A/N: The story lives! Anyone who follows this fic on AO3 will already have read this because I posted it there a few weeks ago, but I forgot my FFN password until now. Still, better late than never! Updates will remain sporadic and widely spaced, I'm afraid, as real life is chaotic and not showing any signs of calming down any time soon.
Exactly what had made him think inviting the pack to join them in Diagon was a good idea, Harry didn't know. Between the combined efforts of Edson, Thomas and Hermione, more than half the pack were now familiar with the Basilisk Incident.
The response had been...unexpected. Rather than yelling and asking what on earth he had been thinking (the response he usually got from Hermione and Mrs Weasley) or peppering him with questions and requests for a blow-by-blow account of his adventures (the usual response from his Housemates), the pack's initial response had been to take bets on how Aaron would react when he found out. The current favourite was a tie between demanding twice daily updates while Harry was at school, or offering the services of one of the pack as a Defence teacher so they could keep an eye on the young demon. The potential third option of having half the pack move to Hogsmeade for the duration of Harry's stay at Hogwarts had only been vetoed because the nearby packs would react badly to the intrusion.
Domovoi's response hadn't even been worth speculating on. After the Alpha hit the roof and got the 'what the hell possessed you to do something so stupid' rant out of his system, Harry would spend the foreseeable future bubble-wrapped with a growly Alpha watching his every move. It went without saying that anyone making life difficult for Harry this year would greatly regret the decision. If the Alpha had his way Harry wouldn't be returning to school until they found a way for the pack to accompany him. Fortunately for Harry his absence would attract too much attention for pulling him out of school to be a viable option.
Hermione was torn between being scandalised at the blatant gambling (which the pack found hilarious and prompted another round of betting on if and when she would give into the temptation to scold them for it, and if she would join forces with Aaron), and delight at the
obvious concern they showed towards her best friend.
With the basilisk story told, the werewolves had decided that retail therapy was needed. Or rather, the pack now had an excuse to go out and spend a ridiculous amount of money on their new cub. When Timothy had told Harry that the entire pack would want to buy stuff for him, the demon had hoped he was joking.
He had seriously underestimated how the pack felt about having a cub to spoil.
What had started as a simple wander around Diagon quickly snowballed into a buying spree unlike anything Harry had seen outside the buildup to Dudley's birthday. As Harry's friend, Hermione got dragged along too as the werewolves bought everything Harry could conceivably need for the upcoming year. The demon was thankful they limited themselves to practical items, otherwise he'd need the apartment Aaron had offered him just to store everything.
"Where are they getting the money? I thought most packs were...not well off," Hermione asked Harry quietly while the werewolves occupied themselves bickering over which potion ingredients a third year would need and which would be good to have 'just in case'. Harry had given up trying to stop them after the third futile protest over having Hedwig's feed and perch replaced. Now he settled for being grateful that only Timothy, Rick, Thomas and - surprisingly - Leo from Rikin's little posse, had joined them for the extended shopping trip. He wasn't sure he wanted to know what it would be like if all the pack had joined them.
Harry shrugged, replying quietly, "I'm not sure but I think most of the pack have jobs. They never seem short of money, at least."
Hermione looked almost impressed, "Really? I thought most werewolves struggled to find anywhere that will hire them."
"They do," Timothy said, making both teens jump. He grinned as Harry scowled at him. "Increased aggression around the full moon, needing at least two days off a month, the social stigma - it all makes it difficult to hold a job in most places. We're fortunate enough to have a business man as a pack sponsor. Most of us work for him and/or a Guild. Shax pays fairly, so with most of us working the pack has money to burn. To an extent."
"What are Guilds?" Hermione asked, looking to Harry who shrugged. Both of them looked at Timothy expectantly.
"Oh no. Guilds are not for cubs. You shouldn't even think about them before you're seventeen; they're dangerous," the large werewolf said firmly. As soon as the words left his mouth, he realised that playing the danger card was possibly the worst approach to take with Harry. "No," he said sternly before the teens could push the issue.
Sighing, they let the subject drop. They had seen that expression on enough adults to know that pushing wouldn't get them anywhere. Not right now, at least.
"You're wasting your time," Leo told them as they left the apothecary with more ingredients than Harry could possibly use in a year, even if he didn't hate potions. At the teens' questioning looks, he clarified, "Asking about the Guilds. It's a waste of time. Domovoi won't let anybody tell the younger pack members anything, even after we all turned eighteen. He'll deal with them for Mr Calvey's sake, and because half the pack are involved, but he really doesn't like them. Best I can tell they're the magical answer to the Mafia, only the Ministry works with them - buying their services - not trying to stop them like the muggle government," the young werewolf explained. Then he snorted, "With our Ministry, though, it's not surprising they're willing to outsource work to shady organisations."
Hermione frowned at the disdain in the werewolf's voice as he talked about the Ministry. She had heard people in Gryffindor griping about the Ministry's general uselessness and bias, of course, but she hadn't expected adults to be equally disparaging. Harry was simply surprised the werewolf was being civil to him. He had expected all of Rikin's group to follow their leader's anti-Harry campaign.
"There's a magical mafia?" Hermione asked worriedly.
"I don't think the Guilds are exactly like the Mafia, but they share similarities. Everywhere has organised crime," Leo shrugged.
"I thought that was covered by You-Know-Who's Death Eaters," the part-kitsune said with a puzzled frown. Leo snorted.
"They were barely organised, let alone subtle enough to run an underground business focused on profit. They were terrorists, not a mafia."
"Death Eaters?" Harry repeated questioningly, receiving incredulous looks from the surrounding werewolves. "What?" he said defensively.
"Honestly Harry, haven't you read anything about the war?" Hermione asked, looking exasperated but not surprised that Harry didn't know something widely regarded as common knowledge about the war.
"Um, no? Everyone seems happy to tell me how awesome I am for stopping it without caring about the details, so I never bothered," the demon shrugged.
Hermione sighed but let it go, instead explaining, "Death Eaters were You-Know-Who's followers. Some of them were almost as feared as You-Know-Who himself. Most were purebloods, or Creatures who had had enough of their treatment by wizards, like Greyback."
Thomas let out a bitter bark of laughter. "Greyback doesn't give a shit about Creature rights or how he and his pack are treated. He's a raving lunatic who loves having any excuse to go out and kill, and he warped his pack right along with him. There's a reason the Alpha Pack refuse to acknowledge him as an Alpha."
"His pack just went along with it?" Hermione asked, appalled.
"A lot of them were reluctant at first, but like Thomas said, he warped them until they became as bad as him," Timothy said with a disgusted head shake.
"But why not leave or try to stop him if they didn't agree with him?" the part-kitsune frowned, trying to understand how someone could allow things like that to happen around them, or to them.
"I don't think it's that simple." Surprisingly it was Harry who answered, speaking slowly as he thought. "I mean, I'm not a werewolf but being part of the pack is more than just being offered a room and spending time with them. You trust the Alpha to take care of you and make the best decisions for the pack. Not blind obedience, but the way you listen to a good teacher, or Oliver as House Leader. Only more than that..." he trailed off, trying to think of an accurate comparison.
"Like you trust your parents," Leo supplied with an odd look to Harry. "The Alpha and Second are like parents to the pack. The Alpha is the stern 'father' that the pack trusts to be a provider and protector. The Second is the 'mother', keeping an eye on the emotional state of the pack and taking charge of the day-to-day things while the Alpha makes the bigger decisions for the pack."
Hermione scowled, "That's a chauvinistic view on the roles of men and women in the family. Just because someone is a mother doesn't make them less capable of being a provider and protector."
Leo held his hands up defensively. "Calm down, I didn't mean to offend. It's just a comparison most people understand. I don't think anyone could look at Aaron and think him an incapable protector, he's seven foot and built like brick shi-"
"Language," Thomas snapped, smacking the younger werewolf on the back of the head. "At least pretend to be respectful of your Second."
On the edge of the group, Rick snickered. "He's right though. Can you imagine someone telling Aaron he's the 'mother' of the pack and had to stay out of a fight because he's too delicate?"
"I'll give twenty galleons to anyone who spends the rest of the week calling Aaron and Domovoi mummy and daddy," Timothy laughed. He pouted when nobody took him up on the offer. "Really, no takers? Edson and Lukas would."
"Yes, and the three of you would whine until the full moon rose when Alpha gave you a hiding for it," Thomas rolled his eyes.
"If he gave us a hiding every time we made nuisances of ourselves, none of us would be able to walk. You included," Timothy snorted. Harry and Hermione looked alarmed.
"He beats you?" Hermione asked, horrified.
"Only if we do something epically stupid," Timothy shrugged. "Usually he has other punishments for when we do less serious but still stupid things."
"It's barbaric that he does it at all," the girl frowned.
"We're werewolves," Timothy said in disagreement, keeping his voice down as they entered a quiet stationery shop. "It might be brutal to some people but it's normal for us. Sometimes words and diplomacy aren't enough to get the message across, and people start pushing the boundaries if they get away with just a telling off. It's not like any permanent damage is done and any injuries we do get are healed by the full moon."
"What about members who don't heal so easily?" Hermione asked pointedly.
"We aren't neanderthals," Timothy frowned, annoyed at the insinuation that they would harm a packmate. "We don't do it for fun, we do it when it's needed to teach someone a lesson. Harry wouldn't gain anything from it, he's pack but he's not a werewolf. If anything it would just teach him that we can't be trusted."
"How does being beaten teach anyone anything?" Hermione scowled.
"Hermione, leave it," Harry said, seeing that Timothy was getting irritated. "Just take it as one of those things you don't have the instincts to understand and let it go. If it makes you feel better, I've spent the last week with them and haven't seen anything worse than happens in Gryffindor, even when Rikin and his group were in trouble for skipping work," the demon reassured, hoping the part-kitsune would let it go. For someone who had been plunged into a world of magic and told she wasn't even entirely human, Hermione was very accepting of a lot of Creature peculiarities. Sometimes, however, she would find something that would not mesh with her views and morals, and she would be like a dog with a bone.
Hermione huffed but capitulated - but not without one last dig. "Fine. I'm just worried about you."
Harry resisted the urge to roll his eyes, "Appreciated but unnecessary. The one time I got in trouble Aaron made me write an essay, and I've not seen anything worse happening to the others."
"Trust you to have gotten into trouble so quickly," Hermione teased. "What was your essay on?" "The reasons why I shouldn't be alone when meeting dominants."
"Oh. That's actually a pretty good idea," Hermione said, looking surprised.
"Well someone needs to have them when you aren't around," Harry said dryly, picking up an enchanted diary and flicking through it while the werewolves were arguing over ink. He put the diary down with a grimace after accidentally activating the demo reminder and hearing a gratingly high pitched voice telling him to finish his project before the end of the week. "If half the stories the pack tell are true, Fred and George will idolise them."
"So we keep the Twins and the pack as far apart as possible for the good of the world?" "Probably best," Harry agreed. "Though the look on Mrs Weasley's face might be worth it."
"You mean once she's finished hiding your body after killing you for encouraging her sons to be even more trouble?"
"You say that like I was the one responsible for the singing post owls."
"I made one comment about missing having a phone and being able to hear my parents' voices!"
