o.o.o.o

When Harry cracked an eye open as the last of unconsciousness dribbled away, it felt like the sun was pouring all of its intensity straight into his retinas. Disoriented, he squeezed them shut and breathed for a while, attempting to calm down.

When he tried to open his eyes again, it wasn't as blindingly bright. It was still horribly painful to look anywhere, though. The hospital, he thought grimly as took in the white-washed walls and tiles and the IV sticking out of the crease of his elbow.

Everything smelled sickeningly sterile, with an undertone of something spicy, like bleach. He blinked the grainy haze away and squinted against the writing on the bag connected to his IV. Oxycodone, it read, which was just so incredibly unhelpful. They could've been pumping poison into his veins. For all he knew, they were.

He could hear the steady trickle of nurses talking quietly, their voices almost carrying into the room. From the next room over, he could hear a ventilator and the steady beep of a heart monitor. Next to the bed, Jacob breathed slowly, his forehead pressed warmly against Harry's elbow.

Harry really should've thought about vampires and what he was going to do, but the Oxycodone was making his skin itch and Jacob's warmth was kind of demanding his attention.

He should've thought about Teddy and how he was supposed to keep him safe and lying incapacitated in a hospital bed was really counterproductive to that cause, but he didn't.

He really should have shaken Jacob awake and told him what he'd seen, that it was Elizabeth who attacked him, and did you know that Elizabeth is a vampire?

More important than all of that, was that he really should have gotten out of bed and told the police about Elizabeth so that they could find her before she skipped town. Distantly he knew, though, that if Elizabeth was as fast as she appeared that morning, then she was at least four states over by now, Forks a distant afterthought.

Besides, Harry had to think about how much of a raging lunatic he would sound like if he started spurting out nonsense like vampires. Jacob would think he was crazy – the whole town would agree with that sentiment, in fact. And what if Elizabeth came back for some twisted revenge because he blabbed about her?

Would they even be able to find her if he did tell them?

Jacob's eyebrows were creased in his sleep, a look of fear and anger pinching in his face. So Instead of doing any of the things he should have, he reached a hand over and poked gently at the space between Jacob's eyes.

The area smoothed out, creases flattening, and Harry swallowed around the lump in his throat. His mouth felt like it was full of cotton balls and his brain was full of bees, all buzzing incessantly.

He stared at the ceiling for a while, counting the little black specks there. It was hard to focus, the poison in his IV making him nauseous, but it was a way to clear his mind. He didn't want to think about red eyes and police officers – he just didn't.

So he counted and he listened to the hushed laughter from the nurse's station, the dull drone of Carlisle's voice somewhere down the hall, and the constant, steady whir of the ventilator.

After counting one-hundred-and-twenty specks on the roof, his brain tried to force him to think about Elizabeth again. At the two-hundred-and-four mark, Charlie popped into his head. At four-hundred, he accidentally started planning what he was going to say in his statement.

Fabricating his story wasn't the right description, but it was the first thing that came to mind.

At five-hundred-and-twenty, his brain decided that Jacob took prevalence over falling back to sleep. At seven-hundred-and-eighty-five, Jacob murmured something in his sleep, and Harry thought about how hopeless this whole situation was.

A wizard, a sheriff and a vampire walk into a bar, his brain provided after eight-hundred-and-one black specks had been counted. Jacob snuffled gently into his crinkly hospital sheets as he was halfway through thinking about what the punch line could be, and Harry decided that he'd spent far too long mindlessly thinking about things that weren't important.

What was important was getting better and getting out of this hospital bed. Short of a healing potion (and how much attention would that draw), all Harry could do on that front was sleep.

Jacob shifted and pressed a finger against Harry's ribs and Harry dropped back away into unconsciousness, too tired to fight it any more.

o.o.o.o

"It was someone named Elizabeth," Jacob said, hands shoved into his pockets with the phone propped between his shoulder and ear. "A realtor – she works in town at the real estate office."

Sam grunted on the other end of the phone and Jacob said, "She's probably long gone by now."

"Well, we've been patrolling for the past two days and we haven't seen a thing."

Jacob could hear Sam folding his arms across his chest.

"No trace?" Jacob asked.

"Yeah, we found something, we've just been keeping it a secret this whole time. Oops," Sam snapped sarcastically, and Jacob saw red.

