Our Autumns in the Moon's Grace

by Elagabalus

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Fifth Moon – Chapter Five

The low and delighted doorbell resounded in a very large and airy way inside the house, which despite Potter's weirdness was starting to make Draco a little happier for the lack of cheap plastic siding or crumbling brick or scraggly yellow weeds,. They stood there together, Potter pensive and still while Draco was practically hopping on his heels, for a long moment.

It wasn't that he was a rich elitist to the extreme, or anything. He'd just spent the vast majority of his life with two housekeepers and in a private school where everyone knew the stock ratings of everyone's parents. He didn't really loathe having to spend the last two nights in crummy apartments; it's just that he was more comfortable in nearly seven-digit homes in the same way other people felt uncomfortable in those same environments. And well, yes – he did whine a lot when denied what he was used to. So sue him.

The door fell inward on its hinges. A man, dark and young, looked out at them with impassive yet somehow warm ebony eyes. His full lips parted to reveal a polite and startlingly white smile.

"Harry, come in," he said with a crisp voice, stepping out of their way. "It's really cold."

His head a little low, Potter slipped through the doorway, Draco on his heels. "Thank you, Charles."

As expected, Draco's gaze thirstily drank in the clean, cherry-floored entrance hall with its high-ceiling and tall windows in the back wall, facing south. Simple modern rugs further warmed the dark red of the wood and a staircase leapt high and branched off into the opposing sides of the rooms. Wildly courteous paintings hung naked, without frames, and a vast bouquet of sweet narcissus and poppies drowsed in a curvaceous glass vase set on a round table in the center of the hall, a little pad of paper hiding beneath the flowers' trembling shadows. He could hear a harpsichord somewhere further inside.

"Sorry for bursting in like this," Potter apologized, his hands and cheeks red.

The polite smile still in place, Charles shook his head. "No trouble. You're always welcome." He had his thin, tan pullover pushed to his elbows. It contrasted with the deep hue of his skin. His gaze flicked to Draco.

"This is Draco Malfoy," explained Potter. "Draco, this is Charles Nevers."

"Good to meet you," said Charles and held out his hand.

Draco met his dusky palm with his own disgracefully pale one. "You too." The other's eyes were placidly inspecting him. Was he a vampire? Would it be rude to ask? If he was, how old was he? Could he see more than just his own vampirism and his relation to Potter?

Charles was taking their jackets and his bag. Slipping them onto hangers from a coat closet, he said, "I'm afraid it's just Léon and myself at the moment. Any special reason for visiting?"

"Well," hesitated Potter. "I was hoping we could stay the night. Something's come up with Bellatrix Lestrange."

The black gaze flickered toward him. "That will be fine." He approached another side door. "Won't you come sit?"

Potter nodded and Draco followed the two of them down a quietly lit hallway, leaving imprints into a plush, slender rug past a few doors until they reached the end. The harpsichord's trilling swelled in volume. He could recognize the piece now; it was Boccherrini's minuet. Charles slipped the door open silently and the chirp and warble of the minuet fluttered past them and all over their senses. Almost two-thirds of the room's walls were covered in demurely curving windows, their dove-gray drapes falling to lightly finger the same cherry floorboards from the entrance. Furnished in understated, classical settees, sofas, a dark and spindly chessboard, it was a room Draco would rather have listened to Satie in. But it wasn't really in him to complain when Boccherrini had never sounded so much like an actual ripple of the Enlightenment Era in his own century than it did now.

The culprit for this musical revel sat at a delicate harpsichord slipped in between two high bookcases. The door snapped shut. Boccherrini abruptly ended under the musician's hovering fingers and he turned to reveal a Botticelli face. A spring-esque smile developed from the boy's pliant lips; he looked younger than Potter and had a soft down of deep yellow for hair – a mess of feather curls.

He exclaimed unintelligibly, leaping up and flinging himself into an enthusiastic hug within Potter's arms. He beamed up at the brunette's smile and began to talk at breakneck speed in a somehow rather strange form of French.

"Whoa!" Potter said, holding up his hands to fend off the friendly fire. "Slow down. My French really hasn't improved since last time."

"English, Léon," Charles commented while pulling shut the drapes. It was getting darker.

A light pout touched his mouth. "I can't speak English well." Which was obvious from the pronounced accent. "What if I use French sloow?"

