Chapter: 9 of 35 - Like Even Less
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 9 Like Even Less
They had grilled Primley for over an hour, until the wizard insisted that he had to report in. It seemed that wizards and witches still kept their society secret, but that they worked along side Muggles almost all the time. Harry and Draco had promised that they would not do anything to dispel the idea that Europe and the US were completely different and wizards did not exist in America, Anita promised to just not say anything at all unless if was absolutely necessary, and Primley assured them that he would be watching, but that it would be very discrete and he would not interfere.
Anita had left soon after Primley, leaving Harry and Draco to their own devices at last.
"Right," Draco said as soon as they had checked that their visitor had left nothing behind when he left, "do you want to call your fan club at home to make sure they don't all descend on St Louis first, or do something you're going to like even less?"
Having had to deal with so many other things he did not really want to have to deal with his friends as well. It was the sensible thing to do, but what he would have liked to do more was just relax and forget about it. However, a hoard of worried Gryffindors turning up on the doorstep in the middle of everything would be bad for lots of reasons.
"What did you tell them when you came over?" Harry asked as the headed for the study and the only floo connected to the network.
"There wasn't much to tell," Draco replied. "I received a message to contact the police department in St Louis via the family solicitors; they deal with anything Muggle related. I knew if it involved you and Muggle law enforcement it couldn't be good, so I made arrangements to come over and told Weasley that you'd managed to find some sort of minor trouble. Granger made me swear to call the moment I knew what was going on so they're probably frantic by now."
Harry felt the guilt settle firmly on his shoulders as Draco went to the large desk and pulled out a box from a secret drawer. Flooing internationally was impossible; the network would not work well enough to carry people over large bodies of water, but it was fine for fire talking. They had studied it in N.E.W.T. level charms and it had something to do with translocation of matter and representative translocation of matter that Harry had no intention of every fully understanding.
"What do I say?" Harry asked as his mind went blank the moment Draco handed him the box of floo powder.
"If you want them all here in under an hour, tell the truth," the Slytherin said rather unhelpfully while he set about lighting the fire. "If you don't want them to worry be creative."
Harry narrowed his eyes; Draco really could be obstreperous when he wanted to be. It then occurred to him that he had just thought a word he had only ever heard out of Hermione's mouth and decided that he must be having a mental breakdown. He threw the powder into the fire, stuck his head in and rattled off the international address of the Burrow before he could change his mind.
It was odd looking at someone's living room from the fireplace, and he hadn't expected Molly, Arthur, Ron, Ginny and Hermione to all be sitting around it. It then occurred to him that there was a six hour time difference between St Louis and England; it had to be late evening at the Burrow.
"Harry," Ron almost leapt out of his chair, "we've been trying to contact you for two days. Where've you been, mate?"
He tried hard not to wince as guilt swept through him, but Harry had never been good at hiding his feelings from his friends.
"Sorry," he apologised quickly, "I ended up in a Muggle hospital and it took Draco's wrath to get me out."
"Oh you poor love," Molly said straight away, "what on earth happened?"
They all looked so worried and Harry did not want to burden them anymore than they already were so he did his best to look as if nothing was wrong.
"Someone hit me on the back of the head when I got out of the taxi at Draco's house," he admitted perfectly truthfully, "and they wanted to keep me in hospital for observation."
"How dreadful," was Arthur's opinion on the matter.
"I'm fine, though," Harry continued before anyone could ask how he was, "you know me; hardest head known to wizardkind."
No one in the room looked particularly impressed with that statement.
"So does this mean you're coming home early?" Hermione asked in a perfectly reasonable tone.
"Um, no," Harry replied, thinking fast, "I'm the only witness to the crime and the police want me to stay for a while. The same gang have killed, so there's a big hunt on to find them, and they need me to identify them when they catch them."
It wasn't completely a lie.
"But you said they hit you on the back of the head," it was just like Ron to notice a detail like that.
"Um, they might have kidnapped me as well," Harry could almost see the hole he was digging for himself, "and I saw them when I woke up."
"Good grief, what kind of Muggles live where you are?" Molly sounded outraged.
"Mostly nice ones," Harry promised and desperately prayed his friends would not ask too many questions. "The police are being very nice about everything, and there's a federal Marshall making sure I'm safe. If they hadn't hit me from behind I'd have hexed them into next week, so you know I can look after myself."
"Don't believe him," Draco leant into the fire next to him, "he couldn't look after himself if his life depended on it, only if someone else's did, but don't worry, I will keep an eye on him. The family solicitors are handling anything problematic and we're trying to keep a low profile."
It was nice to have backup, even if that backup was being sarcastic about you.
