"Are you ready?" Harold asked.
They were inside Harry's room at the Leaky Cauldron. The old vampire was standing near the door, waiting for him. It had been a few days since their previous outing to Diagon Alley.
Harry reached for his wand on the bed. He thought about putting it in his back pocket, but then recalled Mad-Eye Moody's past warning, of wizards who had lost their buttocks from their own wands igniting. He frowned, and instead collected his coat from the desk chair, pulled the coat on, and put his wand inside.
"Yeah. Let's go."
"You'll need to start wearing leather soon." He pointed at his plain, non-leather clothing. "Your body will grow cold blooded in the next coming months. You'll freeze to death come winter."
The leather was intended to keep him warm, Harry had later discovered. His metabolism would increase, therefore his body temperature would decrease. Caroline had tailored a leather coat specifically for him - a long, black one for travelling. She had also in-lined his new school robes with leather shoulder pads and extra lining in the arms and back.
"I'm still getting over the idea that I'll have a lower body temperature than every other student. I will start wearing the coat and robes, though. Eventually."
Harold walked up to the bed. "All right. But here, before we leave." He took two books out from inside his leather coat. "We bought these for you. They'll give you something to look at whilst you're busy with school again."
The first was a black, dusty old book titled, 'The Standard Edition to Magical Misfortunes.' There was a bookmark between the pages, likely marking out the part about vampires. The second book was called 'Vampire Transformations', which had a dark red cover and gold lettering. It was large and clearly expensive.
"You didn't have to buy these," he said. "I'm sure Hogwarts has books."
"Magical Misfortunes is a good generalist account for describing vampire ailments, should you ever get sick. And the other book, well, it's the best thing to read on the subject," Harold replied. "We want you to be prepared."
A gust of wind hit the open windows, interrupting him. Harry turned. Sitting on the window pane was Hedwig. Her claws were digging into the woodwork. Her wings were flapping about, making the window doors creak and swing.
"Oh, you have an owl."
Harry strode over to the window. "I got her as a birthday gift when I was eleven. She always knows where I am. Somehow." He moved to his bedside table, and gestured to the bowl of water sitting on it. Hedwig flew over, landed in a ungraceful way, and started dipping her beak into the bowl, drinking. "I'll buy some treats for her at St Mungo's."
"Indeed. Best not keep Samuel waiting now, too."
They met up with Samuel downstairs at the Leaky's bar. Samuel had stayed down there to discuss the night's menu options with Tom. It was turkey and dumplings, which apparently the vampire wasn't keen on. Harry didn't ask if he'd managed to persuade Tom to change his menu.
It was a bumpy, quiet journey to St Mungo's. Completely unfamiliar, too. Harry barely recognised any of London's streets. Last year, The Order of the Phoenix had opted to take the Underground. Tonks' pink hair and Moody's magical eye would've attracted too much attention on London's buses, so they'd chosen to take cramped, darkly lit trains back then instead. Now he was journeying to the entrance of the hospital on a bus, seated next to two vampires. The notion that both Samuel and Harold could hide so easily amongst muggles, far better than half of the Order members, wasn't lost on him.
The bus pulled into a side-road and stopped. Harry bustled past a young business man to get off the bus. He found himself following the vampires, no idea himself of his whereabouts in London. Harold led them down several small streets to the very old-fashioned, brick-red department store, Purge & Dowse Ltd. The mannequins in the windows still looked outdated. Even the sign on the door, 'Closed for Refurbishment', had dust smeared across it.
Samuel made for a dummy in the third window along. "Been a long time since I've been 'ere." He turned back to it. "Three to see Sirius Black." The dummy nodded and motioned for them into step through.
Harry swallowed. A lump had seized in his throat at hearing the name of his godfather. He followed the vampires into the window, and let the familiar wash of the cool air flow over him. This time he wasn't surprised by the sight of the crowded reception. There were two standing in the queue for the Welcome Witch.
The first man was sent to the Creature-Induced Injuries Ward, First Floor, for second degree burns accidentally caused by his pet fire crab. The second, a woman, could hardly speak and had to demonstrate her ailments by use of her hands, mimicking herself drinking and pointing at her throat. The Welcome Witch sent her off to Potion and Plant Poisoning, Third Floor, then called out, "NEXT!"
