The vampire's voice was smooth and as cold as glass. "This is the best we can do. His only other option is death."
Hermione Granger-Weasley's gasp caught in her throat as her husband shot up from his chair. "No! There's got to be another way. We can't force Harry into this," Ron growled.
Her hand tugged at the sleeve of his Auror jacket. "Sit down, Ron! It's upsetting, but we have to think clearly."
Silvestri's eyes met hers and the vampire nodded. "Listen to your wife, Auror Weasley. Let her cooler head prevail, and you may save your friend yet."
"Silvestri is right," Kingsley Shacklebolt replied from his seat across the table. "The Ministry and the Vampire Council have come to an agreement. Either Harry does this, or we turn him back over to the Council for punishment. As he is one of theirs, their rights trump ours." The Minister let out a heavy sigh. "And even if they didn't, I can't see Harry's fate turning out better with the Ministry."
"So, what? They kill him?" Ron snapped. "How is that justice?"
"I seem to remember not so long ago when these halls were roamed by Dementors, meting out justice with a Kiss for crimes committed. He must be stopped," Silverstri said with finality. "This is the only way to ensure his compliance."
Ron slumped down into his chair on a huffed breath. "He-he just needs some time, that's all. Just give him some more time to adjust-he'll come round," Ron's voice choked on a sob. "He will."
Silvestri glided forward on a silent whisper, his tall form exuding vampiric grace. "It's been six months. He has been given quarter after his Turning, as is customary for all those Turned against their will. His perpetrator was caught and brought to justice for the crime. We have made allowances in deference to both his situation and his stature among your world. The fact remains that he has taken that generosity and thrown it back in our collective faces. To allow him to continue this reckless and dangerous behavior puts both the Wizarding and vampire communities, not to mention the humans, at risk."
Hermione's hand slid over her husband's arm and squeezed. "Ron, he's hurt people. I know you don't think he means to do it, but he doesn't seem to care. That's not our Harry. He's changed, and we have to accept that. Did you see what he did this last time?" She shuddered. "He almost killed that man."
Her heart clenched as Ron stared back at her, tears welling in the corner of his eyes. "I just want my friend back."
"Then he takes a Consort and lives."
Ron's head swiveled to Silvestri, but he said nothing.
"Think about this rationally, Ron," Hermione pleaded. "If he takes a Consort, a willing one, and binds himself to them, he will no longer be able to feed off anyone else. He can't. He may not like it, but at least he'll be alive."
"He'll hate us for forcing him into it." Ron rubbed a tired hand over his face.
"He's already angry with us. Maybe in time he can forgive us. And if he can't, then we know we've tried to do everything we could. Anything after that is on Harry." She pursed her lips and folded her hands.
"And you can live with that, can you?" The bitter edge to his voice made her frown.
"Yes," she hissed. "I can. I can't make Harry's decisions for him, but I can damn well give him the best shot at making smart ones."
"It's a terrible thing," Shacklebolt supplied, "this business. And as fond as I am of Harry, and as much I appreciate the sacrifices he made for the Wizarding world, I have to think about the greater good here."
"Left unchecked, your friend will only grow bolder. He has shunned every attempt we have made to bring him into our fold and teach him ways to accept what he has become," Silvestri said. "How long before he does kill someone, or Turn another without approval? We have laws and treaties for a reason. To ensure that we can coexist peacefully. If he tramples that trust, and my people decide to rally against him, even I won't be able to stop the war that will ensue."
"Even so," Ron said, shaking his head sadly, "don't you have to find someone who's comparatively on Harry's level magically? In case you hadn't noticed, he's pretty damn powerful, what with defeating Dark Lords and all."
"Of course," Hermione said smoothly. "It says something that he retained his magical abilities after his Turning. I don't think that's happened in what," her glance flicked to Silvestri, "eight hundred years?"
His smile was brief. "Eight hundred and twelve."
Ron's shoulders drooped and he pitched forward to put his head in his hands. "I don't even want to know who you have in mind, do I?" he murmured.
Hermione reached out and brushed her hand over his hair. "No, you really don't." She stood up, gathering her parchment and quill, stuffing them into her shoulder bag. "I'll talk to Harry," she said, heading for the door.
Shacklebolt rose and followed her out. The Minister paused at the threshold. "It's the only way, Ron. I'm sorry."
Ron shoved back from the table and stared out the open door after his wife. The vampire's voice made him turn.
"I realize this is a difficult situation for all involved," Silvestri said with empathy. "However, should Potter make the wrong decision, you have to understand that it will give me no pleasure to sanction his demise."
"Right," Ron sniffed in disdain.
"It's dangerous water he's treading, your Savior. I hope your wife can convince him to catch this lifeline." Silvestri turned on his heel without a sound and headed to the door. He didn't look back as he finished, "It's the only one he's going to get."