Liam feels groggy when he starts to wake up, his limbs feeling heavy like they haven't yet gotten the memo. Blinking the sleep out of his eyes, since he can't seem to lift his arms to rub them, Liam realizes that he's not in his own bed at home. From the looks of it, he's in a hospital, and he has no idea how he got there.
He closes his eyes and tries to remember the last place he was, but his memory is hazy at best. He remembers leaving work and getting on the tube, and he was nearly home and then… it's blank.
Liam opens his eyes again and gives a start when he sees someone standing next to his bed, leaning over him. She exclaims a soft gasp of surprise when she notices he's awake and she smiles brightly at him.
"Good morning! Can you tell me your name?"
"L-Liam," he answers, swallowing hard. He can't stop staring at her uniform, it's a shockingly bright green which makes him wonder just where the hell he is. "Liam Payne."
"Alright," the woman replies, scribbling his answer down on a clipboard with a quill. Liam blinks and wonders to himself, why isn't she using a pen?
"You didn't have a wand when you were found," she continues. "Was it stolen?"
"A… what?" Liam asks. The woman looks at him and her mouth turns downwards into a frown.
"A wand," she repeats, her eyes becoming more suspicious. Liam starts to sweat under her gaze as he continues to wonder what the hell she's talking about. "You're not a…"
"A what?" Liam asks, but she's already turned away from him and scurried away.
Liam lays back down in bed and tries to understand. What did she mean by a wand? He looks around, hoping to get some sort of information if he can find his chart or something, but his eyes fall on a framed photograph on the table between his bed and the bed next to his. Liam does a double-take when he realizes, the people in the photograph are moving.
He's startled by the woman coming back over to his bed, this time accompanied by several other people; all of them dressed in lime green uniforms and not a single one of them seem to be too keen on Liam's existence. He clears his throat, intending on asking where he is and what happened to him, but he's beaten to the punch.
"Who are you? What is your name?"
Liam stares up at the man who's speaking to him, and then looks around to the others gathered nearby. The woman who he'd given his name to before is there, but she's hovering behind the rest, as though Liam's dangerous or something.
"I…" He looks around helplessly. "My name is Liam Payne. I'm sorry, I don't know where I am or what happened to me."
"You're at St. Mungo's Hospital," another woman pipes up. She gives Liam a friendly smile when he looks at her, and while it's slightly comforting, it still doesn't really answer his question. "And you had an accident."
"Grimshaw," the man hisses, but Liam's already asking another question.
"What d'you mean, accident?" He looks at the man. "What happened to me?"
Ignoring Liam's question entirely, the man dismisses the others and rounds on the woman who had smiled at Liam and starts scolding her in a low voice. Liam sits up to listen in; something in the back of his mind tells him that whatever they're whispering about has to do with him.
"He's a Muggle, there's nothing--"
"But you can't--"
"The Ministry of Magic is firm on this and you know it, Grimshaw."
Ministry of Magic? Liam thinks to himself. Muggles? What are they talking about?
"You can't obliviate the werewolf out of him!" Grimshaw hisses, and Liam's eyes widen. That word he knows.
"The what?!" Liam demands loudly, and they both suddenly turn back to him as though they'd forgotten they were standing next to his bed.
"--bitten, you see." She gives her colleague an unimpressed look and slides around him to stand closer to Liam. "You were brought here because you were attacked by a werewolf last night."
Liam collapses back into his bed. "What?" he asks, his voice sounding hysterical. "No… I can't… werewolves aren't real!"
"You see?" The man gestures to him and Grimshaw rolls her eyes. "He's a Muggle, there's no way he'll ever understand--"
"He will if we explain," Grimshaw replies sharply.
"What did you call me?" Liam asks, now looking frantically back and forth between the two as they argue with each other.
"Do you want to explain this to the Ministry?" the man demands. "Someone's going to have to be held responsible, and it's not going to be--"
"What do you think the Ministry is going to do if they find out we obliviated a werewolf Muggle and sent him back to live amongst other Muggles?!" Grimshaw shouts, startling both her colleague and Liam into silence.
The man stares her down for a long moment, then glances at Liam with an angry look before he turns back to Grimshaw, thrusts Liam's chart into her hands and shakes a finger at her in warning.
"This is on you, Grimshaw. You're the one who will answer to the Ministry, do you hear me?"
"Yeah, yeah," she mutters as he stalks off. She makes a rude gesture at his back and then turns to Liam, the annoyed look on her face sliding into a sad smile. "Now, where were we?"
Liam gulps. "You, umm, said I was a… a werewolf?"
"Yeah," she answers softly. She glances down at his chart and then looks up at him again. "Liam, is it?"
Liam nods. "What's your name?"
"I'm supposed to have you call me Healer Grimshaw," she says with a small grimace. "But you can call me Nick."
"Okay, Nick." Liam's mouth twists slightly upwards in a smile, but it quickly fades back into a frown. "What was that other word, the one that man called me?"
"Oh," Nick laughs, "you mean Muggle, don't you? It's the word we use for non-magic folk."
"So… if I'm a Muggle, what're you?" Liam asks.
"I'm a witch," she replies.
Liam's eyes widen and his mouth drops open. "What d'you mean, a witch?" He shakes his head. "Witches aren't real."
Nick grins. "'Fraid we are, love. That's something you're going to have to get used to, from now on."
"But…" Liam shakes his head and groans. "This is a dream, innit? Like, I'm gonna wake up soon and be in my bed and this will all have been some crazy dream."
"Sorry," Nick says with a frown. "This is no dream."
Liam slumps back against his pillows and covers his face with his hands. This can't be real, he can't possibly be a werewolf.
"How did this happen?" he asks, his voice slightly muffled by his hands.
"That's, umm," Nick laughs nervously, "that's something we don't actually know. The wizard who brought you in found you in the middle of the street after you'd been attacked." Liam drops his hands and Nick cocks her head to the side. "Don't suppose you remember anything?"
"Nope," Liam answers grumpily. "Last thing I remember was getting off the tube."
Nick nods. "Well, I don't know how much you know about werewolves…"
"Erm… I've seen a few films?" Liam offers.
"Right." Nick sighs. "Suppose I'll have to fill you in, then. Best get comfy, yeah? This could take a while."
Liam doesn't like being in the hospital, magic or not. He grows restless after the first night and wishes he had someone to talk to or was allowed to wander around the other wards. The only person who talks to him is Nick, but a few minutes here and there during the day isn't nearly enough social interaction.
He also can't help but wonder how he's going to explain his sudden disappearance to his boss, especially since his phone's gone missing and nobody seems to know what he's talking about, let alone where it might be.
After three days of pestering Nick about when he's going to be allowed to go home, he gets an answer: not until after his first full moon as a werewolf.
"What?" Liam says, thinking he's got to have heard Nick wrong. "You… you can't be serious."
"It's for your own safety," Nick explains. "We'll administer a potion every day in the week leading up to the full moon that will help keep the symptoms of--"
"Symptoms?" Liam interrupts in an incredulous tone. "You mean, like, turning into a wolf?"
Nick winces. "That's the one."
"I don't understand," Liam says, his voice turning desperate. "You said you didn't have a cure, but you've got this? How does it--"
"Work?" Nick prompts. Liam nods. "Well, it helps you to keep a hold of your mind, you see."
Liam's face changes into one of absolute fear and Nick quickly opts for a different explanation.
"You'll, umm, be a bit more tame? Like, more like a sleepy wolf instead of a… a…"
"Bloodthirsty beast?" Liam suggests miserably.
Nick frowns. She knows this can't possibly be easy for him, having gone from being a normal Muggle to a werewolf, but she's trying her best to help. The problem is, Nick has no idea how to spin the situation into something positive, because there doesn't seem to be anything at all positive about being a werewolf.
"How much longer?" Liam asks. Nick frowns harder at how utterly resigned and upset he sounds, and she desperately wishes there were something she could say to make him feel better.
"Full moon's in few weeks," she says, trying to keep her voice light. "And, umm, if all goes well, then we can send you home the day after."
"And then?" Liam asks as he looks up at her. "I just go back to my life and what? Come back here every month? How am I supposed to explain to my family, to my friends, that I'm… that I'm a…"
"Werewolf," Nick says softly.
"I don't want to be. Why isn't there a cure? Why can't you just wave your magic wand and…" Liam waves his hand around, "y'know, fix me?"
"It's not that simple, Liam."
"Well, why not?! It's not fair, Nick! If you've got spells and potions and whatever, why can't you fix me?!"
"Magic doesn't work like that," Nick tells him, trying to stay calm. "It's not a be-all, end-all cure. Some things can't be cured."
"That's not fair," Liam says, hiding his face from Nick when he starts to sniffle. He doesn't want to start crying in front of her but his eyes are quickly filling up with tears and he feels so despondent about everything that he's not sure if he'll be able to stop.
"It's going to be alright, Liam." Nick reaches for his hand and squeezes it gently. "You're not going to hurt anyone, not as long as you make sure to take the potion every month."
"Easy for you to say," Liam mumbles as he rubs at his eyes. "You're not a werewolf."
Liam sinks down in his bed, suddenly not feeling too keen on being social anymore. He turns onto his side, away from Nick, and shuts his eyes. A few seconds pass before he feels the bed shift as Nick stands up and he stays still, stewing in his own anger. The longer he lies there, the guiltier he starts to feel about snapping at Nick after she was only trying to help.
By the time his guilt overwhelms his anger and he turns back around, she's gone.
He slumps back against his pillows and curses under his breath. He's got nobody to blame but himself for his loneliness for the rest of the day after speaking to Nick like that. He spends the rest of the night wondering if she's even going to come see him the following day, hoping against hope that she will.
Nick does, not only because it's her job to do so, but because she genuinely wants to make sure that Liam's alright. He apologizes to her before she even says a word and a fond smile spreads across her face that sets Liam's chest at ease in an instant.
"I don't blame you for being angry," she says. "I'd be furious, if I were in your position."
"Still," Liam says with a sigh, "it wasn't right for me to take it out on you. You're not the one who bit me." He gives her a curious look. "You weren't, right?"
Nick's mouth drops open. "Of course not!"
Liam waits a moment before he cracks a smile and Nick laughs.
"You had me going!" she scolds. Liam shrugs his shoulder, still smiling.
The days pass a little easier now that Liam's got something to look forward to, if that's even the right term for how he feels about the full moon. Nick gives him a few books on the subject, but most of them deal in theory or the authors have such extreme prejudices towards werewolves so it's a bit hard for Liam to get through them.
The worst part of waiting is the daily goblet of potion, bar none. On the first day Liam's supposed to take it, he stares at the goblet for a full minute before he asks Nick if she's taking the piss.
"What d'you mean?"
"It's… smoking. And blue."
"What were you expecting?"
"I dunno! Not blue smoke!"
"Well, blue smoke's what you get." Nick sighs. "C'mon, drink up."
Liam sighs heavily before he takes his first sip, and it takes every amount of strength in him to keep from spitting it back out.
"That's horrible!" He coughs and tries to give the goblet back to Nick, but she refuses.
"You have to drink the whole thing. One gobletful every day for the full week."
Liam's face drops. "You're joking."
"If you miss even one, it's all for nothing." Nick gives him a sympathetic frown. "It'll be worth it, I promise."
Liam sighs again, staring down at the goblet. It's still emitting blue smoke, and now that he's had a taste he's even less inclined to drink the rest. But when he thinks about the alternative to this disgusting potion, he prepares himself as best he can and chokes down the rest of the goblet.
On the night of the full moon, Liam's led to a private ward after he takes his final potion. There's a large, burly man standing at the door to the ward when Nick and Liam approach, and he stares down at Liam with a stern look on his face. It doesn't exactly boost Liam's confidence about how the night is going to go.
"Why did I get moved here?" Liam asks hesitantly, even though he has a feeling he already knows the answer.
"Just as a precaution," Nick tells him with a smile that doesn't quite reach her eyes. She must feel about as good as this new arrangement as Liam does.
"I thought you said that the potion would help. That if I took it every day, I wouldn't be dangerous to anyone."
"It will-- It did help," Nick corrects, sighing. "It's just a precaution, Liam, I told you. You're perfectly safe."
Liam gives her an unimpressed look and nods towards the door.
"What about him? Is he here to stop me if I go… all…" He huffs loudly. "I dunno, werewolfy?"
Nick stifles a laugh. "You are going to go all werewolfy. Just not, like…" Nick bares her teeth and mimes having claws. "Y'know."
Liam sighs as he glances around the room. All of the furniture has been cleared, but there's a pile of folded blankets on the far side next to the wall. Liam tries not to feel put off by the idea that being curled up in a pile of blankets is what he'll prefer to a bed when he's… well, when he's a werewolf.
It's still a hard thing to wrap his head around.
"You'll come get me, right? In the morning?" Liam turns back to Nick. "First thing?"
Nick puts her hand on his shoulder and squeezes. "First thing. Promise."
Liam smiles at her, but it fades fairly quickly from his face when he turns back to survey the room. There's a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach that this is how his life is going to be from now on; that he's got a lifetime of solitude to look forward to. Liam hadn't really had an idea in his head as far as what he wanted out of life, but he'd always liked the promise of growing old with someone. It's hard to imagine, now, that he's likely to find anyone who would willingly grow old with a werewolf.
"Liam?" Nick says gently. "I'm heading off now, alright?"
"Alright," he answers softly. He doesn't have to turn his head to know she's frowning, he could hear it in her voice.
"D'you want a Sleeping Draught?" Nick asks. "It'll help you fall asleep easy."
Liam shakes his head. "I sort of, umm, y'know. Wanna know what it's like, I guess."
He looks at Nick out of the corner of his eye and sees a look on her face like she's trying to understand. He doesn't expect her to, not when he hardly understands it himself.
If this is who, or what, he's going to be, then he's got to get used to it.
When Liam wakes up the morning after the full moon, he feels about as lousy as he had when he first woke up in St. Mungo's. His whole body aches and he's tangled up amongst the pile of blankets he'd been left, and he only realizes he's naked underneath them when he hears a shriek and looks up to see Nick staring down at him with pink cheeks.
"Sorry!" she says as she spins around to give him privacy. "I… I should've known, but I wasn't thinking!"
Liam groans as he sits up and rubs the sleep out of his eyes. He tugs the blankets closer around him, covering up all his important bits before he tells Nick she can turn back around.
"Have, umm, an alright night?" she asks, her embarrassment still evident in her voice.
"Don't really remember," Liam says in a gruff voice. He clears his throat and winces. "Just sort of hurt all over."
Nick comes forward and starts touching Liam all over, stretching out his arms and checking over his skin for any signs of trauma. She's especially careful around where he was bitten; it's healed over now but the scars are still red and bright all across his left shoulder and down his back. There's a phantom ache under his skin and Liam winces when Nick's fingers brush the edge of one of his scars.
"Did I hurt you?" she asks quickly.
"Nah," Liam says with a deep breath. "Just feels weird, y'know?"
"I don't remember being attacked, but sometimes I get these flashes like… like I can feel its teeth in me, like I'm being bitten all over again." Liam shakes his head. "It's weird."
