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Good Intentions

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 There's something routine in the way Courfeyrac knots his Hufflepuff tie as he makes his way down the corridor on the Hogwarts express, checking through the windows of each compartment, searching for the one that holds his friends (or most of them, anyway, since a handful are stuck sitting with the rest of the prefects). They never sit in the same compartment, choosing a different each year, but somehow Courfeyrac always manages to find them eventually.

The routine of it is almost nice, after a summer of relaxing and no routine whatsoever, unless you count 'Get up, shower, do whatever the fuck you want for the rest of the day' to be a routine, which Courfeyrac sort of does. Getting back to the castle, getting back to early mornings and days of classes, however, isn't going to be very nice. But he takes the good with the bad, and the good Hogwarts offers most definitely outweighs the bad, even if mornings are satanic and the wizarding world hasn't quite managed to grasp the concept of good coffee (something Courfeyrac's picked up from the café in the small town by his family home, which tasted like tar the first time he drank it but kept him up until midnight, so he's loved the stuff ever since).

"Courfeyrac!"

He's stopped a total of six times before he manages to find his friends, dragged into compartment after compartment to say hello, ask about people's holidays, answer questions about his own. Some people might find it exhausting, but the smile on Courfeyrac's face as he ducks out of every compartment is nothing but genuine.

That smile slips away when he finally finds the one he's looking for, but what he finds inside is just as familiar and expected as the rest of it. (Truly, Courfeyrac loves his friends. He fucking loves them. He would kill or die for any one of them, with only a bit of hesitation, but sometimes— sometimes his friends are really daft. Right now is definitely one of those times.)

"Any reason why there're five of you jammed onto a seat meant for three?" Courfeyrac wonders as he stows his bag in the luggage compartment above the seats.

On his left sits Éponine, against the window with her cheek pressed to it, and Jehan, who looks serene and comfortable with his legs crossed on the seat, wand tucked above his ear, and a book in his lap. On the other side sits Feuilly, Bahorel, Grantaire, Joly and Bossuet, all smushed so close together it's a miracle they can breathe. (And it looks like Grantaire can't, honestly.)

"I was sitting here first," Grantaire says, sounding a bit petulant, likely from Bahorel's elbow in his gut.

"Joly came in and squeezed in beside Bossuet," Éponine explains, waving a hand to where Joly is, somehow, fast asleep while crushed between Bossuet and Grantaire, his head on Bossuet's shoulders. "Then Bahorel came in and refused to sit anywhere but beside Feuilly, and Grantaire refused to move on principle, and that's why you're looking at a cute boy sandwich."

"Figured I'd leave room for you," Bahorel says to Courfeyrac.

At this point, Courfeyrac is rather used to his friends being in love with each other and coming up with every excuse to deny it. Sitting cramped together? Oh, they're only making room for everyone else. One is caught staring lovingly at another? He has a bit of food on his face, that's all. Sitting in each other's laps? Convenience. If he had a galleon for every excuse his friends made when caught in compromising positions, he'd be able to buy that new broom he desperately wants.

"We haven't all been able to fit in the same compartment since third year," Grantaire complains, "when Bahorel hit his growth spurt."

"Still spurting," Bahorel says proudly, flexing his arm muscles with a sideways glance at Feuilly, who does nothing more than snort at him.

"Disgusting," Éponine says, lips curling. "I'm banning that word. 'Spurting' is officially banned."

Courfeyrac drums his fingers on his knees, grinning, but there's a slightly hollow feeling in his chest that he knows won't be filled until he sees Enjolras and Combeferre, and probably Marius too. (And how, exactly, have all his friends managed to become prefects without him? Not that he wants to be a prefect, but still.)

"How long until we get there, do you think?" he asks, only a little anxious.

"We just left the station," Feuilly reminds him.

"A while," Éponine adds.

Courfeyrac groans and tips his head back against the seat. He loves the Hogwarts Express, he does, but he hates how long the ride is. Thankfully his friends do offer a good distraction, even if it's a frustrating one. As Grantaire gets up, coming over to squeeze in between Jehan and Éponine instead, Bahorel moves into the space he vacates but Feuilly instantly moves over, closing the miniscule distance between them until they're squished together again, without either of them even really noticing it.

Not that he would call himself an expert or anything, but Courfeyrac is rather good when it comes to love and relationships and spotting them. Or— he's rather good at love, and he's had several relationships that have had unfortunate but mutually agreed breakups.

There was Evalyn Sternburn, with dark red hair and the nicest lips he's ever seen, who kindly ended things with him after six months because she was in love with her best friend (Courfeyrac has never held it against her; some relationships aren't meant to last, even if he had cried when it was over, which possibly had more to do with the end of his first love than anything else). There was Andrew Morgan, a muggleborn with beautiful dark skin and wide eyes who taught Courfeyrac how much fun it is to sneak around the castle. They dated for three months exactly, and on the last day of the third month they both agreed that fun doesn't always a relationship make. Or something like that. And finally, there was Lyssa Hansworth who he'd dated for the entirety of last year, who only broke it off with him because she was graduating and there was nowhere for their relationship to go.

Courfeyrac has more dating experience, and more long term dating experience, than any of his friends. He's also very, very good at judging other people's relationships with each other, if he does say so himself. And his friends? He knows them better than anyone.

Feuilly, for instance, has had a thing for Bahorel since at least fifth year. Bahorel, on the other hand, has had a thing for Feuilly since they were twelve, but he still hasn't admitted it to himself. Joly and Bossuet have actually kissed, Courfeyrac has seen it, but they're still in the denial, 'we're best friends, it could ruin things' stage. They're ridiculous. Truly, completely ridiculous. The only thing stopping them all from being happily together is themselves. (Not that friendship isn't just as, if not more so in many cases, important as romantic relationships, Courfeyrac is aware, but in the case of his friends their romantic feelings are starting to take its toll on their friendships.)

"Are you analyzing them again?" Jehan asks, tucking his book under his arm as he stretches his legs out. His jeans ride up past his socks and Courfeyrac resists the urge to lean down and cover them again. Jehan wears what he wants, when he wants, even if that means wearing jeans five inches too short for him.

"Have I mentioned how much I missed you?" Courfeyrac asks, deflecting. He wraps an arm around Jehan's shoulder, drawing him in to press a kiss to the crown of his head. "Because I missed you a lot."

"I wrote you," Jehan says back, flushing happily. "You never wrote me back."

"I wrote you back," Courfeyrac argues. "Twice."

"I sent you eleven letters."

"I hate writing letters," Courfeyrac moans. "They're so impersonal. I could tell you about my day, but by the time it reaches you it's two days later. They're completely inefficient when you think about it. Considering we can pop from one side of the world to the other once we learn how to apparate, you'd think wizards would have a better mailing system."

"That," Grantaire says, leaning forward to frown at him, "is a really good point."

Courfeyrac beams. "Course it is," he says.

"Could you keep it down?" Bossuet whispers, pointedly looking at where Joly is still sleeping on his shoulder.

"Should have found an empty compartment to sleep in if he wanted to sleep uninterrupted, shouldn't he have?" Éponine says, but despite her words she does lower her voice. "And he's drooling on your shoulder."

Joly sits bolt upright, eyes wide as if he's been awake for quite a while. "I was not," he says, wiping at his mouth.

"You weren't," Bossuet assures him.

"Totally were," Grantaire says.

Joly sticks out his tongue in Grantaire's direction before breaking into a yawn. "Almost there yet?" he asks.

Everyone groans. And they groan again when Bahorel asks the same question half an hour later. Once more when Éponine does it. Jehan smacks him when Courfeyrac asks, too. Feuilly threatens to hex the next person who does it, which only forces Bossuet to do it to be difficult, which makes Joly laugh, which makes Feuilly actually go through with the hexing and suddenly no one is laughing and Bossuet's nose is bleeding profusely.

"Nice to be back," Courfeyrac says as Joly somehow manages to stop the nose bleed while simultaneously glaring at Feuilly.

Jehan gives a loud bark of laughter and kicks Courfeyrac in the shin.

 

o|o

 

The castle will never cease to take Courfeyrac's breath away. It's one of those things that is so incredible the first time you see it, but you expect that awe to fade as time goes on and you get used to it. No such luck when it comes to Hogwarts. No matter how many years pass, every time Courfeyrac looks at it from a distance, seeing the towers rise high in the air, the slopes of the roof, the lights glowing even from this far away, he's struck by it all over again.

He could stand here all night staring at it and be content, but something more important catches his eye. A head of golden hair, shining under a street lamp. He has just enough time to call out, "Enjolras!" before the head steps away from the light, disappearing in the dark sea of student after student after student.

"They've to help the first years," Jehan reminds him, absently tying his tie as he speaks. He ties it wrong, looping it too many times and then letting the ends hang at different lengths, but Courfeyrac doesn't bother fixing it because he probably means to wear it like that. "Éponine and Grantaire are waiting for us in the carriage."

"I should have been a prefect," Courfeyrac mutters, but he's not complaining, not really. Prefects have to patrol the halls sometimes, and they're required to tattle on students doing anything they're not supposed to. Considering the fact that Courfeyrac's friends are always doing what they're not supposed to, he's happy not to have the burden of choosing between keeping them happy and doing what's right.

"You animated three suits of armor one day and lost your house sixty points when they ruined one of the paintings," Jehan reminds him.

"Marius was having a bad day," Courfeyrac says, thinking back to the way Marius had moped around the castle until Courfeyrac pulled the stunt he had, coaxing a laugh out of him until their headmistress caught him. "I was trying to cheer him up."

"A biscuit could cheer Marius up," Jehan says as he leads his way to the carriages, weaving past other students that didn't get a chance to great each other on the train and are making up for it now.

"A biscuit's not quite as exciting as three suits of armor fighting to the death though, is it?"

"And this is why you're not a prefect."

"Are you talking about that time in fourth year when he set the Slytherin tapestry on fire?" Éponine asks. Her voice comes from above, from where she's already seated in one of the large carriages. Grantaire sits beside her, as well as two Slytherin girls who look down at him, eyes narrowed at the mention of the incident.

"Technically," Courfeyrac says as he hauls himself up onto the carriage, "that wasn't entirely my fault."

Enjolras and Courfeyrac (and Combeferre, as well) have been the best of friends since the middle of their first year. They have a bond that cannot be broken, that's stronger than any friendship Courfeyrac has ever had, and stronger than any he will ever make in the future. He and Enjolras have gotten into a total of two fights in their entire time as friends, and they've both been rather bad. The one ending in the burning of the Slytherin tapestry had been the worst. They don't really speak of it. Ever.

"Someone help me up?"

Courfeyrac looks down to see a familiar face peering up at them from the ground. Éponine's brother, Gavroche, grins at all of them as he tries and fails to haul himself up, until Grantaire gives in and offers him a hand. Courfeyrac only recognizes him from trips around Diagon Alley. While most wizarding families know each other, and a lot happen to be fairly close with each other, the Thénardiers have stuck to themselves after the war. No one has actual proof that they worked with Voldemort, but everyone knows it.

Fortunately, the kids are a lot more pleasant than the parents. Usually. Éponine has a nasty temper in the mornings.

"Shouldn't you be riding with the first years?" Éponine scolds, looking ready to drag Gavroche away.

"You're not my mum," Gavroche complains. "Don't tell me what to do, Ponine. We're all going to the same place, aren't we? Why can't I ride with you lot?"

"Because you—"

Before she can finish the carriage starts to move, pulled by seemingly nothing. (Combeferre explained to him in their third year that thestrals pull the carriages, but Courfeyrac is still rather wary of them. How is he supposed to trust something he can't see?) Gavroche looks impossibly smug, knowing that Éponine can't kick him off now. Courfeyrac moves over, making room for him to sit down.

The ride to the castle is not a quiet one, but it is, surprisingly, for Courfeyrac, who usually can't keep his mouth shut. He feels restless and anxious as the castle gets bigger, bigger, bigger, until he has to tilt his head back to look up at it. Gavroche gasps and Courfeyrac remembers what that was like, how he'd felt his first year. Other kids had been scared; Courfeyrac had been grinning the whole way.

They're ushered into the great hall almost the moment they get off their carriages. Éponine disappears with Gavroche, likely bringing him to the room where they round up all the first years, and the rest of them make their way to their tables. The familiar shouts and chatter fills his ears, and that anxious, restlessness slowly starts to dissipate. The great hall is rarely quiet; Courfeyrac loves it.

"Please, take your seats, students!" Headmistress Poyntz calls, barely raising her voice to silence all of theirs.

Courfeyrac takes his seat near the middle of the table just as a familiar body settles in beside him, slightly breathless and smelling of cold air and, always, some kind of soft cologne that Courfeyrac swears he's never seen Marius put on but that he always smells like.

"First years," Marius says, still out of breath, his cheeks pleasantly flushed, "never get any easier to handle, do they? You'd think they might respect me, given the fact that I'm a seventh year now, but…"

"Aw." Courfeyrac wraps an arm around his waist, dragging him in. "I respect you, if it's any consolation."

Marius laughs against his neck, not pushing him away, and Courfeyrac only squeezes tighter. He hasn't seen Marius all summer and it's been killing him. Of all of them, Courfeyrac knows he takes the time apart the hardest. He still visits Combeferre and Enjolras occasionally, since being without them is like missing a limb, but the time away from any of his friends is difficult for him. It's like the sun doesn't shine as bright, the sweets aren't as sweet.

"Missed you too, Courfeyrac," Marius says, finally extracting himself. "Good summer?"

Courfeyrac shrugs. "Not bad, but it's good to be back."

"It's always good to be back," Marius agrees.

Marius says something else, something that Courfeyrac misses because he catches Combeferre and Enjolras coming into the room and quickly hurrying over to their own tables. Suddenly staying in his seat is a difficult thing, and he has to curl his fingers around the edge of it to keep himself in place, wondering, not for the first time, why they all have to be in different houses. It's been over a month since he's spoken to Combeferre or Enjolras in person. Waiting another minute might actually kill him.

Courfeyrac, it seems, isn't the only one having issues, only he knows his are for a different reason. Grantaire, sitting across from him in a matching tie, is ridged in his seat, craning his neck unabashedly to watch Enjolras take his seat at the Slytherin table, just beside Cosette. (If Feuilly and Bahorel, and Joly and Bossuet are bad, they have nothing on Enjolras and Grantaire. Grantaire's feelings for Enjolras can be seen from space, by everyone in the entire world except for Enjolras himself.)

"Did you notice Cosette's haircut?" Marius asks as the first years come in and are prepped to be sorted into their houses.

Courfeyrac hadn't, no, but now that Marius says it he turns in his seat again, this time to pay more attention to Cosette than Enjolras. And, true to his word, her hair is cut. Cut short. It used to tumble over her shoulders and down her back in long, thick waves. Now it comes to just below her jaw. She looks lovely. "It's very nice," Courfeyrac says.

"I thought her beauty couldn't get any greater," Marius sighs, "but I was wrong."

The only two worse than Enjolras and Grantaire are Marius and Cosette.

The sorting ceremony proceeds as it normally does. Courfeyrac cheers for every student, be they Hufflepuff or not, and he hears Éponine's shouts bursting through everyone else's when Gavroche is sorted into Gryffindor. Finally, when everyone is sorted and his own house has a total of nine new students, Headmistress Poyntz gives her usual speech on how students are not permitted in the Forbidden Forest, and certain classrooms, or out of their dormitories after curfew. Courfeyrac has to resist a snort of laughter at that.

Finally, after what feels like forever, the feast begins. The moment it starts Courfeyrac fills his plate without really paying attention to what he's loading it with. Normally they all sit together, him and his friends. They rarely sit at their house-designated tables, only during special occasions, such as the first day of the year. Every other day they can be found taking up half the Gryffindor table, or squeezing in with the Ravenclaws, or the Slytherins, or the Hufflepuffs. Sitting without them all feels wrong, not that Grantaire, Bossuet and Marius aren't enough.

"Do they not feed you at home?" Bossuet teases as Courfeyrac shovels food into his mouth.

"Faster we finish eating," he says between bites, which earns him a look from one of his housemates as she curls her lip in distaste, "the faster we can all get to our dorms, right?"

"You could at least chew," Grantaire says.

Courfeyrac makes a point to chew loudly and obscenely.

After what seems like forever, the final students are done eating and there's no sign of the feast at all aside from the powder around Bossuet's mouth from a pastry. Courfeyrac leans over to wipe it away for him with his sleeve before staring impatiently up at their headmistress, waiting for her to dismiss them.

"I hope we have a wonderful, magical year together!" she says cheerfully, but the response from the students is less enthusiastic now that their stomachs are full and they're all tired. A long train ride and the excitement of returning to Hogwarts, or arriving for the first time, takes a lot out of a person. Most of them are ready for bed at this point. "See you all bright and early for classes tomorrow!"

"See you in our room," Courfeyrac barely gets out before he's out of his seat and making his way to the Ravenclaw table.

Combeferre is busy instructing a fifth year prefect on taking the first years back to their common room when Courfeyrac comes up behind him, wrapping his arms around Combeferre's middle. Combeferre smells like a walking library and deodorant, refreshingly clean. He doesn't even stop talking when Courfeyrac hugs him from behind; he just continues on as if this is a common occurrence and he's long since gotten used to it. Which, actually, he probably has.

"—how to get into the common room, and don't forget to stress how important it is that they stay in the dorms after curfew," he says to the fifth year. "Half of them are going to be so tired they'll probably head straight off to bed, but the other half are going to be excited and asking questions. If anyone's feeling homesick at all, just let me know when I get there and I'll deal with it."

"Right," the fifth year says, nodding jerkily.

"You'll be fine," Combeferre promises her. "You were made prefect for a reason, Allen."

"First years!" the girl says loudly, seeming to gain confidence from Combeferre's words. "Ravenclaw first years, over here!"

"You're so good at that," Courfeyrac comments as Combeferre turns around.

"At what?"

"Making people believe in themselves." He cracks a grin, checking Combeferre out. "It's been a month and you've grown another two inches."

"Maybe you've shrunk," Combeferre teases.

Courfeyrac opens his mouth, ready to tell him that that's not possible, and that he also needs to stop growing because everyone is getting taller than Courfeyrac and he doesn't like it very much, thank you, but before he can someone else comes up on his left and says, "He's definitely shrunk. He was much taller last year."

"Enjolras," Courfeyrac says, not going in for the hug because Enjolras gets fussy and reluctant and acts as if he hates them (though he will, on the rare occasion, allow himself to sink into them and relax for a moment). "I thought I smelled righteous fury."

"I had to explain to a fifth year prefect why she can't tell the first years about the troll that was released in the dungeons years ago," Enjolras sighs, adjusting his Slytherin tie as if it's not already perfect. "Like we need to give them more reasons to be afraid on their first day."

"Must be so hard, being Head Boy," Courfeyrac sighs dramatically. "I mean, I obviously wouldn't know, but…."

Enjolras' lips twitch as he tries not to look pleased. "The badge is rather nice, though," he says, fiddling with it.

"You deserve it," Combeferre tells him. And he does. If anyone deserves Head Boy, it's definitely Enjolras, who's dedicated the last six years of his life to this school and who will likely continue to do so after graduation, in some way or another.

"Quidditch captain unfortunately doesn't come with a cool badge," Courfeyrac says, "but it's not a bad position either."

Both of them gape at him, only Combeferre's eyes are wide and Enjolras' are narrowed. He slaps Courfeyrac on the shoulder while demanding, "Why didn't you tell us?!"

"You know I hate writing letters," Courfeyrac reminds him. "Plus, it was much more satisfying seeing your reactions in person." He tugs a hand through his hair, not bothering, like Enjolras, to hide his glee. "I'm a little freaked out, though. I mean, I get to pick who's on the team, and if we don't win the cup it'll all be on me."

"You'll be brilliant at it," Combeferre tells him, nothing but sincere because he's Combeferre and he doesn't do insincere.

"Good enough to beat Ravenclaw?"

Combeferre chuckles, shaking his head. "You know I'm not picking between you and my house, that's not fair."

"Everyone puts too much stock on the Quidditch cup," Enjolras grumbles. It's the first day and he's already at it. "There's a difference between friendly competition and pitting us against each other, and I still think that Quidditch—" He cuts off, looking sheepish. "It's great that you're captain, though. Maybe you can teach your team how to play a friendly game instead of hating on our houses just because we're the competition."

"I'll try. But you're both coming to all of my games," Courfeyrac warns, "no exceptions."

"Wouldn't miss them for the world," Enjolras promises, and he won't. Enjolras does not willingly break promises. "I do have to go, though. I don't trust that prefect with my first years. See you at breakfast?"

"See you," Courfeyrac says.

"I should go, too," Combeferre says when Enjolras is gone. "I'll—"

"See you at breakfast," Courfeyrac finishes. "Don't stay up reading through all your textbooks tonight, Ferre."

Combeferre grins, walking backwards. "Already did that last week."

Courfeyrac rolls his eyes, unsurprised, and searches the crowd for any other familiar faces. It seems everyone has already headed for their dorms, though, which leaves Courfeyrac with nothing to do but the same. He takes one last look at the nearly empty hall before he goes, and thinks, yet again, that it is great to be back. And then he hurries for his dorm before Grantaire or Bossuet can steal the bed by the window from him.

 

o|o

 

"What does your schedule look like?" Enjolras asks him at breakfast the next morning.

Courfeyrac sighs, handing it over. He has morning classes. Early morning classes. First thing in the morning classes. If it were possible, he would drop Transfiguration. If it wasn't a necessary class to take in order to be an Auror, he really would. Transfiguration at eight in the morning is just cruel.

"My first class isn't until nine," Enjolras tells him, sounding a bit relieved. "How are you going to live through Transfiguration at eight in the morning?"

"I'll deal," Courfeyrac says, forcing a grin. "Maybe Professor Willow will teach us how to turn water into coffee. Or alcohol. Either would help."

"Maybe she'll teach us how to turn Enjolras' scowl into a smile," Grantaire says, falling into the seat across from them.

So far they're the only ones up, along with maybe fifteen other students, all scattered around the great hall. The first day of classes is always the hardest. Everyone is used to waking up at their own pace, all summer long, and returning to eight o'clock mornings is a difficult transition for most. Courfeyrac himself is included in that, but he knew when he woke up that if he didn't immediately drag himself up to breakfast he was going to fall back asleep.

"You're not even taking Transfiguration," Enjolras snaps at him.

"Have you memorized my schedule, Angel-face?" Grantaire says back, waspish.

"Your schedule is the exact same as mine," Enjolras reminds him. "Aside from Care of Magical Creatures."

"Which you had to drop, because even animals can't handle your prickly personality."

Enjolras looks wounded for a second, but only a second.

"It's too early for you two to be arguing," Courfeyrac says, trying to diffuse the anger that sparks between the two of them. He hates it when they fight. Grantaire mopes, Enjolras spends the whole day pissed at everything while pretending it has nothing to do with Grantaire, and it makes the both of them miserable. Courfeyrac hates it when any of his friends are upset, but it's even worse when another one of his friends is the cause of that. "And Enjolras, your personality isn't prickly."

"Like a cactus," Grantaire mutters under his breath as he reaches for a muffin.

"I have better things to do than entertain this," Enjolras says, pushing away from the table. "See you in Potions."

"See you!" Grantaire calls cheerfully.

Enjolras turns around only to hiss, "I was talking to Courfeyrac," before heading for the doors. When he's gone, Courfeyrac sighs and helps himself to some scrambled eggs.

"That was really uncalled for," he tells Grantaire. "I don't understand why you do that to him."

"It's because I'm a pathetic asshole," Grantaire says. Just like Enjolras, he pushes away from the table. He doesn't bother saying goodbye before he leaves, and then Courfeyrac is all alone.

The two of them truly do like each other, on some level, but they're so reluctant to admit it to themselves or each other that instead they treat each other like shit. Courfeyrac knows for a fact that Grantaire is in love with Enjolras. They share the same room. He's seen Grantaire's sketchbook enough times to know that Enjolras covers more pages than anything else. He's also best friends with Enjolras, and once, last year after too much firewhisky on New Year's Eve, Enjolras had groaned, "Why is he so attractive and irritating?" into Courfeyrac's neck while gesturing to Grantaire.

It's very frustrating to watch them hurt each other for no reason.

"You look troubled."

Courfeyrac looks up as Combeferre sits in the seat Enjolras just vacated. He's dressed perfectly in his uniform, Ravenclaw tie knotted with his hair as neat as it ever gets. Combeferre's hair is fluffy. No matter what he does to it, it always looks like he's just run a hand through it, perpetually artfully messy, the look somehow flattering. When Courfeyrac's hair is messy, it just looks messy.

He's a sight for sore eyes after Grantaire and Enjolras. Combeferre rarely fights with anyone. He's too reasonable to be drawn into petty arguments, and it takes too much to properly anger him. It would make all their lives easier if that calm was contagious.

"And you look awake," Courfeyrac says. "It's not even eight yet."

"I've been up since half-past six," Combeferre admits, only slightly sheepish. Courfeyrac hands him the orange juice, his favorite, as he reaches for a piece of toast. "I wanted to go over a few of my books before class starts, and I wanted to run down here to get breakfast before I have to make sure the first years are awake and help them find their own classes."

"Can't you make another prefect do that?"

"I could," Combeferre admits, "but I might as well do it myself."

"You are a ridiculous person," Courfeyrac tells him.

"So are you." Cosette takes the seat on Courfeyrac's other side, looking just as put together and awake as Combeferre, only she does it with a bright, blinding smile, where Combeferre is a little more reserved. "You never wrote me this summer."

"He doesn't write anyone," Combeferre says.

"It's been years and no one has yet to understand my hatred for sending letters," Courfeyrac sighs, throwing an arm over her shoulder. "How was your summer, by the way?"

"Lovely," she gushes. "Papa took us to Paris. It was beautiful."

"Did you go to the Louvre?" Combeferre asks, his eyes, under his glasses, alight with interest.

"We went everywhere," Cosette says. "My feet still ache from all the walking. It was the most incredible experience."

Courfeyrac is happy to silently watch them talk about French art and history, thinking about how much Grantaire would have loved to join in if he wouldn't have picked a fight with Enjolras and stalked off to mope. Even without him, though, the two of them manage to talk all through breakfast, even as Jehan slumps into the seat across from them, and then Bahorel, looking equally irritable and exhausted, and Feuilly, looking tired but pleasant enough, and finally Marius, with the worst bedhead but a happy, sleepy smile on his face.

"We'll pick this up later," Combeferre says to Cosette, using a hand on Courfeyrac's thigh to push himself up. "I have to go help the first years. Bring those photographs down at lunch, would you?"

"Of course."

"What photographs?" Marius asks, looking between Cosette and Combeferre, who's already halfway to the door.

"Cosette went to Paris," Courfeyrac answers for her. "Didn't your family go there once, Marius?"

"We did!" Marius says, excited to share common ground with her. "Did you go to the…?"

Courfeyrac grins to himself, happy at his work, and bites into his toast. The two of them continue to talk about Paris as everyone else eats, Marius' plate untouched and Cosette's barely picked at. He might not have anything to add to the conversations himself, but Courfeyrac is more than happy to sit and watch them talk excitedly.

"Where's Grantaire?" Joly asks, taking Combeferre's empty seat as if they're playing a game of musical chairs, one sitting down as soon as the other has left.

"He was fighting with Enjolras," Courfeyrac says tightly. "He's probably back in our room."

"Why does he do that?" Joly asks, exasperated. "Why doesn't he— Bahorel, that is disgusting."

"What?" Bahorel freezes, the three muffins he's just licked halfway to his plate. "If I don't claim them, Feuilly eats them all."

"I don't even like raisins," Feuilly says. "Don't blame your food licking on me."

"Years together and you'd think we'd be able to have at least one meal in peace," Joly mutters, almost pouting. "It's the first breakfast of the year, guys."

Courfeyrac laughs, patting his arm gently. Joly is easily grossed out; Bahorel is often gross. Sometimes it can't be easy for Joly, but they all know he wouldn't trade them for the world. "You love us, don't fight it."

"He's licking apples now," Joly says, deadpan.

Sure enough, Bahorel has a plate of apples and muffins, all with a shiny coating of saliva to keep anyone from touching them. "I do like apples," Feuilly says, eying them a little mournfully.

"It's not like he hasn't had Bahorel's spit in his mouth before," Jehan mumbles. "I doubt that's going to stop him."

Courfeyrac is the only one who laughs at that. Joly looks disgusted, Cosette looks surprised, Marius' face is a little red and Feuilly and Bahorel are both gaping. Jehan shrugs at them, reaching for the only apple left in the basket. "What?" he asks. "It's true."

"No, it's not," Feuilly says, horrified. "I've— We've never—"

"Fuck the muffins," Bahorel says, standing up abruptly. "I've got to get my things for class."

"Why," Courfeyrac sighs, propping his elbow on the table as Bahorel stomps from the room, "are all of you so content to live in denial?"

"I heard there's free Wifi," Jehan says.

"Do you even know what that is?" Cosette asks him.

Jehan looks offended. "Of course I do," he says. "I'm a half-blood. It's what lets muggles go into the enter-net." He looks to Courfeyrac, as if to clarify. "Right?"

"I have no idea," Courfeyrac says. He spends a lot of his time in muggle shops, since there aren't any wizarding villages around his family home, but he still isn't as informed on their culture as he could be. "All the cafés I frequent say 'Free Wifi' on their signs, but I always thought it was slang for water. Like, free water to anyone who enters."

"Why would they advertise free water?" Marius asks.

Courfeyrac shrugs. "I don't know. What in Dumbledore's name is Wifi?"

Feuilly and Cosette exchange looks, as the only two raised by muggles. Technically Cosette is a pureblood, but she was adopted by a muggle and grew up with their ways (Courfeyrac has never been told the full story on that, and he has never asked; she'll tell him on her own terms, if she ever decides she'd like to) while Feuilly was raised in a group home run by muggles. Feuilly could, of course, also be a pureblood, but since he doesn't know the name of his parents they've never been able to find out. He doesn't seem all that interested in learning the truth, either.

"I told you all to take Muggle Studies," Cosette sighs. "'Free water.'"

"It's not my fault muggles have weird names for things and I just assumed," Courfeyrac says, indignant.

"The founder of your house was named Helga Hufflepuff," Feuilly says, "and you think muggles have weird names for things?"

"What's wrong with Helga's name?"

"Just please," Cosette says, covering his hand with her own, "never go into a café and ask them for a glass of Wifi, okay?"

Courfeyrac nods, and the rest of breakfast is spent with them all discussing weird differences between muggles and wizards until Courfeyrac sends Jehan off to fetch Éponine, who hasn't made it down to breakfast yet even though she has early morning Transfiguration with them, which Courfeyrac knows because he has her schedule memorized. He's almost always known all of their schedules as well as his own. Half of his friends have nearly the same course load as him, but it's also for convenience. One never knows when they might need to drag their friend out of class for some reason or another, and it's come in handy more times than he can count, knowing which classes his friends should be in when he needs them.

When the watch around his wrist reads 8:21, they all head of for class (or those of them that have one this early). The hall is nearly full by the time they leave, first, second, third, fourth years and so on filling the tables, some tired and some looking terrified to go through their first day.

Courfeyrac remembers being tired and terrified on his first day, but it seems ages away, a distant memory compared to the way excitement bubbles in his stomach at the thought of getting started again. It's not that he's a particularly studious student, or that the classes themselves are especially stimulating, but the thought of getting back to it, of getting back to Hogwarts and the routines and comforts and magic it brings with it... that's rather nice.

Even if it does mean facing Professor Willow's stern look at eight o'clock in the morning.

 

o|o

 

Transfiguration is going to be the death of him this year, he knows, but Potions is a welcome break from hard work. Courfeyrac likes Potions, always had. There's something incredibly fun about adding ingredients together to make something that could save a life, or just, you know, explode. It's not the safest class, obviously, and he's mastered the spell to grow back his eyebrows out of necessity because of it, but he loves it. Potions comes only second to Quidditch.

When Courfeyrac walks into the room, he finds Enjolras already in his favorite seat, alone. There's an annoyed set to Enjolras' shoulders, no doubt leftover from the argument this morning, and he sighs to himself, wondering if it will help to go over there and make sure Enjolras is alright or if it will just make it worse. Enjolras likes to deal with things on his own most of the time, especially when it comes to Grantaire. Going over there could end with Enjolras cracking a smile and relaxing, but it could also end with him snapping on Courfeyrac and being upset with him, too.

Before he can make up his mind, someone walks straight into his back. He turns to find Grantaire, rubbing his shoulder and eying Enjolras warily, his eyebrows drawn together and his lips pressed tight.

"You should go apologize," Courfeyrac advises, knowing that that, at least, couldn't make things any worse.

"And have him yell at me?" Grantaire scoffs.

"You sort of deserve it, don't you?" Courfeyrac points out. "But I doubt he will. He'll probably appreciate you taking the effort to apologize more than anything."

Grantaire bites his lip, uncertain. "Do you really think so?"

Courfeyrac shrugs. "Doesn't hurt to try, does it?"

"Yes, actually, it does." But Grantaire sucks in a breath, stealing himself, and heads for Enjolras' table.

Courfeyrac takes the one behind them, dropping his textbook and cauldron onto the table as he watches them. The room fills up slowly, Bahorel coming in with Jehan, taking a seat at the back. Feuilly comes in a moment after and walks straight past them, heading for the front of the room. Marius and Éponine aren't much later, settling in in front of Grantaire and Enjolras, and finally Combeferre enters, slightly out of breath as he takes the seat next to Courfeyrac.

"First year Gryffindor got stuck in the bathroom on the fourth floor," he sighs, looking only slightly stressed, which means he's stressed enough for a normal person to break down, but Combeferre never does.

"The one with the—?"

"Cursed door and erupting toilet?" Combeferre gives him a tight smile. "Yes, that would be the one. I had to talk him out of going to the headmistress and writing to his parents to beg them to bring him home."

Courfeyrac rubs Combeferre's back without thinking, wishing Combeferre would let other people handle things for once, wishing he could handle them for him once in a while, too. But Combeferre seems to almost enjoy the weight on his shoulders, and Courfeyrac knows, deep down, that he'd be lost without it. Some people need to have a goal, something to do, and Combeferre is one of them. Just because Courfeyrac himself would crumble under that kind of burden doesn't mean that Combeferre is going to. Hopefully.

"It's just the first day," Combeferre points out, talking more to himself than anything. "Things'll settle soon enough. Go back to normal."

"As much as they ever do, anyway," Courfeyrac sighs. Grantaire is talking lowly to Enjolras now, head ducked in sincerity, and Enjolras is staring blankly ahead, clearly pretending not to listen. "Maybe normal isn't the best, though."

"What do you mean?"

Courfeyrac opens his mouth to answer, but their professor strides into the room before he can. "I trust," Professor Slughorn says as he heads for the front of the room, pausing only to kick Jehan's bag back under his desk, "that you all know who I am. Unless, of course, you've been struck by a memory charm this summer. And, as such, I'm sure I don't need to go over the rules of my classroom again, but since I know from experience that students' brains get muffled over the holidays, I will cite them anyway."

When he points his wand to the blackboard, a list appears. "Firstly, I will not tolerate any reckless behavior. Potions is dangerous, and you will all act with caution. Secondly, the deadlines on any of your essays or homework are as reasonable as they can be, but you may speak to me if you have an issues meeting them. Thirdly, enjoy yourselves. If you are taking a N.E.W.T. level Potions course, you must enjoy the subject on some level. I do not wish to make you hate it by being impossibly hard on you. Fun can be had as long as we practice safety and caution. Understood?"

"Yes, sir," everyone drones.

"Good. With your N.E.W.T.s coming up in a few months, it is my job to prepare you for them and I will do everything in my power to assure that you all earn top grades. I only ask for your cooperation. For today, I think we should start with a simple potion to get you all back into the habit of things, yes? No use opening a textbook on the first day."

Courfeyrac grins. If he started the day with this class everything would be so much better. Slughorn is his favorite teacher, and the subject is much more enjoyable than anything else. Potions is more about action than reading, about brewing than studying. Not that Courfeyrac doesn't respect the art of studying, because he does, but he's always preferred practice to theory.

"The instructions are on the board," Slughorn says. "Mr. Bahorel, please keep my cupboard neat. Don't think I forgot what you did it to last year."

"Do you want to get our ingredients or should I?" Combeferre asks, turning to him.

"I've got it," Courfeyrac says, not forgetting everything Combeferre has already done today.

On his way to the cupboard, Courfeyrac corners Enjolras. "He apologized," Enjolras says immediately, as if he knows what Courfeyrac is thinking. "I've chosen to give him the benefit of the doubt. For now."

"Good," Courfeyrac says, a smile brightening his face. "Now give us a grin, Enjolras. Turn that frown upside down, gorgeous."

Enjolras makes a face at him – or he tries, but in the end his lips twitch and he rolls his eyes as a smile fights its way onto his face, despite his trying to fend it off. "We have a potion to brew," he says, gesturing to where Feuilly and Bahorel are fighting over who should get to go into the cupboard first. "After you."

By the time Courfeyrac returns to his seat, Combeferre has all the instructions listed on his own piece of parchment for easier access, as well as all the tools they'll need spread out before them, Courfeyrac's cauldron in the center of the table. He takes the ingredients from Courfeyrac immediately, organizing them, and then he hands Courfeyrac a knife and what looks like a pod of peas, only shriveled and brown, and says, "Juice that, would you?"

"What are we making, exactly?" Courfeyrac asks, doing as he's told. The pod is weirdly slimy.

"A sort of fertilizer," Combeferre answers as he pours liquid into the cauldron. "It revives dead plants, when brewed correctly."

"Difficulty level?"

"Medium, about," Combeferre says with a shrug. "It's not complicated, really, but the measurements are precise. If it's made incorrectly it can do more harm than good."

They work well together, Courfeyrac and Combeferre. Courfeyrac doesn't just like Potions, he's good at it. Combeferre is good at almost anything he sets his mind to. Together, with Combeferre's level-headedness and Courfeyrac's affinity for the practice, they make better progress than anyone else in the room, their potion half-finished while others are still prepping their ingredients.

"Hand me the starthistle," Combeferre orders, just as Enjolras, in front of them, snaps, "I said counter-clockwise, not clockwise!"

"You were mumbling," Grantaire says back, snippy. "You could have enunciated."

"You could have listened better."

"We shouldn't have let them partner together," Combeferre says under his breath as he reaches over Courfeyrac, dropping something into the cauldron that makes it fizzle and turn a pale blue. "All they do is argue."

Courfeyrac shakes his head, watching as Enjolras wrestles Grantaire's wand out of his hand, confiscating it, and uses his own to fix the potion. "They're not arguing," he says, because they're not. "They're bickering. There is a mighty big difference, Ferre."

"Is there really?"

"When they do it, yeah." Courfeyrac stirs their own potion three times clockwise, slowly. "There's a lot more flirting involved when they bicker."

Combeferre frowns, watching Grantaire and Enjolras more than their potion. "Flirting between two people usually requires both parties to have feelings for one another."

"You don't think Enjolras likes him?"

"I've never considered it, honestly."

Courfeyrac shakes his head fondly and puts down his wand, as the instructions say to let it boil away on low heat for precisely six minutes and thirty seconds. "Enjolras," he says, leaning close so no one but Combeferre will hear him, "happens to like Grantaire's hands. A lot."

As if to prove his point, Grantaire has gone back to prepping ingredients as Enjolras stirs and adds them. He picks up the knife, slicing into the same slimy pod Courfeyrac had, only he does it slowly, incredibly careful, probably realizing that if he screws up again Enjolras is only going to get more irritated with him. And, as he does, Enjolras bites his lip, staring while Grantaire is too busy to catch him.

Enjolras, distracted, stirs their potion wrong and it bubbles up over the top, spilling all over their table. Slughorn rushes over to help, and Courfeyrac shakes his head again. "Told you," he says to Combeferre with a sigh. "If only they'd do something about it, though."

"They will on their own time, if they decide they want to," Combeferre says neutrally. "It's not like it's your job to play matchmaker, Courfeyrac. Things will work themselves out, or they won't."

Courfeyrac blinks at him, barely hearing the last of his words. "Matchmaker," he repeats to himself, sitting up straighter.

It's like a bell goes off in his head, a light bulb. How did he not see it before? That's exactly what he should do! His friends are all so ridiculous and unlikely to do anything about their feelings on their own. It's his duty, his job as their friend to help them out, isn't it? Because poor Marius will never make a move on Cosette, and Cosette is waiting for him to do it first. Bahorel and Feuilly are so happy to pretend they're nothing but 'bros' that they'll likely never admit to that time during Christmas hols when they were spotted under the mistletoe. Joly and Bossuet will tentatively walk the line of friends-to-almost-lovers for the rest of their lives, and Enjolras and Grantaire—

Yeah, they need his help. They definitely need his help.

"That is a really bad idea," Combeferre hisses, looking worried. "You should stay out of it."

Courfeyrac wraps an arm around his waist with a grin, fingers digging lightly into Combeferre's sweater-covered hip. "Combeferre, my good friend," he says. "Have a little faith in me, would you? I'm not going to do anything drastic. I'm just going to give them a little nudge in the right direction, that's all."

"You should let them handle it on their own," Combeferre says.

"The way they have been for the last few years?" Courfeyrac points out. "We're all graduating this year. If something isn't done now, it never will be."

Combeferre gives him a long, hard look, no doubt biting the inside of his cheek the way he's wont to do. His eyes are wide behind his glasses but his eyebrows are scrunched up. It's an adorable look, his 'thinking' look, and he stays that way for a long time before he finally sighs and says, "I want no part in it. When this blows up in your face, I'm not going to be a casualty."

"It's not going to blow up in my face," Courfeyrac promises, just as Bossuet's potion, on the other side of the room, does just that.

They're all evacuated from the classroom afterward.

 

o|o

 

Maybe Combeferre has a bit of a point, Courfeyrac will admit. Meddling in his friends' love lives (or lack of) is risky business. They could get mad at him for it, he acknowledges, but worse than that someone could wind up getting hurt, and he doesn't want to do that. He doesn't want any of them to be ashamed or embarrassed of their feelings, and he doesn't want to get anyone rejected by someone they like. The whole point of it is to make them happier, not to upset anyone.

But sitting around, idly watching them all skirt around each other and their feelings, is driving him mad. How daft can they all be? Can't they see that things could be so much better if they'd just embrace how they feel, instead of suppressing it? Loving someone is the greatest thing a person can do, in Courfeyrac's opinion, whether it's loving a family member, a friend, or a significant other. Why would someone try to deny themselves that?

Things could go wrong. Things could go spectacularly wrong. Enjolras, definitely, is likely to hate him if he somehow screws this up. Bahorel and Feuilly are likely to hit him. Joly knows more frightening offensive spells than anyone he knows, and Cosette has a track record of stomping on the toes of people who piss her off. It's not just friendships he could be risking, it's his life.

Courfeyrac sighs to himself, flopping back against his bed. Does the risk outweigh the reward? Is the best case scenario worth the chance of the worst? If things go right, Enjolras and Grantaire will stop fighting (stop actually fighting, and spitting words that hurt at each other, but he doubts that the two of them will ever stop their bickering, dating or not) and Grantaire will stop pining sadly after Enjolras. If things go right, Marius and Cosette will realize how perfect they are for each other. If things go right, Bahorel can stop freaking out about his feelings for his best friend. If things go right, they'll probably all be invited to Joly and Bossuet's wedding right after graduation.

If things go right, Courfeyrac will make a lot of his friends happier. Somehow, that seems more than worth the risk of them all hating him for his meddling.

Plus, Courfeyrac has a habit of doing reckless things, and they tend to work out in the end anyway. He hasn't been expelled, and he hasn't died yet, so. That's got to count for something, right?

His life would be so much easier if he was like Enjolras, all single-minded focus, always knowing what he's doing and what he wants to accomplish. Or Combeferre, who always has something going on, is always in the middle of reading a book or writing an essay or practicing a spell, who never doubts what he's doing or second guesses himself, always steadily moving forward. But instead he's stuck worrying about his friends, wondering if his actions are going to hurt more than help, trying to come up with the best solutions where no one gets hurt because he can't handle the thought of being the cause of someone else's pain.

Basically things would be a lot easier if he didn't care so much, but how can he not? It's not like he can shut that part of himself off.

"Thank Merlin you're here. I've been looking for you everywhere," he hears, causing him to sit upright just as Marius bursts into his room in a tornado of flushed cheeks, messy hair and wrinkled robes. "I think Cosette is interested in someone."

Courfeyrac raises his eyebrows, gesturing for Marius to sit down. "What makes you think that?" he asks. "And relax for a moment, would you?"

"How can I relax?" Marius looks close to hysterics, which would be alarming coming from most people but coming from Marius it's kind of just the norm. Courfeyrac really loves him, but Marius makes a mountain out of an ant hill. "My heart has been torn to shreds. True love and soulmates don't exist. I've been crushed by fate and left to wallow in my heartache."

"Marius," he says.

Marius nods and sits himself on the edge of the bed, tension in every line of his body. He takes a deep breath, just as Courfeyrac usually advises, and calms himself a bit before he says, "We were in the library, looking up something for her Divination class. She asked me if I was going to go to on the first Hogsmeade trip of the year, and I told her I might, depending on how much homework we have. It's our final year; they're going to be piling on the work, as you know, so I didn't want to agree to something before I'm certain I can spare the time to do it."

Marius also goes into excruciating detail when trying to recount things, but Courfeyrac doesn't rush him. It's always best to let him work them out on his own.

"So I told her I wasn't sure, and then she said— She said—" He closes his eyes, shuddering for a moment. "She said she would like to go, but she's rather hoping to be asked by someone she likes." He opens his eyes again, meeting Courfeyrac's with panic in his own. "I knew this would happen one day, obviously. She's the loveliest woman in the world, and of course she should be going on dates with whomever she likes, but I wasn't prepared. It felt as though someone punched me in the gut, and I've been looking for you ever since."

"Wait," Courfeyrac says, taking one of Marius' hands to stop them from shaking. "Please tell me you didn't run away the moment she said she was hoping to be asked out by someone."

Marius winces. "I may have excused myself first, I think. I definitely meant to."

Courfeyrac rubs a hand down his face and decides that, yes, he is going to do something about this, whether they'll appreciate his meddling or not. Something has to be done, and clearly no one else is going to do it.

"Everything is going to be fine," Courfeyrac says soothingly. "She won't be going on dates with anyone else, I promise you."

Marius looks alarmed. "I don't want you to stop her," he says quickly. "I would never try to dictate who she can and cannot date. Just because I love her doesn't mean I expect her to ever return those feelings. Her life is her own to live, and I would never want her to lose out on opportunities because of my personal feelings for—"

"I'm not going to stop her from going out with anyone," Courfeyrac laughs. "I swear. Cross my heart."

"Oh." Marius lets out a sigh of relief. "Then why did you say that?"

Because Courfeyrac is willing to bet his broom that the only person Cosette is waiting to ask her out is Marius himself, and she was trying to hint at it to him. But he can't say that out loud, not to Marius. He'd never believe that Cosette already returns his feelings. Courfeyrac fears Marius thinks himself unworthy of her love, and that is— that is just wrong, honestly. Marius is worthy of much more than he believes himself to be.

"Things will be fine," Courfeyrac says instead of answering. "Trust me. I'll make sure of it."

 

o|o

 

"Should I even ask why we're meeting you in the hospital wing?" Éponine wonders, scuffing one of her heavy boots against the stone floor. Her laces aren't tied.

"Because," Courfeyrac begins, but the word comes out nasally and wrong. He pinches the bridge of his nose while breathing in deeply through it before trying again. "Because Joly needed to practice a spell on someone, I volunteered, and he broke my nose."

"Can't he fix that?" Jehan asks with a frown. "He's planning on being a healer. He should be able to fix a broken nose."

"Probably," Courfeyrac says with a shrug. "He rushed me here before he could try, just in case. Was scared of making it worse."

"But you seem fine now," Éponine points out. "So again, why are we meeting you in the hospital wing?"

"This isn't a conversation we can have in any of our common rooms," Courfeyrac explains as they start down the hall. His head feels weirdly light, probably from the loss of blood, but he's mostly alright. "I can't risk anyone overhearing, and our school is full of gossips."

"That is a very hypocritical thing to say," Éponine informs him.

"I'm not a gossip," Courfeyrac protests. Éponine quirks an eyebrow. "I don't believe in secrets between friends, is all, and I happen to have a lot of friends."

"Whether or not Courfeyrac is a gossip is debatable," Jehan says, just as they pass a series of portraits. Courfeyrac eyes them distrustfully. They've been known to gossip just as badly as the students. "Can we get to the point now?"

"I need your help," Courfeyrac says, steering them down the nearest hallway, away from the portraits. There's nothing down here but the door to an empty broom closet, an old statue of some knight or other that was damaged during the Battle, and an enormous window that looks out over the grounds. "I need your help with something that you can't tell anyone else about, and you're the only two that can help me."

"Is this like that time in fifth year when we planted that book in the library that gave Alexander warts all over his body?" Jehan asks. "Because that was cruel."

"He attacked Marius first," Courfeyrac reminds him. "Wouldn't have done it if he didn't deserve it. But no. It's nothing like that. We're not pranking anyone. We're helping them."

"Why do I get the feeling that this is going to be worse?" Éponine sighs.

"It won't be," Courfeyrac promises, stopping at the window. There's a bench seat along it, no cushion to soften the wooden surface but still comfortable enough to lounge on for a bit. He gestures for Éponine and Jehan to sit with him, and when they do he says, "A ridiculous amount of our friends are in love with each other."

If he's expecting the words to bring shock and confusion, he is disappointed.

"How do you know about Cosette's feelings for Marius?" Éponine demands, instantly pulling herself up to full height, which is a few inches shorter than Courfeyrac himself but somehow still intimidating.

"Well I didn't," Courfeyrac says with a smirk, knowing that, if there's anyone Cosette has spoken to about her feelings, it's Éponine, "but I do now. Thank you for confirming that. I thought as much, but it's nice to be sure. Anyway, I happen to have on good authority— which is to say, Marius himself has confessed to me— that the feeling is mutual. But it's not just Marius and Cosette."

"Bahorel and Feuilly," Jehan says solemnly, nodding his head. "At first the whole idea seemed romantic, but now I just want to crack their heads together."

"Joly and Bossuet, too," Courfeyrac agrees. "Those two should have been together years ago. There's really no excuse for it, at this point. Also, Grantaire and Enjolras."

Éponine makes a face, looking terribly sad. She and Grantaire are closer than anyone, aside from maybe her and Cosette. "He's very obvious, isn't he?" she sighs. "It's like he went and found the worst possible person to fall in love with, and then did just that."

"I'm going to pretend you didn't just say that about my best friend," Courfeyrac says breezily.

"You know I didn't mean it like that," Éponine snaps. "Enjolras is great, in his own way. I just meant that Grantaire knows Enjolras won't ever return his feelings, but he's still hopelessly in love with him anyway."

"What if he can, though?" Courfeyrac says. "What if he does return those feelings?"

"Don't be cruel," she warns. "You can't get Grantaire's hopes up like that. You don't know what it's like. He might laugh about it and act like he doesn't care that Enjolras seems to hate him, but he does."

"I know that," Courfeyrac says, and he means it. Grantaire is his housemate. They share a room. He's known Grantaire since the first day of his first year. He knows how Grantaire feels about Enjolras, and he's witnessed the results of their more hurtful arguments more than once, their effect on Grantaire. He would never claim that Enjolras feels the same way if he wasn't absolutely (nearly) certain. "And I mean it. I think Enjolras feels the same way. He doesn't show it the same, but it's Enjolras. He doesn't really do things the way everyone else does, does he?"

It's a good point and Éponine acknowledges that, tilting her head to the side a bit. Finally, when she seems to decide that Courfeyrac isn't playing with her, she nods.

"Why have you brought us to a secluded corridor to tell us all of this, though?" Jehan asks, straight to the point.

"Because we," Courfeyrac says, gesturing to all of them, "are going to get them together. It's high time everyone sorts out their shit, don't you think?"

"You mean we sort it out for them," Éponine corrects. "You want us to play matchmaker."

"Exactly."

Éponine and Jehan exchange a look. "I'm in as long as we don't do anything too invasive," Jehan says, shrugging. "For the sake of love, right?

"And I'm in," Éponine says, "as long as no one knows about it. I don't want Cosette or Marius getting upset with me, and I don't want Enjolras to kill me for interfering with his love life."

"Anything else?"

"No love potions," Jehan says after a moment of contemplation.

Courfeyrac scoffs at him. "What need would we have? They're all already in love. That's not the issue. The issue is them actually doing something about it."

"Agreed, then," Jehan says.

"Agreed," Éponine adds.

"Brilliant." Courfeyrac smiles at them. "Any suggestions on where we should begin?"

"You have nothing planned?" Éponine demands. "You made it sound like you already had something planned."

"My plan was to get you two to agree to help me, and then figure something out from there."

The resulting groan from Éponine and Jehan at those words echoes along the empty corridor.

"No worries," Courfeyrac says carelessly. "We'll figure something out."

 

o|o

 

"Isn't he a Ravenclaw?"

"What's he doing at our tryouts?"

"He's a spy!"

Combeferre, beside him, sighs and cups a hand over his brow to shield his eyes from the sun and stop the glare from reflecting off his glasses. It's a bright, beautiful day, and Courfeyrac has been mentally patting himself on the back since they got out here for scheduling his Quidditch tryouts for today. Combeferre doesn't seem as pleased in his Ravenclaw sweater, his cheeks already flushed from the heat. By some miracle Courfeyrac has convinced him to help with this, but he wishes Combeferre would have dressed a little more appropriately.

"He's not a spy," Courfeyrac says, rolling his eyes. "Honestly, are you a first year or what?"

"S-second year, sir!" the one who called Combeferre a spy squeaks.

Sir. Courfeyrac finds he could get used to that. "Combeferre," he says, gesturing to the boy— man— in question, "is a dear friend of mine who has offered to help with our tryouts."

"Offered?" Combeferre snorts. "I recall you pleading with me for days."

"Details," Courfeyrac says, waving him off. "He's the farthest thing from a spy. He doesn't even play for their team."

"Then why is he here, if he doesn't play?"

"Because he's a genius, and he happens to know more about the game than any person standing on this pitch right now, myself included." That seems to shut everyone up. "He'll be watching your performances today and helping me rank you all, so it might be in your best interests to stop questioning his presence, yeah?"

Most people nod hastily, but a few of the older students still look wary. There're twenty-one of them in total, Courfeyrac counts, and he's happy to see that everyone who was on the team last year that didn't graduate is back again. More than half of them, however, are newbies, and he only has four new positions to fill. That means that he'll be disappointing half of the people before him, and his stomach does an odd twisting/clench at the thought.

It has to be done, though. It can't be avoided. If he could allow everyone on the team, he would, but there are only so many positions to be filled. They might need replacements though, he considers. Quidditch is a very dangerous game, and it's not unlikely that one of his players could be made unable to play mid-game. He'd need someone to fill in for them, so that adds a few more spots on the team, at least. A few more people he can give good news to.

Knowing that, and knowing what needs to be done, does little to help. Courfeyrac's hands are sweating and suddenly Combeferre isn't the only one who's dying under the heat. Courfeyrac tugs at his tie, loosening it, and flounders. What does he do now?

"I think," Combeferre says, head inclined in Courfeyrac's direction, "you should start by seeing how well they can fly. If someone isn't capable of handling themselves in the air, they won't be much help during a game."

"Right," Courfeyrac says, nodding. "We're going to start with flying, for now. Everyone that doesn't have a broom of their own can follow me and one will be provided."

Fifteen minutes later Courfeyrac stands beside Combeferre, watching twenty-one students fly high above them. A few are wobbly, unsure of themselves, but most of them are more than capable, he's relieved to find. Fuck, maybe they'll all be great! Maybe he won't have to cut anyone. Maybe the Hufflepuff team will have over twenty players this year.

"They know everyone can't be on the team," Combeferre says, eyes on the sky. He has a notebook in his hands, a muggle pen scratching against the pages every once in a while ("They're much more practical than ink and quills," Combeferre told him in second year, and he's insisted on using them ever since) as he watches the prospective players in the air. "You can't beat yourself up over it if you have to let a few of them down."

Courfeyrac lets out a laugh that's just this side of hysterical. "Quidditch means the world to some people, Ferre," he points out. "Remember my third year? During my tryouts when I totally fucked up and let everyone score on me and I didn't make the team?"

It took him three tryouts before he'd made it. Three. First year, he'd been cut immediately because he had been deemed too young. Second year, he'd fallen off his broom with nerves. Third year, he'd been doing so good, he thought he had it in the bag, but the moment they'd put him in front of the goals he'd choked. It wasn't until his fourth year, after a summer spent training himself as often as he could, after weeks of practicing in his own backyard and begging his parents to buy him a new broom, he'd finally made the team.

He'd been ecstatic, had worn his uniform for weeks straight after he got it, but the years where he'd been told no had been bad. He'd spent the whole night after the third year alternating between crying on Enjolras' shoulder and crying on Combeferre's shoulder. He'd been inconsolable for weeks, and now he has to do the same thing to someone else.

"You're their captain," Combeferre tells him. "They know you're going to do what's best for the team, and sometimes that means saying no."

"Maybe I'm not fit for captain," Courfeyrac say quietly.

"Of course you are," Combeferre says confidently. "You're great at the game, and you're a natural leader. People will follow you because you make them care about you, you make them want to impress you. This is the hardest part. After today, you'll be fine. You might even get Hufflepuff the cup this year."

"Ravenclaw would have to lose for that to happen, you know," Courfeyrac reminds him.

Combeferre shrugs, points at the sky, and says, "The second year in the purple. You're going to have to cut him. He can barely hold onto his broom."

Courfeyrac swallows and does what needs to be done.

Of course, he does it in the nicest way possible, taking the kid aside and telling him that no, he hasn't made it onto the team, but that if he would like, Courfeyrac will give him a few flying tips and practices to help him so he can make it next year. There are tears in the kid's eyes when he hands over the school broom, but he's smiling and agreeing when Courfeyrac offers to help him get better.

The day continues like that, Combeferre taking notes, Courfeyrac giving instructions, and dejected students making their way off the pitch. Somehow, by the end of it, Courfeyrac has the new Beaters he needs, as well as the new Seeker and a new Chaser. He also has two back-up Chasers, just in case, and he feels confident with the team he's assembled. They're not only good players, but they're good people. He knows them all by name, from classes or around the common room.

They really might win the cup this year, if they give it their all, spend enough time practicing and learning to work together as a cohesive unit. The thought thrills and terrifies him, because if they don't win it'll be no one's fault but his own.

Not that winning is the whole point. They should be having fun, enjoying themselves. Winning would be nice, but it's not all there is. (For some reason he has a feeling he's the only one who sees it this way.)

"I was thinking," Combeferre says as they head for the castle, the sun getting lower in the sky, signaling time for dinner soon, "that after dinner we could—"

"Can't," Courfeyrac says regretfully. "I have plans."

