Title: Bounty Hunter II: Black and White
Chapter Title: Define Civilian
Author: Snippy of Snippy and Snarky
Pairing: H/D, Hr/SS, L/G (other pairings added as story continues)
Disclaimer: HP & Co NOT MINE – don't sue.
Synopsis: Note: Disregard sixth book as the first Bounty Hunter was written before it came out, and does not incorporate its plots and character arcs. The struggle between shades of grey is enough to tear a hero in two. . .
Rating: Mature, R, Adult – rated for language, explicit sexual situations and violence – reader discretion is advised. Not intended for underage readers.
A/N's: Sorry this took so long. Serious writer's block, but I'm working through it, bare with me, please!
Peace, love and a couple of sarcastic snakes!
Ginny stared at Bane Black from her position sprawled across the carpet. She had one pale hand pressed to her chest, and she was panting. She pushed her hand through her damp hair and tried to pull herself together. "That was incredible."
"I know," Bane whispered back, huskily.
Ginny shivered. While she could see a strong resemblance between Bane and Harry, she could clearly see the differences. Bane was a full-grown man, with the weight of a fighter. He moved with the grace of a man comfortable in his own skin and musculature, a man who had tested his limits and knew himself fully. She licked her lips and reached to remove her shirt.
Bane's hand closed over her wrist. "What are you doing?"
"Don't you want to …?" Ginny was confused.
"You have enough people using you." Bane smirked. "And I certainly don't need to."
"Oh." Ginny felt oddly vulnerable, more than she would have if he had accepted her offer and she was naked. She felt tears well up in her eyes, and turned her face away.
"I've upset you," Bane observed.
"Yes," she said softly.
"Good. You deserved it." He let go of her hand and stepped back, crossing his arms over his chest. "Now get up and stop sniveling on the floor. You're better than that."
"What do you know?" She sneered, purposefully leaning back against the floor.
"More than you know about yourself, clearly." Bane frowned. "Stop letting people use you. You have power. Stop giving it away … for free, at least."
Ginny felt a wave of shame inside her crash into a newly defiant shore. "What do you care?"
"Just because I don't want to use you, doesn't mean I don't want you around, little girl." His eyes held no pity and she found that comforting. "I would love to have you at my side. If you can pull yourself together, anyway. You're kind of a disappointment right now."
"Disappointment? Do you always have high expectations of complete strangers?"
"You're not a complete stranger. I know you. I know the woman you came from."
"No." Bane smiled. "I'm sure you'll figure it out eventually. You're a clever girl."
Ginny watched him shrewdly. "What are you doing here, Bane?"
Bane laughed. "Get up."
She pulled herself to her feet. "Fine."
"What exactly is going on here?" An icy voice demanded across the room.
"Ah, Lucius. We've been waiting for you." Bane bowed in a mocking salute. Lucius did not seem amused.
Harry sat up, the sheet falling away from his body. Draco lay on his side, propped on one elbow, silently watching him. Harry's entire being seemed to hum with a dull ache he found oddly more bearable than the sharp pain he usually felt. Harry folded his arms and rested them on his bent knees, turning his head to look back at Draco.
"Something's coming, Draco," Harry whispered. "I can feel it."
Draco raised an eyebrow, but said nothing.
"I realize by this point, I'm probably a little crazy," Harry confessed. "But I'm not wrong."
"For just a moment, when I first woke up, I thought it was over," Harry continued softly. "Well, half of me did anyway."
"It's never over."
"I know." Harry stared out the window. "Do you see that?"
"The thestrals?" Draco glanced out the window and froze. "What is that?"
"Something's got them all excited." Harry stood, letting the sheet slide back to the bed and moving quickly to the door.
"Hey, Potter," Draco drawled.
"What?" Harry snapped, his voice sounding tired despite his irritation.
"Might want to put some clothes on first."
Outside of the gates of Hogwarts were thirteen poles, driven deep into the ground, and hanging from each one was a corpse in Death Eater's robes. Harry regarded the sight from the front step of the Hogwarts main entrance, his mouth drawn in a tight line. The sun was rising, gilding the grim sight before him. The lack of fog made the hanging figures seem somehow more obscene. Harry was vaguely aware of Draco standing behind his left shoulder, a hand covering his mouth.
"What the fuck …" Draco whispered through his fingers, nausea apparent in his tone.
"Death Eaters, former." Harry grinned, turning to look at Draco over his shoulder. "Gotta say, there are worse sights to wake up to than dead Voldemort followers … on a stick."
