To the Masses: Everyone go thank karasu-archer for inspiring this lazy Al. Her reviews are awesome, just pure awesome. I wrote the first half, probably because of that, but then I took a really, really long break and the second half is kind of...I have no idea.
Soundtrack: I also have no idea.
Warnings: Same as the previous two chapters.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or Twilight.
"Adoption is not about finding children for families, it's about finding families for children." Joyce Maguire Pavao
Harry still had a couple days left until his doctor would release him from the hospital. He probably could have left after just twenty four hours, but there was talk of his metabolism creating problems. Harry knew that meant they were alarmed that his wounds were healing faster than average, and Dr. Cullen had told Charlie that it was going to make gaining weight difficult. Harry hadn't foreseen that to be a problem. Sure, he had a hard time gaining weight, it drove his mothering friends crazy, and it was hard to find the time to eat what was required to maintain his figure between his classes while pretending he wasn't. He knew why he needed to consume three times the amount of food a human did, but he didn't want to have to explain that to anyone.
After the news Charlie had gone out to get food Harry decided to go for a walk. His shirt had been shredded by overly enthusiastic ER doctors, and walking around in hospital scrubs without an escort was sure to get him sent back to his small, unaired room. He slipped his skinny legs back into Dudley's old pants, crammed his socked feet into his old trainers, and slipped Charlie's forgotten jacket over his hospital issued shirt. He looked like a mess, he realized when he finally looked in the mirror. Weight loss hadn't started to show, but there were bags under his eyes and his skin was pale. He missed the sunshine, he just wanted some fresh air. That he had to crawl past the nurse station and hug the wall as he turned corners was probably a sign it was something he shouldn't have been doing it.
It wasn't hard to find the courtyard. He didn't want to run away, but that would have been just as simple. Signs pointed him to where he wanted to go and everyone was very nice. He passed through the cafeteria, out the back door, and into the garden. It was small and tall trees stood on both side of the stone partition, like it didn't even matter, and the moss grew everywhere. Harry found an old bench, tugged his trainers off and the thick hospital socks soon after. He sank his toes into soft dirt and leaned back. The injuries across his lower back pained him, but the misty air was brushing across his face and what sunlight could get through the clouds beat down on his skin. He could breath again.
Harry licked the air, the magic tasted wonderful. He could build a nest there, and those instictual thoughts were no longer met with alarming human logic, so he let himself just feel them with a sharp reminder to create some sort of exit strategy. He leaned to the side, brought his feet up so he could curl up on the bench, and closed his eyes. He didn't get the chance to doze off.
"You may catch a cold out here," a silky voice said wisely.
Harry smell-tasted the air between them, caught a familiar scent. Age, Harry had found out, was marked in a vampire. Sanguini had explained it, and he hated to repeat himself so it was just that once, that there was just something about the change a human goes through when they become a vampire -like they absorb the dirt underneath them and the air around them to turn their skin to stone and their saliva deadly. Harry understood, he'd gone through his own metamorphosis and felt the entire world shift around him. As it stood, smell-tasting a vampire was a bit like carbon dating. The man standing above him, just to the side was almost halfway through his three hundreds. Harry sat up and stuck his feet back into the ground before he looked up and met golden eyes. "You know I won't," he replied. Vampires could smell him, in a different way but just as clearly, as Harry could smell them.
The doctor sat next to him, putting a polite distance between them. "I don't know what you are," his tone conveyed deep confusion and not any sign of anger or frustration. "I'm very old, and yet I haven't a single clue."
Harry didn't reply right away, because the doctor didn't ask him any questions. He wasn't demanding to know what he was, he was more in awe of the mystery. Harry wasn't about to tell him. "Yeah, well," he finally said, leaving the sentence unfinished, evasively.
They sat in silence for a moment, until the doctor spoke up again. "You are my patient," the doctor said finally. Harry had suspected that was the case, and didn't bother to introduce himself because his doctor obviously knew who he was. "You need to be in a more sterile environment."
"I won't get an infection," Harry said confidently, because it just wasn't possible.
