Chapter XVI

I'm Not Okay (I Promise)

"If you work it out, tell me what you find…" Futureheads

By eleven o'clock that night, George had had enough of sitting in the Gryffindor common room like a spare dick at an orgy while both his immediate older and younger siblings snuggled up to their respective girlfriends. It irritated him. If he was honest, he was feeling bitter about the situation he found himself in and seeing everyone else enjoying themselves like that seemed like an injustice. Why should he be the one person endlessly stuck in relationship purgatory? And how the bloody hell did Fred justify his weird relationship with Gina when he'd be leaving her here in a few months anyway? How could he not care about that?

George pulled himself to his feet with an impatient huff when the Irish girl gave a light giggle, and made his way to the portrait hole. He knew Fred was watching him leave, but he didn't say anything. He probably thought that George was off to go and see Draco to take it all back. Well he was wrong.

He just had to do something; he'd go bloody mad if he stayed in the Tower all night! So he took to the corridors and hallways of the castle, strolling through the shadows, turning everything over in his head. He was still sure that he had made the right decision to stop the madness with Draco before it started, but that didn't make him regret it any less. It didn't mean he didn't wish things were different - that the Slytherin was a couple of years older, perhaps, and equally close to being released from the captivity of secondary education. There was no way he was about to wish himself two years younger and subject to an extra two years of childhood - no sodding way! He cursed his so-called 'noble Gryffindor streak' and mourned the fact that he wasn't the light-hearted prankster it was widely assumed he was, to his core. He just couldn't see the funny side of this situation.

He ducked around a corner on the first floor, to avoid Peeves. The poltergeist was busy dancing three feet above the stonework of the corridor making up rude songs about Filch and tossing eggs over his shoulder on the high-kicks. The last thing George needed was to have to deal with him.

The turn brought him back to the bottom of the moving staircases, along the short corridor from the great marble case down to the entrance hall. He leaned back against the wall, slipping into an alcove as he heard voices at the bottom of the stairs. There was a low murmur before the sound of the small door cut into the larger, cathedral-style main door clicked closed and footsteps approached the main stairway. George sank further into the shadows, holding his breath as the person approached, and nearly jumped out of his skin as a loud thud and skidding sound echoed down the corridor.

"Oh, crap!" a voice muttered, and sighed loudly.

George exhaled and relaxed, slipping out of hiding and giving the Welsh boy kneeling on the floor, scooping up the contents of his broken bag, an almighty fright. He glanced up and flung himself backwards in alarm, with a short "Wuh!" before gasping and mumbling, "Oh - God, it's you… Sorry… Professor Lupin just walked me back… I were on my way back t' the common room…"

"It's alright, mate, I'm not a prefect," George assured him, crouching down and handing him a sock that had skidded across the floor on impact.


"Not staying at the cottage, then?"

"No," Gavin replied, standing up and holding his bag up in front of his chest, "it were, um… decided I bes' not…"

"Ah, right. Nookie police, eh?"

It should have been hard to tell, in the dim light from the windows high above and the light of distant torches flaming on the stone walls, but George could see the younger boy blushing like a beacon. "Well, not in so many words…" He adjusted the bag and made to move towards the corner, looking to George to see if he was going to follow, asking, "So why're you wand'rin' the halls at quarter past ten, anyway?"

"Needed space from all the schmoochy-suckiness going on in the common room," George replied derisively, falling into step beside him.

"Oh - sorry…"

"Don't worry about it."

"So…how're things, then?" the Welsh boy asked tentatively.


"Well… Draco wouldn' come down for dinner or anything' an'…" he trailed off, shrugging. "S' none of my business."

"What?" George started in alarm, "Is he alright?"

"I dunno… only people 'e spoke to since breakfast, far as I know, are you an' Professor Lupin… Things aren' good, are they?" he said quietly. "I'm sorry, y'know? I think you'd 'ave been really good t'gether."

George looked at him side-long.

"I thought it migh' make things easier on 'Arry, as well…"


"Yeah… y'know… 'E's jus' concerned wi' lookin' after ev'rybody…"


"Look… I'm sorry 'bout the way 'e's been behavin' - y'know… 'e worries, tha's all. An' it's a stressful time an' ev'rythin' - it's not as if 'e really means th' things 'e says…"

"Well, it doesn't matter. There's nothing going on."

Gavin looked over at him through the hair hanging in his eyes, "No?"

"No. Nothing."

"But I thought - "

George shook his head, watching the shadows of his feet as he strode along the corridor.

"Oh… I - I'm sorry. 'Ave you thought abou' speakin' to 'im? Y'know… from th' sounds of it 'e does like you an' maybe if 'e jus' 'ad some time t' think - "

"No, look - it wasn't because of him. He didn't… It just wasn't Snowflake's fault."

"But - "

George stopped in his tracks and said, "Look, if you really want to know, it's because I didn't see the point when I've only got six months left. He's got two and a half years. It wouldn't be fair. On either of us."

Gavin had stopped and turned to look at him with a slightly disturbed confusion. He turned back and carried on walking, now dangling his bag by his side, and pushing his hair out of his face. "You don' think it's worth tryin'?" he asked, glancing back at him over his shoulder.

"I don't think it'd be fair to try."

"But… I'm no' bein' funny, but… from what I know - an' it's not ev'rythin', I'm sure - Draco really seems t' like you… An' if you don' mind my sayin', you seem pretty keen y'self…."

"I… yeah."

"Are you really gonna be 'appy like that?"

"I'll get used to it," George said, much more firmly than he really felt at that moment. "What about you? Reckon you and Wonder Boy'll make the distance?"

Gavin glanced at him awkwardly and mumbled, "Mm, 'ope so."

"You don't sound like you reckon you will, mate."

"I don' wanna jinx it, s'all."

George raised an eyebrow at him, "Superstitious, are you?"

"We are a superstition, George."


"We are. I live 'round Muggles, 'member? Trus' me."


"C'n I ask you somethin'?"


"Y' c'n tell me t' shut up - "

"Well, tell me what it is, first…"

Gavin stopped and looked at him uncomfortably, "D'you think… well, d'you think if 'Arry changed 'is mind, tha' Draco would still… y'know..?"

For a moment, George just stood there, rather struck by the question, as it wasn't something he'd wanted to consider of late. It was doing all sorts of unpleasant things to his stomach as it was. "Um… well… I think he'd take some convincing…"

"So… you do?"

"No, I didn't say that, I said he'd take some convincing. I think…" he hesitated for a moment, not sure whether the words Draco had blurted out earlier had been in confidence, and whether he could justify breaking that confidence to assuage the younger boy's fears. The look of concern on the Ravenclaw's face as he shrugged and turned to keep walking forced him into a decision. "I think that Draco's getting over him. I think he's had enough and that he's out-growing Harry. I don't think you've got much to worry about."

