Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters you recognize; they belong to Ms. J. K. Rowling. I DO claim the plot line and any of the unique characters you will see in here.
Beta: Winter Moonglade and Chiara Crawford
The Bloodshed After the War
She nodded at his suggestion and they moved quickly to one of the off-shooting rooms. With one last glare, Harry looked over his shoulder at his former friends and escorted her to the privacy of the VIP suite. Looking forward to the pleasure they would both be experiencing in a few moments, he parted the velvet drapes that hung from the door frame and vanished from sight, leaving Bevan to stand guard outside with Fia who had just returned from her own feeding.
Chapter 15 – Politics
Remus gazed over Fia's shoulder. They had been trying for several weeks to get the magical and electrical security systems to work together. Ever since Harry spotted his former friends at the Key, they had decided to implement more muggle methods of detection.
Several other Covens had had difficulties with some of their members helping Hunters and Aurors beyond the Blood Wards. Remus supposed that the Ministry had offered them clemency in return for their services. Of course, any vampire could see through the wards and aid non-vampires across the barrier. It was far more likely that the Ministry had captured coven-less vampires and was forcing them to do their bidding. Either way, having a muggle security system that could not be fooled by magic was essential to all of their safety.
Fia was just finishing re-soldering a board as Remus watched. They had blown the circuits or wiring in the house several times while trying to get this system online. One had even started a minor fire in what was to be the Control Room in the wine cellar.
It had taken a joint effort between them discussing magical theory and electrical systems to devise a magical filter. They had found that the metal in the wires absorbed the magic and overloaded the circuits.
It did not make sense, however, how other Covens had electricity and established the Blood Wards with no problems. They could only assume that somehow, inherent magic did not have the same effect on electrical equipment as practicing magic did. So, Remus had spoken with Harry and found all of the magical protections laid on Potter Manor. The largest draw of magic was the Unplottable Charm cast over the entire property. When Harry set the crystals and established the boundaries of the Blood Wards, the two overlapped and reinforced each other. Anything trying to manipulate them further suffered a surge of magic and automatically failed.
All of the equipment was now in the cellar of the property and its magical epicenter. The theory was that the surges would be uniform at this particular point. It helped the generator, but did nothing for the wiring in the rest of the manor.
The theory they were testing now was if they could convert magic to electricity and run the generator like that. Harry had been kind enough to donate more of his blood to the project. Hopefully, the electricity, when travelling through the wires, would still have the Potter magic "flavor" and be more able to withstand the magical fluxes in and around the manor.
As Fia stood up and backed away from the generator, Remus took over. He held the bowl of blood in his hands and slowly waved his wand over it, then the generator. The red, viscous liquid slowly rose and enveloped the machinery. Ever so slowly, the blood seeped into the generator. Sweat was pouring from Remus's brow as he forced the two completely different substances together. At last, the generator had taken on a reddish hue and the blood was completely gone. Remus awkwardly stumbled backwards and lifted himself into the closest chair.
Fia flipped the circuit breaker on the generator. It thrummed to life. The dark-haired woman breathed a sigh of relief. At least the magic did not destroy the massive piece of equipment. She let it run for one more minute before heading over to the wall. Opening the metal cabinetry to reveal the circuit breakers, Fia hesitated. This was the point they usually had to race to put out a fire. She glanced over her shoulder at Remus to make sure that he was prepared for any eventuality.
Remus had wiped the sweat from his face. The magical fire alarms had been cast long ago and were at the ready should the electronics spontaneously combust once again. Fia flipped the top-most switch and held her breath as the lights flickered on. She waited a moment more before proceeding with the rest. With the last switch, the computer monitors turned on and the video feed started to transmit a signal.
They both waited anxiously, but no alarms sounded and power remained. Grinning madly, Fia swung herself into a chair and started configuring the system.
The excited atmosphere intensified as the other residents ran to the cellar to congratulate the two on finally getting the electricity up and running.
Morning dawned bright and cheerful, but only Remus and Tom Paudski were awake to enjoy it. Remus was still enjoying the afterglow of successfully merging magic and electricity, something he was sure that not even Albus Dumbledore had attempted.
