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in the fire and the flood

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January, 2018

Grantaire isn’t supposed to be here.

I’m in the wrong bar. That’s Enjolras’s first, wild thought, that maybe he somehow stumbled to the Musain, because that’s definitely Grantaire ducking between tables, glaring in Enjolras’s direction. But no—this is still Saint-Denis, still across the city from the Musain, and Grantaire still isn’t supposed to be here.

Enjolras presses a hand against his pocket, feeling the line of his wand under his fingers. (No, not his wand—not tonight.) He keeps his eyes on Grantaire as he approaches. Grantaire’s got his tattered Hufflepuff scarf wrapped haphazardly around his neck, cheeks and nose raw from the cold. This is Muggle Paris, and even with the clinking silverware and alcohol-fueled laughter filling the bar, Enjolras can hear the wind whipping outside from his seat in the corner. It’s a long walk here from the nearest apparition point.

“Enjolras—,” Grantaire starts.

“Get out of here,” Enjolras says.

Grantaire stops, just shy of the table. Close enough that he could tip his weight against the corner, but not close enough that Enjolras could reach out and touch.

Not that distance mattered. They both have wands, of course. Even if the rest of the bar’s patrons are—presumably—muggles, Enjolras and Grantaire are only one wand flick, one spell, from each other. But Grantaire is peering at him as if he’s seeing Enjolras across a crowded street. Confused, and more than a little annoyed.

“Listen,” Grantaire says. “I know you said—I’m not here to, like, beg, or whatever. But I can tell when you’re about to do something stupid. And it’s a bad time to do something stupid.”

Enjolras’s gaze slips past Grantaire for a second, scanning the crowd—still the same, still what looks like phase two of a bridal shower and scattered groups of muggle students wearing heavy jackets and La Sorbonne hoodies. A lot of them are laughing, leaning against each other, stealing sips of each other’s drinks or stealing heated glances across a table or a barstool. None of them would ever think to check a stranger’s forearm for a skull tattoo, and for a second, something in Enjolras aches.

“Oh, great,” Grantaire continues above him, testy. “Ignoring me. Like two weeks of pointed avoidance hasn’t been enough. I even tried calling you, but knew you were lying when you claimed you knew how to work an iPhone.”

“I know how to—,” Enjolras cuts himself off, but not before his gaze snaps back to Grantaire.

Grantaire grins humorlessly. “So I didn’t accidentally cast muffliato after all.”

He leans in, then, not breaking eye contact. His dark hair falls over his forehead, but Enjolras can still see the pinched line between his eyebrows. “I just came to tell you—since your friends were being ridiculously fucking cagey as well—that—Eponine’s heard more whispers. About you, okay? It’s a trap. Whatever it is you’re planning.”

And—right. Enjolras looks behind Grantaire again. “How did you find me?” he demands. If word got out—if the whole thing was for nothing—

Now Grantaire averts his eyes. He might be blushing, but Enjolras can’t tell, because Grantaire still looks windswept and already pink from the chill. Grantaire holds up his hand as an answer, and Enjolras sees a thin gold chain shift just below his sleeve. He’s not wearing gloves. “It’s still, ah, tuned in to you.”

“Oh,” Enjolras says, and for a moment he forgets to snap. Then, correcting: “All right, well, you’ve said what you wanted to say. I’ll ask you to please be on your way, then.”

Grantaire drops his hand, gripping the edge of the table. “Will you listen to me for once,” he hisses. And Enjolras makes the mistake of glancing behind him again, checking that no one is paying attention to the tension in Grantaire’s shoulders, or the way his knuckles are going white on the table, and Grantaire notices. His eyes widen. “Oh,” he says. “Fucking hell. It’s here, isn’t it. It’s happening here.”

Enjolras’s own hand dips into his pocket, ready to grab his wand. “Leave.

“Did you hear what I just told you? Did that penetrate your absolutely inflated sense of self-confidence even one bit? It’s a fucking trap.”

“Grantaire,” Enjolras says, and doesn’t finish, because that’s when he finally does see something in the crowd. Three people—two men, one woman, all pale and purposeful and dressed far, far too light for the wind chill outside. Just as Montparnasse had described them.

Enjolras presses his lips together as the man in front looks at him, tilting his head. He murmurs something to the woman on his right, then crosses the aisle toward Enjolras’s table. Enjolras forces himself to hold still, to uncurl his fingers from the wand in his pocket.

“There you are,” the man says, like he’s the one who’s been waiting and Enjolras has just stumbled into the bar. And if Enjolras didn’t know who he was by description alone, that would’ve confirmed it. This is Sebastian Raúl. Dark hair, flat eyes, a smile that makes Enjolras want to punch something. His cuffs are rolled back, and Enjolras can see the tendril of a tattoo on his forearm. Like he’s flaunting it. (And what’s what they do, don’t they? They wear their marks proudly, instead of hiding under robes or hoods or hushed voices. Like they’ve reinvented a school of thought—make magic pure again—instead of redressing the same fucked-up ideals of their predecessors.)

(For a moment Enjolras wants to toss the whole plan and hex Sebastian into oblivion, get him away from the laughing muggles and the cozy tables and Grantaire, statute of secrecy be damned.)

He takes a sharp breath. Lets it out. “Sebastian.”

Grantaire is staring at him. Enjolras doesn’t look his way, doesn’t give him any sign, hoping that’s sign enough.

But— “Thought this was a private meeting,” the woman says to Sebastian, but she’s looking at Grantaire. Grantaire had been looking between the three strangers and Enjolras, but now his gaze catches on Sebastian’s wrist. The rolled-up cuffs.

“Ah,” Sebastian says. “Who is this, then, Enjolras?”

“He’s no one,” Enjolras says, trying not to flinch at his name in Sebastian’s mouth.

“Actually, I am someone,” Grantaire says, speaking to Sebastian’s forearm. “And Enjolras and I were just leaving.”

Sebastian laughs, eyes wrinkling, and for a moment he could’ve been one of the bar patrons, a well-dressed university student here to relax after an exam. “Right,” he says, “of course.”

The other two shift. Enjolras has just enough time to meet Grantaire’s eyes—just enough time to see Grantaire’s hand go for his wand—when Sebastian says, “Imperio,” casually, like he’s commenting on the cold, and everything goes overwhelmingly, blissfully blank.

 

***

January, 2017

The first thing Grantaire ever said to Enjolras was, “You know, I don’t think that’s quite your style.”

Enjolras was in quite a lot of pain at the time, so all he could manage was a noise of disbelief somewhere in the back of his throat, and then— “Excuse me?”

Luckily, Combeferre cut in, shifting the brunt of Enjolras’s weight to Courfeyrac as he stepped forward, wand gripped tight. “Are you Henri Grantaire?”

The man—Grantaire—was still frowning at Enjolras when he said, “Yeah,” like he wasn’t all that concerned with the wand in Combeferre’s hand. The room was dark, lined with shelves, shadows of various shapes and sizes looming from all sides. The window said Pawn Shop in weathered green letters, the rest of the name too small or peeled to make out in the darkness. Enjolras couldn’t get a good look at Grantaire himself in the darkness, either, not that he was trying too hard at that moment. Brown eyes, he thought, maybe. Some sort of striped scarf.

“We have a mutual, ah, friend,” Combeferre said, the slight purse of his lips the only thing betraying the tension of the situation.

“Montparnasse,” Grantaire said, and sighed. He flicked his wrist—Combeferre drew his wand up—but it was just a light at the tip of Grantaire’s wand. “Well, let’s see it, then. Back here, though, people like to gawk in shop windows, even outside regular business hours.”

He beckoned them to a back room. Enjolras grit his teeth as he tried not to stagger. Blackness had started to swirl in the corners of his eyes before they came inside, and it was only getting worse.

Grantaire flicked a switch as they entered the back, flooding the room with light. Enjolras winced. Muggle bulbs—there was always something unnatural about them, yellow, but it was especially sharp with his vision already swimming. This room was even more cluttered than the main shop, but it all seemed incidental, almost cozy, down to the plush carpet with a few singe marks in the corner. Courf guided Enjolras toward a table against the wall, where Grantaire was sweeping away papers and what looked like a collection of very small bones.

“So—,” Grantaire started, and cut off when Courf thrust Enjolras’s arm forward. Enjolras gritted his teeth. “Wow,” Grantaire said, peering down at the bracelet on Enjolras’s arm. It was silver, thick and inlaid with gaudy jewels, and fused to his skin, almost down to the bone. Something dark was spreading outward through his veins, bulging. “Fuck.”

Yeah,” Enjolras snarled.

“Would you be so kind,” Combeferre said quickly, stepping forward, “to try to remove it? Our—mutual friend—says you’re good at curse work. And undoing curse work.”

“I’m getting the sense Montparnasse is not really your friend,” Grantaire said, leaning closer to Enjolras’s arm. “Something about the way you say it. Call it a hunch.”

“Our mutual…contact.” Then Combeferre added, “Please,” and it was the first time Enjolras heard his calm demeanor slip the entire night, even after Enjolras had picked up the bracelet only to find it melting into his skin a moment later. Courf had screamed. Combeferre had just fired off a few measured countercurses and, when that failed, said I’ll take him, you follow me, and whisked Enjolras away with a crack.

“Yeah,” Grantaire said, half-distracted. He reached out and lifted Enjolras’s fingers, and Enjolras jolted, hissing in pain as Grantaire peered at the underside of his wrist. “I should probably ask, are you, ah, evil? Montparnasse has shit taste in ‘contacts.’”

“We don’t want any trouble,” Courfeyrac said. “Or to bring you trouble. But you should probably know that we kind of are trouble. Usually. But not in an evil way.”

“Got it.” Grantaire fumbled for something across the desk, then shoved a chipped mug into Enjolras’s good hand. “Hang on—” He uncapped a vial and poured something in. “Drink that.”

“No.”

“Enjolras,” Combeferre said.

“You think I’m just going to trust—?”

“Listen,” Grantaire said, and now he was moving back from the table to squint down at his carpet. It was purple, Enjolras noted hazily. It didn’t match the curtains on the back wall. “You may look like a bloody Greek god”—Enjolras made a noise of protest—“but I’m, like, ninety percent sure you’re not immortal. That thing’s draining you. The potion’ll slow it down enough for me to work here.” The tip of his wand lit up again, and the carpet started to burn under it, a thin, controlled flame. “Do it or don’t, but I feel like your friends brought you here because they prefer you alive.”

The flame moved as Grantaire stepped around the carpet, almost like a dance, scorching a large, looping pattern into the fibers. Enjolras glanced down into the mug—his vision swam again—and he brought it to his lips.

The liquid burned going down, and he coughed, the mug’s contents sloshing as he covered his mouth. “That’s—whiskey.”

“Ah,” Grantaire said, “whoops. Forgot that was in there. It’s fine, it’ll give the potion an extra kick.”

This was, by far, the worst—and weirdest—rescue of Enjolras’s life. And he was counting the time with the bears and Bahorel’s motorcycle.

Courf pressed the mug back to his lips. Enjolras drank, big gulps that rivaled the fire in his arm. By the time he’d drained the mug, Grantaire was finished doing whatever he was doing on the carpet. It looked almost like a sun burnt into the carpet, odd sigils extending from the main circle like rays.

Grantaire stepped outside the markings and lifted his gaze to Enjolras. His eyes were dark, darker in the shadow of his bangs. Enjolras realized his scarf was old, faded yellow and black, with some sort of half-covered crest peeking out of the folds. The stripes tilted, jumbling into each other, and Enjolras blinked hard, refocusing on Grantaire’s eyes.

“All right, then,” Grantaire said, gesturing grandly at the center of the markings. “In you go.”

“Explain,” Combeferre said, even as Courf led Enjolras forward.

“You’ve got—no, not you, just Apollo in here,” Grantaire said, shooing Courf out of the markings. Enjolras stumbled, struggling to stay upright. “Anyway. You’ve got a spirit in that bracelet. Or, part of one, I should think. It’s been warped into a curse, trapped in the object itself. So we’re going to exorcise it.”

“I’ve got,” Enjolras said slowly, “a ghost inside me?”

“Not really, and not yet. You can sit, by the way,” he added, and Enjolras sat. The carpet was soft against his hand when he braced himself.

Grantaire crouched by the markings, his back to Combeferre, which Enjolras thought was either very brave or very stupid, given the way Combeferre was watching all of this with a death grip on his wand. “Just stay there,” Grantaire told Enjolras, and then touched the tip of his wand to the markings. The markings lit up, almost like they were burning again, but Enjolras didn’t feel any heat. Grantaire was murmuring something—Latin, Enjolras thought, but he couldn’t follow it, and he almost laughed, thinking of his father’s insistence that he study Latin because that was what was expected as a pureblood, and here he was, ten years of formal language studies later, and it was gibberish.

(In Enjolras’s father’s defense, he probably never expected Enjolras to drop out of university to fight Neo-Death Eaters, get himself cursed on a Wednesday evening in suburban Paris, and wind up in the back of a pawn shop while a strange man knelt on a singed carpet using Latin to pull a ghost of out Enjolras’s arm.)

Something was happening under his skin. The dark veins, already up past his elbow, seemed to freeze. Enjolras could almost feel the poison—the ghost—whatever it was grinding to a halt. As he watched, squinting hard (and, come to think of it, the difficulty focusing could’ve been just as much the whiskey as the curse, Courf took delight in telling anyone and everyone that Enjolras was an absolute lightweight), the blackness began to creep back down his arm, receding into the bracelet.

There was a buzzing in Enjolras’s ear as the markings on the carpet flared brighter, and brighter. The bracelet, he realized. The bracelet was vibrating, hard enough that it looked blurry, and it glowed too—it burned—Enjolras screamed, and someone else was yelling, maybe Courf again, or maybe Combeferre, even though Combeferre didn’t yell—

And then there was a flash of light, and the bracelet slid off Enjolras’s wrist, hitting the carpet with a dull thump. Light spots danced in Enjolras’s vision, and he could hear himself breathing, ragged and a bit too fast.

“Almost,” someone said—Grantaire—and Enjolras looked up.

For a moment he thought it was another light spot in his vision, but no—there was something above him, dark and formless, hovering at the border of the carpet markings. The markings were still glowing, and Grantaire’s face was thrown into sharp relief, illuminated by the markings below and the harsh electrical light above him. Enjolras could see the sweat beading on his forehead, slipping past his temple, his gaze locked on the floating form.

“Come on, then,” Grantaire whispered, holding up his wand, almost beckoning. Slowly, slowly, the curse dipped, then coiled toward Grantaire’s wand at the edge of the markings. A moment later it had disappeared—into Grantaire’s wand, Enjolras thought, and he knew that should be stranger than it felt, but he was trying to get the world to stop spinning before he started worrying about half-spirits and wands.

The markings flared once more, then extinguished, leaving behind nothing but scratchy, charred lines.

It was silent for a moment. Then— “Enjolras,” Courf said, dropping down beside him, grabbing his arm. Enjolras winced—it didn’t hurt as much as before, but there was an oozing welt around his wrist, so it wasn’t ideal, either. Behind Courf, Grantaire lifted the end of his scarf to mop at his brow.

“Well.” Grantaire tipped forward, picking up the bracelet. It hung from his fingers, lifeless. “This has been educational. If you want my honest opinion, I’d go with something a bit more delicate next time.” He glanced at Enjolras. “Maybe something in gold. Suits you better.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Enjolras said through his teeth, right before passing out.

*

Enjolras went back to the pawn shop a week later, alone this time, a small pouch of galleons tucked into his robes and his hand hovering over his wand pocket as he pushes open the glass door. It’d be rude to show up wand in hand, obviously, but—things were getting more serious every day. Musichetta had sewn anti-hex charms into all their shoes at this point, and Joly had given everyone a travel-pack of common antidote potions for Christmas.

This guy may have saved Enjolras’s life, but that didn’t mean he was a friend.

The bell above the door jingled as he entered, loud in the empty shop. It was the same as before—dusty, cluttered, buzzing with the barely-there hum of muggle electricity—but no Grantaire. Enjolras paused, hand inching closer to his wand.

Then, from the back— “One sec! Don’t take anything, the shop is cursed.” A shuffle, and then Grantaire stuck his head around the doorway from the back room. “Just kidding, obviously, magic isn’t—oh.”

They stared at each other for a moment. Enjolras only had a vague recollection of Grantaire’s appearance from last week, having spent most of his time staring at his wrist and then the ghost that came out of his wrist, but he could still tell that Grantaire looked just as tired now, in the middle of the afternoon, as he did then. Maybe more. There were bags under his eyes and his hair was a mess, like he’d either been napping in the back room (unlikely, given the bags) or had just never gotten around to picking up a comb, ever. In the light Enjolras could see Grantaire’s nose was crooked—broken once, maybe, healed by an amateur—and he was still wearing that black and yellow scarf, tucked firmly down the front of his hoodie.

He looked, honestly, more like he’d wandered into the store after a night of barhopping than someone who actually owned the store, but Enjolras wasn’t here to judge how Grantaire ran his business. (Well. Mostly.)

“Here,” Enjolras said, and pulled the pouch from his robes. Grantaire opened his mouth, but Enjolras tossed it across the carpet before he could say anything.

Grantaire caught it, bracing like he was expecting the pouch to explode. When it didn’t, he frowned and turned it over in his hands. “Nice purse,” he said mildly.

“It’s for you.”

Grantaire raised an eyebrow. “Is it…cursed?”

“What? No.” Something told Enjolras this wasn’t going to be the simple exchange he’d been…well, not expecting, but hoping for, at least. He resisted the urge to clench his jaw. “It’s payment for your services.”

“My services.”

“Getting rid of the curse. The bracelet.” Maybe Grantaire didn’t remember him. Maybe he saw ten cursed bracelet cases a night. “I was here a week ago—”

“I know who you are,” Grantaire said.

