Chapter: 6 of 35 - At Home with the Family
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 6 At Home with the Family
Harry felt a strange kind of safety with Anita that he did not understand, but found he accepted, but that didn't stop the almost complete panic when he saw the group of people in front of the house where they pulled up. He wasn't sure what he'd been expecting when Anita had told him the whole pard would be there; but it hadn't been quite so many.
"You're new," Anita told him with a small smile, "and both of you are under my protection; anyone gives you any shit, tell me and I'll deal with it."
He had been dealing with his own 'shit' for years and Harry was used to taking care of himself, but he nodded anyway. The last thing he wanted to do was cause trouble on his first visit. He was, however, very glad of the calm presence of Draco behind him. To have at least one familiar thing in such upheaval was a great comfort.
He watched, fascinated, as Anita walked up to the group and was greeted with variations on the theme of the gathered people rubbing their faces on her hand. Harry remembered doing that in cat form when he had first changed, but he had felt no such impulse since, and didn't now either.
When all the greetings were over Anita turned and beckoned him up the drive. He went, slowly, wary of the power in the air that was running over his skin like a breeze. He had been feeling things like this since he woke up, but with so many lycanthropes around it was almost overwhelming. He was short for his age, even though his body seemed to have been trying to catch up over the last few months, and nearly every male in the group was taller than he was, and several of the women as well. That was intimidating, even when you'd been up against Voldemort and won.
"Everyone," Anita said cheerfully, "meet Harry and Draco. Play nice so I don't have to shoot anyone."
For a moment Harry thought she was joking, but no one in the group seemed to think it was funny. The tone had been cajoling, but Harry came to the sudden realisation that Anita had been serious. Being British, Harry was not used to the idea of guns in the first place, but he was even less used to someone talking about using one so easily.
It was obvious that they knew he was the lycanthrope as most eyes fixed on him and Draco was spared little more than a couple of glances. He wondered briefly how much Anita had explained to her pard and how much she had kept to herself. When one of the group moved he started in spite of himself and realised that he was being an idiot.
"Frightened of Nathaniel," one of the larger men at the back laughed and several others joined in.
The young man with long auburn hair whose movement had caused him to jump smiled at him in sympathy and walked forward.
"Hello," the young man said, looking at Harry curiously, "I'm Nathaniel. Nice to meet you."
There was no offer of a handshake, and Harry was very unclear of how wereleopards went about greeting each other except what he had seen between Anita and her pard, so he chose to try a smile.
"Hi," he replied.
"Ah, look at the two pretty little kitties," the snide comment came from a man with a ring in his eyebrow.
Nathaniel looked over his shoulder with a frown and Harry decided that he agreed entirely. The owner of the voice was annoying and something about him was rubbing Harry completely the wrong way. He knew that he sometimes held back because of his childhood with his Uncle, but that did not mean he was weak and the pierced individual seemed to be taking him at face value. In the Wizarding world no one judged him by appearance because they saw the scar and knew who he was; here it seemed quite a lot was done on first glance.
"Ignore, Caleb, he's a dick," a woman said, moving out of the crowd as well, "I'm Cherry."
"Hello," Harry greeted politely.
"Sure you're not too good for us with an accent like that, kitten?" Caleb really didn't know when to let up.
Harry went from nervous to very annoyed in a heartbeat and he didn't do annoyed very well at the moment. Something stirred within him and his eyes zeroed in on Caleb like a targeting sight. The growl that came out of his throat sounded totally alien, but power flowed out of him straight at the surprised looking wereleopard. Caleb looked even more shocked when Harry's power hit him and unceremoniously dumped him on his arse.
"My name is Harry," he said through clenched teeth, "don't forget it."
The wereleopard had gone white and when Harry turned his attention away from Caleb he found every eye on him; most were shocked. He had the feeling he had just done something else he shouldn't have been able to do, but it wasn't like he could do anything about it. Anita was watching from a slight distance with Micah by her side and she did not look as if she was about to do anything about the awkward silence. It seemed that he had dug the hole so it was his job to get out of it.
