If Demetri didn't exist, then we could run. Whoever was left of us, in any case. My daughter, warm in my arms... Someone could run with her. Jacob or Rosalie, whoever was left.

And... if Demetri didn't exist, then Alice and Jasper could be safe forever. Is that what Alice had seen? That part of our family could continue? The two of them, at the very least.

Could I begrudge her that?

"Demetri...," I said.

"Demetri is mine," Edward said in a hard, tight voice. I looked at him quickly and saw that his expression had turned violent.

"Why?" I whispered.

He didn't answer at first. We were to the river when he finally murmured, "For Alice. It's the only thanks I can give her now for the last fifty years."

So his thoughts were in line with mine.

I heard Jacob's heavy paws thudding against the frozen ground. In seconds, he was pacing beside me, his dark eyes focused on Renesmee.

I nodded to him once, then returned to my questions. There was so little time.

"Edward, why do you think Alice told us to ask Eleazar about the Volturi? Has he been in Italy recently or something? What could he know?"

"Eleazar knows everything when it comes to the Volturi. I forgot you didn't know. He used to be one of them."

I hissed involuntarily. Jacob growled beside me.

"What?" I demanded, in my head picturing the beautiful dark-haired man at our wedding wrapped in a long, ashy cloak.

Edward's face was softer now - he smiled a little. "Eleazar is a very gentle person. He wasn't entirely happy with

the Volturi, but he respected the law and its need to be upheld. He felt he was working toward the greater good. He doesn't regret his time with them. But when he found Carmen, he found his place in this world. They are very similar people, both very compassionate for vampires." He smiled again. "They met Tanya and her sisters, and they never looked back. They are well suited to this lifestyle. If they'd never found Tanya, I imagine they would have eventually discovered a way to live without human blood on their own."

The pictures in my head were jarring. I couldn't make them match up. A compassionate Volturi soldier?

Edward glanced at Jacob and answered a silent question. "No, he wasn't one of their warriors, so to speak. He had a gift they found convenient."

Jacob must have asked the obvious follow-up question.

"He has an instinctive feel for the gifts of others - the extra abilities that some vampires have," Edward told him. "He could give Aro a general idea of what any given vampire was capable of just by being in proximity with him or her. This was helpful when the Volturi went into battle. He could warn them if someone in the opposing coven had a skill that might give them some trouble. That was rare; it takes quite a skill to even inconvenience the Volturi for a moment. More often, the warning would give Aro the chance to save someone who might be useful to him. Eleazar's gift works even with humans, to an extent. He has to really concentrate with humans, though, because the latent ability is so nebulous. Aro would have him test the people who wanted to join, to see if they had any potential. Aro was sorry to see him go."

"They let him go?" I asked. "Just like that?"

His smile was darker now, a little twisted. 'The Volturi aren't supposed to be the villains, the way they seem to you. They are the foundation of our peace and civilization. Each member of the guard chooses to serve them. It's quite prestigious; they all are proud to be there, not forced to be there."

I scowled at the ground.

"They're only alleged to be heinous and evil by the criminals, Bella."

"We're not criminals."

Jacob huffed in agreement.

"They don't know that."

"Do you really think we can make them stop and listen?"

Edward hesitated just the tiniest moment and then shrugged. "If we find enough friends to stand beside us. Maybe."

If. I suddenly felt the urgency of what we had before us today. Edward and I both started to move faster, breaking into a run. Jacob caught up quickly.

"Tanya shouldn't be too much longer," Edward said. "We need to be ready."

How to be ready, though? We arranged and rearranged, thought and rethought. Renesmee in full view? Or hidden at first? Jacob in the room? Or outside? He'd told his pack to stay close but invisible. Should he do the same?

In the end, Renesmee, Jacob - in his human form again - and I waited around the corner from the front door in the dining room, sitting at the big polished table. Jacob let me hold Renesmee; he wanted space in case he had to phase quickly.

Though I was glad to have her in my arms, it made me feel useless. It reminded me that in a fight with mature vampires, I was no more than an easy target; I didn't need my hands free.

I tried to remember Tanya, Kate, Carmen, and Eleazar from the wedding. Their faces were murky in my ill-lit memories. I only knew they were beautiful, two blondes and two brunettes. I couldn't remember if there was any kindness in their eyes.

Edward leaned motionlessly against the back window wall, staring toward the front door. It didn't look like he was seeing the room in front of him.

We listened to the cars zooming past out on the freeway, none of them slowing.

Renesmee nestled into my neck, her hand against my cheek but no images in my head. She didn't have pictures for her feelings now.

"What if they don't like me?" she whispered, and all our eyes flashed to her face.

"Of course they'll - ," Jacob started to say, but I silenced him with a look.

'They don't understand you, Renesmee, because they've never met anyone like you," I told her, not wanting to lie to her with promises that might not come true. "Getting them to understand is the problem."

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