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Harry Potter and the Dingy Little Town of Forks

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“This,” Charlie started, one hand gesturing to the teen beside him, “is Harry. Remember him?”

The girl in front of him stared, jaw hanging loose, before apparently regaining her composure and offering a half wave, the movement awkward. She looked disturbed, but not unfriendly. Apparently, she didn’t know how to greet her cousin after seven years of absence. That, or the caged phoenix had been a slight shock. With his flames concealed Fawkes looked like a mix between a peacock and an eagle, with a bit of chicken thrown in perhaps.

Harry reciprocated the wave with a nod, not particularly bothered by the apprehension. It made him feel easier in a way. Uncle Charlie’s tentative concern was an itch at his conscience. The man’s every word and action had been delivered with concern and consideration, careful not to ask questions he deserved answers to.

“I do, a bit. I’m Bella,” the girl offered belatedly, cheeks reddening at her own hesitation. Her eyes wandering more than once to Fawkes. “Sorry, it’s been so long, Harry, and I didn’t expect a bird, it’s nice to see you though,” she continued after a couple heartbeats. Fawkes trilled softly, greeting her in his own way.

He offered a tight smile back. “You as well.”

A small silence ensued, broken by the rustle of Charlie picking his trunk off the floor. The man had insisted on carrying Harry’s heavier luggage, a weak featherlight in place to save his back from the weight of school books. Books Harry wouldn’t need again, but it had felt wrong to leave them behind. “Right, let’s get you settled in,” he grunted, moving out of the kitchen and across the hallway, a door on the right leading into a room with a window at the back looking into the front yard.

It was empty bar a bed, a closet and a desk, the latter noticeably older and more used. Charlie put the trunk down in the middle of the room, rubbing the back of his neck with the freed hand. “It used to be my office, so there isn’t much and the desk is old but sturdy. It’s small,” he trailed off.

“Bigger than my old room,” Harry offered, comforting others was never his specialty, especially when the distress was unfounded. His uncle seemed to think he expected something more from the man that had taken him in solely based upon the relation of their blood and the dependence of an orphan struck by tragedy twice with no home to return to. Not everyone would do so willingly, Merlin knew the Dursleys hadn’t. Perhaps for good reason, considering their fate. “Thank you.” Harry said.

The slightest mention of his previous living arrangement had made the man stiffen, clearly not eager to tackle anything to do with the deceased. However, the gratitude quickly turned his tension into sheepishness. “Nothing to thank for at all, least I could,” his sentence broke off with a breath. He cleared his throat and made for the door. “Hope you settle in alright. I’ll order some dinner for us.” He froze slightly with one hand on the door handle. “I’m glad to see you again, kid, glad you’re here,” he said softly. The door closed behind him before Harry could say anything in response.

Harry was left to pick his wits up from the floor, not used to the feeling of being wanted as a part of his relatives’ family. However, he remembered the summers spent here when the Dursleys had decided they needed their vacation for ‘family only’, Uncle Charlie had always been kind to him then. Even after seven years of no contact he took him in no questions asked. So, he shouldn’t expect everyone related to him to act like the Dursleys.

Fawkes bristled in his cage, catching Harry’s attention and derailing that thought. His friend was tired from the long flight and journey to the Swan residence spent locked in the cage and with his flames concealed. Harry put him down on the desk before unhooking the latch. Hopping out and onto his human’s outstretched hand, Fawkes trilled happily as he could finally stretch his wings.

Harry thought he looked a bit indignant when the flex of his wings brought his current appearance to mind again. “Not happy looking like a grilled chicken without your flames?” Harry teased, stroking the feathers under his neck. Fawkes glared at him as much as his bird gaze would allow, which for a bird of fire was quite harsh.

He ventured off his hand, landing on the windowsill and peering out into the green, knowing not to flame through the window where muggles can spot his flashy magic tricks. Forks was a small town and they’d have to be careful not to expose themselves or magic as a whole. However, after being patient for the long trip so he could stay by Harry’s side without suspicion, he needed a flight to properly work his wings. It would also be useful for him to get to know the area around him so he could transport himself somewhere secluded should he need to.

“Be careful out there,” Harry urged him, opening the window. Watching his form glide between the trees before disappearing, he locked the window in place so it remained open, securing Fawkes’ access back into the room should he need to enter by normal means.

With his friend’s needs sorted, Harry sat down on the edge of his new bed. Although incomparable to the ones in his dorm, it was surprisingly soft. His trunk stood in the centre of the room, waiting to be unpacked. He didn’t want to settle in too comfortably straight away, although he knew he’d probably be stuck there at least a year until he turned legal in the muggle world, or until his safety in the Wizarding World was without a doubt assured.

He sighed and lay down, legs dangling over the edge of the bed. You’d think with how little the Ministry had attempted to intervene in the threats posed to Harry’s life year after year when Voldemort was alive, they’d be happy to let him be when he finally got rid of the tosser for them. Unfortunately, it was only now they suddenly decided underaged national heroes, read: child soldiers, were to be protected from threats to their life. Harry would have appreciated the sentiment had it been there when he actually needed it.

He hoped Hermione and Ron were doing alright at least. They’d been split up and sent off. He could imagine Hermione’s agony at her hair puffing up again from the Australian heat. Maybe Ron would be able to meet Norberta in Romania again if Charlie was still her handler.

Fawkes could have helped them exchange letters incognito, but even with his ability to teleport by flame, world wide trips would be exhausting without letter port channels*. And Harry knew if his friend tried to fly through the ports, he’d be recognized and his movements would be marked, putting his friends in danger once again. After all, there wasn’t exactly a plethora of wizards with phoenix friends.

Harry frowned in thought, staring up at the ceiling. Could he send his Patronus across continents? Probably not. Was it worth a try? He imagined his huge stag of happiness and light racing across land and water, through forests and towns. Past muggles and wizards. Aurors and dark wizards who’d know exactly who that Patronus belonged to. Definitely not worth it.

At least Ron and Hermione could communicate between themselves somewhat easier. When they’d been informed of their impending involuntary split up, he’d gifted them the remains of the two-way mirrors. It wasn’t much, but at least they could see each other and talk to each other. Harry figured their communication as a couple was more important than his own, although he missed them dearly.

The rumbling of a car rolling up the driveway broke him out of his thoughts. His open window let him hear the opening and closing slam of a car door and the subsequent trailing up the stairs to the front of the house. Harry belatedly realized it was probably the food Charlie had mentioned he’d order. The door bell rang. He wondered if he should open it. It wasn’t his house, and he should probably stay away from as many strangers as possible, you never know who might end up recognizing him.

He could hear Charlie thank the driver before the car rumbled off once more. A moment later a knock sounded on his bedroom door. Harry got up quickly to open it.

His uncle stood there, a big unfamiliar flat square carton in hand. Whatever was in it smelled delicious. “Ordered some pizza for us,” he explained. Harry had never had pizza, he supposed the confusion must have reached his expression. “It’s pepperoni,” Charlie quickly assuaged, as if that would clear it up to Harry.

“Sounds good,” Harry stated uncertain, but added on with more assurance, “smells good too.”

Bella was still in the kitchen, this time she smiled at him when he came into the room. She’d picked out three plates from the cupboard. Harry smiled back at the thoughtfulness. Charlie set the box down on the table and opened it. Bella quickly extracted two slices of some big cheese covered disk of bread, littered with some kind of meat. Charlie didn’t waste time doing the same, so Harry followed their example and loosened one of the slices for himself.

It was greasy and cheesy, but quite good. They ate together in silence. Harry was never a food shuffler like Ron, so he was still working on his slice when Charlie reached for seconds. “Didn’t like it?” he asked, not unkindly.

Harry looked up, startled, and shook his head. He swallowed the bite he was chewing before answering, “I’m just a slow eater, it’s very good. I never had eh-“ he’d forgotten the name, “this, before.”

Bella almost took a doubletake and Charlie also seemed quite surprised. Perhaps it was a commonplace meal among muggles, or perhaps just among Americans? He’d never seen the Dursleys eat anything similar to this either. Maybe Harry had it when visiting his uncle as a child, but in that case he couldn’t remember. However, he’d have to watch his words, it wouldn’t do to reveal how wholly unintegrated he was in muggle culture and society after seven years of living with magic, his isolated summers discounted.

“Well feel free to eat more,” Charlie asserted. His brow was furrowed down in the same way Mrs Weasley had looked at Harry when she saw him after a summer at the Dursleys. With concern, Harry realized.

He peered down at his wrist. He supposed he was quite thin, he always had been as a child as well, but the hellish camping trip the past year hadn’t helped much on that front. “Will do, thank you.”

Harry felt Bella watching him and looked up in askance. Her cheeks tinted red at being caught staring, and with some stuttering and stammering she asked, “Are you going to school after summer?” She seemed almost surprised at her own question, making it rather obvious she had been trying to ask about something else. Harry could imagine there were many questions she would have regarding the family she hadn’t seen or heard from in so many years.

Before Harry could answer, Charlie broke in, “He finished school already in England, so he doesn’t have to if he doesn’t want to,” he stated gruffly.

Harry smiled, a bit wryly. “I hadn’t thought about it,” he began, “is it fun?” he teased, figuring studying for exams was equally stressful for any type of schooling, be it muggle or magical.

Bella peered at him a bit sheepishly, “Well it’s a good way to make new friends,” she offered.

“I’ll think about it, see if I can’t get a job meanwhile. Don’t want to burden you too much,” Harry smiled. He didn’t need a job to have his own money, his parents’ and godfather’s inheritance had seen to his financial independence long before his vaults had additionally been filled with government money as rewards for his ‘public service’. However, there would probably be questions if he kept pulling money out of nowhere, so the easiest way to negate that would be with a normal job.

Charlie cleared his throat. “You’re not a burden. You’re family,” he asserted firmly. “You don’t need to get a job if you need some time,” a pause, “to settle in.”

Harry smiled, “I’m alright, Uncle Charlie.”

His uncle nodded and focused back on his food. However, Bella apparently still had a couple questions, she was still glancing at him between bites. He arched one brow, silently urging her to ask away.

She seemed to take the hint, this time not hesitating in her words. “Why didn’t you come back before? I mean, you just didn’t come one summer.”

Harry had been booked for a trip to his cross-continent family the summer of his tenth birthday, when he started receiving letters to attend Hogwarts. After the first letter, the Dursleys had swiftly cancelled his trip. He had wondered at the time for what reason, especially when they started leaping all over the country to escape the owls. But Harry realized later that they most likely were terrified of the letter arriving on the Swans’ doorstep with him there instead and his Uncle Charlie becoming aware of the world of Magic Harry was destined to join.

Harry wondered if it would be considered a breach for Charlie and Bella to know about magic. They were family, but Charlie had grown up in Forks with his, and Lily’s, father, so he had never been told of his sister being a witch. He shook himself out of thought, finally answering Bella, who had started biting her lip a bit in discomfort at the long silence. “Aunt Petunia just cancelled it last minute, it was a school issue mostly. After that I wasn’t allowed,” he explained shortly, shrugging.

He had wanted to visit in the summers between his Hogwarts years, but even though they clearly wanted to be rid of him, they had kept him at Privet Drive. Harry wondered if they had been scared the Swans he’d show them his schoolbooks or Hedwig. His heart ached at the thought of his snowy feathered friend.

Thankfully, his cousin spoke just then. “I’m happy to see you again by the way. Summers here weren’t the same without you.”

“Jake will also be happy to see you again,” Charlie added. “If you remember him.”

Harry laughed, “I’d be more surprised if he remembers me. He must’ve been seven or eight when I last saw him.”

“I told him you were coming back, and he called just this morning before I went to pick you up. If you’d like to go see him I can take you there later, or tomorrow,” Charlie offered.

Harry didn’t have a driver’s licence, and he couldn’t exactly apparate wherever he wanted without arousing suspicion. “Thank you, but I don’t want to inconvenience you,” Harry said, “are there any busses I can take?”

Charlie hesitated, tied between insisting to help and trying not to disregard any independence Harry was used to. “There are busses, but it’s really no trouble. Besides, Billy and I are meeting tomorrow for the big game, so I’ll be driving there then either way.”

Harry nodded, “Alright, tomorrow sounds good.”

Resuming dinner in silence, Bella finished eating after two slices before Harry, who was nibbling down his second slice, and Charlie who was on his fourth. She pushed herself away from the table, clumsily attempting to get up with her plate in hand. Harry heard a loud clack from something hitting the floor. Startled, he looked down to see a cast on Bella’s leg. Ah, that explained the noise.

“I’ll take that,” Charlie quickly intervened before she could get too far, grabbing the plate and putting it in the sink.

“Broken leg?” Harry enquired, gesturing to the heavy looking leg brace.

Charlie sighed and got back to his food, dipping his head to remain out of the conversation. Bella rolled her eyes, but didn’t meet Harry’s eyes when she answered. “Yeah, I,” she paused, “I fell down two stairs and through a window, typical me,” she smiled awkwardly, glancing up at the end.

Whilst it had been a while, Harry did remember Bella’s extreme ability to fall over, trip and otherwise hurt herself accidentally. However, something about the way she explained her broken leg seemed rehearsed.

He peered at her, brow furrowed slightly in confusion at her hesitation. Her eyes flashed down again, avoiding his look. “It was a really just a stupid accident,” she continued. She cleared her throat, “But I’m fine. And it was several weeks ago. Almost healed,” she assured him rapidly.

Harry smiled at her, unconvinced, but unwilling to dig into her personal matters.

The doorbell rang and Charlie glanced up in annoyance. “Speaking of,” he muttered.

Bella threw him a glare and seemed to be getting ready to stumble her way up and over to the door. Harry got up before she could do more than place her hands on the table. “I’ll get it,” he offered, already on his way to the door.

Exiting the kitchen, he tensed but kept walking, a bit slower than before. Harry trusted his instincts; it had saved him more times than he could count. But this wasn’t instinct, any wizard’s magic was tuned into the environment, making it hard to sneak up on a trained magic user without cloaking your presence. There was a dark creature on the other side of the door, of that Harry was sure, but whatever it was had no magic.

Harry knew there were supernatural beings out there with or without magic who did not know of the Wizarding world, or the existence of other magical creatures. Considering this, it was likely the magicless creature outside would not recognize him. Well, Harry was a Gryffindor, and it seemed Charlie and Bella expected whoever it was. He opened the door.

Harry didn’t need a second look. Vampires weren’t exactly uncommon, but he hadn’t expected one in Forks, nor near his family, but taking the creature out wouldn’t be much trouble should he prove a danger to Harry’s relatives.

“Hello,” Harry greeted, a placid smile on his face.

The vampire froze, caught off guard apparently. Harry felt a small push at his mind. Interesting, his smile widened.

The years spent with a Horcrux in his head had left his mind open and vulnerable to Voldemort, but impenetrable to any other person attempting to breach his mind. With that tosser dead, he didn’t need occlumency to repel visitors from his mind. But learning it had helped him detect attempted breaches. Besides, Hermione and Ron had also needed protection, so the three of them had studied the mind arts together.

The vampire frowned at Harry, before quickly regaining his composure. “You must be Harry, Bella’s cousin,” he assumed, his tone polite and calm, although Harry didn’t need to use legilimency to see he was shaken.

The creature may not be magical, but even normal animals can feel a thunderstorm approaching.

“I am,” Harry affirmed shortly.

“I’m Edward,” he elaborated, “Edward Cullen, her boyfriend.”

“I see.” Harry wondered if Bella knew about her boyfriend’s mortality, or lack thereof, but he stepped away from the door, gesturing for him to come in. “We were just eating dinner.”

“Edward,” Bella called from her seat at the table, “we’re in the kitchen.”

Edward slipped past Harry, throwing another unnerved glance at the boy before hurrying to his human girlfriend. Harry chuckled and closed the door behind him before meandering over to the others. He leaned on the kitchen doorsill.

The vampire was carefully helping Bella up from her chair, supporting her so she could stand easier. She smiled at him, her eyes soft.

“Heading out?” Charlie asked, his nose in a newspaper now, but clearly not reading anything. Harry smiled at the grouchiness. Bella might find her father overbearing, but Harry thought it was sweet. “Remember curfew,” he grunted.

Harry wondered if he expected him to follow curfew too. Better not to ask, Harry thought. Getting forgiveness is easier than getting permission, and he had no intention on getting caught either way.

“We’re just going to visit his family, Dad,” Bella sighed, “Alice has been nagging me to come over,” she explained.

His uncle’s attitude seemed to lighten with the mention of ‘Alice’. His grumbling turned into nodding agreement, “If Alice is waiting for you, you should go,” he urged.

“My sister wants you to pick a dress,” Edward explained, amused.

Bella grimaced, “For what? Prom?” she laughed.

The vampire remained quiet but guided her toward the hall, freezing a bit when he spotted Harry in the door. Harry moved out of the way once again. Edward quickly but carefully steered Bella past her cousin, his presence making the vampire obviously uncomfortable.

When they were out of the house, Charlie spoke up again, grumbling a little still, “I didn’t think that boy had any sense of danger. I’ve never seen him that apprehensive for anything.”

“Danger?” Harry chuckled.

“Well, you’d think Bell’s boyfriend would be nervous to meet her dad, the sheriff, but that boy has nerves of steel. Except today, you seem to put him on edge.” He looked a little annoyed, but also approving and satisfied.

Harry was slightly surprised at his uncle’s perception. “I didn’t notice,” he lied.

He picked their plates up from the table and rinsed them both, before reaching for the soap.

“You don’t have to clean up after me,” Charlie quickly asserted.

“I don’t mind at all, thank you for getting dinner. It was delicious,” Harry stated before Charlie could attempt to get up from his seat.

Charlie grumbled a bit but didn’t argue, and got back to his newspaper after a bit. It didn’t take Harry long to finish the dishes.

He walked out to the hall, putting his shoes on. “I’ll go for a walk I think, haven’t been here in so long.”

“Careful of the forest,” Charlie called from the kitchen. “There’s been bear sightings and there were some animal attacks not too long ago,” he warned.

“Understood,” Harry called back, already one foot out the front door.

Chapter Text

Harry had never been particularly good at following orders, and so he soon found himself ambling into the forest.

He walked over a fallen tree, surrounded by green foliage. The moss under his feet was moist from the earlier rain, or maybe it was just the general state of it considering how rarely it didn’t rain in this town. Each step left an imprint in it as he walked.

A soft trill sounded from above. Harry grinned, it was impossible to mistake Fawkes’s songs for any normal bird’s.

“Found anything interesting?” he asked his avian friend sitting above him.

Fawkes glid down, perching on a lower branch, and warbled excitedly.

Harry chuckled, “Glad it’s not too boring here for you, why don’t you show me around?”

He reached his hand out just as Fawkes took wing, the phoenix’s claws clasping onto his hand before they both disappeared in flames, away from the damp moss.

In a sudden bout of fire they once again reappeared, this time in an unfamiliar place. Whilst Harry didn’t know where his friend had brought them, he could tell they were closer to the coast. The smell of the ocean wafting over him.

Fawkes perched on his shoulder, preening his feathers, as he let Harry have a look around. They were stood in a small clearing, the trees surrounding it tightly packed like prison bars. The soft feel of grass and moss under his feet replaced with mountain. Or, Harry wondered looking down, cobblestone? Tufts of long straws and untamed grass stuck out between the stone, but there was no doubt it was man made.

He took a step back, bumping into something behind him. Whirling around, he was stopped dead in his tracks to stare when he realized what Fawkes had found. It was stone circle he had accidentally walked into. It stood in the middle of the clearing, reaching him to his knees.

The wind brushed over him, rustling through his hair and whispering in his ear. Leave. Harry jolted. It blasted over him again, urging him to go away. His heart raced to his throat at the invisible presence. The wind howled at him.

A brilliant song pierced the storm building around him. He closed his eyes and breathed out. Pushing the presence down with his own magic. Opening his eyes, he stood in silence once again, the three leaves waving softly in the slight breeze.

The weight of his friend on his shoulder comforted him, Fawkes’ song softly trickling to an end. Harry reached up to stroke the bird’s chin. A few moments later he felt a nip at his finger. Fawkes trilled at him, and nipped his brow this time.

“Ow, hey,” Harry complained. Another nip. “Alright, you overgrown turkey,” he groused.

He pushed his magic out, searching for the source of whatever had attempted to attack him. He could feel a weak force from the centre of the stone circle. It seemed the attack had tapped it of its strength somewhat. It was familiar, in a way, Harry realized. Blinking in surprise, he walked forward. Fawkes hopped onto the edge of the manmade circle.

Sat in the middle, clear of any immediate overgrown greenery, was a skull. It was big, long and with sharp teeth. Canine, Harry realized. And although clearly old, it was intact and exposed from any greenery, with no weeds having rooted from the ground near it or on it.

The familiarity, Harry realized, was from his own limited experience with soul magic. However, this wasn’t a Horcrux. It wasn’t a split soul, corrupted to ensure immortality at the price of innocent lives. Whatever it was, it was whole, guarding. A sacrifice to ensure protection. From what, he couldn’t tell.

Harry stepped away, if it was a benign presence, he saw no reason to interfere in its task. Hermione would have no doubt set up camp to research. Her eyes would be shining at the possibility of discovering something previously unheard of. Harry chuckled and shook his head.

Fawkes warbled, his head bobbing to point at the skull, gesturing for his human to go closer again. “I’d rather not disturb it again,” Harry argued lightly. Fawkes flew to the opposite wall of the circle, head bobbing once more.

Harry approached carefully, this time reaching out more mindfully and carefully with his magic to check for enmity. The presence reached back feebly, asking, Harry realized, for a loan.

Harry rolled his eyes, “So you used all your energy attacking me and now you’re asking me for help?” If a soul could be sheepish, this one certainly was. Fawkes warbled in amusement.

The wizard sighed, but approached more assertively now, stepping carefully over the circle. It seemed to work as a stabilizer for the spirit, so it wouldn’t do to mess it up by knocking something over. He touched the skull lightly with one finger, carefully allowing the magically exhausted relic a metaphorical Pepperup.

It was instantly rejuvenated, whooshing past him from the body of its prior confinement.

The wind prodded him now, carefully curious this time instead of outright hostile. He waved a hand, teasingly sending a weak gust of wind back. “You scared me,” he sighed at the presence, not sure if it could hear or understand. It ruffled his hear in response.

Harry turned to leave, but hesitated, wondering if he should put a ward up to keep unwanted visitors away. Fawkes trilled at him, gliding over to his shoulder again. “No ward?” Harry asked out loud, not sure if the bird at inferred his concern. A soft nip in response, Harry interpreted it as a negative. “Suppose it can chase people off on its own now.”

The wind breezed past in agreement.

The two walked off. “You could’ve warned me, you know,” Harry sighed. Fawkes trilled admonishingly. “Was I supposed to expect some kind of spirit attacking me for being magically transported into its sacred place by a flaming turkey?” Harry deadpanned.

Fawkes warbled, if birds could smirk he’d be doing it.

“I swear if your warbling’s some kind of interpretation of constant vigilance-“ A warbled laugh in response. “Why you-“ Harry started, but before he could enact his masterful revenge the bird disappeared in a burst of flames. “Coward,” he muttered into the empty air.

Harry pulled out his Holly wand, as he wasn’t wont to make use of or work with much precision magic like warding, it didn’t see much use. The last time he’d used a wand had been at the Battle of Hogwarts, every slight power increase necessary to match Voldemort’s own, who’d been using the Elder wand in return. The Holly wood still held the scar from its implausible repair, made possible only thanks to said Deathstick. He didn’t really want to think on the continued existence of that wand, nor what it meant for him.

Thankfully, he didn’t have to, right then at least. “Point me coast,” Harry ordered, deciding he’d pay a quick visit to see the ocean before apparating home. The wooden stick spun around wildly before finally settling on some point in front of him, a bit to the right.

He reholstered his wand and started trekking through the forest, the needly ground quickly turning steep. Jumping down little heights one after another, some of his jumps aided by magic, it became clear the spirit’s clearing had been high enough on top of a mountain to be unreachable my most. Such a secluded area wouldn’t be hard to keep safe by itself, which explained its ability to manage without actual wards.

If Fawkes hadn’t run off, or rather flamed off, he’d have probably been able to bring Harry closer to the end of the forest, having explored it already. Just as he was about to curse the name of his fiery friend for leaving him to trek solo through the wooded mountain, he stepped foot onto a path. The forest floor was worn out by years of trekking, and Harry took an educated guess to follow it in roughly the same direction his wand had originally pointed.

As the forest line thinned out, and pine needles turned to dirt and sand, the scent of salt and rotten seaweed increased. Harry pushed a branch out of the way as he finally exited the endless trees and made it onto the beach. “Blasted bird,” he grumbled once again.

The waves rolled lazily over the rocks in the shallows, licking over the sand of the beach. Harry plopped down in the sand, leaning back on his hands, at least the view wasn’t too bad when it wasn’t filled with tree trunks. He closed his eyes and enjoyed the ocean breeze.

Only for a second however. A gasp of air, and the splash of something big emerging from the water broke his peaceful moment. His eyes snapped open, focusing immediately on the dripping wet half naked washboard in front of him. He was taller than Ron even, but far burlier.

“What the fuck are you?” Harry snapped, exasperated at the constant surprises, here he thought Forks would be a quiet town.

The man looked more startled than Harry. “Ah, I, I’m Jared,” the boy, Harry realized by his voice, stuttered out clearly taken aback.

“Well, what are you doing jumping out of the water like a damn salmon.”

He looked affronted, the expression let Harry see more of the age that matched his voice. “I did not look like a fish,” he exclaimed, clearly more concerned with the analogy than the point. “And,” he continued, “I was just cliff diving.”

“Cliff diving?”

Jared nodded, “Yeah, from there!” He pointed at the cliffside, a height undoubtably high enough to cause serious injury to a muggle.

“So why did you decide today was the day you’d off yourself,” Harry rolled his eyes.

The other boy shook his head wildly, drying his hair like a dog would its fur. “It was just for fun,” he asserted. “Besides, I’m tough.”

“Uh huh,” Harry agreed lazily, leaning back again and closing his eyes to the slight sun peering through the clouds.

The shock over, his magic uncoiled itself from the protective cocoon it had formed, lending itself to pick up more from the environment. That explained how Harry had till then failed to realize that who ever this new person was, he wasn’t fully human. And more than that, he had some sort of connection to Harry’s previous annoyance, the wind controlling spirit on top of the mountain.

He sighed, cracking an eye open. Hermione would be overjoyed at the discovery, firing a million questions, but for all he knew, Jared could be wholly unaware of the link. Perhaps he was a descendant from the soul’s life before its demise. But no, that skull had been distinctly canine.

Focusing on the other boy, he realized Jared was staring at him. “What,” Harry snapped.

The boy seemed to snap out of it, he hesitated, “Sorry, it was nothing, just,” he trailed off, looking more apprehensive than before. Harry wondered if Jared had sensed his magic washing over him but dismissed it. Whatever this bloke was or wasn’t aware of was unlikely to be an issue, as long as he couldn’t report it to anyone likely to believe him. “What are you doing out here?” He finally seemed to decide on a question.

“I took a walk,” Harry answered honestly.

“From England?” the other boy asked cheekily.

“No, but good idea, I’ll do that when going back, can you teach me your swimming technique,” Harry snarked back. “Afraid I haven’t figured out how to walk across the Atlantic just yet.”

The banter seemed to have reassured him. He flopped down in the sand next to him. “You’re a little far from home though, right? And I don’t mean Britain,” he added the last part on seeing Harry’s grating look.

“How would you know where I’m staying?” Harry asked rhetorically.

Jared looked at him strangely, “This is La Push,” he explained, as if that would be an answer by itself. At Harry’s confused look, he continued, slower this time. “So you’re not staying anywhere here on the reservation, and the closest town is Forks, which is like a four, five hour walk.”

Harry carefully blanked his expression, all the while cursing his avian friend in his head. He had forgotten the place Jake lived in was called La Push, a Native American reservation. Of course they’d know he wasn’t living anywhere in their area.

“I took the bus,” he explained shortly, coming up with an excuse.

“The closest bus to this beach is an hour away.”

“It was a nice walk, I got some souvenirs,” Harry explained, straight faced. “Look,” he stated, before shaking out his jumper’s arm. A dozen pine needles trickled out. “I’m keeping them all.”

After the incredulity passed, Jared laughed, “What for?”

“A reminder to never go trekking through forests again, honestly should’ve learned my lesson last year,” he grumbled, mumbling the last part mostly to himself.

Harry jumped up from the sand, brushing himself off as best as he could. The bloke copied his move but didn’t seem concerned with the sand clinging to his damp skin.

The wizard set off back into the forest, Jared on his heels. “Why are you following me?” Harry enquired, throwing the boy an uncertain look.

“Do you know the way back?”

“Of course I do,” Harry answered easily, the way back was quite simple. It consisted of being out of muggle sight and a quick apparition home.

“It’s that way to the bus stop though,” Jared stated, pointing the opposite way Harry had set off.

Harry sighed, another hour trekking through the forest just to avoid suspicion? “Fine, lead the way,” he allowed, sending the other boy a withering glare when he started chuckling.

They walked in easy conversation and banter down the worn path, until Harry brought up what his uncle had mentioned before. “So is it true there’s been animal attacks here recently? Bears?”

The boy stiffened. “There were attacks,” he answered hesitantly. “I don’t know if it was bears, but be careful,” he advised adamantly, looking at him in total seriousness for the first time. “It’s mostly safe here in La Push, but don’t trust the forests around Forks,” he added after a moment, looking around as if worried someone else could have heard him. As if he had said something he shouldn’t have.

Harry reached out subtly, sensing for other life forces around. Only thing he could pick up were some birds and squirrels and other creatures belonging in any normal forest. Jared was looking weirdly at him again. The bloke could definitely sense Harry’s magic, noted.

“Thank you for the advice, I’ll keep it in mind,” Harry said to avoid any questions. He did however wonder if the forests really were safer here, and if it had anything to do with what Fawkes had showed him before.

Jared nodded slowly, seemingly willing to let the strange stuff go without too much questioning, or maybe unwilling to be the first to bring it to attention. Either way, Harry was happy with that arrangement. “So where are you staying in Forks? Is it a family vacation?” he asked after some thought.

“Not a vacation per say, but I am staying with family,” Harry answered easily.

“Small place, might know them,” Jared offered, looking at him curiously.

Harry didn’t see a reason to purposefully deceive him regarding something like his muggle familial connection. Besides, if he was seeing Jacob tomorrow, it was likely they’d know each other. Jared seemed about the right age. “Charlie Swan, he’s my uncle.”

Jared straightened, eyes widening with shock. “Oh, I didn’t know he had a nephew, I mean, everyone knows the Sheriff of course, but he’s also good friends with some of my,” hesitation, “friends’ parents.”

Harry arched a brow at the pause. Asking silently, giving the other boy the option to ignore it and continue. They continued to amble down the pathway in silence for a couple moments, and Harry figured he didn’t want to bring it up.

However, Jared surprised him. He slowed down and grimaced, before admitting, “We fell out a bit.”

Taken slightly aback by the personal confession, Harry’s brows rose unwillingly. He quickly smoothed his expression. “Sorry to hear that,” he replied genuinely after the stunned quiet.

The other boy shook his head, “It’s my own fault, well,” hesitation again, “there is some stuff I have to do that I can’t tell them about.” He again seemed startled by his own admission, perhaps having said more than he’d wanted to. He frowned, “You’re easy to talk to.”

“Is that an accusation?” Harry laughed.

Jared glared at him lightly, opening his mouth no doubt to continue bantering. Before he could, a howl cut through the air from the far distance. His expression changed so quickly Harry almost got whiplash, his head snapping to where the sound had come from.

“I have to go,” he explained, the words rushing out. He pointed ahead of where they’d been walking. “Just keep following that path for about ten minutes, you’ll get to the main road, sorry!” he called back the last part of his sentence, already having set off running.

What a weird bloke, Harry thought. At least he didn’t have to take the bus back now. With that, he turned on his heel and snapped out of existence.

Chapter Text

Harry dragged his feet up the driveway, thinking about the howl that had made Jared run off. It had undoubtably sounded like a wolf howl. Memories from the end of his third year at Hogwarts trickled into his mind.

Entering the front door, his thoughts were cut off by a familiar trill. He kicked his shoes off and scowled lightly at the direction the sound had come from.

Following it, he walked toward the living room, stopping in the door when he spotted Charlie in his armchair. Fawkes was perched on the back of it as they both watched the telly.

The swan-sized scarlet bird turned his neck to warble happily at Harry, who crossed his arms, reluctantly amused at his friend’s earlier antics. Charlie started, apparently only having realized Harry’s return from the Fawkes’ greeting.

“Harry,” he exclaimed, “I didn’t see you there.” He smiled at his nephew. “Sit down, watch some TV,” he offered.

“I’ve got to take a shower first,” Harry declined, “but I’ll come down soon. Hope Fawkes won’t bother you too much.”

Charlie was stroking the bird’s feathered neck fondly, “Not at all, he’s a very well-behaved boy.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” Harry regarded the bird, doubtfully. Fawkes flipped his wing at him, unnoticed by Charlie who was looking at Harry.

“He’s just been sitting here quietly, keeping me company,” Charlie assured him, chuckling.

Harry nodded, turning to leave the room.

After a quick detour to get a change of clothes, he rushed up the stairs, remembering his way to the bathroom from when he’d visited summers past. A good scourgify had cleaned him of most of the dirt, sand, needles and leaves he’d otherwise drag into the house, but nothing beats a good hot shower.

Having towelled himself off, he quickly dressed. He’d made sure to bring a long-sleeved t-shirt up since he’d be having a sit down with Charlie. His arms weren’t littered in scars, but the few big ones he had were perhaps more worrisome than if he had been. He glanced at the letters covering his right hand, the repetition of the scarring had left them deep, red, and still very visible. He pulled the sleeve of his sweater further down to cover it.

Re-entering the room his uncle was sat in, he threw himself down on the couch. Fawkes flapped over to him, landing on the back of the furniture. As meticulous as most bird, he started preening Harry’s unruly hair. Maybe this was why people referred to it as a bird’s nest, Harry wondered idly.

Charlie was sipping a beer as he lounged in his chair, eyes glued to the ball flying between little people running across a field. He leaned forward in anticipation as they fought over the thing. One of the players sent the ball flying into the corner of the white net. Charlie groaned as one side of the audience on the telly cheered.

“Zero to two,” he grumbled. He glanced over at Harry, only acknowledging his presence in the lull of the match.

“Placed bets on the wrong team?” Harry quipped.

“Only my hopes, not my money,” he sighed in response. “Besides, it’s the baseball game tomorrow I’m looking forward to, just watching this soccer match to pass the time,” he explained. “How was your walk? You were gone for a while, started worrying you’d gotten lost.”

Harry glanced at Fawkes, who very suddenly turned his interest to the roof. “It was alright, I just needed some air. Felt good to stretch my legs-“ the last word twisted around a yawn.

“You must be tired, I thought you’d have crashed by now. It was a long flight for you.”

It had been. He had been forced by Shacklebolt to travel muggle style with a glamour and fake passport to avoid any risk of recognition, and so he’d be in the right place when exiting the airport to greet his uncle who’d picked him up. Instead of voicing that, Harry shrugged. “I slept a bit on the plane,” he lied.

As if Harry could fall asleep surrounded by a bunch of strangers, without the ability to put up a ward. He hadn’t exactly been able to pull out a wand whilst touching elbows with a muggle. Besides, magic and technology rarely mixed too well unless being performed extremely carefully, in other words: with a wand. So a quick little wandless charm to repel any unwelcome visitors had been out of the question, unless he wanted his flight to suffer an emergency landing in the ocean.

Besides, sleeping was a risk of nightmares, and Harry seldom took that chance. So, the lack of rest wasn’t anything new to him.

“It’s almost nine now,” Charlie said, breaking him out of thought. “Go sleep some if you’re tired.”

“I will. In a bit,” Harry assured him, leaning into the couch to figure out how the sport his uncle was watching worked.

He considered asking about the match on the telly, but figured it was one of those things he should already know. Soccer, his uncle had called it. The white and black ball did look somewhat familiar, but it had been so long since he’d been around muggles, barring the Dursleys. Maybe he should look for a book on what they considered common knowledge. Would he be able to find that in a normal bookstore? Flourish and Blotts would’ve probably had something for the students attending Muggle Studies, but Harry couldn’t just wander into a wizarding alley now. Shacklebolt had warned him even American wizards and witches would recognize him.

They sat in silence for a while, contentedly watching the rest of the match.

Charlie put his beer down on the table with a small clink and cleared his throat. “I know it’s very new, everything, and I know,” he paused, “I know you’ve been through a lot.”

Harry smiled a little at the understatement. He knew Charlie had been informed of more than the Dursleys’ demise.

As Voldemort’s warmongering had bled into the muggle world all across the continent, his downfall at the hands of Harry had not been overlooked by the non-magical government. Although his name had been withheld from the muggle papers at his request and due to his status as a minor and his circumstances, he had swiftly been awarded a Victoria Cross for his service. The prestigious military decoration was practically shoved into his hands by a thankful monarch and government.

Of course, this wasn’t something that could’ve been hidden from his new guardian when it had been decided he’d be placed with Charlie. So his uncle had received an abbreviated magicless version of the events leading to Harry’s involvement.

The Death Eaters had been infamously and internationally known as a dangerous, well managed terrorist organisation. They, their followers and their supporters had been behind uncountable tragedies for several decades leading to bloodshed all over the world. So when the news broke that the feared group had been felled by an anonymous sixteen year old boy with the help of his school friends, it had been a shock to all.

Finding out his nephew was that sixteen-year-old kid must’ve been an even bigger shock, Harry mused. Since they’d first reunited earlier that day at the airport, Charlie carefully hadn’t raised any questions. Harry appreciated his uncle doing his best not to pry.

He scratched the back of his neck. “Just let me know, if there’s anything you need,” he asserted, looking uncomfortable but determined. And, Harry realized, guilty.

He frowned in confusion, why would his uncle feel guilty regarding his circumstances? He hadn’t had any hand in prophesizing Harry’s involvement in the war, nor aftermath of it. Harry himself felt remorse simply due to the danger he presented to his family by existing.

However confused he was, he kept quiet about it. Instead he simply and genuinely replied, “Thank you.”

His uncle nodded gruffly and turned his head away, in discomfort or embarrassment Harry didn’t know. Clearing his throat again, he picked up his beer and reglued his eyes to the screen.

Harry relaxed into the couch, reaching one hand up to stroke Fawkes neck as all three resumed their silent telly-watching. Whatever team his uncle had been cheering for seemed to be picking themselves up, managing a draw before the timer ran out.

Harry, who was used to the seekers’ abilities and luck determining the length of the matches was surprised when the clock decided that enough was enough. Charlie seemed content enough with the result, considering his side had been otherwise been looking at a loss.

When the skies further darkened from the sun’s final retreat, his uncle started glancing away from the telly to peer impatiently at the clock as it ticked away. Just as the hand struck ten, Harry heard the front door open.

“That Cullen. Always just on time,” Charlie muttered.

Harry could hear his cousin speaking to someone in the hallway, but was unable to make out any words. He could guess easily enough at least who, or who Charlie thought it was, based on the man’s countenance.

Fawkes bristled slightly, eyes locked on the direction of the front door. Harry had forgotten he’d yet to meet the vampire, so the presence of a dark creature must’ve startled his friend. He smiled wryly at the thought. Considering Bella’s blood sucking beau had felt anxious enough near Harry, he couldn’t imagine how the vampire would feel around his phoenix friend. The sparkly creatures weren’t exactly known to mix well with flames, not to mention the phoenix fire’s enchanted qualities.

To his slight disappointment he did not get to see Edward flee from a squawking bird as Bella apparently said her goodbyes at the door. She emerged from the hallway alone, clumsily limping her way into the living room with her heavy leg brace. It thudded loudly every each step. “Hey,” she greeted.

Harry lazily waved his hand from his seat in the comfortable couch. His cousin smiled at him, making it over to him and settling down on the other end of it.

“Did you and Alice have a nice time?” Charlie asked, emphasizing the name of the other girl.

Bella rolled her eyes. “She was relentless,” she sighed. “I don’t know why she wanted to find a dress for me, it’s not like I was ever going to prom even before this,” she complained, grimacing at the word prom and gesturing to her cast at the last part.

Harry could relate, the only formal dance he’d ever attended had been the Yule Ball, completely against his will.

Charlie’s mood seemed to lighten slightly knowing his daughter really had spent time with this ‘Alice’. Harry figured it hadn’t really mattered to Charlie who she spent time with as long as it wasn’t with Edward.

He also didn’t necessarily trust the creature, not because of his relationship status with Harry’s cousin, but rather the dark sided affiliation many of his kind had before Voldemort’s downfall. He didn’t suffer from the misconception that many meant all, he had fought both beside and against werewolves after all. But whilst not all vampires had sided with Riddle, not a single vampire had seen fit to side against him, so Harry felt justified in his healthy scepticism.

At least his cousin seemed to be dating a so-called vegetarian, Harry thought wryly, recalling the bright amber eyes of the bloodsucker. It took a lot of willpower for a vampire to fully confine themselves to animal blood, especially without the use of Blood Pops, which were inaccessible to muggle vampires. However, he frowned, such willpower undoubtably required a great many years of experience. Decades, maybe even centuries. He blanched at the thought. Harry didn’t want to pry into his cousin’s business, but- his train of thinking was cut off by a thud.

Bella’s knee had hit the coffee table when she hastily and clumsily attempted to get up from her seat. “I’ll head to bed,” she said quickly. That was quick, and she seemed rather excited to go to sleep, Harry thought, but he also was feeling exhausted.

He got up as well. “Need a hand to get upstairs?” he offered.

She shook her head quickly, “It’s no worries, I got the railing to hold onto.”

“Alright, I’ll get some sleep too.” Fawkes flapped his wings, hopping off his perch on the couch and onto his shoulder to join him.

Bella stumbled back in surprise but caught herself on the wall. “Holy crow!” she exclaimed, a hand on her chest.

Harry almost burst out laughing at the conservatively mild expletive, but managed to hold it in, pursing his lips instead. “Sorry, he didn’t mean to scare you,” he assured, a smile still lurking at the corner of his mouth.

His cousin blushed red. “I just forgot he was there, he was sitting so still,” she breathed. Gathering her wits back, she limped toward the hallway door to make it upstairs. “Good night,” she called back. Harry heard her hopping up the stairs.

“Night, Uncle Charlie.”

“Sleep well,” the man answered gruffly from the chair as Harry made for his new room.

Once inside, Fawkes hopped from his shoulder, perching on the handle of his cage still stood on the desk. Harry stroked his neck. “We’ll get you a proper perch soon,” he promised.

His trunk was open wide from his earlier clothes hunt. He dug around some more for his toiletries, grabbing his toothbrush. Leaving his friend alone to fall asleep, he strode to the little half-bath on the first floor. It only had a sink and toilet, but he was just there to brush his teeth. A couple minutes he was back in his room.

Wand in hand, he carefully placed a one-way silencing ward just around the bed before switching into pyjamas and turning off the light. He bid Fawkes a good night and crept under the cover, his window still open, allowing a small breeze and the bird easy passage.

Sleep came slowly, his mind working to calm after the hectic day. His first few hours in this dingy little town and he’d met a vampire, a Horcrux like artifact, as well as that weird bloke he’d met at the beach. He wanted to feel surprised that his peaceful escape turned out to be a supernatural melting pot. But he’s Harry Potter after all, what did he expect?

He closed his eyes, letting his exhaustion take over. His consciousness faded away.

A moment later he awoke with a jerk. His eyes stung with fatigue. Waving a quick tempus with his hand, the time appeared in front of him, the bright light of it smarting his eyes further. The clock showed half past midnight. He’d slept a little over two hours. What had woken him?

Sitting up, he peered at Fawkes where he silently sat on his perch. The phoenix was also awake, tense as he stared out the window.

Harry stretched his senses more, listening for sounds outside. A soft thud sounded against the wall of the house. He stiffened up, reaching out with his magic on instinct before recognizing the presence. Rolling his eyes and falling back down in bed, he groaned.

Nightly visits by a vampire, oh joy. If it was a regular occurrence Harry was likely to be woken up every night. He was a very light sleeper, his magic working overtime to keep him updated on any change or threat. Something he was usually very thankful for, but right now he had been sleeping very peacefully and did not appreciate being woken by the approach of the lovesick oversized leech entering his cousin’s bedroom.

He lay silently staring at the roof for a couple moments, hoping for the exhaustion to creep back in. Feeling wide awake, although his eyes stung with overtiredness. Stupid inconsiderate sleepless vampires, he cursed in his mind, grabbing his pillow and holding it over his face to force his eyes shut.
Fawkes fluttered over to the frame of his bed, trilling softly. The song swiftly calmed him, his eyes heavy again, he drowsily mumbled, “Thanks Fawkes,” and soon faded back to sleep.

