry Potter could find trouble in paradise and when Draco sends him to St Louis for a holiday it's not paradise and there's lots of trouble. With dark magic, vampires, lycanthropes and more, who else could sort it out but Anita Blake?
Chapter listing: click here for other parts, publishing schedule and A/N
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling and Laurell K. Hamilton, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books, Orbit books, Time Warner Book group, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Warnings: This story is set post Harry Potter and the OotP and post Incubus Dreams and therefore has SPOILERS for all previous books. If you don’t want to know anything that went on in or before HP book five or AB book twelve do not read this story.
Chapter 14 Understanding
Looking at mug shots and then sitting with a police artist to come up with a face for the man in Harry's vision took hours. Anita might have wanted to find out if the guy was on record, but she was bored by the time Dolph finally let them leave. Nathaniel had been staying close ever since she rejoined the other three, and she knew something had happened, but chose not to voice it until they were in the car.
"So who's going to explain what went on while I was busy with Dolph?" she asked as soon as they pulled out of the parking lot.
Draco was looking out the window and did not react, but Harry and Nathaniel shared a look. The look said so many things.
"Jessica," Nathaniel said eventually, "she stopped me when I was coming back with coffee."
Anita had hoped Arnet's problem with her would have gone away since she had had to have Zerbrowski make it very clear to the woman that bad mouthing Anita with the rest of the squad was not a good idea. However, the problem seemed to still be festering.
"She thinks you're abusing me," that seemed to perplex Nathaniel if the tone of his voice was anything to go by.
Since the previous October, Anita had made very sure to keep Nathaniel well clear of Arnet because of what the officer had said to her when they were investigating a kiss of vampire serial killers. She had not broached the subject with her pomme de sang either since he seemed happy to be kept clear of the woman and Anita had not wanted to burden him with it. It was not Nathaniel's fault Arnet simply didn't understand.
"I'm sorry about that," Anita apologised; she had totally forgotten about it after Harry's attack or she would have insisted Nathaniel stay home. "She saw us when you had me on stage last October. She doesn't understand what she saw."
The wereleopard looked surprised and then as if he understood.
"Now I know what she was talking about," Nathaniel said with a nod. "She never mentioned the club, and I didn't know where she was getting her ideas."
"What did you say?" Anita wasn't sure if this would have made it worse or better, but she needed to know one way or the other.
Either this would have pushed it further and her name would be mud, or Arnet might finally understand.
"There wasn't a lot I could say," Nathaniel told her, his eyes thoughtful when she glanced in his direction. "I was just trying to get back to Harry and Draco until she grabbed my hand."
Anita almost stamped on the brakes; it was a very close thing. She was a possessive creature and the fact that Arnet had laid hands on Nathaniel, all be it in a small way, made her beast sit up and demand vengeance.
"And?" she prompted as her more rational brain talked her instinctive side out of rearranging Arnet's teeth for her.
"Harry rescued me," Nathaniel said calmly, and when she glanced away from the road a second time her pomme de sang gave her a small smile.
A quick look at Harry before she crashed the car told her that the young man was not particularly comfortable with their conversation. Part of her felt like saying thank you and leaving it at that, but she never could leave well enough alone.
"Thank you, Harry," she said, trying her best, "Nathaniel can be too polite for his own good."
"I noticed," was the quiet response from the back seat.
It was too much, she couldn't help herself.
"Exactly what did you do?" she justified it to herself that she needed to know just in case she needed to do damage control.
"I gave her an example she could understand," was Harry's careful reply.
The dark-haired wizard sounded very uncomfortable and Anita was not sure how much Harry understood of the situation and whether it was that he was prickly about or if it was personal.
"And she backed off without making a scene?" she wasn't going to push, but she wanted to make sure that this was not coming back to bite her.
There was silence for a moment.
"Personally," Harry said eventually, "I don't understand half of what she was going on about, but I do know that whatever you two are doing, it isn't hurting Nathaniel and it's your business. I sort of gathered he's quite fond of pain from our talk this afternoon. I have a very bright friend at home who had a long chat with me about abuse once, and so I gave Detective Arnet an analogy she would get that wouldn't involve her blind spot about sex."
