I was wrong. I was wrong, and now I would reap the consequences. Bitterly, I wished I had stopped to think of the plausibility of an immortal child created by one of the Cullens. After centuries, I still lacked trust in anyone but my sisters. In an instant of that cursed distrust I'd brought down the Volturi upon Carlisle and his coven.

I wasn't frozen in grief and agony over them, however. It was Tanya and Kate standing proudly to the front that made it impossible to move.

Nobody had ever seen such a child — half immortal and half human. How was I to know that my accusations could have been false? How could I have known that the Cullens would have brought so many of our kind to bear witness, and dieby association? How could I have known my sisters would come and stand so firmly? I saw it in their stance that they weren't about to flee.

After everything we had lived through, was it going to be my foolish actions that brought our destruction?

All I had wanted was revenge on the wolves that killed Laurent. I had been ready to forgive the Cullens for protecting them — even ready to greet Edward and his new bride, despite that she was the cause of his death.

I barely heard the perfunctory civil words that were exchanged; I was so caught up in my grief and horror.

"Artifice!" Caius snapped. "Where is the informer? Let her come forward."

I heard his words, yet they meant nothing beside the distraction of killing my family.

"You! Come!" His terrible eyes sought me where I lingered behind the wives. I wanted to obey, wanted to make my body move lest he punish me for not moving faster. Somehow I couldn't make myself stir from my rigid attitude of shock.

One of the large bodyguards stepped out and prodded me in the back; then my limbs were unfrozen and I could step towards Caius, woodenly, ungracefully, but I was obeying him. My eyes would not leave my sisters, and their faces of sorrow and anger (how much of which emotion was directed at me, I could not read).

Caius swiftly stepped towards me and slapped my face.

There was no pain — other than my pride — in the motion, but I went rigid and finally tore my eyes from Tanya and Kate, and focused them upon Caius.

The infuriated hisses of my sisters gave me a little hope, that perhaps if we got out of this alive I could be forgiven.

"This is the child you saw?" Caius demanded. "The one that was obviously more than human." His hand moved to form an accusatory finger at the child I had seen. I can hear her heartbeat.

It was obvious she had grown and her eyes were bright with control that no immortal child should have.

This was the same girl I had seen though. I furrowed my brow, tilted my head to the side in thought.

"Well?" Caius snarled.

I finally gathered the remnants of my courage to answer him. "I … I'm not sure," I said, and my voice showed that I really, truly was confused. It was obvious she wasn't an immortal child, but I was confused as to what I should say. Outright saying that I had been wrong, that I had brought the Volturi here for false accusations, could spell death more certain than what I faced now.

Caius looked as if he wished to slap me again. "What do you mean?" he said in a steely whisper.

I tried to steady the tremble in my tone. "She's not the same, but I think it's the same child. What I mean is, she's changed. The child is bigger than the one I saw, but —"

His teeth bared and his intake of breath was sharp and threatening. I did not go on, afraid of making things worse. My eyes strayed again to Tanya and Kate, standing tense and worried, though proudly.

Aro flitted to Caius and put a hand on his shoulder, as if to restrain him. "Be composed, brother. We have time to sort this out. No need to be hasty."

Caius's face was suddenly sullen, like a child deprived of a treat, and he turned away from me. My hand closed around a strand of my ash-blond hair and I twirled it nervously.

Aro turned to me. "Now, sweetling," he said in a warm, sugary murmur. "Show me what you're trying to say." He held his hand out to me.

Uncertainly, I took it and waited as he sifted through my head. It took only five seconds before he released me.

"You see, Caius," he said. "It's a simple matter to get what we need." I shuddered and slunk back as far as I could, back to the wives, back to where I could continue to watch Tanya and Kate with hungry eyes.

I did not listen to the long back and forth, the silent mental battle that my shattered nerves were in no condition to attempt to follow. No longer was I Irina Denali. I was simply Irina: informer, traitor, and utterly broken down.

The accusations flew now, far from the original clear-cut matter that I had presented them: an immortal child. Now they tried to hang the Cullens for siding with werewolves — something I could sympathize with, though only just.

They weren't out to punish an immortal child. They were out to kill them as a threat, and to acquire. I saw that now — saw that I had condemned my sisters to die as surely with them. Lined up so neatly, and look how they were so proud. I had thought that heartbreak was knowing Laurent would never come home. Now I knew that that was merely heartache. This was heartbreak, knowing my sisters of centuries would die by my hand.

I would not do the deed, but I was the catalyst of the event.

"Irina," Caius barked, and by his tone I could see that this was not his first time calling my name. I snapped up, thoroughly frightened now that I had figured out what they were really here for.

He snapped his fingers, and like an obedient puppy, I moved to stand in front of him again.

"So you appear to have been quite mistaken in your allegations," Caius began.

I saw my sisters lean forward with fear in their eyes. Fear for me, because after all I had done they still loved me. It was that knowledge that gave me the courage to open my mouth again.

"I'm sorry," my voice did not come out strong and clear, but in a terrified whisper. "I should have made sure of what I was seeing, But I had no idea …" I gestured hopelessly towards the child.

"Dear Caius, could you expect her to have guessed in an instant something so strange and impossible?" Aro asked. "Any of us would have made the same assumption."

Caius motioned for Aro to be quiet. "We all know you made a mistake," he said sharply. "I meant to speak of your motivations."

"My motivations?" I repeated stupidly. I had seen the consequences firsthand of anyone who knew of an immortal child and did not report it. Though there were other reasons for my telling the Volturi, I did not acknowledge that.

"Yes, for coming to spy on them in the first place."

I flinched at the word spy, however true it was. I was not proud of myself for that.

"You were unhappy with the Cullens, were you not?"

He meant to trap me with my words, there was no way I could get out of incrimination someone, I was sure.

"I was," I said.

"Because …?" Caius prompted me.

"Because the werewolves killed my friend," (my lover). "And the Cullens wouldn't stand aside to let me avenge him."

"The shape-shifters," Aro said quietly.

"So the Cullens sided with the shape-shifters against our own kind — against the friend of a friend, even," Caius summarized, icily accurate.

I heard Edward's intake of breath; knew my sisters were waiting for my answer. But I couldn't lie.

I stiffened my shoulders, wondering what was coming. "That's how I saw it."

Caius waited for me to continue, and then prompted me again, "If you'd like to make a formal complaint against the shape-shifters — and the Cullens for supporting their actions — now would be the time." His smile as he delivered the perfect opportunity for revenge was smug … and cruel.

I could not kill my sisters; I could not kill the Cullens. I would rather die myself than be the cause of more suffering.

Tanya and Kate, standing beside each other — Kate with a handsome male protectively behind her, had she found a mate? — I couldn't betray them. Once more, they gave me the strength to speak.

"No, I have no complaint against the wolves, or the Cullens. You came here today to destroy an immortal child. No immortal child exists. This was my mistake, and I take full responsibility for it. But the Cullens are innocent. And you have no reason to still be here. I'm so sorry," I directed my last sentence to the Cullens themselves. I turned to face the Volturi's witnesses. "There was no crime. There's no valid reason for you to continue here."

I knew that for such defiance as I had shown that my days on this earth were over. I only hoped my sisters and the Cullens survived.

Like a lightning bolt, the fire and grim faced, red-eyed vampires tore me apart and burnt me.

Like a lightning bolt, my simple act of revenge split into electric fingers of heartbreak and devastation that crackled out of my control.


thanks to j3nn for being an amazing beta! One-shot written for the August '08 Breaking Dawn challenge on Novel Novice Twilight