There was some sort of hullabaloo downstairs. Sort of, because it wasn't at all too loud. If she hadn't left her door open that little creak, she wouldn't have heard it. Hermione turned over in bed, not in a particularly pleasant mood at being awakened at – she took a quick look at the watch on her nightstand – four twenty-three in the morning. Damned vampires and their abnormal sleeping habits.
She was giddy with exhaustion and had to grope around a bit before she found the lamp. Incandescent light burst forth from the bulb and briefly blinded her while she clumsily stood up and trudged around, finding her robe. Her head throbbed badly and her hair was a terrible mess.
The noises were getting louder. Some sort of thumping against the floor. Faint moaning.
Oh, for Christ's sake, Hermione thought as she ineptly pinned her hair. She had a slight impression what that kind of clamour could entail and it was not something she wanted to be a spectator to. Couldn't they make it to the bedroom before-
Hermione shook her head. That was a tad graphic, thank you very much. She didn't think like that willingly – never had and probably never will. She did not do well in relationships at all, let alone finding the courage in herself to put out for anybody. After Krum, there was that walking hard-on McLaggen who she despised anyway... then Ron. Very limited experience with men, that much was obvious.
Someone was struggling downstairs, Hermione noticed from the staircase landing, but she was barely putting up a fight against someone's monster grip on her. Okay, so it wasn't sex she had to witness, but was that any sort of a consolation? She didn't want to be a bystander to a murder either. As Hermione descended the stairs, she realised the man holding the girl captive was a stocky Asian man dressed entirely in black, his expression aloof. Eric was standing by. The woman between them was an overweight Caucasian lady dressed in a pristine white overcoat. She looked like she could have been the typical Southern belle, only now she had befriended the deadly drink – she had a beer belly. Her hair was frazzled and her thick makeup smeared in an unsightly manner. What were they doing with her?
Eric noticed Hermione at the top of the stairs first, and shot her a knowing gaze.
"I hope I did not wake you," he said softly. "I'm not usually this noisy, but this human wasn't being very cooperative."
"Who is she?" Hermione had to know. "A very late dinner or an early breakfast?"
"She's your coroner."
Hermione was more alert straight away. She glanced back towards the lady, who was so drained of energy that she had her eyes closed as though she had passed out.
"Well, you... work fast," Hermione observed a little dumbly.
Eric grinned. "I had a little bit of help with this. Hermione, this is Chow. Chow, Hermione."
The stout Asian gave her a little bit of a leer, which was terribly disturbing. This is the kind of company he keeps, Hermione thought.
"You're sure this is the nightshift coroner?" Hermione asked as she warily turned back to face Eric, desperate to ignore Chow.
"Positive, she said so herself after a little bit of persuasion," Eric answered. When Hermione looked at him questioningly, he smiled again. "Glamour."
Bill had taken some time to explain the so-called art of glamouring humans to Hermione two nights ago – the night after Hermione's and Eric's little arrangement – so she was slightly aware of it. He hadn't told her out of the blue either; Hermione had asked. Secretly, she was still doing some Ministry work, discovering little facts about vampires here and there, although her heart was no longer really in it. Did she really want to help the establishment that, according to the vampires, wanted to start unnecessary feuds? She had grown so unsure of her loyalties ever since finding out vampires weren't all that bad. Again according to Bill, only young vampires drain bodies. Those who have lived for decades and centuries know their bodies and can live off a mouthful or two of blood every couple of days. Others, like himself, settled for synthetic blood.
That was one of the good habits she had found out about vampires, at least. Hermione's eyebrows knitted together in clear aversion but she made no comment on the use of glamour. If it garnered them information, she supposed, and if the woman was left unharmed, there was no reason she should be angry. Still, she didn't approve of it.
"What else did you glamour out of her?" she questioned, all the while trying to mask her repugnance.
Eric pulled out a small slip of paper and handed it to Hermione. On it were directions around the morgue, so she would not get lost whilst inside. There was also the name by which she would be addressed – Cindy Robin.
"I suppose you thought of everything," she nodded, peering up at him over the piece of paper. "And I guess tomorrow night's when we'll be setting off."
"The quicker, the better, as you've said. I've spoken to Bill," Eric replied. "He's planned a night out with Sookie for tomorrow, so we should have free reign. I did not tell him explicitly of our arrangements, of course."
"That's fine. Is, uh, he coming?" Hermione gestured to Chow, who was still looking somewhat lecherously at her.
"Chow, she' is not a meal," Eric barked. "And no, Hermione, he isn't. He's just here to make sure the real Cindy doesn't break out and try to make a run for it. I assure you, on my command, he won't endanger her either."
Hermione wasn't entirely convinced, Eric was certain, but she nodded stiffly before enquiring as to where the actual coroner would be lodged.
