Chapter: 34 of 35 - Life Goes On
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 bAnita 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 34 Life Goes On
As Harry opened his eyes he was not quite sure how long it had been since his first awakening this time round. He knew it was night, even before he opened his eyes, because he could feel his vampire inside him much more awake that it would have been during the day, but he couldn't be sure if it was the night after he had gone to Richard's room or the night after that. He was pretty sure it wasn't any longer, unless he'd been sleeping much more between moments of consciousness than he thought.
The first couple of times he had woken up he had barely been able to keep his eyes open, but this time it was almost like waking up normally. He was not surprised to see Anita standing beside his bed when he opened his eyes because his other senses had already informed him who was there. That Anita was alone, since every other time he had woken Draco or Remus had been there, was the surprise.
"Isn't this where we came in?" he asked as he tried to push the sleep from his mind.
That earned him a genuine smile from his companion.
"But this time you're the victor, not the victim," Anita said, and she seemed more relaxed than he had seen her before.
He concluded that when there was an immediate danger in her city, Anita never properly relaxed and only now that it was over was he seeing her as she could be. Not that Harry thought Anita was a particularly relaxed person at all, but she was definitely looser than she had been.
"Is everyone okay?" he asked, pretty sure of the answer already.
His previous awakenings were rather fuzzy and he wasn't sure if he'd had this conversation before with anyone. Anita, at least, didn't seem to find the question strange.
"Yes," she replied, clearly pleased about this fact, "even Richard's back to his usual difficult self. They discharged him this afternoon. I think they're willing to let you go as soon as you can stay awake for more than five minutes as well."
Harry managed a big smile at that, but it turned into a yawn which made him laugh.
"I think I can manage five, but I'm not sure about ten," he joked, although he was pretty sure he could last much longer.
Hospitals were not his favourite place and if he could leave he would be most happy. He was so busy planning that for a few moments he did not notice that Anita was looking at him rather intently.
"Do you mind talking about what happened?" she asked when he finally looked at her.
Thinking back to what he had been put through was not the most pleasant of experiences, but he nodded anyway. Anita would not have asked if it wasn't important to her.
"Official or unofficial?" Harry asked, vaguely remembering a police officer trying to talk to him before, and falling asleep on the poor man.
"Unofficial," Anita replied; "the cops have enough to keep the bad guys locked up for a while and Draco threatened to remove the intestines of anyone who bothered you in an official capacity until you were recovered."
That sounded just like Draco and Harry rolled his eyes. The best threats always came from over anxious Slytherins.
"What do you want to know?" he asked, not wishing to delay the conversation any further.
"How," Anita sounded a little hesitant, "how did you give me your magic?"
Anita never seemed to ask easy questions, but it wasn't as if Harry had been expecting to be able to dodge that one. His memories were a bit mixed up, but he remembered that alright.
"You called me," he said after gathering his thoughts for a few minutes, "even with everything going on I felt that, but it was like you were just out of reach. I knew you were there somewhere, but I couldn't push through the binding they'd put on me to reach you."
He paused, trying to stop his memories from running away with him.
"I could feel Richard as well," Harry continued when he'd calmed himself down again. "When they used the potion on him they connected us together. I don't know if they didn't realise or if they didn't care, but it meant I could sense him and when you called me it was as if part of it came through him."
"I had the marks open," Anita told him as if that made sense, "but I couldn't reach him."
Harry nodded, filing away the information.
"I think my vampire instinctively knew what was going on," he said, going over the experience in his mind, "because I started reaching for the connection with Richard without understanding what I was doing. When I did I could feel you more, but it was weird, almost as if there were two yous and one kept getting in the way of the other. I think the potion took your place as far as Richard was concerned, but I could feel past it. It wasn't enough though, I tried to help you, but the connection wasn't strong enough. Nothing happened."
Anita was frowning now, and Harry didn't blame her, after all that didn't make a lot of sense considering what had happened.