He looked to Nathaniel, hoping that whatever had moved the young man to be the first to greet him, would move him again. He really did not want to have frightened off the first person to show him friendship in the pard. Nathaniel appeared unsure, but their eyes locked and it was as if they suddenly understood each other. With a quick step forward Nathaniel took Harry's arm and smiled.
"Impressive," the young man said brightly, "why don't we take this inside and then everyone else can introduce themselves?"
By the time they made it into what appeared to be a nicely furnished living room Harry's head was spinning with names. Draco was a silent shadow at his side, but he knew that the Slytherin would have far more of this worked out that he did. Harry could be very Slytherin when he wanted to be, but right now he was feeling far more a Gryffindor, and rather out of control.
"What's he here for?" one of the other men in the room asked as they made themselves comfortable. "He's not one of us."
Harry thought the man's name was Merle, but he wasn't sure. Now every eye was on Draco.
"Where Harry goes, I go," Draco said with all the superiority which years of being the perfect Slytherin had graced him with.
"Not tonight, pretty boy," another one of the large men said with a frown, "where we're going no human can follow. Unless you want to be food."
It was the same argument Anita had used and Harry hoped it would not become too serious. When he looked at his friend there was a cold smile on the perfectly chiselled features. Draco shared a glance with him for a moment and then the smile became a superior smirk. There was no doubt about what his friend was going to do in Harry's mind and he braced for the reaction.
The Animagus transformation was nothing like shifting; it was fast, smooth and like a morphing effect Harry had seen on Dudley's computer once, rather than the splitting and rending of a lycanthrope change. Draco made a very large and impressive white tiger and when he trotted over to Harry and sat down he'd made his point.
"Shit," was someone's vocal opinion as the whole room stared.
When Draco flowed back into his own shape most of the wereleopards looked even more impressed.
"How the hell did you do that?" Cherry asked what everyone seemed to be thinking.
"I'm a wizard," Draco said shortly, "and so's Harry. We can do a lot of things, but this is what is useful at the moment. Just because Harry is now one of you doesn't mean he's any less my friend, so I will be staying."
That settled that argument and Anita stepped in to give a very short and edited version of the situation. Then they moved on to the business of Harry joining the pard for the evening.
Harry was trying to work out the structure of the pard, but it was confusing. Nathaniel seemed to be submissive to just about everyone, making sure they had everything they needed, but he wasn't sure that it had to do with lack of power, because there was something about the auburn haired lycanthrope that spoke of ability. Other than Anita and Micah's obvious dominance, there didn't seem to be much difference between all of the others.
As a child he had never been held, and touchy feely stuff wasn't something that happened a lot a Hogwarts, so the fact people kept touching him was creating confusing emotions in him. The touches were casual and unconscious as far as he could tell with most of the leopards, and at the same time they bothered him and comforted him, which was really strange.
Nathaniel had been sitting next to him with his hand on Harry's knee, chatting away about stripping of all things, for the last ten minutes and Harry really didn't know how to react. Draco was standing over by the wall, watching the room as if someone was going to attack at any minute, which wasn't helping Harry feel any more settled either. That they had so recently been in a war and were more than a little paranoid was not always useful.
Harry was considering how to extricate himself without being rude when he lost all interest in Nathaniel and looked over to the doorway. He had gone cold all over and he was still too confused about everything to figure out why. When a pale skinned man with green eyes and blood red hair appeared in the doorway Harry realised what he was feeling. Every cell in his body knew he was looking at a vampire.
It was then that he noticed that it wasn't dark yet, but the curtains to the room had been half drawn. This caused him to wonder two things; where had the vampire come from if it was light outside, and why had the room obviously been prepared for him.
"Hi Damian," Nathaniel greeted with a smile and finally stopped touching Harry, which was a relief and unsettling all at the same time.
"Good evening," the vampire replied, but his eyes were definitely on Harry, not Nathaniel.
"Damian, this is Harry, Harry this is Damian," Nathaniel introduced them as they stared at each other across the room. "Harry's joining the pard for full moon."
