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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.

Chapter Text

January rolls into Hogwarts bitter and cold, but Stiles doesn’t feel it. Things had been heavy on his shoulders in the warmer months. Between feeling like he was losing his best friend, and the distance between him and his father, summer and fall might as well have been the dead of winter for all he enjoyed them. He reached a dark place that he hadn’t even realized he was heading for at first. But from all dead things, life eventually grows.

 

And by life, Stiles means chiseled abdominal muscles. Not his own, of course. Stiles is destined to be forever lanky and awkward. No, Stiles is referring to the beautiful pectoral muscles that he very frequently gets to use as pillows. Sure, Stiles usually hated it when Derek took time to work out when that time could be spent with him. But it was hard to argue with the end result. 

 

Today he couldn’t fall into the joy of this guy’s body like he usually did. Actually, for the last week he’d been on edge, wanting to talk about something but unsure how to bring it up. Even now, curled up on an Astronomy tower window sill under a warming charm, he has to sneak his hand up from running fingers under Derek’s shirt in order to gnash his teeth on his thumb nail, a nervous habit he knows he should break. 

 

Clearly, today had to be the day to mention it, because his pillow heaves a large sigh and starts to sit up. 

 

“Hey, I was enjoying myself there.”

 

“No you weren't.” Derek is frowning, and wraps an arm around Stiles’ waist. The message is clear - Derek wants to face him, but isn’t pushing him away. “What’s wrong?”

 

“I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.”

 

Derek’s eyebrows do their judging tribal dance, and Stiles frowns at knowing just how unconvincing he is. “You’ve been acting weird ever since we got back from break. I can tell. I wish you could just tell me what you’re thinking, instead of laying around fidgeting.”

 

Stiles twists his lips, fully sitting up instead of hanging out awkwardly in the hopes that his pillow would be conveniently placed for him again. “Okay, so there is something.”

 

“Something bad?”

 

“I mean, I don’t know. Maybe?” Derek’s look is slightly alarming, so Stiles holds up his hands. “I don’t want to stop doing what we’re doing.” There is a measure of relief that flashes, which makes Stiles feel guilty. Had Derek been worried about that the whole time? “But I think I want to change it.”

 

Derek’s arm had loosened on Stiles’ waist, as if preparing himself. “What is it?” He all but demands, even when trying to be polite.

 

“Listen. We’ve been fooling and sneaking around for, what? Three months now? And it’s been amazing. I love spending time with you. I love… I love a lot about you, Derek. And being away from each other at Christmas break made me miss you badly enough that I really realized how much I like spending time with you.”

 

“Okay… why is any of this bad?”

 

Stiles raises his eyebrows. “Well, I’m noting that the first mention of the ‘L’ word didn’t send you running to the hills, so I’m not forgetting that.” Derek’s lips curl in the perfect little way that makes Stiles want to kiss him, but he holds back. “What I’m saying is that hiding isn’t working for me anymore. I get why we did it in the beginning, everything was so new and everyone thought we hated each other, which… well, we kind of did. But now I feel the exact opposite of that, and I’m so freaking sick of pretending I don’t want to talk to you in class, or sit with you at meals, or do all kinds of annoying couple-y stuff. I’m stupidly obsessed with you, which was not our plan, but I think I may have been obsessed with you since before we ever got together. And I don’t want that to scare you off, so if that freaks you out, please tell me so I can just zip my lip and we can backtrack and pretend that never happened and move on with life, okay?” He goes ahead and zips his lip closed anyways, figuring jumping the gun would be a safe bet.

 

But Derek doesn’t look like he wants Stiles to stop talking. If anything, Derek looks nervous, or as nervous as chiseled cheekbones and perfect lips can look. “I think I should tell you something that I’ve never told you before.” It’s not what Stiles expects as an answer. He’d been expecting either frantic denial or maybe sex, but confessions didn’t even fall in the middle of those. “Do you remember what you told me right before we kissed for the first time? About what happened last year with Cora?”

 

The memory flashes forward like it was yesterday. No, not Cora laughing at Stiles’ somewhat awkward offer of friendship and Derek hightailing away. The memory just a few months ago of Derek saying it wasn’t what Stiles thought, and the kiss that seemed so unavoidable after. “Yeah, what about it?”