"Then how?" she asked, clearly confused. "Richard doesn't remember much of what happened."
"Richard let me call him," Harry said simply. "He let his guard down and let me call his wolf so that the connection strengthened. It was like opening a pipe between us and suddenly there you were, still calling me and I threw everything I had at you through Richard. I don't know how exactly, I just did."
He really couldn't explain it, he had just followed the instincts running through him. He knew he hadn't been really conscious, not completely aware of what was going on, but he had been sentient to the metaphysical battle being waged in the room at the time.
"Richard let you call him?" Anita sounded more shocked about that than anything else.
All Harry could do was nod.
"He was still there, inside his mind, but he couldn't break through the power of what they'd done to him, so he let me do it instead," he wasn't sure where that explanation came from, but he knew it was true even as he said it.
He had not known Richard long, and he didn't know the Ulfric well, but he had had a glimpse into the man's mind that day. He wondered if he should mention quite how much the werewolf loved Anita, because he had seen that as clear as day, but it wasn't really his place. Anita's relationships were complicated to say the least and sticking his nose in did not seem like a good idea. He would explain to her what had happened and let her infer her own interpretation; maybe she would see the truth for what it was.
When an owl flew through Anita's kitchen window, even Harry was a little surprised. It wasn't the fact that it was a delivery owl, it was the fact that it was at Anita's house that confused him. When the large brown bird landed in front of him and stuck out its leg, he shrugged rather helplessly at Cherry and Nathaniel who were staring at the owl and relieved it of its package.
Having his own owl, Harry habitually carried owl treats around in his pockets just in case, and even though he had not been expecting any owls while in the states, he had not broken the habit. The bird actually looked surprised, if it was possible for an owl to show shock, when he gave it a treat, and then it flew back out the way it had come.
"Harry," Cherry eventually said, as Harry read the name on the front of the package, "why was there an owl on our table?"
"We use them to deliver post," Harry replied, looking at his and Draco's names, but unable to find anything more detailed on the brown paper. "But I don't understand why it came here. There's no address."
Draco chose that moment to walk into the room.
"Oh, good, they're here," the Slytherin said brightly and swooped on the package.
"What are here?" Harry asked, intrigued as Draco ripped into the parcel like a kid on Christmas morning.
"Our fake wands," was the reply.
It did not take long for Draco to reveal two wooden boxes. Harry did not know where Draco had gone to have these made up, or how anyone could make a copy of a wand they did not have, but he thought it was probably better that he did not know. Technically what they were doing was illegal since authorities liked to know when their citizens were capable of wandless magic, but Harry really didn't want the whole world to know, which is what would happen if the Ministry ever found out. The fact that the son of a former Death Eater was also capable of this would not go down well even though Draco was a decorated war hero, and it would raise far too many questions.
"I charmed the paper for them when I ordered these," Draco said as he passed one box to Harry, "so that the owl would come straight to us wherever we were. It was the only way to make sure they'd find us."
Harry hadn't been aware that was possible, but he didn't argue. The box in his hand was plain and unassuming with a small branded HP in the corner. Since Draco was already opening his box, Harry did the same. Quite frankly what he saw inside amazed him and he pulled the wand out of the box and put it down so he could look at it. The workmanship was incredible.
Reaching into his sleeve Harry pulled out and placed his real wand on the table next to the fake wand and he was very impressed; they looked identical. Even the grain on the wood was exactly the same, down to the last ring line. Whoever Draco had found to make the wand, they were an expert craftsman and looking over to where Draco was holding his real and fake wand in either hand it was obvious that just as good a job had been done on those. Picking his real wand up in his right hand and the fake one in his left they were even the same weight.
It was quite incredible, and the only way he could tell them apart was the comforting warmth he always felt from his wand was missing from the fake. The fake wand was merely a channelling tool with no inherent magic of its own so it did not interact with his power, but his own wand always sent a hum through his fingers and a content feeling to his heart.