Gavin chewed on his lip thoughtfully, turning back to him. "Really?"

"Yeah. And he's sort of seeing Wil Rider-Digby, anyway…"


"I think Harry's the last of his concerns at the moment."

"Since when!"

"They met at the party last night, okay?" He surprised himself with the aggravation in his voice.

"Woah… Tha's fas' work then…"


"I'm sorry, man," Gavin said apologetically, reaching out to lay a supportive hand on his shoulder.

"Well it's not like it changes anything… I told him to go."

The entire concept of he and Draco not just getting together immediately seemed completely beyond the Ravenclaw's understanding; George thought that just maybe they were in the wrong houses.

"C'n I ask you somethin' else?"

"Go for it."

"Weren' you seein' Oliver Wood in 'is las' year?"

George's heart skipped a beat and he swallowed with difficulty. "Where d'you hear that?"

"Simon's 'is cousin, 'member? I mean, we never knew much, bu' people would come up an' ask 'im if it were true an' stuff…"


"Were you?"

George hesitated for a minute before sighing and nodding reluctantly.

"I s'pose tha's a big thing, then? 'Cause… I don' know what 'appened or nothin' bu' I c'n imagine tha' if tha's why you broke up…"

"It was. But we didn't break up. There wasn't - look. It's a long story…"

"Well, I'm in no rush t' get back…"

The Ravenclaw had stopped walking and seemed to almost hope he'd hang around for a while, too. George considered it for a minute, before wandering over and climbing up onto a nearby windowsill, back-lit by the moon - now just a day from the full. Gavin gave a slight smile and followed, climbing up so that he could draw his legs up and rest his chin on his bag.

"So… what 'appened?" he asked.

George shook his head. This was ridiculous. "It wasn't a relationship like you and Harry and it wasn't just mates… It was just supposed to be convenient. But it all got a bit complicated so it was called off. It's not an exciting story."

"It seems like it got t' you a lot for somethin' not very excitin'…"

"I knew what I was doing."

"That why you won't do it?"


"Start seein' Draco? I mean… well, diff'ren'ly."

"It wouldn't work."

"But how c'n you know that?"

"I've got form," George muttered.

"If 'e means that much t' you - !"

"What, compared to Ollie?" George asked, surprised at how bitterly the words came out.

"Well… I don' know how close you and Oliver were…"

"Hm. Neither did we."

They sat in silence for a few moments before Gavin offered, "It doesn' 'ave t' be the same, though."

"Yeah, and if nothing happens it won't be."

The other boy gave a sceptical sigh, "It's no' my place t' tell you this, bu' y're an idiot, Weasley."


"Don' try t' resist what's meant t' 'appen. It doesn' pay."

"Oh yeah?"

"Y' hearin' it from someone who tried really 'ard t' be 'normal'…"

"Straight, you mean?"

"Mmm. There's no poin' tryin' t' pretend if that's the way things are, y'know? Jus' the way the cookie crumbles."

"Yeah, right, but I'm not talking about a generalisation, here. It affects someone else as well."

"Yeah, an' I 'ad a girlfrien' at the time."

"It's still not the same."

"Look, you' got no idea 'ow un'appy I were - "

"I've heard rumours…"

Gavin pursed his lips and lowered his eyes, "That were diff'rent," he said, reluctantly, "But I didn' need to be goin' through tha' at the same time as ev'rythin' at 'ome. You know Jack, don' you?"

"Mostly from detention, but more or less, yeah."

"Well… le's jus' say that Jack weren' doin' anybody any favours. My mam…Poor mam." He stopped and sighed wearily, "Las' thing she needed were fer 'er 'baby' to go an' ruin things more than they were… so I tried for her. Tried to do th' righ' thing an' be normal - an' good - not let 'er down…"

"So the girl was a beard."

"A what?"

George smirked, "An attempt to make yourself butch, mate."

The younger boy looked embarrassed and shrugged. "Jus' an 'attempt' t' be normal, I s'pose… where I come from s'not exac'ly normal to be… y'know…An', see, it don' matter if you do the righ' thing, 'cause someone gets 'urt anyway. You're 'urtin' Draco 'cause you reckon it's for the best, an' I 'urt Em 'cause I were pretendin' I could jus' forget about it, y'know? You've got to take risks… if I'd stayed with Em I wouldn've got t'gether with 'Arry…"

"You sure that's a positive development?"

Gavin looked at him slightly stunned for a moment before dropping his eyes.

"I didn't mean that. Sorry… Harry's just really not doing himself any favours at the moment."

"It's because of the war an' stuff… 'E wants t' protect ev'ryone…"

"Doesn't give him a licence to be a total arse to everyone else."

"I know."

George looked over at him for a minute, suddenly overwhelmed with curiosity. "So who was it, then?"


"Who was it? Someone must've tickled your fancy."

The look of dawning realisation on the other boy's face was immediately hidden behind a swathe of fringe as he ducked his chin down and self-consciously chewed on the carrying handle of his bag.

Apparently, it was a rather interesting someone. George thought for a moment, before smirking and saying, "Simon."

The younger boy looked up at him as if he has lost his mind; "No."

"Oliver?" Everyone fancied Oliver.

"No offence, but… no."

"Here - it wasn't Lupin, was it? He was he when you were fourteen!"

Gavin looked like he really would rather not be having this conversation and shook his head. "It weren't fourth year."

"But - oh, get you. Young starter, were we?"

The Ravenclaw buried his face in his bag. George smirked at him and shook his head.

"I were thirteen," Gavin conceded, finally, his voice muffled by the ragged canvas.


"Why do you really wanna know, George?"

"Curious. Stop trying to change the subject."

"I don' want t' talk about it…"

"Oh, stop being so soft!"

"Look," Gavin sighed helplessly, "if I told you, you prob'ly wouldn' believe me, an' if you did believe me, you'd take the piss fer the rest o' my life - "

"You're not winning this debate like that, idiot."

"But 'e doesn' know!"

"Hey - was it Snape?"

"Fuck off!"

George laughed at the indignation in the other boy's voice. "Come on, mate. You can have my word and everything; who was it?"

He watched the younger student screw his eyes closed and bury his face back into the top of his bag. There came, shortly after, an indistinct mumble.

"Eh? I can't hear you…" he teased.

Gavin gave a much more audible groan and raised his head, going to the opposite extreme and leaning it back against the window frame at an awkward angle. He kept his eyes closed, as if he was still clinging to the hope that he'd wake up any moment… and mumbled the name again, slightly louder.

George stared at him. Blinked a few times and stared again. "You're joking."

Slowly, the younger boy shook his head against the wall and sighed an imploring, "Don' say nothin', please."

"That's bloody insane!"

"See, this is why no one knows!"

"Don't be daft - I'd say it's pretty impressive, if anything."

