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Chapter 1- Voyages With Vampires
Central Romania, 1976
It was night. Nothing dared move on the haphazard street, fearing abduction. The houses and shops lining the main street were run down and grimy, many with broken windows. Smoke billowed out of a few structures and swirled into the starless sky. Atop the hill bordering the mountains was a lifeless manor, its silhouette barely visible—a dark imprint stamped onto the landscape. Count Vlad Drakul's Manor was one of the places in Morfessa that remained a mystery—a mystery that ought not be uncovered. He died long ago, but the horrific, bloody memories lingered.
Morfessa, a shoddy village located near an edifice of mountains, could be found in an unpopulated part of Romania. Once a thriving wizarding town, it was now a safe haven for dark creatures and hags alike. Boosting a slapdash inn, crooked bar, and three dark artifact shops, Morfessa was neither an ideal vacationing spot nor a place for weary travelers seeking rest.
On the western edge of town, a hooded figure, dressed in a nomadic cloak, entered the musty pub. Their face was shadowed from prying eyes as they crossed the near-empty space and sidled up to the barman.
"Elderflower wine," the figure murmured, dropping shinny galleons onto the counter.
The sound reverberated around the room, alerting other patrons of the stranger's arrival, as the coarse-looking barman grunted and poured ruby-red wine into a dusty crystal glass. Snatching up the glass up with long fingers and swishing the contents about, as if testing the bouquet, the figure headed over to a table in a particularly dim part of the bar. At the table sat a sallow-looking man with long black hair, slicked back neatly, and red-rimmed eyes. They darted up to the approaching figure and narrowed, trying to decipher the stranger's lack of caution. Before the cloaked figure sat down, uninvited, the vampire stole a look at their exposed hands.
"And what can I do for you?" the vampire inquired silkily, fingering his own glass of red liquid; he was handsome despite his inhuman features and retained a regal, precocious air.
"I'm looking for someone. Perhaps you know of them?" the figure said calmly, a sense of confidence emulating in their alluring tone.
The vampire smiled maliciously at the sound of the stranger's voice, baring bone-white fangs. His pulse quickened and his strong muscles tensed as excitement swelled, clouding his blood-red eyes. Thrill quickly consumed him as he stole another glance at the stranger's red-painted nails; he imagined her body, her face, and her exquisite neck.
Red, as if she were purposely baiting him…
"Perhaps I do," the vampire suggested, taking a long sip from his drink and licking the blood off his ashen lips, "Who is it you're looking for, my pet?"
"Amarillo Lestoat," the figure said coolly, watching the vampire carefully whilst subtly keeping an eye on the stirring figure across the room. "Do you know of him?"
"I should think myself quite ignorant if I didn't," the vampire repeated smoothly, flashing the stranger a charming smile; he could barely subdue his violent glee. "The question is, why would a witch such as yourself be looking for such a notorious vampire?"
"You think him notorious, do you?" the figure goading. "I believe you give him too much credit."
"No, no, my love," the vampire cooed, savoring the thought of what was to come. "He is much more than notorious. Killing as opposed to just biting, evading the ministry, publishing that dear little book…have you read it?"
"I don't bother reading trash, especially irksome little volumes meant to lure witches into vulnerability," the stranger retorted, watching the vampire's smile falter. "Now, tell me where to find Lestoat."
"You didn't answer my question," the vampire continued, quite content to play with the witch for as long as he desired. "Why do you seek Amarillo Lestoat?"
"I intend to kill him," the witch replied daringly, unflinching when the vampire's eyes lit up with a mixture of lust and hilarity.
An unnatural laugh escaped his blood-stained lips as he regarded the cloaked witch, malevolence deepening in his hollow orbs. Before the lit candle, slobbering wax, could flicker on the mantle above the simmering fireplace, the vampire had snatched the stranger's wrists in his own pale hands. He felt her tense, blood flowing through the veins in her half-exposed arms.
"Aren't you afraid of me?" the vampire whispered, teasingly sucking on one of the struggling witch's fingers; she faltered.
"Let go of me," the witch hissed back, her façade faltering as her voice sounded pleading as opposed to cool.
"I will not let go of you, you foolish witch," he replied tenderly, though he held no affection for her; his voice grew hoarse. "You seek Amarillo Lestoat, and now you've found him."
