AN: Hi guys! I'm sorry for taking so long to update, but I'm in college and dorming... I do hear all your update-requests and I'll try to update as much as I can. However, my inspiration to write hasn't been the greatest lately and college is full of distractions.

Warning: A bit of swearing in this chapter. There is also some romance at the end of this chapter. It's vague though - take it at whatever level you wish I suppose. :)

Chapter 18

October turned into November and November into December. Each and every day was full of magic and the Cullen family. When I wasn't with Edward, I was with Alice. And if I wasn't with Alice, I was being dragged around by either Emmett or the Weasley twins – sometimes by all three of them at once. The twins were naturally curious about the Cullen family, and used me to get to know them a bit better. Emmett, much to Rosalie's disapproval, took to them really fast. They were constantly roaming the halls and scheming up their latest prank.

"You are coming home with us for Christmas, right?" asked Alice, as we walked to charms early one morning. Edward and the rest of the Cullens had gone out hunting for the weekend and hadn't returned yet. It gave Alice and me some sister-sister bonding time, as Alice would put it. But it didn't change the fact that I missed Edward.

"I need to go home to see Charlie," I answered. I had already discussed the holidays with Edward. I hadn't told Charlie much about Edward yet – only that I was growing rather close to him and his family. "I'll floo over to visit."

"I heard that stuff is awful," said Alice, her nose scrunching up in distaste. "Thankfully, it doesn't work on us."

"It's not too bad," I said shrugging. Better than muggle airplane travel. We had entered the charms classroom, and we took our now-normal seats toward the back of the class. I glanced over at Edward's vacant seat, feeling my heart slightly pinch.

"He'll be back tonight," said Alice, catching my look. She smiled understandingly. "I miss Jasper when he's away, too."

"But at least you have the option of joining him," I said, bitterly. Alice could have gone hunting if she had wanted or needed to. She could always be with her soulmate. But there was still the human-vampire border between Edward and me. I couldn't completely cross it in my human state.

Alice didn't say anything, knowing that she couldn't argue with my logic. She flicked open her charms book – a book she had read through once and never needed to glance at again – to the page Prof. Flitwick had assigned. I reluctantly followed her example, my mind lost on Edward all the while. As class rolled on in monotone stupor, I began to daydream. My dreams had always featured Edward, in all his Adonis-glory, and me by his side. However, as of late, I appeared not as plain, boring Bella but as a vampire deserving of Edward.

A sharp intake of breath drew me out of my dream and into reality. I glanced over at Alice, half-heartedly. But with one glance at the look on her face, the grey world around me turned into vivid, dangerous colors. Alice had a look of horror on her face, causing my human heart to begin racing for the both of us.

Alice had just had a vision, and hadn't liked what she'd seen.

She was mumbling something, frantically raising her hand to get the professor's attention.

"I'm not feeling very well, Professor. May I be excused from class?"

She would leave whether or not she obtained permission, and I would be right behind her.

"Of course, Miss Cullen, you do look a bit ill." His eyes landed on me. "Oh my, Miss Swan! Are you alright?"

I shook my head, moving to stand up with Alice. I watched as she gave me a sharp look and mouthed to 'stay here'.

Hell no.

Alice left the classroom in a hurry, with me right behind her. As soon as the doors closed behind us, blocking out curious human eyes, she took off. I followed her at my pathetically human pace, wishing more than ever that I could keep up with the Cullens. I could only guess at the direction that she had taken.

Instinct led me outdoors. The weather had turned bitter cold, and without my jacket I felt chilled to the bone. But it didn't matter at the moment. Only the Cullen family did.

"Alice!" I shouted, hoping her advanced hearing would pick up my strained cry. I ran across the lawns of Hogwarts, never caring that my shoes were being soaked by the dusting of snow on the ground. I made it to the edge of the Forbidden Forest, where I abruptly halted. Edward had made me promise not to go in there unaccompanied. The look on his face and the tone of his voice when he stated his wish made me hesitate now.

"Edward!" I cried, in-between large, heaving breaths. But the forest remained motionless. Anxiety crept upon me. I started to shake – a bit from the cold but mostly from fear. What was happening?

"Please," I begged to the forest. "Please. Please, let him be alright." But there was no reply to my plea. I felt absolutely and utterly helpless.

