Grey clouds loomed. His eyes gazed down at his mail, completely ignoring the harsh glare of both the Headmaster, Nymphadora, half of Gryffindor and what apparently was also a large chunk of those in Slytherin. If he had to take a polite guess, Harry could pretty much identify their reason in a petty and stupid line of thoughts that held its root on the names the goblet chose for the tournament.
That, and the fact he was currently ignoring everyone in favour of reading his mail.
A golden envelope sealed with wax was the first to be opened, and as the delicate fragrance reached his nose, he twitched his right eyebrow. Mithras, the Ventrue Prince of London, demanded a meeting to ensure the laws of the Camarilla were respected. Albeit he was formally recognized as a Kindred accepted within the confines of the Islands, he was still required to present himself in front of him for tradition's sake.
He would have to politely refuse and claim that the Masquerade would risk breakage, should he actively try and make contact with Kindred during his forced stay in Hogwarts. He'd make it all seem like a calculated risk with Dumbledore's continuous snooping around, maybe pointing the Prince in the direction of the old wizard's spies.
He supposed that would be enough to solve Dumbledore's presence.
He folded the letter and then calmly ate it, before moving to the second one. He actually repressed the urge to 'smile' at the shocked sight of the staff members near him. Did they really believe he'd leave a letter which could potentially infringe the Masquerade in their sight for long?
The second one belonged to a Dunsirn, and if the blotches of blood were of any indication, it had passed through at least three intermediaries before reaching him.
The last one —the 'sender' of the letter— was probably a butcher. A butcher of humans judging by the smell the small droplets of blood showed him.
This message was brief and to the point.
We got you tender flesh, more is to come. Deliver us the way in.
Of course the Dunsirn didn't have to mince their words. They weren't even asking much…ironically speaking: only the key to enter the wards, which was without a doubt guarded by the Phoenix in Dumbledore's office. He could pretty much imagine what would happen should he not comply. If he didn't comply with the Prince of London, there wasn't actually a problem: they would subtly let each other intend that they'd never cross path.
Something similar to: 'Sorry Prince of London, I'm not staying long, and I don't care what you're planning since I'm a worthless bug. I'll be on my way as soon as i can, so don't send archons my way.'
The Dunsirns on the other hand…they were family.
And family always stuck together. At least, Kindred families with a penchant for cannibalistic desires and incestuous relationships did. His own family had preferred to keep him in the cellar, waiting for the right moment to get rid of him.
A broken soldier wasn't useful to anyone, after all.
He actually turned thoughtful. The wards could be bypassed. If they only wanted a way in, he could provide it. The map, the Marauder's map, listed all secret passages and ways in and out of the school as well as their passwords. There was one passage that apparently led outside, the one beneath the hunched statue of the witch.
He could misdirect the Dunsirns…which was actually something to be expected, but he didn't want to risk the passage really working for them too. If an entrance to Hogwarts was revealed and found…
There would be chaos. Wizards were powerful tools if used on the muggles, and controlling them from a young age? An adult wizard was difficult to 'bound' —not impossible, but extremely difficult. Hogwarts in comparison, filled with the dungeons and the unused classrooms, was like walking into a supermarket or picking up the order at the butcher.
The third letter was by itself devoid of much complicated markings or embellishments. It simply held his name as the receiver, and nothing more.
He opened the envelope and calmly began to read the contents, frowning slightly along the way.
Dear Mister Potter,
It has come to my attention what unique situation you have been forced into. Since I rarely could hope for a greater boon than this, I ask of you if you would be willing to turn your gaze to other more…exquisite takings elsewhere, and thus politely avoid letting your fangs anywhere near my son's neck. I would be furthermore delighted if you would take the time during the holidays for a nightly visit in my humble abode, as we have a few things to discuss about masks and balls.
Avead Inibaz, Whip of the Avead.
Even an idiot could see that 'Avead' was Daeva written in the opposite direction. He snorted as he baled the letter, before chewing down on it too. Finally, he settled his gaze on the last one. A black coloured letter that held the Gringotts symbol on it, and that usually meant there was a will reading he had to attend.
He widened his eyes briefly, as the content of this particular missive were read.
