An Apartment in the City

For Laura sedai:

Edward was already brilliant—thanks for giving me the chance to make him even better!

It looked to him, by Hermione's stillness and slightly reddened face, that she was holding her breath. That was to be expected. He was holding his breath, too. Anticipation warred with nerves for control over the butterflies in his stomach, and he carefully raised the wand she'd special-ordered for him after spending hours grilling him about his history and interests and testing out his affinities. It was made of alder wood, and was long and slender. He very much liked the feel of it. After intense practice with a borrowed wand, he was finally ready to try his own.

"Just write your name," she urged him. "Start with something simple."

He nodded, and paused to brush his hair back from his forehead. Looking rakish and slightly tousled was all well and good, but he disliked the way it tickled around his eyes because of the length. He steadied the wand, outstretched in front of him, again, and began writing, words of shimmering bluish cast.

Edward Llewellyn Cavanaugh

"Oh, that's splendid!" Hermione cried, waving her hands enthusiastically and catching his attention. "I knew it! I knew you had latent magic in you! And look how well you're bringing it out!" Her face turned comically puzzled. "Your middle name is really Llewellyn?" she wondered.

He made a face, but she grinned, only teasing him. He smiled back, and gave the new wand a bounce in his hand, testing its weight again. It was beautiful, all polished and fitting into his hand like he'd been born with it there. She'd told him he'd know if the wand was right for him, and it was. Without a doubt.

The words he'd written still hung there in the air, the hazy blue glow undiminished.

"Try erasing them," Hermione urged.

He did so, and then grabbed her in a warm and grateful hug. He'd given up on calling her "Ambassador," "Ms. Granger," or anything of the kind months ago. She'd said if they were going to work together all the time, they should get to know each other better than that. The fact that he could openly embrace a foreign ambassador ten years older than he—it was a thrill, even after several months. He'd never dreamed he'd end up working with the magical government. He'd always assumed he'd live as a Muggle, like his mother and father. Aunt Noreen and Cousin Shay had been so comfortable and experienced with their magic that he'd thought he had none. But when he'd met Peter, and Harry and Draco, he'd gotten too interested to stay out of it, even if he wasn't a wizard. But only a few weeks after starting to work with the extremely self-possessed and headstrong Ambassador, she'd insisted that he was indeed a wizard and she'd prove it to him.

He wrote Edward again, just to look at it. He was a wizard, a real one. Just wait until he told his Mam and his Aunt Noreen. He'd been keeping the possibility a secret. Now that he knew for sure, he was going to surprise his mother. Well, next time he saw her, anyway. He was living in the city now, so he only saw her every few weeks. He didn't want to have to keep the secret that long.

"Edward, I've been wanting to ask you something," Hermione said, her face sober and intent. He immediately knew what was coming, but he gestured for her to continue.

"I know you're taking a couple of classes online, but I wasn't sure if you'd reconsidered this at all. I honestly think you ought to be in school full-time, and just work here a day or two a week. We would definitely have a place for you after you get a degree, if you still want to commit to this, but—"

Edward shook his head sharply. Still enchanted with his new ability, he wrote out his response in careful, blue-tinted letters.

I'm still committed to this project. I think it's more important than my degree. A degree is only a piece of paper saying I've studied a subject. This is real experience that most people get their degree to find, and it's something that needs capable people involved. I think I've proved I can be of help here.

"You have, of course," Hermione assured him. "I just wanted to be sure you'd really thought about all your options."

I've made my decision, and I don't regret it at all.

"We haven't really gotten our hands dirty, you know."

I don't regret it yet, he amended. After a few second's thought, Edward added, still laboring slowly,

How's Maggie?

Hermione took the hint and turned away a bit with her lips pursed to hold in her emotions. With Maggie gone to Hogwarts and Jean-Luc living in Canada with his father (whom Hermione didn't talk about even when she did mention her son), Edward got the feeling Hermione was substituting him in for the children she no longer had with her. Obviously she'd understood the meaning behind the question.

