You should be aware that there is a bit of a violent scene near the end. I didn't think it was enough to bump this up to 'M' but please let me know if I'm wrong.
Also, this story is completely unrelated to Darren Takes Hogwarts.
Thanks and enjoy the story.
The woods were filled with the scent of rotting, wet leaves and all the smells he associated with wildlife. The werewolf sniffed the air pushing aside those scents and the scents of the magic that came off his companions in droves. Closing his eyes he opened up his senses more fully and smelled the air again. His own magic came back at him but he threw it aside with the others, focusing on one single scent. Blood.
It wasn't strong like it was when it was free of the body. It was weak and muted. Blood itself wasn't some generic smell, like most pure humans assumed. Each person's blood-no each living thing's blood-smelled differently. One person's blood was different from another's, not just on a microscopic level but on a sensual level. And the knowledge of this difference was only available to those with the ability to dig deeper into the world around them. Animals; spirits; creatures. They knew the difference between the blood of a werewolf and a human.
Remus Lupin understood this difference as well as any of his brethren, maybe more as this was not the first time he had used his sharp senses to track someone or something down to a remote corner of the world. He was the best tracker the Order of the Phoenix had ever had. But he had a love-hate relationship with these kinds of missions. On the one hand he loved being helpful; on the other hand he hated giving the wolf any kind of control, however miniscule. Duty called, though, and he answered to the best of his abilities.
"This way," he whispered to the four Wizards behind him. He could smell them getting closer now. The sun peeked through the top foliage and he felt the warmth graze his skin and set his senses on fire. The sun had always been able to stir the world in a way that no other force-not even the moon-could. It made it more difficult to push away all the scents surrounding him and focus on a single one but this could not be done during the night.
They were tracking vampires. Not to hunt or hurt them, but to find them. The alarms had blared early that morning that they had crossed the wards in the forest. Remus had never personally met a vampire but he had heard stories. Stories of bloodlust and bloodshed. Rumors of unimaginable power. Legends of wizarding warriors conquering the armies of the undead nightwalkers. It seemed unreal that he was now tracking them through the forest.
They came upon them quickly enough. With just a few hours before sundown they had just enough time to ask for a peaceful retreat before the creatures reached full power. Remus went first through the clearing separating them and the vampires hidden in the shade of the deep forest on the other side. He stepped as lightly as he could and it proved light enough. He came upon them without them ever knowing.
There were five of them, all asleep, and all with weapons-sharp and dangerous-close at hand. He looked at them and then over his shoulder. Finding them at all had been a long shot. Students were often warned away from the Forbidden Forest for this very reason but no vampire had been anywhere near Hogwarts since the time of the Founders, at least. Remus was unsure of how to proceed. He needed to wake them, he knew that, but he didn't know how to do it safely. Next to nothing was known about vampires.
Whatever options he may have had were taken quickly enough though. He made no noise when he woke, he just sat up and looked straight at the fair haired man. The outsider. The wizard. Remus discreetly dropped his wand from his arm holster to his hand, never breaking his stare with the vampire's. This particular man looked as fearsome as they came.
His dark eyes glistened and sparkled with an intelligence that surprised Remus even though he knew better than anyone that the status of a creature in the Ministry's classification system said nothing of the creature itself. He looked a fearsome-if dated-warrior with his bald head and a deep scar running across his right eyebrow to his left mouth corner. There were tattoos of arrows running down the sides of his head and down his bare arms.
He wore no shirt which let the werewolf see scars from past battles and pale skin stretched tightly across muscles. There was also a name tattooed on his chest right over his heart. Ilene. He briefly wondered whose name that was. The bald man wore only a pair of brown pants but his wide leather belt was just next to him and his fingers danced over the razor sharp boomerangs stored there. He wore no shoes.
The werewolf smelled his companions come up behind him. The vampire clearly had as well for he was up on his feet, a boomerang in one hand and a sword in the other, faster than a human eye could follow. His hiss of warning alerted his still sleeping companions and they too were on their feet and armed just as the rest of the tracking party reached the edge of the hidden camp.
"We wish you no harm," Albus Dumbledore said as he stepped forward a single step, identifying himself as the leader and thus the most important target. "I am Headmaster Albus Dumbledore of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."
The bald man stepped forward also identifying himself as the leader.
"I am Arrow, Prince of the Vampire Clans," he said his voice deep and authoritative. Remus fought down a sudden feeling that came from the part of him that held the wolf. It had almost felt like an overwhelming sense of kinship. But that made next to no sense. Vampires and werewolves were a completely different breed. Also, he had never met these men before. "If you do not wish harm, what do you wish?"
"Our wards alerted us to your presence," Albus continued. "You have crossed onto school grounds. I am afraid I have to ask you to leave."
"Leave the forest?" Arrow asked, eyebrow cocked and tone vaguely mocking. "These woods are dangerous to humans on the best of days and deadly on the worst. What little student would be stupid enough to enter them?"
"Children are curious," Albus replied without missing a beat. "This ground belongs to Hogwarts and you are trespassing." It was not said rudely but it was said firmly. Arrow didn't move nor did he give much reaction to what had just been said. He simply eyed Albus up and down, taking in his brightly colored robes, wizened appearance and twinkling blue eyes.