"All boys your age thing they can't get sick," Dr. Cullen replied. That was true, Harry knew. He'd seen all of his roommates at one point or another deny any sort of ailment because big boys didn't whine. Hermione too, because apparently she counted herself one of the guys. That, or she was frequently in denial of her body's condition. Harry was more inclined to believe the first, but there was plenty of evidence to back up the second.
"Yes, but we've established that you don't know what I am," Harry pointed out. If he stayed with Charlie though, he might need someone on his side, someone 'in the know.' Then again, in just a day everyone back home would be aware of his creature status. Harry shifted in his seat and stuffed his hands in the baggy pockets of Charlie's jacket. Honesty or evasiveness, that was the question. His hand itched in ghost pain, 'I must not tell lies,' but he ignored it. "I certainly don't know what to call me, and I can't get an infection."
Dr. Cullen just nodded pristinely, having decided that Harry knew more about his own body than anyone else. One out of three anyway, including Hermione and Seamus. Harry still had his notes, filed away the trunk that was left at Privet Drive, but Dr. Cullen didn't know that. "What can you tell me about your eating habits." That was likely just the first of many, many questions.
Harry inhaled through his nose, only smelling the air by human standards. "I eat like a hobbit when I'm at school, but can't seem to gain any weight. Speculation is that my body is already a wreck and doesn't know how to process the things I eat. The scraps I got before I went to boarding school account for that malnutrition you found. When I was twelve I," he paused, unsure of the word he should use, "inherited when I was twelve, and…" He took a hand out of his pocket to make a continuing motion, "so I started closely monitoring what I eat."
"That was a very smart thing to do," Dr. Cullen praised, but Harry knew it was because he was young and most blokes his age ate everything that was placed in front of them. "Did you tell an adult?"
"Of course not," Harry answered, "how do I explain to my instructors that I'm no longer human." He turned to his doctor with a raised eyebrow, and knew the vampire understood," and it was my friend's idea to keep a chart." Not Hermione, despite popular belief that she had all the good ideas. Lavender Brown was a calorie counter, and one morning she slapped a chart down in front of him that included subcategories that included 'makes me sick' which just meant he was going to vomit it up without taking in any of the nutrients. He'd filled one out every week that he was at school.
"What did you conclude?" Dr. Cullen pressed. He could tell it was hard to pull answers out of the child was hard. As his doctor though, it was his job to know those things and have his health-care regimen altered to better suit his nature. Harry outlined what he could and couldn't eat in fine detail, and the doctor listened with fascination while slowly piecing the clues together. "If I may be a little bold, it sounds like…" he wavered in his analysis of Harry's diet.
"A bird's diet, with bits of what a snake my size would eat," Harry nodded, knowing a man of his age would figure that out fast enough. He was going to tell Charlie, if he stayed long enough. There was something about lying to the man who had taken him in, about the very nature of his existence that didn't sit well with him. If Luna was right, if this was going to be his new home, he was going to try and be as honest as a sixteen year old guy could be. He tilted his head so that his hair fell away from his face and he licked the air again, taking in as much of the freshness as he could. No way was it was as clear as the air in Scotland, but the air wasn't polluted by the light of magic that blinded him. He didn't know how Luna could stand it, all of the lines and symbols and sometimes just clouds of floating light. He'd tried to talk her into some of those charmed glasses that Lavender had made for him, back when he'd first changed. They'd help her focus in class, and maybe people would stop calling her Loony if she didn't stare off at the magic so much. She'd declined.
"Yes," Dr. Cullen admitted. "How unique," he said in a sort of a chipper tone. Harry snorted in amusement. "How did this come about?" he asked. Harry shook his head and kicked his feet up, watching the dirt sift through his toes. He wasn't going to say. "Then, is there anything else I should know."
Harry thought, and in the time he was wondering if any of his past exploits were considering medically relevant Charlie Swan found them. Harry smiled, and at the same time his stomach growled loud enough for him and the doctor to hear.