That seemed to confuse Damian for a moment and Harry had to wonder how much of his vampire was showing. If was obvious Damian could sense something from the way the vampire was looking at him, but it was also clear that Damian did not know what he was staring at.
"Hello," Harry said politely.
"There is something strange about you," Damian appeared to be as upfront with his opinions as Anita.
"There's something strange about you as well, Damian" Cherry said with a laugh, "but it's not like we keep mentioning it."
Damian frowned, but did not take his eyes off Harry. It was quite clear that Damian found Harry as unsettling as Harry found most of his life at the moment.
"Come and sit down, Damian," Nathaniel said, moving so that there was a large space on the sofa free. "Harry's a wizard, that's probably what you can feel."
Several things had been explained to the pard, but Anita seemed to be leaving it to Harry how much he wanted them to know upfront. It was now one of those moments when his secretive Slytherin side warred with his friendly Gryffindor urges. In this case it was logical that they were going to find out eventually anyway, so there were advantages to telling the truth that brought the internal conflict to an end.
"Actually, it's probably the part vampire," Harry said with what he hoped was a perfect impression of calm.
He couldn't stop his heartbeat speeding up, however, when everyone in the room looked at him.
"You did just say 'part vampire', didn't you?" Zane sounded incredulous and Harry just nodded.
"That's impossible," Damian gave the appearance of being completely sure of himself.
"So far everyone else has said the same thing," Harry replied, "but it doesn't stop it being true."
Even Nathaniel was looking dubious. In an attempt to prove that he wasn't completely insane Harry moved the collar of the top he had chosen specifically to hide the scar of the vampire bite. It seemed damage incurred before he was sprayed with blood had scarred, damage caused afterwards had vanished.
"You don't become a vampire because of one bite," Damian was not willing to budge on that point, but it was obvious that he was no longer so sure of everything else.
"And lycanthrope and vampire are mutually exclusive," Harry replied, a little frustrated that the nice atmosphere they had managed to set up was being ruined by this.
He might have been uncomfortable with Nathaniel touching him, but now that it was gone he missed it. He felt the beast inside of him stirring and he pushed himself away from the sofa, needing to be in motion to stop the part of him that was hidden away from coming out to play. The vampire was there as well, but as soon as he stepped into the light from the window at least that part stilled and went back to sleep.
"I thought you would like the truth," he said, annoyed more at himself than anyone in the room, "but as usual I should have kept my mouth shut."
He looked at Draco to see what his friend was thinking, but the Slytherin's face was completely neutral. He felt like he wanted to hit something, or preferably rend it into tiny little pieces, an impulse he did not think was a particularly good thing. A moment ago he had been fine, a little uncomfortable, but perfectly fine, now he wanted to damage something or someone permanently. The animal inside of him was prowling like a caged thing and Harry knew if it threw itself against its confinement he wouldn't be able to stop it.
"Shit, he's going to shift," Harry didn't know who had said it, but he glared at everyone anyway.
"Harry, calm down," Anita's voice hit him almost like a physical blow, and his beast reared at the command, snarling its displeasure, but it gave him something to hang on to.
As Anita strode across the room to him, he clung on to his self control and with a supreme effort of will shoved the cage door closed again. It had been closer than he wanted to think about. Anita touched his arm and he was flooded with her power and a sense of security and warmth settled over him. His mind was full of pard instinct: Nimir-Ra; obey; safe; kinship, and he felt the world return to what it should have been.
"Are you okay?" Anita asked, genuinely concerned.
Not trusting his voice yet, Harry nodded, and then Anita turned towards the rest of the room. She may have been small in stature, but she was very large in presence and several of the pard cringed away from her. Nathaniel was so close to being prostrated on the floor that Harry doubted the wereleopard could get much lower.
"Okay," she said, her voice low and dangerous, "who did not understand when I said 'look after him'? I leave you for half an hour and when I come back Harry's about the burst his skin. It's his first full moon, and I know you all remember what that was like."
