Author's Note: Ah, the glory of reviews! To me, reviews are like gold and jewels: I simple want to stretch out on a giant heap of them and bask like a cat in sunlight. Such is a dragon's way of life. Anyway, thank you all for your feedback, I deeply appreciate it.
A note to PhoenixRose92: Yes, I would be delighted to write a Snames. It may have to wait a little while, since I've got seven WIPs right now... (I'm such a bad dragon)... but I've definitely got some ideas!
A.N.2: Well, nice to know you all liked the smut. I was feeling inspired at the time, and when I went back over it later I was like: Oh My Merlin, did I actually WRITE that? There's not so much smut in this one - more plot development, which is perhaps less satisfying but definitely necessary - but the next one will be nice and smutty again, so never fear. I'd already spent long enough getting this one out, I figured I'd better update and worry about smut later, since that takes even longer to write than the rest.
Harry walked into the Great Hall the next morning with a satisfied grin on his face, walking carefully to disguise his slight limp as much as possible. Ron and Hermione were already sitting down at the Gryffindor table: as Harry slid into the seat between them, Ron turned to him, beaming.
"Hey, Harry, we were just - Merlin's grey beard! What the hell happened to you?"
Harry lifted an eyebrow. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
Hermione looked caught between horror and amusement. "Harry, you have a massive hickey on your neck. It looks like you were bitten by a rabid dog."
"Oh, really?" Harry said nonchalantly, setting about buttering his toast. "I guess we did get a bit carried away last night..."
Ron choked on his pumpkin juice and Seamus thumped him on the back. The Irish boy was grinning brightly. "You seeing someone, Harry? She must be a real vixen if she gave you that giant bloody mark!"
Harry smirked. After their conversation last night, Harry was reasonably assured that Draco wouldn't be upset if Harry hinted a little at their relationship, and Harry himself was very tired of having to constantly lie to his best friends about where he went and who he was seeing. "Who says it was a girl?"
Ron choked again and stared at him, his whole front now dripping with pumpkin juice. "You're gay? Bloody hell, mate, I didn't see that coming!"
Harry chuckled. "Yeah, well, you never asked. I've known for a while now." He reached up absently to touch the tender skin of the bite mark. "I guess he got a little reckless last night, we've been trying not to leave marks."
Hermione blinked. "Because he's from another House?"
Harry grinned at her. "Well, that and because it's so much more fun having a secret affair."
Dean laughed. "Okay, who are you and what did you do with our shy, bashful Harry? You know, the one that blushed even talking about a girl?"
Harry smirked. "Oh, he hasn't been around for a while.
Of course, Professor Calvierri's first lesson was an overview of vampires: it was his only option, really. Everyone in the class - well, everyone except Harry - was bursting with questions about vampires, and if he had tried to teach the class about Grindylows or something similar he would have made absolutely no progress.
It was Lavender Brown who really brought the topic into uncomfortable territory. "Professor, I heard that vampires have one predestined mate, like werewolves. Is that true?"
Harry's heart was suddenly beating very fast, but the Professor shook his head. "That's a common mistake, Miss Brown, but no. A vampire may choose their partner just as freely as any human."
"Oh." Was it Harry's imagination, or did Lavender look slightly disappointed? He restrained a disparaging snort: she probably thought the idea of a vampire having 'one true love' was terribly romantic. She wasn't in love with one, though. Well, not knowingly - more than half the school seemed to think themselves in love with Draco Malfoy. Harry had inquired about that one night: Draco just laughed it off, making an offhanded comment about 'secret vampire pheromones'.
The rest of the class passed fairly uneventfully, although there were several times when Harry caught the vampire looking at him oddly. It was starting to make him slightly uncomfortable: was the teacher setting off his warning instincts just because he was a vampire, or was there something more going on? When Professor Calvierri dismissed them, though, Harry made a split-second decision. He was going to go for it, and ask the teacher about the possibility of Draco loving him. He had to know if there was a chance.
As the rest of the class stood up, Harry swallowed down the lump of nerves in his throat and gestured to Ron and Hermione. "You guys go on ahead, I want to ask the teacher something in private."
Both gave him puzzled looks, but obeyed without question, leaving him alone with the dark-haired vampire. Harry moved up to stand in front of the desk, ill at ease. "Professor Calvierri, I have a rather... odd question about vampires."
The vampire looked up, his dark eyes curious. "Oh?" His eyes shifted to Harry's neck, and an indecipherable look flashed across his face. "Does this have to do with the young Slytherin who has put a claiming mark on your neck?"
Harry blushed slightly at the thought of how that mark had gotten there. "Well, yes, sir. I was wondering if you could tell me... can vampires feel love?"
Calvierri's eyebrows shot up and he stared at Harry in surprise. "I beg your pardon?"
Harry shifted, a little uncomfortable under his intense scrutiny. His danger alarms were beginning to jangle again, and he couldn't help but wonder if it was merely the man's vampirism or something more sinister. There was something in his eyes... "It's just... I was wondering, because some people seem to think that vampires don't really have that kind of emotion, yet I don't see how someone with so many other human facets could lack that..."
