Chapter: 35 of 35 - Home is Where the Heart Is
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 35 Home is Where the Heart Is
Originally he had only been intending to stay in St Louis for a couple of weeks, but with everything that had happened he and Draco had extended their stay to over a month and a half. Harry had learned so much and found a place in the city that was very different from the one at home and he was torn about the idea of going home. Only one day left and then he would be back with his old friends, but also embroiled in the politics of the Wizarding world. It was the politics which had made him decide to stay in the States for his birthday. When he had spoken to Hermione last she had mentioned something about Fudge talking about a national holiday, or some other such rubbish, but it was difficult to have a national holiday when the subject of it was out of the country.
Harry knew something odd was going on because he could feel that there were several members of the pard in Anita's house as they approached it, but he couldn't hear anything. He and Draco had spent a leisurely morning in bed celebrating his 18th birthday and then there had been a phone call on his mobile, which Draco had actually picked up, and he'd been dragged over to Anita's house. Draco had said it was something to do with Nathaniel and his tutor throwing a hissy fit about something or other, and since they were going home the next day they needed to sort it out immediately.
Since he had been hoping to spend the rest of the day in bed as well, before going over to say goodbye to the pard, he was feeling a little put out, but when it came to Nathaniel he was willing to drop just about anything. After all Nathaniel had given him and Draco just about everything the wereleopard had to give so that they could have a normal relationship which rather paled losing an afternoon in bed in comparison.
"Let's hope Anita doesn't have the poor bugger cornered with that gun," Draco joked as they walked through the empty kitchen.
"Or has blown his balls off," Harry replied, letting any annoyance he had left go, "because those are difficult to reattach."
Draco laughed and dragged him round the corner into the living room and it was as he stepped through the door that he felt the familiar sensation of stepping through some sort of spell. He soon realised it had been a silencing charm.
It was like the whole room exploded with noise and he was so shocked he almost had heart failure. The room was full of people and it brought him to a complete standstill. Looking around he could see every member of the pard, Remus and Jason, Richard, a couple of other werewolves who had connections to the pard and even Sergeant Zerbrowski from RPIT, and it rather knocked him for six.
"Well say something, you ninny," Draco said with a laugh, but the problem was Harry had no idea what to say.
There was a banner over the table that read 'Happy Birthday Harry' and a large cake surrounded by mountains of food. Last year the Weasleys had thrown him a 17th birthday party, but he had been expecting that since Ron was incapable of keeping a secret, and this had taken him by complete surprise and shocked him into total silence. He hadn't even known that anyone had told the others it was his birthday, that they had all come together and thrown him a party made him feel rather emotional.
"Thanks," he managed in what turned out to be a rather squeaky voice.
"Ah, isn't that sweet, he's embarrassed."
One day Caleb would learn when to keep his mouth shut, but as it was, Harry waved his hand and reduced the whole room to laughter as the wereleopard suddenly sported green and silver hair.
"Like the choice of colours," Draco said with a grin.
Then everyone descended on Harry and he had no chance to reply. He found presents shoved into his hands and lycanthropes who forgot their own strength patting him on the back and it was all thoroughly overwhelming. He didn't know quite how to react as he was pushed onto the sofa with all the gifts and then everyone watched him expectantly.
"I guess you want me to open these, then," he said with a sheepish grin.
"No, Potter," Draco said in his best scathing tone, "they're admiring the artistic intent of the wrappers."
There really was no comeback to that so Harry picked up the first present instead and began to carefully unwrap it. First of all he gently pulled off the ribbon, in a manner which did not damage the bow, and then he painstakingly began to remove the tape without ripping any of the paper.
"Oh god," a voice said from the back of the crowd and Harry thought it was Gregory, "if he's this slow on every one I think I'm going to drown myself in the punch."
Harry scored himself a point; it had taken less than five minutes to break someone and he grinned impishly.
"Bastard," followed by a groan was the response as he ripped into the present like he had wanted to do in the first place.
He had not expected presents from anyone and the more he opened the more he wanted to be all sappy and give everyone a hug. There were sweets from several members of the pard; a child's detective kit from Zerbrowski, which caused no end of hilarity; a silver necklace with a jumping leopard from Nathaniel; a book on the myths and legends surrounding lycanthropy and a sex manual from Remus and Jason, no prizes for guessing who had picked which; and a pair of silver knives in wrist holsters from Anita. That left only one present, wrapped in silver paper and fastened with a green and silver bow.
