A sharp hit to his backside broke Herbert out of his blood frenzied state of mind. Not at all able to process what just had happened, he was thus unable to react in time when another hit followed, and then another. Only when the fourth blow came did the vampire gather hits wits to let go of Alfred, and quickly scurried of in the opposite direction which allowed him to get a look at his tormentor.

It turned out to be none other than this scatterbrained Professor What's-his-name, who at this moment was angrily waving around his parasol and shouting nonsense at him. As the old man proceeded to jab his makeshift weapon like a sword in his general direction whilst advancing towards him, and Herbert did not at all fancy the idea of being found staked with a parasol in his very own bathroom, he thought it wise to put some more distance between him and that senile lunatic; but at least not without clearly displaying his disgust on his pale face.

Apparently deeming the situation to be under control, the Professor now seemed intent on giving his assistant a piece of his mind as well, which served Herbert just fine, who, bruised in body and pride, finally got up from the cold floor. The tall man provisionally rid his clothes off all the dust, that had rendered the formerly white embroidered shirt a dirty gray; pointedly ignoring his uninvited guests; which would have had a more powerful effect, had the two men been paying attention to him.

Time for more drastic measures then, thought Herbert, who didn't fail to notice the missing effect of his subtle display of contempt.

Initially set upon strutting indignantly out of the room, Herbert purposefully strode forward, but stopped abruptly, when the blond vampire realized that he had almost walked straight into the mirrored wall. That was indeed a hassle, when one lacked a reflection, he supposed.

Cross and highly embarrassed by this unpleasant turn of events, Herbert finally deigned to direct his attention back at the old man and Alfred again, the former of whom apparently hadn't finished his curtain-lecture yet. Alfred, who looked impatient and frightened, was still eyeing the viscount cautiously every now and then, splitting his attention between him and the Professor.

The self-proclaimed scientist, whose name Herbert couldn't be bothered to remember, had now thought it a sensible thing to pull out his pince nez and inspect Alfred's private parts, while asking him whether or not he had done something to provoke Herbert.

Alfred's face took on a deep shade of red, whether from embarrassment or from taking offense, Herbert couldn't tell.

"Provoke him?! Nonsense, it was all him!", he proclaimed while pointing his finger in an accusatory manner at the vampire in question.

Herbert in turn, gaped back in shock, slowly feeling his blood boil.

All him, was it? It wasn't like he had barged into Alfred's bathroom. It wasn't like he had carried around poetry (and A Guide for Lovers at that!).

Adding to that, the viscount wasn't exactly used to not getting what he desired, and he wasn't about to let what in his mind was rightfully his, just walk out the door.

Creepingly, but with an absolute certainty, every rational thought in Herbert's mind was leaving him again, as the deep lying, unsatisfied hunger began to rear it's head once more, howling for the very blood it had been denied mere moments ago. Allowing it to consume him, the Count's son bared his fangs, before slowly prowling towards his intended prey.

Said prey, however, spotted him in time to alert his mentor, and quickly ran off. Herbert followed in hot pursuit, the clacking of his heels echoing throughout the entire masonry.

Soon enough the two scientists were fleeing at a pace that Herbert especially wouldn't have thought the Professor capable of. Also, it seemed that a simple matter such as an escape didn't deter the old man in the slightest from quenching his thirst for knowledge, leading to him questioning Alfred as they fled.

"Now tell me, boy, what exactly did you think you were doing in his bathroom?", he demanded between quick intakes of breath.

"No time … still … behind us", Alfred panted without slowing down, taking multiple steps at a time.

"Yes, I can see that myself", the Professor replied nonchalantly, as if it was quite an ordinary thing, to have a bloodthirsty creature dressed in an embroidered frilled shirt and too tight sitting pants close at his heels.

Herbert was indeed just a few stairs behind them, growling like an animal all the while.

"That is precisely why I want to know what you did to send him into such a fury, Mr. I-didn't-provoke-him!"

Had Herbert been running up the stairs in front of Alfred, and backwards at that, it would have served no purpose at all; but it would have given the viscount the opportunity of witnessing a rare and impossible sounding event; namely, Alfred turning a darker shade of red than his jacket. Since Alfred still gave no indication of slowing down whatsoever, not to mention that he was still carrying the Professor's heavy bag, it took the young man a few moments before he found himself able to answer.

"I swear … didn't mean to … Thought … thought he was Sarah!"

"Sarah, of course! Boy, you are either the worst liar I have ever encountered, or blind as a bat!"

