There's something routine in the way Courfeyrac knots his Hufflepuff tie as he makes his way down the corridor on the Hogwarts express, checking through the windows of each compartment, searching for the one that holds his friends (or most of them, anyway, since a handful are stuck sitting with the rest of the prefects). They never sit in the same compartment, choosing a different each year, but somehow Courfeyrac always manages to find them eventually.
The routine of it is almost nice, after a summer of relaxing and no routine whatsoever, unless you count 'Get up, shower, do whatever the fuck you want for the rest of the day' to be a routine, which Courfeyrac sort of does. Getting back to the castle, getting back to early mornings and days of classes, however, isn't going to be very nice. But he takes the good with the bad, and the good Hogwarts offers most definitely outweighs the bad, even if mornings are satanic and the wizarding world hasn't quite managed to grasp the concept of good coffee (something Courfeyrac's picked up from the café in the small town by his family home, which tasted like tar the first time he drank it but kept him up until midnight, so he's loved the stuff ever since).
He's stopped a total of six times before he manages to find his friends, dragged into compartment after compartment to say hello, ask about people's holidays, answer questions about his own. Some people might find it exhausting, but the smile on Courfeyrac's face as he ducks out of every compartment is nothing but genuine.
That smile slips away when he finally finds the one he's looking for, but what he finds inside is just as familiar and expected as the rest of it. (Truly, Courfeyrac loves his friends. He fucking loves them. He would kill or die for any one of them, with only a bit of hesitation, but sometimes— sometimes his friends are really daft. Right now is definitely one of those times.)
"Any reason why there're five of you jammed onto a seat meant for three?" Courfeyrac wonders as he stows his bag in the luggage compartment above the seats.
On his left sits Éponine, against the window with her cheek pressed to it, and Jehan, who looks serene and comfortable with his legs crossed on the seat, wand tucked above his ear, and a book in his lap. On the other side sits Feuilly, Bahorel, Grantaire, Joly and Bossuet, all smushed so close together it's a miracle they can breathe. (And it looks like Grantaire can't, honestly.)
"I was sitting here first," Grantaire says, sounding a bit petulant, likely from Bahorel's elbow in his gut.
"Joly came in and squeezed in beside Bossuet," Éponine explains, waving a hand to where Joly is, somehow, fast asleep while crushed between Bossuet and Grantaire, his head on Bossuet's shoulders. "Then Bahorel came in and refused to sit anywhere but beside Feuilly, and Grantaire refused to move on principle, and that's why you're looking at a cute boy sandwich."
"Figured I'd leave room for you," Bahorel says to Courfeyrac.
At this point, Courfeyrac is rather used to his friends being in love with each other and coming up with every excuse to deny it. Sitting cramped together? Oh, they're only making room for everyone else. One is caught staring lovingly at another? He has a bit of food on his face, that's all. Sitting in each other's laps? Convenience. If he had a galleon for every excuse his friends made when caught in compromising positions, he'd be able to buy that new broom he desperately wants.
"We haven't all been able to fit in the same compartment since third year," Grantaire complains, "when Bahorel hit his growth spurt."
"Still spurting," Bahorel says proudly, flexing his arm muscles with a sideways glance at Feuilly, who does nothing more than snort at him.
"Disgusting," Éponine says, lips curling. "I'm banning that word. 'Spurting' is officially banned."
Courfeyrac drums his fingers on his knees, grinning, but there's a slightly hollow feeling in his chest that he knows won't be filled until he sees Enjolras and Combeferre, and probably Marius too. (And how, exactly, have all his friends managed to become prefects without him? Not that he wants to be a prefect, but still.)
"How long until we get there, do you think?" he asks, only a little anxious.
"We just left the station," Feuilly reminds him.
"A while," Éponine adds.
Courfeyrac groans and tips his head back against the seat. He loves the Hogwarts Express, he does, but he hates how long the ride is. Thankfully his friends do offer a good distraction, even if it's a frustrating one. As Grantaire gets up, coming over to squeeze in between Jehan and Éponine instead, Bahorel moves into the space he vacates but Feuilly instantly moves over, closing the miniscule distance between them until they're squished together again, without either of them even really noticing it.
Not that he would call himself an expert or anything, but Courfeyrac is rather good when it comes to love and relationships and spotting them. Or— he's rather good at love, and he's had several relationships that have had unfortunate but mutually agreed breakups.
There was Evalyn Sternburn, with dark red hair and the nicest lips he's ever seen, who kindly ended things with him after six months because she was in love with her best friend (Courfeyrac has never held it against her; some relationships aren't meant to last, even if he had cried when it was over, which possibly had more to do with the end of his first love than anything else). There was Andrew Morgan, a muggleborn with beautiful dark skin and wide eyes who taught Courfeyrac how much fun it is to sneak around the castle. They dated for three months exactly, and on the last day of the third month they both agreed that fun doesn't always a relationship make. Or something like that. And finally, there was Lyssa Hansworth who he'd dated for the entirety of last year, who only broke it off with him because she was graduating and there was nowhere for their relationship to go.
Courfeyrac has more dating experience, and more long term dating experience, than any of his friends. He's also very, very good at judging other people's relationships with each other, if he does say so himself. And his friends? He knows them better than anyone.
Feuilly, for instance, has had a thing for Bahorel since at least fifth year. Bahorel, on the other hand, has had a thing for Feuilly since they were twelve, but he still hasn't admitted it to himself. Joly and Bossuet have actually kissed, Courfeyrac has seen it, but they're still in the denial, 'we're best friends, it could ruin things' stage. They're ridiculous. Truly, completely ridiculous. The only thing stopping them all from being happily together is themselves. (Not that friendship isn't just as, if not more so in many cases, important as romantic relationships, Courfeyrac is aware, but in the case of his friends their romantic feelings are starting to take its toll on their friendships.)
"Are you analyzing them again?" Jehan asks, tucking his book under his arm as he stretches his legs out. His jeans ride up past his socks and Courfeyrac resists the urge to lean down and cover them again. Jehan wears what he wants, when he wants, even if that means wearing jeans five inches too short for him.
"Have I mentioned how much I missed you?" Courfeyrac asks, deflecting. He wraps an arm around Jehan's shoulder, drawing him in to press a kiss to the crown of his head. "Because I missed you a lot."
"I wrote you," Jehan says back, flushing happily. "You never wrote me back."
"I wrote you back," Courfeyrac argues. "Twice."
"I sent you eleven letters."
"I hate writing letters," Courfeyrac moans. "They're so impersonal. I could tell you about my day, but by the time it reaches you it's two days later. They're completely inefficient when you think about it. Considering we can pop from one side of the world to the other once we learn how to apparate, you'd think wizards would have a better mailing system."
"That," Grantaire says, leaning forward to frown at him, "is a really good point."
Courfeyrac beams. "Course it is," he says.
"Could you keep it down?" Bossuet whispers, pointedly looking at where Joly is still sleeping on his shoulder.
"Should have found an empty compartment to sleep in if he wanted to sleep uninterrupted, shouldn't he have?" Éponine says, but despite her words she does lower her voice. "And he's drooling on your shoulder."
Joly sits bolt upright, eyes wide as if he's been awake for quite a while. "I was not," he says, wiping at his mouth.
"You weren't," Bossuet assures him.
"Totally were," Grantaire says.
Joly sticks out his tongue in Grantaire's direction before breaking into a yawn. "Almost there yet?" he asks.
Everyone groans. And they groan again when Bahorel asks the same question half an hour later. Once more when Éponine does it. Jehan smacks him when Courfeyrac asks, too. Feuilly threatens to hex the next person who does it, which only forces Bossuet to do it to be difficult, which makes Joly laugh, which makes Feuilly actually go through with the hexing and suddenly no one is laughing and Bossuet's nose is bleeding profusely.
"Nice to be back," Courfeyrac says as Joly somehow manages to stop the nose bleed while simultaneously glaring at Feuilly.
Jehan gives a loud bark of laughter and kicks Courfeyrac in the shin.
The castle will never cease to take Courfeyrac's breath away. It's one of those things that is so incredible the first time you see it, but you expect that awe to fade as time goes on and you get used to it. No such luck when it comes to Hogwarts. No matter how many years pass, every time Courfeyrac looks at it from a distance, seeing the towers rise high in the air, the slopes of the roof, the lights glowing even from this far away, he's struck by it all over again.
He could stand here all night staring at it and be content, but something more important catches his eye. A head of golden hair, shining under a street lamp. He has just enough time to call out, "Enjolras!" before the head steps away from the light, disappearing in the dark sea of student after student after student.
"They've to help the first years," Jehan reminds him, absently tying his tie as he speaks. He ties it wrong, looping it too many times and then letting the ends hang at different lengths, but Courfeyrac doesn't bother fixing it because he probably means to wear it like that. "Éponine and Grantaire are waiting for us in the carriage."
"I should have been a prefect," Courfeyrac mutters, but he's not complaining, not really. Prefects have to patrol the halls sometimes, and they're required to tattle on students doing anything they're not supposed to. Considering the fact that Courfeyrac's friends are always doing what they're not supposed to, he's happy not to have the burden of choosing between keeping them happy and doing what's right.
"You animated three suits of armor one day and lost your house sixty points when they ruined one of the paintings," Jehan reminds him.
"Marius was having a bad day," Courfeyrac says, thinking back to the way Marius had moped around the castle until Courfeyrac pulled the stunt he had, coaxing a laugh out of him until their headmistress caught him. "I was trying to cheer him up."
"A biscuit could cheer Marius up," Jehan says as he leads his way to the carriages, weaving past other students that didn't get a chance to great each other on the train and are making up for it now.
"A biscuit's not quite as exciting as three suits of armor fighting to the death though, is it?"
"And this is why you're not a prefect."
"Are you talking about that time in fourth year when he set the Slytherin tapestry on fire?" Éponine asks. Her voice comes from above, from where she's already seated in one of the large carriages. Grantaire sits beside her, as well as two Slytherin girls who look down at him, eyes narrowed at the mention of the incident.
"Technically," Courfeyrac says as he hauls himself up onto the carriage, "that wasn't entirely my fault."
Enjolras and Courfeyrac (and Combeferre, as well) have been the best of friends since the middle of their first year. They have a bond that cannot be broken, that's stronger than any friendship Courfeyrac has ever had, and stronger than any he will ever make in the future. He and Enjolras have gotten into a total of two fights in their entire time as friends, and they've both been rather bad. The one ending in the burning of the Slytherin tapestry had been the worst. They don't really speak of it. Ever.
"Someone help me up?"
Courfeyrac looks down to see a familiar face peering up at them from the ground. Éponine's brother, Gavroche, grins at all of them as he tries and fails to haul himself up, until Grantaire gives in and offers him a hand. Courfeyrac only recognizes him from trips around Diagon Alley. While most wizarding families know each other, and a lot happen to be fairly close with each other, the Thénardiers have stuck to themselves after the war. No one has actual proof that they worked with Voldemort, but everyone knows it.
Fortunately, the kids are a lot more pleasant than the parents. Usually. Éponine has a nasty temper in the mornings.
"Shouldn't you be riding with the first years?" Éponine scolds, looking ready to drag Gavroche away.
"You're not my mum," Gavroche complains. "Don't tell me what to do, Ponine. We're all going to the same place, aren't we? Why can't I ride with you lot?"
Before she can finish the carriage starts to move, pulled by seemingly nothing. (Combeferre explained to him in their third year that thestrals pull the carriages, but Courfeyrac is still rather wary of them. How is he supposed to trust something he can't see?) Gavroche looks impossibly smug, knowing that Éponine can't kick him off now. Courfeyrac moves over, making room for him to sit down.
The ride to the castle is not a quiet one, but it is, surprisingly, for Courfeyrac, who usually can't keep his mouth shut. He feels restless and anxious as the castle gets bigger, bigger, bigger, until he has to tilt his head back to look up at it. Gavroche gasps and Courfeyrac remembers what that was like, how he'd felt his first year. Other kids had been scared; Courfeyrac had been grinning the whole way.
They're ushered into the great hall almost the moment they get off their carriages. Éponine disappears with Gavroche, likely bringing him to the room where they round up all the first years, and the rest of them make their way to their tables. The familiar shouts and chatter fills his ears, and that anxious, restlessness slowly starts to dissipate. The great hall is rarely quiet; Courfeyrac loves it.
"Please, take your seats, students!" Headmistress Poyntz calls, barely raising her voice to silence all of theirs.
Courfeyrac takes his seat near the middle of the table just as a familiar body settles in beside him, slightly breathless and smelling of cold air and, always, some kind of soft cologne that Courfeyrac swears he's never seen Marius put on but that he always smells like.
"First years," Marius says, still out of breath, his cheeks pleasantly flushed, "never get any easier to handle, do they? You'd think they might respect me, given the fact that I'm a seventh year now, but…"
"Aw." Courfeyrac wraps an arm around his waist, dragging him in. "I respect you, if it's any consolation."
Marius laughs against his neck, not pushing him away, and Courfeyrac only squeezes tighter. He hasn't seen Marius all summer and it's been killing him. Of all of them, Courfeyrac knows he takes the time apart the hardest. He still visits Combeferre and Enjolras occasionally, since being without them is like missing a limb, but the time away from any of his friends is difficult for him. It's like the sun doesn't shine as bright, the sweets aren't as sweet.
"Missed you too, Courfeyrac," Marius says, finally extracting himself. "Good summer?"
Courfeyrac shrugs. "Not bad, but it's good to be back."
"It's always good to be back," Marius agrees.
Marius says something else, something that Courfeyrac misses because he catches Combeferre and Enjolras coming into the room and quickly hurrying over to their own tables. Suddenly staying in his seat is a difficult thing, and he has to curl his fingers around the edge of it to keep himself in place, wondering, not for the first time, why they all have to be in different houses. It's been over a month since he's spoken to Combeferre or Enjolras in person. Waiting another minute might actually kill him.