"Well, you got to hear your mum's voice - and the voices of everyone else's parents. I'm still not convinced it was Parkinson's mum we heard; I swear that was a bloke."
"Harry, you are a man who will be 'mother' of your future children," Hermione pointed out.
"Yeah, but I'm not going to start calling myself Lady Potter or extolling the virtues of a 'true, pureblood Lady'. For a guy who supposedly finds homosexual relationships disgusting, Mr Parkinson certainly got as close to marrying another bloke as he could," Harry grumbled.
Hermione hmmed noncommittally before saying, "Harry, do you have any use for fifty feet of fine-grade parchment and a bundle of eagle quills?"
"What? No," Harry said, turning away from the shelf of magical calendars to give Hermione a puzzled look.
"You might want to stop them before they pay for it, then," she suggested, nodding towards the werewolves who had indeed gathered up an armful of the high quality stationery.
"I...what?" The demon turned to look and groaned. "Would you lot stop. What am I supposed to do with all that?"
"Send letters?" Leo suggested but didn't move any closer to the cashier, who was looked disappointed at the loss of such a big sale.
"To who? I'd have to write an entire essay for every letter I send to get through that much parchment before the end of the year," Harry insisted. "If you're going to insist on buying me stationery - and you really, really don't have to - at least buy the normal stuff instead of wasting your money on all that."
"You can't write important letters on school-grade parchment," Timothy argued.
"Unless I suddenly need to owl the Ministry, I'm not going to need the top quality stuff either," Harry argued stubbornly.
With a bit more arguing they finally reach a compromise of mid-grade parchment with a couple of feet of fine-grade for just in case, and Harry felt ridiculous having to argue them down from wasting money on him at all. It wasn't until they left the shop that Harry realised Rick had used the distraction of the argument to buy the quills and an ink set.
Harry groaned dramatically and thunked his head onto Hermione's shoulder. "Make them stop," he whined, voice muffled.
Hermione laughed, patting his hair, "There there. Think of it as practice at accepting gifts graciously."
"Why would I need practice?" Harry grumbled.
"Well hopefully you are going to be a bit more accepting than this when you're being Courted. You've got about a week before people will expect you to start making selections, haven't you?" Hermione said, raising her eyebrows.
Harry gaped at her. "Oh Merlin's saggy Y-fronts. Why me? This mating thing is going to kill me," he said fervently, even as he started constructing a mental list of dominants he would invite to start the official Courting process.
Hermione laughed, oblivious to the werewolves exchanging glances behind them. Any dominant Harry invited to Court him would have to pass a few little tests of their own.
"You need ice cream," Hermione declared, dragging the complaining demon behind her as the plotting werewolves followed.
The next morning Harry stared at his trunk, pondering what to wear.
Hermione's parents had arrived to pick her up bright and early, unsurprised to find the studious teenager holding a few bags of school supplies. What they didn't know was that Hermione hadn't actually bought them. They were the left overs that Harry been unable to fit into his trunk (he'd warned the werewolves that it wouldn't all fit but they hadn't listened) and he had insisted Hermione take them, under threat of owling everything to her if she didn't.
Without Hermione there to distract him, the meeting with Demon Council was at the forefront of his mind. He was suddenly very glad that a couple of the pack would be accompanying him, for the moral support if nothing else. Though he hadn't done anything wrong, and so shouldn't be in trouble, he didn't entirely trust the Council to take his word as a relative newcomer over the word of the dominant who had been around for much longer. Having been accused of lying about his own identity in the past did nothing to boost his confidence in the Council's impartiality.
It was almost a relief when three werewolves barged into his room without knocking. Knocking and waiting, Harry had learned, were only deemed necessary when entering a higher ranking pack member's personal space. Subordinates like Harry were subject to spontaneous werewolf invasions whenever their pack members felt like it.
"Oh good, you aren't dressed yet. Rick was having kittens," Timothy greeted cheerfully. Rick grumbled a denial as Thomas made his way across the room to perch on the windowsill. The two older werewolves were dressed in far smarter clothing than they usually chose to wear. Rick was
dressed normally, but the younger werewolf always dressed like he was expecting to be pulled into a photo-shoot at any moment.
"I have no idea what I'm supposed to wear," Harry said, looking beseechingly at Rick. The werewolf snickered and, after looking for permission, rummaged through the demon's trunk purposefully.
"We were just going to come and pick you up," Timothy said idly, gesturing to himself and Thomas. "Then Rick started giving advice and talking about hairstyles and I don't even know what half the things he talked about are. It was easier to bring him with us than try to memorise all the instructions he was giving us," he continued as Rick triumphantly held up the suit Timothy had made Harry buy.
"Don't I need robes? I thought a suit would be too muggle," Harry asked, even as he started to change.
"Robes are wizard," Thomas shrugged. "Most Creatures don't care if you go wizard or muggle. As long as you don't go au naturel."
"You'd know," Timothy snickered. Thomas pointedly ignored him.
"Dress smart and you'll be fine," the tattooed werewolf said, giving the suit an approving look.
"Are you all coming with me?" Harry asked several minutes later as he sat through another round of Rick vs the Potter hair.
"Not me," Rick answered, combing something pleasantly fragranced through the unruly nest. "Meeting with Councils is above my pay grade. I'm just here as the pack stylist," he said with a grin.
"You're stuck with us two, I'm afraid," Timothy grinned. "Intimidation," he waved towards Thomas, "and diplomat," he finished with a gesture at himself.
"I'm doomed," Harry said dramatically, with a grin that belied his words. "I couldn't even get pack members assigned to their correct roles," he teased. He pointed at Thomas, who was leaning against the window, his folded arms showing off the impressive bulge of his biceps and his blue eyes cold even as his lips twitched up in a smirk. "Except you. You do intimidation very well. Very scary," the demon nodded approvingly.
"What about me?" Rick asked with faux hurt. Harry looked at him, considering.
"Well, you haven't turned my hair purple. I suppose you'll do," he said slowly.
"And me?" Timothy pouted.
Harry cocked his head, giving the large werewolf an evaluating look. "I guess you deserve some credit," the submissive said with reluctance. "For comedy value," he finished with a smirk.
"Mean," Timothy huffed as the other two laughed. Then he sobered. "But seriously, the two of us are escorting you as Pack representatives. Domovoi doesn't think we'll need to step in, but better safe than sorry."
"O-k. What does that mean?" Harry frowned. "Why would you need to step in?"
"You're pack," Thomas explained as Rick started packing his things away. "We don't know exactly what the Demon Council want with you, but if it is anything that would harm you or affect
the pack we can get involved and-"
"Cause the interracial incident of the decade," Timothy said with a tight grin. For the first time since they entered the room, Harry noticed the tense set of the large werewolf's shoulders.
"And, at the very least postpone further talks until the Alpha is available," Thomas finished, giving Timothy a hard look.
"Interracial incident?" Harry repeated, raising his eyebrows. He had been focusing on the possibility that he was in trouble with the Council and how that would affect him. It hadn't even occurred to him that any problems he had with the Council could have further reaching consequences.
"That is unlikely to happen," Thomas said, giving Timothy a see-what-you've-done glare. "Timothy is worrying over an infinitesimal possibility."
"Easy for you to say," Timothy muttered. "You wouldn't be the one taking the first steps towards handling the biggest political incident since the centaurs tried to declare themselves independent."
Harry looked alarmed. "Why would it be such a big deal?" He asked, bewildered.
"If something happened, which is highly unlikely, it would be the first time in living memory that werewolves and demons would be at odds. It would create quite a stir as we are, historically, quite closely linked. Plus the offended pack would contain a demon who sided with them over the Council, making the situation even more convoluted," Thomas explained reluctantly, seeing that Harry wasn't going to let it go and deciding that being upfront about it was better than having him worry over whatever fictitious scenario his imagination concocted. "But it would take something extremely serious to get to that point. Timothy is only worrying because Nyx is a bitch and she brought it up, and he is a closet worrywart who is going to stress himself into St. Mungo's long term ward," the tattooed werewolf said reassuringly. Harry had the feeling the werewolf wasn't solely talking to him anymore.
"Um, not to interrupt, but shouldn't you be going?" Rick asked hesitantly.
Thomas cast a tempus and swore.
"Yes, we should," he said, herding them out. "Remember," he said to Harry as they hurried out, "we are here as pack Enforcers. We'll only interfere if there's a problem, and you'll be absolutely fine. There's no reason for you to be in trouble, they only want to talk."
Harry nodded, though the werewolf's words did little to ease the cold ball of nerves in his stomach. Timothy's uncharacteristic silence wasn't helping. The idea of the giant, laid back werewolf being nervous about anything was a foreign concept. The demon just hoped Thomas was right when he said Timothy was worrying unnecessarily.
The walk into Knockturn was more subdued than usual without Timothy's banter. Thomas was calm but quiet, keeping a careful eye on the people around them as they moved through the Dark District. Rick followed the lead of the older werewolves, walking along in silence until they reached the small side alley that led to the pack's apartment block.
"I'll see you later, I guess. Good luck," the young werewolf said, tugging Harry into a one-armed hug of encouragement. "You'll be fine."
Harry nodded with a nervous smile, fidgeting with the cuff of his suit jacket as he followed the other two werewolves deeper into the Creature District. They headed in the direction of Fantastic Beasts, but before they reached the club Timothy pointed them towards one of the many
nondescript buildings lining the Alley.
The werewolves followed Harry in, flanking the demon as they approached the group waiting in the lobby. Harry wondered if this was how Malfoy felt with Crabbe and Goyle as his constant shadows in Hogwarts. If so, he could see why the spoilt Slytherin enjoyed it. Having two muscular bodyguards at your back was reassuring - though Harry doubted Crabbe and Goyle would be much use if there was ever a real fight. The werewolves, however, he was confident could handle themselves if something happened.
"Hello. I'm Harry," he said lamely when they reached the waiting demons.
There were four of them, all mated dominants who looked surprised at the presence of the werewolves. The eldest of the group - a tall, lanky demon who looked to be in his seventies, which Harry knew could put his age anywhere in the upper hundreds - stepped forward to greet him.
"Mr Potter, I am Councilman Foras. Forgive us, we were not expecting you to bring company," the demon said, eyeing the werewolves like he was trying find a polite way to tell them to beat it. Harry caught the look, smiling tightly as he shook Foras' hand.
"Well, you know what Alpha's are like. I'm lucky he only sent two Enforcers with me," the submissive said with a what-can-you-do shrug. "I was half expecting him to send half the pack, with me being the only submissive they have and a cub to boot," he said innocently.
Behind him, he could feel the nervous tension drain out of Timothy, to be replaced with a new kind of tension; the tension caused by holding back his laugh at the demon's shocked expressions.
"Alpha? I thought your parents were dead, how can you be part of a pack?" one of the Council members blurted. Harry frowned at him, ignoring the quiet rumbling coming from the werewolves.
"I'm adopted," he said. "Not that it's any of your business."
"But there are demon families waiting to adopt you, to help you through your mating," the dominant protested. The Council member standing beside him shot him a scathing look as Harry's eyebrows rose.
