It wasn't a dark and stormy night, but well-lit and windy, which is fairly dramatic. Hermione Granger, however, didn't care about the dramatics. She only cared about this stranger who had haunted her. Vampires were dramatic enough, and ever since she was attacked by a troll in the girl's bathroom drama was just part of the day's distractions. This time she was alone, but this time she was prepared. In the pocket of her robe she kept the stake and garlic. She hoped she wouldn't need them, but she had a feeling violence would be inevitable.
When she reached the tower, Edward Cullen was waiting for her. He stood as still as a statue, not blinking, the only motion his muggle clothes being swayed by the chill night breeze. He turned around to face her, clearly in charge of the situation. Hermione had every intention to change this.
"Edward", she said quietly as she moved to the vampire, "I'm glad you've decided to do things civilly. Now, I told you how I feel and you can probably tell about what I think of this situation. I want you to explain yourself and why you're doing this to me."
"I'm a vampire, Hermione," he said calmly, "I'm the world's most dangerous predator. Everything about me invites you in. My voice, my face, even my smell. As if I would need any of that. As if you could outrun me. As if you could fight me off. I'm designed to kill. And I'm afraid you've come to my attention and I can't just let you go."
Ron raced through the corridors with his wand lit as brightly as he could manage, startling painting from their rest. A few ghosts drew towards the light, curious about the disturbance.
"Hermione Granger is in danger. I want to know if anyone's seen her and where she's headed."
There was a chorus of mumbling.
"Please! She's going to die!" He yelled. Still nothing. He took a deep breath
"I'm going to find out why before I take each painting from the wall and turn it into confetti!" Ron's face turned redder than it ever was before as he roared at the unhelpful paintings. There was a long pause.
"Ah, Mr. Weasley! You say a maiden is in distress?" A haggard looking knight peeped into the frame of a young couple who were in the process of hiding behind the nearby fountain.
"Cadogan! Have you seen Hermione Granger? She's going to try to face down a vampire" Ron enunciated each word impatiently, making sure it got across the dimwitted painting's magical mind.
"Why, I heard from Captain Gilling that she was heading toward the northwest tower. If her life is at stake from the monstrous servant of the undead, you can count on the greatest knight of the realm to-".
Ron had already gone.
"Why?" Hermione could only say.
"I can read minds, you know. I have read yours, and it's like nothing I have ever seen before. Perhaps it's your mind that makes you smell so good, that makes you look like the perfect prey. It's like heroin"
"Sorry to burst your bubble, Mr. Cullen, but I'm not impressed by your defense of rather disturbing behavior. Addicts like you need to get counseling. What do you want from me?"
"It's going to be one thing or the other. Either I…feed on you, which I have taken every intention to avoid, or I become part of your life. Guardian, lover, parent; it doesn't matter, as long as I can still smell you. I want you to let me be part of your life."
"I can't let that happen," Hermione faced him unblinkingly. She had found her anchor, her sticking place, and she wasn't going to be swayed by him or anyone else.
"I won't let you put my friends in danger. You're a menace; you've told me so. Most vampires know that and they take programs and substitutes. We leave them alone; they leave us alone. Why don't you keep doing that?" Her voice gave no sign of surrender or compromise, her eyes narrowed; vampires seldom meet victims as stubborn as Hermione J. Granger.
"I told you. It's because of you. I must give in somehow. I want to protect you."
"I don't need your protection. I've handled myself and my friends have helped me quite fine."
"You don't need your friends. You need something better," the vampire insisted.
"I'm not giving them up for anything. Not for you, or for school, or for V-V-V-Voldemort himself." Hermione never took the word of the most evil being she had ever experienced lightly.
"If they let you down, what will happen? I'd rather kill them than make that happen."
"They've let me down!" Hermione snapped, "But I forgive them. You're acting ridiculous for someone who's...almost a century old! I think I know what's good for me, thank you!"
"You're a human. You don't know enough. You're not strong enough, or fast enough, or smart enough. You need me."
"No. I. Don't."
