The Final Ingredient

Chapter Two: Unicorn

After getting my stuff unpacked, I delayed for as long as possible. I must have rearranged my books on the bookshelf about eight times before I decided to face my inevitable doom.

I headed back to the Hufflepuff common room.

The common room was still full of Hufflepuffs, chatting and playing card games. I eased myself onto an overly plush armchair at the edge of the room. Most of the fifth-years were in the middle of several games of exploding snap, which was a card game that I hadn't played since I was in third year. I couldn't actually remember how to play, but, instead of admitting that, I just refused to play.

Which, by the way, wasn't easy. Will was strangely determined to get me to play exploding snap with him. I had to tell him no about twenty times before he backed off. Unfortunately, he gravitated back over to me a couple minutes later with some silly trading card game. He didn't seem to understand the meaning of the word no.

"Come on, it's so much fun! It's not hard to play, I promise." Will insisted as he shuffled the cards. Right as I was about to tell him hell no once again, he made the cutest pout-y face. My resolve crumbled.

"Ugh... fine." I grumbled.

If you had told me a week ago that I was going to spend my Sunday evening in the Hufflepuff common room learning to play some muggle card game (ironically called Magic) from Will Solace, I would have laughed in your face. Surprisingly, the game wasn't that bad, despite it being a muggle game. I suppose the muggles occasionally get something right, I pondered to myself as I stared at the cards in my hand.

Then, around nine in the evening, everyone started wrapping up their games. Even Will collected all of the Magic cards together after we finished our fourth game and gently tucked them into a perfectly shaped box. Scowling, I watched all of this quietly. It was only nine a'clock, after all; it was early for bed.

Weird ass Hufflepuffs, I thought with annoyance, but oh well. There were worse habits than hitting the hay early. I stretched lazily before getting up and heading towards the hallway where the dormitories were.

"Hey Nico, where are you going?" Will grabbed my arm as he asked me this, stopping me.

I blinked, confused. "Bed? Aren't you guys wrapping up for the night?"

Will laughed. "No, not at all! We're about to have our weekly share-circle!"

I must not have heard him correctly. No, it sounded like had just said that they were about to have a share-circle. "What?" I asked dumbly.

"Our share-circle! It's a tradition for our year. Come on!" He linked his arm with mine and dragged me over to where the other Hufflepuffs were now rearranging a bunch of chairs and couches.

I glanced back and forth between Will and the rest of the Hufflepuffs, waiting for some sort of sign that this was a joke. He couldn't be serious, could he? A share-circle, judging solely by the name itself, sounded absolutely lame and very uncomfortable. And yet, here they were, aligning the chairs and the couches in a rough circle.

If you had told me a week ago that I was going to spend my Sunday night in the Hufflepuff common room while listening to the Hufflepuffs share their feelings with each other, I would have stared at you with horror and told you that that's not even funny.

About twenty minutes into this torture, everyone was frowning sympathetically as Juniper tearfully explained how she tried to convince some second year Ravenclaws to recycle, but they just wouldn't. Her boyfriend, Grover, reached out and took her hand. She squeezed it and smiled weakly. "I told them that recycling could be easy and fun, but they started laughing at me!"

Sighing, I dropped my head into my hands. The Hufflepuffs were way too emotional for me.

Caught up in pitying myself, I didn't notice that Juniper had finished until Jason reached over from his arm chair and gave my arm a poke. "Hey Nico, do you want to go next?"

"Go next?" I repeated flatly, narrowing my eyes at Jason. Did he really expect me to participate in this nonsense?

"Yeah!" He smiled kindly at me, which only annoyed me more. It was bad enough that I was sitting through this! Now, they had the balls to ask me to share? Heck, now that I was thinking about it, I wasn't sure why I was even sitting in on this stupid share-circle. It wasn't an official Hufflepuff tradition, which I was pretty sure meant that I didn't have to join in.

