kaikudou 发表于 2011-7-16 08:58:17

The Long-Desired (part 3 of the Two Hunter Series)

Author: Lomonaaeren
Hi kaikudou

Thanks so much for contacting me! I'm glad you like the series, as it's one of my own favorites.

Yes, I give you permission. I only ask that you include a link to the original story when you put the translation up, and send me a link to the translation.


Title: The Long-Desired
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Rating: R
Pairing: Harry/Draco
Warnings: Creature!fic,(vampire Draco), angst, violence, profanity, sex, bloodplay, past canon character death, dark (arguably insane) Harry. DH spoilers, but ignores epilogue.
Summary: Sequel to 'Viper.' Harry is more determined than ever to prevent Draco from taking Harry as his lover and Long-Desired, which Harry sees as slavery. Draco turns to Harry's friends for help as Harry spirals down into self-destruction.
Author's Notes: This is the third of the 'Two Hunters' series, which begins with 'Mongoose' and continues in 'Viper,' and it will be the last one. Reading this one isn't recommended if you haven't read the others. It is also a dark story, and not very fluffy. This one will probably be between nine and thirteen parts long, updated irregularly.

The Long-Desired

There had to be an answer.

In fact, there was an answer. Harry was certain of it. He had seen the book, and he had read the answer in the back of it, amused and impressed by the lengths that some vampire hunters would go to to prevent their prey from hurting them. He hadn't thought he would ever need this particular trick. He had modified his body in ways that others might find startling, but those modifications were meant to provide strictly temporary effects. Harry wouldn't need them to last a long time, because his innate skill would ensure that he had another way to kill the vampires.

But now…

Now he needed it, and he couldn't find it.

Harry flung another book across his drawing room and watched without emotion as the pages ripped and frayed from the binding, drifting across the desk and shelves in a flurry of paper snowflakes. It couldn't help him. It didn't deserve the gentle treatment that he knew Hermione would always advise for books.

Why am I thinking of Hermione at a time like this? She certainly wouldn't think of me. She would probably advise me to do something stupid like surrender to the Long-Desired bond and "think about the future."

Harry sneered and turned towards the pile of books that he hadn't investigated yet. He refused to contemplate a future as a slave, which surrendering to the Long-Desired bond would mean. No one understood him but himself—and Ginny, but she was gone. They would all advise him to do things that he didn't want to do, his friends and his fellow Aurors and the Head Auror and the rest of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and the Minister and the public and the reporters and everyone else who thought they had a right to interfere in his life.

And so would Malfoy.

Harry felt a shudder rip up his spine. Malfoy was the only one of the lot that was worth wasting a thought on, because he was the only one who had the power to hurt Harry. He would make him into his slave. He would feed on his blood and make him feel physical pleasure from it. He would force Harry to share his magic with him when he drank that blood. He would try to make Harry forget Ginny and the reasons he had become a vampire hunter in the first place, and come to bed with him.

He would change the very core of what I am, and in the end he would steal my mind and my will, the way that the Collector did to Lucy. That's what a vampire does to a Long-Desired. I know, because I saw it happening. He can't convince me otherwise.

But still he tried, and that drove Harry closer to the brink of madness than anything else had so far. Didn't he realize he had no right, and wouldn't succeed?

Harry took up another book. A glance was sufficient to tell him that this was the right one. He smiled and sat down on the couch to read it with hands that shook. How could he have forgotten? This was about the history of vampires, and the strategies that had been used during that history to control them and keep their numbers down like the vermin they were. Predators who preyed on humans could not be allowed to continue existing.

He hated how necessary that mantra had become to him since the confrontation in the Collector's tower. Once, he would simply have carried it as knowledge in the back of his head, undeniably part of his world, but with no need to articulate it aloud.

Now he had to articulate it. Now there was too much chance that he would slip if he let himself, and start thinking of the pleasure there was to be found in Malfoy's fangs plunging into his neck, or how they had cooperated to kill the most dangerous vampire he had ever faced.

Not the most dangerous. The most dangerous is Malfoy, because of the power he has over you.

Weak, that is what you are. Weak.

Harry blinked away desperate sweat and tears of pure anger. He didn't have time for them now. He had to concentrate on learning and executing the one method that was guaranteed to make Malfoy leave him alone, because it would destroy the thing that made Malfoy desire him.

Draco leaned an elbow on the white stone that marked the boundary of Harry's property and gazed steadfastly at the house hidden behind its wards.

The wards were too powerful, even for a vampire like him, made into a master vampire by the death of his sire and connected by a Long-Desired bond to the occupant within. Harry had spent years learning how to defend a place against his prey. Draco could not even find a beginning or end to the wards, and that was an impressive thing.

He licked his fangs. He had fed tonight, of course, and the night before that, and the night before that. He could not exist if he did not drink blood, and his existence was his highest priority.

But the blood did not taste of the adrenaline and the magic that he had learned to savor, and with his belly full, his priorities rose to leading the most powerful and brilliant existence he could. That was one ambition that had not died with his mortal body.

The key to that ambition, that existence, hid in the house behind the wards and tried to pretend that nothing had changed, that they had not found pleasure together, hunted together, or conquered together.

That Draco had not said he would burn for Harry.

He pulled his arm away from the white boulder and began his patient prowling along the wards. There was always the possibility that he had missed some small hole. True, Harry knew even more about vampires than he did, who was one, but Draco had access to a library full of books about vampires at Malfoy Manor and the patience of the undead. If a flaw existed, he would find it.

Meanwhile, he knew the wards that formed the outer shell of Harry's defenses, the simplest warning wards, were transferring news of his presence to Harry. He could lie in his bed and stare at the ceiling all he wanted; he could hunt through his library; he could go to work by day and pretend that nothing was wrong. But Draco would still be walking along the edge of his property, and he would still use his body to give the simplest message he could.

I am here. Waiting for you.

"Harry. I need to talk to you."

Harry sighed. He hadn't spoken with Hermione since their last argument, when she had tried to break him of his obsession with vampires, and thus proved that she didn't understand the need to avenge Ginny and the driving force of Harry's life at all. Harry had assumed that they would drift slowly apart, ending with him isolated in a world of darkness and probably dying at the fangs of a vampire, as he had always known he would.

But Hermione was too determined to let it go. Harry knew she would stand there and repeat the same words for hours, if need be, until he talked to her.

She and Malfoy are rather alike in that respect.

Harry scowled. He didn't want to have that insight. He spun his chair around to face Hermione and raised an eyebrow. "What?"

Hermione sat down in the chair next to his, which was usually Ron's. Her face was pale. Her eyes looked like stones. Harry shot a glance around the office and groaned when he realized that Ron was gone and his desk was empty of paperwork. They must have planned this between the two of them, he decided, and glared at Hermione, hoping to make her back away with the sheer force of his wrath.

Of course she stayed where she was. Harry hadn't yet discovered the expression that could make Hermione back down. "I went past your house last night," she said. "Harry, why was there a vampire near your wards?"

"A little souvenir of my most recent adventure." Harry put a sneer into his voice. He had been right that a vampire was behind the murders of two men, McFadden and Gowan, but his superiors had refused to acknowledge that. They were still officially listing the cases as unsolved. Ron and Hermione, of course, knew that Harry hunted vampires and knew what it meant when he vanished for a day or so and no more murders happened. "A member of the nest the master vampire commanded. I killed the others, but he got away." Harry sighed. "He probably wants revenge on me, but I don't think he'll get to take it. He's a very young vampire."

"And?" Hermione spoke the word with a soft drawl that reminded Harry of nothing so much as the way Malfoy had talked to him in the Collector's tower.

You are going to forget that, he told himself, and raised his eyebrows. "And what? I'm still recovering from that adventure of mine, and I've been meaning to try out some new strategies that I still need to research. I'll take care of him when I'm ready."

There has to be a way for a Long-Desired to kill the vampire who wants to enslave him. There has to be.

"When were you going to mention that it's Malfoy?" Hermione looked him in the eye with that inconvenient piercing gaze that wouldn't let him look away.

Harry barely kept from digging his fingers into his trousers. Even though Hermione knew the vampire was Malfoy, there was no indication that she knew about the special ability Malfoy had to irritate and hurt Harry. He was a good liar. He could tough this out, too. No need to panic and get caught. He sighed. "Yeah, he took me by surprise. For some reason, I didn't want to kill him. Sentiment, I reckon, and that he's so young. And I didn't want you to think I was getting soft, so I didn't mention him."

"Getting soft." Hermione repeated the words with a peculiar undertone in her voice that Harry couldn't make out.

"Yeah." Harry raised an eyebrow at her and chuckled. Maybe he could keep his friendship with Ron and Hermione after all. If they would leave him alone, and come close again only after he'd found a way to make Malfoy back off. The cure for that problem was more complicated than he had anticipated. There was a high chance that he could die while he was performing it, and he wanted to live to destroy more nests. "Hard to believe of me, isn't it?"

Hermione grabbed his shoulders. Harry gaped up at her. He couldn't remember the last time she had shaken him so violently, or leaned forwards and spoken to him the way she did then, with her heart in her eyes.

"I think 'getting soft' would be the best thing that could happen to you. Harry." She swallowed the way a new vampire would try to swallow its first mouthful of blood. "You're not a hunter, you're a murderer. Your obsession has taken over your life. It's not about Ginny anymore; it's about blood and death. And if you really did spare Malfoy because you remember who he used to be, that's the most hopeful sign…" She let out a shivering breath. "It means that you could be healed again, that you might become sane."

"I am sane." Harry's voice made Hermione look at him with real fear on her face, and he felt, distantly, bad about that. But he was so irritated about the way that everyone was treating him, and so fucking tired of being misunderstood again and again. "I can restrain myself when I need to. I plan out my kills. I leave those vampires who registered with the Ministry alone. That doesn't suggest to me that my obsession is taking over my life."

Hermione shook him again, this time hard enough that Harry's teeth rattled in his head, and her fear turned back to anger so sharp Harry was afraid it would cut him open. "When was the last time you had a conversation with Ron about something other than work? With me about anything that didn't involve your work or vampires? When was the last time you saw the rest of the Weasleys? Or went shopping? Or went on a date?"

Her words made Harry felt as if his skin had broken out in hives. He pulled roughly free of Hermione's grip and stood up, sending the chair sprawling backwards. He was taller than Hermione, but not by much, and she glared up at him, showing no signs of turning tail. So Harry would just have to make her.

"How dare you?" he said. No need to shout. He made his voice low, the kind of lowness that should vibrate in Hermione's bones and steal her breath if she had any sense at all. "How dare you suggest that I should go and see the Weasleys again when I got their daughter killed? How dare you suggest that I should date someone when they would die in turn and that would be a betrayal of Ginny's memory? How dare—"

"Ginny is dead!" Hermione had a howl that Harry had never heard before, as well as he knew her. "She's been dead for years, and the way you talk and think about her, it's as though she died yesterday! Harry, she wouldn't want this. None of us want this. I am going to make you change your mind."

Harry shook his head. He could feel his control slipping, and he tried hard to hold onto it. He didn't want to hurt Hermione with wild magic, no matter how much he hated her at the moment for saying things that couldn't be true. "No, Hermione. I'm sorry, but if you try to do that, then our friendship is over."

"It practically is over already," Hermione said, and her eyes were full of terrifying gentleness. "I'm sorry, Harry. I won't let your protests keep you from getting the help you need."

I'll need a different kind of weapon. Harry turned away from her and made his voice muffled. "I see. So you'll do what some people suggested doing to me in fifth year and shut me up in St. Mungo's because you think I'm mad and it's for my own bloody good?"

"Yes, I will," Hermione said, unfazed. Harry stared at her. She was supposed to feel betrayed when I accused her of being one of my enemies. What happened? "If that's what it takes. You're slipping off the edge of sanity, Harry. I told you that."

She turned and walked out of the room while he was still staring.

You should have anticipated this, a dark voice taunted him. No one loves you or will stand by you. They are only interested in making you do what they want.

Harry turned around swiftly and snatched the essential paperwork off his desk, then ran out the door as soon as he thought he wouldn't meet Hermione in the corridor. If Hermione and Ron were actively working against him, he didn't have much time. Malfoy could still come to him in his imprisonment and try to break Harry's will.

He needed to complete the ritual that would change his blood and make it undrinkable by Malfoy as soon as possible.

Draco sighed. This was the fourteenth time he had been around Harry's wards tonight, the fortieth in the last two nights, and so far he hadn't detected a single hole or weak place in the defenses.

Again he paused next to the white boulder and gazed wistfully in the direction of Harry's house. If he would only see me and talk to me for a single minute, then I might manage to convince him. If I could send an owl to him, even better. Of course, there's no guarantee that he would read the letter.

Resigned for the moment, Draco started to turn away. He could survive on the blood of others, though it would never taste as good as his Long-Desired's blood.

Perhaps you will always have to survive on the blood of others.

Draco frowned and shook his head. No, he could not believe that. More, he could not accept it. Someday, he would have what his body and his mind hungered for. He didn't yet know how he would achieve it, but then, he hadn't known if the bond would strengthen at all a week ago, before they went hunting the Collector. At least since that time, he had come to understand the depth of the pull that bound him to Harry and they had shared pleasure.

Perhaps the securing of the bond must happen in a series of such small steps, with my having to prove to Harry again and again that I can offer him something, and his pulling back so that he can consider whether that gift is worth the sacrifice of his independence.

Light blazed in front of him. Draco dropped to a crouch, his eyes shielded, and used his other senses to decide which way he needed to move. He had finally stopped being such an idiot as to rely only on his eyes when he was startled.

The scent in front of him was female, unfamiliar on the surface, but tantalizing under that; Draco knew that meant it was one he had smelled before without paying attention to it at the time. The sounds included loud breathing and the rustling of robes, which told him it was a witch. Not that he would have expected a Muggle to surprise him on this lonely moor so close to wards, but stranger things had happened to him, most of them within the past month.

She Apparated in, he decided, and leaped straight up in case she aimed a curse at him. Her gasp revealed that she hadn't expected that, and so she didn't know much about vampires. Draco opened his eyes as he came down, and saw that his instincts had sent him flying to the right place. He landed behind her, one arm wrapped around her neck, his fangs laid against the skin of her throat.

She tried to twist her head. Draco locked his arm more firmly in place, to emphasize why this would not be a good idea, but not before she managed to turn so that he could see her face.

"Granger," he drawled, mostly to cover his own surprise. "Do you have a reason for sneaking about in the dark outside Potter's wards?" It would not be a good idea to call Harry by his first name in front of one of his friends, no matter how often Draco privately referred to him that way. Besides, he saw no need to let anyone else know how he felt about his Long-Desired.

"Malfoy," she breathed. "I reckon that clears up any questions of whether you really are a vampire."

"You thought I might not be?" Draco let his fangs scrape along her skin teasingly. Granger stood motionless in his embrace, but didn't smell frightened, and her heart only sped up a little. Draco had to give her credit for that. "Do you regularly encounter another kind of pale-skinned creature that's abroad by night?"

"Harry was the one who said you were a vampire," Granger muttered. "He sees vampires everywhere, including under the bed. I couldn't take his word for it." Then she turned her attention back to him. "And is it true that you're from the last nest he destroyed and looking to take vengeance for your sire's death?"

Draco paused to consider for a moment, unconcerned as to what Granger might think now. He could destroy her, after all, and there was no way that she could know the meaning behind his silence unless he chose to reveal it to her.

His first instinct was to feel admiration. Harry can lie when he needs to. It's doubtless a skill that he learned in his hunting, and I have to admit that I'm impressed.

But his next instinct was irritation. Harry would deny their bond in front of his friends. Likely he hadn't told them about sparing Draco's life when he destroyed Caspar's nest and freed Draco from his domination, either. Granger must have caught a glimpse of Draco and necessitated the lie.

And that meant Granger and Weasley were unlikely to know anything about the Long-Desired bond.

Draco made a swift decision. If it was the wrong one, he could always use his thrall on Granger and command her to forget what had passed between them. The chances that she would be immune to it, as Harry was, were small.

"I'm from another nest," he told her. "One that Harry destroyed before he destroyed the last one—which he did only with my help, by the way. And I hunted with him, and I'm waiting for him to acknowledge me, because he's my Long-Desired."

Granger assumed an intense listening stance, and her heartbeat increased. "What's that? I haven't heard of them."

"A wizard whose blood and magic are exactly to my taste," Draco said. Granger made a small movement towards her wand. Draco laughed and flicked out his tongue to brush her throat, reminding her exactly who was in charge here. "I don't intend to eat him up, Granger. I want to have him by my side, to wield his magic—which I can only do if he gives me permission to bite him, as he has several times now—"

"Harry would neverdo that." Granger's voice was growing shrill.

"Come now," Draco said with some disapproval. "I can't believe it's escaped your notice, observant as you are, that he wears a glamour on his neck to disguise the puncture wounds."

Granger was silent for long moments. Then she said, "He let you bite him. Why?"

"Because without his magic, we wouldn't have escaped the master vampires who were trying to kill us." Draco yawned and let his left fang rasp on her collarbone. "He was wise enough to see that it was in the interests of our survival. But the last master vampire we destroyed, the Collector, had a Long-Desired, too. She convinced Harry, as she was dying, that she had controlled that woman's mind and that the Long-Desired bond is solely a leash for a master to hold a slave on. Harry went mad and refused to let me near him."

Granger muttered, "It sounds as if you love him. And one thing I know well enough is that vampires can't love."

"Not ordinarily," Draco agreed. "But the tie between Long-Desired and vampire is different. And if I can't offer him love, I offer him the next best thing. Sanity. He's lost his, Granger, and you know it. I have an interest in preserving his life, which means that I intend to end his obsession with hunting. One way or the other."

"How do I know that won't involve killing him?"

"He dies and my perfect source of blood dies." Draco paused, and then decided it could be a diplomatic move to let some of the honest longing he felt fill his voice. "And I want him, Granger. He's meant to be at my side. He'll derive enough benefit from his part of the bargain, don't worry—not only power, but pleasure at my hands. The link between us is already taking hold, or he would have killed me. He's tried," he added, thinking of that moment in the Collector's tower when Harry had flung a Blasting Curse at him. "I'm his best chance to have something to think about besides the murder of Ginny Weasley. Did you know that he had to slay her to make sure she wouldn't rise again as a vampire? That takes enormous courage, but it twisted something in him. I want to undo the twisting."

Granger stood still longer than Draco had thought a mortal could. Then she said, "I need to think."

Draco leaped back, out of cursing range, and bowed to her as she spun around and stared at him in shock. "Ask him about the Collector," he said. "And Caspar, my old master. And the Long-Desired. Mentioning that word around him might evoke the strongest reaction."

"I'll do exactly as I want, Malfoy," Granger said haughtily, but her scent told of her interest and her determination.

Draco smiled and sprang into the darkness, more hopeful than he had been in many nights.

Thalia was right. The Long-Desired is meant to be with his vampire. Something will always happen to make sure the bond gets its chance.

You must add three drops of molten copper.

Harry snarled through his teeth as he reached for the vial of copper, without taking his eyes from the cauldron. Of course the solution to change his blood would end up being a potion. There was a spell described in the book, too, but the author had admitted that the incantation was not attested to in reliable sources, and offered a dozen different guesses for each word.

Harry was not about to use a non-reliable spell. This was too important, especially because Hermione had declared her intention to interfere with his life and because Malfoy would probably start pressuring him the moment he realized Harry wasn't coming back to him. So that left the potion.

Three drops of molten copper fell from the lip of the vial into the potion. It emitted a foul-smelling, choking cloud of black steam that Harry had to bite his lip to keep from vomiting at. He darted his eyes back to the book, and wondered if the "few fumes" it described were the same as this cloud.

Then he shrugged and reached impatiently for the next ingredient, a chalky powder he'd composed from mixing up real chalk with bits of Scarlet Death beetles. He had no time to worry. What if Malfoy was out there right now? It was night, so he could be.

As if on cue, there was a strong, steady strike against the wards, as though someone had knocked on his front door. Harry's hand spasmed, and the entire wooden bowl of powder fell into the cauldron at once, instead of being scattered smoothly across the surface of the potion the way it was supposed to be.

Harry barely had time to roll out of the way before the potion exploded, showering the entire room with a thick, tarry-like substance. He felt it land in his hair and ducked his face further, pressing it into the floor. He had horrible visions of being unable to breathe, choked by the clinging thickness—

The way he had felt ever since Malfoy had made him feel pleasure. Or at least since he had realized that the Long-Desired bond was a slave bond.

When the tar had settled, Harry sprang to his feet, shaking. A week of sleepless nights, of worry lest Malfoy should find some way to force himself through the wards, of concern about losing his friends, of the shock of seeing the memories of Ginny's death again in the Collector's tower and knowing that Malfoy and the Collector and Lucy, the Collector's Long-Desired, had seen them too—

It was too much. With a shriek, Harry Apparated through his own wards, headed for the white boulder where he knew Malfoy lurked. He had to destroy him. If ordinary magic wouldn't work, then one of the tricks he had picked up in the course of hunting vampires had to.

It had to.

Draco reared back in surprise when he felt the wards rippling and quivering. The only thing that should make them do that was someone tearing them down from the inside. For a moment, hope choked him. Had Harry succumbed to the intense need that was eating Draco himself alive, and decided to come to him?

Then the wards dropped, and Harry burst through, his teeth bared and clenched—still not as impressive as a vampire's, but bloody close—and his hair seeming to stand on end and his eyes on fire. He was aiming his wand at Draco.

Draco leaped in the air, gracefully twisting, his limbs flung out, retaining a faint desire to impress Harry even as he removed himself from danger. He knew it had done no good and Harry's wand must have tracked him when he felt the creeping sizzle of a curse along his muscles.

As had happened the last time Harry hit him with magic in the Collector's tower, the spell stung, but didn't damage him much. Draco landed with a feeling that he'd spent all evening in a coffin. He stretched his arms above his head and tilted his chin up and down, letting his hair brush his back. He sighed and shook his head at Harry. "When are you going to learn that you can't hurt me?" He lowered his voice to a gentle, coaxing tone. "And when are you going to learn that I have no wish to hurt you? You are my Long-Desired, Harry, the one I—"

Harry screamed. The sound was pure torment, and Draco shivered in spite of himself. Yes, he didn't mind much when mortals suffered, but this was his mortal.

"Harry," he whispered. "You have to understand that I don't want to hurt you. I couldn't hurt you even if I wanted to, no more than you can hurt me." If he said that enough times, maybe Harry would begin to believe it, or at least acknowledge it. "Please. That's what it means to be each other's Long-Desired and vampire."

Another curse came his way without a response, unless he counted the snarl that sounded as if it were bubbling up from Harry's gut. Draco bent backwards under the curse this time and twisted upright with a weary blink.

"If I can't hurt you, then why do you keep avoiding my spells?" Harry's voice was a vulture's, thick with gore and blood. "I think I can kill you, Malfoy. And certainly, I can kill you the way I slay other vampires, if not with wand magic."

Draco looked at him and caught a glimpse of him manipulating something under his shirt, something that was small and round and probably a medallion, since there was a glimpse of a chain around his neck. Draco covered his eyes, remembering the way that Harry had blinded him with a similar ornament before.

But this time, a fountain of fire exploded from the ground beneath him and enveloped him in flames.

Draco screamed. This was painful, and probably the fire had originated in the sun, or it would not have hurt so badly. Delicate tendrils of pain ran through his muscles like wires and into the core of undead magic that kept him alive. Draco convulsed as that magic itself turned to fire, seeming to hollow him out.

Through the agony, he could hear Harry laughing, and that hurt worse than the fire.

But quite suddenly the pain died. Draco blinked, wanting to believe that Harry had relented, knowing that hadn't happened.

He opened his eyes and looked down at himself. His usually pale skin had turned char-black over most of his body, and his clothing was gone. The fire had gone no deeper than his skin, though, despite feeling as if it had. Draco lifted his head and sought out Harry's eyes.

He was leaning away from Draco, body frozen as if he had stopped himself from fleeing by an act of will. His eyes were wide, and he was hyperventilating. When he looked at Draco, it was easy to feel pity for his sheer terror, though Draco wasn't in the mood for compassion right now.

"Listen to me," Draco whispered. He almost automatically tried to catch Harry's eye, and then grimaced as he remembered that Harry was immune to the thrall. All of this would have been much easier if he wasn't. "I toldyou we couldn't hurt each other. Not permanently. You can use the most powerful pain spell you know and I still—"


The pain didn't even touch Draco this time, though he had a feeling like a powerful wind blowing past him on either side. He shook his head, not taking his eyes from Harry's. "Not going to happen, Harry. I told you that already. And, frankly, I'm disappointed in you. I thought you were better than that."

Harry screamed like a hawk and fumbled for something else under his shirt.

Draco sprang.

He landed with his arms around Harry's waist, his chin on his shoulder. Harry struggled under the weight pinning his hands down, his face bright and sharp and wiped clean of anything like human feeling. Draco knew he had to act quickly, because Harry had managed to hurt Draco before when he should have been safely motionless. He leaned his fangs against Harry's throat and scraped down.

In moments, Harry was still again, his face harsh and stern now, but sane. Draco nodded, pulling his head back reluctantly. He had thought Harry's instincts that rejected the feeling of a vampire biting him would take control and bring his mind back to a balance so he could deal with it.

He ignored the temptation to bite again. Without Harry's permission, the blood would taste no better than most of the meals he took while he was in exile from his Long-Desired.

I can't take him as a slave, no matter what he thinks, because his permission makes the blood tasty and powerful. If he would only believe that, then we might get somewhere.

"You are acting disgraceful," Draco murmured. "Is this the way that you want to face your fate? Like a chicken who's seen the chopping block?"

Harry laughed. "Other than the fact that the taste is different, I don't see why you wouldn't regard me as a chicken, Malfoy." He paused tauntingly. "Ah, I forgot. Chickens are meant to die quickly once you cut their heads off, not serve as an everlasting blood source and sex slave."

Draco nuzzled his chin into Harry's nape without replying. Just being this close to his Long-Desired was closing some of the mental wounds he had sustained in their separation. He was no longer restless, no longer bored. He could have sat here by the hour together and simply looked at Harry's face.

"Maybe I can say something important that you'll understand," Harry continued in a savage voice. "You were relieved when you were free from your master vampire, weren't you? You would have rejected any of his attempts to recapture you and make you obey him again?"

"Yes," Draco sighed. The shape of Harry's muscles was intoxicating. He never would have imagined that.

"And that's the way I feel about you," Harry said. "I don't want you for a master, in any sense of the word. Leave me alone, Malfoy." The last words might have come out sounding like a plea, but instead, they sounded like the clang of an iron weapon on a stone floor.

"I can't be your master," Draco said. "I can never be anything but your equal. Why do you think that I didn't tear into your throat the evening after we escaped from Caspar and drink my fill, when you were too weak to do anything to stop me? It's you willing that gives me the magic. I have to woo you. I have to persuade you."

"The Collector didn't have to persuade Lucy."

"Those were the words that she spoke as she was dying, seeking to poison your mind against me," Draco retorted at once. "I don't understand why you can't see that. She received permission long ago and bent Lucy's mind until she was little more than a pet. I don't want to do that with you. I don't think I could, because your mind is too strong and resists bending. I want you by my side, feeding me and lending me magic, not beneath me. That's the truth."

Harry sneered. Draco could smell the tension and anguish rising off him like heat off a corpse with an opened belly. "And what do I get out of this arrangement? The magic that I can wield on my own, without you? Dizziness from loss of blood? Your continual company, which I find less than congenial?"

"You get a companion," Draco whispered. "Someone devoted to you, to whom you'll always come first. I assure you, Harry, I have no other attachments, since the change into a vampire, as you so aptly figured out years ago, killed my capacity to feel most kinds of affection. I can make you live longer. I can increase your magical strength the way I did when we hunted the Collector. I can give you pleasure, the kind of pleasure that you've felt only a few times before." He dared to let one of his hands slip along Harry's chest towards his groin. "You will have a life of power and pleasure."

"Of course I will," Harry said. "Of everything but freedom."

"I don't understand how you're defining freedom," Draco said. He let his frustration ring in his voice, wondering if it would affect Harry to hear him sound almost human. "I'm proposing to remove some of the limits on the things you can do. You'll be able to hunt vampires more efficiently. You'll live longer, giving you freedom from death. And your freedom from loneliness and torment—"

"I am not tormented. I'm not afraid."

"But you stink of fear," Draco whispered, leaning closer still to Harry's throat. He wasn't going to bite, he reassured himself. He merely wanted to soak his face in that scent, so it would last a bit longer when he was forced to leave Harry, as he knew he would be. "You fear getting another friend killed the way you believe you got Weasley killed. You fear becoming my slave, though I have told you why that would be impossible. You fear moving on from the man you are right now, and becoming someone else. You fear living again." He traced his fingers over the puncture wounds he had already left, each one a mark of a time that Harry had yielded to him, no matter how ungraciously. His cock hardened, and he let it brush against Harry's thigh.