"I don't think it's weird," Nick tells him gently. "I think that's probably normal, for someone who's gone through what you've been through."
"Thanks," Liam replies, giving her a smile.
Nick purposefully avoids eye contact when she checks over his legs, having to uncover his bits for a thorough exam. By the time she's finished, her cheeks are pink again. She clears her throat and stands up, turning her back to Liam again as he too gets to his feet and starts getting dressed.
"You're all clear, from what I can see," she says. "Should be able to go home today, I reckon."
Liam pauses with his shirt halfway over his head. He can go home. He's been dreaming about going home for so long that it seems impossible that it's actually time to do so. And in that moment of realization, he starts to panic.
What if he's been evicted from his flat? What if he's lost his job? How's he going to explain his disappearance for the last month to his landlord and his boss?
Nick must notice the panic brewing in his head, because the next thing Liam knows he's being helped with his shirt. He turns to look at her after it's been pulled over his head and a slightly hysterical laugh escapes his mouth.
"What am I going to do?" he asks. "How do I… live?"
Nick looks away, contemplating her answer for a moment before she turns back and looks straight into Liam's eyes.
"You just do. You've survived a werewolf," she says, laughing a little. "Liam, you can survive anything."
Liam keeps that firmly in mind as Nick goes over his instructions and discharge paperwork. She gives him explicit directions on how to find St. Mungo's again so he can come back for his potions, and he can only hope that he won't screw them up.
Nick escorts him out of the ward, even though Liam's sure she's going to get in trouble for it judging by the look on the other Healers' faces, and hugs him tightly just before they reach the doors.
"Be careful, yeah?" she says. "Don't go getting bitten by a vampire, now."
Liam laughs, but stops quickly when he realizes she's serious. "Wait, those are real too?"
"See you in a few weeks!" Nick says brightly, giving Liam a bit of a shove out the door and avoiding his question completely.
Within seconds, Liam finds himself on a sidewalk in the middle of London. He glances back at the door he's just come out of, and is shocked to find that it's a condemned department store called Purge and Dowse, Ltd. He stares at it for a moment, glancing upwards at the stories above, then back down at the door. Nobody passing by gives it even one look, though he receives more than one annoyed huff for standing still in the middle of the sidewalk.
Liam turns his back on the building and starts walking aimlessly down the street, trying to find his bearings. It's been a full month since he was last outside, and despite everything looking as it should, it all feels entirely different.
He can't help but wonder if he looks any different, or if it's all in his head. A month ago he was just a normal person, living his life in London completely unaware of the entire magical community that lived here too. Now that he knows about it, he can't help but feel… special.
Of course, then he reminds himself that the only reason he knows about witches and wizards and things is because he was bitten by a bloody werewolf and now he's got to live with that for the rest of his life, and it brings his mood crashing back down to the ground.
When Liam gets back to his flat, he finds an eviction notice pinned to his door. It's dated as having been posted the day before, and Liam groans softly when he looks at it. He'd been expecting this but he'd also been hoping that he was overreacting. He snatches the notice off his door, fishes his keys out of his pocket and lets himself in - thankful that they, along with his wallet and shattered and now useless phone, had been returned to him when he'd been discharged - heading immediately over to his landline to call the number for his landlord.
Forty-five minutes later, Liam's got a pounding headache but he's managed to avoid eviction. He's promised his landlord that he'll pay the rent for this month and next on the following day, as a show of good faith that he will never do this again. Liam's left grumbling under his breath after he hangs up; he's never been a day late on rent in his life, surely that should've been a show of good faith already.
He glances down at his answering machine and his palms start to sweat when he sees the number of messages he's missed while in hospital. He braces himself before he presses play on the first one, wondering how many of them are going to be from his mum versus from his boss.
As it turns out, the majority of his messages are from his boss. There's one for every day he's been gone, and in each one his boss demands to know where he is and why he hasn't come in. Liam thanks his lucky stars that he doesn't seem to be fired by the time he gets through all of them, but he has no idea how he's going to explain his absence.
Liam heaves a sigh as he sits down on the couch, intending to call his mum and assure her that he's not dead. That phone call lasts even longer than the one with his landlord had, which is something Liam should've expected. It's easier than he thought, lying to his mum and dad. He doesn't want to worry them by telling them he's been stuck in a hospital for the last month, so he makes up an excuse that he's been working overtime and that's why he hasn't been returning their calls.
It only starts to sink in once he's hung up that he's probably never going to be able to tell anyone what's happened to him. His parents would surely have him committed, which would only make things worse when he inevitably shifted and hurt someone.
Liam groans and tips onto his side, burying his face in the couch cushion.
For someone who just spent the last month wishing he could leave St. Mungo's, now he can't help but feel like he'd give anything to go back.
Liam keeps careful track of the full moons now. During his first week home from St. Mungo's, he turned through the pages of his calendar until he'd marked every full moon in bright red marker. He pinned Nick's instructions to St. Mungo's on his fridge so he wouldn't forget them, also marking another day every month - the day when he has to start going to St. Mungo's to collect his Wolfsbane potion.
It's not all bad, now that he's adjusted to this life. He still goes to work every day during the week, and spends his weekends watching crap telly or taking the train to visit his mum and dad. He just has to be a bit more mindful of what day it is, which isn't the worst thing in the world.
He purposefully doesn't think about what's going to happen if - or really, when - a full moon coincides with something he can't reschedule. It's only a matter of time, after all.
Still, he's thankful that he's alive. If not for St. Mungo's and Nick, who knows what could've happened to him. He makes a point to thank Nick every time he visits St. Mungo's, even though she always tells him it's all part of the job.
Now that Liam's three months into being a werewolf, he thinks that maybe the rest of his life won't be so bad. If anything, at least he'll get to see Nick on a regular basis.
The last place he expected to see her was on his doorstep, two days before the beginning of the week before the next full moon.
"Nick?" he says, not quite believing what he's seeing. She spins around, having been peering at the door buzzers to the left of the front door to his building. She sighs heavily and throws her arms around him, which makes Liam even more confused than before.
"Finally!" She pulls back and puts her hands on his face. "You're a hard man to find, Liam Payne!"
"I don't…" He clears his throat and carefully removes her hands from his cheeks. "What're you doing here?"
"I've been trying to find you for three days!" Nick huffs angrily. "Where've you been?!"
"Umm…" Liam looks around. "At work? Here? I don't really--"
"You Muggles have no sense of direction at all," Nick says with another huff. "Every single Muggle--"
"Shh!" Liam looks around, thankful that it's early enough in the morning that not many people are around to hear Nick saying such strange words.
Nick lowers her voice. "Nobody knew how to find your stupid flat."
Liam frowns. "But… the street's posted on the building." He gestures up to the corner of the building near the second floor, where a street sign is bolted to the side. Nick doesn't even bother to look up, she just waves her hands at him.
"It doesn't matter, the point is I've found you now, and it's a good thing."
"Why're you here?" Liam asks. "I'm due at work soon, and besides, I would've been at St. Mungo's in a couple days."
"You might've been," Nick says with a breathy laugh, "but I wouldn't."
"What?" Liam blinks. "What d'you mean?"
"Well, it's kind of a long story." Nick sighs. "But, if you want to know--"
Liam holds up his hands to get Nick to pause and checks his watch. If he's not on his way in a few minutes, he's definitely going to be late for work. And after his month-long disappearance, he's been extra careful about being late.
"Can you tell me on the way to my office?" he asks, gently taking Nick's arm and starting to lead her down the street.
"Oh, umm, yeah! Sure," Nick replies. "I've never been to a Muggle building before."
"Really? Not ever?"
"Well, I suppose like, I have but not with an actual Muggle." Nick pats his shoulder. "Though you're not an ordinary Muggle, are you?"
"S'pose not," Liam says, chuckling softly. Nick smiles at him, like she's proud that he can make light of his situation. It's a long way from him shouting at her while in a hospital bed. "Now, what were you saying?"
"Right." Nick clears her throat. "Long story short, I… umm, well, I'm not at St. Mungo's anymore."
"What?" Liam frowns. "Why not?"
"Well, you see," Nick stumbles a little as she tries to keep up with Liam, who's on autopilot en route to the nearest tube station, "I decided I didn't want to be a Healer, after all."
"Oh," Liam says. He supposes that's a fair reason, even if it doesn't really give him any information at all. But, he reasons, plenty of people leave their jobs every day and it's not really any of his business. Still… "Why not?"
Nick starts wringing her hands as they walk, and her mouth twists between a frown and an awkward smile, like she's trying not to give away what she's really feeling. It's troubling in more ways than one, and Liam can't help but get even more curious about it because obviously it has something to do with him or else she wouldn't have been trying to find him.
"It's like…" Nick sighs a little. "It's different than I thought it'd be. Like, you'd think that being a Healer would be all about helping people, not about politics and prejudice and attitudes that should've disappeared after You-Know-Who was defeated!"
Liam nods, but he's not too sure what Nick means. He didn't know Witches and Wizards had to deal with things like politics, and he certainly doesn't know who You-Know-Who is. His mind makes the connection from politics to the Ministry of Magic, that he'd first heard about at St. Mungo's, but even the simplest of connections makes his head feel like it's spinning.
There are so many aspects to the magical world that he has absolutely no idea about and there's no telling if he'll ever find out about even a fraction of them. Any sense of adjustment he had to his new, slightly-magical life has suddenly disappeared and it's getting a bit hard for Liam to breathe.
"Hang on," he says, coming to a stop and taking a moment to breathe deeply. When he looks up at Nick, she's got a worried look on her face.
"Just… trying to wrap my head around things. Again."
Nick's mouth twists again. "I'm sorry, I sort of keep forgetting that there's a lot you don't know."
"You and me both." Liam sighs and looks around, realizing that he's accidentally walked right by the tube station. He curses softly and turns back around, with Nick at his heels.
Just before they get to the turnstile, Liam pauses again and looks at Nick.
"You don't have an Oyster card, do you?"
"A what?" Nick says, staring at him strangely.
"Didn't think so," he mumbles as he takes his Oyster card out of his wallet, along with his credit card. "Here, take this, and do what I do."
Nick nods, and follows him towards the turnstile. He makes a point to exaggerate his movements with his card, pressing it against the pad and passing through the doors when they open. When he looks over his shoulder to make sure that Nick's gotten through as well, he sees that she's still on the other side and staring at him with wide eyes.
He mimes the action again, giving her a pointed look when a queue starts to form behind her.
"Sorry," he calls after she's finally made it through, "she's new to this."
"Liam," Nick hisses as he takes his Oyster card back. "What was that?"
"What was what?" he asks as he takes hold of her wrist and heads over towards the escalator, making sure Nick's right behind him.
"That! Was that some sort of--" she drops her voice again, "--Muggle magic?"
"What? No!" Liam glances around nervously. "No, it's just, like. Y'know, electricity, or something."
"Muggle magic," Nick mutters. It makes Liam laugh, and for a moment he forgets that Nick's supposed to be explaining herself for showing up on his doorstep.
"So…" he starts once they're waiting on the platform for the tube. "Why'd you come all this way just to tell me that you've left St. Mungo's? Who am I going to be getting the--" Liam looks around. "--potion from, now?"
Nick's face falls. "Well, umm, that's… that's why I came." Nick sighs. "You can't go to St. Mungo's anymore."
"What? Why not?"
"It's…" Nick pauses when someone passes by, then she continues in a low voice. "It's not safe."
"Not safe?" Liam repeats. "What d'you mean, not safe?"
"Not safe for you," Nick says, her tone growing desperate. "Liam, there's a lot you don't know--"
"Yeah, I'm aware of that, thanks," Liam snaps. He sighs heavily and rubs his eyes. "Sorry, I just… it's frustrating, hearing that there are a lot the things I don't know about instead of being told what they are."
"I know, and I'm sorry." Nick frowns harder. "It's just hard, you see, because I don't necessarily know how to explain everything and-- what the hell is that?!"
Wind starts picking up in the tunnel, signaling the train is coming soon, and Liam laughs a little as he pats Nick's shoulder.
"It's alright, that's normal."
Getting on the train is as difficult as it normally is at commuting hour, but having Nick along for the ride makes things infinitely more interesting. Despite the fact that she's nearly too tall for the compartment, her head appears to be a on a permanent swivel so she can take in every inch of the crowd around them. Liam's thankful that most of their fellow passengers are either too absorbed in their own worlds or too tired to care, but there are a few that seem to be eyeing the both of them with wary looks and Liam does his best not to draw any further attention.
It's a relief when they're off the train a few stops later, blending in with the rest of the crowd making their way back up to street level. Liam takes Nick's hand as soon as they disembark from the train just to ensure he won't lose her, and thankfully this time she doesn't cause a jam at the turnstile.
"That was your first time on the Underground, wasn't it?" Liam asks.
"Never needed to go on it," Nick replies with a bit of a laugh. "Can't say I'd ever want to again, that was awful!"
"C'mon," Liam says with a soft chuckle, "I'm going to be late."
He hopes that she's going to finally be straight with him and tell him why she's here, but instead she starts talking in circles again. The most Liam gets out of all the things she's said is that he can't go to St. Mungo's anymore but it's alright because Nick's set up an alternative source for his Wolfsbane potion.
"You just need to come with me--"
"Come with you?" Liam repeats. "What, now?"
"Well, it couldn't hurt if we did it now…"
"But I've got work!" Liam gestures down the block. "I'm still in trouble with my boss for disappearing for a month, I can't just skive off without notice again!"
"Alright, alright," Nick says, sighing softly as she gestures for him to calm down. "But it's got to be tonight, then, yeah?"
"Yeah, okay," Liam agrees quickly. A few seconds go by and then he realizes he's just agreed to something he knows nothing about. "Wait, what? What is it? And why tonight?"
"I'll explain everything later, I promise," Nick says as she takes hold of Liam's hands and squeezes them. "I'll come to yours again at eight tonight, alright?"
Liam shrugs and nods helplessly. He can't be sure if his head will ever stop spinning, or if Nick will ever really explain everything like she's promising to. The next thing he knows, she's pulling him in for a hug before saying goodbye.
She disappears around the corner, leaving Liam standing in the middle of the street feeling absolutely bewildered.
"Why is this my life now?" he mumbles under his breath as he checks his watch. He curses and takes off at a run, hoping that maybe the universe will be kind to him and not make him late for work.
Needless to say, Liam finds himself distracted throughout most of his work day. His mind refuses to stop wandering off into wild theories about what it is that Nick has to tell him, and it just makes him ever more desperate to find out all he can about the wizarding world. Their conversation this morning only piqued his interest further, and halfway through the morning he finds himself making a list of questions he hopes Nick will agree to answer.
How many witches and wizards are there?
Are there lots of werewolves?
Where do witches and wizards live?
Do they all fly around on brooms and have giant cauldrons like in the movies?
By the time Liam goes on his lunch break, he's got pages and pages of questions and has gotten absolutely no real work done. He forces himself to focus after lunch, putting his list of questions in his pocket and focusing on the growing number of urgent emails in his inbox.
It doesn't last long; soon enough he's back to daydreaming about magic and all the incredible things that are probably happening right now under his very nose. He really can't help it; he imagines anyone else in his position would be doing the same thing.
