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Not A Stranger:

Relief exists, I find;

Aro was almost horrified to learn that Alice had tried to finish me off. And he didn't like it one bit, and me being his favourite guard in the line was a main reason. I didn't think that he would have truly cared if I had no powers and wasn't a good enough fighter. He would have laughed at the thought of Alice killing me, laugh at it with pure glee. It hurt to think so but it was true. If I were not so hard working, a good fighter, or had any powers like the ones I own would he really have even lifted a finger to help me? Despite the fact that I had always -or since I was turned and had become welcome in the slightest bit- counted myself as apart of a large family like this I had to say to myself that Aro had no business trying to untangle the mess in front of him if he did not care.

"I am afraid, Alice, that you cannot get away with such awful manners. You just have to be punished." Aro's voice was just so dismissive that it seemed that he didn't really care about what he was doing. But no matter what I knew that he thought it was a pity to do just that to Alice since he had wanted to gain her for his collection since her power was rather good. And this confused me. Was her power not good enough for Aro to forget what she had tried to do to me? Or was it that he always looked out further for trust and loyalty in the ones that he wanted to keep for himself? So that they wouldn't one day leave and forget about him just to join some other coven in search of freedom? It only seemed that the harder he fought for us and the tighter he held us were the reasons for some vampires' lack of loyalty. Was that why Carlisle Cullen had left the Volturi to start his own coven?

I could almost see the internal battle within Aro as he thought over his decision. But to seem like a good ruler he just had to punish Alice as if she had actually killed me. It made me sad to think that despite the fact that I was now a vampire and was more than capable to look after myself and not have angry vampires chase after me I was still able to put the people I love -or once loved- in danger. It seemed ridiculous that fate was playing so with me.

"Well, I know that you already are going to inform Carlisle so go right ahead." Alice's voice was so distant that it seemed as though she wasn't present at all. It was like she had already made up her mind when she realized that she would never have such freedom as before. But it was strange to see her give up and not even try to plead her case -it just didn't seem like her at all.

"Oh, do not worry about such things, vampire. We will handle everything." Caius said, his voice a drawl like always, showing his excitement at the prospect of watching or getting to kill Alice. It was as if he had no end to his satisfaction in the murder of his own kind -dwindling the numbers lower and lower until it would just come to resorting in turning people of the twenty first century, though I wasn't one to speak about that.

The happiness in his eyes made -figural- my blood boil and inched me to take a wild punch at his face to show him that he wasn't one around here to be happy at anything. If all things considered he should be the one to die.

And with that thought I made up my mind. It had been on my mind for quite some time but now that I had finally made my decision it was time to just go ahead and put a stop to it all.

"Aro, I don't think that it is really appropriate to kill Alice. She made a mistake but she shouldn't be punished for it." I took a step closer to Aro where he sat in his throne. Demetri stretched his arm out to stop me but I took another step just out of his reach -though he could take a step closer himself.

"It is as if we have raised you up to speak like a mere human. Humans make mistakes and beg to be forgiven for them, but we are a race of a very different kind. We stand alone from humans and never take a step in saying that we make mistakes. What we do is just a doing and that is all it can be. So, Isabella, please note to never say something like that again." I was shocked to say the least. Aro's voice was like an elastic band that hit me smack in the face. Never had he used such a professional tone with me, and it seemed to even surprise others. Demetri let out a soft growl that seemed to be ignored by the rest of the occupants of the chamber, Felix tightened his fists, Alec's eyes were open wide, and the others glanced quickly at each other. Only Jane stood calmly like it was a natural occurrence.

"Alice Cullen will not be found innocent for the crime she has committed. In no circumstance was she supposed to do such an action and it will not be excused."

This was my last resort and I can say that I would never be shameful of it as it was a rather brave thing to do; standing up for a friend in the face of expulsion and danger.

"Aro, please! If anyone is to forgive Alice then it is me. And I forgive her for doing only what she thought was right, she was just trying to protect her family!"

Aro's gaze was on me and it didn't feel like anything welcome he used to give me before. It was a cold stare and seemed to look right through me. "A coven is never a family, Isabella. You should know that." I blinked in further surprise at what Aro was saying. It was as if he was now just letting everything he thought spill out; what a coven meant to him and how a family stood far apart from it.

"Aro." The voice of Marcus eased the awkwardness within the chamber as he grabbed Aro's attention. Without another word being said Marcus held his hand out for Aro to take. It was an action that the guard had become accustomed to yet we all still waited in impatience. Alice seemed to be having a vision but I wasn't about to ask. If I did manage to free her from an awful death then I was going to let her run back to the Cullen's without any further questioning. I knew that I was almost too curious for anyone's good but I could put the pieces together from what Alice had already told me. And maybe this way I could still go on with my business without knowing anything that I would count too dreadful for anyone's ears.

