“Pig, no! Stop it, get over here.”
“She’s okay,” Louis mumbles. He can feel a wet snout nosing at his hand and his fingers find soft fur and a warm body. “Come here, Pig. Give us a cuddle.”
“Don’t, you’re injured.” Nick’s voice sounds rough and unfamiliar – hoarse where it’s usually loud and gobby. “She’s going to hurt you, she doesn’t know.”
“She does.” Louis doesn’t know how he knows, but he can feel Pig is going to be careful with him. Instead of clambering all over him she gives his face a lick and lets her paw rest on his chest. He keeps her close. She’s a good crup, Pig is. He blinks his eyes open and takes in Nick’s room. It’s so warm and familiar. It reminds him of that first night when he woke up in Nick’s bed with a stinking hangover and a lot of regret. He turns to try to see Nick and pain sears through his side. “Fuck.”
“Don’t move you tit.” The bed dips and Nick’s there. Right next to Louis, with his hand brushing Louis’ hair back from his forehead. “Took a nasty bite, there.”
“I did?” The memories of being in the forest with Harry swim through Louis’ mind but everything is blurred and unreal. “Is Harry okay?”
“He’s fine.” Nick leans in and presses a hot kiss to Louis’ forehead. “It’s you we’ve all been worried about. That Liam’s a right pest, isn’t he? Keeps coming over, asking if you’re awake yet.”
Louis smiles and even that hurts. “He’s a good lad, Liam.”
“Yeah. A good lad.” Nick pauses. “Zayn’s been here too. Left you a bottle of firewhisky.”
Louis snorts with laughter, because that sounds like Zayn. “Yeah, I bet.”
“Haz got you a basket of muffins. I told him you’re not going to be able to eat a whole basket, but he thought you might like them. I’ve been giving them away to all the visitors. I’ve got muffins coming out of my ears. It’s not good for me being around all of those carbs.”
Louis finally gets to focus on Nick. His eyes are red-rimmed and his smile is watery. “Have a bloody muffin, Nicholas. Also, stop giving away my presents.”
“Promise. No more for anyone but you.” Nick squeezes Louis’ hand tenderly. It’s about the only part of him that doesn’t hurt.
“What about mum?” Louis struggles to sit but gives up when he realises moving hurts like a bitch. “She’s going to be worried.”
“S’alright, love.” Nick soothes Louis and settles him back in the bed. “She’s going to bloody kill me, but we didn’t tell her. I know you wouldn’t want her to be worrying. Thought I would take you home for a bit and we can tell her properly when she can see you’re okay.”
Relief courses through Louis. “Thanks.” He shivers as he remembers the eyes in the forest and the creature in the trees. He swallows hard and looks at Nick. “Nick?”
“Yes, darling?” Nick edges closer to Louis. He looks bloody knackered. Nick. He makes Louis’ heart so full. Even after everything, Nick’s always been a constant. The anchor Louis feels like he’s been looking for all this time.
“Am I a werewolf?”
Nick doesn’t reply, and Louis closes his eyes, trying not to cry.
“Hi.” Louis winces. “Feel like shit.”
“You need to take this.” Nick hands Louis a small, glass bottle and helps him sit up. “Snape made it.”
“I bet it tastes disgusting, then.” Louis laughs but even that hurts, so he stops as quickly as he started. He takes the potion and it’s just as foul as he thought it would be. For a moment he thinks he’s going to throw up, but he keeps it down. It’s not long before the potion starts working its magic and he sends Snape a silent thank you. His potions might taste gross, but they’re bloody brilliant. With his pain and nausea easing, Louis takes the opportunity to look at Nick properly. He looks pale and worried, dark shadows under his eyes. His clothes are rumpled and he looks a bit thin. Louis narrows his eyes at Nick. “Where’s your potion?”
“I don’t need one.” Nick shrugs. His voice is thick and tired.
“Sure?” Louis rolls his eyes and reaches for Nick. “You should shower. Come to bed with me.”
“I don’t want to hurt you.” Nick looks as if he’s about to cry and Louis shuffles closer.
“I want you with me, dickhead. Please don’t make me sleep on my own. Where have you been sleeping anyway?”
“The sofa. Here and there.” Nick looks away, which Louis suspects means he hasn’t been sleeping much at all. “Do you want food?”
Louis wants Nick to get comfortable and come to bed so Louis can give him a hug and never let go. When Nick asks that though, Louis’ stomach rumbles and he laughs under his breath. “Yeah.” He takes in Nick’s pale face and thin frame. “Only if you eat with me too, though. Get ready for bed and we can get takeaway.”
“Okay.” Nick looks marginally cheered. “I can cook if you like? Make you something healthy?”
“When have I ever wanted something healthy?” Louis raises his eyebrow at Nick. “I’ve never met a chicken nugget I didn’t like.”
Nick bursts out laughing and leans in to kiss Louis on the forehead. “I’ll order summat and shower. If you’re sure. Prewitt’s Pizza, okay? They should still be taking Fire Calls.”
“Yeah. Perfect.” Louis closes his eyes as Nick gets ready. Finally, they’re in bed together, full up on delicious slices of pizza. Nick’s hair is soft and it smells fresh, a little colour already returning to his cheeks.
“Why were you with Snape the night it all happened?”