Draco looked at him blankly, but Harry could read the slight disgust in his eyes. "Did you do this?"
"Don't be ridiculous." Harry turned back to the sunrise. "My alibi is air-tight for last night."
"Just looked like something the Bounty Hunter might do." Draco dismissed the thought quickly from his head. "So …"
"Bane." Harry drew his sword slowly from his back sheath. "And if I know him, this is about to get really fun."
"Do you know him?"
"Like the inside of my skull." Harry laughed darkly, appreciating the glisten of his steel in the dawn's icy grip.
"You get a hard-on when you pull that sword, don't you, Potter?"
"Bite me." Harry bared his teeth, but Draco was distracted.
"Are those … are they … moving?" Draco's eyes had fixed back on the thirteen figures outside the gate.
"Yes." Harry grinned fiercely. "Inferi. This day just keeps getting better."
"Which question were you answering?" But Harry was already gone. "Probably both," the blond muttered.
Draco watched Harry gracefully descend the stairs, his movements sliding into those of a predator as he stalked towards the gate. The figures dropped from the stakes to the ground with a great wrenching sound, immediately turning to come after Harry. As Harry engaged them, sword flickering in the red and purple sunlight, Draco thought he glimpsed the shadow of death standing to the side watching, and shivered as he remembered that Death was quite a fan of watching Harry kill. Harry's grin shone like the rising sun, and for the first time since they had faced Voldemort, Harry seemed to be at peace. Draco felt a wave of near regret that there were only thirteen of them for Harry to slaughter. Death was right. Harry did put a raw beauty in ruthless destruction.
"What do you think about, when you see Harry like that?" Hermione whispered, appearing as if out of nowhere beside Draco.
A different man might have been startled. But it really took a lot to surprise the youngest Malfoy these days. "I think about all the fights we used to get into in our school days."
"Funny … that's what I think about, too." Hermione drew her cloak closer around her shoulders. "It always feels wrong to me, watching him fight like this. I feel like I should be helping."
"He's almost done. I don't think he really needed assistance," Draco pointed out reasonably, as the sounds of the sword sinking into flesh over and over echoed around them.
"Harry hasn't needed my help in a very long time. He fought so hard to free me, and yet …"
"It feels like he couldn't care less whether you were alive or dead." Draco nodded.
"No. It feels like he's already dead and he doesn't understand why no one's letting him go and moving on." Hermione frowned.
Draco thought about the look on Harry's face as he stared at Death. It was almost desire. He focused on Harry driving his sword through the chest of the last of the creatures. Harry turned the sword methodically, a look of grim satisfaction on his face, but when he sensed Draco's gaze and turned to meet his eyes, Draco saw longing in Harry's eyes, and couldn't help but think the longing was not for Draco, but for the Death that Harry delivered so skillfully.
"Tell me, Hermione – have I ever been in one of your visions?"
Hermione's laugh was soft and unsettling. "Not yet."
Draco shook his head. This castle was filling up with a quiet, creepy kind of crazy that reminded him of Malfoy Manor. It was sick that he found it kind of soothing.
"Hello, Hermione." Harry climbed up the steps, stopping two beneath where Hermione stood to scrape what appeared to be entrails off his blade. "Ready to start classes?"
"That's it? You spend the first hour of your day slaying Inferi and all you have to say to me is, 'ready for classes?'" Hermione crossed her arms over her chest.
"Well, you're the Divination professor. Figured you already knew what was going on."
"Well then." Harry looked at her expectantly.
"Let's go get some breakfast." Hermione sighed wearily, turning to go back inside.
"Did I say something wrong?" Harry asked Draco.
Draco shook his head, looking up at the castle doors. "Home, sweet home."
Harry scowled and went inside.
"Good morning, Harry!" Piper said brightly. "Are you all packed for your trip?"
"What trip?" Harry frowned, pausing beside her seat at the Ravenclaw table.
"Oh, sorry. Has that not happened yet?" She shrugged, returning to her breakfast. "Tell you what – get back to me with your answer in a day or so!"
Harry shook his head and started towards the Gryffindor Table.
"Wrong way, Harry!" Piper called.
"What? Oh, right." Harry turned towards the Head Table instead.
"Yeah, I meant you were headed towards the wrong table." Piper sighed as Prophet settled himself next to her.
"Did you tell him to give Neville the sword yet?" Prophet asked, helping himself to a cup of coffee.