Edward moved to grab her arm, but Hermione managed to beat him. The clove of garlic shattered against his stone-hard face, which only blinked once. The garlic didn't have any effect, but Hermione didn't count on that. All she need was time to draw her wand.
She got her time. Things seemed to move in slow motion as she grabbed the wand from the pocket she had put it in when she arrived at the tower. It slid out in a single smooth motion, aimed at Edward. Hermione had become quite expert as using nonverbal spells, and with a gesture of her wand, she sent the vampire flying off the tower of Hogwarts. He seemed to hang in the air as the spell threw him yards away, surprise and anger managing to creep into his masklike expression. And then he was gone.
For a while, Hermione stood alone on the tower, breathing hard. It felt like when she came in from a snowstorm into a warm house. It felt like awakening from a horrible nightmare only to forget it immediately. She had triumphed, and she did it entirely by herself.
She only turned around when she heard Ron's voice.
"Hermione! You're alive!"
She turned around and embraced her friend, who was crushing her with enthusiasm and relief.
"Ron? How did you find out?"
"We're not stupid, Hermione! Harry and I figured it out. He's gone with Ginny and Neville to get the rest of the teachers. They should be here soon."
Then Ron paused, suddenly noticing something.
"Where's that Cullen bloke?"
"Somewhere down there" Hermione explained, gesturing off the tower, "We got into a…disagreement and I threw him off with a mobilicorpus."
"You what?" Ron was stunned.
"I threw him off, by myself. Look, I appreciate what you're all doing, but this is my battle, and I won it myself."
Vampires, however, are harder to kill than Hermione thought. As she explained things to the person she felt the most mixed feelings for, a dark shape got up from the moist Scottish soil. Stone by stone, the shape began to crawl up the wall of the tower, first at the pace of a novice wall-climber, then at an inhuman pace. Vampires, after all, aren't human except in their general body shape and in their mind. And revenge is one of the most human of all emotional curses.
"You should have told us!" Ron argued.
"Oh, so now you're the one being responsible! Funny, last time I said the exact same thing to you, you just ignored me!" Hermione snapped.
"Don't get all high-and-mighty. You don't see me and Harry lying to you, but you lied to all of us. You didn't tell us anything!"
"And how is that different from what you do? You conveniently decide not to tell me important things all the time! If you have the right to do that, then I have every right to."
"Fine, then I expect you to shut your bloody gob whenever I decide to do something for myself!"
"Honestly, Ron, you're acting like a-" Something struck her, and she fell to the stone unconscious.
Standing over her was a furious, frothing, red-eyed monster that had been baptized Edward Cullen. Gone was the restraint. Gone was the class and eloquence. Gone was any semblance of civility. His restraints on his dark nature had finally snapped, and he was going to lash out at the person who broke them.
"NO!" Ron yelled as he shot a stunner at the vampire. The beam of light struck him in the center of his exposed, bone-white torso, but the creature didn't even blink.
With a glare, Edward jumped forward and kicked at his attacker. The strength and speed had the impact of a bludger as it connected with Ron's jaw, breaking it. He fell to ground in a heap. The vampire didn't stop to gloat or finish off the boy but picked up the unconscious witch and jumped with inhuman agility toward the main roof of the castle. A triumph for independence had turned into a catastrophe.
Neville hated passwords. He couldn't remember what was told to him, let alone figure out passwords that he had never heard before. It had taken him years to figure out the passwords for his own house, but the headmaster's office was out of his league.
"Phoenix! Wand! Wizard! Albus! Hogwarts! Harry! Fawkes!" He blurted out at the gargoyle. It didn't move at centimeter, staring coldly at him.
Maybe he was thinking too hard. Thinking wasn't his strongest suit. What would he have put as a password? Toad was too obvious. Trevor wouldn't make it. Frank and Alice could be anyone's mum and dad. How about food?
"Bagel! Corn flakes! Oatmeal! Potato! Salad" Still nothing.
"Sugar quill! Pumpkin pasty! Ice lolly! Cadbury egg!"
That did the trick.
