DISCLAIMER: I own none of the Young Dracula characters or locations etc. The only thing I own is the plot of the story.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is the sequel to 'Redemption'. If you haven't already read 'Redemption' then I urge you to do so, as I will be carrying over certain plot-lines etc. in this story. Apart from that, enjoy!
Vlad knocked softly on Erin's door. He could hear her crying through the wood. There was a scuffling sound, then the door opened a fraction, the creaking of the hinges sounding as loud as a thunderclap in the silent corridor.
"I'm just about to go to bed," she said, her voice falsely cheery; Vlad could hear the faint tremor in it. "See you in the morning." She made to close the door again, but Vlad wedged his foot into the gap.
"We need to talk about this, Erin," he told her firmly. There was no way he was going to let her deal with this on her own.
Erin's voice hardened. "No, we don't," she snapped. "I'm tired and I'm going to bed." She pushed on the door. "Move your foot, please."
"Don't be childish, Vlad-"
Vlad rammed his shoulder into the door, nearly ripping it off its hinges. It flew open and he staggered into the room, Erin only just jumping backwards in time.
"What are you doing?" she hissed, outraged.
She looked awful. Her mascara was streaked down her face, creating thin rivers of black, and her eyes were red and bloodshot. She rubbed them fiercely, and made a great show of yawning and stretching for Vlad's benefit.
"I'm shattered, Vlad- please, can't we talk about this in the morning?"
She did look dead on her feet, and Vlad was almost tempted to give in. But then he saw the fresh tears sparkling at the back her eyes, and he knew that she needed him, whether she wanted to admit it or not.
"We can talk about it in the morning but we're going to talk about it now, too," he said, walking over to her bed and sitting down on it heavily, folding his arms. Erin sighed- she could tell that he wasn't going to budge. He held out his hands; she hesitated, before placing hers in his and sitting down beside him. Vlad closed his eyes as he felt her rest the warm weight of her head on his shoulder.
"There's no point in panicking until we know the facts," he began, in what he hoped was a calm and measured tone. "The letter says that two delegates from the Guild will be arriving on Tuesday, and then we can get this whole mess cleared up. There's no way they can convict you of anything," he concluded, in an effort to convince himself as much as Erin.
"You don't know the Guild as well as I do," Erin muttered. Vlad could feel her shaking; he placed an arm tentatively around her shoulders, and was pleased that she didn't tense under his touch.
His head felt bleary after the events of the day; he had driven to Leicester and back, a journey that had taken just over six hours; he had broken into the grounds of a grammar school, and he had nearly seen his girlfriend's breasts (though that part had not been planned). The letter and the news it brought was not only unwelcome, but downright confusing.
"I don't understand how they can charge you, just like that," he said, his fingers absent-mindedly fiddling with strands of Erin's hair. "Don't they have to interview you or something first?" He hadn't paid much attention when they had studied the legal system in PSHCE, but as far as he could remember you couldn't just go around charging people for crimes willy-nilly.
"Not in slayer law." Erin pushed herself up, turning to face Vlad properly. His fingers itched to wipe away the glittering tear tracks on her cheeks. "If they think someone's committed a crime then they can just charge them- the thinking is if they're innocent, it will come out at the trial and if they're not, it gets the whole thing over and done with a lot quicker. Of course, the whole system's corrupt," she added, and Vlad could see hear the fear in her voice.
"We'll just have to get you a good lawyer, then," he told her matter-of-factly. Erin snorted.
"And where are we going to get the money from?"
That stumped him.
They sat in silence for a while, tensing every time they heard the creak of floorboards that meant that Bertrand was still up and about. Vlad wondered when his father would return- for once, the Count's knowledge of bizarre and useless trivia would come in handy if they were going to find a loophole in the charge.
Vlad pulled the letter out of his pocket; Erin eyed it warily, as though afraid it might bite her. He took her hand in his, and began to read it through once more:
Dear Miss Noble,
I regret to inform you that after much deliberation, the Slayers' Guild of Great Britain has been forced to charge you with espionage, owing to the events that took place between 9th October and 29th November concerning the Dracula clan of vampires, with whom you are currently residing.