A chirp woke him this time, several in fact. None of them Fawkes’, who was scowling as much as a bird could from his head half-hidden under his wing. Clearly, they’d interrupted his sleep as well. Harry chuckled, stroking the phoenix’s plumed head. The bird raised his head reluctantly, feathers bristling at the insultingly early wakeup.

Another tempus showed the time at four in the morning. Not ideal for most people after being awake for as long as he had, but Harry felt rested enough. He didn’t need much sleep these days.

Fawkes apparently disagreed, squawking indignantly at the time and turning his tail to Harry. Shaking his head in amusement, he quicky got dressed, grabbing a jumper for the cold morning air. Opening the door a crack to slip out of his room, he shoved his shoes on and exited the house, quietly closing the front door behind him.

Waving his hand, he charmed a quick notice-me-not on his person, just in case the neighbours were up a little earlier than expected. He didn’t exactly have a plan for where he was going, content to let his feet guide him. Thankfully, this time his crackpot phoenix friend at least wouldn’t be porting him around to ground-breaking magical secrets he had no business knowing about, considering the bird was currently very much asleep.

With how much woods that surrounded and encompassed Forks, it wasn’t long before he found himself navigating between the trees. The air was humid and although it wasn’t raining right now he could feel droplets fall down on him from the leaves and branches above. He jumped onto a fallen tree log, using it as a makeshift bridge over the little creek.

Birds tweeted excitedly above his head, the water of the stream behind him trinkled away and from the ground a couple snakes were whispering quietly about mice as they slithered through the foliage.

Harry wasn’t sure how much time had passed before his legs brought him back to the house, but hoped it was a more respectable time to be awake. As he loped towards the front door again, a thud caught his attention. He paused in his step. The bushes rustled from the side of the house before Bella’s vampire emerged into sight, looking around at the neighbours houses for any potential witnesses to his early morning getaway. His gaze never strayed close to Harry.

Harry wondered how the oaf hadn’t managed to smell him yet. Ah, of course, he realized. Waving his hand, the notice-me-not was dispelled.

The vampire froze, his head suddenly whipping over to look at Harry, who threw him a wave, smiling lazily. “Had a good night?” he asked dryly, still annoyed at the earlier midnight wake-up.

He waited a second to see if the vampire was up for the verbal spar, but it seemed his advanced brain was having trouble processing the four-syllable question. So, he trailed up the stairs again, ignoring the new oversized garden gnome.

The click of the door seemed to break the spell of their new stone decoration, as well as any common sense it may have had. In an instant the vampire was behind him, one hand on the door to shut it closed, locking Harry in place between him and the door.

Harry half turned to have a look at him. The vampire was trembling slightly, if he could sweat he’d be dripping. There was no way he could get that close to a wizard without the full effect of the natural power difference hitting him in the face, even if Harry wasn’t focusing it. It must be an unusual feeling of helplessness for someone so used to being the apex predator, Harry mused distantly.

Still, he commended the bravery, if foolish, and as it wouldn’t do to incremate his cousin’s boyfriend on his second day in Forks, no matter the questions he had about his age. So, he instead quipped, “Moving a little fast there, mate. At least get me a drink first.”

He retracted his arm quicker than if Harry really had singed him. The distance increased further as he leaned back. His face seemed conflicted between feeling relief at the small distancing from the wizard, alarm at what the green eyed boy may have seen and disgust at the implication of his words. If he still had veins, Harry wondered if it’d be popping out on his forehead from stress by now.

“You saw nothing,” Edward stated. Harry didn’t think the dead needed to breath, but this one seemed to be gulping air between each word. His lips had pursed and his eyes were squinting in a mix of something trying to be a threatening scowl polluted by how utterly terrified he was from his instincts screaming murder at him.

Harry leaned forward. “Bite me,” he grinned, all teeth.

The vampire’s face twisted and he opened his mouth, presumably to say something back if he wasn’t even more stupid than he currently looked, but a loud screech interrupted him.

Fawkes was perched in the windowsill, staring the leech down. The vampire’s ego may have been enough to overpass Harry’s unprovoked magic’s warning bells, but the raging firebird, although currently unlit, in incendiary distance was likely to be ringing all sorts of emergency sirens.

His friend took wing to land on the railing of the front door stairs, the vampire stumbling to move back from the fast-approaching aggressive bird.

“Well, it was nice meeting you again, Cullen, next time try the front door perhaps?” Harry suggested amiably.

Fawkes, still scowling harshly, hopped onto his wizard friend’s shoulder, never taking his eyes off the bloodsucker. The door closed behind them, leaving the witless vampire to pick up his braincells and piece together that he’d just figuratively shat himself because of an angry bird.

“Breakfast?” Harry suggested, leading the way into the kitchen. Fawkes cooed softly in agreement.

Chapter Text

Fawkes was perched on the back of the kitchen chair. His pupils constricted, gaze focused and body tense. Ready and waiting. Fixated on his prey. The sudden projective hurtling toward him was easily snatched from the air.

“No more now, Fawkes, you’re going to get fat,” Harry admonished, wiping the bacon fat off his fingers with a paper towel. “Besides, I want some bacon as well.”

The bird rustled his feathers in disagreement.

The stairs creaked, signalling the arrival of another early riser. Charlie rounded the corner into the kitchen, dressed in his uniform. “Thought I smelled something good,” he mumbled. “You’re early up.”

Ron would also agree that breakfast’s the superior alarm clock, Harry thought. “I tend to be. Breakfast?” He had already pulled out a plate before Charlie answered in the affirmative, piling on the bacon and scrambled eggs.

They ate in peace, Fawkes sneaking another bit of bacon. His uncle finished the food quicker than Harry. Thanking his nephew for the meal, he got up to rinse and wash his plate quickly.

“Going to work?” Harry surmised, half a slice of buttered bread left in his hand.

Charlie nodded. “I’ll be home around three. We can head to Billy’s after.”

“Sounds good.”

The older man rushed to the front door, leaving Harry and Fawkes to their own devices. Harry finished off his meal and washed his plate before settling back down at the kitchen table.

It was Friday, but Bella must’ve still been asleep. Not surprising as it wasn’t even seven in the morning yet. He wondered what time the school days usually started in American high schools.

Leaning his elbow on the table with his chin in his palm, he speculated on how it would be like to attend normal school. His muggle education was patchy at best so he’d probably be completely on the deep end, or submerged. Otherwise, it was likely quite boring. But there wouldn’t be any yearly mysteries or deaths, or mysterious deaths for that matter. Harry doubted Forks High School had basilisks slithering about, or forests filled with bus-sized spiders, Death Eaters or their children. All of these were pluses in his book, especially the last one.

But no, there was no way he would willingly expose himself to the horrors of muggle school just for the chance of a normal school life, right? Of course not. But what else would he do here for a year, his treacherous mind supplied. He wasn’t likely to be free of his involuntarily protection before the day of his eighteenth birthday, when they legally couldn’t keep him locked down any longer. Besides, English schooling finished or not, Charlie was likely to receive some backlash for letting his nephew ‘slack off’ at home when his one-year-older daughter was attending school still. Merlin knew how quickly rumours spread in such a small town, and he really couldn’t be bothered to be known as the delinquent nephew again. Wouldn’t he draw more attention to himself if he didn’t lead an ordinary life?

He groaned at the annoying situation, laying his head down on the table to whinge silently to himself. Fawkes used the opportunity to sort out his hair again, the stubborn bird never gave up on his unruly locks. That was another problem. What would his phoenix friend do in the days if left unattended? Considering Fawkes’ discovery of an however-old magical soul artifact on his first day here he shuddered to think about it.

The stairs creaked again following heavy thuds, interrupting Harry’s lamenting. He looked up to see Bella stumble around the corner, book bag hanging off her shoulder.

“Oh good morning Harry,” she smiled, clearly surprised at seeing him up already.

“Morning,” he greeted back. “School so early?”

“At eight, just got up for some breakfast.”

“Ah, sorry, I only made some for me and Uncle Charlie earlier when he came down.”

“It’s no worries, I’ll just have some cereal. At least Charlie had something, he’s usually straight out the door on the early shifts,” she huffed, grabbing a bowl from the overhead cupboard. “Why are you up already anyway?”

“Just woke early,” Harry shrugged.

Bella sat down in front of them both before pouring milk over her quick meal. Fawkes peered at the cornflakes speculatively.

“You’ve had enough, you thief,” Harry chided before the bird could attempt another food heist.

His cousin shut her mouth around her spoonful tightly, fighting against what had the potential to become a very messy laughter. She seemed to win out, swallowing before finally able to talk again. “Did he steal your breakfast?”

“My bacon,” Harry pouted. Fawkes nipped his finger in retaliation of ratting him out before turning his tail to him in mock contempt.

“Should’ve protected it more,” Bella chuckled. She finished her breakfast quickly and dumped the bowl into the sink before bringing a couple textbooks to the table from her bag. She picked one and flipped through it, silently searching for something.

Harry stared curiously at the rest of the schoolbooks. Trigonometry, biology, calculus. He felt like bashing his head against the table again.

Bella picked up one of them, the calculus one, and held it out for him. “You can have a look if you want,” she offered, having noticed his focused gaze.

Harry wilted a little inside but gave a thankful smile. He flipped through the first couple of introductory pages before reaching the actual chapters. Merlin what a cursed subject, like a crossover of arithmancy and Greek.

“Have you thought about attending school next year?” she asked curiously.

He grimaced. Had he access to a wizarding apothecary he could’ve acquired the ingredients for brewing a wit-sharpening potion or something stronger. Whilst not an instant fix for seven years of no muggle education, it would’ve allowed him easier studying. With the right potions he’d probably be able to reach the required proficiency. Right?

“I did,” he admitted. “I don’t want to waste my year here.” He was still looking through the book, wincing as each chapter showed something wholly outside his current understanding.

“I’m sure you’ll be fine,” Bella said, noticing his discouragement. “I can help with any subject we share, I’m a year above you, so I’d have taken your subjects already.” Seeing he still wasn’t fully convinced, she seemed to try another route, “I’m sure you’ll be really popular too.”

Harry frowned. “I think I’d rather not be.” He’d had enough popularity for a lifetime.

“Lots of girls would be interested in you though,” she teased just as a knock sounded on the door. His cousin turned around, missing his frozen expression. “There’s Edward,” she grinned, getting up from her chair and shoving her books back inside the bag.

Harry handed over the calculus book with a brittle smile. Bella grabbed it and rushed out.

Once alone, he breathed out shakily. Fawkes cooed, bumping his head to Harry’s. “I’m fine, just miss her.” He had carefully avoided thinking about Ginny since he was sent off. They had only been able to spend a short couple weeks together before being separated once again. Harry hoped he’d be able to see her soon, even if he couldn’t return home. If they didn’t allow it, he’d just have to find another way, he thought determinedly.

Holed up in his room, the morning and afternoon flew by fast as he re-read some of his books. Looking through for charms, spells or items he could use to communicate cross-continentally undetected. The protean charm was of course an option, but its limitations didn’t lend itself useful to Harry’s needs.

As he studied, and wouldn’t Hermione have loved that, Fawkes flew in and out of the window. Just finishing a chapter on interdepartmental memos used in the British Ministry, Harry heard a car roll up the driveway.

He checked the time quickly. Three fifteen, the ashen letters of the tempus spelled out. Time had flown by for him.

Charlie knocked on his door, “You in, Harry?”

“Yeah,” Harry called back, waving a hand at his books. They hopped swiftly back into his opened suitcase, burying themselves under the clothes. He opened the door.

Charlie was still dressed in his uniform, looking tired but excited. “I’ll change into some new clothes and then we’ll get going, alright?”

Harry nodded. “Perfect.”

Some thirty minutes later they were headed out. The drive was spent mostly in comfortable silence. Harry opened the window, enjoying speed and breeze. It wasn’t the same as flying of course, the feeling a poor reminiscent of it, but it was something. He leaned back in the seat.

Before long they had arrived. Pulling up in front of a small wooden home with dull red paint. Harry could remember visiting as a child when it was a more vibrant shade, although it had been many years ago.

Charlie stepped out of the car, Harry following his move. The front door opened as they trailed up the path. Clearly, they’d been expected. A bloke about Harry’s age barrelled out, a huge smile lighting up his face. Harry could easily recognize the grin. “Harry!” Jacob exclaimed.

Harry grinned back. “Hey-“ he started, his greeting interrupted by a tight hug. He stiffened at the unexpected contact, his magic tightly coiled.

“Come on, Jake, let the kid breathe,” Charlie laughed, Harry noticed the slightly anxious quality to his voice. Harry had never liked being touched suddenly, after all, not something that had been improved after everything.

Honestly though, he should’ve expected this much. Jacob had always been very affectionate. Pulling himself together, he breathed out silently, calming his magic.

Charlie was still in the door talking to Jacob’s dad, who Harry noticed with a start was now in a wheelchair. He waved to the man. “Hello Billy, it’s nice to see you again,” he greeted politely.

Billy waved back, a smile on his mouth but his eyes slightly tense. Harry withheld a frown. What was that about?

He didn’t get long to think about it, as Jacob was already firing questions.

“It’s been so long, what have you been doing, where have you been?” Words fired miles a minute, eyes shining with happiness and curiosity. No matter the abrupt uncomfortable hug, he had missed his old friend dearly.

He could tell his uncle was waiting to see whether Harry was comfortable being alone around the boy he hadn’t seen in so many years. So, clapping a hand on Jacob’s shoulder he led him towards the old shed-garage behind the house where they’d spent their summers playing, loudly claiming, “Spent seven years in a psych ward recovering from my last visit.” Well, recovering was a stretch.

Jacob snorted, “Shut up.” He raced in front, beckoning Harry to follow.

Inside the old garage was a bright red small car. Harry had no idea what brand it could be, wholly unfamiliar with all of them. Jacob was grinning at it like it was his pride and joy in life.

“I’ve been working on it for a while now, half a year or so,” he gushed. “It’s still not done, but when it is,” he trailed off, eyes staring dreamily at the red hunk of scrap.

Harry leaned back on a work table. “So you’re a car mechanic now?”

“I like fixing things,” he nodded. “I fixed Bella’s truck up before her dad got it for her,” he said proudly, blushing a little. The wizard wondered whether the pink tint to his cheeks was a result of embarrassment at his skill or the mention of Harry’s cousin.

“How nice of you,” he said, emphasizing the second word. Jacob blushed harder, rubbing his neck. “She must’ve really appreciated it.”

Jacob pouted a little, “Are you going to really hate me if I say I might have a thing for your cousin?”

“Didn’t you try to feed her mudcakes?”

“That was one time!”

They continued their banter, jumping from subject to subject. By the time Charlie came to see how they were doing, the two of them were each sat in a seat at the front of the decrepit car, legs up on the dashboard and chatting amiably.

“You two doing ok in here?” he asked, leaning down to see them better through the open side door. He eyed Harry carefully.

“All good, Uncle Charlie,” Harry assured him. “The game over already?”

“Eh yes,” he admitted sheepishly, “but we can stay for longer,” his uncle assured him. Time must have flown by.

Harry slid out of the car and Jacob scrambled to follow. Before he could open his mouth, Jake urgently declared, “Let’s have something to drink!” Apparently, he didn’t want Harry to leave just yet.

Harry acquiesced to the request and Jacob eagerly but gently pulled him by his wrist towards the house.

“I’ll be right with you,” Charlie called, walking toward his car at a sedate pace.

“I can walk myself, you know,” Harry teased once out of earshot.

The other boy let go, a diffident expression on his face. “Sorry, thought you may wanna leave already.”

“It’s not that I wanted to leave, I just didn’t want to keep my uncle waiting.”

“Maybe you could stay over? I haven’t seen you in so long, and it’s Saturday tomorrow, and I’m sure my dad wouldn’t mind.” His eyes were wide again with excitement, but Harry was reminded of Billy’s earlier coldness and wondered if the latter was true.

They reached the house, entering through the patio. Billy was sat in front of the telly still.

“I’ll go get us some lemonade!” Jacob proclaimed, disappearing behind the other wall.

That left Harry alone with Billy. The older man was looking at him quietly. Harry matched his gaze.

Billy was the first to break the silence, “It is nice to see you again,” he said, reaching out with his hand. He seemed genuine but wary.

Harry silently took hold of it, unsure from the uneasy interaction. “Is there something on your mind?” he asked simply.

Billy’s face fell a bit, he looked conflicted, but he squeezed Harry’s hand reassuringly. “I heard you met with Jared,” he said unexpectedly.

Harry frowned in confusion, retrieving his hand.

“Jared?” Jacob called in askance from the kitchen. “Jared Cameron? Why are you asking Harry about him?” He voiced Harry’s own question perfectly, with a slightly disgruntled tone when speaking the other boy’s name.

“He just told me something interesting,” Billy explained easily, waving his hand to dispel the matter, but throwing Harry a loaded look.

Harry froze slightly. What was it he’d thought when he realized Jared could sense his magic? ‘As long as he couldn’t report it to anyone likely to believe him’. Harry swore mentally at the unluck. Maybe he should have obliviated the boy at the time, but he didn’t think some random kid, unaware of magic if able to sense it, would be a problem.

Then again, Harry thought shrewdly, Jared wasn’t normal either. Whatever Billy knew was reliant on Jared’s own mysterious secret. Exposing Harry would be exposing Jared.

Jacob returned with four glasses, balancing them unsteadily. Harry swiftly helped him unload onto the coffee table to avoid spillage.

“Can’t imagine what,” Harry finally replied back, a placid smile on his face. The older man seemed to understand that the threat of disclosure was mutual, and let the matter go. At least for now.

Charlie returned and they all enjoyed their lemony drink. At least until Jacob voiced his previous idea.

“Can Harry stay over here tonight?” he asked, looking between both his father and Harry’s uncle. “It’s Saturday tomorrow, I don’t have school, and neither does Harry. I think,” he added the last part on as an afterthought.

“That’s up to your dad and Harry himself. He only just got here yesterday you know,” Charlie stated awkwardly, glancing at Harry to figure out what he wanted to do.

Billy seemed to consider the danger of keeping an unknown in his house at night with his son unsupervised. Harry had stayed there plenty of times in the past, but it seemed one unexplained occurrence was enough to consider him a risk, the wizard thought somewhat bitterly. Never mind the years of familiarity when Billy had almost been a second uncle to Harry, not counting Petunia’s husband.

“I don’t mind, it’s up to Billy,” he stated, leaving the matter to the older man.

Jacob turned his pleading eyes fully on his dad, who cleared his throat and avoided his gaze.

Harry thought he’d help him out a bit, “I don’t have any clothes with me anyway, so maybe another time would be better.”

Jacob was quicker than his father. “I got loads, you can just borrow some!” He really wanted Harry to stay over apparently.

Billy seemed to give up at that point. “Of course, he’s welcome to stay if he wants,” he assured all of them. The statement was sincere enough, Harry thought, but there was definitely a slight caution to his eyes.

The night went quickly from there as Charlie left soon after, asking one last time if Harry was ok being left there and assuring him he’d get Fawkes some food and keep his phone on. After Billy went to bed, Jacob pulled him into his room and dug around for some night clothes, handing over a thin pair of sweatpants and a short-sleeved t-shirt. Harry refrained from grimacing, hoping Jacob wouldn’t comment on his marked skin.

Jacob had always been thin and tall when they were kids, much like Ron. Whilst Harry had grown out of his short stature and reached the same height as his father before him, Jacob had grown even taller still. Taller than Ron, Harry thought. However, though taller, he was still a beanstalk, so the clothes shouldn’t be too ill of a fit, if a little big on Harry’s still-gaunt frame from months of malnutrition.

Bringing the clothes with him to the bathroom, he washed his face and got changed. Looking in the mirror, the sharp artificial light staring down at him, the biggest scars were easily discernible: Nagini’s bite on his right forearm, the cut from the resurrection ritual on his left, and of course the letters spelling out Umbridge’s mantra on his left hand. At least the Basilisk bite was less visible, only a slight shade lighter than his skin tone on both sides of his pierced arm. Phoenix tears were powerful healing components after all.

He returned to the room where Jacob had brought an extra mattress to the floor, sleeping arrangements solved like years before when he’d stayed over. Not much had changed, Harry mused contentedly. The door opened behind him, Jacob’s arms full with a pillow and duvet.

“Here you go,” Jacob grinned, dumping them both on the makeshift bed. His focus now on Harry, his eyes promptly landed on the glaringly obvious blemishes. His eyes widened minutely.

Harry turned away, wasting no time to sort his bedding out, laying the cover the right way and the pillow on the right side. Jacob jumped into his own bed, peering down at him curiously. Harry didn’t have to use legilimency to discern the million questions bubbling behind his brown eyes.

He seemed to hesitate. “Can I ask?” he finally spoke. Harry glanced up from his spot on the mattress, a bit incredulous at Jacob’s sudden thoughtfulness and timidity. His friend pouted, “Don’t look at me like that.” He sighed turning over on his back. “I get there’s stuff you don’t wanna talk about,” he murmured, “but you can, if you want.”

Sitting up a bit, Harry had a closer look on Jake’s frowning face. He poked the wrinkle between his eyebrows. “You’re going to hurt your head with all that thinking,” he teased.

Jacob rolled his eyes and swatted his hand away. “Ha ha, very funny.” He rolled over, pulling his cover over him. “Good night,” he said, the words warped by a yawn.

“Night.”

Harry cast a weak silencing charm over himself, just in case, it should last out the night. Rolling over on his side, he closed his eyes, hoping for sleep. He laid there for a while, his magic prodding the unfamiliar space anxiously. Jacob’s soft snoring, the house walls creaking and the gentle pitter patter of rain touching the roof were the only sounds he could pick up. Taking deep breaths, he tried to relax. At some point much later in the night it must’ve worked.

His eyes snapped open. Sunlight creeping in through the small window.

He sat up quietly, but the rustling of the sheet must’ve been enough to rouse Jacob, who perched up on his elbows, his eyes half closed with sleep.

“Mhh?” he questioned indiscernibly. “What’s the clock?” he retried.

“No idea.” Harry rubbed his face. He’d slept well, to his surprise. Two peaceful nights in a row had left him nicely rested. Maybe Forks was doing good for him.

Jacob reached over to the night table, patting it down in search of something. He retrieved a small phone and pressed a button to it, eyes squinting at the screen. “It’s only seven,” he groaned.

Harry’s eyes widened. He rarely slept past five these days, if he was lucky. He moved the sheet to the side, stretching his arms in front of him and reaching for his sweater.

“You’re getting up already?” Jacob complained, but had already sat up himself. Harry had always been an early riser as a child. While many years ago since their last slumber party, his friend would no doubt remember as he’d always insisted getting up with him.

They crept silently into the living room, Jacob following behind him with a yawn. There was no sound from Billy’s room, no doubt still asleep. So in an effort not to wake him they set for the front door. Pulling on shoes, Jacob handed him a spare jacket.

“It’s pretty dewy out,” he whispered in explanation.

“Thanks.”

They trailed through the wet grass, shoes dampening. The garage, miraculously, held dry, despite its ramshackle appearance. Jacob leaned against the hood of his unfinished car, whilst Harry settled into a little plastic garden chair.

Outside of hearing range, they could finally speak normally without worry of waking Billy up. Jacob spoke first, “Yesterday, dad asked you about Jared,” he started.

Harry nodded slowly.

“You met him?”

“I did, the other day. He hopped out of the water, told me he’d jumped off a cliff,” he smiled wryly.

His friend snorted. “Yeah, I’ve seen that. Him and his new friends like to show off.” Harry tilted his head in question at the bitter tone. Jacob shrugged off the look. “He and Paul joined a gang or something. Sam Uley’s little cult,” he said, rolling his eyes. “Not like we were super close before, but now they don’t have any time for us.”

His friend’s brow furrowed. Beneath the resentment, Harry could sense fear, his childhood friend easy to read even after so many years. He poked the other boy’s forehead. “You’re doing it again.”

“What, thinking?”

Harry smiled lazily. “What are you worrying about? Your friends? Or that you’re next perhaps?” he joked. But Jacob held his gaze, seeming seriously worried. Harry dropped the mirth. “Jared seemed fine, if a little cryptic,” he assured him.

“They both cut all contact with us after joining Sam, and,” he trailed off, scowling a little. “Sam, he’s, it’s like he’s waiting for me.” He rubbed his arm before crossing them in front of his chest. Harry waited to let him continue. “It’s creeping me out.”

“You think you’re next?” Harry inferred. Jacob nodded. “Have you told your dad?”

He scoffed. “They have the council’s full backing,” he said, as if that explained anything to Harry. Noticing his confusion, he clarified, “My dad’s the leader of the council.”

His friend was clearly quite anxious about the whole situation, but Harry didn’t know the circumstances around his friend’s separation and couldn’t offer much comfort.

Jacob sighed, before glancing up slyly. Seemingly eager to change the subject, he directed the focus on Harry. “I told you my sob story, you tell me one of yours,” he demanded, grinning impishly.

Harry’s brows rose of their own accord. Confused, he asked, “What sob story?”

Jacob pointed to his right arm. “Where did you get the bitemark?”

Ah, that’s what he’d meant. Well, he’d picked the least incriminating scar at least, whether he’d believe him or not was another matter. “Big snake,” he explained shortly.

Jacob rolled his eyes again. “Ok, I get it. I’ll find out some day,” he vowed. “Besides that scar looked pretty epic, although not as cool as the lightning bolt.” He reached out to brush the hair concealing it away. Harry let him. “Wow, it’s actually started to fade a little! I remember it being so vivid year after year.”

Harry pulled back a little, smoothing the hair back down over the silver skin. Following Voldemort’s demise, his scar had quickly started to heal, the only remnant of his years as a Horcrux being the persistence of his ability to speak Parseltongue.

“Yeah, only took me a decade and a half to recover from my head injury. You still seem to be suffering from yours though,” Harry offered sympathetically, patting his head patronizingly.

“You’re asking for it now.”

The rest of their morning continued in the same fashion. They bantered back and forth as the sun rose further into the sky. By late morning, Billy had apparently woken up, as he called for them both from the patio.

They hurried out of the garage, making for the house. “We’re here, dad!” Jacob called back.

“Morning, I forgot what an early bird Harry is,” Billy laughed, when they reached him. “Figured you’d be getting up in the middle of the day like this one.”

Jacob reddened. “I don’t,” he whinged.

Harry leaned his arms against the railing, smiling carefully. “We didn’t want to wake you.”

Billy smiled back, wrinkles forming around his eyes. He turned to Jacob. “Won’t you get some breakfast for the three of us?” he asked.

Jacob assented, leaving the two of them alone outside. Harry eyed the older man warily, sure he had wanted to talk to him, but unsure about what. Billy’s expression was warm, however, unlike the day before.

After a moment’s thought, Billy spoke up. “I wanted to apologize for yesterday,” he said contritely. “I don’t want you to think you’re not welcome here, or that I don’t want you around Jacob. You’re family to us both.” After saying his piece, he remained silent, eyes searching.

Billy seemed eager to reconcile with Harry after yesterday’s suspiciousness. He had known him growing up, so the distrust had stung a little. It’s not like Billy’s semi-revelation of Harry’s abnormalities changed him as a person.

“I understand,” he settled on eventually, and he did. It was only sensible to be wary of an unknown. “You hadn’t seen me in more than half a decade after all.”

Billy waved away the excuse Harry offered. “You grew up here in a lot of ways, and you helped Jake through hard times.” Well, as an orphan it hadn’t been particularly hard to relate with Jacob when he lost his mother. Which is probably why he had sought comfort with Harry after the tragedy. “So, again, I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable.”

A small weight seemed to lift from his heart at the earnestness. “We’re good,” Harry assured him. “I missed all of you.”

Billy’s wrinkles deepened as he smiled and he reached out a hand to pat Harry’s arm still resting on the patio railing. “We missed you as well.”

Harry breathed out, relieved despite himself. Charlie, Bella, Billy and Jacob had been the first family he’d been able to remember.

Jacob stuck his head out the patio door. “I got everything ready!” And they all headed for the kitchen to enjoy some breakfast.

Harry was halfway through his toast when the doorbell rang.

Jacob rose to get it but threw a questioning glance at his father. “Expecting anyone?”

Billy shook his head, bewildered expression on his face.

The boy disappeared from view, but the thin walls easily carried his surprised voice a moment later.

“Sam?”

Chapter Text

Sam? The same person Jacob had been confiding in him about just earlier?

Harry glanced at Billy in question, Jacob had after all indicated a connection between the two. However, the older man seemed equally confused.

“What are you doing here—Hey!”

The thud of shoe clad footsteps approached assertively.

Harry rose from his seat, coming to stand by Billy’s side just as the unfamiliar man reached the kitchen. Jacob trailed behind him, looking annoyed but unharmed. Good, Harry thought, for Sam’s sake.

His magic impatiently reached out to check the new person. Sam glared as it washed over him, flinching back. Then he smiled, in a way. No, Harry realized, he was baring his teeth. Which made sense considering that the man in front of him was not human. This time, Harry was familiar with the connection to the Horcrux-like artifact from the mountain. Whatever this guy was, Jared was the same. What on earth had he stumbled upon in this tiny town?

“Bit early for a social call, don’t you think?” Harry remarked, his mind racing. Both Jared and Sam had this strange link to the soul Fawkes had encountered. He was willing to bet his wand that the last member of their trio, whatever his name had been, was similarly connected.

“Who the hell are you,” the tall man demanded. Harry had the feeling he wasn’t asking about his name.

Nevertheless, “Harry,” he answered flippantly.

Billy broke in, his voice heated, before he could bait him further. “Sam, this is unnecessary.”

The wizard glanced at the old man again. He looked angry, irritated, but not surprised.

“Really, if you wanted breakfast that badly, you could’ve asked nicely,” Harry chided playfully.

Sam’s eyes narrowed into a glare. “Why are you here?”

“Well, I could ask you the same,” Harry countered. Honestly, Sam was the one who’d barged in. “But if you must know, I was eating breakfast.”

“You’re not welcome here,” he retried, still glaring. Jacob scoffed while Billy sighed.

“Bold claim,” Harry smiled.

The man stepped forward belligerently. Jacob fumbled to follow, worry clear on his face. “Hey, look, just calm down,” he pleaded, voice cracking from the stress.

Harry eyed his approach coolly, a tight rein on his magic as it itched to send the aggressor flying through a window. The man stopped a couple feet away, probably further than he’d intended. Harry could see the first trace of hesitation trickle down his face now. Considering it was a sweat droplet it wasn’t too hard to notice. The knuckles on his tightly balled up fists were white with the strain, standing starkly out against his otherwise rusty complexion. He didn’t dare come closer.

It seemed his instincts were better than his previously confident stance had advertised. Whatever capability he had to pick up Harry’s magic, he was also able to understand his own inadequacy. Still, he stood his ground, even if it was further away than originally planned.

Whilst a staring contest wasn’t on Harry’s to-do-list it seemed he’d have to make room for one today. Sam was holding his green gaze with admirably stupid stubbornness, despite his trembling hands.

Billy cleared his throat pointedly, forcing Sam to look away. He looked rather grateful for the intervention. “Sam, let’s talk outside,” he stated, his voice rough, bearing no room for discussion. He rolled his chair out of the kitchen and toward the patio door. “You two go ahead and finish your breakfasts.”

Once a couple steps further away, Sam seemed to regain some of his previous spirit and threw him a parting glare. Harry waggled his fingers back at him in a mocking wave, surreptitiously jinxing him. Or, so he’d thought, apparently the power put in was enough to alert the other man once again to Harry’s magic. He looked down his body, as if the jinx would show itself to him with enough focus.

Billy called for him from outside and Sam furtively gave up on his examination to go join the older man instead. He smashed his nose into the door on the way out, tripping over the doorsill as well. Turning around to slam the door shut, he squeezed his fingers in the crack. Seemed the jinx was working well already. Jacob winced with each ‘accident’.

“Wow that was unlucky,” he snickered. Harry noticed Sam turn his head to scowl at the other teen from behind the closed door. Had he heard him?

“Terribly so,” Harry agreed. He turned back to his breakfast, settling down at the table once more. His toast had turned cold, but it was still delicious.

Jacob joined him at the table and refilled his plate with more food. “What was that about anyway? Never seen Sam that upset about anybody except the Cullens.”

“First time meeting him, so no clue,” Harry replied. He hadn’t exactly lied. Jared had been confused in their encounter but not unfriendly, so he didn’t know why this Sam would be so openly hostile. “The Cullens?” That was the vampire’s last name, but Jacob had indicated a plural. “Bella’s boyfriend, you mean?”

“Well yeah, and his family,” Jacob replied through a bite of his own toast.

Family? So there were more of them. Vampire generally travelled in pairs, but Harry assumed there had to be more from Jacob’s wording. The empathy required for human blood abstinence may lend itself to tighter bonds. So a coven of what, three? Maybe four?

Chewing through and a sip of milk later, Jacob spoke more clearly, “Some hogwash about them being a threat.” He rolled his eyes, clearly uncaring of the cautioning. “Sam and the council are real uppity about it though. When one of them started working at the hospital—"

The patio door slammed open with a bang. Jacob started violently, his head whirling around. Sam was glowering at him hotly from the opening. “Watch your mouth, Jacob.”

It would seem he didn’t appreciate Jacob telling an outsider about their enemies. Harry mentally cursed the interruption, a hospital? A vampire working at a hospital? Self-control aside, recovering alcoholics don’t decorate their house with wine bottles.

Billy rolled over and re-shut the door, pulling the younger man back to their conversation.

“Jesus,” Jacob breathed. “What the hell?” he scowled, confusion evident on his face. Of course, he was unaware Sam seemed able to hear his every word.

So, the Quileute council were aware of the Cullens’ undead affliction? Or perhaps they simply knew them to be dangerous. Either way, this was getting complicated.

Wasn’t he supposed to be sent here for safety? Harry smiled in amusement. Typical Potter luck.

The two were still arguing outside. He was tempted to eavesdrop, but wondered if the spell would register with the man. Before he could decide on the risk versus reward, Sam finally stalked off, headed straight for the woods behind the house.

Billy rolled back inside looking tired from the interaction. Jacob jumped up to help bring his old man back to the kitchen.

“What was that about, dad?” Jacob asked once they were all by the table again.

Billy sighed, contemplating his answer for a moment. “Apparently Charlie mentioned his nephew,” a nod to Harry, “staying over when he was on the phone with Harry Clearwater this morning. They were planning the fishing trip tomorrow.”

“So what,” Jacob demanded, frowning. “First the Cullens, and now Harry?”

Out of words, Billy appeared wearily resigned. Harry swallowed the last bite of his toast before throwing a friendly punch at Jacob’s shoulder. “Come on, they’re just jealous you won’t come join their group now that you have me,” he jested.

Jake rolled his eyes, but smiled. Billy looked a little startled at the mention of Sam’s group, but kept quiet, grateful for the discontinued questioning.

The morning continued peacefully after that, Charlie picking him up around noon. But not before Jacob had made him swear he’d be back the next week.

“Did you have a nice time?” his uncle asked him as they took off.

Harry nodded, answering honestly, “I did.” The whole Sam-incident had been especially amusing, and rather informative.

Fawkes was waiting in the window when they pulled up, peering at him curiously.

“I thought he’d run away when I checked your room and saw him gone,” Charlie chuckled, “I was panicking for a solid ten minutes, ready to call you up. Then he suddenly appeared when Bella started fixing dinner.”

“Bloody glutton,” Harry muttered. “Don’t worry about him flying out, he’ll come back.” Especially for food.

The bird in question cooed at them, greeting the two in his own way.

The day trickled by from there. After spending hours rechecking his books for any mention of the Quileutes, he had to concede defeat. Perhaps they’d be mentioned in a more comprehensive guide for creatures inhabiting specifically America? The likelihood for that was low though. The Ministry of Magic wouldn’t have sent him here had they known of the strong presence of supernatural beings, he thought resignedly from his spot on the floor of his bedroom.

Noticing his unease, Fawkes hopped onto his propped-up knee. Harry stroked his plumed neck. Seattle was sure to have at least a couple alleys but travelling there would perhaps prove too difficult and time consuming. His pitstop in the big city before his connected flight to Port Angeles had been spent entirely within the busy, tightly packed airport. With surveillance everywhere it wasn’t exactly a good spot for apparition. Perhaps his invisibility cloak and a silencing charm would do it? Popping up possibly right in the middle of a crowd was, however, still quite risky.

Port Angeles could be an option. It wasn’t too far either, so he wouldn’t have to rely on the scant memory of his short-spent time there to arrive safely. A bus ride should work just fine.

“What do you say, friend? Up to explore the city?” Harry asked the bird. Fawkes would be a helpful eye from above. Able to see through most enchantments and wards, they shouldn’t have too hard of a time finding a magical community. If there even was one there.

Fawkes trilled eagerly in response, tilting his head.

“We’ll go tomorrow,” Harry decided. Charlie would be out fishing, and Bella would undoubtably be with her boyfriend. No better time for his excursion to take place.

The doorbell rang. Harry rose and peered out of his room. Charlie had beat him to the door. He glanced at him when he peeked out. Turning his attention back to the unexpected guest behind the front door, he spoke, “Listen Crowley, Bella isn’t here.”

“I promised I’d take her to prom,” a confident voice countered. Harry leaned against the doorway, amused at the situation. Charlie, however, seemed very uncomfortable.

“I’ll make a call,” he eventually allowed.

Turned out it was Bella’s boyfriend he was ringing up. “Edward,” he greeted, “there’s a boy here. It’s Tyler Crowley. He’s says he’s here to pick up Bella,” he cleared his throat, “for prom.” Every word had been reluctantly dragged out.

A moment later he handed the phone over to the boy at the door. It seemed the vampire’s words were enough. His voice sheepish now, he apologized, “Sorry, Chief, seems there was a misunderstanding.”

Charlie nodded, clearly done with the situation, “No problem, Crowley.” With the door closed, he let out a sigh.

Harry chuckled. “Someone seems to have missed out on Bella’s relationship status,” he remarked.

His uncle snorted at the thought. “Somehow. Although I am curious how that Cullen convinced her to go.”

Harry shrugged.

The next morning, after Charlie had left the house, Harry got ready for his trip. He could travel alone and call for his phoenix friend once he reached the city, but the bird’s flashy travel method would not lend itself well to subtlety. So, he’d have to find a secluded spot to reunite with the bird.

The walk to the bus stop was short, the ride itself far longer. Stopping every five minutes to let passengers on and off, what had been an hour-long car ride quickly took an extra half hour by bus. He should probably see about investing some time into a license.

That thought would have to be put on hold however, as he reached the city centre. Thanking the bus driver, he hopped off. The city wasn’t too isolated from the forest, thankfully. So a little walk later, he was able to call for his avian friend.

Fawkes appeared in a flash of fire, wings spread out in the air as the flames melded with his feathers. Extinguished a moment later, he landed on Harry’s outstretched arm.

“Ready?”

Fawkes cooed, nipping his ear before taking off.

Harry rubbed at the smarting spot, shaking his head in exasperation, before heading back to the busy road.

Scanning each building on his way, as he made his way through the sparsely crowded streets, he wasn’t too confident there’d be anything to find. Port Angeles was small, and whilst he’d encountered magical communities in smaller areas, America was far larger of an area. There was no reason for any settlement to be developed with Seattle a short floo-trip away, for those already had the connections set up.

Harry sighed, he really didn’t want to travel more for some potions ingredients today, but the sooner he was able to study efficiently, the better.

A sharp cry from above drew his attention.

Fawkes was gliding easily in the sky over his head. Seemed he’d found something, Harry realized hopefully. When sure he’d gotten Harry’s attention he fled down the street, keeping level with the roofs of the buildings. Following on foot, the bird took him through streets and side alleys. Some odd ten minutes of dogged trailing later, he found Fawkes perched quietly on a nondescript building.

It turned out to be a bookstore. Small and plain, it seemed perfectly ordinary. But Fawkes had brought him here, and Harry trusted his friend’s senses. He brought his hand down over his face, a simple charm altering his features enough to be unrecognizable, and stepped inside.

A bell sounded his welcome, the sound washing over him in an uncommonly familiar manner. It must have been enchanted with a soft detection charm. It didn’t seem too intrusive, simply sampling his magic minutely.

His arrival was followed by the shopkeeper’s bored greeting. “Hi and welcome to Nelson’s.” The young woman behind the counter didn’t bother glancing up more than once after delivering her undoubtably rehearsed welcome. From the lack of reaction, Harry inferred she wasn’t the holder of the ward.

He nodded back his greeting. She was most certainly a muggle, he realized. Doubting she’d be of much help to him, he strolled through the neat rows and racks of books, looking for any sign to indicate the shop’s second purpose.

Some rustling sounded at the counter, hidden from Harry behind the bookshelves. “Mom?” the shopkeeper called, clearly startled. “Uh, we have a customer,” she continued in a half-whisper.

“I am aware,” a new voice replied.

Harry walked into view. An older woman was waiting for him now. He stopped at a respectable distance, crossing his arms and leaning against the shelf. It seemed he had been wrong, he mused. The younger woman was more likely a squib, not a muggle. Either way, she was not magical.

He glanced at the new woman. Now here was the person he’d been looking for; a witch. The weak ward must have been an alert to magical presences entering.

“Looking for anything in particular?” she asked politely. It only then seemed to click with her daughter, her eyes widened in understanding.

“Indeed,” he smiled, “although it goes a bit beyond books, I’ll admit.”

She had a gentle face, her eyes and mouth wrinkled by the signs of frequent laughs. “Let’s have a look then.” She gestured behind her to a discreetly placed door.

Harry followed her through. The hallway abruptly turning into a staircase dwindling down.

“I mostly deal with regulars in this part of the shop,” she confessed as they stepped down. “We rarely see new faces down here. May I ask how you came across us?”

“A friend referred me.” Well, in Fawkes’ own way, he had.

“I see.” She didn’t ask further, seemingly understanding his reluctance to divulge additional information.

They soon set foot in a stone-floored room, the walls covered disorderly with books of more familiar subjects. Some floating around as they fought over what space was theirs. A couple owls sat peacefully on a wooden perch, surrounded by a few more empty perches in various sizes, shapes and materials, all carrying price tags.

The shop continued past the book section; no doubt expanded magically as it appeared to fill more space than the building allowed. From where he was stood, he could spot a wide arrangement of wizarding equipment in some of the branched off rooms. Telescopes and maps in one alcove, whilst another carried writing utensils of various components.

“There aren’t many of us settled here,” the elder woman explained, “so we carry mostly the basics; a little bit of everything. But owl-orders only take a day to arrive here from Seattle.”

Wit-sharpening potions weren’t the most complicated. So he was hopeful he would be able to leave with the essential items. He gave her his list, it contained a few more articles than he necessarily needed today.

She scanned the list, moving out of the book section towards another room, her eyes were still glued to the paper. Harry should really work on his handwriting, he thought as he followed the woman. She was straining her eyes to interpret the chicken scratches.

“I can tell you right away, we don’t have mandrake leaves nor the moths,” she asserted. “However, I can have it sent to you. The rest I’m able to sort for you today.”

“Please,” Harry pleasantly agreed. “I can pick the rest up here when it arrives.” He wasn’t willing to disclose his uncle’s address.

The woman nodded agreeably, walking past the aisles of phials, cauldrons and knives. She arrived in the small apothecary part and quickly picked out his desired components. After rechecking with him that everything was in order, she wrapped the goods up to avoid damage, before stuffing them into a paper bag with string handles.

“Let’s ring you up,” she smiled, leading them back towards the spindly staircase.

Harry paused when they passed the perches. One in particular standing out to him due to its resemblance to Fawkes’ previous stand. He checked the tag, which descripted the material as a steel mix. The price wasn’t too bad.

The woman was paused at the first step, having noticed his wavering attention late.

“This one too, if you don’t mind.”

“Of course.” She waved a hand, shrinking it to a more manageable size. It levitated leisurely into another bag.

Harry nodded his thanks.

Finally on the surface again, the witch’s daughter stood ready at the counter. Gazing curiously at him as her mother typed in the numbers.

“You’re British?” she queried curiously.

His accent was too big of a giveaway to bother denying it. “Guilty as charged.”

“So you graduated Hogwarts?” she said eagerly, more a demand than a question. At his nod her eyes widened in excitement. “You’ve met him?”

“Emma,” her mother admonished.

He was relatively sure about who she was referring to but tilted a brow in question.

“You know— Harry Potter,” she half-squealed.

He handed her mother what she was owed. The lady was looking reproachfully at her daughter’s keen questioning, but also seemed somewhat interested herself.

“He’s a very private person. Keeps few friends.” All true.

