Jeremy couldn't feel his knuckles anymore, he couldn't hear himself think, and the buildings looked like toys beneath them. All of these facts set off warning bells in his mind as he nervously adjusted his grip on the broom. "Hey, uh, Michael," Jeremy started, looking shakily down at the ground. "Is this the best idea? Like, thinking it through, I'm starting to feel that maybe this is a bit death-inducing and not worth it."
"My dear naive Slytherin," Michael said, whipping around to face Jeremy with a look of utter betrayal on his face. "Anything is worth beating some unpracticed ass at Mario Kart."
Glancing back at the distance between their broomstick and the ground, Jeremy squeaked a bit. "And, uh, while I agree with that concept in theory, I'm starting to have problems with the application?" Just as he finished choking out the last word, the broom swerved, leaves and tree branches whizzing past Jeremy's hair. These were going to be the last moments of his life. He should have written his will. "Do you have to play it while you're driving the broom?" He shrieked.
"It's the only way to get wi-fi in this stupid place! They've got fucking magic but no internet!" Michael yelled back, playing his Switch in one hand and the broom in another. "Plus, consider it this way - great practice! If I can control the broom while playing video games one handed, I can move this thing no problem in an actual match. Am I right?"
"You are not!" Jeremy shrieked again, narrowly avoiding having his arm cut off by a tree. "Buddy, please, pretty please, I'm begging you, let's, uh, head down? Like, now?"
"Ugh, fine," Michael replied, turning and giving Jeremy the stink eye. "But only because I just got absolutely wrecked on Rainbow Road anyways. Toadette from Japan just kicked my ass."
Michael swerved down, practically hurtling towards the Earth, and Jeremy screamed. He couldn't hear his yelling over the wind. He was ready for death, until Michael ripped it up at the last minute and the broom gently tumbled to the grass. Jeremy all but fell off, rolling gently onto the field and practically hugging the Earth. "Oh, sweet ground," he moaned. "How I love thee, I am never leaving you again -"
"This is fantastic," Michael laughed. Jeremy flipped over, face-to-face with Michael's camera. "Lots of blackmail," he grinned, saving the video and hastily sliding the device into his pocket.
"Ugh," Jeremy groaned. "This is your fault."
"It absolutely is!" Michael said gleefully.
"I hate you."
"Ugh, damn, you're right." Jeremy flipped back over, face to the dirt. He felt a sharp kick against his leg and he groaned, slapping the dirt. "Fuck off, Michael."
"Dude," Michael hissed, kicking him again, harder this time. Jeremy flipped over, ready to give Michael a death glare.
"Michael, what the hell- Christine!" And there she was, staring down at him with a bemused smile.
"Hey, Jeremy," she laughed. "You've got, uh, something, in your hair." She waved her hand around his entire head. Jeremy felt his face heat up. He slapped at his hair wildly, finding that an entire tree had taken refuge in it during the ride. Hastily, he pulled at the foliage and sat up, feeling the embarrassment climb up his throat. He couldn't believe that out of all people to walk by and see this, it was Christine Canigula. With his luck, of course it was. He started picking at his fingernails and avoiding her eyes.
"Hey, Christine," he heard Michael greet her casually, their voices fading as his best friend pulled her away. God, he envied that. How was Michael so fucking chill around a goddess like Christine? Jeremy couldn't speak to her without stuttering. Hell, he couldn't even look at her! He heard Michael making small talk and Jeremy jumped up, smoothing out his robes and picking the rest of the twigs from his hair. Michael was the best - Jeremy knew he hated small talk, but it kept Christine focused so that she wouldn't have to watch him try to get his shit together. Michael was the best.
Michael glanced back at Jeremy and gave him a subtle thumbs up. Jeremy nodded, and Michael smiled back, though it looked a little pained. Jeremy figured it was from having to stall her for so long - Michael really hated awkward conversations. Jeremy made his way over to where Christine and Michael had wandered to, in time to hear Michael ask, "...so what brings you all the way out here?"
Her face went red and she started fiddling with her blue tie. "Don't laugh, okay! I wanted to try flying again. But where no one could see me!"
