Derek looks around the amassed students in the Great Hall, casting a discreet eye on the students of Ravenclaw. The first Friday of the school term had been designated for a memorial service for the Battle of Hogwarts, and while all students and teachers were expected to attend, he still cannot find Stiles in the crowd.
But, he remembers Stiles’ penchant for going over to Gryffindor to hang out with Scott McCall. A quick peer at the other end of the Hall turns up empty. No Stiles.
Scott is there however, talking to Allison Argent, a besotted look on his face. Derek scowls at the sight of the girl; the Argents were rather low on his list of favourite people, especially with the Accords negotiation still ongoing though thus far. But, Allison seemed harmless enough for a Hunter.
He twitches in place throughout the entire ceremony; there is no way he can leave earlier without being seen, and tries his best to look atte.tive and serious - especially since the prefects were standing at the front of their respective houses.
But the absence gnaws at him, unsettling his equilibrium.
When the ceremony finally ends, he looks around to make sure Kate Argent is nowhere near before making a beeline for Ravenclaw.
"Have you seen Stiles?" Derek asks Lydia Martin after he gives up his search.
She flips her hair back and shakes her head, "Not since dinner."
Sighing, Derek leaves the Great Hall and heads towards the classrooms. Once sure he’s alone, Derek shifts into his wolf form. From here on, it’s so much easier - he tracks Stiles' scent across classrooms, near the Ravenclaw common room, and eventually ends up at the Astronomy Tower.
Derek pads up the stairs and, no surprise, sees the younger boy huddled in a corner.
"You weren't at the Great Hall just now."
Stiles shrugs, and doesn't bother to look up while doodling a random pattern on the cold stone with his finger.
"They weren’t going to miss one student. You were there? Of course you were there," Stiles answers his own question without waiting for an answer, "You're a prefect after all."
"That and I'm a werewolf. How do you think it'll look if a werewolf skipped a remembrance ceremony for the Battle of Hogwarts?"
"Oh. I never saw it that way before. Fenrir Greyback certainly gave you all a bad rep, didn't he?"
"I'm used to it," Derek says, resigned.
"It's not right though," Stiles continues and finally looks up, "Dad always says it's not fair, the rubbish treatment werewolves get sometimes. I agree."
Derek puts his hands into the pockets of his robes and watches Stiles, uncharacteristically quiet and pensive.
"What are you still doing here? Thinking of giving me detention?" He asks Derek after a few minutes while Stiles' rubs his hands up and down his arms - the air still chilly this time of the year.
Derek bites his lip, unsure of what to tell Stiles exactly. Instead, he digs into his pocket and pulls out a handkerchief. Stiles watches curiously as Derek flicks the cloth open and it expands to become a blanket, which he drapes across Stiles' shoulders.
"It's cold, Stiles. You might fall ill. Wouldn’t want you ending up in the infirmary in the first week of school."
"But what about you?" Stiles asks, but doesn't protest, Derek notices with a small curl of pleasure.
The prefect smirks a little. "You forget, I don't need that."
Derek pauses for a moment, then decides it's worth the gamble before he shifts into his wolf form in front of Stiles. He senses Stiles’ delight even as he transforms, his melancholy giving way to curiosity and delight.
"That is awesome!" Stiles exclaims, fascinated. He gets up from the floor to walk around Derek, slowly. "You're a gray wolf, aren't you? Eurasian wolf, actually."
Derek nods, pleased that Stiles could recognise his species.
"May I?" Stiles holds out one hand expectantly over Derek’s head, and he rolls his eyes.
Why not, he thinks to himself, and he steps forward, nosing his muzzle under Stiles’ hand and the boy brightens visibly as he pats Derek carefully, running his hand over his fur.
Ruthlessly quashing the small niggling feeling that he's being treated like an oversized dog, Derek revels in the touch, wondering if Stiles understands the privilege granted to him.
After all, werewolves rarely allow anyone outside their packs to touch them, especially in wolf form, and certainly not humans.
Stiles was an exception Derek was willing to accommodate.
"This is fantastic," Stiles breathes reverently, kneeling next to Derek and stares into his eyes, "You can understand me in wolf form, can’t you?"
Derek growls in annoyance and Stiles giggles, and something twists in Derek at the happy sound. He sits down, resting his head on his forepaws and Stiles follows suit, settling back on the floor, wrapping the blanket around himself.
"I don't go to memorial services," Stiles says finally, then, in a smaller voice, "I hate them. I don’t know how my dad does it, he goes for so many now that he’s working for the Ministry. They remind me of my mum."
Derek whines in sympathy, his body rumbling and Stiles fiddles with the edges of his blanket, the other hand coming to rest on his ruff. And they sit like that, boy and wolf, in silence.
It’s close to midnight when he senses Stiles getting sleepy, even as he tries to cover his increasingly frequent yawns.
"That's quite enough," he tells Stiles after he shifts back to being human, tugging on Stiles’ arm to bring him to his feet. "It's late."
"Okay," Stiles agrees amiably, a sure sign of his exhaustion. Derek accompanies him back to the Ravenclaw Tower, Stiles leading the way.
"So, does this mean you won’t give me any more detentions?" Stiles asks, a cheeky smile on his face despite his tiredness.
Derek snorts. "You hope. I didn't sneak out of school events, you did."
He shoves Stiles in the direction of the stairs, only to hear an answering laugh as the boy makes his way up to his dormitory.
As he walks back to the Slytherin Dungeon, he hears a voice speak to him.
"Well done," the voice tells Derek in a strongly approving paternal tone.
"We're here, lad," another voice calls to him and Derek finally realises that it's the painting of Thaddeus Chapman, wizard and Alpha of the first werewolf clan to agree to th% Hunter-Werewolf Accords, talking to him.
"What do you mean?" he asks the painting suspiciously.
"No need to be shy, boy," Catherine Chapman, Thaddeus' mate and co-consort, coaxes him. "You Hales, always so secretive. I must say, it's quite an occasion. It's been a while since we’ve had a bonded pair in Hogwarts."
Derek stares at the painting, horrified. "How did you know?"
"We can tell," Catherine tells him, giving her husband a knowing look. "Quite the cute one you chose there, he'll be a looker when he grows up."
Derek turns warm, embarrassed despite the panic rising within him. "Is it obvious?"
"Oh no, not at all. After all, you're both so young. But we've been around long enough to recognise a few things."
Derek swallows hard, trying to calm himself down. "Please don't tell anybody. There's a Hunter one year ahead of me."
Thaddeus snorts in disdain. "Don't worry, those Hunters won't get anything out of us."
"Thank you," Derek nods.
"Proud to serve, my lad," Thaddeus tells him. "Now run along, it's late."
"We’ll watch out for your boy too," Catherine assures Derek. "Go on, love, go to sleep."
Meanwhile, in the Ravenclaw Tower, Stiles realises belatedly that he’s still holding onto the blanket Derek has given him.
Mr Stilinski presses the heel of his palm against his forehead, trying to block out the noise from both parties, wondering for the umpteenth time what possessed him to agree when the Minister for Magic proposed that he lead the negotiations for the Accords.
"All right," Mr Stilinski begins as he tries to get the meeting to begin discussion on the next agenda item. "Section fifteen. Adoption. Adoption of lone wolves into established packs; adoption of orphaned children of wolf families into established packs; adoption of human wizard children by werewolf families. In other words, adoption in all its permutations thereof."
"Unnecessary," a voice speaks up and Mr Stilinski can hear the barely disguised groans from the werewolf half of the room. "I don't see why a werewolf family would ever resort to adoption. It dilutes the family ties," Peter Hale remarks snidely, making several members of the other families twitch.
"Hale, if you have an issue with me, I'd appreciate it if you'd say it straight to my face," David Whittemore, Alpha of the Whittemore family, snaps back at the older Alpha.
"Do I need to?" Peter replies, keeping his voice deceptively mild.
"There is nothing wrong with Jackson!" Mrs Whittemore, Mr Whittemore’s mate, protests, falling prey to Peter's baiting. The Whittemores were known to be notoriously protective of their adopted adolescent son, one of the orphans created by the Second Wizarding War.
"Only that he’s an ordinary human." Peter scoffs. "Thank heavens he didn't turn out to be a Squib."
"And you expect us to listen when they can't even agree amongst themselves?" Chris Argent, current elected head of the Hunter families, asks Mr Stilinski, incredulous. "Just look at them!"
Mr Stilinski holds out his hand, gesturing for quiet. "Mr Hale, I hope you realise you're undermining the cause of your own people here. And Mr Argent, youre also well aware that Mr Hale's opinion on werewolf and human adoptions is in the minority."
"Well, he wouldn't have to be human if we could amend that section in the Accords," Mrs Whittemore cries out passionately. "Jackson's been asking to be changed since he could talk, but we can't do it!"
"Absolutely not," Chris objects immediately. "Conversion of a child would be assault and punishable by the Accords. Just look at Fenrir Greyback."
"Fenrir Greyback was an abomination and hardly representative of our people," Mr Whittemore counters. "You're just using him as a dramatic example to deny us our rights."
"Then ask those children he harmed if they were grateful for his intervention," Chris sneers.
"We're not talking about random changes here," Mrs Whittemore argues. "We're talking about children raised in stable families, with the appropriate support."
"You're just asking so you can change your son before he is of age. Hardly a voice of objective reasoning."
"There's no harm wanting our child to grow up as one of us."
"Being a werewolf can be complicated and dangerous."
"And being a Hunter isn't? How come all your children are brought up as Hunters then? Surely there are those who aren't interested in the family tradition," says Laura Hale.
Victoria Argent, wife of Chris Argent, glares at Laura in disdain. "We inform our children regarding their heritage only at an appropriate age. Not before."
"But it's not the same for werewolves," Mr Stilinski interjects, trying to calm everybody down. "The later the change, the longer the adaptation process. By the time they're seventeen, they’re adults by wizarding law. How are they going to work, going to get a job if they’re forced to take leave every few days in a month? Learning control is hard enough for born werewolves, changing a person so late almost certainly deprives them of a chance at a normal life. It's not fair. No wonder so many of the lone wolves are jobless." Mr Stilinski sends a pointed look at the Hunters.
"I see your point, Mr Stilinski, but our position remains."
"Mr Argent, it's only natural to wish for your child to share your culture. Werewolf parents do have the right to wish that their human children could be changed at an earlier age."
"We're not denying those children their rights. They can change. But only as consenting adults."
Mrs Whittemore makes a distressed sound. "This is what we’re talking about," she pleads with Mr Stilinski. "If we'd been permitted to change Jackson when he was just a baby, then he won’t have to have all those problems later. And he wants to be changed so badly."
Mr Stilinski leans back, looking at the attendees of the meeting as he tries to consider other options that would be suitable to both parties.
"You know, in the Muggle world, when a marriage dissolves," he starts, as an idea comes to mind.
"This is not a Muggle issue," Peter interrupts, earning him a glare.
"I'm not done talking yet, Mr Hale," Mr Stilinski says, injecting some steel into his words. "As I was saying, in the Muggle world, when a marriage dissolves and if things get ugly between the parents, and there are children involved, we have a system to decide which parent gains primary custody of the children."
"Werewolves don’t get divorced," Peter interjects, earning another annoyed look from Mr Stilinski.
"I'm talking about the context here, Mr Hale. I’m sure you can appreciate that. If the child is old enough to state their choice, a judge takes into account the child’s opinion before making the final decision. Usually there’s an entire team for this - psychologists, social workers--" he stops after he sees the blank, uncomprehending stares of the wizards.
He sighs, and tries again.
"Basically, there's an entire team of people working together to protect the child's interests. Maybe we can have a similar tribunal, made up of both Hunters and Werewolves. Werewolves would naturally be biased towards wanting their children to be changed. The Hunters could be there to provide a counterbalancing opinion, to make sure the child isn't being coerced."
"Not acceptable. This is strictly a werewolf issue, I'll not have a Hunter interfering with our lives. They meddle enough as it is."
"Mr Hale, you're assuming all adoptees of werewolf families want to be changed. What if some of those children are comfortable as humans?"
"Of course they'd want to be werewolves too."
"That's an assumption I’m unwilling to make. These children didn't grow up as werewolves. Some of them might be unwilling to take the step, despite who their parents are. And they have the right not to change."
"I don't see why we’re wasting so much time on this point. You could always follow the amendment set during the third Negotiation of the Accords and ban werewolves from adopting human children in the first place." Victoria sniffs haughtily.
"May I remind you that that particular amendment was reversed during the fifth Negotiation. We’re trying to move forwards, not backwards, Mrs Argent," Mr Stilinski reminds her, earning him a sour look he ignores. “Werewolves have the right to have families too. And last I checked, those orphanages the Ministry set up after the Second Wizarding War are still full. Without werewolves adopting human children, there'd be more orphans and you know it."
"But you're talking about changing a child. The process is painful and traumatic."
Mr Stilinski makes a face. "You're talking about a non-consensual change. Changing an older child or an adolescent under well-circumscribed conditions, with his consent, would not necessarily be so. I’m sure arrangements could be made with the physicians at St Mungo’s that the change can be handled as painlessly as possible. No sane parent would want to hurt their child."
"No sane parent would want their children to be a werewolf," comes a resentful mutter from the Hunter camp. Mr Stilinski turns to the vague direction of the source and glares.
"Please refrain from using such language in the meeting, or I'll have you thrown out," he gestures to the two Aurors standing behind him. "Is that clear?"
