It happens in the morning.
That’s not what you’d expect, is it? The morning’s a safe time, bad things don’t happen in the mornings, at least not the kind of bad things that happened to me. You’d expect me to have been alone in a forest, knocking on the door of a haunted castle, lurking in a shady alley, somewhere it could be argued I shouldn’t have been walking. You want me to have been in those places, because then you can comfort yourself that you’d be smarter, that it would never happen to you, this dreaded thing. You want it to happen in the dark, because that’s where forbidden things belong.
In reality, it happens in the early morning, the waking hours, in the middle of Diagon Alley. The sun’s rising behind us. In a way, it’s kind of beautiful.
Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s not still entirely my fault.
My family don’t yell when they find out.
They don’t scream, don’t shout. They don’t tell me to get away from them, they don’t say that they’re afraid. They don’t say a single one of the thousand cruel words they could use to crush me and send me away from them forever.
They stay silent, which is worse.
My family, they live by sound, a harmony of dulcet tones, they breathe with a yell, it’s the only way any of them know how to communicate. Growing up I knew my parents loved each other because they fought so much so loudly and always made up at the end. We judged Hugo’s emotions by what song he was blasting in his bedroom, loud enough to rock the whole house. My whole huge collection of cousins and uncles and aunts and nieces and nephews are rowdy and outspoken, aurors and athletes and pranksters and musicians and dragon tamers and people who aren’t afraid, in any sense of the word, to let their opinions be known. My family - they’re honestly and plainly just noisy.
And when they first see the tips of my fangs on my ashen lips, they all shut up.
Every single one of them.
I think it’s the first time my dad has reacted to something shocking by not yelling. I remember his boiling rage in sixth year when a slightly illegal business venture of mine went wrong, when I was nineteen and had a pregnancy scare, when I was a kid and accidentally locked Hugo in the broom shed overnight and my parents walked the street for twelve hours in the dark looking for him and panicking. At those times, the yelling was bad, it was the worst thing that would ever happen to me, it made me wish for a father who could be quiet and reasonable. Now, I wish for the yelling. Now, he looks like something inside of him has fallen away. Hollow. Unable.
There’s also my mother. My mother has tears welling in her eyes but her expression is frozen in place, her mouth a perfect O, entirely comical, and her glass dangling loose between two fingers, unnoticed, dripping mulled wine onto the carpet. She’ll clean that up by hand, later, I know. Not with her wand. It’s how she deals with things. I have never wished for one of her lectures so hard in my entire life.
And then there’s the rest of my family, every single one of them, all of dad’s brothers and sisters, and their spouses, and their kids, and their kids’ spouses and kids if they have them, and not a single one of them moving. Even the baby, Victoire and Teddy’s, their little girl only two and some primal instinct has kicked in her upon seeing me, something telling her to freeze, something telling her I’m danger and to hide is to survive. This is my fault, I scream inside my head but not out loud because their silence is contagious, yell at me, punish me, lecture me, threaten to disown me, I don’t care, just somebody speak!
It’s been a month since I stopped talking to everyone I know. Three weeks since the gentle morning in Diagon Alley where I changed forever. Four days since I began to journey outside my home again, only under the cover of darkness, like a horror story, only to places I knew my family and friends would never think to step foot. And then today, Luc told me he was taking me somewhere. And he took me to my own house. I entered, of my own free will; I guess I was naive, I guess I thought it wouldn’t change the way they look at me, at least not a lot.
There’s so much silence that I want to cry. But I don’t know if I even can, anymore.
Instead, eventually, I leave.
When I glance back over my shoulder halfway down the drive, Hugo is one step closer towards the door than he had been. Everyone else is still frozen exactly in place.
After a month, Luc takes me to the ministry to sign some kind of register. Vampires aren’t humans, he explains when I question him, when I protest, we aren’t witches and wizards anymore even if we started off that way, and the ministry’s scared of us because of that. They have to keep track.
