House Category: Hufflepuff
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Lorcan d'Eath, Albus Dumbledore, Severus Snape, Eldred Worple, and several original characters/various pairings implied and otherwise
Beta Reader(s): arynwy and shiv5468
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): For taking inspiration from one of J.K. Rowling's Wizards of the Month and other canonical liberties—and one "staking."
Summary: Lorcan d'Eath, part vampire and all hormones, finds that it isn't too bad, being a 'Puff. While sorting himself out at Hogwarts, he also learns that loyalty isn't a trait solely confined to the members of his house.
"Familia fideles defendit, Lorcan," his father told him, as the d'Eaths dismounted from their thestral-drawn carriage before Hogwarts' great main doors.
"Yes," agreed his mother, 'family protects the faithful ones', and your house will be your family, now."
"Don't want a house. Have you."
His father smacked him upside the head. "Speak clearly and completely boy."
Mulishly, Lorcan replied, "I don't want a house here. I have you." He stepped backwards as he caught the hardening reddish cast of his father's eyes. "I have our family. I don't need another."
His mother shook her head and laid her warm hands on his shoulders. "Oh, but you do, for you see, we will not always be able to protect you."
"No, Laird," his mother said, her eyes on Lorcan's, "the boy needs to understand."
"What the boy needs is to obey."
His mother turned to face his father at that. "Husband, blind obedience is a sickness, one befalling many of your kind. If our son is to grow to manhood, he needs to understand why we're leaving him here."
Lorcan saw his father's expression soften as he nodded his assent, and then his mother returned her attention to him.
"You must be brave and do everything within your power to fit in. If you do not make a place for yourself amongst—"
"The cattle?" Lorcan asked, his ears ringing before he'd completed his question.
His father moved more quickly than could be perceived when he wished to do. Lorcan rubbed his ear.
"I've no doubt that people are watching," his mother murmured, through a tight smile.
His father's reply was typical. "Let them."
Wishing to avert a row between his parents, Lorcan said quickly, "Forgive my insolence, Mother."
"I shall if you heed me, young man."
Lorcan remained silent, conscious of his father's gaze, which he could feel boring into the back of his head.
"You know that your father means to Turn me soon. You know why." His mother tilted her head and raised her eyebrows in a familiar gesture of expectation.
Lorcan nodded. He did know why. His father couldn't protect her from the men who would see him serve if he didn't Turn his mother. At least, that's what his father thought, but he only thought it because of his stupid desire to be like the other great men of his homeland, the great wizards to whom his mother had introduced him.
But they won't bother coming to the aid of such as father, and Mother will be new. She'll be weak—and what's to stop the evil ones from wanting her service, too?
Common sense and his mother's continued speaking kept him from voicing these thoughts aloud.
"Once that's done, he and I will begin my vampiric education, and you will have to . . . learn a greater independence than heretofore you've known while your father and I set things to rights. We have explained enough of this to you that you should not be balking about it now."
"Yes, but I want to help, too, so why can't I begin my vampiric education?"
His father's voice seemed to fall on his ears from a great height. "You are too young."
His mother issued a pointed cough.
"And I must honour your mother's wish that you not be Turned."
Lorcan looked down at his feet, suddenly feeling hot and prickly and nauseated; it was the way he always felt when contemplating his parents' history and the circumstances surrounding his birth—and exactly the same way he'd felt after eating his first solid food.
Distractedly, he thought, I miss blood. I miss its heavy, coppery taste, and the way it coats—
"Lorcan, do pay attention to me when I'm speaking to you," his mother said, capturing his attention even as she released him and stepped back.
He looked up, feeling his shoulders chill as his body temperature reasserted itself in the absence of her touch and missing it at once.
"I'm not saying you might never know the fullness of your paternal heritage, but for now, you must experience mine. Whatever path you ultimately choose for yourself, you must know how to get on with those not of the Blood—those who are not bloodthirsty in the common meaning of the word. Tell me that you understand."
Lorcan knew that to say otherwise would earn him a severe checking from his father, and he wished to comfort his mother; he could hear the pleading note in her voice, and so he nodded, thinking, Fuck you, Lord Voldemort.
His mother brightened. "Good! That's my brave boy. Now, let's go in and meet Headmaster Dumbledore. You'll need to be Sorted before you can become a student here."
With his parents flanking him as they walked up the steps, Lorcan asked, "Why go to the trouble? Father's father was a Slytherin—"
"That was over three hundred years ago, boy," his father interrupted.
"—so they should know I'll Sort the same," Lorcan said, determined to avoid what silly traditions he could.
"Your mother was Slytherin, as well, but the formalities must be observed."
His mother stopped. "Darling, I never said that I Sorted Slytherin."
"Lavinia?" his father asked, the word slicing sharply over Lorcan's head and almost becoming lost as the calm evening was disturbed by an unexpected gust of wind.
Swallowing nervously, Lorcan moved back down a step.
"I can't think why you persist in making assumptions when they've never served you well."
The wind grew stronger, and crisp moonlight escaped the clouds to illuminate the stairs. It was more than enough light for Lorcan to see that his mother's wand hand was poised over her wand pocket. He moved down yet another step, neither of his parents appearing to notice him.
"Just which house was it, wife, into which you were Sorted?"
"Better be . . . Hufflepuff!" the Sorting Hat exclaimed.
Professor Dumbledore's eyes twinkled as he removed the Hat. "Family does protect the faithful, doesn't it? Your mother will be pleased."
"How will she know?" Lorcan asked sulkily. "I'm not to be permitted to write her."
"An understandable precaution, that," Dumbledore remarked, still twinkling. "There are other means of communication that are not denied me. I assure you, your parents will know how you go on here."
"Professor, perhaps you shouldn't tell them. Father won't be pleased by my Sorting. He'll blame—he expected me to Sort Slytherin."
"Nonsense. Your father understands the Sorting policy perfectly well. It's quite usual for a child to Sort as did one of his parents, and so you have done. In any case," Dumbledore continued, smiling kindly upon Lorcan, "there's nothing he can do about it now."