"Sam, can you just fuckin-"

Emily cut him off with a delicate, "Sorry, please ignore him. Here's Seth."

Jacob was going to be having a few loud and excessively angry words with Sam later – that was for sure. Harry'd almost been murdered in his house by a vampire and Sam was still behaving like the world revolved around him.

"Hey," Seth breathed, "so her name's Elizabeth?"

Jacob forced his jaw to relax and leaned against the wall, the concrete scratchy against his skin, protected only by a thin layer of shirt. His jacket was still in Harry's room, slung over the back of his chair-come-temporary-bed.

"Apparently. She could've lied, though. I don't remember hearing about an Elizabeth when all of Carlisle's friends came down for Nessie."

"Yeah, well. That was two years ago. And Carlisle isn't friends with everyone."

Jacob rubbed a knuckle into the corner of his eye and watched his breath fog out in front of him. "Will you ask-"

"I'll find out what I can," Seth said.

Someone shouted something in the background, a quiet crackle over the speakers that Jacob couldn't quite catch.

"What was that?" Jacob asked.

There was rustling and then Quil's soft voice carried through. "Don't you think it's weird that she managed to evade us for such a long time?"

"We should have been able to sense her. It wasn't like we weren't patrolling every now and then before all of this," Seth added.

"I don't know," Jacob said honestly.

There was a couple of seconds of silence, before Seth spoke. "I'll ask about that, too."

"Thanks," he said, and walked a couple of steps around the corner, where the wind wasn't quite as vicious.

"How's Harry?" Quil asked.

Jacob didn't answer, which was ridiculous because Harry wasn't dying or anything. Aside from some bruises and a bit of pain, Harry was good. No infection, no complications, no lingering blood loss or dehydration.

It was just that Jacob could see the winces when Harry tried to move his head. He could see the red peeking out from underneath the bandage on his neck. He could see the spots of blood soaking through the bandages. And that was just way too much for Jacob to handle because this was Harry.

God, like that explained it all.

"He's doing better," Jacob settled for saying. "The police just left. I think Charlie suspects that this has something to do with us, but he didn't say anything."

"Oh," Quil said, "oh. Are you going to tell him that it does?"

"What would that accomplish?" Seth mumbled to Quil.

"Preparedness."

Seth said, "Whatever. I think it's a bit pointless to tell him."

"I think that we shouldn't dismiss the idea," Quil said, almost not-quite sounding as though he were ignoring Seth completely. "We don't know what we're in for yet, so let's keep our options open a bit."

"We've handled worse," Jacob began automatically, but he knew it wasn't really true. After all, they had no idea what they were in for. Elizabeth could be an uber-vampire for all he knew. God, he needed to stop watching Buffy reruns.

"We don't even know what we're handling."

Jacob was too tired to add anything. Besides, Quil was too stubborn to acquiesce. "Yeah, alright. Whatever. Just – you two and Paul patrol tonight, okay?"

"Aye, aye!" Quil shouted, and Jacob heard him stomp off and away from the phone.

"Be careful," he told Seth before hanging up, and he was pretty sure that he heard the warning echoed right back at him.

The past 48 hours had been such a whirlwind of tension and fatigue and honestly, he just wanted it all to be over. He wanted Harry to be fine again, and he wanted to feel safe in this small town once more.

Seth's party felt like an eternity ago, when he'd first caught sight of Harry, nervously twisting his fingers around and pretending he had any clue at all what American football was. That day, his whole life had been given a purpose. Gravity no longer existed; all there was was Harry and himself and maybe the pack in the background – maybe – and nothing else was really important.

Nothing ever stayed perfect, though. He'd fucked up and now Harry was in the hospital and possibly the target of the next vampire apocalypse. Well, maybe not quite so dramatic, but he had fucked up. Harry's house had been his patrol zone and instead of making sure that Harry was safe like he was meant to, he'd gone home and slept. He'd probably been locating a pair of matching socks while Harry was being attacked in his own home.

He thumped a fist against the rough concrete and squeezed his eyes shut. It was an oversight he'd just have to live with, really. It was as painful and as simple as that.

It took a gargantuan effort to drag his feet away from the sidewalk and back into the hospital, where wails reverberated off the walls and the smell of death pervaded every sense.