I think of Teddy’s dad, who died before I was born, but who uncle Harry always talks about if someone says anything bad about werewolves. There’s less prejudice towards werewolves, these days. They still have a register next to the one Luc takes me to for vampires, but they can get jobs and have friends and talk about their condition, and nobody minds, not as much, what with wolfsbane being so easy to get nowadays. Uncle Harry and my mum and dad, they did a lot of that work, that unwriting of fear. After the war, they had the power to change pretty much anything they wanted; everyone loved them that much.
But uncle Harry never had any friends who were vampires, so things aren’t better for us than they were thirty years ago. In some ways, they’re worse.
Me and Luc aren’t allowed in the front of the ministry, we have to go under a sign that says Beasts, Beings, and Spirits, through a scary corridor that leads straight to the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. The corridor’s scary because it’s like the corridor of a prison; the walls either side aren’t walls, they’re cages. Inside are manticores and acromantula and chimaeras and strange creatures I don’t recognise, a parade of fur and scales and slime, every one of them growling or yelping or making strange sounds that stand up the hairs on my arms.
I don’t want to be here. I’m not a thing, I’m not something to be caged, I’m not like these creatures. I want to walk through the front entrance, through the shabby telephone box and into the gorgeous tiled atrium, just like I would have a month ago, when I was on my way to take lunch to my mum or bother my friend Leila. I practically grew up in that atrium and the offices surrounding it; half my family works here.
And I might never be allowed to see it again.
Inside the little room me and Luc are directed to for the register, there’s an even smaller room, in the centre, made of glass. There’s a woman inside it, and she’s the one who takes my details. She speaks to me through her wand, which makes her voice come out of a little speaker above our heads. When it comes time for her to weigh and inspect my wand, I have to put it on a ledge, step back, and then she opens a flap in the glass and brings the wand through, closes the hatch again. Same when she passes it back. I don’t think she’s allowed to put her skin out near me. In case, what, in case I kill her? Suck her dry through the tips of her fingers? I guess it must have happened before, some time, for them to be this worried about it.
On the way out, I try to rap my knuckles against the glass, just to see.
My hand bounces off without touching it, and tingles all the way home.
I met Luc at a club. It’s stupid, but of course I did; he’s a bad boy, and that’s where you meet those kinds of guys.
It was Annalise, from work, who made me go out. It’ll be fun, she’d persuaded me, we’d both just had breakups within a week of each other and both of us were miserable in the office, where we had two people about to get married, three pregnant, one expecting their first grandchild, all nauseatingly happy and full of faux pity for the two of us. So Annalise talked me into going out drinking. My breakup wasn’t so bad, only a few months together and though he technically dumped me, I hadn’t been overly attached. But Annalise had been with her girl for years, since she was in seventh year and I was in fourth, I even remembered them from school because they were such a good couple, so she was taking it pretty hard. I took pity; thought she could use someone to go out with her, if that’s what she wanted, someone to keep an eye on her and make sure she didn’t drink too much or go home with anyone too shady.
Looking back now, of course that’s ironic, because she didn’t go home with anyone that night, and I met Luc. Last I heard she got back together with her girlfriend not long after the split. I don’t think it’s hard to judge which one of us has it better off now.
Anyway, at the club, it was this cool young place that I hated, not a muggle place but it sure seemed like it with loud music and flashing lights and everyone in weird tight black clothes that I guess they thought made them look cool. Annalise was wearing something skimpy, a dress, I don’t really remember, only that she fitted right in. I’d stuck with my work clothes, a babydoll dress and a mint green cardigan and tennis shoes, couldn’t have stood out more if I’d tried. I’d resolved to drink so I wouldn’t feel so self conscious.
Three firewhiskeys in, all of a sudden, there was Luc.
Annalise was flinging herself around in the middle of the dancefloor with more vigour than I knew she possessed, and I was hovering awkwardly at the edge, swaying a little even though the fast beat of the song wasn’t really conducive to swaying. And then - Luc. At the time, it was exciting. Too exciting. I could tell what he was, right away, of course - ashy skinned, his handsome face just a little sunken, deep black circles below his eyes, eyes that even under the club’s strange flashing lights I could tell were red. He smiled at me from across the room, and I saw his fangs, two thin white monsters in their own right. I looked down at my drink, tried not to encourage him to come over, but my heart was thumping in my chest, and yeah, okay, I wanted him to.
