Blood and Honour
Summary: Slight AU: After the fiasco of the DoM, Harry just wants to left alone from it all. At Slughorn's welcoming party in the first week of school, he meets someone who would like nothing better, too. Let the Right One Slip In/Harry Potter crossover. Warnings for slash. Harry/Eli
Disclaimer: I own none of these characters
He was holding himself very carefully apart from the other students. He really didn't want to be dragged into another stupid conversation about the meat pies. In fact, he didn't want to be dragged into any conversation at all. It had been a mistake, coming down here. He didn't know what he'd find. No peace, certainly. Everywhere around him, merriment abounded; or at least the type of merriment that came of politically social parties. Underneath all the polite laughter and veneer of smiles there was a certain oiliness about the transactions that was making it hard to breathe. He didn't have any problems with cunningness, but there was something strangely wrong about this facility, this façade. The aura hanging over the party left him wanting for fresh air.
Abruptly he walked into a body and started back, surprised. He'd taken this route towards the balcony because everyone participating in the party had been gathered near the middle of the room and not on the edges, where gusts from the open doors blew.
"I-I'm sorry," he stammered. An unfamiliar face looked back at him, cold and aristocratic and blank.
The vampire, he thought, with a touch of unease.
The creature blinked, once, and he had the most curious eyes, a cloudy blue colour shot through with threads of gold. His hair was black and fell in loose waves about his face, past his shoulders to his chest. To his surprise he realised the vampire wasn't tall at all, at just maybe his height or even slightly shorter. He was also oddly young. Harry didn't think the vampire was more than a year or two older than him, although he had probably been that age for an extremely long time.
"You did not notice me," the vampire said. He didn't look like his voice had broken, and yet it was deeper than his own had been, as a child. And there was a trace of an accent in his voice, long buried, that made the consonants and vowels just that much longer and harsher.
"No," he replied, regaining some of his equilibrium.
The vampire seemed amused by the bluntness of his answer. "I wonder if that makes you foolish or courageous," he mused aloud.
"Some people would say courage is foolishness," he replied.
He watched as the vampire glanced down at his sombre dress robes the colour of charcoal, and then up again to his face. He'd bought them after last year, and hadn't worn a bright colour since the Department of Mysteries.
"Gryffindor," the vampire named, pointing his finger. He was wearing a bit of a smirk.
He found himself smiling, and it was a bit of a strange expression, after so long. He gave a whimsical twirl, his robes flaring where they pooled about his ankles. "At your service," he said.
"What's your name, Gryffindor?" the vampire asked.
"Harry. And yours?"
"Eli," the vampire replied. He pronounced it aeye-lee.
"You're not from England, are you?" Harry asked, moving to stand beside Eli rather than in front of him, leaning against the balcony and half-hidden behind the heavy drapes.
Eli turned his head to watch him, but didn't shift away, even when the sleeves of their robes were touching each other. "No," he replied, "I came a long way."
"Can vampires use magic?" he asked, curious.
Eli leaned in close till their faces were bare centimetres apart. The colour of his eyes was even more stunning up close. "Want to know a secret?" he asked. Harry could only stand there, not even daring to breathe.
"No," Eli said, and his breath was cold and sweet as it washed over the side of his face. "No, they can't."
Harry jerked away from the vampire, startled. Something in Eli's face sealed away and it became the same, closed-off mask he'd first seen. A human bumbled up to them, an aging, lumbering man dressed in thick robes and skins. Eli eyed him with something withering and cold as he said, in greeting, "Worple."
"Sanguini," the man said again, almost breathless. The man had no eyes for anyone else until Eli looked away, pointedly, to him.
"Oh!" the man started. "Forgive me my manners, child, I am Eldred, Eldred Worple. And you are- oh!" the man exclaimed again. He was staring at his face with the same wide-eyed hunger he had devoured Eli's, as he said, "Oh. Harry. You're Harry Potter."
Worple made as if to lift his hand but he was stopped by a low growl. "Don't," Eli snapped, and Harry didn't know if that command was directed to him or to Worple, but the man dropped his hand all the same.
"Leave us," Eli ordered, roughly. Worple cast the vampire a lingering, wounded look, but obeyed.
"Why don't you like him?" he asked.
Eli was watching Worple's back as he sidled through the crowd, although the man kept to certain pockets, his weak eyes always, always hungry. "That man is a fool," Eli pronounced.
"He called you something," he said, "something else. Not Eli."
"No," the vampire agreed. "No one calls me Eli anymore. And Worple doesn't know it. I won't tell it to him. He doesn't deserve to know it."
"He called you- San- San- something." He stumbled over the unfamiliar term, and Eli turned slightly to watch him struggle with a faint smile. "What did it mean?"
"Sanguini," Eli corrected smoothly, his tongue curling around the accented word. "I would not give Worple my name. He came up with his own. It has to do with blood, in many European languages."
"Sanguine," he realised.
