The school was a maze. That is, it was for most people. But for Holmes it was... predictable at best. It had only taken the lesser part of a month to map all the secret passages, a week to understand the changing stairs pattern, and a second month to identify all of the secret spells lurking between the bricks. It was simple for the stairs, really. Tuesdays and Fridays were clockwise and on the half hour schedule, Thursdays every third staircase moved on a quarter hour alternating directions pattern, on Monday and Wednesday they moved either up or down in addition to left and right, and from six am to noon every half hour, and from noon to six pm alternating quarter and hourly turns. Saturdays and Sundays were the most complicated pattern though. He supposed that was because there were less people out and about, so the stairs felt more inclined to do whatever they wished.
In any case, if he remembered correctly, and of course he always did, the musty old passage he was following blindly led out into the secluded corridor just outside the Hufflepuffs dormitories entrance. He had no need to interact with the stairs today. This particular passage ran all the way from up in the northwest tower, hidden behind a painting usually containing either a crotchety old man who must've been somebody important years ago, or when he was absent, it was taken over by a group of small children frolicking in the drab grey background. Today it had been the old man, and he had tsked at him when Sherlock opened his frame.
The northwest tower was Sherlocks favorite. It was 99% of the time deserted, but had free study space, with desks and chairs and lamps. He didn't know why no one else used it, although he theorized it was because of the horrendously long walk up the stairs, but nevertheless he had subconsciously claimed it as his. The walls were lined with books, and the windows held stained glass depicting famous battle scenes from wizarding history.
So, Sherlock spent his time studying there, or practicing his violin. That practice, at least, had been borne out of necessity. Absolutely no one in the entire Slytherin house had any tolerance for that. The first few times he'd tried, he'd been punched square in the mouth and told to practice elsewhere. The hidden passage ran down the outside of the tower, and then alongside the main corridor, then through a sequence of smaller, branching passages, to end up at the Hufflepuffs corridor. The reason he was heading to the Hufflepuffs corridor today was for food.
Sherlock, being Sherlock, had forgotten to eat again. For the third time this week. His mother, the nag, had been writing him nearly every day, reminding him for the first month or so. She knew how he got. Finally, he had gotten fed up, and refused to receive her mail if it 'continued to treat him like an idiotic first year with an average IQ'. You could practically taste his sneer that accompanied that statement through the paper. That owl had been more than slightly disgruntled with his rougher treatment and black mood that day.
In any case, here he was, pushing aside the tapestry that hid this entrance. It was heavy, musty, and clearly no one had bothered to clean it. Ever. Thoroughly revolted, as usual, by the state of the secret passages, especially by the slime on the walls that was damn near unavoidable, he shuddered and nearly jumped out of the hole in the wall. Having been preoccupied with his disgust he had missed the sound of footsteps along the corridor. He berated himself incessantly. It was a very stupid mistake, one he never made. Never.
In any case, there was a Hufflepuff he had nearly ploughed down, now staring at the dusty, cobweb covered Slytherin that had popped out of the wall.
"Watch where you're going. You could hurt someone by popping out of the wall like that." The boy, a sixth year like himself, seemed familiar to Sherlock, if only he could place the face to a name…
"Right. Sorry." Sherlock tried to use convincing inflection to sound contrite, but yet again failed.
"Hah, right, no you're not." The other boy shifted his books in his arms, but didn't break contact. The observant gaze of the short blond was making Sherlock feel rather uncomfortable. It was like being examined under a microscope. The boy was clearly intelligent, and Sherlock felt like he was being understood. Very dangerous. Very dangerous, indeed. An escape plan was swiftly formulated, involving nothing less than running away, which was silly and childish, but Sherlock was unsettled and a bit panicked right now, so there wasn't much else to do.
"John. Watson." A hand was held out. Sherlock stared at it. His mind whirred. He noticed the untucked shirt, the sweater over the button up, the scuffed shoes, the speck of jam on his lip, the minute crumbs dotting the black robes. A friendly sort of person. Sharp witted, laughter lines etched his young face nicely. His hand was extended in… friendship? This was why he hated meeting people. They always wanted to be friends. And it never worked out.