Oh. “Then I don’t see what’s so confusing about this. That should be enough to cover any damage to your shop, as well as supplies for whatever was in the—potion you gave me. And I’d like to ask for your discretion on the matter as well.”

Grantaire tossed the pouch back. “I don’t want your money.”

“Then what do you want?” Enjolras demanded.

“Do I have to—? Jesus, what kind of asshole saves someone’s life and then sends them a bill?”

Most privatized healthcare systems, Enjolras thought, but didn’t say, because even he knew he should try to stay on target right now. He tossed the pouch to Grantaire again. “Then consider it a thank you.”

Grantaire was already waving his hand, wandlessly returning the galleons to Enjolras before they even got halfway across the room. “Look, I’m sure with that face and general…state of existence…you’re not used to being told no, but now’s a good time to get some practice. Keep the money. And in the future, consider that it might be bad manners to suggest someone wants to be paid for a basic act of decency.”

Right. Not simple at all. And honestly, Enjolras thought Grantaire was being kind of ridiculous, given that he hadn’t asked for Enjolras to stumble into his shop half-dead, and also his shop was so old Enjolras could see stuffing starting to poke out of the chair behind the muggle cash register.

But maybe Grantaire liked old things, judging by the fraying scarf around his neck.

“Fine,” Enjolras said at last, stiffly. “Of course. I apologize. In that case, I just have to trust that you will be discreet about…what happened.”

“Yeah,” Grantaire said, far too cheerful under Enjolras’s barely-restrained glare. “I guess you will. Good thing I’m a decent person.”

“Right.” Enjolras stood there for another moment, wondering how this whole thing went so horribly off-script, until something dinged in Grantaire’s pocket. Grantaire pulled out a muggle phone, glancing at the screen, and Enjolras took that opportunity to turn and head for the door.

“By the way,” Grantaire said, “what did happen?”

Enjolras’s hand was on the door, this close to ending the entire conversation. He took a deep breath and turned back.

Grantaire was still looking at his phone, but something about the set of his shoulders told Enjolras he was listening. “With the bracelet,” he continued. “I haven’t seen one like that in—a while.”

Enjolras dropped his hand from the door. “You’ve seen that kind of curse before?”

“Yeah. Once or twice. Always old ones, though. Pureblood heirlooms and shit.”

Enjolras made a mental note to check his parents’ attic for possessed jewelry, if he ever went back. “Can you tell me anything more about it?”

Now Grantaire looked up. “See, there,” he said. “That’s what you should’ve come here for in the first place. Asking about the curse, not trying to buy my silence.”

“Can you?” Enjolras repeated, trying very, very hard not be sharp.

“Yeah.” Grantaire pocketed his phone and leaned back against the doorjamb, gaze slipping between Enjolras and the window, like he was tracking people walking by. “You usually find them in bunkers or caches from the war. Booby trap kinda things, some sort of magic bottled up and waiting to spring on the first person to touch it. Like, a soda that’s been shaken, it’s gonna spray the first person who pops the tab.”

“A soda,” Enjolras repeated. He thought that was a type of muggle drink, or maybe a household cleaning agent. He made a quick mental note never to shake it, whatever it was.

Grantaire nodded, gesturing with both hands in a way that might’ve been miming a soda explosion. He suddenly looked less exhausted. “Simple stuff, really. Curse something expensive-looking, and a thief or auror or anyone else who isn’t supposed to find the place is likely to pick it and, well. Evil bracelet, dead thief. The spirit was a nice touch on yours, though, that was new.”

“So wizards make these deliberately,” Enjolras said, and felt his hands curl into fists. He’d suspected as much, but still thought—maybe it wasn’t to this point yet. Maybe this was a fluke, somehow. “And if one shows up on a muggleborn’s doorstep in suburban Paris, there’s a good chance it’s not an accident.”

“Pretty good chance, yeah.” Grantaire glanced at Enjolras’s hands, then back to his face. “Wait. A doorstep? Really?”

Enjolras nodded tightly.

“Damn,” Grantaire said. He tipped his chin up, resting his head against the wall and studying the ceiling. “Fucking Death Eaters. Heard they were back.”

For a moment Enjolras had nothing to say. Absolutely nothing. It was a new experience for him—and short-lived. “That’s—that’s it? That’s all you have to say? You heard they were back? What kind of reaction—these are Death Eaters we’re talking about.”

Grantaire blinked at him. “I know. That’s what I said. And before you finish pulling out your wand, no, I’m not a sympathizer, and yes, I properly and actively hate their guts. I was just wondering when they were gonna go public, I guess.”

“It’s hardly public,” Enjolras snarled. “They’re still lurking in the shadows, the papers won’t call them by what they really are, just Les Traditionalistes, like we aren’t don’t all know exactly what that means, that it’s short for blood traditionalists, which is just a socially acceptable way of saying pureblood traditionalists, which is hardly a logical leap from Neo-Death Eaters, and yet they’re getting away with existing because we’re letting them present as some sort of political school of thought rather than a genocidal re-genesis—”

He stopped. Grantaire had lifted his head sometime during the rant and was watching Enjolras, eyes slightly wide. Enjolras glanced behind him to make sure someone wasn’t approaching, then looked back. “What?”

Grantaire cleared his throat. “Nothing.” He was fiddling with the end of his scarf, having tugged it free from his hoodie. “Just—nice that you’re so fired up about it.”

Nice?

“Well,” Grantaire pointed out, “most people don’t care at all. Like you just said.”

“They will,” Enjolras said, and he felt something shift at his feet, a swirl of magic kicking up dust from the carpet with the force of his conviction. “There won’t be another Dark Lord. We won’t let it happen.”

“There’s always another Dark Lord,” Grantaire said, quietly. Tiredly.

“Not this time.”

Enjolras stared Grantaire down for another moment, dust dancing in the stream of sunlight between them, Grantaire threading the ends of his scarf between his fingers.

“Well,” Grantaire said, “good luck with that, then.”

Enjolras took a deep breath. Another. The magic died down, dust slowly resettling around him. He bit back a swell of something—disappointment, maybe—and told himself he’d accomplished what he came here to do. Or, he’d done all he could, at least. Either way, there was no reason for him to stay and argue with someone whose reaction to Neo-Death Eaters was simple resignation.

“Thank you again for your help,” Enjolras said, and if his words were clipped, well. “I hope you have a nice day.”

“Yeah. You too. Don’t go picking up any more strange bracelets on your crusade to save the world.”

Enjolras didn’t dignify that with a response, just turned and pulled the door open. He made it to the street this time, the jingle of the shop bells as he left ringing in his mind all the way to the apparition point.

 

***

January, 2018

The Imperius Curse lifts in a basement. Enjolras holds himself still as his mind settles back into his body, cataloguing his surroundings. There’s a television set playing upstairs, muffled and oddly cheerful, and the far wall rattles—a train passing nearby. The carpet beneath his feet is an awful shade of robin’s-egg blue, like an oversized bathmat, and the faint smell of cat litter hangs in the air. Enjolras’s wrists are yanked behind him—locked together with something metal, something that has a faint buzz of magic—and when he shifts his leg he can tell the wand is no longer in his pocket. He expected as much, but still. It takes another breath, two, to quell the instinctive panic of being wandless.

His shoulder aches. He’d given them a struggle in the few moments he could throw the curse—he hadn’t made it easy for them, obviously—but mostly he’d retreated, allowed the Imperius curse to guide his footsteps out of the bar and into a waiting muggle cab. He’ll need his strength, if this goes the way he expects.

He almost forgot about Grantaire.

Of course he’d seen Grantaire stumble into the cab after him, but Sebastian kept Enjolras’s head pointed at his own lap, unable to see where they were going. There wasn’t much of Enjolras’s attention available to register that Grantaire was still there, not with trying to keep his mind clear enough to track the turns, and to remember why it was important to track the turns in the first place. So now, blinking back to awareness, it takes a moment for Enjolras’s brain to catch up. Grantaire, showing up at the bar. Grantaire, trying desperately to tell him it was a trap. Grantaire, reaching for his wand—

Grantaire, huddled and bound in the corner. His right eye is swollen, already purpling on the side, and blood drips from his nose down his chin, dark stains dotting the Hufflepuff scarf. Clearly Grantaire hadn’t been aiming to save his strength under the curse. He’d fought, and lost.

Something hot flashes through Enjolras’s gut. He tears his eyes from the stains and looks up.

“Thank god,” Grantaire says when Enjolras meets his eyes. There’s an edge of hysteria to his voice. “Fucking Christ, I thought—I thought you’d be staring at that carpet all night.”

“How long?” Enjolras asks. He should look around, take in the room more, but he doesn’t move his gaze from Grantaire’s.

“Half an hour. Maybe. They didn’t leave me a watch.”

Enjolras nods. This is—not ideal. Grantaire isn’t supposed to be here. Never supposed to be involved in any of this. He isn’t trained for combat or resistance. He untangles curses for god’s sake, working out of the same tiny shop they found him in, and yeah, he has some friends in questionable places—Enjolras and the ABC included—but Grantaire himself is…not questionable. He doesn’t even believe in the revolution, and here he is, rubbing his wrists raw on enchanted handcuffs in a Neo-Death Eater hideaway with blood on his chin.

“I’m not gonna say I told you so,” Grantaire says, in a way that absolutely implies I told you so. Enjolras shoots him a glare, and Grantaire holds up his bound hands. “I’m just not-saying. But I am curious. Do you have a plan?”

“If I did, I wouldn’t say it out loud,” Enjolras snaps. “I’m sure there’s an Extendable Ear hidden in here somewhere. Not very clever,” he adds in the general direction of the ceiling.

“Oh,” Grantaire says. “Yeah. Of course.” He turns his head and tries to wipe his nose on his shoulder. Now Enjolras does avert his eyes, scanning the room instead. Peeling wallpaper, sagging couch, utility sink in the corner, a television set next to a stack of DVDs on the floor. Enjolras can’t help snorting out loud—it’s ironically muggle for a group dedicated to magical blood purity. Which is always the way, isn’t it?

Grantaire’s silence lasts about thirty seconds. “Is your shoulder all right?”

“What?” Enjolras shifts again and—right. He presses his lips together and does not wince. “It’s fine.”

“Right.”

Despite his best efforts, Enjolras’s gaze drifts back to Grantaire. His knees are pulled up to his chest, and he’s twisting his hands in the cuffs, frowning down at them. There’s already blood smeared on them, his skin red and inflamed.

“Stop that,” Enjolras says.

“It’s a—” Grantaire cuts off, looking at the ceiling, then at Enjolras, then back down. “The cuffs. They’re cursed, you probably already figured that out. Sucking our energy. Took me twenty minutes to sit up. But they’re—” He stops, clenching his teeth as he twists his hands again. His expression is familiar, something that belongs hunched over the back table of his shop. Concentrating. Focusing.

Enjolras’s heart beats in his throat. Don’t, he wants to say. Save your strength. Or, trust me, I have a plan. But he can’t say that, because whoever’s listening in isn’t supposed to know there’s a plan at all. And whatever plan he does have never included Grantaire in the corner, a liability.

But the main reason he doesn’t say anything is because he recognizes Grantaire’s expression. That’s the face of Grantaire on the verge of figuring something out, and Enjolras has seen him puzzle over the same cursed bracelet for weeks. Everything in Grantaire’s life is a scattered mess, a series of trials and errors, except for that face. No curse stands a chance against that face.

Enjolras blinks, hard, suddenly lightheaded. He’s not entirely convinced it’s because of the cuffs.

“Are you—,” he starts to ask instead, hushed, but a noise at the top of the stairs stops him. A door opening. Footsteps—at least three sets, growing louder. In the corner, Grantaire freezes, eyes on the stairwell.

“Ah,” Sebastian Raúl says, once he’s entirely in view. The other two from the bar follow on his heels. Enjolras can see three wands in the woman’s hand—the one he brought with him today, and Grantaire’s. “Finally. We weren’t sure you’d come around this century, I’m afraid Louis laid his spellwork on a bit strong.”

The other man—whose deep green robes don’t hide the mark on his arm at all—smirks.

Enjolras swallows. Breathes. He prepared for this. (He’d prepared to be alone for this.) He knew this might happen, but still—cuffed, cursed, wandless. (Grantaire, bleeding—)

No. He squares his shoulders and sets his jaw, not thinking about Grantaire. Thinking only about the plan, screwed as it was. The goal.

“Let us go,” he says, because he might as well get this over with.

“Sure,” Sebastian says, crossing the room. He stops right in front of Enjolras and reaches down, hooking cold fingers under Enjolras’s chin, forcing him to look up.

Behind Sebastian, Grantaire makes a strangled noise.

The fingers dig in.

“But first,” Sebastian says, “tell us everything there is to know about the ABC.”

 

***

March, 2017

They had a plan.

Enjolras laid out his idea when they were on their second pot of coffee, poring over two different newspapers and three books, quills chewed down to the stems. Courf was concerned, but also eager, a somewhat maniac grin curling at the edge of his lips as he listened. And Combeferre had reservations about everything, but even he admitted this was…good. It could work.

The three of them were in Combeferre’s Rue Deparcieux apartment, two months after the whole bracelet affair, just around the time the burns on Enjolras’s wrist were finally fading into scars. It was late, and they had muffliato cast even though the place was warded to hell and back. (Enjolras was the Secret Keeper, and he thought about that every single day, how they’d somehow gotten to the point where people needed Secret Keepers again. Where Death Eaters were creeping into the news again.)

“You’re sure,” Combeferre said, again, after they’d talked through the initial logistics. He was holding his wand to the coffee pot again, warming up round number three. “You’re sure it’s possible.”

“It says so here,” Enjolras said, shoving one of the books across the table, “and here, in this one, and also here. So, yes.”

“I just wanted to check before we, you know, invest in the ingredients, and also in the absolutely illegal brewing process,” Combeferre said levelly, settling the first book on his knee.

“Oh, he’s running out of reasons to say no if he’s bringing up the whole illegal aspect,” Courf said. He was perched on the back of the couch, a notebook and a self-writing quill hovering in front of him.

“I’m not trying to say no.” Combeferre pushed his glasses back up his nose. He and Courf made quite a pair on the couch, Enjolras thought. They always did. Combeferre was all long limbs and buzzed hair and matching socks, and Courf was about three feet tall (five-four, he’d say testily, whenever anyone made that joke) with wild curls and a whole collection of muggle comic t-shirts. “It makes sense. It does. We know Les Trads are using Veritaserum to acquire blackmail material, getting people under their thumb. Ministry officials. Reporters. Religious leaders. It stands to reason they’ll try the same on us, once they decide we’re a threat. So, yeah. It tracks. Just.” He met Enjolras’s eyes across the table, which was heaped with their research and their plans and everything piece of resistance they’d built so far. “You’re sure. You’re sure about this.”

“I’m sure,” Enjolras said. “Just get me the potion, and I’ll get to work.”

Joly, when Enjolras talked with him the next week, was harder to convince. But they needed him—everyone in the ABC was young, a few years out of school, and none of them were exactly experts in anything (except Courf at flirting, Joly at worrying, Cosette at forgery, Musichetta at navigating muggle transportation, and Combeferre at knowing everything there is to know about moths, for some reason) but Joly was in the middle of a Healing residency at L’Hôpital des Anges and was the closest thing they had to a potions master.

“If it doesn’t work,” Joly had said, holding the vial just out of reach that morning, “or if you experience any side effects—itching, wheezing, babbling—”

“Joly,” Enjolras had said, reaching for the vial.

Joly dodged. “—Mood swings, hallucinations, boils anywhere at all, you come right back here. Don’t be brave.”

Enjolras rolled his eyes.

“I mean it.” Joly looked no-nonsense, leaning on his cane and leveling a stern look at Enjolras. His shirt was tucked in despite it being eight in the morning, and he somehow managed to seem put-together amid the absolute mess of his living room, evidence of Bossuet and Musichetta strewn everywhere in the form of clothes and blankets and half-full mugs on the coffee table. For a moment Enjolras felt a pang in his heart, something he loosely interpreted as love for this ridiculous human and his ridiculous partners and their ridiculous, cozy life that Enjolras was surely going to unravel as he pulled them deeper and deeper into an underground resistance movement.

Forget it, he almost said. Almost turned and walked away from Joly and the entire idea, because even if it could work there were so many risks, and the people around him were going to get hurt—

But. Musichetta’s parents were muggles. Bossuet grew up in Ethiopia, and the Neo-Death Eaters tended to lump white and European with pureblood. Joly was taking muggle-made anti-anxiety medication, because there were areas of medicine where wizard research lagged or just weren’t considered as important as healing battle wounds and curing illnesses you could see. Enjolras’s friends wouldn’t be safe and cozy and happy if Les Traditionalistes had their way.

So the only option was to do whatever it took to stop them.

Enjolras held out his hand. Joly let out a long-suffering sigh and passed over the vial. “Just remember to check for boils,” he muttered. “Everywhere.”

Enjolras took his fourth dose of the potion at the end of March, tossing it back with a hazelnut latte outside the locally-sourced coffee shop on Rue Montorgueil. It was his first time trying this alone, and he’d crossed the river from the university district—putting a barrier between himself and his home made it easier—and besides, Muggle Paris coffee was better, somehow. He couldn’t taste the potion, but it still made sense to nurse something warm and sugary and all-consuming as the effects worked through his body. He felt it almost immediately. A lightness in the back of his mind. A small tingle under his tongue. The way his attention snagged on conversations around him, hearing every upwards lilt at the end of a question.

He kept walking as he drank, trying not to jump at the noise of muggle car engines or people jostling too closely. His skin felt prickly, and there was a chill in the air that made him drain his coffee far too fast. The streets started to narrow as he went, which meant less people, and yes, that was good. He turned onto Rue St Denis just as he emptied the cup. Once he found a garbage can he could turn back, go find a bookstore or restaurant closer to the métro stop, and settle in for a few hours. Let the potion really set in before he tested his limits.