It took even more of an effort to sit back down beside Harry's bed, pass him his jello, laugh about how Charlie had spilled his coffee down the front of himself, and pretend that everything was okay when it wasn't – it so wasn't.

o.o.o.o

"You need to scratch my back for me," Harry said a bit desperately to Jacob.

Jacob's spoonful of jello hovered in mid-air, an inch or so from his lips. He turned to Harry and raised a brow. "Scratch your back?"

"Yes," Harry said immediately, a touch impatient. He'd already sat himself up and twisted around a bit so that Jacob could access it. "This – the painkillers, they're making me itch like crazy. And I can't – I thought the antihistamines would work and the itchiness would go away but it hasn't. You need to scratch me."

There was a stretch of silence in which Jacob just looked at Harry as though he wasn't sure if he was joking or not. Harry hoped his expression conveyed the seriousness of the situation. He was a minute away from grabbing his fork and potentially scratching all of his skin off with it. Merlin he hated hospitals. All they seemed to do was pump him full of drugs that did more harm than good, water he could drink himself, thanks, and food that could barely be labelled so.

"Please. I can't reach," he added.

Jacob huffed behind him and Harry smirked in victory at the first tentative scratch of a fingernail down the notches of his spine. Jacob had pretty big hands, too, which meant that two of his hands splayed, fingers arched so that his nails jutted out could just about cover the whole horizontal area of his back.

"Lower," he said, "harder," and then he dejectedly realised what he'd said and just stared at the threads of the blanket in mortification until his back was red and numb and warm and Jacob asked quietly if it was okay to stop.

Harry laid back on the bed with a sheepish grin and said "Blimey. That was what I needed."

"Glad to help." Jacob cleared his throat, "um, how are you feeling?"

He asked the question on a regular basis; if Harry had a clock anywhere in his room, he thought it would probably be every hour, on the hour. Jacob was more meticulous than the nurses that huffed and glared at him when he accidentally pulled his IV out (which was kind of a lie because he'd really just ripped it out in annoyance).

"Aside from the itchiness?" Harry said, "Fine. I honestly just want to go home. Do you think I can leave soon?"

Jacob gave him a slanted look, like he did every time Harry asked that, and drew his lips into a thin line. At least he hadn't lectured Harry again about how being in a hospital was a necessary thing. It was as though he'd somehow gotten it into his head that Harry'd almost been decapitated and was on death's doorstep.

Nearly Headless Harry, he thought and couldn't stop the snort that escaped. Consequently this made Carlisle look at him rather peculiarly when he stuck his head into the room. Curse him and his knack for showing up every time Harry was being embarrassing. The last time he'd appeared in Harry's doorway had been when he was scooping up the dessert he'd spilled all over his hospital gown.

Harry wasn't embarrassed, though. After two days in the hospital, wearing an open-backed gown that probably showed the whole hospital population all of his private bits, he'd learned that embarrassment was overrated.

"Actually," Carlisle said slowly, an odd look still on his face, "you can leave any time you want."

Harry's eyes bulged as wide as saucers, "What?"

Carlisle nodded and Harry ignored the way Jacob was gasping about like a fish out of water, probably about to protest the idea vehemently. "You would be doing so against medical advice, but we can't actually keep you here if you don't want to be."

Harry had been running on the assumption that he stayed in the hospital until a doctor told him he was well enough to leave. In hindsight, this was a pretty illogical thought. Still, he'd never actually been in hospital before. Visiting Dudley's uncle in hospital when he was 7 after he'd had a heart attack didn't really count.

"Harry," Jacob began, taking in a deep breath to undoubtedly fuel the rapid spray of protests that were about to spew from his mouth, "Harry. You're – you aren't considering this, are you?"

"I am, actually," he said, and if his voice sounded excited and up-beat, well, that was purely accidental. "So I'd just sign a form?" he asked Carlisle. "Just sign a form and leave?"

Carlisle gave him an affirmative nod, "You'd just sign a form at the front desk and leave. People do it all the time."

"Carlisle!" Jacob exclaimed suddenly, "Seriously, he needs to stay, doesn't he?"

