Grey clouds loomed. Rain fell against the polished windows of the loft. The water droplets ticked against the glass. A blinding flash turned the world white for a second. A figure, clutching a small parcel with his left hand, walked beneath the storm. Tightening the grip on the trench-coat with his free hand, the tall man trudged on. Cars honked near him, stilled in the traffic. Vapours emitted by the gutters on the sidewalk rose delivering nauseous stenches.
The man frowned. His eyes narrowed, trying to look through the sleet of the late august night in New York City. The bakery was next to the post office, but his stop was further down the road. He should have taken the metro, but he hated being constricted in dark and underground spots.
It reminded him of his past.
The wind subtly filtered through the cracks in his leather armour against the rain and the cold. He grumbled against the breeze as his destination finally came into view. It was a three floors brick building with a slanted roof. The first floor held a large glass panel that showed the inside, and the people within eating. The neon sign atop the door displayed the name of the place to all those around.
He smiled at the dyslexic scrawl in bright pink colour. It was one of the reasons he kept it like that. He had asked one of his friends to put it up, and he was glad for it. He fondly remembered the half-giant, and how he had emptied his whiskey and bourbon reserves.
His hand grasped at the bronze handle of the entrance, pushing it down as he stepped forward. A soft green carpet met his wet leather shoes, and as the water of the storm poured down his gym trousers, he came eye to eye with the maître of the restaurant. The man with tidy grey hair frowned at him, but said nothing as the blue eyes seemed transfixed on the parcel.
He gingerly smiled back, plucking from his parcel a bottle of red wine. A Lambrusco produced in Nineteen-Ninety One made its way to the hands of the maître, who grasped it as if he was holding a new-born infant.
"Merveilleux." The man whispered in awe. "The Chef will be pleased." The soft tone was barely heard in the dimly lit restaurant. The sounds of silverware cutting, plucking or generally piercing the food came easier to hear, just like the low-spoken voices of the patrons of the high-class diner. Passing next to the neatly trimmed hedge that reached the knee-length of the man, one could see a set of small four person tables neatly arranged throughout an ample saloon.
Twin doors with small round windows would be at the far end, leading towards the kitchen and the reign of the mighty chef of the restaurant. To the right side of the restaurant a lounge bar and a piano were perfectly imitating the ballrooms' furniture of the late fifties. The man with green eyes and seemingly wild black hair handed over his trench-coat to the maître, before taking the wine bottle back and heading towards the kitchen.
He smiled as he walked through the restaurant, many of the dining men and women turning their heads to look at him before smiling softly and waving at him.
"Sir." A waiter acknowledged him as he went by, and he nodded back.
"The Upper maître said a VIP has recently arrived and is waiting for you in the loft."
"Thank you." He said. His gaze went to the far off corner, and he was glad for its emptiness. There was a single red rose on a white porcelain vase there. There had been two the night before. He knew what it meant, but it still didn't answer who the very important person was.
He passed through the kitchens, ignoring the flames that came from the corner of the white tiled area. The staff members were working themselves raw, orders being yelled and promptly executed as people flew from one side of the kitchen to the other. He quickly made his way to the door that would lead him to the staircase.
The staircase was of red wood, Sequoia. Even there, the soft green carpet continued both upstairs and downwards, where the cellars were. His destination the loft, he slowly walked up to the second floor. The changing rooms of the staff and the recreational area were closed on working days, but there was an open door policy during the free hours that family could come over and have fun in the room if they so wished.
He knew he shouldn't spoil his staff rotten, but all of them earned it by working hard, and he had well enough revenue from the business that it didn't matter if he left the power on during weekends. The third floor housed his private quarters, but instead of opening the code-secured door of steel he simply turned once more on the spiral staircase and pulled the strap on the ceiling.
A wooden staircase came down gently, the well-oiled hinges preventing any noise from happening.
He took a deep breath, and then began to climb.
In the loft, candles lit a fairly taller ceiling than what could be seen from outside. The miracle of expansion charms wasn't lost on him every time he saw it, especially when the floo fire pit roared to life to admit a wizard couple. The maître of the 'other side' of the restaurant was a woman with bright purple eyes and dark red hair. She smiled at the couple and gestured towards a seat near one of the disillusioned windows that gave on the outside.