"But if 'Arry knew -!"

"He'd be absolutely chuffed, Gavin."

The Ravenclaw groaned and covered his face again.

"Why did it take you three years to ask him, you great, wet prat?"

"'Cause…" Gavin sighed and raised his head, rubbing his eye with the heel of his hand, "that's 'ow long it took for me t' get made captain. It were like… I mean, come on, George - Harry Potter! He got more Valentine cards than my 'ouse put together. I were nothin'. At all. I 'ad no reason t' even think 'ed notice me when there were 'alf a school ach'lly worth somethin' t' choose from. An' anyway… we were practic'ly little kids. Most twelve year old boys aren' interested in much else than Quidditch an' gobstones."

"Look, Gav, Harry may have a hero complex, but aside from being a fruitcake, he's as average as they come. It isn't as if you need some sort of status to get to know him, y'know."

"Well, no…" He turned to gaze out of the window, distantly. "There were one time, after someone 'ad put all the stuff on the walls in blood when th' chamber got opened, an' we were walkin' out of th' Great 'All an' we got a bit stuck at the door; both wantin' t' leave at th' same time… He sort of flinched when 'e realised I were there. An' there were jus' these gigantic green eyes looking' at me like a rabbit in 'eadlights or somethin'… I dunno if I fancied 'im, like, bu' I jus'…"

"Couldn't stop thinking about him?" George finished, resignedly.

Gavin glanced over at him curiously, and mumbled, "Somethin' like tha'."

"You realise you've actually fancied him longer than Draco has?"

"Y'know, I really wish I could say tha' don' matter so I could at least feel like I'm bein' gracious 'bout it … but I always feel just a bit…maybe it's bitterness, I s'pose, 'cause I feel like 'Look, I were 'ere first - now leave off!'… Stupid, really."

George gave a small laugh and shook his head, "Nah, I get it, it's alright."

There was a long pause as Gavin gave him a relieved grin. "You won't say nothin' will you?" he asked tentatively. "If 'Arry ever fin's out I 'd rather 'e 'eard it from me, see?"

"What're you so afraid of?" George asked a little incredulously, "You two seem like you're sorted for life or something."

The Welsh boy barely suppressed a bashful smile and shrugged, "It jus' seems weird, tha's all. What would you think if Draco told you 'e 'ad fancied you since you still thought girls smell?"

"Firstly," George said counting on his fingers, "Draco. Isn't. My. Boyfriend."

"Only 'cause you sabotaged it…"

George ignored him. "Secondly, girls do smell. It's all that rotten perfume and stuff - can't stand it. Thirdly - if he did I'd be a smug bastard. And no, I'm not 'always a smug bastard', that's Fred. I got the decent, modest, conscientious gene."

"But jus' think, like. Don' you think I'm a bit… weird?"

"I think you're a bit Hufflepuff."

Gavin gave a small grin and jabbed him with his foot. "Arse."

"I speak as I find."

The younger boy scratched at a seam on his bag with his thumbnail, "I know people'd think it's weird - or worse, tha' I only like 'im 'cause of who he is… which is stupid! It bothers me, a bit, that some people do. They don't think 'bout th' fact 'e's got problems of 'is own, it's jus' ''Arry Potter-this, Boy Who Lived-that'. 'Arry doesn' like it. Tha's why 'e's so moody, lately - 'e keeps gettin' these terrible 'eadaches an' 'e knows it's comin', but people are still always watchin'. 'E said, yesterd'y, tha's 'like bein' in a goldfish bowl'. If 'e makes any kind of mistake people will see… T'tell you th' truth I think 'e's relieved at th' prospect of not 'avin' t' do it all alone. Maybe, one we find th' other Elementals, or whatever they are, 'e'll stop bein' so… up an' down…" He looked over at George and added, with a supportive half-smile, "Maybe 'e'll leave you 'lone then."

"I don't understand how you put up with it."

"I jus' try t' remember tha' even so-called 'eroes need someone."

"You're a bigger man than I am, mate."

Gavin gave a small, sardonic smile, "Yeah, well, love's blind and stupid, innet?"

"So they say."

"After this long, I'm no' gonna throw it away…" He paused and regarded George with a slightly sly smile, "They also say it's better to 'ave loved an' lost, don' they?"


"Oh, c'mon! I jus' think tha' if you find somethin' tha' means a lot t'you, you shouldn' give it up until y' know you've lost it completely. Give it a chance, at least.. Won' th' 'what ifs' drive you mad, if you don'?"

"I just don't want to go through that again. I'm not subjecting Draco to some grubby little 'Friends with Benefits' set up for my own gratification."

"I sort of think 'e'd get some gratification, too… An' look… Jus' because you fell for someone before, doesn' mean you can' ever feel that way again…"


"Even if you loved 'im, y' gonna 'ave t' move on eventually."

"I wasn't in love with him!"

Gavin frowned at him a bit and quietly asked, "You didn' or you don't?"


"Then God knows what'll 'appen when you break up wi' someone you do love."

George scowled and leaned back against the window, tilting his head back to study the ceiling. They sat in silence that way for a long time; he could see Gavin gazing out of the window from the corner of his eye. He was thinking about those last two months of Ollie's time at Hogwarts, just after he'd dumped him. Only, it hadn't really been dumping him because the whole point was that Ollie hadn't wanted to get to a stage where that was necessary. He'd called things off, though, and it felt like someone had burned out his insides. They were supposed to have stayed friends - that was always the point - but in those last two months George found it difficult to even stay in the same room. They only really spoke a handful of times in those last two months, and he'd never missed anything, or anyone, quite as much. To the world, of course, they were still the school pranksters, he and Fred; it was quite a skill, keeping up appearances.

He couldn't keep it up forever, though. Fred knew how low he was; Fred always knew. He'd been depressed for a long time afterward, partly convinced the older boy had been playing with him all along, partly frustrated that they had to give up on what he thought was a perfectly comfortable arrangement because of his own age and Oliver's career. He'd actually sworn off any sort of relationship ever again, at first, but as time went on he dismissed his reaction to Ollie's departure as juvenile. It hadn't been anything more than a daft crush, he told himself. He saw a couple of girls, briefly, then lost interest.

Draco was, in fact, the first person he'd had any sort of significant feelings for since he was sixteen. It wasn't that he had expected their friendship to be even half as close as it had become - he'd barely conceived of a tentative truce - but there was something about Draco that just made him easy to like - fun to spend time with. Never a dull moment. And George found himself reluctant to spend any time away from him. Fred saw the rest before he did. He'd begun to tease him about his new boyfriend before Harry had even picked up on anything worth being jealous over. And slowly George had realised that he felt more of a natural bond with the temperamental little shrimp than he ever had with Ollie Wood. Ollie was his captain and a mate. George genuinely liked and respected him. But Draco was a proper friend - he really felt like they understood each other. He was different; George was really starting to care about him.

