Part III: The End

"Hardest of Hearts" - Florence + the Machine


"WHY DO THEY WANT YOU AND ALICE TOO?" I HISSED TO EDWARD, HOPEFULLY UNHEARD by the pixie vampire herself over the churn of the plane engines as we began to land.

I stretched my arms out before me, flexing and unlocking the kinks, because first class was so luxurious my body felt like jelly. Edward swept his eyes around us, looking guarded and on edge - well, all that other than his constant aura of gorgeousness.

"Last time we met with Aro-" Last time? "-I read his mind, and it seems he has a great desire for us to join the Volturi guard because of our gifts."

I frowned at him. "He wants to use you for your gifts?"

He sighed and looked out the window. The sun was going down, but it was still there. We had left quite early for the flight since Italy was eight hours ahead of our normal time and nightfall would arrive soon. By the time darkness fell over the sky, we would be in Volterra and more specifically in the Volturi's quarters. Edward reached over and slid the window shut, the skin on his hand glistening as if he were embedded with diamonds before the sunlight streaming inside was cut off.

"The Volturi guard is devised of vampires with special talents. Jane, for instance, can inflict great mental pain, and her brother Alec can cut off all senses." I absorbed that.

"Does Aro have a gift?"

"He can read every thought you've ever had with a single touch."

"Whoa."

He stared at me curiously and brushed my hair back behind my ear lightly. "I wonder if his gift would work on you."

"And if it did?"

Edward's mouth quirked up on one side. "Then there would be a problem."

"But if he can already read minds, why does he want you?" I argued.

"Because he can only read your thoughts if he comes in contact with your skin, otherwise his powers cannot penetrate the mind. I can read minds from distances and he considers that an advantage." Before I could ask he added, "And he wants Alice because she can see the future. There's no need to explain why that would be so beneficial to the Guard."

I tried picturing the Volturi guard in my mind - a different image from the cult of vampires I had once seen in a dream - and I saw many cloaked vampires, red-eyed and hungry for blood. I shivered.

"There are things you need to know about the Volturi guard Bella," Edward said seriously under his breath, and his silken voice carried over to me despite the loud noise going on around us as we descended. "You especially need to be aware of Aro," he said gravely. "He's dangerous."

Alice returned and daintily resumed her seat next to me, casting her arm around my shoulder. "You shouldn't scare her Edward," she chided and kissed my cheek endearingly. "Of course, fear is the truth, but she needs to be calm when we visit the Guard." She stroked my hair back soothingly. Visit, I thought, almost outright scoffing, as if we aren't being forced.

Edward frowned at her. "I suppose."

"I'm always right."

He rolled his eyes.

"I can be calm," I objected childishly. "But I won'tbe oblivious. Tell me about Aro," I demanded. "He's the ruler of the Guard, the leader, right?"

"Very few would say otherwise," Edward said darkly. "Technically, Caius and Marcus - his brothers - rule at his side, but if you want the truth it is easy to see that Aro has most power and influence over the Guard. He's ruthless and clever, but he won't come across that way. Don't fall for his tricks Bella," he warned.

"Dangerous," Alice murmured in agreement.

I nodded. "Sure." They both continued to watch me warily. I sighed and flipped out my wand, angling it away from any eyes but their own. "I can handle myself." I had defeated the Dark Lord (alongside Harry, I remembered with a flinch) and I was now assured that I could do anything. "Don't worry."

Edward pushed my wand back into hiding and stared into my eyes deeply. "The Guard is very powerful, don't underestimate them Bella."

"It's illegal to reveal the secret existence of Wizards and Witches," Alice said suddenly, whom had paid close attention when Harry and I had once informed her and Emmett of common Wizard knowledge. I winced again at the thought of Harry and butterflies rose in my stomach simultaneously.

No, I had chosen Edward. I had made my decision. Harry had forced me to pick and Edward was my first choice, my instinct. So this was Harry's fault anyway. I frowned at how childish that sounded.

"That's why we have Obliviators," I replied and at their puzzled looks, I waved Alice's worries away. I paused, a new thought occuring to me. "Do you think Aro really wants me because of some vampire law?" I asked, thinking of his hunger for gifts. Edward and Alice simultaneously winced at 'some vampire law.' I lowered my voice to a whisper. "He doesn't know about me, does he?"

Alice tensed and Edward's eyes tightened. "I don't know," he said, curling his hand around mine. "I'm not sure which I'd rather it be."

"I am," I said firmly.

"It's possible," Alice said grimly.

I looked at her. "Alice, can you look into my future and get a gist of...something?" I asked desperately.