Charlie looked relieved to see him, and Harry wondered why. He was only gone for half an hour, and by the time Harry had managed to dress without popping any of his stitches and sneak downstairs he'd been gone fifteen minutes. Yet, something in his face visibly relaxed when he came around and spotted the kid and the doctor. Dr. Cullen stood and gave a nod farewell before he went to meet Charlie a few paces away. They were having an obvious adult conversation about him, and while the phoenix enhanced his hearing it was only slightly better than average. He was specifically in-tuned to more magical sounds, like Remus' growl or a vampire tones, and occasionally music would trigger his hearing and sounds would light up. Dr. Cullen was a vampire, and his voice lit up like a roman candle; in bursts of random colors. Harry had no idea what those colors meant, but he could still hear some of the things that Dr. Cullen was saying.
Among the things he was saying, Dr. Cullen told Charlie "he's going to eat a lot, possibly more than the average teenager, " but it didn't sound like a warning, but some inside joke, from father to father. The doctor answered some questions about his own sons, they wished each other a good day, and the doctor headed back in.
Harry let Charlie approach him, and he could smell the food through his nose and see a spot of grease staining the brown paper bag. He scrambled his brain for something to say, thinking maybe he should apologize because he did sneak out and not tell anyone where he'd be. Dr. Cullen probably only found him because of his enhanced senses, and finding Harry in a building full of humans was probably a lot like finding a giant purple bull in a pile of hay. Though, Ron liked it on the record that it wasn't his fault, it was an accident, he didn't know why it was purple and yes, he would help Hagrid with his dead grass.
A girl was trailing behind Charlie at a bit of a distance. Harry wondered if she was the amazing Isabella that Charlie spoke so fondly of, and if she has then why was she walking behind her dad and not with him. Perhaps the reason she was trailing behind was because she was avidly watching her feet as they walked across the uneven ground. She was letting her dark brown hair hang around her head like a curtain, like a shield. She kept her hands in the pockets of her blue, hooded sweatshirt, her jeans were nondescript, as were her shoes. To Harry this girl was the type that tried very hard to blend in, and succeeded. Harry wondered why.
Charlie reached him first, and Harry scooted over just a bit as a show that the sheriff was welcome to take a seat. The girl, Harry was so sure it was the Bella that Charlie was so proud of, sat on the other side and peered around her father with big doe-like eyes. Curious, Harry realized, she was curious about him and he was probably mirroring her expression. The entire ordeal must have been awkward for Charlie, who was literally caught in the middle of two nervous teenagers because he coughed in his hand to get their attention.
"Isabella, Hare. Hare, Isabella," Charlie introduced, just a little mischievously. Harry could tell it was so they were both on the same level of embarrassed, by the way he used their full names, while Harry knew very well that she went by Bella. Judging by the way her pale cheeks heated up, she either thought her name was odd or she thought his was.
"Just Bella," she corrected. Her voice was surprisingly solid for someone with all the signs of being on the verge of a panic attack.
"Harry," he corrected too, because he wasn't going to let go by Hare for the rest of his time in Forks. That would just be weird, and he knew by experience that it wouldn't take long for the other kids to come up with some rabbit or bunny related nicknames. Sure, he could tell them that a hare and a rabbit weren't the same thing until he was blue in the face, but if he didn't really differentiate then it wasn't likely anyone else would either.
Neither Harry or Bella were chatter boxes. Harry knew that Charlie wasn't really either, so it wasn't surprising that the food was passed out without a word, and Harry was half way through is first burger -greasy and cheesy, and kind of amazing, before Charlie realized that maybe they should be communicating and said helpfully "Bella likes to read," with a hopeful tone.
That was an area Harry was kind of comfortable with, actually. At Hogwarts there wasn't lot to do except read and play sports or Chess. Sitting around and chatting was fine so long as people had things to talk about, and if it wasn't gossip or sports scores then it was about books. Also, he was friends with Hermione, and no one could live with her without accidentally reading a book every once in a while.
Harry actually liked to read, it was the one thing he was allowed to do at the Dursley's when he was locked up in his cupboard for most of his childhood. The Dursley's didn't put a lot of stock in things like books, Vernon much rather cultivate a business sense in his dim boy than making sure he had a well rounded education. Petunia never thought that he might derive pleasure from the texts from school or that he would sneak library books in under his baggy clothes, but nobody needed to know that. The point was that Harry knew some things about some stuff and judging by the way Bella was using her hair as a shield between her and the rest of the world it was obvious that Harry would have to take the first step.