"He could remove me from the school."
"He won't. He knows that you're safe here," Dumbledore told him with confidence. "Come, let's introduce you to your new house mates. They'll be most interested to meet you. We've never had someone with your . . . pedigree at Hogwarts before. I would advise you, however, to be circumspect about it."
His sore ear throbbing anew, Lorcan said, "So Father has already advised me, sir," before thinking, of course, how I'm supposed to hide what I am is beyond me. My fangs don't retract like a full-blooded vampire's.
In spite of his concerns, Lorcan found that it wasn't all bad, being a vampiric 'Puff. Having received a Muggle education from a succession of tutors at his family's ancestral home in Romania, their holiday chateau in France, and their second home in Scotland—where he'd lived the past two years while being prepared for his more formal education—Lorcan was able to enter Hogwarts as the Sixth Year he would have been had he begun his studies with the rest of his year-mates in seventy-five. It was a great relief to him that he was often more advanced than his peers, as well, particularly in double Potions, which the Hufflepuffs of his year took with their Slytherin contemporaries. Lorcan would have been horrified to have dishonoured his father by earning anything less than top marks in the presence of Slytherins—and afraid to have done. He'd known his mother's love, but he'd always believed that his father merely tolerated him. Increasingly, however, his fear of his father ebbed as he grew accustomed to his surroundings and the other students began befriending him.
Making friends was helped along by the fact that people were curious about him, but sometimes, said curiosity manifested itself in their fawning over him in the hope that he might take them into his confidence with regard to his heritage. Professor Slughorn, for example, invited him to something he called the "Slug Club" and seemed fascinated by Lorcan in a way that he found a bit "creepsome." Creepsome was Albert Warbeck-Liltington's word. As soon as they'd begun spending time together, Warbeck-Liltington had warned Lorcan not to go to his Head of House's supper party, but Lorcan hadn't taken his advice; he hadn't felt he could refuse a professor, especially a Slytherin one. He rapidly changed his mind at the club's first meeting, however, when he met an arrogant, affected ponce of a Seventh Year with grabbing, clammy hands and a high, grating tone of voice called Eldred Worple. Worple followed Lorcan around for weeks afterwards, backing him into corners and begging to be permitted "the great honour" of telling what he'd taken it upon himself to characterise as Lorcan's "tragic, vampirical tale."
"Did he really say that to you?" Warbeck-Liltington asked, one morning as they were leaving the Great Hall together. "My sense of literary parallelism is deeply offended."
Lorcan gave a rueful laugh. "Mine, too, but he's said worse, and I'm getting tired of—fuck, he's calling me. Keep walking!"
"Oh, d'Eath!" Worple sang out, slightly out of breath as he caught up and fell into step with them. "You've been hiding from me, you teasing, broody little thing."
"I don't think 'broody' is the word you're looking for," replied Lorcan irritably, as Warbeck-Liltington took Worple by the arm.
"Walk on, my friend. I need a private moment with His Words, here."
As Worple protested, Lorcan did walk on, but slowly; his hearing was quite good and he wanted to know what Warbeck-Liltington was about.
He heard him say, "You know they're just for show, right?"
"I said, let go of—wait, what do you mean by that?"
"I mean that you should leave off frotting d'Eath in dark corners because he's not your sort—doesn't bite, does he?" Warbeck-Liltington retorted, and then he returned to Lorcan's side.
"You're a magnificent arse, you know," said Lorcan admiringly.
"Yours is nice, too, but then, I reckon you know that by now."
What Lorcan did discover, in the wake of being disinvited to the next Slug Club affair, was that he was able to put off most people's questions about his background simply by smiling in a speaking way and saying something vague and enigmatic about it; that suited him better than enduring the sort of confrontation that so clearly delighted Albert. He did, on one or two occasions, find it necessary to blank his expression and curl his lip in derisive warning for the worst of the curious, but it was amazing, really, how just the hint of a gleaming fangtip could quell the ruder students with whom he came into contact. Eventually, however, he attracted the notice of the beautifully persistent, and being a healthy sixteen-year-old boy, with them, he took a new tack with regard to the topic of his birth, one that was helped along by his intimidating height, fortunate genetics, and androgynous appeal.
"So," Elspeth Spriggs, a stunning Ravenclaw in his year asked him one evening as he was leaving the library, "how does this 'part-vampire' thing work, exactly?"
Lorcan favoured her with a roguish look as he drew her into an alcove. "I'm not much for metaphysics, but I know the process." Elspeth's eyes widened in the dim light behind the tapestry, and Lorcan allowed the persuasion he was heir to fill his gaze. "Shall I demonstrate it for you?" he asked, hoping for a kiss, and perhaps to be allowed to slide his hand up under Elspeth's rather bountiful jumper.
To his surprise, she responded by lowering herself between his knees and proceeding to demonstrate an amazingly welcome skill of her own, and when he returned, about an hour later, to his common room—without quite knowing how he'd got there—it was to discover that he was holding her knickers in his hand. He couldn't find anything in his behaviour about which to feel guilty as he rushed up the stairs to his room.
His dorm mates, who'd heretofore contented themselves with playing stupid tricks on him—such as leaving garlic under his pillow and charming a trickling stream to run between the door to their room and Lorcan's bed—noticed his prize and immediately and proudly proclaimed him the "Chief Lothario of the Yellow and Black." After that evening, the only garlic Lorcan encountered was in the Great Hall, and he never had to go to bed with wet feet again. Pleased by this turn of events and not wishing to let down his mates, Lorcan set about upholding his new title with a dedication far greater than that which he paid to his studies. It was easier to lose himself in a vigorous social life than to pay attention to what was happening outside the safety of Hogwarts' walls. Thus, his "sixth" year passed pleasantly and quickly.
As the summer hols approached, however, a grim-faced Professor Dumbledore summoned Lorcan to his office.