"I have heard your name before," Arrow said, and nobody was shocked to hear that even if it was a drastic change of subject. "My maker once spoke your name. Tobias Unhull."
"I am not familiar with that name," Albus said politely taking in the assessing look and returning it with one of his own. "But I was named after my ancestor . Perhaps it was him your maker spoke of?"
"Most likely," Arrow replied. "Tobias passed hundreds of years ago." Albus could only nod at that and Remus fought the childish need to gape openly at the vampire. To him, the other creature only appeared to be in his forties, not his hundreds. "I apologize for trespassing. We were tracking a group of Vampaneze and they had crossed this way."
"What are Vampaneze?" Minerva asked, joining the conversation for the first time.
"Ruthless savages," Arrow replied, his tone full of loathing and hate. Remus often heard that tone from Aurors when they spoke of Death Eaters. "They are a branch of Vampires that split off long ago."
"Where are they?" Albus asked, a spark of concern dulling his usual twinkle.
"We're not sure," Arrow replied. "But if there is a school nearby they are likely headed there. Magical blood is a delicacy." Remus couldn't help but feel a little sick not just at the words themselves but the matter of fact way they were said. It was extremely disturbing to him and with just the smallest of glances he could tell the others thought the same.
"How dangerous are they?" Albus asked, all traces of his twinkle gone and looking ready for battle. Not for the first time Remus could see why he was the only wizard Lord Voldemort had truly feared.
"Extremely," Arrow replied. "They always kill when they feed."
"And you?" Minerva asked, unable to trust out of hand.
"We do not," Arrow said stiffly but firmly. "It is against clan law." Remus wasn't sure why that was comforting but it was. Perhaps because saying something was against the law was much more effective in soothing worried magical peoples rather than saying that they were completely reliant on a monster's ability to resist instinct.
"It appears that we are in need of your assistance," Albus said.
"It appears so," Arrow agreed congenially but then his face turned somewhat stony and his next words were said more as an order than anything else. "We will go with you back to your school. If the Vampaneze truly are headed there we can head them off and keep them from feeding. The next major settlement of humans is too far for them to reach and they are too weak to use their powers to reach food quickly. With a little luck, we can starve them out of the forest and keep them from gaining a footing in this area." Remus had no clue what the vampire was talking about and he doubted any of the other wizards did either. The other vampires nodded as it was the perfect plan but then they probably knew what the hell a Vampaneze was.
The Headmaster spent the rest of that night with the Vampires, locked away in his office along with the other members of the tracking party and the Heads of Houses. They were informed of the basics of vampire customs and history; not enough to satisfy their curiosity but enough for them to know that the five strangers were not the threat. They were the protection. The Headmaster expressed his deepest thanks for them being willing to help them protect their students. Arrow gave only a vague reply in return.
"It is our duty to both protect our own and control our own. That is a vow all Generals and Princes must make before taking their place in the ranks. There is no need to thank us." He led the others out of the office after that and they were escorted to some dark corner of the dungeons by Professor Snape.
They were set up in a long forgotten room to ensure that no student would come across them and that they could peacefully pass the day before they were expected to be in the Front Hall at twilight.
The Headmaster then took on the very difficult task of informing Dolores Umbridge that there were Vampires in the castle and that they could not be sent away. As predicted, the woman threw a right fit and immediately called in the Minister. Nobody knew for sure what had come of the meeting but it wasn't long before Aurors were posted in the hallways and Creature Experts were setting up shop in an unused classroom. For student safety of course. All of this took place before the students had taken their seats for breakfast.
Remus saw Harry looking as curious as anyone from his place between Hermione and Ron. All the students were curious about being overrun by Ministry workers. Their curiosity did not brew for long as the Headmaster stood and made an announcement halfway through the meal.
"Students should be aware that Hogwarts is now on lockdown. Early yesterday afternoon, it was brought to our attention that a rouge band of vampires has taken residence in the Forbidden Forest. These beings are extremely dangerous and will think nothing of crossing the grounds to attack. No student is to be on the grounds without a teacher or Auror escort. All students, staff, and faculty are to be within the castle proper one hour before sundown and are not to leave again until one hour after sunrise.
"Members of the Vampire Clan have offered their services in helping us track down and neutralize this threat. You are to treat them with respect and welcome them to the castle. They are not a threat but they are not be trifled with either." He glanced at the Slytherin table at this point, and Remus saw Snape do so as well. "Prefects are to report to their Heads of House immediately after breakfast for further details. That is all."
The old man sat down and a furious sweeping of whispers, shouts, and concerns suddenly filled the Great Hall. Remus had a feeling it would be the only thing anyone talked about for months.
Arrow and his fellows didn't reappear until dinner time when they came strolling through the doors of the Great Hall as calm as could be. The terrifying man's presence sent an immediate hush through the student body and even the staff table. Remus felt those around him stiffen at the same time he felt the wolf stir and try to reach out to the vampire. He lowered his eyes suspecting that they were glowing yellow and tried to push the wolf back down as discreetly as possible.