 

“I walked away because I thought Cora had been playing a joke on me. You know how she can be, she’s a brat. But do you know what you’re learning about in Potion’s class in February?”

 

“Uh… Potions Association careers, and Amortentia, I think. Was that the same for you?”

 

“Yeah. And about two weeks before you came up to me, I studied Amortentia. I smelled the leather-bound books that used to be in my mom’s study, the trees of the forbidden forest, and something else that I couldn’t figure out.” He waited, and Stiles isn’t sure what he was supposed to be picking up from this but he’s pretty sure he’s coming up completely short. “About a week before you came up to me, Cora was with me when I realized that smell was that stupid Muggle deodorant you use.”

 

Stiles smells his own armpit, as if knowing the smell could possibly help his comprehension. It takes a little too long to let the truth of Derek’s words sink in, but when it does his jaw pops open like someone had alohamora’d him. He can tell that gentle annoyance is creeping in on Derek’s face the more he looks at him like that, but Stiles' brain takes its sweet time fixing its breakdown. When it finally does, it’s instant. Stiles launches himself at Derek, knocking them both off of the window sill in a clatter of limbs, but there doesn’t seem to be any pain in Derek’s face, so he assumes no collateral damage. “Holy crap! You totally love me too, don’t you?! You want all that cruppy love shit, you want to hold my books in the hallway and sit at the Slytherin table!”

 

“No, you’ll sit at the Hufflepuff table. I’m not eating with Cora.”

 

Stiles can’t help but laugh, pure relief at all of the worry he had before dissipating like steam. “Why were you such a dick to me if you had such a big, fat, embarrassing crush on me, huh?”

 

Derek rolls his eyes, but he’s clearly smiling. “You were a dick first, remember?”

 

Stiles’ face hurts, he's smiling so much. He grabs the sides of Derek’s face and kisses him until they are both breathless. When he’s done, Derek looks content, an emotion Stiles only ever saw on him when they were together. “We are so screwed.” He mutters as he looks down at him.

 

“Why?”

 

“Because we both just agreed to tell our friends, and we have to do it, like… tomorrow. Maybe even tonight.” He runs a thumb over Derek’s jaw softly. “I don’t think I can wait much longer than that.”

 

“Is that such a bad thing?” 

 

Stiles bites his lips, leaning his forehead against Derek’s. He whispers, because being that close really feels like the words are safe and just for them. “I’m a little freaked out. Maybe a lot. Not only do I have to tell Scott I’ve been lying to him, but we’re coming out of the closet, you know? That’s… kind of terrifying.”

 

Derek’s hands grip him comfortably, making him feel just a bit better. “Do you really think anyone is going to judge us?” Stiles raises an eyebrow, choking back a laugh as he feels it push up against Derek’s own in their position. “I mean, anyone who actually matters?”

 

The night sky is bright from the top of the tower, stars clear to see, and Derek is warm beneath his body. He decides pretty easily that the whole thing can wait until tomorrow morning. Besides, it gives him plenty of time to brainstorm. He always thinks up his best ideas when he’s kissing Derek.

 

-- -- -- --

 

The next morning arrives, and Stiles has a plan. Well, if someone could call it that. He came up with all kinds of ideas the night before, inspired by all the mushy-gushy stuff mixed with the bright light of the moon. They included, but were not limited to, trapping Scott, Cora, and anyone else they wanted in a room with pictures of them making out until they got the idea, or maybe crude drawings of the two of them on banners throughout the Great Hall. Derek was the voice of reason saying that a one-on-one conversation with Scott may be a better choice, since the Gryffindor was his best friend. It seemed lame then, but in the light of day it was definitely the better choice. If anything, Stiles was considering being even more lame. Why have a person to person conversation when a letter could do the trick? Especially when the end of the letter told Scott to never talk about it.

 

Why did Stiles want to do this again? Oh, right, because Hale had to go and make Stiles fall in love with him. Dammit.

 

He’s so nervous he shows up at the Great Hall way too early, one of the first one at the Slytherin table. Hell, the Gryffindor table was still empty. He tried to busy himself with the paper when it came, but mostly he just spent time flitting his eyes between the pages and the door, all while tearing apart a scone with his fingers. Derek walks in after a while, but Stiles tries not to stare, knowing talking to Scott first was Derek’s idea, and a good one too. Finally, Scott stumbles into the hall, not looking his best, and Stiles can only grumble at the chances that the guy would be so late the one time Stiles needs him to be early. Scott had barely sat when Stiles slid into a seat next time, his green tie a stark contrast amongst all of the red but not really surprising to anyone anymore. “Hey man, I need to talk to yo-- wow, you look like crap.”