To the esteemed attention of Lord Harry James Potter,
By the laws of Gringotts, you are invited to the will reading of your parents to be taken place at midnight, on the first night of November.
By the laws of Wizardry England, we are forced to ask that you bring your guardian with you. We are of course not responsible should you fail to comply, but we will be granted permission to execute you, should you find yourself guardian-less and hostile.
The small slip of paper that had come together with the more official letter was deftly picked up and unwrapped, to reveal a more minute and quick calligraphy.
Since you are of American citizenship, England laws are worthless within Gringotts. The letters are subjected to scrutiny before being sent, but since Mr. Malfoy generously asked me to word the letter in such a way…I know better than to incur the wrath of Kindred, we among the goblins who know will keep your secrets and your gold safe.
He knew that. He knew that even before reading the small slip of paper. He hadn't survived New York as a Giovanni contact without knowing the loop-holes in the system. He had been forced to bail out quite a few Vampires from the local cop-house before they got the first rays of the sun to hit them.
The fact that a goblin had gone to such lengths though…
Goblins weren't kind people. They didn't do things because they deemed you a good guy, a worthy guy or a somewhat important guy. Heck, even the Prince would have been treated like dirt, without the money he held in his bank account and his might.
Goblins however, weren't fools. Sure, they had dragons. Sure, they had quite the bit of wealth and power amassed. Yet they lacked one fundamental thing: a sun to shine over their heads when they went deep beneath the ground.
And in the darkness, only vampires ruled undefeated.
"Harry," he was halfway towards his classroom, when Nymphadora's voice broke through the silence of the hallway. "We need to talk."
He maturely ignored her.
"Furnunculous!" he pivoted on the spot, swatting the spell with his hand. Nothing appeared on the surface of his unblemished skin as he narrowed his eyes on the now red-haired Metamorphmagus. She took a hesitant step backwards too at the sight of his angered face.
"You have my attention," he whispered taking a few steps forward. "You better not waste my time."
"Did you put Lillian's name in the goblet?" she asked him, her wand still poised to strike.
"No?" he replied. "I have a deal with the Headmaster, you know?"
She snorted. "Yeah, right… am I supposed to believe you're actually ignorant of everything? You're probably laughing your ass off right now. People can die in this thing!"
He shrugged. "Not my problem."
"You swore to protect her!"
"I was what, thirteen?"
"Still, it should count for something Harry!" she took a step forward.
"Don't you dare call me by my name!" he hissed back. "I am Professor Potter or Mister Potter, not 'Harry'! You can kiss any chance of being friends with me goodbye, do you understand me?"
There was a light jolt of electricity that ran throughout Nymphadora's body as the auror walked as if entranced by Harry's face closer and closer until her body pressed against his. It was the spur of a moment, but she kissed him with strength. Her tongue explored his throat as his did the same, but the moment did not last.
Within instants, he had pushed her back —his salty after-taste still on her tongue tasted so sweet now that she thought about it— and was making a scowl. "This doesn't change things, Nymphadora," he hissed. "I will do what I can for Lillian," he added then, softly. "But that is all."
Of course she had kissed him because he needed to be convinced. Clearly, there wasn't any other reason for the auror to kiss the man, right?
They hadn't talked for days, and now already kissing him…clearly it wasn't because she had been hypnotized by him. She was resistant to vampires' abilities! She knew she was!
The moment Harry left Nymphadora, giving his back to her, he smiled briefly.
The Guard Dog can always change sides…provided you hand over the right size of steak.
He shuddered momentarily: had he really compared himself to a size of raw meat? It had to be his Dunsirn heritage he supposed. The classroom he walked in was quiet, deadly so.
Lillian was standing in the last rows, to the side and with her gaze settled firmly on her parchment. She seemed to be trembling like a leaf, probably in fright of what his reaction might be. The rest of the students were giving her a wide berth, scared to act before he had given his own 'evaluation' of the situation. It was surprisingly smart of them.
He ignored their gazes of disbelief as he began his lesson as normal, entering the delicate discussion of ecology of undead creatures, and the reason why Ghouls could actually be optimal house-pets, should they be trained in taking care of rats and vermin.
"Professor," Kevin's hand shot high as the boy caught his attention.
"Yes, Mr. Entwhistle?"
"Is there a way to ignore the age-line of the headmaster for the Goblet of fire?"