And Draco had lost everyone who mattered to him; how could he justify wrapping him up in the same situation and then leaving him behind?

"It's too late, now."

Gavin looked up at him, surprised by the sudden breaking of the silence, "For what?"


"That's daft - 'course it's not."

"It is. We've just got to move on and forget about it."

"'Aven' you thought 'bout tryin' t' make it work after you leave 'ere? It's not impossible - people all over 'ave long distance relationships an' things like tha'…"

"He wouldn't trust me for five minutes."

"Really? Maybe y're righ' then. 'Cause if you can' trust each other, wha's th' point?"

Even though he would have said the same thing himself, hearing the other boy's sudden change of opinion brought him down with a punch to the stomach. Ever since, people had been encouraging, but to hear someone suddenly agree with him… The thought that this really could be it, hurt.

"Wha' d'you really want from 'im, George?" the other boy asked thoughtfully. "'Cause until you c'n work tha' out there's no point anyway."

I just want him. "Really? Not to feel giving up on it is the only viable option."

"But it isn't!"

"Look, he'll start seeing Wil Rider-Digby and then he'll get over any stupid ideas about us and he'll be fine. I'm a big boy. I'll deal with the rest."

"Y're a stubborn Gryffindor, is what you are, shootin' y'self in th' foot tryin' t' be too noble - "

George began to protest scornfully, the but younger boy ploughed on regardless, seemingly set on his little rant.

"So you're just goin' t give up an' ruin things fer botha you. I jus' don' understan' why you're throwin' away say… twenty years for two tha' migh' be a bit strained 'cause you'll only 'ave - let's see - a whole three months in summer, an' Chris'mas, an' Easter, an' ev'ry 'Ogsmeade weekend, if you wan'ed it… It's mad, is what it is. Wasteful."

George sat still for a moment, unusually still for him, and considered what the Welsh boy had said. "But what if - ?"

The boy beside him gave an impatient tut and climbed off the windowsill. "For a Gryffindor, y'know, you c'n be pretty rubbish at being impulsive. Give it a chance, George. The worst tha' c'n 'appen is tha' you have to deal wi' this later, instead o' goin' through it now." The Ravenclaw stood and stared at him for a minute before starting to back away a little, saying, "'M goin' t' bed. You get back t' th' Tower or somethin'… and jus' try thinkin', maybe, of how you c'n make it alrigh' instead of makin' yourselves miserable. Night."

When George absently muttered, 'G'night' back Gavin was already tilting a particular book to a certain angle on the mahogany bookcase near the library.

The next morning he woke to bright light spilling across his face and the sight of his brother gazing down at him dubiously.

"You come to your senses, yet?" Fred asked boredly.

"Mnngh… fuck off!" was the George's only vaguely coherent response, and he twisted roughly in his blankets and buried his face in his pillow. For a fraction of a nanosecond he had been blissfully unaware of the previous day's disaster, and then it had smashed him in the chest like a wayward bludger.

"I'm not 'fucking off' anywhere until you get your arse out of bed, get some clothes on and get out on the pitch. You're not staying in here all day."

"Go away, Fred!"

Fred gave an exasperated sigh and in time-honoured fashion, dumped a jug full of chilled water on his brother's head. He also had the good sense to duck so that the inevitable retaliation hex shot over his head in a blaze of yellow. Bastard. He could have had the decency to at least let it hit him.

George sighed and sat up muttering obscenities. "Why are you in such a fucking good mood?"

"Because I haven't just chopped off my own bollocks like some of us have," he replied, throwing a jumper at him. "Get that on. We're having a game outside - you're playing with me and Gina."

"What?" George scrunched his eyes up against the still-painful light from the window and demanded, "What time is it?"

"Half nine. Game starts in half an hour."

"Who even said I'd play?" he scowled angrily. "Maybe I've got something better to do!"

"You haven't," Fred told him bluntly, "All your plans went the same way as your family jewels, mate. Now get your pasty, freckled arse out of bed or I'm going to use the 'Glory."

That got the other boy out of bed quicker than flipping the mattress. In less than a second he was shivering halfway across the room wearing nothing but a pair of boxers.

The 'Morning Glory' was one of their newest inventions. It was a variant of itching powder and Snuggle Dust and resulted in either an overwhelming sensation of being tickled, the inability to sit still or the unfortunate (or depending on your view point - desirable) effect of leaving you feeling rather… flustered. It had been specifically designed for removing over-sleepers from their beds.

George snatched up a t-shirt from where it half hung out of his trunk and pulled it over his head. "I don't want to play," he complained.

"I'm not giving you a choice, old chum."

"Listen -"


"Listen, Fred - "

"Is there a point? What now? 'Oh, poor me, I've met this bloke I really fancy and he's falling over himself to get in my pants, but I'm going to torture myself over it and get on everyone's tits by moping around and being a stroppy git just because I'm too much of a pussy to risk anything… wuuuhhhhr… Poor me.'?"

"Get. Stuffed."

Fred shook his head and grasped his brother's shoulders firmly, "Georgie. Come on, mate, you're being a total prat."

"If you shut up long enough to listen you might not be so bloody hacked off about it!"

Fred raised his hands and backed off a little, saying, "Fair enough - go on. What?"

Suddenly flustered, George scrambled around to find a passable pair of jeans from the clothes scattered around his bed; the House Elves seemed to have decided he liked his possessions that way and left them alone outside of term time, when there was no one in particular to annoy. He studied a broken belt-loop for a minute and just as Fred was about to speak again, he said, "I fucked up."

"You did," the older boy nodded; there was no point trying to argue to make him feel better - it wasn't going to do him any favours.

"I don't know what I'm s'posed to do, though."


George cast his twin an unamused look.

"Look," Fred sighed, "Just tell ferret boy you were still wasted from New Year -"

"He's not that stupid."

"At a more appropriate time, you and me are going to debate that, but in the meantime just go and tell him."

"I can't -"

"Where did you go last night, Georgie?"


"I'm just wondering who did a better job of talking some sense into you than I could."

George shrugged guiltily and shook his head. "I've just sort of realised that maybe… well, I was an idiot. A complete and utter fucking pillock, actually. And a selfish little bastard, probably."

"Good. Right, so come outside and clear your thick head with some fresh air and then go and tell him."

"No - Fred - he's going down to the Fayre with Rider-Digby, ain't he?"

Fred gave a weary huff and nodded. "Forgot about that."

"What if… I mean, there ain't much I've got that he hasn't, but there are a few things he's got that I'll never have…Big piles of round, gold things, mostly." George said, rapidly starting to look hopeless again. "I've really screwed this up. Really, really screwed it up, haven't I?"

Fred stepped nearer and pulled his twin into a rare, sympathetic hug. "If he was ever that interested, a little bookworm like that Ravenclaw kid isn't going to get in his way, mate. Trust me."

