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Propelling Forward

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It all started with a prank.

 

“Stiles! Stiles… wait up, man, c’mon!”

 

Scott’s voice carried carelessly across the rolling green hills of the Hogwarts grounds, and Stiles did pause in his steps, despite every nerve in his body wanting to propel him forward. This was not a conversation he wanted to have. His hand gripped the wood of his broom tightly when he did eventually turn on his heel. Scott caught up, short of breath with his red tie flung over his shoulder from the speed at which he ran after his friend. Stiles reached up and flicked it back down in place without thinking, forever mothering the damn kid even as he feels ready to lose his own mind. 

 

“Oh… thanks.” Scott said as soon as he was done scarfing down oxygen, a lopsided smile on his face. The guy wasn’t completely unfit - sure, he had a brief stint with asthma before he found out he was a wizard, but Madame Cloke made quick work of that in the infirmary. No, for him to be this out of breath Stiles knew he must have run all the way from class, which confirmed precisely what Stiles didn’t want to know. People had been talking about him again. Scott shook his smile from his face fairly quickly. “Did you really curse Hale?”

 

“What?!” Anticipation was quickly replaced by outrage. “Who told you that one? Was it Plunkett? I swear, he’s just as bad as Hale.”

 

“Well… yeah, it was, but you’re saying you didn’t?”

 

Scott seemed to be letting out a large sigh of relief, and it just aggravated Stiles more. “No! To be honest, I’m a little peeved you believed him.” But Stiles shouldn’t have been. At that point, it had been three months since the school year started, and even though they had separate houses Scott had been his best friend from the first moment they met on the train in first year. Their sixth year had been different, though, as all things inevitably are. Their friendship was doomed to lose some of its reliability as soon as Professor Argent started teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts, transferring his daughter Allison from Beauxbatons Academy and straight into the Gryffindor Common Room. One look between her and Scott, and Stiles may as well have been gurdyroot tea. Stiles can’t really blame him, but between her, Quidditch, and the teachers deciding to put everyone through their paces to prepare for the NEWTs next year, Scott wasn’t exactly as active in Stiles’ life as he used to be.

 

To Scott’s credit, he did look sheepish having been caught believing a lie. “Sorry, man. Things have just been so bad between you and Hale lately. Don’t get me wrong, I hate the guy just as much as you do. But it’s like every time I turn around he’s messed with your potion, or you’ve tripped him in front of the class, or he’s spelled your book to--”

 

“Yeah, yeah, everyone knows about what happened to my Charms scroll, let’s not relive it.” Stiles could see some of the Hufflepuff team heading down the hill. Soon after, the whole school would be following, and Stiles was sure Jackson was already angry that he was late, so he started walking again. He was nice enough to give a wave of his arm to bring Scott with him, though. “I didn’t curse him. He was pissing me off, whispering and staring with that sister of his at lunch - the same sister that looked at me like I was shite under her shoe this morning leaving the dungeons. So, I sent him a note reminding him to watch himself.”

 

“What did the note say?”

 

“It’s not so much what it said as what it…” His flimsy excuse was wiped away with the concern that had been all over Scott’s face, and Stiles sighed. “I drew a crude drawing of him, and then animated ‘ink-him’ getting boils all over his stupid face. Which I stand by would have been a great ‘screw you’ message had Coach Finstock not intercepted it before it could get to him.” Scott winced, and Stiles did too, only slightly mollified by the pat of his best friend’s hand on his back. “Luckily it was Finstock finding it and not Deaton, or Merlin forbid McGonagall, otherwise I probably wouldn’t even be allowed to play today. He just kept me out of class and gave me some deranged rant on house rivalries and the war and stuff. Which, I’m pretty sure he was ten when the war hit, so I don’t know what he’s talking about.”

 

The situation was heavy, but Scott McCall was the kind of person that rarely let things bring him down. “But hey, at least you get to play! And it’s Slytherin versus Hufflepuff, so you can work out all that extra rage on the field and come back good as new.” 

 

“Yeah, or maybe the snitch will show up right behind Hale’s head and I can knock him off his broom and watch him fall to his death.”

 

“Sounds good, man, you’ve got this…” The words were a bit airy and not at all what Stiles expected, but looking up at the stands explained it all. Even from the ground Stiles could recognize Allison’s flowing brunette curls, so he knew Scott could too. Hell, the guy is so attached he could probably smell her on the air. He clearly didn’t hear a word Stiles was saying. But, Stiles thought as Scott disappeared up the Gryffindor stand with a ‘good luck’ thrown over his shoulder, what else was new?