Instead of replying to Jason, I shoved myself to my feet and stalked out of the common room and all the way back to the fifth year boy's dorm. Actions spoke louder than words, after all.

I pushed the door open to the dorm and stormed over to my bed. Groaning, I flopped down, face first, onto the bed.

The Hufflepuffs were too much.

The door to the dorm opened. I refused to look up and acknowledge whoever it was that had followed me. Unfortunately, he didn't give me the option to ignore him. Will sat down at the foot of my bed. "Nico, what's wrong?" He whined.

"What's wrong?" I echoed him harshly as I reluctantly rolled over and sat up. "Everything is wrong! I'm not a Hufflepuff, Will. I don't share my feelings. I don't want to."

Will stared at me for a long moment, before the corner of his lip quirked up a bit. "Okay, then you don't have to... but technically," he drawled out the tech part of technically, "you just now shared your feelings with me."

"I… what?" Was he joking?

"Your feelings of how you don't want to share your feelings!"

I groaned and flopped back down onto the bed. Will began to laugh heartily. Even when I tilted my head up and shot a glare at him, he didn't seem fazed.

"Oh cheer up!" He told me cheerfully. "I promise living with us won't be that bad. We're a cool bunch!"

"A weekly sharing circle is cool?"

"Well, I think it is." I rolled my eyes at him, which only caused Will to laugh again. "Hey, I tell you what. If you manage to survive this week, then I'll have a surprise for you. Okay?"

A surprise? I narrowed my eyes suspiciously at Will. "What's the surprise?"

"Well gosh, if I told you, it wouldn't be a surprise, now would it?" He had me there with that logic. Regardless, it was hard to look forward to any sort of surprise that was offered by someone as unpredictable as Will Solace. The idea of a surprise made me kind of anxious, but my curiosity got the better of me, so I sat back up and nodded hesitantly at Will.

The only problem was that I'd have to survive a full week with the Hufflepuffs first.

While Will went back to the share-circle, I went ahead and went to bed.

The next morning was weird.

I was awoken by pleasant greetings of good morning and how did you sleep? Peeling my eyes open, I glared at the Hufflepuff boys as they threw open the curtains and straightened up their beds. It was absolutely absurd to me to watch their behavior. In the Slytherin dorm, we definitely did not open the curtains or make our beds. In fact, we didn't welcome the morning in general. For a Slytherin (or at least for me), the morning was the enemy.

I was actually about to go back to sleep when the boys started undressing. Will, only a few feet from my bed, yanked off his shirt and tossed it onto his bed. That snapped me awake. All the exercise from Quidditch was evident with the muscular grooves of his back. My mouth went dry.

I jumped out of bed quickly and turned away from the half-naked Hufflepuffs. No, I wasn't going to allow myself to stare at them, no matter how amazing they looked (especially Will). My heart was still racing a little bit as I dug through the wardrobe for my clothes.

Yellow was not my color. Yet, that's all that I had. I dug through the clothes that Chiron had provided, looking in vain for something that wasn't an obnoxious shade of yellow. But, sadly, everything was at least partially yellow. In the end, I settled for a gray sweater with the least about of yellow of any of my new clothing options, with only a border of yellow around the end of the sleeves, collar, and hem.

I carried my clothes over to a divider in the corner of the room and changed behind it. In Slytherin, I didn't care about dressing in front of the other guys, but they had practically been family.

By the time I was done changing, the rest of the guys had already left the dorm. I was relieved by that. That meant I could enjoy a nice solitary walk to the Great Hall and eat breakfast in peace. Gathering my school supplies into my new black and yellow backpack, I headed on out of the dormitory.

I didn't expect to find all of the fifth year Hufflepuffs gathered in the common room.

"Oh, there you are!" Jason said, smiling. I stared at him, shocked.

"What...?" I muttered uncertainly.

"We always go to breakfast together." Hazel explained as she walked over to me and threw an arm over my shoulder. Why were the Hufflepuffs so damned touchy? I shrugged her arm off and bristled with frustration. All I wanted was some time to wallow in my own pity.

