Title: Crimson Tangerine
Author: enchanted nightingale
Beta Reader: pussycatadamah
Summary: Their first encounter changed the course of their lives. What will a second meeting bring?
Disclaimer: The characters do not belong to me. I only use them in my plot for fun.
A/N: Inspired by idea/prompt Aliengirlguy suggested to me.
Trips and Fangs
He had been happy, so very happy to actually go on this trip. It was silly really, something so small, but he could not help it. The Dursley's had grumbled and complained but in the end they couldn't send Dudley without Harry, they could not be so blatant about their dislike for the green eyed kid. The reservoir the primary school had decided to visit was close by, offered a meal for free to the kids, just the basics and they would be back by evening anyway. But on the other hand it was the perfect chance to be rid of him for a few more hours. They had worked the eight year old to the bone, even more so than usual and had starved him for a couple of days, their way of getting revenge for the few extra pounds they would spend on him. It was the only time Harry did not even think to talk back, that's how big an opportunity this was and the kid knew this. It was his dream, to be away from his relatives and if he was lucky avoid his cousin as well.
So Harry Potter had gone on his first ever field trip with the primary school. The eight year old boy had been over the moon, for once not caring about the second hand clothes, his meagre helping of food, courtesy of his aunt (five pieces of stale bread was all she had given him while Dudley got sandwiches and an allowance). Harry had thought he would enjoy himself, just this once, just for a day. But Dudley and his group had had other plans. The moment the teachers turned their back, Harry had been forced to run, run as fast as his young legs could carry him. So far he had been caught by some of his cousin's punches, a split lip and a bruised side was what he had to show so far and he knew, just knew, this could get worse. The forest that was near the camp the school had taken them had been his only escape so he took to it, disappearing among the old trees, the moss and the fog that existed.
Senses were on overload. The hunt had left him exhausted. He had never before encountered Vampire hunters this intent to see him dead. They had followed him all the way from Japan, to China, across Russia, half of eastern and central Europe till they finally caught up with him after crossing half the world. He had been slowing down, not having enough time to feed and replenish; what they had counted on really. The fight was brutal. No one really won when a Vampire and a Hunter crossed paths, not even the winners, who in most cases tended to succumb to injuries soon after they won.
"And what a way to go," the un-dead muttered derisively. In this no name forest, surrounded by fog and trees. He was clutching the wound on his stomach, blood gushing sluggishly from there. He was dizzy so he did not trust his senses when they warned him of an approaching creature. It could not be a friend; he never had any that would care enough to help him dodge Hunters. So it could only be an enemy. And he was too tired to care, too tired to react. The fog soon revealed what it had been hiding, a small form, messy and warm and having the brightest pair of eyes he had ever seen, eyes that reminded the Vampire so much of Crown of Andes, the most precious collection of emeralds he had ever seen, anyone had ever seen on earth. And then the apparition spoke, asked after his health. And Orfeus Sanguini replied, thinking it only proper manner to do so.
"Just dying, green eyes," he told the emerald eyed creature. He was a bit disappointed at his untimely end, or was it timely? Vampires had to perish sometime. Orfeus, often known to humans by his last name, a title he had acquired sometime during the Byzantine Empire as it rose across Europe, had seen civilizations rise and fall. Had been there when Rome burned for Nero's whims, when the Crusades took place, he had fought for Charlemagne, been in Maria Antoinette's Court. He had seen history being made for so long that hardly anything surprised him anymore.
Orfeus felt a bit of confusion. Was that sadness coming from the apparition? Or was it fear? All for him? How strange.
"Dying, nothing to worry about," he managed to gasp out, talking hurt him now, he realized, sickened with his own weakness. Was everyone this pathetic in death? He never noticed before.
It was a concept Harry Potter was intimately aware of. His parents had died, killed in a car crash, the Dursley's had told him. Just once and the memory remained. It was one of Harry's earliest memories. He had asked why he could not call Petunia 'mummy'. She had replied that his mother was dead and that he should never call her that. That lesson was hard learned, he had earned himself a fractured arm from that and a first visit to the local hospital.
