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Year Two

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Morning dawned bright and early one August day in the northern countryside of Leeds. Rousing the sleeping 12 year old from dreams of large magical castles, scarlet steam trains, and luminous blue eyes.

Howard Moon woke with a start; and for a moment he was back at Hogwarts, he was sure that those eyes had belonged to the black lake ghost Old Gregg. However, as he climbed out of bed he realized that Gregg eyes, no matter how supernatural had never glowed like that. Deciding to forget the dream for now he focused on the tapping coming from the window.

His owl Lester sat perched on the window sill tapping his beak annoyingly against the glass. Opening the window Howard took the bundle of mail and gave Lester a treat for his troubles. Looking through the bundle he found a letter from Vince, one of thousand since June, surprisingly one from Naboo, and one from Leroy. He also discovered his Hogwarts supply list for second year. Smiling, he grabbed his bathrobe and quickly bounded down the stairs. He found his parents at the breakfast table, tea and toast already set out. His father had the Daily Prophet open on the table. Howard could make out something about Auror raids along with moving pictures of witches and wizards running through the streets of what appeared to be London. Obviously the Aurors carrying out their jobs.

“Hogwarts Letter came” he announced sitting down and helping himself to breakfast before tearing into his other letters with zest.

Leroy’s letter was normal fair. Asking about Howards summer, talking about his own. It was a bit boring but it made Howard smile all the same. Leroy considered them good enough friends that he sent him a letter.

Naboo’s letter was confusing as it was vague. Something about being a mighty hawk and not venturing off the path.

Vince’s letter he was used to. The muggleborn Ravenclaw tended to ramble off on tangents about monkeys, or clouds, or clouds that looked like monkeys, and sometimes monkeys that looked like clouds. He always eventually got round to the point though. He always ended up writing that he missed Howard and wished they lived closer. Howard usually agreed with those wishes. Specially after his bid to join the muggle boy’s game of football was denied.

In the newest letter it was more of the same badly spelled meandering. Except when Vince finally got to the point it was to inform Howard that he would be going to Diagon Alley in a weeks time and demanded that Howard be there as well. Looking up at his mother he grabbed the supply list and held it out for her.

“When can we go to Diagon Alley? Vince will be there next week” the whole question and statement sounded impossibly childish but his mother smiled as she looked over the list.

“We can go next week Howard, of course we can, but finish your breakfast please” he smiled thankfully and did as he was told.

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A week later found Howard and his mother entering the alley via the Leaky Cauldron’s back wall. After a visit to Gringotts and promising to meet his mother back there at the end of the day his mother allowed him to do his own shopping. He was a responsible 12 year old after all. Howard wasn’t sure where Vince would be amongst the dozen or more shops that lined the cobblestone street, but he had some good ideas on where to start looking.

The Ravenclaw was neither at Florean Fortescue’s ice cream parlor or at Madam Malkin’s. He wasn’t at the small out of the way joke shop or Madam Primpernelle's Beautifying Potions supply store. Howard was beginning to suspect that Vince might not be in Diagon Alley at all until he finally spotted him outside of Eeylops Owl Emporium, pressing his face into the window. From the back Vince didn’t look any different, maybe taller, but no different then the last time Howard saw him. He wasn’t sure why he thought there would be a difference, after all it had only been two months, people didn’t change all that much in such a short amount of time. His father once told him that when you don’t see a person for a long time your perception of them changes instead. Howard wasn’t sure if that was the issue or not. Maybe…after only two months, even with letters, their easy friendship had disappeared entirely? There was only one way to find out and he had never been nervous around Vince before, at least not like this.

Hoping not to scare the easily startled boy, Howard slid up beside him and nudged him in the shoulder. The gasp and then subsequent bright smile that followed made Howard grin back at the job well done.

“ ‘Oward!” exclaimed Vince throwing his arms around the taller boy. Howard tensed but managed not to tell the other off. Letting go Vince turned back to the window “can you believe they still wont get me my own owl? Its criminal I’m tellin you! Not even for my birfday!” Howard hummed, more under the disbelief that he still didn’t know the smaller boys birthday then any sort of owl refusal. He had asked once before right after they had become friends, but Vince had declined to answer, instead asking Howard the same question as a divergence. Howard had answered right away with a smug smirk, hoping to goad Vince into answering. Vince still refused, and Howard began to wonder if Vince even knew when his birthday was. It was a depressing thought and Howard had vowed to himself that when he eventually found out he would get Vince something huge. “Have you done any shopping yet?” Vince finally asked tearing his face away from the window.

“No, was waiting for you” Howard answered, leaving out the fact that it took him 30 minutes just to find him. “Have you been to Gringotts yet?” he asked as they turned away from the store and began walking down the street. He didn’t fancy having to return to the bank just yet, the goblins freaked him out.

“Yes, them Goblins are funky, none of them can take a joke”

“Thats funny, they’re usually quite amiable to their own kind” Vince shot him a mock glare but then smirked.

“That’s rich coming from a giant! Besides I’m more like a vampire, you're always sayin I’m too angular”

“A giant? I’m nothing like a giant, giants are huge and they’re not the brightest”

“Exactly, plus your tall, have you grown? It’s like talking to a tree”

“I have a bit, and did you just call me stupid?”

there was a pause where Howard could see Vince suppressing a smile.

“No” he said, laughter trying to bubble forth. Rolling his eyes Howard directed them into Flourish and Blotts prompting Vince to let out a groan.

For the next hour and a half they purchased their required textbooks for the year, a new set of robes for Howard seeing as how he indeed grew taller over the summer, and other equipment that Howard insisted they both needed. By the end Vince was complaining loudly and dragging his feet so Howard relented and got them both an ice cream. Vanilla for himself and some chocolatey nonsense for Vince.

Walking back towards Gringotts to meet Howard’s mother for dinner, the boys talked about the upcoming school year and what they were most excited for. As they passed shop after shop Vince paused and hung back to peer into a dark archway.

“Hey Howard wots in there?” he asked taking a step forward to have a closer look.

“What?” replied Howard following after Vince until he saw the old sign on the wall.

Knockturn Alley.

“Uh Vince, maybe we shouldn’t?” He had only heard about Knockturn Alley from his father and the papers, it was a place for dark wizards and witches, not 12 year old boys.

“Aw come on it looks wicked down there, can’t hurt to have a look around eh?” responded Vince stepping further into the darkness until he was completely shrouded in it.

“Yes! Yes it can hurt a lot, Vince! Viiince!” He called, reluctantly following the smaller boy in.

It was dark, foggy, and smelled strongly of damp dirt. Howard stumbled as he followed Vince through the twisting alleyway, trying to keep up with him. There weren’t many people about, which in Howard’s book was a good thing.

He soon found himself suddenly inexplicably alone. After losing sight of Vince entirely, Howard stopped walking all together. Angry and frustrated with the other boy for abandoning him he turned to go, claiming that if Vince found trouble he would have to deal with it on his own.

Problem with this plan however, was that Howard found himself lost in a matter of seconds. The dark alley was larger than he thought, and he was reluctant to ask for directions. Trying not to panic too much, he stopped and leant against a slimy brick wall outside of a shop window.

Turning slightly he caught sight of a sickly green glow coming from the window. Focusing more he realized that behind the window was a huge fish tank filled with dirty murky green water. Stepping closer he peered into the tank trying to make out what exactly was inside. For a brief moment nothing happened, not even a ripple until suddenly a wiggling mass of eels snapped against the glass. With wide insane eyes, and gnashing teeth they squirmed and thrashed about in the tank. Stepping away Howard registered the shop door banging open and footstep on the stairs.

