Chapter: 8 of 35 - The Man in Black
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 8 The Man in Black
Waking up amongst the pard had been odd, and he had spent most of the morning and early afternoon trying to reconcile the feelings of belonging, the feeling of embarrassment and the feelings of not knowing what as going on, but Harry had been pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. Micah seemed to have forgiven him for swatting the Nimir-Raj like a fly, and Harry did not quite understand why he had done it in the first place. He did not want the position of authority, but he had just reacted. He wasn't sure he'd ever understand it.
When Draco had started making noises about going to the Malfoy residence, Harry had agreed, finding that he needed a little space. Of course that had brought up the question of being able to contact people and Harry had had to admit that Draco's town house had no phone. Which had in turn led to admitting that he owned a mobile phone.
Hermione was every inch a witch, but she still had one foot in the Muggle world and had insisted that Harry buy a mobile so she could keep track of him when he was not near a floo point. His female friend had even gone so far as to have her phone and his phone specially altered so that they were shielded from magic. Harry had just handed over his vault key and not enquired how much the exercise was costing him since it had been important to Hermione and it was not as if he had any money worries.
That, however, did not mean he knew how to use said phone and he was standing in the living room looking at it stupidly as Nathaniel rattled off numbers.
"Um," he said as Nathaniel paused and looked at him.
"You look lost," the lilac-eyed wereleopard said with a slight smile.
"Had it a week," he admitted with a sheepish grin, "don't have a clue how it works."
"Want me to have a try?" Nathaniel offered, peering at the phone in Harry's hand.
"Thanks," he said straight away and handed the 'infernal Muggle device', as Draco had christened it the moment he saw it, over to his companion.
Nathaniel had it flipped open and beeping in under a second. If he was going to be interacting with it, Harry made a mental note to become more familiar with the Muggle world again. He was not shocked by anything like some of his Wizard friends were, but he had lost touch with Muggle culture after he had been removed from his relatives, and he had missed out on many things thanks to their neglect before that, so he needed a refresher course.
"Some of these are so illogical," Nathaniel said as his fingers moved over the number pad at a remarkable speed, "took me ages to work out Cherry's last one. She wouldn't let Zane use it after he nearly broke it one time. Anita bought us all a phone at Christmas; said she was fed up of having to track us down via pay phones or un-updated pre-paids. The girls got little flip ones that none of the guys can work. This looks like it was chosen by a girl."
"My friend Hermione," Harry admitted with a laugh. "She's Muggle-born so she knows everything about stuff like this. I know most of it, but I've never used it before."
From the look on Nathaniel's face that last statement intrigued the lycanthrope.
"So wizards don't use mobile phones?" Nathaniel asked, very open with his curiosity.
"Don't use phones of any kind," Harry replied honestly. "The reason Draco's house doesn't have a phone isn't because no one is living there at the moment, it's because wizards don't use them at all. At least not in Britain. We use fire talking."
"Fire talking?" was the next question.
"Far more civilised," Draco commented on his way past.
Harry just rolled his eyes and decided not to wonder what his friend was up to.
"Our fireplaces are connected via the floo network," he tried to explain to the perplexed looking Nathaniel. "We can travel between them as well, but when we want to talk to someone we throw this powder in the fire and stick our heads in. I suppose one advantage is that you can interact properly with the person the other end, pass things through and stuff like that, but you get soot everywhere."
The expression on Nathaniel's face clearly indicated that his companion was not sure whether to believe what he was being told. Harry had to admit that it did sound rather outrageous, but then a lot of the Wizarding world did.
"You put your head in the fire?" Nathaniel sounded very dubious.
"It doesn't burn once you use the floo powder," Harry replied with a nod. "I have no idea how it works, though, but trust me, it does."
"Weird," was Nathaniel's considered opinion.
"What's weird?" Anita asked as she walked into the room.
As usual when Anita arrived something in Nathaniel seemed to come alive as the woman strolled over. It was not something Harry could explain, but he had seen it too many times to ignore it, and it confused him. His hormones screamed at him that whatever was between the two was not platonic, but he had seen Anita kiss Micah and only ever hold Nathaniel. It was most odd.
"Harry was just telling me that wizard use fires to talk to each other," Nathaniel said brightly as he smiled at Anita.
"And here I thought smoke signals were in the realms of the Lone Ranger," Anita replied, which made Harry laugh.
Everything was far more relaxed this morning, now that the full moon was over and nothing bad had occurred, and Harry liked Anita's sense of humour. He decided it was better not to wonder how long the peace would last.