"Many European languages," Eli repeated, shrugging. "Apparently including English. I am not as familiar with this language. It is...strange to me. It has changed too many words."
"What language did you speak, then?" he asked.
"Förlåt," Eli said softly, "I do not wish to say."
He turned his head to study Eli, and found the vampire's head bowed a little, chin dipping towards his chest as if in thought. There was a solemn, almost sorrowful cast to his child-face and Harry didn't like that he had no explanation for it.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to bring up bad memories. I've got a few of my own, so I sort of know how it feels like."
He glanced at Eli's face again, and there was a slight smile, even if the sorrow was still etched in the line of his brows. The sight heartened him, a little.
"Thank you, Harry," Eli said. "You are...quite different. But I don't think we can be friends." Eli stepped away at that, and further out into the balcony, into the cold.
Harry stared at the vampire with wild eyes. He hadn't seen that coming. "I-I-" he stammered.
"It isn't good for you," Eli continued. He wouldn't mean Harry's eyes. "The last time someone tried...the last time someone was-" Eli decisively looked to the ground, lips pressed firmly together.
"I...I'm sorry," he said lamely. It was all he could think of. To his surprise, Eli was smiling, a little, again.
"I hope you will stay safe, Harry. And-" Here Eli paused, obviously indecisive on his next words. The vampire nodded slowly to himself, as if in reassurance. He met Harry's eyes again, and his blue eyes were blazing and marvellous. "Don't be afraid, Harry," he said defiantly, and Harry caught a glimpse of a row of fangs, the first time he had seen anything truly preternatural about the other boy. "As long as you hit back, and hit back harder. Be me, for a little while. I- I can help."
"But we aren't friends!" he exclaimed. "And- and how can you? You said it yourself, that vampires can't-"
"Shh." All at once he found Eli pushing into his personal space, shushing him gently. He couldn't help noticing that Eli's brilliant eyes were set far, far apart, and the dark fullness of his arching brows made their colour even more vibrant. "I can do it."
Eli took a step back, and he blinked to clear his head. Whenever the vampire got too close, he found something about the creature utterly mesmerising, and it was a little difficult to look away.
"What do you eat?" he heard himself ask. He wasn't really thinking, was watching Eli watch something else behind them. "Or- or who, I suppose."
Eli smiled, although he was still looking past him. "Your kind keeps me well fed," he replied. "I haven't been hungry in a long time. The last time I did-" Eli stopped himself before he could continue, and this time his eyes snapped back to his. "I shouldn't be saying this much," he confessed, "but you are very easy to talk to, Harry."
"Or maybe you haven't found anyone to talk to in a long time," he offered boldly.
Eli just looked saddened at that. "Maybe," he whispered. "It hasn't really been that long," he continued, but it sounded like he was just trying to convince himself. "And I said I wouldn't, not ever again, not after-" He clamped his lips firmly shut and shot him a suspicious look. Harry couldn't help laughing.
"I don't mean to," he said. "If it helps- if it helps, I haven't spoken to someone- really, spoken to someone- in a long time, too."
"Harry?" It was Hermione, he recognised her voice, and bit back a frustrated sigh. "What are you doing out here?"
He turned, frowning. "Minding my own business," he told her flatly.
She looked a little shocked, but recovered quickly. "Who were you talking to?" she asked.
Harry glanced back to where Eli had been just a moment before, but the vampire was gone. There was no trace at all of him ever having been there.
"No one you know," he replied, walking past her back into the warmth of the party. He was acutely aware of Hermione's frown, tracking him, as well as the man Worple. He still had that same hungry look on his face that made him a little uneasy. More so, in fact, than Eli ever had. Perhaps it was time to leave, he decided.
He heard a tap on the class and woke immediately. A lifetime of sleeping under the stairs had taught him to wake at the slightest tremor. Peering out through a small slit in his hangings, he saw that his dorm mates were all still snoring. He wasn't surprised; that tap had been quiet, inaudible in a deep sleep.
He wondered if it was an owl, and peeked his head out a little further. To his surprise, he found Eli seated casually on the edge of the window sill, bare feet swinging off the rough-hewn ledge. When Eli noticed him looking out of the corner of his eye, he turned his head a little and smiled.
Harry padded silently to the window (his bed was the nearest) and opened it.
"Do you want to come in?" he asked. "It looks awfully cold out there." He shivered as a strong breeze gusted in. "It is awfully cold." Still, Eli made no sign of movement.
"You have to invite me in." His soft words were nearly lost in the wind.
"You can...come in?" Harry said, a little confused. He'd never heard this part of vampire lore before, although, granted, most of his DADA teachers had been quite rubbish, and Lupin would never even have gotten to werewolves if it hadn't been for Snape, and vampires were just before that so no, they hadn't covered them at all.
Eli turned delicately about on the ledge and slid his way through the window, landing soundlessly on the wooden floor. The temperature had dipped dangerously low in the night, and the light drizzle hadn't helped things any. Eli brushed off the raindrops that clung to his hair and little rivulets poured down his skin to form small pools on the ground.