"Curses. That was the part that was supposed to come first." Piper sighed. "That's okay. He can hear about it after Divination class."
Prophet nodded and went back to his coffee.
"All the king's horses, all the king's men," Hermione whispered, her eyes far away, her hands clasped gently in Prophet's.
"I thought we were going to be discussing the curriculum for her class." Snape looked on with a distinctly disapproving look.
"It's ok, peaches." Piper smiled slyly at the Potions Master. "He has no designs on your girl. It's uncomfortable to date someone who sees the future."
He gave her a quizzical look and she just shrugged.
"Hypocrite is a dirty word, Professor Snape." Piper laughed. "I never minded getting dirty."
"He's raising an army … an army of the dead …" Hermione clung to Prophet, whom Snape now felt was too tall and too handsome for his age. Prophet put his arms around her, pulling her close to his chest. His white hair fell over her dark curls as he pressed his forehead to hers. Snape scowled.
"Do you want to see the rest of it?" Prophet asked Hermione gently.
"Y-yes. I do." Her voice was determined.
"So be it." Prophet tilted her face up and kissed her forehead.
Snape started forward, but was stopped by Piper's hand on his arm. "Ah, ah! Calm down, Peaches."
"You are thoroughly irritating." Snape sneered at her, shaking her hand off. "Unhand me!"
"Yeah, ok." She smiled brightly as he started to push past her. "Would you like to know how you're going to die?"
Snape stopped in his tracks.
Hermione made a small sound, her head rolling back, but Prophet managed to keep her upright. He threaded one hand through her hair, his thumb pressing against her jawline. Her eyes were completely white.
Snape clenched his fists, wanting to snatch her away from the blond boy so badly he could barely stand it.
"Oh, it's too late now. If you wake her from the trance you could cause permanent damage," Piper commented, smiling. "Did I distract you? My bad."
"There are words for you, my girl, and none of them are as innocuous as 'bad'."
"Thanks!" She grinned from ear to ear. "Now let's see what your little crumbcake has to say, shall we? I have a feeling this is going to be good stuff. Prophet has a sense for these sorts of things."
As Hermione began to speak, Prophet cradled her gently against him. Piper charmed a quill to begin recording what was being said, and tried to remember what she was supposed to tell Harry to give Neville.
"War cannot be avoided – only postponed to the advantages of others," Harry said quietly, once Piper had finished reading Hermione's vision to the assembled group.
"He hasn't attacked yet. And he's the fifth Founder. Maybe he's not … we can't just assume he's the next Dark Lord," Hermione protested. "The visions I've had … they're scared of him, but they love him, too. They are surrounded by sadness at killing him. And they didn't kill him – they sent him here."
"What do you think this morning was – an Inferi gift basket? It wasn't a welcome present, it was a warning. He wants this castle," Harry stated. "They sent him here so we could kill him."
"You don't know that," Hermione insisted. Severus wrapped an arm around her. "Maybe we should talk to Professor Dumbledore about this …"
"Go ahead." Harry set his jaw. "Maybe you can help him plan who to sacrifice next while Black starts killing us off one by one."
"Harry …" Hermione closed her eyes, but even she knew that Harry was now more in charge then Dumbledore. If Harry decided to fight, the castle would fight with him. Dumbledore himself had set Harry up to lead the charge, whatever it might be. Prophet put his hand on her shoulder.
"Harry's right, Hermione," Piper said gently. "I'm sorry." She turned to Harry. "There are weapons that will help you fight. We just have to find them."
Prophet turned towards Harry. "You know where they are."
"Weapons that will help us fight what exactly?" Snape questioned.
"He's resurrecting the dead. A literal army of the dead." Harry shook his head, purposefully not acknowledging Prophet's comment. The swords …. "It's like a bad American movie."
"I think it is a bad American movie." Hermione frowned, before a serious thought made her throat constrict. "Where is he getting all the bodies?"
Harry nodded grimly. "My guess? From the Forbidden Forest. They're magical creatures and humans alike."
"Ok, so that's bad." Neville looked between Harry and Hermione. "But it's not *that* bad is it? I mean, they already died once, how hard can it be to kill them again?"
"Do you know how many creatures have died in the Forbidden Forest over the last few centuries?" Hermione asked, swallowing hard. "Giants. Acromantula. Wizards."
"It's worse than that," Draco finally spoke up. "Isn't it, Harry? Don't you think you should tell them?"