"So everything is really fine?" Hermione was looking straight at Harry as she asked the question and he felt as if he was staring into the headlights of a car approaching at speed.
"Of course it's fine," Draco said as Harry stumbled, "what do you take me for? You think I'd let our wayward hero be done in by a bunch of yanks?"
The Slytherin did a beautiful tone of righteous indignation, but Harry found that he could not lie outright to his friends. He hoped Draco's response would cover his little problem.
"We'll have a lot to talk about when we get back," he said as calmly as he could manage, "and then I swear I'll tell you all the little details, but there's not time now. There's stuff we have to do and we're going out later, and I really just want a long, hot bath."
Using his big green eyes and looking tired was something he could manage and he saw Hermione's frown melt away.
"You be careful," was all his friend said, rather than launching into an inquisition.
Harry just nodded at her.
"Sorry to floo and run," Draco took over again, "but we really are a little short on time. See you when we get back, bye."
And Harry felt himself being pulled out of the fire before he could say anything to incriminate them. He just about managed to waved and say goodbye before the connection closed and he was back looking at the fireplace in the Malfoy house study.
"If you would just learn to lie these things would be much easier," was Draco's succinct opinion on the matter.
Draco let Harry have a cup of tea before he brought up the 'something you're going to like even less' from their previous conversation.
"Time for some testing," the Slytherin announced as Harry tried to put off what he knew was coming by reaching to pour another cup.
He wasn't quite sure what his friend was on about and his face must have showed it, because Draco shook his head exasperatedly.
"With your magic," his companion explained as if speaking to an idiot. "I don't know about you, but I want to know how much you can do without a wand, and what effect this business has had on your other spells."
"Oh," Harry replied, and realised that is was quite a sensible idea.
What with the shape changing and meeting vampires and everything, the fact that he had performed several wandless spells and destroyed the desk when he had meant to dent it a little had rather slipped his mind. It hadn't felt any different to do the spells so it was much lower on his list of priorities at the moment. Obviously it was quite high on Draco's.
"Where would be the best place?" he asked and did his best to sound enthusiastic.
Living without knowing everything that had changed about him was looking more and more appealing, but he was naive enough to think it make any sense at all.
"There's a duelling room downstairs," Draco replied, looking him over in a very mother hen fashion. "It has wards to prevent anything entering the rest of the house. The entrance is off the wine cellar."
Once upon a time the idea of a house having a wine cellar would have impressed and shocked Harry, but he had spent too long with Draco for it to make him even bat an eyelid. He just nodded and followed his friend when he led the way.
"It shouldn't take long," Draco said as if he realised what Harry was thinking, "but you need to know. We can have a drink and play a game of chess or something when we're done."
Harry didn't bother replying, but he gave his friend a smile for trying. It had been a long couple of days and hiding under a blanket and refusing to come out seemed like a good idea at times, but this was important. He hoped that Draco's prediction would be correct.
Harry just stared at the hole in the wall with his mouth open. It was about two feet wide and a good six foot deep, which was quite impressive considering that the cellar was carved out of bedrock. The test had been a simple one; Draco had wanted to see how powerful Harry could be in terms of brute force, so he had asked him to cast a banishing charm on an old dilapidated looking bludger they had found in a junk room off the side of the duelling area. Harry had done as he was asked and the bludger no longer existed except as a collection of component shreds and there was the crater in the wall. Even Draco did not seem to have anticipated anything like that.
"How, in Merlin's name, did you not kill Primley when you disarmed him if you have this much power?" Draco asked as he examined the hole.
"I didn't try very hard," Harry said, although he had had no idea quite what he was capable of and the thought that he could have accidentally, seriously hurt the Auror was rather a sobering thought.
He had known that the addition of lycanthrope and vampire traits had increased his underlying magical strength, but this seemed a little ludicrous. The combination of magical sources was not always predictable if Harry remembered the five minutes of theory Hermione had tried to explain to him when she was writing her final assignment for her Ancient Runes N.E.W.T., but this was a far cry from a little accidental magic. The spell he had been subjected to had changed him at a fundamental level.
"Okay," Draco decided and gave Harry what Harry suspected was supposed to be a reassuring smile, but failed because the Slytherin still appeared a little shell shocked, "we need to find out what your range it like."
It was a better idea than anything Harry's stunned mind could come up with so he let Draco take over completely. He had a feeling this was going to take longer than either of them had first thought.
It had not taken too long to figure out that with a wand Harry's magic was on the dangerous side of powerful, but that he could control it back to normal levels if he concentrated enough. Without a wand he could do most of what he had been able to do before with one and had heard Draco muttering something about fakes wands and keeping the real one in a holster unless absolutely necessary.