Courfeyrac, it seems, isn't the only one having issues, only he knows his are for a different reason. Grantaire, sitting across from him in a matching tie, is ridged in his seat, craning his neck unabashedly to watch Enjolras take his seat at the Slytherin table, just beside Cosette. (If Feuilly and Bahorel, and Joly and Bossuet are bad, they have nothing on Enjolras and Grantaire. Grantaire's feelings for Enjolras can be seen from space, by everyone in the entire world except for Enjolras himself.)
"Did you notice Cosette's haircut?" Marius asks as the first years come in and are prepped to be sorted into their houses.
Courfeyrac hadn't, no, but now that Marius says it he turns in his seat again, this time to pay more attention to Cosette than Enjolras. And, true to his word, her hair is cut. Cut short. It used to tumble over her shoulders and down her back in long, thick waves. Now it comes to just below her jaw. She looks lovely. "It's very nice," Courfeyrac says.
"I thought her beauty couldn't get any greater," Marius sighs, "but I was wrong."
The only two worse than Enjolras and Grantaire are Marius and Cosette.
The sorting ceremony proceeds as it normally does. Courfeyrac cheers for every student, be they Hufflepuff or not, and he hears Éponine's shouts bursting through everyone else's when Gavroche is sorted into Gryffindor. Finally, when everyone is sorted and his own house has a total of nine new students, Headmistress Poyntz gives her usual speech on how students are not permitted in the Forbidden Forest, and certain classrooms, or out of their dormitories after curfew. Courfeyrac has to resist a snort of laughter at that.
Finally, after what feels like forever, the feast begins. The moment it starts Courfeyrac fills his plate without really paying attention to what he's loading it with. Normally they all sit together, him and his friends. They rarely sit at their house-designated tables, only during special occasions, such as the first day of the year. Every other day they can be found taking up half the Gryffindor table, or squeezing in with the Ravenclaws, or the Slytherins, or the Hufflepuffs. Sitting without them all feels wrong, not that Grantaire, Bossuet and Marius aren't enough.
"Do they not feed you at home?" Bossuet teases as Courfeyrac shovels food into his mouth.
"Faster we finish eating," he says between bites, which earns him a look from one of his housemates as she curls her lip in distaste, "the faster we can all get to our dorms, right?"
"You could at least chew," Grantaire says.
Courfeyrac makes a point to chew loudly and obscenely.
After what seems like forever, the final students are done eating and there's no sign of the feast at all aside from the powder around Bossuet's mouth from a pastry. Courfeyrac leans over to wipe it away for him with his sleeve before staring impatiently up at their headmistress, waiting for her to dismiss them.
"I hope we have a wonderful, magical year together!" she says cheerfully, but the response from the students is less enthusiastic now that their stomachs are full and they're all tired. A long train ride and the excitement of returning to Hogwarts, or arriving for the first time, takes a lot out of a person. Most of them are ready for bed at this point. "See you all bright and early for classes tomorrow!"
"See you in our room," Courfeyrac barely gets out before he's out of his seat and making his way to the Ravenclaw table.
Combeferre is busy instructing a fifth year prefect on taking the first years back to their common room when Courfeyrac comes up behind him, wrapping his arms around Combeferre's middle. Combeferre smells like a walking library and deodorant, refreshingly clean. He doesn't even stop talking when Courfeyrac hugs him from behind; he just continues on as if this is a common occurrence and he's long since gotten used to it. Which, actually, he probably has.
"—how to get into the common room, and don't forget to stress how important it is that they stay in the dorms after curfew," he says to the fifth year. "Half of them are going to be so tired they'll probably head straight off to bed, but the other half are going to be excited and asking questions. If anyone's feeling homesick at all, just let me know when I get there and I'll deal with it."
"Right," the fifth year says, nodding jerkily.
"You'll be fine," Combeferre promises her. "You were made prefect for a reason, Allen."
"First years!" the girl says loudly, seeming to gain confidence from Combeferre's words. "Ravenclaw first years, over here!"
"You're so good at that," Courfeyrac comments as Combeferre turns around.
"Making people believe in themselves." He cracks a grin, checking Combeferre out. "It's been a month and you've grown another two inches."
"Maybe you've shrunk," Combeferre teases.
Courfeyrac opens his mouth, ready to tell him that that's not possible, and that he also needs to stop growing because everyone is getting taller than Courfeyrac and he doesn't like it very much, thank you, but before he can someone else comes up on his left and says, "He's definitely shrunk. He was much taller last year."
"Enjolras," Courfeyrac says, not going in for the hug because Enjolras gets fussy and reluctant and acts as if he hates them (though he will, on the rare occasion, allow himself to sink into them and relax for a moment). "I thought I smelled righteous fury."
"I had to explain to a fifth year prefect why she can't tell the first years about the troll that was released in the dungeons years ago," Enjolras sighs, adjusting his Slytherin tie as if it's not already perfect. "Like we need to give them more reasons to be afraid on their first day."
"Must be so hard, being Head Boy," Courfeyrac sighs dramatically. "I mean, I obviously wouldn't know, but…."
Enjolras' lips twitch as he tries not to look pleased. "The badge is rather nice, though," he says, fiddling with it.
"You deserve it," Combeferre tells him. And he does. If anyone deserves Head Boy, it's definitely Enjolras, who's dedicated the last six years of his life to this school and who will likely continue to do so after graduation, in some way or another.
"Quidditch captain unfortunately doesn't come with a cool badge," Courfeyrac says, "but it's not a bad position either."
Both of them gape at him, only Combeferre's eyes are wide and Enjolras' are narrowed. He slaps Courfeyrac on the shoulder while demanding, "Why didn't you tell us?!"
"You know I hate writing letters," Courfeyrac reminds him. "Plus, it was much more satisfying seeing your reactions in person." He tugs a hand through his hair, not bothering, like Enjolras, to hide his glee. "I'm a little freaked out, though. I mean, I get to pick who's on the team, and if we don't win the cup it'll all be on me."
"You'll be brilliant at it," Combeferre tells him, nothing but sincere because he's Combeferre and he doesn't do insincere.
"Good enough to beat Ravenclaw?"
Combeferre chuckles, shaking his head. "You know I'm not picking between you and my house, that's not fair."
"Everyone puts too much stock on the Quidditch cup," Enjolras grumbles. It's the first day and he's already at it. "There's a difference between friendly competition and pitting us against each other, and I still think that Quidditch—" He cuts off, looking sheepish. "It's great that you're captain, though. Maybe you can teach your team how to play a friendly game instead of hating on our houses just because we're the competition."
"I'll try. But you're both coming to all of my games," Courfeyrac warns, "no exceptions."
"Wouldn't miss them for the world," Enjolras promises, and he won't. Enjolras does not willingly break promises. "I do have to go, though. I don't trust that prefect with my first years. See you at breakfast?"
"See you," Courfeyrac says.
"I should go, too," Combeferre says when Enjolras is gone. "I'll—"
"See you at breakfast," Courfeyrac finishes. "Don't stay up reading through all your textbooks tonight, Ferre."
Combeferre grins, walking backwards. "Already did that last week."
Courfeyrac rolls his eyes, unsurprised, and searches the crowd for any other familiar faces. It seems everyone has already headed for their dorms, though, which leaves Courfeyrac with nothing to do but the same. He takes one last look at the nearly empty hall before he goes, and thinks, yet again, that it is great to be back. And then he hurries for his dorm before Grantaire or Bossuet can steal the bed by the window from him.
"What does your schedule look like?" Enjolras asks him at breakfast the next morning.
Courfeyrac sighs, handing it over. He has morning classes. Early morning classes. First thing in the morning classes. If it were possible, he would drop Transfiguration. If it wasn't a necessary class to take in order to be an Auror, he really would. Transfiguration at eight in the morning is just cruel.
"My first class isn't until nine," Enjolras tells him, sounding a bit relieved. "How are you going to live through Transfiguration at eight in the morning?"
"I'll deal," Courfeyrac says, forcing a grin. "Maybe Professor Willow will teach us how to turn water into coffee. Or alcohol. Either would help."
"Maybe she'll teach us how to turn Enjolras' scowl into a smile," Grantaire says, falling into the seat across from them.
So far they're the only ones up, along with maybe fifteen other students, all scattered around the great hall. The first day of classes is always the hardest. Everyone is used to waking up at their own pace, all summer long, and returning to eight o'clock mornings is a difficult transition for most. Courfeyrac himself is included in that, but he knew when he woke up that if he didn't immediately drag himself up to breakfast he was going to fall back asleep.
"You're not even taking Transfiguration," Enjolras snaps at him.
"Have you memorized my schedule, Angel-face?" Grantaire says back, waspish.
"Your schedule is the exact same as mine," Enjolras reminds him. "Aside from Care of Magical Creatures."
"Which you had to drop, because even animals can't handle your prickly personality."
Enjolras looks wounded for a second, but only a second.
"It's too early for you two to be arguing," Courfeyrac says, trying to diffuse the anger that sparks between the two of them. He hates it when they fight. Grantaire mopes, Enjolras spends the whole day pissed at everything while pretending it has nothing to do with Grantaire, and it makes the both of them miserable. Courfeyrac hates it when any of his friends are upset, but it's even worse when another one of his friends is the cause of that. "And Enjolras, your personality isn't prickly."
"Like a cactus," Grantaire mutters under his breath as he reaches for a muffin.
"I have better things to do than entertain this," Enjolras says, pushing away from the table. "See you in Potions."
"See you!" Grantaire calls cheerfully.
Enjolras turns around only to hiss, "I was talking to Courfeyrac," before heading for the doors. When he's gone, Courfeyrac sighs and helps himself to some scrambled eggs.
"That was really uncalled for," he tells Grantaire. "I don't understand why you do that to him."
"It's because I'm a pathetic asshole," Grantaire says. Just like Enjolras, he pushes away from the table. He doesn't bother saying goodbye before he leaves, and then Courfeyrac is all alone.
The two of them truly do like each other, on some level, but they're so reluctant to admit it to themselves or each other that instead they treat each other like shit. Courfeyrac knows for a fact that Grantaire is in love with Enjolras. They share the same room. He's seen Grantaire's sketchbook enough times to know that Enjolras covers more pages than anything else. He's also best friends with Enjolras, and once, last year after too much firewhisky on New Year's Eve, Enjolras had groaned, "Why is he so attractive and irritating?" into Courfeyrac's neck while gesturing to Grantaire.
It's very frustrating to watch them hurt each other for no reason.
"You look troubled."
Courfeyrac looks up as Combeferre sits in the seat Enjolras just vacated. He's dressed perfectly in his uniform, Ravenclaw tie knotted with his hair as neat as it ever gets. Combeferre's hair is fluffy. No matter what he does to it, it always looks like he's just run a hand through it, perpetually artfully messy, the look somehow flattering. When Courfeyrac's hair is messy, it just looks messy.
He's a sight for sore eyes after Grantaire and Enjolras. Combeferre rarely fights with anyone. He's too reasonable to be drawn into petty arguments, and it takes too much to properly anger him. It would make all their lives easier if that calm was contagious.
"And you look awake," Courfeyrac says. "It's not even eight yet."
"I've been up since half-past six," Combeferre admits, only slightly sheepish. Courfeyrac hands him the orange juice, his favorite, as he reaches for a piece of toast. "I wanted to go over a few of my books before class starts, and I wanted to run down here to get breakfast before I have to make sure the first years are awake and help them find their own classes."
"Can't you make another prefect do that?"
"I could," Combeferre admits, "but I might as well do it myself."
"You are a ridiculous person," Courfeyrac tells him.
"So are you." Cosette takes the seat on Courfeyrac's other side, looking just as put together and awake as Combeferre, only she does it with a bright, blinding smile, where Combeferre is a little more reserved. "You never wrote me this summer."
"He doesn't write anyone," Combeferre says.
"It's been years and no one has yet to understand my hatred for sending letters," Courfeyrac sighs, throwing an arm over her shoulder. "How was your summer, by the way?"
"Lovely," she gushes. "Papa took us to Paris. It was beautiful."
"Did you go to the Louvre?" Combeferre asks, his eyes, under his glasses, alight with interest.
"We went everywhere," Cosette says. "My feet still ache from all the walking. It was the most incredible experience."
Courfeyrac is happy to silently watch them talk about French art and history, thinking about how much Grantaire would have loved to join in if he wouldn't have picked a fight with Enjolras and stalked off to mope. Even without him, though, the two of them manage to talk all through breakfast, even as Jehan slumps into the seat across from them, and then Bahorel, looking equally irritable and exhausted, and Feuilly, looking tired but pleasant enough, and finally Marius, with the worst bedhead but a happy, sleepy smile on his face.
"We'll pick this up later," Combeferre says to Cosette, using a hand on Courfeyrac's thigh to push himself up. "I have to go help the first years. Bring those photographs down at lunch, would you?"
"What photographs?" Marius asks, looking between Cosette and Combeferre, who's already halfway to the door.
"Cosette went to Paris," Courfeyrac answers for her. "Didn't your family go there once, Marius?"
"We did!" Marius says, excited to share common ground with her. "Did you go to the…?"
Courfeyrac grins to himself, happy at his work, and bites into his toast. The two of them continue to talk about Paris as everyone else eats, Marius' plate untouched and Cosette's barely picked at. He might not have anything to add to the conversations himself, but Courfeyrac is more than happy to sit and watch them talk excitedly.
"Where's Grantaire?" Joly asks, taking Combeferre's empty seat as if they're playing a game of musical chairs, one sitting down as soon as the other has left.
"He was fighting with Enjolras," Courfeyrac says tightly. "He's probably back in our room."
"Why does he do that?" Joly asks, exasperated. "Why doesn't he— Bahorel, that is disgusting."