He heard the witch gasp and reveled in the control he had over her. How stupid of her, thinking she could kill Amarillo Lestoat, the most violent vampire in Europe and the Americas! He, the grandchild of Sir Herbert Varney, the Victorian Vampire that preyed upon women during the 1800's! Her fate was his now; he would not let her escape.
"Where's your wand, witch?" the vampire demanded.
"I…I didn't bring one," she stuttered.
"You lie!" the vampire jeered, throwing the witch onto the floor as he stealthily extracted a short wand from her cloak and snapped it in two.
As the cloaked witch landed on the floor, the hood disguising her identity flew back to reveal her face. She was young, about seventeen by the look of her flawless skin, with dark auburn hair that pooled onto the floor and sharp emerald eyes. As she looked into the face of the looming vampire she shuddered, her eyes fearful and lips parted. She dared not look over his shoulder.
Amarillo Lestoat crouched on his knees before her, the broken shards of her wand in his skeletal hands. His shriveled heart beat erratically as he took in her every feature.
Other creatures in the shabby bar paid no mind to Lestoat, not eager to garner his wrath.
"Look at you, so beautiful," the vampire purred, running a hand through her mellifluous red hair; she appeared too scared to protest. "Didn't even have to prey upon you, did I? You came to me."
"Please," the witch began, tears formulating in the corners of her eyes as she faced the vampire, as meek and boneless as a newborn; his fingers traced her jaw line.
"Shh, don't cry," the vampire soothed, the lust in his eyes not escaping the formidable witch. "I won't kill you…not yet."
Dragging the witch to her feet with utter ease, the vampire pulled her out of the bar and into the dark street, her protest meager and useless. The night was dark and solemn, just as it was when she had entered the bar, and the air carried a deathly stench that made her want to wretch. It didn't take long for her to realize where they were going.
"Where are you taking me?" the witch pleaded again, close to sobbing. "Please! I didn't mean—let me go!"
"Up to the manor, my darling. It's much more comfortable there," the vampire smirked, the thoughts running through his head propelling him faster.
He would tolerate her begging and pleading; truth be told, he loved it. It made him feel powerful and in control. The manor tempted him forward. The stories his grandfather has told him, the things that had taken place there…most women he'd finish in the street or alley, but this one was special. Young, tender, beautiful…he'd rarely gotten so lucky. Perhaps he'd keep her alive past tonight, depending on her performance…
The witch breathed heavily as she and the vampire finally made it to the crest of the hill. The manor, an indistinguishable blur from the village, was large and uniquely Victorian, though the gingerbread trim and long windows looked ravaged. Thrusting open the door, which a spider had created a web across, Lestoat urged the witch inside the lightless abyss. The manor smelled strongly of decay and creaked at any sign of motion; it reminded her of the Shrieking Shack, a place that currently seemed much more desirable.
"Come," the vampire ordered, though less viciously than normal.
With one hand still firmly holding onto her, the vampire waved his other hand dispassionately, causing the candles and torches in the mansion to burst into flame. Once the way had been lit, Lestoat dragged the terrified witch up the master staircase, which was rotting with age, and into the spacious master bedroom at the end of the long corridor.
Closing the door behind him, Lestoat let go of her. She immediately ran back to the locked door and rummaged with the stubborn handle as he opened a wooden trunk near the bed.
Relenting, the witch stopped trying to open the useless door and looked about the room for an alternate escape route. It was dimly lit by a dingy chandelier that once sparkled with brilliance and was dressed in rich Victorian colors. The four poster bed, which was bigger than normal, boasted purple satin sheets with gold trim and multiple pillows, and the dusty furniture was stained to look like deep mahogany. It was the perfect vampire pleasure room, and she could barely stomach it.
"Come here," the vampire ordered evenly, holding a garment in his hand as he closed the trunk; the witch did not move.
In a mass of black smoke the vampire disappeared and reappeared behind the witch, forcefully turning her around as she screamed in fear and surprise. Her emerald eyes shone as the vampire regarded her with his red ones. Can vampires apparate?
"You do everything I say, witch, or I will kill you now," the vampire hissed in her ear, sending frightened chills down her spine. "Put this on in there and do not take long."
With trembling hands, the witch obediently took the garment from Lestoat's hands and scurried into the adjoining bathroom, closing the door behind her. Hearing the vampire pacing outside the door, she pulled off her robes and undergarments and put on the black corset-negligee, tightly lacing up the front. Biting her bottom lip, she looked up to inspect her scantily-clad figure in the bathroom mirror before realizing there wasn't one.