I decided that all of the Hufflepuffs were crazy. Despite that, I allowed myself to be dragged along.

At breakfast, I found myself jammed in between Will and Hazel in the mess Hall. Both of them were much too close to me, but that seemed to be strangely normal for the Hufflepuffs. Unlike the Slytherins, the Hufflepuffs did not leave the respectful six inches between themselves and their neighbor at the table. No, rather, they all crushed in so tight that Will's thigh was brushing mine (which was thoroughly distracting).

The table was full of chatter. Several conversations were going on in my immediate vicinity: Grover was suggesting recycling ideas to his girlfriend, Kayla and Clovis were discussing proper sleeping techniques, Lou Ellen and Cecil were planning their next prank in their prank war with the Ravenclaw brothers (Travis and Connor), and Will and Jason were talking about their Quidditch practice.

It was easy to slip away from the table, what with everyone so engaged within their conversations. Even Will didn't notice as I eased out from between him and Hazel.

Reyna was sitting at the far edge of the Gryffindor table by herself, pushing her food around her plate disdainfully. It was strange to see her dressed up in yellow and red. "Hey." I greeted softly as I stopped about a foot away from her.

Reyna looked up, surprised. She looked tired and her eyes were red. "Hey."

"How's it going?" I asked.

"Bad." She replied dryly.

"Me too."

"Most of the Gryffindors won't talk to me."

I let out a short guffaw. Reyna's situation sounded preferable. "Funny, I'm having the opposite problem."

Reyna started to laugh, her face contorting into a big smile. It was a nice change from the sadness. "Only you, Nico, would be upset at people being nice to you."

I rolled my eyes at her, but I couldn't help but smile a little. I understood what she was getting at it, but I was pretty sure most people, if placed in my situation, would have the same disdain for the Hufflepuffs' tendencies. I defended myself by explaining, "Reyna, they do a weekly sharing circle... where they share their feelings."

"Oh." She said, her eye brows furrowing. "Wow. That's... something."

"Yeah." I agreed with a huff.

Reyna opened her mouth to reply, but she froze when she noticed two Gryffindors walking towards us. Thalia and Zoë both glared at me as they sat down on opposite sides of the table, a few feet away from Reyna.

"Are you lost, Nico?" Thalia asked me rudely, before waving her hand towards the other side of the great Hall. "The Hufflepuff table is over there."

The animosity in her voice caught me by surprise.

Zoë, with her typical weird accent and word choice, muttered, "Thalia, thy words are rude."

Thalia whispered back, loud enough for me to hear, "Oh come on, it's bad enough having one of them here."

Anger bubbled in my veins. Was this how these girls were treating Reyna? Clenching my fists, I had to bite back insults. I didn't need to get either me or Reyna into any more trouble.

I shot Reyna a sympathetic frown. "I'll... see you later." She nodded sadly. I couldn't help but wonder if her eyes were red because she'd been crying. No, I told myself as I headed back to the Hufflepuff table, Reyna never cries. She was too strong and too proud to ever cry.

My first class of the day was History of Magic. Unfortunately, the professor, Professor Athena, had not forgotten about the dragon incident. Every time that she had a tough question to ask, she made sure to direct it to me first. I might have been caught up with the reading, but, I swear, most of the answers to her questions hadn't been in the reading.

The second time that I was unable to provide an answer that she was satisfied with, she took ten points from Slytherin. I couldn't help myself from asking her boldly, "I thought I was in Hufflepuff?"

"Not for House points, you're not. And, I do not appreciate your sass. Five more points from Slytherin." The rest of the Slytherins groaned in frustration. Drew reached forward and flicked me in the back of the head.

I shrunk down into my seat with a sigh and did my best to suffer through the rest of the lecture.

Potions with Professor Hecate was next. This class was both better and worse than History. Better because Professor Hecate was polite to me, but worse because this was the class where I was partnered with Will.