"That would be too sane," he said with a grin.
"I get the feeling I don't want to know," Anita replied and draped an arm on Nathaniel's shoulder.
Anita was a good three or four inches shorter than Nathaniel and yet as he watched them both looking at his phone, it was so obvious that Anita was the protector in the relationship. Harry gazed at them, so comfortable touching each other, so at ease and he felt his beast stir. His cat recognised his Nimir-Ra and it was strangely comforting. That would probably have been the sum total of the experience had Micah not chosen that moment to walk in as well and Harry could not help looking at the other man.
There was a reaction between Anita and Micah, something so slight that if he had not been paying attention he might have missed it, but Harry felt their beasts react to each other. He was stronger than Micah, he had proved that the previous night, but in that moment pure strength did not matter. He was alpha, he was strong, but he was not Nimir-Raj, Micah was and something in his head clicked into place as he felt Anita acknowledge her Nimir-Raj.
Something had changed over night, something had shifted inside of him as he slept with the pard and it made what he had done to Micah seem so wrong. Part of him wanted to crawl along the floor and say he was sorry and another part wanted to change the fact that he was not Nimir-Raj, both impulses were tinged with guilt for different reasons. It threw his thoughts into confusion and panic and he couldn't move.
"Harry," Micah's voice was strong and sure and Harry found himself looking into calm, green eyes, "let it go. Breathe, and let it go."
The air that he had not realised he was holding flowed out of his lungs in one long breath and he blinked at Micah helplessly as parts of himself warred with each other. Warm feelings of companionship and safety were coming from around him and he tried to focus on those, but it was difficult.
"I..." he tried to say, but he could not quite work out what words to use.
"It's okay, Harry," Micah said with perfect poise and calm, "the instincts can be disorientating. Just relax and try and let them wash over you. It's perfectly normal to be confused at first."
All Harry could do was obey the instruction and he did his best to breathe and let the conflicting influences run their course. When he had enough presence of mind to figure out what was going on around him he realised that Anita had him by one arm, Nathaniel was pressed up close to his other side and Micah was holding his face and looking directly into his eyes.
"Better?" Micah asked and slowly removed his hands from either side of Harry's face.
Harry gave a little nod and didn't quite know what to do or say. He felt rather embarrassed by his reaction now that it had dissipated to manageable levels.
"I..." he tried again, but he still didn't know what to say.
"Wanted to challenge me and fall at my feet at the same time," Micah finished for him, and Harry just nodded.
To his surprise Micah smiled at him.
"You're feeling part of the pard bond," the shorter man explained calmly as if he knew what Harry needed to hear, "but you're very alpha. You'll get used to the new instincts soon and they won't be too much of a problem."
There was a shadow in Micah's eyes as he spoke, but there was no trace of it in his voice. Harry knew he was upsetting the status quo just by being there; he had challenged the Nimir-Raj and won without even trying and he found that rather unsettling. No one else had said anything when they had found the five of them in the kitchen having breakfast, but Harry now knew why several had looked at him. He could feel the conflict in what he had done, and he knew Micah must have been paying for this anomaly which had walked into the pard.
Without allowing his higher brain or his alpha instincts to catch up he dropped to his knees. He had always been the leader, always in control, and for once in his life he let that go.
"Nimir-Raj," he said very seriously, eyes fixed on Micah's feet.
He was alpha, he was stronger than anyone around him, but he did not want to be Nimir-Raj, and for the first time in any situation in his life he let himself really believe that. He would not be here forever, he would be going home where once again he would bow to no man, but here, here he did not have to be the one in control. It was incredibly liberating.
When Micah gently touched his hair Harry sagged against the other man's legs and found that some of the stress of the last few days finally flowed out of him. He felt safe and protected and for now the conflict in him died.
Anita parked the jeep in the street outside the address Draco had given her. The two young men had offered to find their own way back to the house, but Anita did not feel right leaving them alone unless they were somewhere safe. After Harry's display of submission she felt even more protective towards him than she had before, and she didn't know whether to curse or cheer. Harry's behaviour before and since had not really changed, but after the wizard had acknowledged Micah as Nimir-Raj something had felt better that she had not even realised was not right in the first place.
When the metaphysical shit really started flying, sometimes all a person could do was accept that they were going to be covered in it before it was over.