Christine's failed attempts at flying were Hogwarts history by now. She could charm the pants off of a troll or play any character with grace, but she couldn't get the broom to respond to her commands. The only person in the world who was possibly worse than her was Chloe, but that was mostly because the girl refused to get on the broom and mess up her hair. Even Jeremy was better than Christine was, and he hated heights with all his heart.
Christine was still talking. "...it just looks so fun, you know! Seeing all of you zooming around up there? It's so exciting! I'm a fifth year and I can't even get on a broom, like, who does that? So, I decided! I am going to master flying by the end of the year if it kills me!" She was bouncing now, excitedly gesturing as she stared intently at them.
"That's, that's really impressive!" Jeremy squeaked out. "You're gonna do it, I know you will!"
He heard Michael bite back a snort. "Yeah, Christine, you totally will."
Hearing this, Christine rushed and grabbed Michael's hands. He startled, jumping back a step. "You can help me!" She exclaimed. "You're a Keeper, Michael, you could really help me improve!"
"Oh, uh, look, Christine, I really don't think-"
"I'll do it!" Jeremy loudly announced, eyes wide and mouth moving too fast for his brain to stop it.
"You'll what?" Michael exclaimed.
"You will?" Christine smiled. She ran over and hugged him, her legs bouncing as she hung off his lanky frame. "Oh my gosh, I'm so excited! When are you free! What classes do you have, we should really compare schedules so we can find a time we're both open - I mean, of course we still need to study but, hey, maybe we could study together and then go and practice for a bit-" This was bliss, Jeremy decided. He glanced over at Michael's shocked expression and saw something in his best friend's eyes that made his smile flatten a bit. He couldn't really describe it, but why did Michael look so disappointed?
Michael didn't sit with Jeremy the next morning at breakfast. He looked around, craning his neck to see if he could spot Michael's red tie and out-of-place headphones among the crowd of black-robed children, but his best friend was nowhere in sight. Jeremy sat back in his seat at the end of the Slytherin table, poking at his food as if it would have the answer to where Michael was.
After Christine had finished gushing yesterday, Jeremy had turned around only to find Michael gone, his Switch and bag leaving only dents in the grass to show they were there. He didn't see Michael at dinner, and his best friend didn't even stop to see him before they parted ways for their separate common rooms, something that had become a nightly tradition for them during the past four years.
Honestly, they hadn't spent much time at all apart from each other since they first met at Diagon Alley. Except for summer vacation, Jeremy and Michael were practically inseparable. As much as they could be, at least - being best friends in different houses was always hard. They had so few classes together and it was practically impossible to hang out without someone giving them looks. A Slytherin and a Gryffindor together, best friends, who knew? It was already hard enough not being able to room together or have every class with each other- the weird looks didn't make Jeremy's life any easier. But neither did Michael disappearing. Jeremy would much rather have the weird looks and his best friend than the absence of both.
He shuffled nervously in his seat, replaying the events of yesterday in his mind. What could have set Michael off? Why was he mad at Jeremy? It couldn't have been the broom ride - Michael knew Jeremy hated heights, and they were just playing around anyways. It was stupid, just trying to make wi-fi work in a blocked off place like Hogwarts. And everything before that had been so standard - their one joint class, History of Magic, where they spent the period playing on Michael's 3DS under the table. Michael joining Jeremy at the Slytherin table despite the stares of the first-years around them. Various discussions on how charging electronics was hell in the castle - everyday stuff.
Jeremy started to pick at his nails. Maybe Michael finally got sick of him, maybe he had a new best friend - he shook his head, hair flopping in his eyes. No way. He needed to stop thinking shit like that, it was stupid. Michael was probably just tired and skipped breakfast. It'd happened before. He'd finish eating and go look for Michael before his first class. Simple. Easy. Good.
He scarfed down his eggs and toast, pushing his plate away as he chugged his drink. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Chloe and Brooke making faces at him. Normally that would have bothered Jeremy, but right now he had a mission that was more important.
As he stepped away from the table, he bumped right into Christine. His hands started to sweat.