"Won't do any good," said Charles. "You still speak so antiquatedly. Please have a seat, Harry, Draco."

The boy, or Léon as Draco deduced, whirled at the sound of an unknown name. He gave Draco a wide-eyed, speculative look. Pointing, he announced loudly, "Young! You're so young!"

Which sounded ridiculous coming from someone who looked barely out of puberty. Draco felt a scowl coming over his face as Potter snorted.

"Don't be rude," Charles told him, pressing the accusing finger down. "Draco, this is Léon Nev–"

"De Neviers," interrupted the boy as he flounced into an armchair. "I don't like the American-ese one you use."

"American-ised," he corrected. "All right. This is Léon de Neviers, Draco. Léon, this is Draco Malfoy."

Draco tried to regain his dignity. "Plea–"

"You smell like human," Léon informed him.

"–sure." And failed.

Potter bent over, laughing.

Marble bathroom! Large bed to himself! Draco tried to keep thoughts like that in his head while ignoring the 'goddam brat's. Still laughing, Potter pulled him down to sit in one of the sofas.

Charles frowned at the boy, who shrugged.

"It's true."

"I take it you're vampires," said Draco dryly.

"That's right," sighed Charles, leaning on the chair where Léon slouched, his legs folded and stuck at gauche angles in the air.

They seemed to be on total polar opposites; the man was dark-skinned, faintly African and carefully tactful while the boy was thoughtless and blond, terribly European-looking. So how was it exactly that they both came by the same last name, however French 'de Neviers' sounded next to 'Nevers'?

"It's really just my name," Léon said, looking straight at him. "Charles was our servant, but we adopted him because we liked him so much." His still, blue eyes chilled him.

Draco stared, feeling his mouth flop like a fish. "You –"

"I think we could do with some tea," Potter interrupted abruptly.

Charles straightened with dark eyes. "I think that's a fine idea."

"Oh!" Léon scrambled to his knees on the armchair. "Cake. We need to have cake."

"You just had some after dinner," said Charles.

The boy looked at him with pleading eyes.

"Oh, fine."

"And Italian ice! We still have some!"

The young man sighed. "If you're going to order a five-course meal, you can go tell Penny what you want."

"Okay," the boy chirped, entirely game. He sprang out the door without a second thought or backward glance.

Silence enveloped them for a long moment. Draco darted a suspicious glance at Potter, who said nothing. Charles sat down.

"Penny is our housekeeper and cook," he told him.

"Well, that's –" Draco began sarcastically but Potter gave his ankle a good clip with his shoe.

Charles hesitated. "About Léon – I'm sorry if he startled you. He does that to people sometimes... He's very strange. Even for a vampire."

"He reads minds?" Draco demanded.

The black eyes were careful. "Perhaps. We don't know exactly what it is. Sometimes he'll do that – start talking about something you were thinking about. Other times he'll mention something out of the blue that you swear you've never told anyone about, and weren't even thinking on at the time. Or he'll insist that he could remember a specific event he couldn't possibly be part of, describing it in full, and you'll watch it happening later in the future or discover it really did happen the way he said in the past." He looked troubled. "And he'll never talk about this... ability coherently. He gets upset if you keep on about it."

"It's not something that's usual," Potter told him. "So don't get your hopes up, thinking after a couple of years you'll be able to see what's to happen in the stock market before it happens."

Draco glowered, beginning to think just that. A door opened and shut noisily towards the front of the house.

"Excuse me," Charles said, standing. "That must be Claude." He left on soft feet.

Silence snowed down between them. Draco gave Potter a suspicious look. "I don't know about you, but a little blond twat reading my every thought is a little creepy. How'm I supposed to get to sleep tonight?"

He rolled his eyes. "'Blond twat'? Look who's talking. You'll manage, I'm sure." Potter frowned. "And he's a good kid."

"Right," Draco replied in highly false concurrence. "There's nothing else fishy I should know about, is there?"

Potter hesitated. Not a good sign in Draco's opinion. "Just do what I said and don't go wandering around alone."

The blonde scowled. The swept open again and Charles reentered with another man. The newcomer smiled at them with thick-lidded eyes, languor leaking from his every movement. He swept dark hair away from his olive-skinned brow and said, "Harry, it's about time you made a fledgling! And he looks like he actually has a decade or two before him."

"I suspect that's supposed to be a compliment," Charles commented.