"It wouldn't be life," Harry said, his voice shaking, "tied to someone who's undead."

"Your definitions of life and death are not that narrow," Draco said. "They can't be, after hunting my own kind." He leaned closer and inhaled again. "Harry," he murmured. "I want you."

"And that's all you think that you need to say to get me to fall at your feet. You think that's the only justification you need for trying to possess me." Harry had a sharp laugh when he wanted to make use of it, like glass shards stabbing into Draco's ears. "So sorry to disappoint you, but I'm not a possession."

Draco closed his eyes and held still, forcing himself to fold his fangs back. He was indeed too close to biting without permission, despite the feeding he'd already done tonight.

It was Harry's fault. He was too overwhelming, too physically presentafter a week of distance and dreams.

Draco flipped himself into the sky, using the concentration needed to land on his feet to distract himself from Harry. He ended up on top of the boulder, crouched and staring down at Harry. Harry spun around, taking long moments to find Draco and aim his wand, moments that would have enabled Draco to kill him a dozen times over.

If that was what he wanted. If killing Harry was any more possible for him than it was for Harry to kill Draco.

"I have books that describe the true nature of the relationship between vampires and Long-Desired," Draco said. "They're the reason I know more about that relationship than you do. I'll lend them to you. You can read the truths that other people discovered long ago, on their own." He shrugged, never taking his gaze from Harry's. Those green eyes burned again, like the eyes of a wolf in a cage. "Would that quiet some of your fears?"

Harry tossed his head as if he were shaking off a harness. "Nothing will ever reconcile me to the loss of my freedom, Malfoy."

"You're restricted far more by this than you would be by becoming mine," Draco said, showing his fangs as his temper flared. "Huddling in your house, avoiding me, trying to find some solution to that which has no solution except acceptance—"

"That's what you think."

Harry looked tormented, and harassed, and gleeful. Draco paused and looked at him. Harry stepped closer, his lips locked so hard over his teeth that Draco suffered from a temptation to bite through them, his hand clasped about the ornament at his throat.

"You have some plan to break free of the bond?" Draco tried to think of what would break the bond—or, more to the point, what Harry might think would break it. The books he had studied agreed there was no way for either Long-Desired or vampire to back out unless the Long-Desired simply never allowed the vampire to bite him at all, but Harry hadn't read those books. He might think there was a chance that a trick he'd used before would work.

"You plan to repel me from you somehow," Draco murmured. "Not with wards, because you would have stayed behind yours at all cost if that was the plan. You turned your blood to poison when you faced the Collector. Is that it?"

Harry flung what looked like a javelin of light at him. Draco leaped gracefully over it and came down on the other side of the boulder, where he promptly circled around so that Harry could see he hadn't been driven away.

Harry already had his fists clenched, and his breathing had become jerky and swift. "You didn't mean to let that information slip," Draco diagnosed easily.

Harry glared at him. "It will work," he said. "What you want about me is my blood. With that gone, you have no reason to seek me out."

"Not true," Draco said. "It is true that I would be disappointed, but I could bear drinking blood that tasted disgusting to me for a chance at the kind of power you promise. And the sense of rightness your presence brings me. And the pleasure I found in you." He discovered he had lowered his voice and was moving in a spiral towards Harry. It was hard to force himself to stop. The bond affects me as much as it does him.

"No," Harry said, and he sounded as if he wanted to scream but didn't have the power or the breath to lift his voice to that volume. "No. No, you can't. You can't want or like other things about me. It doesn't workthat way."

"Yes, it does," Draco said. "There's nothing that can separate us now. The difference is whether you'll allow yourself to be brought to me on a willing rein—the same rein that controls me—or whether you'll kick your heels and run. And if you run, you'll be caught in the end. It's much more dignified to yield now, I think." He found himself reaching out as if he expected Harry's hand to rise and meet his. He thought part of him did rather expect it.

Harry stared at him with wide, tearless eyes. Then he turned and pelted behind his wards again. Draco dropped his hand and stood looking after him, wondering if anything had been accomplished after all.

I promised him the books. I'll bring them here and leave them. His wards ought to be good enough to tell him what they are.

Harry was the kind of person who needed undeniable proof before he could give up on something. Maybe he would believe the words that he would read in ancient ink, on pages that had been bound long before he was born.

"Harry? It's Hermione. Let me in."

Harry opened the door and let her in rather blindly. She had come not five minutes after Malfoy had departed. Harry would have ignored the plea given the circumstances of their last argument, but the circumstances of Malfoy's just leaving made him want human company so that he didn't think about how he was trapped and his solution wouldn't work.

You don't know that. You only know that Malfoy said your solution wouldn't work.

Harry turned to face Hermione. He wasn't about to believe the lying bastard. Why should he? Malfoy had been wrong about everything else, and vampires lied more regularly than they breathed.

Hermione was paler than usual, but she accounted for that by folding her arms, leaning against the door, and saying, "Malfoy told me that he's the survivor of another nest, which belonged to a master vampire called Caspar, and that you're his Long-Desired. Is that true?"

Harry couldn't control the widening of his eyes and his backwards flinch. The fact that he'd been counting on Hermione to be his escape from Malfoy only made it worse. He'd thought he could put those concerns away, and Hermione's words landed on them like whips on tender wounds.

"Finite Incantatem."

The glamour that had been protecting his puncture wounds fell away. Harry knew that not because he felt it happen, but because he saw the way Hermione's gaze turned towards his neck and her face grew pale and her hands tightened on her wand. And there was no other reason for her to cast that spell at him.

"It's a lie," Harry said, speaking the first words that came into his head. "I'm not his Long-Desired. Vampires will say anything to make you spare their lives, you know that, Hermione, and—"

"Except that he was the one in control last night, the one who could have killed me." Hermione took a step towards him. "And I know you, Harry. You never would have left him alive if you had any choice." Another step. "And you do believe it yourself, though I think you hate it. I know by the way you flinched." Another step nearer.

Harry shut his eyes. He was shaking, and could say nothing. The wire beneath his feet was unraveling, and any moment he would tip into the abyss that yawned beneath him.

"I've read about the Long-Desired bond, Harry, and I think it could be a good thing. I think—"

The wire parted.

"Get out."

His magic contracted and then uncoiled, and a wind pushed Hermione straight out of the house and locked the door behind her. Harry crumpled against the wall and prayed that she wouldn't knock again. He might kill her if she did.

Instead, he heard her footsteps walking away, and a moment later he heard what he knew was the crack of Apparition. He could have hoped that she was gone forever, but he knew better than that.

Harry slid to the floor, his arms wrapped around his stomach. He felt as if he were bleeding from a gut wound. A moment later, he lifted his right hand to his mouth and began to bite at his fingers.

He did it over and over, to reassure himself that his teeth were not as sharp as a vampire's, to make himself think that he was still human and not as evil as someone like Malfoy.

That did nothing to still the whirling and the ringing in his head. Trapped. Trapped. What happens if the solution I planned on working doesn't work? What happens if I can't make Hermione go away? What happens if I end up in St. Mungo's, which doesn't have anti-vampire wards and where it would be easy for Malfoy to get to me?

The thoughts scattered like birds, and came back together in a flock, and scattered again, and came back together again, and still Harry had no solution.

Then he lifted his head.

Why am I trying to change something about myself to get out of the bond? That's a level of consideration that Malfoy doesn't deserve.

I need to find some way to kill him. I thought only yesterday that he was the most dangerous vampire I would ever face. I need to conduct the best hunt I've ever conducted, in response.

I'm a hunter. It's what I do.

Harry opened his eyes and stood up straight, his hands clenched in front of him. This time, hope made the thoughts sit still and line up in orderly patterns.

It'll take some time to prepare all the weapons I intend to use, so I'll have to pretend to go along with them for a little while. Pretend to comply. Smile and nod nicely when Hermione asks me questions designed to test my sanity. Pretend that I've reconsidered my stance towards Malfoy.

Then I'll hunt him.

And if the hunter dies at the teeth of the predator as he drives home the killing thrust, that's only proper.

"Harry. This is—a surprise."

Hermione's voice was soft and cautious, which made Harry glad that he had decided to contact her first through a firecall. He smiled, hoping that he managed to make it the rueful, contrite one he'd been practicing in the mirror, and leaned forwards so that his head went further into the flames.

"I know," he said. He drew a deep breath and rubbed his hands as if he were nervous. In fact, that didn't require a lot of acting. "I thought about what you said after you left, Hermione, and I—I scared myself." He lowered his eyes and took another deep, shivering breath. "I suddenly realized that I was willing to do anything to be free of the Long-Desired bond, and I don't want to do anything. I always want to have some limits. I don't want to go crazy."

He rubbed his fingers over his mouth and let a remnant of the feeling he'd had last night come back to him. Hermione seemed convinced, because she made a strangled noise and knelt down on the carpet in front of him, her eyes wide and anxious.

"Harry, are you all right?"

"I nearly wasn't," Harry answered honestly. I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't realized that I could still escape by hunting Malfoy. "But that was what scared me the most, Hermione, and made me realize that I do want to listen to you."

He put his hand through the flames, and Hermione grabbed it. Her eyes were full of love and tenderness that made Harry despise himself for just a moment.

Then he remembered that the hunt only encompassed the way he would escape from Malfoy. It didn't mean that he needed to leave his best friends behind. So he wasn't really lying to Hermione when he said that he didn't want to go mad.

"Harry," Hermione whispered. "I'm so glad that you've decided to come to me." Her fingers rubbed over and over his palm. "Will you trust my judgment and try to come to terms with Malfoy through me?"

Easier than trying to come to terms with him on my own, when I would probably betray some sign of what I was thinking.

Harry nodded, and Hermione smiled at him and sat back. "Come through the fire," she said. "We haven't had you over for dinner in so long, and I know that Ron will be happy to see you."

"He will?" Harry asked. He remembered the way Ron had slammed his hands on the desk the last time they spoke. It had certainly looked as if his best friend was ready to turn his back on him for good.

"Oh, Harry." Hermione tugged at his hand. She was smiling, but her eyes shone as if she would burst out weeping in a moment. "Of course he wants to see you. He just didn't know how to reach you when it looked as if you were slipping into madness and obsession about vampires and wouldn't come back to us. He thought maybe seeming to give up on you would get you to realize what you could lose. When it didn't work, he was in despair." Her fingers pressed down, causing Harry to wince. "But I wouldn't say anything about Malfoy yet. I haven't mentioned him, because I didn't know how Ron would react."

Harry carefully tucked away a small piece of hope into the back of his soul. If his own efforts failed, then maybe he could ask Ron to help him kill Malfoy.

"That's fine," he said. "What time should I come over?"

"Around six would be fine." Hermione's smile grew deeper, and the tears vanished from her eyes. "I presume that you won't object to vegetarian dishes? I stopped eating meat a few months ago."

Harry swallowed. Once, that was the kind of thing he would have known about Hermione immediately, and included in all the future thoughts he had about her. Now, he had gone months not only not knowing but not caring.

Look what Malfoy has made me. I don't want to be that man.

"Yes, that's fine," he said. "As long as you don't try to make me eat spinach because it's good for me." He had distinctly unfond memories of spinach after the way that Dudley had held him down one day and forced handfuls of it into his mouth.

"Everyone can have the vegetables they like," Hermione said placidly, and rubbed his hand one more time before she gave it back to him. Then she grabbed it again and squeezed it hard enough to make Harry gasp. "I'm just so glad that you're coming back," she explained, blushing a little, when Harry blinked at her.

Harry nodded and spoke a few more meaningless words before he pulled back through the fire and shut the Floo connection. Then he ended up sitting on the floor in front of the hearth for a time, his eyes closed and his hands resting uselessly in his lap.

I didn't know that I would come so close to losing them.

I didn't know that the thought of losing anyone who wasn't Ginny could still affect me in that way.

Draco paused when he came to the outside of the wards and realized that there was no trace of Harry's presence in the house tonight. He leaned on the boulder and sniffed carefully, seeking some explanation. Of course, there were several possible choices. Harry could have gone to the Ministry to do his paperwork, or maybe he had chosen to search for books that described vampires in a library, so that he wasn't dependent on Draco's goodwill to learn about the Long-Desired bond.

Or maybe he had gone on another hunt.

Draco growled softly beneath his breath. Harry was skilled, but he simply didn't take enough care with his life when he confronted nests. He had nearly died in his confrontations with both the Collector and Caspar. Draco didn't want that to happen again.

He wondered idly if Harry knew it was happening, or if he counted any hunt as a victory that didn't end with his death. He suspected the latter. Harry seemed to believe that he was indomitable when it came to vampires simply because he could resist the thrall.

He won't even look back at the hunt against the Collector and realize that he did well, and conquered her in a single night, because I was at his side.

Draco put down the books he was carrying on the boulder, so that he wouldn't crush them to powder with his grip. He picked up a pebble and crushed it instead, watching with intellectual detachment as fine milky dust slid through his fingers. His skin was already pale again after the fire-charring of the night before, thanks to the blood he had drunk earlier tonight. Nothing Harry did could affect him for long.

Except yielding, and finally giving Draco permission to make him his permanent donor and partner.

Draco leaned against the boulder, weak with the thought of the pleasure he would feel when that finally happened. He was so caught up in the imagined sensations that at first he thought the voice speaking to him was also part of his imagination.


Then Draco started and leaped to his feet. Yes, Harry really stood by the boulder, and his mouth was squeezed shut in distaste and his hands were held stiffly out in front of him as if he didn't want to be associated with them, but he was still holding out his hand to Draco.

Draco stilled his muscles so that he wouldn't approach at once. This might be a trap, and he wanted to avoid pain if he could, despite being willing to endure it to show Harry that he couldn't break the bond with curses. "Why have you come out?" he asked, letting his voice sink.

Harry gave a tiny nervous flinch with his shoulders and skin, but managed to quiet himself in a moment. His voice was steady when he said, "If you're right—and I want to read those books you promised me before I say that you're right, if you even brought them—"

Draco picked up the books from the boulder, holding them out in silent evidence of his ability to keep a promise. He was too stunned to say anything about it.

Harry nodded. "If you're right, then it would be stupid to keep struggling against this." His flinch was more violent this time, and Draco smelled distaste rising from him like a foul odor off carrion. "I want to know some way that I can make this bearable, instead of being dragged into it."

Draco found himself making a crooning noise, high and sweet, rather like the piping of a baby bird when it was hungry. He hadn't known he was capable of that, but he understood its purpose when he saw Harry's eyelids flutter.

"I'm more than happy to accept that," Draco whispered, "to give you the books, to touch you, to help you bear it in any way I can."

The crooning noise seemed to have got into Harry's head and to bounce around from ear to ear, from fold to fold of his brain. It echoed everywhere, and it gave him the first relief from the tension he had carried with him throughout the dinner with Ron and Hermione, when he had been sure that he would slip up at any moment and give away his plan to only pretend to comply.

Suddenly the reverberating doubts and thoughts were quiet. Suddenly he could think of something other than the next step in this drama, this deception. Suddenly he no longer thought he was about to go mad.

He tried to resist the influence of that croon—of course it was only another vampire trick to try to make him into a slave—and the way that Malfoy was looking at him now. His gaze was intent and longing.

Harry hadn't ever had someone look at him like he was the center of the universe. Ginny had been too wise to do that, and their relationship wouldn't have survived if she had. His parents were dead too early for him to remember if they'd loved him with that possessive, greedy kind of love. Hermione and Ron were the closest to him, but they had their own lives and their own work; Harry knew that he couldn't have demanded that kind of devotion from them.

But here was the devotion being handed to him without his having to ask for it. And Malfoy was a vampire, without the ties of other affections, just as he had told Harry last night, and with a deep native selfishness, so that it wouldn't affect him adversely in the same way that it would a human.

The dream was deep and tempting and perfectly dark. Harry could see why some humans might agree to be the Long-Desired of a particular vampire, why Lucy had probably agreed before the Collector had bent and twisted her mind into a malleable frame.

He licked his lips and tore his gaze away from Malfoy's with an effort. He had to remember that this was only a temptation, and thus like other temptations: false at the bottom, without a reality that would match its promise.

At the same time, he couldn't reject it outright, because he had to keep up the lie that he was cooperating with Malfoy now.

So he murmured, "I've never had someone who would do that for me. I'm not sure I know how to relate to someone who would."

Malfoy crooned again. Luckily, this time, Harry was expecting it and it didn't quite numb his mind like it had before. He still had to swallow against the temptation to yield and stand there with his eyes closed, absorbing and enjoying the peace.

"Yes," Malfoy whispered. "You've given me your blood three times now, and I haven't given you enough in return. Anything you want, Harry. Only let me." His voice was thick and eager, as if he were speaking through clotted chunks of something in his throat.

Harry focused on that thickness and used it to pull himself out of the trance that waited for him. "Yes, well. For now, you can hand me the books and then leave." He cleared his throat, though he wasn't the one whose voice sounded as if he needed it.

This time, Malfoy hummed, and the sound made Harry sway on his feet. But Malfoy backed away with a single nod, as though this was something he had planned himself. When he picked up the books and held them out, Harry realized that he would have to come forwards to take them from him.

He did so, staring Malfoy insolently in the eye all the while. His head might swim from the sounds Malfoy had made, he might feel as though he was being enthralled by a vampire for the first time, but he still had the ability to look proud. He would hang onto that as hard as he could throughout this deception that would probably involve him submitting to Malfoy at some point.

Malfoy gave him the books, and Harry looked down so that he could count them and note the thickness of their bindings and the flakes of dust and gilding falling from them.

In a moment, Malfoy stood next to him, arms wrapped around him and lips pressed to his. Harry growled under his breath, but stifled his first impulse to break away. He should take this as more proof that Malfoy was a selfish bastard, he told himself. The vampire claimed he would do anything for Harry, like most vampires did when seducing their victims, but the next moment he was stealing a kiss.

Malfoy's tongue scraped along his lips, sharply-pointed at the tip, cold and stinking of old death—and fresh death. Harry shook for a moment as he imagined the victims Malfoy must have drained this night. It was nearly enough to make him decide to forget about his plan and stake Malfoy now.

But then he thought of what would happen if he failed to kill Malfoy, the way he had before, and he escaped to drain more people. He would probably do it more viciously, in order to punish Harry with the thought of his doing it.

So Harry stood still and submitted to the kiss, though every muscle in his body was taut with rejection and disgust.

Malfoy didn't linger, as though he was offended by the disgust. He ran a finger up Harry's nape instead and stepped back, his eyes bright and wild. Harry felt saliva rise in his throat, and swallowed it back; he didn't have to taste Malfoy's tongue this time, so he wouldn't actually spit in front of him.

No matter that the avarice with which Malfoy watched him swallowing made him want to.

"Go away now," Harry said, cradling the books close to his chest. "I don't want to see you again for three nights."

"Am I to be denied the luxury of your presence for that long, then?" Malfoy didn't sound concerned. He swiped his tongue over his lips as though they retained a taste of Harry and gave him a slow smile.

"Yes, you are." Harry made his voice firmer. He wanted to seem as if he were surrendering, but gradually; Malfoy would never believe him if he gave in and seemed to lose his scruples all at once. "I need some time to consider these books and read them, and I work during the day."

Malfoy hummed again, but this time the sound seemed to affect Harry less. He ignored the suspicion that Malfoy was merely humming in thought, rather than making a noise that would enchant him. "Very well. Three nights. And then I'll come back, and we'll talk about what you've learned."

He leaped straight upwards and apparently came down so far across the moor that Harry couldn't make him out no matter how he stared. And though Harry stood with the books in his arms and waited for ten minutes, Malfoy didn't come back.

Harry stepped slowly behind the wards and dumped the books on the table in his front room. They sprawled, one of them falling open so that Harry could see a page headed Vampires and Mystical Connections to Humanity.

The place chosen by chance was as good a one as any, and Harry knew that he wouldn't be able to sleep for hours. He pulled up a chair and sat down to read.

Draco leaped and leaped long past the point where aches coiled in his muscles and he would ordinarily have stopped, because the sheer joy he had from Harry's presence and willing compliance filled him with the energy to do so. He came down at last on top of another boulder and sprawled there, laughing so loudly that he awoke a Muggle dog who barked at him.


Draco had known that his Long-Desired wasn't stupid, but he hadn't been entirely sure that his intelligence would overcome his stubbornness. But if he was yielding, if he could only be persuaded to think about it a bit more while coming in range of the pleasure Draco could offer him…

He didn't even react when I stole a kiss from him. Oh, I know that it didn't taste good to him, but he didn't pull away and declare that he wouldn't meet with me again.

Harry's mouth had tasted like blood and wine, or the way that Draco remembered wine tasting, even though Draco had not bitten him. The thought made him rise and spring off the boulder again, twisting and finding his way into the sky the moment his heels touched the ground.

Leaping high like this was its own pleasure, with his hair ripping out on the wind and his body doing exactly what he told it, so that he could change directions at a moment's notice, or flatten himself and pretend to be gliding, or roll over thirteen times before he returned to the earth. And then the earth acted like a springboard to bring him instantly back into the sky, and he could take deep breaths of air colder than he could ever have endured as a mortal, and the land beneath him was a sleeping mass of black and lights, with every light concealing a fragile human life that he could end as he chose.

It was the essence of freedom.

And Harry's face hovered in front of him every time he turned about or commanded his senses to reveal the green of the grass beneath him, the color of the grass bleeding into his eyes.

Draco didn't find the image of the face a restriction to his freedom—quite the opposite. If Harry was with him, then he was stronger, swifter, and sympathetic to at least one person besides himself.

If Harry was with him, then his horizons expanded, and he could imagine himself dancing like this all over the world, and centuries in the future.

Alone, a single night could sometimes seem too long.

A Long-Desired bond is not exactly like the bonds known to prevail among other magical species. There are various theories as to why this should be so. The present author's belief is that vampires are incapable of feeling the love and the urge to reproduce that are constants in other bonds. Their hearts beat for survival and pleasure; their wombs will bear no children, their seed sire none. They stand in a halfway house between life and death, barred from ever returning to the daylight and the company of mortals. To remain in the house and keep from departing on the other side into oblivion, they require companionship.

Harry smiled and dug his fingers into the sides of the book. It sounded as though this author thought like him. Vampires were unnatural. Vampires didn't understand the most basic human urges. Any bond they took on was only a means of keeping them alive and giving themselves what they wanted.

If any book could tell him how to escape the Long-Desired bond, it was this one. The others had been a disappointment, simply stating that escape was impossible because the vampire and the Long-Desired couldn't kill each other and then setting out to explore the nature of the bond. Harry had no interest in that. Why would he want to admire the trap when its sides were closing in on him? He wanted to leap out of it instead, and see the stars shining above him, and go back to the life he was used to.

Of course, some may object that vampires find companionship in one another, and in their nests. But the nest formation is truly desirable only for the master vampire who guides it. The spawn, who are slaves, revolt as soon as their sire dies and they have some independent sense of self. Many of them refuse to return to a nest for the rest of their existence.

Harry nodded impatiently. Yes, this was the way he felt, but it was also something he knew. He wanted the author to start telling him something genuinely strange and startling, like the way that the Long-Desired bond was limited.

Vampires who have become masters because their sires have died are the ones most likely to seek out their Long-Desired, though many of them do not know what they are looking for until they find it. Then they will court and woo the Long-Desired incessantly, seeking first permission to bite, then continued permission, and finally the completion of the bond in an agreement of lifelong companionship. A master vampire seeks an audience, and a permanent donor, and a source of magic.

Harry snorted. He had known that Malfoy talking about affection and all the rest of it, respecting Harry even if he didn't respect other mortals, was a load of bollocks.

But to have all those things, the vampire must keep the Long-Desired happy. And that means that he or she will yield with joy to the whims of the mortal tied to them; will share the magic; will, in the end, come to feel something like love. It is not love; it is a replacement for it. That replacement has overtones of possessiveness, of idolization and idealization, of selfish seeking after pleasure. But it will become the strongest emotion and the strongest motive in the vampire's life. Vampires prolong the lives of their Long-Desired because they cannot imagine, in the end, existing without them. And because the link never forms except between a vampire who requires such a mortal and a mortal who needs the intense focus of such a vampire, it cannot be broken.

Harry flung the book from him. It cracked open against the far wall and scattered pages about the way the books he had searched through for a way to poison his blood had.

No. I'm still not going to spend the rest of my life being a—a plaything and a possession.

With the coldest detachment he'd ever been able to muster, Harry considered killing himself. It was the one way to properly foil Malfoy's designs.

But he still didn't want to give up his life. That would mean leaving more vampires unpunished and his best friends mourning, and in the end, it would be admitting that Malfoy was too powerful for him.

Harry nodded slowly and turned his head at last to look at a small trunk at the foot of his bed. It was covered with locks and twists of chain, as well as wards that would mask the stink of Dark magic.

I'll have to look in one of those books for a solution after all.

It took him eight tries to get off the lock that he himself had put on. Harry grimaced wryly at the Harry of last year, who had been so certain that he would never want these books and had gone to such lengths to keep them warded.

If you really thought that you would never want them, then you would have thrown them away.

But Harry wasn't interested in having an argument with himself. He dragged the books out of the trunk and set them on the bed, turning them slowly over and wincing when Dark magic seeped out of the covers to sting his fingers.

Curses on Bodily Processes. Squeezing the Heart, Embedding the Soul. The Difference Between Mortals and Immortals.

Harry sighed and chose the last one, because it was the most immediately relevant to what he wanted to do: figuring out some way to break the Long-Desired bond. The rest of the books he packed back in the trunk. Since he didn't have the time or the inclination to replace the locks and the wards—he would probably want another of those tomes shortly—he cast a powerful masking spell that would make sure anyone who walked into his house saw an ordinary trunk.

He would be arrested and sent to Azkaban if anyone knew he had those books. Probably even Hermione would consider it her duty to report him to the Head Auror, though she might recommend leniency. These were the books with curses that had been declared Forbidden, the category higher than the Unforgivables, which most people didn't know existed. They had to be not only outlawed but forgotten. And the Ministry had done its best to make sure they were, burning the books that described them and using Memory Charms with abandon.

But sometimes individual criminals were smarter than the Ministry, especially when they became vampires themselves and had time to plan against the discovery of their treasures. And Harry had discovered these books in the lair of a master vampire who had wielded Dark magic as skillfully as a Death Eater and been his most difficult opponent until he faced the Collector.

He opened the first pages of Difference, wincing at the smell of rotting meat that crept out of them. He knew that some Dark wizards wanted to make sure anyone who read their books understood what they were getting into, but mustthey fit all the stereotypes that the Ministry spread about them? Harry had often been disconcerted by people like Voldemort who seemed to assume that ugliness was a lure, and didn't see that they could have used beauty instead.

Then again, vampires use beauty. And you're dedicated to killing them, so I don't think you could approve of a criminal who did as you recommended.

And you're stalling again.

With a sigh, Harry lowered his eyes to the page and began to read, bracing himself internally for some of the horrors that he would encounter in those words.


Draco stepped slowly back from the mortal woman he had been draining, licking his lips and keeping his movements casual. He touched the woman's shoulder and breathed into her ear, "Go to sleep." Under his thrall, she did as he asked without complaint, folding up and dropping to the ground. Draco licked the wound on her throat closed so that she wouldn't bleed to death and turned around at last.

It paid to deal in such cautions when he was engaging with a mortal ally.

Or someone like an ally, at least, he reminded himself when he saw Granger standing there, her wand aimed at him. I would be ill-advised to start thinking of her that way before she declares an intention to help me.

"Impressive, Granger," he said, stepping to the side so that he would be off the stone steps of the house where he had been feeding. He wanted smooth and certain ground beneath him if he had to move suddenly. "I didn't know that someone could find me unless I wanted to be found."

Granger's mouth was hard, and she pressed forwards without responding. "I've learned more about the Long-Desired bond," she said. "It doesn't sound as though you would really love Harry."

"Not in the way that I assume you love people," Draco said. "He is my most important." He hesitated, then decided, watching the way Granger's wand twitched, that that wasn't the right word. "My only. I have no other concerns, no other affections or ties. I would burn to save Harry. I would stake myself to serve him." He smiled into her eyes. She was more dangerous than he had suspected; it could not hurt to impress her with him being more dangerous than she might have thought he was. "I would kill you if he desired it."

Granger swallowed audibly, but her wand stayed steady. "I'm not sure that I want to encourage this bond if it won't lead to the kind of love Harry deserves."

"Deserves? The bond is about needs, not merit." Draco made a quick, delicate step closer, causing her to flinch and stare at him distrustfully.

That was all right. Draco only needed to see her eyes.

Granger gave a shaky gasp and tried to resist, but Draco rolled over her will easily as he extended his thrall into her mind. Granger took a deep breath, and then her eyes grew heavy and glazed, like the eyes of the mortal woman when Draco had enchanted her so that he could feed.