He appeared at my side a moment later. I don’t remember what he was wearing, only that it was surprisingly plain. No robes or cape or ruffled shirts, not like I guess I’d imagined a vampire would be. I think he was just in black trousers and a shirt. He looked smart, but modern. It threw me off.
“Hello,” he said, and I could hear him over the music, though only just, and his accent was French, but the faded kind of French, the kind that told you he’d been around here for a while.
“Hi,” I replied, and tried not to think about how close he was standing to me.
He didn’t speak again. He took my by the hand, without asking, and pulled me close to him, began moving me to the beat of the song.
It was strange. He was, is, an amazing dancer. I just remember wondering what the hell he was doing with me, little me in my innocent outfit, the girl stood awkwardly at the edge of the room, the girl at the sidelines.
I remember wondering why my heart was beating so fast.
We didn’t dance for very long. After a song or two, he pulled me to the bar to get me another drink, and it was at the back of the room, further from the music and a little quieter. He ordered me another firewhiskey, didn’t get anything for himself. Handed it to me and asked, Will I see you again?
I said, if you want.
And then he told me that he’d probably be there again the next evening. And he said something else - the details of the conversation are a little hazy now, maybe I’m not getting all of it exactly right, but this, this I remember right, this I’ll never forget, because of the way he looked at me and the way he said it and the things it did to me.
“I very much want,” he’d said, voice as low and husky and broken and seductive as I knew a voice could go. His look had been cold, thirsty, sexual in a way that chilled my spine and pulled my knees out from under me so I had to quickly sit down on a barstool.
He’d left straight away after that. I’d stayed sat down, caught my breath, wondered what the hell I was doing. It didn’t seem to hit me, then, what he was. I knew, of course, logically, but any sense I had of the danger I was in only seemed exciting.
A few hours later, I dragged an extremely drunk Annalise back to her flat, and slept on her sofa to make sure she didn’t accidentally kill herself in the night.
Then, the next night, I went back to the club. I stood outside, and waited for Luc, trying to look casual, like leaning against the wall of a club and never going in was what all the cool kids were doing these days.
When he arrived, he just looked at me. And my stomach clenched and my eyes felt cold, stinging, alert, like my whole body was on edge.
Then he smiled. We never went into the club. He took me straight to his room at the Leaky Cauldron, and I didn’t leave it for a week.
I didn’t want to leave.
When I start seeing my family again, it begins small. Really small. It begins with me and Luc, in a restaurant somewhere, bumping into Al and his friends. It’s dusk - our waking and Al’s evening. From the looks on the faces of his friends, the people I’ve grown up with and been friends with myself, even dated a couple of them - I can tell he hasn’t told them about me.
I suppose I ruin that small right to privacy, with my ashen skin and sunset eyes and the fangs that creep down when my mouth falls open with shock of seeing him. There’s no denying it, after that. And especially not when Luc’s with me, Luc with his long hair and eyeliner and dark clothes, Luc who has his arm slung over my shoulder, fingers caressing the side of my neck, in a way that means possession without a doubt. He’s staring Albus in the eyes, a glimmer in his, almost like a dare, a dare for Al to say something, do something.
“Who’s this?” Albus asks, and it’s the best question I’ve ever been asked because it’s words, no matter if his voice is cracking and too deep and hurt filled and scared, no matter if he’s shying away from us on his seat and his friends all look like they might be about to pass out, because Albus is talking to me.
“This is Luc,” I say, and try not to betray his significance. I don’t know Albus would react to the one who changed me. He doesn’t know the circumstances, doesn’t know Luc knew me, before, doesn’t know what we are to each other, doesn’t know how I feel about it.
Of course, I don’t really know how I feel about it yet, either.
