Bella lives with her parents. They aren't divorced yet, though occasionally her mother will rhapsodize about how when Bella's older she'll go traveling around the world and Charlie is not featured in these fantasies. For now it's safer for them to both be there. Charlie can be ready to grab his gun if the alarms on Bella's room that hook into the smoke detectors start screaming during the night. He's not a wizard, but while he is vaguely aware that his wife and child are magical, probably, not that he's ever seen them cast a spell that couldn't be a trick of the light, his basic expectation that physics will win the day is solid enough that he keeps dragging out the bodies of raccoons and bobcats and bears and, once, a moose, when the things that oozed into the building were not originally anything so mammalian. The neighbors are extremely confused about why wild animals keep breaking into their house but accept it as a good reason for there to be gunshots. Renée, meanwhile, works at the local elementary school, and can tote Bella to and from, fending off opportunists lurking in the car or making a grab during school hours.

When Bella is about to move past elementary school and they're fretting about it - "Some kids do fine in mundane schools without their mother right there -" "Some kids can run away, Renée! If another swan tries to wing her in the face -" "A moonhawk." "If something tries to wing her in the face she can't run, she -"

"Hey, uh, guys?" says little Bella.

"- yes, Bells?" says Charlie.

"I think maybe... I should ask if I can move in with Aunt Evelyn for a few years?"

They don't love it. It's a decent fraction of her expected lifespan to be losing her for. But they can't deny it would be safer, if she lived with Renée's aunt in the New Orleans enclave. Better chance of getting the rest of her lifespan with her later.

Bella has met her great aunt Evelyn only a handful of times. Big parties, mostly. But she knew from fairly early on that she might eventually need to do this, so she tried to be very charming. Very smart. All the things that make adults like children.

She has the fortune that one of her second cousins, Aunt Evelyn's grandchild, has just failed to come home from graduation. Aunt Evelyn has seen seven grandchildren come home safe and lost three, and this is the third, but while she's not an especially sentimental person she does have a grandchild-shaped hole in her beautifully choreographed legacy. Bella can sleep in the dead boy's old room - that's not morbid at all, thank you Aunt Evelyn - and catch up on wizard school things, and develop her affinity for metamagic, which most of the other enclavers think is very cool. Cool enough to kit her out a little, so she can run away from mals, once she has to. She spends eight consecutive months without even seeing a mal, at one point, and it's amazing, even though she knows it's going to get much worse at school.

No one else from New Orleans is in the same year as her, though there's a sophomore whose parents are New Orleans maintenance folks who they think is likely still alive. She is not entitled to give out a guaranteed spot in New Orleans, just to present people for interviews and consideration, but her understanding is that this is still decent cachet for B-list students.

Bella speaks English and Spanish and French and can handle a Chinese dictionary, although memorizing characters is hard actually. She can brew her anti-period potion and sing and she's gotten quite good at piloting her shoes.

The shoes are much much heavier than they look (for anyone trying to pick them up, not anyone wearing them, but the Scholomance is the former). This will make it harder for someone to make off with them while she's in the shower. That's a lot of her weight allowance, and the rest is storage rubies (not networked but otherwise all right), and a pen and various emergency supplies and also a pair of scissors which as of yet has no mind of its own, so she can sell haircuts to the upperclassmen for anything she needs at the last minute. Her hair gets cut pixie-short. She has enough leeway to wear jeans, slightly big on her, but doesn't know enough about how she'll grow to bet on them in the future; future Bella will wear elastic-waisted cargo pants (with mesh pockets so nothing can hide in them). She has five T-shirts and a sports bra. She has a little passport-size photo of her parents.

She does not have backup shoes. If she loses her shoes, she will do whatever it takes to get replacements made within the hour or she will die, that's just how it is. (She does have instructions for them.)

Her parents visit New Orleans to see her off, and they hug her, and they tell her they love her, and Renée says she'll meet her when she comes out like it's a sure thing, and Bella is gone.