I got to class first. When Will arrived, he patted me on the back and grinned big. I blushed and turned my attention to the front of the classroom, where Professor Hecate was.

Professor Hecate began the lesson by instructing us to open our books to the chapter about today's potion. As she demonstrated some of the methods we'd be using for this potion, I did my best to ignore Will (he was humming a peppy tune).

We got started on our potion. The steps were complex, but we were proceeding along well. Our potion started bubbling right when the instructions said they would. The only problem was that it was really bubbling, when the instructions said there should only be a light bubbling.

I waved my hand over the potion and hissed when I felt how much heat was coming off our potion. "Too hot." I commented as I stared at the potion. We must have added too much of something.

"Why, thank you." Will said. It took me a moment to process his seemingly random remark. Thank you...? When I realized that he had assumed that my words were a compliment for him, my face grew hot and it wasn't due to the heat from the potion.

I glared at Will and spluttered, "N-not you, the potion!"

"Oh, my bad!" He replied with a chuckle, before winking at me. Wait, did I see that correctly? My mind short circuited for a moment. If I didn't know better, I would have said that Will was acting flirty. But no, that was crazy. Right?

Once I'd recovered, I punched Will in the arm. "Idiot." I hissed at him, embarrassed. He laughed.

"Oooooh, look Octavian," Drew said suddenly from the table behind us, "Nico's already found himself a boyfriend."

I sucked in my breath in horror. Did Drew know? Was I being too obvious with how I was acting around Will? I felt like throwing up. I refused to turn around and look at her, even when she stared to cackle like a maniac. Will, on the other hand, had lost his cheerful smile and was staring back at Drew. He looked annoyed.

Octavian, who was Drew's potions partner, didn't immediately reply. I heard Drew try to catch his attention by asking, "Right, Octavian?"

I was getting ready to turn around and yell at both of them, when Octavian spoke. "Drew, are you busy on Friday?" Curiosity replacing my embarrassment, I glanced over my shoulder. Octavian was leaning over the textbook, his face contorted with deep thought.

Drew replied to him, clearly baffled by his question, "Um, yea. I have to meet with Professor Demeter to work on my lunar flower project."

"No matter. I can do it by myself." Octavian said dismissively. He bit his lower lip and scribbled some notes in his text book before returning to his potion.

Weird. I thought with a frown. The good thing was that Drew's attention was now on Octavian rather than on me. As she leaned over and whispered in his ear, I turned back to my potion.

Will returned to his happy self and we finished our potion together. Throughout the class, he kept making comments that were borderline flirtatious, but I decided that maybe this was simply how he treated his fellow Hufflepuffs? Now that I was decked out in yellow and black, I was included in the club of people that he flirted with platonically.

My next two classes passed quickly. In divination, Professor Apollo was his normal, over the top self. Then, in Defense Against the Dark Arts, I paired up with Reyna to practice hexing each other.

It was weird walking back to the Hufflepuff common room after Defense class. Usually, Reyna and I would always head back to the Slytherin common room together after class, but today... today we went in opposite directions.

Despite that, the rest of the day wasn't too bad. At dinner, Kayla (who was actually Will's cousin, as I found out) asked me about my Italian heritage. I was hesitant to answer her at first, as the Slytherins usually teased me about my background whenever it got brought up. However, she actually seemed generally interested, so I opened up to her.

Later that night, Jason, Hazel, and Will convinced me to join them in studying for the quiz we were going to have the next day in Charms. Slytherins didn't do study groups, so it was weird at first. However, it ended up being kind of nice. Hazel helped me with my pronunciations while Will helped with my wrist movements.

In fact, when I couldn't quite get one of the wrist flicks just right, he reached over and wrapped his hand around mine to show me. It was crazy, the effect Will had on me. Just by touching me, Will had me breathing raggedly. "O-okay, thanks." I told him, before yanking my hand out of his. The feeling of his warm hand over mine lingered for a while.