Harry grinned and reached up to shake the man's hand, Draco following suit. He sat, smoothed his crisp shirt perfunctorily, and inspected them with cool, hospitable eyes. "You are Draco Malfoy? I'm Claude. I was Claude in France, Claudius in Rome, and a great many other things in a great many other places." He smiled again.

"A pleasure," Draco returned calmly. The man unsettled him for no reason he could divine.

"I hear you've been having a spot of trouble, Harry," Claude said in a fatherly tone as he accepted a shot of bourbon from Charles. The dark man laid a ringing silver serving tray on the coffee table, laden with crystal glasses and a bottle of dark butterscotch liquid. Potter declined silently. Draco didn't even want to think about what the stuff would do to his stomach.

"You could put it that way," answered Potter.

Claude sighed. "Tom's up to his nasty habits again, is he? Well, let's hear it."

"Actually," the brunette began and recounted to them the story. Just hearing all the crap he'd had to endure for that past three days was making him want to kick something around. Preferably Bellatrix's head.

As Potter finished with describing how he'd just managed to dodge the Lestranges after being followed for two hours, Claude mused for a minute. He started to say something, but the door burst open and Léon swung in, a large tray of confectionery goodies sliding with his momentum. He practically threw the massive thing down on the coffee table, barely missing the bourbon. A woman followed after him, her hands carefully balanced under her tray. Léon flopped down on the sofa beside Charles, grinning at Claude.

"Salut!"

The man smiled, his look suddenly changing. "Tut-tut. English, remember? You never put any effort into your languages." His gaze suddenly seemed unable to recognize anything but Léon.

A pout fleetingly dropped into his lips before he was distracted by the woman placing a tea set gingerly beside the sweets. "Honey and sugar cubes?" He asked her, leaning forward quickly to poke about the molded silverware.

"Of course," she replied with a warm, tired look.

"You really drink your tea with honey and sugar?" Potter asked, dismayed.

"It's a wonder his teeth haven't all fallen out years ago," Charles commented, his white teeth flashing up in swift smile. His mahogany hands were carefully moving as directed by Lon's slender index finger, scooping delicate pastries and sugary things onto a polished little dessert plate. Potter and Draco both chose to opt out of any dismally sweet things, as did Claude and Charles, so that it ended up with only Léon licking bits of icing from the corners of his mouth. The woman, Penny, Draco assumed, dusted off her pristine apron and smiled at them.

"Anything else I can get you all?"

"Can you make up the beds in the olive and burgundy rooms?" Charles asked her over the steam of his tea.

She nodded. "Of course. I'll be heading out after that, if that's okay."

"Certainly," nodded Charles. "I'm sorry we've kept you so late today."

She smiled, looking mildly pretty for a rounded middle-aged woman. "No trouble, no trouble. I'll see you tomorrow." She reached for the door.

"Wait, Penny!" Léon suddenly called through an éclair. His thick accent thickened even more until he swallowed. "I wanted to ask a question."

She paused with her back to the door. "Yes?"

The boy wiped a bit of chocolate from his mouth. "What do you need that gun under your apron for?" His eyes focused unwaveringly on her suddenly still form. He was wiping his fingers with a starched white napkin.

A long quiet flooded the room. The woman stood there, frigid, staring at that emotionless angelic face, her warmth gone and no surprise or anger hurrying to replace it. Léon stared at her with a similar expression, Charles beside him slowly overcome with shock. Potter had stiffened with his eyes on Claude, who was sitting calmly, drinking the tea he'd splashed some bourbon into. Draco's eyes raced from person to person, wandering when someone would do something. What the hell was going on? They abruptly all heard distant barking.

Two chimes accompanied Claude's calm movement as he placed his cup on its saucer, and the saucer on one of the serving trays. He spoke as if nothing had happened, "There the dogs go again. Léon," he leaned toward the boy, smiling, "why don't you and Charles go take them for a walk to settle them down?"

The boy's inert expression morphed instantly into his wide smile. He jumped to his feet and dragged Charles to his. "Let's! I want to see them!" The dark man followed the boy, his now slightly nervous expression not lifting as they steered around the woman as if she were merely a mannequin. He gave her a last look before calling down the hallway after Léon to get their coats. The door closed and several minutes stretched on until you could no longer hear the boy's careless traipsing in the house. Claude stood, his look completely and utterly drawn cool and slack. Before she could say a thing, the tall man had her arms pinned and her feet scrambling for purchase. She cried out, anger finally peeking through.