"What?" Bahorel freezes, the three muffins he's just licked halfway to his plate. "If I don't claim them, Feuilly eats them all."
"I don't even like raisins," Feuilly says. "Don't blame your food licking on me."
"Years together and you'd think we'd be able to have at least one meal in peace," Joly mutters, almost pouting. "It's the first breakfast of the year, guys."
Courfeyrac laughs, patting his arm gently. Joly is easily grossed out; Bahorel is often gross. Sometimes it can't be easy for Joly, but they all know he wouldn't trade them for the world. "You love us, don't fight it."
"He's licking apples now," Joly says, deadpan.
Sure enough, Bahorel has a plate of apples and muffins, all with a shiny coating of saliva to keep anyone from touching them. "I do like apples," Feuilly says, eying them a little mournfully.
"It's not like he hasn't had Bahorel's spit in his mouth before," Jehan mumbles. "I doubt that's going to stop him."
Courfeyrac is the only one who laughs at that. Joly looks disgusted, Cosette looks surprised, Marius' face is a little red and Feuilly and Bahorel are both gaping. Jehan shrugs at them, reaching for the only apple left in the basket. "What?" he asks. "It's true."
"No, it's not," Feuilly says, horrified. "I've— We've never—"
"Fuck the muffins," Bahorel says, standing up abruptly. "I've got to get my things for class."
"Why," Courfeyrac sighs, propping his elbow on the table as Bahorel stomps from the room, "are all of you so content to live in denial?"
"I heard there's free Wifi," Jehan says.
"Do you even know what that is?" Cosette asks him.
Jehan looks offended. "Of course I do," he says. "I'm a half-blood. It's what lets muggles go into the enter-net." He looks to Courfeyrac, as if to clarify. "Right?"
"I have no idea," Courfeyrac says. He spends a lot of his time in muggle shops, since there aren't any wizarding villages around his family home, but he still isn't as informed on their culture as he could be. "All the cafés I frequent say 'Free Wifi' on their signs, but I always thought it was slang for water. Like, free water to anyone who enters."
"Why would they advertise free water?" Marius asks.
Courfeyrac shrugs. "I don't know. What in Dumbledore's name is Wifi?"
Feuilly and Cosette exchange looks, as the only two raised by muggles. Technically Cosette is a pureblood, but she was adopted by a muggle and grew up with their ways (Courfeyrac has never been told the full story on that, and he has never asked; she'll tell him on her own terms, if she ever decides she'd like to) while Feuilly was raised in a group home run by muggles. Feuilly could, of course, also be a pureblood, but since he doesn't know the name of his parents they've never been able to find out. He doesn't seem all that interested in learning the truth, either.
"I told you all to take Muggle Studies," Cosette sighs. "'Free water.'"
"It's not my fault muggles have weird names for things and I just assumed," Courfeyrac says, indignant.
"The founder of your house was named Helga Hufflepuff," Feuilly says, "and you think muggles have weird names for things?"
"What's wrong with Helga's name?"
"Just please," Cosette says, covering his hand with her own, "never go into a café and ask them for a glass of Wifi, okay?"
Courfeyrac nods, and the rest of breakfast is spent with them all discussing weird differences between muggles and wizards until Courfeyrac sends Jehan off to fetch Éponine, who hasn't made it down to breakfast yet even though she has early morning Transfiguration with them, which Courfeyrac knows because he has her schedule memorized. He's almost always known all of their schedules as well as his own. Half of his friends have nearly the same course load as him, but it's also for convenience. One never knows when they might need to drag their friend out of class for some reason or another, and it's come in handy more times than he can count, knowing which classes his friends should be in when he needs them.
When the watch around his wrist reads 8:21, they all head of for class (or those of them that have one this early). The hall is nearly full by the time they leave, first, second, third, fourth years and so on filling the tables, some tired and some looking terrified to go through their first day.
Courfeyrac remembers being tired and terrified on his first day, but it seems ages away, a distant memory compared to the way excitement bubbles in his stomach at the thought of getting started again. It's not that he's a particularly studious student, or that the classes themselves are especially stimulating, but the thought of getting back to it, of getting back to Hogwarts and the routines and comforts and magic it brings with it... that's rather nice.
Even if it does mean facing Professor Willow's stern look at eight o'clock in the morning.
Transfiguration is going to be the death of him this year, he knows, but Potions is a welcome break from hard work. Courfeyrac likes Potions, always had. There's something incredibly fun about adding ingredients together to make something that could save a life, or just, you know, explode. It's not the safest class, obviously, and he's mastered the spell to grow back his eyebrows out of necessity because of it, but he loves it. Potions comes only second to Quidditch.
When Courfeyrac walks into the room, he finds Enjolras already in his favorite seat, alone. There's an annoyed set to Enjolras' shoulders, no doubt leftover from the argument this morning, and he sighs to himself, wondering if it will help to go over there and make sure Enjolras is alright or if it will just make it worse. Enjolras likes to deal with things on his own most of the time, especially when it comes to Grantaire. Going over there could end with Enjolras cracking a smile and relaxing, but it could also end with him snapping on Courfeyrac and being upset with him, too.
Before he can make up his mind, someone walks straight into his back. He turns to find Grantaire, rubbing his shoulder and eying Enjolras warily, his eyebrows drawn together and his lips pressed tight.
"You should go apologize," Courfeyrac advises, knowing that that, at least, couldn't make things any worse.
"And have him yell at me?" Grantaire scoffs.
"You sort of deserve it, don't you?" Courfeyrac points out. "But I doubt he will. He'll probably appreciate you taking the effort to apologize more than anything."
Grantaire bites his lip, uncertain. "Do you really think so?"
Courfeyrac shrugs. "Doesn't hurt to try, does it?"
"Yes, actually, it does." But Grantaire sucks in a breath, stealing himself, and heads for Enjolras' table.
Courfeyrac takes the one behind them, dropping his textbook and cauldron onto the table as he watches them. The room fills up slowly, Bahorel coming in with Jehan, taking a seat at the back. Feuilly comes in a moment after and walks straight past them, heading for the front of the room. Marius and Éponine aren't much later, settling in in front of Grantaire and Enjolras, and finally Combeferre enters, slightly out of breath as he takes the seat next to Courfeyrac.
"First year Gryffindor got stuck in the bathroom on the fourth floor," he sighs, looking only slightly stressed, which means he's stressed enough for a normal person to break down, but Combeferre never does.
"The one with the—?"
"Cursed door and erupting toilet?" Combeferre gives him a tight smile. "Yes, that would be the one. I had to talk him out of going to the headmistress and writing to his parents to beg them to bring him home."
Courfeyrac rubs Combeferre's back without thinking, wishing Combeferre would let other people handle things for once, wishing he could handle them for him once in a while, too. But Combeferre seems to almost enjoy the weight on his shoulders, and Courfeyrac knows, deep down, that he'd be lost without it. Some people need to have a goal, something to do, and Combeferre is one of them. Just because Courfeyrac himself would crumble under that kind of burden doesn't mean that Combeferre is going to. Hopefully.
"It's just the first day," Combeferre points out, talking more to himself than anything. "Things'll settle soon enough. Go back to normal."
"As much as they ever do, anyway," Courfeyrac sighs. Grantaire is talking lowly to Enjolras now, head ducked in sincerity, and Enjolras is staring blankly ahead, clearly pretending not to listen. "Maybe normal isn't the best, though."
"What do you mean?"
Courfeyrac opens his mouth to answer, but their professor strides into the room before he can. "I trust," Professor Slughorn says as he heads for the front of the room, pausing only to kick Jehan's bag back under his desk, "that you all know who I am. Unless, of course, you've been struck by a memory charm this summer. And, as such, I'm sure I don't need to go over the rules of my classroom again, but since I know from experience that students' brains get muffled over the holidays, I will cite them anyway."
When he points his wand to the blackboard, a list appears. "Firstly, I will not tolerate any reckless behavior. Potions is dangerous, and you will all act with caution. Secondly, the deadlines on any of your essays or homework are as reasonable as they can be, but you may speak to me if you have an issues meeting them. Thirdly, enjoy yourselves. If you are taking a N.E.W.T. level Potions course, you must enjoy the subject on some level. I do not wish to make you hate it by being impossibly hard on you. Fun can be had as long as we practice safety and caution. Understood?"
"Yes, sir," everyone drones.
"Good. With your N.E.W.T.s coming up in a few months, it is my job to prepare you for them and I will do everything in my power to assure that you all earn top grades. I only ask for your cooperation. For today, I think we should start with a simple potion to get you all back into the habit of things, yes? No use opening a textbook on the first day."
Courfeyrac grins. If he started the day with this class everything would be so much better. Slughorn is his favorite teacher, and the subject is much more enjoyable than anything else. Potions is more about action than reading, about brewing than studying. Not that Courfeyrac doesn't respect the art of studying, because he does, but he's always preferred practice to theory.
"The instructions are on the board," Slughorn says. "Mr. Bahorel, please keep my cupboard neat. Don't think I forgot what you did it to last year."
"Do you want to get our ingredients or should I?" Combeferre asks, turning to him.
"I've got it," Courfeyrac says, not forgetting everything Combeferre has already done today.
On his way to the cupboard, Courfeyrac corners Enjolras. "He apologized," Enjolras says immediately, as if he knows what Courfeyrac is thinking. "I've chosen to give him the benefit of the doubt. For now."
"Good," Courfeyrac says, a smile brightening his face. "Now give us a grin, Enjolras. Turn that frown upside down, gorgeous."
Enjolras makes a face at him – or he tries, but in the end his lips twitch and he rolls his eyes as a smile fights its way onto his face, despite his trying to fend it off. "We have a potion to brew," he says, gesturing to where Feuilly and Bahorel are fighting over who should get to go into the cupboard first. "After you."
By the time Courfeyrac returns to his seat, Combeferre has all the instructions listed on his own piece of parchment for easier access, as well as all the tools they'll need spread out before them, Courfeyrac's cauldron in the center of the table. He takes the ingredients from Courfeyrac immediately, organizing them, and then he hands Courfeyrac a knife and what looks like a pod of peas, only shriveled and brown, and says, "Juice that, would you?"
"What are we making, exactly?" Courfeyrac asks, doing as he's told. The pod is weirdly slimy.
"A sort of fertilizer," Combeferre answers as he pours liquid into the cauldron. "It revives dead plants, when brewed correctly."
"Medium, about," Combeferre says with a shrug. "It's not complicated, really, but the measurements are precise. If it's made incorrectly it can do more harm than good."
They work well together, Courfeyrac and Combeferre. Courfeyrac doesn't just like Potions, he's good at it. Combeferre is good at almost anything he sets his mind to. Together, with Combeferre's level-headedness and Courfeyrac's affinity for the practice, they make better progress than anyone else in the room, their potion half-finished while others are still prepping their ingredients.
"Hand me the starthistle," Combeferre orders, just as Enjolras, in front of them, snaps, "I said counter-clockwise, not clockwise!"
"You were mumbling," Grantaire says back, snippy. "You could have enunciated."
"You could have listened better."
"We shouldn't have let them partner together," Combeferre says under his breath as he reaches over Courfeyrac, dropping something into the cauldron that makes it fizzle and turn a pale blue. "All they do is argue."
Courfeyrac shakes his head, watching as Enjolras wrestles Grantaire's wand out of his hand, confiscating it, and uses his own to fix the potion. "They're not arguing," he says, because they're not. "They're bickering. There is a mighty big difference, Ferre."
"Is there really?"
"When they do it, yeah." Courfeyrac stirs their own potion three times clockwise, slowly. "There's a lot more flirting involved when they bicker."
Combeferre frowns, watching Grantaire and Enjolras more than their potion. "Flirting between two people usually requires both parties to have feelings for one another."
"You don't think Enjolras likes him?"
"I've never considered it, honestly."
Courfeyrac shakes his head fondly and puts down his wand, as the instructions say to let it boil away on low heat for precisely six minutes and thirty seconds. "Enjolras," he says, leaning close so no one but Combeferre will hear him, "happens to like Grantaire's hands. A lot."
As if to prove his point, Grantaire has gone back to prepping ingredients as Enjolras stirs and adds them. He picks up the knife, slicing into the same slimy pod Courfeyrac had, only he does it slowly, incredibly careful, probably realizing that if he screws up again Enjolras is only going to get more irritated with him. And, as he does, Enjolras bites his lip, staring while Grantaire is too busy to catch him.
Enjolras, distracted, stirs their potion wrong and it bubbles up over the top, spilling all over their table. Slughorn rushes over to help, and Courfeyrac shakes his head again. "Told you," he says to Combeferre with a sigh. "If only they'd do something about it, though."
"They will on their own time, if they decide they want to," Combeferre says neutrally. "It's not like it's your job to play matchmaker, Courfeyrac. Things will work themselves out, or they won't."
Courfeyrac blinks at him, barely hearing the last of his words. "Matchmaker," he repeats to himself, sitting up straighter.
It's like a bell goes off in his head, a light bulb. How did he not see it before? That's exactly what he should do! His friends are all so ridiculous and unlikely to do anything about their feelings on their own. It's his duty, his job as their friend to help them out, isn't it? Because poor Marius will never make a move on Cosette, and Cosette is waiting for him to do it first. Bahorel and Feuilly are so happy to pretend they're nothing but 'bros' that they'll likely never admit to that time during Christmas hols when they were spotted under the mistletoe. Joly and Bossuet will tentatively walk the line of friends-to-almost-lovers for the rest of their lives, and Enjolras and Grantaire—
Yeah, they need his help. They definitely need his help.
"That is a really bad idea," Combeferre hisses, looking worried. "You should stay out of it."
Courfeyrac wraps an arm around his waist with a grin, fingers digging lightly into Combeferre's sweater-covered hip. "Combeferre, my good friend," he says. "Have a little faith in me, would you? I'm not going to do anything drastic. I'm just going to give them a little nudge in the right direction, that's all."
