Chapter: 7 of 35 - The Way of the Moon
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 7 The Way of the Moon
Standing around completely naked with a group of people he had only just met was not something Harry thought he would ever be doing, but then his life was always full of surprises. Asher, tall, scarred and silent watching the whole thing did not really help him feel settled, and Damian, standing just behind Anita, was getting on his nerves because he was more and more worried that his vampire might come out to play. Draco had already changed into his sleek feline form, and had sat down to wash his paws as the others waited for the moon to rise. The moment it did, Harry knew: his skin began to itch. Anita had told him to just go with his instincts and let it happen, but she hadn't mentioned the itch. It was the type of itch he knew he would never be able to scratch and he had to hold himself still to prevent trying. Nathaniel was the first to go down on all fours, and Harry watched, fascinated, as the wereleopard began to change. The auburn haired man seemed to relish the pain.
Anita and Micah stood amongst their pard and one by one the wereleopards fell to their hands and knees and shifted into their lycanthrope form. Not forcing it was another thing that Anita had stressed and so Harry stood there and waited. The itching was beginning to become a little painful, but he did not really know what to do. It was not at all like the hospital. He could feel the animal inside shifting under his skin, but it was not yet clawing to get out.
It was when Micah finally started to shift that Anita began to look worried. She opened her mouth to speak and then Harry felt it; the pain in the centre of his chest. He fell to the ground on instinct and moaned as he felt his body shifting from one shape to the other. It was not the most pleasant of experiences, but it did not hurt anywhere near as much as the first time. Either his body was getting used to the idea or his mind was compensating for the agony. In either case it was nothing like as bad as the Crutiatus curse, and he'd suffered that on several occasions.
When he felt the last muscle shift into place he shook himself from head to tail and couldn't help the little huff of pleasure. There was power in his cat form that he did not feel in his human body and he liked it. The beast spoke to him of the hunt and the strength of being a leopard, and his first instinct was to run and find prey, but his human mind overrode the desire. He had had practice keeping parts of his mind separate and it took effort not to give in to the beast, but it was not difficult.
The night was far brighter to his cat eyes and much clearer since he had not brought his glasses with him, and the woods assailed his other senses with so many things that at first he thought he would never sort it all out. His senses were enhanced by the lycanthropy even when in human form, but it was nothing like when he was truly a cat. The overriding smell was leopard and he chose to concentrate on that, feeling the companionship of pard, and he began to sort out the different scents of those around him.
One leopard looked pretty much like another to his human eyes, except for colour, but when he looked around at the others it was as if he was looking with a completely different mindset. His mind recognised each member of the pard, as if the cat in him knew each scent already and catalogued the nuances of coat and eye colour in all those around him.
The only human smell was Anita and he gazed at her as she watched him, waiting for him to react. He remembered the instincts she had pulled from him when he had almost shifted earlier and he still felt them. It was almost as if Anita's power was more obvious when he saw and sensed her with his beast on the outside rather than the inside and he recognised predator, protection, pard; part of him even spoke of potential mate, but he squashed that very quickly. Padding over to Anita he greeted her, as was her due, and then went back to the other leopards.
Only Micah had shifted to catman form, all of the others were full cats and they greeted him in the manner of cats. Head's bumped and bodies rubbed as the pard established itself under the light of the moon. It was almost time to hunt and he could feel the excited anticipation in all the wereleopards around him; it would be a good night. There was only one thing missing and he looked up to see Draco watching the whole proceedings with blue-grey tiger eyes.
Trotting over he sat down in front of his friend and they regarded each other for a while. The wizard magic encompassed the tiger like a glove showing the human part of Harry exactly what Draco was, but it was strangely unimportant to the cat part of him. The Slytherin made a fantastic beast and he greeted Draco properly for the first time.
It was almost as if they had never met before as they rubbed against each other, becoming familiar with the scent and the power of the other. Harry let his magic shift through his body showing his full potential. This was what it meant to be animal rather than human and when Harry led Draco back to the pard no one challenged his right to do so.
The hunt had been a good one, and Anita greeted her leopards as they returned to the clearing at the back of the house. Most were carrying something small like a rabbit or a squirrel, which they presented to her in deference and she dutifully gave back so they could eat it. Even Micah presented her with a rabbit, although it was not in deference, but more in reverence, and considering he had a raccoon as well, which he kept for himself, this was clear to the whole pard. Micah in catman form was quite an incredible thing to see, even after having known him so long.