"I do not think that is the best of ideas, Marcus." Aro's voice was now soft but he still had that hard look in his eyes. He wasn't going to let this go easily and no one expected any differently from him. He was, after all, the leader of the vampire universe for a reason.

Marcus tightened his hold on Aro's hand as if that would make him see differently and the other occupants of the chamber waited further. Jane inched towards Alec to whisper in his ear but he seemed too stuck to reply to her. Felix turned to Demetri next to me with a sad look. For a second it seemed as if these vampires could have a heart that wanted to lead a life by some moral conduct but under Aro's rein it seemed almost impossible. But wasn't that what Carlisle battled for? To lead a good life instead of one filled with too many sins it was hard to begin counting?

"Are you going against my better judgment?" Aro's voice rose and for a split second I imagined that he would get up and throw Marcus across the room. Though it seemed almost outlandish I could see Aro doing so to anybody in an angry state. But what was hard was to find him in any state of anger, it was almost too rare that anyone ever saw him angry.

"Not your better judgment, Aro. But if you prize her and wish to have her close maybe it is best to let the yellow-eyed one go. Remember what you can lose." I got it immediately. If Aro did want to keep me here with all my powers then it meant Alice go. But if he let her die then it would result in me leaving. And I would do so only after begging Demetri to go with me. So losing three potential vampires wasn't the best thing that Aro could do.

"And that, I must say, will just not look good." Caius put in. He was using his light tone and had his gaze fixed on one if his rings.

Aro turned his head towards him but I was cut off from the look that he gave him. But I could perfectly well read it on everyone else's expressions. "That is a bit too far for you, dear Caius."

Caius' face displayed what could only be described as a burning, passionate anger. He turned his head the other way though and let Aro turn back to Marcus who seemed to want Aro's attention for further persuasion. Aro was all too slow to get back to holding Marcus' hand for the flow of information.

"What will you do if she doesn't get to go?" Demetri's soft voice filled my ear and I almost closed my eyes and rocked my body backwards towards his. This had been one of the things that I knew he'd ask me in a short period of time because he felt it right to know where I would go if I wished to.

"I don't think I'll be able to stay here," I softly whispered back so that it was hard for the others to pick up. I hadn't thought about it in detail but I didn't think that I'd be able to stay if one of the people that I once loved dearly was killed by the people that I counted my family. "But if I go, will you come with me?"

A flash of sadness crossed Demetri's face. I didn't believe that I had asked a hard question but it seemed to take him a while to answer. So long that I was getting impatient to a new level and so I had to restrain myself from asking, in a louder tone, what his thought of my question was.

"Wouldn't it be a little risky? I mean they'd be able to work it in their advantage. And where would we go?"

I felt like I could cry for the world at that moment. Not only did it seem like he was uncertain to go with me but he was putting family first straight away. I would do that too were I uncertain about the bond between us but I was perfectly sure that it was real.

Before I could reply though Aro spoke up, dropping Marcus' hand and gaining the whole chamber's attention. "I have come to a decision and after so much thinking about it… Bella was attacked by Alice without having provoked her and so I think it is only fair to punish Alice."

A low gasp escaped my lips and I found that it was the last time that I could beg in Alice's honour. "Please, Aro! Is this case not actually supposed to be left up to me? I was attacked by her so should I not be the one to decide if she goes or is punished?"

Aro cast me a disapproving look and returned to addressing the whole crowd though I was right behind him. "My dear Isabella. I find it inappropriate to hand over this sort of decision to you as you seem too kind hearted. And more important, in our law it is one of the three rulers that get to decide. That would be either Caius, Marcus or I. You are only in the guard."

I wanted to pull at my hair and scream to myself why I had ever stayed. I had seen things like this happen before yet as it was happening right now it seemed like something foreign. And, of course, it was someone close to me who was being judged. Did these people really care about any sort of 'family'? It was most definitely a rhetorical question that even a child would see no need to answer had they seen the Volturi.

I took a step back and let my head fall. Aro continued to talk to the crowd of the Volturi guard. I could just imagine the look in his eyes that showed how sadistic he could be in his little moments. I felt the sharp ache start in the pit of my stomach and felt something hook-like pull at my belly button. The pain shot through me to my chest. I tried to stay stock still and not let anyone on that I wasn't able to bring up my shields but it was getting harder as the ache lingered longer at my chest. It felt like one of my ribs had snapped and was now poking right into my lung. I didn't bother breathing like I was used to because the pain got worse. I exhaled what little air I had had in my lungs and felt the pain loosen up just a bit.

The first sign that I hadn't held onto my outer shields was when Demetri gasped and took a step backwards. I quickly turned my head his way, ignoring the pain that seared through my arms. For a moment I thought that I had gotten the outer shield under control but then I felt a bit of the pain disappear. It was as if I could see it travel through the air, flying towards Aro. The idea that flew into my brain gave me my last breath of hope.