It was a very impressive part of town. Although the townhouses were one long block, each one was bigger than her house in the country. This was where the rich and eligible lived while they were in town for the season, and Anita was pretty sure that if she asked she would find out that Draco owned another property in the vicinity of St Louis as well, with grounds and a swimming pool and everything the well to do manor should not be without. She didn't bother to ask because she really didn't want to get into all of that.
Over the morning and early afternoon she had found that no matter how she tried to remember the ass Draco had been the previous day, when he was turning on the charm he was very hard not to like. He was sarcastic and his wit could be acidic at times, but to her chagrin, he appealed to her sense of humour and the way he treated Harry was very telling. She wasn't sure she trusted him, but she definitely liked him.
It was as she was climbing out of the jeep that she noticed something was slightly off about the way the two boys were behaving. The carefree chatter from the car journey was completely gone, and although to the average observer she was sure the pair would have looked completely relaxed, Anita could almost smell the tension.
"We're being watched," Harry whispered quietly as he leant forward as if to pull something from the glove compartment.
Every nerve in Anita's body went from casually observing the world, to full on in a moment and she felt the tingle of adrenaline through her system. It was possible Harry was wrong of course, or the watcher was completely innocent, but the way her companions were reacting made her doubt that either was true.
Anita walked round to the back of the jeep and opened the trunk, pulling out Harry's bag and using to opportunity to take a quick look around. She saw a man in a black suit further down the road and every instinct screamed at her that he was a danger. Sometimes the beast was very useful; she had always been able to read body language, but animals were far better at it than humans and everything about the man was wrong. The road had a couple of small, exclusive shops in it, between the houses, and the stranger was hovering near one of those.
"You two go inside," she said quietly, but with a smile as if she was just passing the time of day, "I'll go and have a word with our mystery man."
Draco's smile was just as easy on his face as it had been all through the day, but there was a spark of something in his eyes that didn't match it.
"With all due respect, Anita," the blond wizard said in a tone that matched her own, "Harry and I would prefer to deal with this. We can take him down, question him and make him forget he ever saw us."
It was said with such confidence that Anita didn't doubt that it was true for a second. They had mentioned a war and they had told her about killing Dark Wizards, but this was the first time she could really see it in Draco's eyes. Even when he had been protecting Harry in his own way, Anita had not seen the Draco Malfoy she was looking at now. It was quite startling to realise how good Draco's camouflage actually was.
"None taken," she replied and looked up at the sky as if checking the weather, "but I don't think you're delusional enough to think that I'm letting you do anything alone."
"Would you mind being backup?" Harry asked politely, leaning down and rummaging in his bag as if he was looking for something.
It looked so natural that for a moment Anita thought he actually was searching for something.
"We've done this before," he said and standing up again produced a small box of something, "but we don't know how you work. Sherbet Lemons," Harry said much louder, "a favourite of the Headmaster of my school. I'm sure you'll love them."
"Thank you," Anita said, taking the box and then lowered her voice. "I suppose I can still shoot him from here."
Just a little of the tension disappeared from her companions' stances and she realised that she had been part of their calculations and her involvement had been for the negative. It made logical sense, but she could not help feeling a touch insulted.
"Nothing personal," Draco said quietly as he offered her his hand, "but it's always difficult working with new people."
Instead of heading for the front door, Draco looked down the road past the man pretending to look in an antique shop window.
"There's a park just round the corner," the blond wizard said in a much louder voice. "I remember it being full of flowers. Fancy a walk before tea, Harry?"
Harry was a consummate actor as a smile graced his face that even Anita couldn't tell was fake.
"No offence, Anita," the kid said with a laugh, "but after that ride, I think I could do with some fresh air."
Then he shouldered his bag as if it weighed nothing.
"None taken, Harry," Anita replied in kind, "just make sure you don't let anyone hit you over the head again. Tourists only get one rescue per trip."
Anita watched them walk off down the road and she could easily see the man in black studiously looking at an old painting in the window of the shop as the pair walked towards him. Harry and Draco were chatting as if everything was perfectly normal and Anita set about opening the box of Sherbet Lemons to prevent her having to get back in the jeep. She was ready to drop them and pull her gun at a moment's notice.
It was not until the pair walked past the man in black that Anita saw anything remotely strange, and the stranger was caught completely off guard. It was the smoothest take down she had ever seen, as both wizards turned together, wands in hands, although she had no idea when they drew them, and each fired off a spell. The man in black was beginning to turn himself, but he thudded backwards into the window of the shop and slid down with a very surprised look on his face. Anita dropped the pretence of not being interested, pulled out her badge just in case there was anyone watching and trotted over the three men.