Albus nods at Luc, and nods at me, and then he leaves, him and his friends, it’s getting late and I guess they’ve got things to get back to. Luc buys me a glass of blood, tells me to drink up. This is how I’ve been feeding, all this time. Dusty bottles of thick blood, from bars - a surprising amount of places stock it, not just Knockturn Alley dives, though that’s where we hang out most. I haven’t had to drink from a human, and I’m glad for that. I don’t know if I could do it. I stick to bottled blood, cups of tea, slices of pizza. Apparently I can still have normal food, as well.
And that evening, none of it matters at all, because Albus had said a few words to me, and he hadn’t yelled or cried or even seemed to hate me at all. I can’t stop smiling for the rest of the evening. Maybe there’s hope for me, yet.
And I guess he says something, to the others, because a few weeks later, I get a letter from uncle Harry.
He wants to meet up.
He asks me to go to a park, in the middle of the day, to meet with him and Ginny. I agree - I don’t want to go into my new sleep schedule, the itch the sunlight now puts under my skin, how heavy it makes my limbs feel and how it drags my eyelids down like the night used to. It’s not so bad I can’t fight it. In reality, being a vampire is a lot less extreme than I would have thought.
So I set an alarm for the middle of the day and wake myself up, get dressed in my nicest, sweetest outfit, hope to project even a small air of my old self, and I go to the park.
Harry and Ginny are sat silent on bench when I arrive, and they both jump when they spot me. I try a smile, but remember too late I wanted to keep my lips closed; just because they now know, doesn’t mean they won’t react badly to seeing the evidence of my new self in front of them.
“Rose,” Ginny says. That’s it, that’s all she says, it looks like she wants to say more but she doesn’t, maybe can’t get the words out at all.
“Hi,” I reply. I don’t sit down. I don’t know if they’d want me that close. I just stand, a few feet away, facing them, and fighting the yawn building up inside of me. This is important.
“In the war, the vampires fought with Voldemort,” Harry tells me, gets right down to the point, his voice just the tiniest fraction less soft than always in a way that breaks my heart, because that’s all he needs to know to judge everything about my life now.
“Not all of them,” I tell him, and he and Ginny both begin to protest. “Luc didn’t,” I insist, though my voice is weak and unconvincing, and they both look at me with something too much like pity, but I don’t care, I have to believe that, it’s all I have anymore. They think I’m this poor girl who’s been ruined forever by a guy, and still keeps on loving him. It’s not like that, I want to scream. I really do believe he had nothing to do with the war. Luc’s not perfect, but he’s not bad, either.
I’m not in love with him, but these days, he really is all I have.
The conversation ends pretty quick after that. They ask if I’m still in my old place; their owl had trouble finding me. I tell them that actually, I have a new place. With Luc.
Aunt Ginny puts her head in her hands, and Uncle Harry just stares at me, eyes wide, sympathetic. Then they say they have to go; they’re having lunch at the Burrow. They make no moves to invite me.
I go home, crawl back into bed with Luc, sleep ‘til sunset.
After two months, Luc introduces me to the others.
This whole time, I’ve been living in this bubble. Inside the bubble I’m this special case, this damaged flower with her own personal tragedies. Like I’m the only vampire on the planet or something, except Luc, who’s this wise ancient mentor with the sole purpose of guiding me through my transition and introducing me to my new life.
In reality, Luc’s only thirty nine years old, and he’s been changed for less than ten of those. And there’s nothing special about me. Nothing at all.
More importantly, we’re not alone. We’re not the only ones. Luc’s kept it well hidden from me for these few months, but he has friends.
When he decides I’m ready to meet them, he takes me to this pub in Knockturn Alley, after dark. There’s all sorts there, trolls and goblins and shady backstreet crooks, all the kinds of creatures and people that any kind of encounter with would have sent me into a state of frozen terror just a few short months ago. Back when I was innocent, sheltered, silly little rich-girl-Rose, from the best side of the tracks. Bar my failed love potion business in sixth year, I’d never really done anything rebellious in my life, let alone illegal. I’d never even set foot in Knockturn Alley, before Luc.