"If you will, Harry," Claude nodded downward without a drop of sweat.

Potter jerked upward and hurried forward, lifting the apron and finding it. He placed the ugly thing delicately on a nearby roll top desk. Draco hovered, unsure. It really was getting to be too much. Couldn't they have at least a few hours peace?

"Well, Penny," growled Claude, shoving her to her knees and tightening his vise on her hands, "that's certainly a pretty bauble. Tell me why you decided to bring it along today. Or maybe it wasn't just today, hmm?"

"Let go of me, beast!" she snarled as she jerked her limbs desperately.

"Beasts, are we?" he chuckled humorlessly. "You didn't seem to mind so much when the paychecks were rolling in, though, huh?" He pushed her into the back of a sofa, trapping her torso and limiting her movement. He pressed his knee sharply into her back, causing her to draw her breath quickly. "Although I'm sure we weren't your only source of income."

"You... You...!"

"Let's hear it already, then," Claude muttered. "Who are you working for? Tom?"

"Let go! Let go!" she shrieked.

He clucked. "Definitely not going to happen until you answer my question."

She said nothing but continued to flail hopelessly against him. It's not like Draco'd never seen someone roughed up, or anything, but the situation felt surreal in such a pristine, rich setting. He felt himself longing for crusty bars with nasty drunks being chucked out by the dozen. His eye strayed to the gun again where it gleamed dully. His back to Draco, Potter's eyes were fixated on the woman as she bucked and grunted. Claude made an impatient sound and twisted her arms even more cruelly. She yelped sharply. The man bent down to her ear level and seemed to speak softly. Potter subconsciously stepped toward them.

"Yes!" the woman screeched. "Alright? Yes, I'm working for Mister Riddle."

"Well, Mister Riddle, is it?" murmured Claude. "Beasts don't deserve titles, lady." He straightened his stance slightly while keeping her incapacitated. "Now. Explain the gun. What purpose exactly was Riddle aiming for by placing a spy in my home?"

Whatever he had said before seemed to have lost its impact as she again twisted in a frantic attempt to slip out of his hold. Draco was amazed at one, her stamina for a lady old enough to be his mother, and two, her stupidity. Didn't she realize, even if she got away, there weren't that many escape options? Unless she planned on smashing through the sun windows, which he honestly would not have been that surprised by at this point. In any case, the woman refused to say anything outside of her snarls to be let free.

"You do realize," Claude finally said, "that your fate will not be any different at Mister Riddle's hands?"

'Her fate'? What? Those words sounded grossly ominous to Draco. Potter edged nearer again. The gun still lay lifeless on the desk.

The fight fell from the woman's limbs. Her flesh went slack and she said nothing, pressed into the back of the sofa.

Claude did not let go. He looked thoughtful, his tall frame bent over her. Slowly, he rotated to face Potter.

"I'm sure you two are very tired after your long day," he said politely. "Why don't you go on to bed? Your rooms would be up the staircase in the entrance hall, farthest on the left. They'll be clean as a whistle, I'm sure. Despite being a little rat, Penny was quite the housekeeper."

"Claude – " Potter stopped himself. Draco couldn't see his face, but could hear the indecision in his voice.

"Really, Harry. You've nothing to worry about." The man's eyes settled coolly on Potter.

He stiffened and stepped closer. "You were planning on it all along, weren't you?" Potter hissed. Draco felt his stomach drop. He wasn't Einstein or anything, but even he knew that there was something in the air that said 'Just shut-up and get out!'

Claude's expression did not waver. "I don't know what you mean. Go on to bed. You've nothing to worry about."

Potter didn't move, but Draco could imagine his wavering expression. He abruptly turned about and he could see the stifled fury and fear in his face. Potter grabbed his arm tightly and spun him toward the door. Draco didn't need any more prompting and made no move to protest the rough treatment. He quickly left the room and entered the other, Potter on his heels, tepidly beginning to climb the staircase. Draco glanced behind. He made to say something, but the boy just shook his head brusquely. Reaching the landing, Potter pushed past and entered a bedroom. He followed silently.

"Close the door," snapped Potter. He edged tetchily toward the windows.