Mr. Paudski was highly grateful for the electricity to be on. Although he knew many of the same things could be accomplished through magic, it was nice to be able to flip a switch instead of lighting a candle. He also did not know how to thank Lord Potter for taking his family under his protection. Ever since the attacks on vampires had increased, he had been concerned for his wife and son. He knew he would not have been able to stop a wizard from breaking into their house and killing them all. Thanks to these two men, he was more at ease since the night his wife had been turned.
Contented silence reigned in the kitchen. The two sipped on their steaming hot cups of coffee. Eventually, Tom cleared his throat. "You know, Mr. Lupin - "
"Remus. I don't think I could ever thank either of you enough for the generosity you have shown my family."
Remus waved the thanks off. "After all Harry went through to ensure Matthas's security, I doubt he would have let you have another option."
Tom was not about to deny that fact. "Still, I would like to feel more helpful around here." He paused for a moment, trying to figure out what he could offer. With a glance outside the windows, he noticed the run down greenhouses. "I have a fairly green thumb. I would be more than happy to clean up your greenhouses."
Remus nodded thoughtfully. "One of the things we need most is a large stock of nightshade. However, if we could grow all of the ingredients for the Shade of Night Potion, we would be able to conserve a large amount of funds. It is going to become extremely expensive to constantly import the ingredients through the embargo." Remus paused as if debating whether or not to ask for more. "If you wouldn't mind growing some other plants that are crucial to potions we will need to keep in stock…"
Tom grinned. "It's the least I could do. I'm sure I could get Matthas to help me as well."
Remus nodded. "It would be an excellent way for him to keep up in Herbology. I'm afraid I won't be able to schedule regular lessons with him until we get more settled in here."
"I'm sure Matthas will enjoy any excuse not to do homework."
The werewolf grinned. "Don't we all."
It was well into the afternoon when Harry made an appearance. Tom had taken Matthas to the greenhouses already, so Remus was the only one still in the house. Harry wandered into the cellar, the only other place he was likely to find the man other than the library. As expected, the graying werewolf was sitting in front of the video monitors.
Remus swiveled to locate the intruding voice. Seeing his smirking surrogate godson, he smiled and shook his head. "Not unless you count the confused muggle who makes ninety degree turns when he hits the property line and doesn't even notice."
Harry nodded and pulled out the seat next to Remus. "This really is spectacular. I don't think I've seen people party like that since Gryffindor won the Quidditch Cup in Fifth Year."
"I couldn't have done it without Fia."
"That doesn't mean you are any less deserving of praise."
Remus gave a sly smile. "You are really settling well into the role of Coven Leader."
Harry groaned. "Are you determined to torture me? I have no idea how we are going to accomplish any of the large goals. I'm so wrapped up in making sure we have the basics, I can't imagine when we'll be able to take an active role in this new war."
"Then I should let you know that Mr. Paudski has taken over the greenhouses and will be our source for all of the nightshade we could ever want."
Harry lit up at the good news. "That's terrific! Have you asked him where he will be getting the seeds and clippings from?"
Remus's smile froze on his face. "No …"
Before Harry could respond, an owl winged its way through the house and maneuvered down the stairwell. The large bird dropped an official looking document on Harry's lap, turned on its wing and flew out the way it had come. Harry carefully untied the scroll and stared at it in disbelief.
Lord Harry James Potter, Leader of the Harith Coven,
You are cordially invited to a meeting of the prominent coven leaders. We will be discussing the situation we find ourselves in with the Wizarding World. Feel free to bring as many advisors or body guards as you deem necessary to feel comfortable. Your knowledge of the Wizarding World and any intelligence that would contribute to our race would be most useful.
High Lord Council Leader Xavier Cointreau
Harry sat there, numbly gripping the letter. Seeing Harry's state, Remus plucked the parchment from his nerveless fingers and quickly read the missive. He would have been stunned at the fact that someone so young had been given the honor of attending such a prestigious meeting, but he had been expecting the other coven leaders to make contact. They could not afford to ignore such a valuable source of information just because of age.
