Life as a vampire wasn't like Alfred expected.
He expected the blood thirst, which eventually happened to him the first night when he was following his new instincts (and his heart, blindly following Sarah as she had lead him through the night, both exalting at their new freedom) more than his reason, until they had been found and collected by Krolock.
Somehow, when he saw the tall silhouette of the Count, the world started to make sense again for Alfred, as he realized what happened.
He didn't expect Krolock to took them, to took him, back to the Castle. He didn't expect Krolock guiding them and teaching them the ways of the vampire life. He didn't expect Krolock to pay him much attention, like he did with Sarah. Yet, Krolock taught him the ways of the vampire life, how to trust his instincts and not be dominated by them. He taught Alfred how to hunt and feed without turning the victim into a vampire. He allowed Alfred's decision to sleep into a bed the first nights (days). He showed him the Castle and its various rooms, and had a coffin made for him.
To be fair, Alfred wasn't sure what to think of him. He couldn't exactly hate him, as much as he wanted to. It was like killing him in the crypt, he just couldn't, even if he was the source of his vampire life. Krolock could have him killed or left him outside, on his own, lost and dominated by his new vampire instincts, but he didn't. He had played with him, tempted him, taunted him while he was human and even as a vampire (Alfred still remembered his words, the very first he spoke to him as a young vampire: "You've been lost the moment you set a foot inside my castle, Alfred."), but he still took him in and was willing to guide him.
And somehow, little by little, Krolock wasn't just anymore the frightening and powerful vampire Alfred knew as a mortal. While he was still wary and afraid of what Krolock might do, Alfred grew... used to his presence and came to see him as more than he used to see him. He didn't know exactly who was Krolock to him, beside his sire, and what to feel about him but now he knew there wasn't just fear and apprehension (though those feelings were still there).
Krolock allowed him to use the library when he wanted and as much as he needed, which was a relief for Alfred who wanted to find a way to occupy his nights and have his own sanctuary when he needed to be alone.
So long had passed without Alfred reading a single book. When one travels in Europe with a stubborn Professor, and hunting vampires, you don't have the read to sit and read. Alfred couldn't remember the last time he had stayed up for hours into the night reading his books. Any kind of books. Novels, poems or the university library's books. He didn't think the Professor had any books in his old suitcase, beside the Holy Bible and his notes about vampires.
He approached the shelves and looked at the old, dusty books they contained. Most of the books were ancient works written in Latin, old German and even French, English and Italian. There were books dating back hundred of years, some of them with dozens of pages hand-written by the hands of people who had long since departed the earth. Other books, Alfred was surprised to find, were old fairy tales and contemporary novels. He took one of them from a shelf, and ran a hand on the cover, traced a finger on the golden title.
Suddenly, there was an odd yet now familiar feeling inside of him. Was it because of his vampire senses or because he grew to be wary inside this old castle, Alfred didn't know. He couldn't deny the fact he felt him before he saw him. Alfred turned around to face him. Count von Krolock.
Alfred watched him, his senses in alert. His nature as a newborn vampire didn't change the fact he still was apprehensive at the close proximity with the Count. But Krolock didn't grab for him, merely nodded at him.
“Good evening, young Alfred,” he acknowledged him, his voice low.
Alfred said nothing and stood still, waiting for the older vampire to speak or do something, anything. Krolock kept his eyes on him, studying him and the book he was holding. After a moment of silence where neither of them spoke or moved, Krolock's soft baritone voice came out:
“Will you read to me?” he asked, gesturing at the book Alfred was holding.
Alfred didn't answer, not trusting himself to say anything. He couldn't exactly disobey him, he was a vampire far older and far stronger than him, and he was his sire. Still, Alfred couldn't help but wonder what would happen if he were to say: “Can't you read on your own?” or “I wish to read alone”. Instead, he bit his lips to prevent the words to came out of his lips, and stared back at Krolock.
For a moment, his gaze challenged Krolock's. The older vampire's eyebrows were slightly lifted as if he was more amused by his defiance than angry, but Alfred knew he was not going to win if he were to fight him. If his heart was still beating, it would have raced with apprehension.
Vampires were supposed to be free, strong and uncontrollable creatures, even newborn vampires – just like Sarah was; she was a happy vampire, wild and passionate and in love with the night and this new feeling of freedom (at least, the freedom Krolock allowed her to have) – yet, every look from Krolock seemed to demand obedience, submission.
So, Alfred surrendered.
He looked straight at Krolock, and nodded.
Krolock seemed to be pleased by his submission (why wouldn't he be, after all?), for he smiled, pleased, and took a seat into one of the library's old armchairs.
Alfred shallowed and took a seat, careful to be at a respectable distance from the Count. If Krolock was amused or displeased, he said nothing about it and merely waited.
Alfred opened the book, took a deep breath and began to read, his voice clear:
“Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.”
He read, keeping his eyes on the book. He wanted not to pay attention to the vampire seated not far away from him, yet he knew pretending the Count wasn't here was a mistake. He wasn't one to be ignored. So Alfred would sometimes stop reading for a few seconds to look up at Krolock. The Count didn't say anything, merely hummed or gestured at him, as a way to invite him to continue reading.
And so, Alfred came back to the book and read and read, and before he knew it, he was completely lost in the story. He would almost forget the presence of the vampire beside him, if it weren't for the weight of Krolock's eyes on him and the soft sights of appreciation he sometimes would let out. Sometimes, Alfred would look up, curious to see some glimpses of the vampire's face that would reveal his thoughts about the story. Most of the time, he found the vampire with his head slightly tilted to the side, his eyes closed and a hand cupping his chin. Sometimes he would nod or hum or raise his eyebrows, but he never disturbed Alfred's reading.
They spent most of the evening reading together, with Alfred reading and Krolock listening, neither noticing the hours slipping by, side by side, barely touching, both engrossed themselves in the world of stories and tales.
Alfred found himself thinking he didn't mind this Krolock, so quiet he was almost mesmerizing, so far from the cold and tempting vampire he could be.
This moment also oddly reminded him of those travelling nights where he used to read out loud to Professor Abronsius, when they settled down in an inn or another place. Unlike Krolock, the Professor would sometimes correct his pronunciation, add a comment to share his knowledge with Alfred, or just say “Keep going, my boy!”. However, it didn't make the memory less fonder to Alfred's mind, and he found himself thinking he didn't mind reading to the Count, as he used to with Professor Abronsius.
They read, until Alfred felt that uneasy feeling inside of him, telling him dawn was soon coming. Krolock must have felt it too, for he glanced at the library's window. Darkness hadn't yet surrendered to yet, for the sky was no longer tainted of black, but didn't appear blue yet, rather a melancholic grey, sometimes pierced by a soft spear of light through the clouds. Still, they both knew the time to read was over.
Krolock raised from his armchair and watched as Alfred did the same. He approached him and briefly put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed it.
“Thank you, young Alfred. Until next time.” he said.
He left, his cape flying behind him, leaving a speechless Alfred behind pondering about the strange night he shared with the Count. Then, he decided to leave, seeking for his coffin. He would have more time to ponder about Krolock's strange character later.
In fact, he had eternity.