Blushing a little, she mumbled, “Oh of course.” A pause. “Is it true he outflew a dragon?” Her eyes were shining again.

Avoiding the question with a chuckle, he thanked her mother for her help and time, bags in hand. “I’ll come by for the rest tomorrow if that suits you.”

“Tomorrow evening, or Tuesday morning,” she settled. “I’ll have it ready for you.”

Bowing his head in thanks, he left. The door once again ringing at his departure.

Fawkes must’ve gotten bored waiting for him, the big bird missing from his previous perch on the building. Harry ambled down the street, letting his magic stretch out in search of his companion.

It pulled him forward, guiding him through the city. The grey concrete and brick thinned out in favour of grass and trees. Stepping into the likely previously peaceful city park, his friend wasn’t hard to spot.

The ducks were flapping their wings threateningly at the big curious bird, quacking away in warning. Fawkes wasn’t one to take a hint, and his continued approach sent the ducks scrambling away.

“Oy, you ruddy menace,” Harry called out.

Fawkes turned to him curiously, bopping his crimson-feathered head in amusement.

“Had some fun, did you?”

He cooed happily.

“Come on then.”

Walking off from the open area, the two disappeared in a cloud of flames, disguised from sight by the thick treeline.

Chapter Text

His second trip to Port Angeles had gone just as smoothly as the first. Smoother, actually, without the bumpy bus ride. That had been a week ago.

Since then he’d spent the days holed up in his room, downing freshly brewed Wit-Sharpening potions and doggedly progressing his stunted education. With the nightly and early morning wakeups of Bella’s vampire sneaking around, he had more than enough time to read. His only break had been his second visit to Jacob on Friday. If Hermione could see him now, he mused, eyes dried up from the heavy reading. He rubbed at them pointlessly.

The golden snitch Dumbledore willed to him fluttered by his head, prodding curiously at his hands. He caught it easily, the wings slowing down to a halt. “How did you get out?” The wings flapped again, like a dog’s wagging tail. He shook his head at the affectionate inanimate object.

Letting it flutter around the room, he got back to reading.

A knock on the door soon brought his head out of the book again. He banished the snitch into his suitcase and quickly got up to answer.

It was Charlie, of course, however Harry hadn’t expected Fawkes to be sitting on his shoulder, peering at him accusingly. Traitorous bird.

His uncle cleared his throat, scratching the back of his neck uneasily. “Harry, I don’t want to bother you, but,” he hesitated, glancing at the bird, then remembered Fawkes couldn’t give him advice. “You should eat,” he pleaded instead.

Harry frowned in bewilderment. He had been eating. Definitely. He’d had some lasagne Monday night. It was only Wednesday now.

However, it wasn’t worth arguing over. “Sorry, Uncle Charlie. I didn’t mean to worry you.”

Fawkes hopped over to Harry, warbling unhappily. He nipped at the boy’s brow in disgruntlement.

“Ow, ok, I get it,” Harry chuckled, holding up both hands to shield from the onslaught as they trailed into the kitchen.

Bella was already seated, quietly enjoying her meal. She smiled at Harry, “Look at what the ca—well, bird dragged in. I thought you’d drowned in all the books by now.”

“Envy is a sin, Bella,” he sniffed.

“I prefer my books on the shelves. Not covering the floor like a new hardwood.”

“Don’t knock it till you try it. They’re quite soft and, you know, walking on hard surfaces has been proven to cause damage to your joints and back.”

“But—” she paused, contemplating intensely for a second, “you have carpet flooring!”

He chuckled in response, grabbing a plate and served up a small portion of the well-smelling stew Bella was no doubt responsible for. Harry had quickly learned Charlie couldn’t cook. He ate slowly, the leaf stuck to the roof of his mouth making the food taste quite funny.

“What are you studying so hard for anyway?” Charlie asked curiously, grateful his nephew was at least having dinner.

Oh, right, he should probably inform his guardian of his schooling decision. “I want to go to the High School here,” he said promptly.

Charlie’s eyes widened. “You want to go to school?” he clarified.

“I’d rather not waste a whole year sitting on my arse,” Harry smiled. Rather, he’d prefer not to draw muggle attention by staying out of school, he already had enough eyes on him with the vampires and Quileutes.

“So you’re worried about the entrance exam?” Bella inferred. Harry nodded. “I told you I’d help you study.”

“I wanted a head-start.” A head-start to a seven year-long stunted education. “You’re far more advanced than me,” he stated plainly, shrugging. You don’t go to the Head Auror to learn how to fight pixies after all.

Bella blushed at the unintended compliment. Honestly, most twelve-year-olds had been more scientifically advanced than him less than a week ago. Now he could be proud to say he’d progressed past the knowledge cap of preadolescences, and it only took him half a decade more than most. Well, some two odd years of muggle knowledge crammed into a week wasn’t too bad, thank Merlin for magic.

“I’m sure that’s not true,” she denied. “Didn’t you go to some fancy boarding school?”

“It specialized in other subjects, not science,” he dismissed. Indeed, magic was the antithesis to muggle science so learning something so wholly opposite of what they could experience themselves would’ve been extremely counterproductive. When you can turn tables into pigs, particle theories don’t really seem so important. And with literature they had enough of their own. Maths, however, they could’ve covered a bit more at Hogwarts than just through arithmancy, Harry thought.

They ate in peace for a while. Apparently, he’d been hungrier than he thought as he managed to finish the whole plate.

Thanking his cousin, he rinsed of his plate. “I’ll get back to reading,” he sighed. Every time he blinked, he could still see the tiny font letters as an imprint on the inside of his eyelids. He wasn’t sure if it was an after-effect of the Wit-Sharpening or just from his incessant studying.

“So do you plan to leave the house at all this summer?” Bella questioned sarcastically.

“Of course.” Lightning storms would be hard to encounter without heading outside, and they were a vital component in his semi-hatched patchy plan for the next year. “To get more books. I still have the walls to cover,” he joked.

Bella, for her inability to conceal her emotions, held an impressive poker-face at his words. Or perhaps she was just utterly exasperated with him. Actually, it was more likely the latter. “You’re terrible.” She couldn’t hide the smile creeping up the corner of her mouth.

“What, it’s good insulation. Winter’s cold here, I heard.”

“That it is,” Charlie agreed. “So enjoy the summer while it’s here. Get some sunlight,” Charlie insisted. “You’re starting to look paler than the Cullens.”

Bella looked over him critically, but nodded after a moment, “You’d fit right in at this point.”

Harry scowled, “It’s not that bad.”

They both looked unconvinced.

“It’s not like there’s much sunlight out here anywhere.”

“Then get some air,” Charlie reiterated. “Go see Jacob.”

Fawkes trilled eagerly, bobbing his head up and down in agreement.

“Good sport, Fawkes! Seems you got a chaperon, kid,” his uncle grinned.

“Teaming up against me? I’ll get you all back for this,” Harry warned. Charlie didn’t seem too perturbed. Turning on his heel, he exited the kitchen, Fawkes warbling happily as they left the house.

The sun strung his eyes. Merlin, he really was turning into a vampire at this point. A break from his reading perhaps wasn’t too terrible of an idea. He wandered off towards the bus stop. Once out of sight from the house, his feet veered off to the forest, away from any inquisitive onlookers.

Fawkes didn’t waste time, porting them both close to a road near Jacob’s home. The rest of the way was a short walk, his clothes and shoes getting slightly damp from the dewy bushes in his way. At least he’d put on a rain jacket, so it wasn’t too bad.

He knocked on the worn door.

“One second!” sounded from inside.

A moment later Jacob peered out, grinning when he caught sight of Harry.

“Harry! Oh, Fawkes!” he gaped enthusiastically. The phoenix flapped his wings and trilled, equally excited. The burnt turkey really seemed to enjoy his friend’s company, they’d hit it off immediately when Harry had brought him over last Friday. He didn’t know if it was Jacob’s sunny personality doing it, or his supply of snacks.

“Charlie chased me out of the house,” Harry complained once inside, falling back into the couch. “What kind of responsible adult tells their wards they’re studying too much?”

“Ugh, don’t mention the s-word, I just finished my exams,” Jacob grumbled from the kitchen, no doubt checking the fridge for snacks to give the shameless fire bird. “High school is hell,” he said, rustling around as he looked. Fawkes was avidly awaiting his snacks whilst perching on a chair behind him, craning his neck to look past the boy. “Don’t get why you wanna go there.”

“I have to prepare. I promised Billy I’d home-school you when they expel you.”

He bumped his head on the fridge when straightening out. “Ow,” he grunted, a hand to his head. “Very funny,” he deadpanned, before turning to Fawkes, tone apologetic, “Sorry, boy, all out of bacon.”

Fawkes lowered his head, trilling sadly.

If Harry didn’t know better, he’d feel bad for the bird. Unfortunately, Jacob was unaware of the bird’s manipulations.

“Aw, let’s go to the store then,” he promised. Check mate. Dumbledore must’ve learned much from his time with the phoenix, Harry’s life serving as evidence. Fawkes lit up, figuratively; his plan a success. “Come on, get off the couch,” Jacob called, already in the hallway.

Harry groaned, but followed. “You’re spoiling him!”

In response, Jacob threw his coat at him.

They meandered down towards the shop, Fawkes staying behind to avoid the busy store crowd. It wasn’t sunny, the clouds disallowing any light, but the rain had subsided for now.

Finally approaching the plain wooden building, Jacob ran ahead, rounding the corner and disappearing out of sight, eager to find something tasty for the avian master-manipulator.

A trace of something familiar disturbed his senses as he followed after. He paused his step as he too turned the corner, gazing curiously ahead. Jared was leaning against the side of the building, directly in his path. The boy returned the stare, startled at the sudden meeting. Two others flanked him, Harry recognizing one of them as Sam Uley. The other he’d never seen. All three were stood not too far from the store entrance.

He waved amiably, moving to join his friend inside the store.

He probably should’ve expected that Uley would take offence to that, considering he’d taken offence to mostly everything he’d done. The man and his third friend moved to block his way. Harry had to commend him; he wasn’t shaking this time, perhaps feeling safer with his little posse.

Jared also stepped off the wall, looking conflicted.

“Sam,” he started quietly, “we’re not supposed to—”

Uley threw him a dark look, shutting him up swiftly, before turning his attention back to Harry.

“You’ve already been informed; you’re not welcome here,” he said in a low voice, arms crossed over his chest. Harry could see his knuckles whitening from the strain of his clenched fists.

Harry tilted his head. “And?”

The unfamiliar boy snorted, smirking at Harry impudently. “So scram,” he chuckled. “We won’t tell you twice.”

Ignoring that they already had, in fact, told them twice, Harry smiled. “Three on one? Not very fair. For you.”

Uley bared his teeth.

“Hey!” Jacob called from the entrance. He rushed over, dropping his bag. Pushing past the three, he placed himself in front of his friend. “Stop bothering Harry,” he demanded, shaky and nervous, “Dad’s already told you off, Sam! Why won’t you leave him alone.”

“This doesn’t concern you, Jacob,” Uley intoned forcefully.

“Hell it doesn’t!” he exclaimed.

Uley stepped forward, a dark look on his face. Jacob swallowed heavily, but stood his ground. Harry saw his hand quiver and went to stand by his side, shoulders touching lightly in comfort.

The man was trembling in rage. Harry picked up a spark of something teeming as his ire grew. His eyes narrowed. This could be dangerous to Jacob. He would stomp it down should it develop any further.

Jared gripped his friend’s arm before it could, face several degrees paler. “Let’s just go, Sam,” he pleaded.

The taller man shook the hand off but refrained from any further confrontation. Turning on his heel, he stalked off, his duo scrambling to follow. A couple steps later he stumbled catching himself on the wooden supports of the shop building before disappearing around the corner. It seemed he’d gotten somewhat used to his newfound unexplained clumsiness.

Jared threw them both an apologetic glance, but the other complained as they retreated, “Should’ve taught them a lesson.”

Jacob breathed out heavily, taking a moment to calm down. “Sam’s terrifying,” he whined in a more relaxed tone, striding over to pick up his bag again. “Although I never noticed how clumsy he actually is before this last week. He trips on air, I swear.”

Harry chuckled, giving him a reassuring slap on the back, grateful for his intervention however unnecessary. Ignoring the clumsiness comment, he smirked, “You mean terrified, he was positively shaking in dread from the almighty fifteen-year-old in front of him.”

The scathing look sent in response was disregarded with a smile as they walked back home.

Fawkes greeted them at the door, immediately landing on Jacob’s arm to nip at the bag in his hand.

“Wow, careful,” Jacob exclaimed, struggling to keep his balance with the heavy bird latched onto him.

“Told you to watch your weight, Fawkes,” Harry tutted.

The hours ticked away quicker than Harry would’ve liked. When Billy returned late in the evening, driven home by one of his friends, Harry and Jacob were laying flat on the living room floor, cards in hand. Harry smiled languidly in greeting when Billy passed by. But Jacob’s eyes were firmly fixed to his fanned out hand, where they’d been for the past four minutes as he tried to figure out what move to pull next.

Fawkes peered over his shoulder. “Don’t peek! Your bird’s cheating, Harry!” Jacob accused. The phoenix squawked indignantly.

“You got school tomorrow, Jake,” Billy reminded him, taking a glance at the clock showing ten thirty. “No gambling after eleven.”

“We’re not gambling! Just playing.” Jacob frowned determinedly down at his cards, moving a hand before once again freezing and letting it fall. He inspected them closely for the tenth time.

“More like stalling,” Harry corrected with a chuckle. “I should get going anyway.”

“It’s so late, let me call Charlie to come pick you up,” Billy insisted.

“I can drive him,” Jacob piped up from the floor, excited again.

Billy already had the phone by his ear, waiting for the click. “I don’t think the Sheriff will appreciate that, son.”

Considering the underaged boy didn’t have his license yet, Harry had to concur. Jacob pouted, but remained mute as Billy spoke on the phone. Waiting for Harry’s uncle to arrive, they continued their card game.

“You’re cheating for sure,” his friend whined after losing once again. “Fawkes giving you the good cards?”

“You’re blaming a bird for your incompetence?”

The loud roar of a dying car’s engine rolled up closer then, interrupting whatever masterly comeback Jacob would’ve undoubtably provided. “Huh, that’s Bella’s truck,” he remarked instead, a slight pink dusting his cheeks.

Harry got up. “I’m sure you wouldn’t want to say hi,” he inferred, smirking.

Jake scrambled to get up then, following him to the door just as a knock sounded. He opened it quickly. “Hey Bella,” he smiled widely.

“Hello Jacob,” Bella greeted back kindly.

“Thanks for coming, Bells,” Harry said, slipping into his shoes and coat. Fawkes flew past, settling himself in the car.

Bella, always a little startled by the bird, moved back quickly as he went by. “It’s no trouble. Charlie had a couple beers already, so I came ‘round instead.”

“You’re welcome here whenever you want,” Jacob shot in quickly. If he had a tail he’d be wagging it, Harry thought. The younger boy didn’t take his eyes off her face.

Bella smiled, a little awkwardly. Putting a hand on her back, Harry guided her back to the car before the appreciative smile could make her more uncomfortable. “We’d best get home, Jake’s got to go to bed.”

His warm gaze snapped to Harry with a scowl then, but quickly softened to sheepishness when Harry glanced back at him incredulously. He rubbed the back of his head in embarrassment.

As they drove home, Bella was silently clutching the wheel, looking ahead resolutely. Harry wondered if Jacob’s obvious interest had uneased her that badly. “You alright?” he decided on asking, not wanting to assume it had anything to do with his friend. It was just a harmless crush after all.

Bella startled a little, having been caught deep in thought. She glanced at him, eyes round, before blushing and looking away nervously. It wasn’t awkwardness, Harry realized, but guilt?

She cleared her throat before Harry could formulate his questions. “I may have,” she hesitated, rethinking before speaking again. “When I first came here, I had some questions, regarding – uh, something,” she started. “And,” another pause, “well, I met Jacob on a visit to La Push. It seemed like he knew something. But he said he wasn’t supposed to tell anyone, so...” A blush, “I sort of, tried to, well I spoke to him. I may have laid it on a bit thick.”

It took a moment, a long moment, for Harry to understand what she was getting at. When he did, he gaped, before bellowing out a laugh. “That poor boy,” he finally managed to wheeze out. “Wow, I’d never have thought you the type, Bella.”

She frowned. “I’m not! I just, well,” she trailed off.

“Curiosity killed the cat, you know.”

“Not dead yet,” she muttered, sounding almost unhappy about her state of living.

Harry shook his head with a smile. “Here I thought he’d been making you uncomfortable,” he chuckled.

“No,” she denied quickly, shaking her head. “Well, a little, but that’s my own fault. I just felt really bad,” she admitted. “But he’s nice.”

He leaned back again in his seat, relaxing. “Why don’t you come along next time?”

She blinked, thoughtful. Bella almost looked hopeful when she spoke again. “You don’t think it’d be awkward? I don’t wanna ruin the mood.”

That was the least of his worries. “It’ll be fun,” he asserted. “Besides,” a sly smirk threatened his lips, “you’ve got to make up for taking advantage of a boy’s heart like that.”

Her face flamed crimson and she looked away, keeping her eyes firmly on the road the rest of the drive.

Another week went by quickly. Harry was quietly reading and taking notes at the small dining table in the evening, both Charlie and Bella out on their errands. He was well into the High School curriculum at this point and had been planning to ask Bella for study sessions when he’d finished with the eleventh grade syllabus. She had just finished her eleventh year and so going through it all with her should help him understand further.

He still had the mandrake leaf stuck to the inside of his mouth. The process was necessary, but tedious, carrying a bad aftertaste with each gulp. How his father and friends had managed to bear through this at fifteen was beyond him, but he supposed they’d had a good reason. Just as he did now, he reminded himself.

He had two weeks left to figure out where to gather the last component and the placement for its completion. The slam of a door interrupted his contemplating.

Bella threw herself down on the dining table chair across from him. Holding her face up with both hands, she sighed, the picture of teen melodrama. Harry put his pen down to indulge her theatrics.

“The days are too short,” she whined. “It’s summer. When we went to Jacob’s yesterday he said to come back whenever! The only reason Charlie is upholding the curfew is cause of Edward.”

The vampire hadn’t stepped foot in through the front door for weeks, preferring the window in the cover of darkness instead. “Maybe you’re allowed more time with him if you two spend your days here,” he suggested. Charlie probably wouldn’t mind as long as he knew where his daughter was.

She shook her head. “Edward’s terrified of your bird,” she sighed. “Nothing else scares him, but Fawkes…” she trailed off, shaking her head. “I suppose I can understand it, he’s got some sharp talons! What kind of bird is he anyway?”

“Who knows,” Harry shrugged, lazily flipping the pages of his book. “Looks like a turkey to me.”

She laughed, “You better watch your tongue, if he heard you, you’d be toast.” Scarily accurate.

“He’s out. Actually, Fawkes’ out most of the day anyway, just bring the birdo-phobe over then.”

“It’s ornithophobe*,” Bella corrected, rolling her eyes. After a moment, she fidgeted, confessing, “It’s not just the curfew.” Reddening in either embarrassment or anger, she continued, “Charlie’s set visitation hours. Only for Edward.” Bella rolled her eyes. “He worries so much.”

“Can you imagine? A father being worried about his daughter? Awful,” Harry agreed impishly.

She pouted at him. “It’s just annoying,” Bella sighed. “I don’t get permission to see Edward as much as I’d like.”

Harry snorted, if every day and night wasn’t enough for her he almost felt bad for her sleepless vampire beau. Apparently ‘time to yourself’ was an unfamiliar concept.

“What,” she frowned.

Harry shook his head and focused back on his notes, he didn’t think he had to voice exactly where the leech stayed most nights. She poked him in the side. “Hey,” he complained.

“I’m whining about my problems, I expect comfort not laughs,” she harrumphed flippantly. “You’ve got it easy! He let’s you get away with anything.” Another poke.

Harry twisted away, chuckling. “Why be bothered about it. It’s not like you’re asking permission every night anyway,” he teased.

Her face contorted in confusion. “Every night?”

Rolling his eyes, he again went back to the paper. What the two of them were up to wasn’t any of his business. Bella, apparently, did not think the same. She grabbed the notes from under his hands, holding it away from him with a triumphant grin.

“Now then?” she dared.

Instead of rising to the bait, he leaned back in his chair. Did she really think Edward was that sneaky, he wondered. “Bells, my room’s right under yours,” he stated simply, counting on that being enough for her to understand the vampire’s curfew-violating visits weren’t that subtle.

“Yeah?” she frowned, drawing out the word in bewilderment.

He grimaced slightly to hold down a laugh, “Bella, I keep my window open and I wake very easily.”

She was still staring at him incomprehensively.

Harry leaned forward again, putting his elbow on the dining table and supporting his chin on his knuckle. “Sorry, I assumed it was your boyfriend climbing up the wall every night. Didn’t realize you had someone else over for slumber parties,” he remarked, smirking impertinently.

Her face lit up crimson.

The younger boy pushed himself up to his feet, reaching over and grabbing his paper back from his stunned cousin’s hand.

“That’s not, I mean,” she fumbled with her words. “It’s not what you think.” Her cheeks were still a bright pink.

Harry hummed in amiable agreement, gathering up the rest of his things, wholly uninterested in their nightly activities. With everything in hand, he strolled out of the kitchen.

“Don’t tell Charlie!” Bella insistently called from the kitchen before Harry closed the door behind him to his own room.

Chapter Text

The headlights and purr of a sleek silver car greeted Harry as he exited the house. Bella was still sat inside, conversing with her boyfriend. The leech turned his head to eye him.

His cousin hopped out when she saw him, waving with a smile, “Hey Harry, where are you going?” The vampire slid out as well, leaning against the side of the car with crossed arms as Bella strolled up to him.

“Jacob’s, you coming with?”

Cullen didn’t seem very comfortable with that, shifting a little when Bella answered. “Oh yeah, sure, let me just put my bag away! I’ll drive us there,” she said. Darting over to her uneasy beau, she kissed him goodbye before running back up the stairs, hand on the railing to avoid falling. “See you tomorrow, Edward,” she called back.

Making no move to leave, Cullen watched Harry carefully. The younger boy notched an eyebrow in question. The vampire shut the car door, glancing around shiftily as if expecting death to come at him any moment. Ah, that might just be right, Fawkes had a rare talent for the art of appearing out of thin air, discounting his literal ability to do so.

He seemed satisfied with the result of his cursory yard-examination, no boogie birds in sight. Turning his full attention back on Harry, his face turned smug. Or knowing, Harry realized. The younger boy smiled in amusement.

“Did you really think,” the leech started, stepping forward dangerously, “no one would find out?”

Now Harry was really curious, he raised both brows in question.

Cullen smirked, trotting lazily forward with a satisfied expression. He pulled out a paper from his coat, folded neatly in two. Unfolding it, he presented it like one may a high-price lottery ticket at a bank. It was a copy of a black and white newspaper, poor quality, clearly not taken in the best conditions.

Harry recognized the grand ballroom of Buckingham Palace, despite the lack of colour. It wasn’t hard to recognize the profile of his own face either. Whoever had snuck the picture during his confidential investiture had risked their neck, figuratively, maybe.

The picture may have been leaked, but any information surrounding it had thankfully been withheld. Clearly, the vampire didn’t know what he’d stumbled over, only recognizing Harry being surrounded by important people of the British monarchy and government.

“Nice photo,” Harry nodded indulgently.

Cullen frowned at the lack of reaction, but quickly recovered. “This is you,” he asserted.

“Great observational skills there.”

“What was this? A trial? You’re surrounded by military,” he questioned, impatiently eager to uncover the details of his find.

“You got me. I was banished from my country. It’s why I’m here,” he stated sarcastically.

The vampire’s eyes narrowed in contempt. He seemed to think of something, brow smoothing out again. “I wonder what Charlie will say about this.”

Why did he assume the man was unaware? “I’m sure he’d love to hear about the bloke stalking on his young nephew’s background,” Harry remarked amiably.

His pale face froze. Somehow, that thought hadn’t occurred to him before now. He didn’t need more reason for his girlfriend’s father to dislike him, and this was sure to shorten his visitation hours further. He scrambled for words, “This wasn’t,” a pause before he decided on his excuse, “I just came across it.”

Harry nodded agreeably. “Exactly what my cousin told my aunt when she found him elbow deep in the cookie jar.” A lie, of course. His aunt would’ve given Dudley another jar.

The door opened then, interrupting the other boy’s next defence. Bella paused, surprise written on her face. “Oh, you’re here still?” she asked, looking at her boyfriend.

The vampire’s mouth formed a thin line, unwilling to divulge his reasons. Eager to get going, Harry spoke, “Just some small talk.” He waved the matter away, stepping over to Bella’s truck.

They set off, the red wreck thundering its way out the driveway. “Sorry if Edward said anything,” Bella said eventually. Harry glanced over, had the leech already showed her the photo? “He doesn’t really like La Push,” she continued, reddening.

Apparently, he had not. Relaxing back into his seat, he asked, “Why’s that?”

She hemmed and hawed, hesitating in her explanation. “Well, it’s just that—there was some rumours, I guess. Superstitious stuff,” she laughed it away. He kept silent, inviting her to tell more. Bella tightened her grip on the wheel. “It wasn’t anything bad,” she assured him. “But, well, it boiled down to them being banned from entering La Push.”

“That’s a little over-the-top,” he observed. Unless they knew they were vampires of course, which Jacob had already come close to confirming some weeks back. Now it seemed the Cullens were just as aware of the Quileutes.

She didn’t comment further, steering the conversation over to other matters. They soon arrived at the Blacks’ house. Jacob was already in the door; no doubt having heard their rumbling approach a mile away.

“Hey,” he grinned as they both hopped out. Slapping a hand on Harry’s shoulder, he guided him inside, Bella following the two with a humoured expression.

The day was spent lazily watching movies, teaching Bella cards and Jacob reviewing car theory as the two cousins listened indulgently, the mechanic talk going straight over both their heads.

In all it was a good time, Bella making good on her promise to spend more time with them both.

The night sky was clear, thankfully. He’d rather not re-go through the month-long leaf process because of a couple clouds. The forest around him was quiet, bar the soft gust of wind curiously investigating his presence.

“Hello again,” he greeted the spirit. “Hope you don’t mind, just here to collect some dew and I’ll be out of your— err, wind.”

It followed him curiously as he approached the circle of trees. The dew had to be untouched by both human feet and sunlight for a week. Thankfully, the soul inhabiting this part of the mountain kept people away whilst the dense foliage blocked out the sun. Kneeling below the thick canopy of trees, he collected a spoonful worth of the clear water dripping off the grass straws from the earlier bout of rain. Forks’ terrible weather was a godsend for the ingredient.

“Right, thank you,” he bowed his head gratefully. “Sorry for the disturbance.”

The wind poked at his hand holding the phial of dew, confused by its purpose.

“Oh, it’s just for a little project,” he waved off. Before leaving he remembered the strange trio connected to the spirit. “You wouldn’t happen to know why Sam Uley has it in for me, do you?”

The wind perked up; Harry could swear it was sniggering. But it quickly retreated. He scowled at the non-answer.

“I’ll find out,” he called after it in warning.

Disapparating, he moved to a small clearing where the full moon shone down unobstructed. He conjured a stone stand taller than the long straws of grass and placed his crystal phial in the centre. Finally removing the mandrake leaf from his mouth, he shoved it inside, grateful for his finally clear mouth. The moonlight struck it and he could at last place inside the dew and a single strand of his hair.

Digging around, he found the moth pupae he’d ordered. He’d have to drink this when it finished, he realized, grimacing at the thought. Choosing not to think too hard on it, he plopped it in with the rest of the components before picking the phial back up and vanishing the stand. He’d lived after Pomfrey’s potions, who knows what she put in them.

Peering down at the little phial in his hand, he sighed. “Now to keep you out of sunlight until a lightning storm.” Thankfully, he’d planned for this particular step ahead of time.

He apparated closer to home, the crack of his arrival a rumbling echo in the night. Sneaking quietly through the door, he made for his room. The old desk Charlie had left for him was sturdy, dense and most importantly; it had drawers. Lockable ones, at that.

He pulled the bottom one out and carefully placed the potion inside.

The weeks following were long. Thankfully, he rarely slept much in the night, so the daily chant at sunset and sunrise wasn’t too hard to remember. But waiting for a lightning storm was a feat of patience Harry was impressed someone of his godfather’s unpredictable nature had been capable of. However, it soon became a habit.

“Are you in, Harry?” Bella called, knuckles rapping excitedly on his door. She must’ve just come home from her allocated time with her boyfriend.

He groaned. They were going through advanced algebra again today, with a break of American history in the later evening. Can you call in sick from at-home study-sessions? Shaking his head, he got up and opened the door.

Bella grinned at his pouting face. “Ready?”

“Yup,” he grumbled.

She had the audacity to laugh at his exhaustion. As they sat down next to each other by the kitchen table, she said, “You can take a break, you know? You were ready for your placement last week.”

Magical study aid potion or not, he had been wholly unintegrated in the muggle world less than two months ago. The test was set to take place on the following Monday. Only a week away. Only a week left to make sure he wouldn’t screw it up.

“Let’s go through trig again?” he requested.

Bella smiled warmly at his dedication. “They’ll put you in the same class as me at this point.”

He rolled his eyes, getting to work.

It was the Saturday before his test that Bella and Jacob decided he was due for a break, whether he liked it or not. Sat down in Bella’s truck, he was stuck between the two conspirators.

“This is kidnapping,” he complained. “It’s against the law.”

“I have police clearance,” Bella easily replied.

Jacob nodded solemnly, “Charlie ordered your take down.” After weeks of regular visits, he’d gotten much better around Bella. Seeing her as a good friend rather than just an attractive girl.

“Abuse of power,” the wizard grumbled.

They stopped outside a diner, hopping out to avoid the puddles. The rain bore down on them as they rushed inside.

Gathered around the table, Bella ordered burgers for all three of them. Harry had never had one, but he had heard of them at least. They ate in quiet, Bella and Jacob exchanging pointed glances throughout the meal, arguing silently.

Harry put his burger down, tired of the obvious attempt at subterfuge. “Alright, why did you really bring me here?” he asked.

Jacob looked sheepish whilst Bella blushed. She wrung her hands together on the table. “We weren’t snooping or anything,” she started. How reassuring. “But, well, when Charlie was signing your admittance the other day, I saw your name on it.” She turned to Jacob.

He cleared his throat, continuing. “Well, she said it said ‘Evans’.”

“Wasn’t that Aunt Lily’s name before she got married?” Bella questioned.

Ah, he almost sighed in relief. He’d have to explain that eventually anyway, so their discovery wasn’t too jarring. He spoke quietly, “I have to go under another name for the time being.”

They both turned worried at his serious tone, huddling in closer to listen attentively.

“If you remember, there’s been some attacks in Britain the past several years.” Their eyes widened at the subject. The Death Eaters’ brutal attacks had long since reached American news as well. “Even though the main organization was taken down, they still had supporters all over the world. I can’t go into detail, but it’s a safety measure. You guys are the only ones that ever really knew me, so it was easy to register at the school with a new name.”

Jacob gulped at the revelation, glancing down at Harry’s shirt-covered arm, no doubt remembering the heavy scarring. “I’m sorry, Harry, I-- we didn’t mean to snoop,” he said, eyes round with sincerity. Bella nodded gravely, not noticing the look.

Harry ignored it. “Bella would’ve been equally confused had a teacher called me Mister Evans or something on the first day,” he laughed. “I should’ve let you know before. Just, please keep my real surname to yourselves.”

Both quickly agreed.

Bella’s eyes widened in thought. “Does Charlie know?” she whispered.

Harry nodded, smiling wryly. “He’s my guardian, the government couldn’t exactly dump me on his doorstep without a word.” Again, that is. Especially with the muggle government involved this time.

She nodded, relieved her dad wasn’t in the dark about his circumstances. “Sorry about the interrogation,” Bella apologized again.

Harry waved it away. “Isn’t this my day off? Let’s eat up and go have some fun.”

The two eager grins were enough of a reply.

Hours later, they sat on the railing separating the parking lot from First Beach, ice creams in hand. The rain had taken a break and the waves lapped lazily at the sandy beach, birds chirping cheerily as they flew around the trees. Harry wondered if the wind spirit could reach all the way down here, but he hadn’t felt any particular presence from it so far.

“Only a short couple weeks left of this,” Jacob grumbled, eyes closed as he enjoyed the ocean breeze.

“Summer went by quickly,” Bella agreed. She gasped suddenly. “Oh, what’s the time,” she asked looking slightly panicked.

Jacob and Harry both shrugged, neither carrying a watch. She ran over to her truck to have a peek at the clock on the dashboard. Harry hopped off the fence, moving to follow but Jacob held him back, gripping his wrist lightly.

The younger boy stared at him tentatively. “I wasn’t sure if it was ok to ask,” he admitted. “Especially with Bella here. But what you said before, does it have anything to do with,” he hesitated, gesturing down at Harry’s arm with his other hand instead, “all of that.”

Harry held his gaze, staying quiet. It wasn’t something he could easily talk about with his friend without putting the Statute or Jacob himself in danger. But he’d rather not straight up lie either. He pulled his hand away, using it instead to lean against the railing, breaking the eye contact.

Jacob looked to the ground, rubbing the back of his neck nervously. He kicked at some of the sand. “Sorry, again, I’m not trying to pry,” he promised. “I’m worried about you.”

Before he could continue, and thankfully before Harry would be forced to respond, Bella called them over.

“Edward was going to pick me up at six,” she groaned. The clock on the dashboard read quarter to seven.

Eager to switch over from the previously heavy subject between him and Jacob, he teased her, “What in the evening? So late! Does Charlie know about this?” Jacob snickered slightly forced, understanding Harry’s wish to not talk, and settled into the car beside him. He was fully aware of her dad’s overprotective act when it came to the Cullen boy.

She scowled at them both. “It’s just for a couple hours,” she sighed, rushing the old groaning truck towards Jacob’s home to let him off. His cousin threw an extra glare at Harry, daring him to mention anything more about her nights. A bold move, but Harry smiled, letting it go. She breathed out, relieved despite herself.

They returned to Forks soon after.

Monday rolled by quickly from there. Walking in the school building for his test had been a test on his nerves. But with each question he’d felt more at ease, comfortable with answering from his relentless studies. By the end of it, he was confident he hadn’t done too poorly, leaving the building with a smile.

Bella’s red noise machine pulled up to the mostly empty school. She hopped out and ran over. “How did it go?” she asked eagerly.

“It was fine, I think.”

“Anything you struggled with?”

Harry shook his head, “Not really. But you never know, maybe I flunked it,” he joked.

She slapped his shoulder lightly. “You better not have!”

They took off, heading home. Harry relaxed into the car seat, sighing happily. “At least I’m done.”

“You know you just signed up for another year of what you were doing all summer?”

Harry shook his head, he’d had to catch up on seven years of missed schooling this summer. In comparison, the school year would be far easier to stay on board with, only regular studying required. Besides, perhaps it was cheating but Wit-Sharpening potions were highly effective. And if all else failed, Harry wasn’t too shabby with legilimency.

“I’m not too worried about that,” he said finally.

“Suddenly confident now?”

“Scared you’ll be pushed down to second place?” he retorted impishly.

“That would require us to be in the same class.”

“Maybe they’ll pull you down a year.”

Bella smirked, “To babysit you?”

“The other way around, more like.”

“I’m a year older, you know?” she stated, brows raised.

“In a couple days we’re the same age,” Harry reminded her. He’d be turning seventeen. A legal adult in the Wizarding World, but still a minor in the muggle world.

“Only for a couple months!” She looked surprised at her own playful exclamation. Harry knew she hadn’t been looking forward to her birthday previously. Her expression turned to a smile. “How do you wanna celebrate?” she asked warmly.

He had rarely gotten to really celebrate his birthday. He’d received cakes and gifts after making friends at Hogwarts, but being stuck at the Dursleys most summers didn’t lend itself to good parties. So he’d only had a real celebration a couple times when he’d stayed at the Burrow through his birthday.

“I think I’d rather spend the day with Uncle Charlie, you and Jacob,” he finally decided.

She glanced at him gently. “You must have friends,” she hesitated, “from Britain, I mean.”

Harry frowned, straightening uncomfortably. “I do,” he asserted. He missed all of them. Sighing, he continued, “But I won’t be able to see them.” Yet.

Her hands tightened on the wheel. “Is it because of,” she trailed off, unwilling to bring it up a subject he may be uneasy speaking of.

They reached the house, the truck coming to a stop. Bella didn’t move, offering silent support without pushing for information.

He hitched a smile at her, but it seemed to make her frown deepen. “Oh no, not you too.”

Her face warped with confusion.

“First Jacob and now you.” He poked her forehead. “You both think too much.”

Bella slapped his hand away before rubbing the spot he’d poked at. “You’re hilarious,” she deadpanned.

“So I’ve heard.”

On the night before his birthday, he lay awake. Fawkes by his side and the golden snitch fluttering about, the low hum of its wings the only sound in the otherwise quiet house.

“Only one more minute, Fawkes,” Harry whispered, watching the spelled clock tick closer to midnight.

Fawkes trilled softly at him.

The glowing clock hands, suspended mid-air, aligned at twelve, signalling Harry’s full sixteenth survived year coming to an end. He was seventeen now. He hadn’t thought he’d make it. Technically, he hadn’t, if you discounted his resurrection.

The night was quiet.

Turning over on his back, he sighed. What had he expected? He was isolated in a backwater town. Not even his friends knew exactly where he was. He closed his eyes, resting his head comfortably on the fluffy pillow. He should just sleep.

A tap on the window startled him. Another sounded just after. He sat up swiftly, head whirling to see what the noise was. Fawkes’ attention also glued to the window.

An owl sat innocuously on the sill, waiting to be let in.

He got up slowly. Carefully opening the latch to let the bird in. It flapped over to his desk, a small box in its talons. Leaving it there, it swiftly flew out again, disappearing into the dark of night.

Harry’s heart beat fast. Was this a trick? He grabbed his wand, checking for curses, jinxes and hexes, even wards. Nothing. Just a small box with brown wrapping paper and a little string bow.

With a wave of his hand, the box unwrapped itself. He checked each layer for curses.

Finally, a note appeared, folded up and stuffed inside. He flattened it against the desk, reading from a distance before he realized the identity of the sender.

It was from Mrs Weasley. He breathed out shakily. The note was crammed with text and signed by all the Weasleys still at the Burrow.

He turned over the small box into his other hand. It was a gold watch, the note mentioning it had been her brother’s. A watch was apparently tradition when coming of age. The Weasleys had always been a second family to him, the confirmation that it went both ways made his heart lurch.

Clutching the note in one hand whilst gently caressing the watch in his other, he leant back against the wall to steady himself. He closed his eyes, breathing carefully. The world felt heavy. Sliding down the wall, he sat on the floor, legs crouched up against his chest.

He raised his head, eyes trailing over to the lowermost drawer of his desk where his potion still sat. Soon, whenever the next storm struck and if everything went according to his plan. He might be able to see them again without risk. He’d thank Mrs Weasley then.

Fawkes landed on his knee, head tilting at his reaction to the gift. He prodded the watch beseechingly with his beak, checking it for any intended maleficent purposes. Harry chuckled at the phoenix’ confusion, petting his head softly. “It’s fine, Fawkes,” he assured the bird. “I’m just a little overwhelmed,” he breathed out after a pause.

The snitch zoomed over, wings vibrating in front of him. Fawkes snapped at it, too slow as the winged golden ball zipped off again.

Harry huffed out a laugh at the display, regaining some energy. He got back up, using the wall for support, before falling back into bed. Turning onto his back, the snitch once again darted over. The hum of its wings loud as it flittered right above his nose.

“Shoo off, you.” It obeyed, zooming for his closet, it snuck in through the slit in the door.

Harry closed his eyes again, sleep catching him as he lost out to the exhaustion.

The next morning was a groggy wake-up, his fitful sleep leaving him drained. As the sun rose, he uttered the potion’s required phrase that had become his morning and evening mantra.

“Temp—” he cut himself off from uttering the time-spell, remembering his gift.

Picking it up carefully, he caressed the golden band, admiring the simple design. He put it on and it quickly resized to his wrist. It was far too early for his uncle and cousin to be awake, so Harry busied himself reading up again on the subject of vampires.

He had plenty of personal experience with the bloodthirsty creatures and he’d be going to school with at least one. This one, however, was an animal drinker, so the behavioural pattern may be different.

His eyes roved over the history section, a big part of which concerned the Volturi. Reading on he discovered something more disturbing; immortal children. Apparently their development was stunted by the early transformation, leaving them incapable of learning past the point of their age. The Volturi had conducted several decades worth of tests, incapable of different outcomes. Whilst interesting history, it didn’t give him much in terms of a vegetarian vampire’s lifestyle.

He came out to the kitchen much later, Bella having prepared breakfast already. Charlie smiled eagerly when he entered. “Good morning, Harry! Happy birthday!” Bella echoing his sentiments.

He handed him a hand sized box, packaged neatly.

“It’s from both me and Bella,” he grinned.

Harry smiled sheepishly, “Thanks, Uncle Charlie. Thank you, Bella.” He carefully loosened the ribbon, ripping the tape off with more force. It was a white box, a black simple mobile phone on the cover. “Oh, wow,” he exclaimed, pulling his magic in as tightly as possible to avoid breaking the fragile electronic device. “Thank you so much,” he smiled. It was a very thoughtful gift, he just hoped he wouldn’t break it on accident.

“Go ahead, take it out!” his uncle encouraged.

Nice and slow now, Harry, he reminded himself. He opened the box, picking up the phone in his hand. “It’s wonderful,” he grinned, he hoped it didn’t come out too stiffly as he painstakingly held his magic in place.

“The charger’s under there, you can just plug it in,” he pointed to the wall.

Harry nodded placidly, walking over. In his mind, he was freaking out. An electrical socket? Really? He breathed in deeply, plugging the wire in.

The socket sparked. A second later the kitchen went dark with only the cloudy morning light peering in through the window.

Another stunned moment of silence later, Charlie laughed. “That used to happen to your mother all the time,” he chuckled. “It must run in your blood.”

Harry paled, grateful for the darkness disguising it. ”How unlucky,” he agreed. Misfortune had indeed stained his family.

Bella pulled out some drawers, searching until she found matches, a couple candles and their holders.

Placing one on the table, she lit it, bringing some more light in. “Setting the mood,” she joked.

Charlie grabbed the other, “I’ll have a look at the fuse box.” He walked off into the dark hallway.

Harry took a seat at the table, resting one hand on it and supporting his head with the other.

Bella frowned, peering down at his hand. For a heart-stopping moment he thought she’d seen his worded scar, but it was covered up well by his long sleeves.

“Nice ring,” she remarked instead.

Harry jerked in surprise, his face twisting in confusion. What ring?

“I didn’t know you liked jewellery like that, but it looks good,” she nodded down at his left hand.

Sitting innocuously on his index finger, lit up under the live flame, was a stone he’d not seen in months. Decorating a plain band, was the little dark rock. As the candlelight flickered, the engraved symbol of the Deathly Hallows shimmered into view.

Chapter Text

The stone’s symbol stared back at him, its familiarity freezing Harry to the bone. His breath felt shallow, skin going cold and clammy. How was it here? What about the—

Harry slapped his hands on the table in his rush to get up. Bella startled at the suddenness. “Harry?”

“I’ll head out for a bit,” he whispered distractedly, eyes elsewhere. Bella tilted her head in question, uncertain of the sudden switch. But he was already stepping out of the kitchen, beelining for his room.

Hurrying to his trunk, he snapped open the secret compartment. On top of his folded invisibility cloak, whole and unbroken, lay the wand that had killed him. He had previously attempted to be rid of it by all means; magic and physical. But the remaining splinters had doggedly stuck by his side, left hidden in his trunk since he had arrived in Forks. Now a whole wand again. Harry groaned, “Why are you fixed? Why are you both here now?”

He grabbed the cursed thing and rushed out again, going for the front door this time.

Charlie peeked from the hallway where the fuse box was located. “Going out? I’ll have the power working again soon.”

Harry nodded, “I won’t be long,” he assured him, rushing outside.

Fawkes was sat waiting in a tree, no doubt having sensed his disconcertion. The wizard halted, staring frantically at his friend. Wasting no time, the bird fled to his shoulder and they ported off once in cover.

“This isn’t right,” Harry breathed, standing with his back to the forest wall, the ocean off the cliff below him. He held his shaking hands out, keeping the familiar artifacts far from his body; the wand thrumming with power, but the stone curiously lacking in presence. The colour of it so dark Harry thought it might absorb all light around. His heartbeat rushed in his ear, his breath unsteady. He didn’t want these. He didn’t want anything to do with them.