Carlisle gave Jacob a quick glance and smoothed a hand down the front of his white coat. "Well, it certainly wouldn't hurt to stay another night or so, but you've finished your course of antibiotics and your neck has started healing already. You would need to visit in about a week and a half to get your stitches out, though."

Harry waved a hand dismissively, "That's fine. I want – how soon can we get the papers out?"

Carlisle's eyes were bright when he smiled and inclined his head slightly. "I can bring them around to the front desk in a few minutes."

When he'd left, Harry gave Jacob a pointed look. "Don't try and change my mind."

"But, Harry," Jacob started to whine.

"No," Harry said as he struggled to sit up again, "I hate hospitals and I want to go home, alright? Besides, you heard him. All 'antibiotics and neck healing' whatever. I'm fine."

"That doesn't nece-"

"Little help?" he asked meekly as he dragged himself up painfully slow by a handful of mattress. Jacob quickly stood and took Harry's elbow to help him off the bed. When he was standing, he became all-too aware of the hospital gown situation once more.

"Will you pass me my pants?" he asked, and leaned against the side of the bed. Jacob looked like he wanted to say something, probably complain, but he reached over with a sigh and picked them up nonetheless.

Harry blinked slowly at the hacked up piece of denim that had formerly been known as jeans and sighed forlornly at them.

"Honestly, you'd think they didn't know how to work buttons and a zipper. Besides, it was my neck, not my legs."

Jacob crumpled the jeans in his hands and said, "Do you want me to see if they have a spare pair of scrubs that you can wear?"

Harry pushed himself away from the bed. "Its fine, I'll ask. I need to regain proper blood flow in my legs anyway."

He took two steps before Jacob pressed him back against the bed and said "I'll do it. Stay here."

He tried to keep the glare of his face, he really did, but Jacob was treating him like he was made of glass and it was, well. It was beginning to get on his nerves. A little walking wasn't going to kill him. Movement wasn't going to all of a sudden make blood spurt wildly from his neck.

Jacob was just trying to help, of course he was, but Harry hated feeling weak. Useless, even. He just wanted his neck to heal. And maybe work out how to stop a vampire. Top priority was regaining proper movement of his body, though.

"Here." Jacob offered the dark green scrubs, and then stood awkwardly to the side as Harry struggled into them. They were a bit too long but his alternative was naked so he wasn't really going to complain. Signing the forms and walking downstairs to Jacob's truck were all a blur of exertion and endless white-walled corridors, but Harry was immensely thankful when he was back in the familiarity of brown upholstery and carpeted flooring.

The buildings flashed by quickly, such a brilliant change from speckles on a white ceiling that Harry didn't want to blink, didn't want to miss a second of it. The car had a lingering smell of coffee and forest that immediately calmed the tension in his shoulders.

Merlin, Harry'd missed the outside world.

"Thanks for staying with me," he said after a couple of minutes of driving, looking down as far as his neck would allow. "You didn't have to, but you did. Er, so thanks."

Jacob gave him a sideways glance, "Yeah," he said, voice oddly flat, "yeah, it was no problem. Being alone would've, y'know, sucked."

The music that played was rough and fast paced and impossible to keep up with. Jacob wound his window down a crack so that a dull breeze drifted through, a gentle flutter of air against the side of Harry's face.

"Are you really okay to be going home?"

Harry made a face, one that Jacob only caught fleetingly since he was driving. "Of course. I wouldn't be going home otherwise."

Lie.

Jacob's foot fell a little heavier on the accelerator and the scenery blurred more as it flashed past them.

"I mean, of course I'm not fine," Harry amended. He took a breath at the flash of red eyes and twisted his fingers in his lap absently. "I just hate hospitals. So I'm fine enough to not need to stay in one."

Hospitals reminded him of the war and of falling off his broom, Hermione being petrified, Ron being poisoned, Mr Weasley almost dying. Andromeda actually dying. He didn't want to spend a minute longer than was necessary in there.

"Okay," Jacob said simply, and for a while it was quiet. Jacob fiddled with the radio briefly and changed it to something with more of a beat, a steady drum rhythm that Harry tapped his foot to.

Jacob asked, "Do you want me to stay over?"

Harry could hear the silent to protect you ringing through the air, and it made his breath stutter out slightly.

"I'm fine," he insisted and twisted his fingers more, curling them in under the hem of his shirt.

