Warnings: slash. I don't consider this 'underage' because Damon and Alaric are both seventeen, which makes them adults in the eyes of the wizarding world.
Disclaimer: I don't own The Vampire Diaries, or the Potterverse. You can tell because I'm not rich and I don't get that much hate mail on twitter.
So on twitter one day I went a bit insane and posited about a thousand different AU ideas for Damon and Alaric, and this one stuck to my head like a bitch with a bone. I thought it was a bit of fun to imagine what Damon would have been like both as a teenager, and at the very beginning of his vampire life, before 145 years gave him that hard edge. So much sweetness to him, extrapolated from the oldest flashbacks. And Alaric, too. We don't know much about his early life but I believe he was a sweetheart as well, before Isobel made a bit of a mess of things. Anyway. Enjoy. If you are reading this post-4.02, I hope it heals your heart a little.
When Damon Salvatore came back to Hogwarts in seventh year, there was something different about him.
For a start, he was a week late, and ushered away by a very nervous looking Professor McGonagall without his tea. Also, his brother wasn't with him. He held himself differently, too; clenched and unclenched his fists at his sides.
Muggle-born Alaric Saltzman got the Daily Prophet all summer and hadn't seen anything about tragedy befalling the Salvatore family but something catastrophic had to have happened. Still Alaric shrugged and returned to his meal, vaguely tuned in to the intrigued chatter of his friends.
There had been a time, Alaric knew, when they wouldn't have been mixing like this. Everyone sat at their own house tables, before the second war, and the Battle of Hogwarts. But things had changed. They were encouraged to mix, and they did, though Slytherin house tended to stick together, particularly in the higher grades.
"He looks sort of… sexy and dangerous, don't you think?" Predictably this came from Primrose Fell, whose twin sister Merry was in Ravenclaw. Merry had dated Alaric for a little while in sixth year. It hadn't worked out but they were on good terms.
Arrabella Diggory, seated beside Primrose, was far less prone to giggling but no less prone to long fits of staring adoringly at any boy she found mildly attractive, and Alaric shook his head in irritation as they watched Damon be drawn away towards the administrative wing. "Those eyes," she sighed, and Alaric shook his head, and returned to his meal.
Alaric gave Damon very little thought. They didn't move in the same circles – if Damon moved in circles at all, any more. People stared at him, and talked 'about' him rather than 'to' him, though to be fair, it didn't seem to bother him much. He didn't really try too hard to be involved with others. He seemed to prefer it that way.
So they might not have crossed paths at all, did they not have potions together.
Damon seemed most at home in the dungeons, and was first to class, the first time class was scheduled after he came back. He leaned against the wall waiting for the door to be unlocked and reading his textbook, pointedly ignoring the giggling girls and scowling intently. Professor Prince gave him a cool nod as she unlocked the door with a complicated looking charm, and swept up to the front of the room, depositing a book and a cloth bag on the desk in front of her.
Professor Prince was the least favoured Professor in all of Hogwarts, with greasy black hair and a somewhat hooked nose (though she was rumoured to be sweeter than her predecessor, Professor Snape, whose murky involvement in the war still had Alaric a little confused). Like the distant relative whose talents she shared, Professor Prince seemed to dislike students in general, save those from Slytherin House, where she had been sorted many years before.
"This class," she pronounced, with a great deal of scorn dripping from her lips, "no longer has an uneven number of students. Mr. Salvatore requires a partner."
Alaric had been one of a group of three the week before, with two of the worst gigglers, both of whom now shot hands in the air in hopes of being partnered with Damon. Alaric shook his head. There was something about this particular brand of girl – they were insufferable.
Professor Prince glared at them both, and said "I see no reason for either Mr. Salvatore or Mr. Saltzman to be burdened by your underwhelming brains for the year." With a jerk of her head, she indicated that Alaric should move to the second row, alongside Damon. Damon gave the barest nod when Alaric sat down.
"Why would we need a potion to cool a temper?" Prince asked, pointing her wand at the chalk-board, writing up the name of the potion they were working on that day. "We are wizards and witches. Adults who are capable of calming ourselves." She narrowed her eyes on the word 'adults', as though to suggest she did not regard anyone in the class as being particularly adult.
In the front row, a Ravenclaw girl called Caroline Forbes and a Slytherin boy, Tyler Lockwood, sat angled towards each other. Caroline put a hand on Tyler's knee, and he jerked his head up. "Witches and wizards affected by conditions like lycanthropy can struggle to keep their urges in check. A temper-cooling potion can help."
Interesting. There had been rumours about Lockwood and his full moon activities. Alaric nodded vaguely, and wondered if there was any way to ask him without getting his head – literally – bitten off. Perhaps over a mug of foaming butterbeer on the next Hogsmeade trip.
"Ten points to Slytherin. Another use for a temper cooling potion." Prince gave the class less than five seconds to answer, and then announced, "Trolls, the lot of you. Five points each off the other three houses. Instructions are in your textbooks. You have one hour."
"I'm…" Alaric reached his hand out, and Damon nodded briskly, cutting him off. He didn't shake Alaric's hand.
"Alaric Saltzman. Gryffindor Quidditch Captain and all-round nice guy." Damon didn't even look up, just started reading through the list of ingredients they needed for the day, polishing his silver knife.
"Okay," Alaric said. "And you're…"
"The guy who stole Isobel Flamel out from under you in fifth year. Yes. I think we can call each other acquainted." Damon took the potions textbook to the cupboard at the front of the classroom and Alaric followed him up, collecting lamb's tongues and catching a jumping bean out of a box.
Alaric found himself wishing he was stuck with one of the gigglers.
"Not much of a challenge there," he muttered under his breath. "Not much of a prize, either." Two lies, one coming on the other's heel. Isobel was fickle, no question; her bloodline made her arrogant, and she was every inch a Slytherin. How Gryffindor Alaric had caught her eye was almost as great a mystery as how Hufflepuff Damon had managed to steal her away. But Alaric had liked her a lot.
That little incident was the closest Alaric had really come to Damon, in six years. Everyone had hoped there would be a duel. But Alaric was raised not to fight. He'd bid Isobel a polite goodbye, and briefly indicated to Damon that he should take excellent care of her, and he had walked away. Damon was calm, and friendly, if far too good-looking for one teenaged boy, and Isobel was a hot-head; they hadn't lasted long.
Yes, Damon was calm and friendly. Flirtatious. Alaric saw none of that now. He seemed barely restrained, almost buzzing beneath his loose robes.
They worked slowly, methodically. Well-matched in potions-making skills but to be in this class, in seventh year, studying for a N.E.W.T., you had to be good. You had to care enough about it enough to withstand Professor Prince's well-aimed insults and not run crying from the dungeons every class. Hot-head Lydia Martin had quit half-way through sixth year, insisting that Potions wasn't real magic anyway, and besides, she was the top in Arithmancy and didn't need Potions, but Prince had delighted in criticising her at every turn. Lydia's brother Liam wasn't back for seventh year either, which was a pity. Alaric had hoped they might have been paired.
He thought, now, that it might have been the one thing that could save him from a year of being glared at by Damon.
The base of the potion was bubbling away nicely, and Alaric turned it once with the spoon every thirty seconds, all the while watching Damon work. Damon's fingers were deft and quick and he executed the jumping bean with a frightening efficiency. It was interesting, watching him slice slivers so fine they were transparent, whilst Alaric weighed mugwort and decanted mermaid tears (this was a particularly stressful aspect of this spell. Mermaid's tears, usually lost to the ocean, had to be shed above water to be collected and as a result they were rare and expensive and no student below seventh year was allowed to so much as touch the wooden boxes the little bottles were kept in).
"Careful with that," Damon said, side-eyeing Alaric with a frown.
"I'm not incompetent," Alaric answered, irritated, and using a delicate glass pipette, placed a single drop into the dark blue liquid. "I got into this class the same way you did."
The result was rather beautiful, really, a spiral of silvery steam uncoiling over the surface, the liquid turning a pale, icy blue, glimmering. There was a moment of disorienting familiarity when Alaric thought he recognized the shade, but a glimpse at Damon's eyes was enough; they were the very same hue, so pale they were almost silver.
Across the room, the giggling girls looked horrified as their potion rolled over in the pot and gave a belch. Professor Prince crossed the room and glared.
"Tell me. Did you stir with a silver spoon, or a wooden one?"
Both girls froze, and Professor Prince took the tiny box of mermaid tears. "You would do well to consider dropping this class. Both of you," she said, before scourgifying the cauldron and turning her attention to Damon and Alaric.
She stared at their preparation for a long moment, and gave a curt nod.
Alaric felt as if he had earned his N.E.W.T. right then and there.
Prince siphoned the potion into a small bottle with her wand and put a cork in the top, placing it on her desk.
Caroline and Tyler seemed to have done an equally satisfying job. Prince paused in front of their table. "What sort of a name is Forbes?" she asked Caroline, who seemed to shiver a little under the dark gaze.
"Um. My father is a Muggle. It's a Muggle name."
Prince's eyes flickered to Tyler's. "What would your father say to you being paired with a half-blood, Lockwood?"
Lockwood shrugged. "He's never complained I'm being taught by one."
"Tyler," Caroline muttered, putting a hand out to still him. Prince grimaced, but siphoned off the potion and stoppered it in a bottle, placing it on her desk alongside the first. Each was that pretty, pale blue.
"Argue, and it will be one week of them." Prince moved to the last table, but Alaric lost interest.
"I don't care about Isobel," Alaric said, sweeping the scraps into a pile and neatly vanishing them with his wand.
"Coincidentally, I don't think she cared much about you, either," Damon said, closing his textbook.
"If we're going to be partners for the whole year it would be great if you could be less of a git."
Damon raised his eyebrows, and seemed about to speak, when Prince began to bark. "Homework. Twelve inches on the uses for mermaid tears, and six inches explaining why silver spoons cannot be substituted for wooden ones, with particular reference to the appalling gloop manufactured by Miss Diggory and Miss Brown here today. I'm sure your peers will be grateful you gave them the opportunity for such a valuable lesson. Class dismissed."
It took another minute to finish cleaning up. Though they didn't speak, they were last out the door. At the last moment, Damon was called back. Alaric hesitated, and decided to wait.
Prince handed over the cloth sack. There was a bottle of something inside. Handing it over, Professor Prince also indicated the bottles on the desk. "Do you need one of these as well?" she asked, in a voice loud enough so that Alaric was sure he was supposed to hear, perhaps to be curious. Damon gave a sharp nod, and reached for the potion he and Alaric had made.
"Confident, Salvatore." Prince narrowed her eyes. "Perhaps one of the others would be a better choice."
But Damon took the bottle, and Alaric slipped out the door before Damon could turn around and see him standing there.
It was the following evening after supper that Damon next approached Alaric. Students were starting to wander off back to the dormitories. Alaric was playing a game of Exploding Snap with students from all the houses except Slytherin. He made a point of being friendly, but by seventh year, the Slytherins generally isolated themselves socially and mixed with others only whilst in class. A foggy, adoring look suddenly blossomed on Merry Fell's face, and was quickly matched by her sister's.
"Would you like to join us?" Merry asked, and actually Alaric was sort of impressed with the way she did it without letting her voice shake. Few managed that. Alaric looked up and met Damon's eye briefly.
Damon shook his head, tugging at the sleeve of Alaric's robe. "We have business. Come on."
Alaric didn't know why he just did as he was told. He didn't like Damon, much, though he wanted to keep the peace, in the interests of his Potions marks. He climbed from the bench and followed Damon away.
"Have you finished your Potions homework?" Damon demanded, eyebrows knotting in the middle. "I want to check it over."
"It's done. And it's fine. It doesn't need checking." Alaric turned to walk away, and Damon shot out a surprisingly strong hand to catch him, steer him in the direction he wanted him which, Alaric suspected, might be Gryffindor Tower.
Officially, of course, students from other houses weren't supposed to know where the dormitories were. Unofficially, everyone knew everything. There was a painting of a Kneazle in the corridor to Arithmancy which would give you passwords, for the right price, though they were frequently wrong.
"Let go of me," Alaric said, irritable, yanking his arm out of Damon's hand. "My homework is fine. Like I said. I got into that class the same way you did."
Damon rolled his eyes, steering Alaric into a quiet corner, away from prying eyes.
"This is N.E.W.T. level. If you don't know everything you have to know, you will ball something up in class one day. And I won't have it."
Alaric shook his head. "Maybe if I say it really slowly. My. Homework. Is. Fine."
Damon swallowed, hard. Flared his nostrils a little. It occurred to Alaric suddenly that he actually looked…
No, not sick, not precisely. But he was pale, and Alaric could see his pulse jumping in his temple. His hand was cold, but some people always had cold hands, so that was nothing. He also seemed to be covered in a fine sheen of sweat.
"Are you alright?"
Damon shook his head. "Tell me, Saltzman, what do you want to do with your life?"
Alaric hesitated. "Auror training, I think. Though maybe teaching. I could teach history, if Binns ever notices he's dead."
Damon nodded. "I'm rich. Very old pureblood family. All dead, now, except my brother, but I could go my whole life without working a single day."
"Nice. Your point?"
"My point is, there is exactly one reason I'm even in school this year. I don't care about the N.E. . I'm here to be the best potions maker I can be, and I can't do that with an incompetent partner."
"Why did you need that potion?"
Because yes. Alaric hadn't spent much time around Damon before but he'd always seemed… perhaps a little entitled, but easy-going. Had a sort of lazy, friendly grace. Now, he seemed electrified, irritated. Eyes flashing dangerously.
"Are you sick?"
Alaric put a hand out, settled it high on Damon's arm. Damon shrugged him off. "One mistake, Saltzman. You mess anything up – homework, class work, anything, and I will pull strings to get you thrown out of the class." He shrugged his shoulders, settled his cloak better. "One mistake," he warned again, and stalked off down the corridor.
Alaric watched for a long moment, and when he turned again, Isobel was watching him keenly.
"His little brother didn't come back to school," she said.
Alaric nodded, and walked back towards the great hall. Isobel was never good at taking a hint, so she caught up quickly, skipping along to match his stride. "Was that little tiff about me?" she asked, delighted.
"Who are you again?"
Isobel pouted. "Oh, Ric. Don't pretend you're not still carrying a flame."
"No need to pretend," Alaric said, and returned to his game.
Next potions class held a shock. "Mr. Salvatore, you are excused," Professor Prince said, before she even unlocked the door.
"But -" Damon protested.
"Was I in any way unclear? Ten points from Hufflepuff." Prince threw Damon a very cold look. "You will go to the library and write ten inches on the different varieties of wolfsbane which grow in Northern England. Your… friend Mr. Saltzman here will no doubt perform admirably in your absence. Go now, or it's twenty points."