Taking a hesitant breath, the witch opened the bathroom door. In the few minutes she had been in the lavatory, the room had been transformed into a birthday cake, dozens of lit candles floating above the bed and opened windows. Her heart quickened as she noticed the handsome vampire leaning against one of the bedposts, eyeing her hungrily.
"Very nice," Lestoat grinned, his expectations exceeded.
The curvature of her neck was like that of a swan's, the colour a sultry white like that of its plumage. Her reedy legs were fully exposed and were almost as alluring as the voluptuous breasts peeking out of her negligee. It would take a great deal of strength for him not to bite her immediately.
The vampire beckoned the witch forward, patting the spot beside him on the velvety bed. She obediently moved forward, keeping her eyes trained on the floor. The vampire slinked his long fingers under her chin, forcing her to meet his stare. In her eyes he saw fear, but a different kind. Beneath there was resolve and confidence, masked by vulnerability—but he was far too arrogant to worry about such powerful attributes.
She was weak, scared, and his for the taking.
The vampire pushed the witch onto her back and began trailing kisses down her neck, dangerously close to her chest. She trembled but did not protest as he then captured her lips with his. She could taste the blood in his mouth; she didn't dare pull away from him. As he fidgeted with the front of her negligee, the witch maneuvered her arms above her head, plunging her hands beneath the pillow that crested her head.
Then, caught off guard, the witch moaned, the vampire having maneuvered his hands under her corset. Silently disgusted by her reaction, the witch let Lestoat massage her breasts, hoping to lure him into a sense of safety.
"Do you still want to kill me?" Lestoat whispered in the witch's ear, groping at her neck with his lips once again.
Her blood boiled at the thought of his satisfaction. The witch grasped the wooden stake under her pillow firmly, ready…
A jolt of concentrated light passed through the chest of the erect vampire, burning a deep hole through his chest. Screeching loudly, Lestoat turned to face his challenger, giving Lily Evans ample time to drive the stake she had hidden underneath his pillow mere hours earlier through his cold heart.
The vampire turned in disbelief, his eyes redder than ever, as dust, as opposed to blood, began to pour from his chest. Lily regarded him fiercely, her eyes filled with hatred.
"I don't want to kill you anymore, Lestoat," she whispered before his eyes rolled back into his head, lifeless. "Because I already have."
The vampire crumpled onto the bed, one hand on the stake, and turned to dust. Quickly after, Lily scoured the sheets clean and wrapped one around her body, embarrassed that Remus Lupin had glimpsed her in such an outfit.
Unfortunately, it wasn't Remus who crossed the room and pulled off his invisibility cloak. Instead it was Lily's biggest rival and annoyance at Hogwarts.
"Sorry, did I interrupt something?" James Potter asked, idly pocketing his invisibility cloak in his jeans and running his hands through his hair.
"Potter?" Lily demanded, colour rising as she clutched the sheet closer to her body. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"Plans changed, Evans. Remus had a bit of werewolf business to finish up, so I was assigned to this mission last minute," James explained, crossing his arms and resolutely keeping his eyes from straying to her legs. "Aren't you glad?"
"Why did you interfere? I was supposed to finish him off myself," Lily spat, the combination of anger and embarrassment making her near-hysterical. "You weren't supposed to fire some slapdash spell at him before I reacted!"
"You were almost raped," James countered, his expression contorting in disbelief. "Merlin knows what would've happened if I hadn't stepped in!"
"I could've handled it!" Lily insisted.
"Oh yes, you've proved you can handle yourself," James jibbed, his tone insulting as anger welled. "Moaning like a bloody banshee, weren't you?"
James reeled back, his left cheek throbbing from where Lily had slapped him. His dark eyes fixated on hers; she looked furious. Guilt sprang up, making him regret what he said, but he did not let it show.
"You are such a jerk," Lily pronounced, willing the tears out of her eyes as she turned away from him, feeling violated by both him and Lestoat. "For you to even think I—"
"I'm sorry, OK?" James blurted out, stiffening at the sight of possible tears—he was not accustomed to apologizing to anyone, nor was he accustomed to Lily showing such emotion. "I didn't think it wise to leave you on your own in here. Something could have happened to you, and where would I have been? Standing behind the door, useful as a flobberworm."