"I know you are," Jacob said, and turned briefly, a flicker of a smile on his lips. They looked at each other for a lingering second. "Do you want me to stay anyway?"

Harry should have said no. If Elizabeth came back then Harry was putting Jacob in danger. He couldn't do that. Enough people had gotten hurt because of him in his life.

The words got stuck in his mouth, though. He was so awkward with this sort of thing. The extent of his other relationships had been slobbery kisses, awkwardly not bringing up dead people, and stolen glances without any actual words. Jacob probably wasn't even thinking about that sort of thing at all, either. To Jacob they were just friends. Jacob was just being a good friend by offering to stay.

Harry felt dirty, like he'd betrayed Jacob's trust. Jacob was thinking about protecting Harry from intruders and Harry was wondering if Jacob's lips were as soft as they looked.

He ran a shaky hand through his hair and pressed gently at the wad of bandages keeping his artery inside his skin. "You don't have to."

"I want to," Jacob said without hesitation. Harry's breath rattled out on the exhale.

"I'm not scared," he said, and didn't think about how much of a lie it was. He was so scared. How could he not be scared? He was ready to fight, sure, but that didn't mean he wasn't frightened. The war had made him weary but he wasn't immune to fear just because he'd killed the dark lord.

"Harry," Jacob said softly. "You were attacked."

It wasn't as though it was the first time, Harry thought. He ought to be used to it by now. Being attacked for Harry was about as typical as a muggle getting a cold or something (which ironically didn't happen very often for Harry).

But he was used to dealing with it – and he was pretty damn good at it too. His strategy for coping was to work out a counter-attack as soon as possible. Harry's current counter-attack plan was to research the heck out of vampires.

"Past tense," he said eventually, voice a carefully calculated blend of acceptance and nonchalance. "It happened and I can't change it, but I'm not going to let it get to me."

"Aren't you worried that she'll come back?" Jacob asked.

Harry quirked a brow, "Why would she?"

Jacob sighed, "You don't get it."

"What should I be getting?" Harry twisted around to look at Jacob, at the familiar furrow of brows pointed ahead in concentration.

"You almost died, Harry," Jacob said. "She almost kill-" his voice broke and Harry was starting to get it now. Jacob swallowed and took a deep breath. "I'm scared, Harry. What if she comes back?"

I'll have my wand next time, he wanted to say. I won't be as bloody helpless then, he didn't voice. "I don't know," he finally settled for saying, and it wasn't as much of a lie as everything else he'd said so far. "I have no idea, alright?" He squeezed a fist tightly, nails digging into his palm.

Jacob must have misinterpreted this as a sign of pain because he turned stricken eyes to Harry and reached over to grab his arm. "Hey, are you okay? Is it your neck?"

"No," Harry said, and despite himself and the building frustration, turned his hand up and fit it against Jacob's briefly. "It's not my neck. It's this whole situation." He waved his hands around to try and explain it, but it didn't really accomplish much.

Jacob gave him a sympathetic smile as he threw the indicator on.

"This just isn't what I had planned," Harry sighed. He wanted to rest his head on the door or the headrest but he couldn't and it was just so irritating. "I wanted quiet, peace, not – not this."

Harry didn't know why, but Jacob's eyes seemed more understanding than he'd expected them to be. This sort of thing probably wasn't a normal occurrence in the small town, so it didn't make sense that Jacob looked as though a whole pile of déjà vu had been flung onto them, or he'd just ordered the usual at the diner.

Jacob turned down into Harry's street and the reality of his situation began to settle in. There wasn't a warded house or school this time. There were no all-powerful headmasters, no Ron and no Hermione. This wasn't a dementor that he knew how to defeat, or a death eater that he could match – beat, even – with magical duelling ability. There was just him, his creaky house, and his lack of actual knowledge about vampires.

And then they were parking out the front of his house and he hoped that Jacob didn't see the apprehensive look he was shooting his front door. Without the quiet hum of the engine, Jacob's voice seemed four times louder, enveloping Harry in its warm baritone. "Do you want me to stay?"

Maybe it was the pain the twinged in his neck, the fact the he knew he was going to struggle to take care of Teddy by himself, or the slight tremble that settled in his fingers that he couldn't really control, but he didn't want to say no. He should've said no, he really should have, but Harry kind of sucked at doing what he should have lately.