"Looks like you'll have to get a crash course in politics."
Harry groaned. "I thought I avoided that by being a war-hero."
Remus grinned sadistically. "You know things don't work out for you like that, Pup."
"Fine. Then I suppose you won't have any problems with coming with me to this meeting."
The older man spluttered, causing Harry to smirk. "Harry, do you realize the chaos it would cause to have a werewolf at a vampire meeting?"
"They said I should bring as much security and as many advisors as I wished to feel comfortably. Having you there will make me feel comfortable."
Remus pinched the bridge of his nose in an attempt to stave off the migraine he was getting. "I know nothing of the Vampire Council or who has what factions allied to them."
"That's why Colby will be going too."
Remus could not fault the young man's logic. It seemed like he was solidly stuck.
Colby was sitting in Harry's room, going over the letter. It was clear to him the reasons Harry would be invited, but he wanted to be prepared for any subterfuge that the other vampire Lords would be guaranteed to attempt. Colby would have been more than happy to do this in the study, but he knew better than to trust his leader with picking an appropriate outfit. It was not that Harry would have been so ignorant as to not dress in formal attire; however, it was important to give just the right impression: a mix between power, intelligence, yet understated to not be too presumptuous in front of the much senior coven leaders. He was also preparing to give Harry a crash course in vampire protocol. He would have delved into the politics he was going to face, but there was no time and it was more important to not offend a leader of a 200-strong coven.
Harry stepped out of his bathroom, straightening his collar as he went. His black outfit was offset by delicate, red embroidery along the collar of the jacket and around the edges. The collar stood straight up and grazed the bottom of his jaw. The pants had the same embroidery along the hem, which came just to the top of his shoes.
Colby looked up from the letter and nodded at Harry. He had started to sit down when Colby shook his head. "We don't have time. These meetings traditionally start one hour after sundown. We'll be cutting it close as it is."
Remus was waiting for them in the Sitting Room just off the foyer. He was wearing one of the few dress outfits he owned and exuded a physical power that was usually concealed underneath his shabby robes. Colby and Harry each nodded at Remus, Harry with a slightly uncertain air. Colby glared at Harry until he assumed a more appropriate posture.
The three left the manor under Bree's control, knowing she would be able to deftly handle any situation that arose in their absence.
Colby had already explained the location of the High Lord's Mansion to both Remus and Harry so that they could successfully Apparate to the gates. Harry took Colby's elbow and vanished nearly silently from just outside the Potter wards. Remus followed suit and appeared moments later in front of what appeared to be a blank field. He stood there, confused, for several seconds before Harry realized the problem.
Quickly dropping Colby's elbow in favor of assisting Remus, Harry led the werewolf past the wards. Just inside the barrier, stood giant, wrought iron gates. There was an emblem in the center of a large calligraphic 'C' overlaid on top of a bold 'X'. As the two vampires approached the gates, they seemed to swing open of their own volition. The driveway that led up to the house was gravel and narrow. It was clear that it did not get much use for anything other than as a footpath. There were probably several cars at the mansion itself, but the older the vampire was, the more uncomfortable they were with modern conveniences.
The house itself overlooked Manchester. It was situated in the Pennine Hills to the north of the populous city. Very few vampires were magical, so covens had to be positioned closely to large cities to support the large group of predators. Simultaneously, they had to be far enough away to prevent the people from being overly curious about the mysterious inhabitants.
Before long, the three stood outside the front door. The knocker was extremely ornate with a bat head holding a rose. Harry grasped the rose stem and knocked several times before releasing it and taking a respectful half-step backwards.
A tall vampire with eyes so black they would have put Snape to shame answered the door. "Lord Potter," he greeted with a bow.
Harry inclined his head.
"Please follow me." His eyes quickly flicked to Colby and Remus, but revealed no emotion. "The meeting is about to begin."
The three followed the vampire through several hallways to an inner room. The man stopped at the double doors, nodded once to Harry and vanished into the labyrinthine manor. Remus and Colby stepped closer to Harry, Remus on Harry's left and Colby on his right. They had debated heavily over who should be on Harry's right, but had decided that having a werewolf in a greater position of power than a well respected, if relatively young, vampire would be detrimental and offend their potential allies.