“You lost boy?” a rough cockney accent asked. Looking up, Howard was horrified to find a tall skinny man approaching him. He had long dirty stringy blonde hair hanging around his face and a top hat adorned his head. Curiously muggle polo mints circled the hat, like some bizarre decoration. He wore a large black overcoat and carried a cane. He also had a large glass monocle at his right eye. There didn’t seem to be anything keeping it on his face. As the strange man approached, the green glow from the shop window was cast upon him, making his pale waxy face turn green for half a second.

“No” he whimpered backing away further “not-not lost, erm...looking for my friend”

The hatted man laughed violently “well maybe he went into my shop!” he said pointing towards it with his cane “why don’t you come have a look at my maniacal menagerie of dark creatures. We got all sorts of nasties for ya”

“Um, no thank you” replied Howard backing fully into the wall opposite the man’s shop. He could make out shrunken heads in the window, it made him want to be sick.

“Wot!? You think your too good for Mr. Hitcher’s shop do ya boy?” he said waving the cane at Howard. It was millimeters from his face, and Howard had the sudden thought that the man's wand was most likely hidden in it.

“No..” his eyes squeezed shut when he felt the cane poke painfully into his shoulder “please don’t kill me, I’ve got so much to give”

“I’m not gonna kill you boy, but I might let my eels have some fun with ya. Would you like that? Having them all up inside yea where they don’t rightly belong?”

“N-no, please.. I’m just trying to fin-” he was cut off when the man, Mr. Hitcher, grabbed his collar and dragged him towards the shop.

“Elsie we got a live one!” he called, flinging Howard into the shop. He was caught by the strong but feminine arms of a woman. She had on pale blue robes, her hair was in a tight bun, and she had a kind face. Howard gulped and tried to extract himself from her hold. She didn’t speak but didn’t let him go either. Mr. Hitcher followed after him and shut the door with a firm click.

Howard was going to die at twelve years old, his mother was going to worry and Vince would have to return to school without him.

“You go to Hogwarts boy?” Mr Hitcher asked, tapping Howard’s shin with his cane.

“Y-yes!” he responded, trying to get away from the abuse.

“What house you in?” this question made Howard pause, what did that matter?

“...Slytherin”

Mr. Hitcher let out a booming laugh, bending backward at the force of his laughter.

“Ooh! I remember Slytherin! A right dirty house if you ask me! All the best wizards and witches are from Slytherin! I knew all the greats! Poor old Voldy! And even Salazar himself! Oohh he would go around, screaming about blood and muggle borns left and right, gave me a good laugh he did, tell me lad, what do you think about them?” Hitcher asked leering down at Howard. His monocle glinted off the candle light menacingly.

“I-I-think they were great powerful wizards sir” Howard finally answered. He didn’t know much about Salazar Slytherin besides being his houses founder. Voldemort he knew more about of course. He had been an evil man, but Howard had always heard people say he was very powerful.

A moment passed where Hitcher regarded him silently.

“Eh! Course they was!” Hitcher said ending the tense moment. Howard sighed in relief, but it was short lived as Hitcher pointed his cane at him again.”tell ya what boy, I’m not gonna feed you to my eels. I’m gonna let ya go seeing as how your in Slytherin and all, is your little friend as well?”

“Yes!” Howard answered quickly, not quite believing that he was being let go all because of his Hogwarts house. Never before had he been so grateful to be sorted that day. “W-we’re both in Slytherin! And we love it! And we love the dark lord! I-I should go find him though…”

“To right you should, can’t have two young Slytherins lost about in good ol’ Knockturn alley can we?!” Hitcher replied, turning and opening the shop door. Howard bolted out as soon as he could, running down the alley still hearing the man’s insane laughter echoing off the bricks. He stopped to catch his breath under a lantern for a moment. He screamed when something grabbed his hand but realized that it was only Vince, grinning up at him.

“Hey Howard, where did you go! One minute you were behind me and the next you was gone!”

“What do you mean I was gone!? Your the one who disappeared on me! Why did you come down here anyway!” Howard yelled, pulling away from Vince and glaring at the smaller boy angrily. He must have looked like he really meant it because Vince stepped back and gave him the best puppy dog eyes he could muster.

“Sorry Howard, it looked cool. You okay?” he asked nervously, afraid to set off the taller boy again.

Howard sighed and nodded, finally calming down enough to think. “Yes, I think so. It's just this place is full of weirdos and villains, it's all very bad juju. We need to leave” Except they were still lost.

“Yea alright, I think it was this way” respond Vince, taking Howard’s hand again and leading him down the alley. Howard wanted to make him let go but figured it was a good way to stay together. Five minutes later they were greeted with the setting sun, Diagon Alley, and Howard’s worried mom waiting for them. It was a rather unremarkable end to the adventure through Knockturn Alley. Vince didn’t speak all the way back to the Leaky Cauldron, not even once they were inside. He didn’t until they were in Howard’s room upstairs. He and his mother would be returning home by Floo powder the next day.

“I am sorry you know”

“I know little man, no harm done I guess” except to his mental state perhaps. “But let's try and steer clear of Knockturn please? I don’t fancy getting eels threatened on me again is all” Vince laughed but nodded in acceptance.

“Yea alright, no Knockturn Alley and no Black Lake, anywhere else we should stay clear of?” Howard was being mocked he knew but he couldn’t help adding to the list.

“No Forbidden Forest either”

“Forgot that one”

“I’ll start a list if you keep forgetting, I’ll put it next to one about why your always late to class” Vince merely grinned in amusement and shook his head.

Chapter Text

September first came quickly and not fast enough. After they’re adventure in Knockturn Alley Howard missed Vince more than ever. He had hoped that the Ravenclaw could have stayed with him for the rest of the summer but Vince had to return to his foster family, which he stated was only a short bus ride away.

Howard had gotten to Kings Cross early, hoping to catch Vince on the platform. After waiting for longer than necessary he finally boarded the train. He found Vince in their compartment from last year, this time alone and sans headphones.

“Thought you’d never show up” Vince said as Howard sat across from him “wot took you so long?”

“Was hoping to catch you before we had to board” replied Howard giving the smaller boy a look. They hadn’t discussed it of course but Howard thought that it would’ve been implied.

“Told you I live real close, I got here early”

“Did your foster parents even come with you?” Howard knew they weren’t the most involved caretakers from the way Vince spoke about them but he thought they would’ve at least come along to see their foster son off.

“Course not, their off on holiday anyway” responded Vince trying and failing to sound uncaring. Howard didn’t voice his thoughts, he just offered Vince a warm smile.

“Did you get any new tapes?” he asked instead. After the first attempt, Howard had given the Walkman a chance and found it interesting. He wasn’t a fan of Vince’s music however, so Vince had bought him some jazz tapes for Christmas. Howard still didn’t own his own Walkman so they usually shared when they could.

“oh yea! My foster's gave me money for my birfthday! Bought some sweets and new tapes down at the corner store. Wanna listen?” asked Vince excitedly, but he had accidentally done something, he had let some important information slip. Howard now knew his birthday was sometime during the spring or summer months, or at least close to them. He didn’t let on that he was close to solving the mystery.

They spent the first half journey listening to Vince’s tapes, using his spelled Walkman, which had two outlets for two sets of headphones.

It had been at least three hours, in which they went through three of Vince’s new tapes and changed into they’re Hogwarts robes, when a tall figure appeared outside of the their compartment. Howard recognized the boy. Graham, a Slytherin a year above them. Little more than a third year at this point he still made it his mission to make Howard’s and Vince’s lives miserable. Even last year as a second year he had been a consent problem. Howard wasn’t fast enough to lock the sliding door before the third year wrenched it open with a smirk. Vince looked ready to curse the intruder but Howard shot the smaller boy a look.

“What da want Graham?” Vince’s tone was especially snotty.