The shrill voice of the old scientist still carried down the staircase, but the words themselves were lost on the way, since the two men continued to take off, as opposed to Herbert, who had stopped dead in his tracks.

His pale gray eyes continued to stare in the direction his supposed victims had just fled. He was shaking all over his body with barely contained fury, still the vampire felt the fight leaving him.

Alfred's words had been like a slap to the face (and Herbert was fairly certain he'd had his share of physical violence for the day, metaphorical or not). He could hardly believe how immensely foolish he had been, which angered him to no end, mainly because that was a trait Herbert liked to associate with naive, inexperienced young men or women, not himself.

Still, he couldn't ignore the hollow feeling in his stomach, nor the way his insides seemed to twist and turn and convulse in a manner which made the blond vampire feel glad that he couldn't throw up as easily anymore as he would have three centuries ago.

Herbert looked down at his hands, only now realizing that they were clenched so tight, that he might as well have had tried to pierce his skin with his knuckles. He stretched them out elaborately, while trying to decide whether he should scream in frustration, wail in self-pity, or just go ahead and murder Sarah.

Deciding to do neither of these things, Herbert instead opted for throwing his arms in the air dramatically, making a high-pitched, disdainful sound, and strutting back down the stairs into his bathroom, shirt sleeves wafting, and head held high, despite the great many cobwebs hanging from the ceiling. There he vent his anger by smashing his fist into the mirrored wall, watching the rifts around his fist grow into a spiderweb with some kind of grim satisfaction.

The next quarter of an hour, however, was spent in a less than satisfactory manner, though still rather grim, when the viscount had to pluck out tiny shards from his hand, hissing while doing so.

He tried to calm his mind with the thought that soon enough, he would still get his hands on the boy with nowhere to run for him this time. Admittedly it wouldn't quite be what Herbert had aspired for, and the mere prospect of having to wrestle the entirety of his father's guests for the faintest amount of blood, like some kind lower animal, disgusted him thoroughly. But as was generally known, opportunity makes the vampire, one of the few credos Herbert would actually live by.

He knew he could do that. Starved creatures his father's guests were, desperate to be sure, but Herbert could and would hold his ground, even at the cost of some very expensive pieces of wardrobe. He wasn't about to let some rag-wearing, emaciated, pathetic excuse of a vampire beat him to it, not when every fiber in his own body still screamed for the boy's blood.

Uttering a strange sound, somewhere between a snarl and a discontented sigh, Herbert glared at an unfortunate shard (for being the recipient of Herbert's deadly glare was usually a grave misfortune), as if it was solely responsible for his plight.

Not that the vampire would have admitted as much to anyone, but it was one of those rare instances when even Herbert didn't understand his own mind.

Few men have ever caused him to fall into such a brooding mood that his father always loved to flaunt. The viscount himself had made it a habit to live in the present, and to not dwell on trifles like a broken heart. And while he did enjoy the feeling of being enamored with someone, Herbert was much to impatient to indulge in that feeling for too long. He never waited. He never asked. He took.

Most people didn't even dare refuse him. Not even the more frightened ones.

Alfred had fought back.

It wasn't the first time that had ever happened, and if it hadn't been for that blasted Professor, he would have succeeded. But Alfred had won. Alfred had refused him, even humiliated him. A large part of Herbert wished him through all seven circles of hell for that, but even then he couldn't deny, that he was, in fact, impressed.

Impressed and fascinated and terribly lonely.

That still didn't explain, though, why this time Herbert found it almost unbearable to know, that Alfred's affections belonged to someone else (and someone so completely undeserving of it, but that was beside the point). When had he ever shown consideration for anything like that, or, put another way (since 'consideration' might not have been the most fitting term in this case either), when had he ever let that bother him?

Searching his feelings as he might, Herbert couldn't find a satisfying answer, and, in an abundant bout of pettiness, decided to lay blame upon Sarah, for causing nothing but trouble in general, and Alfred, for being the very reason of his personal troubles, that confounded Professor for humiliating him, and his father, for bringing the lot here in the first place.

The blond vampire realized his thoughts were trailing off into nowhere, but just as any respectable and sensible man of his wisdom and age, he thought 'to hell with it', took of his clothes and finally stepped into the tub, which was fortunately still hot – hot enough to warm a vampire, at any rate.

What was more, Herbert had decided to emulate his father's deeds, and brooded a bit longer.

His father had been right about one thing, he admitted begrudgingly, for nothing was worse than having to admit their parent had been right about something.