“Oh.” Nick sounds a bit shifty and he clears his throat. “Would you believe it if I said we were having a tawdry affair?”
“Nope.” Louis glowers at Nick. He’s been practicing the art of a disdainful look since spending more time with Snape, and he thinks he’s getting good at it. “I’d also be cross with you for even pretending that was the reason.”
“Okay, no affair.” Nick sighs. “Look, don’t be angry, but I went to talk to him about you. I wondered if he had any potions that might help with Niall. I wanted you to be able to do your school work before exams, and I know how tough it is to focus on anything when something like that happens.”
“Oh.” Louis isn’t sure if he’s angry with Nick for interfering or grateful that he cared enough to try. He takes in the dark circles under Nick’s eyes and his worried expression and decides to go with grateful. He loves Nick so much, he doesn’t want to waste time squabbling. Life’s too short. “What did he say?”
Nick snorts. “He said ‘Mister Grimshaw, I would have thought even a first-year knowledge of magic would have taught you that there are no spells or potions for suppressing basic human emotion, and if such things do exist I would sincerely recommend that you avoid them at all costs. The state of calm you hope to bring about could only be achieved through significant memory modification or Obliviate and I am quite sure Mr Tomlinson would prefer to live with his memories of his friend – however difficult that may be – than to go through life without them. If you are after a more temporary remedy, I highly recommend a decent scotch.”
Louis laughs and he nestles closer to Nick. “Brilliant.” He turns the words over in his head. “I think he’s right, though. When I got your quill the shopkeeper at Scrivenshaft’s said something weird to me.”
“Yeah.” Louis nods. “Grief is a sword or it is nothing. Some Muggle author, I think. I meant to Google it at mum’s but I had too much port.”
Nick laughs and kisses Louis’ cheek. “You’re a terror.”
“I am,” Louis says, proudly. “I think he’s right, though. I was able to cast the Glacius spell better than ever because I was thinking of Niall, then what Carrow had done to you. If I hadn’t had any of that, I don’t know if I would have been brave enough.” He stops and scrubs his eyes with his knuckles. “I thought maybe Niall gave me that. The heart of a lion they reckon Harry Potter and the other Gryffindors have. I’ve never felt right in that house before, but he made me feel proud of being a Gryffindor – like I wanted to be brave and fight for things.”
“He was a good lad.” Nick brushes his hand through Louis’ hair. “And you are brave, love. The bravest. Just promise me no more fighting for a bit though.”
“Promise.” Louis yawns. “Exams first, then I’m going to get pissed on cheap lager with Liam at the Three Broomsticks.”
Nick laughs softly before speaking again. “Lou?” It’s quiet with the dogs snoring at the foot of the bed and the rain pattering on the windows.
“Yeah?” Louis shifts onto the side that doesn’t hurt, facing Nick and blinking at him in the half-light.
“There’s something else.” Nick’s voice gets choked and he brushes his thumb against Louis’ cheek. “Something I have to tell you.”
Fear worms through Louis and it’s like he’s standing in quicksand, being pulled under. The way Nick looks so serious knifes through him, and his heart pounds in his chest. He doesn’t want Nick to leave him, but something tells him this isn’t going to be good news.
“Go on, then.” Louis speaks quickly, rough and low. He tries not to panic, steadying his breathing as best he can.
“We had to get you out of your clothes and wash the…the blood and stuff off. Make sure the wound didn’t get infected.”
Louis pulls a face at Nick. “So everyone’s seen my knob?”
Nick laughs, even if it sounds a bit shaky. “I covered it with a flannel and suds. For my eyes only. I booted everyone else out when it got to that bit.”
“Pervert.” Louis’ heart feels a bit lighter because he feels like whatever it is Nick’s going to tell him, it’s not going to be Nick leaving him. There’s nothing that says I love you like I covered your dick with a flannel.
“A bit.” Nick presses a kiss to Louis’ cheek and then leans back. “You haven’t had any tattoos, have you? Nothing other than that one with Zayn.”
“No.” Louis shakes his head, confused. “There’s not another prophecy, is there?”
“Nope. Nothing like that.” Nick takes a breath and then he shows Louis his arm. “See this?” He brushes his fingers against a triangle tattoo on his bicep. It’s small and exact, the thin black lines simple and straight. Louis doesn’t remember seeing it before, and he knows everything about Nick.
“Yeah. Is it new?” Louis runs his own fingers over it and he’s surprised by the pulse of need which runs through his body. He’s in too much pain for much of anything, but he has to swallow back a moan when the warm safety of Nick’s magic slides through his veins. It feels so good. So right.
“It wasn’t there before you got bitten.” Nick’s jaw works, and it looks as though he’s trying to find the right words. “It just…appeared.”
“Weird.” Louis stares at Nick. “What’s that got to do with you perving on me when I was unconscious.”
“This.” Nick reaches behind him for his Muggle phone. He switches it on and shows Louis a photo. It’s Louis’ ankle. At least Louis thinks it is. It looks like it, but for the tattoo exactly like Nick’s. “I saw this when I was washing you.”