"So that one's real," Nathaniel said, looking at the two objects Harry was holding, "and that one's fake?"
Harry nodded as his friend pointed at each wand in turn.
"But they look exactly the same," the wereleopard said and didn't quite seem to understand.
"That's the idea," Harry replied with a grin, "here, see if you can tell them apart by feel."
He handed Nathaniel the fake wand first and his friend passed it from hand to hand, finding the feel of the wood. After a few moments Nathaniel passed it back and Harry gave him the real wand. Lycanthropes had much sharper senses than human beings and it would be interesting to see if Nathaniel could tell any difference with his greater experience. Harry couldn't, but then Micah had told him that it would be a few months before his lycanthropy had completely finished changing him.
"That tingles," Nathaniel said in a surprised voice as he held the wand in his left hand.
Harry hadn't really been expecting that, wands were usually completely inert for Muggles. He was wondering whether Nathaniel's lycanthropy was causing some interaction when his friend swapped the wand to his right hand and to everyone's shock a tiny group of sparks shot off the end of the device. Nathaniel dropped it like he had been bitten and Harry's hand shot out to grab the falling wand before it hit the table.
"Are you okay?" he asked immediately, far more worried about Nathaniel than he was about the wand.
Nathaniel was looking at his fingers and then the wand and then his fingers again; he appeared confused and not particularly happy.
"That was weird," the wereleopard said eventually, not actually answering the question.
"You can say that again," Draco said from the other side of the table, "wands are not supposed to do that for anyone but wizards and witches."
"Has anyone ever tested them with Muggle lycanthropes?" Harry asked, looking for a reasonable explanation.
The problem he was having was that he had seen sparks like that before, most notably when he had been fitted for his own wand and had not yet found the right one. Draco frowned at the question and Harry had the feeling that he might not be looking at this the correct way.
"It's to do with a persons magical core," Draco said slowly, "so I suppose lycanthropy could have an effect on that."
"One way to find out," Cherry said and held out her hand.
Harry looked at Draco who shrugged and handed his wand to the female wereleopard. Cherry held it for a moment and then raised her eyebrows.
"Feels like a stick to me," she said and gave the wand back to Draco.
"Maybe it has something to do with it being Harry's wand," Nathaniel suggested, "after all he is one of us and he may have infused it with something when using it."
It was a reasonable suggestion so Harry handed his wand over the Cherry. The young woman took it and held it, absolutely nothing happened.
"Draco, lend Nathaniel your wand for a minute," Harry was beginning to think something very odd was going on that didn't have much to do with lycanthropy at all.
When Draco held out his wand, Nathaniel took it tentatively with his left hand. From the look on the wereleopard's face, Harry did not have to ask if it tingled as well. Almost as if he was holding high explosive Nathaniel swapped hands; a similar, tiny puff of sparks flew from the end of the wand, only this time they were blue where they had been silver.
"Okay," Nathaniel said, very slowly putting the wand on the table and backing away, "what's going on?"
Harry shared a look with Draco.
[The only time I've seen sparks like that is when a wizard is trying to find a wand,] he said silently, totally unsure about what he was thinking.
He had no idea how the American system dealt with Muggleborn wizards, but even if it was possible that they just left them to it, he hadn't felt anything from Nathaniel to suggest he was one of them.
"Nathaniel," Draco looked over at the wereleopard and Harry felt sorry for his lycanthrope friend as he gazed back, thoroughly unsettled, "did anything strange ever happen around you as a child?"
Nathaniel looked completely lost and he stammered for a few moments, clearly not knowing what to say. It was then that Anita appeared in the kitchen doorway.
"What's going on?" she asked and Harry was sure she had picked up Nathaniel's distress. "Nathaniel, are you okay?"
There was no hesitation in the wereleopard's movements as he crossed the kitchen to her as soon as she held out her hand. Harry could almost feel Nathaniel's distress as the young man fell to his knees and buried his face in Anita's side as she stroked his hair.