"There most certainly are ways," Harry retorted. "But we were not speaking about this, were we?"
"Professor," another voice piped in. "Is there a way out of the tournament?"
"I think I will remove points for questions not pertinent to the subject at hand starting from now."
"Professor, are undead creatures something that past tournaments held? And if not, why?"
"Five points to Slytherin, I admit that was well phrased," he chuckled slightly. "Now, really, let us continue with the lesson. I will speak with my sister alone and away from prying eyes or ears, as it should be and as I hope it would be if any of you were to end up in her situation."
Chastised, the class resumed its silence while Lillian's face looked sour. She was probably suspecting he would fault her or accuse her too…how easy it was to read her expressions —she really carried her heart on her sleeve.
As the class ended, many of his students lingered for a few minutes more than necessary, before quickly leaving after he gave them a quite long glare.
Alone with his sister, Harry gestured for her to move closer.
Hesitantly, she did so.
"Harry," she whimpered. "I didn't do it. You have to believe me! I don't know how, or who, but I didn't, I swear I didn't!"
"I know," he replied with a hushed tone. "I know," gently he hugged her, letting his right hand caress her hair. "You're a good girl, aren't you?"
"Uh-Uh!" she emphatically answered back with a humming tone.
"You're not worried?" he remarked, as he broke the hug much to the girl's displeasure.
Lillian pouted, before shaking her head. "The headmaster said he was going to do something about it, so I don't have to worry."
"And what if there isn't a way? What then?"
"Then I'll find a way! And you'll help me brother, right?" the way her eyes looked at him, it was like those of a tiny chick looking at their mother-hen. Had he been alive, he supposed his heart would have skipped a beat.
Had he been alive, he would have completely missed the underlying subtle tone of lust her voice showed and displayed, as the blood called back to his own and the darkness slowly but surely corrupted all that was within the girl's soul.
He rested his right hand on her cheek, using his thumb to gently rub it as he made a small smile.
"I'll do what I can," he admitted. "You should speak with Neville though: he is the Hogwarts' champion, and if he has begun training…you could train with him?"
"He's a Hufflepuff! He won't help me, I'm a Gryffindor…can't you help me, brother? Please?" she whimpered with a pout.
"No, I cannot," Harry sighed, rolling his eyes. "I am proud of you however, and I will be even more if you were to forfeit every task as they come by…but if you really want to compete…"
"Uh? Wait, but you said there's no way out!"
"Yes, but you can forfeit the task if you at least try something. Like…I don't know, try and throw a Jinx at a dragon and then forfeit, or try and swim around the lake a bit and then forfeit, or try and enter a maze for a few minutes and then forfeit," he shrugged as he inwardly smiled.
Lillian blinked twice. He mentally cursed himself. Of course the girl wasn't going to understand. Neville had more brainpower with his Hufflepuff brain than what Lillian could ever even dare to obtain.
But he could still hope everything would be fine.
Hope is such a fickle thing.
As Lillian left, Harry sighed. He was missing the beauty of New York, the bustling cities and the tall sky-scrapers. And what for? To spend his time in England? Wouldn't the girl be more protected in New York to begin with? That wouldn't be a bad thing, now that he thought more about it.
He'd have to find a way on a private jet with Lillian, but that wouldn't be the most difficult part. It would be making sure the New York kindred didn't get a whiff of the girl.
There were pros and cons in both his choices.
He drummed his fingers on the desk, before collecting the homework and heading off to his quarters.
He opened the door, and the next instant a wooden stake came straight at his chest.
Harry stumbled backwards, the pile of papers falling as he rolled to the side, avoiding the lower swinging of the stake. Those were practiced motions. Those were the motions of a hunter, not those of a rambling student who was angry or was trying to stake him.
Everything had to have been betted on this instant, he supposed.
The moment the hunter lost the chance, the human in him began to run. Harry snarled, lifting himself up from the ground and narrowing his gaze on the pathetic meat sack.
He was about to pounce, when the sharp scream of the hunter echoed through the hallway.
Screaming, the figure masked with a heavy wool cloth began to writhe on the ground. Surrounding the man, his 'guards' began to playfully poke into the real world…smashing the man's kidneys, bruising his liver, tearing him apart from within.