Damon looked stricken as he turned on his heel and headed for the dungeon staircase.
The potion they made was a relatively simple one, and Alaric did indeed perform admirably. His scroll on mermaid tears received (grudging) high marks as well. He was slow in cleaning up, and was the last left in the classroom.
Alaric mustered all his courage. "Professor Prince?"
"This class means a lot to him. Why throw him out like that?"
Prince's eyes were very cold and very black. She looked at Alaric like he was some irritating first-year student who had just misspelled his own name. "Mr. Saltzman. The day I offer you advice on managing a Quidditch team is the day you may offer me advice on teaching. Now do hurry. I prefer my classroom student-free."
Alaric finished packing up, and made his way back to the Gryffindor Tower to change his supplies over. "Foaming butterbeer," he murmured at the fat lady, who looked hung over and grumpy, and she waved a lazy hand, let him through.
Primrose and her peculiar friend Rose were gossiping over homework by the fireplace. "I've heard he doesn't even sleep in the Hufflepuff dormitory anymore," Primrose was saying, "But that can't be true, it simply can't. Where else could a student sleep?"
"He could share my bed," Rose answered. She was Muggle-born, like Alaric, but had never mastered the art of acting like she wasn't. The Gryffindor girls found her rowdy talk hysterical, but Alaric found her crude. Like the girls he saw at home all summer long.
Primrose giggled delightedly and lit up when she saw Alaric approaching. "Alaric! Will you find out where Damon Salvatore is sleeping?"
"No," he said, and returned to his room to deposit the cauldron and textbook, and get some parchment for his Charms homework. When he returned to the common room, two girls had become five, and all five pairs of eyes were on Alaric.
He hesitated at the foot of the steps, and shook his head. "No matter what the question is… the answer is no," he said, and headed for the library.
The disappointed sighs were as irritating as they were bewildering. Damon was good-looking, certainly, Alaric had noticed that, who wouldn't? But he hadn't induced collective sighs before. Perhaps he was some half-magical creature, a Veela, and was starting to… blossom. Something like that.
He was pale enough, but Alaric was certain Veela were always blond.
The library was busy, but Alaric quickly found a place to work, and spread out his parchment. Some days, this whole thing seemed… absurd. His friends in their regular high schools… they wouldn't have believed any of this. They talked about the difficulties they were having with chemistry, physics, and showed their textbooks and problems to Alaric, and sometimes, he came close to saying something like "if you don't want the egg to break when it hits the ground, just use Wingardium Leviosa."
And they kicked a football around and sure, that was fun, but Alaric would look up into the sky, and fantasize that the broom locked carefully under the stairs was in his hands instead and he could shoot up five hundred feet in the air, hunt for the Golden Snitch instead of something as crude as a ball which followed the laws of physics like they were set in stone somewhere.
His friends loved computer games, too, and though the explosions were sort of interesting to see, they didn't compare to wizard's chess. And none of them would have known what to make of Alaric doing his homework on parchment, with a quill pen.
After about an hour, Damon sat down beside Alaric with a thump.
"You look like you need a good long stretch in St Mungo's," Alaric said. "What is wrong with you?"
Damon shook his head. "Nothing," he said. "What potion did you do?" He handed his textbook over to Alaric, and Alaric opened to the page.
Damon read down the list of ingredients, and frowned. "Oh," he said, closing the book.
"Why did he throw you out of the class?" Alaric shook his head. "It was a pretty simple potion, really. And handy, if you were going bald."
Damon actually snickered at that, but shook his head quickly. "I'm allergic to one of the ingredients."
"Don't be a git. What are you allergic to?"
Damon seemed to consider, for a moment. "I'm only telling you this because you're my potions partner. Vervain. Verbena," he admitted, but very quietly. "And if you ever tell anyone…" His voice was quieter still, but filled Alaric's ears, filled his head. Eyes bright and glittering and full of…
For a second, Alaric thought it was anger. It wasn't. It was fear.
"If you tell anyone. I will make you sorry."
He went to stand up, but Alaric put out a hand.
"I have an idea," he said, with a quick glance at his parchment, his unfinished Charms homework. Absolutely no reason to help Damon, unpleasant and irritable as he was, but he looked so miserable and tense. And so afraid. "Bet we could substitute it," he said.
Damon frowned suspiciously. "With what?"
"Meet me after dinner," Alaric said. "Near the painting of the dogs playing exploding snap. You know that one?"
"One of those dogs hates me," Damon complained, but he agreed, and stood up. Alaric was about to say something else when he realized Damon was gone. Nowhere to be seen.
The boy moved fast.
Alaric led Damon to an empty classroom, and pulled out a large book. Damon was immediately intrigued. Alaric supposed he hadn't seen a lot of Muggle books in his life. Pictures which didn't move had to be sort of novel.
Alaric's father was a scientist, a botanist, and this book was one of his early contributions to the field. Alaric had loved it as a child for the illustrations, and realized sometime in first year that some of what his father had discerned about the properties of certain plants could be useful even here at Hogwarts.
He opened it now to the section of the book on Lamiales.
"I don't get it," Damon said.
Alaric pointed. "This is the family that Vervain belongs to." He turned the page. "Look. See the shapes of the leaves? And the flowers range through pink and purple and blue."
Alaric turned the page again. "Lamiceae," he said. "Mint. Same family. Can you eat mint?"
"Yes," Damon said, quite confidently.
"This purple mint. It has purple flowers, too. I think it probably shares enough DNA…"
"Never mind," Alaric said, rubbing his temples. "I think it will work. I do. If we can find some. But I don't know the forest well and I'm scared to death of spiders. I thought I'd ask Hagrid…"
"No," Damon said, eyes drinking in the page. Memorizing the plant. "If it's there, I'll find it."
"You can't go into the forest alone," Alaric said.
Damon snickered. "I can take care of myself."
Interesting thing was he actually looked a little better. Sort of excited, perhaps, and not at all afraid. Crazy. The forest was full of… well, actually, the forest might be totally empty, for all Alaric knew, but it was rumoured to be full of all sorts of terrifying things.
"Find me at breakfast, if you find the mint."
Damon nodded. "Where will we do this? We can't get into the dungeon. Prince will never let us."
Alaric grinned. "I know a place," he said, and gave Damon a wide grin. "Don't worry."
After a pause, Damon nodded. "Saturday morning."
"Can't. Quidditch tryouts."
"Oh, Merlin's…" Damon ran his hand through his hair. "Priorities?"
"Do it yourself, then," Alaric said, shrugging, closing the heavy book. "Makes no difference to me." He stepped towards the door, and Damon let out a frustrated mutter.
"Fine. Saturday afternoon?"
"Deal," Alaric said. "See you at breakfast."
Saturday morning half of Gryffindor house showed up for Quidditch try-outs. Alaric sighed.
"Everyone on your brooms," he said. "Hover a couple of feet off the ground until I say you can stop."
At least two in every five couldn't manage that, which reduced the pool quickly. Others were eliminated when they proved to be incapable of catching a ball. In the end it came down to twenty. Alaric said he would hold a practice mid-week and then make a decision by the following Saturday.
Try-outs were watched by a quiet wizard in informal robes, sitting high in the stands. A wizard with pale skin and coal-black hair. He was perfectly still, and stayed there for a long time. Just watching.
He was gone before Alaric had herded the last of the players off the pitch.
Alaric loved Quidditch. Loved the pace of it, the thrill of being so high in the sky, looking for the Golden Snitch. Loved the thrill of scoring, the feel of the tiny winged ball struggling in his hand, the roar of the whole house screaming his name when he won a match.
But he didn't like leading the team. Didn't like choosing players, being grumbled at because they all had to practice in the rain. Didn't like shouting because someone wasn't pulling their weight or had been stupid enough to get detention on game day. He would have preferred not to be chosen for Captain at all, but it was done, now, and he thought he had the line-up straight in his head.
After a quick shower, Alaric headed for lunch, grabbing a few sandwiches and a glass of spiced pumpkin juice. He was quickly surrounded by players, and fighting off their pointed remarks about how Jilly always seemed to cant a little to the left, or Samuel got airsick sometimes.
It was almost a relief when Alaric spotted Damon, a few paces from the table, arms crossed, a bag full of supplies hanging from his shoulder. He looked distastefully at the group.
"Potions homework," Alaric said, leaving the throng behind, just finishing his juice. Ignoring the clamour he was leaving behind him and refusing eye contact with the three girls who each wanted to be named Catcher, and were looking at Alaric with puppy eyes.
Damon didn't speak, as Alaric led him through the labyrinth that was this level of the castle. He looked cautiously around them, not wanting to be seen, but half the school was out-of-doors on a day this beautiful – the evening were getting colder, and it would be Autumn soon enough. They had to take their opportunities while they could.
"You going out for Hufflepuff Catcher again?"
"No," Damon said. "Where are we going? There's nothing down here."
"Yes there is," Alaric argued, and one last corner brought them to the place; the Room of Requirement. Damon stopped dead.
"There's never been a door here before," he said.
"Just means you've never needed one," Alaric answered, shrugging, and pushed through the door into a small, perfectly serviceable potions laboratory. There was a small fire lit on the table already, and all the required tools laid out. Alaric grinned at Damon, and Damon smiled with one-third of one-half of his face, and slipped inside.
Alaric relaxed. Somehow, he had managed so summon a couple of big, comfy chairs, as well. He supposed he was in need of a place to calm down a bit, relax, as well as…
Whatever it was he was doing here. Alaric slipped his robe off and draped it over the arm of the chair. Damon frowned at him.
"I'm Muggle-born, Damon," Alaric said. "Muggle-raised. Wearing those things doesn't come naturally to me." Damon took in his jeans, his printed t-shirt, and shrugged, following suit. He was dressed in neat, crisp, expensive-looking slacks and a black button-down shirt. Surprisingly well-built, Alaric noticed, though he was trying not to.
He looked a bit better than he had, as well, and when their hands brushed together a moment, he didn't seem as cold. Perhaps he'd visited the hospital wing. His skin looked less pale. The pulse in his temple wasn't visible.
They didn't say a word, not for a while. Damon chopped the mint finely, leaves and flowers, and Alaric ground a handful of desiccated crickets into dust. Salt water came quickly to the boil, and Damon added ground moss, spider web.
This fascinated Alaric. More than six years he'd been at Hogwarts now but having never been exposed to magic before he got here he still questioned everything, fought constantly to reconcile what he knew of science to what he knew of magic. None of it made much sense. And yet the laws of science and laws of magic co-existed peacefully enough, and Alaric along with them.
You could put actual rocks into a potion, and have them vanish into the liquid without a trace.
"Does it look right?" Damon wanted to know.
"It looks exactly the same. Smells a bit nicer."
"And the test is…"
"Cat's whisker. Should turn the whole thing pearly-white," Alaric said. With his wand, he flicked the whisker into the air, letting it drift into the cauldron and land on the surface.
For a long moment, nothing happened, and then the potion seemed to shudder and relax, turning a pearlescent white.
Damon grinned. With his whole face, this time, all the way to his eyes, one eyebrow shooting so far north it could have been lost in Damon's hairline. Alaric grinned back, and felt warm.
"Wanna test it?" Damon asked.
"Don't you trust it?" Alaric asked. "Let's take it in front of Prince."
"Sure, but…" Damon started to pack up. "I don't care if she gives me credit. I just want to know I can do it."
"If she knows we can substitute this, she won't exclude you next time."
"If everyone else was using vervain I couldn't be there anyway," Damon admitted. "The steam. So it makes no difference. How'd you find this place?"
Alaric shrugged. "Lonely and homesick in first year. I wanted somewhere that felt like home. Back then… There was a bookshelf with hundreds of comic books."
"Comic books? The ones where the pictures don't move? Why would you want those?"
Alaric shook his head. "You wouldn't understand."
Damon took two tiny glass bottles from the pocket of his robes and returned to the table, raising his wand. He carefully siphoned the potion into the bottles, stoppering and sealing them. He handed one to Alaric.
Alaric chuckled. "I'm not planning to go bald any time soon."
"Take it, Saltzman. Classic prank material here."
Alaric hesitated, but took the bottle, and tucked it in his pocket. "For an emergency pranking."
"Of course." Damon looked longingly at the armchairs. "Don't suppose the elves deliver here," he said.
"Do they ever," Alaric answered, laughing again. "They love me." He rang a little silver bell, and with a crack, a sheepish-looking house elf with a wide grin appeared, smiling widely at Alaric. Henny, his particular friend in the kitchen.
"Alaric Saltzman!" she said, delighted. "You are back at Hogwarts!" And then she turned to Damon, and leapt back.
Alaric looked curiously between them; the elf so frightened she was shaking, Damon surly, stepping away, eyes downcast.
"What's going on here?" Alaric asked. "Did he… hurt you?" Honestly it sounded quite ridiculous - Damon didn't exactly seem like the violent type - but Alaric had never seen a house elf that frightened before, so maybe.
"No," Damon said. Irritated, but not as irritated as Alaric would have anticipated, after what amounted to a pretty unpleasant accusation.
Still shaking a little, Henny wrung her hands. "What does Alaric Saltzman require?"
"Two mugs of foaming butterbeer. And some cauldron cakes." Henny nodded, and peered around Alaric to look at Damon.
"And… you, sir?"
"One of the drinks is for him, Henny. Off you go," Alaric said, not unkindly, knowing house elves were most comfortable with a firm command, and a word of kindness at the end.
Damon slumped in to the chair, face clouded over.
For the first time, Alaric actually felt uneasy.
"Why is she afraid of you?" Alaric asked, and Damon shrugged.
"Maybe she's prejudiced against purebloods," he suggested, but Alaric didn't believe him for a moment. "I don't know. Merlin's beard."
They sat in companionable silence a while, and Alaric began to feel bold. "Where's your brother? Stephen…?"
"Why?" Damon didn't answer for a while. Alaric began to doubt he ever would.
"Suits him better," Damon said at last. "What?"
"So is he really, really broody, or just plain evil?"
Damon shrugged. "A bit of both," he said.
Before Alaric could stop himself, he blurted "Is it true you're not sleeping in the Hufflepuff dormitory anymore?"
Damon flinched. "Yeah. What's with the inquisition?"
"You seem like you could use a friend," Alaric admitted. "That's all."
"What I need is a Potions partner," Damon said, pulling on his robes. "I'll see you in class on Monday." And he collected his things and slipped out the door without another word.
Alaric stayed another hour, not looking forward to the throng in the Gryffindor common room, the arguments for why Ginnifer Fell would be a better Beater than Kaitlyn Prescott. He envied Damon, a little. Imagine some time and space to oneself, a private room.
But why did Damon need such a thing?
