Grey clouds loomed. The sun barely filtered its rays through the thick nimbus of condensed water that moved drifted by the winds. Albus Dumbledore gritted his teeth as his eyes travelled across the entire parchment now laid open in front of him. He couldn't believe it.
He had been called to the Wizengamot on a very urgent notice, concerning the lack of faith of the ministry on his tenure as Headmaster.
He would have to talk for hours, only to reiterate nothing new and nothing that the other members of the wizardry parliament didn't already know. The only reason Fudge would have gone that far was easy to see: somebody wanted him out of the castle on that particular day.
He had begun checking up with his contacts, to ask questions about vampire society and if some terms made any sense to them.
He hadn't heard back from a single one of his spies.
Still, he knew it was only a matter of time. He couldn't postpone this —the message was authentic and even sealed with wax before he had opened— and he couldn't avoid this. He had to go.
The proposal of Harry to go to London on the very same day with his study group reeked of suspicious, but if during the day the students were to be followed by Madam Burbage, he feared more about those who had actually been granted permission to attend the 'night' study.
Mostly muggleborns, he suspected they thought their professor would lead them to some sort of…nightclub, or something like that.
He didn't dare take the chance.
Still, for that day Harry would be out of Hogwarts himself —he had already departed and the castle felt warmer— because he had to prepare.
Albus Dumbledore felt as if he had suddenly all his years doubled. Tom was still somewhere around, trying to get his hands on Lillian, and yet…
Yet he couldn't help but feel that by forcing Harry to come to Hogwarts, he had simply increased the problem beyond his very abilities.
Meanwhile, deep within the underground of London's metro, a suited man began to walk at a leisured pace towards one of the metallic and always closed doors that no sane human —especially dressed in that state— would ever dare to open.
Yet he did it anyway, slowly starting to descend the stairway that would lead him all the way into the Nosferatu's nest beneath the city.
Behind him, he could feel one of Dumbledore's men follow him while hiding behind a notice-me-not charm. It didn't take much.
Twenty-four steps later, and a sick gurgling noise —as if somebody had just tore through a neck, to say— was all that Harry needed to be alone within the nest. Well, as 'alone' as being surrounded by vampires who could disappear from sight could be defined as.
"Is the archivist available? I think the feast was a nice touch, wouldn't you believe it so?" he inquired peacefully, the shadows lingering around him moving both closer and yet further away.
"You're not Ventrue," a hiss and a snarl ripped the air ferociously as a hulking figure deformed and twisted trudged forth from the depth of the darkest corner. The Nosferatu…
Poor souls of sinners forced to repent by their very own kin, in such an ironic way so that the beautiful, the arrogant, the rich would become the ugly, the penitent and the poor.
"I am Harry Dunsirn," sometimes, the right surname was all that was needed to open the doors…even if he hated using it. "Of clan Giovanni," he added as an afterthought. "Surely the archivist is available tonight, isn't he?"
"He is," another voice added to the fray of hisses and rats' squeaks. Droplets of blood coalesced from the ground to his side, forming into the figure of an elderly and extremely ugly looking lady. "The question is why you have not presented yourself to the Prince yet."
"I arrived during the day," he replied calmly. "The underground my only way through."
There was silence, if for a moment.
"Harry Potter," the old lady snarled then. "The Vampire who entered Hogwarts," she added. "You carry much on your shoulders, do you not? I expected someone…more refined."
"And I expect you to understand that if knowledge is power," he replied, "then maybe we could come up with an agreement."
"An agreement?" a third voice hissed. Harry knew that more would be coming out as he spoke —it really wasn't that difficult to understand, really. Nosferatu were ugly. So ugly not even humans could tolerate them, no matter how saint or pious. Their ugliness was unholy, and no piety would be given upon them from the cattle. Only other kindred barely tolerated them. Only their kin sharing their fate could understand.
Nosferatus were a tightly knitted community, nearly on par with the Giovanni's 'family' ideal.
The only difference was that while it was perfectly acceptable for a Giovanni to be a motherfucker, literally and figuratively, the Nosferatu held up to the fact that everyone already hated them for their faces…adding something else would just be overkill. They worked as information brokers, as spies and inquisitors. Harpies usually came from them, as well as executioners.