Harry stepped forward. "Excuse me, I'm here to see Sirius Black. What ward is he on?"
"I'm his godson."
The Welcome Witch stared warily at Harry. "Black is on the Fifth Floor, Spell Damage. Private room, third door on the left. I'll let his Healer know that he has more visitors."
More visitors, Harry wondered. Had the Order of the Phoenix been visiting him? He hadn't heard from the Order members for over a month now.
Harry nodded and left for the far double doors. He could see Harold and Samuel following him, keeping aware of him. He hoped they would wait outside the room. If not, he'd request them to. Whilst he was grateful to have them with him to visit his godfather, he'd come close to losing Sirius twice now. In his third year. And now this summer.
They climbed several flights of stairs. Harry practically raced up them, and so by the time he'd reached the Fifth Floor, he was sweeping back the sweat on his brow. He pushed open the door to the Fifty Floor and stumbled into a narrow corridor. The door closed behind him slowly, automatically, having a metal frame installed above. As he waited on the vampires to catch up, he tried flattening his hair, pushing it behind his ears. I really need a haircut.
The third door on the left down the corridor opened. Out-stepped Draco Malfoy. Gracefully, Malfoy closed the door behind him. Harry didn't think the man had noticed him yet. Malfoy sighed, put his hands in his pockets, and turned to start his walk down the corridor. That was when Malfoy looked up and saw him.
"Oh, Potter. It's you." Malfoy walked towards him. "Healer Montgomery told me Black had another visitor. I tried to leave early. I didn't want anyone to, well, know I was here, but of course you would notice."
Harry scowled. "Why are you here, Malfoy?"
"I'm just visiting family. My mother and Sirius are - were - cousins." He folded his arms. "I'm not doing anything nefarious, Potter. Now if that is all, I'll kindly take my leave."
Malfoy side-stepped and made to walk around him. "Wait," Harry said, grabbing his arm. Malfoy gaped, opening his mouth like a fish. The sound of wood snapping, followed by metal crashing to the floor, echoed down the hall. Harry looked over his shoulder to see that the entrance door now lay limp against the wall. It's doorknob sat mangled on the floor, along with the, now broken, metal frame. "What was that?"
"Let go of my arm, Potter."
Harry turned back. "Wait - is - is Sirius okay? How is he?"
"Go see for yourself. And forget I was ever here."
Malfoy snatched his arm back. He proceeded to put his hands back into his robe's pockets and skulk off. Harold and Samuel both stepped through the doorway in that moment, laughing but stopping on noticing the broken door. Malfoy ignored them as he exited for the stairs; he assumed, probably, that the vampires weren't even with Harry.
"Still outside? Thought you'd be in there with Black by now, the way you skirted up those stairs," Samuel said. The vampire leaned against the hospital wall and glanced back at the entrance. "And - ah - what happened there?"
"I don't know. Malfoy was visiting him," Harry replied bluntly.
He didn't want to offer them anything more. He himself didn't know why Malfoy would want to see his mother's cousin. He didn't even know why Malfoy was alone; usually, the young man went everywhere with his Slytherin friends. Same could be said for me, Harry thought.
Harold bowed his head. "Take as long as you need. We'll clean up this mess outside."
That broke his thought process. Harry nodded and left them to enter Sirius' private room. His godfather was lying in his bed on his left side, facing the door. He looked up.
He closed the door and made for the chair beside his godfather's bed. The room was eerily quiet. He could even hear his own breathing. Why had Sirius been given his own room?
"How are you doing?" Harry asked.
Sirius sat up, groaning. Bellatrix Lestrange had cast the Cruciatus on him. Her husband, Rodolphus, had then left Augustus Rockwood to duel Kingsley Shacklebolt by himself, and joined his wife by casting another Cruciatus curse on Black. Two unforgivable curses at the same time.
"Better for seeing you, kid." Sirius coughed into his hand before lying his head back against a pillow. "Be even better when I finally get out of here."
His looks much resembled back when he'd escaped Azkaban. Waxy complexion. Long, unwashed hair. Sullen and unhappy.
"Why are you in your own room? Why not the main ward?"
"For my own safety, they say. Too many people distrust me, even though the Ministry has exonerated me of all crimes. No, no, the Healers don't want a previous Azkaban resident hanging around their normal patients." He groaned again. "It might also have something to do with my nightmares, or the strokes, but who can really say?"