"Okay," Harry said. Jacob didn't say anything, just reached over and squeezed Harry's hand. He felt the flutter of a heart beat underneath his fingertips and wondered who it belonged to.

All he knew as he wandered up the steps to his house, Jacob a careful inch behind him so that his heat travelled through the layers of clothing between them, was that he didn't want to face this all alone.

Jacob's hand reached out, brushed against Harry's forearm as he twisted the door handle open, and Harry thought that maybe he didn't have to.

He'd laid down after that, the pain killers forcing his eyelids shut against his will, but he remembered waking up later that night, blankets tucked around him, listening for a while to Jacob and Teddy's laughter from downstairs, the smell of Chinese food and something sweeter – ice cream, probably – lingering in the air. Things never seemed to go right for Harry – his whole life had been a testament to that – but for some reason, things didn't feel as horrible as they really were. There was potentially an army of vampires coming for his blood, but there was also a ridiculously funny and shockingly caring guy downstairs, watching crappy late-night reruns because he was worried about Harry.

And though it was completely illogical and he was possibly still suffering from the effects of the poison they'd been pushing through his veins, Harry felt his lips curve up into a smile as he drifted back off to sleep.

o.o.o.o


A/N: To everyone who reviewed, thanks so much guys! Your words are so kind and I never imagined my little story that I started writing ages ago out of boredom would ever receive this much attention.

It's surreal that we're at 45k words and ten whole chapters! In my original plan, this story was a total of 20k words – and that was completely written. I just want to thank everyone who has ever read/reviewed/followed/favourited this story because without you guys, I would've given up ages ago.

It's not perfect and it never will be but I'm looking forward to finishing this adventure and I hope you guys are as well! We've got a ways to go yet, though! Chapter eleven, here we come.


ThomasNealy:

Firstly, you do need a wand to apparate. I'm not sure why you think wandlessly apparating is canon, but it's not. In the Dealthy Hallows, at Malfoy manor, Ron specifically says that he cannot apparate because he doesn't have his wand on him.

Secondly, Harry has only ever used wandless magic once, and that was when he cast a lumos wandlessly. Might I just add that said spell only caused the tip of his wand to light up so that he could find it laying a couple of metres away? There haven't been any other instances in which he has used wandless magic. Maybe wordless magic, but not wandless. If Harry was such a master of wandless magic then why, in the Deathly Hallows, was it such a big deal that he broke his wand?

Thirdly, why would Harry consider casting wards around his house? It's been five years since the war, there are no death eaters left, and prior to being attacked by Elizabeth, he had absolutely no reason to worry about this sort of thing. He thinks he's moved to a town where nothing goes bump in the night and people ring the doorbell. Furthermore, what help would a ward even do in this situation? He already knew she was there.

And fourthly, Harry's the type of person that would "banter with the crazy lady". When Snape's fleeing the castle after murdering Dumbledore, Harry shouts out just about the angriest things that come to mind. Also, let's not forget when Bellatrix killed Sirius, Harry ran after her and tried to Crucio her. For that matter, let's also not forget that Harry shouted some pretty nasty things at Lupin in DH that he regretted immediately afterwards. Harry is a man of actions, not forethought. If Harry's angry, he's not going to think about the repercussions of what he's doing or saying until after he's done and or said them.

So, honestly, your whole argument is illogical. Sorry to tell you, but the "dumb shit" vibes you're picking up aren't coming from Harry. Please critique my canonical flaws when there actually are some. I did my research, maybe you should too.

Fiction-stalker supreme: I totally see your point; as a wizard – one that lived through a war, no less – Harry would have probably had his wand on him. I didn't think too long and hard about this aspect admittedly, and given the chance, I probably wouldn't change it, but I'd explain it a bit more in the story. I did leave him without his wand for a bunch of reasons but I suppose it all comes down to a matter of opinion at the end of the day, and I just thought that given the circumstances that morning, he just wouldn't have thought to bring his wand with him. Thanks for the criticism though! Always welcome.

elvesknightren: She doesn't have his wand. The thing would probably be about as useful as a pretty stick to her haha.

Also guys, please don't let this discourage you from asking question. Ask away. Critique away! This is my first story and so it's as much an adventure as it is a learning experience.