The second death was one of Marge Dursley's dogs. The pug had been run over by one of the cars in the neighbourhood. Marge had shed tears for the dog. Harry knew then that had that been him in the dog's place the woman would have not cared, no one would have shed tears for him, certainly not his so called family.
Harry's third encounter with death had been a dead bird he had discovered when he had been tending the garden. The wing had seemed off and the small creature, while soft in his small hands, had been unresponsive. He had buried it in the garden, under the rose bushes. He had cried too, sad about the little bird. But this man here was not an animal, something that could be swept under dirt and flowers. This man, who was tall, so much taller than Vernon and slim, his skin so pale, his hair so dark and so long and wild looking that Petunia would have frowned at seeing him. And he wore weird clothes, fabrics he did not recognize. The man was still moving, talking and Harry could do… something. Perhaps the teachers would know. He only hoped they did not blame this on him as well, the Dursley's certainly blamed him for many things already.
"Um… I'll get help," he said, voice small. But the man stopped him, and refused the call for help. Biting his lips and thinking on his feet, Harry tore off part of the jacket he wore, a tattered orange one that used to belong to his cousin and tried to put pressure on the man's wound. He did not recoil from the feel and sight of blood; he had had to patch himself up quite a lot of times and knew enough to get by. So he approached, hesitantly at first, with more conviction after that, moving quickly and gently and helping as much as he could.
The warmth alerted him to the fact that the green eyed creature was in fact real and not some figment of his imagination. He could hear the thumping of a heartbeat, blood rushing through veins, the warmth of a living creature. Orfeus' gums tingled, fangs lengthening and need flooding his mouth. Blood. The one substance that could heal him, prolong his existence, so close to his reach… yet he could hardly move; he had nearly bled out. Tiny hands were upon him, trying to help, to stop the blood flow. It was touching and funny and he might have laughed, making the living one recoil.
"Don't bother," he finally told this one. "I need something else to recover."
What? Wasn't it obvious? Perhaps not to one that had no idea what he was.
"Blood," Orfeus replied. "I need blood."
"A transfusion?" came the confused reply.
"No… something else…" he looked into green eyes, wondering how could anyone be so innocent, so clueless. "Do you know what a Vampire is?"
"They're not real," was the hurried response.
The un-dead creature thought it was a child's voice, so soft and ethereal though.
"Vampires and magic and imaginative stuff like that are not real!"
Ah! Denial, so fun that state of mind.
"But if it was, would you give your blood to save me?"
A long pause and then a hesitant yes. Orfeus Sanguini did not even have to enthral the human to submit and help him. The small hands touched his shoulders, not caring about the dirt on his clothes, the grime and the blood. The smell of fresh, available blood became so much stronger now. Then a small wrist was extended his way, so small it could not have belonged to an adult. But the Vampire was past the point of morality and caring.
"If you really, really need it," a soft voice told him, go ahead.
"It might hurt," and it was stupid of him to say so but it showed that some form of morality still clung to him.
"I don't want you to die."
Orfeus realized that that was the first time he heard those words in a very long time and he obeyed the unspoken demand. His fangs lowered, his mouth opened. He ignored the soft gasp of surprise when the little human caught sight of his inhuman teeth but there was no struggle, probably because of the blood. It was hardly a struggle to break the soft skin. Soon blood rushed into Sanguini's mouth, freely and willingly given to him, and it tasted divine. There was so much power in it too. It was then that Orfeus realized he was dealing with a wizard. The sweetness was not something Muggle's were capable of having. All the power and magic the blood carried rushed through the Vampire. While normal, mundane blood carried several properties that were used to help preserve a Vampire's body, magical blood was much more, enhancing the senses, adding strength, offering healing abilities much more accelerated than Muggle blood did. There was a reason the magical folk wanted to restrict the Vampires and disallow them from taking their meal from wizards; no one liked predators stronger than them and Vampires could battle magical humans for the top.