A security troll dressed in a tuxedo was holding his mace menacingly near the poker tables, separated by a red glass panel. Silencing charms and air refreshing ones made it so that the casino side of the area did not spill fumes or noises on the more family wise side.
Barnabus the troll was there to make sure nothing else spilled except for the money.
The maître looked at him and then settled her gaze towards the table at the far end of the loft. He turned around and then narrowed his eyes. He was starting to regret the philosophy of his restaurant. Abandon no-one who asks for shelter.
Hermione would probably call it his usual 'saving people thing' and 'sticking his neck where he shouldn't'.
He walked quickly towards the free seat, gently moving the wood chair aside and then sitting down quietly. He crossed his arms over his chest and brought up an eyebrow.
"To what does my humble establishment own the honour of your visit, Professor Dumbledore?"
His voice was neutral, but his muscles tensed.
"There will be no need for a physical confrontation, Mister Potter. I am merely here to talk with you." Albus Dumbledore was wearing a strangely sombre black muggle suit. "A complication has ensued, one that—"
"Get to the point, Dumbledore." He muttered. "Is this about Hermione?"
"Not directly, but—"
"Then I fail to see why it should matter to me." He replied with a scoff, "I am dead to the eyes of the Wizardry world, isn't it right?" He smiled then, displaying two pointy teeth.
"Vampires don't get rights the same way as Wizards do, they don't get the magic and they are considered mindless beasts just like rabid dogs. So I don't understand what you might want from me. I'm nothing but a corpse walking around, right?"
Albus closed his eyes. His fingers tapping one another as the man finally gathered the courage to speak.
"Your parents died last week." The old wizard opened his icy blue eyes to stare at the green and uncaring ones of Harry, who seemed unfazed by the news.
"They've been dead to me for a long time." The vampire replied bitterly, moving to stand. "If there isn't anything else—"
"Your sister," Albus brought up his right hand, gesturing for him to sit again. "She has no family left except for you."
"My mother's side should have an aunt to her. I remember she spoke of her once."
"Ah, yes." The bearded wizard nodded. "Madam Dursley has a child and does not like the magical world."
The silence that slowly descended between the two was short of deafening. Albus was starting to think against the idea. The old wizard had expected tears, or at least some form of moral understanding in taking care of one's own relative. He hadn't expected a strange coolness to settle between the two.
"If I were to accept, would I need to provide lodging and food?"
"That won't be needed. Grimmauld Place is—"
"I will not go to London." He retorted. "I will not submit myself to the farce that is the British Ministry."
"Your sister will certainly need to finish her schooling at Hogwarts. Certainly you—"
"Do you know why I keep interrupting you?" He snapped in a low hiss, "Because you're unworthy of the laws of the etiquette." He smiled. "It's a meaningless thing, I know. Just like when they take your wand and snap it just because you were unlucky, and a vampire sucked you dry."
"Mister Potter, I have not come here to be ridiculed. This is a serious matter."
"Have Sirius Black do it then: oh right, he's in Azkaban isn't he? He didn't make it that far with his escape attempt."
"I thought time would soothe your wounds." Albus murmured. "It appears I was wrong."
"Yes, it appears you are working with a lot of misconceptions." One of the waiters soon arrived, a poltergeist from an old Victorian mansion, and delivered a goblet of blood to him. He drank the crimson liquid without as much as a wince, its viscosity now something he had grown accustomed to.
The silence stretched again, uncomfortably, for a few more minutes.
"There is a Life Debt to be repaid, Harry." Dumbledore finally sighed.
Harry tensed and narrowed his eyes, the green fading to leave place to the crimson red so typical of a feral vampire.
"You dare call me with such... familiarity." He snarled, his right hand clenching around the bronze chalice to the point where it deformed, leaving the imprints of Harry's fingers on it.
"This year things will be especially grave." The Headmaster added. "There is the Tri-Wizard tournament to be hosted at Hogwarts."
"And so?" He shook his head. "If you want me, then have whom I owe the debt to come over and ask, in the proper form, for me to pay it back."
He didn't say he doubted Dumbledore would get out of the States. He'd rather owe a Life Debt to one of the Elders than ever having to do with the man again. He had thought himself above the hate, but now with the beast clawing at his innards and demanding release…
"Severus has given the Life Debt to me," Dumbledore began again, slowly taking out from one of his sleeves a thick parchment. "You will find it written in the proper form."
