“Auror Experience sessions are possibly your worst idea yet. You look like the Willow took a personal dislike to you. You look like you stood under the Willow and offended its family and then repeatedly poked it with a stick until it knocked you unconscious. One of these days, someone is going to do you some serious damage that I can’t reverse. And that’d just be embarrassing, because you’re meant to be the Defence teacher, and if you can’t even defend yourself against a teenager then that’s just tragic.”
Steve pauses as he rearranges his robes around himself, then grins and settles himself down in the seat beside Danny. He’s holding his right arm awkwardly and his breath is rattling slightly, and his skin is a map of bruises and mild scrapes. He’s also sporting an impressive black eye and shifting his hips in a way that implies that he’s been hit with an itching hex in an awkward place, but knowing his students, it could easily have been a mild STI curse.
“I can count on one hand the number of young people that I used to see coming into Auror Training with experience of duelling,” Steve says, as though it’s equally the most obvious and distressing thing in the world, and Danny just lets him talk because it gives him a chance to assess what damage control needs to be done this time. “They have no idea what to expect in the real world, they have no idea of the sorts of curses that dark wizards are going to send their way. And it hardly ever occurs to them that the fight can be physical as well as magical. All I’m doing is preparing them for what’s to come when they actually sign up to be Aurors.”
“Yes, I know, you tell me this every week when those kids send you back to me covered in life-threatening wounds.”
He prods Steve’s mottled skin with his wand despite the little voice in his head that’s telling him to leave it, just leave it, and maybe he’ll learn his lesson this time. The bumps that are forming sink back down into his body and his skin washes back to its normal even tan and his nose realigns, and that familiar face is unbroken once again.
“I don’t know why you never just heal yourself,” he mutters as the last blemish fades as the last drop of blood shoots back up Steve’s nose in a slightly disturbing way, and Steve just continues to grin as the crowds suddenly leap to their feet and start to shout in excitement.
“Because you heal me so much better,” he says, and they stand with everyone else to applaud the Ravenclaw and Gryffindor teams as they walk out onto the pitch. Kono’s whistle glints in the late afternoon sun where she’s holding it clenched between her teeth, and she mounts her broom as the Captains shake hands.
“You see the Ravenclaw Beater? The one with the blonde hair? She’s the one who broke my ribs,” Steve says, and the smug bastard almost sounds proud, and of course he would be. He’s in his element. He’s training his own little elite squad of mini-Steves and they’re performing admirably, and if Danny’s memory serves him well, then this Beater is one fierce girl. Danny wouldn’t be surprised if she’d just kicked him in the chest, wand forgotten. Of course he’s proud.
Then the whistle blows and fifteen people shoot into the air, and Danny ducks instinctively as a Bludger rockets over the Professors’ stands with a terrifying speed. There’s a brief, familiar fumble as Gryffindor manage to take position of the Quaffle and then they’re off, ducking and diving with a precision and velocity that always both impresses and seriously concerns Danny. He winces as Kono swerves to avoid the very same Bludger that nearly took off his own head, and is very aware of Steve watching him be paranoid. He can predict exactly what he’s going to say, too.
“Danny, she used to be one of the best Chasers in the country, she knows what she’s doing,” he says after a few moments of painfully intense staring at Danny’s profile. “She’s been doing this for years, and it’s nowhere near the level that she used to compete at. Don’t worry so much.”
“Don’t worry?” he repeats incredulously, and Steve’s eyebrows shoot up into his hairline. “It’s the most dangerous sport that we play, Steven. There are people with bats. There are people with bats, hitting balls that have a mind of their own and attack you when you’ve done nothing wrong. The whole game is played high up in the air. No matter how much training you have, this is still a dangerous game. I mean, Kono’s living proof of that! You think I’m going to let Gracie get on one of those things once she’s here, you’re deluded.”
“Hey, chill, she’s got another four years before she can even try out to play for her house. And either Kono or I can give her proper lessons, one-on-one, when she’s in first year. You can supervise and we’ll not go higher than three feet until you give the okay. She’ll love it, I promise.”
“Oh, I have no doubt that she’ll love it. But that does not make it safe,” Danny points out, and Steve opens his mouth to respond, but is cut off by the shrill note of Kono’s whistle, magically amplified across the pitch. She shoots over to a pair of opposing Chasers who look slightly abashed, offers them a few stern words, and then resumes play. Steve’s already forgotten what he was going to say in favour of concentrating on the match.
“So where’s Chin?” Steve asks, almost absently, as his eyes track the match intently, his whole body twitching as though he desperately wants to relive his own days as a Seeker several years ago. “I thought he’d be coming to the match. I mean, he is Head of House.”
“He told me earlier that he’s got some mallowsweet needs harvesting before the full moon tonight. I guess it must be taking longer than he thought.”
“Isn’t mallowsweet the one that you get high from?”
“Only if you’re a centaur,” Danny points out, takes one look at Steve’s frown, and throws his hands up in the air. “No, you know what, wizards probably can, and you probably know that, because you probably stole some from the greenhouses when you were at school, didn’t you? What, sixth year? Seventh? You did. You definitely did.”
“I did not.”
“You are a terrible role model,” he says flatly, and crosses his arms over his chest. “That’s it. You’re not allowed to talk to Grace anymore unless we’ve scripted what you’re going to say. If we’re not careful, she’s going to start thinking that you are normal, and she’ll end up like you, which we just can’t allow because you and Kono are already putting a strain on the sensibilities of the universe and we do not need to add to that, especially now that you’re training your own merry little band of crimefighting teenagers.”
He’s pretending to scowl, but Steve’s hand comes to rest on the small of his back, and he can’t hold the expression for very long because Grace adores Steve and they both know that he could never, ever keep them apart.
The hand stays there until Gryffindor’s Seeker catches the Snitch, and Steve decides to celebrate his House’s victory in the Cup with the most ridiculous dance that Danny’s ever been witness to, and Danny pushes him over the bench in front of them and makes a quick exit before he’s subjected to any more embarrassment.