AN: Yay! The last chapter! -sobs- I kind of sad to see it end, actually. This fic has brought me through a year and a half.
Disclaimer: There's an italicized paragraph about halfway through that's JKR's words, not mine. I don't own it.
The title of this chap is from track eight of Coheed and Cambria's Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV Volume One. It give a definite feel for the mood of the chapter, both good and bad, especially Draco's messages to Harry.
Part IV: Sixth Year
Chapter XV: Wake Up
Harry woke very slowly with the feeling that something was off, but not really off. He was in the hospital wing still, after that disastrous Quidditch match, but he got landed in the hospital wing so often that it couldn't be that. His head still felt tender, but after having a cracked skull, that was normal too. It was the middle of the night, but he often woke in the middle of the night nowadays.
He opened his eyes and looked around, absently groping for his glasses. Then he nearly dropped them in shock. Sitting next to his bed with a very calm expression was Draco Malfoy.
Harry hurriedly sat up and fumbled to put on his glasses before casting Muffliato on Ron's curtains and Madam Pomfrey's door. Then he looked back at Malfoy, unsure of whether he sure be pleased or pissed to see him.
"Hello, Harry," Malfoy murmured, avoiding his eyes.
"Malfoy," Harry said, glad his tone was neutral. He winced slightly when Malfoy suddenly looked pained, but forcefully told himself that it was no more than Malfoy deserved.
"Why are you here, Malfoy?" Harry asked after a minute of silence.
"I heard you'd gotten hurt in the match and I wanted to come see you, to make sure you were okay," Malfoy answered softly, sounding close to tears. "I wanted to come last night, but I heard voices so I left."
Harry suddenly felt very cold. "What did you hear?"
"Not much. Just something about watching something." Malfoy made a slight face as he added, "It sounded like Peeves."
Harry breathed a sigh of relief. "It was Peeves. He bothered us all last night."
Malfoy's eyes widened and he moved to leave. "You probably need sleep then—"
"I'm fine," Harry said, grabbing Malfoy's arm to pull him down again. He let go almost immediately afterward, though, and drew his hand to his chest, annoyed that he was so weak that he couldn't let Malfoy leave.
"I'm sorry about yesterday," Malfoy murmured, studying his own hands in his lap. "I didn't mean a word of it."
"Of course you didn't," Harry said with a sigh. He should have known Malfoy was here to apologize for something.
Malfoy looked sharply up at him. "I didn't!" he insisted. "I'd tell you what I'm doing if I could, but—"
"I know, Malfoy. I understand; I really do." Harry sighed and shook his head. "I know all about keeping secrets."
"Then why did you break up with me?" Malfoy asked, sounding anguished.
Harry thought over his answer for several minutes, knowing Malfoy was expecting some stupid reason that could easily be fixed. He also knew the weak excuses he'd given back in January wouldn't work now, since neither of them was that emotional. However, what he'd said then was the truth, so he was hard pressed to come up with another answer.
"Malfoy," he finally said, "I can't tell you anything other than what I already told you back in January. We're too young to be making these decisions—"
"You are maybe," Malfoy muttered.
"—I can't trust you anymore, which you confirmed so don't even try to protest that one," he added when Draco opened his mouth to do just that. "And it's too dangerous for either of us now that you're a Death Eater."
Malfoy paled and drew back a little. "What?"
"Don't even try to deny it, Malfoy. You practically told me yourself that you are one." Harry shook his head, looking away. "If Voldemort ever found out we're together...I don't want to be responsible for what he'd do to you. For what your father would do."
"What makes you think I'm a Death Eater?" Malfoy asked in a hollow voice. "You know I hate them."
Harry laughed bitterly. "Isn't it obvious? I've known since you wouldn't let Madam Malkin mess with your left sleeve in Diagon. And you did practically tell me yourself, back in January. The only reason no one else will believe me is that no one else thinks Voldemort would accept a sixteen-year-old into his ranks, but I know Voldemort better than that."
"Maybe you don't know him well enough," Malfoy snapped. Harry just smiled grimly.
"No, but you do, don't you?"
Malfoy bit his lip and looked away.
"Why, Draco?" Harry asked softly, reaching out to touch Malfoy's cheek.
Malfoy shook his head, refusing to look at him. "It's...really complicated, Harry. Believe me, I didn't want it. I never wanted it. I hate the Dark Lord. I want him to die and horrible, slow, painful death, preferably at your hands."
Harry frowned slightly. "You didn't say his name."
"Voldemort. You called him 'the Dark Lord.' You did that once before..."
Malfoy shrugged uncomfortably. "Things are different now."
"You're afraid of him," Harry said bluntly.
Malfoy let out his own bitter laugh. "Afraid? Harry, I fear no one. I'm terrified."
"That's the same thing," Harry said with a brief smile.
"They are not," Malfoy said, though his expression hadn't changed. "What can I do? He'll—" He suddenly seemed to think he'd spoken too much and quickly shut his mouth.
Harry's eyes narrowed. Malfoy had mentioned this in January too, and he'd been just as tight-lipped about it. Annoyed at Malfoy though he may be, no one was allowed to threaten the blond. "He'll do what?"
"I can't tell you, Harry; please don't ask me again," Malfoy said frantically, glancing around as though to make sure they weren't being overheard. Harry's hatred of Voldemort increased ten-fold in that instant.
"I won't, Draco," he murmured. "Your secret's safe with me."
Harry's heart nearly broke at the relieved expression that formed on Malfoy's face. "Thank you, Harry."
Harry smiled faintly when he felt Draco's fingers touched his cheek, but the gesture had reminded him of the one thing he hadn't yet hadn't the courage to say.
"Draco," he murmured, reaching up to grab Draco's hand. "There's one more reason I broke up with you..."
"What is it?"
"I..." Harry paused, collecting himself. It was much harder to say this aloud than to think it. "It feels like you don't love me as much anymore..."
The words were barely out of his mouth when Draco's lips suddenly covered his own. He moaned softly, leaned up to press closer to the other boy; how he'd missed this!
"Never think that," Draco whispered against his lips, his silver-blue eyes boring into Harry's green ones. "I have never loved you more than I do now, and I'll love you even more as time passes. Never assume that I'll ever lose my feelings for you."
"Draco..." Harry murmured, but that was all he could managed before Draco cut him off again. He was starting to feel a little light headed from the passion Draco was portraying just in these simple kisses. How could he have ever doubted the blond?
"I can't live without you, Harry," Draco murmured as he pulled away again. "I mean that literally. I've been slowly dying these past few months. I can barely sleep; I have no appetite; my magic's been going haywire. I've been so afraid you hate me..."
"Don't," Harry answered, cupping Draco cheek with his hand. "I love you as much as ever. That's why this is all so difficult."
"Will you take me back?" Draco whispered.
"Is that a good idea?" Harry responded, feeling crushed. He'd like nothing better. "With all that's going on, is that really a good idea?"
"No." Draco's eyes slid closed for a brief moment, then he pressed another kiss to Harry's lips before sitting back again. "No, it's not."
"I want you back, Draco, I do," Harry said, making sure he looked as sincere as possible. "I never wanted to break up with you in the first place. I promise, as soon as it's safe, I'll go running back into your arms, like you wanted once."
Draco smiled faintly. "I thought you weren't a girl?"
"I'm not, thank Merlin. But I think it would be appropriate anyway."
"It would." Draco glanced down at his watch, stole another kiss, and stood. "I have to go; I've been here far too long. I'll see you...?"
"Soon," Harry said with a faint smile. "Promise. I love you."
Draco granted him a breathtaking smile. "I love you too, Harry. Always."
Harry stayed up long after Draco had left, various thoughts drifting though his head, the foremost being, how long has it been since I let him kiss me?
"We seem to visit each other in the hospital a lot, don't we?" Harry whispered as he watched Draco's still form. The wounds from the previous day were nearly healed, but Harry was sure that, at least in his eyes, Draco would always have a long scar from his Sectumsempra curse. He could hardly believe what had happened; indeed, he would have thought it was some horrible dream if Draco weren't still here.
"I'm so sorry, Draco," Harry whispered, knowing he had never uttered anything so truthful in all his life. "I never meant to use that spell on you. McLaggen maybe, but you'd agree with that. I didn't even know what it did!"