Harry hadn't really noticed before, but now he couldn't help but stare at Eli's bare feet. His clothes, too, a short-sleeved turtleneck and pegged trousers, were hardly suitable outerwear. He'd seen Eli exhaling in great puffs of white outside, but he didn't seem to be otherwise affected by the cold.
"I guess you're...you're not cold?" he tried.
Eli shook his head slowly, his attention instead on the Gryffindor Sixth-Year Boy's Dorm.
"I don't remember what it feels like," he said simply.
Harry felt a tang of envy at that. He could still easily recall how the cold had haunted his steps all throughout his childhood, and even on drafty nights like these in the tower he could still feel the bite down to his bones.
Then he realised the two of them were just standing there in the middle of the dorm, where anyone could see them if they woke up or walked in. Eli seemed oblivious to it all, still staring dreamily at the affectations and decorations of the dorm.
"Er-" He gestured towards his hangings, the only ones partially opened. "Would you like to-?"
Eli blinked, and then carefully crawled onto his bed, although he didn't lie down. Harry clambered after him with much less grace, pulling the hangings closed and spelling them silent and shut. Eli was watching his face unwaveringly and his eyes seemed to glow in the darkness.
"What're you doing here?" he asked. "I thought you said we couldn't be friends," he added, a little meanly.
On anyone less expressionless Eli might have flinched, but the vampire's mask barely flickered. "It wouldn't be wise to be friends," he said.
"Why not?" he demanded, a little cross with all this smoke-and-daggering around.
"How many friendships have you heard of between your kind and mine?" Eli asked bluntly. "That haven't ended up with your kind dying...or turning...or being murdered...or eaten..."
"All right, I think I get it," he said hastily to cut off whatever else Eli might have added. He'd seen all of the above happen to 'his kind' except the last, and had no wish to add to the list. "So- so what are you doing here, then?" he asked again.
Eli blinked again, and it occurred to Harry that he'd only ever seen the vampire blink these two times. The creature looked at his hands, lying limp on his lap, as if they held the answer. The digits themselves were long and slim, bony almost, but the nails were blunt and short, caked with dirt and grime. It was an intriguing juxtaposition.
"You're...different," Eli said finally.
He didn't really know what to say.
"Was the last one different, too?" he asked, thoughtlessly.
Eli did flinch, this time. It was obvious the way his face seemed to fold into itself, as well as the downwards turn of his lips.
"I'm sorry," he said immediately. "I didn't- I'm sorry. I know they're bad memories, but I can't seem to-"
Eli was looking fixedly at his hands, and not moving. The only sign that he was even alive was the slow rise and fall of his chest.
"I didn't know vampires needed to breathe," he said timidly. "I thought you were undead."
"There's a lot you don't know," Eli replied flatly, and it hurt a lot more than he thought it would.
Eventually Eli lay down, head on his pillow and burrowing beneath the covers. After a moment's hesitation Harry joined him. His four-poster wasn't the narrow single he had back in Privet Drive, or even Grimmauld Place, but it wasn't quite large enough for two teenaged boys to lie shoulder-to-shoulder without touching. Eli was curled onto his side, and after another moment, Harry curled up behind him till he could feel the faint heat off Eli's body through the dampness of his clothes where the rain had soaked in.
"Would you like to change into another set of clothes? I have another set of pyjamas you can borrow that are dry. The house-elves can get your clothes cleaned by the morning," he offered.
Eli turned quite suddenly, and there was a frown building on his face. "Do I smell strange?" he demanded.
"No," Harry blurted out, "you smell fine. I just thought- since your clothes were still wet- you might be more comfortable in dry ones."
The vampire's ire died as suddenly as it had arisen, and his face settled back into its placid mask. "Turn around," he said, "and don't look."
Confused, Harry obeyed, and was hypersensitive to the sounds of undressing from behind him. He heard the soft thump of clothes on the ground, where he knew the house-elves would gather them soon after. But he was confused when he felt the mattress dip behind him without any sound of re-dressing.
"Are you- are you wearing anything?" he asked faintly. "Anything at all?" He dared to peek over his shoulder and was a little startled to see Eli's wide eyes so near, watching him.
"No," Eli replied. He seemed a little uncertain and that made him look younger. "Is it gross?"
Harry bit his lip. It wasn't exactly gross, but they both looked to be about that age, and while he didn't know if vampires reacted in the mornings, he certainly knew how he reacted in the mornings.
"It just- um, it, er, just might be a little- a little uncomfortable waking up in the mornings, is all," he said lamely.
"I used to sleep in bathtubs," Eli told him, quite seriously.
"That- sounds uncomfortable?" Harry tried.
Eli nodded. "Exactly," he said.
"Er- okay," Harry said, a little confused.
"And I was a little smaller, and I wore clothes then," Eli added. "I still managed to sleep quite fine."
Harry wondered about the 'a little smaller part' and asked, "You were still alive, then? When you slept in bathtubs with your clothes on?"