On the way home to his flat after the least productive work day ever, Liam ends up adding another dozen questions to his list. Even if Nick can't or won't answer them all, at least now perhaps he can stop feeling quite so out of the loop.
The time between his getting home and when Nick said she'd come around seems to drag at a snail's pace, with Liam checking the clock every few seconds. It does nothing to quell the butterflies in his stomach, fluttering around with excitement as he reads his list through a hundred or so times over.
When 8 o'clock finally rolls around, Liam stands up and goes over to the window that overlooks the front door to his building in order to keep an eye out for Nick. There aren't too many people milling around his street at this time of night, so he assumes she'll be fairly easy to spot.
A loud crack startles the life out of him and he spins around to see Nick suddenly standing in the middle of his living room, on top of one of his couch cushions.
"Whoops," she says as she hops down off of it and smiles at him. "Could've done worse, though. Y'know, one time--"
"How did you…" Liam splutters, looking back and forth between Nick and the window. "You're in my house, how are you in my house??"
"Oh, right." Nick laughs sheepishly. "I forgot."
"Another for the list," Liam mutters under his breath as he tugs the wad of folded up papers out of his back pocket along with a pen, unfolding it to jot down another question as Nick watches with keen interest.
"What's that?" she asks.
"Just… some questions," Liam replies, thumbing through the papers. "Couldn't really focus at work today."
"Can I see?" Nick holds her hand out with a smile on her face, but Liam hesitates. The funny thing is, as ready as Liam is to finally get some answers, now that he's got the chance to so it, he feels weird about it. Downright embarrassed, even.
He doesn't look Nick in the eye as he passes them over, his cheeks turning red when she starts reading through the list. Liam sneaks a peek to gauge her reactions to the questions he's scribbled down, becoming more nervous the further in she gets.
"Well," Nick says as she clears her throat, having just finished reading through them all. "That's quite a list."
"I'm just… y'know. Curious." Liam shrugs. "And a bit tired of being confused all the time," he admits in a softer voice.
Nick smiles sadly. "I know."
"You don't have to answer them all," he says when it starts to seem like maybe he's already gone too far. He doesn't know what the boundaries are; if there are things that he shouldn't know or if Nick will get in trouble with someone if she tells him anything. "I-If you don't… or can't…"
"Liam," she interrupts gently. "It's okay. I promise, I'll answer what I can, alright?"
"Really?" Relief floods through Liam and he sighs happily.
"How about the last one first?" Nick grins. "Because it's sort of necessary for what happens next."
"Okay?" Liam says hesitantly. He doesn't like the mysterious edge to Nick's statement; she makes it sound like by answering one question, he might end up with five more.
"I Apparated here," she tells him carefully. "It's when you start one place and… end up in another?"
"What, like, teleportation?" Liam laughs a little. "Witches can teleport?"
"If that's what you want to call it, sure." Nick grins and shrugs her shoulders.
"Do you just… like, think it and you can do it? Is there a limit on like, how far you can go? Can you always do it or is it something you have to learn?"
"Whoa," Nick laughs, "one at a time, Liam, please."
"Sorry." Liam gives her a sheepish smile. "Just… y'know."
"Curious, I know." Nick shakes her head and gives him a fond look. "But right now we've got to get going. C'mon."
"Okay," Liam says, bypassing Nick and her outstretched hand as he starts heading for his front door. Nick manages to catch his arm, stopping him before he gets too far, and he raises his eyebrows in silent question.
"You're going to have to trust me, alright?"
Liam's eyes dart down to Nick's arm and back up again. "Alright…"
"Hold onto my arm," she says, nodding when Liam careful puts his hand around her elbow. "Tightly, now. Don't want to lose you."
"Lose me?" Liam repeats as he follows her advice, but his words are lost amidst Nick's next instructions.
"Oh, and you might want to close your eyes. Just in case."
"In case of wh--"
Liam doesn't have to finish his question before it's answered. It takes less than a second for the two of them to disappear from Liam's flat and reappear in the middle of a dimly-lit street, but the feeling of Apparating sticks with Liam long after it's over. He immediately slaps his hand over his mouth and doubles over, for fear he's about to be sick, and Nick rubs her hand across his back.
"It'll pass," she says. "Just breathe."
"I don't…" Liam pauses to gag. "I don't like that. Not at all."
"You get used to it," Nick hums. "I'm not a fan of it, to be honest. Some witches and wizards Apparate from one room of their house to another, but I only do it when I absolutely have to."
"I don't ever wanna do that again," Liam says with a groan, clutching his stomach.
"C'mon love," Nick says as she takes his arm and starts to lead him towards the house they're standing in front of. Liam blinks as he looks up at it, still feeling a little dizzy as they walk together.
He wonders for a moment if this is where Nick lives, his curiosity piquing further when she doesn't hesitate before opening the front door and waving him inside. He pauses when Nick calls out hello, only having walked a few steps over the threshold.
"June?" Nick calls. "We're here!"
"Who's June?" Liam asks in a whisper, but Nick doesn't have a chance to answer before they're joined in the entryway by a third person.
Nick greets her warmly and Liam stands by awkwardly as they hug, feeling his cheeks go red when their attention turns to him.
June is, in Liam's opinion anyway, the quintessential grandmother type. Her hair is grey and a bit on the wispy side, and there's a shake to her limbs that makes Liam worry she may topple over. Her eyes, on the other hand, are sharper than anyone Liam's ever seen.
"So this is Liam?" June says, her voice coming out far stronger than Liam expected it to.
"Yes," Nick answers before Liam has a chance to open his mouth.
"Come here, let me get a look at you."
She waves him closer and Liam shuffles forward, giving Nick a worried glance as June starts poking and prodding him all over. She murmurs to herself, low enough that Liam can't hear what she's saying but he's not quite sure that he'd want to hear it anyway. He yelps a little when she suddenly pulls at the collar of his shirt underneath his jacket, exposing the skin of his shoulder and the scarring there, and she tuts.
"Good to know you're not mute," she mutters as she lets go of Liam's shirt and turns her back on him. Liam stares at Nick as June starts off for the direction from whence she came, walking slowly but steadily.
"Why've you brought me here?" Liam hisses at Nick, hoping June won't overhear.
"I told you, I'll explain everything," Nick whispers back.
"Are you two coming or what?" June calls over her shoulder, having already disappeared from view. Nick motions for Liam to follow, and he reluctantly does.
They enter June's kitchen and Liam sticks close to the door at first, hesitant to step too far into the room because of the sheer amount of objects that seem to occupy it. He can't help but think of how his mum would have a heart attack if she saw something like this, seeing as how she's absolutely obsessed with keeping her own kitchen organized and tidy. His eyes flicker from one unknown object to another, wondering to himself what they're all used for and whether any of them are weapons, until June clears her throat and Liam's attention snaps to her.
"Tea?" June offers. Liam nods.
"C'mon, Liam." Nick pats the stool next to her. "Don't be shy."
"He's not shy," June says, waving her wand around as Liam sits down. Three teacups appear out of thin air and settle on the table in front of them, each one full of piping hot tea. "He's frightened."
"I'm not," Liam insists, although it's not entirely true.
"No?" June hums. "Don't see why you wouldn't be. You're in a stranger's house and you've got no idea why."
Liam gulps. "You're not going to…"
"Kill you?" June chuckles.
"Liam!" Nick says, astonished by the very idea.
"No, my dear boy, you're perfectly safe in this house." June sighs as she picks up her teacup and brings it to her lips. "It's the rest of the world that you've got to worry about."
"Great," Liam mumbles. He stares down at the teacup in front of him, still a bit hesitant to drink it seeing as how it was conjured out of nowhere. It takes Nick picking up her own and drinking from it to get Liam to trust that it's safe, even though there's a voice in the back of his head that says it's probably easy to conjure up a poisoned teacup along with two safe ones.
He doesn't immediately drop dead after his first sip, which is a relief. He continues sipping it quietly and starts to feel a little more at ease in June's company, even as she stares him down. He looks back and forth between June and Nick as he waits for either one of them to say something, wondering when he's going to find out why he was brought here in the first place.
"Shall we get down to it?" June says as she taps her wand against her teacup, filling it up again. Liam sets his own cup down and nods eagerly, thinking to himself that this is finally it: he's going to get the answer he's been wanting! "Nick?"
Liam turns to look at Nick, following June's example. Nick carefully sets her cup down and twists her fingers together in a nervous manner before she makes eye contact with Liam. She looks about as uncomfortable as Liam's ever seen her and it doesn't exactly fill him with the sense of reassurance he was hoping for.
"I'm leaving," she says, the words coming out in a rush with a labored breath. "I'm leaving London."
"I know," she says quickly, reaching out to grab Liam's hand. "I know it's awful timing and everything, but you have to believe me when I say it's for the best."
"Okay?" Liam says, even though he has absolutely no idea what's really going on. "So… what does this mean?"
"It means," June says, taking Liam's attention away from Nick, "that you cannot go to St. Mungo's every month anymore."
"Why not?" Liam asks, remembering Nick saying about the same thing earlier that morning. "What's wrong with St. Mungo's?"
"Nothing," Nick says quickly.
"Everything," June counters. "Even with all the Ministry changes since You-Know-Who's downfall, it's still as backwards as ever, and that includes St. Mungo's."
"I'm sorry," Liam interrupts, "but I don't know who You-Know-Who is or why that's related to anything to do with me."
"It's… complicated," Nick says, sharing a look with June.
Liam sighs heavily and scrubs a hand over his face. "Is there, like, a short version? Something you could tell me that would maybe not make me more confused than before?"
June gestures for Nick to come closer, and they whisper for a minute or two while Liam sits silently watching. He tries not to think it rude, but he can't help but wonder what it is that they're talking about and why they couldn't just discuss it aloud.
"How old are you?" June asks abruptly.
"Twenty-two," Liam answers.
"Ah," June says as though that explains everything. Liam stares at her in confusion and she shakes her head. "You were only a baby, you wouldn't remember all the panic amongst wizards and Muggles alike."
"I was eight," Nick offers as consolation. "I don't remember much about it, but I've grown up hearing all the stories about it."
"About… what?" Liam asks, starting to get impatient with all the secrecy and half-assed explanations.
"Have some more tea," June says as she taps her wand against Liam's teacup. "We're going to be here a while."
Several hours later, Liam thinks his head may actually explode. He's been given so much new information and he doesn't know what to make of at least half of it. The one thing his mind seems to process well enough is that Nick's leaving and he may never see her again. It's a sad thing to think about, despite only knowing her for a few months. He'd rather liked getting to know Nick, if only in bits and pieces.
He reluctantly agrees to Apparate back to his flat, only saying yes because it's too late to catch the last tube back to the other side of the city. He still doesn't like the feeling, although at least when they end up back in his living room he doesn't feel like he's about to vomit.
"Sorry," Nick says, "about, y'know, before."
"Before?" Liam asks as he goes into his kitchen for a glass of water.
"It's not really polite to Apparate into someone's house without their permission," Nick confesses. "But I wasn't sure if there would be a lot of Muggles around so I thought it best to be rude instead of being spotted."
"Oh." Liam nods. "Makes sense."
"I won't do it again," Nick offers as a promise. "I don't really like it, as I said, and plus…"
"Soon you'll be even further away," Liam finishes with a frown.
"Yeah," Nick replies as she frowns as well. "It gets a bit dodgy, y'know, the further away you go. Wouldn't want to get Splinched."
Liam smiles a little, if only because he finally understands what Nick's saying. "Nah, wouldn't want that."
"You'll be alright," she says. "With June, I mean. She's a bit rough around the edges, but once you get to know her, she's sort of like the grandma you always wish you had."
"I'll take your word for it," Liam says, because he's still a little wary of June. He'll be going back to her house in just a few days for his first Wolfsbane potion, and he's not sure how it's going to go without Nick there as a buffer.
"Take care of yourself, Liam." Nick smiles at him. "Try not to get yourself into any more trouble, yeah?"
"What, you mean like there's worse trouble than getting bitten by a werewolf?" Liam jokes, giving her a wry smile. Nick beams.
"Nah, s'pose not." She shakes her head. There's a moment of silence before she suddenly strides over to him and wraps her arms around him in a tight hug. Liam can't do much apart from pat her arm, given that she's pinned his arms to his sides rather effectively and he's still holding a glass half full of water in one hand.
"Thank you," he murmurs. "For everything." Nick pulls away and Liam sees the sheen of tears in her eyes and he takes a deep breath. "Dunno what I'd done without you."
Nick laughs wetly and wipes at her eyes. She turns away, seemingly unable to say anything else, and then she's gone.
Liam takes a deep breath before he finishes his water, setting his glass down in the sink before he heads for his bedroom. His flat seems alarmingly empty compared to June's house, and even lonelier now that Nick's left. Loneliness isn't something Liam really dwelled on before but it sticks in his mind now; it's a feeling he suspects will stay curled up in his chest and be an ever-present reminder of what he can't have.
Now that he knows more about the wizarding world, and the prejudice against werewolves within it, Liam can't help but wonder if he was better off not knowing anything at all. No matter how many times Nick said it wasn't his fault, he can't help but feel responsible for her moving away. She'd explained that the animosity amongst her coworkers was her reason for leaving St. Mungo's, coupled with a now-ex-girlfriend who Nick hadn't realized felt so strongly opposed to Nick's own views, but she'd kept repeating that it resolutely was not Liam's fault.
Still, all Liam could think about was how if he hadn't gotten attacked, none of this would've happened.
Nick would still be in London, training to become a Healer at St. Mungo's, and he'd be… well, he'd be a normal Muggle, oblivious to the world of magic.
Liam rolls over and presses his face against his pillow, sighing heavily. His scarred shoulder twinges underneath him but he doesn't move, acting as though he deserves the pain as some sort of punishment for causing such an uproar.
It's not particularly easy for Liam to fall asleep that night, and when he does his dreams are vivid and jarring. He wakes the next morning feeling like he's barely slept at all, and the cycle repeats itself the next night and the night after.
Liam doesn't mention it to June when he goes to her house, but there's something in the way she looks at him that makes him feel like she can read it on his face. He tells himself that he's not going to say a word unless she asks, and even then he'll probably deny it. This is Liam's burden, it's his cross to bear and no one else's.
The least he can do is keep his mouth shut.
Two Years Later
"Rosemoor," Liam murmurs under his breath as he checks the map at the train station. He repeats it a few more times as he traces his finger over the surrounding towns, not seeing the one he's looking for.
Liam huffs and turns away from the map, heading over to the ticket booth in the hopes that the employee sitting behind the glass will be able to help him. He's thankful that the train station is mostly empty so he won't be monopolizing their time too terribly, but from the look on the employee's face when he approaches he has a sinking feeling that they're already annoyed.
"Excuse me," he says politely, "could you maybe tell me how to get to Rosemoor?"
"Rosemoor?" The employee laughs, shaking their head. "Ain't nothing 'round here going that way. You'll have to walk or find someone willing to drive you."
"Great," Liam mutters. "Which way is it?"
After getting directions he thanks the employee and starts on his way, wondering to himself if he's going to get to Rosemoor before nightfall. He's already spent most of the day on the train as it is, and even though it's nice to be walking for a change, Liam just wants to get there.