He narrowed his eyes, before grasping the parchment and opening it. His lips thinned in barely controlled anger. "What are the terms?"
"There is a need for a professor in Ghoul Studies." Harry snorted at that, closing the parchment. He was about to place it within the folds of his pockets when Dumbledore's hand came up, with the man smiling back at him. Rolling his eyes he handed the parchment over.
"I ask you to protect your sister, Lillian Potter, until the Dark Lord lies defeated. You will inhabit Grimmauld Place during the festivities, to get to know your sister better. You will enter Hogwarts as a professor and keep a silent eye on her. When possible, I ask you stir her towards the Light."
"Ironic to ask that of a vampire, a foul spawn, a —what was the word you used to get me kicked out of the house?"
"A dangerous night creature," the old wizard whispered. "And at the time it was true, Har—"
His fist hit the table with strength, the sound echoing through the room and gathering the attention of all the diners.
"Do not call me with such familiarity! I am not your friend, Dumbledore."
"I am sorry." The murmur earned the Headmaster of Hogwarts only a bewildered stare.
"Sorry? Oh—" He stood up quickly, "Pardon me, didn't know all that was needed was a sorry to set things right." He clenched his fists, driving his gaze upon the old wizard. "I will pay back my Life Debt, Dumbledore." He smiled, "But you just don't know the hell you will bring to Great Britain in exchange for that."
He signalled to the maître to move closer, and snapped.
"Serve the sir quickly. He has an urgent appointment elsewhere."
Then he curtly left, ignoring the wizard was calmly ordering from his menu without a care in the world.
He managed to get into his room, inserting his twenty-three digit code before closing the door behind him, before the beast reeled its ugly head upwards and began to scream. It roared and its deafening screams of blood and war fought against the chains of his humanity, rattling the cage that was his human weak body. The vampire demanded exit. He would not give it to him.
He groggily blinked his eyes open what seemed like a few minutes later. His room was now a veritable mess of torn furniture, broken wooden splinters that once belonged to a desk and his training tools were now completely bent. Whoever said that an undead didn't need to exercise was wrong.
He looked up at his immaculate white ceiling, the neon lights softly illuminating the room. He stood up, his feet taking him to where his bedroom was in his private quarters, and with a look at the digital clock on the side of his black velvet covered bed, he sighed. His right hand, curled in a fist, impacted against the concrete wall. No blood came out and no bones broke, but the feeling of hitting something was still there, lodged into him.
This wouldn't do.
He couldn't show anger tonight. There had been one rose the night before, which meant that tonight was the night. The night he met with the new Elder of New York.
He opened up the drawer and the dresser, taking out one of his best attires. His gaze lingered for a brief second to the gold and black tie of Hufflepuff, next to what once had been his student's robe. He had packed that in a hurry during that night. He shuffled on his feet towards the bathroom, he gently slid the marriage ring out of his hand and into the cup on the side of the marble sink. If there was one thing he never understood, was why the Elders enjoyed building opulent bathrooms when they never had to use them.
He turned the water on, and as the droplets fell on his naked body his left hand went by instinct to his neck. The twin holes, clear sign of a vampire bite, stood as a permanent reminder of what he had suffered through on that dreadful night of the Thirty-One of October.
Never again. He thought, as he let the water pass through his unruly black hair. He didn't sweat, but grime and dust collected all the same on his body just like smog. His skin didn't breathe, if that was the word the dermatologists said, and so taking a shower was needed all the same. He didn't have a sense of smell, which was a pity, but he thankfully showered every day.
He closed the water off, it didn't even matter that it was icy cold or scorching hot to him. Unless it was fire he simply didn't feel it.
He dressed in front of the mirror, looking at his reflection as he tied his tie expertly. For a moment he remembered another pair of hands doing the motion for him, giggling about his inability to do such a simple action. He gritted his teeth at the memory. Those times were gone.
He doubted he'd see the woman again.
He made his way downstairs, and as he passed through the kitchen his gaze went to the corner. There was no red rose there that night, instead there was a burly and bald man wearing one of those horrendously cliché leather coats of the fifties. He had two golden rings in his right hand and a blood-red tie on his dark grey suit. It seemed as if he had a golden pocket watch within the front pocket of his jacket, if the golden chain was of any indication.