"Just two. It's the nightmares, mainly. Hallucinations caused by the curses. Head Healer Montgomery says that I talk in my sleep, scare other patients. That I'll take ages to regain all my mental faculties." He shrugged. "Can't be helped, that. People should be scared of Voldemort and his Death Eaters. People should be angry. I could've had Bellatrix, I could've fought her off had her bloody husband not helped her."
"Bellatrix failed. I dropped the prophecy, she failed to get it from me. So I doubt Voldemort is too happy with her now."
"She'll regain his trust. Always does."
"I saw Draco Malfoy outside in the corridor. I think he didn't like me coming here, he broke the stairway door." Harry bit his lip. "I think it was accidental magic, though."
Sirius laughed. "Was it now?"
"Why is he visiting you?"
"Ah, ah, well, that - that is something I can't disclose, Harry. He came to seek advice on a private medical topic, which only a few Blacks suffer from, mind you. Poor bastard." Sirius chuckled. "He reminds me of myself sometimes, you know. Back before I became the rebellious Black."
"You don't think he's here under orders? Working for Bellatrix?"
"Draco? No, no, if Bellatrix wanted to kill me, she'd do it herself. I'm her cousin by blood, it's personal." Sirius placed his hand on Harry's shoulder. "Now, never mind me. Where are those Weasleys? They all standing outside? I'm assuming you came here with them, lad, not by yourself."
Harry realised then that Sirius didn't know that his own godson was a vampire. No one in the Weasley family knew yet. The Weasleys probably thought that Harry was still living with the Dursleys.
"Something happened over the summer while I was at Privet Drive, Sirius," he said, "something I need to explain." Sirius took his hand from his shoulder. "I was attacked by a woman. A vampire."
"One - no - two weeks ago. The vampire was captured by Death Eaters. Starved. When she was let loose, she was confused. Lost. And bloodthirsty." Harry looked down at the floor. He folded his arms over his knees. He hadn't really thought about how he'd tell everyone, and now we was. "Dudley rescued me, but I was unconscious. Not eating. Petunia wanted to take me to a muggle hospital. So the friends of the vampire who attacked me, they rescued me. They took me to the Leaky Cauldron, hooked me up to an IV fluid drip, and I recovered."
"You just recovered? From a vampire attack, you just recovered?"
"No, no, I'm a vampire now." Harry looked up. His godfather was staring at him. "The reason I was out of it wasn't because of any injuries, but because the woman's venom was mixing with my own blood. Vampire venom. I have it in me now."
"James Potter's son, a vampire. This day is full of surprises."
"You're the only one I've told. No one else knows."
Sirius threw back his bed cover. He was wearing a standard gown, but the gown looked wrong on the energetic man. "Harry, you - you need to tell the Order. Tell the Weasleys. I'm in a hospital bed, so I'm of no use." He reached out of bed to grasp Harry by the shoulders. "And you can't spend the entire summer at the Leaky hanging out with vampires, it's not good for you. Take the Floo network to the Burrow."
"All right, Sirius. I'll think about it."
Harry did think about it. He thought about writing or visiting the Burrow the next day. And the next day after. He did write a letter to Petunia, apologising for his sudden disappearance. He didn't tell her that he was a vampire; he only explained that he was well, staying with friends, and that he was grateful she had cared for him. He finished the letter with a promise to see her in the future and explain what had happened that night.
On the tenth of July, however, Harry finally decided that Sirius was right. He couldn't spend his remaining summer time with the two vampires, whom were fine in themselves but were certainly no Hermione or Ron. And they weren't Order members, either. And if Harry had any concerns about his transformation, he could write to Harold and Samuel.
Besides that, he was beginning to feel like a third wheel. The two husbands were content and clearly wanted to find their old friend again in spite of the attack.
"I need to leave tomorrow," he announced it that evening. Harold and Samuel were huddled together at a table in the Leaky. Between them were articles from the Prophet and plates of rice and roast potatoes. Harry sat in the chair opposite. "I need to tell my friends and family - in person - before I even think about returning to Hogwarts."
Samuel grabbed his husband's hand and squeezed it. "We understand. We can't keep staying here, either. We need to return to our own friends and set some things straight. Can't have everyone thinking that vampires are on the Dark Lord's side."
