“No, I’m telling you,” Stiles says, pointing at Allison with half his croissant. The other half is in his mouth and might explain Lydia’s polite look of disgust. “Aiden’s a dick, he’s so over confident, he doesn’t think he has a weak side. I should shoot left, dude. His hair does that swooshy thing and it blocks his line of sight, he doesn’t stand a chance.”
He takes time to swallow and when he’s done, he realizes that no one has bothered arguing with him, which is basically unheard of. Sure, it’s brutally early in the morning and everyone’s rushing to get to Quidditch practice before that afternoon’s match against Slytherin, but come on. Stiles is making some good points here, and no one’s even paying attention.
He realizes why a moment later, as Cora Hale snatches a muffin off his plate, glares at him when he opens his mouth to complain, and then says, “He’s just as strong left as he is right. You’ve got to come from below, and your handling is too shitty for that, Stilinski. But I can probably help you with it. If you want.” She says it all with a scowl, that’s the thing. Cora’s scowl is pretty legendary, and extra terrifying, especially since she hadn’t even been sitting there a moment before. Plus, if Stiles thinks about it really hard, he can count the number of times Cora has ever actually spoken to him on one and a half fingers. And they’re in the same year even. And the same house.
In fact, Cora Hale has never, to his knowledge, spoken to anybody willingly. And yet here she is, offering to teach him how to handle his stick.
He smirks and opens his mouth to make a dirty joke because that’s just what Stiles does, and Cora’s glare somehow intensifies with dislike. He snaps his mouth shut.
“You don’t even play,” Lydia says, lofty, like her eyes aren’t brightening with speculation and curiosity.
Cora snorts. “Not with any of you,” she agrees.
She looks uncomfortable, and she’s angrily eating the grapes off Stiles’ plate, and Stiles shoots Scott a baffled look before saying, “You can come to practice, if you want.”
She nods once, stands up, and says, “I’ll have to fetch my broom.” She walks off with her nose tipped up like she’s daring any of the other Ravenclaws to comment or possibly ask her if she’s feeling alright, and only stops once, at the Gryffindor table.
Stiles stares, wide-eyed, as she has a quick whispered conversation with her brother before she finishes gliding out of the Great Hall.
It’s almost like she’s given him permission to stare at her brother for a while, and Stiles will take all the chances he has, because Derek is very, very nice to look at.
And then Derek snaps his head around almost like he feels Stiles staring, and if Cora Hale has a scary scowl, Derek’s is about a thousand times more intimidating.
Stiles yelps, ignores his flushing cheeks, and turns back to his table with a breezy, “What were we talking about?”
But everyone else, apparently, has already left, heading for the Quidditch Pitch, he assumes. Stiles snatches a scone and hurries out the door, and he doesn’t look back, but he swears he can feel Derek staring at him until he ducks around the corner.
But it’s probably just wishful thinking.
“So, apparently not only is Cora Hale a Quidditch prodigy, which we didn’t know, she’s also weirdly decided that you two are friends,” Lydia says, and Stiles really doesn’t have the time to talk to her about this right now.
He’s not dressed for the match against Slytherin, which is going to start in about seven minutes, and he really can’t see himself stripping down in front of her. She doesn’t seem inclined to leave, however, so he tugs his trousers down extra slowly to give her time to roll her eyes and turn her back on him, which she does.
“We’re not friends,” Stiles grunts, already shimmying into his Quidditch trousers, buckling his knee pads on. “She was helping all of us at practice this morning.”
“Stiles. She told Liam to take a flying leap into the deep end of the lake when he asked her opinion on the Nimbus 3X versus the new Altitude.”
He huffs, pulling his shirt on and then grabbing his robes. “Okay,” he says. “All she did was follow me around and criticise the way I hold my broom. And sit on my broom. And handle the Quaffle. And then she caught the Snitch, no big deal, without even trying. I wouldn’t say we’re friends. She’s kind of terrifying, actually.” He grabs his broom, runs a hand through his hair to smooth it down, and realizes he’s only got one shoe on. But he can hear a whistle blowing and he’s late, damn it, and so is Lydia, and how can the game start without their Keeper?
“Come on,” he says, grabbing his shoe and hopping on one foot as he tries jamming his foot into it. “We’re late.”
“What I’m saying,” she snaps, following him. “Is that Cora is here. Cora, who hasn’t even shown enough interest in our Quidditch team to attend a game in all five years she’s been here. Now she’s in the stands. Granted, she’s in the Gryffindor stands, but still.”
Stiles is really late and doesn’t have time for this discussion, but Lydia grabs his arm, her eyebrows raised. “Stiles,” she says. “Do you think, for some reason that makes no sense to you or to me, that Cora Hale likes you?”
Stiles blinks. “No.”
Stiles isn’t all that likable, that’s the thing. He’s okay, appearance-wise, if he makes a bit of effort, if he styles his hair or lets Lydia pick out his outfit, which is rarely. He’s a bit of a spazz, he talks to much, his eyes can get bulgy when he’s excited, and he has it on good authority that he’s just not all that attractive, as a complete package. He did a survey last year, okay, and Danny was the deciding vote and Danny’s a nice guy and he was honest and Stiles doesn’t hold it against him or against anybody, really.
He’s not self-conscious. He’s not that broken up about it. He knows someday he’ll meet someone whose type is spazzy and talkative guys with pale skin and bulgy eyes. But Cora Hale is not that person. Cora Hale’s type will never be that person.
Lydia looks like she still had more to say, but Danny is there suddenly, looking stressed and irritated. “They’re starting without you if you aren’t out in six seconds,” he snaps. “And Lydia, you’re the fucking Keeper. Hurry up.”
Cora is in there, sitting with Derek in the Gryffindor stands, a few rows away from Scott, who has another blinking sign proclaiming that Stiles was the best ever. It’s all very distracting. Derek is always in the stands, and Stiles has built up a pretty good immunity to it, but combined with Cora’s stare and the blinking sign, it’s a bit much to take.
So they lose. It’s embarrassing. He’s totally off his game and Stiles never wants to speak about it again, which is difficult, considering Scott is angrily determined to review every play Stiles had tried to make to find out where it went wrong so he can implement a strict training regime to fix it. Sure, Scott is Gryffindor and Stiles is Ravenclaw, but best friendship transcends house lines and it always has.
Scott has been playing Quidditch since he was a child, and he is determined to catch Stiles’ sad skills up to his advanced level.
“I was distracted,” Stiles finally confesses.
Scott stares. “But… it’s Quidditch,” he says, and he’s about to launch into a dramatic reminder of how important Quidditch is to them both, and Stiles is trying to think of a graceful way to bow out when he sees Lydia lurking in the common room, ready to attack him with more unfounded accusations about Cora.
So he sits patiently and pretends to listen Scott goes on and on while Stiles keeps a watchful eye on Lydia and tries to hurriedly do his Transfiguration homework. Afterwards, he ends up having to help Scott with his Potions, but by the time they’re finishing up, the lanterns are burning low and most people – including Lydia – have slipped off to bed.
All in all, it’s as much of a win as Stiles is going to get today, but he’ll take it.
Allison and Stiles have nearly every class together, which is good. She’s one of Stiles’ closest friends, and Stiles likes knowing that if his professors throw a surprise partnership assignment at them, he has a partner on standby and can avoid any awkward glancing nervously around hoping that someone will choose him despite his tendency to accidentally light things on fire or blow them up.
The problem is, Allison’s family had strongly suggested that she not taken Interspecies Relations, and she had taken Muggle Studies instead.