"You should let them handle it on their own," Combeferre says.
"The way they have been for the last few years?" Courfeyrac points out. "We're all graduating this year. If something isn't done now, it never will be."
Combeferre gives him a long, hard look, no doubt biting the inside of his cheek the way he's wont to do. His eyes are wide behind his glasses but his eyebrows are scrunched up. It's an adorable look, his 'thinking' look, and he stays that way for a long time before he finally sighs and says, "I want no part in it. When this blows up in your face, I'm not going to be a casualty."
"It's not going to blow up in my face," Courfeyrac promises, just as Bossuet's potion, on the other side of the room, does just that.
They're all evacuated from the classroom afterward.
Maybe Combeferre has a bit of a point, Courfeyrac will admit. Meddling in his friends' love lives (or lack of) is risky business. They could get mad at him for it, he acknowledges, but worse than that someone could wind up getting hurt, and he doesn't want to do that. He doesn't want any of them to be ashamed or embarrassed of their feelings, and he doesn't want to get anyone rejected by someone they like. The whole point of it is to make them happier, not to upset anyone.
But sitting around, idly watching them all skirt around each other and their feelings, is driving him mad. How daft can they all be? Can't they see that things could be so much better if they'd just embrace how they feel, instead of suppressing it? Loving someone is the greatest thing a person can do, in Courfeyrac's opinion, whether it's loving a family member, a friend, or a significant other. Why would someone try to deny themselves that?
Things could go wrong. Things could go spectacularly wrong. Enjolras, definitely, is likely to hate him if he somehow screws this up. Bahorel and Feuilly are likely to hit him. Joly knows more frightening offensive spells than anyone he knows, and Cosette has a track record of stomping on the toes of people who piss her off. It's not just friendships he could be risking, it's his life.
Courfeyrac sighs to himself, flopping back against his bed. Does the risk outweigh the reward? Is the best case scenario worth the chance of the worst? If things go right, Enjolras and Grantaire will stop fighting (stop actually fighting, and spitting words that hurt at each other, but he doubts that the two of them will ever stop their bickering, dating or not) and Grantaire will stop pining sadly after Enjolras. If things go right, Marius and Cosette will realize how perfect they are for each other. If things go right, Bahorel can stop freaking out about his feelings for his best friend. If things go right, they'll probably all be invited to Joly and Bossuet's wedding right after graduation.
If things go right, Courfeyrac will make a lot of his friends happier. Somehow, that seems more than worth the risk of them all hating him for his meddling.
Plus, Courfeyrac has a habit of doing reckless things, and they tend to work out in the end anyway. He hasn't been expelled, and he hasn't died yet, so. That's got to count for something, right?
His life would be so much easier if he was like Enjolras, all single-minded focus, always knowing what he's doing and what he wants to accomplish. Or Combeferre, who always has something going on, is always in the middle of reading a book or writing an essay or practicing a spell, who never doubts what he's doing or second guesses himself, always steadily moving forward. But instead he's stuck worrying about his friends, wondering if his actions are going to hurt more than help, trying to come up with the best solutions where no one gets hurt because he can't handle the thought of being the cause of someone else's pain.
Basically things would be a lot easier if he didn't care so much, but how can he not? It's not like he can shut that part of himself off.
"Thank Merlin you're here. I've been looking for you everywhere," he hears, causing him to sit upright just as Marius bursts into his room in a tornado of flushed cheeks, messy hair and wrinkled robes. "I think Cosette is interested in someone."
Courfeyrac raises his eyebrows, gesturing for Marius to sit down. "What makes you think that?" he asks. "And relax for a moment, would you?"
"How can I relax?" Marius looks close to hysterics, which would be alarming coming from most people but coming from Marius it's kind of just the norm. Courfeyrac really loves him, but Marius makes a mountain out of an ant hill. "My heart has been torn to shreds. True love and soulmates don't exist. I've been crushed by fate and left to wallow in my heartache."
"Marius," he says.
Marius nods and sits himself on the edge of the bed, tension in every line of his body. He takes a deep breath, just as Courfeyrac usually advises, and calms himself a bit before he says, "We were in the library, looking up something for her Divination class. She asked me if I was going to go to on the first Hogsmeade trip of the year, and I told her I might, depending on how much homework we have. It's our final year; they're going to be piling on the work, as you know, so I didn't want to agree to something before I'm certain I can spare the time to do it."
Marius also goes into excruciating detail when trying to recount things, but Courfeyrac doesn't rush him. It's always best to let him work them out on his own.
"So I told her I wasn't sure, and then she said— She said—" He closes his eyes, shuddering for a moment. "She said she would like to go, but she's rather hoping to be asked by someone she likes." He opens his eyes again, meeting Courfeyrac's with panic in his own. "I knew this would happen one day, obviously. She's the loveliest woman in the world, and of course she should be going on dates with whomever she likes, but I wasn't prepared. It felt as though someone punched me in the gut, and I've been looking for you ever since."
"Wait," Courfeyrac says, taking one of Marius' hands to stop them from shaking. "Please tell me you didn't run away the moment she said she was hoping to be asked out by someone."
Marius winces. "I may have excused myself first, I think. I definitely meant to."
Courfeyrac rubs a hand down his face and decides that, yes, he is going to do something about this, whether they'll appreciate his meddling or not. Something has to be done, and clearly no one else is going to do it.
"Everything is going to be fine," Courfeyrac says soothingly. "She won't be going on dates with anyone else, I promise you."
Marius looks alarmed. "I don't want you to stop her," he says quickly. "I would never try to dictate who she can and cannot date. Just because I love her doesn't mean I expect her to ever return those feelings. Her life is her own to live, and I would never want her to lose out on opportunities because of my personal feelings for—"
"I'm not going to stop her from going out with anyone," Courfeyrac laughs. "I swear. Cross my heart."
"Oh." Marius lets out a sigh of relief. "Then why did you say that?"
Because Courfeyrac is willing to bet his broom that the only person Cosette is waiting to ask her out is Marius himself, and she was trying to hint at it to him. But he can't say that out loud, not to Marius. He'd never believe that Cosette already returns his feelings. Courfeyrac fears Marius thinks himself unworthy of her love, and that is— that is just wrong, honestly. Marius is worthy of much more than he believes himself to be.
"Things will be fine," Courfeyrac says instead of answering. "Trust me. I'll make sure of it."
"Should I even ask why we're meeting you in the hospital wing?" Éponine wonders, scuffing one of her heavy boots against the stone floor. Her laces aren't tied.
"Because," Courfeyrac begins, but the word comes out nasally and wrong. He pinches the bridge of his nose while breathing in deeply through it before trying again. "Because Joly needed to practice a spell on someone, I volunteered, and he broke my nose."
"Can't he fix that?" Jehan asks with a frown. "He's planning on being a healer. He should be able to fix a broken nose."
"Probably," Courfeyrac says with a shrug. "He rushed me here before he could try, just in case. Was scared of making it worse."
"But you seem fine now," Éponine points out. "So again, why are we meeting you in the hospital wing?"
"This isn't a conversation we can have in any of our common rooms," Courfeyrac explains as they start down the hall. His head feels weirdly light, probably from the loss of blood, but he's mostly alright. "I can't risk anyone overhearing, and our school is full of gossips."
"That is a very hypocritical thing to say," Éponine informs him.
"I'm not a gossip," Courfeyrac protests. Éponine quirks an eyebrow. "I don't believe in secrets between friends, is all, and I happen to have a lot of friends."
"Whether or not Courfeyrac is a gossip is debatable," Jehan says, just as they pass a series of portraits. Courfeyrac eyes them distrustfully. They've been known to gossip just as badly as the students. "Can we get to the point now?"
"I need your help," Courfeyrac says, steering them down the nearest hallway, away from the portraits. There's nothing down here but the door to an empty broom closet, an old statue of some knight or other that was damaged during the Battle, and an enormous window that looks out over the grounds. "I need your help with something that you can't tell anyone else about, and you're the only two that can help me."
"Is this like that time in fifth year when we planted that book in the library that gave Alexander warts all over his body?" Jehan asks. "Because that was cruel."
"He attacked Marius first," Courfeyrac reminds him. "Wouldn't have done it if he didn't deserve it. But no. It's nothing like that. We're not pranking anyone. We're helping them."
"Why do I get the feeling that this is going to be worse?" Éponine sighs.
"It won't be," Courfeyrac promises, stopping at the window. There's a bench seat along it, no cushion to soften the wooden surface but still comfortable enough to lounge on for a bit. He gestures for Éponine and Jehan to sit with him, and when they do he says, "A ridiculous amount of our friends are in love with each other."
If he's expecting the words to bring shock and confusion, he is disappointed.
"How do you know about Cosette's feelings for Marius?" Éponine demands, instantly pulling herself up to full height, which is a few inches shorter than Courfeyrac himself but somehow still intimidating.
"Well I didn't," Courfeyrac says with a smirk, knowing that, if there's anyone Cosette has spoken to about her feelings, it's Éponine, "but I do now. Thank you for confirming that. I thought as much, but it's nice to be sure. Anyway, I happen to have on good authority— which is to say, Marius himself has confessed to me— that the feeling is mutual. But it's not just Marius and Cosette."
"Bahorel and Feuilly," Jehan says solemnly, nodding his head. "At first the whole idea seemed romantic, but now I just want to crack their heads together."
"Joly and Bossuet, too," Courfeyrac agrees. "Those two should have been together years ago. There's really no excuse for it, at this point. Also, Grantaire and Enjolras."
Éponine makes a face, looking terribly sad. She and Grantaire are closer than anyone, aside from maybe her and Cosette. "He's very obvious, isn't he?" she sighs. "It's like he went and found the worst possible person to fall in love with, and then did just that."
"I'm going to pretend you didn't just say that about my best friend," Courfeyrac says breezily.
"You know I didn't mean it like that," Éponine snaps. "Enjolras is great, in his own way. I just meant that Grantaire knows Enjolras won't ever return his feelings, but he's still hopelessly in love with him anyway."
"What if he can, though?" Courfeyrac says. "What if he does return those feelings?"
"Don't be cruel," she warns. "You can't get Grantaire's hopes up like that. You don't know what it's like. He might laugh about it and act like he doesn't care that Enjolras seems to hate him, but he does."
"I know that," Courfeyrac says, and he means it. Grantaire is his housemate. They share a room. He's known Grantaire since the first day of his first year. He knows how Grantaire feels about Enjolras, and he's witnessed the results of their more hurtful arguments more than once, their effect on Grantaire. He would never claim that Enjolras feels the same way if he wasn't absolutely (nearly) certain. "And I mean it. I think Enjolras feels the same way. He doesn't show it the same, but it's Enjolras. He doesn't really do things the way everyone else does, does he?"
It's a good point and Éponine acknowledges that, tilting her head to the side a bit. Finally, when she seems to decide that Courfeyrac isn't playing with her, she nods.
"Why have you brought us to a secluded corridor to tell us all of this, though?" Jehan asks, straight to the point.
"Because we," Courfeyrac says, gesturing to all of them, "are going to get them together. It's high time everyone sorts out their shit, don't you think?"
"You mean we sort it out for them," Éponine corrects. "You want us to play matchmaker."
Éponine and Jehan exchange a look. "I'm in as long as we don't do anything too invasive," Jehan says, shrugging. "For the sake of love, right?
"And I'm in," Éponine says, "as long as no one knows about it. I don't want Cosette or Marius getting upset with me, and I don't want Enjolras to kill me for interfering with his love life."
"No love potions," Jehan says after a moment of contemplation.
Courfeyrac scoffs at him. "What need would we have? They're all already in love. That's not the issue. The issue is them actually doing something about it."
"Agreed, then," Jehan says.
"Agreed," Éponine adds.
"Brilliant." Courfeyrac smiles at them. "Any suggestions on where we should begin?"
"You have nothing planned?" Éponine demands. "You made it sound like you already had something planned."
"My plan was to get you two to agree to help me, and then figure something out from there."
The resulting groan from Éponine and Jehan at those words echoes along the empty corridor.
"No worries," Courfeyrac says carelessly. "We'll figure something out."
"Isn't he a Ravenclaw?"
"What's he doing at our tryouts?"
"He's a spy!"
Combeferre, beside him, sighs and cups a hand over his brow to shield his eyes from the sun and stop the glare from reflecting off his glasses. It's a bright, beautiful day, and Courfeyrac has been mentally patting himself on the back since they got out here for scheduling his Quidditch tryouts for today. Combeferre doesn't seem as pleased in his Ravenclaw sweater, his cheeks already flushed from the heat. By some miracle Courfeyrac has convinced him to help with this, but he wishes Combeferre would have dressed a little more appropriately.
"He's not a spy," Courfeyrac says, rolling his eyes. "Honestly, are you a first year or what?"
"S-second year, sir!" the one who called Combeferre a spy squeaks.
Sir. Courfeyrac finds he could get used to that. "Combeferre," he says, gesturing to the boy— man— in question, "is a dear friend of mine who has offered to help with our tryouts."
"Offered?" Combeferre snorts. "I recall you pleading with me for days."
"Details," Courfeyrac says, waving him off. "He's the farthest thing from a spy. He doesn't even play for their team."
"Then why is he here, if he doesn't play?"
"Because he's a genius, and he happens to know more about the game than any person standing on this pitch right now, myself included." That seems to shut everyone up. "He'll be watching your performances today and helping me rank you all, so it might be in your best interests to stop questioning his presence, yeah?"
Most people nod hastily, but a few of the older students still look wary. There're twenty-one of them in total, Courfeyrac counts, and he's happy to see that everyone who was on the team last year that didn't graduate is back again. More than half of them, however, are newbies, and he only has four new positions to fill. That means that he'll be disappointing half of the people before him, and his stomach does an odd twisting/clench at the thought.
