~Chapter 4: An Open Book~
Author's Note: Sorry about the long wait - I'll try to update this story more regularly! I've struggled a lot with this chapter, but I think it's time to post it and move on with the story.
"Is my uncle a werewolf?" Harry stared at Edward. "Er... Not exactly, no."
"I'm sorry." A slight smile brushed over Edward's impossibly beautiful face. "That was a terribly silly question, wasn't it?"
"A... a little bit, yes." Harry attempted an amused chuckle, but he could hear that it didn't come out quite right. Merlin, this boy knew about werewolves? Was the American Ministry of Magic that sloppy about keeping the magical word secret from the Muggles? Perhaps that infamous incident with the drunk house elves who crashed the enchanted flying merry-go-round in Roswell wasn't an isolated indiscretion in the American wizarding community after all? Or perhaps Edward was some sort of wizard?
Harry could sense Edward's gaze lingering on his face, and he felt his cheeks grow hot.
"Harry?" said Edward suddenly. "My question did not appear completely absurd to you, did it? You didn't just laugh it off right away when I asked, and you didn't question my sanity, as most people would have." He leaned forward and put his hand on Harry's arm. His touch felt strangely cool against Harry's warm skin.
"Have you ever met any werewolves, then, Harry?" Edward's voice was as soft as a breath of wind, and strangely mesmerizing. Sweet Merlin, this Muggle boy had to have had a Veela ancestor in his lineage somewhere, to be able to send a shiver down your spine like that just by a slight touch and a few muttered words. Harry looked into Edward's luminous amber-gold eyes. Almost immediately, he realized that he should not have done that. Merlin, those eyes! A Veela? If only! This boy was no mere run-of-the-mill Veela, but rather, it seemed to Harry at that moment, some sort of arch-Veela who had just Imperiused him hard after feeding him a bucketful of Snape's strongest truth serum. And wasn't there a touch of mesmer in that glance, too?
"I've met a few werewolves, yes." Too late, Harry realized that was his own voice speaking. Uh oh. Seriously, how did Edward do that?
"You've met a few werewolves?" Edward looked gravely at him.
"Have you?" asked Harry quickly, trying desperately to tear his glance away from those hypnotic eyes. He muttered a Finite Incantatem under his breath, just in case, but it didn't help at all; he was still spellbound by the golden gaze. "Met any werewolves, I mean?"
Edward smiled ever so slightly. "Yes," he said quietly. "I have. But your uncle is not a werewolf, then? There is something about his scar..."
Harry swallowed, still unable to look away from Edward, whose eyes were all heat and molten gold. "Bill was bitten by a werewolf once, that's all." Seriously, why was he telling Edward this? They had come to America to get away from it all - not to tell it all to the first golden-eyed schoolboy who came along. Was there some sort of veritaserum leak into the city water supply in Forks or something?
Edward's mouth set in a sudden hard line. "Your uncle was bitten by a werewolf? He was lucky to survive! Those brutes! Attacking humans! Did someone... get the beast?"
Harry nodded. "Yeah. My best friend back at home, Ron, killed him during the battle... No! Why am I telling you this? I'm not supposed to say any of this. It's that thing you do with your eyes; it's making me all lightheaded and funny..." He rubbed his forehead warily.
"Sorry!" Edward laughed. "I'll try not to do it." His smile vanished as quickly as it had come. "Your friend killed a werewolf? That's pretty impressive. Is your friend... human, then?"
"Ron?" Harry smiled slightly at the thought of a superhuman Ron. "Yes, very human. Just like me. Listen, I don't actually think I should be talking about this..."
Edward brushed Harry's hair away from his forehead, and his smoldering amber gaze lingered on Harry's scar. "What about your scar, Harry? Is that from a werewolf as well?" His fingers felt like a brush of ice against Harry's skin, and for some reason, the slight touch made Harry shiver.
"No," Harry whispered. "The one who gave me my scar was no werewolf."