"Is that why so many mated dominants have been hanging around?" the teenager asked, the presence of all the mated demons in Kockturn Alley suddenly making a lot more sense. Part of him was relieved that they weren't all hovering parents who were reluctant to let their dominant sons compete for a mate alone. A larger part of him was pissed off at the audacity of the people, deciding he needed help and preparing to take him into their families without so much as a by your leave.
"Seriously, where do you get off, doing that? Who says I want to be adopted or need your help?" he asked furiously.
The Council member who was glaring at his colleague gave a displeased grumble, just shy of a growl.
"I assure you, that was not how it was supposed to be handled," he said to Harry, annoyance making his voice tight. "I am Councilman Achaz, Realm-sired. The offer of adoption and guidance was supposed to be just that: an offer. You may decline the offer if you prefer your current situation," he explained.
"Joining a demon family would be the best thing for him," the other Council member protested.
Achaz gave him a disgusted look, while Foras and the demon who had yet to speak both had looks of people who had sat through this argument before. "Werewolves will not be able to give him proper guidance. A demon family will be able to protect him and offer proper advice on how to select the best mate."
Harry bristled, distantly noting that Achaz looked equally offended at the drivel the idiot was spouting, but it was Timothy who responded.
With a polite cough to draw attention, the werewolf said, in a calm, reasonable voice, "I'm sorry, we were under the impression that this meeting was to discuss an incident a few days prior. If we are here to discuss Harry's living arrangements then I am afraid our Alpha's presence will be required. If you do not mind waiting Thomas could see if he is available and request his presence. Otherwise, I am afraid the meeting will have to be postponed."
His polite calmness was a contrast to Thomas' tense posture and subvocal growl. It was suddenly much easier to picture the zany werewolf as a diplomat for the pack.
The Council representatives looked taken aback.
"No, no, this meeting has nothing to do with anybody's living arrangements," Councilman Foras said hurriedly. "There should be no reason to involve your Alpha."
Timothy nodded affably, "Then please ignore myself and my packmate. We are simply here to ensure Harry's safety, should anything happen."
The councilmen nodded, except for the acrimonious dominant who muttered under his breath, "Sending dogs for protection, as though we can't keep one sub safe."
Harry growled softly, not enough to cause alarm but enough to get everyone's attention.
"You can shut up," he snapped irritably, narrowing his eyes. "Who are you anyway? You have no right to make decisions about my life."
"I am Councilman Gregory. The Council has a responsibility to ensure all demons are as well taken care of as possible, especially submissives," the dominant responded snootily.
Harry snorted. "I think I'll stick with following my instincts, thanks." The Realm-sired dominant, Achaz, gave him a pleased smirk.
"Good. Your instincts are a better guide than any manual," he said approvingly. "Something these earth-sireds seem to forget amongst all their rules and politics."
"Quite," Councilman Foras cut into the argument with a tone that suggested the next person to speak out of turn would find their immediate future very unpleasant. "Now, if we could please get to the matter at hand?" he looked at his fellow Council members for objections. Seeing none, he nodded, satisfied. "Excellent. Harry - may I call you Harry or would you prefer Mr Potter?"
Harry shrugged, "Whichever." It was unusual to be asked at all. Even complete strangers felt they had the right to address him as Harry thanks to his far too recognisable scar.
"Ok, Harry, this is Councilman Davis," Foras introduced the only demon who had yet to speak. "Now, we asked you to join us to discuss the incident that occurred in Knockturn Alley last week, involving yourself and the dominant Paul Tauton. Do you know the incident we are discussing?"
"I think so. He's the one who wouldn't leave me alone in Fantastic Beasts," Harry nodded,
relaxing slightly now no one was questioning his place with the pack.
"Excellent. Now, would you be willing to accompany us to the Council Halls to give your statement?"
"Can Timothy and Thomas come?" Harry asked cautiously. He wouldn't be going anywhere without them, even if the werewolves had been willing to allow it.
"Of course," the elderly dominant assured. "We have no intentions of going against your Alpha's wishes."
"Even if we weren't aware of them until now," Councilman Gregory grumbled under his breath. Everyone ignored him, even as he muttered about proper protocol and keeping the Council informed.
Harry nodded to Foras, following the Council representatives to an ornate fireplace at the back of the lobby.
"Sacrificium spirat vitam," Councilman Davis said clearly as the fire flared green with floo powder. Councilman Gregory followed quickly, and the remaining two Council members looked at Harry expectantly.
"I hate flooing," Harry grumbled, eyeing the fireplace like he had been told to jump in sans floo powder.
"It is not the most comfortable manner of travel but I'm afraid we cannot apparate or portkey into the Halls," Councilman Foras said sympathetically.
"Let's hope I come out at the right grate this time," Harry sighed, causing the four older Creatures to exchange alarmed looks.
"You have fallen out at the wrong grate before?" Councilman Achaz asked with concern.
Harry nodded. "I ended up in Borgin and Burke's in the Dark District. Mrs Weasley nearly had a heart attack."
Thomas and Timothy exchanged looks, silently coming to an agreement. With a quick nod, Thomas strode forward and tossed a pinch of powder into the flames, quickly disappearing. Timothy placed a reassuring hand on Harry's shoulder, using it to propel him towards the fireplace.
"I'll go through with you so there are no mishaps," the werewolf said as he scooped up a handful of powder from the bag Achaz held out.
If Harry had thought flooing alone was up uncomfortable, it was nothing compared to flooing with company. Having Timothy's large arms wrapped around him made the already tight space claustrophobia inducing. When they landed, however, the demon was grateful for the tight grip the werewolf had on him, otherwise he would have tumbled head first out of the fireplace.
Stepping out into the room, Harry couldn't help gaping. Ostentatious didn't quite cover it. The room was decorated in black and red, accented with silver. A huge mosaic of the Council crest, made of onyx and red jasper, took up most of the floor. Being an entrance hall it contained little furniture, but the ebony benches with red velvet cushions that sat either side of the entrance doors and the black marble reception desk were impressive.
The Councilmen were waiting for the trio by a set of oversized double doors - more ebony, with
silver handles and hinges - to the side of the reception desk. They watched Harry's reaction with amusement and a bit of smugness.
"If it's all like this, we should take one of those benches on the way out. How much do you think we'd get for an antique ebony bench in perfect condition?" Thomas muttered to Timothy, whose jaw tightened. Harry couldn't tell if it was annoyance or restrained humour.
"Six months of back to back graveyard shifts, demotion to Chief Floor Scrubber, and a hiding like you wouldn't believe," he muttered back, quiet enough that even Harry struggled to hear him.
"But the looks on their faces? Worth it," Thomas said, with no trace of the laugh in his tone showing in his stern, forbidding expression.
"Try to contain your kleptomania."
"What can I say, I'm a merc at heart. Profit over all," the tattooed werewolf said with a barely visible shrug.
"Mercenary, not thief, unless you switched professions while no-one was watching," Timothy retorted, resisting the urge to roll his eyes.
"Well, thief kind of comes under the boss' jurisdiction, doesn't it?" Thomas answered with another barely-there shoulder twitch that passed as a shrug.
"It's the Acquisitions Guild, not the Thief's Guild," Timothy hissed back with a faintly offended air.
"And it's herbology, not botany," Thomas snorted.
"What does that even mean?" Harry interrupted, also keeping his voice down, though he wasn't sure why they were whispering in the first place. Well, apart from the thing about stealing benches.
"That it's largely semantics and the two things may as well be the same," Thomas replied before Timothy could.
"That the two things are similar on the surface but very different in practice," Timothy corrected, side-eyeing the other werewolf.
Harry considered the two before snorting. "So they are alike enough that only the people involved understand or really care about the differences?" he asked, receiving a betrayed pout from Timothy and a smug look from Thomas.
"Is everything ok over here?" Councilman Foras asked, coming over to where the trio were muttering at each other.
"We're fine," Harry said with a sunny smile. "Just a slight difference of opinion."
"Oh, about what?" the older demon asked, eyeing the werewolves like he'd dearly love a reason to kick them out.
"Herbology," Harry answered blithely.
"...Right," the dominant said with clear disbelief, but he didn't ask anymore questions. "If you would like to come this way, then."
The three of them followed obediently as Foras led the way over to the waiting demons and through the doors.
"Ok, no offence, but that thing is creepy," Timothy blurted, staring up at the enormous statue mounted on a plinth on the opposite side of the corridor.
"It's a demon. A Realm-born," said Councilman Achaz, sounding amused.
The trio gazed up at the granite demon, taking in the plate armour that appeared to be the demon's skin, the enormous horns that arched up from the forehead and curved back down to finish in sharp points at the nape of the neck, the wickedly sharp claws tipping each digit, and the long, muscular tail that ended in a flat, double serrated tip. The entire thing screamed deadly predator. Except the face. Not that the face was less deadly looking - those fangs would put a wendigo to shame - but the expression was one of amused tolerance, like a parent indulging a child's request to play house.
"You got the good genes, Harry," Thomas said, at the same time as Timothy asked, "Why is it wearing no pants?"
Hurry was beginning to rethink his earlier opinion that he could understand how Timothy made a good pack diplomat. Fortunately most of the Council representatives seemed amused or rolled their eyes. Only Councilman Gregory was making offended noises, but he was being ignored even by the other demons. The visiting trio had quickly concluded that the demon was only happy when his ego was being stroked, and had elected to interact with him as little as possible.
Councilman Achaz gave a brief history of the statue that Harry only half listened to - something about old summoning spells, Realm-born demons' indulgence of their earth-born offspring's requests, and a famous artist Harry had never heard of - before Councilman Foras got the group moving again. The old demon had the kind of smile that suggested the next person to cause an unnecessary delay would sincerely regret it.
Following Councilman Foras again they finally came to a stop in front of an unmarked door. Stepping into the room Harry wondered precisely how much room the Council Halls had, because they were in another mostly empty room. This time it was set up as a waiting room, with a few leather armchairs (black and red, of course, because Merlin forbid there be any variety), a coffee table, and a sideboard holding a jug of water and a few tumblers that looked like they were made of crystal. The doors on the far side of the room were a smaller replica of the grand black and silver doors in the entrance hall.
Turning to exchange an incredulous look with Timothy, Harry turned just in time to see the larger werewolf yanking Thomas away from something and giving him a quiet warning growl. Thankfully the Council members were too busy conferring with each other to notice. Harry wasn't sure he wanted to know what the werewolves were up to, he just hoped it wouldn't cause that diplomatic incident Timothy had been worried about.
"Right, Mr Potter," Councilman Foras said in a more formal tone than he had been using previously. "In a few moments we will join the rest of the Council through these doors. You are not on trial or making a plea, so we are conducting the meeting in one of the informal meeting rooms rather than the formal Courts," he explained with a reassuring smile. Harry wondered how much of a difference a change in venue would really make when he would still be standing before the entire Council. "You will be asked for your version of the events that took place on Friday 20th of August, after which the Council may ask you a few questions. All you must do is answer
truthfully and in as much detail as possible. Do you understand?"
Harry bit back the urge to snap that he wasn't an idiot, and quietly confirmed that he understood. The werewolves were informed that they could enter the room, but were to remain by the door and not to speak unless they were addressed or it was an emergency. Thomas looked unhappy but Timothy agreed for both of them and the tattooed werewolf didn't argue.