Anita was just getting warmed up, Harry could tell, and it really didn't seem fair. Before she could really start yelling, he reached out and touched her shoulder.
"My fault," he said as soon as Anita looked at him.
The expression in her eyes softened a little, but not very much.
"No it's not," Anita said and as her eyes travelled around the room this time, everyone appeared to shrink a little.
Anyone sensible might have given up then, but Harry's Gryffindor tendencies were showing again.
"I mentioned the vampire," he said before Anita could yell at anyone, "because Damian noticed it."
Now Anita looked at Damian, who up until that point had been left out of the tirade, and it was the vampire's turn to flinch.
"And?" it was as if Anita was ten feet tall and everyone else was an ant.
"And I failed to believe him," Damian was clearly reconsidering his opinion in light of Anita's acceptance of the facts, and Harry had to give the vampire points for bravery. Anita in this mood obviously frightened Damian.
"We," it was Nathaniel who spoke, even though he still had his face buried in the carpet, "we didn't believe him."
It appeared there was solidarity against the wrath of Anita, which impressed Harry. There did not seem to be a lot that could distract Anita from a path once she had chosen it and Harry did not want to upset the comfort zone in the pard before the full moon. Something inside him knew that now of all times they needed to be a unit and a shouting match was going to help no one.
"It's not very believable," Harry tried one last time to put out the fuse his lack of control had ignited, "they hadn't seen this."
Without pausing so he couldn't change his mind, Harry pulled his top over his head. The spell had to be obvious on his chest in the afternoon sunlight and every eye in the room zeroed in on it, even Anita's and she had seen it before. Damian's eyes opened in surprise and Harry had the distinct impression the vampire could read the runes. Someone swore quite colourfully.
"What is that?" Harry had a little trouble remembering the speakers name, he thought it was Gregory.
"That is a channelling spell," every one looked surprised when Damian spoke, "one which requires human sacrifice."
When Anita looked at him questioningly the vampire gave a small shrug.
"She who made me found such things diverting for a time," was the only explanation forth coming.
Anita's anger seemed to have faded with this revelation, which Harry thought was a very good thing, but her exasperation still seemed to be there if the way she put her hands on her hips was anything to go by.
"Okay," she said with a glare around the room, "listen up, and listen up good. I'm only going to explain this once, and it goes no further than these walls, are we clear."
Everyone nodded and Harry was glad to see that Nathaniel was half sitting up again. It was disconcerting to see a grown man throwing himself to the floor.
"Harry is not a stray I picked up while working on my latest case," Anita told the group, "he is the case. He is the only survivor and the only witness to a very nasty black magic ritual, so we are going to keep him whole and safe. He was infected with lycanthropy and vampirism, and nobody knows how. His leopard seems to be more interested in coming out to play than his vampire, so that's what we're dealing with first. Damian and Asher will be with us tonight just in case Harry's vampire puts in an appearance, but Jean-Claude doesn't think it will. Any questions?"
There was not a peep out of any of them. If it had not been happening Harry would have found the whole things rather ridiculous: a woman under five and a half feet tall was facing down a pack of lycanthropes and a vampire.
"Good, then I can go back to what I was doing," Anita said pointedly. "Sorry, Damian, you can't go out tonight," she said as she turned and headed for the door, "so you'll need to find a volunteer. Not Nathaniel, he fed the ardeur this morning."
Nathaniel looked rather disappointed and although Harry could guess what the volunteer was for, he could not fathom the rest of the conversation.
"Moon rise is in four hours," Anita said before she disappeared, "and I want us one big happy pard by then."
The moment she was gone, Harry felt terribly exposed. With his top in his hand and almost everyone looking at him again he did not feel particularly welcome. It was a bit like being frozen in time as everyone just stayed exactly where they were.
"Cookies," Nathaniel said suddenly, "who wants cookies?"
For a few seconds everyone then looked at auburn haired wereleopard like he was insane.
"Chocolate chip?" it was Zane who asked.
"Double chocolate chip," Nathaniel said, perfectly seriously.
"Sounds good to me," Cherry said a little too cheerfully.
