AN: All rights disclaimed.
Part I: Forks
She ran through the thick, coarse green ocean of pine, the scuffed skirt of her dirty dress clutched tightly above her knees to free her legs for a faster sprint. She dodged roots that twisted their way into her path and spat nature's concoction of twigs and leaves out her parted mouth. Her chest was bursting and her legs shrieking, but she wouldn't - no, she could not – stop this laborious trek until her task was complete.
Her unflinching devotion deemed her unstoppable. Her exhaustion questioned how Muggles could possibly afford to run about. No broomsticks. No disapparating. No wand (yet). Just her burning legs.
It was stowed securely in the crook of her arm and under her cloak, which was so filthy its stench alone left a trail a blind man could follow. The object that would change the course of the entire world rested solely with her. No one but her was to be trusted with it. He had said so.
So valuable it was, and so fragile from age, no one would ever suspect that it held an amount of knowledge that could destroy the world. Her arms began to numb from exertion, she could barely feel the object safe in her grasp. She stumbled over an unseen log blocking her path and, growling, clambered over it to resume her race once more.
It was only after she was many miles away and infuriatingly lost did she realize that her clumsy trip had cost her to drop the precious object. Incensed and panicked, she fell to her scraped knees shrieking madly, pleading, and clutching at her tangled hair.
"I failed…I failed… It was not my fault, I swear!" she wailed at the silent forest. "Please forgive me!"
I blinked hard against tears. I was not going to break down and start blubbering like some sort of tortured bouncing bulb. Not in public.
Harry looked just as stubborn to fight the mournful mood as I was, forcing a strangled smile forward. Hermione on the other hand was a sobbing train wreck, hurling herself at me again in engulf me in a tight embrace.
"Bella, you can't leave," she said fiercely as I gently petted her hair in comfort. "We'll come up with a reason for you to stay. You must train to be Aurors with us! Ron, I'm sure we can squeeze Bella in at your house, can't we?"
His head bobbed in erratic nods. "It's already decided. Bells, you're coming with us. We'll kidnap you if we have to."
I carefully pushed aside a lock of Hermione's slightly-bushy hair to free my mouth for speaking, but Harry beat me to it.
"Stop it. Bella has responsibilities now." His familiar bright eyes, caged behind glasses, met mine. "Don't you?" he said, a bit too roughly.
I grimaced. "Unfortunately."
Yes, unfortunately I had to leave the Wizard World and all my friends and magic for a false life. But Charlie was worth it, wasn't he? I had promised him long before I met the gang that he would have me for junior and senior year. That we would be together, as father and daughter.
Now, I was needed elsewhere. Friends had to wait.
"You're supposed to pretendto be happy," Ron muttered, "Otherwise we'll never let you leave." I cracked an unconvincing grin and choked back more tears.
"Right, we'll see each other again. Soon," I said, hugging each of them for the billionth time in turn. When I reached Ron, last in line, I pulled down his chin until he was staring directly at me. "You'll all write, won't you?"
"Of course," Hermione said impatiently before Ron could edge in a syllable, finding the idea that I'd escape her letters for a minute ridiculous. "Be safe, Bella. We'll see you soon." Ron and Hermione each squeezed my shoulder affectionately before passing on to meet the Weasleys, who I had already said my goodbyes too.
They were all going to be together. I would be alone.
"You've got nothing to worry about, you know," Harry said and I jumped, surprised he was still here.
Losing all composure, I spun around and threw myself into his arms. He stumbled back a few feet before his arms came around me. "I'm going to miss you the most," I mumbled into his Muggle shirt.
I looked up into his face. He seemed torn and opened his mouth to say something, but re-shut it when a train whistle pierced the air and instead said, "I'll miss you too."
We held onto each other for another minute, squeezing as children did when they sought comfort and reassurance, before I pulled away from him with a sigh.
"Right," I said, denying the prickling in my nose and eyes, "I'm late enough as it is with the time difference to compete with and now I can barely say goodbye."
He smiled a sad smile. "This isn't goodbye, remember?"
I grinned. "Right," I said, remembering our quick pact on the train. "See you soon," I corrected.
I began to walk away when I felt his hand pulling me back again. "Yeah?" I asked, searching his face for any signs of alert or pain, but then I reminded myself: Voldemort's dead. Harry's scar would never prickle again.
"Watch your back," he said although his eyes said something else I couldn't decipher.
I watched him, made curious by his strange behavior, until he disappeared into the crowd to re-join Hermione and Ron. I stared down at my trunk and owl Luna, fluttering restlessly in her cage, and spared myself the relief of a few tears.