Standing before the Council was simultaneously much less and much more nerve wracking than he had expected. Less because the majority of the eleven Council members looked friendlier and more welcoming than he had anticipated, though there were two submissives who looked hostile, one dominant - who was unmated - who looked a little too friendly, and Councilman Gregory who looked as self-absorbed as ever. However, even with the mostly friendly faces, the Council exuded a feeling of power unlike anything Harry had experienced before. Even the magic in Hogwarts didn't compare.
Hogwarts held a lot of power but it was undirected, mixed and largely docile. The Council's power was pure and focused, even when it was not actively being used, and it resonated with Harry's burgeoning demonic magic, coaxing it out and encouraging it to spread and mingle.
Suddenly the young demon had a much better understanding of how eleven demons - five dominants, five submissives and a Council Leader - could keep control of the entire demon population. He had no desire to get on the Council's bad side and have that power turned on him.
"Welcome, Mr Potter," the Council Leader said, clasping her hands on the desk in front of her. Looking at her nobody would ever guess she was the highest ranking person in an entire species.
In a smart but practical blouse and cardigan, with reading glasses hanging around her neck and a rather well-padded build, Harry thought she looked like someone who would offer him a comforting hug and a cup of tea if he came to them with a problem. She certainly didn't look like someone who would hunt down offenders, drag them to trial, and carry out sentences. Then again, Harry supposed he didn't look much like someone who would face off against a Dark Lord and win, or be able to slay a basilisk with a sword. Appearances were deceiving.
Unsure of the proper protocol for greeting the Council, he returned the greeting with a "Hello" that came out sounding meeker than he liked. The Council Leader smiled gently, which would have been reassuring if Harry wasn't currently wondering if she smiled like that before announcing someone's execution.
"There is no need to worry, Mr Potter, you are not in any trouble," she said in a warm but business like tone. "We need you to answer a few questions and then you may go. Hopefully we won't need to keep you long."
Harry nodded wordlessly.
"Can you confirm that you were approached by the dominant Paul Tauton in the establishment Fantastic Beasts on Friday 20th of August 1993?" she asked.
"I was approached by a dominant but I never found out his name," Harry replied, wary of confirming anything that may not be correct and could come back to bite him.
There was some murmuring by the Council, followed by rustling, before a stone basin containing a luminescent, silvery substance was passed to the Council Leader. She prodded it with her wand, making an image of a familiar demon rise out of the basin.
"Is this the dominant who approached you?"
"Yes," Harry confirmed, watching the misty figure revolve. The Council Leader nodded in satisfaction, the image and basin quickly disappearing.
"Could you please tell us everything you remember about the encounter. What was said and how people acted, as accurately as you remember," the Council Leader requested with that same reassuring smile, quill poised to take notes.
"Just the time in Fantastic Beasts, or both times I saw him?" Harry asked, shifting uncomfortably.
"Any encounters you had with him, please," she answered calmly, though the reactions of some of the other Council members made Harry think this was the first they had heard of a second encounter.
Harry told them everything he remembered, starting with how Tauton had interrupted his conversation with Damian, how Alexander had chased him off the first time, to how the bouncers at Fantastic Beasts had had to drag him out of the club because he refused to leave the second time. The Council remained impassive as he spoke, noting down names and places and other details they considered important. When he finished the room descended into silence as the Council considered the information they had been given.
"Can you please confirm for the records that your account is as accurate and detailed as you can recall?" The Council Leader requested several minutes later.
As Harry did so, a side door he hadn't noticed before opened and an aide hurried out. Leaning over, they were given whispered instructions before scurrying out again.
"Now my colleagues and I have some questions. Again, please answer as fully and accurately as you can. The more information we have, the sooner this matter can be put to rest."
Harry nodded, waiting quietly as the Council organised themselves. He watched the more hostile members cautiously, hoping they weren't going to use this as an opportunity to make his life difficult. Of course, his luck was never that good.
"During your first encounter, you said that you did not give dominant Paul Tauton an opportunity to have a conversation with you, despite him following correct etiquette in his approach. Do you feel this could have provoked the behaviour of Mr Tauton?" asked one of the submissive Council members. Harry was too taken aback by the question to fully register that she was another Realm- sired demon, though he felt her magic tease has as it recognised magic of similar origin to itself.
"You're blaming me?" he blurted before he could think. "How is his attitude problem my fault?"
The Council member smirked, looking pleased with herself. Harry wasn't sure what it was about his response that had put that look on her face.
"We are not trying to place blame on you, Mr Potter. We are gathering information to enable us to make the most informed decision possible. Please answer Councilwoman Ava's question," the Council Leader said calmly, with a slight disapproving edge to her tone. Harry wasn't sure if the disapproval was because of his tone or Councilwoman Ava's idiotic question. Or both.
He took a deep breath, trying to push down his temper, before answering. "No, I don't think being rejected excuses his actions. He isn't the only dominant I've rejected but none of the others behaved like him. It's my choice who I reject and why. If he wanted a chance, he should have made his first sentence to me something other than a stupid innuendo," he said, temper bubbling up again.
"So you do not feel it was unfair to reject one dominant immediately but accept the advances of
the next dominant who approached you?" Councilwoman Ava pressed. Harry scowled, folding his arms mulishly.
"No I don't," he bit out. "I like Alexander, he was polite and didn't push. Tauton was a prat as soon as he opened his mouth. I decided I only wanted to speak to the dominant who wasn't behaving like he was only interested in getting me into bed."
"Looking at you track record, you have rejected a lot of dominants before the end of your first conversation. Do you not feel you are being too hasty?" Councilwoman Ava pushed.
Harry blinked. He hadn't been aware the Council knew anything about who he had spoken to or turned down, let alone that they had some sort of record of it. Nor did he see how it was relevant to his interaction with Tauton.
One of the other Council members clearly thought the same, as she raised her eyebrows at Councilwoman Ava. "How Mr Potter chooses to conduct his mating is entirely up to him. It has has little relevance to the current situation," she said, making Councilwoman Ava scowl.
"If he is being overeager to reject mating candidates it may be causing ill feelings amongst the un- mated dominants that will lead to more incidences like this," Ava said superciliously.
Harry gaped at her as low growls came from the werewolves standing beside the door. Even the other Council members were giving her shocked looks and raised eyebrows.
"If we have an upsurge of harassment or violence towards submissives from rejected dominants, then there is indeed a problem," Councilman Achaz said neutrally. "That problem, however, does not lie with the submissives. Every dominant at this table has experienced a harsh or hasty rejection, yet not one of us has even considered using it as a reason to attack a submissive, no matter how frustrated we were," he continued forbiddingly, insulted at the notion that a dominant could try and use their failure to attract a mate as justification for attacking one of the most protected members of their community.
Huffing, Councilwoman Ava looked over to the only un-mated dominant on the Council, clearly expecting an ally. The dominant raised an eyebrow at her expectant look.
"Achaz has the right of it," he said with a bored look. "I've seen submissives reject entire groups of dominants without saying a word to any of them, for things as mundane as their hair colour. How, when and why Mr Potter is rejecting potential mates is irrelevant to Mr Tauton's conduct."
Harry smirked, pleased to have the Council members supporting him over their colleague. Councilwoman Ava looked ready to object, but the Council Leader overrode her protests.
"How submissive Harry Potter conducts his mating is not of concern in this meeting. It will not be brought up again unless a solid reason is given for it's relevancy," the Council Leader declared with finality. Harry breathed a quiet sigh of relief. He already felt like he was bumbling blindly through his mating often enough, without having Council members poking holes in his approach.
"Mr Potter, you said that during your second encounter with Mr Tauton the sexual comments had increased in both quantity and severity. What kind of comments was making?" asked Councilman Davis.
"What do you mean?" Harry asked uncomfortably, feeling a blush starting to creep up his neck. He understood, objectively, that it was important that the Council knew what had happened, but that didn't mean he was eager to discuss it.
"Were they comments about his own sexual prowess or other dominants lack thereof? Was he
attempting persuade or pressure you into engaging in sexual acts with him? Did he threaten or imply he would force himself upon you?" the Councilman clarified, voice even, ignoring Harry's discomforted fidgeting.
"Er, mostly the first - saying he would keep me satisfied where other dominants couldn't and stuff - but a bit of the second, too. He was saying that I should join him in the alley behind the club," Harry said, staring fixedly at the table the Council were sitting behind, face heating up with mortification as he avoided eye contact. He shifted uncomfortably, knowing the final thing he had to say was important but not wanting to see the Council's reaction. Steeling himself with a deep breath, he continued, "He only threatened to force himself on me once. He wasn't threatening to...you know.." He took another deep breath, resolving to find a hole to crawl into until the world forgot all about this once it was over. "It wasn't a, a sexual threat. He was threatening to force a bond," he finished quietly with a small wince.
"Do you recall the exact wording Mr Tauton used when threatening you?" the Council Leader asked quietly after several seconds of heavy silence.
"Not word for word, but it was something along the lines of 'you'll lose that cocky attitude quickly if I bond you'," Harry answered, chewing his lip as he tried to recall the exact wording the dominant had used.
"Do you know why dominant Shax Calvey failed to mention this in his report of events when he brought dominant Tauton before us?" the Council Leader asked, her voice carefully neutral.
"I don't think he knew," Harry said honestly. "Wherever he was watching from I don't think he was close enough to hear what was being said, he just knew there had been an argument. The bouncers in the club kicked Tauton out after his last comment nearly caused a bar fight. I didn't even see Mr Calvey that night."
"Are you familiar with Mr Calvey?" Councilman Foras asked shrewdly.
"A bit," Harry deflected. He didn't want his issues with the pack sponsor's sneaky tactics brought to Council's attention unless he had no other choice. The less involvement they had in his mating the better. "I've only met him once, very briefly."
"You don't sound like you are fond of him," Councilwoman Ava said, narrowing her eyes. "Is he another you've rejected offhandedly? Is it possible he's using this...drama to try and impress you?" she pushed, an odd edge to her tone.
"I haven't rejected him, and I only met him after this whole thing happened. We spoke for less than five minutes," Harry said with a frown, wondering what the Councilwoman's problem with him was.
"So dominant Shax Calvey has been watching you without your knowledge?" the Councilwoman asked, as though such a thing was a great scandal.
"Don't sound so shocked. If following me around 'without my knowledge' is a crime, you'll be arresting most of the unmated population by tonight," Harry groused, barely containing a snort at the un-mated dominant's start of surprise. Did the dominants actually think they were being subtle when they followed him around like orphaned ducklings?
"No, it is not a crime. Annoying, but not illegal," the youngest Council member, a submissive who barely looked thirty, said with a teasing grin at the unmated dominant.
"Do you have any concerns about dominant Calvey's conduct?" the Council Leader asked, barely keeping the impatience out of her voice. When Harry said that he didn't - nothing he wanted to tell the Council, at least - she nodded sharply. "Very well. Councilwoman Ava, please refrain from comments and questions regarding Mr Potter's mating from now on. Each submissive is responsible for their own and it is not for us to interfere unless asked," she instructed.
The reprimanded Councilwoman scowled but didn't try to protest.
"Are there any more questions?" the Council Leader asked, looking up and down the table.
"I have one, however I believe it would come under questions about Mr Potter's mating," said a male submissive, who looked close in age to Councilman Foras, tapping his quill against his lip.