Just try to lie as much as possible, Combeferre said every time. Start small. Order something you don’t really want. Tell someone it’s raining when it’s perfectly sunny.

Convince some tourists you’re a raging monarchist, Courf had chimed in, and really, he was way too delighted about the whole thing.

The next garbage can Enjolras found was halfway down the street, between a closed-up storefront and a row of chained-up muggle vehicles. The compact two-wheeled ones, smaller than Bahorel’s motorcycles, that looked, frankly, like children’s toys when Enjolras saw them zipping down the road next to cars.

“This is a—very practical and stylish vehicle,” he said to himself, only stumbling a little over the lie. It was easier to lie when he wasn’t directly talking to someone, but considering they’d upped the Veritaserum dose by a quarter this time, he’d take it.

“I’d pegged you as more of a Prius kind of guy, but I guess you can’t really beat the fuel economy of a Vespa,” someone said behind him.

Enjolras whirled around, hand flying to his wand pocket. Grantaire stood behind him, arms heaped with three full-to-bursting grocery bags, one eyebrow raised.

“What are you doing here?” Enjolras demanded.

“Uh,” Grantaire said, and nodded across the street. The window was in shadow, but Enjolras could still read the peeling Pawn Shop.

Oh.

He hadn’t been back since January, but he’d be lying if he said he hadn’t thought about returning, to ask questions about another cursed object in a muggleborn mailbox or even just to show up with a printed list of reasons why heard they were back was an absolutely ineffective and inappropriate response to the current political situation (the list ended up half-written one night after a particularly trying news cycle)—but he was too busy, of course, and it was hardly the best use of his time to even be thinking about it.

(Could Veritaserum manifest in subconscious actions? He’d have to ask Joly.)

“Guessing you aren’t here to see me, then,” Grantaire said, and shifted one of his bags. He was wearing a muggle coat and that same striped scarf, his hair a bit shorter than the last time Enjolras saw him. “Are you here on super-secret rebel business? Or—don’t tell me, because then you’d have to kill me, right?”

Grantaire started to cross the street as he spoke, looking back over his shoulder. It took Enjolras’s brain a moment to catch up. “I—what? No.” He hurried after Grantaire, lowering his voice. “We don’t kill people.”

“Relax, it was a joke. Muggle spy movies.” Grantaire dropped a bag and fumbled with a keyring, unlocking the front door of his shop. “Though, always nice to know killing’s off the table.”

Like last time, the conversation was already spinning wildly away from Enjolras, and he didn’t even have expectations this time.

Grantaire shoved the door open. “If there’s no pressing save-the-world matter, how do you feel about grabbing that bag and helping me put stuff in the fridge?”

“Um.” I feel like I want to leave before this ends up like last time, is what he wanted to say, but he bit it back. He did have to lie, after all. “That sounds. Fine.”

He picked up the bag and followed Grantaire inside. “Do you live here?” he asked as they entered the back room and Grantaire pointed to a muggle icebox—fridge—in the corner.

“Yeah, there’s a room upstairs. A flat, but only technically. Go on, ice cream’s in that bag, and it’s time-sensitive.”

“You could use a cooling charm,” Enjolras pointed out, opening the fridge and putting in a carton of ice cream. The condensation came off on his fingers, and he wiped his hands on his robes.

“Where’s the fun in that?” Grantaire started spreading the contents of his other bags on the table in front of him. A whole head of lettuce, muggle batteries, something called Easy Mac, and a few opaque bottles that definitely didn’t come from a muggle store. “Thanks.”

Enjolras stood, watching as Grantaire fit the bottles into a small chest, tapping the edges with his wand and muttering something.

“What are those?” he asked after an awkward moment, slipping and letting the Veritaserum’s impulsiveness take over. “Damn it,” he added to himself, and then pressed his lips together.

Grantaire finished his incantation and closed the chest. “You okay there?”

“Of course.” That, at least, was always a lie. He was back on track.

“Right. Uh, these are a few curse materials that are more…difficult to come by. Gotta keep them secure so they don’t interact with any other ingredients.”

“Are you making curses?”

“Um.” Grantaire placed the chest on a shelf, sliding the Easy Mac and a box of Pretzel Twists in next to it. “Not like, for cursing purposes, but I put them together sometimes for research. I wasn’t planning on getting these today, but ended up coming across an ingredients pop-up and it’s not like I could just pass up a chance to get dittany of crete, so, hey, now I have some fun weekend plans.”

“So you went grocery shopping,” Enjolras said, “and just happened to find rare curse ingredients in Muggle Paris.”

Grantaire tapped his scarf. “I’m a good finder, I’m a Hufflepuff.”

“Bless you.”

Grantaire raised his eyebrows. “It’s one of the houses? Hogwarts?”

“You went to Hogwarts?”

“Yes.”

“But—” Enjolras supposed that made sense. Surely he would’ve recognized Grantaire from school if he’d gone to Beauxbatons, he couldn’t be that much older than Enjolras. Still young enough to blend in with the university students near the Musain, not that Enjolras thought Grantaire would have a reason to be there.

Grantaire busied himself arranging the jars on his work table. Something about it seemed a bit too deliberate, like he found the whole conversation suddenly uncomfortable, but his voice was cheerful when he said, “My dad lived in Nottinghamshire, so that’s where I grew up. My mother grew up in Paris, but she got a job in the UK after I was born. Teaching at Hogwarts, actually.” And then, before Enjolras could ask anything else, he added, “The scarf didn’t give it away? Really? It’s my house colors.”

Oh. Enjolras had heard about the houses from Joly, of course, and everyone knew the story of Voldemort and the Boy Who Lived—you couldn’t read a history book without mention of how the two were in different Hogwarts houses, opposite houses, but honestly Enjolras had never bothered to memorize the names. Especially because the whole system sounded like an absolute nightmare. “Don’t tell me you buy into—all of that. Dividing students based on arbitrary traits—”

“Don’t disrespect my culture,” Grantaire said mildly.

“It’s not disrespectful to point out the flaws in an archaic system that has probably led to more discord than its intended unity,” Enjolras said, in what he hoped was also a mild tone.

“Ah, and I’m sure you Beauxbatons kids spent every day holding hands and making flower crowns for each other.”

“No,” Enjolras said, and then bit back everything else the Veritaserum was eager for him to share (Most of the other kids didn’t actually like me, so). “But, at least if we had—divisions—among the student body, it was of our own creation.”

“I mean, okay.” Grantaire turned to face Enjolras, leaning against the table. “But look at it from the perspective of some eleven-year-old kid who’s scared shitless to be away from home for the first time. It’s kind of—it can be nice. Makes the school smaller, helps you forge your own identity. Like, if you're in Gryffindor, your courage is validated. And if you’re in Ravenclaw, you know you’re smart. And if you’re in Slytherin, you can get a head start on world domination.”

“That,” Enjolras said, and he knew he should be steering the conversation away from this, back to a few easy lies he could tell before saying goodbye and never coming back, but come on. “That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Classifying an entire group of students as evil, no wonder that house has turned out so many dark wizards, you tell them right from the start that they’re not good—”

Grantaire waves a hand, cutting him off. “No, it’s—yeah, that’s fucked up, but it’s changed. I was kidding about Slytherin anyway, it’s like—it’s a joke because it’s changed. My best friend’s a Slytherin, and she’s terrifying, but she’s not evil. Slytherins are cunning and ambitious and brilliant—”

“I thought raven—the raven ones were brilliant.”

“Yeah, but it’s different. Brilliant in a different kind of way. Look, I don’t actually understand it. It’s not like you get to play twenty questions with the Sorting Hat—”

“The—excuse me?”

“The Sorting Hat.” Grantaire looked like he was trying to hide a grin. “It’s an old pointed hat, real beat up, truly vintage. You put it on your head the first day of school, and it picks your friends for you.”

There was a long silence. Grantaire’s eyebrows were raised again, almost baiting, clearly waiting for Enjolras’s response. Everything about this—the Veritaserum, Enjolras’s own ideals, the way those raised eyebrows caused something hot and half-angry curl in his gut—made Enjolras want to start pacing and improvise a speech about arbitrary classifications and the effects of social divisions in children, preferably in a sharp tone and accompanied by hand gestures and a list of further reading.

He swallowed it back.

“That sounds reasonable,” he managed, instead of that’s unimaginably stupid and if I weren’t busy fighting literal fucking Death Eaters I’d have half a mind to write to the Hogwarts headmaster myself.

Grantaire gave him a weird look, but didn’t press.

Enjolras wanted him to press.

“Anyway,” Enjolras said, and maybe it was something in the air here, this cluttered pawn shop with singed carpeting and curse ingredients tucked in alongside muggle dinner ingredients, that made him feel so wrong-footed. “Anyway. This has been a…pleasant afternoon, but I should be going.” He only stumbled a bit on pleasant.

Grantaire didn’t let up with the weird look. “All right.”

“All right,” Enjolras echoed, then turned. If anyone asked, he’d swear he wasn’t fleeing, but the part of his mind that was amplified by the Veritaserum made it impossible to lie to himself. He fled.

*

He came back the next day.

*

And the next.

*

“If this is going to be a thing,” Grantaire said the fourth day Enjolras showed up, “do me a favor and bring pizza or something.”

*

He brought pizza on the fifth day.

“Oh my god,” Grantaire said, opening the box. “What did you get on this? Are those anchovies? And pineapple? Oh my god, have you ever ordered a pizza before?”

“Yes,” Enjolras said. He had not.

“Oh my god,” Grantaire said again, but he ate four slices.

*

They weren’t friends, exactly. It wasn’t like showing up for tea at Joly’s, or wandering through a library with Combeferre, or getting dragged to a concert by Courfeyrac. It was different, more guarded, and more likely to end in a fight than any sort of relaxation. Enjolras fought with all of his friends, of course. But even arguments were different with Grantaire, where conversations took hairpin turns from polite to vicious, or spiraled from what Enjolras thought was a simple question about horcruxes vs. spirit curses into a red-faced shouting match about post-mortem civil rights.

“I believe in respecting the dead, Enjolras, but Jesus Christ, I’m not going to ask for written permission from a spirit before exorcising it,” Grantaire snapped, nearly knocking a pot of boiling water off his muggle hot plate.

Careful,” Enjolras snapped back, readying a healing spell, and then, in the same breath, “And why not?”

Grantaire righted the pot without injury. “Uh, because it’s impractical, for starters. I didn’t see you complaining that I didn’t stop to conference with the spirit that was literally killing you. It’s not, like, a democratic process.”

“Maybe it should be.”

“You’d be dead. I feel like you don’t understand that. You’d be standing here dead.”

“That doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do. Do you not care about that at all? Doing what’s right? Or are you only interested in the next shiny thing you can take apart?”

Grantaire dropped his eyes for a moment, then grabbed a box of pasta and dumped half of it in the water. “So what you’re saying is, you’d rather I’d let you die while I pondered my morality.”

No. The word was on the top of Enjolras’s tongue, Veritaserum humming in the back of his mind, alight with the argument. No, I’m glad you saved me.

Enjolras crushed it back. Right. That was why he was here in the first place, having this ridiculous fight. Practice. “Perhaps. Surely you can see that, on a moral level, you’re committing the same atrocity as the wizard who bound the spirit in the first place.”

“Or witch.”

“Excuse me?”

“Wizard, witch, or otherwise preferred magic user specification,” Grantaire said, turning the burner up with a wave of his wand. His shoulders were tight, but his tone was level. A bit too level, maybe. “You just said wizard. Unless you think all curses are created by men?”

“Of course not,” Enjolras said, and this feeling shouldn’t be so familiar by now, but he recognized the moment the conversation spun away from him. Talking to Grantaire was like dropping into a sudden dive on a broom, or like tumbling off a portkey a second too early. (No, it was worse.) “But that’s—that’s not the point.”

“Hold that thought, will you?” Grantaire said, right as the bell above the front door chimed outside. He flashed Enjolras a shit-eating grin, all traces of his earlier exasperation gone, and swept out of the back room with a “Hello, welcome, please don’t touch that, it’s cursed. Just kidding! But definitely don’t touch that.”

Enjolras scowled and sagged against the wall, watching the water start to boil over.

It was infuriating.

It was intoxicating.

But of course, as soon as Enjolras thought he had Grantaire figured out, the pattern changed. The eighth time Enjolras walked to the pawn shop, nearly a month later (a month of monitoring his responses after a dose of Veritaserum, a month of lying becoming a second language, a month of wanting nothing more than to pry truth out of Grantaire’s fucking devil’s snare of cynicism), Grantaire didn’t greet him at the door, or shout from the back room like usual.

Enjolras was instantly on alert, shifting the pizza box to free his wand hand. The sign said open, but the front room was dim, still. The back room was empty, too, and chilly, no warming charm buzzing in the air like usual. A short gold chain lay abandoned on the table, symbols scribbled into the wood around it, three empty vials collected in the corner.

Maybe Grantaire was out. But no, surely he would’ve locked up, so he must be here— (Or he didn’t plan to leave, Enjolras thought, or he was taken, someone followed you here last week and—)

“Oh,” a voice said, and there was Grantaire, stepping out of a narrow stairwell behind the fridge. He looked ragged, more ragged than usual, leaning against the wall with one hand and holding a bottle in the other. “I didn’t expect…hi.”

“Is that firewhiskey?” Enjolras said. “It’s barely noon.”

Grantaire rubbed his eyes with his free hand, then dropped his arm. “You know what—no. No, sorry. I can’t do this today. Close the door on your way out, please.”

He turned and disappeared back up the stairs, leaving Enjolras standing in the chilly back room with an entire pizza.

And he was going to leave, he was. There was no reason for him to stay, if not to practice lying on Veritaserum, and Grantaire was clearly in no mood to talk, or argue, or whatever it is they did. But Enjolras had barely turned toward the door before he turned back again, setting the pizza down and surveying the potion ingredients on the work table.

He was no Joly, and he only recognized about half of the labels (honestly, he’d scraped through his potions O.W.L. on stubbornness alone), but he was friends with Joly, so he at least knew how to make a decent hangover tonic. He mixed everything in the cleanest-looking mug on the counter, and then only hesitated a moment before carrying it and the pizza up the stairs.

“Grantaire?” he said, hesitating outside the door at the top of the landing. It was ajar, and Grantaire pulled it open a moment later.

“You’re still here.”

“Yes.” Enjolras handed him the mug.

Grantaire blinked at it, then shrugged, tossing it back.

“And this,” Enjolras added, shoving the pizza at him as well.

“You don’t have to—I mean.” Grantaire opened the lid, surveying the toppings (pineapple, ham, basil, Enjolras was getting better). “Thanks. I’m sorry. It’s just—not a good day. It happens. Sometimes.” Then, “Why are you—what are you doing here, still?”

I don’t know. “Not much going on today, that’s all.” It was the biggest lie yet, because there hadn’t been a day in Enjolras’s life with not much going on since he was eleven.

Grantaire frowned. Enjolras shrugged, the movement jerky as he forced his shoulders to cooperate. (That might’ve been more Enjolras than the potion, though, because he also hadn’t been noncommittal about anything since—maybe never.)

Grantaire stared at him, then glanced over his shoulder. “I mean,” he said, suddenly hesitant, “in that case.” Another pause. Enjolras waited. “I’ve…got Netflix open.”

“Netflix?”

“Oh,” Grantaire said, and there was a tiny spark there, something animated under the weariness for the first time that afternoon. “Oh, Enjolras. I’m about to change your life.”

It was dark by the time Enjolras left. They’d watched five hours of two different baking shows, and Grantaire had to keep saying shh, Enjolras, this is pre-recorded and they can’t hear you when Enjolras got stressed because there are only thirty minutes left and she hasn’t even put her showstopper in the oven yet, and—when he paused at the door on his way out, Grantaire actually smiled at him, and it wasn’t sardonic or sarcastic or amused, it just was. And this time, when Enjolras said, “This has been a pleasant afternoon,” it didn’t feel like the lie it was supposed to be.

 

***

January, 2018

Enjolras says nothing. Sebastian’s fingers tighten, nails biting into Enjolras’s jaw hard enough to draw blood.

“The ABC,” Sebastian repeats. “And don’t insult either of our intelligences by pretending you haven’t a clue what I’m talking about. You think we didn’t know exactly who you were when we agreed to meet? That you weren’t just a student journalist interested in getting both sides for an opinion piece?” He drops his hand. Enjolras holds still, resisting the urge to shake out the sting.

“You didn’t even bother using a fake name,” another Trad says from near the stairs.

That was the point, you fuckers, Enjolras doesn’t say.

Sebastian is still half-crouching in front of Enjolras, his face far too close for comfort. (His entire existence is far too close for comfort.) “We know you and your little club think you’re some sort of vigilante superheroes,” he says. “You’re the ones who’ve been stirring journalists into a frenzy. The ones who stopped our little demonstration this summer. Probably the ones who’ve been scooping up Louis’s cursed side projects, too. And—” He pauses, thoughtful. “Really, you’re the only ones taking us seriously right now. Which is flattering, I’ll be honest, and the main reason I didn’t just kill you in the pub tonight. I did want to have this talk.”

Maybe if Enjolras vomits on Sebastian’s leather shoes, this whole thing will speed up and be over sooner.

“And,” Sebastian adds, “I know that no one’s coming to get you. We saw you brought friends. Two wizards in muggle coats, waiting by the coffee shop next door. I bet you expected us to apparate right in the street, didn’t you? They had tracking charms ready to go and everything.”

Combeferre, Enjolras thinks. He can’t help it. Courfeyrac. If Sebastian had seen them—if he’d so much as stunned them—

Sebastian is still talking. “No one expects Les Trads to take muggle transportation. But then again, no one expects us at all—at least not yet. Except for you.”