The Hunters stare impassively back at Mr Stilinski, though he notes how Chris looks somewhat discomfited. Satisfied that no further interruptions were going to appear, Mr Stilinski continues the discussion. "That particular cause for adopted children in werewolf families to wait till they are of age to consent to be changed is particularly onerous and you know it. Some of them never change, as a result."
"A perfectly acceptable state of affairs, in my opinion," Victoria says, blasé.
In response, a collective, unfriendly growl starts from the opposite side of the room.
Mr Stilinski sighs and tries not to bury his head in his hands and calls for an intermission instead.
Stiles is eating breakfast when the owls begin their usual routine of delivering mail to their owners. He looks up as he chews his toast, and beams when Newton flies down to settle in front of him, a package clutched in his claws.
Stiles drops his food and rips open a package containing a packet of butterscotch from Harrods with a reminder for him to please not to eat all the sweets at one go.
Neither he nor his father were great writers, but what they lacked in length, they made up with frequency - and Stiles gets his small care packages quite often.
Engrossed in his letter, Stiles misses an eagle owl, tall and imperious, its orange eyes looking at him intently with a package lying at its feet. Stiles ignores it in favour of Newton, cooing over his owl as he feeds him bacon strips from his plate. After a few minutes, the other owl waddles towards Stiles and nips him on the forearm.
"Ow! That hurt! What was that for?" Stiles asks the owl, puzzled. The owl shifts the package towards him, and starts preening its feathers. "Are you sure you have the right person?" Stiles asks again and peers at the item. Sure enough, his name is printed on the top in neat letters.
Curious, he opens it - his father's relatives were all Muggles and didn't know how to use owls, and his mother's relatives only sent packages during holidays.
I was out shopping today, and walked past the store. I thought you might like the sweets. Tell me which one you like the most. Personally, I like the toffee.
PS: Please give Mr Darcy the chicken sausages. Those are his favourite.
Stiles blinks, but opens the bag anyway because really, there was no reason to turn down a perfectly good gift of candy. In it, he finds a mixture of toffees, éclairs and humbugs from Marks and Spencer, and as per instructions, he takes a chicken sausage from his plate and offers it to the eagle owl.
"You must be hungry. Have some."
Next to Mr Darcy, Newton hoots his disapproval at having to share Stiles' attention.
"Newton, don't fight," he admonishes his owl, now mantling its wings in annoyance. "There's enough to go around."
"Why do you have two owls with you?" Lydia Martin asks and then continues before Stiles can answer. "And could you get them off the table? They’re getting in the way."
"Come on, Lydia, they want to eat too."
"Well, they can have their food at the owlery, not here."
"Don't listen to her Newton. Mr Darcy, you too," Stiles cover their ear tufts with his hands, "She's just jealous she didn't get any letters today."
"Please!" Lydia huffs. "As if I'd need any of those packages you get."
Stiles sticks his tongue out at her before swiping a sausage from Lydia's plate.
Thank you for the sweets, Newton likes them too. I like the mint humbugs but Newton's taken a fancy to the chocolate éclairs. If he eats any more, I'm afraid he'll be too fat to fly.
So, you like Muggle food then? I didn't think you would.
Of course I do! I love shopping in Muggle London, I could spend hours in Oxford Street. Derek never wants to come with me though, he doesn’t like the crowds. Meanwhile, mint humbugs and chocolate éclairs it is. Have some more.
"You called for me, Professor Harris?"
"Ah, Mr Hale, come in," Professor Harris waves Derek into the Potions classroom, where a group of disgruntled students are seated behind their tables. "I need your help to monitor this," his mouth twists, like he had chewed on something bitter, "Extra class for me."
Professor Harris points with his wand, "Behold the second years, Mr Hale. They were supposed to learn the Swelling Potion, but Mr McCall felt that it was more important to ensure that Miss Argent would try out for the Quidditch team along with him. Whilst they were contemplating their future athletic career together, Mr Stilinski decided that making the Invisibility Potion took precedence above actually following the curriculum."
Scott and Allison squirm in their seats, having the grace to look repentant. Stiles however, looks blithely straight ahead, tapping his wand rebelliously on the table, "It was going so well too, before Lydia interrupted me." He shoots a dark look at his housemate.
"Mr Whittemore took poorly to Mr Stilinski arguing with Miss Martin, and then, in a fit of misplaced chivalry, attempted to hex him."
Derek cannot help the quick flash of worry that runs through him, glancing at Stiles for a once-over. "Fortunately for Mr Stilinski, Mr Whittemore's spellcasting still requires more practice."
"And who's that?" Derek asks about the last boy tucked in the corner of the classroom, secretly relieved that nothing happened to Stiles.
"Despite the large number of miscreants, Mr Mahealani here actually did nothing wrong, but offered to keep Mr Whittemore company during his detention," Professor Harris explains. "Loyal Hufflepuff that he is."
"It's not like there's anything to do in our common room anyway," Danny says, twirling a quill in his hands.
"Now, begin. I will return in two hours, and I expect to see the potions ready for inspection. The correct one, Mr Stilinski," Professor Harris warns ominously.
The students hustle to begin their work. Stiles turns to Scott, but Scott's already shuffled over to Allison, an awkward smile on his face, mirrored by the girl. Lydia quickly sidles up to Jackson, leaving Stiles looking rather put upon at having been left the odd man out. Despite the sullen faces in the room, each of the students open their books and start on their potion-making.
Derek walks to stand in front of Lydia and Jackson, trying his best to look imposing. The intimidation tactic works - as an adopted child of a werewolf family, Jackson behaved himself appropriately in the presence of a potential Alpha.
But, he had no such luck with Lydia Martin; the second-year student starts whining at the perceived injustice of having been given detention the minute Professor Harris leaves the room, her high-pitched voice grating on his nerves and ears. Exasperated, Derek snaps at her to keep quiet, stopping all complaints. She doesn't stop glaring mutinously at Stiles though.
Having successfully obtained some peace, Derek turns to see Stiles' progress. The boy is gamely trying to make the potion on his own, tongue sticking out of his mouth as he tries to chop the ingredients, keep the book open and stir the potion all the same time.
It doesn't take long for Derek to make up his mind. "What do you need, Stilinski?" he asks gruffly.
"Do you need help?"
"Umm, well, if you'd just open the book for me to the right page... I haven't memorised the formula yet."
Derek narrows his eyes in annoyance. "I'm not your servant, Stilinski."
"Yeah, but I'll need my hands free for the puffer-fish eyes."
Derek snatches the book out of Stiles' hands, finds a spare pestle at the next bench and slams it on the book, weighing the pages down. But, not before taking a brief look at the pages, and he feels his eyebrows rise slightly when he sees the additional notations along the margins. Stiles had been busy indeed; he’d already figured out the additional ingredients needed to make the potion more potent and longer-lasting.
"How come you're not helping anybody else?"
"You don't have a partner," Derek frowns when he sees the longing glances Stiles sends Lydia's way. "Pay attention; you'll get another detention if you don't finish this."
"I'm working, I'm working," Stiles promises Derek. "You know," he glances around quickly, then grabs an empty piece of parchment and scribbles on it.
Your blanket's still with me.
Derek spares it a quick glance before he crumples the note and tosses it into the fire.
"Keep it," he mutters.
"I said, keep it." Derek repeats.
"Oh. I can? It's a really nice blanket too, don't you want it back?"
"Are you deaf or something, Stilinski?" Derek asks, annoyed, and he stalks back to the front of the classroom.
"No need to be snippy," Stiles grouses, as he continues stirring his potion.
That’s the second time in two weeks I've seen Mr Darcy at the Gryffindor table. What are you playing at?
Good to know school is treating you well. I’m fine too, thank you for asking. And you're welcome, I knew you wanted the Vultures' new team poster. How's Quidditch practice going? I heard Stiles is going to try for the team? Maybe you should give him some tips. Which team does he support?
It's a Saturday morning and Derek is pretending he had not followed Stiles after he ran off after breakfast without a word.
"Don't feed him so much," the werewolf says after he pops up in the owlery unannounced. Stiles starts at Derek's voice, then wipes his hands on his robes, fingers dirty with the grease of the chicken sausages he had snuck into his pockets to give to Mr Darcy.
"I’m not!" Stiles protests, guiltily - like a child caught with his fingers in the cookie jar. "But I know he's been doing double duty sending both you and me packages, so I thought he deserved a treat."
"Laura spoils him enough," Derek makes a face. "Don’t encourage him."
"You’re hurting his feelings," Stiles pats Mr Darcy, and the owl bobs its head up and down agreeably. Next to him, Newton hoots in annoyance at being passed over for attention and Stiles laughs and takes out some treats from his pocket. "I haven't forgotten you, Newton, be patient. Look what Dad got for you!"
Derek crosses his arms as he watches Stiles lavish both owls with an assortment of smuggled meats from the breakfast table and owl snacks.
"What are you doing here?" Stiles asks, when he finishes feeding both Newton and Mr Darcy.
Derek pauses in his tracks, mouth open but speechless after he forgot to come up with a suitable excuse for tailing Stiles to the owlery.
Good thing Stiles has a tendency of answering his own questions.
"Are you giving your owl something too?"
Relieved he didn't have to answer, Derek presses two fingers to his lips and whistles. Stiles hears a replying hoot and looks up to see a spectacled owl fly down from its perch to settle on Derek's outstretched arm.
"Is this your owl?" he asks, impressed.
"Yes," Derek replies, feeling pleased when he hears the admiration in Stiles' voice. "This is Gwen."
"No. Guinevere," Derek feels himself turn a bit red, as he recalls that childish phase in his life that prompted him to choose the somewhat dramatic name for his owl.
Stiles doesn't notice, too busy digging through his pockets for yet another snack.
"Would you like some, Gwen?" he asks the owl and she shifts, picking up the proffered treat with delicate movements.
"She's gorgeous." Stiles gushes over Guinevere, slowly w!lking around Derek's arm to further study her. She hoots at him. Once again dismayed at having to share Stiles' affection, Newton flies over to settle heavily on Stiles’ shoulder.
"Newton!" Stiles exclaims, stumbling a little at the weight of his owl.
Derek holds out an arm to steady the younger boy. "How'd you expect to get into the Quidditch team with that sort of balance?"
Stiles looks up at Derek, amazed. "Who told you I'm trying for the team? Laura?"
Stiles grins. "Yeah, I'd promised Scott I'd do it. Don’t think I'm gonna get in though. It's just to keep Scott company."
"You're in Ravenclaw. He's in Gryffindor," Derek points out ruthlessly. "How is that keeping him company?"
"You know, the whole shared experience thing," Stiles wiggles his fingers in a vague gesture. "Brothers-in-arms and what not."
"Never mind," Derek says dismissively; not many can follow Stiles' train of logic and come out unscathed. "What position are you trying for?"
"I have no idea. Whatever they'll let me, I guess. I don't care," Stiles shrugs. "Scott's trying out for Beater.”
"Not you," Derek shoots the idea down immediately, stomach churning at the idea of Stiles trying to fend off opponents and Bludgers.
"Try Chaser instead," Derek suggests. "You look more like a Chaser."
"You think so?" Stiles asks, looking uncertain.
"All right," Stiles agrees easily. "Let's see how that goes. It'd be nice to tell my dad I got into the team anyway. He used to play baseball for his university."
"It’s a Muggle sport. More an American thing, though. Mum preferred football, even though she was a witch. But then she'd argue about what was actually football with Dad," Stiles reminisces, sounding wistful. "He'd call it soccer instead."
"I have no idea what you’re talking about." Derek exhales, impatient.
"Don't you take Muggle studies?" Stiles narrows his eyes at Derek, clearly judging him.
"No," Derek huffs, irritated and Gwen hoots in agreement. "No time for that. I’m doing Potions, DADA, Transfiguration, Charms and Herbology."
"Oh," Stiles purses his lips in thought as he considers the subject combination. "You want to be an Auror?"
Derek shrugs self-consciously. Only Laura knew his ambition about getting an ordinary job; his uncle was still under the impression he’d join the Hale family business after graduation. "Yeah."
"Wouldn't that be difficult for you?" Stiles asks bluntly. Werewolves still found it hard to get employment in the wizarding world, especially when the majority only learnt full control in their second decade of life. Things were improving, especially with the new anti-discrimination laws the new Minister of Magic was trying to introduce, but old prejudices lingered still.
"I'll handle that when I actually apply," Derek replies vaguely, unwilling to explain to Stiles how a myriad of possibilities had opened for him now that he was no longer restricted by the cycle of the moon. "Besides, Laura took Muggle studies, she can help me figure things out," he distracts Stiles quickly.
"So can I," Stiles reminds him.
Derek snorts, feeling something like happiness bubbling up in him. "Yeah, I guess you can too."
I sort of scraped into the Quidditch team! Reserve Chaser now. It was Derek's idea I try out for Chaser, he thought I won't be much good as a Beater. Turns out he's right. Dad's real happy for me but I kind of feel like a fraud. It's not like I'm going to be doing much in second year.
Congratulations! Don't worry, you'll probably get to play next year when the seventh years graduate. I was a Chaser too, and I only started in third year myself. But Derek's been playing since his second year. Remind me to give you a treat when school ends for the hols.
"That looks painful," Stiles remarks as he sits himself across Derek, at the top of the Astronomy Tower.
It's his spot now, which Stiles graciously allows Derek to share. Sometimes. And this was one of the days he would not kick up a fuss - Derek was already tired out by this morning's Quidditch match between Hufflepuff and Slytherin. Slytherin had beaten them two hundred and thirty points to one hundred, which made the pain worth it.