Herbert was no longer bored.

"He didn't get you, did he? Let me see your neck", Professor Abronsius ordered, before promptly palpating his students neck, giving a small sigh of relief upon discovering Alfred's skin undamaged. The young man shook his head reassuringly, touched by Abronsius's rare portrayal of concern, clumsy as it was; yet again betraying the old man's human nature; who usually tried his best to convince everyone that he was actually a personified encyclopedia.

"No, I'm fine, you came just in time, Professor. Thank you"

"Yes, yes", the Professor replied gruffly, impatiently waving Alfred's gratitude aside, as if he had just gotten aware of himself.

Standing on the battlements out in the open air, the two men just started to feel the frosty temperatures a Transylvanian winter held for it's inhabitants, especially those careless enough to venture outside without proper outdoor garments. Though it did made up for it, by rewarding those few daring people with a marvelous view at the starry canopy, untainted by unnatural light larger cities provided at a time, when only darkness should be allowed to emphasize the stars dazzling radiance.

"Now, if you don't mind telling me, my boy", the old scholar began in a tone that suggested he couldn't care less if his student minded or not, "what on earth had happened when I left you alone at that library for five minutes?"

Alfred suppressed the need to point out that it had been more than five minutes, and instead told the whole story, from how he had just followed his teachers advise, over to detailing the vampire's misdemeanors, to make sure Professor Abronsius understood that he had indeed done nothing to provoke the Count's son, other than carrying about 1.5 gallons of fresh blood around.

His mentor listened carefully, not interrupting him once, eyes narrowed but glancing aside, with his head slightly lowered and his hands folded over his parasol. Alfred knew that pose and could almost hear the gears and wheels in his Professor's head turning. This returned some hope into the heart of the young student; if there was one certainty for him, it was that he could always count on his mentor on having a plan, even if they did seem a bit odd sometimes. Alfred had had some time now to become acquainted with his teacher's eccentricities, and he had since learned that there was usually always a reason behind Abronsius's actions.

And yet, he never would have guessed what the old scientist asked him next.

"So, do I understand correctly that the Count's son invited you to that ball?"

Alfred's flabbergasted expression at this would have been worth a lot of money, Professor Abronsius, however, paid it no mind.

"Well, yes, but wha – what does that have to do with anything, I – I mean he tried to … and, and well, … vampire", the student weakly concluded his line of stammering.

"Listen", Abronsius said, his voice cutting and urgent, "I have a plan. To make this all end well. To get us all out of here. You, me, the girl. Do you understand?"

Alfred nodded, the bag still clutched in his arms.

"Good. You see, if there is a ball, there will be guests. What do you think these guests might be?" Abronsius used the same didactic tone of voice he used in his lectures.

Alfred felt his blood run cold; he hadn't thought of that.


"Vampires.", his mentor confirmed, "Now, on balls there is usually a feast of some kind. And as you and I know, our esteemed hosts have a rather peculiar taste. And unless there are some freshly caught villagers kept in a dungeon, who do you think will have to serve as their buffet?"

Alfred didn't answer, but his heavy gulping spoke for itself.

"Exactly. Now, we have to move quickly and carefully. You will have to complete your task without me. Do you think you can do that?"

At that the Professor gave Alfred a poignant stare, with the latter shamefacedly recollecting his inglorious performance at the crypt. But the student was determined to make up for it, and thus nodded with clenched jaws. His mentor seemed satisfied with that, although his expression still remained a bit wary. He cleared his throat meaningfully.

"Good. Here's what you'll have to do. First, you go down there and attend the ball with von Krolock's son."

"WHAT?", Alfred shrieked in disbelief, earning him a chiding look from Abronsius who was quick to shush him.

"Don't you see? If we want to save the girl, we'll have to infiltrate the ball and disappear with her in a crowd. There is no point in trying to flee with her now. You saw it for yourself, she was obviously put in some kind of trance. If we drag her away now, she'd make too much of a ruckus, we wouldn't even make it to the main entrance. If you are officially invited, your presence will distract from mine, allowing me to take all necessary precautions."

"But what if I get bitten at the ball?" Alfred wasn't at all convinced of that plan. From what it looked like now, the Professor planned on using him as a sacrificial lamb.

The scholar pointed a scrawny finger at him.

"Not to worry. From your story I gather that the Count's son has taken a shine to you. Vampires are quite possessive in nature, he wouldn't allow anyone but himself near you. And we will be long gone before he can bite you."