And despite everything, despite the fact that I’m probably now one of the most dangerous creatures in this place and despite the fact that I’ve got a 6’3 vampire protecting me, I’m still kind of mortally terrified by everyone in this pub. Like usual I’m in a babydoll dress and pastel cardigan, tennis shoes, I couldn’t stick out more among this crowd of dark-cloaked monsters if I tried. I cling to Luc’s arm and let him lead me through the place.
We end up at the table with his friends, and they’re not like I imagined. They look the part, sure - there’s three girls and four guys, and every single one of them has black hair - all the guys have it grown long, as do two of the girls, and then one of them has it cropped short, just to be different I assume. Luc is the only one of the group who truly stands out in that respect, with his dirty blonde locks, but apart from that, he’s a perfect fit for their group. They’re all sporting heavy black cloaks and black eye makeup, their faces are all pale and sunken as mine is these days, their eyes with dark rings underneath, the irises the deep kind of red I have become familiar with when looking in the mirror. They’re not all cookie cutters of each other, of course, there’s variations in the way they dress, from one of the guys having a complete 17th century French look going on, to the cropped-hair girl in fishnet tights and a black mini skirt. Still, if you saw these people on the street, you wouldn’t doubt they were together. You would back away.
I, of course, couldn’t stand out more, a splash of colour among the black, and that slightly terrifies me.
The thing is, though, their personalities. They introduce themselves lightening quick - Marcus, Gomez, Dov, Andreas, Lilith, Damascus, Pandora. I think some of those names must be made up, but I don’t dare ask, and I forget half of them straight away anyway. But as soon as they introduce themselves, they drag me to sit with them, buy me a drink, get to talking about how glad they are Luc has found me, gossiping about him to me, and that’s when I notice.
They aren’t monsters.
And I know it was wrong of me to think they would be, because I know Luc isn’t and I don’t think of myself as one and yet there’s nothing different between me and these vampires - these people. There’s nothing different between us, and it’s easy to see that when we’re just sat around a table in a grungy old pub, drinking and laughing and talking about the latest junk article in The Daily Prophet.
Until, of course, Andreas brings up, ever so casually and with no regard for the implications at all, this new girl he’s been feeding off. He says feeding off like it’s synonymous with casually dating, that level of disregard and amusement, and goes on to tell a story about her doing something wacky when she was under his hypnosis, like it’s nothing, and that’s when I freeze up. I’m clutching my glass of blood, and I still never asked where those come from, whether they’re human or what, whether they’re donated willingly. And these people, these vampires, these beings I was beginning to think I would eventually call my friends, they’re laughing at the idea of feeding off a human, hypnotising them, making them do your will. Luc’s laughing, too. I’ve never asked him about the ways he feeds. He drinks glasses of blood with me, but who knows if that’s all he takes, who knows what he did before I met him.
And the thought that scares me most - one day, how do I know that won’t be me?
The thing is, my old friends aren’t speaking to me, tell me with trembles of fear in their voices to leave them alone and not come near their families, and my own family can barely say my name and don’t invite me to dinner anymore and when I do see them it’s in a perpetual argument over what’s happened to me that nobody can ever get on the same page about, and even my old acquaintances shy away if they see me on the street, touch their fingers to their necks like they’re checking I haven’t sunk my teeth in yet. So if I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in a haunted solitude, I had better start making some new connections.
So I sip at my blood, and smile sweetly at the monsters, pointed teeth on full display, the prominent cuspids that now dictate my life. Might as well embrace it, after all.
Six months after it happens, my parents invite me for dinner.
I turn up with my hair brushed and mascara applied, two things I hardly bother with anymore, in my neatest rose patterned dress, one that my dad brought me for my seventeenth birthday, hoping it will soften his gaze on me just a little. I’ve never felt so nervous for anything in my life when I ring the doorbell. My mother answers it, then steps back immediately, like she doesn’t want to get too close to me.
If there was anyone I would have thought would understand this, it would be her. She was campaigning for the right of magical beings and beasts when she was still a teenager, she’s devoted half her life to it. Now, at the moment when her own daughter becomes one - now is the time she chooses to revert to society’s values.
I guess she’s just scared, but that doesn’t mean it hurts any less.