"Someone explain," Anita's voice was cold and the order cut straight through Harry.
"Sparks," he said, as if the answer was dragged from him, "when Nathaniel touched my wand, sparks came out and we were trying to understand why. The same happened with Draco's wand, but nothing happened for Cherry at all."
"Which means?" Anita's tone was a little softer this time, but it still demanded answers.
"It's possible he has some Wizarding magic," Draco replied this time, much more in control than Harry.
Now Anita frowned.
"But surely we'd have known something by now," she pointed out. "I'd have felt something. Neither of you have felt anything from Nathaniel before. Could it be residue left from the magic you gave me to fight the demon? Nathaniel is part of my second triumvirate."
Draco didn't bother replying and as Harry watched his lover calmly picked up his wand from the table and threw it at Anita. As expected she caught it without missing a beat.
"No sparks," Draco said after a few moments. "If it was residue, surely it would be strongest in you."
Harry could not fault his lover's logic, and it seemed, neither could Anita, since she did not appear happy. Throwing the wand back she turned her attention to Nathaniel and Harry couldn't resist the urge anymore and moved towards her. Cherry seemed to have been having the same problem because she went as well. Nathaniel was in distress and Harry so wanted to help. Something about Draco's question had really upset the wereleopard, but he had no way of knowing what it was.
Sinking to his knees he leant against Nathaniel, giving his support in the best way he knew how. Beside him Cherry did the same, and Anita joined them only seconds later until they were like a protective shell around Nathaniel. His friend was actually shaking and Harry knew that this went beyond a little shower of sparks from the tip of a wand.
"Nicky," Nathaniel's voice was so quiet that Harry could barely hear it, "Nicky told me strange things used to happen when I was little. It happened once after I ran away too, a client tried to rob me and he flew against the wall. But not for a long time."
"It's called accidental magic," Harry said, almost as quietly, "we all do it as kids. I ended up on the school roof once."
When Nathaniel lifted his head and lilac eyes filled with too much pain looked at him, Harry almost couldn't hold his friend's gaze. Whatever memories Nathaniel had had to drag up to answer the question, they were hurting him.
"But I'm not like you," the tone was so confused that Harry just wanted to comfort his friend, but this was too important to let it go.
"What happened when you met the man with a mark like this?" Draco asked and Harry looked behind him to see his lover standing only a foot or so away with his sleeve rolled up.
[There is a way to take the magic out of a wizard,] Draco did not let him finish his question. [It takes a very powerful wizard to do it and it usually kills the one being drained, but it can be done. It lowers a magical core until it cannot maintain itself. Voldemort wanted to do it to all the Muggleborns before he made them slaves.]
Harry looked back at Nathaniel and saw such fear that he wanted to end this now.
"Enough," Anita said, moving to pull Nathaniel away and Harry suspected, out of the room.
Part of Harry agreed with her, but the rest of him reached out and placed a hand on her shoulder. He did not apply any pressure, he just placed it there.
"This could be very important for Nathaniel," he said as calmly as he could manage and then turned his attention solely on his friend. "Nathaniel, please."
He looked into terrified eyes and he could do nothing to help.
"I don't remember," Nathaniel whispered.
"Was there pain?" Draco asked bluntly, but Harry could hear the reluctance in his lover's tone.
Draco was a practical Slytherin, but Nathaniel's distress was so obvious and even Draco did not want to do this.
"Did he cast a spell on you that seemed to pull your heart out of your chest?" Draco continued as Nathaniel stared at him. "Did he say anything to you? Did he leave you for dead?"
"Yes," Nathaniel finally screamed. "It hurt. Nothing has ever hurt that much. He yelled at me: 'Filthy little mudblood, now you won't contaminate the rest of us.' It was weeks before I could even walk. If Felicity hadn't found me I'd be dead."