As they walked into the dimly lit room, they saw a large table. Straight ahead of them, at the head of the table, sat Xavier Cointreau. The High Lord looked no older than twenty-five. His dark brown hair was tied back with a satin ribbon, reminiscent of the 18th century fashion. His silver eyes seemed to glow with power. His high cheekbones and pointed chin gave him a cat-like appearance that made him even more striking.
There were already seven other people seated at the table. No one sat across from Cointreau and there was an empty seat in the middle of the right side of the table. Harry was slightly shocked that he was not automatically given the position of least power. However, it could have been to keep him from feeling overwhelmed being on the immediate left of Cointreau. The vampire on Harry's right did not seem overly concerned at being situated "beneath" Harry, which was puzzling in and of itself.
Colby seemed to tense when he noticed the vacant chair. No one sat across from Cointreau. That seat was traditionally reserved for Cointreau's Lady if she deigned to attend. However, in the last 300 years, she had only attended twice. She cared little for war or politics. Only when the politics were about an alliance marriage did she care. It was not for any romantic notions, but that another coven would be acquiring significant power and she wished to preserve her position. It was not this absence that bothered the former mafia member. It was the fact that Harry was not placed at the bottom rung of the hierarchy at his first meeting. Unsure of Cointreau's reasoning and of the reception this would have amongst the other leaders, Colby stepped up his focus and subtly cued Remus to be on his guard.
"We are pleased that you could make it Lord Potter," a sibilant voice whispered from across the room.
Harry nodded, slightly unsure as to the proper response.
"Have a seat and we shall begin."
Harry sat in the available, grandiose chair, Colby and Remus standing behind him and on either side.
"This Wizarding threat is unusual in its ferocity. We all remember times when we have been targeted; however, this is the first time the Ministry has organized a task force to exterminate us, exclusively."
The older vampires all nodded in agreement.
"Are there any problems that have arisen within the covens as a direct result from these new Ministry laws?"
Following some unspoken protocol, the elder on the right of Cointreau began speaking, "Several of the younger members have been executed for deliberately leaking information to these so-called Hunters."
Cointreau nodded and marked something on the paper in front of him.
The next coven leader awaited his attention before reporting. "We have had unknown vampires attempting to bring Ministry personnel through the Blood Wards. We have been fortunate and captured the invaders before they became a threat."
The High Lord marked his paper again and faced the next in line.
"Our already small supplies of Shade of Night are almost non-existent. We can only use it in extreme emergencies. I shudder to think of having to evacuate the whole coven during daylight; we only have enough for one quarter of the residents to escape."
Collective shivers raced about the table at the thought of being left to the sun's cruel mercy.
Cointreau nodded seriously and marked his paper one final time. "Is there anything else that needs to be contributed to this matter?" He paused for several seconds, but was only greeted with silence. "Very well then, on to new topics." He deftly switched to the paper that had previously been on the bottom and read through the expected subjects.
Once he was ready to begin again, he gazed about the table and let his eyes rest on Harry. "I believe everyone noticed the attendance of a new member today. I assure you, he was invited for more of a purpose than an introduction." The strange emphasis on the last word made Harry wish that he was a Slytherin to understand the odd weight given it.
All heads turned to inspect Harry as if he had suddenly appeared. It gave him the uneasy feeling of becoming prey; a feeling he had never endured in his life as a predator.
"Lord Potter and his … entourage … are here to give us an in depth analysis on the Wizarding World as he knows it."
Harry sat up slightly straighter, Remus and Colby edging closer to remind him of their presence. When Remus went to lay a hand on Harry's shoulder, he was stopped by a sharp glare from the Political Advisor. Instead, he completed the movement and folded his arms across his chest, giving the distinct impression of an enforcer. Colby turned back to the front. All present knew who he was and had a likely idea as to his role. However, until the conversation started in earnest, he could do nothing; otherwise, the Council would assume Harry was naïve. It was for the same reason he stopped Remus. With these people, presentation was everything. The slightest gesture could show their hand and they would be laid bare before the most powerful vampires in the British Isles.