Hazel and Jason were both smiling stupidly. I wasn't sure why, but I immediately didn't like it. It made me feel embarrassed. Clearing my throat, I insisted that we move to the next charm.

Thanks to the group review session, I actually did well the next day during the quiz. Professor Aphrodite was so thrilled with me that she gave me a hug (that I didn't want).

The class that didn't go well on Tuesday was my Care of Magical Creatures class. Normally, this was my favorite class. Normally, I got along great with Professor Tyson. Normally, he didn't spend the entire class watching me nervously. However, like Professor Athena, Professor Tyson had not forgotten about the dragon incident.

The entire class was gathered around him as he petted his hippogriff, Blackjack. Professor Tyson was explaining proper hippogriff feeding techniques. As he taught, he kept one eye glued on where I was in the back of the group.

The one time that I dug into my pocket to get some gum, Professor Tyson snapped at me in front of the entire class to keep my wand away. Hot with shame, I dropped my gaze to the ground. To be honest, it sucked to have Professor Tyson treating me like some sort of villain. He was one of my favorite professors. A wave of depression rose up within me, but I maintained a straight face as I glared down at my shoes.

Then Will wormed his way through the crowd and stopped at my side. Before I could venomously ask him what do you want, he bumped his hip into mine and gave me a reassuring smile.

It was like he understood.

I thought about snapping at Will, thought about telling him I didn't need his support. But... well, it was kind of nice to have it. I'm not really sure what overcame me, but I found myself smiling shyly at Will. That is, until, about two seconds later, I realized what I was doing. I whipped my gaze away, blushing fiercely.

Will giggled. I wasn't sure what he found funny and I was too afraid to ask.

Class ended. On the way back into the castle, Reyna nudged me in the side with her elbow and winked at me. When I scowled at her in confusion, she whispered the name Will into my ear. She ran off, laughing, before I could cast hexes at her.

The rest of the week flew by. In the evenings, I focused on my homework and studying. Occasionally, I joined study groups with the other Hufflepuffs. It was peculiar having others to go to for academic support. For example, Hazel volunteered to read through my History of Magic essay (not that it mattered, though – Professor Athena was going to fail me anyways).

Will managed to convince to, ah, passively participate in the Hufflepuff activities. And by passively, I mean that I watched everyone else participate. Admittedly, karaoke, while not something I personally would ever consider doing, ended up being highly amusing to watch.

By the end of the week, I was kind of excited for the surprise that Will had promised me. Over the past week, he'd reminded me about it several times. Although, he had not yet once given me any clues as to what it was.

So, on Friday, as we ate dinner at the Hufflepuff table, I tried to pester the answer out of Will.

"The surprise better not be another stupid muggle card game." I told him flatly.

"Maybe it is, maybe it isn't." Will replied cheerfully.

"What if I don't like the surprise?"

"Then you'll hurt my feelings." Will propped his head onto his fist and looked at me, grinning mischievously. "But I know you'll like it."

"How do you know that I'll like it?"

"Because I just do."

I scoffed at Will's logic. I still didn't have a clue as to what his surprise was.

From the other side of the table, Cecil pipped up, "Oh, Will, is it that surprise?" He put a lot of emphasize on that. I scowled with confusion.

Will's grin grew so wide that it reminded me of one of a muggle cartoon character on a coffee cup of Will's (I think he had called it the Chesire cat?) that was on his bookshelf, back in the dorm. On that note, I wasn't sure why Will had such an obsession with silly muggle things. It was an unhealthy obsession.

"Oh yea, it's totally that one." Will said.

"Oh man!" Cecil exclaimed with a chuckle.

"Really?" Lou Ellen jumped into the conversation, "That surprise? Wow, okay Will."

Alright, I was about to go crazy. How did they both know? Was this a surprise he had done for them too? And why were they so shocked? I voiced my concerns, "Wait a second, you guys know? What's the surprise?"