"Forgive me for interrupting your playing," Dumbledore said, indicating the guitar that Lorcan carried with a nod of his head.
"Of course, sir."
They sat, Dumbledore behind his desk, and Lorcan in front of it, leaning his guitar against his legs.
"Are you good?"
"So people tell me, although El, er, that would be Elspeth Spriggs, thinks my songs are too 'punny' to be taken seriously."
That earned him a slight smile from the Headmaster. "The highest form of humour," he murmured, before shaking his head and continuing. "I've received news about your parents."
"'About', not 'from', sir?"
"How quick you are. Yes, about them. It seems they've found it necessary to quit your father's home in Romania. They had . . . unwelcome visitors."
Lorcan took a deep breath and slowly released it. "I know Father was concerned about that. He's been approached before, sir."
Dumbledore nodded. "It seems that Lord Voldemort is determined to increase his ranks, and he counts scores of vampires among them already."
"Yes, sir," Lorcan replied, unsure how else to respond. His father had explicitly warned him not to discuss familial matters with anyone at Hogwarts, but something in the professor's expression wouldn't allow him to remain silent. "I expect Voldemort wants my father because he's . . . because he's so—"
Lorcan nodded in relief.
"Yes," Dumbledore said, "and to convert your father to his cause would mean that Voldemort could count on nearly every Eastern European vampire being brought under his heel."
It had been months since Lorcan had contemplated the topic, and suddenly, he found himself angry and disgusted as he stared at Dumbledore. "Then I suppose it's a good thing they don't know about me, isn't it?"
Dumbledore stared at him for a moment, and then he sighed. Quietly, he said, "It is my understanding that your father didn't know that your mother was pregnant when he . . . ."
How diplomatic you are, you old fart, Lorcan thought, mortified to learn just how much about him the Headmaster knew and trying to allow his anger to wash away his embarrassment. "It's a crime against the Blood to Turn a pregnant woman. No two half-vamps are ever born the same way, and pure vamps don't like surprises. 'Abominations' aren't tolerated."
"Do you truly think of yourself as an abomination, dear boy?"
Absurdly, Lorcan found himself thinking of El's favourite American writer, some hack called Lovecraft; there weren't powers of Glamour enough to prevent his best girlfriend from reading the crazy bastard's work to him, and it infected everything of late, his memories of shagging El, his own taste in literature, the songs he wrote—but he decided that the phrase which had sprung to mind was appropriate as he answered Dumbledore.
"I'm 'a thing that should not be', sir. The others would destroy Father and come after me if they knew he'd permitted my birth. They'd kill Mother, too."
"And yet the others do not know. By placing you in this school, your parents have made it clear to anyone interested that you are merely a wizard like any other—one with an understandable fixation on vampires, perhaps, given your mother's marriage to one—but a normal boy nonetheless. I think, however, you understand that it was not vampires whom your father feared when he left you in Hogwarts' care."
"With respect, this pile of old stones offers no protection for me. It's you my parents trust."
"To trust me is to trust the school. Its protective charms have ever been strengthened by those who have taught within its walls, but that's neither here nor there—have you been approached?"
Dumbledore's change of subject was abrupt, but Lorcan understood him perfectly well. "No, sir," he lied.
"Who approached you, Mr d'Eath?" the Headmaster said, steepling his fingers and leaning back in his chair.
Some impulse made Lorcan run potions ingredients through his mind. "No one, sir."
Dumbledore smiled and leant forward. "Sherbert Lemon?"
The bowl of sweets on the desk before him moved towards Lorcan.
"Or would you," Dumbledore continued, as a bag of gleaming red orbs rose from a drawer and moved to levitate before Lorcan, "prefer a blood stone?"
Deeply offended, Lorcan stood straight up. "I'm not a vampire!"
"No, but you are half-heir to your father's heritage, and I know you drink blood."
Dumbledore's eyes bore into Lorcan's, but Lorcan refused to look away. "If you know that, then you know it's always consensual."
"What I don't know is how you managed to achieve the Gryffindor girls' dormitory."
Lorcan grinned. "What have you to say about the castle's protections now?"
"That I would caution you against visiting Miss Pendleton again, Mr d'Eath, as I've made one or two changes to the wards that you might find unpleasant to test."
Dumbledore's eyes weren't twinkling now, and Lorcan felt himself swallow. "Yes, sir. I . . . I apologise for my outburst, sir." He took his seat again. "You were telling me about my parents?"
"No, I was attempting to discover whom among your peers it was that approached you about serving Lord Voldemort."
"I . . . I don't want to say."
"I expect you don't, Mr d'Eath," Dumbledore replied, as the blood sweets disappeared with an acrid pop! and the bowl of Sherbert Lemons, precariously close to the edge of the desk, began to fall off it.
The bowl was in Lorcan's hand before he knew that he'd moved.
"Yes, strongly heir to your father's heritage."
Flushing hotly, Lorcan replaced the bowl and leant back into his chair. "It's just talk, sir. Stupid words from bloody idiots who know nothing of the world!"
Elspeth wouldn't kiss him—she didn't go in for kissing, she'd told him—but she'd let him do everything else, and Lorcan didn't think she truly believed half the idiocy she often spewed after a good shag. He wouldn't betray her.
"Have a Sherbert Lemon and calm yourself," Dumbledore suggested.
Before the old man could bring out the other sweets again, Lorcan popped one into his mouth.
"You've been enjoying yourself here, I think, and in spite of your lack of effort, performing admirably in your classes. I am happy to see you doing so well."
Dumbledore droned on, and Lorcan didn't pay him particular heed—which was fine, until he realised that he was finding it difficult to concentrate.
That sensation passed quickly enough as the Headmaster said, "I must ask you again, Mr d'Eath: who approached you with regard to becoming a Death Eater?"
"It was—" Lorcan forced himself to stop speaking just in time. Fuck. Oh, fuck! I've eaten doctored sweets! "It was . . . none of your . . . business."