He had to be lying, this man had to be lying for sure and until he saw the fangs, sharper than Ripper's, any dogs really, Harry realized that the man had not been lying. He knew about Vampires. He had read a book about them in the school library. The librarian, Miss Jones, she liked him and allowed him inside to read, and even eat! She had treated him many times, giving him cookies and juice and apples and helped him with his reading and writing when the place was quiet, which was quite often. Vampires drank blood. They also killed people, the book said. Was he going to die? It was a question Harry had no way to answer. When he felt the skin on his arm break and fangs sinking in it hurt a lot less than the time one of Marge's dogs had bitten him on the leg. His hand felt numb and after a while he felt dizzy, like the time Dudley had hit him so hard on the head that he blacked out. Then the fangs slipped out and he watched, through heavy eyes but fascinated to be seeing this all the same. The fangs were sharp and so close. Then he licked the skin and the puncture marks faded a bit though the area was still smudged by blood.
"Your taste is delicious little one," the Vampire said. Because he was a Vampire, Harry was no longer thinking the man was lying, not with the way his eyes glowed red when before they had been a dull icy blue, nearly white colour.
"Will you get better now?" Harry asked, the initial concern that had made him approach this man, despite his fear that Dudley and his cousin's gang might catch up.
"Scared I might eat you up?"
Harry shook his head.
"What a silly little boy," Orfeus muttered, "All alone, in the woods…"
"I can't go back?"
"Why not? Fought with your mummy?"
Harry looked away. He missed the way the Vampire was now studying him, the way the creature that was so close to immortality studied his clothes, his injuries.
"How old are you kid?"
"Mmm. I'm eight."
The Vampire did not let his surprise show. "A runt still," he commented, enjoying the indignation he saw flashing back at him. Still, the situation could be salvaged and that this train of thought was followed by the next question. "Do you know how to tell herbs apart, runt?"
Green eyes peeked at the Vampire from behind wild raven black hair. "Why?"
"I need to get me some herbs and more cloth from your jacket."
"Herbs? Like weeds?" the eight year old asked. He looked at a loss, not understanding why anyone would be wanting them for anything at all. Petunia certainly never had and kept ordering the boy to weed her garden.
"Not for me, herbs with magical properties have the tendency of dying around the blood of my kind," Orfeus explained. "But you are going to need them. Some are edible. There is a stream nearby that you can drink from, berries to eat, if you wish to stay. You can always go back, understand? Now, I'll explain which ones; it would do me no good if you were poisoned."
Harry nodded slowly and listened to the man's orders.
That was how long they stayed around the nook of the tree Sanguini had sought refuge under. They were lucky it had not rained those two nights. The runt, Harry as he later insisted on being called, was fast and smart. He got the right herbs for the Vampire and Orfeus had not needed to drink more than twice from the child before he was fully recovered. The Vampire discovered that the kid was a closet mother hen, fretting about his health of all things. It had been funny, and nice to think about. But then the proximity ward Orfeus had set up got triggered. The Hunter's comrades were here and he had to flee. He was not in perfect health but it would do. It was night and the kid had curled up against him. There had not been any warmth to be shared and the kid seemed to not be used to it either way. Two days and no one had come for him; no one had searched the forest for this loving caring child. There was something wrong going on and he had neither the time nor the strength to deal with it. He leaned over the kid's sleeping form. He buried his fingers in the dark mop and gave a short caress. His lips turned up in a smirk, not quite a smile, at the way the child seemed to lean towards his cold touch.
"Silly boy," he muttered. "But I guess I owe you one, owe you my life. A debt I will pay back, just got to keep myself alive. See you around."
The child did not even stir.