“Really?” Louis stares at the photo, zooming in on it before handing the phone back to Nick. “I don’t get it.” Louis doesn’t want to be chosen or marked or anything anymore. He just wants to go and see the Arctic Monkeys with Nick, get well enough to have a pint of beer and work out what the fuck he’s going to do with his life after Hogwarts. He’s never going to pass his exams after this. There’s been too much time doing other things. Too much grief, too much fighting.
Nick closes his eyes, rubbing them with his knuckles before blinking them open. “I spoke to Snape about it when he came here.”
Louis stares at Nick. “Snape came here?” He looks over Nick’s shoulder, as if Snape might be lurking somewhere in the shadows. He still remembers that first discovery of Snape being alive, and the way Nick looked so angry and scared. He can’t imagine Snape with his dark robes and scathing, clipped manner of speaking, being here in this cosy house with Pig and Stinky. “Are you sure you two aren’t having that affair?”
“Yeah, that’s the point to focus on.” Nick huffs with laughter and he winks at Louis. “No affair, pet. But Stinky sat on his head for ages. Snape said he was going to report me for keeping illegal dragons in a private residence if I didn’t remove the ‘wretched little monster’ from his head immediately.’”
Louis laughs, the picture of Stinky on Snape’s head cheering him enormously. “He’d never report you, not really. What did you say?”
Nick shrugs, still smiling. “I got Stinky off Snape’s head and he found a spot in his robes he seemed to like better. I went to make a brew and when I got back, Snape was telling him some story about the dragons in Llyn Ogwen. I think they’re pals, now. Pig liked him too. Kept nosing at his boots.”
“Not what I expected.” Louis imagines Snape talking seriously to Stinky, pointing a long finger at him and telling him off for getting his robes all smoky.
“I think he likes you.” Nick gives Louis a soft smile. “He kept going on about you being a reckless twit like Potter and far better at magic than you give yourself credit for. I thought he was being insulting and nearly hexed him, but then he gave me all these potions for you that I think he spent ages making. It’s just his way, I reckon.”
“Yeah. I think it is, too.” Louis shakes his head. There are so many layers to Snape, he’s never quite sure where he stands. The one thing he does know, is that Snape’s protected him, in a way. He never treated Louis like he was too young to understand things and he told him the truth, even when the truth was difficult. Louis likes people like that. He prefers someone to be prickly than insincere.
“Do you remember I heard your name inside that room back at the Ministry?”
Louis nods, even though it feels like such a long time ago now. He didn’t know anything about a prophecy then. He was just nervous about going to speak to the great Harry Potter. He remembers the jealousy and heat when he found out about Nick and Malfoy and then later, wandering around the tenth floor and the Amortentia that smelt exactly like Nick. Louis smiles and gives Nick a quick kiss, even though the movement makes him wince. The sound of a strange, sibilant voice incanting Harry Potter comes back to Louis and he shivers. “I remember.”
“Snape thinks there’s a reason I heard your voice, and it’s to do with the tattoos.” Nick takes a shaky breath, his face pale.
“What, you’re scaring me.”
“They’re soul marks.” Nick brushes his hand almost subconsciously over his arm. “It means we’re mates.”
Louis’s heart hammers in his chest. “Not, like, friends….”
“No.” Nick laughs without much humour. “Like…I don’t even know what like. We’re written in the stars or summat.”
“Snape told you that?” Louis raises a sceptical eyebrow at Nick.
“Hardly.” Nick snorts. “He got a book out and talked for ages then I made Draco explain it properly.”
“Sounds about right.” Louis looks at the triangle on Nick’s arm. It’s so small, so innocuous. It looks like nothing. “What does it even mean?”
“We won’t know that much until there’s a transformation, and that won’t be for a good six months or so.” Nick winces at that. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay. I know what it means, being a werewolf.” Louis isn’t sure that he does really, but he’s got time to do some reading or ask people that have already done the reading to explain it to him. “Does that mean you’re stuck with me?” Louis doesn’t want Nick to be stuck with him. He wants Nick to be there because it’s right where he wants to be.
“Nah, at least not because of the marks.” Nick brushes Louis’ hair back from his forehead. “The way Draco told it, it’s probably going to make things pretty intense close to a full moon but it’s not like we have to be within five feet of each other at all times.” Nick brushes his thumb against Louis’s cheek. “Not that I’m going anywhere. I don’t particularly fancy being apart from you at the minute.”
“Me neither.” Louis swallows. “What sort of intense?” He stares at Nick, a thought occurring to him. “If we’re mates, does this mean…does this mean I might have babies?”
Nick stares at Louis before bursting out laughing. He laughs until his cheeks are flushed and he can’t quite catch his breath. Louis ordinarily doesn’t like being laughed at but it’s so good to hear Nick laugh he has to join in, even as it sends sharp, stabbing pain through his body. “Ouch, stop making me laugh you dick.”
“Sorry.” Nick laughs softly again under his breath, before shaking himself. “No, you’re not going to start having cubs, Lou.” His expression changes and he looks concerned. “Is that…is that a problem?”
“Nick.” Louis pokes Nick before he can start panicking. “I don’t want to have babies or cubs or anything. I don’t even know what the fuck I’m doing a week from now, or a month or a year. Probably resitting my N.E.W.Ts.” Louis sighs and stretches out on his back, looking at the ceiling. “I thought I’d have kids, one day. A big family like me mum. But I don’t need it. I just want someone. I’m not good at being on my own, never have been.”