Alfred still worried quite a bit, and his fears weren't at all lessened by knowing that the blond vampire had taken a liking to him. After all, that was what had almost got him bitten in the first place.

"He didn't wait for the ball to start when I was down there in the bathroom.", Alfred pointed out, "What makes you think he won't just bite me the moment he sees me?"

At that, the Professor gave an exasperated sigh, as though he was teaching Alfred the alphabet, and had to explain to him for the third time that 'D' came before 'E'.

"Unless vampires are starved they don't just wildly bite anyone in their path. If they take a liking to someone, they will try and seduce them to make the victim give themselves up willingly to them. With his first attempt failed, he will have to take a more patient approach. Make use of that. And of course this time, you won't be going without taking some precautions."

The old scholar gave Alfred a wink. The latter felt trapped, as he really didn't want to meet the Count's son anytime soon again, but found himself almost all out of counterarguments.

"Well, uh, well, yes but,", Alfred began, desperately grasping for straws, "do you really think he would want to take me to the ball? I mean, after all that happened, well..."

Abronsius gave a derogatory handwave at his student's objection.

"Pish-posh, you simply overreacted, which you are very sorry for, that's why you want to make up for it. Then maybe add that I'm a bit senile, and everything will be fine."

"But you aren't senile!", the young man exclaimed scandalized, but not particularly quick-witted. His mentor gave him fond smile. Or perhaps it was a condescending one; really, it was hard to tell with a lack of light and the Abronsius' bushy mustache.

"I'm most certainty not, but he doesn't need to know. Now listen closely, next …"

Next, Professor Abronsius explained the rest of his plan to Alfred, who did indeed listen closely, albeit with a queasy feeling.

So far, so good. He was definitely in the right aisle and Alfred was fairly certain he could find the door that lead to Herbert's bathroom. Not that he intended to knock there. Nothing in the world could have persuaded the young man to pay the vampire a courtesy visit, while the latter was probably in the middle of taking a bath. But at least that meant, or so Alfred hoped, that the viscount's changing room must be nearby.

While Alfred sneaked down the dimly lit corridor, he practiced his speech in his mind, which should convince the Count's son to take him to the ball. The very thought of it continuously send shivers down his spine, but Alfred tried to call himself to order, mainly by reminding himself who he was doing all of this for.


Sarah, who apparently had no wish to be rescued, a low voice in his mind, which sounded remarkably like the Count, spoke up. Was he actually doing her a favor? Maybe she truly wished for all of this. Was it heroic, was it right to drag her away from the dangerous temptation she yearned for, even though it was foolish and, well, wrong? Alfred felt sick.

The Professor's words popped up in his head. If the Count did place her in a trance, it wasn't really Sarah who made the decision. Rarely felt anger began to bubble up inside him, as he recalled Sarah's words to him in the bathroom.

"Papa will be in for a surprise, when he arrives!"

Chagal was dead. Well, undead, really, but it didn't take an Einstein to figure out who was accountable for that. And Sarah didn't know. Suddenly Alfred regretted not staking the Count when he had the chance. He really was a vile, dark creature without the slightest amount of decency, so long as he got what he wanted.

Alfred straightened up with newfound determination, anxious to carry out his mentor's orders.

However, much to his chagrin, Alfred found that the corridor had way to many doors; meaning finding Herbert's room wasn't quite as easy as he had hoped it would be. Spending too much time in his profound thoughts led to Alfred realizing that he had even lost track of which door might have belonged to the bathroom.

Which in turn led to the only possible scientific conclusion: He was lost. Very, very much so.

There was only one thing to do. Knocking on every door, hoping (and dreading) that the viscount might be behind one. It turned Alfred's stomach, not least because he feared meeting his Excellency himself behind one of those doors.

But with no other choice present, the young student tentatively knocked against the first door nearest to him. No answer.

He was almost ashamed of himself for letting out a small sigh of relief, before moving over to the next one. Still no answer, which turned out to be the same case with the next two doors (one to his left, and one to his right). The fifth door he knocked a bit harder, as his previous failings inspired his confidence to fail at the next door as well, but it unexpectedly swung open. Not because someone had opened him, it had simply been left ajar.

Inside the dark room was Koukol, the Count's manservant, holding a candelabra in one hand, and a feather-duster int the other one, while limping up and down in a rather fruitless effort to free the room of dust.

Alfred froze, and in a moment of panic he considered closing the door and making a run for it, before realizing that Koukol could help him find the blond vampire, so he plucked up his courage.