"Now," Draco said. He knew his voice would sound like an echo to Granger, a mutter of thunder that she couldn't help but listen to and obey. "I will not let you do anything to interfere with the bond. You can caution Harry against me. You can try to break him of his obsession for hunting and killing my kind. You can be his friend in moments when he needs the companionship of mortals. All those activities are worthy, and I will not oppose them. But I will not let you try and turn my Long-Desired from me. He is mine.

"You will not act against the bond no matter what happens, and you will encourage Harry, subtly if you can, to accept it. Do you understand, Granger?"

Of course she nodded. Draco raised an eyebrow and released her. Granger gulped quickly, and said, as if the thrall had never happened, "What kind of love can you give him that he needs but doesn't deserve?"

"I think he deserves it, of course," Draco said, pleased with himself. There was no need to take over someone's mind completely, the way Caspar so often had. Of course, Caspar had little interest in mortals when they weren't serving as his food; he might even have tried to resist the pull to his Long-Desired, simply so he could keep his power unshared. "But my devotion is absolute, Granger. I won't turn aside. I will kill for him if he needs that done. I can't give him the soft and melting love that you seem to think he has to have, though. My love isn't soft except in the way a hunting cat's fur is. And you expect too much if you think it can be. Leave me to do what's best for Harry—the bond will always ensure that—and don't question the nature of what I can offer him. Don't demand that it be what it can't. I'm not mortal."

Granger gave a slow, tight nod. "I'll kill you myself if I think that you need killing, Malfoy," she said.

Draco nodded back, trying to show that he was impressed by this threat. Of course, he did have to take it seriously since Granger had tracked him down.

"How did you find me?" he asked as she started to turn away, giving into curiosity.

"Wouldn't you like to know." Granger smirked at him, then raised an eyebrow. "Why aren't you lurking outside Harry's house as usual?"

"He asked me to stay away for three nights," Draco said. "I complied."

That, of all things, made Granger's mouth fall open and her blood start moving faster. Then she shook her head in wonder, said, "I reckon that you aren't as bad as I thought you were," and turned and walked away. Draco heard her Apparate a moment later.

You never can tell what will impress a Gryffindor, Draco thought, and turned to resume his interrupted meal. He wondered idly for a moment why Granger hadn't insisted that he let the woman go, and smirked. The most logical explanations—that Granger suspected she would become the next victim, or that Granger simply didn't care about people who weren't her friends—suggested a strong streak of practicality that Draco thought would probably counter those troublesome morals of hers.

Harry felt as if his brain had been stripped naked and then beaten with iron. Difference described spells that he hadn't thought of, aimed at destroying the core of undead magic in vampires, in ways that caused him to shudder.

Some of those spells could easily be turned around and applied to the magical core in wizards. That was another reason this particular book had been declared Forbidden, he supposed, which wouldn't have made sense if it had only offered advice that was useful for vampire hunters.

But so far, not a word about the Long-Desired bond. And the book wasn't modern or friendly enough to have an index or a table of contents. In fact, Harry was starting to suspect that it was organized rather like its author's mind, scattering various thoughts about as the author came up with them, and sometimes wandering back to topics that Harry had believed were done with in earlier chapters.

Harry sat back against the pillow and rubbed a hand forcefully across his eyes. It was almost dawn, and his body burned with the need for sleep. He couldn't go into work in this condition, but he'd already taken enough days off thanks to having to recover after his hunts. The Head Auror would love an excuse to suspend him, he knew.

No, it would have to be Pepper-up Potion and the most cheerful grin he could muster this morning. He would come back to the book tonight.

Just in case there might be something ahead, Harry flipped idly through the next few pages. And then his breath sped up as he encountered a line of neatly inked letters.

How to break the Long-Desired bond.

"Yes," Harry whispered, and clenched his hand into a fist so tight that it nearly broke his fingers. "There's no way to break the bond, is there, Malfoy? Not in the texts that you're familiar with, at least."

He wrote an owl to the Head Auror explaining that he wouldn't be in today after all, and then settled down to read.

Draco stood with his nose in the wind, his eyes closed as he filtered various clues out of it and sought the one scent he wanted. Yes, the scent of his Long-Desired's blood was nowhere within a hundred miles. That at least reassured Draco that Harry hadn't gone out on another hunt.

But something else was wrong. Something had to be, because most of the time he had no problem curling up after he had eaten a meal and letting his mind wander over the possibilities of what would happen when Harry finally saw sense and surrendered to him. He would fall naturally into death when the sun rose. As long as he had to stay away from his Long-Desired, that was the way Draco preferred to spend his nights.

This was the second night away from Harry. Draco hadn't thought he would grow tired of his routine that quickly.

The restlessness that pulled at him and made him want to pace up and down like a dog guarding a pen full of sheep was unnatural. That had to be the explanation. He felt a temptation to break his promise to Harry and go to the house that he hadn't at all felt last night, which had been full of hunger and anticipation and the surprise of Granger locating him.

Now if only Draco knew what was causing the restlessness.

He bowed his head and stood silent, doing his best to empty his mind of everything, even the image of his Long-Desired. If his senses were reporting something significant to him and it couldn't rise to the surface of his mind because his conscious thoughts obscured it, this should free him up to learn what it was.

Nothing happened.

Draco pulled his lips back from his fangs, and considered for long moments whether he should simply break his promise to Harry and go back to the house. After all, if the Collector had been a master vampire who could seek revenge for murdered members of her nest, it was not impossible that someone could seek vengeance for her. Draco would rather break his promise than have Harry die.

You know that no vampire can get through his wards, Draco reasoned with himself. And would you rather lose his trust forever, as breaking your promise would be sure to do?

Draco snarled and sat down on the doorstep of Malfoy Manor, resting his head in his hands. The restlessness was ebbing as dawn came nearer. He would ignore it until morning, when he would have no choice but to ignore it as stillness claimed him. When he woke again, if it was still pulling at him, then he would decide what to do.

The tugging, pulling, yanking agitation whispered that he was making a mistake, but in the absence of stronger evidence, Draco didn't think he had any choice.

It was simple, really. Harry knew he ought to have thought of it himself. The Long-Desired bond couldn't be balked by changing his blood to poison; of course it couldn't, otherwise the trick that he had used to hurt the Collector when she had tried to drink from him should have been enough. But it could be balked by replacing his blood with something else's blood, by becoming not quite human.

The Long-Desired bond was meant to tie a human and a vampire, after all.

Harry looked at his preparations with a critical eye. The last thing he wanted to do was set this up again. It had taken him a day and a half to get this far, although ten hours of that time had been spent asleep. He didn't want this ritual to end messily because he was too tired to read the instructions, either.

He had had to conjure an iron ring that he had set into the floor of his research room—the room at the very back of his house with stone walls like Snape's dungeon, which Harry used when he wanted to practice new spells that might destroy the rest of the house. Inside the ring lay a particular pattern of shattered glass, a winding labyrinth that defeated the eye not prepared to encounter it, and at the center of the shattered glass was a hawk, bound with its wings spread out and staked with iron spikes. Harry had chosen a hawk because the spell required an animal as like him in spirit as possible, and raptors were proud, solitary hunters.

The hawk flailed its pinned wings as best it could and screamed at him. Harry grimaced. The one aspect of this spell he hated was that he had to cause suffering to an innocent animal that had done nothing to hurt him.

But compared to living the rest of his life in slavery, the sacrifice was nothing.

He lifted his head, eyes narrowed as he watched the lessening of the red light coming in through his western window. He had to begin at the exact moment of sunset, and had a Tempus Charm set to tell him when that was.

His excitement boiled through his blood and then back into his head, speeding his thoughts up and making him wish the ritual was already done. Harry held his breath and avoided looking at the screeching hawk. Keep your eye on the charm, he chanted to himself. That will tell you when it's safe to move, and not before.

The light turned the color of the hawk's blood, and the charm rang.

Harry nodded and picked up the knife that he'd Transfigured carefully from an ordinary kitchen knife according to the ritual's specifications. It was made of obsidian and diamond now, two materials opposite in color but allied in sharpness, and he began to chant the incantation that would replace his blood with the hawk's as he stepped across the iron ring—iron to answer the iron in the blood.

A sharp tingle passed through him as he crossed the ring, and he nearly paused. But the book had said that pausing at any point during the ritual could be fatal, and so in the end he kept up the chant as he threaded his way through the maze of splintered glass towards the hawk at the center.

The first tendrils of Dark magic appeared next to him, looking like dark grey serpents that were keeping pace with him as he moved. Harry felt the first piece of glass sink into his heel, and the first drops of blood touch the floor. He nodded. That was the way it should be. Some blood had to be shed before he reached the hawk, or at least wounds had to be opened, and the book approved of the glass maze for that purpose.

The Dark magic serpents were entwining his arms and his Transfigured knife by now. Harry could still hear the hawk screaming, but it sounded as if the hawk's voice was crashing against glass walls in his own head. Another wound opened on his ankle, and another higher up his leg.

He wondered for a moment what would happen if he opened a fatal wound while in pursuit of a Dark magic ritual. But then he put aside that concern and continued chanting. It seemed like something Hermione would worry about, and while Harry still loved Hermione, he didn't live in her world any more. He had to concentrate on his freedom, not on what that freedom might cost.

He turned through another winding of the labyrinth. There were only three more of them before he reached the hawk and transferred its blood into his veins. The hawk stared up at him with dull golden eyes. It seemed to have given up; its wings twitched only a little now, and Harry thought that was because of instinct or nerve impulses, not because it actually thought it could escape.

I know the feeling, Harry thought back at it fervently as he took the next tight corner and gashed a toe open. At least one of us will have our liberty after this.

His voice was growing hoarse with the chant, and with the power of the magic that crept up his throat and wrestled him for control. But he was a practiced, trained wizard, and behind this ritual, he had all the strength of the determination that had pushed him to hunt vampires since Ginny's death. The book had said that the stronger of will he was, the better the ritual would come off.

One more turn. The Dark magic by now hung off his hands and forehead like strands of withered ivy. Harry grimaced as he felt the slimy film it seemed to leave on his skin, then shrugged. No doubt he could bathe after this.

And it wasn't anything compared to the filth that would cling to him if he accepted Malfoy's touch.

The hawk was just in front of him now, its feathers sweeping the floor, its head sagging to the side. It snapped its beak once in warning, and the blood from the wounds in its wings quietly burst into flames. Harry was briefly unnerved to see that the flames were dark red with spots of black and hard-edged, as if the hawk was now pinned by bloodstones instead of spikes.

But he could have laughed at himself when he realized what he was thinking. He had come this far and that kind of detail unnerved him?

He dropped to his knees beside the hawk, repeating the Latin over and over. His voice was speeding up now, but the words were still clear and sharply pronounced, and Harry's head had never felt so unclouded in his life. He knew he was doing what he needed to regain his freedom. He raised the knife and aimed it carefully so that it would be above the hawk's heart. He had marked that spot with a brilliant blue dye on the feathers earlier. The book had been ominously vague about what would happen to him should he stab the hawk in the wrong spot.

The bird gaped bitter defiance up at him.

Harry resisted the temptation to shut his eyes as he drove the knife home. He should be stronger than this.

This time, the restlessness was leaping and screaming around him as if it was actually a large and ill-behaved dog on a threadbare leash, and Draco couldn't even hunt. He stepped out of Malfoy Manor and waited patiently for the feeling to lead him the right direction. If there was something the bond wanted him to do this badly, he would just have to do it.

Of course, the restlessness, once it had his attention, pulled him straight in the direction of Harry's house. Draco growled under his breath as he jumped along. He was hungry, and he didn't want to break his promise to Harry, and he hated the thought that Harry could have discovered something that would actually put the bond in danger.

You can always stay out of sight and far enough away from the wards that Harry won't know you're there, he reassured himself.

Six miles away from the house, which meant a mile beyond the wards, he could feel the curling and coiling of the Dark magic like a nest of pythons. Draco briefly froze when he felt that, then began to leap forwards in bounds of seven hundred feet or more at a time. He needed to reach Harry's side. If a vampire had broken through the wards after all—

But when he came, the wards were intact, and the Dark magic had a distinct taste to it that had haunted Draco's mouth once before when they were in the Collector's tower. This was Dark magic performed by Harry himself.

Draco knew he had to stop it. But there was one small problem: the anti-vampire wards were still intact, and the bond had provided him no way past them. He paced outside them, growling, and threw himself against the barriers a few times, wondering if his presence would be enough to prevent Harry from going through with the ritual.

"I don't know what you want me to do!" he snapped aloud, as the agitation grew worse and his feet slid forwards in spite of himself. "There's no way in."

A yellow light abruptly spread out from him, making him feel as if he stood in the center of the sunbeams he would never see again. Draco watched in apprehension as the light touched the edge of the wards.

The wards simply could see a narrow tunnel left for him to walk, while on either side of it the dangerous magic meant to repel him glittered.

Draco shook his head in stupefaction as he took the tunnel. He knew that the bond would go to great lengths to ensure that it survived, but he hadn't read about anything like this in his books.

Probably because no vampire in the history of the world has ever had a Long-Desired as stubborn as I've had, he thought, and sprang to the roof of Harry's house. He knew to head for the back immediately, because that was where all the Dark magic was coming from.

He located a small window a few feet from the roof and immediately scrambled soundlessly down the wall so that he could stare through it.

Harry was kneeling above a bird of some sort pinned on the floor, his body edged with the dark red fire that was characteristic of blood magic, a knife in his hands.

Draco didn't know exactly what he was doing, but that didn't matter, because he knew what he was going to do about it.

He reared back and then hurled his body at the stone wall, bursting through it and flying through the air to slam into Harry's shoulders.

The impact blasted the breath from Harry's lungs. The knife jarred from his hand. He fell forwards on the hawk, which screamed once and then clamped its beak down in his belly. Harry cursed and flailed, trying to tumble away from the pain, not realizing until a moment later that worse things than that might happen to him if the ritual's magic didn't come together in the way it was supposed to.

And that wasn't saying anything about the threat that had hit him in the first place.

He rolled back, kicking, and coiled around to deliver a punch as strong as he could into the face of the person who had hit him. It had too few limbs and too familiar a body shape to be anything other than a person, though of course a vampire might count—

"Harry," said Malfoy's voice above him.

Anger burst in Harry's head like someone smashing through a stained-glass window. He had no idea why it so startled and shocked him that Malfoy hadn't kept his promise to stay away for three nights—after all, it was what he had expected in the first place, for a vampire to break the terms of any agreement it made, because mortals and mortal moral codes simply didn't matter to them—but it did.

"Fuck you!" he screamed up into Malfoy's face, or what would have been Malfoy's face if he could just find a way to get his feet beneath him and stand. "You bastard." The hawk's beak clamped down, shards of glass dug into his back, Malfoy pressed down on him from above and held his fangs warningly to Harry's throat, and still Harry could think of nothing but making Malfoy pay.

Draco could see the Dark magic react the moment he bore Harry to the floor and interrupted the ritual.

It turned from the bird he'd pinned and coiled around Harry's head like a garland, digging its roots into his temples, sinking through his ears and latching onto his brain. The bird beneath Harry, or maybe the glass, must have caused him some other sort of pain, because he bellowed with it instead of trying to fight off the magic. That gave it all the more opportunity to get a hold, of course.

When he began to hiss and spit insults at Draco, uncaring of the blood he must be losing from the smell or the blood that Draco could make him lose, Draco knew what particular form the Dark magic had taken. Madness, suicidal madness focused on the first threat noticed. If something else had disrupted the ritual, then Harry might have turned on the hawk this way.

This is exactly why he should never have used the ritual in the first place, Draco thought, and leaped off Harry, because he needed to get out of the maze and the iron ring that Draco had only now seen surrounding them to have any chance of weakening the magic. He ended up on the far side of the room, clinging to a wall. Harry fought his way to his feet and charged at once. Draco breathed a sigh of relief once his feet cleared the iron.

The sight of the room as a whole came to him then. The hawk was dying in the middle of the ring, its wings fluttering frantically, bloodstone flames cascading down around it in showers of scarlet sparks. Splintered glass reflected the light of those flames with crazed devotion, rendering most of the room strange even to Draco's night-adapted eyes. A few last bits of sunset made the flames brighter, the reflections worse.

And in the middle of it all was Harry.

Bleeding from his toes and his heels and his legs where he must have stepped on the glass. Bleeding from his belly where the hawk had bitten him. Bleeding from the temple where Draco must have smashed his head against the floor when he leaped in to stop him. Crowned with darkness where the magic encircled him, tightening its hold every moment, like ivy that matured in seconds instead of years and strangled its tree. Stretched with fury, his face longer and his teeth bared and brighter and his eyes wider to contain the drowning rage.

Draco had never been able to resist the blood of his Long-Desired, and he had never been able to resist power, even when he was mortal.

He didn't want to calm Harry down. Not this time. He didn't utter the croon or the hum that had worked when they last saw each other. He lowered his belly to the floor and slinked forwards instead, baring his fangs as he did so. He was unsure whether he would look more like a lion or a snake to Harry, and he didn't care. Just so long as he looked like a predator.

He wanted Harry to hunt him.

"Come on then," he said, in a voice that he knew sounded breathier than usual, because he couldn't draw the air all the way into his lungs. "Make me pay."

Harry was dimly aware that he no longer needed a wand, that magic surged and crackled under his skin when he lifted a hand, and that that was unnatural.

But that was just fine, because all he wanted to do was destroy Malfoy, not speculate endlessly and idly on the reason that his magic appeared to have altered.

He aimed one hand, pointing two fingers, and a bloodstone beam of light stabbed at Malfoy, who arched himself on toes and fingertips so that the beam ran under him. Malfoy snarled eagerly and sprang straight at Harry, mouth open to display his fangs and hands hooked so that they resembled talons.

Harry went to meet him in a storm of fire and darkness.

They clashed in midair, which startled Harry for a moment, because he knew he had no leaping prowess to match a vampire's. But then the sweetness of battle drowned him, and he simply didn't care any longer.

Malfoy knocked him backwards—no surprise, given the strength in that pale undead body—and nuzzled his way into Harry's throat like some burrowing insect, his fangs clashing. Harry heard his skin rip, felt a new wound open, felt the blood flow. Malfoy let out a needy little moan and lowered his head.

Harry reached up to cup the nape of his neck, acted as if he were steering Malfoy to the feast of his injury—and then pressed down hard, smashing Malfoy's face against his chest at the same time as he brought up his arm and imagined it becoming as hard and heavy as a hammer.

He heard the bone of Malfoy's skull briefly crack and yield. Then Malfoy pushed irresistibly up, and up, and upwards, and Harry found himself lying on the floor with his arms pinned over his head and a hungry vampire entwining him like a shroud, fastening teeth into his neck.

The bright clear pain of the pull on his blood stabbed through him like a lightning bolt and cleared the haze that might otherwise have overcome him. He waited until he thought Malfoy fully occupied with his drinking, then lifted his legs, willed magic into them, clasped them around Malfoy's waist, and squeezed.

More bones cracked. Malfoy howled like a wolf with a broken leg. Harry snarled in satisfaction and rolled over so that Malfoy was beneath him and his arms flew gloriously free, before he reached down and tried to gouge Malfoy's eyes out.

Malfoy snapped and twisted, and one of Harry's fingers was gashed open to the bone, bleeding so freely that Malfoy simply opened his mouth beneath the free meal and stuck his tongue out to lap. Harry turned so that the spray of liquid hit Malfoy in the eyes, blinding him, and jumped free again.

His vision was dazzled with dark rockets, and he was gasping as though he'd just done a lot more fighting than he had. Harry suspected he was finally weakening with blood loss. It wouldn't take Malfoy long to rise from the floor. He had to figure out a way to close these wounds and—

Malfoy whirled at him sideways, like a thrown pinwheel. Then Harry was on the floor beneath him again, this time with his legs pinned with the vampire's, his arms pinned with the vampire's, and the vampire's mouth pressing against his, eyes filled with scarlet pinpricks that Harry had never noticed before.

"Surrender," Malfoy whispered. The words were accompanied with a puff of breath that confused Harry. It smelled rich and coppery, like blood, instead of rotting earth, though Harry was fairly sure Malfoy hadn't fed tonight. He would have been stronger, and Harry would have been unable to break his bones, if he had.

"No," Harry said simply, and closed his eyes, whispering the command word that would trigger another of the traps that he carried in his body for the sake of surprising vampires.

His ribcage unfolded, pierced through his skin, and sprang up to ensnare Malfoy.

Draco grunted in breathless surprise. Harry had already cracked the back of his skull and caused fractures in his pelvis, but Draco had been sure he had immobilized him at last. His next move would have been to rip free that crown of Dark magic and challenge Harry to face him without it.

Instead, he found himself in a cage of bone, and when he struggled against it, it simply pressed silently, implacably inwards, cutting grooves in his skin, squeezing him like the coils of a python.

Harry lay beneath him, panting up with a crazed smile on his face, his chest a smooth and bloodless ruin. Apparently this was a magical modification he had planned, and he only had to wait until the struggling, thrashing vampire was cut in half and died writhing against him.

His face was streaked with blood, black and red with it, masked with it, flickering grey in the changing shadows of Dark magic.

He had never looked so powerful. He had never looked so magnificent.

Draco bent down, exhaling on the side of Harry's neck. "Give me permission to bite you," he whispered. His eyelashes were fluttering, and vivid pain cut through him from his sides. Desire, thicker than the pain, urged him on. "One last time."

Harry laughed. "Why should I, Malfoy?"

Draco forced his eyes open, though they were so heavy and languorous it was hard to do so. But if he looked at Harry directly, then Harry was more likely to believe him. Mortals were like that. "Because the only reason you've won against me, lasted to try this trick against me, is because of the Dark magic from the ritual empowering you," he said simply. "You haven't won honestly, on your own, anymore than you did against the Collector."

Harry's eyes flared with surprise as bright as hatred. He reached up, felt around, and found the crown with its roots planted into his ears. The stems whispered against his palm. Draco opened his mouth to warn him, but Harry simply cursed and yanked the entire thing out by the roots, instead of separating them individually the way that Draco had planned to do. The sane way. The safe way.

Harry promptly arched his neck back and screamed.

Puffs of silvery smoke mixed with blood rolled out of his ears. The magic was not physical, but the hold it had begun to establish was. Worse, some of those roots had gone into his magical core. Harry was bleeding power now as fast he was losing blood.

"You'll die," Draco said, his voice sweet and ruthless, his fear for his Long-Desired locked away behind his fascination and devotion. Harry was so powerful. Draco could see himself submitting if Harry demanded that, because Harry was beautiful and savage enough to deserve the conquest. "You'll no longer be a wizard even if you survive. You're losing your magic." He slid his folded fingers tenderly down Harry's cheek, pressing in a heavy furrow. The edge of one of Harry's ribs was slicing into his lungs now. "Unless you let me drink your blood and use your magic to heal you. You can't use it to heal yourself. You're bleeding."

"I can—I can…" But Harry's eyes were the ones fluttering this time, and he moaned when he tried to summon the easy power the Dark magic had given him before. The smoke rising from his ears was black now, the color of the blood he would cough up from internal injuries.

"You can't." Draco kissed his cheek with closed lips, then kissed it with a fang, and more blood, drawn by him, ran out to join the painted mask stretched across Harry's face. That would serve well for a mark on his Long-Desired for the moment. Draco was wise enough not to try and press further until he had permission. "Your survival depends on me. And it's your survival that matters most to you, isn't it?"

"Killing vampires matters most." Harry returned Draco's gaze with one so haughty and so magnificent that Draco's hips moved entirely of their own free will, rising and grinding down into the body beneath him. The ribs pressed inwards again, slicing into his chest cavity and his own ribs. He almost wanted to let them, almost wanted to let them press him into Harry so that they could die as one person. Only the thought of the pleasure and the power that would come from the blood kept him from letting that happen.

"But you must be alive to do it," Draco whispered. "Otherwise, it's only one more kill in a short record, instead of the long, long list you could have." He licked Harry's cheek this time, though the blood he drew up was only blood until Harry gave his permission. "Live, Harry, and hunt, and kill. If you let me."

Harry had not known that so much pain could exist in the world.

It was as if he were a cup with a crack in the side, pouring forth the liquid that he existed only to hold. Nothing mattered compared with the loss of his magic. If he lived, he would be a Muggle. He knew it as though he had seen a scroll written in the hand of a god telling him so.

And he could not bear that. He knew he would kill himself without his magic, and without the things that his magic let him do. Such as hunt vampires.

He had been stupid. He had used a Dark magic ritual—the image of the pinned hawk was blazing in his mind, afire with guilt, right next to the pain that came from his magic fleeing his body—and then not even thought about the consequences when he tried to deal with the waste products from that ritual. He might possibly kill Malfoy, but he would die himself.

That had seemed like such an easy outcome to imagine only a short time ago.

But he was in pain, and Malfoy offered him a way out—a way that would let him keep his magic. He felt, too, as though he had awakened from a mad dream where he thought it justifiable to torture an animal and keep it alive for hours. That was the sort of thing vampires did with humans, not what vampire hunters did to other living creatures.

So much had gone wrong. He was not who he had been.

And he would never be again if he didn't accept Malfoy's offer.

He swallowed and tilted his head to the side. "Please," he said, right before murmuring the command word that would pull his ribcage back from cutting Malfoy in half and fold it into his chest again.

Malfoy's gaze was red and grey now. He reached out, cradling Harry's cheek, and whispered, "I am the perfect companion for you."

Harry snorted. "I'm dying here, Malfoy, in case you missed it," he said. "Splashing the power that you want all over the floor. Perhaps you could make your speech at some other time?"

"Only I know the darkness as well as you do," Malfoy pursued his theme, ignoring Harry's words. "Only I can follow you this far down. Only I can suffer the pain that you inflicted on me and still think you worth dying for." He purred and lapped at the side of Harry's throat. His breath still continued to smell sweet and bloody instead of grave-stricken. "Only I can understand the impulses that drive you."

"Yes, yes, you've compared vampire hunters to vampires before," Harry said. He thought he could feel his magical core fluttering open and shut now, no longer a cracked glass but a—a dying hawk. There wasn't enough power left in him to give it form and definition. "Can you please get on with things?"

Malfoy slipped his hand behind Harry's head and held it motionless. "Not just vampires," he said. "Not just vampire hunters. I admire what you have done, do you hear me, Harry? The way you killed the Collector. The way you tried to kill me. The way you tried to break free of the bond." His voice sank as Harry stared up at him in shock. "Not the results, but the darkness that drove you. Fall as far as you like. I will never be far from your side, so that I may lend you my strength and my wings."

And he bit down before Harry could ask any of the obvious questions.

Harry's blood was joy.

Draco could feel it racing and coiling through his body, beginning with the burst of pleasure in his mouth like biting down on a ripe fruit, continuing with the flare of sunlight in his throat, ending with the delight like a flapping of wings as he gained the strength to knit his bones and muscles back into a semblance of normality. And then Harry moaned in his arms, tilting back his head as his eyes went glassy and he began to pant, and the pleasure became deeper. Draco brushed his cock against Harry's belly, against the wound in Harry's belly, smearing blood.

Then he wielded the magic like an invisible whip, and where he brought it down to strike Harry's body, the wounds began to vanish.

His belly, his mouth, his toes, his face, his legs. Draco touched each of them with his merciless beneficence, and they healed themselves. Then he pressed his hands against Harry's ears and prepared to reach inwards to his magical core.

Harry was writhing against him by now, consumed from the inside out by pleasure. He paused, though, when he felt Draco's fingers curl around his ears, as though he suspected this would hurt.

"I will make it beautiful for you," Draco whispered, "because you are beautiful, my killer." And he bit down on Harry's right earlobe, drew in the blood, and tossed himself into the midst of a stream of power.

The pleasure was immolating Harry.

Harry twisted and curled and thrashed like a worm on a hook, trying to get away from it. It didn't matter. The pleasure followed him no matter how far down he fled, the same way that Malfoy had promised to fall with him into the darkness no matter what happened.

His nerves woke up and tingled in a way that they hadn't since Ginny's death. He found himself craving the sight of sunlight for its own sake, of sunsets for other reasons than because it would signal the beginning of a hunt, of meadows rippling down to the sea. Nothing had been beautiful to him since he had to sacrifice Ginny. Now, he thought things could be.

Harry had laughed when Hermione suggested, years ago, that love from someone else might help to heal him and put him back on the right path. And he was still right. It wasn't love that he needed to redeem him. It was something stronger, something rougher—

Something infinitely more pleasurable.

Something that crawled into the darkness with him and wouldn't flinch, wouldn't pull back, the way that Hermione and Ron would do when they understood the depths of what he was.

Which they would have the chance to do, Harry decided, reaching up to curl his arms around Malfoy's neck and revel in the sudden flush of magic that poured back into him and revived the dying hawk, filled and repaired the cracked glass, pushed him off a cliff and drowned him in a torrent and ate him with a shark's jaws. He wanted to go back to them again. He wanted to do something more than simply pretend to be healing, the way he had done with Hermione so far. He would give them the chance to understand him, and if they rejected him, at least they would do it because of the full knowledge of what he had done.