He had to speak; he couldn't help it, but he found, thanks to his sodding heritage no doubt, that he retained some measure of control over the words that issued from his mouth.
"None of your business, none of your business," he repeated, until, after what seemed an inordinately long time, he managed a "none of your business, sir."
Ridiculously, the twinkle returned to Dumbledore's eyes. "Well done. I expect your resistance wasn't to do with any antidote work you've been conducting in Advanced Potions?"
As angry as Lorcan was, his exhaustion was greater; all he could reply with was a simple, "No, sir."
Sighing, Dumbledore regarded Lorcan with something akin to pity. "Do you know why it is you told me you weren't a vampire, Mr d'Eath?"
Unable to think of a reason, Lorcan shook his head. He wasn't about to tell the Headmaster that he thought what he'd meant to say was that he wasn't his father, his father who apparently hadn't killed those unwelcome visitors of whom Dumbledore had spoken.
"I don't understand, sir."
"Well, I expect an explanation will come to you by and by, but it will be, of course, none of my business. You may go."
Lorcan rose to do just that but stopped as Dumbledore spoke once more.
"You will not take blood again, Mr d'Eath, not at Hogwarts—however willing your 'donor'."
His back to Dumbledore, Lorcan felt the wizard's words strike him as strongly as ever he'd felt the pain of his father's gaze and hurried from the room lest they leave a mark. When he'd achieved the corridor that opened outside of the revolving stair that led from the Headmaster's office, he had to admit it: there was something reassuring about the stones. He pressed his forehead against them and was comforted by their warmth.
Odd. They've always been cool before, he thought, trying to make sense of the unpleasant scene in which he'd just participated. How did he know about El?
Once he was calmer, Lorcan decided that Dumbledore hadn't known about her; it was more likely, or so he told himself, that the Headmaster had guessed it likely that someone had approached him at Hogwarts based on the knowledge that someone had approached his father in Romania. Lorcan didn't wonder at all about how Dumbledore had known about his visit to Prissy Pendleton; either she'd told him, herself, or the wards had alerted him in some way.
"Stop tattling on me, you old pile," he whispered to the castle, as he straightened up and smoothed down his robes. He thought again of Dumbledore's reaction. "Could have been worse."
He wouldn't take blood again, he decided, not because Dumbledore had ordered him not to, but because when he described blood-taking to El, her expression tended to turn covetous. Privately, he could admit that the look on her face made him as nervous as did her attempts to persuade him to go to that poxy summer meeting she'd been bleating about for weeks.
I don't want to meet with a representative of the Dark Lord. I'm never going to be that sort of death-eating twat!
Why Voldemort didn't just find a vampire and be done with it, Lorcan didn't know—there was no quicker way to achieve eternal life—but he set aside all such thoughts as he returned to his dorm because they put him too much in mind of his parents, and it had been obvious to him for some time that they no longer gave a Knut about him.
When he found his guitar, which in the same moment he remembered he'd forgotten, lying on his pillow, he realised that the reason he wasn't going to take blood anymore was precisely because Dumbledore had ordered him not to. Sleep was a long time in coming that night.
The summer hols passed as quickly as had his first term at Hogwarts, which suited Lorcan just fine in spite of his growing concerns about the future. He didn't know what he'd do after leaving Hogwarts; the idea of routing those vampires in his father's territory who were sympathetic to Voldemort's cause did not appeal; he was a musician, not a murderer, but unlike most artists, at least he had an income. An owl from a Romanian law firm had arrived during the Leaving Feast detailing various accounts from which he would be permitted to draw funds. That knowledge had been such a relief to Lorcan that he'd been able to stop considering his parents' and his own situations as much as he had been prior to receiving the news that he wouldn't starve. Going on with things, he'd spent his summer in pursuit of the perfect lyric, between Albert's thighs practising his fang control, and in spite of himself, listening to El read ridiculous, fantastical stories to him by the Black Lake. With so few other students at the school, it was almost possible to believe himself on an actual holiday, and Lorcan embraced his feelings of enjoyment against ones of anger and abandonment—until El told him her news.
"I'm leaving. It's time."
Lorcan grinned. "It is not time. The hols won't be over for another two weeks."
Her eyes narrowed at him. "No, Lorcan. It's time to meet the people I was telling you about. It's time to make a choice. Come with me."
"Stay," Lorcan replied, strumming a chord. "I want to be 'necks to you'."
"Would you be serious, for once?" demanded Elspeth. "You're never going to be a Blodwyn Bludd, you git! But if you'd listen to me, you might be great."
Lorcan laid his guitar in the grass and drew his knees to his chest, hugging them. Through the dark yellow glasses he wore, he could see how distressed El was, but he couldn't bring himself to share her emotion.
"So I'm not a full vampire with a, how do they always describe Bludd's sound? Ah, right, a 'sonorous bass baritone'. So what? I'll do all right as a tenor."
"There's more to life than playing with your bloody instrument, Lorcan. A war's coming. We have to pick the right side of it, and—"
"You think your precious Dark Lord leads it, yeah, I know."
"Don't be so disrespectful. You don't know his power. My cousin says that—"
"Who cares what he says? You don't actually know. You haven't met him!"
"That's what this meeting's about," El said, glaring at Lorcan.
He stood up. "If you know where he's going to be, then we should tell the Headmaster. The Death Eaters are hurting people!"
El rolled her eyes. "Not people, Lorcan, not really. Squibs and Muggle-lovers and half-bloods."
Lorcan's blood ran cold. "I'm a half-blood."
At once, El jumped to her feet, her expression softer, a slight, abashed smile on her face as she took Lorcan's hands in her own. "You know you're not whom I mean. You've got pure power running through your veins, a blend of the witch and the vampire. There's nothing to be ashamed of in that." She leant in close to him, her mouth hovering just out of reach of a kiss as if inviting one.
But when Lorcan leant forward, all he managed was the barest press of his lips against her own before she snapped her head back.