"You will keep in touch with us, won't you? By owl?" Harold asked.
"Fair enough, then. But read this before you do anything," Samuel said, passing Harry one of the many newspaper articles. "You'll have no issue going back to Hogwarts, I think."
A Creature Tower
On the 5th July, Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, sent private information regarding the medical histories and bloodlines of certain students to Mister Rufus Scrimgeour, newly appointed Minister of Magic. While these students have not been named, the Minister has confirmed that the information has revealed a great number of students of whom retain both creature genealogy and the ability to cast magic.
Construction is underway at Hogwarts to build a new tower that will house the students, enabling them to continue and finish their studies whilst also supporting their development as magical creatures. Mister Scrimgeour has confirmed he will enact a new education law later this month, which would see that future generations of wizards will not be outlawed from teaching or attending at Hogwarts based on their creature status. In the future, each student will be assessed on their danger levels and level of magical capability before being sent a Hogwarts acceptance letter at the age of eleven.
Headmaster Dumbledore has frequently attempted to promote creature-wizarding relations in the past by repeatedly hiring creatures. Professor Filius Flitwick, who has occupied the post of Charms Master since the 1970s, maintains an eighth of goblin blood. Mr Rubeus Hagrid, known half-giant, expelled in his third year at Hogwarts, is currently employed as the school's gamekeeper. And Mr Remus John Lupin was hired for the Deference Against the Dark Arts' professorship post in 1993, which he then resigned from in 1994 when his werewolf heritage came publicly to light.
It is not yet clear how creatures will be assessed, nor if some species will be entirely banned from attending. Nevertheless, Mister Scrimgeour has insisted that the education of creatures, enabling them to broaden their magical talents in a safe environment, and not restrict their growth, is paramount in the fight against You-Know-Who and his Death Eaters.
For more information, please write to our Public Relations Department.
Harry put the article to one side. Fair enough, creatures could return to Hogwarts, but he wasn't sure if Dumbledore would allow vampires in. What was the danger level of a vampire?
The next day, Harry made sure to pack his trunk. He cast 'Tempus and saw that he was running on time. He'd sent a letter by owl to the Weasleys the evening before, to inform them of his intention to floo over the following day. Hedwig had returned with a simple note from Ron, welcoming him to use the floo.
Harry hoped they'd be as welcoming once they found out that he was a vampire.
He dragged his trunk from room eleven to the fireplace in the Leaky's hall. He'd already sent Hedwig flying on ahead to the Burrow. Now, he only had to leave himself.
Harry glanced over his shoulder. Samuel was approaching him from the staircase. The young vampire was alone. His hair was wet and splattered across his face, presumably from having been outside in the pouring rain earlier.
"Yeah, packed it all this morning. Where's your husband?" Harry asked.
"In a fireplace call with the Head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures." He scrunched up his nose. "The Ministry prefer speaking to Harold alone on calls, especially when it concerns Death Eaters. They don't want opinions from squibs, never mind vampire squibs."
"That isn't right. You're still as much threatened by Voldemort as anyone else."
"It's fine. Not like I love speaking to officials; no, that's more Harold's line of work." Samuel waved him off. "Don't worry yourself, Harry. You just make sure to owl us if you need anything."
"I will. Say thank you to your husband for me." Harry rubbed the back of his hair. "If the Weasleys...if they don't want me in their home once I tell them I'm a vampire, I'll have to come back here."
"I'm sure your friends will be okay with it, Harry. I'll let Harold know you said goodbye. It was nice meeting you." He leaned against the pillar and smiled. "Now remember, speak very clearly."
Harry turned back again. He grabbed a fistful of floo powder, picked up his trunk, and stepped into the fireplace. "THE BURROW!" he shouted, and threw the powder at his feet.
Stumbling out of the fireplace, trunk in hand, Harry bent down and coughed into his free hand. He stood and peered around, taking in the quietness around him. It was strange being back at the Burrow.
"HARRY!" he heard Mrs Weasley call. He moved out of the fireplace, glanced into the kitchen, and saw her placing a plate of pancakes on the table. She was wearing a flowery green dress, covered by a pink apron. "Oh! In here, dear. My, you have gotten skinny. Or it could be because you're getting taller. Ron is, too, mind you."