Then Nathaniel buried his head in Anita's shoulder and Harry knew there would be no more information from the wereleopard. His hand was rubbing Nathaniel's back and he wanted to offer all the comfort he could, but there was one thing he needed to know first. Twisting he looked at Draco.
"Why now?" he asked, using his voice because he thought the others would want to know as well.
"The magic you let Anita use," Draco said, obviously far ahead in this matter. "Some of it must have reached Nathaniel; it would have recharged his magical core to a point where it could sustain itself. His magic has probably been getting stronger ever since, returning to what it's supposed to be."
It was just such a huge concept; people didn't just suddenly turn out to be wizards when they were nineteen. Harry didn't have the first clue what this would mean for Nathaniel, but he was bloody sure he was going to make sure none of it was bad.
Nathaniel was curled up on the corner of the bed with Sigmund, her favourite stuffed penguin, wrapped in his hair as if the auburn blanket was a barrier to the world. Anita had sent him upstairs a few minutes earlier, knowing that he was in no shape to deal with the discussion about Wizards and what to do next that was going on. Anita had stayed to make sure no one was planning to do anything horrendous and then she had excused herself as quickly as possible to go and make sure her pomme de sang was okay.
Walking over to the bed she sat down and stroked Nathaniel's mane of hair back from his face so that she could see him properly. Her pomme de sang had been crying again and he did not even look at her, just stared ahead at the wall. She had not seen him this distressed in a long time.
"Hey," she said quietly, leaning down and kissing him gently on the side of the face, "let me help, please."
It was a long tense few moments before Nathaniel actually looked at her and there was so much pain in his eyes that she wanted to just take him in her arms and never let go.
"I will always be here for you," she said; the promise dragged from her by the need she saw in the man-child on her bed. "No one will ever hurt you like that again if I can stop it."
"I didn't remember," Nathaniel said in little more than a whisper, "not until today. How did I not remember?"
She stroked the side of his face again, wanting to take away his pain, but not sure how. Nathaniel had seen so much, lost his innocence so early, and now this; it was more than any human being should be asked to bear.
"We all block out things that are too horrible to remember," Anita told Nathaniel. "It's how we stay sane. For a long time after my mother was killed I couldn't remember everything that happened. When I did, remembering was one of the hardest things I had ever done. I know it hurts, but it will get better."
The memories of her mother's car accident were still some of the most painful she had, but that pain had dulled a little with time. She only hoped this would not scar Nathaniel anymore than it already had. His completely submissive nature made more and more sense the longer she knew him and the more she found out about his past. Gabriel had chosen his leopards well and Nathaniel had been the perfect damaged goods for his perverted intentions.
"I think I saw them once," Nathaniel said after a few minutes quiet which had only contained the sound of her fingers moving through his hair, "people searching my street with wands. Maybe they were looking for me. That was before... before..."
It was a bad sign that he could not even say it, but Anita did not let him struggle long.
"Before the Death Eater took your magic," she said calmly, continually trying to stroke the tension out of Nathaniel's body.
Her pomme de sang nodded, snuggling against her leg slightly for comfort.
"Could they have been looking for me?" Nathaniel sounded so small and confused.
"Harry was surprised that his people hadn't come for you," Anita told him, "it seemed to upset him that they hadn't. So maybe they did and they didn't look hard enough."
"They frightened me," her pomme de sang said, moving closer to her again and almost crawling into her lap, "but not like he did."
If it was comfort he needed it would be comfort she gave and Anita continued to sooth Nathaniel as best she could.
"Draco says that all the Death Eaters with the power to do what was done to you are dead or in prison forever," she said, although she was not quite sure she believed it entirely. "They are being punished for their crimes and they will never be able to hurt anyone like they hurt you. It's over Nathaniel; no one can do that to you again."
"But it's not over," he whispered in a very distressed tone, "I'm one of them."
"You're like Harry and Draco, Nathaniel," Anita said with a little more force than she intended, "nothing like that monster who tried to kill you. You will be a great wizard and I will love you the same no matter what powers you have."