Cecil ignored me and told Will, "Wow, you're really going all out!"

Will's obnoxious grin was beginning to frustrate me. He shrugged playfully and said, "Oh, well, you know me."

"Wait, what?" I asked dumbly. 'You know me'? Was this something that related to Will as a person? Or was this such a strange surprise that only someone as over-the-top as Will would do it?

Then, Grover commented teasingly from two seats down from me. "I dunno, Will. Do you really think he's earned that already?"

"Earned what!?" I demanded.

Grover's girlfriend petted his arm and said sweetly, "Oh, be nice, honey. I think it's a lovely idea."

Will started to crack up.

Hazel spoke up too from where she was sitting next to me. "Knowing Nico, he still won't thank you afterward, no matter how nice it is!" She gave my cheek a poke with her finger. I considered biting it off.

I settled for smacking her hand away before growling, "What is this damned surprise!? How come you all know!? Tell me!" As I spoke, everyone around the table started to break into fits of laughter and giggles.

I stared at them, shocked and annoyed, as they all doubled over in their laughter. Even Will was hysterically giggling. I wasn't sure what I was missing.

It was Jason who finally spoke, a kind smile on his face. "Nico... I don't think any of them know what the surprise is, other than Will."

That didn't make any sense. "What do you mean? They all sounded like -" they knew. I didn't finish my sentence, because the joke hit me like a train. They didn't know. They were all just playing along as if they did to be funny.

Will snorted out from between laughter, "I'm so sorry, Nico... it was just too easy."

Groaning, I rubbed my face in embarrassment. They had all been teasing me. Who did they think they were, teasing me, an unforgiving, unloving Slytherin, like that? What's worse was that it was sort of funny to me. Yes, it was humiliating, but I could tell the joke wasn't made to be mean. Which, by the way, was awfully refreshing. When Octavian or Drew made a joke, it was really a thinly disguised attack.

Regardless, some level of revenge was in order. Will was in the middle of recovering from his giggles, rubbing tears from the corners of his eyes. I reached over and gave his arm a hard pinch.

He let out a little ow as I huffed at him, "You're an ass."

Much to my embarrassment, he leaned over and teased me further by telling me softly, "Aww, but you like it."

I blushed and dropped my gaze to stare pointedly at my food.

The Hufflepuffs preformed karaoke again that night. I listened to Jason bleat out the words to I Believe I Can Fly before deciding I'd had enough. I used the rest of the night to get ahead on studying for my Care of Magic Creatures class. When the other boys started to roll into the dorm for bed, I gave up my studying and gave into sleep.

I woke up way too soon.

Someone was shaking me and whispering in my ear. I peeled my eyes into narrow slits and gazed at the dark dorm around me. The world behind the curtains was still dark. That made sense once my eyes drifted to a clock on the wall, which read: 2:46 A. M.

The person shaking me was Will. I growled and drowsily whacked at his arms. He stopped shaking me, but whispered stubbornly, "Come on, wake up."

I blinked sleep out of my eyes, yawned, and sat up. Will was wearing his pajamas but he looked wide awake. "What the fuck, Will, what do you fucking want?" I grumbled at him softly. He better have a good fucking reason to wake me up in the middle of the night, I thought to myself.

"Well, aren't you just a ball of sunshine?" He whispered back with a sunny grin.

"You woke me the fuck up." I pointed out to him sourly.

"I woke you up because it's time for the surprise."

I narrowed my eyes at him. "What, in the middle of the fucking night?" What on Merlin's beard was this ridiculous surprise?

"Do you always curse like a sailor when you're tired?" He asked me, pleasant as ever, as he tilted his head.

"Fuck you."

My curiosity ended up winning over in the end. I wanted to see this surprise more than I wanted to sleep, so I dragged myself out of bed and slipped on my robe and shoes. Will grabbed his own cloak and we sneaked our way out of the dorm and out of the Hufflepuff House.