He walks along the road, mindful of traffic and trying his best not to get in anybody's way. The further away he gets from the train station the fewer cars he sees, which it both good and bad in their own ways. After half an hour passes with not a single car going by, Liam starts to wonder if this has all been for naught.
Pausing in his steps, he turns back around and takes a few minutes to think. Maybe he should just go back to the train station, get on the next one headed back to London, and forget this whole plan. If it's going to be this much trouble coming up here every month then maybe it's not worth it at all.
Liam jumps at the sound of a truck engine combined with the scrape of its tires against the gravel on the road, and he jumps back only to fall into the ditch along the side, landing hard on his backside. He groans and closes his eyes as he coughs, the dust kicking up from the truck clogging his lungs and filling his mouth with a horrible taste. In his mind he's cursing the driver and wishing he'd never left London at all.
"Are you okay?"
Liam opens his eyes and squints up at the figure standing over him with their arm outstretched towards him. It takes him a moment to grab onto their hand and let himself be helped back up to his feet, realizing afterwards that the truck hadn't just gone on by but the driver had stopped and was the one helping him up.
"'m fine," Liam says as he clears his throat and brushes himself off. "Just a bit dirty, really."
"Good thing," the driver says with a bright laugh. "Thought I'd run you over for a minute, there. 'm not very good at, umm, y'know."
"Driving?" Liam asks, rubbing the dirt out of his eyes and finally getting a good look at the driver.
It's a bloke around Liam's age with long, curly hair and a smile so wide it's nearly impossible to look at anything else. Liam swallows hard and forces himself to look away, busying himself with picking his rucksack up from where it had fallen as well.
"Yeah, it's not my truck, you see," the boy continues, "it belongs to my boss, but he sent me out on errands today so--" He pauses, laughing again. "You don't need to know all this, do you?"
"Probably not," Liam says with a shrug.
"Where are you going?" he asks. "Not too many people walk along this road, y'know. Not really built for it."
"I was going to Rosemoor, but--"
"Really?" he says, interrupting Liam and smiling even more. "That's where I'm going! I could give you a ride, if you like. Or… wait…" His eyebrows furrow and he gives Liam a curious look. "You're not, like, on the run, are you? Like, from--"
"What? No!" Liam laughs a little, shaking his head at the absurdity of the question. "No, I'm just trying to get to Rosemoor to see a… a friend."
"Oh." The boy's face brightens up again and the smile is back. "Then I'd be happy to give you a ride." He holds out his hand. "I'm Harry, by the way."
"Liam," he replies, shaking Harry's hand. "You don't have to--" he says, as Harry jogs around the truck to open the passenger side door.
"It's a long walk to Rosemoor, Liam." He pats the door. "Much faster this way."
Liam takes one more look back down the road before he decides that he'd be a fool to turn down the ride, especially after he's already come so far. He can't go back to London empty-handed.
"Alright," he says, walking around the front of the truck to climb into the passenger seat. Harry grins as he shuts the door, jogging back around to the other side to climb back into the driver's seat. The truck roars back to life and the radio comes on at a volume loud enough to startle, and Harry quickly twists the controls to turn it down.
"Sorry," he says with a sheepish smile. "Didn't think I'd have any company, y'know."
"It's alright," Liam replies. He clears his throat and looks away, turning his attention out the window as Harry pulls back into the road. "Thanks for giving me a lift."
"Of course!" Harry beams at him, staring at Liam for a beat too long and accidentally swerving the truck into the middle of the road. He overcorrects, nearly sending them into the ditch on their side of the road and Liam clutches the handle of his door a little tighter than before.
"You, umm, weren't kidding," Liam says awkwardly, trying not to sound like he's accusing Harry of anything. Part of him can't help but wonder if maybe he would've been better off walking than accepting a ride.
"What? Oh," Harry laughs, "no, I, uhh… don't really do this very often." He shrugs. "It's fun, though!"
"Yeah! Bit more complicated than riding a broomstick, innit?" Harry hums thoughtfully. "Although I suppose that takes a little more skill. Come to think of it, I'm not very good at that, either."
"Neither am I," Liam replies easily enough. He's never tried riding a broomstick, but Harry doesn't need to know that.
"Really?" Harry gives him a considering look. "I'd've pegged you for a Keeper."
He winks and Liam turns his head back towards the window to hopefully hide the way his cheeks are turning red. He knows Harry's talking about Quidditch, June taught him all about it over the last couple years.
Liam's heart twinges when he thinks about June. It's still too fresh of a wound, if he's being honest with himself. Probably will be for a while, but he doesn't exactly have the luxury of waiting around for his heart to heal. The full moon's coming up and he can't be unprepared.
If Harry notices the change in Liam's demeanor he doesn't draw attention to it, choosing instead to continue the conversation about Quidditch. He tells Liam a story about a friend of his who apparently used to live in Rosemoor and played Quidditch quite well, from what Liam can gather. It's a little difficult for Liam to follow Harry's way of storytelling, mostly because he keeps forgetting key bits of information and backtracking to include them and then forgetting what he said before. It should be infuriating but instead Liam finds himself captivated, smiling and nodding along as he listens to Harry ramble.
An hour passes without Liam even realizing. Only when the sun starts to set in front of them does Liam start to wonder whether they're ever going to reach Rosemoor, and when he poses the question, Harry simply laughs.
"Doesn't seem like it, does it?" Harry smiles at Liam. "It's a bit isolated, but it has to be, doesn't it?"
"To keep Muggles away, yeah?" Liam asks.
"Apparently they're quite a nosey bunch," Harry says in a tone that suggests he either doesn't know very many Muggles or hasn't ever met one before. "Suspicious of everything and such."
"Isn't everyone?" Liam asks, stuttering a little when Harry turns to look at him. "Y'know, like… it's all about wanting to know what other people are doing, or something. Grass is always greener, or something."
"Or something," Harry repeats with a laugh. "I know that, like, a lot of us look down on Muggles and stuff, but I rather like them."
"Yeah!" Harry grins. "Like, look at all the stuff they've invented to get by without magic." He taps the steering wheel. "Even this! D'you think they would've invented cars if they could Apparate everywhere?"
"Exactly!" Harry laughs a little and hums as he taps his fingers against the steering wheel. "Gotta hand it to 'em, y'know?"
"S'pose so," Liam murmurs. It's odd, meeting a wizard who genuinely likes Muggles. Granted, Liam hasn't met too many wizards, but it certainly doesn't seem like Harry's mindset is what anyone would call typical.
"Do you live with Muggles?" Harry asks.
"Umm," Liam clears his throat, "I live in London, so… yeah."
"Wicked." Harry shakes his head, still grinning. "That's so cool."
"If you say so," Liam murmurs.
"What're you doing going to Rosemoor if you live in London?" Harry asks, turning to look at Liam again with his eyebrows furrowed. "Can't imagine we've got anything London doesn't."
"Visiting a friend," Liam replies vaguely.
"Oh, yeah? Who?" Harry smiles when Liam gives him an odd look. "Rosemoor's a small town, Liam. I probably know your friend."
"Alright," Liam says with a chuckle. "Her name's Nick. Nick Grimshaw."
"Oh, Nick!" Harry says excitedly. "I know her! She's--"
Liam waits for Harry to continue, but the smile on Harry's face fades quickly and he just stays silent. The only sound in the truck is the radio playing at a low volume and the rumble of the road under the wheels. Liam doesn't press Harry to continue.
It'd be hypocritical of him to ask Harry to talk about something he clearly doesn't want to. He barely knows Harry, first of all, and it's not like he hasn't been purposefully avoiding divulging truths about himself this whole time. No matter how atypical of a wizard Harry might be, Liam knows that there are certain things he absolutely cannot mention.
Harry still hasn't said a word when they finally reach Rosemoor, and Liam's starting to feel a little awkward about sitting in silence.
"You can just drop me off," he says once they've made it into what appears to be the center of town. "I can find my way to Nick's."
"Don't be silly," Harry says, his voice a little rough. "I'll drop you off, it's no problem."
"Really, you don't--"
"It's no trouble, Liam." Harry reaches over and pats his knee. "Honest."
"Okay," Liam answers, turning away so he won't keep staring down at Harry's hand on his knee. His cheeks are red again, he just knows it, but thankfully it's gotten dark enough now that he doesn't think Harry will be able to notice.
Harry drives through town and up a hill leading to the far side, pulling to a stop in front of a cottage surrounded by a wooden fence held together with wire. Liam's relieved to see lights in the windows, because otherwise he might've thought that Harry got the wrong house.
"Thanks for the ride," he tells Harry as he unbuckles his seatbelt. "I really appreciate it."
"The least I could do," Harry replies with a smile. "See you around?"
"Umm… yeah," Liam says, even though he has no idea if he'll ever see Harry again.
"Good night, Liam!" Harry calls as Liam opens the door and climbs out of the truck, waving to Harry before he unlatches the gate and starts walking up to Nick's door. He glances over his shoulder after he knocks, watching as Harry tries to turn the truck around so he can head back the way he came. Liam's in the middle of snickering in a soft, fondly amused way when the door swings open and Nick's suddenly standing right there.
"Liam?" she says like she can't believe he's really there.
"Hi," he replies, for lack of anything better to say.
He's knocked back a little when she suddenly latches onto him with a tight hug, and after a few seconds he starts hugging her back.
"I've been so worried!" she says as she clings to him. "How did you get here? Why didn't you tell me you were coming?!"
"I'm sorry," Liam answers with a sheepish laugh, "I just thought…"
"Come in, come in!" Nick says, waving him through her door.
He spares one last glance over his shoulder just in time to see the taillights of Harry's truck disappear around the corner before he steps over the threshold, listening to Nick ramble as he tries to push Harry out of his head.
Liam is disoriented from the moment he wakes up the following morning. It takes a few seconds to remember where he is, and there's a faint ache in his chest when the events of the last few months find their way back into his conscious.
The night before had been spent recounting his journey to get from London to Rosemoor, though Liam glossed over much of what Harry had said during the ride in his truck, before the conversation turned to the topic Liam hadn't been able to discuss with anyone: June.
He hadn't known how ill she was until it was too late for him to do anything about it. Not that he really could, given that he didn't have any sort of medical license, magical or muggle, but he couldn't help feeling guilty about not realizing that she was in bad shape. He'd seen her every month for nearly two years, surely he should've noticed something.
Nick told him it wasn't his fault, just like June had before she passed away. He told Nick that it had been like losing his grandmother all over again, but there was an aspect to his relationship with June that he'd never had with anyone else. He admired her, he respected her. To Liam, she might as well have been invincible.
It hurt him more than Liam was willing to admit, the fact that even someone as strong as June was still just human. Nobody could live forever.
Liam hears a clatter in the kitchen followed by Nick hissing a curse word under her breath and he chuckles. He lifts himself off of the couch and shuffles across the living room floor towards the kitchen, a gentle smile on his face when Nick looks up and sees him enter.
"I didn't wake you, did I?" she asks.
"Nah," Liam says, waving his hand.
"Oh, good." Nick sighs in relief. "Sleep well?"
"Well enough," he replies, walking further into the kitchen and leaning against the counter. "You sure I'm not, like, intruding, or anything?"
"No!" Nick says immediately.
"Because I could find, like, a motel or something, if I'm--"
"You're not intruding, Liam. Not at all." Nick smiles at him. "I'm glad you came, honestly."
"I won't stay long," Liam goes on. He can't seem to stop himself from insisting that he doesn't want to impose. "Just, y'know, however long it takes for the potion to brew, and then--"
Nick's face falls a little and Liam goes quiet.
"Unless," he says in a small voice, now feeling even more out of place than he had thirty seconds ago. "Unless, of course, you can't brew it. In which case… I shouldn't have come at all."
"No," Liam shakes his head, "it was stupid of me to assume you'd be able to just because…"
"Liam," Nick tries again, but Liam cuts her off with another shake of his head.
"No, it's okay, Nick. I can figure this out on my own if I have to."
"Oh, Liam!" Nick says sharply, finally grabbing his attention. "You don't have to rush off and of course I can brew the potion for you."
"Really?" Liam asks, careful not to get his hopes up too much.
"Yes," Nick replies with a little laugh of disbelief. "I've got loads of garden space, I can easily grow the ingredients here, just like…" Nick pauses for a moment, clearing her throat instead of saying June's name. Liam can't imagine it's any easier for her to talk about June than it is for him. "Anyway, that's no problem at all."
"Good." Liam breathes a sigh of relief. "I mean, thank you, obviously. I don't know what I would've done--"
"Liam," Nick says, sternly but in a gentle tone. "Really, don't mention it. I'm happy to do it."
Liam smiles widely and Nick taps her fingers against her kitchen table for a few seconds. Liam watches her with curious eyes; there's a look on her face that he can't decipher. She almost looks like she's arguing with herself inside her own head, and Liam feels a bit awkward standing by and watching it happen.
"I think there's one thing you should probably consider," Nick starts, giving Liam a wary look.
"What's that?" Liam asks, wondering if Nick's aware of some new development with his condition. He frowns inwardly at himself at the use of the term, because being a werewolf isn't really a condition as much as it's just part of who he is now, but that's a whole other issue he's been trying to work through ever since he got bitten.
"Well, you said so yourself that the trip up here was ridiculously long, right?"
"Well," Nick sighs heavily, "maybe you should consider moving here?"
"Here?" Liam blinks. "What, to Rosemoor?" Nick nods. "Seriously?"
"Well, it'd be easier, wouldn't it?" Nick replies. "Rather than having to trek up here from London once a month, you could just pop over to my house instead."
"Yeah, but…" Liam huffs out a breath. "I can't just move here."
"Because!" Liam stutters a little as he tries to come up with reasons on the spot. "I've got… a job! And a flat!"
"You could get a job here," Nick says. "And a flat. Is there anything really keeping you in London?"
"Well, I…" Liam pauses, taking a few second to realize that Nick's got a point. His family's not in London, he doesn't have too many friends there outside of work, and it's not like he's in a committed relationship or anything. He'd never really thought about it, but now the realization that he's got rather an empty life makes Liam frown and feel a bit sorry for himself.
Nick curses under her breath softly and starts wringing her hands. "I didn't mean to be cruel, oh, Liam."
"No, it's not you," Liam says, clearing his throat to try and hide the fact that his voice has gone all wobbly. "I'm just being a bit stupid, is all. I'll be fine in a mo'."
"Oh, Liam," Nick says again. She quickly walks around the table and pulls Liam into a hug, apologizing softly for making him feel this way. "Please don't cry, I'll never forgive myself if I've made you cry."
"I'm not crying," Liam tells her firmly. "I promise."
"Good." She pats his shoulder as she pulls away. "I dunno how to handle people crying, to be honest. I'm rubbish enough with my own emotions, let alone other people's."
"Good to know," Liam says dryly.
"I, umm…" Nick runs her finger along a knot in the wood of the kitchen table and sighs softly. "I'm a bit lonely here, if we're being really honest."
"You are?" Liam frowns. "How come?"