Graham’s smirked vanished and he glared the Ravenclaw. “Gee Noir, that was clever, maybe you do belong in Ravenclaw?” the sarcasm was thick.

“Yeah I do! Get lost before me and Howard come at you like wet flannel! Tell ‘em Howard!” Vince threatened, glancing towards Howard to gauge his reaction but Howard simply shook his head and looked down..Graham laughed at Howard’s refusal to back up Vince’s claim.

“Thought so, you’re both freaks anyway, couldn’t curse me if you wanted. Enjoy your train ride” he said giving them both looks before leaving them be.

Once he was out of ear shot Vince turned to Howard with a betrayed frown. “Why didn’t you say anything!?” he cried directing a kick at Howard’s legs. He tried avoiding the pointed boots as best he could while also kicking back.

“Cause it wouldn’t have helped Vince! I’ve told you not to engaged him and now you’ve probably made it worse!” he argued. Vince scoffed and rolled his eyes, curling up on the seat and averting his gaze out the window. The Walkman lay forgotten next to him, and when Howard tried to catch his eye Vince stubbornly kept himself turned away.

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It was just nearing twilight when the Hogwarts express pulled into Hogsmeade station. Howard felt a little relieved that they wouldn’t have to arrive in boats this year. He saw the group of first years being led down the platform by Hagrid and smiled, remembering the excited yet nervous energy that plagued him last year.

Now all he was feeling at the moment was guilt.

He and Vince had never fought before, or whatever this was. The cold shoulder? Silent treatment? Whatever it was they had never quarreled and it left Howard feeling bereft. Like a part of him was suddenly missing. Even though Vince stayed at his side as they made their way along the path with the rest of the students towards the carriages, he knew the smaller boy was mad.

However when Vince stopped a few feet from the carriages Howard finally managed to get a better look at his face. The Ravenclaws eyes were focused instead on the carriage in front of them.

“What are they?” asked Vince, seemingly out of the blue. Frowning in confusion Howard watched as Vince followed one of the departing carriages with his eyes.

“What are what?” he asked in confusion.

“Pulling the carriages, what are they?”

“There's nothing pulling the carriages Vince” Howard was nervous now.

“They’re Thestrals” stated Naboo stepping up next to them, is cat Bollo purring in his arms. “Skeletal winged horses, people used to think they were bad omens, that seeing them meant bad luck, but that’s just superstition. You can only see them if you’ve seen death”

 

Howard gave Naboo a look “can you see them too?”

“No” Naboo answered cutting his gaze up to the Slytherin “I just know, plus Saboo told me about them last year” he added turning towards Vince who hadn’t taken his eyes off of the invisible creatures. The Ravenclaw looked worried, obviously having heard Naboo’s explanation.

“Hold on, so your saying that-that-”

“-I’ve seen death?” Vince finally asked, breaking his gaze and looking at his fellow Ravenclaw, blue eyes wide. Naboo didn’t answer, there wasn’t a need too. Howard was worried too, how could Vince not realize he’d seen a death? He’d seen someone die, just the thought sent a shudder through the Slytherin’s body, he didn’t like it. It seemed that Howard didn’t know his best friend as well as he thought he did.

Deciding that nothing was going to be solved by standing there, they all claimed a carriage as theirs before they all left without them. As it started to move Howard could tell Vince was still watching the invisible skeletal horse that was now pulling the carriage. He watched the smaller boy move to the front in order to get a better look at the creatures. Moving to join him, he gazed at the area where the Thestral would be, then turned to regard Vince’s unusually silent and still form.

That alone was worrisome.

“What do they look like?” He wasn’t necessarily curious, no matter what Naboo said they sounded dark and wrong, but he felt the need to comfort the Ravenclaw. If he got Vince talking about them, the idea that only he could see them might not seem so strange. Howard watched Vince inspect the creature for a moment, brow furrowed in though.

“Like...big bats? Only like bats that look like horses?” Vince finally answered with a shrug. He still hadn’t looked away. Howard was pretty sure he had only ever seen Vince concentrate that hard on sweets before. Suddenly Howard saw the other boy’s eyes go wide and he smiled. “They make noise! Like a cross between I don’t know? a horse and a bird, it’s beautiful though” He laughed at the description “doesn’t sound like it would be but it really is. Hey Howard they’re kinda cool ya know? They’re very well gothic! It is kinda neat that I’m the only one who can see them”

“It is” agreed Howard with a small smile, he personally was glad he couldn’t see them, but they did sound interesting at the very least. Vince smiled back finally and turned around, intent on paying the Thestrals no mind for the time being.

The carriage’s delivered them to the castle one by one. The journey this time around was less exciting and frightening then the boats, something Howard was extremely thankful for. Entering the hall Howard suddenly remembered that he wouldn’t be able to join his friends, he would have to sit with the other Slytherin’s for the welcoming feast. The thought made him stop dead causing Vince to turn and give him a questioning look before realization dawned on him as well.

“It’s only for tonight Howard, you’ll be fine at the Slytherin table” It wasn’t like Vince to offer reassurance but Howard could tell he was sincere. Howard gave him a shaky smile, which he got in return before Vince followed after Naboo, joining him and Leroy at the Ravenclaw table.

Not feeling dejected so much as simply put out, Howard made his way to the Slytherin table and found a seat. Like always the others around him didn’t give him a second glance, though he could spot Graham glaring at him from down the table.

He didn’t pay much attention to the sorting, though it was odd to watch instead of participate, he knew how it felt to be up there, center of attention wishing for one thing and getting another thing entirely. The thought only made him more upset about having to spend dinner away from his friends. He couldn’t enjoy his meal either, as much as he wanted too, his gaze kept slipping back to the Ravenclaw table. He watched as Vince and Leroy carried on, not seeming to miss him too much.

After dinner, and after Dumbledore's speech, welcoming them all back for another bright year at Hogwarts it was time to depart. He found he was more tired than he realized and was grateful when he finally collapsed into bed down in the Slytherin dormitory.

Chapter Text

The first few weeks back were hectic but easier then the year before had been. It seemed that since they were second years the professors deemed them well enough informed on how Hogwarts worked to throw them fully into lessons.

It proved both stressful and stimulating.

Howard had missed the routine that school brought him.

Vince was less enthused about it all, he continually complained about the bigger workload. Howard didn’t see the problem, he knew that third year would be even worse, it made him worry for the Ravenclaw. Knowing that as the years progressed it would get harder and harder.

“Your going to have to accept that this place is about learning Vince, not socializing” Howard had informed him one Monday afternoon, walking through the hallway towards their Defense Against the Dark Arts class. It had been an unpleasant shock to find Bainbridge as their professor that year, for a few reasons. One, because he had only just graduated the year before, and it was clear after the first class that he didn’t know a thing about the dark arts, let alone defending against them.

“Sure it is Howard! The teachers are always talking about inner house relations and making friends, how the friends you make here will be with you forever” he was clearly reciting something he was told and by the looks of his smile he believed it. Howard wasn’t necessarily sure about the rest of the students. He was only sure about Vince for the long haul, and he didn’t intend to think to hard on why that was.

“Who told you that?” it wasn’t that Howard didn’t believe him, it was more about not having any conviction where the other students were concerned. Even if he did make friends, he didn’t believe he would be friends with them after school.

“McGonagall, member last week when she made me stay back after I told those Slytherin boys off for throwing stuff at you?” Howard nodded. He did remember, he had waited outside for Vince, unwilling to continue on to their next class without him. “She said that I would catch more flies with honey than vinegar, and that they wouldn’t bully us so much if I kept raising to their bait” he looked confused by the advice. “Said I should….make more friends, besides just you, and that you should too…” for a moment Howard felt furious, they were fine on their own. They didn’t need more friends beyond Leroy or Naboo. He definitely didn’t want to try and befriend the students that constantly belittled them both for they’re wrongly sorted houses or any number of other things that neither of them could control, like Vince’s height, or Howard’s eyes.