"Sod you!" he shouted, jerking his hands away. "You don't believe a word you just said! I'm not good enough to kiss, obviously, so go! Go to your stupid meeting. Meet your great lord. But don't come telling me about it. I don't want any part of it—or you!"
Lorcan began to run from El, but he hadn't got far before he smelt the charred wood and knew that his "best girlfriend" had set a burning charm on his guitar.
"Well, she's a crazy bitch and make no mistake," Albert said, when Lorcan explained the absence of his guitar over dinner.
"Don't talk about girls like that."
"Merlin, the sex must be good for you to be going over all feminist, man."
"I'm not. I just . . . it isn't right."
Albert shook his head. "You know what's really wrong, here?"
"What?" Lorcan asked, picking at the bloody steak on his plate and wishing it were all blood.
"My brother's got auditions coming up right before the start of term. I told him about you. He said he'd like to hear you play."
"So what? I've another year here before I'd be able to join if he wanted me."
"He'd keep you in mind, man. He's always losing guitarists, but you won't be able to audition without a guitar."
"Yeah, she definitely wasn't worth it."
Lorcan's glare met Albert's grin.
"Come on. I'll be worth it. Take your mind off witches for a while."
It didn't take much further persuasion for Lorcan to follow Albert to the Slytherin common room. Before following him inside, however, Lorcan paused.
"What is it?" asked Albert.
"You get that shit, you know, the whole 'let's go forth and eat death' kind of thing, being in his house and all?"
"Nah, I'm a half-blood, too. Makes me beneath the notice of His Great and Powerful Darkness's followers."
Lorcan pushed Albert against the wall. "I notice you."
"Yeah," agreed Albert, before kissing him.
Everything got harder after that.
Professor Slughorn wasn't there to greet them in Potions the following term. In his place was some melodramatic wanker with, based on his dress sense, a vampire fixation. He was called Snape, and he smelt strongly of furious grief and dried semen. As abandoned as Lorcan had felt by his parents, Snape looked, but there was no feeling sorry for the bastard. Well, almost no feeling sorry for him; Lorcan did muster some sympathy for him as he followed Snape's arse around the room with eager eyes and wondered if the prof might be up for a pull.
"Oi, that's just lovely," Albert said, as they left class. "I remember him from when he was a student here. He was a Fifth Year when I was a Firstie. Still not much of a charmer, I see."
"Er, I don't know. He isn't all bad."
"Couldn't keep his eyes off you, which of course you liked."
"Arse," said Lorcan.
"That, too." Albert snorted.
"Besides," continued Lorcan, "I was just trying to be nice."
"Don't waste your 'Puff sensibilities on him. I want 'em for myself."
Lorcan pushed Albert into an alcove. "Got your 'puff' right here."
He was just about to lean in for a quick snog when the tapestry was abruptly pulled back.
"Five points from Slytherin for consorting with a Hufflepuff!"
"Hey!" demanded Lorcan.
"And ten points from Hufflepuff for an indecorous display!"
With that, darkness returned to the alcove as Snape flounced off.
"Horrid old queen," muttered Albert.
Lorcan laughed. "Let's skip lunch after our next classes and resume said display in a more decorous location."
"Sod that—bring yer teeth. I'm in that kind of mood now, thanks to him."
Albert wouldn't have allowed Lorcan blood even if he'd been willing to take it, but he did enjoy being bitten.
"Greenhouse One it is!"
And so it was, too, but Lorcan was to find Snape with Albert in the greenhouse when he arrived. Standing just outside its door, he heard shouting.
"What are you about, risking your neck with a half-vamp? You did know that, didn't you? Have you learnt nothing in Defence?"
"Look, Snape, I—"
"That's Professor Snape to you! And don't think I won't be watching, Mr Warbeck-Liltington. If you won't worry about your useless hide, then I will. Dismissed!"
Snape stormed out of the greenhouse so quickly that he completely failed to notice Lorcan, who slipped inside it at once to find Albert.
"Still in 'that kind of mood'?"
Albert spat. "I hate that interfering git!"
Lorcan sighed in frustration, but instead of attempting to jolly Albert into a more receptive mood, he threw himself down near a raised bed and rummaged through his pockets until he found a bag of Bertie Bott's. "Here," he said, offering up the bag. "Food might improve your mood."
"No thanks," Albert told him, pulling a paper from his robes and tossing it to Lorcan. "Headline'd already killed my mood before I even saw Snape."
Lorcan stowed his sweets and smoothed out the copy of the Prophet, frowning at the headline: "Ministry Report Indicates Number of Missing Greater than Initially Believed."
"It's still happening, man," Albert said, beginning to pace. "First the Aurors Potter and their poor kid, and now more people going 'missing'—we've got to do something."
"Some of us already are," Lorcan muttered.
"You mean Elspeth?"
"Yeah. She isn't coming back, and if she's missing, it's because she wants to be."
Albert turned towards Lorcan. "Of course. Too embarrassed, she is, what with Voldemort's going the way of all flesh."
"Do you really believe that?" asked Lorcan.
"What? That the power of infantile magic managed to finish 'the greatest evil of our time'? No."
"So you do think he's alive."
"Well, no, that's not what I meant, and it's not like you to believe some fairytale, Lorcan. Voldemort murdered two Aurors. I mean, prolly more, but of course the Ministry isn't going to tell us about the deaths they can keep secret. No, I just meant that the Aurors must have been behind it. They got a bit of their own back in October, but it seems that wasn't enough. Someone's still 'disappearing' people."
"It stands to reason that the Death Eaters would be angry," Lorcan said, by way of agreement.
"Exactly, and I'm tired of this crap. I'm going to do something about it."
Albert cleared his throat and drew himself up proudly. "I'm going to join the Department of Magical Law Enforcement."
Lorcan burst into laughter, and he kept laughing until it dawned upon him that Albert wasn't sharing his mirth. "Oh, fuck. Really? You're really going to be an Auror?"
Albert glared down at him.
"Sorry, mate. It's just . . . I thought you wanted to join your brother's band."