More silence, for a moment. Enjolras resists the urge to look at the Trads behind Sebastian, to see if their faces give anything away. He resists the urge to look at Grantaire, to see if he’s—okay.

“So,” Sebastian says, “go on, then. I know all of that. So what am I missing? Let’s start with your headquarters, if you even have one. Where you all meet and bake cookies and plan weekend insurrections. Where I can find…more of you.”

Again, Enjolras doesn’t say anything.

Sebastian drops his chin, standing, and—

Stars burst in front of Enjolras’s eyes, a dull thud eclipsing the room around him. And—okay, he’d definitely been expecting a spell, not Sebastian’s fist, and it’s not that Enjolras has never been hit before, but—ow.

He winces for half a second, maybe, before forcing himself to blink and look up, stonefaced.

Sebastian shakes out his hand, examining it curiously. Then he swings again, snapping Enjolras’s head to the side. Enjolras breathes through his teeth, the sound ragged in the room, and listens to Sebastian shuffle his feet. This is it. This is good. He just has to—prove he won’t talk after a few hits, and they’ll move on to the next step, which is the whole point. Even if his ears are ringing now, it’s fine, it’s all going in the right direction.

Out of the corner of his eye, Enjolras sees Sebastian wind his hand back—

Hey,” Grantaire says from the corner, and it’s like the word is ripped from his chest. Sebastian stills.

“That didn’t take long,” he says, turning. Behind his back, Enjolras gathers his face and shoots Grantaire a glare. Grantaire glares back, leaning forward, like he had been about to push to his feet when Sebastian went in for the third hit.

Sebastian stops in front of Grantaire and toes his shoe against Grantaire’s jeans. “You know, I didn’t get your name.”

“Fuck off,” Grantaire says. “First of all, you hit like a fucking first year, you’re gonna crack a knuckle that way. Not that I’m complaining, just, Jesus, it’s painful to even watch. And second, you just said you know who he is, right? So you think he’s gonna tell you anything? He’s like talking to a brick wall. Like, an absurdly handsome brick wall, but the point still stands.” He swallows. “I, on the other hand, am much less…stoic.”

Enjolras has absolutely no idea where Grantaire could be going with this. Maybe the Imperius Curse had knocked something loose—he’ll have to ask Joly if babbling is a side effect, Enjolras thinks, half-wildly—or maybe Grantaire is trying to stall, maybe he thinks Enjolras has an imminent escape plan, except all Enjolras has is no backup and a plan that requires Sebastian to keep going to carry out.

“R,” Enjolras says, “shut up.”

Sebastian glances between Enjolras and Grantaire. Then, to Grantaire— “So, you’re saying I should hit you instead?”

“Yes.”

And—what?

Across the room, Grantaire tips his head back, focusing somewhere just over Sebastian’s shoulder. “Look, just—let him go, and I’ll tell you whatever you want. I promise, I’m the weak link here.”

Sebastian actually laughs, as do two of the Trads. One moves to stand behind Enjolras, as if circling. Enjolras can’t bring himself to look, too busy staring at Grantaire. What is his game here? Does he think Enjolras will be able to, what, go get help before Grantaire is tortured into saying something, before the Trads break out the Veritaserum? I was right, is Enjolras’s stupid, immediate thought, we never should’ve let him in, never should’ve brought him into this—Grantaire has only been going to the meetings for a few months, but he knows enough, he knows enough to make things dangerous, and he isn’t prepared for this.

(Not to mention that—he doesn’t even believe in their cause, not really. Not enough to withstand torture for, surely. Which is why this is supposed to be about Enjolras, why Grantaire was never supposed to be here—)

Grantaire’s speaking again. “I know enough about—the ABC. I swear.”

R—”

Grantaire ignores him. “But I can’t tell you anything with him here. I really just can’t. He gets this look—that one, see, like I’m making him question his entire commitment to the integrity of humankind. Have you ever been on the other end of that look? There’s no reasoning with it. He looks at you that way, and you’d sooner step into traffic than risk disappointing him further.” He pauses to wipe at the blood trickling down his chin. “I want this whole thing to be over for all of us, but you have to let him go so I can just tell you what you want in peace.”

“Or,” Sebastian is saying, twirling his wand between his fingers. Enjolras hadn’t even seen him slip it out. Enjolras shakes his head, refocusing, ignoring the rush of panic rising in his still-ringing ears. “Or, maybe you’ll tell us anyway.”

The bastard doesn’t even have to say it. He just lifts his wand, and the next moment someone’s screaming—Grantaire, Enjolras realizes, but the screams are filling the room, it seems impossible that a human voice could fill the room like that, but there’s no mistaking the way Grantaire seizes, curling in on himself, bound hands fisting in his own hair, his voice muffled and hoarse like he’s already been screaming for hours. Enjolras lunges forward, twisting at his own cuffs, and he might be screaming, too, even as the Trad behind him wraps an arm around his throat to keep him from toppling his own chair.

Stop,” someone’s yelling, and Enjolras becomes aware that it’s his own voice, saying, “stop, stop, god, stop,” the words blurring together as Grantaire doesn’t stop screaming

Sebastian drops his hand. Grantaire jerks, and the room is suddenly so, so quiet, as he folds over, breath hitching, entire body shuddering. Enjolras’s pulse pounds in his ears, filling the quiet, and oh, god, he’s made a mistake. And he has no out, no backup, no backup plan for this scenario because it’s not a goddamn scenario, and now Grantaire is curled up on a concrete floor, gasping wetly.

What the fuck were you thinking, Enjolras wants to say.

Grantaire, he wants to say.

Sebastian shakes his head. “That was barely half a minute. Care to revisit your terms?”

It takes Grantaire a few seconds to lift his head again. His eyes are bloodshot as they flick to Enjolras, just for a moment, before settling on Sebastian. “I believe,” Grantaire says quietly, between breaths, “I said—to let him go.”

And—

Oh.

Grantaire isn’t talking.

He was never going to talk.

Sebastian narrows his eyes and flicks his wand again. Grantaire and Enjolras both flinch, but no Cruciatus Curse follows—just a grin from Sebastian as he turns to look at his crew, and at Enjolras, still rigid in his chair, the Trad’s arm looped around his throat.

“Listen,” Sebastian says, addressing Enjolras like they’ve stopped to chat in the Beauxbatons gardens, like he didn’t just torture Enjolras’s—friend. “I’d be happy to stay here all night, honest. But I know the more time we spend in one place, the more time your friends have to track us down.” At that, Enjolras feels a distant note of relief—surely that means they didn’t hurt Courf and Combeferre, if there was a chance they’d find them—before Sebastian continues: “Let’s get this over with. Angel?”

He holds out a hand, and another Trad steps forward, pulling something from her robes. “I brewed this batch extra strong,” she says, handing over a vial of clear liquid. “Keep that in mind. Or not.”

So this is their potions master, Enjolras thinks, just as Sebastian uncorks the vial. The Trad holding Enjolras’s neck tightens his arm, pinning his head in place as Sebastian brings the vial to Enjolras’s mouth.

No,” Grantaire says, and Enjolras can’t see him—

“You should thank me, really,” Sebastian says. The vial knocks against Enjolras’s teeth, and he snarls, and the worst part is that he isn’t sure how much is an act and how much is just pure panic at this point. Sebastian smiles, pressing the vial to his lips and tipping. Clear, flavorless liquid spills across Enjolras’s tongue, and he coughs, choking on it, trying to cough as much back up as possible, but it’s not enough. “Now when you give everything away, at least you’ll know you had an excuse.”

Enjolras.”

Sebastian drops the empty Veritaserum vial and steps back. “So,” he says. “Let’s see if your answers have changed, then.”

 

***

June, 2017

They kept the plan a secret, because, obviously. Only Enjolras and Combeferre and Courfeyrac knew about the potion—and Joly, of course, but they didn’t tell Joly what it was for, and Joly knew not to ask. Only Combeferre and Courf knew about the hours Enjolras spent gritting his teeth and forcing his mouth to form words that weren’t his until it almost felt more natural to swallow back his thoughts and reach for a lie.

Meanwhile, fear was starting to ripple through Wizarding Paris. There were more whispers of journalists and ministry officials abducted from their own homes—or, worse, visited in their own homes—by Les Trads and dosed with Veritaserum, forced to reveal their most compromising secrets. Nothing was legislated, nothing was officially reported (Of course, Enjolras said one morning, glaring at a milquetoast article about new political thought in a post-blood purity society, to which Courf said, Not everyone turns their fear into action, Enj, and passed him another cup of coffee), but slowly, surely, the Neo-Death Eaters were building an arsenal of information.

At the same time, more and more whispers spreading through the city mentioned the ABC, they’re a—group, of sorts, they know what’s happening, they believe what’s happening. Cosette, still their newest member, had the idea and the skills to set up a warded owl roost in the 9th arrondissement, nowhere near any of their apartments or classes, so people could start sending them anonymous tips.

(Maybe she was a spy, Feuilly said the night after the roost went up. Maybe she IS a spy, Bahorel offered, to which Musichetta replied, Maybe it’s none of your goddamn business, and no one had raised the question of Cosette’s past since.)

Musichetta also set up an anonymous website for the more muggle-savvy informants, and the more messages they got, the more whispers flew. The ABC believes Les Trads are a real threat, the whispers said. They have meetings. They have friends. Their leader, he wants to do something before it’s too late.

Enjolras tracked the whispers. He read the messages, even the ones that called them blood-traitors and conspiracy theorists and victims looking for a war just so they can be martyrs. (He then burned those messages with great relish, and he got Musichetta to teach him how to delete computer files, and then delete them again from the computer’s trash can, which made about as much sense as it sounded but was so very satisfying.) All while his plan—their plan—slowly came together, because it was increasingly clear that someday soon whispers would stop being whispers, and when the time came for Les Trads to make a move, The ABC would be ready.

And when he wasn’t tracking info or chasing down curses in Muggle Paris or writing anonymous op-eds or studying the first and second rise of the Death Eaters, Enjolras practiced resisting Veritaserum. Which mostly meant seeing Grantaire, because Enjolras didn’t want to risk his friends getting suspicious, and because at this point, it was routine, at least for him.

Grantaire always had time to talk. Usually he was hunched over his workbench, and it was a toss-up whether he’d be restoring an old muggle clock for his shop or unraveling a cursed object. Sometimes Enjolras brought him an object from one of his dips into Muggle Paris, something that narrowly avoided harming a family or a school or a hospital, and it didn’t matter if Enjolras showed up with pizza or a petrified hand—Grantaire always looked surprised to see him. A good surprised, but it was like he couldn’t figure out why Enjolras kept coming back.

And it wasn’t like Enjolras could tell him the truth.

(The thing is, you’ve probably figured out I’m tangled up in something dangerous, but what you don’t know is that I drank nearly a full vial of Veritaserum this morning, which is all part of a plan I can’t tell you—)

(Remember those Neo-Death Eaters you shrugged about? I’m the one gearing up to fight them, and my visits with you may not seem like it, but it’s the first battle in what could be a full-on war—)

(The truth is, I need to lie a lot, and turns out you’re the best person to practice on because you have no interest in any of this, even if you are infuriating and kind of brilliant and could do so much if you just cared—)

Instead, he accumulated a list of lies:

“I had a day off.”

“I was born in Calais.”

“I had plenty of friends growing up.”

“Yes, Napoleon Bonaparte probably had some good qualities.”

“I do want to hear more about the Kardashians, who definitely don’t represent the glorification of a flawed capitalist system that is mimicked in wizarding communities across the globe, much as we like to pretend we are above the social issues of muggle society.”

“I know how to work an iPhone.”

The last one was in early June, when the city had suddenly gotten so hot and humid that the twigs in Enjolras’s broomstick had clumped up the night before and nearly sent him spiraling into a highway overpass. The one window in Grantaire’s back room was thrown open, with two different muggle fans whirring in a valiant attempt to stir the sluggish air. (Apparently room-wide cooling charms interfered with the various curse elements and experimental spells in the workshop. “I suffer for my art,” Grantaire had declared. He was wearing a loose tank top, and apparently he had tattoos on his shoulders. Which Enjolras did not notice. At all.)

“You do not know how to work an iPhone,” Grantaire said, pushing his sweat-damp hair out of his eyes. He was leaning over the worktable, running his wand over the same red stone set in a gold chain that he’d been examining for the last few weeks. “I’ve seen you try to program a microwave, there’s no way.”

(One of the tattoos was a phoenix, arching over the curve of his shoulder, occasionally rustling its feathers when Grantaire sat too still.) (Enjolras was not staring.)

“I do.” Enjolras dug through his pocket, finally finding the device under a pile of Combeferre’s old law textbooks. He pulled it out and brandished in Grantaire’s face. “See.”

Grantaire didn’t look impressed. “It’s off.”

Enjolras glanced at the screen. It was dark. “Well—yes. I’m preserving, um, the—”

“Battery life,” Grantaire finished, after Enjolras’s pause lasted a moment too long.

“—The battery life, exactly.” Enjolras shoved the phone back in his pocket. “But I have apps and everything.” That part was true. Musichetta had them all get phones in case they had to resort to a muggle communication network. She’d set everything up, though, and he hadn’t gotten around to asking her to remind him what his passcode was.

Grantaire still looked dubious—and more than a little amused—so Enjolras changed the subject. “What are you working on, anyway?”

“Oh.” Grantaire looked down, his wand pausing over the end of the chain. “Just a—side project, of sorts.”

“You have that thing out practically every time I’m here,” Enjolras said, then wanted to cast a silencing charm on himself, because his point was that Grantaire was hunched over that gold chain a lot, and that would only draw more attention to the fact that Enjolras was here a lot.

Grantaire didn’t seem to notice, just set down his wand and picked up the chain, spreading it across his fingers. It was short, and delicate, almost like the ones Enjolras’s mother wore to dinner parties when she wanted to play at modesty. “So, it’s a bracelet,” he told Enjolras, “and it’s cursed. Or, it’s sort of cursed. I’ve mostly unraveled it by now, but the threads are still there.”

Enjolras blinked. The chain looked so innocuous, limp in Grantaire’s hand. But then again, so had the cursed bracelet that had led Enjolras to Grantaire’s shop in the first place. Which, speaking of— “What kind of curse? Where did you find it? Was it in Muggle Paris? If you have the location, or even an approximation, I can add that to our—” Research, he didn’t say, remembering a moment too late that he was not trying to recruit Grantaire.

“No, no, it wasn’t like—yours,” Grantaire said. “I got this one at an estate sale. Of sorts. I do some odd jobs here and there, and sometimes people hire to me clean out old pureblood estates, you know, spring the traps and identify the really gnarly stuff before it falls into unsuspecting hands. Usually the family or estate agents don’t want anything to do with actual cursed objects, so I get to keep what I want for research.”

“Isn’t that dangerous?”

Grantaire arched an eyebrow. “No more than picking cursed objects off of muggle doorsteps.”

“I just—” think that’s more ambitious than I’d believed you to be, Enjolras succeeded in not saying. The lie to cover it came easily. “I just think that’s—impressive.”

Grantaire froze for a moment, eyes wide. Then he swallowed and turned his gaze back to the bracelet. “Well—it’s—well. The point is, I’m trying to reverse-engineer the curse, see if it’s possible to turn it into something else. It’s slow going.”

“Turn it into something else?” Enjolras repeated. “You mean, the curse itself? Is that possible?”

Grantaire nodded enthusiastically. “Cursed objects in particular are—it’s just another form of magic. Usually bad, but sometimes cursed objects are just bad because people don’t understand them. Like a someone finds an object with a spirit attached, or something that’s soaked up enough defensive magic to be unstable, and obviously they don’t understand it, and they call it bad because they’re scared. But you can unwind it, or reprogram it, it’s like—like a robot.” Enjolras must’ve been making a face, because Grantaire glanced at him and added, “Muggle technology, you—”

“I know what a robot is. I’ve seen Star Wars.” The first one, at least. Courf was obsessed, Merlin knew why.

Grantaire stared at him.

“I have,” Enjolras snapped. “Robots were a vital part of the resistance movement.”

“Ah,” Grantaire said, a bit strained. “I mean, technically, those weren’t—I mean. Right. Ah, there are—other kinds of robots, um, in the muggle world. Or, I guess, I should say AIs, or programs. Like there are ones that play chess with humans and stuff.”

Enjolras tried to picture the blue and white robot from Star Wars sitting across from him, a chessboard on the table between them. “Why,” he said. “Surely there are other things they could be doing.”

“Um, because they can, I guess. They don’t do their own thing, like, they’re programmed to perform a function, or they follow patterns, which is what I’m—”

Enjolras stood, knocking his folding chair against one of the fans. It sputtered in protest, jerking twice before resuming its rotation. “They don’t have free will?”

“Christ,” Grantaire muttered. “No, Enjolras, calm down, we’re at least fifty years away from a Free the Robots movement. The robots aren’t alive. That’s what I’m saying. They mimic life—they can seem like they’re reacting, but that’s all they’re doing, just reacting to input. Like curses.” When Enjolras still didn’t move, glaring between Grantaire and the door with half a mind to hunt down Combeferre and ask him to explain exactly what kind of robot is content to play chess for its entire life, Grantaire sighed and dropped the chain on the table. “Forget the robots,” he said. “I’m talking about curses. Cursed objects are magic, sometimes magic that mimics having will of its own, but it still just reacts. So if you know how to activate them, you can figure out how to unwind them. Or repurpose them, instead of just destroying them.”

Enjolras turned this over in his head, his thoughts buzzing along with the fans for a minute. He didn’t have a lot of experience with cursed objects—the scars on his wrist being the main exception—but everything he’d ever been taught began and ended with “isolate and dispel.” But if Grantaire was right, and there was a way to harness energy meant for harm and use it for something else, something better—

He sat back down. That’s brilliant, he wanted to say. That’s fucking genius. “You could work for the ministry,” is what came out, and he heard something in his own voice that sounded an awful lot like wonder. He cleared his throat.