Edward tensed. "It might not work since it's about you. I'm always blocked when I try to see into your future." She absorbed my expression and added, "Stand on the other side of the plane... I can try."

I smiled at her in relief and unbuckled my seatbelt, sneaking past the air attendants until I had joined Carlisle on the other side of the jet. I sat next to him, quivering with nerves. He looked at me with his kind champagne eyes and smiled sympathetically. He put a hand on my shoulder in comfort. "You surprise me, Bella."

"Sorry for just popping up, but I needed Alice to see for me so I had to get on the other side of the plane," I started to ramble and Carlisle shook his head, not interrupting me, but I stopped talking anyway.

"What I mean, Bella, is that a lot has happened over the past night." You've lost Charlie, his eyes said. "Most humans would..." He searched for the correct term.

"Lose it," I finished for him and he nodded slightly. I sighed heavily. "I keep thinking if I don't focus on everything that's happened I can run from it, or keep it at bay at least. I know I can't do that forever, but for now, it works for me."

A starving longing for both my dad and Harry boiled in my stomach, churning through my veins. "You make me proud Bella," Carlisle said, pulling me from my dark tunnel of thoughts.

I felt like his daughter already.

The pilot announced that we had landed and that the airlines were thankful we had flown with them or whatever. Edward joined me when we had all filed out into the airport at the luggage pick-up.

"Did Alice get anything?" I asked instantly when he joined my side.

He looked away from me, searching for our bags. "No." He retrieved my and his suitcase, shifting them to one hand as if they were weightless, and to him they probably felt that way. He held me by the waist with his free hand and I looked up at him, frowning.

"Nothing at all?"

He avoided my eyes and shook his head. "Nothing, she was blocked." Suspicion and heavy doubt crept through me, tinging my attention until I was entirely focused on Edward.

I looked for Alice but she had left for a car, so I could not ask her myself. Besides, if Edward was lying - and it hurt me to know that he was - than Alice would surely lie to me too. I knew why they were lying to me, because they cared about me and they thought that ignorance would keep me safe, but I had learned the hard way that only truth was best.

Soon, we were all crushed together inside the yellow Porsche 911 Turbo that Alice had 'occupied' within the twenty minutes that our plane had touched ground. I curled into Edward further, wishing we could roll down the windows when we drove over a speed bump and Carlisle's elbow nearly broke my ribs. We were racing down the streets then, passed a small town and beautiful fields and farmlands until we arrived to Volterra. Volterra was gorgeous with its brick-stone streets and amazing views, and now twilight had arrived and nightfall was closing in. I could concentrate on the scenery no longer.

I can be calm.

I closed my eyes, leaning my head back on Edward's chest, and listened to my frantic, pumping heart. I was glad vampires did not need to breathe, because I needed all the air I could get.

"Everything will be okay, love," Edward murmured another lie to me. Harry would never lie to me. I stopped that thought, Edward's small lies were well-intentioned...but they were still lies. "I'll protect you."

Edward would try to protect me and surely get himself killed doing it, which was why I resolved to die for the Cullens before I let them die for me. Gryffindors were noble, but this wasn't about being a Gryffindor. It was about saving the ones I loved, if it ever came to that.

Alice halted the sports car and Edward helped me out. I was glad to stretch my legs after being squished inside a car with three vampires.

I saw Edward inhaling the air deeply, his face angled away from my direction, and I remembered then how hard it was for him to be around me. Remorse washed through me when I realized it must have been torture for him to be stuck in the car with me. When he faced me again, his eyes were a dark shade of butterscotch, but not black.

"There you are," a musical voice intoned from behind us and I spun around in surprise. "I had began to think you'd run."

My heart pounded at the sight of a lovely male vampire standing at the mouth of a dark alley. He had dark hair and burgundy eyes, but his features resembled a vampire I had seen before. He was Jane's brother, Alec, I realized and then remembered what Edward had told me about him.

Alec could numb all senses, and the prospect of that happening to me made me shiver. Would I be able to resist an attack like that, and if I didn't, could a spell?

"We don't reject invites," Alice chirped with a hint of hostility. "The Cullens are always polite."

We all knew we hadn't been invited, but forced.

He rose his hand, beckoning us. "Aro will be pleased to see you Carlisle Cullen, he considers you an old friend."

I frowned at this, puzzled, and Carlisle met the vampire's gaze levelly. "I would have hoped an old friend would not have his entire family's lives threatened."

Alec's mouth curved into the hint of a sneer. "Aro would have thought a former member of the Guard would have better reserve for our laws."

A former member of the Volturi guard? I looked at Edward, bewildered, but his gaze was solely focused on Alec. His arm tightened around my shoulders and he shifted me behind him ever so slightly.