“Yeah well maybe McGonagall doesn’t know everything hm?” He was aware of how he sounded and it was clear that Vince heard it too if his amused giggles were anything to go by as they took their seats in Defense Against the Dark arts. The year before Howard proudly chose seats in the front of the room, eager to learn all he could but this year because of they’re new “professor” he opted to stay as far away from the front as possible.

Vince didn’t protest, happy to sit in the back no matter the class. It was easier to talk, pass notes, and generally have a laugh at Bainbridge’s sorry excuse for teaching. It was all things Howard normally wouldn’t have approved of under normal circumstances, but he wasn’t fond of Bainbridge. Though he wouldn’t go so far as to say he hated him, not yet anyway.

“Whatda think it’ll be this time?” Vince whispered, barely containing his mirth as the rest of the class spilled in after them.

“Don’t know, but anything would be better than the story about the bog mummy’s amulet from last week”

An essay had been set, an even though he hadn’t wanted to complete it Howard still wrote it, forcing Vince too complete it as well. He wasn’t looking forward to another one.

“The Tundra!” exclaimed Bainbridge, banging the door open, making the students jump. He came to stand in-front of them, looking just as pompous and ridiculous as he did last week. “Cold, desolate, featureless! A complete waste of my time!” he yelled, slapping a book down on the desk dramatically. “So why did I go you ask”

“No one asked” Vince whispered, rolling his eyes.

Howard barely covered a grin, not that Bainbridge ever paid the students any attention. He usually was so engrossed in his own story that Vince and Howard could hold whole conversations without Bainbridge noticing.

“To find the magical egg of Mantumbi, legend states that it resides in the further most reaches of the Tundra and is guarded by a dark entity. Alas I never found the egg, before I could I was set upon by a pack of werewolves! Which I defeated with quick thinking and the use of my wand”

“You can’t kill a werewolf with a spell, you can only kill one with a silver bullet, or knife” commented Howard dryly, having read about werewolves regularly. He checked to make sure Vince was paying attention to him only to find the Ravenclaw doodling on a spare piece of parchment. It looked as if he was drawing a rendition of Bainbridge being chased by werewolves in hats of varying styles.

“No one has found the egg yet! But I'm devoted to finding it….” at this point Howard tuned him out and made use of the time by starting his essay for potions.

He was soon startled out of what he called the essay groove by Vince nudging him in shoulder as the rest of the class gathered their things.

“Class is over Einstein”

Bainbridge was sitting a his desk, ignoring every student that walked by, even the ones that approached him for a question. Pretending not to see them even when they stood directly in-front of him.

Glancing at the chalkboard, Howard could see another essay had been set. This time asking for the 10 ways to identify dark objects. It was shocking to see something that made sense for once, and not a useless waste of parchment like the last assignment.

How to charm a mummy indeed. Howard had floundered with the essay at first, until he “helped” Vince, and then it came easy. In reality, Vince had helped him a lot more, coming up with more than the requested number of ways to charm a mummy. They had both gotten high marks on it, so Howard hadn’t complained but this time he was sure he could do it on his own and get good marks again.

“Whose Einstein?” Howard asked, following Vince out of the classroom and down the hall. The Ravenclaw laughed but when he saw that Howard wasn’t laughing he only frowned in confusion.

“You serious?”

“He a wizard?” with the way Vince was looking at him Howard guessed he was wrong.

“He’s a muggle O’ward, a famous one. Really smart guy apparently, bit of a nerd if you ask me”

“Are you calling me smart?” his tone implied offense, as if he didn’t really believe that anyone -beside himself and his parents- would call him that. Vince looked taken off guard for a second before scoffing and ducking his head to hide behind his dirty blonde fringe.

“Well yea, you are. You taught me loads last year, all about being a wizard and Hogwarts, remember that first week? I was a mess, completely messed up those newt eyes in potions”

“They were eel eyes I recall, the newt eyes were last week”

“See! I’m still a mess at it”

If there was one thing Howard hated in regards to Vince, it was how the Ravenclaw never seemed confident in his school work. He was confident in everything else, social situations, bullies, art, and sports. Most things that Howard failed miserably at.

“Ah, come now little man you’ll get better with the right tutelage, and my natural talent of course” Vince merely rolled his eyes but smiled nonetheless

By now they had left the castle to walk the ground before dinner as usual. They each wore their heavy cloaks to block out the chill of the approaching fall weather. Vince had even remembered his scarf, silver and blue, his house colors. It was wrapped loosely around his neck and trailed down his back, fluttering behind him in wind as they walked. Howard’s own green scarf was tied tight around himself to keep out the chill.

It being second year Howard had no qualms about making they’re way back to the lake, certain that Old Gregg had latched onto a new first year. He hadn’t seen the ghost yet since being back, though Vince continuously liked to remind him about the little encounter.

“Bet he’s waiting for you right now, down there in those murky depths” This was always followed by giggles and half hidden grins. It never bothered Howard much though, safe in the knowledge that he was off the ghost’s radar.

Or at least he thought he was

They hadn’t gotten far down the small path around the shallow edges of the lake before Gregg came into view a few paces in-front of them. He jumped down from a large boulder, dark wet hair swinging with the momentum, and fixed them both with a curious look.

“Hey is that him?” asked Vince glancing up at Howard in question, only to find that Howard had scooted behind him. As if that would help much. “Wots with you? He’s just a ghost”

“He managed to touch me last time, my wrist hurt for weeks!”

“Hiya Howard” Gregg said creeping closer “Howard’s...friend” he glared at Vince, his expression changing from happy to angry in an instant.

Vince wasn’t fazed by the ghosts obvious hostility towards him “alright, I’m Vince Noir, I’m gonna be a rock and roll star.” There was a long moment in which Gregg stared at Vince and Vince grinned back, then with a swiftness that only ghosts possess, Gregg was in-front of them. Howard couldn’t help letting out a yelp of fear, clutching at Vince’s arm, ready to pull him away from the ghost. “Hey, how did you move so fast? That was genius” asked Vince. He was either being very brave or very stupid, Howard couldn’t decided. Thankfully Gregg finally tore his gaze away from the Ravenclaw and focused fully on Howard.

“How come you don’t visit Howard?” The ghost sounded so sad, pathetic and vulnerable that Howard had to take a moment and remind himself that just because Gregg sounded sad didn’t mean he wasn’t dangerous. After being told the legend last year, Howard had asked around and no upper class students had reported anyone ever being harmed in an Old Gregg encounter.

That they knew of.

It occurred to Howard that it must be true otherwise wouldn’t the school had done something?

No one knew what happened if Old Gregg got a hold of you, but most suspected it ended in a trip into the lake. So Howard wasn’t keen on sticking around but he couldn’t very well tell Gregg that, especially since it looked as if Gregg had NOT found a first year to follow, and was still focused on Howard.

“Well you see Gregg, I’ve been really busy you know, don’t always have time to walk about the grounds. Lots of homework” This of course was a lie, he and Vince always managed to carve out some time at the end of the day for a quick jaunt about the grounds, either down to Hagrid’s hut for tea, or as close to the Forbidden Forest as Howard dared venture. They sometimes even went to the Quidditch pitch to sit in the empty stands and fantasias about about joining the team.

Gregg didn’t need to know about any of that, thankfully Vince was nodding along to Howard’s lie. “Yea Howard’s been busy!”

Gregg regarded them both with narrowed soulful eyes, both suspicious and needy at the same time. Howard was tempted to offer Gregg a deal, maybe if the ghost could keep his slimy hands to himself he would get more visitors. He didn’t say this of course because Gregg was suddenly inching around them, or more accurately around Vince to reach Howard. They both stepped away when Gregg went to grab Howard’s arm...