Grantaire snorted. “And be a government drone? Enjolras, I’m shocked.”

Enjolras rolled his eyes, the moment shattered. “No, obviously, I just meant that—this level of”—dedication, talent—“potential…”

“Instead of wasting my life in a pawn shop, yeah, I get it.” There was something sharp about the hunch of Grantaire’s shoulders as he bent over the bracelet again. “I don’t think the French ministry would be interested, even if I—well, you know them. And I hardly have anything to show for it, anyway, just a bunch of junk from people’s attics and a workshop carpet I have to replace every few months.”

It’s fascinating, Enjolras wanted to say, and he knew that was the truth, the total opposite of telling Grantaire that the adventures of the Kardashian family were thrilling, no, really, go on. You’re fascinating.

“Yeah,” he said instead, after just a moment too long.

*

Enjolras told Grantaire where the ABC met once. Once. He didn’t expect him to actually show up.

It wasn’t a big deal, secrecy-wise—he’d mentioned the Musain in Muggle Paris, not the Corinthe where they met informants, or Combeferre’s apartment where they kept everything that could actually hurt them (rosters, evidence, plans), and he hadn’t mentioned the ABC by name, either. The Musain was their recruiting ground, in a way, where they held political discussions for the public a few times a month, put an innocuous, low-key muggle face on their real activities. It was how they met Feuilly and Musichetta, when they were both attending La Sorbonne last year for muggle university, and it was how—Enjolras hoped—they reached other people, the ones who didn’t believe how real the danger was yet, but might, someday.

All this to say, yeah, it wasn’t a big deal, they covered their tracks, but he still didn’t expect Grantaire to ever show up.

So when Enjolras looked up from his notebook in mid June, saying, “So anyone who needs pointers for an op-ed, I have—,” and saw Grantaire rounding the counter heading right for their table in the back, Enjolras—froze.

“Enj?” Courfeyrac asked, just as Grantaire noticed Enjolras looking at him. Grantaire stopped, just outside their group huddle, and seemed to hesitate for a moment before mouthing something that ended in talk.

Enjolras shook his head. What are you doing here? he mouthed back. The chatter around their table quieted as more of the group picked up on what was going on, looking between the two of them. Enjolras felt his face grow warm.

Grantaire shifted his weight, and in turn Courf shifted beside Enjolras, hand resting on his wand pocket. Grantaire’s gaze tracked the movement, and he cleared his throat.

“Sorry,” he said. “Er. No rush, I just, could I have a word when you’re done? I have a thing. To show you.”

Grantaire looked strange, outside the walls of his pawn shop. It wasn’t that he looked different, exactly, he still had dark circles under his eyes and that tattered Hufflepuff scarf around his neck, his hair slightly damp like he’d never heard of drying charms, but it wasn’t a sight Enjolras associated with anything but the pawn shop. Certainly not an image he associated with a crowd of mostly-muggle university students in tank tops, tangled around tables with iced lattes leaving moisture rings on books and tables, the summer’s evening sun through the window turning the edges of Grantaire’s dark hair just a bit golden.

“Um,” Enjolras said.

“Enj,” Courf said again, low enough for Enjolras alone, and Enjolras heard the question there—is this okay, do we still trust him—because as much as Courf was willing to look for the good in people, he was more loyal than optimistic and as far as he knew, the last time Enjolras saw Grantaire was when Enjolras was nearly dying.

And maybe Enjolras should’ve mentioned that he’d been…visiting Grantaire. Practicing with Grantaire. But the more time had passed, the more awkward he’d felt bringing it up, so he’d just compartmentalized that and (foolishly) assumed their paths would never actually cross outside the pawn shop.

He took a breath, ready to give Courf the abridged version of this, but he was cut off by a shout from behind Grantaire. “R?

Grantaire whirled around. Enjolras was half-standing before he realized it was Joly, balancing a tray of coffee refills in one hand. He and Grantaire gaped at each other for a moment, and then Joly beamed, shoving the drinks at Musichetta and throwing his arms around Grantaire.

“Oh my god,” Joly said, muffled by Grantaire’s coat. Grantaire, for his part, only startled for a moment before his face broke into a small smile.

“Joly,” he said, and Enjolras reminded himself to breathe, and maybe to relax the hand that was gripping his wand.

“You guys, um, know each other?” he said, because someone had to say something.

Joly released his death grip/hug and leaned back to look at Enjolras. “We were in the same year at Hog—at, ah, school.” Then, to Grantaire: “I didn’t know you were back in the city! I didn’t even know you were back in France.”

And that was right, Enjolras remembered, Joly's parents were both healers who studied in England, so Joly had attended Hogwarts before moving to Paris to live with Bossuet. Enjolras hadn’t even thought to see if he knew Grantaire, but, clearly, Enjolras hadn’t thought about a lot of things here.

“I’ve been here and there,” Grantaire was saying. “But back in the city for about a year. Turns out I inherited a pawn shop from my mom’s family, so I’ve been giving that a go. It’s actually how I met—” He cut himself off, but he’d already glanced Enjolras’s way. Joly followed his gaze.

“Wait,” Joly said. “Wait, wait. You know Enjolras? That’s why you’re here?”

“We’ve run into each other a few times,” Enjolras said quickly. No need to give away anything. No need to answer any further questions.

“…Right,” Grantaire said.

Courf and Combeferre were both giving Enjolras looks that said there would, in fact, be more questions later. “Grantaire saved Enjolras’s life, actually,” Courf said to Joly, and the rest of their assembled friends and group members. “Which is a wild and heroic story that—”

Enjolras stood, ready to cut Courf off before he could launch into a dramatic and no doubt exaggerated retelling. “You wanted a word?” he said to Grantaire.

They went outside, where the sidewalk was half-crowded and smelled like Muggle Paris—gasoline and asphalt and fried dough from the park down the block. Evening had definitely set in, the shadows long and reaching, making the street just on the uncomfortable side of chilly. Enjolras took a deep breath, not looking at Grantaire as he tapped his wand in his pocket, casting a silent warming charm.

“Sorry,” Grantaire said after a moment, right as Enjolras said, “I apologize, my—” and stopped.

“You go,” Grantaire said.

Enjolras cleared his throat. “My friends are a bit…much. I didn’t want them to, ah. Pry.”

“Oh.” Grantaire pulled his jacket a bit tighter. “Yeah. Okay. I just remembered you said you had meetings here on Thursdays, and, I’m not here for the meeting-meeting, obviously, but had a bit of a breakthrough and I didn’t want to wait until the next time you wanted pizza, or Netflix, so I thought I’d just—come by—”

“Grantaire,” Enjolras said, and Grantaire startled, blinking fast. “What you wanted to tell me,” Enjolras prompted.

Grantaire blinked one more time, then pulled something from his pocket. A plastic doll Enjolras had found in a muggle park last week, a thinly-cloaked curse spun around it, just waiting for a muggle child to pick it up. (“Oh my god, it’s Chucky,” Grantaire had said when Enjolras delivered it to him, to which Enjolras had replied, “You know the wizard who did this?” and Grantaire had laughed for a solid minute.)

“I unraveled it,” Grantaire said. “The curse. This thing’s totally de-clawed now, though I couldn’t do anything for how creepy it looks on its own, unfortunately. But—there’s a trace on it. A bit of a signature. You can try to trace it back to the wand that cursed it, or at least learn a bit more about their magic style.”

“That’s—” It was Enjolras’s turn to blink. “That’s great, actually.”

Grantaire rolled his eyes, and it was like his earlier hesitation vanished. “Actually.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Enjolras said. “I just, didn’t ask you to—”

“Of course you asked, why else would you have given the thing to me—”

“I thought we’d learn what kind of curse it was, I didn’t anticipate a lead—”

“So what you mean is you asked, you just didn’t expect—”

“What I didn’t expect was for you to—” Enjolras stopped, realizing that a woman was not-so-subtly staring at them as she fiddled with a muggle parking meter. It was just—without a dose of Veritaserum, without the struggle between having to lie and not wanting to—he was getting carried away.

And Grantaire was glaring at him now, still holding the ex-cursed doll. Still holding a lead.

Enjolras took a deep breath. Let it out. “I gave that to you two days ago,” he said, at a much more reasonable volume. “And you look like you’ve hardly slept.” (Not that Grantaire ever looked like he was well-acquainted with sleep, but that was beside the point.) “It’s not that I’m not grateful, I just…didn’t think you’d care to go so far for a simple favor.”

“It’s not a simple favor.” Grantaire handed the doll over. Enjolras took it. The plastic was slightly warm from being in Grantaire’s pocket, and Grantaire’s fingers, when they brushed his, were freezing. “First of all, nothing with you is simple,” Grantaire continued. “But also—like I’ve said, I know people. I hear things. And I’ve seen you nearly die on my carpet. I know you’re more than a pseudo-student activism group. So I know that whatever this is, it’s part of something bigger.”

His mind was buzzing, trying to come up with some sort of response, something better than thanks or why, tell me why, help me understand you. The irony of it all didn’t escape him—how, now that he was free to choose whatever words he wanted, he had no idea what to say.

The staring muggle lady had moved on, but there were still plenty of people moving around them. Enjolras thought about how they must look—two men who could be muggle university students, huddled together over a plastic doll as the sun started to set behind the rooftops. If there wasn’t a war brewing, that’s all they would be, really. And there’d be no doll, no curse, no Death Eaters lurking in the shadows. There’d be time, maybe, for Enjolras to see Grantaire again like this, in muggle clothes on a muggle street, no Veritaserum in his veins. Time for all the questions he wanted to ask. If there wasn’t a war brewing—

But if there wasn’t a war brewing, Enjolras would never have met Grantaire in the first place. So.

Enjolras carefully placed the doll in his own pocket and said the only thing that felt right: “Come back inside.”

And Grantaire did.

*

Somehow, that was that. Grantaire was at the Musain the next week, and the next. He’d arrive, get a drink, sip it in the back, and murmur with Joly and Bossuet and Musichetta—all fast friends, Enjolras noted, which definitely didn’t bother him at all, because he had more important things to do at meetings than notice whether or not Grantaire was actually paying attention. Which he wasn’t, usually.

(Except sometimes Enjolras would pause during his opening remarks, or during a strategy discussion with Combeferre, and he’d look over at Grantaire to find Grantaire watching him. That was it, just watching, with this quiet expression Enjolras only ever saw when Grantaire was deep in a muggle novel or carefully brewing a new potion. But then Enjolras would look away quickly, or Grantaire would, and Enjolras truly wondered if he wasn’t just imagining the whole thing.)

Enjolras still visited the pawn shop, though, on Veritaserum days. Which worked, because he and Grantaire hardly talked at the Musain, anyway, so Enjolras could still get away with practicing lying. Because that was the whole point.

At this point Enjolras usually walked right in, Grantaire calling an unnecessary oh, I’m back here from the workshop room when he heard the front door chime. On the last day of June, though, Enjolras approached the shop to see Grantaire leaving, locking the front door in a flurry of motion. He had a worn backpack slung over his shoulder, and was wearing dark jeans and a green jacket Enjolras hadn’t seen before that had about twelve too many pockets, and, despite the heat, his scarf. For Grantaire, the outfit was downright professional.

Their eyes met in the front window reflection, and Enjolras was about to say something ridiculous, like, you’re supposed to be open from 10 - 7, you can’t just leave, and also I just got here, but Grantaire opened his mouth first.

“Oh, hi,” he said, turning and pocketing his keys. “Sorry, I’m running late.”

Enjolras frowned at the closed sign now hanging crookedly in the shop window. “Late for what?”

“A thing. A job, I guess. Sorry. I’ll be back—” Grantaire checked the iPhone in his hand. “Actually, I’m not sure when I’ll be back, this thing’s all the way out in Évreux.”

“Oh,” Enjolras said, and he tried not to sound disappointed.

“Yeah.” But Grantaire didn’t move. “Actually,” he said again. “If you wanted. You could come along? It’s just a standard estate cleansing—I can’t guarantee it’ll be fun, but I can guarantee it’ll be at least a bit dangerous.”

“Yeah?” Enjolras said, too quickly. He told himself it was because it’d be a shame to waste the Veritaserum dose without Grantaire’s company.

Grantaire was nodding now. “Yeah. But we have to go now, it’ll take a good hour by train.”

“We could apparate.” Enjolras held out his arm. “I do side-along with Courf all the time, if that’s your hangup. And there’s no one looking.”

Grantaire’s gaze dropped to Enjolras’s arm, and he looked almost regretful when he said, “Can’t. Best not to use magic right before walking into a den of curses. Might excite them. But on the bright side, your train ticket will help defend Paris’s public transit network from the tyranny of automobiles.”

“The tyranny of—?”

The disappointment lifted from Grantaire’s face as he laughed. “I’ll explain on the way.”

The estate turned out to be hell to get to from the Évreux station, even on a mostly-overcast afternoon, but Enjolras found himself too occupied with learning about how muggle transportation systems intersect with capitalism and socioeconomic class to notice. Grantaire had to say, “Enjolras—Enjolras, look,” and grab Enjolras’s elbow just to get him to stop venting long enough to notice they’d arrived.

It was a classic old-family property, a stone wall and iron-wrought gate laced with ivy standing before a stone mansion, all behind the faint shimmer that came with a magical glamour. It looked uncomfortably similar to the house where Enjolras grew up, except his parents would never have dreamed of living outside one of the wizarding-only arrondissements.

A wizard pulled open the gates as they approached, surveying both of them with a slight frown. There was something familiar about him. At least—something about the way he was regarding them as if they might have a highly contagious strain of dragon pox. The wizard’s gaze lingered on Enjolras’s arm, and Enjolras realized Grantaire was still holding his elbow. Grantaire’s hand dropped half a second later.

“You must be René,” Grantaire said, holding out the hand that was just on Enjolras’s arm.

The wizard—René, and why did that ring a bell?—gave Grantaire another look that encompassed everything from his hair (slightly damp from the walk, curling around his temples) to his shoes (muggle sneakers that had seen better years), and then turned to address Enjolras. “Henri Grantaire, I presume.”

“No,” Enjolras said.

Grantaire dropped his hand. “That would be me.” His tone was noticeably cooler than a moment ago.

René’s mouth thinned. “I was led to believe you were…a professional.”

“Oh, don’t mind the outfit,” Grantaire said airily, but his smile was tight. “My tuxedo’s at the dry-cleaner’s.”

“At the what?” René took a step back, lip curling. “Who did you say your family was, again?”

“None of your fucking business, that’s who.” Grantaire’s words were still steady, but a flush was creeping up his neck. Enjolras looked between them, wondering if he was going to have to break Grantaire’s no-magic-before-arrival rule to throw up a shield or if René was simply going to turn them away, when René’s eyes narrowed and it clicked into place.

“Devaux,” Enjolras said. “René Devaux.”

René spun to face him, and of course. Enjolras knew that look of contempt because it was identical to his younger brother Antoine’s, and Antoine had been one of Enjolras’s least favorite classmates at Beauxbatons. Which was saying something, because the ratio of people Enjolras tolerated to the people he couldn’t was, as Combeferre often put it, frankly alarming. But Antoine came from a proud pureblood family almost as old as Enjolras’s, and acted like it, so Enjolras felt validated in this case.

“Who—,” René started, but Enjolras was already talking.

“I was so sorry to hear about your poor grandmother,” he said, which he wasn’t. “My mother was an old friend, of course. But—and, not to be crass—I have to say, I’m surprised to see you’ve inherited. I just…I’d heard Antoine was the favorite?” He waved a hand, like he was waving away the uncomfortable statement when, really, he was letting it sink in. As he did, he caught Grantaire staring at him. “But you know how people like to gossip at those awful luncheons.”

He’d heard no such thing, of course, and he took a moment to be thrilled at how easily the lie rolled off his tongue. (He had, however, heard that Jeanne Devaux died without naming an heir at all. It was the most salacious topic of conversation at his parents’ April luncheon last year, the last one Enjolras had attended. His mother and two of her friends spent most of the meal murmuring in not-so-hushed voices about how Madame Devaux was, according to her mediwizard at the time, sick of her heirs vying for her favor while she lay on her deathbed, so she planned to will her fortune to her Bulgarian lover and leave only her house to be divided up among her four grandsons.)

(Enjolras would’ve preferred the fortune be left to an educational foundation or an institute for progressive wizarding journalism, but even he could admit it still made a great story.)

René turned a few shades of red before responding, just like Antoine had when Enjolras and Combeferre caught him trying to bribe the potions professor after a failed test. “You heard wrong,” he managed.

“My mistake,” Enjolras said, because it hadn’t been a mistake at all. “Now, are you going to let Gr—Henri do his job, or shall I go see if someone else is available to help with your…misfortune? I’m sure one of our old classmates could provide a reference.”

“No,” René said through his teeth. “I’m sure Grantaire will be—adequate for this task.”

He turned to the gate, which opened with a flick of his wand, and started to lead them inside.

“Oh, one more thing,” Enjolras said. “You’ll be paying up front.”

When Grantaire’s burst into laughter, Enjolras thought maybe those luncheons had some merit after all.

The attic, when they got to it, was absolutely packed. Trunks, open jewelry boxes, stacks of old wizarding newspapers and lifestyle magazines from all over Europe, two wardrobes, a drawing table with a vintage globe spinning lazily on its own, and, by Enjolras’s initial count, no less than three jars full of human teeth.

Once Grantaire shooed René back down the stairs—unless you want to be here when things get messy, in which case, could you call for some tea?—Grantaire closed the door and slumped back against it, covering his face with his hands.

“Are you—,” Enjolras started, and then realized Grantaire was laughing again.

