Written for what_the_fruk's October Lovefest! I wrote for lost_hitsu's prompt: Harry Potter AU, where France's Patronus Charm is a lion, while England's is a rooster. Yes, I am a sucker for HP AU's.
If there is one thing in the entire world Arthur cannot, at that moment, stand, it is the sound of some half-wit Hufflepuff's laughter. Do not misunderstand: Arthur, despite being a Slytherin, does not hate those simply because of their house placement. There are many he may tolerate (tolerate, it should be noted, does not automatically mean like) that come from all the other Houses, and there are many Slytherins he simply cannot stand. This one Hufflepuff, though….
Sometimes he wonders just how the letch didn't get put into Slytherin on grounds of perversion alone. And why was he at Hogwarts? He should have stayed in France!
"R-really, Arthur!" Francis begins laughing again. "Really? The top student of our year, unable to cast this spell!"
Arthur feels his eyebrow begin to twitch in annoyance, and his blood pressure begin to rise. His fists clench, and his teeth gnash together as he attempts to plaster something of a smile on his face. (It's not working.) "Oh, shut it!" he demands, shoving his robe's sleeves up—a futile action. "I'll get it this time!"
Francis's laughter dies down, but there's still a twinkle in his eyes as he sits back and grins up. "Oh, je crois en toi. Encore, encore," he says. Arthur's not entirely sure what he said, but it did sound sarcastic, so it must have been mean. Or something. Arthur snaps his gaze away, focusing on the clearing before them. He fixes his grip on his wand – 10.5 inches, Holly, solid, and Unicorn hair, thankyouverymuch – and takes a deep breath….
And receives nothing except for some of Francis's laughter once more; albeit calmed down some. Arthur glares at the pathetic, limp wisp of silver that hangs from the tip of his wand, and quickly swashes it away. "I will hex you into the next century if you don't stop that!" To strengthen his threat, Arthur points his wand between Francis's eyes. The violet eyes cross themselves and although Francis stops laughing, he's still grinning.
"Arthur, Arthur," he begins. Almost, though, Arthur sees something of worry, or pity, flash in Francis's eyes. (What on Earth for? Just his shoddy performance?) "You are forgetting one important thing. You need a happy memory for this to work. All your spell-casting is telling me is that you've never been happy."
Arthur scowls, lowering his wand. For a moment – maybe more – their stares connect. Arthur can feel his face warming, but also a chill takes him over. Francis is staring at him with an intensity that should just never be, so Arthur crosses his arms in defense. His nose scrunches, his frown deepening and his eyebrows narrowing. "That's—that's ridiculous! Of course I've been happy before!"
"Clearly not enough. Here. Let me demonstrate how this is supposed to work, since you seem to be having issues with it." Francis stands up, shaking his arms out as he draws his wand before him. Arthur watches on, wondering what a frog is doing correct that he isn't, but he studies Francis regardless. Bah—that happiness talk is just a load of tosh, isn't it? Perhaps it's just a flick of his wrist, or some odd technicality.
Finally, Francis utters, "Expecto Patronum!" and from his wand erupts a lion. It just kind of seems to … leap out, paw at the earth, and lay down, as if it knows there is no danger. Yet, though a manifestation from Francis's wand, it's staring Arthur down like it's trying to prove something as its tail flicks back and forth. It's a large, male, feline beast; regal, strong.
"Wait a tick. The lion is my nation's symbol! How dare you steal it!"
At Arthur's yelling, the cat slowly sits up and—is it honestly narrowing its gaze at Arthur?
"Non, non, non. I did not steal it. One does not choose their patronus." Like a madman (Arthur is sure of this, regardless), Francis approaches the lion, and scratches behind its ears. As if the beast is a normal housecat! (Thinking on it, though, Arthur is unsure if he'd rather take his chances with the lion, or Mrs. Norris….) He can feel his face pale.
"Wh-what kind of happy thoughts give you a lion!"
"It is as I said!" Francis exclaims with a roll of his eyes. "You do not choose your patronus. Its strength, though, depends on how happy your memory is. If you are going to truly face a Dementor, you will need it."
Arthur mumbles to himself, giving one last glance to the lion. Mine will be greater…! he thinks. Far greater than his! A dragon! That will show Francis and … and his stupid lion…! Determination set, strong, Arthur practically yelled out the spell this time.
Unfortunately, its only effect was to shoot the silver wisps like a bullet across the distance, somewhere into the trees of the forest. Arthur winces, hearing Francis sigh.