Following Will through the dark corridors reminded me of when, in second year, I had spent a few weeks exploring the labyrinth of secret entrances and passageways around Hogwarts. Of course, I had stopped using them once I discovered that Percy and his friends were using them too. At the time, I, shyly, didn't want to run into the Gryffindor that I had a crush on.

The Hufflepuff that I now had a (most unfortunate) crush on lead the way up five flights of stairs. We moved quickly, checking around corners before passing around them. The last thing we wanted was to be caught by the cranky caretaker, Mr. Dionysus.

Finally, Will came to a stop in front of a random statue. "Wizard's rule." He told the statue, which then began to twirl. A passageway appeared in the stone. Will waved for me to follow before ducking through the newly created doorway.

It was a bathroom. A really impressive, over-the-top, huge bathroom. The first thing I noticed was the giant hot tub – or pool? It was borderline in size between the two. Then I noticed the line of porcelain sinks, detailed with gold and silver. The entire bathroom was the definition of posh.

But, why had Will lead me here? And what exactly was here? Why did this ritsy bathroom exist? I had a thousand questions, but I only asked one. "Um, Will, where are we?"

Will turned around to face me and threw out his arms in a grand gesture. "This, Nico, is the Prefect bathroom! It has everything, including a fantastic, luxurious, oversized hot tub!"

"Uh... your surprise is that we take a bath together?" My face was turning red at the implications.

"Sorta, yea." He replied casually before digging into his pockets and pulling out two wadded up pieces of cloth. He threw one at me; it was swim trunks. "That's Cecil's. I figured you two are around the same size!"

It was a crazy, strange idea. But, a dip in a hot tub did sound nice. I nodded hesitantly and went over to the row of stalls to change.

When I exited the stall, Will was already in the water. I paused and watched as he leaned out of the water and twisted on some faucets, causing bubbles to erupt in the tub. His entire chest was there for me to see, with the hem of his orange trunks poking just slightly above the bubbling water.

Once again, I found myself admiring the evidence of his Quidditch exercise. Lean muscles were etched onto his chest.

Suddenly, I felt extremely self-conscious. Unlike Will's, my chest was pale and smooth. I hugged my robe and clothes tighter to my chest like a shield. Gulping, I forced myself to approach the edge of the hot tub.

Will grinned up at me. "The water's great!" He said before sinking into the water so that the bubbles lapped at his ears.

I placed my clothes at the edge of the hot tub and quickly climbed into the water. He wasn't lying – the heat and the bubbles felt amazing. It was definitely an improvement from both the Slytherin and the Hufflepuff bathrooms.

We relaxed in the water for several minutes. I was actually starting to fall asleep when a small stream of water hit my face. Blinking, I sat up in the water and glared questioningly at Will. He looked mischievous.

Will clasped his hands together and squirted water out from between them. I hissed as it sprayed right at me again. Jerk, I thought with annoyance, two can play at that game. It looked easy, what he had done, so I tried to copy his movements. I clasped my hands together and pressing my palms together at the surface of the water. However, I didn't get the same result: no water squirted out of my hands.

I tried a few more times in vain, before giving up and splashing Will by smacking the water with my palm like a normal human being.

Will laughed. "How do you not know how to do this?" Will asked as he squirted more water from his clasped hands. "Didn't you go swimming as a kid?"

"No, not really. I learned how to swim when I was young, but that was about it." I replied with a shrug.

"What!? Why not?" Will gasped. I wasn't sure why he found it so unusual. None of the wizarding families that I was acquainted with while growing up bothered to swim unless it was for exercise or educational purposes.

Huffing, I replied casually, "Why would I? It's not like I'm a stupid muggle. I've got better things to do than waste time in a giant bathtub!"

A funny, worried look overcame Will's face. Did I offend him? I wondered. His idea of a cool surprise had been a giant hot tub... maybe it had been a bit rude to insult spending time in a 'giant bathtub' when that's exactly what we were doing?