"Maggie's fine, doing really well, I think," Hermione said quickly. She put on a very business-like face. "Did you finish writing up the agenda for our meeting?"

Edward nodded, and went to his desk to get it from the file he was keeping for their upcoming meeting with the schools, so she could look over it and approve it. He was extremely excited about this. After weeks of the two of them going back and forth and calling Peter about every ten minutes for his input, they had a proposal written up for the three magical schools here to implement a scholarship program. His own contribution to the argument—that the numerous Muggleborns couldn't choose a private education and therefore the schools were an important step in preventing cases like Shawn Randall a few years ago—was written up quite convincingly. If he practiced writing, he might even be able to present the argument himself during the meeting. God, that would be so cool.

Hermione tapped him on the shoulder, and he turned to find her holding the paper out to him. He smiled to apologize for his lack of attention, but she just smiled back.

"Looks good," she said. "Don't make copies until tomorrow, though, just in case we need to make any last-minute changes."

He nodded. He hadn't planned on doing the copies just yet—he'd gotten to know Hermione Granger far too well in the last few months to make that mistake.

-o-o-o-

When Edward unlocked his door and stepped inside, he was surprised to smell tomato sauce, but his brain quickly made the necessary adjustment. He'd been living on his own since leaving home, and his houseguest had only been here since yesterday, so he'd completely forgotten he wouldn't be coming back to an empty apartment. His mother kept telling him to get a cat so he'd have something to come home to, but he'd rather sleep in a box than deal with a cat.

Coming home to this, however, was kind of nice . . .

He could see the kitchen before anything else in the apartment, and he found the pan of tomato sauce and the pot of boiling spaghetti noodles unattended. Curious, he stepped further into the apartment.

" 'Lo," he called out, and wondered how loud he'd said it. He was never quite sure of his volume levels, because he'd quit the stupid voice lessons after only a couple of weeks in middle school. So he was deaf and he couldn't talk—everybody could just deal with it. For some reason, learning how to speak just made him feel like he was learning to pretend there was nothing wrong with him, and he'd hated it from the first day.

When he walked into the open living/dining area around the corner from the kitchen/laundry, he found what he was looking for stretched out on his loveseat—the biggest piece of furniture in the small apartment. Dark hair hanging tousled over his forehead, he was reading a newspaper article without looking up, so obviously Edward hadn't spoken loud enough. He didn't make any more noise, though. It was kind of fun to watch him absentmindedly twist a lock of hair through his fingers and tap his foot. Edward figured out quickly that there must be music on, since the foot tapping was rhythmic and bouncy, not just bored. He still looked pretty bad, though, and whatever he was reading was just making it worse. His face was tired and hollow, and now he was scowling.

The newspaper hit the coffee table.

Feeling like it was not the best time, but unable to keep standing there, Edward said again, " 'Ello."

He caught the headline of the article just when he said it. He winced.

Jarvis leaves Mann for woman—first openly gay wizard couple is no more

Even though Morgan caught the face he made, he just smiled and said,

"Oh, hey, I didn't hear you come in."

Edward shrugged and then raised his nose to indicate the smell from the kitchen, and smiled.

"Oh, yeah, I'm making dinner. I thought I ought to do something to thank you for letting me hide here for a few days."

Edward wanted to talk to him, but he wanted to save his surprise for a better moment, so he pulled out the pad of paper he kept in his pocket.

Did you talk to Doug today?

Morgan accidentally tore the note when he read it—a pretty clear indication that he hadn't, in fact, talked to Doug yet. He'd shown up at Edward's door yesterday without having spoken to his best friend past a few angry words exchanged when Doug announced his engagement to a woman Morgan hadn't known he'd been dating. Edward had been pressing him to call Doug and at least tell him where Morgan was so he didn't get worried when he couldn't find him. Morgan was inclined to let the other man panic for a few days.