Malfoy's power tossed him high, whirling with him through a forest of glittering obsidian trees.

No, not just Malfoy's power, Harry realized slowly, it had to be slowly, because the realization had to struggle through jagged black flashes of pleasure in order to reach him. His. Malfoy had taken his magic and was feeding it back to him, so it was really Harry who was healing himself, redeeming himself, pulling himself back from the brink.

Without help. Or with the help of someone who wouldn't have been able to do it without Harry.

Harry laughed smugly. It seemed that he had triumphed in this contest with Malfoy after all, though certainly not in any way he had suspected would happen.

The world surged around him, and he found himself lying once more on the floor beneath Malfoy, those red-grey eyes staring into his, a knee pressing steadily down between his legs, those cruel hands gripping and holding his ears. Harry took a deep breath, knowing on instinct that no more magic bled out of him now.

Pleasure squeezed him as if Malfoy had his own trick of extending his ribs and trying to cut people in half.

Harry gasped and clutched at Malfoy, shutting his eyes. He did not like to see the person he was rutting with, still, but he couldn't back away from it. This was need stabbing into him, slicing into him, making him picture heated hands on flesh and teeth on necks and cocks vanishing into arses—

Well, maybe I can't escape from the person I'm rutting with by closing my eyes, after all.

Because he didn't intend to be a coward and because he wasn't one to deny the inevitable when trying to do so made him into a monster, Harry defiantly opened his eyes.

The orgasm that gripped him when he looked at Malfoy was like the ending of the world, hurling him through flame and darkness and blood into silence.

Draco felt himself coming at last, which he could only tell was happening because it was slightly more shattering than the experience of drinking Harry's blood and sharing magic with him.

He shuddered, his body arching and surging against Harry's, and then he rolled down beside him and nuzzled into his shoulder. His arms remained tightly wrapped around Harry's torso. There was no way that he could let him go, not now. He thought he might hold onto until he collapsed into the death that would come with the sunrise.

Harry turned his head and stared at him. Draco forced his eyes open with an effort so that they could exchange a glance.

Harry still held darkness in his gaze, and rage, and hatred. But he had pride, too. He would not run from any danger, and he wanted to understand this thing that had happened between them, control it.

There was another emotion in his gaze, too, but Draco didn't understand it until Harry said, in a voice flat with wonder, "You saved my life. Not your own. You could have survived what I was doing to you. I wouldn't have."

"Yes," Draco said simply, watching him, absorbing him.

"Vampires don't do that," Harry said.

Draco curled up next to Harry, though he left a hand on his shoulder, without speaking, for an answer. Harry looked at the hand, and then at him, and set his jaw.

But he made no attempt to move away.

Things had changed, now. Draco was certain of it. A corner had been turned. Harry would still fight, and he would still try to ensure that nothing Draco wanted was simply given to him; he was envisioning taking things from Draco instead of the exchange Draco planned to make of their bond.

But as long as Harry had evidence that did not fit into his neat little world of selfish, evil vampires and pure, good mortals, then that world had been shattered, and he had to step away from the ruins and try to build a new one.

More than content—contentment was for those petty little souls who did not have what he had—Draco closed his eyes.

Harry closed his eyes. He had long since cleaned up the blood and the glass and taken the hawk's battered body from the room so that he could bury it on the moor a good distance from the house. If he didn't choose to think about it, then there was no reminder of what he'd done here to make him think about it.

But his memories were still there, and they filled his head with pounding guilt that felt a lot like a headache.

Harry leaned back against the wall and laid his arm over his eyes. The image of the hawk was the sharpest memory, playing over and over again. He could envision the exact jags of the wounds through its wings. He could hear its pained screams. He could see the way its claws had curled, desperate for something to tear, some enemy it could grasp and wound to stop its suffering.

He had ended the suffering at last by falling on top of it and crushing it. Malfoy had estimated that the bird had been dead shortly after it tore the wound in Harry's belly.

But that hardly made him feel better when he had caused that anguish in the first place.

I was able to separate myself from the vampires in my mind because they hunted and killed all kinds of people, innocent or not, and I only hunted the guilty ones. But now I've used a Dark ritual to cause harm to an innocent. And it was an animal, which has fewer means of defending itself than a human. How in the world can I claim that I'm much different from the vampires, now?

He didn't know. And he thought the doubt would probably follow him and torment him for years. If he was never free from its shadow, then it would be no less than he deserved.

Harry took a deep breath and sat up. The hardest thing wasn't facing the guilt. Come to that, it was fairly easy to admit that he had crossed a line he shouldn't have crossed. There was no excuse for turning to Dark magic, no matter what happened.

The hardest thing would be admitting to Hermione and Ron what had happened to him, and asking for their help to get back to normal.

Harry buried his head in his hands again. He didn't want to do this. They would make him go into St. Mungo's, he knew it. Then Malfoy would be free to visit him whenever he wanted. The hospital didn't think it worthwhile to construct anti-vampire wards, when they believed there were so few rogue vampires with a desire to get inside.

Harry could have given them a lecture on certain statistics and what a wounded vampire was likely to do to get blood that would have made them shiver in terror.

He had changed certain things. He had admitted certain things. But there were others he could neither change nor admit. He couldn't give up control of his life to his friends, and he couldn't give up control of his relationship with Malfoy. Even if they had to meet in order to survive—and because Malfoy wanted his blood and because Harry wanted to feel the strength and pleasure that the sharing of magic had given him—Harry needed it to be on his terms and his ground.

So he somehow had to tell the truth to his friends and make the extent of his corruption clear to them without giving them enough evidence that they would demand St. Mungo's for him.

Easier said than done.

Harry nibbled his lip, frowning. There was no simple solution here. Hermione would reject him over anything less than complete honesty. Ron might reject him for it. Malfoy would reject Harry giving in only to his friends and not to him.

And in the middle of them was Harry, who wanted to do the right thing but didn't want it to cost him too much, while being aware that a high cost might be one sign of something that would actually help him.

In the end, he sighed in disgust and reached for the Floo powder. Of all of them, Hermione was the most predictable and the easiest to deal with. He would try her first.

"You did what?"

Harry winced and bowed his head. Hermione's voice was low instead of the high screeching pitch that he had imagined. That made it worse. It brought home, among other things, the full force of her horror at his crime.

"I conducted a Dark magic ritual—" he began.

"I heard you the first time, Harry. It was a rhetorical question." Hermione put her hands over her face and spent a few minutes sitting like that. Harry wondered if she would cut off the Floo connection and leave him to brood while she contacted the Ministry and St. Mungo's. And maybe someone else, too. Was there a wizarding society for the prevention of cruelty to animals? Harry had never heard of them if there was.

"All right," Hermione said at last, her voice the sharp one that automatically brought Harry's head up. "This is what we're going to do." She had her hands on her hips now, and she stood there looking grimly down at Harry as though she were contemplating cleaning up a puddle of blood and vomit. "You're going to give me the Dark Arts book that you found this ritual in, and whatever other ones you have. They need to be taken away and burned. Or buried." Harry managed a wan smile; even when she knew they were dangerous, it was hard for Hermione to think about destroying books. "If you give them to me, at least I know that you can't perform any more rituals or spells out of them."

Harry nodded. He hadn't thought of that solution himself, but it was a gesture of good faith that would matter to Hermione, and one that he was more than willing to perform.

"Next," Hermione said, "I want to speak to both you and Malfoy in person sometime soon. Tonight's impractical for several reasons. But tomorrow night or the night after that. I want to understand more about the limitations of this bond and what he needs in order to bring you back to sanity."

"You're not sending me to St. Mungo's?" Harry asked, not believing his ears.

"There's too much," Hermione said. "The Auror Department would have to know the truth about why you needed time in St. Mungo's, and so would the Mind-Healers. And trying to explain about Malfoy, the vampires, Ginny's death and why you have this desire to kill vampires to avenge her murder, the Long-Desired bond, and everything else would cause misunderstandings and give them information about you that they have no right to possess."

Harry stared at her in gratitude. "Thank you," he whispered. "I thought—I thought you would be honest before anything else."

Hermione gave him a grim, cutting smile. "I want my friend back before anything else," she answered. "I doubt that the Ministry or St. Mungo's would have that as their primary goal. So I'll do what's needed to spare you—a little." She paused, then added in a voice as sharp as her smile. "In the end, what I demand of you is going to be harder than what you would go through if I took you in to the Mind-Healers. You may not thank me for it in the end."

Harry stifled the indignant words that rose to his lips. He knew in the bottom of his heart that he didn't deserve a friend like Hermione after everything that he'd done to drive her away. If she asked hard tasks of him, then he should perform them.

"Now." Hermione stepped back. "I'm going to come through to your house and take the books away. Shut the Floo connection so that I can."

"Hermione?" Harry couldn't let her come ahead without saying this.

She cocked her head at him, and reminded him, painfully, of a hawk that was about to pounce on a mouse.

"Thank you."

There was a slight softening about her eyes and mouth, probably not noticeable to anyone who hadn't known her as long as Harry had. "Thank me when we see how it works." Then she moved away, and Harry shut the Floo connection and stepped back from the hearth, hopeful that it was a step on a path that would lead him to the person he had once been.

"I have a proposition for you, Malfoy."

Draco lifted his head and sniffed delicately. After the way Harry had behaved the other evening, when he must already have been thinking of some way to break the bond if he could, Draco was going to pay more attention to his nose when it came to detecting lies, and not just what he heard in his Long-Desired's words.

But Harry smelled as honest as earth. Draco allowed himself to step closer, running approving eyes over the folded arms, the taut shoulders, the green eyes that met his directly, full of cold anger. "Yes?" he asked.

"I told Hermione the truth about the ritual I performed," Harry said. He shifted back and forth, stamping one foot on the ground as if he was cold. Maybe he was. They were meeting out on the open moor, beyond his wards again. Draco knew better than to object, given that he had broken both Harry's defenses and his promise to stay away when he intervened in the ritual. "She wants to talk to both of us at once. Not tonight, but tomorrow night, preferably."

"My time is yours." Draco spread his hands. "As your blood is mine."

He meant it for a challenge, and Harry took it that way. He shook his head, hunching in on himself. This time, he wasn't cold, Draco was certain. He was working himself up to spring instead. "You can't have it whenever you want it."

"Of course not," Draco said. "If I had as much as I want at all times, I should drain you dry. Luckily, I have some sense of restraint and some conception of waiting for good things in the future." He ignored Harry's incredulous snort, instead stepping towards him and tipping his head so that he could sniff at his neck. Harry glared at him, but stood still. "Instead, I shall ask for it, and then take it."

Harry snorted again. "What makes you think that I'll simply give you what you want, no matter how politely you ask?"

"Do the words 'saving your life and soul and magic and mind' mean anything to you?" Draco slid one hand up behind Harry's neck.

Harry's eyes flared with rage. Draco sighed as he hardened. He had dreamed of his Long-Desired submitting willingly to him, but now he wasn't at all sure he wanted that. Instead, he wanted the challenge, the fight, the prancing about and declarations of rage like a stag in the rut, and then the submission.

"I owe you something for that," Harry said, his voice low and savage. "Maybe even a few drinks. But not the rest of my life."

"Of course not." Draco let his fingers slide in a tickling motion over Harry's chin and cheek, up through his hair, down again so that he was toying with the folds of the skin on the back of Harry's neck. Harry shuddered and considered him with his eyes narrowed. He still looked dangerous, but he never would have let Draco come this close before, so Draco counted it as a victory. "I wouldn't want this to be based on gratitude. But you shouldn't simply decide that you're going to refuse me at this point, either. I want you to let me drink a few times, and then make a decision."

"You're hoping the pleasure will weaken me." Harry caught Draco's hand and held it still. Draco could have broken free with no greater effort than a single twist, but he found a heady delight in the way Harry clenched his fingers down as if he could break Draco's bones. Harry glared at him. "I don't care how good you smell right now, I have no intention of playing along."

"How good I smell?" Draco cocked his head with innocent interest.

Harry grimaced, but he was too proud to pretend he hadn't said something. "You used to smell like graves and corpses," he said. "Now you smell like blood. As if you were alive, somehow. I noticed it—last night." His face flushed, and he glanced away. Draco could hear his heart throbbing.

"Last night is a sacred time for me, too," Draco said gently. "You need not be ashamed of pausing before you name it."

Harry turned back to him. "Why did your smell change?"

"I have no idea," Draco said. "If you let me have the books I gave you back, then perhaps I could find some information in them pertaining to the way that the Long-Desired bond changes the vampire when one partner accepts it." He smiled, making sure to show his fangs. "Or you could invite me into the house, and we could look at the books together."

Harry's eyes half-lidded, and his heartbeat slowed as he thought. Draco hoped that his thoughts were running along the same track as Draco's: that they would be together soon enough in one space thanks to Granger's demand, and that he would learn more if he had someone familiar with the books and their odd, rambling organization at his shoulder.

Draco's fingers twitched, but he restrained himself from reaching out and seizing the back of Harry's head to bring their mouths together in a kiss, as he longed to do. He would simply have to live with Harry's pace of decision-making. Shove too hard, and he would push this tentative trust in him over a cliff and dash it to pieces on the ground below.

"I won't invite you into the house," Harry said. "I will bring the books out here." He looked around as though he were evaluating the stretch of open moor as a meeting place. "And I'll tell Hermione that I want us to meet here, as well." He looked at Draco and raised an eyebrow. "Tomorrow at ten?"

Draco nodded, amused at Harry's combination of imperiousness in setting the place and politeness in asking about the time. Then he coughed and shifted closer. "There remains the small matter of tonight," he whispered.

Harry's head twitched. His pulse beat wildly for a moment, and then subsided. He folded his arms and looked away. "If you must, Malfoy," he said, in a voice that concealed his eagerness but not the way he spread his legs slightly and leaned forwards.

That's the way he wants to play it. He's going to try his best to be unaffected while I'm biting him.

Draco had no objections to such a contest, particularly when he knew that it was one he would win. He spent a few moments sliding his fingers into the best position. Before, he'd had to hold Harry's neck at any awkward angle and drink in a way enforced by circumstances. This time, when he had a choice, he would make it comfortable for both of them.

"Well? Get on with it," Harry mumbled. He had his eyes closed and an expression of suffering patience on his face as he put up with Draco's manipulations of his neck. The better to convince himself he was distant from all this, Draco supposed.

"I will," Draco said. He breathed over Harry's throat for the sake of watching him shiver and wrinkle his nose a bit; then he sighed and slid his fangs into the puncture wounds he had made last night.

He had to close his eyes as the first wave of sensation struck him. He didn't have to think about helping Harry survive against a master vampire now. There was no Dark ritual to snatch him from. There was only cool moonlight, and open air, and Harry shaking against him, and purest pleasure entering through his mouth.

Harry had thought his newfound determination to do the right thing—to tell Hermione the truth, to get rid of his Dark Arts books, to make up for the suffering he'd caused the hawk—would stand him in good stead when it came to Malfoy biting him. He would yield to it because it would make a poor return to Malfoy if he refused him, and because he had promised himself the sensations it induced as a reward for doing those right things. But he had also promised himself that he would do his best to resist. Surely it was only the situations they had been in when Malfoy bit him, situations on the edge of life and death, that made the feelings from those fangs so intense. The feelings had to be different when it was only the two of them and Harry could concentrate without distractions.

Instead, he found his cock stiffening with anticipation before Malfoy ever caused him anything but faint pain thanks to the prickling of the teeth on his throat.

He half-raised a hand, thinking about forcing the vampire's head away. Then the pleasure roared through him like a thunderstorm and he gasped and put his hands on Malfoy's shoulders instead.

He'd suffered a drought since Ginny, and only now did he truly realize that. He'd been sure that his capacity for enjoyment died when she did, or rather when he had to stake and behead her and scatter her ashes. He could still watch in satisfaction as a vampire fell dead, but nothing else was left to him.

But he had survived that, or his craving for pleasure had.

He had to come to terms with that when he found himself rubbing against Malfoy's leg, and Malfoy shifting so that he could accommodate him.

Harry forced his eyes open, despite the temptation to keep them shut. He ached and shivered all over, and he thought he could feel every single individual bit of stretched skin on his erection. Cloth shifted and rubbed against it, and the stronger press of Malfoy's thigh beyond that, and he needed sight as a distraction from touch.

He could see only Malfoy's blond hair, since his face was bowed into Harry's neck, his teeth steadily sucking. He could make out Malfoy's hands, though. They clung to Harry as if he really were the source of Malfoy's life.

Harry shuddered and swallowed. He brought his hands up to cup Malfoy's skull, not sure that he wouldn't try to crush it.

When he felt skin under his fingers, even cool skin that was only gradually flushing with the warmth of blood—when he found of the shape of bones willingly yielded to his hands, because Malfoy neither looked up nor tried to stop him—

Harry couldn't do it.

He screamed at himself for weakness as he hung there, his thoughts boiling back and forth between his cock and the head he held, his breath stuttering as Malfoy's hair swept against his chin and cheek and his thigh drove Harry on to completion. He had faced harder challenges than this and always triumphed. He should be able to do anything. He should be able to make plans and then carry them out. What was he if he didn't do that but a failed vampire hunter?

He was still thinking about what else he might be when the pleasure caught him and he came unexpectedly. His fingers sank into Malfoy's skin anyway, but this time as a desperate handhold against being swept away by the flood, not a punishment.

Malfoy lifted his head and looked at him as Harry was still shuddering through the last pulses of his orgasm. His eyes were wide and self-satisfied, once again swimming with crimson flecks. He stepped back from Harry, grabbed Harry's arms to support himself, and then flickered out his tongue to touch and lap a small drop of blood from Harry's chin.

He came from that, neck bowing backwards, vulnerable throat exposed to Harry. It was the most trust anyone had shown Harry since the day when he'd failed to protect Ginny.

Harry shut his eyes. Confusions crowded in on him and whirled around so fast that he wasn't sure which one he should address first. A short time ago he would have said that the most important thing was killing Malfoy. Vampires were all treacherous bastards. He might seem to be giving unselfishly to Harry at first, but eventually it would turn out to be part of some complex plan, and Harry would regret that he hadn't slain him when he had the chance.

But Malfoy had done too many things that Harry had always thought were impossible for vampires, as impossible as being honest from the first. Almost died for Harry. Fought him without killing him. Interfered in a Dark ritual and then not taken the chance to drain Harry's magic and blood when he was weak. Showed him trust, when Harry would have said that the treacherous bastards didn't know what trust was.

He reached out. His hand trembled. He didn't know its destination.

His fingers came to rest in the hollow of Malfoy's throat, and Harry stood there and listened to the sluggish beating of a vampire's heart. He was still standing there like that, hand resting in the same place, when Malfoy opened his eyes again.

Draco had never felt anything like this, either undead or alive.

He was content, and full of joy. The blood puddled in his stomach and made him feel friendly to the whole world. He'd had the chance to feed at a leisurely pace and without keeping half an eye open, the way he always did when feeding on enthralled mortal prey, in case someone missed them. He'd had the chance to clean his Long-Desired afterwards. He'd come and not felt as though he had to snatch a quick orgasm from the jaws of running time.

All of it made him feel languorous, but it was far too early in the night to curl up and go to sleep. Besides, the blood had given him a rush of new energy, and the magic he had drawn with the blood—not much, to show willingness to compromise—danced playfully about in his veins. Instead, he wanted to do something that Harry wanted him to do, something that would make Harry happy.

He smiled at Harry, reached up to clasp his fingers, and whispered, "What can I do? Anything you want."

Harry trembled. His lips opened once, and then he closed them again and shook his head. Draco crooned at him and leaned nearer. "I have very good hearing," he whispered, "but even I can't hear the words if you don't speak them." He couldn't stop his hands from smoothing up and down Harry's cheeks. He wanted so much to touch him, to protect him, to give him gifts. Anything he wanted. Draco was almost sorry Harry had come already. That would have been something immediate and intimately pleasant that he could offer.

"Go away," Harry whispered. "Until you come back tomorrow night to meet me and Hermione here. Please."

Draco ducked his head. He didn't even resent the command; he felt, instead, the deep rush of happiness that came from acceding to Harry's request. He licked Harry's cheek once, and then turned and sped away across the moor, springing into the air, calling out for the delight of hearing his voice echo back from the rocks.

This time, Harry was his, to cradle and care for. Draco didn't think anyone could have feigned that heart-deep confusion.

And I will clarify that confusion in time and give him something to live for. I will.

"Ten in the evening?" Hermione nodded and flung a cloak over her shoulders. Her tone was distracted as she bent down to sort through a bag at her feet in search of something, but Harry knew she would remember everything he said to her. Hermione had long since got past the stage where she forgot things. "That's fine. A reasonable hour, for both me and Malfoy." She straightened back up with a book in her hands and a deep sigh, then shot Harry a keen glance. "It seems that you're going out of your way to accommodate us both, Harry."

Harry folded his arms and tried to look dignified and solemn when he really felt defensive and like a small child. "I know I did something wrong," he said. "I'm sincere in my desire to make up for that, Hermione."

For no reason that Harry could see, her smile wavered, and she nodded. "I know," she said. "But I wish you had a better motivator than guilt. I wish you were agreeing to meet with me because you wanted to, and with Malfoy because you'd seen what good the bond could do you already."

Harry glared at her. "I just started thinking that maybe the way I'd been doing things was the wrong way," he said. "I know that you're impatient for me to get better, but maybe you could let me try to come back to health at my own pace?"

Hermione stared at him with her mouth open for a moment. Then she ducked her head and nodded. "Sorry, Harry," she said with a rueful smile. "Ron lets me manage him just as I like. Sometimes I forget that not everyone will do that. And it's probably good practice for dealing with Malfoy, anyway," she added. Then she leaned over as if to catch a glimpse of a clock on the wall that Harry couldn't see, and squeaked. "I'm going to be late!" She waved a hand at him and scurried away. Harry shut the Floo connection and leaned back on his hands and heels.

He could feel a sullen impulse to rebellion stirring in him. Yes, he'd been wrong to use Dark magic, and probably to think that he would never feel anything after Ginny's death, since Malfoy had made him feel certain things without much effort. But he wasn't wrong about everything. He wasn't wrong that vampires murdered a lot of innocent people, and God knew what vampires like the Collector or Caspar would have done if he hadn't stopped them.

So he wasn't wrong about everything, and he wasn't going to change everything about himself to suit Malfoy and Hermione.

Besides, I don't think Malfoy would want a partner who just lay down in front of him and let him have his way. At the least, it would bore him.

Harry rolled his eyes. Since when did it matter to him what Malfoy wanted? It didn't, except that Malfoy could make his life difficult in front of Hermione. So he would go along, and make what compromises he needed to make, and try his best to understand the strange turn his life had taken, and try to atone for using Dark magic and hurting an innocent animal.

But he wasn't going to say that everything he had done in the past few years was stupid. He didn't want to live happily ever after with a vampire. He could put up with pleasure now and then, and maybe help on his hunts, if Malfoy really had no loyalty to his own kind. Other than that, he didn't see any reason they shouldn't live essentially separate lives. What in the world did they have to do or talk about or share with each other?

I'll do what I can, he decided, rising to his feet and brushing the soot and dust of the hearth off his hands. But it's out of the question to ask me to change everything that I am merely so that I can get in good with Malfoy.

Draco sighed as the scent of his Long-Desired's blood came to his nostrils, accompanied by the salt-and-earth scent of Granger. He had landed a distance away and was walking in now, because he thought the sight of him leaping like a mad kangaroo might discomfort Granger. Harry knew well enough that Draco didn't move like a mortal, but it was best not to confront Granger with evidence of his capabilities if he could avoid it. Granger was his best ally against Harry's own stubbornness.

Well, perhaps my second-best ally, Draco thought, as he walked over a small hill and came into sight of Harry and Granger waiting for him on the moor. Harry's fascination with me last night is the best.

He smiled in spite of himself at the memory of the look of rending confusion that his Long-Desired had given him, and then he moved closer still, eager to replace memories with more experience of the real thing.

Harry was facing him, of course, his expression set in hard lines that made Draco lick his lips as he thought of how he would make those hard lines melt. Granger had a lit wand in her hand and she gave a small nod of satisfaction when Draco appeared in front of her.

"I called you here because I want to speak to you about reconciling," she said. "I think it's important if you're ever going to live in the way that the books say the vampire and his Long-Desired have to."

Harry snorted and rolled his eyes. "How are we supposed to live, Hermione? He's literally dead half the day. We have nothing in common but an interest in predation." He gave Draco a narrow, critical glance that Draco found more disturbing than he would have confusion or fear or anger. Harry was taking a more detached view of him, and not seeing a way that Draco could fit into his life. That was disheartening. "I can feed him, yes, and—and do other things with him if I must, but that's not a way of building anything." He folded his arms and gave a small nod, as if to say that he'd settled that argument.

"There are many ways," Draco said, because he knew that Granger, from the expression on her face and her scent, would start speaking in a moment, and she would probably wander into philosophical mazes that he didn't want to explore and feel justified in staying there until the stars went out. "We have years to figure that out, Harry. I'm immortal, and I can extend your life. Imagine hundreds of years to do as you like, with no diminishment in strength or health, and companionship with the one person who understands you best."

Harry's shoulders tightened, as Granger sighed, clasped her hands, and looked envious. "You don't understand, Malfoy," Harry said, the words so sharp and controlled that they felt like pellets of hail hitting Draco's skin. "I want to know now why I should do more than give you my blood and occasionally share my magic. Yes, I'll do that so that you can survive and because it benefits me, too. But more than that? Living together? Hunting together? Being—lovers?" He forced out the word, though his face was red and his scent heavy enough to tell Draco what it cost him to do so. "I think that's what you want, isn't it? But I see no way that we can really have that."

"If you would let me tell you what I've learned about the bond—" Granger said, in tones of injured dignity.

"Is it more than what's contained in these books?" Draco had seen the books, sitting in a pack at Harry's feet. He floated forwards and pulled them out of the bag, turning them over. Yes, there were all the ones he had lent to Harry, though one of them had a weakened binding that he didn't remember, as though it had been hurled against a wall and hastily repaired. Draco fixed Harry with a stern eye, and was delighted to see his blush deepen and his body shift defensively onto his heels. Draco held them out so that they would come into range of Granger's lighted wand and she could read the titles. "These are volumes from my family's library. I assure you that they contain the most complete information source I have ever found on vampires."

Granger gave a greedy sound, as though someone had offered her a whole cup of blood and she wanted to swallow it all at the same time, and snatched two of the books from Draco, cradling them against her chest. Draco heard a faint noise that he doubted he would have picked up if he wasn't a vampire, and glanced to the side. Harry was watching Granger with her precious treasures, and his eyes were wide and his smile relaxed. The flush had almost faded from his cheeks.

He needs more than me, Draco thought. The realization stung, but much less than it would have a week ago. He was willing to do anything for Harry, after all. He needs his friends, and he will revive and become more himself again if he comes back into contact with them—which I can encourage him to do.

He stepped up beside Harry. Immediately he earned a distrustful glance and a tightening of Harry's shoulders, but he couldn't care about that, not when the realization was flowing through him and he thought that he could do a good turn for his Long-Desired. He laid one hand on Harry's shoulder and reveled in the mortal warmth of the skin and muscle under his fingers.

"Harry," he whispered. "Will you promise me something? If you do, then I promise in turn that I'll stay away tomorrow night and not demand your blood then." He tried not to be distracted by the throbbing vein a few inches from his fangs. This was one of the most important moments in his relationship with Harry, or at least he hoped it would be.

"Depends on what the promise you demand is." Harry's voice was higher than normal, and he shifted his shoulders back and forth as if he was thinking of the shower that he would have to take when Draco let him go. "If you want me to torture an innocent to death, then I won't agree no matter what you offer me in return."

Draco stifled an impatient sigh. "No," he said. "It's not that. Will you go out to dinner with your friends tomorrow? If you do, then I'll stay away." He thought it important to repeat that until Harry understood and accepted it.

Harry simply stared at him, so frozen that Draco might have thought he'd died if he was mortal. But he was a vampire, and he could hear his Long-Desired's heart beating and his blood rushing. He closed his eyes and did his best to memorize the sound, though it would never be the same as hearing it in the present. The sound would comfort him when Harry was far away from him and Draco could not bridge the gap with a simple leap.

"You're strange," Harry whispered, shaking his head. "I know that you don't have a nest and that you're focused on me, but you're still strange. The Collector didn't care about hurting others or encouraging Lucy to have friends. You're acting as though you want that for me." He peered into Draco's eyes as though he expected to see something there that would make the mystery easier for him to understand.

