When He's Not Looking
A HariPo oneshot
Note: The Harry Potter characters belong to J.K. Rowling, not me. I like that I can't stay away from slash. XD Read, review, and enjoy! *Written for our dancing days for the Gift-Giving Extravaganza 2013 forum with the prompts forte, landslide, "I'm not a hero. Just a little bit heroic. In some ways…aren't we all?", vacant, & "For the good of humanity. If somewhat indirectly." & the pairing Justin/Ernie.
"Got ants in your pants?"
Justin looked over to Ernie, Hannah, and Susan and found all their eyes on him. Judging by Ernie's slightly parted lips, he'd been the one to ask. "What? No, of course not."
Ernie shrugged. "Could've fooled me, Justin. You look ready to skitter out."
"Well…" The brunette wizard sighed, but the tension didn't leave his shoulders. He felt wound up, tight, like a spring waiting to pop. Justin had been in hiding with his parents, but he hadn't been able to ignore the D.A. call for long. He'd hidden his parents away—sent them to live with his Muggle cousins in America for now—and then he'd embarked on this suicide mission to fight by his friends' sides. But he'd been in the castle for a few days and already he felt helpless. "I know why we're hiding out here, in the Room of Requirement…"
"But?" Susan prompted.
"But, I feel as though we could be doing good elsewhere. Like, in our dorms." Justin knew his panic was coming through on his face as the girls exchanged a look. "The underclassmen probably have no idea what's really going on, and the youngest must be terribly frightened."
To their surprise, Ernie gently laughed. When they continued to stare, he elaborated, "Sorry, sorry… It's just—classic Jus, am I right?" He raised his eyebrows with a smile, and it wasn't long before Hannah and Susan caught his smile.
Justin ended up smiling as well, for that was Ernie's effect. Ernie liked to exaggerate things sometimes, but he also enjoyed making light of situations, a pastime that had helped as of late.
"However," Ernie added as they watched Zacharias man the entrance and be a look-out as Parvati helped a limping Seamus over to Neville, "while it's nice to be bold, you've got to understand that we've all got our limits, Justin."
He nodded in response and didn't look at Ernie's light eyes. He knew that slightly reprimanding tone of Ernie's, and very well. It was the same tone he'd heard first in second year when Ernie and Hannah had told him to look out for Harry when everyone had thought Harry to be the Heir of Slytherin. It was the same tone he'd heard in third year when Ernie had told him all about Sirius Black and other Dark wizards, because, being a Muggle-born, Justin had had no idea how dangerous the Wizarding world could be.
It was also that same very tone Ernie had used when, during the Yule Ball in fourth year, Ernie had told him quietly yet assertively that he would've preferred dancing with Justin than with any of the other witches there.
Justin felt the heat rising in his cheeks at that memory, because he knew Ernie didn't often use that tone with him, but it had changed a bit after fourth year. In fifth year, Ernie had told him quite seriously that time had to be set aside not only for O.W.L.s preparation but for fun, too. In sixth year, when it felt as though hormones had arrived at Hogwarts, Ernie had elaborated on exactly what "fun" meant.
But this year, first through letters and now in person since they were face-to-face once more, Ernie only ever used that tone when trying to remind Justin how important it was to Ernie that Justin stay safe.
"I think I'll go help with Seamus," Justin said abruptly, getting up before Ernie stared at him long enough for Justin to give in—Merlin knew what would happen, even in a room full of people. Hannah and Susan, oblivious to that, protested and suggested he try to sit and clear his mind, but Justin knew that wouldn't work. Doing something, being helpful—that would.
Night came and, with it, the night watches. Justin and Ginny kept an eye on the entrance while the other D.A. members and defected students slept.
"Well, most of them, anyway," Ginny whispered to him. She yawned loudly. "Sorry."
He shook his head. "No worries. You should get some sleep. Wake Neville or Luna."
Ginny smiled. "Wake them? That implies they'd been asleep at all. No, knowing them, they've been planning. Seamus, Parvati, and Padma, too, I bet. Even Michael."
"Still, someone must've been sleeping. Go wake someone up, Ginny. I'm still good out here."
"Are you sure?" she asked, even though she already looked rather grateful.