For the past day, nothing had been worse than not seeing Draco in class and knowing he was still healing in the hospital. They shared nearly all of their classes, so he felt the lack of Draco's presence very acutely. Nothing, not Snape's detentions, not loosing the Potions book, not being reprimanded by McGonagall or his team mates, could top how awful he felt every time he glanced at Draco's empty seat.
"I was just so angry, you know?" Harry went on, feeling horrible about it. "You've been so distant, and I do know why, but it still hurts. And then I saw you crying, crying, in front of Moaning Myrtle and you've never cried in front of me, not even when I broke up with you..."
That in itself had hurt him the most; that Draco would trust some ghost to cry in front of and not him. He knew he hadn't been a very good boyfriend or real friend the past few months, but he'd thought they'd been past that. After all, how many times had he cried in front of Draco, even when he knew it was breaking the blond's heart to watch him?
"I know you were probably angry too," Harry murmured. "I've been horrible to you all year, and you've been doing the best you could. And then I just snuck up on you while you were vulnerable...I'd be angry too. But I didn't mean it, Draco. I never, ever meant to use that on you..."
"Of course I was angry, you prat."
Harry started and stared wide-eyed down at him. He hadn't realized Draco was awake.
"How else am I supposed to feel?" Draco demanded, glaring up at him. "You've left me for that...that...Weasley whore."
Harry paled, feeling slightly sick. "I'm not going out with Ginny, Draco. And don't call her that!"
"Not yet," Draco spat, looking away.
"I can't help how I feel," Harry said desperately. "Do you think I want to like her? Ron would kill me, you'd kill me, I'd kill myself. But I can't help it."
"Of course you can't. It was the same thing with Cedric."
"Please don't bring him up—"
Draco let out a bitter laugh. "It's not like you can't still talk to him. Am I always going to be in the back seat when it comes to your relationships?"
"What? No! I mean...I..." Harry shook his head, feeling slightly desperate. "I love you, Draco. But you've been so distant this year, what am I supposed to do? We're sixteen; these things are just going to creep up on us. What if there's someone else out there we'll start loving more than each other?"
"There isn't anyone else for me, Harry," Draco said coldly.
Harry blinked, completely taken aback. "What are you talking about? There could be."
"There isn't," Draco said. "And there can't be anyone else for you either. We're meant for each other. There is no one else."
"How can you be so sure?"
Draco suddenly paled and shook his head. "I...I just am. Besides, does it feel right with your Weasley? Are you happier with her?"
"I told you, I'm not going out with Ginny," Harry said, puzzling over Draco's previous statements. Why was he so sure? Did it have anything to do with that "I'll die if you reject me" stuff?
"Anyway," Draco continued as though the argument had never happened, "I was angry and upset for other reasons, those you listed and a couple others. I'm in a bad way right now."
"I know; I heard that. Voldemort's threatened to kill you if you don't do what he's asked. That's what you've been hiding from me, isn't it?"
"Yes, because he said he'd kill me anyway if anyone found out." Draco sighed and closed his eyes. "I'm as good as dead. I'm not a master at Occlumency yet; he'll pluck it right out of my mind and kill me."
"You're good enough to stop Snape," Harry pointed out before he could stop himself.
Draco's eyes flew open and he shot up to a sitting position. "How do you know about that?"
Harry paled and leaned back a little, highly aware that Draco could still use magic without his wand. "I followed you and Snape the night of Slughorn's party. Why do you think I was able to catch up with you after you left?"
"You were spying on me?"
"Draco, I've been spying on you all year," Harry admitted warily. "Although I still don't know what you're up to."
Draco glared at him for a moment before lying down again with a wince. "Well, I don't suppose I'll be any more dead if I show you this, seeing as you already know all my other secrets. Aperecium," he murmured, passing his right hand over his left arm. Harry watched in horror as black lines formed on Draco's flesh.
"It's real," Harry murmured, taking Draco's arm into his hands so he could examine the Dark Mark more closely.
"I thought you had no doubts that I'm a Death Eater," Draco sneered, though he allowed his arm to be examined.
Harry looked up at him with a pained expression. "I was hoping I was wrong."
"Well you're not. Are you happy now?" Draco muttered, looking away. He tensed in surprise when Harry suddenly hugged him around the neck.
"No, I'm not," Harry whispered. "When did it happen?"
Draco was silent for a moment, obviously contemplating whether he should answer. He finally whispered back, "On your birthday. I was told it would happen a week before, when I stopped writing you."
"Draco..." Harry pressed his lips to Draco's, pouring all the emotions he could into the kiss. Draco tensed before kissing back just as desperately, though he quickly pulled away. Harry was shocked to see tears running down his cheeks.
"I'm so scared, Harry," Draco sobbed, clinging to him. "I'm scared of being scared, and of the Dark Lord, and of losing you..."
"I'm scared too," Harry admitted softly, brushing the tears from Draco's face. "I almost lost you yesterday. I don't want that to happen again."
"But it will," Draco whispered hoarsely. "I'll have to go back to him eventually, and he'll kill me. Merlin, Harry, I don't want to die!"
"I know, Draco; I know," Harry said softly, stroking Draco's cheek with his thumb.
"I'm so scared...I don't want to die...I don't want to leave you...but no one can help me...and he's going to kill me..."
Harry forced back the lump that formed in his throat as he held his broken lover, letting Draco cry as much as he wanted. He was sure he wasn't doing a very good job of comforting the blond, but he couldn't help but try. It was the least he could do after all the times Draco had held him while he wept.
A familiar feeling of anger bubbled up in his chest as Draco's murmurs grew weaker and his breathing slowed until he was clearly fast asleep. Voldemort would pay for reducing Draco to this; nothing else mattered more than destroying the man who had done this. Draco should never have to worry about anything but grades and how to style his hair. He did not deserve to be so broken.
Harry carefully slid out of Draco's grasp and lay him back down. He pulled out his wand and concealed the Dark Mark again, the lump forming in his throat again as he looked at it. His fingers brushed over the tear tracks on his love's face before curling into a fist.
"Voldemort is going to answer for this, Draco," he murmured, even though Draco could no longer hear him. "I'll make him pay. Malfoys aren't supposed to fear anything."
Harry woke to find a piece of parchment sitting on his forehead. He picked it up with little interest; he'd hardly felt any emotion other than anger and determination since he'd seen Dumbledore's body on the ground the previous day. However, as he looked over the note, his heart stopped.
If you're reading this, I'm either dead or Dumbledore is and I've escaped. Either way, I'm no longer around to tell you this myself.
What I've been doing all year is trying to fix that Vanishing Cabinet Montague got trapped in last year (courtesy of the twins, I believe). He told me that when he was trapped, he could hear what was going on in the school and in Borgin and Burkes. Turns out there are a pair of them and they form a sort of passage between them.
I managed to fix the Hogwarts one just now, so my plan will be going into effect tonight. It's in the Room of Requirement, and you need to think about a giant storage room to get in there. As soon as my plan is accomplished, you'll be the only one who knows what it does, so it'll be yours.
As for the one in Borgin and Burkes—over the Christmas holiday, I bought it. I also told Borgin that the ownership of it must transfer to you after the first time the Death Eaters use it. So, it's probably yours now, if Death Eaters went through into the school. If I failed and they didn't, I'm sure you can buy it from me through Borgin.
You can do whatever you wish with them. I'm sure you'll find them useful somehow. Think of this as a very, very late Winter Solstice, Christmas, and Spring Equinox present.
I'm sorry I've been such a jerk to you this year. Thank you for understanding in the end.
I still love you, always and forever.
P.S. Dump the Weasley bitch now. I don't want her around when I get back.
A lump formed in his throat near the end, but he blinked back any tears, unwilling to let them mar this letter. The only letter Draco had sent him in almost a year. A letter that made it sound as though he thought he would never be coming back.
As he read over it again, he realized what Draco had been trying to tell him; he was now the owner of both Vanishing Cabinets, since the Death Eaters had used them to get into Hogwarts. He now had a way to get in and out of Hogwarts without anyone knowing that was what he was doing. It must have cost Draco a lot to get the ownership to transfer to Harry like that.
Harry carefully folded up the letter and stuck in a pocket of his robes. Plans for the two cabinets were already forming in his head as he started getting dressed, the listlessness he'd been feeling since the previous night all but gone. He just did not deserve Draco; the other boy was too good to him.