He threw the wand out. It flew further than he’d expected, landing deep beneath the waves. Next was the ring. He pulled at it. Stuck, it wouldn’t come off. He ripped at his finger. Still wouldn’t budge. Trying the stone itself finally worked. The little black rock popped off with no problem. With the wind and his heartbeat in his ear, he swung his arm back, throwing the cursed thing off the cliff for it to join the Death Stick. It flew off in front of him, joining the wand in the dark ocean.

Breathing heavily, Harry waited, glaring at the waves as if daring them to return the items. Fawkes cooed comfortingly by his ear. Perched on his shoulder, the weight was a physical reminder of his soothing presence.

A tree groaned behind him. Casting his head towards the sound, the previous wall of trees had been broken; unrooted, felled and cracked. He rubbed the back of his head sheepishly, the momentary loss of control an embarrassment to the fully trained wizard.

Harry sighed, reaching up to stroke the phoenix, grateful for his presence. His panic had almost eradicated the forest around him.

Fawkes leaned away from his hand, examining it curiously. He trilled, troubled, drawing Harry’s attention to it.

The stone was back. Sitting quietly on his new ring. The discovery brought his attention to the previously unnoticed weight in his other hand; the wand somehow tucked beneath his fingers.

Harry threw both again. And again. He tried burying them, melting them, sending them off with Fawkes. He considered using fiendfyre.

After an hour, he laid on his back on the grass, ringed hand held up in front of him, undestroyed wand in the grass beside him. He’d had to admit defeat, having exhausted his options of destruction and abandonment. Fawkes had wrestled the conjured knife from him when he’d considered amputation. The bird sat on his chest, also drained from the fruitless work.

“This is ridiculous,” he puffed. “My cloak hasn’t moved, why are these two so—so clingy all of a sudden!”

He took another moment to breathe before getting back up. At this point he was just completely done with all of this. Mentally cursing whoever the actual original creator of the Hallows may have been, Harry got up from the grass.

He sighed for what felt like the tenth time that day. “They must be waiting for us, best get back.”

The power-out from his sparking magic had been fixed when he got back inside, Charlie smiling at him from the couch as he entered the living room. “Got lost again?” he teased.

“Fawkes came to my rescue.”

The bird in question hopped onto the couch, perching beside Bella. She pet him gingerly. “Now you can call for help,” she reminded him with a grin.

“You think you’re any match against Fawkes?”

The morning moved swiftly from there, Jacob and Billy visiting in the evening to celebrate. Or, more likely, to nab slices of the pizzas Charlie had ordered. On discovering Harry’s newly gifted technological device, Jacob immediately plopped his phone number in, excited at the aspect of reaching him easier.

The comfortable atmosphere almost let him forget the looming presence of his new unwanted adornment and wooden companion. The latter of which seemed to allow being hidden, just not abandoned, so at least Harry could leave it in his trunk without worry of suddenly staking someone when he went for a handshake. The ring was for the most part unnoticeable, carrying no weight to it; magical or physical. Only Harry’s knowledge of its unrelenting attachment to his finger kept reminding him, his heart stuttering each time he caught sight of it.

Still uncertain of the meaning of their reappearance, he resolved to halt his panic. At least until he could get some more information. Even his encyclopaedia friend wouldn’t be much help in this matter. Most of the people with information on the Hallows were considered nutjobs, hunting after fairy tales. And, if Harry was completely honest, most of them probably were crazy. So instead of ripping his hair out questioning the matter, he’d rather just try to enjoy the rest of the day. Peacefully ignoring the wretched obsessed items, he did just that.

The very next day, Harry was laying in bed, lazily flipping through some pages on a more interesting magic theory book he’d procured at the Nelson’s magic shop not too long before. Having appeared as a costumer a great many times for potions, books and other important equipment throughout the summer, he was easily considered a regular at this point. Of which included the benefit of particularly good reading tips from Mrs Nelson herself.

His phone ringed then, from its designated spot on the desk, far enough away to hopefully survive magic spikes in his sleep. He picked it up warily, pressing the green button with excruciating care.

A bit of static sounded before Jacob’s familiar voice came through, “Hello,” he dragged out the word happily.

“Hey Jake,” Harry answered, stiff as a board as he struggled to keep his magic completely in check to avoid any sudden sparks.

“What’re you up to?” the younger boy asked excitedly.

Tossing the book to the side of him on the bed, Harry answered, “Ah, nothing. Just at home, bored. I can come over if you’d like,” he suggested.

Jacob quickly agreed. “I’ll probably be in the garage.”

Hanging up, Harry peered at the clock. Going by bus it’d take him about half an hour to get there, so he had some time to waste before he could apparate over. Deciding to do just that, he called for Fawkes.

The phoenix appeared before him, feathers aflame. He landed on his outstretched arm before extinguishing himself. “Where have you been?”

Fawkes raised his wings, flaming off once more, this time bringing Harry along. They appeared surrounded by greenery. Harry glanced at his friend curiously. The bird bobbed his head down to the ground.

Harry followed his friend’s eyes. “Oh,” he exclaimed. He was stood on a path, walked and worn, but not by human feet. Imprints of paws and claws remained in the dirt. The owner must’ve been a heavy animal to leave such deep marks in the dry dirt.

He followed it curiously, Fawkes gliding lazily through the air above him, before coming to a rocky stream. The path continued on past the flowing water. He walked ahead, carefully balancing across the mossy rocks.

A flock of birds screeched, flying off in a hurry from the thick forest. He paused, halfway across the wide creek. A branch cracked, rustling bushes signifying the approach of something big from upstream.

Another crack sounded from the other side. So, several somethings.

It wasn’t long before a huge animal stepped out. A canine the size of a horse. Well, that explained the pawprints. Its thick brown fur was only marred by the mask-like grey markings around its eyes.

“Cute,” Harry remarked. The oversized wolf sneezed in displeasure, sitting down with a curious tilt of its head, one ear flopping down at the movement.

His magic rose to investigate, swiftly picking up on the same familiar connection to the spirit in the forest. The wolf flinched as his magic washed over it but sat calmly again though tense. His magic deemed the animal a non-threat.

A deep growl from the other side drew his attention. Another wolf. Taller than the first even, and coal black. It seemed far more hostile, teeth on display as it stalked closer. The golden eyes of the creature were glued on him. A mistake, as it suddenly tripped, tumbling down the slippery stream rocks.

Rolling painfully, the animal whimpered as it descended, barrelling past him. Harry winced with each harrowing hop. Landing in the stream’s larger puddle, it lay still for a moment, legs spread out and ears folded against its head. At least wolves didn’t have to worry about embarrassing themselves to their packmates, Harry mused with humour.

“You good down there?” he asked the clumsy wolf. It hadn’t looked like a pretty fall.

His companion was still in its previous place, now rolling around barking short, raspy yips. Harry would almost say it was laughing.

He hopped easily down the rocks, water splashing as he reached the shallow pool where the wolf remained still. Wading closer, his shoes filled with water, pants clinging uncomfortably to his legs.

“You hurt?” he asked with concern, frowning at the unresponsive canine.

It got up, suddenly. Not looking up once, the wolf immediately booked it from the stream. Stumbling once more before it disappeared into the bushes on the other side. Its thick, dripping wet fur left a dark trail on the rocks and dirt. At least it didn’t appear to be too debilitated from the unfortunate fall.

Its friend was still yipping on the height above.

Harry shook his head at the animals’ antics. “You ought to go check on your friend, you beast,” he called up to it. It hopped, far more elegantly, down to the side of the pool he stood in. Harry reached down and splashed some water at it. It jumped away again, shaking its fur. “Laughing away at his unluck, not very nice,” he reprimanded.

The wolf huffed, pawing at the ground in disagreement.

“Don’t look at me like that, you know what you were doing.”

He walked out of the creek, settling down on a drier rock next to the passive animal to remove his shoes. Water leaked out of it. The wolf had seemed uncomfortable when touched by Harry’s magic previously, so he refrained from drying himself off, instead slipping them back on. Although wet, at least they weren’t filled with water anymore. He’d dry off when the wolf was gone.

It shuffled closer to him hesitantly.

“What do you want now? I don’t have a stick, no fetch today.”

Instead of fetch, it seemed his shoulder was more interesting. The wolf sniffled where Fawkes had been sitting earlier. Just as he did, the phoenix in question dove down, settling in the same spot right in front of the wolf’s nose. It hopped back in fright.

Fawkes trilled curiously, leaning forward from his human perch.

Stepping around the wolf, the two went on their way. “Got to be going,” he said, waving goodbye. The wolf didn’t make a move to follow, sitting back down on the bank of the creek as he watched Harry disappear behind the foliage.

Fawkes didn’t waste time once out of sight, porting them both to the forest behind Jacob’s house. Harry walked the tiny trek left on his own, the phoenix vanishing once more in a cloud of flame. Absentmindedly throwing a drying charm at himself, he reached the garage, the clinking of tools sounding from within the thin walls.

The side door to Jacob’s car project was opened, one of the boy’s legs sticking out. Harry walked up to him leaning down to have a look at his work. It seemed the younger boy hadn’t realized his presence yet.

He was humming as he handled some wires dangling out from a gaping hole in the middle of the dashboard.

“What you up to?”

Jacob jumped, a gasp ripping from his chest. “Holy shit,” he exclaimed, tense and pale. “You scared the hell out of me.”

“Sorry,” Harry laughed unsympathetically.

The other boy relaxed again, breathing out to steady himself. “I’m replacing the radio, just got a new stereo system the other day.”

“Big out-of-the-way garage, music; when’s the party?”

“I don’t think Dad would appreciate a bunch of kids getting drunk in his backyard.”

“Killjoy.”

Jacob rolled his eyes. “It’s one step ahead at least. To a functioning car, I mean.”

Harry stepped back, casting a critical eye on the pile of scrap. Lacking a tire, rusted up and with a headlight busted, knowing that was only the physical surface problems, he couldn’t see it becoming very functional.

“Shut up,” Jacob said, kicking his legs out to get up from the driver’s seat.

“Didn’t say anything.”

“Words weren’t needed, I see the way you look at her, you ass.”

“Is it ‘her’ now?”

“She’s gonna be a beauty one day,” he asserted, stroking the roof affectionally.

Harry clapped him on the back, smiling indulgently. “Invite me to the wedding when she is.”

The next hours followed suit until afternoon. The two enjoyed the summer day inside, under the cover of the shabby building. Music playing on low volume through the car stereo, they sipped on lemonade in big plastic cups as they talked.

Jacob set aside his empty cup and opened the side door, scrambling around in the messy glove compartment as he looked for another CD.

The garage door flew open, startling Jacob so much he knocked his head on the roof of the car. Harry chuckled at his unluck today. Looking up and rubbing at the smarting spot, the boy sighed irritably. “Today’s not my day,” he muttered before raising his voice, “What do you want, Quil?”

The boy, Quil, snickered lightly, eying up Harry. “What are you two doing in here? Working in secret?” he cooed suggestively.

Jacob threw his empty plastic cup towards him. “Shut up will you.”

“I’m afraid I wouldn’t be of much help on the car,” Harry stated offhandedly.

“English?” Quil inferred from his accent. “You must be Harry,” he grinned.

“It would seem so.”

Jacob rolled his eyes and interrupted before Quil could ask for further details. “Where’s Embry?”

“Still up in Neah Bay, his mom decided to stay another week. Guess the family missed them.”

Nodding, Jacob got back to his search, finally pulling out some black cover with a yellow smiley face on it. He replaced it, the disk player taking a second for each button to register.

“Still working on this junk?” Quil asked. “You’ve had it for, what, half a year? Barely any progress.”

“It’s getting there, bit by bit,” he defended. Considering the whole car was in bits that wasn’t really saying much, but Harry refrained from mentioning that. “What are you doing here anyway?”

Quil shrugged. “Just bored. Did I interrupt your date?”

Jacob looked like he regretted throwing his cup earlier, now left empty-handed. Harry laughed. “I’m the third wheel here,” he corrected, gesturing between the car and his friend.

“Oh yeah, I forgot. Congrats, man. You deserve each other.”

“Stop ganging up on me,” Jacob whined.

It was the weekend before the new semester. He’d be entering muggle school for the first time in seven years. Apparently he’d been better prepared for the placement exam than expected. He had, somehow, been placed up a year. He’d just progressed an eight-year education in two months. Merlin, muggles had it bad. He wasn’t sure if he should be nervous, but having survived worse perhaps he’d hold off on the anxiousness. At least he’d probably share some classes with his cousin. Unfortunately, that also meant he’d be sharing the same ones with her beau.

Harry was eating breakfast at the kitchen table whilst Charlie was watching the news in the other room. The man on the telly talking loudly about this or that before it cut to the national weather forecast.

“…in Colorado we have a sunny morning, but clouds will soon start rolling in from the east. We’re expecting another thunderstorm this evening, so stay inside, folks!”

Harry froze, the spoon of o-shaped cereals hanging in front of his open mouth. “There’s a storm in Colorado?” he called out to Charlie.

“Often are,” he grunted back in confirmation, still stuck watching the rest of the program.

Harry felt like banging his head into the table. He’d wasted a month waiting for a blasted storm to pass through Forks when he could’ve just apparated or had Fawkes help him across the country to a more lightning-prone area.

Today was as good as any day then. Colorado was far, but he should be able to make it in less than an hour with a few breaks between each jump.

He waited, checking the forecast repeatedly, as the day passed by. Placing his potion in an opaque wrapping and throwing it into his pocket to protect it from the sun, he was ready. The two flamed off, making it to the new state in less than seven hops and before even half an hour had gone by. Not bad for travel without a portkey, although Fawkes looked quite beaten.

It was hot and the air was unbearably dry. But the sun above him was becoming obscured rapidly.

Harry paced impatiently in the open field he’d found. The first transformation was supposedly quite disorienting and best done in a place you wouldn’t hurt yourself or your surroundings.

“What if it doesn’t work?” he wondered out loud. “What if I’ve done it wrong?”

The phoenix whistled reassuringly in response, laying deadbeat in the grass.

Harry groaned, anxious as the road to his plan came to an end. It had seemed far simpler when the concept had been the extent of it.

He flopped down in the grass next to his friend, arms spread out. “I could turn into an elephant or something,” he complained. Such a big, conspicuous animal would be useless for his purpose. “Or worse; a half-elephant. Can you imagine that?” If something went wrong, he might end up stuck with animal mutations. The thought was jarring.

Fawkes trilled happily.

“I’d rather not live my life with a trunk, thank you.” He frowned as another thought hit him. “Or what if I become a fish, and suffocate before I can turn back?”

The evening was spent in equal portions excitement and trepidation as the skies darkened further and the wind picked up.

Waiting impatiently in the field, he took a deep breath. His hands shook from the excitement and nerves.

A light flashed across the dark sky then, unexpected from the dry sky. A thundering rumble soon following. Harry startled at the suddenness, but quickly pulled out the potion. It was already warming up as he held it.

He unholstered his wand to his hand. Pointing it at his chest, he whispered, “Amato Animo Animato Animagus.” The same chant he’d recited every day, now for the final time.

He held up the bottle, peering at it sceptically. The mixture darkened, turning a blood red. Harry sighed, reholstering his wand, and popped off the cork.

“Here goes nothing.”

The small amount was gulped down in one. For a moment, he felt nothing.

Fawkes tilted his head curiously at the lack of reaction, his eyes squinted to diminish the heavy wind’s attack.

Warmth built up in Harry’s heart slowly. A sharp, fiery pain struck him within seconds. He grasped at his chest, falling to his knees. The sound of the howling wind cut off replaced by a double heartbeat, the uneven drumming filling his ears.

Disoriented, he spotted feathers. “Fawkes?” he called out, reaching towards the creature.

He peered up at it. It wasn’t Fawkes. Rather, it was a small bird of prey, covered in black feathers, its beak and eyes similarly colourless.

Blinking his eyes, it disappeared. The sound of the storm around him returned to his ears, wind and more thunder after one another. He was sat between the long grass. Fawkes hopped over, settling on his leg.

The phoenix nipped him, warbling curiously.

He rose unsteadily, checking his fingers, feet and body for any changes. Thankfully it seemed he was still wholly human. The process had been a success.

He breathed out, recalling the bird he’d seen before coming back to his senses. He wasn’t an expert on bird-ology, or ornithology, as both Hermione and Bella would no doubt correct him and didn’t recognize it more than perhaps being either a hawk or a falcon.

“Let’s give it a go then,” he mumbled.

With the image of the animal clear in his mind, he visualized the transformation. The burn returned, this time more uncomfortable than painful. It spread throughout his body, his muscles and bones stretching and shrinking unnaturally. The feeling of his clothes and shoes melting into his skin was, however, perhaps the most disturbing.

Shaking his head from heavy winds, the sensation was unfamiliar as feathers bristled. He opened his eyes, seeing only green straws, everything hyper focused. Calling out for Fawkes, only a chirp sounded instead of the bird’s name.

Crimson suddenly filled his vision. He looked up. It was Fawkes, three times bigger than Harry. He fell back in shock. Looking around again, everything was so clear. He hadn’t used glasses since Madam Pomfrey had fixed up his vision in first year, but this was on another level. The details these new eyes could catch were so focused it became unsettling.

Fawkes cooed at him, carefully waddling closer. He gently nudged him with his now-huge beak. Harry felt like a child next to the phoenix. The motherly behaviour from his friend not helping on that front, besides Fawkes was a male bird.

Shaking his head again, he once more visualized the transformation, willing himself back to humanity. This was a little too unnerving for him to process in one night.

Fawkes soon flamed them both back again, taking care for longer breaks this time. Once home, the bird settled on his perch, preening his feathers meticulously. Cleaning up wasn’t the worst idea, Harry thought.

He picked up a change of clothes and rushed upstairs for a shower, eager to relax in the hot water.

A bird was definitely the desired option in regards to his plan, Harry pondered. Another animal could’ve done as well, he supposed, but the confirmation of his love for flying was a relief nevertheless. It had come at a good time too. Tomorrow was his last day off before school and he’d need the extra hours.

It was going to be a long day.

Chapter Text

Harry awoke with the sun. He checked his newly gifted watch. It was indeed early, not even five in the morning.

Eager to be on his way, he got dressed and prepared all his notes, shoving them into his pockets. From his books, he’d noted down each letter port channel’s location on a map to make for a shorter downtime in between.

Fawkes bristled at the early ruckus, but blinked his eyes open blearily. He would be guiding Harry to the first port channel.

Leaving a note on the kitchen table to Charlie, they ported off in a bout of fire, reappearing in an empty cliffside looking over Port Angeles. Harry clumsily transformed into his new form. Unbalanced by the sudden shrinking, he toppled over.

Right, he should probably figure out how to fly before throwing himself off a cliff.

He flapped his wings experimentally. It didn’t do much, the slow awkward movements not obtaining enough thrust for take-off. Fawkes peered at him, his head tilted. The phoenix flapped his wings once, powerfully. The air vacuum sent Harry tumbling over himself again.

Fawkes feet barely rose from the ground before he landed again, coming to check on his now little friend.

Harry settled himself upright again. Spreading his wings, he brought them down with great speed. He felt his talons lift from the ground. He wanted to smile and laugh but his beak only allowed a warbling gurgle.

Flying came to him easily after figuring out the take-off. He glid excitedly across the sky, wings spread out as Fawkes watched him move.

Deeming him ready, the phoenix took off, guiding him towards a radio tower sitting innocuously on top of a hill. He landed in a tree further from it, staring at it imploringly. It seemed the Port Angeles’ letter port channel was a common bird killer, how ironic. Perhaps they didn’t like mail here?

Harry flew into it, falling through the metal as it pulled him away.

As expected, he ended up in one of Seattle’s magical districts, several more obvious ports aligned along the wall. Harry zipped through to New York, crossing the continent in less than half a second. Merlin, this was so much better than plane rides. The next stop was a little island in the North Atlantic before he could make it into Britain.

The familiar smell of London’s traffic fumes hit him full force. Gross, but it was home. He hopped out of the little room he’d ended up in, perching on a window in the topmost compartment of Big Ben. The clock tower only offered international travel ports, so he’d have to find another one able to bring him southwest towards Ottery St Catchpole.

It was mid-day in Britain, so people were out and about. Swooping down to a tiny side alley out of view, he transformed back. The sensation of flying was an unusual one with muscles previously unused suddenly finding themselves in a lot of work. Despite his love of the air, it felt good to be on two feet again.

He pulled out his map and examined it quickly. It seemed the quickest route on wing would be porting through to Bristol and from there to Exeter, which would land him a little under an hour’s flight from his goal, the Burrow. Or, he mused, he could just apparate there.

Throwing up a notice-me-not, he did just that. The loud echoing crack marking his disappearance.

Landing shakily on the outskirts of the village, he transformed again, flying determinedly towards his second home. It didn’t take him long, perhaps five minutes of flight, before he could spot the rickety building. Gliding around it, he tried to spot Ginny through the windows.

The clucking of chickens caught his attention as he perched on the side of the building.

With red hair tied up in a bun, Ginny was hauling a bucket of seeds around, throwing out handfuls to the pecking hens by her boots. She’d tanned somewhat from the summer sun, her freckles standing out even more against her pretty face. She put down the bucket for a moment, taking the time to stretch her back and wipe the sweat off her brow.

He wanted to immediately swoop down and hug her but repressed the desire. Dodging Bat-Bogey Hexes wasn’t on his to-do list today.

Instead he slowly descended, landing on the fence in front of her.

“Oy, don’t you come near the chickens,” she warned as soon as she spotted the raptor bird. Harry quickly dodged the weakly powered stinging hex thrown at him. “Shoo, you great ugly beast,” she yelled.

He wanted to sigh, this was getting too complicated. Screw it. He popped back into human form, sitting languidly on the fence. “Who are you calling ugly?”

Ginny seemed to go through a great many ranges of shock and other emotions before finally settling on highly alert and suspicious. Harry admired all the stages, lips tilted up in a smile. Hand out, ready to defend herself, and eyes narrowed, she stared him down. Merlin, how he’d missed her. “Who are you,” she demanded.

“Wow, Gin, gone for two months and you’ve already forgotten me?”

She remained silent.

Harry really did sigh now. Thinking for a moment, he lifted the arm of his sweater, showing off the clock her mother had sent him. “This familiar?”

It took her a second, but then it clicked. “Mum really got Shacklebolt to send it,” Ginny exclaimed. “She was up in arms with the man for two weeks. He’d thought it could risk your location being exposed.” Her expression softened then. “It’s you?”

He stood up, opening his arms. “In the flesh.”

She hugged him tightly, face buried in his chest. “For the record, it was two and a half months,” she muttered. He leaned down to embrace her closer, rubbing her back comfortingly.

“Ginny?” a new voice called in panic. “Ginny, who is that?”

Harry looked up at the familiar face of Molly Weasley, eyes wide in disbelief. “Hello, Mrs Weasley,” he called back, Ginny still latched onto him.

Mrs Weasley hurried over, eyes raking over his face carefully. “Harry?” she breathed. Ginny let go then, smiling back at her mother with a nod. The younger girl would of course forever deny the wetness by her eyes.

“I wanted to thank you for the watch, Mrs Weasley,” he started, but didn’t get much further as the older woman gathered him up in a big hug.

“Oh dear,” she sniffled, letting go and bringing his wrist between her hands. She examined the watch sadly. “It’s a little worn, got a bulk on the back,” she admitted sadly. “Fabian, my brother, he never took too much care with his things, but I couldn’t afford another—”

“It’s perfect,” Harry interrupted, hugging her again. “Absolutely perfect. Thank you so much,” he said sincerely.

She smiled up at him tearfully. “It was nothing, dear. Oh, come in and have some dinner, it’s finished in just a bit.”

Ginny rolled her eyes. “Give me some time with him at least. He just arrived!”

“No better time for a bite to eat,” her mother asserted easily.

Harry knew there’d be no arguing. The two followed after like ducklings into the kitchen. Besides the flying cutlery and utensils, it was empty.

“Arthur’s still out,” Mrs Weasley explained. He supposed Ginny was the only child left staying at home, her last year at Hogwarts starting this fall. “Take a seat, dear.”

“I’ll be right back,” Ginny called, running up the stairs to change into new clothes.

Charming the knives to butter some bread, Mrs Weasley turned, asking concernedly, “How did you ever manage to get here? You didn’t take a portkey did you?”

He shook his head quickly. “Don’t worry, Mrs Weasley, no one saw me.” He wringed his hands under the table, slightly nervous. Hesitatingly, he answered, “I’ve become an animagus.”

She dropped the ladle into the stew with an audible plop. “An animagus? On your own?” She examined him once again, no doubt checking for a missed set of ears. “Well, it seemed you escaped unharmed. Many wizards have been mutated grotesquely, you know?”

Harry smiled at her worry. “Oh is that where that tail came from,” he asked innocently.

Mrs Weasley shook her head, chuckling. “Oh dear, you children’s antics will send me to St Mungo's one of these days.”

“Suppose a bird’s quite fitting,” Ginny cut in, re-entering the kitchen.

“He’s a bird? Well that explains how he got here. What kind, dear?”

Harry shrugged. “I think a falcon.”

“You must enjoy the flying,” Mrs Weasley smiled knowingly.

He grinned. “It’s strange, but wonderful.”

They ate in peace. It felt good to be home. He spent several hours more with Ginny, meeting Mr Weasley as well before the evening. It had perhaps been a mistake to visit her first, he realized as the time ticket by on his watch. But he was glad he’d spent the time with her.

“I should get going,” he whispered regretfully, as they laid next to each other at night. “Got a couple more stops before home.”

She held him tightly in a hug before letting go. “You better come around again soon. Say hi to Ron and Hermione for me.”

A kiss later and a goodbye to the senior Weasleys and Harry was off. Apparating back to London he flew up to the famous clock tower, slipping through to Germany. From there he could make it directly to Romania’s capital, his next objective the dragon reservation. Ron and his brother should be living in the vicinity.

The night was dark as he flew across the sky, gliding through the local ports to get further north. The Dragon Sanctuary sat warded against muggles and escapee dragons in the mountainous region.

After a bout of fire almost set his tailfeathers alight, he decided to go looking for his best friend another time. Hopefully when he had more specific coordinates. A clue to where he could avoid the nesting mothers would also be helpful.

It was perhaps mid-afternoon in Forks now, but he was already exhausted. At least he wouldn’t have to guess at Hermione’s address. The trip to the new continent was longer, taking him through the lower region of Asia. Arriving in the Australian morning, he found her house after another peek at the map. The lights were still turned off in her room.

Perching gently outside her window, he tapped on the glass. The irritating sound eventually seemed to get to her.

Throwing the covers off, Hermione stalked over to the window, her hair puffed up in annoyance. She opened the window, ready to shoo him off. Harry bolted through before she could, unshrinking and landing on his feet in the middle of the room. “Nice place,” he commented.

Hermione’s hand was flung out before the last syllable, aiming to send him into the wall. The only thing preventing it being Harry’s protego. He raised his hands up in surrender, smile on his lips.

She stared at him, eyes narrowed. “Show me your patronus,” she demanded.

A twitch of a finger and Prongs sprang out happily, loping around the room before coming to a halt. He looked at them both curiously.

Identity confirmed, Hermione slapped him lightly across the head. “You idiot!”

“Oy.” He held his hands up again, now in defence. “I came here to give you a hug, and this is what I get?”

She threw her arms around him, still calling him an idiot, of course. “You brewed it on your own?” she questioned after letting go, immediately grasping the situation.

“Well I suppose Fawkes acted as moral support.”

“You are aware how dangerous that is? Are you suffering another stroke of insanity?”

“No, I’m quite enjoying it,” he quipped.

She shook her head, arms crossed, before giving in to her curiosity. “Oh let me see it again.”

He obliged, body shrinking in the now familiar fashion.

“Of course,” she huffed, “honestly, I don’t even know why I’m surprised.”

Once human again, he asked, “About what?”

“You’re a peregrine falcon. Known for their speed and spectacular dives.” She rolled her eyes at the last part. “Although your feathers don’t match the standard colour palette,” she remarked.

Harry shrugged. Colours deviating from the original animal wasn’t exactly uncommon in animagi.

They spent hours talking, Hermione catching him up on the two months apart. She was able to tell him most of what Ron had been up to as she’d had daily contact with him through the two-way mirror. It felt nice hearing about his two best friends’ summer, although his heart still ached to see Ron in person.

His eyes widened in realization. “Hermione! The mirror still works?”

She looked up, comprehension spreading to her eyes. “Oh, that’ll do.” Rustling around in search of the communication device, Hermione eventually found the thing laying under her pillow. “We were chatting the other night, I must’ve fallen asleep with it and somehow stuffed it under there.”

She tried calling for Ron through it.

“It’s the middle of the night for him,” Hermione remembered. “He must be sleeping.”

“No point trying then, he sleeps like a log.” Checking his watch, it was almost six in the evening back in Forks. “I ought to be going soon,” he said regretfully. “I’ll come here first next time, maybe we’ll be able to get a hold of Ron then. Almost got blasted by a dragon looking for him today.”

“What, you can outfly a horntail on your broom but not with your own wings?” she teased.

“I’ll have you know I only first transformed yesterday. For a first-time flier I’d say I did quite well.”

“Guess natural talent isn’t all it’s made up to be,” Hermione smirked. “When will you be able to return?” she asked before he could comment further.

“Next weekend, maybe sooner. The travel doesn’t take long, but,” he trailed off. It wasn’t easy to just stay an hour or two after all.

Hermione must’ve understood, she nodded.

“Oh and I’m going to muggle high school, would you believe it?”

Her brown eyes widened with amusement. They chatted more, Hermione eagerly enquiring about Harry’s summer studying. Before parting ways, the re-appearance of the Hallows came to mind.

He hesitated, sat in the open window. Should he perhaps mention it another time? He didn’t want to stress out his friend when it was unlikely she’d have any further information. And as he’d already resolved to ignore it for now, perhaps it was simply unnecessary.

Hermione, however, quickly noticed his indecision. “What’s wrong?” she asked.

He looked up at her, scratching the back of his head in thought before deciding. He may as well tell her. Besides, she already knew about the Death stick having followed him even as wooden fragments. “On the morning of my birthday,” he paused, frowning in thought. Sighing, he simply held out his left hand, palm down. “This suddenly appeared.”

It took a second before she noticed it. A gasp escaped her lips. She grasped his hand, taking a closer look. “You said you left this in the forest, before—” she stopped abruptly. His best friends knew what had happened that day. “I’ll try to do some research,” she promised, aware of the likelihood of it being a futile effort. “The wand pieces are still with you too?”

Harry shook his head. “Not pieces anymore,” he corrected bitterly.

“I see,” Hermione murmured, biting her lip uneasily. “Mr Lovegood told us what you become by reuniting the three,” she said carefully, unwilling to voice the ridiculous title.

Harry shook his head. “He never said what that actually entails though. Besides, I was never one of those,” he huffed a breath, ”questers or whatever. I’m just unlucky.” Honestly he was more or less just resigned to the impossibilities occurring around him now.

“Most would probably regard you as rather lucky after everything,” she smiled, trying to lift the mood. “But I suppose for you, this really isn’t all that out of the ordinary.”

He scowled playfully before shrugging. “At least there were books on, well, the philosopher’s stone for example. I don’t even know where to start looking for this. The fairy-tale is the only written account I know of, and I can’t think of anything useful it may have said.”

“It’s unlikely there’s much of any theory written down about them. Most believe it’s just a children’s story.”

“I wish it was,” he muttered. Hermione patted his arm comfortingly.

“We’ll figure it out. Mr Lovegood seemed to think there were more of those questers out there, and Professor Dumbledore must’ve gotten his information from somewhere.” The challenge seemed rejuvenating to his friend, always up for another mystery. “We’ll find out what this all means.”

Harry wished he could feel as confident as his friend.

Soon after, he finally set off for home. Travelling across the Pacific was less flying due to the long-distance ports, as opposed to the country by country travelling between Europe, Asia and Australia. After such a tiring and long day, Harry was grateful for the break it offered his wings.

He swooped through his open window, transforming mid-air and landing with a thud into the soft mattress, legs hanging off. “That’s nice,” he sighed happily. Fawkes squawked at him from his perch, flapping his wings in surprise at his sudden appearance, but remained perched. Harry waved at him, too tired for more words.

Harry didn’t know the time, but he knew it was late. Kicking his shoes off and crawling further into bed he soon lost consciousness.

Chapter Text

Harry wasn’t in a hurry in the morning, but the end of summer seemed to have come as an abrupt surprise for his cousin. She scurried around the house; picking up books, her phone, her pens. The one thing she wasn’t looking for was her keys. Apparently, Harry would be catching a ride with her and her beau today. Joy.

A car beeped outside, making Bella panic even further. “Harry! Tell him I’ll be right there,” she called, already running up the stairs.

He stuffed the last bite of his sandwich into his mouth and picked up his bag. Waving Fawkes goodbye, he exited the house. The vampire was sat stiffly behind the wheel, no doubt as comfortable as Harry over the current driving arrangements.

Pulling the jacket hood up and ducking his head from the rain, he hopped down the stairs, running toward down the driveway to slide into the car. Cullen didn’t greet him more than with a long-suffering sigh.

“She’ll be right down,” he dutifully echoed. Completely unnecessary of course, as the vampire’s ears should’ve allowed him to hear her on his own. A nod was the only response.

Sitting quietly in the backseat, he counted the rainwater droplets trickling down the window. The tapping of the sky falling down on the metal roof being the only sound.

“You went to a boarding school before?” Cullen asked suddenly. Harry turned his head to the front, the vampire peering at him in the rear-view mirror. He raised a brow at the random question. “I picked it up from Charlie,” the other boy explained vaguely. Picked it up? From where, his uncle’s mind?

“I did,” Harry answered simply, turning back to his raindrop counting.

“What did you do there,” the vampire insisted. Oh the usual; slayed a basilisk, a couple teachers, saved a fugitive who happened to be his godfather, died. All the typical hallmarks of a good seven year run at Hogwarts.

“A lot of work,” Harry decided on.

Bella rushed out the door then, scurrying through the rain to hop into the car. “Sorry!” she exclaimed, breathless. Harry was more than grateful her presence kept the vampire from questioning him further.

They took off down the street.

Harry knew they were driving fast for a muggle vehicle. Both judging by how Bella was clutching her backpack to her chest like an emergency airbag and by how much he was enjoying it. If there was something the vampire and he could agree on it seemed to be speed. They pulled up to the confusing mix of connected buildings he’d taken his placement test in, a square sign proudly proclaiming it to be Forks High School.

Compared to a centuries old castle with a beautifully scenic lake and self-pulling boats, moon high above casting a soft glow over it all, this was perhaps a little subpar. But Harry wasn’t there to judge. It was, in all likelihood, perfectly average by muggle standards.

“You gotta go through the front office first,” Bella said, tone apologetic as they stopped by the first building. “I can come with you if you want.” Due to his late admittance he’d not received his class schedule in the mail.

“We’ve got class,” Cullen murmured, clearly not at ease with the idea.

“He might need help finding the classroom,” she countered easily, glancing at the vampire in warning. “Let’s go in together, Harry.”

He peeked out the windscreen. Each building was clearly stamped with their corresponding numbers. “Don’t worry about it, Bells. I think I’ll be just fine.” Just the lack of moving stairs would be an advantage. A guide would likely prove redundant.

Hopping out of the stopped car to avoid any protestations, he escaped from the rain, setting foot for the door under the little sign claiming itself as the front office. The lady behind the counter looked up in surprise as he entered, blinking up at him owlishly. “Hello,” she greeted after a second. “Can I help you with anything? Did you not receive your schedule in the mail?”

He stepped up to the tall wooden desk, leaning over. “I’m Harry. Evans,” he said after a beat, the surname unfamiliar to his general introduction.

“Oh, of course, the new student.” She fumbled around, pulling out drawers and lifting notepads and folders. There was a huge mess of start of the year paperwork and other unhelpful messes, so finding the correct papers took a while. “There we go, sorry, dear. It’s been a little hectic here. Oh and, congratulations on your test result. We were able to put you in the electives you picked after all as some sent in late changes. Are you looking forward to your senior year?” she clucked away.

“Very much,” he smiled, accepting the schedule and map. “And that’s perfect, thank you.”

“It’s no trouble,” she smiled, eyes wrinkling at the corners. She checked her watch. “The principal must’ve finished the announcements already. The classes will be starting soon so you run along, dear.”

Obligingly, Harry trailed out of the building. The rain had picked up even further and a stream of students rushed past him, eager to get inside. Consulting his schedule, it seemed they were headed the same way. He followed quickly.

Finding the right room was, unsurprisingly, quite easy. The door was still open, the teacher not yet arrived as students stood around each other’s desks, chattering away. Harry slowly hung up his jacket, uncertain if the desks were marked yet or if he’d just pick one.

A boy almost barrelled into him as he rounded the corner. “Oh, sorry, man. Wasn’t paying attention.” He looked about ready to walk off again, but took a second to study Harry further, confused frown on his face. “I haven’t seen you before I think. Mike,” he said, holding out his hand.

Harry shook it with a smile. “Harry, and you wouldn’t have. I’m new.”

The boy hung his jacket up next to Harry’s, eyes widening. Transfers to this tiny town was likely quite uncommon, international transfers even more so. “That explains it,” he nodded. “Let’s have a seat,” he proffered, pointing to a desk at the back. Harry followed him to it. “How long you been here?”

“Since the start of summer. Only just enrolled a couple weeks back.”

“You’re from England, right?” he asked eagerly. A few students looked over, faces curious. Harry nodded, setting his bag down next to the desk. “Wow, that’s far. Everything must be so different.”

“Well, rain’s rain I suppose, but I’ll admit there’s a bit more of it here.”

More people seemed to be picking up on the fact that they had a new classmate. The loud conversations falling to hushed murmurs, eyes gliding to him.

“Why did your family make the move?” Mike asked, not unfriendly but puzzled. There wasn’t exactly much for anyone to get up to in the tiny town.

Harry shook his head, chuckling. “I made the move, my family already lived here. I’m Bella Swan’s cousin.”

Now the murmurs really picked up, Mike’s mouth falling open slightly. “Oh! I didn’t know she had a cousin,” he admitted. Noticing the staring students, he scratched the back of his head sheepishly. Leaning in, he whispered, “Sorry, it’s pretty exciting for us. New student and all.”

“All good,” Harry assured in a low voice.

The teacher entered then, allowing his new curious classmates to focus on something else as Mr Varner called everyone to attention. Quickly finding their seats, the classroom fell to a hush, the teacher pulling out a list for roll call. He reached Harry’s name quicker than he was used to, the letter E being far further up in the alphabet than P. “Harry Evans,” Mr Varner called hesitantly, the name obviously unfamiliar.

Harry raised his hand, “Present.”

“You’re the new student,” he hummed, seemingly to himself. Harry nodded anyway. “Why don’t you introduce yourself.” He gestured beside him.

Harry got up slowly, feeling the eyes burning into him. Two dozen muggles’ curiosity wasn’t comparable to a whole magic school’s animosity, but the attention was uncomfortable nevertheless. His introduction was short and straightforward but the teacher seemed happy enough as he sent him back to his seat, finally starting the class to go through the syllabus.

Harry was relieved to realize he was already familiar with most of the subjects covered in the review. Mike seemed a little less comforted, sliding further down on the desk with each new word. When the bell rang to signify the end of class, he was slumped over, groaning in what Harry could only describe as pain. “Not your favourite class, I take it?” he asked, picking his bag up from the floor.

The blonde boy looked up, redding a bit at the ears. Straightening quickly, he got up to from his chair before answering, “Wouldn’t mind skipping through just this one,” he grumbled, walking to the front. They picked their jackets off the wall. “What’s your next class?”

Harry checked his note, “English.”

“That’s with Mr Berty, watch out for him,” Mike sighed. “He’s pretty strict. I gotta head out to building three, but I’ll probably see you at lunch.”

“Thanks, later.”

A small search later and he’d found the new room, the teacher already present when he arrived. Bella and her boyfriend were nestled at the desk placed in the far corner in the back, heads together as they talked. Spotting her cousin, Bella waved, a smile on her face. She gestured silently at the desk next to theirs. The familiar face was a relief as he sat down, though the vampire’s presence he could’ve done without.

Mr Berty was still sorting out some stuff at the front, the clock still allowing them a couple minutes of chattering. Bella leaned over from her chair. “How was your first class?” she whispered.

“It was fine, we didn’t start with much yet, just went through this semester’s schedule. Mr Varner seemed alright.”

Bella grimaced at the name. “Did he make you introduce yourself?”

Harry grinned. “It wasn’t so bad.”

She shook her head, but the teacher started speaking before she could say anything more. After English, they shared another class, walking together and conversing between, the vampire following stiffly behind.

At the end of third period, it seemed his casual interaction with Bella had encouraged more students to talk to him. When they separated for different classes, he was quickly accosted by a group of half a dozen strangers, eager to know his relationship with Bella Swan and the Cullen boy.

“We’re cousins,” he repeated simply, walking ahead to the next room his schedule guided him. The simple announcement was quickly followed with another round of twenty questions. Thankfully, he only shared fourth period with two of the five students, breaking the circle they’d tied him in.

The girl who’d managed to talk the loudest was quick to guide him towards an empty desk. Before she could sit him down a slight girl popped up, blocking their path. Harry almost stepped on her.

“You must be Harry,” she smiled, opal eyes wide on her pale face, his magic sneering at the dark creature. Another Cullen then. “I’m Alice.” The vampire didn’t hold out her hand, keeping them both behind her back. Alice, Harry pondered, the name was familiar, Bella must’ve mentioned it at some point. Her eyes still warily fixed on Harry, she spoke to the girl next to him, “Sorry Lauren, I promised Bella I’d watch out for her cousin. So we’ll be sitting together.” Her melodious tone did not lend itself to the regret, however she did not seem to particularly care that she’d botched the other girl’s attempt at hijacking Harry.

Harry would say he was grateful, but now he had to sit next to a vampire. Hermione would probably be displeased at his bias but honestly their skin was so cold his arm might lose circulation from being in her prolonged vicinity. Also, they were usually pretty stuffy anyways.

Guiding him to a desk, the tiny girl’s eyes didn’t leave him once. She peered at him curiously from her seat. “Edward doesn’t like you very much,” the vampire stated plainly, the unexpected declaration making him pause slightly. What a conversation starter.

He sat down. “Very tragic,” Harry assured her, not inviting for further dialogue.

“You confuse him a lot,” she continued regardless.

Harry didn’t answer, looking to the front of the class instead.

She didn’t take the hint. “In fact, you confuse most of us.”

He sighed. “Us being?”

She smiled, ignoring his query. “It’s quite strange. Bella never mentioned you,” she said instead.

“There wouldn’t have been much to say.”

“I’m sure that’s not true.”

“It must be nice being so assured of your opinions.”

“I usually am. I’m usually right. But I’ll admit, I— well, I didn’t foresee another student coming here… so soon after Bella,” she remarked, emphasizing the words like it was an inside joke and tacking on the last bit like an afterthought.

“My apologies for not considering how much my unexpected arrival would rattle your senses,” he commented sarcastically.

She answered the snarky comment with a curious candour. “It did. I’m rarely caught off guard.”

He leaned over the desk, resting his head on his hand as he stared resolutely ahead. “I’m sure you’ll live,” he echoed.

Giggling, she answered, “I wouldn’t bet on it. But I suppose a surprise now and then keeps things interesting.”

Amused despite himself, Harry covered his growing smile with his hand. Nevertheless, he was grateful to discontinue the odd conversation as Mr Berty saw fit to start preaching. The lesson wasn’t too bad itself, a little too much droning and quoting. But the most annoying part was the vampire staring him down like he was a puzzle missing half the pieces.

The bell rang to signify the beginning of lunch and the new excitable Cullen didn’t waste a moment. “You know where the cafeteria is?”

“No, but I suppose I’ll find out.”

She grinned, leading the way.

It wasn’t anything like the Great Hall. It was bright with artificial light and huge windows on the walls, with smaller tables spread throughout. Students were chattering loudly, generating a buzz of undistinguished voices. Harry spotted Bella about halfway through the room, sitting with her beau, isolated despite being surrounded by classmates. He recognized both the girl that had accosted him the previous period and Mike.

He plopped into the sit next to his cousin, the Cullen girl settling in beside her somewhat-brother. Mike threw a smile over to him, too engaged in a conversation with another boy to greet him further, the wizard smiled back.

“Hey Harry,” Bella greeted before frowning at the empty space in front of him. “Aren’t you hungry?”

He shrugged, answering, “Not really, I’ll eat when I’m home.” He leaned back in his seat uncomfortably. Their table was in the middle of the big hall, leaving a plethora of constantly moving, passing, and approaching students behind him. His neck prickled as his magic instinctively examined each harmless muggle just making their way past, his fingers twitching at the tension.