Nick speaks quietly and seriously. “Same, really. I’ve always had friends around me, I don’t like being by myself. I’ve never had that with a bloke before, not until you came along and threw up on my shoes.”
“I did, didn’t I?” Louis gives Nick a grin. “I’m dead romantic.”
“Told me you wanked over Harry Potter once, too.” Nick rolls his eyes. “That was really lovely.”
“I’m a delight.” Louis wriggles deeper into the bed, getting comfy. “Could we break up, do you think? Now we’ve got this bond thing?”
“I think so.” Nick looks confused and a bit hurt. “Do you want to break up?”
“’Course I don’t.” Louis rolls his eyes. “I just don’t want you to be with me because you have to be. That’s shit.”
“It’s not like that.” Nick shakes his head. “Draco said it’s not going to help us not fight over you leaving your socks all over the place or anything. We can be with other people if we want, it’s not going to make us sick or ill if we’re not together.”
“Might make me a bit sick if you go off knobbing someone else,” Louis mutters.
“Me too.” Nick kisses Louis’ cheek and stifles a yawn. “Not because of a tattoo though. Would have been a bit sick about that before.”
“Yeah, same.” Louis closes his eyes, a warm, restful contentment washing over him. “Sleep, Nicholas.”
The response from Nick is a soft snore, and Louis falls asleep smiling in Nick’s arms.
Nick cracks open one eye and glares at Louis. “I am now.” His frown softens, and he leans in to press a kiss to Louis’ lips. “Hiya.”
“Hi.” Louis shifts in bed and winces at the flash of pain in his side. “I stink and I need a shower.”
“Can run a bath for you if you like?”
“Yeah.” Louis presses closer to Nick, his cock taking interest despite the fact his side is killing him. “Will you get in it too?”
“I don’t want to hurt you.” Nick runs his hand over Louis’ hip and swipes his tongue over his lips. He looks nervous, which is unlike Nick. He’s usually full of himself when it comes to shagging. Louis must have looked rough after he was bitten.
“You won’t and if you do, I’ll let you know.” Louis rolls his eyes. “Coming feels good, Nicholas, and I demand to be taken care of.”
“You’re an awful lot of trouble.” Nick sounds delighted by that fact. “Demanding orgasms.”
“They’re therapeutic,” Louis informs him. “Good for my recovery. Definitely read that in a book.”
“You definitely didn’t.” Nick slips out of bed and scratches the back of his head. “Come on, then. Can you make it to the bathroom your highness, or should I levitate you?”
“Have to get around without being carried at some point.” Louis moves to a sitting position, the sharp pain leaving him nearly breathless. Once he’s up though, it doesn’t feel quite as bad. He holds his hand out to Nick. “Help me up, then.”
Nick still looks worried, but he holds his arms out and lets Louis lean against him as he stands. “Darling?” Nick says, when Louis lets out a yelp.
“I’m fine, I’m fine.” Louis sucks in a breath and steadies himself. “I can walk!”
“Barely.” Nick keeps his arms wrapped around Louis. “It’s really more of a lean and a shuffle.”
“That’ll do.” Louis takes it slowly, the pain not as overwhelming as he expected. They finally make it to the bathroom and Louis lets Nick sit him on the toilet seat as he runs the bath. “More of those fancy suds of yours, Nick. Don’t be tight.”
Nick rolls his eyes but adds another splash of suds in anyway, unable to keep the fond look off his face even as he tries to look unimpressed. When the bath is full, he gives Louis a critical look. “I’m not sure about this.”
Louis looks at the bath and he has to admit the idea of clambering into it doesn’t exactly appeal. “We can use magic for this bit, as long as you promise you’ll let me try it without when I’m ready.”
“Promise.” Nick flicks his wand to leave Louis naked and then very carefully uses a levitating charm to get Louis into the bath. Louis is actually quite impressed, not that he plans to tell Nick that.
“Get in, then.”
“I don’t want to hurt—”
“Nick.” Louis glares at him. “I’m eighteen and I haven’t had sex in what feels like a hundred years. I’m also a fucking werewolf so I’m probably extra horny. Get in the bath and get me off.”
Nick laughs under his breath and pulls off his clothes, climbing into the bath behind Louis, his long legs around him. He nuzzles Louis’ shoulder and plants a careful kiss there. “Menace.”
“You wouldn’t have it any other way.” Louis hopes to goodness that’s true. He wriggles back against Nick and sighs. “Feels nice.”
“There’s one of those potions of Snape’s in the water. He said it would help.” Nick snorts and nuzzles Louis’ neck. “He nearly fell off his chair when I asked him if mixing anything else with it would change its potion-y properties.”
Louis snickers. “What did he say?”
“He asked what I meant by that then pinched the bridge of his nose and said ‘please stop talking immediately, I have absolutely no desire to know any more details.’ He said it would be fine, then he left after telling Stinky off for singing his robes.”
“Brilliant.” The water really does feel good against the bite, warm and soothing after the initial sting when Louis first got into the bath. “I’m glad if my stars were going to align with anyone’s, they aligned with yours. I don’t know anyone else brave enough to ask Snape if spunk has any impact on his potions.”