"Oh." Combeferre nods, adjusting his glasses. It's starting to get windy, the beautiful weather giving way to what's likely to be a chilly, windy night. It messes Combeferre's hair even more than usual, not that he seems to notice or mind. "Right. Anything in particular?"

"You explicitly stated that you wanted no part in it."

"Ah. The Enjolras and Grantaire thing?"

"Not exclusively."

"You mean…?"

"Cosette and Marius," Courfeyrac admits. "Bossuet and Joly. Bahorel and Feuilly. It's weird, isn't it, how many of our friends that have fallen for each other? What are the chances, right?"

"Right." The colour in Combeferre's cheeks from earlier deepens, crawling slowly down his neck. It's not even that hot anymore. "What are the chances?"

"We don't have to talk about it if it's making you uncomfortable," Courfeyrac says quickly. "We can talk about something else."

"Why would— why would it make me uncomfortable?"

Courfeyrac shrugs, grins. "You're blushing," is all he says.

"It's the wind," Combeferre insists, gaze resolutely on the castle ahead of them.

"Okay," Courfeyrac says, willing to let it go if it'll make Combeferre happy. He tries to change the subject back to Quidditch. "Do you think—?"

"Why would it make me uncomfortable, anyway?" Combeferre asks, interrupting him. "It has no reason to."

"Maybe…" Courfeyrac frowns, inspecting him. Combeferre's face is devoid of any emotion, surprisingly blank aside from the colour in his cheeks. After a moment Courfeyrac says, "Maybe you like you someone too?" because it seems like the most likely cause.

But— no. Combeferre hasn't, ever. He's not dated or shown interest in anyone. Combeferre is happier with his books, with the library. He isn't the type to chase after someone, to lose track of his thoughts because someone is on his mind. Combeferre is possibly too logical for that type of love, not that he isn't capable of love at all, because he is. He fiercely loves his friends, his family, his house. But Courfeyrac can't imagine a Combeferre that stares off into space, sighing while thinking of someone; a Combeferre that writes poetry or goes on dates or sends chocolates to a person he likes.

It's unfathomable. Truly, completely unfathomable.

Who would Combeferre even like? Someone like him, most likely. Maybe another Ravenclaw? Or maybe—

"I don't," Combeferre says, cutting off his thoughts. "Our N.E.W.T.s are coming up. I don't really have the time to fancy someone, do I?"

Normally Courfeyrac would say that it doesn't really work that way, you don't get to choose when you like someone, but instead he finds himself saying, "Not really, between studying and everything else. It'd probably just be a distraction."

"What about you?" Combeferre asks abruptly. "You're setting everyone else up. What about yourself?"

Courfeyrac truly hasn't thought about it. He's been so caught up in everyone else this year that he hasn't stopped, for a moment, to think about his own love life. "I'm not interested in anyone at the moment, but who knows what the future may hold," he says at last, finishing the words with a shrug.

"Cosette, maybe," Combeferre jokes, but his voice sounds tight and not as playful as it's supposed to. "She's the only one who's stuck with Divination."

Courfeyrac forces out a laugh. "Maybe I should ask her, then."

There's something very, very off about the conversation, but Courfeyrac can't put his finger on it aside from the awkwardness. Things with Combeferre and him have never been awkward. They're the best of friends, along with Enjolras. They've been each other's best mates since first year. They have long since passed the awkward, stiff stage of friendship, and yet it seems like they've found their way back there between the Quidditch pitch and the castle.

"See you at dinner," Combeferre says when they get to the doors.

"Where are you going?"

"I've things to do."

And with that Combeferre is gone, leaving Courfeyrac to stare sadly at his back, wondering if it's something he did. He sincerely hopes not, and he hopes that things go back to normal as quickly and abruptly as they've gone wrong.

 

o|o

 

"Can you stop that?" he asks Éponine. She's lying on one of the Gryffindor couches, legs thrown over the armrest, with her wand in hand and a cushion floating above her. The moment he speaks the cushion flies at his face, but he easily bats it away with his hand and says, "I'm trying to think."

Jehan barely spares them a glance. He has his Gryffindor tie wrapped around his head, wand tucked above his ear and a quill in hand, though he's been doing nothing but staring at his parchment with a sad, solemn look on his face for the better half of an hour.

So far operation Get Everyone Together is… coming along very slowly.

"I already know what we're going to do first," Éponine says, swinging her legs off the couch. She sits up, her hair messy from lying down, and grins wickedly. "We're going to send Marius a love letter."

"A love letter," Courfeyrac repeats, cocking his head to the side.

"A love letter from Cosette."

"A forged love letter from Cosette?"

This time the pillow hits its mark. There's beading along the edge. It hurts. "Yes, a forged love letter from Cosette, dumbass," Éponine says. "It's perfect. Tell me, why do you think Marius and Cosette aren't together yet?"

"Because Cosette is waiting for Marius to make the first move," Courfeyrac says confidently.

"She is," Éponine agrees. "She doesn't want to scare him off so she's letting him come to it on his own terms. And why hasn't Marius made a move yet?"

"Because he's hopeless when it comes to speaking around Cosette, most days. It might actually kill him if he tries to confess his feelings for her," Jehan supplies without looking up from his parchment. "Something that rhymes with 'Starlight'?"

"Bar fight, spider bite, eye sight," Courfeyrac says automatically. "And Jehan's right. Which, indecently, also rhymes with starlight."

"That was terrifying, so we're going to pretend that didn't happen," Éponine says, eyebrows raised. "Anyway, why is it that he's such a mess around her, do you think?"

"He's in love with her," Courfeyrac answers, "and he doesn't think she could ever feel the same way. This is Marius we're talking about. He's wonderful, but he doesn't seem to realize it. In his mind she could never deem him worthy of returning his feelings."

"Exactly!" Éponine snaps her fingers for emphasis. "So we send him a love letter or two from Cosette. Sign them all with Cosette's name, and eventually he'll get the hint that she likes him. All we need to do is boost his confidence, convince him that she does feel the same way."

"And then he'll finally do what everyone's been waiting for and ask her out," Courfeyrac finishes.

"Rhymes with brown?"

"Frown, gown, drown, crown," Courfeyrac answers Jehan before turning back to Éponine. "I think that just might work. Cosette and Marius won't benefit from us pushing them together. What we need is to help Marius be a little more sure of himself, and they'll do all the rest."

"It's not going to be easy," Éponine warns. "This is Marius."

Courfeyrac goes to say that it'll be worth it, in the end, no matter how hard it is, but before he can open his mouth the door to the Gryffindor common room flies open and Bahorel comes in, struggling to carry Feuilly over his shoulder. He's gasping and Feuilly's slipping and he just makes it over to the couch in time to drop Feuilly unceremoniously into Courfeyrac's lap.

"Special delivery," Bahorel says.

"Just what I've always wanted," Courfeyrac coos down at Feuilly.

But Feuilly isn't just lying on Courfeyrac. His body is ridged, arms tight at his sides and legs pressed together. Bahorel jogs for the stairs, heading up to his room no doubt, and Feuilly doesn't move. "Full fucking body-bind," he snaps. "Someone undo it."

Courfeyrac pulls out his wand and does just that. As Feuilly sits up, rolling his shoulders and stretching out his legs, Courfeyrac asks, "Do we even want to know?"

Feuilly contemplates for a moment before saying, "Probably not, no. If he comes back tell him I'm in my room and if he tries to get in my common room I'll have a horde of first years attack him. I need to finish my homework and I don't need him distracting me again. Some of us would actually like to graduate this year."

Courfeyrac watches Feuilly go, shaking his head, and the moment the door to the common room shuts behind him Bahorel appears, his arms weighed down with textbooks and parchment. "If you really want to study," he says while making his way around the couch, "we can do it here, not in the…."

It is awkward, to say the least, when Bahorel realizes Feuilly is gone and his whole expression collapses into something bitterly hurt. No one says anything for a while, and Bahorel doesn't ask. He kicks the nearest table, knocking over the beet juice Jehan has been drinking, spilling it across the floor like watered-down blood, and then he stomps towards the stairs, not looking back.

"Perhaps," Jehan says, finally looking up from his parchment, "we should work on them next."

 

o|o

 

It used to be that students never hung out in each other's common rooms. It used to be frowned upon. Before, weird looks would be given to a Hufflepuff sitting in a Slytherin's bedroom, but Enjolras put a stop to that in their third year. After previous years of them spending all their time in the library, or other various rooms in the castle, he'd dragged Courfeyrac and Combeferre into his common room, sat them down, and glared viciously at anyone who dared to look at them funny.

Of course there are still people who don't agree with it, and there are a few who will put up a fight if they find someone they dislike in their common room, but for the most part things have gotten a lot more lenient. He doesn't have the password to the Gryffindor or Slytherin common rooms, but he's still in them often. The Ravenclaw dormitory has never had the best security, honestly, and all it takes is the answer to a riddle to get in once you find the door, which some students aren't capable of doing unless they're in the house themselves.

The Slytherin dormitory is his favorite, though, aside from his own. Probably because they're so similar, both beneath the ground floor and almost cave-like, in a way. Hufflepuff is brighter, more open, but it still has a comfortable, underground feel to it. Slytherin is slightly colder, a little damp seeming, but the ceilings slope the same way and the rooms are almost identical, aside from the colour schemes.

Enjolras' bed is almost the exact same as his own. It feels the same.

"What did you get for number four?" Enjolras asks, frowning down at his own homework.

Courfeyrac takes a glance down at his own and says, "Bulgeye potion."

"I have 'Engorgement spell'," Enjolras says, frown deepening. "It could be either one. 'Eyes the size of dinner plates.' What's to distinguish the two?"

"I've put down both, just to be sure," Combeferre speaks up from the floor, where he's resting against the edge of the bed.

They learned, around fifth year, that the three of them no longer comfortably fit on one bed. They take turns sitting on the floor, and today it's Combeferre's. Enjolras is perched at the end of the bed, legs tucked beneath him, and Courfeyrac is spread out with his parchment beside him and his tie untied, the picture of comfort and ease.

It's the first Friday of the school year, and it's also the first time the three of them have been alone together. It's nice, getting back to this. As much as he likes spending time with the others, Enjolras and Combeferre are his best friends. Sometimes he needs time alone with just them, to relax and catch up and bask in each other's company.

"Do you think this is cheating?" Combeferre wonders, but he doesn't sound all that concerned.

"We've been doing it since second year," Enjolras points out. "Even if it is, there's no point in stopping now."

"We're only helping each other," Courfeyrac adds. "It's not like we're making one person do the work and then the rest copying from him. We're working as a team, that's all."

"I have a feeling our professors won't see it that way," Combeferre points out, but a moment later he says, "Number five?"

It continues this way, going through the homework for all of the classes they have together, question by question, helping each other with the answers they've each struggled with. They've always done this. They meet up on Friday, tackling their homework for the weekend, help each other, and then by Friday night they've finished it all and they have the whole weekend ahead of themselves to do whatever they like. It's a good system, and it's helped him get through many weekends that he otherwise would have spent stressed out over his own work and whether or not his answers were good enough to get him a passing grade.

Finally, when Combeferre, who has the most classes out of all of them, says, "That's all I have," they stop. Enjolras kicks his legs out from underneath him, pushing his work towards Courfeyrac's pile, and spreads out. Combeferre yawns, stretching his arms above his head, and takes off his glasses to rub at his eyes. Courfeyrac takes his tie all the way off, balls it up, and throws it at the back of Combeferre's head.

"So," Enjolras says after a while, once the comfortable silence starts edging towards uncomfortable silence. "Guess who has an internship at the Ministry lined up just after graduation?"

Courfeyrac makes a surprised sound and Combeferre cranes his neck awkwardly to gape in Enjolras' direction. "Are you serious?"

Enjolras shrugs, but he's grinning, wide and radiant. Sometimes Enjolras is seriously beautiful. Like, offensively beautiful. "If I play my cards right, I could be joining the International Confederation of Wizards by the time I'm thirty-two, like I've been planning."

That's always been his goal, something important, earning a position in the Ministry that will allow him to do something, make changes. Enjolras will change the world for the better one day, Courfeyrac doesn't doubt it, even if he has to move mountains with his bare hands to do it. The ministry is already steadily moving in a good direction, changes already being made that better the lives of the masses. With Enjolras' help, things will only get increasingly better. Enjolras is nothing if not driven, and he isn't the type to settle for mediocrity. ("Why have a good government when we could have a great one?")

Courfeyrac moves up the bed, crawling on his hands and knees until he can flop half on top of Enjolras, half onto the bed, staring up at the low ceiling with his head in Enjolras' lap. "Beauty and ambition," he teases. "I'm very proud of you, being all grown up, securing a job for the future."

For some reason Courfeyrac's stomach twists the more he speaks, and when he's finished he feels partially ill.

"I won't lie," Enjolras says, carding his hands through Courfeyrac's hair. "I can't believe it. This is more than I could have hoped for. I thought I'd be stuck working at some shop, gaining experience for years before they'd even allow me a position in the Ministry itself. To be offered an internship just after graduation…"

"It's a great honor," Combeferre agrees. "You deserve it."

"Thank you."

Talk of the future makes Courfeyrac's skin itch, honestly. He should be like Enjolras, making concrete plans for his future aside from muttering, "I want to be Auror," whenever someone asks him what he plans to do. Instead, he'd rather not talk about it.

"Any other bombs to drop?" Courfeyrac jokes, forcing a laugh. "Anyone else do anything interesting over the summer?"

The room goes quiet for a moment, Enjolras still steadily running his fingers through Courfeyrac's hair. It feels nice, familiar. Enjolras is far from a tactile person, most days, and Courfeyrac has come to appreciate moments like this when Enjolras reaches out.

"I got a tattoo," says Combeferre casually, after a while.

The words are spoken at a normal tone, certainly, but in the quiet of the room he might as well have shouted them. Courfeyrac jerks upright, Enjolras' fingers getting stuck in his hair. He yelps, pain tingling through his scalp, and Enjolras quickly apologizes while Combeferre keeps his back resolutely turned towards them.

"What the bloody fuck do you mean you got a tattoo?" Courfeyrac demands, reaching out to shove at Combeferre's shoulder. "You can't just announce something like that out of the blue and then just— sit there."

"What else could I possibly mean?" Combeferre asks, tilting his head to meet Courfeyrac's eyes. "I got a tattoo. Over the summer. It's not as if it's a big deal."

"What of?" Enjolras asks, sounding as calm as Combeferre, as if this isn't— as if this isn't monumentally shocking. Which, in case anyone is wondering, it is. It so very much is.

"'Wit beyond measure is a man's greatest treasure' written along my collarbone, on the left side," Combeferre says. His shoulders lift and drop minutely. "I've wanted one for a while, and I couldn't think of anything better. I figured I might as well get something related to my house, since we're graduating this year and Hogwarts will always be such a big part of me. It didn't hurt as much as everyone I asked said it would. I think I'll get another one, eventually. Maybe a few. The Hogwarts crest, or something of the like."

Enjolras makes a considering face before shrugging as well, murmuring, "Huh."

Courfeyrac, on the other hand, blurts, "You're bullshitting. There's no way."

"Why would I lie about that?"

"I don't know!" Courfeyrac says, defensive. "But there's no way you got a – a tattoo. There's no way."

"Do you want to see it?"

No, Courfeyrac thinks with startling ferocity, but before he can say it Combeferre stands up, pulling down the neck of his sweater. There, curving up along his collarbone towards his shoulder, are the words in a beautiful, curving script of blue that seems to shimmer when the light hits it just right, turning it almost bronze.

"Magical ink," Combeferre explains.

"It suits you," Enjolras says.

Courfeyrac bites back the no it doesn't that bubbles up inside of him. "It's very, um," he says instead, which isn't much better.

"It's not like it's huge," Combeferre points out. "I made sure it was somewhere that could be easily concealed, and it's rather small. I thought… I guess I don't really know what I thought. I just wanted it, and at the time it seemed like a good idea."

"A brilliant idea," Courfeyrac says, feigning enthusiasm. "It looks great, Ferre."

Combeferre smiles, releasing his shirt so the tattoo is covered again. With it out of sight, Courfeyrac finds he can breathe easier. Not that he couldn't breathe easily before. He's just surprised, is all. He knows Combeferre is fully capable of letting loose like the rest of them, doing reckless things once in a while, stupid things on the rare occasion, but this is still unexpected. Combeferre has never mentioned wanting a tattoo before. Courfeyrac is positive he would remember that.

"What time is it, anyway?" Combeferre asks, suddenly snagging Courfeyrac's wrist. He turns it over, oblivious to the way Courfeyrac has gone tense all over, and reads the time on his watch. "Crap. I have prefect duties in an hour and I promised Feuilly I'd help him clean our room first. I have to go."

"Don't forget your work," Enjolras reminds him.

Combeferre grins, scooping up his homework and books. He nods his goodbye without another word, shutting the door behind him on his way out. Courfeyrac stares at it for a long time, frowning.

"Didn't you mention once that you have a thing for tattoos?" Enjolras asks.

"Yep."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"You know, I think I'd rather just pretend it doesn't exist, actually."

"Fair enough."

 

o|o

 

The thing about writing a letter to Marius from Cosette is that Marius knows Cosette's handwriting. All of them, every single person in their group, keeps in touch over the summer through letters. Aside from Courfeyrac, of course, who hates writing because he can never properly express his thoughts and feelings through written word, who talks as much with his touch as his words and who struggles to convey things properly without being able to put a hand on someone's shoulder, or gesturing, or wrapping his arms around someone.

Marius knows Cosette's signature, most definitely, and they can't forge it well enough to pass his scrutiny. Maybe if it were someone else they'd be okay, but this is Marius, and it has to do with Cosette, and there's no way he doesn't have every swoop of her signature memorized.

"Maybe we can just ask her for it," Courfeyrac says as breakfast the following week, the words spoken through a yawn. Weekends are traps, lulling him into believing that he can once again sleep in all day and wake up in the afternoon. Mondays are reality, harshly knocking down his door. He really needs a damn coffee. "I'm going to ask her for it."

"You're going to show her the letter?" Éponine's mouth hangs open. "You'll spoil the whole thing!"

"What's spoiled?" Joly sits himself next to Courfeyrac, Bossuet falling into the seat beside him. "Tell me it isn't the milk again. I don't think I ever fully recovered from last time."

This is probably why they should keep their planning to secluded areas, like their bedrooms, or one of the bathrooms that no one frequents. "The milk is fine," Jehan says easily, in that way Jehan has, sincere and believable with a soft smile to punctuate. "I would, however, avoid the jam."

"What's wrong with the jam?"

"It's strawberry."

Bossuet snorts a laugh and says, "I'll take my chances, then," while reaching for the jam in question.

Joly hands Bossuet the toast, Bossuet smears jams on four pieces and hands Joly two, and then the two of them eat, creepily in sync with each other. Without even needing to ask, Joly holds out his hand and Bossuet passes him the milk, and then Bossuet holds out his and Joly passes the water jug, and seriously, the two of them are so married it's adorable.

"What?" Bossuet asks through a mouthful of toast when they realize everyone's watching them.

"You shouldn't talk with your mouth full," Joly scolds. "You could choke."

"Do you even realize it?" Éponine asks them both, her elbows braced on the table, chin resting on the palms of both her hands, examining Joly and Bossuet like a particularly interesting species that she hasn't quite identified yet. "I'm starting to think that maybe you two honestly don't even realize it."

What makes Joly and Bossuet so frustrating is that they, more than anyone, are two halves of one whole. From what Courfeyrac knows, they met in their first year, on the boats to the castle, and have been best friends ever since. They literally finish each other's sentences sometimes. If Joly even hints at making a joke, Bossuet falls over himself with laughter. In year five, when Joly's mum fell ill and he spent two weeks at home, Bossuet was out of his mind without him. He didn't go to class, he barely left their dormitory, and Courfeyrac had brought him most of his meals straight to his bed.

They're practically freaking soulmates.

"Do we even realize what?" Bossuet asks, looking lost.

"That you're—"

"Fuck my whole life up the ass with a cactus," Grantaire moans, almost sitting on Éponine as he crashes into the table. He practically shouts the words and Courfeyrac makes a face at the alarmed looking first years that have their eyebrows nearly up to their hairlines.

"Language," Joly snaps. "Watch yourself, Grantaire."

"Well I'm sorry," Grantaire says, not sounding sorry at all, "but I'm having a bit of a fucking crisis here, mate. I—I—" He tugs a hand through his hair just as Éponine tugs him down onto the bench seat, which is probably a good idea. He looks close to fainting, all colour drained from his face and his eyes horrifyingly wide. "Skinny jeans."

"What?" Courfeyrac asks.

"Skinny jeans," Grantaire repeats, waving a hand around hysterically. "I will curse the muggle who invented them, I swear. I'm only equipped to handle so much, you know? There's only so much a man can take! This is too fucking much. Way too much. I can't deal with this shit, I really can't."

"Pause," Jehan coaxes, reaching out to rub his back. "Use your words again when you're actually going to make sense."

Grantaire moans again, dropping his head rather roughly onto the surface of the table. There's a thud as it hits, and Courfeyrac is willing to bet anything that he's going to have a huge bump on his forehead from that.

"Grantaire?" Éponine says, poking him. She doesn't get a response. "I think he's broken."

The doors to the hall open and suddenly Grantaire's fit makes a lot of sense. Enjolras comes in, wearing his typical house sweater, tie knotted expertly and tightly around his throat. The difference, however, is in the choice of trousers. He's wearing what are possibly the tightest red jeans Courfeyrac has ever seen, and as someone who is rather fond of skinny jeans that look painted on himself, that is saying something. They hug his thin legs, such a bright, distracting colour that it's nearly impossible to look away, and even Courfeyrac has to admit that they probably do great things for his ass.

"Is he dead?" Enjolras asks as he takes his seat, calmly reaching for a bowl of oatmeal, gaze only flicking to Grantaire for a second.

"I hate you so fucking much," Grantaire groans without lifting his head.

Enjolras, spoon halfway to his mouth, pauses, looking momentarily wounded. "Good morning to you too," he mutters.

"Nice jeans," Courfeyrac says, since someone has to.

Enjolras looks down at his legs, then up at Courfeyrac. "Thanks," he says slowly. "Jehan lent them to me."

Grantaire lifts his head and gives Jehan a look that is so scathing it's surprising he doesn't burst into flame right there. Instead, Jehan shrugs, unaffected, and says, "One that has never suffered cannot truly appreciate the pleasures the world has to offer."

"Is that a quote? Because that's bullshit, Jean Prouvaire," Grantaire seethes.

"Is something the matter, Grantaire?" Marius asks tiredly, one of the last to arrive to the table. Combeferre should already be here, as should Cosette, but something must be keeping them.

"No," Grantaire says.

Marius' eyes flick past everyone's, not stopping until they reach Enjolras. "Oh," he says. "Is it the jeans?"

Sometimes Marius has an adorable and horrible habit of saying the first thing that pops into his head. Half the table looks sympathetically at Grantaire while the other half laughs. Courfeyrac is caught somewhere in the middle. Enjolras just looks confused.

"What's wrong with my jeans?" he asks.

"I doubt they're part of the uniform," Courfeyrac points out. "I mean, there's probably not a rule that says 'no red skinny jeans' but I'm going to assume it's implied."

Enjolras shrugs. "I refuse to allow my individuality to be crushed by ancient rules that were written years before our grandparents were born."

"That's a fair argument," Courfeyrac says. "But you realize you're wearing red skinny jeans and your house colours include green, right?"

Enjolras, once again, shrugs. "So?"

It's not that Enjolras is fashionably inept, he just doesn't care most of the time. He's not like, say, Jehan, who actually thinks it's okay to wear green pants and a purple sweater with orange flowers on it. Enjolras just doesn't give thought to what he wears. He puts on whatever's clean and fits and calls it a day.

"I have to get my books for class," Courfeyrac sighs, knowing that Enjolras won't listen to him if he tells him to change out of the jeans. "Éponine, Jehan, I'll see you at lunch, my common room."

He's late for class after the time it takes him to run downstairs, pack his things and run to the Transfiguration classroom. There is a surprisingly small amount of students taking N.E.W.T. level Transfiguration, and most of them are his friends. Somehow the others have all managed to get here before him, despite the fact that he left breakfast first.

Combeferre faces the front of the room, hunched over with his head ducked (he's going to have serious back problems one day, Combeferre). Professor Willow looks up when he comes in, pointing to the empty seat beside Combeferre with a stern look on her face that says he better be punctual in the future. Courfeyrac gives her a sheepish look and hurries to his seat.

"Morning," Combeferre says when he sits, but there's something off about it. Or maybe there's something off with Courfeyrac, and he's just projecting.

He's barely spoken to Combeferre all weekend. It wasn't a conscious decision, not really. He had things to do, Combeferre had things to do, their things had to be done in opposite sides of the castle. Totally coincidental and not at all related to the ink that peeks out the neck of Combeferre's shirt, just the top of the 'W' that sneaks its way out from under his collar.

When friends with someone like Enjolras, or Combeferre, there is a moment of panic where one realizes, shit, my friends are fucking hot. Courfeyrac had this moment in fourth year, when puberty hit and Combeferre started getting tall, and Enjolras started actually taking care of his hair. They're both incredibly good looking, admittedly, but it's cool. There's no attraction there, never has been. Courfeyrac knows when he's attracted to someone, okay? And he does something about it, because he's not like his ridiculous friends.

So the tattoo thing is not a big deal. It's not.

"Morning," Courfeyrac says, such a long pause between his and Combeferre's greetings that if things weren't awkward already, well, they definitely are now.

"Is something wrong?" Combeferre asks, unsurprisingly catching on immediately.

"It's nothing," Courfeyrac lies.

"It doesn't sound like nothing."

Nothing I can tell you about, Courfeyrac thinks, but that thought hurts. There has never before been something he's hidden from Enjolras or Combeferre. They're his best friends. Lying to either of them feels like an incredible betrayal.

"It's this thing, with Marius and Cosette," Courfeyrac says, which is technically the truth. That is a problem. It's just not the most pressing one, at the moment. "We wanted to send Marius a letter from Cosette, to boost his confidence, convince him that Cosette really does like him, but we can't exactly forge her writing and there's no way Marius will buy a fake."

"Please turn to page one hundred in your books, class," Professor Willow orders as she walks around the room, hands clasped tightly behind her back. "And no talking. You all know the rules."

Courfeyrac and Combeferre both open their textbooks, turning to the proper page, but Combeferre leans closer to him, so close that all Courfeyrac can think about is how clean he always smells, like he's just stepped out of the shower and into fresh air. "Maybe," he says, keeping his voice low, smooth and deep, "you should send him something else, instead of a letter. It's not exactly fair to Cosette to claim your words as her own. Why don't you send him sweets or something anonymously? You're a good friend of his. No doubt he'll come to you when he gets them, and you can hint that maybe they're from Cosette. That way you're not impersonating one of our friends, and if you're caught you can always say they were from you."

Courfeyrac blinks at him, mouth slack.

"I see you two have already finished the reading," Professor Willow says, stopping in front of their table. "Which of you would like to attempt the spell first?"

"Uh," Courfeyrac says.

"I think we'd prefer to go over the reading another time before making an attempt," Combeferre says, smiling pleasantly.

"I suggest that you get to it, then," Professor Willow says. She turns back to the room at large. "Any students found conversing instead of doing the work assigned to them will have points immediately taken from their house, understood? There is a time for chatting and a time for working; one should be done in this classroom, one should not."

"Yes, ma'am," Courfeyrac intones along with the rest of the class. Combeferre lets out the smallest of snorts.

Afterwards, Combeferre does actually begin the reading while Courfeyrac scans the page quickly, getting the gist of it, and then he bumps his shoulder into Combeferre and says, almost giddy, "Have I told you lately that you're a genius?"

"A few days ago, on the Quidditch pitch."

"Definitely due for another, then." Courfeyrac grins, forgetting, so easily, that things had been almost weird between them for a moment. "You are incredible. Are you sure you don't want to reconsider the part where you said you wanted nothing to do with this? You could be really—"

"Courfeyrac," Professor Willow snaps. "If you and Mr. Combeferre cannot keep your mouths closed, I will be forced to move you to opposite sides of the room."

"Might as well cut off one of their limbs," he hears Éponine mutter from where she sits behind them. "Does she not realize how codependent Enjolras and the two of them are with each other?"

Courfeyrac's hand twitches towards his wand, where it lies on the table, but Combeferre gently catches his wrist and says, "Best to wait until after class to curse her."

Grudgingly, Courfeyrac agrees.

 

o|o

 

Combeferre's idea is a great one. Both Jehan and Éponine agree instantly that it's better to send Marius a collection of 'anonymous' gifts and sign them all with a simple 'C' for Cosette. The good part about it is that Éponine and Courfeyrac are both close enough with Marius to know what kinds of things to get him, and they're all close enough with Cosette to know what kind of things she would get him. The bad part, however, is that most of the things will need to be bought, which means spending money they might not be able to pool together as well as finding a way to get the gifts.

Things start going right for them, finally, because the following Friday an owl drops a small package in front of Courfeyrac at breakfast, an envelope attached to the top of it. He opens the letter first, quickly reading his mother's tiny, neat writing, and then opens the package. Inside there's a small cloth bag of coins, as well as a bag of his mum's homemade chocolate chip cookies.

"I really, really love my family," Courfeyrac sighs, stuffing the money in his pocket and a cookie in his mouth.

"Just in time for the Hogsmeade trip tomorrow," Jehan says excitedly.

"Guess I have no choice now but to go," Courfeyrac says. He wasn't planning on it. He loves Hogsmeade as much as the next Hogwarts student, but it's not a very big village. After years of going twice a month, the novelty has worn off. It's still fun to go with a date, but Courfeyrac doesn't have one at the moment, and he isn't looking to get one, either. "You coming with me?"

Jehan shakes his head, no. "I promised Bahorel I'd help him with his Transfiguration homework."

"Doesn't Feuilly do that?"

Jehan raises an eyebrow delicately and says, "Yes, he does. Normally."

"Are they fighting, then?"

"They're not fighting," Jehan says. "They don't really do that much, not in the way Enjolras and Grantaire do. Instead they ignore each other for days when one of them is upset, and you were there in the common room. Feuilly bruised Bahorel's ego and his ego is perhaps the only place Bahorel can't take a blow."

Courfeyrac sighs, rubbing a hand down his face. "What are we going to do about those two?"

"Deal with Cosette and Marius first," Jehan advises. "They're going to be the easiest. If we can't fix them up with each other, we have no hope in helping the rest of them."

He has a point. Cosette and Marius are the easiest to set up, since neither of them are in the habit of denying their feelings, it's just a matter of them doing something about said feelings. Everyone else is going to be much more difficult.

"We'll manage," Courfeyrac says, sounding more confident than he feels. He grins, holding out his bag of cookies. "Want one? My mum made them. They're great."

"Can I have one?"

Courfeyrac jumps when something hits the table from underneath as Gavroche works his way out from beneath it, grinning wildly. "What were you doing down there?" Courfeyrac asks him, probably not as alarmed as he should be.

"I'll tell you for one of those," Gavroche says, nodding at the bag of cookies.

Courfeyrac debates for a moment, but in the end he holds out the bag and Gavroche takes two. "Was looking for my rat," he says, scratching at the back of his head. "Lost it the other day. I think it's dead."

"There are a lot of cats in this school," Jehan says solemnly.

"I'm sure you'll find it," Courfeyrac says, kicking Jehan under the table. "This is a big castle. It's probably around here somewhere."

Gavroche shrugs, taking a bite of his cookie. "These are good," he says while sitting on top of the table. "You know, for another one I could help you get Marius' gift to him without him knowing who did it."

"How do you know about that?" Courfeyrac asks, turning to Jehan as if he knows, but Jehan shrugs and shakes his head, just as lost. "Did Éponine tell you?"

"My sister doesn't tell me nothing," Gavroche complains. "You guys are just really bad at being sneaky, that's all. But I won't tell anyone, I swear. I can help, if you let me."

Courfeyrac is already starting to say no when Jehan says, "Maybe we should let him, actually. If we leave it in the room or something he might assume it was you that gave it to him, and then we'd have to convince him you're not in love with him and set him and Cosette up."

Courfeyrac hadn't even considered Marius thinking that an anonymous gift left by 'C' could be from him. It would make things awkward, no doubt. Marius would be so sweet about it, letting Courfeyrac down easy, but he'd also take about two weeks to work himself up to saying anything, two weeks during which things would be incredibly awkward between them.

"You get the gift and let me handle the rest," Gavroche proposes. "I can be useful, you'll see."

The more people that know about the plan, the more likely everyone else is to find out about it. Gavroche could be helpful, sure, but he could also accidentally let Cosette and Marius in on their plans. Or worse, he could alert Enjolras and Grantaire, or Bahorel and Feuilly, or Joly and Bossuet.

"He already knows about the plan, somehow," Jehan points out, as if sensing Courfeyrac's hesitance. "We've got nothing to lose by letting him help us."

"'cept for another one of those cookies," Gavroche reminds him.

They have a point, he can't deny that. Plus, Gavroche has already proven to be more than capable of sneaking around. He could be useful, at some point, maybe for more than just helping with Marius and Cosette.

Damn it. Courfeyrac hands over the bag of cookies and Gavroche takes another, saluting to him with it in his hand. "Would have done it for free," he says cheerily, "but it was a pleasure doing business with you."

Gavroche hurries off, skipping away happily as he munches on Courfeyrac's cookies.

"Did I just get conned by an eleven-year-old?"

"You were just conned by a very smart eleven-year-old," Jehan says while snagging Courfeyrac's last cookie.

 

o|o

 

Sometimes the days at Hogwarts seem to drag on endlessly, the school week feeling more like a year with the weekends getting farther and farther away with each day, somehow. And then, other times, the days pass in a blur, going by so quickly Courfeyrac wants to reach out and pull them to a stop, but he can't.

The trip to Hogsmeade takes him no time at all. He goes with Enjolras, the two of them stopping to get ice cream (Enjolras' one favorite indulgence, not that he admits it to anyone, and he still acts like Courfeyrac is the one dragging him into the shop when it's really the other way around) before Courfeyrac spots Grantaire and manages to kill two birds with one stone, leaving Enjolras with him while he quickly picks up a box of Marius' favorite chocolates.

The wrapping of the gift is left to Jehan, who uses magic to make normal paper a very pretty, sunny yellow (Marius' favorite) with a perfect green bow (a special touch to link the gift to Cosette by using her house's main colour) and Éponine is left to deliver it to Gavroche. After that, it's up to him to get it to Marius.

Courfeyrac almost manages to forget about the whole thing in the following days, what with class, his own social life and Quidditch practice. With their first game against Ravenclaw scheduled for mid-November, it isn't like they're in any rush or anything, but Courfeyrac is nervous and paranoid. They need to practice as much as they can possible afford to, which means he has his team out on the pitch every single day that he manages to book it for them.

One day after practice, and an excruciating day of classes beforehand after not enough sleep, Courfeyrac slumps into his room, feeling as though he's just been run over by the Night Bus and he figures he probably doesn't look much better. He yawns, tugging off the shirt he'd been wearing during practice, now drenched in sweat and dirt from that tumble he'd taken when diving for the Quaffle, and doesn't even notice Marius sitting on his bed until he tosses the shirt in its general direction.

"Merlin," he gasps, hitting his shin on the end of Bossuet's bed when he jumps. "Are you seriously just sitting there in the dark?"

Marius, gaze on his lap, doesn't even look up as he says, in a curious tone, "I found the oddest thing in my bag today."

Courfeyrac's heart, which had been racing from the fright of finding Marius perched on his bed without his knowledge, continues to thump in his chest. "Oh, really?" he says casually. "What was it?"

Slowly, Marius holds up the box of chocolates, which hasn't even been opened. "They were wrapped," he says. "There was a card on top. It didn't say anything, it was just signed with a 'C'."

"A 'C'," Courfeyrac repeats, trying to sound surprised. "Huh."

"It wasn't you, was it?" Marius looks up sharply, his eyes piercingly blue in comparison to his red cheeks.

Courfeyrac busies himself with finding a clean shirt – not that he should be putting one on, considering the sweat and dirt that also clings to his skin— and manages to tug one on before he figures out a way to answer that without outright lying to one of his closest friends.

"Why," he says, sitting down beside Marius, "would I sneak a box of chocolates into your bag? If I wanted to give you sweets, wouldn't I just give them to you?"

Still, Marius looks wary and uncertain for a long moment, examining Courfeyrac closely. "Of course," says Marius, nodding quickly. "Sorry, I had to ask. But if it wasn't you, then who would do such a thing?"

"Can I see?" Courfeyrac asks, reaching over before Marius can answer to snag the little tag that Éponine had fastened onto the gift before they'd handed it over to Gavroche. They might not be able to forge an entire letter in Cosette's handwriting, but they could handle just the first letter of her name.

"They're my favorite chocolates, too," Marius says with wonderment as Courfeyrac 'scrutinizes' the tag.

"You know who else knows your favorite chocolates?" he says, handing the tag back. "And whose name starts with a 'C'?"

Marius shakes his head quickly, saying, "Courfeyrac," in a warning tone.

"Well, yes, my name does start with that letter and I do know your favorite chocolate," he acknowledges, "but I was meaning more a pretty Slytherin girl who you've been friends with for years, who has more than enough classes with you to be able to sneak a gift into your bag without you noticing."

"No." Marius shakes his head again, only sadly this time. "It's not Cosette. Why would she bother?"

"Maybe," he ruffles Marius' soft hair, making Marius squawk and halfheartedly swat at him, "because she likes you, you tosspot."

"That's not funny, Courfeyrac."

"Trust me, if I were trying to be funny you'd be laughing." They both know it's true. "I'm serious. That looks just like her writing, too!"

Marius bites his lip, looking at the tag as if he's already done the same before, coming to the same conclusions that Courfeyrac is now voicing, only he's still hesitant to believe it. "It does look like her handwriting," he admits. "But it's not."

"But—"

"I would appreciate if you would not tell anyone about this," Marius says at last, standing up. "I'm sure it was just an accident. These probably weren't even meant for me. They were probably supposed to go in someone else's bag."

"And they just happened to be your favorites? Wrapped in your favorite colour?"

Marius shrugs. "Coincidence," he says.

"Marius."

"Shouldn't you be going to take a shower?" Marius almost snaps, his tone getting shriller by the minute.

Obviously there's not a thing Courfeyrac can say that will convince him right now, and he's only making Marius upset by pressing the conversation. He nods, resigned, and says, "You're right."

"After your shower, we can share these," Marius offers, holding up the chocolates, instantly regretful for snapping because he's Marius, this is what he does. There's a reason one of the most beautiful, kind and intelligent people in their school is in love with him. "If you want."

"Save me the caramel filled ones," Courfeyrac says on his way to the door.

"I'll try."

Instead of heading for the showers, however, he detours and hurries out of the common room, ignoring the way the third year girl he passes wrinkles her nose at him. He's aware that he needs a shower. People can stop pointing it out now. He has more important things to handle.

It takes him all of about twenty minutes to round up Jehan and Éponine both in the boy's washroom. Éponine leans against the sink, standing very far away from him, but Jehan doesn't seem to mind the way he smells right now, at least.

"Marius has the chocolates," he announces to both of them, "but there's a small problem."

"What?" Éponine groans.

"Did we get the wrong chocolates? Did he see Gavroche plant them?" Jehan asks quickly.

Courfeyrac shakes his head. "No, nothing like that. He seems to think they were an accident, that they weren't meant for him. He thinks whoever gave them meant them for someone else."

Silence seems to echo off the walls of the bathroom, bouncing around the stalls and off the mirrors like a physical thing. There's a tap dripping somewhere, and suddenly a toilet flushes without anyone going near it.

Finally, after what feels like forever, Éponine says, "Fucking Marius."

 

o|o

 

Courfeyrac is not an easily thwarted person. So the first try with Marius was a bust. That doesn't mean he's going to give up. In fact, it only makes the three of them even more determined than before. With the help of Joly and Bossuet, who aren't given details on why he needs out of the castle so badly, Courfeyrac manages to sneak away to Hogsmeade again long before the next scheduled visit. The scarf he buys isn't very expensive, nor is it as personal as the box of his favorite chocolates, but Marius likes scarves (even if it's still only the very beginning of autumn) and the blue colour of it will look nice with his eyes, so it's going to have to do. They don't bother to wrap it, either, but this time they write 'To Marius' before signing the tag with the same 'C' as last time, to make sure there isn't any confusion again.

Once more they leave Gavroche to delivering the gift, but this time Marius doesn't creepily wait on Courfeyrac's bed to discuss it with him. Instead, on a surprisingly cold Wednesday, Marius walks into Charms class with the scarf wrapped loosely around his neck, hiding his Hufflepuff tie.

"Nice scarf," Courfeyrac comments as he takes his seat, and he notices that Jehan and Éponine have spotted the scarf as well.

As if this whole thing was planned (which it actually wasn't) Cosette is sitting near enough that when Marius says, "Thank you. It was a gift, actually," she turns in her seat to listen to the conversation.

"A gift from who?" Jehan asks, his innocence feigned so expertly that even Courfeyrac almost buys it.

"I- I'm not sure," Marius says, going a pleasant pink in his cheeks. He shoots Cosette a darting look and mumbles, "The sender didn't specify. I found it in my bag, along with a, erm, small letter that didn't really say much."

"Has Marius got a secret admirer?" Grantaire asks loudly, drawing the attention of everyone in the room to Marius. "Did I hear that right?"

"Someone went in his bag without his permission," Enjolras snaps. "That's not romantic. That's borderline illegal."

Grantaire rolls his eyes towards the ceiling. "You wouldn't know romance if it bit you on your wonderful ass, Angel-face."

"Don't call me that."

"I think it's sort of sweet," Joly says, reaching out to touch the scarf. "You're sure they didn't say who they are?"

"I'm sure," Marius sighs.

And through it all, Cosette's cheeks have gotten progressively darker. She turns around in her seat abruptly, accidentally knocking something off her desk. Courfeyrac sees it, Éponine sees it, and Marius definitely sees it. It only serves to make her look guilty, which helps their plan even more.

Their professor comes into the room, ordering everyone back to their seats, and Courfeyrac snags the spot next to Marius instead of Enjolras or Combeferre, like he normally would.

"Did it come with the same tag as last time?" he whispers, keeping his gaze on the front of the room so their professor won't catch him and tell him to stop talking.

Marius nods, discreetly pulling out the tag that Courfeyrac watched Éponine sign just days ago, and hands it over reluctantly to Courfeyrac, as if he doesn't want to let it go. Courfeyrac flips it open, grinning at the way it is bent and a little wrinkled, like Marius has looked at it many times since he received it, and pretends to read it as if he doesn't already know exactly what it says.

"Did you see how embarrassed she looked earlier?" Courfeyrac asks. "She looked very guilty, if you ask me."

In reality, Cosette had looked very jealous, but Marius doesn't have to know that. The two of them are playing perfectly into their plan. If this keeps up, things might actually work out. Courfeyrac can't keep the dumb grin off his face.

"She did seem… something," Marius admits. "I'm still reluctant to believe it's her."

"Why?"

"Exactly." Marius takes the tag back and carefully hides it, once again, in his pocket. "Why would she send me these gifts? It doesn't make any sense, Courfeyrac."

"It makes a lot of sense, actually," Courfeyrac tells him. "Marius, you're very smart. The pieces are there, you just have to put them together."

Marius doesn't reply, but his fingers subconsciously reach for the scarf. All through class he touches it, pulling it off once to put it back on, wrapping it loosely around his neck again even though it is far too warm to warrant wearing a scarf inside at this time of year. He also sends more glances Cosette's way than normal, and that's saying something.

He can deny it all he wants, but Marius thinks Cosette sent it. Now it's just a matter of him doing something about it.

 

o|o

 

It takes until November before Marius finally does something about it. At this point Courfeyrac has started to believe Éponine when she says it's just not going to happen. He's run out of money to buy more gifts, and he can't exactly ask his parents for more, not with Christmas coming up in less than two months, when he'll need to beg them for money again.

Marius' collection of gifts grow from the chocolates and the scarf to the chocolates, scarf, a new quill after his old one broke, a notebook, and a tiny figurine that skates across whatever surface you put it on and shouts compliments at him in a cute, tiny little voice. Every time he gets a new one, Courfeyrac makes a point to suggest it's from Cosette, Marius argues that it's not, and then Courfeyrac runs to Jehan and Éponine to groan at them.

In the meantime, Courfeyrac's team has their first Quidditch game of the year coming up, and he's a little distracted by that. He's on the pitch more often than not, lately, and he'd be falling behind in his homework if it weren't for Enjolras and Combeferre, who help him get through it every Friday.

Also in the meantime, things with the other couples get progressively worse. Enjolras and Grantaire get into two particularly bad fights that leave Enjolras seething for days and Grantaire moping around their shared bedroom for even longer. Feuilly and Bahorel have made up since their small dispute, but there's a distance between them now. Bahorel spends more time with Jehan and other Gryffindors, and Feuilly's time is mostly spent in the library or his own common room (or so Combeferre informs him).

Joly and Bossuet, however, aren't getting any worse, but they're not getting any better. Courfeyrac begs Bossuet to help him keep score during one of their practices where he pits his team against each other so they'll all get the hang of playing an actual game, and somehow gets hit in the shoulder with a Bludger. Courfeyrac hears the crunch of bone from across the pitch and Bossuet's shout of pain apparently echoes through the entire castle, because they find Joly hurrying towards them as he helps Bossuet hobble towards the hospital wing. Joly spends the next week fretting over him, despite the fact that the healer says he fine, but aside from that they don't really make any progress with their relationship.

Just when Courfeyrac is ready to throw in the towel and admit defeat— something that he doesn't do very often— and admit that he was wrong and maybe he isn't as good at love as he thought, the impossible happens.

"You can't seriously be eating that," Cosette says at lunch on the eleventh of November, her nose wrinkling as Bahorel piles his sandwich with peanut butter, roast beef, and ketchup. "That's disgusting."

Bahorel shrugs. "Puts hair on my chest," he says.

"Like you need help with that," Feuilly scoffs.

"You would know, wouldn't you?" Jehan teases. Feuilly goes red and excuses himself, muttering something about going down to the greenhouse to get something he left there.

The rest of their friends are all together, with Combeferre on his one side, Enjolras on the other, Éponine directly across from him beside Cosette, Grantaire beside the seat Feuilly just vacated, Joly and Bossuet beside him and Jehan on Enjolras' other side. The only person missing is Marius, but that changes when the doors to the hall open and he strides in, the blue scarf wrapped around his neck as it has been for weeks. He has something in his hand, something that Courfeyrac can't make out until he gets closer.

It's a box of chocolates, identical to the one they'd first sent him. His hands are shaking and the sound of the chocolates rattling around in the box proceeds Marius on his way towards them, his chin tilted high despite the fact that he's flushed and very clearly nervous. He keeps coming, not stopping until he's directly behind Cosette.

Marius clears his throat. "Cosette," he says.

Cosette turns in her seat, smiling sunnily up at him. "Afternoon, Marius." Her gaze drops to the box of chocolates in his hand, her eyes narrowing slightly. "Oh, another gift from your 'secret admirer'?"

"No," Marius says, surprisingly calm and steady. "No, these are for you."

Cosette's eyes widen. "They are?"

Marius nearly throws them at her in his haste, and Courfeyrac has to cover his eyes for a moment because Marius. But Cosette takes the chocolates before they can assault her, and Marius' hands stop shaking a bit. "Thank you," she adds. "But I don't—"

"That's not all," Marius interrupts. "So sorry for cutting you off, but if I don't do this now I'll lose my nerve."

"Shit," Courfeyrac says under his breath, unconsciously reaching out to squeeze Combeferre's leg under the table. "Is he really doing this? In front of everyone?"

"I would very much appreciate it," Marius starts, unaware that half the room is watching him now, "if you would accompany me to lunch next weekend at Madam Puddifoot's during the trip to Hogsmeade. Please don't feel as though you have to just because I've given you the chocolates. I'm not attempting to bribe you, I just thought, since you're so sweet, you might enjoy something sweet yourself. But if you don't want to go with me, that's fine. I'm so sorry for putting you on the spot like this in front of everyone, and actually this was a really bad idea and I should – I should probably just go, right? Crap. I'm so sorry."

Marius turns to go but Cosette grabs his hand, pulling him to a stop. "I would love to go," she says. "With you. I would love to go out with you, Marius."

Marius' cheeks go even redder, but for a completely different reason. He glances down at where her hand is still holding his and then into her eyes. "You really would?"

"I would," she says with a grin.

"Wonderful!" Marius looks seconds away from pulling her out of her seat and into a waltz. "That's— brilliant, yes, I— I'll see you then, then. Um. Outside your common room. I'll meet you outside your common room on Saturday, just before everyone leaves."

"Sounds good," Cosette says, unperturbed by the way Marius stumbles over his words.

"I'm going to go now," Marius says, jerking a thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the door. "I'll see you later. And thank you. You've just made me the happiest man in the entire world."

Marius isn't the only one flushing by the time he hurries away (which is probably a good idea, quitting while he's ahead). Cosette turns back around, picks up her spoon and resumes eating her soup, casual as anything.

"About damn time," Éponine says, voicing what they're all thinking.

Cosette smiles happily to herself.

"You know," Combeferre says, getting far too close so he can speak the words for Courfeyrac's ears only, and Courfeyrac suddenly notices that his hand is still gripping Combeferre's (surprisingly muscular and firm) thigh, "he's going to eventually realize that she didn't send him those gifts."

Courfeyrac pulls his hand away hastily, forcing a chuckle. "We'll deal with that when we get there," he says, not sounding like himself. Since when does he freak out when he touches Combeferre? He touches everyone (that allows him to, anyway. He's always careful not to touch Joly as much because he's jumpy, or Enjolras when he's in one of his moods) constantly. Courfeyrac is incredibly tactile, and Combeferre has never before been on the 'Do Not Touch' list.

Combeferre gives him a puzzled look, seconds away from asking if he's alright, probably, because this is Combeferre and that's what he does. Before he can have a chance to, Courfeyrac turns to Enjolras and jumps into a conversation about their Defense Against the Dark Arts class after lunch.

But, Courfeyrac promises himself as Enjolras talks at him, he's going to fix this weird thing with Combeferre. Whatever the hell is wrong with him, he's going to get over it. They're too good of friends for him to be so weird and skittish lately.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

November sixteenth brings with it the coldest day of the year so far, as well as the most nervous day of Courfeyrac's entire fucking life. And for some reason he wakes up early enough to read the time on his watch by the sunlight coming from the still-rising sun. Marius, Grantaire and Bossuet are still asleep, Grantaire's bed curtains pulled tightly closed, everyone else's left open. Marius is the only one not snoring.

Courfeyrac cannot fall back asleep. He lays there, staring up at the ceiling, contemplating the fact that he has hours until his first class. Hours. Who the hell in their right mind gets up at this time?

Right, he's not in his right mind. He hasn't been all week, and last night had been the worst. The glee of having their plan work out for Marius and Cosette wore off mighty quickly when Courfeyrac remembered the upcoming Quidditch game. Last night he'd tossed and turned more often than he'd slept, and he swears he didn't actually fall asleep until well after midnight. And now he's up again, at six in the morning.

Six in the morning shouldn't even exist, in Courfeyrac's opinion.

Going back to sleep is obviously not an option, though. His thoughts are haunted by visions of his team looking at him with disappointment, his whole house booing him as he enters the common room after Hufflepuff earns their worst loss in the history of Hogwarts. He imagines reading the score 300-to-0, with Ravenclaw taking the win and the stands erupting in laughter at him and him only.

He'd have to quit school and leave the country, definitely.

Running a hand through his bed-head, Courfeyrac considers what to do now. Sitting here worrying isn't helping anyone; he doesn't have class for hours and breakfast doesn't even start until seven. The pitch is closed today until the game, so it's not like he can climb on his broom and take a few calming laps. All of his friends are asleep, so none of them can help him.

And then he remembers. He dives for his trunk at the end of the bed, nearly falling off it in his haste. He tries to be quiet as he opens it, muttering, "Lumos," with his wand in hand so he can actually see inside. It's a mess of his things that he hasn't bothered to unpack, unlike the clothes in his wardrobe or the photograph of his family on his bedside table (and the one of him, Enjolras and Combeferre, and also the one taken last year of all of his friends together by the lake). Spilled ink, a broken quill, a pair of socks that he tosses onto his bed.

Finally, after what seems like his third time sifting through everything, he finds what he's looking for stuck to the bottom of the trunk by something sticky. The parchment is ruined on the bottom side, illegible, but the side that matters is fine. It's the letter he'd received this summer that informed him of his captaincy of the Hufflepuff Quidditch team. The ink is still smudged in spots from the happy tears he'd cried while reading it.

Near the bottom, it reads:

All Quidditch captains also have access to the prefects' bathroom on the fifth floor. The bathroom is only to be used by captains of the Hogwarts Quidditch teams, prefects, and Head Boys and Girls. As such, the password listed below is not to be given out to anyone. The entrance to the bathroom can be found behind the statue of Boris the Bewildered.

Then, below it in smaller writing, the password: Green Apple.

Courfeyrac had forgotten all about the prefects' bathroom, honestly. Combeferre and Marius have both mentioned it to him once or twice, as they've been prefects since fifth years, but after a short bout of jealousy Courfeyrac put it from his mind. He'd been so excited when he got that letter, knowing he could finally see what all the fuss is about, but since he's been back it hasn't crossed his mind once. He's so used to using the normal bathrooms that he hadn't thought about the prefects' bathroom.

Now, Courfeyrac grins to himself, nerves for the future game temporarily forgotten, and leaves the Hufflepuff dormitories, and his sleeping friends, behind.

It isn't very hard to find the bathroom with the directions he's been given. The door is just where it's said to be, and he doesn't hit a snag until he says, "Green apple," and nothing happens. He waits, and waits, and tries again twice before he realizes: the password must have been changed.

Without even thinking it through first, he starts in the direction of Ravenclaw tower. Combeferre will know the password, and he's likely to be up anytime now, given his insane schedule. Of course, he could go to his own dormitory and ask Marius for the password, or sneak into Enjolras' instead of Combeferre's, but the tower is much closer to the fifth floor than the basement, and he figures Combeferre will be much nicer to talk to this early than Enjolras.

The moment the riddle appears on the Ravenclaw door, Courfeyrac lets out a sigh of relief. He's too tired to handle something difficult.

"'What is broken the moment you speak its name?'" Courfeyrac reads, almost rolling his eyes at how easy it is. "Silence. This security system is ridiculously flawed, dude."

The door opens for him, and Courfeyrac heads straight for the stairs to the bedchambers, knowing his way around even in the low light of morning. Combeferre's room is at the very top with a sign on the door that reads Combeferre, Feuilly, Joly and Simmons. Courfeyrac barely gives it a glance before letting himself into the room as quietly as he can.

Gryffindor and Ravenclaw bedchambers are so different from the Hufflepuff and Slytherin ones. The ceilings are high and the windows are huge. They're airy and spacious and bright and they lack the comforting closeness of his own room. They're still nice, sure, but he'll always prefer the Hufflepuff dormitory to any other.

Combeferre has a habit of sleeping with the curtains around his bed completely closed, and that's how Courfeyrac finds him in the dark room. He heads for the only bed with the curtains drawn and pulls them back, reaching around blindly for Combeferre's shoulder.

"Ferre," he whispers, aware of the fact that Combeferre's roommates will likely hex him if he wakes any of them up. "Combeferre."

Courfeyrac is a slow waker, like a kitten. He has to stretch and rub at his eyes and yawn long before he's fully alert. Combeferre, on the other hand, blinks open his eyes and sits up quickly, instantly awake and focused. "Courfeyrac?" he asks, and Courfeyrac doesn't have to see his face to know he's confused. "What time is it?"

"Like, six."

"Any particular reason for you to be at my bedside this early in the morning?" Combeferre wonders, but he doesn't sound upset, thankfully. Or surprised.

"I don't know the password to the prefects' bathroom and I really need to take a bath right now."

"Ah," Combeferre sighs. "You're panicking about the game, aren't you?"

"Maybe."

"Do you know what I think?"

"No, thankfully. I have a feeling your mind is a very frightening place to be."

"Sometimes," Combeferre admits. "But I think—" He pauses, and the bed creaks as he moves. Courfeyrac hears the rustling of the blankets and then a soft chorus of thumps as Combeferre pats the bed. "I think you should go back to sleep. You need to be well-rested for the game. You can take a bath later."

"But—"

"Courfeyrac."

Courfeyrac sighs, knowing he's right. The way he's going now, he'll be falling asleep on his broom at the game. He definitely needs the last hour and a half of sleep that he can get before class, and he shouldn't be spending that time in a bath, where he'll likely do nothing but continue to panic, only covered in bubbles. That bath isn't going to help him. A bit more sleep will.

And it's not like he doesn't often crawl into Combeferre's bed, or Enjolras', or Marius'. Over the years he's gotten more homesick than most of them, and he doesn't like to sleep alone some nights. That hasn't happened in years, though, and now things are… different. He's not sure what things are different, but things are. Things that he can't quite put his finger on.

Yet he lets himself be convinced by Combeferre's soft patting of the empty side of the bed, pausing only to tug the bed curtains closed again as he falls onto the mattress, already warm from Combeferre's body. The bed, unlike the rest of the room, is identical to his own. Aside from the other person in it, of course. Aside from the Combeferre in it.

"Back to bed now," Combeferre orders, sounding close to sleep again. "When we wake up I'll go over all the reasons why you shouldn't be panicking or worrying at all, but for now, go to sleep."

"Okay," Courfeyrac yawns. "Night, Ferre."

"Goodnight."

With that, Courfeyrac lays his head on a pillow that smells just like Combeferre, clean and almost sweet, when he breathes in too deeply, and lets himself fall back into a deep, wonderful sleep. At some point he rolls over and throws an arm over Combeferre's waist, too far under to stop himself. In his sleep-haze he doesn't really see any reason to.

 

o|o

 

There is a moment of panic when he wakes up to someone moving under him, panic that doesn't lessen until that someone groans and jumps out of bed, muttering, "We're late. We slept through Transfiguration. Courfeyrac, get out of bed!"

Courfeyrac groans, rolling onto his back, and hisses, "Combeferre, come back to bed. Too early. Shh."

"It's nearly noon."

Courfeyrac sits bolt upright, eyes wide. "What do you mean it's nearly noon?"

"I don't really think there's more than one possible meaning to that," he snaps, pushing his glasses onto his face. His hair is even more rumpled than usual, just getting out of bed, which only serves to make him look more adorable than he normally does. It is quite a feat, really. "Come on, seriously. We can't miss another class. I can't believe I slept in so late. I never sleep in this late. My internal alarm clock is flawless."

"You're such a nerd," Courfeyrac moans, reaching for a pillow to cover his face. "We missed two classes! The world isn't going to end."

The pillow in front of Courfeyrac's face suddenly turns into a white bird. He nearly chokes on the feathers as it claws its way out of his grip and flies towards the other side of the room, coming to rest on the window seat with an indignant chirp.

