Chapter 04

• Ashes •

"You made him go," Hermione screamed at the headmaster hours later. "You took him away from me again."

"He's a vampire Ms. Granger, he's has changed more than you understand," Dumbledore explained hours later to the distraught Hermione. "He has you under an enchantment, it's as natural as breathing to him."

"No he doesn't," she said angrily. "I would have gone with him anywhere even become a vampire."

Dumbledore sighed, it was always like this, always hard to make them understand. He'd only come across a few vampires in his day but none had been so powerful nor so hard to distinguish from being human. Actually until now Dumbledore had thought it utterly impossible that a fledgling vampire could be so powerful, this had to be investigated more.

There was the matter of Hermione though. She had to be convinced she really didn't want to become a vampire, Dumbledore refused to lose another of his own to them.

"I'm going to do a little research Ms. Granger in the restricted section of the library, I wonder if you'll accompany me and we can see exactly what he is doing."

Hermione nodded quietly and Dumbledore returned the nod, hoping it was a sign that the enchantment was getting over. He hoped it would end a long time ago, even the students still felt the lingering effects though which was another thing he needed to know. Some vampires had the power over people's wills, if those people were submissive, but to captivate an entire audience with a few words was indeed curious. Had there been such a powerful vampire before?

They exited the study and began walking down the halls quietly when rushed footsteps came from behind. "Is he truly alive?" the distraught Mrs. Weasley asked, catching Dumbledore by the shoulder. "Harry, they said he's been here. Ginny, Fred and George... they said... they saw him."

"It was him, in body. He is not the same Harry you and I remember though, there's been a great deal of changes that have occurred to him. If you would follow us I would be glad to explain what has happened."

Hermione stepped forward to comfort Mrs. Weasley as the walk continued. Neville appeared at one of the hallways off in the distance looking at Hermione meaningfully but Hermione shook her head, she wouldn't speak to him, not yet. He nodded and disappeared again, taking those who were with him. Hermione wasn't sure how exactly but she sensed them, there were several of them who had come to speak with her.

After Harry had disappeared she was unanimously elected leader of the DA which had been working even harder to learn and become the best trained wizards they could. Nymphadora Tonks had even been assigned as a full time teacher and anytime there was free-time DA members would report to the room of requirements to get more training from her or Kingsley Shacklebolt. Now that Harry had made an appearance they would all want to know what was happening and it was Hermione's job to find out.

A book dropped open on one of the tables and Hermione blinked, surprised that they had somehow managed to enter the library while she was thinking about Harry before he disappeared. She and Harry had spent almost all of their time in the room of requirements, even slept there many nights. Both had been excused from attending most of the classes even though they were supposed to continue on independent study, they'd had tests and tutoring sessions to make sure that they were keeping up, but there were more important things that had needed their attention, and first was defeating Voldemort.

"Vampires cannot use most magic," Dumbledore said with a monotone voice, reading directly from the book. "They have their own rather minute magic, but it is very little is revealed even after great age. Some of the common magical abilities that are customarily inherited include telepathy which can be displayed in several ways, relative immortality, flying (though this ability is generally reserved for very old vampires). One ability which is always inherited is the insatiable urge to draw power from others; generally this is done through at least the drawing of blood, though there are other recorded methods."

Hermione took it all in. She had read a good deal about vampires before, but if this was something that Dumbledore was reading out loud he was doing it on purpose and she was going to have to think on any information that she had heard or read different.

"Any prior magical abilities are washed away with the awakening. During this time other physical changes also occur to the body. Muggles refer to vampires as the undead, though we know that they have not died, but their soul is in a state of limbo very similar to death. This is the reason they must draw on other energies, they are unlike any creature living or dead because of this peculiar need. Many vampires also gain extreme physical strength and enhanced sensing abilities. Some believe this is caused by the hunting of vampires done during the less civilized muggle time periods."

Dumbledore stopped and Hermione saw a tear dripping from his eyes. She inhaled slowly, trying to keep herself in a proper state of being, she had cried enough already and this was particularly interesting because she might be going through some of these changes soon.

"There has been experimentation to see whether the presence of multiple souls will allow for a vampire to retain prior magic or life, but it is difficult to come by willing woman with unborn children. It is believe that because two souls inhabit the body that if a person is bitten it may only infect one soul at a time, thereby allowing for a human side to stay alive. Only two cases have been further investigated and in both the woman lost the child soon after they received the wound, though they did seem to retain some human qualities."

"That's barbaric," Hermione whispered and then caught herself. She had just about given herself in and allowed Harry to bite her even though she had known she was pregnant. It was not something she had come across in her research and at the time she hadn't been thinking on it very seriously, but now she was having second thoughts. She couldn't just let her baby die because she wanted to be with Harry – she would have to wait, or find some other way to protect it.

"Dobby," Dumbledore said, his voice barely above a whisper, but nevertheless the persistent house-elf appeared.