Sounding very much as El had, Albert asked, "Do you never take anything seriously?"
"Sure I do," Lorcan asserted, rising to his feet. "It's just that I'm into other things than school and, well, politics."
"The Death Eaters have nothing to do with politics. They're a sodding cult without a leader, and someone's got to round 'em up."
"You sound like American telly, you know."
"What would you know about American telly?" Albert asked, only to immediately shake his head. "Never mind. Look, Lorcan, you're a mate, and I have fun with you, but I've got to start thinking about my future, and from what I know about you, it seems like you ought to be doing the same."
To Albert's retreating back, Lorcan retorted, "You don't know anything about me."
That evening, he skipped dinner and wrote a song called "Abandon Meant." He liked it for reasons other than the pun.
Never going to sing it for you, though, he thought, meaning Albert.
The Yule hols found Lorcan in Diagon Alley. He'd felt safe enough leaving the castle, and having reached his majority, there was no one to tell him he couldn't. After purchasing himself a new guitar, he went in search of future job opportunities. Income or no, Lorcan had decided that he had no wish to be completely idle after he left Hogwarts. He'd never worked before, but he figured it was probably the only way he'd continue to meet people before his singing career took off. So it was that he found himself meeting with Mr Slug, part owner of the Slug & Jiggers Apothecary.
"Mrs Jiggers does all our potions work."
"Yes, sir, but I thought perhaps she might be looking for a hand."
"What made you think that?"
"Er, the 'help wanted' sign in the window?"
"Ah, that," said Mr Slug. "Been meanin' to take it down. All we need is counter help—but only at the start of term. Come back next year."
"Thanks," Lorcan murmured, slouching out of the apothecary.
Because he wasn't paying attention, he almost bashed someone with his guitar case just outside the door.
"Is that Lorcan d'Eath I see?" the bloke asked, thrusting out a hand. "Andrew Warbeck-Liltington—call me Andy."
"Hello," Lorcan replied, shaking Andy's hand with his free one. "How did you—"
"Albert's told me all about you, and he's right: you're hard to miss. It's the hair, so long and black and shiny, and of course," Andy continued enthusiastically, "your overall look!"
Lorcan looked down at his bell-bottomed trousers and flowing shirt; his look didn't seem much different than Andy's.
"You still interested in playing live?" Andy asked, eying Lorcan's case. "'Cause we could use a charismatic sort on the guitar come spring. That's the beginning of the festival season, man, and audiences would eat you up—if you didn't eat 'em up, first!" Andy elbowed Lorcan good-naturedly and laughed, and the nude silhouette of a bird in pounded silver that he wore in one ear jingled.
Bells for boobs, Lorcan noticed. It was also clear to him that Andy wasn't bent, but he followed him to the Leaky Cauldron for a pint anyway.
"You and my brother, yeah?" Andy asked, over their third round.
"Beg pardon? Oh."
"Yeah. Oh. Don't worry, I don't mind. There's no shame in love."
Lorcan swallowed and shifted in his chair. "Actually, Albert's been a bit busy. You know he's planning to try for the Department?"
"So he wrote, but I'll believe it when I see it. He's a smart one, I'll give him that, but I just can't picture my baby brother in the red robes. What d'you reckon?"
"That I'd like to hear more about your band. What's it called this month?"
To Lorcan's relief, Andy allowed the conversation to turn. "Ah, I see Albert's told you I wasn't too keen to keep 'Angel's Dream'."
"Well, the boys and I figure we can't go wrong by honouring Auntie Celestina. We're going to call ourselves the 'Celestials'. Great name, right?"
"Sure," Lorcan replied, thinking it a bit precious but not caring much about that given the success Andy and his mates had been having. "The Wireless plays your latest song all the time."
"And they'll play our next one, too, if I can persuade you to join us. Alistair's leaving us for the bloody Muggle army come spring."
"Yep. Military service is a big deal on his father's side of the family—which is where the money comes from, too, which I guess explains that." Andy nodded at their empty glasses. "Next round's mine. Be right back."
The air temperature in the vicinity of their table went down a bit as Andy walked away, and Lorcan became aware that his back felt hot; it was as if his father were staring at him in disapproval. Scanning the pub, he quickly discovered why.
"Mother," he mouthed.
She was sitting alone at a table in the back of the pub, and even though the Leaky Cauldron was quite crowded, the tables ringing hers were also empty. She beckoned to him.
"Andy!" he called, over the crowd, pointing first towards the back and then down at his guitar, which he'd laid on one of the chairs at their table.
His new friend nodded, no doubt thinking Lorcan meant to visit the loo, and Lorcan went immediately to his mother's side.
"You're here! But why?" he asked, stooping to hug her.
"Not in here."
Confused by the coldness of her greeting, Lorcan obediently followed her outside.
"And are you planning to wear wings while you sing and play?" she snapped, as the pub's rear door slammed behind them.
"Hey, that's good," he said, pleased to see that his mother had picked up his father's skill at being able to follow one conversation among many. He made to hug her again. "I've missed you so much, Mother!"
She held up a hand. "Lorcan, you're not a child any longer."
Her rejection stung. "You . . . you haven't missed me." He felt stupid saying such a thing aloud, but he couldn't help himself, so great was his dismay at finding what he'd long suspected to be true.
"Of course I have, dear," she replied without warmth, "but we don't have time for an emotional scene. I've come to collect you. You needn't return to Hogwarts."
"But I've still got half a year to go!"
"You needn't return to Hogwarts," she repeated, and Lorcan felt the press of her words as he almost agreed with her.
"Don't do that to me."
"What did you say?"
"I said," Lorcan told her, balling his hands into fists, "don't do that to me. I'm your son, not . . . not one of the cattle."
His mother's mouth twisted into a slow and dangerous smile. "I know you've never thought of humans in that way, so don't waste my time attempting to shock me. But really, Lorcan, a band? You want to be a musician? Whatever for?"
"You told me that I should embrace your heritage, and I like music."
