"You didn't miss much," Draco's saying, his eyes darting back and forth between the students passing us. I don't reply, as I'm not sure what to say. 'Good for me?' 'Wonderful?' He doesn't seem to mind my silence; in fact, since I've come back to class he's been determinedly ignoring any mention of my… thing that happened. It's been two weeks since then and Draco's determined to be my wall between our curious classmates and myself.

It's nice, in a strange way. It makes me feel… warm inside. Is that what having a friend means?

"One girl was hurt, but last I heard she left the hospital wing last week so it must not have been too bad."

Wait, someone was hurt? I reach out, lightly grabbing onto Draco's sleeve and tugging a little. He pauses mid-step, tilting his head back enough to see my questioning look.

"Oh, a troll got into the dungeons somehow. We think it's Peeves, but he's not admitting anything. It went into a girl's bathroom and someone was in there. She got out though, the troll ended up stuck trying to chase her out the door. The professors got rid of the troll and took her to the hospital wing."

Huh. I bite my lip a little, nodding to let him know I heard him.

"Did you get my plant?"

I nod, letting a small smile flick across my face.

"Good, I wasn't sure she would give it to you. You owe me, by the way," Draco notes, a frown forming on pale lips. "I went and talked to Professor McGonagall, since I know she talks to your dad a lot. I didn't want to talk to Weasley, and I don't think Professor Snape really likes you enough to deliver a plant."

"Mm," I hum, agreeing. I don't understand why the older man dislikes me, but it doesn't matter. It's not like Aunt, who didn't like me and let me know all the time. Professor Snape is more than happy to ignore me - like Uncle did – instead of having to deal with me.

"Anyway, you owe me because I don't like her. I only talked to her because I like you. So you need to get me a Christmas present, understood?"

I stop walking, my vision wavering for a brief moment, the walls distorting as the words echo in a more feminine voice.

"You need to get me a present, Tom!"

"Are you okay?" Draco's asking me, concern lacing his voice. I shake my head, shrugging a bit and gripping onto his sleeve. He doesn't say anything, but his hand finds my sleeve and grabs back.

The comfort is nice. It keeps me here.

Class is easier to focus on, as we're practicing something the rest of my classmates spent the last week learning. Draco sits with me, helping me catch up with the others. I did the lessons at home, but it's not the same as learning it in class.

"So we're supposed to flick it to the left. Like this," he says, showing me with his wand. I mimic him, my hand jerking to the left as I do so. Draco shakes his head, his hand pushing mine back into place.

"Not so hard. That's a jab. All you need to move is your fingers. Your wrist and arm should stay in place. See?"

He flicks again, slower this time, and I watch how his thumb rolls down across the polished wood, the tip of his wand sliding towards the left as his other fingers extend to hold the handle. He repeats it a couple times, and I try it myself.

The wand falls out of my hand.

"Your fingers should still be holding it. All that you need to do is move your thumb down. Your other fingers will move on their own as the wand pushes against them. But your thumb is still holding the handle."

The third time I get it right, the tip flicking out to the left as the handle of my wand slides across my palm. I look up from my hands, a genuine smile crossing my lips. He nods, returning it with his own.

"Good. Now, start from the beginning and say the spell."

I move my wand back to the 'home' position - the spot where my wand and hand rest naturally when I hold it out straight, and lift it a bit, making a half-circle to the right before flicking left. I open my mouth, but nothing comes out.

And nothing happens.

I let my hand fall back to my side, biting my bottom lip in frustration.

"Don't worry about it. Just practice the movements."

I spend the rest of class silently twirling my wand, a tight feeling forming in my chest.


I sit on the sofa in front of the fireplace, waiting for Quatre to come pick me up from school. There's still ten minutes until he gets here, but it feels like there's hours and hours. Professor Flitwick is standing nearby, talking quietly to an older student. A roll of parchment is clutched in the small man's hand, and he keeps glancing over at the fire.

I think the scroll's for me. Or for Trowa, since if it was for me he'd give it to me, wouldn't he?

I feel agitated - Wufei taught me that word last week - and ready to leave. I don't want to be here, where the eyes and the questions linger right outside my reach, things I shouldn't notice but do.

What happened?

Why did he lose it?

What a freak.

Baby.

That's the weird kid.

Too good to stay in the dorms.

Has to run home to his mummy each night.

Bet he still wears nappies.

The fire flares a rich green, the soot swirling in a small twister as William appears in the fire, stepping out smoothly with only a faint trail of grey settling on the carpet behind him. He reaches out a hand, grabbing Quatre as he spins into focus, tripping slightly before getting his bearing.

"Logic says that should get easier the more I do it…" he mutters, brushing soot off of his clothes absently. William chuckles, patting his hair briefly. A small dust cloud forms around his hand, smearing his skin with the ashes.

"Mr. Weasley, Mr. Winner, may I have a moment of your time?" Professor Flitwick asks, waving farewell to the older kid before stepping towards the sofa I'm on. I don't waste any time sliding to my feet, the straps of my backpack rubbing against my shirt as the weight pulls it down.

"Certainly, Professor," William answers, shaking hands with the tiny man. Quatre raises his arm a little, letting me slide under and wrap my fingers in the loose material of his shirt. The scroll that Professor Flitwick is holding passes to William, who twirls it in his hand once, tilting his head in an unasked question.

"I would like you to pass that to young Mr. Barton's parents, and bring back a reply from them. You might want to stick around and explain any questions they might have. I believe it will make Mr. Barton's performance in classroom exercises more productive and enjoyable."

"Of course. Thank you, Professor," William assures, placing the scroll into a pocket. He turns to me, a smile on his face.