Meanwhile, the vampires had found a place to sit which happened to be a small section of the Slytherin table between a cluster of second years and the Quidditch team. Several Ministry workers scurried into the hall at that point and made a beeline for the group of vampires.
"We told you that you weren't to feed here," a man snapped. He was one of the Creature Experts. Remus knew of that department well and hated it along with every other werewolf in Great Britain.
"And I told you that I don't give a damn," Arrow replied and grabbed a piece of chicken.
"We have stores of blood for you so that you can feed elsewhere," the man continued to argue and Arrow raised an eyebrow at him.
"I wasn't talking about blood," the vampire said, sounding as if he was holding back a laugh. "I was talking about food." He held up the piece of chicken in his hand as if to emphasize his point. "Real food. I haven't had chicken in decades." He bit into the meat and smirked in amusement at the Ministry worker's spluttering. He chewed in complete contentment, swallowed and turned to his companions.
"All that higher education and he still hasn't mastered the art of talking," he said and the vampires burst into laughter at the spluttering man's expense. Remus fought his own smile and his sensitive ears picked up a twittering of snickers from the students.
"You are not to be in Great Hall," came a simpering and downright ugly voice. The entire hall turned to spy the pink woman marching towards the Slytherin Table, practically radiating righteous indignation. Arrow stood to meet her head on, clearly having already made her acquaintance if his sudden scowl was anything to go by. Albus, Minerva, and Severus all rose as well to descend from the staff table. This was turning into an incident. Remus followed suit allowing himself to be led by the wolf for the moment. The wolf wanted to help; an odd sensation and one he had never felt in his life. The wolf had never wanted to help anyone or anything before.
"And where am I to be?" Arrow asked, amused from some unsightly reason. He seemed to consider this entire situation one big joke.
"Dolores," Albus started to say, probably to try to placate the irate woman.
"If there are humans, there is a threat," Arrow continued. "We cannot protect anyone if we are kept in some little dungeon cell. They'll walk through the front and slaughter half of you before the echo of your screams could reach us. And we all know that would be bad for re-election."
Remus felt ill; the students were all wide eyed in complete shock; the Ministry workers were all silent knowing he spoke true; Albus and Minerva were stony faced; Snape looked impressed. The other four vampires just continued eating while watching the encounter as if it was some sort of dinner show.
"You are not to be in the Great Hall," Dolores repeated, truly unable to come up with anything better.
"You've said that," Arrow acknowledged. "Now, if you don't have anything more to say my brothers and I have been traveling for some time and we would like to enjoy this meal without your incessant nagging." He turned his back to her and sat back down, filling his plate and cup. The woman eventually went up to the staff table, defeated and the rest of the hall settled into an uneasy meal.
The Slytherins ate and left at record speed, if they ate at all. The other students lingered, wanting to gawk and gossip. They would send small glances to the group who talked lowly throughout the meal, clearly not wanting to be overheard. Remus couldn't tell what they were talking about though. At moments they would seem to be focused and serious and in the next they were howling with laughter causing all eyes to be glued to them until one of them would look over and everyone would avoid the glance.
Remus didn't participate in the ritual. His eyes stayed glued to his plate as he fidgeted with his food occasionally bringing a small bite to his mouth. Eventually he gave up with a sigh, rose, and left the Great Hall. The only adult to do so.
Arrow was thoroughly enjoying himself. He had had run-ins with Wizarding folk before although the last time he had been to any part of the Wizarding world has been when Tobias was still alive. The place was still pretty much the same though. Different faces but the same customs, moral outrage, and even the same names. The Ministry of Magic still thought itself their masters and Hogwarts was still a breeding ground for revolutions.
The Prince had not given them any thought for over two hundred years. It was not encouraged for Vampires to comingle with humans on a regular basis, especially these humans. It was so rare for them to interact with Wizards that he doubted any of the younger vampires would know this world even existed. All four of the older Princes knew of course but no one had ever thought to inform little Darren about anything outside of Vampire Mountain.
He wondered about the young Prince, as did most others. The boy and Larten were still on their little hunt and he had not seen them for some time now. He had heard through the network that the two were residing in some town in the south of England. He wasn't sure where. Apparently the locals had somehow roped Darren into attending school. It amused him as it did everyone else.
He was shaken from his thoughts by a Ministry worker handing him what he called a 'Blood Pop'.
"It's a type of candy that Honeyduke's keeps in stock in case a Vampire wanders through," the overly excited young man told him. "It's made from real blood!" Arrow, curious, popped it in his mouth and promptly spit it out with a disgusted look on his face.
"No it's not," he said, suddenly feeling ill. "That's not blood."
"Oh," the man said, disappointed. "Well, what is it then?"
"I don't know," Arrow snapped. "Ask whoever made it."
The bald man turned to see the Headmaster coming up to him with three of his vampires in tow. He didn't know where the fourth was but he'd better hurry up. The sun was starting to set and it was almost time to patrol the forest edge. They wouldn't be going into the actual forest tonight. By simply walking along the edge of the tree line, they would announcing their presence to the Vampaneze. Hopefully, it would be enough to hold them at bay for the moment.
"How was your day?" the old man asked politely.
"As well as to be expected," the Prince replied just as polite. The large congregation of Ministry workers and the vampires were all gathered in the front entrance hall preparing to leave for the night.