Derek wiggles his ankle, testing it. "It'll be all right by tomorrow," brushing off Stiles' concern easily.
"Oh yeah. How could I forget. Quick healing. So unfair."
"Well, we deserve some advantages," Derek smirks.
"What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be off celebrating with the team?"
"Didn't feel like it. We already had lunch together at Hogsmeade anyway. Besides," Derek flicks a glance at the fading sun, darkness creeping in already, "It's the full moon tonight."
"Oh," Stiles looks at Derek, trying to figure out what to say next without offending him. "Don't you need to head out to the infirmary or something?" he says, remembering his encounter with Derek last year.
Derek freezes - he could feel the pull of the moon already but it was no longer an uncontrollable urge like it used to be; now it was more irritating than all-encompassing, something he could ignore if he tried. And with Stiles' next to him, even that had faded even further, its presence receding right to the back of his mind.
He wonders if this is what it feels like to be fully human.
"I'll go later," he hedges.
"But you said adolescents were more sensitive. It's already getting dark," Stiles argues, pointing to the fast-setting sun. "Isn't it unsafe for you?"
"Well, I am one year older," Derek stalls, somewhat miffed at the idea of the younger boy being worried for his well-being. "I'd like to think I have a bit more control now!"
"But still," Stiles persists with his notorious doggedness.
"Stiles, I'm fine."
"Really?" Stiles asks, dubious. "It looked really painful for you the last time."
Derek sighs. "I'll go later."
"Well, I'd feel better if you went to Dr Deaton now," Stiles argues, firm. "It was kind of creepy seeing you so sick."
"I'll be fine."
"All right, all right," Derek gives in to Stiles' nagging. He really had no need for the wolfsbane potion anymore but Dr Deaton brewed it for the other werewolves in the school, and Derek made sure to appear along with them when it was time to take the potion, if only for the sake of verisimilitude.
They squabble on their way to the Great Hall, not noticing Kate Argent standing at the side of one of the corridors. She takes a look at Derek, still in human form, and gazes up at the night sky, where the new moon can now be seen peeking out behind the clouds, before she turns her attention back to the two boys, frowning.
"I thought wolves couldn't control their change during adolescence?" Kate asks her brother from where she can see his face in the fireplace. It was past midnight and she was in t(e Prefects’ Room alone, having ensured that the other prefects had gone.
"But I could have sworn I saw Derek Hale..." Kate muses to herself, trying to reconcile the images she had seen over the past few months.
"What did you see?" Chris asks, curious.
"What's with Derek Hale?"
"Nothing," Kate comments, "But the other month, I saw him unchanged, even after dusk."
"Is that so?"
"I thought it was just his control getting better."
"Hard for him at this age. He’s a potential Alpha."
"That’s what I thought. But just last week at the Astronomy Tower, I saw him again and it was close to midnight. And he definitely wasn’t shifted."
"Could it have been anybody else?" Chris asks, concerned.
"I know what I saw, Chris," Kate said firmly.
"Huh. That's definitely something to consider. Unless he's..."
"That's ridiculous," Chris disagrees with himself after a moment. "Well, I was going to say unless he’s spontaneously bonded."
"Isn't that rare?"
"It is," Chris concurs. "Are there any other wolves enrolled in Hogwarts at the moment?”
Kate makes a face. "There's the Chapman girl in my year; an O'Connell in the third year; the Whittemore kid, but he doesn’t count of course.” She shrugs. "There are a few. But it’s not as if they're close friends. Nothing to suggest Derek's bonded with any of them."
"Well, it sounds like something you should keep an eye on," Chris advises. "We might need to raise it up at the negotiations if he does anything out of line."
"Will do," Kate promises fervently, eager for any ammunition that would grant the Hunters an advantage over the wolves.
"Wait," Chris Argent says sharply. "What were you doing at the Astronomy Tower late at night?"
Kate rolls her eyes. "Would you like to know, Chris?" she asks sweetly, eyes glittering.
"No thanks," Chris declines hastily, knowing full well the kind of mischief his sister was capable of. "But keep me updated on that Hale boy."
"Great," Mr Stilinski rubs his hands in satisfaction. "We’ve covered quite a bit of ground today, congratulations. Let’s move on to the next article, shall we?" He peers at the document through his spectacles. "Let’s see. Article 27. Bonding and marriage. The werewolves are requesting - again - that the Hunters remove the reservation placed against--"
"No," Mr Argent says before Mr Stilinski even has the opportunity to complete his sentence. "The reservation remains."
There is a sustained murmur of discontent from the opposite end of the room.
Mr Stilinski raises his eyebrows. "But I wasn't even done yet, Mr Argent. Could you please allow me to finish at least? As I was saying, the werewolves are requesting that the Hunters remove the reservation placed against article 27-A."
"Yes, yes, we know exactly what you're referring to. 27-A refers to spontaneous bonds between a wolf and human.”
"It's an abomination," Kate argues vehemently, fire flashing in her hazel eyes. "Some of them bond during childhood, even," she says, literally radiating disapproval.
"And that," Mr Whittemore glares at the young Hunter, "Is what makes them special."
"You mean unnatural. I can’t imagine my child shackled to a partner so young," Brandon Silbern, another head of a Hunter clan echoes.
"Spontaneous bonds have a revered place in our society," Siobhan O'Connell, Alpha of the O’Connell family, emphasises the werewolves' position on the matter. "We don’t understand why the Hunters perennially raise this objection."
"We are concerned because some werewolves," Victoria begins dramatically, "Bond with humans. That is why we find spontaneous bonding problematic."
"They're only problematic because every time a spontaneous bond with a human occurs, the Hunters insist on poking their noses into our business!" Mr Whittemore shoots back.
Over on the werewolf side of the room, there were poorly disguised whispers. Mr Stilinski can plainly hear the soft cries of discontent. "Tristan and Iseult. Layla and Majnun."
"Though I don't see for the life of me why some werewolves bond with humans, spontaneous or otherwise." Peter Hale interjects. "They make for such weak mates."
"Shut up, Hale," Mr Whittemore snaps at the older Alpha. "We could do without that sort of thinking right now."
"All right, all right," Mr Stilinski steps in quickly before the situation descended into chaos. "Everybody calm down. Mr Hale, your views on human and werewolf relationships are noted, but will not be recorded," he pauses but raises a finger to silence the meeting. "And Mrs Argent, Mr Silbern, I understand that spontaneous bonds are precisely that – spontaneous. Nobody's been able to explain why they happen or how. Not even the werewolves. It doesn't seem to be anything they can predict. Are you still saying you want to keep the reservation?"
"Yes," comes the unanimous decision from the Hunters, meeting with dead silence from the werewolves.
Mr Stilinski rubs his jaw, knowing an impasse when he sees one. "Tell you what. Let's adjourn for the day. Let's cool our heads, go back and think about it further. We'll meet again next month to continue debating this Article."
"Where's the new location?" Mr Whittemore asks, because as per tradition, Accords negotiations were never conducted in one fixed place - a holdover from the days when they were held in secret to prevent opposing parties from either side scuppering the delicate discussions. Now, with all the Hunter and werewolf families signed to the Accords, the venues were made public, so that any adult member of the families could register to attend.
"Hogwarts. The Headmistress has agreed to permit us to use the Great Hall." Both parties nod in approval; many families present had children attending Hogwarts. Holding the next round of negotiations at the school would provide the parents among them the opportunity to see their children before the holidays.
“Right. That settles it. Till the next meeting. We'll resume our debate on Article then," Mr Stilinski brings the session to a close with an internal sigh of relief.
Kate carefully picks through her pie, watching Derek through the corner of her eyes where he’s seated three persons away from her across on the opposite side of the breakfast table. The Prefects tended to sit together regardless which of year, which made monitoring Derek’s movements easier for her. Just then, an owl she’s come to recognise as Laura Hale's flies down to settle in front of Derek, dropping a large package near his soup.
Derek pauses in his eating to open the package and read the note inside it. Kate hears an annoyed exclamation from Derek - "Laura!" - before he crumples the note and tucks it into the pocket as he wraps the package up again.
Kate continues her breakfast, smiling at her fellow prefects even as she continues to keep one eye on Derek’s movements. After his meal, she joins the mass of students heading from the Great Hall to their classes, but she notices how Derek breaks away from the other prefects in his year to wade through the Gryffindor crowd.
She watches in bemusement as Derek opens his package, dragging what looks to be a packet of candy to give to Stiles Stilinski. Kate makes a face as she is reminded of Mr Stilinski. The negotiator was hardly on her list of favourite people at the moment. Meanwhile, Stiles seems to be in raptures of delight as he tears the bag open in happiness. He offers what appears to be a fruit sherbet to Derek, chattering at full speed with his mouth stuffed with the newly-acquired treats.
"Ladies and gentlemen," Mr Stilinski shuffles the documents in front of him and reads the relevant section again. "Are we settled? Good. Let’s begin."
"Excuse me, Mr Stilinski," Chris raises a hand and speaks up, "Before we begin this next round, the Hunters would like to make one request."
"As per the protocol, all parties must declare any potential conflicts of interest."
"We've gone through that already, Mr Argent," Mr Stilinski reminds him. "Might I remind you, we’re in the middle of the negotiations now."
"But the Hunters understand that there have been new developments."
Mr Stilinski furrows his brow. "Really?"
There’s a derisive snort from Theodore Chapman, current Alpha of the Chapman family. "The Hunters are just engaging in brinksmanship. Pay them no attention, Mr Stilinski."
"As it is, we're not," Chris parries smoothly, a stern look on his face. "We’ve been given to understand that there is a bonded werewolf in Hogwarts."
There is a murmur of surprise from the opposite side of the room.
"Now?" Mr Stilinski asks Chris. "As in currently?"
"Are you sure about this, Argent?" Mr Chapman rumbles. "We'd know if any of our children have bonded. You can't hide these things. Besides," he looked around to the rest of the wolves present, "It'd be a happy occasion for us."
"And certainly none of the business of the Hunters." Peter points out quickly.
Chris smiles the smile of one who knows he's holding all the cards. "Not if the werewolf in question is bonded to a human."
This time, there is no mistaking the uproar that arises amongst the werewolf families.
Mr Stilinski pounds on the table, "Silence. Silence!" He raises his voice just slightly, demanding their acquiescence. “Mr Argent, that’s a significant update. Are you sure about this?”
"Oh, we are, Mr Stilinski."
"Argent," Peter growls, barely suppressing the menace in his voice, "What are you playing at?”
"Funny you should say that, Hale, considering that it's your nephew we’re talking about," Chris replies, smirking at his erstwhile adversary.
"What?" Peter hisses in fury, "Do you mean by that?"
"Oh, you mean you didn't know?" Kate asks Peter, feigning surprise. "Where is he now, then?"
"My nephew is at the infirmary, where he should be on nights like this," Peter denies the charge strongly. Accord negotiations were held only on the nights of the full moon as a condition set by the original Hunter families. This was when wolves were at the weakest, with the pull of the moon so strong. It also ensured that only the strongest werewolves could attend, as control was considered a sign of strength.
"Then why have I been seeing Derek wandering around the castle unchanged on the nights of the full moon?”
"You lie, you insolent wretch."
"Watch what you say to my sister!"
Mr Stilinski assesses the situation, which is threatening to spiral out of control and swiftly makes a command decision.
"I apologise for this, but the negotiations are suspended," he announces to the assembled crowd. "We cannot proceed any further until this situation with the Hale family is clarified. The Ministry will inform all families as to when we will resume the negotiations. You are all free to leave," he instructs all the Hunters and werewolves present. He gestures to the doors of the Great Hall, unsubtly ushering them out. A few grumbles are heard, but both Hunter and werewolf families begin filing out, many of them casting curious glances at the Hales, speculation already building.
"You too, Mr Argent," Mr Stilinski asserts his authority when he notices the Argent family delaying their departure. "This is strictly a matter for the werewolves now."
"Very well, Mr Stilinski," Chris agrees amiably, satisfied to have proven his point. "But do keep us updated."
The Hall is soon emptied of its occupants, with only a few notable persons left behind.
"I'm staying," Mr Whittemore offers.
"As will I," Siobhan steps forward. A few other Alphas also remain along with their consorts, forming a small crowd around Peter and Mr Stilinski.
"Do any of you know anything about this?" Peter asks, not wasting any time before he launches a verbal attack.
"Hale, we'd know if your nephew bonded to any of our children studying in Hogwarts now, trust me," Mr Whittemore assures Peter. "And we'd have told you. Have you asked his sister? Derek’s pretty close to Laura, isn’t he? Where is she anyway?"
"She’s been delayed," Myles Hale, one of the Hale Betas, explains. "But she'll be here later."
"You can be sure that I will be asking Laura some questions when she does appear."
"Why don't you just ask Derek himself?" Mr Stilinski suggests. "After all, if the Argents' claim turns out to be unsubstantiated, the werewolves will have ample grounds to file a complaint against the Hunters. We can send a messenger to fetch him."
"There’s no need for that," Peter promises grimly before tossing his head back for a howl. It is a low, primitive sound, one that hearkens back to the ancient days when werewolves circled the fringe of society, unwelcome, unwanted and survival depended on the ability of the Alpha to gather his pack as quickly as possible so that they could escape.
It chills Mr Stilinski to the bone, raising the hairs on the back of his neck and curdles the blood in his veins; making him grateful that he is immune to the absolute, unyielding note of command infused in the summons.
It makes him glad that he is human.
The werewolves gathered wait in tense silence for a few minutes, not one person speaking until they hear the doors of the Great Hall open and Derek pads quietly into the Hall accompanied by Dr Deaton.