"Hi, Jeremy!" She smiled widely, putting her plate of chocolate-chip pancakes down on the Ravenclaw table and walking over to him.
"Uh, hey, Christine," He shakily smiled back.
"So, are you free today? I was hoping after breakfast we could go and practice flying! I have play practice later - did you hear we're doing a Muggle play this year? I've got to confess I'm so excited, I mean I know the theatre here is relatively new but to see that we're branching out already is so great! I mean you're Muggle-born, right, Jeremy? So I guess maybe you'll know it, have you heard of -"
"I'm really sorry, Christine, I actually can't do anything right now," Jeremy said, cutting her off. He wanted to go with her, so badly, but he really had to find Michael. "I've actually got to find Michael right now. Have you seen him?"
Christine looked disappointed, but perked up at his question. "I think I saw him by the courtyard earlier! He might still be there, if you run."
"Thanks, Christine!" Jeremy said, stepping away reluctantly. She waved, a cheerful smile on her face as she sat down next to some sixth-year Ravenclaws. Turning back, Jeremy made his way towards the Great Hall doors with a determination.
He passed through them unnoticed amongst the morning clamor and walked the halls that led to the courtyard. Hogwarts during the fall was the best - no snow yet, but a cool breeze and orange leaves decorating all the open spaces. He was so preoccupied that he almost didn't notice as he passed by an open classroom near the courtyard entrance. Quiet voices filtered out of it, and Jeremy was just about to keep walking when he heard Michael's voice.
He stopped in his tracks, heart beating wildly. What was Michael doing in a random classroom with a stranger? Jeremy felt so disgusting, eavesdropping from the hallway, but he couldn't move. He just stood there, waiting, listening.
"I don't know -" Michael's voice.
"I mean, I'd like to if you're up for it -" The stranger replied.
Jeremy could almost hear Michael swallow. "Yeah, okay."
Jeremy glanced inside, heart hammering. And then it stopped altogether.
Michael and a blonde Slytherin boy were kissing, hands awkwardly hovering as if they couldn't figure out what to do with them.
Jeremy stared in shock, unable to pull his eyes away or move. "Oh my God," he breathed.
Hearing Jeremy's outburst, the two pulled apart, eyes wide and scared.
For a moment, the room was totally silent.
For a moment, nobody moved.
The blonde Slytherin broke the quiet. "I've - I've got to - There's someone I need to talk to, now." He looked down at his feet like he couldn't figure out how to move. To be fair, Jeremy couldn't either. The blonde swallowed and took a step, slowly. "I've got to find - um. Yeah," he turned back around, awkwardly, tense and fidgeting as Michael stared in shock at Jeremy. "Bye, Michael. Uh, thanks. And," he turned to Jeremy. "Um. Bye, Jeremy." He all but ran out the room.
Jeremy blinked at the mention of his name. The stranger knew him? He thought back, and realized who it was. Scorpius, the quiet fourth year. He saw Scorpius and that dark-haired kid hanging around the common room sometimes. He just saw Scorpius kissing his best friend in a dark room. He didn't - he didn't know what to feel at this revelation.
Michael was still staring at Jeremy like the world was ending. Swallowing roughly, Jeremy turned back to his friend. "I, I was looking for you," he stammered, trying to explain.
Michael started at the same time. "No, I get it, I wasn't at breakfast, I mean, I get why -"
They both stopped.
"You first," Jeremy started, unsure what to even say.
"I wasn't - I wasn't avoiding you, or anything." Michael said nervously. "I was just..."
"Kissing," Jeremy finished.
"Yeah," Michael softly replied.
Jeremy still felt oddly empty inside. He didn't know how he felt. He didn't know what to say, or how to react, or what to do. He didn't know Michael was gay, or at least into guys. He didn't know Michael was kissing someone. He didn't know why Michael didn't tell him, he didn't know why Michael would hide this, and most of all - he didn't know why it made him upset.
He blinked. The world felt like it was in slow motion.
"I have to go." Jeremy choked out.
He left, turning quickly out the door. From the corner of his eye, he saw Michael looking more lost than Jeremy had ever seen before.
Right now, he could relate.