"What kind of things?" Harry said, and he hoped that his demeanor didn't betray the cool and collected appearance he was trying to uphold.
"Classics, mostly," Bella replied, and she probably would have left it at that if Charlie hadn't nudged her, "and you?"
Harry shrugged. Harry mostly read whatever he could get his hands on as a kid, and after he started Hogwarts he just tried to keep up with all the books Hermione shoved under his nose. Then he thought for a moment, carefully about things that the Swan's would need to know and about how he would explain the inevitable slip-up's that he'd have. "My friends and I read a lot of occult-fantasy type things," which would explain his very strong knowledge of magic, and they did -Ron had this favorite author who wrote mysteries and he got really excited just before a new book was released. "One of them, Hermione, she was going with a Russian bloke last year, so we read a lot of stuff from his country. Just barely got out of having to learn Russian too."
Bella, who had perked up just as soon as he mentioned 'occult-fantasy' set her burger back into her wrapper and leaned in with interest. She was about to say something when Charlie started buzzing, and it took longer than Harry would like to admit to realize that it was probably his cell phone. Charlie hadn't yet realized it, and Bella nudged his side with a bony elbow. "Dad, you're phone is vibrating."
Charlie's eyes rose up, like he was surprised she'd know that, but Harry could still hear the buzzing clearly. "I don't know how you can do that," but he set his burger back in it's wrapper also and back into the bag before excusing himself. The two teens watched him walk a distance before he took a small contraption from a holster on his belt and flip it open.
"He doesn't believe I can hear it buzzing," Bella offered, sparing Harry a small grin, "I told him it's because older people can't hear that frequency anymore, but" and then she shrugged.
Harry grinned back, "it's just a sign of age then," he voiced, and it probably wouldn't have been as amusing if they weren't so nervous. Charlie had been acting as a sort of barrier between them, and without his presence it was like they were two strangers being left alone.
"Right, this is just really very awkward," Harry said finally. He didn't like it, he was tired of it already, and as a healing boy he didn't need the added stress. He remembered the first night at Hogwarts, when he and his dorm mates were all eleven years old and excited because they lived in a world of magic and they were going to learn how to do all of the awesome things that adults could do and it was going to be amazing. They didn't know each other, Seamus kept calling them all by the wrong names for the first week, Dean Thomas missed his mum to the point of literal tears, and Harry slept under his bed rather than on it until he was sure none of them were going to hurt him in his sleep. It was just the beginning of things, but then Neville said, in his usual terrified way, that enough was enough. They were going to have to share their lives from then on and they could either choose to get used to one another slowly, while Harry slept on the cold floors and Ron stayed up longer than everyone else because he was embarrassed that he snored, or they could rip the band-aid off and just choose not to be awkward.
Obviously, as eleven year old boys, they chose to just pretend there never was an issue, Ron conked out almost immediately after, Dean brought out a framed photo of him and his mum to set on his nightstand. Neville helped Seamus remember all of their names with just a little bit of practice, and Harry slept on top of his mattress for the first time. With socks and shoes on so that he could run away if he needed to, but it was still progress. "Let's just choose not to be awkward, and not judge one another because I know I've got faults. And I'm gross, I'm a teenage boy so you probably already knew that, and I don't care if you're weird, or a transvestite, or still believe in Santa Claus. I just never thought something like this could happen."
Bella looked like a deer caught in headlights for a moment, and Harry was worried he may have broken her brain, just a little bit. The silence stretched on, Harry could hear Charlie was still talking to someone on the other end of the invisible phone signal, maybe his plan to just skip the worst of it would backfire. Perhaps she was like Hermione, and believed that getting through that awkward stage just made everyone closer in the end -she was wrong and the first year boys had been treated to the amusement of watching the first year girls dance around being rude to one another, but maybe she did thing it was a necessary evil. Then, when Harry thought he might cry because she was still looking at him like that, did she say "Do you mean Santa's not real?"