"While having the determination is very important, you must still have—"
"A happy memory; yes, I know! Bugger off, will you?" Arthur hunches his shoulders, his fists tightening once more. Happy memory. He had happy memories! He did! They'd just … been taken away, kind of. He can't use family memories, as he and none of his brothers ever properly really … got on. He has some acquaintances, sure, and he'd had a friend until just recently. …His only real friend. They'd had marvelous times together, but Arthur can't dwell much on that without becoming depressed.
Francis…. How does he describe Francis?
Francis is more than an acquaintance, but not quite a friend. That is to say, he's there when Arthur really needs him, but not necessarily to just hang out. The only reason they are actually doing any of this now is because Arthur threatened to deduct points from Hufflepuff, and no one knows better than the Hufflepuffs just how much they need those points.
"If you somehow find a memory, then I promise to treat you on the next Hogsmeade trip—everything. Food, drink, candies; anything."
At first, Arthur's still processing what Francis says – he does lay the accent on thick at the most inconvenient of times – but then it hits him what Francis actually said. Treat him at Hogsmeade. Like it was a—
"Hmph. Only because I shouldn't be spending much more of my money!" Face slowly darkening in pink and red hues, Arthur swiftly turns and tries keeping the grin off of his face. Why on earth is he grinning? Ah, it is no matter—he has to think of a happy memory, and fast. Unfortunately, no matter what he tries to dredge up, the only thing present in his thoughts is that of Francis's promise. Maybe … by all technicalities … it counts as a memory. It's certainly the happiest he's had in a Very Long Time. Even if it's not strong enough, it's still something.
So Arthur clears his throat, keeping the memory to himself, and casts the spell one more time.
There's a flash of silver, and after a moment of pure silence, Arthur (and Francis) look at the creature that has come forth. It's nothing large; nothing demanding respect. Rather it's just….
"A God-damned rooster!"
If Francis's laughter earlier had been annoying, it was nothing to his laughter now. He's holding his gut tightly, laughing, and it's quite possible that tears may be forming. Arthur's face is red with embarrassment, now, and he crouches down to almost level himself with the rooster, muttering, "I want to die…."
The lion has since dissipated into thin air, but the rooster…. The rooster is strutting along, head turning every which way. Its talons appear sharp, though they have no effect on the ground beneath them.
"You blame me of stealing national creatures, yet here you are with the French," Francis says, trying to calm down some. After a deep breath (or five), Francis sits himself next to Arthur as the rooster walks along, never straying more than a yard away. "Mon ami, the rooster is not so bad. Why, if it was as foolish as it seems, the French would not have adopted it!"
"Seems to fit the French just fine. Cocky, walking around like you own the place."
"You cannot deny that you hold those qualities to some extent, yourself."
"Shut up!" Arthur exhales harshly. He goes to open his mouth to say something else, but,
"What memory did you finally use?"
Arthur stops, dispelling the rooster's apparition. "None of your business, Frog! My memories are for me—not you." Though he glances away, Arthur can still feel Francis direct the slightest hints of a smile towards him. It warms Arthur, though he'll never admit it for as long as he's alive (or dead, even).
Francis lays a hand in the middle of Arthur's back. For just a moment, Arthur tenses, but relaxes after a moment of it lying there. Francis stands, and perhaps it wasn't his intent, but Arthur can't help but hope that maybe Francis had let his hand rest there just because instead of as a prop to help himself stand.
They walk back inside together, avoiding Mrs. Norris, and parting ways at the staircase.
"Next week is the next Hogsmeade trip. I managed to do it; you promised."
"Ouais, ouais. I was hoping you would forget."
The two look at each other, almost as if there's some kind of challenge either is supposed to be winning. Nothing is said, and both nod to each other in awkward parting. Both turn, going their separate ways, and just before they're out of hearing distance of each other, Francis says, "The rooster is a proud creature; I would be honored."
Arthur stumbles just a bit, turning around just in time to see Francis's robes flap around the corner, out of sight. Blushing heavily, he hurries towards the Slytherin common room, and hopes that pretty soon, he'll have many more happy memories.
Some extras: "Je crois en toi," means, "I believe you/I have faith in you." He's just being kinda sarcastic and, well, French.
I love HP AU's, have I ever mentioned that? Don't confuse this to be part of the other HP AU's. Those are USUK, and therefore don't fit together with this. :) Eeee! I'm so excited! My first FrUK fic. =w=