That night at midnight, Harry checked over the Marauder's Map again as he crept out of Gryffindor Tower. As he no longer had his Invisibility Cloak, he had to be extra careful that he not run into anyone. Once satisfied that no one was nearby, he silently crept down the corridor, heading in the direction of the Astronomy Tower. Getting his cloak back was of the utmost importance; once he was sure he wouldn't be seen, he could complete the rest of tonight's mission.
The corridor was still a mess and stairs of the tower were still partially blocked, but it was easy to pick his way through the stones in his determination. He raced up to the top, pushed open the door, and stepped out into the cool night air. There he paused, looking around.
Only twenty-four hours before, Draco was standing in this same spot, his wand aimed at Dumbledore in a shaking hand, the sounds of battle raging beneath his feet. He must have been terrified. Harry closed his eyes and tried to imagine what I must have been like, but couldn't quite manage it. Perhaps because his own memories of that night had been burned into his mind by his own terror.
He walked over to where his cloak lay forgotten on the stones, avoiding letting his gaze travel over to where Dumbledore had been standing the night before. Yes, now he could remember everything clearly and could imagine what could have happened even more clearly; Draco lowering his wand and dropping to his knees, the enchantment on himself lifting so he could rush over and gather his blond into his arms, apologies for ever doubting him streaming from his mouth.
It was obvious now that Draco had only joined the Death Eaters to protect the people he cared for—his parents, the SG, himself, and Harry. Harry was a little ashamed that he hadn't figured it out earlier; Draco had learned Occlumency, after all, and what reason would he have to do that than to keep certain secrets a secret? He had simply assumed that Draco's reason was the reason he'd given Snape, and he heartily wished now that he hadn't.
Harry shook himself free of such depressing thoughts, pulled on his cloak, and descended the stairs again. He didn't have time to be daydreaming; there was only so much time he could afford being out of the tower before he risked getting in trouble.
Minutes later, he stopped in front of the blank wall opposite the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy getting walloped by his dancing trolls. He stared at it thoughtfully; now came the hard part. Draco had told him what the room he wanted would look like, and he did remember seeing the cabinet in there when he'd been trying to hide the Prince's Potions book, but he still wasn't sure he'd be able to get in there. He'd never wanted a specific room before; he always gone with whatever the room decided to give him.
Figuring it couldn't hurt to try something, Harry closed his eyes and began to walk, imagining the huge room he wanted.
I need the storage room...I need the storage room...I need the storage room...
After his third pass, he paused for a moment, his heart pounding in anticipation. Slowly, he opened his eyes and turned to face the wall—
—and the door was there.
Harry let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding and rushed over to open the door. He grinned as soon as he stepped inside. Yes, this was exactly what he had wanted: the huge cathedral piled with hundreds of years worth of junk. Over in the nearest corner, he thought he saw a mound of sherry bottles, but he wasn't certain.
He headed forward into the junk, knowing that if he tried to find his Potions book, he'd find the Vanishing Cabinet, since he'd passed it when he was hiding the book. He was in no real hurry, so he took his time to look around this time. It was amazing how much was actually here; it seemed he would be able to find anything he could ever want. He was almost tempted to leave the cabinet where it was, except that he would rather it be where he was going to put it: right in the SGC.
It was the ideal spot. From there, he would be able to get into Hogwarts if he ever needed to as well as Hogsmeade. He would have to move its partner out of Borgin and Burkes, and he wasn't yet sure where it would go, but he still had several more days to decide.
He spotted the cupboard that he'd hidden the Potions book in ahead and backtracked a bit to where he'd turned. There it was, the Vanishing Cabinet. It looked innocent enough, but Harry knew it was a main cause of Dumbledore's death. He hoped that by using it himself, he could get rid of the harsh aura that now surrounded it.
"Mobilicabinet!" he intoned, pointing his wand at the cabinet. It rose a few inches off the ground and hovered there, waiting for him to move it. He nearly did, but then he glanced over at the cupboard where the Prince's book was hidden.
Though he now loathed Snape as much as Voldemort, and though he'd nearly killed Draco with one of the spells inside, he couldn't deny that the book had taught, and could still teach him, more than any teacher ever had. After a moment of indecision, he retrieved the book before moving to lead the Vanishing Cabinet to the door.
Now was the most difficult part. He had to get the cabinet to the SGC three floors down without getting caught. He could only imagine what might happen if the cabinet was spotted floating about on its own, but he doubted the result would be good for him. Carefully, he checked the map again before setting off, moving slowly but steadily.
He had just reached the fifth floor and was examining over the map again when a shout of "Harry!" made him stop in his tracks and look around. There, running down the stairs Harry had just stepped off of, was Angelo.
"Angelo! What are you doing here?" Harry asked, amazed and bewildered, as Angelo stopped just in front of him on the last step. He didn't bother to ask how the man had seen him; he had changed a little in the year since Harry had last seen him—his hair was a little longer, he'd gained an eyebrow ring, and he now had a sword strapped to his side—but he was still the same Vampire who had seen through his cloak back in fourth year.
"I checked Gryffindor Tower, but you were not there, so I thought I might check the SGC," Angelo answered, absently running his fingers through his hair. "I am glad I found you. I need to talk to you about a few things."
"You know the password?" Harry said in shock.
Angelo smiled faintly. "I know how to get into the tower without it. I have always been good friends with the Weasley twins, remember."
"Why were you looking for me?" Harry asked curiously.
"I heard about what happened to the Headmaster," Angelo murmured, suddenly looking more upset than Harry had ever seen him. "However, all I have heard is that he died and you were there to see it. I was hoping you could tell me what happened."
"I...sure," Harry said, taking another look at Angelo's expression. "But it'll have to wait until we get to the SGC."
"Of course. Is that where you are taking that cabinet?" Anglo asked, gesturing at the hovering cabinet.
"Yeah. It'll be a lot more useful there than where I got it from."
"Would you like for me to hide it for you?"
Harry blinked in surprise. "You can do that?"
"Yes. Like this." Angelo closed his eyes, raised a hand, and mimed pulling down an invisible curtain. The Vanishing Cabinet disappeared.
"Thanks," Harry said, reaching out a hand to touch the invisible wood so he could still guide it. He used his other hand to lift up the bottom of the cloak. "You can hide under here with me so we won't be seen."
"That is an excellent idea, thank you." Angelo ducked under the cloak with Harry, who found it quite hard to not think of how close to him Angelo now had to be.
"Is Kiran here too?" Harry asked softly as they began walking again.
"No, he never liked the Headmaster very much," Angelo murmured. "He will come for the funeral, but not before. Aaron and Oliver will be coming as well."
"What about Dom?"
"I am afraid not. Warrington has joined the Death Eaters, so it would be rather dangerous for both of them. I think Alexander and Vincent will be coming, though, and Will may as well. You have not corresponded with him," he added at Harry's confused glance. "The Talbots have been written for him and his master for almost two years now. They seem to be the only ones able to find them."
Angelo nodded. "Will told me that in his second year, his life was threatened, though he never mentioned how. Lyon saved him and nearly died himself. Instead of waiting to fulfil his life-debt, Will decided to bind himself into Lyon's service."
"Ah. Like you?"
Angelo smiled faintly down at him. "Yes, a little like that."
"I can't wait to meet them," Harry said, fully aware that he really had no idea what he had gotten himself into.
"I was also thinking that we could have a small alliance meeting after the funeral, since they will be there. It will give you a chance to meet them and the leaders of a few other groups who may join the alliance."
"What about the Weasleys and, well, everyone?" Harry said, unsure of whether he liked the idea or not. "No one knows we even know each other, much less that I have my own alliance."
"Do you care if they found out?"
Harry frowned slightly; he honestly did not know whether he cared or not. It would complicate quite a few things, but he would be glad to have at least one secret off his chest.
"It is the end of an era, Harry," Angelo murmured. Harry glanced back at him and was startled to see that his eyes were very distant. "You do not have to decide now, but please think about it."
"I will," Harry promised. As they had reached the mirror, he moved forward to open it and led the Vanishing Cabinet into the SGC. He glanced around and decided to guide it over to stand in a corner near the fireplace. Angelo ducked out from under the Invisibility Cloak to sit in his old spot. Harry draped the cloak over the back of his loveseat but bypassed it to sit next to him.