His gaze caught on Cullen. The other boy was staring at him surreptitiously from the corner of his eyes, looking away quickly when Harry noticed. He stilled, breathing carefully to calm himself. It was just a bunch of muggles, he had no reason to be agitated.

A blonde girl freed herself from the one Alice had called Lauren, leaning forward on the table. “So you’re cousins? How come you never told me you had a cousin our age, Bella?” she asked, smiling demurely.

Bella hesitated, unsure how to explain the seven-year absence. Harry broke in instead, “Probably because I’m not. I’m a year younger,” he said, diverting the attention away from her.

The blonde’s eyes widened. “But you’re in our grade?”

Bella recovered, answering quickly for him, “He was moved up a year.”

“Oh wow, you must be really smart.”

Honestly, it was a little embarrassing how much his summer addiction to the Wit-Sharpening potions had improved his grasp on the muggle school subjects. “Bella tutored me all summer,” he lied easily.

Now the attention was on his cousin again, the mention of tutoring turning hopeful eyes on her. She scowled half-heartedly at him. Harry smiled back. “He was fine on his own, Jessica, I just went over some subjects with him before his placement,” she insisted loudly before anyone could see fit to ask her for help.

Lunch continued, Bella convincing him to have an apple before the bell rang them back to class. He shared the last two periods with both Cullens and his cousin, so he was left sitting next to the pixie chatterbox for the second half of his day. He’d rarely met someone so apt at talking about everything whilst at the same time nothing at all. Her match could perhaps only be found in Luna, he pondered, who no one could claim to be of equal skill.

The resemblance of his friend turned the vampire’s presence more bearable. Besides, at least her skills were sufficient for wasting time as the school day soon finished.

“There’s Jasper,” the girl chirped cheerily, loping across to the other side of the park lot towards a shiny car sat waiting. “See you tomorrow, Harry!” she called back.

Harry walked resolutely ahead, Bella snickering at his harrowed expression. He grimaced at her as they got into the car. “Finally she has someone else to harass,” she grinned, though clearly affectionate of the other girl.

“I noticed.”

Edward glanced at him from the front seat as he looked back to reverse the car. “She’s not one to back down from a challenge,” he warned quietly, his expression stony.

Rolling his eyes, Harry leaned back with a sigh. The snooping was getting annoying.

 

For Harry, going to Forks High School was an interesting affair. He didn’t particularly mind it, although the differences between his previous schooling and this one were quite dramatic, not counting the obvious glaring disparity that was magic. He also highly doubted most muggle high schools accommodated vampires. But then again, he’d heard some students refer to this as Hell, so maybe they felt a sense of belonging amongst the dead.

The following schooldays flew by, Harry resigning himself to the tenacious presence of Alice Cullen. Unlike her brother who now actively avoided him like the plague, only taking the time out of his day to deal Harry some suspicious glares, Alice’s curiosity seemed to get the better of her. Harry could tell his presence disturbed both vampires, but she followed him doggedly. That they shared half of all his classes did not improve upon the situation. It was exhausting. However, her bubbly attitude was far more tolerable compared to the other Cullen, and Harry could definitely appreciate the wide berth a lot of the muggles gave them. Being a new student in such a small town was a recipe for unwanted attention, so their instinctual fear for the creature was quite useful for his peace of mind. And his peace, just in general.

That wasn’t to say he didn’t enjoy any of the muggles’ company. Though they also kept some distance due to his association with the vampire, Mike had been nice enough and his friends didn’t seem too bad. The periods he didn’t share classes with either Bella or Alice, at least he could count on a free seat next to one of them.

Friday therefore arrived rather quickly.

He was stuck in the library with the pixie vampire, their shared free period after lunch spent attempting to lounge in the uncomfortable wooden chairs. The thin seat cushioning did not help any on the situation. The conversation was mostly carried by Alice. Harry felt relatively at ease, lazily tagging down some notes for his English paper as he listened to her rambling.

“…So of course Edward said something stupid and it left Rose fuming. Next time he left the house, she smashed his whole classical CD collection. He was glued to the piano playing nocturnes the rest of the week,” Alice snickered, finishing her mocking relay of one particular feud between the serial-brooder and his other adopted sister. She’d made a habit out of describing some of her brother’s more embarrassing moments. Besides that, Harry was starting to realize this coven was a lot bigger than he had originally guessed, although he still didn’t have an exact number.

“Sounds very dramatic,” he agreed absentmindedly, turning another page on the book as he looked for the right chapter.

She snorted, leaning over the table with her head in her hands. “Actually, I was pretty relieved when she got rid of them. Mozart and Bach are fine and all but they get a bit stale after a while. What do you listen to anyway?”

He shrugged, focus on a rather interesting passage. “I don’t know much mug—” he stiffened, “err, music,” he finished lamely, cursing his almost-slip.

She threw him a weird look but didn’t question the miswording. “Well what type do you like?”

Harry frowned in thought. Music genres were not his area of expertise. “Honestly, I don’t listen to much. Never did,” he answered truthfully. There hadn’t been much to tune into from his cupboard, and any other music he was familiar with was mostly from the Wizarding World.

“How,” she demanded. “Edward told me you went to a boarding school, you must’ve had so much time doing nothing.”

“I was usually kept busy. Besides, we didn’t have phones or many radios.” Or electricity as a whole. “Limited electricity. All that,” he said instead. Considering the artificially lit high school, torches and candlelight didn’t seem like common muggle solutions to lighting.

“Sounds very strict. And archaic,” Alice decided, shaking her head in pity as she stared ahead, attempting to envision it. “I can’t imagine exi—” she caught herself, “living without.”

It wasn’t something Harry had ever had to give up in the same way other muggle-raised wizards had. Growing up with nothing in the first place, he had just been happy to find a real home. He shrugged, focusing back again on his paper.

They sat comfortably in silence, pencils scraping across notebooks and flipping pages the only sounds in the otherwise quiet library. There were a couple other students in the room, but they stayed huddled away by their own little tables.

“How did you ever keep in contact with your family?” she prodded, eyes once again fixated on him.

Harry glanced up from his notes. “Most would write letters home,” he explained shortly.

She leaned forward. “And you?” she prompted further, catching his dissociating tone.

Harry had never had anyone home to write to. The Dursleys were out of the question, and sending an owl to Charlie and Bella would undoubtably have left questions the Dursleys would not be wont to answer. “You’re as nosy as your brother,” he said instead.

The vampire leaned back into her chair again, wrinkling her nose, displeased at the comparison. “Just curious,” she defended.

“Very,” Harry agreed, not referring to her inquisitive nature. She stuck out her tongue at him.

“Does it bother you?” Alice asked after a silence. “That he’s snooping,” she clarified at his questioning look.

“It’s more rude than anything,” the wizard shrugged. “Don’t see how I’m any of his business.”

“Well, that’s the thing. He’s not used to being kept in the dark about much,” that statement appeared to count for her as well. “And, he doesn’t know you, so he’s worried, I think. He has this theory that all kinds of danger seem to draw in around Bella, and I guess he thinks you might be one. She’s a bit of a trouble magnet, you see,” she rambled, sincerity written in her features. Taking a second to think through her words, she bit her lip, looking conflicted. Harry wondered if she’d said too much.

Harry wasn’t much surprised at his cousin’s ostensibly misfortunate nature. She was related to him after all. “So he’s acting as her protector, how charming.” And ironic; the wolf guarding the sheep now?

The vampire grimaced. “You make it sound bad.”

“Well, she’s survived seventeen years before meeting him, as well as several summers with me. If it’s only within his acquaintance she’s become a damsel in distress, I struggle connecting that with my presence.”

She took a moment to think after which she sheepishly murmured, “He really does mean well, we all see her as family.”

Harry could appreciate someone who took care of his family, whether they were nosy and annoying or not. He let it go. “Suppose it’s a good thing she has a sister, I’m not great with dresses,” he said offhandedly after a beat.

The vampire beamed happily at the appellation. “Neither is she, but I’ll fix that some day,” she promised dangerously. He almost felt bad for his cousin, aware of her aversion to fashion. “Her birthday is coming up, so I’ll finally have another excuse to dress her up,” the vampire squealed.

Harry really did pity Bella this time.

Chapter Text

As promised, Harry returned to his friends on the weekend. Leaving early on Saturday, he arrived at Hermione’s window in the middle of the Australian night. She was expecting him this time, so thankfully, he didn’t have to evade curses or deal with wake-up grumpiness.

She hugged him tightly. “I spoke with Ron,” the brunette said eagerly, speaking quietly to avoid waking her parents. “We mapped out a good path for you to take on wing.” Harry sat down to rest on the bed as she dug around in her desk. She pulled out a large map filled with notes, arrows, and lines. “It’s a little messy, but this way you should be able to make it through the sanctuary unharmed.” She continued, delving into convoluted explanations for her complicated symbols.

He fell back on the bed as she eagerly explained.

“Stop sleeping!” Hermione whisper-yelled ten minutes in, pulling the pillow off his face to hit him with it. “This is important!”

“Oy.” He shielded himself from the brutal, feathery attack. “You’ve already repeated the thing about the circles three times!” he whispered back.

“Because it’s got three different meanings depending on the—”

“Line and angle of the path, I know,” he cut in, laughing.

She grumbled but gave in then, folding the map and shoving it into his arms. “If you get scorched don’t come crying here.”

“Why not? Dinner on wings.” Another pillow-slap for that.

Finally putting the fluffy weapon down, she sat down on the bed next to him, resting her back to the wall. Her brows furrowed in thought before she perked up again. “You went to school this week, didn’t you?”

Harry nodded.

“Oh, it’s been so long since I’ve been to a muggle school. What was it like?”

“It was alright. Forks is a small town so the whole new-kid-attention was a little suffocating at first. Now they thankfully avoid me.”

She eyed him dubiously. “What did you do?”

He shook his head quickly, “Bella’s boyfriend’s got a sister. She’s pretty funny, so I’ve been spending a lot of time with her. Most of the muggles stay away then.”

Now she looked plain confused. Oh right, Harry may have forgotten to mention that tiny, little bloodsucking detail.

“Ah, erm, you see, my cousin’s dating a vampire. His sister is one too, of course,” he clarified slowly.

More silence. This wasn’t looking good. Hermione took a moment to recollect herself, breathing deeply. She opened her mouth, seemingly lost for words. Her eyes stayed stuck on him, an incredulous tilt to her brows.

Finally finding her words again, she asked, “And there just so happened to be vampires in Forks? The tiny, inconsequential town that Harry, Hero of the Wizarding World, Potter was sent to live in.” Her tone did not suggest any such faith for coincidences.

Harry scratched the back of his head. He probably should have mentioned this the last time he was here. The bloodsuckers just hadn’t come to mind after two months of separation; as there was more concern given for his friend’s summer in Australia than his own in Forks. “They’re muggle-pires,” he stated in a reassuring voice. She grimaced at the portmanteau. “Don’t worry, Hermione, they lived there long before me. No involvement. Bells’ beau has been pissing himself at my presence, definitely never met a wizard before.” She still looked unconvinced. “You’re the one always telling us to be open minded,” he reminded her.

Hermine finally sighed in acceptance, although still clearly unsure. “What are they even doing at a school?”

“Posing as teens or something, I don’t know. They were turned around our age.”

“Why not just pretend to be home-schooled? Or young-looking adults at that.” He shrugged. “And how do they hide their eyes? If they don’t have magical connections, they, what, use contact lenses?” Her brain seemed to be melting with each question.

“Actually, that’s a funny one. They’re veggies.”

She looked up in surprise. “And they’re around accident prone high school teens all day?”

“Only met two of them, but it seems they got good control. Pretty impressive to be honest; the sister kept playing volleyball with barely a pause when some guy scraped his knee in gym.”

“That kind of control must’ve taken years, decades,” she trailed off, eyes wide. “Impressive for a muggle vampire.”

“Yeah, that was my thought as well. Don’t know about the bloke dating my cousin if he’s that old,” he grimaced.

Hermione’s face warped in confusion. “You said they were turned around our age?” she asked. Harry nodded. “You know when a vampire’s age freezes, their development freezes as well, right?”

Well, from the whole immortal children chapter he’d kind of gathered that.

“So, the guy she’s dating is technically seventeen, inside out. It’s weird, but,” she cut off, offering only a shrug.

Harry didn’t know how to feel about that. It wasn’t any of his business, he supposed. He lay back down, hands behind his head “Explains why he’s so immature for an old guy, I guess.”

“He’s stuck in his late teens. Have some sympathy.”

He stayed until Hermione started yawning every other minute, figuring she was way past her normal bedtime. Another hug later and he was off, ready to brave Romania’s dragon sanctuary once more.

The path they’d mapped out brought him gliding through the forests and mountains for ages. The flight was exhausting, weaving in and out of dragon territories, but he remained unharmed by the time he’d reached the little warded settlement the dragon handlers stayed at. Thank Merlin for the map, he already knew which cottage Charlie and Ron stayed in.

One of the windows was open so he took it as an invitation. It seemed he’d gotten lucky, as his best friend was flopped out in an armchair, yelling at the figures on the chessboard.

“Stop arguing, knight, take one for the team,” he commanded hotly. The little porcelain horse-rider shook his head vehemently, inching away to the corner of his square.

Harry trilled from the window, drawing his attention away from the disobeying chess pieces.

The redhead perked up. “Harry?” he called, getting up from his seat.

Harry transformed, grinning. His friend hugged him tightly, taking another moment to look at him before hugging him again, grinning back all the while.

“It’s good to see you. I thought you might show up, Hermione told me about,” he cut off, instead gesturing a hand at Harry. “How long were you planning it?”

Leaning against the window, he shrugged. “Almost since I first arrived at my uncle’s.”

“Have you seen any of the others? Hermione told me you met with Ginny.”

Harry shook his head. “Well, I met with your parents as well,” he corrected. “I’ll pay Neville a visit soon, but I got no idea where Luna could be now.” The girl and her father were off on an adventure, no doubt looking for Snorkacks. “How’ve you been doing here, though?”

“Been more scared than I ever was back home. Got singed five times just today, and that was from the hatchlings!”

Harry laughed.

The hours flew by, Harry happy to spend time again with his best friend. By the time he made it to the Weasleys, it must’ve already been early evening in Forks.

He landed on Ginny’s windowsill, tapping on the glass. She rushed over to open the window, greeting him happily. Harry jumped in and transformed, wrapping his arms around her, digging his face into her shoulder, breathing in the familiar, sweet scent. She pulled away to caress his face, beaming up at him.

He stayed at the Burrow for longer than he should’ve but still shorter than he’d wanted. Before he left, Ginny reminded him, “I’ll be at Hogwarts next time you’re out flying.”

“Your final year,” he remembered. “Luna should show up as well, finally.”

“I’d hope so, but you never know with her.”

A too short kiss later and he was off, only returning back to Forks by night-time.

Charlie was still up, watching the telly in the living room. At the sound of the front door opening, he called out, “Harry? That you?”

Harry came to stand in the door, greeting his uncle. “Sorry I’m so late.”

The man cleared his throat, straightening in his chair. “It’s no worries, kid. Just let me know next time. Where were you?”

“Just with some friends from school,” Harry said simply. It wasn’t exactly untrue.

His uncle nodded, leaning back again. “Glad you’re making friends at school.” He took a second look at him, noticing the yawn Harry tried to hide behind his hand. “You going to sleep?”

Harry nodded. The excessive travelling, though exceptionally shortened, was still tiring. He bid Charlie goodnight and went to his room.

 

Monday was sunny. Harry was happy for the reprieve of vampires it offered him. Whilst he didn’t particularly mind Alice, she could be a lot to handle. Bella, however, seemed rather unhappy about the situation.

“Enjoy the sun, Bella!” Jessica implored during lunch. They were all sitting outside under the clear sky. Harry had gotten to know the rest of Bella’s friends mostly from their shared lunch table the past week. “Edward will be back,” she promised, leaning back on her arms to let herself absorb the most sun.

Bella rolled her eyes but didn’t respond, putting her head back down to her book.

“How about a trip to the beach later?” Mike suggested, also relaxing in the bright weather and chewing on some candy he’d brought along. “We can meet up after school. You been to La Push, Harry?”

Bella snorted. “He goes at least once a week, usually more.”

Mike peered at him questioningly, so he nodded, answering, “I’ve got a childhood friend living there.”

“Oh, I see. Well, he’s free to come too!” Mike smiled. “Tyler,” he called, throwing one of the gummy vines at the other boy sitting further off. Tyler turned inquisitively. “La Push, after school.”

The boy smiled, throwing a thumbs up before turning back to his conversation on the other table.

“Aren’t you warm, Harry?” Jessica asked. He never wore short sleeves to school; today was not an exception. “You should’ve brought a T-shirt.”

“Didn’t realize the weather varied past grey and greyer.”

She giggled. “Rarely, but it does happen!”

The rest of the school day went rather slowly without the now familiar chattering presence of Alice glued to him.

Harry waited for Bella at the end of the day. It seemed one of her old teachers, the biology teacher, had come to strike up a conversation with his cousin in the absence of Cullen’s overbearing shadow. Harry found it rather odd; he’d never been one to talk to teachers he didn’t have a class with, but maybe it was a muggle thing.

The teacher let her go after a while.

Bella hurried over. “Sorry Harry, Mr. Banner just wanted to know how I was doing, but he wasn’t making it easy to peel off.”

“No worries.” He hoisted the bag back onto his shoulder, following her to the truck. They headed off from the school parking lot, stopping by the house before heading to the beach. Harry wanted to call Jacob. He didn’t bring the phone around too often, too worried it might break in his prolonged presence.

Fawkes greeted him from his perch when he walked in the door. “Been sleeping all day?” Harry asked. The bird warbled groggily, hiding his beak back under his wing.

Approaching the phone, he took a deep breath to stabilize his magic before he picked it up and tapped in the numbers. A couple rings in, his friend answered.

“Hey Harry, what’s up?”

“A group from school is going to the beach now if you’d like to join,” Harry offered, absentmindedly petting the sleeping bird.

Jacob quickly agreed to meet him there, eager to see him after missing out on the weekend; Harry had also spent the Sunday out of the country. Hanging up, he returned to his cousin waiting in the truck.

They drove peacefully on the empty road. Surrounded by green, there wasn’t much of a change of scenery apart from the varying cracks and bumps in the road and warning signs appearing now and then.

That was until a huge, silver beast popped out in front of them.

Bella’s foot smashed the breaks, car swerving off into the other lane to avoid hitting the creature. Silence followed, only Bella’s harsh breathing and the stuttering motor of her red wreck audible.

The beast was long gone, disappearing once again in between the green.

“Did you see that?” she breathed.

Nodding, he leaned back in the seat in thought. He was rather positive it hadn’t been one of the wolves he’d seen before. He turned to his cousin. She seemed rather shellshocked still, mute and not looking in his direction. She likely hadn’t seen him nod, so he answered again. “I did. Are you ok, Bells?”

She gulped heavily, blinking back to reality. “Ye—Yes, I think so, I’m not hurt,” she assured him quickly. Another pause. “What was that?”

Harry shrugged. “An animal?”

She regained some senses, punching him in the shoulder. “Thank you, Captain Obvious. Anything else you’d like to add?” She seemed calmer, her stiffly fisted hands relaxing more against the wheel. Bella exhaled and rested back in her seat, setting the car straight on the road again. “Maybe it was a bear? Some of the hunters at work have mentioned spotting bears. I thought they were exaggerating.”

Harry thought it had looked rather distinctly canine, but perhaps his pre-knowledge of the existence of the wolves and his more keen, magically enhanced eyesight was the reason. “It could’ve been,” he replied indifferently.

They set off once more toward La Push, Bella eager to catch up with her friends and forget the encounter.

 

The next day at school, Harry was already sitting down when the pixie menace appeared.

“Hi!” she grinned, hopping onto the seat next to him by the desk. “Did you miss me?”

“Define ‘miss’.”

She slapped his arm gently, likely the same way she would a fragile muggle. “You’ve had a week to get used to me. Besides, we’ll be spending a lot of time together from now on. We’ll be assigned a group project together.”

Harry frowned. There hadn’t exactly been a lot of group projects when being taught magic. It was more of an individual study. However, with new subjects came new rules, so Harry wasn’t too taken aback at the possibility of working together for an assignment. Something still seemed off, though. His eyes narrowed. “The teacher didn’t mention anything about that yesterday. You weren’t even here then.”

She tapped her nose, smiling secretively. “Splendid intuition, I told you before.”

“You told me you’re not usually taken aback by events, not that you can predict our assignments.”

“Details. Besides, I don’t have to be at school to know what goes on.”

He propped his elbows on the desk, leaning his head in his hands. “How was your camping trip anyway?” he asked, somewhat ironically. It was truly a wonder the coven got away with using that excuse on uncharmed teachers. Harry supposed they had their own charms, if unmagical.

Alice peered at him curiously, no doubt picking up on the sarcasm. Without commenting on it, she answered candidly, “We saw many wild animals. It was quite enjoyable.” Indeed, her eyes did perhaps look a brighter yellow than before the weekend. “I heard you and Bella spotted a wild animal as well. A bear, she said?” Her eyes turned inquisitive.

He looked away, focusing at the front where the teacher just entered. “It was big and fluffy, and fast,” he shrugged.

As the teacher started up class, Alice was unable to question him further. It wasn’t like he had much to say about the wolf. They seemed harmless enough, last time he’d met them.

It was later in the day, in History class, that Alice’s premonition seemed to come true. The teacher assigned the class to work in pairs, grouping up the ones sitting next to each other.

“…You will be expected to work on this assignment outside of class as well,” the history teacher finished.

Harry glanced at Alice, exasperated. She stuck her tongue out in response. “Told you so,” she sang under her breath.

The last bell rang soon after. Alice followed him eagerly to the lockers.

“Edward and Bella finished earlier and already left. They can’t drive you today,” she said cheerfully.

“That’s ok, I’ll walk,” he replied easily. Not like it was a long walk either way, but he could always just apparate the distance once he was out of sight.

Her face fell. “No, no, I promised Bella you could hitch a ride with us,” she insisted. So that’s why she’d been so happy about her brother’s absence.

“How thoughtful, but unnecessary.” Harry closed his locker door, ready to leave. He’d rather not sit in a car with another vampire unlikely to stand his presence. Alice was an anomaly in her acceptance of the unknown danger his magic bore. And Harry didn’t know if it was an especially smart attitude for the vampire to take, although he appreciated the impartiality.

“Jasper won’t mind,” she swore, coming to stand in front of him. “He’s already waiting outside for me.” Harry tried to sidestep her, but she mirrored his movement. “I can’t just leave you to walk.”

“It’s two miles.”

“Two miles in the rain!”

“I have a coat.”

“The car has a roof.”

“Charlie told me not to go into strangers’ cars.”

Alice looked more perturbed now. She hesitated, looking uncertain she asserted, “We are friends.”

Harry smiled. Friends, huh. Not something he’d ever thought he’d use to describe a vampire, but he wasn’t against the idea. “Friends don’t try to kidnap each other, I think.”

Lips pursed, she rocked on her heels, hands behind her back. “You’d be surprised.” A pause before she continued. “And it’s not kidnapping if you come willingly. Besides, you’re not exactly a kid.”

She seemed to have a plethora of counter-arguments ready. “Very reassuring.” He made to move past her again.

Alice didn’t hesitate, once more stepping in front. “We have to work on the assignment anyway. May as well do it today.”

She had a point. “I can meet you at the library.”

“It’s small. Not a lot of space to work for groups, and the librarians don’t care to make sure the noise levels are kept down. Our house is quiet, bigger, too.” Her offer was delivered with a smile but her eyes were sharp. Harry would rather not sit down in a vampire den of unknown size, even though they were unmagical. He was uncomfortable enough just sitting down with muggles at his back.

“I’d rather not,” he declined. Her face fell with genuine disappointment. He didn’t know if he should feel bad, but he was sure her family would be thankful that he did not encroach on their home despite Alice’s wishes. He didn’t want to disappoint her further, he realized with a little shock. Harry sighed. “We can work at Uncle Charlie’s,” he proposed. It was more of a middle ground, he supposed; a place that wasn’t public or Alice’s family home. Additionally, Bella lived there, so she was likely to be more comfortable working there.

She beamed. “That’s perfect!” Alice led the way out of the school, hopping eagerly down the concrete stairs to the car park.

They reached the car Harry had seen Alice get into every day after school. She opened the passenger door. “Hey Jasper,” she smiled happily. “This is Harry.” In no world did her excitement match the driver’s wary gaze.

The new vampire gave a nod in greeting, which Harry returned in kind. Alice ushered him into the backseat, eager to take off.

“Can you drive us to Bella’s?” she asked quickly. “We have a group assignment, so we’ll work on it there.”

Jasper glanced at her with concern, his stiff face turning down in a frown. “Perhaps it would be better at ours,” he said instead, clearly uncomfortable with leaving his girlfriend unprotected with an unknown threat. “Bigger,” he offered as an alternative explanation for his wariness.

Harry couldn’t help but smile a little.

Alice shook her head. “We already agreed to go to Bella’s,” she denied, comfortingly stroking his hand resting on the gear stick.

He seemed to give in, silently driving them to the Swans’ residence.

Alice hopped out swiftly, Harry following. Before she could make it much further than a step, a screech from the air called her attention. She jumped in fright, looking up with a frozen expression.

Fawkes landed heavily on Harry’s shoulder, wings spread in threat. He was apparently not happy with his friend’s forced company. Jasper exited the car at inhuman speed to stand by the front of the car, closer to Alice, too startled to consider subtlety. The bird screeched again, the sound ringing in Harry’s ears.

He petted the phoenix’s rustled feathers calmly. “Relax, Fawkes,” he murmured. The bird shook his head in displeasure, but settled down, glaring at the closest vampire, Alice, who still seemed extremely disturbed.

Jasper looked like a coil, ready to spring to his girlfriend’s defence. Fawkes could be rather intimidating, Harry supposed. For a burnt turkey.

“Sorry about him, he doesn’t like strangers much.” Of the vampiric kind, anyway.

Alice took a moment to regain herself, body held stiffly and gaze cautious, she laughed awkwardly. “I should’ve expected it. Edward told me about your bird.” She eyed the unlit phoenix carefully.

Jasper painfully unwound himself from his rigid posture, face set in stone. Harry could see his hand trembling slightly. The vampire peered over at Alice, eyes warily questioning. She smiled back at him. Skipping over to him, she kissed him on the cheek, directing him back into the car.

“Go now, we’ve got work to do!” she demanded, looking more uncertain than before. Harry wondered if she regretted not bringing them to hers. Her boyfriend certainly did, judging by his distrustful stare.

In the end, the blonde obeyed haltingly, eyes still on the phoenix in confused apprehension.

They entered the house, Alice carefully keeping her distance from Harry and his glaring bird as she made her way to the living room. Clearly, Alice had been in the house several times before. Harry dropped his bag, sitting down in Charlie’s chair as she’d occupied the couch. He doubted she wanted Fawkes in the same furniture as her.

The phoenix hopped from his shoulder, re-perching on the arm of the chair, head still kept low in a threatening glower, wings stiff by his side.

Alice looked away from the bird, focusing instead on the work at hand. She sorted out her textbooks and notebooks on the coffee table, keen to start. They soon ended up flipping through the material beside each other, jotting down notes and setting up a basic thesis for their assignment. She seemed to forget Fawkes’ overbearing presence with each newly turned page.

Sitting on the carpet facing each other, books and assorted flyaway papers lined with notes between them, was how Charlie found them later in the afternoon.

“Alice,” his uncle called from the living room doorway, happily surprised. “How nice to see you again, it’s been a while.”

She grinned from the floor. “Hey Charlie, it has! I’m just working on an assignment with Harry.”

“I didn’t know you’re in the same class,” he smiled. “I won’t bother you further, you two work hard. I’ll pay Billy a visit.”

Left alone again, they resumed their task until evening when Bella returned with Cullen. The other vampire sat waiting outside for Alice, so they packed up.

“That wasn’t too bad, was it?” she teased. Harry rolled his eyes. “We’ll continue tomorrow if you have time,” she continued.

Standing in the hallway as she put on her jacket, Harry said, “I’ve got some work for the other classes as well due the day after, I’d rather finish that up first.” They had received two weeks for completion. They already had the general idea of what to write, their sources and facts ready, so taking a day off shouldn’t hurt. “How about Thursday? Or Friday?”

“She nodded. “Perfect. At my house then? It’s only fair.”

He crossed his arms, leaning back on the doorsill with a silent noncommittal smile.

“Come on,” she pouted, dragging the last word out. “Your bird was giving me the stink eye the whole time.”

“He doesn’t trust you,” Harry commented honestly. “So I shouldn’t worry him further by going somewhere with you.”

She put her hands on her hips, staring him down. “He’s a bird,” she stated, not impressed.

“He is,” Harry nodded. “So why are you so scared of him?”

“I’m not!” she frowned.

Fawkes of course took that as a cue to flap over to Harry’s shoulder, staring her down once more. She took a step back, toward the door, expression frozen.

“Of course,” Harry agreed. “Not scared in the slightest. He’s just a bird, remember.”

She made a face before running out the door, eager to escape the big bad warble-machine.

Harry laughed, petting the phoenix. The bird trilled happily.

Chapter Text

It was Friday when Harry walked out of the classroom after first period, separating from Mike as they headed off in different directions. Rounding a corner, he bumped into Cullen. The vampire glanced behind himself at Harry before resuming his focus at the end of the hall.

Bella stood there, talking with one of the teachers. Harry recognized him as Mr. Banner, the same teacher as yesterday. Harry and Cullen waited side by side for the two to finish talking; the vampire’s eyes narrowed as he watched them interact. When Bella set foot back to them, the teacher didn’t take his eyes off her as she walked.

“Does that man have a thing for Bella or what?” Harry joked quietly, finding the staring disconcerting.

“Yes,” Cullen answered through gritted teeth. His eyes widened at the voiced answer, clearly not having intended to reply out loud. “He has since she first came here,” he continued in a low voice at the questioning gaze Harry threw him. Looking away, he muttered, “It’s foul.”

Harry nodded, it really was. But he couldn’t resist the urge to comment. Side eyeing the vampire, he said, “Yes. Imagine that; some man decades older leering at her. Gross.”

Cullen’s head whipped around. He looked extremely disturbed at the comparison. Unable to respond without saying too much, he kept quiet, looking just a tad paler than before. Harry knew Hermione was probably right about the frozen ages, but the stuffy immortal’s reactions were just too funny.

“Sorry for making you wait,” Bella smiled once she’d made it to them, but the happy expression melted off slightly as she noticed her boyfriend glaring at her cousin.

“I wasn’t,” Harry denied, ignoring the vampire. “I just got here. Frownie over here, however...” he trailed off, nodding his head to the offender.

Bella rolled her eyes, reaching out to wrap her hand around Cullen’s wrist. She sent the vampire a reproachful look. “Let’s go to class.” She tugged at his frozen hand, obviously incapable of moving it. The effort seemed to set the statue to life once more, following Bella without taking his eyes off Harry. The wizard smiled placidly back.

When the two walked ahead of him, Harry caught the teacher’s eyes as he looked up. The wizard subtly prodded his mind with legilimency. The mind arts had been learned and taught as a prerequisite for all members of the DA, and the training had proven its worth many times. The average wizard didn’t spend a lot of time developing occlumency shields and so when used right, the unnoticeable legilimency connection could be used to fight far more effectively. Predicting moves and attacks being only some of the many benefits.

Considering Bella had been the last thing on the teacher’s mind, it wasn’t hard to confirm Cullen’s statement. Harry grimaced in disgust as images of other students the man had fancied flashed past. At least it seemed he’d never tried anything more untoward than intrusive conversations and looks. So far. Harry wasn’t about to leave it to chance. Mr. Banner was well within his mid-forties, and the leering really was unacceptable.

The teacher was looking at him with a confused expression, having caught Harry’s aggravated expression. Harry turned the corners of his mouth up in a stiff smile. Mr. Banner smiled back and turned his back to walk off. The wizard subtly twitched his fingers towards the end of the hall. The jinx latched onto the man.

His eyes glazed over for a second as the compulsion took hold. Clearing up again, he shook his head and headed off without a second look.

Harry walked through the door of the classroom. Bella and Cullen were already sitting waiting, both sending him a questioning look as he trailed in towards his desk.

Harry disregarded the question marks etched in their faces, sitting down by his desk quietly.

It was lunch when the jinx had its chance to take effect. Alice was by his side at their table, chattering about the essay as Bella and her boyfriend gathered some food on their trays.

Mike passed by, holding hands with Jessica. Seemed they were on again this week. He paused by Harry, letting go of his somewhat-girlfriend’s hand so she could sit down on the other side of the table. Leaning down, he whispered, “Thanks, man, Mr. Varner would’ve killed me if I’d forgotten my homework again.”

He held up a fist in thanks. Harry bumped it lightly. At least he wasn’t as clumsy with the muggle gestures now as he had been the first week. Mike had quickly introduced him to most of them. “No problem,” he said honestly.

After Mike had moved to follow his girlfriend again, Alice cleared her throat pointedly. Harry tilted his head to look at her.

“You’re going to get in trouble if you’re caught,” she commented in a low voice.

He put on an oblivious expression. “Caught doing what.”

She rolled her eyes, continuing her previous line of conversation before Mike’s interruption.

Harry paid attention for a bit, but then Mr. Banner walked through the cafeteria door. Harry’s lips turned up in a smile. Pausing in the door, the teacher looked around with glazed eyes, the charm guiding him.

He eagerly approached Harry’s cousin once more, swaying on his feet, each step getting heavier.

Harry watched out of the corner of his eyes, Alice’s words turning to background noise as he waited with excitement. He couldn’t hear the words exchanged, but it was clearly making Bella uncomfortable. Harry felt a stab of guilt for putting her in that situation. The man’s face flushed and his shoulders twitched with even intervals as he hiccupped. Anyone looking at him would assume he was drunk.

He leaned on the counter of the salad bar Bella stood by, still swaying, and leered down at her.

The teens at the tables nearby quieted down, watching the scene unfold with confused murmurs. The whispers didn’t reach his table, but the side-glances said enough.

Cullen returned from the till, having paid for their lunch. He pulled Bella away quickly, leaving the magically inebriated teacher behind with a glare. The teacher didn’t waste time, the charm guiding him to his next victim, a younger girl sitting at one of the observing tables. His approach sent them all ducking their heads, thinking he was there to admonish them for their gossiping.

He gave the female student an appreciative look, slurring something inaudible out. She leaned back in disgust, her friends’ blanching at whatever the man had said.

Another teacher hurried over then, quickly and quietly guiding the swaying man out of the cafeteria before he could pull more attention his way.

Harry smirked at the scene, blinking his eyes to look away. Aside from the normal buzz of the cafeteria, it was unusually quiet at his side. He realized it was his friend’s chattering that was missing.

Harry turned back to Alice. She was staring at him, eyes narrowed. She had very likely caught his lack of surprise at the teacher’s behaviour. Opening her mouth, no doubt to dig, Harry beat her to it. “Sorry, Alice, I should’ve been listening,” he apologized, purposefully misunderstanding her suspicion for annoyance.

She snapped her mouth shut again, eyes still on him, lips in a thin line. Harry held the stare evenly. Her expression smoothed out soon, morphing into a sly smile. “Oh, I was just talking about where we’d be tomorrow,” she said, waving it off and looking off to the side at her approaching brother and Harry’s cousin.

The two sat down next to them before he could respond.

Bella sighed before leaning forward. “Did you guys see that?” she whispered.

Harry threw a glance at Alice, seeing if she’d mention anything. She was silently smiling. “No, what,” he asked, eyes still on the vampire.

“Mr. Banner came over to talk again, but I think he may have been drunk,” Bella said in a low tone.

“How disturbing,” Alice broke in, sounding properly shocked. “It’s a good thing we already agreed to go to our place,” she hummed. That was news to Harry; they’d agreed to stay a couple hours at the school library after classes that day as well as the day after. If he wasn’t confident that his mind was indeed impenetrable, her next statement may have left him doubting. “We don’t want to stick around if there’s teachers getting drunk; it would be rather disruptive to our work. Right, Harry?”

She sent him an easy smile, daring him to argue. He bit his tongue. Cornered, all he could do was nod his head. Her expression looked like the cat that finally ate the canary, and Harry just knew what she was thinking. Check mate.

“Besides,” she said, once it was clear he wouldn’t try to contend it, “Carlisle is working in the afternoon, and Esme will be out. And I doubt we’ll see Bella or Edward,” she snickered.

Bella giggled. “I’ll return him in one piece,” she promised.

With another smile, Alice continued, “So, the house will be pretty clear.”

“Thought you had another sibling.” Harry had remembered her mentioning a ‘Rose’.

“Two,” she corrected. “Rosalie is Jasper’s sister; she married Emmet after graduating. They were on a honeymoon overseas all summer. But they’re,” she paused to think, “at college.” What a convincing story.

He nodded, leaning back in the uncomfortable plastic and metal chair as he accepted his faith. Seven vampires. A surprisingly big coven. Fawkes wouldn’t be happy he was visiting the den of vampires alone, but even a coven of that size wasn’t a threat to a wizard. If Alice really wanted away from his fiery friend bad enough to invite him to their home, he’d play along.

The day trickled along. It seemed the biology classes had been cancelled for the day for unknown reasons. Rumours of the teacher being drunk at work were already circulating, and Alice side-eyed him each time a murmur passed them.

The end of the day spelled her excitement as she led him eagerly down to the car park, practically shoving him into the backseat.

“Jasper,” he nodded in greeting, slightly hassled from the rushed vampire.

The blonde nodded back with a tense expression. They set off soon, driving through town, out past the thinning line of houses. Soon, there was only forest to see. Of course, the vampires would live somewhere out in the middle of nowhere.

Harry really couldn’t understand why they’d want someone they didn’t trust to encroach on their clearly intentional isolation. Unless, “This is a poor murder attempt, Alice, hundreds of students saw me get in this car,” he stated sarcastically.

She threw him a look. Her face didn’t look particularly amused. “I have better methods,” she said finally. “Don’t underestimate me.”

Harry smiled back calmly. “I don’t doubt it.”

Leaning back in the seat, he enjoyed the scenery as they passed by blurry trees with only the occasional lake being exposed through the thick tree line.

They soon turned off the main road, drifting down a long, unpaved forest road. It wasn’t until they reached the house that Harry realized they’d been driving on the vampires’ driveway for the past two minutes. The house, while beautiful, was completely isolated.

“Not a fan of guests?” Harry smirked.

Alice turned around, grinning, and even her boyfriend’s stiff face melted slightly; his lips tilted in a wry smile. “We don’t usually have anyone over,” the blonde said.

“They all probably got lost. Do you even get mail out here?”

“We got a PO box,” Alice laughed as the car circled up to enter the garage.

“What, did they get tired of losing postmen?”

“They didn’t like coming so close to the house,” Jasper murmured dryly, probably not meant for Harry’s ears considering the look Alice dished out.

Harry didn’t question it, unsurprised at the muggles’ reluctance to visit a vampire’s den. Muggles found vampires just as intimidating as vampires found wizards after all.

The car slid perfectly into an empty spot in the huge space, surrounded by shiny cars Harry couldn’t care to know the brands and models of. Alice hopped out, Harry following behind with a sigh. She eagerly skipped ahead to the door presumably leading up to the main floor, leaving Harry behind with Jasper.

The blonde stared at him, still on guard but clearly feeling more at ease in his own home. Harry didn’t see why; they didn’t have wards to keep him in check. But if it made the vampire feel better that was fine. Jasper gestured to where his girlfriend had disappeared, cueing Harry to follow. Leading him up the stairs and through a hallway, they made it to the living room.

“Tada!” Alice beamed, standing with her arms open in the middle of the big space.

“Nice place,” he complimented politely.

She frowned, hands falling to her hips. “It’s gorgeous,” she contended.

Harry nodded agreeably. “It is.”

Jasper huffed a laugh at her antics. “Not everyone is as easily impressed as you, Alice.”

“I am impressed,” Harry argued with a laugh. “I’ve just never seen anything like it.” He gestured to the windows which had replaced a whole wall. “It’s modern, I suppose.”

“Does it beat your stuffy English boarding school?” she sniffed.

“Well, my school was very different.”

“Right; no electricity.”

“That too, but it was, well, a castle.”

Her eyes widened. “You never said that before!” she frowned until her curiosity got the better of her. “How was it like living in a castle?” she asked, eyes shining.

Harry smiled. There really was only one word to describe Hogwarts. “Magical.”

She fell back into the couch, sighing dreamily. “Ok, beside a magical castle,” if only she knew the extent of that word, “this still measures up?”

“You have a beautiful home,” he assured her. She pouted at the slightly patronizing tone, but let it go, opting to get her books out on the table.

Jasper made himself scarce, leaving them to get to work on their essay.

Harry settled down on the opposite side of the table, sorting his own books out as they got started.

It happened about an hour later. Alice was lounging lazily on the couch, reading out some bullet points for the shape of their essay. Harry nodded along, tagging down notes for each. They’d already checked out the books from the library they thought they might use for the task.

Soon flipping through the books, they looked for the right information along the long lines of tightly packed text. Harry was not as familiar with American history as he’d have liked. Perhaps another visit to Nelson’s was due. Or would that be too much cheating?

A loud screech interrupted his train of thought.

Alice jumped in her seat, head whirling to the source of the noise. Harry was already reasonably sure he knew what it was; the screech had been a rather familiar one.

On the other side of the glass, Fawkes wasn’t hard to spot with his crimson feathers contrasting heavily to the green background. The huge bird was perched precariously on a branch, feathers ruffled and wings out to look big, and if Harry could guess; to keep balance. He screeched again, staring the vampire down.

Alice wasn’t breathing, likely having forgotten her state of make-believe humanity. “What the—Did you call him?” she asked, horrified at the bird’s second confrontation.

Harry turned back to his book, flipping another page for the right date. “He doesn’t have a phone.”

“Shut up. You know what I mean.” She finally exhaled.

Fawkes hopped onto a thinner branch closer to the glass, brandishing his wings further by flapping them to keep balance on the unsteady perch.

Jasper appeared at the top of the stairs; no doubt having heard the commotion. “How did he get here?” he asked, confused.

“Probably flew,” Harry said matter-of-factly.

Alice threw her notepad at the space next to him. “You’re terrible.”

Fawkes hopped onto the thin windowsill and loudly tapped his beak on the glass, unhappy with the perceived attack. Alice sunk back in her seat, face wary.

One of the slimmer windows was slightly open, letting fresh air into the room. Fawkes hopped over to it, balancing on the thin sills. He stuck his beak in through the crack, warbling unhappily as he tried to push it open.

Alice hopped up now, bounding off the back of the couch to Jasper. “He’s trying to get in,” she whispered. “Tell him to go away, Harry!”

“Go away, Fawkes,” Harry called dispassionately, eyes still on the texts. The bird started snapping at the window latch, eager to work out how to open it.

Jasper rolled his eyes, approaching the window warily.

“Don’t go near him,” Alice whispered, pulling him back.

“At this point he’ll break the latch. Esme won’t like it.” He squeezed her hand to reassure her, lightly moving it off his arm.

He walked close, stretching his arms out the final distance to open the window, carefully avoiding his powerful beak. Unlocked fully, the bird flapped back to let the window swing outward, Jasper melting into the wall to allow him in.

Fawkes hopped onto the inside of the sill, staring the blonde vampire down. Jasper backed further into the wall, somehow. Accepting the vampire’s hand in helping him get inside, he took off, gliding through the room to land at Harry’s knee. He cooed affectionately, a sharp contrast to the earlier screeches. Harry raised a brow at him, finally closing his book.

Harry sighed. “He’s a little overprotective,” the wizard explained, throwing the bird a look, “sorry about that.”

His avian friend did not seem repentant in the slightest, warbling happily at the reunion while butting his head against Harry’s chin. Due to the unplanned visit, Harry hadn’t had the opportunity to let Fawkes know where he’d be. So of course, the phoenix would not have been very pleased finding out he had been brought to the vampires.

Alice huffed, her master escape-the-bird plan ruined. “How did he know you were here?”

Harry shrugged. “Tracked me down?” he suggested, stroking the bird’s neck with the back of his hand.

“You were in a car,” she deadpanned.

“Don’t underestimate Fawkes,” he chastised. “This is what you get for kidnapping me.”

Jasper snorted. “Bella can tell you; she’s a serial offender.”

“Serial is too much,” Alice argued. “I’ve only done it once,” a pause, “maybe twice.”

“Aren’t you planning one in another week or so, on her birthday?” Jasper teased.

“Well, she’s got to look stylish. It’s a party after all.” She crossed her arms, gaze moving to the uninvited guest once more. “How come he shows up here but not at school?”

