Chapter: 29 of 35 - Battle Plans
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 29 Battle Plans
Harry was standing by the fire place and he looked every inch a Master vampire, even if Anita had to say so herself. There was not much of the kid she had first met showing in the figure dressed in a mixture of Jason and Jean-Claude's clothes. The fact that Draco was all silver hair and pale eyes next to, but not quite touching him, in an ensemble of Asher's wardrobe did nothing to dispel the picture. It was obviously taking a lot of effort for them not to touch each other and they had both retreated behind masks that were almost impossible to read through.
Everyone who had been brought to the Circus of the Damned by Harry and those who had helped during the emergency were also in the room. This was a council of war and all the soldiers were present.
"Mon enfant," Jean-Claude said as soon as he had everyone's attention, "would you care to enlighten us as to what occurred three days ago?"
Harry had his arms folded across his chest, almost as if it was the only thing preventing him reaching out to Draco, but he turned to Jean-Claude as soon as the Master of the City spoke. There was just a hint of the scared kid in his eyes and Anita could not help but feel for him. Harry was not hiding behind the cold, calculating persona that had faced down the Traveler, but she could tell he was close.
"Because of the bloody photo in the paper they know I'm alive," his voice was full of irritation, "and since I was one of the sacrifices the spell they're planning won't be as potent unless I'm dead. They opened the spell on my chest and used it as a conduit for something nasty. I think it was some sort of minor demon, but I've only met one once so I can't be sure."
"It was a demon," Draco added his opinion, "not a powerful one, but definitely a demon."
Anita scowled; she did not like demons. This had gone from a case of black magic to sorcery and that was not good.
"How do you know so much about demons?" Asher sounded as unhappy as Anita felt, but then most preternatural creatures did not like demons any more than humans did.
"My father used to raise them and leech their power," Draco said matter-of-factly. "It was a Death Eater hobby; once the Dark Bastard came back they needed all the dark magic they could lay their hands on. I saw it on several occasions; one of the reasons I really didn't want to join the club."
"Messing with demons is sorcery," Anita said, not liking where this conversation is going. "The people who do it are insane."
Harry just gave her a look.
"That would cover most of the Death Eaters," he said plainly and walked away from the fireplace, clearly agitated.
"Sorcery is the art of controlling a demon," Draco said and it seemed to Anita that the blond wizard barely managed to stop himself from following Harry immediately. "My father was a fanatic, but he wasn't stupid. They used powerful binding spells and curses to transfer power from one creature to another. Once you bargain with a demon you're lost, even dear Daddy was not that insane."
The bitterness in Draco's voice was obvious and once again Anita was reminded that most of those around her had anything but normal lives. If she looked at the faces in the room she knew each had a tale to tell, something in their past that was not exactly pretty. It had nearly destroyed a few of them and for a moment Anita was quite surprised that they had all made it this far. Shaking her head she turned her mind back to the problem in hand.
"The magic I've felt in this case has been evil, but it had no demon taint," she said, knowing that this was a new development.
"Then at least, ma petite," Jean-Claude said without much relief in his voice, "if we are lucky these people have obtained themselves a sorcerer rather than having one of their own."
It was a small comfort, but a likely scenario. Demon magic was powerful, but it was addictive and unstable and if those they were after had had access to it before there would have been traces. That there had been no sign of it meant that the group had probably hired themselves some extra muscle.
"They're afraid," she concluded as her mind worked out the facts. "Their master plan must be in jeopardy with Harry still alive, so the likelihood is that they'll try for him again."
"Only this time we'll be better prepared," Harry said very decisively.
"Don·t get any Gryffindorish ideas," Draco said and finally moved away from the mantle piece towards Harry. "We are not using you as bait. Been there, done that, not doing it again."
Anita wanted to agree, but even as her protective instincts kicked in she knew that there might be no other way. There weren't that many sorcerers around so they might be able to find something that way, but certain demon raising practices like human sacrifice were highly illegal so sorcerers were very good at covering their tracks. If they could not find the demon trash then they were back to square one and flushing out the bad guys was going to be difficult.
"It's a big city," Harry sounded agitate and defensive and it looked as if they'd had these kind of discussions before, "how else are we supposed to find the nutters who are doing this? They came for me once, they'll come for me again, and maybe this time we can set it up so no one else is in the firing line."
Draco's eyes hardened and Anita could see an all out fight coming on.