Eli's face flickered back into that mask, and Harry was surprised at how affected he was by that. He hadn't thought- he'd only known him since this evening, after all.
"No," Eli replied. "Something happened after that."
"Something happened to make you grow?" Harry asked, astonished. He'd never heard of a vampire growing after it had been made. He thought that had been the whole appeal to the vampire-thing, that you didn't grow (any) old(er).
Now Eli looked unhappy again, even if it was a blank sort of unhappy, and he didn't say anything. He swallowed, and it sounded rather loud in the vacuum of his little four-poster. He turned around to fully face the vampire although he was careful not to look down. He wasn't sure if he was more afraid of what he would see if he looked down or what he would feel if he did.
"I'm not very good at this tactful thing, am I?" he asked, a little self-deprecatingly. He didn't like seeing Eli like this, even if he wasn't entirely sure why. "Usually it's Ron- one of the other boys-" he gestured vaguely beyond the confines of the hangings, "-that puts his foot in his mouth all the time."
"Foot in your mouth?" Eli echoed, squinting curiously. "That doesn't sound very appetising."
"No," he said, startled into giggling, "you don't eat your foot. For one thing I'm not sure a lot of people could reach their foot in the first place." He tried to demonstrate and accidentally ducked his head beneath the covers. When he did he caught sight of the strange mound between the vampire's thighs, smooth except for a puckered scar that ran right across. He tried to keep the shock off his face, and it was easier when Eli giggled at his awkward bumbling.
Eli was still smiling when he surfaced, slightly red-faced. He hadn't meant to peek and now he had more questions than ever, but he didn't know how to ask any of them. Thankfully it didn't seem as though vampires were natural legilimens, if not Eli would probably walk right out the window the same way he'd come in, and Harry would really rather that not happen.
"What do you do in the mornings?" he asked. "Do you sleep? Do vampires need to sleep?"
Eli seemed amused. "Can't you find out yourself?"
He blinked awake slowly and muffled a groan with his pillow. Thankfully the party had been on a Friday. He would have hated having to wake up in time for breakfast after last night.
He and Eli had talked a while more, and the sky had just begun to lighten when he'd fallen asleep. It had already been past midnight by the time he left Slughorn's party. Right now, from the thin slits in his hangings, he could see the strong blinding light of the sun pouring through the open windows.
And then he started. The sun. Eli!
He whirled about on the bed, alarmed first by the apparent lack of another body beside him, but when his hand felt cool flesh he immediately froze. Eli was still in his bed, asleep, it seemed, buried beneath the covers. He shifted his hand a bit. It seemed like his fingers had found Eli's shoulder. He chanced a peek underneath and saw the top of Eli's head, bowed, arms curled about his chest and knees hitched against his stomach, the vampire sound asleep in the foetal position. He made no signs of moving when Harry firmed his touch, just a tiny bit.
Harry pulled his head back out and sighed. So vampires really did sleep all day. At least it seemed Eli only needed to be hidden from the sun, not buried beneath the earth or whatever rot Lockhart had written in his book. He gave a rueful laugh. He'd been so frightened for Eli in the beginning that all traces of his morning wood had softened completely. That was one good thing, at least. Otherwise, things might have gotten a little uncomfortable.
He was shocked to hear soft murmurings from beneath the covers and whipped them back to stare, wide-eyed. The top of Eli's head was moving now, shaking from side to side as he shifted about to lie face down on the mattress. Eli's movement were indolent, cat-like, almost. And then Eli lifted his head and blinked, eyes heavily hooded. Harry had never noticed how deep a violet his eyelids were, and beneath them their colour seemed thick and milky.
"You're awake," he whispered.
"Mmm," Eli sounded, tugging the covers back about his bare shoulders. He dropped his head back down on the mattress, his curls smothering his face.
"Do you...want to go back to sleep?" he asked, hesitant.
"Mmm," Eli hummed, curling up with the blanket till just the top of his head was exposed.
Harry couldn't help smiling. The vampire looked absolutely adorable. He guessed this meant sunlight only made them sleepy. Eli didn't seem to be too otherwise affected, neither burning nor melting when a thin ray fell across his face. All he did was make another irritable sound and turn away.
"You have to be careful in case anyone comes in," he said, cautiously reaching out to pet Eli's curls. They were as soft as they looked, although they were starting to matt. Harry hoped he'd wash them soon.
Eli didn't answer him that last time. His eyes were firmly closed and he was so still it didn't even seem like the covers were moving over his chest.
Carefully he slipped out of bed, wincing at the bright morning light. He muttered a spell for the time and his eyebrows shot up at the numbers. It still was morning, but just barely. He didn't remember having slept so late before. It must have driven Ron and Hermione mad, especially since his hangings had been spelled shut. He didn't bother hiding a smile at the thought.
As expected they were waiting for him outside the dorm and when they spotted him they pounced.
"Harry!" Hermione cried. "Where've you been?"
He stared at her blankly. Sometimes he wondered how she could be so book-smart when the most obvious things escaped her.