"Ready to go home?" he asks me.

I nod firmly, my fingers clenching tighter into Quatre's shirt.

The swirl of flames surrounds us as we move across the country, back to Quatre's apartment.

Duo says that Quatre's the only person who would have a fireplace in an apartment - I don't understand why that's so strange - but it makes it easier to get to and from school. Trowa doesn't have a fireplace, and Heero doesn't either. But Quatre's apartment doesn't look like a real apartment, like Trowa or Heero's.

It feels more like a house, in that it has an upstairs and a downstairs. Trowa's apartment has a downstairs, but it's not our apartment, it just has apartments in it. There's a basement where Trowa and Duo wash the clothes, but I've never been down there, and it's not part of the apartment either. Quatre has a washroom for clothes, and the kitchen is in a different room than the dining room. One of the rooms is his bedroom, one has a lot of boxes in it, and the last bedroom is pretending to be a library. His living room is really big, which is where the fireplace is. He has a mat in front of it now so we don't get ashes all over the carpet.

"Trowa's coming over here tonight for dinner, so we're going to wait for him. Would- Let's get you a snack," Quatre says, correcting himself. He's trying to not ask me if I want things, instead pretending like I already said yes. I don't like making choices, since I still don't feel comfy asking Quatre for things.

But he lets me help makes the snacks, which I really like.

We end up making celery and peanut butter, and we drink some juice. I finish all my celery by the time Trowa shows up, and by then Quatre's pelting the veggies at William, who's using his wand to make them bounce away from him. I just watch, fascinated and confused.

"Quat, stop attackin' people. It ain't healthy," Duo greets, kicking his shoes off and shoving them to the side. Trowa slides his off neatly, picking up the coat that Duo dropped and hanging it up next to the door along with his own. I leap from the sofa, diving through the flying veggies to latch onto his sweater. I bury my face into his side, breathing in his scent deeply. I relax completely for the first time since I left for school.

He doesn't say hello, or ask me how my day was. Instead, he slides his hand through my hair a couple times, brushing and smoothing it before burying his fingers into the strands, his nails lightly brushing the skin and rubbing a little. The small movements, the little gestures, mean ten times more to me than anything he could have said.

And this is why I don't think words are so important. Doing is much more real, much more honest. Words lie.

Words hurt.

"Here, David's professor gave me a letter today to pass on. He asked you to read it while I was present, which probably means he went overboard on details," William interrupts, handing over the scroll. Trowa doesn't remove his hand from my hair, taking it with his free hand and breaking the seal with his thumb. A flick of his wrist has the parchment unraveling, and he holds it up slowly, his eyes quickly moving across the page. He quickly snaps his hand up, the parchment following his movement before being snagged between two fingers, folding the paper and 'closing it' once again.

"Understandable. Can you explain what lessons this might entail?"

"I have no idea what it's about," William admits, and Trowa leads us over to one of the sofas, sitting down to the right as I climb up on the left, his hand sliding out of my hair to wrap around my shoulders. I rest my head against his chest, closing my eyes and listening to the steady thud-thud of his heart.

Trowa passes the parchment over to William, letting the older man read it. I listen to the crinkling of the parchment, the beating of Trowa's heart, and the sounds of Quatre keeping Duo entertained in the kitchen as William reads whatever's written on the parchment.

"Huh, I wasn't expecting that," he finally says, and I open my eyes at his words. He sets the parchment onto the sofa next to him, folding his fingers together and leaning back, his left leg rising to rest against his right knee.

"So… do you understand what is being asked?"

"I understand the question, but I don't understand what is different, and why it would require separate lessons outside of his normal schedule."

I have no clue what they're talking about, but it doesn't bother me. If Trowa wants me to know, he'll tell me. William doesn't seem to think the same thing though, as his eyes drop down to look at me.

"David, your professors think you should learn to cast magic silently."

I blink, unsure of why he's telling me this. What's so special about it? The way that William said it, I'd think it was some mysterious or special thing. It just sounds… weird.

Like me.

I slump down, my head falling into Trowa's lap. I bury my face against his thigh, relaxing as Trowa's hand starts running through my hair again, petting me and soothing my mind.

"Silent casting isn't normally taught until the sixth year curriculum; it's an advanced method usually reserved for when students have a solid concept of regular spellcasting established. Not everyone is capable of it, either. But with some of David's challenges they are hoping that it will be able to help him in the classroom. Professor Flitwick observed him in Charms today; he had the wand movement down perfectly but couldn't cast the spell due to his current desire to speak. This would bypass that need to have an incantation, instead drawing on the intent of the spell and voicing it internally."

"He wouldn't be required to speak when learning, then," Trowa confirms, a thoughtful note entering his voice. He taps lightly against my head, prompting me to turn and look up into the green eyes that taught me trust.

"Would you be interesting in learning that, David? It means you'll have some extra classes, and might have to stay later at school."

I hum lightly, voicing my own thoughtfulness. The painful feeling in my chest during class, having finally gotten the movements right thanks to Draco, but unable to show him how well he taught me… I wouldn't have to live through that.

I wouldn't have to be a bad student anymore.

I don't have to nod, or even give an answer. Trowa seems to have seen what I want, and he voices it for me.

"I believe…" he starts, his hand caressing the side of my face, "that it is a good idea. Please let the school know that I give my permission for the extra lessons."


A/N: Woo! It took forever, but here's another chapter. Thanks to all of those who've been patiently waiting… as well as those who've been harassing. A great big THANKS! to Ro, as usual, for translating my brain into legible text. Now to get back to editing my manuscript... What happened to my free-time?

ALT