"Good, good," the wizard said. He was about to say more when he was interrupted.
"Alright," said the Creatures Expert that had chased him down during dinner. "This is how this is going to go-"
"No, this is how this is going to go," Arrow interrupted. "You're going to stay in here and I'm going to take my vampires out there."
"Why would we possibly let you roam the grounds by yourself?" the man snapped, clearly affronted.
"Because you're not helpful, you're dinner," replied Rosten, a vampire from his group. "You're smell will draw them out and we aren't prepared for a full scale battle yet."
"What do you mean 'smell'?" a small Auror woman asked. She had bright pink hair and an expressive face that would harden in an instant if pushed. She spent most of her grinning like a manic though. She reminded him a lot of Vancha.
"You're magic," Rosten continued. "It makes your blood taste sweeter. Magical blood is considered a delicacy."
"Well then," the annoying 'Expert' said loudly. "What exactly are we supposed to do all night?"
"I don't know and I don't care," Arrow told him already nearing the end of his patience. He remembered now why vampires didn't like Wizards. They were natural enemies; prey and predator. "Just stay out of my way."
With that he pushed past the irritating man, and exited the castle to the darkening grounds, his vampires close behind him.
The vampires spent the entire night thoroughly scouting the tree line and the rest of landscape. If they were going to keep the Vampaneze from ever making it past the lawn they were going to need to know every nook and cranny of these grounds. Not for the first time Arrow wished Kurda had not been traitor. He could really use an expert map maker at this point. Perhaps Dumbledore would now of a map that could help them out.
The Prince split from his men at sunrise. They went back to their dungeon cell to sleep and he made a beeline for the teacher's table in the Great Hall. A few students were already there and most of the staff as well. They all glanced up as he approached. He really wished they would stop doing that. It was starting to become drastically annoying.
"I need a map," he stated before the old man could start talking. He wanted a short conversation and he had already discovered that Dumbledore loved to talk.
"What sort of map?" the Headmaster asked.
"One of the grounds," Arrow replied. "It needs to be completely accurate and up to date. I don't want the Vampaneze surprising us by coming out some random hole in the ground." The Headmaster looked vaguely amused and perhaps even a bit surprised by his phrasing. Arrow was perfectly aware that Hogwarts was a virtual maze of secret passages and trick stairs.
"I think we can manage to find something adequate," the man replied and Arrow nodded. He then walked around the teachers table to take a seat next to the darker Professor, Severus Snape. On his other side was Dolores Umbridge who was looking entirely put out by his choice of seat. The vampire fought down his smirk as she shifted uncomfortably.
The humans around him watched with complete fascination as he piled eggs, toast, and sausage onto his plate. He then proceeded to eat what could be considered a deadly amount of food. Vampires had ferocious appetites, a by-product of not indulging in their natural instinct for bloodshed. They would typically eat the equivalent of four or five meals in one and then not eat for a day or two. At least that was what he did. Darren, with his young metabolism, was required to eat at least once a day especially since he only drank blood when he was starting to feel sick. A constant grievance to Larten.
"What?" he finally snapped when he could take the looks no longer. Really, was the gawking entirely necessary?
"Are you really going to eat all of that food?" a witch he didn't know asked from the other side of Umbridge.
"It's either lots of food or lots of blood," he snapped and she cowered. "Take your pick."
No one bothered him after that.
He didn't bother with sleeping that day. He was too wound up and jittery to actually fall asleep. However, he was also too lethargic from his large meal to do more than sit in the Entrance Hall-just out of reach of the sun's rays-and sharpen his sword and boomerangs. He sat on the floor, legs extended in front of him and back resting against the wall, as comfortable as could be.
The floor was warm from the sun hitting it a small ways from his bare feet and he was seriously considering taking a nap. The Ministry workers assigned to watch him were all sleeping off their nighttime vigil and he knew they would not be around for hours. He had more energy than them and was capable of going days without sleep, something he would often do by choice.
He was just about to store his boomerang and catch a few well deserved winks when the Headmaster and his teacher, Minerva came up to him with three students in tow. The kids looked nervous about being this close to him but not nervous enough to run away. They put up a good brave front.
"Prince Arrow," the old man started. "I would like to introduce you to three of my students."
"Why?" the vampire asked sharply before he continued. The Ministry would have a temper tantrum if he was found speaking with students. He didn't want the headache unless he got what he wanted.
"They know these grounds very well," the Headmaster told him. "They also have the map you were asking for." Arrow looked at the group of kids. One was tall and lanky with orange hair and freckles. His blue eyes were suspicious but he was trying to hide it as well. His body was turned slightly towards the girl to his left as if to protect her. She was shorter than him and had wavy brown hair. Her eyes were a warm chocolate brown and she smiled at him softly when their gazes met. The young boy to her left was short for his age, the same height as his female friend. Arrow couldn't tell if his black hair was naturally that messy or if he styled it that way but it worked for him. His green eyes were covered by glasses and he looked weary but he held himself well.
"This is Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, and Harry Potter," Dumbledore said identifying each child. They looked to be fifteen, maybe sixteen. Arrow stood and offered his hand to each of them. Weasley took it a little reluctantly but the other two shook firmly.