They had been going to the lupanar on and off, hunting with the wolves, but it was a different atmosphere when they were just the pard. Their group had structure, but it was much looser than that of the pack, and it was almost informal in comparison. It felt good.
The only thing that was worrying her was that she had not seen Harry yet, or his friend. The pair had gone chasing off into the trees and neither Anita nor Micah had been able to stop them. Harry was about somewhere, she could still feel the strangeness of him in the vicinity, so she was not really worried, but she was still uneasy. She was beginning to think she should go and look for him, when the troublesome leopard virtually pranced into the open.
What made Anita blink was that Harry was dragging the biggest deer she had ever seen, by the throat, and although the shape seemed to be awkward for him, the weight didn't seem to be bothering him at all. The white tiger form of Malfoy was only just behind Harry, and the annoying wizard sat down at the edge of the trees.
Harry dragged his prize into the middle of the cluster of other leopards and then dumped it there, looking rather pleased with himself. In all honesty, Anita thought he had a right to be. Having deposited his catch Harry then looked over to her as if asking if she wanted any, but Anita had the distinct impression that it was a courtesy rather than an admission of her dominance. Harry certainly didn't look towards Micah in the same way before he began licking the blood from the neck wound on the deer.
Anita knew that Micah wouldn't like that in the slightest, not while in catman form at the full moon, and she was not surprised when her Nimir-Raj lunged at the smaller leopard the moment he lay down. Harry was new, he could not be expected to get everything right on his first monthly cycle, and Anita was sure Micah would not hurt him too much, in fact the catman seemed to be about to grab Harry by the scruff. It was the gentlest way of disciplining a kitten.
What happened next shocked Anita to the bone. Rather than being dragged off the kill Harry twisted almost before Micah's claws touched him and the black leopard began to shift. By the time he was facing Micah, Harry was no longer a cat, but a catman like the Nimir-Raj, and he was huge. Micah never really stood a chance as Harry simply flattened him, pinning him down as if the clan leader was nothing more than a kitten.
The really disturbing bit for Anita was when Harry snarled at the wereleopard under him he revealed very white, long fangs that were not exactly what you found on a normal cat. The fact that Harry's green eyes were glowing did not help to settle her either. For a moment she thought that the stranger she had taken in was going to kill her Nimir-Raj, but with fangs bared, Harry froze.
To her growing shock Micah then turned his head to the side, exposing his throat to the creature on top of him. For a moment this tableau held, and then Harry huffed once through his impressive teeth at the offered neck before climbing off Micah and turning back to the kill. Efficiently eviscerating the deer with seemingly no effort, Harry then took the pick of the entrails, carried them over to his friend, shifted back into full leopard form and sat down to eat. The fact that he was facing away from the challenge and twitching his tail was both a sign that he was not interested in fighting and one that he was not about to take any shit from anyone.
Anita really wasn't sure what to do and she shared a look with Asher and Micah, before she eventually moved. Harry had left the rest of the kill and she was positive he had basically given it to the pard. Not your average thank you, but typically lycanthrope in nature. She knelt down next to the deer and invited the rest of the wereleopards to join her. She wasn't about to eat it herself, but after Harry's display, her presence was about the only thing that would make the others touch it at all. Micah was first, but the rest of the pard followed quickly.
Harry appeared embarrassed when he woke up in a pile of naked people, and Anita couldn't help but feel sympathy since it had taken her a while to get used to the idea as well. When Micah had invited Harry to join the pard in a customary pile of bodies, Anita had been a little surprised, but had had no reason to object. Lycanthropes always slept in after a full moon, and when Anita was with the pard and not off on business they usually stayed together at her house. When they had not been at the lupanar and just fell into the house she didn't even try and insist on clothing anymore. It was coming on to lunch time.
Nathaniel was wrapped around Harry in what for Nathaniel was simply a welcoming manner, but to someone not used to him, probably said many other things. There had not been a great deal of time for the pard to get to know Harry before the moon had taken them, but Anita could tell that her pomme de sang had taken a liking to the quiet young wizard.
When Anita took part in the full moon ritual, the morning after she was always the first awake, not being susceptible to the shifting exhaustion that took over the lycanthropes. She was quite surprised that any of the pard were conscious yet, even Micah ran until he was exhausted at full moon and she doubted even an earthquake would wake most of them before early afternoon. Then again Harry had already shown himself to be almost immune to the drawbacks of a shift, so he had most likely slept off the exertion of the hunt already.