"Fangtasia," was his simple reply.
"That...prison you have under there?" Hermione gulped.
There was no hesitation in his answer. Eric had the uncanny ability to turn Hermione's head in this way – one minute he could be caring and in a flash, he could become cold-blooded with a severe lack of compassion. However, all the more he interested her, which was in itself a morbid thought. She was so disillusioned with the living that fraternising with the dead was such a pleasant option to chew over.
"Chow," Eric broke the silence. "Get Miss Robin to the bar. Put her with the rest."
"Wait," Hermione protested. The rest? "Um, uh. T-the hairs. You've got them?"
She was just looking for an excuse for the poor girl to stay.
"They're here," Eric replied softly, holding up a little mint container.
"Pulled by the roots?"
Hermione's heart sank. She did not mean to make it so marked, but her shoulders dropped too. She was simply worried for the woman.
To her surprise, Eric took a step towards her and put a hand on her shoulder. His fingers brushed her exposed collarbone and she gritted her teeth at the sheer iciness of his touch. It was only because she was never expecting an animated human body to be anything but warm. His fingertips were smooth, though, and the feeling was strangely nice.
"She'll be fine," he whispered. This was his kind-hearted side peeking through a hard exterior. "Trust me."
He carefully tucked the mint tin in Hermione's small hands and wrapped deft fingers over her closed fist afterwards. It was a bizarre, intimate gesture. In that moment, she knew she believed him. The only thing that bothered her was that she did not know why she did.
The following night was fresh and especially breezy. It felt like a good night in general, let alone one to carry out such a strenuous mission, in Hermione's opinion. She always felt much better if she could breathe with ease. The dampness of Deep South summers still did not sit well with her at all. She could hardly run without feeling clammy and smothered. And that night depended on speed the most.
"Remember, don't dawdle," Eric advised from the driver's seat of his Cadillac. "Get what you came for, and get out quickly."
Hermione suppressed the urge to roll her eyes. She was in the backseat, stirring the bubbling Polyjuice Potion in its little cauldron lit with her specialty – portable blue flame. She was careful too. If she got glugging potion all over Eric's leather upholstery, she would never hear the end of it.
"Yes, Dad," she sighed in exasperation. "You've told me that about fifty times."
"Hermione, I'm serious!" Eric admonished with a sense of panic and she was taken aback. He rarely acted out of control. In fact, Hermione had only ever seen him keep his cool.
"Okay, okay," she resigned. "Sorry."
"I just feel something in this night air," Eric responded after a few quick inhales to calm down. "Something is moving out there and it makes me worry if only a pinch. You sure you have everything you need?"
"Yes, my wand and that little sheet of directions. All that's left for me to do is to change and then the transformation can take place," Hermione replied, grabbing the female coroner's clothes from a paper bag on the floor of the car. In a short-lived moment of childish insecurity, she added, "Don't look at me."
"You could have just changed back at the house," Eric pointed out, respecting her privacy a little and acquiescing. Only a little though. There was always the rear-view mirror after all.
"Sure, I could have, if this woman wasn't about three sizes bigger than I am," Hermione scoffed, hastily tugging her shirt off and unhooking the back of her bra. "As if I was going to walk around in her undies if I could help it. They're too big for me."
She changed quickly, and even attempted to crouch low behind the passenger seat despite the lack of room. She knew that once she took the potion, the drooping shirt and too-big skirt would fit her like a glove, but for now, she had to deal with the loose panties and D-cup bra.
Eric then watched with a mild interest and slight disgust as Hermione emptied the contents of it into cup. The potion gurgled and frothed violent for awhile, before its mud brown colour settled and changed into an equally unpleasant avocado green.
"Looks tasty," Eric remarked sordidly.
"Enough with the condescension please," Hermione shot back shortly. "You're not the one having to drink this."
"And who brought me here to begin with?"
As if scrunching her face up would take away any bad flavour from the potion, Hermione shut her eyes and took a large gulp. There it was, that unforgettable stomach-turning taste of overcooked cabbage and bad milk. Hermione forced herself to guzzle the rest of the potion and almost instantly felt like throwing it all back up again when she was done, but she managed to keep it down. She took a look at her skin and instantly saw it changing. Its original milky iridescence was turning into a dark tan and her flesh was stretching out. Slowly, the new outfit she had adorned no longer draped shapelessly over her form. They began to tighten around curves she'd not previously had. She reached up to touch her hair, finding her curls had straightened out. Her vision also became steadily worse – apparently the coroner was afflicted with short-sightedness.
"Pass me those glasses, will you? I can barely see."
"Impossible," Eric breathed in a low tone. Even Hermione's voice was altered. It had gotten considerably higher pitched and her accent was lined with a Southern twang.