"I just left the dorm," he said, "so obviously, I must have been in the dorm. Sleeping, like normal people do after a late night."
She flushed, and Ron blinked a little nonplussed.
"C'mon, mate," he said, "there's no need to be like that."
Were they tag-teaming him now, he wondered. He didn't bother answering Ron, just walked right by them and headed down the stairs.
"Harry," Hermione called as they huffed along behind him, "where are you going?"
This case of increasingly obvious questions was starting to annoy him.
"Hermione," he began evenly, "where do you normally go after you wake up in the morning?"
"Well, to breakfast, of course-"
"There you have it," he interrupted dryly, and swung out the portrait without waiting for them.
He made it all the way down to the Great Hall without another interruption, but this time it was just Neville, still poring over his bowl of porridge, smiling and greeting him.
"Morning, Harry," he said. "You're up late."
"It's barely morning," Hermione sniffed, taking the seat beside him.
"It's still morning," he told her, and began to fill his plate. He was feeling rather peckish today, so he opted for a bit of scrambled egg and turkey ham, and baked beans on toast. He pushed his plate away when he was only about halfway though, and picked up a pitcher of milk instead of pumpkin juice.
Hermione was studying him closely, while Ron was even trying to hide how gaping his expression was.
"You're acting different," she said, almost accusingly.
"This is because I don't finish my breakfast," he clarified. Going by the intense frown on Hermione's face, it seemed so. He glanced across the table at Neville, who offered him a sympathetic smile and shrug. Hermione caught the end of it and scowled at the other boy, but Neville had built up some nerve since last year and just brushed her off. Harry smiled, then. Neville was a good chap, and it was always good to see him stepping up for himself.
"Think I'm going to head to the pitch after this," he thought aloud. "Want to come with?" he asked, looking directly at Neville. The boy pinked a little under the attention, but it was a flush of as much pleasure as embarrassment.
"Maybe in a little while," Neville replied. "I've got a couple of things I need to look at in the greenhouses. I'm helping Professor Sprout with some new plantings-"
"Harry, why can't you be more like Neville and do something a little more proactive for once!" Hermione demanded. "After that ministry toad last year, you know things are only going to get worse."
He finished his milk. "I'm heading to the broom shed," he said, ignoring the girl completely.
"C'mon mate, you gotta know 'Mione's got a point- last year at the Ministry-"
"I," he said again, "am going to the broom shed." He stuck his hands resolutely in his pockets and walked away.
Flying had always been soothing to him, and this time was no different. He ran through a few drills off the top of his head, did a few loop-de-loops through the Keeper hoops, before stretching out on his back on the Firebolt and just lazing.
It was a little brisk out, but he'd wrapped up warmly enough, and the sun was out so the wind was just a thrill, not an irritant.
He pondered about how things were going, how things had gone last year. It hurt a lot to just think about it, even, but he figured this was something he really needed to consider.
Voldemort was back. He'd been back, since the end of his Fourth Year. He was stronger than ever, judging by last year's display against Dumbledore, and he had nearly all of his forces back. Azkaban had obviously proved no obstacle to him.
As for his own side...
It wouldn't be accurate to call it his side, when none of them on 'his side' seemed to be actually taking his side.
Snape was a filthy stinking turncoat and liar and he didn't want another moment to do with the man. Dumbledore only cared to throw him bits of information when it caught his fancy. Ron and Hermione were so fickle with their friendship and affections that he was starting to prefer Malfoy, at least for the consistency of his sentiment. McGonagall was well-meaning, but she trusted Dumbledore too much. Actually, that could be said for the entire Order of the Phoenix. He supposed they meant well, but they might as well hang Dumbledore on a cross for all they revered him. Harry wanted to smack them all upside on the head and tell them that the man wasn't infallible. But if he did that he might be hexed for his blasphemy, so he'd best keep his mouth shut for the time being.
Neville, at least, it seemed, had a good head on him. And Luna'd never let him down. He suspected the blonde Ravenclaw saw a lot more than she let on, and he was curious if it was because regular people couldn't comprehend what she saw or they wouldn't. He wanted to depend on Remus, the last of the Marauders, but he hadn't seen him since the fight at the Ministry last year. That, and he was afraid of what Remus might think of his new acquaintance dozing in his bed. He still hoped the older Weasleys had a bit more sense to them, but he wasn't holding out much hope for Ron to ever look past his jealousy or Ginny her obnoxious crush.
But at the same time it was just so exhausting. Didn't anyone realise how tiresome it was to hate, hate, and hate all the while? He would much rather be left to do his own thing. He wondered if it was really that difficult a thing for wizards and witches to do, to leave each other alone.
He stretched his back with a groan, careful not to tip himself off, and settled himself back astride his Firebolt. When he touched a hand to his face he could feel the heat radiating off his cheek, even if his hand felt cold. He'd have to go in soon if not he'd burn, damned English complexion.