 

Scott glares at him, picking up a biscuit and half sloshing jelly onto his hand in his rush. “Thanks. I couldn’t sleep at all last night. You’ll never believe what happened.” Stiles answers with a raise of his eyebrows. “Mr. Argent wants to have a meeting with me and Allison. Together. Tonight. He caught us making out in a hallway, and made it very clear I should be nervous. Like this is some kind of interview or something!”

 

Scott shoves the biscuit into his mouth, and Stiles picks up the cloth napkin, already prepared for Scott to ruin his robe with crumbs. “What, did he think you guys were dating and just… not kissing?”

 

“Who knows!” The words are muffled, and Scott washes everything down with pumpkin juice. “He just told us to eat dinner with him in his office. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to wear. I feel like he’s trying to freak me out. And guess what? It’s working. All I could dream of last night was him challenging me to a duel for her honor or something. He teaches Defense, Stiles! He could probably chop me up and hide the pieces and no one would ever know. I’m so screwed.” 

 

“Listen, I’m sure it’s going to be fine. He probably just wants to give you guys some sort of threatening safe sex talk or something, ask you your intentions, and send you on your way.” 

 

“Yeah, if I’m lucky. I don’t even know how I’m going to be doing classes today. This is all I can think about.”

 

Stiles grinds his teeth. He feels guilty to put his own shit on Scott’s shoulders, but he has to do it. Because Scott always has other things wrong, everything is always the end of the world for him. “Listen, I have to talk to you about something. Something big. It’s important.” Stiles gets bumped forward by the Gryffindor behind him, almost knocking over Scott’s drink with his elbow. It’s so close to being time to head to class, but they won’t even see each other again until right after lunch. 

 

Scott turns in his chair to look at Stiles head on, but his eyes flit over Stiles’ shoulder. Stiles turns to see Allison just walked in, looking exhausted herself. Stiles wants to kick himself, or maybe kick Scott, thinking he just lost the guy completely, but when he turns back Scott is only looking at him. “I mean… are you okay? Is your dad okay?”

 

“Yeah, he’s fine. And I’m fine.”

 

“Okay…” Allison walks over and sits across from them, quickly grabbing some food just like Scott did. “Do you want to do it now, or does it need to be private? We have a couple minutes before I have to head for Potions.”

 

Stiles gets bumped into again, because Gryffindors are freaks of nature that don’t believe in personal space, and he’s shaking his head before he can stop himself. This should be a private conversation, and should last longer than a few minutes, but Stiles knows he’s agreeing because he’s scared and it makes him hate himself a little bit. “Later. Just me and you. When?”

 

“I don’t know. We won’t be able to talk in class, we’ve got staggered lunches, and tonight I have dinner. Unless you want to wait until tomorrow.” Stiles gives Scott a look to show exactly how he feels about that suggestion, and Scott laughs. “Or I could break curfew and just come down to the dungeons after meeting with Professor Argent?”

 

The idea of pretending for another full day sounds like torture, but Stiles nods. What else is there to do?

 

-- -- -- --

 

He’s walking to Muggle Studies after lunch when he’s pulled through a door to an unused classroom. The wood closes behind him with a harsh slam, but Stiles doesn’t even flinch, fully prepared for who it is. He kisses Derek immediately, and Derek only takes a moment of surprise at his fervor. But Stiles’ day had seriously sucked. Now that the possibility of the truth being revealed was out there, not showing it was horrible. Stiles couldn’t shake it, he was obsessed with just letting it out. They split and Derek is frowning only seconds after their lips part.

 

“What happened this morning?”

 

“Nothing, clearly. I tried but he was having some kind of crisis, and then Allison was there and it was time for class and I panicked. And I know him - he says he’ll meet with me tonight, but he’s going to be with Allison. So, either he’ll have a good night with her or a bad one, but either way he’s going to forget and I’ll get the puppy dog eyes tomorrow and we start the same thing over again.” Stiles’ fingers drag through his hair in aggravation. “I feel like I’m losing my mind, Derek. I just want to get this over with. I’m too young for this much stress.”