He looked up at her properly then and the gratitude in his eyes was almost heartbreaking. With a catch of her heart Anita realised that she had just said the right thing. All her rationalisations and explanations and she had been missing the point. All Nathaniel had needed to know was that he was still loved. It almost broke her heart and she gathered him up into a tight embrace and did not let go for a long time.
It was full moon and Anita could barely believe it had been a month since the whole mess of ritualistic sacrifice and wizards had started. So much had happened and so many things had changed that in some ways it felt like far longer. The case was in the hands of the legal people now with all the perpetrators safely locked up. Most of the cult members had pleaded down their crimes in return for still being alive and testifying against "the Master" which meant that a conviction was almost a dead cert. It turned out that the man's real name was the very boring Dwight Miles and he had a history of crime. It seemed he had turned to magic when incarcerated for the first time as an adult. If or when the case would ever come to trial was another matter, however, and Anita wasn't holding her breath for that one since Dwight was clearly deranged. All she cared about was that the bad guys were behind bars and weren't getting out any time soon.
There was still a leak somewhere in Dolph's department that had yet to be plugged, but no other stories had turned up in the papers so Anita was beginning to think it was a personal grudge or Dolph on the war path had scared the leak dry. She was not about to say anything to anyone, but it would not have surprised her if Arnet hadn't had something to do with the whole issue. The detective would take some watching, of that she was sure, but there was no proof one way or the other so Anita was reserving judgement. She could have just been projecting her dislike of the woman onto the situation.
Then there was the fact that Nathaniel was a wizard of all things and they'd even been to pick him up a wand the previous day. Having met a little of the Wizarding bureaucracy in the guy at Draco's house, Anita had thought it would take jumping through all sorts of hoops for them to acknowledge her pomme de sang as one of them, but it seemed the opposite.
She wasn't clear on the details, but Harry had tried to explain something about a book that registered magical births, including those born to Muggle parents, and Nathaniel's name being in it, but him being lost because of what the Death Eater had done. According to Harry, Nathaniel's name had reappeared in the book and hence there was no argument from anyone.
Nathaniel was standing very close to her, and had been very reluctant to let her out of his sight since the incident that had revealed his past. Even with Harry and Draco doing everything to help, like arranging for a private tutor to teach Nathaniel everything he needed to know about magic, and introducing the pard to the idea of their society and the concept of secrecy, Nathaniel's confidence had still taken a blow. The independence that he had been showing for months was somewhat cowed, and Anita was sure her pomme would bounce back eventually, but it was going to take a little longer. She could deal with a clingy Nathaniel for a while, if it helped him adjust.
Reaching out she brushed a stray strand of hair from his face and gave him a smile. Nathaniel smiled back, but the slightly haunted look in his lilac eyes was more pronounced than usual. Looking around the room she took in all those she had chosen to take responsibility for and it made her feel just a little older than her years. She would die for any of her people, even Caleb, and she would kill for them as well. This was not a place she had ever expected to be, but it felt right to her now and Anita knew, if given the choice, she would not change it.
The plan this month had been for the pard to join the wolf pack since Anita needed to keep her ties with the pack strong and Jason had expressed the desire for company, but things hadn't worked out quite like that. Casting her gaze over at where Lupin and Jason were talking quietly in the corner of the kitchen, Anita could not help but wonder what the future held for the pair.
Everything had been going fine with Richard carefully introducing Lupin to the St Louis pack. Nothing had been decided as to how the whole business with Lupin and Jason being from opposite sides of the Atlantic was going to work out, but everyone seemed to have assumed that Lupin would be staying around for a while. Lupin, being a powerful alpha, was therefore likely to cause friction in the pack and so Richard had taken a personal interest and had been trying to smooth things over. Everything had been going fine, since most of the alphas in the pack had taken one look at Lupin and recognised his dominance, but then they'd reached the top few.