Stiles, being Muggle-born, had been bored to tears by Muggle Studies. So he had decided to risk everything and take a class he was actually interested in – Interspecies Relations – despite having no partners on standby, just in case.
Which is how Stiles ends up petrified and alone late Monday afternoon, in Interspecies Relations, after Professor Harris assigns pair work.
It isn’t that Stiles doesn’t have friends in this class. Danny is in this class, and so are Kira, Boyd, and Erika. The problem is he’s the odd man out and he’s always without a partner and things will get very awkward, and Harris always likes to treat Stiles with a particularly vicious sort of smugness when Stiles inevitably has to put up his hand and confess that he was unsuccessful in finding anybody willing to suffer through his presence –
“Hey.” Cora drops her stuff on the desk beside him and sat down, super casual, like it’s no big deal.
She freezes in the middle of organizing her stuff and her cheeks flush a little. “You don’t have a partner. Right?”
“I’ll work with you,” she says, shooting him a quick glare. “Unless you mind.”
“Of course not! Of course, sure,” he says with a wide grin and possible jazz hands. She ignores that and he’s grateful.
“I want to do werewolves.”
“Sure,” he says again. They’re picking a marginalized species as a focus of their roleplaying, and then they’ve got to produce two skits. The first will demonstrate how that species was treated in the past, and the second will show how that species is treated now, which is mandated by the Interspecies Treaty enacted in 1999.
“Because I am one,” Cora says with another look, this time baring her blunt human teeth. She snaps them and adds, “And so is my brother.”
“Cool,” Stiles says, because of course he knew that. Werewolves stopped being big news since the first one attended Hogwarts in 2000, Stiles learned all about that in the History of Magic, second year.
Cora seems disgruntled and Stiles isn’t sure why, but he’s pretty damned sure she’s not trying to date him, so there is that.
There had been a tragic, soul-crushing moment in First Year, after Scott had been sorted into Gryffindor, when the Sorting Hat had decisively shouted that Stiles was in Ravenclaw, where he’d thought their magical, perfect friendship was over.
After all, how many childhood friendships survive being sorted into different houses? How many epic Best Friend Forever friendships had been sunk by that stupid hat?
But the fact of the matter is that Stiles is clever and Scott is loyal and stupidly brave and the only house they could possibly have shared is Hufflepuff, and then only on their silliest of days.
So for his first week, Stiles had fallen into despair, trudging around the castle surrounded in a cloud of melancholy, lonely and achingly alone. And then Scott had tackled him after class one day, declared they would share all their meals, gave him the password for the Gryffindor Common Room, and promised to teach him to kick ass at Quidditch.
They make their friendship work. After all, it could be worse – the hat had hummed about sorting Stiles into Slytherin for a long moment, and there would have been nothing worse than being sorted into the enemy house.
Now, they alternate tables in the Great Hall – breakfast with Ravenclaw, Gryffindor for dinners. They do their homework together in Ravenclaw, usually, because the Ravenclaws were required to put up with Stiles’ inability to sit still or keep the dramatic gestures to a minimum. He’d already been barred from the library on pain of death (or suspension) should he accidentally destroy any more books.
Sure, Stiles wishes they were roommates, but they were roommates at home, and it’s nice to have a break from Scott’s refusal to do his laundry until it’s a sick and smelly mess every now and again.
“So,” Scott says now, as they work on homework in the Ravenclaw Common Room. “What’s up with Cora?” He wiggles his eyebrows and it’s ridiculous.
“Nothing?” Stiles frowns. Okay, it’s a little weird that a girl other than Allison and Lydia is suddenly interested in sitting near him and partnering with him in class, sure. But it isn’t that strange, is it? He’s growing a little offended here, that’s all he’s saying.
“Don’t freak out,” Cora hisses, and that freaks Stiles out a little. They’d practiced their skit six times, he knows what to expect when they present it to the class, and there is nothing in it worth freaking out over.
He shoots her a nervous look and has enough time to whisper, “About what?” and then Harris is telling them to get on with it.
Everyone else has already presented, and their presentations were predictably boring, long, and full of rambling monologues and stiff movements. Stiles and Cora had decided to go for short and sweet, with a bit of shock factor – but only a bit! – to get their point across.
They start out showing how werewolves have been integrated into society. Cora pretends to knock on a gate and Stiles throws it open with jazz hands and declares loudly and with gusto, “Welcome to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, come in, come in!” and end scene.
Then they set up and repeat to show how it used to be, and Cora knocks again. Stiles opens the door, just a crack, and says, “What?”
“Please, Professor,” Cora says, injecting just the right amount of hope into her tone. Stiles had coached her on that relentlessly. “I’m only 11 and my magic is out of control, please let me come in and teach me to be a contributing member of society.”
Stiles scoffs and says loudly, “Your magic isn’t all that’s out of control, girl! You’re a wolf, barely better than a rabid dog! You’re a danger to all the normal, innocent children in here! Why, there would be riots in the street if we let your kind in here. You’re not a person, you’re an animal!”
She’s supposed to growl and snap at him, nice and simple, but instead, as Stiles watches, her face changes – actually changes – and she sprouts pointed ears and claws. A tail is suddenly swishing out of the bottom of her robs. And she snarls and she’s got fangs and she leaps at him, knocking him to the ground. Her claws dig into the robes of his shoulder and she snaps her teeth inches from his face – he can feel her breath.
Stiles yelps as he falls, but she somehow takes most of the impact, and she isn’t actually hurting him, and she has ridiculously large, pointed ears, and a tail and it’s kind of adorable. Stiles giggles and then claps his hand over his mouth because giggling when being attacked by a werewolf is the opposite of what he is meant to be doing here. He needs his wand, he needs some sort of spell to protect himself, he needs –
“Petrificus Totalus!” Harris hollers. Cora had lifted her head and blinked down at him while he giggled, like he was some alien creature and she didn’t quite know what to do with him, but now she’s frozen and Stiles is stuck underneath her and abruptly aware that the entire class is freaking the fuck out.
They would be, of course. A werewolf had just lost control and attacked another student, this was the nightmare situation Hogwarts had been preparing for since first allowing wolves to attend.
Except she hadn’t actually lost control, had she? Stiles wasn’t bruised or scratched… She’d just tried to scare him, really, for whatever reason, but she’d done it on purpose, without hurting him.
And now she looks kind of terrified.
“What are you doing?” Stiles calls, trying to squirm out from underneath her. He finally manages to get free and bounces to his feet, panting a bit. The other students are all backed into the corner, Harris with them, staring in horror, even the other wolves. “No, seriously, it was part of the skit!”
“Someone fetch the headmaster,” Harris snaps.
“Seriously. It was just acting! She didn’t hurt me!”
Harris’s eyes are very narrow and he says coldly, “If that’s the case, Mr. Stilinski, than it will be detention for both of you for coming up with such a harebrained scheme!”
“You mean for adequately portraying the way werewolves were treated in the past because of ignorance and prejudice, kind of like what’s happening right now?”
“Double detention for you, Stilinski,” Harris says. But he thankfully releases the curse he’d placed on Cora and she collapses to the ground, glaring at him balefully.
“Whatever,” Stiles says sulkily, because as long as Harris is raging at him, he’s not expelling Cora, so it’s a win-win.
He ends up with more detention than he knows what to do with, but Cora only gets one night’s worth, and Stiles will take it.
She shoots him a glare before taking off as soon as class is over, and Stiles doesn’t know what’s going on at all, but it damned well isn’t an attempt at dating, he knows that much.
Stiles isn’t in Ravenclaw for nothing. He’s a smart kid, a proactive kid, so when he realized that Professor Harris had some sort of vendetta against him, Stiles went out of his way to convince him that he absolutely loathed anything and everything to do with magical creatures.