"Impressive," Courfeyrac compliments.

"Get out of bed."

"You know," Courfeyrac says, looking around at the empty room, "I don't think I will. I think I'm just going to stay here until tomorrow, after the game. Have fun in class, though."

Combeferre is suddenly on the bed, kneeling in front of him. He takes Courfeyrac's face gently in both of his hands and says, with an incredible amount of ferocity for someone who's only just woken up, "You are amazing at Quidditch. You are a wonderful captain. Your team is going to win— Yes, even against my own house, I think you're going to win. You have nothing to be worried about. Now get the hell out of my bed and hurry up. I refuse to miss another class and I won't let you sit here wallowing in self-pity all day."

This close, Combeferre's eyes are a pale grey-ish blue. His eyelashes are the same soft chestnut as his hair. His skin is so much paler than Courfeyrac's, flushing visibly in ways Courfeyrac's never does, and this close up his cheeks look soft and pink but there is the faintest hint of stubble along his jaw. Courfeyrac swallows very hard and says quietly, "Okay."

Combeferre releases him and hurries off the bed, frantically looking around the room. "Now, have you seen my tie?"

 

o|o

 

The moment Courfeyrac hears the crowd erupt in cheers, he looks around, darting between all the players on the pitch, until his gaze lands on his Seeker and the Snitch in her hand. His heart leaps into his throat and he hurriedly looks to the scoreboard, the whole world freezing for just a moment when he reads 260 – 90.

He forgets to control his broom and plummets towards the ground in his shock, but at the last moment he pulls back up, just barely avoiding becoming a pancake. His legs are shaking and barely holding him when he lands, holding his broom in his sweaty hand, and then he's being jumped from all sides as his team screams in his ears and envelops him in their arms. After that, Courfeyrac starts screaming too.

It takes a little longer for his friends to get down from the stands, but then he's being crushed again, only this time the sea of people hugging him are covered in a blue and bronze on one side of their bodies, yellow and black on the other to show support for both teams. Even Feuilly and Combeferre and Joly look completely happy for him, not at all clouded by their own team's loss.

"You know what this calls for?" someone shouts, but he can't tell exactly who in the din of the crowd still cheering. "A celebration!"

"You mean we're all going to go back to the Hufflepuff dorms and get wasted, right?"

"Basically."

"Just let me go put my broom—"

"Oh no." It's definitely Bahorel this time, pushing through the wall of their friends. "Someone take his broom!"

Someone does, wrenching it gently from Courfeyrac's fingers, and then he's picked up off his feet as if he weighs nothing and slung over Bahorel's shoulder. He laughs, grabbing fistfuls of Bahorel's shirt as he starts jogging for the castle, with Combeferre staring after them, calling, "Don't you dare drop him, Bahorel!"

Parties after a game are a sort of tradition between them. No matter which team wins or loses, there is always a party, either to celebrate the win or to cheer everyone up after the loss. Even being in different houses, there's rarely bad blood between them. Only once, after a particularly close game between Slytherin and Gryffindor in which Slytherin came out on top and the Gryffindors were left seething, has someone suggested that perhaps they keep to their own common rooms afterwards, meaning the Slytherins have their party together and the Gryffindors return to their common room to lick their wounds. There was a moment then, where Courfeyrac had been terrified of it splitting them all apart permanently, imagining Bahorel and Jehan and Éponine returning to their dormitory, Cosette and Enjolras heading to their own, and nothing being the same afterwards.

Of course that hadn't happened. Enjolras had glared at the person who suggested it as if he'd grown an extra head that was spouting off very offensive things, and Éponine had just laughed, throwing an arm over Cosette's shoulder, refusing to go anywhere but with her. Ever since then, they've always thrown their parties and they've all always attended, no exceptions (aside from the time Joly was ill and refused to get out of bed).

And they are awesome parties. One thing has to be said about Hogwarts students: They sure can throw a party.

Tonight Courfeyrac gets to do nothing but sit back and relax as everyone sets things up around him, instead of having to get involved in the throwing of said party. Slowly his common room fills with the rest of his team, everyone grinning so wide it looks almost painful, and then his friends, and then a handful of seventh and sixth years from the other houses. Someone (he thinks it's Grantaire, but he's not positive) makes sure the younger students stay in their rooms or away from the alcohol, and someone else puts on music.

Half an hour later Courfeyrac is sipping a drink that burns all the way down like swallowing fire, Firewhiskey definitely in the mix, and leaning against a table in his common room, laughing as Grantaire twirls a disheveled looking Marius around the room. Normally that's him with his hand in Marius', other hand on Marius' waist, dragging him, giggling, across the room. But tonight he's content to relax, let his body rest after the game (especially after the Quaffle he'd caught with his stomach, which still hurts) and enjoy everything without completely throwing himself into it, the way he usually does.

"So how does it feel, Captain Courfeyrac, to win your first game?" Jehan teases, sidling up beside him with his own drink in hand.

Courfeyrac grins, throwing an arm around his shoulder. "Feels pretty good, I'm not going to lie."

"So far I've seen eleven girls come over to congratulate you," Jehan says, lips curling upwards faintly. "And seven boys."

"That has nothing to do with the game," Courfeyrac says happily, "and everything to do with my undeniable sex appeal."

"Undeniably." Jehan takes a sip of his drink, eyebrows drawing together in contemplation. "And yet you didn't flirt with any of them. That is very unlike you."

Courfeyrac gives him a puzzled look, licking away the burn of alcohol sticking to his lips. "I did so," he argues.

"Did not."

"I—"

"So I've been thinking," Éponine interrupts, squeezing in between them and smelling heavily of fruity alcohol.

"Drinking," Courfeyrac corrects.

"Mm, that too." She downs the rest of her drink in one go and says, "Now that we've gotten Marius and Cosette together, we need to work on the others."

"We should," Courfeyrac agrees. The alcohol is having a pleasant effect on him. He's not drunk yet, but he's nicely buzzed, in that stage where everything seems warm and lovely. Marius has pulled away from Grantaire now and is slow dancing with Cosette, their foreheads resting together. The sight makes happiness burst inside of him, and also something that feels a lot like satisfaction. They had a hand in that, in making two of their friends happy. He wants to do it again. "But who?"

"Feuilly and Bahorel?" Jehan suggests, sounding hopeful. "I just want to go one week without listening to Bahorel whine, honestly."

"Where are they, anyway? I haven't seen them since…." Courfeyrac trails off, spotting the two in question.

They're not being very discreet about it, considering they're right beside the door to the common room. Courfeyrac can only just see Feuilly, hidden behind Bahorel, pressed against the wall as Bahorel kisses him roughly, hands in his hair. Courfeyrac raises his eyebrows, letting out a low whistle, and Jehan and Éponine follow his train of sight.

As they're watching, Bahorel suddenly jerks back, leaving Feuilly to slump against the wall. He says something that they can't hear from this far away, and the next thing he knows Bahorel is ducking out the door to the common room, leaving Feuilly standing there looking lost.

Jehan looks worried. "Should we—?"

"No," Courfeyrac says, "we shouldn't."

Feuilly takes a deep breath, rubs a hand down his face and fixes his hair, and then he disappears into a group of dancing Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff girls. Courfeyrac sighs and hopes he's okay, but he knows Feuilly enough to know he'll want to deal with it on his own, or not at all.

"Definitely them, then," Éponine says. "If we don't fix that soon, they're going to ruin things permanently."

"Agreed," Courfeyrac says. "Any ideas?"

They all stand there, thinking. Éponine excuses herself for a moment to refill her drink, Courfeyrac finishes off his own, and when she returns they continue to contemplate what to do, none of them speaking or voicing any ideas.

"So," says Courfeyrac, "Joly and Bossuet?"

"Definitely easier," Jehan admits.

"Much less likely to punch us for interfering."

"Any ideas?"

This time the silence doesn't drag on for as long. A minute passes, maybe two, as Courfeyrac looks around, noticing Enjolras and Grantaire arguing on one side of the room, Feuilly playing some sort of drinking game, Joly and Cosette doing some spell that has sparks fly out of their wands in different colours as Bossuet and Marius look at them adoringly. Courfeyrac frowns to himself, looking harder, and wonders where the hell Combeferre is.

"What if we make one of them jealous?" Éponine suggests, speaking slowly as if she's testing the words out on her tongue, or maybe she's just really wasted. Either is a fairly good possibility.

Courfeyrac's frown deepens as he finishes the rest of his new drink with a wince. "That," he declares, "is a brilliant idea. The one thing neither of them can handle is losing each other, right? So we convince them they are, and then… boom. One of them makes a move, they're happy forever, I'm best man at the wedding and you two can be God parents to their adopted children."

"One problem," Jehan says. "How are we going to make one of them jealous? They aren't going to flirt with anyone else. They're too far gone with each other to bother."

"What if—" Alcohol makes Courfeyrac's brain hazy, which is why he lets the words out without thinking them through first. "What if I ask Joly to flirt with me? What if I, like, tell him that I'm trying to make someone jealous, and I need his help with it? Joly loves helping people. He'll say yes."

"And who are you going to pretend to try and make jealous?" Jehan asks, sounding amused.

Courfeyrac thinks on it for a moment, scanning the crowd. Finally, for the first time of the night, he spots Combeferre talking with Enjolras now that he's no longer arguing with Grantaire. Combeferre had knotted his tie hastily this morning and hasn't fixed it since, but it looks sort of adorable like that, imperfect for once. He still can't believe Combeferre managed to sleep in so late today. Himself, sure, but not Combeferre. Combeferre is punctual at all costs, wakes up at seven willingly, like he actually enjoys it. And yet he'd slept until nearly noon with Courfeyrac's arm around him.

"Um," Courfeyrac says, stalling. "You?"

"Me?" Jehan asks.

"Yeah. You. I'll tell him I'm trying to make you jealous. It's believable. You're gorgeous, it wouldn't be implausible that I'd be into you out of all of our friends."

"Am I not gorgeous enough for you to be into?" Éponine demands.

Courfeyrac takes her hand and brings it to his lips. "Of course you are, Éponine," he says honestly. "You're very beautiful."

"You're making me jealous already," Jehan says.

"People, people," Courfeyrac says, grinning widely, "no need to fight over me. There is plenty of Courfeyrac to go around."

"Go with Jehan," Éponine advises, pulling her hand away with a roll of her eyes. "It's more believable that he'd fall for you after pulling some stupid jealousy stunt."

"The stupid jealousy stunt is your idea," Courfeyrac reminds her.

"Yeah, to work on Joly and Bossuet," she says. "Not on me. I'm too smart to be tricked like that."

"I'll go ask Joly right now, then," Courfeyrac decides, pushing away from the table. "Might as well do it while we're both semi-drunk and more likely to agree to really dumb things, like pretending to flirt with our friend to make our other friend jealous." He salutes them as he walks away. "Wish me luck."

"Good luck," Jehan says.

"You're about to walk into someone," says Éponine.

Courfeyrac turns around, paying attention to where he's going because he's underestimated the effect the alcohol has had on him and, now that he's not just standing there, his head is swimming more than he thought it'd be. He makes his way around people, his house mates and his friend's housemates, stopping to say hello to a few people that greet him, congratulating a few Ravenclaws on the great fight their team put up.

When he finally reaches the other side of the room, where Joly and Combeferre are now chatting as Enjolras glares at Grantaire, who left the argument to join in on the drinking game with Feuilly, he nearly falls right into Enjolras' lap. "You need to cheer up, Angel-face," he says, reaching out to touch Enjolras' hair.

"Call me that again and I'll hex you, best friend or not," Enjolras warns, putting a steadying hand on his waist to keep him upright.

"You've never hexed Grantaire for it," Courfeyrac pouts.

Enjolras glares at him and removes his hand. "I'm going back to my dorm. Congratulations on the win."

"Wait." Courfeyrac catches his hand, gently pulling him back. "I'm sorry."

"It's not you," Enjolras sighs. "I was in a bad mood long before you came over here, and I shouldn't have taken it out on you. I'm sorry."

"So mature of you both," Combeferre says, turning away from Joly. "Taking responsibility for your wrongs."

"Maybe you should hex him," Courfeyrac says.

"Already reaching for my wand," Enjolras agrees.

Enjolras doesn't actually hex Combeferre, though. Instead he excuses himself again, this time for real, and after a more genuine congratulations to Courfeyrac he leaves the room. When he's gone, Combeferre moves into the spot he's just vacated, his hand going to the exact same place Enjolras' had on Courfeyrac's waist, only his is bigger and warm and he adds, "Steady, there. How much have you had to drink?"

Enough that he feels flushed all over, apparently. "Not really important," Courfeyrac says. "Joly, can I speak to you for a moment? Alone?"

Joly looks confused, glancing between Courfeyrac and Combeferre, but he shrugs and nods his head towards the door that leads to the bedchambers instead of the one to the hallway outside the dormitory that Enjolras has just left through. "Hold my drink, will you?" he asks Combeferre, handing it over before he's even finished.

With Joly leading the way, the two of them head for the rooms, leaving the party, the music, the people behind. The door shuts behind them and does a fairly good job at blocking out the sound, but Courfeyrac still gestures for Joly to continue on to his room. This is not a conversation he wants anyone overhearing.

Thankfully the room is empty, everyone still enjoying the party, so Courfeyrac lets Joly sit down and stays standing up, too energized and pumped up, all of a sudden, to sit himself.

"I need to ask you a favor," Courfeyrac says, deciding to jump right into it. No point beating around the bush.

"Okay," Joly says slowly. "Are you sure you wouldn't prefer to wait until tomorrow, when you're sober, to ask me for this favor?"

"I'm sure." He's not really drunk, he's just—buzzed and happy, which makes him seem drunk. "This is kind of weird, and it's totally okay if you say no."

"Is this going to be a sexual favor?"

"What? No!" Courfeyrac shakes his head. "Merlin, no. Well, sort of? Not really. Not actually. The thing is, I'm kind of interested in someone? Someone that doesn't know I'm interested in them, but I think they might like me back."

Joly grins. "Oh," is all he says. He gestures for Courfeyrac to continue.

"I was kind of hoping you might pretend to flirt with me a bit to make Jehan jealous," Courfeyrac states.

Joly's grin slips away, replaced by a look that says he thinks Courfeyrac is very, very stupid. "Jehan," he says. "You want to make Jehan jealous?"

Courfeyrac nods sheepishly.

"You realize this is wrong, underhanded and sneaky, right?"

Courfeyrac winces. He knew there was a chance Joly would say no, he just didn't think he would be shot down so quickly. "Right."

"Just making sure we're on the same level here," Joly says. "I'll do it."

"Wait, seriously?"

Joly shrugs. "Anything to get you and Jehan together."

Courfeyrac goes in for a hug that Joly actually allows, for once, although only briefly. When they break apart Courfeyrac gives him a dazzling grin, but then he remembers. "You can't tell anyone, though," he says quickly. "I mean anyone. Not even Bossuet. Jehan can't find out, it would ruin everything."

"Bossuet can keep a secret," Joly argues. Courfeyrac arches an eyebrow. "Okay, Bossuet can't keep a secret, but I don't like keeping them from him either."

Courfeyrac sighs, trying to look as dejected as he can. "But it's for love, Joly!"

That gets to Joly, Courfeyrac can tell, but he still looks reluctant as he bites softly on his bottom lip. "Okay," he finally sighs. "Okay, I won't tell Bossuet."

"You are the greatest," Courfeyrac tells him.

"And you are the most ridiculous person I have ever met," Joly mutters. "Come on, we have a party and a Combeferre to get back to."

Courfeyrac offers his arm and Joly takes it, linking his own through it. When they return to the common room Combeferre is waiting for them, still holding Joly's drink, and he chances a glance down at their arms and raises an eyebrow, to which Courfeyrac just laughs and presses a kiss very carefully to Joly's cheek, closer to his hairline than his mouth.

The thing is, Joly actually plays along even better than Courfeyrac ever could have expected. He lowers his gaze, bashfully looking up at Courfeyrac through his eyelashes, and Courfeyrac has to suppress the urge to laugh. Who knew Joly had game?

This, Courfeyrac thinks, could work. This could definitely work.

 

o|o

 

Courfeyrac doesn't miss the looks he receives Monday at breakfast when he sits, instead of in the spot between Combeferre and Enjolras like he usually does, beside Joly and leans in much closer than necessary to ask, "Can you pass me the milk, Joly?"

He also doesn't miss the looks Joly gets while handing the milk over, his fingers purposefully brushing Courfeyrac's for too long to be a coincidence. He pulls back when he's done, touch lingering, and then drops his gaze to his food, looking as though he's trying to hide a smile that just won't quit fighting its way onto his face.

Seriously, Courfeyrac never would have guessed Joly would be so game to do this, and he definitely couldn't have predicted Joly being good at this. But, playing his own part, Courfeyrac looks to Jehan when Joly meets his eyes again, as if to gauge his reaction. Jehan tiredly stirs his tea and looks nothing but bored, playing his part without even noticing.

"Good morning, isn't it?" Courfeyrac says happily. "Sun shining, birds chirping. I can almost accept the fact that I have class at eight thirty. Almost."

"You're in an awfully good mood today," Joly comments, the two of them steadily ignoring the odd looks their friends are sending them.

"What, am I not allowed to be in a good mood?"

"Happy is Courfeyrac's default mode," Combeferre speaks up, from the other side of the table. There is something almost tight about his smile. "It's why he's so lovely to be around."

Joly laughs, putting his hand on Courfeyrac's arm. "I won't argue that."

"You couldn't even if you tried," Courfeyrac says confidently. He fills his plate with eggs and says, as he's reaching for the pepper, "but I'm sure you'd look adorable doing it."

Joly makes a spluttering sound, ducking his head. "Courfeyrac," he giggles.

Courfeyrac grins happily to himself, wondering how Bossuet is handling all of this. He's on Joly's other side, so he can't tell, but he doesn't say anything at all. They'll just have to try harder, then. It's not as if Courfeyrac expected things to fall into place immediately. This could take time, but it'll work. He believes it'll work.

(It has to. He has no other ideas.)

As everyone with early morning class gets up to leave, Combeferre catches his arm, pulling him to a stop near the end of the Ravenclaw table (which they've claimed as their own today, since they sat at Gryffindor table yesterday, the Hufflepuff table the day before, and Slytherin on Friday). The only students within ear shot are first years that refuse to meet their eyes. They're so timid it's adorable. Combeferre was like that, when he was younger. Courfeyrac was too happy to make friends, introducing himself to everyone once the initial fear wore off, and Enjolras probably mastered the haughty tilt to his chin at birth.

"Are you alright?" Combeferre asks, eyebrows drawn together. "Enjolras is concerned."

Courfeyrac looks over his shoulder to where Enjolras sits with Marius, Cosette, Grantaire and Bossuet, all of them without the early morning Transfiguration class. As he's watching, Enjolras leans up to stretch like a giant, golden cat, his sweater riding up to show a bit of boney, pale hip. Grantaire is watching, spoon halfway to his mouth, and Enjolras catches him, raising his eyebrows pointedly until Grantaire hastily looks away, hair falling to cover his eyes in shame.

"So very concerned," Courfeyrac says with a soft snort. He pats Combeferre's shoulders, barely resisting the urge to dip his thumb under the collar and pull it back to reveal his tattoo, and— Why? Why does he even have that urge? "And I'm fine, Ferre. Why do you ask?"

"You were acting odd at breakfast," Combeferre says, puzzled. When Courfeyrac returns his confused look with one of his own he adds, "With Joly."

"Ah." Courfeyrac grins. "Don't worry about it."

"But—"

"We're going to be late," Courfeyrac points out. "That'd be one tardy and one absent within two weeks of each other, Combeferre. Are you sure you want that?"

Actually, Combeferre looks willing to risk it, for a moment, to press and demand a better answer than 'don't worry about it' but instead he nods, leading the way to the door. "I don't care about my attendance that much," he adds as he holds it open for Courfeyrac.

"Sure you don't," Courfeyrac can't help but tease.

Instead of brushing it off or laughing, Combeferre frowns at him. On anyone else the look would be one of frustration, but on Combeferre it's only bemused and a little wounded. "I don't. Not as much as everyone seems to think, anyway."

"Hey." Courfeyrac makes them both stop, right there in the middle of the hallway. Thankfully there aren't many people hurrying to class or anywhere else and they're not holding anyone up, because Courfeyrac refuses to move until he speaks. "It's not a bad thing, Combeferre. You like to learn. You like school. You like getting up early and you think it's disrespectful to be late to class. Those are good things. There's nothing wrong with any of that."

They might all be the best of friends, Enjolras, Courfeyrac and Combeferre, but more than once Courfeyrac has thought that Combeferre and Enjolras make much more sense without Courfeyrac in the equation. They share the same ridiculous sense of humor that leans more towards an appreciation for bad puns than actual jokes; if Courfeyrac throws himself into the center of a party, dancing with everyone, Combeferre and Enjolras are on the sidelines, usually together, neither of them drinking for their own reasons.

Right now, Courfeyrac sees that very clearly, the similarities between the two of them. It's all Enjolras, the steely look on Combeferre's face. It doesn't last long, though, because Enjolras is a master of that look and Combeferre is only borrowing it. It cracks too easy, too quickly, and so does Combeferre's voice, barely discernable when he says, "But you wish that I'd be less uptight sometimes, don't you? That'd I'd be more fun."

"What?" Courfeyrac has no idea where any of this is coming from. If he did, he would have spent as much time as he could convincing Combeferre that there's not a damn thing he would change about him. "Of course not. Fuck, no. I would never wish that. Why would I wish that? And who the hell says you're not fun enough already?"

Combeferre's smile is a sad imitation of his actual one. "You're right, I really do care about my attendance," he says, already taking a step backwards, away from Courfeyrac. "Better hurry so I'm not late."

Combeferre's legs are longer than Courfeyrac's, quickly carrying him down the hall in a blur of fluffy brown hair and the black of his robes and the blue and bronze of his tie. This time, for once, Courfeyrac doesn't feel like the only one who made things weird between them. That? What just happened? That was weird. And confusing. And it leaves Courfeyrac standing there, bewildered and hoping Combeferre doesn't truly believe that there's anyone out there that wishes he was different (if there is, Courfeyrac will hunt them down).

"What was that about?" Éponine bumps their shoulders together as she stops behind him, staring down the hallway in the direction Combeferre had went. "He looked upset."

"It's was nothing," Courfeyrac says quickly, sounding almost guilty. Not that he has anything to feel guilty for.

"Didn't look like nothing."

"It was."

"Okay." She drags the word out longer than necessary. "Anyway. You should have seen Bossuet's face at breakfast. He looked so confused at first, but when he realized that you and Joly were flirting I was honestly surprised he didn't pull out his wand and curse you. He looked pretty tempted."

He lets out a loud laugh and starts for class, Éponine falling into step beside him. "I can't believe how good Joly is at this, though. I thought he'd just kind of, like, sit there as I flirted at him, but he's actually carrying his weight with this. I'm impressed and a little awed."

"I'm not surprised," she says loftily. "Last year during the summer, remember how he was worrying about getting skin cancer from spending so much time in the sun and then he stocked up on that muggle lotion and convinced Bossuet to rub it all over him? You're telling me that was just to protect his skin? No way. Joly knows what he's doing."

"It might really have been just for the skin protection," Courfeyrac argues. "This is Joly we're talking about."

"'It's easier to get full coverage and distribution if someone else applies it,'" she mocks, her impression of Joly nowhere near the real thing. "I can't believe anyone actually bought that."

Courfeyrac bites his tongue, trying to hold back the laugh, but he can't. "Remember how Bossuet dropped the lotion bottle on Joly's face?"

"They're hopeless," Éponine sighs, leaning into his side. "This is why they really do need our help."

The two of them are the last to arrive to class, unfortunately, and Courfeyrac tries to avoid Professor Willow's eyes as he hurriedly looks for his seat. The one next to Combeferre is empty, no doubt waiting for him to take it even if Combeferre doesn't turn around the moment he walks into the room like everyone else does. Only Joly waves at him from his seat, gesturing to the one next to him, and calls, "Courfeyrac, sit with me," and he can't exactly ignore that.

"What's he doing?" Éponine whispers, voice right in his ear. "Bossuet isn't even in here."

"I'm supposed to be making Jehan jealous, remember? Plus, we have to make it convincing to everyone else too so they won't question it in Bossuet's presence." Courfeyrac shrugs at her, not minding. "You can have my seat beside Combeferre. No big deal."

Éponine returns his shrug with one of her own, heading for the vacant seat next to Combeferre. Courfeyrac has to pass it on his way to sit beside Joly, and Combeferre looks up, meeting his eyes for only a second. He looks away almost instantly, but not quick enough for Courfeyrac to miss the hurt look in his eyes that almost makes him stop and ask him what's wrong. But Éponine is already there, poking his side and asking him something, and Combeferre is grinning again by the time Courfeyrac sits next to Joly.

"Do you think it's working so far?" Joly asks, shooting a discreet look to Jehan, who's actually watching them as he flips absently through his textbook.

"Hopefully," Courfeyrac says. He turns a bit more in his seat and finds that Jehan isn't the only one watching them, but Combeferre is doing it with a frown.

 

o|o

 

The weeks leading up to the holidays are mostly uneventful. Why every professor feels the need to pile on the school work during that time is beyond him. Instead of being filled with excitement and joy at going home for a few days and then returning to gifts from his friends and their annual party, he's too busy stressing out over the amount of work he has.

Quidditch isn't even a distraction at this point. It's too cold outside for anyone to be flying, and his team's next game isn't until March so it isn't as if they need the practice. Instead he spends his days divided between class, the library, and his common room. Mostly the common room, since the library is sort of off-limits for a lot of them. There was an incident, a few years back, and now Joly, Feuilly and Combeferre are the only ones allowed to spend extended periods of time in there. Everyone else is required to find their books and leave, no lingering. (It was mostly Enjolras' fault, but he denies it when anyone brings it up.)

The only class Courfeyrac isn't close to falling behind in is Potions, thankfully, but that doesn't mean he spends less time on it than everything else. Since he happens to be the best in that class out of all his friends, it's his duty to make sure none of them fall behind, too. Not that he minds, really. He'd rather spend hours working on Potions with Joly and Éponine and Marius than be doing his Transfiguration homework.

At least they're making progress with the Joly and Bossuet thing. Lately Joly and Courfeyrac have been damn near inseparable. They sit beside each other at breakfast and lunch and dinner; they save seats for each other in all of their classes, and more than once Courfeyrac has caught Bossuet glaring at him as he takes a seat next to Jehan, or Combeferre or Éponine. Twice now they've been asked if they are dating, once from a Ravenclaw sixth year who Joly is friends with, and once from Marius who sort of blurts it out one day at lunch.

"Why would you ask that?" Joly had laughed when he did, leaning into Courfeyrac's side with a blush. Neither of them denied it, but they'd both giggled and looked at each other and made it pretty obvious that something is going on between them.

Bossuet had excused himself from the table and hadn't been seen again until after Courfeyrac had sent Éponine after him to make sure he was okay. (As much as he wants this to work, he doesn't want Bossuet to be hurt or feel isolated.)

Finally, after what feels like forever, the final week before the holidays arrives and Courfeyrac can feel it, can smell the freedom in the air. No homework, no classes, no early mornings for two whole weeks. He's practically giddy with it, and he isn't the only one. Paying attention in class gets harder and harder when one student stands up, pointing to the window as they exclaim, "Look, it's snowing!" When everyone's thoughts are more concerned with upcoming presents and going home to visit their families than actual schoolwork.

"Who is leaving this year, by the way?" Courfeyrac asks on Thursday. "I'm leaving Saturday, but I'll be back for New Year's Eve."

Just like the parties after a Quidditch game, they have a tradition for this too. Not everyone celebrates Christmas, and not everyone can afford to buy gifts for every single person in their group of friends. In third year Enjolras implemented the New Year's Eve celebration, where everyone who spends the holidays at home with their families is to come back early to spend the night with their friends, where they exchange gifts between them (each person buys for two of their friends only) and spend the night in one of the four common rooms, depending on which is the most empty that year.

The night isn't as crazy as the normal parties they throw. They're slower, with softer music and more snacks and everyone sleeps in the common room instead of going back to their dorms. It's a good tradition. It's a great tradition. It means no one is left out, and no one is left feeling guilty for not being able to afford presents for everyone. It means they're together, doing their own thing, and Courfeyrac looks forward to New Year's Eve every year just as much as he does Christmas itself.

"I'll be going home for a few days," Combeferre says, "but I'll be back in time as well."

"I'm staying here this year," Éponine says, looking impossibly happy about that fact. Normally she goes home with the rest of them. "Gavroche says he'd rather stay at the castle, so I'm staying with him."

"My grandfather is forcing me to come home," Marius sighs, "but I'll be back, too."

Cosette, Jehan, Bahorel, Joly and Bossuet are also going home to their families, as they do every year. Enjolras is always indecisive about it. Some years he goes home, some he doesn't. He has an okay relationship with his family, but his parents work a lot. Sometimes being at the castle means more human interaction during the holidays than being at home. (Grantaire and Feuilly always stay at the castle, every year.)

"But we'll all be back for New Year's Eve," Joly says from where he sits beside Courfeyrac on the couch, his hand so close to Courfeyrac's that their fingers keep purposefully brushing.

They're all piled into the Gryffindor common room, sitting close to the fire. Courfeyrac, Joly and Bossuet are on the couch; Éponine and Cosette are sharing an armchair with Marius sitting on the floor in front of them, back against their legs. Enjolras has an armchair to himself, legs curled underneath him, and Feuilly, Bahorel, Combeferre, Grantaire and Jehan sit on the floor, Jehan on a cushion, the rest on the carpet.

Instead of walking away when Courfeyrac and Joly flirt, Bossuet has taken it upon himself to be there at their sides constantly, which is good. If Courfeyrac is talking to Joly, Bossuet interrupts. If Joly is paying no attention to him, Bossuet gives him a reason to. At this point, Courfeyrac is certain he'll snap and ask Joly out before Courfeyrac can any day now. It's almost as if the two of them really are vying for Joly's love, and it's just a matter of one of them taking the leap first. (Obviously Courfeyrac isn't going to; he's just waiting for Bossuet to do it so he and Joly can end his charade.)

"Who's buying for whom this year?" Enjolras asks them all. "Same as last year, or should we switch it up?"

"I'm buying for Marius and Cosette," Éponine claims.

"And I'd like to buy for Éponine and Marius, if that's all right," Cosette says.

"I'd like to buy for Cosette and Courfeyrac," Marius says. Éponine kicks him lightly. "Sorry, but I've already picked out his gift."

"I'd like Bossuet and Courfeyrac," Joly interrupts before Éponine can genuinely get upset at Marius for not picking her the way she'd picked him.

The room goes quiet, aside from the fourth years over by the windows that are eating Chocolate Frogs and laughing about something. At this point, everyone has come to reluctantly accept whatever it is that's going on with Joly and Courfeyrac. At first there had been a bit of mild confusion, and then extreme confusion, and then, slowly, one by one, they all started to accept it and move on. Enjolras still looks at him oddly sometimes, and occasionally Cosette will give him a look as if she sees right through him and what he's doing, but aside from that everyone is surprisingly cool with it. They might not understand, but they respect whatever it is.

Not that there's really anything going on. They flirt, sometimes Joly will take Courfeyrac's hand when he's feeling bold, and occasionally Courfeyrac will kiss Joly's cheek, but it's not as if they sit around the castle making out and moaning each other's names. Everything has been just harmless, easy flirting.

Now, everyone looks uncomfortable. Courfeyrac can't figure out why until Enjolras says, "But I always buy for Combeferre and Courfeyrac. I have no idea what to get anyone else."

Combeferre clears his throat, sounding calmer than Enjolras when he adds, "I buy Courfeyrac a bowtie every year."

It's true. Combeferre gets him a ridiculous bowtie, Courfeyrac gets him an ugly, mismatching pair of socks that he has to wear, and the two of them switch off between getting Enjolras an actually serious present and a joke present, depending on the year. It's their own tradition within the tradition.

"But I've already picked out what I would like to get him," Marius says, looking sorry for arguing but determined to get his way. "Like you said, the two of you always buy for him. Shouldn't you let someone else for a change?"

"And I have something special I'd like to get him," Joly adds, giving Courfeyrac a coy look. He finally bridges the space between their hands, curling their fingers together. Joly has nice hands; they're soft and warm and thinner than Courfeyrac's but not uncomfortably bony or anything. (Courfeyrac really likes holding hands, okay? Romantically, platonically, he's not fussy.)

"Fine," Combeferre snaps. "I'll take Éponine and Enjolras, then."

"No," Enjolras insists. "This screws up the entire list. We can't do that."

Mentally, Courfeyrac goes over who buys for who. Joly and Bossuet buy for each other and Grantaire, while Grantaire usually buys for the two of them as well. Enjolras, Combeferre and Courfeyrac all buy for each other. Marius, Cosette and Éponine usually buy for each other. Bahorel, Jehan and Feuilly buy for each other. If Marius and Joly buy for Courfeyrac, that means Joly can't buy for Grantaire, and Enjolras can't buy for Courfeyrac. And since Combeferre has already agreed to buy for Éponine…

Things have somehow fallen so perfectly into place and they didn't even plan any of this.

"Grantaire and Enjolras can buy for each other," Courfeyrac says, "Marius and Joly buy for me. Combeferre buys for Éponine and Enjolras. I'll buy for Joly and Combeferre. Everyone else stays the same. It's fine."

Enjolras makes an unpleasant sound, looking over at Grantaire, who's been sketching in his book instead of contributing to the conversation. He doesn't look up but the way his hand stills say he's aware of Enjolras looking at him. Courfeyrac hadn't even meant to find a way for the two of them to give gifts to each other, and yet it's fallen into their laps anyway.

"I'm at least writing this down so no one gets confused," Enjolras snaps. "Someone— Grantaire, give me your book for a moment."

Grantaire looks up sharply, slamming his book closed. "No."

"Just give it to me."

"No."

"Then rip me out a page, for Merlin's sake."

Grantaire looks horrified, clutching his sketchbook to his chest. "You can't rip out a piece of a sketchbook, Enjolras. What is wrong with you?"

Before Enjolras can answer, Bahorel plucks the book from Grantaire's hand. Grantaire cries out, reaching for it, but Bahorel stands up and jumps onto the couch, easily separating Courfeyrac and Joly, and Grantaire still attempts to take the book back despite the fact that, standing on the couch, Bahorel towers too high above him.

"Give it back," Grantaire hisses. "Bahorel."

"What're you hiding, R?" Bahorel teases. "You seem mighty defensive about this little book."

"I'm not hiding anything," Grantaire grits out. "Give it back."

But Bahorel shakes his head, jumping on the couch as everyone watches him flip open the book to the page Grantaire was working on. As soon as he does his eyes go wide and he drops the book, looking stunned and a little scared. Courfeyrac quickly grabs it before someone else can.

"Fucking hell," Bahorel says, climbing down off the couch. "You could have warned me."

Grantaire looks mortified, arms crossed around his stomach. He chances a glance as Enjolras, his ears going red, and runs a hand through his hair until his bangs cover his eyes, hiding him as best as they can. "I told you to give it back," he mumbles.

Courfeyrac, too curious to stop himself, looks to the page the book had fallen open to when Bahorel dropped it. And, the moment he does, he realizes why Bahorel dropped it like it was on fire. The half-finished sketch of Enjolras on the page is smudged from Bahorel's fingers, but it's quietly clearly a nude drawing. (Courfeyrac is pretty sure Grantaire has never seen Enjolras naked, though, because it's missing the beauty mark on his right hip and the drawing has chest hair which, he's certain, Enjolras doesn't have. It is undeniably Enjolras, though.)

Very carefully, before anyone can look, he closes the book and holds it out to Grantaire. "I don't approve," he says, "but I would invest in a lock for this, if I were you."

Grantaire quickly takes it, stuffing it inside his robes, murmurs, "I have to— See you guys later," and hurries from the room.

"That was awkward," Marius says. "Is he going to be alright?"

Bahorel looks regretful, probably from the scarring drawing but also for upsetting Grantaire as much as he had. It was meant to be a joke, Courfeyrac knows it was, but it's not a funny one, not when it ends in someone getting hurt.

"What was in the book?" Enjolras asks, looking so curious it's painful. "What's he so upset about?"

Courfeyrac and Bahorel don't even have to exchange a look before they both say, simultaneously, "Nothing."

"Obviously it wasn't nothing," Enjolras argues.

"Nothing important," Courfeyrac lies. Because, while he hates lying to Enjolras more than almost anyone, he can't tell Enjolras what had been in that book. He can't do that to Grantaire. "Just a bad drawing. He's probably embarrassed about it or something."

Two lies in a row, because the drawing had been distasteful, in Courfeyrac's opinion (he's positive Enjolras never consented to something like that), but it was good. Grantaire is an amazing artist, and that sketch had been nothing but perfect, aside from a few inaccuracies.

"Whatever," Enjolras says, waving his hand. "Can someone get me something to write on so I can keep track of who's buying for whom?"

Courfeyrac leans back into Joly, reclaiming the space that Bahorel made between them when he jumped onto the couch. It's so easy to pretend to be with someone for Courfeyrac, he's learning, because he's an easily affectionate person even if there aren't any genuinely romantic feelings there. Joly is great; Joly is cute and funny and he's always worried about his health and everyone else's, and it's endearing. Courfeyrac is not into him in the slightest, but he doesn't mind a cuddle.

"He's watching us," Joly says happily, his lips almost brushing Courfeyrac's ear as he speaks, but not quite.

When Courfeyrac looks up, searching Jehan out in the sea of their friends like he knows Joly is waiting for him to do, he finds Jehan teasing Bahorel over something, not paying them any attention. In fact, the only people paying them any attention are Bossuet and Combeferre, the latter of which looks as though he's on the verge of getting ill. Courfeyrac worries about him for a moment until he quickly turns to Enjolras and says something, suddenly fine.

Odd, but Courfeyrac doesn't think very hard on it. Instead he leans forward to steal the licorice wand Éponine was eating, biting off the end and handing it back to her with a grin. "Gross," she complains. "You've slobbered all over it."

"You're welcome."

"You're disgusting."

"I love you."

Éponine glares at him for a long moment, lips curled, but as if she can't help she spits, "I love you too."

After that, their group slowly drifts apart. They still have class tomorrow and it's starting to get late, judging by the moon rising high in the sky, showing through the many windows in the Gryffindor common room. Enjolras is the first to excuse himself, followed by Marius and Cosette. Éponine lingers only a little while, her hand ruffling Courfeyrac's hair gently as she passes. Soon enough Bossuet and Joly leave, too, and Courfeyrac figures he should probably go with his fake-almost-boyfriend but he doesn't.

Finally, when even Jehan has gone up to his bedroom, leaving only Bahorel, Feuilly and Combeferre with Courfeyrac, he stretches to leave, reluctant to get back to his room, to go to sleep because sleeping means waking up for class tomorrow and he's enjoying this, sitting here in the warmth of the fire surrounded by people he loves.

Combeferre follows him out the door. Courfeyrac slows down, waiting for him so they can walk together until they have to go their separate ways, but Combeferre is silent beside him, no friendly conversation or banter, so much space between them that something has to be wrong.

"Did I do something?" Courfeyrac asks, worried.

"No," Combeferre says shortly.

If he thinks Courfeyrac is going to buy that, he's sorely mistaken. They know each other too well. "Combeferre," he pleads.

Combeferre walks a little faster for a moment, as if trying to leave him behind, but then he whirls around, stopping right in front of Courfeyrac with his hands fisted at his side, his gaze somewhere above Courfeyrac's eyes instead of meeting them head on.

"You're supposed to be Bossuet's friend," he accuses. "You're supposed to be getting him and Joly together, that's what you said. And yet you've been… you've been flirting with Joly in front of him as if you don't even care that it's hurting him. Do you even care? At this point I don't think you do. Not about anyone but yourself."

Courfeyrac blinks, hurt bubbling up inside of him. He and Enjolras fight occasionally. Rarely, Enjolras and Combeferre disagree or argue. But Courfeyrac and Combeferre do not fight. They don't. Combeferre has never spoken so harshly to him, and he feels his own fists clench, but not in anger. No, to hold back the wounded sound that claws its way up his throat.

"Combeferre," he says again, because it's all he can say.

"You always do things for fun, for a laugh, without thinking through the consequences. You think you can play with love like it's a game, because it might be for you, but it isn't for everyone else," Combeferre snaps, the words flying out of his mouth. "It's not fair of you to get between Joly and Bossuet like this. Not when you know how Bossuet feels about him. That's not right and I thought you would realize that, but clearly you don't."

The words are scathing and hurtful, and the look on Combeferre's face says that he knows that and is regretting it, but he doesn't take them back. He swallows, crossing his arms over his chest, and doesn't take them back.

Maybe Courfeyrac would have told him the truth, if things were different. If Combeferre had calmly come and asked him outright what is going on between him and Joly, Courfeyrac probably would have told him. But he feels attacked and hurt by his best friend, the one person who he would never expect this from. Not just because of their friendship but because this isn't like Combeferre. Combeferre is kind and warm and he doesn't intentionally hurt anyone, ever, but he's hurt Courfeyrac now.

"It's not really any of your business, is it?" Courfeyrac says. "It's between Joly and I, and I think you should stay out of it."

Combeferre snorts at him, looking close to arguing, but he doesn't. "Fine," he says.

"Fine."

With a final, jerky nod, Combeferre turns on his heels and hurries away from him. Courfeyrac lets him go, not calling his name to apologize or fix this, even though he should. He's too hurt. He could handle something like this from anyone, anyone in the entire world, but not Combeferre.

Dejectedly, with his shoulders slumped and his heart somewhere in his stomach, Courfeyrac heads for his common room.

 

o|o

 

Things between Courfeyrac and Combeferre aren't any better by the time they're all set to leave for the holidays. Courfeyrac hugs Enjolras tightly, so tightly Enjolras yelps, and Enjolras kisses his cheek and wishes him a good time with his family. Everyone hugs, everyone says goodbye, and it hurts, even if it's only for a few days. Yes, he's aware that they'll all be back for New Year's Eve, but saying goodbye is never easy for Courfeyrac, not the way it seems to be for everyone else.

When Joly tries to give him an enthusiastic goodbye, Courfeyrac is less than cooperative, stiffly accepting the hug and trying to smile away the frown on Joly's face after. Almost as soon as they pull apart Bossuet takes Joly's hand and pulls him away to have a more private goodbye between the two of them.

At least that's working out, Courfeyrac thinks sadly as he looks to Combeferre, who's saying his goodbye to Feuilly now. Then Grantaire. Then Marius and Cosette. Finally, when he's smiled and hugged everyone else, he looks to Courfeyrac and says, "Best be on my way, then."

"He'll apologize," Enjolras promises him, touching Courfeyrac's elbow gently like he knows Courfeyrac needs it right now. "Whatever's the matter, he'll get over it and apologize. You know Combeferre. He hates being out of sorts with his friends as much as you do."

"He's pissed because of the Joly thing," Courfeyrac says, trying to sound annoyed but coming out more sad than anything.

"And what is the Joly thing?" Enjolras has wanted to ask for weeks and Courfeyrac knows it. The fact that he's waited this long is a miracle.

"It's not what you think," is all Courfeyrac says. "Trust me. But even if it was, it's not… It's not like it's got anything to do with him."

"Maybe it does," Enjolras says, shrugging. "Have you stopped for a moment to consider that maybe it does have something to do with him?"

Enjolras leaves him to puzzle over that. All during the train ride home, where he sits with Jehan and Jehan only, Courfeyrac continues to puzzle over it. They share their goodbye when they reach their stop, both of their parents waiting for them, and for once Courfeyrac doesn't run to their sides to scoop up his sisters. Instead he slouches, dragging his bag.

Combeferre's anger at him can't ruin the holidays, though. Soon enough, after a night at home with his youngest sister tugging at his hair and asking him all about 'Hoggerts' and enough eggnog to kill a man, a night in his own bed and breakfast late in the day made by his mum, Courfeyrac's mood is back to normal. It's impossible to be down around his family, especially around Christmas.

When Christmas day arrives Courfeyrac receives a letter from each of his friends, most of them saying that they know he won't be sending one back, but they hope he has a good day. Courfeyrac smiles through each and every one until he gets to the end and finds that one is missing. There isn't a letter from Combeferre, and the one from Bossuet is considerably less cheerful than it had been last year.

There are presents to be opened and dinner to be had, though, so Courfeyrac doesn't dwell on it. Not today. He will when he gets back, but for now he's going to enjoy the time with his family.

"Just think," his mother says that night at dinner. "Next year at this time you'll be an adult, out in the world with your own job and the whole future ahead of you."

For some reason eating isn't appetizing after that.

 

o|o

 

"How were things without everyone here?" Courfeyrac asks on New Year's Eve, as he and Enjolras go about changing the Ravenclaw common room to accommodate their party. There is only one other Ravenclaw student in the castle aside from Feuilly, Joly and Combeferre, and as such it has become their party venue. "You and Grantaire try to kill each other?"

Enjolras' lips purse as he uses his wand to hang the garland. Courfeyrac is throwing tinsel everywhere, sort of with abandon but if anyone asks he's claiming it's deliberate. They're not going to bother with much decoration, just enough to make it feel festive. A bit of tinsel, garland, maybe a thing or two of mistletoe to make things interesting. They've already moved the furniture around, Combeferre's made them promise to put protective spells on the bookshelves just in case, and everything is coming together rather quickly.

"We got along, actually," Enjolras says at last, lowering his hand to his side. "We all went to Hogsmeade to do a bit of shopping. He wasn't… horrible to be around this year, I'll give him that."

Courfeyrac grins, bumping their shoulders. "You had a good time with him?"

Enjolras sighs and looks away. "He was wearing this— this hat and scarf and these mittens and…."

"And it was adorable?"

"Grantaire is not adorable," Enjolras states. "On the list of things I would use to describe Grantaire, adorable does not feature."

"Okay." Courfeyrac holds up his hands defensively. "If you say so."

"I do." Enjolras cuts him a look. "Have you spoken to Combeferre since we've been back?"

"You know, I think there needs to be more tinsel over there, on the other side of the room," Courfeyrac says, backing away. "Far, far on the other side of the room. So far away that this conversation can't continue."

A spell hits him in the back, freezing him in place. "I've gotten very good at body-binds," Enjolras informs him.

"I can see that," Courfeyrac manages to get out through clenched teeth.

"You two aren't allowed to avoid each other," Enjolras says, circling around to point his wand threateningly at Courfeyrac. "I refuse to be split between the two of you. You're my best friend and so is Combeferre. I won't have the two of you throwing away years of friendship over… over nothing."

"We're not," Courfeyrac says. If he could, he would frown. He doesn't quite manage it, however, on account of the full body-bind. Fucking Enjolras. "We're not, are we? You don't really think that this is the end of our friendship, do you?"

Enjolras undoes the spell, tucking his wand away, and Courfeyrac gives him a pleading look, needing assurance or he's going to possibly cry. Seriously, his eyes are already burning and his chest feels tight. Fighting with Combeferre is bad enough, but the possibility that this is the way it'll be forever…. He can't handle that.

"Of course not," Enjolras says quickly. "I won't let that happen. That's why you two are going to make up with each other, tonight. Fix things before they get worse."

Courfeyrac bites his lip, nodding. "Okay," he says. "I'll try my best."

"Good." Enjolras nods too, stiffer than Courfeyrac. "Can I ask you something?"

"Obviously."

"It's about my gift for Grantaire," Enjolras admits. With the flick of his wand a couch slides over to them and he falls down onto it, sinking low in the seat. "I wasn't sure what to get him."

Courfeyrac raises his eyebrows, expectant. "But you did get him something, right?"

"Of course," Enjolras says. "I wouldn't ruin tradition just because I have no idea what to get him."

"So what is it, then?"

Enjolras picks at a loose thread in his sweater. It's a vibrant red, soft looking and worn. He's had it for two years now. "I got him a quill. After the stunt Bahorel pulled that day in the common room, I thought he might like something to keep others from looking at his sketches without his permission. Everything you write with the quill disappears as soon as you put it away, but you can reveal it again with a certain spell. It has instructions on the package. It wasn't very expensive."

"That's…" Courfeyrac flounders, searching for the right word, and Enjolras looks up sharply. "That's actually really perfect."

Enjolras lets out a sigh. "You think so? Like I said, it obviously didn't cost much, and I'm sure the same could be accomplished with a spell if he actually looked into it, but—"

"No, it's a great gift for him," Courfeyrac promises. "He's going to love it." Well, he'd probably love it if Enjolras wrapped a rock and gave it to him, as long as it's Enjolras that does it, but Courfeyrac doesn't mention that. "I'm proud of you. I thought you'd get him socks or something equally horrible."

"You get Combeferre socks every single year," Enjolras points out.

"That's different," Courfeyrac argues. "They mean something different than buying someone a twenty pack of black socks."

"And what is that, exactly?" Enjolras wonders.

Courfeyrac goes to explain how, first of all, they take thought and effort because he spends hours searching through ridiculous socks and once he'd even knitted a pair himself, just to make them extra horrible. He goes to explain that Combeferre is a perfectionist by nature, who irons his clothes and tucks in his shirts, and that the socks are like his own personal rebellion, a little chaos in all that perfect. He goes to explain, but before he can the door to the common room opens and Bahorel and Feuilly come in, carrying trays of food. Éponine is just behind them, using her wand to levitate the foldable table for the refreshments the aforementioned are carrying.

"Are you two seriously just sitting there?" she complains. "How lazy."

"You're not even carrying the table, Ponine."

"It's heavy," she insists. "I would if I could, but it's also incredibly long and I am short."

"Why didn't you ask Bahorel to carry it, then?"

"I'm carrying the damn food," Bahorel points out. And he is, that's true, but he's carry part of it in his mouth, apparently. He swallows and adds, "The kitchen staff has out done themselves. Those little pastry things are fucking good."

Feuilly watches him, a look on his face that is equal parts disgusted and fond. If that isn't love, Courfeyrac doesn't know what is.

"We should finish setting up," Enjolras says abruptly. "I need to run down to my common room to get my gifts as well."

"And I need to fix my hair," Courfeyrac adds. He reaches up and, unsurprisingly, finds a bit of tinsel. "Definitely need to fix my hair."

"No one attending is going to care how your hair looks," Enjolras points out, hypocritically. Enjolras is surprisingly modest for someone so attractive, but he is vain as hell when it comes to that hair.

"Except Joly," Éponine snickers.

"Don't," Bahorel groans. He puts down the tray off food on the table, nearly dropping it all. "Don't talk about that. It's weird."

Courfeyrac bristles a bit. "Because we're both men?"

"You could both be unicorns and I wouldn't give a shit," Bahorel says sincerely. "It's just fucking weird."

"Really weird," Feuilly agrees.

"But we respect your choices," Enjolras adds. "Whatever you and Joly chose to do, we respect it."

"I'll keep that in mind," Courfeyrac says. "Do you still need me, or can I go?"

Enjolras waves him off as Éponine sets up the table, and Courfeyrac hurries down to his own dormitory to grab his gifts and fix himself up a bit. He changes his shirt twice before settling on a navy button-up with black suspenders because this is the only time of year he really gets to dress up and be out of uniform, and then he fixes his hair and gathers everything he'll need for the night: sleeping bag, the bottle of rum he'd stolen from his parents, and his gifts for Joly and Combeferre.

Buying for Joly was simple. He'd stopped in a bookstore and found a muggle book called Medicine for Dummies and figured it was the greatest gift he could ever find. It has to be worth a laugh with a name like that, but it's also relevant to Joly's interests.

He'd spotted so many perfect books for Combeferre while there, too. Muggle bookstores have a wider range of variety, and even a few books by wizards that had their covers frozen to resemble the rest. In his bitterness and hurt he almost hadn't gotten one, but at the last second he'd grabbed a paperback horror book, knowing that, while Combeferre spends a lot of time reading non-fiction, Combeferre has a soft spot for books that give Courfeyrac nightmares just from reading the blurbs on the back.

He still isn't sure if he's going to give it to Combeferre. In his indecision he hasn't even wrapped it, but when he piles the stupid socks he'd bought and Joly's book together, he brings Combeferre's book as well, just in case. Who knows, maybe they will fix things tonight and he'll be happy that he did. Or maybe not, and he'll throw the book in the fire.

As he climbs the stairs to the Ravenclaw dormitories, Courfeyrac silently thanks the universe for not putting him a house that requires him to climb so many damn stairs every single day. No wonder Combeferre's thighs are so great.

Everyone has gathered in the common room when Courfeyrac arrives (even, he's surprised to notice, Gavroche is in the corner, as if he'd begged to come and Éponine had agreed but only if he promised to behave). Cosette is wearing a beautiful green dress, her hair pulled back from her face with a red headband. Marius is wearing a simple dress shirt with a red tie to match her. Jehan's sweater is all pastels, as if he's confused about which holiday it is. Enjolras, of course, hasn't changed at all, and neither have Feuilly or Bahorel. Éponine is wearing the same jeans and shirt she was earlier, only now she has earrings on and her hair tied back. Joly and Bossuet are, as usual, in the ugliest set of matching sweaters Courfeyrac has ever laid eyes on. Combeferre is wearing a sweater vest. Grantaire is in his every day attire. Courfeyrac sighs at almost all of them.

"Finally!" Éponine says when he gets over to them. "Took you long enough."

"I was fixing my hair."

"Can't even tell."

Courfeyrac sticks out his tongue and hesitates, noticing the last two seats that are free. All of the furniture has been pushed to the side of the room with the fireplace, which means that no one is stuck on the floor tonight. It also means that everyone has room to sit with who they'd like, and Enjolras and Combeferre have taken a whole couch to themselves, as have Joly and Bossuet. There is a seat left on each of them, and Courfeyrac doesn't know where to go.

"Courfeyrac," Joly says, and his mind is made up for him. He notices Bossuet stiffen and Combeferre's eyes narrow, and for the first time Courfeyrac is truly regretting this idea. Something is very off about sitting here, next to Joly instead of between Enjolras and Combeferre.

"Let's open our gifts, then," Enjolras says loudly, the fire crackling over his words.

"The faster we can all drink, the better," Courfeyrac hears Grantaire mutter.

They've never made a big deal out of the gift opening. They're not supposed to get each other anything too expensive or extravagant, and they don't open their gifts one at a time so everyone can make a big fuss out of what everyone else got. Instead there's a chaotic throwing and passing off gifts around the room, with Éponine getting up to drag Gavroche over and drop one in his lap.

Finally, when everyone has handed over their gifts (Combeferre barely even meets Courfeyrac's eyes when he does), they all tear them open with abandon.

"This is beautiful," Cosette says loudly. She's holding up a charm bracelet when Courfeyrac looks in her direction, gazing at Marius as if he's the most incredible thing in the world.

"This is really nice, Grantaire," he hears Enjolras say quietly as he runs his hand over the organizer Grantaire got him.

Grantaire shrugs, letting his hair fall into his face as he always does when he's embarrassed. "Thought it might come in handy."

Courfeyrac settles back in beside Joly, unwrapping his gifts and tossing the paper onto the ground the way everyone else is. The gift from Marius is a bracelet, like Cosette's, only his is plain silver without the charms. It's nice, definitely expensive, and on the inside are the initials of each of them. Every single one of his friends. It's beautiful. Courfeyrac tries to rub at his eyes as discreetly as he can while giving Marius a thankful look that he doesn't see in light of cooing at the sweater Cosette's gifted him.

"I hope you don't think my gift is going to be that nice," Joly warns. He leans in, adding quietly, "I had no idea what to get you, I'm so sorry. I made a big production of it because I thought it was only expected, given our 'relationship', but the gift is terrible."

Warily, Courfeyrac opens the gift-bag from Joly, reaching in to pull out the bottle inside. "Broom polish," Courfeyrac says, raising an eyebrow.

"It was really cheap."

"It's perfect," Courfeyrac promises, pulling him into a hug. "I'm running out, and Hufflepuff's Quidditch captain can't afford to have a dull-looking broom, now can he?"

"You are way too cheerful for your own good," Joly informs him.

As they're talking, Courfeyrac notices something out of the corner of his eyes. He looks over, following the glint of light shining off something, and finds Feuilly holding a box covered in silver wrapping paper. As he's watching, Feuilly tears it off, a grin on his face as Bahorel, too, watches on. The box inside is plain, white, and not very big. He tears off the top, tossing it away, and then frowns.

"Seeking Skyway tickets," Feuilly says, breathless. Courfeyrac recognizes the name, has seen the wristband Feuilly sometimes wears with the same name on it. They're a muggle band, as far as Courfeyrac knows, and Feuilly has loved them for years. "What the fuck, Bahorel?"

"Those are the right ones, right?" Bahorel looks worried. "The guy I bought them off of said they were, but I've never—"

"They're the right ones," Feuilly snaps, and that's when everyone realizes something is wrong. His face is going red and he's pushing himself up onto his feet, looking furious. "Do you know how much these cost?"

"Considering I paid for them, yeah, I do."

"And you can return them, too," Feuilly says, throwing the tickets Bahorel and, after a moment of consideration, the bottom of the box, too. "Why are you such an asshole all the time?"

"What?" Bahorel starts to stand up, but Jehan's hand on his arm keeps him in his seat. "But—"

"Don't." Feuilly kicks wrapping paper out of the way as he stomps towards the stairs, his footsteps pounding up them as he goes. A door slams. Everyone is quiet.

"What did I do?" Bahorel looks genuinely lost, and he's not alone.

"I'll go talk to him," Courfeyrac says, since someone has to and Jehan is too busy saying soothing things to Bahorel to do it, and Bahorel can't do it because Feuilly would only be more upset, and while Enjolras is much closer with Feuilly than Courfeyrac is, Enjolras is also not the best in these types of situations.

"I'm coming," Combeferre tells him.

"That's really not—"

"He's my roommate."

Courfeyrac can't argue with that. He shrugs, heading for the stairs, and Combeferre follows behind him, staying far enough behind that there's no chance for them to talk even if they wanted to.

In the room, Feuilly is sitting on his bed, one hand in his hair with the other wrapped around his wand, pointing it in their direction. "I thought you might be Bahorel," he says sheepishly, lowering it. "Sorry."

"No problem," Courfeyrac promises. He knows that sitting beside Feuilly right now is probably a bad idea, so he sits opposite him on what he thinks is Joly's bed. Judging by the extra blankets and the way it's turned at an odd angle to face a certain way, he's pretty sure it is. "Do you want to explain what happened back there?"

"Do you?" Feuilly counters.

"Um." Courfeyrac looks to Combeferre, but for someone who offered to help he's not actually helping. He leans against one of the posts for his own bed, arms crossed over his chest and lips pressed firmly together. "Bahorel got you a really awesome gift and you threw a box at him?"

"A really expensive gift," Feuilly corrects. He runs a hand through his hair, looking almost like a rabid dog that's been trapped in a corner, ready to bite his way out if he has to. "Do you know how much those tickets cost? About a hundred quid a piece."