Calvierri stared at him for a long, unsettling moment, then he shook his head. "I'm afraid I cannot help you, Mr. Potter. I cannot speak for all vampires, of course, but I have yet to meet one that showed any signs of being in love. I suspect that love, like many emotions, is one that cannot be sustained unless one is truly alive."
Harry's heart should have plummeted. He should have been distraught. But as the teacher spoke, looking down at his papers, Harry caught a flash of something in his eyes that set his instincts screaming a warning. He's lying!
Harry's danger signals were all going off, now: he could actually feel his skin prickling. Something was seriously wrong here, and he needed to back off and determine a safer way to find out. Pasting a crushed look across his face, he summoned up a tiny, sad smile for the teacher. "Oh. Alright then, Professor. I'll just go to lunch..."
The Professor nodded, his dark eyes filled with sympathy. "I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Mr. Potter."
The dark eyes glittered.
Harry mumbled something polite and fled.
He'd thought there was something a bit off last night at the feast when Hermione mentioned Calvierri staring so intently at the Slytherin table, but he'd been too distracted by thoughts of Draco to really think about it. Now, though, his mind was throwing up warning signs at every turn. Why did the vampiric teacher seem so intensely interested in Harry? And why would he lie about a vampire's capacity to love?
To break up you and Draco? But why would he want that? Think, Harry, think - motivation. That's what reveals the culprit, the motive. That's why you thought it was Snape after the Stone when it was really Quirrell - you got hung up on suspicions and didn't look for the motive. Come on, think! Perhaps Draco's paranoia isn't paranoia after all, and Calvierri's looking to steal you away? No, then he wouldn't have closed the door on pretending to love you. Draco. Draco might know.
Decision made, Harry took off toward the dungeons. He found Draco in the Entrance Hall, just coming up from Potions on his way to lunch, accompanied only by Pansy Parkinson. Throwing caution to the winds, and thoroughly glad that they are the only people in the Hall at the moment, Harry sprinted up to them.
"Draco, I need to talk to you alone, now."
Something flashed in the vampire's silver eyes, and he nodded curtly, ignoring Pansy's splutter. "Go to lunch, Pansy, I'll be along in a minute."
He followed Harry into a small empty classroom and waited, eyebrows lifting. "Judging from how pale you are, this must be serious." he said quietly, stepping close to Harry, his hand lifting to cup Harry's cheek in a familiar, soothing motion. "What is it?"
Harry drew a deep breath. "I will explain in a minute, but first, I have to tell you something. I-" he looked up into Draco's silver eyes, and let the words flow freely. "I love you. I don't know when I fell, but I realized it over the summer, when all I could think about for every waking moment was being with you again."
Draco's eyes widened and he seemed to stop breathing entirely - then the next moment he swooped down and pressed his lips against Harry's, in a kiss so achingly tender that Harry's heart fluttered in his chest. Draco pulled back, gazing down into Harry's green eyes, his own silver gaze filled with tenderness.
"I love you too, Harry."
Harry's heart soared, and he felt a dazzling grin break out over his face. "You do?"
Draco nodded, eyes shining. "Of course. I would have told you sooner, but... I was worried I might frighten you away. It's one thing to be in a relationship with someone - something - like myself, but it's another entirely to know that said someone is in love with you."
Harry flung himself into Draco's arms, holding the young vampire tightly as he whispered, "I couldn't ask for anything more."
They held each other for a moment, then Draco reluctantly drew back. "Now, what sent you into such a panic?"
The memories crashed down over Harry again, and he swallowed hard. "Oh, yeah. I was just in Defence, and - Draco, you were right. There's something seriously wrong about Professor Calvierri. He taught today's class about vampires, but he stared at me nearly the whole time, and it made my skin crawl. Worse, he lied to my face."
Draco frowned. "About what?"
Harry winced. "I... I've never doubted you, Draco, but I wasn't sure how to go about telling you that I loved you and I was scared to lose you if you didn't love me back. You know how many rumors there are that vampires can't feel love. I waited after class and asked Professor Calvierri if vampires were capable of loving a person: he said no. But I trust you, Draco, I'm sure that you would never lie to me - and the minute he said it I felt like he was lying. I have pretty good instincts for stuff like that. Which leads me to believe that for whatever reason, Professor Calvierri just tried to break us up."
Draco's expression darkened, and Harry caught a glimpse of his lethal fangs. "That bastard... why do you think he would do that?"
Harry shrugged helplessly. "That's what I wanted to ask you. I figure he's already ruled himself out as wanting to steal me from you - if that was his aim he wouldn't have excluded the possibility of pretending to love me so soon. He must see you as a threat for some non-romantic reason, and I can't think of a single one of those reasons that could be anywhere close to good."
Draco was silent for a moment, then he muttered, "The Calvierris are Italian. If he... Merlin. Harry, I don't want you alone with Calvierri for even a minute, do you understand me? If this is headed where I think it might be, you could be in terrible danger."
Harry's eyes widened. "What?" He reached out to grasp Draco's arm, bewildered. "Draco, what exactly are you thinking?"