 

-- -- -- --

 

The simmering aggravation under his skin hadn’t lessened any by the time the game was underway. Jackson had been on a rampage in the locker room, but as Captain he was always like that before a match. It did come down on Stiles’ head a bit more than normal, but the communication between Captain and Head of House had always been good, and Finstock rarely ever kept his mouth shut. Stiles had just bit his tongue, knowing as soon as he was in the air, everything would be better, as it always seemed to be. They were even winning, and probably would continue to do so. Hale was a hell of a Keeper, but one of Hufflepuff’s Beaters got injured mid-game so they had to pull Hale to Beater duty and throw their back-up into the goals. They knew Slytherin aimed true with their bludgers, and the only way to protect their Chasers was to have someone like Hale at the ready to bat them right back. But Bobbin was a fifth year and just wasn’t as good of a Keeper, so Stiles should’ve been on top of the moon just like the rest of his team probably was.

 

Instead, he couldn’t keep his eyes looking for the snitch. They kept following Hale, and Stiles didn’t even fully understand why. Even when he shook himself from it and started to make a pass around the stadium to scout, amber eyes inevitably found their way back to Hale. More often than not, Hale was looking back, too. It was infuriating. Mostly because of how frustrated Stiles felt. He knew he needed something else, some kind of closure to all of their fighting and name calling, but he never seemed to get it. Rather, with no suitable distraction in his life that doesn’t just lead him to more annoyance, he felt like a cauldron constantly close to boiling over, always a shake or flame away from making a mistake.

 

There. He could finally feel relief at one thing, at the very least, and that was the sudden adrenaline and instinct he felt when he saw the flit of gold at the far end of the field. When it came to every single other position in Quidditch, he was a mess. He’s not coordinated enough to keep ahold of the Quaffle, arms not beefy enough to smack the bludger worth anything, and attention span too easily overwhelmed to guard the hoops. But if there is one thing he knows how to do, it’s go fast. The Hufflepuff seeker was closer to the location, but Stiles had a leg up, and it was heading towards him. He flew, and he could vaguely hear the announcer’s frantic commentary. “It seems Stilinski has found the snitch! This could be it folks!”

 

The wind flew past his ears, drowning out anything else, distorting the roar of the crowds. He didn’t look at the other seeker, or anybody else in the sky, eyes trained on that splash of gold against the landscape so he didn’t  lose it. His Nimbus 3000 is outdated, not even new when his father bought it for him two years ago, but it does him good, and he gained fast. The snitch dodges and darts, but Stiles followed quickly, and after long seconds that felt like hours on his muscles he was ready to reach his hand out. He didn’t l even feel the other Seeker, never even saw a glimpse of them, and he realized slowly that he’s going to get it. He’s really going to win them the game.

 

The sharp whistle of the oncoming bludger sank  in almost too late. He turned his head to the side and saw it coming out of the corner of his eyes, barely managing a barrel roll out of the way before it knocked him off his broom, and probably knocked a few bones out of place at the same time. He managed to pull himself free from the roll smoothly enough, shaking away the disorientation, and then fixes to get back on the path to victory when he heard the cheering of the crowd. One glance at what house is giving the standing ovations sank dread into his chest, and he looked to the side to see the Hufflepuff Seeker holding the snitch up into the air triumphantly. 

 

He was almost in the locker room before he could blink, tearing his pads off his knees as he walked. He wanted to yell, he wanted to throw things, a large part of him deep down wanted to cry. A deeper, larger part really wanted to tell his dad he helped them win a game. But there was nothing for him to do to make himself feel better, no way to get that release, so when a hand was on his shoulder he turned around quickly. “What?” He spat out, before even realizing it was Derek Hale himself who turned him around. Suddenly, he wished he had said it even nastier. “Don’t start, Hale.”

 

But for all Stiles had never cared for Hale, for every time they had sniped and fought and pulled each other’s chains, Hale had never been the petty type, never one to rub a victory in just for spite. No, instead what Stiles saw in Hale’s eyes was pity, and he doesn’t even know what the guy started saying because he only gets a few words in before Stiles was tackling him to the ground. They rolled around, fighting for dominance between them, and Stiles threw a punch and hits, right in Derek’s side. Derek did the same and missed, but he’s a big guy, so soon enough Stiles was on his back and Derek had a hold of his hands. 