"I will first speak with the archivist," Harry replied calmly. "Then we might be able to strike a deal over some…young wizards and witches, who might be moving through London tonight."
"I see the haste now," a fourth voice, gravely and old-sounding boomed through the now cramped quarters beneath the metro. "But tell me, why should we trust you with the archivist?"
"I just have some questions for him," Harry remarked. "Nothing more...and nothing less."
"Well then, presentation to the Prince will take its time I suppose," another voice added roughly. "Let him go to the archivist —we can't really hold his clients out now, can we?"
"And he did bring us something to eat," a sixth one mumbled.
"Follow," the first Nosferatu, the bulky and twisted one, growled threateningly as he turned around and began to walk deeper through the unused corridors that literally connected the underground to the sewer system.
Harry was glad he had a change of clothes ready at the Pizzeria Franca close by. He suspected the night would be far from over however, as he couldn't help but wonder how long it would be until another clan came close to him. He supposed that night at the Elysium would be surprisingly filled with contacts.
It was the law of offer and demand after all.
Everyone wanted their own pet wizard.
A metal door was swung aside violently, slamming against the other side of the wall as the Nosferatu giant grumbled in.
"Harry! There's someone here for you!" the Nosferatu snickered at that, before suddenly muttering "uh?"
The next moment, the giant Nosferatu was slammed with strength across the sewer, hitting the ground as his bones broke and his limbs twisted apart. Harry took a step backwards and then kneeled.
Ambrogino Giovanni looked perfectly normal.
He didn't look a single year past fifty, and the dark shades of Obfuscate hid his most important features…but it didn't change the fact that he was a hulk of a man, on par with the Nosferatu giant he had so easily swatted aside as nothing more than a broken doll he had finished playing with. His left hand was hidden behind his back, and as his tired-looking eyes settled on him, they blazed with interest.
It was never a good thing.
"Dunsirn," the arcane scholar gruffly spoke. His voice carried over, like the power of his words, to where his beast lay trembling in its own cage. "Where is my door?"
"My lord, it will be after the new year," he whispered back with his gaze downwards. "In June, the twenty-fourth."
"I see," the Elder vampire spoke. "Do not betray…my expectations, Dunsirn."
And then the Elder left, leaving him behind to quake and tremble as his body remembered what fear was and what a true enemy was. It wasn't the meeting of an elderly wizard with a young one, or that of a trainee and its trainer. It was the meeting of prey and predator, and in that circumstance…he wasn't even a prey, but simply a speck of a flea.
He carefully waited a few more minutes, before a tired sounding voice came to him from within the door.
"Enter or leave, infant, but close the door," the voice was filled with the typical old man tone, the one that Dumbledore was fond of.
He entered, trembling still slightly as he closed the door, before schooling his features back to the impassivity they had held minutes before. "I am…"
"I know who you are, Harry James Potter," the voice came from behind a stack of thick leather bound books. "And I know what you wish to ask. The price, however, will have to be decided."
"Is it true then?" he queried. "Was he?"
"He might have been, as he might have not," the other Harry remarked. "If you want an answer however…the price must be paid."
"What is it that might interest you then, scholar? A book from Hogwarts? A collection of blood dolls? An enemy to be destroyed?"
"I plan on siring a child," the scholar remarked. "I need an adequate candidate."
"The Prince knows?"
"He does," the Nosferatu scoffed.
"You wish a wizard or a witch?"
"Either will be fine, as long as their minds will be up to the task," the vampire softly murmured. "You already have someone?"
Harry smiled back.
"Oh yes, yes I do."
Luna knew she hadn't placed her name on the list. She knew her father would never give her permission for something like this. She knew and yet there she was all the same, eying with a mixture of surprise and fear the strangely big group who would be going to Muggle London dressed as muggles for the day.
Of them only a few would remain for the night tour held by the other professor, but she hadn't been written on that one.
So maybe she was just imagining things. The clothes had been transfigured by the kind-hearted professor McGonagall, and Madam Burbage had given the necessary corrections. They would all go as a 'tourist' group. A few wizards of the ministry —a certain Arthur Weasley too— would make sure they wouldn't be lost.
She wondered how the ministry had known.