"Human, then?" Edward's eyes were burning their way straight into Harry's soul now.
"Human?" Harry tried to look away, but he still couldn't. Or maybe wouldn't? It felt strangely pleasurable, to lose yourself in this boy's eyes like this... "Yes. No. I don't know... The one who attacked me was human once, but he had long since lost his humanity."
"He was human, but then he lost his humanity?" Why was there a sudden note of panic in Edward's voice? "He had become... something else, then? When he attacked you?"
Harry nodded. "He wanted to become immortal, you see, and so he made himself into an inhuman monster, an unnatural and evil creature- What's wrong, Edward?"
Edward turned abruptly away from Harry and rose to his feet. "Nothing." His voice was almost inaudible. "I have heard of vile creatures like the one you describe. Is he still after you, then, Harry? The vam- I mean, the monstrous creature who gave you the scar?"
Harry shook his head slowly. "No. He is dead."
"Good." For some reason, Edward looked down now, hiding his light-filled gaze behind lowered lashes. Harry was relieved; it was suddenly a lot easier to breathe when Edward didn't stare at him.
"He must have frightened you very badly," muttered Edward. "The thought of what he could have done to you is rather chilling..." Edward hesitated for a moment, then reached out and brushed his hand quickly over Harry's cheek.
Harry felt his skin burning against the marble-cold hand. "Yes," he whispered. "He was terrifying. I would rather face a hundred werewoves than meet another inhuman monster like him."
Edward yanked his hand back as if he had been burnt. There was a strange expression on his face that Harry could not interpret. Something like... Grief? Shame? Sorrow?
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have told you any of this..." Harry felt himself flush. "It's just... There is something about you that makes me want to talk to you."
"My apologies," said Edward stiffly. He turned abruptly away from Harry. "I will make sure that you do not feel similarly compelled in the future. In fact, I think it would be a good idea for us to spend much less time together. Why don't I just write up some notes on Wuthering Heights for you and leave them for you in your school locker?" His voice was suddenly as cold as his skin had been a moment ago.
Harry glanced suspiciously at him. Merlin, this boy's moods changed quickly! One minute, Edward was giving him these simmering golden looks, and the next moment, he acted as if Harry was covered in dragon dung. This was getting exasperating!
Edward was backing up slowly in the direction of the door, but Harry caught up with him, grabbed him by the collar, and held him back.
"Now what, Cullen?"
There was a strange expression of panic in the golden eyes, and Edward suddenly looked even paler than usual. "What? I don't know what you mean, Harry. Look, I've really got to go..."
Harry tightened his grip on Edward's collar. "What's with the sudden need to leave, Cullen? Is it the way I smell, or what?"
Edward emitted a small shaky gasp. "The way you smell? How... how do you know about that? What is it that you know about me, Harry?"
Harry let go of Edward's shirt, completely confused now. "You are making no sense at all, Cullen. But if my smell offends you, feel free to stay away from me in the future."
"Offends me-?" There was a sudden flicker of something dark and hungry in Edward's eyes. "No. No, Harry, your scent does not offend me. On the contrary. You are... Oh, God. You are- " He looked as if he was on the verge of saying something, but then he turned abruptly and dashed out of the door.
"Bill? Can I ask you for some advice?"
Bill pulled his rain-wet sheriff's coat off and flung it over a chair. "Of course, Harry. What's up?"
"Is there..." Harry hesitated. "Is there some sort of magical creature, shaped like a human, that makes you want to spill your inmost secrets when you look into its eyes?"
Bill laughed. "Yes. It is called woman, Harry. The phenomenon you describe is fairly common when encountering beautiful women, I believe. I remember experiencing it myself during my brief stint as a married man. I told Fleur so much about my inmost thoughts that I really should have cast an Obliviate on her after the divorce. Fortunately, I don't think my inmost thoughts struck her as all that interesting."
Harry flushed. "No, I don't mean women. Besides, Fleur is part Veela, so of course she had a funny effect on you."