 

Stiles was overwhelmed, disoriented, frustrated, furious, and not even he can explain why he reared his head up to bring their faces closer together. He knew he had half a mind to have said something, though he didn’t know what, some sort of vile poison he’d surely come up with off the top of his head with his usual quick wit. But then they were close, Hale’s eyes staring down at him with blown out pupils, his mouth parted with heavy breaths. Stiles couldn’t help but glance down at his lips, even as he told himself he shouldn’t, and when he did look back up he saw that Derek’s stupidly pretty eyes were doing the same exact thing to him.

 

It is all over in a second. Derek was suddenly off of him, and Stiles was scrambling to his feet, coming face-to-face with Finstock’s heart attack ready pallor, a fist gripped into the back of Derek’s yellow Quidditch robes tightly. “Both of you, McGonagall’s Office. Now!” 

 

-- -- -- --

 

As the corridor ahead of them loomed dark and musty, smelling like stale water and spreading mold, Stiles acknowledged that his life is a mess. Their wands light the way, but they could barely permeate the thick blackness. Being in Slytherin, Stiles is used to being beneath the lake, but this place is a far cry from the cold stone and green velvet of the dungeon common room. Headmistress McGonagall walks ahead of them, her straight backed posture never flinching, even in her older age. When she stops abruptly, so do they, and he sends a glance at Hale to his side but can barely make out his detention partner’s face. 

 

“Here we are.” McGonagall turns on her heel, her nearly all white hair in a tight bun atop her head. Her robes were as dark and severe as always, eyes glinting in what little light there was. 

 

He knew she was someone to respect, but it didn’t stop his mouth from running away from him. “Where the hell is here?”

 

The words don’t seem to phase her, though. Things rarely do. Instead, her lips curl, looking every bit the cat that got the cream, pun well intended. “Why, your Saturday, Mister Stilinski. If you and Mister Hale here can’t seem to work together, and no amount of reprimanding or punishment can fix that, then we’ll try something new. Immersion therapy.” Stiles wishes he could see Hale’s face, just to commiserate, before remembering that - awkward teenage hormone moment aside - the guy isn’t Stiles’ friend. “You’ll use that charm I taught you to clear the mold off of the stone work all the way down this corridor. It’s an infectious sort, and the stones are original landscaping to the school, surviving even the Battle of Hogwarts, as so very few things did. It will be slow, and arduous, and when you’re done you will report to my office to find your task for tomorrow.”

 

Stiles’ jaw had long since gone slack in his outrage, so Hale beat him to the punch in response to her, his own sardonic attitude seeping into his words. “And how many weeks exactly are we going to be doing Filch’s work?”

 

“Until I say it’s complete, Mister Hale. You should both see to it that you survive unharmed.” 

 

That’s as close to a dismissal as they are going to get, and she leaves them with one less lighted wand. The work itself isn’t dangerous as much as tedious, but the warning is clearly to make sure they don’t touch each other, and Stiles feels a tingle in his fist from where it had hit Hale in the side the day before. They had spent most of the evening getting reprimanded by the Headmistress, then by their Head of Houses, and Stiles finished the night getting chewed out by Jackson for losing them the game. And having a student his own age talk to him like he was dung under a boot and then watching Jackson leave with Lydia, was just the icing on the cake of his out of hand day. He had moved on from his overwhelming crush on her mostly, but it still stung.

 

Stiles turns after a minute, finally seeing Hale more clearly, but Derek never looks his way, instead choosing to face the wall and start working. It’s exactly what McGonagall said it would be - slow. The charm itself isn’t hard to do, but only covers a small expanse of the stonework at a time. And considering Stiles had to have his wand out to light the way, only one of them could work. He keeps having the urge to break the silence, practically bouncing in his skin, but there is nothing good to say to Hale. And Derek clearly was not budging on the ‘not talking’ aspect, since he never even asks Stiles to switch places and do his fair share of the work. He casts to check the time probably far too often, at one point only waiting five minutes before checking again, but Hale never says anything about it, even as they are both briefly left in the dark when Stiles does it. After four hours of magical work, which even while slow managed to make Stiles‘ arm ready to fall off from holding it up, and leaves him a mess from the humidity sticking to his skin, Stiles takes a step to the side and rams his shoulder into a wall. 

 

“Ow, Merlin!” He curses, rubbing his sore bone. They had reached the end of the hallway, where there sat a single fire sconce above a heavy wooden door. Dim light shone from beneath it, and Hale lit the sconce with a quick spell, flooding the area with much more light than they had in awhile. Stiles blinks away the spots in his eyes with a slight flinch back, pocketing his wand. Hale looks just as sweaty and worn out as Stiles does, which makes him feel a little better about his own capacity for working. He doesn’t even realize how long he’s examining the guy until Derek’s hand reaches for the door handle. “Woah, man, hold up!” Stiles reaches out quickly to grip Derek’s arm, but the glare he gets has him quickly removing his hand. Still, he persists. “We’re under the lake!”