It has to be done, though. It can't be avoided. If he could allow everyone on the team, he would, but there are only so many positions to be filled. They might need replacements though, he considers. Quidditch is a very dangerous game, and it's not unlikely that one of his players could be made unable to play mid-game. He'd need someone to fill in for them, so that adds a few more spots on the team, at least. A few more people he can give good news to.
Knowing that, and knowing what needs to be done, does little to help. Courfeyrac's hands are sweating and suddenly Combeferre isn't the only one who's dying under the heat. Courfeyrac tugs at his tie, loosening it, and flounders. What does he do now?
"I think," Combeferre says, head inclined in Courfeyrac's direction, "you should start by seeing how well they can fly. If someone isn't capable of handling themselves in the air, they won't be much help during a game."
"Right," Courfeyrac says, nodding. "We're going to start with flying, for now. Everyone that doesn't have a broom of their own can follow me and one will be provided."
Fifteen minutes later Courfeyrac stands beside Combeferre, watching twenty-one students fly high above them. A few are wobbly, unsure of themselves, but most of them are more than capable, he's relieved to find. Fuck, maybe they'll all be great! Maybe he won't have to cut anyone. Maybe the Hufflepuff team will have over twenty players this year.
"They know everyone can't be on the team," Combeferre says, eyes on the sky. He has a notebook in his hands, a muggle pen scratching against the pages every once in a while ("They're much more practical than ink and quills," Combeferre told him in second year, and he's insisted on using them ever since) as he watches the prospective players in the air. "You can't beat yourself up over it if you have to let a few of them down."
Courfeyrac lets out a laugh that's just this side of hysterical. "Quidditch means the world to some people, Ferre," he points out. "Remember my third year? During my tryouts when I totally fucked up and let everyone score on me and I didn't make the team?"
It took him three tryouts before he'd made it. Three. First year, he'd been cut immediately because he had been deemed too young. Second year, he'd fallen off his broom with nerves. Third year, he'd been doing so good, he thought he had it in the bag, but the moment they'd put him in front of the goals he'd choked. It wasn't until his fourth year, after a summer spent training himself as often as he could, after weeks of practicing in his own backyard and begging his parents to buy him a new broom, he'd finally made the team.
He'd been ecstatic, had worn his uniform for weeks straight after he got it, but the years where he'd been told no had been bad. He'd spent the whole night after the third year alternating between crying on Enjolras' shoulder and crying on Combeferre's shoulder. He'd been inconsolable for weeks, and now he has to do the same thing to someone else.
"You're their captain," Combeferre tells him. "They know you're going to do what's best for the team, and sometimes that means saying no."
"Maybe I'm not fit for captain," Courfeyrac say quietly.
"Of course you are," Combeferre says confidently. "You're great at the game, and you're a natural leader. People will follow you because you make them care about you, you make them want to impress you. This is the hardest part. After today, you'll be fine. You might even get Hufflepuff the cup this year."
"Ravenclaw would have to lose for that to happen, you know," Courfeyrac reminds him.
Combeferre shrugs, points at the sky, and says, "The second year in the purple. You're going to have to cut him. He can barely hold onto his broom."
Courfeyrac swallows and does what needs to be done.
Of course, he does it in the nicest way possible, taking the kid aside and telling him that no, he hasn't made it onto the team, but that if he would like, Courfeyrac will give him a few flying tips and practices to help him so he can make it next year. There are tears in the kid's eyes when he hands over the school broom, but he's smiling and agreeing when Courfeyrac offers to help him get better.
The day continues like that, Combeferre taking notes, Courfeyrac giving instructions, and dejected students making their way off the pitch. Somehow, by the end of it, Courfeyrac has the new Beaters he needs, as well as the new Seeker and a new Chaser. He also has two back-up Chasers, just in case, and he feels confident with the team he's assembled. They're not only good players, but they're good people. He knows them all by name, from classes or around the common room.
They really might win the cup this year, if they give it their all, spend enough time practicing and learning to work together as a cohesive unit. The thought thrills and terrifies him, because if they don't win it'll be no one's fault but his own.
Not that winning is the whole point. They should be having fun, enjoying themselves. Winning would be nice, but it's not all there is. (For some reason he has a feeling he's the only one who sees it this way.)
"I was thinking," Combeferre says as they head for the castle, the sun getting lower in the sky, signaling time for dinner soon, "that after dinner we could—"
"Can't," Courfeyrac says regretfully. "I have plans."
"Oh." Combeferre nods, adjusting his glasses. It's starting to get windy, the beautiful weather giving way to what's likely to be a chilly, windy night. It messes Combeferre's hair even more than usual, not that he seems to notice or mind. "Right. Anything in particular?"
"You explicitly stated that you wanted no part in it."
"Ah. The Enjolras and Grantaire thing?"
"Cosette and Marius," Courfeyrac admits. "Bossuet and Joly. Bahorel and Feuilly. It's weird, isn't it, how many of our friends that have fallen for each other? What are the chances, right?"
"Right." The colour in Combeferre's cheeks from earlier deepens, crawling slowly down his neck. It's not even that hot anymore. "What are the chances?"
"We don't have to talk about it if it's making you uncomfortable," Courfeyrac says quickly. "We can talk about something else."
"Why would— why would it make me uncomfortable?"
Courfeyrac shrugs, grins. "You're blushing," is all he says.
"It's the wind," Combeferre insists, gaze resolutely on the castle ahead of them.
"Okay," Courfeyrac says, willing to let it go if it'll make Combeferre happy. He tries to change the subject back to Quidditch. "Do you think—?"
"Why would it make me uncomfortable, anyway?" Combeferre asks, interrupting him. "It has no reason to."
"Maybe…" Courfeyrac frowns, inspecting him. Combeferre's face is devoid of any emotion, surprisingly blank aside from the colour in his cheeks. After a moment Courfeyrac says, "Maybe you like you someone too?" because it seems like the most likely cause.
But— no. Combeferre hasn't, ever. He's not dated or shown interest in anyone. Combeferre is happier with his books, with the library. He isn't the type to chase after someone, to lose track of his thoughts because someone is on his mind. Combeferre is possibly too logical for that type of love, not that he isn't capable of love at all, because he is. He fiercely loves his friends, his family, his house. But Courfeyrac can't imagine a Combeferre that stares off into space, sighing while thinking of someone; a Combeferre that writes poetry or goes on dates or sends chocolates to a person he likes.
It's unfathomable. Truly, completely unfathomable.
Who would Combeferre even like? Someone like him, most likely. Maybe another Ravenclaw? Or maybe—
"I don't," Combeferre says, cutting off his thoughts. "Our N.E.W.T.s are coming up. I don't really have the time to fancy someone, do I?"
Normally Courfeyrac would say that it doesn't really work that way, you don't get to choose when you like someone, but instead he finds himself saying, "Not really, between studying and everything else. It'd probably just be a distraction."
"What about you?" Combeferre asks abruptly. "You're setting everyone else up. What about yourself?"
Courfeyrac truly hasn't thought about it. He's been so caught up in everyone else this year that he hasn't stopped, for a moment, to think about his own love life. "I'm not interested in anyone at the moment, but who knows what the future may hold," he says at last, finishing the words with a shrug.
"Cosette, maybe," Combeferre jokes, but his voice sounds tight and not as playful as it's supposed to. "She's the only one who's stuck with Divination."
Courfeyrac forces out a laugh. "Maybe I should ask her, then."
There's something very, very off about the conversation, but Courfeyrac can't put his finger on it aside from the awkwardness. Things with Combeferre and him have never been awkward. They're the best of friends, along with Enjolras. They've been each other's best mates since first year. They have long since passed the awkward, stiff stage of friendship, and yet it seems like they've found their way back there between the Quidditch pitch and the castle.
"See you at dinner," Combeferre says when they get to the doors.
"Where are you going?"
"I've things to do."
And with that Combeferre is gone, leaving Courfeyrac to stare sadly at his back, wondering if it's something he did. He sincerely hopes not, and he hopes that things go back to normal as quickly and abruptly as they've gone wrong.
"Can you stop that?" he asks Éponine. She's lying on one of the Gryffindor couches, legs thrown over the armrest, with her wand in hand and a cushion floating above her. The moment he speaks the cushion flies at his face, but he easily bats it away with his hand and says, "I'm trying to think."
Jehan barely spares them a glance. He has his Gryffindor tie wrapped around his head, wand tucked above his ear and a quill in hand, though he's been doing nothing but staring at his parchment with a sad, solemn look on his face for the better half of an hour.
So far operation Get Everyone Together is… coming along very slowly.
"I already know what we're going to do first," Éponine says, swinging her legs off the couch. She sits up, her hair messy from lying down, and grins wickedly. "We're going to send Marius a love letter."
"A love letter," Courfeyrac repeats, cocking his head to the side.
"A love letter from Cosette."
"A forged love letter from Cosette?"
This time the pillow hits its mark. There's beading along the edge. It hurts. "Yes, a forged love letter from Cosette, dumbass," Éponine says. "It's perfect. Tell me, why do you think Marius and Cosette aren't together yet?"
"Because Cosette is waiting for Marius to make the first move," Courfeyrac says confidently.
"She is," Éponine agrees. "She doesn't want to scare him off so she's letting him come to it on his own terms. And why hasn't Marius made a move yet?"
"Because he's hopeless when it comes to speaking around Cosette, most days. It might actually kill him if he tries to confess his feelings for her," Jehan supplies without looking up from his parchment. "Something that rhymes with 'Starlight'?"
"Bar fight, spider bite, eye sight," Courfeyrac says automatically. "And Jehan's right. Which, indecently, also rhymes with starlight."
"That was terrifying, so we're going to pretend that didn't happen," Éponine says, eyebrows raised. "Anyway, why is it that he's such a mess around her, do you think?"
"He's in love with her," Courfeyrac answers, "and he doesn't think she could ever feel the same way. This is Marius we're talking about. He's wonderful, but he doesn't seem to realize it. In his mind she could never deem him worthy of returning his feelings."
"Exactly!" Éponine snaps her fingers for emphasis. "So we send him a love letter or two from Cosette. Sign them all with Cosette's name, and eventually he'll get the hint that she likes him. All we need to do is boost his confidence, convince him that she does feel the same way."
"And then he'll finally do what everyone's been waiting for and ask her out," Courfeyrac finishes.
"Rhymes with brown?"
"Frown, gown, drown, crown," Courfeyrac answers Jehan before turning back to Éponine. "I think that just might work. Cosette and Marius won't benefit from us pushing them together. What we need is to help Marius be a little more sure of himself, and they'll do all the rest."
"It's not going to be easy," Éponine warns. "This is Marius."
Courfeyrac goes to say that it'll be worth it, in the end, no matter how hard it is, but before he can open his mouth the door to the Gryffindor common room flies open and Bahorel comes in, struggling to carry Feuilly over his shoulder. He's gasping and Feuilly's slipping and he just makes it over to the couch in time to drop Feuilly unceremoniously into Courfeyrac's lap.
"Special delivery," Bahorel says.
"Just what I've always wanted," Courfeyrac coos down at Feuilly.
But Feuilly isn't just lying on Courfeyrac. His body is ridged, arms tight at his sides and legs pressed together. Bahorel jogs for the stairs, heading up to his room no doubt, and Feuilly doesn't move. "Full fucking body-bind," he snaps. "Someone undo it."
Courfeyrac pulls out his wand and does just that. As Feuilly sits up, rolling his shoulders and stretching out his legs, Courfeyrac asks, "Do we even want to know?"
Feuilly contemplates for a moment before saying, "Probably not, no. If he comes back tell him I'm in my room and if he tries to get in my common room I'll have a horde of first years attack him. I need to finish my homework and I don't need him distracting me again. Some of us would actually like to graduate this year."
Courfeyrac watches Feuilly go, shaking his head, and the moment the door to the common room shuts behind him Bahorel appears, his arms weighed down with textbooks and parchment. "If you really want to study," he says while making his way around the couch, "we can do it here, not in the…."
It is awkward, to say the least, when Bahorel realizes Feuilly is gone and his whole expression collapses into something bitterly hurt. No one says anything for a while, and Bahorel doesn't ask. He kicks the nearest table, knocking over the beet juice Jehan has been drinking, spilling it across the floor like watered-down blood, and then he stomps towards the stairs, not looking back.
"Perhaps," Jehan says, finally looking up from his parchment, "we should work on them next."
It used to be that students never hung out in each other's common rooms. It used to be frowned upon. Before, weird looks would be given to a Hufflepuff sitting in a Slytherin's bedroom, but Enjolras put a stop to that in their third year. After previous years of them spending all their time in the library, or other various rooms in the castle, he'd dragged Courfeyrac and Combeferre into his common room, sat them down, and glared viciously at anyone who dared to look at them funny.
Of course there are still people who don't agree with it, and there are a few who will put up a fight if they find someone they dislike in their common room, but for the most part things have gotten a lot more lenient. He doesn't have the password to the Gryffindor or Slytherin common rooms, but he's still in them often. The Ravenclaw dormitory has never had the best security, honestly, and all it takes is the answer to a riddle to get in once you find the door, which some students aren't capable of doing unless they're in the house themselves.
The Slytherin dormitory is his favorite, though, aside from his own. Probably because they're so similar, both beneath the ground floor and almost cave-like, in a way. Hufflepuff is brighter, more open, but it still has a comfortable, underground feel to it. Slytherin is slightly colder, a little damp seeming, but the ceilings slope the same way and the rooms are almost identical, aside from the colour schemes.
Enjolras' bed is almost the exact same as his own. It feels the same.
"What did you get for number four?" Enjolras asks, frowning down at his own homework.
Courfeyrac takes a glance down at his own and says, "Bulgeye potion."