Courfeyrac raises his eyebrows. "Is that a lot?"

"About twenty galleons," Feuilly converts for him. "Per ticket. That's why I didn't buy them myself."

Combeferre lets out an appreciative sound as Courfeyrac says, "Damn."

"He knows I don't have that kind of money," Feuilly says bitterly. "He knows, and then he goes out and buys me those damn tickets like it's fucking nothing, just rubbing it in my face that—" He cuts off, taking a deep breath. "I could never afford to give him a gift like that and he knows it."

Courfeyrac bites his lip, thinking his words through carefully as he can. "I don't think he was trying to rub anything in," he says gently. "And I know for a fact he doesn't expect anything from you that costs that much. He wanted to get you something nice because he— because you're his friend. That's all it was, Feuilly."

"You don't get it," Feuilly tells him. "Your family is rich. You've always had money. You wouldn't understand."

"Maybe I don't understand where you're coming from," Courfeyrac admits, "but I know where Bahorel was. He was trying to do something nice, and you literally threw it in his face. He's down there with no idea what the hell he did wrong, and that's not cool of you at all."

"And they're not just for you," Combeferre adds.

"What do you mean?"

"There were two tickets," Combeferre points out. "I'd be willing to bet my left arm that the other one was for him. He wanted to go with you."

Feuilly frowns down at his hand. "You think so?"

"Yes," Combeferre and Courfeyrac both say.

"Damn." Feuilly sighs to himself. "I'm a dick."

"A bit, yeah," Courfeyrac says. Feuilly flips him off. "So go apologize. It's not the end of the world. Friends fight, they're terrible to each other sometimes, it happens. You just have to buck up and admit to it and ask for forgiveness, that's all."

"You're right," Feuilly acknowledges. He stands up. "How mad did he look when I left? Should I stay out of punching range?"

"I don't think he's mad," Courfeyrac assures him. "More confused and hurt than anything."

"Okay." Feuilly puts his wand away and rubs a hand down his face, as if bracing himself. "Are you two coming back down?"

"In a moment," Combeferre says before Courfeyrac can open his mouth. "You go down without us."

Courfeyrac watches Feuilly leave from the bed, not standing up. When he's gone and the door is shut firmly behind him, he continues to stare at it, waiting. When Combeferre still doesn't say anything for a minute or two, Courfeyrac finally turns to him.

"You are right, you know," Combeferre says, a weak smile pulling at the right side of his mouth.

"About what?"

"Sometimes friends are terrible to each other," Combeferre elaborates, "and they should admit to it and apologize when they are."

Courfeyrac sees where this is going and nods encouragingly. "They should."

"So I guess I'm sorry, then," Combeferre says, awkwardly rubbing at the back of his neck. He sighs when Courfeyrac doesn't instantly forgive him. "I shouldn't have had a go at you about Joly. You have every right to be with whomever you like, as long as you're both happy and consenting, and it doesn't matter what anyone else— how anyone else feels about it. I'm sorry."

"You said that I don't care about anyone but myself," Courfeyrac reminds him, the words bringing up the old hurt, making it feel just as sharp and raw as if they'd just been spoken. "You said I think love is a game, and I don't care if I'm hurting one of my closest friends."

Combeferre winces in shame. "You have to know I didn't mean that, Courfeyrac," he says— begs, maybe. "I don't. I know you care about Bossuet, about everyone. That's— that's one of the reasons we all love you, because you love everyone with everything you have. I shouldn't have said those things, and you have every right not to forgive me, but at least believe me when I say I didn't mean them."

The sincerity in Combeferre's words is undeniable. A stronger man than Courfeyrac might be able to hold a grudge, but he can't. Not when he hates fighting with his friends more than anything in the world – except maybe that look of sadness in Combeferre's eyes. And Courfeyrac has always been quick to forget about things, to move on. He bounces back easily, and this isn't an exception.

"If you would have just asked, instead of going off on me," he says, smirking, "I would have told you the truth."

"The truth?" Combeferre looks confused.

"I'm not interested in Joly," Courfeyrac informs him, smug. "Which you would have known if you'd just asked."

Combeferre pushes away from his bed, taking a step in Courfeyrac's direction. "What do you mean you're not interested in Joly?"

"Exactly what I just said."

"But you've—"

"We're trying to make Jehan jealous."

Combeferre pauses, mid-step. "You're… interested in Jehan?" He says the words as if they taste foul in his mouth.

"Joly thinks I am," Courfeyrac corrects. "I told him I was, and that I needed to make Jehan jealous, but in reality I just needed Joly to flirt with me so Bossuet would get jealous and do something about his feelings for Joly."

A minute passes in silence, with Combeferre staring steadily at him, eyes narrowing with every second that goes by.

"Let me get this straight," Combeferre says, and Courfeyrac shrinks in on himself a little when he realizes Combeferre is using his lecturing tone. "You're using Joly to make Bossuet jealous, to manipulate them into getting together?"

"It sounds really bad when you put it like that," Courfeyrac admits. "But basically, yes."

Combeferre covers his mouth for a moment, shaking his head. He paces the room a bit, as he likes to do when he's trying to work out a particularly hard question for class, or when he's read something that he doesn't fully understand and he's trying to work it out in his head.

Finally, Combeferre laughs. Courfeyrac startles at the sound, jumping. "I should have known," he says through his laughter. "Honestly, only you could do something so ridiculous."

"It's working," Courfeyrac says, defensive.

"I don't doubt that," Combeferre says, sobering. "You and Joly are very convincing."

"Apparently. Even my best friend couldn't tell when I was faking it."

"I really am sorry," Combeferre says again. "Truly."

"I know. And you're forgiven." Courfeyrac stands up, reaching into his back pocket. The book he'd gotten is small enough that it fit, the pages only wrinkling a bit from being sat on. "I got you this, too. I spotted it when I bought Joly's book and thought you might like it."

Combeferre catches the book when he throws it, flipping it over to read the back. His smile grows as his gaze shifts down the cover, and when he looks back to Courfeyrac's he's full-out grinning. "I got you something as well," he says, holding up his finger. "One moment, it's in my drawer."

Courfeyrac gets up, following Combeferre to his side of the room. He riffles through his bedside table for a moment before pulling out an oddly shaped gift, covered in wrapping. "I wasn't sure if you'd still want it, given what happened between us, so I left it up here." He hands it over. "I thought you'd like it."

"Two gifts," Courfeyrac says happily, taking it. "I am so spoiled."

"You are."

With a bit more care than he normally takes, Courfeyrac unwraps the heavy object. And when he does, his breath catches in his throat. "This is—"

"I know you love it here," Combeferre explains, as Courfeyrac turns the snow globe over in his hand. It's beautiful, a perfect replica of Hogwarts inside, and when he tips it snow falls all along the grounds as a little figure on a broom zooms around. "I thought you might like something to remember it by after graduation."

"Fuck," Courfeyrac mumbles, wiping his eyes. "Everyone's trying to make me cry this year, apparently."

"So you like it?"

"I love it," Courfeyrac swears. "Can I leave it here until after the party?"

"Of course."

Courfeyrac places it, very carefully, on the top of the side table. "Let's get back to the party, yeah? Everyone's probably eaten everything already, and those sausage puffs looked really good."

"As long as we're not fighting anymore," Combeferre says.

"We're not. I hate fighting with you. Do you know how much it sucked? A lot."

"For me as well," Combeferre admits. "I won't do it again."

"You better not." Courfeyrac pokes his side. "You know, if I didn't know any better I would think that you were jealous."

Combeferre makes a choking sound, eyes going wide. "What?"

"Mhm." Courfeyrac holds open the door for him. "Maybe Bossuet isn't the only one who wants a piece of Joly, huh?"

Combeferre stares at him as if he's grown two heads, but then he lets out a startled laugh. "Joly isn't really my type, unfortunately. Or fortunately. I'm not sure."

"And what is your type?"

The moment he asks, Courfeyrac finds that the answer is very, very important to him. He doesn't know what Combeferre's type is, if he even has one. And he wants to know.

"Wouldn't you like to know," is all Combeferre says, and then he leads the way down the stairs and back to their friends as Courfeyrac thinks yes, I actually would.

The food hasn't all been eaten when they arrive downstairs, but the wrapping paper has been cleaned up and everyone has started drinking, aside from Gavroche who sits beside Enjolras and petulantly sips what looks like pumpkin juice. Cosette is wearing the sweater Éponine got her over her dress, and Joly is laughing into Bossuet's chest over something he must have said. Bahorel and Feuilly are talking in the corner, Bahorel frowning and Feuilly looking regretful. Grantaire is saying something to Marius that's making him flush and Enjolras is watching on, amused.

"The party," Courfeyrac says loudly from the stairs, "has returned."

"The party needs to shut up and have a drink," Bahorel shouts back at him.

"Right you are," Courfeyrac says. "Someone get the lights and turn on the music."

Fifteen minutes later the common room is lit by dozens and dozens of strands of lights, with soft, pretty music playing in the background. Outside, the sun has set and the stars twinkle like the lights in the room, and snow gently falls in thick flakes that stick to the ground and stay there, coating the castle in a blanket of white. It's beautiful, and Combeferre is right: Courfeyrac is going to want something to remember this by. Courfeyrac doesn't want this to end.

After graduation, who knows if they'll have a night like this again? Everyone is going to go their separate ways, without Hogwarts to bring them back together.

"You look far too melancholic," Joly tells him, dragging him down onto the couch. Beside him, Bossuet makes a not very subtle face of discontent.

"Well that just won't do," Courfeyrac says, putting an arm around him, mindful of the way Bossuet glares at him for it. "Maybe I need some cheering up."

As soon as he speaks the words, Courfeyrac realizes that Joly has had a lot to drink. He hadn't noticed, too caught up in everything else, but Joly actually climbs into his lap, arms around Courfeyrac's neck, and he smells like alcohol and wobbles in place, unsteady.

Courfeyrac wishes Bossuet would just do something. The look on his face is starting to hurt, and none of this is worth it if Bossuet feels miserable. He just wants them to be happy, and he thought this plan would work. So far it hasn't, and if it doesn't soon Courfeyrac is going to call it off. There's only so much pouting-Bossuet he can take.

"Maybe," Courfeyrac says, holding Joly to steady him, "we should play a game."

"Time for Spin the Bottle already?" Éponine asks, eavesdropping. "Usually we wait until most of the alcohol is gone."

"No time like the present, right?" Courfeyrac says grandly. "Why wait?"

"Why can't this be part of the tradition that we change?" Enjolras grumbles, his glass of spiked eggnog still mostly full.

"It's tradition for you to say that, you know," Grantaire teases. "If you really want to break tradition, you could start by being a bit more enthusiastic."

Enjolras, the stubborn fool, raises his eyebrows challengingly and gets out of his seat. He takes the nearly empty bottle from Bahorel's hands, downs the contents in one long, endless sip, and brushes his mouth with the back of his hand when he's done. "We can use this bottle, then," he says when he's done. "Enthusiastic enough for you?"

"Fuck," Grantaire blurts. "You're going to regret that in about five minutes."

"I've been drinking wine at dinner since I was six," Enjolras snorts. "Just because I don't drink all the time like the rest of you, doesn't mean I'm incapable of holding my alcohol."

"A galleon says he's singing on the table within the hour," Bossuet says with a wicked grin.

"Two says he holds his alcohol better than any of us," Bahorel counters.

Bossuet considers for a moment, looking at Enjolras as if sizing him up, and says, "Deal."

"The only person who's going to have any regrets is Bossuet," Enjolras warns. "Now are we going to play this vacuous game or not?"

Courfeyrac carefully puts Joly back on the couch, off his lap, just as Éponine says, "Gavroche, bed."

"Oh, come on, Éponine," he whines. "Why can't I stay?"

"What is about to happen is not for the eyes of children," Combeferre tells him, scooping Gavroche up in his arms easily. "Come on, you can sleep in our room tonight."

"You are seriously tall," Gavroche tells him, looking out at everyone over Combeferre's shoulder. "Do I have to go to bed straight away?"

"Are you going to stay upstairs?"

"I guess."

"Then you can stay up as late as you want."

"Awesome."

"Grab a tie while you're up there!" Courfeyrac calls after them. "If he doesn't, Marius, we're going to need yours."

Marius clutches his tie defensively. "Cosette and I won't match without it."

"A true tragedy," Enjolras says apathetically.

Marius frowns at him. "Drinking makes you unkind."

"I kind of like it," Grantaire says. Enjolras makes a face at him.

"Everyone in the circle," Courfeyrac orders, knowing he'll lose control of the group if they don't start this now. Everyone is a few drinks away from calling it a night, and if they don't do this now they never will, and Spin the Bottle is one of the best parts of the night.

"You aren't allowed to control the bottle," Cosette tells him sternly. "We all remember last year. You cheated."

"Worth it," Éponine says.

Courfeyrac points at her, nodding. "Don't even deny it. Watching Bahorel and Marius kiss was the greatest thing anyone in this room has ever seen."

Bahorel bares his teeth in a sad imitation of a smile, and Marius looks down at his drink, cheeks red. "It wasn't the worst kiss I've ever had," he admits. "That would be Enjolras. He just sat there."

"Adding alcohol makes things so interesting," Joly sighs, sliding to the floor as everyone else makes a circle, leaving a spot open between Enjolras and Cosette for Combeferre.

When Combeferre returns, tie in hand, Marius happily brushes a hand down his own and a bottle is placed as close to the middle of the circle as they can manage. Enjolras is given control of the bottle, since no one else is trusted not to cheat except maybe Combeferre, and the game begins.

The first spin turns to Cosette, who takes the tie from Enjolras and wraps it loosely around her own head. They have a way of doing this that's a little different than most people. A tie is given to the first person the bottle lands on, and then the bottle is spun again and another person is silently chosen, with the blindfolded party unawares of who they're kissing. Afterwards, no one is allowed to tell them and they have to make a guess at who it is. If they guess correctly, nothing happens. If they guess wrong, they have to take a shot.

When Cosette's blindfold is deemed secure, Enjolras spins the bottle again and it lands on Bossuet. There's a chorus of laughter and even Bossuet chuckles good naturedly as he stands up, meeting Cosette in the middle of the circle. Their kiss is brief and chaste and almost as soon as it starts Cosette pulls back and says, "Joly? It smells like Joly."

She lifts the blindfold and Bossuet grins at her.

"That's not fair," Cosette protests. "They spend so much time together they even smell the same! How am I supposed to tell them apart?"

Courfeyrac pours her drink and holds it out to her. "Your shot, madam."

Cosette takes it, despite her protests, and winces as she tosses it back. She shudders afterwards, retaking her seat, and Enjolras spins the bottle once more.

It isn't until three spins later that the bottle finally lands on Courfeyrac, and he is more than willing to put the tie on and wait. Someone tightens it as he stands off to the side, still in the center of the circle, and he can hear Enjolras spinning the bottle, the clank of it against the ground, until finally it stops. There isn't a single, "Oooh," or laughter like their usually is.

One of the rules is that the blindfolded party isn't allowed to touch, since that could give everything away. So Courfeyrac holds his hands behind his back, grinning, and says, "Lay one on me."

He hears footsteps approaching him, soft and indistinguishable, and then a hand gently weaves its way into his curls, mindful of the blindfold, tilting his head just a bit to make the angle better. There's a beat, then another where nothing happens, and then lips softly press against his own, the slightest burn of stubble against his skin narrowing the prospects considerably. That means it has to be Bahorel, Bossuet, Combeferre, Grantaire or Feuilly.

And then Courfeyrac forgets to look for signs on who it is because the person kissing him coaxes his mouth open expertly, a tongue hesitantly brushing against his own. If he could, Courfeyrac would wind his arms around their neck, but since he can't he tries his best to kiss back enthusiastically with just his lips and tongue, taking the kiss from careful and gentle into something much better and a little messier.

When they break apart, he absently licks at his lips afterwards.

"Guess," someone orders.

There is an odd swooping in Courfeyrac's stomach that he can't explain, and there is no doubt in his mind about who just kissed him. There is, however, confusion. His body is reacting in ways it definitely shouldn't be, and he wants to reach out, tug the kisser back in and fit their mouths together again.

"Um." He knows who it is. He knows, and yet he says, "Grantaire?"

The blindfold is removed and Grantaire, still sitting down, says, "You wish."

"Better take your shot," Combeferre says. His lips are still slick from the kiss as he takes his seat.

A shot is handed to him, and Courfeyrac takes it before sitting back down. The game continues, with Bahorel and Éponine making a scene as they kiss, both of them making unnecessarily loud sounds and laughing afterwards. Everyone laughs when Enjolras is paired with Marius again, only Courfeyrac is too busy staring across the circle at Combeferre.

Combeferre, whose tongue was just in Courfeyrac's mouth. Who is a surprisingly good kisser. Who Courfeyrac can't get out of his head, but he chalks that up to the alcohol and tears his gaze away just in time to see Enjolras kiss Marius. Like, really kiss Marius. There is sloppy tongue and hair tugging involved, and when it's done Marius just stands there, sort of dazed, and whispers, "Please tell me that was Cosette."

Enjolras laughs, sounding a bit off, and says grandly, "You all wanted enthusiasm, didn't you?"

"Maybe someone else should take over spinning," Cosette suggests.

Combeferre takes over after that, and Bossuet and Feuilly kiss awkwardly, with Feuilly being the first to guess correctly afterwards. Then the bottle turns on Joly, who good naturedly takes the blindfold and waits, and Courfeyrac is so busy watching Combeferre spin the bottle that he doesn't even realize it's landed on him until someone slaps his back.

Trying to hide his laugh, Courfeyrac stands up, just a bit unsteady on his feet from the alcohol but still okay enough that he's not falling over, and moves to stand in front of Joly. Everyone is watching them intently, no doubt wondering if this is going to be their first kiss, and Courfeyrac leans in.

"Wait!"

As Bossuet scrambles to his feet, Joly takes off his blindfold. "What's happening?" he asks, confused. "Are we stopping?"

"No," Courfeyrac says.

"Yes," Bossuet says. He moves between Joly and Courfeyrac and gives Courfeyrac a look that is both angry and sorry. "I know I'm crossing a line here," he says, "and I really am sorry, Courfeyrac. You're a really good friend, and I love you, but you can't kiss him."

"Why not?" Joly demands. "Have his lips fallen off?"

Bossuet winces, turning his back to Courfeyrac. He can't see the look on Bossuet's face, but he can hear the pleading tone in his voice well enough when he says, "Don't kiss him. Please don't kiss him."

"Why?"

It's as if he's not even aware of anyone else anymore. Bossuet takes Joly's hand, squeezing lightly, and says, "If you kiss him, that's it. I've had to sit here and watch the two of you be all over each other for weeks, and I've tried to be supportive, I have, but I can't do it. I can't. And if you kiss him, it's all over. I won't have a chance anymore."

Someone grabs Courfeyrac's arm and tugs him down. He shoots Combeferre a look, frowning, but figures that was probably a good idea.

"Do you want a chance?" Joly asks, looking almost irritated. "Because like you said, you've just sat there and watched. You haven't done anything. You've never said anything! I've been waiting for you to say something, but you haven't."

"I didn't think you wanted me to," Bossuet says. "I thought you wanted him, and I was trying to be happy for you. That's all I want, I just want you to be happy."

"I was trying to make you jealous!"

Someone gasps, but Bossuet and Joly don't seem to notice. Courfeyrac, on the other hand, snorts. Of course Joly was using this to his advantage too. Courfeyrac should have known, but instead Joly pretended to be doing it out of the goodness of the heart to get Courfeyrac and Jehan together. Joly is much sneakier than anyone gives him credit for.

"Why would you do that?" Bossuet asks, stunned.

"Because you've been in love with me for years and I thought that maybe you'd finally do something about it."

Bossuet takes a step back, dropping Joly's hand. "You know?"

"Of course I know," Joly sighs. "You're my best friend. How could I not know?"

Eyes closing, Bossuet rubs a hand down his face. When he finally removes it, Joly is still watching him intently, eyebrows raised. "I'm sorry," Bossuet says after a moment. "I didn't mean to."

"Don't apologize," Joly says, "but I'm getting kissed tonight whether it's from Courfeyrac, someone else, or you. So if you want your chance, you better take it. I'm not going to wait forever for you to do it."

"Wait, you want me to…?"

"I'm telling you to. If you want to, that is."

Bossuet nods, dazed, and closes the distance between them with two short, hesitant steps. He leans in, brushing his mouth against Joly's, but Joly grabs the front of his shirt and kisses him harder, his eyes squeezes closed.

"Wow," Bossuet says. "You—"

Joly kisses him again. And again, breaking apart only when one of them bursts into laughter, or when Joly says, "Finally." But then there's tongue, and Bossuet's hands move down Joly's body, over his back and down to his ass, and things start to get a little… awkward after that.

They still don't break apart.

"I can't watch," Bahorel says in horror, "but I can't look away."

"I really don't want to break them up," Éponine says, "but this is uncomfortable to witness. I can hear it."

Combeferre stands up, using Courfeyrac's shoulder for leverage, and puts a hand on Joly's arm. Reluctantly, he and Bossuet pull apart with an audible, wet sound. "Since Gavroche is in our room, I would suggest the two of you perhaps go to the Hufflepuff dormitory?"

"Do you want to?" Bossuet asks Joly.

Joly doesn't even answer. He takes Bossuet's hand and drags him from the room without a single goodbye to any of them.

"Is someone going to explain why the hell Joly and Courfeyrac have been acting loved-up for the last month or what?" Bahorel asks when they're gone. "Or am I the only one who still doesn't get it? Is someone going to clear that up?"

"Nope," Courfeyrac says happily. "Any of those sausage puffs left?"

After that, the party winds down. Bahorel wins the bet against Bossuet when Enjolras stays mostly alright, just a little tipsy and looser than normal, laughing and lounging easily on one of the couches. Everyone eventually grabs their sleeping bags and someone else moves the furniture again so they can sleep close to the fire. Courfeyrac's fingers aren't working right after the shots and the eggnog and the other drinks, but Combeferre takes his sleeping bag from him and lays it out neatly beside him own, between his and Enjolras'.

Finally the lights are lowered and everyone gets ready for bed, but no one sleeps yet. There are conversations all around the room, from Éponine and Cosette softly whispering together, Bahorel laughing at something Feuilly says, to Grantaire's soft snoring. Courfeyrac stares up at the ceiling, lit by the fire and the stars outside, and listens to Enjolras' breathing slowly even out until he's fast asleep.

"We won't be able to do this next year," Courfeyrac says after a while, turning towards Combeferre. "This is the last time we'll be able to do this."

"Why won't we be able to do this next year?" Combeferre looks genuinely confused.

"Are you planning on breaking into Hogwarts just to spend New Year's Eve in one of the common rooms next year?"

"No," Combeferre chuckles, "but I'm sure we'll find somewhere to do this, whether we have to do it in your parent's basement or not."

"You really think we will?"

"Of course." Combeferre pulls his hand out of his sleeping bag, grabbing Courfeyrac's. "It's tradition, after all."

"True." Courfeyrac looks back up at the ceiling. "It's tradition."

He hopes it's not one they all grow out of.

Chapter Text

 

 

"Today," their Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher says, pacing around the room, "I will be introducing you all to a very difficult piece of magic. Only in the last ten or so years have we been instructed to teach this to you, since, as I said, it is a very difficult piece of advanced magic that even the most powerful wizards struggle with, but it has, in recent years, been deemed a necessary piece of defensive magic that we can no longer skip over due to its difficult nature. Does anyone have any guesses to what I'm talking about?"

Combeferre is the only one in the room who raises his hand. Everyone is still in holiday-mode, staring off into space and hardly paying attention. Courfeyrac's stomach hurts from the chocolates he'd eaten at lunch, and he wants nothing more than to lay his head down on his desk and take a nice little nap. But he can't do that.

"Combeferre," their teacher says, nodding.

"The Patronus Charm, sir?"

"Ten points to Ravenclaw," their teacher says happily. "Correct you are, Combeferre. How many of you are familiar with the Patronus Charm?"

A few hands rise, Courfeyrac's included. Half of the class does not raise their hands, though, so their teacher continues with, "For those not familiar, the Patronus Charm is used to invoke a powerful, positive energy force, also known as a Patronus. A fully formed Patronus may take on any defining shape, unique to the caster, when perfectly executed. For example."

Their teacher waves his wand, pointing it down the aisle between the rows of desks, and suddenly a beautiful white cat prances through the air before disappearing in a poof, leaving nothing behind to prove it was ever there. Several students make appreciative sounds. Courfeyrac sits up a little straighter in his seat, starting to get excited.

"In order to produce a fully formed Patronus, one must not only know the proper spell and wand movements, but they must also rely on the happiest memories they have. I doubt that many of you in this class will be able to produce a fully formed Patronus, and marks will not be taken from those who aren't able to. Today we will begin by practicing the proper incantation, without use of your wands."

"Sir!" a Ravenclaw girl asks, waving her hand hurriedly. "What do you mean we'll have to focus on our happiest memories?"

"The charm," their teacher says as he makes his way to the board, "relies on the energy and magic that can be found in happy memories. The happier the memory, the stronger the charm will be."

"And what if we don't have strong, happy memories?" Grantaire asks. A few of their classmates laugh, but Grantaire doesn't.

"I'm sure you all will have something to work with," their teacher says, waving him off. He turns to the board, quickly writing out Expecto Patronum. "For now, without your wands, I want you all to repeat after me: Expecto Patronum."

Courfeyrac doesn't bother. He's sitting far enough at the back of the classroom that it's not like his teacher will notice anyway. He's too busy watching Combeferre and Enjolras, in front of him, with their heads ducked together, whispering to each other. He wishes the tables in this classroom were big enough for three. Not, he hastily adds to himself, that sitting beside Jehan isn't great, because it is. Only Jehan's had his head in his poetry book since they arrived, and he's been writing in it for the last ten minutes, leaving little notes on the sides about the poems he's reading, as if to remind himself in the future.

Really, he's just restless is all. This class is great, sometimes, when they're actually doing magic instead of repeating the same words over and over again or reading about spells in textbooks, but right now it's not holding his attention. It's snowing outside, the wind howling through the castle through any open windows it can find. It's cold, too, bitterly so. And he's been cooped up inside for days. All he wants is to go outside, get on his broom and take a spin around the grounds. But he can't.

Sighing, Courfeyrac rubs his hands together, noticing his breath forming in the cold air in front of him. It's that cold. At least Combeferre looks warm in his heavy sweater that's two sizes too big for him, as most of his clothes are. Around fifth year he started dressing like that, in comfortable sweaters and perfectly pressed dress pants that, no matter how well he irons them, just don't fit right. It's a crime, truly. He should be accentuating those wonderful thighs of his.

"What are you thinking about?" Jehan whispers, looking up from his book with wide, curious eyes.

"Grantaire and Enjolras," Courfeyrac lies without even consciously making the decision to do so. Lately he's been lying so often to his friends and he can't seem to stop. He feels guilty about it, he really does, but he can't help himself. "Wondering what we're going to do with them. Joly and Bossuet, Cosette and Marius, they were easy."

"I think we should work on Bahorel and Feuilly first," Jehan says firmly. "Grantaire and Enjolras… they're a mess all the time. That's their thing. They never get progressively worse, or better. But Feuilly and Bahorel have had more fights this year than the rest combined."

Courfeyrac frowns, looking over at the two in question. Even now, as they sit beside each other, something isn't right between them. It's obvious from the other side of the room, the way Bahorel is sitting with his body angled away from Feuilly, the way Feuilly is tense and his eyes are narrowed as he stiffly repeats the words of the spell over and over again along with the rest of the class.

"I thought they worked things out at the party," he says, confused. "Are they still fighting about that?"

"No." Jehan shakes his head sadly. "I don't think so, anyway. I don't know what it is this time, but I think it was Feuilly who did it. Bahorel's been moping more than usual, and he hasn't even argued with our other roommate in over a week, which, in case you don't know, is a big deal. They fight all the time because he doesn't keep his stuff away from Bahorel's side of the room, but last night he tossed his clothes onto Bahorel's bed and Bahorel just sighed at him."

Courfeyrac shakes his head, sighing. "What do you think their problem is? I mean, with Marius and Cosette it was simple: Marius didn't have the guts to ask her out. With Bossuet and Joly, it was the two of them being afraid of crossing the line between friendship and more, even though they both felt the same way and they both knew it. With Bahorel and Feuilly…. I just don't get it."

"Neither do I," Jehan says sadly. "Bahorel's my best friend, but he won't talk to me about it. He won't talk to anyone about it."

"Maybe that's the first thing we need to fix," Courfeyrac muses. "Maybe we need to get him to talk about it."

Jehan snorts so loudly Combeferre and Enjolras turn around to frown at them, but Courfeyrac waves them off. "This is Bahorel," Jehan says when they've turned back around. "Have you ever tried to pull a splinter out of a horse's buttcheek?"

"Um, have you?"

Jehan rolls his eyes. "It's a figure of speech."

"Are you positive?"

"Horse's kick people," Jehan explains. "They're big, and they kick people. You do not want to be behind a horse while causing it pain, okay? Anyway, Bahorel is like a horse, and trying to talk about feelings with him is like standing behind a horse and shooting it in the ass. There are going to be casualties, and you're going to be one of them."

Courfeyrac drums his fingers on the desk, considering this. "If he never admits to his feelings or learns how to talk about them, he's never going to fix things with Feuilly."

"I know that," Jehan says, "I'm just warning you that it's going to be difficult and possibly dangerous."

"You're in luck." Courfeyrac grins, barring his teeth. "Those are two of my favorite things."

"Your favorite things are chocolate and naps," Jehan says, deadpan.

"Don't mock the nap, Jean Prouvaire," Courfeyrac warns. "Why do you think children are so damn happy? Naps."

"Tonight's homework," their teacher says loudly, and Courfeyrac starts to pay attention again, "is to master the wand movements and the incantation. We will not be practicing the spell with our wands until Friday. Until then, I would also suggest taking a bit of time to think over your most happy memories. For now, you are dismissed."

Courfeyrac starts gathering his things, closing his textbook and his notebook, piling them together. He looks up when he's done to find Combeferre standing in front of their table, waiting, and he smiles, ignoring the odd swooping in his stomach. "Hey," he greets, careful to keep his gaze on Combeferre's eyes and not his lips, though he has no idea why doing so suddenly has to be a conscious decision.

Combeferre returns the smile (and Courfeyrac has to look at his lips for a second, though there's really no excuse for the way his gaze lingers, and why is it lingering? What is wrong with him?) but he says, "Jehan, can I speak with you for a moment?"

"Sure," Jehan says.

Courfeyrac waits, books in his arms, until Combeferre gives him a pointed look and adds, "Alone."

"Oh." Why does that sting? "Right. Of course. See you both… later, then."

Feeling rejected, Courfeyrac hurries to catch up with Enjolras. He can't resist looking over his shoulder, though, and he catches Éponine approaching Combeferre and Jehan, the three of them leaving together. In the hallway, Enjolras and Courfeyrac head towards the stairs that will take them down to the basement. Combeferre, Éponine and Jehan head in the opposite direction.

"What's that about?" Courfeyrac blurts, unable to keep the question in.

Enjolras looks over his shoulder just in time to see Éponine, Combeferre and Jehan round the corner. "That?" he asks. Courfeyrac nods. "Are they not allowed to hang out together?"

"Of course they are," Courfeyrac scoffs. "It's just weird, isn't it? Since when do they do that, the three of them, alone? It's like you and Marius and Cosette hanging out. Obviously you're allowed to, and you're friends, but it's weird."

"It's not that weird."

"It is."

"If you say so."

"I do."

"Okay."

Courfeyrac sighs. "Sorry," he apologizes. "I'm just sick of being cooped up in this castle. It's making me restless and off. I love it here, I do, but if I don't get outside soon I'm going to pull my hair out by the fistful. "

"You're much too vain to do such a thing," Enjolras teases. "If you really want to get outside, though, I'll go for a walk with you, if you'd like."

Unable to help himself, Courfeyrac brightens considerably, grabbing Enjolras' arm. "Seriously?"

"We're getting our jackets and things first," he orders. "I don't want to get a cold."

"You spend way too much time with Joly," Courfeyrac says.

Enjolras shrugs. "If it keeps me from having a runny nose for a week, so be it. I'm useless when I'm sick."

That is very, very true. Enjolras is a strong, capable person. Enjolras would take on a thousand adversaries and go down in a blaze of glory, taking as many of them with him as he could, but when he's sick Enjolras is a mess. He refuses to get out of bed, whines like he's dying, and forces everyone to take care of him. Thank goodness for them all, he rarely gets sick. If Courfeyrac was to be the cause of Enjolras getting a cold, his friends would kill him for it.

They part ways at the bottom of the stairs, heading for their respective dormitories. Courfeyrac quickly pulls on an his jacket, a fashionable black number with silver buttons that is, he's aware, more for show than for protection from the cold, but he doesn't care. He wraps his Hufflepuff scarf around his neck, carefully pulls on a beanie over his curls, tugging a few out so they fall nicely around his face, and tugs on a pair of gloves and his boots before hurrying to meet Enjolras.

"This is a terrible idea," Enjolras states the moment they step outside. Cold air lashes at them, snow stabs at their skin, but the sun is shining. "It's freezing."

"Suck it up," Courfeyrac says, taking his hand. "Do you smell that? That's fresh air. Isn't it beautiful?"

"All I can smell is impending frostbite."

Courfeyrac ignores him, pulling Enjolras down the walk. He doesn't bother heading in the direction of the lake, the Quidditch pitch, or the Forbidden forest. Instead he keeps them on the path that leads around the castle, never straying too far from an entrance in case they get too cold.

"It's really beautiful, if you ignore the part where our noses are going to fall off," Courfeyrac sighs as their boots crunch snow under their feet. The castle is glorious under the blanket of snow, a medieval thing that's been around hundreds of years before they were born and will live hundreds of years after they die. It's timeless. "It's going to suck when we graduate."

"I don't know," Enjolras muses. "I'm looking forward to getting a job, moving out, starting my life. I love it here too, this is more home to me than anywhere else has ever been, but this is just a chapter in the entire book. It can't last forever, and I'm excited to see what's next."

Courfeyrac makes a face and kicks at the snow as they walk. "Change of subject," he says abruptly, since the current one is making him want to retch. "Grantaire got you a pretty useful gift, didn't he?"

Enjolras' cheeks are red, peeking out from between his hat and his scarf, but it's impossible to discern what's from the cold and what's from Courfeyrac mentioning Grantaire and the present he'd gotten Enjolras for their Not-Christmas.

"It is useful," Enjolras agrees, saying nothing more.

Courfeyrac elbows him, coaxing, "Come on, it's great. You totally thought he was going to get you something stupid and useless, and instead he got you something perfect that you'll probably use daily because you're ridiculous."

"It's a planner," Enjolras deadpans. "I could have bought one myself, they're not expensive."

"Give him some credit, Enjolras."

"Okay, fine. It was better than I expected, I'll admit." He smirks. "What about your gift?"

Courfeyrac touches his own wrist, the bracelet from Marius hidden underneath his coat and mittens, safe from the bitter cold. "It's great."

"I meant the one from Combeferre."

"You knew about that?"

"I know more than you give me credit for," Enjolras says. "Like I know it was you that was sending Marius those gifts, not Cosette. You and Jehan and Éponine, in any case."

"How the hell did you know that?"

"I know everything that happens in this castle," Enjolras says happily. "I'm Head Boy for a reason, you know."

"I thought the staff was just feeding your ego."

"I didn't know about you and Joly pretending to be together to make Bossuet jealous, though," Enjolras admits. He gives Courfeyrac an annoyed look. "That wasn't very kind of you, I hope you realize."

"It worked out in the end," Courfeyrac reminds him. "Joly and Bossuet are together. That's what matters."

"You really think Bossuet's the only one who was hurt by that?"

Courfeyrac pulls his jacket in tighter around him. It's starting to get too cold. His ears, under his hat, are aching from it, and each breath feels like swallowing shards of ice. "Who else did it hurt?" he asks, oblivious.

"No one," Enjolras sighs. "Forget I said anything. Let's go inside."

While they spoke, they'd gone off path. They're father from the school than Courfeyrac had noticed, and it takes them far too long to get back to an entrance. The cold wind makes Courfeyrac's eyes water, leaving tears to stream down his face, tears that freeze almost instantly. Enjolras grabs his hand and tugs, calling him several unflattering, rude names as they run for the castle, their limbs stiff from the cold.

It's like walking out of a freezer and into a fire, entering the castle. The shocking change of temperature makes Courfeyrac hurt, and Enjolras doesn't look much better. "That was," he wheezes, "a really fucking stupid idea."

"I just wanted some fresh air!" Courfeyrac says defensively, stomping his feet to try and bring feeling back to them. "Fuck."

"Stick your head out a damn window next time," Enjolras snaps, unwinding his scarf from around his face. It's stiff with ice and snow. In fact, Enjolras looks like a snowman almost, covered from head to toe. When they'd walked outside his jacket had been a deep forest green. Now it's white. "I think I'm dying."

"What are you two doing?"

Courfeyrac recognizes that voice too well, and he feels himself slump with guilt as he listens to Combeferre's footsteps steadily approaching, quick enough that he must be jogging.

"Were you outside?" Combeferre demands, looking between the two of them. "Do you realize how cold it is? It's thirty below out there, you idiots!"

"We wanted fresh air," Enjolras says. He could sell Courfeyrac out, put all the blame on him, but he doesn't. "We underestimated how cold it was."

"Clearly." Combeferre looks frantic, reaching out to tug Courfeyrac's hat off. He tosses it to the stone floor in abandon, unwinding his scarf, and presses both hands to Courfeyrac's cheeks. They're so warm it stings a bit in contrast to his cold skin, and when he tries to smile to let Combeferre know they're fine he feels the sharp pain of his chapped bottom lip splitting. "Christ, you two need to go to the hospital wing."

"You're overreacting," Enjolras says, the way his teeth chatter as he speaks contradicting his words. "We'll be fine."

"I'm getting the two of you in front of a fire right now," Combeferre says sternly, dropping his hands from Courfeyrac's face. The loss of their warmth is a great one, and he has to bite his tongue to hold back a whimper. "Let's go. Hurry up."

One of Combeferre's hands press to each of their backs, urging them forward, and Enjolras and Courfeyrac both let themselves be led down the stairs. They go to Courfeyrac's dorm, since it's the closest, and the moment they arrive Combeferre strips them both of their jackets and mittens and boots, sticks them in front of a fire and tells them not to move as he fetches blankets.

"Do you reckon we made a mistake?" Enjolras asks from where he sits at the other end of the couch that they're both on, knees to his chest and arms wrapped tightly around them. His cheeks are still red, his lips are pale, and his hair is wet and melting, dripping water down his cheek.

"I'm going to say yes, Enjolras. I think we made a mistake."

"Your idea," Enjolras grumbles. "Next time you want someone to go for a walk outside with you in minus thirty weather, ask someone who doesn't value their fingers as much as I do, maybe."

"You volunteered."

"Because you looked so sad about being cooped up."

"Yeah, but I make snap decisions that I don't think through," Courfeyrac points out. "You're supposed to be more logical than that. Or, Combeferre is. We really need him around at all times, don't we?"

"You do," Combeferre says. He drapes Courfeyrac's blanket, which he must have grabbed from his bed, around his shoulders. When he's tucked in nice and tightly, curled up on his side with his head cushioned on the armrest, he wraps Enjolras up with another. He casts a warming spell around them afterwards. "Promise me not to be that stupid again, will you?"

"I promise I'll try," Courfeyrac says.

"That's the best you're going to get," Enjolras adds.

Combeferre sighs at the two of them, and Courfeyrac can't help the grin he sends Enjolras' way. It slides off his face a moment later, though, because Combeferre sits himself on the floor in from of Courfeyrac and pulls one of his hands out of the blanket, cupping it in both of his own, rubbing feeling back into each finger. His hands are very smooth.

"Can you feel everything?" Combeferre asks, blue eyes wide and worried. "Nothing is numb, right? Can you wiggle your toes?"

Courfeyrac snorts but, to make him feel better, tries to wiggle his toes and says, "Yes."

"Seriously, do not do that again," Combeferre says quietly, lower than he had when scolding Enjolras and Combeferre both. "I know you hate being stuck inside the castle, but it's dangerous, being outside when it's this cold. I don't want something to happen to you. Or, um, or Enjolras. I don't want anything to happen to either of you."

Courfeyrac gives one of Combeferre's hands a squeeze. "I know," he says. "I'm sorry. I truly didn't think it was that cold out, and we were talking as we walked. I didn't realize we were so far from the castle until we were already freezing, and then we had to run all the way back."

Combeferre lets out a soft snort before leaning down, pressing his lips to the palm of Courfeyrac's hands. It's impossible to believe that ten minutes ago he felt like a block of ice, because suddenly he feels so hot he might burst into flame. A flush of heat waves over his entire body, starting at the palm of his hand and working its way outward.

"What happened to these two?" he hears, and Combeferre hastily drops his hand as they both look up, finding Grantaire leaning over the back of the couch. He frowns at Enjolras, eyes narrowing, and his grip on the couch tightens. "What the hell did you do?"

"None of your business," Enjolras answers, looking at the fire. It flickers in his eyes. "What do you want?"

"What happened?" Grantaire asks again, only the words are for Combeferre. "Are they okay?"

"They're fine," Combeferre says. "They thought it would be a good idea to go for a stroll around the castle."

"You're not a first year," Grantaire hisses, making Courfeyrac glad the words aren't aimed at him. "What the hell were you thinking, Enjolras?"

"I was thinking it would be lovely to get frostbite," Enjolras says sarcastically. "Obviously I wasn't thinking."

"Obviously." Grantaire shakes his head, making a rude sound, and moves away from the couch, disappearing from sight.

"Ass," Enjolras mutters to himself, glaring at the fire as if it, instead of Grantaire, has pissed him off.

Combeferre leans his back against the couch now, facing away from Courfeyrac, and pulls a book out of the pocket of his robes. It's the one Courfeyrac got him, a bookmark past the halfway point. Distantly, he wishes Combeferre would put the book down and hold his hand again, but he doesn't know how to go about asking for it without it sounding like it means more than it does, so he suffers by sticking his hands under his armpits and moaning pitifully about how cold he is.

Now that he's sure the cold isn't going to have any lasting effects on them, aside from possibly a cold, Combeferre doesn't seem all that sympathetic, really.

There's an odd clanking of glass coming from behind the couch, and if he didn't feel so tired and too afraid to let the blanket slip off him, Courfeyrac would sit up to investigate. As it is, he stays where he is and he figures out the cause of the sound soon enough anyway.

Grantaire places a tray of steaming mugs on the table near the couch, mumbles, "Thought this might help," and leaves, just like that.

Slowly, Enjolras sits up, looking pitiful with the blankets wrapped around him and almost childlike as he reaches for one of the mugs. He cups it in his hands, letting the steam waft up into his face and closing his eyes, inhaling deeply.

"Hot chocolate?" Courfeyrac breathes, trying to untangle his legs from the blankets. "Is that hot chocolate?"

"Yeah," Enjolras sighs, eyes closing. He brings the cup to his lips and takes a hesitant sip. "It's good, too."

Combeferre grabs a mug and hands it to him without being asked, and Courfeyrac gives him a thankful look. Honestly, he's happier for the warm mug and the steam than he is for the drink itself, but it is good. He sips at it slowly, wanting to savor the heat in his hands.

"That was very nice of Grantaire," Combeferre comments, eyes on his book.

"Yeah, it was," Courfeyrac agrees, looking to Enjolras. Enjolras sips his hot chocolate in silence, eyes still on the fire.

 

o|o

 

"Expecto Patronum!" Enjolras snaps furiously, his hair falling over his forehead. It sticks to his skin with sweat, making it look more golden than blond, and Courfeyrac snickers at him. "What?"

"Did you think you'd be the miracle child that could produce a fully formed Patronus on the first try?" Courfeyrac mocks, tapping his own wand against his knee. A spark flies out of it and he jumps, surprising himself. "Oops."

Enjolras pushes his hair out of his face, agitated, and tries again. Beside him, Combeferre says calmly, "Expecto Patronum." A small whiff of what almost looks like smoke, only purer, erupts from the tip of his wand.

"Good job, Combeferre," their teacher says. "Five points to Ravenclaw for being the first person to make progress!"

Combeferre flushes a bit, pleased, and says, "Courfeyrac, are you going to try?"

All around the room, his friends and classmates are out of their seats, waving their wands and muttering the same two words over and over again. So far everyone is looking annoyed, frustrated or resigned. Combeferre is the only one to have anything happen. Everyone else is just waving their wands aimlessly.

Courfeyrac has tried a handful of times, but he's been distracted by everyone else. It's much more fun to watch Enjolras get upset when he isn't perfect at something immediately, or Combeferre calmly and steadily progress faster than everyone else. But Combeferre has a point, so Courfeyrac gets out of his seat.

Their professor said to channel their happiest memory. Courfeyrac has a lot of happy memories, from the day he was sorted, the first time he spoke to Enjolras and Combeferre, all the times his friends have laughed, his mum's hugs and cookies, his sisters and their high pitched giggles. They're all wonderful, happy memories, but that's not the one Courfeyrac uses.

Taking a deep breath, Courfeyrac lifts his wand and moves it in the circular motion their professor instructed, thinking about his happy memory as he says, "Expecto Patronum."

Suddenly, without warning, a wispy white form escapes from the tip of his wand. It happens so quickly, so surprisingly, that Courfeyrac jumps, hearing people gasp behind him. The spell breaks almost instantly, the shapeless form disappearing, and Courfeyrac lowers his wand, looking around.

"Well done, Courfeyrac!" their teacher bellows, coming over to pat him on the back. "Did everyone see that? I'd be willing to bet that you'll be casting a corporeal Patronus in no time, m'boy."

What had come out of his wand hadn't taken on any particular shape, but it had been much stronger than what Combeferre had produced. Even Courfeyrac is surprised; he's never been particularly good at spells or incantations. His affinity is for potions, not wand work.

"Of course he's good at this," Enjolras says, sounding far less bitter than he should, considering how frustrated he's been with trying to produce his own Patronus. "Courfeyrac is a walking happy memory."

"Keep it up," their professor tells him. "Everyone else, get back to work."

His classmates continue to chat and work on their own Patronuses, while Courfeyrac takes his seat, feeling weirdly drained from a spell that lasted hardly a second. Their professor wasn't lying when he said it was difficult magic.

"What happy memory are you using, then?" Enjolras demands, crossing his arms over his chest.

Combeferre, too, lowers his wand, eyebrows raising. "That was impressive," he compliments.

Embarrassed, Courfeyrac lets out a chuckle and says, "It's not like it's anything special."

"Clearly it is," Enjolras argues. "You're doing better than the rest of us."

"It's just…. Do you remember last year, around the end of term when we all went down to the lake? And Feuilly ran into the water, and Bahorel screamed 'Gingers can't swim!' and dived in after him to save him, and ended up nearly drowning them both? And Marius fell asleep with his sunglasses on and had that horrible tan line for a week, and Bossuet gave Joly a black eye with that bottle of lotion?"

"And Éponine and Cosette buried Grantaire in the sand," Enjolras says, nodding. "Of course I remember."

Courfeyrac shrugs. "That's the memory I was using. We were all together, and it was just… nice."

They'd spent the whole afternoon down there. Combeferre had been reading a book, Enjolras had been writing an angry letter to the Prophet and Courfeyrac had been lying between them, watching everyone happily.

"You spilled a drink on your shirt," Combeferre says suddenly, pulling him back from the memory. His cheeks are red. "You, um. You took your shirt off, if I remember correctly."

"I did," Courfeyrac laughs. He'd forgotten that part in light of everything else. "Even magic has trouble getting out red wine stains. I had to throw that shirt out."

Enjolras' face screws up with concentration as they get back to work, his frustration growing again.

Courfeyrac's beginners luck continues, and by the end of the class he's the only one who can consistently cast the spell, even if his Patronus doesn't take on a shape yet. Their professor grants ten points to his house for this, something that's never happened to Courfeyrac in any class but Potions, and he's feeling rather proud of himself as they pack up to go.

Until Combeferre bids them farewell and lingers behind, Jehan and Éponine moving to his side.

"They're hanging out again," Courfeyrac hisses, elbowing Enjolras.

"What?" Enjolras asks. He's not paying attention, though. His gaze is somewhere down the hall, watching something, and when Courfeyrac follows his train of sight he sees Grantaire duck down the hallway, shoulders slumped and moving quickly. "I think he's upset."

"About what?"

Enjolras bites his lip, trying to look like he doesn't care. "I don't know. It's none of our business anyway."

"He's our friend," Courfeyrac says. "If he's upset, maybe we should—"

"He's not my friend," Enjolras interrupts. "I have a meeting with the headmistress. Head Boy stuff, you know. I'll see you later."

"Enjolras, wait," Courfeyrac says, but Enjolras shakes his head, hikes his bag farther up his shoulder, and hurries in the opposite direction Grantaire had went. Courfeyrac watches him go, glaring, and thinks that, for someone who is genuinely a good person, Enjolras can be an ass sometimes.

"We'll go talk to him," Joly says, coming up behind Courfeyrac. He and Bossuet are hand-in-hand, fingers tangled together.

"Is there something I can do?" Courfeyrac asks.

"Not unless you can get him out of doing this stupid assignment," Joly says darkly.

"What's wrong with the assignment?"

Bossuet and Joly exchange a look, silently conversing, and it's Bossuet who finally says, "He's struggling, and he thinks there's something wrong with him, that he doesn't have a memory happy enough to cast it."

"Everyone's struggling," Courfeyrac says.

"We tried to tell him that," Joly admits, "but sometimes Enjolras isn't the most stubborn in our group of friends. Don't worry about it. We'll deal with it."

"If there's something I can do—"

"We'll see you at dinner," Joly says. With Bossuet pulling him forward, the two of them follow Grantaire's path down the hall.

The words are clearly a dismissal, and Courfeyrac knows that following them will only make this worse. They're probably going to his room, though, so that means he can't, not until they've talked Grantaire out of whatever it is that's convinced him he doesn't have enough happy memories to produce a Patronus.

With most of his friends seemingly busy, and unable to go to his room, Courfeyrac aimlessly wanders the halls, bored out of his mind and borderline irritated. He's not quite upset, but he's getting there. And he'd been in such a good mood, too, but between Combeferre ditching him off and Enjolras running away to do his Head Boy duties, that good mood has fizzled and died out.

While he's walking, Courfeyrac hears a handful of familiar voices and he finds himself heading in their direction, not caring that he wasn't invited to hang out with them. He can't exactly hear what they're saying from around the corner, so he tilts his chin defiantly and rounds it, done with being dismissed by his friends for the day.

The moment they spot him, Éponine and Jehan go quiet. Combeferre has his back to Courfeyrac, still talking, but when he realizes that Jehan and Éponine are staring at something he turns around and lets out a very undignified squeak.

"So I'll, um, see you later," Combeferre says, darting another look at Courfeyrac before he hurries away, leaving Jehan and Éponine leaning against the wall, Éponine with a smirk and Jehan with a look of exasperation.

"You three are up to something," Courfeyrac accuses, crossing his arms over his chest. "What is it?"

"It's nothing," Jehan begins to say, but Éponine cuts him off.

"Combeferre's asked us to set him up with someone," she says, looking smug.

Courfeyrac almost laughs at the absurdity of that. Almost. Combeferre, asking to be set up with someone? Yeah, sure. But Jehan elbows Éponine in the side, gaping, and says, "Éponine!" and Courfeyrac realizes with a sinking feeling in his stomach that they're telling the truth.

"Why?" Courfeyrac blurts.

Éponine shrugs. "He knows what we've done to help Marius and Cosette, and Joly and Bossuet. He thought we might be able to help him as well."

For some weird reason Courfeyrac's heart is pounding in his chest. He feels sick to his stomach, like that turkey sandwich he had at lunch was rancid and it's catching up with him. It takes him at least a minute to sort his thoughts and his body out enough, and when he does he asks, "Why didn't he asks for my help?"

"He's embarrassed," Éponine says swiftly, before Jehan can open his mouth. "He said that the less people who know, the better. We swore we wouldn't say anything."

That makes sense. Combeferre doesn't like it when he's not good at something. If he's going to Jehan and Éponine for – Courfeyrac breathes for a moment – romantic guidance, he definitely wouldn't want anyone to know about it. But Courfeyrac is his best friend. Why wouldn't Combeferre tell him? Or ask him for help? Or maybe even just, you know, mention it.

"Who is it?"

"We can't tell you that," Éponine says. "We promised."

Courfeyrac snorts at her. "Since when does that stop you?"

"Excuse me, Courfeyrac, I am a Gryffindor. We're all about honor."

"Jehan?"

Jehan shakes his head. "I can't tell you, I'm sorry."

"Of course you can't," Courfeyrac snorts. His temper flares up, a burning, angry thing that he hates because lashing out at his friends, at anyone, is something he tries to avoid doing at all costs. So, instead of staying and letting himself get more worked up, he nods jerkily and says, "Whatever. It's not a big deal. I'm sure he'll tell me eventually."

Jehan calls after him but Courfeyrac ignores it, walking away without even saying goodbye.

 

o|o

 

The next day at lunch (Courfeyrac couldn't be bothered to eat breakfast that morning, as he woke up later than usual and decided to spend the twenty minutes he had before class fixing his hair) Courfeyrac realizes the downside to setting up their friends. Everyone is ridiculously couple-ey and it's disgusting.

Marius and Cosette are that couple that blush and giggle, constantly looking at each other with flirty smiles and lowered lashes, as if they're still trying to win each other over. They hold hands and look at each other adoringly, and it's nice, it is, but sometimes it's a little much. Marius is never without Cosette anymore, and Courfeyrac is starting to think that that is a little irritating. Marius is his friend and they haven't spent a single moment alone together since he and Cosette got together, aside from when they go to their room for bed.

Joly and Bossuet are that couple that make you realize just how little sex you're having. They kiss constantly, as if they can't breathe unless they're attached at the mouth. ("Making up for lost time," Bossuet said once, when coming up for air.) More than that, they're still the same as always, aside from the kissing. They're still JolyandBossuet, attached at the hip, only now it's with the added heated looks and Joly leaning in to whisper things in Bossuet's ear that are definitely not anywhere near innocent.

On top of the actual couples there's Feuilly and Bahorel, who are just as bad. Bahorel fights Feuilly over the last egg salad sandwich and apparently that means he has to grab Feuilly by the wrist and practically sit on him as Feuilly struggles to steal the sandwich. Their flirting is so obvious.

Not that Courfeyrac isn't happy for them. He really, truly is. This is what he wanted. He only wishes watching them all together didn't make longing tug at his gut, that jealousy didn't steal his appetite.

Maybe he wants something like that, he realizes. Maybe that's all that's wrong. He's not… jealous, not of anyone. He's just lonely. Courfeyrac is the type of person who likes to be in a relationship is all, and he doesn't have one right now while everyone else does. Yes, that's definitely it, he decides. That is the only problem, and he's just going to have to deal with it. He isn't going to get down or be in a bad mood. He's going to get over it, or fix the problem. Maybe he'll even ask someone to Hogsmeade on the next trip.

He's thinking that, smiling to himself while ignoring the way Enjolras has been watching him with concern since he sat down, when the doors to the Great Hall open, letting in Jehan, Éponine, and Combeferre. Éponine and Jehan are standing in front of Combeferre, blocking most of his body, but since he's about a head taller than Éponine Courfeyrac can still see him behind them, his head ducked. Something is… off.

Courfeyrac realizes what that something is when Éponine takes her seat and Combeferre moves around to his side of the table, sitting beside Courfeyrac, opposite of Enjolras.

"What is—?" Courfeyrac doesn't even know where to start so he just vaguely waves his hand at Combeferre's body. "What the fuck, Ferre?"

"Looks good, doesn't he?" Éponine says with a smirk.

In all the time he's known Combeferre, Courfeyrac has only seen him in jeans twice. Right now he's wearing a pair that are tight, dark washed, matched with a black button up with his house crest on the chest. It's the tightest fitting thing he thinks he's ever seen Combeferre in, but that's not all. They've done something to his hair. His beautiful, ridiculous hair. Courfeyrac feels personally offended.

Also kind of warm all over. Combeferre's shirt has a single button undone, the collar falling open just enough to show off the edge of his tattoo. The sleeves of his shirt are rolled up, too, making his forearms stand out, thick and muscular. He looks…. He looks good, really, but that's nothing new. Combeferre is a very handsome man, no one can deny that. This outfit only accentuates what has always been there.

He also looks out-of-his-mind uncomfortable. His hands are curled tightly around the edge of the table and Courfeyrac can practically feel the waves of discomfort radiating from him.

"They said it might help," Combeferre tells him, reaching up to fix his glasses. He's left those, at least. "With the, um. Well, you know. They told you. I know they told you."

Éponine's grin and Jehan's encouraging smile, coupled with Combeferre's words, are all Courfeyrac needs to get out of his seat. "Come on," he says to Combeferre, taking his hand. "Let's go."

"We have class in ten minutes," Enjolras reminds him as Combeferre hastily gets out of his seat.

"Don't care," Courfeyrac says. "Combeferre's a prefect. Tell the professor he's… prefecting or something."

Combeferre dutifully allows himself to be dragged from the hall, following Courfeyrac hurriedly down the corridor. His hand is sweaty in Courfeyrac's, but it's also warm and slightly bigger than his own and he finds he doesn't really mind.

"You know," Combeferre says between weak chuckles, "I— I didn't believe her, at the time, when Éponine said you'd drag me straight to your room the moment you saw me, but I—"

"I can't believe you let her talk you into this," Courfeyrac says, not slowing down. "I thought you were smarter than this, Combeferre."

Combeferre's hand slips from his own, and Courfeyrac realizes, a beat later, that he's stopped walking. "What?" he asks, a frown tugging his lips down.

Courfeyrac puts a hand on his hip. "Do you want to wear that?" he asks. "Are you comfortable?"

"I—" Combeferre looks down at himself, pulling the tight shirt down a bit, making the unbuttoned part of the collar seem even more obscene. He has chest hair, Courfeyrac notices. Fuck. "Is it that bad?"

"No," Courfeyrac says, "it's not. You look great. But you also look like you want to crawl out of your skin."

"These jeans are rather tight," Combeferre admits. "Jehan said—"

"I don't really care what either of them said. I'm asking if you're comfortable."

Combeferre sighs, rolling down his sleeves with care, eyes on his movements instead of meeting Courfeyrac's. "Not particularly, no," he admits. "I happen to like my own clothes just fine, but they suggested that something a little more… form fitting might help with the, um."

"Matchmaking," Courfeyrac supplies.

"Yes. That."

Courfeyrac shakes his head. "You look fine in your own clothes. You look better than fine. You don't need to wear something that you're not comfortable in just to make someone like you. You're way better than that."

"I am?"