"Hogwarts' biggest playboy was worried about me? How touching," Lily snapped sarcastically, scowling as she blinked back her tears. "I can take care of myself, Potter."
James sighed. She always had to do that, didn't she? Revert back to her robotic, defensive self if anyone (especially him) attempted to reach out. But, like Lily, James could not shake his pride
"Don't flatter yourself, Evans. How would it look on my record if I returned back to headquarters with a dead redhead?" James Potter retorted, though less harshly, "Now why don't you run along and put on your robes so we can go? Though I'm not complaining…"
"Just as pigheaded as you were last year, aren't you?" Lily mused, gathering up her clothes and heading to the bathroom. "Stupid of me to think being in the Order could mature you."
James wouldn't admit it, but her words stung. It angered him that she thought so little of him; after all, she didn't even know him. He could be a gentleman, but not around her. Ever since fifth year, she'd been able to rile him up and bring about his temper. She was absolutely infuriating. He wasn't quite sure what compelled him to ask Remus if he could take the mission from him.
"This pig-headed jerk just saved your ass, Evans!" James called after her, his brow furrowing. "You should be thanking me!"
"Well excuse me if I don't feel so inclined to thank you for humiliating me and undermining my mission," Lily turned on the spot, frustration evident as she regarded James. "Return to headquarters without me for all I care!"
"What you don't understand, Evans, is that I can't," James fired back, his heart beating faster in his chest and his eyes growing large. "You interpret everything I do as being malicious, as if I'm out to get you or hurt you. That's why you're infuriating to me. You won't except help or even consider the possibility that some jerk like me might care about you!"
Lily recoiled, as if James had slapped her back. What was he saying?His fiery eyes were fixated on her, daring her to try to escape. For once in her life, Lily had been struck speechless; did James just admit to…to caring for her?
"You…you…?" Lily stammered, her anger replaced with foolish confusion—the reason for her stuttering. "I—you—what?"
"Bugger, I just…I care about you...just on a professional basis, of course," James attempted to recover from his rather embarrassing statement, then crossed his arms as if it pained him to admit. "You're the brightest witch in our year. I just didn't think it right of Dumbledore to allow you to take on such a dangerous mission so early on. Marlene should have done it, she's practically twice your age."
"Our age, James," Lily reminded him, beginning to regain the ability to speak. "He thought I was better suited for the mission, that Lestoat might react differently to me."
"Why? Because you're more desirable?" James demanded, his eyes alit. "He's asked an eighteen-year-old witch to give up her body to a vicious vampire? That's insanity! Yes, of course you're sexier than Marlene, but—"
"But nothing!" Lily maintained, though she was blushing profusely due to James prior comment. "I'm not your problem, Potter. You need to trust in Dumbledore and I—we know what we're doing."
"I do. I just don't always agree with Dumbledore's approach," he snapped, willing the colour out of his roguish face. But it doesn't matter now. I'd like to get out of here, so if you could just get changed—"
Lily sighed and turned towards the bathroom, quarrels with James always leaving her emotionally fatigued. Whilst changing, Lily could hear him pacing about the room, probably checking for any anomalies or prevalent information pertaining to Lestoat. Lily fumbled with her black robes and pulled her hair into a tight ponytail before exiting the bathroom.
"Here's your wand," James muttered, handing Lily her real wand, which had been stashed in James' pocket throughout the entire mission. "That's the third backup wand we've broken in a month."
"Are we clear to apparate?" Lily inquired, pulling her hood up over her head and slipping her wand into her robe pocket.
"Yes. We're to apparate to the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley. Dumbledore's rented us a room there," James explained, an authoritative, more professional air to his voice—he'd obviously composed his emotions while Lily was in the bathroom. "We're to side apparate."
"Let's do it then," Lily said, avoiding James' gaze when she grabbed his arm.
Since joining the Order in June, Lily had not once encountered James Potter, who she'd recently found out had been with the Order since his fifth year. Lily had not been happy about this, as she wasn't particularly keen on working with someone who incessantly argued with her. Lily had known James since first year, being a fellow Gryffindor, and during that time had never got along with him. He'd always been an arrogant, egotistical womanizer with a flare for pranking—along with his Marauder lapdogs. But now…had one summer really changed him?
Now she had to wait for further orders from Dumbledore in a motel room alone with Potter. Great—we're going to murder one another.
With a sharp pop, the two Order members disappeared into thin air, traveling at rapid speeds toward the Leaky Cauldron.