Bill grinned, hung his gun nonchalantly on the towel rack in the kitchen and started rummaging through the fridge. "I don't think it was just a Veela thing, Harry. But you are right; it's not just women who can have that devastating effect on you. I've dated people before Fleur, and I poured my heart out to some of them, too. It's generally recognized as one of the more dangerous side effects of falling in love, I believe. Want a root beer?"
"Yes, please." Harry accepted the drink and glanced curiously at Bill. "Who did you date before Fleur, then?"
"Well..." Bill pulled out a slice of leftover pizza and grimaced. "Pineapple? On pizza? There is just no end to the Muggle imagination when it comes to food, is there? What will they think of next? Well, I dated Aidan Lynch for a while... Now, he could make you spill your deepest, darkest secrets when he gazed at you with those dark blue Irish eyes!"
Harry choked on his root beer. "What? Aidan Lynch? The Quidditch player? But he's... He's a boy."
"Right." Bill took a big bite of the cold pizza. "And a very cute one, too. Too bad it didn't work out between us."
Harry stared at him. "You are gay? But you were married to Fleur!"
Bill shrugged. "I'm mostly gay. Except around Veelas, I suppose. They can be terribly hard to resist." He grinned when he saw Harry's expression of astonishment. "Oh, and just in case you are wondering: I think of you as a friend and a younger brother, Harry. Nothing else."
Harry had to smile. "I never thought differently, Bill."
Bill finished his pizza and helped himself to another slice. "So, about this magical creature you mentioned Harry... A girl in school? Or a boy?"
"A boy," muttered Harry.
Bill smiled. "Good-looking?"
Harry flushed. "Yes. But that's not what this is about. At least, I think it isn't. It's Edward Cullen. He asked if you were a werewolf."
"What?" Bill stared at him. "He knows about werewolves? Is he a wizard, then?"
Harry shook his head slowly. "I don't really know. I don't think so. But he seems to have superhuman strength and speed, and he was trying to read my mind before. And his skin is strangely cold to the touch."
Bill's grin broadened. "Ah, you've been touching his skin, have you?"
Harry could feel his cheeks burning. "Just accidentally. And it's always cold as ice."
Bill picked the last few pieces of pineapple off his pizza and tossed them in the sink. "I see. Maybe he's a vampire or something, then. Vampire skin is usually icy cold, I understand."
Harry sank down in a chair opposite Bill. "Vampire? You think Edward is a vampire? Like... Oh, what was his name? The one I met at that horrible party Slughorn made me come to... Sanguini?"
"Sounds like he could be a vampire, yes. Oh, and next time you order pizza, could you perhaps ask them to put more meat on and less fruit?"
"Sure, Bill. So vampires possess superhuman strength and speed, then? And cold skin?"
"Mhm." Bill nodded and opened a can of beer. "And they are usually very good-looking, too, just like the Cullen boy. I met quite a few vampires while I was working for Gringott's, and I swear even some of the old goblins got a little flushed and flustered when the handsome vampires came to make their deposits. Didn't think we'd run into vampires here, but I suppose there must be some in America, too."
Harry nodded slowly. "I would imagine so. So Edward is a vampire... I suppose that explains why I felt so strange looking into his eyes, too, right? I reckon vampires have the power to mesmerize you with their glance and make you tell them all your secrets, right?"
Bill chuckled. "Actually, no."
Bill leaned back in his chair and regarded Harry with a look of amusement. "I'm afraid not, Harry. So there has to be a different explanation for that. A touch of chemistry between the two of you, perhaps?"
"What?" There was still a touch of laughter in Bill's voice.
"There is no chemistry," muttered Harry without looking up. "Just dragon dung. Edward Cullen hates me."
Edward kept his word. A brilliant analysis of Wuthering Heights showed up in Harry's school locker.
"Thanks," whispered Harry as he slid into the seat next to Edward's in biology class. "For the notes."