He gets detention at least once a month from Harris, and every time, he’s required to serve it helping Hagrid out with whatever magical creature he’s got on hand this week. It’s awesome.
This week, apparently, it’s wyverns, which are basically mini dragons, which is amazing. Hagrid had received a shipment of eggs that required careful incubation and had just begun hatching into little miniature dragons the day before.
Raising mini infant dragons is a full-time job, unfortunately, so Stiles’ detention is basically to sit in the barn with a dozen tiny wyverns crawling all over him, feeding them sugar water from a super small bottle, and singing to them if they got restless. Apparently that’s how their mothers calm them in the wild.
While he does all that, Hagrid will take a much needed nap.
So Stiles stretches out on his stomach on the clean barn floor, warm from the heat lamps, and lets the little dragons scale him like a mountain.
They are no bigger than his finger, with fragile little wings that aren’t strong enough for flight just yet, and they run over him like little lizard mice, hissing and chirping and tugging at his clothes with blunt little teeth.
It’s pretty much the best detention ever.
He feeds them one at a time from the little bottles, and after they eat, they sleepily climb up over his shoulder to curl up in his hair, along the back of his neck, and between his shoulder blades.
He’s nearly finished feeding them all, can hear their sleepily yawns and purrs as he coaxes the second last one up onto his shoulder, and that’s when a shadow falls over him from the doorway.
He can’t manage to turn his head without dislodging the wyverns, so Stiles says, “Uh, hello? Hagrid?”
He doesn’t get a response, but a moment later, his unexpected guest is carefully sitting down in front of Stiles, folding his legs up carefully to avoid squashing the last hyperactive wyvern, and holy shit, it’s Derek Hale.
Stiles wants to leap up and brush the mini dragons out of his hair and his clothes and pretend to be presentable. He wants to at least get into a more dignified position. He mostly wants to run and hide and pretend this isn’t happening.
Derek has been a source of fascination for Stiles since Stiles was 11 years old and shiny and new at Hogwarts. First, it had been because of the relentless gossip, mostly shared by Scott, because the entire school seemed to agree that it was weird and hilarious that Derek Hale of the Hale Bloodline had been sorted into Gryffindor. The Hales were notorious for being elitist, snotty, pureblooded wizards from one of the strongest wolf lines. They weren’t even bitten wolves, they were born wolves, which means they are one of the original wolf families, and it is a big deal. They’re also, obviously, super evil, and rumour has it that Fenrir Greyback was bitten by one of the Hales.
Pretty much any and every negative and terrifying rumour about werewolves had come from the reclusive Hale family.
And since Hogwarts had opened its doors, many Hale children had apparently come through, wary and angry, refusing to socialize with the other students. And one by one, they’d been sorted into Slytherin, obviously, with the odd Ravenclaw to mix things up.
And then along came little Derek Hale, who’d barely gotten his ass on the stool before the hat was calling out Gryffindor.
Everyone thought it was funny, even now, when Derek was in his seventh year. Stiles, though, found it fascinating. It helped, of course, that Derek was two years older and hotter than the sun.
Stiles’ hormones never really made the best decisions when it came to self-defence. Any hint of danger and he was all in.
And in his five years at Hogwarts, his five years of staring at Derek and fantasizing about what Derek would look like without his shirt on, and thinking about how sweet it would be to hold his hands and share a Butterbeer at Hogsmeade, Stiles has never actually spoken to him.
Derek spoke to him once. But all he’d said is, “Watch out,” after Stiles had nearly ran him over testing out the hoverboards he and Scott had made by racing each other through the halls. Stiles had been so startled at nearly smashing into Derek that all he’d managed to do is squeak and flee the premises. So. Not his best moment.
Except now Derek is here, frowning, trying to make himself small, while the last wyvern scrambles up his leg and up his chest and over his shoulder and down to curl up in the palm of Derek’s hand.
Stiles would curl up there too, if he would fit.
“Uh,” Stiles says. He clears his throat. “Hi?”
“Cora shouldn’t have done that,” Derek says abruptly. He’s still not looking at Stiles.
“Well, no,” Stiles agrees. “Probably not. She freaked people out. But she didn’t hurt me.”
Derek shoots him a glare and Stiles wants to shrink away, but there are tiny dragons sleeping on him, damn it. His options are limited. “She could have hurt you,” Derek snaps.
“She was very careful,” he says with the tiniest of shrugs.
“And you got detention for it.” Derek scowls and looks away. The wyvern is kneading the base of his thumb with tiny claws, and it has to hurt, but Derek doesn’t seem to mind.
“She’d have been expelled if Harris thought she actually lost control,” Stiles says quietly. “That isn’t fair. She was fine. I was fine. We’d get an A on the project if Harris wasn’t such a dick, but let’s be real, he wouldn’t have given me an A anyway.”
Derek is looking at him again, this time with his eyes narrow. “Why do you care what happens to her? She’s a wolf. She could have killed you.”
“She’s a person,” Stiles says. “A fifth year like me. Don’t be species-ist.” Stiles grins. “Besides, she was freaking adorable, have you seen her ears? You’ve probably seen her ears. And her tail, it was ridiculous.”
Stiles blinks and stares at Derek suddenly, because he wants to see Derek’s ears now, he wants to ask about Derek’s tail, but he also doesn’t want to die, and Derek is a lot scarier than Cora, and Cora is pretty freaking scary herself.
Derek just shakes his head, looking a little lost, and the wyvern is keening softly, its eyes wide and shiny. Derek is seconds away from panicking, Stiles can tell.
“You have to sing to her,” he says solemnly. “That’s what their mothers do.”
Now Derek is horrified. “I don’t sing,” he says.
Stiles giggles and the Wyverns on his back and in his hair mumble in protest. He carefully hands over the bottle. “Feed her,” he says. “Then she’ll sleep.”
Stiles nearly melts into the floor when Derek carefully cradles the Wyvern and holds the bottle to its lips, mostly because when the little dragon starts to eat, Derek gets this ridiculous, lopsided, stupid smile on his face.
Yeah, Stiles hormones have no sense of self preservation.
Derek is already in the barn the next evening when Stiles shows up for detention. He is carefully stacking a series of small crates and boxes into a tower.
“Hagrid says they’re starting to test out their wings,” Derek says, when Stiles freezes in the doorway. “You’re supposed to build a tower for them to climb, so they stop trying to parachute off his head. He’s too tall.”
“You’ve already built a tower, though,” Stiles says stupidly, and Derek’s hand, which had been carefully slotting the last crate into place, goes still.
“Oh. Did you want to do it? Is it too tall? Will they hurt themselves?” he asks, and Stiles isn’t sure, because Derek isn’t looking at him, but he kinda thinks Derek’s ears are turning pink.
“No,” Stiles says quickly. “No, no! I just – this is my detention.”
Derek finally looks at him, with a shrug, which is impressive considering there are six little dragons perched on his shoulder, flaring their wings like parachutes, like they were about to jump. Derek somehow manages the shrug without dislodging any of the dragons.
“You got this detention for defending my sister,” he says. “So I’m going to help you with it. She would, but she asked for permission first.” He rolls his eyes. “So they said no. I didn’t bother asking.”
“You don’t have to,” Stiles says. “It’s not the worst detention.”
“They made Cora clean the grout in the dungeon bathroom,” Derek agrees, and Stiles winces.
Derek’s carefully scooping wyverns up from the floor and onto the first level of the tower, helping them climb it. The wyverns on his shoulder scramble down his arms to climb it too, and Stiles comes inside, closing the door and sitting carefully on the other side of the tower.