"Yes, well this time its not just your life on the line is it," the blond wizard said in a voice that could have chiselled stone. "You die, I die."
Anita almost winced; that was below the belt and Harry looked stricken. It was almost as if the pair was completely unaware of everyone else in the room. For a moment they just looked at each other and Harry almost reached out to Draco. The power shift in the room was tangible.
"I would never..." Harry's voice trailed off.
It was like some sort of Greek tragedy as he began to turn away from Draco who stood there like a statue. Anita wanted to step in, but this was almost a private conversation even though it was being held in front of an audience. At the last second Draco moved and his hand reached out, touching Harry's shoulder for just a moment. There was no overwhelming power spike this time, but searching the faces around her, Anita knew everyone had felt the ripple the move sent round the room. For his part Harry turned back as if compelled and reached out to Draco, but stopped short.
"I know," Draco said with a shake of his head, "I know you wouldn't, but I also know that you have a hero complex. This isn't like home; you're not the only one who can finish off the bad guy. Look around, Harry, we have an army here."
Green eyes skimmed the room, but Anita was not quite sure if Harry was convinced. Something about him seemed to be alone even among the crowd and she had the distinct feeling that Harry had been doing everything for himself for a very long time. Since Harry was only seventeen that led her to a lot of questions, but now was no time to ask.
"Exactement, mes enfant," Jean-Claude finally stepped in, walking towards the pair. "Placing anyone in danger is not an option I will allow until all other avenues have been explored. Ma petite," the vampire continued, turning back and looking at her, "how would you suggest we proceed?"
They had had a brief discussion about possibilities before the meeting began, but Anita was surprised that Jean-Claude handed the initiative over to her. Jean-Claude was the master of the city and she had expected him to take charge, and she'd even been willing to let him in this case, but obviously he had other ideas.
"Police channels may help us find the sorcerer," she said, thinking quickly, "and they already know about the attack. Dolph is still looking for the leak so I don't suggest we tell them everything, but we need them on this. The other main resource we have is man power with very good noses."
"I've already sent the word round the wolves," Richard said from where he was leaning against the wall, flanked by Jamil on one side and Shang-Da on the other. "If any of them catch the scent of demon the news will come straight back here."
"With the vampires also," Jean-Claude put in.
Anita was not surprised that wheels were already in motion, but it did please her that Richard and Jean-Claude seemed to be in agreement on something at last. When it came to preternatural politics there was always tension between the two, even more so than around her these days.
"There are not as many of us," Micah spoke up from his position with members of the pard, "but the leopards will be looking as well, and I will talk to the other communities in the coalition."
"I'm sure the wererats will lend us some muscle as well," Anita added.
Rafael's people were the second largest group of lycanthropes in the city and she had no doubt that they would help. She had enough trouble getting rid of wererat bodyguards that showed up when people decided that she was in danger, that she knew they would not duck this one.
"But what if all the searching comes up with nothing?" Harry seemed to have recovered his composure and when Anita looked over to him she was met with an emotionless mask. "Whoever is doing this seems very good at hiding and they seem to know what they're doing. Somehow they found out that I was with Anita and where she lived. They've been one step ahead of us all the way."
"We cross that bridge when we come to it," Anita said firmly.
She did not like being reminded that her home and people had been attacked. These people were lunatics, but they were clever lunatics and there was clear planning in everything they had done. So far their only real mistake had been leaving Harry alive.
"Oui," Jean-Claude agreed. "For now, mon enfant, you stay here, safe, and let the remainder of us worry about how to proceed. You have been through much over the last few weeks; it is time for you to recuperate and for us to clean up our city."
It was said with such finality that Anita did not even open her mouth to add anything. Harry did not look happy about Jean-Claude's announcement, but he did not argue either. Anita had no doubt that the peace would not last for long, but at least now they had a battle plan.
Harry paced his and Draco's room, moving from one side of it to the other and back again. He felt like he was being coddled even though he knew that everything was being done to try and find a solution to the situation. The madmen who wanted him dead may have chosen him at random, but now it was personal and Harry wanted to do something about it. He had spent months being protected by the Order, cooped up in Grimauld Place during the holidays when he could not stay at Hogwarts, and this felt just the same.
He was a doer and sitting back letting others deal with everything was something he had never been good at. The fact that he couldn't just forget himself in Draco was also driving him to distraction. He'd retreated to their room because he had begun snapping at everyone and he really didn't need the whole Circus annoyed with him as well.