"Luna, are you all right?" she was asked by Hermione, always worrying about the others and never herself. She looked like a nervous wreck —hadn't she slept at all?
"Hermione, you're covered in Nargles," she remarked. The tiny things always floating around the edge of her vision seemed to literally love bouncing off against the bossy Gryffindor.
"No, I'm not," Hermione scoffed. "I'm fine."
"Must be the Nargles then," she remarked ignoring the girl's words on the trouble of Nargles. She could see them, so they were simply addling her friend's mental abilities.
"Nargles don't exist, Luna!" the girl snapped back. Luna recoiled, as if visibly struck while holding on the hem of her robe near her chest.
"I'm sorry," the Gryffindor added then. "It's just…I'm sorry, all right?"
Luna remained quiet, her head turned to avoid the other girl's gaze. She shuffled her feet for a moment, before taking a few steps forward and moving towards the other side of the crowd, away from the Gryffindor.
She didn't turn, but she knew that this would probably be the last time she ever met with the Gryffindor. The Nargles all laughed around her after all…
And the shadows crept with their bony hands around her shade's neck.
Twirling lights and dazzling streets filled with people. He breathed and exhaled, ecstatic at the sights and the crowds. He nearly began to laugh maniacally, as people passed him by as he walked, the streets peeling themselves apart as he trudged on in the city of the night.
There wasn't the might of the never sleeping New York. There wasn't the darkness of the ancient London. There wasn't the blood and gore of the twisted Tremere…but he could see.
Twisted faces hiding in the shadows, knifes gleaming in the empty back alleys. Bobbies walking with wicked grins or glazed over eyes, some drunk on things best left unspoken. The depraved walked with a smile, the kindred mixed with the living in the game as old as the night itself.
"Tell me more!" a voice spoke happily, a dreamy gaze over a boyish looking man in his young twenties. Perfect and flawless skin mixed with a beautiful knee-trembling smile needed little to convince a thirty-year old woman of their beauty. Even less was needed when they played the toy-boy part.
The youth just smiled savagely, before moving his gaze to where he was and sending him a coquettish smirk. He replied with a scoff and a roll of his eyes.
The Daeva sundered away with his catch, winking at him as he went. Harry kept on walking alongside the streets, as a pub's door next to him opened to throw out a drunken patron. The impromptu bouncer snorted, before turning his gaze to him and sending a fang-filled grin his way.
He made a brief 'hello' with his hand, before walking on.
In the streets and on the rooftops, rats and swarms followed him as dogs the size of wolves barked from the back alleys in his direction.
The night was young and filled with game, and he was the hunter of wits and the sharpest spear of all for that single fleeting instant.
They would follow him for tonight, for he would give them a prize beyond others. They would follow him and bathe in his glory, sending screams of joy to the skies as corruption would spread throughout England.
In the midst of it all he walked, the kindred around him growing more and more in number the closer he got to the seat of the Prince within the city of London.
Whips and Sheriffs patrolled the streets just outside a seemingly innocuous door that led into an old nineteenth century apartment complex. The double metal doors opened slowly, their hinges well-oiled. The Keeper of the Elysium reached towards him with a smile, clad in fitting and tight leather clothes that seemed to only accentuate her fleshy forms. There wasn't such a thing as a 'turn on' for kindred. It was distasteful to go around naked, but nobody prohibited a Daeva from showing a slightly more amount of skin than normal.
The elders didn't care and the young ones couldn't —generally, many simply became angry at the fact that their emotions and their…thing were 'dead'.
He delivered to the Keeper his jacket and his weapons —a stake, a small sword and a vial of petrol. It was sort of ironic that all kindreds were more suited to kill one another, rather than mortal men.
"His Highness will receive thee in a moment, Infant Potter," the smile and the way of being called said it all. The Prince knew he was of a higher generation than him, and he was displeased he hadn't presented himself to him sooner.
The doors to the court opened in silence before the Keeper of the Elysium, who walked inside and closed them behind without as much as a backward glance. Harry remained quiet with his arms limp at his sides.
What seemed like hours but were probably minutes passed by, before the doors opened again. He stepped inside, his name and rank heralded by the Keeper of the Elysium as he stepped forward, reaching through the massive hall of the Prince's court filled with drapes and what-not.