Checking her appearance in the rear-view mirror, Hermione was pleased. She was now the blonde Cindy Robin, night-time coroner. She stuck her wand into her skirt pocket and grabbed the instruction sheet.
"Okay, I'm going in now," Hermione mumbled, fiddling with her new spectacles. "I have exactly an hour, remember. I should be out in the next half though, if all goes well. If I'm not back by nine forty-five, come in for me."
Eric was still staring at her incredulously and speechlessly even as she left the car. He only managed a nod.
It was easy getting inside. The security guard was in his guardhouse, seemingly watching the local football game on his tiny television. He briefly waved at Hermione and gave her a nod – he recognised her as a regular employee so she could go in without a fuss. She trotted into the building, discreetly checking her little info sheet again before heading towards a long deserted corridor. It was no joke either; Hermione had a protracted walk before she found what she was looking for.
At last, there it was. The room designated 'Records'. It was lit with cold fluorescent lights that flickered annoyingly and uncomfortably.
Hermione let herself in with a swipe of Cindy's key card and quickly checked her watch. Great, twenty minutes wasted trying to find the bloody room. She headed straight to the computers, since searching through the cupboards and file drawers were bound to give her nothing to substance. She logged on within seconds and was browsing through recent entries. Eric had said his dead employee's name was Ginger, but what was her last name? Hermione started gnawing on her bottom lip as she tapped the mouse buttons anxiously.
Found it! She breathed a sigh of relief. Well, this was the only woman whose name was Ginger who had passed away within the past week, so it fit the time frame. Hermione immediately found which drawer her file was stored and started flipping through the records frantically. She retrieved Ginger's manila folder and thumbed through the report. The autopsy results caused her blood to run cold, though. Ginger's cause of death was collapse of the lungs. If that in itself was an unusual way for a young, otherwise healthy twenty-seven-year-old to go, the day coroner's notes on the body revealed even stranger circumstances. The inner walls of Ginger's lungs appeared to sustain third-degree burns. Other than that, the body had been untouched, aside from some sexual activity that had the characteristics of textbook rape. Hermione had no idea of the Bon Temps murders, but Ginger had been raped twice – once while alive and once after she had her lungs burnt out.
"That is just plain sick," she murmured to herself, looking through autopsy photographs very carefully. She didn't notice time slip away from her. The next time she checked her watch, she only had ten minutes left.
"Shit," she grumbled, quickly flipping to the end of the file to make sure she had read through every last detail. Where was Eric though? She had told him to fetch her after the half-hour mark. Something was clearly keeping him...
The door slammed open behind Hermione, causing her to jump and Ginger's folder to fly out of her hands.
"Whoa, Cindy!" a young man laughed. "A little on edge tonight, dontcha think?"
Hermione spun around and faced him, and was staggered by how close he had really been to her. She hadn't realised just how small the room was before that moment. The man looked no older than thirty, and he was well-built. He was about Bill's height, she estimated, and he was smiling at her rather oddly. It looked forced and unnatural.
Crap, Hermione thought. If only I had his name-
"Um..." she croaked.
"Whatcha you doin' in here anyway? You're not on shift tonight."
"I, uh..." Think of something, Hermione, think quickly! Her mind begged.
"You seem a bit different tonight, love," this man leered, reaching up to touch Hermione's hair. She intercepted him though, pushing his hand away.
"You mind backing up a bit?" she asked rudely. That was the only way she could conceivably get out of this sticky situation.
"You're not usually like this, Cindy," the man laughed. "You're easier than that."
He made another move, this time holding both her (well, Cindy's) porky hands down roughly. His fingers trailed from the top of her head down her cheeks, drawing lines further on her neck towards the top buttons of her blouse.
Wretched motherfucker, Hermione thought, her blood beginning to boil.
"Get your hands off me." Her voice had betrayed her, goddamn it. It was quivery. At least her stare never broke his, and it was only then that Hermione noticed something was very wrong.
Now she had seen the Imperius Curse at work on several people. These victims seemed perfectly normal off the bat, with no visual signs as to whether they were being controlled or not. The man before her exhibited similar symptoms and yet he was different. His eyes were glazed over with a red tinge, unlike normally Imperiused individuals. It was obvious he was being controlled by something unconventional.
Eric, where are you? Hermione found herself pleading internally. She was struggling with all her might to free her hands. He was trying to pin all her limbs back against the file cabinets. Hermione finally managed to liberate herself and extract her wand from her coat.
"Stupefy!" she yelled, red jets of light flying from the wand tip right at him. The man shot off backwards and landed with a crash against several metal crates in a corner of the room.