“IN-FACT!! We’ve got loads of homework!” he exclaimed tugging Vince backwards, tripping on loose dirt. Vince went willingly looking just as freaked out, finally. Without looking back at the ghost they both ran back towards the castle.

Once inside the entrance hall they paused, leaning against one another to catch their breath. Howard’s lungs stung from the cold air, and he was sure his face was red from the adrenaline and wind burn. Vince looked no better, even his carefully maintained hair was in tangles from the race back to the castle. Howard was sure his curls were in a similar way, then again they always seemed to be a mess no matter how much either boy tried to control them.

“I told you he was bad news! But you just had to egg him on! Being all friendly! We should never have gotten that close to the lake!” He wasn’t sure why he was shouting at the Ravenclaw but he felt better for it.

Lifting his head Vince glared back in shock. “Wot are you blaming me for?! How was I supposed to know he was still obsessed with you! You told me he wouldn’t be after you!”

“Yea, cause Leroy, your friend, told me he only went after first years!”

“He’s your friend too! Don’t make excuses Howard, you messed up same as me.”

“You begged me to go back to the lake! Doesn’t matter if Gregg was after me or not, he’s still dangerous”

Vince was silent for a long moment, they hadn’t had many arguments, at least not ones like this.

Howard didn’t know what to expect.

“Yeah, well maybe if you were nicer to him he wouldn’t be so creepy, I was just tryin to be nice”

“He’s a ghost, he’s creepy without my input, are you defending him?”

“No but…” Vince paused and looked pained for a second. Then in a quiet voice, so unlike his earlier volume he said “he just wanted a friend” After that he didn’t give Howard a chance to respond before he was walking away, past the Great Hall and towards the stair cases where one would undoubtedly lead him to Ravenclaw Tower.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Howard hadn’t expected the argument to last past the next day, but it did.

When Howard sat down at their usual table in potions he expected Vince to join him, but the Ravenclaw by-passed the table and sat next to Leroy instead, all without any sort of greeting whatsoever. Howard was thrown for a second and almost said something if Naboo hadn’t sat down next to him and fixed him with a confusing stare. He detected disappointment, annoyance, and resignation. Clearly Naboo wasn’t keen on being Howard’s partner but it was clear that Vince had asked him to trade.

“Your kidding me” Howard stated turning and gazing at Vince in confusion. He truly hadn’t thought the fight had been THIS bad. Vince refused to return his gaze so Howard gave up and attempted to ignore him just the same. After all with Naboo as his partner they actually got passing marks. Meanwhile, Vince and Leroy’s potion looked like a big gooey soupy mess. Bright pink with globs overflowing, like bubblegum.

Defense Against the Dark Arts, and Herbology all went in a similar fashion. There was no need to pair up in those classes but Vince still chose a seat on the other side of the room each time. By supper Howard had resigned himself to the fact that maybe they’re short lived friendship was over. It wasn’t as if they had any great common interests in anything, nothing they liked overlapped, not really.

They didn’t share a house and weren’t from same regions.

Howard preferred the classy profound movement that was jazz, and Vince was all about rock and what the muggles called electro music.

Their fashion tastes resided at different ends of the spectrum.

They even took they’re tea differently.

Was it any wonder that Vince had finally had enough of him? Howard had been expecting this from the very beginning, but it had gone longer than he anticipated, so it hurt. It never occurred to him that he could go and apologies for the argument, be the bigger man sort of speak. He just assumed the friendship was over.

It was a full two months after they stopped speaking that Vince even approached him. It was a foggy December afternoon and Howard had taken to lingering on the wooden bridge that separated the school from the forest, owlery, and Hagrid's hut. It was a nice view and he could stand there for hours watching the mountains, he liked to use the inspiration to think up songs or poetry.

One moment he was alone, enjoying the quiet, the next Vince was at his side poking him in the ribs with a quiet ‘hey’

“What!?” The question came out sounding harsher then he meant it to, but he was still sore from the prolonged absence from the other boy.

Vince scowled at him for a moment before turning and joining him at the railing to watch the mountains. “I can’t go home with you for the holidays this year” he started, sounding sad and slightly pleased at the same time. Howard merely watched him with a frown, he had gathered as much in the last two months, had even informed his mother that he would be coming back home alone this time around. He was shocked that Vince found the need to inform him however.

“Why not?” it was a stupid question, he knew exactly why not.

“Foster parents want me to come with them on holiday or somethin” he shrugged, obviously not too pleased with that fact but happy enough to go apparently if it meant he didn’t have to be with Howard. “Thought you should know in-case your mum was expecting me” He didn’t look at Howard, he kept his gaze fixed on the valley and mountains before them.

“She isn’t, told her a few weeks ago that you weren’t coming”

“Oh…” Vince had lowered his gaze to the floorboards now, and Howard wondered how he felt about that. Pleased that Howard understood how things were now? Or sad that Howard hadn’t even asked before making up his mind about the holidays. “Well, good cause I ain’t” the smaller boy finally said with a final nod. Howard still wasn’t sure how he was feeling but it was clear that Vince wasn’t up to sharing just at the moment.

“Good” it was all he could say at the moment and he knew it sounded bad. Vince had finally looked up at him, his large blue eyes were glassy but Howard knew the other boy would never cry, especially not about this surely.

“You-...you really wouldn’t want me to come even if I could would you O’ward?” the quiet inquiry sounded watery and rough, like he was forcing back at sob. It made Howard pause in bewilderment.

“What? Of course I would, but you can’t. I didn’t think you would honestly…” he trailed off unable to finish in fear of bringing up the tangible feeling of loss that he now associated with being away from the Ravenclaw for more than a day. It had been almost two months, in which they hadn’t spoken and only seen glimpses of each other during class and meal periods. He had gotten quite good at recognizing and analyzing the feeling by now. He wasn’t sure what it all meant but he didn’t like it. It was like missing an important organ or limb.

“Yeah, I get that. I’m sorry Howard, I was kinda being a tit wasn’t I?” it was as close to an apology that the Ravenclaw was bound to get. And for a moment Howard felt relief spread through him. It was quickly replaced by guilt at not having apologized first.

“Yeah” he agreed, nodding matter of factually. “But I wasn’t much better. I shouldn’t have yelled at you for what happened, it wasn’t your fault” He had known at the time that it wasn’t but he had been scared, panicked, and worked up. He would’ve blamed a tea cake at that point. “You were just trying to be nice like always, like now” he couldn’t help a fond smile, pleased that their friendship hadn’t died at all. It had only hit a rough patch.

Granted it was one they had caused together but they still had managed to fix it just fine it seemed.

Vince was beaming back at him, he even shuffled as close as he dared until they’re shoulders and arms touched. Howard could feel the warmth of the smaller boy through the thick cloak. It only made him smile more, thrilled to finally feel that place beside him filled once more.

“So, no Christmas together?”

“Afraid not, but you’ll see me on the train first thing next year promise!”

“I’ll keep you to that little man”

Chapter Text

There were a lot of things that Howard wished for on a daily basis since he started Hogwarts, number one was always; to change houses. Most other wishes tended to change every day. Wishing there were more pudding at supper, wishing he could do better in transfiguration. Simple things really, but never before had he wished for something as much as he had done today

Watching Vince walk away down the platform that afternoon, Howard had wished that Vince could stay with him again for Christmas. His foster parents hadn’t come to collect him from the station, it had worried Mrs. Moon but Vince had only grinned and told her politely that he could manage.

Had been since before school.

That didn’t make it any better but there wasn’t much that she could do, so she simply gave him a hug and kiss on the head before sending him off. His and Howard's exchange hadn’t been as heartwarming but it was still something he remembered hours earlier, laying in bed that night, still feeling the keen sting of loneliness in his heart.