I added quickly, "This is nice, though." I splashed him again for emphasize. His sunny smile returned.

A comfortable silence fell over us again as we both enjoyed the hot tub.

The bubbles rolled around me, massaging me into a deep relaxation. My mind wandered.

It was peculiar, this surprise. Here I was, a Slytherin, taking a bath with a cute Hufflepuff. It was nonsensical. Heck, it was nonsensical even when considered from his side of the situation. Why on earth was he doing all of this? I hadn't been particularly nice to him. In fact, sometimes I had been purposefully petulant when dealing with him. Yet, here he was, spoiling me with the Prefect's hot tub. A hot tub that normal students like me weren't supposed to use.

That's when it occurred to me that the reason that Will brought me here in the dead of the night was so that no one would find us breaking the rules. He, a kind, hard working Hufflepuff, was breaking rules for me.

"Why are you being so nice to me?" I blurted out, breaking the silence.

Will blinked in surprise. Tilting his head, he asked, "What do you mean?"

"Bringing me here…" My voice drifted off as it occurred to me that this was by no means the only time he'd gone out of his way to be nice to me. Heck, from the moment that I had arrived in Hufflepuff, Will had strove to be friendly and welcoming to me. "… and everything else."

Will frowned with confusion. "Why wouldn't I be nice to you? I mean, I know this transition is hard for you. " He explained kindly, "I like to try and make it easier."

I waited for him to add what he got out of it. Surely, there was another reason besides him doing all of this for me. People don't just act selflessly. No, I'd gotten used to expecting to find deeper motives whenever, say, a fellow Slytherin offered help or support. In a way, I preferred it. People were easy to understand if you knew what motivated them.

Could wanting to help someone else truly be a motive? I considered it. Perhaps this was one of those weird Hufflepuff habits? Maybe.

"Oh." I replied dumbly as my mind pondered over the situation.

"Yea." Will replied softly, the corner of his lip quirking upward.

It was a strange thought that Will would want to help me simply in order to help me. It made my insides feel funny. I sunk a bit deeper into the water and stared down at the bubbles. My cheeks were burning, but I wasn't sure if it was entirely due to the heat of the hot tub. I hesitated for several second before shyly mumbling, "Thanks."

The blinding grin that Will flashed me and the way his eyes danced with amusement didn't help the funny feeling in my guts. My eyes locked onto him and my heart pounded hard in my chest. He looked extremely hot, wet and red from the heat. It was captivating.

Then Will broke that captivation by smacking the water and splashing me. As the spray hit me, I cussed, "Fuck!" Growling, I splashed back.

And then he splashed back.

And then I splashed back.

And thus began a splash war. Laughter bubbled out of me like the bubbles from the hot tub jets. My hair became completely dowsed, but I didn't care.

We were in the middle of playfully splashing water at each other when the entrance to the bathroom hummed open. Both Will and I stopped our splash war as footsteps echoed from the hallway entrance.

Octavian rushed into the bathroom, his black robes covered with silvery liquid stains.

He didn't notice us at first. He seemed frantic, his eyes wide and his breath ragged. He raced to the line of porcelain sinks and began to rip his clothes off. My jaw fell open as he yanked off his robe, threw it into the sink, and then unbuttoned his white dress shirt, which had the same silvery stains as his robe. The shirt joined the robe in the sink, revealing his pale, muscular chest.

Right when Octavian's hands started on the button of his pants, Will cleared his throat loudly. Octavian froze. I noticed that his hands were trembling.

His gaze slowly turned and focused in on us. In the time span of about one and half seconds, he reached into his pocket, pulled out his wand, and swiveled his body around to face us. There was a wild look in his eyes.

All I could think about was how my wand was buried in my robe, which was all the way over at the other end of the tub, and how it would take me way too long to get it.

- x - x - x - x - x - x - x - x - x - x -

- x - x - AUTHOR'S NOTES - x - x -

Merry Christmas and happy holidays, yall! C:

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