Harry raised a brow. “Fawkes doesn’t need a diploma,” he answered easily.

Her eyes flickered to the pillows on the couch, no doubt considering asphyxiation or another aerial attack. Another glance at Fawkes seemed to change her mind when the bird stared her down as his crest feathers started to rise. Jasper moved closer to her, keeping a wary eye on the bird. “I don’t see what he needs here,” she challenged.

Harry smiled. “How would I know. He’s a bird. Shouldn’t we get back to work? I won’t be able to meet up on the weekends,” he said, purposefully changing the subject. Harry would be busy all of Saturday and Sunday since Hogwarts had just started back up, so he’d have to spend more time sneaking around for his visits to Ginny, Neville and Luna. He also had another stop to make.

She sighed but nodded. Jasper stayed silently by her side, watching Fawkes carefully. With another moment’s consideration, Alice turned to the other vampire, shooing him out, “It’s fine, Jasper. Don’t worry.”

He hesitated. Clearly worried about the presence of the phoenix but also aware of how odd it would look to anyone else to be so concerned about a pet bird.

Alice crossed her arms again, unimpressed, “You’re the one that let him in.”

He rolled his eyes with hints of a smile. “Was I supposed to let him break down the walls?” Her hands came to rest on her hips, brows raised. “Fine,” he raised his hands in defeat, “I’ll go. But if that creature,” he pointed at Fawkes, whose feathers ruffled at the gesture, “takes you away to, I don’t know, feed you to its hatchlings, don’t blame me.”

“Fawkes doesn’t have children,” Harry assured them both.

They didn’t seem too comforted but the blonde set foot back out of the living room, leaving the two— now three— alone.

Alice approached the couch again carefully, settling down on the edge, furthest away from the two of them.

Considering she had returned unscathed from her first encounter with Fawkes, the bird wouldn’t have some new obscure reason to suddenly attack—besides her impromptu kidnapping. Her brother’s behaviour toward Harry had been far less friendly, and the phoenix had yet to toast him. Then again Harry could understand how overwhelmingly confusing and scary it had to be for creatures acclimated to being apex predators to suddenly be faced with the tremendous presence of a phoenix. Especially after already being tripped over by their first contact with a wizard. Obviously, they had no clue what they were face-to-face with in either case, but instinct was a powerful tool for most creatures, and they could no doubt tell they were unmatched if nothing else.

She picked up her notes again, but didn’t even look at the paper, instead eyeing the two of them. Harry peered back questioningly.

Alice pursed her lips in thought before talking again. “Ok, since my plan to get away from your pet raptor,” she nodded her head at Fawkes who in turn glared at her, “didn’t pan out; at least tell me. How did you do it?”

Harry blinked. “Do what.”

She pouted. “I’m owed a refund on my silence,” Alice insisted. Harry still looked confused, completely caught off guard at the sudden question. Her eyes narrowed. “How did you spike Mr. Banner?” She leaned forward, naked curiosity shining through. “A drink? How did you time it for when he spoke to Bella?”

Harry leaned back, petting Fawkes’ neck. “I never signed a contract; no clause for refunds.”

Alice rolled her eyes at the snarky response. “Don’t get me wrong, he deserved it,” she assured him. “He’s been perving on a couple of the other girls too.” Harry grimaced at the reminder. “The school will be forced to take action against him now, so hopefully he’ll be gone soon. Thank god Rosalie never took Biology; she’d have killed him.”

When he remained mute, she huffed out a sigh.

“I’ll find out,” she warned.

Harry very much doubted so. Muggles, mortal or not, were good at making up justifications to unexplainable things.

“I think chapter two in this,” he carefully tossed the book he’d been looking at earlier over to land next to her, “will be a help for the background,” he said instead of answering. “Page nineteen.”

Alice pursed her lips again, in discontent this time but picked the book up, letting the subject rest. Flipping to the right passage she read through quickly, eyes flicking through the words at inhuman speed. She nodded, jotting down some notes on a paper. “You’re right.”

They got back to work for a couple hours more. Fawkes periodically checked over their writing quality by tasting the paper in his beak while Alice watched nervously. The bird clearly enjoyed testing the vampires’ nerves.

It was evening, the sunlight slowly trickling down past the treeline, when another vampire entered the living room. “Oh,” she whispered, wide-eyed. “I didn’t realize you had a friend over, Alice,” the older female vampire said softly. Her eyes fell on the bird next. Fawkes had settled uncomfortably close to Alice, peering over her shoulder at her work.

“Hey Esme,” Alice greeted. “This is Harry.” The two exchanged a look. It wasn’t hard to discern that he’d been a subject of conversation.

The vampire seemed hesitant but moved forward to greet him anyway. Harry stood up politely, hands at his side. She smiled warmly, teeth hidden, although her eyes showed unease. “It’s nice to meet you Harry, I’m Esme.”

Her hands were filled with bags of different sizes, but Harry doubted she’d have risked a handshake even if they weren’t.

“You too,” he smiled. “Do you need any help with the bags?” he enquired courteously.

She shook her head quickly, eyes crinkling at the offer. “Thank you, I’m alright. You two continue, it’s getting quite late,” she smiled.

Fawkes peered at her as she moved to walk past. She walked in a big half circle around the couch, avoiding close contact with the firebird, before setting half of the bags down in the kitchen and taking the rest upstairs.

Alice and Harry put their heads back together, focusing wholly on the task.

Esme soon returned to sort the wares. Harry wondered why they bothered buying food just to fill up a fridge they didn’t need anyway.

She approached cautiously after placing everything away. “Harry, would you like some food?” Esme asked carefully, eyes hopeful.

Harry blinked, taking a moment to process. “Uh,” he cast a glance at Alice, seeking help. She nodded with a hopeless smile. Esme wrung her hands in anticipation. Merlin, he felt genuinely bad for making this woman— vampire, he reminded himself, disappointed. He wasn’t particularly hungry, but, “Sure,” he agreed, feeling compelled to accept. “Please,” he tacked on quickly, feeling out of place.

The woman beamed, scurrying back to the kitchen. His eyes turned hopelessly back at Alice, who only rolled her eyes with a smile. “Esme loves taking care of us,” she explained quietly. “But we’re too old to be treated like children.”

Wasn’t that an understatement. Harry raised a brow, “But I’m not, you mean?”

She grinned. “Bella’s slipped up and called you her ‘kid-brother’ on accident a couple times.”

It was Harry’s turn to roll his eyes. Ignoring the comment, he set his attention back on the books.

Sometime after, a delicious scent from the kitchen wafted into the living room. Esme came to stand in the entrance of the kitchen, a nervous expression on her face. “I figured you’d like something familiar; shepherd’s pie. Or, rather, cottage pie, I didn’t have lamb,” she corrected, flustered.

“Sounds delicious,” he replied quickly to ease her, “smells really good,” he assured her honestly.

Her face broke into another smile. “I’ll come right out with a plate.” Harry got up quickly to relocate to the table, but Esme interrupted, “You don’t have to move.”

Harry sat back down hesitantly. The motherly vampire quickly returned with a plate, a fork, and a napkin, setting it down in front of him on the coffee table. It felt rude to eat outside the kitchen or dining table, but he felt equally uncomfortable demanding to be re-seated. Esme stood back at a little distance, watching eagerly for him to have a taste.

Alice snickered behind her hand, disguising it as a cough when Harry glared at her. He picked up the fork to have a taste of the potato mash and meat. Fawkes hopped over before he could, squawking suspiciously at the dish. “Oy, it’s my food, you fiend,” Harry chastised. He knew for once the bird was rather more concerned about the possibility of poison, but it wasn’t like some muggle poison would do much to a wizard. Either way, he silently screened the food to please the phoenix. Despite the clear result, the bird didn’t waste time snatching a small piece from the fork with the tip of his beak. After a quick swallow, he immediately trilled happily at the taste.

“He’s hungry too?” Esme asked, although she was clearly wary of the feathered monster, her eyes lit up at the chance of wasting more time cooking for them. Considering the food had come up clear, and obviously tasty, Fawkes also looked very interested at the possibility.

Harry took a bite of the potato mash and meat, shrugging. “He usually is,” he answered after swallowing, moving for another bite. “This is delicious, thank you,” he said gratefully. It really was, and he hadn’t had cottage pie since he’d left Hogwarts more than a year ago.

The woman looked abashed, if she was still human Harry was sure she’d be blushing. “I’m glad you like it,” she smiled. “I could get something for your bird, if that would be ok with you? I don’t know what he likes…” she trailed off, head turning to the kitchen with a dangerous glint in her eyes. Harry recognized it as the same excited look Mrs. Weasley would get when presented with the opportunity to feed her whole family.

“Bella said he eats bacon a lot,” Alice broke in.

“Fawkes eats everything to be fair,” Harry nodded. “But you don’t have to make him anything,” the bird squawked in disagreement, “he’ll be fine,” Harry assured both the vampire and Fawkes himself.

“Oh, I don’t mind at all. I’d love to make him something,” she insisted. Fawkes trilled in accord.

With the two ganging up on him and Alice just snickering at his situation, Harry could only smile defencelessly. “I’m sure he’ll love it,” he said finally, giving up.

The vampire swiftly disappeared back into the kitchen, the scent of sizzling bacon rolling in a couple minutes after. Fawkes shifted impatiently, eyes hard locked on the kitchen doorway. Harry shook his head. So much for the bird’s distrust of the vampires.

Esme soon returned with a little plate piled with the crispy snacks. Fawkes watched hungrily, shifting around as she approached. She leaned over from the other side of the table, putting the plate on the edge and quickly retreating. Fawkes quickly hopped over.

Fawkes could replace a hoover with how rapidly he devoured the bacon. Trilling happily, he flapped his wings to hop over to Harry again. Harry raised his brows incredulously at the phoenix. “At least say thank you,” he insisted.

The bird turned to Esme, warbling happily. She startled, unsure how to respond. “You’re welcome?” she answered, her tone making it more of a question.

Picking up the plate again, Esme left them to their work once more, offering Harry more food when he finished his plate. The evening dragged on as the two continued.

It was Esme that finally decided Charlie would probably want him back. “It’s already ten, Harry, your uncle is probably sitting up waiting for you,” she said with a concerned frown. “I can drive you home if you’d like,” she offered.

“Jasper will do it,” Alice said instead.

“Jasper?” Esme almost gasped. “I mean, how nice of him, but are you sure…” she trailed off, frown deepening. “Edward should be back soon too, he could drive him,” she suggested.

“It’ll be fine,” Alice said, waving it away with a hard look at her adoptive mother.

What was that about, Harry wondered. He was happy enough getting a lift from the blonde vampire as long as he didn’t have to share breathing room with Cullen.

The vampire in question soon appeared, no doubt having heard his name called. Harry packed up his books and notes, shoving them into his bag.

Esme stopped him on his way out, handing him a Tupperware before letting him leave. “It’s the cottage pie that was left over, have some with Charlie and Bella,” she said kindly.

Harry smiled, accepting it gratefully. It wasn’t something the vampires would be able to eat, so she probably didn’t want it to go to waste.

Fawkes hopped over to the opened window as he said his goodbyes to Alice and Esme.

“Is he not coming with?” Jasper asked, looking perplexed.

“In the car?” Harry laughed. “I think he’d prefer to fly.”

“On his own?”

Fawkes cooed readily, taking flight into the darkness of the night.

“Should I fly with him?” Harry joked dryly. Well, he could, technically.

“I just mean, how does he know where to go,” Jasper corrected, leading the way down to the garage since the bird was already gone.

Harry followed. “He knew to find me here,” he reminded the vampire.

The two settled into the car, the vampire remaining silent in thought. The drive seemed longer in the night, or maybe due to Alice’s absence. But they soon reached town once more, houses and buildings surrounding the lit-up streets.

Harry breathed out a sigh of relief as they pulled up to his uncle’s house. Jasper turned to him at the reaction. “She can be a lot,” he voiced, an easy smile on his lips.

Not amused, Harry peered back stoically.

The vampire’s smile widened, turning into a smirk. “She means well though, wanted to get to know you better,” he confided.

“I don’t see why she couldn’t do that here,” he gestured at Charlie’s house, “or at school.”

Jasper leaned back in the seat, looking ahead. “We all feel most comfortable at home.”

Harry nodded. “I know the feeling.”

The shadows twisted as something big flew past the headlights of the parked car, landing heavily on the fence by the stairs leading up to the door. Jasper jumped, head swirling to the creature.

Fawkes sat perched, head tilting at Harry from behind the windshield.

The vampire’s expression turned to shock. “He made it here fast,” he murmured.

Harry smiled, “Thanks for the lift,” he said, choosing not to reply further.

He opened the side door, stepping out to the awaiting bird.

Chapter Text

The weekend was indeed busy, with all of Saturday spent visiting Ron, Hermione, and Mrs. Weasley, the latter of whom was not easy to escape. With the night creeping in, he decided to visit Hogwarts on Sunday.

The castle was just as beautiful as he remembered—the damages from the war having been reconstructed during the summer—standing proudly upon the huge rocks above the Black Lake. He’d seen it from the sky before when riding both thestrals and Mr. Weasley’s car, but from the eyes of a falcon it really was magnificent.

It was mid-day, and the sun was shining bright in the sky, students occupying most of the grounds as they enjoyed their first weekend back. He glided down to land in a small tree in the courtyard, feathered head swirling around in search of his targets.

A flash of red caught his attention. Nope, that was just a random third or fourth year. Ginny would probably hit him for mistaking her for such a young student, but they were pretty much the same height anyway.

He flew around some more, even peeking through the windows of Gryffindor tower. It was only when he’d finally given up and perched to rest on one of the castle walls that he noticed two familiar faces trekking up from the Forbidden Forest.

He cooed in happiness, gliding down quickly.

“Ah!” Ginny exclaimed as he smacked into her chest, wings spread in a hug so she had to catch him from falling. She got over her shock, quickly wrapping her hands around him. He rested his beak in the crook of her neck and was careful to avoid scratching up her skin with his talons. “Harry, what the hell,” she whispered.

Luna peered at him curiously by her friend’s side. “I always figured you were more of a bird,” she decided nonchalantly. Was that a dig at his masculinity?

His feathers ruffled, Luna smiled serenely.

“Let’s go somewhere,” Ginny suggested, eyeing up the passing students. Some glanced over, perplexed at the bird she was coddling.

Luna nodded, following her friend’s lead. The redhead brought both up to the castle, leading them through the cool stone hallways. They ducked out of sight through a door on the wall. It was a small room, tightly packed with tools, shelves lining the walls. It was a small room with shelves, tightly packed with tools, lining the walls.

Harry transformed back, dropping on his feet right in front of Ginny. She stumbled back at the sudden lack of space, the toes of their shoes touching. Harry grabbed her by the shoulders, pulling her in for a hug.

Luna happily joined in after a heartbeat; her short thin arms barely reaching halfway around them both. Harry laughed, moving his arm to encompass her as well. “It’s nice to see you again, Luna,” he grinned.

They sorted themselves out again after a moment, standing apart but still close due to the tight space.

After the pleasantries, Harry asked, “What were you doing in the forest?”

“Feeding the thestrals, of course,” Luna answered easily. Harry shouldn’t be surprised really. “Have you been visiting the others? Ginny told me you’ve been able to bypass— or flypass the Ministry’s security.”

He leaned against the door, shifting uncomfortably in the small space. “Mostly everyone,” he nodded, trailing off.

“Harry’s still terrified of visiting Teddy,” Ginny stage-whispered to her friend.

“I’m not,” he argued quickly. “I just don’t want Mrs. Tonks to worry.”

“I’m sure she worries more about you,” Luna offered, eyes understanding.

“I don’t want to put them in danger.”

“You’re here with us,” Ginny reminded him with a chuckle. “Hermione, Ron. Mum and Dad. And I know you met with Neville last weekend.”

He frowned. It had been good to see them all again and he of course wanted to see Teddy, but, “You all fought in the war; you know how to defend yourselves.”

Luna covered her smile with her hand, Ginny laughing harder. “If Mrs. Tonks heard you say she can’t defend herself I think you’d quickly be learning first-hand just how capable she is,” she giggled. “That woman wouldn’t let anyone lay a finger on her precious baby grandson.”

“She’d appreciate the visit, I’m sure,” Luna concurred. “She’s acting as both grandmother and single-mom right now.”

“Take some responsibility, Harry,” Ginny teased. “He’s your godson.”

He crossed his arms, huffing out a sigh as the guilt crept up on him. “Alright, alright. I will,” he promised, giving up. There was no use arguing when the two ganged up on him.

The three spent a bit of time speaking about everyday stuff; their first couple of days back at Hogwarts, Luna’s adventurous summer, Harry’s visit to the vampire den. At that last one Luna gave pause, staring wide-eyed at him.

“Would you introduce me to the vampires, Harry?” she asked hopefully. “It’d be ever so lovely to question them about their existence.”

He hesitated. The vampires were unlikely to find her questioning equally enjoyable. “Err, they’re a bit far away.”

“I’ll come visit,” she decided. “Daddy has been looking for an opportunity to interview a vampire, but well, there’s not a lot left of them in the Wizarding World. And certainly not here in Britain.”

He threw a look to Ginny, begging for help. The redhead shrugged. “Luna, I’ve been sent there to stay hidden. I don’t think the Ministry would appreciate your request to err, ‘visit’,” he explained gently.

“Besides,” Ginny chimed in, “we’re stuck at school for a year. You won’t be able to travel.”

“Oh, that’s no problem. I’ll transfigure myself into a ribbon, you’ll tie me around your wrist and fly off,” she rebutted easily. “Then you’ll transfigure me back. I’d just stay a day, or two at most. No one would notice.”

Now Harry was really dumbstruck. Before he could even gather the wits to respond, Ginny said, “That sounds like a whole lot of things that can go wrong.”

Harry nodded emphatically, still speechless. She wanted to be ported throughout the world as a transfigured ribbon. The potential for it to rip or catch or just the mix of transfiguration magic making it go wrong… Harry shuddered at the thought.

Luna frowned in thought. “Then,” she continued to Harry’s growing anxiety, “I will formally request a port key to the States in the Yule holidays for work related reasons.” She nodded to herself, pleased at her solution. “The Ministry can’t refuse our request without reason, and they can’t reveal your location as their reasoning. It’s fool proof.”

While Harry was sure Luna would find a way to step foot on the American continent, he did not think the vampires would be pleased to suddenly have two wizards nearby. There was also the issue of them being muggles. “They’re not part of our world, Luna.”

“I’ll obliviate them after of course,” she countered easily.

He shook his head, giving up. “We—we’ll see, Luna,” he promised finally.

She smiled widely, eyes shining. “Oh, I can’t wait!”

Luna suddenly stepped forward, slipping her thin arms around his midsection in another tight hug. “It was lovely speaking to you again, Harry. Come find me later if you’re still here,” she said excitedly, letting go to make it past him to the door.

He frowned, “You can stay, Luna. You don’t have to leave,” he assured her with a halting hand on her arm. He had been eager to see her again, despite her sudden decision to accost Fork’s friendly neighbourhood veggie-vampires.

She raised a delicate brow. “That’s a little sudden, Harry. I didn’t think you’d like that sort of thing.” Harry froze. What. “Although I’m sure Ginny wouldn’t—”

He opened the door and pushed her gently but firmly out before she could finish that thought. The door closed with another click and he leaned back on it with a disturbed expression.

Ginny snickered, sending a locking charm on the door. “You’re so cruel, Harry, rejecting her like that,” she joked before bringing him close for a kiss.

This time he’d made it back within a reasonable time so Charlie hadn’t been too worried. Each Weasley, as well as Hermione, had extracted a promise from him to visit Teddy next weekend. He had wanted to see his godson for a long time, of course, but had been unsure how his visit would be received by Mrs Tonks. His status as Teddy’s godfather was already a threat; his presence would be sure to attract trouble, or so he’d told himself.

Still, although selfish, it would be a joy to see his godson again.

Monday came too quickly, Alice was glued by his side from third period out, as usual.

“How was your weekend anyway?” she asked at lunch after a long-detailed description of her shopping adventure in Seattle.

“The same as usual,” he replied casually.

“You said you couldn’t meet up for the essay though,” she remembered.

“Harry is usually busy during the weekends,” Bella explained from her side. “Not that he’ll say with what, but he’s out from early morning to late night.”

“What are you doing that’s so secret,” Alice asked, eyes shining with curiosity.

Harry leaned away from the inquisitive look. “Nothing interesting.”

She leaned forward. “If it wasn’t, you’d say.” Her eyes narrowed, head no doubt moving through all possibilities; well, apart from the possibility of him transforming into a bird and magically transporting himself to different continents to see his friends, he imagined. “Your cousin is quite mysterious,” she settled on, addressing Bella instead who for her part nodded.

“Honestly, and I thought Edward was cryptic,” his cousin agreed theatrically.

He rolled his eyes, ignoring them both.

Thankfully, Mike sat down across from him before they could dig any further. Leaning over the table, he grinned, “Me and the guys are going out after school, you should come.”

“Out of school? Well, I’d hope so, who’d stay in,” Harry wondered sarcastically.

“It’ll be fun! Join us,” he insisted again.

Harry threw his hands up in defence, “What if I had plans?”

Alice leaned over then. “Plans with me?” she asked brightly.

It took only a second for Harry to redecide. Pointing over to the boy across from him, he stated, “Plans with Mike.”

Said teen grinned happily, the smile fading only a little when Alice turned to glare at him.

“You better not take him anywhere weird,” Bella warned, polishing off an apple in her hand before taking a bite.

Mike’s ears reddened a little, stuttered assurances following right after.

The school day proceeded, the blaring of the final bell letting them leave after hours of classes. Waving goodbye to his cousin once he reached the car parking lot, Harry didn’t have to look far to spot Mike and his group of friends. The blonde waved him over.

“Let’s get out of here!” Mike beamed, rushing him into the car.

Ben, who Harry had only talked to a handful of times, sat next to him in the back, whilst the front passenger seat was occupied by a boy he couldn’t remember the name of. Thankfully, Mike quickly fixed that.

“You’ve met Austin before haven’t you?” he asked, pointing to the sand-haired teen before turning his focus on the radio.

Austin gave Harry an awkward wave from his seat in the front, “Nice to meet you.”

Harry smiled back, a handshake seemed a little out of reach inside the car. “You as well.”

With everyone settled in, Mike took off out of the car park, attention still split between the road and the radio. Shaking his head in disgust, he seemed to give up. “Austin, look for a CD, should be something good in there,” he pointed at the glove compartment.

Whilst Austin was ruffling around in the mess of magazines and documents, Harry took the opportunity to ask, “So, what’s the plan?”

“You ever been to Port Angeles?” Mike asked.

Well, yes. Many times. His frequent visits to Nelson’s during the summer had left him rather acquainted with the city. But of course, “No, I’ve been in Forks all summer.” Telling Mike would most likely mean Bella finding out, which would raise the questions of when and why he’d gone to Port Angeles on his own.

“How depressing! You’ve gotta get out more, my guy,” Mike insisted. Considering Harry spent his weekends traversing the earth he felt rather fulfilled on his travelling needs. “Well, alright, so this is kinda hush-hush. Don’t tell Bella about this!” Harry raised a brow, unseen by Mike whose attention was on the road. “Austin’s cousin’s a mechanic in Port Angeles. They also sell used cars and some bikes…” he trailed off, attempting for suspense.

Ben kicked the seat Mike was in with his knee and rolled his eyes. “Moron, it’s not that big a’deal.”

Mike protested the interruption, but got cut off by Austin this time, “My cousin’s willing to lend us some of the dirt bikes they’ve got,” he said. “Just for a joy-ride or two.”

“We go out there now and then when the weather’s not too grey,” Mike grinned. “Some good off-road tracks too.”

“We won’t go off-road today,” Austin easily cut in, having a peek out the window. “Could still be slippery from yesterday.”

Harry leaned forward, intrigued. Mr. Weasley had told him he was working on Sirius’ old bike to make it drivable again, but it had unfortunately not been completed by the time he’d been force-flown out of the country. “Why’s it hush-hush though? Is it illegal for you guys to drive them?”

Harry didn’t have a license, so he could see himself getting into trouble if that was the issue, but why were the rest of them worried?

“My parents get a little anxious about it,” Austin admitted sheepishly.

Ben and Mike both nodded in agreement, Mike whispering, “Mine would kill me.”

“But we’ll just stay off the main roads…” Ben continued. “There’s some private roads behind his shop, not many eyes there,” Austin grinned.

Ah. Well, Harry had never really had to deal with overbearing parents. Apart from Mrs. Weasley, he supposed.

“Your uncle too!” Mike said. “Everyone knows the sheriff can’t stand bikes. Who knows what he’d do to us if he found out we brought his nephew to ride one.”

“I can keep a secret,” Harry smiled.

The drive continued, Mike and Austin arguing about what CDs to put on and when the radio music was tolerable, Ben pitching in now and then to tip the scales of the disagreements.

Making it within sight of the familiar city, they soon pulled off the main road to a big grey square building with tall garage ports. On the side was a shorter connected building with big windows looking into a waiting room.

The teens got out of the car, walking past the small building to the garage. Austin shoved one of the ports open.

Leaning over a car’s insides, headphones covering his ears, stood a man. He didn’t seem to have noticed their arrival, music presumably blasting loudly in his ears and focused wholly on the vehicle.

“Dan,” Austin called loudly. “Wake up, man.”

The man looked up at the call, reaching up with a gloved hand to push the headset down to his neck. “Austin,” he grinned, “back already?” He straightened up a little, casting a closer look at the group. “Haven’t met you before,” he stated, looking at Harry.

“Harry,” the boy smiled back.

“Nice to meet you. Dan,” he gestured to himself. “I’d shake your hand but,” he tore one of the gloves off, showing off his grease-blackened hands, “think you’d regret it,” he laughed.

“What you working on?” Austin questioned, shuffling forward to leer at the car. Harry didn’t know much about them, but it seemed to be a rather nice car. Sleek, sporty.

“Nothing you’ll ever get to sit in,” Dan snickered. Austin frowned in disappointment but cheered up when his cousin pointed his thumb behind him. “You know where to go. Drive safe, or I’ll get in trouble, and if I get in trouble, you get in double trouble.”

Austin rolled his eyes, booking it for the back. The three boys followed suit as Dan got back to working on the car. The new room seemed to be a sort of storage for parts; loose wheels, headlights, and things Harry couldn’t name littering every wall and surface.

“Find a helmet that fits,” Austin commanded, shuffling through a pile of protective gear. Mission helmet succeeded, Austin grabbed four keys off the wall before passing through the next door, this one leading to a roofed outside parking for all sorts of two wheelers.

He handed two of them to Mike and Ben who immediately found their vehicles, before turning to Harry. “You ever rode a bike before?” Harry shook his head. Mike and Ben were already sporting their helmets, Ben having started up the bike, revving the engine a little. They both laughed.

“Alright, let’s have a crash course.” Austin was swift with directions, but Harry was a quick learner. Especially with something exciting.

Mike and Ben were swerving around the big lot as Tyler guided him through starting up the bike, gearing and breaking. Some twenty minutes later he allowed Harry on the bike, gesturing to the clutch.

“You remember?” he asked.

Harry nodded, stomach twisting with nerves. It had been a while since he’d felt nervous about something. Going through each step, this time whilst sitting on the bike, Austin kept a close eye on each movement, nodding along as Harry followed what he’d been told.

“Ready to kick-start it?” he asked.

Harry steadied the bike, holding down hard on the clutch. He looked down on the pedal before glancing back up at Austin for affirmation. The other boy nodded.

Harry slammed his foot down on the pedal, as previously directed. The bike made a ripping noise before quieting down again. Harry looked up in question. “Try again,” Austin instructed.

This time it took hold, the bike rumbling harshly under him. Harry breathed out.

“Gear,” Austin reminded him. Harry nodded, kicking his left foot down to snap the gear into first. His impromptu instructor nodded again, pleased. “Clutch and throttle left.”

Harry eased his grip on the clutch slightly, the bike jolting forward slightly. He held it back again. Trying again, the bike moved forward slower this time.

“Nice and easy, do a lap around the lot,” his teacher commanded. “Guys, out of the way,” he called over to Mike and Ben. The two swerved their bikes to the side, putting their feet down to balance their now still two-wheelers.

Harry slowly rolled forward, carefully balancing as he loosened his grip on the clutch and tensely twisted the throttle to increase the speed. His heart was beating fast even though he was driving considerably slower than the two had been earlier. Coming to a stop in front of Austin, he opened the visor on his helmet, grinning widely.

Austin laughed at his expression. “Fun?”

Mike pulled up next to him, ripping off his helmet to reveal his matching grin. He clapped Harry’s shoulder. “You did it!”

“Didn’t even fall off your bike!” Austin smirked, raising his brows at Mike. The blonde glared back in jest. “Try a couple more laps, then we can see about going on a real drive.”

Harry did so, each lap leaving him more confident of his movements as his driving got smoother.

Coming to a stop again in front of the other boys, it seemed he was deemed ready, Mike exclaiming, “Let’s get out of here!”

Harry swallowed heavily, anxiety and excitement building up again.

They drove out. Harry could tell they were going slower than they would due to his inexperience. He wanted to speed ahead, the adrenaline making his breathing shallow, but he refrained, his shaky grip on the throttle a reminder of his inability to handle this new vehicle.

Screw it. He’d been up against worse than the threat of gravel to his face.

He rolled back the throttle a little more, speeding ahead. He could hear Mike laughing behind him, Ben giving a whoop as he sped up to match his speed. Austin revved his engine, passing them all as they zoomed down the gravel road, trees passing in a blur. He loved it all.

The road they were on followed a creek. After a while it led them to a small water pond. They parked up their bikes on the dirt.

“How cold do you think it is?” Mike asked, already wringing off his t-shirt to hop in. He ran to the edge, dive bombing in with a splash.

“You’re crazy!” Austin exclaimed, holding his hands up against the threatening droplets of water. Ben zoomed past them both, hopping in as well. “You both are!” Austin corrected, once more shielding himself. He shook his head in disbelief. “It’s September. The water’s freezing!”

Harry chuckled, sitting down on the pine needles, “Their mistake.”

Austin accompanied him, having a seat. “Haven’t really gotten to speak to you before, huh. We share a couple classes.”

“Yeah, I remember. I’ve seen you around the school.”

“You mostly sit with the Cullens,” he remarked like it was something uncommon. “How’s that?”

Harry raised a brow. “I sit with my cousin,” he corrected. And perhaps Alice, but he’d never admit to that. “Besides, Mike sits with us too. And Ben, at times, with Angela. Guessing the seats are as uncomfortable as anywhere else in that place.”

Austin chuckled. Nodding a little thoughtfully, he continued, “But you know, they’ve included you. Well, at least Alice Cullen. That doesn’t usually happen.”

“Guess she’s had to,” Harry brushed it off, “we’re sharing a school project.”

The other boy rolled his eyes. “It’s not like this is the first time anyone had one of the Cullens as their project partner. They never invited anyone over. Didn’t you go to theirs on Friday?”

Harry side-eyed him, a little disturbed. “How did you know?”

“Everyone knows!” he claimed. Small towns, Harry mused. “Ben thinks there’s something off about them, you noticed anything?”

“Oh, you mean the heads they strung up outside their house?” Austin’s head swirled around to stare at him. “Yeah, I suppose that was kind of odd.” Harry smiled calmly back.

The teen clicked his tongue. “That was terrible.”

“Did you believe it?”

“Almost.”

They chatted for a while, Ben and Mike soon returning from the water dripping wet and with shattering teeth. With no towels in the vicinity they sat down to dry off a little before pulling on their clothes.

“You’re gonna get sick,” Austin warned with a shake of his head.

For a moment, Harry debated leaving them be, but he decided not to be that petty. A small charm wouldn’t be that noticeable, but it may help prevent a common cold. As they were heading back to the bikes, he spelled the two to help subtly warm them up, faster than they would have normally.

They returned to the shop an hour or so later, all four happily chattering. Setting their bikes back in place, they left the keys and helmets in the room they found them.

Re-entering the garage, Austin’s cousin was still working on the same car, this time fiddling with the radio from the front seat. He peered out from the car door when he heard them come in. “How was it?”

Their matching grins were probably answer enough, but they all echoed their enthusiasm loudly.

Dan shook his head laughing, waving them out of the shop.

They headed out and back towards the car. Mike slapped a hand around Harry’s shoulders. “Happy you didn’t have plans after all, huh?” he teased. “Or are you regretting not going on your study date with Cullen,” he raised his eyebrows suggestively.

Harry frowned in disgust, shaking his head. “I’m very happy I opted out of that.”

“We go every other week or so, you’re welcome to join us next time too, if you’d like,” Austin smiled.

Harry nodded happily, “Definitely.”

They drove to a supermarket in town, getting a couple drinks and snacks before they’d start on the hour-long drive back to Forks. Mike and Austin sat down on some pallets behind the shop, Harry and Ben leaning beside them on the wall as they enjoyed their drinks. The early September weather wasn’t too cold yet, so the chilled liquid felt refreshing after their thrilling afternoon.

They chatted and laughed, Ben and Austin poking fun at how long it’d taken Mike to learn how not to kill the motor. “Maybe you’re just slow,” Austin suggested, bonking his own head lightly with his fist.

“Maybe you got better at teaching!” Mike argued back, sipping his drink. “I was just the unfortunate victim of your underdeveloped skills.” He turned to Harry, shaking his finger at him dramatically. “You should be thankful to me, Harry, if not for my suffering you’d also have had that bike falling over you.”

Harry smiled behind his soda, “Or it’s just you.”

Mike glared whilst the other two laughed.

They bickered for a while, the sun slowly heading down behind the buildings.

Austin looked toward the remaining light. After a second’s thought he got up from the pallet, finishing off the last of his drink in one big gulp. “Before the sun runs out, I’mma head right down to Swain’s.” He threw the can away in the trash, putting his hands in his pockets. “You guys just wait in the car, I won’t be long.”

Harry pushed himself off the wall, coming to walk beside Austin. Port Angeles wasn’t exactly the safest city, at night or otherwise. “I’ll come with you.” The other boy shrugged in acceptance.

The two crossed the street and took a couple turns, walking up the street for a few minutes before coming to a big building showing sports goods, hiking, fishing, and hunting gear. “Ran out my basketball shoes last practice,” Austin explained. “I get the same ones each time, so it won’t take long.”

He made his way into the shop, confidently passing by several lines of cardboard boxes until he found the right type. Harry trailed after. Leaning down, Austin seemed to find the right ones, picking them from a stack of others that to Harry looked exactly the same. Opening the box to have a look, he nodded. He picked up one of them and quickly tried it on, nodding again before returning them to their box and heading for the till.

The streetlights were on when they stepped out of the shop, the few minutes spent inside enough for the sun to fall almost completely behind the city line.

They crossed the street, the sky falling slightly darker with each step and the hum of the artificial lights above them audible in the quiet of the late Monday evening. Turning a corner to take the shortcut back to the supermarket Mike had parked at, they headed into a small alley. They followed it to another corner where Austin came to a halt. Harry almost smacked into his back at the abrupt stop.

In front of them stood two men leaning against the wall of the alley. They looked up at the two boys. One of them raised a brow, Harry could see the other glance down at the bag in Austin’s hand.

Before the man could say anything, Austin uttered a quiet, “Sorry,” and started backing out of the alley, opting to head back to the lit up main road.

“Hey, wait up,” one of the men laughed, shuffling after them.

Austin grabbed Harry’s arm tightly, pulling him with him.

“Come on,” the man was quicker now, having sprinted the last couple steps to stand behind them. “I said wait up.” The stench of cigarettes and alcohol filled Harry’s nose, he resisted the urge to grimace.

Austin turned to the mouth of the alley again, more than likely hoping to book it. Unfortunately, someone else was in their way now.

“What took you so long?” the other man from the alley called to the new arrival.

“Look what we found,” the closest grinned, pointing at the two boys.

“You kids lost?” the new arrival chuckled.

Austin shook his head.

“It’s a bit late for a couple school kids to be out, isn’t it? You’re what, juniors, seniors? Shouldn’t you be at home studying?” the first man questioned mockingly.

Austin didn’t answer, shoulders tense and face rigid. Harry stared at the man curiously. Making eye contact, he was quick to discover the reason for their interest. Harry almost rolled his eyes. Stealing shoes from a high school kid, who does that? Well, they didn’t exactly know what was in the bag, but they wanted it, whatever it was.

“What are you staring at, creepy ass kid,” the man bit out, the headache Harry had left him no doubt robbing him of his joyous act. He hadn’t bothered being careful rooting through his brain.

Harry held his glare cooly, unimpressed at the intensity.

“Little kids shouldn’t be so cocky, you know,” he sneered. As if they needed an excuse to be a nuisance.

“Maybe you shouldn’t talk to little kids,” Harry suggested.

Austin squeezed his wrist in warning, hand still wrapped tightly around it.

The men chuckled. “Brave,” the second remarked. “You’re not from around here, huh.” He narrowed his eyes dangerously. “We’ll forget what you said, s’long as your friend hands that over,” he pointed at the bag he’d eyed earlier.

This time Harry did roll his eyes. “Generous of you. We’ll have to refuse, however.”

Austin whipped his head to look at him incredulously. “Harry,” he hissed, face pale. Turning back to the man in front of him he quickly said, “It’s fine. You can have it.” He held out the bag in front of him, stepping slowly with his back to the wall and tugging on Harry’s arm to follow.

“You should be grateful this is all we’re asking,” the man smiled easily, reaching out for it.

“You often steal from school kids?” Harry mused innocently.

The man grabbed the bag and glanced to the side, sending a silent signal to one of his friends. One of them grabbed Harry by the front of his shirt. “Seems like your parents never taught you proper manners.”

“Well, are you really surprised? The ‘don’t talk to strangers’ part also slipped by,” Harry replied casually, shirt still gripped by the older man. “Seems yours should’ve been more meticulous with that one.” With the second the man took to process his second statement, Harry headbutted him, shielding his own forehead to prevent self injury. The man fell to the ground, unconscious. Not because of the headbutt, mind, rather the silent stupefy Harry followed it up with. It would look rather suspicious if the man just fainted out of nowhere after all.

Taking advantage of the shock, Harry grabbed the bag back and pushed Austin to move. The other boy took a second to snap out his own shock and make a break for it, but a couple tripping charms made sure the two conscious men couldn’t attempt to catch up.

They ran off, this time taking the main road toward the large parking lot where their friends were waiting. After five minutes of running they reached it. Austin slowed, leaning down to take a breath.

“Are you,” he breathed out, “insane?” he wheezed. Clutching his chest to calm his racing heart, he looked back up. “That was absolutely insane!”

“Uh, sorry,” Harry began, realizing it must’ve been scary for a muggle.

Austin cut him off before he could finish his apology, shaking his head hysterically. “It was awesome!” He stared at him with what Harry realized to be amazement. Now Harry felt even more awkward. “You dunked his head and he just fainted!” he laughed. “It was like from an action movie!”

Harry grimaced.

“How did you stay so--,” he paused, “so cool? It was like they didn’t faze you at all.”

Harboring the ability to turn them all into tennis balls and send them bouncing, should he please, really took the edge away from what muggles would consider dangerous situations. But that likely wasn’t an appropriate answer. “Adrenaline, probably.” Sounded plausible.

The awestruck look Austin kept glancing over with as they walked back to the car reminded Harry painfully of exactly what he’d been so grateful to escape in Forks.

Finally, back in the car, Mike and Ben stared at them both. “What took you guys so long?” Mike asked.

Austin was still panting slightly from the run. “What happened?” Ben queried, noticing his friend’s exhaustion.

Austin set to retelling the confrontation as Mike pulled out of the parking lot, setting off out of Port Angeles. Harry didn’t think assaulting a man and running off required quite as valiant a description, but Austin seemed set on glorifying the incident. Harry sunk lower in his seat with each awed statement. Mike and Ben’s shining eyes almost made him want to disapparate on the spot.

Thankfully, as the drive continued, they found other subjects to discuss that did not involve Harry’s heroism.

The hour long drive brought him home well within curfew, if he’d had one. Bella was heading up to her room when he stepped through the door. He waved her good night and went into the living room to chat with his uncle.

“Hey Uncle Charlie,” he greeted.

The man was sitting relaxed into his chair, sipping a can of beer. He looked up with a smile. “Welcome back, Bella told me you went out with your friends. Had fun?”

Mike had warned him not to divulge exactly what they’d been doing, so he answered simply, “Yeah, we went out of town to Port Angeles. Had a blast.”

His uncle nodded. “You should be careful in that city, been a lot of crime there recently,” he sighed.

Harry refrained commenting, instead taking a seat on the couch.

Charlie’s focus shifted to the telly, following a re-run of some baseball game. He shook his head at the players on the screen, diverting his attention away from it once more. “By the way,” he cleared his throat and leaned forward, placing the beer on the table, “Bella’s birthday is coming up.”

Harry’s eyes widened. He’d never gotten to celebrate her birthday since he’d only spent his summers in Forks. “September thirteenth,” he remembered.

Charlie nodded, “Me and Renée have already planned a little gift.” He lowered his voice, whispering gruffly, “we’re getting her a camera and a photo album to snap some pictures with her friends.” He shrugged. “It was Renée’s idea mostly. But if you want in I’ll write your name on the note.”

Harry shook his head quickly. “Thank you, but I want to get her something.” He frowned. Question was what?

“She’s not exactly the easiest girl to buy gifts for,” his uncle chuckled, mirroring Harry’s exact thoughts. “Let me know if you change your mind.”

Harry grinned, “I’ll probably stumble over something she’ll like.” Hopefully.

Chapter Text

“You know it’s Bella’s birthday next week right?” Alice beamed excitedly.

Harry looked up from the book. It was Tuesday. With their project due in one week, they’d been working on it at Charlie’s house today. “Of course,” he replied.

Fawkes turned his head questioningly from his watchful spot on the back of the sofa. Birthdays probably weren’t Phoenix events, unless you counted burning days.

“What did you get her?” she asked, leaning in conspiratorially, excessive curiosity in her eyes.

“Can’t tell you, what if you go blabbering,” he smirked back. Truth was, he still hadn’t managed to think of anything to get her. Bella was a very minimalistic person; she didn’t like jewellery, clothes, or other gifts money could afford. Books were the only thing Harry could think of, but she mostly preferred classics, of which the supply was limited and already in her possession.

Alice looked rather affronted at that. “As if I would.”

“Thought you didn’t like surprises.”

“Surprises to me! I like them when they’re for someone else!”

“That’s a little hypocritical.”

Frowning, she claimed, “You don’t understand how frustrating it is not knowing.”

Harry almost laughed. “Actually, I do. Most people do,” he corrected.

She sighed dramatically and leaned back again into the couch. Fawkes waddled closer to see what all the fuss was about. Alice was still quite unsure about the bird and eyed his approach warily, but reached a hesitant finger up to scratch his chest plume, her big golden eyes shining at the touch. Scary or not, Fawkes must’ve been a creature of intrigue to the vampire. “Well, you should know I’m planning a little party at ours for her,” she said.

“How nice of you.”

She pouted at his noncommittal answer, eyes still fixed on the bird she was carefully petting, as if the powerful beak would suddenly clamp over her finger. “You come as well. Everyone will be there, even Rosalie and Emmett.”

“Weren’t they at college?”

She took her hand down again, appearing slightly relieved when the bird leaned away as well. Turning back to Harry, she said, “Emmett wants to be here for Bella’s birthday. We don’t usually celebrate anything, so it’s a kind of a special occasion.”

Bereft of scratches, Fawkes hopped across over the table, settling next to Harry instead. “I see,” Harry responded after a second, handing the bird the attention he’d sought out.

She huffed now, crossing her arms. “Say you’ll come!” she demanded.

Harry smiled, “Alright, alright. What time?”

“It’s not been decided yet, probably in the evening, knowing Bella’s habitual dislike of anything fun,” she sniffed unhappily, like the thought of introversion hurt her physically.

“Update me when you can then,” he laughed.

They soon got back to their project, Fawkes watching carefully over their work. They’d agreed to finish up the project by Friday, since it was due Tuesday. With his weekends fully booked and Bella’s birthday taking priority on Monday, they wouldn’t have any more time to work on it past this week.

After another work session with Alice on Friday, meeting at hers this time, they could finally count their project complete. Free of any school obligations, he took the trip to Port Angeles’ little magical shop again.

It had been a while since he’d set foot in Mrs. Nelson’s store, but her daughter still recognized his glamoured appearance immediately. “Jamie!” Emma smiled, looking up from her magazine.

When forced to give a name earlier in the summer, he’d simply bastardized his father’s and mother’s names. So, to the Nelsons he was known as Jamie Evan. Very creative.

“Hello,” he nodded back, heading for the door next to the counter.