She arrived just as Harry crouched down and moved the man's jacket to the side, what she saw stopped her short. There was an odd looking leather holster on the man's belt and rather than carrying a gun the man in black was carrying a wand.
"Shit," Harry said and looked at Draco, "he's a wizard."
"He looks very Muggle," was what Draco said and as Anita watched the young wizard moved to rifle their stalker's pockets.
Everything they were doing was probably illegal, but most times it was better to be sure than dead, so Anita let the pair get on with it. It took Draco only a couple of seconds to come back with a wallet and it was quite obvious the young man had done this before.
"Bugger," was Draco's distinct opinion and when the blond wizard showed Anita and Harry the wallet it was obvious why.
There, on full display was an ID which read: 'Kramer Primley, United States Auror Bureau'. Harry and Draco had just stunned a US official. Anita was not quite sure what an Auror was, but she could make a good guess. Harry looked at Draco, Draco looked at Harry, and finally Draco pointed his wand at the downed man. Anita stood back and waited for the fireworks.
"Ennervate," Draco said and flicked his wand in what Anita assumed the appropriate manner.
Since the now identified Primley immediately opened his eyes and blinked up at all three of them, whatever Draco had done had obviously worked. There was complete silence for a good few seconds as they all looked at each other.
"Now I know why this assignment came with hazard pay," Primley said eventually. "Do you two gentlemen make it a habit to stun people you've never met."
"When they're lurking and watching us, yes," Draco said pointedly, and Anita thought, under the circumstances, that she might have attempted to be more diplomatic, but the kid had a point. "It is behaviour that prevented us dying for quite a long time, so sorry if we don't seem particularly remorseful."
"And you, Ms Blake," the Auror asked and Anita went cold at the use of her name, "do you concur."
"I never shoot first and ask questions later unless what I'm shooting at is trying to kill me," she said with her icy, I will kill you in a heartbeat persona firmly in place, "but then I do not have stunning spells in my arsenal."
Harry stood up from where he was crouched down and offered the Auror his hand. Anita liked the fact that the kid did not contradict his friend even though it was obvious Harry was feeling guilty about the incident. Surprisingly the Auror took the offered limb and pulled himself into a standing position. The way Harry just stood there like a rock and acted as a leverage point even though Primley was much bigger than him was quite impressive. Anita didn't think Harry was trying to intimidate the man, but she suspected the kid was doing an impressive job of it never the less.
"Shall we go inside the house?" Harry suggested, and Anita silently agreed that it was not very sensible to have this conversation on a public pavement.
So far there were no twitching curtains or curious bystanders, but in a city that could change at any minute. Although Draco looked unhappy at the idea there was no sensible alternative that Anita could see and the blond wizard did not object when everyone headed for his house.
"You have us at a disadvantage, Auror Primley," Anita said as soon as the front door closed; "you appear to know who we are, but all we know about you is your name."
"Mr Potter here is quite a celebrity, Ms Blake," the Auror said as Draco led them into a pristine sitting room. "When his name popped up in a Muggle police case, all sorts of alarms went off. I was sent to observe the proceedings. And your reputation, Ms Blake, is well known throughout the city."
Anita did not fail to notice that Harry made a face at the mention of being a celebrity.
"I came here for a holiday," the kid said, the sound of bitterness in his voice, "I do not want to be headline news."
"That should not be a problem," Primley said, and actually sounded sympathetic, although his attitude was still rubbing Anita up the wrong way. "The Auror Bureau has the information locked down. Our community in the US is far more integrated with Muggles than yours is in England, but we are separate enough that your involvement in a Muggle case can be kept quiet."
"You make a habit of perverting the course of justice?" Anita did not like the whole cloak and dagger feel to the current conversation.
The Auror looked at her evenly, his face neutral and not particularly friendly.
"Only when we feel it is extremely important, Ms Blake," Primley said and his tone was just a hair's breadth away from condescending. "That is why in this case we are only observing. The general population is having enough trouble accepting people with talents such as yourself, can you imagine what would occur should they suddenly find out there is a population of Wizards and Witches living among them? They would attempt to use us or abuse us and there are not enough of us to take on every living Muggle, hence we take our secrecy very seriously."
Anita still didn't like his tone, but she could see his point. People had tried to use her on several occasions, and she was not seen as dangerous by most average people. If the way the Lycanthropes were treated regularly it told her that tolerance was not that great even in the land of the free.