"You wanted to know what happened last night?" Harry started, steeling himself.
"Yes, please. I believe Aaron already knows, but he would not tell me when I asked." Angelo shook his head with a sigh. "I have been able to See very little about it."
"It's going to take a while. I wrote you about a few things, but not a lot of others."
"You will find I am a very patient person," Angelo said with a brief smile.
Harry nodded and began describing everything that had happened the previous night, starting with Dumbledore's summons to his office. After a moment of thought, he decided not to explain about the Horcruxes, saying that they had gone to find something that would help to destroy Voldemort but that he couldn't say what it was or what had really happened.
Angelo stayed respectfully silent as he spoke, something that threw him off a little since he was used to explaining these things to Draco, and Draco simply could not keep his mouth shut. In fact, the only way Harry could tell that Angelo was actually listening was the way the Vampire's eye colour shifted between according to his emotions, finally settling on red and staying there when Harry revealed Dumbledore's murderer.
Angelo remained silent for a moment once Harry finished, his eyes narrowed in thought. The first words out of his mouth were not something Harry had expected to hear.
"I have know and trusted Severus Snape for eight years," Angelo said, sounding almost mournful.
"I had hoped I was wrong about him, but I cannot say I am surprised he is the one responsible."
"He's evil," Harry muttered. "I've always known that."
"Evil is too strong a word, Harry," Angelo said softly. "There are things about Severus that you will probably never know or understand which have made him who he is. There are also aspects of him you have never known and probably will never know, I am sure. I must admit that I have never understood the animosity he feels toward you and you toward him. He is not all bad, merely a very good Slytherin."
"You sound like you're in love with the git," Harry muttered bitterly, forcing himself to ignore the curiosity beginning to bubble under the surface. He hated Snape as much as Voldemort; he wasn't allowed to be curious about him.
Angelo smiled faintly. "I have an immense amount of respect for Severus. Yes, even now," he added at Harry's incredulous stare. "He is the epitome of Slytherin, an honourable and caring man, and an excellent Potions Master—one better, perhaps, than has been seen in a hundred years. He did much for me in the years I attended Hogwarts."
"Honourable and caring? Snape?" Harry said, more incredulous than before.
"I did say there are aspects of him that you have never seen. He would never show you anything but hatred, and emotion you return in kind. But Severus has always cared deeply for his students and his friends; it is what made him such an excellent Head of House. Is McGonagall not like that with your House."
"Yeah, she is," Harry said, thinking of his stern but still oddly kind Head of House.
"I cannot ask you to stop hating Severus, nor would I," Angelo said, "but I must ask you not to hate me for being unable to."
"He killed Dumbledore!" Harry exclaimed vehemently.
"I am aware of that, but I also know that he would not have done it unless he believed he had no other choice. I am a Slytherin myself, Harry, in cased you had forgotten."
Harry gaped at him.
"I am also a Vampire and best friends with a shaman," Angelo continued. "My ideas concerning death are a little different than yours."
Harry sighed. "Well, I can't hate you anyway. You're too nice."
Angelo laughed. "I am glad for that, at least. Thank you for telling me what you could about what happened."
Harry nodded once. "He would have wanted you to know. Are you staying in Hogsmeade?"
"Oh no, Hogsmeade is already far too crowded. I was going to stay here in the SGC." Angelo gestured at the bed where a couple suitcases lay on top of the mattress. "Aaron and Oliver are going to join me when they arrive. Unless you are offering to let me stay with you up in the tower?" he added teasingly.
Harry forcing himself not to blush at the images that brought up. "No, I think Ron would throw a fit."
Angelo laughed again. "Pity. I was so looking forward to being the first thing he sees when he wakes in the morning, looming over his bed with my fangs bared."
Harry laughed as well. "He'd deserve it."
All three of them turned at the shout, Harry with a very different expression than his friends.
"What are you doing here?" Ron demanded as Angelo and Kiran stopped in front of them followed by a group of unfamiliar people, all of them older than the two in front.
"We wished to pay our respects to the Headmaster," Angelo answered coldly. "He did much for us while we attended Hogwarts."
"Anyway, we aren't here to argue with you," Kiran added, hardly glancing at the red-head. "We're here for Harry."
Ron sputtered and stared at them as though they had all turned bright blue. "What? What do you need with Harry?"
"Calm down, Ron. They're not here to cause trouble." Harry ignored the incredulous stares now centred on him in favour of his allies. "Did you want to go somewhere else?"
"No, we can stay here. It is a lovely spot," Angelo said. "Your friends may stay too, as long as they stay quiet."
Ron opened his mouth to protest, but Hermione clamped her hand over it and smiled at Angelo. "We will, don't worry. Come on, Ron." She dragged him a short distance away behind the tree, not once letting his mouth free.
Kiran rolled his eyes. "You'd think after a year of zero contact with us that he'd be over it, but of course, he's still just as stupid."
"And he's still my friend," Harry said warningly. "But I have to agree with you here. I didn't realize you'd come looking for me so soon or I'd have warned him."
"It is fine. We are used to it," Angelo said, waving it off. He gestured to the small group standing behind him. "There are a few people who would like to meet you."
At that, two of the men stepped forward, one with black hair that put his one to shame and the other with dirty-blond. The black haired man was looking him over critically, but the blond grinned and held a hand out to him.
"I'm Alexander, and my over-fastidious friend here—"
"Alex!" the man snapped, sending him a scathing glare.
"Sorry, my incredibly intelligent, crafty, extraordinarily sexy friend here is Vincent."
"It's nice to meet you," Harry said with a laugh as he took Alex's hand.
Vincent was frowning again. "You don't seem like a Gryffindor to me..."
Alex rolled his eyes. "Who cares what House he's in? We aren't in school anymore. Besides, he's a Seeker, which is way better than what you were."
Vincent scowled at him again.
Angelo shook his head in silent laughter. "I will never understand how you two got together."
"We aren't that different," Vincent said with a shrug. "And I am sexy, like he said."
Harry laughed aloud again; oh yes, he was going to love having these two around.
"I think you two are lucky Mandisa moved to Japan last year," said the strangest man as he stepped forward. "You'd both have your mouths cursed off your faces by now if she were here."
Alex shuddered slightly. "Don't mention her, Bran. It's bad enough that she doesn't realize we only do this for fun."
"It does not seem like it to someone who's known you for so many years," Bran replied with a faint smirk. He gave Harry a low bow. "My name is Bran Kenyon. It is a pleasure to meet you in person, Harry."
"You work with Angelo, right?" Harry asked with a small bow of his own as he stared at the man. Bran looked as though he'd had all of his colour bleached out of him and yet dressed in dark colours as though to accentuate that fact. Harry had never seen anyone like him.
Bran smiled faintly, either unaware or uncaring of the staring. "Yes, I do. I'm surprised you remembered."
"Of course I remembered," Harry said, a little amused. Bran's smile grew larger and he nodded once.
"This is Will," he said, gesturing at the very normal looking man behind him. "He's been busy doing something for the Department of Mysteries, so he's still a little disoriented."
"Not so much that I can't introduce myself, Bran," Will muttered, though his voice held a tinge of something, respect perhaps, as he spoke to the albino. He thrust a hand forward for Harry to take. "It's nice to meet you. I've heard a lot about you from the Talbots."
"Likewise," Harry said as he shook Will's hand.
"You're still the Seeker?" Will asked with a smile.
"Yeah, since first year. Why?"
"I play Seeker too. Well, when I can." Will grinned slightly. "You and Charlie were always way better than me. I didn't get to play much at school."
"You're a Gryffindor?" Harry said in surprise.
Will grinned further. "Nope, Hufflepuff, but between the two of you, I was in the air for about an hour during all seven years."
"I'm not that good, am I?" Harry asked in shock. He'd always heard about Charlie Weasley, the legend, but he never believed he would live up to that. He'd only won one Quidditch final, after all.
"Harry, you caught that one Snitch in about five minutes. That's good."
"That was the Hufflepuff game, too, wasn't it? Sorry."
Will shook his head. "Don't be; it was amazing. We'll just have to find time to play again."
The last man cleared his throat and stepped forward. Harry was slightly stunned by his appearance; he was extremely beautiful for a man with very gentle features and bleach-blond hair. Yet even though the man rivalled Angelo and Kiran in terms of attractiveness, Harry instinctively did not like him. It was like when he'd met Snape for the first time.
