Indebted

Hermione/Eric

It was like nothing else she had stumbled across during her travels. A community that offered such a variety of supernatural beings, only one of the likes she had come across before.

Vampire.

And at least these vampires here were like the ones in England, thus giving her a somewhat passing familiarity with their habits and expected behavior.

Unlike those ones she met up in the Northwestern part of the country. Sparkle indeed.

Hermione had been traveling through several countries in rapid succession tracking the rogue Death Eater responsible for killing her parents. Only by quickly learning and adapting to the customs of each country was she able to travel with relative ease.

Within the States, that translated into having to present herself to someone appointed as the Area Sheriff. Apparently, it used to be customary for only vampires to have to go through this process but since the shape-shifters and werewolves had made themselves know to the public, the supernatural community that was previously divided in their legal systems had joined together. Thus, every supernatural being was required to check in with the Sheriff within three days of entering the area.

Which brought her tonight to Fangtasia. Only a vampire's sense of humor would allow for that name to be used for a bar. It was still a bit of culture shock for Hermione to have Muggles know about supernatural creatures.

So much for the statue of secrecy on that one.

After she paid her money at the door, she was informed that the Sheriff, a vampire by the name Eric Northman, would be on the throne in the bar.

Of course he was. Proud creatures, vampires.

She immediately saw the throne when she entered the room and wasn't at all surprised to see it on a raised stage front and center. However, she was surprised to note that Eric Northman could easily be seen as a Viking warrior, once given the proper outfit and a broadsword, of course. But those were thoughts that were better left unexplored.

As Hermione made her way through the crowd towards the throne, she suddenly felt someone trying to dig through her brain. It felt similar to when Severus Snape would perform Legilimancy on her while training Hermione and other younger members of the Order to strengthen their abilities at Occlumency. Fortunately, she was a more of natural learner than Harry and was able to quickly master the ability. But this attack felt different from Legilimancy; it didn't feel like her memories were being read, but instead, it was limited to only the thoughts she was currently thinking. Plus, she was purposely not making eye-contact with anyone, which also ruled out Legilimancy. Looking around, Hermione noticed a previously overlooked blond woman seated near the Viking vampire with an intense look on concentration on her face.

Got you.

Hermione quickly and forcefully directed her thoughts to the young woman to send her a little message. She then pulled up her Occlumency shields quickly enough to make the woman gasp and wince with slight pain. The vampire noticed her reaction and looked quickly from the woman seated beside him to Hermione. He then gestured for Hermione to come to him. She had a feeling it wasn't a polite request.

Wonderful way to make a first impression, Hermione. Perhaps next time you'll bring some silver and a stake, see if that goes over better.

The vampire looked Hermione over as soon as she made her way to place herself directly in front of him. Before she could go through the obligatory but humiliating ritual of having to bow when presenting herself, she was cut off with a question.

"Who are you?"

"My name is Hermione Granger, sir. I entered your area earlier today and came here tonight to inform you of my temporary stay."

"What are you?"

Although Hermione was a bit surprised at the bluntness of the question, she refused to let it show. She wasn't quite sure she was all that comfortable revealing her magical status, but figured it wasn't likely to be overheard by the human patrons of the bar.

"I'm a witch."

"No."

Hermione pulled back a bit at Eric's response. What exactly was she supposed to say to that? She hadn't expected she would have to prove her pedigree to a vampire; after all, he should be pretty familiar with the magical community. Especially if he was anywhere near as old as Hermione assumed him to be.

"Surely you have witches around your area? Merlin knows you have a sampling of the most unusual supernatural beings I've ever come across. A witch should be a normal occurrence by now."

A smirk was the only response she received. She wasn't exactly pleased to note that unlike the haughty smirks Draco Malfoy used to send in her direction, this one was more of a seductive smirk that caused a funny little twirl in her stomach.

Bloody infuriating vampire.

Fine, she could wait him out. Well, that or choose to perform some rather creative hexes on the man who was staring a little too much at her arse from the bar. Given the immediate response to her previous magic use, she thought the first option would go over better. Luckily, before she could muse more on option number two, the vampire gave her a bit more of a substantial response.

"You may be a witch, but you're not like the ones who are familiar to this area. There's something to you. Something heavier. And darker. It covers you so completely, I can almost taste it." Eric didn't add, "And it tastes delicious," but that seemed to be more than subtly implied, judging from the rather provocative look on his face. To Hermione's continuing shame, she found she rather enjoyed the look.

"Erm, well, perhaps you have only encountered witches of the Wiccan variety?"

Bugger. She had meant to make that come out as a statement, not a question. It was ridiculous that with one well-placed look, the vampire had managed to get a little bit under her defenses.