It was a very small parcel, no more the two inches cubed and this one Harry opened very carefully. Inside was a velvet box with some silver runes on the top, and Harry's heart skipped a beat as he realised what it was. To a Muggle it might have looked like a ring box or a necklace box, but Harry knew it was a spell box. Opening it reverently he saw three small jewels mounted on a simple pin and he could feel the magic on them.
"A memory pin," he said in a small voice, looking up at Draco and not knowing quite how to express his joy.
This was a gift only given to a person the other valued above all else. Harry knew that Molly had one from Arthur and Dumbledore had once shown him his and told him of a young woman he had lost as a young man. It had been a sad story, but one so full of love that the memory of it and the significance of the gift made Harry's heart brim over.
A memory pin contained a copy of three memories from the giver; the first was usually their initial meetings; the second the moment the giver first realised they were in love; and the third was often something intimate between the two. By touching the jewels the wearer could experience those memories from the perspective of the giver and it was considered one of the most intimate gifts any wizard or witch could give to another. Usually they were charmed so that they would only work for the person they were designed for, and Harry had no doubt that Draco would have bought only the best.
"Thank you," he said and reached out to his lover, "I will treasure it forever."
Then he dragged Draco down and kissed him very thoroughly.
"Y'know I could get the hose pipe," were the words that eventually brought them up for air.
Harry smiled sheepishly at Anita; he wasn't about to explain the significance of the pin to everyone in general, but he had had to express his thanks.
"Cake," Nathaniel decided as an awkward silence threatened to descend, and since the wereleopard had mastered Wingardium Leviosa already and was quite proficient in dropping ice cubes down people's back, no one argued.
Anita found that, without her conscious permission, Harry and Draco had taken up a place in her heart and she was going to miss them. Not quite as much as she was going to miss Jason, but they were definitely on her 'people I care about' list. Harry, Draco, Lupin and Jason would be leaving by portkey, whatever exactly that was, from Draco's house in only a few minutes and a select few were gathered to see them off. They had all said most of their goodbyes the previous evening, so the only ones in attendance were Nathaniel, Richard, Micah, herself, Jean-Claude and Asher.
Nathaniel had already been around the room hugging all the leavers and making them promise to write and call, and he looked as if he wanted to do it all again, but they really didn't have the time. Harry had given Nathaniel some sort of charmed notebook that was a twin to one Harry and Draco had that would allow a limited conversation as well, so that Nathaniel could talk to them if he needed advice without having to find an open fireplace. It seemed that for one of those at home Anita would have to jump through some hoops.
Richard and Micah had given much manlier goodbye speeches and had quiet words with their respective pack/pard members. The casual touching that had gone on said far more about the parting than the words had since Anita was now well versed in lycanthrope body language. Even Richard seemed unconsciously distressed that one of his wolves was leaving, although Anita suspected he was barely aware of the signs he was showing.
That left her and Jean-Claude, and she let the vampire go first. Since she had been the first to welcome Harry to St Louis it seemed logical that she would be the last to say goodbye to him and his friends.
"Mon pomme," Jean-Claude it seemed was starting with Jason, "you have served me well, and it gives my heart great joy to release you into bonds of a different kind."
Jason had still been Jean-Claude's pomme de sang even after connecting with Lupin, once Lupin's irrational possessiveness had faded, but as soon as the decision was made that Jason would be leaving Jean-Claude had begun looking for another. It was strange, but from where Anita was standing it appeared to her that it was this which was the hardest for Jason to let go.
"Another will take your place," Jean-Claude said in an almost ritualistic manner, "but know that you will always be welcome in my house."
With a flick of his wrist the vampire produced what appeared to be a small plastic wallet, which he presented to Jason with his usual flourish.
"A parting gift," Jean-Claude said with a smile and then moved forward to embrace the somewhat overcome werewolf.
It never really occurred to Anita how much Jean-Claude's influence had changed Jason over the years, but now she thought back to the man she had first met and there was a great deal of difference. Then Jason had been more like a playful kid, now he was still playful, but there was nothing juvenile about the way he dealt with the world. Anita wondered if maybe this was what it was like to watch your children grow up and fly the nest.