"Aether Delaney," the man said silkily, holding his hand out to Harry. Harry reluctantly took it and nearly recoiled again when Aether lifted it to his lips. "But you are most welcome to call me just Aether, Harry."
"Aether!" Angelo snapped, glaring at the man. Aether smiled indulgently and let Harry's hand go.
"Forgive me, but no mere Veela deserves beauty such as this," Aether murmured, his eyes blatantly roving over Harry. Harry had to force himself not to flinch.
"You're a Veela?" he asked instead.
Aether smiled again, this time reveal two long fangs. "A vampire, Elfin tribe. We can walk in sunlight," he added at Harry's shocked look.
""I haven't written you then, have I?" Harry asked, glad he didn't have to worry about why he hadn't recognized the man's name.
"No, I wished to meet you in person first. I am glad that I did," Aether added, looking Harry's over again. Harry made a mental note to never end up alone with this man.
"I think we should head for the train now," Angelo said, stepping between them. "It will be leaving very soon. Weasley and Miss Hermione are welcome to join us, Harry."
"Thanks." Harry gave him a grateful smile and gestured to Ron and Hermione that they could come back over.
"We're going to head for the train now," he explained. "Try to be civil; they're my friends too," he added to Ron.
"I will if they do," Ron muttered, glaring at Angelo and Kiran.
"You're the one who started all this," Kiran sneered back.
"Kiran, you have to be civil too," Harry said sternly, wondering vaguely if this was how a parent felt. "Either you do it willingly, or I order you to."
Kiran glared at him but nodded.
"Harry, what's going on?" Hermione asked softly as they started towards the few carriages remaining.
Harry shook his head. "We'll explain in the carriage, okay? I don't want anyone to overhear."
Harry was immensely grateful to Angelo when he closed to door to their carriage before Aether could join them, so it was only the four of them. He almost felt sorry for Kiran, as the blond had to put up with the creepy, pervert vampire, but was sure Kiran could look out for himself.
As soon as Angelo sat down, the carriage started moving and Harry felt the stares of his other two friends immediately turn onto him.
"All right, Harry, I think you owe us an explanation," Ron said, obviously trying hard to check his anger. "What are you doing with him?"
Harry glanced over at Angelo, wondering how much he should reveal. Angelo smiled warmly and took one of his hands.
"Just tell them about us," Angelo said softly, but plainly loud enough for the other two to hear. "Now is not the time for anything else."
Harry nodded and took a deep breath before turning back to his friends, both of whom looked horrified by the exchange.
"Us?" Ron demanded before he could speak. "You're not...together?"
"No!" Harry said with a laugh. If only they knew. "Kiran would rip me apart if we tried it. No, it's not that."
"We're listening," Hermione said, sounding patient but obviously angry.
Harry sighed; this would be painful. "All right, remember when I said that in fourth year, I ran into Angelo Feeding on Kiran in the hall and that's how I knew him?"
The two nodded slowly.
"Well, that's not exactly what happened. I did run into Angelo in the hall—in front of the RoR actually. I think he was going there to Feed..." Harry glanced questioningly over at the Vampire.
"Yes, that is what I used it for," Angelo said with a nod. "Kiran was already waiting for me inside. He usually went up first."
"Right. So, I ran into him and he, ah, kissed me..."
"He what!" Ron exclaimed, glaring accusingly at Angelo.
"Then Kiran showed up and stopped him and they left me alone after that."
"Did you like it?" Ron demanded.
"W-what?" Harry said in surprise. Out of every response he thought of, that was not one of them.
"You heard me."
"That doesn't have anything to do with this," Harry said coldly. The truth was that he had and he knew he wasn't ready for Ron to know that yet.
"The blood-bond, Harry," Angelo murmured.
Harry nodded once. "Anyway, around Christmas, Angelo and Kiran approached me and pledged to protect me. Angelo gave me a vial of his blood, and Kiran gave me a dagger that binds him to me. They've been my allies through bonding magic ever since."
"For two and a half years?" Hermione said in shock.
"Yeah. We've met up a few times since then, and they've helped me learn a few more advanced spells and techniques. We've become pretty good friends. I'm really glad we ran into each other that first time."
"About that," Ron muttered, glaring at Angelo again. "Why did you do any of that? You're a Slytherin and a Vampire; you must be trying to corrupt him or something."
"Ron!" both Harry and Hermione hissed, but Angelo simply smiled.
"Everything I have done for Harry, I have done because I love him," Angelo answered simply. Harry stared at him in shock; he hadn't realized Angelo's feelings were that serious. "At first I was merely curious about him, but it has evolved into love the longer I have known him. But I love Kiran a little more and am as loyal as I can be to him, so I have to express my feelings in other ways, such as with a blood-bond."
Angelo shrugged slightly and added, "Of course, part of it was that both Kiran and I were feeling ripples caused by the danger he was in at the end of that year and we wanted to make sure he would be safe. He never had the opportunity to use what we gave him, but we could not have known that."
"I didn't realize you liked me that much," Harry said in awe.
Angelo smiled over at him. "I did tell you when I gave you my blood, as did Blaise."
"Yeah, but neither of you used the word 'love.'" Harry suddenly grinned. "Does Kiran know?"
"Of course. I cannot hide anything from him. He knows me better than myself at times." Angelo shrugged slightly. "That is why he hated you so much at first."
"I'm glad he doesn't anymore," Harry said with a laugh.
"Hold on, what about Zabini?" Ron demanded.
"That time Blaise pulled me aside in the hall, he was warning me about Angelo," Harry said simply.
"Any other explanations will have to wait, however," Angelo said as the carriage came to a stop. Almost before any of them had noticed, Angelo was out on the ground holding the door open for them. He helped both Harry and Hermione out, but left Ron to fend for himself. As soon as the carriage was empty, Angelo wrapped and arm around Harry's waist and began leading him quickly through the crowd.
"I don't want to give Aether the chance to drag you off somewhere," Angelo explained at Harry's embarrassed frown. Harry nodded and relaxed a little.
"Why is he here anyway?" Harry asked softly, glancing around. "He seems really..."
"Crude?" Angelo laughed softly and nodded. "Yes, he is, and I did not ask him to come; he asked me if he could. Aether takes some getting used to, but he is a very useful contact—"
They bother turned to find Lupin running toward them through the crowd. Lupin stopped short when he noticed Angelo and they shared looks of equal dislike.
"What is he doing here?" Lupin asked Harry, though he was still glaring at Angelo.
"He's a friend of mine and a friend of Dumbledore's," Harry answered. "What is it?"
"We'll have to discuss it on the train," Lupin said, shaking his head. "You're his friend?" he demanded of Angelo, sounding extremely sceptical.
Angelo smirked slightly, and, before anyone could react, he turned Harry around and pressed a fervent kiss to his lips. Harry only distantly heard gasps from nearly everyone nearby and shouts of both of their names from distant people, but found he hardly cared what they thought anymore; it felt good getting all these secrets off his chest. When Angelo finally let him go, he returned the Vampire's mischievous smirk.
"You are welcome to discuss whatever it is with Harry on the train," Angelo murmured, his eyes glinting as he leered at Lupin. "But it will have to be in the presence of others. Harry already had an alliance meeting to attend."
"An alliance meeting?" Lupin repeated, looking flabbergasted.
Angelo nodded once and began guiding Harry towards the train again. "Come, Harry, there are a few other people you haven't met yet."
"Okay. Come on, Remus," Harry said as he let Angelo lead him onto the train, leaving numerous stunned faces behind.
"Forgive me," Angelo murmured once they were on the train. "I had no right to—"
"Are you kidding? That was brilliant," Harry said with a grin. "Did you see the look on Remus's face? Serves him right for treating you like that."
"You did not mind?" Angelo asked in surprise.
Harry fought to keep the blush from his face as he shook his head. "I would have any other time, though," he said, trying to sound stern but only ending up teasing.
"What the fuck was that?"
Angelo turned with a slightly guilty expression though it was overridden by a stern one. "That, Kiran, let us escape from that insufferable werewolf."
"You promised you wouldn't do that again," Kiran hissed. "I trusted you to keep that."
"This is not the time or place to be discussing this," Angelo said softly. He slid open the door of the last compartment and gestured for Harry to go inside. "I will follow shortly. I need to talk to Kiran first."