"It's a small town," Nick explains with a sigh, "and I'm the newbie. And, umm…" She sighs again. "Well, there was a spot of trouble a few months back, and I don't… well, it's been a bit rubbish, is all."
Liam frowns harder but doesn't press the matter. It doesn't seem like something Nick's particularly comfortable talking about, given the way she can't seem to look Liam in the eye.
"So you want me to move here so you'll stop being the newbie?" he asks, a hint of teasing in his voice.
"Not exactly," Nick says with a soft laugh. "But in a way, yeah, I guess. If you want to think about it like that." She knocks her knuckles against Liam's shoulder lightly and chuckles. "You'll be the most eligible bachelor in town, I expect."
Liam snickers, ducking his head as his cheeks go slightly pink. His smile fades within a few seconds as a though occurs to him and he gets a bit nervous.
"Will they… won't the other townspeople object to a… y'know, a Muggle living in their town?"
Nick's mouth twists as she considers the idea for a moment. "Well… you're not really a Muggle, are you? You're more like a Squib, really."
"It's what we call someone who's of magical blood but has no magical ability." Nick hums. "Like… a wizard who's more like a Muggle. Does that make sense?"
"Sort of. There are really people like that?"
"They're pretty rare, and sometimes they're a little… discriminated against." Nick frowns a little and sighs. "But they're definitely not as disliked as…"
"Werewolves?" Liam adds gloomily.
"Sadly." Nick frowns harder. "This is sounding worse and worse, innit?"
"Maybe a bit," Liam says, trying to lighten the tone of his voice.
"Nah, it's…" Liam sighs. "It's a good idea, really. I reckon you're right about the journey from London to here. It's way too much to do every month and… I really don't have any reason to stay there."
"I'll help you find a job and a place to stay," Nick offers immediately. "We can go into town today and ask around."
"Yeah," Liam replies with a smile. "Yeah, I'd like that."
"And, if worse comes to worse, you can stay with me for as long as you need to." Nick puts her hand on Liam's shoulder and pats it in a genial manner. "And," she says, taking note of the look on Liam's face, "before you say anything, you wouldn't be putting me out in any way, so don't even try."
Liam obediently shuts his mouth and his cheeks go pink again. "Thanks, Nick."
It's not a terribly long walk down from Nick's cottage into the center of town. They set off shortly after having breakfast, and Liam wonders if it was a bad idea as his stomach starts to twist and turn the closer they get. He doesn't want to be sick all over his potential landlord and/or employer and destroy any chance of a good reputation before he's even moved here.
Nick takes him into every shop they pass by to ask if they're hiring, but not a single one seems to need any additional help. Liam starts to get a bit discouraged after the fifth time they're turned away.
"We'll find something," Nick promises, although Liam has a sinking feeling she's feeling just as discouraged as he.
Liam doesn't say anything in response. He offers her a smile and dutifully follows her onto the next building, which turns out to be the local market. It reminds Liam a bit of the market in his hometown, although there are a number of items on the shelves that are made by companies he's never heard of.
He gets distracted by some of them and pauses to look while Nick continues on towards the counter in the back. When Liam realizes he's been left behind, he quickly tries to catch up with her, and accidentally runs headfirst into someone.
They both tumble down to the floor with a crash and Liam ends up on top of the person he'd knocked down. Once the shock of the collision wears off, Liam realizes that he's run into Harry.
"I'm so sor--"
"Liam!" There's a wide grin on Harry's face, even though Liam's quite sure he landed rather hard on his back and he must be in some pain. "Didn't think I'd see you again so soon."
Liam flushes and tries to stand up as quickly as possible to avoid any further embarrassment. When he gets to his feet he reaches out to help Harry up, and only then does he realize that they're not alone.
"Nick--" Liam starts, trying to head off the situation before she jumps to some conclusion.
"I leave you alone for two seconds," Nick says fondly, giving Liam a knowing smile as she glances between him and Harry.
"It's not--" Liam stammers and his cheeks turn even more red. "I wasn't--"
There's a shift in Harry's demeanor when he turns around and sees Nick standing beside them, and it's mirrored in Nick's face in a matter of seconds. Liam can't stop himself from frowning at the pair of them and wondering what happened between the two of them.
"Are you looking for something in particular?" Harry asks, turning his attention away from Nick and back to Liam.
"A job, actually," Liam replies with a nervous laugh. "Dunno if you're hiring, but--"
"Really?" Harry's tone of voice slides easily back into the excitement it held before. "Not just visiting, then, are you?"
"S'pose not," Liam says. He looks away from Harry and blushes harder, staring down at the floor to avoid both pairs of eyes on him.
"Well, c'mon, then!" Harry grabs Liam's wrist and starts pulling him towards the back of the store. "I'll introduce you to Bernard and put in a good word. He'll give you a job for sure!"
"Harry, you don't--" Liam tries in vain. "Really, it's not--"
He glances over his shoulder in an effort to get help from Nick, but she's just silently following the two of them and not taking any steps towards intervening.
Harry bangs on the bell that's sitting on the counter along the back wall, leaning over it to shout Bernard's name and get his attention. Liam's face is fully red now, he's sure of it, and he's absolutely positive that this is a terrible idea.
"But you barely know me," Liam hisses softly, tugging sharply on the sleeve of Harry's shirt. "You can't possibly tell your boss that I'm--"
"That you're what?" Harry asks. "A nice person? Someone who's been living amongst Muggles and knows how to do business with them?" Harry beams. "You're exactly what we need here, Liam. It's like you appeared here by… magic."
Liam's face twists in confusion and Harry's grin grows wider, obviously pleased with himself. Before Liam can protest any further, Bernard pops up and Harry's introducing the two of them. He seems a little hesitant at first, which Liam is a little relieved to witness, but Bernard eventually relents to Harry's pestering and offers Liam a job on the spot.
"I can't thank you enough, really." Liam shakes Bernard's hand firmly. "You won't regret this, honest, I'll be the best employee you've ever had."
"That won't be difficult," Bernard teases gently with a pointed nod in Harry's direction.
"Hey," Harry protests loudly.
"Don't think I didn't hear that crash ten minutes ago," Bernard replies. "What'd you break this time?"
"Nothing!" Harry pouts. "It wasn't my fault."
"It was mine," Liam says with a mild wince. "We, umm, sort of… I knocked into Harry, you see, and--"
Bernard sighs heavily and pinches the bridge of his nose. "I've gone and hired another Harry. Merlin help me."
He turns away from the pair of them and disappears into the back room without letting Liam finish his explanation, although Harry doesn't appear to be too bothered by Bernard's reaction once he's gone. He turns to Liam with another big smile, the proud look back on his face in half a second.
"See? Told you Bernard would give you a job."
"You were right," Liam concedes. He turns back to Nick and shrugs his shoulders. "All that's left now is a flat."
"Can't be that hard to find, can it?" Nick says, smiling back at Liam.
"I could help you with that too, if you like," Harry says.
"Oh, no," Liam shakes his head, "I couldn't, you-- You've done so much already, I can't ask--"
"It's no trouble, Liam." Harry smiles the same way he had the night before and pats Liam's shoulder. "Honest."
The touch of Harry's hand spreads a warmth through Liam's body that he absolutely doesn't know how to deal with. If this is the sort of thing that's going to keep happening whenever he's around Harry then things are going to be far more difficult in Rosemoor than Liam expected.
Adjusting to life in Rosemoor is somewhat easier than Liam expected. He learned enough about the magical world from June that he finds it simple enough to adapt to how wizards approach day-to-day tasks differently than Muggles, but there's one thing that nobody could've prepared him for: living next door to Harry.
Liam quickly found out that the help Harry offered in finding a place for him to live meant introducing him to his mum, who owns several rental properties around Rosemoor, and he somehow ended up moving into the house that's right next door to where Harry lives.
Despite the fact that Rosemoor is a very small town, and Liam was well aware of this before he agreed to move there, both working with and living next door to Harry makes it seem even smaller. Even on his days off, Liam finds it increasingly difficult to avoid seeing Harry, even if it's just through his window.
Every morning when Liam opens the curtains in his bedroom window, he finds Harry outside in his garden wearing nothing but the tiniest shorts Liam's ever seen. Liam can't help but think it's on purpose, though the reasoning behind it escapes him.
Liam tries not to stare as he's leaving his house to head down to the market, but Harry manages to catch his attention and before Liam knows it, he's been roped into a conversation. It's nearly impossible for him to keep his eyes off of Harry's chest, which just makes him increasingly uncomfortable and awkward.
"Why do you wear those?" Liam blurts out, interrupting Harry as he shows Liam whatever he's just dug up in his garden.
"Wear what?" Harry asks, rubbing his nose and smudging some dirt across it.
"Those…" Liam gestures to Harry and clears his throat, "shorts."
Harry looks down at himself and snickers. "I don't want to get my nice clothes dirty, Liam!"
"Right, obviously." Liam laughs nervously. "Well, I, um…" He gestures over his shoulder. "Should… y'know, get going."
"See you later!" Harry calls after him as Liam turns around and hurries away.
Liam never imagined the boy who picked him up on the side of the road would become such a fixture in his new life in Rosemoor. He should've expected it after Harry got him the job at the market; there's certainly something about him that's hard to resist.
After checking his watch, Liam sighs heavily and walks a little faster; he's running the slightest bit late after his encounter with Harry and his nearly non-existent shorts. He curses under his breath and shakes his head to try and get the mental image of Harry in his minuscule shorts out of his head. It doesn't bode well for his concentration in the hours to follow.
Thankfully, the first few hours of his shift at the market are blessedly uneventful. Liam falls into easy conversation with the market patrons, most of whom come in almost every day. It's been helpful in terms of Liam getting to know the townsfolk quickly, though not everyone gave him a warm welcome.
News of Liam's arrival spread through Rosemoor like wildfire, but the news of his Squib status seemed to spread even faster. Bernard didn't care one way or the other, something which Liam was overwhelmingly relieved about, but Liam had to admit that Nick hadn't been lying when she warned him about prejudice against Squibs.
All he can do is grin and bear it, because this is where he needs to be. After just two months, Liam feels like he's found his stride; like Rosemoor was where he was meant to end up. In London, he felt like another nameless face in the crowd, made worse by the isolation of his condition. At least here, he may be hiding something, but at least he has the chance to belong.
Harry shows up for his shift while Liam is working the till at the front of the market, and instead of going straight to the staff room, he slips behind the counter and knocks his hip into Liam's. The woman standing in front of Liam gives the pair of them a knowing look and Liam flushes as he hands over her change.
"You're early," Liam says once the woman has left.
"Finished my gardening," Harry replies with a smile. "How's your morning been?"
"Pretty quiet," Liam says, shrugging his shoulders. "Nothing too exciting."
Harry hums, turning away from Liam to take a gander at the notice board behind him. He gasps, startling Liam, and snatches one of the sheets of parchment off the wall and brandishing it in front of Liam's face.
"Did you see this??"
"No…" Liam tries to focus his eyes on the parchment but Harry won't stay still long enough for him to read it. "Harry, what--"
"Bernard!" Harry shouts. "When did you put this up?!"
"Put what up?" Bernard calls back, appearing from around the corner a few moments later. He spots the parchment in Harry's hands and chuckles lightly. "Oh, that."
"You know how I feel about this," Harry says, his voice feigning hurt as he lays his hand over his heart. "Can't believe you've kept it from me."
"Kept what?" Liam asks. He reaches out and manages to grab the parchment out of Harry's hands so he can read it himself, although it doesn't offer him much of an explanation. "What is it?"
"Only the best wizarding festival you'll ever see!" Harry replies before Bernard even has a chance to open his mouth. "It hasn't come around for ages--"
"It came around three years ago," Bernard murmurs quietly and Liam's lips quirk in a smile but he keeps his attention focused on Harry.
It's endearing, how excited Harry is as he explains what the festival will be like. From what he can gather, Liam thinks it sounds a bit like a carnival mixed with a farmer's market of sorts. He can only imagine what sort of entertainment will come from something like this; even in his wildest dreams Liam's sure he could never know what to expect.
"It'll be here at the end of the week," Bernard says, carefully taking the parchment back from Liam and affixing it back to the notice board. "We'll be closing up shop early for it."
Harry's eyes light up. "Really?"
"After the fuss you made the last time?" Bernard chuckles good-naturedly. "Figured I'd avoid that this time around."
Harry flushes but doesn't even try to hide his proud smile.
"You'll go, won't you, Liam?" Harry asks, quickly turning back to Liam and staring at him with wide, hopeful eyes.
"I… yes?" Liam replies, a little unsure of what he's getting himself into.
"We can go together," Harry adds. "I'll show you around, since it's your first time and all."
"Umm…" Liam glances at Bernard for even the smallest bit of reassurance, but he's already turned his back on the pair of them and disappeared back amongst the shelves. "Okay?"
Harry beams. "It'll be brilliant, just you wait and see."
There's a noticeable lull in customers on Friday afternoon. If Liam hadn't known about the festival (or if Harry hadn't kept reminding him about it at every possible chance), he might have thought it strange. As it was, he took a small relief in it because it meant he had time to himself that he could use to think about what was in store for him that evening.
It was a blessing that the last full moon happened almost two weeks ago, meaning that Liam didn't have to worry about taking his potion or sticking close to home. He could be normal, or as close to it as he could possibly get.
Harry's practically overflowing with excitement by the time the market closes, but he waits patiently for Liam so they can step outside together. But once they've both crossed through the front door, Harry's patience disappears altogether and next thing Liam knows he's being tugged by his wrist at a quick pace.
"Here we are," he says once they've reached the festival, letting go of Liam's wrist to open his arms wide and brandish them towards the sight before them.
The whole of the town centre has been transformed; Liam hardly recognizes it. He stops and stares at it all while Harry continues on heading towards the row of brightly colored tents ahead. He realizes that Liam isn't following after a few seconds and turns around with a smile on his face, jogging back over to him to take a hold of his wrist again and pull him along.
"C'mon," he says, laughing.
"Sorry, I just…" Liam blinks and blushes. "It's amazing."
Harry grins. "Wait 'til you see the rest of it."
The first few tents are full of wizarding trinkets, most of which Liam has no idea what they are or what they're supposed to be used for. Harry picks up a few items at random and shows them off, and Liam just nods in return. He glances at the table on his own and traces his fingers over a small metal object, pulling them back and hissing under his breath when it burns his skin.
"You alright?" Harry asks with a worried frown, suddenly appearing at Liam's side.
"Fine," he replies, quickly hiding his hand. He moves onto the next tent with Harry close behind, staring up at the vividly bright orange sign emblazoned with "Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes". His eyes can't seem to focus on just one item, they dart from one brightly colored thing to the next.
Liam's taking a closer look at a flying toy car when he realizes that Harry's no longer at his side, and after spinning all the way around in place it's clear Harry's not even in the tent. He finds him at the next tent, poring over the table full of Muggle objects.
"Oh, no," Liam mutters.
"Liam!" Harry says brightly, waving him over to join him. "Look!"
Liam watches as Harry fawns over all the silly, household objects that are horrendously mislabeled and ridiculously overpriced. The longer he stands in the tent the harder it gets not to laugh, but when he notices that Harry's started a pile of things he possibly intends to buy, Liam knows he has to get involved.