"I believe you called for Derek, Mr Hale?" the physician asks the Alpha, tone mild as always, one hand placed protectively on Derek’s ruff. He raises his brow at the sight of the empty hall. "Oh dear. What happened?"
"We had to suspend the negotiations," Mr Stilinski begins to explain, but is interrupted by Peter.
"Drop the pretense, Derek," Peter orders his nephew, ignoring Dr Deaton. "The Argents claimed you've bonded. Is this true?"
Derek shakes his head and whines, flattening his ears.
"Do not lie to me!" Peter roars. The scream has no effect on the adult werewolves, but Mr Stilinski is dismayed to see Derek drop to the floor by the force of his uncle's words, legs folding under him. He feels a wave of sympathy for Derek, hating the public show of obeisance the younger man is forced to display.
"For heavens' sake, Hale, calm down," Siobhan reprimands him, shocked at Peter's anger. "He’s just a boy."
"Stay out of our business," Peter snarls but Siobhan pays him no heed.
"Derek, is this true?" she asks, keeping her tone gentle. Derek slinks back on his haunches, but does not respond.
"If he's bonded," Mr Whittemore thinks out loud, "He should be able to change back, shouldn't he?"
Peter walks over to where Derek is huddled on the floor. "Change," he commands, voice icy as the frozen tundra. "Don't make me repeat myself, Derek, or you will suffer the consequences."
Derek looks up at Dr Deaton, who only shakes his head in surrender. He whines low in his throat and stands on all fours, before slowly shifting back to human form. There is a collective gasp from the Alphas, and Mr Stilinski can hear Mrs Chapman exclaiming softly, "Oh my goodness. It’s true after all."
"Who's the lucky girl, Derek?" Mrs Whittemore asks in an encouraging tone. "What a silly boy you are, hiding this from us all along."
"Actually," Derek averts his gaze. "I --"
"Derek?" Siobhan prompts him.
Derek sighs. "He doesn’t come from a werewolf family."
"Oh dear," Mrs Whittemore says sympathetically, as she takes a quick and worried look at Peter.
"I see," Peter says calmly, but Derek can detect the poorly disguised fury in his voice. "Give me the name of the boy."
"What are you going to do if I tell you?" Derek looks up to his uncle, trepidation building up within him.
"That is not for you to know."
"In which case, no thank you, Uncle," Derek flicks a glance at Mr Stilinski.
"This is not open to negotiation." Peter says again, each word like the lash of a whip to Derek as he uses his powers to demand submission. "Tell me his name."
"No," Derek thinks of Stiles and finds within himself the strength to defy his uncle. "Not unless you give me your word that you won’t do anything to him."
Peter casually backhands Derek, making him stumble to the floor. "You are in no position to be making demands of me."
"Fine," Derek scoffs, putting on a veneer of adolescent bravado. "Whatever it is, I'm not telling you.”
"Very well then," Peter remarks coolly, "Don't forget that I have other ways of ensuring your obedience." He jerks his chin at two of his Betas. "Seize him."
Mr Stilinski watches, horrified as Myles and Randall Hale grab Derek by the collar of his uniform and pin his arms behind his back. "Isn't anybody going to do anything?" he asks the Alphas present.
"We cannot interfere," Mr Whittemore concedes regretfully. "You know our laws. And Derek hasn't been harmed.”
"Yet!" Mr Stilinski protests. "Mr Hale, I object to this treatment of your nephew."
Mr Chapman reaches out with one arm to clamp Mr Stilinski by the shoulder. "Mr Stilinski. You must stay out of this."
"But he's --"
"Derek knows the price of disobeying his Alpha."
"He wouldn't have to disobey if Mr Hale was being reasonable."
"Unfortunately, you know how Peter Hale feels about humans."
"Derek's bonded to this boy, whoever he is. Surely Mr Hale can reconcile himself to the fact sooner or later."
"He might not be able to harm Derek's mate," Mr Chapman points out grimly. "But there's very little from stopping Peter from making life difficult for Derek. Peter is the family Alpha after all."
"Then why won’t he just tell his uncle what he wants to know? It's just a name, isn't it?"
"I have no idea," Mr Chapman turns to look at Mr Stilinski. "But there must be something about the boy that makes Derek feel it necessary to hide his identity from us."
"So what can we do now?"
"We wait. And hope that Peter is not too harsh with Derek."
Laura takes the stairs two at a time, cursing the perennially congested London motorways that had made her late for her train.
"Laura Hale!" she hears a voice calling her, urgent and panicked. "Laura Hale!"
"Thaddeus?" she queries, looking up at the portrait. "Good to see you again. It's been a while, hasn't it?" she greets him with a small smile.
"We can talk later. For now, you must hurry," Thaddeus points in the direction of the Great Hall. "Your brother needs you."
"What happened?" Laura feels fear settling like a lead weight in her stomach.
"Peter Hale has found out about your brother," Catherine explains, wringing her hands. "And he has summoned Derek."
"Dammit!" Laura swears. "Who told him?"
"The Argents brought it up before the start of the meeting."
"But how would Chris Argent --" Laura speculates as to the source of the information. “No, wait. Kate Argent. It's got to be her. That bitch!"
"Hush, now is not the time," Catherine reprimands Laura. "Your brother needs you. Your uncle is reacting very poorly to the news."
"Go!" Thaddeus urges her.
Laura shifts to her wolf form and lopes into a run.
"Tell me his name," Peter pops out his claws and digs into Derek's shoulder, careful to keep it shallow enough so as not to draw blood. Derek gasps in pain.
“It’s just a name, Derek,” Peter croons into his nephew’s ear. Derek shuts his eyes and turns away from his uncle’s voice. "Give me his name."
"Why do you insist on making things difficult for yourself?" Peter turns when he hears the doors of the Great Hall open again, only to see Laura barrelling through, changing quickly to human form.
"What is the meaning of this?" Laura demands of the Betas. "Release him."
"Ignore her. Keep that whelp there," Peter countermands Laura’s order. "Remember, I'm the Alpha.”
"Ms Laura --" Myles wavers, his eyes flicking back and forth between Laura and Peter, torn between which person to obey.
"Release him!" Laura repeats, voice rising in rage. "My brother is not an animal to be restrained."
"Don't you dare question my orders."
"I'd follow them if they made any sense." Laura sneers, her eyes briefly flashing from blue to red. "What did Derek do?"
"Your brother," Peter spits out venomously, "Has bonded to a human. Did you know of this?"
Laura darts a look at Derek, who only shakes his head at her. Realising that their secret was out in the open, she squares her shoulders and faces her uncle head-on. "And so what if I did?"
"You knew and you didn't think to tell me?"
"Why should I? It's none of your business."
"It's my business when your brother’s decided to sully his heritage in such a fashion."
"Oh please," Laura dismisses Peter’s words. "All that nonsense about making sure the family line stays pure. Move with the times, Uncle. Mother and Father never had a problem with humans the way you did. I'll bet they’d have been happy for Derek," she sniffs, invoking the memory of her late parents.
"I am the Alpha now, not your father. The both of you are part of my pack and you will obey me."
Laura draws a deep breath, ready to argue her point further when they hear the doors creaking open again.
"Why are we having visitors now?" Mr Whittemore grouses, preparing to throw the interloper out but stops when he sees who it is.
"Stiles?" Mr Stilinski enquires, incredulous.
"Dad? What’s going on?" Derek stiffens in worry at the sight of Stiles. "Where's everybody? Aren’t you supposed to be having the meeting now?"
"Stiles," Mr Stilinski asks again, inviting his son to come closer. "What are you doing here?"
"Well, I sort of heard something calling me to come here?"
Mr Stilinski looks at Stiles carefully. "Son, nobody called you."
"Really?" Stiles stares at his father, confused. "Well, that's funny. I could have sworn I heard somebody asking me to come."
"What did you hear, Master Stilinski?" Siobhan asks.
Mr Stilinski notices how all the other Alphas have fallen quiet, listening to what Stiles had to say. Stiles draws back a little, bemused at the attention he was receiving. "Well, I have to admit, it’s not like I actually heard anything."
"You didn’t?" Mr Whittemore asks.
"No..." Stiles squints, looking up at the ceiling. "It was more of a feeling, actually. Something telling me I had to come. Wow, that is strange." Stiles looks around him, his gaze settling on Derek. "Wait. Why are you holding him like that?" Stiles glares at the two Betas. "What did he do?"
"None of your bloody business," Derek grits through his teeth. "Just go."
"How friendly!" Stiles exclaims, miffed. "And here I am because I thought you needed me."
"Why would Derek need you here?" Mr Stilinski asks, astonished. "Stiles, you're not making any sense."
"Stiles, you idiot, just leave," Derek yells. "Dammit, just go."
"Stiles," Laura manages to get a word in, "Listen to Derek, please."
"Why should I? And why is everybody looking at me strangely?" Stiles steps closer to his father, feeling uneasy at the considering looks all the Alphas were giving him. "Dad?"
"It's you," Peter inhales deeply, finally joining the dots together. "Stilinski's brat?" he rounds on Derek, radiating fury from every pore of his body. "Of all people to choose, it was Stilinski's?"
"Wait, what? What are you saying?" Mr Stilinski stares at Derek, jaw agape. "My son? You’ve been trying to protect my son?"
"Mr Stilinski," Dr Deaton pulls Mr Stilinski and Stiles away. "I'd advise you to take Stiles--"
He doesn’t have the chance to finish his sentence when Peter shifts, knocking Mr Stilinski out of the way and pushes Stiles to the floor all in one swift movement. There is a shriek of pain when Peter extends his claws and presses his paw into Stiles’ right shoulder, followed by the sickening sound of his head hitting the floor and bones breaking. Derek moans in sympathetic pain at the sight of the younger boy injured.
"No! Stiles!" Derek screams, thrashing in the grip of his uncle’s Betas, struggling to reach Stiles. "Let me go!"
Peter growls and turns to face the stupefied audience; his bloodlust palpable to all present. He drags Stiles with him like a shield, digging his claws even deeper into the boy’s flesh. Mr Stilinski watches in horror as Stiles' blood tracks across the floor, hands itching for a sidearm that he does not possess any more, cursing his inability to do anything to save his own son from the crazed beast Peter Hale had become.
Mr Whittemore and Mr Chapman both shift, bodies tense in preparation for an attack. The two Alphas circle Peter cautiously, who only clutches Stiles closer. Stiles lolls like a ragdoll in Peter’s grasp, his blood staining Peter’s paws red. Siobhan and Dr Deaton tug Mr Stilinski from where he is trying to reach his son.
"Don’t let Peter Hale get you too, Mr Stilinski," Siobhan coaxes him even as he struggles against their grasp. "Let us handle him."
"Stiles," Derek cries out again, voice broken in agony. "Laura," he begs his sister.
Peter turns to Laura then, and he bares his teeth at her aggressively, daring her to approach. She glares back at him in defiance and shifts, leaping agilely over Mr Whittemore and Mr Chapman to close in on Peter. He pushes her away with ease but her attack serves its purpose; Peter is distracted for long enough to have to release Stiles. Mr Whittemore quickly darts behind him and drags Stiles to safety where Dr Deaton and Mr Stilinski run to Stiles’ aid.
"I'll get help,” Mrs Chapman offers. "What do you need, Dr Deaton?"
"Bring my assistants here, please," the physician requests, already initiating early treatment on Stiles, hands moving slowly and carefully as he tends to his wounds. "And ask the Headmistress to contact St Mungo’s. Their physicians need to come here, he's too injured to be moved."
"I'll go now," Mrs Chapman promises. She casts one last worried look at Laura and Peter before leaving.
"You sick bastard," Laura says through her teeth, changing back to human form and Peter follows suit. "He's just a child."
"He's human," Peter says the word like it’s a curse.
"Nothing wrong with being human."
"Never in our family."
"When I am Alpha, I will change that," Laura swears.
"You forget, I am the Alpha."
"Not if I have my way."
"Is this a Challenge?" Peter snarls.
"Do you want it to be?"
"As if you dare. You are still a child," Peter sneers.
"I am of age. There are four Betas from our family present," Laura ignores his insult. “And more than three other Alphas from allied families. The quorum is met."
"You know the old laws," Peter acknowledges grudgingly.
"Just following your advice, Uncle. I studied our history."
Mr Stilinski watches the developments, rapt despite his growing worry over Stiles. A Challenge was issued when a younger Alpha wished to overthrow the leadership of a reigning Alpha. In the past, Challenges were common, when brute strength determined the leadership and success of a pack. With time, they had fallen out of fashion, with packs planning their succession in a more ordered manner.
"You would leave your brother alone in the world?" Peter taunts Laura.
"Laura, no," Derek screams at his sister from where he's still pinned down by his uncle’s Betas, struggling wildly underneath their restraints. "Don't!"
Mr Whittemore stares back and forth between the two warring werewolves, comprehension dawning upon him as he realises Peter's intent. "Come now, Hale, surely there is no need to go to that extreme. A simple duel will suffice."
"Don't worry, Mr Whittemore," Laura scoffs, putting on a brave front though Mr Whittemore can see the slight tremble of her lip. "I'm up for it, if the old man is."
"To the death?"
Laura bares her teeth at her uncle. "To the death, then," she agrees before shifting again.
Mr Stilinski watches, horrified and spellbound as the two wolves charge at each other.
"Stay," Siobhan O’Connell sidles up to Mr Stilinski and whispers into his year. "Stay and watch."