The moment passed and I ducked behind a brick column, holding fast to my things and disapparating to Forks, Washington – a town unfortunate enough to populate both shape shifters and vampires, I've been warned - with a brash CRACK!
My stomach twisted under the pressure of a force that jammed up against my bones, eyeballs, and yanked at my navel until my feet finally hit ground. Unable to stick any landing, I slid from my feet to my rear on landing with a thunk and splash of what I assumed was mud.
"Ow!" I hissed, rubbing at my sore behind as I helped myself to my feet. My wand, shoved carelessly into the pocket of my jeans, poked my thigh with a bruising strength and spurted red sparks when I flicked its end angrily.
I glanced around me to be sure no one had seen my plunder, only to find myself in the middle of a dark forest lighted only by the dusk painting the sky in washed midnight blue, and starless. I shivered. It was cold here. Freezing, in fact, at this time of night.
Where was I?
I looked around. Charlie's house was nowhere in sight. I checked to see that I was missing no body parts (god, that would be embarrassing) but I was intact. For some reason, I had ended up in the middle of a forest (hopefully) in Washington.
"Fabulous," I said to myself, moving further into the city of moss and pine trees. Wand at the ready, I intoned, "Lumos!"
Light threw itself off the pointed end of my wand, illuminating my surroundings further. There were no trails. I sighed.
Something rustled in the bushes behind me. I whirled around, instantly coiled for attack with a jinx hovering on the edge of my tongue. The greenery moved and a doe emerged, softly stepping out and blinking at me with the same shock I faced it with.
It trotted back slowly, about to gain speed to gallop away when a white something hurtled out of nowhere and into it. I gasped and my stomach groaned at the sound of crunching bones, a high keening noise, and a growl.
Unthinkingly, I jerked away from the scene of the figure devouring the animal and ran for all I was worth, or at least until I remembered that I was a witch and that I'd also left my luggage.
"Courage, bravery, loyalty," I chanted again and again to myself as I slowly found my way back. "That's what makes a true Gryffindor. Come on, Bella… It was just… Shit, I don't know what the hell that was!" And I was panicking all over again.
By the time I reached my luggage, untouched besides Luna, whose cage was tipped sideways and was squawking frantically, I was trembling from head to toe. I rushed to her, spurting apologies and trying not to whither under her accusing eyes. I scoped the forest. There was no doe, no…thing.
I was alone once more, but this time I was grateful for it.
Keeping a grip about me and my things, I speedily disapparated to Charlie's house (correctly, this time) and tripped up the steps to his front door without further delay. I banged on the door loudly, too loudly, I knew and composed myself. Charlie didn't need a scare, I told myself. He was the Chief police of a small town and would be best left out of my ludicrous troubles…
The door opened. "Bells!" My father's smile disappeared and his face became a crinkly mask of concern at my pale face. "What's wrong?" he asked urgently, stepping outside and looking about as if a Dementor or thug might spring out the bushes.
"Nothing," I lied, standing. "It was just a long trip. I'm tired."
"And late," he added gruffly, still searching the front yard suspiciously. "You sure you're alright?"
He smiled again. "Come on in. I missed ya', kiddo."
I did and he carried my things inside. "I missed you too," I said sheepishly, ashamed for already having lied to him within the first five minutes.
He struggled with my luggage as we climbed the stairs and I offered my assistance, waving my wand suggestively, but he shook his head and insisted the "human" way was best. I shrugged.
"You got an interesting taste in pets, I gotta admit," he huffed once we were in my new bedroom, which was purple and…normal.
"It was Luna or a rat, bat, cat…"
"A hat?" he guessed.
I thought of the Sorting Hat at Hogwarts and scoffed. "A hat would be an awful pet. They would constantly complain about boredom and never shut up," I snorted.
"Okaaaay," he said, clearly confused, and neared the exit. "Well, make yourself at home."
"Will do." He shut the door and I listened to him clamber back down the stairs before freeing Luna from her cage. She flew out like a bat out of hell, swarming the room and cladding it in feathers for a chaotic minute filled with squawks and my shouts before quietly perching on the curtain rod.
Quickly, I unpacked my trunk and put away my things with the help of magic. A picture of the gang zoomed by me, settling on the windowsill, and I watched a former version of ourselves spin around in the snow for a moment before putting the photo face down.
My heart cried softly. I missed them already, especially Harry. I told Harry everything. In fact, he was the only one who knew I was a secret Parseltongue and natural blonde. (I'm kidding about the last one.)
With the summer to waste away studying the Muggle subjects I would learn at school, I should have had plenty to distract me from the ache in my chest. But it didn't feel that way at all.