"Yes," Courfeyrac says forcefully. "I mean, sure, those jeans do wonderful things for your thighs, I'm not going to lie to you, but your whole bookworm thing you've normally got going on works for you. This is totally unnecessary."

"'Bookworm thing'?" Combeferre repeats, raising an eyebrow.

"I love you, Combeferre, but you wear sweater vests. I was being as kind as I possibly could."

Combeferre laughs, running a hand through his hair. It messes it up, making it look more like normal. Better. "I guess this whole thing is sort of foolish, isn't it?"

"Not if you like it. If you're comfortable, keep it on. It looks good. But if you're going to be fidgeting and self-conscious all day then what's the point?"

"I really hate these jeans," Combeferre admits with a sigh. "I should change."

"You should do what makes you comfortable, not what Jehan and Éponine think will get you a date."

Combeferre nods. "I think I'll keep the shirt, then."

Courfeyrac isn't sure how he feels about that. On one hand, it is much easier to talk to Combeferre when he isn't in that distracting shirt with the button undone and the sleeves rolled up and his forearms— doing their thing. On the other hand, Courfeyrac finds that he is a very big fan of that shirt.

"If that's what you want," he finally says, neutral.

"It is." Combeferre nods. "And you should get to class," he adds. "I appreciate the intervention, but I can handle it from here."

"You sure?"

"Positive."

"Okay." Courfeyrac nods, too, returning the parting grin Combeferre gives him, and then he turns to watch Combeferre walk down the hall.

(The jeans are really tight. He can't help it. It's not as if he's attracted to Combeferre, he's just… an appreciator of beautiful bodies, and Combeferre happens to have one. That's all.)

 

o|o

 

The next few days are mostly uneventful. They continue to work on the Patronus Charm in Defense Against the Dark arts, without anyone in the class able to produce a corporeal Patronus yet; their Charms teacher continues to pile on the work, claiming to be preparing them for their N.E.W.T.s, but Courfeyrac is pretty sure he's just evil; Transfiguration isn't any harder or easier than normal, and he's is still sliding by in that class with the help of Combeferre and Enjolras on Fridays. The only class with anything interesting going on is Potions, but he doesn't even get to enjoy that.

"For the next two weeks," Slughorn had said while running a hand over his head, as if remembering a time when he still had hair there, something that Courfeyrac isn't positive exists because Slughorn is ancient and it's hard to imagine him ever not being so, "you will be working on the most difficult project I have set for you so far in our time together. Your task is to bring me a perfectly made batch of the one potion you are most terrible at. Today you will be making the potion for me for the first time, and then I would like you to spend the following days fixing your errors until it is perfect. You will make the potion again for me on the first day of February, with your grade depending on both the final product and the improvement from the original."

"Wait," someone had said without lifting their hand, "do you mean that you'll be assigning us each different potions, or are we to make a potion that has generally been difficult for the entire class?"

"You will each be making the potion that you struggle the most with," Slughorn had answered. "For example, Mrs. Longwill, you will be making a Dizziness Draught. Mr. Bahorel, on the other hand, will be making an Invisibility Potion. Mr. Combeferre, Amortentia. Mrs. Thénardier, a Sleeping Draught. I will make a list on the board of which potion each of you will be making, but it will be up to you to find the instructions in your books."

Everyone had set to work instantly, but Slughorn had added, "Courfeyrac, a word at the front of the room, please."

He'd felt several pairs of eyes on him as he made his way to the front, wondering if he was about to get in trouble. "Yes, sir?"

"Son," Slughorn had said, putting a hand on his shoulder, "you are, by far, one of the greatest Potions students I have ever had the pleasure to teach. I struggled all night trying to decide a potion for you to work on for this assignment, but as you've mastered each and every one I've asked of you, I've decided that instead your job for the next two weeks will be assisting anyone in this class who needs it. You will, of course, be given full marks for your participation."

"You mean I don't have to do anything but I still get full marks?"

Slughorn laughed, nodding. "Precisely. Now go back to your seat, boy."

Now Courfeyrac doesn't even have something to do in his favourite class.

At least the weather is starting to clear up. His first practice of the year is scheduled for the fifth of February, and they'll have to cram in quite a few after that to be prepared for the game in March. He doesn't feel nervous at all, thinking about it. Last time he'd been out of his mind, but now he can't wait. His team will win, he has no doubt. And if it doesn't, he's just happy to have the opportunity to get on his broom again.

It isn't until Thursday, however, that anything actually interesting happens. And by interesting he doesn't necessarily mean something good. Lately, things have felt… off between everyone. Enjolras, after the incident with the hot chocolate, has been surprisingly nice to Grantaire. Feuilly and Bahorel haven't had a fight in days, which is unusual for them, this year, and Éponine and Jehan continue to help Combeferre with his love life (something Courfeyrac is still not allowed to help with, no matter how many times he offers halfhearted and petulantly). It's unsurprising that it's all finally coming to a head, and it's also not surprising that it's Bahorel and Feuilly that break the monotony.

When he rounds the corner on the way to the library to get a book for Herbology— the easiest class he takes— he hears arguing and pauses, not meaning to eavesdrop but unable to help himself. He recognizes those voices, recognizes Feuilly's low, angry tone and Bahorel's louder, bolder shouting.

"— work like that," he hears Feuilly hiss, his voice thicker than usual, either from anger or something else. "You don't just get to kiss me and then act like it never happened. Not anymore."

There's a pause between his hiss and Bahorel's reply, so long that Courfeyrac thinks they've moved somewhere else until he hears Bahorel say, "It's not like you don't kiss me too!"

"I kiss you back," Feuilly spits. "In fifth year, when you pulled me into the Forbidden Forest and kissed me against that tree, I kissed you back. You initiated it. Last year, under the mistletoe? I kissed you back. And then again on your birthday after you got wasted and pulled me into that closet, I kissed you back. This year, after the Quidditch game when we had too much to drink, you pushed me against the wall and kissed me. I've never kissed you first and you know it."

Again, there's a break between Feuilly's calm, brutal words and Bahorel's more temperamental reply. "Why not? Why the hell haven't you? It's not like you push me away or tell me not to!"

"Because you act like nothing's happened afterwards!" Feuilly breaks, shouting back now. "Every single time you avoid me for days and then act like nothing's happened when you finish freaking out about it! I thought that maybe if I let you come to it on your own terms, then you might actually acknowledge the fact that you like me."

It's like they've switched tactics now, because Bahorel's voice has gone soft. "You're my best friend," he says. "I don't like you. Not like that."

Feuilly laughs. "Yeah, you do," he says. "And this is why I never kiss you. Because you like me but you can't fucking handle it, and you know what? I can't handle this. Not anymore."

"What the hell does that mean?"

"It means don't touch me," Feuilly says. "Don't kiss me. Don't look at me like you want to but you're too afraid to do something about it. Just— stay away from me."

Suddenly footsteps come towards him and Courfeyrac doesn't have enough time to hide or run. He panics, eyes wide, but Feuilly walks straight past him without a word, hands balled into fists at his sides.

"Fuck," he hears Bahorel mutter behind him. There's a crash. "Fuck."

Courfeyrac feels torn, like there's a person on each side of him, both of them holding one of his hands and pulling, splitting him in half. He wants to run after Feuilly and make sure he's okay, figure out what caused that blowup and try to help, or at least offer a shoulder to… complain on (somehow he doubts Feuilly is in the mood for tears). On the other hand, there's another crash behind him and Bahorel is swearing up a storm, his voice getting rougher and rougher with each word.

In the end he goes to Bahorel, and he's not quite sure why.

Bahorel is half-hidden in an alcove, a broken suit or armor on the floor beside him. One of his knuckles is bloody and there's a smear of blood on his cheek from rubbing a hand down his face. He's not swearing anymore, he's just leaning against the wall, head ducked, chest heaving. Courfeyrac reconsiders his choices, knowing how difficult Bahorel can be, but then Bahorel looks up and the decision is made for him.

"Tripped," Bahorel says, kicking at the suit of armor with the toes of his foot. "Wasn't watching where I was going."

"You tripped and punched it?" Courfeyrac asks, eyebrows raised.

"You heard that whole thing, didn't you?" Bahorel sighs.

"Yeah."

"Fuck." He kicks the armor again before freezing. "Did he see you? Did he say anything?"

Courfeyrac shakes his head. "He walked straight by me." Hesitantly, treating Bahorel like a spooked animal, he pulls out his wand, not making any sudden movements. He fixes the suit or amour until the only sign that it was touched by Bahorel is the dent in one side, and puts his wand back. "Want to tell me what caused that?"

"Not fucking really."

"Avoiding it or pretending it's not happening won't make it go away."

"Yeah, I'm learning that," Bahorel grumbles. "Trust me, I spend a lot of time pretending things aren't happening but, no matter how hard I pretend, they still are."

"Like falling in love with your best friend?"

Bahorel looks up sharply and for a moment Courfeyrac wants to cover his face (not his face, never the face) but he stops himself, knowing that, no matter how angry, Bahorel is never violent to people who don't deserve it. He doesn't back down from a fight, sure, but he also doesn't start them with innocent people.

Finally, after an extended period of time, in which Courfeyrac wonders if Bahorel is going to tell him to piss off and walk away, Bahorel says, "I guess, yeah."

Courfeyrac takes that as encouragement, leaning against the wall beside Bahorel. He slides down it slowly, spreading his legs out in front of him, and after a moment Bahorel sighs and does the same.

"The Forbidden Forest, huh?" Courfeyrac teases. "How romantic."

"Fuck off," Bahorel says, but he chuckles anyway. "I wasn't exactly going for romantic. It wasn't planned. We were fucking around and then we were…"

"Fucking around?"

Bahorel tips his head back, eyes closing. "He's right. I don't know how to handle this shit. I don't know how to be in love with someone, and I sure as fuck don't know how to be in love with my best friend. I don't think I can do it."

"Hate to break it to you," Courfeyrac says, bumping Bahorel's shoulder with his own, "but I think you already are."

"And I've already fucked it all up," Bahorel says. "You don't know what it's like. You all have it so fucking easy with this shit. Joly and Bossuet, they're made for each other. They never fight; they know how to care about each other. Marius and Cosette, fuck, they're like a fairytale, aren't they? It's almost sickening."

"So are you and Feuilly, trust me."

"We're different," Bahorel snaps. "This kind of stuff freaks me out, okay?"

"It shouldn't."

"Yeah? You fall in love with your best friend and then come back and tell me what I should or shouldn't do."

Courfeyrac's chest gets tight suddenly and his hands start to sweat. He ignores it.

"Shouldn't that make it even better?" Courfeyrac asks, staring at the wall in front of them. The sconce lighting the hallway flickers, creating shadows.

"No," Bahorel says darkly, "it doesn't. Do you know what it's like to wake up one day and realize that you've got a thing for the guy you've been best friends with for years? It's torture. Everything was so much easier when we were just friends, but then I started noticing really weird shit, right? Like how good he always smells, and the freckles on his ears – his ears – and that he looks really fucking good with his shirt off even though he's a pasty little shit. And that stuff— that fucks up everything else because it gets into the rest of it. Like, I can't even joke with him anymore because I like the way he laughs too much, and I can't sleep in the same room as him because I want to—"

"You don't have to finish that."

Bahorel makes a face at him but barrels on. "And then I kissed him and fucked it all up. I try to be just his friend and I can't, but I can't be anything more than that either."

"Why not?"

Bahorel snorts. "Why not? Because what happens when I fuck it all up? I don't know how to do any of this shit, and there's too much riding on it. I need his friendship more than I want…."

"You can say it out loud," Courfeyrac coaxes. "Come on, say it."

"I want to date him," Bahorel states. "Fuck, I want to hold his hand and shit."

Courfeyrac covers his mouth, smothering laughter, and Bahorel punches him on the arm. "Sorry," he says, "but seriously. Why don't you just tell him that?"

"Did you miss the part where he just told me to stay away from him?"

"What did he do that? What made him say that?"

"I, uh." Bahorel coughs awkwardly. "I kissed him, and then—"

"And then did that thing you do where you run away afterwards?"

"Tried to," Bahorel admits. He groans, more at himself than Courfeyrac. "This time he didn't let me. Like I said, I've already fucked it up and we're not even together."

"So fix it," Courfeyrac says simply. "Tell him how you feel. Just admit that you do feel something, even. I'm sure Feuilly isn't expecting some giant, epic romantic declaration. Just… tell him how you feel, admit that he's right, that you like him. Mention the hand holding part, maybe, I don't know. Make an effort. He's already pissed at you, it's not like you're going to make it worse."

"And what if I don't want to?" Bahorel asks stubbornly.

"Then you're boyfriend and best friend-less. At this point you've got nothing to lose and everything to gain. Aren't you a Gryffindor? Isn't your whole thing about facing your fears, not hiding from them? Bravery and all that."

"You underestimate how terrifying being in love is," Bahorel sighs.

"That's what makes it worth it, though," Courfeyrac says. "It's supposed to scare you a little, I think. And it's not always going to be easy, but if someone's worth it, you make the effort."

Bahorel frowns at the wall, picking at the wounds on his knuckles. Courfeyrac grimaces and looks away, letting Bahorel have his moment to think in silence. "How?" he finally asks. "What do I do? What do I say?"

"That's up to you," Courfeyrac tells him. "There's no script, no right way to do it. Just… tell him how you feel."

"'Tell him how you feel,'" Bahorel mocks, rolling his eyes. "You're so helpful."

"Better than beating up a suit of armor and moping, isn't it?"

That startles a laugh from Bahorel. "It might be. Or it might go to shit and I'll have to kick your ass."

"If things go badly, I give you full consent to kick my ass."

"I'm holding you to that."

"Does that mean you're going to do it?"

Bahorel shrugs, but after a moment his expression goes steely and determined. "I am," he decides, nodding to himself, and with that Bahorel stands up, looking down at him.

"Wait, right now?"

"Fuck no," Bahorel says. "I'm going to ask Jehan for help. He's better with word stuff than I am."

"Word stuff," Courfeyrac repeats. "Yeah, you definitely need his help."

"Fuck off," Bahorel says fondly. "You coming?"

"I think I'm going to just sit here for a minute, actually," Courfeyrac says. "You go, though. I'll see you at dinner."

Bahorel nods, accepting this, and leaves Courfeyrac alone in the alcove. Not even a minute passes before he's back, peeking his head around the corner. "Thanks."

Courfeyrac waves him off and Bahorel leaves again, his footsteps echoing down the hallway, getting fainter and fainter until they're gone completely. When they are, Courfeyrac closes his eyes and leans heavier against the wall, shoulders slumping.

Everything was so much easier when we were just friends, but then I started noticing really weird shit, right? Like how good he always smells, and the freckles on his ears – his ears – and that he looks really fucking good with his shirt off even though he's a pasty little shit.

Like his hair is always messy and he wears clothes that are too big and he likes horror books and he's too responsible for his own good sometimes and he doesn't get flustered often but when he does he blushes and he's always looking out for people and he knows what to do in bad situations and he never panics and he knows everything there is to know about Quidditch even though he has no desire to play the game himself and he admits when he's wrong and takes responsibility for his actions and he knows how to make people believe in themselves and he has fantastic thighs and a tattoo that makes Courfeyrac want to sink his teeth into his collarbone. He's a good kisser. A great kisser.

Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

Seriously, fuck.

Do you know what it's like to wake up one day and realize that you've got a thing for the guy you've been best friends with for years?

Maybe, Courfeyrac thinks. Maybe he does. And he is so incredibly screwed. (And such a hypocrite. Fucking hell.)

 

o|o

 

"What is it?" someone asks.

"It looks like a dog!"

"It's a husky!" someone else says. "I had one when I was little!"

Courfeyrac lowers his wand, the spell breaking, and the beautiful, almost ghostly-looking dog disappears. The spell is even more draining this time, taking all of his energy, but he feels pride swell inside of him. He's the first one to do it, the only one to produce a fully formed Patronus. He turns to Combeferre, a grin on his face as if to say, "Did you see that? Did you see what I did?" but Combeferre is already coming towards him, coming over to—

Oh. Combeferre hugs him and Courfeyrac closes his eyes, breathing him in. He pats Courfeyrac on the back gently, saying something about how incredible that was, but Courfeyrac barely hears him. He smells somehow clean and fresh, but ancient and old, like books with yellowed pages and ripped covers and springtime sunshine.

Yeah, Courfeyrac is screwed.

When they break apart Courfeyrac's arms linger, fingers catching on Combeferre's sweater, at his waist. He lets them drop, taking a hasty step back, and looks over to find Enjolras watching them carefully, his expression blank. When he realizes Courfeyrac's caught him he raises his eyebrows in question, but Courfeyrac shakes his head silently.

"Good job," Enjolras finally says. "That was great."

"That was fantastic," their professor corrects. "A fully formed Patronus in a week. That's— that's the quickest I've ever seen someone learn it! Thirty points to Hufflepuff, Courfeyrac. You should be very proud of yourself."

Courfeyrac beams, his grin so wide it almost aches.

Afterwards, Courfeyrac is allowed to sit out for the rest of the class, taking his seat to watch everyone else work. Combeferre is right behind him, his charm the strongest out of everyone's. Enjolras is still struggling, looking more and more frustrated once again, but today he's distracted. He keeps looking over to the other side of the room, and Courfeyrac looks to see Grantaire working with Joly and Bossuet, except there's something decidedly resigned about the way he lifts his wand and mutters, "Expecto Patronum."

At this point, Grantaire is the only one to not make any progress with the spell. He keeps moving his wand, saying the words, and nothing happens. Every time he does his face falls more and more, until he reaches up, combing his fringe into his eyes with his fingers, and Joly and Bossuet exchange a worried glance. Courfeyrac worries but lets them handle it.

Just before they leave at the end of class, Éponine comes over to whispers something in Combeferre's ear, no doubt about their plan to set him up with someone. Courfeyrac clenches his hands and tells himself not to care. Just because his feelings might possibly have changed, doesn't mean that Combeferre's have. He has every right to be happy with whomever he chooses, and Courfeyrac refuses to be a bitterly jealous person. He refuses.

This time, instead of going off with her and Jehan, Combeferre nods mutely and forces a grin onto his face (Courfeyrac can tell the difference between it and his real one) and leaves class with Courfeyrac and Enjolras.

"I'm going to have this spell perfect by Monday," Enjolras says, speaking almost to himself. "Even if it kills me, I will do it."

"You're coming along well," Combeferre tells him. "It's not as if you're far behind everyone else. You're doing just as well as the majority."

"Unlike Grantaire," Enjolras snorts. "What exactly is his issue?"

"He doesn't think he has happy enough memories to do it," Courfeyrac blurts before realizing that this is probably not something Grantaire wants Enjolras to know. "Or something like that, I don't know."

Enjolras frowns, puzzling over this, and, shockingly, doesn't say anything about it. The entire walk down the corridor he remains quiet, frowning down at his shoes as he walks. When they reach the end of the hall, where they go their separate ways, with Enjolras and Courfeyrac towards the basement and Combeferre heading up the ridiculous flight of stairs to the Ravenclaw dormitories, Combeferre puts a hand on his shoulder, stilling him.

Neither of them says anything and Enjolras keeps walking, gaze still on the floor. Courfeyrac can't tell if he just doesn't notice that they've stopped or if he's trying to give them a bit of privacy, but either way he disappears through the door to the stairwell, leaving them behind.

"Something wrong?" Courfeyrac asks, trying not to notice that Combeferre's hand is still on his arm. And when did his hands get so big?

"No, nothing's wrong," Combeferre promises, smiling faintly. "I just thought you might like to know that the password for the prefects' bathroom is rose oil, if you, um, still wanted to use it."

"Oh." Courfeyrac had forgotten all about it, in all honesty. "Right, yeah. Thanks."

Combeferre nods. Things feel awkward and he's sure they both notice it, but before either of them can draw any attention to it Combeferre says, "I better go. But if you're planning on using it, I'd suggest going around seven in the morning. No one is ever in there at that time, and it's quite nice to take a bath in the tub. You'll see why."

"Seven," Courfeyrac repeats. "I'll keep that in mind."

Combeferre's cheeks are red for some reason and he hastily nods, turning abruptly and climbing the stairs. Courfeyrac watches him go, biting his lip and tearing his gaze away when he realizes he's been checking out Combeferre's ass for far longer than could be accidental. He feels like a pig and shakes his head at himself before walking away.

 

o|o

 

After dinner that night Courfeyrac, Enjolras and Combeferre head to Combeferre's room to do their homework, as they always do after dinner on Friday's. Courfeyrac's bedroom is currently out of commission due to the fact that Courfeyrac accidentally walked in on Joly and Bossuet and had winked at them, and now Bossuet's banned him from the room until tonight, and Enjolras had gotten into an argument with one of his roommates and Combeferre and Courfeyrac refuse to sit in his room in order to irritate said roommate the way Enjolras suggested. So Combeferre's room it is.

Courfeyrac takes the floor today, since it is Combeferre's bed, after all, and the thought of sitting on it with Combeferre while Enjolras sits on the floor with his back turned to them makes his palms sweat, so he decides against it. The floor is comfortable enough, anyway. Combeferre throws a cushion down for him and it's not so bad.

They're about halfway through their work, Courfeyrac yawning, Enjolras barreling ahead, and Combeferre fondly sighing at him, when the door to the room opens and Feuilly storms in, yelling over his shoulder, "I told you to leave me alone!"

Combeferre, Courfeyrac sees when he twists around, sits up in alarm, putting his books down. "Is something wrong?" he asks, just as Bahorel plows into the room, slamming the door behind him. "Never mind. Should we go?"

"No," Feuilly snaps. "It's your room, you have more right to be here than he does. Are you doing homework? Can I work with you three?"

"Of course," Combeferre says, taking Feuilly's near-hysterics in stride. "Do you want to sit on the bed, or…?"

Feuilly heads for his bedside table, grabbing up his books and things, but Bahorel crosses the room easily, pushing them out of his hands. They fall to the floor with a loud thud and Feuilly's eyes narrow murderously, reaching for his wand, but Bahorel gently grabs his wrist and stops him.

"We should definitely go," Enjolras says. He doesn't deal well with awkward situations, as he tends to make them more awkward.

"Do you know how badly I want to kiss you when you're pissed at me?" Bahorel asks, sounding almost amused.

Feuilly's eyes dart to all of them, aware that they have an audience, but he holds his ground, jerking his hand out of Bahorel's grip, spitting, "I told you not to do it again."

"I know, and I won't," Bahorel promises. "Not unless you ask me to."

Feuilly rolls his eyes, trying to take a step back, but he's stuck between his side table and the bed, with nowhere to go. "Don't hold your breath," he says defiantly, tilting his chin up. "That's not ever going to happen."

"Not even—" Bahorel takes a deep breath and plunges on. "Not even if I said that you're right, that I do like you? That I might be— that I am in love with you?"

Feuilly tenses, looking as though Bahorel has just off and punched him in the face. His jaw is slack, his eyes are wide, and it doesn't even look like he's breathing. "What was that?"

"I— fuck, Jehan wrote something out for me," Bahorel says, digging around in his pocket. "A bunch of frilly poetry shit and— Fuck, I can't find it."

"Say it again," Feuilly orders.

"What, that I'm…?" Bahorel trails off, leaving Feuilly to finish it for him. He doesn't.

"Say it again."

Bahorel looks over his shoulder, grimacing at Courfeyrac and the rest of them, and says, "Come on, you heard me the first time."

"And I want to hear it again."

"Are you seriously making me do this?"

"Say it again or get out."

"Fuck." Bahorel runs a hand through his hair, wincing, but when Feuilly doesn't back down he sighs. "Okay, fine. I— I like you, alright? And you know that. You might be an idiot but you're not stupid. You know how I feel about you so don't stand there and act like you don't."

Feuilly's lips twitch; everything about him, from the set of his shoulders to the way his eyebrows are raised, is smug. "I do know," he admits. "I just didn't think that you did."

"Well I do."

"Good." He grins. "You like me, huh? Nerd."

Bahorel laughs, pushing Feuilly down onto the bed. "Nerd?" he roars, crawling on after him. "I'll show you nerd, you ginger—"

Combeferre coughs politely. "I would just like to remind the two of you that you aren't alone. In case you've forgotten."

The two of them sit up, looking over, and while Feuilly's a bit red around the ears, they both just shrug and then Bahorel leans down and kisses Feuilly, and Feuilly kisses him back, and Courfeyrac lets out a cheer until they break apart and Feuilly says, "Can't you do your work in the library or something?"

"And miss this?" Courfeyrac gasps, sounding horrified. "Never."

"And technically Courfeyrac and I are banned from the library," Enjolras says, but he looks as though he's regretting calling attention to himself afterwards.

That does the trick, though. Embarrassed, the two of them get up, and Courfeyrac silently congratulates Bahorel for having the bravery to take Feuilly's hand, their fingers fitting together easily. "Have fun doing homework!" Bahorel calls on his way out.

When they're gone, Enjolras lets out a suffering sound and asks, "Is there something in the water? What is with everyone this year?"

Combeferre looks to Courfeyrac, grinning like he knows that Courfeyrac had something to do with that. "I have no idea," he lies.

 

Chapter Text

 

Enjolras wasn't kidding around when he said he was going to do everything in his power to perfect the Patronus Charm by their next Defense Against the Dark Arts class. The weekend is, as far as weekends go, a lazy two days where Courfeyrac lounges in every common room in the castle, with Combeferre and Enjolras always at his sides and their other friends filtering in and changing depending on the room. They play an indoor game of Quidditch in the Hufflepuff dormitory (a dangerous thing that Combeferre and Joly have ordered them to never do again) and lounge in the Gryffindor common room, doing nothing but sighing at each other; they work on homework in the Ravenclaw common room, with Combeferre helping a few younger students with anything they ask for (which Courfeyrac tries and fails, fails so fucking hard, not to find adorable) and spend a bit of time in the Slytherin common room until someone catches the curtains on fire and they're asked very kindly to leave.

Through it all, Enjolras has his wand out and has muttered, "Expecto Patronum," enough times that Courfeyrac is going to expecto his patronum if he doesn't fucking stop. But, when Monday rolls around and they work on the spell again in Defense Against the Dark arts, it pays off. He's only onto his third time of frustratingly spitting, "Expecto Patronum!" when it finally works.

The entire room freezes for a moment, watching as the white, misty cougar takes a running leap in Courfeyrac's direction, only to poof out of existence almost instantly. Enjolras stumbles backwards, eyes wide, and Courfeyrac is the first one to say, "Damn, Enjolras. Good job."

"It was beautiful," someone else says. "Much cooler than a dog."

"Hey," Courfeyrac says, but since he can't tell who said it he decides to let it go. Combeferre, beside Enjolras, is grinning and patting him on the back, but Courfeyrac notices that Enjolras doesn't get a hug the way he had. Somehow he's still smug, no matter what random students think a simple cougar is cooler than a dog (Courfeyrac happens to like dogs, thank you very much).

Enjolras, always the leader, seems to spur on others. It isn't long after everyone's gasped at his Patronus that a little hare dances around the room. Marius looks embarrassed when everyone pays him attention for it, but Cosette presses a kiss to his cheek and he turns proud and bashful. Éponine follows not long after with a fox, and Bossuet's coyote lasts longer than anyone else's.

"Now," their teacher says near the end of class, "we will spend the next ten minutes continuing our work on the charm, but before you leave I would just like to remind you all that this is very difficult magic, and there is nothing wrong about being unable to produce a fully formed Patronus. I know many talented adult witches and wizards that aren't capable. If you're one of the many who haven't managed it, I plead for you not to be discouraged or down on yourself. Never compare yourself to others. Everyone's abilities are different, and therefore comparing your progress to that of others will get you nowhere. Now, back to work."

Courfeyrac takes his seat, watching everyone who hasn't yet produced a Patronus continue trying. Bossuet is giving Joly advice, Éponine and Marius are helping Cosette. Bahorel is teasing Feuilly and Feuilly is making faces at him for it. Enjolras has gone to the front of the room to speak to their professor, and Combeferre is—

"Expecto Patronum," Combeferre says calmly, pointing his wand under his desk. Courfeyrac watches in amazement as a beautiful, large bird flies out from under his desk, no one else seeming to notice it before it disappears. "I think it's a hawk," he adds, turning to Courfeyrac when it's gone.

"You don't look very shocked that it worked," Courfeyrac says, leaning against the desk. With Combeferre sitting down, he feels like the tall one for once. He kind of likes the vantage point. "You've done it before, haven't you?"

Combeferre smiles at him, placing his wand on the desk. "I managed it Friday, actually, but Enjolras seemed so determined to get it down that I thought…."

"You thought you'd let him think he was better at it than you," Courfeyrac finishes.

Combeferre shrugs. "Enjolras cares more about pride than I do."

Courfeyrac has to bite the inside of his lip, the small sting of pain distracting him from how easily Combeferre sacrifices things to make other people happy. He is the kindest person Courfeyrac has ever met, sometimes without even realizing it himself, and Courfeyrac thinks that he was screwed from the very start when it comes to Combeferre. How could someone not fall in love with him?

Enjolras returns before Courfeyrac can open his mouth and say something he'll probably regret, and he lets out a sigh of relief when Enjolras takes the seat next to Combeferre. That sigh is short lived, however, because as soon as he sits down he frowns towards the other side of the room, looking upset about something.

"I know he can do it," Enjolras says, leaning forward a bit. "Why the hell does he hold himself back all the time?"

Without a doubt, Courfeyrac knows who he's talking about; he just wants to hear Enjolras say it out loud. "Who?"

"Grantaire," Enjolras says without looking at him. He's too busy watching Grantaire, who's in the corner by himself now, Joly and Bossuet working together without him, his back turned to everyone as he waves his wand, over and over, not a damn thing happening. Not a puff of smoke, nothing. "He's intelligent and he's good at magic; he's only struggling because he thinks he should be struggling."

"Why don't you go tell him that, then?" Combeferre prompts. "Maybe hearing that will help."

"Right," Enjolras scoffs. "I doubt anything I say could help."

"I think it would help more coming from you than anyone else," Courfeyrac says.

Enjolras tugs at a strand of his own hair, a nervous habit he's had since he was younger. It's easy to miss if you don't pay attention to him, but Courfeyrac does, and he doesn't miss it at all. "You think I should?" he asks after a moment.

"I think that you couldn't make it any worse, in the end," Combeferre says. "Joly and Bossuet have tried helping him, Éponine has tried. I'm sure anything you say couldn't do any further damage."

He considers this for a moment, but he isn't the type of person that needs a lot of convincing, Enjolras. Either he thinks something is a good idea and he's going to do it, or he thinks it's a bad idea and he's not. (Or he knows it's a bad idea but he's going to do it anyway. That also happens quite frequently.)

Without another word, Enjolras gets out of his seat. Courfeyrac takes it while he's gone, arm brushing Combeferre's, which really has no right to make his stomach flutter like this. Courfeyrac is a sexually experienced adult, okay? Courfeyrac has had dicks in his mouth (and his dick in several mouths, incidentally). Courfeyrac can flirt with the best, can be charming and smooth. So why the hell does Combeferre, his best friend, someone he's known for years, make him feel like he doesn't know the hell he's doing? How does he make Courfeyrac's stomach flutter from nothing but a simple brush of his skin?

It takes Enjolras no time to cross the room to Grantaire. Joly and Bossuet pop out of their little bubble long enough to watch him curiously, probably gauging whether or not to let him near Grantaire, and seem to decide on yes because they turn back to each other, continuing with their work before Grantaire even realizes Enjolras is beside him, waiting to be acknowledged.

Enjolras is very impatient. When Grantaire doesn't turn around, he taps his shoulder. From this far away, Courfeyrac can't hear what he says, but he can clearly see what it does to Grantaire. His face twists and he shrugs weakly, trying to look stoic and failing. Enjolras says something else and Grantaire gets defensive, pulling himself up to full height (which is about an inch short of Enjolras', for what it's worth). He flicks the hair out of his eyes and snaps something, but instead of getting annoyed Enjolras' expression softens.

As they watch, Grantaire lifts his wand, mutters the words, and then looks to Enjolras with his thick eyebrows raised, as if he's just proved a point. And Enjolras takes his wrist, speaking all the while, and, getting behind Grantaire, goes through the motions of the spell, guiding him.

"Are you watching this?" Courfeyrac asks, not daring to take his eyes off them.

"I am," Combeferre confirms. "I think you may have had a point when you said Enjolras has a thing for his hands."

Enjolras' fingers linger around Grantaire's wrist, looking down at where they're joined for a moment, and then he jerks back, ordering something (Courfeyrac knows that look on his face, it has to be an order) and Grantaire nods. The next thing Courfeyrac knows, Grantaire is trying the spell again and something actually happens. It's feeble, weak, but it's better than he's done since they started, and the way Grantaire's face lights up is like watching the sun rise.

Almost as soon as it happens, Enjolras mutters something and leaves him, unaware of the way Grantaire stares at his back with such unabashed longing that Courfeyrac has to look away.

"What did you say to him?" Courfeyrac demands as Enjolras takes the only seat left at their table, his face surprisingly flushed. He hadn't been able to see that from so far away.

"I just told him that he's more than capable at doing it, and then I reminded him that— that he has plenty of happy memories. I should know, considering the fact that we're all in a majority of them. I mean, you're all in mine. I assume it's the same for the rest of you."

Sometimes people think Enjolras is cold, closed-off and reserved. And he can be, at times, but Enjolras is also fierce in every single thing he does, and loving his friends is not an exception.

"It was nice of you to help him," Combeferre tells him.

Enjolras looks around the room, propping his chin on his hand, and shrugs. "He didn't need help. He just needed a bit of reminding, is all." He looks uncomfortable, quickly changing the subject, floundering for something else to talk about and finally settling on, "Did you see my Patronus?"

"My dog is cooler," Courfeyrac says, grinning.

Enjolras snorts at him but looks grateful for Courfeyrac allowing the conversation to be steered away from him and Grantaire without a single comment or any hesitation. "Hardly. My cougar is bigger."

"It's not the size that matters," Courfeyrac teases. "It's what you do with it."

Combeferre makes a choking sound and Courfeyrac feels rather good about himself because of it. Or he does until Enjolras says, "You would be an advocate for a saying like that."

It takes Courfeyrac almost an entire minute to realize what just happened. Enjolras just made a dick joke. Enjolras just made a dick joke about him. "You," Courfeyrac starts, eyes narrowing, but Combeferre places a hand on his thigh and his thoughts are like a train going off track, crashing and burning and completely useless.

"Perhaps," Combeferre says with a squeeze, "we could not talk about cock in Defense Against the Dark Arts class? Maybe? Do you think that's a thing we could not do?"

"I was talking about how short he is," Enjolras says with an amused huff, "but I commend the place your mind has taken us."

Courfeyrac doesn't say anything. He's too transfixed on the way that word sounded coming out of Combeferre's polite, respectful mouth. Combeferre is the definition of a gentleman. Combeferre is the type of person to hold a door open for someone, and then hold it open for ten other people to avoid being rude; Combeferre is the type of person to stop and help someone in the hallway that's dropped their books, regardless of whether he's friends with them; Combeferre is the type of person who gives their professors Christmas gifts. Combeferre is not the type of person to use the word 'cock' freely, and for some reason that makes it all the more dirty and— and hot, honestly.

Something is seriously wrong with Courfeyrac. Enjolras seems to notice.

"Are you alright?" he asks, but something about the glittering in his blue eyes says he knows exactly what's going through Courfeyrac's mind.

"I'm fine," Courfeyrac say tersely. But, he thinks, Bahorel had a point: realizing he has feelings for his best friend is possibly the worst thing to ever happen to him. Especially when that best friend is Combeferre. He's fairly certain that it being Combeferre makes it all the more terrible.

 

o|o

 

It's completely an accident. It's truly, one hundred percent unintentional. Courfeyrac is capable of a lot of amazing things, sure, but even he can't control him dreams. If he could, he would. But he can't, and it's really not his fault. Waking up afterwards, however, hard and sweating from tossing and turning, reaching for his wand to shut the curtains around his bed before he stuck a hand down his boxers, that is— that is his fault, he'll admit to that part.

The dream had started out so innocently, too. Courfeyrac notoriously has weird dreams, and this was no exception. They'd been in some muggle café, like the one back home only bigger, with more people, and Enjolras had been standing on a table, trying to explain to them that the smartest thing they could do, as the people, was overthrow the government and allow a golden retriever to run their country.

Weird, but it hadn't seemed so during the dream; everyone was nodding along, Courfeyrac included. Combeferre had been between Enjolras and Courfeyrac, handing Enjolras cue cards and giving him encouragements, until he'd taken a sip of his drink and then promptly spilt it all over himself.

And that's when things went from weird but definitely innocent to so, so not innocent. Because Combeferre, in his dream, had said something totally adorable like, "Oh, gosh, look what I've done," and then he'd dragged Courfeyrac into the bathroom to fix the mess. Which apparently meant taking off his trousers right there in the bathroom with Courfeyrac watching, and then, well. (Even in his dreams, Combeferre's thighs are incredible.)

Not his fault. It wasn't intentional. So why does he feel so gross and dirty about it?

Groaning, Courfeyrac gets out of bed and ignores the cheerful, smiling, "Good morning, sunshine," from Marius. He runs a hand through his hair and makes a face that he hopes looks better than he feels, and then he makes his way to the bathroom.

Showering does not make him feel any less gross, unfortunately. He can't stop thinking about what he did, what he'd been thinking about (the most prominent part in his mind, still running through it no matter how hard he tries to stop it, is biting Combeferre's collarbone, just over the tattoo, as he came) and who he'd been thinking about, and it makes him feel immensely guilty. It's like every single person he looks at can tell, too, as ridiculous as he knows that is.

Combeferre is the worst of all. When Courfeyrac spots him sitting with everyone else at breakfast, he almost turns around and leaves. Only Enjolras sees him and waves him over, and Courfeyrac doesn't really have a choice. It's either leave, and look like a guilty weirdo, or stay and face the consequences of his actions. The former seems really appealing, honestly, but he heads for the table anyway.

"Did you sleep alright?" Combeferre asks as he sits, and, damn him, he has the audacity to look concerned for Courfeyrac, ignorant to how much of a creep Courfeyrac is and the fact that he should be yelling at Courfeyrac, not worrying over him. "You've bags under your eyes. Are you feeling well?"

"You do look tired," Cosette comments, in the nicest way possible. "Maybe you should go back to sleep for a bit."

"I'm fine," Courfeyrac says, waving them off. "I'll take a nap later or something."

No matter what he says, everyone continues to watch him carefully over breakfast. He knows why, too. When Courfeyrac is in a bad mood, it upsets the balance of their group. Everyone else starts to get irritable and upsets and without Courfeyrac to lighten the mood and cheer everyone up, it gets progressively worse and worse until he snaps out of it. But right now he really doesn't need them all watching them. Right now he just wants to eat his toast and jam in peace while trying to get the inappropriate images of Combeferre out of his mind.

(Combeferre is immensely unhelpful with the problem. He keeps fidgeting and toying with his tie, and Courfeyrac wants nothing more than to take it in hand and pull him into a kiss. If he doesn't snap out of this soon, he's going to scream.)

Finally, hours (fifteen minutes) later, everyone starts packing up to get ready for class. Everyone, that is, aside from a sleeping Grantaire, face down on a clean plate, hair sprawled everywhere like a halo of black tangles. Tucked securely under his arm, almost out of sight, is his sketchbook.

Courfeyrac gets an idea.

Before Joly or Bossuet can try to wake him, Courfeyrac gently tugs at one of Grantaire's curls. He groans, jerking upright, and Courfeyrac grins down at him. "I need to talk to you," he says. "In our room. Meet me at lunch?"

Grantaire glares at him, stretching and rolling a kink out of his neck. "Promise not to pull my hair again?"

"Promise to only do it again if you ask," Courfeyrac says with a wink. "Lunch? Our room?"

"Yeah, yeah." Grantaire waves him off with a yawn. "Your boyfriend's waiting for you."

Courfeyrac looks up, searching for who Grantaire is talking about, and finds Combeferre lingering just inside the door to the hall, watching him. He feels an embarrassed flush travel down his body, starting at his ears and not ending until even his toes are wiggling in his shoes. Silently, he thanks whatever God or Gods above that did not curse him with Marius' obvious blushing.

Snapping something at Grantaire for the implications in his words will only serve to make him look guilty, so Courfeyrac just frowns and makes his way to Combeferre without a word.

"What was that about?" Combeferre asks, looking at Grantaire over his shoulder.

"Just wanted to ask him something."

"Does it have to with getting him and Enjolras together?" Combeferre asks, a reluctant grin pulling at his lips. "You won't let this rest until everyone's in a happy, committed relationship, will you?"

Courfeyrac forces a smile onto his face. "You're on that list too, you know. Considering you've asked Jehan and Éponine for help with your love life." Miraculously, he keeps the bitterness from his words. No matter his personal feelings for Combeferre, he's aware that Combeferre is interested in someone else. He refuses to let his own feelings get in the way of Combeferre's happiness. "How's that coming along, by the way?"

"Fine," Combeferre says, a little red.

"You have a date yet?"

"Not yet," Combeferre admits, and Courfeyrac silently celebrates. "Hopefully soon, though. I think I'd like to not spend Valentine's Day alone this year, while everyone else has someone to spend it with."

If he does, Courfeyrac realizes, he'll be all alone while Combeferre goes out with some beautiful person, smarter than Courfeyrac, no doubt, who will get to kiss him at the end of the night and hold his hand, who will get to listen to him tell terrible jokes and laugh at himself the way he likes to do when he's nervous.

"If there's anything I can do to help," Courfeyrac offers anyway, swallowing his jealousy. "I know you've never really, um. You've never really dated before, have you? So if there's anything you need help with, aside from getting together with this person, I'm here. Anything you need. Dating tips, kissing lessons – not that you need those, actually, you're quite good with that, aren't you? I mean, not that I—"

Combeferre shuts him up by simply taking his hand. "You ramble when you're nervous, do you know that?" he teases.

Even a month ago, Combeferre taking his hand would be accepted without a single thought. Courfeyrac likes hand holding, or hugging, or really any simple touches of affection, and certainly Combeferre knows this. Now, the move makes him jerk his hand back quickly, refusing to allow himself this after what he did this morning. With that hand, now that he thinks about it. And he can't stop thinking about it now that it's in his head, and, fuck, what if Combeferre can read his thoughts and knows that Courfeyrac wanked over him this morning and—

"Courfeyrac," Combeferre says, concerned. "I can almost see the steam coming out of your ears."

"I really need to, um." Fuck. Courfeyrac doesn't get nervous. It's not in his DNA. It's just… not a thing that he's ever really had to deal with before, and he has no idea how Marius handles this every single day. "I need to… bathroom. Right now."

"You need to bathroom," Combeferre repeats, eyebrows rising.

"Yeah." Courfeyrac nods. "Yep. So I'm going to do that. You go to class. I'll meet you there."

"I'll save you a seat," Combeferre promises.

Great. So Courfeyrac can sit there the entire time and wonder how accurate his dream had been and if Combeferre's face really looks like that while being sucked off? That doesn't sound horrible at all.

"Don't bother," Courfeyrac says, wincing when he realizes how rude that sounds. "I mean, I promised Jehan I'd sit with him, so…."

"Right," Combeferre says, frowning.

"Bathroom," Courfeyrac says again, jerking his thumb over his shoulder despite the fact that the hallway to the nearest boys washroom is to the left. "I'm gonna do that."

"Have fun," Combeferre says.

"You too."

And then they both sort of stare at each other for a long moment, probably wondering if they both actually just said what they did, before Combeferre turns around abruptly and continues on the way to class, and Courfeyrac waits until he's gone to approach the nearest wall and attempt to put his head through it.

Why has this happened to him? Maybe he hasn't been the greatest person in the world, but certainly he doesn't deserve this.

When a handful of first years avoid getting too close to him, eying him warily, he realizes that he's just standing here, head against the stone wall, glaring at it and on the verge of talking to himself. Hastily, with a sheepish grin for the first years that makes them walk a lot faster, he pushes away from the wall and heads to class.

 

o|o

 

By some miracle he makes it through Transfiguration and Potions (working his ass off in one, avoiding Combeferre's side of the room in the other) and heads straight to his dorm instead of the Great Hall for lunch, hoping Grantaire hasn't forgotten or decided not to show up.

Also miraculously, he hasn't. He's sitting on his bed when Courfeyrac arrives, propped up against the pillows with his legs bent in front of him, sketchbook resting on his thighs. He looks irritated by something, gnawing on his bottom lip and flicking the eraser part of a pencil against the page in agitation.

"Hey," Courfeyrac says, dropping his bag onto his bed. He sits on the edge of Grantaire's, not close enough to invade his space or see what he's drawing, but Grantaire quickly shuts the book anyway.

"Why did you ask me to meet you?" Grantaire asks, sitting cross-legged. He flicks a piece of hair away from his eyes, and Courfeyrac can see why Enjolras is attracted to him—presumably. The whole scruffy artist with piercing eyes things is a good look. Not one that Courfeyrac is particularly drawn to, but he can appreciate it.

Courfeyrac looks down at the sketchbook and Grantaire stiffens a bit. "I have a problem," Courfeyrac admits, "and considering what I've seen in that sketchbook of yours, I think you might be the best equipped to help me with it."

Grantaire raises an eyebrow, amused. "Have you been drawing naked pictures of Enjolras as well? Are we starting a club for it? Can we get t-shirts?"

"No."

Grantaire sighs at him and says, quieter, "I didn't mean to draw that, okay? It was… it just sort of happened. Accidentally."

"You accidentally drew the detailed veins in his dick?" Courfeyrac asks, disbelieving. Does he approve of the idea of Enjolras and Grantaire getting together? Yes. Does he approve of the drawing? No. "Yeah, I kind of doubt that, but right now I'm not here to tell you off for drawing things like that without his consent, okay? I'm having a bit of a personal crisis and we'll talk about the problems with your drawing later."

"It was the one time," Grantaire says, eyes on his lap. "I haven't drawn anything like that since or before, I swear."

"And I believe you," Courfeyrac says, because he does. Because Grantaire looks at Enjolras like the hangs the sun and the stars and he's the reason the world keeps turning, and he knows that Grantaire's feelings run deeper than what Enjolras has on the surface.

"Good," Grantaire says. He grins. "So your problem is…?"

Courfeyrac fidgets, looking at the wall above Grantaire's head. "I had this, um, dream. It was kind of, um."

"Aw, Courfeyrac's first wet dream," Grantaire coos. "Adorable."

Laughing, Courfeyrac reaches out to flick Grantaire hard in the shin. "Shut up," he says. "It's really not funny, because it was about someone that we know. It was about a friend. A really close friend."

"Combeferre," Grantaire guesses, nodding.

Courfeyrac gapes at him. "How did— how do you know that? Is it that obvious?"

"No," Grantaire says. "But you said 'close friend' and I take that to mean either Enjolras, Combeferre or Marius, and since I doubt it's Marius, and I know it's not Enjolras—"

"How do you know it's not Enjolras? It could be Enjolras."

"If you were secretly in love with Enjolras, I would know. Trust me."

Courfeyrac considers this for a moment before nodding, satisfied. "Fair point. So this dream. Afterwards I sort of…."

"Your curtains were closed this morning," Grantaire says. "I know what happened afterwards."

Courfeyrac groans. "Of course you do. Combeferre told me I was as subtle as an explosion once."

"And Combeferre is rarely wrong," Grantaire chuckles. "So you had a dirty dream about him, jerked off afterwards, and now you feel guilty about it and you don't know what to do."

"Basically, yes. That is a fairly accurate summary." He goes to run a hand through his hair before remembering all the effort and time he took this morning to make it perfect. Hands dropping back to his lap, he adds, "Should I apologize to him, maybe?"

"Fuck no," Grantaire says, bursting with laughter. "Do you really think that people apologize over wanking about someone? Merlin, are you looking to be slapped in the face?" He shakes his head. "No, I think that going up to him and apologizing for getting off on a dream about him is probably the worst thing you could do."

"You're being much less helpful than I thought you'd be," Courfeyrac moans, falling back against the bed. He stares up at the ceiling and curses the world. "So what the hell do I do, then? I can't even look at him without thinking about it."

"You like him, right?" Grantaire says. "This wasn't just an out of the blue, what-the-fuck-was-that kind of thing?"

Courfeyrac bites the inside of his cheek, shaking his head. "It was not unexpected. It wasn't on purpose, obviously, but it wasn't… surprising. That it was about him. I've recently come to the conclusion that I'm in love with him and the entire thing is very tragic, so I ask that you refrain from any and all teasing or laughter."

Surprisingly, Grantaire doesn't look close to doing either of those things. "I think," he says, dropping his hand down to play with Courfeyrac's hair, and Courfeyrac sighs and accepts that it's going to look like hell when he stands up, "that you should do something about your feelings for him, or else this dream thing is probably not going to be a onetime occurrence."

"You've been pining after Enjolras for years," Courfeyrac says, eyes narrowing, "and the first thing you suggest when I tell you I have feelings for someone is to do something about it?"

"That's different," Grantaire sighs, his fingers getting less careful in Courfeyrac's hair. "You have a chance. I don't. It's not the same."

"You have more of a chance than I do," Courfeyrac argues. "Enjolras is single, at least. Combeferre likes someone else."

Grantaire's hand stills. "He does?"

"I told you it was tragic."

"Can we make 'I'm in love with someone incapable of loving me back' t-shirts, at least?"

Courfeyrac grins. "I wear a medium."

Grantaire nudges his head until he looks up. "I'm sorry I haven't really helped."

"You have," Courfeyrac says. "Sort of. I'm not freaking out about it anymore, so that's good, I guess. I'll just have to deal with this."

"It's not the end of the world, having a wank over your best friend. Sometimes it just happens," Grantaire tells him. "All of our friends do it."

Courfeyrac makes a face. "That is surprisingly less reassuring than you intended it to be."

Through his laughter, Grantaire manages to say, "We should get up to lunch before class starts."

"We should." Courfeyrac rolls off the bed, offering Grantaire a hand up. "And Enjolras does like you back, you know. And no, don't argue. I wouldn't say that if I didn't think it was true, and I'm going to do everything in my power to prove it to you."

"You mean the way you proved that Joly and Bossuet are perfect for each other? Or that Cosette and Marius are in love? Or that Bahorel's been kissing Feuilly since fifth year because he actually likes him?"

"You know about that, too?"

Grantaire shrugs, holding open the door. "I talk to Gavroche a lot."

"I knew that kid couldn't keep his mouth closed," Courfeyrac grumbles. "He's lucky he's adorable and too terrifying for me to do anything about it."

Grantaire's still grinning as they leave the common room, but halfway to the great hall he stops, pulling Courfeyrac to a stop as well. "I don't need you to do something crazy to set Enjolras and I up," he says, quiet but firm. "I'm in love with him, yeah, but I'm not actually pining. I don't… I don't wish he felt the same way, if that makes sense? I'm content to love him without him ever returning the sentiment."

"Grant—"

"Enjolras is going to go on and do amazing things with his life," Grantaire insists. "He doesn't need me following him around and bringing him down."

Courfeyrac frowns for a long moment, wondering how Grantaire manages to truly think so little of himself. "You wouldn't be bringing him down, or anyone down," he says sternly. "And if I ever find a way to convince Enjolras of admitting to his feelings for you and doing something about it, that would be his choice. You know I could never force him to go out with you if he didn't truly want to do it."

"That's true," Grantaire acknowledges. "He's ridiculously stubborn."

"He is."

"So are you," Grantaire adds. "And Combeferre, while we're at it. The three of you are very set in your ways. We should make t-shirts for that."

"Put a cool design on it and I'll wear it," Courfeyrac says proudly. "Nothing wrong with the way I am."

"Aside from the fact that you jerk off over your friends," Grantaire teases, already moving steadily towards the door and away from him. "Can't forget about that part."

"You said it's not the end of the world, that it just happens sometimes!" Courfeyrac cries, outraged.

"I lied."

When they enter the Great hall ten minutes later, Grantaire does it with whiskers. Courfeyrac might not enjoy Transfiguration much, but that doesn't mean he's bad at it.

 

o|o

 

Having nothing to do for two weeks in Potions class sounds like an awesome break from work. Which it would be, in literally any other class, but as someone who enjoys Potions it is, instead, torture. Every student in the class with him has taken Potions since first year, which means they're all fairly prideful when it comes to the task they've been set, and rarely anyone wants any help. Since help is literally all he's been instructed to do, Courfeyrac is stuck sitting there, watching everyone and itching to do something.

The only person even remotely interested in allowing Courfeyrac to help is Combeferre, and that's a problem all on its own. It's not like he can say no, exactly, but with so little students in the class and everyone working on individual projects, they've all taken their own table instead of grouping together. Helping Combeferre means being alone with Combeferre. Being alone with Combeferre is not something Courfeyrac feels very inclined to do, lately.

Only Combeferre is seriously struggling and it's painful to watch him for two reasons: first of all, Courfeyrac is sort of a perfectionist when it comes to potions, and watching him screw up makes Courfeyrac itch to correct him; secondly, Combeferre is sort of a perfectionist in general, and he doesn't much like being bad at things. They've been friends for long enough that Courfeyrac knows the pressures Combeferre's parents put on him. He knows that they expect him to graduate, top of his class, and go on to do wonderful, enriching things (emphasis on the rich part).

Right now, the steam wafting from Combeferre's potion smells foul; considering he's making Amortentia, that is not a good sign. Courfeyrac can't watch him struggle any longer.

"I can help," he offers, sliding onto the stool next to Combeferre's. "That's sort of my whole purpose right now, in this class."

"I'm quite alright," Courfeyrac says stiffly, pausing to roll up his sleeves (Courfeyrac looks heavenwards for a moment, wondering if Combeferre's arms are a gift or a curse because fuck) and reach for the spoon to stir him potion. "I'm coming along, I've got it covered."

"That smells disgusting," Courfeyrac points out. "And you're stirring in the wrong direction."

Combeferre frowns, looking at the potion and then to his text book. "No," he says. "It's says right there, stir three times counterclockwise –"

"After adding the rose thorns," Courfeyrac says, pressing his finger to the instructions on the book, just below the line he's reading. "You've just added the moonstone."

Combeferre groans, wiping the back of his hand along his forehead. He's sweating faintly, hair sticking to his skin, and Courfeyrac longs to push it back, press a kiss where his hand has just touched. Instead he swallows and leans back, putting as much space between them as he can without getting up.

"This potion," Courfeyrac says irritably, "is more trouble than it's worth."

There's a loud popping sound, followed by the smell of smoke, and he looks over to see that Bahorel's entire forearm is just… gone. Feuilly, eyebrows raised, pokes the area and says, "Still there, just invisible," and then Bahorel lets out a booming laugh and spends the next minute hitting Feuilly with his invisible arm until the effects wear off.

"At least yours isn't exploding," Courfeyrac says pointedly.

"There's that," Combeferre sighs and sniffs his potion. "What's the point of love potions anyway? It's not as if it makes the other person truly love you. It's a lie. It's pointless."

"It's evil," Courfeyrac says. When they'd had to make it for class, Courfeyrac had been on the verge of disgust. Aside from pranking use, the potion is not one he approves of. They should be illegal. "False love is worse than no love at all. I'd rather spend my entire life longing after someone than have them care for me only because of a potion."

"That would never happen to you," Combeferre says, sighing again. "Everyone you meet falls in love with you."

Courfeyrac looks up, only to find Combeferre still staring down at his potion. "Not everyone," he says.

Combeferre's eyes flick up, something vulnerable there that he doesn't understand. "Anyone in particular that you're speaking of?"

Shrugging, Courfeyrac pulls out his wand and empties Combeferre's caldron. "There might be," he admits. "It doesn't even matter. Let's get this right, yeah?"

"No," Combeferre says, pulling his caldron towards him. "No, I'm fine. Help someone else." The words are sharp and almost angry, and Courfeyrac stares for a moment until Combeferre looks regretful. "Sorry. I'd prefer to do it myself, though. That's the entire purpose of this assignment; we're supposed to master a potion we struggle with, and I can't exactly master it if you do all the work for me."

"Of course," Courfeyrac says, backing off and hopping off his stool. "If you decide you want my help, just let me know."

"I won't, but I appreciate the offer."

Courfeyrac leaves him be, going to sit next to Enjolras instead. Enjolras, who looks determined and perfect, despite the steam wafting up from his potion. It doesn't frizz his hair like everyone else's (it wouldn't dare) and the sweat only serves to make him look more attractive, somehow. Enjolras is the most unfair person in the entire world; Courfeyrac doesn't envy Grantaire, even if the person he likes likes him back. Being in love with Enjolras cannot be an easy thing.

"You are very stupid," Enjolras says without looking up. "The both of you."

"What?" Courfeyrac blinks at him, confused.

"Nothing," Enjolras mutters. "Hand me a bit of that wormwood, would you?"

Courfeyrac does, and Enjolras adds it to his potion, calm despite the way it starts fizzing and bubbling. (Too much wormwood, Courfeyrac thinks. That's why it's gone that colour, too, but Enjolras doesn't seem to realize, and he also doesn't seem to realize that in a minute or too, when he adds the next two ingredients, it's going to bubble right over and make a mess everywhere.)

In front of them, Grantaire twists in his seat. His hair, unlike Enjolras', is wild. His eyes, on the other hand, are soft and untroubled. They pull down at the sides, looking perpetually sad when he's not smiling. "Can I borrow your knife? Mine melted."

Enjolras hands the knife over without hesitation, and their fingers brush for an unnecessarily long time. "Try not to melt mine, too," Enjolras adds, giving Grantaire a rare smile.

For a moment Grantaire does nothing but look at him, dazed, but then he hastily nods and says, "I'll try not to, but I make no promises."

Courfeyrac watches all of this, amused, and when Grantaire turns back around he whispers in Enjolras' ear, "You are very stupid. The both of you."

Enjolras, calm as anything, says, "Go help someone else."

Courfeyrac gets out of his seat with a sigh.

 

o|o

 

Relax. That's what Courfeyrac needs to do. He needs to relax. Sometimes he can handle all the chaos in his life, takes in stride, thrives in it, even. Sometimes. Other times, he has to let himself slow down and react and process. Right now feels like one of those times. Everything is just… too much. That's why he's awake right now at quarter to seven. Admittedly, it is a satanic time and normally he avoids it at all costs, but today he needs it. Today he has a plan, and that plan requires getting up before the sun has fully risen, the sky a navy blue that's fading, lightening until it's swiped through with oranges and pinks from the rising sun, the stars like vanishing pinpricks that are gone when he goes to give them a second look.

Combeferre had said that the prefects' bathroom is always empty at seven, so Courfeyrac gets out of bed, pulling on a sweater because the castle is far too cold this time of year to walk around without one, and makes sure his wand is on his person as he slips out of the room, careful not to wake anyone. Marius rolls over, always a restless sleeper, gripping his pillow tightly; Bossuet is lost in a mass of pillows and blankets, buried for warmth and comfort; Grantaire's curtains are closed, but he's snoring softly behind them. Courfeyrac shuts the door with a grin.