Two delegates will be despatched to your place of residence on Tuesday 23rd March, in order to discuss the procedure with you and advise you on legal representation.
The provisional trial dates have been set at 24th-26th April; however, these will be liable to change depending on your level of co-operation.
You are advised to seek legal representation as soon as possible.
(President of the Slayers' Guild of Great Britain)
"Will they have been in touch with your parents?" Vlad asked Erin softly.
"I don't know," she admitted. "And I don't care," she added, so savagely that Vlad stared at her.
"I mean, who do they think they're kidding? 'We regret to inform you…'? They're bloody delighted!" Erin was pacing now, a sort of manic fury having overtaken her; Vlad could only watch helplessly as she got herself more and more worked up.
"And they're going to 'advise me on legal representation'? Well, they can bloody well get knotted!" she cried, lashing out at the dresser and knocking a bottle of perfume to the floor. It smashed, and Vlad's sensitive nostrils were overwhelmed with the scent of Chanel; he had bought it for her as a Christmas present, but as far as he could see it had never been used. Erin wasn't really a perfume sort of girl.
Vlad grabbed her around the waist and forced her to sit on the bed, maintaining a cautionary grip on her until he was sure that she had calmed down somewhat; she wasn't doing herself any good by getting angry.
"Look," he said, a little more forcefully than he had intended, "there's nothing we can do now except wait for Tuesday. Hopefully, we'll be able to find out from these delegates exactly what's going on."
"I'm not going to sit around and just wait-"
Vlad was reminded with a jolt of another occasion when she had said those exact words, but he shouted her down, regardless. "When Dad and Ingrid get back, I'll get everyone together and we can talk about this properly. I know Dad's had a few run-ins with the law, and I'll bet my fangs that Bertrand has, too."
"You don't understand, Vlad. Vampire law and slayer law aren't the same. Vampire law's very strict on procedures and protocols; in slayer law, pretty much anything goes." She sighed, looking haggard. "It means that no matter how flaky the evidence, they'll be able to convict me as long as they get the jury on side, which shouldn't be difficult."
It was absurd that he and Erin had only been permitted three hours of contentment before the trials of life had pushed their way back in. Just when things had seemed to be back on track, the slayers had swooped in and thrown a spanner in the works.
"Where are those university forms?" Erin asked Vlad suddenly. He stared, incredulous; she was thinking about that now?
"I left them on your dresser," he said. "But surely-"
Erin ignored him, jumping up and snatching at the forms. She hesitated for a moment, before ripping them venomously into quarters.
"Erin!" Now Vlad really was bewildered.
"What?" she snapped, her eyes flashing dangerously as she shredded the pieces further. Small fragments fluttered to the floor, like miniscule snowflakes.
"I can't apply to university with a criminal record, Vlad!"
Vlad felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.
"But surely slayer charges don't count?"
"I don't know! I don't know, but if they do, then that's it! There's no way I'll get a decent job without a degree, not in the current market!"
Vlad didn't take much interest in economics, but he knew that Erin read the newspapers whenever she could, and, from what he gathered, unemployment was at an all-time high. He felt a tingling in the tips of his fingers- he had to get out. He had to get out now.
He almost ran from the room, anger coursing through every vein, every artery, until every single nerve felt as if it was on fire. It was typical, completely and utterly typical; and what was worse, Vlad hadn't been expecting it. Whether it was stupidity or naivety it didn't matter, but the concept of the slayers wanting to punish Erin hadn't even crossed his mind.
He reached his bedroom, and as suddenly as it had arrived, the anger left him, to be replaced by exhaustion and a desperate desire to rest. His brain, sluggish and slow from lack of sleep, felt like a battlefield, his thoughts in conflict, charging at each other, mowing each other down. Vlad couldn't make head or tail of anything.
If the slayers were so keen to punish Erin, then why had they waited three months before making their first move?
One thing was clear; the slayers had a plan, a strategy, and he, Vlad, needed one too. In short, he needed the Count, Bertrand and Ingrid.