He knew before the door opened that Draco had come to find him, but he continued to pace even as his lover entered the room.
"You look like a caged animal," Draco said after a moment's silence.
"Good, because that's what I feel like," Harry replied and immediately regretted the harshness in his voice.
His beast was shifting restlessly under his skin and his vampire was not quiet either, both of which were making his jumpy and short tempered. He hadn't felt quite like this since the disaster that had been his fifth year at school.
"Everyone is doing everything they can," Draco said in a patient tone, but with an underlying note to his voice that told Harry he had almost run out of rope.
"I know," Harry replied exasperatedly, "that's part of the problem. They're all out there trying to catch the enemy and we're in here being completely useless. You'd think I could at least have another vision or something. That might actually help."
There was no reply from Draco and Harry continued pacing, staring at the floor. It was only after a few long seconds when there was still nothing from the Slytherin that Harry glanced up and found that he was being given a stern look. It appeared that Draco might have just about run out of patience.
"Drop the self pity," his lover said pointedly, "it doesn't suit you. We're not being useless, we're being normal. People don't run out and face their enemies alone you know, they rely on the professionals to do their job. This is not our city, Harry, we're not at war anymore. All we'd be out there is a liability and a target. I am not risking you unless everything else has failed, do you understand?"
All of this was said with such vehemence that Harry actually stopped walking and just stared at Draco. His anger and frustration did not go away completely, but they dimmed as he realised that his lover was just as frustrated, but handling it better. The whole sexual tension thing going on probably wasn't helping matters either.
"I'm sorry," he said eventually, and he meant it, "I know I'm being a royal pain, but I'm going crazy. Its like the walls are closing in."
It had only been a day since the council of war, but there was no news and the Circus was beginning to feel like a prison. If Harry didn't get out soon he knew he was going to go stark raving bonkers, and considering quite how powerful his was, that would not be good.
The draw between himself and Draco had faded a little, but he still craved his lover's touch and it was uncomfortable to stay apart. Jean-Claude had tried to tell him how well he was doing at one point, but all that had earned his friend was a snarl and words that should probably not have been repeated. Harry would be the first to admit that at the moment he was worse than a dragon with stomach ache. The only person who wouldn't put up with his nonsense was Anita and they had had a loud slanging match earlier in the day after which they had both apologised and walked away from each other. Harry didn't think Anita dealt well with waiting either.
"I think," Draco said, looking at him thoughtfully, "that you need a little outing."
That was not what Harry had expected at all and he must have looked quite shocked because Draco gave him a smile.
"Out of here?" he asked, just to make sure he wasn't getting the wrong end of the stick.
"There had been no sign of activity at all since the last attack," the Slytherin said, "and Jean-Claude seems to think the people doing this are regrouping. I'm not suggesting we go shopping or anything stupid like that, but we need some more things from the house and if we're careful we shouldn't have a problem."
"When?" Harry asked, almost heading to the door immediately.
That earned him an amused expression from his lover.
"Not tonight," Draco said with a shake of his head. "I already broached the subject with Asher to see what he thought and we're agreed that daylight would be preferable to darkness. If nothing has come up by tomorrow morning then we can go and pick up our things."
Harry couldn't help being a little disappointed, for a moment he had been so excited and now he had to wait, but at least he had something to wait for. Without his conscious consent his feet began their pacing again.
"If you keep doing that it's me who is going to go mental," Draco said in an exasperate voice.
That drew him to a halt again, but he felt like he was going to burst at any moment. He had so much pent up energy and if he couldn't pace he didn't know what he was going to do with it.
"I don't care if we're not supposed to touch," Draco said, taking a step towards him, "if we don't do something you're going to explode. To hell with it, come here."
It was like the order lanced straight into his brain and bypassed his good sense as Harry moved towards Draco immediately. Arms reached for him and he reached back, pulling Draco into a kiss before his conscious brain had even caught up. It felt like pure heaven and Harry let himself sink into the sensation without caring about the consequences. So it might take them a little more work to deal with the touching issue, but right now both of them needed this far more than an easy life.
"Make love to me," Draco said breathlessly as the Slytherin pulled back from the kiss, "make love to me now."
Harry had never been so glad to obey an instruction in his life and it never occurred to him to hesitate as he set to removing Draco's clothes in earnest.
End of Chapter 29
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