The bravest wyverns have reached the top now and they’re throwing themselves off it, gliding on tiny wings to the floor. Other wyverns are tumbling off the tower before they reach the top, but Derek is catching them and helping them try again, and Stiles does the same.
Finally, they’ve all learned how to climb the tower and glide back down, all but the littlest wyvern, a little purple guy. He finally makes it to the top, but when he jumps, his wings are too small and too fragile, the skin between the bone framework undeveloped and torn. He tumbles instead of gliding, and Derek catches him before he hits the ground.
“It’s all right,” he says quietly, cradling the shaken wyvern. “Try again.”
But the purple wyvern tries and tries and his wings just don’t work. When he gives up, Derek carefully tucks him in his breast pocket to keep him warm, and Stiles files it away as more reasons why Derek is in Gryffindor.
And also more reasons why Derek is secretly the sweetest, hottest marshmallow in all the land.
Scott drops onto the bench beside Stiles at breakfast on Saturday morning and says, “Hey, I have a date.” He wiggles his eyebrows and leans super close. “With Allison.”
Allison is awesome. Allison is probably tied with Lydia for Stiles’ best Ravenclaw friend, and Scott has been mooning over her for at least a year.
“Dude, you finally asked her out?” Stiles asks, eyes wide, holding his hand up for a fist bump.
Scott bumps his fist and then says, “She asked me, in class, when I was complaining about how much Hogsmeade is going to suck without you to hang out with. So she was all, ‘maybe we can grab lunch together’. That’s a date, right?”
Stiles blinks, reviews what Scott says, and still worries he missed something. “Wait, what? Scott. But. We always hang out in Hogsmeade.”
“Yeah, but with all your detentions, there’s no way they’re letting you go,” Scott says. “Right?”
Stiles is proactive with his detentions, damn it. He’d very deliberately launched into a loud monologue about how overrated Hogsmeade is and how much he hates the long walk to get there, right outside Harris’ classroom. He never gets banished from Hogsmeade as punishment.
But now Scott is looking like a hopeful but worried puppy and Stiles sighs. “Of course they’re letting me go,” he says. “But you’re still going for lunch with Allison, obviously.”
Scott whoops in excitement and then says, “But seriously, though, do you think it’s a date?”
Stiles has to talk Scott through the various ways to identify date-like behaviour in girls, as well as ways to subtly turn a friend lunch into a date lunch. It’s nice; it distracts him from worrying what he’s going to do wandering Hogsmeade by himself.
Stiles’ pockets are filled with sugar quills and chocolate frogs, his cheeks are puffed with Bertie Botts, and he doesn’t really know what to do next. Scott had bounced off to meet Allison and Stiles is just morosely considering walking back to Hogwarts alone when Cora is suddenly in front of him.
“Where’s your boyfriend?” she asks, glaring at the empty space beside Stiles where Scott should be.
“I haven’t got one?” Stiles says, frowning.
Cora looks startled. “McCall,” she says. “You know. The guy you’re dating, with the stupid hair. Hangs out in our Common Room practically every day?”
“Scott?” Stiles shrugs. Plenty of people tease him and Scott for being so co-dependent. “He’s one a date, actually,” he says.
Cora’s eyes narrow even further. “Well, that’s a dick move,” she says.
“No,” Stiles says slowly. “Not really? He’s liked Allison for like a year. And we’re not actually dating? We’re just friends. Like always. Listen, you’re really kind of freaking me out. What are you doing?”
“Not dating,” Cora mumbles, staring off into space, a calculating look on her face. “Never dating. Huh. Lydia, then?”
“Lydia’s awesome,” he agrees. “Beautiful and terrifying, but awesome. Also, not dating me.”
Cora smiles, a pleased, grim smile. “Good,” she says, and Stiles is a little frightened. “Come for lunch with me.”
Stiles is officially petrified. Is this a date? Does he want this to be a date? He doesn’t think he does, actually. And maybe Cora sees some of that panic on his face, because she rolls her eyes. “Unless you want to stand out here staring through the window of people actually having a good time, that is.”
Stiles is a little tired of being a picture of tragedy and loneliness. “Okay,” he says. “But not a date.”
“Of course not.” She looks so disturbed by the idea that Stiles is a little offended.
She takes him to the Hog’s Head. It’s dirty and dingy and not he’s a little worried he’ll catch something – Tetanus, maybe – if he stays too long.
But then she’s dragging him to a cramped table in the shadows in the back and Stiles doesn’t have time to panic anymore because Derek is there, scowling, and Cora is nudging Stiles into the booth beside her brother, and this just got so, so much more awkward.
“What are you doing?” Derek snaps at Cora.
“He was lonely,” she says angelically. “Like a lost puppy. Because McCall, who he’s never dated, is on a date with Allison. So I thought he could have lunch with us.”
“Technically you never said Derek would be here,” Stiles says faintly.
Cora shoots him an angry look but before he can say anything, Derek says, “I can go. I should go, I’m going.” Except he’s pinned in the booth and doesn’t seem to want to touch Stiles enough to shove passed him.
There’s an awkward moment, where Derek stares at Stiles, panic all over his face, and Stiles stares back, because he’s never seen Derek up close before. Even when Derek helps him with the wyverns, they don’t really talk or interact or anything, and Stiles does his best not to stare like a creep. But now here they are, in the shadowy Hog’s Head, and Derek’s face is lit up by lantern light, which really only serves to cast dark shadows under his cheekbones, and his eyes are all sorts of colours, and he smells delicious.
“You smell delicious,” Stiles accidentally tells him, and Cora snorts so hard that Stiles turns away from Derek to make sure she’s not choking. Then he realizes what he said and he goes very still and waits for the ground to open up and swallow him.
Instead, there is more awkward silence, and Stiles stares at Cora and Cora stares back at them both, her eyebrows climbing up higher and higher as her mouth twists with amusement.
“Wow,” she says to Derek. “Laura is going to be so sad she missed this.”
“Cora,” Derek growls, and Stiles shivers all over, but it’s not because he’s afraid. But he should really, really be afraid. But he’s really, really not.
Cora shoots him a quick look and smirks, one eyebrow up. “Alright there, Stilinski?” she asks, and no. No, Stiles is not alright, because it suddenly occurs to him that maybe werewolves can tell, maybe they can smell it or something, when stupid teenaged boys get stupidly turned on by the stupidly hot guys they’re secretly in love with.
And suddenly he’s tired of feeling like a mouse being played with by a bunch of ridiculously attractive cats. And he was never hungry anyway, because he’d eaten too much candy and his stomach hurts.
“I have to go,” he says, scrambling out of the booth. Cora, for the first time, doesn’t look amused.
“Wait, why?” she asks, reaching for him. Stiles stumbles out of reach and shakes his head.
“Not hungry,” he says, backing away. “Sorry. I’ll just –” He musters up his courage and shoots Derek a quick look, but Derek is glaring down at the table. “Go back. To school,” he finishes in a rush, and then he runs from the Hog’s Head and out into the snowy street.
He keeps running until he’s halfway back to Hogwarts, and then Stiles ducks into the forest, throws himself down in a snowbank, and hides his face with a moan.
Maybe, he thinks wistfully, the ground will open up and swallow him now. Better late than never.
It still doesn’t.
The purple wyvern still hasn’t started flying. His brothers and sisters are gliding around the barn now, dropping fearlessly from the ceiling, but the smallest one is just curled up on the tower Derek had constructed, watching them.