Glancing across the grounds, he managed to catch a glimpse of an open window, and a head poking out. He couldn't help smiling, and sped towards the window.
"Hey," he said breathlessly as he pulled his broom up beside his dorm window. Eli was leaning on the sill, blinking lazily as he propped himself up against its wooden beams. He hadn't put on the clothes from yesterday but had managed to find an overlarge shirt to wear. Harry squinted a bit.
"Hey!" he exclaimed in surprise. "That shirt- isn't that mine?" It was probably the shirt he'd bought when he'd had a growth spurt somewhere about Fourth Year. He'd been a little overly optimistic about the end results of his spurt, and had never been able to fill the shoulders and sleeves right. Seeing Eli in his clothes only highlighted how small Eli was, smaller even than himself. And to think Eli said he'd been even smaller to start with!
"I had to wear something else after I showered," Eli replied.
"Oh," he went. He hadn't noticed Eli had showered, but now that the vampire mentioned it, he could see that his black hair was glossier and less matted. Eli also smelt faintly of the soaps from the Gryffindor bathroom. His skin was very pale, as expected, but now that his hair had been brushed out of his face, Harry could see the deepening shadows under his eyes.
"You still look tired, though," he mentioned.
Eli looked away. "I'll get hungry, soon," he murmured.
Harry mouthed an, 'Oh'. "Will you have to leave to get food?" He wondered why he wasn't freaking out more about this.
"Today," Eli agreed, "probably tonight. I don't think I'll have to look far." He looked up at him with wizened eyes. "I meant what I said about your kind. It isn't hard to find food."
"What do we taste like?" he asked. Harry supposed he was indulging in a previously unknown-of streak of morbid curiosity. "Chicken, or beef?"
Eli's face shuttered close. "I don't like it," he said hotly, or as hotly as one could manage without being emotional about it.
Harry was a little taken aback. He would've thought it was pleasant, at least, for vampires. He said as much.
"Vampire," Eli repeated, mouth twisting as if he'd tasted something sour. "I don't like that word."
"You'll head off, then," Harry said instead. He didn't know what else he could say to Eli's words. "Will you come back later?"
"I shouldn't," Eli replied, but that wasn't really answering anything at all.
"Will you?" he insisted.
Eli stared off into the distance, dropped his head, and then stared at him. Harry wondered at what a strange picture they must have made, with the boy on the broom outside speaking with the boy in only a nightshirt inside. They'd been there for nearly fifteen minutes already, and it was a bit of a marvel no one had come by yet. He'd half-expected Hermione to have sent Ron out to find him by now.
"I don't know," Eli said at last.
The day passed in a bit of a haze. He was thankful there weren't any classes, and doubly thankful he didn't run into Snape at all. He probably wouldn't even have recognised if the man had given him detention if he'd spat in his face.
Hermione seemed annoyed that she couldn't get through to him. And Ron just seemed confused. But Harry realised that was how Ron usually was nowadays.
He couldn't wait for night to fall. He wondered if Eli would return. Curiously, he wondered if the castle wards would let the vampire in. For the first time in five years he actually regretted not having read through Hogwarts, a History. He was a little tired of Hermione lording her knowledge over him all the time.
Instead of going to bed as usual, Harry snuck out under his cloak at night. It was even colder than it'd been the day before, and he had to cast a couple of warming charms on top of his cloaks. The grounds were strangely still. He remembered previous nights where he'd been out on the grounds, most memorably in his third year, with Sirius and Remus and the Dementors. It'd been a flurry of activity that night. Now it seemed like nothing was alive out there. The lights in Hagrid's hut were extinguished, and Fang was silent. Even the lake was like a mirror, touched silver by the bright moonlight. If the Great Squid stirred, it was beneath the surface. There wasn't even the slightest ripple to break the silver sheen.
Out beyond the lawns, where the Whomping Willow marked the boundary between Forest and school, the trees were whipped into a vicious flurry. He could hear the wind breaking between the branches, but it was through a curious vacuum. In fact, even if he squinted, the outlines of the trees closest to him were blurred. Did that mean the wards were fully erected, this night of all nights?
Beyond the forest line, something moved.
From within the forest shadows, out stepped Eli.
The vampire looked markedly different, though. He still wore Harry's shirt from the morning, the buttons haphazardly done at the bottom, and the sleeves rolled past his knobby wrists and bony elbows, exposing the white skin that gleamed, in moonlight. He'd almost managed to find a pair of trousers, after having left all his clothes in a heap at the foot of Harry's bed. There was blood, though, all over him. All over his face, smeared about his closed mouth, dripping down his chin to the column of his neck, staining the front of his oxford right down to the shirtsleeves. He was an utter and savage mess. Beneath it all, Eli's eyes were large and ponderous and watching him under his father's cloak, utterly unwavering.
"You fed, then," Harry said. Shouldn't he be more alarmed? Wasn't that how this should work? Why were his feet moving towards the wards, instead of away? He was close enough to see Eli's lips purse, the blood drying black on his lips and making them stick together. The vampire made no move to hide the evidence, not that he could.