The Council Leader scrutinised his face. Satisfied with whatever she found, she turned to Harry. "It is up to you, Mr Potter. Are you comfortable answering another question about your mating?"
Harry blinked. "Er, yes?"
Nodding, the Councilman asked, "What kind of protection did you have during these encounters with dominant Tauton? Independence is an admirable notion, but putting yourself in unnecessary danger is foolish. If you are not adequately guarded we can provide protection for you to prevent a reoccurrence of such events."
Harry tamped down the initial urge to scoff at the suggestion of protection. Aaron's essay had made him more open to the idea of having others looking out for him - or at least more understanding that it was an attempt to help him, not to control him - even if he wasn't entirely happy about it. He couldn't, however, hold back a scowl.
"My pack is perfectly capable of protecting me," he bit out, surprised by the surge of anger he felt at these strangers who were questioning his pack's abilities.
"Like they protected you from Tauton?" Councilman Gregory sneered, giving the werewolves by the door a disgusted glance.
"Yes," Harry snapped. Why couldn't the odious dominant have continued to keep his mouth shut? "It was werewolves who stood up for me, and werewolves who removed Tauton before he could cause any more trouble. Then it was a werewolf who made sure the actions of one idiot didn't ruin my night. I trust my pack!" he finish in a near shout. He was taken aback by the fury that overtook him at the dominant calling his pack inadequate.
Councilwoman Ava chose that moment to open her mouth again. "There still remains your failure to keep us informed of your change in circumstance," she said smugly, delighted to have something to throw at him.
"I though the bureaucracy would be too much hippogriff shit to bother with, and what do you know? I was right!" Harry snarled before he could stop himself. Through his anger, he was vaguely aware of Thomas' suspiciously laugh-like cough, and Timothy rubbing a hand over his eyes. Harry himself was taken aback by his outburst. He had never spoken like that to an authority figure before, not even Snape (Aunt Marge didn't count, she was a hateful old hag that he occasionally had to tolerate, not a figure of authority to him). He was hardly Hermione, who would rather bottle up her anger until she spontaneously combusted than talk back to a teacher; he was cheeky and sometimes insolent (not that he would ever admit it within earshot of Snape) but he had never shouted and sworn, not even at Uncle Vernon.
"You think you are going to find a mate like this? No dominant is going to be interested in
someone so crass and unrefined," Ava spat back.
Harry raised an unimpressed eyebrow, for a moment completely forgetting he was standing before the Council. This was just the submissives' version of a dominance fight, and he would be damned if he lost to this pathetic excuse of a Realm-sired demon.
"Tell that to the guys scrambling over each other to talk to me. And your unmated friend there, he certainly seems interested enough," Harry scoffed. The unmated dominant in question suddenly became very interested in reading his notes, having no desire to come between two scrapping submissives. Even the Council Leader was now sitting back in her chair, eyes bouncing between the two submissives with an air of amusement. It was clear that neither of them considered this a Council matter and were content to observe quietly until the two submissives finished their spat.
"Don't delude yourself. They all chase after the latest piece of arse to show up. They'll lose interest as soon as you open your mouth," Ava sneered.
"Sounds like your speaking from experience," Harry smirked. "What, are you afraid I'll snag the dominant you used to drool over before they turned you down?"
The snarl on Ava's face answered his question for him.
"That's it!" Harry crowed victoriously. Normally he would be more sympathetic but Ava had been a nuisance since he first announced himself to the Council, when she had accused him of lying about who he was, and today with the pathetic attempts to make him look bad. "You were turned down by your first choice of dominant and now you're afraid they'll pick me. That's why you've been a bitch towards me all the time," he declared triumphantly. He smirked, "Well, I haven't had anyone turn me down yet, and despite your best efforts nobody thinks less of my conduct - which is more than I can say for you. So I'd say I won that round, don't you think?"
"If you think this makes a difference, you little-"
"Enough," the Council Leader interrupted Ava's red-faced snarling. "You lost. Do not compound it by instigating another battle you will lose. A seat on the Council provides only a limited amount of status, as you well know."
Harry smiled smugly, knowing that once word got out (which it would - for such a secretive race, demons certainly enjoyed gossiping amongst themselves) he would be on equal footing with Councilwoman Ava in the submissive hierarchy. Not a bad position to start off in.
With the submissives' disagreement over, silence reigned for several moments.
Finally, the Council Leader sat forward and looked up and down the table again. "Any more questions?" When nobody moved to speak she nodded. "Very well. I believe we are done for now, Mr Potter."
"I can go?" Harry asked hopefully.
"There is a cafeteria and lounge you may wait in or, if you prefer, you are free to use the library. I'm afraid you can't leave the building just yet. We have summoned the dominants you mentioned to corroborate your version of events, and we may need to speak to you again," the Council Leader - whose name he still didn't know, Harry realised - said with an amused smile. "I apologise for taking up so much of your day but we would prefer to have this sorted before it is time for you to return to school."
Harry nodded, resisting the urge to groan. He was more glad than ever that he had Timothy and Thomas with him. At least he wouldn't be alone and bored while he waited.
Their first stop after they had been dismissed was the cafeteria. Werewolves required regular feeding, Harry had learned.
"That was more interesting than I thought it would be," Thomas commented, carrying a tray of food over to a coffee table surrounded by empty armchairs.
"Diplomacy is a lost art with you two," Timothy grumbled, snagging one of the plates of shepherd's pie.
"I wasn't that bad," Harry said, taking a muffin and fending off Thomas' efforts to make him eat a bowl of soup.
"You called one of the Council members a bitch. To her face. In front of the entire Council," Timothy said dryly.
Harry rubbed a hand through his hair. "Well, when you put it like that," he mumbled. "I thought it was funny," Thomas said.
"You would," Timothy snarked.
"It wasn't as bad as you think," Harry said, mauling his muffin more than eating it. "Calling a Council member a bitch is not as bad as I think?" Timothy asked dubiously.
Harry pulled a face. "It was a submissive thing, not a Council thing. Her sniping and trying to trip me up was just...a verbal dominance battle. She was using her position on the Council to try and get a leg up in the hierarchy," he explained. "Not responding to her would have looked worse than any reaction I had."
The werewolf shook his head. "I really don't understand demons." "We are ancient and mysterious."
"Delirious, you mean," Thomas snorted.
Harry, very maturely, stuck his tongue out at the werewolf and threw a piece of muffin at him, huffing when Thomas caught it and popped it into his mouth. Timothy muttered something about juvenile hypocrites and forced cutlery into Thomas' hand before a food fight could start.
The next few minutes were dedicated to eating - or mutilating a muffin, on Harry's part - before Timothy broke the quiet, asking, "So what happens next?"
Harry looked up from his pile of crumbs and squashed cake. "With the Council? Dunno," he shrugged. "I guess they'll send someone to find us when they need us."
"What do we do until then?"
"I suppose we could try the library, unless you want to stay here," Harry suggested. He imagined the look on Hermione's face if she ever found out he had visited a library voluntarily without a threat to Hogwarts to motivate him.
"Would we be allowed in?" Timothy asked, indicating himself and Thomas. "I thought you demons were big on keeping your secrets and mysteries."
"I don't care about it," Harry shrugged. "If anyone makes a fuss, we can just leave." He didn't see
the point in all the secrecy, especially with his packmates.
As it turned out, Timothy's concern was unnecessary. The library was more of a lounge room with books and the odd desk than a quiet place to study. The few others in the room were gathered around in small groups, most of them talking rather than reading, and they paid no attention to the trio's entry.
"Are demons aware that colours other than black and red exist?" Thomas asked, dropping into a black leather armchair and flinging the red velvet cushion at Timothy.
"They are very proud of their heritage. Unhealthy proud," Timothy answered, tossing the cushion back at the smaller werewolf.
Harry rolled his eyes at the two and wandered over to the books. Hermione would have a heart attack: Harry Potter, voluntarily reading! He was a bit disappointed to see that most of the books were ordinary, very similar to what he could find at Hogwarts, if more advanced. There were some that dealt with more obscure branches of magic, but nothing that looked like it couldn't be purchased in any wizarding bookshop.
Lifting down a book on runes and skimming through it, he quickly gave up on understanding it. Innate talents or not, there was no way he could make heads or tails of any of the theories mentioned in the heavy tome without some real instruction in the subject.
Putting the book back he continued wandering along the bookcase, eventually coming across the demon specific books. Most of them were not published books, instead looking like handwritten journals that had been duplicated to make more copies available, and several of them looked like someone had bound together loose rolls of parchment with a title page denoting the subject of the collection. Harry wasn't sure why he was surprised, now that he thought about it. It was illegal to publish texts on demons and had been for centuries; very few real books existed on the subjected, and the majority that did exist were under lock and ward in the Ministry. The few that were on the shelves before him were clearly old, the long-term stasis charm making them look worn and dusty even as it held them together.
Examining the books, he picked up a couple of books on demon physiology and one on the history of common Courting rituals. The former out of idle interest (magically inherited knowledge covered the basics, but he had no more idea of how his body truly worked than a human was able to sense the function of their pancreas), and the latter in the hopes that it would give him an idea of what to expect as his mating progressed. He was rapidly discovering that knowledge inherited from a being that lived in another world could only help so much when it came to puzzling out the workings of dominants' minds.
He made his way back over to the werewolves, dropping his chosen books onto the coffee table Thomas had dragged over to put his feet on. Nudging the werewolf's boots off the table (no feet on the coffee table was a hard and fast rule in the Dursley household, one Harry couldn't quite shake off), he waved a hand for the werewolves to help themselves. Both immediately reached for the physiology books.
"Best to know in advance if there's anything we need to look out for in the future," Thomas explained when Harry looked at them questioningly.
Harry settled down with the book on the history of Courting rituals. Less than ten pages in he was extremely glad he didn't live in the Dark Ages. It was no wonder wizards despised demons if superannuated Courting traditions required the sacrifice of a wizard's magic to be made to a submissive to demonstrate a dominant's abilities and dedication. Compared to that a bite from a werewolf or vampire looked tame.
Thankfully, Courting gifts became less macabre over time, though not necessarily less extravagant. There was nothing modest about gifting a potential mate with seven-league boots. A hand of glory was also rather impressive but headed back into the realm of the morbid, and Harry wasn't sure he even wanted to know what necropants were.
The gifting of a single highly powerful artefact was no longer common practice either, partially due to the difficulty of creating them and scarcity of resources, and partly because of the attention they attracted. Instead, most modern dominants would gift a series of smaller gifts to show that they understood the submissive and their wants and needs.
"Is this true?" Timothy's horrified voice broke into Harry's thoughts.
"What?" the submissive asked, looking up from the history book reluctantly. "Timothy!" he yelped when he saw the diagram the werewolf was pointing at in horrified fascination. "Merlin's balls, put that away!" he hissed when he realised exactly what the werewolf was staring at.
"But there are membranes, and morphing, and tearing. Why would anyone voluntarily go through that?" Timothy asked, still staring.
"It's called childbirth. Give me that," Harry said shortly, grabbing the book out of Timothy's hand and snapping it shut, face bright red.
"But...tearing," the giant werewolf repeated weakly.