"Tell us what?" Hermione's eyes shifted between them. Images from the Divining part of her brain started to flood in. A feeling of cold dread settled in her stomach. "H-harry?
Harry just stared at the ground, a tick working in his jaw.
"After the Christmas Massacre – where did you bury them, Harry?" Hermione asked.
His eyes met hers, and they were dark with fury and pain, and they all knew the answer.
"Oh God." Ginny sat down. "No."
"Ginny, are you okay?" Hermione sat next to her.
"No. I'm not. That's where … where …"
Harry felt the whole room go silent. He had not been allowed to go to Ron's funeral, had never seen his final resting place. "That's where you buried Ron, isn't it?"
Harry turned away from them, muscles shaking. He hit his fists on the rock wall behind him, cursing loudly.
"Harry!" Draco made to stand.
"So be it." Harry turned back to the room, his jaw set firmly once more. "War it is."
"I'm going to inform the Headmaster of the latest developments," Snape announced in the silence following Harry's declaration. He held a hand out to Hermione. "I think he'll wish to speak with you."
Prophet stood. "I'll go with you."
Snape sneered at him, but said nothing. The uneasy trio left the room.
Harry sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. So much to do … what was the next step?
Piper smiled, standing before him. "Give him the sword. I'll help you find the others."
"Excuse me?" Harry stared at her.
"You know what I'm talking about." She turned towards the door. "I have to go talk to your house. See you soon."
Harry turned to face Neville. "I have something of yours."
"Is that so?" Neville regarded him evenly.
Harry drew a sword from the invisible sheath on his back. "The sword of Gryffindor."
"I thought that was yours." Neville didn't move. "Are you sure you want to surrender your weapon to me?"
Harry smiled grimly. "I have another."
"I'm sure you do." Neville took the sword, his hands closing around the hilt with reverence. A look of supreme satisfaction crossed his face. "I'll use it well."
"I have no doubt," Harry said softly as Neville settled back in his chair. They stood watching each other for a moment.
"I have to go." Ginny stood up suddenly, her expression distracted. She left the room, Harry on her heels. Harry didn't bother with goodbyes.
Neville's eyes had followed Harry out the door, though he did not move to follow. Draco took the opportunity to address Neville. "I have a good idea what you're up to, Longbottom."
"That's odd." Neville smiled grimly, standing with effortless grace. "I was under the impression that you've never had a 'good' idea, Malfoy."
"I just wanted to give you fair warning." Draco's eyes frosted over, like steel cast in snow. He folded his arms over his chest, the luxurious satin of his robe settling around him like an expensive frame around a priceless painting. "You'll never touch him."
"I'm not sure what you're accusing me of, Draco." Neville's eyes narrowed, glittering dangerously. The gravel in his voice seemed to rumble like distant thunder. "What's the matter – afraid I'm after your man?"
Draco glared back at him. In their school days, such a concentrated glare would probably have sent Neville off in tears. Today – Draco almost felt like he was the one who should be running away crying. "I'm sure I don't know what you mean."
"Oh, the whole castle knows the two of you are fucking," Neville waved his hand dismissively.
"Never mind that." Draco's voice lowered, becoming a threat without ever changing timbre. "You touch him and you're a dead man."
"I might as well be." Neville laughed. "It was nice talking to you, Draco."
"That's the last time it will be," Draco promised. "No one fucks with what's mine."
"I'll keep that in mind." Neville saluted him with his sword as he exited the room. "Be seeing you."
Draco thought he could feel Death laughing in his ear.
Harry followed Ginny out of the door. "Where are you off to … little red?"
Ginny stopped in her tracks. "What did you call me?"
"I can feel him on you." Harry leaned against the wall, watching her out of hooded eyes. "And he had to know that I would."
"What do you want from me, Harry?" Ginny asked, turning to face him.
"I think the question is actually what do you want from me, Gin?" Harry asked. He pulled an ebony wand from his pocket. "Is this it?"
"How did you …" Ginny bit her lip. "I wasn't going to get it for him."
"Really? He gave you all that new power for free, then?" Harry stood, and the motion reminded her of a snake uncurling from the shadows.
"Double crossing has become my forte." She held her ground. The new power rushing through her veins had changed something inside of her. She felt … strong now. Not addicted, not using, like she had from Lucius's magic. This power was deeper … and it was hers.
"So I have noticed." Harry inclined his head. "But the question is now what side are you really on? Are you going to help us or him?"