He reined in his beast calmly, twitching slightly his neck as he walked towards the would-be hunter.
Calmly, he removed the man's mask.
And he snarled as the face of Filch appeared writhing from the pain.
"So," Harry amusedly spoke. "You wanted something from me, mister caretaker?"
"Pah!" Argus spat on Harry's face as he coughed raucously. "You killed me pretty!" he snarled, blood oozing out of his eyes and face as a particularly vicious Ghost slammed the insides of his brain around.
"Ar…yeah…ye won't…ye…" a sickening squelch later, and Argus Filch lay dead at his feet, killed by his own spectral guards. He supposed this could be enough. He narrowed his eyes on the man, before turning to the closest of the ghosts.
He pointed to the corpse.
The ghost narrowed its eyes.
He pointed again.
The ghost snarled.
He grabbed the very essence of the ghost, slamming it within the body. He gritted his teeth as he poured the unholy power of the Vitae to bind the ghost to the corpse of the caretaker, invisible shackles binding the ethereal figure to the body.
Minutes later, Argus Filch opened his eyes.
Only it wasn't Argus Filch soul within the body.
"Now Argus, go back to your work," Harry gently cooed the twitching the body, who nodded numbly before heading off. He turned around and walked the other way. Sure enough, the Caretaker had moved the paintings around his room and outside to get a 'blind zone'. It spoke of quite the preparation…which hadn't been enough.
His muscles felt sore…albeit it was more precise to say he believed he should feel his muscle sores. Like with magic, Willpower was what made Vampires' disciplines powerful…you didn't just have to do, you had to believe. You had to assert your will upon the very fabrics of reality and tear it asunder for your own purposes.
You had to break the boundaries of life and death to become a Vampire, but to become a true Vampire you had to understand…
The world was their cradle of joys and sins, their sorrows and virtues intertwined into a globe of water and earth. They were more than just the 'creatures of the night'.
From the very beginning, the Giovanni had torn apart the chains and the shackles of mortality for something more. Necrophilia was a more pleasant pastime…if the corpse twitched.
"So, there are Hunters at Hogwarts?" the painting of the Daeva remarked playfully, as Harry placed it back in its original spot.
"Don't ask as if you didn't know," he retorted. "It makes sense, though I don't think Filch was the only one."
"You should expect werewolves next then," the painting remarked. "Werewolves always have a reason to pick a fight."
He scoffed. It wasn't funny.
"I'm not fighting a Werewolf. Those claws? They'd rip me to shreds."
"A silver bullet does wonders against those beasts," the pictured vampire supplied. "In my times we used silver arrow tips," he remarked. "They weren't as effective."
"I can imagine," Harry rolled his eyes. "Anything else you wish to partake with me? Like, I don't know, a juicy secret?"
"Of course not," he clipped out. "Secrets are never easily given."
"Only an idiot would say the truth out right," the Daeva shrugged. "You should know that better than everyone else."
"I suppose I should," he admitted. "Was it Dumbledore? Then again…do I want to know?"
"Maybe you should have accepted the Prince's meeting? You do understand that alone, no kindred can survive forever?"
"That's just a myth," Harry snorted.
"But the lights of London call to you… Isn't that right?"
"I admit I am going slightly claustrophobic in here," he murmured, holding his finger to his robes' neck. "Maybe I could ask for a night in town?"
"A portkey would be a nice idea, and I know of this delicious art gallery within the city that caters to the needs of us…diverse."
"How old is your knowledge?" he retorted.
"Recent, since I do have another frame there after all," the vampire in the picture smiled kindly. "It has been recently pulled out and placed in storage though…if you could persuade the owner to put me back…I would be thankful."
"And you would use your newfound freedom to get back at your other kindred? Or maybe act as a liaison between the two and spy on me?" Harry drawled out. "There is no such thing as a clear cut deal."
"Indeed," the Daeva remarked. "However I can offer you far more than petty boons. I have memorized the serial codes and keys of my European bank accounts, plus a few Swiss ones just there, ripening up with no-one to claim them…that money must feel dreadfully alone."
"You understand that if you're lying to me on this, I might have to take measures, like…ripping things out of anger?"