I follow her to the living room, and my father is there too, and it’s all I can do not to fling myself into his arms and sob. Hugo’s stood at the edge of the room, by the opposite door to the one I enter through, like he’s been told to stay away from me, not get too close.
Still. His face lights just a little brighter when he sees me. Sweet Hugo, who listens to loud angry music and tutors first years in his spare time, who wears too much eyeliner and once delivered a litter of kittens and cried. Al has always been my best friend, but in a way, Hugo has always been my favourite.
We actually sit down at the dinner table before everything kicks off - an improvement on any of the other attempts my family have made at reconciliation so far. But it does kick off, as I knew it would, eventually.
Mum doesn’t know what to feed me. That’s how it all starts. The three of them are sat at one end of the long dining table, and I’m sat way at the other side, where I was told to. I never noticed how long this table was before I had to sit at the other end of it. And my mother is passing around the food for us to help ourselves, bowls of carrots and peas and potatoes and a dish of steak and kidney pie, and once the three of them have taken a helping each, she looks down to me.
“I still eat food, Mum,” I say, trying to ignore the stinging in my eyes when she hesitates for so long, covering it up by lacing my voice with sarcasm, immediately regretting it when her face assembles itself into its bitterest mask.
“Well, how was I supposed to know that, Rose,” she says, not looking at me, looking across the table at Dad, lips pulling tight together. “I don’t know anything about what you are now, do I.”
“Well you could try learning!” I shout - I’m sick of this. “Read a book, Mum, it’s not that hard, you love to read about anything and everything but you can’t even be bothered to flick through Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them to check out the tiniest detail of your own daughter’s new life?”
And then there’s yelling, Mum and Dad yelling at me and at each other and at Hugo when he tries to interject, and I’m yelling back because they don’t understand, and they’re calling me a monster, saying they don’t know how to be around me anymore, saying they’re disappointed.
“It’s not like I asked for this!” I cry, but that’s not true, is it. I asked for this with hands between the sheets and puckered lips, once so red and swollen from his kisses, now a pale absence of life. I asked for this with giggles and tosses of hair, with exclamations that he was driving me wild, changing everything about me, that I would never be the same again after that week in his room.
I asked for this in ways I didn’t even realise were asking, at the time.
It’s only a few weeks after he turns me that Luc moves out of his room in the Leaky Cauldron, and I turn over the lease of my flat, and we find a place together, a dingy one-bedroom in Knockturn Alley without any windows. It’s perfect for us, though I make a point of painting the cabinets a cheery yellow and covering the sofa in cushions. Luc laughs at me as I do it, says we can never invite anyone inside or we’ll be the laughing stock of the underworld, but he doesn’t really seem to mind.
Sometimes I’m not sure, but I think he actually likes me a lot.
That day, I sit up late, asking him everything he knows about vampires. Right after he changed me, I knew I should have felt curious, but I didn’t. I felt hideous, I felt betrayed, I felt in denial. I drank the blood he gave me to sate my hunger and let him lead me to bed - after all, it was the morning, and the sun was rising. But I didn’t want to know what I was. I didn’t want to be what I was.
Maybe I still don’t, but when we moved into our flat, the curiosity at least began to take hold.
“I know the sun doesn’t kill us,” I say that day, and he grunts in agreement. “But what does?”
It’s noon, and Luc’s trying to sleep, our bedroom sealed off into darkness. He’s lying half out of the duvet, eyelids shut, and I’m sat crossed legged on the bed in my underwear, and I’m asking. I know I’m keeping him up and I know he minds, but he’s going along with it anyway.
“Pretty much anything that would kill you before will kill you now,” he mumbles, still not opening his eyes. “Garlic can give you a nasty stomach ache, but it won’t do anything permanent. No such thing as holy water, so no worries there, and crosses are useless as well. A stake through the heart’ll get you. But that’d kill anyone, human or no.”
“Well, what actually is different?”
There has to be something, there can’t be all this fuss for nothing, my family will barely speak to me and my whole life has been ruined, I have to get something out of this, surely.