It had been okay at first, Lupin had made it clear he had no intentions of challenging the hierarchy of the pack and the first two meetings had gone fine. Since her house seemed to be neutral ground, Richard had brought over Shang-Da and Jamil to Anita's place and introduced them as enforcers of the pack. It had been a little tense at first, but a few ritualistic indications of submission had smoothed things over. Everything had been fine.
The second meeting had been a little bigger and at the lupanar, and Anita had not been there for that one, having clients to catch up with thanks to the chaos of the previous month. According to Richard there had been one minor scuffle, but nothing that werewolves didn't seem to think was normal. Looking over at Lupin, Anita could still see the faint pink line down the werewolf's neck where someone had taken a swing at him. By all account Lupin had put down that challenge very fast.
The real problem had arisen when Lupin had met Sylvie. Being Richard's second in command Sylvie had been busy with other pack business during the previous two meetings, and since Lupin was not challenging anyone Richard had assumed their meeting was a formality. Luckily, in Anita's opinion, Richard had had the good sense to make sure the first meeting did take place before full moon, or the lupanar could have been short one werewolf.
The thing was, no one was quite sure why, since both Lupin and Sylvie had expressed no conscious dislike of each other on a human level, but when they had met things had been very nasty. It had been at Anita's house again since they had been working out the whole pard going to the lupanar issue to make sure there were no misunderstandings, and Anita could not help shuddering as she remembered what had happened.
Lupin had been making tea since the werewolf had decided, all be it very politely, that those from the US side of the Atlantic lacked something in the art, and Jason had gone bounding out to meet the visitors. Jason and Sylvie were friends and Anita knew for a fact that Jason had been dying to show Lupin off to one of the few members of the pack the younger werewolf really liked. Unfortunately Lupin and Sylvie's reaction to each other had been similar and opposite to that between Lupin and Jason; similar in that initially neither had seemed to have any control over what they were doing and opposite in that they had clearly wanted to kill each other.
Only Richard grabbing Sylvie and Harry calling Remus had prevented bloodshed. It had been nearly fifteen minutes before either of the werewolves had been rational enough to talk about it and even now, two days later, no one was going to leave the pair alone together or let them within a mile of each other at the full moon.
Even Jean-Claude couldn't explain this problem and the working hypothesis was that it had something to do with the combination of Sylvie having to be a hard bitch from hell to maintain her position in the pack and the fact that she was one of the few alpha wolves on friendly terms with Jason and hence Lupin's wolf viewed her as a threat.
The way Jason was standing very close to Lupin, Anita hoped that the boisterous young man had come to terms with this added complication, but she could not help feeling sorry for the younger werewolf. It hadn't been openly discussed, but she suspected that this would mean that Lupin and Jason would be returning to England with Draco and Harry. Lupin had seemed quite happy to stay in St Louis, possibly permanently, since he could claim residency thanks to some obscure Wizarding law recognising a mate bond between magical creatures as legally binding, but Jason did not seem quite so comfortable the other way round.
Jason was an all American boy and Anita knew that England would be a big break for him, but she was almost positive that Lupin could not stay in St Louis for much longer without having to challenge Sylvie. While Anita thought that Remus would probably make a good pack second, being patient and strong, but under the polite veneer as hard as nails, she was not so sure Sylvie would survive or that she wanted such a threat to Richard in the pack. Lupin was after all a wizard and he had resources the rest of the pack didn't. Anita had the nasty suspicion that if Lupin so chose, Richard would fall in a battle for Ulfric. Richard was the stronger werewolf, but magic gave anyone the edge.
"Okay, guys," Anita said, banishing her contemplations, "fifteen minutes to moonrise, everyone ready?"
Harry could quite honestly say he was having a wonderful time. This moon he was no longer a stranger and the pard were an extremely playful bunch when nothing serious was going on, and running around with them had been fun. It had taken some coaxing from him, Cherry and Zane with the others hanging back, but they had eventually managed to convince Nathaniel to play as well. The newly discovered wizard had been subdued ever since the incident in the kitchen, but Harry was determined Nathaniel would not be subdued for long.