Already Hermione could feel her hands shrinking. The Polyjuice Potion was wearing off. She felt her hair frizz and her skirt literally fall off. Thankfully, Cindy's shirt was big enough for Hermione to wear as a dress, if not she would have been seriously exposed in more ways than one. She seized her opportunity to escape while her attacker was still unconscious.
In her fluster, she could not find her way out. The white hallway seemed to extend farther than what it had seemed to her less frenzied state of mind earlier. She heard footsteps dash after her and saw the man was hot on her heels all of a sudden, looking far more hysterical than he had previously.
How the hell did he recover so quickly? Hermione panicked.
"Get the fuck back here, witch!" he bellowed.
Hermione put a little more speed in her legs, although it was no use. The man had longer strides in his run and caught up with her quickly, grabbing her by the leg and pulling her down with abnormal force. The motion caused her to fall over on the floor face down and knocked her wand several feet out of her grip. The impact was hard on the shiny white linoleum and Hermione could almost felt her ribs crack, her jaw dislocating as it hit the floor. The man had somehow come to bear a Swiss army knife and stabbed her right in the ankle. He dragged the knife upwards, slicing a deep gash in Hermione's calf, tearing at her muscle to her bone. She screamed at the top of her lungs as tears spilled like beads from her eyes. She couldn't even bear to look at her wound.
The man did not stop. He viciously extracted the knife and there was pure fury in his eyes as he made to stab her again – this time in the hip. Hermione only rolled out in the nick of time. However, he still managed to knick her in the side. She yelped, only her voice had gotten a lot weaker due to the blood loss and all her crying. She defensively wrapped her head in her arms, where he stabbed her a third time whilst aiming for her jugular.
Hermione instinctively knew she was going to die, despite her efforts to cling on. And then suddenly, the man was pulled away from her by a savage, roaring behemoth of some kind. Well, she supposed it was until she uncovered her face and noticed it was Eric. His blond mane was utterly dishevelled and he had lifted her attacker clean off the ground and ripped him plainly in half – bone and all. If Hermione had any energy left in her, she would have cried out again, but she could feel life slipping out of her.
She was starting to fade in and out of clarity and consciousness. She saw Eric stoop next to her and lift her upper body, cradling her gently in his arms. He was covered in her attacker's blood and his fangs were out. She tried to speak, but he shushed her instead. Eric did a once over on her, although that was all he had time for when sirens started wailing outside the coroner's.
In a flash, Eric had Hermione in his arms and outside through a back way she would have taken hours to find. He moved with such speed and silence that it terrified her. Once outside, he breezed past tree after tree, going a good few miles away from the building as far as Hermione could tell. When, per Eric's judgement, they were safe, he carefully laid her down again, tending to her as he had before.
"E-Eric," she gasped when she saw him brandish his fangs. Eric brought his own wrist to his mouth, tearing skin and flesh off and shoving the pouring wound at Hermione.
"Drink," he lightly commanded.
"Do as I say," he urged gently still. "You're dying."
No shit, Sherlock, Hermione thought. She cringed as much as her energy levels allowed her to and pressed her lips against his skin, gulping down his blood.
Hermione would later go on to describe her first experience drinking vampire blood as a parallel to her first time consuming alcohol. It burned her insides at first – for such a cold being, Eric's blood was the total opposite – and yet in the end, she found herself enjoying the drink as though it was her favourite beverage. It started to taste sweet and aromatic, while the thickness was just right. Eric had to bring his wrist back to his own mouth several times to reopen the wound for her to drink from, for he healed extremely quickly. After about five or six mouthfuls, he determined she had had enough.
"I shouldn't have let you go in there alone," he whispered in the darkness. Hermione could only just decipher his expression – he looked pained.
"It-it wasn't your fault I got attacked," Hermione tried to reassure him. "You just saved my life, Eric."
"I still let you go in there, even though I knew in my gut something was out in the shadows," Eric softly argued, bringing her closer almost mechanically. His arms were sturdy around her, and immediately she felt even safer. Any preconceived notions she might have had about him doing such a thing as hug her went out the window and Hermione closed her eyes wearily but contentedly.
"No use beating yourself up over it now," she sighed, tiredness slowly creeping up on her. "But I say again, Eric Northman. You saved my life. And for that I can never blame you. Thank you."
She peered into the solid blue orbs of his eyes and reached up to brush his tousled blond locks away from his face. He no longer looked so agonised, although his mind was far from easy. He glanced down at her and smiled ever so slightly before gazing up above the trees at the night sky, lost in thought.
A/N: Hello everyone! It's been awhile, but here is a new chapter to "Deadly In Every Way". Do note that this doesn't end the writing hiatus. I'm not stopping writing entirely, just doing it incredibly slowly nowadays. But at least I'm back with an update for now. Please leave some feedback telling me what you think! Thank you.