Etiquette demanded him to prostrate himself to the Prince, because of the different rank. He gritted his teeth as he followed the rules of tradition and of the Camarilla, touching the floor with his forehead before rising back up on one knee, his gaze fixed on the Prince itself.
"His Highness, Methuselah Prince Mithras, holder of London, supreme authority within this noble court, declares the meeting for the assignment of blood dolls and Kiss to begin tonight, in this most noble night. May the Infant present his merchandise under the watchful and serene gaze of his grace, Prince Mithras," the Keeper spoke clearly, her eyes lustfully moving from the Prince to Harry and back.
"I have twenty-seven wizards, three of whom are in their last years at Hogwarts," he began. "I will now remove from my pocket the maps of the tour I will make the merchandise take. I will not be held responsible should the bid winner fail to secure their prize. All those who wish to bid must be forewarned that precedence is held by Augusts Giovanni, represented by my words, Prince Mithras and whether there is equality of rank, then it will be to a Giovanni first and lacking that to the highest bidder. To preserve anonymity, the bid papers must only contain the rank and the clan, and then present themselves forward as they win the bid."
Quietly, he removed from within his inner pockets a stack of papers of different colors. Silently the Keeper of the Elysium produced a table from thin air, upon which Harry dropped the stacks of colored papers. The crimson red signified a minor favor. The green meant a moderate favor. The yellow was for the major favors. The silver meant a life-favor. The white papers were for the money lumps.
A box with a slit stood in the corner, so that the papers could be pushed inside.
"I will now start passing out the manifesto with the merchandise," he began, handing over to the Keeper a thick stack of papers.
The kindred began perusing the papers, silently accepting them from the Keeper. It took a few more minutes, before everyone was comfortably settled.
The Prince spoke first.
"Cedric Diggory," he began. "One minor favor."
Harry's eyes kept their cool as he was about to retort, yet in that moment the doors swung open and an unannounced visitor entered the court room with purposeful strides.
"A major favor," the man replied. "He is of good standing and fit. He has a career in the government waiting for him. He is also nearly finished with his education."
The prince eyed the man for a second more, before calmly showing his fangs.
The other man looked back with a bored look at the Prince, before turning to stare at Harry. "You have somewhere to be Infant…I will deal with the bids personally."
And so it was that Harry Potter nodded with fright as he hastily made his way outside of the court.
He wasn't going to remain where two titans of old began their game. He knew that by the end of the night either Augustus Giovanni would emerge as the new de-facto ruler of England, or the Prince would. He suspected as much from the moment he had been warned to 'speak in the name of Augustus'. He could understand now why even Ambrogino was around.
He didn't have to like it, but he was thankful that in the bids he hadn't mentioned his own blood dolls or Hermione. This was a game he would be bound to lose, but still…
It was the only game he was entitled to play.
He stepped through the tube, reaching for the Leaky Cauldron with relative ease. The students waiting for him were all there, but he narrowed his eyes at the sight of Hermione still there with the rest of them. Susan and Lillian? He could understand really, but he knew a stern word would suffice. Nymphadora readying herself for the 'night' shift? Tolerable by his beast.
Hermione there? No. That wasn't tolerable at all.
He wasn't doing this out of some sort of misguided reminiscence of feelings. He simply did what his brain told him to do: Hermione had always been the righteous Gryffindor. She was his conscience, and he couldn't lose the talking cricket to the beasts that lurked the streets at night.
"Lillian: you're not of age, nor do you have my permission," he curtly snapped to the girl. "Go back."
Before she could retort, he turned his gaze to Bones and Granger.
"You two, could you escort her and make sure she doesn't leave?" the girls blinked, fighting off the impulse to obey but finding it irresistible. Within moments, Harry was left with the other students, the unimportant one he would not care the slightest should they…disappear.
"Hey, Harry?" Nymphadora asked as they began their tour of the nightly London. "Can we talk for a moment?"
"Once we reach the Gallery," he remarked.
Already he could feel the gazes of the hungry beasts pointed at them. He could feel the tensing of muscles in the people casually walking by. Probably ghouls, ready at the mere sign of their masters to begin the collection. Nymphadora didn't remain quiet until the gallery however, preferring to speak her mind out.