"Harry," Liam says with a frown. "What're you doing?"
"What?" he replies. "Can you believe they're selling these??"
"You don't need--" Liam shakes his head and carefully removes a TV remote from Harry's grip. "Do you even have a telly?"
Harry blinks. "A what?"
Liam sighs and puts the remote back down on the table, carefully taking the rest of the items from Harry's hands and putting them back where they belong.
"No better than Scuttle and his dinglehopper," Liam mutters under his breath, giving the wizard manning the booth a dirty look as he shuffles Harry out of the tent.
"What's a dinglehopper?" Harry asks, curiosity blooming across his face.
"It's…" Liam laughs. "I'll explain later."
They move on towards the food carts and Liam quickly forgets all about the Muggle items vendor. His eyes go as wide as they can as they pass by a display of enormous rainbow-colored lollipops that swirl on their own like giant sugary pinwheels. The next has ice lollies that change colors every few seconds before their very eyes, and Liam pauses at the stand with soft pretzels that knot themselves into intricate designs, each one unique to whoever buys them.
Harry disappears while Liam buys a pretzel, reappearing a few moments later with a fluffy candy floss cloud floating near his head.
"What the--" Liam jerks away when tiny drops start falling onto his shoes and he nearly drops his pretzel. Harry ducks his head under the cloud and opens his mouth, humming happily as the drops fall onto his tongue.
"Mmm," he licks his lips as the drops stop and he stands up straight, smiling widely at Liam. "Butterscotch."
"That's…" Liam shakes his head as he watches Harry pluck part of the cloud and pop it into his mouth. "Messy."
"It's fun!" Harry says as he gently pushes the candy floss cloud closer to Liam. "Try some!"
"I'll get all sticky!" He laughs. "You've got butterscotch all over your face."
"That's part of the fun, Liam." Harry grins, thumbing the last bit of butterscotch off of his face before he nudges Liam with his elbow.
They continue walking around the festival, Liam mindful to steer clear of the butterscotch rain as he eats his pretzel. It's a little more difficult to eat than he anticipated, given that it keeps twisting itself into knots as it gets smaller. Liam's relieved when he finishes, especially when he and Harry stumble upon what looks to be a petting zoo.
Liam doesn't recognize a single one of the creatures as he glances around, but Harry doesn't seem to notice Liam's hesitancy. He bounds off and scoops up the nearest creature, turning back to Liam with a broad grin.
"Look!" Harry says excitedly as he holds out a tiny blue, speckled bird. "It's a Jobberknoll!"
Liam nods as though he's heard of it before, and it appeases Harry enough that he sets the bird back down and moves onto the next creature. Liam looks at it a bit closer as he passes and shakes his head; he could've easily mistaken it for just a normal bird.
"Ooh! Puffskeins!" Harry passes a small ball of fur to Liam and picks up another for himself.
"A… what?" Liam asks, holding the custard-colored ball closer to his face so he can get a better look. Its long, thin tongue slips out from its mouth and reaches towards Liam's nose, and Liam yelps and quickly pulls it away from his face.
He clutches it against his chest instead and narrows his eyes at Harry, who's snickering to himself as he cuddles his own Puffskein. Soon after, Liam's Puffskein starts to hum, a low and pleasant sound, and when Liam looks at Harry again, he's smiling.
"It likes you."
"It's cute," Liam says in a slightly fond tone as he pets the soft fur. "Y'know, when it's not reaching for my nose."
He's a bit sad to put it down in the end, if he's being honest. He turns away from the pen and glances around until he spots something familiar, though he can't quite believe his eyes.
"Harry," he says, drawing his attention away from the Puffskeins, "what's that?"
"A Diricawl!" Harry replies, still in the same excited tone. "I've never seen one of those!"
"But--" Liam says softly, giving the creature a woefully confused look. It looks exactly like a Dodo Bird, but he's mostly positive that they're extinct. He steps closer to it and watches as Harry reaches out and pets its head lightly, and suddenly it doesn't matter whether or not it's a Dodo Bird.
"You love this, don't you?" Liam asks.
Harry flushes. "Care of Magical Creatures was my favorite subject," he tells him. "They're all just… so interesting."
"That's…" Liam glances around. "One word for them."
Harry laughs. "They all just want to live, y'know. Just like us. I think most of the ones who are considered dangerous wouldn't be if they weren't threatened by wizards or Muggles."
"I dunno," Liam mutters. "They're wild animals, aren't they? You wouldn't try and make friends with a dragon, would you?"
"Never met a dragon," Harry says with a shrug. "Maybe they'd like me."
"Or maybe they'd swallow you whole," Liam replies.
"Agree to disagree," Harry says with a soft laugh. "Maybe they're simply misunderstood. Like… Pixies, or Wampus Cats, or…"
"Werewolves," Liam murmurs, soft enough that Harry doesn't hear him.
It's a nice thought, the idea that Harry would still be his friend even if he knew what Liam really was. Liam wonders if he'd take the news well, or if he'd never speak to him again.
He knows Nick's stance on werewolves, and he doesn't think she's lying when she tells him they're friends, but it doesn't quell the fear inside of himself that one day he'll ruin everything. It's scary enough for himself, carrying around this bloodthirsty secret, the last thing he wants to do is scare anyone else.
Liam's indecision from earlier seeps back into his conscious mind and he suddenly wants to go home. He turns away from Harry and looks for his easiest exit, passing by a few creatures they hadn't looked at yet. Just before he makes it out without drawing attention to himself, a small creature that looks very much like a Jack Russell terrier starts barking and growling at him. Liam's so startled that he stumbles, tripping over his own two feet and falling too close to the dog for his comfort.
"Liam!" Harry shouts, rushing over to help him back up. "Are you alright?"
"'m fine," Liam mutters, wincing as the creature continues to bark.
"C'mon, let's get you out of here," Harry murmurs, letting Liam lean on him as he leads him away from the petting zoo.
"Dogs usually like me," Liam mutters miserably, once they're far enough away that they no longer hear the growling and barking.
"It wasn't exactly a dog," Harry tells him, "it's a Crup."
"Oh," Liam replies with a huff. There's a voice in the back of his head that's telling him he doesn't belong in this world; he doesn't know even half as much as he thinks he does.
"They're usually only hostile towards Muggles," Harry says, in a tone like he's trying to figure it out. "It doesn't make--"
"It doesn't matter," Liam mutters, pulling his arm out of Harry's hands. "I think I'm going to head home, actually."
"What?" Harry frowns. "Already?"
"I've seen enough," he replies, avoiding looking at the look of sadness on Harry's face. "It's been a long day, y'know?"
"Yeah," Harry says in a tone like he's trying to sound more upbeat than he feels. "Of course, I'll walk you home."
"You don't have to--"
"I want to," Harry insists. "Have to make sure you get home safe."
When Harry smiles, Liam's heart does a backflip at the same time as his stomach twists uncomfortably. He feels guilty for making Harry leave the festival already, especially when he's been looking forward to it for so long.
They walk through the festival in relative silence; Liam stares down at his feet so he doesn't have to watch Harry stare longingly at all the stalls they pass by. He tries to muster up the courage to tell Harry to stay, that he doesn't have to walk Liam home out of politeness, but he can't find it in himself to open his mouth.
When they reach Liam's house, they both linger by the street instead. Liam had been planning on going straight inside and up to bed, but he's still trying to find the words to apologize for ruining the night. He spares a glance at Harry and finds the same quizzical look on his face that he thinks must be mirrored in his own, like Harry's wrestling with what to say too.
They both chuckle softly and Liam shakes his head, gesturing for Harry to go first.
"I was just wondering…" Harry says, biting his bottom lip in a nervous manner. "Do you like Quidditch?"
"Yeah," Liam answers. He's never actually seen a real match but he's read Quidditch Through The Ages cover to cover so many times he knows all about it.
"Would you want to come to the World Cup with me?" Harry asks hopefully.
"Really?" Liam asks, half sure that he's heard Harry wrong. "You're not taking the piss, are you?"
"No!" Harry laughs. "I've got an extra ticket. I was hoping you'd agree to come along."
"I'd love to!" Liam grins widely. "When is it?"
"In two weeks," Harry answers brightly. He continues on, explaining how they'd get there and how long they'd stay - depending on how long the match ended up being, but Liam's face fell the moment those three words left his mouth.
Two weeks. The next full moon is in two weeks.
"I can't go," Liam says, interrupting Harry mid-sentence.
"What?" The frown reappears on Harry's face and Liam looks away.
"I can't go," he repeats. "You should find someone else to give the ticket to."
"But..." Harry shakes his head. "But, Liam, you just--"
"I can't go, Harry. I'm sorry." Liam sighs sharply and turns towards his house. "Tonight was fun. I'll see you at the market."
"Liam, wait--" Harry begs. "Why--"
"Good night, Harry," Liam says firmly as he quickly unlocks his door and slips inside, shutting the door before Harry can wedge his way in.
Liam leans back against the door and sinks down until his legs are spread out in front of him on the floor and he buries his head in his hands. He should've known tonight would've been a disaster. He never should've agreed to go in the first place.
It was naive of Liam to think that things would continue on as normal after the festival. He hadn't thought about the possibility of ruining whatever type of friendship he and Harry had. Truth be told, Liam had no idea how to categorize Harry in his life. They were coworkers, that's for sure, but were they proper friends? Liam just didn't know.
What he did know was that Harry was acting differently around him. The morning following the festival was the first one where Liam didn't open his curtains to see Harry out gardening. He didn't see Harry at all that day, not even at the market. Every time he crossed paths with Bernard, the question was on the tip of his tongue, but he didn't dare ask it. Harry taking the day off wasn't any of his business anyway.
It only got worse as the days passed. Harry and Liam actively avoided each other during their overlapping shifts; at first it was one-sided, but it didn't take long for Liam to start feeling equally awkward and uncomfortable as Harry seemed to be. If Bernard or any of their other fellow employees noticed, no one said a word.
Liam managed to convince himself that this was for the best. He'd been getting too close to Harry when he shouldn't have been. It was better for the both of them to be nothing more than coworkers, if only for the sake of Harry's safety. Even with the potions, Liam never fully trusted himself. There was still so much he didn't know about being a werewolf, and there was a voice in the back of his head telling him over and over that suppressing it with the Wolfsbane potion might catch up to him sooner or later. There was just no way to tell if it would work forever.
When Harry leaves for the Quidditch World Cup mid-week prior to the full moon, Liam's already been spending his evenings with Nick at her cottage. She doesn't ask what's got him so bothered and he doesn't offer any information, but there's a stiffness between them that Liam can't ignore.
The problem is, Rosemoor is such a small town that news travels faster than lightning. He's sure she knows all about the incident with the Crup at the festival, even though she's never asked him about it directly. Despite the awkward air between them, Liam finds comfort in her company because of it; knowing she won't force him to talk about something he doesn't want to, and he's fairly certain he'll never want to talk about it.
Be that as it may, Harry's absence leaves a hole in Liam's life that's bigger than he's willing to admit but can't manage to ignore. He finds himself at Nick's cottage every evening following the full moon even though he has no real reason to be there. Nick stops looking surprised after the third night in a row, but she still doesn't question it.
Instead, she invites him in, brews a pot of tea, and lets him brood in the comfort of her kitchen.
"Nick?" Liam starts casually one night, about two weeks after Harry left.
"Hmm?" Nick replies as she flicks her wand to refill Liam's cup of tea.
"Shouldn't the match be over by now?" Liam's eyebrows furrow in confusion and a bit of frustration. "It's just… it's been so long."
"Liam," Nick says in a sympathetic voice.
"It's not-- I'm not--" Liam huffs. "The market, y'know? It's not fair to Bernard--"
"Of course." Nick nods.
"And the rest of us," Liam adds quickly. "It's not fair to everyone who has to cover for… for…"
"Yeah." Liam's voice cracks and he clears his throat. "Him."
Nick gives him a sad smile and Liam stares down at the table between them. He's already kicking himself for bringing it up. He should've just kept his mouth shut and continued to suffer in silence.
"I think, like a lot of things, Quidditch is unpredictable." Nick pats Liam's hand. "And you sort of have to just… be okay with that."
"But--" Liam huffs again. "It's not fair."
"I know. But once you accept that even though it isn't fair, it's just the way it is, you'll find that you'll be a lot happier."
Liam scowls. He doesn't need to accept anything about Quidditch, that's not even the--
"Oh," Liam says when it all suddenly clicks. Nick wasn't talking about Quidditch at all.
Nick, thankfully, doesn't look too smug when he looks at her again. His cheeks redden slightly as his embarrassment grows worse, but she just smiles at him.
"You'll be alright, Liam." She pats his hand again.
When Liam goes to bed later that night he makes a promise to himself. He doesn't say it aloud, for fear he'll lose his nerve and forget the whole thing. He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and lets it out slowly as he hopes that tomorrow brings the chance he's been unknowingly waiting for.
Another whole week goes by before Harry comes back to Rosemoor. Liam catches the end of a conversation between a couple of witches discussing the Quidditch World Cup results and a wave of relief flows through him. He's thankful for the warning; he's been imagining every possible scenario of what would happen if Harry just popped up again. Unfortunately for him, they never seem to turn out in a positive way, or at the very least in a way he doesn't embarrass himself.
His morning shift at the market the following day seems to drag along at a snail's pace, coupled with growing anxiety that causes Liam to look over his shoulder every time he hears footsteps. He refrains from asking Bernard if Harry's going to be back to working, choosing instead to suffer in silence. The last thing he needs is a witness to his inner turmoil.
By the time his shift ends, Liam's about to crawl out of his own skin. There's been no sign of Harry, not even a whisper of his return to Rosemoor. It plants a seed of doubt in Liam's mind; he can't help but think that maybe Harry's not coming back. Liam doesn't know where the Cup was held, but maybe Harry liked wherever it was far better than being in Rosemoor with Liam.
Still, Liam hangs around the market as long as possible. His cover is blown when Bernard catches him in the break room, well over an hour after his shift ended, and sends him home with a laugh in his voice.
"And don't come back til tomorrow!" Bernard calls as Liam quickly makes his way through the aisles, his face turning more and more red with every step he takes.
His face still feels hot by the time he reaches his street, and he takes a moment to gather himself before he starts walking towards his house. He's gotten so used to seeing Harry's house dark and empty but it still hurts every time he looks at it. Even if they can't go back to whatever friendship they had before, Liam's hopeful that Harry won't want to move away. That is, if he comes back at all.
Feeling glum about the prospect of another quiet night alone, Liam drags his feet along the sidewalk down towards his house. As he draws closer to it, his ears perk up at the sound of shouting mixed with laughter and he starts walking a little faster. He stumbles to a stop in front of his house and stares at the source of the commotion: Harry's front yard.
Out of all the things Liam had imagined, coming home to find Harry dueling a girl he's never seen before was definitely not one of them.
"C'mon, Haz!" she shouts as Harry blocks the curse she throws at him. "You promised me a proper duel!"
"You know I'm crap at this!" Harry shouts back, laughing as he drops to the ground to avoid her next attack.
"There's only one way to get better!"