"I should have listened to your father about your education. It was the only thing about which he was ever right."
"What do you mean by that?" Lorcan asked, the hair on the back of his arms and neck raising.
"Why, that it was entirely unnecessary. The only sound you should relish is that of your victims' screams."
"Merlin, what happened to you?"
His mother laughed. "Funny you should ask that. It's precisely what Laird said before—well, let's just say that your father and I are no longer married. Once I've sorted you out," she said, taking a step towards him, "I'll explain everything."
Lorcan backed away from her until his mother had him pressed up against the slimy, piss-stinking bricks of the alley's far wall.
"What . . . what are you doing?"
"I am vampire now, my son, and soon, you shall be fully so."
To the person who'd just opened the pub's door, his mother ordered, "Go away if you know what's good for you."
Lorcan couldn't see who it was because his mother had risen up to sink her fingertips into his shoulders and was blocking his view with her body as she bent towards his throat, but the crack! of snapping wood that immediately followed her order was earsplitting.
Releasing him, his mother threw herself backwards through the air towards the poor sod, turning about at the last moment to strike—only to let out a ghastly shriek of surprise that rent the air in time with that of a sickening squelch.
For one awful second, Lorcan saw the ragged wooden end of a guitar neck jutting through his mother's back, and then she exploded into dust.
"Mother. Mother. Oh, fuck. Oh, no. Oh, hells!"
"Sorry, man," said Andy, brushing dusty remains off his chest as he dropped what was left of the guitar he'd been holding. "Old Tom said as how you'd followed a vamp out here—said you looked beglamoured—and the only wood I had was, er, your guitar. But I'll replace it! I mean, wait. That was your mother I just dusted? Oh, fuck, man. I'm so sorry! But she was trying to—"
"Stop babbling." For the first time in his life, Lorcan issued an order, the full weight of his paternal heritage larding his voice.
His eyes widening, Andy fell immediately silent.
Horrified to have exercised such power, Lorcan burst into tears. "I'm not . . . I'm not a vampire!"
Andy took a tentative step towards him and slowly reached out to grab one of Lorcan's gouged shoulders. Lorcan flinched and cried harder.
"Gonna hug you now," Andy said, and did so.
Lorcan could dimly perceive the warmth of Andy's body and melted against it as his own was wracked by sobs.
"Shh," Andy soothed. "Shh. You're safe now, kid."
"He is just a kid, isn't he?" another man asked then.
Lorcan and Andy turned as one to find Professor Snape standing in the open doorway.
Lorcan started as Andy asked, "You gonna make trouble, Firstie?"
"No," Snape said stiffly, "but I've got to get him back to Hogwarts before the Aurors Tom sent for show up. Say nothing of this!"
And that was how Lorcan found himself shaking before the fire in his Potion professor's private study, drinking strong liquor on the eve of Christmas Eve.
"Ten points to Hufflepuff for downing that all in one go," Snape said, tapping the rim of Lorcan's glass with his wand.
As it refilled, Lorcan muttered, "Thanks."
"You don't have to speak. In fact, I'd prefer it if you didn't."
Heedless of Snape's wishes, Lorcan asked, "You know Andy?"
"Not as such. He was a seventh-year Slytherin when—"
"You were a First Year, so I gathered."
"Two points from Hufflepuff for the interruption," Snape muttered, throwing himself down into the other chair by the fire.
"Thank you for the Firewhishky, er, whisky, Professor Snape."
"Two points to Hufflepuff for being respectful while inebriated—now shut it."
"My mother's dead. Andy killed her."
"No, some vampire did that."
"Hey, that vampire was my father!"
Snape shrugged. "Makes no difference to me."
"Why are you helping me? Shouldn't you have left me to the Aurors?"
"You're a Hogwarts student. I'm a Hogwarts professor. I don't like Aurors."
Lorcan blinked sleepily at Snape, thinking about what he knew of him. Suspected Death Eater. Questioned by Wizengamot upon arrest. Championed by Dumbledore. Released to look after fucked up students.
Snape saw him staring and blurted out, "What did you expect me to be? A monster?"
Lorcan shook his head as the effects of the alcohol—and probably a calming potion, he told himself ruefully—burnt off some of his lingering shock. He was cold. And lonely. And Snape was only just out of reach.
Leering, he asked, "Want to share a Yule log?"
Snape rolled his eyes. "Spare my your adolescent fantasies. I'm not bent, and I don't shag students."
"How'd'you know? Ever tried it?"
"Mr d'Eath, if you're feeling quite so 'recovered', perhaps you should return to your dormitory."
"Don't wanna." Lorcan licked his lips.
Snape's wand was suddenly in his hand. "I don't care. Go, and say nothing of the events of this evening. You wouldn't like Aurors any better than I do were you forced to endure them."
Lorcan slept the rest of that night and through Christmas Eve day to awake Christmas morning and find a large parcel at the foot of his bed. Flipping open the tag affixed to it, he read, Happy Christmas, kid. I know this won't make up for anything, but a guitarist shouldn't be without his instrument. Come see me in the spring; the Celestials want to hear you play. —Andy.
It was a beautiful guitar, expensive-looking, too, but Lorcan couldn't bring himself to touch it because it reminded him too much of his mother. Leaving it on his bed, he went to clean himself up.
Albert was waiting just outside of the Great Hall when Lorcan went down to breakfast.
"What are you doing here?"
"Great, Andy told you."
"Well, how the fuck couldn't he have done? Merlin, Lorcan! Are you all right?"
"I don't know what I am. I think . . . I think my mother may have killed Father."
"That's, er, bloody awful, mate. I'm sorry. Where are you going?"
Lorcan passed the doors to the Great Hall and kept walking towards the school's main ones. "Not hungry. Going to walk. Shouldn't you be with your family?"
Catching up to him, Albert said, "That's why I'm here, you great git! Family and friends—isn't that what the hols are about?"
