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Wild Tigers I Have Known

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            “Why, the cosmos do favor me tonight! Behold, comely and fair, monsieur Tall, Dark and Handsome. You did strike me as a Potterhead!”
            Combeferre had been watching the game begin (in the first five seconds Courf had managed to grab not one but two of the quaffles despite being one-handed and was sprinting with as much agility as one can muster with an unwieldy stick between one’s legs) when an unmistakable character came bounding up the bleachers and addressed him.
            “Uh! Prouvaire!”, he exclaimed witlessly, heart pounding. Prouvaire was a classmate from his Romantic Lit course, and not as much a stranger as any other classmate - they were hard to overlook, even if one disregarded their flamboyant and nonsensical wardrobe. They contributed their opinion in class regularly, but it tended to be more verbose and stylized in speech than typically necessary, as well as having a winding and lackadaisical way of coming to a point. Those opinions were always remarkably well-founded though, to an intimidating degree, and in fact Prouvaire was already familiar with almost all of the books on the reading list for the semester and frequently referenced authors and works that Combeferre had never heard of, making him question his claim to be well-read. He often heard groans and mutters whenever Prouvaire was called upon, but he couldn’t imagine why, unless the students were not interested in learning - Combeferre felt he learned more from Prouvaire than from the professor himself sometimes, despite the degree of interpretation their ramblings needed.
            And thus Combeferre had made a beeline for Prouvaire when a partner project was assigned. The haste proved unnecessary. Prouvaire simply sat looking at their lap while others scrambled to find a friend. Combeferre got the sense that they had not expected to be sought out by anyone voluntarily.  
            Although the student gave him a degree of jitters to interact with, especially at a one-on-one level, their mind was brilliant, their cadence lovely and even their fashions grew on him. Prouvaire always seemed very genuinely interested in what he had to say, even if he wasn’t so literarily learned as them yet. They gave his excited tangents a rapt attention that Combeferre wasn’t quite used to from anyone except Courfeyrac and Enjolras.
            It had made a tad more sense to him though when Combeferre felt Prouvaire’s light touch upon his thigh as they sat together on the latter’s couch. Aha, that is what the fellow wants, he thought to himself. And for a moment, Combeferre was torn. He felt a lightness in his chest, a curiosity, a magnetic pull… “I’m, er, I have a boyfriend,” he had blurted out, and felt instantly like a fool. Prouvaire had taken it well enough, apologizing quickly and moving back to the project at hand. But Combeferre had dwelled on it for a week or more. Courfeyrac was not his boyfriend. Courfeyrac was not his boyfriend because Courfeyrac did not like monogamy, and Combeferre had to expect that eventually he was going to act on that, and that he himself should not feel constrained by Courfeyrac either. But to imagine having come back to his apartment that evening, finding Courfeyrac watching netflix on the couch and having casually said, “So I fucked someone else this afternoon,” made his heart sink in a way he didn’t want to think about. To imagine Courfeyrac doing the very same, as he inevitably would… Well, he tried not to.
            “This must be the beau you spoke of,” Prouvaire purred, addressing Enjolras. “I can see why he has won your heart and all its loyalty. You are a dreamy one, my friend.”
            Combeferre stared, overwhelmed, mental exclamation points flashing. Enjolras stood and extended his hand to Jehan before Combeferre had collected himself. “Enjolras Fauchelevent. ‘Dreamy’ is a new one, but you have the wrong man.” Combeferre noted with amusement that though Prouvaire themself was a petite little fairy, Enjolras was smaller still, even if only by a little.
            Prouvaire shook Enjolras’s hand gladly with a flirtatious smile. “Not the beau then? But surely you are not unencumbered entirely! A face like yours must have whole harems to sing your hymns!”
            Enjolras laughed softly, cheeks flushed, his hand still caught lightly in Jehan’s. Combeferre wondered at what point it was appropriate to intervene between his friend and the charming little lech.
            “Are you auditioning?”
            “Are you casting?”
            “Not at the moment. I’m, ah, afraid the call is for gentlemen anyway.”
            “Alas! I shall try again the next time that I fit the bill.”
            Enjolras pulled his hand gently back, eyes wide with curiosity. Combeferre stood at last. “Prouvaire is in my Romantic Lit class. They’re…” He looked to the student for confirmation, and for permission. “...Genderfluid?”
            Prouvaire grinned fondly. “Excellent recall, dear.”
            “Oh! Really! I apologize, did I - was that -”, Enjolras stammered.
            “Oh no, you’re quite alright, dear. I am not a gentleman tonight. But who can say what the morrow brings?”