"I have 'Engorgement spell'," Enjolras says, frown deepening. "It could be either one. 'Eyes the size of dinner plates.' What's to distinguish the two?"
"I've put down both, just to be sure," Combeferre speaks up from the floor, where he's resting against the edge of the bed.
They learned, around fifth year, that the three of them no longer comfortably fit on one bed. They take turns sitting on the floor, and today it's Combeferre's. Enjolras is perched at the end of the bed, legs tucked beneath him, and Courfeyrac is spread out with his parchment beside him and his tie untied, the picture of comfort and ease.
It's the first Friday of the school year, and it's also the first time the three of them have been alone together. It's nice, getting back to this. As much as he likes spending time with the others, Enjolras and Combeferre are his best friends. Sometimes he needs time alone with just them, to relax and catch up and bask in each other's company.
"Do you think this is cheating?" Combeferre wonders, but he doesn't sound all that concerned.
"We've been doing it since second year," Enjolras points out. "Even if it is, there's no point in stopping now."
"We're only helping each other," Courfeyrac adds. "It's not like we're making one person do the work and then the rest copying from him. We're working as a team, that's all."
"I have a feeling our professors won't see it that way," Combeferre points out, but a moment later he says, "Number five?"
It continues this way, going through the homework for all of the classes they have together, question by question, helping each other with the answers they've each struggled with. They've always done this. They meet up on Friday, tackling their homework for the weekend, help each other, and then by Friday night they've finished it all and they have the whole weekend ahead of themselves to do whatever they like. It's a good system, and it's helped him get through many weekends that he otherwise would have spent stressed out over his own work and whether or not his answers were good enough to get him a passing grade.
Finally, when Combeferre, who has the most classes out of all of them, says, "That's all I have," they stop. Enjolras kicks his legs out from underneath him, pushing his work towards Courfeyrac's pile, and spreads out. Combeferre yawns, stretching his arms above his head, and takes off his glasses to rub at his eyes. Courfeyrac takes his tie all the way off, balls it up, and throws it at the back of Combeferre's head.
"So," Enjolras says after a while, once the comfortable silence starts edging towards uncomfortable silence. "Guess who has an internship at the Ministry lined up just after graduation?"
Courfeyrac makes a surprised sound and Combeferre cranes his neck awkwardly to gape in Enjolras' direction. "Are you serious?"
Enjolras shrugs, but he's grinning, wide and radiant. Sometimes Enjolras is seriously beautiful. Like, offensively beautiful. "If I play my cards right, I could be joining the International Confederation of Wizards by the time I'm thirty-two, like I've been planning."
That's always been his goal, something important, earning a position in the Ministry that will allow him to do something, make changes. Enjolras will change the world for the better one day, Courfeyrac doesn't doubt it, even if he has to move mountains with his bare hands to do it. The ministry is already steadily moving in a good direction, changes already being made that better the lives of the masses. With Enjolras' help, things will only get increasingly better. Enjolras is nothing if not driven, and he isn't the type to settle for mediocrity. ("Why have a good government when we could have a great one?")
Courfeyrac moves up the bed, crawling on his hands and knees until he can flop half on top of Enjolras, half onto the bed, staring up at the low ceiling with his head in Enjolras' lap. "Beauty and ambition," he teases. "I'm very proud of you, being all grown up, securing a job for the future."
For some reason Courfeyrac's stomach twists the more he speaks, and when he's finished he feels partially ill.
"I won't lie," Enjolras says, carding his hands through Courfeyrac's hair. "I can't believe it. This is more than I could have hoped for. I thought I'd be stuck working at some shop, gaining experience for years before they'd even allow me a position in the Ministry itself. To be offered an internship just after graduation…"
"It's a great honor," Combeferre agrees. "You deserve it."
Talk of the future makes Courfeyrac's skin itch, honestly. He should be like Enjolras, making concrete plans for his future aside from muttering, "I want to be Auror," whenever someone asks him what he plans to do. Instead, he'd rather not talk about it.
"Any other bombs to drop?" Courfeyrac jokes, forcing a laugh. "Anyone else do anything interesting over the summer?"
The room goes quiet for a moment, Enjolras still steadily running his fingers through Courfeyrac's hair. It feels nice, familiar. Enjolras is far from a tactile person, most days, and Courfeyrac has come to appreciate moments like this when Enjolras reaches out.
"I got a tattoo," says Combeferre casually, after a while.
The words are spoken at a normal tone, certainly, but in the quiet of the room he might as well have shouted them. Courfeyrac jerks upright, Enjolras' fingers getting stuck in his hair. He yelps, pain tingling through his scalp, and Enjolras quickly apologizes while Combeferre keeps his back resolutely turned towards them.
"What the bloody fuck do you mean you got a tattoo?" Courfeyrac demands, reaching out to shove at Combeferre's shoulder. "You can't just announce something like that out of the blue and then just— sit there."
"What else could I possibly mean?" Combeferre asks, tilting his head to meet Courfeyrac's eyes. "I got a tattoo. Over the summer. It's not as if it's a big deal."
"What of?" Enjolras asks, sounding as calm as Combeferre, as if this isn't— as if this isn't monumentally shocking. Which, in case anyone is wondering, it is. It so very much is.
"'Wit beyond measure is a man's greatest treasure' written along my collarbone, on the left side," Combeferre says. His shoulders lift and drop minutely. "I've wanted one for a while, and I couldn't think of anything better. I figured I might as well get something related to my house, since we're graduating this year and Hogwarts will always be such a big part of me. It didn't hurt as much as everyone I asked said it would. I think I'll get another one, eventually. Maybe a few. The Hogwarts crest, or something of the like."
Enjolras makes a considering face before shrugging as well, murmuring, "Huh."
Courfeyrac, on the other hand, blurts, "You're bullshitting. There's no way."
"Why would I lie about that?"
"I don't know!" Courfeyrac says, defensive. "But there's no way you got a – a tattoo. There's no way."
"Do you want to see it?"
No, Courfeyrac thinks with startling ferocity, but before he can say it Combeferre stands up, pulling down the neck of his sweater. There, curving up along his collarbone towards his shoulder, are the words in a beautiful, curving script of blue that seems to shimmer when the light hits it just right, turning it almost bronze.
"Magical ink," Combeferre explains.
"It suits you," Enjolras says.
Courfeyrac bites back the no it doesn't that bubbles up inside of him. "It's very, um," he says instead, which isn't much better.
"It's not like it's huge," Combeferre points out. "I made sure it was somewhere that could be easily concealed, and it's rather small. I thought… I guess I don't really know what I thought. I just wanted it, and at the time it seemed like a good idea."
"A brilliant idea," Courfeyrac says, feigning enthusiasm. "It looks great, Ferre."
Combeferre smiles, releasing his shirt so the tattoo is covered again. With it out of sight, Courfeyrac finds he can breathe easier. Not that he couldn't breathe easily before. He's just surprised, is all. He knows Combeferre is fully capable of letting loose like the rest of them, doing reckless things once in a while, stupid things on the rare occasion, but this is still unexpected. Combeferre has never mentioned wanting a tattoo before. Courfeyrac is positive he would remember that.
"What time is it, anyway?" Combeferre asks, suddenly snagging Courfeyrac's wrist. He turns it over, oblivious to the way Courfeyrac has gone tense all over, and reads the time on his watch. "Crap. I have prefect duties in an hour and I promised Feuilly I'd help him clean our room first. I have to go."
"Don't forget your work," Enjolras reminds him.
Combeferre grins, scooping up his homework and books. He nods his goodbye without another word, shutting the door behind him on his way out. Courfeyrac stares at it for a long time, frowning.
"Didn't you mention once that you have a thing for tattoos?" Enjolras asks.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"You know, I think I'd rather just pretend it doesn't exist, actually."
The thing about writing a letter to Marius from Cosette is that Marius knows Cosette's handwriting. All of them, every single person in their group, keeps in touch over the summer through letters. Aside from Courfeyrac, of course, who hates writing because he can never properly express his thoughts and feelings through written word, who talks as much with his touch as his words and who struggles to convey things properly without being able to put a hand on someone's shoulder, or gesturing, or wrapping his arms around someone.
Marius knows Cosette's signature, most definitely, and they can't forge it well enough to pass his scrutiny. Maybe if it were someone else they'd be okay, but this is Marius, and it has to do with Cosette, and there's no way he doesn't have every swoop of her signature memorized.
"Maybe we can just ask her for it," Courfeyrac says as breakfast the following week, the words spoken through a yawn. Weekends are traps, lulling him into believing that he can once again sleep in all day and wake up in the afternoon. Mondays are reality, harshly knocking down his door. He really needs a damn coffee. "I'm going to ask her for it."
"You're going to show her the letter?" Éponine's mouth hangs open. "You'll spoil the whole thing!"
"What's spoiled?" Joly sits himself next to Courfeyrac, Bossuet falling into the seat beside him. "Tell me it isn't the milk again. I don't think I ever fully recovered from last time."
This is probably why they should keep their planning to secluded areas, like their bedrooms, or one of the bathrooms that no one frequents. "The milk is fine," Jehan says easily, in that way Jehan has, sincere and believable with a soft smile to punctuate. "I would, however, avoid the jam."
"What's wrong with the jam?"
Bossuet snorts a laugh and says, "I'll take my chances, then," while reaching for the jam in question.
Joly hands Bossuet the toast, Bossuet smears jams on four pieces and hands Joly two, and then the two of them eat, creepily in sync with each other. Without even needing to ask, Joly holds out his hand and Bossuet passes him the milk, and then Bossuet holds out his and Joly passes the water jug, and seriously, the two of them are so married it's adorable.
"What?" Bossuet asks through a mouthful of toast when they realize everyone's watching them.
"You shouldn't talk with your mouth full," Joly scolds. "You could choke."
"Do you even realize it?" Éponine asks them both, her elbows braced on the table, chin resting on the palms of both her hands, examining Joly and Bossuet like a particularly interesting species that she hasn't quite identified yet. "I'm starting to think that maybe you two honestly don't even realize it."
What makes Joly and Bossuet so frustrating is that they, more than anyone, are two halves of one whole. From what Courfeyrac knows, they met in their first year, on the boats to the castle, and have been best friends ever since. They literally finish each other's sentences sometimes. If Joly even hints at making a joke, Bossuet falls over himself with laughter. In year five, when Joly's mum fell ill and he spent two weeks at home, Bossuet was out of his mind without him. He didn't go to class, he barely left their dormitory, and Courfeyrac had brought him most of his meals straight to his bed.
They're practically freaking soulmates.
"Do we even realize what?" Bossuet asks, looking lost.
"Fuck my whole life up the ass with a cactus," Grantaire moans, almost sitting on Éponine as he crashes into the table. He practically shouts the words and Courfeyrac makes a face at the alarmed looking first years that have their eyebrows nearly up to their hairlines.
"Language," Joly snaps. "Watch yourself, Grantaire."
"Well I'm sorry," Grantaire says, not sounding sorry at all, "but I'm having a bit of a fucking crisis here, mate. I—I—" He tugs a hand through his hair just as Éponine tugs him down onto the bench seat, which is probably a good idea. He looks close to fainting, all colour drained from his face and his eyes horrifyingly wide. "Skinny jeans."
"What?" Courfeyrac asks.
"Skinny jeans," Grantaire repeats, waving a hand around hysterically. "I will curse the muggle who invented them, I swear. I'm only equipped to handle so much, you know? There's only so much a man can take! This is too fucking much. Way too much. I can't deal with this shit, I really can't."
"Pause," Jehan coaxes, reaching out to rub his back. "Use your words again when you're actually going to make sense."
Grantaire moans again, dropping his head rather roughly onto the surface of the table. There's a thud as it hits, and Courfeyrac is willing to bet anything that he's going to have a huge bump on his forehead from that.
"Grantaire?" Éponine says, poking him. She doesn't get a response. "I think he's broken."
The doors to the hall open and suddenly Grantaire's fit makes a lot of sense. Enjolras comes in, wearing his typical house sweater, tie knotted expertly and tightly around his throat. The difference, however, is in the choice of trousers. He's wearing what are possibly the tightest red jeans Courfeyrac has ever seen, and as someone who is rather fond of skinny jeans that look painted on himself, that is saying something. They hug his thin legs, such a bright, distracting colour that it's nearly impossible to look away, and even Courfeyrac has to admit that they probably do great things for his ass.
"Is he dead?" Enjolras asks as he takes his seat, calmly reaching for a bowl of oatmeal, gaze only flicking to Grantaire for a second.
"I hate you so fucking much," Grantaire groans without lifting his head.
Enjolras, spoon halfway to his mouth, pauses, looking momentarily wounded. "Good morning to you too," he mutters.
"Nice jeans," Courfeyrac says, since someone has to.
Enjolras looks down at his legs, then up at Courfeyrac. "Thanks," he says slowly. "Jehan lent them to me."
Grantaire lifts his head and gives Jehan a look that is so scathing it's surprising he doesn't burst into flame right there. Instead, Jehan shrugs, unaffected, and says, "One that has never suffered cannot truly appreciate the pleasures the world has to offer."
"Is that a quote? Because that's bullshit, Jean Prouvaire," Grantaire seethes.
"Is something the matter, Grantaire?" Marius asks tiredly, one of the last to arrive to the table. Combeferre should already be here, as should Cosette, but something must be keeping them.
"No," Grantaire says.
Marius' eyes flick past everyone's, not stopping until they reach Enjolras. "Oh," he says. "Is it the jeans?"
Sometimes Marius has an adorable and horrible habit of saying the first thing that pops into his head. Half the table looks sympathetically at Grantaire while the other half laughs. Courfeyrac is caught somewhere in the middle. Enjolras just looks confused.
"What's wrong with my jeans?" he asks.