"I told you that I would do everything for you," Draco said. "That's true even if you don't do anything but the basics for me, giving me blood." He traced a finger over the line of Harry's scar, and Harry jerked his head backwards. Draco let his hand fall, but didn't take his intense gaze from Harry's face. "Let me give you this, an evening with your friends where you don't have to be troubled with me."

Harry's neck muscles tightened, as though he imagined that would stop Draco from biting through his throat if he wanted to. Then he reached out and grasped Draco's chin, tilting his head back and forth. Draco let it happen, and if he rolled his eyes, it was inwardly, where Harry wouldn't see. The air around them had turned tight and trembling, and he doubted that he would so soon get another chance at convincing Harry if he managed to screw this one up.

"I don't believe you," Harry whispered harshly. "There's no way that you can care about me that much."

Draco opened his eyes very wide and let his gaze melt and flow as much as possible. He doubted he could look innocent, since the crimson flecks had been circling in his eyes since Harry had granted him free access to his blood, but Harry would distrust innocence anyway. "Why not? You said once that vampires are predators on humans, parasites and nothing more. If your blood tastes more delicious than any other meal I've ever savored, why shouldn't I care for you?"

"But I haven't helped you," Harry said. He reached up with his free hand and grabbed Draco's wrist, squeezing down. He made the bones grind, but Draco didn't care about that. He could heal them again. It was nothing compared to the fact that his Long-Desired was touching him of his own free will. "I've dragged you along on hunts and made you subordinate to my will on them. I've granted you my blood extremely unwillingly. I haven't saved your life. I haven't been your friend for decades. I haven't done anything heroic in the years since Ginny's died that should make you like me." His voice was rising, turning almost shrill. Draco caught a glimpse of Granger watching them with her mouth open, and wondered how long she had been doing that. She, too, was probably learning more about Harry right now than she had ever thought she would do. "It's impossible that you can care for me."

Draco reached up, stroking the back of Harry's neck, his collarbone, his hair, his cheeks. So much warm skin, so flushed with life that had been yielded to Draco. He was intoxicated with the thought of being able to guard and protect it, and drink of it whenever he liked.

"None of that matters," he said. "Someone can care for you when you haven't acted like a hero, Harry." He paused, and then let the words that wanted to come ramble out of his mouth, though he was uncertain of their truth. "That was one reason that you buried yourself so far in the hunt after your Weasley's death, wasn't it? Because you thought you had failed to be a hero by failing to prevent her murder." Harry flinched away, but Draco had more than enough strength and more than enough of a good position to prevent him from escaping. "You forgot that people can care for you for other reasons."

"Oh, Harry," Granger whispered, the books forgotten, moving forwards to put a hand on his elbow. "I should have known." Her voice became fierce, and too pressing. Draco wanted to snap at her that she would scare Harry away from the revelation he'd almost had, but he knew he would probably do more damage if he seemed hostile to Harry's friends, so, with an effort, he managed to remain still. "Ginny died. It wasn't your fault. Ron and I didn't blame you for not preventing it, and we don't think you're heroic because you kill vampires. If you deliberately changed yourself to try and become more heroic, it was stupid and useless."

Harry's eyes slid shut, and he began to breathe with deep and deliberate puffs of breath. Draco suspected he was trying to regain some sort of emotional distance, so that he could hurl hurtful words at them.

Draco could not let that happen.

He pushed Granger away and leaned his head forwards until his fangs scraped against Harry's throat.

Harry jolted and then shoved him back with one stiff arm. Draco let himself fall with the blow, and recovered his feet a safe distance away. Harry stared at him, and then at Granger, in the moment before his eyelids fell and he folded his arms with a desperate attempt at casualness. Draco licked his lips. The sight made him ache with a strange feeling that was most like the emptiness of hunger, but he did not need blood immediately.

"Listen," Harry said. "I don't want to listen to either of you talk about Ginny. There's no reason for it. We're here to discuss what we should do about the bond. And how I can make up for using the Dark Arts," he added belatedly, with a look at Granger out of the corner of his eye.

Granger and Draco looked at each other in a moment of perfect understanding. Draco gave a small shudder and sincerely hoped that he would never experience another of those with any mortal except Harry. It was unpleasant, to know that a mind that would die soon could race and keep up with his.

But, for the moment, it served its purpose.

"We must talk about Weasley," Draco said. "Otherwise, the changes you make will mostly be on the surface, and will last only as long as your guilt about the Dark Arts ritual does. We need something deeper, Harry. We both care for you, require your presence in our lives, and wish you to change. That means that we must wrestle with the ghost of your Weasley and lay her to rest at last."

Harry wanted to shove both Hermione and Malfoy away and escape into his house, or across the moors, or into the mental realm of determination that he had used to resist vampires' painful attacks in the past. Anywhere and to anything would do, as long as he didn't have to listen to the words that he was horribly afraid they would launch at him.

They were going to try to convince him that the last few years of his life had been a waste. They were going to tell him that everything he had done since Ginny's death had been wrong.

That was the one thing Harry could not bear. He had kept going because he had told himself that he could make a difference, eliminating vampires who would prey on humans and so preventing more deaths. If that wasn't true, if he might as well never have hunted at all, then there was no reason for him not to have lain down and died the moment he had finished ensuring Ginny wouldn't rise as a vampire.

He did not really want to die. But he had to have a driving purpose, and if someone took that purpose away from him…

What was left?

"Neither of you have the right to speak her name." Harry knew his voice was too shrill. For the moment, it would have to do. He fell back a pace and swept his eyes quickly over them, seeing Hermione's mouth open. He rushed on. "I'm the one who saw her die, the one who made sure her death wasn't tainted by undeath, and the one who dedicated my life to avenging her after that. Neither of you can talk about her."

"Even me?" Hermione asked with gentle insistence. "When she was my sister-in-law and my best friend after you? Harry, that's inhuman, to claim that her family doesn't have the right to talk about her."

Harry dug his fingers into his palms. It was all going wrong again, and this time, he had no idea how to put it right. He couldn't confess to Hermione because he had already confessed to her and she didn't seem to think his words were worth anything, and he had no other Dark Arts books to offer up.

"That's not what I meant," he snapped. "You know it's not what I meant, Hermione."

"How can I know that?" She came a few steps closer, her eyes touched with a brightness that Harry hoped didn't mean she was about to cry. He would break if she did. "I don't know what you mean at all."

Harry could have held onto his composure if she had waited one moment more to speak, or hadn't said that last sentence. But he'd failed in explaining it to her, too. Just like he failed at everything else. Just like there was no way for him to succeed, because no matter what he did, everyone wailed at him that it was wrong.

"I wanted to die after Ginny did!" he howled at Hermione, driving his fingers into his palms until blood broke and dripped down. Malfoy watched it with greedy eyes. Of course he did, Harry thought, and whirled away from his hot gaze to stare at Hermione. "I wanted to fucking die, do you understand that? And I hunted vampires so I wouldn't commit suicide! And now you want me to say that that was useless, and I was stupid, and a fool, because it would have been better for me to die, it would have been better for me to do anything than what I did, because, after all, everyone knows better than I do how I should live my life—"

He could feel his magic rising and towering around him like a wave. In a moment, it would head towards Hermione, not because Harry wanted it to, but because he was too tired and too fucking sick of being pushed and pushed and pushed to restrain it any longer.

Strong arms clenched around him, and Malfoy's blood-scented voice whispered in his ear, "It's all right, Harry, it's all right. I am here for you, and always will be." He reached out and…encircled the magic that was trying to escape from Harry with power of his own. Harry, his heart pounding wildly, his breath coming hoarse and strained, realized a moment later that that must be the magic Malfoy had drunk from him last night. "I won't let you hurt your friends." His voice changed then, to a snarl that Harry wished he could have managed on his own. "Granger, get out of here."

"But we haven't talked about the bond yet—"

"Leave two of the books." Malfoy's voice was soaring, the snarl infecting every word. "Take the rest. Come back tomorrow night. Go now!" As he spoke the last word, Harry's magic crashed against the barrier that Malfoy had raised, and broke and fell back like the wave that Harry had been visualizing. Harry covered his face with his hands and shuddered.

Hermione ran off. At least, Harry thought that was the meaning of the two quick thumps that were probably books being dropped and then the sound of footsteps hurrying away.

He stood there, in the circle of Malfoy's arms, feeling cool flesh pressed against his own, smelling blood, trying desperately to regain control of himself.

It wouldn't come this time.

All the mourning, all the rage, all the horror and hatred and hope that he could somehow make things better while knowing that all the time he had been too late and nothing would ever make it better welled to the front of his mind, and he began to scream and sob at the same time, slamming his fists into Malfoy's chest.

Malfoy held him, standing up to the attack in the way that only a vampire could have. Malfoy stroked the back of his neck and crooned to him, in the way that only a vampire who cared about him could have. Malfoy's magic stood up to the way his own radiated back and forth and buffeted them both, the way that only a vampire who cared about him and had shared his magic by drinking his blood could have. Harry stopped worrying that his power would destroy something or someone and simply gave himself over to the ragged, hoarse shouts that ripped free from him and the spurts of tears and the slam of his fists.

All the while, Malfoy whispered to him, and when he could begin to listen to the words, Harry thought he might even believe them.

"Yes, this is what you need. In the end, you will be all right. You never mourned her. Let your tears fall. Remember her the way she was, and know that you won't die now because I won't let that happen. I'll give you whatever you want. I'll give you something to live for."

Harry clung, and screamed, and lashed out, and wept.

And, for the first time in far too many nights, he did not care about the future, about the hunts or who he would make die next, or who had died in the past.

The storm of death swept through him, and settled him somewhere on the other side of it, in perfect peace.

The last thing he remembered was falling asleep on his feet to the sound of a soft croon, and the utter assurance that Malfoy would not let him fall.

Harry opened his eyes slowly. He was lying in a hollow, he was certain, not much bigger than his body. Softness covered the bottom of it, but it didn't feel like the softness of blankets. He blinked and fumbled about for his glasses, only to realize that they were still on his face and so he should be able to see his surroundings better than this.

A body lay on top of him.

For long moments, Harry's muscles went stiff as he tried to overcome the frantic idea that it was Hermione's body and he had somehow murdered her and couldn't remember anything about it. Then he remembered other things, and groaned. The body on him vibrated with the sound, but didn't stir.

Staring past its shoulder, around what looked like the edge of a boulder and up through the small gaps in a temporary roof of leaves and heather, Harry could see the red light of sunset.

Malfoy had dragged him to a burrow, he decided slowly. Vampires were good at finding or making temporary shelters in cases where they wouldn't be able to get back to their own preferred lairs before the sun rose. And of course going through Harry's wards to the house wouldn't be an option for Malfoy if Harry wasn't awake.

Or he didn't want to make it an option. Harry still remembered the way Malfoy had blazed through his wards the night he had almost sacrificed the hawk.

Malfoy had dragged him here, and then lain down on top of him, though logic would dictate that Harry should be on top of him in case the sun crept through the tiny gaps in the roof. On the other hand, the protective instincts that Malfoy claimed to have would probably say that he should shelter his Long-Desired from rain and other threats.

He said he would burn for me.

A fit of shivering overtook Harry, and he whimpered in spite of himself. He remembered more now, and knew that he must have fallen asleep standing up, in the circle of Malfoy's arms. Malfoy hadn't awakened him. He had made sure that Harry was as comfortable as possible instead and then—died on top of him.

Harry pushed at the cold weight, mindless for a moment, before rationality took over. Malfoy wouldn't wake until the sun set, and despite the redness of the light, that time couldn't be here yet. Otherwise, he would have stirred when Harry pushed him. Harry had seen a half-awake vampire seize a net that Harry had draped over her and drag it to her mouth, shredding it with her fangs before she knew what it was.

For the moment, he needed to stay here.

Harry tried to relax, despite all the sudden prickling itches on his body that he couldn't reach and the pebbles biting into his shoulders and back. Perhaps it was for the best that he couldn't flee for now and put wards between himself and Malfoy. He needed to think about what had happened, and he couldn't do that with too much distance.

Start with the obvious.

Ginny was dead.

Of course she was. He had seen her ashes scattered himself, felt them roll through his fingers, thick and greasy. But now he couldn't hear her voice anymore when he called, ringing back from the corners of his brain in answer to his cries. His memories of her seemed smaller and thinner than they ever had before. The image of her as she had been in the moments before the vampire attacked, running across the field, her hair streaming behind her, her face alive with laughter and love, was still there, but no longer the most important thing in his universe.

Harry felt, for a moment, as though someone had ripped his heart out of his body and told him that he would never have it again, because he hadn't taken sufficiently good care of it.

Then he took a deep breath and asked himself the more difficult question. How long is it since you did anything for the real Ginny, instead of your idea of her?

And the answer was there, of course, if he looked for it, just as everything else seemed to be. The last time he could have helped Ginny was the day he had killed her murderer.

That one vampire had drained her dry. Not all the vampires in the world. Every killing he'd done after that had been for his own sake, in the hopes of easing his guilt and grief.

Harry shivered again. He drew his arms together under Malfoy's bulk and checked the angle of the light again. Dimmer than before—some clouds must have come out—but lower.

That left him adrift. If he couldn't kill out of vengeance, then what could he kill for? And what would he become and be if he didn't hurt vampires? Maybe he was Malfoy's Long-Desired and Ron and Hermione's best friend, but he couldn't define himself solely in terms of other people.

Malfoy promised to give me something to live for. Maybe I should wait and trust him, see what he comes up with.

It wasn't a perfect solution to the problem, because Harry had the feeling that Malfoy wouldn't see anything wrong with Harry simply being his Long-Desired. But it did promise an answer, without forcing him to decide right now. So he returned to other ideas.

There could be no falling away from this. Malfoy had seen his weakness. Harry had to live with the idea, not pretend it had never happened. Vampires were notoriously difficult to use Memory Charms on, and Harry already knew that he couldn't kill Malfoy.

And you accept that?

Harry licked his lips. The indignant question came from a part of himself that still thought it worthwhile to fight to the death against the bond, even if he couldn't win. There was always suicide. There was always making sure that both he and Malfoy died in the hopeless battle.

But his breakdown last night had brought him face to face with a truth he'd forgotten: he didn't want to die.

He wasn't willing to die hunting vampires. He wasn't willing to commit suicide so that he could be free of Malfoy. It was only that he thought he should, if he had nothing to live for and would simply be a burden on people.

If Malfoy could help draw him away from that black whirlpool and back into some sort of active life where he actually helped people and had friends and did something more than obsess about vampires, Harry would follow him.

Then an elbow knocked against his chest, and the dead weight on top of him turned liquid, the marble dissolving into water. Malfoy was waking.

Harry hesitated, thinking of the way that Malfoy had held him last night without demanding anything, then reached out and made a gesture of his own.

It was quite the most pleasant waking Draco had had since he had become a vampire. Warmth surrounded him and nestled against him, and then someone drew his head down and pressed his mouth against more of that warmth. Draco would have resisted in sheer surprise, but the smell that filled his nostrils was too wonderful. He licked his lips and felt his fangs fold down reflexively.

"Here," said the owner of that warmth, whose hands stroked up and down Draco's back in the most soothing way. "I know what you did for me, and I don't intend to simply take and take without giving. Take from me."

Draco only needed the invitation; he knew he only needed the invitation, though not why. He leaned forwards and sank his teeth into the yielding skin, aiming by instinct so that he would only open a vein to drink and not to drain his prey to death.

The blood hitting his tongue was a shock that brought back memory and desire at once. This was Harry who had invited him to his throat, and was now stroking Draco's hair back from his forehead with light hands.


Draco felt an enormous, greedy possessiveness invade him. It was intolerable that someone else might see Harry right now, or try to harm him or take him away. Draco clamped his hands into place, one on Harry's neck to hold him steady, one around his shoulders so that he could hunch closer and shield his Long-Desired. He snarled steadily, in warning to any other predators looking on, and then paid attention to his drinking.

Light. Light on water. Light on blood. Blood drowning him deep in pleasure, in rushing warmth that made his heart glad to beat and his eyes glad of the faint darkness that he opened them to encounter and his skin glad of the faint burns on his back where sunlight must have touched him. All of this came from Harry. His body had suffered to shield Harry from brightness that might have woken him too soon. Draco had to take pleasure and joy from that.

He let his self-consciousness melt and drip into the blood, and as he did so, he felt Harry rock against him, his hands running up and down Draco's sides now as if he had some strange mania to count all his ribs.

This was a gentler pleasure than they had shared before, and Draco knew that neither of them would come to climax. It didn't matter. There was enough contentment of its own kind in the way their half-erections rubbed against each other, and the way Draco's skin grew warmer as Harry's skin cooled, and the way that Harry stirred and groaned and arched, as if Draco's fangs were bringing him back to some idea of what living meant.

And Harry had invited him. Draco clung to that fact in the face of the tide of difficulties that he saw coming down on them.

When he finished, he licked the wound shut and leaned back on his heels to watch Harry. Harry gave him a dazed smile, and Draco frowned, tracing the puncture wounds with one finger. Harry shivered, but the shiver wasn't as strong as it should have been, and there was a grey tinge to his skin Draco knew he hadn't put there.

"When was the last time you had something to eat?" he demanded.

"Er." Harry blinked at him, and then past Draco at the stars above the hollow they lay in. "Yesterday morning, it would be," he said quietly.

Draco leaped out of the hole, utterly destroying the roof of branches and leaves that had covered them, and then bent down and lifted Harry. Harry stiffened at once and craned his neck around so that he could look Draco in the eyes.

"I can walk," he said.

"I don't think you can," Draco said. "You need strength, especially since I took your blood when you hadn't had any food for a long time." He nuzzled his head into Harry's neck again, scolding himself for not waiting. His Long-Desired had already proven that he didn't always know what was best for him. "Let me through the wards around your house so that I can make sure that you get some food."

Harry gritted his teeth for a moment, as though he didn't understand what the problem was. Then he sighed and said, "All right, but it'll take a few moments to destroy anti-vampire wards that ancient and strong."

"I don't care," Draco responded, and the next moment he was running away across the moor towards Harry's house, letting his arms and their muscles cradle Harry against the jounces that he would experience otherwise. Harry clung around his neck and uttered a constant stream of grumbling complaints.

Draco let him. They would neither do Harry harm nor put Draco off from what he planned to do for Harry's own good.

Harry uneasily finished the last bites of his sandwich—piled high with cheese, ham, and pickles he hadn't known he had in the house—and then leaned back in his chair. Malfoy had watched him eat every bite, his eyes avid.

It was even worse because Harry knew that, this time, the vampire wasn't simply fattening him to feed on.

Harry licked his lips, and Malfoy's eyes followed the motion of his tongue, too. Harry brought one hand down hard on the table, but didn't have the satisfaction of making Malfoy jump, because of course he had seen the motion coming long before with those enhanced eyes. Harry scowled at him. "Do you have to pay that much attention to me?"

"To my Long-Desired, who until recently was teetering dangerously on the edge of self-destruction?" Malfoy splayed his fingers beneath his chin and leaned forwards across the table. He was impossibly elegant, even though the blood he'd drunk had given him more of a flush to his porcelain-pale cheeks. "Yes, I think I do."

Harry took a deep breath and restrained the temptation to start an argument. He had to remind himself that Malfoy had seen him in his weakest moment. Nothing could ever obliterate that. Harry needed to treat Malfoy a bit better because, otherwise, he had a weapon to use against Harry that Harry couldn't counter.

And perhaps because he sheltered you and some of that shite he was babbling about might be true after all.

Harry crossed his arms, forcing the notion away from himself, and said, "I'm not used to someone thinking I'm worth this much attention."

"Get used to it," Malfoy said, without an insulting snap to his tone. It simply sounded as if he were making a statement about reality. "It will happen for the rest of your life, which is likely to be extraordinarily long."

Objections sprang to Harry's lips about not wanting to outlive his friends, but he put them aside. They weren't the main point of this conversation. "I simply don't understand," he said carefully, "how you can be content like this. Vampires need variety. I know that. One of them once told me that it isn't a desire to kill that makes your kind drain so many victims, but a boredom with the same taste of blood over and over, and the fact that death is more varied than watching people slump to the ground with papery skin and bleeding throats." Harry concealed a shudder. The battle to kill that particular vampire had been vicious, since he was also a wizard and had somehow maintained the Animagus ability that allowed him to change into a bear. It had been Harry's hardest challenge until Caspar and the Collector came along. "How can you be sure that you won't be bored with me?"

Malfoy reached out and stroked his forehead. Harry shivered, though his hand was only cold in the center of the palm. "You're mortal," he said. "That means inherently changeable. And I have reasons to study and admire the smallest flickers of your personality. I will not grow bored."

Harry licked his lips again. "All right. But I still don't see that we can live together on any sort of rational basis."

Malfoy laughed. Harry jumped as though the vampire had shocked him. Well, that laughter felt like a shock, so rich and warm and deep that Harry would have been certain he was hearing a human laugh if he didn't know better. Malfoy leaned forwards when the laugh was done and fastened his eyes on Harry's face. "Harry," he said, and his voice dripped with the sound of a purr, "neither of us has ever been any good at rationality. Don't start expecting the impossible from us now."

Harry stared at the table. He wanted to raise more objections, but none were immediately coming, except ones so far away—like the objection that he would outlive his friends when he hadn't even accepted immortality yet—that Malfoy could wave them off. Yet it seemed impossible that this should be it.

"So we accept this and live together?" He looked at Malfoy, shaking his head. "There must be something else that would prevent it."

"I anticipate problems." Malfoy folded his hands in front of him, and Harry found himself fascinated by the contrast between the slightly blood-warmed skin and the transparent, glassy nails. Malfoy noticed him looking and flashed his fangs. Harry looked away and forced himself to concentrate on Malfoy's voice. "For example, your best friend does not seem to know of my existence yet, and I can hardly imagine that he will be happy about your next lover being a Malfoy. There will a problem with the Aurors. You have not been to work in several days. Do you still have a job? It will make a difference. And if you wish to keep up your hunting, then many things must change. I have no intention of losing my Long-Desired because you charge into a dangerous situation and rely on your luck to save you."

That, at least, was an accusation that Harry thought he could answer. He looked up with a frown. "I planned."

"For vampires in general." Malfoy extended one long arm across the table and ran his finger up and down Harry's ribs. "Not for the individuals that you encountered. With Caspar, you would have died if I had not been there. Likewise with the Collector. But that was not a contingency you could plan on. I would feel more comfortable concerning your ultimate survival if I knew that you had taken the time to the study the situation beforehand."

Harry folded his arms. "I survived, didn't I?"

"But I require more for you than that," Malfoy said, "even if you do not for yourself."

Harry blinked hard and stared down at the table, avoiding those elegant hands with his eyes this time. Once again he'd run up against the idea that Malfoy cared for him, in a way, and would do his best to keep Harry happy and safe even though Harry hadn't done anything for him.

"I don't know if I can do this," he said simply, because he knew that Malfoy would smell his fear anyway. "It's trying to change the habits of a few years in a few days."

Malfoy put his fingers beneath Harry's chin and tilted it up so that Harry was looking him in the eye. "I understand that," he whispered. "What you don't understand is that I'm not asking for a few days. I'm asking for years, and more years. You'll have all the time you need to change. What I need is a commitment, and answers to some questions. Do you plan to continue hunting? Do you plan to keep your Auror job?" His fingers pressed in, and Harry knew that he couldn't have turned his head if he wanted to. "Will you let me stay with you here in this house and hold you in my arms when I wish?"

Harry swallowed, and watched Malfoy's eyes dilate as Harry's throat bobbed against his fingers. Then he said, "I think each of those questions requires a separate answer."

Malfoy nodded, never looking away from him. Harry shuddered faintly. The intensity in those eyes wouldn't let him hide even if he wanted to, and it was disconcerting, since he had just begun to realize how much of the last few years he'd spent hiding.

"I don't know if I want to keep hunting or not," Harry said. "That's the question that will take longest to answer. I—I know that I can't keep doing it the way I was, and that you would have to come along. But I'm not sure that if I have the same impulse to do it, now that I know I was burying my grief for Ginny instead of avenging her." He hesitated. "Do you think you might get bored, if I don't hunt and so don't give you something to do?"

Draco felt the strong temptation to laugh. That question showed how very naïve Harry still was about the nature of the Long-Desired bond.

"I could never become bored with anything you chose to do," he said, and ran his fingers up and down Harry's neck. Harry shivered and relaxed as if it had been that croon. Draco reminded himself to remember that useful gesture for later. "You will find something else to occupy the nights, I am certain. And so will I."

Harry nodded shortly. "As for whether I want to keep my Auror job, I don't think so, not right now. I'm not putting the attention into it that I need to. I won't be able to help people if I'm always thinking about myself." He folded his arms and hunched his shoulders as if he were cold. "I can barely even remember the details of the cases I've handled in the last months, except the ones that concerned vampires."

Draco smiled. "I think that is the right decision," he said. "You have done enough in your lifetime to help people. It's time for you to relax and focus on what will make you happy."

Harry raised an eyebrow and seemed to gain back some of his confidence as he said sarcastically, "I know you won't believe it, Malfoy, but for a large portion of my life, helping other people was what made me happy."

"And now it's not," Draco said, refusing to let the larger point get drowned in Harry's tangents. "So. You'll give up the Auror job, with perhaps the option to take you back later." He had noticed that much from Harry's initial words, so it was not a challenging conclusion to come to, but Harry still blinked and gave him a wondering look. Draco preened a bit. It would be pleasant for him to keep surprising his Long-Desired. Despite what Harry had said, Draco thought it far more likely that Harry would become bored with him than the other way around. "And the answer to the last question?"

"I slept in your arms last night," Harry said in a low voice. "It wasn't—terrible."

Draco smiled, and waited.

"Yes," Harry said, rising to his feet and shaking his head as if still dazed at his own daring. "You can stay."

Draco stood up and rounded the table. Harry watched him come with narrowed eyes and clenched jaw, which fell open slightly when Draco touched him. Then he leaned towards Draco's shoulder and shut his eyes.

"You do deserve this," Draco whispered. "Someone who is focused only on you, who finds your blood and magic pleasant, who cares for you because of the person you are instead of the heroic deeds you have performed. You may not think you merit it, but you do."

"Can we not talk about that right now, please?" Harry's voice was tense and strained.

"Of course." Draco sniffed slightly. Harry was in pain, probably from lying in the same position most of the night and all of the past day. "You need a massage at the moment, I think, and a warm bath."

Harry gave him another startled stare. Draco smiled gently back, and steered him in the direction of the bathroom.

This isn't love, Harry thought. I know it isn't, and not just because the books said so. But it's bloody hard to tell the difference.


The cup of tea went flying out of Harry's hands and smashed against the table. He whirled around, heart busy in his throat, as Ron stepped through the Floo and dusted his cloak off.

Ron looked up and towards him, with a smile that was probably meant to be reassuring. It couldn't be, not when Harry knew what would happen when Ron found out about Malfoy, and not when they had parted on such bad terms. Ron seemed to realize that a moment later, too, and dropped the smile to lean a hip against the hearth. Harry took a deep breath to calm himself and waved his wand so that he could pick up the pieces of the teacup and charm the floor clean.

"I know that you probably weren't expecting to see me so soon," Ron said quietly. "But Hermione came and visited you, and she seemed hopeful when she came back. And then I thought that I wanted to see you, too." He tried to smile one more time; it fell away from his face as Harry continued to stare at him. He scratched the back of his neck and looked away. "If you don't want to see me, tell me," he whispered, so quietly that Harry had to work hard to hear him.

Harry took a deep breath, and thought of Malfoy lying dead in his bedroom. Maybe things would be all right if Ron didn't go in there.

"No, it's fine," he said. "I do want to see you. There's just a lot to explain." He forced a grin and nodded to the opposite side of the table. "Sit down there. I'll make you some tea."

Ron nodded and sat down. Harry turned around to fetch a second cup, prickles of warning traveling up his back. Ron sometimes looked mindless and easy-going to the criminals they brought in, but he was still an Auror, trained in spotting lies. Harry didn't know exactly how he was going to deceive him. When he was still hunting vampires, he had mostly lied by omission and never revealed enough details for Ron to find out what he was doing and stop him.

So start out with a simple version of the truth, Harry decided. By the time he turned around again with two cups of tea, his hands were steady.

Ron sipped thirstily at his tea, then nodded. "When are you coming back? Austin and Stone have noticed you're gone." He lowered his voice, though Harry highly doubted there were any eavesdropping charms on his fireplace. "I don't think they mind it, really, but they are starting to ask questions."

Harry braced himself. "I'm not going back right now, Ron. Things have changed. I need a little holiday from being an Auror."

Ron stared at him with grave eyes for a moment, then slowly nodded. "I think that a holiday would do you good, mate. Still, what else are you going to do? You'll go stark staring bored if you don't have a job." The unspoken warning throbbed under his words. And none of us want that, since you act more than mad enough already.

It was time to tell him. Harry looked Ron in the eye and said, "I'll be learning to live again, with Malfoy's help."