Nick laughs then presses a warm kiss to Louis’ neck. “Me too. I’m glad mine are aligned with yours, or whatever.” He slides his foot over the tattoo on Louis’ ankle and it sends a sharp, hot bolt of desire through Louis.
“Fuck.” Louis groans and leans back into Nick. “Why does that feel so good?”
“Magic, innit?” Louis can feel Nick shrugging. Nick slides his hand around Louis’ cock and gives him a slow stroke which makes Louis groan again.
“Yeah, feels good.”
“Positive. Please.” Louis closes his eyes and lets Nick work his talented hand over Louis. It feels so right, like it’s been ages since Nick touched him. Louis knows it won’t take long.
Nick thumbs at the head of Louis’ cock and rocks against the crack in Louis’ arse. They slide together, Nick’s hand hot and wet and Louis giving Nick the friction he needs as best he can. It’s not perfect, and it’s not the most athletic sex they’ve had, but it somehow feels just right. Easy, lazy and gentle. Pleasure rolls through Louis as he bucks up into Nick’s fist and reaches completion with a grunt of pleasure, the speed with which he comes taking him by surprise and leaving him breathless. Nick holds Louis in place, rocking against him and following shortly after.
The water laps around them and Nick kisses Louis’ neck, up to his ear. He wraps his arms around Louis and they stay in the bath together until the water turns tepid and their skin turns prune-like and soft.
“Because it’s a ball.” Liam adjusts his robes carefully and winks at himself in the mirror. He glances at Louis. “When does Grimmy get here?”
“Fuck knows, I’m planning to ignore him.” Louis is still a bit huffy Nick took the job of DJ-ing the end of term ball. He doesn’t want Nick to see Louis dancing around like a twat. “Can’t believe we won the House Cup.”
“Thanks to Niall.” Liam claps Louis on the shoulder. “And you.”
“More Niall, than anything.” Louis grins at Liam and gives him a quick hug. “One hundred and fifty points for me for being brilliant enough to come up with Glacius and save everyone, and then the winning hundred and fifty points for Niall for Gryffindor courage.”
“Made up for those forty you lost,” Liam says, helpful soul that he is.
“Yeah, thanks for the reminder, Payno.” Louis rolls his eyes. “Let’s go.”
They make their way through the corridors and down the moving staircases, fighting their way through crowds of students to get into the Great Hall. The whole place has been transformed into a summer garden, with brilliant rainbow lighting and all of the usual tables and chairs absent from the space. There are still tables for the students to sit at, but the main part of the hall has been turned into a large dance floor. The flowers are deep reds, burgundy and yellow, and Gryffindor banners fly proudly against the walls, the lion in the crest holding the sword of Gryffindor aloft.
“Wish Niall could be here to see this,” Louis says.
“Dunno. Maybe he can.” Liam shrugs and Louis looks around, a flicker of something that looks like Bruce appearing out of the corner of his eye. He blinks, but the ghostly dog is nowhere to be seen. He thinks of Sirius Black and Remus Lupin promising to show Niall the whole world and he smiles to himself. If they can show Niall America, they can definitely show him he won the House Cup for Gryffindor.
“You’re right.” Louis looks up at the stage where Nick is DJ-ing. He’s got on a ridiculous silk shirt like something Harry Styles would wear, floral and unbuttoned to the navel. He gives Louis a wink and a wave which Louis refuses to return, even though his mouth is dry because Nick looks fit as fuck. “Can’t believe we’re almost done.”
“I think I failed most of my exams.” Liam sounds pretty cheerful about it. “But I’ve been chatting to Luna Lovegood a bit, lately, so who cares?”
Louis stares at Liam. “You have not.”
“I have.” Liam winks at Louis. “I’ve got an internship at The Quibbler. I’m going to be looking out for new bands and then getting the entertainment reporters to write about their music. She thinks I’ve got a good ear for it.”
“You have.” Louis smiles at Liam. “That’s amazing. You’ll be brilliant and Luna will be in love with you in no time.”
“We’ll see.” Liam shrugs but he looks chuffed. Louis tries not to let a small flush of jealousy spoil the moment. He’s so happy for Liam, but it just reminds Louis that he’s still drifting along with no plans other than preparing for being a proper werewolf at some point in the not too distant future. Nick’s busy, Liam has his new gig which sounds perfect for him and Louis is probably going to have to come back to school if he wants to do anything. He can’t imagine being in school resitting his exams without Liam, Niall or Zayn around. The whole thing would be embarrassing and strange.
Louis sighs and turns around, coming face to face with Draco Malfoy. “Hiya.”
“Hi.” Draco looks over his shoulder, obviously hoping Harry isn’t within earshot. “I don’t suppose you have any cigarettes?”
“Yeah, come on.” Louis tells Liam he’ll be back in a bit and pushes through the crowds. They make their way outside and find a quiet spot away from the hum of the party. “Here you go.”
“Thank you.” Draco lights his cigarette and offers Louis the small flame from the tip of his wand, before taking a seat on a nearby bench. He crosses his legs elegantly. Unlike Louis, he doesn’t look like a twat in posh robes. He looks good. Rich and expensive, if you like that sort of thing. He speaks in a slow drawl, his eyes lidded as he contemplates Louis. “Potter tells me you were quite besotted with him at one point.”