Edward gave him a look of disapproval and went into the kitchen to check on the food. With his back turned, Morgan couldn't really argue the point, but Edward knew he was following him and trying to do it anyway. Morgan had been throwing tantrums off and on since arriving. Edward pretty much knew what he was saying, even without watching him. How dare Doug, and what happened, and why was he being so casual about this, and why hadn't he said something before, and this was going to ruin both of their Quidditch careers . . . and so on. Edward just stirred the pasta with his body slightly turned toward Morgan to he could at least give the impression of listening without actually doing it.

The argument was thin at best. They'd been best friends since the age of eleven. Doug's tastes had turned toward women pretty quickly after leaving Hogwarts, and Morgan had been well aware of it for a year. That he hadn't known about this particular woman and Doug's intentions toward her told Edward that Doug hadn't felt comfortable telling Morgan and Morgan obviously wasn't as okay with Doug's feelings as he professed to be—and not that Doug was a conceited wanker.

Morgan finally seemed to notice that Edward wasn't looking at him, and shut up. Edward did look up when he stopped seeing Morgan's arms waving around out of the corner of his eye. Morgan had a rueful expression.

"I'm ranting again, aren't I?"

Edward nodded, with a small smile to excuse it.

"Sorry," he said, then raised one eyebrow. "At least I made dinner. Not that I can actually cook. I bought the sauce in a jar."

Edward gave him an inquisitive look.

Morgan gestured grandly. "Adventures in Muggle shopping. I sort of forgot about the money. I had some dollars, but I tried to pay the girl in Knuts first."

Edward was familiar with Knuts, had some that Cousin Shay had given him when he was a little kid, so he didn't ask the usual Muggle-indicative questions about why he would pay a cashier in newts. He found it funny that Morgan was acting apologetic about sauce in a jar. Apparently he hadn't opened the freezer and found all the frozen pizzas yet. The pantry contained cereal, soup, and not much else. Canned pasta sauce was practically gourmet, for him.

What did she say? he wrote, and handed it to Morgan.

Morgan grinned. "I tried to tell her they were from Germany, but she'd been there before and she knows what their coins look like. I said," and he started laughing, "I said, 'that twat at the airport exchange office must have ripped me off! I'll kill the bloke for stealing from me!' and I ran off."

Edward put his hand over his mouth and laughed, too.

"You don't make any sound when you laugh," Morgan observed, his expression curious. "Do you cover your mouth on purpose?"

Edward's hand immediately went back to the pasta spoon he was stirring with and he shrugged. He could see Morgan thinking about it, but he just turned the range top burners off and got out a colander to drain the pasta.

Morgan tapped him on the shoulder. "Edward."

By his look of frustration, he'd called his name several times. Edward raised his eyebrows.

"You don't explain yourself to people very often, do you?"

Edward shrugged irritably. No, he didn't. He didn't much like to, because the only person he'd ever really found that would care enough to merit it was Kendall, and she was too embarrassed to ask him anything.

Morgan left his hand there on his shoulder. Edward didn't know how to feel about it. It was nice, on the one hand, but he hadn't given up on doing what he could to repair things between Morgan and Doug, either.

"I was just going to ask why you did that."

Edward dumped the drained pasta into the saucepan and gave it a hard stirring. He made an exaggerated laughing noise, which would save the explaining. It had been sometimes compared to a braying donkey, sometimes to a seal barking, and sometimes to a retard having a fit, depending on who was doing the comparing. He gave Morgan a challenging look. If Morgan wanted to make fun of him, he could, but Edward hoped he'd at least have enough decency not to do it while staying in Edward's apartment.

He didn't say anything, though. He just slid his hand up from Edward's shoulder to brush very quickly over his cheek, and then he was reaching past him into the cupboard for a couple of plates, which were clean only because Morgan had spent this morning washing the few dishes to be found. Edward was a huge fan of paper and plastic, even if it did mean taking out the trash all the time. He'd done enough dishes for a lifetime when he lived at home.

They ate dinner in silence, for the most part. Edward refused to try to read the lips of people who had their mouths full, and Morgan had good enough manners not to try it. But, when they were nearly done, Morgan looked at his watch and sighed.