When she looked at him there were old eyes looking back at her, eyes like Nathaniel's in the knowledge and pain they held. It was quite obvious that the abuse analogy had been personal.
"Support group for an abused childhood anyone?" Draco's tone was scathing and sarcastic, and when she turned her head Anita could just about see him still looking out the window.
Nathaniel's hand slipped onto her leg and his eyes asked her not to push the issue. She gave him a small nod and then looked back to the road. It really was none of her business what had happened to Harry or Draco in their pasts, but she could not help wondering. The pair became more and more complicated the more she knew about them and she did not like being wrong footed by them.
Parking anywhere near Guilty Pleasures seemed to be more of an art form than a science, and for a while Harry wasn't sure they would ever find a space, but eventually Anita found somewhere to put the Jeep. Then she lead them towards the club that made Harry's palms sweat just by thinking about it. He had never considered going inside a strip club before, especially not a male strip club, and he wasn't exactly sure what he was thinking. When Anita headed around the side of the building he was rather relieved, since the line out front looked enormous and a little rowdy.
"Performers' entrance," Nathaniel said with a smile as Harry looked around the alley. "If we go out front we get mobbed."
No one seemed to be mentioning that Harry was only seventeen, and he was pretty sure that that meant it was illegal for him to go inside the club. With everything that was going on it was quite possible everyone had forgotten.
"Nathaniel," he said quietly, to regain his friend's attention, "am I actually allowed in here? I'm not eighteen until the end of July."
From the expression on the other wereleopard's face it was a fact that had not occurred to him. Harry was beginning to suspect it wouldn't have occurred to anyone else either, and he didn't want to cause any trouble.
"If anyone tries to card you," Nathaniel said after a moment's thought, "just flash your fangs. They'll either assume you're an old vamp turned before the law, or that you're over eighteen because turning a minor is a death sentence."
It sounded like a workable plan, but the fact that it did appear to be illegal for him to enter the club was a little worrying. It was not that he had a problem with breaking the rules, it was that things tended to happen around him and if the police became involved it could be awkward. Nathaniel didn't seem overly bothered, however, so Harry decided to let it drop. When they entered the building the doorman didn't even bat an eyelid, but that was probably because he was a vampire and like recognised like.
The moment he set foot inside his senses exploded. It was like everything hit him at once: his leopard sat up and screamed sex, his vampire sat up and screamed sex, and the semi-naked man wandering down the hallway really didn't help. The Circus was full of life, but it was dead life, or mostly innocent life, but here the very air hummed with sexual arousal and he could hear some of the noise from out front. Harry had not been expecting anything like it and he seemed to be hypersensitive. It had not escaped him that ever since he had fed his vampire for the first time he was much more aware of all things sexual.
Harry was aroused and embarrassed all at the same time and he tried desperately not to blush scarlet when Anita turned and looked at him.
"You okay, Harry?" she asked with a concerned frown.
"Fine," he replied, although he was sure he didn't sound fine even as he willed his body to behave.
His sense of smell was running in overdrive as scents of leather, sweat, male musk, female arousal and just about anything else that would distract him made themselves known.
"You don't look fine," Draco observed with his usual, detached tone.
Harry was well on his way to mortified.
"It's the smell," Nathaniel said as Harry struggled to come up with something sensible to say, "I forgot, I should have thought. It can be overwhelming until you're used to it. With all the ladies out there and the guys back here and the interaction going on, it's a bit like walking into mating season. If you're not prepared it's a little overwhelming for lycanthropes."
The explanation was given so calmly and reasonably that Harry almost didn't want to sink through the floor and vanish, but only almost, especially when Draco smirked at him.
"Having a little trouble with teenage hormones, Harry?" his friend asked suggestively.
"Sod off, Malfoy," was Harry's distinct response.
Anita was trying to look sympathetic, but was only just holding off a smile, and Nathaniel's lilac eyes were twinkling in an alarmingly similar way to how Dumbledore's often did when he was amused, so Harry decided to glare at them all.