"Well, you're Sherlock Holmes. I guess theres no need to introduce yourself. You're a bit of an infamous story around here. Plus we had Herbology together last year when I first transferred here. " The hand lowered, the brows pulled together in confusion at Sherlocks lack of communication. John started to step away, and Sherlock forced himself to make eye contact again.
"Ah. I suppose. Actually, I do remember you now. Wonderful work with the Aconite ointment production. Impeccable work. I was just on my way to the kitchens. How was the bread and jam? Blueberry was it you had? I prefer blackberry, personally." John's eyes widened showing he was slightly impressed, but not surprised by the small deduction. Very blue. Warm, laughing eyes. They shared a joke with you, even if you couldn't hear it. This was bad. Sherlock turned abruptly, and made his way down to the kitchens. It was better this way. He didn't need friends.
John Watson. Was a popular boy. Among the Hufflepuffs he was one of the most sought after. Everyone wanted to be his friend or girlfriend. At least, until he had come out. Yet, Hogwarts was a very accepting environment and there had been nearly no backlash. The girls stopped sending him love potion spiked chocolates, though. And they became friends of sorts. Although, he really wasn't sure who would really be close with someone who used to stalk them. In any case, Molly, a shy Gryffindor, was a fantastic friend. Most people took her for a Hufflepuff, but underneath her quiet and unassuming stature was a strong and brave girl, who was an excellent witch, and an even better friend.
Speaking of friends, the house elves had to be perhaps his favorite creatures in the castle. Their jam on rye was to die for, toasted perfectly and buttered. He was licking his fingers and humming slightly as he left the kitchens, heading for the library to meet Molly, when out of the blue the tapestry whipped aside and a skinny beanpole of a student with a mop of curly brown hair popped out of the wall, nearly crashing right into him. Well, he needed to be told off for being so careless. Obviously. Except, this was Sherlock Holmes. Better tell him off twice then. Once for him to dismiss it, and once for him to actually hear it. Arrogant prick.
"Watch where you're going. You could hurt someone by popping out of the wall like that." The fellow sixth year took a step back, tilting his head down to look at John. Out of everything, John disliked his height the most. It was so infuriating, that Sherlock needed to literally look down at him, when he already did it metaphorically. Sherlock squinted. He had dust in his hair, making it go from its usual black-brown to a more black-gray. His ice blue eyes glittered as he disassembled John. John shuddered, not wanting to know what he was seeing, or "deducing".
Sherlock Holmes was a self-centered, self-righteous prick, and he had been right from the beginning. When John had first been transferred here from Durmstrang, he had had his fifth year Herbology with the Slytherin. Sherlock never spoke to anyone, simply did his task, perfectly every time, and sat and waited for it to end. He never responded to any of the taunts from the other students. The Slytherins were especially vicious towards him. When he had asked his new lab partner what was up with that, she had sighed and told him how in the beginning, Sherlock had been tolerated, despite his 'quirks' but now the other students living with him hated him, because he was apparently insufferable to live with.
As arrogant as they come, excelling in every class, he was the top student in their year. But back in first year, he had taken his observations a little too far, and offended some people, estranged others, let loose secrets that were not his to tell. He had made powerful enemies. His attitude that he was smarter than everyone else didn't help. Nor did the fact that he was, in fact, able to prove that. Humiliated and infuriated, the Slytherins cast him out, socially. He spent all of his time up in the northwest tower, and everyone avoided it because of that.
So, John knew he wasn't sorry. He was never sorry. In any case, John felt like he should at least be civil towards him. He was a human being after all, and besides, he hadn't done anything to humiliate John yet. What shocked him though, was that Sherlock remembered him. And remembered his success too. It had really been mostly luck, John though, but he had received many bonus point to his house for that complicated procedure.
Interestingly enough, after that odd comment about the jam, which he knew he was absolutely covered in, probably, Sherlock had run off. Like a timid rabbit about to be bit by snake. He flat out ran. Must be allergic to friendly people, John figured. John was left standing and blinking after him. It was a strange encounter, and didn't match any of the horrid stories he had heard about Holmes. Nevertheless, he put it aside for another day. He had a final to study for right now.
About a week later, John was in the kitchens again. The house elves bustled around him while he happily munched on a plate of toast. He sipped a cup of tea as well. Today he had foregone the robes in favor of the more casual sweater and corduroys and slippers combination. It was a Saturday morning after all.