"Of course! Yet for a few grands…if you understand me, of course, because by 'grand' I don't mean just thousands…I mean 'a hundred and more'."
"Now my interest is picked," Harry smiled briefly. "Very well, I'll get us a portkey to London…let me make this clear however…I will rip you to shreds if you even dare short-hand me."
"Then I say…" the Daeva in the picture smiled sweetly. "We have a deal. Do we not?"
"We have one, for the moment," he retorted. "But no deal is official without a Harpy is it?"
"Well, I'm actually dead now," the picture sighed. "You really want to start working on what ifs?"
"No," he shrugged. "Destruction sentence sounds good enough of a check."
Of course, getting permission would be quite different.
It was the following night, as his study group arrived that the idea actually became feasible.
"I wonder," he began out loud as his 'students' delivered their reports. "How many of you would like to take part in an excursion into the muggle world?"
Everyone quieted down as Harry made his best 'I'm just putting this out here'. "The most any of you see is the Leaky Cauldron I suppose, and even among you muggleborns there are certain areas of true London you have never seen," he smiled gingerly. "So, I was thinking…what if an adult wizard showed you around London? Not just Diagon Alley that is, but around the true places wizards and witches go when they want to unwind, or the magical sections within the libraries around the capital…and so on."
"We could go on a tour?" Hermione's eyes shined. "Like…the National Gallery or the Tower?"
"Maybe not the Tower," he supplied back. He didn't want to bargain with the Spectres haunting the place. "But there are quite the things a class of students might find worth seeing."
"Sorry professor, but would we all be going out at night? Isn't there a curfew?" Zabini remarked narrowing his eyes slightly.
"I was going to ask your mother for help too, Blaise. I've been told she is very renowned around the social circles of London, and this doesn't need to be a visit only for the muggleborns, but also for the Purebloods who need to discover where the true etiquette and nobility of London still resides," he smiled gently. "Of course everyone is free to choose whether to come or not."
"I can come too?" Lillian asked hesitantly.
"We'll be going to muggle London, dressed as Muggles or with clothes transfigured like Muggles," he replied. "I doubt any Pureblood extremist would be looking for the Girl-Who-Lived there."
"Will the Headmaster give permission though? What with the tournament and everything else…" Tracey Davis supplied thoughtfully.
"He will," Harry nodded. "Of that I have no doubt. You don't need to answer me now though: it will probably be sometime before the first challenge of the tournament however, so if you can write home and ask your parents if underage, it would be good. For those of age, the choice is yours."
"My parents could help!" Hermione spoke excitedly after she remained behind. "I mean, Harry —gosh, professor! Sorry," she stammered. "If you're asking for help then it would be…"
"No," Harry quickly blocked her. "It is best your parents do not worry," he added. His right hand gently stopped on the girl's shoulder. "Trust me on this Hermione: everything is going to be fine without you disturbing your parents."
Her hazel eyes narrowed for a moment. Then they seemed to melt the worries hidden behind them, as her lips moved to a light grin.
"It was always like this, wasn't it?" she remarked. "The calm and collected Hufflepuff telling the over-excited Gryffindor that everything was going to be fine. Even when it wasn't going to be fine or it couldn't be fine."
"Hey," he scoffed back, shrugging. "It always did turn out fine."
"That time I got lost in the Forbidden forest and you came to get me out? You got lost yourself. We ended up losing a hundred points each for that stunt."
"Maybe, but you earned fifty back for the courage demonstrated in looking for your stolen things, and I for having valiantly come to a friend's aid," he murmured with a bitter smile. "Then I got seventy-five more from Professor Sprout."
"I got eighty from Professor McGonagall —she never believed a first year could have the galls to go against the rules so much and with so little benefit to herself." Hermione smiled fondly at the memory. "It was barely six years ago, wasn't it?"
"Time changes people," Harry shrugged. "It twists and deforms them until nothing but gnarled roots are left behind, a pale imitation of their past selves."
"Nice…is it from a poem?"
"No," he shook his head. "It is taken from the weaves of reality that bind and chain all that is and all that is not."
"You never were one for speaking in riddles," Hermione supplied with a light giggle. "You're making fun of me right now, right?"
"You have no idea," he answered with his right hand now moving to the girl's cheek. "Be careful," he added then with a tone of urgency. He removed his hand as if burned, opening and closing its palm before turning towards the desk. "You shouldn't trust me like this."