 

“So? Do you honestly think me opening the door is going to release the lake into Hogwarts?”

 

“It could! You don’t know!”

 

“Why in the world would that be a thing, Stiles?” He opens his mouth to argue until Derek calling him his preferred name sinks in. Clearly, Stiles isn’t the only one feeling a bit of familiarity dissonance since yesterday. Before he could clear his thoughts, Derek opened the door. 

 

Turns out, Stiles was right. The entirety of the lake was on the other side of the door. A small room was the only barrier between them and the crushing weight of gallons of water, no bigger than a broom closet. But though the floor was slightly more opaque, the walls and ceiling were completely clear. Sunlight shone through the surface above them, far enough away to know they were deep but close enough to still see the rays. They were truly inside the Black Lake. The air was damp and chilled, and his steps echoed very softly as the sound bounced against the magically sealed walls. A few thousand yards away they could start to see the beginnings of Merchieftainess Murcus’ village, a soft green glow emanating from the lake floor. Stiles squinted as he stepped into the room, and he’s pretty sure he could see one of the Giant Squid’s tentacles off in the distance.

 

“You’re ridiculous.” Derek said breathlessly, and when Stiles turns around the Hufflepuff is following him cautiously into the room, looking around himself. 

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“You wouldn’t even let me open the door, but don’t hesitate to step onto a clear floor a mile or two underwater.”

 

In hindsight, that probably wasn’t his best plan, true. “Blame the Muggle in me, I guess.” He mutters, remembering his mother’s fascination with all things wizarding. His father worked as a Muggle police Sheriff, a liaison for the Auror Department to quickly contain anything that may make them suspicious, so he had to hide his magic more often than not. But when it had been just the three of them, his dad had always been one to show off, anything to bring that sparkle to her eyes. In the end, not even magic could save her, but there was always that joy leftover in Stiles’ memory.

 

They spent long minutes enjoying the view, not necessarily together but in proximity, before Derek cleared his throat. “We should probably go.”

 

“What? Why? We finished the hallway!”

 

“Exactly.” Derek’s eyebrows had a way of making Stiles feel extordinarily stupid, even more than his tone of voice. “McGonagall said to head back to her office when we’re done.”

 

“Yeah, to get more work!” The incredulity is heavy in Stiles’ tone, and he gestures around them. “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen at Hogwarts, and that’s saying something, man! I’m not in a rush.” Derek seems like he wants to argue, but has no good ground to stand on, arms crossing over his chest. But being face to face with him, knowing no one is around, brings other thoughts to the front of Stiles’ mind, and not all of them are fueled by hormones. Not like Stiles’ dreams the night before, anyways. “Besides, I wanted to talk to you.”

 

Derek’s arms, still closed around his chest, loosen slightly but don’t lower, clearly on edge for a different reason. “About what?”

 

Stiles takes a deep breath, before letting it out and hoping the words would just come naturally with the exhalation of air. They don’t, so he puts in a little more effort. “I wanted to say I’m sorry, okay? For the fight on the field. You’re an asshole, and you get under my skin more than anybody else in this world, but I know… well, I don’t know why you followed me off the pitch, but I know you aren’t the type to rub it in, so you didn’t deserve the punch.” Stiles turns away after he says it, pretending to enjoy the view. The two of them haven’t gotten along the whole school year, or the majority of the year before, and it’s physically painful to be apologizing, but what it comes down to is - Stiles messed up. And he’s at least man enough to admit it. In fact, the more he says the more truth seems to show itself. Maybe this Lake Closet is cursed. “Things have been sort of shit for me since the summer. My dad and I have been growing apart, and Scott’s been all puppy dog eyed over this new girl, and now Lydia and Jackson have started being this perfect couple in my face…” Word vomit is an understatement, so he tries to reign it in. “I know we’ve never been friends, but I still think you sort of got the brunt of my crap this year so far, and maybe you don’t deserve all that.”

 

Silence follows, which doesn’t really surprise Stiles. Hale has always been a quiet guy. He knows Derek lost his family in a tragedy before he even started school, everyone but an uncle and two sisters. At one point Stiles had thought it would be some sort of twisted bonding excuse, a Dead Mother’s Society. That hope of friendship, and any stereotype of Hufflepuffs being the sweetest and tamest went out the window pretty quickly. Hufflepuffs could be real assholes.