"I doubt they're part of the uniform," Courfeyrac points out. "I mean, there's probably not a rule that says 'no red skinny jeans' but I'm going to assume it's implied."
Enjolras shrugs. "I refuse to allow my individuality to be crushed by ancient rules that were written years before our grandparents were born."
"That's a fair argument," Courfeyrac says. "But you realize you're wearing red skinny jeans and your house colours include green, right?"
Enjolras, once again, shrugs. "So?"
It's not that Enjolras is fashionably inept, he just doesn't care most of the time. He's not like, say, Jehan, who actually thinks it's okay to wear green pants and a purple sweater with orange flowers on it. Enjolras just doesn't give thought to what he wears. He puts on whatever's clean and fits and calls it a day.
"I have to get my books for class," Courfeyrac sighs, knowing that Enjolras won't listen to him if he tells him to change out of the jeans. "Éponine, Jehan, I'll see you at lunch, my common room."
He's late for class after the time it takes him to run downstairs, pack his things and run to the Transfiguration classroom. There is a surprisingly small amount of students taking N.E.W.T. level Transfiguration, and most of them are his friends. Somehow the others have all managed to get here before him, despite the fact that he left breakfast first.
Combeferre faces the front of the room, hunched over with his head ducked (he's going to have serious back problems one day, Combeferre). Professor Willow looks up when he comes in, pointing to the empty seat beside Combeferre with a stern look on her face that says he better be punctual in the future. Courfeyrac gives her a sheepish look and hurries to his seat.
"Morning," Combeferre says when he sits, but there's something off about it. Or maybe there's something off with Courfeyrac, and he's just projecting.
He's barely spoken to Combeferre all weekend. It wasn't a conscious decision, not really. He had things to do, Combeferre had things to do, their things had to be done in opposite sides of the castle. Totally coincidental and not at all related to the ink that peeks out the neck of Combeferre's shirt, just the top of the 'W' that sneaks its way out from under his collar.
When friends with someone like Enjolras, or Combeferre, there is a moment of panic where one realizes, shit, my friends are fucking hot. Courfeyrac had this moment in fourth year, when puberty hit and Combeferre started getting tall, and Enjolras started actually taking care of his hair. They're both incredibly good looking, admittedly, but it's cool. There's no attraction there, never has been. Courfeyrac knows when he's attracted to someone, okay? And he does something about it, because he's not like his ridiculous friends.
So the tattoo thing is not a big deal. It's not.
"Morning," Courfeyrac says, such a long pause between his and Combeferre's greetings that if things weren't awkward already, well, they definitely are now.
"Is something wrong?" Combeferre asks, unsurprisingly catching on immediately.
"It's nothing," Courfeyrac lies.
"It doesn't sound like nothing."
Nothing I can tell you about, Courfeyrac thinks, but that thought hurts. There has never before been something he's hidden from Enjolras or Combeferre. They're his best friends. Lying to either of them feels like an incredible betrayal.
"It's this thing, with Marius and Cosette," Courfeyrac says, which is technically the truth. That is a problem. It's just not the most pressing one, at the moment. "We wanted to send Marius a letter from Cosette, to boost his confidence, convince him that Cosette really does like him, but we can't exactly forge her writing and there's no way Marius will buy a fake."
"Please turn to page one hundred in your books, class," Professor Willow orders as she walks around the room, hands clasped tightly behind her back. "And no talking. You all know the rules."
Courfeyrac and Combeferre both open their textbooks, turning to the proper page, but Combeferre leans closer to him, so close that all Courfeyrac can think about is how clean he always smells, like he's just stepped out of the shower and into fresh air. "Maybe," he says, keeping his voice low, smooth and deep, "you should send him something else, instead of a letter. It's not exactly fair to Cosette to claim your words as her own. Why don't you send him sweets or something anonymously? You're a good friend of his. No doubt he'll come to you when he gets them, and you can hint that maybe they're from Cosette. That way you're not impersonating one of our friends, and if you're caught you can always say they were from you."
Courfeyrac blinks at him, mouth slack.
"I see you two have already finished the reading," Professor Willow says, stopping in front of their table. "Which of you would like to attempt the spell first?"
"Uh," Courfeyrac says.
"I think we'd prefer to go over the reading another time before making an attempt," Combeferre says, smiling pleasantly.
"I suggest that you get to it, then," Professor Willow says. She turns back to the room at large. "Any students found conversing instead of doing the work assigned to them will have points immediately taken from their house, understood? There is a time for chatting and a time for working; one should be done in this classroom, one should not."
"Yes, ma'am," Courfeyrac intones along with the rest of the class. Combeferre lets out the smallest of snorts.
Afterwards, Combeferre does actually begin the reading while Courfeyrac scans the page quickly, getting the gist of it, and then he bumps his shoulder into Combeferre and says, almost giddy, "Have I told you lately that you're a genius?"
"A few days ago, on the Quidditch pitch."
"Definitely due for another, then." Courfeyrac grins, forgetting, so easily, that things had been almost weird between them for a moment. "You are incredible. Are you sure you don't want to reconsider the part where you said you wanted nothing to do with this? You could be really—"
"Courfeyrac," Professor Willow snaps. "If you and Mr. Combeferre cannot keep your mouths closed, I will be forced to move you to opposite sides of the room."
"Might as well cut off one of their limbs," he hears Éponine mutter from where she sits behind them. "Does she not realize how codependent Enjolras and the two of them are with each other?"
Courfeyrac's hand twitches towards his wand, where it lies on the table, but Combeferre gently catches his wrist and says, "Best to wait until after class to curse her."
Grudgingly, Courfeyrac agrees.
Combeferre's idea is a great one. Both Jehan and Éponine agree instantly that it's better to send Marius a collection of 'anonymous' gifts and sign them all with a simple 'C' for Cosette. The good part about it is that Éponine and Courfeyrac are both close enough with Marius to know what kinds of things to get him, and they're all close enough with Cosette to know what kind of things she would get him. The bad part, however, is that most of the things will need to be bought, which means spending money they might not be able to pool together as well as finding a way to get the gifts.
Things start going right for them, finally, because the following Friday an owl drops a small package in front of Courfeyrac at breakfast, an envelope attached to the top of it. He opens the letter first, quickly reading his mother's tiny, neat writing, and then opens the package. Inside there's a small cloth bag of coins, as well as a bag of his mum's homemade chocolate chip cookies.
"I really, really love my family," Courfeyrac sighs, stuffing the money in his pocket and a cookie in his mouth.
"Just in time for the Hogsmeade trip tomorrow," Jehan says excitedly.
"Guess I have no choice now but to go," Courfeyrac says. He wasn't planning on it. He loves Hogsmeade as much as the next Hogwarts student, but it's not a very big village. After years of going twice a month, the novelty has worn off. It's still fun to go with a date, but Courfeyrac doesn't have one at the moment, and he isn't looking to get one, either. "You coming with me?"
Jehan shakes his head, no. "I promised Bahorel I'd help him with his Transfiguration homework."
"Doesn't Feuilly do that?"
Jehan raises an eyebrow delicately and says, "Yes, he does. Normally."
"Are they fighting, then?"
"They're not fighting," Jehan says. "They don't really do that much, not in the way Enjolras and Grantaire do. Instead they ignore each other for days when one of them is upset, and you were there in the common room. Feuilly bruised Bahorel's ego and his ego is perhaps the only place Bahorel can't take a blow."
Courfeyrac sighs, rubbing a hand down his face. "What are we going to do about those two?"
"Deal with Cosette and Marius first," Jehan advises. "They're going to be the easiest. If we can't fix them up with each other, we have no hope in helping the rest of them."
He has a point. Cosette and Marius are the easiest to set up, since neither of them are in the habit of denying their feelings, it's just a matter of them doing something about said feelings. Everyone else is going to be much more difficult.
"We'll manage," Courfeyrac says, sounding more confident than he feels. He grins, holding out his bag of cookies. "Want one? My mum made them. They're great."
"Can I have one?"
Courfeyrac jumps when something hits the table from underneath as Gavroche works his way out from beneath it, grinning wildly. "What were you doing down there?" Courfeyrac asks him, probably not as alarmed as he should be.
"I'll tell you for one of those," Gavroche says, nodding at the bag of cookies.
Courfeyrac debates for a moment, but in the end he holds out the bag and Gavroche takes two. "Was looking for my rat," he says, scratching at the back of his head. "Lost it the other day. I think it's dead."
"There are a lot of cats in this school," Jehan says solemnly.
"I'm sure you'll find it," Courfeyrac says, kicking Jehan under the table. "This is a big castle. It's probably around here somewhere."
Gavroche shrugs, taking a bite of his cookie. "These are good," he says while sitting on top of the table. "You know, for another one I could help you get Marius' gift to him without him knowing who did it."
"How do you know about that?" Courfeyrac asks, turning to Jehan as if he knows, but Jehan shrugs and shakes his head, just as lost. "Did Éponine tell you?"
"My sister doesn't tell me nothing," Gavroche complains. "You guys are just really bad at being sneaky, that's all. But I won't tell anyone, I swear. I can help, if you let me."
Courfeyrac is already starting to say no when Jehan says, "Maybe we should let him, actually. If we leave it in the room or something he might assume it was you that gave it to him, and then we'd have to convince him you're not in love with him and set him and Cosette up."
Courfeyrac hadn't even considered Marius thinking that an anonymous gift left by 'C' could be from him. It would make things awkward, no doubt. Marius would be so sweet about it, letting Courfeyrac down easy, but he'd also take about two weeks to work himself up to saying anything, two weeks during which things would be incredibly awkward between them.
"You get the gift and let me handle the rest," Gavroche proposes. "I can be useful, you'll see."
The more people that know about the plan, the more likely everyone else is to find out about it. Gavroche could be helpful, sure, but he could also accidentally let Cosette and Marius in on their plans. Or worse, he could alert Enjolras and Grantaire, or Bahorel and Feuilly, or Joly and Bossuet.
"He already knows about the plan, somehow," Jehan points out, as if sensing Courfeyrac's hesitance. "We've got nothing to lose by letting him help us."
"'cept for another one of those cookies," Gavroche reminds him.
They have a point, he can't deny that. Plus, Gavroche has already proven to be more than capable of sneaking around. He could be useful, at some point, maybe for more than just helping with Marius and Cosette.
Damn it. Courfeyrac hands over the bag of cookies and Gavroche takes another, saluting to him with it in his hand. "Would have done it for free," he says cheerily, "but it was a pleasure doing business with you."
Gavroche hurries off, skipping away happily as he munches on Courfeyrac's cookies.
"Did I just get conned by an eleven-year-old?"
"You were just conned by a very smart eleven-year-old," Jehan says while snagging Courfeyrac's last cookie.
Sometimes the days at Hogwarts seem to drag on endlessly, the school week feeling more like a year with the weekends getting farther and farther away with each day, somehow. And then, other times, the days pass in a blur, going by so quickly Courfeyrac wants to reach out and pull them to a stop, but he can't.
The trip to Hogsmeade takes him no time at all. He goes with Enjolras, the two of them stopping to get ice cream (Enjolras' one favorite indulgence, not that he admits it to anyone, and he still acts like Courfeyrac is the one dragging him into the shop when it's really the other way around) before Courfeyrac spots Grantaire and manages to kill two birds with one stone, leaving Enjolras with him while he quickly picks up a box of Marius' favorite chocolates.
The wrapping of the gift is left to Jehan, who uses magic to make normal paper a very pretty, sunny yellow (Marius' favorite) with a perfect green bow (a special touch to link the gift to Cosette by using her house's main colour) and Éponine is left to deliver it to Gavroche. After that, it's up to him to get it to Marius.
Courfeyrac almost manages to forget about the whole thing in the following days, what with class, his own social life and Quidditch practice. With their first game against Ravenclaw scheduled for mid-November, it isn't like they're in any rush or anything, but Courfeyrac is nervous and paranoid. They need to practice as much as they can possible afford to, which means he has his team out on the pitch every single day that he manages to book it for them.
One day after practice, and an excruciating day of classes beforehand after not enough sleep, Courfeyrac slumps into his room, feeling as though he's just been run over by the Night Bus and he figures he probably doesn't look much better. He yawns, tugging off the shirt he'd been wearing during practice, now drenched in sweat and dirt from that tumble he'd taken when diving for the Quaffle, and doesn't even notice Marius sitting on his bed until he tosses the shirt in its general direction.
"Merlin," he gasps, hitting his shin on the end of Bossuet's bed when he jumps. "Are you seriously just sitting there in the dark?"
Marius, gaze on his lap, doesn't even look up as he says, in a curious tone, "I found the oddest thing in my bag today."
Courfeyrac's heart, which had been racing from the fright of finding Marius perched on his bed without his knowledge, continues to thump in his chest. "Oh, really?" he says casually. "What was it?"
Slowly, Marius holds up the box of chocolates, which hasn't even been opened. "They were wrapped," he says. "There was a card on top. It didn't say anything, it was just signed with a 'C'."
"A 'C'," Courfeyrac repeats, trying to sound surprised. "Huh."
"It wasn't you, was it?" Marius looks up sharply, his eyes piercingly blue in comparison to his red cheeks.
Courfeyrac busies himself with finding a clean shirt – not that he should be putting one on, considering the sweat and dirt that also clings to his skin— and manages to tug one on before he figures out a way to answer that without outright lying to one of his closest friends.
"Why," he says, sitting down beside Marius, "would I sneak a box of chocolates into your bag? If I wanted to give you sweets, wouldn't I just give them to you?"
Still, Marius looks wary and uncertain for a long moment, examining Courfeyrac closely. "Of course," says Marius, nodding quickly. "Sorry, I had to ask. But if it wasn't you, then who would do such a thing?"
"Can I see?" Courfeyrac asks, reaching over before Marius can answer to snag the little tag that Éponine had fastened onto the gift before they'd handed it over to Gavroche. They might not be able to forge an entire letter in Cosette's handwriting, but they could handle just the first letter of her name.