He had been afraid that Ron might spray tea across the table in surprise, or right into his face. It was worse than that. Ron's mouth fell open, and he made a strangled glurk noise. Then he clawed at his throat.

Harry lunged across the table and clenched his hands on Ron's shoulders, shaking him. Tea splurted out of his throat and fell on the table, also drenching Harry's face. He sighed and gave Ron a few more shakes before he leaned back, then cast cleaning charms to get the tea off his hair and eyelashes.

"Malfoy," Ron said. His hands were braced on the table as if he was going to push back at any moment and run madly for the Floo. "You've been taking time out of your job and our partnership to spend time with bloody Malfoy?"

"It's not that I want to partner with him," Harry said tiredly. "He's a vampire, Ron. He was in the last nest I hunted, and he helped me in exchange for freedom from the master vampire who commanded him."

Ron pointed one shaking finger at him. "That's still a fuck of a long way from saying that he's going to help you recover."

"It turned out that my blood and my magic call strongly to him," Harry said. He shuddered; he had almost adapted to the idea of the bond for himself, but it sounded disgusting to explain to another person, as if Malfoy were some kind of parasite attached to him. Ron's revolted expression certainly reinforced that. "It establishes a bond between us called the Long-Desired bond. He feeds on me, and he can share my magic."

Ron folded his arms and shivered violently. "And what do you get from this, mate? I can't imagine you letting a vampire feed on you for nothing." He paused, then added, "I can't imagine you letting a vampire feed on you."

Harry grimaced and nodded. "I know. I did try to kill him at first, but a Long-Desired and the vampire he's bonded to can't kill each other."

Ron clenched one hand into a fist. "Then let me kill him for you."

Harry paused, caught by an idea he hadn't considered before. He had assumed without thinking about it that Hermione wouldn't want to kill Malfoy, and she didn't have the expertise to survive a battle with him anyway. But Hermione came by during the night most of the time, when Malfoy was already awake and active. Ron was here during the day, and he certainly had enough strength to drive a stake through Malfoy's heart and cut off his head, without the compassion for magical creatures that Hermione possessed holding him back.

The temptation rushed down on Harry like a wind and made him tremble.

He could be free.

And then he shook his head and thought of the way that Malfoy had lain on him to keep him from the sun and the rain. Before, his whispered exhortations about being willing to burn for Harry might just have been words, things he would say so he could get close to Harry and take what he wanted from him. Vampires were predators first and foremost. Malfoy didn't change because he happened to be Harry's vampire. Harry expected him to lie to and manipulate his Long-Desired. He had certainly kept information he knew about the bond from Harry when they were hunting the Collector, such as how it was impossible for them to kill each other.

But then he had proved his words. He had done what he said he would, and without even knowing if Harry would wake up in time to see him offering that proof. Harry had seen the minor burns on his back when Malfoy undressed and joined him in the bath, draping his chin over Harry's shoulder and enclosing him in a cage of limbs.

Harry couldn't betray his sacrifice that way.

"I want to," he told Ron quietly. "But I don't want to at the same time. I've discovered that I mourned Ginny too much, and twisted the mourning into a justification for constant murder. Maybe the vampires that I hunted and killed needed to be hunted and killed, but not by someone who took pleasure in it or so nearly died himself when he tried to take them out. Malfoy was involved in my discovery of that. I can't kill him now."

He had to close his eyes in irritation as he finished that little speech. Two days ago, he would have given so much for a solution like the one Ron offered. He didn't think he should change that fast.

But it was circumstances outside him that had changed, and Harry himself was following their pressure only enough that he wouldn't be deformed out of shape. He wasn't a traitor, and so he wouldn't betray Malfoy. That didn't mean he was suddenly about to fall in love with him, however.

"I don't understand, mate." Ron clenched one hand into a fist and tapped it nervously against the table. "You're speaking more sensibly than I've heard you speak in years." Then he stopped and shook his head.

"Except?" Harry prompted him.

"Except about one thing." Ron folded his arms and regarded him levelly. "Except about Malfoy."

"Malfoy is a vampire, and I am his Long-Desired," Harry said quietly. "Hermione knows about it. I don't think she wanted to tell you because she knew that you would find it difficult to accept that Malfoy was the one responsible for starting to cure me. But you can ask her if you doubt me." An even simpler method of persuading Ron of the truth would be to take him into the bedroom and show him Malfoy lying there dead, but the moment Harry did that, Ron would probably reach for a stake.

Ron sighed. Then he put his hands on Harry's shoulders and said, "Mate, you were the one who told me how clever vampires were, and how tricky. Do you really think that Malfoy's changed just because he became a vampire? This could be a lie that he's telling you and wants you to believe just because your blood tastes good to him."

"It could be," Harry said, making sure to keep his voice gentle, "but I'm reasonably sure it's not. Especially because I tried to kill him—I did use tactics that would have killed any ordinary vampire—and nothing happened. It was as though my magic had suddenly become less powerful, and I don't think that Malfoy knows any spells that would achieve that. Especially because he was under the control of a more powerful master vampire when I met him."

"Even that could be a deception." Ron shook him. "Why would you trust any vampire, Harry, especially one that claims he can only feed on you and share magic only with you? I'm sorry, but I think there's something wrong, that maybe he put a spell on you even though you didn't think you felt one. You would never have yielded to pleading like that a year ago."

Harry licked his lips. He was beginning to think that the only way to persuade Ron would be to tell him about the specific things that Draco had done—which would include admitting to his weakness, and to the fact that he'd wanted to die. Neither of his best friends would accept that announcement calmly, but Ron would do worse than Hermione, who would at least try to talk to Harry before she attempted anything drastic.

In the end, he decided that risking Ron's disbelief was better than risking immediate confinement in St. Mungo's, and he gave Ron his most winning smile. "Ron," he whispered, "listen to me when I say that he hasn't hurt me. Please."

Ron glanced at him in pity and shook his head. "I would believe you if I could, mate, but this is just too strange for you. I'll see you in a few days." He slapped Harry on the shoulder and turned towards the Floo.

Harry reacted without thinking, whipping his wand up and sealing the Floo connection so that Ron couldn't get out.

For long seconds of tense silence, Ron simply stood there. He recognized the incantation, of course; they'd used it themselves, more than once, to keep a criminal from escaping from a house. But by the look on his face when he turned around—his compressed mouth and squinting eyes—Harry knew that he had never thought it would be used against him.

"I'm sorry," Harry whispered, pressing his fingers down into his wand and wishing there was some other way, any other way. "Ron, I'm so sorry. But you would go straight to Austin and Stone about this, and I can't have you doing that."

"I was trying to reason with you," Ron said, his voice soft and ugly. "But a person under an enchantment can't be rational." He was wielding his wand like a sword as he moved forwards, and Harry winced. He knew that was a sign that Ron was dangerously angry. "If you were under the Imperius Curse, Harry," Ron was saying, his voice rising, "and you wanted to jump off a cliff, should I let you do that? If you wanted to walk into a lion's cage and have him eat you, should I let you do that? And that's the same thing that will happen to you if you stay with Malfoy, except that it'll happen more slowly."

Harry would have caught his breath against the confusion bubbling in his chest and tried to speak patiently if he had thought it would do any good. But Ron was pressing forwards, and his mouth was open in a snarl, and the light of the first hex was glowing around his wand. Harry didn't think that reason had any place in this room, though not for the reasons that Ron thought so.

He leaped the hex, which smashed into his wall and took out a piece of wood. Harry grimaced as he came down on the opposite side of the table. He knew that he was in better shape than Ron, since he'd done all sorts of extra training and climbing and running in the course of hunting vampires. But he would still tire if he dodged spells in that way for a long time.

And Malfoy wouldn't awaken to help him no matter what happened. Vampires were utterly dead during the day. It was the one thing that made hunting them safe, when it could be, though Harry had always stalked his prey at night, wanting to watch their eyes widen and their fangs flash in frantic hisses as they realized that they couldn't turn this form of death back.

I'm even more like a vampire than I knew.

Harry shook away the thought and focused on Ron. A harmless spell that would put his mate out of commission without hurting him was essential. Harry would have tried a Memory Charm, but Ron would be even angrier with him when that wore off than he was right now.

In the end, Harry waved his wand at Ron's chest as he charged around the table and whispered, "Somnus."

Ron came to a stop, catching his breath. "You shouldn't try to go anywhere," he said, his words slurring as his eyes started to drift shut. "The room's blurring and shaking, and you might get hurt if you are enchanted."

"If," Harry echoed softly, and watched sadly as his best friend laid his head down on the table. "Signum wake," he added, so that Ron would wake up only when Harry told him to.

Either the sound of those words, or some feeling of the spell itself, finally told Ron what he was experiencing. He struggled to open his eyes further, and showed a small glimpse of glazed blue before he snarled, "You're—you're making me sleep."

"Yes," Harry said, and watched, wand in his hand, until Ron slumped down completely and started snoring.

Harry quickly wrote an owl to Austin and Stone to explain that Ron wouldn't be in that day, because he was worried about his mate Harry and wanted to stay with him. He could feign Ron's messy handwriting fairly well after their years together as partners, and he knew that Austin and Stone were already disposed to blame him for anything that went wrong in the Auror Department anyway. This way, Ron wouldn't get in trouble.

Harry moved Ron to the couch and stood watching him for a moment as he slept. Partners. How long had it been since he thought of Ron that way, and considered him a part of his life?

Too long. The hunting and the vampires had been real to him these last few months, but not the cases and not his best friends.

Harry shook his head and went to Floo Hermione about the situation.

Draco opened his eyes and yawned. This time, he woke up more easily than he had last night, which he chose to think had something to do with the soft bed under him and the knowledge that his Long-Desired had finally stopped resisting him.

Then he realized there was a foreign scent in the house. By the time the next rational thought came, he was on the other side of the room, next to the door, his head tilted back as he sniffed for the scent of Harry's blood. If Weasley had hurt his Long-Desired, he would learn how much damage an annoyed vampire could cause.

But there was only the scent of sadness and heaviness. Draco lowered his head in mute confusion. Did the sadness and heaviness come from Harry? The walls and doors here were so layered with Harry's scent from his long years of dwelling here that it was hard to tell where the fresh smell was coming from.

"Hullo, Malfoy."

Harry was coming through the door. Draco sprang to greet him, clutching his arm with one hand and tilting his head back and forth with the other. Harry rolled his eyes but put up with it. This close, Draco was certain that the scent of sadness and heaviness did come from him.

"What did Weasley do?" he demanded.

"I tried to tell him the truth," Harry said, urging Draco back towards the bed. Draco went willingly, now that he had his Long-Desired at hand to explain to him and to feed him if necessary. "I thought he should know why he would lack a partner for a while. And he would find out about you eventually. The longer I hid you, the more explosive he would be when I finally confronted him. Especially once he found out that Hermione already knew." Harry sighed and kicked out a leg in front of him, looking both confused and sullen.

"It didn't go well," Draco said.

Harry snorted and shook his head. "He decided that you had me under an enchantment, and that I would see things differently if he could just kill you, or at least knock me down and drag me—somewhere. Maybe he would have come back here and searched the house for you and killed you, too, if I'd let him take me and he reckoned you were here." Harry scrubbed a hand on his forehead the way he tended to do when sweat was running into his eyes. Draco sniffed, but caught no scent of sweat, only that sorrow. "I laid him under a Somnus spell so that he would stay asleep until I wake him up. I've tried to catch up with Hermione so that she knows what's going on, but she's apparently in a diplomatic meeting on the other side of Britain or something. I'll let her know as soon as she calls me."

Draco nodded. He knew that spell, and knew that Weasley would suffer no harm while under it; nourishment would appear in his stomach, along with liquids, and his waste would vanish. For the moment, his attention was more caught by the implications of Harry's other words. "You lied for me."

Harry blinked at him. "No. I told him the truth about the Long-Desired bond, as far as I understand it, that we can't kill each other and we can't be parted. That was why he offered to kill you in the first place."

"But you didn't tell him I was here." Draco eased closer to Harry, his fangs folding down. The skin of Harry's throat looked particularly appealing right now, but that was partially because of the confused shine in the green eyes. "You could have. I was dead, helpless. He could have come in and staked me, and then you would have been free."

Harry clenched his teeth and looked away.

"Why didn't you?" Draco whispered, knowing better than to try and make Harry look at him right now.

"Because I owe you more than that, of course!" Harry turned around with his eyes and face flaming. Draco approved. He was far stronger in battle than he was when wavering and cowering back from his own emotions. "You took the sunlight for me. You said you would burn for me, and you did. You're the only vampire I've known who's made a promise and then kept it." He shrugged and pushed his fringe out of his face. "Maybe that wouldn't mean much to someone who didn't know vampires as well I do, but I know them. And I know how many of your instincts must be in thrall to the Long-Desired bond, that you would do that."

Draco bent forwards and buried his nose in Harry's throat. Harry stiffened, but didn't move away.

"You defended me against him," Draco breathed. "You care more for me than for your freedom from the bond."

Harry shuddered like a dog trying to get rid of a flea. "I've accepted that the bond's inevitable. That's not the same thing."

"It's inevitable between us," Draco said. "Not outside that. Someone else could kill me, and you know it." He reached up now and tilted Harry's face back to his, because it was time. "You've changed your mind."

Long, tense moments, when Draco thought Harry might explode off the bed and refuse to admit what was as obvious as the first signs of daylight. Then he snorted and said, "Yeah, I have."

"And I'm bound up in that change." Draco didn't think he could have lifted his voice if he wanted to.

"Yeah. You are." Harry was the one who gripped the back of Draco's neck, surprisingly, and forced his head up. Harry was glaring, veins in his forehead bulging. Draco eyed them with longing. "And I won't let anyone else take that away," Harry was saying fiercely, "not Ron and not Hermione and not the Aurors. If I can't reject you, then no one else gets to reject you for me."

Draco smiled and leaned in to drink. Harry still made an immediate motion of negation, and then sighed and bared the side of his throat. Draco bit in and felt the blood fill his mouth with a gentle warmth.

He tried his best to give that gentleness to Harry through his bite, to show appreciation and contentment and wonder instead of simple mind-blowing pleasure. Draco knew that Harry would get weary of mind-blowing pleasure soon enough. But he might not tire of this feeling that crept flame-like through him and then withdrew, leaving only small traces of itself behind.

Sure enough, when Draco looked again, there was a faint smile on Harry's face and he was breathing slowly, as though he were on the verge of falling asleep himself. Draco smoothed a hand down his cheek as he licked the wounds shut.

Harry opened his eyes and looked at him.

There was still anger in those eyes, and hatred, and grudging sullenness that Draco, a vampire, made Harry feel what he did. But there was a healing beginning among those old wounds, and that was what Draco had wanted to see.

"Now," he said, "let's see what we can do about Weasley."

Hermione, her head hovering in the flames, sighed. "I know, Harry, but I won't be able to leave this meeting for at least a day." She looked over her shoulder, as though she thought someone might be spying on her, then turned forwards again and lowered her voice. "They're talking about promoting me if I can do well enough here."

Harry found a smile despite his worry about Ron. He knew that Hermione had wished for more power in the Ministry for a long time, because it was probably the only way that she would ever be able to achieve most of the progress she wanted, especially where house-elves were concerned. "That's great, Hermione," he managed to say. "But in the meantime, do you have any suggestions about what to do?"

"My word alone won't do it," Hermione said thoughtfully, "not when he must think that I met with you and Malfoy both at once. He could convince himself that Malfoy enchanted me, too." She nibbled her lip a moment, then said, "We need proof that Malfoy won't hurt you. But I don't know what kind of proof Ron would accept."

"Even though he's your husband?" Harry found himself obscurely disappointed. He'd been thinking he could rely on Hermione the way he used to rely on her to solve difficult problems at Hogwarts. She should have all the answers.

Hermione gave him a sideways smile. "Because you're married to a person doesn't mean you know all about them and what they want, Harry. I don't think people often know that about themselves."

"Proof," Harry repeated. He looked over his shoulder, where Malfoy leaned on the doorway and regarded him. Malfoy showed his fangs and gave a small shrug, as if to say that he had no more ideas than Hermione did. He had wanted to enthrall Ron and persuade him to accept the Long-Desired bond that way. He argued that he could do it so subtly the thrall wouldn't interfere with the rest of Ron's life and no one would ever know he had done it. He had seemed honestly astonished when Harry objected.

Then I reckon it's up to me to think of a solution.

A thought came to him so suddenly that he blinked. Maybe he could actually use his brain for more than hunting vampires and resisting the bond with Malfoy, he thought. He stood up with one hand on the fireplace and nodded at Hermione.

"I have something I want to try," he said.

Hermione's eyes promptly became shadowy with worry, which annoyed Harry at first blush, but which he had to admit was a fair reaction. "Be careful with him," she warned in a low voice. "What is it?"

Harry shook his head. "I don't think you should know." Hermione opened her mouth, her face darkening with the oncoming storm, but Harry leaped into the gap as quickly as he could. Once Hermione began complaining, he didn't think he would manage to stop her no matter what happened. "The reason I don't think you should know is so that you can tell Ron you had no idea what I was going to do if this goes wrong, and not lie. He'll want someone to confide in, and he might not trust me at that point."

"Maybe I should just Floo in—" Hermione began.

Someone knocked on her door, and she looked over her shoulder and hissed in irritation, then faced Harry with an apologetic glance. "I'm sorry," she said. "It looks like I have a dinner invitation."

Harry smiled at her. "Don't worry about it," he said. "I think this idea will work. And if it doesn't, then I'll put Ron back to sleep and we'll be no worse off than before."

Hermione nodded, rising to her feet and rearranging her robes carefully around her. "Then I'll wish you good luck," she said. "I really hope to be home by next week." She tossed Harry one more apologetic glance, then shut down the Floo connection.

When Harry turned around, Malfoy was already halfway across the room to him, head cocked to the side and eyes bright and searching. He looked ready to go along with whatever plan Harry suggested, which was still mad to him. He spent a few moments breathing deeply to clear his mind before he nodded to his vampire.

"You'll need to hold me very carefully…"


At the sound of the word, Ron blinked and his snores stopped. It still took him a few minutes to stretch the sleep out of his limbs and sit up. Harry, who had been a victim of that spell himself several times, waited patiently.

Not that he could do much else at the moment, with Malfoy's arms wrapped around him as tightly as they were.

Ron set his feet on the floor and kept his head bowed. He had obviously remembered the argument, Harry thought as he saw a muscle working in Ron's jaw, and had decided that he didn't want to look at his friend right now. Harry could hardly blame him.

When he looked up at last, with a sharp toss of his head, he froze. Harry gave him a small smile and moved sideways, so that Malfoy's fangs brushed against his throat. Malfoy readjusted his grip.

He was holding Harry around the waist, leaning against the wall beside the door that led into the kitchen. He held his head at an awkward angle, so that Ron could clearly see his fangs from where he sat, pressed against the soft skin of Harry's throat. Harry had wondered if he would grow tired that way, but Malfoy had pointed out that his muscles did what he told them to, and he could hold a position for hours without tiring.

Sometimes it's convenient to have a vampire for a companion.

"Harry." Ron's voice was a whisper so anguished that Harry would have winced if he could, but Draco's arms bound him so tightly that he couldn't even do that. He hadn't meant to hurt Ron like this. About the best he could say was that. "Are you mad? Do you know what that vampire will do to you if he bites you?"

"Yes." Harry kept his voice and gaze both steady. He had to act as rational as he could and convince Ron that he wasn't under an enchantment. "I've seen many vampire kills. But I trust Malfoy. He likes my blood—"

"I love your blood," Malfoy breathed into his ear, though luckily he said it so that there was no chance Ron would hear.

"And he wants to go on drinking it. So he won't kill me or drain me to the point of death, because he knows that either way, he wouldn't get any more." Harry made his smile as wide and reassuring as he could, since he had just tried to shrug and Malfoy's tight hold wouldn't let him do that, either. "Vampires are capable of looking out for their own self-interest. I think I must have told you that."

"But you also told me that they're predators, ruled by their instincts, and when they start drinking, they can't help themselves." Ron's voice was tight with tension and disgust. He shifted forwards and then back, as if he wanted to cast a spell but had seen the way Malfoy's arms tightened warningly around Harry when he moved. "What happens if he bites too deeply one day and decides that the immediate meal is more important?"

"That's the difference the Long-Desired bond makes in him from other vampires," Harry said calmly. "The vampire can control its feeding. It doesn't attack its Long-Desired as mindlessly as it attacks other people."

Malfoy licked his ear. "And master vampires are capable of controlling themselves more than that, anyway," he muttered.

Harry raised a doubtful brow, but never took his eyes from Ron. The argument with Malfoy wasn't the one he needed to have right now. "His priority is keeping me happy. If he thinks that I need to be sheltered and protected, he does it. He gave me a massage the other night. He helped me hunt down other vampires. He'll let me go right now and step away if I tell him to."

Ron flushed. "So do that."

Harry relaxed. He had hoped that Ron would be the one to make the suggestion. The proof would be stronger for him that way. "Malfoy, step back and through the door into the kitchen, please."

And Malfoy did. Harry rubbed his shoulders and told himself he did not miss Malfoy's touch, the strong arms wrapping him round, especially since Malfoy's flesh had begun to cool again from a lack of nourishment.

Ron blinked for a moment. Then he snorted and said, "He still could have convinced you to give him an easy order that he would only obey until I believed you. Then he could order you around in private."

Harry sighed and turned to Malfoy. "Would you crawl across the ceiling, please, until you reach the middle of the room? Then you can drop down and give Ron a demonstration of your strength, as long as you don't directly hurt him."

Malfoy inclined his head, his eyelids rising and falling in slow blinks. Harry knew he didn't like this, but he had also agreed to "obey" Harry for a short time so that Ron would get used to the idea of their relationship. Harry knew that Malfoy knew that the best way to work his way into Harry's life permanently would be to get along with his friends.

A single leap upwards, and then Malfoy hung from the ceiling, his fingers finding their way into tiny cracks that Harry knew he wouldn't have been able to see or feel. He crawled to the point in the ceiling above the center of the room and wobbled for a moment. Then he somersaulted twice and came down soundlessly, showing his fangs to Ron for a moment before he turned and slammed a fist into the floor.

The house bucked. Ron shouted and leaped backwards, fumbling for his wand. Malfoy straightened up and yawned, an elaborate process that showed off his fangs more than necessary. Then he walked easily back to Harry, away from the cracked hole he had created, while Harry waved his wand to repair it. He had thought Malfoy might choose some sort of "demonstration" like that and had, luckily, looked up home reconstruction spells before he started this.

"Well?" Harry asked, as Malfoy leaned his head on Harry's shoulder and closed his eyes. Harry approved. That display of tenderness might be even more persuasive for Ron than the fact that Harry could give Malfoy commands.

Ron wiped his mouth. Then he said, "Mate, if I could believe you, I would. But all this tells me is that he finds it convenient to go along with you for a little while, not that he's actually under your control."

Harry felt instead of hearing the growl that bubbled up from Malfoy's chest. He automatically stroked the back of his neck to try and soothe his anger. He noticed Ron's eyes following the motion with revulsion, but he refused to be ashamed.

"What would convince you, then?" he asked, trying to keep his voice even. "Would you want to cast Finite on me until you were reassured that I couldn't possibly be corrupted by an enchantment?"

"That would help," Ron said with a short nod. "But what would really convince me is Malfoy letting me command him."

Malfoy's head whipped up, and then he went still. Harry could feel the stiffening of his muscles, though, and knew he held himself still by force instead of because he was calm. He stroked the back of his vampire's neck again and kept his voice neutral. "That might work, if he would agree to it. But you couldn't tell him to kill himself or leave me alone forever."

Ron folded his arms, an expression of unholy glee on his face. "I wouldn't."

"What do you think?" Harry asked, making sure that he turned to look at Malfoy and only him. He had already sacrificed so much; Harry knew how he hard he was working against his instincts at the moment that encouraged him to drag Harry into a room where he would be far away from everyone else and could be protected. "Do you feel up to obeying Ron for a short time?"

Malfoy cleared his throat. His voice was thick, the way it more usually was after he'd drunk. "Yes. Provided that he abides by the restrictions that you put on him."

"I will," Ron said. His voice snapped with impatience, and Harry almost sneered. Doubtless, Ron thought they didn't need to question his word because he was the "good" one.

"All right, then," Harry said, and stepped away, leaving Malfoy to stand in the center of the room and face his best friend.

Draco nearly chocked in the thick stench of gloating that rose from the Weasel. He had a gleam in his eye that said he was going to enjoy this more than Draco enjoyed Harry's blood. Draco wanted to spring into the air and come down on him with ripping nails and tearing fangs. He could see the exact angle of the leap he would need to make to do it. Or he wanted to enthrall Weasley and order him not to interfere in the relationship between him and Harry, the same way he had ordered Granger.

Neither of those was possible, though. Harry would sense the thrall, since he watched both Draco and Weasley so closely right now. So Draco settled for keeping his face as blank as the face of the corpse it would naturally look like, to deprive the Weasel of the pleasure of seeing him squirm.

The excited grin on Weasley's freckled face faded to a frown before he said, "Come here and kneel down."

Harry made an aborted movement behind him. He was probably imagining right now that he should have forbidden the Weasel from humiliating Draco, Draco thought sardonically as he moved across the floor. That had been the first thought that sprang into Draco's head when he saw Weasley's evil grin. But he had not wanted to make the suggestion himself; it would have sounded too much like refusing for the sake of refusing, and not playing along like the good little vampire he was supposed to be.

When he knelt, he saw Weasley's leg twitch. Draco tensed. If Weasley tried to kick him, then he would move away. He had no intention of injuring himself, either.

He glanced up at Weasley's face and saw it widening in a deep grin. That, combined with the rage in his eyes, said that Weasley was remembering all they had done to each other in Hogwarts and anticipating the pain he would get to cause Draco in return. Draco barely refrained from snorting. Does he realize that I'm obeying out of concern for my Long-Desired, not because I'm under a sort of magical compulsion?

"Tell me that you're sorry for the taunts that you used on my family in Hogwarts," said the Weasel peremptorily.

Draco sighed. The taunts had been based on truth; the Weasleys were poor, and had had too many children, probably, Draco suspected, in quest of a girl. But he cared much less about Hogwarts than he did about Harry; those were some of the dimmest of his mortal memories. "I'm sorry for taunting your family and for taunting you about your family," he said in a monotone.

Weasley hesitated for a moment, shooting a glance at Harry over Draco's head, while his body stank of disbelief. Then he smiled and took off one of his boots. Draco tensed again. If Weasley intended to hit him over the head with the boot, of course he would resist.

Instead, Weasley held the soiled footwear out and said, "Lick it."

Draco curled his lip, but had started to bend his head when a hand clasped the back of his neck and stopped him. Harry's voice was harsh with strain. "That's enough, Ron. I don't know what the fuck is wrong with you. He's shown that he'll take simple orders and that he's not an out-of-control predator who springs on every convenient piece of prey who comes along. You can't humiliate him."

"Mate," Weasley said, his voice faint.

Draco stood up and turned around to face Harry. At the moment, he didn't care that Weasley was in the room or that he couldn't forsake his childish grudges. He cared about what he was hearing in Harry's voice and what he thought he would see on his face.

Harry flinched a bit when Draco suddenly stood up in front of him; his instincts, earned from years of hunting vampires, must be screaming at him, Draco thought, leaning forwards to sniff. But yes, there was the clear anger, and Harry didn't change his expression of outrage, despite the fact that Draco could see it now. For once, his Long-Desired was defending him, and not his friends or his dead Weasley or the ideals that he'd twisted his life for. Draco leaned heavily on his shoulder and stroked Harry's cheek and forehead with one finger, ending by tracing the line of the scar. He wanted Harry to understand how very pleased he was that Harry had finally begun to accept the part of the bond that included acknowledging Draco as a person.

Harry shivered beside him, and took a deep breath that sounded as if he were trying to convince himself that Draco wasn't dangerous. Then he laid a hand on Draco's fingers, kissed them once, and said to Weasley, "Still need some more proof?"

Draco glanced at the red-haired idiot, holding Harry close. In the end, Harry was the one who mattered and not Weasley. Draco remained alert for some danger from him, but the main focus of his attention was the gentle stroke of his fingers along Harry's muscles, the way Harry jolted and then experienced calm in his arms, how his eyes fell half-shut and the tension in his back loosened.

Mine. Draco quivered, and managed to hang onto a sense of mortal propriety by the edge of his fangs. Harry would probably be upset if Draco pushed him to the ground and took his blood in front of his friend, although to Draco it wouldn't matter at all.

"I reckon not," Weasley said in a curiously low voice. "It still—it still doesn't make much sense, mate. I don't think I'll ever know why you decided to surrender now." There was scorn in his voice at the thought of surrendering, which made Draco want to bite, but he held himself back because this freak meant so much to Harry. "I thought maybe he'd enchanted you to protest against him being humiliated. But if he was going to do that, why wouldn't he have you make that condition part of the original bargain?" Draco heard the faint swish of Weasley's hair against his robe collar as he shook his head. "I don't know. Too many questions. And I don't think I'll know the answer to most of them, either."