Alaric replaced his robes, and headed for the library. He sought out a Herbology textbook and turned to the index. Verbena, also called vervain. He read about the magical properties, and then the note at the bottom:
Vervain is poisonous to vampires, it read. Wearing vervain on the body prevents vampires from being able to cloud the minds of Muggles, who are susceptible to such power. Vervain will also burn the skin of a vampire. Taken orally, it causes terrible pain and muscle weakness. In sufficient quantities it can be lethal. Otherwise, time will allow it to pass out of the vampire's system.
Alaric was floored.
He had heard of vampires - both out in the Muggle world, and here at Hogwarts - but he had an idea of what they looked like, and Damon didn't fit the stereotype at all. didn't hold a cloak up over his face to cover his teeth. Alaric had seen him laugh, just today, and his teeth hadn't looked at all threatening. They were teeth, nothing more, nothing less. He didn't glitter, either, though Alaric suspected that was a weird Muggle myth, and a recent one at that.
But either he was a vampire, or his strange allergy had the potential to mark him as one.
Alaric promised himself he would never breathe a word, replaced the book on the shelf and returned to the dormitory.
On the way to dinner, Alaric spotted Damon emerging from the dungeons. "Is that where you're living?" he asked.
"Went to see Professor Prince. And mind your own business."
He was clutching a glass bottle, and didn't make eye contact with Alaric before slipping away down another corridor.
Alaric was aware that he was quieter than usual at dinner; potential players tried to ply him with questions and compliments and ideas for training schedules. Alaric slipped away early, feigning a headache.
His plan was to go to bed as soon as the sun went down, but he wasn't tired. He went back to the library, instead, and found a book about vampires. He read for hours. They couldn't go out in the sun, ordinarily, but charmed lapis lazuli jewellery could help with that. Alaric recalled seeing a big blue ring on Damon's finger. That had to be his charmed jewellery. Ordinarily, they needed to drink blood to survive, but combinations of certain potions could help to both keep the blood lust at bay and keep them healthy.
Alaric thought about the thin sheen of sweat, the jumping pulse, and Damon's cold skin. Healthy-ish, perhaps. 'Alive' might be a better term.
Vampire's blood also had powerful healing properties. Handy to know.
Alaric went back to the tower just a little after curfew, and never once saw horrible Mrs. Norris. He slipped into his pyjamas and into bed, and fell asleep in no time at all.
Alaric was a naturally early riser, and he woke the next morning with a great desire to fly. He dressed silently, took his broom, and snuck out of the dormitory, down to the kitchen. He cajoled the elves into making him a bacon and egg sandwich, and ate it on his way out into the grounds.
He had barely swallowed the last of his breakfast when he mounted his broom and pushed up off the ground.
It was sad, that none of his Muggle friends would ever see this, feel this. That he couldn't even describe it to them. There was no feeling in the world like flying. Alaric loved it. The forbidden forest didn't look frightening, from an adequate height. Over the lake, it was hard to believe that there were such sinister creatures as mermaids and a Kraken - actually, Alaric wasn't sure about the Kraken. Students from wizarding families did like to tease the Muggle-borns.
Alaric was so lost in the view and his own thoughts that he barely registered the thing hurtling rapidly at him until it was too late to get out of the way.
It was Damon, and he screeched to a halt a foot away from Alaric.
"Merlin's beard," Alaric said. "What are you doing up here?"
"Do they say that, in the Muggle world?"
Alaric had to think. "No. They don't. A short, sharp 'fuck' would usually fit the bill."
"Fuck," Damon said. "What does it mean?"
Alaric blushed. If Damon noticed, he didn't comment. "It's, ah, a verb. For sex. Vulgar…"
"…but surprisingly apt. I like it." Damon nodded. "So why do you say 'Merlin's beard'?"
"Got used to trying to fit in, I suppose." Alaric didn't like thinking about all the things he had to do to try to fit in at Hogwarts, so he changed the subject. "What are you doing up here?"
"Same as you. I hope. Unless you're training for Quidditch?"
Alaric shook his head. "Just flying."
"That's what I'm doing, too," Damon said, with a grin. He looked good, looked better. The potions obviously helped - for a while, at least - because he seemed healthy, and flushed, pale eyes sparkling wickedly. More like his old self. "You coming?"
"Like you could keep up with me," Alaric said, lurching forward.
It was the best kind of playing. Racing, looping around each other. Chasing each other. Flying just a hair's breadth over the surface of the lake, daring each other to go lower, faster, higher. To loop backwards and hang off the broom, swing around again.
Alaric couldn't remember having felt so alive in months.
Which was ironic, because if Alaric understood correctly, Damon was - in some ways, at least - dead. But what did that mean? He was breathing hard. He had a heart beat, that much was plain.
Alaric wanted to ask a thousand questions, but knew he wouldn't ask one. Not yet. Did vampirism affect his magic? Would he age? Would his little brother be - oh, Merlin - fourteen forever? How did it happen?
Had he ever killed anyone?
But now, with Hogwarts a mere speck below them, Alaric didn't care about any of that. They were riding parallel now, and Damon turned to grin at Alaric.
It had to end. The specks on the ground would be altogether too many of their fellow students, soon, and they couldn't be caught. Alaric waved goodbye, and headed for Gryffindor tower.
Perhaps Damon looked a little regretful, or perhaps Alaric just wished he did.
Potions on Tuesday was particularly unpleasant. Damon looked sick again, but was as meticulous as ever.
Alaric followed him out of the classroom, and tugged on the arm of his robe. "Are you okay?"
Damon shrugged him off. "Fine."
Alaric didn't stop him as he stalked off down the corridor.
Later that night, though, Alaric was coming back from the library, when he saw a shadow lurking - yes, lurking, it was the only word for it - in the shadows. Flitting from spot to spot, almost too quickly to be seen.
It was Damon. Alaric caught a glimpse of his eyes, just once. And he was following an oblivious first-year in Hufflepuff colours.
Alaric strode out to meet her. "Hurry," he said. "Back to your dormitory."
When he turned, Damon was half-leaning against the archway. "What are you doing, Damon?" Alaric asked him, shaking his head. Damon only slumped further. Alaric did some quick calculations. They were only a short distance from the Room of Requirement, so Alaric hooked Damon's arm over his shoulder and half-pulled, half-carried Damon the rest of the way there, pulling the door shut behind them.
The door promptly vanished, as Alaric needed it to do, for now. He dropped Damon onto an overstuffed couch.
"What did you do that for?" Damon groaned, wiping the sweat from his brow.
"You know why," Alaric said. "You were going to bite her."
Damon laughed humourlessly. "So you're not as dumb as you look," he said. "Good to know."
"That potion Professor Prince gives you doesn't work that well, does it?"
"Obviously not." Damon sat up, crossed his arms over his legs and leaned forward. "I am so hungry," he said. "You can't even imagine."
Alaric slipped his robe over his head and unbuttoned the wrist of his shirt, rolling up his sleeve. "Tell me you can control this," he said.
Damon froze at the words, eyes fixed first on Alaric's wrist, and then on his face. He summoned up all his strength.
"I can control it. I don't have to kill. I don't even have to drink much."
"I hope you're right," Alaric said, and sat alongside Damon on the couch. He offered up his wrist.
Damon's eyes were huge and round and he looked like he couldn't believe what he was seeing and hearing. And smelling, perhaps. He took Alaric's arm, gripped it tight. His hand, too. Brought the wrist up to his nose and sniffed. Like he was testing wine. "Tell me you're sure about this. I really don't want to change Potions partners."
"I'm sure," Alaric said, though he wasn't, really. Damon looked up, and his face changed; a network of capillaries darkened just below his eyes, which had become a mottled red-black. Fangs clicked audibly into place, and Damon's mouth opened wider, as though to hiss.
And then it was happening. It was really happening. Damon's fangs were deep in Alaric's wrist, and he was sucking hard. It hurt, and Alaric wanted to pull away, but he didn't. He imagined those teeth tearing through his flesh, or his wrist breaking, and just dealt with it.
After the initial rush had passed, Damon slowed down, lips working lazily over the wound. It was more like a kiss than a bite. Alaric watched, fascinated, wondering what it would feel like, to have those lips against his own lips, or on his throat, or…
Alaric had a boner.
An actual boner, over being bitten by a vampire. Damon withdrew his fangs, at last, and, worse and worse, licked over the wound, clearing up the last trickles of blood. He clamped a hand tightly over Alaric's wrist to stanch the blood, and met Alaric's eyes. He looked stoned, and relieved, and far less dangerous.
"A bit of my blood will heal this, fast," he said.
And it seemed like an extremely bad idea, so Alaric nodded.
Damon looked at his thumb, as if deciding whether he should bite it, and Merlin, could anything be more humiliating, glanced at Alaric's crotch, and then - and oh, wow, was this a bad idea - bit into his lip, instead, leaning across to kiss Alaric.
Alaric made an embarrassingly hot sound in the back of his throat, and pushed into the kiss; sucking on Damon's bottom lip for the moments it took to heal, and then tipping his head, so he could slide and twist his tongue together with Damon's. He felt an odd buzz in his wrist which told him it was healing, and when he turned his face to check, Damon's mouth shifted to Alaric's jaw, to his throat, tongue still questing and tasting as he pushed Alaric into the couch.
"Damon," Alaric breathed.
"Yeah." Damon was straddling his hips, now, and rocked back on his knees to pull his robe over his head. After a moment's consideration he unbuttoned and removed his shirt, too, and Alaric groaned, reached to splay a hand over Damon's stomach.
The blood was doing ridiculous things to his body. Firing up neural pathways he didn't know he had, making the light in the room blossom and glow. He felt… absolutely well, so good. Damon's skin beneath his hand was warm and flushed and the hard line of his cock was outlined with unsettling specificity in his well-cut trousers.
Damon began to unbutton Alaric's shirt. Alaric hesitated, at that; he wanted the feeling of skin on skin, but at seventeen Damon looked like some sort of god, and Alaric looked… seventeen.
But the look of want on Damon's face eliminated all such insecurities, when Damon let out a mewl of pleasure and leaned to lick his way over Alaric's nipple.
Suddenly, Damon stopped, and shook his head, like he was just waking up, and he reached for Alaric's neck, cupping it strongly in his hand. "Were you trying to say something?"
Alaric thought, for a moment, as difficult as that was with all the blood that was usually in his head resolutely taking up residence in his cock, now uncomfortable as hell in his jeans, chafing at the zipper even through his boxers. He did try to think, though. He thought things like 'maybe this isn't a good idea' and 'is this just because you're full of my blood and I've tasted yours?'
Other things too, but mostly, now, his head was pounding with YES YES YES.
"Nothing important," Alaric said, and moaned as Damon palmed over the front of his jeans.
"Take them off," Damon said, standing to do the same.
Alaric didn't argue. He certainly hadn't ever imagined doing something like this with someone who, in the Muggle world, would probably be gracing the pages of a fashion magazine, but since it was happening, he really didn't feel like arguing. And besides, the light in the room was sort of soft, now, and it just seemed so right, Damon with his leg straddling one of Alaric's, pressing their cocks together, and just… rubbing.
Alaric's hips arched up, as if no contact could ever be quite enough contact, and he kissed Damon even harder, teeth bumping inelegantly. Damon's tongue explored every part of Alaric's mouth, and Alaric could still taste blood; it should have been disgusting, but somehow, it wasn't.
The couch, Alaric noticed, was no longer a couch, but a bed. They had all the space in the world.
It was getting messy, Alaric noticed, both of them dribbling pre-come as Damon ground his hips into Alaric's, over and over.
"Jesus Christ," Alaric muttered.
"What Muggles have, instead of Merlin. We have to slow down, I'm not going to last here…"
"It's okay. My blood. You won't have to rest long."
And then - and oh, wow, this was really, really happening - Damon shifted down the bed, and licked up the whole length of Alaric's cock.
Alaric let out another long moan, wondering if it was possible for anything, ever, to feel as good as that, when Damon shifted, again, and took Alaric's cock into his mouth, settling the question once and for all.
For a moment, Alaric felt a thrill of fear, remembering Damon's teeth; but he dismissed it pretty quickly. Had no choice, with his mind full of fireworks and Damon's tongue working in fascinating concert with the rhythm of his hand over the base. Alaric tangled his hand into Damon's hair, anchoring him.
He was close, he was so close. Reluctantly, he let go of Damon's hair, and cupped his cheek. "Damon… I'm going to…"
But Damon shook him off, and looked up, with a wicked glint in his eye; it was a sight Alaric couldn't have imagined, that beautiful face, those lips, wrapped around his own cock like that. It was enough to send him toppling over the edge, and then it was too late; but Damon was swallowing.
Damon Salvatore. Was swallowing. Sucking hard, collecting every last drop. He pulled off, at last, and in what was definitely the best, and most debauched thing Alaric had ever seen (or, he suspected, would ever see again) Damon licked his lips, collecting a stray drop.
Alaric's brain stopped functioning for almost a full minute.
"No one's ever done that for you before, huh," Damon said, and not like it was a question.
"No," Alaric answered. Quite unnecessary; he was a little embarrassed, truth be told, figured everything about him was screaming 'virgin' in five different languages.
Damon leaned to kiss him, and intrigued, Alaric tasted.
How it must be, to be so uninhibited. Damon wasn't an inch self-conscious, not about himself, or how much he was enjoying Alaric, and Alaric allowed himself a moment to hope against hope that this wasn't a one-time thing.
Damon kissed him again, biting at his lip gently, holding Alaric's eyes a second and then away again. mouthing across his jaw, until his lips were at Alaric's ear. "You taste so good, Ric," he said, and it occurred to Alaric that it was the first time Damon hadn't called him 'Saltzman'. "Your blood, and your cock…"
Alaric moaned, and let his eyes close, running his hand over Damon's side.
Damon nipped at Alaric's ear, and spoke again. "I really want to fuck you," he said, following the words with his tongue, curling it over the lobe. "Is that an appropriate use of the term?"
Alaric had never felt so wanted, and never been so turned on, but he was terrified, as well; really had no idea how this worked, and he thought it was probably a good idea to get a better understanding of the basics, at least, before taking this any further, but then Damon had an insistent hand between Alaric's legs, a finger ghosting over his hole…
Well, he reasoned, what's the worst that can happen? He's already bitten me. And certainly Damon had been gentle, sort of, so far, or at least, hadn't hurt him…
Alaric nodded, sort of. That was his intention, at least, and Damon didn't seem to need much encouragement, though he looked a bit surprised.
"Is this a feeding thing?" Alaric blurted, as Damon used a spell he couldn't quite hear to lubricate his fingers.
"No," Damon said, and he sounded genuinely puzzled.
Alaric gave a stuttering nod, and then there were fingers, again, fingers over his hole. Wet and slippery and yeah, he was nervous, but when one finger broached him, pressing against - wow, so that's the prostate, good to know - Alaric couldn't help but press back.
Damon's eyes were open and on him. "Do you want this?"
"Fuck, yes," Alaric said, closing his hand over Damon's other wrist. His cock was already waking up again, half-hard, and his head was still cluttered with sparks and sex and the taste of his own come on Damon's tongue.
"I like you talking Muggle," Damon admitted, almost a growl. "It always sounds ridiculous when you say 'Merlin's beard'." he removed his finger, and then plunged it in again, two fingers, this time, and Alaric's body sort of curled, his eyes fluttered shut. When Damon's fingers moved, began to open him up, he groaned, tangling his fingers in the sheets, and it was a shock when Damon's mouth was on his neck again. "Roll over," he muttered, withdrawing his fingers again, and Alaric did, partly on his side, Damon's impossibly strong arms pressing him into position.
And then it was happening. Alaric felt himself spread open, admitting Damon an inch at a time (and there seemed to be an awful lot of him. Alaric realized he hadn't really looked, so busy falling apart of the newness of it all) until he was pressed up close to Alaric, and his lips rested on Alaric's shoulder.
"Does it hurt?"
"Does it feel good?"
"Yes," Alaric said, and Damon took it as encouragement, beginning to move. Slowly, at first, as Alaric became accustomed to him, and then faster, building friction between them, pressing hard on Alaric's prostate on every thrust.
Damon's hand snaked around Alaric's hip to grip his cock, and he timed the rhythm of his hand to the rhythm of his thrusts.
Damon moaned, and then his fangs were in Alaric's shoulder; not deep, this time, but enough to break the skin, and Damon's tongue was clearing away the blood again. His rhythm changed, and with one final thrust, Alaric felt himself fill with a strange warmth. Moments later he was coating his own stomach with come, and Damon milked him hard, with his hand. When he finally let go, when Alaric was totally spent, Damon traced strange patterns through the mess with his fingers.
When Damon withdrew, Alaric felt the oddest sense of loss. Even when Damon moulded himself to Alaric's body, and gave an odd sort of purr, licking over Alaric's neck.
Alaric rolled in Damon's arms, until they were face to face again. Damon was still breathing hard, and Alaric frowned. "You breathe," he said.
Damon shrugged. "Have to, to speak. Not sure why I do it, the rest of the time. Habit? Maybe it'll stop one day. I don't know." He lay on his back.
Alaric lay down, as well, and though he wasn't sure it was okay to do, he reached for Damon's hand. "How did it happen?"
Damon paused; was totally still, for a moment, and then he shrugged. "A young woman came to stay with us, over the summer. Stefan and I were… infatuated with her. She turned us. I don't know where she is, now." He turned to meet Alaric's eyes. "Stefan's not like me. He killed our father, a couple of house elves. He's at Durmstrang because Hogwarts wouldn't have him. He's out of control. And they have a vampire Professor there. Still not sure whether that's supposed to make him better, or worse."
"Henny knew what you were, the other day."
"They're more powerful than most wizards and witches give them credit for." Damon shrugged.
"She thought you would attack her?"
"No," Damon said. "If I attacked her, she could drop me in a second. But house elf blood is very potent. If I asked her to let me feed… she'd have no choice but to let me." Damon rolled, then, curved his body against Alaric's. "I might be stuck with being a vampire. But I don't want to be a monster. You know how hard I fought just to be let back in here this year? I've got a poky little room near the Slytherin dungeons because they don't want me sleeping near other students, using them as midnight snacks."
Alaric ran a soothing hand over Damon's shoulder. He was different, like this. This was the Damon he knew-but-didn't, before. Easy-going, if sad just now, not angry and irritable. And hungry, Alaric supposed.
"Sucks," Alaric said absently.
Damon perched on an elbow. "'Sucks'? Is that a Muggle term?"
A few minutes later, Damon used a non-verbal spell and a lazy swipe of his wand to clean them up, somewhat, because they were already going to be in trouble - Alaric, anyway - for getting to their rooms late, and they stood up to dress.
"How much blood do you need? With the potions as well?"
"Not much," Damon said. "I want it. All the time. But I don't need much."
"You can't stalk students in the halls anymore," Alaric said, doing up the zipper on his jeans. "You have to come to me."
In a second, in less than a second, Damon was right up close to him. Eyes drinking him in, trying to discern any trace of lie, or false bravado. "You mean that, don't you," he said.
Damon kissed the corner of his mouth. "I'll come to you. I promise."
Alaric rose the next morning feeling… wonderful.
Feeling like things were changing, for the good, at last. He leapt out of bed, deflecting questions about whey he was so late in the previous night, and paused only to confirm details of part two of the Quidditch try-outs after school that day. He shower quickly and dressed even more quickly and headed downstairs for breakfast.
He never once shouted "I had SEX." He thought about it. He did it in his head while patiently explaining that he wouldn't be picking the team until after the try-outs - yes, after, a novel idea, but one which seemed to make sense - but he never once shook someone by the shoulders and said "I had SEX. With Damon Salvatore."
Damon was never at breakfast. Alaric had hoped… but no, he hadn't, not really.
Arithmancy was no more or less boring than usual, but seemed to drag longer regardless.
Damon was nowhere to be seen at lunch, but again… if he showed up for a meal, it was more likely to be dinner. Alaric sought him out, in the library, in the Room of Requirement.
Afternoon classes were Charms and Transfiguration and though Alaric was still feeling good, still flashing back every five seconds to all the SEX he'd had the night before, he felt distinctly… uneasy.
He changed for Quidditch, and try-outs were held, and though there was a lot of moaning and groaning he felt good about the team he had chosen. He showered before dinner, certain, certain that Damon would appear.
He did not.
Alaric slept poorly, and woke often, and felt sick and cold.
Thursday meant Potions, and Alaric had never been so enthusiastic about it. But Damon slunk in late, acknowledged Alaric with a nod, and set about shredding boomslang skin with his characteristic precision. Alaric tried to catch Damon's eyes, but failed. Damon only spoke in short sentences, "be careful," "three of those," "chop it finer," but it was only noise. It was a point of pride for Alaric to do it all perfectly, and he did that. Did it perfectly. Turned the potion with a long obsidian knife, counting seconds with precision, until Damon added a cat-eye stone at the end and the whole thing shimmered. Shooting gold sparks in the air.
He turned, delighted, but Damon just gave the potion a surly nod, and made a note on his parchment, and waited for Professor Prince.
It was one of his good frowns, one which suggested she'd expected everyone to fail the assignment, and was disappointed that she would have to pass them. She couldn't bring herself to say 'adequate', just sighed, and siphoned the mix into a bottle, stoppering it.
Caroline and Tyler were bickering and their potion was crackling away in the cauldron. Prince gave them a disgusted look, and scourgified the cauldron; Caroline looked ready to argue, to say, in the way she sometimes did, that they could have fixed it; but she must have known, because she just shook her mane of blonde hair and slumped with her elbows on the desk.
After completing her rounds, Prince stood disgusted at the front of the classroom.
"Mr. Salvatore and Mr. Saltzman are the only pair to have passed this class. The rest of you have detention. And if you thing you will be doing anything so pleasant as hand-feeding the Kraken, you are sorely mistaken. Class dismissed," she said, and turned away from them all again.
Alaric's heart weighed a thousand pounds in his chest. He was humiliated, in pain. He cleared away his things, put the remaining Potions ingredients back in the cupboard, and then turned to where he expected Damon would still be standing, but he was long gone.
The following days were interminable. Classes and meals and the dawning realization that Damon wanted nothing more to do with him. In the bathroom, Alaric examined his reflection, and decided it had to be the perfect ordinariness of his face, the disappointing shape of his body, so weedy and so… adolescent. Gangly. In a few years, perhaps, he'd finish growing into his features. He'd get stronger, bulk up.
He leaned closer to the mirror. No two ways about it… Alaric was just Alaric. Nothing special about him at all.
"I think you look wonderful!" the mirror exclaimed. Stupid thing had a charm on it, and it had been complimenting people for weeks.
"Fuck off," Alaric said.
"Now, now! A good-looking boy like you needn't sound so gruff! Have a great day!"
A lump rose in Alaric's throat, but he swallowed it hard, and walked away.
Quidditch practice on Saturday involved rain, and bickering, and bitter disappointment; Alaric wondered if he'd chosen the right team after all, but it was too late to change his mind now. He dragged himself off to lunch and debated skipping the Hogsmeade trip because there didn't seem to be a single good reason to go.
Still he went, because it broke up the monotony, and by some miracle the weather had cleared up in the intervening hour. The sun was out, which seemed inappropriate, and Alaric walked with his head bowed down the path that led to the village.
Being Quidditch Captain meant never being left alone, for long; but today, everyone seemed smart enough to give Alaric a wide berth. He trudged alone down the too-bright path, crunching golden leaves underfoot like they were a personal affront, and headed straight to the Three Broomsticks, hoping for a quiet, empty corner where he could have a drink in peace.
No such luck. What there was instead, was a quiet corner containing a Salvatore.
Alaric took a step to the side, and Damon sat up straighter, holding his eyes. So Alaric shrugged, and crossed the room to join him. Clutching his butterbeer and wishing it was a firewhiskey (to be fair, he'd never had the stuff, but he'd had whiskey, at home, during the summer break, and expected it would be very similar in flavour and, he hoped, effect. Though nowhere in Hogsmeade could you buy coca cola to water it down with). He sat down, awkwardly bumping his knee against the table.
Damon didn't look well, but he didn't look sick either.
"Thought you were avoiding me," Alaric said, and instantly wished he hadn't. He wanted to be cool, and offhand. But he was relatively uncomplicated, and honest, so it came out just like that.
"I was," Damon said. "Sort of."
Alaric really didn't want an answer, and he certainly didn't want that one, so he gazed at the surface of his drink, the confounding ripples and tiny bubbles that endlessly breached the surface. He tore crumbs off a cauldron cake and nibbled at it, his stomach too full of rocks to really eat. And less than ten minutes after he had sat down, Alaric drained his drink and left the table.
He was well up the road back to the school when Damon caught up with him. Damon could move faster than that but obviously, he was trying to keep the fact that he was a vampire a secret, so Alaric heard the gentle jog, and then Damon was at his elbow.
"Whatever you're about to say," Alaric said carefully, "don't. I don't want to hear. You were hungry and horny and…"
"Horny? Is that another Muggle word?"
Alaric shook his head. "Yeah. If you need to eat…"
"Not yet," Damon said, shaking his head.
"Then I'll see you when you do." He didn't slow down, didn't look at Damon, just kept his stride steady. How he hated the robes. He could just imagine what his friends at home would say, seeing him wearing them.
Damon clamped a hand around Alaric's arm, stopping him still. "What?" he said, his eyebrows knitted furiously in the middle.
Alaric took a deep breath.
"I get it," he said. "And I don't really want to talk about it. I should have said something before we…"
"Don't do this, Damon." Alaric pulled his arm away. "I just… I thought you liked me, as stupid as that sounds now." He continued walking,
"I do like you," Damon said, catching up. "But in case you hadn't noticed, I'm a vampire. We're moody and broody and you don't want to take us home to meet your parents. Get it? I bit you, Ric."
"Yeah, I noticed." Alaric stopped, crossing his arms over his chest. "I said you could." He felt quite young, and not all worldly. Damon seemed such an exotic thing.
"And that makes you crazy." Damon looked at the path, at the trees. At his feet. Everywhere but at Alaric. "McGonagall would…"
"Were you planning to tell her? Because I wasn't."
"No." Damon grabbed Alaric's wrist, pulling him away from the path, down into a copse of trees. "Come on."
Alaric followed. Before long they were meandering down a… not a path, precisely, but a sort-of path. Perhaps somewhere Damon came to be alone. Certainly he knew where he was going, even if Alaric didn't. They were still off the grounds, technically, but not far past the outer wards.
"Where are we going?"
Damon didn't answer, but he released Alaric's wrist as the foliage got thicker. "Careful," he warned.
They come out in a tiny clearing, edged in trees on three sides and with a sheer drop into a canyon, and long way down, on the fourth. The sun streamed through the leaves, golden and warm, though the weather was getting cooler; Alaric squinted against it.
Damon sat, just far enough back from the edge to be safe. He tented his knees and looped his arms over them. "I like it here," he said. "I've been coming here since… fourth year, I guess." He raised his face, as if smelling for something. "Everything's different. I used to have friends, you know," Damon said. "Friends and… Quidditch and… it seems like such a massive waste of time, now," he admitted. His face was expressionless, though his eyes were a little too shiny. Alaric sat beside him, and though it didn't feel quite right, he looped an arm around Damon's shoulders.
"Do you send Stefan owls?"
"How is he doing at Durmstrang?"
Damon was silent for a few moments. "I didn't say he owls me back," he said. "What? He's fourteen. I was useless with sending owls at that age." He frowned at Alaric. Intently. Eyebrows knotted together in the middle. "Why do you like me? I'm… a thing. A monster."
Across the canyon was a Bell tree, tinkling gently, full of silver birds. Alaric always found them hypnotic. His mind drifted a moment to one afternoon, summers ago, when he had tried to explain them to his confused Muggle mother, the sound they made, how the flowers seemed to disappear like silver dust when they fell out of the tree. "We're not that different, you know," he said quietly.
"We're pretty different," Damon disagreed, though he leaned in a little, bumping shoulders with Alaric.
Alaric shook his head. "We're both caught between worlds. We don't quite fit."
"You don't spend all day every day trying not to bite people," Damon insisted. "You're not a murderer in waiting. Did you know I'm not even really considered a person any more? I'm a 'being'. One step up from a creature. If word got out about who - what - I am there would be howlers from the parents of half the students at Hogwarts, screaming for me to be thrown out… or killed. No one knows if I'm going to keep all my magic or whether I'll get to grow up. None of it. I have no one to ask. No one gets turned this young," he added, and it was interesting, the way it all started to come out in a rush. "I'll never have children. It's lucky I'm rich because once people know what I am, I'll probably never get a job."
"How will they know?"
"Because the wizarding world is boring, and everyone gossips," Damon said. "I don't know how I've kept it a secret this long. All the teachers know. I don't know what they told the rest of Hufflepuff about why I don't sleep in the dormitory any more…" he shook his head. He looked scared and desperate and Alaric wanted to fix it, and couldn't.
"We'll work it out," Alaric said, and leaned in, and to his own surprise, he reached out to cup Damon's face in his hand. Brought Damon closer, and kissed him. Firm, without being pushy. Damon seemed surprised, a moment, but he kissed back, darting his tongue out a second, and away again. He let his hand drop to Alaric's leg, and gave a little squeeze. Perhaps grateful.
"Don't avoid me any more," Alaric said.
"I won't," Damon promised.
Damon fed from Alaric about once a week, spacing the feeding out between doses of the potion. Always in the Room of Requirement, away from prying eyes. Sometimes they fooled about afterwards and sometimes they didn't, but Alaric grew accustomed to the urge Damon had to climb over him and taste him and own him, when he was full of Alaric's blood. It was such a possessive gesture, he thought, and wondered if it was the vampire asserting itself, or some innate Damonism. Perhaps neither; perhaps he was lonely, and just wanted to feel like he belonged.
Alaric didn't mind.
Damon and Alaric spent more time together but Damon continued to resist spending any time with Alaric's friends. Alaric didn't blame him, quite; the girls treated him like a competition of some sort, prodded him and asked questions and reminded him of times they'd spoken before, in previous years, and seemed annoyed when he frowned, and couldn't remember, or pretended he couldn't. More often, Damon would stare across the dining hall at Alaric, half a smile on his face, until Alaric excused himself from dinner. They'd head to the library to argue about potions or find an empty classroom to play Wizards' Chess in until it was time to go to sleep.
Damon resented Quidditch more than anything else. "It takes up so much time," he whinged, "when we've got kissing and potions to do." But he sat in the stands and watched, as often as not, and Alaric suspected he missed playing rather a lot more than he admitted.
The plot was advanced in stages. After a particularly successful afternoon at potions which had frustrated Prince so badly that she had entirely forgotten to assign any homework, Alaric took Damon aside and asked him to join the Gryffindor table for dinner.
"I don't need to eat," Damon said, frowning.
"But you usually do."
"I'm in Hufflepuff."
"Merry's in Ranvenclaw and she eats with us most nights."
"I don't like your friends."
"You don't know my friends." Alaric rubbed his hair. "Are you…" He wanted to ask; are you embarrassed about us, is this real, what is it. He didn't. Still wasn't too sure about attitudes about this sort of thing in the wizarding world.
Damon frowned, and his features flashed. "Am I what?"
Alaric shrugged. "I'll see you in the library, later," he said, and was as surprised as Damon looked to be when a minute later, Damon slipped into place on the table beside him. He stayed silent, and Damon took a slab of roast beef and tried not to make eye contact with anyone.
Progress, of a sort. Alaric smiled.
It had never been clear to Alaric why the memorial dance was held in December, instead of June, when the second war had actually ended. Perhaps because there were so many exams in June.
The day the posters appeared around the school for the dance started out like any other; Alaric didn't notice them, until a gaggle of witches, all primped and preened, giggled at him as he walked past one. Then he looked, and shrugged, and kept walking. But all day he endured long looks and strange smiles (intended, he thought, to be seductive, though he wasn't sure it would work on many people. Certainly, it wasn't working on him). There were notes passed in classes and whispers and more than one young witch or wizard looking stricken.
It was at dinner, when Justin Bell slumped down in the seat beside him looking miserable, that Alaric began to realize what a big deal it was. "I've asked two girls and they both said no," he said, holding his head in his hands. "I can't do it again. I can't. I'd rather write lines for Professor Binns. I'd rather dance with Moaning Myrtle." He looked up at Alaric. "Who are you taking?"
Alaric shrugged. "I didn't plan to take anyone," he admitted. "Dances aren't my thing. I just go out of respect. Disappear after dinner."
"But this is seventh year." Justin sounded shocked. "You have to go properly. You have to take someone."
Justin shrugged. "I just mean everyone does, that's all." He poked miserably at the peas on his plate. "And you'd have your pick of the girls," he added. "Quidditch Captain, and you're so tall."
Alaric shook his head. "Whatever," he said.
Moments later Tyler Lockwood sat down across from Alaric with a carefully scrawled piece of parchment in his hand and took a deep breath. "Message from Caroline," he said. "About the stupid dance."
Alaric tried to stand, and Tyler fixed him with a glare; "If I don't pass on this message she'll hex my balls. None of the seventh-year girls in Ravenclaw or Gryffindor will commit to dance partners until you and Emery have picked someone to go with."
"Me and Emery?"
"Quidditch captains. Keep up. The Hufflepuff captain's a girl and she's got a boyfriend."
"And a name," Alaric grumbled. "It's -"
"Not done," Tyler said. "Heads of house and prefects are next and you two are messing with their first choices, as well. So pick."
"I've picked," Alaric said. "I'm not going to the stupid dance."
He drained his pumpkin juice, and left the table.
Alaric was alone in a quiet corner of the library when Damon found him. He looked wretched. "You weren't at dinner," Alaric said.
"I'm starving," Damon admitted. "Can't be close to people. Can we…"
Alaric closed the book he was reading and put it back on the shelf. They walked silently to the Room of Requirement, careful not to be seen, and slipped inside.
The door vanished, just as it needed to, and Alaric led Damon to the couch.
"Why are you in such a bad state? Haven't you taken your potions?"
Damon shrugged. "Fell off my broom. Burned through a lot of my own blood, healing." His face was changing already, and he was shaking a little. He let out an involuntary hiss when Alaric took off his robe and rolled up his sleeve.
"You fell off your broom?"
"I think it was hexed," Damon admitted. "Or else… I'm losing some of my magic." He pulled Alaric's wrist up to his mouth, and without ceremony, bit into it. Alaric flinched, but only for a moment, and he rubbed reassuring circles over Damon's shoulder.
Not for the first time, Alaric wondered if it was really okay, to keep letting Damon drink his blood. He healed, quickly, and Damon was careful not to take too much; still it worried him. But not right now. Damon withdrew at last, and tilted his neck back, human features returning to his face.
"My turn," Alaric said. Damon turned, looking a little sleepy and stoned, and bit into his lip, and Alaric drank.
"Can you stay for a while?"
Alaric nodded, and leaned back on the couch, letting Damon settle against his body. They were silent for a long while. "Do you have dress robes?" Damon asked, and Alaric opened his eyes, surprised.
"For the dance," Damon said, frowning. "Do you have dress robes?"
Alaric shrugged. "I wasn't planning to go. I just go to the dinner, really."
"But this is seventh year."
"So I noticed." Alaric's stomach flip-flopped. "You'll be going?"
"Well, obviously. Old pureblood line. It's practically law."
Alaric nodded. It made sense that it would matter so much more to the old families. Still, he felt a pang. "Who will you take?"
Damon glared like Alaric was being completely dense. "You."
The edges of everything went a little blurry, and Alaric choked. "Me?"
Alaric couldn't answer, not right away. "Is that… okay?"
"Is what okay? You're making no sense."
"I just mean… we're both dudes."
"Dudes. Muggle talk. Makes me laugh." Damon didn't laugh, though. He frowned. "What does that have to do with anything?" He settled his head against Alaric's chest again, and Alaric tugged gently at the soft hair at the nape of Damon's neck.
"Where I come from… it's not… okay," Alaric admitted.
"People don't like it."
"People? What people? If you don't like it, you don't do it. It's not complicated."
It occurred to Alaric that no, it really shouldn't be complicated. But that didn't mean that it wasn't. "Isn't this all a bit public for you? I mean - we don't - we've been pretty private."
"Because we don't snog at the dining tables? I was raised with a bit more class than that. We go to Hogsmeade together. We spend our spare time together. I'm surprised anyone doesn't know."
Alaric thought about it. And smiled. "Are you asking me to the memorial dance, Damon Salvatore?"
"Only if you've got dress robes," Damon answered, but Alaric could feel him smile against his chest.
The following day, when he stood up to perform a charm in class, Alaric fainted, instead.
He was taken to the hospital wing, where Madame Pomfrey fussed and did some charm that was supposed to reveal the source of the imbalance. She took a drop of Alaric's blood, and cast a spell on it, and turned quite white.
"Gracious, child," she said, but wouldn't talk about it any more than that. She gave Alaric a potion to drink and fussed over him a little more, asked if he had any wounds that needed healing. Alaric had the distinct feeling that he was in trouble, but the potion made him feel a bit better, and a while later, he was excused.
"The Principal will need to see you, Mr. Saltzman. The password just now is 'lemon sherbet'."
Alaric's heart weighed a thousand pounds in his chest. He whispered the password at the door and climbed the stairs to Professor McGonagall's office.
He had never been up here, in six and a bit years – it was round, and covered in portraits, most of which were snoozing, and some of which were blank. There was a golden perch, which, Alaric knew, used to belong to the Phoenix called Fawkes, the familiar of Albus Dumbledore, the greatest Principal Hogwarts had ever had. Alaric wondered if he would ever see a Phoenix. It seemed unlikely, but unlikely things happened all the time, now.
He took a seat in front of Professor McGonagall's desk, and his eyes were drawn to a hinged frame. Inside were photographs of two young men, beaming at each other. They looked happy. Alaric wondered who they were.
There was a quiet cough, and Professor McGonagall stepped out from behind a cupboard door.
"Mr. Saltzman," she said, peering over the tops of a pair of glasses. "Madame Pomfrey has brought me some very troubling news."
"Indeed you did. Do you know why?"
She sat down, tucking her robes neatly around her body. Angling her elbows on the desk.
Alaric froze. "Um," he said. "Perhaps."
Professor McGonagall looked gravely concerned, but then, she often did. Some people said she had lost her nerve, after the second war. But that made no sense to Alaric. The stories were well-known. She had been the one to co-ordinate the repairs to Hogwarts. She had attended every funeral. She had the respect of the parts of the wizarding community that Alaric cared about. As far as Alaric was concerned… she had not, in any way, lost a scrap of nerve.
"Damon Salvatore," she started, and Alaric's heart sank. The only way to compensate for heartsink was to sit up straighter and jut his chin, so he did that. "He's been… feeding from you."
Alaric nodded. "Yes, Professor. Just a little. It keeps him healthier and that means everyone is safer."
"If the potions aren't working…"
"That's a conversation you need to have with him. It just helps, that's all," Alaric insisted. "He's not hurting me. And he doesn't like to complain. He's afraid he'll be thrown out of school. He just wants to finish."
Professor McGonagall shook her head. "Such arrangements are not unheard of, Mr. Saltzman. But people in… those sorts of relationships need to take particular care of themselves. There are potions you should be taking as well. And you're a child…"
Alaric shook his head. "I'm seventeen, Professor. I'm a man."
Professor McGonagall looked as though she thought Alaric had missed what she meant. He hadn't.
"Who should I see about the potions?" he asked, though he was distracted. The portraits on the desk had stopped looking at each other, and were focused entirely on Alaric. "Professor… who are they?"
"The one on the left," and as she spoke, the young wizard straightened his robes and preened, "is our very own Professor Dumbledore. His… friend is Gellert Grindelwald."
Dumbledore winked at Alaric, and Alaric smiled. "They look very close."
Professor McGonagall nodded, briskly. "They were, indeed. When two powerful young men come together… the results can be unpredictable, Mr. Saltzman. You be very careful."
Alaric nodded, and tore his gaze from the photographs. He wondered if they jumped frames, sometimes, to sleep tangled in each other's arms. "The potions?"
She nodded. "I'll speak to Professor Prince." Alaric stood. "Mr. Saltzman. No more than once a week. You need to take excellent care of yourself. Plenty of red meat. And… be careful," she said, quite unnecessarily.
"I will," Alaric promised, disappearing down the staircase and out the door.
The dance really was a big deal.
Damon lent Alaric dress robes - a rich, dark green, perfectly simple. Alaric felt as ridiculous in them as he did in his school robes but after six and a half years, he was accustomed to doing things that felt strange. He adjusted them over his shoulders and took a last glance in the mirror before heading down out of the dormitory and into the Gryffindor common room.
"You look great!" the mirror called after him, and Alaric shuddered. He hoped that stupid charm would wear off soon. It was getting very old.
The Great Hall was decorated with about a million fairy lights. Around the walls, a lantern burned for each person who had died defending Hogwarts the day the war came to an end. "It's beautiful," Alaric said to Merry Fell, as they stood waiting for their partners to join them.
"I'm still dying to know who you're going with," she said. "Everyone is. Is this a Muggle thing, keeping it a secret?" Her eyes were bright and curious. "Oh, Merlin, you're not taking Isobel Flamel? No one knows who she's going with, either."
"No," came a voice at Alaric's shoulder. "He's going with me."
Merry's jaw dropped open. "Damon Salvatore?"
Damon smirked, and took Alaric's hand, and they walked down the steps towards the tables.
The tables were positively groaning with food. Whole roasted pigs with apples in their mouths. Pies and bowls of fresh peas and sweets tucked here and there. Foaming butterbeer and on the seventh-year tables, bottles of elf-made wine. Damon grinned, and led Alaric to a table, and they sat down, to incredulous looks.
Damon pretended not to notice; seemed to enjoy being the centre of attention, even if he was pointedly ignoring everyone. He was in fine form, too, having drunk from Alaric just a few hours earlier. Cheerful and relaxed. He even spoke to people other than Alaric, when spoken to, and that was new too.
When the meal was finished, and everyone stood up, the tables disappeared, and the great hall became a dance floor, with chairs all around the edges, for dancers with tired feet. Alaric frowned, when Madame Hooch patted him on the shoulder.
"House Captains first. Then the prefects. Then Quidditch Captains, and then the rest of the teams. Everyone else will join afterwards." She walked away quickly, passing the message around to relevant people, eyes darting around the room.
Professor McGonagall stood at the front of the room, in front of the musicians Alaric had somehow totally failed to notice, and pointed her wand at her own throat. When she spoke, it was loud enough to command the attention of every student in the hall.
"Today's dance commemorates our fallen," she began. "We are free today, but at a terrible cost. Each of the lanterns around the room marks a fallen comrade, someone whose life was lost in the Battle of Hogwarts, the battle that ended the war. Please, take a moment to recall those who were lost."
In his Muggle school, everyone would have closed their eyes, and bowed their heads, but here, everyone looked up at the lanterns. Alaric preferred it. He had, of course, never met a single one of them, but he was quietly grateful, and loved the chance he had to live in the world they had saved.
But the moment passed, and the music started. The House Captains began to dance, and then the prefects joined in, and Alaric got nervous.
"Come on," Damon said, and pulled Alaric out onto the floor. There was a horrible, awkward moment, where Alaric realized he really had no idea where to put his hands, but with a fond, irritable frown, Damon manoeuvred him into position.
"I just remembered I don't know how to dance," Alaric said.
"Then why are you trying to lead?"
Damon snorted. "What do they teach you, in the world of Muggles? Just follow me." And with one hand on Alaric's hip, and the other holding Alaric's hand, he settled them into a Waltz.
It wasn't even that hard.
"Stop looking at your feet," Damon said. "Look at me."
That was actually harder, but Alaric looked up, and by some miracle, he didn't trip, and he didn't trip Damon up, either. "You're blushing. How ridiculous."
"Stop it. You're the one who wanted to do this."
Damon shrugged, and grinned. "I don't really mind the blushing," he said. "Oh, relax. I won't make you dance all night."
"Don't do a lot of this back home." Alaric glanced at his feet but they were still resolutely failing to trip him over, which was nice. "When did you learn to dance?"
"About ten minutes after I learned to walk," Damon said, shrugging. "Like I said. Pureblood family. You're letting the whole family shrub down if you don't learn to observe the niceties while you're still in short pants."
It wasn't that he cared; it was just nice to hear Damon talk about something to do with his life before he had turned, and it provided a distraction from the growing certainty that Alaric was making an arse of himself.
"It's hardly a tree. That suggests branches growing outwards. We're all interrelated. It's… what's the word you used the other day? Scuzzy?"
"Yeah. See the girl in the pale green robes, kissing the boy in the ridiculous silver robes? There in the corner?" Damon smirked. "Second cousins. They'll marry, too." Damon shrugged. "Purebloods are weird. We get taught ambition from the minute we're born."
"Which is why you're mostly in Slytherin."
"Saddest day of my father's life, when I told him I was in Hufflepuff."
"Slytherin." Damon swallowed. Still didn't talk about this a lot. "Golden boy, right up until… our father liked him better. Must have been quite a shock, when he realized Stefan was going to… you know."
Alaric tightened his hand over Damon's and Damon squeezed back, snapping out of it. "But I like it in Hufflepuff," Damon said, "or I did. I don't fit, anymore."
Around them, dancers were getting closer. The music changed and slowed, and Damon slipped his hand from Alaric's hip to the small of his back.
Awkwardly, slowly, Alaric shifted his own hand to the space between Damon's shoulder blades, pulling him a little closer.
"Maybe you've just convinced yourself you don't fit," Alaric said, lips close to Damon's ear. It was strange and intoxicating, being so close, in a crowd, ignoring the odd, longing looks and dancing like that. Alaric decided he liked it. He drew his head back, and shifted, and met Damon's eyes.
"We're not gonna get howlers in the morning if I kiss you?"
Damon frowned. "What is it like, in the Muggle world? No," he said. "They'll stare, but only because you're gorgeous, and so am I." He pulled Alaric a touch closer. "Do it."
Gorgeous? Alaric fought the urge to laugh, but not for long. Truth be told he felt sort of awesome.
So he did it. He leaned to kiss Damon. Not over-long or showy; but possessive, and a little fierce. Damon grinned into it, and Alaric felt his eyes close for a moment. Only a moment. He wanted to watch.
"Best memorial day ever," he admitted, and let the music pull them back.
Alaric was pleased to learn, over the next few days, that while they were indeed gossip-worthy, the gossip lasted no longer than the news that Isobel was now dating Ravenclaw's house Captain. It died down fast.
The final trip to Hogsmeade for the year was coming up and everyone was going Christmas shopping. Why that made Damon surly and uncommunicative wasn't difficult to guess. But Alaric didn't quite know how to go about asking about it, and really thought he should. He bundled up in warm clothes and headed straight for the Room of Requirement when he didn't see Damon at lunch.
"I guess you won't be seeing Stefan for Christmas," he said, to the figure sprawled across the couch.
"What happens if there's already someone in the Room of Requirement and you want to get in?"
"Nothing," Alaric said. "You don't get a door."
"How many people d'you think know about it?"
"No. Staying here." Damon didn't move, just stared blankly at the ceiling. "I suppose you're off to Hogsmeade for Christmas shopping. Shoo."
"We're off to Hogsmeade. Go and put on something warm. It's snowing."
"Don't really feel like watching everyone buy presents for their families."
Alaric hovered, and then sat on the couch, shifting Damon's legs aside, and then pulling them across his knees. "You should probably buy something for my parents. I'm sure pureblood tradition would demand it."
"Do you ever make sense?"
Damon sat up, a little, miserable and forlorn. "Alaric," he countered.
"Come home with me. You can see how Muggles live. Drive in a car. I'll take you to see a film. My mother's a great cook."
Damon frowned. "I won't know how to do anything."
"If I can learn to wear robes, you can manage sitting in a car." He closed a hand over Damon's ankle.
Damon frowned again and opened and closed his mouth a few times. "I'm a vampire," he said at last. "People don't like us, much." But he was crossing the couch, sitting on his knees, putting his face up close to Alaric's.
"Correction." Alaric put a hand on Damon's leg. "Witches and wizards don't like you much. Muggles don't believe you exist. No one would know, no one would suspect. You can…" Alaric stammered, for a second. "You can meet my friends, and… please. Come home with me for Christmas."
Alaric wasn't sure who as more surprised, between himself and Damon, when Damon, with his eyes wide and clear and his expression sort of ridiculously hopeful, nodded, and said "okay."
Alaric's parents met them at King's Cross Station.
"This is Damon. Salvatore. Damon, my mother, Dianne, and my father, Edward."
Damon shook hands readily, back straight and shoulders back. "Pleased to meet you. And.. thank you. For inviting me. Alaric might have told you, I don't have much family, any more."
Alaric's mother smiled, and nodded, shaking his hand. "And your brother's not well, dear, is that right?"
Damon nodded. "No, ma'am." Dianne patted his arm.
"Well, you'll enjoy Christmas with us, then. Perhaps you can ring him on… oh, you don't use telephones, do you? Gracious."
Alaric pressed his hand to the small of Damon's back. "I'll show you, at the house."
Damon was fine. Up until it was time to get in the car. He decided immediately that he didn't like it. "Unnatural," he said. "We can't use the Floo network?"
"Keep your voice down," Alaric whispered. "We're not connected. Muggle houses aren't."
Edward put his hand high on Damon's arm. "You might enjoy it," he said, and Damon was too well-bred to argue, so he climbed into the car.
He hated it. He didn't say a word, but he didn't like the seatbelt, either. Glared at it. He squirmed, and flinched at the cars coming from every direction. Alaric was quite sure he was biting his tongue.
At some point, maybe twenty minutes from the station, Alaric realized Damon's eyes were closed, that he was almost white. Alaric sneaked a hand across the seat, and his fingers found Damon's damp, and cold, and scrunched into a knot.
"It's okay," Alaric said. "Really." But while Damon gripped his fingers tightly, he didn't say a word, and didn't open his eyes.
Damon had calmed, somewhat, by dinner. He fussed over what he should wear and swore his father would turn in his grave if he knew Damon wasn't in dress robes, but Alaric laughed, and lent him a t-shirt. "Seriously. Muggles, remember?"
"This doesn't even have buttons," Damon quibbled.
"Welcome to the rest of the world."
"Can I use magic?"
"We're both seventeen. We don't have the trace. Just try not to scare my parents, okay?"
"I'll keep everything fang free." Damon stared at the picture on the t-shirt. "Do they know we're…"
"No," Alaric said, firmly. "And don't tell them."
Damon raised his hackles and prepared to hiss. "They're that way too?"
"They're not," Alaric promised. "But if they know we're together, one of us will be sleeping on the couch, instead of… both of us in here. And…" He felt odd, saying it out loud. "I just thought… we've never slept together, you know, in the same bed… You have to go to your room, and I have to go to the dormitory. Once they're in bed, we can… you know."
Damon said nothing, and continued to stare at his t-shirt.
Alaric reached for Damon's hand. "After we graduate," he promised. "We'll tell them then."
After dinner, Damon stared at the books in the bookshelf, and pulled down a copy of Bram Stoker's Dracula. He looked curiously at Dianne. "Do you believe in vampires?"
"Gracious, no," she laughed. "It's all make-believe. Those books aren't mine, anyway, they belong to Ed. All that spooky stuff. I don't like it."
"Does anyone believe in vampires?"
"Only the teenaged girls who wear too much black, and want vampire boyfriends." Dianne laughed lightly. "Wait. Are they real?"
Alaric's heart stopped beating for a moment, and he tried to meet Damon's eye. But Damon shook his head, and shrugged. "Not that I know of," he said.
It snowed, rather a lot more than was ideal. This meant being stuck in the house, quite a bit, though Alaric made good on his promise to take Damon to see a film.
They lined up to buy tickets and popcorn and Damon grumbled loudly about the money. "It's paper," he said. "What value does paper have?"
"It's… assigned value. Like if I gave you a promise note for money I have at Gringott's."
"Makes no sense. Why not just give me the money? Wait - do you have a vault at Gringott's?"
Alaric shook his head. "Keep your voice down. People are staring."
Damon shrugged, though he did look a little embarrassed, and he was somewhat vocal about the popcorn tasting very Muggle-ish. The coke made his eyes light up in wonder, and Alaric hoped the caffeine wouldn't send him off on some magical high. He needn't have worried. Once the film started, Damon was spellbound. Though he flinched at the explosions and actually covered his face during a sex scene, he spent most of the film quite transfixed, and emerged with a newfound enthusiasm for cars.
"I want to learn to do that," he said. How fast can you go?"
"It's not like riding a broom. It's complicated. There's pedals and the steering wheel and -"
"How do they make the lights for the… what was it? A boom…? Without magic?"
"Bomb. Chemicals, but for a film, they use computers. Damon…"
"Chemicals? And if you can do that on the screen, why don't your photos move? It makes no sense."
"Because of the…"
"What on earth is that?" Damon was bounding the mall into an electronics store, standing gaping in front of a laptop computer. "I really want one of these. What does it do?"
Alaric blinked. "Almost anything. All my friends use them for homework. You can play music, films, uh… play games?"
"Better than parchment." Damon reached a finger out to touch the space bar. "Everything's different," he said quietly. His hand twitched briefly to where his wand should have been, but Alaric had explained why they needed to leave the wands at home.
Alaric understood, he really did. When Alaric was eleven, and his owl had come, he hadn't believed it, or understood it. A teacher had been sent to his house, dressed so strangely. His parents had sat open-mouthed and listened, and Alaric had the strangest sense of…
Waking up, that was it. Things falling into place. The odd incidents as he'd been growing up; wishing on a sunny day that school would be cancelled, only to have all the locks disappear, confounding the teachers and, yes, effectively cancelling the days classes. The discovery that if he wanted it badly enough, his Brussels sprouts actually really did taste exactly like chocolate ice cream.
The teacher, who had since retired, and whose name Alaric could no longer recall, had taken him to Diagon Alley, along with his parents, and helped him to buy the things he needed for school. Shown him how to change his Muggle money for 'real' money. And finally how to step onto platform nine and three-quarters.
Even wearing the hated robes, it was that feeling of having woken up in the place where he belonged.
Same exact expression Damon was wearing now.
Alaric watched as Damon touched the touchpad and brought the cursor to life. "Tap it twice, quickly," he said, and Damon did, opening an internet browser. Alaric took over for a moment, typing a simple search for 'vampire' into Google. Damon snickered and quickly worked out how to open the pictures.
"Why is his skin sparkling?"
"Don't even ask."
"He looks like he's painted his face."
"Yep." Alaric nodded. "Girls love him."
"Girls can keep him." Damon looked up, at last. "I'm… tired," he said.
"Let's go home," Alaric said, leading them back to where they would catch the Tube.
The following day Damon was quiet, lying on his back on the bed, staring at the ceiling. "No house elves," he said mildly.
"What?" Alaric was wrapping gifts. It was Christmas Eve, and he'd left it late again, but here he was, struggling with sticky tape and gold paper.
"You don't have house elves."
"It is possible to run a household without them. Especially when you have electricity."
"I like electricity. Ric?"
Alaric said nothing, but gave a fond grin.
"Is it hard, to drive a car?"
Alaric shrugged. "It can't be. Pretty much everyone learns," he said. "Damon… Something on your mind?" He knew, of course; he wasn't yet sure how seriously to take it, but he'd seen Damon's face, with the computer. At the cinema. His fingers moving quickly over Alaric's smartphone. The regret when Alaric explained he couldn't have it at Hogwarts because magic flying everywhere stopped it working.
"I just… I could live here. I could do this. Best of both worlds. Take my potions and…"
"You don't get it, Ric. I could wake up one night with my house on fire." He sat up. "In this world. Is your Minister likely to make an announcement that it's okay to kill me? Or Stefan?"
Alaric's pulse thrummed in his ear at the thought. "No." He stood up, and joined Damon on the bed, rearranging him, pressing him into the mattress. Kissing Damon's jaw, feeling Damon shiver beneath him.
"And I still don't know if I'm losing my magic." He looped an arm over Alaric's waist. "Do you think I could do it?"
Damon Salvatore, wearing an actual t-shirt for the first time in seventeen years. Could he live a Muggle life? "I think… If I can learn to wear robes, you can learn not to," he said at last, and they wasted a good long time making out lazily on top of the blanket.
Alaric's parents went out for dinner with friends, the second-last night Damon and Alaric spent in London, and they were left alone at the Saltzmans'. They wasted no time, turning the twin beds into one large one with a judicious bit of magic, stripping to bare skin and reaching for each other as soon as the house was quiet.
"We could always use some magic," Damon said, opening up around Alaric's slick, insistent fingers, face and chest flushed and reddening. "Couldn't we?"
Alaric grunted. He had other things on his mind. "Can we talk about this later?"
"There are men who fuck other men out here, right? I mean, obviously."
"Damon…" But Damon wasn't distracted, really, he reached and groped and angled himself to take Alaric in, rolling his head back and letting his features shift briefly; he did that, sometimes, when he was turned on, and Alaric had learned not to let it worry him. It didn't mean he was going to bite. Not badly, anyway. Between their bodies, Alaric took Damon's cock in his hand, stroking hard, pausing to swipe his thumb over the tip, making Damon moan.
"I saw a poster in the mall about… Merlin's beard, Ric… like that," he muttered. "But harder," and his expression was so split open, his lips so shiny and swollen, that Alaric couldn't mind him talking so much. He was excited, half-planning his future, that was all. "Things are changing out here. I saw a poster, people marching to your Parliament House, to let us marry. Hey, is Lady Gaga a witch?"
And at that, Alaric had to laugh, and smother Damon's face in kisses, because he'd asked himself the same thing more than once.
"I love you," he said, lips right up against Damon's mouth. "I know we're young and stupid but I love you."
Damon grinned, and hoisted his legs up higher, pulling Alaric deeper again. "I know you do. I love you too. I thought vampires couldn't," he said, voice becoming strained. "That's what it says in the books, you know… Ric…" he bit into Alaric's lip, and his own as well. Just enough to draw blood, and Alaric felt the edges of his vision blur as they shared the moment, both feeding and healing quickly. His brain lighting up in that addictive way, as he reached his climax, releasing into Damon in a series of delicious shudders.
Sometimes, Alaric wondered if anyone, anyone felt things as thoroughly, as overwhelmingly, as Damon did.
Most days, he thought not.
Muggle life was Damon's new obsession.
Back at Hogwarts after Christmas every moment they had alone, just the two of them, Damon asked Alaric questions. How did a telephone work, an airplane. How did anything work without magic. He doodled pictures of computers on scraps of parchment and studied a tiny circuit board Alaric had accidentally thrown into his trunk. Hewrote long owls to Stefan telling him about the things he had seen, and his ideas about living amongst the Muggles, where they would be sort of safe, where no one believed they were real.
Damon worked as hard as ever, though, in Potions and Charms. He and Alaric worked on improvements to the potions which kept him calm-ish and healthy-ish but nothing substituted quite adequately for real blood. Alaric grew so accustomed to the biting that it barely hurt, especially when Damon took a second nip, post-orgasm, as he often liked to do.
Before Christmas, Damon had never once come to breakfast. Never. Alaric had assumed for a long time that it was because he didn't need to eat, and preferred to sleep a little late. But when after Christmas, Damon started to appear from time to time in the early morning - sometimes at the Hufflepuff table, where Alaric sometimes joined him, but more often with the Gryffindors - Alaric realised the truth.
It was the owls.
Most days, Damon would climb to the top of the owlery and send Stefan a letter, but Stefan never wrote back. Now, Damon began to watch the owls arrive, hoping - not very optimistic, but hoping - that he would receive one, one day. The barest twitch in his shoulders when the owls all left again was all that he betrayed of his disappointment. He wrote less frequently. Twice, three times a week.
Once a week.
Until, in February, Stefan owled him back.
Damon blinked and blinked when the letter landed on the table in front of him, when the owl stuck his foot out so Damon could put a knut in the pouch tied there. Alaric passed him one of the tiny bronze coins; Damon had stopped making sure he had one tucked in his robes. With shaking hands, Damon put it into the pouch, blinking after the owl as it flew away.
Damon hauled Alaric away from the dining table and back into an empty classroom.
"I can't open it," he said.
Alaric nodded. "Of course you can. How long have you been waiting for this?
Damon swallowed, and nodded, and opened the little envelope. The letter inside was short, but Damon's eyes lit up like candles. He passed Alaric the letter. He seemed reluctant to let it go, but Alaric took it, and read it.
How would we get blood?, Stefan wanted to know.
"He's been reading my letters," Damon said. "This is progress, right?"
Alaric pulled Damon close. "Yeah. It's good. What are you going to do?"
Damon pulled away. "I'm going to visit Durmstrang," he said. "Over mid-spring festival weekend. Will… will you come?"
"Of course I will," Alaric agreed, and Damon tucked the letter away.
Professor McGonagall was reluctant, but on the last day of term, Damon and Alaric climbed the stairs to her office, each carrying a rucksack with enough clothing for a couple of days.
Alaric had travelled by floo exactly twice, and wasn't looking forward to doing it again. So much more disorienting than apparating. The pull behind his bellybutton, the sense of being folded into too small a space… but it was for Damon.
"I don't need to remind you two that your conduct at Durmstrang will reflect on Hogwarts generally… and me, specifically." she turned to Damon. "Keep a civil tongue, Mr. Salvatore. Dismiss your preconceptions. We are not at war with Durmstrang, and…" she turned a concerned eye toward Alaric, who stood a little straighter.
"Say it," Damon said. "Alaric knows about my father, and the elves."
"Your brother needs to stay where he is, for the time being. You mustn't fill his head with ideas about returning to Hogwarts."
Damon frowned, and nodded. "I know that. I just want to know there's a chance we can be brothers again." Without another word, he threw the powder into the fireplace, and said very clearly, "Headmaster's office, Durmstrang" - and he was gone.
"Be very careful, Mr. Saltzman," Professor McGonagall said, and stepped back.
The Headmaster's office at Durmstrang was dimly lit and foreboding, and Alaric almost pushed Damon over, escaping the fireplace. Damon stood with his hands closed into fists, opening and closing his mouth. "Rude," Damon said. "They were supposed to…"
A cat leapt off the desk, and became a very tall man, with a somewhat pointed nose, and expensive looking fur-lined robes. "I'd say," he said, in heavily accented English - German, Alaric thought; "that you were off to a bad start."
"Sorry," Damon said, sullen. "I thought…"
"No, you did not think at all. Bring your bags. I will take you to Professor Mikaelson's office. He is the vampire who is taking particular care of your brother."
He turned on his heel, robes swirling behind him - unnaturally, Alaric thought, and wondered what sort of charm might be used. The flames around the bottom seemed to dance on the rich cloth. It was beautiful, but seemed so frivolous.
The castle was very different from Hogwarts. Darker, for one. Everywhere, heavy black curtains covered the windows, and only a little of the fading light crept around the edges, lighting up dust motes that floated in the air. They were led quickly through a series of corridors lit here and there by dull lanterns. Alaric drew his wand, and whispered "Lumos", startling Damon, who was trying very hard not to stumble on the rough bricks that paved the ground, but he immediately looked like he wished he'd thought of it.
They reached a steep stone staircase, lined by tapestries bearing the images of witches and wizards who seemed to follow with their eyes. Alaric tried not to look, but once too often, he felt as if a hand had reached out for him, just out of sight.
"Don't fall behind. This castle is hostile to those who do not belong here."
At last, about half-way up a tower, the Headmaster rapped on a door, and a mellifluous voice with an indeterminate accent said "Please enter."
The room was a shock, after the dark hallways. The curtains were drawn open, letting in the very last of the evening sun, and a vast number of candles decorated the desks and bookshelves. The rug on the floor was a rich, dark red, and a number of parlour chairs were set up around the room, giving the whole office a rather genteel appearance.
Standing in front of the desk was a young man - no, Alaric reminded himself, Professor Mikaelson was a thousand years old. But he looked young. His face clean and bright, hair immaculately coiffed. His robes were simple, and elegant, much like Damon's.
"Mr. Salvatore," he said, stepping forward to take Damon's hand in a quick, firm shake. "And…"
"Alaric Saltzman," Alaric said, also shaking hands. Professor Mikaelson's hand was cool, but not cold. Like Damon's hand, a couple of days after he had last fed.
"Thank you, Headmaster Borgin. We won't take up any more of your time."
The Headmaster narrowed his eyes - he had, apparently, recognized the brush off, but he wasn't interested enough to stay. He paused at the door. "You are responsible for the conduct of these young men," he said.
Professor Mikaelson inclined his head slightly. "Indeed," he said, and the Headmaster walked away.
"Perhaps you will excuse his manners." Professor Mikaelson crossed to the desk, opening a small cupboard and removing a bottle, and four glasses. "For someone who comes from a family famous for the torture and murder of Muggles in both the first and second wars, he is remarkably fond of his own views about what constitutes 'humanity'. Please call me Elijah. I am not your Professor, and you are not here as my students. Firewhiskey?"
Alaric raised his eyebrows, and met Damon's eyes briefly.
"Is this a trap?" Damon asked.
"Not at all. You don't partake?"
"I've tasted it," Damon said. Elijah poured glasses. Three quite full, and one about half of that. He gave Damon a large glass. "You will find this assists with your cravings for blood."
Damon narrowed his eyes. "Walking around drunk all the time? I'm sure that's distracting, and all…"
"You will find it takes a great deal of strong liquor to arrive at such a state. You," he said to Alaric, "far less." He gave Alaric the smaller glass.
It did taste like whiskey; but not quite, either. It lacked the smoke of a Scotch, but didn't have to low smooth flavour of an Irish whiskey, either. It tasted a little like honey.
Elijah settled them onto chairs by the fireplace, and Damon finally spoke. "I want to see my brother," he said.
"He'll be along shortly." Elijah nodded. "I know you are anxious, but I wish to speak to you alone, first."
Alaric moved to stand, and Elijah waved him down. "I apologize, Damon, Your lover may stay. I meant without your brother here."
"How did you…"
"Your senses will become more and more acute. I smell you all over each other. I apologize if I was indiscreet?"
He was so strange, Alaric thought, and not at all what Alaric had been expecting. Polite, and solicitous. Didn't speak down to them, and Alaric had the strangest feeling he was not pleased to be wearing robes. "No," Damon said at last. "But I prefer boyfriend, if it's all the same to you."
"Boyfriend. Quite," Elijah said. "Do you have any questions for me?"
Damon went silent, opening and closing his mouth. Alaric watched, and realized Damon wasn't going to return to his senses any time soon, so he spoke up instead.
"Is Damon losing his magic?"
Elijah looked down, and then met Damon's eyes. "Some of it. You'll always possess the ability to brew potions. But you will age, until about the age of twenty, and by then… the rest will be gone."
Damon looked stricken.
"There are compensations. You are strong now, and fast, and you'll get stronger, and faster. You can affect the minds of Muggles, compel them to do what you wish them to. I urge you not to abuse this," he said, fiercely, and Damon sipped at his drink. "Different vampires have different abilities. You may be able to merge your mind with the mind of a bird - probably a crow. Some vampires are able to recognize other vampires. It's… unpredictable."
"Elijah… we've been thinking about returning to Muggle London, after we graduate," Alaric said.
"You are Muggle-born," Elijah said. Not like it was a question, but Alaric nodded. "You believe there will be some degree of protection afforded to Damon, because Muggles don't believe we exist. There is some truth in that. But there are those who do believe, and who will seek you out." With a sigh, Elijah stood and removed his robes. "These tortuous things," he grumbled. With a grin, Alaric followed suit, but Damon stayed robed. For Stefan, probably. "For many years, I've lived amongst the Muggles. It has its appeals. Drawbacks, too. If you want to keep using your potions, it will be difficult to purchase ingredients. But there are other ways to live."
"Katherine kills people. I don't want to do that." Damon's brow was set in a harsh line.
Elijah nodded. "I know the vampire you speak of. The one who turned you. Miss Petrova… is a special case. She has no conscience to speak of… or perhaps she only wishes us to believe that. Still her actions speak volumes." Elijah inclined his chin again, so elegant and expressive. "You don't have to kill to feed. You can take what you need and erase the memories of those you drink from. Some survive on animal blood…"
"Tried that," Damon grumbled, refusing to meet Alaric's eyes.
Damon had never told Alaric that, and Alaric imagined him chasing down rabbits in the Forbidden Forest – were there rabbits? Perhaps he caught birds. Everything in the forest was prey to something else.
Alaric wanted to take Damon's hand, but he didn't. Elijah would have noticed, and there was something about him that made them both want to seem impressive, seem more than they were (which right now, felt like two very young boys).
"How did it make you feel?"
"Sick," Damon admitted. "Do you… do that? Does Stefan?"
"No. There are a great many drawbacks." Elijah crossed his legs at the knees, and swirled his firewhiskey in his glass. "Unless you possess an unusually calm temperament, denying yourself human blood for too long can result in… an overwhelming need, not just to drink, but to kill. If you want to live as a vampire, without losing your humanity…"
"I do." Damon's eyes were fierce on Elijah's, and Alaric was proud.
Elijah nodded. "Then you mustn't fight what you are. You must learn to live with it, and control it. You need human blood, enough to live on, but you must never indulge in too much. A vampire who loses control and begins to kill indiscriminately is dealt with, very quickly, and effectively, by the likes of my father."
They were silent a while after that. Alaric watched the fire in the fireplace, and sipped at his drink, and felt warm in his bones.
"How do you stand it?" Damon asked at last.
"Practice," Elijah said. "Do you wish to see your brother now? Luther," he called, without waiting for Damon's answer, and with a crack, a house elf appeared. Tremendously old, and wearing a funny pair of pants, and socks. "Please, bring Mr. Salvatore here."
The old elf nodded, and disappeared.
Damon frowned. "He has clothes," he said.
"Indeed. There are better ways to ensure loyalty than through cruelty."
"You trust Stefan with him? You know what he did to ours," Damon said.
"Your brother has a very long way to go, Damon. But he… is making progress."
"That wasn't an answer."
"No, it wasn't. But Luther is very capable of taking care of himself, as Stefan has learned. He gave a small smile. "Twice."
Moments later, Stefan was before them. Damon leapt to his feet, and it seemed that he would fly across the room and take Stefan in his arms, but something stopped him. "Hello, brother," he said instead.
"Damon," Stefan answered.
He was… so different.
Alaric reminded himself that Stefan was fifteen years old, now, and that it was getting close to a year since Alaric had seen him – and Alaric didn't know him, either. The one and only time they had made contact was in Stefan's first year at Hogwarts, where Stefan, who was taller than most of his peers (and Alaric remembered that himself, remembered shooting up suddenly and losing all control of his arms and legs, tripping over nothing at all) had stumbled in a hallway and let his papers drop everywhere. Alaric had stopped and help him to collect them all, laughed heartily at Stefan's insistence that he didn't need help from a stupid Gryffindor, and watched as Stefan marched haughtily away.
Still, he looked… changed. His eyes were steely, his jaw more that of a man. A thick layer of muscle had built up over what was once a lithe frame. He looked sad and angry and bewildered and he looked at his brother with a combination of repulsion, and utter want.
Damon huffed, and crossed the room, and pulled Stefan into his arms. Stefan did nothing for a moment, but at last, he bunched his fists into the back of Damon's robe, and pulled him close.
It took another moment for Alaric to realize that Stefan was crying.
Elijah stood, and tugged on Alaric's sleeve, passing his robe, and Alaric followed him out the door.
Outside was a stone bench, and Elijah indicated that he should sit. "An interesting choice of mate you have made, Alaric," he said.
"Mate? That's worse than lover," Alaric grumbled.
"Be that as it may. You know our kind are not prone to letting someone cherished slip from our grasp. And you are young." Elijah didn't meet Alaric's eyes. "He feeds from you."
Alaric said nothing. Elijah wasn't actually asking, he was making sure Alaric knew that he knew, that was all. But he sat up a little straighter, and nodded curtly.
"These benches are awful." Elijah stood. "I suppose they are intended to be. A student who has been sent to wait for my attention should not be able to get very comfortable."
"What do you teach?"
"I don't. I am here for your brother, and him alone. However, I am exceptionally gifted at Arithmancy, and Potions, of course, and those lagging behind are sent to me for further instruction. I had hoped never to come here again." He stood, and crossed to the window. Though it was entirely dark outside, Alaric imagined that Elijah's powerful eyes could see every detail hidden by the night. "Still, this is a worthy pursuit."
"You don't need magic to conduct it. Only to apply it. A Muggle could learn. Squibs often do."
Alaric had a million questions, but he couldn't bring himself to ask a single one.
"If you stay with Damon… one day, you will have a choice to make."
And that, of course, was the one question Alaric wanted most desperately to ask.
"When you make that choice, ensure you make it for yourself, and not for Damon. And that he does not make the choice for you."
Alaric slumped, a little, and then sat up straighter again.