It hadn’t been much of a farewell really.

Vince had hugged him tight without warning and when he had pulled away, he had a massive grin that told Howard that everything would be alright.

“It's only the holidays, don’t look so down?” Howard had tried to smile, had tried to express his acceptance of that fact. To show that he was perfectly fine with the way things were. But he wasn’t and Vince knew that “you’ll see me again before you know it, you’ve gone a whole summer without me! I’ll write everyday as well” the smaller boy was trying so hard to cheer Howard up. At the mention of more letters he finally smiled a genuine smile and gave a quick hug back then patted him on the shoulder.

“I know you will, I’ve got a thousand letters from the last few months to prove it” Vince laughed and shrugged, he had so many things to say and not enough paper to do it on.

After that he had gone, disappeared into the mass of people all heading somewhere for Christmas.

Now Howard was home, tucked up in his bed, watching the first lazy snowflakes of winter roll past his window. He wished for more things.

He wished he had the confidence and cleverness for another blanket fort.

He wished that in the morning he would have a partner to build snowmen with.

Most of all he wished that Vince had a happy Christmas.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The train home wasn’t crowded the way it was at the start of term, but no matter where Howard looked he couldn’t find Vince. The smaller boy wasn’t in any compartment nor any carriage where students were aloud.

Other students were starting to get angry with him after he had asked them for the fifth time.

Finally, feeling confused, unsettled, and forlorn Howard found an empty compartment and tucked himself in corner to watch the countryside pass. Hoping desperately that Vince was OK. The other boy wasn’t on the train, but Howard knew that Vince had been on the train before Christmas, had watched him leave the station.

So where was he?

The answer that came to mind was disturbingly upsetting.

Vince hadn’t caught the train, he might never have even been at Kings Cross. He was back in London, or more distressing, still on holiday with his foster parents. Maybe, Howard thought working himself up to the point of panic, maybe Vince’s foster parents had pulled him of school? Had left the country, never to return.

After spending almost two months thinking that Vince no longer desired to be his friend. The thought that Howard might never see him again filled him with dread. That empty feeling becoming more pronounced in his heart until all he could do was curl up on the plush seat. Long legs pulled close, with his arms wrapped around them. His forehead pressed against his bony knees as he tried to calm his breathing.

By the time the train pulled into Hogsmeade station he had managed to calm himself down, but only just enough to join the other students as they were driven back to the castle via horse drawn carriage. Snow lay thick on the ground and in the trees, making flurries cascade down around them as they sped past.

Skipping dinner, Howard made a beeline for the Slytherin dormitory. Classes would start again in the morning and even though he was still quiet panicked over Vince’s disappearance he knew he couldn’t skip class. It occurred to him, as he got ready for bed, that he could simply go to a teacher and inform them that Vince hadn’t returned to school.

Wouldn’t they know?

Wouldn’t they already be doing something if they did?

He had so many questions going around and around his head and he couldn’t answer a single one. He resolved to ask someone in the morning, certain that things could be fixed.

But the next morning proved fruitless because he never made it to Potions, instead he found his way blocked by Graham and two other Slytherin boys that Howard never bothered to learn the names of.

“Well well well Moon, all alone are you?”

Howard knew that if Vince had been there he would’ve shot his mouth off and probably would’ve gotten them both into trouble. But Vince wasn’t here, and Howard was indeed alone though he had no intention of raising to their bait. He was a mature twelve year old wizard, who truthfully only knew a few offensive spells that could help him. Not that he would ever use them against a fellow student, it was against the rules for one thing and he was NOT going to get detention for fighting. Turning around he opted to find another way to class, it would be longer surely and he would be late but he wouldn’t have to deal with Graham and his friends.

But as he turned his back and started the other way he could hear their footsteps on the stone floor, following him. He sped up his pace, and so did they until he was full out running down the empty corridor. They chased him up a flight of stairs, and then up more until Howard had no idea how many stories he had run and they were still following him if the thundering footsteps were anything to go by. He was just starting to tire, wishing for a place to hide, when he passed an odd looking tapestry which hung across the corridor from an empty section of stone wall. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a door materialize in-front of him. Without thinking he wrenched it open and slipped inside just as Graham and his friends rounded the corner.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
(Vince’s POV)

As it happened Vince wasn’t in London, nor with his foster parents, he was in the Infirmary -for the second time in two years! The morning before he had, like always, arrived at Kings Cross early to snag his favorite compartment near the rear of the train. But he hadn’t made it to the compartment before he was set upon by Graham and his friends. They chased him through two carriages before he was caught and hauled away, cursing and struggling the whole way until being tossed roughly into the luggage cart.

After that, things hadn’t gotten better. He really shouldn’t have run his mouth but he never was good keeping quiet when he needed to.

“Listen Graham if you wanted advice on what to do with your hair you could've asked” he teased “though I ain’t sure anything can be done with it being as its rubbish just like your face!”

“Your one to talk Noir with a face like that” Graham had scowled and stepped closer, flexing his fists menacingly. “Boys, I think we should teach Noir how to keep his mouth shut”

“You come at me and I’ll curse you!” Vince yelled, backing up into what little luggage was already in the carriage. He hoped his yelling would alert someone but he realized that he probably couldn’t be heard.

“Oh yea? With what?” One of the other boys waved his wand in the air, they had taken it from him during the journey there apparently. He was defenseless and they knew they had the upper hand.

Graham laughed at his stricken face before pointing his wand at Vince.“let's make sure he can't run away Locomotor Mortis!”

Gasping in pain Vince fell to the floor with a thud. His legs felt numb, he couldn’t move them, it was as if they had fallen asleep.

Three against one wasn’t fair but since when did they care about what was fair?

So here he sat a day later with swollen black eye, a second broken nose and two ribs cracked from repeated kicking. His legs felt sore after being jinxed for such a long period of time.

At first he had managed to to fight back with what strength he had but all to soon they had ganged up on him and all he could was curl up on the gritty floor.

He must have passed out because the next thing he remembered was noise, a lot noise, lots of screaming and thudding noises. He realized later that his huddled form had been hidden among the luggage and hadn’t been found until the train had stopped in Hogsmeade and the students had already left.

His first thoughts upon waking turned towards Howard and how worried the taller boy undoubtedly was. Howard always worried and usually for no reason but now he definitely had a reason. He hoped that Slytherin wasn’t to upset and angry with him for not showing up like he had promised. He hadn’t had a chance to send a message of any kind until he was in the Infirmary and by then he figured it was to late.

Madam Pomfrey insisted he stay over night so she could make sure nothing else had been broken. She had fixed his ribs and nose, though it still seemed wonky, but the bruising around his eye need gentle coaxing and hadn’t fully returned to normal.

He was just contemplating the amusing fact that he had totally missed Potions when Madam Pomfrey finally released him. Informing him that action against Graham and his cronies would be taken and that if he ever needed it, he could talk to Professor Flitwick -his head of house- about the bullying.

“Not bloody likely” he said to himself a few minutes later walking the halls. It wasn’t that he didn’t like Flitwick, he just didn’t think the miniature professor could do much.

He was meant to head to his next class, but he didn’t share that class with Howard and right now all he wanted to do was find the other boy. He peeked into Charms, figuring if anyone questioned him he could say he was meant to see Flitwick, but he didn’t see Howard anywhere. With a confused frown he walked away. Howard would never intentionally miss a class. So what happened?

A horrible thought dropped into his stomach like a led stone. What if Graham had gotten a hold of Howard as well? For all of his big talk about coming at Vince, Howard was a pacifist and would not have fought back. He would’ve ran instead. With that thought in mind he started searching, the dungeons, the main floor and the subsequent stories above. He had just made it to the seventh floor and was walking the halls when he overheard arguing.