This time, when he makes it to the entrance to the bathroom, he mutters, "Rose oil," and the door opens without hesitation. His grin widens, anticipation growing. Combeferre said something about a bath, right? That's exactly what he needs. A nice, relaxing bath. With bubbles.

As if the bathroom knows what he wants and can provide it (he wouldn't put it past the castle, having a room that can do something like that) that's exactly what he finds. The bathroom is enormous, ceiling much higher than that in the one he's used every year that he's been here. To one side there's a row of stalls, doors open to reveal toilets that look as if they're brand new. On the other side, there's the bathtub. Pool. Pool-sized bathtub. It's filled to the brimming with bubbles.

And Combeferre stands right beside it, trousers pooled at his feet, shirt just beside them, the thumb of one hand tucked into the waistband of his boxers as if moments away from pushing that last, single garment off.

Courfeyrac makes a horribly loud noise, skidding to a halt. His eyes go concernedly wide, as if they're about to pop right out of his skull, and Combeferre looks up quickly, his glasses fogging from the steam wafting from the still-filling pool. Tub. Whatthefuckever.

"Fuck," Courfeyrac states.

Combeferre, for his part, doesn't say anything. His lips are parted, he's frozen, and there is a flush starting somewhere around his chest, crawling up his neck and into his cheeks. His tattoo stands out starkly against his pale skin, as does the dark trail of hair that starts around his bellybutton and goes lower, a shade or two darker than the sandy brown hair on his head. The fact that Courfeyrac is noticing all this right now proves how seriously screwed he is.

Abruptly Courfeyrac whirls around, slapping a hand over his eyes. "I didn't think you'd be in here," he says quickly, trying to defend himself. Yes, he's a pervert. Yes, he has sexually explicit dreams about his best friend and maybe jerks off afterwards. No, he did not plan this. He so didn't plan this. This is the exact opposite of what Courfeyrac was looking for when he set his alarm last night to assure that he'd be awake in time for a nice, relaxing bath, alone.

This is the exact opposite of what he planned.

"I just wanted a bath," Courfeyrac groans to himself. "I just wanted a nice and relaxing bath. I swear I wasn't trying to get a peek at you naked. I really didn't think anyone would be in here. You said no one is in here at this time. You said, I remember: Seven in the morning, no one's in here. But you're here. You're in here and I'm in here and I swear this is an accident."

"Courfeyrac," Combeferre says, finally speaking for the first time. His voice comes from closer than it should, closer than he'd been when Courfeyrac turned around to give him a bit of privacy and to try and plead his case of innocence.

"You told me no one would be in here," Courfeyrac whines feebly.

"And no one is," Combeferre says, always calm. Of course he's calm right now. Everything in Courfeyrac is crumbling like a brick wall hit by a fucking cannonball and Combeferre is calm. "No one is ever in here at this time; that's why I always take my bath at seven."

Slowly, carefully, Courfeyrac lowers the hand from his eyes. "You always take your bath at seven," he repeats.

"Every morning except Sundays, unless I have something more pressing to deal with."

"You always take your bath at seven," Courfeyrac repeats again, "but you told me that no one would be in here."

"I did."

"Why would—" Courfeyrac wets his dry lips before they can crack. "Why would you do that?"

"Why do you think?" Combeferre's voice is farther away again, on the other side of the room.

Because the universe is out to get me, Courfeyrac thinks. "I don't know," he says.

The sound of water filling the tub cuts off abruptly, and in the following silence he hears the soft sound of water being displaced, splashing a bit. He bites the inside of his cheek hard and counts to ten in his head before turning around.

Bubbles and bathwater come up to Combeferre's chest, just below his collarbone. His glasses are off, somewhere safe no doubt. Combeferre isn't looking at him. He's leaning against one edge of the tub, staring resolutely at the stain glass wall on one side of the room. It is so fucking quiet that Courfeyrac can hear the blood pounding in his ears.

"I think that if you thought about it hard enough, you'd figure it out," Combeferre says quietly, dropping his gaze to the water.

Unable to stop himself, Courfeyrac eyes the pile of clothes beside the tub and notices, the pounding in his ears stopping as his heart forgets to beat, that the soft gray boxers Combeferre had been wearing sit atop the rest of his things.

If there's one thing Courfeyrac is good at, it's flirting. Courfeyrac can flirt better than anyone he knows. He can be subtle and coy when he has to, or obvious and charming if the situation calls for it. He can make people blush with a few choice words, or have someone stuttering over their sentences as he brushes a hand up their arm. Courfeyrac is good at flirting, and he is also good at knowing when he's being flirted with.

Combeferre is a terrible flirter. Too blunt and stoic and, underneath that, nervous. He should have known this.

"Please tell me," Combeferre says, his calm cracking a bit, panic seeping into his words and making his voice higher and tighter than usual, "that Éponine and Jehan aren't wrong and that they haven't read the situation incorrectly. Please tell me they were right when they said you felt the same way and that I'm not making a fool of myself and ruining years of friendship right now."

Courfeyrac can't speak.

"Please," Combeferre pleads. "Please tell me this isn't the biggest mistake I've ever made, because if it is I would very much appreciate it if you would leave right now. Right now, Courfeyrac."

Instead, Courfeyrac takes a step closer to the tub, pulling his sweater over his head as he asks, "So what exactly was their plan? Did they recycle the jealousy thing from when we got Joly and Bossuet together?"

Combeferre, eyes following the sweater as Courfeyrac drops it to the ground, looks up at him quickly, eyes surprisingly focused despite the absence of his glasses. "What?" he asks articulately.

"Was the plan to make me jealous?" Courfeyrac elaborates. "Make up some fake person for you to fancy to get me jealous?"

"Oh." He loses Combeferre's gaze again when he plays with the hem of his shirt, Combeferre watching every movement. "No. That was, erm, more of a cover up, actually. You were never supposed to find out that I'd asked them for help, but when you did Éponine improvised."

"Mm." Courfeyrac tugs his shirt off next, letting it fall to the ground, and Combeferre visibly swallows. "So what is the plan, then?"

"Seduction," Combeferre says, looking every bit aware of how ridiculous that sounds. "Jehan said you already liked me, we just… needed you to realize it. Éponine suggested going for a more… physical awakening first, rather than emotional."

"So the makeover," Courfeyrac continues, finding his calm just as Combeferre loses his own, no longer a nervous, jittering mess because they're finally on even ground now. "Was that for my benefit?"

"Yes," Combeferre admits. "Clearly it didn't work, and then she suggested that I, um."

"Keep going," Courfeyrac orders, undoing the button on his jeans. He slides them down his legs without shame, no embarrassment over his body. Courfeyrac is incredibly comfortable with himself.

"She suggested I find a way to get myself in an intimate situation with you, and then I remembered you asking for the password to this bathroom," Combeferre says in a rush, as Courfeyrac bends down and, with an incredible amount of balance achieved from years of playing Quidditch and trying not to fall off his broom, Courfeyrac tugs off one sock, then another, down to nothing but his black briefs. "I remembered you'd asked for the password, and I thought that making sure you'd walk in on me in here might work."

"You did this on purpose," Courfeyrac summarizes. Combeferre nods. "I'm honestly impressed, Ferre. I didn't think you had something like this in you."

"I didn't," Combeferre blurts. "The first day, after I told you, I sat in one of the stalls for half an hour, hiding, and when you didn't show up I left. And the next day I did the same thing, and then finally I realized that you probably weren't coming so I went back to my normal routine. I didn't expect you to be here today. Any day, really."

"But I am," Courfeyrac points out, thumbing the waistband of his boxers for something to do, keeping his hands from shaking.

"Yes," Combeferre says thickly. "Yes you are."

"What's the next part of the plan?"

Combeferre looks at him, eyes wide, and Courfeyrac can see the nerves in him, worse than his own. He reaches up, running a hand through his hair, leaving it streaked with bubbles and damply clumping together. But Combeferre isn't a coward; Combeferre sees a challenge and meets it head on, finding the most logical way to beat it and takes it down without breaking a sweat.

"You get in with me," he says simply.

So Courfeyrac tugs down his boxers, very aware of Combeferre's unabashed staring, and slides into the tub. It's warm and the bubbles cling to his skin, smelling simply of soap and none of the various adds ins from the many, many taps that promise things such as vanilla and lilac scented bubbles, or rose infused water. It goes right up to just below his chin, even though it only reaches Combeferre's collarbone.

"So this is what I've been missing out on," Courfeyrac says, stretching his arms out. "I can't believe I've been using the regular bathrooms all year."

Combeferre lets out a laugh that's all nervousness and strain. "It's a bit much, though," he says. "This tub is a ridiculous size for just one person."

"Good thing there's two of us, then," Courfeyrac says.

"And yet you're still on the other side," Combeferre comments. (So maybe he isn't terrible at flirting.)

"Maybe you should fix that." Courfeyrac waggles his eyebrows a bit, just to see Combeferre chuckle.

"I've made all the moves," Combeferre reminds him. "I think it's your turn."

"I got in the tub," Courfeyrac points out.

"I got in the tub first."

"Touché." Courfeyrac wades forward, careful not to slip and fuck this all up, because so far he's been pretty damn smooth about this whole and he'd like to keep that going. "Let me know if I cross the line, okay?"

"I don't think there is a line to cross," Combeferre tells him.

"If I get over there," Courfeyrac warns, taking another step closer, knowing that there probably is a line and that crossing it could ruin everything, everything, "I'm going to try to kiss you."

"I was hoping you would."

"And we're both naked."

"Incredibly aware of that fact."

"I'm going to kiss you while we're both naked."

"I'm not seeing a downside."

Courfeyrac stops just close enough to Combeferre that he can easily read the writing on his skin, the tattoo looking more bronze than blue with the way the light is hitting it. Water splashes between them from his movements, slowly settling, and then there's nothing but the sound of their breathing and less than a foot of space between them.

"You said you were going to kiss me," Combeferre reminds him, readily licking his lips. They're soft looking, not particularly plump or thin, a lovely shade of pink that Courfeyrac wants to see turn red.

"Working up to it," Courfeyrac admits, taking in the pale blue of Combeferre's eyes, his light eyelashes, the line of his throat and the faint smudge of stubble that will hopefully burn as much as he thinks it will when he finally moves forward and closes the space between them.

"For someone who spends so much time trying to get other people together," Combeferre teases breathlessly, "you seem reluctant to do anything about your own love life."

Courfeyrac flicks water at him for that. "I'm allowed to be nervous," he defends. "You're not just some person I have a crush on. You're my best friend. I'd like to do this right, with minimal chance of fucking everything up."

"It's not as if this is our first kiss," Combeferre recalls. "Though, admittedly, you didn't know it was me at the time."

"I knew," Courfeyrac says distractedly. Water drips from Combeferre's damp hair, sliding down his throat. Courfeyrac decides he'd very much like to do the same with his mouth, at some point. Some point soon, but first: kissing.

"But you guessed I was Grantaire," Combeferre says, reproachful. "Why did you do that if you knew it was me?"

"I don't know," Courfeyrac admits, finally meeting his eyes again. "Seemed like the thing to do, at the time."

Going to take that final step, Courfeyrac accidentally loses his balance, falling forward. Courfeyrac's hands find his waist, holding him steady, and he lets out a long breath, blowing a strand of hair off his face. "And what," Combeferre says, fingers digging in lightly, "seems like the thing to do now?"

Tentatively, Courfeyrac leans up and kisses Combeferre square on the mouth. Courfeyrac may be confident in his kissing skills, but this is more than a kiss. This is a converging, a uniting. This is the final step between Combeferre and Courfeyrac and CombeferandCourfeyrac. This is monumental and Courfeyrac wants it to be all the clichés, fireworks, perfection; he wants it to be the most spectacular kiss in the entire world.

Which is kind of ruined when Combeferre laughs weakly against his lips, pulling back to look down at him. "Sort of anticlimactic after all the buildup, isn't it?"

"Anticlimactic is not what I was going for," Courfeyrac huffs, licking his lips. He tastes toothpaste and realizes, a beat later, that that's Combeferre, and then he groans, rocking forward until their wet chests are pressed together and their thighs brush under the water.

Combeferre's laughter dies and when he asks, "What were you going for?" it's unsteady and rough.

Boldly, Courfeyrac kisses him again, a hand sliding into Combeferre's soft, wet hair, pressing him firmly against the wall of the tub. He kisses Combeferre with all he has, all the tricks he's learned and experience he's gained. He coaxes Combeferre's mouth open with his, the first brush of his tongue careful, testing, until he's sure Combeferre wants it, and then he lets it get messy and desperate, hand tightening in his hair, moving more firmly against him.

When Combeferre moans into his mouth, a sound that he gladly swallows, he pulls back and says, "Mind blowing," and then kisses him again.

One of Combeferre's hands moves from his hip, sliding up his back. When it drags back down, nails digging in just light enough to sting, not hard enough to hurt, Courfeyrac makes a soft sound into the kiss, eyes closing.

Combeferre is a quick study, picking up in no time that Courfeyrac likes it when he curls their tongues together, likes it even more when he presses his hand against the small of Courfeyrac's back, possessively holding them together. Being in the water together means there's nothing to hide his erection, no way to deny it, but there's no denying Combeferre's either and somehow neither of them seems to care.

When he leans in to nip at Combeferre's jaw, more to feel the burn of stubble against his kiss-sensitive lips than anything, Combeferre gasps out, "Are we moving too fast?"

"The speed of sound wouldn't be fast enough," Courfeyrac says, meeting his eyes. "Too fast for you?"

Combeferre shakes his head firmly, his hand moving dangerously lower, lower than it's dared since they started, as if touching Courfeyrac's bare ass is taboo despite the fact that his cock has been pressing incessantly against Courfeyrac's hips almost since this began.

Ducking his head to the crook of Courfeyrac's neck, Combeferre adds, "I'll let you know if I need things to slow down." And then he kisses Courfeyrac there, despite the fact that the water nearly submerges him and his chin is wet when he makes his way back up to Courfeyrac's lips. "I've wanted to kiss you like this for an excruciatingly long time."

"I'm a little slow on the pickup," Courfeyrac admits, noting to get irritated at himself for wasting so much time later, "but I catch on eventually."

"I would have waited a lot longer, but I'm glad I don't have to."

"Never have to wait again," Courfeyrac promises. "Seriously, I'm going to want to do this all the time. I don't think you understand how much I like kissing you." He punctuates the words with another, just to prove his point, and he means to add something else but he gets lost in Combeferre's wonderful mouth.

It isn't until a while passes, long enough that the water should be getting cold, but isn't, that Courfeyrac realizes something. "Is someone going to walk in on us?"

Combeferre shakes his head. "The room knows when the door should be locked. It stops things from being accidentally awkward."

Frowning, Courfeyrac points out, "I got in."

"I'd never lock you out of anywhere," Combeferre says, shrugging uncaringly. "The room must realize that."

That, more than the kissing, makes Courfeyrac's stomach flutter. He lets a hand fall beneath the water, brushing Combeferre's thigh, and inquires, "Too fast?"

"Too slow," Combeferre says, tilting his head back.

Really, it's almost too easy to fit his leg between Combeferre's and grind forward with purpose, everything in Courfeyrac lighting up at the way Combeferre moans, surprisingly perceptive and loud. As if Courfeyrac needs another reason to love him. Want him. They're both blurring together at this point into a burning pool of heat in his stomach that wipes out any nerves or doubt and restraint inside of him.

"I'm going to get you off," Courfeyrac says, and Combeferre's eyes flutter closed, "and then I'm going to kiss you a bit more," he continues, splaying a hand flat on Combeferre's chest, "and then we're going to get dressed and get out of here before we miss class or shrivel up."

Under his hand, he can feel the barreling laughter Combeferre's lets out, vibrating through him. "I can't believe you're thinking about class right now."

"I can't believe you're not."

"True," Combeferre says, "but I'm a little preoccupied."

"Yeah?" Courfeyrac hands brushes Combeferre's cock under the water. "With what?"

"Specifically the first part of what you just said," Combeferre admits. "If you could just—"

Courfeyrac leans in to bite at the tattoo on Combeferre's collarbone, just as he wraps a hand around him. The groan Combeferre lets out is all relief, one of his hands gripping the edge of the tub so tightly his knuckles go white.

Internally, Courfeyrac curses the bubbles from blocking his view because he very much wants to watch Combeferre come apart in his hand. Instead he has to settle for the feel of him, the way his body shakes when Courfeyrac tightens his grip and twists his hand so the palm slides against the head of his cock. His own presses against Combeferre's leg, not enough pressure to do anything but frustrate him, but he doesn't care. Honestly, watching Combeferre's lips part in a moan is so much more important.

"No bubbles next time," Courfeyrac orders, trailing his freehand down the path of hair leading from Combeferre's stomach to his cock. "Absolutely no bubbles."

Combeferre laughs out a breathy, "Next time?"

Suddenly Combeferre's hand wraps around him in return, the angle awkward but his soft hand's too perfect to complain, and Courfeyrac says, very determinedly, "There is definitely going to be a next time. If you want it. I need a next time. A hundred next times. Fuck."

"Maybe in a bed," Combeferre groans, trying to find Courfeyrac's lips once more. "With perhaps a little less talking."

Courfeyrac barks out a laugh, speeding up his movements, jerking Combeferre off quickly, grip tight, no desire to drag this out when instead he could find out what Combeferre looks like on the brink of coming, when he's so close he's desperate to get off. He wants to see that. He wants to cause that.

He leans in, catching Combeferre's earlobe between his teeth, and tugs gently before whispering, "Come on, gorgeous."

Combeferre's hand on him freezes and Courfeyrac groans, watching him tense, the way he holds his breath with his mouth open and his eyebrows drawn tightly together. And then he goes suddenly slack, loose all over, sinking deeper into the water and letting out gasping little breaths that could put the singing of angels to shame.

"Next time," Combeferre says when he can finally speak again. "Definitely a next time."

"Could we maybe finish this time?" Courfeyrac whines, jerking his hips forward, thrusting up into Combeferre's slackened hand. "I am not above begging, just so you know."

Combeferre, eyelids heavy and hair falling over his forehead, looks at him for a long time at that before muttering, "I'm filing that away for future reference."

"You do that. Now can we—?"

Combeferre turns them over easily, backing Courfeyrac against the tub. He is, from a completely unbiased standpoint, very good at this. Like, really fucking good. Courfeyrac has never been a quiet person in any kind of situation, and that extends to the bedroom (bathroom, in this case), and his moans are echoing around the cavernous room as Combeferre works him over, a concentrated but smug look on his face.

When he comes, Combeferre kisses the whimper from his lips and rests their foreheads together, letting him breathe for a moment, gather himself.

"It's kind of gross that we're standing in our come," Courfeyrac comments eventually, cracking open his eyes.

"The tub cleans itself automatically," Combeferre laughs, reaching up to brush a hand through Courfeyrac's hair. "Magic. Convenient, isn't it? And I like you like this. I always want to touch your hair but I know how much time you spend on it."

Courfeyrac makes a content sound, leaning into his hand, giving Combeferre permission to do whatever he likes. Eventually that leads to more kissing, slow and lazy and slightly giddy, breaking off every time so one of them can laugh or tuck their head against the other's neck.

Finally, when Combeferre can no longer ignore the pressing need to get out of the tub and ready for class, and Courfeyrac's fingers are getting gross and pruney, they pull themselves out of the tub, unashamed with the way they both watch each other as they towel off and get dressed.

"So, um, about this," Courfeyrac says as he buttons his jeans, looking down at them to avoid looking into Combeferre's eyes. "Does this mean we're…?"

"If you want to be," Combeferre says quickly.

"Do you?"

Smiling, Combeferre says, "I don't like to do things halfway, as I'm sure you've noticed."

"Good," Courfeyrac says.

"Yeah?"

"Definitely."

"So should we tell the others, then?" Combeferre asks. "Or should we keep this between us for now?"

"The others are going to find out soon enough," Courfeyrac says, reaching out to grab Combeferre's tie, just as he'd imagined, pulling him into a sloppy, wonderful kiss. "I'm going to be doing this all day, and I'm sure eventually someone's going to notice."

"And I'm not going to stop you," Combeferre says, cupping his face gently. He brushes his thumb along Courfeyrac's cheek. "But we really should get going. We're going to be late to class."

"You say the most romantic things," Courfeyrac sighs.

 

o|o

 

"Make sure you stir it the right way," Courfeyrac advises, watching Combeferre assemble his potion. "You underestimate the difficulty and that's why you ruin it. You think it should be easy, a basic love potion, and you run through the steps without pausing to make sure you're following them correctly."

"Do you know how many times I've made this potion in the last two weeks?" Combeferre asks. "If I never have to make it again, I will die a happy man."

"Moonstone next," Courfeyrac says, eyes narrowing, "and no dying."

Combeferre grins, his hand sliding down Courfeyrac's forearm, fingers tightly wrapping around his wrist for a moment before he grabs the moonstone and adds it to the caldron. There's a shy smile on his lips as he stirs, a bashfulness in his blush. They've been like this since the prefects' bathroom, as if they're not quite positive that what happened happened and they're afraid that things are different outside of the room.

He will probably never get over Combeferre blushing over him. He likes the way it looks, the way it feels to know he's caused that. Leaning in, he brushes his lips against Combeferre's cheek after checking to make sure their professor is busy, and whispers, "I like how your hair always looks like someone just wrecked you."

And that is how Combeferre ruins his potion… again. Courfeyrac feels marginally guilty about it, but he quickly helps Combeferre breeze through the beginning of it again, making up for it. All around them students are either frustrated and yelling at their caldrons (Enjolras, Éponine and Bahorel) or on the verge of crying (Bossuet, Marius) or triumphantly grinning down at their perfect potion (Joly, Feuilly, Cosette and Grantaire). Everyone is done with this assignment, either literally or figuratively.

"Wait," Combeferre says, giving his potion a final stir. "Is that— is that right? Does that look right to you?"

Courfeyrac looks down at the concoction, at the familiar mother-of-pearl sheen and the spiraling steam rising from it, and takes a deep breath. "Yeah," he sighs. "Yeah, that's right."

"What does it smell like?" Combeferre asks, nervously unrolling the sleeves of his shirt. "For you, what does it smell like?"

"Like, um." Courfeyrac pauses, inhaling again. "Books," he says, not looking Combeferre. "Fresh air, like— like when I'm on my broom and soaring high in the air. And, erm. Clean? You always smell really clean. It sort of smells… like that. You?"

"Books," Combeferre says with a wry smile, "and that product you always put in your hair. And sort of the way you do when you come back from a game and you haven't showered yet, like dirt and sweat and— that doesn't sound very appealing but I promise you it is."

Beaming, Courfeyrac asks, "It is?"

"It very much is," Combeferre confirms, sinking down into his seat. "It smelled like that the first time we had to make it together in fifth year with Enjolras, remember? That's when I knew how I felt about you, because it— it smelled just like you. I already knew I loved you then, and I loved Enjolras too but it doesn't smell anything like him. Just you. That's when I caught on that how I feel about you is a very different kind of love."

"Fifth year," Courfeyrac says. "You've— since fifth year?"

Combeferre nods, decidedly not meeting Courfeyrac's eyes. "It took me a bit of time to come to terms with it, but yes, since fifth year."

"You didn't say anything," Courfeyrac says, drumming his fingers on the desk. "You've never said anything."

"I did," Combeferre says quietly. "I said a lot of things but you weren't listening close enough."

"I'm sorry," Courfeyrac says, his chest hurting from the thought of Combeferre telling him in his own subtle, Combeferrian way about his feelings, and how Courfeyrac had probably brushed them off with a laugh, not realizing what it was he was saying.

"For what?" Combeferre looks truly baffled. "For not realizing or feeling the same way? Don't apologize for that. In fact, I'm sort of glad."

"You're glad?"

Combeferre nods. "I don't think I would have known what to do if you'd felt the same way back then. I'm still not sure if I'm fully equipped to handle the possibility of you feeling the same way."

"Possibility?" Courfeyrac raises his eyebrows and places his hand on Combeferre's thigh, mindful of the class surrounding them and their professor a few feet away, and not really caring all that much. "It's much more than a possibility."

"And I'm," Combeferre says tightly, looking down at his hand, "still not sure if I know what to do with that. This. My experience with this type of thing is very limited."

"You're in luck." Courfeyrac kisses his cheek, wanting to kiss his lips but not quite sure if Combeferre will be willing to risk it here in class. "I happen to have much experience with this type of thing."

"I'm aware of that."

"Jealous?"

"I truly don't understand how you didn't notice. I'm an incredibly jealous person, it turns out. When it comes to you, in any case."

"Wait." Courfeyrac grins a shit-eating, smug grin. "With the Joly thing, you said you were angry on Bossuet's behalf, but you were totally jealous, weren't you? That's why you were so mad."

Combeferre glares at him in his typical, exasperated way. "You are far too smug about this."

"The hottest guy in school confesses he's been into me for years and that's he's been jealous over everyone else I've been with in all that time," Courfeyrac summarizes. "Hell fucking yeah I'm smug about it. I'm so smug. I'm the smuggest of the smug right now."

"You're ridiculous," Combeferre corrects. "And I'm hardly the hottest guy in school."

"Do you avoid looking in mirrors or something?" Courfeyrac presses a hand to his chest, feigning shock when he says earnestly, "Combeferre, I hate to break it to you but you're gorgeous. I know this must be hard to hear, so I'll give you a moment to take it all in."

"Courfeyrac," Combeferre laughs, going red. "Honestly."

"I am being honest," Courfeyrac argues. "Do you know what you look like when you have your sleeves rolled up and that—"

"Look," Combeferre says, cutting him off and no doubt looking for an excuse to change the subject. In front of them, Enjolras is actually bartering with his potion as if he can convince it to go right if he uses the right tone. As he mutters at it, looking half-crazed, Grantaire watches him with his lip between his teeth, his own potion finished. "Do you think he's going to do something?"

Just as Combeferre speaks, Grantaire clenches his hands into fists and gets out of his seat, determinedly approaching Enjolras with a look on his face that says he knows there's at least a fifty-percent chance that Enjolras is going to snap on him.

"Do you—" Grantaire pauses beside Enjolras' table, brushing his hair over his eyes. "I'm finished, if you'd like some help with this."

Enjolras looks up, mouth open from his angry muttering, and Grantaire shrinks at the look on his face. "Come on, Enjolras," Courfeyrac groans to himself, grabbing Combeferre's hand in anticipation. "Give him a chance."

Enjolras stares at Grantaire for a long time, Grantaire's shoulders slumping more with each passing second until it looks like he's praying for the ground to swallow him whole. "I suppose," Enjolras says, nodding. "Can you chop these with me?"

"Yeah," Grantaire says, nodding enthusiastically. He takes a seat, grabbing the knife. "I'm the greatest chopper you'll ever meet."

"I recall you melting your last knife and having to borrow mine," Enjolras reminds him, but Courfeyrac recognizes that tone. He's amused.

"Well, yeah, but that had everything to do with dropping it into my caldron and nothing to do with my knife skills," Grantaire says. "I won't let you down, I promise."

As they work, the two of them exchange these glances, sneaking looks at each other when they think the other isn't aware, and getting embarrassed when they're caught. It's fucking adorable, it is, but it's also very frustrating.

"They work well together," Combeferre comments, watching them as well. "When they're not arguing, that is."

"They do," Courfeyrac sighs. "I just wish we could convince them of that."

"Grantaire already knows," Combeferre says. "I think Enjolras would realize it, too, if he would just give Grantaire a chance. Maybe…"

"Maybe what?"

"If we could convince Enjolras to go on one date, just one single date with Grantaire, he might get it," Combeferre says with a shrug. "If he would make an effort for just one day to get along with him, admit to himself that he enjoys Grantaire's presence and that he stopped tolerating it and started liking it a long time ago, then maybe things would work out."

"A date," Courfeyrac says, awed. "That is so simple."

"The last thing those two need," Combeferre says softly, "is manipulation. With everyone else, you needed to spark their relationship into being. Those two are like gasoline and fire. You have to be much more careful or the whole thing will blow up. I think being upfront with them about it, instead of planning behind their backs, would be better."

And he's completely right. Enjolras would be impossible to manipulate even if they tried, and as soon as he realized it he'd call an end to it and Grantaire would wind up with as much of the blame as the rest of them. Grantaire is already there, he's already in love with Enjolras, he already knows and accepts it, he just doesn't think Enjolras feels the same way.

"We just have to convince Enjolras to ask him out," Courfeyrac says. He squeezes Combeferre's hand tightly. "You're a genius, have I ever told you that?"

"Yes, but I never tire from hearing it," Combeferre says happily. "And you know Valentine's Day is coming up. Everyone goes to Hogsmeade. It would be the perfect day for their date. There will be so many other couples around that they'll blend into the background and no one will make a big deal of it or draw attention to them, and we could go along with them to keep an eye on things, at the beginning at least. We'll still get to do our own thing while having a chance to help them if they need it."

Courfeyrac blinks at him, a slow smirk spreading onto his face. "Is this your subtle way of asking me to go out with you on Valentine's Day?"

Once more red in the cheeks, Combeferre says, "Possibly. I've been trying to muster the courage to ask you all day, but this way we'd also get to make two of our friends happy, if things work out. Two birds with one stone and all that."

"I'd love to go out with you," Courfeyrac says sincerely. "On a date. Whenever. Not just on Valentine's Day, but any day you want."

Combeferre smiles down at the table and says, "If you don't stop making me blush my cheeks are going to permanently be stuck like this."

"Good," Courfeyrac says. "It's a good look on you."

"I think you're a little biased, considering you're my boyfriend," Combeferre points out.

Courfeyrac's hand goes slack in his, as does his mouth. "Boyfriend?"

"I thought— I thought that we— I assumed that—" Combeferre stammers, looking horrified. He drops Courfeyrac's hand like it's on fire, jerking away from him. "I told you I'm terrible at this. I just thought—"

Fuck not kissing him in class. Without a care in the world, Courfeyrac easily takes hold of Combeferre's jaw, gently turning his face and pressing their lips together. He can feel the panic in Combeferre subsiding as he deftly licks into Combeferre's mouth, reveling in the taste of jam and tea and the sigh of relief he lets out.

"I hate to interrupt young love," he hears Slughorn say, "but I'm going to have to ask the two of you to refrain from such things in my classroom, please."

Courfeyrac pulls back, eyes wide, but for once Combeferre isn't blushing. Instead he's grinning, proud and unashamed, and Enjolras is looking at them in horror. "It's like watching my parents kiss," he says, lips curled.

"Your parents wish they were this hot," Courfeyrac says back.

Enjolras stares at him in disgust. "That is honestly too disturbing to respond to." Grantaire laughs at him, poking him in the side, and Enjolras frowns. "It's not funny."

Courfeyrac leans into Combeferre's side and, wrapping an arm around his waist, asks, "Do you think they've noticed yet?"

 

o|o

 

As soon as he can manage a moment alone with them, Courfeyrac gathers Jehan and Éponine in his room and explains to them what Combeferre said in Potions. At first the two of them do nothing but tease him over Combeferre, but as soon as they realize that he isn't going to get embarrassed or do anything but grin happily, they lay off and Éponine says, "It sounds simple enough, convincing them to go on a date, but this is Enjolras. Enjolras. How the fuck are we going to convince him to go on a date with Grantaire?"

"She has a point," Jehan says. "He isn't going to go for it."

"Ah," Courfeyrac says, lounging on his bed with his arms crossed behind his head, "but you're forgetting something. We have a secret weapon."

"A secret weapon?" Éponine looks skeptical. "What secret weapon?"

"Combeferre."

"I thought he wanted nothing to do with the matchmaking," Jehan reminds him. "I know he suggested we get them to go on a date, but I hardly believe he'll help us force them into it."

"No forcing necessary," Courfeyrac says. "Combeferre is going to tell Enjolras that going on a date with Grantaire is a good idea, and Enjolras is going to realize how right he is because it's Combeferre and Combeferre is always right."

"I," Éponine says, eyebrows knit tightly together.

"I want to argue," Jehan says.

"But he has a point," Éponine finishes. "If anyone could convince Enjolras, it's Combeferre."

"Exactly." Courfeyrac smugly closes his eyes and grins. "It's not like he really needs convincing. He already likes Grantaire, Combeferre is just going to push him in the direction of doing something about it for us. They go on a date, realize they're perfectly imperfect for each other, and our work here is done."

"After you convince Combeferre to help us," Éponine says.

"I am very persuasive person," Courfeyrac says confidently. "I doubt it'll be very hard."

"You're going to offer him sex to help us, aren't you?" Éponine sighs. "Getting them together is going to scar us for life, Jehan. They're going to be worse than Joly and Bossuet."

"Excuse you," Courfeyrac says, sitting up. "I'm going to offer him sex because I want to, and then I'm going to ask him very nicely to help us and he's going to agree because he loves me and he loves Enjolras and he quite likes Grantaire as well and wants them to be happy."

"And then Éponine and I are going to go down the kitchens," Jehan says.

"And we're going to have the staff make us the largest cake," Éponine continues.

"And we're going to eat the entire thing," Jehan finishes. "Celebration for our good work."

"Somehow I think we get the better end of the deal," Éponine says. "Cake is way better than boys."

"I won't argue with that." Jehan grins and holds out his hand, palm up. Éponine slaps it with her own and the two of them burst into giggles.

"Combeferre is much better than cake," Courfeyrac protests. "Though," he muses, "I bet he's just as delicious covered in icing."

"Definitely worse than Joly and Bossuet," Éponine groans, taking the pillow off Bossuet's bed. She throws it, and Courfeyrac catches it out of the air and tucks it behind his head. "Don't be gross, Courf. Remember that we're all like family and hearing of your and Combeferre's sexual life is bordering on incestuous for the rest of us."

"I'm not apologizing for something I don't feel sorry for," Courfeyrac snips. "I'm still upset with the two of you hiding the fact that it was me Combeferre was being set up with. If you would have just told me you could have saved us a few weeks of skirting around each other."

"You weren't ready to know," Jehan tells him. "If we would have, you'd have freaked. You needed to realize your feelings before you knew about his, or it would have screwed everything up."

Courfeyrac thinks on it for a moment, thinks about how he would have felt if they'd told him immediately, back when he was so in denial about his own feelings. "Maybe," he admits, picking at his blanket. "Was he really— I mean, was it bad for him? Me not realizing?"

The two of them exchange a glance, as if uncertain about how much to say, before Éponine says, "I think he was just happy to have your friendship, more than anything. And he didn't really ask for our help, we offered it. I don't think he would have bothered otherwise. I think that boy would have watched you get married to someone else and give the greatest best man's speech while his heart was breaking."

Ouch. "Fuck."

"Basically," Éponine agrees. "Try not to screw it up, yeah? There aren't many great people out there and you're dating one of the greatest."

"Is this the 'hurt him and I hurt you' speech?"

"No," Éponine laughs. "I don't have to give you that speech. Hurting him would hurt you much more than I ever could."

That, Courfeyrac thinks, is very true.

 

o|o

 

The rest of the week, Courfeyrac tries to drop subtle hints to Enjolras about going out with Grantaire. This is the only plan he and Éponine and Jehan managed to come up with, aside from bringing in the big guns (Combeferre) and so far, it's not working. Maybe it would with anyone else, but this is Enjolras. It's not that he's oblivious, since he'd be willing to bet anything that Enjolras knew about his feelings for Combeferre long before he did and, now that he's thinking about it, he definitely knew about Combeferre's, but he's fairly oblivious when it comes to himself.

"He has really nice eyes when he bothers to brush that hair out of his face," Courfeyrac compliments one day, watching Grantaire laugh with Joly and Bossuet, nodding his head in their direction. "Don't you think?"

Enjolras looks over at Grantaire, lip caught between his teeth, but then he shrugs and eats his toast and that's that.

"Grantaire's ass looks great in those jeans, don't you think?" he tries again later the same day, as Grantaire and Éponine walk down the hall ahead of them, arms looped together.

"You're holding hands with your boyfriend right now," Enjolras says, gesturing to where Combeferre and Courfeyrac are, indeed, clasped at the hand.

"Those jeans are complimentary to his figure," Combeferre says, uncaring.

Enjolras makes a face at them and says, "It was less weird when you were pining after each other."

"He's really great with kids, R," Courfeyrac says the next day at lunch, as Grantaire attempts to carry Gavroche around on his shoulders, nearly crashing them both into a wall which does nothing but earn delighted laughter from Gavroche, who probably wouldn't have minded if he did. "That's a good quality in a potential lover, you know. If you ever plan on having kids, that is."

"No time for them," Enjolras says offhandedly. "Children don't like me and I don't particularly like them."

Courfeyrac sighs and looks to Combeferre, who does nothing but smother a laugh in his drink.

"See you in class, Angel-Face," Grantaire teases on Friday, after a fight that was definitely more flirting than arguing.

"I bet he'd call you that in bed," Courfeyrac says, done with being subtle.

It's worth it for the way Enjolras holds his breath and gapes at him, face heating up. "What?" he blurts, nearly choking on air.

"Just putting that out there," Courfeyrac says happily. "Though I guess you'll never know, unless you maybe asked him out to see where it goes."

"And why would— why would I ever do that?" Enjolras demands, looking both embarrassed and angry. He looks like he's considering punching Courfeyrac or fleeing to hide his blush, both which would be counterproductive to what Courfeyrac is trying to achieve here.

"Because you like him," Combeferre interjects, reaching for the eggs. "Because you've liked him for quite a while, I believe, and you're interested in more than just a tentative friendship with him but you're not quite sure if there's any point given the impending pressure of graduation and knowing that your plans for the future differ vastly. But you like a challenge and you like to prove people wrong even more, and you're going to ask him out because ultimately you want to know if he truly feels the same way about you or if he's just been putting on a front all these years to irritate you."

The entire time he speaks, Combeferre helps himself to breakfast and keeps a reasonable, placating look on his face. Enjolras turns to gape at him instead, and the more Combeferre says the redder his face gets until Courfeyrac jumps in and says, "I can see you contemplating punching my boyfriend and I just want you to know that, best friend or not, I'll cut your beautiful hair off in your sleep if you do."

That snaps Enjolras out of it. He sits up straighter, gathering his things, and says, "I'm not asking him out." With that he stomps towards the doors, back ridged, but at the last second he turns back around, makes his way towards them, and says, "However, if he were to ask me I would not object."

When he's gone, Courfeyrac looks to Combeferre, a pleading look on his face. "That's as good as we're going to get, sunshine," he says unfortunately. "His mind is made up and you know how he is."

Yes, Courfeyrac does know how Enjolras is, but still. "Grantaire will never ask him out," he says. "Ever. He won't do it, Ferre."

"Then we'll just have to convince him to," Combeferre says. "We have two weeks until Valentine's Day. We can handle it."

"We?"

Combeferre rolls his eyes, stealing the leftover crust from Courfeyrac's toast and jam. "Yes, we."

"I thought you were staying out of it."

"So did I," Combeferre sighs. "What have you done to me?"

"I think the question," Courfeyrac says, leaning in, "is what am I going to do to you? I have practice after class today, but maybe you'd like to…?" He trails off, letting Combeferre pick up the pieces, if he so choses to acknowledge them.

"I'll meet you in your common room," Combeferre quickly says, already delightfully breathless. "If that's okay? Before we meet with Enjolras to do our work?"

"Eager," Courfeyrac groans. "You're eager. Fuck, okay, I'm going to go get my books before I have time to think about that and look at you while thinking about that and get stuck with a boner all through Transfiguration." He stands up, pressing a kiss to the top of Combeferre's head. "See you in class, beautiful."

"Don't be late!" Combeferre calls after him.

Courfeyrac waves him off with a grin, nearly bumping into Cosette who steadies him with a laugh. "I know your boyfriend is gorgeous," she says, tugging Marius into the room behind her, "but you should really watch where you're going."

Returning the laugh, Courfeyrac tugs gently at a piece of her hair and ducks through the door, just in time to hear Marius ask, "You think Combeferre is gorgeous?" and Cosette's responding, "Everyone thinks Combeferre is gorgeous. I just happen to think you're more gorgeous."

 

o|o

 

"That's it for today!" Courfeyrac shouts, shielding his eyes with his hand.

It's a bright, sunny, beautiful February afternoon, and it is the perfect weather for practice. There're no rain, the clouds are sparse for once and there's barely any wind. It's also their first practice of the year and his entire team, save for a player or two, is uselessly restless. They're all so happy to be out after being cooped up for months that they're not in the mood to do much more than play around. His Beaters are attacking each other with bludgers, Chasers are doing no more than playing a glorified game of Keep Away, and his Seeker is doing nothing but diving towards the ground and whooping when she manages to pull up at the last second, getting closer and closer to flattening herself with every turn.

And Courfeyrac has a gorgeous boy waiting for him. Really, there's no point to prolong practice today. They're not getting anything productive done anyway.

"Anyone that wants to stay on the pitch," Courfeyrac says, circling around them, "can be my guests. I'll leave the keys in the door to the storage room. I expect everything to be put away properly or we'll start next practice with ten laps."

"Everyone loves laps," someone points out.

"Ten laps without your brooms," Courfeyrac corrects. There's a horrified gasp, a few groans, and Courfeyrac knows they won't risk it. "See you all back here on the tenth!"

With the kind of grace that comes from both practice and natural born talent, Courfeyrac lands on the ground near the storage room, humming happily to himself, some song that Feuilly's been singing under his breath for days. His hands, he notices as he puts his gear away, are sweating a bit, but he chalks that up to exertion and the fact that the rest of him is sweating from the workout, refusing to believe it's nerves because he has nothing to be nervous about.

Only his stomach is fluttering the entire way to the castle, and Courfeyrac has truly never felt like this about someone before. All the people he's dated, he's liked them well enough. More than well enough, in most cases. With them, however, the fluttering went away almost instantly, something he figured was the norm with this type of thing. He's nervous before they're definitely together, and then once he's confirmed that the feelings are reciprocated he falls into a comfortable calm.

With Combeferre, he still feels stupidly, dizzily nervous.

Or maybe nervous isn't really the right word, he muses. He's not afraid of anything bad happening. He knows, deep down, that not even a relationship could break their friendship. Enjolras wouldn't have it. Even if this doesn't work out for some crazy reason, they'll still be friends. The fluttering, twisting in his stomach is something different, something knew. Like anticipation and giddiness and warmth all wrapped up in one almost nauseating ball.

It's not unpleasant, honestly. And it makes him walk a little faster, wanting to get to his room quickly. He considers stopping off for a shower first, normally would, but Combeferre said he liked the way Courfeyrac smells after a game and he hopes that that means he'll like the way he smells after a practice, too.

Getting to his dormitory is not easy. The thing about being well-liked is that everyone he passes stops to say hello, ask him about practice, about his friends, and even a few ask about Combeferre, with grins on their faces and exasperated, "It's about time. We were all wondering when that was going to happen."

If Combeferre wasn't waiting for him, he'd love it. As it is, he politely walks away from every conversation as soon as he deems it acceptable to do so without seeming rude.

Joly and Bossuet are on one of the couches in the common room when he arrives, wrapped up in each other while Cosette sits on the floor in front of an armchair and Éponine braids her hair rather badly. Cosette doesn't seem to mind, though, smiling contentedly up at him as he passes.

"You've got an hour," Bossuet calls after him. "It's my room too!"

"Hypocrite!" Courfeyrac yells back without stopping. "I'll remember that!"

He pauses just outside the door, trying to put some order to his hair, knowing it's a lost cause. Flying always fucks his hair royally, but sometimes it looks kind of good, in a rebellious I-don't-case-what-my-hair-looks-like kind of way. He loosens his tie, too, and licks at his lips, and then he steps into his room with his chin tilted high as if it's just any other day and he's not expecting anyone inside.

Combeferre lies on his bed, glasses falling down his nose as he reads a book with so many creases in the discoloured pages that it can't be anything other than well loved. He looks up when the door shuts, sitting up and closing the book, but Courfeyrac heads for his dresser, stripping out of his shirt and pulling it open without acknowledging him. He finds a clean shirt, and his deodorant, and rubs some on before turning back around, shirt still in his hands.

"Should I bother putting this back on?" he teases, grinning crookedly at the way Combeferre has to quickly pull his eyes up, looking a bit guilty, the way Courfeyrac does back home when he's caught sneaking treats before dinner.

"No," Combeferre says. He shakes his head, trying again, more firmly, "No, definitely not."

"Maybe we could even up the playing field, then?"

Combeferre nods, pulling out his wand quickly. He locks the door without getting up, and Courfeyrac raises a suggestive eyebrow as Combeferre puts his wand on the bedside table and slowly unknots his tie. He keeps his eyes on Courfeyrac the entire time, as he takes the tie off and places it beside the wand; as he tugs his sweater over his head, messing his hair even more; as he slowly, painstakingly slowly, unbuttons his shirt, one button at a time, his gaze finally slipping as his fingers fumble to get the buttons through the holes.

As the final button is undone, Courfeyrac loses the last of his restraint. He drops the shirt carelessly to the ground, taking the short four steps towards the bed. Gently, giving Combeferre time to stop him if he needs it, he guides Combeferre down, pushing his shirt apart so his chest is bare but his arms are still covered. It's almost better than having him completely shirtless; he still looks almost prim and proper with his belt on and his trousers buttoned and perfectly ironed, only he's free to drag his nails down Combeferre's chest and appreciate the softness of his stomach and the hardness of his chest.

"We have an hour before Bossuet comes barging in here, claiming his bedroom space," Courfeyrac warns, lifting his eyes, finally, from Combeferre's flushed chest, up to his own eyes. "Just to let you know."

"I, um, didn't know we were on a schedule," Combeferre says, chuckling breathlessly when Courfeyrac runs his hands all the way down to his stomach again, stopping only when they hit the waistband of his boxers, the thinnest line of them peeking out of his trousers. "But I can work with an hour. Honestly, I could probably work with ten minutes."

Courfeyrac grins at him, wanting to test that but also wanting to take his time to enjoy this. "Move up the bed, will you?" he says, nodding towards the pillows.

Obligingly, Combeferre moves up the bed, leaving space for Courfeyrac to follow. He does, until they're side by side on the bed and Combeferre's repaying the favor, running his hands down Courfeyrac's body in turn, his nails not quite leaving the same red trails behind on his darker skin.

"How was practice?" Combeferre asks after a while, dragging his finger down the trail of hair that disappears into Courfeyrac's jeans, over and over, in a way that's driving him mad.

"Good," Courfeyrac says. "Called it short. No one was being productive and I had things I'd rather be doing."

"Things," Combeferre repeats, lips tugging up. "Like what?"

Courfeyrac props himself up on one elbow, hovering over him. "Explanation or demonstration?"

"Demonstration," Combeferre says firmly with a single nod of his head. "Definitely a demonstration."

Courfeyrac kisses him, slow and thorough as if they have all the time in the world. He waits until Combeferre is leaning up to meet him to coax his mouth open, and then pulls back, Combeferre's glasses leaving indent in his cheeks.

"Should I take them off?" Combeferre asks, already reaching to do just that.

Courfeyrac stops him, grabbing his wrist and pressing it softly into the bed. "Don't," he says. "I want you to be able to watch this, okay?"

"But—" Courfeyrac kisses down his neck and Combeferre closes his mouth.

His lips slide over the tattoo and Combeferre groans, a hand tangling in Courfeyrac's messy hair. Courfeyrac grins against him, hoping Combeferre can feel it, and traces the words with his tongue until Combeferre is writhing underneath him. "I really like your tattoo, by the way," he says as he moves lower. "And I'm going to blow you, unless there are objections. Just say the word."

"No," Combeferre laughs. "No objections. You— go ahead. Please."

Having the consent he needs, Courfeyrac moves down, taking his time because one: he wants to appreciate every part of Combeferre's and two: he wants this to be good. He doesn't have to ask to know that Combeferre hasn't really done anything like this before and he wants to make a good impression. It's a very good thing Courfeyrac excels at this type of thing.

Surprisingly enough, it's Combeferre who rids himself of the rest of his clothes, no shame in him as he lies on top of Courfeyrac's blanket completely naked. For a moment Courfeyrac forgets that he's the experienced one, taking him in and thinking that, no matter how many people he's been with, this is all still new to him because he's never been struck with the desire to explore every inch of someone's skin before, not like this; he's never wanted to drag things out forever, ignoring the fact that he's hard in his own jeans and it's getting uncomfortable.

"You're staring," Combeferre comments. "Normally I wouldn't mind but I thought we were under a time restraint."

Courfeyrac groans, having forgotten. "Right," he says, biting gently at Combeferre's hip just to see the quickly fading mark his mouth leaves, and also because Combeferre makes this sound when he does it, like he's overwhelmed in a really good way. "You can pull my hair, if you like, but let me know if there's anything you don't."

"I really doubt," Combeferre says tightly as Courfeyrac wraps a hand around him, "that's going to be an issue."

Courfeyrac shrugs, mutters, "Just in case," and then wets his lips enticingly before he wraps them around Combeferre's cock.

He's thicker than Courfeyrac is used to but the stretch of his mouth is something he likes as he swallows Combeferre down, down, moving his hand to take him all the way in. Start big, he thinks, and slow it down when Combeferre's close until he's a mess. He's a fan of teasing, admittedly, but he's more of a fan of the way Combeferre bunches up the sheets and fucking keens like he doesn't know what to do with himself.

"You just," Combeferre says, desperately waving a hand and searching for the right words, unable to find them. That, more than anything, makes Courfeyrac feel smug. Combeferre is a man of many, many words, and Courfeyrac's rendered him speechless is less than a minute flat

He drags his tongue up Combeferre's cock, licking around the head, and carefully keeps eye contact just to see the way Combeferre's mouth opens in a silent moan, the way his eyes flutter shut. He reaches a hand out to fist in Courfeyrac's hair, just tight enough to be enjoyable but not tight enough to hurt, not trying to guide or tell him what to do, just an anchor.

"Much better than in the bath," Courfeyrac says roughly, pulling off to catch his breath, sliding a spit-slick hand over Combeferre's length as he talks. "I like being able to see you."

"Better," Combeferre agrees incoherently. "This is— this is better, yeah."

"Combeferre," Courfeyrac teases happily, kissing the inside of one of his thighs. "Doing all right, beautiful?"

Combeferre nods mutely, letting his hand drop from Courfeyrac's hair, and Courfeyrac slows it down, takes his time now. Combeferre likes it when he licks up his length, but he likes it better when he jerks him off with his lips wrapped around the tip. He moans when Courfeyrac's freehand digs into his thigh, and cries out when Courfeyrac takes as much of him in as he can and swallows around him.

"Sorry," Combeferre gasps as Courfeyrac's thumb brushes along his inner thigh, "sorry, I'm trying not to but I just— I can't— You really need to stop before I—"

"Before you what?" Courfeyrac asks innocently, despite the roughness of his voice.

"You know what," Combeferre groans, tilting his head back. "Courfeyrac."

"Yeah," Courfeyrac agrees, "yeah, I know."

And he wraps his lips around Combeferre again, not stopping even when he feels him hit his throat. That's all it takes for Combeferre, who turns his head and tries to bury it in the pillows as he comes, making the same lovely little gasps from last time as Courfeyrac swallows him his easily, not minding the taste and liking the way Combeferre looks wrecked as he does it. That looks is so, so worth it.

Afterwards, Courfeyrac wipes at his mouth with the back of his hand and shimmies up the bed, collapsing against the pillow and grinning widely at Combeferre, feeling incredibly pleased with his work. Combeferre is a mess, with his hair sticking to his forehead, everything sweaty and flushed and his eyes unfocused when they meet Courfeyrac's.

"We still have about forty minutes," Combeferre says after a while, tilting his head in Courfeyrac's direction.

"We do," Courfeyrac confirms.

"I can work with forty minutes," Combeferre says, propping himself up with a grin. "Think you can work with forty minutes?"

"Definitely."

And he can. Courfeyrac comes with Combeferre sitting on his thighs, one of his hands pressed to Courfeyrac's chest to keep him flat against the bed and the other wrapped around his prick. Combeferre applies the same sort of determined, expert focus to this as he does anything else, and Courfeyrac is learning that is truly a plus when it comes to the sex. He's pretty sure a handjob isn't supposed to be this fucking awesome but, well. Combeferre is really good at everything, apparently.

Except being caught. He's rather bad at that.

"Oh my fuck." Combeferre literally rolls off the bed, taking the blankets with him when Grantaire comes into the room, looking tired but happy enough until he spots Courfeyrac.

"You have come drying on your chest," Grantaire says.

"Yeah," Courfeyrac acknowledges.

"Do you normally masturbate fully naked with your bed curtains open?" Grantaire wonders as he tugs off his tie and heads for his own dresser, tossing his sketchbook onto his bed.

Courfeyrac shrugs at him. "It's relaxing."

"And how relaxing is the rugburn Combeferre's getting on his ass?"

"It's not too bad," Combeferre says, hidden by Courfeyrac's bed. "Having a good afternoon, Grantaire?"

"Not as good as you." He changes his shirt, the one he's wearing covered in paint, no doubt from the art class he takes several days a week. He grabs his sketchbook again, not looking in their direction, and says, "Have fun," as he leaves the room.

"I thought you locked the door," Courfeyrac says, rolling over to look over at Combeferre, sprawled out on the ground with the blankets twisted around him.

"I did," Combeferre says. "We must not have heard him unlock it."

Combeferre sits up, running a hand through his hair, and Courfeyrac leans over to kiss him and adds, "We should probably get cleaned up."

"Before someone else walks in," Combeferre agrees. "Good idea."

When they head to the common room, hand in hand, Cosette and Éponine are still with Joly and Bossuet, only Marius and Grantaire have joined them. Feuilly and Bahorel must be off somewhere, no doubt causing trouble or… doing much of the same that Courfeyrac and Combeferre just finished with. Either one he doesn't really want to think hard on.

Enjolras will be here soon, he knows, bringing his school work with him to work on. Until then, Courfeyrac kisses Combeferre's cheek and nods towards the couch while he goes and stands behind Grantaire's arm chair, leaning down until his feet are lifting up from the ground so he can whisper, "Come talk to me for a moment?" in Grantaire's ear.

"Considering what I walked in on ten minutes ago, I'm reluctant to ever be alone with you again," Grantaire says. "I've seen what you do one-on-one."

Courfeyrac rolls his eyes, bumping Grantaire's head with his shoulder. "Please?" he whines. "It'll be quick, promise."

"Is that what you said to Combeferre beforehand?"

"I still know what you have in that sketchbook," Courfeyrac warns, eyes narrowing.

"No, you don't," Grantaire says happily. "I burned it."

"Enjolras would believe me anyway."

"You wouldn't."

"Come talk to me for a moment."

"Your boyfriend," Grantaire says to Combeferre, "is a blackmailing prick, just so you know."

"I know what I signed up for," Combeferre responds, unperturbed.

Grantaire sighs and stands up, following Courfeyrac down the hall and back to their room, where his bed has been made and everything looks as though nothing ever happened. Grantaire crosses his arms over his chest the moment they're shut inside and asks, "What?"

"So, here's the thing," Courfeyrac says, trying to look sincere and honest. "We, which is to say, myself and Jehan and Éponine and partially Combeferre, have decided that the best way to get you and Enjolras together is very simple. A date."

"A date," Grantaire repeats, cocking an eyebrow.

"Yep. So all you have to do is ask Enjolras out and… viola. You two are together and happy and our work is done."

Grantaire looks at him for a long, long time, with a hard, cold expression on his face, and then he burst into laughter, gripping Courfeyrac's arm to hold himself up right. "Yeah," he blurts, still laughing. "Yeah, I'm totally going to do that. Right after I transfigure myself into a donkey and jump off the fucking Astronomy tower. Christ, did you honestly think I would agree to that? I might be a glutton for punishment but even I'm not that stupid."

"You're not stupid," Courfeyrac says fiercely, "and it's not a bad idea."

"You're right, you're right." Grantaire nods, releasing his arm. "It's not a bad idea. It is the worst idea. Are you kidding me, Courfeyrac? No way. No way."

"But—"

"No."

"Enjolras said he would go out with you if you asked him first!"

"Of course he did," Grantaire sneers. "I'm so sure. I love you, I do, and you're a wonderful person, you are, but you are so not above lying to get your plans to fall into place, okay? And I'm not falling for it or putting myself out there for him to shoot me down. It's not worth it."

"The chance of him saying yes isn't worth it?" Courfeyrac challenges.

"It would be if there was a chance, but there's not." Grantaire's tone leaves no room for argument. "No, Courfeyrac. It's not happening. Let it go."

"You're just as stubborn as he is," Courfeyrac grumbles sullenly. "You two really are made for each other."

"I'm not falling for your tricks the way everyone else did," Grantaire says with a roll of his eyes. "It's not the end of the world. You got everyone else together, who cares if you struck out once?"

"It's not a trick," Courfeyrac promises. "I wouldn't do that to you."

"I would believe that," Grantaire says, "under any other circumstances. But the chances of you cruelly lying to me are much more likely than Enjolras ever saying he'd agree to go out with me. I'm sorry, Courf, I really am, but I won't do it. I can't."

Courfeyrac sighs, resigned. "Okay," he says. "I get it."

"Thank you." Grantaire pats his arm awkwardly. "That all?"

"Yeah," Courfeyrac says, nodding and reaching out to fluff Grantaire's ridiculous hair. "That's all. Sorry."

"Don't be." Grantaire pinches his cheek. "Come on, Éponine was about to bring out a ball to play a bit of indoor Quidditch."

"Joly had a fit last time."

"Joly is distracted by Bossuet's tongue down his throat. And it's not his common room, is it?"

Courfeyrac laughs, following him out the door, but he isn't giving up. Just because Enjolras and Grantaire are stubborn doesn't mean he's going to let them ruin this. Grantaire won't do it, he knows that, and Enjolras said he wouldn't, either, so they'll just have to figure something else out. With Combeferre's help, they might actually be able to do it.

 

o|o

 

Three days later Courfeyrac sits at breakfast as a package falls into his lap. He unwraps the pack from his mum, handing out cookies instantly to all of their friends, and it's easy to forget about helping Enjolras and Grantaire when everyone else is in such a good mood. Valentine's day is coming up so soon, and all the couples are happy. Marius and Cosette are, as always, side by side and doing their adorable subtle flirting thing; Joly sits in Bossuet's lap, as if there's not more than enough room at the bench for him to sit; Bahorel has a hickey the size of Spain on his neck, and Feuilly smugly pokes at it every time he looks away. There isn't any bickering or awkward stiffness. Everything is as it should be.

Almost. Enjolras waves off his chocolate chip cookie with hardly a glance. He's been frowning down at his breakfast for the last ten minutes, and Courfeyrac truly doesn't know what's wrong with him until the doors to the Great Hall open and Grantaire comes in. He brightens considerably, sitting up straight and fixing his hair in a way Courfeyrac has never seen him do, almost nervously.

"I'm really fucking late," Grantaire says, out of breath, "but I had to run here to show you something."

"Show us what?" Cosette asks kindly, truly interested.

"Sorry, not you," Grantaire corrects. "Enjolras. I want to show you something."