"The Italian clans have been far more involved in wizarding politics than the Irish ones." Draco said quietly, wrapping his arms tightly around Harry's waist as though to shield him from some threat. "Some of them have even begun choosing sides in your elections... and in your wars."
Harry stiffened in his lover's embrace, looking up with narrowed eyes. "You think he's working for You-Know-Who."
Draco hesitated. "It's too soon to say that yet, but it's certainly a possibility." He closed his eyes briefly, considering. "If you were not involved with me, it would be a simple matter to deal with you on Voldemort's behalf: he would swoop in, dispose of you or claim you himself, and swoop right back out. The trouble is, since I've already formally claimed you by this mark," he touched a slender finger gently to the livid bite, "by even approaching you he would be breaking more than a dozen of our oldest, strongest laws. It's so difficult to find humans who are even willing to feed us, much less those that can actually lay aside their fears enough to develop an emotional attachment, that we have a ridiculous amount of laws protecting the sanctity of human-vampire relationships. Even the Ministry of Magic wouldn't dream of trying to separate a vampire from their willing partner: humans who otherwise would have wound up in Azkaban have escaped with lighter sentences because they had vampiric lovers. If Calvierri intends to so much as lay a finger on you, he has to break us up first, or he'll have the entire Council of Shadows down on his head..."
Harry blinked. "Council of Shadows?"
Draco pulled himself out of his musings and smiled wryly at his curious lover. "Damn. I shouldn't have said that, but... the Council of Shadows is our governing body. It's comprised of all the Clan leaders from all over the world. Certain clans have a higher ranking than others: the Tiarnaí Scáth, the clan my family belongs to, is one of the highest-ranking clans in Europe. That's another reason Calvierri can't touch you: he doesn't dare risk angering my clan. Even though I have human blood in my line, I could destroy him, politically and probably literally. The more powerful a vampire's clan, the greater their personal strength."
Harry smiled up at him, his eyes shining softly. "I love you, Draco. And I love that you trust me enough to tell me this stuff. How can we figure out what Calvierri's really up to?"
"I'll speak with some of my contacts." Draco murmured. He bent his head suddenly, nuzzling at the side of Harry's neck: the dark-haired teen's breath caught as he felt the brush of cold fangs on his skin, and he automatically tipped his head further back, offering Draco his throat. The vampire purred slightly, clearly pleased, as he licked lightly at Harry's skin. "I want you to stay close to me whenever possible, Harry. I don't trust Calvierri in the slightest, and I... I need to know that you're safe. I don't know what I would do if anything happened to you."
Harry sighed happily, melting into Draco's arms. A thought occurred to him, and he looked up at Draco. "Shouldn't we tell Dumbledore what's going on?"
Draco's eyes darkened suddenly, and his hands splayed over Harry's back, pressing him closer. "Harry... had the Headmaster shown any inclination toward hiring such dangerous teachers in the past, unless he had a very good reason?"
Harry blinked in puzzlement, but he really did think about it - and as he did so, his blood ran cold.
He could think of only three teachers at Hogwarts that some had termed dangerous. There was Hagrid, whose only crimes were over-enthusiasm and a certain rose-colored-glasses effect when it came to dangerous beasts. Then there was Lupin, who took Wolfsbane religiously and was the kindest, gentlest man imaginable when it wasn't a full moon. Lastly was Firenze, who was in fact not truly dangerous at all, and might have died if Dumbledore hadn't taken him in. None of those were anything close to Calvierri.
When he spoke, Harry heard his voice quiver slightly. "Draco, you don't... you don't think Dumbledore knows that Calvierri's up to something, do you?"
Draco's expression was grim. "I don't know, love. However, I do find it highly suspicious that he just happened to hire a vampire from one of the most politically active clans in Europe. I can't imagine what he's playing at, unless... no. Better not to think about that for now." He dipped his head and pressed a gentle kiss to Harry's forehead. "Don't worry yourself too much for now, my love. Just watch your back, and don't ever let him catch you alone. If you have to, tell Granger and Weasley that your scar has been hurting or something, convince them to follow you. Just... stay safe."
"I will, Drake." Harry promised softly, kissing his vampire gently on the lips. "I love you more than anything: I'll be careful, for you. You too, alright?"
"Absolutely." Draco said softly, drawing him back in for another, much longer kiss. By the time it ended they were both short of breath: Draco smoothed Harry's messy black hair out of his face tenderly. "I've got to take care of something now, but I'll see you at dinner, alright? And I want you to stay with me again tonight."
Harry smiled. "Sure, Drake. I'll see you tonight."
They shared a last, swift kiss, then Draco slipped away and headed back down to the dungeons. Harry made his way to lunch, where he was faced with curious questions from Ron and Hermione: when he told them that he wasn't feeling well and that his scar was hurting a bit, they latched onto him like barnacles, swearing that they would keep an eye on him in case anything happened. For once, he didn't protest the treatment, just smiled and was grateful for their concern.
He hoped that they would understand when he eventually told them about Draco. He loved the blond vampire as much as life itself, but it would be wonderful it he could keep his friends as well. If they forced him to choose, though... he already knew what his choice would be.
He had already made it, on a stormy night almost two years ago.