"As long as you don't attack us." Harry's voice had a fair, easy, pleased sound. Draco stepped closer, crowding him and nearly throwing him from his feet for a moment. He was immediately apologetic about that, stroking Harry's cheek so that he could understand, but he had to get closer. Harry in a good mood was a beautiful thing, and one that Draco had seen too little of so far.

"I won't," Weasley said. "Because of you." His scent turned more hostile than before, and Draco heard the scrape of his boots on the floor, too, as he turned around to face him. "If I ever catch sight of you moving around on your own, on the other hand, and I know that you did something to harm Harry…"

Draco didn't give him the satisfaction of glancing at him again. Harry's scent had a subtle saltiness that Draco didn't think simply came from his skin. He licked, and Harry moaned and arched backwards in his arms.

He couldn't stand it any longer. Draco slid his arms around Harry's chest, holding him in the posture that he'd been holding him in when they began this little dance for Weasley, and slid his fangs home.

Weasley made a spitting sound like a cat about to be sick, and then turned and rushed for the fireplace in the kitchen. Draco knew exactly where he was going all the time, and tracked his progress so that he would know in an instant if Weasley turned around and threatened them. But he didn't, and after that, Draco could immerse himself in Harry's blood.

Harry was more responsive than before, moaning open-mouthed and panting when Draco nipped along the edges of his wounds to demonstrate the fact that Harry was his. Then he turned around and met Draco's mouth in a kiss, slicing his lips on Draco's fangs.

Draco was so surprised that he paused for a moment. Then he linked his arms together around Harry's chest and dragged him closer. Harry hissed in pain as the cuts on his lips grew worse, but he didn't pull back, and his hands locking around Draco's neck had their own eager greed, a kind of greed that Draco would have said was impossible a short while ago.

But it was happening now.

This wasn't love. Harry knew that. This wasn't a normal relationship. If nothing else, he knew that by the way Ron had sounded as if he were going to vomit when he saw Draco feeding off Harry.

But it was something that he needed, something dragging him back to reality one blood-flavored kiss at a time.

That was powerful. That was important enough that Harry didn't care as much as he had about Draco's vampirism or about how his friends would react. He could not expect them to make unreasonable sacrifices, but on the other hand, he could not ask Draco to make unreasonable sacrifices for them, either.

Or for him.

Seeing Draco kneel at Ron's feet had shattered something in him. Vampires were proud to the point of arrogance. Draco still had that trait. But he was subduing it for the sake of proving something that should have been amply proved already.

Harry couldn't allow Draco to kneel to anyone, except perhaps himself, and then only if Draco freely chose that.

He felt the blood flood his mouth, and Draco's tongue slide against his, cold at first but rapidly warming, and the fingers that were stronger than they should be gripping his back and sliding down to his buttocks. Draco was heavier than a mortal lover would have been against him, as if his body even now remembered the literal dead weight it possessed during the day. His mouth was harsh and demanding, and he broke off the kiss after a moment to suckle at the wound in Harry's neck once again.

Harry didn't care.

It was not normal. It was real, and it was intense, and he needed something like that to replace the hatred and the grief that had made him hunt vampires for so long.

He pushed forwards, met Draco's erection with his own, and knew that their relationship had just turned another corner.

One that he was glad to see, at last.

"So he hasn't said anything about reporting it to the Aurors yet?" Harry wished his voice didn't sound so relieved, but, well, he was relieved that Ron seemed to believe him and wouldn't make Harry defend his relationship with Malfoy to other people.

Hermione's curls bounced as she shook her head. She was looking out of her own drawing room, which Harry also found a cause for relief. "No. He asked me a few questions, mostly to confirm what Malfoy said and what I'd seen when I interacted with you, I think. Then he went upstairs. When I joined him, he was already asleep, but he'd been rolling and tossing and staring at the ceiling for a long time, if the state of the bed was any indication."

Harry let his breath out carefully. "Let him know he's welcome at any time, and as long as he's willing to talk reasonably, then I'm happy to see him."

"You can't really blame him for taking this so hard, can you?" Hermione asked wistfully. "After all, it's not just Malfoy, it's a vampire. Ron knows better than anyone else how much you hate them." There was a slight undertone of accusation there, Harry thought. Maybe. Hermione had been less close to him than Ron these last few years.

At the moment, Harry was glad for that, however guilty he should feel, because it meant that Hermione came to the situation with a fresh perspective untainted by Harry's grief for Ginny. "I can't blame him," he said. "I blamed him for trying to humiliate Draco. That goes beyond being upset that I might be under an enchantment and actually trying to hurt someone who hasn't done him harm in years."

"Yes, he told me about that," Hermione said, but in a subdued voice. Harry thought she didn't really want to condemn him or Ron if she could help it.

Because he was tired of putting his friends in difficult positions, he decided to let it go. "Well, like I said, as long as he gives up this notion that he has to fight Draco for me, he can come over anytime. But I do want to know right away if he's planning to report me to the Aurors or anyone else for sheltering a vampire."

Hermione gave him a little smile instead of nodding cheerfully and closing the Floo connection the way that Harry had suspected she would. He stared at her, and she murmured, "Did you realize that you're calling him Draco?"

Harry flushed. "Am I?"

"Yes." Hermione folded her arms and looked him over in a leisurely fashion, as though she were trying to see what other non-obvious changes might have happened to him. "And I know that you didn't do that before. You seemed to clutch his last name as a talisman, as if that would keep him further away somehow."

Harry squirmed. He didn't know how to tell Hermione that his attitude had changed without sounding sentimental or more intimate than he could bring himself to be, even to her.

Luckily, Hermione seemed to sense that and take pity on him. She chuckled and sat backwards. "Just make sure that you're getting enough to eat and enough rest," she said. "I would hate to see you faint from loss of blood and then have to listen to Ron rant that he told us both so."

"Me, too," Harry said, realizing when he tried to shift back and sit up that he was rather dizzy. Draco was asleep on the bed right now, since it was early morning, and he wouldn't care if Harry ate a meal without him. "Thanks, Hermione. For everything."

"I'm happier than I can say that you're turning away from what you would have become if you'd gone on hunting vampires," Hermione said quietly, and shut the Floo connection before Harry could reply.

Harry didn't know what he would have said, except that it would have run along the lines of It wasn't the hunting that was the problem. It was seeing no purpose in life beyond the hunting.

He went to make himself a sandwich, which he followed with some soup, and then an apple that he'd had sitting in his kitchen for months under a preservation charm. As he munched the last bit of it, he blinked.

That food had tasted better than anything had in months. He didn't know why that should be true, but he found himself running his tongue along his teeth to get the last crispness of the apple out. When he leaned back in his chair and looked out the window, he could see a wide beam of sunlight creeping through it and dust motes dancing in the beam. He hadn't noticed things like that in months, either.

It's sappy to say that accepting Draco's companionship changed everything for me.

But, as he got a cup of tea and sipped at it thoughtfully, he thought it might be able to change the small things. He hadn't paid attention to his food most of the time when he was hunting; meals were times free from work that he could use for thinking about the next hunt. He hadn't bothered to look at the sunlight because there were Dark wizards or vampires or weapons or tomorrows to think about instead. Now he didn't have a job to go to for the moment, and he could lean back and enjoy the advantages that Draco had brought him.

Harry ran his tongue along his teeth again and smiled wryly.

Strange that it took a vampire to remind me of living.

Draco woke slowly. This time, there was no immediate danger to him or his Long-Desired to make him spring to his feet. He rolled on his back, fluttered his eyes open, and looked up at the ceiling in sleepy dissatisfaction.

Harry wasn't beside him.

Again, Draco wasn't alarmed. He took a deep breath, and the scent of his Long-Desired flowed from elsewhere in the house. Draco stood up, smoothed out wrinkles in his sleeves, made an absent mental note to talk to Harry about getting him some new clothes, and then padded into the drawing room.

Harry was standing in the center of the room, frowning at a piece of parchment in his hand. When he heard Draco's footsteps, he stiffened once, then glanced over his shoulder with a smile of welcome. "Are you just going to stand there, or come in?" he asked.

"I was admiring you," Draco said quietly. "I haven't often seen you in the light of sunset." Harry had drawn the curtains of his bedroom tight so that no sunshine could reach Draco while he slept. The radiance, which Draco was careful to avoid as he made his way across the room, picked out threads of bright copper in the undertone of Harry's hair, reminding Draco that his mother had been red-haired. It also burnished his skin and made his green eyes shine compellingly, but Draco wasn't sure he should tell Harry that. It would probably give him a superiority complex. He caressed Harry's cheek, then pulled his head to the side so that he could see his puncture wounds. "What were you doing?" he asked, voice breathy as he lowered his head so that he could bring his fangs into play again.

"Considering a list of offers I received some time ago, when I was still an Auror." Harry swallowed, his voice also sounding half-strangled. Draco sniffed, but smelled no pain. He wouldn't have kept bending Harry's neck this way if he had. "Some people wanted me to teach them in a private Defense Against the Dark Arts class. I thought I might want to do that again while I wasn't being an Auror."

"And do you?" Draco licked the nearest puncture wound. Harry made a breathless noise. Draco listened, just to make sure the air was still moving steadily in and out of his lungs, and then smirked. It was all right, because at this angle Harry couldn't see him.

"No," Harry said, his voice slow and thick. He coughed and continued hurriedly, as if he thought that Draco would be ashamed by this evidence of his power over his Long-Desired. "I liked teaching Dumbledore's Army when we were at Hogwarts. I tried to imagine starting that over again. But there was something different then. I liked teaching it because I wasn't supposed to be doing it, I think."

That startled Draco into laughing. He pulled back, because in this mood he would pierce the wrong part of Harry's throat and take too much blood, and he never wanted to hurt his Long-Desired without premeditation. He laid the back of his hand along Harry's forehead for the pleasure of feeling the scar and smiled at him. "What a surprise."

Harry blushed, and that caused a different kind of pleasant heat against Draco's hand. "So that's out," he said. "Maybe it isn't even the fact that I would be doing it legitimately and with no one forbidding me this time. Maybe it's that I've changed so much since I last tried to teach a class like that." He hesitated, eyes fixing Draco's. Draco stared back. Harry's scent was hazy with confusion and didn't tell Draco what kind of problem he was having.

"I've hunted," Harry whispered. "I've been a murderer. And even though I regret doing it, that's because I almost went mad and pushed my friends away and did my best to kill you. Not because I did the murders. Does that make sense? I don't wish Caspar and the Collector were alive again."

"Of course not," Draco said. "If Caspar was still alive, then I would be his slave and not a master vampire. If I weren't truly dead, because Caspar would have destroyed me for opposing him."

Harry gave him a strained smile. "But what about the Collector? She wasn't your master. Do you wish she was still alive?"

Draco wondered if Harry expected him to reply like a mortal. He couldn't. He was so empty of those emotions that would have enabled him to that the words wouldn't come.

"She's dead prey," he said at last. "And she would have killed you, if she could. No, I don't regret dead prey, or dead enemies."

Harry closed his eyes as if he wanted to hold back tears or anger, but he was smiling. He leaned forwards, so that Draco had to move the hand he had on Harry's forehead, and leaned his brow against Draco's. Draco held him and sniffed happiness, but still couldn't understand. He waited for Harry to speak.

"I feel the same way," Harry whispered. "I was feeling bad for that, that I didn't want to go back and resurrect all my victims, that I still dream about hunting someday when I have myself under more control. I think that someone who was really moral, like Hermione, would regret it."

"Thank Merlin you are not Granger." Draco tightened his hold on Harry just thinking about it. "I would never have persuaded her to stay with me without a thrall unless I somehow appealed to her compassion for magical creatures. And I wish to be seen as more than that." That last aspiration was not something he could have confessed to Harry if he had been like Granger, either. People like her would think it meant he had a mortal heart.

Harry flattened his hand against Draco's chest and listened to his sluggish heartbeat for a moment. Then he said, "This is what I need."

"Yes," Draco said, with a small sigh. He had known that already from Harry's scent and his behavior last night, but apparently one of the few mortal traits he still retained was a fondness for being comforted by a direct statement.

"You are what I need," Harry said.

"Yes," Draco hissed, and once again allowed himself to look at the puncture wounds with a sense of pride and possession.

"Because I'm scarred, and changed, and distant from the rest of humanity," Harry went on, dragging a hand down Draco's face and seeming thrilled when the sharp points of the fangs pricked his thumb, "even if not in the same way you are."

Draco laughed quietly. "If you were changed in the same way as I am, I would never have felt interest in the first place." He let his head fall forwards until he was almost slumped on Harry's shoulder, and wound his fingers more tightly into the cloth of his robes. He wondered if they would grow together if they stood like that long enough, melding and blending one into the other, until they were a single creature of magic and blood and beauty like nothing the world had ever seen, both alive and undead.

Then he blinked. That was not the kind of thought that had come to him when he was Caspar's slave, when he thought about the pleasure of his master first and survival next, and it was not the kind of thought he would have had as a mortal. Harry seemed to teach him new things even as Draco taught him in return.

"That's true, even if you are amazingly literal," Harry said. Draco wanted to ask him what he meant, but Harry's hand was stroking his back and he forgot the question. "Well, I've decided that I need to acknowledge that change and not try to pretend that the years hunting vampires never happened. I want to hire myself out as a Dark creature hunter. When it isn't vampires, I think I can use my cleverness without being consumed by my hatred, the way I was against your kind."

Draco hissed in delight. "Yes," he said, "I could help you with that. I could taste the blood of different creatures."

Harry stirred in his arms and pulled back to stare at him. "I thought my blood was enough for you."

"It is," Draco said mildly, "but you can't keep feeding me all the time without a rest, or not even Blood-Replenishing Potions will restore you." He paused and sniffed one more time, which should have told him if any of the distinctive-smelling ingredients of that potion had been in the house. He didn't smell anything, and arched an eyebrow. "And you haven't brewed that potion at all, have you?"

Harry scowled at his shoes.

"It'll give me a chance to drink," Draco said, "without draining you dry. It'll let us practice in various ways with the magic that I'm drawing from you. We haven't explored half the limitations and possibilities of what it can do yet, you know. It will let us spend time together at night, since that is when most Dark creatures are awake."

Harry blinked and tried to say something, but the words seemed to fail in the thickness of his throat. Finally he murmured, "You don't have to come with me on the hunts, you know. I want you to, but you might be bored."

"We had this discussion before," Draco said patiently, though he felt a lash of irritation that Harry didn't seem to retain the words that Draco went to such effort to pour into his head. "I think you would be the one bored far more easily. I could sit in a room and look at you by the hour, Harry. That would content me. But I do not think it would content you."

Harry flushed.

"Hunting together sounds like the perfect compromise, for the reasons I have just listed." Draco flicked his tongue out and licked Harry's ear, then made his way down to the puncture wounds. Harry groaned and suddenly traveled several shaky steps backwards to slump against the wall. Draco pursued him, licking hungrily at the wounds now. "Don't try to tell me that you really want to do something else more. Otherwise, you wouldn't have been the one to raise the idea."

Harry said something breathless that sounded like a protest, but Draco had no more time for silliness like that. He bit down, and the hot, lovely, complicated bouquet filled his mouth.

This time, Harry held onto his mind when the pleasure tried to steal it from him. He kept one hand on Draco's shoulder, but he clenched his other one into a fist and drove his nails again and again into his palm. That made him blink and shake his head as the pain stung. The haze that tried to cloud his mind continually withdrew. Harry came to the end of the process, when Draco pulled back and licked his neck, still hard and panting, though he thought Draco had tried his best to make him orgasm.

Harry wanted to do something different this time.

"Wait," he said, when Draco reached down for his erection. His voice was hoarse. He licked his lips and repeated the word. Luckily, Draco listened to him, though he tilted his head as he waited. His jaw looked more snake-like than usual, perhaps because he had unhinged it slightly to feed. In his eyes was a cat's curiosity that anyone human would prefer to do something other than play and sleep and eat.

But Harry did.

He was coming back to reality thanks to Draco's kisses and bites. But he wondered who would drag Draco with him. Draco said that he only wanted to sit in a room and look at Harry. His world should be wider than that. He should have other anticipations than the blood, other thoughts than making Harry happy.

Harry readily admitted that the first thing he wanted to do wasn't guaranteed to carry Draco's mind much beyond the blood. But it might be a start, and if it could encourage Draco to think about his own pleasure and his right to that pleasure as well as Harry's, then it would accomplish one of Harry's main goals.

"All right," Harry whispered at last, and sank to his knees.

When he looked up, Draco's eyes were full of wild, stormy light, as though he had just stepped through a door into another world and was trying to understand what had happened. He reached out with one faltering hand and grasped Harry's shoulder. Then he shook his head and pulled the hand back. Harry wondered idly for a moment, as he undid the trousers Draco wore, which smelled of dust and must, whether his skin had burned him.

"You don't have to," Draco whispered, but the longing behind his words rendered them little more than puffs of dust from his clothes.

"I want to," Harry said, just as softly, and then lowered his head and actually looked at Draco's erection for the first time.

Pale, much paler than his own. Of course, Draco needed to use the blood for other things than to flush his skin down there. Harry swallowed, and wondered if it would taste differently than a mortal one.

Not that it much mattered, since he'd never tasted a mortal one.

Harry shivered and crushed down the urge to laugh as he leaned forwards and folded his lips around the head of Draco's cock. That's one good thing about this. The sheer effort it took me to accept a vampire as my lover got rid of any qualms I might have had about accepting a male.

He licked and lapped hesitantly. The erection was dry and like stone in his throat at first. It was only as his own saliva started flowing that his mouth could move easily. When he reached back to roll Draco's balls in his fingers, he found them cool; the blood was moving more easily beneath Draco's skin, but not enough to make much of a temperature difference.

More encouraging than anything else was the soft sighs Draco had begun to give above him.

Involuntary sounds that deepened as they went on, they reminded Harry of the way that vampires sounded when they fed on a chosen mortal after months of starvation. He had once had to witness that, on one of his first hunts, chained at the back of a nest as a woman was devoured, and he had seen—

The images of blood and death did not belong here. He put them aside and listened to the sigs that were for him, and not for some nameless victim. He knew without asking that Draco would have wanted no one else to do this for him, no matter how frustrated he became waiting for Harry to come around. Sex was not a need for vampires in the same way it was for humans.

He sucked, and the erection shifted in his mouth, and Draco moaned. He ran his tongue up the side, along the vein, and Draco bucked, teaching Harry for the first time how it felt when something large and blunt shoved against his teeth. He choked, but Draco didn't seem to notice, and Harry moved cautiously back into position and sucked again.

He knew that sometimes men came in other men's mouths without warning them first, but there was no way that he could have missed Draco's sudden, strange stillness, almost as extreme as the stillness that he had when he first died in the morning. Harry relaxed his jaw and eased his head back, hoping he could catch most of it.

He didn't catch half of it. Semen cascaded along his tongue and ran promptly out of his mouth, along his jaw. Draco's cock trembled and flopped in the oddest ways. Harry gave up on swallowing and concentrated on arranging his mouth in such a way that Draco could feel pleasure even as he trembled out the last shocks of his orgasm.

When Harry leaned back on his knees and stared up at Draco, he decided that he had accomplished that part of his mission. Draco's face was soft and helpless, almost human. With his fangs folded back, he looked particularly so. Perhaps only the blood around his mouth and the extreme pallor of his skin would have struck an observer who didn't know what he was as strange.

Then Draco's eyes opened.

And Harry found himself borne to the ground with inhuman strength, his neck suckled and his pants pried open at the same time. Draco snarled in his ear as he spat in his hand and twisted his fingers around Harry's erection.

"I would suck you, but right now I'm too excited to fold my teeth back. I want to suck you. I want to fuck you. I want to feel your cock moving inside me, so tight and so quick that it hurts and my body dying won't let me escape the feeling of it. I want to make you come and drape me with it, so that I'm looking up at you between curtains of it, spilling out of my mouth and down my cheeks as I swallow more. I want to suck you until my jaw aches and my tongue's forgotten the taste of blood. I want to fuck you, fuck you, fuck you…"

His fingers made a frenzied movement, and Harry arched and shouted and cried as he came, his body shuddering so deeply that he thought he'd torn a muscle for a moment. Draco sighed deeply and buried his nose in Harry's neck, sniffing at it, marking it, biting it.

"Oh, yes," he whispered.

Harry rolled his head towards him, when he could move, and wrapped an arm around Draco's neck.

If he has to focus on me so exclusively, he thought, I can't say I can complain about the results.

Harry lifted a robe off the rack in Gladrags and looked critically at it. He had measured Draco before he died that morning, but he still wasn't sure that he'd found robes that would look good on him, even if they were technically the right size.

"I didn't expect to see you here."

The voice was so slow and heavy that for a long moment, Harry didn't recognize it. Then he did, and turned around with his heart beating a quick rhythm in his ears.

Mrs. Weasley, her arms full of robes, gave him a strained smile. Harry cleared his throat, and waited for the guilt over failing Ginny to assault him. It was that guilt that had mostly kept him away from the Weasleys, except Ron, since Ginny died.

But the guilt didn't come. Harry frowned for a moment. He had thought before that maybe weeping in Draco's arms had driven the emotion out of him, but he'd never had any proof before that that might really have worked.

"I don't often come here," he said, realizing that he had to answer Mrs. Weasley's question somehow. "But I needed new clothes. It was time." He gave Mrs. Weasley an uncertain smile, wondering if that was the right thing to say. Her eyes had widened, and she seemed to hear something in his words that he hadn't intended to put there.

He didn't expect her to step forwards and put her arms around him.

"Oh, my boy," she whispered into his ear, her hand stroking his hair and the back of his neck at the same time. "I hoped that you would be able to start again at last. I didn't know if you ever would."

"What are you talking about, Mrs. Weasley?" Harry hugged her back, still uncertain, which kept his arms stiff. He wondered what Draco would say when Harry got back to the house and Draco smelled another person on him. Of course, since it was a female person and older, maybe he wouldn't be jealous.

"I wanted you to live again after Ginny died." Mrs. Weasley stepped away, her eyes wet, and wiped at them with the back of her hand. Her smile was wide and sad and knowing. "But you seemed to have stopped. Sometimes I wasn't even sure your heart beat, dear. I wanted to invite you over and let you share your grief with us, but you refused so many invitations that I gave that up at last."

Harry swallowed. It was difficult to do. "I didn't want—I'm the one who didn't save her, Mrs. Weasley. I didn't want to intrude on you when you must blame me."

"We never blamed you," Mrs. Weasley said firmly. "Not once." She reached out and gave his arm a little shake. "You would have known that if you'd come and talked to us instead of refusing our owls."

Harry felt his face burn with humiliation. To know that he'd wasted so much time, that he could have been part of the Weasley family even now, in the way that he'd always been Ron and Hermione's best friend—

And then he reminded himself that guilt was useless unless it drove him to action, and that he wouldn't have appreciated the Weasleys even if he had them during the past few years. He would have neglected them and taken them for granted the way he had with Ron and Hermione. Maybe it was better that he hadn't known they would forgive him, because that way he could make a fresh start now instead of being tentative and apologetic.

"We're going to be having a farewell dinner for Charlie this Saturday," Mrs. Weasley was saying. "He goes back to Romania on Sunday, and goodness knows when we'll see him again. Will you come? The dinner starts at six." She gave him an appealing and yet defiant glance, as if to say he would be stupid if he refused the invitation.

Harry smiled. He knew that Draco could get along without him for a few hours, especially since some of that time would be when he was dead. "Yes, I'll come. Thank you so much, Mrs. Weasley."

"Call me Molly." She leaned up and patted his cheek. "And don't ever waste so much time again."

"I won't," Harry promised her, and watched in wonder as she left Gladrags. Then he shook his head and went back to sorting through robes for Draco, wondering absently in the back of his head how the Weasleys would react when they learned his new lover was both a Malfoy and a vampire.

"Dementors. I know that Britain's had a problem with them since the end of the war." Harry leaned up to put a pin in the map of Britain that he had stretched across the wall. Draco leaned his head on the couch and admired the stretch of muscles in Harry's back.

"But Dementors don't have blood that I can drink," Draco murmured. "And they can only be driven away, most of the time, not destroyed. I've read stories of wizards who managed to destroy them, but at a terrible cost."

Harry turned around to scowl at him. He looked beautiful, especially since Draco had made him drink some of the Blood-Replenishing Potion and he was no longer as pale as he had been immediately after Draco fed from him. Draco considered that he himself brought quite enough pallor to the relationship and didn't need any more. "We should think about what we can do to benefit Britain, and Dementors are the greatest threat."

Draco snorted and lifted his head. "I'm not thinking about what we can do to benefit Britain," he said, circling around the couch. "You can if you want to. But I'm thinking about what will make the best hunt for us." He laid his hand along Harry's neck and paused to watch his pulse throb, then continued. "We need blood. We need a threat sufficient to challenge your hunting skills and keep us busy for a time in planning and training. I don't think Dementors qualify."

Harry dropped his eyes, frowning. Then he said, "I know you're right, but going about the hunts that way feels selfish."

"Why?" Draco leaned forwards, placing his fangs against the puncture wounds. Harry's breathing rate increased, and he tilted his head to the side in invitation, but Draco shook his head and pulled back with some difficulty. He had simply wanted to view Harry's reaction, not drink more blood when he'd had his fill. "For years, you did everything that you could think of for the British wizarding world. You saved everyone's lives. Why shouldn't you live selfishly now? No matter what you do, it can't repay their debt to you."

"But I lived selfishly when I was hunting vampires," Harry pointed out. "I have to make up for that."

Draco could smell the dusty reluctance underlying his words. Harry wanted to be convinced otherwise; he wanted to think that he didn't really have to do anything that he didn't want to, that he could choose the creatures he hunted and not think about the trouble they were causing other people. Draco was happy enough to fulfill his desires. His job here was to give Harry pleasure, after all.

"You're making up for it," Draco breathed into his ear. "The people you hurt were your friends, and me. You're making it up to us." He licked Harry's throat, because that would make Harry groan and turn towards him. "And you could argue that you hurt people who were relying on you to do your job as an Auror, because your attention would always be on something else. But you've quit your job now and stopped thinking that you owe everyone something. The public doesn't have to rely on you to protect them from Dark wizards."

Harry's eyes opened. They had a light glaze to them that pleased Draco. That wasn't a sign of Harry's mind weakening, the way it might have been with almost any other Long-Desired, because pleasure was becoming something expected instead of a novelty to Harry. This glaze was a sign that Harry had decided to consider himself and Draco instead of everyone else in the world.

"You're right," Harry whispered. "We can hunt werewolves if we want. And rogue centaurs. And the merfolk who steal ships. And don't winged horses sometimes attack other people if they get one of the magical diseases? And I know that I read a book about vampires once that also mentioned Dark unicorns…"

Smiling, Draco laid his cheek along Harry's and let him plan.

"Hullo, Harry."

The Weasleys seemed to have decided that the best way to deal with his long absence was to pretend that he'd never been away. So here was Charlie offering him his hand like always, and Fleur with baby Dominique in her arms and Victoire hiding behind her robes giving him a bright smile, and Bill nodding with an enthusiasm that caused his fang earring to sway.

Harry greeted them all and said to Fleur, "Have you decided that two children are enough?"

Fleur gave him a complacent smile. Her silver hair shimmered around her face, and she looked proud and smug and more beautiful than ever. Harry could admire her from an emotional distance, now that he had Draco in his life, and maybe his admiration had increased because that kind of paleness and brightness was the ideal for him now. "We have discussed it," she said. "And come to no conclusion." Her eyes brightened. "But it is much fun trying."

Bill was the one who blushed and took Fleur's arm as if he would herd her to her seat. Harry turned around in time to receive a bone-crushing hug from Molly and a proud beam from Mr. Weasley, who held Harry's hand when he'd shaken it and looked at him for a long time.

"It wasn't your fault, you know," he said quietly, during a lull in the conversation around them when Molly was complaining happily to Charlie that George couldn't come because he was so busy with his shop and courting Angelina Johnson. It was plain that she was glad George had recovered to that extent.

Harry focused his attention on Mr. Weasley and forgot about listening to Molly's conversation for now with an effort. He nodded a little. "I know that—now," he said. "But it took me a long time to learn it."

"What taught you better?" Mr. Weasley's eyes were very kind and very sharp. He hadn't let go of Harry's hand yet; in fact, he squeezed it a little harder, as if he wanted to make sure that Harry didn't slip away from them again.

"A friend," Harry said. He hadn't found the words that would let him introduce Draco to the Weasleys yet, and he was painfully aware that they might be years in coming. Well, he and Draco had years, and he didn't think the Weasleys were about to leave him alone again. "He was the one who helped me see that I was dishonoring Ginny by acting as though her death had ended my life. In the end, I listened to him and decided to come back to the land of the living." He smiled at Mr. Weasley in embarrassment and hoped that that would be enough, that he wouldn't decide to probe further.