As soon as Jean-Claude drew back from the earnest embrace he turned to Lupin, whom Anita realised had been holding himself very still throughout the entire exchange. It seemed that Lupin still had some possessive issues and Anita wondered how they had managed the pomme de sang thing if a simple embrace put the werewolf that on edge. Lupin was obviously a lot stronger than she had given him credit for.
"He is very dear to me, mon ami," Jean-Claude said quite seriously, "please look after him."
"With everything I am," Lupin replied without a trace of hesitation.
Only then did Jean-Claude offer his hand, which was taken in kind, only Anita didn't think Lupin expected to be dragged into a very Gallic hug. The werewolf looked a little shocked when he was released. Anita scored one point to French touchy-feeliness and no points to British reserve.
"Mes enfants," Jean-Claude said, turning to Harry and Draco, "I will miss both of you. You are most welcome in my city whenever you wish."
Since Harry was a vampire and Draco his human servant Anita was impressed with Jean-Claude's pronouncement. Giving a vampire the freedom to come and go as he pleased from a city where he was not bound was a big thing in vampire society.
"Thank you," Harry said, clearly aware of what Jean-Claude's words meant. "If you ever have need of us, please call."
It was Jean-Claude's turn to look surprised since if Anita understood it correctly Harry had just countered with an equally binding statement. Simple words could have such huge meanings when it came to vampires and Harry had just promised his support to Jean-Claude even if he became master of his own city. Not that Anita thought Harry had thoughts of such grandeur, but things tended to happen to Harry, so she hadn't dismissed the idea.
"Merci, mon enfant," Jean-Claude said with genuine emotion in his voice.
Draco and Harry were then treated to similar embraces as Jason and Anita wondered if Jean-Claude's grip had cracked any ribs. When they parted Jean-Claude produced another item from his jacket and handed it to Harry.
"A small birthday gift," Jean-Claude said with a smile. "I would have liked to have thrown you a party yesterday, but ma petite had 'first dibs' on you."
The fact that more than one person had wanted to help him celebrate his birthday seemed to embarrass Harry, since he turned pink and mumbled a thank you. Anita thought it was rather endearing. Jean-Claude and Asher had arrived in the evening with more alcohol than Anita had seen in a while, but Jean-Claude had obviously kept the gift back for dramatic flare.
It was then that there was a small choking sound from Jason's direction and Anita looked over to see that the werewolf had just looked at the booklet in the plastic wallet Jean-Claude had given him.
"Jean-Claude, I can't take this," Jason's eyes were wide with shock.
"Too late, mon pomme," Jean-Claude said with a smile, "those funds have been in your name for over a year."
Anita had suspected the wallet contained details of an account, now she knew she was right. The question of how Jason would support himself in England had been mentioned, but rather glossed over and Anita could not help but smile as Jean-Claude took care of it.
"But," Jason tried to protest, and Anita briefly wondered how many noughts were in the account.
"No buts, mon ami," Jean-Claude said and dismissed the protests with a wave of his hand, "for what you have been to me, that is but a trifle."
Jason shut his mouth, but passed the booklet to Lupin whose eyes opened in shock. Anita decided it had to be lots of noughts, which wasn't really surprising since Jean-Claude had had several hundred years to become very wealthy and seemed to enjoy overly dramatic gestures.
Argument over, Jean-Claude took Harry aside to have a quiet word with him and in doing so made her the centre of attention for everyone else. She figured it was her turn.
"I'm going to miss you, you randy mutt," she started with Jason since he was the easiest. "Promise me you won't get yourself into any nasty trouble, because I won't be there to dig you out."
"I promise," Jason replied with a ready smile, but she could see the sadness in his eyes.
Once upon a time she had believed that Jason was a frivolous young man with no thoughts beyond the immediate, but she had learned over time that he was far from the image he projected. He was playful and he liked to find peoples' Achilles' heels and wind them up, but there was a very philosophical side to Jason as well. She felt as if she was losing a great confidant.
"If you're having any major moral dilemmas, just ring me and I'll put you straight," the werewolf said with a grin.
"Like I'd take advice from a beach boy," Anita replied, but belied her words by dragging him into a hug.