He closed his eyes and made a small noise of enjoyment as he savoured his tea. A throat cleared behind him, alerting him to the fact that he was not alone. He turned, and there was Sherlock Holmes, pulling up a chair. He had his own breakfast too.
"Hello. How are you this morning?" John asked politely.
"I'm well. How was your final last week? Did you pass?" John blinked in surprise. Never mind how Sherlock knew, why was Sherlock interested?
"I did alright. Didn't fail at the very least. What about you? Any finals last week?" Everyones classes had ended the week previously, and now they were on break for Christmas. Which, as a matter of fact, was only a week away.
"Aced them all. Again." John nodded sagely. He knew Sherlock was the top of their class. Although, it was almost hard to believe. Today, Sherlock was dressed as if he'd done it with his eyes closed and half drunk. Sure, John hadn't exactly made an effort, but at least he'd put on shoes.
"Arent you cold?" He asked gesturing to Sherlocks bare feet.
"Oh. Not really. I hadn't noticed. I got busy running a few experiments this morning and must have forgotten." John just nodded again, a bit disbelievingly.
They fell into a nice conversation though, where Sherlock was his haughty know-it-all self, and John scolded him for it. It was… nice he decided. The conversation fell to family, and John told him all about his sister, and how he was sad not to be visiting her this year, but they really hadn't been able to make the scheduling work. Sherlock reluctantly and with many threats was persuaded to talk about his brother, Mycroft, who had graduated four years previously and was moving his way up the ministry ladder. He was assistant to the Minister now. It was a rapid ascent, but no one was surprised. The Holmes' were always brilliant, successful people.
Before long, it was midday, and John had to run off. Although it was the holiday, and he was one of the only people staying for Christmas, he had still scheduled practice time on the quidditch field. He needed to improve his blocks in time for the next match against Ravenclaw. They had recently brought on a third year with the fastest passes and shots he had ever seen. So, he said his goodbyes, and he and Sherlock parted ways.
A day later, they met again in the kitchens, this time for dinner. They talked until late into the night, until John was stifling his yawns. Sherlocks eyes lit up when they talked, John noticed. He seemed almost… starved for friendship. But John could understand why the other students had rejected him. Sherlock had this way of saying things, and he clearly thought he was better than everyone else, but he was only testing them. John, in responding calmly to the subtle taunts and giving back wit and sass whenever Sherlock got snippy with him, passed the tests. John, although he considered them to be on the way to becoming friends, saw that Sherlock would deny it. He was the type who thought he didn't need friends, was fine without them, saw them as a point of weakness. And so, John wished Sherlock a Happy Christmas, and bade him goodnight.
Throughout that week before christmas they began meeting for meals, and then reading in the library or wandering the halls. John even coaxed Sherlock onto a broom, and had him throw at him for a bit. But soon enough it was Christmas eve, and John had not gotten Sherlock a gift. He hadn't realized they would have become such fast friends. Or rather, he would have found Sherlock to be a friend, while Sherlock 'tolerated his presence'. In any case, John decided he had to come up with something, else he would feel guilty for the remainder of the break.
Sherlock liked John. John was smart. John was funny. John was not afraid of him, or jealous of him. John was very straightforward. Sherlock liked that. Although, John had tried to insist that the solar system revolved around the sun. Sherlock wasn't sure how he felt about that.
Christmas was always a bittersweet time. This year especially. This year he had opted to stay at Hogwarts, rather than spend two weeks with Mycroft being an insufferable ass to him. Sure, his mother had been disappointed, but she had sent his gifts just the same. And he had sent her a renewed subscription to Witches Weekly for a gift, so she was happy with that.
Sherlock puttered around his tower. It was barely five a. m. He knew John wouldn't be awake yet, but he was itching to see him. He had no gift, but he doubted John did either. To distract himself, he checked on the eyeballs he had in the ice box. Eyes from a squid he had obtained to see if they could be substituted for the liver of a cat in a potion he had been developing. His experiments were… scientific. Important things. Things needing to be discovered. Someday, he would revolutionize the potions world with his recipes.
Suddenly there was a clatter in the stairwell.
"Damnit!" He heard John yell. "Not again! Sherlock! Get out here, I know you're not sleeping!"