"I…Harry? I think we're being followed."
"By what? A muggle?" he retorted with a snort. "You worry too much, Nymphadora."
"I worry too much?" the Metamorphmagus queried back. "We're travelling through London, at night, with students who have barely been out in the muggle world before. Not that I don't trust the precautions with the ministry's Unspeakables tailing us," Harry rolled his eyes. "But really, I have a bad feeling about this."
"Like when you left me because 'death did us apart'?" he muttered back loud enough for her to hear.
"You had become a monster, Harry! I mean, really…I was scared, all right? If…If you had come back home only to find me sleeping in a coffin in the basement, really, what would you have done?"
"Certainly not freak out and try to Confringo you."
"Excuse me! You moved the coffin aside and popped up like some sort of Dracula clone!"
"That's what they told me to do," he bickered back. "What was I supposed to know!?"
Nothing. Technically speaking, he hadn't been supposed to know anything. It had taken Severus Snape's contacts with the underworld to get him to New York, where he had learned thankful to Little Italy's immigrants and those who belonged to the Giovanni family.
Had he remained in Scotland and ended under the Dunsirn…probably he would be a filthy rich banker, but he'd also end up eating little girls as midnight snack.
"Maybe come out from the basement?"
"And end up burned by the sun?"
"Well, I think you would have made a wonderful ash pile," she snapped back.
They were passing through a park then, little to no-one going around that late at night, but the Gallery was just beyond it. Technically it was a safe spot; it was the perfect spot for an ambush, in truth.
"Oh yeah, really," he chuckled then. "Maybe I could have gotten you some allergy."
"Husband dusted, wife dies from allergy shock," Nymphadora giggled back. "Mages don't get allergies, Harry."
"Oh yeah," he shrugged. "We don't get them too."
"Duh, you're dead."
"Nope," he shook his head. "Heart is beating and all," he smirked. "Want to hear it throb?"
He tapped to his chest. "It's even singing a song right now, something about 'you broke me, and now I'm going to pay you back a thousand's fold' or something like that."
He smiled then as the students' crowd suddenly was parted by the screams of fright and fear. "You know the fun thing, Nymphadora?" he said then, his gaze wandering from the students falling on the ground to where the Auror was trying to get her wand out of her pocket. "You were right in fearing what I was," he whispered with a smile. "But you were wrong in fearing me," he added wistfully. "Now however…it's too late."
Nosferatu emerged from their shrouds of Obfuscation; Gangrels appeared from the ground with their hands firmly held on the ankles of their prey. A couple of Brujahs began to circle around the scared teenagers with their fists ready and looking every bit as the scary bully of films.
The wands were broken the moment they appeared, Celerity granting inhuman speed and reflexes to the kindred. The screams did not come. The mere split-second of frightening silence was more than enough to utterly quiet down the victims, who were all pushed on the ground and knocked out.
Nymphadora's own form was trembling as her wand appeared in the hand of a Nosferatu.
"For you, my dear," the Nosferatu —a female albeit the rotten form of its face didn't make it easy to see— handed him the wand of the Auror. "Terrible things happen at night in this park. They never stood a chance, against those 'Death Eaters' did they?"
"And those who did survive," he remarked, "will be found three days later, in a sorry state." His eyes, cold and unfazed, turned to Nymphadora. "All because an auror let it slip to her mother, who in turn let it slip to Narcissa Malfoy, who in turn told her husband." He shook his head slowly. "You see, Nymphadora…" he began to speak with slight hesitation. "This is why wizards fear the night."
"Because it belongs to us." Another voice entered the fray. "Which of them is mine?" the old Nosferatu asked. Harry pointed to a blond haired girl with pale skin and a frightened face. "Ah, I see," he began then. "A Malkavian would have offered you more, for someone as special as her."
He shrugged. He had no idea what the Nosferatu was saying, but he wasn't there to understand the words of an Elder. He was there to do his business and profit from it.
"All is clear?"
"All is clear," the Elder remarked, dropping a slip of paper in his hand. "Be warned that what I know and what you will discern are different things of the same coin."
"As long as the coin changes hands," Harry retorted. "What matters the face it falls on?"
"Giovanni, always so close to profit they'd whore out their own mothers."