Harry nearly dropped his burger. He snapped his mouth closed with an audible click, his own green eyes looked like giant pools of 'holy fucking shit' before he realized she'd got him. He narrowed his eyes and gave her a low-powered glare, "you're good." The 'but I'm better,' was left unsaid. She didn't need to know he was secretly super-evil until at least week two.
Charlie walked back to the both of them while Bella was still obviously laughing at him on the inside, Harry could tell by the way her eyes were dancing as she bit into her own burger. He looked a bit disappointed, and Harry felt something in him drop like the last ingredient to go into Neville's cauldron before it explodes. "Sorry kids, it looks like I'm needed at the office." Oh, well that wasn't as bad as Harry thought it would be. Then again, Harry thought it would be having to go back to the Dursley's. He chanced a glance at Bella and she didn't appear saddened, more like alarmed that they were going to be left completely alone and she was going to find herself on a stage in front of hundreds of people in nothing but her underwear. Harry knew that look, because that was pretty much Neville's default setting. Though, for Neville it was an actual possibility -what with all the magic and stuff. "When I talked to Dr. Cullen earlier, he said that you could be released today, but you have to follow the instructions he gives you and come back for a check-up in a few days." Charlie continued
"Really?" Harry asked excitedly. Not that he hated the plain walls and the gossiping nurses. Actually, he did, a lot. He also hated being confined to a bed, being cooed over by nurse Stanley, and not being allowed to wear his own clothes.
"Yeah," Charlie said slowly, not sure what to make of the sudden burst of enthusiasm. He must have just written it off as teenager mood swings because a moment later he didn't seem all that concerned, "I'll sign you out, you'll be released into my custody, I'll drop you kids off at home and then you and Bella can go to a couple of those teenager clothing places."
Harry may have been amused if he could see that both his and Bella's expressions turned into ones of disgust in less than a second, as they both peered accusing eyes. Just what kind of teenagers did he thing they were, anyway? Charlie only smiled, because that was at least something they had in common and it also meant that neither one of them would take an overly long amount of time. Harry was still healing, after all.
Then they looked towards one another and realized their mutual hatred for rummaging through clothing racks and the stress of finding things that didn't draw too much attention but didn't look like they just paid a homeless man for his clothes. "What size pants do you wear?" Harry asked, because if they wore the same size clothing then they could avoid the issue all together.
"Girl sizes," Bella replied, "for girl shapes, and you're not going to be one of those guys." She insisted, but her voice wavered at the end, as if she weren't sure of her own conviction. Harry gave her a questioning, sideways sort of look. "Those guys that wear girl jeans and eyeliner." Harry pulled another face, one of scrunched up confusion. "They actually do, sometimes," she added.
"I'll just give you guys a card," Charlie butt in, alarming Harry somewhat. He didn't want to take the man's money, but the protests got caught in his throat. "Now let's wrap this up, you can eat on the way." He insisted, he didn't want them to feel like was ditching them, because he wasn't supposed to have to go in that day, but he was in a bit of a hurry. So he explained "apparently some kids your age decided to go out into the woods and drink themselves silly." He gave them both warning looks, so Harry was assuming that was something they weren't supposed to do.
Harry was done with his first burger though, and just tossed his wrapper in the bag. Charlie and Bella waited for him to put his socks and trainers back on before they make the short walk back inside. Harry would miss even the temporary loss of the clear air. Charlie carried their half-empty bag,and Bella resumed the avid watch of her feet -like she didn't trust them to walk correctly. Harry lagged behind with her, also watching her feet. "What's wrong with them?" he asked her.
"I trip a lot," she explained bluntly, so apparently she'd decided that they were going to skip the awkward stage after all. Her face was as red as ever, but her hair was pulled across one shoulder and not a blockade between them. Progress.
To Those Who Just Read:
I completely forgot what I had planned for this chapter, so you guys get this short one instead. Bella's characterization is still kind of in the works, but I'm not sure about a couple of ideas just yet.
I like song suggestions, quotes, and reviews.