"You are welcome," muttered Edward without looking up. Harry sighed. Was this going to be like his fabled animosity with Draco Malfoy all over again? No. Harry did not need any more rivals or archenemies in his life. Edward had been moderately friendly for a little while - surely they could manage to be civil to one another?
Harry drew a deep breath. "Listen, Edward - a whole group of us are going to take a trip to some place called La Push. There is a nice beach there, apparently. Do you want to come?"
"La Push?" Edward glanced up quickly. "No. No, I don't think so." He averted his eyes again. Apparently, he had decided to be aloof and unfriendly again today.
"Suit yourself." Harry gave up. He shrugged and bent over his work.
After a long moment's silence, Edward bent closer and whispered: "Perhaps you shouldn't go there either, Harry. There are werewolves there. I've never heard of these ones attacking humans, but after hearing what happened to your uncle, I wonder if any of them can be trusted." For some reason, there seemed to be genuine concern in his golden eyes now.
Harry raised an eyebrow in surprise. "There are werewolves in La Push? Thanks for the warning." Better pack a wand for this beach trip, then. Merlin, Forks was turning out to be a more interesting place than he had ever imagined!
"My family and I are going camping next weekend," said Edward, unexpectedly. "So I won't be able to go to La Push."
Harry was puzzled. Now Edward sounded quite polite and normal again. All right, he could try to make conversation if Edward wanted to take another stab at being friendly.
"So," whispered Harry lightly, "are your sisters and brothers vampires as well?"
Edward gave a half-strangled gasp. "What? You... You know?" His golden eyes widened.
Edward looked down for a long moment. Then he raised his eyes and met Harry's gaze. "You have nothing to fear from me, Harry. I will not attack you." His voice was trembling ever so slightly.
Harry smiled a little. "I would hope not. I broke your nose last time, remember?"
A shadow of a smile brushed over Edward's pale face as well. "So you did. But still, you must be terrified of me, Harry, if you know what I am... How did you know, by the way? Did I remind you of... him?"
"Him who?" Harry felt terribly confused again.
"The one who gave you the scar." Edward's voice was almost inaudible.
"Voldemort?" Harry blinked slowly. "Why would you remind me of him?"
"He was a vampire, too, wasn't he?" breathed Edward.
Harry stared at him. "What? Oh, God, no! No, he was something quite different." He closed his eyes for a moment. A bloodsucking Voldemort? Now, there was an image that was going to add a whole new layer to his already vivid nightmares!
"Really?" Edward looked terribly relieved all of a sudden. "So you have never met another like me?"
"Another vampire?" Harry smiled. "Oh, I have actually. I met one at a party once."
"At a party?" Edward stared at him. "A vampire attended a party with humans?"
Harry nodded. "Yes. Mr. Sanguini was there with his human lover, a man by the name of Worple."
Edward froze. For some reason, he just sat there, for a long moment, as still as if he were carved out of stone.
"Edward? Are you all right?"
Edward ran a hand over his forehead. "Yes. Yes, I'm just... Are you certain about this, Harry? This vampire you met had a human lover? I wouldn't have thought such a thing possible." His voice was suddenly hoarse.
Edward faltered. "Well... The danger... Just being around humans is difficult enough... And to imagine being with one, as... as a lover..." His eyes met Harry's for a moment, and then he turned his gaze away abruptly.
Harry didn't know that vampires could blush. It was a rather fetching sight.
Edward swallowed. For some reason, his eyes were shining as he turned back to Harry. "I'm rather relieved to hear that this Voldemort was not a vampire, after all. What an interesting name, by the way! It means "Flight from death", doesn't it? Was he French?"
Harry shook his head. "No, he was British. And Voldemort was just a name he had assumed. His real name was Tom Riddle." There it was again, that curious desire to share his life story with the golden-eyed boy.
For some reason, Edward looked startled. "Tom Riddle? That name sounds terribly familiar. Where have I heard his name before?"