Liam watches the two of them, frozen in place. Harry's back is to him and the girl is too caught up in the duel to take notice of him staring. They continue to duel for another minute or so before Harry's begging off, calling the girl the winner.
"Please!" Harry wheezes through laughter. "Please, Lou!"
"I thought you said you'd been practicing," she replies with a smirk, shaking her head before she helps him back to his feet. "Should've known you'd be useless without me."
"'m not useless," Harry says, brushing dirt off his trousers before he hooks his arm around her neck. "You've always been better at dueling."
"Because I practice." The girl rolls her eyes and slips her arm around Harry's waist as they head into the house, leaving Liam all alone on the sidewalk outside.
He stays still for another few minutes while his mind races at a thousand miles per hour. Any scrap of a plan he'd come up with went up in flames in a matter of seconds. Liam's spent the last week building up his confidence and hope after feeling despondent for weeks, and all it took was a few minutes to bring it all crashing back down.
Liam turns away from Harry's house and goes into his own, heading straight for his bed even though it's the middle of the afternoon. He curls up in a ball and covers himself with his blanket, content to stay there for as long as he can. Maybe forever, if he can manage it. As far as he's concerned, being alone is exactly what he deserves.
In the week that follows Harry's return from the Quidditch World Cup, Liam manages not to say a single word to him. Even when they're working side by side at the market. Liam doesn't even look at Harry if he can help it, and when the girl pops by the market - he found out her name's Louis through the village grapevine - Liam avoids both of them at all costs.
He doesn't want to know anything about her, is the thing. He overhears bits and pieces of information about her because everyone in Rosemoor is a terrible gossip, but he tries to block it out as best he can. He has no interest in getting to know her, nor does he want to hear anything about her and Harry. All he wants is to keep to himself as best he can.
There's only one form of social interaction that he can't avoid (other than the small talk he makes with the market customers), and that's going to Nick's cottage for his Wolfsbane Potion.
As he makes his way there with only two days left until the full moon, he goes over the plan in his head he's made up in order to avoid staying for longer than he needs to. Even though he's seen Nick every day this week since Harry came back and she hasn't asked after him, he's afraid today might be the day.
There's nothing to tell, Liam thinks to himself. It's mostly true, if he doesn't think about it too hard. Harry ignored him first so it's only fair that Liam's the one doing it now. And it's not like Harry's tried talking to him so really, what does it even matter?
Liam's still grappling with the concept as he climbs the steps up to Nick's front door, and just when he thinks he's got a handle on himself, the door opens and everything he thought he knew comes crashing down around his feet. Because there, standing in Nick's doorway, is Louis.
"Yeah?" she says in an expectant tone.
"I'm--" Liam gulps. "Sorry, uhh, is Nick here?"
"She's…" Louis clicks her tongue. "She's a bit busy. Could you come back later?"
"I…" Liam stares at her in confusion, his mind trying to process what he's seeing and what she's saying. He just doesn't understand.
Liam's about to try and ask after Nick again when he hears running footsteps and suddenly Nick appears at Louis' side, jostling her out of the way to welcome Liam inside.
"I told you not to answer the door," she whispers harshly to Louis as she tugs Liam's arm, "c'mon, now, don't be silly, c'mon--"
"Could've sworn you said "answer the door," not the other way 'round," Louis replies dryly as she follows the two of them into the kitchen.
"You still hear only what you want to," Nick mutters, glaring at Louis as the three of them situate themselves around Nick's kitchen table. Liam sneaks a look at Louis' face only to see her beaming widely.
"I've heard a lot of things recently," she says smugly. She opens her mouth, presumably to elaborate, but Nick reaches over to clap her hand over Louis' mouth and turns to Liam with extremely pink cheeks.
"You're here for your potion, yeah?" she asks, her voice slightly higher-pitched than normal. Liam nods and Nick breathes a sigh of relief. She carefully takes her hand off of Louis' mouth and gives her a pointed look, as if to say don't try anything funny.
Louis smiles sweetly, fluttering her eyelashes at Nick as she walks out of the kitchen and leaves the two of them alone. Liam immediately darts his eyes down to the table when Louis turns her attention away from where Nick went and to Liam instead. He feels her eyes practically burning holes through his skin but he doesn't dare move.
"So." Louis hums. "What's your name?"
"Liam," he answers quietly.
"Liam," she repeats. She says it again, repeating it like she's trying to savor the word on the tip of her tongue. "Funny name, innit?"
"You don't talk much, do you?"
Liam shrugs again.
"Haven't I seen you around, Liam No-Last-Name?"
Liam swallows and hopes that his cheeks aren't turning red. "Dunno."
"C'mon, give us a hint, would you?" Louis leans forward, her nails clicking against the table as her fingers dance across its surface towards him. "It's no fun, otherwise."
"I'm not a game," he says crossly.
"I didn't say you were," Louis replies. "But it's nice to know that you can actually talk."
"Of course I can talk," Liam says with a frown. "I'm not an idiot."
"I didn't say you were," Louis says again with a roll of her eyes. "You're very negative, d'you know that?"
"I am not."
"But you are! There you go again. It's all "I'm not" this and "I'm not" that." Louis shakes her head. "Bit sad, really."
"You don't even know me," Liam says. He's starting to get a bit angry now. "You can't just--"
"I'd know you if you told me about yourself," Louis cuts in.
"Maybe I don't want to!"
"Because I don't want to know you!" Liam shouts, finally turning his head to look at Louis. She stares back at him, obviously stunned by his outburst.
"I…" Louis doesn't get a chance to reply before Nick's bustling back into the kitchen, obviously having heard Liam's outburst.
"What's going on?" She turns to Louis. "What did you do?"
"Me?" Louis says, outraged. "He's the one shouting at me!"
"You don't have the best history with this sort of thing," Nick replies. "If there's trouble, you're usually the one causing it."
"I said I was sorry!" Louis shouts. "What, banishment wasn't enough for you?! How many times will I have to apologize??"
"I'm sorry," Liam interrupts. "Look, I didn't mean to…" He looks helplessly back and forth between the two of them. "I'll just take my potion and go--"
"No," Louis says in a scathing tone, rounding on Liam and pointing a shaky finger at him. "No, you're going to stand there and tell me how I've managed to offend you even though I've never bloody met you before! And you!" She points at Nick. "You're going to stand there and listen and find out that I'm not the one who started this!"
"Fine!" Nick shouts.
"Fine!" Louis shouts back. She crosses her arms and turns to Liam, giving him an expectant look. He swallows harshly, taking a chance to look at Nick for some sort of reprieve and finding none at all.
"I'm sorry," he mumbles. "You're right, Louis, I was being…" Liam sighs. "You haven't done anything, I'm just having a shit week and I took it out on you."
"See?" Louis waves her hands around. "Told you I didn't do anything."
"Liam," Nick says in a gentle, sympathetic tone, completely ignoring Louis. "What's wrong?"
"It's nothing," Liam mutters. "Can I have my potion now?"
"Is it Harry?" Nick whispers, as though Louis isn't standing right there with them and can obviously hear her.
"Harry?" Louis says. Liam hangs his head and winces. He wishes he could just melt into the floor and this whole thing would be over. "What's Harry got to do with it?"
"Nothing," Liam mumbles. "It's nothing, really, I just--"
"Wait." Louis is silent for a moment. "You're Liam."
Liam blinks. "Yeah?"
"No, I mean, you're Liam! Harry's Liam!" Louis laughs. "You're the bloke he wouldn't stop moaning about all through the World Cup!"
If Liam's cheeks weren't red before, they certainly are now.
"What?" Nick asks with a laugh. "You didn't tell me that."
"Had more important things to say to you," Louis mumbles. "Anyway, I didn't know you knew Liam, did I?"
"He…" Liam's having trouble gathering his thoughts; it's all just a blur of Harry, Harry, Harry. "He talked about me?"
Louis laughs again. "He wouldn't shut up about you! Going on and on about how he messed things up, how he scared you off by asking you to come to the match with him, and--"
"He did?" Liam interrupts. His heart's pounding, he feels like he can't catch his breath. God, he's been such an idiot.
"He was a miserable sod, I can tell you that." Louis shakes her head. "Had to get him drunk on Firewhisky just to shut him up."
"I'm sorry, I have to…" Liam stumbles back, momentarily forgetting how to use his own two legs. "I have to go. I have to--"
"Liam!" Nick calls after him. "Liam, your potion!"
"I'll come back for it!" Liam shouts over his shoulder as he takes off for the front door at a run, wrenching it open and slamming it shut behind him.
His heart is still racing as he sprints the entire way back into town, heading straight for the market. Harry's supposed to be there, he thinks. Truth be told his mind is so scattered at the moment he can't be sure, but he's not going to take the chance of missing him.
He bursts through the door and spots Bernard, but there's no sign of Harry. He nearly collapses at Bernard's feet, clinging to the man as he fights to get the words out between deep breaths.
"Where's… Harry… ?"
"Please!" Liam pants. "I… need… to--"
"He went home, half an hour ago!" Bernard struggles under Liam's weight. "What's going--"
Liam tears away from Bernard and only just misses colliding with another person as he races towards the doors and takes off again, this time for Harry's house. He doesn't care about the whispers and rumors that are sure to start up in no time at all, he just wants to see Harry.
"Harry!" he shouts the moment he sets one foot on Harry's property. He shouts it again and again as he runs up to the door and starts pounding on it. It's a wonder he can manage to breathe let alone keep shouting, but he pushes through until the door suddenly opens and he falls forward.
"Liam?!" Harry exclaims as Liam hits the floor with a groan. "What-- Are you alright??"
"Fine," Liam grunts, wincing as he rolls onto his back and tries to catch his breath. "Harry--"
"Why were you shouting?" Harry crouches down next to him. "Is everything okay? Did something--"
Liam tugs him down and their mouths crash together in a painful, slightly awkward kiss. It's not exactly what Liam had expected for their first, but after a few seconds and a little rearranging of limbs and lips, it gets a lot better.
"Liam," Harry whispers when he pulls away a little while later. "What's…"
"I'm sorry," Liam says. "I'm sorry I didn't go to the World Cup with you. I wanted to, I really did, but--"
"It's okay," Harry replies with a soft laugh. "I'm sorry I stopped talking to you. It just… I liked you so much and I thought I'd--"
"You didn't," Liam interrupts. "Can we… can we start over?" A smile spreads across Harry's face and Liam smiles too. "Go out on a proper date?"
"Yeah?" Harry's smile gets even brighter. "Yeah, please. I'd love that."
"Me too." Liam laughs and tugs Harry down for another kiss.
It's late by the time Liam ambles next door to his own house to go to bed. He falls onto his mattress with a grin on his face and falls asleep within seconds, not a care in the world.
And certainly not remembering that he missed his dosage of Wolfsbane Potion.
Liam's good mood carries over into the next morning. He wakes up later than he usually does with a smile still on his face and when he opens his curtains, Harry's back in his garden wearing those ridiculously tiny shorts. He has every intention of going outside and saying hello, given that he doesn't have to be at the market for his shift for a few hours yet, when someone starts pounding on his front door.
He finds Nick standing on his doorstep with an angry look on her face and she barges into his house before he can even blurt out good morning.
"Well, I'm glad to see you're still alive!" Nick shouts at him after he's closed the door.
"What're you talking about?" Liam asks. "Of course I'm still alive?"
"How was I to know?!" Nick shouts again. "You ran off yesterday and never came back!"
The gravity of the situation he's found himself in dawns on Liam and his eyes go wide.
"Exactly," Nick says with a huff as she crosses her arms. "Don't you remember what I told you about this potion? It only works--"
"If you don't miss a single dose," Liam finishes in a low mutter. "I remember."
"We've got to get you out of Rosemoor," Nick says, apparently already having come up with a plan. "Just until the full moon is over, and next month--"
"I can't go," Liam interrupts.
"I can't go. I promised Harry--"
"I'm sorry, what?" Nick blinks. "What do you mean, you promised Harry?"
"We've got a date," Liam explains. "For tomorrow night."
"You're joking." Nick stares at him and Liam doesn't give an inch. "Please tell me you're joking."
"You have to be!" Nick laughs loudly. "Have you forgotten that you're a fucking werewolf? And that tomorrow night is the full moon?"
"I know what I am--"
"Do you? Do you really?" Nick shakes her head. "I know it's been a few years now, but Liam, you've never actually been a werewolf, have you?"
"What do you mean, of course I have!"
"Not without taking the potion!" Nick wrings her hands and sighs heavily. "You've always had it on your side to help keep you calm. Now there's… there's just no telling what you might do."
"I'll be fine," Liam says, trying to sound firm even as his own resolve is crumbling into bits. "I can control myself, I can--"
"You can't," Nick tells him sadly. "You might think so, but you can't. You'll be a wild animal, Liam, there's no controlling that."
"I won't hurt anyone," Liam says firmly. "I won't. I can't."
"You can't," Nick says softly. She takes a step forward and lays her hand on Liam's chest. "But there's something inside you that you can't control, and you know it."
Liam hangs his head. "I can't just leave," he says softly. "I can't do that to Harry."
"You're not going away forever," she says, "just for a few days."
"Just…" Liam sighs. "Can't it wait one more day? The full moon isn't until tomorrow, I won't change til then, will I?"
"Please," he begs. "Please, Nick. Let me just have this one night with Harry, and then I'll do whatever you say."
Nick sighs loudly. "Liam, I'm not asking you to leave Rosemoor forever, remember? Just until the full moon's passed."
"You know it's for the best," Nick interrupts. "Harry will understand."
"How?!" Liam snaps. "How will he understand when I can't even tell him why I have to leave?!"
Nick frowns sympathetically but doesn't budge, not one tiny bit. Liam knows he's not going to win this argument, but the knowledge doesn't make the situation any better. He still has to figure out a believable story to tell Harry that won't ruin everything they just created.
"It'll be alright," Nick says softly. "You'll see."
Liam hangs his head to avoid looking Nick in the eye. "I have to go to work."
"I'll come to yours straight after," he says, ignoring Nick's interruption. "I promise."
"Okay," Nick says after a moment of silence. "It's going to be alright," she says, as a last resort.
Liam doesn't answer. Nick leaves shortly afterwards, giving Liam one last look over her shoulder before she goes. Liam goes about his morning routine entirely on auto-pilot, all the while trying to come up with something to tell Harry.
There's nothing he wants more in this world than to have this night with Harry, and he can't. He's worried that by cancelling on him, he'll set off a similar chain reaction as he did when he turned down the invitation to go to the Quidditch World Cup, and he really doesn't want that to happen.
But how can he possibly explain his reasoning without telling Harry he's a werewolf?
In the end, he goes with the only lie that he can muster up.
"I have to go see my mum," he says, looking away from Harry's face so he doesn't have to see it fall. "Right after my shift's over at the market."
"Oh," Harry says. "For… for how long?"
"A few days," Liam replies.
"Is… is she alright, or…?"
Liam winces. "She's fine, she just… y'know, misses me."
"Oh." Liam watches Harry nod out of the corner of his eye. "I see."
"I tried to tell her I'd come next week, but you know how mums are." Liam groans inwardly; he's such a terrible liar. "She wasn't having it."