"I'll put the oven on," Nathaniel responded with a smile and began to stand up.
"I'll help," Gregory offered and suddenly there was movement in the room.
The tension was gone, people were going about their business and Harry was left looking at Damian thinking he had missed something. When the vampire began to walk towards him, Harry couldn't decide whether to be polite or run after Nathaniel and offer to help with the cookies.
"Would you mind if I had a closer look?" Damian asked when they were only a few feet apart.
Harry could see Draco had shifted his position against the wall, moving closer, and he felt a little more comfortable thanks to the back up.
"Not at all," he replied, although he didn't quite feel that way and he waited for the vampire to step up to him.
The tableau held for a while.
"You have to go into the shade," Zane said from where he was openly watching them, and Harry felt like an idiot.
Vampires and sunlight didn't mix, of course.
"Damian's a day walker, but he has these deep psychological scars that we're tying to train him out of," Caleb really was as unsubtle as a brick, as well as being a prat.
"I'll show you deep psychological scars," Merle said and Caleb did not appear to like his attention. "Congratulations, you just volunteered to be dinner."
"You can't make me..." Caleb's protest died as Merle glared at him.
Okay, so there was structure in the pard, it just didn't show that much until someone pushed the boundaries. Harry was beginning to think this was a lot more complicated than he had given it credit for. He stepped into the shadow of the curtains and hoped that things would not get any weirder.
Damian was not the most talkative individual Harry had ever tried to have a conversation with; in fact it was like extracting blood from a stone. When Nathaniel and helpers had returned with warm cookies Harry had given up. He received the odd strange look when he tried to rejoin the pard, but oddly, Nathaniel seemed to be in charge when it came to welcoming him back and no one argued once the auburn haired man passed him the plate of cookies.
Harry had just about become used to Damian being around when he felt something else. It was as if the whole ambiance of the house changed for a moment and then shifted back. Something powerful had just arrived, he was absolutely positive, but no one else seemed to have noticed, not even Draco or Damian. Harry was beginning to think that the fact he had a foot in so many different worlds meant he perceived things a little differently than the majority of people around him now.
The cold sensation that ran over his skin informed him that the something that had arrived was a vampire, just before said vampire appeared with Anita in the doorway. Micah had been with the rest of the pard for a little while now, possibly sent by Anita to make sure there were no other incidents, but Anita had been off doing things somewhere in the house and now she joined them.
This new vampire was tall and blond, but where Draco was silver blond this man was golden blond. Harry could see half of what was a perfect face, a face that as he looked into pale blue eyes made Harry think thoughts that he usually left to the wee small hours when he couldn't sleep and he didn't mind dropping into fantasy land. He had felt something similar when in the presence of Jean-Claude, but the circumstances had been so different that it had not had the same effect. The vampire was quite simply breathtakingly beautiful.
What happened next was quite surprising; Anita hit the newcomer on the arm.
"Turn it off, Asher," she said pointedly, "I'll castrate you if you touch a hair on his head."
"But, ma cherie," the vampire replied, "it has been so long since I have beheld such big green eyes."
It was not that Harry could suddenly resist whatever was happening to him; it was that he became aware of it. He could not look away from the pale blue eyes that held him, but it was as if part of him stepped back and observed what was going on. He was being manipulated and it was sort of pleasant, but a fundamental part of him objected to the principle and it kick started his self will. Harry had a very strong mind, he had had to have, and he blinked, freeing himself of the influence. Asher was still beautiful, but he was no longer the centre of Harry's universe.
"I inherited them from my mother," he said, surprisingly unbothered by the whole incident. "What did you just do?"
"He partially rolled you," Anita said, giving Asher a dirty look and appearing to assume Asher had ended the game. "Don't look a vampire in the eyes unless you have to."
Asher smiled at her as if he was enjoying himself; of course Harry knew that the vampire knew it was Harry who had ended their little exchange. There was a question in the blue eyes that looked at him and Harry could only guess what Asher was thinking, but he suspected it was something along the lines of: 'why haven't you told her the truth?'