"But my son," Mr Stilinski looks at where Dr Deaton is gathering Stiles onto a stretcher, his wounds still bleeding freely, blood now soaking the front of the physician's robes.
"Is in the good hands of Dr Deaton," Siobhan says calmly. "You cannot do anything to help. But it is your duty to witness this duel to the end," she turns to pin Mr Stilinski with a steely stare, green eyes flashing with emotion. "There has not been a Challenge in any of our families for decades."
"Besides,” Siobhan continues, crossing her arms, lips pulled back in a bloodthirsty grin when Laura rakes her claws across Peter's flank, drawing a spray of blood. "She is doing this not only for her brother," she advises Mr Stilinski, though her eyes are still fixed on the sight of the two wolves grappling with each other. "She is doing this for your son too."
"Will she win?" Mr Stilinski asks, feeling his throat constrict in fear. Laura looked big enough in her wolf form, though he was no expert on such matters, but Peter was bigger still, and had the advantage of greater mass and experience.
"It is hard to tell. Peter is right. She is too young for a Challenge," Siobhan muses. "But she has cause to fight. That may be enough." She gives Mr Stilinski an arch look. "You should be honoured that she would risk her life this way."
Laura pants, trying to catch her breath, grimacing at the taste of blood in her mouth as she looks down on her uncle.
"Clever," he wheezes, and she can hear the blood pooling in his lungs, drowning him by the second. The end was nigh for Peter Hale. "You had always been the smarter one. I knew I had to watch out for you."
"It didn't have to come to this," she says regretfully, taking another deep breath, wincing as she holds up her right arm with her left, feeling the broken bones there. "If you had just said 'yes', we would have obeyed."
"A human," Peter reiterates, feeling his power fade, flowing from him to Laura. "Never in my family," he says again.
"They're not your family anymore," she reminds him, smiling grimly in triumph when she sees Peter's eyes close and his breathing cease.
"I claim leadership of the Hale family through blood contest," she declares for the audience, her words ringing across the Great Hall, wiping her bloody mouth with the back of her hand, eyes flashing red.
All the Hales present drop to their knees immediately upon hearing Laura's words, acknowledging their new Alpha. Afterward, Derek rushes to his sister's side, hugging her tightly.
"Thank you," he whispers into her ear.
"It's over," she promises him, closing her eyes against the prick of tears she can feel forming.
"The Whittemores welcome Laura Hale," Mr Whittemore intones solemnly after Derek and Laura break apart, Derek supporting his sister by the waist.
"The Chapmans welcome Laura Hale."
Laura acknowledges her fellow Alphas silently with a nod as Mr Stilinski watches and keeps his silence, recognising the ceremony for what it is.
"The O'Connells welcome Laura Hale," Siobhan says, last. She moves to kiss Laura on the cheek, heedless of Laura’s current physical condition. "Congratulations, sister. That was well done."
"Thank you," Laura whispers, swaying a little on her feet from exhaustion.
"I'll inform the rest of the families," Mr Whittemore tells Laura. "And with your permission, two of your Betas can come with me and we can handle Peter for you. I'm sure Derek will want to be with young Stilinski."
"That would be good," Laura agrees, giving him a look of pure gratitude. "Go with him," she orders Myles and Randall. "Keep me updated on the arrangements." She notes with satisfaction how they move to obey her without question, already accepting of the change in leadership in the family. "Harold and Agnes, with me, please."
"You need medical treatment too," Siobhan reminds her. "Come, let's go. You too, Mr Stilinski."
The four of them walk slowly towards the infirmary, leaving the body of Peter Hale behind.
"Where is my son?" Mr Stilinski demands the second the small ragtag party reaches the infirmary. Mr Deaton’s already prepared for their arrival; three of his assistants coming forward to take Laura away, the rest of the werewolves trailing behind her.
"The physicians from St Mungo’s are with him now," Dr Deaton explains. "His shoulder needs delicate spellwork that's beyond what I can provide."
"How long will they take?"
"I can't be sure. As you know, wounds caused by werewolves are harder to heal, even with magic. Meanwhile, Mr Stilinski," Dr Deaton ushers Mr Stilinski into his office, "Why don't you wait here instead?"
Mr Stilinski follows the physician without question, where he collapses ungracefully into a chair. "I can’t believe it’s come to this," he says, cupping his face in his palms. "Stiles," he sighs, clearly worried for his son.
"I’m sorry about Stiles," Dr Deaton commiserates with Mr Stilinski. "We're all aware of Peter Hale’s prejudices, but I never thought he’d take it out on a child."
"Tell me about it," Mr Stilinski says fervently. "Did the physician say anything about his injuries?"
"Fractures of the ribs and shoulder joint, at least. And he took that bad knock to the head. He's lost a fair bit of blood, obviously."
"Damn," Mr Stilinski swears, running a hand through his hair. "Do they have a preliminary assessment yet?"
"He's stable," Dr Deaton assures him, "We managed to get to him early enough. It's serious but not life-threatening. And lastly--"
Dr Deaton gives Mr Stilinski a sad smile. "At least Stiles wasn't bitten."
Mr Stilinski lets out a short, sharp bark of a laugh. "There is that. How ironic." He frowns, eyes narrowing as he recalls the conversation between Peter and Derek. "Is it true though? About my son and Derek Hale? The bond?"
Dr Deaton heaves a deep sigh. "Yes. Derek told me."
To his credit, Mr Stilinski does not lose his temper, though Dr Deaton can see him visibly try to restrain himself. "And when did he realise this had happened?"
Dr Deaton grimaces. "Since last year, at least. Around the time of Stiles' illness. That's when he felt it, according to him."
"Last year?" Mr Stilinski raises his voice. "And no one thought to inform me of such a development?"
"He was of the opinion that there was no need to inform anybody yet. And I agreed. Besides, the bond wasn't sealed yet. Stiles is underaged, and as you are aware, in the case when the partner is human, there is no guarantee the bond will take."
"But it has taken, hasn’t it?" Mr Stilinski asks. "That thing Stiles said, about feeling he needed to be where Derek was."
Mr Stilinski sucks in a deep breath, clearly about to give the absent Derek Hale a piece of his mind before Dr Deaton quickly interjects to forestall his protests.
"Mr Stilinski do try to understand, there was no deception intended on Derek's behalf. It's an awkward topic, to say the least. Derek had hoped to be able to take his time, at least till Stiles was a little older before he raised the issue to him. Though clearly that's no longer an option now."
Mr Stilinski falls silent, ruminating over the recent events.
"Mr Stilinski?" Dr Deaton enquires after him, concerned.
"No, I'm all right," Mr Stilinski assures him. He laughs a little, trying to defuse the tense situation. "It's just that it's a lot to take, finding out that your son's managed to accidentally get married in his second year of school. I wonder what my wife would have to say to me if she were still alive."
"Would you like some Firewhiskey?" Dr Deaton offers, unable to say anything more helpful.
"Yes, please," Mr Stilinski murmurs, still staring outside the window at the full moon. "That sounds fantastic right about now."
"I'm sorry," Derek says, eyes downcast, carefully showing a submissive posture to his new Alpha, even if she was his own sister.
"It's all right," she assures him with a tired smile, patting him on his knee. "We both knew it was going to come to this."
"So, our plans got moved a few years early," Laura scoffs, making light of the developments. "Big deal. We'll survive. I'd have had to challenge Uncle Peter sooner or later anyway, once he found out about Stiles."
"You wouldn't have done it if it wasn't for me."
"Exactly. I did it because you're my brother. So, stop worrying."
"But you've been hurt," Derek points to Laura's bandaged ribs and arms.
Laura shifts around on the bed, trying to get comfortable. "What did you expect? You know Uncle Peter never plays fair. But don't worry, it's just a few scratches," she says, in a bid to downplay her injuries. "They'll heal soon enough. How's Stiles doing?"
Derek makes a pained noise. "The physicians are just done with him. He’s in the other room. His shoulder is ruined, I think."
"Surely it's not that bad?"
"He's lost a lot of blood, Dr Deaton said."
Laura reaches, and despite her injuries, pulls him close. Derek hugs his sister tight, taking in deep breaths, before he finally tells Laura the problem.
"His father won't let me come near him." His voice breaks with emotion.
"Well, our family's just caused him a whole lot of problems. Give him time. I’ll speak to Mr Stilinski as soon as I can," Laura promises Derek.
"What if Stiles hates me after this?" Derek whispers into his sister's neck.
Laura presses a kiss to his temple. "Always the pessimist, Derek. We'll cross that bridge later."
"You cannot mean to keep them apart!" Laura protests. Mr Stilinski feels a twinge of sympathy as he takes note of the bandages and abrasions on her face - she was nowhere close to healing yet evidently - but tamps it down.
"I can. Don’t make me cite the legislation to you, Ms Hale. You know both Muggle and wizard laws are on my side here."
"That," Laura says through her teeth, as she leans in belligerently into his face, "Is a cruelty and you know it. My brother needs to see Stiles."
"I also know that in the case a bond between a werewolf and a human, the bond isn't sealed until," Mr Stilinski coughs, turning red, "Well, until it's sealed sexually. And in the case where the partner is human, the human may choose not to acknowledge the bond in the first place."
"You also know that the bond has taken."
"But not sealed," Mr Stilinski reminds her, implacable, bringing the full force of his negotiating skills to bear. "Derek seems to have settled on Stiles but my son has not made a similar commitment to your brother."
"Mr Stilinski, please," Laura pleads. "I'm sure we can come to some sort of compromise. Stiles isn’t the only one who’s been hurt," she reminds him.
Mr Stilinski snorts in disdain, running low on patience after the night's trials. "Derek looks perfectly fine to me. I wish I could say the same for Stiles."
Laura closes her eyes and changes tack. "Derek may not have been hurt physically. But what my uncle did to him was traumatic too. He needs to know that Stiles is safe. Having physical contact will help."
"No!" Mr Stilinski looks appalled. "I don’t want Derek anywhere near Stiles. Not yet anyway."
"What about when he’s sleeping then?" Laura bargains. "He won't say anything to Stiles. He just needs to be with him."
"Stay with my son whilst he’s sleeping? That's an even worse suggestion, Ms Hale."
Laura makes a frustrated noise. "I meant in wolf form. If Stiles starts to wake, Derek will leave immediately. Will you allow that, at least?"
"Only in wolf form?" Mr Stilinski takes her words under consideration.
"And he won't try to talk to Stiles about what's happened? Not until I've a chance to talk to him myself, at least."
"Very well then." Mr Stilinski agrees reluctantly, "But don't push your luck."
"Fine," Laura agrees, equally unhappy at the strict conditions set. "It's better than nothing."
Stiles wakes up to a blinding pain in his shoulder. He turns his head, hissing as the movement jars his injured arm and the noise wakes his father up from where he is sleeping in a chair next to him, chin resting on his chest.
"Hey," his father says as he stretches, working out the kinks in his shoulders and back.
"Hey to you, too." Stiles' attempt at humour falls flat and he winces as he feels his injury throb.
"This is getting to be a habit, son," Mr Stilinski tells Stiles, his teasing words failing to disguise the open worry in his eyes.
"Where am I? St. Mungo's?" Stile feels his heart speed up at the thought of being in hospital again.
"It's all right," his father comforts him, sensing his panic and he runs his fingers over his brow in a soothing manner. Stiles relaxes back into the sheets, feeling the cool sensation of his father's wedding ring on his forehead. "You're still in Hogwarts. The infirmary."
"Don't you remember?" his father asks, and Stiles squints as he tries. An involuntary shudder runs through him as he recalls Peter Hale barrelling into him, and pinning him to the floor, fangs bared and claws extended.
"Peter Hale," he gasps. "He... Ow!"
"It's okay," Mr Stilinski shushes him, restraining him from disturbing the bandages. "Does it hurt?"
Stiles nods, feeling the pain pierce through his veil of sleepiness.
"Drink this," his father slowly helps him sit up and he feeds him a pain-reducing potion. Stiles drinks it as quickly as possible, making a face at the taste, then resumes his original train of thought.
"But Peter Hale--"
"Don't worry about him. It's been sorted out."
"We can talk about that later," his father says evasively.
Stiles nods agreeably, too tired to say anything more before one more thought strikes him.
"Dad," he mumbles.
"What's going to happen to the Accords?" he asks, vaguely remembering shouted words of anger and surprise before he was attacked.
"Don't worry about the Accords. They can wait."
"I'm sorry if I messed things up," Stiles apologises despite being unsure what exactly he was sorry for. He only had a firm, if unproven conviction, that something had gone badly and it had to do with him.
Mr Stilinski's hand pauses from where he had resumed stroking his son's hair. "You've got nothing to be sorry for, Stiles. Now rest."
Stiles nods agreeably as he slides again into sleep. Just before he loses consciousness again, he thinks he can hear his dad sigh loudly in annoyance - at who, he wonders - and he feels a warm, heavy weight settling at his feet.
"Is it so bad, Mr Stilinski?" Laura Hale asks him from where she's seated in the empty Prefects’ room. "For your son to be bonded to a werewolf?"
"You're mistaken, Ms Hale. I don’t care about Derek being a werewolf," Mr Stilinski enunciates clearly.
"Oh," Laura replies, clearly floored by his reply.
"But I do care that your brother seems to have married him without my permission!"
"Mr Stilinski, you know as well as I do how spontaneous bonds work. We didn't mean for this to happen."
"I would have appreciated the courtesy of being told at the very least."
"Oh please. How was Derek going to inform the either of you about the bond without making you angry or scaring Stiles off?"
Mr Stilinski scowls, conceding the point to Laura. "But Stiles is only thirteen."