“That,” he said, “was incredible. Oh my god. I should just take you with me to all of these jobs.”

Enjolras scowled at the door. “I don’t know how you put up with people like that, over and over.”

“You mean people with families like yours,” Grantaire replied, still grinning.

“No,” Enjolras said. “I mean—yes, but I’m not—I don’t actually want any of that.” It felt wrong to lie about this, so he didn’t even try.

“But you have it,” Grantaire said. “I mean, these people can choke on their own next-season dress robes for all I care, but it would make it easier if I had your, you know, pedigree. Half the time I show up to these pureblood estates and they treat me like someone’s dog tracking mud all over their carpets, and the other half they just turn me away without a second thought.”

And—oh. The thing is, Enjolras had assumed (or, more accurately, had never really thought about it), but hadn’t actually asked. “Are you not—?”

“Oh, not at all.” Grantaire straightened, dropping his hands and surveying the room. “My mom was muggleborn, and she ended up studying math at muggle university for, like, seven years. And my dad had a wizard father and a muggle mother, and he was a squib, so all in all, I’m a pretty solid disappointment to any wizard bloodline enthusiast.”

“So then why,” Enjolras started, because sometimes he didn’t know how not to push, Veritaserum or not, “do you always seem so apathetic about confronting the system that allows this shit to keep perpetuating?”

“Enjolras.” Grantaire actually had the audacity to sigh. “Please, not right now. We were having such a nice time.”

“Not right now? I mean, I can’t just turn it off. That’s how they win.”

“I’m not asking you to turn anything—” Grantaire pressed a hand to his eyes. “Just because I agree with you doesn’t mean I’m all gung-ho to discuss your plan to get yourself killed in the name of justice.”

That is not the plan, Enjolras wanted to snap, but caught himself in time. He kept slipping, forgetting that this—all of this—was, in fact, part of a plan. “Fine,” he said, even though it was definitely not fine. Then, because Grantaire’s mouth was still twisted into something too close to a frown: “Please at least tell me you do something about the ones who turn you away.”

“Of course,” Grantaire said. “I always carry a few dungbombs in my pocket, just in case I need to leave someone with a parting gift. Right now, though, my main problem is how Madame Devaux seems to have kept every item of clothing she ever owned.”

Grantaire put Enjolras to work sorting through the magazines, after first walking Enjolras through every basic countercurse he’d learned in school, plus a few extras. “Just in case a hex bag or a severed finger falls out of the pages, you know, the basics.” Then Grantaire turned away and started sifting through a precarious stack of hatboxes.

After a few minutes, though, Enjolras realized something was off. Grantaire was staring at the next hatbox, gaze distant, and now that the René-induced indignation was dying down, Enjolras could see that Grantaire was—nervous. He was twisting the ends of his scarf through his fingers, almost like the first time he showed up at the Musain. And his shoulders were tight, braced, like he expected a boggart to burst out of the next box the moment he removed the lid.

Enjolras put down the 1962 Witch Weekly he was holding. “Did you find something?”

“No, I just,” Grantaire said, “I just need a second.”

“Why?” Enjolras said. “Do you think there’s something dangerous in there?”

“Probably not, no.”

Enjolras frowned. “You aren’t thinking about what René said, right? Because if there is a curse, I’m sure you can handle it. Even if your methods are unconventional—”

“It’s not that. It’s the house,” Grantaire said. “The house and the attic, like, even if there aren’t any actual curses here, this place is still so goddamn magical.”

“I mean…yes,” Enjolras said.

“Well. There’s a reason I live in Muggle Paris. Being around too much magic is—overwhelming, for a bit. That’s all.”

“Surely there was more magic than this at school,” Enjolras said.

Grantaire raised one eyebrow. “Surely,” he repeated. “Yeah. There was definitely more magic at Hogwarts than in one wizarding estate. And I was fine there, it’s not, like, a magical allergy or anything.”

“So…it’s just houses?”

Grantaire made a frustrated sound low in his throat, tapping his wand on the next hatbox. The box shuddered, and he moved it aside. “No. Like I said, I was fine at Hogwarts. And then I left Hogwarts. And then I got a job with the British ministry.”

“Wait,” Enjolras said, “what?

“I know. But it’s not what you’re probably thinking, it wasn’t a desk job or a research thing. It was—they had this task force, which is still working on cleaning up after the war. One of my professors referred me. I was good with curses, and finding things”—he tapped his Hufflepuff scarf—“and that was pretty much the job description. Finding hidden Death Eater caches and neutralizing them, and then figuring out who actually owned all the shit we found. And it was—we found a lot. The war wasn’t exactly a cake walk for France, but the British Death Eaters were, like, next level. They raided so many muggleborns’ properties, or mixed-heritage families or dissenters or even just muggles, from what we could tell. Art, heirlooms, books, there was always more to find, like, no wonder the task force is still going after twenty years.”

“That’s…wow.” Enjolras had known that, theoretically. He’d done more than one paper on post-war reconstruction, but the way Grantaire’s hand was still twisting in his scarf told him more than a single history book ever had.

“It is what it is,” Grantaire said. “And it wasn’t like I didn’t know. My mom had family that lost everything in muggle wars, just because they were Jewish, so I knew about that kind of shit before I got my first wand. There was no part of me that was like, oh, people couldn’t really be this terrible, surely not. But I still—” He paused. “I shoved it aside, I guess. I was more into the fact that I was good at what I was doing that I forgot what I was doing. It’s intoxicating, magic like that. Curses like that. So six months in we were called in to this terrace house in Leeds, and it seemed like nothing, and sometime around then I’d just sort of stopped thinking about it, you know, rolling in like it was a somewhat-exciting day job instead of fucking Death Eaters. And there was this magical trip wire on this family portrait, and I didn’t—”

A longer pause. Enjolras became aware that he was holding his breath, and he forced himself to exhale. Told his face to stay neutral. Keep lying.

Grantaire broke the stillness, shoving the next hatbox aside. “The whole place burned down. And so did the two next door. One had a muggle family inside.”

“Did—” Enjolras couldn’t finish the question.

“They survived. No thanks to me.”

“Oh,” Enjolras said, feeling a bit dizzy. “Okay, so, that’s good, at least.”

“I mean, I still burnt down their house. And one of the moms was in the hospital for about a week.”

“But, alive,” Enjolras pointed out.

“I wasn’t so optimistic about the whole thing,” Grantaire said. He stood, shaking out his arms, and went to stand by the drawing table. The late-afternoon sun caught in a set of brass omnioculars on the windowsill, throwing bright slivers of light across the room. One sliver cut across Grantaire’s cheek, and Enjolras couldn’t quite look away. “I quit. Well, first I sent the muggle family like, all my savings and pretended it was a GoFundMe donation. And then I quit. And I spent the next year traveling muggle-style. I don’t think I used magic once, until I came back and opened the shop. And that’s it, really. It’s not some sort of magical aversion because of the fire, or the curses, it’s just—I spent so long away from magic, that being around a lot of it just gets under my skin a bit.”

“That’s…not fun,” Enjolras said, and it was a lie, because what he meant was that’s unfathomable. He wasn’t sure he could go without magic for a day, even, not when he’d grown up around it. It was as much a part of him as his lungs, and just as necessary.

“Yeah. So, that’s it, basically. Why I just needed a second.”

That wasn’t it. “It wasn’t like you burned down the houses on purpose,” Enjolras said. “It was a mistake, yeah, but you were trying to help.”

“Sometimes trying doesn’t cut it.”

There was something there. Something Enjolras wanted to needle, tease out, bring into the light and examine until it was a problem he could solve instead of a vague, unsettling notion that Grantaire’s careful cynicism came from somewhere.

He took a deep breath.

“Trying is always better than nothing at all, that’s why I’m doing—what I’m doing,” he said. And then, almost unbidden, he added, “But, sometimes the method isn’t ideal.”

“Oh? I was under the impression everything you did was ideal.” Grantaire didn’t even sound mocking, which was somehow worse.

Enjolras shook his head. “What we’re doing—the ABC—it’s good. But it’s slow. It’s hidden, right now, because it has to be. Because we’re not ready—not strong enough—to actually face Les Trads yet, and I hate it. I hate sneaking around and writing carefully-worded articles and watching my back and pretending I’m anything but angry.” He hated the potion and the news that worsened every day and the world that wasn’t going to listen until someone started screaming. “I’d rather just—face them. In the open.”

“Of course you would.” Grantaire laughs, which wasn’t the reaction Enjolras was hoping for. But Grantaire’s shoulders, at least, were slightly less tense as he swirled his wand around Madame Devaux’s ancient globe. “Man. You wouldn’t have even made it to the stool in your first day at Hogwarts. The hat would’ve taken one glance at you and boom, Gryffindor.”

Enjolras groaned, tipping his head against the wall. “Not the hat again.”

“It’s our one certainty in these dark times,” Grantaire said solemnly. “Here, make yourself useful and hand me that jar of teeth. We’ve got a lot of curses to get through if we want to catch the train before rush hour.”

*

They didn’t catch the train before rush hour.

Enjolras almost offered to apparate them again, but the moment they stepped off the Devaux estate he saw the tension visibly bleed out of Grantaire’s shoulders, so Enjolras kept his mouth shut and started walking down the road. The fields on either side were so green Enjolras’s eyes watered, the sun was at their backs, and Grantaire had two new cursed items in his backpack to, as he put it, “deprogram” later.

“Hey,” Grantaire said after a minute, “since transit’s already a clusterfuck right now, feel like making a stop on the way?”

An hour and three buses later, Grantaire led him toward a long house that seemed to be more covered in plants than not. A few people milled around the front walkway, and Enjolras had to sidestep two kids bolting for the street, pursued by a harried-looking woman.

“What is this?” he asked, not expecting an answer, because Grantaire had flat-out refused to tell him for the entirety of the trip. They’d stopped in a small muggle village, the kind that seemed to exist a bit out of time, except for how clean and tourist-friendly it was.

“It’s almost closing time, come on,” Grantaire said, heading to a ticket counter to the side of the house. He passed over a few muggle euros, and then he had Enjolras’s wrist in his hand and was pulling him through, into the biggest flowerbed Enjolras had ever seen.

Or, not a flowerbed, but a full garden, bursting with tulips and poppies and hollyhocks, beds wrapping around fruit trees and iron arches. It almost reminded Enjolras of the grounds behind the main living quarters at Beauxbatons, meant for showing off to parents and used as a favorite hookup spot for older students, but with even more flowers, somehow. “Oh,” Enjolras said.

Grantaire took the lead once again, bringing them down the main path, under the arches. “Claude Monet’s garden,” he said. “A painter. And super obsessed with flowers, as you can see.”

“It’s—really great,” Enjolras said. The potion had all but worn off by now, so he didn’t have to find a way to lie about this, he was just still processing the fact that Grantaire had taken then an hour out of their way to a flower garden.

There was only one other person in sight, a young woman taking pictures of one of the yellow blooms. Grantaire checked his watch and tugged on Enjolras’s arm again, taking them deeper into the gardens to a stream. A green bridge arced over the water, and beside it was a tiny supply shed, half-hidden in the branches of a weeping willow.

“Here.” Grantaire stopped by the shed and reached for the door. “He was a wizard, did you know?”

And then he pulled Enjolras inside.

He stumbled for a moment, expecting to come up against the wall of the shed, and instead he stepped into another garden. But this was different—it was still overflowing with color, sunlit-dappled pathways disappearing between trees dripping with buds and a pond in the center, lit orange with the setting sun. And it was magic. The flowers were practically humming with it, under the sound of a running stream and, somewhere, the throaty call of an augurey. Enjolras’s fingertips tingled. Where the Devaux house had been so full of magic the air felt thick, this garden’s magic seemed to coat Enjolras like sunlight, an all-encompassing warmth. His feet felt suddenly light, as if his next step might not touch the ground.

Oh,” he said.

“Yeah.” Grantaire was grinning now, moving slowly down the path. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, his paintings were great, too. Rightfully famous. But this place sort of takes the cake.”

“Famous,” Enjolras repeated. “And he was a wizard? How have I never heard of him?”

“He was muggleborn,” Grantaire said, like it was that simple. When Enjolras frowned, he added, “And, I mean—obviously he figured it out, the whole wizard thing, but he never joined the wizarding community. Muggles have biographies in him—lessons on him—but there’s barely a mention in wizarding history. So I don’t actually know why—maybe he just didn’t care for it. But because he didn’t make a name for himself as a wizard, no wizard ever cared.” Grantaire reached out, skimming his fingers along a row of purple buds that unfurled at his touch. “I was just thinking about this, back at the Devaux house, because we were talking about—stolen art, things the Death Eaters got their hands on. But they never touched this garden, because they never knew about it. None of us ever knew about it.”

“We should have,” Enjolras said. “Not the Death Eaters, obviously, but this kind of oversight—it’s stupid.”

“Thins the crowds for us, though,” Grantaire said, nodding at the empty paths around them.

“Yeah.” Enjolras was silent for another minute, taking it in. This garden, something magical untouched by the wizarding wars, by pureblood greed.

“So,” Grantaire said, somewhat abruptly. Enjolras turned to find him digging through one of his pockets. “I, er, I have something for you.”

Enjolras half-expected it to be another cursed doll, because it suddenly felt like the moment outside the Musain—and what was it with these sunset handoffs?—but instead Grantaire held out a short, delicate gold chain set with a tiny red stone.

“Um,” Enjolras said, as Grantaire dumped it in his palm.

“It’s cursed,” Grantaire added.

“…Thanks.”

“I mean—” Grantaire ran a hand through his hair, gaze on the chain in Enjolras’s hand. “It’s cursed for you. A good curse. Not at first, it took quite a lot of coaxing to get it out of poor Monsieur Clavel’s basement in February. It wasn’t exactly a spirit attached, it was residual protective wards that sort of festered and clumped together—kind of like a boggart—and, that isn’t really, um, the point. The point is, I unwound it to the original protective threads, and worked it back into the stone, and you’ve been—around the shop enough while I’ve been working that the bracelet knows you? It knows your voice. So you can activate it.”

“Why would I—?” Enjolras started, picking up the bracelet with the tips of his fingers. It was the same one, he realized, that he’d seen Grantaire studying for weeks in the spring. The chain was light, the stone hardly the size of a fingernail. It felt absolutely mundane in his hand, save a bit of warmth that might’ve been magic or might’ve just been from Grantaire’s hands.

“It’s a curse made of protective wards,” Grantaire was explaining. “Like—a protection curse. And it’s undetectable, I’ve hidden it, so you can call on it, if you ever need—you know, if you're ever in trouble.”

“I’m always in trouble.”

“I know.” They were both still looking at the bracelet. “The stone is one-time use, though, once it cracks we’ll have to reset it. I mean, I’ll have to. If you want. So, don’t call on it willy-nilly.”

“Right.”

Enjolras looked up, and saw Grantaire had finally lifted his eyes to Enjolras’s face. They stayed that way for a moment, and it felt a bit like the garden was watching them, too, holding its collective breath.

Enjolras held the bracelet back out to Grantaire.

Grantaire’s expression fell for just a moment before smoothing over. “Do you not—?”

“I can’t do the clasp one-handed,” Enjolras said.

“Oh,” Grantaire said, and then his hands were on Enjolras’s, carefully looping the bracelet in place. Fingers brushed the underside of his wrist, and Enjolras tried not to shiver.

“Thank you,” he said, when Grantaire was done.

“Yeah.” He met Enjolras’s eyes for a brief moment, before turning and heading down the path once again. “Come on, sunset’s best by the Wiggentree.”

And Enjolras felt something shift there, as the bracelet settled against his skin, still looking at Grantaire’s retreating form as the garden buzzed around them. A recalculation. He used to visit Grantaire because—it didn’t matter if he practiced his tolerance around Grantaire. If he lied to Grantaire. There was nothing at stake. Grantaire wasn’t part of the resistance—didn’t even care about the resistance. Grantaire was safe.

But he was wrong. Grantaire was anything but safe.

 

***

January, 2018

If he didn’t already know what Veritaserum felt like, Enjolras probably wouldn’t notice it creeping through his veins right now. That was the truly terrifying thing about it—it’s a buzz in his ears, a slight quickening of his pulse, a deepening of his breath, all things that could be masked by confusion or joy or panic.

Sebastian waits for him to stop coughing before crouching in front of Enjolras’s chair, face level with his. “Well, that was a bit dramatic.”

Enjolras swallows and risks a glance at Grantaire, who is looking back. Their eyes meet briefly, and then Grantaire drops his head into his hands, murmuring to himself, forehead pressed against the cuffs on his wrists.

Sebastian spares him a look. “Really? He’s cracked already? I expected more from the notorious ABC, to be honest.”

Enjolras takes a second to mentally revise the ABC policy on unforgiveable curses, because the moment he gets out of here—the very moment—he is going to kill Sebastian where he stands.

“So.” Sebastian’s mouth twists into a little grin. “To make sure everything’s in order—is your real name Enjolras?”

Enjolras swallows again before letting himself answer, through his teeth, “Yes.”

“Full name?”

He holds back as long as he can, just to see what—

Sebastian taps his wand on Enjolras’s knee, and a bolt of pain shoots up his leg, deep under his skin, like something sharp and frozen is sinking into his bones. Enjolras lets out a cry, and then, in the same breath: “Julian. Julian Dupont Enjolras.”

One of Sebastian’s eyebrows arches up. “Dupont? As in the Marseilles Duponts? I mean, that’s the name we dug up for you, but I thought surely we were wrong about that one.” He shakes his head. “I’ll never understand how someone from such good stock could throw themselves in with lesser wizards.”

“The only lesser wizards are you ignorant, nearsighted, fascist—”

Sebastian taps his knee again, and Enjolras’s words break off into a strangled yell. To his left, one of the other Trads laughs. And in the corner, Grantaire is still curled up, still whispering to himself. Is he praying? Enjolras doesn’t know if Grantaire’s religious (he should’ve asked, always more he should’ve asked), or if the Cruciatus Curse really rattled him so badly he’s simply trying to block everything out.