“We live a lot longer,” he says, yawning, eyes flickering open finally and settling on me as he rolls over. “Five, six hundred years, maybe.”
“That’s awesome!” Finally, an upside to this, finally, something to make me not want to hate my life.
“Maybe,” he says, doesn’t sound all that excited about it. “I think it just means you get to watch everyone you ever loved die.”
Well. When you put it like that.
I remember the thrill when I first started seeing Luc, the terrifying adrenaline rush when I locked myself away with him for a week, the way my heart would beat faster just for thinking about him. The first time he pressed his fangs to my neck, our first night together, I felt dizzy. I thought, do it. But I didn’t mean that. The terror was equal to the wanting.
Now, he reaches over and grabs my arm, drags me down to lie next to him, buries his head in my neck.
“Go to sleep, babe,” he says.
Somehow, I thought being a vampire would be a little more exciting than this.
The first time I feel a little like something has settled - it’s a year later.
And it happens in the morning.
That’s what you’d expect, right? It’s the perfect time for settling things - we’re in Diagon Alley, and the cold winter sun is just beginning to rise behind us, dappling us with light, illuminating us. And I’m just coming off a night at work, headed home after a few long hours of waitressing in Knockturn Alley.
And I bump into Hugo.
I wasn’t expecting to see him here. Wasn’t expecting to see anyone here, really, it’s early in the morning and he doesn’t live around here, doesn’t have a reason to be here at all. It’s a little embarrassing, in a way - I’m wearing my stupid waitress uniform, and I’m totally worn out, dead on my feet if you’ll pardon the expression. And then - Hugo. Hugo is there, in front of me, just coming out of Honeydukes, and he doesn’t look surprised at all to see me.
“Hi Rose,” he says, and his lips twitch up into something that could be seen to resemble a smile.
“Hi Hugie,” I reply, because I don’t know what else to do. “Long time no see, huh?”
“I got you something,” he says, cuts straight to the chase, seems nervous, and holds out his fist. I open my palm, trembling, wondering what this could be. A hunk of garlic, a cross, a stake? I haven’t seen him for months, don’t know where her stands with me anymore. Whatever it is, he passes it to me, and then rests his fingers against mine, just for a moment, the tiniest hint of affection, barely even worth mentioning.
It’s the first time anyone in my family has touched me since it happened.
“I got it in Honeydukes,” he says, and I’m still trembling from the contact so much I’ve forgotten to worry about what it is he’s given me. “I saw it in Honeydukes and I just - well, I thought of you.”
I open my fist, and my heart nearly stops.
It’s a lollipop.
A red lollipop.
A blood flavoured lollipop.
I smile, and Hugo watches me smile, and he doesn’t start when he sees my fangs, doesn’t look disturbed or upset.
“Thank you,” I say, and he’ll never know how much I mean it. I unwrap the lollipop, stick it between my teeth. It’s delicious - I can’t believe I’ve never tried one of these before. “Didn’t you get anything for yourself in there?”
He’s empty handed now he’s given this to me, and he shakes his head, “Nah.”
“Come on,” I say, with a jerk of my head towards the shop. “Let me buy you a sugar quill.”
A few minutes later, we’re sat on a wall in Diagon Alley, both kicking our trainers through the dirt and sucking on sweets.
My parents still aren’t talking to me, and neither is the rest of my family, and these days I’m not always sure about Luc, not sure he’s worth it, not sure he thinks I’m worth it, anymore. Some days I half expect him to come home with some other girl he’s just turned, some innocent young thing with flowers on her dress and nothing on her mind. I don’t have a good job and I don’t know what I’m going to do with the rest of my long, long life. I’ve still never drunk from a human, but I don’t know that I never will.
Still, Hugo’s sitting next to me, and he brought me a blood flavoured lollipop, and he’s not running away. He’s even laughing at some of the stories I’m telling about my new life. I think he likes the sound of Lilith - she is pretty funny. The sun is rising above us, and it’s making me a little tired, but not too much. Because Hugo is bumping his shoulder against mine and teasing me about my uniform.
And it’s a start.
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