"Keep it your pants, dude," Bahorel mutters to Feuilly, who covers his mouth to hide a laugh until Courfeyrac elbows him in the ribs.

"Why did I choose to do this with an audience?" Grantaire groans, pulling out his wand. "Whatever, it doesn't even matter. Just— watch, okay?"

"Okay," Enjolras says, watching.

Grantaire takes a deep breath, moving his wand, and says firmly, "Expecto Patronum."

"Oh," Jehan says instantly.

"Pretty," Cosette coos.

The bird, smaller than Combeferre's Patronus with a sleeker body, flies around Enjolras for a moment before disappearing with a poof that leaves Grantaire grinning beautifully and Enjolras looking at him in awe. Courfeyrac claps and suddenly everyone at their table, not just their friends but their housemates, too, is clapping along with him.

"I perfected it last night," Grantaire explains in a rush, looking embarrassed, "and I wanted to show you first, but I fell asleep and then I woke up late and— I just wanted to thank you. I wouldn't be able to do it without you."

Enjolras seems to find himself, shaking his head to clear his mind. "Of course you could have," he dismisses. "I didn't do anything but encourage you. It's all you, Grantaire."

"No, seriously," Grantaire insists. "I would have given up, but you told me I could do it and— I wanted to be able to prove to you that I could. So thanks. Um." He reaches up, brushing his hair over his eyes as he always does. "That was about it, so."

Grantaire turns, ready to walk off, but Enjolras stands up and catches his hand. Now everyone is watching them, as if the entire Great Hall has frozen, breaths held as to not miss a single word. Enjolras seems to realize this, going a bit red, but Grantaire is lost to everyone but Enjolras, as if there's no one in the world when Enjolras is touching him like this.

Courfeyrac bites the inside of his lip in anticipation, thinking, you can do it, Enjolras. Just fucking do it, come on.

"I want to go out with you," Enjolras blurts, wincing as soon as the words are out. "I meant to ask that much more eloquently, I swear, but I— I do. Would. I would like to go out with you, if you'd say yes."

Slowly, Grantaire looks around, realizing everyone's watching. "Out where?" he asks suspiciously.

"On a date?"

"On a date?" Grantaire repeats. "With you? You're asking me on a date?"

Enjolras takes a step back, eyes narrowing and defenses flying up so fast Courfeyrac can practically see them. "I was," he says, "but clearly the idea is so absurd to you that—"

"Fuck me," Grantaire says, eyes wide. "Not— not literally. Well, literally if you wanted to, I definitely wouldn't say no to that but I— Fuck. Are you sure you meant to ask me that? Are you sure you didn't get the wrong person? Like, look at me, and then look at you. That doesn't even make sense, and I'm not exactly in possession of the greatest personality, am I? Are you under a spell? Did someone— did Courfeyrac slip you love potion? I swear to fuck, Courf—"

"That's a yes," Joly interrupts. "That's a yes, Enjolras, I swear. I'm a very good Grantaire translator. That was definitely an enthusiastic yes."

"It was?" Enjolras raises an eyebrow, asking Grantaire.

Grantaire nods dumbly, mouth closing now that his monologue has been cut short, taking a step backwards and nearly stumbling. Bossuet grabs his sleeve and tugs him down onto the bench and Grantaire goes, bonelessly sliding down onto it only to stare dazedly at nothing, as if he can't quite believe this. He pinches himself once, hard, and grimaces.

"Okay," Enjolras says, retaking his seat.

"Okay," Grantaire echoes.

"This," Combeferre whispers in his ears, making Courfeyrac's eyes flutter shut, "is either going to be the greatest or worst thing, you realize."

"Hoping for the former," Courfeyrac says, instinctually leaning back against him. "Gotta have optimism, gorgeous."

But looking at Grantaire and Enjolras, he knows Combeferre is right. Grantaire looks on the edge of falling into either a pit of gold or a pit of poisonous snakes. Enjolras looks uncertain for once in his life, like he's not quite sure he just did that or if he's even happy about it, but eventually breakfast goes back to normal, most people stop staring, and Enjolras smiles down at his food.

This will be a good thing, Courfeyrac promises everyone silently. It will be.

 

o|o

 

Valentine's Day truly cannot come any sooner.

There are things Courfeyrac loves about Hogwarts, like his friends and great teachers and a headmistress who totally could have expelled at least half of them twice but keeps giving them second chances; like Quidditch and Potions and his common room that feels like a home away from the one he grew up in. But there are parts off Hogwarts that Courfeyrac likes a lot less, and those parts happen to be… homework.

They have a lot of fucking homework this year. And yes, he's a Hufflepuff. He's supposed to be into hard work. And he is hardworking. Give him a task he likes and Courfeyrac will dedicate his whole life to it. He won't stop until he's finished. But when it comes to things he likes less (Transfiguration, for example) he lets the work pile up and up and up until he's staring at a mountain of work and has no idea how to climb it.

So Valentine's Day cannot come any sooner, and when it does he is so thankful for the break and distraction. Even if it means waking up at about nine on a day they don't have class to Marius shaking his shoulder and hissing, "I have a special date with Cosette and I've no idea what to wear."

Courfeyrac groans, rolling out of bed, and finds Grantaire and Bossuet both looking at him expectantly too. "What?" he demands, pushing his hair off his forehead. "Why are you all staring at me?"

"You realize you're the only person in this room who's ever had a Valentine's Day date, right?" says Grantaire, looking irritable and exhausted, as if he'd spent the whole night awake. Which is very likely, actually.

"We're going on an indoor picnic in the castle, Cosette said," Marius informs him, sounding fretful. "What do you wear to a picnic?"

"Clothes is a good start," Courfeyrac says pointedly, since Marius is in nothing but briefs and matching white socks. "Picnics are casual. Nothing too stuffy. Jeans, a nice shirt. Do your hair the way you did last year on my birthday, it looked great. Not too much cologne, since you'll be eating and you don't want to cake it on and eat sandwiches that taste like it. Compliment her at least three times, but only once on her appearance. You're charming, when you stop worrying. You'll be fine."

Marius nods, taking this all in, and leans down to wrap his skinny arms around Courfeyrac just once before hurrying to get dressed. Then it's Bossuet's turn, the boy in question sitting on the edge of his bed, looking resignedly calm.

"I'm disastrous when it comes to dates," he says sadly. "I want to do something nice, but I don't know what."

"Joly hates surprises," Courfeyrac reminds him, "and he also hates eating at restaurants. Take him down to the kitchens and plan a nice dinner together. They love doing stuff for us and I'm sure they'll be even more willing to help on Valentine's Day of all days, and then while the staff is making your special dinner come to Hogsmeade with everyone else and buy him a few of those lemon lollies he likes. When you get back have a nice dinner alone together in our room and give him a back massage. He likes those, since he's always tense about something."

Bossuet's eyes go wide but he nods instantly. "I need to write that all down," he says. "Thanks."

Finally it's just Courfeyrac and Grantaire, who leans against one of his bed posts casually, as if he doesn't have bags under eyes that are fever bright, as if he's not worrying the hem of his shirt between his finger and totally panicking inside. "I think I might just cancel, honestly," he says with a shrug.

Courfeyrac leans down to pick up the socks he'd taken off in the middle of the night, aiming one perfectly for Grantaire's head. Grantaire, for his part, doesn't even move to swat it away and it hits him in the forehead before falling dejectedly to the ground as Grantaire sighs at it.

"Are you kidding?" Courfeyrac gapes. "You can't cancel! You've been waiting for this date for years!"

"Too much pressure," Grantaire says with another shrug. "It's going to be shit anyway. Might as well cancel it now before he completely hates me and save us both of the trouble and the awkwardness afterward."

"No," Courfeyrac says. "I won't let you do this. Do you know how much it must have taken him to work up to asking you? He wasn't going to do it, but he did. He made the effort and now it's your turn to return the favor. You are not cancelling because you're afraid of things going badly. I won't let you. I'll tape your mouth shut and put you in a fully body-bind if I have to."

Grantaire sighs again, running a hand through his hair. "Why did I agree to this? Valentine's Day is for couples. Enjolras and I? We're not a couple. This is our first fucking date, and we're going to be surrounded by people who have been together forever. It's a bad idea, Courfeyrac. It's a horrible idea."

"It's a great idea. Half the romance is done for you just by going out on Valentine's Day. All you have to do is go with him to Madam Pudddifoot's, let him pay for you because Enjolras is ridiculously loaded and he'll be offended if you don't." Grantaire snorts and Courfeyrac ignores him. "Then ask him to go for a walk with you afterwards, hold his hand, kiss him when you get back to the common room if you both seem into it and he gives you permission. Simple as anything. Foolproof. Absolutely foolproof."

"It can't be that easy," Grantaire argues. "It can't. This is me and Enjolras. We're a walking disaster."

"But it is," Courfeyrac promises. "And if things start to go badly, Combeferre and I are going to be in Hogsmeade too. Come find us and we'll force an impromptu double date on you guys."

"You'll really help if things go badly?"

"Yes, we'll intervene if necessary," Courfeyrac repeats. "If things get awkward or start to go South, Ferre and I will act super surprised to see the two of you and initiate a double date to ease the tension. Just come find us. Make a distress signal and we'll be there. Like I said, it's foolproof. Nothing can go wrong."

"Something is going to go wrong," Grantaire warns him, backing away. "I'm not cancelling, but I'm telling you now. This is going to go fucking bad, I can feel it. I don't know how you've missed it all these years, but I fuck up everything. This isn't going to be any different."

"You're not going to fuck anything up," Courfeyrac promises him. "I'll be there to make sure, just in case, but you're going to be fine, Grantaire. He likes you. Have some confidence in that, if you won't have any in yourself."

"Okay," Grantaire allows, palms raised defensively. "If you say so. But when this all does inevitably fuck up, I'm saying I told you so."

"That's not going to happen," Courfeyrac says confidently.

"We'll see."

With that, Courfeyrac gets out of bed. He doesn't bother going to the prefects' bathroom, since it's too many floors away and it's not like he has a chance of running into Combeferre inside, not at this time of day. He settles for the normal bathroom, the one he's been using for years, and takes a quick shower before drying his hair with a spell and fixing it, trying to change things up to make it special before deciding that it looks best the way it normally does.

Having an excuse to dress is up something Courfeyrac never lets pass him by, and he pulls on a pair of jeans when he's back in his room, his nicest pair with a button up and a matching blazer that brings out the lighter flecks of colours in his dark eyes. When he's ready he looks at himself in the mirror, grinning, and thinks that maybe after they get back to the castle he'll drag Combeferre somewhere secluded to have dessert.

"What time are you meeting Enjolras?" he asks Grantaire, smoothing down his shirt for him. Grantaire has gone more casual, just jeans and a t-shirt under a hoodie that will leave him too cold in this weather but he doubts Grantaire will care much.

"Twenty minutes," Grantaire says, fidgeting a bit. "Fuck."

"Come on," Courfeyrac says, grabbing his arm. "Best to be early. Enjolras is punctual. If you're late he'll be furious."

"Maybe I should be late on purpose, then. Best to get the furious part out of the way early on, because he's going to get mad at me at some point today. Might as well do it before we waste money on lunch."

"Have a bit of faith," Courfeyrac groans.

"I prefer cynicism. One can never be disappointed if they always expect the worst."

Courfeyrac rolls his eyes and tugs Grantaire out of their dormitory, shoving him in the direction of the Slytherin one. "Go," he orders. "I have to meet Combeferre, but you two are going straight to Madam Puddifoot's. We'll be there, too, if you need it. Just… be nice, be charming, and if all else fails, keep your mouth closed."

"That won't make a difference," Grantaire says. "Sometimes I can piss him off just with my eyebrows."

"And that is an incredible power," Courfeyrac says solemnly. "Truly. Now go."

Courfeyrac seems to be the only one not having a panic over Valentine's Day, but that fluttering anticipation is in his stomach the entire way up Ravenclaw tower, even if he isn't particularly worried about things going badly. He has too much faith in himself and Combeferre and their relationship. Years of previous friendship have proven that they know each other and they get along. It's so damn easy to fall into this with him that it's surprising it didn't happen sooner, looking back.

When he reaches the top of the stairs he finds Combeferre waiting for him, only he isn't alone. Enjolras is leaning against the wall, looking petulant as he can, wearing those tight red jeans (oh, poor Grantaire) and a black jacket over them. His hair looks different today, blond locks curling and shining, but there are bags under his eyes to match Grantaire's.

"What are you doing here?" Courfeyrac demands of him. "Grantaire is waiting outside your dormitory for you."

"Combeferre," Enjolras pleads.

"I am not coming with you on your date to give you advice as it goes along," Combeferre says firmly. "You can handle this. You're a grown adult, Enjolras, and you are more than capable in social settings when you deem them worthy of your effort. Try and you won't fail. That's all you have to do. It'll be fine."

"Fine," Enjolras snaps. "I hope the two of you have fun being perfect for each other. It must be so easy for the two of you."

"Was that supposed to be an insult?" Courfeyrac asks as Enjolras stomps down the stairs. "That didn't sound very insulting."

"He's convinced he can't handle it," Combeferre sighs. "He asked me to cancel my date with you so I could accompany him and stop him from ruining this."

"You didn't mention the part where we're going to be there too if they need it?"

"I thought it best to be tough with him," Combeferre admits. "If we enable him he'll leave us to do all the work and the date will go horribly. I don't think he realizes that he could take Grantaire to a trash heap and Grantaire would find it the most romantic thing in the world as long as Enjolras held his hand."

"They're frustrating," Courfeyrac says. "I spent most of the morning convincing Grantaire that he isn't going to screw this up. I don't think I really succeeded, unfortunately."

"You've done what you can, for now." Combeferre wraps an arm around his waist, pulling him in to press a kiss to the top of his hand. "Don't forget that it's still Valentine's Day. You don't have to spend all your time worrying about other people's relationships, do you?"

Courfeyrac leans up to press an apologetic kiss to his lips. "Should we go, then?"

"Yes we should." Combeferre takes his hand. "I've been meaning to tell you all about this book I found in the restricted section about forbidden curses that died out hundreds of years ago after being deemed too potentially dangerous to both the caster and the victim. I'm not sure it's even supposed to be in there. It was hidden behind two larger tomes and it's not in English. It's incredibly fascinating to read about the types of magic out there that are no longer in use."

Fondly, Courfeyrac shakes his head and squeezes Combeferre's hand. "Do you even realize how potentially dangerous you are?"

Combeferre shrugs sheepishly and they spend the entire walk discussing this book of his. The weather is nice, a little chilly for what he's wearing but Combeferre fixes that by taking off his Ravenclaw tie and wrapping it around Courfeyrac's neck for him. It's not even windy, thank goodness, and Courfeyrac's hair survives the walk with minimal damage, and then they're stepping into Hogsmeade and reveling in the way everyone around them seems just as happy as they are, even those who've only come to spend the day with their friends and not a date.

"Where to first?" Combeferre asks, looking around. "Any set plans?"

"I told Grantaire we'd be in Madam Puddifoot's before they got there. Do you want to do that first and when we're sure they aren't going to argue and wind up attacking each other we'll go off and do our own thing?"

Combeferre tugs him towards the shop, holding the door open for him so he can step into the weirdly sweet smelling room. Everything is so, so pink, and Courfeyrac is grinning stupidly from ear to ear as little cherubs throw confetti at them.

"Have I mentioned that Valentine's Day is my favorite holiday?"

"Every single year," Combeferre confirms.

They manage to snag a table in the nearly full shop just before Grantaire and Enjolras arrive, the two of them fighting to hold the door for each other before Enjolras gives up with a huff and walks in first. They find a table as Combeferre gives his order for the two of them and Courfeyrac watches Grantaire and Enjolras closely.

"Enjolras hates it in here," Courfeyrac sighs when the waitress walks away. "Look at him. He wants to burn this place to the ground."

Combeferre looks to where Enjolras is sitting with his back straight and a curl to his lip. Grantaire doesn't seem as disgusted by the setting, more nervous than anything, but neither of them looks very comfortable. "He's not going to stay," Combeferre warns.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean he's not going to stay." And, as soon as Combeferre finishes speaking, Enjolras is out of his seat and tugging Grantaire with him. Over his shoulder, Grantaire shoots them a panicked look. "Should we follow them?"

Courfeyrac hesitates. On one hand, he's truly considering following them around the entire day to make sure things go well. But on the other hand, they're never going to work out if they constantly have people helping them. (Plus, Enjolras takes Grantaire's hand in his and suddenly Grantaire goes from panicked to completely adoring in seconds.)

"No," Courfeyrac says. "Let them go. We'll find them in a bit."

"They'll be fine on their own," Combeferre soothes. "They don't need our help."

"That," Courfeyrac says, "is probably not true, but… we're staying. For now. I doubt they can manage to screw things up too badly in half an hour, right?"

The shop is so relaxing and lovely that Courfeyrac feels almost tipsy when they finally leave, arm in arm with Combeferre and a cloud of confetti following them out the door. He feels giddy from the butterbeer and Combeferre's kisses, and this is the nicest Valentine's Day he's ever had. Combeferre isn't the most romantic person in the world and Courfeyrac would never expect that of him, but he's happy to let Courfeyrac feed him sweets and whisper adoring things in his ear and kiss him whenever he pleases, and that's really all Courfeyrac could ever ask for.

They duck into Honeydukes afterwards, with Courfeyrac getting a few of his favorite chocolates and Combeferre helping himself to a licorice wand. When they step back outside Courfeyrac is flying on a sugar high that leaves him happily tugging Courfeyrac down the street towards Zonko's, just for a minute, and then afterwards he manages to convince Combeferre to take him into the bookstore and also manages to convince him to let Courfeyrac buy him a book, which he does so reluctantly but in the end he's really no match for Courfeyrac's charm and persuasion.

Finally, breathless and crashing from his sugar high, he stops in front of The Three Broomsticks, spotting their friends inside. Feuilly and Bahorel are sitting in a corner alone, with a handful of empty mugs in front of them that definitely held more than butterbeer when full. Grantaire and Enjolras are closer to the window, with Grantaire's back to them and Enjolras thankfully paying too much attention to him to see them watching.

"They're arguing," Combeferre says sadly, eyebrows drawing together.

"What?" Courfeyrac leans against the glass, hands cupped around his eyes. "Are you sure?"

Sure enough, Enjolras' cheeks are furiously red and he's talking quickly, lips moving too fast for Courfeyrac to tell what he's saying but he knows for fact that Grantaire isn't getting a word in edgewise. He cuts off suddenly with a snort, looking haughty, and leans back in his seat with that terribly cold look on his face he sometimes gets that makes even Courfeyrac want to crawl into a hole, and that's his best friend.

Grantaire doesn't fare much better. He stands up, gathering his coat, and walks away from the table. As he leaves he slams the door and several people in the shop look up but Grantaire just keeps walking, shoulders hunched as he heads in the direction of the castle.

"Shit," Courfeyrac groans. "I should—"

Combeferre pins him to the wall beside the window, kissing him roughly and quickly before pulling back. "Go after him," he says. "I'll talk to Enjolras."

"I'm sorry," Courfeyrac sighs. "This isn't how you wanted to spend the day, is it?"

"I spent most of it with you," Combeferre says. "That's exactly how I wanted to spend it. I don't care what we do as long as I'm with you."

"That is so freaking sweet," Courfeyrac groans. "I'm kissing you again when we get back to the castle, okay? I'll meet you there. Wait for me in your room, yeah?"

Combeferre nods, already heading for the door to the shop, and Courfeyrac pushes away from the wall and jogs in the direction Grantaire had gone. It takes him too long to catch up to him and they're nearly halfway to the castle by the time he does.

Instead of slowing down when he hears Courfeyrac approaching, Grantaire's shoulders hunch even more and he moves to the side, leaving more space in the path for Courfeyrac to pass him. Instead he falls into step beside him, hands buried in his pockets.

"All right?" Courfeyrac inquires, trying to sound casual. "I'm sorry Ferre and I weren't there to intervene before things got rough."

"It's fine," Grantaire sighs. "There's nothing you could have done to salvage the date anyway. It was horrible."

"What happened?"

Grantaire lets out a laugh that the wind, picking up now, carries away. "Just what I said would happen. I screwed it up. We were talking about— fuck, it was completely stupid. We were talking about his internship at the Ministry and I said that he didn't seem the type to want to fetch drinks for a bunch of assholes and then we got into a debate about whether it was worth it to kiss ass today in order to persevere tomorrow and he— and he said that my opinion on the subject didn't matter because I have no ambition or desire to go anywhere in life anyway."

Wincing, Courfeyrac says, "He did not."

"Oh, I promise you he did." Grantaire laughs again. "I can't even argue that, can I? So I just… walked out. I told you so, by the way. It was all my fault. I started it; it's not his fault he decided to finish it."

"He had no right to say that to you," Courfeyrac insists. "I'm sorry, Grantaire."

"Don't be." Grantaire waves him off as if his eyes aren't red and rimmed with tears. "It doesn't even matter. I honestly don't fucking care. I knew it was going to happen so it's not like I'm surprised. And hey, I get to be right and you're wrong, so there's that."

"That doesn't really help at all, does it?"

"Not even a little." Grantaire looks at him sideways. "Don't you have a really attractive boyfriend that's wondering where you are?"

"He's talking to Enjolras," Courfeyrac says. "We caught the end of your fight and decided to split up so I could make sure you were okay and he could make sure Enjolras is okay."

"Enjolras will be fine," Grantaire mutters bitterly. "Tomorrow he'll act like this never even happened because nothing gets beneath his skin."

"You do," Courfeyrac argues. "Trust me, you get under his skin better than anyone else I've ever met, including myself."

"I don't really want to talk about it, Courfeyrac," Grantaire says, giving him a pleading look. "Can we just pretend like this never happened, please? I'm already trying to erase the whole day from my memory."

"I'm just— I'm really sorry," Courfeyrac says, feeling guilt wash over him. Grantaire's eyes are sad and horrible to look into, so Courfeyrac keeps looking into them, penance for what he's done. If it weren't for him, none of this ever would have happened. This is all his fault and the last thing he wanted, the very last thing, was to get anyone hurt. And that's exactly what he's done.

"That makes one of us." Grantaire looks suddenly steely and closed off. "I'm glad. At least it's done, right? I can get over him now. It can't work out between us and now that I have proof, I have no excuse to keep being in love with him."

It doesn't really work like that, Courfeyrac thinks. You can't just decide to get over someone. It takes time and sometimes even then it doesn't work as well as you hope. But he doesn't say it, not out loud, not when Grantaire's tears have dried and he looks more pulled together again. Instead he wraps an arm around Grantaire's shoulders and keeps it there the entire walk. Grantaire makes no move to push it away, and Courfeyrac knows that it's more than he deserves. Grantaire has every right to push him away, but he's impossibly grateful that he doesn't.

 

o|o

 

Enjolras doesn't come to Courfeyrac's game.

As two of the most stubborn people Courfeyrac has ever met, Enjolras and Grantaire's determination to avoid each other at all costs has, thus far, proven to be successful. Aside from class, which they can't afford to skip often enough to stay away from each other, the two are never within twenty feet of one another. At breakfast, Enjolras sits with the Slytherins. At lunch, Grantaire sits with the Hufflepuffs. At dinner they both sit at their own tables, one closest to the door, one closest to the front of the room, and keep their backs to each other.

They haven't all hung out as a group since the Disaster Date. If, say, Courfeyrac and Combeferre and Enjolras are together and Grantaire walks into the room, he'll turn on his heel and walk back out. If Enjolras walks into the Hufflepuff dorm to find Grantaire already with Courfeyrac there, he walks out before Courfeyrac can call after him. If one is in the room, the other finds a reason not to be.

So Grantaire comes to Courfeyrac's next game, Hufflepuff vs. Gryffindor, and Enjolras doesn't. They win by an incredible amount but Courfeyrac is too pissed at Enjolras to enjoy it, so fucking livid because Enjolras promised to attend every game, but he's also not. It's his fault they're like this and that means, in turn, that it's his fault that Enjolras missed his game. (He's still mad, he just tries to hide it because he knows it's not fair of him.)

"Does anyone know what happened?" Joly asks the Thursday after the game at dinner, as Enjolras sits, once more, at the Slytherin table, and Grantaire sits near the doors at the Hufflepuff one. "He won't tell me what happened."

Combeferre and Courfeyrac exchange a look, the only two who truly know the details. Everyone knows about the date and knows that it went wrong, but Courfeyrac and Combeferre are the only ones who know what Enjolras said to Grantaire, or why he said it.

"'It's like he knows every doubt I have and feels the need to point it out to me as if I don't already realize it,'" Combeferre had repeated that night when they'd met up in his common room, the two of them curled up in his bed as Combeferre relayed what Enjolras said and Courfeyrac relayed what Grantaire said. "I didn't know he was having doubts about the job and I have a feeling Grantaire didn't, either, but he said what he did and Enjolras got defensive. You know how he is. He'd rather yell at Grantaire than be vulnerable about it for a moment."

"Grantaire's beating himself up over it," Courfeyrac had sighed.

"So is Enjolras." Combeferre paused, running a hand through Courfeyrac's hair. "He's not going to apologize, though. He's too proud for that."

"Grantaire doesn't think there's any point."

"They don't know how to communicate," Combeferre explained. "That's their entire problem."

"No. Their problem is that I thought pushing them together would make things better. I should have stayed out of it. You said it, before all this started. I should have listened."

"I was part of this," Combeferre argues. "And Jehan and Éponine. The blame falls on more than you."

Courfeyrac still doesn't believe that, but he hadn't argued, at the time, knowing Combeferre would only try to reason him out of it. Now, all he says is, "They did what they always do; they hit each other right where it hurts the most and now we're witnessing the aftermath."

"They've been avoiding each other for days," Bossuet says sadly.

"Weeks," Cosette corrects. "Enjolras mopes around the dormitory constantly. It's really sad, honestly."

"I still can't believe they went on a date," Bahorel says.

"Seriously," Feuilly agrees. "I thought we'd be fifty before Enjolras would finally admit that he possibly, maybe, sort of doesn't hate Grantaire completely."

"I wonder what made them do it," Marius says. "It was out of nowhere, wasn't it?"

Guilty, Courfeyrac looks down at his food. Joly says, "What we should be musing is what we're going to do about it," and he looks back up.

"Nothing," Courfeyrac says sharply. "We're not going to do anything."

Everyone looks over at him, shocked, and Courfeyrac shrinks into Combeferre a bit, breathing easier when Combeferre's arm goes around his waist. Across from him, Éponine and Jehan are frowning. Everyone else is gaping.

"We have to do something," Bossuet says. Joly nods his agreement. "Grantaire is really upset over this. We can't stand by as they avoid each other for the last few months we all have together."

Courfeyrac shakes his head. "Trust me, interfering doesn't help. I tried it and now look what's happened."

"What do you mean you tried?" Feuilly asks, eyes narrowing. Of course he'd be the one to call Courfeyrac out.

And Courfeyrac doesn't want to lie, not anymore, not when he hopes letting the truth out will make him feel less terrible. "We," he starts, but then he hastily retracts the word, not wanting to out Éponine and Jehan, too, just because he wants to get it off his chest. "I," he begins again, "had a plan to get them together. It wasn't a very elaborate plan, obviously, but Co— I figured if they agreed to go on a date, everything else would fall into place."

"Why would you do that?" Cosette asks.

Courfeyrac shrugs. "Seemed like a good idea. It worked on the rest of you."

Silence, for a long time. It's Marius who speaks up, surprisingly. "It worked on the rest of us," he repeats. "How do you mean?"

"I mean my plan to get you and Cosette together worked," Courfeyrac points out. "I sent you all those gifts, pretending to be her, and in the end that's why you asked her out, isn't it?"

Marius' eyes go wide and he turns to Cosette. "You didn't send those?"

"No," she says, shaking her head. "I was jealous. I thought someone else had."

"Oh, God," Marius breathes. "Courfeyrac."

"You weren't really trying to make Combeferre jealous, were you?" Joly says, realization dawning in his eyes. "When you came to me and asked for help to make Jehan jealous, I thought you were really looking to make Ferre jealous but you were too embarrassed to admit it. But that's not what happened, is it? You were trying to make Bossuet jealous to get us together, weren't you?"

"It worked," Courfeyrac reminds him. "You're welcome?"

"And he's the reason I told Feuilly how I felt. He talked me into it," Bahorel adds, pointing an accusatory finger at Courfeyrac. "You've been meddling in everyone's relationships, haven't you?"

"Not alone," Éponine says, sitting up in her seat. "He didn't do it alone. I helped."

"As did I," Jehan says. "We were just as involved as he was."

"Not true," Courfeyrac argues. "It was my idea. It was my idea to start this all, and it's my fault that Grantaire and Enjolras won't even sit on the same side of the room anymore."

"But why?" Marius wonders. He doesn't look betrayed, the way he should, but he does look truly baffled. "Why would you do any of this?"

Courfeyrac shifts awkwardly in his seat, Combeferre's arm falling away from him. "Because you were all frustrating," he says, forcing a laugh. "I mean, someone had to do something, right?"

"We've all been frustrating for years," Joly argues. "Something had to spur you on. There must be a reason why you finally decided to do something about it."

"Not… not really," Courfeyrac says, feeling alone suddenly, despite Combeferre's hand reaching for his. All of his friends are staring at him like he's a stronger they don't quite understand and it hurts. "I mean, maybe."

"Go on," Cosette prompts.

Courfeyrac runs a hand through his hair, not caring that he's messing it up. Suddenly the room seems too small, pressing down on him, and his words are more than a little thick when he says, "We're graduating in three months. Three months and we're all going our separate ways. Hogwarts has always brought us together, but after this it won't anymore. I guess I thought that… If Grantaire and Enjolras are together, Grantaire won't be going anywhere. And if Grantaire is still around, Joly and Bossuet, you two will still be around, too. And Marius isn't going anywhere, I won't let you, Marius, I'm sorry, and if you and Cosette are together then she'll always be around, too. And if Cosette is around, Éponine will be around. And if Éponine is around, Jehan isn't going anywhere. And if Jehan is around, Bahorel will be around, and if he and Feuilly are dating than Feuilly will be around, too."

He pauses, takes a deep breath. "I thought that if you were all together, we'd have more of a reason to stay together. I thought that this way there'd be less of a chance of us all drifting apart and you guys… and you guys leaving. Me. Leaving me."

It's the first time he's really thought it through, but the words are all true. The talk of the future, all of it, it drives him nuts. It makes him sick. It's not a fear of his life, of getting a job and figuring out what he's going to do. He wants to be an Auror, he does. He's wanted to be one since he was six, but he's stopped thinking about it lately because thinking about that means thinking about the future, and thinking about the future means his friends potentially leaving him.

"I'm sorry," Courfeyrac offers. "I know I shouldn't have gotten involved. It wasn't right of me. I just thought— I thought maybe I could make sure everyone was happily together and none of you were going to leave."

Embarrassed, Courfeyrac avoids nine pairs of eyes burning into him, pushing the potatoes in his soup around with his spoon. He feels stupid, having said that all. Only unlike Enjolras, who gets defensive when his inner feelings are revealed to the world, he instead wilts, wishing his seat would swallow him up whole and never spit him back out.

Until, out of nowhere, someone hugs him. And then another. And then he's being crushed into that seat by all his friends, even Bahorel climbing over the table to squash him in a bear hug.

"We're not going anywhere," Éponine tells him, eyes surprisingly wet. "You really thought we'd all leave you?"

"I just thought we wouldn't have a reason to be together anymore," Courfeyrac says lamely. "Without school to bring us together, I didn't know what would."

"Maybe the fact that we're all codependent?" Combeferre teases gently. "We could never leave each other. Even if we're all perusing other jobs, going in separate directions, we're always going to come back to each other."

"Always," Joly adds. "We'd be lost without each other."

"But over the summer all we do is send letters," Courfeyrac reminds them. "And you all know that I—"

"Hate sending letters," they all drone.

"We know," Cosette says. "But that's only because we're catching up with our families. When we're not seeing each other every single day for several months, we're going to want to do more than send letters. I have a feeling we'll be seeing each other just as often."

"I won't be able to go a week without you guys," Bossuet says.

"We'll all be of age and able to apparate," Jehan puts in. "We'll be able to be at each other's sides in no time. In fact, I have a feeling we're going to get sick of each other sometimes, we'll be together so often."

"No one is going to leave you or anyone else," Marius promises him.

"Even if I have to drag everyone together," Combeferre adds. "I'll do it, if I must. Don't think I won't. And between birthdays and holidays we're all going to want to be together anyway."

"And most of us are going to be working in the same building," Éponine points out. "The Ministry isn't that big, Courfeyrac."

Courfeyrac bites his lip, despair and heartache giving way to joy and cheer. "You all promise?"

"Promise," the all agree.

"So I guess I, uh, didn't need to sneak around all year and play matchmaker?"

Joly and Bossuet exchange a look, and Feuilly goes a little red before clearing his throat and saying, "I'm kind of glad you did, though. If not, a lot of us would still be pretending not to be in love with each other."

"You did good," Joly admits, "even if you were very underhanded about it."

"I like the scarf you gave me a lot," says Marius, "in any case."

"But I screwed up Grantaire and Enjolras."

"Enjolras and Grantaire screwed up themselves," Éponine dismisses. "That had nothing to do with you and everything to do with them being stubborn fools."

"We do have to fix that, though," Jehan sighs. "We can't let this go on until the end of the year. If it does, the two of them will continue to avoid each other for the rest of their lives. If we don't fix it now we'll never have a chance to."

"We definitely have to do something," Joly agrees. "I can't stand seeing the two of them like this."

"You're going to help?" Courfeyrac asks, stunned.

"We might as well all help," Cosette says with a shrug. She suddenly grins. "You're not the only one who can play matchmaker, you know. I think I'd be rather good at it."

"What's the worst that can happen?" Bahorel says. "We screw it up and they avoid each other forever? Oh, wait."

"I think we should do that group hug thing again," Courfeyrac says, holding out his arms. "This definitely feels like a group hug moment."

"How about we just plan what we're going to do about those two idiots instead?" Feuilly proposes.

And that's what they do, with Enjolras and Grantaire none the wiser as they sit at their separate tables, pouting and brooding themselves into a fit. Everyone offers different suggestions, with someone else shooting them down every time until the tables around them start to clear and Enjolras leaves the room, first, followed by Grantaire a while enough later that they aren't in fear of bumping into each other.

"The problem," Combeferre interrupts, speaking over everyone, "is that they refuse to talk to each other."

"They refuse to go near each other," Bahorel corrects.

Combeferre waves a hand as if it's all the same to him. "We need to figure out a way to get them alone, until they have no choice but to deal with this and talk out what went wrong. I know Enjolras still feels for him, and I refuse to believe that Grantaire's managed to get over Enjolras so quickly. If they talk it out, they might fix things themselves."

"But again, they refuse to go near each other," Feuilly says.

"So let's find a way to make sure they have no choice," Joly says deviously. "Any ideas?"

"Full body-bind and lock them in a closet?" Bahorel suggests.

"Full body-bind and lock them in an abandoned classroom?" Feuilly suggests.

"Fully body-bind and—"

"How about we not curse them into it, maybe?" Combeferre says. "Can we get on the same page about them having some choice in the matter, please?"

"What if we get them stuck in detention?" Cosette voices, her head propped on the palm of one hand. "They'd be stuck alone together for days, so we wouldn't have to worry about one hour together being enough."

"We'd have to get them both in trouble, though," Courfeyrac says. "Are we willing to do that?"

"Did you or did you not pretend to be in love with Joly for like a month to make me incredibly jealous?" Bossuet asks innocently. "Are we really taking the moral high ground now?"

Courfeyrac smiles sheepishly. "Point taken. It has to be something bad enough to get them stuck in detention for a while, but not bad enough to risk expulsion or any serious repercussions."

Everyone goes quiet again as they all think, mulling over their options. Occasionally someone voices a suggestion and everyone goes into detail about why that wouldn't work, with too many ideas being possible grounds for Grantaire and Enjolras to get expelled, or, in Bahorel's case, killed.

"What if we find a way to make sure they're both out of their dormitories after curfew?" Marius says. "If we could be sure of it, maybe have them both meet in relatively the same area and warn a professor that they'll be there, planning some sort of prank or something, they'd definitely get detention. The planning of a prank will get them in more trouble than simply being out past curfew, but since they never had time to actually do it whoever catches them can't really give them much trouble for it. Detention without the possibility of further punishment."

Courfeyrac looks to Combeferre, the one who's been shooting everyone else down the most, knowing the most logical reasons why their plans won't work. He considers for a moment, adjusting his glasses and sucking adorably on his bottom lip, before he nods, just once. "That could work."

"How are we going to get them to meet at the same place after curfew, though?" Bossuet asks.

Courfeyrac grins, looking to Éponine. "I think I have an idea," he says. "I'm going to need your brother's help, though."

Éponine groans at him. "Please don't get my brother expelled. Let him do it himself in a year or two."

"I won't," Courfeyrac promises. "I just need him to be bait, is all."

"I'll do it!" Gavroche says, appearing from under the table. He squeezes between Bossuet and Bahorel, stealing a tart off the table. "You all talk really loudly, you know? It's not my fault I could hear you from the Gryffindor table and had to come investigate. I'm only curious. Can't help it. I'm eleven."

"See?" Éponine says. "He really doesn't need our help getting in trouble."

"That's exactly why he's perfect for this," Courfeyrac says darkly. Well, as darkly as he can manage, anyway.

 

o|o

 

Weeks pass before they have time to enact their plan. Hufflepuff is currently in the lead to winning the Quidditch cup and Courfeyrac can't afford for them to lose that all by botching the game in May against Slytherin. He's running his team good and hard, but none of them are complaining. If anything, what Combeferre said to him at the beginning of the year has proven true: they all seem determined to impress him and make him happy, and if that means having practice as often as he possibly can, no one protests.

More often than not Enjolras comes to their practices to make up for missing the game. No matter how many times Courfeyrac insists that he's forgiven and it's not necessary, Enjolras is up in the stands, sometimes accompanied by Combeferre or occasionally Feuilly, doing work more than actually paying attention but still there. It's the thought that counts, really.

With their Potions assignment done (Combeferre passes with flying colours, unsurprisingly, though Courfeyrac feels as though he can take a little credit for that) he's back to doing actual work in that class too, and said work continues to get harder and harder. Their N.E.W.T.s are quickly approaching and it sure as hell shows in the workload. Courfeyrac can only try his best and hope he gets the marks he needs to go on to be an Auror.

If not, maybe this Quidditch thing will work out for him. (And if that doesn't work, either, well… he'll figure it out.)

Finally, a Saturday in early April, when Grantaire and Enjolras are still stubbornly avoiding each other despite the weeks – almost seven, to be exact – that have passed, they put their plan into action. Courfeyrac stays up late that night in Combeferre's room with him, whispering jokes in the dark and grinning into Combeferre's shoulder as Joly absolutely loses his shit over them and Feuilly yells at them all, good naturedly and not really serious, to shut up.

When Combeferre's watch readsone, Courfeyrac climbs out of bed, kissing Combeferre goodbye and ruffling Joly's hair on his way past. Their other roommate seriously hates them all, and Courfeyrac promises himself to sneak the guy his favorite dessert from the kitchen tomorrow for keeping him up like this.

He is stealthy on the way back to his own dormitory, knowing that this could all be ruined if he's caught. By some miracle he isn't (well, not really a miracle; Courfeyrac is wonderfully sneaky when he has to be, and he'd probably charm himself out of actually getting in trouble, if it came down to it) and he slips into his dormitory, heading straight to his room as he builds himself up for what he's about to do.

The moment he enters he hurries for Grantaire's bed, pulling back the curtains and shaking him awake. Grantaire bolts upright, reaching for his wand, but Courfeyrac pins his hand down and hisses, "Wake up, I need your help."

"Fucking Christ," Grantaire mutters, running his not-pinned hand over his face. "What time is it, you psycho?"

"One in the morning," Courfeyrac says easily. "I was with Combeferre—"

"Can you wait until morning to go over your kinky sex life with me? Or, you know, until never, maybe?"

Courfeyrac rolls his eyes. Grantaire is so difficult sometimes. "You need to help me. When I was walking back, I spotted Gavroche. He was up to something and I'm scared he's going to get caught."

"Gavroche?" That wakes Grantaire up. "What was he doing?"

"I don't know," Courfeyrac says. "He was by the statue, you know the one by the Great Hall? With the missing nose that got blown off during the battle years ago?"

"No Nostrils Norton," Grantaire says. "Love that guy."

"Of course you do." Courfeyrac sighs at him. "That's really beside the point right now. I think he's planning a prank or something but I tried to talk him out of it and he wouldn't listen to me."

"That sounds like Gavroche," Grantaire says happily. "Little shit."

"Yeah, but he's going to get caught and I'm afraid of what might happen if he is. He looked up to something bad. He knows you better, you've known him through Éponine for years. Do you think you could stop him?"

Grantaire sits up when Courfeyrac releases his hand, looking exasperated. "I'll go bring him back to his dormitory," he says, "but if I get caught and get detention for this, Hogwarts is going to have a new ghost floating around."

Courfeyrac pretends not to look concerned, but that's sort of exactly what he wants to happen. The detention part, not the ghost part. "I'm sure Peeves could use a friend," Courfeyrac says. "Come on, go. Éponine will be furious if he gets in trouble and she knows we could have stopped it."

"I'm going, I'm going." Grantaire takes his wand with him, just in case, and doesn't bother to don any heavier clothing. It's getting warm enough that it's not necessary. "Don't wait up."

"Wasn't going to."

"Asshole."

"Love you."

With Grantaire gone, Courfeyrac crawls into bed just in time for Marius and Bossuet to sit up. "So far so good," Bossuet says. "Is Cosette waking Enjolras?"

"Hopefully," Courfeyrac says. "She said she would. Do you think they'll realize we set this up?"

"No," Marius says calmly. "Cosette and I were having a romantic night in the Astronomy Tower and on our way back we ran into Gavroche getting up to mischief by the noseless statue. She left me to walk back here on my own so she could hurry and ask Enjolras to help, since he's Head Boy and she doesn't want Gavroche to get in trouble. I would never lie about that. I'm a terrible liar. I blush and stutter too much when I try."

Courfeyrac blinks at Marius' face in the dark light of his own wand, looking innocent as anything aside from the smirk. "Damn," he says, impressed. Then, "And they're going to see Gavroche, too, before he puts on the invisibility cloak, that way they'll never think we had something to do with it. That cloak is going to work, right?"

"I spent three galleons on it," Bossuet says. "It better work."

But with Bossuet's luck, Courfeyrac isn't all that faithful, honestly. He just hopes that Gavroche can run very fast is he has to.

Yawning, Courfeyrac climbs into bed, knowing that there's no use staying up. He'll hear Grantaire come in, and it likely won't be for a while. If they're caught, he'll have to have a meeting with the headmistress. If he isn't, then there's really no point for Courfeyrac to be awake anyway because there's nothing they'll be able to do about it until tomorrow.

He falls asleep with his fingers crossed.

 

o|o

 

Courfeyrac awakes to complete silence, which is… odd. Despite hating the early mornings, Courfeyrac usually wakes up before everyone else. His internal clock is set to give him enough time to get ready and have breakfast every morning, and usually that means Marius is still asleep, Bossuet is still asleep, and Grantaire is definitely asleep.

Silence means the opposite of that. Silence means no snoring and no snoring means he's either alone or the last awake. He sits up, rubbing at his eyes, and realizes it's the second one. Definitely not alone, but everyone else is awake. And Grantaire is lying on his bed without even using the pillows, straight as a board. Bossuet and Marius are watching him.

"What's… going on?" Courfeyrac asks warily, looking at each of them in turn.

"He's been like that for an hour," Bossuet says with a frown.

"No, he moved once," Marius argues. "I think. I saw him twitch. I definitely saw him twitch."

From his bed, Grantaire makes a pitifully distressed sound without moving an inch. Courfeyrac is still half-asleep with his brain only partially working and foggy, and his limbs not quite cooperating yet when he slips out of bed, grabbing his side table to keep himself upright before making his way to Grantaire's bed. He bumps into it with his legs and collapses beside him, inspecting Grantaire's face.

"My whole life is ruined," Grantaire says, eyes blank and wide open.

"Did they— Are you in trouble?" Fuck, if they got him expelled Courfeyrac is … he's not really sure, actually, what he is going to do, but definitely something. Go confess the truth to their headmistress, beg her to expel him instead, maybe.

"Detention," Grantaire says, still staring unseeingly up at the ceiling. "Four times a week until the end of the year. All of that for just being out of bed. They thought we were up to something more and wouldn't listen when we said we weren't."

Courfeyrac looks to Bossuet and Marius, both who suddenly grin. "But why is your life ruined?" Courfeyrac asks, since they apparently forgot about that part of the story.

"Enjolras," Grantaire groans. He turns, looking into Courfeyrac's eyes like a man sentenced to death and pleading for his life. "He, uh. He was there too. Apparently Cosette sent him. We— we have detention together. Four times a week. Until the end of the year." He closes his eyes. "I can't do this."

Courfeyrac takes one of Grantaire's hands in both of his. "You can," he insists. "It won't be that bad."

Grantaire jerks away from him, rolling out of bed. "I can't even look at him," he snaps. "How am I supposed to spend that much time with him, most likely alone? Unless someone else has detention every night, we're going to be alone. That's not something I can handle."

When Courfeyrac tries to say something else encouraging, Grantaire waves him off and slips out of the room, softly closing the door behind him. Courfeyrac wishes he would have slammed it at the very least; if he were angry it'd be easier to deal with. Instead he's just… heartbroken and sad.

"I really hope this works," he sighs, smoothing out Grantaire's blankets in front of him, absently wondering if he's causing more damage than good at this point.

"It will," Bossuet says. "Probably."

Courfeyrac gives him a look that hopefully conveys just how unhelpful that was before getting off Grantaire's bed to get ready for class. After his shower he feels less sick about the whole thing, convincing himself under the hot spray of water that this will be fine. Everything will work out. Even Combeferre had faith in this plan; that has to mean something, right?

Grantaire doesn't sit with them at breakfast which means Enjolras does. He falls into his seat, looking half-dead and half-murderous, his hair a wild mess and his lips bitten raw. Courfeyrac panics and looks to Combeferre, who rubs his back soothingly and asks, "Bad night, Enjolras?"

"Given the workload we're going to be facing in the upcoming months, giving a student four days of detention a week until the end of year is violating something. There's no possible way I can be expected to waste several hours a night that I need for studying and completing the work given to me in detention. This is an injustice and I won't stand for it."

"Detention?" Combeferre asks innocently. "What do you mean?"

Instead of answering, Enjolras curls back his lip and snarls. Joly, sitting on his other side, discreetly scoots closer to Bossuet.

"Well that was vaguely terrifying," Éponine says, taking her seat across from them. "Who has your panties in a twist, Enjolras?"

"No one," Enjolras says, red in the face. "No one has my— I don't—" He stands up abruptly, abandoning his food. "I need to get ready for class."

"You don't have class for over an hour," Courfeyrac reminds him. All that earns him is a raised finger and a stiff back as Enjolras leaves the room, walking straight past where Grantaire sits at the Hufflepuff table without acknowledging his existence in any way. "Does the plan allow for the possibility of them killing each other?"

"No," Combeferre says solemnly. "I tend not to include murder in most of my plans, unfortunately."

"Weak," Éponine mutters.

Combeferre snorts fondly and Courfeyrac is glad for him and the way he doesn't allow himself to dread on the the worst case scenario. Combeferre thinks the plan will work, and Combeferre is rarely wrong. They just have to have faith in it, is all. And, if all else truly fails, at least they tried. That's better than nothing, right?

Courfeyrac hopes it is, but he's not exactly sure. At least Transfiguration (he can't believe he's thinking this) is a nice break from worrying about his friends. He has to pay too much attention or he'll get lost, and Combeferre would do a lot of things for him but he won't actually do Courfeyrac's work for him, sadly. He'll help, but Courfeyrac still has to put in the effort, so he pushes Enjolras and Grantaire from his mind and listens intently as their professor drones on.

Potions is awkward. There's a chill in the air the moment Enjolras walks in, and Grantaire sits at the front of the room for once, as far away from him as possible. They don't even glance in each other's direction but Courfeyrac has no doubt that they're aware of each other.

During lunch Enjolras is gone and Grantaire goes over the details of what happened last night with all of them. Apparently they arrived just in time for Gavroche to disappear under the cloak and hurry away, assuring that the neither Enjolras nor Grantaire are suspicious of them planning this and tricking them. The moment Grantaire had laid eyes on Enjolras he'd frozen, and next thing he knew they were being hauled into the headmistresses room, where Enjolras had gotten snippy, as he's wont to do when spoken down upon by people of authority.

"So now we have detention together tonight," Grantaire finishes, "and tomorrow night. And the next night. Until the end of the fucking year."

"Maybe it won't be so bad," Bossuet says to him, looking hopeful, but the words do nothing to convince Grantaire.

"I think we should be there, afterwards," Courfeyrac says later, once Grantaire has excused himself with some half-assed explanation, leaving the table and the room. "Make sure everything's okay."

"You two take Enjolras," Joly says. "We'll make sure Grantaire's alright. Compare notes afterwards."

"That's a good idea," Combeferre agrees.

"These are our friends," Courfeyrac says, "not a science experiment."

"Normally I wouldn't argue that," Combeferre teases, "but given that it's Enjolras and Grantaire, I'm going to have to point out that they're rather close to the same thing."

Courfeyrac shakes his head, amused, but he has to admit that making sure they're both alright afterwards is a good idea. They meet up with Enjolras after class, spending most of the day in the Slytherin dormitory since Grantaire never goes in there and Enjolras is always there lately, and then he meets Combeferre afterwards, outside the common room door around the time Enjolras should be back from detention.

They probably should not be kissing while waiting for him. That is—probably something they should not be doing.

"Are you kidding me?" Enjolras snaps. "Can I put in a formal request that the two of you not do that in front of me, ever?"

"What about at our wedding?" Courfeyrac inquires. "Are we allowed to kiss in front of you then?"

"Kissing does tend to be a part of most wedding ceremonies, depending on the religion involved and the choices of the participants," Combeferre adds.

Enjolras rolls his eyes and tries to shoulder them out of the way, but Combeferre is ridiculously strong when he wants to be and he blocks the door, refusing to be moved. "Have you come to make sure we didn't kill each other?" Enjolras demands. "Because if so, you can rest easily tonight knowing that I haven't removed most of Grantaire's organs from his body."

"I'm concerned by the use of 'most'," Courfeyrac says with a frown. "Was it bad?"

Enjolras glares at him, arms crossed over his chest. "We were forced to clean every statue on the sixth floor," Enjolras deadpans. Courfeyrac goes to say that isn't so bad when he adds, "Without magic."

"Just the two of you?" he asks.

"I don't want to talk about it," Enjolras hisses. "I don't want to talk about it, I don't want to talk about him or to him. I don't even want to be near him, but that seems unavoidable. I'm in an exceptionally bad mood right now and I don't want to fight with the two of you and make it worse, so please move out of my way or I'm going to take out my wand and curse you, Combeferre, so help me I will do it."

Courfeyrac pulls Combeferre out of the way and Enjolras, without another word, enters his common room, not looking back. The door shuts between them and Combeferre heaves a sigh in his arms that Courfeyrac feels through his entire body.

"That was bad," Courfeyrac says awkwardly.

"Not as bad as it could have been, though," Combeferre says. "It'll get better. The more time they have to heal their wounds after what happened, the better things will get. Enjolras is stubborn but he isn't unreasonable. Things will work out. They have to. At this point we're not trying to salvage a relationship; we're trying to save a friendship.."

Courfeyrac nods, knowing he's right. No matter how much they bicker and act like they don't care about each other, Enjolras and Grantaire are friends. Right now they're no more than two people who can't stand each other. They have to fix their friendship, at the very least.

 

o|o

 

There is no progress on the Grantaire and Enjolras front during their first week of detention. There is no progress on the Grantaire and Enjolras front during their second week of detention… or third. Every night Enjolras returns in a bad mood, snapping on everyone in sight and disappearing into his room without so much as a goodbye. And every night, when Courfeyrac gets back to his common room, Grantaire's bed curtains are closed and he refuses to open them.

Enjolras stops attending each of Courfeyrac's practices and, aside from Friday night, he rarely spends time with all of them anymore. Courfeyrac misses him, but on the rare days that he is around he's in a terrible mood no matter what Courfeyrac or Combeferre or anyone else tries to do to help.

Grantaire isn't much better. He's quiet, though. Where Enjolras is snippy and irritable, Grantaire is silent and sullen. The two of them make Courfeyrac's heart hurt and he hopes they overcome this soon.

With May comes beautiful, warm weather, and Courfeyrac starts scheduling practices three times a week, when he can manage to book the pitch. His friends are much more willing to sit outside in the nicer weather and it's a rare day when at least two of them aren't in the stands, watching the practice or basking in the sun that occasionally slips through the clouds.

N.E.W.T.s are brought up almost daily in every class, with their professors beginning to go over what they should expect from their evaluations. They've all sat through their O.W.L.s, though, so it's not as if they haven't done it before. But there's a bit more pressure this time, with their future hanging over them at all times, heavy and foreboding. There is more at stake this year than ever before, and everyone seems to realize this. Stress is already beginning to take its toll on most of the seventh years and it's not even June yet.

Unfortunately Courfeyrac has the stress of school work and the stress of Quidditch bearing down on him, but he can handle it. He can handle it with a sunny smile and a positive attitude, because Courfeyrac isn't the type to let himself get lost in worry. After that first game, his nerves settled and he's determined, now. They're going to win the Quidditch cup whether it kills him or not. If not for him than for his team, for his house. The points won from the game could put Hufflepuff in the lead for the House Cup, too.

That thought is what keeps Courfeyrac going in high spirits. It'll be so, so worth it.

"You have to beat Slytherin by at least one hundred points," Combeferre informs him the day before his final game of the year as they wait outside the Slytherin dormitory, "and you have to hope that Ravenclaw doesn't beat Gryffindor by more than two hundred or they'll knock you out of the winnings."

Courfeyrac nods. "We can do it," he says. "And we're better than Ravenclaw. No offense, gorgeous, but we kicked your team's ass."

"We put up an admirable fight," Combeferre argues. "You just happened to be better. Slightly."

"Slightly?" Courfeyrac raises his eyebrows.

"Slightly," Combeferre says firmly, kissing him briefly. "Don't get a bigger head than you already have."

"Hey." Courfeyrac touches his hair. "It's not my head, it's this beautiful mane."

"Don't be vain."

"I'm not vain, I'm just aware."

"Are you two going to be waiting here every night?" Enjolras asks, appearing behind him.

Courfeyrac turns around, ready to say that yes, they will be, but the faint grin on Enjolras' face makes him pause. "You look… less murderous than usual," he comments, putting a hand on his hip. "What happened?"

"Nothing happened," Enjolras says, stifling his grin. "Am I not allowed to be in a vaguely good mood?"

"Not lately," Courfeyrac says. "You've been pissy as hell. No offense."

"Offense still taken," Enjolras says with a roll of his eyes. "Can you move out of the way? It's late. I'd like to practice my spell for Defense Against the Dark Arts before class tomorrow and get to bed at a reasonable time."

"Not until you tell us what happened."

Enjolras looks to Combeferre, eyebrows raised. "Can't you do something about him?"

"No," Combeferre says. "I'm his boyfriend, not his owner."

"And you're avoiding the topic at hand," Courfeyrac says. "Spill: why are you smiling?"

"I'm not." Enjolras frowns deeply but the harder he tries the more his lips twitch. "Detention wasn't horrible today, alright? Is that what you were hoping to hear? Can I go now, or would you like to continue your interrogation?"

Courfeyrac moves out of the way, letting Enjolras pass, but tonight Enjolras actually says goodbye to them before slipping into his common room.

"That's promising," Courfeyrac says when the door shuts. "Right? That seemed good."

"It did," Combeferre agrees. "Maybe tomorrow we'll all be able to sit together again."

"Maybe," Courfeyrac says, hopeful.

 

o|o

 

Courfeyrac is more than disappointed when, the next morning, Grantaire sits at the Hufflepuff table and Enjolras sits at the Slytherin table once again. He hates them being divided like this. It's not right. Since third year they've all always sat together. It's wrong when someone is away from the group; it's even worse when it's two of them missing.

At lunch, when the same thing happens, he sighs to Combeferre and forces everyone to get out of their seats and join Grantaire at his table. Grantaire looks up at them, eyes narrowed, and shoots a glance to Enjolras behind him, his back facing them all.

"What?" he asks. "Can't I eat alone?"

"Nope," Courfeyrac says happily. "Not anymore."

Grantaire sighs, ripping apart his toast and not eating any of it, but he doesn't get up or ask them to leave so Courfeyrac takes it as a win. Until Enjolras turns around for just a moment and look of hurt crosses his face before he turns his back to them again.

"I'll be right back," Courfeyrac sighs, extracting Combeferre's arm from around him. "Make room for another person."

"Do you want me to come with you?"

Courfeyrac shakes his head. "Nah. I got it."

Enjolras seems to hear him coming because the close Courfeyrac gets the tenser his shoulders become. He puts down his fork just as Courfeyrac comes up behind him, laying a hand on his shoulder and gently squeezing.

"You're better than this," Courfeyrac says. "Come sit with us. You don't have to talk to him, but you don't have to be alone either. Don't spend our last few weeks here hiding out, Enjolras."

Enjolras twists in his seat, giving the table with all of their friends a longing look. Bahorel is throwing things at Bossuet and Joly is scolding him for it; Grantaire is saying something to Marius that makes Cosette laugh and Marius flush; Combeferre and Éponine and Jehan are leaning across the table to talk to each other, and everyone is smiling. There are two seats between Joly and Combeferre waiting for them.

"Not today," Enjolras sighs, turning to look up at him. "Tomorrow, maybe?"

Courfeyrac sighs, sitting down beside him. "I've never known you to be so afraid of something that you've avoided it. You're usually a head-on, take charge kind of person."

"I'm not afraid of anything," Enjolras says, eyes narrowing. "I just don't want to be near him."

"Why, because he hurt your feelings?" Courfeyrac raises an eyebrow. "That's between the two of you, not all of us. It's not as if you've never fought with him before."

"This is different," Enjolras argues. "We weren't on a date those other times."

"Is that what this is about?" Suddenly it all makes a lot more sense. "It's not about the argument, is it? He's wounded your ego, hasn't he?"

"I've never—" Enjolras cuts off, looking annoyed at himself for how thick those words sounded. "I've never been on a date before," he says lowly, as if afraid of anyone else hearing them. "I wasn't even going to ask him, either, but I hadn't been able to stop myself. And maybe, I'll admit, I had been looking forward to it. I was – I was nervous, honestly, and in the end I was proven right: Grantaire and I are better off staying away from each other. Nothing good happens when we don't."

"That's not true," Courfeyrac says. Enjolras snorts. "It's not. You helped him learn how to do a Patronus, remember? Even Joly and Bossuet couldn't do that."