"So was Juliet when she fell in love with Romeo," Laura points out and that gives Mr Stilinski pause as he takes a good look at her. Finally healed, Laura Hale is a handsome woman with a regal air despite her youth, long brown hair curled into a bun at the back of her head, sweeping expensive robes trailing the floor. Behind her, two of her Betas stood at attention, at her beck and call.
"You read Shakespeare?"
"Let's just say I took Muggle Studies very seriously," Laura grins briefly, allowing Mr Stilinski a small glimpse of the girl she had been.
"Fine. But stop right there. Firstly, wizard, human, or werewolf, we're in the twenty-first century now. Nobody gets married at thirteen."
"We’ve gone through this before, Mr Stilinski. I didn't take you for a slow person. The bond has taken."
"And you’re assuming of course, that my son’s feelings have not changed. I have no idea how he’s going to view your family now that he's been hurt."
Mr Stilinski watches as Laura twitches in her seat, knowing that he had hit a sore spot. "What will you tell him about Uncle Peter?"
"Nothing," Mr Stilinski replies.
"I beg your pardon?"
"The way I see it, your family should explain the mess to him, since you’re responsible for him being injured in the first place. In fact, I'll do you one better - I'll let Derek talk to Stiles about it."
"You would let Derek do that?"
"From what I can understand, your brother befriended my son with an ulterior motive in mind."
"He had to."
"There'll be no more of that from now on," Mr Stilinski states firmly. "I want Derek to tell Stiles everything."
"Everything. Including the bond," Mr Stilinski says with a sharp look. "It will be up to Stiles to decide if he wants continue this friendship with your brother," he manages to talk without stumbling over his words. "But, I give you my word that I won't interfere."
"And if Stiles says 'yes' to Derek?"
"So be it. I'll respect his decision."
"All right," Laura agrees, "Fair enough. Just tell me when Derek will be permitted to meet Stiles."
"Dr Deaton says he's improving. It will be soon. But Ms Hale," Mr Stilinski asks, "What if Stiles says 'no'?"
A look of alarm flashes fleetingly across Laura's face, though she recovers quickly enough. "Then we'll abide by Stiles' decision too. Though you'll forgive me Mr Stilinski if I say that I hope it won't come to that."
"Derek has more to lose, doesn't he?" Mr Stilinski persists in his questioning. "In any wolf-human bond, the risk is always higher for the werewolf. The bond is permanent for the werewolf, even if the human rejects him."
"Yes," Laura admits, "Wolf-to-wolf bonds are more stable. Those with humans, less so, at least until the bond is sealed."
"That's incredibly disadvantageous, I have to say."
"But the rewards are even greater, if the human agrees," Laura explains. "I see you've been you've been reading," she remarks, impressed. "That's a rather obscure branch of werewolf academic literature."
"You forget. I had to do research for the Accords."
Laura makes a face. "You know so much about us. Too much, I think."
"Seeing that I’m a Muggle, I'll take that as a compliment, Ms Hale."
"You never told me what happened, Dad," Stiles remarks, chasing his pudding with his spoon, frustration rising in him at his current impairment which was making even the most mundane tasks difficult.
"Here," Mr Stilinski takes pity on his son and scoops the offending piece up for him, feeding him the dessert. Stiles gladly accepts the assistance, relieved none of his schoolmates are around in his moment of helplessness.
"I see your friends have missed you," Mr Stilinski comments, as he glances at the get-well cards and fruit baskets piled around Stiles' bed. Stiles still wasn't permitted to have visitors, partly because he still wasn't fit to have any and partly in an attempt to control the flow of information reaching him. Most of the cards were from fellow Ravenclaws, but there was also a charmed puzzle from Professor Flitwick. Mr Stilinski also spotted at least four packages from werewolf families; the news of the change in leadership in the Hale family and the cause of Stiles’ current predicament clearly having spread through their society.
"What actually happened?" Stiles asks. "Dr Deaton or any of the professors won't tell me anything. And I swear, I think Derek Hale’s stalking me or something."
"What's Derek Hale been doing?" Mr Stilinski asks, tone sharp. His instructions to Derek to stay away from Stiles were still standing, and he was in no mood to hear that they had been breached.
"Nothing. Just sort of hovering in the infirmary, talking to Dr Deaton. I see him sometimes, but he's been avoiding me. Which is strange. It's not like he didn't talk to me before."
"Actually, I told him not to."
"What? Why? Is it about his Uncle? Dad, it's not his fault his uncle is bonkers," Stiles argues.
"He was more than just crazy, kiddo."
"Well, okay. But that still doesn't explain why you won't let Derek talk to me."
Mr Stilinski sighs. "Because I wanted to be the first one to tell you the news about Peter Hale."
"What about Peter Hale?" Stiles asks, a wary look entering his eyes. "Isn't he in Azkaban by now?"
"Peter Hale's dead, son."
Stiles' eyebrows climb high on his forehead. "Dead? But didn't he..." Stiles trails off, unconsciously grabbing hold of his injured shoulder, eyes darkening as he remembers the attack.
Mr Stilinski grips Stiles by the arm, trying to reassure his son that he was safe now. "You were unconscious by then."
Stiles leans back on his pillows, trying to come up with something but failing. "Looks like I missed a lot. What happened?"
"I think," Mr Stilinski gives in to the inevitable. "Derek will be the best person to explain the situation to you."
"My dad tells me your uncle's dead." Stiles says in way of greeting when Derek enters the private room in the infirmary that Dr Deaton had assigned him. Derek looks Stiles over carefully. His arm was still in a sling, but the colour was returning to his cheeks and he was regaining some of his usual good humour.
"I'm glad you're looking better," Derek greets Stiles, not addressing Stiles' comment. He sets down a small hamper filled with candy on top of the small chest of drawers next to Stiles' hospital bed. "These are from Laura."
"Oh wow," Stiles gushes, temporarily distracted by the new stash of sweets. "Thank you. But I can't have them yet. Not until I'm done with the potions."
"Wounds caused by werewolves can be deadly," Derek says, stating the obvious.
"You don’t need to tell me that," Stiles agrees, arm coming up to clutch his shoulder automatically. "Dr Deaton says I could have lost my arm."
"About that," Derek apologises, "I'm sorry my uncle attacked you."
"Yes. My father said you'd explain things to me. Why did he do that?"
Derek licks his lips and wipes his palms on his robes nervously, looking out the corridor where Laura and Mr Stilinski were trying (and failing) to be as unobtrusive as possible.
"What do you know of spontaneous bonds, Stiles?" Derek asks, evading Stiles' original line of questioning.
"You mean article 27-A," Stiles says automatically, ever his father's son. "The reservation."
"What about it? I don't see how that's relevant. And you still haven't answered my question." Stiles demands.
"Well," Derek shifts in his seat.
Stiles looks at Derek suspiciously when the older boy avoids looking at him, choosing to stare at a point on the wall instead. "Because article 27-A applies to us."
Derek spreads his hands wide and shrugs. "Like I said."
"You mean, you and me?" Stiles points at his chest and back at Derek, who nods in response.
"You've got to be joking." Stiles falls back on his pillows, stunned. "Because that means--"
"Werewolves don't joke about bonds," Derek says stiffly.
"But," Stiles sputters, unable to summon anything more coherent. "How do you know it happened? When did it happen?"
"Last year. When you fell sick."
"And you didn't think to tell me?"
"I wanted to," Derek confesses miserably. “But I didn't know how.”
"You could have tried," Stiles argues. "So, is this why your uncle attacked me?”
"Yes. Uncle didn't like that I had bonded with a human."
"So, you're saying he attacked me just because I was a human?"
Derek slides lower in his seat. "Yes."
Stiles works his jaw soundlessly. "That's just mental."
"Uncle Peter wasn’t known for being rational when it comes to humans."
"But now he's dead. How did he die then?"
"Laura challenged him for the leadership of our family. She won," Derek points out unnecessarily. "She's the Hale Alpha now."
"Why did she do that?"
"Because Uncle would never have accepted a human into the family."
"And Laura will?"
"Of course," Derek says automatically. "She likes you."
"She knows about the bond?"
"She was the first person I told."
"But, you didn't think it was necessary to tell me about it." Stiles' eyes spark with emotion.
"I wanted to wait a little more," Derek explains. "Besides, I wasn't sure if--" he reddens with embarrassment, "--if you'd like me. I thought we could be friends first. And then later when we were both older, maybe..."
"Oh," Stiles says, falling quiet. "I see. Does my father know?"
"Yes. Dr Deaton told him."
Stiles opens his mouth again as if to argue but then pauses. "I'd like to talk to my father, please," he requests politely, fingers clutching at the edges of his sling.
Derek’s heart sinks as he senses how Stiles is withdrawing from him. "Stiles," he tries again, "I didn’t mean to--"
Stiles puts up a hand, cutting off any further conversation. "I'd really like to see my father now."
"All right." Derek excuses himself from the room, throwing a backward glance at Stiles but the younger boy is no longer paying him any attention. "Stiles would like to speak with you," he tells Mr Stilinski.
"Is he all right?" Mr Stilinski asks, immediately concerned.
"I don't know," Derek says, keeping his voice steady, "He doesn't want to talk to me at the moment."
"Oh." Mr Stilinski's eyes darken with unexpected sympathy, and he claps a hand to Derek's shoulder. "Thank you," he says simply before walking into Stiles' room.
"Is it true, what Derek said?" Stiles asks his father. "About his uncle and everything else?"
"I'm afraid so," his father heaves a tired sigh.
"You all right?"
Stiles shrugs, not trusting himself to talk.
"You know what? You look tired. Take a rest," his father says, offering him a way out.
"Okay," Stiles agrees before he lies down on the bed, and allows his father to tuck the blankets around him. Before long, he slides into sleep even though it's still early afternoon.
It's a Saturday when Dr Deaton finally discharges him from the infirmary with strict instructions not to aggravate his injury and instructions to report any sign of infection to him. Stiles nods, impatient to get out to the corridor where Scott's waiting for him, ready to help with the pile of cards and gifts he had been given over the course of his hospitalisation.
They walk the way back to Ravenclaw Tower, the corridors quiet, with most of the students likely cramming for the upcoming exams or out to Hogsmeade to relax from the stress. Scott complains good-humouredly about how he has to be Stiles' porter from now on during and in between classes.
"Not studying with Allison today?" Stiles teases Scott.
Scott turns red. "I'll go later," he says sheepishly. "After I get you settled down."
"Hey, I'm out, aren't I?" Stiles says, simultaneously touched and miffed that his friend thought he needed to be babied. "I'll be fine."
"Not with your arm like that," Scott argues, pausing when he sees the other person walking towards them in the corridor.
"Stilinski," Derek notes, reverting to the more formal mode of address in Scott's presence.
"Hi," Stiles says to Derek, eyes shifting around almost guiltily; Derek had not spoken to him since that disastrous day in the infirmary.
"Good to see you better," Derek says curtly.
"Yeah," Stiles agrees, "Really glad to be out and about finally."
Derek raises his eyebrows at the bag of gifts Scott is lugging. "Quite the popular boy you are, Stilinski," he states with no trace of irony. "That looks like quite a handful for McCall to manage."
Stiles seizes the opening Derek gives him. "Maybe you can help me instead. Scott, didn't you say you wanted to go study with Allison?"
Derek growls slightly at the mention of the only daughter of Chris Argent, making Stiles frown at him.
"Oh. You don't mind?" Scott asks, trying to sound sorry, but not quite succeeding, and Derek rolls his eyes - he could literally smell Scott's excitement from where he stood.
"I can help," Derek shrugs, picking up on Stiles' hint.
"But your common room--" Scott hesitates, unsure if it would be wise to leave Stiles alone with the older boy.
"As if he can answer the riddle," Stiles scoffs, making Derek twitch in annoyance at Stiles' cheekiness. "Plus, he's a Prefect. You know how he's obliged to help the helpless and infirm. Like me."
"All right," Scott loses his misgivings quickly at the thought of spending more time with the beauteous Allison Argent, handing the bag of gifts over before waving a quick goodbye, rushing in the direction of Gryffindor Tower.
"McCall has bad taste in girls, doesn't he?" Derek says tartly, unimpressed.
"You're just biased," Stiles sniffs, loyal. "Allison's not like the other Argents."
Derek snorts in disgust at the mention of the Hunter family, but refrains from saying anything further. They walk quietly for a few moments before Stiles speaks again.
"Anyway, I'm sorry about what happened the other day. At the infirmary. I guess I freaked out a little."
"It's no problem."
"It's just that, it's a lot to take, you know," Stiles tries to explain himself further. "Your uncle, this whole thing about us..." he makes a face.
"Stiles. I know." Derek says heavily. "You don't have to apologise."
Stiles, being Stiles, continues, "So, what I'm saying is, I need time to think."
Derek stops walking to turn to look directly at Stiles. "Take as long as you need."
"Oh. I can? I mean, you're not working on a deadline or anything, right?"
Derek's eyes soften slightly and he reaches out to touch the edge of Stiles' sling. "Of course not. I'll wait," he says carefully, gently.
Stiles openly heaves a huge sigh of relief. "That would be brilliant. Thank you."
"Lydia, have a heart," Stiles moans as he looks at the scrolls Lydia had piled in front of him on the desk she had commandeered for the both of them in the library.
"Stiles, we can't have Professor Harris deducting points from Ravenclaw if you can't catch up in Potions," Lydia says as she begins laying scrolls out methodically.
"But you know I can't brew some potions one-handed," Stiles wiggles his fingers from where his arm is still in a sling.