"No, I know," Harry mumbles sadly. "I just… 'm being selfish, is all."
"I do want to go out with you," Liam says in earnest. "I'm not, like, trying to get out of it, or anything."
"Yeah?" Harry chuckles softly. "That's good to hear."
"Promise," Liam replies. "The minute I get back, I promise we'll go out."
"The minute?" Harry repeats, and when Liam looks over at him he sees a grin forming on Harry's face. "Maybe I'll just camp out on your doorstep til you come back, then."
Liam flushes. Harry's grin grows larger and he takes a step closer to Liam, still smiling as he leans forward to brush their lips together. Liam grunts softly, pulling away far quicker than he'd like to.
"I've got to get to work," he says softly.
"Just one more," Harry pleads, pressing his mouth against Liam's in another kiss.
Liam ends up being a few minutes late for his shift, but it's lucky that Bernard isn't there to witness his tardiness so he doesn't get in trouble.
He rides the high of Harry's reaction (and the snogging that followed) through the fires few hours of his shift, but the closer it gets to quitting time (and as the sun starts to set) panic slowly starts to set in.
Nick didn't tell him what plan she has in store for the two of them. Is there some sort of werewolf doomsday contingency plan that he doesn't know about? Does she have some sort of cage set up in her cellar that she's going to lock him in for the night, or will she Apparate them somewhere remote where he can shift without the possibility of hurting anyone? Will Nick even be safe around him?
All of these thoughts and more won't stop circling his mind once they start, making it increasingly difficult for Liam to concentrate on what he's doing at work. His cheerful demeanor has all but vanished by the time he leaves, and the sky is already fading from pinks and oranges into the blues and greys of nightfall.
Even though he promised Nick he'd go straight to hers after work, Liam decides to make one quick stop at home to pick up a few things. He's not entirely sure what he's going to bring, but at the very least he supposes a change of clothes or two would probably be a good idea.
What he doesn't expect is a distraction in the form of Harry sitting on his doorstep.
"Told you I'd wait for you," Harry replies with a cheeky smile.
"What're you doing?" Liam asks fondly, shaking his head as the warm, giddy feeling suddenly floods through his body again.
"Just wanted to see you off, is all." Harry nods towards Liam's house. "Need a hand with packing?"
"Harry, you don't--"
Liam freezes suddenly as a shiver suddenly spreads down his spine. The warmth he felt seconds ago is gone, replaced by a dull throb that resonates right down to his bones. Liam winces and sucks in a sharp breath as his body shudders violently and without any warning. His knees buckle and he tips forward, coming down hard on his hands as Harry rushes forward to try and break his fall.
"Liam?" Harry says in a worried tone. "Liam, what's--"
Liam opens his mouth to reply, to try and tell Harry that he's fine, but all that comes out is a cry of pain. His body feels like it's being torn in two; the pain is unlike anything he's ever felt before. Through the haze in his mind, Liam just barely manages to realize what's going on: he's shifting.
"Harry…" he gasps. "Harry, go."
"What? No, I'm not--" Harry tries to pull Liam to his feet. "I'm not leaving you, you need help, Liam! I'm--"
"Go!" Liam shouts, the word turning into another scream of agony. His bones feel like they're about to break through his skin; he can feel his nails growing longer and his teeth becoming fangs.
He wrenches himself free from Harry's hands but doesn't get nearly as far as he wants to before he's collapsed on the sidewalk again. The sound of Harry's voice echoes in his ears but Liam can't answer his cries. He's not himself anymore.
Liam wakes up flat on his back under a canopy of trees. His eyes hurt from the sunlight when he opens them, and his arms ache when he tries to move them to shield his face. As he regains full mobility in all of his limbs, he realizes two things: one: he's in the middle of woods he's never seen before, and two: he's naked.
He curses under his breath as he gets to his feet, trying to stretch while covering himself, and glances around in the hopes he'll get his bearings.
It doesn't take long for Liam to feel a bit hopeless about figuring out where he is. He could be anywhere. He might be miles away from Rosemoor.
"Harry," he croaks as the crushing weight of his memory suddenly hits him. He shifted in front of him. What if he hurt him? What if he did worse than hurt him?
Liam closes his eyes and shakes the thought out of his head. He glances down at himself and is relieved to see no blood, just streaks of dirt and a few scratches.
Resigning himself to the fact that he'll never get home unless he tries, Liam picks a direction at random and starts walking. He winces with every step, partially from his sore muscles but mostly from having to walk through brambles and brush on bare feet. He pushes through the pain and continues walking, hoping against hope that he's going the right way.
Eventually he makes his way out of the thick of the forest and finds himself along the shoreline. He continues walking along the beach, keeping close to the edge of the water to let the waves crash over his aching feet.
He finds an old beach towel halfway buried beneath the sand and wraps it around himself, figuring it's better to be covered by that than with his own two hands. Even if he's starting to lose hope of ever running into another person, at least now he won't be embarrassed if he does manage to find someone out here.
After another hour or so of walking, Liam takes a break and sits down on the wet sand, just out of reach of the tide. He concentrates on his breathing so as to not send himself into a panic, but it doesn't help the sinking feeling in his stomach that comes from thinking just how badly he's screwed up his life.
If he ever makes it back to Rosemoor, he's going to move away. He'll go live in the woods, or something, far away from both the Muggle and Wizarding populations. He's a threat to everyone he meets and he just couldnt' live with himself if he hurt someone.
Liam rests his head against his knees and draws another breath but it comes out shaky as he fights the urge to cry. All he wanted was a proper date with Harry, and now here he was lost on some beach he didn't recognize one bit, not knowing whether Harry was alright. What a fine mess he'd gotten himself into.
"Are you crying?"
Liam whips around at the sound of the voice, and finds two twin girls standing behind him.
"No," he answers as he quickly wipes at his eyes.
"Why are you all dirty?" One of the twins tilts her head as she looks at him. "Did you get into a fight?"
"No," Liam says again. Before he can explain, the twin who first spoke speaks again.
"Why're you out here all alone?"
"And why are you just wearing a towel?"
"Did someone steal your clothes?"
"Why were you crying?"
"I wasn't crying!" Liam half-shouts. Both of the girls fall silent and Liam frowns. "Sorry, I didn't mean to shout at you."
The girls sit down on either side of Liam, clearly unbothered about getting their clothes wet, and stare up at him.
"Are you lost?"
"What's your name?"
"Umm," Liam says, "yes, and I'm Liam."
"I'm Daisy," the twin on his right says.
"I'm Phoebe," the twin on his left says.
"Nice to meet you both," Liam says, twisting around on a constant loop to look at each of them. "Can you tell me where I am?"
"You're on the beach," Phoebe says.
"Our beach," Daisy adds.
"Your beach?" Liam asks. "This is your beach?"
"Well," Phoebe says, "sort of."
"It is," Daisy says, leaning forward to look past Liam. "Mum said so."
"Mum doesn't own the beach," Phoebe says matter-of-factly as she leans forward to look at her twin.
"But we're the only ones who come here," Daisy argues.
"Liam comes here," Phoebe replies. "Don't you, Liam?"
"Umm… I'm here now, aren't I?"
"See?" Phoebe sticks out her tongue.
"How'd you find our beach?" Daisy asks.
"Dunno," Liam answers honestly. "Just… sort of stumbled onto it."
"Do you live around here?" Phoebe asks.
"Dunno," Liam repeats. "Dunno where here is."
"Do you want to come to our house?" Daisy asks.
"Wouldn't your mum mind?" Liam furrows his eyebrows. "Bringing home a strange man you met at the beach."
"We bring home stuff from the beach all the time," Daisy reasons.
"Maybe you can live with us and be our brother," Phoebe says brightly. "We don't have one of those!"
Liam laughs. "Maybe."
"So you'll come?" Daisy asks, excitement evident in her voice. Liam looks at her, and then at Phoebe, whose face echoes the same sentiment.
The twins both squeal in delight and rush to their feet, tugging Liam up before they start dragging him up the beach and away from the water. They chatter incessantly as they lead him presumably to their house, and Liam can't help but wonder what sort of reaction the three of them are going to get from their mum.
He can't imagine it's going to be a good one. He's fairly certain his own mum would have a heart attack.
The twins lead him to a set of steps leading up a hill, growing steadily steeper the higher they go. Once they reach the top, the twins lead him through a field and then through another patch of trees, and finally they come upon a garden.
Liam grows a bit nervous when a house comes into view, and he hitches the towel higher up and tighter around his hips. The last thing he wants to do is accidentally flash the twins or their mum.
They're still chattering away as they lead the way through the garden, and Liam's trying his best to keep up with the conversation, but it comes to an abrupt halt when suddenly the back door is thrown open and a voice shouts the twins' names.
Liam looks up at the door and his jaw goes slack. It's Louis.
She obviously doesn't notice him at first, too busy chastising the twins for disappearing for so long, but when she does she gets the same look of astonishment that Liam's sure is reflected on his own face.
"Louis, I--" Before Liam can get the words out, Louis throws herself into Liam's arms and hugs him tightly.
"Where the fuck have you been?!" she demands.
"How d'you know Liam?" Daisy demands.
"We found him on the beach!" Phoebe explains.
"Girls, go inside, Mum's waiting," Louis says in a sharp tone. Both of the twins roll their eyes and sigh heavily, but comply with Louis' request.
"What've you got to say for yourself?" Louis asks once she and Liam are alone in the garden.
"I'm sorry?" Liam offers.
"You're sorry?" Louis scoffs. "You've been missing for three days and all you can say is you're sorry?"
"Hang on," Liam blinks, "three days? I've been gone three days?"
"Merlin's beard," Louis mutters under her breath, "you're delirious and filthy." She huffs. "C'mon, let's get you home."
Louis doesn't wait for Liam to agree. She grabs his arm and within seconds, they're in Liam's living room. He stumbles a little as he tries to take a step away from Louis, muttering under his breath that he'll never be used to Apparating.
"Get yourself cleaned up," Louis tells him. "I'll tell Nick you're back. She's been going mad, y'know."
"Louis--" Liam starts, but she's disappeared again before he can ask after Harry. He spares a glance out the window facing Harry's house and wonders if he's home. Just as he's finished telling himself that it's a terrible idea to go over to Harry's house in the state he's in, Nick and Louis suddenly appear in his living room.
"Liam!" Nick shouts, throwing herself around him much in the same fashion that Louis had earlier.
"I'm alright," he tells her, hugging her back with one arm as he uses the other to keep a hold of his towel. "Nick, I'm alright."
"You never showed up at mine, and then Harry--" Nick cuts off with a loud sob, trying to compose herself. "You were gone!!"
"Is Harry alright?" Liam asks desperately. "Where is he? Did I hurt him?"
"I'd say so," Louis mutters gruffly.
"Louis," Nick reprimands as Liam's face falls.
"Harry's fine," Nick tells him. "All in one piece, no damage done."
"But…" Liam starts hyperventilating. "But I shifted in front of him… I could've-- he could've been--"
"You didn't, Liam," Nick says, trying to calm him down. "Liam, it's alright, everything's fine."
"Why did it happen?" Liam demands, his voice turning hysterical. "The full moon wasn't for another night! Why was it early?"
Louis snorts. "If you were a girl, you wouldn't be so surprised."
"Louis," Nick says sharply, "now's not the fucking time."
"I'm just saying," Louis replies.
"Go get Harry," Nick looks at Louis over her shoulder, "you know he's been going mad over Liam too."
Louis Disapparates before she finishes rolling her eyes at the pair of them. It's only in her absence that Liam realizes that she didn't even blink an eye at the mention of his shifting.
"Louis… knows? About me?"
Nick chuckles softly. "Bit hard for her not to, what with the state Harry was in." She smiles sympathetically. "He was a wreck after you ran off. Thought it was all his fault."
"He-- It wasn't--"
"Calm down, Liam," Nick says as she pats his shoulder. "I know that, and so does Harry. You scared him, is all."
"I didn't mean to," Liam says miserably. "You warned me about this, and I didn't listen. This is all my fault."
"I'm leaving Rosemoor," Liam interrupts. "I can't stay here, I've caused too much damage already.
"Liam, you can't--"
"I've made up my mind," Liam says firmly. "It's the right thing to do. For everyone."
"You sure about that?" Nick asks. "What about Harry?"
"I don't want to hurt him. And if I stayed, I'd end up hurting him one way or another." Liam shakes his head. "It's best if I just go."
Liam looks up to see that Louis has returned with Harry in tow. He didn't even notice them Apparating into the room, he has no idea how much Harry's overheard.
"You disappeared for three days," Harry says, his voice shaking slightly. "And now that you're back, you're leaving again?"
"I have to," Liam says firmly, even as his voice gets thick. "It's what's best."
"What happened to 'the minute I get back, I promise we'll go out'? You promised, Liam."
"Harry, I…" Liam sighs heavily and sniffs, trying not to cry. "You don't want me. I'm dangerous, I could hurt you."
"You will if you leave," Harry says, his eyes red with tears. "You could've hurt me three days ago, but you didn't."
"But I could've," Liam says, "I'm not normal, Harry, I can't control this… this… thing."
"Wolf," Harry supplies. "You're a werewolf, Liam."
"Exactly!" Liam sighs. "You don't want me, Harry. I'm a bloody werewolf."
"Were you a werewolf when we met?" Harry asks.
Liam hesitates for a moment before answering. "Yeah…"
"So you've known about this the whole time?"
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I didn't tell anyone!" Liam shouts. "This isn't something I want people to know!"
"But now I do!" Harry shouts back, stepping closer to Liam. "And it doesn't change anything for me!"
"Well, it should!"
"Because I could hurt you!"
"You won't!" Harry shouts. Liam tries to turn away, but Harry takes his face in his hands and holds him firmly in place. "Listen to me, Liam. You could've hurt me that night. I watched as you turned into something I'd never seen before in my life, but--"
Liam tries to get away but Harry doesn't let go.
"But… you ran. You took one look at me and you just… ran. It was like you knew exactly who I was even when you were the wolf, and you knew you had to get away."
"I don't want to hurt you," Liam whispers.
"I know," Harry whispers back. "You won't."
"But--" Harry kisses him and Liam whimpers.
"You won't," Harry repeats. "Don't leave me."
Liam wraps his arms around Harry and they hold tightly to one another, both of them shaking in each other's arms. Liam glances over Harry's shoulder at Nick and Louis, who look back at him with matching hopeful expressions. He closes his eyes and buries his head against Harry's neck, breathing in his scent.
He's scared, he's downright terrified. He doesn't know if he'll ever fully shake the fear of hurting Harry, but there's a part of him that knows if he left he'd always regret it. He doesn't want to lose Harry.
"Okay," he says softly. Harry pulls back in his arms and his eyes are shiny with tears.
"I'm not leaving," Liam says.
"Good." Harry gives a watery laugh and presses their foreheads together.
"You sure you're not… scared?" Liam swallows harshly. "Of me?"
"You're not going to hurt me," Harry whispers. "It'll be alright, Liam."
Liam closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, letting it out slowly. He wants so badly to believe Harry. He wants to promise that nothing like this will ever happen again. He doesn't know if he can, but he knows one thing for sure: he'll do everything in his power to try.