"Dumbledore? Headmaster? Is anyone here?" Neville called out into the room. There were bookshelves, portraits, exotic magical devices, but the man who knew exactly what to do was nowhere to be found.
The portraits mumbled, awaking at the intruder in the middle of the night.
"Has anyone seen Dumbledore?" he asked.
"Oh, are you trying to help that Granger girl?" one of the portraits asked.
Neville spun around in surprise to see to talk to the portrait, which contained a thin, gaunt headmaster with a scar on his face and dark eyes.
"Yes, I am"
"Well, she's headed to the northwest tower. The headmaster will be back soon if you need him. Why not ask the hat there for advice?" the headmaster explained in a deep voice.
Neville was too desperate to question putting on the old sorting hat, his only thoughts on Hermione and what kind of danger she could be in. The ragged thing still fit on him after all those years.
"Well, if it isn't young Longbottom. I told you that you would be a good Hufflepuff. Of course, you chose Gryffindor, didn't you? Now it's time you become one." The hat spoke into his mind.
Neville was about to ask the hat what it meant when something heavy fell on his head, nearly knocking him out cold. As he dropped the hat and staggered in pain, he noticed a sword had fallen next to his feet. Neville looked down, examining the weapon and realizing what is was. It was the same sword that Harry used to kill the basilisk in second year.
"Guess that's all the help I can get now" he said to himself as he picked it up. He walked over to the window, looking out to see if anything was happening outside. Nothing. Just a clear cold night. Before he could turn and try to meet up with Harry, something grabbed him from behind and carried him off into the night.
Hermione woke up when she hit what she assumed was the ground. As she regained her senses she suddenly realized where she was and assessed what she knew about that instant. She was on top of the castle. She was sore all over. She could taste her own blood. She was fairly sure something had broken. She had dropped her wand back at the tower. And she had been thrown here by a vampire.
"You shouldn't have said no. Now I can't resist." She heard him snarl.
She managed to slowly sit up, only to be grabbed in an iron grip and thrown again. She felt herself travel limply through the air and come down again. This time, she couldn't get up.
"I didn't want to do this. I haven't killed you. I'll offer you a choice." For once, real emotion colored his voice, but it was still chilling; the emotion was frustration, and hunger, and rage. That was somehow even more terrifying.
"It's a choice. I don't like either idea, but it's the only way," he explained, "If you want to live, you become a vampire. I'd rather be married, but since you won't do that, I'll bite you, and you become a vampire. Or I'll let you die right here and now. It's your choice. I offered you what I really wanted, and what was best for you, but it's too late. Too late for anything."
Hermione struggled to sit up, but she met the vampire's gaze for once. She stared into his burning orange eyes with defiance. Bloody, bruised, and most likely going to die within the next hour, Hermione Granger stood up for herself for the last time.
"No deal. If this is what you really are, a hypocrite and a beast, then I'd rather die alone. End it quick, you bastard." She swore uncharacteristically, spitting out the last word as a curse in lieu of her magic. She had no chance to pray, no way to fight back, and no option but to die defiantly like Harry would.
"Get away from her!" a new voice interrupted the scene. It was a voice Hermione recognized, but her aching head preventing any way to figure it out. She shook her head, clearing the starts floating in front of her eyes, and saw something she never imagined. On the roof, on the other side of Edward, was Neville Longbottom, pointing a sword at the vampire.
"You can't have her. You will never have her." Edward said, glaring at the newcomer.
"I know that, but I know that you won't either. I'm here to make sure she gets her way", Neville said, meeting the threat.
Neville still had no idea what he was doing or what was happening. He had landed on the roof with the sword of Gryffindor in his hand and the first thing he saw was the vampire and Hermione's bleeding body. Now he was pointing the sword at the aforementioned vampire who was looking at him in the same way Snape did.
"So, you love her. You should have told her to go with the choice where she didn't die, if you cared about her". Edward moved toward him.
"And if you cared, you'd let her go." Neville shuffled nervously, but he didn't lower his sword.