Harry nodded and stepped inside, stopping short in the doorway. The inside of the compartment was huge, at least five times bigger than a normal compartment. It was also decorated in all the House colours, though green and silver were extremely prominent. The only light came from the lamps hanging from the ceiling, as the windows were either completely covered or none-existent. And rather than there being seats only alone two walls like usual, all four walls were lined with seats. It was amazing and perfect for an alliance meeting.
"You're blocking the doorway, Potter," came a harsh voice near one of the corners. "Come sit down."
Harry looked over to find a replica of Bran smirking back at him. On closer inspection, he was actually quite different, namely because of the huge black wing protruding from his back, but they could pass for brothers otherwise. Sitting behind him was a man who looked like he'd walked straight out of a book on ancient Egypt, though he was much paler than any people in those pictures Harry had ever seen.
The look-alike smirked and gave a mocking bow. "Hamal Kafele of many, many titles that I don't feel like stating. My handsome, extremely formal friend behind me is Minkah Astennu, also of too many titles. We're here to represent our lord, Prince Bran, because he's unable to make it."
"Uncle Hamal!" someone exclaimed behind Harry. The Bran he'd already met stepped past him into the compartment to greet the Vampire. Hamal smiled faintly and reached out to ruffle his look-alike's hair.
"Uncle...?" Harry wondered aloud, staring at them in shock.
"This Bran's descended from one of my sisters," Hamal explained, smirking as Bran unhappily tried to fix his hair. "Very, very distantly. He's not a Vampire."
"Not for lack of trying though," Bran muttered, taking a seat beside Minkah. "You could Turn me like that, but will you? No."
"You're too young," Hamal said, gaining a dark look.
"I'm older than you were with you were Turned."
"It was a different world then."
"This is not going to get anything done," Minkah interrupted softly. Both men fell silent instantly, which made Harry think that this happened quite often.
"Hamal, retract your wings and sit down," Minkah ordered, pointing at the other seat next to him. "Harry, there are some empty seats over there; you do not have to stand the whole time."
Harry nodded and took one of the empty seats, letting the mass of people who had gathered behind him enter the compartment. Angelo gave him a faint smile as he sat next to him, leaving Ron to take his other side, thankfully before Aether even appeared in the doorway.
"What is all this?" Ron hissed as the last few people settled in the remaining empty seats. "What's going on?"
"Just stay quiet and listen," Harry murmured back. "I'll explain everything later, but there's no time now."
Hermione clapped her hand over his mouth again and gave Harry a faint smile.
The train started a short time after everyone was settled and Harry took the opportunity to see who all was there. He recognized almost everyone, either from already knowing them or having just been introduced to them. Every member of the SG, past and present, except for Lee and Dominique, was seated in one corner with himself and Angelo at the end of one side and Gabrielle at the other. Remus had taken the seat between Hermione and Will and was looking distinctly uncomfortable being near so many Vampires. The group he'd met outside was scattered among those who were already waiting on the train. To his surprise, Sanguini was sitting in the corner opposite him with two women Harry did not know. They were the only ones he didn't recognize.
Suddenly, everyone fell silent and stared over in Harry's direction. Harry blinked back at them, unsure of what to say. Thankfully, Angelo placed a light hand on his knee to reassure him.
"Thank you for coming today," Angelo said, his voice soft but still carrying. "I would never have asked any of you to abandon your lives for something frivolous."
Harry stared at him in awe. He sounded so different, almost like he did when he was controlling others but without the compulsion. If Angelo was like whenever he was around these other Vampires, he could understand why they had agreed to come and why Sanguini had said quite a few Vampires wanted Angelo for their leader.
"As all of you know, I am sure, the Dark Wizard Lord Voldemort has risen again. Just recently, he struck a debilitating blow upon us, his enemies—the death of Dumbledore." Angelo paused and gained a faint smile. "However, what hardly anyone knows is that we have had a secret alliance opposing Voldemort for several years now. Once, it only consisted of a few students, but it now encompasses several hundred people. I hope that this number will increase in the future."
Angelo gestured at Harry with a larger smile. "Harry, of course, is the leader of our alliance, along with another student whom I cannot name at this point in time but is very close to Harry. They have always been—Dumbledore was never involved and hardly even knew of it. But Harry has asked me to represent him for a while until he gets the hang of leading so many people."
Harry nodded in agreement, more out of instinct than anything, feeling immensely grateful that Angelo had decided not to reveal Draco's identity yet.
"Who all is in it so far?" Alex asked curiously. "Obviously, all of our donors, and those guys..." He gestured vaguely at the few students that still made up the Hogwarts faction of the SG.
Angelo nodded once. "Several groups, yes. One group is the sixteen students that started it, although, again, I cannot name one of them—"
"We don't have sixteen; there're only fifteen," Harry interrupted, highly confused.
"No, there are sixteen," Angelo said with a smile. "Myself and Harry, of course, Kiran, Aaron, Oliver Wood, Seamus Finnigan, Blaise Zabini, Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, Gabrielle Cian, Fred and George Weasley, and Cedric Diggory. They are here today. There is also Lee Jordan, who is attending the Weasley's shop, and Dominique Warrington, who was unable to come for reasons of safety."
Harry's eyes widened and he glanced at Aaron. "That's right, Cedric can still be in it, can't he? So it is sixteen."
"Cedric Diggory's dead, Harry," Ron said, pushing off Hermione's hand. "We all saw him. You have those scars on your hand because he's dead, or don't you remember?"
"Why wouldn't he remember? They're on his hand, Weasley," Aaron said, though Harry could tell right away that it wasn't really Aaron. Cedric must have been watching the whole time.
"Cedric! How have you been?" Harry immediately asked.
"Hey, Harry, long time, no see. I've been doing alright. It's not so bad, being dead," Cedric said with a grin. Ron gaped at them.
"Harry, that's not Diggory. He's dead."
Cedric smiled, shaking Aaron's head. "Aaron's a shaman, Wealsey. That means I can speak to you through him. How have you been, Harry? Well, other than the obvious."
"You saw all that, then?" Harry said sheepishly.
"Of course," Cedric said. "And I have to say I'm extremely disappointed. I didn't leave you to him just for you two to fall apart."
Harry would have thought he was being serious except for the slight grin on his face. "We're doing better now. We've reached another level of understanding. I think we needed all this to get closer, actually."
"Good to hear it. It's been frustrating watching you two. If I we still around, I would have locked you together in a closet ages ago."
"Believe me, it's been frustrating for us, too."
"Who are you talking about," Ron asked curiously.
Harry smiled and shook his head. "I'll tell you later, Ron. Angelo, continue please?"
Angelo nodded once. "We also, like Alex said, have the support of most of my donors from school. Some have not answered me, and I fear the worst, and some were among the students in the aforementioned group, but all who have contacted me are willing to help. That's at least forty powerful witches and wizards, possibly more as they spread the word of our offer."
"That many?" Lupin blurted, speaking for the first time. He was gaping at Angelo.
"Yes, Professor, that many," Angelo said with a smirk. "We also have the support of at least half the Strigoii, I believe. Is that correct, Chancellor Sanguini?"
"Yes. A few of my people still feel the best course of action is to aid the Dark Angels—" here he nodded to Hamal and Minkah— "and a few simply do not want to get involved, but most of us support Harry. I am personally blood-bonded to him, and that has influenced many of my people."
"When did that happen?" Hermione hissed softly to Harry.
"Christmas party, after you'd left. Shhh."
"And that is several hundred more supporters," Angelo said with a nod. He looked rather pleased with himself and Harry could see why; Lupin was gaping at him again, astonished. He was sure the Order had never had so many people, in either incarnation.
"We also have Kiran's family," Angelo added as Kiran nodded in agreement. "But so far, those are the only groups that are definitely with us. That is why I have asked all of you here, so that you may decide whether or not to join us."
"I think we'd have to know what the benefits are first," Hamal said obnoxiously, earning himself a stern look from Minkah. "Other than the company, of course."
Angelo nodded and gained a faint smirk. "We have information that almost the entire population of werewolves in Britain have joined Voldemort's side."
"So we get to kill werewolves?" Hamal asked with a grin.
"You most certainly get to, yes," Angelo said.
"That's good enough for me."