“Your just jealous that I get all the chicas and you get nothing!”

“I am beyond the need for sins of the flesh”

“Eh! Don’t make me laugh! You are man like me! Like anyone!”

“Unlike some, I am not so easily swayed”

Stepping closer Vince discovered two paintings, across the hall from each other. The rest of the hall was devoid of any other paintings. On one side was the portrait a dark skinned man in a purple robe with a frankly ridiculous afro that took up most of the painting, embedded in his afro was rounded blue door. It bizarrely jutted out from the painting, as if someone could actually open it .

On the other side, standing among the desert landscape was another man. He had an amazing amount of blonde dreadlocks, a large black mustache, a bandanna over his forehead, and a blue vest. He was scowling across the hall at the other man.

“You only say that because no chica will have you!” The blonde man yelled, kicking a rock off and out of the painting to wherever they went when not in their paintings.

“Um...listen, don’t mean to interrupt-”

“Ah! Hello pretty girl, can I help you?” said the dark skinned one. Oddly enough his portrait didn’t have a name plate.

“I’m Vince, who are you?”

“Oh here we go” said the blonde one.

“I go by many names, some call me ‘diggy diggy von wip!’ Others call me ‘Wessss’, and then there are some who call me simply...toast. Still others call me-”

“Yeah, wots your actual name?”

“My true name is Rudi van DiSarnio, that is Spider Dijon, you have come looking for something yes?”

“Yeah my mate Howard, have you seen him? He’s a Slytherin, small eyes, messy hair, was probably runnin from a bunch of other boys?”

“We haven’t seen anyone like that”

“Only you sweet cheeks” said the Spider one, giving Vince a once over, causing the Ravenclaw to grimace and turn back to Rudi.

“But perhaps he’s hidden himself if what you say is true?”

“Yeah that sounds like somethin Howard would do” replied Vince with a nod. Only there were so many places a person could hide in Hogwarts. Howard could be anywhere by now, possibly hurt. “Where would he go?”

“I suspect where all things go when lost or hiding” the vague answer only frustrated Vince more.

Then, with a squeak the blue door in Rudi’s head opened. A hand appeared holding a long stick, no not a stick, Vince’s wand! It hadn’t been found with him on the train, he figured Graham must have stolen it. But there it was, being held aloft by a disembodied hand that was protruding from a painting.

“Take your wand pretty girl and find your friend”

“Cheers, I guess” Vince said, reaching up and snagging his wand. The hand withdrew back into the door and it closed with a click. “Bye then” he stated, backing away from the paintings, not keen on continuing the conversation. By the time he had rounded the corner both paintings had gone back to arguing “what a bunch of berks, I just wanted to find Howard, at least I’ve got my...wand…” here he trailed off as he saw a large door appear on the wall next to him.

Shrugging and looking both ways down the hall he quietly slipped through the door.

What he found on the other side could be described as an over-sized junk closet. It went on and on further then he could see.

All manner of objects lay scattered around.

Furniture, books, clothing, instruments, a large table stacked high with tea cups. There were rolled up rugs, candelabras, mirrors -which he inspected thoroughly. There were about a dozen or so grandfather clocks, all with the wrong time. Bird cages, rusted suits of armor, picture frames, and a whole corner piled with chairs of every shape, size, and color. It was a disorganized mess.

In the midst of the mess Vince found an old canvas style tent set up on a plush looking rug.

It didn’t look accidental.

Someone had set it up.

Stepping closer he could hear the strains of an old gramophone winding its way around the stacks of junk. He belatedly realized someone had put on a jazz record, though he couldn’t find the gramophone anywhere. Shaking his head in bemusement, Vince approached the tent, confident that Howard would be inside.

As soon as he stepped inside however all thoughts of finding Howard vanished. The Tent was bigger on the inside! Like that Tardis thing on that telly show his foster parents enjoyed. Though he supposed the room the tent was in was also bigger on the inside too. It was far too big to fit in the castle. The tent had at least four rooms that surrounded the main room, and it was all decorated tastefully with patterned throw pillows, and diamond shaped lanterns that glowed faintly in the dim atmosphere. Rugs in different shapes and colors lined the floor, and there was a low star shaped table next to a comfy looking cushion that was big enough for four.

Directly across from the entrance Vince could make out a simple kitchenette with a round table, four chairs and even a stove! Among the decorations he spotted the gramophone. The record spun lazily as the smooth jazz continued to fill the space. The other rooms, from what he could tell were all decorated the same. It all reminded of something out of Bollywood, which made him giggle.

“Vince?”

Turning on the spot he discovered Howard had just come through the tents opening and was staring at him in disbelief.

“Howard!” He exclaimed, flinging himself at the other boy for a hug. He was shocked to find Howard hugging back, his arms wrapped tight around Vince in a crushing hug.

“I thought I would never see you again! What are you doing here!? How did you get here?” Howard seemed to be talking a mile a minute “oh! W-what happened to your eye?” he asked, pulling out of the hug to study Vince’s face.

He felt shy under the examination and ducked away. “That would be the reason why I didn’t show up on the train, or rather I was on the train I just….had issues”

“What happened?”

“Graham and his friends, cornered me on the train, chased me…” He suddenly felt embarrassed about what happened so he turned away, fiddling with his wand, and sat down heavily on the plush cushion. Howard followed him still looking concerned. “Carried me off to the luggage carriage, jinxed me, gave me a pretty good beating” It wasn’t a very good story, nothing like his usual tales but he couldn’t find it in himself to be fantastical or even lie. “Broke my nose, a few ribs, gave me this” he said pointing at his bruised eye. “I’ve been in the Infirmary since last night”

“I thought you had been left in London, or were still with your foster parents! Why didn’t someone tell me?”

“I guess they didn’t see the need” replied Vince glancing around the cozy space “what are you doing here? You weren’t in Charms” he asked finally leaning back against the pillows, still feeling sore from yesterdays events.

“Ah well, it seemed we both had a run in with Graham. They stopped me on the way to Potions. I ran and….found this place”

“Well with your freaky long legs it was probably pretty easy to get away”

“Are you mocking my legs? They’re my best feature! Witches swoon at the site of ‘em”

Vince grinned “they’re like two green beans propping up your marshmallow body” he said poking Howard in the side, causing the taller boy to wiggle away and scowl at teasing. “So you ran, and hid in the worlds largest junk drawer?”

“The door just appeared, I didn’t really have time to make any big decisions. I was hoping for a place to hide and there it was. I think its the Room of the Requirement, or the Come and Go room. According to Hogwarts a History, it appears to those who need it most, it always has what you need. In my case, I suppose I needed a place to hide and I found this tent” The whole lecture seemed to have been memorized but Vince was grateful for the information. A room like this came in handy.

“Hey O’ward, it’s like a clubhouse! We could come here and hide out whenever we want! It’s genius!” Howard neither agreed or disagreed, he merely smiled in amusement which Vince took as a good sign.

Chapter Text

Winter blew by in a flurry of snow and harsh winds that forced the duo inside during the afternoon. This suited Howard just fine, especially now that they had a hideout.

No one else ever seemed to be there.

he made sure by using a spell he had found in a third year charms book that had been left sitting in the common room.

It had taken him a full week to get it right but he was confident that it worked.

“Homenum revelio”

He cast it each time he entered the room of requirement and each time he never found a soul.

“Better safe than sorry” he told Vince one even after supper when the Ravenclaw had questioned him about the spell.

“Can you teach it to me?”