"I am Arrow," he told them shortly not bothering with his title. They wouldn't really understand it anyway.
"It's nice to meet you," Granger said politely and Arrow acknowledged the attempt with a nod.
"Map?" he asked shortly, ready to get down to business. The Potter boy pulled out a parchment full of black lines, writing, and markings from his pocket. He handed it to the vampire.
"This is the Marauder's Map," he told the man. "It's charmed to show everyone in the castle or on the grounds." Arrow perused the map and found it to be more than he had hoped for. Not only did it show secret passages and hidden rooms but it showed the grounds in more detail than he thought possible. He quickly eyed the forest area hoping to find several of those little moving dots with the word Vampaneze under them but he had no such luck. They must be just outside the maps tracking ability.
Curious, he started looking through the castle. He quickly found his own name and then the names of those standing around him. The map was incredibly accurate. Good. He found his men in the dungeon cell, probably still sleeping. He smiled.
"Thank you," he said to the boy. "This is just what we needed. You'll get it back when we're done." He ignored the boy's hesitant nod and pained glance at the parchment not caring if the kid trusted his word or not.
Several weeks went by with no progress on the Vampaneze. They had managed to find and drain several deer in the forest which was keeping them sustained as they continued to circle the castle waiting for the perfect moment. Rosten and his fellows were doing their best to sniff them out but the group of Vampaneze had fully explored the area. This left too many trails and fading scents with backtracking to make for a clean path. They were well hidden and the vampires were having trouble pinpointing them. The small band seemed to be constantly on the move.
Inside the castle they were continuously harassed by the Ministry workers. The numbers-once annoyingly large-had dwindled to two Aurors, a Creatures Expert, and Umbridge. Unfortunately, the pink lady was enough to keep them from ever truly relaxing the muscles in their shoulders.
Rosten had never met someone so completely mean. She was prejudiced and rude at every opportunity. She referred to them as animals when she thought they couldn't hear and sometimes when she pretended she thought they couldn't hear. She had managed to almost completely cut off their supply of blood. Rosten wasn't sure if she was trying to prove her misconceptions were right by forcing them to feed live, if she was trying to starve them out of the castle, or both. She seemed to forget they were there to protect the humans in the castle, not kill them in their sleep.
She hounded them at every turn, always there with simpering tones and ugly remarks. If she had not been a simple human she would already have been dead for such disrespect. Especially to a Prince. Rosten was surprised that Arrow, of all people, would put up with her remarks the way he did. He was normally a stickler for respect.
However, the vampires also saw her harassing several of the students as well. Rosten personally witnessed her screaming at some poor child for some trivial misbehavior. The vampire felt for the kid as he walked away with his head lowered and tears in his eyes. The woman could be downright nasty in her remarks and while the insults and put downs rolled off the backs of the vampires, it was devastating to an eleven year old.
The entire incident made Rosten think of Prince Darren and how he would have handled the 'toad' as some of the students called her. The vampire general believed that as a Prince or as a human the boy would not have put up with it. Although, if she were actually to go so far as to insult him so blatantly they would have retaliated. Darren was the pride of not only the clan but of the Princes themselves. They looked out for him, mentored him, and expected others to do the same.
But Darren wasn't here and Rosten pushed the young Prince from his mind as he joined his fellows for dinner. Arrow was not present and Rosten had no clue where he was but knew the Prince would turn up before midnight for progress reports on the search. The General sat next to Yema and across from George. Franklin was next to George and once Rosten took his seat the four closed ranks and talked quietly.
"We cannot keep on with this little blood," Yema said. "We will be as weak as the Vampaneze and they could win any battle by simply outnumbering us."
"I know," Rosten replied. "I spoke to Arrow about it and he said that he sent for someone but I do not know who."
"What possible good could another vampire in the castle do?" Franklin asked. "It will make her angrier."
"Arrow has a plan," Rosten defended. "We just need to have a little faith in him."
"Has there been any word about the Hunters?" Yema asked, referring to Darren, Larten, and Vancha. Rosten shook his head.
"No," he said. "There has been no news of them since we heard of their last location. They have probably moved on by now though."
Rosten closed his eyes briefly at the sound of the fake little cough behind him. Asking the Gods for patience he turned around and stood to face her. The others did as well. George and Franklin even climbed over the table to stand by them.
"It has been decided that you leave within the week," she simpered and Rosten raised an eyebrow at her. With Arrow missing he was in charge.
"Decided by who?" he asked.
"Minster Fudge has signed a decree stating that you will be gone within the week," she replied. Rosten and the others had heard all about her Educational Decrees. Some of them seemed downright ridiculous to him but he had held his tongue.
"We cannot just leave with Vampaneze at your door," Rosten said, shocked that she would put all these people in that much danger. "Magical blood is-"
"A delicacy, yes, you've said that," she snapped. "But I have come to the conclusion that there are no purple monsters in the forest and that you are to leave within the week."