A lot of people saw the blond hair, heard that Jason stripped for a living and assumed he was dumb, Anita knew very different and they clung to each other for a minute, not wanting to part.
"Make sure he doesn't do anything stupid, Lupin," she said, determined not to cry as she stepped back. "If anything happens to him it's your balls on the rack."
The threat could have been taken as something of an insult, but Lupin seemed to realise that Anita was just expressing her distress and nodded with a smile. Over the last month she had come to know one thing at least; the two werewolves were in love. Oh it had started as lust and hormones, but she had watched it grow very quickly and she had no doubt they were supposed to be together. Keeping them in St Louis would have pleased her more, but with Sylvie it was impossible.
Before a tear could escape she turned to where Jean-Claude had finished talking to Harry.
"Next time you visit I don't want either of you to be kidnapped, understand?" she said, doing her best to sound nonchalant.
"We'll do our best," Draco said with a smile, "but this is Harry we're talking about, I don't think we should promise the impossible."
It was hug or cry so Anita moved in quickly and gave the blond Wizard a big hug. She really hadn't liked him when they first met, he and she were far too alike, but she was going to miss him a lot. Draco's scathing wit could be caustic if you got on the wrong side of him, but under what Harry called 'the Malfoy exterior' was a young man Anita was glad to call friend.
"You'll have to come and see us some time," Draco said as they parted. "We could show you all the dangers of Wizarding Britain."
Anita managed a laugh at that.
"Not if I have to fly," she said resolutely.
"Just ask Nathaniel to arrange a portkey," Harry said a little too brightly.
She turned to him and really didn't want him to go. She was used to having Harry around and she did not want to lose a member of her pard, because no matter how many times either of them had mentioned that he would be leaving and was only an adopted member of the pard, he wasn't; Harry was one of hers now.
"Don't get killed; don't do anything stupid; and don't forget to write," she said before finding herself enveloped in a hug.
"Likewise, ditto and also," Harry replied before they pulled back.
They just looked at each other a while and Anita could not help marvelling how different Harry was now than the first time she had seen him. She had first met a confused, pale although powerful young man and he was going home tanned, together and, from what she could tell, far happier. He had far too many things on his plate, but she could not deny that Harry seemed far more complete than he had done before Draco made his feelings clear. Looking at it a person might be forgiven for thinking that becoming part lycanthrope and part vampire would ruin someone's life, but Harry seemed to have simply adjusted.
"Thank you," Harry said quietly, "thank you for everything."
"Thank you as well, Harry," Anita said and meant it. "I'm glad you came here, even if I would have preferred different circumstances."
Anita wasn't sure how much longer they stood there, but Draco clearing his throat brought her attention back to the here and now.
"We have just under a minute," the blond Wizard said apologetically, "it's time to get ready."
For a moment Anita had the mad notion of grabbing them all and stopping them going, but she stepped back and let them form up around what looked like an airline ticket. Their luggage had already gone by another route as Harry had explained it so it was just the four men. Standing in front of the others she watched as Lupin whispered quiet instructions to Jason and then the four waved. One second they were standing in Draco's living room and the next they were gone, and Anita felt bereft. Although she hated flying she liked the airport idea better; it gave a person longer to say goodbye.
"Excusing me," a small voice said from beside her and she looked down to see a strange looking creature that Draco had said was a house elf.
"Yes?" she said, still trying to come to terms with the loss she was feeling.
"Would the masters and the mistress be requiring anything before they is leaving?" the house elf asked.
Anita just stared at the creature for a while, not really processing the words. A hand on her shoulder snapped her out of it and she turned to see Micah giving her a sympathetic look.
"Um, no, thank you," she said as she shook herself out of it, "we won't be staying."
It was time to get back to normal and she swallowed the emotions and pulled herself together. The wizards would be back, of that she was sure, and with their magic they weren't that far away. Wanting to cry was ridiculous and she gave Micah a smile before heading to the door. Now she just had family in England.
Harry hated portkeys; no matter how many times he used one, or how safe they were supposed to be, the moment he felt that tug on his navel his mind jumped back to the Triwizard tournament and part of him was convinced he was about to land in Voldemort's trap. The fact that Voldemort was dead had not helped with this fear and even though he could feel Draco close to him as they landed it took him long seconds to calm down his heart rate.