Maybe Mr. Weasley could see that desire in his eyes, or maybe he assumed that Ron was the friend and there was no mystery here. Either way, he beamed and stood up to hug Harry in turn. "You must call me Arthur, you know," he said, "as you're calling Molly by her first name now."

Harry hugged him back, then turned. Ron and Hermione had just entered the room, with Percy behind them. Harry nodded and smiled weakly at an astonished Percy, whom he'd never been very comfortable with, but his eyes were on his best friends.

Ron was looking at Harry as though he had never thought that Harry would come back to the Burrow. Maybe he thought Draco was going to keep me cooped up for the rest of his life and only let me out of his sight when he died, Harry thought. Hermione had a quiet, approving expression on her face, which turned anxious when she looked back and forth between Harry and Ron.

Harry took a deep breath and straightened his back. He didn't want to give anyone cause for anxiety, and he wouldn't pretend that nothing was wrong—even though he had to conceal some of the particulars of what was wrong as long as the rest of the Weasleys didn't know about Draco. He walked towards Ron and reached out to tap him on the shoulder.

"Getting along all right in the office without me?" he asked lightly.

Ron blinked twice. Harry could read the blinks easily. You want me to pretend that everything's normal and we're just conversing like ordinary blokes?

Harry nodded slightly. Ron sighed and then admitted, "Not the same without you, mate. Austin and Stone keep asking me to take on another partner. But I don't want another one." His eyes were hard as he looked at Harry and sent out his own silent plea. You're coming back, aren't you? Tell me you're coming back.

It was the hardest thing Harry had done in years—hunting vampires had been complicated, but not emotionally difficult—to look him in the eyes and say, "Maybe you should take on another partner."

Ron looked stricken. Hermione leaned over Ron's shoulder with a speed that told Harry something about her expectations. She had probably thought that he would use Draco to recover his "normal" life, the life he'd had before Ginny died. She hadn't anticipated that he would change things so radically.

"But what will you do if you don't stay an Auror, Harry?" she asked. Her eyes darted around, but she seemed to decide that Bill and Fleur were standing too close for her to ask all the questions she'd like to. "What will fill your life? It has to be something besides one close companion." She gave him a significant look.

"I know," Harry said softly. "But I can't pretend that the past few years never happened, and those are the skills that I cultivated. I never cared enough about being an Auror. I just liked the fact that I had access to Potions stores and protection from the Ministry in case I needed them. I made a terrible Auror, really," he added. "I'm going to become a Dark creature hunter instead."

"If you hunt vampires again…" Hermione's face was full of warning.

Harry shook his head. "Everything but. I know that I'm not rational on the subject, and I accept that."

"So you still hate them, even though…" Ron made a vague gesture, since Molly was bustling past them with a load of plates. He looked inexpressibly relieved.

"Yes, I do," Harry said quietly. He knew that he didn't think about vampires, the random vampires he had hunted and killed because they hunted and killed human beings, in the same way that he thought about Draco. He was aware that Draco was a vampire, he would never let himself forget that, but he kept making exceptions for him.

He didn't see any need to apologize for that. The only people his ethical inconsistency could matter to were Draco and him, and Draco didn't seem bothered by it. Harry wouldn't be, either.

"Good," Ron said, and clapped him on the shoulder. "Now, let's sit down at the table and talk about something else for a while. Like how fantastic Mum's cooking is."

Charlie overheard him and snorted. "You're only saying that because it saves you from having to cook yourself," he said. "Or maybe from having to eat your wife's cooking."

That started Hermione on a loud course of defending herself, while Ron slinked to the table with the look of someone hoping that people would forget about him. Molly bustled about and scolded them all, shooting Harry a look of satisfied love and wonder that made him smile back in spite of himself.

This was the life that he had missed while he was walling himself up in grief and guilt, he thought as he took his seat.

He didn't intend to miss any more of it.

Draco stepped back and raised an eyebrow. The robe Harry had bought him was his size, and it had the great advantage of looking stylish—at least stylish enough to Draco's eyes, which were no longer those of a fashion-obsessed mortal; he had only one obsession now—and not smelling of dust.

But the color.

"White, Potter?" he asked, looking at his Long-Desired. "Really? The shade of innocence?" He shook his head. "I can see that you have some misconceptions about me that should have been corrected by now."

Harry snorted defensively and crossed his arms. His scent grew heavy with irritation, such that Draco had a hard time smelling the cloth of the new robe through it. "That was the one that was handsomest," he said. "I didn't think you would care about the color."

"I might not have cared," Draco said with great precision, "if it was some color other than white. A color that will make a mockery of me in the eyes of anyone who knows what I am. A color that will stain when anything splashes on it, including blood."

Harry sighed in disgust. "Do you really think that Dark creatures will care what you look like? And you're acting as though that's the only robe I bought you." He turned around and strode out of the room before Draco could react, leaving Draco to blink and open his mouth slightly. Harry had seemed so doubtful about buying clothes for him that Draco hadn't thought he would buy more than one robe.

But he came back in with an entire rustling armful, and then dropped them on the bed in front of Draco and glared at him.

Draco reached out a trembling hand and ran it down the cloth of the nearest robe. It was red, and it felt as rich to the touch as a king's cloak. Draco wasn't sure what fabric it was; it felt like silk, but tougher. This was no cloth that would tear at a careless touch. It had probably been strengthened by dragonhide, and would not have been cheap. He licked his lips and whispered, "How much did you pay for this?"

The silence coming at him from the other side of the bed had turned hostile, and Draco heard the increasing beat of Harry's heart. He blinked and looked up at him to see Harry part his mouth in a credible snarl. It no longer mattered so much to Draco that he didn't have the length or sharpness of tooth to carry out the part.

"Do you think that's important to me?" Harry asked, his voice hushed with fury. "I don't have anyone to spend my money on but you and me, and I've never cared for expensive furniture or books the way Hermione does. I never spent most of the money that I earned from being an Auror, either. I made most of my weapons. Why do you think I would care about the cost when spending a few Galleons can make you happy?"

"It was more than a few Galleons," Draco murmured, and tensed himself to leap over the bed.

Harry didn't even pay attention, which was a testament to how far he was wrapped up in his anger. Most of the time, no predatory movement from a vampire was beneath his notice. "I don't care! I wasn't going to haggle over prices when I thought that this robe might look good on you and I knew that you would like it, and—"

He choked as Draco landed lightly beside him and reached out to put one hand on his shoulder. Harry drew in his breath and eyed Draco doubtfully. Draco eyed him back and smiled as he bent to kiss one cheek.

"It makes me absurdly happy and grateful that you considered my happiness," he whispered. "But you won't make much money as a Dark creature hunter, either, at first. I want you to have some available to tend to your own needs."

Harry opened his mouth as though to protest even that minor evidence of care for him, then shut it and laughed. Draco waited patiently for the explanation of that laughter. He knew from Harry's scent that it wasn't amusement at his expense, which was the only reason he didn't start remonstrating immediately.

"We're a regular pair," Harry said, when he could stop the chuckles. "Both concerned for each other's comfort above all, to the point of getting angry with each other for not sharing our most important goals." He grinned up at Draco.

Desire took Draco by the throat at the sight of that smile, and he bent and kissed Harry before he thought about it. His unfolded fangs nicked Harry's tongue and lips, but he groaned in a way that said he didn't care and started to drag Draco onto the bed.

Draco drew back when he felt something softer than sheets beneath them, and shook his head. "We're not copulating on top of my brand new robes," he said. "Hang them up properly, and then we can think about it."

Harry threw back his head and whooped. Draco narrowed his eyes, because, this time, the amusement had a distinctly different flavor.

"I don't know what's funnier," Harry said at last, mopping his hand across his forehead, "you saying 'copulating' or thinking that any of the mood remains after that." He paused, then added, "Or maybe that you're back to thinking about clothes in a way that makes it sound as though you haven't changed at all from Hogwarts."

Draco sat up haughtily. "Hang up the robes," he said. Whatever stupid things Harry was saying, it remained a fact that the robes had wrinkles from their sitting on them and needed to be hung up.

Harry did as asked, chortling the while. Draco drew over to the other side of the room, determined to do what he could to soothe his offended dignity—

And cope with the fact that his dignity was less powerful than his peace at the thought that Harry was happy.

"You have to remember how quick a werewolf is," Draco said, sounding as if he was trying to convince himself.

Harry looked up from the first of a stack of newly-acquired books and raised an eyebrow. "Faster than a vampire?"

Draco sank into pondering. Harry snorted silently and returned to the book.

Draco seemed to believe that because Harry had been reckless in challenging one or two powerful vampires, he would be reckless in challenging every single Dark creature he might fight. He'd fussed about the house for days now, offering unneeded advice, checking Harry's cache of weapons to see what he might add, and testing the sharpness of his fangs with one finger as if he assumed it would fall to him to save Harry from a werewolf's clutches.

And yet, he was so proud that he couldn't really conceive any werewolf would be a danger to his Long-Desired, who had Draco and their shared magic to protect him. So he'd also sometimes told Harry he didn't need to study so much, and shrugged off the single week remaining until the full moon as unimportant.

Harry had to admit it was entertaining to watch the conflict of Draco's instincts and his arrogance.

Abruptly, a pale hand curled around the top of his book and pried it down, and Draco peered at him intensely from less than a foot away. Harry blinked back and wondered what the matter was.

"Yes," Draco said gravely, "sometimes werewolves are faster than vampires. I want you to make sure that you take every precaution." He leaned towards Harry and rubbed his chin against Harry's cheek like some overgrown dead cat. "I'd rather take any amount of insults and humiliation than lose you."

Harry swallowed. There was a painful lump in his throat that prevented the swallow from getting all the way to the bottom of his neck, for some reason. "You really don't need to worry about that, Draco," he whispered. "I promise."

"I worry anyway." Draco pushed the book out of the chair, which made Harry open his mouth to protest that he could hardly study like that, and then close it again when he realized the way Draco was clutching at him. His eyes were very wide and his lips parted so that Harry could see his fangs, even though they were folded against the roof of his mouth. "We've barely started the years that we should have together," Draco whispered. "I want to make sure that we have all of them, Harry. Do you understand?"

Harry nodded. He wasn't able to speak. He reached up and stroked Draco's forehead. When he thought he'd found his voice, he said lightly, "I wouldn't want to deprive you of your source of free blood, after all."

"No, you wouldn't," Draco said. He caught Harry's fingers and nipped at them, though he kept his fangs folded back so Harry felt no more than a faint prickling along his fingertips. "Or of the chance to make you happy."

Harry closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the chair. Draco considered those two things equally important, it seemed, because he'd said them both with no change of expression or emphasis in between.

"I need you," Draco said. "For drinking and holding and protecting. I always will."

Harry could remember a time when he would have grown angry because Draco had only said those words, instead of listing everything else that he'd done with Harry in the past few weeks. Now he was able to listen for implications again, moving away from the large, dark, crude things he'd done since Ginny died, and he opened his eyes and smiled at Draco. "I know," he said.

Draco stood straight outside Granger's house, his arms folded in front of him, his fangs carefully kept back although he wanted to extend them. From inside the house, voices rose and fell. They would have been unintelligible to a mortal, because Harry was whispering and trying to keep his friends from shouting. He should have learned long since that a vampire's superior senses were superior for a reason, Draco thought in scorn, and listened.

"He's not going to eat you, Ron," Harry said with strained patience. "Why would he want to? He has me."

Draco opened his mouth so that his amusement could escape in a silent breath. The statement was perfectly true, but he could imagine Weasley looking insulted. He always did think that he should be the most important person to anyone around.

"And vampires don't eat food besides blood," Granger added, apparently because the conversation had proceeded for too long without an interjection of her brilliance. "You don't have to worry about him eating anything here, Ron."

"Then what's the point of inviting him to dinner?" Weasley's voice rose in triumph. "You might as well leave him home and let us enjoy an evening with you, Harry."

"Maybe that would work for lunch or breakfast, when he's dead," Harry said. Draco could hear the soft rustling of cloth as he shifted his position. He wondered if Granger or Weasley, who could not be expected to know his Long-Desired as well as Draco did, realized that Harry was growing impatient when he made a motion like that. "But I'm not going to leave him out of an evening meal. We only get to spend half the day together as it is."

"I don't see how you can tolerate a life like that!"

Draco blinked. He had not expected an outburst from Weasley like this, or not so soon. He had seemed content to avoid the subject of Harry and Draco's Long-Desired bond altogether after the feeding he had seen.

But if he ranted, then he was welcome to do so. Draco no longer had a fear that Weasley would turn Harry against him.

"You would be so much happier with a mortal lover, who could spend all the hours of the day with you," Weasley was telling Potter earnestly. "You could laugh with them, introduce them to people besides Hermione and me, keep your Auror job." He cut himself off with a gulp, and then said, "Harry, how in the world are you going to introduce Malfoy to my parents?"

"I don't know yet," Harry said, which made Draco smile gently. Harry could be so courageous now, when, before, it seemed to sting him if he didn't have an answer for a question. "I'll worry about that when the time comes. I'll probably bring the subject up gently. They already know that I've stopped hunting vampires. Sooner or later it'll be natural to explain the reason why."

"But they still hate vampires, you know," Weasley said, who sounded as if he'd thought Harry would give Draco up the moment he started making difficulties. "They won't like the fact that you're dating one."

"You don't like it, either," Harry said. "That hasn't stopped me yet."

For long heartbeats, there was only silence, save for the involuntary sounds like breathing that they made in spite of themselves. Then Granger sighed. "Ron, you know that you can't control everything Harry does," she said. "You gave that up two years ago. And I think you should stop this irrational jealousy of yours that you weren't the one to bring Harry back to his normal life."

"What?" Harry asked.

"What?" Weasley asked.

Draco rolled his eyes. He had seen Weasley's jealousy the first time he smelled his scent after he was turned, but Harry had become so deaf when Draco tried to explain that he didn't consider it worthwhile to do so.

"You wanted to be the one who would teach Harry how wrong hunting vampires without a concern for his own safety was," Granger said in her bossy way. "You talked about it often enough, Ron, don't argue with me now!" Draco grinned at Weasley's sulky mutter, accompanied by a closing of his mouth. "And then Malfoy came in and did it instead. It's natural that you would resent him. But you should really stop trying to pretend that you're concerned about Harry, instead of about your own inability to help him."

More sulking. Draco could practically hear the Weasel sticking out his lower lip. He knew he could hear Harry's stifled laugh.

Then Harry said, "Mate, you kept me sane for the years I was hunting. You've been the best Auror partner I could ask for, and the best friend for years before that. You saved my life over and over again when we were in school." Draco heard the sharp clap as Harry clasped Weasley's shoulder. "Let someone else have this triumph, all right? Especially since the other things Draco gives me are things you wouldn't want to give me."

Weasley sighed as though he intended to blow down the walls of the house. "All right," he said, in the tones of someone doing a great favor. "But if he ever hurts you—if he ever starts taking too much blood—then he'll have to be prepared to deal with me."

"I'll let you know if that happens," Harry said solemnly. Draco tensed, then relaxed again. As Harry moved towards the door to let him in, he could smell the thick resignation that meant Harry had only been humoring Weasley. He didn't really believe that Draco would start up and drain him dry some fine night.

Still, when the door opened, Draco put his arms around Harry and rested his head against his shoulder for long moments. He would not say his feelings could be hurt. Rather, he was consumed by doubt whenever Harry's friends found and followed a course of reason for a little while.

"Everything's fine," Harry whispered, stroking his hair. "Come in and have dinner." Draco snorted, and Harry snorted back. "Sit at the table and try to wear some expression that's not proud, for once in your life."

Draco decided, as he followed Harry in, that he could try to mix something else with the pride. A fine edge of contempt ought to work wonders.

Harry took a deep breath and mentally ran over the tally of weapons that he carried again. He couldn't open the pack to check on them a final time, although he wanted to, or he would create noise that might alert their prey.

He turned his head up towards the branches of the tree above him and blinked twice. He saw Draco's fangs flash in return. He was ready, and they only needed their prey to show up.

They were hunting Leon Fangfur, as he called himself, one of the werewolves that Greyback had made out of desperate Muggleborns in the last days of the war, when they thought that serving Voldemort would be better than being stripped of their wands. Most of them had given in or been captured long since, but not Leon. He changed his name from its original Painter to something more "werewolfish," and then terrorized the families of those who offended him, the way Greyback had done. Most offensively, he had picked up Greyback's habit of biting children, including those too young to survive the transformation.

Harry had never despised the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures more than he did when he found out how many attempts they had launched to capture Fangfur. Each time, they'd failed, because they refused to prepare properly and gave everyone who wanted a chance on the hunt that chance, because it was considered an opportunity for promotion. They also wanted to capture rather than kill their prey, and they had to obey the laws, which limited their choice of weapons.

Neither of those was true for Harry and Draco.

It had been easy enough to contact some of Fangfur's victims and ask if they would pay someone to exact revenge. Harry hadn't wanted to charge them much, because this was his first hunt and most of the families couldn't afford to pay individually. But together, they had scraped a hundred Galleons up and insisted on his accepting the lot, along with all the information they had on Fangfur.

And then they had followed the rumors of his passing. His killing and infecting progressed across the country; when he reached one of the coasts, he simply turned around and started back the other way. It was easy enough to figure out that, tonight, he would probably turn around and bite Gloria Evening, the daughter of a prominent Ministry official who had supported werewolf registration. Fangfur was apt to take things that were aimed at all werewolves as insults to him.

The house was in a grove of oak trees, surrounded by Muggle-Repelling Charms, since there was a village not too far away. Draco had crawled into one of the oaks the moment dusk came and scouted for a time before he would allow Harry to crawl into the bushes below. Draco already showed a tendency to be too overprotective, Harry thought grumpily.

But when he heard the slow steps and deep snuffling of the wolf, he was glad that Draco had been the one to go first. He could tense with the excitement of the hunt, rather than with the paranoia that had consumed him when his victim was a vampire, and he trusted Draco to have chosen the best spot for their ambush.

He peered through a gap in the bushes, and caught a glimpse of grey fur. He nodded, though he kept the motion small so that he wouldn't make the bushes rustle and alert Fangfur. Yes, that had to be him, because he had a long white stripe across his nose, exactly the way that his victims' families had described him. And he was low-slung to the ground, slinking along with a predatory grace that an ordinary wolf or a dog wouldn't have.

He looked up at the house, and his lips wrinkled back from his fangs, baring enormous white teeth. Harry spent a moment looking at the amber eyes, because he had promised Draco he would, but couldn't see any trace of sanity in them, so he couldn't tell whether Fangfur was under the influence of Wolfsbane or not. Harry thought he almost had to be, because otherwise he how would he know to go after his chosen victim instead of attacking anyone he met? But maybe he just transformed on the outer edge of his victim's property and let himself go with his instincts, which were probably oriented towards biting children.

Harry whistled to call Draco with him, because when he attacked there was no need to be secret, and leaped out of the bushes with his first weapon, a long silver chain, whirling around his head.

Fangfur recoiled, but surged forwards when Draco leaped down on him from above, riding him like a Muggle on a bull. Fangfur was howling, Draco was making a wordless, vicious sound that Harry would have called a snarl except it was too thick, and Harry was reminding himself that he didn't need to worry about hitting Draco when he brought the chain down, because Draco could always heal.

Harry lashed out, and the silver caught Fangfur across his white stripe.

He screamed, and then screamed again. Harry knew that Draco must have dug his fangs in.

But apparently being a werewolf had taught Fangfur something about combat. Despite the enormous pain he must be in, he crouched, growled, and leaped at Harry.

Harry hadn't hunted vampires without learning something himself. He rolled out of the way, ducked into the bushes again, and dug out the clinking silver harness he had wanted to experiment with. He didn't know if they would have time to use it properly, but at least they could see how well it worked before their next werewolf hunt.

A chorus of shrieks and gurgles sounded to his ears. It made him smile, because that meant Draco was still functioning and Fangfur hadn't died too easily.

He burst out again, and hesitated, trying to understand the direction he should strike from. Fangfur and Draco were a tumbling, rolling ball of legs and nails and teeth and pale skin and grey coat. Finally he shook his head and waited until Fangfur stood upright, his shoulders tensed as he tried to throw Draco off. Then Harry slipped the silver harness around his left hind leg and fastened it with a click of the links.

Fangfur screamed more loudly than before. Harry smiled. He should. The silver harness was filled with their shared magic, which he and Draco had poured into it yesterday, after Draco fed from him. The harness would torture any werewolf that got inside it. Harry hadn't been more specific than "torture," but he suspected that Draco had, and caused the harness to imitate some actual curses.

The harness tightened, winding around itself, and at the same time Draco reared high, blood on his fangs, and then struck down like a snake.

Fangfur shuddered, a long motion that seemed to start in his muzzle and work its way swiftly back towards his hind legs, like the strike of a lightning bolt. Then he yelped, a piteous sound that would have had Harry feeling sorry for him if anything could, and slumped to the ground. Harry heard the pouring of blood, the tearing of flesh, and the sound of Draco feeding. He waited, pushing down the strange jealousy that Draco should feed from anyone except him. Yes, he felt that jealousy, but it was a rather stupid thing to feel, and there was no reason for it.

Draco pulled away from the werewolf's body at last, shaking his hands so that the blood fell off them to the grass. Harry smiled, and waited until Draco oriented on him again. Sometimes he was dazed after a particularly intense feeding.

"How did it taste?" he asked.

"Iron-like," Draco said, his voice flat but moving back towards the steady tone that Harry knew best quickly. "Strong. Nothing like yours. I wouldn't want yours to be like that." He grimaced and licked his lips again.

Only then did he seem to glance down and really realize that Fangfur was dead. He blinked twice and looked back at Harry. "We completed our first hunt?" he asked.

Harry nodded.

"Without anyone being wounded?"

Harry looked down at his body just to make sure, and then turned and glanced up at Draco. No, the chain hadn't hit him. "Without anyone being wounded," he said, grinning at Draco, joy filling him up like wine poured into a glass. He expected a grin in return and some remark about how Harry had obviously needed Draco at his side all those years.

Instead, Draco sprang forwards, set his hands on Harry's shoulders, and bent down to kiss him and suck at his lips.

It took all of Harry's concentration to draw his wand and Apparate them out of there. True, the Evening family probably wouldn't investigate the scene of Fangfur's death any time soon, not after hearing his death screams, but Harry still didn't want to be caught in the open kissing Draco by people who wouldn't understand.

Draco smelled familiar sheets and cloth as they landed in Harry's bedroom, and took a moment to feel grateful for his Long-Desired's magic. Even with Draco kissing him, he managed to land them in the right place instead of Splinch them.

And then Draco's pride reared up and demanded to know exactly why Harry was able to concentrate like that. Hadn't Draco done a good enough job of kissing him?

Draco whirled and threw Harry onto the bed. Given his strength and Harry's build, that caused Harry almost to crash into the wall. He lifted himself on his elbows and stared at Draco incredulously.

Draco wasn't going to apologize, not with the savage hunger that had come over him when he realized that they had survived, working as if they'd hunted together for years. He bent down and began to shear his fangs down the side of Harry's chest, cutting his robes off him.

Luckily, Harry understood what he was about and unbuttoned his shirt before Draco had to split that, too. His eyes were locked on Draco's face as he kicked his boots off and unclasped his belt. They shone with hard fervor.

Draco was sure his eyes looked much the same. He did bend, ready to cut Harry's trousers and pants, too, but Harry shook his head and yanked them off with undignified motions. Then he reached up and began to pull the red robe, which Draco had worn tonight because he wanted to see how well it would stand up to battle circumstances, away. Draco stood still passively and let him. He saw no reason to hurry Harry's admiration of him. Harry was beauty in motion, but when Draco stood still, then his chill perfection could best be admired.

Harry didn't take the time to admire it as he should. He dragged Draco onto the bed, and then reached for his wand. Draco tensed. He didn't know what Harry had planned, or if it would fit with his own plans.

But Harry conjured lubricant onto his own arse and Draco's cock, and Draco relaxed again, leaning forwards to breathe gently across the puncture marks.

"Not gentle, not this time," Harry panted, and pushed himself down and backwards, opening his legs with the same haste that Draco had used when he tossed him onto the bed. Draco licked his lips and eased Harry's legs up onto his shoulders. He couldn't keep himself from pausing, though. Given how dry his cock was, it might hurt Harry going in with as little lubricant as they had.

"Harry, if you want to—"

"No," Harry said, his eyes flaring so brilliantly that Draco hoped his friends could see them and knew what the light signified. "Go on."

Bowing to the inevitable, both Harry's desire and his own, Draco began to press forwards. Harry caught his breath and gasped once or twice, but in the end he was breathing noisily, his fingers clenched in the bedsheets, his eyes blinking rapidly, and Draco all the way within him.

Draco closed his eyes. It was like bathing with blood, a luxury that Caspar had sometimes indulged in and Draco never had. He had thought he would never get to experience it, since of course he could not drain Harry's body of that much liquid. But now—now, he knew.

"Move," Harry said, his voice harsh and grating.

Draco stared down at him. "Am I hurting you?"

"You're hurting me by staying still," Harry said, and then flung his head back, biting his lip, his eyes clouded with pain and determination. Still wild, Draco thought as he began to move, still victorious even though he was the one who had lain down for Draco.

And because he was like that, Draco knew that he would not mind lying down for him.

His hips surged, the bed rocked, and he pounded into Harry with all the force of flesh and bone and fang, the force that made him what he was. Harry met him thrust for thrust, his cock rising again, his face flushing with that beautiful blood that made him what he was and gave Draco life, and when he came, it was with a fierce and feral shout that tugged Draco's orgasm out of him and made him slip slickly back and forth in Harry.

"Next time," Harry said, as Draco collapsed and took deep breaths out of sheer mortal habit, "we'll have to go more slowly, and see if we can make it hurt less."

Draco raised his head and stared anxiously at him. "If I had known, I would have—"

Harry cut him off with a harsh kiss. "Listen to me," he whispered. "That was what I wanted. As a victory celebration, and a way of urging me past my fears for the first time. I didn't have time to think about myself and my silly little worries because I was watching your face." He paused, but then put a hand on Draco's cheek and shook his head. "You've brought me back to a world where pain isn't the most important thing anymore," he said. "I couldn't let it be the most important thing here, either."

Draco turned his head and kissed Harry's hand. He could feel his eyes fluttering, longing to close, and he muffled his moan against skin.

When he looked again, he found that his fangs had cut a delicate slice in the middle of Harry's palm.

Harry looked at it for a moment, then smeared the blood over Draco's lips.

Draco closed his lips around it in gratitude, watching in greed and desire and awe as Harry's pulse grew faster and his cheeks flushed yet again.


But the word felt wrong and insufficient, given that the blood was shared between them, produced by Harry's body and drunk by Draco's.

"Ours," he said aloud.

"Yes," Harry hissed back, and then he was kissing Draco and driving him backwards into the blankets, and his lips were smeared with blood, and his face was wild and free and familiar, and Draco tangled his fingers into Harry's head and yanked him down for another kiss.

There would be years of this, years of feeding and hunting and playing and biting.

Vampires might not know an afterlife in the conventional way of talking about things, but Draco was sure he had found his paradise.


孔雀翎 发表于 2011-9-1 07:39:32

恩~还好,这家伙最后终于开窍了。Draco变得好痴情啊,虽然Malfoy的骄傲好像都被折磨没了~居然还给Ron跪下- -我超想在红毛脸上跳个踢踏舞什么的...
这篇文作者着重放在剧情发展了哦,两人的感情互动比较少呢,尤其是H这里,先是无论如何都不开窍,拖到文章总进度5分之4以后,忽然顿悟了- -感觉有点突兀?~摊爪~

Lomonaaeren这个作者我也很喜欢呢,不止质量高产量也甚巨~我记得FF上她写了200个故事。论坛里有她的“A Year's Temptation”汗~那篇翻到快结束时停更的文

loll 发表于 2012-5-19 11:00:43


sanzang6 发表于 2013-3-22 15:31:42


易之 发表于 2014-12-17 19:06:07


esa410410 发表于 2015-1-10 14:51:30



yy92735 发表于 2016-4-30 13:58:45

看到最後 還好是好結局 不然就真的太令人難過了

懒惰的我 发表于 2016-5-15 09:52:55


Erin0411 发表于 2016-5-22 00:53:32


发表于 2016-8-5 12:31:38

Draco太让人心疼了。。不过小哈的性格里的确有倔强 顽固的地方。。经常钻牛角尖,这样磨难的让人纠,不过两个人的性格都很强,总得有人软下来 Draco做到这个地步无疑是真爱了 毕竟他曾经那么骄傲不是吗。
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查看完整版本: The Long-Desired (part 3 of the Two Hunter Series)