He knew better: that was a rosary.
He smiled and calmed his inner turmoil, before slowly sliding down in front of the man. He subtly bowed his head, and was rewarded when the other man spoke in a low whisper.
"Henry Herbert, neonate of Clan Ventrue, birthed from Thomas North."
He straightened his back and smiled. The new guy was of the Lancea Sanctum probably. He was still smiling, but for how long?
"Harry Potter, neonate of Clan Giovanni, birthed from Dunsirn." He narrowed his eyes, "You are new. I was expecting Elder North."
If the Ventrue was surprised, he didn't show it. He merely nodded and embarrassedly held his gaze downwards.
"Cut the act." Harry muttered, "I'm not talking to a boy-scout: I know you're Lancea. What's up with North? Why isn't he here? Wasn't he approved by the Prince?"
"He did reach Elderhood." The other neonate replied calmly. He didn't refute, but his features notably steeled themselves. "He was killed a few days later, you have my condolence."
Harry brought up an eyebrow, before slowly shaking his head. "If you're thinking I care." There was silence for a moment, "What do the Ventrue wish?"
"Permission to pass through Little Italy, usage of the docks for a few days and…they would like access to the blood dolls in the areas."
"And what do they offer for this?" He replied, putting up his best bored act.
"Five hundred thousand immediately," the kindred said, "ten hundred thousand upon completion."
"You," Harry's elbows touched the table, as his hands clasped together, "Are telling me," his thumbs pointed towards his person, "That your clan would pay fifteen billions?"
"Yes." The other vampire nodded. "I can bring the offer up to twenty-two."
"All right shit stain." Harry whispered and smirked at the sight of the other kindred holding his beast in check across the table, "What is so important?"
"The price is for ignorance too." The other Ventrue whispered back as he gritted his teeth and held the sides of the table to control his beast.
"Well that's the problem." Harry replied, "The problem with the big T, you know? I can't have you bring stuff through Giovanni territory without knowing what it is, capiscite?"
"It is nothing that would harm the Giovanni." Henry said calmly, probably having reined in his beast. "Yet we cannot have it foretold."
"You know, as funny as this is we won't be getting anywhere tonight, and since you know the rules I hope you understand that wasting my time is not smart..." His voice trailed off, before his back suddenly stiffened. The kindred in front of him did so too, before slowly standing up and leaving. He couldn't fault the kindred. He would have run too, had the scourge been in front of him.
He did have the scourge behind him though: that didn't bode well at all, but thankfully opening hour was still half an hour away.
"What does the Paper Doll of Prince Nicole de Lancrét wish of me?" He commented, without turning around. He recognized the voice, and he was betting on frilly and laced pink for the night. The moods of the 'princess' Nicole were renowned throughout the world, and the way her enforcers were dressed too.
"You insufferable Englishman," the voice growled before taking another step forward. "The Prince wishes to know why a Wizard was seen talking to you. You have not infringed the Masquerade, I hope."
"Of course I have told the man everything about us, Azrael." He turned his gaze sideways, winked at him and smiled. "Ah, the beauty of coming out clean, don't you think it's—" And then he was lifted up by two powerful arms, and brought into straight contact with the Nosferatu's deformed and rotten face, morphed into a fearsome scowl.
"Pathetic excuse of a flea," the Nosferatu hissed, "Maybe I should ask the Prince if she desires a toy-mate. The last one did break."
"You wound me, Azrael." Harry mock pouted. "Right here…Well, I'd point at my heart but you are keeping me from doing it."
Harry was dropped on the ground a moment later, before the Nosferatu turned his gaze towards the door scowling. His face suddenly morphed, and the Giovanni hissed in frustration.
He hated that face. He hated it worse than the real one of the Nosferatu.
Nymphadora looked at him with a most impassive look. He wondered why out of all the faces that was the one he had to see. It probably was Azrael's subconscious that showed him that face every time. The other vampire had no clue about it, but was probably just channelling whatever would best avoid confrontation. Only with him, he was the exception.
To the maître, Azrael probably looked like one of those high-class blood dolls he usually brought around when he had to feed: someone not to bother with.