"Then we've got to make sure you're at least up-to-date on the theory," Lydia opens Magical Drafts and Potions to the latest lesson and jabs her finger at the text. "Read that. And don't," her eyes flash in warning, "Try to leave early."
"You're not my father," Stiles grumbles. There is silence after that, interrupted only by Lydia's enthusiastic writing for her Transfiguration essay, the scroll growing steadily longer by the minute, extending past the table to head towards the floor.
"You know, Peter Hale isn't the only one. This isn't over yet." Lydia says suddenly, biting the tip of her quill, looking distractedly into the distance.
"What did you say?" Stiles whispers, feeling a slight wave of panic wash through him at the mention of his attacker. "What about Peter Hale?"
Lydia blinks, and her eyes regain their usual sharp gaze. "Derek Hale's uncle? Isn't he dead? It was in the Daily Prophet. Something about an accident in his manor. Do catch up, Stiles." Stiles tries to interject but fails, and Lydia continues with her one-sided conversation. "It sounds terribly suspicious if you ask me, but these werewolf families are so mysterious. I do not understand why the Ministry declared his death a natural one. However does your dad deal with them?"
"My dad deals with them just fine, thank you," Stiles defends his father stoutly. "I was going to ask you about what you said. About things not being over."
Lydia purses her lips. "Stiles, I have no idea what you're talking about. Are you trying to skive? Because I will hex you if we lose points in Potions again because of you."
"All right, I'm studying, I'm studying," Stiles assures her, and he delves back into his books, Lydia's comment forgotten.
Stiles walks up to the Astronomy Tower, wanting some time alone, eager to get away from his curious schoolmates. It was bad enough to end up in the hospital wing two years in a row, he thought resentfully, but to have to pretend that his injury was caused by a rogue experiment done illegally after school hours was a bit much to take. That was the official line being given as to the source of his injury and as to why it was taking so long to heal.
"It's all right. I’ll leave," Derek offers immediately, sensing Stiles' uneasiness. "I'm done anyway," he lies baldly. Stiles stands rooted to the ground as the older boy walks past him.
"Derek," Stiles stops the older boy from leaving.
"This past year. I mean, would you have been friends with me, if you know--"
"If I hadn't bonded with you, you mean."
Stiles crosses his arms. "Yes."
"I'm not sure actually."
"Oh," Stiles looks a bit disappointed, though he had been expecting that answer. "So, it was all because of the bond, then."
"I can't tell. It's all mixed up now. But what I do know is that," Derek closes his eyes before speaking again. "Now I can’t imagine what things would be like without you."
"It's that easy for you?"
"Yes," Derek acknowledges curtly.
"Will I have to be be a werewolf too?" Stiles asks bluntly, changing the conversation topic abruptly.
"Of course not."
"Would you want me to change?"
"Do you want to?"
"No," Stiles says, candid. "My dad doesn't say it, but I know it's not easy for him, me being a wizard. It'll be even worse if I were to change."
"You don't need to," Derek promises Stiles. "I'd never make you."
"Hold it right there. I haven't made up my mind about anything yet," Stiles jerks his chin up in a stubborn gesture, making the older boy flinch. "I'm sorry," he apologises immediately upon seeing the expression on Derek's face. "I shouldn't have said that."
"It's all right," Derek dismisses Stiles' words, lips curving in a brittle smile. "It's the truth anyway."
"How long will you wait? Weeks? Months? Years?" Stiles whispers the last word, though he knows Derek will have no problems hearing him.
Derek pauses at the top of the steps and shakes his head. "You know the answer to that, Stiles."
Stiles bites his lip, wondering if he should ask the next question.
"What if I say 'no'?" Stiles asks Derek. "I can, can't I? I mean, I checked. There have been times when the human rejects the bond.”
Derek turns pale, and Stiles can see how hard his knuckles are clutching the banister. "Then I'll just have to live with it."
"For the rest of my life," Derek says, his eyes flashing blue then red; an Alpha standing his ground, unwavering, steadfast.
Stiles winces as Dr Deaton pokes at his shoulder, frowning at the mass of scar tissue that marred his skin from collarbone to bicep. "Lift your arm, Mr Stilinski," he asks Stiles, still examining him with a critical eye.
"That's all I can do for now," Stiles says, as he slowly moves his arm, but the range of movement is still limited and he finds himself unable to straighten the limb above his head.
"Better than we hoped. You'll still need to wear the sling for at least two weeks more, I'm afraid," Dr Deaton says absently, marking down the results in Stiles' records. "You can put your arm down now."
"I guess that's the end of my embryonic Quidditch career, huh?"
Dr Deaton flicks a glance at Stiles, smiling ruefully. "I can't say for certain, but I would advise against putting my hopes up, Mr Stilinski."
"It's all right," Stiles brushes off Dr Deaton's sympathy as he slips on his shirt again. "Not that I was much good anyway. I'm sure they'd get a reserve Chaser soon enough. My dad's going to bring me to physiotherapy at Bart's during the holidays."
"Muggle treatment might work," Dr Deaton agrees. "Anything that can help you regain full mobility shouldn't be discounted. Magic can't solve everything after all."
"Yeah." Stiles kicks his legs back and forth, looking introspective.
"Something you want to ask me, Mr Stilinski?"
Stiles coughs. "Nothing. It's just that--"
"Hmm?" Dr Deaton hums encouragingly, even as he clears his table and sets up a small brass cauldron on it in preparation to brew a potion. Stiles hops off the examination table and follows Dr Deaton to his desk, staring interestedly at the array of ingredients.
"You can help me slice the bat spleens," Dr Deaton hands Stiles a knife and the spleens. "And you were saying, Mr Stilinski?"
"It was the full moon yesterday night," Stiles says off-handedly.
"I heard a wolf howling. I was in our common room and we're way up high but I could hear him like he was right next to me. And I think I was the only one who heard it, because I asked Lydia and she said I had a hearing problem. Which I do not. Or maybe I do, because it really seemed like I was the only person who heard him."
Dr Deaton doesn't say anything, but he carefully measured out a drop of Lethe river water into the cauldron. Stiles bites his lip before saying one last thing. "And this makes even less sense, but I knew it was Derek Hale."
"You're sure it was Derek?"
"Positive. Though I can't explain why. Though I just thought," Stiles' eyes flick to the floor, "He sounded a bit sad."
Dr Deaton adds two porcupine quills to the cauldron. "Why is that do you think?"
"I don't know. I thought you'd tell me. Does that have anything to do with the bond?"
Dr Deaton sighs and wipes his hands on a rag. "Yes."
"Why is it happening?"
"I can't explain. Before you ask, Derek probably can't either. The bond affects each person differently, especially in a human-wolf pair. Some say they can feel each other's pain, some others can sense their partner's emotions. The only common denominator is that the werewolf gains absolute control over their wolf form, regardless of age. And control, as you know, is prized highly in their society."
"I probably shouldn't be telling you this, but you should also know that only Alphas form spontaneous bonds." Dr Deaton gives Stiles a significant look.
"But that means--"
"Precisely. There are two Alphas in the Hale family now, Mr Stilinski. Though Derek will still have to obey his sister so long as he's still in school. Besides, he has no pack to call his own."
"What happens when he leaves school?"
"That would be for Laura Hale to decide. But I don't need to tell you that he owes much to his sister."
"Wow. I never thought of things that way."
"I can give you a few journals you can read, if you wish. It's a topic of great interest for scholars. And it's only fair that you know more about what's happening to you."
"That would be great," Stiles agrees, always eager to learn more.
Dr Deaton smiles indulgently. "You can help stir the potion while I look for the scrolls, then."
"That's child labour, Dr Deaton. I should have you reported to the Ministry," Stiles laughs as he picks up the ladle and begins his task.
"Scott." Stiles looks around, his lips thinned in annoyance. Scott had promised to help Stiles with his trunk but had disappeared before he could carry out the task, likely having run off to say goodbye to Allison.
"Urgh," he complains. "Some friend you are. Rat deserting a sinking ship."
"Need help?" he hears somebody behind him. Stiles turns to find Danny and Jackson standing side by side, Jackson smirking at his plight.
"Usually I'd just leave you alone to suffer, Stiles, but my dad told me to be nice to you," Jackson explains, radiating smug satisfaction and superiority.
"So generous of you, Jackson," Stiles says a little ungraciously. "But I could use some help," he agrees, pointing to his trunk, which is piled high on top of a stack of other trunks. The other two boys, already fixtures on Hufflepuff's Quidditch team, easily haul his trunk down for him onto his trolley.
"Way to make me feel inadequate," Stiles mutters under his breath. "Thanks for nothing, Scott."
"Do you need anything else?" Danny asks nicely, narrowing his eyes at Jackson when Jackson smirks again at Stiles. "Hey, cut it out, Jackson."
"That's it, thanks," Stiles says instead, holding back the sarcastic comments he usually keeps on hand especially for Jackson. Any further arguments are forestalled when Mr Stilinski comes up to them, looking a little out of breath.
"I'm sorry I'm late. Last minute message from the Muggle Home Secretary to sort out."
"Yeah, Danny and Jackson helped me with my trunk," Stiles bites the words out reluctantly, much to Jackson's undisguised glee.
"Thanks a lot, boys."
"It's no big deal, Mr Stilinski," Danny demurs. "It's not easy, having an injury like that."
Stiles beams at Danny and his kind words, but narrows his eyes in annoyance at Jackson afterward.
"Send my regards to your father, Jackson," Mr Stilinski tells Jackson, shaking his hand. "You too, Danny."
"I'll be sure to do that, Mr Stilinski," Jackson assures Mr Stilinski in his most polite tone, clearly on his best behaviour. Stiles glares at Jackson, unconvinced by the sea change in his demeanour. "If you don't mind, Danny and I need to leave now."
"Sure. Don't let me keep you. And enjoy your holidays," Mr Stilinski waves them off.
Stiles makes a rude noise. "Don't be fooled by Jackson, Dad," he whines. "He's faking it." Mr Stilinski shakes his head indulgently, familiar with Stiles' frequent run-ins with Jackson in school.
"Had a good ride on the train?" Mr Stilinski asks Stiles, steering him away from the increasingly emptying platform. "Your shoulder feeling okay?"
"It was all right," Stiles says. "Dr Deaton gave me some pain-reducing potions. So I managed to get some rest."
"That's good to know. Are you ready to go then?"
"Yeah, I'm knackered. Let's go home," Stiles urges his father.
"You don't want an ice-cream?"
"Not today, if you don't mind."
All right. Home it is then."
Mr Stilinski doesn't miss how his son seems to be searching for somebody in the crowd, even as he pushes his trolley one-handed towards the platform barrier.
"I should have his portrait burned," Laura fumes over her lunch.
"Who? Uncle Peter?" Derek asks.
"Who else?" she jabs furiously at her steak. "He's not in his frame most of the time. Mum and Dad keep having to chase him back whenever I have questions."
Derek puts his knife and fork down and wipes his mouth, unsure as to how he could put things delicately to his sister. "Well, you did challenge him. You can't blame his portrait for being in a bad mood."
Lower down the table, Myles has an indiscreet coughing fit, making Laura glare at the offending Beta. "It's his duty as the preceding Alpha to advise me when required."
"You need advice from Uncle Peter?"
Laura spears a cherry tomato with great relish. "I want to know how to deal with Chris Argent."
"The Hunters are playing hardball on the Accords now."
"What happened in yesterday's meeting?" Laura had been attending a mad rush of meetings both with the Alphas from the other families and with the Ministry officials. However, as a young Alpha without a pack, Derek wasn't yet permitted to attend.
"They want Mr Stilinski removed from the negotiations. They think he's no longer an impartial party. For obvious reasons."
"That is not true."
"It's covered under the bylaws of the Accords," Randall explains. "Either party has the right to request a new negotiator in the event the lead negotiator cannot fulfill his duty."
"What's going to happen if they can't find a substitute we both can agree on?" Derek asks. "Can we suspend the negotiations indefinitely?"
"The Minister won't stand for that," Laura informs Derek. "These negotiations were overdue in the first instance. Then there was the Second Wizarding War. So it's been delayed twice already actually. If we take too long to decide on a new negotiator, the Minister will probably appoint one whether the werewolves like him or not."
"Can he do that?"
"He's the Minister. It's his prerogative. And we're at a disadvantage. It took so long for Uncle to agree to the negotiations in the first place so they're running low on patience with the werewolves. And especially with our family, since we seem to be creating all the drama at the moment. So we pretty much don't have any bargaining chips at the moment." Laura signals for the dessert to be served.
"Oh." Derek looks a little shamefaced. "I'm sorry."
Laura makes a dismissive noise. "I keep telling you, stop feeling guilty about it. Besides, Stiles is worth all this fuss," she pats Derek's hand. "That reminds me. Have you heard from him yet?"
"No." Derek tries to ignore the blatant looks of sympathy and open interest from Laura's Betas at the mention of Stiles.
"Well, I'm sure he'll come around."
"You seem pretty confident he will."
"Think positive, Derek, think positive.” Laura nags. "Anyway, let's focus. For now, you need to find a way for me to pin Uncle down in his portrait."
"What?" Stiles exclaims, dismayed when he sees the headline in the Daily Prophet.
Werewolf-Hunter Accords negotiations breaks down. Discussions suspended until further notice.
"Hmm? Oh, that." Mr Stilinski says. "Sorry, kiddo. I should have warned you. They were going to make it public today."
Stiles slumps in his seat, breakfast forgotten as he reads the entire article. "Why are they making it sound like it's your fault?"