"You didn't invite me for Christmas before you found out my mother was—"
"Yeah, I know, and I apologise for that. I thought you didn't want to have anything to do with me."
"I don't care about your wanting to be an Auror. Your future's your business," Lorcan told him, taking the stairs two at a time as he kept walking.
"Well, what about yours?"
Sighing, Lorcan paused to look at Albert. "I'm rich now, remember? And Andy still wants me to audition for his band."
"So that's it? You're going to forget all about your mum's dusting and carry on without even trying to find out what happened to your dad?"
"I didn't say that. I'll write to Father's solicitors as soon as I can see straight."
"What if they don't know anything?"
"Then I'll finish school and go see the Celestials. What else would you have me do?"
Albert ran a hand through his hair. "I don't know, Lorcan. I'm just . . . concerned."
Lorcan kissed him.
"That was nice, man."
"I'm really sorry about—"
"Please stop. I don't want to think about it. I really, really don't."
"So come home with me, then."
Abruptly, Lorcan found himself saying, "You know how it works, the vampire thing? This is how: if you're old and strong and have land, you're basically a king. No other vamp can enter your territory without your permission—on pain of death—and sometimes, death finds you anyway if the master doesn't like how you go on. Vampires fled before my father, Albert, if they didn't toady to him, and the ones who wanted to follow Voldemort? He left me here so that he could hunt them—with my mother! And apparently, she took to that idea so well she either killed Father in her eagerness to destroy the creatures she used to hate, or they parted ways because she was too vicious for Father—for my father, who as I've heretofore intimated, was a hideously scary fuck!"
Albert just stood staring at him, so Lorcan ranted on.
"He never gave two shits about me. He thought I was weak and treated me as an annoying afterthought my entire life! Mother doted on me, she loved me, but that didn't stop her from trying to kill me, now did it? My own mother! And I don't care what happened to my father. I. Am. Not. A. Vampire!"
"No, you're not."
"No, I'm bloody well not! I'm . . . I'm just a sodding musician, so why am I even bothering to finish all this?" he demanded, sweeping an arm towards the castle.
"Because you're a good Hufflepuff. You like it here. You even like the studying part when you manage to remember to do it."
Lorcan coughed and wiped at his eyes with the back of one hand. "That's right. I do. Mostly though," he said, feeling a little better, "I've just really been enjoying the shagging. Hard work, shagging, when there's no one around to do it with."
"I guess there weren't too many other kids like you."
"There weren't any, Albert. I'm not supposed to exist. Vampires have laws against people like me."
"No wonder you haven't been that interested in the school part of school. You've been too busy trying not to think about other things," Albert said, laying a hand on Lorcan's shoulder.
"Right. There's nothing I can do about your past, but I can promise you a groaning repast at my parents' place, and then, once everyone's asleep, we can put our skill at Silencing Charms to good use." Albert pressed himself up against Lorcan. "Good hard use, my friend."
The kiss that Lorcan and Albert shared then was such a deep one that they were soon gasping for breath, and absurdly, Lorcan found himself laughing.
"What's so funny?"
"When my parents first left me here, Father said, 'Familia fideles defendit'."
"'Family protects the faithful ones'?"
"That's right, and Mother told me that my house mates would be my new family, but it's you, a Slytherin, who's become my brother."
"I don't know what you've heard about Slytherins, but we don't shag our brothers."
Lorcan rolled his eyes. "You know what I mean."
"Are you trying to say that Hogwarts, itself, has become a home to you?" asked Albert.
Lorcan flushed. "No. I'm trying to say that you, er, yeah, all right, it's you whom—oh, hell! I love you, er, man."
Albert's eyebrows rose and his Adam's Apple bounced once as he swallowed.
"Shit, I shouldn't have said—"
Albert chased whatever denial Lorcan had been about to issue back down his throat with his tongue, and they kissed until Lorcan could no longer feel his fingers, which he'd twined through Albert's hair.
"Even you aren't warm enough for this kind of cold," Lorcan said, breaking their embrace.
"Would be if we were fucking. Let's go back to your dorm. We can pack you up after."
Lorcan nodded, feeling excited and disappointed at the same time, something which Albert didn't fail to notice.
"And hey," he whispered, moving closer, "I've been in love with you since I warned you off the Slug Club, but then, you know that, don't you?"
"Yeah," Lorcan said, following his only boyfriend back inside Hogwarts.
Spring arrived with amazing rapidity, and with it, a letter from his father's solicitors informing Lorcan that Laird d'Eath continued to make withdrawals on the family accounts. That was all the letter said, but it was enough. The scary old bastard was still very much in existence, and Lorcan figured that he'd get around to looking for him later rather than sooner. Relieved, he began concentrating on what truly mattered to him as his life at Hogwarts drew to a close.
"Got a new motto," he told Albert, who was filling out application forms for the Department's training programme.
Albert grinned. "What is it?"
"'To sing and to fuck', yeah, that's sounds about right."
"You think your brother'd go for it for the band?"
"If not, you could always go solo. Ah, but I want to show you something." Albert drew his wand, pointed it at Lorcan's guitar, and cast an unfamiliar spell.
"What was that?"
"A really powerful anti-destruction spell I read about. Would've cast it last night by the lake, but . . . ."
Lorcan grinned at him. "Thanks for looking out for my instrument."
"Someone has to, seeing as how you can't manage it alone."
"How long will the charm hold, anyway?"
"Almost for always," Albert replied, with a wink.
And that sounded about right to Lorcan, who said, "But not forever," although he no longer meant the charm on his guitar.
He wasn't a vampire; Albert didn't want him to be one, and even though Lorcan suspected that he'd still be leaping around a stage with abandon when Albert was wearing woolly jumpers against the cold and complaining of his troublesome joints, he meant to be faithful to the time they would have together. It wasn't that he'd stopped being attracted to other blokes, or birds, for that matter, but he'd developed such a strong bond of loyalty to Albert that he couldn't any longer stomach the idea of being with anyone else.
He supposed it was the Hufflepuff in him.