Some of the more complex spells did not seem to work without the focusing device, but every day charms and hexes were easy. Before the Slytherin would explain what he was on about Draco has insisted they duel, Draco with a wand, Harry without. They were both good, their lives had depended on their skills, and even without a wand, Harry fought Draco to a standstill. They were evenly matched.
"That's it," Draco finally announced as he stood there breathing hard, and Harry decided that he would like to sit down and the floor was as good a place as any, "we're having a replica of your wand made."
Harry was too knackered to follow his friend's logic.
"Why?" he asked and lay back on the floor, staring up at the ceiling as he tried to recover.
"So that you can cast most of your spells wandlessly without anyone knowing the difference," Draco replied and joined him on the floor. "If people find out there will be too many questions, but waving a stick should fool most people."
Harry wasn't so sure; the wandless spells didn't quite look the same all the time, for example, where coloured light would have erupted from the end of his wand it tended to erupt from all of his finger tips if he cast without the focusing device.
"What about when you can see the spell?" he asked, looking over to where Draco was now flat on his back beside him.
"Magic travels the path of least resistance," the Slytherin said without turning his head from where he was looking upwards. "We can have a crystal core put in the fake wand which will make it look as if the magic's coming from the wand tip."
It seemed Draco had everything covered so Harry went back to staring at the ceiling.
"Okay," he said eventually, "can I go have my bath now?"
Draco was silent and when Harry looked over to his friend there was a thoughtful expression on the Draco's face. He had been so tired after the duel that Harry realised he had forgotten something important. One magical spell had come to mind the moment he found out he was a lycanthrope, one spell that wasn't really just a spell at all.
"The Animagus transformation," he said as he remembered what Draco had suggested they leave until last.
"We can leave it, Harry," Draco said, sitting up and giving him a patented 'I'm serious about this', expression. "We don't have to do everything today."
"No," Harry said after a few more moments of silence, "I want to get this over with."
This was really the moment Harry had been worrying about. As far as he knew lycanthropes did not have Animagus forms, or at least werewolves didn't, but then everything he had been taught about werewolves seemed to be inaccurate as far as the lycanthropes he had met in St Louis went. The rest of his magic seemed to be working even if it was a little unpredictable at times and appeared a good deal stronger, but the Animagus transformation was something that was close to his heart.
He had not learned how to change into an animal because of the war, or anything to do with Voldemort; he had done it for Remus and it meant a lot to him. If it was lost to him he would feel it in a way he did not want to consider too closely.
Draco climbed to his feet and offered Harry his hand, and Harry used it to drag himself up.
"Ready, Harry?" Draco asked as the Slytherin viewed him, arms crossed and speculative.
"As I'll ever be," he replied, not sure he wanted to try this now, but knowing he had to.
The Animagus transformation was not like another spell. It was not something a wizard cast every time they used it, but more a matter of activating a spell they had combined into themselves at a base level. That was why a wizard could not choose their animal; it had to be compatible with them at a fundamental level and so in a way had been chosen for them before they ever tried the spell at all. With a thought Harry reached out and touched the tendrils of power within himself that were the essence of the transformation.
His body flowed from his human form into that of a wolf so that he was looking at the world through canine eyes and on a magical level it felt perfectly normal. However, on an instinctive level it felt as if he had just entered a completely alien world that was giving him all the wrong signals. It was as if part of him was rebelling against the change and he realised with a start that that was exactly what was happening.
His beast did not like the wolf shape.
The animal part of him was a cat and it had been added to human, so that cage it could cope with, but being a wolf was not what it wanted to be. For a while he fought the urge to change back into human form even as his beast tried to make him, but it was not until he was sure that he could maintain the form no matter how bad it felt that he let himself give in to instincts. When he was once again human he just stood there, breathing hard.
"Are you okay?" Draco moved towards him, obviously concerned.
Harry nodded and pushed his agitated beast back where it belonged.
"I don't think I'll be doing that unless I have to," he said slowly. "My cat doesn't like my wolf."
"Logical I suppose," Draco commented, and the Slytherin mask was back in place. "I think you need to sit down again before you fall own. It's time for that bath you've been harping on about all afternoon."
Right about then Harry decided that arguing was a bad plan and did as he was told. He had only mentioned the bath twice, but if Draco wanted to call that 'harping on' then he was not going to correct his friend. His wolf was not out of his reach, but he also knew that the shape was no longer a comfortable place for him. Silently he prayed that it would become easier, that his cat would accept the other shape, but he had no strength to try now, and all he knew was that failure did not have to be absolute to still hurt.
End of Chapter 9
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