"I've got it," came a quiet voice. Around the corner column, Ernie appeared. He jerked his thumb over his shoulder. "Hannah, Susan, Mandy, Morag, Lavender, and Romilda managed to get the room to conjure up some new blankets made of some funky but ultra-soft material. Might as well go claim a spot in the mound," he offered.
Justin could tell how tired Ginny really was, for her eyes lit right up. "Oh, Godric, that sounds like heaven right now. Good night!" She hurried off for the impromptu slumber party, and Ernie took her post…somewhat closer to Justin than she had been, though.
"Nice one," Justin told him. "Hannah or Lavender's idea, am I right?"
Ernie shrugged. "Don't care, though I'll say that it was hard to get up. The blankets really are nice."
"Yet you still woke."
"Of course." Ernie turned to him. "You worry me, you know."
Justin looked back at him. "Why?"
"With your talk of wanting to protect the rest of the students. I don't blame you for it; any of the rest of us would probably say the same thing. Hell, we're probably all thinking about it right now. But still…" Ernie frowned. "You go back and forth. Wanting to be out there. Acknowledging that it's safer in here—which it is, of course, but…" He shook his head. "I worry because I never know if you're going to be there when I wake up or when I look around."
Justin's chest felt tight. Agh, why couldn't Ginny have refused Ernie and gotten someone else to take her post? Listening to Ernie's words was almost as bad as looking into his eyes—Justin would crumble into non-functioning pieces if he gave in. "Maybe you're just being overprotective," the other badger remarked.
Ernie easily draped an arm around Justin's shoulders. "Can you really blame me?" His words were very near, but Justin closed his eyes, determined not to meet that gaze. That wouldn't do anything about the soft kiss that brushed his cheek, though.
Justin was ready to explode. He couldn't focus with Ernie around. "I think I need some sleep, too," he mumbled, slipping out of Ernie's arms.
Ernie held on to his hand for a moment longer. "Justin," he said delicately, "you've barely stood me since you arrived in this danger zone that the castle's become. Has running from me become your forte?"
But the other boy didn't answer as he finally tugged himself free and tagged Padma for watcher duty.
The following day wasn't any better for the group of beleaguered students. Seamus had gotten injured again, so badly that he could barely move from the couch on which Terry and Neville placed him. Dean fretted about his best mate while Hannah, Neville, and Susan talked about which plants would help his current injuries best…and which plants they could get without running in to more trouble.
"That's going to be one of us Hufflepuffs one of these days," Zacharias declared warily while he, Justin, Ernie, and Wayne looked on.
"So?" Wayne said, his gray eyes coldly defiant as he shook his head. "The way I see it, everything we get is a badge of honor, something to wear proudly." He moved his right arm freely, the arm which had only healed a few days ago when Dean and Luna had showed up, because the bad break the Carrows had given Wayne had made the Skele-Gro take longer to work. "Besides, we don't have to do this on our own—we've got each other. I'm not a hero. Just a little bit heroic. In some ways…aren't we all? And that's good enough for me."
His words shut Zacharias up for the time being, but Justin got the feeling that, when the time came, Zacharias probably wouldn't fight. Zacharias preferred living over fighting and dying.
As the day fell into evening, more of them went out in support of Harry, and more of them returned. Padma was only slightly injured, but Neville looked as though someone had beaten him to a pulp. His face was so badly marked and purpled that he was almost hard to recognize.
"I dunno about you lot, but I've got a good feeling about tonight," Neville said—or, Justin assumed that's what he said. His speech was slightly slurred as a result of his swollen face.
"Neville, you always have a good feeling about every night," Ernie said with a roll of his eyes, and the light poke at him got everyone to laugh a bit.
"No, it's true this time! Tonight's different." Beside him, even Ginny looked hopeful.
"Yes, well, it's May already, so let's see if we can make it to the end of the school year first, eh, Neville?" Parvati suggested. The room fell quiet and grim, but everyone agreed with the sentiment.
For the rest of the night, Ginny and Luna led the others in practices of the various spells Harry, Hermione, and Ron had taught them just two years before. Some of the younger students were brand-new to the magic, but luckily a few of them took easily to it. There still weren't many corporeal Patronuses, but any was good at all, and the Shield Charms in general were improving, as was the quick wand work.
Dinner from Aberforth arrived late, so Neville went to consult him, and everyone hoped that things were all right. "Maybe Neville was right fer once," Seamus said with a bit of skepticism.