By ten o'clock, George was walking across the lawns to the Quidditch pitch with Fred and Gina. In the distance he could make out what looked like Ron, Harry and Gavin working through manoeuvres on their brooms. He wasn't really in the mood for seeing Harry and he would actually have preferred to avoid Gavin, too. He was sure that it was going to be awful and awkward. He felt almost like he knew too much about the Ravenclaw, and vice versa. Some things were best kept secret.

Without warning, he swung his leg over his broom and kicked off. He thought he'd do a few wide loops of the grounds before he joined them and maybe that would make him feel more at ease. He wasn't even sure what he thought he was doing, but he immediately found himself barrelling towards the cottage. He wasn't prepared to see the front door open and a slight, blond figure step out into the snow. He swerved dramatically, rounding to the left to get behind the Slytherin's field of vision; he didn't want him to think he was coming to visit. He didn't have anything to say.

He watched as the figure below waded towards the school gates. He was actually going. George felt his stomach twist and wrench; it hadn't quite managed to completely permeate his understanding that Snowflake was actually going on a date with someone else. It had all been hypothetical - some convenient idea to make things simpler. It had never really seemed like it would happen.

Before he knew what he was doing, George was flying high above the tree tops on the thin swathe of forest that created the border between the school grounds and the road to Hogsmeade. He wasn't sure what he intended to do - if he would cut him off en route and persuade him not to go, or if he would just watch. And thus, torture himself more. But if he at least saw them meet - if he was there to see their initial reactions to each other - maybe he would be able to tell if Draco really thought… really wanted something to come of it.

Over on the pitch, Fred and Gina were greeted by the other three boys, all now hovering and gazing out over the lawns in bemusement.

"Was that George?" Ron asked, scrunching up his nose and trying to tuck more of his fringe under his knitted hat. "I didn't think his broom could go anywhere near that fast…"

Fred plastered his face with a smirk and shrugged, "Where there's a Wil, there's a way." None of this bunch had the wit to know what he was talking about anyway.

"Maybe 'e jus' really needs a slash," Gavin grinned, before patting Harry on the shoulder and saying, "Simon'll be out in a bit, anyway. Wanna start warmin' up? We can play Ends, or somethin'?"

The others nodded and agreed and set off towards the South goal, Harry and Ron racing each other. Harry, unsurprisingly, won hands down. Sitting in the stands, bundled up in a blanket and wearing pale blue ear-muffs, was Hermione. She looked up and waved, probably assuming Fred was looking at her as he stared out over the edge of the stands, in the direction his brother had headed. Straight towards the cottage; hopefully he was going to do something useful, instead of something that would make him - and just about everyone who had to deal with him - thoroughly miserable.

To say Draco was nervous would have been reasonably fair. He wasn't wildly crippled by fear, and he wasn't feeling especially complacent, but he wasn't entirely sure he knew why he was doing this at all. Well, he did. He'd been asked, and it had been something in his mission to Really Piss Off Pumpkin, but he wasn't sure why he was actually going to such lengths when George wasn't there, George didn't appear to have an interest anyway and George wouldn't know what happened beyond what Draco allowed him to. Good God, he was pathetic!

He almost turned back, twice. It was cold and he actually felt pretty miserable; trudging down an icy hill in the cold was not his idea of a good time. He had hardly been able to sleep, lead weights settling in his stomach until he had almost cried in frustration at being so tired and so angry at the other boy. It had been of small, malicious pleasure to him when he had heard Cross being sent home. But he didn't even have the energy to care any more. He could have the speccy-faced little prat if he wanted him so much, Draco didn't care. Harry was barely even a friend, any more.

He was to meet the Ravenclaw outside the tea shop on Little Wood Lane and by the time he arrived was actually rather relieved to see that the other boy was standing outside, waiting patiently. He didn't relish the idea of standing around alone in public. He'd grown rather used to having people to shield him.

The taller boy smiled as Draco approached, his cheeks slightly flushed and his fringe slipping into his eyes in the wind. "Hi!" he said, cheerfully, stepping nearer to meet him, "How are you?"

Draco gave as warm a smile as he could muster, and said, "Well, thank you. And yourself?"

"Oh, I'm good, thank you. Very good," Wil replied cheerfully. He hesitated for a minute, before fumbling into the pocket of his brown duffel coat and pulling out a brown paper bag, which he held out to Draco. "I almost forgot - I brought you this."

Momentarily stupefied, Draco blinked at the other boy's hand and asked, "What is it?"

Wil jerked his hand a little, urging him to take it and blushing much redder, "It's not much. Just some of my gran's Yule cake. It's very nice… I thought you might like some."

"Oh. Oh, well, thank you…" Draco said, smiling awkwardly and taking it from him. "I shall save it for later. I'm sorry, I didn't think to bring you anything, I - "

"That's okay, honestly. I just brought it because we had some left… Gran made me, really. She said I should. I think she's a little worried about you."

Draco looked up at him in mild disbelief.

"She reads the papers," Wil explained, hurriedly, "but she prefers to make up her own mind."


"Yes. Very much so." There was an uncomfortable silence for a moment, before the Ravenclaw asked brightly, "Shall we go?"

Draco responded with a firm 'yes' and a slightly over-eager nod and immediately set off towards Hogsmeade Green, leaving the other boy to run a few paces to catch up. In his haste, however, he promptly managed to skid on a patch of compacted snow and nearly cracked his head open on a nearby lamp post. The younger boy grappled to stop him from falling and promptly landed on his backside, knocking Draco's left leg out from underneath him as he did so. There was a moment of sheer mortification from both sides, before the whole ordeal revealed itself to be utterly ridiculous and they both broke into embarrassed giggles.

"I shall say nothing about going down on the first date," Draco said almost forgetting who he was with, scrambling to his feet with the lamp post for safety. It was only when he looked back, grinning, that he remembered he wasn't George and that sort of thing was woefully inappropriate.

Still sitting on the pavement, Wil looked utterly bewildered for a minute before gazing down at the snow and blushing again. "So… this is really a date, then?"

Draco could feel himself blushing, too. It was no wonder he kept falling over when he seemed to be making a habit of shoving both his feet in his mouth. "I rather thought that the point the invite," he said carefully.

"Oh, it was!" Wil assured him, scrambling to his feet so hurriedly that he almost fell over face-first. "I just… I didn't want to make assumptions. It can be rather difficult to tell, sometimes, that's all."

"Well, now you know."

Wil's bright, brown eyes flickered to his for a minute and he said, "Good," in a very serious tone. "Perhaps we should try to make our way to the green before it gets too busy?"

George Weasley, who had been perched on the gable of the house next to the tea shop, resolutely decided that 'Friendly' Quidditch could sod off, and swung his leg back over his broom, heading for the Wand and Warlock; they didn't ask for ID there.