"Hamal," Minkah murmured disapprovingly. He turned gentle black eyes back on Angelo. "That cannot be the only reason we should join. We do have our own war, as foolish as it is, as you well know. The Strigoii are not yet involved, so of course they may decide to join this heka war without thought, but why should we stretch our resources?"
"Because Voldemort's not going to stop at the wizarding world," Harry said before Angelo could speak. "After our world, he's going to conquer the Muggles, and then all the other races, including the Vampires. Sanguini told me he hasn't approached you yet asking for support, and I can only guess it's because he knows you won't help him because you have your own society. But I doubt he'll leave you alone for much longer, and then you'll have to split your resources anyway."
"You seem to know him very well, Mr Potter," said one of the women with Sanguini.
"I've been fighting him almost every year since starting at Hogwarts," Harry said with a nod. "I saw him return, and I fought him in person in the Ministry itself a year ago. I've spent all this year learning what I could about him so I could find his weakness. So yes, I do know him very well, Miss...?"
"Victoria," she said with a small smile. "My husband is the leader of the Psychic Vampire tribe. We're the most concerned about You-Know-Who, I think. We were all born and raised in the Muggle and wizarding societies."
"Really?" Harry said, extremely interested. All the other Vampires seemed rather detached from the wizarding and Muggle worlds.
Victoria nodded. "We come into our inheritance as Vampires at seventeen, but before then, hardly any of us are aware of what we are. We're not sure why it happens, but then, no one knows why wizards can be born into pure Muggle families either."
"It's what makes Psychics so weak," Aether commented, sneering at her, "and weird."
Victoria simply smiled. "We're used to being dismissed by all communities. In fact, hardly anyone believes we exist except for the other tribes. But most of us still have family and loved ones in the communities we left behind, and many of us still live in those communities in the guise of what we once were. We have the most to lose if You-Know-Who takes over."
"Were you a witch?" Harry asked curiously.
"Yes, a Muggle-born actually. In Ravenclaw." Victoria winked over at Hermione when she suddenly perked up. "Anyway, we're willing to join you as long as we can be assured that you have a chance of defeating You-Know-Who. I think you do."
"Well, 'Sandra and I need a bit more reassurance than that," Aether said, sounding charming again now that he was speaking to Harry.
"I don't," the other woman said, eyeing Aether with annoyance.
"Of course you do. Aubrey said we have to make the decision together, and I'm not convinced yet, so neither are you."
The woman sent him a disgusted glance before smiling at Harry. "I'm Cassandra, and trust me, that jerk does not speak for me. It's bad enough that our two tribes have to work together in this stupid war under our stupid prince—"
"Hey," Aether interrupted warningly, "watch your mouth. That's treason."
Cassandra rolled her eyes, clearly showing she couldn't care less. "I'm a Succubus, and out of all those of my tribe that I've talk to, we'd rather follow you than Aubrey. The Elvens are being difficult only because Aubrey's more like them than us. We don't need a Halfling like him leading us."
"I am a Halfling as well, Cassie," Angelo murmured with a smile, "and I seem to remember you asking me to take over not a month ago."
Cassandra blushed but stuck out her pierced tongue at him. "You spoil everything, Angie. You're hardly a normal Halfling; you're more powerful than half our population put together."
"You are too kind," Angelo said softly. Kiran scowled at both of them.
"Flirting and such aside," Aether interrupted, his eyes only Harry again, "I would like to know exactly why you are so confident you can defeat the dark wizard. This for my people's information, of course," he added practically caressing the air with his voice. "I am personally most willing to follow you anywhere you may go."
Harry forced himself not to shudder, thinking over his options. He could come up with something out of the blue and not sound very convincing, or he could tell the truth, betray Dumbledore, and take hundreds of Vampires from Voldemort.
"Why do I think I'll be able to defeat Voldemort?" he said, ignoring the way Ron and Hermione tensed beside him. "Because there's a prophecy that says so."
"Harry, no!" Hermione hissed, but Harry ignored her.
"The prophecy says that either I have to kill Voldemort, or he has to kill me, and there's no way I'll be going down without a good fight. And if that isn't good enough for you, then you're better off with Voldemort."
Aether stared at him for a moment before smiling faintly, actually looking charming for once. "Trust me, that's good enough for me."
Harry nodded once and looked over at Lupin. "Remus, now that Dumbledore's dead and the Order doesn't have a leader, do you think any of them will want to join us too? We could definitely use their help."
Lupin frowned slightly, glancing around at all the Vampires. "I'll talk to them, Harry. But I need to talk to you about something first."
"I know. I think we're almost done here." Harry turned questioning eyes back to Angelo. "We are, right? That's everyone."
"What about the D.A.?" Luna asked dreamily. "I think some of them will want to help."
"Yeah, you can't forget them, Harry," Neville said softly, looking extremely nervous to be talking at all among so many Vampires. "I'm sure they all still have their coins."
"That'll be difficult next year, though," Harry said sceptically. "I won't be there."
"But you moved that Vanishing Cabinet into the SGC. Weren't you planning to use that to visit?" Neville argued. He looked faintly embarrassed when Harry suddenly looked shocked and added, "Gabi, Luna, and I had our own little party yesterday for the end of the year and we noticed it. We didn't think you'd want to come."
"It's alright," Harry said, shaking his head. He frowned thoughtfully. "I probably could use it to come for meetings and just to visit. And Angelo could come and start teaching everyone wandless magic so we'll all know it."
"We should probably warn everyone about him first," Luna said.
"Yes, probably," Angelo said. He frowned down at Harry. "Do I not get a say in this? Perhaps I do not want to teach a bunch of students."
"Do you?" Harry asked.
"Yes, but I might not."
"But you do, so you will, right?"
Angelo sighed. "Only because you asked so very nicely."
"Thanks," Harry said with a grin. "What?" he asked when he noticed Ron and Hermione staring at him in shock.
"Don't you need the other cabinet to use them, Harry?" Hermione asked cautiously.
"I do have the other one," Harry said carefully. "I own it."
"How?" Ron asked.
"That's another thing I have to tell you later," Harry said shaking his head. He turned back to Angelo. "That's it, right?"
"Yes." Angelo smiled at his fellow Vampires and bowed slightly. "Welcome to the Serpent Guard. Thank you for trusting in us."
"The Serpent Guard...?" was Ron's choked whisper, but he was ignored by almost everyone.
"When are we going to meet again?" Hamal asked before any chaos could start.
"I am not sure...we should meet before the summer is out..." Angelo glanced questioningly at Harry, who shrugged.
"I'm going to be at the Dursley's for a while, and they're pretty anti-magic, but I shouldn't be there long..."
"How about your birthday?" Cedric suggested. "It'll give you an excuse to have a large party without looking too suspicious."
"We should be out of your aunt and uncle's house by then, shouldn't we?" Hermione said, actually trying to make an effort to be involved as she nodded in agreement.
"Yeah, I can't see Voldemort finding anything off about a large birthday party," Harry said. He looked over at the twins. "Could you guys start arranging it?"
"Sure thing, Harry," Fred said with a grin.
"It'll be the best party you've ever had," George added.
"Thanks." Harry turned back to Hamal. "My birthday's July thirty-first, so it'll be around then sometime."
Hamal nodded once and turned to whisper something to Minkah. Everyone seemed to take this as the signal that the formal part of the meeting was over and the compartment was quickly filled with voices. Harry soon moved to take Hermione's vacated seat, as she'd gone over to talk with Victoria, so he didn't have to shout for Lupin to hear him.
"What did you want to talk to me about?" he asked immediately, sensing that Lupin wanted to get whatever it was over with quickly.
Lupin shook his head, standing up. "Let's go outside. This needs to be somewhat private."
"Okay," Harry said, a little nonplussed. He got up and followed Lupin out into the corridor, then a short ways to another, surprisingly empty, compartment.
"Sit down, Harry," Lupin said, gesturing vaguely. Harry stared in shock as Lupin locked, silenced, and warded the door. What could be so important that he had to ensure they could not be interrupted?
Lupin sighed and sat next to him, running his fingers through his hair. "We have a bit of a problem. And by 'we' I mean the Order."
Harry frowned. "What kind of problem?"
"Well, you see, when a Secret-Keeper dies, the secret dies with them. The status of the secret remains the way it was when he died; anyone who knows, knows, and anyone who doesn't, doesn't.