Hagrid had said sometimes that happens. Their wings don’t develop properly, or get damaged when they’re still so small and fragile, and they never learn to fly. Their mothers usually reject them and they don’t last long after that, either starving or being prey for the creatures on the ground.
“But that won’t happen to you,” Stiles tells the little guy, who purrs quietly at his voice. When Stiles tries to pick him up, the little wyvern squirms away, disappearing into a hole it had chewed in the top box of the tower. It doesn’t come out again.
Stiles sighs and begins filling the tiny dishes with sugar water for the others, and when they smell the food, they start dive-bombing him with gleeful chirps, veering away at the last minute. Stiles curses but he’s laughing. He sets out the tiny dishes and the wyverns flock around them, jostling each other for food. Stiles carefully sets a tiny dish next to the burrow on the top of the tower, but the smallest wyvern doesn’t come out.
When the others are done eating, they swarm him again, eventually landing on his head and chasing each other through his hair and down the back of his shirt, making him laugh again, and that’s how Derek finds him.
“Their claws are making you bleed,” he says, and Stiles yelps, spinning around to the door Derek has just slipped through. The wyverns are startled too, leaping off him and flying up to the rafters.
When Stiles has his breathing under control again, he says, “I didn’t think you’d come back.”
Derek shrugs. “Why wouldn’t I?” he asks, stepping closer. “You’re scratched all over.”
“Barely scratched,” Stiles corrects. “I thought you’d stay away after Hogsmeade the other day, and—” Stiles stops speaking and stares when the smallest wyvern dashes out of its burrow suddenly and scrambles up Derek’s leg, and then across his chest, perching finally on his shoulder and cuddling up against his neck, cooing anxiously. Derek just reaches up and runs his finger along the ridges on the wyvern’s spine soothingly.
“I need to apologize,” he says stiffly. “For Cora. For – for all that, in Hogsmeade.”
“You apologize for Cora a lot,” Stiles says, because it’s easier than bursting into tears and apologizing for getting turned on by Derek, in public, in front of his sister.
Derek rolls his eyes, but his cheeks are flushed. “I do,” he says, looking away. “Look. Cora… Cora means well. And she’s a good person.” His voice is a little strangled. “Sometimes her actions don’t match well with her intentions.”
“I’m not sure what that means.”
Derek grits his teeth and tries again. “I mean, she wouldn’t hurt anybody on purpose. Unless they deserved it. And you don’t deserve it. But it’s probably – I’m sorry, but she. I don’t think she’s interested. In you. I’m sorry.”
“Okay,” Stiles says slowly. “So… what you’re saying is she’s not trying to date me.”
Derek flinches. “No,” he says, quiet. “She’s not. Sorry if she gave that impression. She doesn’t think things through sometimes.”
Stiles is a little relieved, to be honest, but mostly confused. “Then what is she doing?” he asks, exasperated. “She hasn’t spoken more than two words to me the entire time we’ve been in the same house, and now she’s just… always there, glaring at me but being nice, like it’s against her will or something.”
“That’s… my fault,” Derek confesses. His entire face is red now, and he seems incapable of looking anywhere other than at the floor. “I apologize. But I’ll make her stop.”
“Okay,” Stiles says again, but he’s still confused.
Derek looks relieved, letting out a tense breath. “Okay,” he agrees. Stiles isn’t sure what they’re agreeing to.
Detention gets awkward after that, but there are only two more of them left, and Derek shows up to both, but he’s always strained and polite, and Cora has stopped stalking him, so things are basically back to normal.
Normal is a whole lot less interesting suddenly, though, especially because Scott and Allison are now A Thing, and Scott is planning to somehow weasel permission to go home with her for Christmas, and that’s just ridiculous. Never going to happen.
But then he gets an owl from his dad asking if it’s okay if he and Melissa are going on an Adult Only Christmas Vacation in the Bahamas. They’ve been trying to get away together since the wedding three years before and apparently this Christmas was the only time the sheriff’s department and the hospital could spare them both.
Stiles would have given in even without Scott’s puppy dog eyes and begging, thank you, but it does mean that he’s stuck spending Christmas here alone, at Hogwarts, while Scott sneaks off to Allison’s place to meet her family, because apparently just dating for two weeks means they are Meant To Be.
He’s not bitter, though.
“Maybe you can come too,” Scott says happily as they make their way down to the Great Hall for dinner.
But Stiles is not going to be a third wheel on that date, thank you very much.
“I’ll be fine here, Scotty,” he says, throwing an arm around Scott’s shoulders. “Besides, half of Ravenclaw stays here over the holidays to get some extra credit in.”
It was partially true.
“Do they really?” Scott’s eyes are wide.
“Totally,” he lies. “And I’ve got some projects to get caught up on, studying to do for O.W.L.S. It’ll be great.”
“That sounds awesome,” Scott says, because he’s loyal as fuck and thinks Stiles actually enjoys homework and being clever.
“Uh huh. Christmas at Hogwarts, best ever.”
“Allison,” Scott says excitedly, as soon as she sits down shyly beside him. “I can come home with you for Christmas!”
She’s excited. He’s excited. Stiles is excited for them. It’s all very exciting.
Sure, he’s also repeatedly stabbing at his bowl of stew, but whatever. When he looks up to make sure no one noticed, Cora’s the only one looking at him, but she’s frowning, as usual, so he just stares back down at his stew and ignores her.
It’s not like they were actually friends anyway.
Stiles decides that extra credit would be a good idea, since he’s going to be stuck at school anyway. So he goes around to all of his professors in the days leading up to the holidays, and one by one, they reject him with jovial declarations that the holidays are no time for extra credit.
Professor Harris, of course, is the exception.
He eyes Stiles up like a particularly disappointing smudge on the sidewalk and then says, “Write me a 20 inch paper on the truths behind the portrayal of werewolves in urban legend.”
“Uh, sure,” Stiles says. “Thanks.”
He’s beginning to think his Interspecies professor isn’t pro-interspecies relations after all.
“What are you doing?”
Stiles looks up over the top of book he’s reading. It’s a massive one from the library, Scott had found it for him. “Reading?” he says, and Cora looks skeptical.
“You’re reading a giant book on urban legends,” she says, frowning. “Now. While everyone else is packing to go home for the holidays tomorrow.”
“Yes,” he says.
She snatches the book out of his hands and looks at the page he was reading. She snorts. “Stiles, why are you reading about the oldest werewolf legends while the rest of us pack up to head home for Christmas?”
“Extra credit,” he says, snatching the book back. His face is burning.
Her hands are on her hips now. “King Lycaon was not cursed by the Gods and turned into the first werewolf,” she snaps. “What’s your assignment?”
“A paper on the truth behind the way werewolves are portrayed in urban legend,” he confesses reluctantly.
“Oh, so Harris wants you to tell him that we’re serial killers and cannibals?”
“I’m hoping it goes the other way, actually.” He shrugs.
Cora still looks pissed, but she drops down in the chair beside him. “So what do you want to know?”
“Are you all serial killers and cannibals?” he asks, and manages to keep a straight face.
She punches him in the arm, but he can see she’s trying to hide a smile, so the bruise is worth it. “There are good wolves and bad wolves, just as there are good people and bad people. But you won’t find any of the truth in this library.”
“This library’s all I’ve got, and even then, I’m limited. Banned for life, actually. So I’m doing the best I can.”
She’s not even listening, she’s staring off into space, scheming written all over her face. “Stiles,” she says. “What are you doing for Christmas?”
“Extra credit,” he says. “I told you.”
“Do you know who has the best library for all things relating to the history of werewolf packs, with historic documentations of various peace treaties and everything?” She smiles, slow and a little evil. “My uncle Peter. Who lives with us, at the manor.”