The next thing he knew, Neville was flat on his back, in pain from a violent impact. He still had the sword in his fist, but both it and him were covered in what looked like a vile potion and burned into him. He looked up to see the vampire, staggering back in shock, the burning liquid pouring down his glimmering body from a hole in his chest.
Neville managed to struggle to his feet, and was walking to Hermione when he noticed that the vampire was attempting the same thing. If he got there first…..
Hermione froze. She had a bad habit of freezing in inability when something terrible caught her by surprise. She hated that habit, hated her weakness, hated having to be rescued out of situations she was capable of mastering. Now, all she did was look at the two figures moving toward her-one was a schoolboy, one she had known for years. The other was a dying vampire. Not much of a choice there.
"Hermione….forgive me for what I'm going to do" Edward rasped out, reaching towards her, determined to control her destiny.
Then several things happened in quick succession. The first was that Neville caught up to Edward and cried out her name in terror. The second was that Edward turned around, clawed fingers raised like a medieval weapon. Next, Edward's head hit the floor, silvery blood burning into both students as it sprayed out. And finally, Harry Potter arrived with the teachers.
"Hermione! Neville!" Harry yelled. He started to run towards them, but Dumbledore, close behind him, gently held him by the shoulder.
"They are covered with venom. This is a job for Snape. Severus, disinfect the students. Minerva, Tuan, get rid of the body. Well done, Fawkes. Don't worry, Harry, they're still alive."
Snape cautiously approached the two fallen students. Everyone knew how he felt towards those two particular students, but duty to Dumbledore made him grit his teeth. To Harry's surprise, he pulled out a flask of some sort of powder, and sprinkled it on both teenagers. Harry turned to Dumbledore when the powder reacted with the venom, creating a huge flume of orange smoke, but Dumbledore simply stood and watched.
Meanwhile, McGonagall, in a sight Harry would never forget, began to hack up the body with a broadsword. As she took off each piece, MacCool tapped the vampire flesh with his cane, setting them on fire. The whole scene was sickening, with gore all over the roof, and Harry started to feel faint. Dumbledore saw this and led him back to the conjured stairs connecting the roof with the tower. Harry looked back once last time at the scene.
The orange smoke came off of Neville and Hermione's bodies, and Snape had body-bound them to keep still as he worked. McGonagall managed to cut up the rest of the body, while MacCool was making sure each and every part of the vampire had been incinerated.
"Professor Dumbledore, will they be all right?" he asked the old wizard as they climbed down the temporary staircase to the tower.
"Oh, with a little luck they will. We managed to show up early enough before the venom could take effect. If they had been exposed to it all night, they would be dead, or even undead." Dumbledore spoke quietly and calmly, as usual.
"Did you hear that, Mr. Weasley? Your friends are alive and will hopefully remain so for a while. Miss Granger has nothing to fear from any vampire, at least for now." He addressed this to Ron as he and Harry reached the tower. Ron was squirming and fidgeting as Madam Pomfrey finished fastening a long bandage around his jaw. Even though he couldn't speak, Ron visibly relaxed in relief.
Before Harry could speak, Dumbledore cut him off with a smile and a gesture.
"Don't worry, Harry. There's nothing you can do right now. You have done quite well, tonight. Just be proud of yourself and your friends. As for the unfortunate man's family, I will negotiate something with them. Suffice to say, vampires and other beings will most likely be banned from the school grounds whoever they may be."
Harry felt only slightly relieved. He just hoped this drama would be over so he could return to the main drama of his life. It never did end.
"What happened to that student anyway?"
"Didn't you know? It was a vampire and it attacked Granger!"
"Granger got into a fight with a vampire?"
"She was in the hospital wing for a week with Weasley and Longbottom. They got attacked too."
"I bet it was Harry Potter who defeated the vampire."
"When I asked him, he said Neville Longbottom killed the vampire."
"He's just making it up. Longbottom can't even kill a sleeping fairy."
"All I know is that he's with Granger now. I saw them at Hogsmeade together. I don't know why."
Hermione heard the gossip and smiled to herself.