"Mark my words." The Nosferatu hissed. "The Prince sees all."
Then the man or woman, he had never known, turned and left. He was wearing the most horrendous peach coloured frilly dress in the history of humanity, with an open back to boot and high black stiletto heels. Sometimes Harry wondered if the Nosferatu was simply taking out his aggressiveness on him.
"François." The maître of the lower floor turned at being called, making his way to him as he just finished settling himself. "I'll be out for the night until late probably. Put five roses on the vase here, all right?"
The maître merely nodded, before heading off to do his duties as the rest of the staff would slowly trickle in with time.
Harry instead left through the door, after grabbing his trench-coat and a scarf to cover his face. He'd have to take the metro.
He hated taking the metro.
When many thought of the Giovanni, they thought of Augustus. The merchant bought his way into Kindredhood, outsmarted the antediluvian who sired him and then consumed him. When many truly thought of the Giovanni…
They shuddered and looked elsewhere.
The ministry of magic knew next to nothing of the Kindreds. It had been that way for centuries and it would remain that way forever. What they knew of were barely the werewolves and the Dunsirn outcasts. The fables on vampires forced to bite down on the necks of others every single night, of consuming blood and killing their victims, that all came from the Dunsirn.
Cannibalistic inbred bastards that lived in Scotland and in Great Britain. The ministry didn't know that vampires could be any different because the other vampires brought the masquerade up with them too. The pale wizard was just that, pale. The potion master worked at night or by home. The news writer delivered his pieces through owl post.
He hadn't been that lucky.
Sometimes a vampire slipped however. There were many vampires who had been warranted for great deeds of writing and composing, but when you have nothing to do all day, what else is there?
It was another lie that vampires had to sleep during the day. Of course if you didn't sleep time passed slowly, but if you slept then you didn't wake up at all until night settled in again.
He didn't know what he preferred: spending the entire day moping in his windowless private quarters or sleeping through it until the next night.
What he knew however didn't matter.
He was going back to Britain. He had a Life Debt to answer to and he knew nobody would stop him from doing that. If he was killed after all, the debt would be passed down to the killer. It was the insurance. Every Kindred was after all precious and important as a resource to the Camarilla.
He just hoped Francis Milliner would understand.
I realized something after 'scourging' through the Wiki of HP. There is not much on vampires, and what is there is contradictory.
No, I'm not joking. They are considered creatures who 'are' forced to bite and drink blood to survive, 'but' there are cards of them depicting them as studious and poets. So either they have wit or they don't. If they have wits, then their bite can't automatically transform another in a vampire (They'd have to feed, wouldn't they?) But then I understood something else: Slughorn gave Sanguini a pastry.
Meaningless it is not.
Vampires in HP can eat, drink and do whatever, but during the night (every night) they have the impulse to feed like werewolves. During the day they sleep or try and stay awake and eat something.
That clearly didn't end well, because in my mind it always ended up with vampires overpowering the human world (If you bite AND turn, it's exponential, and if it started with Vlad in whatever age…)
So I decided on a nice, comfy spin-off in an attempt to do two things: get my mind off the plot bunnies raking my head by presenting a resentful, ex-Hufflepuff, grown up and independent Harry, an ex Nymphadora-Harry relation (Since he's older than canon) dead parents but sister-who-lived.
And get a better idea of what Vampires do in HP verse, which brought up the Dunsirn. So I turned my gaze to the World of Darkness and the New World of Darkness and grasped them both.
The end of the line product is 'Grey Clouds Loomed'.
To explain the time-tables:
Canon-Harry is replaced by GWL.
1973= Harry is born.
1977= Hermione and rest-of-canon cast is born.
1980= GWL is born on July 31-st.
1984= HP goes to Hogwarts. (First Year) Sorted into Hufflepuff.
1988= Canon Cast goes to Hogwarts (first year)
1991= GWL starts Hogwarts at first year. Harry Graduates Hogwarts in June. Canon-cast is in fourth year.
1992= 2° year for GWL. Harry is bitten.
1993= 3° year for GWL. Sirius escapes and is recaptured.
1994= Tri-wizard Tournament. Harry is Twenty-one. Canon Cast is in Seventh Year. GWL starts 4 year.