"Why were you even looking at that?" the demon asked, blush refusing to recede. Maybe that whole secret keeping thing had some sense to it.
"I was curious. Besides, you're pack. We should know how this stuff works for demons so we can help in the future," Timothy defended, though his expression suggested he had learnt more than he had wanted.
"If anyone other than my mates are in the room when I'm giving birth, I will personally kill them, stuff them and mount them on the wall as a warning to others," Harry said seriously.
"Your mates or the person who shouldn't be there?" Thomas asked curiously. "Both, I would imagine," someone behind them answered.
"Alexander!" Harry exclaimed happily, twisting in his seat to smile at the dominant. "Harry. I hope I'm not interrupting?" the dominant said pleasantly.
"Not really. We're just waiting to be set free, and now Timothy needs therapy. Sit down," Harry grinned, scooting to the side to make more room on the couch. He rolled his eyes as Thomas pointedly shifted seats to sit in the space Harry had created, leaving the dominant with the armchair, ensuring Alexander kept his distance from Harry.
"You've been busy since I last saw you," the dominant commented as he sat in the freed seat, looking amused at the werewolf's protectiveness.
"I have to keep myself entertained somehow."
"Werewolves and Council trials?" Alexander questioned with a raised eyebrow.
"The werewolves aren't new, I just picked up more," Harry grinned. "And the trial wasn't my idea."
"Hmm. Perhaps not your idea, but much needed nonetheless. I always knew Tauton was an idiot but I don't believe anyone expected him to go to this extreme," Alexander growled in disgust.
"Welcome to the Potter Luck. It's a twenty-four-seven show, bring popcorn," Harry grumbled, slumping down in his seat.
"Potter?" Alexander repeated with a start.
"Shh, not so loud!" Harry spluttered, shooting upright to check none of the nearby demons had overheard.
"Calm down. We have a privacy ward up. Some of us are capable of thinking ahead," Thomas said, looking at Harry over the top of the book he had taken from Timothy.
"I've been keeping it quiet and using spells to hide my scar to avoid trouble," Harry explained to Alexander. "I suppose it's about time I introduced myself to you properly, though," he added with a small grin. "So, hi, I'm Harry Potter," he said, holding out his hand.
"Alexander Lowell, though most people call me Xander," Alexander replied, playing along with a smile. "Not that I blame you for doing so, with how people must react to knowing who you are, but how long were you planning to keep your identity a secret? How are you doing it, for that matter? Most glamour spells are all or nothing," the dominant asked curiously.
"I've been using a masking charm. It stops people paying attention to my scar or my resemblance to my parents."
"That is a creative use of masking charms. They are normally used in construction to keep the place looking tidy while work is being carried out. They hide any visible blemishes such as damage to masonry, and prevent people from focusing on the site unless they are already aware of the work being done. I wasn't aware it was safe to cast one on a person," Xander commented, amused.
"Are they? I didn't know that. My friend Hermione was the one who found it," Harry shrugged, wondering if Hermione had known it was a construction charm when she shared it with him. He had never questioned it, simply glad to have something to combat the points and whispers that plagued him whenever he was recognised. "Anyway, I decided I would use the charm and keep my name out of things so I don't get mobbed by people who only want to mate the Boy-Who- Lived. I'm only telling people my last name if I want them to Court me."
"I think you broke him," Timothy said cheerfully as Xander stared at Harry in shock.
Looking up from the book he had been reading (where he had pointedly skipped the entire section on demon reproduction), Thomas leant towards the stunned dominant and slowly extended a finger to prod him on the forehead.
"He lives," the tattooed werewolf deadpanned, returning to his book when Xander knocked his hand away.
"I...Courting? Really?" Xander asked weakly, brain still trying to process the casual statement from Harry.
"Only if you want to. It's not like I can make you," Harry said, striving for casual and falling short as tension leaked into his voice.
"Yes. Yes, of course I want to. I would be honoured to. You just caught me off guard. People usually make more of a production out of inviting a dominant to Court them," Xander said, still looking a bit dazed.
"How much fuss can be made out of 'would you like to Court me'?" Harry asked, scrunching his nose at the idea of turning a simple question into a performance.
"Well, you just threw it out there and waited for him to catch up. I think that is the opposite end of the making-a-fuss scale," Timothy pointed out with a grin. "Are you going to do it like that every time? If so, I'll be around to take pictures of their faces. For future nostalgia purposes, of course."
"Timothy, stop helping," Thomas said without looking up.
"Ok, I can see how people would make more of a fuss than I did, but still. I don't see why people would want to make a big song and dance about it," Harry said.
"That's because you are allergic to fanfare," Timothy said helpfully. "Some people like a big song and dance. Literally sometimes. Maybe more the dancing than the singing, unless they like being serenaded."
"Timothy. Helping," Thomas said.
"Yes, yes I am."
Xander looked between the two in amusement. Harry rolled his eyes, ignoring them.
"What do people usually do? Is there something I should be doing that I'm not?" the submissive asked, chewing his lip. He didn't feel any instinctive drive to make the Courting request an elaborate event but he didn't want to ignore a tradition the earth-sired demons had developed, if one existed.
"Nothing specific. How you choose to conduct your mating really is entirely up to you. There will always be people who don't approve, or want you to do something differently, but then they probably aren't people you would want to mate with anyway," Xander said with a shrug. "A lot of submissives nowadays opt for a party or formal meal to make their announcement. Some will invite any dominant they haven't outright rejected and announce who the lucky few are at the end of the night," he said with distaste. He had never thought much of those submissives who strung people along and got so many dominants' hopes up before rejecting the majority of them. It reeked of ego stroking and self-centredness. He had, on a few occasions, been chosen by such a submissive but had always ended up turning them down. "Others will have a small gathering or party but only invite those they have chosen."
"A party?" Harry repeated doubtfully.
"Timothy, don't help," Thomas said, pre-emptively cutting the larger werewolf off.
"A party, a ball, a meal. I heard about someone in New York who wrote the names of their chosen dominants on a banner and hung it on the side of skyscraper, though nobody is sure if that story is entirely true," Xander mused before shrugging at Harry's wide-eyed look. "But as I said, what you do is entirely up to you. There is no rule about how over or understated you can be. It's rather refreshing to have a submissive who is keeping things low key and not having to attend elaborate parties."
"Even when 'low key' means practically having to work it out for yourself?" Thomas asked, looking up from his book.
"Subtly is undervalued," Xander countered easily. "It separates those who are paying attention from those who are just going through the motions. It keeps people on their toes."
"Hmm." Timothy leant forwards to peer into Xander's face, getting uncomfortably close to the demon. Xander looked bemused but didn't pull back, letting Timothy stare.
"He seems genuinely supportive. I like him. For now," the werewolf said, sitting back after a long, uncomfortable minute of judgemental staring.
Harry looked between the three older Creatures before slouching further down in his chair and putting his hands over his face.
"Are you going to do this to every guy I ask to Court me?" he asked, voice muffled.
"Of course," Timothy said, sounding offended that Harry might have thought otherwise. "What sort of pack would we be if we didn't torture - ah, that is, test - any potential suitors for our omega?"
"At least you're not being crazy about it," the submissive sighed, resigned. "I half expected you to have an immediate throw down with anyone who I took vaguely seriously."
"Don't be daft," Thomas rolled his eyes. "We aren't completely uncivilised."
"Yes," Timothy agreed. "Regardless of what Aaron thinks, we are actually capable of recognising an inappropriate occasion for a wrestling match. Unless this place has some sort of gym, that'll have to wait."
Harry said nothing, just sliding a few inches further down in his chair with a groan. Alexander chuckled.
"Don't worry about it," the dominant reassured. "This isn't the first time something like this has happened to me. A lot of submissives have protective guardians; I once had an over-zealous, maternal drake try to gut me for standing too close to her daughter while we talked. A couple of betas aren't going to scare me off."
Thomas looked at him, considering. "Hm, no, I don't think we will. Not with you." He grinned viciously. "But we can put the fear of Magic into the weaker ones."
"You are enjoying this far too much," Harry groused at the werewolves. "Try not to scare everyone off. I'm already the first Realm-sired male submissive in centuries-"
"A millennia, really," Xander interjected cheerfully, earning a dirty look from the teenager. He raised his hands in surrender.
"In centuries, not to mention that whole 'you survived until your second birthday, you are Merlin- reborn' thing the wizards have going-"
"You do realise you have just set yourself up for being called mini-Merlin for the rest of your natural life, yes?" Timothy interrupted with a delighted grin.
"You haven't," Thomas disagreed. "He'll have forgotten about it by the time we leave. Or after seeing this."
He held up the book he was still holding, flipped to the page that had alarmed the larger werewolf earlier.
"Oh Merlin! Dammit, O'Malley, that is forever burned into my retinas, you git. Not even an obliviate can help me now," Timothy said, throwing a hand up to block out the book. He subsided into muttering that sounded suspiciously like "Why does there have to be tearing?"
"It'd take more than an obliviate to help you, recent mental scarring or no," the tattooed werewolf snorted, snapping the book shut. "You were saying?" he asked Harry.
"That I have more than enough attention for things outside my control already, without you lot conspiring to make me the world's first mateless submissive demon because you scared away my suitors in cruel and unusual ways," Harry huffed.
"I resent being called cruel. We use creative and unusual ways to ensure only the worthy come near our omega," Timothy proclaimed.
"I apologise in advance if you find yourself duct taped to the ceiling or turned into a miscellaneous woodland creature," Harry said Xander.
The dominant raised his eyebrows. "Does that happen a lot?" "Rikin wasn't stuck to the ceiling so it doesn't count," Timothy said.
"And I have never turned anyone into a woodland creature," Thomas added, his gaze indicating who in their group might have been guilty of transfiguring someone into an animal.
"Yes you have."
"That animagus a couple of years ago. You turned him into a weasel-cat thing."
"Pine marten, you twit," Thomas said long-sufferingly. "And it had nothing to do with me, it was his animal form. I just happened to scare him into it."
"He smelled feline," Timothy said disbelievingly.
"You literally couldn't identify a pine marten if one bit you, how would you know what they smell like?" Thomas challenged.
"Are you nervous yet?" Harry asked Xander, watching the two werewolves bicker.
"I maintain that two betas aren't going to scare me off," Xander replied calmly. "Though now I know to warn my family not to chase out any woodland animals they find in my house."
"You've let these two know where you live?" Harry asked dryly.
"No, but I doubt they would struggle to find out. They are resourceful and it is an open secret that the Knockturn Pack have connections to the Acquisitions Guild," the dominant shrugged.
"Acquisitions? I thought they, er, specialised in objects," the submissive said hesitantly, trying to avoid calling the Guild thieves even if Timothy hadn't exactly denied it earlier.
"I suppose the bulk of their profit would be made in acquiring physical objects, but they don't limit themselves to the acquisition of tangible things. For the right price they can get hold of anything from information to rare, out of use spells. Finding someone's address would be a simple matter for them," Xander explained, either not noticing or ignoring the werewolves' disapproving looks.
"Oh," Harry said, filing that information away to share with Hermione later. If there was one thing
"Oh," Harry said, filing that information away to share with Hermione later. If there was one thing
his kitsune friend could not stand it was being unable to find information on something that intrigued her, and Guilds had definitely caught her interest. "So the pack can easily find out where you live?"