It was frankly amazing how sweaty it was possible to get flying around on a broom, even when the weather was freezing. Fred wiped his face on his sleeve and bellowed at Ron, who was now playing on his and Gina's team, to save the quaffle hurtling in his direction. He was actually really concerned about what would happen when Harry was forced to play Ravenclaw, because at the moment he didn't seem interested in doing much but showing off for his boyfriend. The two of them were apparently trying to turn goal keeping into a full-body-contact sport, which would've been fine if they weren't on the same team.

Harry Potter was obviously completely at ease with his pole-to-pole mood swings, though. He and the Ravenclaw spent half the time they weren't clinging to each other and risking life and limb by eating each other's faces forty feet in the air, making eyes at each other and Fred eventually gave up counting the amount of times he caught Harry just sitting a few metres away from Gavin, gazing at him stupidly. It annoyed Fred somewhat that he seemed perfectly happy now that he thought George had ruined his chances with Draco. It would have annoyed him more if he didn't know that the Slytherin was obviously totally besotted with George and that as soon as George took it all back Harry Potter was going to get the surprise of his life.

It did, though, really make him wonder if there really had been anything personal in it for Harry. For the daft little sod to be fawning so helplessly over someone they all knew he was already sleeping with there must be something. If they thought they'd get away with being so obvious after that evening, when the Hogwarts Express pulled in and dumped several hundred bigoted little bastards on the school steps, they really were as stupid as they both looked, though. They'd both be torn to shreds in minutes. The recent antipathy between George and Harry would be nothing compared to what an entire school could do.

At that moment, Harry himself flew near, calling his name. Fred slowed and turned to acknowledge him. "What?"

"Have you seen Herm'?"

Fred whirled back to look at the spot she had been sitting in. "Not since she was over there," he said, shrugging. "Maybe she got cold. I'm surprised you even noticed."

Harry nodded vaguely, and headed back over to his boyfriend without even picking up the jibe. He was lost in his own little world for a moment. He'd actually been thinking about the prophecy when he realised Hermione had disappeared. He was wondering if the way they were approaching the matter was right at all. He supposed their theories about himself and Draco made some sense, but Hermione didn't seem that watery to him. Water was wet, wasn't it? Soppy. It made more sense to him that that would be more like Gavin than Hermione, but he didn't think that it was him, either. One thing he was starting to wonder, though, was whether the 'flame' in 'flamed air' was actually flame-red hair. It had to be a Weasley, if it was. He sincerely hoped it had nothing to do with Gina, anyway. But if it was a Weasley, surely it had to be Ron? In actual fact, he didn't much like the idea of it being either of the Twins (and please, God, not Ginny), so he actually rather hoped it was Ron. Ron did make the most sense, after all. It had always been him, Ron and Hermione - always. And Draco had always been there, too. So… that really did make the most sense.

The thought reassured him. He didn't want to do this alone. He'd been there, done that, and every time he'd come closer to losing. Maybe with their help he'd manage to pull it off. He certainly didn't think he could do it by himself.

He didn't like the idea of Hermione wandering around on her own, though. Not when the school was so empty. He hoped she had just gone to the library for some more books. If she wasn't back in an hour, he was going to have to go and find her.

George was not in the mood to talk to strangers. Especially the obviously batty sort. So when a fat old woman with an entire beard growing out of a mole on her chin caused him to jump out of his skin as he sat with his head on his folded arms in a dingy corner of the tavern, he was not best amused. She was dressed in a holed crochet cardigan, one eye wobbling wildly to the left, and reeked of sherry. She was also standing over him, wobbling eye narrowed and a pudgy hand prodding him in the cheek.

"Time travels only in straight lines, boy," she croaked, and George now knew why caricatures of witches in Muggle cartoons sounded like they smoked sixty a day and had a helium habit. It was people like her who turned their kind into a laughing stock.

"Sod off," he mumbled, pushing her hand away and trying to ignore her.

"It's the heir of your brother you're looking for, my sweet, and that's the way the wind is blowing. Oh, but the ice is melting and all the water's running away, isn't it? Don't let your fire go to ground, lad. Don't you let it all go wrong again…"

He turned sharply to look at her, demand to know what she meant, only to find she had vanished. Rather confused, and now even more painfully aware of the fact that it was All His Fault and that he had absolutely no business intruding on Draco's happiness anymore - regardless of what some mad old cow told him - George picked up his glass and stomped over to the bar.

The first hour and a half of wandering around the Winter Fayre had been as pleasant as walking around any typical village fete, for Draco. He wasn't particularly interested in the works of local craftswizards and it was past Yule, so it wasn't as if he had any additional presents to buy, but when the two boys happened upon a stall from the local chocolatier Draco managed to find a hidden reserve of enthusiasm. He was surprised to find that Wil actually seemed more eager to get to the stall than he did, and was quietly delighted to find that he wasn't the only boy in the school who viewed chocolate as something more than a source of collectible cards.

The vast, double-length stall was piled high with the finest, more scrumptious confectionery Draco had ever encountered. And better still, they were offering samples. Manners prevailing, they politely requested tastes of the most delectable-looking pieces. A rich, dark chocolate ball covered in pale green swirls that tasted like liquid peppermint (and apparently freshened one's breath); rounded little barrels with a whole cherry and some licquer inside; pale blue chocolates with pink insides that had the effect of a mild cheering charms, and were apparently called 'Comforts'. Within the first few minutes they had tried so many, the lady running the stand was starting to look impatient. Her expression soon changed, however, when Draco decided he wanted a whole pound of eight different sorts, and Wil, although rather more reserved in his choices, half a pound each of his six favourites.

Merrily, she bundled them up in hand-made boxes and sorted them into bags. It was probably her best sale of the day.

She reached across the table to hand Wil his package and take his money, but Draco was suddenly compelled to do something nice. So he reached out and pushed the Ravenclaw's hand down and said, rather firmly, "No, I'll pay for those."

Wil immediately turned crimson and glanced at the lady in embarrassment. "There's no need to do that," he said bashfully.

"No, I know," Draco shrugged, and smiled at him. "I owe you for the cake and it isn't as if I can't afford it." He reached over and handed the woman four galleons. "That should cover it."

"Well, my dear, it's only three and eight sickles for the lot - "

"Well, then the rest should cover our samples," he said, with a grown-up-pleasing smile before taking his bag from her hand. "Come on, Digby, I'd rather like to go to the teashop; you can buy me a cup of hot chocolate."

They returned to the teashop where they had met that morning, and settled into a corner table which had large, plush armchairs to sit in and ordered their drinks, before opening a parcel each and attempting to convince themselves they would save most for later.