Heat rises in Louis’ cheeks and he glares at Draco. “Besotted? Hardly. Anyway, you’re one to talk. You used to shag my boyfriend. I only stuck up pictures of yours.”
“Touché.” Draco smirks before taking another drag of his cigarette. He tips his head back to look at the stars.
“What’s going to happen to Professor Snape?” Louis has been dying to know ever since he saw Snape snarling in the Prophet as some reporters took his picture. “Everyone knows he’s alive, now.”
“I’ve given him the shop,” Draco says.
“Of course you have.” Louis rolls his eyes. Trust Malfoy to hand over a store in a prime location, just like that. “He’s going to run it?” Louis can’t quite imagine Snape in retail.
“Potions consultancy.” Draco looks at Louis. “How have you been?”
“Fine.” Louis shrugs. He’s still feeling out of sorts and there’s an ache in his chest when he thinks of Niall, but knowing Niall is okay makes it easier. “I’m a werewolf.”
“I heard.” Draco studies Louis. “It seems like you and Nick are in it for the long haul.”
“Hope so.” Louis bites his lip. “Is it true that he doesn’t have to be with me? I want him to be with me because it’s me, not because of this bond thing.”
“It’s true.” Draco puts his cigarette out with the heel of his boot. He sighs and rakes a hand through his hair. “Look, you and Grim can fuck around, see other people, do whatever the hell you want. It might make things easier for you having him around during the full moon, but it’s not going to be enough to keep anyone where they don’t want to be.” He narrows his eyes. “He’s happy, though. Happy in a way I haven’t seen before. I think it’s that you should focus on, not anything else.” Draco’s lips curve into a half-smile and he stands, squeezing Louis’ shoulder. “If you’re interested I read it’s supposed to make things very – ah – intense. Pleasurable.”
“Alright, Malfoy.” Harry Potter’s familiar voice startles Louis, whose cheeks are burning hot from Draco’s words. “Stop flirting.”
“I’m not flirting.” Draco looks smug. “I’m giving sex tips.”
Harry rolls his eyes. “He’s eighteen, I’m sure he and Nick can work it out for themselves. Also, have you been smoking?”
“Of course not,” Draco replies, smoothly.
“Of course not.” Harry snorts with laughter. “Come on, you owe me a dance.”
“In public?” Draco presses his hand to his chest. “My, my. It’s all change now.”
“I think we’ve kept the gossip rags going for long enough. It’s time to come out, as they say.” Harry gives Louis an odd salute. “Enjoy the night. Come and see me if you need anything. My door is always open.”
“Unless it’s closed. In which case, please knock.” Draco murmurs something in Harry’s ear which makes him laugh and they walk off together into the darkness.
Louis finishes his cigarette and then moves back inside, making his way straight to the stage. He hauls himself up and insinuates himself into Nick’s space, nudging him with his hip. “Evening, dickhead.”
“Hello to you too, pumpkin pie.” Nick sends a record spinning with a flick of his wand and pulls Louis close, planting a damp kiss on his ear. “Alright?”
“Good.” Louis checks no one can hear them and leans into Nick. “Why didn’t you tell me there’s all this sex stuff related to the bond? Malfoy told me.”
“I’m going to kill him.” Nick’s neck gets red and he gives Louis a lopsided smile. “I didn’t want to get your expectations up, just in case.”
Louis humphs. “Well, they’re up.” He gives Nick a hopefully wicked smile. “If you know what I mean.”
“Menace.” Nick tugs Louis into a short, breathless kiss. “I like the robes.”
“You would. They’re stupid.” Louis rolls his eyes, looking down at his outfit. “Want a drink? I spiked the punch.”
“Of course you did.” Nick rolls his eyes. “Go on, then. Get two and come and help me pick the next song.”
Louis makes his way off stage and looks over to the three seats set up like they were at the Yule Ball. His heart clenches as he thinks of Niall looking misty-eyed over Harry Styles wowing the crowd with his Veela charms. Louis takes a breath and downs a glass of the punch. “To you, Niall,” he whispers.
He grabs two more drinks and makes his way back over to Nick, passing Harry and Draco dancing together in the middle of the room. He stops and watches just for a minute, then glances over at Nick who looks so damn good spinning his records. A sense of peace settles over Louis and he carries on walking, his step lighter than it’s been in a very long time.
“I’ve started writing a song.” Liam rummages around in his bag and hands Louis a battered notebook. “Will you have a look? It’s for Niall. Thought maybe we could ask Nick if he knows anyone that might be interested.”
Louis thinks of Harry Styles and his gobstoppers. Those ridiculous floral dress robes and the way he’s taking the world by storm. The badge Niall wore to the Yule Ball has been under Louis’ bed in a tatty shoebox, together with his keyring from his Christmas cracker, the Pig wrapping paper, the three little phials of memories and a card from his mum.
“I might know someone. I’ll ask.” Louis rolls onto his stomach and stubs out his cigarette. He looks at the lyrics and notes Liam has scribbled in the booklet. They make his chest hurt. He glances at Liam and the way his lips turn down at the edges, the way his eyes are dull and defeated. “I’ll help you write it. We’ll do it together, yeah? For Potter and the Wotsits.”