“Let’s get back on track. Favorite spell,” Sebastian says, like he’s enjoying this.

“I don’t see how that’s—agh—lumos.”

“Boring. Favorite bleeding-heart blood traitor.”

Courfeyrac. Joly. Bossuet. “Myself.”

“Favorite anonymous informant to quote in one of your simpering op-eds.”

“They’re anonymous, how am I supposed to—fuck.”

“Surely you know someone. I want names. Descriptions. Details on anyone who’s informing on us.”

“One of them has really nice handwriting. Cursive. Wouldn’t have expected it from someone involved with a bunch of backwards fucking morons, but—god, fuck—” He stops trying to talk until the next wave passes. His leg is starting to go numb between spells.

“Don’t give yourself a headache,” Sebastian says. “Angel’s potion is far too potent for talking around the truth. How do you get these anonymous tips?”

“People decide they’ve had a little too much fascism, so they reach out and—”

Another tap. The pain is too much. His head feels light, his tongue loose, words bubbling up before he can fully wrap his head around them. “Enchanted owl roost. 9th arrondissement.”

“Is the roost at one of your meeting points?”

“No.”

“Where do you meet?”

It’s two taps before Enjolras grinds out, “The Musain.”

“Please. I’m not talking about public meetings, that’s hardly worth the price of this very expensive potion. I’m talking about real meetings.”

Enjolras licks his lips, tasting blood where he bit down too hard on the last spell. “Technically, you said—”

“Hey, what’s this one doing?” One of the women—Angel, the potions master—jerks her chin at Grantaire. “Tell him to shut up.”

The Trad nearest Grantaire kicks him in the shin. “Shut up.”

Other than a hitch in his voice, Grantaire doesn’t shut up. He just keeps murmuring gibberish, head down, still pressing his face against the cuffs.

No. Wait. Not gibberish—

“Not our priority,” Sebastian says. “Eyes here, Julian. I asked about your meeting spot.”

—Latin?

“The real one,” Sebastian continues. “The one so warded it needs a Secret Keeper, where you keep your information. Your plans. Your people. The one that would destroy you, if we found it.”

“I—,” Enjolras says. His nails are digging into his palms, a distant, stinging pain. Ferre’s apartment. Combeferre’s apartment. “An apartment—”

“You have until the count of three,” Sebastian says sweetly. “One.”

“An apartment—”

“Two.”

“Enjolras,” Grantaire says. He’s stopped mumbling, and the panic in his voice is so thick Enjolras winces, glancing over again. Grantaire’s looking up now, eyes wide, and the fear clawing at Enjolras’s throat mixes with a tinge of stupid, selfish relief that Grantaire’s still here with him. “Don’t—”

“Three.”

This time Sebastian sets his wand on Enjolras’s knee and holds.

When he’s done, Enjolras truly can’t feel his leg. There are words coming out of his mouth, a stream of curses and damnations and spells and he’s supposed to—he’s supposed to— “Fuck, Merlin’s fucking—28 Rue Deparcieux—fuck.”

“No,” Grantaire says, then, “Oh, fuck it, resarare. Fucking—open.”

And his cuffs clatter to the ground.

Grantaire’s on his feet in an instant, unsteady but fast, lunging for the nearest Trad. He’s got the Trad’s wand in his hand before Enjolras can blink, and a half-formed “Stupef—” uttered before a disarming curse throws him hard enough to rattle the far wall, the Trad’s wand rolling to the floor. Angel has her own wand to Grantaire’s throat a moment later, eyes narrowed.

“Damn,” she says.

“Did he just—” The Trad Grantaire disarmed picks himself up off the ground, eyeing Grantaire nervously. “Did he just dispel those cuffs without a wand?

“Maybe we were wrong, Seb,” Angel says. “Maybe the pretty one is just a distraction, and this one’s the real deal. You should switch targets.”

Enjolras stills.

Sebastian looks at Grantaire, contemplative, then back to Enjolras, drumming his fingers on Enjolras’s knee. Enjolras jolts. “That true?” Sebastian says. “Were you a distraction, so your partner could get the jump on us?”

Enjolras’s mouth is dry. He can’t stop watching Angel’s wand, digging into the skin under Grantaire’s jaw. Can’t help but remember Grantaire’s scream under the Cruciatus Curse, not minutes ago. “No.”

“Then why is he here? Does he know anything important?”

He knows our names. He knows my favorite shows on Netflix. He knows how to find Claude Monet’s hidden garden. He knows I’d rather die than give you anything, and he probably knows he has a chance of dying with me.

He has to do something.

Enjolras inhales, like he’s preparing to open a meeting, or win a debate, or yell at a lagging contestant on The Great British Bake-Off, and meets Sebastian’s eyes.

“Hardly,” he forces out. This is the mission. This is the point. “He’s no one.”

In the corner of his vision, he can see Grantaire’s eyes are flicking between Enjolras and Sebastian, breaths shallow and rasping as he holds still.

Sebastian narrows his eyes. “You’re saying your partner here has nothing to offer.”

“He’s not my partner.” The words are coming easier now. “You think I’d trust someone like him with my secrets? With my friends? He gets drunk every other day, I’m sure he’d spill anything half-interesting to the first person to buy him a beer.”

“Really.” Sebastian didn’t look convinced. “Louis says he nearly threw off the Imperius Curse to try to protect you, and he just dispelled a pair of cursed handcuffs while his wand is upstairs in a kitchen drawer, and you’re telling me he’s nothing special?”

“Impractical parlor tricks don’t exactly make someone valuable to a social movement.”

Grantaire makes a low, wounded noise, and Enjolras forces himself not to look. He can’t look.

Sebastian snorts. “So he has no value to you.”

“Of course he has value. Every human life has inherent value. Except yours, I’ll make an exception for—”

The wand tap Sebastian gives him is almost lazy, but hurts just as much. “So if we were to, say, sever his fingers one by one until he didn’t have any left, that wouldn’t motivate you to stop talking in circles?”

A phantom touch ghosts across Enjolras’s wrist—a memory, Grantaire’s fingers clasping the bracelet in Monet’s garden. A vision of Grantaire’s hand holding the cursed doll so, so carefully, even when he’d been joking about muggle horror movies a moment earlier. Grantaire’s fingers curling in Enjolras’s hair. Grantaire’s fingers lifting a tea kettle, hitting a key on his laptop, turning a page in a book, clutching a pole on a muggle train as they hurtled toward a cursed pureblood estate. The first time they touched, Grantaire lifting Enjolras’s bloody arm to examine the curse that was well on its way to fatal, and deciding to save him.

Either Enjolras breaks—says, you do that and I’ll reincarnate you after I kill you, just to kill you again, and again, and again—and shows his hand, and they torture Grantaire just to get to Enjolras, or Enjolras keeps going. Convinces them Grantaire means nothing to him, so they’ll redirect their attention to Enjolras and leave Grantaire out of this, as it should’ve been from the beginning.

“He’s not even supposed to be here,” Enjolras says. “God, you can’t imagine how frustrating—this was my meeting. My moment. And now he’s gone and thrown himself in harm’s way for nothing, because he has nothing to offer either of us, not here, and it’s so goddamn inconvenient. I don’t know if he’s bored or just a fool, but I promise you, he’s not part of any grand plan. I’m still here to fight your fucking agenda with everything I’ve got.” He pauses. “So you can hex him until you’ve run out of spells. Hurting him still won’t make me fight you any less.”

The room is silent for a moment, save Enjolras’s harsh breathing. Then Sebastian nods. “You weren’t kidding when you said it was a strong brew,” he says over his shoulder to Angel. And Enjolras shouldn’t look, he shouldn’t, but his gaze jumps to Grantaire, still pressed against the water-stained wallpaper.

Grantaire flinches when their eyes meet, face pale. His hands are shaking at his sides. But he doesn’t look away, and Enjolras has to bite back a flood of words, of everything that would give him away, and it’s somehow even harder than lying to Sebastian.

“Okay, well,” Sebastian says, still to Angel, “I mean, in that case, get rid of him. If he can break the cuffs it’s not really worth the hassle.”

“Wait—,” Enjolras starts.

“You sure?” Angel presses her wand harder into Grantaire’s neck.

Wait—”

Sebastian shrugs, like they’re trying to decide on pizza toppings. “It’s not like I’m gonna mourn another pathetic acolyte of the mudblood justice movement. It doesn’t even sound like his fearless leader will mind all that much.” He looks sidelong at Enjolras and raises his eyebrows. “Is that right?”

Sebastian.” Enjolras is twisting in his chair again, trying to get out, to do anything, because this isn’t the plan, this isn’t the goddamn plan—

Sebastian turns away from Grantaire. Behind him, Grantaire closes his eyes.

“Maybe if you weren’t so fucking annoying,” Sebastian said to Enjolras. “But we’re on a schedule here.” Then, to Angel:

“Kill him.”

 

***

December, 2017

Bahorel almost died in December.

He was meeting an informant, someone who claimed to have information about a corrupt ministry official, and not an hour later Enjolras was skidding through the hospital hallway, crowding into an exam room next to Combeferre and Courfeyrac. A medinurse frowned at them as she ran her wand over the bandages spanning Bahorel’s chest.

“No excitement,” she said, and Enjolras—heart racing, breath heaving from running all the way from the apparition point—nodded and tried to look calm. It lasted until the nurse was out of the room, and then Enjolras lurched to the bedside, knocking shoulders with Combeferre.

Bahorel was unconscious. The bandages covered most of his chest and the top of his right arm, and there was already blood soaking through at the shoulder. This was Bahorel, larger-than-life Bahorel, who once outran a squadron of ministry officials and a bear on a muggle motorcycle, lying unmoving on a sterile hospital gurney. “What,” Enjolras said. “What happened?”

“Dark magic. Can’t heal the normal way. They assured us he’s going to be fine, though.” Courf’s voice was low. Tired. “I mean, he’ll have some scarring. But you know Bahorel, he’ll…find the bright side in that.”

“God,” Enjolras said.

“They were waiting, from what I gathered before he passed out,” Combeferre said. “He got away, but he wasn’t supposed to. It was an ambush.”

Enjolras closed his eyes. His skin felt stretched tight, from the adrenaline and the sheer concentration of magic in the hospital—something he’d never noticed before Grantaire, not that that was important right now—and it felt like something had changed in the last few minutes. Like they’d taken another step toward the inevitable.

The sheets rustled, and Enjolras’s eyes snapped open. Bahorel blinked below him, one arm lifting to touch the bandage on his chest.

“What time is it?” he asked hoarsely.

“Ten,” Courf answered.

“Aw, man,” Bahorel said. “I was supposed to light the menorah, like, five hours ago.” And then his eyes slid closed again.

Enjolras pulled Combeferre and Courf to the side, for at least some semblance of secrecy. “It has to be soon,” he said. “We can’t keep sneaking around, waiting to get killed in the shadows before we ever do anything.”

Ferre and Courf glanced at each other, and then nodded.

“We’ll put things in motion,” Combeferre said. “But for now—we act like everything’s normal. If anyone’s watching, that’s the best thing we can do.”

Enjolras ground his teeth, and agreed.

Bahorel was back on his feet by the end of the month, just in time for the ABC’s non-denominational, mistletoe-and-presents-heavy holiday party, much to his—and everyone’s—relief. Enjolras showed up about an hour late (because, act normal), eyes dry and kind of burning from a long day sorting through the letters that just wouldn’t stop pouring in.

It took his vision a moment to adjust, walking through the door of Courf’s apartment, because it was dark and glittering and utterly transformed. A giant fir tree sprouted from the middle of the floor, snow falling gently around it, and balls of multicolored light floated around, illuminating his friends’ faces in soft hues. One bounced off Enjolras’s cheek, warm against his skin. Under the sound of conversation, Enjolras caught bits of Courf’s favorite retro British band, The Naughty Nifflers, and he bit back a groan.

Everyone was here. There was Combeferre, nursing a drink in the kitchen and watching Courf stir something violently green that was either his holiday punch or a potion about to go very wrong. Eponine, Grantaire’s friend and their newest member, and her brother Gavroche were showing Cosette something that had to do with muggle cards and a sprig of mistletoe, while Marius gazed at them from where he was talking to Feuilly and Bahorel by the wall. Joly, Bossuet, and Musichetta had clearly claimed the couch, and Jehan leaned over the back, their wand tracing patterns of light in the air as they talked.

It was most of the people Enjolras loved in the world, packed into one apartment, doing their damnedest to have a holiday as the world fell apart around them, because, as Courf put it, Death Eaters might be running Christmas next year, so simply being merry was an act of resistance.

And then—

“Oh, thank god,” someone said, and it was Grantaire, worming his way out of the Joly/Bossuet/Musichetta pile on the couch. He paused, got his balance, and made his way to Enjolras, beaming. “I thought you’d decided to forego the festivities, and then I would’ve been carrying this for nothing.”

He held out a small package wrapped in gaudy muggle gift paper. Enjolras blinked and took it, turning it over in his hands. The gold bracelet shifted against his wrist, where it had been for the last six months, so he shouldn’t be so surprised that Grantaire got him a gift, but. “I didn’t get you anything,” he said. He’d been too busy to do anything for anyone, really, getting ready for—what they were about to do.

Grantaire rolled his eyes. “Just open it, Enj.”

He did, the gift paper tearing easily in his hands even as he tried to be careful. “What’s—you can’t be serious.”

Grantaire broke into laughter, and Joly and Musichetta perked up behind him, leaning forward to see.

“Is that Enjolras’s gift?” Joly called. “Oh my god, it’s perfect.”

“It’s ridiculous,” Enjolras said, staring down at the scarlet and gold knit hat, not sure if he wanted to scowl or grin or glare at Grantaire, because even Enjolras knew this was a Gryffindor hat.

“Put it on,” Grantaire said. “Go on, just—”

He didn’t wait for Enjolras to do it, and reached out to take the hat, tugging it firmly onto Enjolras’s head.

“Oh my god,” Joly said again. In front of Enjolras, Grantaire clapped his hands together, expression nothing short of delighted. A pink light floated by, illuminating Grantaire’s face as it passed between them. Enjolras found he couldn’t quite look away.

“The world is finally set to rights,” Grantaire declared. “You can’t ever take it off.”

“That’s not happening,” Enjolras said, but the hat stayed on for the rest of the party. His friends commented on it as he both dodged and accepted refills of Courf’s green punch and wove through conversations and lost at least two games of exploding snap.

Joly caught him on the balcony, when the apartment was a bit too hot and a bit too dark and Enjolras’s eyes were sticking together every other blink. He was just drunk enough to be tired, for the world to feel a bit too up close.

“So,” Joly said, leaning against the railing, the rooftops of Wizarding Paris spread out in front of them. “Gryffindor, huh.”

“That’s me. According to Grantaire.”

“It fits,” Joly said. “Gryffindor means courage, but it also means doing something with that courage. Following the right path above all else. It’s a compliment, I promise.”

“I don’t have a problem with the concept of Gryffindor,” Enjolras said, in what he hoped was a reassuring tone. “But the whole system—a hat that—that literally sorts kids—”

“Oh, I know.” Joly waved a hand. “Plenty to be rightfully wigged about there. But it doesn’t mean it’s not true, at least a bit.”

“You are smart,” Enjolras conceded, remembering Joly had a—what was it—a Ravenclaw banner in his apartment somewhere.

“Gosh,” Joly said. “Charmer.”

Enjolras laughed, and he could see his own breath clouding in front of his face. His stomach was already pressed to the railing, and he leaned forward, tipping just a bit further, relishing, for a moment, the little swoop in his stomach that told him he was too close to danger. For a moment it felt like the sparkling street in front of him belonged to a different world, one where Enjolras could just drink Courf’s punch and kiss his friends under the mistletoe and fall asleep on the couch sometime in the early morning, waking hours and hours later with nothing to do but brew a hangover potion and find the most convenient café for breakfast. A world where caring about everything didn’t feel so sharp-edged, like a barb in the side of his heart.

Joly grabbed the sleeve of his jacket and pulled him back. “Gryffindor,” he muttered. “Yeah.”

“Okay,” Enjolras said. “I get it. Gryffindor. And you’re the raven one. And Grantaire is Huffle—Hufflepuff, like his scarf.”

Joly hummed in agreement. “You know what Hufflepuff means, right?”

Enjolras tapped his collarbone, like he’d seen Grantaire tap his scarf. “Good at finding things.”

“Is that what Grantaire told you?”

“Yes. Many times.”

Joly shook his head, fond. “Technically, true. But it’s not the main thing. Hufflepuff means—loyalty. It’s the best one, and I’m saying that as a rival house. When it comes to friends, there’s no one you want in your corner more.”

“Loyalty,” Enjolras repeated. Loyalty. The word was still rolling around his head when he made his way to the street an hour later with the vague intention of going to the 24-hour store and getting nettles and horned slugs for Marius, who’d had an allergic reaction to something in the wizard crackers. Enjolras was still half-drunk, thanks to the green punch, and he almost didn’t see Grantaire until he nearly ran into him coming off Courf’s stoop.

“Oh,” Enjolras said, “hi,” right as Grantaire said, “Sorry, let me—,” and reached out, one hand cupping Enjolras’s elbow to steady him.

They stood like that for a moment. Grantaire’s nose and ears were pink with the cold, and Enjolras wanted to—do something. Cast a warming charm, maybe, or pull Grantaire back inside, where it was almost too warm. “What are you doing?” Enjolras asked. “If you’re going out for nettles, don’t worry, I’m already on the way.”

“Nettles—oh, god, what did Marius do now?”

“Had a reaction, or something,” Enjolras said, then frowned. “How long have you been out here?”

