Mist hung at the base of the trees, lingering as morning crept closer. With Theo’s body slung against Amias’ shoulder, he led Tabitha deeper into the forest until any sign of the cottage was lost among the trunks. Around them the forestry became increasingly dense. Tabitha wondered if Amias knew where he was going, or if he was only leading them astray again.
A few rays of sunlight had begun to peak through the canopy when Theo let out a small whimper.
“Theo?” Tabitha rushed to him, cupping his face in her hands.
His brow furrowed and his eyes crinkled and squinted with each attempt to open them.
“Tabs?” He croaked breathlessly.
Carefully, Amias moved to a large oak tree, resting Theo down at its thick base. Using two fingers, he moved Theo’s chin gently to the side, inspecting his bite. The two marks were no clean, any sign of blood had dried away.
“Dammit.” Amias sighed under his breath.
“Is he okay?” Tabitha queried from behind him.
He turned towards her, the concern apparent on his face. “He’s going to turn.”
Tabitha’s heart turned to lead and sunk into her stomach. “What?”
Amias was rubbing his forehead, his eyes shut tight with concentration.
“What do you mean? He’s going to turn into one of those ... things? A vampire?”
Theo groaned from the tree. His eyes were barely open now and he was trying to stand up.
“What’s going on?”
“Don’t.” Rushing to him, Tabitha guided him back down before planting herself beside him.
“We can treat him. It’ll be harder but I can cure him if we move fast.” Amias paced in front of them.
“What are you talking about? How can you cure him?” Tabitha cried.
Amias snapped toward her, yelling what she had suspected since they met him.
“Dammit Tabitha, I’m a vampire!”
She gripped Theo’s arm tighter, holding her breath for a moment. The words hung in the air.
When she finally spoke, her voice was soft but her words were sharp. “If you can’t cure yourself, why should I believe you can cure him?”
The pain was palpable in his eyes. He didn’t look towards either of them as he spoke his quiet confession.
“Because I was too late last time.”
He centred himself, pulling his mind out the sorrowful depth of his memories. “If we can get him the potion he needs in the next seven hours, he won’t turn.”
“Well then lead the way.” Theo shakily rose to stand, still leaning against the tree. As he moved to take a step, his body went limp, falling towards the forest floor again.
Tabitha shot to her feet, catching him before he could crash into the dirt. “We can’t go yet. Theo, you’re too weak.”
“Speak for yourself.” He joked feebly.
“No. We’re not going yet.”
“Please, there isn’t time. We have to...”
“Save it.” Tabitha barked at him. Staring him down with a cold, steely glare, she added, “Don’t think I trust anything you say.”
Amias fell quiet. He turned from them, walking away, letting the silence of the forest creep towards them once again. As he walked, Tabitha noticed he never touched the patches of early sunlight that broke through the fortified treetops. Stopping in the shadow of a large tree, he gazed upwards, peering through the cracks of the canopy to the catch a glimpse of the blue sky.
With his back turned, he uttered softly, “Last year there was a blood moon.”
He sighed and faced them again, settling himself on the grass. “The blood moon sends vampires crazy, makes them hungrier, makes them stronger. But of course, when I was a Muggle I didn’t know any of this. Neither did my sister.”
He paused at the mention of his sister, stopping to compose himself.
“Both my parents are Muggles, so my sister was a big surprise. But we were all really happy for her. She used to show me all her books. She had everyone you could think of; wanted to know everything about magic.”
Despite his stoic expression, Tabitha noticed a slight quiver in this lip as he pressed on.
“One day she wanted to go into the forest to look for Bowtruckles, so I went with her. But we went too far and the blood moon...” He struggled, trying to piece the words together. His black eyes were glazed over with a watery shine. “Something attacked me, bit me. My sister tried to fight it, but...then it went after her instead. And there wasn’t anything I could do...I just ran.”
Although tears were pooling in his eyes, Amias didn’t let them escape onto his pale skin. Instead, he tilted his head to the sky, breathing deeply as he stared upwards. After one last forceful exhalation, he returned his gaze to Tabitha and Theo.
“I haven’t seen my parents since that day. I just couldn’t bear to face them. They think they lost both of their children on the same day.”
“How did you end up here?” Theo asked from beside Tabitha. His eyes were now wide and he was sitting upright.
“I kept running. After I turned all I wanted was to be alone. But it hasn’t always been so simple. I’m not the only one who lives in these woods.” He trailed off, looking away for a moment.
Then he added softly. “Not everyone I find in the forest is still alive.” With a serious gaze, he stared down at them, “What are you doing here?”
Tabitha and Theo exchanged looks. It was Tabitha’s story to tell, but she didn’t know if she was quite ready to share it. She subtly tried to shake her head at Theo, widening her eyes to convey her distress.
Understanding Tabitha’s hints, Theo quickly blurted, “Well I am feeling much better, how about we get started on that cure?” While jumping to his feet.
Amias was slightly taken aback. “Uh...okay, sure.” Theo smiled widely at him. “We’ll need to get a few things.” He pointed further into the forest behind him. “You’re lucky, we should be able to find everything in here.”
“You know mate,” Theo said, slapping his hand on Amias’ shoulder. “I certainly don’t feel lucky.”
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