"Of course they're there," Rosten snapped back, completely aware that the students were staring at this latest spectacle. "And they're extremely dangerous. You will be putting this entire school in jep-"
"You are to leave!" she practically screamed and he felt his eyes widen in shock at her sudden lack of control. "This is my school know. I am Headmistress, Hogwarts High Inquisitor, and Senior Undersecretary to the Minister of Magic. You are nothing but a half-human savage and you will obey your betters!"
Everything went incredibly still. Rosten had no clue how to respond. He had never been in this kind of situation. As a black man he had faced prejudice-most of it extremely ugly-but he had never been told to 'obey' a human as a vampire. No human had ever had the backbone to demand such a thing much less scream it in a crowded room full of curious children. The situation was delicate and as a vampire his first instinct was to run his sword through her.
He was saved from taking the responsibility of retaliation however. He felt-more than saw-his three friends bow on one knee. He glanced up from the short woman's face and then immediately followed their example. He could practically feel her smirk in satisfaction and he resisted his urge to point out that it wasn't to her they bowing.
"Hm," she sighed in satisfaction and seemed to puff up.
"Don't flatter yourself," came a deep voice from near the doors and the entire school swiveled around to see a pale man with dark hair and eyes. He wore a black tunic with black pants and boots. His swords were strapped to his back by well treated leather holsters whose straps crossed on his chest. He had a wide leather belt that looked exactly the same as Arrow's with a small dagger stored on the side. He carried two large leather pouches that looked heavy. "They are not bowing to you."
"Who are you?" the woman asked.
"Mika Ver Leth. I am a Prince of the Vampire Clans." He set down the pouches and snapped his fingers. The four Generals stood and walked around the woman without even a second glance, approaching their Prince. He opened up one of the pouches and revealed a large, clay jug. Rosten recognized it as one of Seba's. Each one came up to the Prince's knee and when filled they would weigh as much as a full grown wolf. Rosten wondered how far Mika had carried them.
He set one of the jugs on the floor and pulled a long hollowed out reed from his pant pocket. When full the jugs were too heavy to tip safely. He handed the tube to Rosten who kneeled down, uncorked the jug and began to drink. Sweet blood flowed down his throat and he drank deeply. Unlike the blood the Ministry had been giving them, this blood was fresh and tasted as sweet as if they were drinking live.
Rosten's eyes darkened and he released the tube, his mouth opened wide and stained teeth were bared. He growled as instinct took hold of his body and he felt his waning strength return to him in full force. It felt good and his muscles tensed and relaxed as his powers bubbled to the surface. He felt like himself for the first time since they had come to be in this castle. The vampires passed the reed around one by one, drinking their fill. While they were doing that Mika was left to deal with Umbridge.
"What do you think you're doing?" she screeched.
"Providing what you have not," Mika replied. "One vial a week for five vampires is not enough. You have starved them and I will not stand for it."
"You have no authority here," she told him, eyes narrowed.
"I have authority wherever there is a vampire," he said, his tone brooking no argument. Umbridge seemed cowed for a moment and then steeled herself.
"Take your little creatures and leave this castle," she snapped. Mika stepped up to her and his frame towered over her short, squat one.
"I will do whatever I please," he told her. "This castle has become a battleground for a war that you have, unfortunately, been dragged into. This is my battlefield now and you will not interfere. If you do I will not hesitate to end you."
She had no response for him and he brushed past her to find his fellow Prince.
Mika found him in the dungeons, in their special cell. Rosten had escorted him down there and then left them to speak on their own, Prince to Prince. He could tell Mika had something to say and so did Arrow. The bald man put his sword down on the table along with the piece of wood he had been whittling and stood to fully see his friend.
"Mika, it's good to see you old friend," he said, smiling. Mika did not smile back and Arrow quickly dropped his own. "What happened?" He should have asked what else had happened. They had just lost Paris and he didn't want to hear of who else had passed in the last few weeks.
"Arrow, we have lost Larten."
Arrow felt a roaring in his ears and he fought to catch his breath. Larten.
"How?" Arrow asked.
"The Vampaneze Lord," Mika replied and refused to tell him anything more. When the others came back down to the dungeon they too were informed of what had happened. The vampires spent the rest of that night and day in mourning. Arrow spent his time alone. He sat on his haunches, his arms folded on the seat of a chair and his head lowered into them. He was searching from some darkness. He mumbled a prayer to the Vampire Gods to watch over Larten's soul in old Latin. Nobody dared to disturb him until he done four hours later.
Eventually, his muscles unclenched and he stood. Pausing for only a moment to let the blood flow back into his legs, the bald man walked back to the group in the corner. Most of them had their own heads bowed in reverence. Larten, despite his sudden rejection of the Generals, had been loved and respected by much of the clan. Arrow himself had been good friends with the younger man. He'd known him since the orange haired man was but a half-vampire, still resistant and youthful. Much like Darren was now.
"What of Darren?" he asked. He came to stand in front of Mika, hands resting on his hips. He looked like he was trying to pull himself together.
"We are not entirely certain where he is," Mika replied. "Larten was the only one who had a mental connection with him and we cannot find the Cirque either. For now, the hunt has stopped."
"Where is Vancha?" Arrow asked.
"He is at Vampire Mountain."
"He left Darren?" the bald Prince asked incredulously.
"Darren left him."