I hated being human.

Hated being stuck here.

Why couldn't I run for my beloved like Alice?

I began to pace back and forth across the snow to release some tension. The wind began to pick up, and I frantically cast a warming spell around me. But warming spells weren't meant for this kind of weather.

I was barely aware of the few desperate tears that began to leak from my eyes. I whispered my love's name over and over again, occasionally shouting it into the forest. I couldn't take this! If one of them didn't come out soon, I was going to charge head first into those trees.

I didn't have the chance to go through with my threat. In fact, it was so quick that I barely registered it happening. There was a blur, and Edward appeared before me. Then, in less than a second, I was in his arms and he was running toward the castle. I couldn't get a word – and barely a thought – in. I just clung on tight to Edward as the blurry scenery changed from the white of the outside to the grey of Hogwarts' stones.

He ran to the room that I had first met Esme and Carlisle in two months ago. It was only then that he stopped, but he didn't release his hold on me. That was alright with me. My Edward was safe.

"What were you doing outside?" questioned Edward, his voice hard with disapproval and perhaps the touches of anger. I turned my head to look into his eyes. They were a deep gold and filled with worry.

"What's going on?" I asked, frantically. There was obviously a lot more amiss here then my actions, and I was determined to get to the bottom of it. Something was wrong.

"You can't – no you won't – go outside again without one of us, you understand?" said Edward, gripping my arms with more strength than I was used to. I stared at him, a bit shocked at this frantic order.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean I don't want you out there," said Edward, an undertone of a growl in his voice. "Not all monsters are as safe as me."

I had to say it. "Edward. You're not..."

"Don't!" ordered Edward, sharply. His grip on my arms tightened, and I winced. Edward immediately let go of me, regret flashing through his handsome features. I was afraid he would step away from me, and slip into a brooding silence. He often did that when his vampire strength accidently hurt me or when we argued about his immortal state. But I was pleasantly surprised when he closed the distance between us and wrapped his solid arms around me. His hand found its way to my hair, and he pressed me softly against my chest.

"Promise me you'll be careful," he whispered. "Don't leave the castle without one of us – preferably me."

"Edward? What happened?"

He hesitated, obviously unsure of what he wanted to tell me. He never got the chance to do so, however. The door opened abruptly with a crash, and a very frightening looking Emmett charged through the doorway. His shirt – or what was left of his shirt – was torn to shreds, and his eyes were blazing with fury.

"Bloody useless mutts," he growled, kicking a chair and sending it flying into the wall. I flinched into Edward as the chair broke into multiple pieces with a loud snap. Emmett aimed his leg to hit the next chair, but Rosalie appeared behind him and pulled him back.

"Idiot, the humans will hear you," she snapped quickly. For once, Rosalie's appearance was less than perfect. Her hair was in wild tangles and dirt was smeared all over her clothes and arms. On top of that she looked absolutely livid.

"That pup bit me!" growled Emmett, aiming to pound his fist into the wall. Beside me, Edward mumbled a muffliato spell before Emmett's fist collided into the stone.

"Emmett, would you please refrain from knocking down the castle?" said Edward, sharply. I clung to his arm, wondering what the heck had happened to the Cullen family.

"You want to explain this to me now?" I asked.

"Damn nomads," said Emmett bluntly, as if that would explain everything. I glanced up at Edward, looking for a translation.

"We were coming back from the hunt, and Jasper wanted one more deer as a safety precaution," explained Edward. "He went off with Rosalie, and not five minutes later those two..." He paused. He didn't want to tell me something. "Those two found themselves in quite a bit of trouble."

Emmett snorted, falling down onto the couch. "Geez, don't sugar-coat it, Edward."

Edward growled, and snapped at Emmett, "Bella doesn't need to hear all the details."

"If it was Rosalie..."

"Don't you bring me into this," said Rosalie sharply, crossing her arms over her chest. She stormed her way to the door, pivoting to look back at us before she left. "I'm getting changed." She sent Emmett a harsh, but meaningful, look. "And if this happens again, I call the red-hair bitch."

We stared after Rosalie for a moment. I was too stunned and confused for words. I heard Edward speak to Emmett for a moment, in that fast vampire-speech. Emmett nodded, and quickly followed after Rosalie, leaving Edward and me alone once more.