I stood upright, discarding the pain like it wasn't bothersome, and concentrated on building a shield around the other people closest to me; Aro, Caius and Marcus. I tried to include Demetri in the tight bubble and could just manage it. It was like putting a leash onto a dog except this was more serious than a dog running off without it's lead on. I tried to think positive thoughts to try and cool off the pain. Images of my meadow immediately popped into my mind and I felt the pain slowly being tugged away.

This had to work in order for me to continue to try to break Alice away from any sort of punishment.

When I saw that Demetri wasn't bent over anymore I let the shield snap back into place, right around me. I let them active just in case I got another bout of sadness or anger.

I took a step closer to Aro so that he would be able to see me in his vision of sight without having to turn his head to face me. I lightly cleared my throat to get his attention, tearing it away from the guard. The look on his pale face told me that despite his reluctances to the matter I had his full attention.

Acting like I was a child who had been punished and now knew what they had done wrong I dropped my eyes to the floor and then brought them back up. "Master, I feel like I cannot lie to you."

"Pardon?" A look of curiosity crossed Aro's features and I saw Caius and Marcus turn their heads to look at me. I had the rest of the guard's attention so I knew it would not take too long to ravel them into a frenzy.

"I mean to tell you that Alice did not attack me. Well, she did but she wasn't the one to attack first."

"Isabella?" Aro asked at the same time that Demetri uttered "Bella?" It felt nice to hear Demetri say my name but this was not a time to listen to him or his questions. This was either a moment where I could sell Alice out or where I could bail her out. Wasn't a family supposed to keep close to each other no matter what life time they had been together during?

"I attacked Alice first to provoke her to get mad. I… had wanted to get back at… Edward by showing him that I was capable of killing anyone. It was my form of…revenge."

Aro spared Caius and Marcus a look before letting his eyes fall back to me. Alice, kneeling in front of the three thrones, looked up at me as if what she was hearing was insane.

"And what gave you the impression that this was acceptable?" Caius asked, raising one of his eyebrows to emphasize that he wasn't asking this to know all the facts but, rather, to entertain himself with the mistake I had 'made'.

I stepped past Aro's throne and stopped next to Alice. "I wasn't over him and I guess that I'm still not. But I shouldn't have thought of bringing Alice into this after everything she had done for me. It was irresponsible of me to do so and I will take action for my doings." I hoped that Demetri had enough wit to understand what I was doing so that he wouldn't ask where the whole Volturi clan could hear.

Aro gave me a look of suspicion like he wasn't going to take my bait and believe what I had just said. I had guessed that this would happen, that there would be a sixty per cent chance of Aro not believing me so I didn't have anything to be sad about other than the fact that Alice might be killed.

"Are you meaning to say that you are taking the whole responsibly for this mess, Isabella?" Aro hard gaze made me avert my eyes but I nodded. "Seems quite brave of you."

"I will not let someone else take the punishment that I deserve." I said quietly. I looked at Alice and hoped that she wouldn't ruin things by saying that she actually had attacked me first.

"Then why is it that Alice didn't say so from the start?" The looked that I was given illustrated that Aro expected Alice to answer. I shut my mouth and waited for Alice's voice to sound.

Her head bobbed up and she looked with fright at Aro. "I… was afraid of saying that Bella had done anything because I understand what family is to her. I know that she wouldn't want to be apart with anyone who she counts family but since she's been with you longer I thought it noble to die for her happiness. And what she had with Edward tore her apart to pieces that she can't pick up by herself." Alice's gaze met Demetri's but all I saw was a man who wouldn't dare to meet my eyes in a dance of passionate show of affection.

"It would be quite ridiculous to kill from my own guard. This time I will not be taking as long to make up my mind. I do not want this mess at my feet so I call no responsibility for it. This means that Alice Cullen is free to go. Isabella, you are more or less not do this again if you feel it right to stay. But in my opinion you should go." I looked up and stared at Aro. Never had I heard such words come from his mouth. It was like he had turned into a completely different person altogether.

"But-"

"Better yet, you can be banned from this coven." Caius put in before Aro could speak. The look they shared showed me everything that I needed to know. It was either get killed or go and never come back unless called upon.

My bright idea turned dim and vanished inside my head. This hadn't turned out the way I had wanted it but I still, in one way or another, gotten what I wanted. But I had wanted to free Alice and then leave anyway. But along with Demetri. The question now is would he even consider going with me?

Author's note:

First thing first: I am so sorry that I hadn't updated in a while. But in Irish the fourth to last year of school is a big exam year and that means that I get loaded with homework. I can honestly say that I cannot wait to go to college/uni.

Second thing is that I made this chapter way longer than usual as some sort of treat for you guys. You're awesome for all those reviews that you leave and for liking this fanfic. Now please go and review for my effort to update sooner with this chapter than my homework would actually let me. Next time I don't update in a long time means I'm either busy with homework or I'm away from a computer or that I really want to have some me time which means only reading and listening to music.

M.M