Joining the huddle of bodies had been the one part of the evening that Harry's friend had chosen not to partake in, and he was nowhere to be seen. The smell of coffee coming from the direction of the kitchen gave her a clue as to where he might be found. Locking eyes with Harry she smiled and then began to disentangle herself from Micah, who was sprawled across her in a very possessive manner. At least she had the advantage of being clothed, although not in more than a ratty t-shirt and underwear, and she could not help but feel sorry for Harry as the kid began to blush when he followed suit.
A few sleepy grumbles and the odd swear word later, Anita was free, Harry was dressing in the nearest item of clothing he could find, and the pard had closed ranks into one big mass of flesh once more.
"Let's go find coffee," Anita said as Harry pulled a large T-shirt over his head.
She had to stop and stare when she walked into the kitchen since there was a strange looking coffee pot floating above the centre of the table, with steam rising from the top, and no sign that her nice, average, normal coffee machine had been used at all. Malfoy was sat next to the pot, with a cup in his hand, reading yesterday's paper. One of the pard had probably brought it with them since Anita tried to avoid all news. The blond wizard looked up as she walked in and gave both her and Harry a very appraising look.
"I was wondering if coffee would wake the dead," Malfoy said with a slight smile. "I hope you don't mind, I used your coffee, but I could not for the life of me figure out how to use that Muggle contraption, so I did it the old fashioned way."
There was the note of sarcasm to his voice that Anita had begun to expect, but she had to re-evaluate Malfoy from her impression yesterday. He did not sound hostile, and he appeared to have a sense of humour that had been totally absent when Harry had been in danger the previous day. She knew she could be a hard bitch from hell if anyone threatened her people and in a flash of insight she realised that Malfoy was more like her than she cared to imagine.
"From the fact that the pot is floating," she replied with a raised eyebrow, "I assume the 'old fashioned way' would be magic."
"Until last year Draco didn't know there was another way," Harry said in a light, if somewhat, strained tone, and Anita knew the kid was still uncomfortable, but she gave him an 'A' for effort.
"I still think living without magic is barbaric," Malfoy bantered back, "but at least I'm trying."
"Yes, very," was Harry's response.
The two were swapping jibes like it was second nature and Anita had to hide her smile. Instead she walked to the cupboard, picked up two mugs and then turned back to the table. How did one get coffee out of a floating coffee pot?
"Just put the mug under the spout and the pot will pour," Malfoy told her helpfully as he went back to reading the paper.
Looking at the pot dubiously, Anita did as instructed, and to her surprise the coffee poured into one and then the other mug without fuss or ceremony.
"It will stay hot until it's empty," the blond wizard said almost absently as he read whatever article had his attention, "and there's enough in there for twenty or so mugs; I thought the rest of the furry clan might like some."
No way in hell was the pot big enough to hold that much liquid, it barely looked as if it could have held the three mug-fulls it had already produced.
"Bigger on the inside than on the outside," Harry said as Anita contemplated the vessel. "A lot of the wizarding world is like that: what you see is not always what you get."
Anita handed him a mug and shook her head. There was absolutely no point in worrying about the power these two young men seemed to wield like it was nothing, when she could do little about it. There were, she had to admit, perks to being a wizard.
"Good grief," Malfoy said as he finally finished the article he was reading, "Muggles actually come here to see vampires? If they're that stupid, why do they make such a fuss when one of them gets eaten?"
Anita looked at the wizard over her cup and realised he was serious.
"They probably don't understand the forces they're playing with," Harry put in before Anita could reply. "Look at how many witches and wizards they burnt in the middle ages, and the only ones they managed to kill were Muggles."
From the tone of voice Harry used, Anita was pretty sure this was two sides of an old debate, so instead of entering her own opinion, which was actually somewhere in the middle, she sat back to listen to the two chatter. It was amazing what she could learn by just pretending not to be there.
By the time she was on to her second cup of coffee she had come to the conclusion that Malfoy, or rather Draco as her brain insisted on calling him after listening to Harry talk to his friend, did not hold Muggles in very high regard. It used to be more, she was fairly sure, because she had seen the blond wizard censor himself a couple of times. Harry on the other hand was very pro-Muggle, although when Draco had made the mistake of mentioning Harry's Muggle relatives there had been an icy silence that Anita had had to smooth over.
The conversation only stopped when Nathaniel walked in from the other room in nothing but a pair of jeans, saw the coffee pot, and froze. It was like seeing a house cat come across something poisonous that it still wanted to touch and Anita was almost sure that if Nathaniel had had hair short enough it would have been standing on end.