"And if I said I was going to help him?" Ginny raised her chin. "Would you kill me right here? In a Hogwarts hallway?"
Harry had the tip of his wand digging into her neck in a flash. He whispered huskily, "In a heartbeat."
"Well, that makes my answer pretty predictable, doesn't it?" She wet her lips, waiting for the white hot burn of fear to go through her. It didn't.
Harry threaded the fingers of his free hand through her silky hair, cradling her skull in his palm. He hissed, "Swear it. Swear you align with me."
"I swear it," she whispered back, her heart rate calm. A silver strand shot out from Harry's wand and she felt the bond of the Unbreakable Vow close around her. "Clever, Harry."
Harry smirked. "I think you'll find this is the start of something great, little Red."
Ginny actually grinned back at him. "You know what, Bounty Hunter? I think you're right."
Draco found Harry on his way to the Black Tower. "What were you and Ginny talking about?"
"Having sex with you. She wants a ride, but I told her you had to be this tall." Harry held his hand to his temple as he walked.
"You can't trust her." Draco wasn't buying it for a second.
"Oh, I don't know about that." Harry smiled as he opened the door to his house. The House of Black students were racing around in a rather organized fashion. They all seemed to be handing reports to a blond young man standing by the fireplace. He looked up at them as they entered, and immediately strode forward.
The young man extended his hand to Harry. "Sir, I'm pleased to meet you. I am Seth Hawkins, and I'm the 7th year Black prefect."
"Are you?" Harry shook his hand, bemused. "I believe I am supposed to make those appointments, son."
"I'm the most qualified, and it was decided by unanimous vote," Seth said respectfully. "However, if you would like to consider your other options …"
"That won't be necessary," Harry said dismissively. "What are you all working on?"
"We set up the hierarchy of the House, year leaders, Prefects, a choice for Head Girl that I'd like you to look at, drawn up emergency plans, and created files on all the members of all the other houses." Seth listed the items methodically. "Piper set us in the right direction, but we lost her about twenty minutes ago."
Draco let out a low whistle. "You've been busy."
Harry seemed impressed. "Anything else?"
"Yes, we've also been working on a defense strategy for the castle." Seth handed Harry what appeared to blueprints for the castle.
"These guys make Slytherin House seem lazy," Draco commented, peering over Harry's shoulders. "I'm sure we haven't even started gathering intelligence on the other houses yet."
"Ambition plus initiative," Harry said, looking up as 7th years started levitating heavy trunks down into the Great Room. "You seem well-prepared, Seth."
"Thank you, sir." Seth inclined his head with the finesse of a politician He nodded to what appeared to be a small version of himself striding through the room with a sheath of papers clutched in his hand.
"Seth, I have the inventory list, but I'm sure there are more stashed in the personal trunks."
"Thank you, Ethan." Seth took the lists. "Professors? This is my little brother, and right hand."
Ethan bowed to Harry and Draco. "Ethan Hawkins, sirs. Pleased to meet you."
Draco was reading the plans and ignored the introductions. "You have students stationed at some of these posts."
"Yes, Professor Malfoy." Seth gestured to one of the points. "You'll notice that they're strategically important but relatively easy to defend."
"Potter, you can't be thinking about letting students fight." Draco stared at Harry who was nodding his head along with Seth as if this had been the plan all along.
"Why not?" Harry seemed confused.
"They're kids." Draco watched as the trunks landed side by side for Seth's inspection. Seth pulled his wand and levitated off the lids.
"Are they?" Harry smiled, inspecting the contents of the trunk. He looked up at Draco. "So were we."
"They're not soldiers, Potter." Draco frowned. "You can't sacrifice civilian children."
"Sir, I respectfully disagree." Seth pulled a deadly looking sword out of the trunk and grinned at Harry, who let out a whistle of appreciation.
"On what premise?" Draco asked, admiring the shine of the steel even as he did so.
Ethan smirked, pulling his own blade out. "Define civilian."
Harry's approving laughter echoed through the tower.
Preview of next chapter:
"You four are the very picture of the Founders," Prophet pulled back the curtain over the painting.
"This is ridiculous. We look exactly like the Founders, and in all of our years at Hogwarts, no one noticed?" Draco stared up at the painting. It could have been of him, Neville, Hermione and Ginny. He looked back at the other people in the room expectantly.
"Well, let's be fair, when were you all standing together?" Piper pointed out.
"Point taken." Draco shook his head.