Charlie had gifted me with a red Ford truck, almighty as a tank and young as a dino. I now sat in the school parking lot, relieved to find that all of the cars were outdated, like mine, and unconsciously fingering my wand, stowed in my pocket. The only car that didn't seem to belong in the junkyard was a flashy silver Volvo that had arrived only seconds ago.
Only when students began to file inside the 'school' which was really just an assembly of scattered building did I leave the heated safety of my truck and start for hell – err, I mean Forks High.
Four figures emerged from the Volvo. A striking blonde girl and hulking mass of a boy emerged and clasped hands before starting toward the entrance. Following their lead was another blonde coupled with a pixie-like girl, and a bronze-haired boy with a strong jaw. Their beauty was staggering and alluring, but I saw passed their seductive looks – saw what they were.
Vampires in Forks. It figures.
In the crowd, I was somehow tossed around until I was alarmingly close to the especially handsome, copper-haired one. I tripped over a sidewalk bump (of course) and gasped as the gorund neared. I threw out my arms, waiting for the concrete to chaff my palms and knees but it never came.
I looked up to see that I was in his arms and my heart pounded. Cold hands encircled my shoulders. Gold eyes bore into mine. A lesson surfaced in the midst of my swirling thoughts.
In Defense Against the Dark Arts, a lesson about vampires, red eye color meant a human had been lost, and in rare cases they were the yellow-eyed vampires who drank animal blood. Immediately, I knew what the white blur that had attacked a doe two months ago at the beginning of summer had been.
I yanked myself out of his hands. We stared at each other uncertainly.
"Thanks," I said, fighting an inevitable blush. "I'm Bella." I watched him closely. Did his eyes darken at the blood splayed under my cheek and neck?
I started to walk. "You're the chief's daughter, aren't you? Isabella Swan," he said in a velvety voice that made me shudder.
"Just Bella," I repeated. "And you are?"
I pointed at the pale models moving ahead of us, noticeably separated from the horde of high schoolers. "That's your family?"
We entered the main building and warm, heated air wrapped around us. I shivered appreciatively. "I need to get to the office. Do you know where it is?" I had to shout to be heard.
"Of course," he said smoothly and promptly began to lead us there. Soon, we were before a room labeled with the sign Main Office. The door was propped open by a slim block of wood. It had been painstakingly easy to get there.
We entered to find a small Muggle woman dressed in vibrant shades of purple sitting behind a desk overflowing with sheets. An empty box of diet bars poked its head out of the trash bin by her desk. She thumbed through a book titled Sex & Punishment.
My eyes widened and I flushed. Edward smirked slightly. "Excuse me, Mrs. Cope," he said in his liquid voice. "This is Bella Swan. She needs her schedule."
"Ah, the chief's daughter!" she said, shutting her book with a snap and I noted the flush creeping up her wide, be-jeweled neck. "I've heard many stories about you, missy."
I avoided Edward's eyes. "Oh…great."
She smiled warmly. "I'll just get your things Isabella..."
"Just Bella," I muttered and thoughtlessly reached up to play with the wood block holding the door ajar. It fell to the floor. The door slammed shut, splaying a little breeze over us. "Whoops."
"What was that?"
I picked up the door prop. "Nothing."
I turned back to smile at Edward, assuming he would enjoy teasing her with me, but he had the strangest expression. His nostrils were flared and his eyes darker.
He was hungry.
"Right, I'm just going to go find my classes," I said, but neither of them seemed to be really listening.
Edward blocked my path when I started for the door, a pale and handsome barrier. "Move, please," I said quietly, balling my hands into fists to keep them from shaking.
He stared down at me through his eyelashes. He was quite alluring. "Do you need a guide, Bella? I can escort you to your classes." His eyes flit over my schedule back, reading it in a split-second glance. "First period with Mr. Mason, that's quite close to my class."
"I don't want to be any trouble," I whispered and glanced back helplessly at Mrs. Cope, who was immersed in her erotica. I was on my own and magic was a no-go with Muggles around.
"Trouble?" he repeated softly and lightly touched my neck, an invitation. His cold touch brought goosebumps to my skin. "You're very worth the trouble," he whispered roughly, his eyes gone black with ravenous desire for my blood.
My fear was choking. Very carefully and levelly I said, "No, I'm not."
Something flashed in his eyes, lightened them slightly, and he frowned. His face twisted and suddenly he was bolting through the door. Gasping, I stumbled after him into the hall in time to see the exit doors slam shut. The bell rang.
He was gone.
AN: This is a re-edited version of the original first chapter posted 10/26/11. I will be polishing my entire fanfiction steadily from this point forward and soon be back to updating (that's the plan anyway!). My thanks to the readers that have stayed with me, new readers willing to give DM (Dark Magic) a shot, and to anyone who reviews and offers criticsm.
You're all awesome.