"Listen," he began, fumbling for the words. "You shouldn't come to the tour of London."
"What? Harry, you're not making any sense! Why shouldn't I? Think of all the things you can show us, and I should miss them!?"
"Hermione," Harry spun around quickly. "Knowledge isn't only power. It is damnation. We see things only as we are constructed to see them, and can gain no idea of their absolute nature. With five feeble senses we pretend to comprehend the boundlessly complex cosmos, yet other beings with wider, stronger, or different range of senses might not only see very differently the things we see, but might see and study whole worlds of matter, energy, and life which lie close at hand yet can never be detected with the senses we have." He finished his quote long enough to walk once more closer to Hermione, who was now widening her eyes in shock.
"That's…Lovecraft," she supplied. "You gave me his works as gift for last Christmas," she murmured. "I couldn't sleep for days with the fear of having eldritch horrors under the bed."
"And what of those hidden behind the skin of men and women?" Harry asked then. "What of those who don the mask of humans, of happy and normal people?"
"You are starting to scare me, Harry." Hermione whispered. "If there's something you want to tell me then please tell me."
"Always the brave one," he smiled kindly. "Always looking for answers, even when the results might not be to your likings," he chuckled grimly. "Ah Hermione…named after the Queen of Sicily of Shakespeare's play, you have no idea the irony that strikes within me knowing that."
"Harry? You're really creeping me out right now."
"She dies of a broken heart, you know? I'm sure you'd rather have been called after Hermes, or one of the Greek's names. Unfortunately, you were drawn by the name of a Shakespeare's novel…which strangely has a nice ending, doesn't it? Everyone meets again, and even Hermione, killed, returns to life from a statue created of her." He smiled. "I wonder, were I to make a statue of your corpse, would you return to life?"
Hermione's skin paled beyond the normal, as she seemed to be shuddering and tightening her lips in fear. All appearances of warmth, of normalcy that Harry had displayed till then were now gone, replaced with…
With a monster in human skin?
"Well then, Hermione," Harry exhaled slowly. "Do you understand now?" he smiled as he gestured to the door. "Never trust me again, Hermione," he whispered. "Never."
Furiously, the brown haired girl dashed out of the room, her robes fluttering as she ignored the girl behind the door waiting for a chance to enter herself. Harry just stared with amusement at Susan Bones slipping in and closing the door behind her, the red haired Hufflepuff coyly smiling as she went for her robes' neckline.
"Can I trust you, Harry?" Susan whispered sultrily, taking a few more steps closer to him.
And Harry just smiled, and made his best charming face as he hummed his approval.
Somewhere, deep down beneath the sick twistedness of his mind and his frozen heart, his soul actually hummed in approval.
It wasn't about scaring Hermione.
It was about saving her, from the most dangerous threat that Hogwarts, or the Wizardry world, would ever have.
Vampires would be out hunting that night…he'd make preparations and gather around the hunters. He'd do as the Giovanni motto spoke…
And he would profit from it.
Blood bounding young wizard nobles, like nothing more than wild game. He'd give the ticket and claim the riches, as those around would salivate and ask for a piece of the pie.
He couldn't sell Hermione however. He couldn't sell his sister. The rest though…
The rest was fair game.
He'd do that with a smile and a light-hearted chuckle. He'd point the finger with the hand holding the flute filled with champagne during a nightly visit at the Gallery, and one of the most distinguished nobleman or noblewoman would have a word with the student in question in a private corner.
And then they would come back, slightly changed, curious of meeting again the strange man or woman that had appealed to them.
And during the Christmas holidays, they would.
Only…they would not be coming back.
He would instead, with Lillian and Hermione and his much needed blood dolls. He would be coming back.
And Dumbledore would have a mess in his hands to solve…
If the old wizard survived an eye to eye with the Prince of London, then he probably would be in need of a far greater scandal.
Like a teacher sleeping with a student…
…or a Death-Eater polyjuiced as Alastor Moody mysteriously going on a murderous rampage against the first years of Hogwarts.
The Death of Innocence…the death of children…
That always got to the nerves of people.
With nice reactions and Harry-Hermione talking with snippets of past.