Two weeks it took for Orfeus to clear up all his troubles with the Vampire Hunters. Two very long weeks and he had had to pull some favours to do this. When he was done he went back to the clearing, fearing what he might find there. The child was blissfully absent, had been for over ten days. So he searched for him. The most he could find out came from discarded newspapers and Muggle TV. They told the story of an orphan that had been taken in by his family and abused. The school had alerted the family that the child had been lost during a trip. Several other kids had even mentioned to teachers and parents that they had seen Dudley bullying the green eyed kid and chase him into the forest. The Dursley's seemed unconcerned about the whole incident. Then the police stepped in. A search was organized and they found the boy the day after he had left, around noon. Further investigation revealed that the Dursley's had kept their nephew hidden under their stairs, in a boot cupboard even though they had two spare rooms. The authorities then tested the boy and found out he had had several broken bones that had mended on their own while he had been in hospital twice. They also found out that a stipend was given to the Dursley's to care for the orphaned boy but none of the money ever went for the kids care. By court order the Dursley's were sent to jail, their son to his paternal aunt. As for the boy, Harry James Potter ended up getting adopted by a person whose name was not released to the press. But Orfeus hardly cared because he now had a name and he knew he would be in that kid's future.
"Harry James Potter," he mused, staring at the article; there was no picture of the kid. He did not need, not when he had the kid's blood running through his veins.
The hospital was quiet and nice, much better than the ambulance that took him here the first time, where so many people had been shouting and trying to get his picture. The doctors and nurses had been fussing over him, healing his scrapes and bruises, given vitamins and iron for his low red cell count, lots of water and food as well. He never told the psychologists who questioned him that he was not alone in the forest and that he had the company of a Vampire of all people. That was one thing Harry kept to himself. Other than that, he answered questions about what he ate, how he survived. One particular doctor ("Call me Philip or Phil buddy. Now, let's bandage this leg, shall we?") Had been angry at his oversized clothes. He had kept asking the green eyed boy questions and Harry, too tired to remember to lie as Vernon had always threatened him to do. He was tired and hungry and thirsty and the bed had been real, ("So soft, not like my mattress in my cupboard", the child had muttered). That had made the good doctor angry but not at Harry. Then more people had come, some from the Social Services, from the Police and even more doctors to examine Harry and lawyers and a judge; and reporters with cameras and microphones but then security and the police had come and thrown them out. Following that shocking day Philip had brought him chocolate and new clothes, neither of which Harry had had before. He stayed in the hospital while the trial was on. He never saw Vernon or Petunia or Dudley while the trial was on.
When he was a bit older he would be told about the appalled looks from the court about the behaviour of his relatives, about the scandal that the media unearthed when they searched deeper. Harry had always been told what a burden he was, that he cost them money and space and that he should be glad they kept him. They had lied about that as the house they had been staying had been his and in addition the Dursley's received money, quite a generous sum too, to care for their nephew, money that Petunia hid from her husband and used to buy jewellery and expensive toys for her son, never spending a penny to buy clothes for her nephew, or even feed him. Harry's case made front page news for a long time, the public outcry being huge from the damning evidence the authorities discovered about Harry's living conditions and treatment. The fact that the Dursley's, upon being told by the school that their nephew was missing, did not search for the boy themselves, but had even tried to make others stop searching for him, had been received as attempted murder from the judge, because who in their right minds would abandon a kid on its own in a forest of all places, not caring about what happened? Vernon and Petunia had been sentenced to thirty years in jail each in the end. The sentence could not be anything less, not after the entire nation and even a big portion of Europe was following the outcome of the trial. The media had already condemned them; the courts came second in that regard and brought much satisfaction to the awaiting public. Harry, during those days had their complete and total support, unlike the previous years of his life that he had spent unnoticed and ignored. The Dursley's lost custody of Dudley, who was also seeing psychologists by then and Harry was later told Marge had taken the boy in. In addition, every penny Vernon and Petunia to their names was given to lawyers or returned to the stipend they had been draining for nearly eight years and Harry, it was decided would become a ward of the state. Only Harry was lucky enough to never step foot in an orphanage.
Harry had cried when he found out the details of the trial, but he had not been alone by that time. If one good thing happened from his ordeal in that forest, it was meeting Philip and later his wife Clarissa. The spouses had taken a liking to Harry and had appealed to the judge to be considered Harry's caregivers. They argued they would be perfect to provide and care for the broken boy and the judge had agreed without protest after all the proper background checks were done. The green eyed boy had walked out of the hospital holding Clarissa's hand, half the nurses and doctors, all Philip's colleagues, cooing at him and from then on, towards a new life.