Eric's only response was a noncommittal sound. He then raised himself from the chair and with a quick request, well, more of an order, for Hermione to follow him as he made his way to a door located off to the side behind the throne. The woman who had tried to invade her thoughts looked a little displeased to be left behind, she seemed to be the type of person who always wanted to know what was going on, Hermione thought, but she made no move to follow them.

Hermione herself was hoping they were only going somewhere relatively quieter to talk instead of him taking her to be killed for some implied slight. Her hopes of the former occurring seemed to be promising when he brought her to what seemed to be his office and gestured for her to sit on a couch near the wall. Deciding that the move to his office meant she was going to be in for a rather lengthy discussion, Hermione chose to sit while Eric stayed standing.

All the better to intimidate you into revealing information you would rather not. Wonderful.

"Now that we are away from more prying human ears, would you care to tell me where you received your magical training?"

Although she wasn't surprised that Eric had noticed her vague discomfort at answering his questions, she was surprised that he had been able to correctly determine the cause of her discomfort. He was very observant; Hermione would have to be careful how much she revealed to him.

"I attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in Scotland." Hermione was surprised to see Eric's eyes widen in recognition at the name. Perhaps he knew more about the wizarding world than he let on. Given his personality thus far, Hermione wouldn't be at all surprised should that be the case.

"That's a rather prestigious school. From the limited information I've been told, only those with immense magical possibility are given letters of acceptance. Or those who supposedly have the proper bloodlines." Eric gave a scoff at the idea, but continued on with his thought. "In all my years, I myself have only been fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of a handful of Hogwarts graduates. Your kind seems to take your statue of secrecy to new levels."

This was coming from a vampire who presents himself on a throne for the masses to fawn over.

But Eric had raised an interesting point; Hermione had never really given much thought on what sort of students attended Hogwarts. She was usually preoccupied with making sure Harry didn't get himself killed, whether it be in a quidditch match, the Tri-Wizard tournament, facing Voldemort, or any of the other numerous situations they found themselves in during their years at Hogwarts.

He did seem rather fond of taking a predilection for danger to new levels, now looking back.

But now that she thought about it, the students of Hogwarts were capable of performing above-average magic when they were forced to; Dumbledore's Army was a prime example that came to mind. By the end of the year, every student was capable of performing the Patronus charm, a rather difficult piece of magic. Even Dennis Creevy, who was a second year at the time and shouldn't even be trying to pour that much magical ability into one spell, was able to make a fully corporeal Patronus without even breaking a sweat after a few months of practice.

She was also reminded of when she went with Harry and the Weasley family to Diagon Alley when Fred and George's shop first opened. She had happened to overhear Harry asking about the Shield clothing line the shop was selling, wondering why a wizard or witch wouldn't just cast a Protego spell to protect themselves. Hermione was surprised when the twins informed him that many adult wizards were unable to cast this spell properly. Yet, it was another spell that every member of Dumbledore's Army and a large number of her students in her Defense Against the Dark Arts class could cast. And the only ones she had seen who weren't able to perform at this level were all Purebloods. The very same Purebloods who Eric assumed, most likely correctly, were admitted based on their family connections. Perhaps there was something to this theory.

Eric's apparent disgust over wizarding prejudice was also of interest to her. From her previous experiences, supernatural creatures had little concern about the bias between purebloods and muggleborns. They were usually more concerned with the own prejudice they faced, vampires especially. It wasn't exactly flattering to be classified as "non-wizard part-humans" by the Ministry of Magic, especially since most vampires had their own version of special abilities.

"Although I agree on the ludicrousness of the idea about proper bloodlines, I'm curious as to the reasoning behind your disgust."

"Well, Miss Granger, I myself have found that the classifications wizards insist in presenting to be highly incorrect. If you want ever want to know about blood, ask a vampire." There is was again, that seductive smirk.

And damn him if it didn't have the same slightly melting effect in the bottom of her stomach as it did before.

Almost as if knowing the reaction he was able to provoke in her, Eric gave her another quick smirk before continuing. "Perhaps that is for another time. Right now I'm curious as to what you did to Sookie to cause her to react in such a way."

Hermione assumed Sookie was the woman who had been sitting next to Eric when she first entered the bar. Or at least, she hoped that was Sookie; she didn't need to be accused of attacking another woman.

"She was attempting to read my mind. I simply put up the shields in my mind to prevent her from doing so."

At Eric's raised eyebrow, she amended her statement a bit.

"Alright, I may have also directed a thought at her about it being rude to read the minds of strangers. And I may have pulled up my shields too fast for her to remove herself fully from my mind, which probably gave her a little jolt." She was surprised to hear laughter coming from the vampire's mouth at her admittance.