Alec's eyes flicked up, not missing the movement, and he cocked his head slightly, examining me. I shuddered at the swirling red orbs that rested on me and Alec inhaled the air deeply.

"This is the human, then? Is she a pet?" I narrowed my eyes at him, but he had already looked away from me. "No matter, you will stay at the Volturi tower tonight and meet Aro and his brothers tomorrow for your hearing. Follow me."

Carlisle and Alice waded forward into the blackness the night offered until they had disappeared before us, and with one last glance at our surroundings Edward led us into the darkest part of Volterra.


"I'm awfully hungry, you know," said Jane, emerging from the shadows.

"What are you doing here?" Harry demanded. He clenched his fist instinctively and then stiffened. Damn, he thought, no wand. He was surely a goner now.

The vampire was in front of him in the next instant, her eyes black and swirling. She piqued a thin eyebrow at him condescendingly. "Are you looking for this?" she asked, lifting up Harry's wand and snatching it back when he reached for it.

"Give that back," he said angrily and she smirked at him.

"I don't think so." She snapped the wand into two clean pieces and Harry's hopes crashed. First, his heart was broken, and now his wand was, he thought morosely.

"You're not going to kill me," he said lowly, but simultaneously backed away from the hungry vampire. He thought of escape routes fast.

She followed him, her dark eyes glinting. "Of course I'm not, but I could. Remember that."

He halted and looked down at her in confusion. "Why not?"

"Do you want me to, little boy?"

He scowled at her. "You've got to be twelve!"

She bared her teeth at him slowly in a savage, mocking smile. "You have no idea how old I truly am, boy," she said, and her voice betrayed her true age and era. She blinked and adapted her previous air of quiet danger.

"How did you find me? Why did you follow me?" Harry demanded.

It had nearly been a day since he had left Bella and he assumed she was in Volterra now. He hadn't slept at all since, unable too succumb to unconscienceness where he knew dreams of her would thrust themselves at his open mind, and so Harry had been strolling along the darker parts of Diagon Alley where he would be unseen.

Jane walked forward, forcing him to take several steps backward until his back hit the alley wall with her two paces away. Her black cloak swirled around her and her eyes gleamed dark burgundy now.

He could always Disapparate to safety, he thought, but he was weak and tired and his heart was broken. What was the point?

"You were with the girl, you are important to her." Harry snorted, but the vampire did not dwell on it and continued as if he had not spoken. "Your conversation with the girl was easy to listen to, especially since you all but braodcasted your destination. It wasn't difficult at all to find you after that. I had Demetri track you."

She stared at him and added bleakly, "He's here somewhere, feeding surely, and coming all this way made me hungry too." Harry's hairs stood on end, but he refused to let fear seep into his mind or eyes.

She held up Harry's wand pieces. "This...power-wielder...is yours. You're like Isabella Swan."

"What do you want with her?" Harry growled, fighting to keep his anger at bay. He wanted to hex Jane to other side of the world.

She did not acknowledge his question. "If my Master is so unfortunately interested in Isabella I need to up my game. She was dangerous. She can do impossible things. He will want to turn her and not kill her as I would greatly prefer. And if you can do what she can, I can use you." Her eyes glinted and she smiled at Harry poisonously. "You are going to help me."

"I can't. You destroyed my-" He bit his lip and searched for the correct word without giving away what he was, staring at the pieces of his previous wand and only hope.

"This thing?" She twirled the pieces of Harry's broken wand in her fingers thoughtfully and then clutched her fingers around it, disintegrating it to ash. Harry's eyes widened and his heart sped. She bared her teeth at him and then suddenly he was being held up the alley wall by her small hand, clenched around his throat unbearably tight. He squirmed and kicked out, rasping for air. "You Are Going To Help Me. You will do as I say and obey me if you want Bella Swan to live, do you understand?" she snarled.

She had threatened Bella, and now - as much as he hated himself for it - he had no choice but to comply to the vampire's demands. He would do whatever it took to keep Bella safe. He still loved her, even though his love for her put him in agony.

He nodded, glaring at the vampire with all the spite he could summon, and grunted, "Fine."

She dropped him and his hands went around his throat as he gasped down air in painful gulps. He glowered up at her.

Looking smug and satisfied, she said, "Now we can go."

"Where to?" Harry asked.

"Demetri," she called out in a calm voice and a male, intimidating-looking vampire surfaced at the edge of Harry's vision. She didn't look at Harry when she replied to his question, "You'll see."

He rolled his eyes and forced himself to a stand. Figures, he thought.

Then, Demetri abruptly appeared before him and sent him to the realm of unconscienceness with a single back-hand slap that made the lights go out.