“Oh,” Stiles says. “Maybe he wouldn’t mind if you sent me some books, then? That could help. Hogwarts doesn’t even mention peace treaties until after the second wizarding war.”
“You could ask him yourself.”
He stares at her blankly, and Cora sighs.
“If you come home with me,” she explains, slowly, like she thinks he’s stupid. “For Christmas. Which is where I’m inviting you.”
Stiles frowns. “Last I knew, you weren’t even talking to me anymore,” he says.
“Because my brother told me not to.” She sighs.
“Because he hates me!”
“Stiles.” She grabs his hand and says coaxingly, “Come home for Christmas with me. Derek will love it. I promise.”
For a moment, Stiles is going to say no. He’s a little afraid, to be honest, of what a house filled with werewolves would be like. Cora and Derek are already so intense. But he also wonders if maybe spending a few weeks with them means he’ll get to see Derek with his own wolfy ears and tail, and that would be adorable. And it also solves another Top Secret Situation he’s been trying to figure out on his own… Plus, he’d have so much material for his paper, Harris would have to give him top marks.
She takes his hesitation for fear, and says, “You’ll be safe, Stiles. I swear on my life.” But she looks a little hurt and Stiles can’t handle that, so he says, “No, no, I’d love to, Cora. It’ll be awesome. And weird. But only if your parents say it’s okay!”
“Oh, they do,” she says, nodding with a toothy grin. “Laura’s told them all about you and they can’t wait to meet you.”
Which sounded incredibly ominous.
The Hales apparently live in an untouched wilderness far from civilisation, where no one can hear Stiles scream as he’s being brutally murdered.
“The nearest neighbours are seriously like 20 miles away,” Cora says, chipper. Stiles swallows hard and watches the trees rush by in a blur, wondering if he’s even going to survive this holiday.
Laura is driving. Laura is apparently just like Cora, but older, taller, even scarier, with a somehow more menacing smile. She keeps laughing to herself every time she catches his eyes in the rear view mirror. It’s highly unnerving.
Derek had Apparated home from Hogsmeade with some of the other older students who had successfully earned their licences that term. Apparently he would be back later that night.
Laura had laughed for a long time when Cora had airily informed her that she’d forgotten to tell Derek that Stiles would be visiting for the holiday.
Which was also pretty unnerving.
“Don’t go into the woods,” Laura advises, as they pull off the service road and through a curved gate. Stiles still can’t see the house. “At least not alone. There are all sorts of creatures in there who haven’t been warned by their parents to be on their best behaviour for your visit.”
“I can take care of myself,” Stiles says, but he sounds doubtful. He feels it, too.
“Probably,” she said, as they turn a corner and the house appears ahead. It’s large, dark, a little crooked, and probably haunted. “But it’s best not to risk it.”
Cora grins at him, like she’s trying to be reassuring. “We’re here,” she says. It sounds like a threat.
Stiles gets out of the car just as the front door opens and an untold number of little Hales pour out, all with wide eyes and excited grins.
“Is this the Muggle?” one asks. Another elbows him in the gut.
“He’s a witch, not a Muggle,” she hisses.
“Wizard, I think,” an older boy says, frowning. “Right?”
“Right,” Laura agrees. “But a breakable one. Be gentle.”
Stiles looks back over his shoulder at the winding lane that brought him here and wistfully wishes he’d stayed at Hogwarts. And then Laura’s arm is around his shoulders and she’s guiding him up the stairs and inside. Children tug at his clothes and his hands, whispering to each other about how he feels just like a regular wolf, only his skin doesn’t run as hot and he’s less furry.
“Stop it,” Cora hisses at them, slapping their hands away. “Do you want him to think you were raised by wolves?”
And she’s grinning her cheeky grin at him and Stiles rolls his eyes but he relaxes a little bit too, because sure, it’s overwhelming as fuck. But they’re just people. Not a single one is sporting claws and fangs. And Cora had sworn on her life that he’d be safe.
By evening, Stiles is stretched out on the floor in the nursery, buried under half a dozen sleepy little werewolves, exhausted and happy. Cora had long ago gotten bored with playing with the children and wandered off, but the children hadn’t let Stiles off that easily. They’d been too excited, and Stiles hadn’t minded the endless game of ‘Hunt the Human’ they’d initiated, which was basically a reverse Hide-and-Seek.
Eventually, they’d gotten tired, and somehow he ended up crushed underneath them in a warm and sleepy puppy pile, and Stiles didn’t even mind. Cora’s parents had been gracious and welcoming, had shown him to his very own guest room upstairs, had politely asked after his family and his studies over dinner, and all his worries had faded. They were just like a regular family, except for the odd claw mark on the walls, which, Cora had confided, was usually from a little one struggling with control. Once a month – after the full moon—the marks were cleaned up.
“Bed,” Stiles mumbles, exhausted. The little ones start arguing, even though they were all basically sleeping anyway. “C’mon.”
There are only two beds in the nursery, big ones, and the children start reluctantly crawling into them, willy-nilly, and snuggling up again.
“Just like puppies,” Stiles says, grinning as he tucks them in. The last child into bed, Serena, growls at him playfully, flashing wolfy eyes, and Stiles says, “You don’t fool me. I’m not afraid.”
“Are you sure?”
Stiles yelps and spins to the doorway, heart pounding. There’s a man there, leaning against the doorway and watching him, and Stiles wonders how long he’s been there.
“Uncle Peter,” Serena mumbles. “Don’t scare him. Mother said best behavior.”
Then she’s asleep and Stiles is basically alone with Uncle Peter, who gives him the creeps. Peter smiles, a sly little quirk to his lips. “Stiles, isn’t it?” he asks.
Stiles eyes the doorway, which Peter is blocking, and says, “Yes. It’s nice to meet you.” He inches closer to the door, hoping Peter moves, but of course he doesn’t.
“Are you frightened?” Peter asks, eying Stiles up and down slowly. “The children seem quite taken with you. They’ve rubbed their smell all over you. You smell good.”
“Uhm. Okay,” Stiles says. “Listen. I’m getting this really strong Little Red Riding Hood vibe from all this, and it’s kind of freaking me out, so if you don’t mind, I’d like to get out of this room now, and maybe go find Cora, because she promised I’d be safe, and I’m not feeling very safe.”
Peter laughs, stepping out of the doorway with a flourish. “By all means, Stiles,” he says. “I didn’t mean to make you feel unsafe.” Stiles darts out the door, but before he can disappear down the hall, Peter says, politely, “It’s a big house, Stiles. Do you know where you’re going?”
And Stiles hesitates, because he doesn’t, not really. “To the guest room,” he says.
“We have six,” Peter says, and it almost sounds kind, but also like he’s trying not to laugh. “Let me help you.”
He sweeps Stiles up against his side, one arm around his shoulder, and Stiles really doesn’t have any choice in the matter. He’s tugged along in Peter’s wake, and Peter is burning hot against his side, and he could be dragging Stiles off to a dungeon somewhere and Stiles would be too human and fragile and weak to stop him. He can’t even manage to get his wand out of his pocket.
“I can see it,” Peter says.
“See what?” Stiles grunts, shoving against him.
“Your appeal. You’re quite pretty, Stiles.”
“Are you going to bite me?” Stiles gasps.
Peter stops walking abruptly, turning to stare down at Stiles, eyebrows raised. He doesn’t speak for a moment, just brushes his fingers under Stiles’ chin, forcing his head up and bearing his throat. “You’d make a lovely wolf,” he says, voice silky.