"It's good to see you, Mrs Weasley," Harry said, amused. He had missed her.
"Have you had breakfast yet?" He shook his head. "No? I can't believe it. You're just like Bill and Percy, forgetting to eat. Well, Ron and Hermione will be down here now any minute, you may as well sit and have the first serving."
There was a tower of plates on the table. He grabbed one, sat down, and then eyed the bottles of honey and lemon next to the plates. He watched Mrs Weasley cook, and listened as she brought up that Mr Weasley was working late once again. I'm a vampire now, he thought nervously. I can't hide it, I need to tell them.
"Hey Harry, where were you?" Ron asked, approaching the kitchen from the stairway in the outside hall. He was certainly taller, but not gangly like Harry was now. Ron sat himself down and reached for a plate. "Dumbledore said he was going to get you from the Dursleys, but then said you'd already left. What happened?"
Harry rubbed his neck. "I was attacked at the Dursleys. By vampires."
It was getting too much. Cedric's death. Voldemort's return and his ability to project false information to Harry, using Sirius against him to seek out the Prophecy. Sirius had almost died. And now the attack at Privet Drive.
"You - what?" Ron spluttered. Mrs Weasley had stopped watching the pancake she was making; she had turned and was now staring at Harry.
Hermione appeared in the doorway, and she shouted, "Harry!" She looked different. She was dressed in a pale blue shirt and a pair of jeans. Her bushy hair was up in a bun. She did look taller and a little too pale, but Harry chose not to ask about that. He hadn't seen her for weeks. "I'm so glad you're here. I thought I'd heard your voice."
She flew over to him and hugged him from behind, clutching him around the shoulders.
"Harry was attacked by vampires, Hermione," Ron told her. "Vampires!"
Hermione retreated back. She furrowed her brow and took the seat beside him. "How? Dumbledore always implied that you were safe at the Dursleys."
"I wasn't in their home at the time," Harry replied. "I was out for a walk in the neighbourhood. A witch - she appariated into the park. She killed one of Dudley's friends. We ran, and I was trying to protect them but I can't cast underage magic outside of Hogwarts, and - and she got me. Bit me. There were two other men who appariated. They stopped her."
"Stopped her?" Mrs Weasley inquired. She tipped her wand, and the pancake flipped itself in the pan. "How did you survive being bitten, dear?"
"I didn't. I - I'm a vampire."
"So her venom took to you and infected you," Hermione murmured, seemingly thinking to herself. "Oh Harry, we had no idea. How did you survive by yourself? The Dursleys couldn't have known what to do."
"Dudley dragged me home, but you're right, Petunia tried her best. I think she genuinely cared. She didn't know what to do when I wouldn't wake up, though. She wanted to take me to a muggle hospital. That would've been chaos, worse than when we drove your dad's car across London," Harry said, grimacing at Ron. "The two men who'd saved me overheard her. They took me to the Leaky Cauldron to recover, and I've been staying there since with them. It's only been nine days since I was bitten. Feels longer than that, honestly."
"So, err, when do you start drinking blood?" Ron asked, chuckling. He brought his arms to rest upon the table. "Cause, you know, even though we're best mates, I'm not offering or anything -"
Hermione cut him off. "Ronald, Harry doesn't need to start drinking yet. That doesn't happen for another few weeks. God, did you read anything on dark creatures for Deference Against the Dark Arts back in third year?"
He shrugged. "Only the stuff on werewolves, for Remus and all. Didn't think I'd need to know much else."
"Of course that's what you'd think. Now look, your best friend is a vampire and you know nothing about them!" Hermione moaned. She turned to Harry. "Don't worry, Harry, we'll get Ron up to speed quickly."
"So, it's okay if I stay until we return to Hogwarts?" Harry asked, looking back at Mrs Weasley. He was surprised she had taken the news so well, but then again, she was friends with Mad-Eye Moody and Remus Lupin. And she'd raised Fred and George, too. "You're okay with me being here?"
"Of course we want you here! Don't be so silly, you're staying," Mrs Weasley barked. She waved her wand and the pan on the stove floated towards him. The pancake slipped slowly onto his plate, before she then gestured to the bottles of honey and lemon. "Now eat up. We'll talk more once everyone has had breakfast."