"Was it someone from Hogsmeade?" he asked, taking another step forward. He slipped the cloak off him as he did; there was no use for it here. "Was it someone I knew?" Belatedly he remembered Eli couldn't be expected to know who he did; they'd only met yesterday, after all. But ever since then it'd been as if he was in a dream. He felt as if he were wading underwater, a little.
"Yes," came Eli's answer. "You saw him yesterday, at least. It was Worple."
His eyes widened in surprise. He thought- what had Slughorn claimed Worple had been, to the vampire? He thought there'd been some relationship there, at least. And yesterday, Eli and Worple had had an exchange, as if there'd been some kind of understanding between them.
"Didn't you'll…" he faltered. "Weren't you'll…acquaintances, of some sort?" he tried again. "It seemed like you'll knew each other, at Slughorn's party." He offered a smile. "Even if you did call him a fool."
Eli raised a hand and traced the rough bark of a nearby tree with his finger. There was a bit of a distracted tone to his voice as he said, "He'd been with me a while. Ever since-" Eli frowned and abruptly cut himself off. "I'd always needed help getting food before," he said instead. "But when Worple showed me your kind- it wasn't so difficult, anymore. I could do it alone if I wanted. Worple just…liked to look."
Something ate at the bottom of his belly, causing his stomach to churn. "Look," he repeated, "look at…you?"
Eli tilted his head to the side, a thoughtful look subscribed onto his face as if the idea had never occurred to him. "It's all right," he said at last, "as long as they don't touch. They've always had their uses before."
He was jealous, Harry realised with a shock, of an old dead lecher whose blood was splattered all over Eli's youthful form.
"But you said it wasn't hard to find food anymore," he protested, redundantly. What's done was done and the man was dead, after all. But Harry couldn't find it in himself to drop it. "So you didn't need him. You could have walked away and left and been all right on your own."
As soon as the words left his mouth he realised it. On your own. They rattled like old bones in his mind. "Oh," he said in a small voice. He'd reached the edge of the wards now, and he could see them as a thick web of interlocking, near-translucent threads. They were what had caused the blurring of the Forest. It wasn't as obvious up close, but he could see the blood spatters on Eli's shirt- his shirt- much clearer now. He wasn't going to get his oxford back, that was for sure. It was a bit of a shame, too. Its size had made it comfortable to sleep in.
"There's always been someone," Eli confessed, absently skinning the poor tree of its bark. "I don't notice when they were there, except when they were gone." Eli seemed about to say more, but he held his tongue this time.
"There was someone you noticed, though," he guessed. "You noticed when they were there and noticed when they were gone."
"I couldn't not notice," Eli whispered, and although the vampire didn't look at him, the old hurt was radiating off him so strongly it was impossible to miss it.
"What happened," he whispered back. He stretched his hand out to Eli but met the wards instead, and he laid his palm flat against it. After a moment, Eli's hand meandered up to join his from the tree. The wards, it seemed, wouldn't harm Eli as long as the vampire didn't try to pass them. It seemed like a very Dumbledore-type thing to do.
"There was another boy," Eli began stiltedly. "I liked him very much, and he liked me too. I was younger, then."
"You hadn't turned, yet?" he asked, but Eli was shaking his head in the negative.
"No," he murmured, "I had been tolv mer eller mindre (1) for a long time before him."
"Tolv…mer eller mindre?" Harry repeated, confused by the strangeness of the words.
Eli released a breath that was half-sigh and half-groan. "I forgot you don't speak," he whispered, and his accent seemed stronger now, clipped and tense. His hand dragged across the wall of the wards, and Harry found his own hand tripping after Eli's, trying to keep up this façade of touch. "I had been twelve, more or less, for a long time," he said again.
Harry eyed him critically. "You don't look twelve any more," he said. "You look more around my age, sixteen or so."
Eli made a pained sound. "Yes," he said, "Worple told me. He said it made me a little older than he preferred, but at least it wouldn't look so obvious that it was-"
"Illegal?" he said harshly.
Eli looked a little startled, but it was as if through a looking glass, darkly. "You're angry," he breathed like he'd only just realised it. "Why?"
"It's not right," Harry insisted. "There's a word for what we call old men like that, preying on children- and you brought him into Hogwarts-"
"He would never have gone against me," Eli dismissed. Harry still seethed. Eli didn't seem to understand that there was more to his anger than that. "And they've always looked at me like that. That's why I was changed in the first place."
Harry bit his lip and turned away. He'd never met someone he'd felt like this over before. Even his feelings for Cho and Ginny were far eclipsed by what he felt for Eli. He'd never wanted to be this gentle to someone before. And he wondered if that made him any better or worse than the others that had come before him.
"So what happened?" he asked, turning their conversation back to what it had been before they'd run off on this tangent. "To that other boy that you…liked."