"Can we get on with why we're here?" he asked pointedly, giving them his best 'don't mess with me I'm dangerous' stare.
Unfortunately that caused Anita to lose control of her smile, and Nathaniel to openly laugh; Draco just raised an eyebrow.
"Please," Harry gave up trying to maintain his dignity and went with mortified instead.
"It's perfectly natural, Harry," Nathaniel said, taking pity on him, "just think about boring things like watching paint dry, and you'll be fine. I have to go get ready, see you guys later."
And then with a quick kiss on Anita's cheek, the wereleopard was gone. Harry would have taken more notice, but he was desperately searching through his head for the antithesis to what he was currently feeling. He almost sighed in relief when he hit upon a memory of Delores Umbridge, and the recollection of the toad-like woman killed any and all arousing thoughts going through his brain.
"The office is this way," Anita said, turning and heading off down the corridor.
"So what did you think of?" Draco whispered as they began to walk, and Harry frowned at him, not following for a second. "You looked so relieved," his friend said with another smirk, "it must have been an effective thought."
"Umbridge," Harry replied, catching on.
"Eewww," Draco said and made a face, "yep, that would do it."
The Slytherin's face was a picture and Harry couldn't help the snort of laughter that escaped him. At least it gave him something else to concentrate on.
"Hello, Anita," the greeting came from a very large vampire who flashed fangs when he smiled as he walked down the corridor.
Harry was not used to feeling out vampires, but the hit he felt off this one was nothing like how he felt in the presence of people like Jean-Claude and Asher. On first impression he did not think the newcomer was very high on the food chain.
"Hi, Buzz," Anita greeted, returning the smile, although Harry was not sure how she really felt about the aforementioned Buzz, "everything calm this evening?"
"As calm as it ever is, Anita," Buzz replied, "but now that you have arrived I think I'll have the door guards doubled."
"But, Buzz," Anita said with a look of complete innocence on her face, "I don't cause trouble every time I come here."
Raised eyebrows were the response to that one.
"I must be thinking of a different Anita then," Buzz said dryly. "Jean-Claude is waiting for you in the office."
"Thanks, Buzz," Anita replied and then pulled out a piece of paper from her pocket. "But seriously, if you see anyone who looks like this, sit on them."
Harry realised that what she handed to the big vampire was the artist's impression he had spent the best part of two hours helping to compile. Buzz had to be something to do with security and the way the vampire was interacting with Anita, Harry concluded that he was probably at least partially in charge.
"Going to tell me why?" Buzz asked, all banter gone from his voice.
"It's possible he'll try and get to Jean-Claude," Anita said and that coldness had crept into her tone again.
When he heard that tone in Anita's voice Harry was instantly sure that the woman had earned her nickname of the Executioner. Anita had scowled when, earlier in the day, Nathaniel had insisted on explaining exactly what she did for a living, but she had not openly objected. Harry knew all about different faces for different jobs and the Anita he saw most of the time was not the Executioner, but for a moment as she spoke to Buzz, she was.
"No one will get past us," Buzz said and Harry had no doubt that what the vampire said was true.
Anita appeared to believe him as well, because she nodded and then continued down the corridor. Buzz looked over both Draco and Harry as they went past, but the big vampire chose not to comment. Harry did not fail to notice that they were still being watched until Anita ushered them around a corner and through a door.
The fact that Anita walked over to Jean-Claude, allowed him to kiss her hand and then squarely placed herself between him and the door, probably screamed to the whole world that she was being overprotective, but when it came to threats, she had learned to take them seriously.
"Welcome," Jean-Claude greeted the others and Anita felt a little better when Harry closed the door, "I hope all is well."
"Except for someone's out to get you, everything's dandy," Anita said, on edge again thanks to giving Buzz the artist's impression.
She thought she had been doing quite well with not worrying about Jean-Claude, but right now she knew she was failing to play it even remotely cool.
"Have we established that this is the case, ma petite?" her vampire lover asked reasonably.
"As good as," she insisted firmly.
The fact that they had very little to go on did not change the fact that Harry had heard the bad guys mention Jean-Claude, and that was enough to make Anita worry. Funny how she could disregard her own safety in a heart beat, but when it came to others she cared about she was like a dog with a bone. It was a double standard, but quite frankly, she didn't care.
"Perhaps if Harry were to explain what he saw I would understand better?" Jean-Claude was stepping around the subject very carefully; Anita gave him brownie points for not telling her she was being silly.
Harry was still looking a little shell shocked from the effect the club had had on him, but the kid seemed eager to have something else to think about. It was nice to see, however, that Harry looked to her before saying anything.
"It was only a few words," Harry said as soon as she gave him the nod, "because I was losing the connection. I heard them say 'The Master of the city is a danger to us. Jean-Claude must first...", but I didn't hear first what before I was back in my body."
"Ah," Jean-Claude said thoughtfully, his mysterious vampire mask fully in place, "then it is possible is it not, that these criminal may be searching for someone under my protection? I may not be their target."
Anita did not bother to curb her glare; that was not what she wanted to hear Jean-Claude say.
"It doesn't change the fact that they mentioned you by name," she insisted, putting her hands on her hips and looking Jean-Claude straight in the eye. "It could just have easily been 'Jean-Claude must first be killed', or 'Jean-Claude must first be removed' as anything else."
Jean-Claude stepped up to her before she could really get going and picked up her hand, bringing it to his lips.
"Oui, ma petite," the vampire said in his soothing voice, kissing her fingers lightly, "I am aware of the possibilities. All that I was suggesting is that there may exist other targets, not that I was not one. I have made appropriate arrangements."
That mollified her a little, but Anita never liked not knowing where a threat was coming from. If made her uncomfortable thinking that one of hers was in danger and she could not do anything about it.
"Good," she said, letting him keep her hand for now.
"So basically we're not much better off than we were before Harry had his vision?" Draco sounded about as happy as Anita felt.
"At least we know the direction of the threat," Jean-Claude said with a shrug. "Did you perhaps see anything during the vision, mon enfant, something which will help us find where they are?"
Anita watched as Harry pulled up the memory of his earlier experience; she could tell by the haunted look in his eyes how detailed his recollection must be. Eventually, he shook his head.
"It looked just like any other room to me," the kid said apologetically, "but I don't know the city or much about anything that goes on here."
It was not often that Anita felt absolutely nothing from Jean-Claude through the marks, especially when he was holding her hands, but for a moment it was as if his thoughts went quiet. She looked at Jean-Claude closely then and realised that he was considering something.
"Do you believe, mon enfant, that there could exist details in your recollection which could prove useful?" the vampire asked as if it was a perfectly normal question.
It was Harry's turn to shrug.
"Maybe," the kid said, obviously annoyed with himself at not being more help.
"Bon," was Jean-Claude's response, "then it might be of use for one familiar with our city to see what you have seen?"
Harry looked confused for a second.
"Do you have a pensieve then?" the kid asked, and Anita had no idea what he was talking about.
"Pensieve?" Jean-Claude repeated the word. "Non, mon enfant, I do not believe I know what that is. How would this aid us?"
"If we had one," Harry explained and seemed to be warming to the idea, "I could place the memory in it and someone else could go into it and see what happened."
Anita did not bother to hide her shock at the concept. Take a memory out of your head and put it in something so that someone else could see it; the whole idea was absurd.
"I'm not sure it would work for non-Wizards, Harry," Draco did not sounding certain. "I think they use your innate magic to get you into the memory. Even if we had one, I'm not sure it would be any use."
"Bugger," was Harry opinion on that.
The kid looked defeated again, but Anita looked at Jean-Claude; the vampire had definitely had something else in mind.
"There still may be a way, mes amis," the Master of the city said calmly. "I hesitate to suggest it because of Harry's previous reaction to our minds touching."
"Are you saying you could go into my mind and find the memory?" Harry sounded interested, but a little afraid at the same time.
Anita had seen the real terror Jean-Claude's attempt to bring Harry's vampire to the surface had caused and she could not help but admire the kid's courage for not refusing point blank.
"Non, mon enfant," Jean-Claude replied and he still wasn't giving Anita any hint of what he was thinking, "but it is possible we may set up a temporary connection through which you may give me the memory."
Draco was not looking happy, but Harry appeared interested.
"How?" the kid asked.
"As blood connects you to your attacker, so it may connect us," Jean-Claude said, but Anita could not help thinking blood rituals between vampires were not that easy.
"How long for?" Harry was not as foolhardy as he might have first appeared, Anita had to admit that.
"If all goes well, no more than a few minutes," it was the 'if all goes well' that bothered Anita.
It bothered Draco as well if the way the wizard crossed his arms and frowned was anything to go by.
"And if all does not go well?" Draco asked in a manner that suggested he was ready to walk out and drag Harry with him.
Anita couldn't blame the wizard, but she shifted, just in case there was any sort of trouble.
"Without deliberate intent the bond could not last more than a few days," Jean-Claude said, "a week at most."
"And with deliberate intent?" Draco's voice was cold.
"A blood oath is formed and can only be broken by the instigator," Jean-Claude replied, and Anita was surprised at the openness. "But I believe you misunderstand, mon ami. For this to be achieved it is I who must drink from Harry, not he from me."
Now Anita didn't like the sound of what was being suggested. Yes she liked Harry, yes she felt protective of him, did she want to risk Jean-Claude to him; hell no.
"I don't think this is a good idea," she said firmly.
"I agree," was Draco's opinion.
The other two men in the room were, however, not paying them any attention.
"You drink from me; I give you the memory; we break the connection?" Harry asked without looking at either Anita or Draco.
"That is the idea, mon enfant," Jean-Claude replied.
Harry was moving across the room before Anita could object again.
"Okay," the kid said, "how do we do this?"
"No," both Anita and Draco objected at the same time.
"All that is required is a small bite," Jean-Claude said as if Anita had not just made her point very clear, "however," the vampire continued, finally looking at her, "I believe we must deal with the objections first."
"This might help us catch these nutters," Harry said, looking from first Draco to Anita and then back again. "They nearly killed me, I want them punished and if this can help I am willing to do it."
Those big green eyes were worse than Nathaniel's lilac ones when he wanted something, but this was not about snuggling for a few more minutes in the morning, or getting into the bathroom first; this was about much more serious issues. There had to be other ways to deal with this.
"Do you doubt me that much, ma petite," Jean-Claude asked, looking her directly in the eye. "I would not have suggested such a course of action if I believed it would risk the triumvirate."
That was below the belt, but it brought her up short. It wasn't her fault that she had to protect most of the men in her life from being idiots half the time, and she realised that in this case maybe she was underestimating Jean-Claude. Her beautiful vampire had not lived over four hundred years by being a heroic fool.
"There's really no danger?" she asked in a much smaller voice than she would have liked.
"If I said yes, ma petite, I would be lying," Jean-Claude replied, "but the danger is minimal."
"I swear I will not do anything to hurt Jean-Claude," Harry said vehemently.
"It's not him I'm worried about," Draco voiced his objection even as Anita considered dropping hers completely.
"For a bond to be created between us that was advantageous to me, Harry would be required to drink from me," Jean-Claude said in a reasonable tone.
"So say you," was the blond wizard's response, and Anita could not help but notice Draco had a point.
They did only have Jean-Claude's word that what he said was true. A few years ago Anita would have been right where Draco was standing.
"Draco," Harry said before Anita could come up with a counter argument, "I believe Jean-Claude. Please, let me do this."
"You don't even know if it will help," Draco pointed out with a resigned shake of his head. "There may be nothing in the vision that will give us any more information."
"I know," Harry replied, "I lived with visions that were completely useless for two years, so I get that this may be a waste of time, but if I don't try and something happens to someone I care about I'll spend the rest of my life wondering if I could have stopped it."
Anita almost grimaced on Draco's behalf; it seemed both Jean-Claude and Harry knew how to make a low blow.
"Okay," Draco said in a very exasperated manner, "but if you end up in some weird blood bond I am hexing your arse all the way back to England."
Harry almost reached out to touch his friend then, but Anita saw him pull back his hand at the last moment. It was obvious that these British young man had not been touchy feely types and Harry was having trouble adjusting to the lycanthrope need for physical closeness. Without saying anything, Harry turned back to Jean-Claude and walked over.
"Wrist okay?" the young wizard asked, and Anita could barely tell that he was nervous.
"Oui, mon enfant," Jean-Claude replied with a slight nod, "your wrist will be perfect. Concentrate on the memory of your vision and when you feel the bond form, push the memory towards me."
Harry nodded once and then held out his wrist, moving to the side so that the angle was easier. Trying to remain relaxed was difficult as Jean-Claude took the offered limb and lifted it to his mouth and Anita had to hold in place to prevent herself doing anything she would regret. Harry stiffened as Jean-Claude's fangs sank into his arm, but the kid made no sound as all.
The coldness of vampire power was spilling from both of them, and Harry's skin had gone very pale. Anita had no doubt that the vampire part of the young wizard was now in control and she had the sudden impulse to reach out with her necromancy and guide what was going on. It was difficult not to obey the instinct when the cold magic called to her own.
Jean-Claude could have taken little more than half a mouth full when he drew back, blood glistening on his lips, but Anita could already feel the power in the room shifting. Both vampires locked eyes and she saw her lover grimace slightly under Harry's gaze. Everything was still as if balancing on the very edge of a huge drop and then she felt it. A power surge like nothing she had experience before flooded through the marks and it almost felt like Jean-Claude, but not quite. It was there for just a moment and then she felt her mind invaded by memories that were not her own and she was lost in recollections of screams and blood.
"Ma petite, Anita," Jean-Claude's voice called her out of it and she came back to herself to find that the vampire was holding her by the shoulders and looking directly into her face.
"I'm okay," she said immediately, "just a bit dazed."
"Forgive me, ma petite," Jean-Claude said, brushing his fingers along the side of her face, "I did not believe that this would reach you."
[Anita?] the voice sounded sleepy and confused, but it was definitely Richard and Anita realised that the marks were still open. [What was that?]
[Vampire business, Richard,] she replied, not wanting to have him running to their side for no reason, [nothing to worry about; go back to sleep.]
If their Ulfric had not been mostly still in dreamland anyway, Anita had no doubt that Richard would have put up more of a fight, but as it was, their werewolf gave a wordless reply and was gone again. Although having Jean-Claude so close was very nice, Anita pushed away from him slightly and did a little mental checklist of herself to make sure that she was as okay as she claimed. Everything seemed to be in working order which was a relief.
There was still vampire power in the room, but it was minimal and more like a residue than anything actually going on. She looked at both Jean-Claude and Harry to see how they were reacting, and although both had an echo of the dazed feeling she felt running through her in their eyes, they looked otherwise normal. Jean-Claude definitely didn't look as if he'd just been blood oathed against his will to Harry Potter, which was a relief.
"I'm sorry," Harry said when she met his eyes, "I pushed too hard."
Anita might have laughed if it wasn't for the fact that she still had screams echoing in her head. Hell, if the kid had to put up with this then she could forgive him a bit of over enthusiasm.
"No need to apologise," she said with a small smile, "now there are two of us who know the territory and have the memory. As they say, two heads are better than one."
[Oui, ma petite,] Jean-Claude said inside her head, [and for so many different things.]
Even though she willed it away she felt her face begin to heat up at her lover's playful reminder of the previous evening. If Jean-Claude was joking about sex then everything was definitely okay.
"I don't want to know what you two just talked about, do I?" Harry said and Anita was reminded that the kid knew when she and Jean-Claude were speaking.
She glared at her vampire lover as he smiled sweetly at her.
"No, Harry," she said, trying to hide her embarrassment, "you don't. Now shall we see if we can sort out this memory?"
"Okay, so you do not leave until Micah comes to pick you up," Harry would have rolled his eyes if he didn't think Anita might hit him for it.