"So you not only insulted her Southern hospitality, but you also shocked her? Miss Granger, I do believe you could provide us with quite a bit of amusement should you choose to stay in this area. I'm quite sure Pam, my second-in-command, would find you most entertaining." He gave another quick laugh at some picture in his mind that Hermione was pretty sure she was happy she didn't know about.

"Now, as far as I know, Miss Stackhouse has never had the displeasure of being shoved out of someone's mind. I also do not believe she has ever encountered a being capable of recognizing when she was reading their thoughts. It is very interesting to see how quick you were able to deduce what she was doing and even who was doing it. This tells me that you have more than a passing knowledge of this area. Tell me, are you also a telepath in addition to being a witch?"

Hermione was a bit unsure how much information she really wanted to reveal to a relative stranger. Especially since his having all the information and she having relatively none could most definitely put her at a disadvantage later.

Hermione could just hex him with a memory charm, letting him think they had completed their business and he hadn't learned anything of significance from her. The problem was that the telepath who was still in the club could possibly read his thoughts and see that they were tampered with. And there was also the slight problem that memory charms seemed to be a bit faulty when it came to vampires. It would probably be best to go with the diplomatic route and give him only a brief overview of the magic. With a sigh, she started to relate the information.

"There is a more advanced branch of magic that allows for defending the mind against external penetration, sealing it against magical intrusion and influence. I studied it a bit in preparation for a war we had, but am nowhere near proficient."

Eric seemed to ponder over this bit of information before continuing.

"This would mean you also have magic that would allow you to read a person's mind, would it not?"

Hermione definitely did not like the direction this was going. If he already had a telepath who was helping him, who was to say that he wouldn't try to employ her abilities in the same capacity?

"Yes, there is a branch of magic that allows you to extract the emotions and memories from someone. But it's a very difficult and advanced branch that I have very little experience with. I've only known one wizard to be highly proficient in this branch."

And good luck getting him to do your bidding, especially since Harry had killed him during their 7th year.

"I see." Eric seemed to debate pursuing the subject, but then abruptly decided to drop the matter.

"Well then Miss Granger, I would like to hear what business you have that would bring you to my area."

Hermione wavered between giving him the prepared lie about taking some time off after Hogwarts to travel and a do bit of independent cultural study before starting work, and telling him the truth; that she was tracking down a man who had killed her parents only to most likely do the same to him. Ideally, she would like to be able to capture him and take him to the Ministry, but she was quite certain Dolohov wouldn't go without a fight to the death. Eric seemed to have reached his limit with her hesitations in answering him and accurately guessed the problem she was having.

"I warn you, you will tell me the truth. Should I find out that you have deliberately lied or misled me, your removal from my area will be the least of your punishment."

So much for diplomacy on his part. This vampire sure didn't pull his punches.

"I'm tracking a wizard. A dark wizard that was part of a rogue group known as Death Eaters. He tortured my parents for days before killing them. We were unable to ascertain exactly how prolonged and intense each torture session was, but given his penchant for creating his own torture curses, I'm sure calling it traumatic would be putting it mildly." Was it her imagination, or had Hermione seen Eric's face harden at the revealing of this information? If he did, it was brief because his face currently held one of its two seemingly permanent looks; this one was the one of mild amusement at the world around him. From what she had seen, his other look was of boredom of the world around him.

"Ah, I understand. Seeking revenge, a woman after my own heart." Hermione started to object to his assumption, but Eric waved her off. "And did you intend to ask me for additional help in your cause? I wouldn't mind having you indebted to me for such a service."

Well then. Eric's offer of help was certainly something Hermione hadn't planned on when running through the various ways this meeting could have gone. Hermione thought it over as she carefully considered her options.

Option 1: Thank him for his offer, but politely decline. Afterall, she had managed fine so far on her own. The tracking spells she placed on Dolohov have been able to give her the general area every time he changed location. Hermione have every confidence she would eventually catch up to him.

Option 2: Take him up on his offer. Granted, she would be able to catch up to Dolohov eventually, but how many more months did she want to lose to this hunt? If Eric could provide information to Hermione that would allow her to finish this in Louisiana, there could be few consequences that would outweigh that reward. Plus, although the tracking spells she had placed on Dolohov were superb and supposed to last until she had removed them (made possible by a little tweaking on her party), she had noticed a few days ago that they were weakening in the strength of their signal. This resulted in it taking her much longer to track down which part of Louisiana he was hiding in. If they continued to fail, she wouldn't be able to track him at all.

Option 2 was sounding better, but what would Eric want in return? Hermione had a feeling she wouldn't get a straightforward response to any inquiry she would make about her repayment options. Perhaps she would need to take a temporary page out of Harry's book and go the "nothing ventured, nothing gained" route, if only for the faster resolution.