The child perked up when the voice carried from downstairs to his room.
"Coming!" he yelled back with a grin.
Three years, three wonderful, stress free, warm and loving years. That was how long Harry spent with his new family. The Lloyd family. Philip Lloyd and his wife Clarissa Burton had taken Harry in, later adopting him. They never changed his name, just added their own to complement the surname he already had. Philip was a doctor, the one who had examined Harry and gathered all evidence for the trial against the Dursley's. Philip's wife, Clarissa, was a fashion editor. They were both well in their forties, childless and had loved Harry the moment they saw him. It had taken a while for Harry to trust them enough and love them back, but they were a family now, his very own family. They cared for him; made sure he had everything he needed, including lots of love and plenty to keep him busy. Under their care Harry flourished. And when the letter from Hogwarts came, they were happy for him and supportive and equally worried about him going away to a boarding school, so far away from them for the majority of a year. It had been a difficult decision to make but they had done it, everything for their Harry, who had once again brought them closer as a family and filled their empty house with laughter and colour.
It had not been easy at first. Harry was too hurt by people and he trusted no one, the Dursley's had made a lot of damage, as well as all those people who had ignored the fact that Harry was too skinny, too small and generally not like an eight year old. It took years of therapy for Harry to feel better about himself, stop believing the words; lies really, his aunt and uncle told him, to trust that Clarissa and Philip actually cared and would not leave him. It had been touch and go, especially when the green eyed boy would go into panic attacks, which in turn made his magic flare and cause a whole lot of chaos, from broken glass to hair changing colour and teddy bears starting working. But they had not only managed, but bonded over everything and grown stronger as a unit. Harry was not all that happy to be going to Hogwarts for one reason only, it would mean parting from the family that had put him back together after being so broken.
"Why the long face?" Clarissa asked the boy.
Harry smiled at her as he joined her for breakfast. "Just... thoughts."
"If you make your brooding face they might not be very nice. Cheer up, love. We are going to have a wonderful day at the zoo. You'll be going with me to visit the reptile house."
"You are right," the eleven year old boy replied. He received a kiss on the top of his hair after that and was told to finish his meal. They would pick up Philip from the hospital and then go to the zoo. And tomorrow, Harry was going to Hogwarts.
"Has anyone seen a toad?"
Harry looked up from his novel to see a girl with bushy hair and a bit larger front teeth burst into the compartment, a space in which he was alone. There had been a red headed boy but when he had seen that Harry was in no mood to socialize he had left the compartment. Harry did not mind as he preferred peace and quiet when he could find it. He was also still tired from his latest trip. Clarissa (he could not call her mother or mum and she seemed to understand perfectly) had taken him to Milan for a fashion show. There he had also taken part on the show, walking on the catwalk side by side with famous models. It was way to pass time, modelling. And it was fun for Harry, as he met interesting people and saw so many places. Clarissa, while supportive, worried he might be piling too many things on his plate; he was already learning French and Italian and how to play the guitar. He had no friends at school, the Muggle one that is. Philip and Clarissa hoped Hogwarts might change Harry's introverted nature.
The green eyed wizard replied negatively to the girl and she went away with a huff. She was not the only one who entered the compartment. Earlier Harry had turned away a red haired boy who had argued in the hallway with a blond one about which of them the great Harry Potter would rather be friends with. The red head had been of the opinion that the Boy Who Lived would not care for Slytherin's and generally anyone not in Gryffindor. Harry, after overhearing that was quite angry at them for assuming things. When the boy had later come in ("Hey, I'm Ron Weasley, is this seat taken?") Harry had lied and replied that he expected company. The green eyed wizard really did not want to spend the trip to Hogwarts with such an obnoxious person and in the end he ended up with his book and the last bit of quiet he would have in a while. Because Harry knew, entering the magical world again would keep him in a new level of busy and he would be in the spotlight more than ever. Eleven year old Harry was not scared of the future, not when he had a mission. The first goal was to make friends. The second was to learn as much as possible about magic in general and Vampires in particular. His last goal was to make his parents proud and be happy. Harry was in for a busy year.
End of chapter