"I am a licensed Obliviator," Primley said, looking over at Draco in a way Anita found very disconcerting. "It would make this far easier."
"No," it was Harry who spoke and he sounded ready to do damage if necessary.
Anita was not sure what had just been suggested, but she was rather pleased that Harry was so against it.
"What exactly did he just suggest?" she asked pointedly.
"That he remove the memory of him from your mind," Harry said, and the kid looked annoyed; Anita decided she agreed with him. "The Wizarding world does exist here, like at home, doesn't it."
Primley nodded, although he was the one not looking pleased now.
"We're more integrated, but a subculture does exist," the Auror replied, "and I broke at least two laws saying that in front of a Muggle."
"Anita is not a Muggle," Harry said vehemently, "she uses magic and deserves a damn sight more respect than you seem to want to give her."
Being defended quite so angrily was gratifying, but Anita usually did her own defending.
"You raise that wand to me and I'll shoot you," she said simply.
The sigh that Primley let out was one of defeat and the man sat down as if giving up.
"I meant no disrespect, Ms Blake," the Auror said politely. "We have very strict laws about altering people's memories and I would not have suggested it if I did not feel it would be the best solution for all involved. Until this point we still have deniability; that the European system was so different from the American one was believable. Knowing about us, Ms Blake, makes you subject to a whole series of laws you know nothing about, and if you were to just forget I exist it would be far easier on you as well as my Bureau."
"What laws?" she asked.
"There is an Amendment to the constitution guaranteeing the secrecy of the Wizarding population, Ms Blake," Primley told her, "and what it boils down to is that being a federal marshal, you cannot tell anyone about us without being prosecuted."
She was not about to mention that at least four people had access to her mind and she couldn't always keep things from them, but she did not like the idea of having her memory altered either.
"I do know how to keep a secret, Auror Primley," she said icily. "I would rather be subject to a thousand laws than have anyone try to get into my head."
Primley actually looked her in the eye then and eventually nodded his head.
"Very well, Ms Blake, my people will be in touch," the Auror said.
That seemed to be the point where Harry couldn't take it anymore if his reaction was anything to go by.
"Why is it so different over here?" the kid asked as if he found the whole situation incredible to believe. "If there are so many magical people here, why is the Wizarding world still separate?"
"I suppose it must seem very different to you," Primley said. "I spent a couple of years in England a while back and the old lines between Wizards and Muggles are much more obvious. Of course that's changing a bit, what with the vampires being made legal on your side of the pond as well. The way I remember it from History class, and forgive me if I'm a bit vague, it was a long time ago, when the settlers came over here a lot of magically challenged wizarding folk came with them."
"Are you talking about squibs?" Draco asked and seemed to find Primley's manner of expressing himself rather funny.
Anita wasn't sure what had amused the blond wizard.
"That would be a word to avoid in polite society over here, Mr Malfoy," the Auror said as if offering sage advice. "Contrary to popular thinking, magically challenged wizards are not usually completely without magic, they just don't have enough magic to do what we do, and often their magic is specific to one thing. They married into the Muggle population and certain traits entered the Muggle world becoming dominant over time and interbreeding, giving you what those in Ms Blake's line of work refer to as witches and sorcerers etcetera. We Wizards have our own laws and sections of government, but we still owe allegiance to the flag, and we live in much closer proximity to the Muggles. With all the preternatural activity around, we blend in very well."
Genetics was something Anita understood and it sounded like a rational explanation. She didn't really like the idea that there was a section of society hidden away from the rest, but at least it made sense.
"So what this all boils down to is you won't interfere and you won't allow this to leak to the press?" Draco sounded sceptical.
"Exactly, Mr Malfoy," Primley said and looked the Slytherin directly in the eye as he spoke. "My department do not want a diplomatic incident, or to have to clean up the mess having our two law enforcement agencies interacting would cause. It is in our best interests to see this settled without our involvement."
Anita could not help but think it would not be that easy. Things in her life were never that straight forward.
"Would you care for tea, Auror Primley," Draco asked as Anita tried to find the downside in the whole conversation, other than the huge conspiracy her government seemed to be involved in of course, "or perhaps coffee?"
Draco was being polite which seemed to relax Harry somewhat, but Anita was still on edge. She had no doubt they were about to pump the Auror for any and all information he had, but she had the sneaking suspicion that if the tea service was coming out, Draco, at least, intended to do it in a civilised manner.
End of Chapter 8
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