 

This particular one did finally speak after a long minute of consideration. “It’s not just your fault, with how bad everything has been this year. I played into it.” He’s right, of course. Every ridiculous thing Stiles did, Derek found a way to pay him back. “You’re not the only one who feels like that… you have this really annoying habit of getting under my skin too.” Stiles can’t help but feel a small smile creep on his face at how similar they could be. “I never got a chance to ask this. Why do you hate me so much? Don’t get me wrong, you drive me insane, but I just could never figure out what caused it.”

 

“You mean other than you laughing in my face last year?”

 

“What?” 

 

Stiles has to give Derek credit. The guy does look genuinely confused. But there’s no way he doesn’t remember. “I walked up to you last year, to see if you wanted to be friends. You gave me a look like you were… I don’t know, embarrassed just to be seen with me and ran. And your sister laughed so hard that I ran away. Eventually I figured it was because I was a half blood. I know the whole house unity and peace thing is big, but a lot of you purebloods have those old world views. I get it a lot still. Your sister’s never liked me, so no surprise there. Still, it’s not like you doing that was going to make me crazy about you, man.”

 

Derek’s eyebrows, expressive little things that they were, sat scrunched up in deep confusion the entire time Stiles was talking. It wasn’t until he finished that they relaxed, Derek’s lips pressing together firmly. He must have remembered, finally, and Stiles tries not to be appalled that the guy could have ever forgotten. Stiles sure as hell didn’t. “That’s not… listen, what happened that day, it’s not what you think. At all. I actually didn’t think you were serious. I thought Cora had put you up to it, since you were in the same year and house and everything. And the way she joked later… she always pretended like she… or I guess maybe she just always thought it was so funny, I assumed she did.”

 

Confusion abounds, Derek’s words making no sense at all. “Put me up to it? Why would someone put me up to trying to be your friend?”

 

“It’s a long story.” The words come out abruptly, which makes Stiles feel like maybe it’s not so long at all. Derek just didn’t want to share with someone like Stiles.

 

“Whatever, man. I was just trying to figure this out. I thought we could… I don’t know, with what happened while we were fighting… it almost felt like…” He bites his tongue, shaking his head.

 

“What? Felt like what?”

 

Derek is facing him now, suddenly intense and achingly sincere. If there was anything Derek could have done that assured Stiles the idea of kissing was not one sided, it was to look at Stiles like that. But what the hell did that mean? “Felt like maybe fighting isn’t the only thing we’d be good at?” He supplies, as unsure about what he should say as he is hopeful that it comes out right. 

 

There isn’t enough room for them to be far, but with just a sway of his body their arms are touching, and he feels his breath hitch. Suddenly, he really does feel like they are experiencing this together, rather than just in proximity, and he bites his lip. Hormones are a real bitch. That intensity in Derek that Stiles has always admired, even as he lamented his very existence from afar, is all focused on Stiles and it makes his flesh break out in goosebumps. Derek’s eyes do the same thing that they did on the pitch, flitting down to Stiles’ mouth, and Stiles is painfully aware of the way his teeth drag on his own skin as he releases his lip and a short breath of panic. Sheer panic, because he knows he’s either about to do something very stupid or very good or very both.

 

Their lips touch and Stiles doesn’t even remember moving, though clearly he did by the way his body is angled towards Derek’s. The kiss hangs in the air for long moments, Stiles’ body vibrating in limbo at the anticipation, before Derek leans into him, their lips pressed firmly together with the movement. From there it’s a flutter of movement, Derek’s arms wrapping around Stiles’ waist and Stiles gripping the lapels of his robe to reel him in, fish swimming above them overhead completely unaware of the sparks behind Stiles’ eyes. All his staring and pigtail pulling seemed to make so much sense this semester suddenly, with the way their bodies melded together so perfectly. Even him approaching Derek to try to be his friend the year before seemed to click within Stiles’ brain like a key in a lock.

 

They are so lost into it that Stiles stumbles back and hits against the clear wall. It gives a strange, hollow thunk, as if it’s barely there at all. They pull their lips apart to look behind them, both suddenly wondering just how stable this room is, before Derek says in a rush. “It’s okay, it’s just a wall.”

 

Stiles believes him and turns back to look at his new kissing mate. Derek’s lips are red and swollen, eyes just as blown as they were when he was on top of Stiles on the pitch. Their bodies were still linked together, legs in legs and pelvis to pelvis, and Stiles would have half a mind to feel embarrassed at how hard he is if he didn’t know for a fact that Derek was right there with him. Under the haze of lust, everything about Derek looked absolutely perfect.

 

Stiles knew, for an absolute fact, that he was in deep trouble here.