Draco quelled his annoyance and complied. The room was just as he expected – large, airy, gilded and comfortable. Everything was slathered in rich burgundy, from the antique four-poster to the fat wing-backed armchairs. Potter began pacing with clenched fists held like stones at his sides. He seemed to be gritting his teeth as his eyes leapt from one splendorous object to the next. Draco's head felt queer. And it wasn't just the nausea.

"He's not going to shoot her, is he?" he attempted, half-jokingly.

Potter stared at him. The meek grin on Draco's face died quickly. "Of course not," spat the brunette. "He doesn't need to."

He couldn't find a reply. For all his devil-may-care bravado, Draco doubted he really would have in all honesty been able to kill someone. Hell, he didn't even like having to back-up his threats of supreme ass-kickings. At all. It's much preferable to leave that to someone else. But what did he care about that woman? He didn't know her, and she obviously bit off more than she could chew. What did he care? Maybe there was someone who did care. He did think before that she was old enough to be his mother; was she someone's mother? Someone's wife? She was someone's daughter, for sure. Who was she leaving behind?

His stomach hurt. He'd be glad when this was all ended. If it did.

"What did you mean before, about saying he'd planned it all along?" Draco abruptly asked the still pacing Potter.

His eyes turned to him a little calmer but still eerie with a mixture of emotion. "He sent Léon away with Charles right after what he said. Léon..." He paused. "There's something not right with him."

Draco snorted, trying to draw back his good ol' confidence. "Really? I never would have noticed!"

Potter gave him a look to kill. "Can't you be mature for one minute?" he snapped angrily.

Draco felt his neck redden. He shrugged stiffly and sniffed.

Shaking his head, Potter turned away. "As I said, Léon isn't quite right in the head. Charles told me a while ago that it's been like that ever since he was turned into a vampire. And even a little before that something was wrong with him. It's not easy for him, being what he is now. Everyone deals with it differently, but it's like he somehow is just..." Potter's face fell into a bemused expression. "It's like he's just refusing what he is."

"I don't get it," Draco said lamely.

"Shocker," Potter quipped nastily. Ouch. The brunette continued. "Charles says his personality for the most part is the same as when he was alive, but.. For one thing, he can't stand blood or killing or watching someone else drink. He just.." Potter sighed. He ran a tired hand through his mass of feral hair. He looked at Draco and there was only weariness there now. "Look, just go to bed. You're right across the hall, I think."

He wanted to know what exactly it was Léon did to survive if he couldn't stand blood, but didn't feel much like messing with Potter in such a pissy mood. "I thought you said not to be alone."

"You'll be fine if you don't go looking for trouble," Potter told him. He stared off distractedly. "We shouldn't have come here."

Draco tutted. "We'd be a bloody mess now if we hadn't, though, right?"

"Maybe."

He suddenly didn't feel so tired. Who was Potter to be all secretive and moody? "How did Claude know right off the bat that woman was a spy?"

The boy sat to take off his shoes. "He probably was suspecting it before now. I don't know. I just hope this isn't because of us. I'm sure it can't be though. It sounded like she'd been their housekeeper for a while now." He glanced up at Draco. "Just go get some sleep. I'll wake you up early and we'll leave first thing in the morning. We can talk then. And I'm sorry for being rude. It's just –" He struggled with his laces for a moment, lips thin. "People don't have to die."

Draco felt awkward. He thought again about how that woman could have a family. He opened the door. "Night, Potter."

"Night."

He entered his wonderful, deep green room and quickly fell into a dreamless sleep on the cushy mattresses under a canopy resembling olive heavens.

His mind slogging through cement, he sluggishly became aware that he was awake. He had to piss. Now.

Grumbling to himself, Draco slothed out of bed, scratching distractedly at his unmentionables. His feet pounded unsteadily across the dark bedroom. Yawning, he peered through the deep pitch of the hallway. Couldn't see diddly-squat. Oh well. He traipsed over the soft runner on the floor. A few doors only revealed empty, lonely bedrooms or sitting rooms lit by the heavens' night lights. Looking far down the hall, he spotted a faint glow slipping around a corner. Maybe they left the light on in the bathroom like good little hosts.

Draco walked down the hall and approached the door splitting the darkness with its intestines of electric illumination. Already a few inches open, the door gapped even further under his hand.