"Excuse me", he began feebly. Koukol grunted, then turned around, and Alfred was rather proud of himself for flinching only slightly when his sight fell onto the servant's facial features which required getting used to.

A rasping sound emerged from Koukol's throat, and Alfred, remembering his manners, answered politely.

"Ah yes, thank you for asking, Mr. Koukol. I was hoping you could help me with, ah, well, see, I need to – to talk to the son of his Excellency in an urgent matter, and I, ah, thought you could help me find him?"

Unless he happens to be in the bathtub, Alfred felt like adding, but wisely decided against it. He suddenly noticed his hands were clenched on his jacket. The student quickly let go, smoothed out nonexistent folds, and, in default of a better idea simply folded his hands behind his back.

Koukol gaped at him for few seconds, as if Alfred had fallen directly from the moon and in front of him, then grunted again. He pushed passed the other man and hobbled two doors over, where he came to a halt. Fighting against blushing all over, Alfred took three steps to overcome the distance.

"Ah, I see. Thank you, I, uh, must have forgotten.", the budding scientist heard himself rambling, before he almost choked as Koukol hammered against the door with his giant fist.

Alfred performed what looked like a little dance on the spot, fighting down his ever present flight-instinct. The hunchback took off with a malicious chuckle.

"Damn it, Koukol, what is i– You?"

The door had flown open, and Herbert stepped out. His furious expression changed to one of utter surprise, before it cooled down by twenty degrees Celsius.

The viscount was almost entirely dressed; apparently he had gone for a silver-blue suit. At least, his vest and breeches suggested as much, since his jacket was still missing.

Gulping audibly, Alfred found himself unable to meet his eyes, when Herbert looked at him as though he was something that had found it's way out of the rectum of a cow. Instead, Alfred opted for examining the richly embroidered vest of his opposite.

"You wish?", the blond vampire asked icily. Not one word of his rehearsed speech would come to him, and Alfred felt cold sweat running down his neck.

"I, uh, well, I, uhm, wanted to … uh, I wanted to … apologize! Yes, apologize to you, be-because I, ah, you", Alfred dared to lift his gaze for a second, and Herbert's raised eyebrow made him even more nervous, "I – I mean, what I did, that was – that was rude, and, well I – I'm sorry."

Alfred would have liked to leave it at that, feeling a great desire to walk off and bury himself somewhere in the woods, but there was no turning back now.

"You came to apologize"

Alfred couldn't interpret Herbert's tone, and to make matters worse, he felt his hands sweating now as well. Quickly, he ran his tongue over his dry lips before he spoke again.

"Yes, tha – that's what I wanted – that's what I came here for. Because … because, see, I was afraid of - ", Alfred caught himself in time, "I – I misunderstood … a – and, well, overreacted …"

The young student cursed his current inability of forming coherent sentences. He had never found himself nearly this inarticulate when writing essays back in Königsberg. Herbert, too, looked extraordinarily unimpressed.

"Will that be all?", he asked, his voice perfectly indifferent. Alfred, on the other hand, was as far from indifferent as one could possibly be. He tried to wipe his sweaty hands on his jacket inconspicuously.

"Yes!", he exclaimed, "I mean no! I, uh, want to make up for it."

Relieved, Alfred noted how some of the coldness vanished from Herbert's face, replaced by faint interest.

"Make up for it?"

"Yes. You said, you invited me to the ball, and of course, I understand, if – if you wouldn't want to anymore, but – er – but if you still do, I – I'd like to accompany you to the ball. I mean, if you want to."

Faint interest and coldness turned into pure astonishment. Alfred nervously fiddled with his fingers, as he waited for a response.

"You want to attend the ball with me?" Distrust laced the viscount's voice, as his eyes narrowed at Alfred.

"I, I think so, yes."

"After you came to apologize."

"Uh, er, yes …?" Alfred had no idea where Herbert was going with this, and it frightened him.

"You apologize for having done nothing to 'provoke' me", the vampire used his hands to make air quotes at that point, "and to make up for that you wish to accompany me to the ball, even though, and allow me to quote you here, it just suddenly overcame me?"

Herbert had kept his voice eerily calm, but one had to be remarkably dense, not to hear the accusations. Alfred just saw their entire plan going down the drain before it had even properly started. He needed to think of something, quickly.

"That – that was wrong – I, I'm sorry I insulted you. I – of course, I shouldn't have come into your bathroom. I'm sorry, I just mistook you for someone else."