 

Derek shakes his head, clearly thinking Stiles is ridiculous, but his hands rub the tense muscles of Stiles’ shoulders firmly. “I think you’ll survive.”

 

“No, I won’t. I just want to get it over with. Let’s just rip the bandage off. Walk down the hallway hand in hand or something.”

“No, Stiles. He’s your best friend. You need to tell him first.”

 

“Why? You’re not telling Cora.” 

 

“She’s my little sister, and she’s not going to care. This is different and you know it.”

 

He knows Derek is right, but at the same time his mind is convinced that any plan that does not include an awkward one on one conversation is the new best plan. Stiles grasps at ideas, and then nods decisively. “Let’s do it now. Two person tables, Professor Morrell won’t make a big deal about it, and all we’ll do is partner up and they can deal with whatever confusion they have while class is happening. Scott is going to sit with Allison anyways, he always does, so I’m not even screwing him over. I’m always stuck sitting with Greenberg.” Derek doesn’t look convinced it’s a good idea, but Stiles knows it’s because Derek is a nerd and takes his classwork too seriously. Which is why Derek takes mixed year electives in his seventh year when it’s not even required. Not that Stiles is complaining about the classroom view. “I promise to not feel you up under the desk so you can learn all about Mozart, alright?”

 

Derek rolls his eyes but there must have been something in Stiles’ eyes because he nods, holding open the door and leading them towards their destination. A few people give them curious looks as they walk side by side, but Stiles tries to ignore them, focused on his goal. When they step through the doors the class is already full, with barely any seats left. He gets to a table and slides onto the stool, anticipation high when Derek sits next to him. Scott and Allison are already sitting together towards the front, holding hands, but don’t turn around. Stiles feels a bit like he’s watching a kettle boil, and starts to get his stuff out, but he only manages to search his bag for his quill before he hears Allison’s voice. 

 

“Hey, Derek, do you want to be partners today?” He looks up sharply, head flying, and sure enough there she is, standing next to the table and looking nervously between the two of them. “I’m sure Stiles wouldn’t mind, right Stiles?”

 

Allison had always had this weirdly innocent way about her, all sunshine, rainbows, and sweet smiles. Stiles has seen her mad at Scott, in one of their very few fights, so he knows there is fire in there somewhere, but in normal conversation it’s hard to see anything but a sweetheart. He’s pretty sure Derek is having the same dilemma, because he looks over at Stiles at what to say, and Stiles is grappling with not wanting to be rude to her too. A hand wraps around his bicep while he’s thinking, giving him a tug that probably meant to be gentle, but Stiles is off kilter enough that he fumbles off his stool.

 

He glares up at the offender, which is a sheepish Scott who is already helping him up. “C’mon man! Come sit next to me today!” 

 

“Man, I’m sitting here for a reason,” Stiles says, gesturing wildly to his chair, but a throat clearing has him biting his lips. Professor Morrell is standing in front of his chair, and the rest of the class is watching them. 

 

“If you four would take your seat, then I can start class. Would that work for you all…?” She says softly, in a way that makes it clear what their answer should be. Stiles turns, but his stool is already being picked up and Allison is sliding in. Derek is covering his face with his hands and Stiles can imagine the teacher getting involved does not bode well for the reputation of Stiles’ plan making skills. 

 

He sits next to Scott, and after a few moments of the teacher speaking he nudges him. “Dude, I was sitting there for a reason!” It’s what he already said, but it stands to be repeated.

 

Scott sighs, and when the teacher is looking away again, he whispers back. “I don’t think fighting with Derek right now is worth it, man.”

 

“Huh?” 

 

“Just let him have the table. You two don’t need to start fighting again, and you can’t seem to be near each other without tension. You’ve been doing so good, you seem like you’re more you again, you know? I mean, other than whatever happened that we need to talk about, you’ve been happy lately. Don’t fall back on that. Allison and I can totally split in class if he’s your only option for a partner.” 

 

The sincerity in his voice is painfully clear, like he’s begging Stiles to just keep his nose clean.The ignorance and the kindness makes Stiles’ heart hurt in equal terms. “We weren’t fighting, we were—“ A sharp rap comes down in front of them, and Stiles turns to find a wand tip pressing into the tabletop, the professor at the other end.