"It's for PR purposes."
"I don't want the world knowing about you and Derek Hale," Mr Stilinski says a little sharply. "So I agreed to let them make me take the flak instead."
"That is so unfair."
"The Ministry's got my back on this, so don't worry about it. It was my idea, actually. It's just smoke and mirrors, Stiles."
"But the Accords..."
"The Hunters are refusing to continue unless we find a new negotiator. They say I have a conflict of interest. Which technically, is true. But the wolves still want me. So we're stuck."
"Excuse me. I haven't agreed to anything!" Stiles complains hotly.
"Derek's declared himself. And that's enough for the Hunters, I’m afraid."
"Will they give the job to someone else?" Stiles asks, upset, remembering all the work his father had put into the Accords negotiations.
"I might be allowed to stay on as a consultant, but I doubt I'll be permitted to participate directly in the talks when they resume. The Hunters don't want me anywhere near the Accords. But the Minister disagreed so I'm still in the team."
"I'm sorry," Stiles apologises again, feeling wretched for being the cause of his father's change in portfolio.
"Hey," Mr Stilinski grabs Stiles around his shoulders before letting go. "Cheer up. The Accords were only part of my job, remember? It's not like they sacked me. I'm still the main liaison officer for the Muggle Home Office."
"This is ridiculous," Stiles states, eyes taking on a mutinous glint. "You were doing a brilliant job of it too. I should complain to the Ministry."
Mr Stilinski leans down and kisses the top of Stiles' head. "You've caused quite the ruckus already, I think. But thanks for the support. Now go change. You don't want to be late for your appointment."
"What's wrong?" Mr Stilinski asks Stiles, staring moodily out the window of the cafe where the two had gone for high tea after his physiotherapy session.
"Nothing." Stiles says, taking a sip of his Earl Grey tea.
"Thinking about Derek Hale?" Mr Stilinski asks directly, making Stiles turn red.
"No." Stiles tries to dissemble. His father gives him an exasperated look and he gives up trying. "Okay, yes."
"What about him?"
Stiles turns the question back on his father. "What do you think about the whole thing? The bond?"
Mr Stilinski shakes his head. "I can't make up your mind for you."
"Okay, then. What would you like me to do?"
"Nice try, Stiles. But I'm not going to fall for that."
"A little help would be good," Stiles says, pleading.
Mr Stilinski pinches the bridge of his nose. "It's a very big decision for somebody your age," he says a little reluctantly. "I didn't think I'd have to have this conversation with you for at least ten more years, and even then, you'd still be too young for me. But I know it's different for the werewolves."
Stiles restlessly stirs his sundae into a mush. "He told me he'd wait for as long as it takes," he tells his father.
"That's not surprising. There's a reason it's always problematic when they bond with humans. We don't see things the same way. But everything's so permanent for them. And all in black and white. Hardly any grey at all."
"You don't like that he's bonded to me?"
Mr Stilinski rubs his jaw, carefully considering what he should say next. "I don't like that you're only thirteen, Stiles. If you were even five, six years older, I'd probably be seeing things a little differently."
"You're really not big on the idea, are you?"
"I'm," Mr Stilinski speaks slowly, "Of the opinion that you're too young for this. Like I said, if only you were just a little older. But there's no point wishing for that anymore."
"You don't care that he's a werewolf?" Stiles asks his father cautiously.
Mr Stilinski chuckles as he remembers the day his wife revealed her secret. "I married your mother, didn't I? Had the shock of my life when she showed me witches do exist and they actually ride on brooms."
"Well, that's good. I guess. It's just that I don't know," Stiles mumbles and stares at the pattern of the tiles on the floor of the shop. "It's kind of scary."
"Hey, if it helps any, I'm freaked out too," Mr Stilinski reminds him. "This is practically a marriage proposal."
Stiles scowls. "Dad, don't say that."
"I'm just saying it like it is."
"I don't have to tell him anything now, do I?"
"You said it yourself. Derek will wait forever if necessary. It's just that--"
"Don't say anything unless you're sure, Stiles," Mr Stilinski reminds him. "It's better to take your time. You can't change your mind, don't forget that. That would be cruel."
"Okay," Stiles agrees, biting into his muffin, "All right."
"You have a letter from Hogwarts," Laura walks into Derek's room, where he's seated on his bed, a book opened in his lap. He takes the letter and breaks the seal, mouth opening in surprise as he reads the information within.
"Come, share the news. And move over," Laura orders Derek and he shifts obediently to make room for his sister.
"This is great!" Laura says after she finishes reading, waving the letter in his face. "Congratulations. I see you’re following in my footsteps, baby brother. Two Head Prefects in the family. We should go celebrate."
"Thank you, but I don't feel like going out."
"I meant to Muggle London."
Derek snorts. "All the more reason not to go."
"Nobody recognises us there. It'll be just the two of us, no Betas hovering." Laura coaxes him. "Come on, it's a big deal, Derek. We definitely should celebrate."
"I'm sorry, but I don't really feel like it."
Laura looks at him, eyes wide with sympathy. "Not quite the letter you were hoping for?"
Derek's shoulders sag with disappointment. "Well, I can't very well expect Stiles to agree so soon," he replies a little too quickly; clearly having told the same thing to himself repeatedly over the past few weeks.
"Which is why you should get out," Laura pokes him in the ribs. "Breathe some fresh air. You've been sulking for far too long."
"I have not been sulking," Derek argues but it's a half-hearted attempt at best.
Laura gets off the bed and throws open Derek’s wardrobe, frowning at what she sees. "You have way too many black outfits," she grouses, selecting a pair of jeans, a shirt and jacket for him. "Never mind, I'll fix that today."
"I'm not going shopping with you," Derek disagrees immediately. "You take too long. And you're always making me buy new clothes."
"Get ready," Laura tells Derek, blithely ignoring him. "There's a new restaurant in Islington that I want to go to. Besides, I just got my credit card, and I want to try it out."
"What's a credit card?" Derek asks, surrendering to the inexorable force that was his older sister.
Laura spins and places her hands on her hips, exasperated at Derek’s ignorance. "This is why you need to take Muggle Studies."
"Stiles," Stiles hears his name, but the voice is calling from far, far away, and he can't seem to reach it. "Stiles," he hears again, "Come on son, wake up."
Stiles runs to the source of the voice, away from the rabid wolf with the blood-stained muzzle and red eyes that has been chasing him across the halls of Hogwarts. He curses in frustration when one staircase appears after another, and the doors open only to reveal a solid brick wall. He pounds the wall in mix of frustration and rising panic, as the wolf approaches closer and closer. The wall does not give however, and Stiles stumbles to the floor, closing his eyes, knowing what comes after this.
But this time, the nightmare does not end the way it usually does. He hears the growl of another wolf, smaller than his nightly tormentor, which knocks the bigger wolf out of the way. He blinks in surprise and gratitude at his saviour, bright blue eyes staring at him. The second wolf blinks once, its eyes changing from electric blue to red, and Stiles wakes up.
"What?" he croaks, voice hoarse from screaming. "Dad?"
"You had a nightmare again," his father says carefully so as not to startle him, before handing him a glass of water.
"Nothing to apologise for." His father waits for him to calm down. "Feeling better?" he asks after he sees Stiles' breathing slow to its normal rate, and his grip on his father's hand lessens a little. Newton hoots from where he's resting in his cage, as if sensing Stiles' distress.
"It's all right, Newton," Stiles tells his owl, "Just a nightmare. I'll be fine."
"Go back to sleep," Mr Stilinski advises Stiles, rearranging the bedclothes for him.
Stiles yawns, tired out by the nights of interrupted rest. "You're the one who needs to sleep," he tells his father, "You have work. Me, I'm going to spend hours on Mario Kart later."
His father only snickers softly before walking out of the room and switching off the light.
After his father leaves, Stiles kicks around restlessly on his bed, staring at the ceiling, too awake now to fall asleep immediately. He peers out of the window to see the star-speckled sky, with the waxing crescent moon shining and remembers the second wolf from his nightmare, the one that rescued him, sleek with grey fur, all controlled power and restrained fury.
"Derek," Stiles murmurs. He turns to the drawers next to his bed, digging around with his arm, searching for something, which he finds piled beneath some books and his PSP. He shakes open the blanket Derek had given him back on the first day of term, noticing for the first time the stylised H embroidered in the middle of it. Stiles rubs his cheek against it, drawing comfort from the soft material before drawing it around his shoulders.
He falls asleep cocooned in the blanket, dreaming of running alongside Derek in his wolf form in an open field underneath a bright full moon.
"What's up?" Mr Stilinski asks Stiles, looking at him from the top of his glasses.
"Nothing," Stiles says, listless. He flops down on the couch next to his father. "What's that you're reading?"
"Ah ah, don't touch those," Mr Stilinski warns Stiles. "Those are from the Muggle Home Office. Highly classified. Not for your eyes."
"What are they about? Come on Dad, you can tell me."
His father takes off his glasses and rubs at his eyes. "They think some of the Ministries of Magic have been contacting their Muggle counterparts to collude to contravene the International Statute on Wizarding Secrecy."
"Why would they do that?"
His father smiles but it's full of regret. "Stiles, people will do anything during a war. Though mind you, I've got my own opinions on some Muggle governments, including ours. But let’s leave it at that."
"Those wizards, they're not coming to England, are they?" Stiles asks, feeling anxious at the idea of his father re-entering military service, even though there was no chance of that happening, certainly not when he was working for the Ministry of Magic, and not the Muggle government.
"It's just a few hotspots. We're just monitoring the situation."
"Oh. Okay. That's good."
"You didn't come here to ask me about my work, did you?" Mr Stilinski asks casually as he highlighted a passage from one of the briefs.
"Well," Stiles plays with the knots on his hoodie.
"I thought so. Spit it out, son. Is this about the Hale boy?"
"How did you know?" Stiles fidgets, embarrassed.
"I'm your father, Stiles," his father says absently, marking yet another passage and circling a few words. "It's part of the job description. What about Derek Hale?"
"So. Umm. I sent him a letter."
"And in this letter, you--" Mr Stilinski leaves the sentence hanging, waiting for Stiles to finish it.
"So, I said okay. As in, I told him, okay. Yes. Affirmative. Definitely. Indisputably. Positively. I'm running out of synonyms here," Stiles stops when his father doesn't say anything in response.
Mr Stilinski pauses in his actions, sitting very, very still. "I see."
"You don't mind, do you?" Stiles asks, shifting to curl up next to his father.
Mr Stilinski relaxes again and sinks back into the couch, carefully setting aside the documents. "Don't be ridiculous. Of course not. I just didn't want you to be rushed into it."
"Thank you," Stiles leans his head against his father's shoulder. "But what do we do now?"
Mr Stilinski ruffles Stiles' hair, earning him an affronted scowl. "We wait. It's their move next."
I have no idea what to say actually, only that I think this whole thing is really both weird and scary. YOU scare me, but I’m starting to realise it's all an act. And apparently, according to the books - I got them off my Dad and Dr Deaton - you can't really hurt me. The concept of which I have to admit, is awesome. For me.
Even if you are nasty, that would be against your laws. Plus, I'm underaged so I can still get my dad to jinx you. Or rather, he can tell the Ministry and they can send some Aurors to do it instead. And you'll never get a job with them if that happens, hah!
Laura sounds like a really great person and I want to know her better. And we were doing pretty OK, weren't we? At least until your uncle messed things up. But he was utterly insane, so it's not your fault. Not that I blamed you or anything. I just need to get that out in the open.
So what I’m saying is that yeah, okay. Let's do this.
I might have been eating too many humbugs when I wrote this.
Derek stirs slowly from sleep, determined to lie in bed for as long as possible before any of the family comes to fetch him. He closes his eyes, trying to sneak another few minutes only to have the silence broken by an incessant tapping on his window. He turns his head, mouth going slack with shock when he sees Newton waiting impatiently for him.
In his haste, Derek almost stumbles to the floor before he regains his balance and opens his window, skin prickling at the cool morning air on his face. Newton hops carefully onto his arm, dropping the letter he has been holding into Derek's other hand.
He tears the letter open one-handed, throat seizing with emotion when he reads Stiles' reply, written in his haphazard penmanship. He runs to his sister's study, still in his nightclothes. As expected, Laura's already up and dressed, surrounded by her Betas as they run through the day's programme with her.
"Derek," she stands up at the sight of him. "What's wrong?" She narrows her eyes when she sees Newton flying into the room. "That's Newton."
Derek waves the piece of parchment. "Stiles--"
"Give me that," Laura reads Stiles' letter, breaking into a wide grin that mirrors the more restrained one Derek is wearing. Abandoning any attempt at decorum, she flings her arms around her younger brother, the letter fluttering to the ground, its message received loud and clear.
The other Betas pick up the discarded note, similar smiles appearing on their faces when they see the reply. Harold is the first to give his well wishes, "Congratulations, Master Derek," and the rest of the Betas follow suit.
Laura turns to her council, preparing to institute plans she had only previously hoped to be able to carry out. "Cancel all my appointments for the week, please. There's a few things I need to sort things out with Derek before we meet Mr Stilinski. Send my regrets to Mr Whittemore, especially. But I'm sure he'll understand."
"Done," Harold assures her.
"And could somebody feed Newton too? He likes éclairs," Laura says before changing her mind. "Never mind, let's just bring him down for breakfast with us. Come on, Newton," she coaxes him, "You can meet Mr Darcy and Gwen again."
The two siblings walk down the stairs towards the dining room arm in arm, ready to welcome the new day, Newton flapping in their wake.