"I once went to a shop in France, when we went there on holiday," Wil told him, trying to look well-mannered while sucking the remains of an orange truffle from his fingers, "and they sold the most wonderful coconut bonbons. My sister, Octavia, the one who is married now, bought bags and bags of the things. She had to put preserving charms on most of them, but it was worth it. Definitely worth it."

"Where in France did you go?" Draco asked, watching him lick the last of the chocolate from his lip and go for another, wondering if the stirring in his stomach meant he was interested in the chocolate or just the other boy. "I have family there."

"Oh, Paris, of course. It's such a wonderful city - you can see why it inspired so many poets."

"Quite," Draco smiled. He had fond memories of visits to Paris when he was very small. His father hadn't been there.

"Would you like one?" Wil asked, offering him the box. "I don't think you bought any of these?"

Well, that's one way to work it out, Draco thought, nodding and taking one. It was utterly mouth-watering. But he still found his gaze drawn back to the other boy very quickly. Perhaps it was both, then. That'd teach George.

Draco picked up the selection he was eating and offered them to the other boy. The Ravenclaw took one and bit in half before Draco could warn him not to, and the liquid chocolate inside spilled all down his chin, causing him to choke and blush in embarrassment.

"Whoops," he muttered rubbing his chin with the back of his hand before transferring the smears to a napkin. George would have just licked it off.

Draco very resolutely put any trains of thought that may arise from licking chocolate off of things to the very back of his mind, and shoved another chocolate into his mouth with an almost improper deliberateness. It seemed better that his mouth do something to occupy itself which wouldn't get him in trouble.

The next hour simply vanished and before long Wil regretfully told him he would have to head home to pack his things ready for the return to school that evening. Draco was quite surprised at how disappointed he was to have to cut short their conversation. He was actually starting to think that if George didn't come to his senses, Wil would make quite a good second choice. He wasn't even obsessed with Quidditch.

Gathering their things, they made their way out into the street, marvelling at the fact it seemed to be getting dark, even though it was just barely two o'clock. Wil volunteered to walk him back to the school, but Draco refused, instead agreeing that he could walk him as far as the edge of town, and then he should go and get packed as he lived at entirely the opposite end. It was a silent mutual agreement to use the back streets and quieter roads; and after the nth time their knuckles knocked together, Draco finally decided that enough was enough, and nudged at the other boy's hand until he wrapped his fingers around Draco's.

It was on an apparently deserted street between the backs of the shops on Pond Walk and the grubby, glass-fronted little lock-ups on Smithy Street that the Ravenclaw stopped abruptly and tugged at Draco's hand. He was half expecting the next words, partly hoping for them, partly afraid of them, because he could feel the younger boy growing more tense; but when Wil composed himself deliberately and asked, "Draco, may I kiss you?" he saw no reason to object.

It was awkward in the way that any pre-meditated form of affection is. Aside from not knowing what to do with his hands or which way to turn his head, however, it actually went rather well. It was nice. Nice. Neither unpleasant or terribly earth-moving. But he'd do it again if he was asked.

George Weasley, stumbling down the cobbled side-street from the Wand and Warlock, tanked up like a land army, picked the most unfortunate moment to stray onto Smithy Street. If he were to have written a list of Things That Could Go Wrong Today, coming face to face with the result of his own stupidity in such a literal sense would have been right up there with being shat on by a passing dragon.

He stood there for a minute, gazing at the two boys further down the road, before thumping the nearest wall so hard that he grazed his knuckles and practically launching himself into the air and back toward the castle, realising that his hand really bloody hurt.

He had given it much more than an hour, and yet Harry had still not seen any trace of Hermione. He frowned and decided it was probably time they went in if they fancied lunch, anyway. They'd miss it altogether, otherwise. He made a few feeble attempts at a manly whistle and ended up delegating to Gavin. Ron swept over to them and immediately asked, "Where's 'Mione?" looking bemused.

"That's what I was wondering," Harry said. "I think we'd all better get changed and go in for lunch anyway - if she's not there maybe we'd better check the Map. See if she's alright."

"Why wouldn't she be?" Gina asked scornfully. "Girls don't need lookin' after, y'know."

"Yeah, well there's a war on," Harry replied, irritably, and set off for the Gryffindor changing rooms. He was glad that, as a girl, she wasn't allowed to follow.

The other boys trooped in after him. There had been little point in Simon and Gavin going all the way over to the Ravenclaw rooms, so they all convened in Gryffindor.

"Where'd George go?" Simon asked, holding open the door, as if suddenly aware that there was only one twin in their midst.

"No idea," Ron answered, pulling off his jumper and shaking his head to make his hair lie flat again. Harry envied his ability to do that.

"And Draco?" Simon prompted, casting Gavin an optimistic smirk.

"Draco's on a date," Harry declared flatly. "With Wil Rider-Digby."

Simon looked at his best friend with his eyebrows raised. "Our Wil Digby?"

"Mm," Fred nodded reluctantly. "Supposedly."

"Supposedly? Is he or is he not?"

"He's supposed to be. But judging by the fact that Fat Head isn't here either, he might not be."

"Have they not sorted it out?"

Gavin looked at him and widened his eyes, tilting his head at a slight incline as if to say, 'No! Don't bring this up!'

Harry pursed his lips and gave a shrug, "Personally, if he's out with Wil, 'good on him' is all I can say."

A number of pairs of eyes flicked to Harry, to each other, and then back to Harry.

"Why?" Fred asked, obviously struggling to bite his tongue.

"Why not? As far as I know, Wil's an alright bloke."

"What, and George's not?"

"George is a Weasley Twin," Harry levelled, knowing that this could escalate into a punch up if he wasn't careful. "Firstly, I don't exactly find it easy to believe that George's crush on him is going to last more than five minutes; secondly, Wil's not one of us or part of this or likely to go and get himself killed by doing something stupid - or even get himself targeted. And at least Wil's the same age."

Fred narrowed his eyes and turned to pick up a towel, sarcastically muttering, "Funny, and there I was just thinking you were jealous."

"Sorry to break it to you, Fred, but even if I'd trust you or George with my life, I'm not stupid enough to trust you with anyone's feelings. Okay?"

"'Arry - y'know, tha's no' really fair…"

"What? It's true. Those two hiss at first years for going into Slytherin and turn people into canaries for a laugh!"

"Right, 'cause you've never slipped anyone a Canary Cream, have you?"


Ron thought for a minute and chipped in, "Well, he did nick a Ton Tongue a while ago and leave it out for Goyle. I just don't think he ate it."

"That's different."

"No it's not - those idiots were just his skivvies anyway! Your poor, fragile little friend isn't the soppy weakling you like to think he is."

Harry laughed.

"I've never thought Malfoy was fragile; I'd've broken his neck by now if I thought he was," Ron offered.

"You'd've broken yours then, though, wouldn' you?" Gavin replied, sitting down to undo his trainers.