It was not the bathroom. Shadows bounded and trembled across the room's high walls, the dark features of long leather couches, wood side tables, deep-set sconces, and vague paintings making themselves known. In a large recliner near the center of the room, Draco thought for a minute there sat a beast of grotesque proportions. He blinked and saw it was Claude and Léon. Claude, sunk within the chair's confines, sat with his head resting and his eyes closed, hands placed lightly at Léon's sides. The boy kneelled above him with thin arms ensconced around the man's neck. Strangest of all, the blonde head was lowered to the revealed jugular, like a tremendous, thick-sinewed lion with its sun-mane effusing all about as it dipped leisurely to strip bare a carcass.

Draco froze, watching. He felt distinctly a deep shame and wrongdoing, the taboo. He was seeing something he was not supposed to see, something that should not be. His body unconsciously jerked. Léon looked up.

Draco had become illiterate – there was an expression traced deeply into the boy's pale, pretty face he could not read. He moved away from Claude, standing.

The man frowned, asking,"Léon? Qu'est-ce–" He saw Draco. Instantly, he grabbed for Léon and yelled, "Charles!"

Someone turned the world to fast forward. The boy dodged Claude eyes locked on Draco and body hurling – he was going to –

SMASHSMASH. Going to what, he didn't know, because the door had slammed shut before his face. Repeated blows slammed and thundered on it, making him back away reflexively. A different thump came from within. Then an awful, beastly wail flooded the house. He realized what that look had been – hunger brinking on starvation driven to savagery.

Draco suddenly recognized the fact that Charles's black, tall figure pressed against the door. He had closed it and had felt the blows.

Draco regained a sliver of his senses. "I– What–"

"Go back to your room." Pitiful cries resounded, angry and plaintive.

"But he's–!"

"Just go back." Those wails and howls entered his spine like mold, like rot. A hand grabbed him from behind. He heard Potter's voice.

"I'm sorry, Charles. I hadn't realized I'd taken in a half-wit cretin. Come." Draco staggered under Potter's vise, weaving after him down the hall. He was shoved into a room. Lights snapped on. He was roughly whirled about, made to face Potter like a child made to look his father in the face. The boy was enraged.

"Did your mother drink herself stupid when you were infesting her?" he spat.

Here, at least, was something he could grasp. He rose to his consequential height above Potter. "Don't you dare let my mother's name on your filthy tongue."

"Why not?" he hissed. "Something needs to get through to you eventually, doesn't it? I told you to stay in your room! You imbecile! I am honestly, sincerely shocked that anyone could be as mentally deficient as you are!"

"You arrogant little snotrag!" Draco snarled. "I had to piss! Having to take a piss does not qualify for being an imbecile!"

Potter stared at him with a pinched facial muscles. He said very slowly, with clenched teeth, "There is a bathroom connected to your room."

"Oh." Draco deflated. He glowered defensively. "It's not my fault Claude's a pedophile."

Potter laughed hollowly. "Léon's older than me. Not just in being a vampire; he died when he was almost seventeen."

"What? That twat?" He asked. "He looks twelve!"

The boy did not answer and turned away. He sat down on the end of the bed, putting his face into his hands. Draco stood there awkwardly. He could still see it clearly – the mouth descended and the neck defenseless. Potter had just as much said before that Claude had drunk the spy's blood. Then did that mean Léon had pretty much done the same?

"Why can't you listen to what people tell you?" Potter demanded, sounding frustrated.

"Excuse me, but who said you could tell me–"

"This isn't about telling you what to do or ordering you about, you moron," he snapped. "I've been trying to tell you since day one that I'm doing all of this to goddam help you." He abruptly stood, pacing. "You are so damn childish! Why is it that you are so thick that you can't realize people are trying to do what's bestfor you!?"

Draco stiffened. He distinctly heard the voice of his father and his mother in those words, and he did not appreciate it. "It's not like–"

"Do you know what would have happened if it weren't for Charles?" interrupted Potter. "You would be dead, or near enough to it."

He remembered the terrible expression. It lingered on him and wanted his vitality. He sat down in Potter's vacated seat on the bed. "I don't understand any of this."

Potter stood still and watched him. He sat stiffly beside Draco, visibly trying to contain any more tongue lashings. Folding his arms across his chest, he breathed deeply. In the sudden silence the could hear those awful wails in the distance, echoing and expanding into strange mutations.