He was used to overprotective people, but with Anita and Draco around, he didn't think all the precautions were necessary. Draco was nodding as if he agreed whole heartedly with Anita and Harry wondered what they thought he'd do. They had spent half an hour trying to pull anything useful from the shared memory, but although there were little bits that might have been useful as a whole, there had been nothing concrete to help with the investigation. It could still be useful if they had another clue, but right then it was a dead end. Eventually Jean-Claude had called a halt since Anita had to be at work, placating the fiery woman with a promise that they would go over it again at a later date.
"Promise," Harry replied before Anita could share anymore wisdom he already knew, "now go, or you'll be late. Don't want to keep the dead waiting."
He was trying to lighten the mood, but Anita just glared at him, so he mock glared back. There was an energy running through the club that he was beginning to enjoy and the feeling of doom he had had since the incident that afternoon was beginning to lift.
"Okay," Anita said, throwing her hands up, "I'm going, just don't do anything stupid."
"Going without saying goodbye?" Harry turned to see Nathaniel standing just behind him, looking at Anita with the most adorable pout.
It wouldn't have caused him to look for more than a second since he'd seen Nathaniel use that look to get his own way at the house, but it was what Nathaniel was wearing that caught his attention, or rather lack there of. About the only vaguely normal thing the wereleopard was wearing was the pair of knee high, soft sued, black boots.
Nathaniel's trousers appeared to be more holes than material and consisted of black bands down the outside of each leg with large ovals in them, solid black bands down the inside of each leg and closely spaced, horizontal, black ribbons to hold the band together down the front and back of each leg. The wereleopard's top was maroon silk and didn't look to be much more than a couple of handkerchiefs held together by four long ties; one over each shoulder and one under each arm.
Harry couldn't help himself; he stared. Anita, for her part, gave Nathaniel a once over with her eyes, smiled in what Harry assumed was an appreciative manner and walked up to Nathaniel before reaching up, dragging the wereleopard's head down and giving him a decent kiss. When Anita pulled back it was Nathaniel who had a very big smile.
"See you later," Anita said and then headed for the exit.
Harry didn't bother to watch her go since he was still fascinated by Nathaniel's outfit.
"I thought to strip," from his tone, Harry thought Draco was of a similar opinion to himself, "that you had to be wearing clothes first."
"Common misconception," Nathaniel said with a grin, "as long as you have something to take off, even if it's only a pair of glasses; the ladies are happy. I'm on in about fifteen minutes, you can watch and see how it's done if you want."
"I might just do that," Draco replied, much to Harry's stunned amazement.
Being backstage at a strip club was one thing, but Harry had never thought they would be watching the show. Such a weird mix of reactions all occurred at the same time when Nathaniel winked coyly at Draco before turning and walking off, that Harry missed the nuances of just about every one. All he could do was stand there and watch the other wereleopard saunter away.
"We're not actually going to watch are we?" Harry asked as he looked at Draco.
The way the Slytherin smiled at him made Harry begin to worry.
"Why not?" Draco replied with a grin. "Unless you brought something to read there's not a lot else going on around here."
Harry felt like pointing out that he was already reacting to the sex on the air and that seeing the women and men first hand might be a bad idea, but Draco was already on the move and unless he wanted to spend the evening on his own, Harry had no choice.
When they tried to enter the club from backstage they were shown to a booth to the side of the stage. It was obvious that Jean-Claude had left instructions on where to put them and what to serve them when they were both provided with soft drinks in the seats that hid them from most of the rest of the clientele.
The man on stage was down to little more than a thong when they took their seats and Harry would have sworn it was Gregory except for the fact that the lycanthrope didn't feel right. He dimly remembered someone mentioning that his fellow wereleopard had a twin brother who was a werewolf, and when the man in question began to shift it became clear that that is who it was. The women around the stage seemed to be going crazy as the lycanthrope changed form and Harry sat back in his seat, trying to ignore the hormone levels in the room.