"Hey," he mocked being offended. "Mother's sacred, you know? Now on the daughters we might find a suitable price however," he chuckled then —empty and devoid of soul— as he watched Luna Lovegood being taken away by the Scholar of the Nosferatu. Luna just followed the ugly looking man, but not before turning her cerulean eyes on Harry and muttering.
"Nargles will rot your soul for this, Harry…I hope they kill you."
He rolled his eyes then, even though he had never heard such heat from the girl's words, he wasn't surprised by them…he'd have probably done the same, had he been the one whisked off by a Nosferatu. "Let them try," he chuckled again. "I think they'll die of hunger first."
In that moment Nymphadora's boot slammed against the female Nosferatu that had been holding her down, earning a startled cry from the vampire as the auror broke into a dash. Harry sighed and then, holding carefully onto the woman's wand, he pointed it at the running back of the woman that once had been his wife.
"Giovanni always pay their debts," he muttered. "Don't they?"
And the woman fell on the ground in a heap of twitching muscles and spasms. She fell and tried to scream, but the silent Silencio cut off her voice and her cries of pain.
"My Unforgivables are a bit rusty," he wistfully admitted. "I was trained in them with Voldemort alive, but it's been so long since I held a wand in my hand." He flicked and Nymphadora's twitching form came barreling towards him. "You want to know what is going to be funny, my little Nymphette?" he cooed at her.
"You," he snarled. "Taking the fall for everything."
And then Nymphadora's eyes widened as the tip of her own wand was pressed against her.
She fell on the ground like a broken doll, but it was enough for Harry to work on.
"I'll write to Lockhart later for the finishing touches. Who'd have guessed he was an idiot because he was a ghoul?" he muttered under his breath.
"Imperio," he added then to the Metamorphmagus. "Now follow me quietly."
"Wait!" a voice echoed in the night, coming from a beautiful raven skinned woman. "You!" she snarled then, turning on him.
"Me?" he replied wistfully as he looked from what was probably Zabini's mother to the boy being hauled away by a Gangrel. Oh well, that wasn't going to hurt him the slightest.
"We can make a deal," she pleaded. "He's…"
"You're still young," Harry chuckled as did the old Nosferatu next to him. "The deals are already made. Flaunting your title or writing your clan backwards means nothing. I made the highest profit from this. If your bid wasn't high enough, then it was your fault, Miss."
"You," her eyes shone red for a moment, but just as they did Harry merely gave his back to her. "Go now, Madam Zabini. Go and convince your husband to die somewhere like those that came before. Be the black widow you wish to be for all I care…but remember that the more you will live into this world," he murmured with his gaze glazed. "The more you will lose yourself to sin and vice and welcome darkness as your only consolation."
"We are creatures of the night," he spoke to himself as he walked away from the park alone, his steps taking him towards the safehouse of the Giovanni.
"We are not evil," he muttered. "We are not sinners." He whispered.
What he did wasn't wrong. He had done what any predator does. He had hunted, he had acquired and he had delivered to the Alpha in exchange of protection and a bigger share in the future, or a place to sleep and help. He knew the favors would not belong to him but to the Giovanni family as a whole, but he had achieved something.
With this small act, with this sacrifice to the hungry gods that were the Elders, he had achieved standing and knowledge.
And with knowledge, he would understand.
Once that was done however…
He sighed as he stepped into the back of the Italian restaurant held by the Giovanni's family. He walked to the small cot in the cellar, no lights or windows around, and then fell on it as he mentally revised the backstory to give.
Poor, poor Nymphadora…under Imperius and forced to commit such heinous actions.
"Sleep," he muttered to the witch who had been dutifully following him till then. "We'll make our appearance back among the wizards soon, but not yet…first," he mumbled. "First fake capture, and guess what?" he smiled savagely. "I will have the right to sire soon, for my extraordinary actions…" he chuckled once more, his eyes gleaming towards Nymphadora.
"A pity you will be needed alive. It would have been poetic justice."
He blinked again.
The night was still young, and all had gone without a hitch.
But he knew better.
He had made an enemy, as always, and as always he had to solve it before it became worse. Maybe give a hunter group a hint on where a vampire rested? Or the ministry of magic…
As the night went on, he decided.
The ministry it would be.
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