The huge green eyes looked tear-ridden and Hermione had to look away again. She hated looking weak especially in front of Mrs. Weasley who had always been a strong woman.

"Sir," Dobby said quietly. "Dobby is hearing things about Harry Potter sir, that he is alive. Dobby is wondering if he is hearing things right."

"You are correct Dobby," Dumbledore said quietly, not bothering to try to explain that Harry wasn't quite alive. "I must know if the other elves sense him today, I suspect that he has had some changes and isn't the same Harry Potter we know and love."

A tiny growl escaped Hermione's lips before she could repress it. She knew he wasn't the same, but she was certain that Dumbledore didn't love him. He had used Harry and they had both known it, Harry even told her once that he could accept it, because it was for the greater good.

No one seemed to respond to her growl at all and Hermione stayed quietly, watching Dobby fidget. "None of the elf's is feeling anything sir, not that they is telling Dobby about. Dobby would have felt it too, he is always waiting for Harry to come back, but he is not feeling anything different at all that is why he is wondering if it was Harry Potter."

"You could feel him before?" Dumbledore asked, the surprise apparent even as he tried to cover it up.

After nodding so vigorously that Hermione thought he might shake his head right off his neck, Dobby smiled. "Dobby is always feeling Harry Potter," and then the smile changed to a frown. "He is feeling... sad sometimes, and old! It is different than anyone else sir because he is Harry Potter."

Hermione thought it was odd as well that Dobby could feel Harry, and she wondered what Dobby meant by 'old' but she wasn't about to ask him in front of Dumbledore, she would explore that later.

"None of them felt any traces of ... a vampire?" Dumbledore asked, his voice heavy with some sort of sorrow.

Though Hermione could barely believe it possible Dobby's already wide eyes got wider. "Master Dumbledore is thinking there is a vampire that is coming with Harry?" he asked quietly, and Hermione could see that his little legs had begun to tremble.

"No Dobby, I don't believe that anyone came with Harry. I believe the vampire is Harry."

Dobby shook his head back and forth with his eyes closed. "None of the elf's is knowing a vampire is on the grounds so he is not being a vampire. We is always knowing such things unless they is really, really old."

Sighing Dumbledore nodded. "You may go Dobby. Please keep all of this information to yourself, I don't need anyone else hearing rumors of my eccentric ideas."

With a slight pop Dobby disappeared and Dumbledore sighed. "He has been turned, there were obvious signs that can only lead to the conclusion. But there is no way he could have gained such tremendous power so quickly according to every investigation done into vampires."

Secretly Hermione had another idea of why it had happened, but she wasn't going to reveal it to Dumbledore, he was not working for Harry anymore, she suspected he was trying to discover how to kill him and she wouldn't allow that. She was going to protect Harry so that she could be with him again, but she wasn't going to let that out. She would have to find out where the DA stood before she let anyone else in on that secret.

Someone appeared in the doorway of the library. Hermione wouldn't have even noticed had there not been an intense feeling enter her at the moment the person appeared. It felt almost as if she was sliding closer to the door without moving.

"Seamus?" she asked confused as the figure approached. A familiar impish grin passed over the face and Hermione blanched, unsure what to think, it was Harry's smile.

In an instant the face changed, it was not a smooth transition, but rather abrupt and the outer skin peeled away and became ash. "Harry!" she said happily, but didn't move to touch him, she knew he wouldn't allow it and she was more worried about what Dumbledore was thinking at the moment. Her wand slipped into her hand just in case, but she hoped she wouldn't have to use it because she wasn't sure if she could get Dumbledore.

"Alive and kicking," he said with a smirk. "I've come to set things straight. Earlier I wasn't prepared to have things shoved into my face, but I'm much more composed now. I cannot stay for long, when night falls I have things that must be attended to, but I am willing to submit to a few questions."

Someone else appeared at the doorway, hooded, and moving much more like Harry had when he'd first appeared. Dumbledore began to raise his wand, but it was gone in a flash of movement that was so quick it simply disappeared. "He means no one harm and he has much better control than I do, do not threaten him or I shall leave."

"Sire," the man said, bowing slightly but standing abruptly the next instant. Harry was frowning, but it was only a slight frown, one only Hermione would notice. She'd seen the passive face and knew how revealing the tiny movements in it could be.

"He is your master?" Dumbledore asked the new vampire.

The new vampire looked towards Harry and then his eyes continued around the room, falling to the floor at last, but nothing was spoken. "He is a friend," Harry said quietly but with a lot of force, behind his voice there was something that was whispering that that was the end of asking such questions. "That is enough information. Do you have questions, or shall I leave now?"

"No," Mrs. Weasley said, her hand reaching out, but stopping short of touching Harry as if she was afraid. Hermione had almost completely forgotten she was present. "Is it really you Harry?" she asked quietly, her hand quivering.