He managed to concentrate on the weird concoction of fruit juices he had been given right up until the stage went completely dark and a hush fell over the women in the audience. It was almost as if the room was holding it's breath and then the lights came on in one blast and the women near the stage screamed as one.
Nathaniel was in the middle of the stage, hand on the back of a chair positioned behind him, other arm across his front, head turned to the side and semi-controlled mane of hair running down over his shoulder, hiding his face. Harry felt his mouth fall open at the wave of sound and pheromones that hit him from the army of women and a few men around the stage.
There was still no music and only when the noise began to die down did the strains of a lone guitar begin and Nathaniel started to move. The lilac eyed wereleopard had a habit of exuding an almost innocent sexuality all the time, but there was nothing innocent about the way he moved across the stage now. Every twitch of muscle and shift of limb said only one thing: sex.
Harry wasn't sure if he was reacting to the women clamouring from his friend or if he was reacting to Nathaniel himself, all he was sure of was that he felt his beast moving under his skin and his vampire peering out from behind his eyes. He sat stock still, watching Nathaniel work the audience, pulling them close as the wereleopard moved around the edge of the stage and keep them there as he used the chair as a prop.
How anyone could make taking off a pair of boots sexy, Harry had no idea, but Nathaniel did it. Every move seemed to be effortless sexuality and Harry was captivated. He had never seen anything like it and there was nothing in his head to chase away the lust this time. Only when he took in a huge gulp of air and realised that he had been holding his breath did he come back to himself in any way and he realised that he had been right earlier; this was a bad idea.
Struggling out of his seat he fled back towards the door, his only communication to Draco something about needing air, and he did not stop until he was in the alley. Breathing hard he leant against the wall, letting the coolness of the brick seep into his back. Holding his head in his hands he tried to bring himself back under control. He knew he had fangs and he suspected it was a toss up whether his eyes were cat green or the deep vampire green that they changed to when one of his alter egos was in control.
"Are you okay?" a concerned female voice asked, and he looked over without thinking and came eye to eye with a blond woman.
She stepped back with a gasp and Harry had to conclude that she had not realised what he was when she asked the question. For a fraction of a second all he saw was a source of relief for the turmoil in his head, but he fought it down in a second.
"Sorry," he apologised, looking away and willing the vampire to retreat and the leopard to be still.
He was concentrating so hard on himself and there was no sound that for a moment he thought she was gone.
"Are you hungry?" the question was nervous, but had a somewhat excited as well and Harry looked over again, careful not to meet the woman's eyes this time.
"Pardon?" he asked, too involved with calming himself down to really comprehend what she was saying.
"You're a vampire, aren't you," the woman said, growing a little in confidence. "I wondered if you were hungry, because, well, I..."
It took Harry brain a while to realise that he was being propositioned, but he was saved from having to deal with it himself as the door thudded open and Draco stepped out.
"Harry, are you okay? You took off like a bat out of hell," his friend said, seemingly ignoring the woman completely.
"I'm fine," he replied, finally managing to force his preternatural side back in its bottle, "just needed some air."
The woman was looking at Draco and almost drooling.
"Are you a vampire too?" she asked, expression glazed in a rather disconcerting way.
"What?" Draco asked, as if noticing her for the first time even though Harry knew for a fact his Slytherin friend would have known she was there the moment he exited the club. "No, I'm his..."
"Boyfriend," Harry said as he suddenly saw a way out of this awkward situation, "he's my boyfriend. So thank you for the offer, but I'm sorted."
The woman seemed to almost wilt and she looked terribly disappointed. Harry decided that they should get while the going was good and dragged Draco back inside before the woman could say anything.
"Boyfriend?" Draco asked the moment the door closed.
"She saw my fangs," Harry said apologetically and began to blush, "and she was offering herself and I don't think she just wanted me to bite her."
Draco let him suffer for a while as he tried to explain, but eventually shook his head and rolled his eyes.
"At least you could ask a chap out on a date before having designs on his body," the Slytherin said and headed back down the corridor.
Harry had no witty comeback so he followed his friend towards the back rooms, just glad that Draco hadn't hexed him and wasn't headed back into the club.
End of Chapter 14
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