“For Potter and the Wotsits.” Liam gives a watery laugh. He scrubs his face with the back of his hand and leans back on his hands, tipping his face up to the clouds. “Sometimes I think he’s still around.”
Louis thinks of Niall’s ghost appearing in the classroom and at Moon River before he disappeared with the rays of the setting sun. “Me too. Maybe he is. Our world is full of echoes.”
“Yeah. Not the same though.” Liam pulls a face. “I don’t think I’d like to remember him as a ghost or something.”
Louis doesn’t reply, glad he didn’t tell Liam about seeing Niall. “It wouldn’t be the same,” Louis agrees after a moment's pause. He's glad he saw Niall, but Louis needed to. He needed that reassurance that Louis hadn't been a bad friend over Niall's friendship - or whatever it was - with Harry Styles. He also needed Niall to give him a nudge in the right direction, to show him that Louis already had the tools he needed to help defeat the ghosts, he just needed to know where to look.
“When’s the first full moon?” Liam shifts and stretches out on his back. Louis joins him, their heads close together as they watch the clouds.
“Not for a bit.” Louis swallows because he’s really not looking forward to that. “It doesn’t happen immediately, apparently. Lupin reckons I’ve got the summer at least before I’ll transform for the first time.”
“Is there any stopping it?” Liam sounds hesitant.
“Nope.” Louis shrugs. “Life’s a bitch and then you’re a werewolf. Nick said he’d be there, but I don’t want to bite him. I don’t think I would, if I have Wolfsbane. Dunno. I’ll have to ask someone.”
Liam huffs with laughter. “What’s it like otherwise?”
Louis shrugs. “Weird. Like, I know there’s this thing that’s getting stronger inside me. I can feel it, but I can’t stop it and don’t know how to, like, handle it properly or anything.”
“Oh.” Liam clears his throat. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be.” Louis pulls a face. “Just life, isn’t it? I’ll cope.”
“Not about that.” Liam sounds hesitant.
“My Boggart.” Liam lets out a huff of air. “I’m not frightened of you.”
“I know.” Louis doesn’t know for sure, not really, but he knows that Liam is his friend and friends are important. “Werewolves can be scary. Trust me, I get that. Besides, Professor Lupin’s alright, innit?”
“Yeah.” Liam blinks. Dark shadows move across the clouds and Liam sits up. “What’s that?”
Louis takes in the oil-slick bodies glistening in the sunlight, watching the majestic bodies and their elegant flight through the blue sky. “Thestrals.” His voice catches.
“Like your Patronus?”
“Yep. Like that.” Louis swallows. “They saved me from the Dementors.”
“I’ve never seen them before.” Liam watches as they move through the sky.
“People can’t usually see them. Not unless they’ve seen death.” Louis lights another cigarette. “That’s why everyone gets scared of them. They’re not bad, though. They just sometimes remind people of bad things.”
“Yeah.” Liam sits up, picking up a stone and throwing it into the river where it skips and trips across the surface before disappearing altogether. “I miss him so much, Tommo.”
Louis’ throat gets tight and he sits up, jostling against Liam and staying close.
“I know, mate. Me too.”
They stay huddled together for a long time as the Thestrals glide and swoop through the clouds.
“Don’t think she can believe it either.” Nick grins at Louis and turns back to the road. “When do you get your N.E.W.T.s?”
“Oh.” Louis rummages for some parchment in his bag. “Got them this morning.”
Nick nearly swerves into a different lane. “Louis. You twat. Why didn’t you say?”
“Haven’t checked them yet,” Louis says. “Didn’t seem to matter after everything.”
Nick curses under his breath and he comes off the motorway, stopping in a Little Chef car park. “Come on, then. Show us.”
“Might be crap.”
“Might be good.” Nick makes a grab for the parchment and Louis holds it away from him.
“Suspense is killing me. Open them, will you?”
“Okay.” Louis opens the parchment and swallows when he looks at the results. There’s a little note pinned to the top of them. He doesn’t think everyone gets those.
Louis hands them to Nick. “Passed everything but Potions and Arithmancy. Got a Troll in that. Got a Dreadful in Potions, which is better than a Troll at least.”
“Outstanding in Care of Magical Creatures.” Nick waves the parchment around with a screech of delight. Pig barks from the back seat and Stinky hops over the dashboard, wondering what’s going on. “Acceptable in Dark Arts. You passed!”
“Can’t do much of anything without Potions, though.” Louis heaves a sigh and almost can’t bear to read the note. He can imagine what it says. Sorry for your loss, sorry you’re not going to be much of anything, blah, blah, blah. He screws it up and drops it on the dashboard.
Nick takes the piece of parchment before Stinky can breathe not-quite-fire on it and unfurls it. He reads it and when he looks at Louis, his eyes are shining. It’s the sort of look that’s happy and sad all at once. His smile is a bit wobbly around the edges. “Dunno about that. Here. Have a read.”
Louis pulls a face and picks up the note, scanning it quickly.
Although it is highly irregular for me to send personal notes to students, I believe you have had a highly irregular year. We are indebted to you for your courage and bravery and I believe you would be an asset to the Hogwarts staff, should you be inclined to take up a position teaching Care of Magical Creatures. Professor Ludbottom is due to retire at the end of the next academic year and has, despite my efforts, expressed no desire in extending her contract further. She has acquired a very pleasant cottage in Cornwall and has indicated she would much rather walk her King Charles Spaniel on the beach than spend another year at Hogwarts. I can’t say I blame her, given recent events.