"I didn't do anything, I've told you this already. It was all—"

"Yeah, yeah, it was all him." Courfeyrac waves him off. "And he helped you with your potion, too. You worked fine together then."

Enjolras opens his mouth to argue but, when he realizes he can't, snaps it back closed. "One time we got along out of a thousand that we haven't—"

"He got you that gift, for Not-Christmas," Courfeyrac continues before Enjolras can stop him. "That took thought and effort. He cares about you."

"The fact that we care about each other isn't up for debate," Enjolras says. "That has nothing to do with our inability to get along. I might like him, yes. I might— I might more than like him, fine. But at the end of the day we're better staying away from each other. That's just how it is."

"That's bullshit," Courfeyrac states. "That's bullshit and you know it."

"No, it isn't."

"Enjolras." Courfeyrac makes an exasperated sound. "Not every relationship works out right away, you know. Sometimes they take effort. Sometimes you have to work for it. And sometimes it's worth it to try even when things fuck up. At the very least you could forgive him. No one says you have to date him, but he's your friend. You know he's your friend, deep down, and he has been for years. Don't throw that away over a shitty date."

"It was a really shitty date," Enjolras says.

Courfeyrac can't help but laugh. "You were both so damn nervous," he says. "I'm surprised you actually survived it."

Enjolras cracks a smile that slips away as soon as it comes. "I wouldn't have said what I did to him if he hadn't started it," Enjolras says quietly, lowering his gaze. "It was a low blow but he— he started it."

"I know," Courfeyrac admits. "You both fucked up and you both need to apologize, but you're not going to fix anything by avoiding each other. You're ostracizing yourself and you're going to regret it in a few months when we've graduated and you look back, realizing you've spent the last days here hiding from Grantaire."

"You may have a point," Enjolras acknowledges. "Can I have one more day?"

"You'll sit with us tomorrow? Promise?"

Enjolras nods. "Tomorrow," he says.

"Okay." Courfeyrac stands up, ruffling Enjolras' hair in a way that he knows bothers him. "If you change your mind, though…"

"I know where you are," Enjolras confirms. "I could find you all with my eyes closed. You're a very loud group."

"We're a very loud group," Courfeyrac corrects. "You're just a bad as the rest of us."

Enjolras doesn't deny it because he can't. He's held too many protests and ranted on top of too many tables to have any grounds to do so and he knows it. Courfeyrac bends down, kissing his cheek before he hurries back to their table and his boyfriend, whose arm goes around him and head rests on top of his shoulder as soon as he sits.

"Everything okay?" Combeferre wonders, speaking in the way he does now, quietly and for Courfeyrac's ears only, lips grazing his neck.

"Yeah," Courfeyrac says. "Everything's okay."

 

o|o

 

That night Courfeyrac wins his game by over two hundred points, putting them far ahead of everyone else. At this rate they have the cup in the bag, but Courfeyrac isn't going to let anyone get too excited until the results of the Ravenclaw vs. Gryffindor game. He does, however, throw the biggest party of the year in their common room, with most sixth and seventh year Slytherins coming despite the fact that Courfeyrac's team just wiped the floor with theirs.

He can't help but notice a certain favorite Slytherin of his missing, though he knows that has more to do with being stuck in detention than Enjolras once again avoiding them all. He's dancing with Combeferre, slow with their arms wrapped around each other despite the quick music, when that particular Slytherin finally shows up, an unreadable look on his face.

"Can I join in?" Enjolras asks when he reaches them, his expression no more readable up close than it was far away. As he speaks, Grantaire enters the room.

"Sure," Courfeyrac says, removing one arm from around Combeferre to let Enjolras into a weird, threeway hug/dance that is as awkward as it is nice. "I've always wanted to try a threesome."

Enjolras makes a face and Combeferre, looking uncomfortable, says, "I'm not quite sure I'm ready to consider something like that at this stage of our relationship. And certainly Enjolras would be my last choice for a third."

"Threesomes wouldn't really be my thing," Courfeyrac admits. "I don't like to share."

"You love to share," Enjolras says. "Particularly, you love to force people to share with you under the pretense that 'sharing is caring'."

"I don't like to share when it comes to Combeferre," Courfeyrac corrects. "Everyone else can get their own nerdy hot guy. This one is in a, hopefully, happily committed relationship."

"Very happily committed," Combeferre says. "Ecstatic, even."

"This is even grosser when I'm touching the two of you," Enjolras complains, breaking their awkward threeway shuffle of a dance. "I just thought I'd come and let you know that I took what you said today to heart, Courfeyrac, and I've apologized."

Courfeyrac's other arm drops from Combeferre's waist as his mouth falls open in shock. "You apologized?"

"To Grantaire?" Combeferre adds, looking just as stunned.

"I can apologize," Enjolras says defensively. "Don't look so taken aback."

"You can," Courfeyrac agrees, "but you don't. Not to Grantaire, anyway."

"Well I did." Enjolras crosses his arms over his chest. "I think it only made things worse."

In the crowd, Courfeyrac searches for Grantaire, trying to spot his shaggy head of hair sticking out of everyone else's. It takes him a moment, standing on the tips of his toes (why is everyone so damn tall?) but he finally does, spotting Grantaire over by Joly and Bossuet, a drink already in his hand. He meets Courfeyrac's eyes instantly, already looking in their direction, and then flicks his gaze to Enjolras, eyes narrowing. He can't hear it but he can see the way Grantaire's shoulders lift and fall quickly with a derisive snort as he looks away and downs his drink.

"What exactly did you say?" Combeferre cautiously asks.

"I apologized for crossing the line after he offended me on our date," Enjolras elaborates. "I told him that it was wrong of me to say what I had, and that I truly don't believe what I said but I'd been angry at the time and lashed out. And then he sort of gaped at me before storming off."

"That's all you said?" Courfeyrac questions. "You're sure?"

"That's all," Enjolras promises, looking confused. "I don't see why he's upset, but we were almost getting along today beforehand. We were cleaning again and he offered to help me finish up my part so we could leave early, and then I apologized and ruined it." He sighs, looking tired. "I don't ever know what to do with him."

"Maybe I could—"

"No." Enjolras firmly shakes his head. "I told you that it's better this way. This is just how we are. The biggest mistake Grantaire and I made was trying to pretend for a moment that we're two people who can actually like each other." He pats Courfeyrac's arm. "Congratulations on the game, by the way. I caught the end of it before I had to get to detention. You were great."

"You're going to walk away dramatically, aren't you?" Courfeyrac sighs.

Enjolras smirks. "You know me so well. Have fun celebrating."

"It's like taking one step forward and two steps back with them," Courfeyrac says to Combeferre when Enjolras is gone.

"They are very difficult," Combeferre agrees. "Unfortunately there's nothing to be done right this moment, and we're supposed to be celebrating. Another dance?"

"Ugh," Courfeyrac groans, unable to fight his grin. "If I must."

Combeferre is a very good dancer.

 

o|o

 

"We should start doing a group study," Cosette says at lunch, as everyone spends more time doing work than eating. Courfeyrac has a Charms essay in front of him, splattered with tomato sauce that he hopes doesn't leave it illegible. "At least one of us excels in each subject. We should help each other, like Enjolras, Combeferre and Courfeyrac do on Friday nights."

"That's a really good idea," Joly says, pointing his fork in her direction. "Defense is killing me. Seriously. I'm not kidding. I break out in hives every time I think about taking our exams for that class." As if to punctuate his words, he scratches are his arm and then shows everyone the red spot left behind. "See?"

"You're going to make it worse, scratching at it like that," Bossuet says, gently taking Joly's hand to stop him, pressing a kiss to his palm.

"It'll have to be between dinner and seven," Enjolras says. He is, thankfully, sitting with them once again. Grantaire is as well, but they're at opposite sides of the group, as far away as they can get from each other. "If not, Grantaire and I will have to miss most meetings."

"That will work," Combeferre says. "I'll make up a schedule, if you'd all like. Figure out which subjects to focus on which nights, and how many nights a week we should all meet up and where."

Courfeyrac grins, propping his chin on his hand. The heat today makes Combeferre's hair staticy and his glasses are resting too far down his nose. He uses his hands to gesture a lot when he talks and it's the most adorable thing Courfeyrac has ever seen, honestly.

"Stop looking at him like that," Enjolras grumbles. "It's worse than the kissing."

Just to bug him, Courfeyrac lays a loud, wet, exaggerated kiss on Enjolras' cheek. When he pulls back Enjolras wipes at his face and rolls his eyes before shooting Grantaire a look. Grantaire isn't looking back, and he seems disappointed by that.

"— tonight, in my common room," Combeferre is saying when Courfeyrac tunes back into him, moving closer so their thighs are pressed together. "Anyone have any issues with that?"

"We could have had these group study sessions in the library," Bahorel says, looking to Enjolras, "but someone had to get us all banned."

"That wasn't my fault," Enjolras says.

"So was," says Courfeyrac.

"It wasn't entirely his fault," Grantaire butts in. "We all could have stopped him. There's a reason he's not the only one banned." Courfeyrac isn't alone in turning to Grantaire with his mouth agape and his eyes wide. Half the table turns and does it and Grantaire shifts in his seat awkwardly. "What? You know it's true."

"Thank you for defending me," Enjolras says with a tentative smile.

"I wasn't," Grantaire says flatly. "I was stating a fact."

Enjolras' smile falters before disappearing completely. He stabs at his food and says, "Right, of course."

On the other side of the table Grantaire jumps and winces, and Éponine glares at him. "Did you just kick me?"

"You're a dick," Éponine hisses, louder than likely intended.

Enjolras looks vaguely pleased, until Grantaire gets out of his seat and walks away without word. Several sighs mingle with Courfeyrac's but no one bothers to say anything. There's not really much to say. It's been months and they're still at each other's throats. If things don't start getting better soon, Courfeyrac fears they'll run out of time and they never will.

"Does that mean he's not coming tonight?" Feuilly asks, eyes on Grantaire's retreating back.

"We'll make sure he comes," Bossuet says. Joly nods.

"Then maybe I shouldn't," Enjolras says, looking down at his plate. "Perhaps we should take turns attending the study sessions so things aren't uncomfortable for the rest of you."

"It's more uncomfortable when one of you isn't there," Courfeyrac says.

"It is," Marius adds. "If we're to have group study sessions, they should include the entire group."

Enjolras' shoulders are stiff and Courfeyrac can feel the annoyance wafting off him. "Avoiding him didn't make things better," he says. "Not avoiding him isn't helping either. What the hell am I supposed to do? I tried giving him space. I tried apologizing. I've tried everything I can think of and nothing works."

"Enjolras," Combeferre says quietly, reaching behind Courfeyrac for Enjolras' shoulder.

Enjolras shrugs him off and stands up. "I'm sorry," he says. "I'll see you all tonight."

And with that, once again, their group is two people short. Courfeyrac feels the absence of the two of them like a physical thing, a vital part of himself gone. He hates this.

 

o|o

 

Despite the awkwardness from earlier, Grantaire and Enjolras both show up to their group study session in the Ravenclaw common room. Courfeyrac spends the night on the floor between Combeferre's legs, books spread out around them and Cosette helping them all understand Charms better than any of their professors have (unsurprisingly; Cosette has wanted to be a Charms professor since they were in second year).

Though they sit as far from each other as possible, like earlier, Grantaire and Enjolras have apparently decided to completely ignore each other's existence. They're both helpful with the work and unafraid to voice their struggles with certain parts, but they never speak to each other. It's progress, the fact that they're not fighting, but it's not much progress.

At seven they both leave and everyone else decides to call it a night, Courfeyrac sneaking off to Combeferre's room instead of his own. It's too late, by the time he feels like moving, to head back to his room, and he spends the night there, in the bed that smells like the two of them now, with Combeferre's arm holding him in place as he nods off against Combeferre's chest.

The study sessions work wonders, Courfeyrac decides a week later. He's no longer overwhelmed by heaps of work and he finds he's doing better in Transfiguration than he ever has, despite the harder workload this year than ever before. Everyone is benefiting, but more than that it's just nice to spend their nights together, all of them, especially when everyone starts to get tired of studying and starts to slack off. Bahorel will tackle Feuilly to the ground; Joly and Combeferre play an intense game of Wizards Chess with Courfeyrac and Bossuet cheering them on. It's nice, and Courfeyrac is glad that he'll have these memories when all of this is over.

"We have ten minutes before detention starts," Enjolras says during their fifth study session. He pushes himself up, tucking his books under his arm, and holds a hand out to Grantaire. "Ready to go?"

Grantaire stares up at him and everyone holds their breaths. A beat passes and none of them dares move a muscle, everyone frozen in place as Enjolras and Grantaire stare at each other.

And then Grantaire takes the hand, pulling himself up, and the two of them pack up their things and leave, companionably walking side-by-side, though neither of them seems to speak and they never get too close to each other.

Courfeyrac is grinning stupidly when he turns back to everyone else. "That's good, right?"

"For now," Feuilly says from where he's pinned to the ground under Bahorel, looking quite pleased to be there.

The ominous tone he uses has Courfeyrac's smile slipping away, but it returns as soon as Combeferre smoothes a hand down his back. "You know," he says, leaning in close, "I've been meaning to tell you: My parents want to speak to you at graduation. My mum sent me a letter the other day. I thought it best to warn you first."

"Your… parents," Courfeyrac says, and suddenly he doesn't have time to worry about anyone else because – "Your parents want to talk to me?"

It's not as if Courfeyrac has never met them before. He's spent weeks at Combeferre's house over the summer throughout the years. Combeferre's parents are very much like him; his mother is a well-known non-fiction writer, while his father recovers ancient magical artifacts for a living and is often out on weekly, or even monthly, excursions. They're both brilliant and a little stuffy, but they love Combeferre dearly and they've always been more than kind to Courfeyrac.

This is different, though. This isn't seeing them again as Courfeyrac, Combeferre's friend. This is meeting them as Combeferre's boyfriend and that is considerably different. That puts a world of pressure on him because he has a feeling that Combeferre's parents are the very type that, while well intentioned, would suggest Combeferre be with someone a little more intellectually inclined (not that Courfeyrac isn't smart; Courfeyrac is smart, but there's so much more out there to him than books and learning and academics have never been very high on his list of important things).

Plus, no matter how many people he's dated, he's never done the whole 'meet the parents' thing. Ever. That's the beauty of going to a boarding school. Parents aren't around to be met. And, yeah, sure, Combeferre isn't likely to listen to them even if his parents do tell him not to date Courfeyrac, but his parents are important to him. Their approval has always mattered greatly to Combeferre. What if they don't approve of Courfeyrac?

"Are you panicking?"

Courfeyrac nods stiffly. "Uh huh."

Combeferre laughs against his neck. "What for? You're the most charming person I've ever met."

"Your parents are scary smart," Courfeyrac points out. "Actually, so are you. You're all, like, borderline, if not actually, geniuses. You're gorgeous and brilliant and kind and there's no way they won't see how far out of my league you are."

Combeferre stills, breath halting for a long moment before he lets it out heavily. "I am not out of your league."

"So, so out of my league," Courfeyrac groans.

Combeferre makes a disagreeing sound and adds, "My parents already love you. You have nothing to worry about."

"I haven't even told my parents about us."

Once again Combeferre stills, but Courfeyrac thinks it's for a very different reason. "You haven't?" he asks, tone carefully measured.

Courfeyrac turns around, looking into his eyes. "Should I?"

"Only if you want to," Combeferre says, but there's something about the set to his mouth and the sad way his eyebrows are drawn together that says, despite his words, there is only one right way to respond to that.

"It hadn't really cross my mind," Courfeyrac admits. "I've never done that in a relationship. Most of mine have ended before summer and before I had any reason to mention it to them."

"Will this?" Combeferre voices the question bluntly, not an accusation or a demand for a certain answer, just a genuinely curious question.

"Hopefully not," Courfeyrac says, distraught. Just the thought makes his stomach clench tight and his eyes burn. This is not something he wants to end before summer starts. This is not something he wants to end, period. It has been far too easy to go from friends to something more with Combeferre, but he knows the transition back would not be nearly as easy. He can't see himself ever wanting to give this, Combeferre, up.

"Good." Combeferre kisses his cheek. "So you're okay with me telling my parents?"

"Of course." He's just going to have to try to be his most charming, loveable self at graduation, that's all.

(He is so screwed.)

 

o|o

 

Ravenclaw loses to Gryffindor by ten points. The game is a nail biter, with Ravenclaw devastating the Gryffindor team until, out of nowhere, the Gryffindor Seeker catches the snitch and the game comes to a sudden and surprising end. Combeferre, in the stands beside him, sighs but doesn't look all that disappointed.

"We were going to lose the cup to you anyway," he explains when Courfeyrac raises an eyebrow.

And then it dawns on Courfeyrac that, shit, they just won the cup. With the game ended and everyone in the stands around them – a sea of blue and bronze – looking disappointed, and his own housemates in the stand next to them screaming their heads off, Courfeyrac realizes that they've won. His team has won the cup.

Courfeyrac jumps into Combeferre's lap and kisses him senseless, fisting Combeferre's hair and groaning into his mouth until his legs start to feel uncomfortable. He stands up, noticing that everyone near them is staring, some in amusement, some in hostility (if it wasn't for Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw would have won the cup for sure) some avoiding looking in their direction altogether. Courfeyrac smiles sheepishly and pulls Combeferre to his feet.

"I have to go congratulate with my team," he says, already heading for the stairs with Combeferre helpless to do anything but trail behind him. "Come with me?"

"It seems I don't have much of a choice, doesn't it?" Combeferre chuckles.

His team is in hysterics when he finds them all gathered in their common room. There are hugs, another kiss between him and Combeferre because he just can't help himself, and then they all head to the Gryffindor common room to celebrate their win of the game, if not the cup.

Halfway through the party Enjolras and Grantaire leave but Courfeyrac barely notices them, too caught up in everything else. It isn't until after, when the party winds down and Combeferre walks him back to his common room, that he even remembers the fact that the two of them had detention tonight, and then he only remembers because he finds them standing together between the doorway to the stairs that lead down to the basement.

They're far enough away that they probably haven't noticed Combeferre or Courfeyrac yet, but they're close enough that Courfeyrac can hear them talking. He stops, pressing a finger to his lips, and Combeferre frowns for a moment before following his train of sight.

"Are we going to spy on them?" he asks, sounding not exactly disapproving but not exactly approving, either.

"Yes," Courfeyrac says. "Shh."

Combeferre rolls his eyes but he doesn't stop Courfeyrac from pulling him close against the wall, hidden in the shadows. He creeps closer, trying to remain as quiet as possible, and is grateful for the fact that the castle is always dark at this time of night.

"— upset you, I just thought… I thought apologizing might help mend things between us," Enjolras is saying when they get close enough for his words to be clear. "Apparently it's only made things worse, and I'm not sure what you want from me anymore."

"I don't want your apology," Grantaire says, sounding – not angry, but frustrated.

"Why not?" Enjolras demands, wounded. "Are we so far past the point of no return that even apologizing makes you angry at me?"

"No," Grantaire says forcefully. "No, Enjolras. It's not that. It's just— You shouldn't have to apologize. I don't want your apology because it's not necessary. You didn't do anything wrong. That's all on me."

"Should we be listening to this?" Combeferre whispers, his chin tucked onto Courfeyrac's shoulder.

"No," Courfeyrac admits.

"It isn't all on you," Enjolras insists, sounding distraught. "I said terrible things to you, Grantaire. Not just that day but over the years. You get under my skin and I lash out at you for it and it's not fair. I had no right to say what I did."

"It's fine, Enjolras. It doesn't matter, alright? It was true, so just—"

"It was not true," Enjolras snaps. Courfeyrac flinches at the venom in his words. Enjolras groans at himself. "See what I mean? I can't seem to help it. I'm sorry."

"I wish you would stop apologizing," Grantaire sighs.

"I wish you would give me a chance to fix this," Enjolras counters, and Courfeyrac reaches behind him, squeezing Combeferre's hand to hold back a gasp because Enjolras sounds almost like he's begging, which is something Enjolras does not do. Ever.

"Fix what? What's there to fix?"

"Us."

"And what are we? Friends?" Grantaire laughs. "You tolerate me because I'm friends with your friends, but we're not friends. And that date proved that we're not more than that, either."

"Damn it," Courfeyrac mutters with a shake of his head. "Come on, Grantaire."

"Is that truly what you think?" Enjolras asks.

"Yes." A pause. "I don't know. Why do you care so much? You love fighting with me. Why is this different?"

"I like arguing with you," Enjolras corrects. "You're smart and you're well-spoken even if I don't agree with what you say. You're clever and witty and funny, but, with myself as the exception, never at the expense of someone else. You always know what you're talking about, sometimes even better than I do, though I'll never admit that again." He takes a deep breath. "I like arguing with you, yes, but I don't enjoy fighting with you. There's a difference, and that difference is usually one of us hurting the other and I hate that we do that to each other."

Silence follows those words, and Courfeyrac assumes Grantaire is stunned speechless until he hears shuffling and then Enjolras' gasp of, "Did you just kiss me?"

"Um. Yes? You were doing your speech giving thing and I just—Shit, I'm so sorry. You just stood there. Fuck. I fucked up, didn't I? Crap, I—"

"Do it again."

"What?"

"Do it," Enjolras says, so soft Courfeyrac has to strain to hear, "again."

"There's another entrance to the basement," Combeferre says, suddenly pulling Courfeyrac backwards. "Come on."

"But Ferre," Courfeyrac whines, even as he allows himself to be dragged along the corridor. "They're kissing. They're kissing."

"Do you really want to watch that?"

"Kind of, yeah."

They pass a sconce on the wall that lights up Combeferre's amused look. He laughs, shaking his head, and says, "Let's give them a bit of privacy. I wouldn't have wanted someone there during our first kiss. It was intimate. Special. It wasn't for other people to see."

"Special?" Courfeyrac repeats, turning the word into a question as his lips pull up in a grin.

"Very," Combeferre says. "Not quite as dramatic as theirs, though, was it?"

"Is anyone as dramatic as Enjolras and Grantaire?"

"True."

 

o|o

 

Almost every sixth and seventh year student sleeps in late the next morning and is subsequently late for breakfast. Courfeyrac is almost falling asleep on Combeferre's shoulder as Combeferre drones on to Cosette about some muggle museum that Courfeyrac takes note of in his head and promises himself to take Combeferre to one day, if only to see the way his face will light up like it is right now just talking about it. He barely lifts his head as their part of the table slowly fills up, first with Feuilly, looking irritable but already fully awake, as he does every morning, followed by Joly and Bossuet, a packaged deal. Bahorel comes next with Éponine and Jehan, the last of which being the only one chipper this time of day. Éponine and Bahorel are practically vicious in the mornings.

Grantaire arrives before Enjolras, surprisingly, looking wide awake but off, restlessly shifting in his seat and nervously playing with his tie. Courfeyrac smirks at him and he looks away quickly. Courfeyrac sits up straighter, watching the door as Grantaire turns his gaze in its direction, too, one hand gripping the edge of the table tightly.

Finally, after Cosette and Combeferre's conversations winds to a close and everyone else starts looking more awake, the doors open and Enjolras walks in, looking very... Enjolras. He doesn't look any different at all, but Grantaire stares at him like he's a new person, eyes wide and mouth open until Éponine kicks him under the table and his mouth shuts with an audible clack.

"Morning," Enjolras greets, eyes lingering on Grantaire for longer than necessary, but that's it. Grantaire collects himself, Enjolras gives him the smallest of smiles, and everything proceeds as if the last few months haven't happened, without any animosity between the two of them but without them sitting beside each other, holding hands or anything of the like, either. If Courfeyrac hadn't been there last night, he wouldn't believe it happened.

"Did the two of you get back to your common rooms safely last night?" Cosette asks innocently, gaze flicking between Enjolras and Grantaire. "It was quite late when Marius and I passed you in the corridor."

Grantaire splutters, Enjolras goes a very flattering – of fucking course, it's Enjolras – shade of red, and Courfeyrac lets out a bellowing laugh that makes Combeferre cover his mouth to hide his own.

"Yes," Enjolras says tightly, "we did."

"Good," Marius says, smiling cheerfully. "We're only concerned because it's not as if the two of you can afford to get in trouble for being out of bed so late again, can you? We're just looking out for you both."

Courfeyrac smothers a laugh into Combeferre's shoulder, trying and failing not to be amused at the way Enjolras twitches and Grantaire nervously tugs a hand through his hair. They're so obvious, though, that he really can't help it. It's adorable.

"What were you two doing in the corridor last night?" Joly asks suspiciously.

"Charms homework," Enjolras says at the same time that Grantaire says, "History homework."

"Which is it?" Bossuet asks. "Charms or History?"

"History homework," Enjolras says at the same time that Grantaire says, "Charms homework."

Cosette leans into Marius, conspiratorially whispering, "I didn't realize homework required the use of so much tongue," loud enough that everyone hears it.

After that Courfeyrac isn't the only one laughing, and Enjolras and Grantaire resign themselves to blushing down at their breakfast.

Despite the fact that it's the weekend, they don't have time to relax and lounge about. Combeferre is scheduling their study sessions more and more frequently, and no one can deny the need to spend most of the day working on things for class and studying for their upcoming exams. They have a good routine down, now, with Combeferre or Feuilly disappearing to the library every once in a while to gather books for everyone else, someone grabbing snacks when needed, and everyone pitching in with their workload, each person pulling their own portion of the weight.

It's as if time starts moving at double the speed, with days and then weeks passing in a blur of stressful amounts of work and not enough sleep. Courfeyrac is up most nights with his head in a book or a quill in his hand, reading over passages or writing out essays for one of his classes. One would think, knowing that their N.E.W.T.s are coming up, their professors might go easy on them considering how much studying they have to do in order to pass their exams, but it seems the opposite is true.

If he survives this year, it'll be a miracle.

"Can you actually die from studying too hard?" Bahorel groans, nearly dropping a book on his face. He's lying on his back, Feuilly using his stomach as a pillow, with a large textbook hovering over him. "My life is draining away, I can feel it."

"You're just hungry," Feuilly says without putting his book down. "Your stomach has been growling for twenty minutes."

Bahorel covers his face with the book and makes a loud, rumbling sound of complaint as everyone else moves a bit, Courfeyrac stretching his arms above his head, Joly untucking his legs from beneath him, Enjolras shaking off a hand cramped from writing. At this point he doesn't even want to survive the school year; he just wants to survive this week. Anything more is a bit too optimistic, even for him.

"We can take our break now," Combeferre says, closing his books, "for snacks and the like, but we only have twenty-five minutes if we want to stay on track."

"He's scheduling us down to the minute," Éponine whines. "Courfeyrac, stop him."

Mildly, Courfeyrac says, "Stop it, Combeferre." Combeferre frowns at him. "Or not. He's too cute when he's planning things. Someone else stop him. I'm weak."

"Grantaire and I will go get something for everyone to eat," Enjolras volunteers for the both of them, piling his books onto the nearest table.

Courfeyrac has just enough energy to smirk when Jehan says, "Of course you will."

"Ignoring that," Enjolras says. "Grantaire?"

"Yeah." Grantaire huffs and pushes himself up from the sofa he's sharing with Éponine, trying to roll a kink out of his neck before he offers Enjolras a hand up. "Anyone want anything specific?"

"A passing grade in ninety-percent of my classes?" says Joly.

"A break that lasts more than twenty-five minutes?" Éponine says, looking to Combeferre.

"A caldron cake would be nice," Cosette says longingly.

"That," Grantaire says to her, "we can do. Be right back."

Despite what he says, and despite the fact that they're in the Hufflepuff common room, which is right next to the kitchens, Grantaire and Enjolras take almost the entire twenty-five minute break. When they return, arms loaded down with a tray of food and drinks each, Combeferre looks at his watch and raises his eyebrows.

"We have exactly six minutes left," he says.

"The staff was very busy," Enjolras says, placing his tray on the table. "Sorry."

"Yeah. Really busy," Grantaire says breathlessly. His lips are red and Enjolras' hair is a mess.

"We never should have gotten them together," Bossuet says, shaking his head.

Everyone in the room turns to gape at him, Courfeyrac groaning and Joly wincing. Bossuet gives them a 'What did I say?' look but it's Enjolras who asks, quietly, "How did you get us together?"

"I think we can afford to take a longer break," Combeferre interrupts loudly. "Actually, we can call it a night and cram tomorrow, if you'd all prefer. Everyone head back to their own common rooms and—"

"Why exactly do you think you got us together?" Enjolras repeats, staring Bossuet down.

Bossuet is a lovely, loving person. He's a great friend, always there to talk to if someone needs it, more patient than almost anyone and soft spoken when the time comes, or loud and hilarious if it's more suitable. Bossuet is great. Bossuet is terrible at keeping secrets.

"Uh," Bossuet says.

"I thought you were done with the matchmaking," Grantaire says to Courfeyrac, eyes narrowed.

"I was," Courfeyrac says, defensive. "Until everyone else convinced me to give it another go, anyway."

Enjolras and Grantaire frown at each other for a long moment, before Grantaire says, "Wait a minute," and Enjolras growls, "If this has anything to do with the fact we have detention until the end of the year, I swear to –"

"Good idea, Combeferre," Jehan says, gathering up his things. "We should definitely take a break until tomorrow."

Hastily, everyone nods their agreements and packs up, hurrying out of the common room before Enjolras or Grantaire can hex and/or kill them. Courfeyrac stays where he is, comforted by the knowledge that Combeferre can talk Enjolras out of murder if necessary, and even if he can't he'd likely protect Courfeyrac, at least.

"I'm going to go talk to Éponine," Grantaire says tersely, heading for the door. "Best friends don't get their best friends stuck in detention for over a month."

Enjolras nods, seeing him to the door, and when he returns he stands in front of the couch, a hand on his hip and a glare on his face. "Please don't kill me," Courfeyrac begs. "I haven't even tried every flavor of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans yet."

Huffing, Enjolras rolls his eyes and says, "I'm not going to kill you." He grins faintly. "I'm going to thank you."

"What?" Courfeyrac looks to Combeferre, certain this is a joke, Enjolras buttering him up before attacking, but Combeferre chuckles at the look of barely repressed terror on his face and he lets himself relax. Surely Combeferre wouldn't laugh if Courfeyrac is about to be killed. Right? "You're thanking us?"

"If it weren't for you, Grantaire and I would likely still be fighting," Enjolras says with a shrug.

"You're not mad?"

"Oh, no, I'm mad. I'm furious. You all better sleep with one eye open."

"Can we maybe go back to the thanking part?"

Enjolras laughs, falling onto the couch beside him with Courfeyrac in the middle and each of his boys on his sides. Enjolras is the first to lean in, putting an arm around Courfeyrac's shoulders to grip Combeferre's on the other side. Combeferre leans into it, resting heavily against Courfeyrac while reaching for his hand. It's nice. It's warm. This is what love feels like, Courfeyrac thinks. Exactly like this. He closes his eyes and relaxes into it, sinking back against the couch.

And then he feels a coldness at the crown of his head, spreading all around rapidly as something falls onto his shoulders. He reaches up, frowning, and then lets out an inhuman screech.

"Manipulating others, even if you believe it's for their benefit, is wrong," Enjolras says, jumping off the couch. "Also, being bald does not suit you, Courfeyrac."

Courfeyrac pulls out his wand, sending hexes and curses flying at random. The first and second years in the room flee as he chases Enjolras around, following the trail of his breathless laughter as Combeferre sits on the couch, amusedly watching the two of them without inferring.

"When you two decide to grow up," he says after a while, smiling fondly, "we have exams coming up and I think our time would be better spent studying, don't you?"

"Not really," Courfeyrac says.

"No," Enjolras agrees.

 

o|o

 

"Good luck," Courfeyrac says thickly, staring at the heavy doors to the Great Hall, his friends surrounding him.

"We're all going to die, aren't we?" Joly asks.

"I don't think you can actually die from exams," Bahorel says, "but I'm not the one who wants to be a Healer so don't take my word for it."

There's a smattering of nervous, forced laughter. "It's just an exam," Éponine says, trying to convince herself and the rest of them.

"That paves the way for our futures. We fuck this up, we can say goodbye to getting the jobs we want," Grantaire points out.

"So no pressure," Courfeyrac says. More forced laughter.

"We'll be fine," Combeferre says firmly, looking, as he always does, steady and calm and unwavering, but there are cracks in that armor. His hair is smooth, for once, from him running his hands over it all morning. His tie is knotted wrong. The left leg of his trousers is stuck into his sock. "We've been studying for weeks. We all know the material. It'll almost be easy."

"And if not?" Marius asks.

"Doesn't your grandfather own, like, a castle?" Éponine asks. "We'll all just move in there and live off his money. He's old, isn't he? It's not like he's going to do much with it anyway."

"I doubt he'd be okay with that, sadly," Marius says solemnly. "Any other ideas?"

"We're all smart enough that we could start an organized crime ring," says Grantaire. "We could probably get away with it."

Everyone stands there for a moment, considering that. "I'm a little worried about the fact that no one's protesting that suggestion," Combeferre says with a wry smile. "We should go in. We don't want to be late."

Enjolras is the first to step forward, pushing open the door, with Combeferre and Courfeyrac right behind him and the rest trailing in afterwards. They're all assigned seats, organized by their names and separated accordingly. Courfeyrac gets the seat next to Combeferre, which both eases and worries him. On one hand, his presence is calming; on the other, it's so fucking distracting.

"There will be no speaking or leaving your seats during the writen part of this exam," the exam leader says, her voice echoing off the walls. "Anyone caught using cheating spells or speaking will be immediately removed from the hall, your exam confiscated, and given an automatic fail. Are we clear? Good." She waves her wand and a large collection of papers materializes on Courfeyrac's desk, and the desks of everyone else. "Your time begins now. You have one hour. Good luck."

Courfeyrac takes a deep breath, picks up his quill, and looks over at Combeferre. He's already hunched over, flipping through the entire booklet before he begins answering everything, but he looks calm. He looks like he has this, so Courfeyrac scratches his name onto the top of the page and begins.

He can totally do this.

Probably.

 

o|o

 

Exams last two weeks, during which Courfeyrac spends his time sleeping, cramming, or sitting in said exams. Even when he's not sitting an exam himself, at least one of his friends is and he spends the time worrying and waiting outside the room to make sure they're okay afterward. He probably wouldn't eat if it weren't for Jehan and Combeferre reminding everyone to. It's the most stressful time of his life and when it's over, when it's finally over, he lets out the loudest sigh and feels the world lift from his shoulders.

For now.

"At least we don't get our results until summer," he says, wiping a hand across his brow as they all make their way outside for the first time in what feels like forever. It's a beautiful, miraculously sunny summer day, and the fresh air and cool breeze makes him want to cry. "That's about a month at least before we have to worry about whether or not we failed."

"No exam talk," someone groans. It could easily be any one of them, honestly.

"What about graduation?" Cosette asks. "Are we supposed to dress up? I wasn't sure. Muggles wear graduation gowns overtop of formal wear but wizard customs might be different. I've asked my dad to send me something but I'm not sure if I'll need it."

"We're supposed to wear our dress robes or any formal attire," Combeferre says, "and every graduating student is given a tie with all the house colours and the school's crest on it during the ceremony. It's a sort of farewell gift and something to hold onto to remember our years here."

"Really?" Courfeyrac grins. "I kind of like that."

"I was reading up on it last night before bed," Combeferre explains. "It isn't a very old tradition. They started it a handful of years ago to signify that, while we all may be separated into different houses, we're still united as a whole."

"You would spend the night after your last exam reading," Courfeyrac teases, poking his side.

"Is everyone excited for graduation?" Jehan asks, sorrowfully. "I'm a bit sad for this all to end."

"I'm honestly just excited to see my father again," Cosette admits. "I don't think he knows what to do with himself when I'm away. He needs a hobby."

"My parents aren't invited," Éponine says darkly. She rips up a handful of grass, frowning down at the ground.

It's always been a sore subject, her family, which is why everyone tends to avoid it. Courfeyrac knows, distantly, that she sometimes talks to Cosette about it, and occasionally Grantaire, but the rest of them, while still her friends, aren't invited in on the secret. They all respect that and avoid mentioning it in case she gets upset.

"The invitations are for family," she explains, finally looking up. "My family's all here already."

Courfeyrac isn't sure who starts, it but someone hugs her, and then someone else, and then suddenly they're all stuck in a pile under Bahorel as he roars a laugh, only Joly and Combeferre managing to abstain from the crushing group hug.

"This is what I'm going to miss the most," Jehan sighs, looking at all of them with wide, wet eyes. "Not the castle, or anything else. Just this."

And that sets off another round of hugging that doesn't end until someone has a bloody nose.

It is a very nice afternoon, all things considered.

 

o|o

 

Courfeyrac loves dressing up for any reason at all. Dress robes, nice casual clothes, anything. He'd been fitted for a new set of dress robes just last year, in a stark black with a crisp white dress shirt and a tie and shoes to match. They fit him perfectly, and he'd spent a lot of time today in front of the mirror, making sure everything was perfect hours before anyone else had even started getting ready.

Courfeyrac loves dressing up, but the weather is really not working with him today. The moment he steps outside to begin the graduation ceremony (or to get ready to begin the graduation ceremony, technically, since they're all being lined up alphabetically and it isn't until all the guests are seated that they're to make their way to their own seats in a neat, orderly fashion) he wants to strip naked, or take a dive into the lake.

It's hot. It's muggy. This is so not the type of weather for stuffy, thick dress robes. The sky is an ominous gray and there's no wind to be heard of. The heat is like a physical thing that sticks to what little exposed skin there is and seeps inside his clothes, making him sweat and feel damp all over. He rubs at his forehead, feeling perspiration there, and is ridiculously glad he'd put a holding spell on his hair so it doesn't frizz or flatten under the heat.

"This is dreadful, isn't it?" Combeferre asks, trying and failing to roll up his too-tight sleeves. His robes are a deep, navy blue that makes his pale eyes stand out and his skin look softer than normal. He looks great, really, but also hot. There are two twin spots of red on his cheeks, and there's a fine layer of sweat above his top lip. "It's so hot."

"You wear sweaters all year round," Courfeyrac points out. "You should be used to this."

"I'm not," Combeferre says, tugging at his collar. "I can hardly breathe."

"Same here," Courfeyrac sighs. He leans forward, looking down the line of their classmates to where Cosette is standing, looking perfect and cool in her sleeveless gown with the ruffly skirt. "Should have worn a dress."

"Without heels," Combeferre says absently, scratching at the back of his neck. "Fifth year, Bahorel dared you, remember? You nearly broke your neck."

Courfeyrac grins, remembering that. "But they looked good," he says.

"You look good in nearly everything." Combeferre forces a laugh before pulling off his glasses. He wipes them on the corner of his robes and nearly sticks himself in the eye when he puts them back on, his hands jerking oddly. "Damn."

"What's wrong?" Courfeyrac asks, brushing their hands together. "You're nervous. Why?"

"I, um." Combeferre winces. "It's not the ceremony," he says quickly. "It's just that my parents may have sent me a letter a few days ago, and you know that our parents occasionally speak with each other, right?"

"Right," Courfeyrac says. Of course their parents are on friendly terms. Considering how often Courfeyrac has stayed at Combeferre's house, or Enjolras', or Marius', and vice versa, their families have all gotten to know each other. "And?"

"And my parents may have told yours that we're in a relationship," Combeferre says in a rush, not meeting his eyes. "Possibly." He gives Courfeyrac a pleading look. "I'm sorry. I know you haven't told them yourself and you'd probably prefer that to my parents doing it, and I'm sorry."

"That's all?" Courfeyrac laughs. "Combeferre, it's fine. I don't care. I want them to know."

"I don't think I do," Combeferre says, surprising him. He continues to fidget. "I see now why you weren't exactly ecstatic when I told you my parents knew. It's a lot of pressure, isn't it? Because I don't want this to end, and your parents are absolutely lovely and you adore them and if they decide I'm not good for you—"

"Combeferre." Courfeyrac raises a hand, cutting him off. Their classmates on either side of them are eying them warily. "First of all, my parents love you. Second, even if they didn't approve of you, I'd love you anyway. Thirdly, you are a parent's wet dream, gorgeous. You're smart and polite and charming."

Combeferre takes a deep breath, smiling faintly. "We're a mess."

"We're messes together," Courfeyrac says, linking their fingers together. "We'll deal with our parents together. And if all else fails, we'll drag Enjolras over and remind them of what he did in the library and we'll both look great by comparison."

"That is—"

"Quiet down, students," their Divination professor says loudly, stealing their attention. "You are all about to be seated. I trust that if we've taught you anything over the years, walking in a straight line and staying silent is one of them. Can you all manage that?"

Courfeyrac has to smother a snort. Enjolras doesn't bother. He hears it clearly despite the several people between them.

"I take that as a yes," she says. "Once you've taken your seats, our headmistress will give the opening speech and you will be called, one by one, to receive your diplomas. Afterwards you will return to your seat, awards will be given, and then we will proceed to the tents to our right—" she gestures and everyone turns to see the giant white tents "— where there will be drinks and food. As all other students have already left for the year, you are free to gather your things and leave afterwards. I wish you all the greatest luck in your future endeavors, and I know you'll all make Hogwarts very proud."

"Don't cry, Mrs. T," someone says.

"Sorry, it's a very emotional time." She wipes at her eyes. "Now go on, Albertson, lead the way."

They're lead at a slow shuffle from where they were waiting on one side of the tent, to the side where there's a small stage with a short set of stairs, where their headmistress stands and the rest of their professors sit behind her. In front of the stage is row after row of benches filled with the family and friends of the graduates, all of them sitting up straighter in their seats as the students get closer.

Combeferre is in front of him the entire time.

Really, it's way too hot for them all to be squished onto a bench together. Under normal circumstances Courfeyrac wouldn't complain about being tucked so tightly into Combeferre's side, but they're both sweaty and gross and it's all too much. Whoever's sitting behind him keeps talking and Courfeyrac misses their headmistress's speech trying unsuccessfully to ignore them, too. He wiggles a bit, trying to get more room, but when the girl on his right gives him a funny look he stops and sighs, resisting the urge to wipe his sweaty palms on his thighs. He is so damn irritated.

And then, one by one, they're called to the stage. Combeferre goes just before him, smiling and gripping their headmistress's hand as she hands him his diploma and a small box. There's a smattering of applause from the crowd and Courfeyrac woops loudly. He nearly stumbles on his way back to his seat and before he can get there Courfeyrac hears his name being called.

Shit. He passes Combeferre on his way to the stage, exchanging shaky grins between the two of them, and then Courfeyrac is standing in front of his headmistress with a crowd of over two hundred people before him. He pauses, holding his breath, and then he beams, kind of liking it, honestly. He enjoys being the center of attention, most of the time.

"I'm surprised you and your friends all made it to this point," his headmistress teases as he shakes her hand.

"So are we," he laughs.

"Good luck, Courfeyrac," she tells him, handing over his diploma and one of the boxes she's given to everyone. Inside is a tie striped with all the house colours, a beautiful rainbow of material that he knows he's going to wear all the time.

"That wasn't so bad, was it?" Combeferre says when he retakes his seat.

"Standing in front of hundreds I can handle," Courfeyrac whispers back. "Your parents? Not so much."

"You're going to have to," Combeferre points out, taking a look around them, "in less than a hundred students. You've got about an hour and a half."

"Or maybe I'll just apparate out of here."

"You're terrible at apparition."

"It takes a lot of focusing, okay?"

"Besides, apparition is impossible inside Hogwarts grounds."

"You would know that."

"It's common knowledge. We learned about that in our fourth year."

Somehow an hour and a half breezes by in what feels like, oh, maybe five minutes at most. Courfeyrac is still dying under the heat as they all wait for the guests to get out of their seats first, and then they're finally allowed to stand up, stretch their legs and shrug out of their robes. Courfeyrac strips down to nothing but his white dress shirt and trousers, not caring that it ruins the whole outfit, and lets out an appreciative sound when Combeferre does the same.

"You're such a jerk," he says to Enjolras when they all meet up together on their way to the tent. "It's hot as balls out here and you look perfect."

Enjolras makes a face at him as Grantaire laughs. "It's annoying, isn't it?"

"Cosette does it too," Éponine complains, looking great in her black tights, black dress shorts and gold earrings, but just as sweaty as the rest of them. Cosette, as she said, looks as though she just finished getting ready, everything perfectly in place without a hint of sweat on her brow. "If I didn't love you guys I would hate you."

"Can we go get something to drink instead of just standing here talking while sweat drips down my ass crack?" Bahorel asks.

"You're disgusting," Feuilly tells him for the rest of them.

"And you, freckles," Bahorel says, picking him up easily, "are going to come meet my parents."

"No," Feuilly says, as Bahorel whisks him away into the tent. "Seriously, Bahorel, I don't—" His voices trails off as the flap to the tent falls closed behind them.

"Fuck," Grantaire says when they're gone, eyes wide. "I didn't even think about that. Please tell me I don't have to meet your parents."

Enjolras starts to say something, looking equally terrified, but then a large man peaks his head out from inside the tent, a bright grin on his face that's offset by the t-shirt he's wearing and the dark tattoos that wind up his incredibly thick arms. He's older, older than Courfeyrac's dad, even, but something about that grin makes him seem years younger.

"Cosette," the man says. "I've just been speaking with your professors. Your Charms teacher and I want to chat with you for a moment."

"In a minute," she says. "I'll be right there."

"Don't be too long," the man says. "And bring your friends. I'd love to meet them."

"I will," Cosette promises. The flapped door of the tent closes.

Courfeyrac is shaking with laughter when he turns to see Marius, white as a ghost. "That is not your father," he says. "That man could eat me."

"He's been a vegan for six years," Cosette laughs, patting his arm. "He's sweet, I promise. Come on, I'll introduce the two of you."

Marius allows her to cart him off inside the tent, but over his shoulder he mouths, "Help me!" at Courfeyrac. Courfeyrac just grins and gives him a thumbs up.

"At least we're not the only ones," Combeferre says, watching them go. "And thankfully your father's shorter than I am."

"It runs in the family," Courfeyrac says with a shrug. "Ready to face the music?"

"No point in avoiding it," Combeferre sighs. "Are the rest of you coming?"

Joly looks up from where he's been fixing Bossuet's tie, waving his hand. "Go on, we'll meet you inside." Enjolras and Grantaire look just as hesitant to go in as Courfeyrac feels, and when he and Combeferre head for the door they stay outside.

There're four tables set along one side, weighed down by food and drinks and an ice sculpture that would definitely be melted right now if not for some sort of spell. There's also a collection of smaller round tables for guests to sit at, and a long table against the opposite wall that looks exactly like the one in the Great Hall where part of the staff is sitting. The rest are mingling around the room, saying farewells to their favorite students or chatting up parents.

Despite the amount of people, it's not even crowded. Courfeyrac looks around, sort of hoping to spot his own parents first, when Combeferre's dad, towering above everyone else, makes his way towards them.

"Shit," Courfeyrac says.

"I found them!" Combeferre's dad says, and then his own parents are trailing behind him, along with Combeferre's mother, heading in their direction.

"Maybe apparating away isn't such a bad idea," Combeferre mumbles.

"Can't apparate in Hogwarts, remember?"

"I'm starting to see the downside to that."

"Oh, look at you!" Courfeyrac's mother gasps, instantly wrapping Combeferre in a huge when she reaches them. "So tall and handsome. I remember when you were just a tiny thing with those glasses two times too big."

"Where are the girls?" Courfeyrac asks as his dad, too, hugs a vaguely stiff Combeferre. "Did you leave them at home?"

"Of course not," his mother gasps. "They're here somewhere. Last I seen they were at the refreshments table."

Courfeyrac will look for them later, he promises himself. He can't wait to see them, but right now he has more pressing things to deal with.

The first thing Combeferre's father does is use Courfeyrac's first name as he extends his hand. Unlike Courfeyrac's family, they aren't so big with the hugging. His hand is huge and warm when he takes Courfeyrac's, squeezing just a bit too tight to be friendly. "Nice to see you, as always."

Courfeyrac swallows. "You too, sir."

"Darling," Combeferre's mother says, because she's the type to greet people as 'darling'. They're both so classy and intimidating but never before has he been this afraid to speak to them. "Where're the rest of your robes? You looked dashing before."

Before, Courfeyrac thinks. What does he look now? "Bit too hot," he excuses.

"It is, isn't it?" She fans herself with her hand.

"Are we all going to beat around the bush, then?" Courfeyrac's father asks, one hand resting on his round stomach, the other on the small of his mother's back. "You know what I'm talking about, son. I can't believe I had to find out in a letter that wasn't even sent by you."

Courfeyrac rolls his eyes. "I don't have to tell you every time I'm seeing someone," he says.

"And how often is that?" Combeferre's father asks, eyes narrowed.

"Uh." Courfeyrac gives everyone a pleading look, shrinking in on himself.

"I'm kidding," Combeferre's dad says, with the same belly-deep laugh that Combeferre has. "You looked so frightened, I couldn't help myself. That was cruel, wasn't it?"

"It was, dear," Combeferre's mother scolds. "And you have no reason to be frightened," she adds to Courfeyrac. "Our son is impossibly smitten with you. We couldn't be happier for the two of you, truly."

"Not that our son ever needs it, but he's got our approval with you as well," Courfeyrac's dad says, patting Combeferre, just once, on the shoulder. "You've always kept him in line. Merlin knows he needs it."

"Dad," Courfeyrac groans. "Stop acting like I'm a problem child."

"You're a problem almost-adult," his dad says.

"Better."

"Have you two tried the pastries yet? They've this delicious strawberry tart," Combeferre's mother interrupts. "And I think your professors will want to say a final goodbye to you. We won't keep you any longer."

"You're dismissing us?" Combeferre asks. "So quickly?"

"Should I glare at him again?" his father asks. "I gave him quite the stern handshake, I think that covered it."

"It definitely got the point across," Courfeyrac promises.

"Good." Combeferre's father checks his watch. "We'll meet you outside at exactly seven to leave. Go have fun with your friends." Turning to Courfeyrac's parents, he adds, "Now, tell me more about stone you mentioned. You said it glowed fuchsia?"

Before they can turn their attention back to Combeferre or Courfeyrac, the two of them hurry away, not sure who's leading who. The moment they break through the crowd, their parents somewhere on the other side, Courfeyrac stops and breathes, while Combeferre pulls a handkerchief out of somewhere and wipes his brow with it.

"That was embarrassing for everyone involved, wasn't it?" Courfeyrac asks. "My mum called you handsome."

"My father nearly broke your hand," Combeferre reminds him.

Courfeyrac winces, wiggling his fingers. "I don't think nearly is the right word."

Combeferre bites his lip, looking worried, but after a moment passes, then another, Courfeyrac has his arms around him and is letting out a loud laugh against his shoulder. "Not as bad as it could have been," he says when the laughter dies. "I was expecting worse."

"I told you my parents love you."

"And mine love you," Courfeyrac says. He pulls back, meeting Combeferre's eyes. "And so do I, you know."

"You've loved me for years."

"I'm in love with you," Courfeyrac corrects.

"Ah." Combeferre goes red, looking pleased. "That's new."

"It is," Courfeyrac agrees. "I kind of like it."

"Only kind of?"

"I could spend the entire day complimenting you and telling you how much I love you," Courfeyrac says. "Do you want that, or do you want to go see our friends before we have to say goodbye for fuck knows how long?"

"The second one," Combeferre says, "but we're putting a rain cheque on the complimenting and love declarations."

They find Éponine first, talking to their Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. She comes with them to find the others, and it isn't long before Cosette and Marius are excusing themselves after Cosette's father shakes his and Combeferre's hands. They find Joly and Bossuet next, laughing with their parents, and then, on the way to Enjolras and Grantaire, both of them in the corner of the room, seeming to be hiding, they hear a loud, booming voice say, "You're dating a muggleborn?"

Courfeyrac looks over just in time to see Bahorel's mum, a tiny woman with a Scottish accent and a very sharp pair of heels that still leave her over a head shorter than her son, put a hand on her chest and stare up at Feuilly.

Feuilly looks terrified. Courfeyrac's holds his breath. Bahorel is still grinning when Feuilly says, "I am, yes. Is that a problem?" in an even tone.

"Of course not!" she says, throwing her arms around him. "I've always been interested in muggle things, you know. Just ask my son. I own six can openers. They're not as efficient as magic, obviously, but there's something so satisfying about them, don't you think?"

"Yes, ma'am," Feuilly says, taking her in stride. "They're a very, um, useful invention."

"I love Bahorel's mum," Courfeyrac says, shaking his head. "That woman is hilarious."

"I think they win on the most awkward parental meeting, in any case," Combeferre says. "We'll leave them until after we get Enjolras and Grantaire."

Just as predicted, the two of them are hiding. Enjolras' parents are on the other side of the tent, his mother's white-gold hair like a beacon in the sea of people. Grantaire's parents, Courfeyrac doesn't know, but he figures they're somewhere around, too, judging by the way he keeps wincing and ducking, as if trying to hide himself.

"Want to sit outside for a bit?" Courfeyrac asks them. "It's too hot in here."

"Yes," Grantaire moans. "Yes, we do. Right now."

As they leave, Enjolras and Grantaire are suspiciously careful to remain blocked by everyone else, hidden beside Bahorel (who excuses himself and Feuilly when he notices the rest of them sneaking out) or Combeferre so as to not be seen as they leave.

The sun is just starting to set as they get outside, with a breeze finally cooling things down. They make their way closer to the lake, not too far from the tent, before everyone spreads out on the ground despite their formal outfits.

"I can't believe this is it," Jehan says as they all settle in. "This is our last day at Hogwarts, forever."

"Not forever," Cosette says. "I'll be back to teach charms in a few years, once the position is available."

"Why did you make that sound like you're going to kill off our professor for the job?" Courfeyrac jokes. Cosette gives him a steady look. "Okay, I was kidding, but now I'm terrified."

She laughs at him. "We were talking earlier, with my father. She's retiring in three years. After that…." She shrugs. "I might be back here."

"And the rest of us will come visit the castle," Bossuet says. "I mean, come visit you."

"You better," Cosette warns. "I'm holding you to that."

"That's years away, though," Courfeyrac says. "We'll see each other way before that, right?"

"I've been thinking about that, actually," Enjolras says from where he's sitting between Grantaire's legs, Grantaire's fingers combing through his hair. His eyes are closed.

"You have?"

Enjolras nods serenely. "My parents take a two week vacation in Paris every year," he says. "My house is more than large enough for all of us."

"Are you suggesting what I think you're suggesting?" Courfeyrac asks, bouncing in place. "Really?"

Shrugging, Enjolras says, "Unless any of you have plans, I can't see any reason why you can't all stay over during that time."

"When?" Feuilly asks. "I have a job lined up, but I can probably take a few days off."

"The beginning of August," Enjolras answers without moving his head or disrupting Grantaire's motions. "They leave on the second day of the month every year."

"I'll be there," Jehan says first.

"I've got nothing better to do," Éponine says.

"I'll ask my father, but I doubt it'll be a problem," Cosette adds.

Everyone else nods, agreeing, and Courfeyrac can't stop grinning. "So we're only saying a temporary goodbye tonight, then."

"It was always going to be a temporary goodbye," Combeferre says.

"Well, yeah, but now it's for sure temporary. If any of you don't show up, I'm gonna come find you."

"You make a lot of threats for someone so short," Éponine teases.

"I'm not that short," Courfeyrac argues.

"You have to stand on the tips of your toes to kiss Combeferre."

"Combeferre happens to be incredibly tall. That has nothing to do with me."

"What am I going to do without all the constant bickering?" Jehan wonders.

"Sleep peacefully, for once," Combeferre answers. "I know I will."

Courfeyrac elbows him gently. "Hey."

"I'm kidding," Combeferre chuckles. "You're all very entertaining, if not a little exhausting sometimes."

"This is kind of sad though, isn't it?" Grantaire butts in before Courfeyrac can say anything to that. "This has been like our home for seven years. Now it won't be anymore."

And suddenly the mood goes from light and teasing to heavy and melancholic. "Yeah," Joly sighs. "It's going to be weird, not coming back here next September."

"Playing Quidditch," says Courfeyrac.

"Reading in the library," Combeferre murmurs sadly.

"None of us can relate to that," Bahorel reminds him, "since we've been banned for years."

"I advised you all not to do it," Combeferre says. "In what universe does attempting to summon a tree seem like a good idea?"

"Still not my fault," Enjolras says. "And all the damage was quickly repaired, in any case. And no trees were hurt in the process."

"I still don't understand how you wound up getting the giant squid stuck halfway out the window, though," Grantaire chuckles. "That thing still hates you."

"It does," Enjolras says, eying the lake watchfully. He yawns and stretches. "We should get back soon. Our parents are going to want to leave."

Reluctantly, everyone climbs to their feet, offering each other hands up and brushing off their fancy clothes. Courfeyrac looks out over the lake, looks at the castle, the grounds, and then, finally, at his friends. His stomach twists and his chest feels tight.

"One more group hug?" he says. "Our last group hug as Hogwarts students."

"Someone got a bloody nose last time," Joly protests.

"Some friends are worth the bloody nose," Bahorel says, pulling him into the hug. Combeferre's arms are around Courfeyrac, and Courfeyrac has one around him, one around Marius' waist, and one curled into the back of Enjolras' shirt.

"That's really easy to say for the person not receiving the bloody nose," Bossuet says from somewhere in the middle of the group, his voice muffled. "Someone's stepping on my toes. Someone heavy is stepping on my toes!"

They break apart, Combeferre's arms staying around him even when everyone lets go. Courfeyrac hopes he never does.

"I can't avoid my parents forever," Enjolras says finally, starting for the tent when no one else moves to. "You all coming?"

Courfeyrac goes to follow him with everyone else, but Combeferre holds him back. "I wanted to ask you something," he explains.

"Really?"

Combeferre flushes in the paling light of dusk. "My father's going on another excursion," he explains, voice shaking a bit with nervousness. "My mother's decided to join him for once."

"That's nice," Courfeyrac says sincerely. "I'm sure she'll love it."

"So am I," Combeferre says, "but that's not why I was telling you. I want you to come stay with me, for a few days. If you want to. I know you love being back home, so it's okay if you say no, but I thought it best to ask just in—"

Courfeyrac kisses him quiet. "I'd love to."

"Truly?"

Courfeyrac nods, looking to the tent. "Come on. I'm sure my parents can't wait to embarrass me again, and I want to see my sisters."

Combeferre nods, agreeing, but before they go he kisses Courfeyrac again, long and slow and careful, until Courfeyrac forgets about everything else. When they break apart, he feels the loss of Combeferre's lips on his own.

"Come on," Combeferre says, taking his hand, pulling him along after the rest of their friends, which is a direction Courfeyrac figures he's always going to be happy to go in. They leave the castle behind them as the sun gets lower in the darkening sky, but Courfeyrac makes peace with that as Combeferre drags him along, their hands clasped together. Maybe his time at Hogwarts is over, now, but it's only the castle he's leaving behind. He gets to bring the best parts of his life here with him when he leaves.