"It would be my pleasure, High Lord Cointreau."
Seemingly pleased by the response, Cointreau nodded at Harry to continue.
"With the majority of Death Eaters dead and Voldemort's body disintegrated, the Ministry lacked a sufficient outlet for revenge. However, it presented the perfect opportunity to push forward gradual anti-Creature laws that the Minister and his advisors have wanted to enforce for many years."
The vampire to Cointreau's immediate right spoke up. "But these laws are only targeted towards vampires. Not even werewolves are affected."
Harry gave the man a sharp look. It was clearly a sign of disrespect to interrupt another Lord while he was giving his report. It seemed as if this particular Lord wanted Harry to remember he was ranked far below the others.
"Yes, Lord. This is true … for now," Harry answered carefully. He was treading on dangerous ground now; although the older vampire delivered the cut direct, he could not respond in like. It was imperative that he show himself capable of holding his own against this high-ranking and heavily respected vampire; but with proper deference to his power and position. "However, once they have subdued the vampires and reduced our population to an 'acceptable level,' do you think it will stop with us?"
The older Lord narrowed his eyes as he studied Harry's face. All he saw, though, was a genuine request for his opinion. "That is a fair point," he conceded, the beginnings of a smirk on his lips. It seemed that Harry had again passed some indecipherable test.
Colby inwardly smirked. Harry was showing some true talent at portraying a powerful vampire Lord. It would make his job significantly easier in the future if he kept it up. He was not overly disrespectful; however, it was important for the others to be reminded that they were all individuals brought together under duress and not even the youngest would be foolish enough to yield his autonomous control.
Harry slowly looked back at Cointreau and continued his update on the Wizarding World. "It is not all lost however. Dumbledore is completely on our side and is constantly trying to convince the Ministry to stop their foolish actions from going too far. He does not seem to be having much luck, though. The Wizarding World's prejudices are in favor of the majority this time and there is little he can do about it. Severus Snape maybe a strong supporter in the future. It was because of his actions that Matthas Paudski was able to escape from Hogwarts unhindered. However, I have no clue if it was because one of his Slytherins was in danger or if he truly carries no ill-will towards our kind.
"The Hunters will be the most difficult to handle. They do not have a significant presence to be exceedingly dangerous yet; but several well-known and respected Aurors have been transferred into the Hunters ranks to bolster them and to train the newest members. Most notably amongst these are Mad-Eye Moody and Kingsley Shacklebolt. They also have managed to invent a new substance they call Revealing Powder. It completely lowered my defenses and I was unable to maintain my glamour. It is a large problem that magical vampires will have to deal with. We are so used to anonymity amongst the wizards that I fear several of us will be exposed with no way to counteract the damage done. Every Hunter is supposed to have a supply of this powder and the Hogwarts greenhouses have been enlisted by the Ministry to grow the plants required in bulk quantities.
"Everyone else, including the rest of the Order of the Phoenix should be considered a possible enemy and to be treated with extreme caution. I am not sure if they will become directly involved in this war or if they will specifically target the Harith Coven and myself."
Cointreau nodded to himself and looked back down at his parchment. He marked several things down and took his time reviewing what he had written before continuing with the meeting. "Although this is a highly unusual suggestion, I believe that the severity of the situation that we will be facing deserves due consideration. We cannot afford to be constantly on alert from attacks from other Covens and be prepared to fend off Wizards at the same time. It seems that the only logical action is to declare a truce until such a time as we are no longer threatened by an outside source."
Everyone remained silent, waiting for Cointreau to continue. The oldest leaders clearly disliked the idea and would not readily agree until certain stipulations were made.
"Of course, this does not mean you will be expected to follow any command not your own. However, if we are able to establish several joint directives, we will have a much stronger chance at showing the Ministry what folly it is to try to subdue our ancient and noble race."
"What sort of joint strategies should we be considering?" a vampire several seats down the hierarchy asked.