“No,” Stiles argues. “I barely make a decent human, never mind wizard. I’d be a mess as a wolf.”
Peter laughs softly, his fingers trailing down Stiles’ neck. “We could teach you control,” he practically purrs. “I’m sure Derek would love the opportunity.”
“No,” Stiles says again, but he shivers, wondering what that would be like, how Derek would teach him. It’s a distracting thought and he swallows hard, because Peter’s the one touching him but all Stiles can think about is what it would feel like if it was Derek.
“Are you sure?” Peter’s leaning close, like he’s actually going to bite him, and oh holy shit.
Stiles tears away from him with a yelp. He’s panting – he’s even turned on a little, shit. But it hadn’t been because of Peter. It had been thinking about Derek teaching him control, Derek holding him down, Derek biting him, and Peter licked his lips and grinned and said, “Now you smell even better.”
Because wolves can smell when he gets turned on. Fuck. Stiles scrambles back farther, and his hands are shaking, and Peter is laughing, but they’ve come to a bedroom door, at least, and Peter opens it for him.
“Here you are,” he said. “Delivered safely, as promised.”
Stiles darts inside the dark room quickly and by the time he realizes it isn’t even his room, Peter’s already slammed the door shut and cast a charm to lock it.
“Fuck,” Stiles hisses. But it’s a bedroom, not a dungeon, so at least there is that. It’s just not his.
Stiles has his wand, but the locking charm on the door won’t break for any of his counter curses. He uses the wand to light up the room instead, looking around.
It’s got tall ceilings, with posters plastered on every inch of wall, as well as sketches and scraps of paper, handwritten notes and the odd photograph. There are bookshelves too, loaded with titles of every sort, including a large selection of trashy mysteries. The bed is huge, and made with careful precision, and nothing seems out of place in the room at all. He can’t tell whose room it is, but he has a few theories.
He tries calling for help but no one comes, and he’s pretty sure this room has some sort of anti-noise charm cast on it, which would make sense, in a house of people with super hearing.
Stiles sits on the very edge of the bed, trying his best not to disturb anything.
Three minutes later, he’s starfished face down on the bed, drooling a little. His wand light winks out and the room goes dark.
When Stiles startles awake, he has no idea what time it is or where he is, but light is spilling in through the open door and someone is staring at him.
“Too loud,” Stiles mumbles and rolls under the blankets, burrowing under the pillow. He can still hear Cora, though, because her voice is loud and shrill.
“Derek, okay, listen, Derek. Don’t freak out; we lost Stiles.”
“I think I found him?” Derek says, slow and uncertain. “Cora. What the fuck is Stiles doing in my bed?”
Stiles blinks a little, thinking about that for a moment, and all the details of where he is and why slot back into his sleepy mind and he sits up with a yelp. “It was Peter!” he cries.
“Stiles!” Cora and Derek are both standing in the doorway, staring at him. Cora is relieved, Derek is pissed, and Stiles is totally not going to survive this visit. “We’ve been looking all over for you!”
Derek growls. “What are you doing in here?” he snaps. “What are you doing in my house?”
“Cora invited me,” Stiles says, holding very still. “And Peter… Peter just. He’s kind of scary.”
“What did he do?” Derek’s growl is darker now, angrier, and Cora grabs his arm.
“Said a bunch of weird stuff… offered to bite me… locked me in here?”
“He was going to bite you?” Derek roars.
Stiles dives back under the covers and Cora is shouting something and Derek is shouting something back and Stiles doesn’t hear any of it beneath the pounding of his own heart.
And then Derek snaps, “I can’t stay in this room anyway. It reeks of him.”
Stiles is pretty sure the ‘him’ in question is no longer Peter, and he squeezes his eyes shut, miserable.
“Derek,” Cora says quietly. “You’re being an asshole.”
Derek storms off and Cora rolls her eyes. “Ignore him. He’s being a dick,” she says, herding Stiles out of the room. “And so was Peter. Ignore them both.”
“Okay,” Stiles says, wondering if he should have just stayed at school.
Stiles avoids Peter for the next few days, and Derek avoids Stiles, so it works out. He and Cora play with the children, Stiles gets into long, rambly conversations with Cora’s father about the history of werewolves, and everyone else is super friendly, so Stiles doesn’t regret coming.
He loves the woods, too, and every day, the children coax him into going for walks with them through the trees. Laura reminds him not go wander the woods alone, but says he’ll be fine as long as the children are with him, because they can always find their way home again and nothing in the forest will bother them, especially during the day, so he forgets all about her warning.
It snows the day before Christmas, heavy, thick flakes of snow that swirl in gusts of wind. It’s beautiful and Stiles and the children dress in their warmest clothes and head out for another hike.
The children are hyperactive this time, with the full moon growing nearer, and they’re chasing each other, tackling one another in the snow, and Stiles’ face hurts from laughing and from the cold.
The snow starts coming down more heavily and the wind grows colder, and Stiles is just thinking about insisting they turn around and head back when he realizes that the children have all dashed off chasing another scent, and this time, they forgot to come back.
“Hello?” he calls, but the howling wind is the only reply. He waits for a minute and then two, standing in place until his toes are burning with cold and his cheeks are numb. The children don’t come back.
“They know their way home,” he mumbles to himself, frowning. Maybe they’ve forgotten him and gone back?
He turns to follow his own footsteps, but the wind and the snow have erased his path. They’d taken such a winding and random route, too, and he has no idea which way would lead him back to the Hale house.
Stiles pulls out his wand and tries to cast a spell to lead him out, but the ball of light that should lead him to safety just hovers uncertainly in the air and winks out. He wonders if maybe it’s because the Hale house isn’t exactly the safest house, technically speaking.
He chooses a direction and sets off with determination, shoving his hands deeply in his pockets for warmth and ducking his head down against the wind. He walks and he walks and then he stumbles on his own path and realizes he was walking in circles.
So he calls for help and his voice echoes and no one comes.
Stiles starts to run, sliding in the freshly fallen snow.
It’s getting dark and he’s starting to panic and if Lydia were here, she’d know so many spells to keep him warm, to help him find his way, to keep him calm.
“Stiles?” someone calls and he goes very still, listening. It almost sounds like Scott. “Stiles, where are you?”
There’s a beat of silence, and then, “Help! Stiles!”
Stiles panics again, fighting through the snow and fallen branches towards the voice. “I’m coming!” he calls. He trips on a branch and nearly falls, but rights himself and keeps slipping through the snow.
The trees break suddenly into a clearing, and the snow is falling so heavily that all he can see is a dark figure standing across the way, next to the treeline.
“Scott?” he calls, hesitating now.
“Stiles.” It echoes strangely. “Please, help.”
He steps forward, one step, two steps, and then the ground cracks underneath his boots.
Stiles looks down and, through the blowing snow, sees spider web cracks spreading across the ice he’s accidentally stepped on.
The ground shifts and he looks up again, at the dark figure. It isn’t Scott at all. He doesn’t recognize the creature, which is too skinny, made up of legs and arms that are too long for its frame. Muddy skin wraps around sharp ribs and wrist bones, draped in torn, shredded dark rags that drift on the breeze. Its face is a long skull, with the same tight skin, gaping over dark and empty eye sockets and a mouth filled with rotting teeth and a pointed tongue.
As the ice gives way beneath his feet and he starts to fall, the creature shouts, “Stiles!” in Scott’s voice and then its gliding towards him with its wide smile, reaching with long and jagged fingers.
Stiles screams as the fingers tear into his shoulders and the sides of his neck, shoving him down faster and deeper into the frigid water.