"I would imagine so, yes," Xander said indifferently.
"You seem very calm about that," Harry noted, looking at the two werewolves who were watching the demons with a glint in their eye.
"If the idea of my home address being identifiable truly bothered me, I would have done more to hide it," the dominant shrugged.
"Have you ever had to catch a badger?" the submissive asked, still watching the clearly plotting werewolves. He wasn't sure whether or not he should be worried that he could already give a good guess at what the two were thinking of doing.
"A badger? No, I can't say that I have."
"You might want to practice, then," Harry said mischievously with a nod towards the werewolves, who were eyeing the dominant demon with a considering look. Xander returned the look, unflinching.
"Does your Alpha accept Gifting?" he asked the two betas, a polite, distant quality to his tone that hadn't been there previously.
"Possibly. Depends on circumstance," Timothy said interestedly. "Would it be possible for you to-"
"Dominant Alexander Lowell? The Council will see you now," a voice interrupted. The aide Harry had seen in the meeting room with the Council was standing behind them, looking expectantly at Xander. The dominant nodded and stood.
"That's my summons. Harry, I'll owl you," he smiled at the submissive before turning a suspicious look on the werewolves. "Timothy, Thomas. It was good seeing you and I'll be sure to ward my house against you. And against stray wildlife."
With that said the dominant followed the aide out of the room.
"You aren't really going to find out where he lives and prank his house, are you?" Harry asked after a few moments of silence.
"Of course not. That would be a violation of his privacy and an abuse of our connections to the Guild," Timothy said. "Besides, he'd be expecting it now. We'll hit him at work instead."
"I can't tell if you are joking or not."
"Joking. Maybe," Thomas said, tilting his head in thought. "It depends on what Domovoi says about how he wants it handled."
"Right, because that's reassuring," Harry muttered, grabbing the journal he was reading earlier and cracking it open again.
After several minutes of unsuccessfully trying to get back into reading, Harry gave up. Unlike Hermione he didn't have the attention span to spend hours reading, even when he found the subject interesting.
"Do you want to explore?" he suggested when the werewolves looked up at the sound of the book closing. The two betas sprang to their feet like someone had set the couch on fire (Harry wondered what it said about his life now that he took a moment to check that the furniture was not, in fact, aflame). "You know, if you didn't want to stay in here you could have said something," the submissive frowned at the eagerness in the werewolves' actions. It was bad enough he had dragged them along to the Council Halls at all, without boring them to tears while they were here.
Thomas sighed. "We're here primarily as bodyguards, remember?" "So?"
"So a bodyguard doesn't decide what we spend the day doing, we just make sure the person we're guarding is safe," he explained. In all honesty, this was more interesting than most bodyguarding jobs he had taken on in the past. Although, most of those had been taken through the Mercenary Guild and ended up being for politicians and rich people, who only wanted the status of having a bodyguard and led boring lives with little real danger to their person.
"Yeah but you're pack, too. We can do something we all find interesting," Harry insisted stubbornly.
"I'll keep that in mind," Thomas said neutrally. "Now, where do you want to go?" "Where do you want to go?" Harry shot back mulishly.
The tattooed werewolf raised an eyebrow. "I couldn't care less where we go, as long as it won't get you into unnecessary trouble."
"Did you listen to a word I said?" Harry grumbled.
Thomas gave him a flat look. "I did and while the concern is appreciated, it is unnecessary. We are not here as packmates on a jaunt out. We're here for you, so if you want to sit in the library reading that is what we will do, if you want to explore, we'll explore. Consider us working bodyguard who have been hired to follow you around wherever you go."
"So you normally talk about stealing furniture when you're working?" the demon scowled as he put the books back and made his way to the door.
"No. Normally he just nicks it and we're left covering his tracks and preventing any fallout," Timothy muttered, holding the door for the other two.
"I never...hardly ever need someone to cover my tracks," Thomas groused. Harry stared at the two of them. "You really steal stuff?"
"Only if it won't be missed, or they've been annoying," the tattooed werewolf said, unbothered by the admission.
"He has something of a kleptomania problem," Timothy confided with faux-sadness. "He's in denial of it, though."
"Please tell me you haven't stolen anything from here," Harry groaned. "Not yet."
"Relax, I kept him away from the expensive crystal," said Timothy, which Harry found much less reassuring than the werewolf probably intended.
"Why did Alpha send you if he knows you're an incident waiting to happen?" Harry asked. "I thought we were trying to avoid a diplomatic incident?"
"He's the best bodyguard we have - well, excluding Aaron, but bringing an alpha gives the wrong impression - and the most experienced Enforcer. The benefits outweigh the risks. We just keep him away from anything shiny," Timothy explained.
"Artemis is the most experienced," Thomas corrected, ignoring the shiny dig.
"You're the most experienced who isn't likely to try and poison the Demon Council for being an inconvenience," Timothy clarified. "Artemis is my packmate and I love her, but she when she was born the doctors put a warning: danger of death sign above her cot. She has many, and terrifying, talents, but proportional response is not one of them."
"She's not that bad."
"She keeps wolfsbane next to the pepper in her kitchen, and when you were complaining about that idiot who wanted to recruit you and wouldn't take no for an answer, she gave you a vial of runespoor venom that she just happened to be be carrying around!"
Harry nearly fell over his own feet, he turned so quickly to stare at them. "She what?"
"She keeps wolfsbane with the spices. And belladonna in the cold cupboard. Unlabelled. Decline any offer to eat at her place if she invites you, she won't be offended," Thomas advised.
"Why does she even have them, let alone keep them in the kitchen?" Harry asked incredulously.
"She's heavily involved in the Potions and Acquisitions Guilds. And she is crazily protective of her pack and family," Timothy said.
"She's just crazy," Thomas snorted. "What happened to 'she's not that bad'?"
"Well it's not like we would let her bring the contents of her kitchen with her. She's a good Enforcer," the smaller werewolf said. He glanced around with a frown. "Do either of you know where we are going?" he asked, twisting to look over his shoulder at the long corridor they had been on since leaving the library. "How big is this place?"
"Big," Timothy said helpfully. "I think it's enchanted like the Club is upstairs. Anyone who isn't keyed into the wards, or escorted by someone who is, and anyone wandering without a destination in mind just sees one straight, endless corridor. Or an extra long corridor that takes ten times as long to get anywhere, if they went for the more guest friendly option," he explained to Harry, seeing the demon's confused look. "Otherwise the Council must have as much underground space as Gringotts does. We must have been walking for at least five minutes now."
"Why is nothing signposted?" Harry complained, looking around at the identical black doors that lined the corridor.
"To make our lives difficult?"
"Do you want to continue or go back?" Thomas asked, squinting as he looked back the way they had come, trying to spot a break in the enchantment.
"Might as well continue, unless you want to go back to the cafe or library," Harry shrugged. "If we're needed they'll come and find us."
After several more minutes of wandering along the seemingly endless, uniform corridor, they finally found a break in the monotony in the form of a staircase. Thankfully there was also a sign by the stairs, giving them some idea of where they were going.
"Huh. They do have a gym," Timothy noted. "How many of Harry's would-be Courters do you think we can get through in a day?" he asked Thomas.
"None. Leave Xander alone," Harry huffed, setting off up the stairs.
"What about the others?" the giant werewolf asked, following the demon and resolving not to mention Xander in front of Harry again until he had chance to talk to Domovoi about it.
"The other dominants. I thought you were asking more than one to Court you."
"Well, yes, but I haven't asked anyone else yet," Harry frowned.
"So we've only got Xander to torture for now?" the werewolf asked. So much for that resolution.
"No. Leave my potential mates alone," Harry said, rolling his eyes.
"We need to know who the rest of the competition is first," Thomas chipped in helpfully.
Harry just groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose.
"Does this place look familiar to you?" Timothy asked, looking around with a puzzled frown.
"It looks like the corridor outside the entrance hall," Thomas said. "Minus the creepy statue."
"Don't tell me we've just walked in a giant circle," Harry groused.
"I doubt it. I think this is another example of the Council's lack of variety in decorating choices," Thomas mused.
"So where are we?" Timothy asked.
"How should I know? Offices maybe? A second entrance? The nursery?" "This place has a nursery?"
"Why are you asking me?"
"No, it doesn't have a nursery," Harry interrupted, rolling his eyes. "Or not on this floor, according to the sign. We could always open the door and look, instead of guessing," the demon suggested, gesturing towards the double doors a bit further along the corridor.
"After you then," Timothy said with a wave of his hand. "You're small, cute and much less likely to be cursed for sticking your nose in."
"Some bodyguard you are," Harry muttered.
"I did an on the spot risk assessment and concluded that sending in the adorable submissive
demon was less likely to cause trouble than a strange werewolf. Now mush," Timothy said, shepherding the teen towards the doors.
Sighing, Harry opened the door and stuck his head through. He immediately retreated, letting the door fall shut and backing away to hide behind the werewolves.
"Please don't have seen me, please don't have seen me," he muttered as the werewolves looked down at him with concern. He cursed when the door opened. "He saw me."
"You! You little cretin," spat the dominant from the broom park, stepping out into the corridor and glaring at Harry.
Harry was very glad to have a wall of solid werewolf muscle between him and the snarling demon. Protests of independence aside, Harry was very aware he was only thirteen and he was currently facing a pissed off, mature dominant demon who had temporarily abandoned the 'submissives are made of glass' philosophy. Letting Thomas and Timothy play werewolf shields until the guy calmed down seemed like an excellent idea.
Thomas stepped forward, forcing the dominant to back up against the doors, until the only escape route for the demon was a demeaning shuffle along the wall. The tattooed werewolf didn't have Timothy's bulk - bulk that had moved to cover Harry more fully - but the way he held himself, like a wolf cornering prey it planned to maul for fun, and the ice cold glare made him look far more dangerous than the larger werewolf.
Harry suddenly recalled Leo's comment about the Guilds being like a magic mafia. If all Guild members could flip from light hearted packmate to 'the only reason I haven't killed you is because I don't want a scene' the way Thomas had then Harry could easily see how Leo's theory might be true. With that in mind Harry supposed he should intervene before he had to explain to the Council why there was a dead body on the first floor.
Sticking his head out from behind Timothy, which he knew looked ridiculous but was easier than trying to shift a mountain of werewolf muscle, he said, "Hello to you to."
"You assaulted me, you little shit! Do you have any idea what that spell does, you idiotic little brat? I could have you arrested," the demon snarled. Harry suspected the only thing keeping him from lunging were the two werewolves and the definite 'touch him and no one will find your body' vibes coming from Thomas.
"In my defence it was exactly that, in my defence," Harry retorted, feeling surprisingly ok with hiding behind the werewolves as he argued. Gender stereotypes were more tolerable when they were protecting you from attacks by angry demons.
"Defence against what? I wasn't threatening you! If that is how you react to a dominant taking an interest in you it's no wonder so many don't bother. Too much fucking trouble for an ungrateful little princess who thinks he's above the people bothering to waste their breath on him. Who wants that when there are plenty of other subs out there who would be flattered and enjoy the attention like a fucking normal person!"