 

“Speak out of turn again, and it’ll be detention. For the both of you. I think you’ve delayed class enough.” Her eyes always betray just how serious she is, and they both swallow and nod in turn. Even if it does make Stiles want to tear his hair out. He considers for a brief, crazy moment making a note and telling Scott now, but he only writes out, “Scott I’m” before he crunches the scroll in his hand and vanishes it from sight. He spends the rest of class resisting turning around to look at Derek. 

 

By the time he gets to dinner, Stiles is about to lose it. It feels a lot like being on the quidditch pitch last fall after losing the game, but instead of rage bubbling inside of him it’s a different frustration. He’s not trying and failing to grasp the snitch, but he is failing to figure something out. From where he’s sitting, he can see Derek, who also seems to be frustrated. He wonders if his emotions are on his face. His dad always told him he sucked at hiding them. There’s not much he can do about it. 

 

Except maybe act. Acting on impulse is what got him in trouble last time, but he never said he was good at learning life lessons. But why shouldn’t Stiles go and sit next to his boyfriend? It’s not like they would be making out on top of the table. Just showing everyone that they were friends. At least it’s doing something, right? He catches Derek’s eye pretty easily, and tries to express his plan with his eyebrows, but they aren’t nearly as expressive as Derek’s own so he doesn’t think he does a good job. So, he just goes for it. 

 

Except he gets halfway down the Slytherin table before a hand grabs his bicep and pulls him back down onto the bench. “Ow!” He yelps, rubbing the skin that Scott had grabbed earlier. Bruises galore. This time it’s Cora, who is giving him a glare for the ages. “What?!”

 

“Leave my brother alone.”

 

Stiles’ jaw drops. “What does that mean?”

 

She gestures over at Derek, who looks half ready to stand up himself. “I saw you staring him down. If you’re thinking about messing with him, then do us all a favor and don’t. Derek’s actually been happy the last few months, and you don’t need to start being a dick to him and ruin that.”

 

He can feel himself start to reach the point of no return, and does his best to hold himself back. “Listen, you have no idea what you’re talking about.”

 

“He’s my brother, I think I know a bit more than a dimwit like you. Back. Off.”

 

And much like the Quidditch Pitch, Stiles is storming out of the Great Hall before he even realizes he’s doing it. His hands curl into fists, storming down the hall, and he tries to take deep breaths through all of his emotions. It’s a sick sort of Deja Vu when he turns a corner and feels a hand on his shoulder. He turns on his heel, but when he sees Derek there it’s a much different feeling than before.

 

“What did she say? Are you okay?”

 

Derek looks so worried, but Stiles doesn’t know what to say. He feels like the teenage boy he is, stuck and emotional, his impulses just wild synapses in his brain, electrical currents uncontrolled. Scott and Allison are walking down the hall, concern blooming over Scott’s features quickly, and Stiles realizes he’s walked toward Professor Argent’s office without even realizing. When he hears more footsteps coming up behind them he knows what he’s going to do only a second before he does it, and he pulls Derek into a fierce kiss, gripping the back of his neck. Derek doesn’t hesitate to wrap his arms around Stiles’ waist, and Stiles licks into his mouth with one purpose in mind. 

 

He knows it works when he hears the small laugh from the end of the hall. It actually worked far better than he could have expected, because when he turns his head all three of his tormentors are there. Scott’s jaw is hanging open, and Allison is covering her mouth to hold back more laughter. The final footsteps had been Cora, undoubtedly following her brother, and she just looks angry. Stiles slides his hands down to Derek’s chest in order to grip the lapels of his robe, but Derek doesn’t look mad, just prepared for whatever may come. Which is exactly what Stiles loves about him. Allison looks between the three of them, and shakes her head. “I think I should probably go tell my dad we aren’t having dinner tonight.”

 

“I hate you both.” Cora says, and Stiles frowns at her. 

 

“Feel bad about calling me dim witted?”

 

“Nope.” Cora is deadpan as usual, arms crossed over her chest. “I don’t know how long you two have been doing this, but it still took you way too long to figure out my brother was loopy over you. Don’t mess this up.”

 

She turns and walks away, and Stiles watches as her words sink in and sends Scott into even more of an addled shock. But despite everything, that’s one bit of relief he can feel. Derek’s hand is strong enough in his, he’s pretty sure not even he could mess this up.