"I told you before that he wasn't right in the head. Obviously, that was an understatement," sighed Potter. "He was made under terrible circumstances and that's the only way he can – or rather will allow himself – to survive now. By drinking from someone else."

"And that makes him crazy?" Draco ventured.

Potter gave him a sour look. "No. It's because he's crazy he has to do it. First of all, he refuses to drink by himself, second of all... He can't control blood lust."

The last was said as if of great import and Draco kept waiting for the explanation. "So?" he finally asked.

The boy sighed. "Use your brain. Don't you remember what I told you the other day? About drinking from humans? Or rather anything complex?"

Oh, right. Glutting yourself mad and all that cheery stuff. "So he'd be totally irredeemable if he didn't drink like that," Draco chanced.

"Yes," Potter nodded, knots of worry on his brow, "and Claude and Charles are skilled enough by now that they can anchor him. But what I don't understand is why Claude has to – Well anyway, there's something more important to worry about." He stood and began pacing again.

The blonde watched him. "Which is?"

"What they're going to do to us now."

Infuriated, Draco spluttered, "What they are going to do to us!? I don't know if you got the memo, but I was the one almost ripped to shreds by a midget here."

Potter glanced at him with dark amusement. "Yes, but you see, the vampire community isn't a democracy. Our world does not function like normal people's. Those three are centuries older than us. Probably millenia in Claude's case. They are much stronger than us, and if they wanted to get rid of us, they could. Quietly and without any fuss."

Refusing his instinct to gulp, Draco said, "I thought they were your friends."

Potter frowned. "They are but..."

"But what?"

"Don't snap at me. They are, but – Draco, you have to understand that their situation is highly unusual for vampires," he told him. "We're solitary people, and rarely every stay together for long. The fact that they've been together for three or four hundred years is incredible. So our attachments to one another are not the same as the ones humans develop."

"So.. We turn into loser loners?" he asked, dismayed.

"No," Potter said, amused for once. "We just seem unable to appreciate one another like humans can. I've been thinking that it's maybe because we can theoretically live forever and humans only have a very short time. So humans latch on to one another and try to stay together for as long as they can. But vampires just end up hating each other because we resemble one another or we just become indifferent because we have an eternity ahead of us."

"But then, does that mean you and I will hate each other some day?"

Potter stopped pacing and looked at him. He was the image of a normal fifteen-year-old boy – skinny and careless with himself, bespectacled and messy-headed. But extraordinary eyes, green as poison, bright and tired. Potter shrugged. "I don't know if it'll be hate. Maybe indifference or a bit of distaste. But most likely, yes." He ran a sluggish hand through his hair. "It happens the most with makers and the ones they made." There was a touch of acid and weary anger in his voice.

"Oh, that's right," Draco started, straightening. "Your maker – I mean, I get the fact that he's an ass and everything, but he's still your maker, right? I mean, it's not him Bellatrix is running amok for, so couldn't he do something to keep them from..." He stopped. Potter was grinning at him.

He shook his head, chuckling. "Draco, Claude is the maker of Tom's maker. And they all hate him. There are few people who don't."

"I don't get why that's so funny," Draco grumbled.

"Oh it's nothing. I just realized something I'd been trying to put my finger on for days," Potter smiled. "You, Mister Malfoy, are rather naïve."

Draco gaped at him, speechless. He was naïve? Not Mr. I-don't-need-a-tv-or-internet-to-survive? "Excuse me!? I am anything but naïve. In fact, I am the complete opposite of naïve. I've screwed so many people–" A bit of an exaggeration, but still. "And done so many drugs and drank so much liquor–" He stopped.

Potter was bent over from laughter, scrambling at a stitch in his side. "Hee, that's not what I meant, doofus. I meant in a completely different way." He grinned at Draco as he rubbed laughter tears from his eyes. He shook his head. "You wouldn't understand even if I explained it to you."

"Damn straight I wouldn't. Naïve my ass."

Potter sighed. "Well, nevermind. Let's just get some sleep. It's not like we can do anything now."

Draco turned for the door immediately, ignoring Potter's added, "And for gawdssake, stay in your room!" He huffed back to the unlit olive room, flinging himself back into bed and into sleep, trying not to dream of night-time savannas quietly alive with the feasting of lions and the smell of helplessness.

A/N: I apologize for the long wait. And the next wait will probably be even longer. If you're interested in the actual reasons, see my bio.