"Coffee?" Harry asked as he eyed Nathaniel warily.
"It's floating," was what Nathaniel said, and he looked at Anita as if to ask if this was her doing.
"I didn't want it to mark the table," Draco said, either wilfully missing the point, or really not seeing what the problem was.
Nathaniel was now looking at the wizard as if he might bite, although he did seem to appreciate the not marking the table part. There had not been enough time to explain everything to the pard the previous night, and this was not a kind of magic the wereleopards were familiar with. In their world people did not throw around magic to heat up coffee, and Anita held her hand out to Nathaniel in support. Her pomme de sang came to her immediately and leant against her, almost as if sheltering from the strangeness in the middle of the kitchen table. It was often the strangest things that unsettled Nathaniel.
"Harry and Draco have very different magic," she said in what she hoped was a calming manner, "they don't use it like we do."
Harry pulled his wand from somewhere, and Anita was shocked to realise she had been completely unaware that her house guest had been carrying it.
"We use one of these," the green eyed youth seemed to want to explain, and Anita could see the beginnings of a pard bond in the way Harry was reacting. "Draco couldn't figure out the coffee machine so he put a spell on the pot."
"It's good coffee," Anita offered as Nathaniel looked to her again.
The wereleopard appeared dubious, but when she gave him a nudge in the right direction Nathaniel went to the cupboard and took out a mug. When he came back he circled the table, looking at the pot from all sides before he would go anywhere near it. Harry put his mug under the spout and allowed his half empty cup to be filled once more as if to prove it was safe. Nathaniel still did not look happy, but he followed suit, and Anita did not miss the sniff he gave the coffee before he deigned to taste it. It would have been amusing had she not known the life that had led Nathaniel to be so cautious.
"If it's going to cause this much bother," Draco said, his pale eyes watching Nathaniel poised for retreat if the pot did anything strange, "I can cancel the charms and we can use that," the wizard waved his arm in the general direction of the coffee maker, "thing, instead."
"No, that's alright," Anita said immediately, "it was kind of you to make sure there would be enough for everyone, and if there is one thing we don't do in this house, it's waste coffee. Nathaniel is just naturally cautious."
She was not about to go into detail as to why the wereleopard had reason to be, but the implication was left hanging in the air. Nathaniel looked at her in a manner which said he would have been much happier if she had taken the other option, but when she nodded to one of the three spare chairs he did sit down.
"Anyone fancy some chocolate?" Harry asked suddenly.
"Only if you promise it won't go to my hips?" Anita said with a smile as she saw Nathaniel finally take interest in something other than the coffee pot.
"I'll be right back," the green eyed wizard said, and then dived out of the kitchen, back towards the living room.
Anita could not help but notice that Harry was already beginning to move like a lycanthrope. It usually took those infected months to adjust to their new situation, but Harry seemed to be way ahead of the game. Possibly it was his strange magic that was helping him, or it could have been a natural affinity, Anita did not know.
"He was hard enough to keep track of when he didn't have the extra speed," Draco commented dryly, obviously having noticed the change in his friend as well, "now I'm going to have to put a bell on him."
Anita smiled at the joke and Nathaniel laughed, which was quite a surprise. Harry appeared seconds later and dumped a pile of five boxes onto the table. The boxes that were face up read Chocolate frog.
"Please, have one," Harry invited with a grin that told Anita there was something more to this than candy, "there's nothing like Wizarding chocolate, even Cadbury's doesn't come close."
Anita had had Cadbury's chocolate once after rescuing a coach load of English school kids from a rampaging zombie; it had been very good, so she reached for one of the boxes. The moment her fingers touched it she felt the tingle or magic, and she looked at Harry who was still grinning.
"Nothing bad," he said as if he knew what she was thinking, "promise."
The moment she had the box open something jumped out of it. Nathaniel reacted instantly and his hand shot out to catch the projectile, at which point Anita thought his brain caught up with his instincts and he dropped whatever it was on the table. The chocolate frog gave one more little hop and then sat still.
"It's not alive, right?" Anita regretted asking the question the moment she did.
It was chocolate, of course it wasn't alive.
"No, just charmed to look that way when you first open it," Harry promised faithfully. "Go on, eat it, I swear you will never look the same way at the Muggle stuff."