Cointreau observed the impetuous younger vampire until he quelled beneath the High Lord's gaze. "It seems only logical that we will need to discover what the Ministry's source of inside information is and how they have come by their discoveries. If they have truly managed to capture a vampire and hold them prisoner to do experiments on, we should either free them or put them to rest, whichever is kinder.
"Coordinating our attacks and sharing information on how the Aurors and Hunters strategies are changing with every strike will only increase our chances at survival and ensure our later independent Covens' health." Cointreau paused and examined each vampire sitting at the table slowly. He lingered over several as if weighing their responses before continuing. "I would suggest that the moment any Coven is attacked, that word be sent to the others so that we may all be on alert. However, I know that that would be highly distasteful to all of us. Instead, I will ask that, at bare minimum, a full battle report is sent to the other Coven Leaders at the conclusion so that we may all better our defenses. Any coordinated attacks that would benefit us all must go through this council and representatives from each coven be present at the attacks so that we are all guaranteed the same information."
The majority of the vampires nodded their heads with only the two most influential other than Cointreau abstaining from any reaction.
"In order to ensure this treaty and our safety, I will ask for a Blood Oath before we adjourn."
The reaction to his statement was audible with several muffled responses and glares. However, all of those present knew that their continued future depended on uniting, no matter how distasteful and against their natures it was.
Cointreau pressed a button next to his left hand and waited in tense silence until a knock was heard on the door. "Enter."
The same vampire that had greeted Harry at the door now walked in carrying a jewel encrusted box. He slowly approached the High Lord and set the box in front of him. With a nod, he was dismissed and made his way out of the room, closing the door quietly behind him.
Ever so gently, the elder vampire opened the lid of the box to reveal a rich, red velvet interior. Nestled amongst the fabric was an equally ornate and delicate dagger. The silver gleamed even in the low light, lending it an ethereal feel. Cointreau passed the dagger to his right and watched the vampire expectantly.
With a deftness that showed long practice, the Lord slit the palm of his hand. "I so swear to uphold the treaty. On my Blood and Honor." He quickly cleaned the blade with a handkerchief that seemed to appear out of nowhere and handed the dagger to his right.
Passing the blade around, each vampire made their oath, dripping their blood onto the common table. Harry covertly glanced down and saw old blood splatters that must have remained from other times when Blood Oaths were necessary. No vampire would exchange blood, even in casual touch, in this setting. It was reserved for Turning and other intimate situations. Each vampire held their blood precious to them and would never share with an opposing Coven. This was the closest it got, with sharing the same ancient table.
Eventually, the dagger made its way to Harry. It was clear what was expected of him and he was not about to commit a faux pas by hesitating. The sharp blade glided effortlessly through his skin, leaving it dripping with blood from the deep cut. He was thankfully that Colby had seen fit to go over his outfit before they left, or he would have had to resort to wiping the blade on his sleeve. Pulling his own red handkerchief out, he wiped the blade and passed it to the last vampire on the table.
The oaths finished, Cointreau had the dagger back and slit his own hand. "As High Lord I so swear to uphold and bind the treaty. On my Blood and Honor so let it be done."
With the addition of his blood to the table, the red droplets glowed a brilliant ruby before settling into the wood and darkening. The newest drops could no longer be told apart from the oldest and cemented their deal. Any who now broke it would be considered an outcast from vampiric society and would no longer be invited back to the council and their Coven would be considered rogue.
Satisfied that everything was as settled as it would be for the evening, Cointreau rose. "I thank you all for your attendance and contributions this evening. However, the night grows short."
The other Lords stood and vacated the rooms. Each kept a respectful distance been each other as they wound their way back to the front door. Once they had all exited the manor, they divided and went separate directions. Several appeared to be getting into cars and others were waiting for signs of apparition from the magical vampires that resided in their own Covens. Harry, Remus and Colby waked back to their original apparition point, leaving the wards behind before taking their own leave.
A/N: I know this took forever, but work has had me swamped. In fact, I just got in from work after starting yesterday morning at 4am. I literally drove 11 hours yesterday and that's not including the two more it took to get back home today. Needless to say, I'm beyond exhausted. But, at least I've updated something other than an expense report now.