“Oh, mom’s up in the apartment right now,” she informed him before he could touch the door handle, “I’ll go get her for you.” She ran off to the stairs leading up. Harry heard a door slam open from the top before she called for her mother to come downstairs.

Mrs. Nelson soon appeared, face tired and a sigh on her lips. A grey, striped furball was glued to her chest, her hands around it attempting to unstick the creature. Harry realized it was a kitten, a very climbing-happy kitten. “Sorry for the wait, Jamie dear, my sister’s kneazle apparently got out and had some fun with a street cat. The result,” she gestured with one hand at the furball. “She asked me to take care of this one until she could find a home for it. She’s quite the handful.” The woman shook her head with a sigh. “I haven’t seen you in a while, how have you been?” Mrs. Nelson smiled warmly.

The young cat turned its head to look at Harry, big golden eyes staring up at him. Before he could answer, the tiny creature launched itself off the woman, apparently having found a more interesting scratching post. Harry flinched a little at the tiny claws digging at his skin through his sweater.

“Oh my, I’m so sorry,” Mrs. Nelson gasped, face flushed. She attempted to reach for the cat, but it lowered its tufted ears back unhappily, letting out a small growling hiss.

Harry chuckled, quickly correcting the creature to let it sit comfortably in his arms. “It’s alright, I don’t mind cats.”

Mrs. Nelson shook her head in exasperation at the cat before turning another smile on him. “Let’s hope she’ll release you soon. Until then, what can I help you with today?”

He clumsily dug into his jacket’s left pocket with his right hand, the other busy holding the kitten. Pulling out his shopping list, he handed it to Mrs. Nelson.

“Let’s have a look,” she mumbled, eyes rowing over the scrawled letters as he followed her down the stairs to the magic shop.

Bustling around under the flying books, she made herself busy picking out the different items he’d noted down. Nothing complicated, just some items for a couple potions he wanted to stock up on, so she seemed to have everything in stock.

They soon made their way back up the spindly stairs.

“Alright you, let Jamie go now,” the woman admonished with a warning look at the kitten once they reached the till. It made no move to listen, staring unimpressed at Mrs. Nelson. “Kneazles,” she shook her head, “they’re so stubborn. Either they like you or they don’t.”

Emma nodded with a chuckle. “Makes them really hard to give away too. Her siblings are mostly gone already, but this one hasn’t liked any of the muggles auntie’s tried handing her off to.” Her eyes lit up with an idea. “Why don’t you take her? She seems to like you!”

“Uh,” Harry hesitated, he didn’t think he could just bring a cat home. He didn’t even know if his uncle liked cats.

“Emma, we can’t just pawn her off on poor Jamie! That one’s a menace,” Mrs. Nelson sighed.

As if to spite the woman, the cat flopped over on her back in Harry’s arm, loud purring emerging from her throat. She rubbed cutely at her nose with her paw.

Mrs. Nelson did not seem amused by the display. She sighed in displeasure. “That’s enough from you now. Come here,” she demanded, reaching for the cat. The young feline growled but seemed to give up when the woman grabbed her from Harry’s arms, letting herself be picked up, ears flat against her head in displeasure.

Harry chuckled at the sulking cat, giving her a farewell scratch and bidding the Nelsons goodbye.

He walked off from the shop, soon meeting up with his feathered friend again. Fawkes stared at him oddly from his shoulder, head tilted.

“Got ambushed by a kneazle,” Harry explained, the phoenix no doubt having picked up on the scent of the unfamiliar beast. Fawkes bristled. “It was a friendly ambush,” Harry assured him. He checked his watch. It wasn’t too late, so he supposed he could pay a visit to Jacob. “Mind giving me a ride to La Push?”

Fawkes opened his wings and brought them down in a wave of fire. Before they disappeared, Harry felt a tiny force knock into his leg.

Landing on the soft forest flooring, Harry whipped around to see what had followed them through. Eyes landing on nothing, he frowned.

“What on earth was that?”

Fawkes cooed, his head turned down. The wizard matched him, looking to his feet.

Sitting quietly by his shoes, Mrs. Nelson’s half-kneazle sat staring up at him.

He blinked. “You’re a stubborn one, aren’t you?” Harry asked the little kitten. He picked her up carefully, giving her a cursory scan in case anything had gone missing in the impromptu side-along phoenix-apparition. Finding her whole and unscathed he breathed out in relief.

The cat purred happily at the attention.

“Mrs. Nelson’s not going to be happy with you,” he warned, bringing the kitten close to his chest for more comfortable seating. “How did you even get out?” he sighed.

Fawkes stared down at her from his shoulder, trilling curiously.

She looked over at the sound, lifting her paw to swipe at Fawkes long feathers.

The phoenix swooshed his wings down to take off from Harry’s shoulders, the gust of wind knocking the kitty on its back in Harry’s arms. Ears back and eyes wide it stared up with shock at the big bird as Fawkes disappeared in a burst of flame.

“You don’t want to mess with Fawkes, cat, he’s taken down meaner creatures than you,” Harry warned. The cat rolled back after a second, rubbing its head against his hand.

With the kitten so insistent on his company, he let her tag along to Jacob’s, apparating the rest of the distance over with his arms full. Wandering into the back, he heard the tell-tale clinking from the garage-shed. His friend spent most of his time thinking of ways to work on the car. He slid open the door.

“Hey Jake.”

The other boy looked up, eyes quickly latching onto the animal in his arms. “A cat?” he asked.

“No, it’s a baby tiger.” Knowing kneazles it wasn’t far from the truth.

Jacob chuckled. “Why d’you have a cat?” He turned back to the car, brushing off some imaginary dust.

“I didn’t really get any say in the matter.”

“What are you gonna do with it?” he asked, getting closer to have a wary look at the half-kneazle. He carefully reached out a finger. The kitten swiped at it lazily, unclawed. “Cute,” he remarked, scratching her neck.

“No idea,” Harry sighed in response to his question.

“Give it to Bella,” Jacob joked. “Sure she’d love a pet.”

Harry brightened. Jacob had meant it as a joke, but maybe she would like her. He held the kitten up under its arms, intently analysing it as it dangled from his hands, big amber eyes staring curiously back at him. “Might just work! Perfect for a birthday gift, right? A cute pet.” And if Alice was right about his cousin’s ability to land herself in trouble, a half-kneazle wouldn’t be too shabby of a protector for a muggle. Crookshank’s uncanny ability to sniff out untrustworthy individuals had long since proven an invaluable asset to the trio after all.

The kitten inclined her head to the side, letting out a little meep of a meow, as if sensing the work ahead of her.

“Oh, shit,” Jacob swore. “I forgot her birthday’s coming up!” he frowned. “What do I get her?”

Harry shrugged, “Good luck! I have to go ask Uncle Charlie if he’s allergic to cats.”

“Hey!” Jacob called back. “Give me some ideas, man! You came all this way just to go back again?”

Well, all this way was relative when you could reduce the trip to a second through apparition. But, “Got to make sure she can keep her gift!” Harry smirked, holding the cat up like a golden medal.

Jacob threw an empty plastic cup after him in revenge, but it didn’t even reach his feet before he was off, newly realized gift in hand.

Charlie stared at the miniature grey tiger with a cup of coffee on the kitchen table and newspaper held stiffly in his hands.

“What do you think?” Harry asked. Having sent Fawkes to leave a letter on the Nelsons’ door, notifying them of where the stubborn cat had wandered off to, he’d quickly received an owl back informing him he was more than welcome to keep the clawed trouble-maker.

His uncle cleared his throat. “It’s very,” he paused unsurely, “cute?”

“Can I give her to Bella?”

He shrugged, bringing his coffee back to his mouth. Swallowing a sip of the black liquid, he said simply, “S’long as I don’t have to take care of it and it doesn’t make the house smell, she can have whatever pet she wants.”

Harry grinned brightly. “Perfect.”

The cat wiggled in his arms, and Harry let her down. She sauntered over to his uncle and unabashedly started rubbing her side against his leg. He cleared his throat again, leaning down awkwardly to give her a stroke over the back.

Bella didn’t come home before late, having spent her Friday afternoon and evening working. Harry wasn’t much for surprises, and he doubted the cat would let herself go unnoticed till Monday. Picking up the beast that had been sleeping on his bed, he brought her upstairs to Bella’s room, knocking twice on the door.

A bit of shuffling around later and his cousin appeared in the door frame. “Hey—” her greeting cut off as her eyes landed on the furball. It looked up at her curiously.

Harry smiled impishly, “It’s a little early, but happy birthday.”

She stuttered a little, staring at the animal. The seconds rolled by.

He faltered slightly, uncertainty taking hold. “You don’t hate cats right?” he asked in a rush.

She shook her head vehemently. “No, no! He’s adorable! His eyes reminded me of—” she broke off, shaking her head. “I’ve just never had one before,” she said instead.

“It’s a she,” he corrected, relieved. “And they’re pretty independent.”

She reached out carefully, hands open, and picked up the little creature into her arms, holding it unsurely. The kitten righted itself to sit comfortably, rubbing her little head against Bella’s chest and purring loudly. His cousin’s tense expression softened at the affection.

Harry breathed out a little in relief. Kneazles were notoriously picky about their owners after all, but they generally accepted their families without complaint.

“She’s beautiful,” Bella whispered, blushing in happiness. Harry beamed back, pleased to have found a present that brought her joy. She hugged him cheerfully with one arm, careful to not squeeze the kitten between them. “Has she had food? Gone to the toilet?”

“She went outside earlier, and I bought some food, it’s in the kitchen.” Knowing the kneazle-breeds she’d probably prefer hunting her own dinner.

“Isn’t she too small to go outside, should I get her a litter box?”

Harry shrugged, “I went with her. She’s almost four months old,” as he’d been informed by letter, “pretty self-sufficient.” He wouldn’t want a normal kitten running around, but kneazles were extremely intelligent and would never lose their way. Considering she was a first generation half-breed, her parents a purebred kneazle and a normal cat, instead of two half-breeds, she’d have particularly keen kneazle instincts, the blood running stronger. With protecting their owners being one of these instincts, going far enough to get lost was highly unlikely.

Bella thanked him again, heading back into her room for the night with her new companion. Harry wondered how her boyfriend would react to the new presence in the bed, almost chuckling out loud at the thought.

The next day he found the cat and his cousin snuggled up on the couch, Bella tickling the little creature under its neck. It was an early Saturday morning, so he hadn’t expected her to be awake.

“Morning,” he called from the door leading into the living room.

She looked up with a content expression. “Good morning,” she laughed, the young cat pawing at her hand to keep up with the scratches.

“You’re up early,” he commented, heading for the kitchen for a quick breakfast.

“Oh, I set an alarm in case this one,” she scratched her neck fondly, “needed to go outside in the morning.”

Harry nodded in understanding before he disappeared from her sight to grab an apple from the kitchen counter. Returning a moment later, the kitten sat up to look at him curiously. He went over to give it a scratch.

“I need to find a good name for her,” Bella sighed, eyes rowing over the cat as if reading into its thick swirling stripes would magically procure her a fitting name. Unfortunately, whilst Harry didn’t have any practical experience with fur reading, his Divination lessons on palm reading had rarely proved to hold any weight.

The tabby fur did remind him of a certain someone. Pointy hats and wrinkled frowns in mind, he joked, “Minerva.” Well aware the reference would fly right over his cousin’s head.

Bella pet the beast’s ears lovingly.

To his horror, she said, “I like that,” after a second. Harry almost choked. His old Head of House would murder him if she found out. “A little old fashioned, but pretty.” She tickled its chin. “I hope she won’t mind Edward,” Bella frowned.

Most animals harboured strong instincts to avoid predators, such as vampires. The half-kneazle should be just fine however, being of magical blood. She might see the vampire as something to protect her family from, however. Harry chuckled a little at the thought. “She’ll be fine,” he assured her, giving the cat a little rub on the head.

“They’re all coming back on Monday, so she’ll get to meet him then,” the brunette sighed happily.

“They’re out of town?”

Bella froze up a little. “Camping,” she said quickly, eyes downturned. “They’re a pretty outdoorsy family,” she explained lamely, each word drawn out.

Merlin, his cousin was such a bad liar. “I see.” Bella flushed at the doubt in his voice. It wasn’t like he couldn’t guess the vampire family’s actual activities for the weekend, so refraining from grilling her he turned towards the door. “Well, I’m out,” he waved, heading out of the living room, apple in hand. “See you tonight.”

Bella sat up a little to peer at him over the back of the couch. “Where is it you’re going every weekend?” she asked, probably relieved he’d dropped the camping-subject.

Harry took a big bite of his apple, chewing carefully. He answered after another couple seconds, “None of your business.” And with a grin, he left.

Harry wasn’t scared. Per se.

However, standing in front of the familiar Tonks residence, he could perhaps admit to being a little nervous.

Taking a deep breath, he calmed himself before striding up the stairs to knock on the door. Some rustling and approaching footsteps could be heard from inside, Mrs. Tonks’ familiar voice calling, “Coming!”

The door opened enough to reveal her face, so painfully similar to her older sister. Harry gulped, but cracked a smile. “Hey, Mrs. Tonks,” he greeted.

The woman stood still for a good long moment. Eyes stuck on his. She suddenly grasped his arm and pulled him into the house. If Harry hadn’t spent as much time with her and his godson after the final battle, his instinctual magic may have sent her flying into the wall by the abrupt manhandling.

“Are you insane?” she whispered furiously, as if the neighbours would hear her from behind the closed door.

Harry wilted a little. He really shouldn’t have expected anything else. Coming here, he was putting both of them in danger.

“When Molly told me you’d come see me, I expected you’d show up at the back door! Or disguised! Or using that clever cloak of yours!” she huffed out. “Not just show up here in the middle of the day, handsome face of yours out for everyone to see,” she finished, grabbing his cheeks between both her hands.

He blinked. Taking in the words for a second. She’d known he was coming? Then the rest of her words sank in. “I had a notice-me-not on,” he retorted. Or at least tried to. The words came out a little warped due to the cheek-squeezing. “And you’ve got wards.” Honestly, she probably knew the moment he arrived and was just waiting for him to walk up.

She shook her head as if what he’d just said was ridiculous. “And you’ve got a head, use it next time. Now, take your shoes off already. Teddy’s upstairs having a nap.”

Harry stumbled a little at the name. Righting himself he stepped out of his shoes, lining them neatly next to the rest.

Mrs. Tonks bustled off to the end of the hallway, Harry following quickly up the stairs. Standing in front of his godson’s room again after so many months felt rather surreal, but when Teddy’s grandmother opened the door, not much seemed to have changed.

His eyes quickly found the sleeping five-month-old. He laid peacefully on his back, both arms out, and with a blanket crookedly covering him halfway. Mrs. Tonks moved up to him, pulling the cover further up.

Harry stepped after her cautiously, worried he might wake the sleeping baby.

She looked back at him, waving him closer. “The boy’s a heavy sleeper, thank Merlin,” she said softly. “I don’t know if I’d have had the energy for a second Dora.”

There was humour in her statement, but Harry couldn’t help the guilt welling up. “I should be here for you both,” he whispered.

Mrs. Tonks put her hand up, as if physically trying to push his statement away. “It’s not like you have any choice in the matter.”

He frowned.

“Oh, stop pouting, I get enough help,” she laughed quietly. “You’d think Molly would’ve been done with child-rearing by now but that woman’s still going strong.”

He couldn’t help but smile a little, not surprised in the slightest.

“Come now, let’s have a seat downstairs. You poor thing, must not have any good tea over there,” she clicked her tongue as if the poor quality was a personal offence and didn’t wait for an answer, heading for the door.

Harry dawdled a second. He stepped a little closer to the crib, leaning down to have a closer look at his godson. The baby breathed in and out, mouth open, expression serene. Carefully leaning down, he stroked the baby’s open hand with a finger. His godson grabbed onto it in his sleep, squeezing it lightly.

Harry stood there for a moment.

He exhaled, unaware he’d been holding his breath. Gently freeing his finger from the baby’s grasp, Harry backed out of the room slowly. With the door closed behind him, he breathed out again, heavier this time.

Mrs. Tonks was relaxing on the living room couch when he came back down, cups of tea placed in front of her on the lounge table.

He sat down in the chair next to the couch, a little stiffly. It hadn’t been easy coming here, but, “I should’ve come to see you both earlier.”

The older woman sniffed, “Undoubtedly.” Taking a sip of her tea, she cradled the cup between her hands. “But, I understand your worries.” She sighed. “There’s always dangers lurking after all.”

Harry glared down at his cup. He’d thought he’d gotten his temper more or less under control after the war, but the thought of someone hurting his loved ones had him seething. “If I was here, I could help out,” he bit out. “Gather up the rest of the followers. Make sure Teddy’ll remain safe.”

Mrs. Tonks laughed a little. “Even should we rid all of Europe of his marked sycophants, we’ll still be left with sympathizers. And you’d be better off staying here rather than going on witch hunts against that scum. We’re not muggles after all, we have better ways to protect ourselves, and Merlin forbid anything happen to you. Teddy will need you, growing up. Magic doesn’t make us any younger.”

His anger deflated somewhat at that. He frowned again. “Yet, I’m stuck a continent away.”

Placing her cup down, she leaned over and put a hand over his, squeezing gently. It froze him for a moment, earlier incident with Teddy in mind. She smiled at him softly. “Don’t waste this time then. You’ve got a chance to live normally. Just like everyone else. No fighting, or running,” she reminded him softly. “No evil Dark Lords with grudges,” she finished teasingly.

Just Harry. It felt like a lifetime since he’d been Just Harry, when Hagrid had brought him into the world he truly belonged to. It had been a long time since he even thought about wanting to be Just Harry. He shifted uneasily, eyes downcast and hands fiddling with his cup. Opening and closing his mouth several times to speak, he couldn’t quite seem to find the right words.

Mrs. Tonks released his hand, giving it a final pat before taking back her own to wrap around the teacup again. “Besides,” she smiled slyly, breaking him out of his thoughts, “I expect you’ll be around on the weekends to help out with your dear godson.”

Blinking away the remains of his memories, Harry smiled gently, “If you’ll allow it.”

“Oh,” she breathed out, “I insist.” She sipped her tea calmly. It sounded less insistent and more like a promise, though, one Harry didn’t intend to break.

Chapter Text

The weekend ended quickly, and Monday rolled in with force.

Harry greeted his cousin in the kitchen in the morning, “Morning, and happy birthday! Finally eighteen,” he gasped. “I’m jealous.” And he was, just a little. If he was just a year older he could be spending time with Teddy. Having spent the majority of his weekend tending to his godson, it felt oddly empty not to have him around. But then he would miss his uncle and cousin awfully.

Bella grimaced, “Don’t remind me. I’ve had enough nightmares about this day.” Minerva was on her lap, insistent on sitting near or preferably on Bella whenever possible. She pet the cat absentmindedly, slowly chewing her breakfast down.

“But you’re officially older than me again now,” Harry teased, grabbing a slice of bread for himself.

She rolled her eyes. “I always was.”

“Yesterday, we were both seventeen,” he corrected.

She sighed, “I just hope no one at school’s found out.”

“In this town? The mailman probably left you a card already.”

She pouted at him, but quickly forgot her petulance in favour of making it in time to school. Rushing around the house, she gathered her belongings, Harry mirroring her at a more sedative pace.

Bella set some cat food by the kitchen counter along with fresh water. She opened the door to the bathroom where she’d placed the litterbox. Giving her new companion a little scratch, she walked off. “I’ll be back later, Min.”

Harry shivered at the thought of the professor hearing that nickname.

He followed his cousin to the car, Bella turning back to glance at the door at least four times before they made it in. “She’ll be just fine, Bells,” he laughed.

She frowned at him. “She’ll be all alone.”

“Fawkes will be here.” Whenever he was done hanging out in the mountains at least. He’d really taken to that wind spirit.

Bella shook her head in exasperation.

The day passed by rather quickly, Alice cornering him before his last class to inform him that the party would take place around seven in the evening.

“Be there! Or else,” she trailed off in warning.

He put his hands up in defeat, the two of them walking side by side to the next class. “I already agreed.”

“Good. Oh, and I heard about what you got her. No way you kept a cat hidden until Friday. You lied to me when you said you had a gift!”

Harry didn’t bother arguing when he’d acquired the beast, Alice would have smelled it on him if he’d been near a cat the day she asked. Still, “I don’t think I ever specifically stated I had a gift ready.”

She huffed in annoyance. “You implied it. I was trying to sort out what it could be for half a week.”

He side-eyed her. “You’ve got a problem, Alice.”

She rolled her eyes, declining to answer that. “What kind of cat is it anyway. I haven’t been able to see her yet.” Right, the ‘camping trip’.

“It’s a mix breed,” he replied offhandedly.

“Mix between what?”

“Two cats?” he shrugged.

She crossed her arms, face blank. “You’re hilarious.”

He couldn’t help but smile a little at her deadpan expression. “You think I’m funny, admit it.”

All he received was the stink eye.

After school, Bella and Harry headed home together to await the approaching party in comfort.

Jacob soon showed up, gift in hand. It seemed he’d found something after all, Harry mused.

“I hope you didn’t spend your whole allowance on this,” Bella warned dangerously.

The younger boy held up his hands. “I didn’t, promise.” He handed her the small, bagged item over the kitchen table. Minerva sniffed it as it changed hands, ears standing back a little.

Bella pulled out a wooden circle with strings in an intricate pattern, three feathers hanging symmetrically from the bottom. Harry stared at it in surprise, Fawkes on his shoulder also tilting his head in question, undoubtedly recognizing the touch of magic resonating softly from the item. That explained the half-kneazle’s weariness. A weak enchantment had been placed on it—Harry couldn’t tell its purpose, the charm too faint to discern without touching it—but Fawkes would’ve reacted harsher had it been of malicious intent.

Bella also seemed at a loss to what it could be, staring at it curiously.

Jacob rubbed at his neck self-consciously. “It’s a dream catcher,” he explained quickly. “Supposed to catch nightmares, or something,” he trailed off, blushing. “It’s a little stupid.”

Bella shook her head quickly. “No, no, that’s… actually perfect,” she countered, staring at the small object in wonder. Minerva sniffed it carefully, her ears relaxing forward again at finding it safe. “Thank you,” she smiled happily, giving him a hug.

He hugged her back a little awkwardly, blush deepening. Harry raised his brows at him outside his cousin’s view, the younger boy pouting back.

“Where did you get it?” Harry asked, a little wary at the thought of a wizard living close by. The Cullens were one thing, unaware of his importance to the Magical world—and its existence as a whole—they weren’t someone who could pose much of a threat to his stay in Forks.

“An old antique store,” he shrugged. “It’s on the rez,” he expanded at Harry’s still-questioning stare.

Uncle Charlie’s car sounded from outside then.

“I see,” Harry smiled, dropping it. He hadn’t sensed any magical presence, but then he hadn’t visited every corner of the Quileute reservation. Considering even Mrs. Nelson’s squib daughter was updated on what had happened with the Magical War in Europe he’d best investigate before someone from his world potentially recognized him.

His uncle soon stepped into the living room. “Hey kids,” he grinned at them, holding forward a pizza box in his hands. “Thought I’d relieve you both from cooking-duty today.”

The afternoon passed peacefully or as much as it could with Alice’s party looming over them. Jacob bid them a fun time at the party before heading off, Cullen’s car pulling into the driveway soon after.

With Minerva sprawled comfortably across Uncle Charlie’s chest and Fawkes perched on the back of the couch, they left the three to their own devices.

“Have fun, be safe,” Charlie called after them, absentmindedly petting the purring half-kneazle, eyes glued to the telly.

It seemed Bella’s boyfriend was the designated driver today, unwilling to let the birthday girl be her own chauffeur. Harry leaned back in his seat, not looking forward to the tense stares, stiff attitudes, and careful words.

The car pulled up the familiar driveway, heading into the basement parking space.

Bella lagged behind Cullen, instead tagging along next to Harry up to the house. “I’m glad you decided to come,” she whispered with a smile.

“I decided?” Harry asked.

She giggled. “I’m glad Alice forced you to decide to come.”

He rolled his eyes and held out his arm. She grabbed it with another giggle, dressed up in a dress Alice had wrangled her into wearing. They ascended the stairs, seven pairs of yellow eyes on them and a loud chorus of “Happy birthday, Bella!” greeting them as soon as they walked into the living room.

The whole room was filled with roses and candles. Harry was immediately sure of who was behind the decoration. He caught Alice’s eye and glanced around in askance, she stuck her tongue out at him in response. He rolled his eyes.

A big, unfamiliar man came forward first, a huge grin on his face that looked so permanent it had to be etched in. He pulled Bella into a hug, lifting her off the ground and semi-yelling, “Happy birthday, Bells!” he repeated. She squealed in response, muffled ‘put me down’s escaping the bear hug.

The muscled vampire heeded her command and set her down gently, turning to Harry now.

He reached out a hand and smiled cheerily. “Emmett. Nice to meet you, you’re Harry right?”

Harry took the hand, offering a smile back. “I am. No hug?” Before Emmett could do more than raise his arms threateningly Harry held his up in defence. “A joke. I was joking,” he quickly clarified.

The vampire boomed out a laugh and clapped his shoulder unexpectedly gently, like he thought Harry might be made of glass—or, more likely, might be of the same fragility as a muggle.

The rest of the family offered their individual congratulations to his cousin. Alice and Esme happily hugged her.

After, Emmett gestured behind him to a tall female vampire Harry hadn’t met either. That had to be Rosalie. Emmett confirmed his mental guess by introducing her. She stared at him with a mix of distrust and haughtiness, as well as some good old disgust mixed in. A Malfoy-worthy sneer.

He couldn’t help but smile at the thought. She didn’t seem the type to shake hands, so he put a hand up in a wave as a greeting. The only response was the narrowing of her eyes. Harry’s smile broadened into a grin.

The last vampire he’d yet to meet was none other than the good doctor himself. The blonde vampire had a calm expression, eyes kind. He shook Harry’s hand with a pleasant smile.

“Carlisle,” he introduced himself. “It’s nice to finally meet the rest of Bella’s family,” he stated kindly.

Harry inclined his head. “Likewise, to both,” he smiled genially. Bella always spoke of them as her second family after all.

The vampire’s eyes widened for a second, but he quickly slipped back into a smile, eyes crinkled this time.

Bella was staring horrified at all the decorations, likely beside herself with the thought of people spending time arranging something nice for her. Carlisle quickly went to her and put an arm around her shoulder, apologizing for not being able to rein in his adoptive daughter.

Emmett soon left the room, claiming an errand to run, whilst Alice demanded she open her gifts. Harry placed himself next to Jasper, who had exiled himself to a corner. Besides the preoccupied pixie-like vampire, he was on the friendliest terms with her boyfriend when counting amongst the vampires in the room. They chatted quietly as they watched the proceeding gift openings.

The first was rather anticlimactic: an empty box. But her vampiric family had apparently planned ahead, the box turning out to have been for a car stereo. One already being installed by the absent Emmett.

She awkwardly thanked Rosalie and Jasper, waiting for the last person on the tag to return.

“Smart,” Harry remarked, knowing his cousin’s aversion to gifts.

Jasper chuckled softly, “Emmett was sure she’d demand we return it.”

Harry nodded with a roll of his eyes. “I don’t doubt it.”

Bella thanked Emmett, a little exasperated, once he came back upstairs, Alice standing at the ready to press the next gift into her hands before she could even relieve herself of the second hug. “Mine and Edward’s next!” the vampire demanded.

“She doesn’t seem like someone who’d want to ask for attention, even if it’s to celebrate her own birthday,” Jasper commented quietly with a slight frown.

Harry nodded, “It was kind of Alice to arrange this.” The minute turn of Alice’s head let him know he’d been heard. He’d better be careful, or her ego might inflate past her height.

“Shoot,” Bella muttered suddenly, grimacing down at her finger, the gift between her hands.

Jasper tensed suddenly at his side, arms uncrossing. His head had snapped to her.

It took less than a heartbeat for Harry to comprehend what had happened.

The blonde vampire’s eyes were locked on his cousin’s hands holding the present, black like coal. He crouched ever so slightly.

His teeth bared, Jasper took a step toward the muggle in the room, eyes unblinking. He lurched forward—

And Harry stepped before him, full force of his magic bearing down to pacify the rabid creature.

Jasper flinched back violently. Freezing right after, instinct to flee fighting the instinct to hunt.

Vampires may lose their senses in the presence of blood, but a threat against their life was sure to sober them right back up, the burst of magic proving a silent but effective warning.

Harry stood calmly, waiting for another reaction to his cousin.

The blonde vampire gained a hold of himself, if only slightly. Holding his breath, he slowly stepped back, flight driven mostly by instinct still. Eyes glued on the wizard he wisely retreated from the room.

The rest of his adoptive family had reacted less blatantly. Jasper seemed to be the only one in the family incapable of resisting fresh blood, his adoptive sister and brother frozen in place whilst Esme held a hand over her heart and another over her nose and mouth. The vampire doctor appeared completely unfazed, a calming hand on his wife’s shoulder. All four held him in their gaze, expressions ranging from wary to considering, whilst Alice stared after her boyfriend worriedly, a frown etched into her face.

He turned to check on his cousin.

She had missed the second-long commotion her paper cut had caused as Jasper had quietly and quickly exited and instead focused on opening the gift. Cullen stood in front of her, slightly crouched in her defence. Unnecessary, taking in consideration the imperceptible shield Harry had snapped around her within the half-second it took to realize her situation. Of course, the vampire was incapable of realizing the existence of such a shield.

Bella looked up from her cut, the realization of what a droplet of blood meant to a room of vampires growing on her face. Her mouth formed a small ‘o’ and she paled considerably, eyes searching for the one most likely to have reacted badly. Finding him missing, she breathed out, placing a hand on Cullen’s back. It didn’t do much to calm her vampire beau, unsurprising as, to the vampire, Harry probably remained the greater danger. Not that Bella would be aware of that.

Harry raised a brow, the corner of his mouth raising in a half smile at the vampire’s antics. Had he not known what they were, it would have been an awkward moment seeing how long Cullen was still half-crouched. Where was the human play now? “What did you get, Bells?” he asked easily, ignoring the statues surrounding them.

She looked away from her boyfriend, eyes still nervous but forcing a brittle smile, she replied, “A CD.” She glanced at her boyfriend again, unsure what the CD contained. Hand still on his back, she moved it to his arm, squeezing it a little – as much as a muggle could a rock, Harry supposed.

Cullen slowly straightened out, stiffly turning his head back to her, yet with his eyes glued on Harry. He smiled, a little precariously. “Alice and I made it. I’ll show you later,” he promised, voice softening minutely.

Bella nodded, eyes big in worry and still tense from the hardened mood. “I look forward to it,” she said, thanking them both quietly. She closed her other hand tightly around the cut, looking down solemnly.

Soon enough, Carlisle handed her the next present as well as a little bandage for her finger, Esme remaining at a slight distance. The motherly woman’s expression held a tinge of shame at being incapable of standing closer.

With Bella distracted, Carlisle sent him a considering look. The two others were still stuck watching him warily. Scratch that, Emmett was watching him like Charlie would a particularly exciting baseball game. He grinned once Harry looked over. The wizard blinked passively back.

“We’re going to Jacksonville?” Bella asked excitedly, gaping down at the tickets in her hands and thankfully freeing Harry from the weird stare-off.

“That was the thought,” Edward nodded, his eyes also slipping towards the wizard.

Merlin, he'd just postured a bit to set the unhinged vampire running. It wasn't like he’d done anything truly impressive... though, he guessed to them it was. But he wished they’d at least be more subtle with their incessant staring.

She gushed in gratitude, over the moon about the thought of seeing her mother again.

The pleasantries continued with the cake cutting. Alice excused herself to go check on Jasper. Well, there went his buffer.

Whilst the vampires weren’t a threat to his life, it would be annoying if they took the absence of his one undead friend as an invitation to attack. He’d rather not have to make a campfire out of his cousin’s pseudo-family. It would probably put a hamper on the festivities, more than the papercut already had.

With Bella distractedly tasting the cake and talking to Carlisle, her boyfriend seemed to take the opportunity to slink over to Harry. Lining himself by the wall next to the wizard, he stood quietly for a couple moments, watching Bella as she smiled and laughed at whatever the doctor had said.

Harry sort of hoped he’d just slink off again, but of course he wasn’t that lucky. “That was interesting,” the vampire commented off-handedly.

Harry hummed in agreement. “I didn’t expect your parents to buy her plane tickets. Very generous of them.”

The vampire turned to him, unamused.

“I’m sure you’ll both have loads of fun in Sunshine Capital,” Harry smiled pleasantly.

The bronze-haired boy scowled at him.

Another few seconds of silence trickled by and Harry turned back to watch his cousin, still engaged in happy conversation, now with Emmett.

Cullen soon spoke again, “What did you do to Jasper? How did you stop him?” he asked. Harry had anticipated questions after his little stare-off with the uncontrolled vampire, but the other boy’s tone was rather unexpected. Desperate. Almost pleading.

He glanced at the undead teen’s expression. Scowl gone, Harry couldn’t quite place the emotion: the vampire’s brows knitted together and his eyes and mouth downturned. Guilt would’ve been his first guess. But it was Jasper who’d attempted to attack Bella…?

Before he had much time to reflect on it, Esme approached. Her heart-shaped face held the same expression as her adopted son.

She put a hand over her chest, sending him a brittle smile. “Without you here the situation would’ve spelled out differently,” she said quietly. “Thank you.” She slowly moved her hand up to his shoulder, leaving plenty of time for him to move away. He steeled himself for the contact, but remained as she gave his arm an excessively gentle squeeze.

Harry frowned in confusion, uncomfortable with her genuine gratitude. And honestly, the situation as a whole. Of course he wouldn’t leave his cousin to fend for herself against the supernatural. Laws of secrecy be damned.

“Without us, there wouldn’t have been a situation in the first place,” Cullen corrected bitterly, sparing Harry from having to answer the motherly vampire.

“Bella and I wouldn’t exactly have made much of a party on our own,” the wizard said lightly, attempting some humour.

“But it wouldn’t have posed a risk to her life,” the bronze-haired teen muttered sullenly under his breath—so low Harry barely picked it up.

He shifted uncomfortably again, they really had given up on the human act all together, huh. Up until that day, Cullen had clearly regarded Harry as a threat to Bella. Whilst he was happy to apparently be excluded from the vampire’s list of dangers, with how the other boy was talking it seemed that list had been whittled down to solely vampires now, his family and himself included.

“Let’s not be so dramatic,” Harry grimaced. Besides, there were plenty more dangers in the world than just a family of muggle vampires. Although the knowledge of that probably wouldn’t comfort him much.

Cullen frowned at him, eyes desperately searching his.

Before either of the vampires could open their mouths again, Bella thankfully came over, plate with a slice of cake in hand. “You haven’t had any yet,” she said, pushing the porcelain and fork into his hands. Harry let out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding, relieved to have a break from the second staring contest. The vampires seemed to have an edge over him in that particular area. Must be nice not having functional tear ducts. “What have you guys been talking about?” his cousin asked, looking between the three of them.

Cullen slid a hand around her back, pulling her close with a small pained smile. “I was just thanking your cousin,” he said nonchalantly.

“Oh, what for?” Bella wondered neutrally, his off-handed tone not hinting at any questionable implications for her curiosity to pick up on.

“A favour,” he waved the subject off and released her again, taking half a step back.

Harry’s eyes narrowed. Why was the vampire lying for him? Bella knew about their affliction, of that Harry was sure. So the other boy gained nothing from covering up for him.

Cullen glanced at Harry before walking off, Esme following after another soft smile.

Bella sighed next to him after they’d gone.

“Enjoyed being the centre of attention all day?” Harry asked teasingly, tasting a bite of the heavily iced cake.

She sent him a frosty glare, all but daring him to repeat his words.

Of course, Harry obliged. “Don’t worry, we’ll celebrate tomorrow too, second day of birth is an important event, you know. Actually, how about a birthweek?” He stopped, putting a hand to his chin. “Although I don’t know if Charlie would appreciate seven cats.”

“You’re not funny, you know,” Bella muttered, deadpan expression.

Harry shrugged, enjoying another bite of his cake. “Who said I was joking?”

The day after, it seemed the only vampire deeming the school worthy of her presence was Alice as they met up in the parking lot.

“Where’s Edward?” Bella asked quickly, brows furrowed in worry. Her eyes held dark circles since the morning.

Alice cast a glance at Harry behind Bella’s back. “He wasn’t feeling too well,” she said simply, shrugging.

Harry notched a brow back at the look.

The nonchalant answer didn’t seem to calm his cousin much. She fiddled with the straps of her backpack, her eyes not moving up past the concrete. “Let him know I’m ok,” she implored Alice in almost a whimper, some emotion behind her words Harry didn’t fully understand. Had the incident scared her that badly?

“It was just a papercut, Bells,” Harry smiled teasingly, masking his concern.

She nodded, head still turned down.

Unsure how to comfort her but unwilling to let his cousin walk off on the brink of tears, Harry put his arm around Bella’s shoulders, hugging her softly. She leaned in to him, grateful for the support. “Sorry, I don’t think I’m feeling too well either,” she muttered as a flimsy excuse.

Harry gave her arm another soft reassuring squeeze. “Shouldn’t have eaten all that cake,” he joked.

She gave him a knock on the chest for that one, pushing away. “Get to class, or you’ll be late, you menace.” She turned her head to Alice. “See you… later?” she asked, unsurely. Alice nodded assuredly. Harry almost asked where else she thought the vampire would be, but Bella had already walked off to her morning class.

He sighed, still feeling lost.

Taking a step towards his own morning lesson’s building, a hand slid around his wrist, halting him in his steps. He turned back, Alice staring up at him mutely, no indication she cared to make it to class.

“What,” Harry said with a sigh, glancing down at the grip she had on him with annoyance.

She let go, putting her hands up in peace. “Can we talk?” she asked gently.

He’d rather not. Harry stayed quiet.

“Esme and Edward told me not to dig,” she said before humming a little in thought. “Which was a little hypocritical coming from him. Not to mention, surprising.” She shook her head, getting back on track. “But I’m just asking as a friend.”

“A very curious friend.”

She put both hands on her hips. “You already knew that, and can you blame me?”

Not really. But it wasn’t in his authority to determine who the Ministry, or in this case the MACUSA, allowed in the know. Harry considered it exceedingly unlikely they’d approve of the magicless Cullen coven waltzing around with the knowledge of the Wizarding World in their heads. Even his uncle and cousin had been denied knowledge of Harry’s real background, leaving the details of his half-sisters and their families’ deaths shrouded by bureaucratic excuses of ‘classified information’.

Even if the muggle vampires were given the right to know, how would it help them? It would only serve to render the Volturi obsolete and throw the rest of the vampires into a world where even a common hag would fall into the category of a threat. At least now they could saunter around with the assurance that they were the apex predators of the muggle world.

Harry smiled gently, staying silent.

Alice sighed dramatically. “Guess I’ll be left in the dark. Again.” She scowled at him playfully, not seemingly that annoyed. She probably expected not to get an answer in the first place.

“Again?” he chuckled, restarting towards the building they’d be in, but glancing back so she’d follow. “Who was it the first time?”

“You,” she claimed easily, walking by his side. “It’s really hard seeing anything past your inflated head.”

“Well, it’s not the first time I’ve been called arrogant.”

She rolled her eyes now. “How come I’m not surprised.”

Their bickering turned somewhat back to normal as they hurried to make it to class in time. The day trickled by without any more supernatural interrogations. Turning in their history project before the end of the class, Harry and Alice sat together at their usual table at lunchtime, Bella soon joining them. There were only the three of them still, as the rest of their friends had to walk from other buildings.

Bella frowned as she sat down next to Alice, leaning her chin in her hands with one of the best impressions of unhappiness human incarnate Harry’d ever seen. The vampire caught his eye for a second, throwing a minute shake of her head toward the food line.

“I’ll get some food,” Harry offered, taking the hint to leave them alone. On his way, he spotted Mike walking over to sit down. He darted over, grabbing his elbow and guiding him along toward the line instead.

“What’s up?” the other boy asked quickly, confused about the sudden detour.

Harry took a glance behind him to the table. Alice had her arm around his cousin’s shoulder comfortingly, heads together as they talked amongst themselves.

“They’re gossiping,” Harry lied smoothly, gesturing over to the two girls. “Thought I’d spare you the pain.”

Mike shuddered. “Thanks.”

They both grabbed some food, Harry mostly picking out items for his cousin, before waiting in line to pay, chatting freely.

Thankfully, Bella seemed a little more animated when the two boys returned. He settled a salad and a wrapped sandwich in front of her along with a juice. “Thanks Harry,” she smiled up at him before he sat down.

“No worries.”

Alice kept her arm around Bella reassuringly throughout lunch.

After the bell of the last class rang, letting them out for the day, Alice and Harry set for the parking lot. Bella had finished her class some ten minutes earlier, he knew, so she was probably waiting for him in her truck.

Before he could attempt to part ways with the vampire, she spoke up, “Would you walk me to the car?”

Harry stopped walking, turning his head questioningly. She looked at him seriously.

“Why the face?” he asked, bewildered at the sudden mood change.

She crossed her arms, expression turning into a pout.

“Isn’t Jasper driving you?”

Her expression fell a little. “Yes,” she admitted, quickly following it up with, “he’d just like to talk,” as if she was worried Harry might start running at the mention of his presence. “If you don’t mind.”

The wizard chuckled. He was more concerned about the vampire running than himself, they hadn’t exactly parted on the best terms.

Her expression turned sulky again.

Harry put his hands up. “Alright, alright, no need to get all frowny,” he assured her.

She bounced off again, Harry following along by her side. Making it in sight of the car, she stopped, gesturing for him to go ahead. Harry stopped as well, glancing back at her in confusion.

“I’ll wait, he wants to speak to you privately,” she explained, pushing him forward lightly.

He rolled his eyes. “You’ll hear it either way.”

She stiffened, eyes widening. The kneazle was out of the bag by now for them, wasn’t it? Although, he supposed it was rather unfair for him to be so conspicuous about knowing their big secret when they were left so wholly ignorant.

“From him, I assume,” he corrected awkwardly. Her deadpan expression didn’t lend much credibility to his hurriedly added statement. “I’ll go,” he offered instead, backing away from her towards the car.

Jasper stepped out before he reached it, placing himself stiffly by the side of the car as Harry made her way over.

They stared at each other uncomfortably for a moment.

For someone Alice claimed to want to talk, he sure wasn’t making any effort to do so.

Feeling rather out of place in the stiff silence, Harry offered the first words. Sliding a hand through his messy hair uncomfortably, he asked, “How are you?” Despite the awkward circumstances, he had worried about the vampire after his initial greater worry for his cousin dissipated.

Jasper looked up again, shifting from one foot to the other, he opened his mouth finally, each word drawn out painfully. “I am fine.” The admittance of his well-being evidently more excruciating than pulling teeth.

“Glad to hear it.”

Before Harry had to implement a second conversation-starter, Jasper thankfully regained his ability to speak past three syllables. “I wanted to thank you,” he said formally. Harry blinked in surprise. What was it with all these vampires being grateful? “And apologize.”

“Well, pick one,” the wizard retorted sarcastically, uncomfortable with the stiff dialogue. The subject matter as well. Before Jasper could attempt to misconstrue his sarcasm for disdain, he smiled, clapping him on the shoulder genially. “Relax. We all make mistakes like the next man,” he said, Professor Dumbledore’s words echoing in the back of his mind.

The blonde’s frown deepened.

Merlin, “Is everyone going to frown today,” Harry complained. “I feel like I’m at a funeral.”

That seemed to crack through his solemnity, he slowly offered a clumsy smile, teeth carefully hidden. “Thankfully, that’s not the case,” he muttered. “This time.” Alright, almost a joke there. Harry could appreciate a little dark humour. The vampire seemed to deflate a little. “I—,” he frowned, shaking his head as if to clear it. “Thank you,” he repeated firmly, with finality, reaching out his hand like an olive branch.

Harry grasped it easily, shaking his hand cordially.

Alice popped up by his side, smiling a little tentatively. Her gaze flitted between the two of them nervously.

Harry retrieved his hand, turning to the short vampire. “Is this why you were so mopey at the end of class?”

She kicked the ground before leaning against the car next to Jasper.

Jasper answered for her with a lopsided smile. “It’s probably more due to my departure.”

Alice frowned, continuing, “Jasper’s heading to some… relatives of ours.” She crossed her arms, sighing. “In Alaska.”

Harry raised both eyebrows in surprise.

“I was going to leave yesterday, but it didn’t feel right to disappear before apologizing.” His gaze flitted regretfully toward the red pickup Bella was waiting in.

“You’ll be far from Alice,” Harry frowned, knowing first-hand the lonely pain of a long-distance relationship.

Alice shifted a little, bringing her hand to Jasper’s. “It’s a temporary solution,” she said. Something about her tone didn’t assure Harry.