            “Actually, this is quite a coincidence! Combeferre and I, we’re forming a group on campus to address some of the issues that larger coalitions are ignoring, and our first mission is to establish designated gender neutral bathrooms in the commons. We’re sending round a petition, would you be interested in signing?”
            Combeferre rolled his eyes with a smile, pulling a hand from his pocket to press to his forehead in mild embarrassment. It didn’t seem quite properly tactful to attack someone with a petition the moment you met them, or particularly to respond to someone’s gender identity with a call to arms, but although Enjolras had many great strengths, tact had never been one of them.
            “What an idea! I’ve a lovely signature, I don’t need convincing to show it off. Just show me the dotted line.”
            Enjolras bent to dig around in his bag, because of course he had the petition on him, Combeferre wouldn’t expect anything less of his diligent chief. He produced the clipboard and a pen. Their signature was lovely indeed, a calligraphic bit of art, complete with flourishes that extended three lines and a little flower dotting the “i”.
            “What is this group of yours, which looks after the concerns of gender transcenders like myself?”
            “We are called Les Amis de L’ABC, and we are very newly formed, but we aspire to great change.”
            “And how many friends do the downtrodden have as of yet?”
            “Five,” Combeferre butt in before Enjolras could grandiloquize away the humble truth.
            “Ooh, how intimate. And how does the casting call for this merry troupe of student petitioners read?”
            “Passionate and willing.”
            “Aha! I am nothing if not passionate and willing.” The accompanying wink was so fleeting Combeferre barely registered the cheesy pass.
            “Are you interested, then? We meet on Saturday afternoons, on the second floor of a bar in the Place Saint-Michel, the Musain. Do you know it?”
            “As a matter of fact I do! I will bring an army of the passionate and the willing along with me.”
            “That would be excellent! Absolutely, tell anyone that you think might have an interest.”
            A cheer rose up from those around them.
            “Oh, I suppose someone scored.”
            “Was it Courf?” asked Enj, peering down at the field.
            Combeferre leaned in towards Jehan, crouching down to their eye level and looking out on the field for Courfeyrac.
            “There he is,” he said softly, pointing. “Courfeyrac. That’s my… er. Yeah.”
            “...Oh.” He missed the way the gentle syllable left Prouvaire like a breath, sounding like they’d been punched. “He’s an angel.” Enjolras glanced over.
            “Isn’t he?” Combeferre smiled. “I think he’s the one who just scored. He loves this game, he’s so incredibly excellent, such a stunning athlete. He was a soccer stud back in Barcelona, his team won a championship!” Combeferre beamed.
            “That’s… that’s very nice.” Jehan chewed his lip for a moment, and then they seemed to start, shivering energetically as though shaking something away. “So! Very important: what’s your Hogwarts house?”
            Combeferre stood up straight, chuckling. “Most agree upon Ravenclaw, though I’ve heard it argued that I’ve got a little Gryffindor in me.”
            “Ooh, very nice. I can see it, you’re quite an intellectual clearly, but you are a loyal and golden-hearted fellow, aren’t you?” Combeferre flustered under the praise, particularly the “intellectual” bit - it meant a lot coming from this friend, whose intelligence he so admired.
            “Myself, I’m a Ravenclaw through and through, as you can see quite obviously.” Jehan kicked their leg out in front of them, displaying the bright blue and gold knee sock. “And you, Fauchelevent?”
            “Enjolras will do. What was that?”
            “Your Hogwarts house, good Monsieur.”
            “Oh, um. I’d never given it much thought. Gryffindor, I suppose.”
            “Never given it much thought! Preposterous! Who in our generation has not given it due consideration? Who among us has not been properly analyzed? Never given it much thought, my passionate and willing arse. But in fairness, you do strike me as a Gryffindor.”
            Enjolras seemed pleased with this. “I hadn’t actually read the books until recently, you know. Apparently this is a federal crime. I had no idea. I now own a deluxe set, gifted by this fellow here. It was a decent way to spend a summer.”
            “Well thank god for Combeferre! A youth devoid of that magic is a youth wasted! How could this have happened?”
            “Well, to say that my youth was devoid of magic is accurate enough.” It was gently said, but Combeferre sensed the bitterness underneath. Enjolras rarely spoke of his personal history. From time to time though, in the most unexpected moments, he would share something so spontaneous and casual but it would hit Combeferre right in the gut. Passing mentions of malnourishment and sleeping under porches seemed so dissonant from the proud, glowing, glorious young lionheart that Enjolras had been as long as Combeferre had known him. They had been best friends for five years now, corresponding online since they were twelve and thirteen respectively, but what Courfeyrac had said of their friend the day they met in person for the first time back in September had been on the mark - though they had come to know his mind like the back of their own hands, his life was still shrouded in mystery.