Sherlock opened the heavy wooden door, and there just around the curve in the stairs was John holding a tray piled high with food and thermoses. At his feet was a spoon.
"That is the ugliest sweater I have ever seen. Now pick up that damn spoon, will you?" John pushed his way into the room, and Sherlock retrieved the spoon, running his fingers quickly through his unbrushed curls while John wasnt looking.
"What are you doing here?" Sherlock asked. He had never invited John to the tower. Somehow that felt like it would have been… bad. Everyone else avoided it anyway. He figured John was the same.
"What's it look like, idiot? I'm bringing you breakfast for Christmas. As well as my wonderful presence." John eyed the eyeballs on the table for a minute, before closing the lid on them and putting them to the side. He sat in one chair and pointed at the other, glaring at Sherlock till he sat down.
"Now, eat!" John commanded, before digging in himself. The thermoses were filled with hot chocolate, butterbeer, coffee, and orange juice. On the tray was every imaginable food. The house elves must have put it together. It was wonderful. Much more than Sherlock had hoped for on this Christmas. He smiled at John. A real, genuine, happy smile. He realized John made him happy. He hoped John would not leave him again when the other people came back from break. He realized he didn't have any friends, other than John. He studied John's face for a minute, wondering if they were friends.
"John. Are we friends?" He asked. John put down his toast and jam.
"Yes, Sherlock. We are." Sherlock stared at him. John shifted uncomfortably.
"I've never had a friend before." Sherlock finally said. John laughed, a quick puff of air being released.
"Well, I'm honoured to be the first." He said, for lack of anything better to say. He continued shifting uncomfortably though. He was hiding something, not making eye contact, and blinking too much. Sherlock felt the need to pry.
"Is that all, John?" Sherlock wondered if John knew how he thought of him. No, surely not. Sherlock had been very subtle with his little 'crush'. Another thing he considered a sign of being emotional, and therefore a weakness. Sherlock didn't get 'crushes'. Just like he didn't get 'friends'. Yet here was John.
"Yes." Came the snappy retort.
"Oh." Sherlocks secret was safe. Somehow, he didn't feel good about that.
The rest of the breakfast was quiet, and in the end they parted ways, deciding to meet for lunch in the kitchens.
At breakfast, which, John had thought to be an exceedingly clever plan for a gift, Sherlock had been very strange. He hadn't taken his eyes off of John, and had even made deliberate skin to skin contact. Sherlock hated direct contact. John had hoped his racing pulse whenever the taller boy had touched him hadn't given his crush away. Sherlock would undoubtedly not like that sort of attention.
The rest of break went smoothly however. They played chess many times per day, Sherlock teaching John the best strategies so he could beat all his friends when they came back. On the last day before break ended, just before the train arrived, Sherlock and John were burning the time in the library, sitting in the comfy chairs by the fire. John was finishing his arithmancy homework, and Sherlock was fiddling with something or other to do with his experiments. Suddenly, Sherlock put his instrument down.
"John." Sherlock sat up.
"Hmm?" John had his quill in his mouth, ink smudged over his fingers and papers scattered all around.
"I like you." Sherlock, as ever, was brutally blunt. "I don't want us to go back to being strangers after this." John's head snapped up, eyes focusing on Sherlock.
"What exactly do you mean by 'like me'?" John's brows furrowed.
"You know," Sherlock waved his hand vaguely up and down, "I like you. I like spending time with you." A small blush was tinting his cheeks. Sherlock never blushed. It was very uncharacteristic of the stoic boy. Yet, it complimented his ice blue eyes and dark hair and pale skin so very nicely. John was a bit thunderstruck for a moment.
"Well… I like you too. Always have, actually. Ever since herbology last year." John put his papers down. Sherlock stood up unexpectedly. John tilted his head back to see the tall boy.
"Well, " Sherlock said, as he waltzed over, "I better give you your christmas present then, shouldn't I?" Sherlock stood right between John's knees and bent down. His face was a breath away, not even an inch. John couldn't breathe. They met in the middle.
Ten years later, Sherlock working for the Ministry as an Auror and John a Professor of transfiguration at Hogwarts, they still met in the middle, still 'tolerated' each other, and still met for toast and jam at midnight, but this time it was in their own little kitchen in their own little house on their own little hill in the countryside.