They had played for what seemed like ages, even drawing Anita into a game of tag by bowling her over and then daring her to retaliate. Harry thought the hose pipe had been bad form, but Anita had soon learned that wet cat was even worse than dry cat and every body had ended up a little damp. Micah had looked utterly hilarious completely drenched after Anita had taken revenge for a particularly soggy hug from the Nimir-Raj's catman form.
It had been fun and they had bounded around until the play had become a little too serious and Micah had sent them all to hunt. Then they had divided into small groups. Harry had seen Remus and Jason disappear into the trees together as he had trotted over to Draco's side. It had seemed perfectly natural to slink into the trees with his lover by his side and begin the search for prey.
Small prey had been easy to find and the taste of blood was still in his mouth from his first meal, but Harry was after larger game. Draco moved through the wood beside him like a silent ghost and they were of one accord as they scented their current prey. It was a deer, a big one, and even as his beast moved him in the hunt, he had plans at the back of his mind.
Harry had never been taught to hunt like an animal, but he had been trained for war and this was little different, merely more primeval. Silently he and Draco separated, circling their prey from either side. He could see it now, his cat eyes picking up the sight of the skittish creature in the dim light. It was standing stock still, listening as if it knew it was being stalked, but it did not stand a chance.
Pushing his muscles into action in a huge burst of speed Harry rushed forward, a bullet of black fur in complete contrast to the white blur that was Draco from the other direction. The white tiger leapt onto the back of the deer, beginning to pull it down and Harry went straight for the throat.
His teeth closed on soft flesh and fresh blood burst into his mouth, wiping out his mind as instinct urged him to hold on. Nothing else existed as the smell and taste of blood swamped him and he crushed the throat of the beast between his jaws. The creature's struggles excited him and he enjoyed feeling the life flowing out of the deer and into his mouth. This was what his beast was meant for; this was the ultimate design of the cat and he revelled in it. Only as the prey finally died did his human mind slowly come back to him.
It was hard to release the grip he had on the deer, but he made himself and slowly stood up, looking down at the lifeless creature in front of him. Draco was sitting beside the deer with one paw on a haunch, just looking at Harry. In this, where Harry led, Draco would follow and Harry had no intention of eating just yet.
Instead of ripping the prey apart he carefully rubbed his chin along it, scent marking it quite deliberately. With a huff and a nudge he invited Draco to do the same. This was their kill and he wanted everyone to know it, but it was also a gift. Once the deer smelt of them to his satisfaction, Harry sank his teeth back into the throat and patiently began to drag it back towards Anita's house.
At the last moon he had been new, confused by the instincts and overcome with the power of his beast. He had done something that in a different pard could have been seen as unforgivable, and he intended to rectify that as completely as he could. Never in his life had he been allowed to just muddle through and learn slowly, and he refused to do so now either. He was a wereleopard and he was not going to be a bad one.
As they walked back into the garden he saw most of the pard around the place, although a few were still missing, and Micah was with Anita in the middle. It was possible for a cat to look surprised, but no one seemed particularly startled that he was dragging another deer. There were a few looks, however, when he dragged his prize straight towards Micah and Anita.
He was aware of Draco behind him, but as he took the prey forward, his lover held back. Once he was at his destination Harry carefully put the deer down and then stepped back slightly, before lying down and rolling half onto his side. It was a sign of submission and almost more powerful that when he had fallen to his knees as a human being.
This was Anita and Micah's pard, they were Nimir-Ra and Nimir-Raj and Harry recognised their authority, however, they both looked surprise at his complete surrender. For a moment both just remained where they were and then Micah moved forward, offering his furry hand to Harry. Without hesitation Harry licked it and if he'd been able to he would have smiled. His and Draco's gift had been accepted in the spirit that it was meant.
End of Chapter 34
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