Official, international portkeys worked in that the passengers could depart from anywhere and would arrive at the international arrivals lounge at the Ministry, but Harry could have sworn that at first all he could see was a graveyard. The trials he had been through at Voldemort's hand would probably never leave him, but he wished fervently that portkeys would not always make him think of Cedric dying and Voldemort returning to life.
"Wow," was Jason's only comment on the whole enterprise and the way the werewolf's eyes were quite wide and round gave Harry the impression that his friend had actually found something that rendered him speechless.
They were quickly ushered out of the arrivals area towards passport control by an official who had obviously had her sense of humour removed when she took up the position. Harry thought there had to be some rule that customs and immigration officials had to have their funny bone removed before they could accept a post, or at least put any happy thoughts into a pensieve before they came to work.
Dressed in Muggle clothes, without his customary glasses and with his scar hidden under his fringe, Harry was pleased to find that no one looked at him twice. He'd tanned somewhat while in the States and thanks to house elf and Nathaniel's cooking he'd broadened enough that he didn't actually look much like the tired young wizard who had departed for a holiday all those weeks ago. Neither Remus nor Draco looked the part of Wizards either and Harry thought anyone would have been hard pushed to link them to the pictures of the war heroes that had appeared in the papers so often.
Waiting in line he and Draco let Remus and Jason go first. Harry wasn't sure what would happen when the official on the desk read his passport and realised that a celebrity had just arrived, but he wanted to be out of the Ministry as fast as possible once it was known, and bringing Jason into the country was bound to take longer than just coming home.
It was Jason and Remus who filled his thoughts as he glanced, aimlessly around the room. What Jean-Claude had wanted to talk to him about was choosing a pomme de sang. After the ritual Remus had been acting as his donor every two days, but nothing had been made official and Harry hadn't wanted to say anything because of the questions about who had been staying and who going. Now that they were all back on British soil Jean-Claude had suggested that he needed to make the arrangement official or chose one that was.
A pomme de sang had status and protection in vampire society, simple donors did not, and it was likely that Harry would have dealings with other vampires. Jean-Claude had also mentioned that it was not done to have two pomme de sangs, but that a bonded pair was the exception being considered as one entity due to the nature of the relationship. It was quite obvious who Jean-Claude wanted Harry to make his pomme de sang, but it was a little more complicated than that, which was why Harry was thinking about it as his eyes wandered.
He had counted all the little wooden ornaments around the dado rail of the room twice and had moved on to the flagstones in the floor when he heard a growl coming from Remus. Flicking his eyes over at the Auror on duty behind the clerk at the desk he could tell that the man was suddenly decidedly nervous.
[I think it's time to do something,] Harry said silently to Draco.
A small nod was the only reply since Draco had his eyes firmly fixed on the jumpy Auror. Harry had plans to use his celebrity to good use in the near future, so standing up straight he decided to start early. Pushing his hair out of his face in as casual a gesture as he could he smiled at the Auror and made sure the man had a good look at his scar. Against his tan the faded scar was quite pronounced, one of the reasons he had arranged his hair over it very carefully and he saw the Auror's eyes open in recognition. Then he gave it a few seconds, as if he had only noticed what was going on at the desk after he had made eye contact with the Auror, and finally he walked towards where Remus and Jason were standing.
"He is my mate," Remus' voice was very much un-Remus like in that it held a hard edge as if he was barely keeping his temper.
All in all Remus was doing a remarkable job of coping with his wolf considering the fact that the werewolf had been bound so long, but the one issue he was very touchy on was Jason.
"Hi, Remus," Harry said conversationally, as if he wasn't now standing just behind a werewolf about to lose it. Not of course that the oblivious official was aware there could be a room full of wolf at any moment. "Is there a problem?"
"He," Remus said, still glaring at the official behind the desk, "doesn't believe Jason is my mate. He wants to lock him up until we can prove it."
Harry patted Remus on the arm supportively and used just a tiny amount of the influence he had over wolves to calm his friend somewhat.
"I'm sure there's been some mistake," he said as if it was the most normal thing in the world. "I was there when the bond was made, Mr," he read the official's name plaque that was sitting on the high desk, "Banaquot, I can assure you it's definitely a mate bond; couldn't separate them for days."