"What? Oh. Well…" Ron looked flustered and quite annoyed about not having a true retort for that and shut up.

"Look, Fred, I know he's your brother and you two are all telepathic and know each other really well and so maybe you know him better than the rest of us - "

" - Obviously."

" - but I just don't think Draco needs someone like him. Not when his mum and dad've just died and there's a deranged murdered after him."

There was a lull in which everyone looked at anything but each other, before Gavin spoke up from where he was sitting, studying his scuffed old Puma.

"I think you're wrong, ach'lly," he declared. By the time everyone turned to look at him, he was casting Fred a significant look. "George's mad on 'im. An' I think 's better for Draco t'ave someone around who really gets him than waste time wi' someone like Wil, who's a great bloke, but prob'ly a bit borin' for 'im. An' y'know, I like George. I reckon 'e's a good bloke an' the more people do 'im down the more likely Draco is to go after 'im anyway.

"An' s'none of our business, in th' firs' place. 'Arry don' need to go savin' 'im and Fred don' need t' go fightin' George's battles."

Ron gave a firm nod and pointed at Gavin. "What he said. The last thing we want is for Malfoy to be even more soppy over him. Or the other way around."

Gavin glanced across at him with his eyebrows raised, unsure whether he was being sarcastic of if he'd just missed the point.

"Anyway," Ron said, glancing between Harry and Gavin dubiously, "I'm going to get in the shower, now, and I think you two'd better stay at opposite ends from each other. I might be sick if you get all smoochy and horrible with no clothes on and I have to watch."

"What's up, Ron? Jealous?" Harry teased, winking at him.

Ron turned a violent red from ear to ear and bellowed, "NO!"

"Yeeeah you are," Harry grinned, making a kissy face. "Just because you got there first!"


Fred stared at them both before scrunching up one side of his face and asking, "Do I actually want to know about this?"

"Probably not, but I'm going to tell you anyway, just because seeing Ron's face is going to be brilliant!"


"Months ago - "

"Harry, I'll tell everyone about those dreams you get," Ron threatened.

"Go on, then. I don't even remember them, so they'll be news to me, too."


Harry poked his tongue out and opened his mouth to speak, but Ron's dignity was (for the most part) saved by Gavin dragging Harry onto his lap and gagging him with his hand. Ron disappeared into the shower, a very bright shade or red. Fred and Simon cast each other knowing looks and wandered after him, leaving Harry and Gavin alone by the lockers.

"Y' such an arse, sometimes!" Gavin told him, affectionately, before slipping his hand away to kiss him.

"Well, I'm getting in some practise of acting like I'm straight," Harry grinned, getting himself more comfortable. He dropped his voice to a whisper and added, "We'd better make up for the fact there are going to be hundreds of people around for the next few weeks, hadn't we?"

Gavin barely suppressed a laugh and murmured, "I'm sure we'll work something out…"

"I HEARD THAT, HARRY!" Ron's voice boomed from the showers. "I swear, I'll tell McGonagall if he comes anywhere near our dorm!"

Harry responded by making loud smooching sounds and attempting to shove his hand inside Gavin's jeans. Gavin gasped and grabbed his wrist, trying to stop him.

"Don't…! Stop, 'Arry!" he hissed, trying not to laugh.

"Don't stop? Happily!"

"You know wha' I mean! Behave. God… I'm never goin' out wi' a Gryffindor again!" Gavin teased, trying to pin Harry's hand to his own leg.

"Oh? Planning on going out with some else at some point, are you?"

The older boy grinned and kissed him tenderly. "Plannin' on spending th' next 'undred-odd years wi' me, then?" he challenged.

"If I make it past sixteen, I s'pose I could do worse…" Harry told him, kissing him back and moving around until he straddled one of Gavin's knees and wrapped his arms around his neck, before leaning in for a kiss so soft it was barely more than open-mouthed nudging. "Love you."

"Love you, too."

They were started by a sudden barrage of laughter and cat-calls from the showers.

"PISS OFF!" Harry yelled, laughing.

"EH?" Fred's voice called back. "We weren't laughing at you, Wonder Boy - Ron just dropped the soap!"

Gavin laughed and gave Harry a small kiss on the cheek; "We should prob'ly take a shower. I smell."

"I like the way you smell," Harry told him, burying his face in Gavin's neck.

"You won't in 'bout 'alf an hour when I start stinkin' like Filch."

"Oh, I dunno…"


Harry raised his head and murmured in the older boy's ear, "Wait 'til they're gone."

Gavin twisted his head at an awkward angle to look at him, wide-eyed, "Not 'ere!"

"Why not?"

"Just 'cause!"


"'Arry, Sirius'll kill me if 'e fin's out."

"Then he'd better not find out, had he?"

"No, seriously, I'm not…doin' it 'ere."

"Why not? It's hardly like we'd be the first - "

Gavin grimaced. "Really, 'Arry… No."

"Not even if -" Harry began, and leaned to whisper into his ear.

For a moment, Gavin looked stunned, then indecisive and eventually just rather embarrassed. "No," he said firmly, "bu' if you offer another time I might' say yes. Maybe."

Harry giggled and leaned in to kiss him rather less softly than before, just as Ron stumped out of the showers, wrapped in a towel.

"Oh for God's sake!" he exclaimed, "I think I'd better turn into a poof or something if I ever plan on getting any around here."

"I'm sure Creepy Creevey'd lie back and think of Harry for you, mate," Fred said, slapping him on the shoulder.

"That's sick."

"Maybe it's time you told your missus to just serve up that old beef sandwich, Ronniekins," his brother taunted, winking and waiting for the back-lash.

Harry turned sharply and opened his mouth to defend her honour, but was beaten to it by Ron, who sighed wistfully and shrugged, "No point. If I did she'd tear my bits off and use them as a bookmark - where's the fun in that?"

They all laughed; mainly because it was true. She'd tear off his bits and use them as a bookmark in some gigantic tome on suffrage.

Harry looked across as Simon turned away from them, dragging the towel from around his waist to dry his hair. And he kept on looking until Gavin noticed and covered his eyes with his hands, tutting playfully in his ear.

Harry grinned and whispered, "Kilt?"

"Well," Gavin whispered back, "I migh' start savin' up."

"Um, didn't you want to go and find Hermione or something, Harry?" Ron interrupted, looking a bit ill and tightening his towel around his waist.

"Yeah, um…" Harry glanced back at Gavin and gave Ron a wry smile, "You guys go on… we'll catch you up."

Hermione was perfectly safe, as it happened, sipping tea from a china cup on a comfortable floral sofa. On her lap lay the book she had been reading in the stands that morning; a book that had made her leap to her feet and run to the library.

"And you're quite sure, Hermione?" Lupin asked, once again running his fingers along the torn parchment.

"Yes," she said, nodding carefully. "I think this is all too big for us alone."