"But you can see how that could present a bit of a problem. How are we supposed to recruit new members or hide people if none of us can tell the information of where headquarters is?"
"So, can you make a new Secret-Keeper?" Harry asked curiously.
"It's possible, but extremely difficult. I'm not sure even Filius knows how..." Lupin shook his head, continuing, "What's really important is that we do need a new one. We thought it best to consult you since you own the house."
"Whoever you pick is fine," Harry answered with a sigh. He hardly cared; he wouldn't be setting foot in the place again.
"Actually, since you own the house, we were wondering if you'd agree to do it."
Harry blinked and stared at him. "You're not serious?"
"Well, if you don't want to, we can find someone else, but it would make things simpler..."
Harry frowned and looked away at the scenery passing outside the window. The idea of being the Secret-Keeper of Grimmauld Place was as repulsive as owning it...but it would make quite a few things simpler, and he would have someplace to hide Draco if the blond came back to him.
"We can we do it?" he finally asked as he turned back to Lupin. Lupin allowed a small smile to touch his face.
"As soon as possible," he said. "Preferably before school starts next year—"
"I'm not going back, Remus," Harry said quietly.
Lupin paused for a moment before continuing on as though he'd heard more shocking news. "Before your birthday and giant alliance party, then."
Harry frowned thoughtfully. "I'll have to leave Privet Drive to go collect the second Vanishing Cabinet fairly soon. We can do it then."
"I'll see what I can do about arranging that," Lupin said with a nod.
"Great. Was that it? I think I need to socialize a bit or they'll think I don't care about the alliance," Harry said with a soft laugh.
Lupin let out a heavy sigh, one that was clearly put on. "If we must..."
Harry laughed louder this time. "Oh, come on, Remus, they're just vampires and Slytherins. Nothing to worry about."
Lupin smiled faintly as he began removing the layered spells from the door.
"Seriously, though," Harry added, "I would trust Angelo with my life, and it has nothing to do with the fact that he's bonded to me. I know you don't get along, but could you at least try?"
"We'll see. By the way, Harry," Lupin said, catching his arm before he could leave. "You never said where you got this second Vanishing Cabinet from."
"You can't tell anyone," Harry warned.
Lupin shook his head immediately, obviously immensely curious.
"Draco Malfoy gave it to me."
He took advantage of Lupin astonishment after this announcement and ducked out of the compartment before he could be stopped again.
The ride home seemed much shorter than usual, maybe because he'd never had so many new and interesting people to talk to, though he spent most of his time either discussing various things with Angelo or talking with Will, in whom he felt he'd found a kindred spirit. He also spent a good deal of the ride avoiding Ron (Hermione hardly spoke to anyone but Victoria the whole ride), who seemed to think that "I'll tell you later" meant "I'll tell you whenever I decide you've bugged me enough." He knew it wasn't exactly the best way to treat the friends who had just promised to stay with him at the Dursley's, but he had also never planned to tell them on the train in the first place.
All in all, he was rather surprised when the train began to slow to a stop. Quickly, he bid goodbye to Will and rushed to gather his belongings, fighting down the anxious feeling forming in his chest. After all, what could the Dursleys do? Both Ron and Hermione were seventeen and therefore perfectly capable of jinxing the three of them into jelly.
Yet, he was hardly surprised when Angelo and Kiran decided to accompany them off the train, both with grim expressions. He had a feeling Ron and Hermione weren't the only ones intending to have a talk with his relatives.
"I'm going to go talk to mum for a moment," Ron said as they reached the Muggle side of the barrier. He hardly waited for a response before rolling his trolley over to where Mr and Mrs Wealsey were waiting with Hermione's parents, Hermione herself following not far behind.
Harry shrugged and went on to where the Dursleys were waiting a good distance from either platform nine or ten.
Uncle Vernon blanched as soon as he saw Angelo and Kiran, no doubt remembering his meeting with the Order the previous year. Aunt Petunia took one look at them and immediately seemed to grow rather faint.
"So, you are the relatives I have heard so much about," Angelo said before either of them could speak. "There seem to be only two of you, however. Tell me, where is dear Dudley?"
Harry snorted softly, sharing a secret grin with Kiran.
Uncle Vernon turned an odd shade of puce. "Who are you? You're not with that lot that came last year, are you, because we never—" He suddenly paled again while Aunt Petunia gasped, a hand flying to her chest.
Angelo had smiled slightly, just enough to show off his fangs for an instant.
"I am a friend of Harry's," Angelo answered calmly, though Harry could tell he was extremely pleased by the response he had gotten. "A very good friend, one who has no need to wait for letters from him detailing your abuse. I can see it as it happens if I choose to."
"Now see here—"
"We don't need your pitiful excuses, Dursley," Kiran barked.
"And who are you? Some pretty nancy boy?" Uncle Vernon retorted.
Kiran smirked slightly, casually letting his coat fall open to reveal the awkwardly long sword Harry had gotten him for his birthday. "I'm something more terrible than you can imagine. And I'm far more powerful than my dear friend here or 'that lot' that spoke to you last year. I could easily make your life hell at any—"
"I think he gets the idea, Kiran," Angelo murmured with an amused smirk. "Besides, we will not be alone for much longer. I want to get this over with."
Kiran sighed and turned back to Uncle Vernon, who now looked very sickly. "I don't want to hear of Harry being mistreated in any way, Dursley. We've put up with it long enough, but now that we'll have a couple friends on the inside making sure he's alright, I'm sure there won't be any problems."
Kiran gestured to the small entourage headed their way, lead by Ron and Hermione. Mrs Weasley had her lips pursed as she stared at them, or rather, stared at Angelo. The twins were all grins, as though they knew exactly what was going on.
"Ready to go, Harry?" Ron asked as he reached them.
"Oh yes, I can't wait to see what your house looks like," Hermione added pleasantly.
Uncle Vernon's face was slowly regaining its previous puce colour as he stared at them and then turned to Harry. "What are they talking about, boy?"
"Didn't Harry tell you?" Hermione said innocently before Harry could answer. "We're going to be staying with him for a little while this summer."
Uncle Vernon was silent as he stared at her, his face slowly turning various shades of purple and red.
Sensing an explosion, Harry quickly said, "Hey, Ron, when did you say your birthday was again?"
Ron stared at him as if he'd gone mad. "March. C'mon, Harry, I turned seventeen this year, swallowed a love potion, and nearly died and you can't remember that?"
"And yours was September, wasn't it, Hermione?" Harry went on, trying not to grin.
"Yep. I turn eighteen this year," Hermione said proudly, obviously catching on. "I've been of age for almost a year now. I can't wait to practice a bit during the summer."
Harry watched these words turn over in Uncle Vernon's head with immense satisfaction. He could go against one of his most sacred laws and allow Harry's friends to stay, which would make Harry happy and would not result in having two wizards angry with him. Or he could deny their request and they would come anyway and he would have two wizards angry with him. As with the Quidditch Cup, Harry could easily see the decision made before his uncle opened his mouth.
"V-very well," Uncle Vernon spat out, as though he were uttering curse words, "your friends are...are welcome to stay for a while, Potter."
Harry shared a grin with Ron and Hermione. "Thanks, Uncle Vernon. C'mon, the car's this way. Thanks," he added softly to Angelo and Kiran as he passed them. Kiran just smirked and Angelo bowed very slightly.
"Feel free to call on us at any time," Angelo responded. "Any of us."
Harry grinned back at him before he turned back to leading his friends out of the station. If anyone had asked him how he felt at the moment, he couldn't have given a simple answer. He was elated that his friends would be staying with him and that he would likely be treated properly by the Dursleys this summer. He felt immensely satisfied by his huge alliance that was only growing bigger. Determination to destroy the Horcruxes and fury at both Snape and Voldemort were mixed in there too, along with a deep mourning for how much he had lost this year, not only with Dumbledore but with Draco as well.
And through it all, Harry knew that the only solution was to keep moving forward, one small step at a time.
END OF PART FOUR
END OF BACKGROUND SECRETS
AN: Right, so, like it says, this is the end. There is no more...unless you go to my profile or your inboxes and click on "Red Sun Rising." Why? Because that's the sequal! Yes, it does continue, right into my own book seven. So y'all should go reas it! Remember, it's Red Sun Rising.