An ashen white hand appeared and then it too abruptly changed, and a layer of skin burst away from it turning ash in the air and drifting to the ground. His hand was peach colored again and Hermione blinked, surprised. The rest of his exposed body had turned the same flush color, and he looked so... normal again.

Dumbledore was staring slightly disturbed.

"It's alright Mrs. Weasley," Harry said when she seemed to be unsure about touching him. She did finally reach out and then, when she found contact she let out the breath she had been holding and pulled him into an embrace.

"It's so good to see you," she said, crying. "After you disappeared, and my clock... I just didn't know what to think," she continued, sobbing into his shoulder.

Hermione glanced to the vampire who was looking at the ground, his eyes had widened slightly, but he didn't say anything. Hermione suspected that he was Harry's servant somehow and wondered exactly how it had happened. It seemed to surprise him that Harry was acting so caring, or that Mrs. Weasley was hugging him, but he was also keeping his mouth shut which meant he didn't want to show it was strange to him.

"Are you a vampire?" Dumbledore asked quite abruptly and Mrs. Weasley drew away from Harry.

Harry chuckled, and it was like a warm breeze blowing across Hermione neck. She closed her eyes and just let the feeling embrace her, knowing it was Harry that was doing it. When the smooth tones of his voice fainted Hermione opened her eyes again smiling happily, she couldn't help but feel good.

"Are you a human?" Harry asked in return. Dumbledore seemed to be slightly guarded against the question but he nodded once before speaking 'yes'. "And yet," continued Harry soothingly, "you're so much more aren't you? You're asking me what I am, and you've barely hit anything worth telling. Of course I'm a vampire, but that's not what you really want to know, is it?"

"Don't invade my mind," Dumbledore said hastily, stepping back defensively. Had he had his wand it would have been raised, but at the moment it was being held by Harry.

The wand rose and a light burst from the end of it then distinguished. Harry twisted it, pointing it towards one of the shelves and immediately a book floated from it, making its way to them and they laying itself out on the table. "I am so much more," Harry said and a rush over power flowed through the room, making Hermione shiver to her very bones.

There was a slight movement in Harry's eyes and Hermione could see that he'd raised them above her, and as he lowered them they locked stares. Then Harry reached up and pinched his ear, something he'd done so often before when they couldn't show public affection.

"I still love you," said his voice, whispering in her ear. But he hadn't moved or spoken. Hermione blinked back tears, unable to reach out and hold him like she wanted to. "But I can't turn you," the voice continued. "You don't understand how painful it is. I won't allow for it to happen."

Harry's eyes traveled to a window and even though it was far too high for him to see out of he smiled. "Night is falling Albus, if you have any other questions I suggest you ask them before I leave your sight forever."

"Why did you allow yourself to be turned?" Dumbledore asked immediately.

The silent vampire stood almost like clockwork and took a step towards Dumbledore who shivered. "Do not be afraid," the vampire said quietly and he reached out a hand, touching the headmaster's temple. For a moment Dumbledore froze, a look of shock passing over his face, and then he slumped again as the vampire drew back. Harry nodded slightly and the vampire went into a kneeling position, waiting again.

"I am still learning my abilities headmaster otherwise I would have shown you personally. Your meddling has made me come out of the shadows before I am fully trained. I do not want to kill order members if I can help it, but some of the others find it hard not to when they are on the receiving end of curses. They still kill even if they must face the wrath of the king afterwards."

"There is a king of the vampires?" Dumbledore asked immediately, holding his head and gently rubbing it.

Harry grinned wickedly, nodding. Hermione wondered why he would be telling them all this, she knew the vampires were secretive and wondered why he was allowed to say such things. "He is a dear friend," Harry whispered, "we're soul mates he and I. I can't say that I do not enjoy his company, but he is a good friend and knows my will as if it were his own. We seek for the same end."

Hermione was becoming confused, she'd never known soul-mates as anything but love, but the feeling that she was getting from Harry wasn't love it was something else. She understood why she recognized it, because she'd had that feeling pass through her briefly once before, when she'd sat in front of an unconscious troll and Harry and Ron stood above her, offering their hands.

Wondering what had transpired to make their relationship so well bonded Hermione looked up to find that in the moment of thought she'd had Harry had turned pale again. A small pile of ashes was beginning to form in a circle around him.

"What it the order continues to try and slow Voldemort?" Dumbledore asked.

Smirking Harry pulled out Dumbledores wand and laid it on the table in front of him, holding his hand over it. "I am giving you this warning for a second time," he said quietly, and no emotions showed or rang through the room. "If you want your members to survive do not use them. The order to keep order members alive has been rescinded, if met on the battleground they will be treated as an enemy. Do not interfere."

Turning slowly Harry caught Hermione's eye for a tiny moment and she felt a wave of pleasure wash through her then he was gone, the second vampire with him.

"He shouldn't be able to do magic," Dumbledore said quietly to himself. "It's not possible, he defies all logic."

Hermione took a moment to smirk before marching out of the room. "He's always defied logic," she said before snapping the door behind her.