Still not sure, but unwilling to snub her house guest, Anita reached out and picked up the now inanimate frog. It looked far too real for her taste, but taking her dignity in her hands she bit the head off. The moment the flavour hit her taste buds she smiled, it was good. The tingle of the residual magic as it moved around her mouth was rather pleasant as well.
"You may have a point," she said and bit off another bit of chocolate.
Knowing that Nathaniel would not be comfortable with the confectionary on his own, Anita broke off some of her frog and gave it to the wereleopard. As her pomme de sang tucked in to the chocolate, Anita noticed that something else had fallen out of her frog box, and she picked it up. It looked like some sort of trading card, but the frame was empty and she was about to put it down when the name under the frame caught her attention.
"Harry Potter," she read aloud, "the Boy Who Lived and Defeater of He Who Must Not Be Named."
Harry looked up as if he'd been shot; it appeared he had not expected that at all.
"I have a frog card?" he was looking at Draco and his tone was rather strangled.
"Harry," his friend said and Anita thought Draco was used to situations like this, "you rid the world of the greatest threat to Wizards in the last hundred years, of course you have a card. Didn't you know they were the hottest trade item at Hogwarts for the last four months?"
Harry obviously hadn't known if the pale, stunned look was anything to go by.
"No one told me," the young man said rather lamely.
"They probably thought you'd hex them," Draco said and patted Harry on the arm fondly, "after all that Hufflepuff who asked for your autograph when you came back to school didn't come down from the ceiling for four hours."
"So this Harry Potter is you, then?" Anita could not help herself, especially since as she looked at the card, a slightly younger looking version of Harry walked into frame, waved and then walked out again.
"Yes, it's me," Harry replied, looking most uncomfortable.
"And this He Who Must Not Be Named would be the Dark Bastard you've both referred to?" Anita wanted to be sure.
Draco nodded and Harry stared at his mug; this was most definitely a touchy subject.
"His name was Tom Riddle," surprisingly it was Harry who spoke next, but he sounded resigned rather than very willing to talk, "although he called himself Lord Voldemort. No one will say his name because they're scared of it."
There was a pointed look in Draco's direction at that.
"He killed my parents when I was one, but when he tried to kill me the curse bounced back," the way he told the story, Anita knew that the pain of the memories was being pushed away with an iron will. "Hence, the Boy Who Lived. I am the one and only person to ever survive the Killing Curse. What very few people knew was that he wasn't completely gone, and he tried to come back when I was eleven, and when I was twelve, and finally succeeded when I was fourteen. Because of a prophecy it was him or me, and I finally killed the arsehole a little over six months ago. He's not coming back this time."
The last sentence was said with a finality that begged no argument and Nathaniel had obviously picked up on the same distress that Anita could hear, since he reached out and ran a hand down Harry's arm. Lilac eyes met green eyes and something definitely passed between the pair and Anita guessed it was probably shared pain. The fact that everyone around her seemed to be so damaged was not a settling thought.
Micah broke the moment by walking through the door. Harry tensed immediately and Anita guessed that the wizard was remembering what he had done to the pard leader the night before. Harry appeared somewhere between apologetic and defiant, somewhere between his human and lycanthrope reactions if Anita was any judge. The kid was definitely an alpha, but fighting and defeating 'the greatest threat to Wizards in the last hundred years' was likely to do that to a person.
The longer Harry was a lycanthrope the more alpha he would become, but he was still an interesting mix of human and wereleopard that Anita knew was not a threat to the pard. She tried not to dwell on the fact that there was vampire mixed in there somewhere as well. Micah had come to the same conclusion the previous evening in lycanthrope form or he never would have invited Harry into the huddle, and after a moment he must have come to agree with his initial assessment as he looked away from the possible rival to the coffee pot.
"Nice pot, Anita," was her Nimir-Raj's opinion as he walked to the cupboard, "where did you get it."
"It was a gift," she said with a smile at Draco, "have a chocolate frog."
"For breakfast?" Micah did not sound impressed.
"It's past noon," Anita pointed out and tried to use her eyes to indicate to Harry that everything was okay.
The kid still tensed when Micah picked up a frog box and flopped into a chair in the graceful way only a wereleopard could manage, but Harry was better at hiding it than most people. Nathaniel helpfully picked up Micah's mug from where it had been placed on the table and filled it from the pot. It was a very neat way to avoid having to ask how the magic worked and Anita hid a smile behind her mug at the alpha antics. When the frog jumped from the packet as Micah opened it her Nimir-Raj's face was a picture.
End of Chapter 7
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