Wrong words. The viscount's thin mouth twisted in displeasure, and a frown wrinkled his smooth skin.

"Be careful it doesn't happen again.", he stated in bitter voice, which surprised Alfred.

"I – It won't, don't worr – what exactly?"

The shadow under the vampire's eyes seemed to grow darker, as if by sheer willpower. He crossed his arms.

"Are you sure you wouldn't rather be accompanying Sarah to the ball?"

Alfred's mouth went dry.

"Sarah dances with his Excellency", he replied softly, looking to the ground. It was a stupid reply, Alfred knew, but unfortunately the only one that came to his mind. Herbert gave a small sigh that sounded almost disappointed, then his voice grew cold again.

"I see. Well, in that case, I'm sorry, Alfred. But I am not just the second best choice."

With that, the Count's son gave him one last glance, turned on his heel, and proceeded to slowly close the door.

Panic took a hold of the student again; panic that had never really left him ever since they arrived in Transylvania. This was shaping out to be even worse than in the crypt. Here he was already failing at the very first step. Sweating profusely, his heart apparently determined to race his thoughts, Alfred desperately fought to come up with an idea.

"Sarah doesn't love me!", he finally shouted at the top of his lungs, that one would have been forgiven for thinking a wounded lover had chosen that particular time of day to dramatically cry out his plights to the heavens, so that everyone may have the opportunity to share in his misery.

Sadly, with the door being almost closed, Alfred missed the sight of Herbert even giving a small jump at the sudden increase of volume.

But it had worked. After a moment of uncomfortable silence, the vampire opened the door again, wearing an expression, Alfred, for the life of him, could not make sense of.

Further seconds passed in silence before it dawned to him that he needed to speak up again.

"Tha – that's what I meant, when I said she dances with his Excellency", Alfred fabulated, "I went to talk to her earlier, and I – I, uh, realized that she cared about – about your father, not me. And I just couldn't believe it, so I went to talk to her again, and that's when I, uh, well, must have taken the wrong door and…"

Alfred trailed of, unsure if he had offended the viscount again. Oddly enough, the blond man remained silent, staring intently at him, as if Alfred had just presented him with the cure for tuberculosis.

The student felt highly uncomfortable, lying insolently to the viscount. He generally believed that telling the truth, even if it was unpleasant was usually the best way to go. But he couldn't fail again. And it wasn't like vampires were markedly ethical creatures, so it couldn't be too bad. He hoped.

"I've had some time to think now.", Alfred began bravely, "Previously you said that y – you lo – that you love me" The last part of that sentence came out hurriedly. Alfred paused, as if waiting for lightning to strike him. When nothing happened, he continued.

"I – I don't know, if I feel the same way. I barely even know you!", he added defensively when he noticed Herbert's fretful expression.

"But I acted inappropriately, and I'm sorry about what – what the Professor did. He, uh, he's er …"

"He's an old dodderer.", the viscount finished dismissively. Alfred almost gave him a reproachful glare, then thought better of it, and nodded instead, making a mental note to go to confession for that, once he got back to Königsberg.

"And, well, you and your father also said we should become friends, so … so maybe we could just attend the ball like that? As … as friends?"

It had been obvious from the beginning to Herbert that Alfred (and by extension probably that old fool, too) had been up to something.

With the boy being an almost giftedly bad actor, and Herbert still sulking, he had had half a mind to just bite Alfred then and there, and be done with it.

Deciding that Alfred was undeserving of such a merciful fate, compared to what would await him at the ball, Herbert's next instinct had been to stand the boy up, maybe slamming the door in his face for added effect.

Fortunately for the student, the blond vampire was, in a way, a romantic soul. One that practically jumped at every shred of affection offered, and that had leapt ten feet in the air at the magic words that were 'Sarah doesn't love me'.

Of course, there was most likely a hare-brained scheme behind all of that, but it was no matter. Alfred's days, no, his hours were counted. And if Herbert's father got to brag around with his catch of the year tonight again, then he could, too.

Also, if Herbert was being honest with himself, he still didn't fancy the idea of sacrificing his elaborately worked silk to the lot of glorified walking corpses for his share of blood.

A debonair, wide smile spread across the vampire's face, as confidence-inspiring as a crack in the ice of a frozen lake you're currently standing on.

"Well then", Herbert said in a cheerful tone, as if he hadn't just contemplated murder a few moments ago, "if we are to attend the ball as friends, we need to get rid of that fearful expression on your face. Just give me a second to get my jacket."