"And you might be?" the immigration official asked as if he didn't really care.
Harry smiled at the man.
"Me?" he asked in a good impression of a man totally oblivious to how many rules he was stamping on. "Oh I'm Harry Potter."
He handed over his passport in a manner which suggested the official's mouth had not just dropped open like a fish out of water.
"We've all been on holiday in America," he continued, doing his best to sound like an excited tourist, "which is where Remus met Jason. Isn't it wonderful? I had no idea werewolves could form mate bonds until I saw it for myself. Quite amazing, don't you think?"
The Ministry employee really hadn't stood a chance and the man just nodded mutely as he looked down and checked the passport. Having confirmation that he was in fact insulting friends of Harry Potter, the defeater of Voldemort, and hence could find his career severely curtailed, the man went positively white.
"Thank you, Mr Potter," the official said in a very small voice and handed back his passport. "Mr Schuyler, sorry for the mix up; you'll need to register if you stay in the country more than fourteen days."
"Draco," Harry said brightly, turning and looking at where his boyfriend was still calmly standing behind the red line, "why don't you come and do your passport now as well? That way we won't have to wait for you the other side."
He had seen people sent to the back of the queue for doing similar things since the rules were only one person at a time unless you were a parent with a minor or connected to your companion in a way that needed to be explained for immigration, but the official just meekly took Draco's passport, didn't even open it, gave it back and waved them through. As they walked on Harry gave Draco a big, satisfied grin and the Slytherin rolled his eyes.
"You're going to become the terror of all Ministry employees," Draco said with a laugh; "I can just see it now."
The conversation about just how much of a terror to the Ministry Harry intended to be had gone on through baggage claim and out the other end. So much so that the first Harry realised there was someone waiting for them was when he had an armful of female.
"Harry," Hermione said as soon as she pulled back, "thank god you're alright. Why didn't you call more often?"
He had fire called his friends twice since the first time, but obviously Hermione had not quite believed a head in the fire. Maybe she had thought his body hadn't been attached.
"Oh, and thank you for the postcard," this was tacked on the end with Hermione's impeccable politeness and Harry managed to hold onto the laugh, but not the amused grin.
"You're welcome," he said and gave her a quick peck on the cheek. "I didn't know anyone was meeting us."
"No one was," Ron's wry tone said from behind his fiancé, "but you know Hermione; she wouldn't believe you were fine until she could check, and she wanted to make sure you didn't think you were getting away without a birthday party even if you were away for the actual day."
"I can't help caring, Ronald Weasley, someone has to worry about him," Hermione said a little hotly.
Harry saw his friend roll his eyes, but he did step up behind Hermione and wrap his arms around her. Ron might have been a dolt when it came to women through most of his school life, but no one would ever say that the chess king could not learn strategy when he had to.
"I know," Ron said, "but I think waking Albus in the middle of the night the other week, to demand an emergency portkey, was a bit much."
"You didn't?" Harry said, as the probable scene played out in his mind.
He should have known that his best friends would be worried until they could actually get their hands on him. Hermione had the grace to go a little red.
"I was worried," was all she would say on the matter.
"With you," Jason commented from just behind him, "I'd be worried too."
"Thanks," Harry said sarcastically.
Jason gave him an unrepentant shrug as he looked over his shoulder at the younger werewolf.
"You are the guy who stepped into St Louis and managed to get kidnapped in under an hour," Jason said with a grin and Harry couldn't really argue with that.
Trouble with a capital 'T' did seem to follow him around like a lost puppy until he knelt down to pet it and ended up hit on the back of the head with something hard.
"Yes well we can talk about that somewhere more private later," Harry decided, not really wanting to discus this out in the open, "and then Hermione can scold me about it without the whole Ministry hearing."
Hermione glared at him for that, but did not try and deny that she was indeed going to give him a proper talking to.
"Just so long as it's you she scolds and not me," Draco said in true Slytherin fashion, "because I refuse to accept that any of this is my fault."
"No, it couldn't be," Harry said in an innocent tone, "you just gave me the ticket."
A long cool stare greeted that revelation.
"So, aren't you going to introduce us?" Ron broke into the conversation again, much to Harry's pleasure.