“I see.” Feeling a little awkward, pointed behind him to the truck on the other side of the parking lot, quickly excusing himself, “She’s probably waiting for me.” He took a step back, but stopped himself, “Oh, and thank you for cheering up Bella a little,” he said to Alice.

She smiled, barely, as Jasper turned to the red pick-up, squinting his eyes.

Harry flinched a little, feeling his occlumency shields strengthening slightly as a foreign power raced past it, not even attempting to read him. He hadn’t even been aware of the blonde vampire’s empathic abilities. Harry supposed he must not have attempted to focus them near him before now.

The blonde didn’t say anything about what he’d picked up from Bella, simply throwing his girlfriend a look. Alice’s eyes glazed over for a second before nodding imperceptibly, guilt overtaking her expression, replacing the smile.

Harry was starting to feel confusion as a permanent affixation to his character at this point.

His friend must’ve noticed his weirded-out gaze, quickly fixing a grin back on instead of explaining. “I’ll see you later, Harry!” she beamed.

Harry took a step back, nodding slowly. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow, Alice. Jasper. Uh, have a nice trip.” Harry nodded farewell, turning on his heel to get away from the two oddballs.

Slumping down in the old truck’s seat he sighed in relief.

“What happened to you?” Bella laughed, a little half-heartedly.

He shook his head, sitting up a little. “Not much,” he said. Bella nodded, fiddling with the new stereo a little as she let the car warm up. Her eyes still carried the sadness from the day before. He thought for a second on what could cheer her up a little. Lightbulb going off, he grinned, “Let’s go do something fun.”

Chapter Text

The old chevy rumbled loudly under them as they neared La Push. Minerva had set herself comfortably atop the dashboard, head swirling around at every perceived movement outside the window, big yellow eyes focused as droplets of rain hit the speeding pickup.

“Shouldn’t we get her a harness?” Bella fretted for the third time since they’d picked her up at the house after school. His cousin hadn’t wanted to leave the four-month-old kitten alone at home.

“She’ll stay with us,” Harry promised again with a chuckle.

“Jacob’s house is surrounded by forest,” she complained. Pausing a second, she lowered her voice as she continued, “And you saw that big—thing from before.” She peered suspiciously out the window. “Min’s not even a snack to that thing.”

Harry nodded, “Maybe a toothpick,” he suggested helpfully.

Bella sent him a dirty look. A couple minutes trickled by, the rain thundering against the outside of the vehicle, before she spoke again. “With the number of hunting enthusiasts visiting Newton’s,” considering it was the only shop that supplied hunting equipment in town, that number was indeed rather high, “you’d think more people would be gearing up to take that beast down.” She sighed. “But barely anyone’s even seen it, and any guy coming in saying they’ve spotted a ‘huge bear’ just gets laughed at.” Another pause. “It doesn’t help that the story keeps changing—some say it’s black, others say it’s brown. The one we saw was grey…” she trailed off with a grimace.

“Maybe there’s more than one,” Harry grinned. Was it unfair for him to tease her when he’d seen two of them up close? Maybe. But it was pretty funny.

“What, a pack of bears?” Bella snorted in disbelief. “Besides, if there were that many of that size running around more people would have noticed.”

Harry hummed non-committedly, “You never know.”

“There’d be a huge uproar. All the hunters would be out,” she insisted as they pulled into the driveway of Jacob’s house. Minerva’s head bobbed at the sudden stop and she took a moment to peer around before hopping off the dashboard and onto Bella’s lap, looking at her questioningly. Bella stroked the kitten’s head, lifting her up in her arms and opening the car door.

The rain poured down and Bella hunched over the kitten, running for the house.

Jogging after her to the shelter the small roof provided, Harry suggested, “Maybe they’re shy.”

Bella rolled her eyes, not answering and instead knocking on the front door of the Black residence.

Billy opened the door moments later, looking at the two in surprise. “Bella, Harry,” he smiled, chuckling a little at their appearance. “Come in, quickly,” he laughed. They must’ve looked like drowned rats just from their little run through the rain. His gaze fell to the small cat in Bella’s arms as they entered, eyes widening in surprise.

“This is Minerva,” Bella explained, holding the half-kneazle out in front of her.

Billy’s eyes crinkled at the little animal and he reached a hand out to stroke the cat’s soft head. Minerva sniffed at his hand curiously, but let him stroke her since he seemed like someone Bella accepted.

“Unfortunately, Jake’s not here right now. He’s at Embry’s, I believe.” He rolled off into the kitchen to the wall phone, Harry and Bella following. “I’ll give Tiffany a call.” A couple seconds later, someone picked up. “Hello—oh Embry. I see. Is Jacob there? Ah, thank you.” He waited a couple seconds as the other line changed hands.

Letting his son know Harry and Bella were looking for him, they were soon sent off with directions taking them down towards a neighbourhood by First Beach where the Calls apparently lived.

The person who opened the door for them must’ve been Embry. He grinned widely, gesturing them inside. “I’ve heard a lot about you two,” he started, and his eyes glinted before they landed on the cat in Bella’s arms. “Oh shit,” he squeaked, jumping back a little. “What is that beast?!”

Jacob appeared in the hallway. “Just your reflection like usual,” he snarked before turning a beaming smile on the two guests. Embry made a face at him, which he ignored. “Hey Bells, Harry,” Jacob greeted, waving them further into the small house after they’d left their coats on the rack, Embry following after.

Quil sat relaxed into an armchair in the living room, snacking on a bowl of chips. “Yo,” he grinned as they entered. Jacob hopped over the back of the big couch, landing in the soft pillows.

“What’s up,” Harry asked, opting to walk around the couch to settle into it.

Bella followed, staring curiously at the cards spread out in three piles on the table. Assorted snacks and drinks filled the empty spaces. Minerva hopped out of her arms, landing softly on the couch and stretching her legs languidly before she sauntered across Harry over to Jacob.

“Hey Min,” the younger boy whispered, petting the fluff-ball.

Embry disappeared into the kitchen. “Playing cards,” he called back in to answer Harry before returning with two glasses. He set them down in front of them, offering soda. “Poker, specifically. We just finished the last game. You in?”

Harry didn’t know if wizarding poker was any different to muggle poker, apart from the talking cards and sneaky attempts at legilimency he assumed, but he was willing to give it a go. “I’ve not played in a while,” he hedged.

Bella shifted next to him, face a little worried. “I’ve never played,” she admitted. “And don’t you have to bet something?” she frowned.

Quil grinned, “Strip poker’s always an optio—” Jacob reached over the table and smacked him across the head.

“We’ve been betting cash,” Embry answered with a snicker at his friend’s smarting forehead. “But Quil seems eager to lose his dignity along with his clothes.”

Quil let go of his forehead, grin returning. “Who’s been winning?” he asked lazily, pointing to the biggest pile of chips sitting next to his glass.

Bella’s expression froze. She crossed her arms, “I’m not playing strip poker,” she denied.

Jacob glared at Quil. “We’re not,” he agreed, nevertheless a slight blush staining the tips of his ears.

Harry leaned back into the couch. “Why not?” he smiled lazily.

Quil’s grin turned wicked. “Eager to lose, London?”

Harry raised a brow. “I’m from Surrey, and you’re overly confident considering the cards aren’t even dealt yet.”

“You’re looking at the best player in La Push.”

Would legilimency be considered cheating in a muggle poker game? Undoubtedly. Did Harry care? Not in the slightest.

The wizard’s smile turned sharp as the cards were dealt, Bella relaxing into the couch with a sigh to watch what she was sure to be a figurative trainwreck.

“Cheater!” the younger boy called as he removed his last sock, the right one. Left only in his boxers, Quil crossed his arms in embarrassment.

Bella disguised her laugh as a cough, eyes watering at the other boy’s predicament. Jacob and Embry didn’t bother hiding their laughs, half-undressed as they were themselves.

“I think that’s enough,” Harry said teasingly, unlinking his mind from Quil’s, all his own clothes intact. Magic really was unfair.

“No!” Quil insisted, face red. “I’ll win this one.”

Bella snorted, “You said that before you lost your left sock too.”

“And after you dropped your pants,” Embry reminded him.

The boy’s face reddened and he sent a glare to his friend. Turning his attention back on Harry, he bit out accusingly, “You said you were rusty.”

Harry shrugged with an innocent smile. “I expected more competition.”

Quil looked ready to tackle him.

Jacob waved him down into the chair again. “Put your pants back on at least,” he insisted.

“You put yours on,” Quil muttered angrily, but did as told.

Jacob hurriedly found his own as Embry slid on his socks.

Before the three boys could find all their clothes, a woman entered with a couple bags in her hands, halting in the living room doorway. She stared at the three half-dressed boys weirdly, eyes gliding over to Bella and Harry, head tilting at Minerva laying draped across the back of the couch before she shook her head. Eyes straight ahead, she marched into the kitchen. “Clean up after yourselves, kids,” she called warningly.

“Yes, Mom,” Embry promised, cheeks flushing.

“Your bedtime’s at eleven,” she reminded him sternly, shuffling of wares being put away distorting her voice slightly.

Quil snickered as his friend’s cheeks reddened further. “I know, Mom,” Embry said, his voice cracking on the last syllable.

“It’s past ten.”

Embry sighed, getting up from the couch and finding his own shirt on the floor. The boys and girl all got up to dutifully move plates and glasses into the kitchen, all under the strict eye of Ms. Call.

Once the table was cleaned up, Embry followed them out to the hallway to say goodbye. “Come back next time we’re playing,” he whispered to Harry, out of ear of his mother. He clapped the wizard’s shoulder. “Quil had that coming,” the boy snickered.

Harry smirked back.

“We’ll drive you home,” Bella said to the two other boys, eyeing the rain outside, Minerva in her arms.

Quil shook his head, pulling on his boots and jacket. “I live just a couple houses down,” he said, nodding his head down in the direction of his home. He stepped out into the rain, waving at them. A step later he turned around with a look of determination in his eyes. Or maybe he was squinting the rain out. “Next time, I’m winning,” he warned, pointing a threatening finger at Harry.

“Sure, I’ll stay out,” Harry grinned.

The boy sent him a dirty look before zooming down the street to get to his house.

“See you guys,” Embry smiled at them.

The three waved their goodbyes and raced to the car.

Settling behind the wheel with Minerva in her lap, Bella turned to Harry. He raised a brow at her conflicted expression. “Ok, I’ll admit, that was a little bit fun.”

Jacob and Harry both grinned back at her.

But the next day passed slowly, Bella’s happiness from yesterday’s get together crumbling as soon as she spotted Alice alone yet again. Harry knew Cullen had not spoken or visited her since he dropped her off the night of her birthday. In the classes he shared with her, he’d made sure to fill the empty seat her boyfriend left absent. But he knew in the rest she probably sat alone, miserably.

Harry sighed in annoyance at the root of his cousin’s unhappiness as he waited the couple extra minutes by the entrance for her last class to finish.

Alice popped up behind him suddenly. “Sounds like you’re in a bad mood,” she commented teasingly, poking him in the side. He twisted away from the attack. “What’s up?”

He uncrossed his arms, mood lightening a little despite himself at his friend’s sunny personality. “Just a little worried.”

She tilted her head, opening her mouth to ask before seemingly understanding. Instead of commenting on the issue, Alice pursed her lips in displeasure, staying silent for a moment. “He’s… trying to come to a decision,” she explained eventually.

“Your brother?”

She nodded slowly.

“On what?”

Her expression strained further, the corners of her mouth turning down. Instead of answering that, she quietly admitted, “He doesn’t want me to come here either.”

Harry tilted his head in question at the vague statements. “What’s wrong with attending school?” he teased.

She looked away for a long moment before turning back to him, an evasive smile set stiffly on her face.

“I’d best go.”

He leaned back, confused but not willing to dig into her personal matters after she’d done him the favour of leaving his be. “Okay,” he agreed slowly. “See you.”

She waved at him before hurrying off.

Thursday passed similarly, but Alice’s mood seemed to have further deteriorated overnight. She followed him silently to and from their classes, frown permanently etched on her face.

Dumping his books in his locker after the day’s last class, Alice stood unmoving next to him. “Your face is gonna get stuck like that,” he remarked, pointing at her furrowed brow.

That seemed to wake her up. She slapped his raised hand away lightly. “Sorry,” she sighed, “I keep zoning out. I’ve just got a lot on my mind.”

“Careful, I’ve heard that’s dangerous.”

She frowned. “Speaking of.”

“Of thinking?”

She rolled her eyes, going quiet. A moment went by before she talked again. “Of danger.”

It was Harry’s turn to frown.

“You remember I told you Bella’s got a habit of attracting danger?”

He had to wrack his brain for that one, remembering the topic somewhat. It must’ve been weeks ago though. He nodded. “Vaguely.”

“You’ve been ruled out,” she smiled, a little hollowly.

“I see,” Harry intoned slowly, already suspecting that since his behaviour at the party. “Good to know I’m not a danger to my own cousin,” he quipped.

She appeared to consider her answer for a bit. “It is,” she said slowly, answering his jest seriously. “Problem is who’s left on it.”

Harry’s brow rose in question, suspicious concern beginning to creep in.

“Last spring, there were some complications,” she divulged hesitantly.

Harry thought back to when he’d first arrived, a heavily casted leg and bad excuses coming to mind. “When Bella broke her leg?” he surmised.

Alice flinched, guilt overtaking her expression. She hesitated, but answered after a couple moments with a silent nod.

Harry wasn’t interested in the cryptic back and forth. “Is Bella in danger?” he asked flatly.

She looked up at him for a second, but then seemed focused somewhere else, her eyes glazing over. Shaking her head, she returned to reality. “She’s in more danger with us around,” she stated sadly, but firmly.

Harry closed his locker, unsure how to respond.

“Edward’s decided to fix that,” she said softly before he could.

Bella called out then, having spotted them in the hallway, “Hey guys!”

“Hey,” Harry smiled back, glancing at Alice. The vampire looked away, smiling a little stiffly at Bella.

Harry could tell she didn’t want to expand upon whatever her brother’s idea entailed as she quickly dragged Bella with her to the parking lot, chattering to fill any potential silence. He followed behind, leaving his cousin at the vampire’s mercy.

She didn’t seem too grudging about it this time, linking arms with her best friend as they walked down to the car lot. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Alice,” Bella smiled before they parted ways.

Alice didn’t answer for a second.

“Good bye,” she said finally, but there was something off in her tone. Bella also seemed to notice it. She frowned. Before she could ask or Alice could run off however, the vampire engulfed Bella in an ever-so-gentle, but at the same time tight hug.

“Alice?” Bella asked in surprise.

The vampire let go, silently beaming up at her before turning threateningly to Harry. Hopping over, her tiny arms squeezed around his midsection softly. The wizard stiffened at the contact, grasping his magic tightly. He patted her awkwardly on the back.

Then she was off.

Harry and Bella stared after her with concern.

“That was odd,” he commented lightly.

Bella nodded, picking her hood up over her head. “Let’s get out of here,” she murmured, shuffling over to the big recognizable pickup.

Friday morning semi-answered their concerns, as neither of the Cullens showed up to school that day.

Bella’s already precarious mood tipped down as soon as she noticed the conspicuous absence of nice cars waiting in the parking zone, her head bowing down further with the confirmation of their nonattendance as the classes started.

His attention was split throughout the classes, worry for his cousin and concern for his friend clouding his mind.

“Wow, what kinda bird is that?” one of his classmates exclaimed suddenly in third period.

Harry looked up from his desk.

His classmates were all craning their heads to look outside the window. Fawkes perched on a branch, looking in through the glass with his head tilted. Harry sat up straight, head clear. Whatever Fawkes was here for, it wasn’t a social call.

“It’s beautiful!” one of the girls gasped.

The teacher took off his glasses, squinting at the feathered creature. “Looks like a rather exotic species.”

Harry excused himself to the bathroom, his teacher waving him off. He quickly rushed through the halls and outside. Once out of view of any windows or people, Fawkes flew down to him.

“What’s wrong?” Harry asked, chest tight. The phoenix rustled his feathers in displeasure, bringing his wings down in a curtain of flames as they disappeared from the school grounds.

They appeared soundlessly in the kitchen of his uncle’s house. Harry stayed quiet, charming himself and Fawkes with a notice-me-not. What could have made his friend rush him back home in the middle of the school day? Had someone from the Wizarding World found out where he was?

Closing his eyes, he searched for any magical presence in the house. The effort came up empty, apart from the small familiar presence of Minerva, moving curiously around upstairs. He placed a silencing charm on the old stairs, and Fawkes hopped off his shoulder to wait downstairs as he stalked up to where Bella’s companion sat outside her closed door. The cat looked at him, seeing through the notice-me-not without difficulty. The charm was mostly aimed towards distracting muggles after all.

She meowed loudly, ears pulled back in distress and fur standing on end. He picked her up gently and checked her over. The cat hissed low, growling, not at him, but at the door. She stretched her paw out towards the door handle, small kitten paws not reaching from his arms. She growled again.

Harry wasn’t really keen on entering his cousin’s room without permission, but his magic had already picked up on the dark creature inside. And while monsters under the bed was a childhood fear, it was probably for the better not to have it realized. Harry cast another silencer, on the door this time, and threw it open.

A familiar figure stood in the middle of the room. Harry lowered the hand he’d instinctually raised, realizing who it was before he could send the bronze-haired teen flying through the wall.

Back turned to him, and incapable of hearing the charmed door-slam, the vampire remained inhumanly still, eyes glued onto a picture in his hands.

Harry leaned into the door sill, cancelling the charm and clearing his throat to catch the other boy’s attention.

Cullen whirled around, staring wide-eyed at Harry. The vampire’s gaze flickered to Minerva sitting tensely in his arms and glowering fiercely at the intruder. He glared back. The half-kneazle kitten let out a grumble and her tail, slowly starting to puff up, swept to and fro behind her. Harry spotted a small scratch on the vampire’s stone-like hand before he pulled his sweater down above it. Clearly, the two had become acquainted before Cullen had managed to safely sequester himself in Bella’s bedroom.

Gliding his hand through the feline’s fur to calm her down, the vampire still hadn’t said a word, frozen like the rock he was. Harry raised a brow in question. “Well, don’t mind us,” he stated sarcastically.

Bella’s boyfriend carefully opened his mouth to utter an excuse, each word thought out, “Bella left something, she asked me to pick it up for her.”

Harry nodded pleasantly, “Asked you when you didn’t show up at school or when you didn’t pick up her calls?”

The vampire stiffened again, this time guilt creeping into his stony expression. Harry almost laughed. Instead, he shook his head.

“Is there a reason you broke into her home after ignoring her for half a week?”

The vampire leaned back against the doorsill. “I’m leaving.”

“I’d hope so. Come back when she’s actually here.”

He breathed out. “My family, we’re leaving.”

Harry frowned. “I see.” That explained Alice’s weirdly solemn behaviour the other day. He pet the cat thoughtfully. Minerva looked between the two unsurely, but settled on another little growl directed at the vampire. “All of you?”

The vampire nodded, looking down. “Alice agreed. It took some... persuasion, but it’s for the best,” he offered apologetically, eyes turning up again. “She’s left to rejoin Jasper.” The temporary solution she’d talked about didn’t appear to be Jasper’s absence, but rather Alice’s departure. “It’s only me left.”

“Suppose she must’ve had her own reasons to agree, but it wouldn’t have hurt to let me know.”

Cullen’s expression turned stiff. “I convinced her a clean break would be better.”

He didn’t want to admit it, but the pixie-like vampire had become a good friend through the month she’d spent accosting him. Knowing she’d left without even a proper goodbye stung fiercely, especially considering he’d only been made aware of it because Fawkes let him know. Harry hoped she’d left Bella with a better farewell, but sadly doubted it.

Speaking, or thinking, of. “Does Bella know?”

“I was going to tell her when she came home.”

Harry peeked at his armwatch. “You’re a little early. Three hours early.” He eyed him, unimpressed, well aware the vampire was sure to have memorized his cousin’s schedule.

“I had some business to take care of.”

“At her empty house,” the wizard deadpanned, even less impressed.

“Not exactly as empty as I’d thought,” he sighed, as if it was a bother that Harry had caught him breaking in.

Minerva hissed in response. Harry translated, “I’m terribly sorry for disrupting your rummaging around my family’s home.”

Cullen twitched at that. “You consider her family?”

Harry blinked, unsure if the vampire was just trying to change the subject of his criminal behaviour. To be fair, Cullen likely didn’t care about facing any kind of muggle justice system. One perk of not belonging to the same world as muggle police. “Did it escape your notice that we’re related?”

The vampire rolled his eyes, brows knitting together in thought for a couple seconds. “I mean, will you take care of her,” he asked him.

“You say that as if she can’t take care of herself.”

The vampire frowned, uncertainty taking hold of his features.

Harry sighed. “She’s an adult, you know.”

Cullen seemed to debate something with himself for a couple seconds, silently eyeing Harry. “She’s not safe with me,” he finally stated, echoing Alice’s words as if his incompetence was an admission that could see him locked up for life in Azkaban.

Despite the dramatic statement, the familiarity of the situation left Harry feeling like someone had punched him in the gut. Scratch that, he wanted to punch this idiot in the gut. Knock some sense into him. Merlin, he wished someone had done it to him when he’d left Ginny. Ginny, who’d taken him back with open arms, and a slap to the face. But he’d deserved that one.

Breathing out, he calmed himself before speaking again. “She might not take you back when you return,” he warned, resisting the urge to smack the vampire over the head. And magically reinforce his hand so it would properly hurt him. He held onto Minerva instead, petting her to still his hands. Her body was taut, ready to jump the vampire any second. Probably a good idea to keep her in his arms for now.

“I’m not returning.”

Harry snorted this time. “Alright, Romeo.” He paused, sobering up. “Leaving will hurt her more.” Ginny could undoubtedly attest to that.

“She’ll forget about it. About me. There’s nothing left for her to remember me by,” he gritted out, expression turning stony.

Ah, so that’s why he’d been rummaging the house. Harry grimaced, “Could you get any more melodramatic?”

The vampire twitched again. “It’s for the best,” he defended.

“Really? You’re breaking and entering—in the sheriff’s house mind you—to steal her stuff and you want me to believe you’re doing it for her?” Harry was severely unimpressed. “What did you do? Burn her pictures? Break the CD you made her? Change her bedsheets?” Harry chuckled a little at the vampire’s embarrassed flinch from the last one. Before he could deny anything, the wizard continued, “Come on. Don’t mess with her belongings just to be an arse.”

He almost stammered when he spoke next, “It’s—I’m trying to make it easier for her,” he argued back sullenly.

“You’re trying to make it easier on yourself. It’s petty. Grow up,” he grimaced again at the last statement, knowing the vampire was cursed to stay forever immature.

The living statue looked down for a second. “She’d be better off forgetting me. It’ll just be a bad dream.”

Harry groaned at the teen theatrics. It reminded him too much of his school years at Hogwarts, filled with angst and single-minded drama. “You are worse than any soap-opera. Honestly.”

Something finally seemed to snap in him. “Every second she’s with me, her life is in danger,” he seethed, taking a step forward. Minerva jumped from Harry’s arms, placing herself in front of the perceived threat and hissing again, louder this time in response to the approach. Her grey-striped fur stood up, making her look twice as big. Being a four-month-old kitten, that still wasn’t a very impressive size, yet Edward didn’t take another step, instead glaring down at the small creature.

Harry crossed his arms, still leaning against the door sill. “Why get involved with her in the first place then? Building something you knew you’d fail eventually.” He couldn’t help but compare his own betrayal to Ginny to the idiot in front of him. Had Harry been this stupid? He hoped not. He took a deep breath, reminding himself that these were two different situations and relationships.

“I tried to stay away.” Cullen clenched his fists, shoulders squared.

“And you failed,” the wizard stated simply. The vampire deflated at that.

“I won’t fail this time,” he said quietly, a painful edge to his voice.

Harry looked up again, watching the undead’s defeated figure. He shrugged eventually. Ultimately, it was the vampire’s choice. And just a little over a year ago, it had been his choice.

The two stood in silence for a bit, Minerva still glaring at him. While he understood why the vampire felt he had to leave, one thing he would not let go, “At least put her stuff back, mate,” he stated, leaving no room for arguments. “It’s your choice to leave, but you don’t get to decide for her how she heals, or which memories she wants to keep. Bella’s her own person.”

It took a second’s deliberation, but then the other boy nodded. He opened up a floorboard and retrieved a few different items.

“You pulled up the floor to hide her stuff from her?” Harry asked in disbelief. “What was the point of hiding her stuff - in her room?” Minerva sneezed in displeasure at the vandalism.

The vampire’s expression couldn’t be described as much more than sulky.

Harry raised a brow at the petulance.

The other boy looked away again, placing the items back before returning the floorboards to their original condition.

He didn’t respond to Harry’s previous question, instead asking, “You’ll keep Bella out of trouble?”

Harry shook his head. “I said I’d take care of her, not keep her out of trouble. I’m not her minder.”

A long-suffering expression took over the vampire’s sulky face. He sighed. “As long as you keep her safe.” Taking a moment to collect his thoughts, he said firmly, “That’s two favours I’ll owe you then.”

“For what?”

“For your help on her birthday… and for taking care of her when I’m gone.”

Harry didn’t answer for a second, too flabbergasted by the ridiculous statement to even consider formulating a response. What else was he supposed to do? Let the vampire fly at her throat?

After another second, Harry felt capable of speaking again. “Cullen, she is my family,” he repeated, each word pronounced slowly and clearly. “You don’t owe me any favours for anything I do to help my family.” The very idea was nonsensical.

“I’m still grateful,” Cullen intoned smoothly, not at all bothered by the absurdity. “You shouldn’t have too much trouble.”

Harry sobered at that, reminded of what Alice had said the day before. “Alice mentioned complications.”

The vampire’s eyes narrowed, jaw clenching. Minerva noticed the mood switch, hissing. “She shouldn’t have,” he bit out.

“So you think it’d be better for me to find out when it’s too late?” Harry asked faux-lightly, anger building up under his skin. His magic soared up in him at the mood switch, Minerva startled, and the room lights flickered for a second.

Fawkes seemed to have noticed, suddenly perching in the open window. He squawked angrily at the vampire for whatever he was sure the deviant had done.

Cullen shifted uncertainly, unable to step back from Harry without stepping towards the angry phoenix. Eyes wary, he must’ve sensed the precarious situation he’d talked himself into. With the air electrified around them, he spoke again, calmer this time and with carefully chosen words. “I meant, they’ll follow me,” he corrected, throwing a glance to Fawkes as if the wrong words might get him in trouble. The bird ruffled his feathers, unimpressed. “I’ll take care of... that particular complication.”

Harry held his stare passively, coiling his magic back with a deep breath. A moment passed. “Then I leave it in your undoubtedly capable hands,” he eventually stated, sarcasm tinging his tone. Before the vampire could answer, he continued. “And those favours. You can pay them off by giving Bella a proper farewell.”

The vampire blinked. He hesitated, frowning. “I can’t accept that as a fair trade. Of course I would never just disappear.”

Harry pointedly eyed the floorboards the other boy had covered up just a couple minutes ago.

Cullen grimaced. “I wasn’t going to leave without talking to her first,” he corrected.

“Consider it insurance for my peace of mind. Make sure to give her an honest explanation, she’s feeling enough guilt without thinking your whole family’s eviction is on her shoulders.”

The vampire flinched back at his words. “None of this is her fault.”

Harry waved his mumbling off. “Tell it to her, I don’t need to hear it.”

Cullen squared his shoulders, nodding once.

“Be sure to keep your word,” Harry warned.

He nodded again. With a glance to the window, where Fawkes was still blocking his initial exit, it seemed his only escape route would be through the door. Carefully slinking towards it, Harry stepped out of his way, Minerva not moving an inch as she glowered at him. Cullen stepped around her to his best ability, eyeing her like she might start spouting fire at him any second.

“Good bye,” he said formally. With finality in his tone.

Harry waved at him. “See you.”

The vampire frowned, Harry’s parting words probably the opposite of what he wanted to imagine happening.

Disappearing through the doorway, the smack of the front door from downstairs signalled his departure from the house a moment later. Minerva turned her head away from where the vampire had left, glower disappearing fully as she peered back at Harry for approval with her big amber eyes.

Minerva meowed loudly in question, pawing at his knees to be picked up.

Harry crouched down and gently took a hold of her little face with both hands, looking her seriously in the eyes, he said, “Your claws may be sharp but your mind sure isn’t. There’s better scratch-posts than walking rocks, you maniac.”

Minerva sneezed in disagreement and rubbed her head towards his hand more interested in leaning in for the scratches.

He returned to school in time for fourth period, skipping lunch.

“Where were you?” Bella asked anxiously, sitting down next to him.

Harry felt his heart drop in guilt, having left his cousin alone at school after everyone else had left too. “I,” he hesitated, “had to pick some stuff up from the house. Forgot it this morning,” he lied.

Bella sighed, “I was worried something had happened to you.”

“Too much to count,” Harry grinned wryly.

Bella rolled her eyes.

The rest of the school day went by, the last bell soon ringing to allow their departure.

As they walked down to the parking lot, Bella’s phone rang from her pocket. She fished it out lazily, checking the screen. She startled at the name, phone slipping from her hands.

Harry caught it before it hit the ground, handing it back to her.

She answered it, breath shaky, “Hey Edward.”

Harry could imagine they’d want some time for themselves. So he glanced around and caught sight of Mike chatting with a group of friends. He backed a few steps away from his cousin, catching her attention. “You go ahead home,” he smiled. “I’ll go see if Mike wants to hang out.”

Bella nodded gratefully, returning to her phone conversation as she sped off towards her pickup, eager to see the vampire after several days of absence.

Harry ended up amongst a group of Mike’s friends, driving off to spend the afternoon and evening in Port Angeles, watching a movie and just hanging out.

It was late when he came back. Far later than he’d intended. Minerva was waiting inside next to the front door. Meowing loudly, she looked rather alarmed as soon as he walked in.

The house was empty, lights turned off in the living room. Harry frowned, stalking into his bedroom. He carefully picked up the phone, three missed calls from Charlie glowing brightly on the screen. He called his uncle back.

The man answered almost immediately, interrupting the first ring. “Harry?” he said breathlessly, wind distorting his voice slightly.

“Yeah, sorry Uncle Charlie, I was out of town with some friends. Didn’t see you’d called.”

“Was Bella with you?” the man asked desperately.

Harry’s heart fell. “No, what’s going on?”

“She left a note about going into the forest. Never came home. We think she’s gotten lost. Got half the town out scouring the woods right now,” the man said gruffly, voice cutting off in places.

Harry checked his watch. It was almost one in the morning he realized with some surprise before gritting his teeth. Was the vampire really this incompetent? “I’ll come right away,” he assured him, already moving towards the bedroom door again.

“You don’t know the woods here, son. You’ll easily get lost too,” Charlie protested. Harry could pick out distant calls of Bella’s name from the background of the call.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be okay, Uncle Charlie.”

The man sighed, more than aware Harry wouldn’t just wait twiddling his thumbs at home. “Be careful, grab some supplies just in case, and keep your phone on you” he implored him.

“Sure.”

Harry hung up, throwing the phone back onto his bed. He’d be back before his uncle would think to call him again.

Minerva meowed again, fur fluffed up in worry. He crouched down, scratching her head. “We’ll find her,” he promised before standing back up, swiftly calling out, “Fawkes!”

The bird appeared a second later in a flash of fire, landing heavily on his shoulder. His head tilted at the urgency in his call.

“Bella’s missing,” he started. He didn’t have time to divulge any more details, not that he had an abundance of those, before the bird flamed him away into the forest. He knew Fawkes wouldn’t be able to track Bella the same way he could Harry, the lack of magic leaving him little to go on.

However, it seemed he’d made friends that could scourge the forest for them. Harry recognized the little clearing as the winds built up around them, the ground around the stone circle covered in fallen yellow leaves now. Fawkes trilled insistently at the faux-horcrux spirit.

Harry felt its power seep through the forest floor, past him and the clearing, trailing through the forest. A squirrel appeared on one of the closest trees, another soon joining it, before a small flock of tiny brown sparrows zoomed overhead. More creatures joined, all entranced by the spirit that had called on them. Harry startled as a horde of ants trailed past him. The spirit ushered them out into the forest again, orders placed.

The leaves rustled all around them as the make-shift search party sped off. The winds had quieted, the spirit’s powers exhausted by the effort of calling on the inhabitants of the forest.

A gust of wind ushered them to go as well, having reached the limit of its ability to assist. Fawkes trilled in gratitude, song lifting its energy by a little before he brushed past Harry. The wizard stumbled back as the huge bird sped past. Transforming, body shrinking into his animagus form, he blinked the rain out of his eyes and took off.

The two scoured the forest, splitting up as Fawkes flamed off to cover more ground.

The heavy rain hit his back hard as he soared above the treetops, falcon-eyes picking out every leaf, but no sign of his cousin. He clicked his beak as the minutes trickled by, the cold winds and rain starting to numb his talons. Harry didn’t know how long Bella had been lost, but in this weather it could be dangerous for a muggle with only the thick brush of the trees to shelter her.

A sparrow flitted next to him fearlessly, small wings beating fast to keep up to his gliding. Harry beat his wings, briefly hovering mid-air to face the spirit’s messenger. It whistled twice and took off in another direction.

Harry sped after it, calling for Fawkes. The phoenix appeared next to him in a puff of fire, eyes catching onto the sparrow he was following as he too trailed after.

The phoenix and wizard felt Bella’s presence before they saw her, noticing another at the same spot. “Have you been hurt?” Harry heard a familiar voice ask. Transforming, he rushed ahead through the remaining foliage, Fawkes flying up to sit in the treetops as the sparrow shook its head in confusion, the wind-spirit’s control fading, and took off in sudden fright.

A man stood over his cousin, his head turned in surprise to where Harry broke through the thick bushes. The wizard quickly recognized who it was. “Uley,” he called out, for once happy to see him. It seemed the man had been part of the search team.

Bella lay motionless, but awake on the forest floor, her clothes soaked and covered in dirt and pine needles. She shivered. He zipped over and knelt down next to her, placing a hand on her cold cheek along with a scan of her health. Uley flinched beside him at the latter. He ignored it.

“Bells,” he called softly, worried by her unresponsiveness. She was freezing, not surprising if she’d been laying in the cold forest since school ended. Harry grit his teeth at the thought of it, regretting his decision to leave her alone with the vampire.

His cousin blinked up at him.

He simmered down, for now. He’d have plenty of time to curse the vampire’s name later, when Bella was safe, at home and not suffering the early stages of hypothermia. “Hey,” Harry smiled encouragingly. “Come on, we have to get home to Uncle Charlie.” That seemed to strike a cord. Her eyes widened. “Minerva’s real worried too.” She opened her mouth, but no words came out, her teeth chattering.

Uley stood next to them, almost protectively. “Is she hurt?” he asked quietly.

Well, obviously. But, “She’s not wounded,” he assured him.

The man sighed in relief, but his gaze searched the forest suspiciously, animosity against Harry forgotten for now in favour of their mutual goal: Bella’s safe return home.

Placing a hand behind her back and the other under her knees, Harry lifted her easily from the ground as his magic wrapped an impervius around her to keep her warm and dry. She was too out of it to notice the sudden comfort, but it didn’t seem to have escaped Uley. The man eyed him warily.

“Thank you,” Harry breathed out. “For finding her.”

Uley seemed to accept that. He nodded once. “I can carry her,” he suggested.

Harry shook his head, water droplets flinging off the tips of his messy hair. “All good, let’s just get back.”

Fawkes swooped down to perch on a tree root in front of them, crooning harmoniously. Uley startled at the bird’s sudden arrival, but even he was susceptible to a phoenix’ song, it seemed, his shoulders untensing. Bella also breathed out contentedly, her stiff expression softening ever so slightly.

“Where to?” Harry asked. The bird flew off in the right direction, Harry swift to follow.

Uley followed him like a guard dog as they passed through the greenery. A rather clumsy one, as he tripped on every other root and rock. Harry frowned in thought, remembering the jinx he’d placed on the man so long ago. Had it not dissipated yet? He silently sent out a counter-spell, the shock of his magic sending Uley falling over.

Harry flinched, halting for a second to let the man catch up. “You good?”

The man got up, brushing himself off with a rather annoyed look on his face. He sent a suspicious glance to the wizard, undoubtedly having felt the spell hit him. “I’m used to it by now,” he muttered. Harry grimaced guiltily but set off again.

He pondered how long Bella must’ve ran to get herself lost so far, and more importantly, why she’d ran. His arms soon tired from the long walk back and he cast a featherlight to carry her easier as the rain continued to pour down on them, Bella thankfully kept unexposed to it.

It must’ve been more than an hour’s worth of running before they finally made it within sight of the searchlights, voices calling Bella’s name echoing throughout the forest.

Harry spotted his uncle at the forefront, yelling the loudest.

“Charlie,” he called loudly, a weak sonorus to amplify his voice. “She’s here.”

“Over here!” Sam called next to him, helping bring their attention.

His uncle rushed over, breaking through twigs and bushes as the rest of the search party followed behind. His clothes were soaked as well, water dripping down from his hair. He reached for his daughter with shaking hands.

“She’s fine,” Harry assured him quickly. “Let’s just get her into the house.”

“Charlie?” Bella croaked out, twisting her head to see her father’s face. It was the most movement Harry’d seen from her till then.

“I’m here, baby,” his uncle breathed out. He kept his arms out, gesturing for Harry to hand her over. Harry did so, keeping the charms on her. His uncle seemed too stressed to worry about how light or conspicuously dry his daughter was.

The man didn’t waste time rushing back to the house with her.

Uley and Harry stayed behind while the party retreated after Charlie. The Quileute crossed his arms as the last lights disappeared, engulfing the forest once more in darkness.

Fawkes stared after where his cousin had been carried off to, cooing in concern. “Go, Fawkes,” Harry told him. The phoenix would be of more use next to Bella right now. He flew off, feathers shimmering in the light of the stars.

Harry turned to Uley. The man peered down at him with something akin to frustration, usual antagonistic behaviour still strangely absent. It felt odd to see his face bereft of the usual glare.

“Thank you, again,” the wizard offered genuinely, holding his hand out.

The man eyed it warily for a moment before grasping it, his hand strangely warm. He gave it a firm shake. “You found her just after me,” Uley deflected simply, letting his arm drop back to his side.

“Still.” Harry looked in the direction of the house. “I’ll go see how she’s doing.”

Uley nodded solemnly.

The house was rather chaotic, filled with people. Minerva sat on the back of the couch Bella was laid down in with her ears back, eyeing every intruder. It seemed only a doctor and Harry’s uncle had been allowed past the mini-tiger. Although it was more likely Fawkes’ sharp glare from his perch on the armchair that kept the rest from coming closer.

The crowd soon bled out with Harry’s assurances and thanks, the doctor following last. The phone, of course, wouldn’t stop ringing, but Charlie handled that in hushed voices as Harry sat on the couch opposite of where Bella was sleeping. She was tucked in with enough blankets to pass as a cocoon.

Minerva too had decided to drape herself over her like a heatbottle, purring softly, as Fawkes perched peacefully on the arm rest next to Bella’s head, watching over them both and trilling softly.

Charlie finally settled down in his armchair after the phone quieted down. He breathed out, leaning back. His brows furrowed suddenly and he leaned forward. “How did you find her so quickly?” he asked in a whisper, careful not to wake his daughter.

“I didn’t find her. It was Sam Uley,” Harry corrected softly, avoiding the question. “I just found them as they were on their way back,” he lied.

Charlie nodded, closing his eyes. “I’ll have to thank that boy tomorrow.”

His uncle fell asleep soon after, Fawkes’ lullaby affecting him too. Harry sighed in the dark living room, laying down on the couch-pillows with his hands on his chest.

He must’ve fallen asleep too.

The phone rang suddenly, breaking through the calm of the house. Charlie jumped up with a groan, rubbing at his eyes before rushing over, answering in hushed whispers.

Harry didn’t pay much attention, closing his eyes again, before realizing it wasn’t about Bella this time. “I’ll have a call down,” Charlie assured whoever was on the phone.

The clicks of a new number being punched in sounded from the kitchen.

“Billy, it’s Charlie.” He quickly set to assuring him Bella was fine. “That’s not why I’m calling though. Mrs. Stanley just called, said she can see fires out on the sea cliffs.”

A pause.

Bella sat up quietly on the couch, looking over at Harry in question. The wizard shrugged back.

“Oh,” he breathed out, annoyed now. “What are they doing that for—” Another pause. “I see,” he said sarcastically. “Don’t apologize to me,” he sighed, “just make sure it doesn’t spread.” He hesitated, but quickly muttered, “And thanks for sending Sam and the boys up. You were right—they know the woods better than we do. He was the one who found her. I owe you one…”

He waited for Billy to stop talking.

“Yeah, Harry said he found them right after.” The wizard froze at the mention of his name. Had Uley already spoken to Billy? “Alright, I’ll talk to you later.” He hung up, shuffling back into the living room.

He halted in his steps as he came in view, no doubt surprised to see both of them staring at him.

“What’s wrong?” Bella asked.

Charlie hurried over to check on her. “Sorry I woke you up, honey. And Harry, you should sleep too!”

Harry shrugged again. “What was that call about?” he asked for both of them.

His uncle sighed, falling back into his armchair. “Kids at the reservation being rowdy.” He hesitated, clearing his throat. “They’re celebrating the news.”

What news?

Bella’s face all but crumbled. Minerva crawled up her chest to snuggle her face into her owner’s chin. “I’d forgotten they don’t like them,” she muttered, stroking the cat’s soft fur.

Charlie shook his head in exasperation and annoyance.

“The Cullens?” Harry surmised, Jacob and Bella’s words from months ago echoing in his mind.

Charlie grimaced, nodding. “They’ve got some kinda vendetta against that family due to some fairy tale superstition. Speaking of...he left you alone in the woods, Bella?”

Bella looked up, wide eyed. “How did you know where to find me?” she deflected.

“Your note,” he answered, surprised. Bella frowned in confusion for a second. Clearly, she hadn’t left the note herself.

Harry’s eyes narrowed, gripping the arm of the couch tightly, almost seething. The lights of the kitchen flickered. Was this what the vampire considered a proper goodbye?

He wondered how far a point-me would locate someone. And how far the vampire could’ve gotten, his teeth gritted.

Before his fury could have him apparating around the country in search of the idiot, Bella spoke again. “He left me right here on the trail. I just... got lost after he left.”

As if Cullen wouldn’t have noticed. Harry bit his lips, refraining from commenting.

She frowned, rubbing at her head with her hands. “I’ll just go to my room, I think,” she muttered after a moment.

Harry stood up as well, following her in case she lost her balance. She carefully stepped upstairs with Minerva in her arms, clutching the animal like a liferaft.

Before she could close the door behind her, Harry called her attention, “Bella.”

She looked up from her furry friend, brown eyes tired and empty.

Asking her if she was ok would be a waste of breath. He wished Ginny, or even Hermione, was here, they’d know what to tell her. Bereft of words, he just stood there for a few awkwardly silent moments.

Bella’s lips formed a small, weak half-smile. “Thank you,” she whispered. Before Harry could ask what for, she spoke again. “Edward told me he’d talked to you.”

His face fell. “I’m sorry, Bells. I thought I was doing right by letting him tell you himself. I thought he’d do right by you, not leave you to get lost in the woods for hours,” he whispered back.

“He didn’t,” she shook her head. “And I’m glad you spoke to him. Or I wouldn’t even have had my pictures,” she huffed, clearly annoyed. Harry smiled a little. At least annoyance was better than sad smiles. “He told me the truth. I know he still loves me, but…” she trailed off, “he had to move away with his family.” There was frustration in her voice, either from not being able to speak the full truth or from the vampire’s actions. Maybe a mix of both.

Well, the leech had managed honestly, just not the other part of the deal. Harry was pretty sure ‘proper farewell’ included making sure Bella wasn’t going to die from exposure in the cold and wet autumn-night weather.

“Either way, I’m happy you told him off,” she said, an almost-grin on her glum face. She lifted an arm, the other holding Minerva, and hugged him carefully with the cat between them.

Harry hugged her back, Minerva purring loudly, happy to be squished between two of her favorite people.

Bella cracked a giggle at the cat. Her hand flew to her mouth, eyes wide, shocked she’d been capable of laughing. She smiled again, a bit less pained now. “She’s such an oddball.”

“Apple and the tree, Bells,” Harry reminded her, pointing between the cat and owner.

Bella rolled her eyes, slapping his hand down. “Go to bed,” she demanded.

He checked his clock. “I usually wake up just about now,” he protested.

“Then maybe you’ll wake up at a normal time for once.”

A sleepless day sounded more plausible.