"Harry, Asher, Asher, Harry," Anita introduced and then very deliberately went and sat in Micah's lap. "No more games."
That caused Asher to raise an eyebrow, but Harry couldn't quite figure out the whole body language thing going on. It was obvious Anita was a little annoyed at Asher's display, but the significance of her going to sit with Micah was a little confusing. When Nathaniel happily leant against Anita and Micah's legs, Harry gave up trying to figure it out. It could be some pard thing, or something else entirely, and he decided to ask Draco later, because he was sure his Slytherin friend would have a much better idea than he did.
"It was not a game, Anita," Asher said, although he appeared somewhat amused by whatever was going on. "I wished to ascertain whether, should anything untoward occur this evening, my influence could be used to resolve the situation."
"Yes, well now you know," Anita still didn't sound pleased, but she did roll her eyes at the vampire rather than glaring. "No more rolling the guests, it's not polite."
Harry was quite surprised when Asher's face became serious and he realised that there was more trust between everyone here than he had thought.
"Actually," the vampire said in what was still a conversational tone, only a much more serious one than before, "it was your young friend who ended the experiment, not I."
There was something strange about the way Asher held his head, the way his hair fell over one side of his face, but as everyone's attention turned to Harry once more he forgot to be curious.
"What?" he asked, used to the scrutiny by now, but still uncomfortable. "I don't like being manipulated. It was very pleasant," he admitted, blushing furiously, "but I'm a control freak."
That made several people laugh and look at Anita. Draco was watching the whole proceedings without even a flicker of emotion, but Harry could tell his friend's fingers were only millimetres from his wand.
"Bet you're not as much of a control freak as Anita," Nathaniel didn't seem to be able to resist and received a light clip round the ear for his trouble.
"Watch it, fur-ball," Anita said in a very convincingly menacing tone, "or I'll have to get a new house cat."
Nathaniel looked up over his shoulder at her, batted his captivating, lilac eyes and pouted.
"Meow," was all the wereleopard said and Harry couldn't help it, he burst out laughing.
Anita finally laughed as well which broke any remaining tension there may have been in the room, after which she reached out and ruffled Nathaniel's hair.
"Stupid cat," she said with a shake of her head.
Harry knew he was missing something, but his mind shied away from what he was thinking. Anita and Micah were clearly an item, Harry had even seen them kiss at one point, but there were other signals going off as well. When it came to relationships Harry had little to no experience, but he could read obvious signs when he wanted to, but so far he had Anita down as connected to four different men, three of whom were in the room, and possibly Damian as well, which meant that his radar had to be completely up the creek. He gave up trying to figure it out and looked back at Asher instead. Then he remembered what he had been curious about before.
"Why do you hide your face?" he asked, his mouth way ahead of his brain.
Total silence descended yet again. The thought that went through Harry's mind was 'open mouth, insert foot', but he refused to look away from the vampire. He had been an idiot now, he was not about to add coward to the mixture. Very slowly Asher straightened and lifted his head, moving until shadow no longer hid the other side of his face.
"Oh," was the most sensible thing that Harry's mind could produce, although it did list everything that DADA had taught him could do that to a vampire, "sunlight, holy water or fire?" he asked in a completely dead tone.
The side of Asher's face was a mess of scars; one half of the vampire's face was the image of perfection, the other was ravaged and all Harry could think of, was how wrong that was.
"Holy water," Asher replied in an equally emotionless voice.
"I do hope the people who did it are dead," Harry said, letting just a little of the outrage he felt slip into his voice. "If they aren't I know some very nasty curses."
He was perfectly serious as well; anyone who could do that to another sentient creature deserved anything he could think of as far as he was concerned. It was not the scarring that bothered him, it was the painstaking way it had been done and the amount of agony it must have caused. Barbarism was simply unacceptable whoever was committing it.
Asher looked at him seriously for several seconds.
"It was a long time ago," the vampire said eventually, "but thank you."
Maybe it hadn't been such a stupid question, Harry felt as if he might have just made a connection.
End of Chapter 6
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