"They're my favorite chocolates, too," Marius says with wonderment as Courfeyrac 'scrutinizes' the tag.
"You know who else knows your favorite chocolates?" he says, handing the tag back. "And whose name starts with a 'C'?"
Marius shakes his head quickly, saying, "Courfeyrac," in a warning tone.
"Well, yes, my name does start with that letter and I do know your favorite chocolate," he acknowledges, "but I was meaning more a pretty Slytherin girl who you've been friends with for years, who has more than enough classes with you to be able to sneak a gift into your bag without you noticing."
"No." Marius shakes his head again, only sadly this time. "It's not Cosette. Why would she bother?"
"Maybe," he ruffles Marius' soft hair, making Marius squawk and halfheartedly swat at him, "because she likes you, you tosspot."
"That's not funny, Courfeyrac."
"Trust me, if I were trying to be funny you'd be laughing." They both know it's true. "I'm serious. That looks just like her writing, too!"
Marius bites his lip, looking at the tag as if he's already done the same before, coming to the same conclusions that Courfeyrac is now voicing, only he's still hesitant to believe it. "It does look like her handwriting," he admits. "But it's not."
"I would appreciate if you would not tell anyone about this," Marius says at last, standing up. "I'm sure it was just an accident. These probably weren't even meant for me. They were probably supposed to go in someone else's bag."
"And they just happened to be your favorites? Wrapped in your favorite colour?"
Marius shrugs. "Coincidence," he says.
"Shouldn't you be going to take a shower?" Marius almost snaps, his tone getting shriller by the minute.
Obviously there's not a thing Courfeyrac can say that will convince him right now, and he's only making Marius upset by pressing the conversation. He nods, resigned, and says, "You're right."
"After your shower, we can share these," Marius offers, holding up the chocolates, instantly regretful for snapping because he's Marius, this is what he does. There's a reason one of the most beautiful, kind and intelligent people in their school is in love with him. "If you want."
"Save me the caramel filled ones," Courfeyrac says on his way to the door.
Instead of heading for the showers, however, he detours and hurries out of the common room, ignoring the way the third year girl he passes wrinkles her nose at him. He's aware that he needs a shower. People can stop pointing it out now. He has more important things to handle.
It takes him all of about twenty minutes to round up Jehan and Éponine both in the boy's washroom. Éponine leans against the sink, standing very far away from him, but Jehan doesn't seem to mind the way he smells right now, at least.
"Marius has the chocolates," he announces to both of them, "but there's a small problem."
"What?" Éponine groans.
"Did we get the wrong chocolates? Did he see Gavroche plant them?" Jehan asks quickly.
Courfeyrac shakes his head. "No, nothing like that. He seems to think they were an accident, that they weren't meant for him. He thinks whoever gave them meant them for someone else."
Silence seems to echo off the walls of the bathroom, bouncing around the stalls and off the mirrors like a physical thing. There's a tap dripping somewhere, and suddenly a toilet flushes without anyone going near it.
Finally, after what feels like forever, Éponine says, "Fucking Marius."
Courfeyrac is not an easily thwarted person. So the first try with Marius was a bust. That doesn't mean he's going to give up. In fact, it only makes the three of them even more determined than before. With the help of Joly and Bossuet, who aren't given details on why he needs out of the castle so badly, Courfeyrac manages to sneak away to Hogsmeade again long before the next scheduled visit. The scarf he buys isn't very expensive, nor is it as personal as the box of his favorite chocolates, but Marius likes scarves (even if it's still only the very beginning of autumn) and the blue colour of it will look nice with his eyes, so it's going to have to do. They don't bother to wrap it, either, but this time they write 'To Marius' before signing the tag with the same 'C' as last time, to make sure there isn't any confusion again.
Once more they leave Gavroche to delivering the gift, but this time Marius doesn't creepily wait on Courfeyrac's bed to discuss it with him. Instead, on a surprisingly cold Wednesday, Marius walks into Charms class with the scarf wrapped loosely around his neck, hiding his Hufflepuff tie.
"Nice scarf," Courfeyrac comments as he takes his seat, and he notices that Jehan and Éponine have spotted the scarf as well.
As if this whole thing was planned (which it actually wasn't) Cosette is sitting near enough that when Marius says, "Thank you. It was a gift, actually," she turns in her seat to listen to the conversation.
"A gift from who?" Jehan asks, his innocence feigned so expertly that even Courfeyrac almost buys it.
"I- I'm not sure," Marius says, going a pleasant pink in his cheeks. He shoots Cosette a darting look and mumbles, "The sender didn't specify. I found it in my bag, along with a, erm, small letter that didn't really say much."
"Has Marius got a secret admirer?" Grantaire asks loudly, drawing the attention of everyone in the room to Marius. "Did I hear that right?"
"Someone went in his bag without his permission," Enjolras snaps. "That's not romantic. That's borderline illegal."
Grantaire rolls his eyes towards the ceiling. "You wouldn't know romance if it bit you on your wonderful ass, Angel-face."
"Don't call me that."
"I think it's sort of sweet," Joly says, reaching out to touch the scarf. "You're sure they didn't say who they are?"
"I'm sure," Marius sighs.
And through it all, Cosette's cheeks have gotten progressively darker. She turns around in her seat abruptly, accidentally knocking something off her desk. Courfeyrac sees it, Éponine sees it, and Marius definitely sees it. It only serves to make her look guilty, which helps their plan even more.
Their professor comes into the room, ordering everyone back to their seats, and Courfeyrac snags the spot next to Marius instead of Enjolras or Combeferre, like he normally would.
"Did it come with the same tag as last time?" he whispers, keeping his gaze on the front of the room so their professor won't catch him and tell him to stop talking.
Marius nods, discreetly pulling out the tag that Courfeyrac watched Éponine sign just days ago, and hands it over reluctantly to Courfeyrac, as if he doesn't want to let it go. Courfeyrac flips it open, grinning at the way it is bent and a little wrinkled, like Marius has looked at it many times since he received it, and pretends to read it as if he doesn't already know exactly what it says.
"Did you see how embarrassed she looked earlier?" Courfeyrac asks. "She looked very guilty, if you ask me."
In reality, Cosette had looked very jealous, but Marius doesn't have to know that. The two of them are playing perfectly into their plan. If this keeps up, things might actually work out. Courfeyrac can't keep the dumb grin off his face.
"She did seem… something," Marius admits. "I'm still reluctant to believe it's her."
"Exactly." Marius takes the tag back and carefully hides it, once again, in his pocket. "Why would she send me these gifts? It doesn't make any sense, Courfeyrac."
"It makes a lot of sense, actually," Courfeyrac tells him. "Marius, you're very smart. The pieces are there, you just have to put them together."
Marius doesn't reply, but his fingers subconsciously reach for the scarf. All through class he touches it, pulling it off once to put it back on, wrapping it loosely around his neck again even though it is far too warm to warrant wearing a scarf inside at this time of year. He also sends more glances Cosette's way than normal, and that's saying something.
He can deny it all he wants, but Marius thinks Cosette sent it. Now it's just a matter of him doing something about it.
It takes until November before Marius finally does something about it. At this point Courfeyrac has started to believe Éponine when she says it's just not going to happen. He's run out of money to buy more gifts, and he can't exactly ask his parents for more, not with Christmas coming up in less than two months, when he'll need to beg them for money again.
Marius' collection of gifts grow from the chocolates and the scarf to the chocolates, scarf, a new quill after his old one broke, a notebook, and a tiny figurine that skates across whatever surface you put it on and shouts compliments at him in a cute, tiny little voice. Every time he gets a new one, Courfeyrac makes a point to suggest it's from Cosette, Marius argues that it's not, and then Courfeyrac runs to Jehan and Éponine to groan at them.
In the meantime, Courfeyrac's team has their first Quidditch game of the year coming up, and he's a little distracted by that. He's on the pitch more often than not, lately, and he'd be falling behind in his homework if it weren't for Enjolras and Combeferre, who help him get through it every Friday.
Also in the meantime, things with the other couples get progressively worse. Enjolras and Grantaire get into two particularly bad fights that leave Enjolras seething for days and Grantaire moping around their shared bedroom for even longer. Feuilly and Bahorel have made up since their small dispute, but there's a distance between them now. Bahorel spends more time with Jehan and other Gryffindors, and Feuilly's time is mostly spent in the library or his own common room (or so Combeferre informs him).
Joly and Bossuet, however, aren't getting any worse, but they're not getting any better. Courfeyrac begs Bossuet to help him keep score during one of their practices where he pits his team against each other so they'll all get the hang of playing an actual game, and somehow gets hit in the shoulder with a Bludger. Courfeyrac hears the crunch of bone from across the pitch and Bossuet's shout of pain apparently echoes through the entire castle, because they find Joly hurrying towards them as he helps Bossuet hobble towards the hospital wing. Joly spends the next week fretting over him, despite the fact that the healer says he fine, but aside from that they don't really make any progress with their relationship.
Just when Courfeyrac is ready to throw in the towel and admit defeat— something that he doesn't do very often— and admit that he was wrong and maybe he isn't as good at love as he thought, the impossible happens.
"You can't seriously be eating that," Cosette says at lunch on the eleventh of November, her nose wrinkling as Bahorel piles his sandwich with peanut butter, roast beef, and ketchup. "That's disgusting."
Bahorel shrugs. "Puts hair on my chest," he says.
"Like you need help with that," Feuilly scoffs.
"You would know, wouldn't you?" Jehan teases. Feuilly goes red and excuses himself, muttering something about going down to the greenhouse to get something he left there.
The rest of their friends are all together, with Combeferre on his one side, Enjolras on the other, Éponine directly across from him beside Cosette, Grantaire beside the seat Feuilly just vacated, Joly and Bossuet beside him and Jehan on Enjolras' other side. The only person missing is Marius, but that changes when the doors to the hall open and he strides in, the blue scarf wrapped around his neck as it has been for weeks. He has something in his hand, something that Courfeyrac can't make out until he gets closer.
It's a box of chocolates, identical to the one they'd first sent him. His hands are shaking and the sound of the chocolates rattling around in the box proceeds Marius on his way towards them, his chin tilted high despite the fact that he's flushed and very clearly nervous. He keeps coming, not stopping until he's directly behind Cosette.
Marius clears his throat. "Cosette," he says.
Cosette turns in her seat, smiling sunnily up at him. "Afternoon, Marius." Her gaze drops to the box of chocolates in his hand, her eyes narrowing slightly. "Oh, another gift from your 'secret admirer'?"
"No," Marius says, surprisingly calm and steady. "No, these are for you."
Cosette's eyes widen. "They are?"
Marius nearly throws them at her in his haste, and Courfeyrac has to cover his eyes for a moment because Marius. But Cosette takes the chocolates before they can assault her, and Marius' hands stop shaking a bit. "Thank you," she adds. "But I don't—"
"That's not all," Marius interrupts. "So sorry for cutting you off, but if I don't do this now I'll lose my nerve."
"Shit," Courfeyrac says under his breath, unconsciously reaching out to squeeze Combeferre's leg under the table. "Is he really doing this? In front of everyone?"
"I would very much appreciate it," Marius starts, unaware that half the room is watching him now, "if you would accompany me to lunch next weekend at Madam Puddifoot's during the trip to Hogsmeade. Please don't feel as though you have to just because I've given you the chocolates. I'm not attempting to bribe you, I just thought, since you're so sweet, you might enjoy something sweet yourself. But if you don't want to go with me, that's fine. I'm so sorry for putting you on the spot like this in front of everyone, and actually this was a really bad idea and I should – I should probably just go, right? Crap. I'm so sorry."
Marius turns to go but Cosette grabs his hand, pulling him to a stop. "I would love to go," she says. "With you. I would love to go out with you, Marius."
Marius' cheeks go even redder, but for a completely different reason. He glances down at where her hand is still holding his and then into her eyes. "You really would?"
"I would," she says with a grin.
"Wonderful!" Marius looks seconds away from pulling her out of her seat and into a waltz. "That's— brilliant, yes, I— I'll see you then, then. Um. Outside your common room. I'll meet you outside your common room on Saturday, just before everyone leaves."
"Sounds good," Cosette says, unperturbed by the way Marius stumbles over his words.
"I'm going to go now," Marius says, jerking a thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the door. "I'll see you later. And thank you. You've just made me the happiest man in the entire world."
Marius isn't the only one flushing by the time he hurries away (which is probably a good idea, quitting while he's ahead). Cosette turns back around, picks up her spoon and resumes eating her soup, casual as anything.
"About damn time," Éponine says, voicing what they're all thinking.
Cosette smiles happily to herself.
"You know," Combeferre says, getting far too close so he can speak the words for Courfeyrac's ears only, and Courfeyrac suddenly notices that his hand is still gripping Combeferre's (surprisingly muscular and firm) thigh, "he's going to eventually realize that she didn't send him those gifts."
Courfeyrac pulls his hand away hastily, forcing a chuckle. "We'll deal with that when we get there," he says, not sounding like himself. Since when does he freak out when he touches Combeferre? He touches everyone (that allows him to, anyway. He's always careful not to touch Joly as much because he's jumpy, or Enjolras when he's in one of his moods) constantly. Courfeyrac is incredibly tactile, and Combeferre has never before been on the 'Do Not Touch' list.
Combeferre gives him a puzzled look, seconds away from asking if he's alright, probably, because this is Combeferre and that's what he does. Before he can have a chance to, Courfeyrac turns to Enjolras and jumps into a conversation about their Defense Against the Dark Arts class after lunch.
But, Courfeyrac promises himself as Enjolras talks at him, he's going to fix this weird thing with Combeferre. Whatever the hell is wrong with him, he's going to get over it. They're too good of friends for him to be so weird and skittish lately.