Justin felt his pulse quicken. For once, he also felt what Neville and Ginny had been expressing. He caught Ernie's gaze out of the corner of his eyes…and quickly looked away. Ernie had seen it in his face, no doubt.
Hannah said something to Ernie before Ernie marched over to Justin and made it so they stood near the others in such a way that Justin couldn't escape talking with him. "I see that look on your face, Jus," Ernie said without looking at him.
"Don't give me that vacant stare," Ernie groused, shooting him a look. "You know exactly what I mean. You've got that hero look on your face. The same one you had yesterday when you talked about saving the other Hufflepuffs."
Justin sighed. "You said that was 'classic Jus.'"
"I meant the indecisive part of you was. Please." Ernie's voice dropped to an almost whisper. "Please, don't do anything reckless."
"I won't. I'm not a Gryffindor."
"Then, if things get bad, stick by me, so I can be sure of that."
Justin's heart swelled. He understood why Ernie wanted things that way, but he knew he couldn't fight if that were the case. Because, if he stayed by Ernie the whole time, he'd care only about ensuring their safety and nothing else. And Justin just couldn't do that—he couldn't. He couldn't stomach the thought of letting everyone else down to save only his loved one. So he shook his head. "Ernie…"
"I can only fight if I know you're safe."
Justin opened his mouth to retort…but then everything happened so fast.
Neville was back—with Harry, Hermione, and Ron.
They said things were going to happen tonight. Harry asked about something called a diadem and they were told to contact the Order of the Phoenix and then the whole school was being summoned to the Great Hall and the D.A. had to get ready and get into position and then some of the graduates like the Weasley twins and Wood and Chang and others were back to fight alongside them and then Harry announced his presence—
—and all hell broke loose.
It was a frantic fight.
Spells of all colors and sizes flew left and right, up and down, sideways and back, around and about.
Where one Death Eater fell, two more students went down with him.
McGonagall tried her hardest to gather as many of the younger students and lead them out before she joined the fray.
Neville and Seamus had blown up the bridge.
The Weasley twins and Lee Jordan had taken command of the secret passageways.
Wood led an aerial assault with other Quidditch players, former and current.
Trelawney threw crystal balls from her tower.
Students and adults alike ran screaming this way and that.
And the first thing Justin did…was separate from Ernie, Hannah, Susan, Wayne, Zacharias, Megan, Leanne, and Eloise. Because he could fight if he didn't know if his school family was dead or not.
He huffed as he descended the staircase. He'd gone up to defend Gryffindor Tower with Parvati, Terry, and Anthony, but they'd been forced to flee. They'd taken care of a few Death Eaters on their own, but Anthony had been killed. So Terry and Parvati had left to help with the tunnels, and Justin went to fight in the courtyard.
Hours passed. Many things happened, but Justin wasn't sure of all of the events. Everything zipped by at high speeds to him until night became morning, and the castle grew eerily quiet.
The next thing he and everyone around him knew, Voldemort was announcing that Harry Potter was dead.
Well, that didn't make sense.
Naturally, everyone pooled into the inner courtyard, where Voldemort faced them and claimed he would now control all of Wizarding Britain. Justin fought his way to the front, as much of Dumbledore's Army had. To his right he saw Dean, who looked just as shocked as any of the rest of them.
Together, they watched as Neville defied the Dark Lord, and it seemed to happen in slow motion—Voldemort's taunts, the reappearance of Malfoy, the laughs of the Dark wizards and witches, the Order members looking defeated but still trying to come up with a way out of this.
And then, that serpent Nagini was beheaded by a true Gryffindor, and things once more turned into a giant blur.
The spells were deadlier, Harry apparently was alive, Bellatrix Lestrange was killed in the Great Hall by Mrs. Weasley, and Greyback was knocked unconscious by debris in a landslide of castle rubble. Some comrades fell—Professor Lupin and his wife, Fred Weasley, and others. More Death Eaters went down—Dolohov in addition to Bellatrix, thank Merlin.
Justin focused on disarming and charming their enemies. It was all he could do not to look at the uniformed bodies dressed in sapphire, ruby, and gold.
Things came to a halt when Harry at last faced Voldemort in the Great Hall, taunting him as well as he was taunted. They appeared to dance until the Dark Lord finally aimed to kill the Boy-Who-Lived once and for all, and all Harry did was defend against it. And that was enough.