"It's midnight at home. I wonder if Doug is nice and cozy in bed with Jennifer."

The last word was said with venom, and Edward had reached his limit. When he drew his new wand out, Morgan tensed to flee, but Edward just started slashing through the air and writing out what so desperately needed to be said.

I thought he was your best friend. He certainly thinks so. You told me your love for Doug was unconditional. That should cover the possibility that he would fall in love with a girl. Just because you made one choice doesn't mean Doug has to make the same one. And you have a career with him. You're half of the great Beater duo that the papers said should never be separated on the Quidditch pitch. Are you going to give that up just because Doug decided to bring Jennifer into his life?

Edward honestly had no idea how fast he was writing, but the labor of it was making sweat bead on his forehead. Morgan looked absolutely floored.

"When did you get a wand?" he asked.

Never mind. If you love Doug, you'll talk to him. I like you, Morgan, but I don't like how easily you give up something like his friendship. Call him.

Edward turned around and stalked to his bedroom, leaving Morgan to the dishes and his thoughts. He tried to get to work on his homework for his online classes—he was still working on general studies while he tried to figure his life out—but neither geography nor English drew him in enough to stay focused. He found himself browsing the chat room for the English class, instead of reading through the lesson for the week. There were a couple of discussions on their assignments, but he started posting in an offshoot thread about various students' current favourite authors.

After a little while, he'd calmed down enough to get back to studying in earnest. He didn't know how much time passed before he felt a hand slide over his shoulder, and he jumped out of his chair in surprise. He hadn't forgotten about Morgan, but he'd definitely lost track of him. He had homework to do, he hadn't invited his guest, and Morgan was pissing him off, anyway. Edward hated it when people moped. Either do something about your bad situation or shut up.

But when he turned around, Morgan was smiling.

"I talked to Doug."

Edward crossed his arms to say "and?"

"I'm going home in a couple of days, and we'll have a chance to really talk. I mostly just called him to apologize. You're right. About not giving up his friendship, I mean. When we decided to be friends, we never said girls would come between us. If Doug doesn't want his relationship with Jennifer to end our friendship, then it doesn't have to. He says Jennifer understands. Or she's trying to, anyway." Morgan pulled a face. "Apparently, I have to spend time getting to know her, too. Doug insists I will adore her."

Edward, his secret spoiled already anyway, took out his wand again. I'm glad to hear it, he wrote out. You guys have a really unique friendship that I think the rest of the world would envy. You can't lose that.

Morgan chuckled in response to that. "I think I came close, but we still have a chance." Then his face became very serious. "Not that I don't appreciate the honesty, but why are you being so vehement about it?"

Edward shrugged.

Morgan's smile was sad. "You're one of the envious people, huh?"

Edward shrugged again. Who wouldn't be? Maybe he tended to isolate himself a little bit, but with how hard he was working in the rest of his life, when did he have the time to fight to make up for his disability finding a best friend, too?

Morgan glanced over Edward's shoulder to the computer screen and saw his homework. He shook his head. "You work too hard," he said, seeming to echo Edward's thoughts. "Don't you ever take time off?"

Edward held up his hands in a gesture of helplessness.

"Well, you're taking tonight off," he declared grandly, and grabbed Edward by both wrists to pull him out of his desk chair. "It's only polite when you have company."

When Edward let Morgan pull him up, Morgan didn't let go or move to the side, meaning Edward just sort of ran into him. Morgan held him there, trapped by the wrists.

"Doug's my best friend," he said, looking at Edward with a look Edward had never been given before in his life. "But as far as boyfriends go, he's taken himself out of the running long since. I'm currently looking for someone whose intelligence and work ethic far outstrip my own, someone who's sort of beautiful and sometimes randomly kisses strangers from another country. You know anyone like that?"

Morgan's tumble of neglected hair was hanging in his eyes again, and Edward was close enough to smell the remnants of tomato sauce on his breath. Edward wasn't much used to being talked to like that, but now that he was thinking about it, he supposed he did know someone much like that.