He can’t breathe, twisted and turned upside down, struggling to break free of the creature’s grip, but the water is dark now with his own blood. His fingers slip against the smooth bonelike limbs of the creature, who darts forward and sinks its teeth into Stiles’s throat. He opens his mouth to scream and sucks in bloody water instead, and then everything goes black.
“Stiles. Stiles. Please.”
There’s too much pain. Stiles moans but he won’t wake up and no one can make him, not when his legs are on fire, his arms are burning, his throat feels like it’s been torn out. Never.
“You’re okay. You are. It’s going to be fine.”
The pain drips away suddenly and relentlessly and Stiles opens his eyes with a gasp. There’s a dark figure leaning over him and he panics, scrambling away with a scream, but moving makes the pain come roaring back and he slumps to the ground with a moan.
“Hey, no, don’t move, okay?”
The pain drips away again.
“Derek?” Stiles mumbles, not moving at all this time. Derek’s hands are burning hot and pressed to his chest.
“Yeah. I’ve got you. You’re okay.”
Stiles does not feel okay. “Cold,” he says. He opens his eyes again, more carefully. It’s Derek leaning over him, and Stiles is wrapped up in Derek’s coat. They’re outside, and it’s snowing, but Derek is blocking most of the snow and the wind from him, which is nice of him, really.
He squints up at Derek, who looks pale, and muddy, and maybe a little bloody. He also looks wet, which can’t be comfortable. “I’m going to pick you up,” he says, and his voice is gentle, and that freaks Stiles out more than anything. “It’s going to hurt, but I’m going to drain the pain away as much as I can.”
“Uh huh,” Stiles agrees, but he’s not prepared for the grinding, fiery pain when Derek carefully lifts him. His head falls back and he screams, a strangled, sobby, embarrassing mess of a noise.
“Shh, shh,” Derek says, sounding more distressed. “I’m sorry. My dad can help, he knows the First Aid spells, but I don’t, I’m sorry, you’re okay,” he says, and then he’s running and Stiles feels the jolt of every step.
He passes out again, curled up against Derek’s chest.
When Stiles opens his eyes, he’s in bed, with half a dozen blankets piled up over him, and strange pins and needles feelings in his arms and legs.
“Dad says try not to get up, unless you need to pee,” Cora says. She’s curled up in a chair beside his bed, a quilt wrapped around her shoulders. “Apparently your legs were broken and he had to mend them.”
Stiles shudders. “I’m hungry,” he admits, and she smiles a little.
“Laura’s making you so many delicious things to eat. And dad is grounding the children for life for forgetting you in the woods. And mom is with Derek.”
“Derek,” he echoes, hazy memories of pain and Derek panicking filtering back. “He found me?”
“Killed the Kelpie,” she said, nodding. “Dragged you out of the water.”
Kelpie. Of course. With the whole mimicking loved ones thing to lure people to a watery grave. He should have guessed. “It sounded like Scott.”
She nods. “That’s what it does. It made you walk in circles, too, so we couldn’t track your scent. We were all searching for you.” She grimaces. “I’m so so sorry, Stiles. I promised you’d be safe and you nearly got killed by a Kelpie.”
“Wasn’t your fault,” he tells her.
“She snapped both your legs so you couldn’t get away,” Cora says quietly. “Apparently there were other bodies, other things, under the water too, when Derek found you. He thought you were dead. If he hadn’t heard you calling for him, we might have never found you.”
Laura comes in then with a pot of tea and a plate piled high with sugary treats. “Dad says sugar is the best thing to help you recover,” she says.
“Sugar makes everything better,” Stiles agrees.
It’s Christmas Eve and the pins and needles have finally left Stiles’ legs, just in time for his owl package from Hagrid to arrive safe and sound from Hogwarts.
The clumsily wrapped box is carefully tucked under his arm and Derek’s bedroom door is forbidding and dark. Stiles knocks anyway.
For a moment, nothing happens, but then it flies open and Derek snaps, “What?” He looks grumpy and sleepy and Stiles hadn’t even considered that Derek might be sleeping, even though it is late. When he sees Stiles, he blinks and his scowl softens a little. He rubs self-consciously at his sleep-ruffled hair and he’s dressed in the PJs his mother had given to all the Hale children before sending them off to bed that evening, and it’s fucking adorable.
“Stiles,” Derek says. “Are you okay?”
Derek smiles a little, and it looks shy. “Hi?”
“I didn’t call for you,” Stiles blurts. He had practiced what he was going to say a thousand times before making his way up here, but all his carefully worded statements have been forgotten. “When the Kelpie was eating me.”
Derek looks defensive again. “I heard you,” he says. “You were screaming my name.”
Stiles takes a deep breath. “I know. But it wasn’t me. I mean, I think I screamed. But not for anyone in particular.”
Pale now, Derek shakes his head. “I must have heard wrong,” he says, and he’s stepping back like he intends to slam the door in Stiles’ face.
Stiles holds the box out quickly. “I would have, though. If I’d known you were looking for me. If I’d known you’d come. I’d, uh. I’d have been calling for you for a long time, if I knew you… would hear me.”
Derek just looks confused, but he carefully takes the gift. “Why would you call for me?”
“To save me,” Stiles says with a shrug. “Or just to, like. Hang out with me. Or to date me? Maybe?” He squeaks at the end there, and clears his throat. “Or anything at all, really. I kind of think you’re amazing.”
Derek is still staring and Stiles wonders if maybe he got it all wrong. Maybe Derek hadn’t heard the Kelpie calling with Stiles’ voice. Maybe Stiles had made some critical errors in his assumptions.
And then there’s a scuffling noise inside the box and Derek is distracted, staring at the gift like it might explode instead.
“Open it,” Stiles says, backing away. “It’s for you. It won’t bite.” He hesitates. “It might bite. I’ll just… go. Sorry. I just – sorry.”
“Wait,” Derek says. “I didn’t get you anything.”
“You saved my life.” He shrugs. “We’re even.”
The gift tears itself open, and the little purple wyvern shakes cardboard off of his fangs, looking disgruntled. Then he sees Derek and chirps happily and scrambles up to his shoulder, nuzzling his neck and cooing.
Stiles smiles hopefully. “He needed a home? And he likes you best? And Hagrid said he’d just die if we let him go with the other orphans, and I couldn’t let him die, Derek. His wings aren’t going to ever be good enough, and Cora asked your mom and your mom said he could stay here, and I thought maybe you would—”
Derek kisses him, which ruins Stiles’ plan to just keep talking until things weren’t awkward anymore.
“Oh,” Stiles says, and Derek presses closer, slipping a hand up to his shoulder, and he’s really, really good at the kissing thing.
Stiles’ legs go all pins and needley again, so he tips forward and grabs on to Derek’s fleecy pajama top, and Derek doesn’t seem to mind holding him up a little.
“I like how you smell,” Derek says abruptly, breaking the kiss.
Stiles is a little dazed, and feels like the wyvern is watching him judgementally. “Even when I stink up your room?”
“I watch you all the time,” Stiles confesses, because it seems only fair.
Derek nods, solemn. “I like that too.”
“I think you’re super hot,” Stiles adds. “Like, hot like burning. And also the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. And I want to see your wolfy ears, and your tail.” He snaps his mouth shut, wondering if he’s said too much, if it will be awkward again.
“…Okay,” Derek says.
Stiles beams at him.
Stiles fails his extra credit assignment, and Harris scribbles, “I think you missed the point.”
But after seeing Derek with wolfy ears and a tail, there’s no way Stiles is buying the story that the Hales come from a long line of serial killers. They are way too fluffy.