Harry snarled. Not the relatively tame growl of an unhappy submissive, but a full throated demonic snarl that made his own hair stand on end. How dare this asshole stand there and tell him that he was in the wrong for not behaving like a touch starved puppy when a dominant acknowledged his existence! It didn't help that this was the second time today that he had been told he should shut up and be flattered by blatant harassment.
The two werewolves were rigid with tension and Harry could feel the growls rumbling through them. He'd bet his Cloak that if he could see their eyes they would be a bright, burning gold. Neither moved, waiting to see how Harry would respond.
"Normal?" the submissive repeated, voice harsh with the snarl he couldn't repress -not that he was trying very hard. He had had a lifetime of being called abnormal and a freak by the Dursleys, and if the wizarding world ever found out what he was they would turn on him faster than a goblin scenting gold. Even among other demons he was unusual, being a Realm-sired male submissive. It was bad enough that people thought him abnormal simply for being what he was; he'd be damned if he put up with it over his beliefs too.
"So is it normal to force yourself onto someone who was clearly happy by themselves? Is it normal to follow them when they are clearly trying to get away from you? Is it normal to fucking pet a complete stranger who has barely spoken to you, other than to tell you they aren't interested? If it is normal to find that flattering and attractive in a potential mate then I am pretty fucking glad that I'm not normal," he snarled, infuriated.
"Oh don't make it sound like I was some stalker in the bushes waiting to ambush the poor, innocent submissive," the dominant snarled back. "If you were that worried about dominants 'forcing' themselves on you, you wouldn't have left your bodyguards behind."
Harry gaped at him. For a second he seriously considered hexing the bastard again. Not that he thought it would make any difference to the idiot's attitude, but it would make Harry feel better.
"Now I'm really glad I hexed you. I hope you enjoy the after effects, you stuck up bastard!"
The dominant smirked. "We'll see how long I'm enjoying the effects after I report you to the Council for assault."
Harry scowled, then slowly smirked. "Have fun with that. I'm already here to discuss one fight with a dominant. It'll make Councilwoman Ava's day to have another reason to poke at my conduct. At this rate I'll end up with a reputation."
The dominant frowned, thrown by Harry's blasé attitude. He quickly regained his smirk when he decided the submissive was bluffing.
"See if you look so smug when you're called up in front of the Council," he sneered, shoving past the werewolves and stalking off down the corridor.
The werewolves watched him go with muted growls. When he disappeared around a corner that Harry could have sworn hadn't been there earlier, Timothy turned to look at the teen.
"The pack can step in if you want us to. You were already a member of the pack at the time he was harassing you. We have more right to get involved in this case than with the other," he offered with a concerned frown.
Harry shook his head. "You don't need to."
"Are you sure?" Thomas asked. "Assault will be treated more seriously than some verbal sparring with a dominant who was behaving inappropriately."
The submissive grinned. "I doubt it. I did hex him but if he insists on pushing it then he's going to end up with at least two counts of harassment, and that's if the Council vote in his favour."
"And what happens to you if they vote in his favour?" Thomas asked with narrowed eyes.
"No idea. Presumably some sort of 'bad Harry, don't do that' smack on the wrist. It wouldn't sit well with people if a submissive received a full punishment for defending themselves," he shrugged. "Not that people would think it was ok for it to happen to a dominant, either, but you've seen how weird dominants get about submissives being at risk."
"How sure of that are you?"
"Er, ninety percent? The pamphlet they sent only outlined absolute laws and gave a few conduct tips. A lot of it was about harassment and role neglect laws. Assault is, weirdly, less cut and dried than harassment laws are," Harry explained.
"They sent you a pamphlet?" Timothy said with raised eyebrows.
"Yes. I think it's to stop people trying to say they didn't know it was against the law if they do something. It seemed geared towards Realm-sireds. Although, most of the laws are based on the natural instincts we inherit from the Realm-borns, so really you would think Realm-sireds would be the least likely to break the most important ones, even if they didn't know about the laws," Harry mused.
"But a pamphlet, really?"
"Really really. They should have some here if you don't believe me. How else would I know anything about Demon Law?"
"I...never really thought about it?" the werewolf admitted. "Sending out information leaflets sounds risky though. What if a wizard gets hold of one?"
Harry shrugged. "Dunno. They only send them out when they've confirmed you're really a demon, and you have to bleed on it to activate it. I presume it will only work for demons, but I don't know if it has any other protections on it."
The conversation was interrupted by the doors opening again. Once again it was a familiar demon, but this time it was a friendly face.
"Damian! They dragged you in, too?" Harry greeted the young dominant with smile. It was still weird knowing someone was a centenarian but being unable to not think of them as young.
"Harry! What are you doing standing out here?" Damian asked.
"Discussing the pros and cons of sending out demon information pamphlets," Harry grinned. "My packmates aren't too approving."
Damian gave the two werewolves a wary look, as though he half expected them to go on a rampage over the issue. Harry doubted Thomas' default glare was helping matters.
"It's been done for centuries, certainly since before I was born. There hasn't been a big incident to date, that I know of," he offered hesitantly. "The only problem I've heard of is people not hiding or destroying them properly and being outed as demons themselves, but nobody has ever traced the information back to the Council or any other demon."
"I wasn't trying to criticise," Timothy defended. He ignored Harry's disbelieving snort. "It surprised me. I don't think the Alpha Pack would ever even consider something like that."
"It wouldn't really work for werewolves, though," Thomas mused. "Born were's are already part of a pack and teaching them is their Alpha's responsibility. Bittens are harder to keep tabs on but most of us get picked up by the local pack pretty quickly. The ones who really need information
would be the Loners and, well," he grimaced, "that's a whole other cauldron of doxies, isn't it?"
"I suppose," Timothy said thoughtfully. "More people know what a werewolf is, too. Ministry propaganda might makes us out to be rabid beasts of the night but at least new werewolves don't suddenly turn furry and get left wondering what the hell is wrong with them."
"Neither do demons," Damian said defensively. "We have at least two demon parents, why would we be unaware of our heritage?"
"I meant for people in Harry's position. Those who don't have someone around to explain things to them. It's a lot harder to find any information at all on demons than it is for werewolves," Timothy said in a mild tone that somehow managed to come across as slightly threatening. It reminded Harry of the way Professor McGonagall could say thank you in a way that meant one more misstep would cost a hundred points and land him in detention until he was forty.
"Oh," Damian said, looking sheepish. "I didn't think of that. Realm-sireds are rare enough that I sort of forget they exist sometimes." His eyes shot wide and he turned to Harry. "No offence, Harry!"
"None taken. For the record, I wasn't left wondering what was happening to me. It's not like I woke up one morning and, bam, I'm a demon," the submissive said dryly. "I spent most of my time before Hogwarts wondering how I would find more people like me. People with magic, especially demons. Meeting other demons always felt like it would be important."
"What were you planning to do?" Damian asked curiously. The idea of not knowing a single other demon, or even a magic user, was difficult to wrap his head around.
Harry shrugged. "Dunno. Running around town hoping to bump into someone who could explain why some people didn't feel human and others felt like static electricity was as close as I got to having a plan. I didn't even know if there were any other demons in Britain."
"Thank Merlin for Hogwarts, then," Timothy said with a strained grin. It was hard to crack jokes when he was picturing his littlest packmate surrounded by faceless, cruel muggles, knowing he was different and didn't quite fit but being helpless to change anything.
Harry laughed. "Who would have thought that the world's most aggressively persistent post and a guy breaking into your house would be a good thing?"
"Someone broke into your house?" Damian asked with raised eyebrows.
"To be fair to Hagrid, he just knocked on the door. If we hadn't been in such a rickety old shack he probably wouldn't have knocked it off its hinges," Harry said, defending his friend. He didn't want anyone giving the half-giant a hard time over the circumstances surrounding Harry's introduction to the wizarding world. Hagrid's only fault in it all was not knowing his own strength and being beholden to Dumbledore.
"What are you all doing standing out here?"
The four of them jumped as an amused voice spoke.
"Discussing the life benefits of breaking and entering," Timothy quipped when he saw who had interrupted them.
"Am I going to have to dredge up the funds for legal representation?" the dominant asked dryly. Harry narrowed his eyes at the sight of Shax Calvey. The dominant was dressed in a similar suit to
the one Harry had seen him in on the night of his adoption into the pack, but the submissive's thoughts were far from appreciative this time. (Maybe a tiny bit appreciative - the cut of the suit was very flattering and Harry was a teenage boy. One corner of his brain was dedicated to being appreciative of hot dominants, even when he was annoyed at them).
"What are you doing here?" he scowled. He knew Shax was the pack sponsor, a position that demanded respect from the pack members, but right now he didn't care. They were demons on demon territory; Harry was going to deal with this as a purely demon matter, and if Domovoi didn't like it the Alpha could bite him.
Shax was taken aback by the less than friendly greeting. Admittedly he had only had one short encounter with the submissive, but Harry had seemed fine - eager, even - to talk to him then.
"The same reason you are here, I imagine," the dominant said with raised eyebrows. "Tauton's trial."
"I'd worked that much out for myself, thanks," Harry glowered. "I meant what are you doing here, specifically? I thought avoiding contact and spying were more your speed?"
The two werewolves winced. They had been expecting a confrontation of some sort, but not one so public.
Shax looked at the submissive cautiously. While he had been warned that Harry would not respond well to his long distance approach, he hadn't expected the young demon to be this angry. It was not how he had imagined his first protracted interaction with submissive to go. It didn't help that a young dominant - barely older than Harry himself in terms of maturity - was watching with interest.
"You are angry at me," he observed mildly. "You think?" Harry growled.
"I'm not sure what I've done to invite this level of hostility but perhaps we should find somewhere more private for this conversation?" Shax suggested.
"You could just apologise," Damian commented. He hunched his shoulders defensively under Shax's scornful glare.
"Apologising without knowing exactly what it is I have done to offend is insulting to both our intelligences. I will apologise once I know it is something I am truly sorry for," the older demon drawled.
"Right, fine. Private discussion. Where should we go?" Harry huffed. Three confrontations with demons in one day, just what he'd been hoping for when he set out.
"I should go. The Council will want to see me soon anyway," Damian said hesitantly. "See you later, Harry. Timothy, Thomas. And, uh, Mr Calvey," the younger dominant added with an awkward nod, before making his escape down the corridor.
"If you add him to your list it's going to be like chasing Bambi on ice, when the pack get to him," Thomas said, watching the retreating dominant.
Timothy snorted but the two remaining demons weren't even listening. With a sigh Shax gestured for the group to follow him. Leading them back downstairs, the dominant came to a stop outside one of the many unmarked doors that lined the corridor.
"Thomas, Timothy, if you don't mind I'd ask you to wait out here. If the Council send for me let me know, otherwise I would prefer to be undisturbed," Shax instructed, placing a hand on the door handle. When the werewolves nodded in understanding, he twisted the handle and held the door open for open for Harry.
Grumbling, Harry brushed past the dominant, doing his best to avoid body contact. He found himself in a small room with two sofas and coffee table in front of a lit hearth. It took him a moment to work out what was odd about the room; it was the only room he'd seen since entering the building that wasn't decorated in black and red.
He was pulled from his contemplation of the neutral colour scheme by Shax stepping into the room behind him. The door shut with a soft click, and privacy wards snapped into place.