"Here, let's sit down," said Edward, pushing me gently in the direction of the couch. With a flick of his wand, the door closed, sealing off the room from unwanted eyes. I settled down into the couch, waiting for Edward to start explaining. He was going to explain, even if I had to force him.

"What kind of trouble did they run into?" I asked.

"Vampires – a small coven," said Edward. "Not as strong as ours, by far. We are completely safe."

"Don't sugar-coat it," I demanded, taking a leaf out of Emmett's book. There was no doubt that Edward was saying such things to reassure me of my safety – or perhaps to reassure himself that I was safe.

Edward sighed, rubbing his temple with his hand. "Jasper and Rosalie ran into a group of four vampires." He looked at me sternly. "Vampires that don't follow our strict diet." He looked at me, seeming to examine me for signs of fear. But I wasn't afraid. I knew such vampires existed, but that didn't stop Edward from mumbling, "You should be terrified."

"Did you fight them?" I asked, trying to imagine my Edward fighting others of his kind in a deadly battle. But he didn't look harmed at all.

"Barely," said Edward. I couldn't tell from his expression if he was disappointed in this or not. "One of them knew Jasper – they are long time enemies. They had barely spoken a word before that one attacked Jasper. It would have stayed between the two of them, but Rosalie attacked the female of the group." Edward sighed, frustrated. "Emmett and I ran to help them, but by that time those pups were aware of the fight. It was on their territory line."

"Did they come?" I asked, thinking back to Jacob and his brothers.

"Yes. They are very eager for a fight."

"And Alice?" I asked. Alice had seemed very frightened when she ran from class.

Edward nodded. "She saw the start of the fight. The last thing she saw was Jasper taking a sharp blow to the head, and she needed to come help." Edward wrapped his arm around me, and pulled me to his side. "We are protective of our mates."

I should I asked if Alice and Jasper were alright, or if those vampires were going to come back. Instead, I found myself staring into Edward face, knowing that look in his eyes. His hand caressed my face, holding it close to his. How I had missed him.

"So I need you to make a promise," said Edward, softly. "Until this is sorted out, don't go outside the castle unaccompanied. Promise me, Bella."

I didn't have a say in the matter - that much I knew. But even if I did, I still would have promised him my safety.

"I promise."

Edward nodded, his features relaxing a bit. His arms wrapped around me, bringing me closer and onto his lap. His light gold eyes shined back at me, telling me that he was more than comfortable with our closeness.

I lifted my hand, and ran it through his bronze hair. His eyes closed as my fingers traced the side of his face.

"So everyone is alright?" I whispered. His brief nod was all the confirmation that I needed. I leaned in closer to Edward, kissing him lightly on his lips. His lips parted slightly, but I left a trail of soft kissed across his cheek to his ear. As my hand trailed through his hair, I leaned in and whispered, "Are you alright?"

"Careful," responded Edward, but his words were barely a whisper. His lips found mine in a slow, graceful motion, and his arms pressed me into him.

Each kiss was more daring than the last. Each touch more passionate. And each passing thought was far darker and lovelier than ever before. I moved to his neck, aware of each breath, each sigh of my name.

"I love you," I whispered. The words were so very true.

I was falling, my back placed on the couch with Edward on top of me. My lips were his once more, and all thoughts died away to make room for the kiss.

It was Edward that slowed it down – it always was. It made me hate the vampire-human barrier that hindered us and kept us careful. What was it like for him? To kiss but to always be aware of that fine line between control and danger? To never be able to surrender?

"I don't want you to ever be scared," whispered Edward. "I'll protect you at whatever cost."

I wanted to mention the solution that would solve all of these problems, but doing so would ruin the mood terribly. Instead, I gave him one final kiss.

"I know."

AN: Hi again! I hope you liked the chapter and please review! To all my new readers - thanks for reading my story! To all my continued-readers: thanks for putting up with me!

I believe that someone wanted to know what aritmancy is. It's basically divination through numbers, though more scientific and concrete than staring into a crystal ball. If divination is psychology than aritmancy is biology. The most common example has something to do with determining your personality by the numbers that the letters in your name would correspond with. Its a subject taught at Hogwarts - one of Hermione's favorites.