“Not too long.” Grantaire still hadn’t dropped his hand. Enjolras found himself holding still, hoping he wouldn’t notice. “I just…”

It clicked. “The magic too much inside?”

“Yeah.” Grantaire swallowed. “So just, needed a breather. It’s nice, though,” he added, softer. “I didn’t think I’d ever…have this again.”

His tone, the reverence in the word this, referring to their friends upstairs—together and happy and, for the moment, safe—made something grow warm in Enjolras’s chest. Loyalty, Joly had said.

It was late, but they weren’t quite alone outside. Brooms swooped overhead, summoned lights danced over rooftops, and people laughed and held hands as they crossed the cobblestone street. The air smelled faintly of chestnuts, and the warmth in Enjolras’s chest kept expanding.

“Thank you,” Enjolras said. “For the hat. I didn’t say thank you.”

“Happy to share my culture,” Grantaire said. Then, more seriously, “You’re welcome.”

“I’ll get you something. Later.” It felt important for Grantaire to know this.

“Don’t worry about it. I’m not…I know you have a lot going on.” Grantaire was still serious, and something told Enjolras he should start paying more attention to that and less attention to the way Grantaire’s hand was still. On. His. Arm.

“Right,” Enjolras said. “The ministry elections are coming up—”

“I have friends,” Grantaire interrupted, and paused. “Other friends. Less principled friends. You know that.” Enjolras did know that. He’d only known about Grantaire in the first place through Montparnasse, and last month Grantaire had put them in touch with more people he knew in the Paris underground, forging a line of trust between the ABC and smugglers of everything from dragon scales to information. Just in case, he’d said, and no one had objected. “So, I hear things. I know you keep me in the dark, and I get it, but, sometimes I know things anyway. And I know you’re planning something.”

“We’re planning a lot of things,” Enjolras said, immediate.

“Something especially dangerous. And probably stupid.” Grantaire took a deep breath. “And, if I already know that much, and I know where to find out more…I could help.”

“Help,” Enjolras repeated. Grantaire’s contributions to any of the ABC’s plans were usually in the form of pointing out the flaws, the opportunities to fail. “I thought—you don’t have to, you could just tell me what you heard, and we’ll follow up. You don’t have to get involved.”

“That’s not what I said.”

“I don’t understand, then.”

Somewhere, a few blocks away, a bell started tolling. The hospital chapel, probably, telling everyone it’s midnight. Christmas Eve had become Christmas.

“What do you want, Grantaire?” Enjolras asked, quietly.

There was no way Grantaire didn’t know he was still holding Enjolras’s arm. It had to be deliberate now. To mean something.

“My mom,” Grantaire said. Stopped.

What? Enjolras almost said, but, for once, he stayed silent.

Grantaire started again. “I told you once that my mom was a professor. At Hogwarts. She taught arithmancy. She was there, during the war. And the end of the war.”

Enjolras already knew there was only one way this story ended.

“I was three at the time,” Grantaire said. “I hadn’t seen her in months at that point, because she wouldn’t leave her students to the mercy of the Carrows even for a weekend, and my dad refused to let us travel there. To let us do anything, really. Almost all of my memories form that year are from our basement in Nottinghamshire, which was warded to all hell. So that’s probably where I was, when the battle started at school.”

“Did she,” Enjolras tried to ask. Couldn’t.

“Yes,” Grantaire said anyway. “She’d gotten her students out, that night. She was outside the gates. She could’ve come home, but they told me she went back in. Because she believed in fighting. For everyone. And the Death Eaters killed her.”

“Grantaire,” Enjolras murmured.

Grantaire shook his head. “What I’m trying to say is—I know what caring too much does. I know that even when evil loses, good loses, too. I’ve known that my entire life. But—” His grip on Enjolras tightened. “But still, you. You make me care. Fuck.”

Grantaire kissed him.

Enjolras made a small, surprised noise in the back of his throat, his own hands already latching on to Grantaire’s coat, like he needed to keep Grantaire there, like he might disappear before Enjolras’s brain could catch up. The air still smelled like chestnuts, he noticed, distantly, and now like Grantaire, too, rare herbs and leather and broom polish, because, god, Grantaire was so close, nose bumping his, their knees knocking together. His lips were warm and slightly chapped, and Enjolras made another noise as Grantaire’s teeth skimmed his bottom lip. Grantaire kissed hard, as if this was part of his story, his declaration that he cared, and the warmth in Enjolras’s chest burst back into existence.

The grip on Enjolras’s arm lifted, and Grantaire’s fingers cupped the back of his neck, curling in Enjolras’s hair under his new hat. For a moment, it was all Enjolras could feel. He forgot about the nettles. The party. The fear. For a moment, it was fucking wonderful.

And then Enjolras froze.

Because fear wasn’t something he could forget, not right now. Not when it was woven into every part of his life, and for good reason. He thought of the low pang of fear he felt every time Combeferre traveled to another city, hell, another arrondissement, to conduct research they couldn’t do from their own books. The buzzing anxiety every time Courfeyrac left to meet with a contact that may be a new ally and may be someone with a skull tattoo hidden under their sleeve. The slow terror of seeing Bahorel still on a hospital bed, of watching Musichetta hold Joly as he had a panic attack in the back of the Musain. He thought of the way he already scanned the front window of Grantaire’s shop on approach, looking for signs that something wasn’t right, that someone traced Enjolras to the member of the group who showed up to meetings just to argue and also kept only one muggle lock on his door.

Grantaire was right. Enjolras was about to do something dangerous. Even if it went exactly as planned, there was going to be fallout. Exposure. More fear.

He’d been still long enough for Grantaire to pull back, just an inch, just enough to say, “Enjolras?” like he was asking a question he didn’t want to be answered.

Enjolras dropped his hands. As he did he felt the bracelet slide against his skin. It was cursed and charmed to hell—undetectable—but if there was even a chance someone could find it, unwind the magic, follow it back to Grantaire’s shop with the one lock…

“I can’t,” Enjolras said. I’m sorry, he didn’t say.

He took off the bracelet, muttering a quick unlocking charm instead of standing there fumbling with the clasp, and pressed it into Grantaire’s hand. He left before he could register the look on Grantaire’s face, but. Grantaire didn’t call after him as he rounded the corner.

Someday, Enjolras told himself, and as much as he valued optimism and hope and the possibility of a better future, he wasn’t sure he believed it.

 

***

January, 2018

Enjolras understands Les Trads’ mistake the moment Angel opens her mouth.

They think Grantaire is helpless without magic. They’ve seen his trick, his fight against the cursed cuffs, but now he doesn’t have a wand, his hands empty and uncurling as he holds them up by his head, a motion of surrender. He doesn’t have time for a wandless incantation before Angel draws in enough breath to speak, and so, they think, he’s defenseless.

But Enjolras has seen Grantaire painstakingly use a dull muggle can opener before thinking to try a charm. Has seen him walk a mile to the nearest bus stop rather than apparate. Grantaire loves magic—understands it better than anyone Enjolras knows—but he has never, ever relied on it.

Av—

Grantaire punches her.

He catches her right in the throat, and she lurches back, choking. Grantaire has her wand in his hand an instant later, his hand hardly closing around it before he’s whirling on his feet, sending a blast that rocks Enjolras’s chair and has Sebastian throwing himself to the side.

Alohamora,” Grantaire shouts, aiming at Enjolras, and the spell barely misses as Grantaire ducks to avoid a bolt of green light. He rolls, volleys back, and focuses on Enjolras again. “Aloh—fuck it, come on, resarare.”

Grantaire’s invented incantation lands, and the cuffs on Enjolras’s wrists fall open. He pushes himself up, meaning to move forward, toward Grantaire, and then slams to the ground, his numb leg crumpling beneath him. Fuck.

A curse flies over his head, close enough to singe his hair, and he rolls over in time to see Sebastian, braced against the opposite wall, wand pointed right at Enjolras. “Stupef—

Protego,” Grantaire shouts above him, and a shield shimmers above Enjolras just in time to deflect Sebastian’s stunning spell.

I need a wand, Enjolras wants to yell, but he has to dodge another blast before he has the chance. He looks around, frantic. Angel is trying to pull herself to her feet, still gasping for breath, and one of the other Trads is slumped by the steps, unmoving. Enjolras starts to drag himself over—

“Oh, absolutely not,” Sebastian growls, and the stairwell explodes. Enjolras throws his hands over his head as debris rains down, and the Trad by the steps is quickly engulfed in flames. God. God. They need to get out of here. They need to—

Grantaire cries out behind him, and Enjolras shoves himself up again to see Grantaire picking himself up by the wall, Angel’s wand clattering to his feet. Sebastian advances, looking between Enjolras and Grantaire, his expression of absolute rage illuminated in the glowing firelight.

“I hope you didn’t ever,” he snarls, “ever plan on surviving this.”

Enjolras pulls himself forward, but he won’t reach Angel’s wand in time, not with a useless leg. Ferre, he thinks. Courf. We fucking tried.

But Grantaire has other ideas.

“Enjolras!” he shouts, and holds out his arm. Enjolras’s first, wild thought is that Grantaire wants to hold hands as they die. But then he sees the gold glinting on Grantaire’s wrist. The bracelet.

It knows your voice, Grantaire had said.

Enjolras gathers the last of his strength and shoves himself up, throwing himself toward Grantaire and reaching out, curling his fingers around Grantaire’s wrist. The bracelet’s stone bites into his palm, trapped between them.

Protect us,” he shouts.

It’s instantaneous. Something shrieks above their heads, and then a fucking whirlwind bursts out of the bracelet. Whatever it is, it’s nearly alive, unfurling from between Enjolras’s fingers and surging through the room. The bracelet grows hot against Enjolras’s skin, and he lets go only to grab Grantaire’s hand like a lifeline. Harsh wind whips against his face as the shrieking gets louder, and he can’t see Sebastian anymore, can hardly see anything but Grantaire, but he has to focus—he squints down, because there should be—there—

Enjolras crashes to his knees, dragging Grantaire down with him, and grabs the wand Grantaire dropped. Clutching it in one hand, and Grantaire in the other, he closes his eyes and plants his good knee on the ground and turns.

For a moment he doesn’t think it worked. But then it’s quiet, and the world no longer smells like smoke, and he realizes the whirlwind of the bracelet’s curse had simply blended into the rush of apparating. He did it.

He’s brought them to the first place he could think of. Giverny. Monet’s garden. Enjolras is still on his knees, dampness from the snow-dusted flowerbed already soaking into his pants, but he’s here, whole, and Grantaire is swaying on his feet next to him, also whole and still holding his hand.

“Oh, good,” Enjolras says, and then bends forward to put his head between his knees, because, really. He’s going to need an entire pot of Joly’s calming tea after this.

Grantaire makes a strangled noise above him, and then he pulls his hand from Enjolras’s only to grab his shoulder and shake. “Enjolras—you have to—the curse might not kill them, you have to tell everyone to clear out of Combeferre’s apartment now—”

Enjolras straightens, trying to breathe in enough garden air to get the taste of ash out of his throat. Wind whistles in the barren branches around them. “No, no,” he says. “It’s okay.”

“It is not okay. Give me the wand, or your phone, or something, please.” Another shake. “Enjolras.”

Enjolras looks up. There’s enough moonlight to see that Grantaire has fresh blood on his face, trickling down from his hairline. Enjolras starts to reach for it. “You’re hurt.”

Grantaire shoves his hand away. “That’s not important right now.”

“It is. It’s important.” If they got away only for Grantaire to keel over from a head wound—

“Why,” Grantaire says, and there’s something off about his voice, something other than the panic and the adrenaline. “Because I’m a human being and my life has inherent value? Thank you, but fucking shove it, and give me your goddamn phone.”

That wording, inherent value, crashes to a halt in Enjolras’s mind. Every human life has inherent value. The words he used to convince Sebastian that Grantaire wasn’t worth torturing, because he wasn’t worth anything to Enjolras. Words Grantaire thinks were the truth, because…Enjolras hasn’t told him.

“Wait,” Enjolras says. He tries to reach for Grantaire again and just ends up listing to the side, gritting his teeth. Feeling is starting to return to his leg, but slowly, too slowly. “Wait, wait. I need to explain. Grantaire. You were never supposed to be here.”

“I know. You said as much. Now you’re wasting time—”

“No—it’s—this was a mission. Listen. We knew this would happen. For months. We knew they had a potions master, that they were using Veritaserum on journalists and politicians for blackmail. It only made sense they’d try to use it on the ABC, once they zeroed in on us. So we made sure they zeroed in on me.”

Grantaire has stilled, his face in shadow now as he looks down at Enjolras. “Why the fuck would you do that?”

“Because I’ve been dosing myself with Veritaserum for almost a year now. It doesn't work on me.”

“But you said—you told them where Combeferre lives.”

Enjolras shakes his head. His ears are still ringing, echoes of the curse’s shriek, and the quiet rustling of the garden only seems to amplify it. “Combeferre moved last week. A clean break. We planned it. We’re going public, Grantaire. But we had to make sure we were safe before we did. We had to make sure they had the wrong information.”

“So you don’t…” The clouds shift, enough for more moonlight to seep through, which is enough for Enjolras to see that Grantaire looks utterly lost. It’s almost the same expression he wore back in the basement, staring at Enjolras with a wand to his throat. You think I’d trust someone like him with my secrets? With my friends?

“I was lying,” Enjolras says. He shifts, his leg screaming in pain, but mobile now, if a bit stiff. He heaves himself to his feet, meeting Grantaire’s eyes. “Grantaire. R. I was lying.”

Grantaire steps back, almost unconsciously, still looking like Enjolras is speaking some sort of dead language. Then— “Oh, Jesus. Of course. All those weird things you said, the thing with the Vespa—that was the whole point. I wondered why you even—all those times you came by the shop, just to see me, that was what, practice?”

“No,” Enjolras says. “Well, at first. But you’re—you’re you,” he tries to explain. “Yeah, I started visiting because of the potion, but I kept going because you’re you. Because we kept arguing and because of Netflix and curses in old ladies’ attics. You’re one of us. You’re my friend.”

“How do I know you’re not lying now?” Grantaire demands. “Just to get back on my good side, so you don’t have to find a new curse worker the next time you try on the wrong piece of jewelry?”

Enjolras let out a huff of exasperation. “Did you see how much Veritaserum they gave me? Enough to last til next week. Either I’m lying now, which shouldn’t be possible, or I’m telling the truth, which proves I was lying earlier.”

Grantaire groans, covering his face with his hands. “Now my head really hurts.”

Grantaire.” It’s ridiculous, how this conversation is in danger of getting away from them, how this has gone from explanations and reassurances to an argument, how Enjolras is having trouble finding words that won’t turn this into a full-blown shouting match now that they’re safe. But that’s just how it goes with Grantaire, isn’t it? And Enjolras is all right with that, because it’s Grantaire, and they’re here and alive enough to argue, so of course they’re going to argue.

Suddenly Enjolras feels like laughing. So he does.

Grantaire lowers his hands and frowns at him, still unsure, still wary, and Enjolras can’t have that. He doesn’t want Grantaire to get hurt, but fuck, he’s already hurt, and Enjolras lying didn’t do a damn thing to protect him.

“Grantaire,” he says again, and reaches out. This time Grantaire doesn’t swat him away.

Enjolras kisses him, mindful of Grantaire’s split lip. It’s different than the first time, a few weeks ago, because they’re hurt and Enjolras’s ears are ringing and they’re in Claude Monet’s garden in the dead of winter, and Grantaire is the one who’s frozen. He stays frozen for a few seconds, and then his shoulders relax, and he tips forward, meeting Enjolras halfway.

“If you’re lying now,” Grantaire breaks the kiss to say, “I don’t think I want to know.”

“This isn’t a lie,” Enjolras says. He leans in again, kissing Grantaire once—quick, soft. “This is how it is. You matter. You matter to me.”

Grantaire makes another low sound and reels Enjolras back in. “I can’t believe,” he says, lips moving against Enjolras’s skin as he kisses his cheek, his jaw, “this is the end of a whole damn year of pining, you bastard—”

“A year?” Enjolras demands, twisting to follow Grantaire, to kiss him again. He ends up putting weight on his bad leg, and— “Shit,” he says. Grantaire pulls back.

“Oh, fuck, right,” he says. He reaches out and lets Enjolras steady himself against his shoulder. “Probably not good to apparate again like that. You did work a method of communication into this plan, right?”

“Of course,” Enjolras grumbles, and digs through the left pocket of his jeans, where his iPhone is hidden under a concealment charm. He hands it to Grantaire. “Here, I’m still not very good at—can you text Combeferre where we are?”

As Grantaire fiddles with the phone, Enjolras unclasps the bracelet from Grantaire’s wrist and fastens it around his own, useless stone and all, right over the year-old scars from the night they met.

“They’ll be here any moment.” Grantaire hands back the phone and lets out a long breath. “And, look, just so we’re clear, the kissing thing doesn’t change the fact that I still think you’re going to get yourself killed one of these days.” His voice is some combination of exasperated and achingly sincere and it makes Enjolras’s stomach flip, because it’s so Grantaire, the kind of tone that belongs in the backroom of the pawn shop or in the corner of the Musain or in this garden, surrounded by moonlight and muggle flowers waiting for spring. Affection and argument rolled into one, tangled together like a curse. “But,” Grantaire adds, meeting Enjolras’s eyes, “I’m not about to sit back and make it easy for you, either. Got it?”

“Got it,” Enjolras says. Grantaire holds out his hand, and for the second time that night Enjolras takes it, threading their fingers together as they wait for Combeferre, and Enjolras thinks it’d be nice to come back here once the flowers have bloomed again, when they have no one to run from and nothing to do but talk about long-gone artists and ridiculous school houses and argue about what to put on their pizza later.

He thinks, someday.

This time, he believes it.