It was over.
"There's, um, Fred, of course…" Padma swiped at her tears as she added, "We've all seen Professor Lupin by now. Revered Rowena, I heard he and his wife only just had a baby…"
Justin hugged his friend. "And the others?"
"Take a look for yourself," the eagle said, gesturing. "Lavender's alive—for now. Greyback got her, and my sister's a mess. Can't blame her. You said that Tony died…" Her sobs grew anew, and he held her tighter.
"Megan and Leanne…" Hannah's voice was so hollow that it spooked Justin. He turned and saw her standing with Luna, who had a very bad limp and held on to Hannah's arm for support. "…they didn't make it," she finished.
Justin's heart jumped into his throat. "Sue? And Eloise? Wayne, Zach, and—" He couldn't finish. He couldn't ask. He just couldn't.
Hannah grimly smiled. "Eloise is a sobbing mess, and Sue wandered off—Wayne went to look for her. Zach…" She cursed under her breath. "That bloody prat didn't even fight."
"We all knew he wouldn't," he said. He motioned her and Luna towards him and Padma. Hannah hugged his side and rested her cheek on his shoulder, and Luna tugged on Padma's hand for comfort. Randomly, Justin noted that one of Hannah's pigtails was gone. It appeared to him very suddenly, the fact that they weren't kids anymore…
"You should go look for him," Hannah whispered in his ear. She pecked his cheek. "He's my best mate, so heaven help him if he didn't survive. I'll bring him back just to kill him myself, if he was stupid enough to die at the hand of one of those lot."
He said nothing but nodded instead. He broke away from the three witches and left the hall. Justin wanted to find Ernie, but he also wanted to escape all the death.
Susan was crying with Wayne by the Hufflepuff portrait hole. Terry was yelling angrily while Morag and Romilda cried softly, looking on where Anthony had fallen and, apparently, where Mandy had been blasted out, too. Parvati had left Lavender's side long enough to give Zacharias a verbal beating about what it meant to be a part of the D.A. Seamus and Dean were checking on the scattered younger students and rounding them up.
It was not until he reached the Room of Requirement that Justin found Ernie. Ernie wasn't inside. He stood outside, scuffing his shoes on the dusty floor.
"Ernie?" Justin asked.
Only when Ernie's eyes landed on him did the weight of the world lift, and Justin's pace quickened until he crashed into Ernie's chest. Ernie held him tightly and refused to let go, and he didn't seem convinced that Justin wasn't a mirage until he'd snogged the life out of him.
"Others will see," Justin gasped.
"Let them see," Ernie chided. "Let them see that you, I, we are alive, Justin." And he kissed him again and again until it was so ridiculous that Justin had to choke out a laugh.
"Is this payback for my not fighting by your side?"
"Maybe. But the thought of finding you after—it's what kept me going." He tried to squelch Justin's breath once more, but the brunette stopped him.
"So now this is punishment? Or will this save the world?"
Ernie shrugged, though his eyes were dark and sad. They bespoke all that Justin had seen in the past day, all that Justin had felt since the first spell had been cast, and all that Justin had thought since he'd learned of the first friend gone. "Dunno. Maybe it's…for the good of humanity. If somewhat indirectly."
And Justin understood. In spite of all the death and evilness and grief, there was one thing that would keep them moving on. And despite Ernie having said it was best that they understood they all had limits…Justin liked to think that love would help them breach them in the years to come.
Perhaps a little anti-climactic, but I've written a few fics about the blow-by-blow of the war and my head-canon of it (Megan, Leanne, Mandy dying, etc.), and I like to have some of the charries not focus on that, as Justin didn't here. Plus, the focus was meant to be on him and the tiptoeing of his and Ernie's. :') My first time writing them, but it was fun. :'D And the cousins of Justin are obvo OCs, but those who've read my Jamestin fics will know who they are… ;P And there are hints of at least two M&MWPs in here…can you find them? ;] Last rambly thought: I like that Justin ended up being just as panicky as Ernie at the motion of not knowing if Ernie was safe. They're sweet together… :}
Hope you enjoyed this, Cassidy. It actually was something quite different from what I normally write! XD And thanks to Morghen for beta'ing and assuring me this was a good fic! :')
Thanks for reading, everyone, and please review!