"He's run away," Arrow observed. Mika nodded.
"Think he'll come back? Finish the hunt?"
"Once he's through grieving," Mika told him. "But not before."
Mika led the hunt that night for the Vampaneze. Arrow seemed capable of only wandering the hallways and guarding the door in case they slipped out of the forest and into the school. He watched the Marauder's Map faithfully as he sat on the steps and allowed the full moon to wash over him. He was enjoying the silence. There was no harpy screaming that he was a bloodthirsty monster come to destroy them all. There was no student body whispering, pointing and gawking at him like he was an exhibit in the zoo. There was no Vampaneze to ruin his day and stain his clothes with their spilt blood. There was just him, the star filled sky, and the moon goddess.
He closed his eyes and let the scents overwhelm him. He pushed aside the foul smell of Magic and enjoyed those pleasant smells drifting from the woods, the grass, and the stone. He heard the faint sound of water from the lake as it hit the shore. He heard the brief moment the squid came up to the surface to play with shadows dancing across the water. And then, from the deep depths of the forest, he heard the howl of a werewolf. Lupin.
He had known what the man was the second he'd seen him. Could smell it on him and had seen his eyes turn feral yellow once or twice. He had even felt the discreet magic of the wolf reach out to its natural allies. Vampires and werewolves may be two different breeds but they came from the same ancestral creature. He had seen Lupin in the castle that very day so it didn't surprise him that he had decided to turn in the forest where he may wander across the Vampaneze and rip them to shreds.
But then the werewolf howled again and he heard a laugh.
His eyes snapped open.
He reached for the Map from where it was laying beside him and scanned furiously for a name. It was there. Disappearing and reappearing along the edge of the map as he danced in and out of the boundary. He was running and Arrow saw the werewolf was close beside him. He focused again and heard another laugh.
He jumped up from his perch on the steps and with the Map in his hand ran into the forest just resting under flitting speed to avoid smacking into a tree and killing himself. He dodged trees and vines. He avoided the centaur clearing and the spider infested tree grove. He jumped over the small creek and ended up on a small, winding dirt path. It wove in and out of the school grounds just like the Map had suggested. He followed it in the direction the werewolf and his companion had been going. He never found them.
But he did find the battle. The Generals and Mika were in a full scale battle with the Vampaneze. There was four of the purple abominations but two of the vampire were injured. One was down and the other was slowing. Arrow jumped into the fray, dropping the Map on the path. He drew a boomerang and let it fly. It hit true; the Vampaneze screamed and clutched at his right leg where the sharp metal had dug itself in through skin, muscle, and bone. The weakened Vampire, Franklin, finished the job when he buried his sword blade into the monster's chest.
Mika was holding his own just fine. In fact, he seemed to be toying with his adversary. The darker vampire would dance around him with quick, expert footwork taking small swipes at the light purple man's torso. Based on his coloring he had not been a full Vampaneze for long and was not as well trained as the five hundred year old Prince. Eventually, the man tired of the game and ran the monster clean through the lower torso. He was dead before he hit the ground.
Rosten had managed to pin his opponent down so that the purple man had his back to a large tree and nowhere to duck when his sword found his neck. The final Vampaneze-who had been trying to get up after receiving a nasty blow to the shoulder-found strength in rage and leapt up from the ground with a roar. He rushed towards Rosten, his sword poised for a deadly strike, when Arrow's second and last boomerang sailed through the air with a sharp whistle and cut through his wrist like it was nothing. The sword and hand dropped to the grass and bounced away. The Vampaneze screamed in agony and fell to his knees. He was so consumed with his missing hand that he didn't even notice when Arrow stepped up behind him to slit his throat.
The clearing fell quiet as the Vampires caught their breath and the last of the battle cry echoes died away. Franklin had immediately gone to attend George once his opponent had been killed. The quiet General was able to partially close the wound on the thigh with his spit and come morning the other man would be fine if a bit woozy from blood loss.
"Thanks for the assistance," Mika said stepping over and clapping Arrow on the back. "How did you know where we were? We aren't on the school grounds." Mika had been informed of the Map and how it worked. He thought it fascinating. Considering the amount of time they wasted trying to hunt down Vampires in remote corners of the mountain, Arrow could understand the darker man's desire to secure one for themselves if it would have been possible.
"I heard a werewolf howl," Arrow told him vaguely.
"From the front steps?"
"I was meditating," the bald man replied. "But I also heard someone laughing so I checked the Map. There's a path that goes back and forth across the property line and the two of them were running this way. I followed and happened upon you."
"Lucky circumstance," Mika observed but Arrow shook his head.
"No, it wasn't," he said and then went back to where he had dropped the Map, snatching it up. "You won't believe who was running with that werewolf."
"Who?" Mika growled, already tired of wordplay. He had always been someone who appreciated short sentences.
"Darren?" Mika asked, and for the first time in a long time the unflappable Prince was flapped. The last time his face had looked like that, Darren had shown up in the Hall of Princes claiming Kurda a traitor. "What is he doing here? I wasn't even aware he knew Magic existed!"