It had been decided that most of what had happened in St Louis would only be passed on to those back in England once everyone was back as well to prevent any international incidents. People who had been at war tended to overreact about certain situations so the group who had been away had a lot of explaining to do, and Harry could not think of a better place to start than Jason.
"Ron, Hermione," Harry introduced, "this is Jason. Jason, these are Ron and Hermione, my two best friends."
"And the bane of my existence," Draco said dramatically, but with absolutely no venom.
Hermione gave the Slytherin a playful slap on the arm for that.
"Nice to meet you," Jason said and offered his hand first to Hermione and then to Ron, "I've heard a lot about you from the guys."
"I'm afraid you have us at a disadvantage," Hermione replied with a smile, "because none of the 'guys' has told us anything about you."
"Jason's a werewolf," Harry explained rather enjoying the anticipation and looked to Remus for permission to go on.
His friend gave him a small nod and a little smile; it seemed a Marauder's love of mischief never waned.
"And Remus' mate," Harry finished as if it was a perfectly normal thing to say.
Hermione was nodding politely before what Harry had actually said seemed to catch up with her. For his part, Ron looked amazed straight away.
"Mate?" Hermione did not very often come across something she did not know about, but Harry could tell this was one of those times. "I didn't know werewolves had mates."
"Neither did I," Jason said in his usual cheerful tone, "but I walked into the same room as Remus and bam, it hit me between the eyes, so I guess some of us do."
"It's rare," Remus provided in a much more helpful manner, "a throw back to earlier times."
Harry had watched Hermione all through the explanation and he could see the little light going on in her eyes. It was similar to Albus' twinkle, but it happened to Hermione when she found new knowledge. She was going to launch into all sorts of questions, he could tell, and here was not the place.
"There's lots about werewolves that isn't in the books," Harry said, cutting Hermione off before she could start, "and that's something I would like to talk to you about. I need some help with some research."
"Why?" his friend asked, and he could tell she was intrigued.
"I'll explain somewhere more private," Harry replied, becoming serious for a moment, "but suffice to say, I think something very bad has been going on."
True to Gryffindor form Hermione accepted what he said at face value. If there was one thing they had learned over their years together it was to trust each other. Instead of questioning until she had every last scrap of information, which Harry knew she would do as soon as they were on safe ground; Hermione gave him an appraising look. The expression on her face almost worried him.
"You look," Hermione paused as she spoke, as if searching for the right word, "healthy," she concluded, "and did you break your glasses again?"
He turned to Draco.
"Did I really look that bad when I left?" he asked, wondering if he really looked that different.
"You were exhausted," Draco replied in a manner that suggested to Harry his lover was being completely honest. "Why do you think I made you go?"
There wasn't a lot that Harry could say to that so he didn't try.
"I had my eyes fixed," he said, turning to the other topic, "I don't need my glasses anymore."
Hermione looked surprised, almost as much so as Ron.
"I thought your eyes were like Percy's, mate," Ron commented, "beyond magical healing."
"Me too," Harry replied with a smile, "but seems we were wrong. I'll explain everything at home, and then you can yell at me to your hearts' content. There's quite a lot we left out when we talked."
He received two almost identical looks for that.
"Let's get to the Manor and then Draco can play host and you can ask all the questions you want to," he said, trying not to feel as nervous as those expressions made him.
There was so much to explain and it was going to take a lot for his friends to accept everything, but he had faith in them. Ron was still volatile and Hermione was still the knowledge seeker, but they were also the same two people who had stood by him in second year when it was revealed he was a Parselmouth, and the same two who had been at his back in the final battle. They would understand and they would help him, he knew that in his very soul.
"Okay," Hermione finally agreed.
Without thinking what he was doing Harry reached for Draco's hand and then headed towards the exit and the public floo points. They would normally have Apparated, but Jason couldn't travel that way, where as he could use floo powder since all the magic was in the compound. It took him a moment or two to realise that Ron and Hermione were not following and he turned back to them. Hermione had a surprised little smile on her face, Ron looked utterly confused.
"Harry," Ron said slowly, "what's with the hand holding?"
Harry looked down at where his fingers were entwined in Draco's and realised what he had just done. Oh boy, was he in trouble now.
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