Professor Grubbly-Plank has agreed to take you on as her Apprentice and Professor Snape has (reluctantly) offered to assist you with your N.E.W.T. Potions exam so that you can resist it at the end of the year and achieve the necessary passing grade to enable you to teach at Hogwarts. I believe it was a simple mix-up with the angles of your flobberworm slices which prevented you from passing on this occasion but you otherwise performed to an acceptable level. Professor Snape and I believe that with adequate tutoring and without any additional distractions, you should be able to achieve the necessary mark. Professor Snape has also agreed to offer tutelage on the brewing of Wolfsbane and alternative remedies, should that be of any interest. Reluctant as I am to do so, he has insisted that I pass on his message as follows: You’re a bloody idiot if you turn this down, Tomlinson. Do try to use your not entirely delinquent brain for once.
Please reply at your earliest convenience to let me know your decision.
In the meantime, happy holidays Mr Tomlinson. I wish you well.
Louis stares at Nick before bursting out laughing. “I can’t teach at Hogwarts. Are they mental?. I’m shit at school. I hated school. I’m crap at magic.”
“Not that crap, love.” Nick squeezes Louis’ thigh. “Obviously not.” He pauses and glances at Louis. “Do you want to do the Hogwarts thing?”
“Hadn’t even thought about it until now.” Louis swallows and he looks at the note again. He always hated Hogwarts, or he thought he did. Always found it oppressive and like he was trying to be something he could never hope to be. Now he feels different. He can’t imagine what it would be like to go back, but the idea of doing stuff with magical creatures…he’d be good at it. The Care of Magical Creatures professor doesn’t just teach. They look after the creatures too. They make sure people aren’t dicks and teach them how to handle the animals. Louis is brilliant with animals. As if to confirm his thoughts, Stinky hops on Louis’ shoulder and Pig licks his hand with a soft ruff. Louis draws a breath. “I mean…maybe?”
“You should.” Nick’s voice is quiet. “Give it a go. Imagine, saying that to your mum. A professor! She’d be dead proud. Not that she isn’t already.”
“She needs me, though.” Louis takes a breath. “I don’t want to leave her.”
Nick fiddles with a bit of leather that’s come off the steering wheel and looks as though he’s choosing his words carefully. “I think, though…I think seeing you settled. With that future ahead of you. She’d like that, your mum. She’d want that. They’ll be good with time, if you need it. Just an Apprenticeship, innit? No commitments to classes right now. Try it. See how you like it.”
“You reckon I could do it?” Louis looks at Nick and his face breaks into a soft smile.
“I reckon you could do anything, love. World’s yours for the taking.”
“I’m a fucking werewolf.” Louis gives Nick a look. “Might go mad around the full moon.”
“All the more reason to do it then.” Nick shrugs. “Let Snape tell you what he knows about managing it and speak to Lupin while you’re there. McGonagall thinks you should do it, so trust her.”
“What about us?” Louis knows Nick’s been thinking about doing stuff which is more Muggle-focused. Knows he’s got his eye on the BBC. He’d be brilliant at it. Really brilliant.
“Not that hard to be together when there’s magic involved.” Nick takes a breath. “I got a Floo put into my Hackney house.”
“Why?” Louis stares at Nick.
“For you, mainly.” Nick’s cheeks turn pink. “If you like.”
“Floo from anywhere?”
“Yep.” Nick looks proud of himself. “From Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, wherever you like. It’s all on the same Floo network. Isn’t Grubbly-Plank retired?”
“Yeah,” Louis says.
Nick looks as if he’s debating with saying something. “Might be you wouldn’t even stay at Hogwarts, then.” He clears his throat. “Could stay with me, if you want. Get you a drawer. As it’s written on the stars and whatnot. Besides, I’ve been doing some reading and I think it might be…useful. Being close.”
Louis stares at Nick, his stomach swooping. He imagines coming home to Nick, Pig and Stinky and oh. It’s a lot. He clears his throat so his voice doesn’t crack and because he’s a bit of twat he doesn’t say that’d be lovely like a normal person. “One drawer? Bit tight, mate.”
Nick grins at Louis. “Might let you have two if you ask nicely.”
“Two drawers and somewhere for my toothbrush,” Louis says. His cheeks are hot, and he feels a bit giddy. “Like a glass.”
“Could stretch to a glass, I reckon.” Nick stares out of the windscreen instead of at Louis, but he’s smiling. Big and wide.
“Cool,” Louis says.
Louis flicks on the radio and he smiles. “It’s them Polar Nifflers.”
“Innit?” Nick starts the car. He starts singing, off-key, out of tune and god Louis loves him.
“Flourescent Adolescent.” It seems like so long ago. Like a million years have passed since.
“Boy’s a slag. Best you’ve ever had.” Nick gives Louis a grin and he pulls out of the service station and waits to join the motorway. His Muggle phone pings and he checks it. “Eileen’s made pie.”
“Brilliant,” Louis says. “I like pie.”
“Cheese and onion,” Nick says.
Louis turns up the radio and leans back in his seat, following the signs for the North as the Arctic Monkeys play in the background.