"Neither did I but he'd here, somewhere," Arrow replied and looked at the Map hoping the boy would step back onto Hogwarts' grounds. "He's nowhere on the gro-"
The bald Prince was cut off by a sudden howl to his left and he turned to see Mika with his face lifted and hands cupped around his mouth, howling away. He didn't go for long before he fell silent and everyone waited. Sure enough the werewolf howled back and by the sound of it, he was close.
"You four stay here," Arrow told the Generals before the two Princes ran into the trees towards where the howl had come from. They kept going and searching for the dratted creature but every time Mika stopped to howl the answer came from a different direction. Arrow had a funny suspicion that one or both of them was playing tag with two Princes.
They weren't able to catch them by sunrise and the six Vampires, bloodied, bruised and tired, climbed the steps of the castle and entered the Great Hall at the height of breakfast. The hall fell into the tensest silence they had yet to experience. Arrow knew they must look a sight and he was not surprised when Umbridge and the still present Creatures Expert (they never had figured out his name) descended on them in fury. Snape came to join them as well for one reason or another. Arrow assumed it was try to keep an incident from occurring. The Professor ended up standing next Mika and Arrow was amazed at how alike they seemed. He actually wondered if Snape wasn't a descendent of Mika's.
"What-what did you do?" asked the Creatures Expert, flabbergasted and eyeing them with his mouth agape. But they weren't listening to him. Their eyes had fallen on a young boy sitting at what they knew to be the Hufflepuff Table. He was the only one in the hall not looking at them. In fact he was still eating his breakfast.
Mika scowled darkly and bared his teeth when he growled as if he was feral. In the quite hall the loud growl carried to every ear, human or not. Still the boy did not turn around. Not until Arrow's hand came crashing down on the table in front of him. He had moved so fast the humans had not seen or heard him approach. The students around him jumped and squeaked in terror.
"Did you have fun?" Arrow asked, anger steeping his tone. This was a time of war and not a time to play tag.
"Yes, actually I did," the boy replied finally turning around so that Arrow could look him in the face. His hair had re-grown but they had been told by Seba that probably would happen before they saw him again. He had gone through the purge. His burn marks were still clearly visible but not as red and angry as they once had been. His eyes were still a deep blue and sparked with curiosity and fun. His brown hair was styled in a popular fashion, shaggy and naturally unkempt.
Through his open robes Arrow could see an old fashioned white shirt that had ties near the neck, which Darren kept loose. He had probably gotten the shirt at the mountain where that style was still popular. He was also wearing a purple silk vest that the Prince had once seen Larten wear. But his blue jeans and black and bright blue sneakers were modern. More modern than the Wizarding world had seen in a long time. He had been with non-magical humans recently. Between his legs was his sword with the handle resting against his knee and within easy reach.
"Where have you been?" Arrow asked, much calmer. "People have been searching for you."
"I went to Boston."
"Boston?" Mika asked, surprised. "What's in Boston?"
"The Duck Tour," the boy replied and absolutely no one understood what he was talking about.
Shaking his head as if to rid himself of a gnat Arrow continued with his questions unconcerned with the audience. It wasn't as if they would understand what they were talking about anyway. "And the hunt?"
"Will continue once I get out of here," Darren said and stood from his spot on the bench. He shed the student robe and strapped his sword to his back, where it belonged.
"How did you even know where this place was?" Mika asked, curious about the boy's sudden appearance. Like always Darren was full of surprises and often difficult to keep up with.
"I heard an interesting rumor from some blood donors in Boston," he told them. "They said that a Prince was babysitting a bunch of kids in a school that technically didn't exist. It caught my interest." He ended with a shrug and smiled. "Never would have thought you a kid person Mika."
"I am not," the man growled and Darren smiled more openly and stepped up to join the circle of people, Arrow stopping directly behind him in a protective gesture. Darren caught sight of Mika standing next to Snape and blinked a few times.
"Oh my god," he said incredulously. "There's two of you!" The Vampires couldn't help but chuckle except for Mika who just scowled. Snape raised an eyebrow.
"Who are you?" the Professor asked.
"Darren Shan," the boy replied happily. "Prince of the Vampire Clans."
"How many Princes are there?" the Creatures Expert asked, half curious, half furious that there was yet another vampire in Hogwarts. Umbridge just looked murderous.
"Four," boy replied. "But between you and me, I'm the fun one."
"Do not let Vancha hear you say that," Arrow advised, dropping his hands on Darren's shoulders and squeezing. He then turned towards Umbridge who looked as if she was getting ready to pop at any moment. "We were able to find the Vampaneze and we killed them in a clearing just outside the wards. You shouldn't have any more problems with them."
"Leave," she ordered.
"Gladly," Arrow replied, his tone just as mean as hers had been. The bald Prince pushed the youngster in his grasp by the shoulder, leading him out of the Hall. The others followed behind wanting leave as much as he wanted to. On their way out of the doors Arrow plucked the Map from his back pocket and handed it to Lupin who had managed to find his way back.
"Moony is not, and never will be, a discreet nickname," he told the werewolf and continued out of the door. The last thing any of them ever heard of the Vampires was a small conversation between Arrow and Darren.
"Darren, have you ever had Blood Pops?"
"No, what are they?"
"A special Wizarding candy made just for Vampires. You'll love them."