It worked, and Eli was effectively distracted. His face resumed its unhappy cast from before. "We were together for…for a while. I didn't change him, not at first. We made…a pact." Here Eli smiled, just a little smile that couldn't erase the sadness in his eyes. "And we held hands the entire time. I couldn't use to go out in the sun, so he would help me find a place in the mornings to rest. Sometimes he would get into the bathtub with me and we would wake together at night."
Yes, Harry was still a little jealous of this nameless boy who had shared such thoughtless intimacies with Eli, but he couldn't help feeling a little grateful that at least Eli'd experienced some kindness, before, from someone who'd like Eli as himself and not as…as a doll, or however those kinds of people had seen Eli.
"What happened, in the end?" he asked, his voice hushed.
Eli looked away, and dropped his hand entirely from the wards. He didn't seem to notice Harry's hand clench against the other side at the loss.
"It couldn't last," he said. "I was stupid to think it could. In the end he just couldn't face the days any longer."
"He just left you?" Harry exclaimed, outraged on his behalf.
Eli gave a true sigh this time. "There aren't a lot of persons who can watch the days change without changing themselves. It wasn't just me that was changed at the beginning. There used to be a few others. They all killed themselves within a few years. I was the only one left for a long while."
"You…you changed him," Harry realised. "That other boy, you changed him."
"Oskar," Eli breathed. Os-kahr, he pronounced it. "I told you, we made a pact." Eli raised his palm again and flexed it, and there it was, an old silver scar scored across his smooth flesh. "And we held hands the entire time."
Harry knew enough about vampires to know that they turned other people by biting them, just like werewolves, but he'd never thought it through to realise all it took was a mixing of blood. Sure, biting sped up the process but it would have hurt like a bitch, so this must have been very gradual and very gentle on the other boy Oskar. He supposed that only went to show how much Eli had cared for him.
"He didn't want to leave you, did he?" Harry asked. "I wouldn't have wanted to, if I were him."
Eli looked startled by his pronouncement, but didn't contradict it. "No," he agreed, "he didn't want to. But he was getting so tired. It got harder and harder for him to wake each time. One day soon enough he would have just fallen asleep and forgotten to wake up. I knew it. He knew it. He didn't want that to happen. He didn't want me to be alone."
Harry bit his lip. "What did you do?"
Eli raised his eyes to meet his for the first time tonight, and the look in them was old and weary and worn. "I ate him," he said simply.
Harry knew, with every gut feeling, that Eli had loved Oskar, and that Oskar had loved Eli back just as much. He couldn't imagine what it must have felt for either of them.
"And you grew?" he asked timidly. "After- after that." He stumbled over his words.
Eli looked down disconsolately. "I've never heard of one of us eating another before. Some things changed after I did. I got a little older. I can go out in the sun. Others things didn't. I still need to eat."
"What were you doing at Hogwarts last night, then?" he asked.
"Worple thought it would be good to meet persons my age," Eli replied tonelessly. "He also wanted to look, mostly."
Harry sneered with distaste at the man's memory.
"But I didn't expect to meet you," Eli added, almost shyly.
His head shot up and he sought Eli's eyes almost desperately.
There was a strange look in them, almost-fear on Eli's unchanging face. Harry could guess what it was for. Eli couldn't have had very many Oskars throughout his life. Anyone would be scared of losing another one.
"What will you do now?" he asked.
"Go away, I suppose." Eli shrugged. "We always just went from place to place. We only wanted to do things on our terms."
Harry wet his lips, nervous. "When you go," he began, "can I come with you?"
There was a bit of old wonder in Eli's eyes as he looked at him. "You have to say it," Harry said. He didn't know why it was so important, just that it was. His gut had never let him down before, and he was betting on it to not let him down this time. "Please. Can I- can I come with you?"
"You can come with me," Eli breathed at the same time he took a step back. Almost mindlessly Harry countered with a step forward of his own, and that pressed him right against the wards. Eli took another step back, and once again he followed. This time the wards let him pass with a strange, sucking sensation as he stepped through them. He emerged on the other side of them, and Eli was as clear as any vision he'd seen. When he glanced behind him, Hogwarts seemed enveloped in a murky haze. When he raised a hand tentatively, he was a little shocked to encounter the wards- against him, now.
He turned back to Eli, who was still watching him with a hint of trepidation.
"I wasn't lying," he assured Eli. "I meant every word I said." This close to Eli he could smell the blood drying on his skin. He took another step forward, and Eli didn't move. This brought them nearly chest-to-chest. They lined up easily, being about the same height.
"Will you come?" Eli asked. Harry wondered what his lips tasted like, covered in blood.
(1) - I don't understand Swedish, so the copy of 'Let the Right One In' I'm working with has English subtitles that read 'twelve, more or less'. This is just the direct translation from google translate. If anyone has the actual words Eli said during the movie, I'm all for it (o:
First time posting in about a year, and I'm hoping to keep at it. As for all the projects that were left pending when I went on hiatus, I'm still working on them, so I do hope to churn them out soon enough. A review would be lovely. Cheers (o: