Disclaimer: I am not JK Rowling and I make no money off of this
(A/N) Wow-ee, 600 followers! Thank you everybody!
When Harry awoke, he half expected the sound of snoring, the irritated creak of an old four-poster bed, and sunlight creeping through a tear in his curtains. He had even more so expected to awake at the sight of a low dorm room ceiling hanging above his head, a soft comforter twisted around his limbs and perhaps even the sight of a half-finished essay crunched under his leg.
Even if those expectations only existed for the briefest moment in time, in that blithe second between asleep and awake where everything seemed simple and nothing painful, it was real.
However, as soon as he had recognized the persistent ache on the back of his head that snaked its way down his spine, this other reality that never was had shattered.
He scrunched his eyes tightly, smacking his lips together and swallowing tersely in an effort to get rid of the dryness in his mouth. His head felt distinctly jumbled, like a formerly complete puzzle that was missing some pieces - or, no - a picture that he had remembered looked one way but when he glanced back was a completely different image.
Only a few things were distinctly clear to him - one, that he wasn't in his dorm room. Two, that he wasn't in Hogwarts at all. And three - three -
Harry blinked his eyes open, vision landing on the dark ceiling above him, before trailing down and over the soft curvature of an unfamiliar wall, then reaching a distinctly organic looking shape angled just slightly beyond his head that was a - a - bed post!
He sat up, ignoring the resultant ache in his head, and suddenly remembered.
He had run away. And now - now - he was, well, with Auguste. He felt somewhat happy that he couldn't think past the cataclysm of sensations in his head, because if he could he didn't know if he would be able to handle the thought of his friends. At the moment, it seemed best to let them be reduced to little more than a bitter taste in his mouth.
Abruptly overtaken with the need to busy himself, Harry had slipped off the bed and out the door.
He was met with a darkened hallway that he hadn't yet grown familiar with, yet that he had seen before on more than one occasion. It must have the same corridor that Auguste's study branched off of, he thought.
Not quite sure where to go, Harry continued down the corridor, warily glancing at the portraits to his left who whispered to each other excitedly. The last time he had confronted them, they had been more than a little bit stand-offish and responsible for him nearly being charged with treason.
He quickened his pace with a resolution not to give them any attention, eyes focusing solely on the path ahead; that was, until a familiar voice called out to him.
"You!" a gruff voice blared, "Boy!"
He wheeled around, finding himself staring at a very weathered, old man sitting in a portrait with a silvery frame.
He sat so rigidly and unmoving that if not for the slow stroke of fingers perpetually laced through his beard and shifting, oily black eyes, one would have thought he was a Muggle painting.
Harry remained silent. He had recognized that portrait.
"I've seen you here before," he growled, nostrils flaring. "You were the Intruder, weren't you?"
"I'm not -"
An elderly woman from the adjacent portrait peaked her head out of her own frame and into the silver one, speaking with a hushed whisper in his ear. "This is the - boy - our great-great-great Grandson has been consorting with!"
His white brows raised high on his forehead, a snarl forming on his lips. "Ah, the interloper."
His eyes perused over Harry, examining him much too piercingly for the boy's liking, and his face twisted up like he had been sucking on a lemon. "Doesn't even have the decency to dress properly!"
Harry looked down at himself, blinking with surprise at the silky pair of pajamas he was wearing and suddenly cognizant of the awfully cold marble beneath his bare feet. He was almost certain he hadn't put them on himself.
He made no attempt to hide his face which steadily grew redder and redder, all at once finding himself confused, frustrated and embarrassed. "Do you know where Auguste is, sir?"
"He lets you call him by name, boy?"
His coal eyes narrowed inscrutably before widening, a new and unidentifiable emotion gleaming in them. A sort of begrudging acceptance. "He only ever let his mother refer to him that way," his voice had a softer quality, "Died too young, she did, only a decade after myself..."
Harry let his shoulders lilt, feeling more than slightly guilty that he had let himself forget about the elder vampire's mum. Her name been - Cecile, wasn't it? He wondered if Auguste thought about her still.
"Well, run along, boy!"
He stifled his need for answers. "Wait - do you know where he is, though?"
"You think I keep track of His Lordship's antics? Vous quittez! Leave!"
He startled at the sudden furor of the portrait, striding backward and accidentally plowing into someone behind him before he could stop himself.
He jumped forward, trying to over correct an imminent fall in such a manner that only made it more inevitable, and summarily plopped on the marble floor.
Before he knew it he was very quickly being pulled back up to his feet, hearing a slew of apologies along the lines of - "I give my deepest apologies, young master! To have so callously caused you to fall is such a deplorable act -"
He turned around and quickly realized the man who he'd bumped into - a man that somehow managed to nervously fidget with his lapel with one hand and try to brush the invisible dust particles off of Harry with the other - was a servant of some sort. He reminded the boy uncannily of a house elf.
"I'm so very, very -"
"Oh, no, it's alright. I'm fine."
He realized the servant had dropped a stack of garments and Harry bent down to pick it up. As he handed it to the unwitting man, he recognized the flabbergasted expression as one that said some natural world order had been flipped on its head.
The man let out a short cough, "I have been appointed to prepare you for after you woke up by His Grace; I have drawn a bath for you, young master, and acquired some clean garments befitting of your status. However, of course, I would very humbly understand if you think myself not worthy of performing such tasks -" sweat collected on his brow, and he glanced down to the rumpled clothing in his hands, "Of course, I will fetch for you some new clothing, if you wish..."
He smiled bitterly, trying not to be reminded of the Hogwarts house elves. "It's quite alright, I could use a bath."
Only an hour or so later, he was freshly washed, dressed and smelling faintly of rosemary, trailing behind the beleaguered servant who led him to a private sitting room. In the kindest and most polite way he could put it, he had basically told Harry to 'stay put' like he was an errant child.
"His Grace will be joining you shortly."
He had then skirted out of the room with a short bow and eased the mahogany door shut with an inaudible click.
Harry felt both grateful and anxious about the time alone. He didn't know what to think at all, about anything, and the only thing that seemed clear to him was a terrible inability to come to any sort of resolution.
He leaned his head back against the red chaise, finding himself staring up at the vaulted ceiling above him.
Just like that, he had left everything behind. He had left behind both the best and worst years of his life - the only life he had ever known - for this. For something utterly unreal and unknown to him, for a way of life that had been forced upon him and a culture he could barely navigate through.
Granted, it wasn't entirely of his own will. He had literally been chased from Hogwarts, and this was where he had ended up.
He felt a little guilty when a small part of himself said maybe that wasn't a bad thing.
A moment or so later, he was startled out of his reveries when he heard the door open and footsteps pad across the carpet towards him.
Harry leaned forward, ignoring the resulting ache in his back. "Auguste."
The corner of the man's mouth quirked upward just the slightest bit, and he took the armchair that ran parallel to the red chaise. "You look rather becoming in that outfit; did you know?"
His face colored. "Oh."
"I chose it myself."
His face grew even redder, and Harry couldn't help but think about how stupid he was acting - he was like a teenage girl with a crush!
He rubbed the back of his neck. "What's going to happen now?"
"I rather like the green trimming around your collar; you know, it matches your eyes."
"I'm going to have to find a suitable tailor though, it doesn't quite fit your form..."
"You are a bit scrawny, I suppose; the way those cuffs flare out make you look like a clown."
"I need -"
"Did you ever feed at that school of yours? Honestly, your complexion -"
"Stop it!" Harry crossed his arms, grimacing. "I need answers."
The elder vampire dropped the antics, leaning into the back of the chair, and with one swift motion of his hand urged him to continue.
"Well - what do I do now? Am I going to stay here?"
Auguste's eyes narrowed. "Yes, what did you think? That you could actually return to that school of yours?"
"No, not really. But..." Harry stopped and glowered at the floor. He didn't think he was able to articulate just why he needed to hear it aloud, that he wasn't going back. That something so final just had to be said out loud or else - well, how could something be resolute if it wasn't spoken?
"But nothing. I won't having you running with open arms back into certain doom, impudent brat."
"It is too dangerous."
He glared, and even though he knew he wasn't going back to Hogwarts, a wild surge of independence made him argue. "You don't know that. I'll go back if I want." he stood, tightening his crossed arms. "You can't control me, you don't even know me! If I don't want to stay here than I won't!"
The man snarled, flashing his sharp canines. "Sit. You're making a fool of yourself."
He stood even straighter. "I have people - I have people that care about me. Friends. I have a life outside of this. I can't just - I can't just leave it all."
"Friends, yes? Friends you could tell absolutely everything, friends you could spill your soul to? Friends who would never judge you for what you are? Have you even told these human friends of yours what you've become, a vampire," he paused, searching Harry's face for an answer he already knew, "I thought so. No, I knew so. You've never told them, and you never will, won't you?"
"What does that have to do with anything?"
Auguste stood, edging closer to the boy, "You've never told them because you know, you know in the deepest and darkest corners of yourself that they would never accept you. They couldn't- because you've become something so fundamentally different from them, something so completely out of their range of acceptance, that I'd be surprised if they didn't kill you on the spot. The only two things a human can offer to anything besides itself is hate and destruction."
Harry remained totally silent, fighting against the terrible heat that rose to his face and the pinpricks in his eyes.
"Every human you've ever known would abandon you, because they are pitiable, hateful creatures. You have seen this yourself, and I was barely there in time to save you from those monsters not but two evenings ago," he growled. "I will damned if -"
Auguste had stopped his tirade when he heard a short, hiccoughing sort of cry, and turned towards the boy whose face had morphed into a pained frown.
Harry looked down at his shoes, expecting the man to continue, but instead was surprised when a warm hand rested on his shoulder and slid to his back.
"I didn't mean to seem so angered, yet it is a sensitive issue for me." his voice had softened considerably, but there was still a strain of tension when he spoke, "However, that does not change the fact that I am asking you to not go back there. You know as well as I do that you would find at very least some enemies there, if you did decide to leave the safety I have to offer you."
Auguste recognized the boy was trying to reign in his emotions and so continued to speak. " I want this to be more than a temporary refuge for you, I want you to consider this place your home - I want you to feel in your element amongst your kind."
Home. That word felt bittersweet.
"I won't - I won't go back there."
The elder vampire made his face impassive, "That would undoubtedly be the best option." he added diplomatically. "Now, about your tutelage."
Harry rubbed at his face, easing himself back down onto the red chaise with Auguste. "Tutelage?"
"You will still require magical instruction, and seeing how all of this-" he gestured dramatically towards something nebulous and larger than the room itself, "Is all new to you, you will also require cultural, social, and political teaching."
Harry nodded, feeling a little less morose. "Is it really that important, though?"
"It has recently come to my attention that your existence in this palace is no longer a secret to our kind," Auguste said, quickly adding at the horrified look on the boy's face, "No one knows your identity; however, I imagine that at some point you are going to have to reveal yourself to the public and, to some extent, participate in the social arena by my side."
"Do they know that you and I -" he stopped, opening and closing his mouth as if trying to find something to say, "That you and I are -"
He scratched behind his ear, "Uh, yeah."
"No, not quite yet."
Harry felt a little relieved at that. "So who will be my tutor, then?"
"You will have multiple instructors, yet your main training will come from a man that I trust very well to be a proper teacher." he said, "He will teach you along side a few nephews of mine. Until then you will need a couple of days to settle in, especially with the latent symptoms of that concussion of yours."
Harry nodded, and just like that his new life was set. He was little more than clay that had been cast in a different mold, and he couldn't help but wonder if he'd ever become comfortable.
His first few days in the palace had been jarring, to say the least, even though his activities ranged lazily from sleeping all too much, flipping through books when Auguste was busy with some meeting or another, and being ushered from one room to another by servants who refused to call him anything other than 'young master'.
He had barely seen Auguste in those first few days and while that was likely because he wanted Harry to become comfortable with his new position, and the boy had been grateful for the time to sort out his feelings, it nevertheless only made him feel more acutely alone.
There had been one nice hour where the vampire had found him reading in his study and, instead of urging him out of the room so he could work, had instead plopped on the floor in a spot right next to him and pulled him onto his lap. After he had let out a short squeak, neither of them had said anything to each other, but Harry couldn't remember ever feeling more at ease in the palace than at that moment.
Harry had accidentally fallen asleep, and when he had awaken the other vampire was nowhere to be found but he was draped on a couch with a throw blanket tucked around him.
In all that time he had alone to think, he'd only figured out one thing. That he wasn't ready to confront his friends. Or Sirius. Or Remus, the Weasleys, or even Dumbledore. Not even in his own mind. And he couldn't help but wonder if they knew somehow that he wasn't himself any longer.
(A/N) Sorry this chapter is both short, choppy and way late. I was doing, *ahem*, important business things. And such.
1) Vous quittez - (You) Leave!