"I will agree to your offer of help," Eric immediately looked excited at that prospect, making Hermione quick to add, "so long as we add some limitations to the extent of your help and my subsequent debt." Eric's face seemed to have lost a few notches of excitement at that, but not enough to make Hermione completely relieved of her qualms at making a deal with him.

"And what terms did you have in mind?"

Now came the slightly tricky part to negotiating: making sure she had herself completely covered.

"For your part, I only want you involved as so much to relay me information as to the whereabouts of the man I am tracking. For example, if someone should come into your bar and your telepath is able to pick up the information from them, I would appreciate your passing it along to me. However, I don't want you to personally go out and use your abilities to track him down for me. I don't want you to put extra effort into this as that would make me more indebted to you. If you choose to do so despite my protests, I will not be held responsible for repaying a debt to that extent. I will still repay a debt equal to the value of you passing along information though. Is this agreeable to you?" Eric's face had remained unreadable during the entirety of her negotiations; it was a bit disconcerting, but she had faced tougher opponents. Or at least that was what she had to keep telling herself.

"Agreed. Tell me the name of the man you have been tracking."

"His name is Antonin Dolohov."

As soon as the name passed her lips, she noticed Eric's face drop a bit with what could only be interpreted as disappointment. Hermione felt her heart sink a little as she realized he didn't have any information that could help her.

"I'm sorry to tell you that man was killed shortly after his arrival in my area. He managed to get himself on the bad side of the local werewolves during the recent full moon."

Ah, so it wasn't lack of information that had him upset; it was that he would be unable to extract a debt from her. It also explained why her tracking spell had started to fade. The spell had been modified to survive so long by deriving its sustaining energy from the person it had been placed on. Obviously with Dolohov being dead, he wouldn't have the energy for the spell to use in order to survive.

"I do believe his body is still at the local coroner's office as they have been unable to locate family, should you care to verify the kill yourself."

Verify the kill. The cold, clinical detachment Eric displayed was one that could only be bred from living in a world century upon century, surviving on the life force of others while everyone else died around you.

Hermione shook her head. "No, I don't care to see his body. Although I am curious as to how you were able to identify the remains. It's unusual for wizards to carry identification that can be revealed with non-magical means."

Eric nodded; he was probably quite familiar with the fact that it was rather difficult to obtain identification in a world where it was difficult to prove you even existed.

"He was carrying a passport. One would assume he was forced to use an airplane to enter the country as opposed to how your kind would normally travel since those means would be monitored for these Death Eaters you speak of."

While Eric had been talking, Hermione stood from her spot on the couch, placing her directly in front of him.

"Yes, I assume that would be the case. Well, I thank you for your offer of assistance, even if I was unable to take advantage of it. I'll be in your area for a little while longer, if that's alright with you. Please let me know if I can be of assistance with anything during my stay as thanks."

Hermione nodded her head in a goodbye motion, knowing not to reach out her hand in a goodbye shake as vampires did not like to touch. As she made to move for the door, she felt a cold hand firmly grasp her wrist and bring her back towards Eric. She ended up being pulled up firmly against his chest, with his other hand reaching up to push her unruly hair out of her eyes and behind her ears. His hand then traced down from her shoulder to her waist, leaving a shivering trail in the wake. His voice had become slightly husky when he decided to speak.

"I believe I can find a way or two for you to show me your gratitude, should you care to indulge me."

Oh dear.

Author's Notes:

Information that is correct and accurate from the Harry Potter books is from the Harry Potter Lexicon. Any information that has been exaggerated for my own use from the Harry Potter books is entirely my fault. Information from the Southern Vampire Mystery series is solely from my memory so I apologize if I forgot pieces of information that may pertain to this story. Also, I haven't read the two most recent books in the series so there is more than likely vital information that wasn't taken into account when writing this story.

The Harry Potter books do not make mention of who besides Hermione, Harry, Ron, and Cho were able to produce a full Patronus. I'm just making the statement that everyone was able to accomplish it for the sake of this story.

The information about the Protego charm and it's relation to the clothing line the twins made is true. The conversation between the twins and Harry took place in Chapter 6 of HBP.

In the Southern Vampire Mystery series Sam, Sookie's boss, was able to pull up shields in his mind when he realized Sookie was reading his thoughts. However, I'm fairly confident neither Sookie nor Sam would have mentioned this incident to Eric. Also, since he seems to be the only character that has been aware of Sookie reading his thoughts, I'm going to pretend that people aren't aware of when she is doing it. Or at least that Eric is unaware Sam was able to detect Sookie reading his thoughts.

Also in SVM, Sookie is unable to read the thoughts of Vampires, but Hermione doesn't know that. I'm going to assume that since Voldemort was theoretically able to use Legilimancy to possess the bodies of snakes while still being able to retain his own body, Legillimancy and Occulumency are not limited to use only on human wizards and witches.