"This life… can be so beautiful. To see revolutions happen, and be forgotten… to see humanity pull itself up by its bootstraps and reinvent itself, time and time again… the wizarding world, and the Muggle world, are vastly different to the way they were just a hundred short years ago. I like to imagine sometimes that there will be a time when even our kind are accepted into both. Perhaps you and your Damon will be a part of that. I don't know. Your bond seems strong."
Alaric knew, suddenly, really knew, that Elijah was the loneliest being he had ever encountered. It made him shiver.
"You mustn't pity me, Alaric. My love is out there, somewhere. Perhaps he will one day forgive me for what I made of him. Perhaps."
Alaric froze, and Elijah turned around. "Have I shocked you? I've been alive one thousand years, and I have made every conceivable mistake, in that time."
"Not shocked you did it… perhaps shocked you would tell… someone like me."
"You are precisely the sort of person who needs to know of such things." Elijah blinked slowly.
The moment was so weighty that Alaric had to ease it, so he spoke. "Why is it so quiet in there?"
"It's not quiet. The room is charmed. No sound escapes." Elijah relaxed, and gave a small nod. "They will be some time, I imagine. Right now Stefan has a great deal of anger to express and I assure you that Damon is standing up admirably to it. Come," he said. "I will show you to your chamber. Damon will be along, when the evening's troubles are through."
Alaric was bundled up in heavy blankets, almost asleep, vaguely listening to the crackling of the everlasting logs in the fireplace, when the door creaked open, and Damon came in with a lantern in his hand. His face was tear-streaked and he smelled strongly of Elijah's firewhiskey.
He shrugged off his robes, without looking directly at Alaric.
"He hates me."
"He doesn't," Alaric said. "He's… young, and overwhelmed."
"Interesting theory," Damon said, unbuttoning his shirt. "Because what he actually said was 'I hate you'."
"He doesn't mean it."
"I said that, too. He countered with 'yes, I do.'"
Alaric said nothing to that, and only hoped Damon knew he wanted to. Damon stripped off his clothes, and crawled under the bed covers, and directly into Alaric's arms. Alaric pulled him close. And closer still, when Damon couldn't settle, when he whined quietly, and turned in Alaric's arms.
"Shh," Alaric said.
"I don't know what to do," Damon whispered.
"You need to eat," Alaric said, because he recognized the buzz in Damon's arms. He reached, so that his wrist was in front of Damon's mouth, and braced.
Damon stilled, at last. And pressed his mouth to Alaric's wrist…
And kissed it.
"I won't be like that," he said.
"No, you won't," Alaric agreed.
"I want to…"
"Damon," Alaric whispered, into his ear. They were tucked in so tight, so tight. Alaric's arms crept beneath Damon's neck and held one arm in place, and Damon relaxed.
"I don't need blood right now. And I won't take it. Ric…"
"Yeah," Alaric said.
"Don't leave me."
Alaric held still for a long moment. "What?"
"Just don't leave."
"I'm not going anywhere," Alaric said, and Damon turned in his arms. "What…"
"Just fucking hold me, you idiot," Damon said, and Alaric just fucking did.
The following day, Alaric and Damon sat down to a stilted lunch with Stefan, who was the very embodiment of a fifteen year-old-vampire – in that his fifteen-ness was acute, his mood was terrible, and he glared and what was, no question, a truly delicious pumpkin pie like it had insulted him personally.
"I hate Muggles," he told Alaric.
"Do you know any?"
"They're slow and stupid."
Alaric suppressed a grin. "Who told you that?"
"I read it." Stefan stabbed his pie viciously.
"Yeah?" Alaric leaned back in his chair. "I read that vampires don't have feelings."
The outrage in Stefan's eyes was glorious, because it wasn't aimed at Damon. "No feelings? I wish!"
"Eat, Stef," Damon said. "It settles your stomach a little."
"Can't ride a broomstick in Muggle London."
"You could, with the right concealment charm. You like to ride?"
"Obviously," Stefan said, pointing his wand at his peas, and disappearing them, one by one. Alaric wondered where they were reappearing.
"Where are you sending those?"
Stefan continued. "They're landing, one by one, on the head of Haus Macht's Quidditch Captain. He's doing a speech at his horrible sister's wedding right now."
Alaric supposed he was supposed to disapprove, or do something equally adult, but he threw back his head, and roared with laughter. Damon blinked, and Stefan looked befuddled, and irritated, and then glared at his pie again.
"For the record? I don't like you much," Stefan said.
"I don't like you either, Stefan. Sounds like a good place to start."
Alaric hoped the small smile on Stefan's face was not all in his imagination.
In bed, that second night, Damon was in a far better mood. He crawled over Alaric, kissing and nipping at every scrap of flesh, until Alaric was groaning with pleasure.
"He can finish school. By the time he's done, I'll be set up, somewhere in London. We have plenty of money. Elijah told me about getting blood… I can do this."
Alaric let his eyes open again, and met Damon's. "Ever bought groceries?"
"Groceries?" Damon mouthed over Alaric's jaw, one hand teasing him erect, the other framing Alaric's face, his elbow propping him up a touch.
"Food, Damon. Ever cooked? Ever done laundry?"
Alaric laughed, and flipped them, so Damon was beneath him. "We'll do this. Not you. Us. It's not all films and computers, Damon. You have to learn to take the Tube, and use a bank. We'll do it together."
Damon swallowed, and parted his lips. "You don't owe me anything."
"Not a thing." Alaric kissed Damon then, hard, tongues battling briefly, just a tiny bump of teeth. "But I told you. Not going anywhere, Damon."
"Things will change. You'll get older, and you won't see me the same way…"
"That's not a given," Alaric said. "In a few years, you know…"
Damon went very still.
Alaric calculated rapidly – had he mistimed this? Was it too soon, or just… But he thought about Damon asking him not to leave, and Elijah, hundreds of years in love and alone. No, he thought. This is the right time. He needs to know he's not on his own, for this, and…
Damon cocked his chin to the side. "A monster," he said.
"Not a monster." Alaric gripped Damon's hand.
"A monster," Damon insisted. "You've read the books…"
Alaric shrugged. "Read the Muggle books. According to them, vampires are dashing, eternal studs who everyone wants to bang."
Damon laughed. "Um. 'Stud'? 'Bang'? I love it when you talk Muggle."
Alaric shifted, lying alongside Damon. Ran a hand over his chest, and wondered how much it would change, in the three years he would continue to age. How much Damon would change. If he would be the loud, rude, angry Damon who had started his seventh year with a heart full of grief and a mouth full of venom, or the sweet, lazy flirt who had stolen Isobel a million years ago.
Something in between, perhaps. Something like this.
"If I'm misreading this, Damon…"
"You're not," Damon said, pulling Alaric closer. "I'll never get why you even bother with me, Ric…" He buried his face in Alaric's neck. "Together, then. The rest, we'll work out later."
Alaric was nearly asleep when Damon snickered. "I think I like the thought of being the eternal stud," he said, and promptly fell asleep.
They got so close. So incredibly close to making it to the end of the school year with Damon's secret undiscovered.
Thing had been good. Exams were nearly done and they both had their Apparation licenses and Stefan was writing letters, at last, sometimes two or even three sentences long.
Damon still didn't like anyone else's company, much; but he tended to sit with Alaric at dinner, since eating helped to settle his stomach and made him appear more normal. And it was there, at the Gryffindor dining table, with less than a week to go before graduation, that Damon took a sip of his pumpkin juice, and immediately began spluttering, coughing up blood.
It was chaos, then. Absolute chaos. Isobel, wicked glint in her eyes, on the other side of the room, stood up and shouted. "Vampire!" She cried. "I knew it! No one would listen to me…"
People began fleeing from the table. Teachers stood up and called for calm, and then a very loud voice – Professor McGonagall's, Alaric thought dimly, but he was too busy trying to hold Damon still to pay much attention, called for everyone to be still, and Alaric put his wrist up close to Damon's mouth, begging him to drink.
Merry Fell burst into tears, and someone tried to yank Alaric back. "He'll kill you!" Came a masculine voice, and Alaric whipped his head around.
"He hasn't done it yet," he snapped. "This is none of your business."
Damon drank urgently, face still contorting in pain, until Alaric pulled his wrist back. "Are you okay?" he asked, but Damon was wiping his mouth, trying to get up onto his knees.
"Yeah," he said. "I'm… that bitch."
"I love it when you talk Muggle," Alaric whispered into his ear.
They climbed to their feet, and met the collective eyes of the horrified student body.
"Return to your houses, everyone. Except Isobel Flamel, Damon Salvatore and Alaric Saltzman. No dessert. And not a peep from anyone tonight, or you will lose your house an entire year's worth of points." Professor McGonagall was angry, mouth set in a thin, firm line, and everyone obeyed.
Isobel was triumphant, sitting in a chair in front of Professor McGonagall's desk, legs dangling carelessly, arms crossed over her body. "Disgusting," she said, delighted. "I knew there was something wrong about you this year, Salvatore…"
"Quite enough, Miss Flamel," Professor McGonagall said, sweeping into the room. "Your great-great-great-grandfather would turn in his grave, had he seen this vicious prank. Were it not so close to the end of term you would be expelled."
"Expelled. Never to return. As it is, you have lost Slytherin House one hundred points. I am sure you look forward to explaining that to your friends."
"But I -"
"You may consider yourself dismissed."
"But Professor… he's not even human!"
"I am not convinced that you are the person to give lessons in what constitutes humanity, Miss Flamel. You have poisoned a man who was at one time your friend. Leave my sight."
Watching Isobel slink down the stairs like a dog with its tail between its legs would almost have been enough to make Alaric feel better, if not for the sink in his heart.
"I'm not stupid. I know. I'll leave in the morning." Damon couldn't look up. "I don't care about the N.E. . I just care about Potions, and I'm brilliant at them."
"I'm going too," Alaric said.
"Why? We're not going to live in this world anyway, Damon. I don't need letters in front of my name where we're going."
"You're so close," Professor McGonagall started, but Alaric shook his head.
"I've done what I came here to do, Professor. Would it be okay if a house elf packed my trunk? I'll be staying in Damon's room tonight."
Professor McGonagall sighed. "A carriage can take you both to Hogsmeade in the morning, unless you change your mind. Mr. Salvatore, I encourage you to do what you can to change it for him."
Damon and Alaric stepped into the Great Hall on that final morning and easily floated their trunks to the door. The room was silent; you could have heard a pin drop.
Caroline, on the Ravenclaw table, stood up.
"No!", she said. In the silent hall, it echoed terribly. Her face was pinched, and tight, and her blonde curls bobbed around her shoulders almost an.
Very odd. Neither Damon nor Alaric spoke to her often, but she was standing with her hands curled into tiny fists by her side. She raised her hands, shaking them out. "What has he done? Who has he hurt?"
No one said a word.
Caroline climbed over the bench, and walked toward the place were Damon and Alaric stood, hands clasped between them.
"Don't, Caroline. It really doesn't…"
But Caroline cut Damon off with a flash of red in her eyes, and a strange new cant to her jaw, and she turned to face her fellow students. "If Damon has to go… I have to go," she said.
No one spoke. No one moved.
"Seriously? Is there anyone here who has an opinion of their own?" To Alaric, she said more quietly, "it's like an episode of The Simpsons. I'm half expecting someone to stand up and yell, 'hey, that's girl's right.'"
"Simpsons?" Damon muttered.
"I'll show you," Alaric answered. He was too caught up in Caroline's wonderful anger to explain just then.
On the Slytherin table, Tyler wouldn't look up – in fact, he was so still it stood out. Alaric watched as some terrible expression crossed his eyes. He stood up, and moved to the front of the room.
"I'm a werewolf," he told Damon. And then to the rest of the room, he said it far louder. "I'm a werewolf. Okay?"
Caroline threw her arms around him. "I hoped you would… I didn't think…"
"Doesn't matter, Caroline," Tyler murmured into her hair. "Not where we're going."
The carriage ride was tense, and quiet, until Alaric started to laugh.
Once he started, Damon snickered, and Caroline giggled, and Tyler began to roar. Before long all four had tears pouring down their cheeks, and Caroline was shrieking about being free at last and Merlin, how she couldn't wait to get on with the rest of her life.
In Hogsmeade that night, over glasses of firewhiskey, the four shared plans, excited and exhilerated. "Tyler has family in the New World," Caroline said, with a proud shrug. "We're going there. Virginia. It's perfect. Lots of forest, lots of game. We've already arranged to have our money turned into Muggle money. What we have, anyway…" She gripped Tyler's hand on the table.
"How can you work with vervain?" Damon wanted to know.
"I take a little, every day. It makes me a little weak but it helps me to stay hidden. Merlin's beard, Damon, we have a lot to talk about…"
The New World.
Alaric felt a thrill, and Damon's eyes sparkled with the reflected firelight.
Damon scrambled eggs, flipped bacon over on the griddle, and buttered toast with frightening efficiency, while Alaric made coffee and sipped blood from a bag. "What do you want to do once breakfast service is done?" Alaric asked, lifting the plates and arranging them over his arm.
"Shower sex. And then bed sex. And quite possibly more shower sex," Damon said, taking the last plate, and a pepper grinder, and following Alaric into the dining room.
For two years, they'd been running a boarding house in Mystic Falls, Virginia, in what Damon still referred to as the 'New World'. Alaric never corrected him. Their accents made it an amusing thing to say, anyway. The boarding house was profitable, and kept them busy. It provided them with a steady stream of walking snacks, too, which was useful, since Alaric was no longer as nourishing as he had been.
Damon bought three cars and learned to play the piano and Alaric developed an obsession with the American Civil War. Stefan completed Senior year at a regular Muggle high school, so that he could go to college, and dated pretty Elena Gilbert. Elena's family were very anti-vampire, and had been for a good hundred and fifty years, but as Stefan had saved her and her parents from drowning when their car flew over the edge of Wickery Bridge one night, she was adjusting.
Caroline and Tyler ran the bar in town. It was called, wittily enough, the 'Mystic Grill'. Wonderfully, they had discovered (in the two years that it took for Damon and Alaric to allow Stefan to graduate, so they could all move together) that while it was impossible to import firewhiskey, bourbon was near identical in taste and equally effective at curbing cravings.
They'd watch, Alaric knew. Watch as revolutions happened, and were forgotten, as humanity pulled itself up by its bootstraps to reinvent itself, time and time again. And perhaps they'd make a difference, somewhere along the line. Perhaps. It didn't much matter, because Elijah was right about one other thing.
The bond. Very strong indeed.
I'm sorry. Canon? I haven't heard of that. Sounds boring. [sighs] YES I violated a lot of canon. In both 'verses. Whatever.
Firewhiskey is bourbon, la la la. Deal with it.
This was so much fun.