They had left the tent up and only ventured out into the main room when they needed something. They never needed food nor drink however, and Howard never questioned it. If they wanted tea, tea was provided. If they wanted sweets there was always a box in the kitchenette. It was nice, but Howard knew not to get to comfortable with the idea. They couldn’t always be there. Vince was perfectly happy to stay put and never go to class but Howard insisted. They couldn’t stay in the room of requirement indefinitely, they would be found out.

“I don’t know, its a tricky spell, kind of advanced”

They were lounging in the center room of the tent. Vince lay sprawled on the large cushion fidgeting with a spar quill looking bored while Howard tried to read his history book.

“Bet I’ll get it faster than you did, I’m better at Charms anyway” He was at that. He never seemed to practice or read much before performing a new spell. Howard always found himself surprised when Vince easily mastered a charm. Was always slightly baffled when the smaller boy transfigured an object on the first try. It left him feeling jealous of the Ravenclaw’s natural talent at spell work.

While Vince excelled with Charms, Howard had success with Potions and Herbology. Slughorn had stopped pairing everyone up the week before, leaving Howard finally able to concentrate properly on the ingredients and all the intricate details that went into potion making. Vince still had horrid trouble, specially on his own. The Pepperup potion just the other day had gone splendidly for Howard while Vince’s potion had taken on the consistency of rocks.

Naboo tried to be helpful and tutor Vince when he could but he was constantly busy with shaman club. He always seemed to be at a meeting. Howard suspected they weren’t so much meetings as accuses to steal firewhiskey, and food. Then sit around down at Hogsmeade getting drunk.

Even Leroy had offered to help but he was just as bad. Finally Howard took to quizzing Vince when ever he could on different potions from his school book.

Finally, Howard knew a spell now that Vince didn’t. And the Ravenclaw was asking to learn said spell. He still wasn’t sure, he liked knowing a charm that Vince didn’t.

“Besides you only know it because you was being sneaky and found the third year book. Proper Slytherin you are Howard.” Vince knew just how much Howard hated his house, how much he hated the negative connotations that were associated with Slytherin House.

“your making a great case for yourself there” he said sarcastically.

“oh go on, please Howard? It'll be dead helpful! Imagine yeah? I'm heading to the toilets minding me own business when bam! A troll is stand there lookin all ugly and slow, ready to do me in with one thwack of his club.”

“ Whats a troll doing in the bathroom?”

“havin a wee”

“oh, fair enough”

“yea, only he's shy you know. He doesn't need young lads walking in on him while he's doin his business. That's well weird”

“So what do you do?”

“well, at that point there isn't much you can do. Mostly just lay down and hope for the best”

“hmm tragic”

“Your telling me, my hair would be ruined. Now if I knew that spell I could check the toilets for trolls all the time and then we wouldn't have any problems”

“You do realize that spell only works for humans don't you?”

“is there a troll detecting spell then?”

“maybe? It's a shame the one professor who would know is useless” at the mention of Bainbridge, Vince laughed.

“listen, at least teach it to me in-case I'm jumped by Graham again?” Howard couldn’t say no to that. Vince was right, the spell would be useful for staying out of the way of bullies. With a sigh, Howard sat up and grabbed his wand.

“Alright fine, but your going to pay attention” he demanded, standing and facing the other boy. Vince stared at him wide eyed before beaming and jumping up.

“Right now?”

“No better time” he responded leaving the tent, Vince hot on his heels.

Once outside the tent Howard stood facing the vast amounts of junk piled around the room, wand gripped tightly in his fist. The idea that he was meant to teach Vince a spell suddenly froze him in place. What if he couldn’t? What if it hadn’t worked at all for him and he had just gotten lucky each time?

Vince stood next to him, waiting until he got impatient, then shoved at his shoulder with an irritated huff. “You gonna teach me or not?”

Shaking himself out of the self doubt, Howard turned to regard the smaller boy.

“There isn’t much to it actually, just grip your wand tightly” he scowled when Vince snorted at unintentional dirty joke. “Hold it out in front of you, then with feeling and confidence say ‘Homenum revelio’”

“That’s it?”

“Erm, yes?

“How do you know if its worked?” Vince was looking less and less impressed.

“Well if someone WAS here it would reveal them, but since no one IS here nothing happened”

“Yeah but how do you know if you’ve done it right?”

“You...don’t, I’ve been assuming that I have”

Rolling his eyes Vince stepped away, twirling his wand about in his hand, placing it at his mouth. All signs that he was actively thinking. “What if we played hide and seek?” he finally said after a inordinate amount of time “you hide I'll use the spell to seek” his grin was cheeky and he looked excited at the prospect of a game.

“we're both already in the room. It wouldn't work”

“Then you hide yeah? I'll leave, come back, cast your spell and find you. It’'ll be a piece of cake!”

“I don’t know, maybe we shouldn’t….” he was starting to feel uneasy. What if Vince messed up the spell and managed to to do something horrible to Howard?

“fine, I'll just get eaten by a troll”

There was a tense pause in which Howard scowled and Vince simply gave him the best charming smile a twelve year old could muster.

“Ugh fine” he huffed stalking off into the piles of junk. He could hear Vince giggling as the Ravenclaw left the room.

He wondered further and further into the room. Getting distracted be interesting objects. Going through old piles of books, peeking into different cabinets until he realized it been a while since he had been told to hide. What was Vince waiting for? He was just about to panic when he felt a sickening sensation in his stomach, suddenly everything blurred for half a second and then with a pop he was facing Vince and their tent. He had been transported, via the spell, directly back to Vince. Who was grinning happily at having done the spell right.

“that was genius Howard! You just appeared! What did that feel like?”

It took a moment for his mind to catch up with his body but he finally managed to shake the dizzying sensation.

“Like apparating, but worse”

Vince wrinkled his nose, unhappy with the answer. “What's apparating?”

“It something fully trained witches and wizards can do. They can disappear and reappear where ever they want. My mom and dad can do it, and sometimes they bring me along, its called side-along apparition. Always makes me sick” He still felt a bit sick after being summoned and appearing out of thin air.

“Fully trained? When will we be able to?” Howard could tell that Vince’s interest had been piqued by the idea of apparating. He understood why but he still wasn’t a fan of the feeling.

“I don’t know, but I don’t plan on doing it much” He needed to sit down but it was late and they needed to get back to their dormitories before they both got into trouble for being out past curfew. “We should leave, its late” he didn’t give Vince time to argue before he was grabbing his school bag and heading towards the exit. He was looking forward to falling into bed. For whatever reason he was exhausted.

Vince caught up with him easily, chattering away about the spell and his prospect of one day apparating.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The Easter holiday was early this year and snow drifts as tall as Howard still lingered well into march. The weather had died down making it possible for them to venture out and enjoy the white landscape. He had lost count of number snowballs fights and snowmen, and his hands always seemed numb but Vince insisted on it. Not today however since all the second year students had been collected together in the Great Hall and each handed a sheet of parchment with a list of possible classes for next year.

“Why MORE classes, aren’t the seven we have now plenty?” Vince whined slumping into his seat next to Howard at one of the tables.

“You only have to choose two, see look Care of Magical Creatures, you like animals.”

“Is that what your taking?”

“Yes, I don’t think Ancient Runes or Arithmancy are my style”

“Look Vince, Muggle Studies, that should be easy enough” indicated Leroy, sitting down across from them. Vince agreed but still looked put out by the whole affair.

“You two should take Divination next year” suggested Naboo, also joining them “I’ll be taking that and Ancient Runes, they’re essential for shaman club, I’ll need them for my license” he explained at length.

 

“Cool, hey Naboo how come you don’t tell us about your club?”

“I’m forbidden to disclose any information”

“Aw! That’s no fun can’t we at least be invited to the end of the year party?”

“I’ll think about it”

“Cheers Naboo, hey Howard did you hear that?” Howard had tuned the conversation out long ago in favor of focusing on the difficult task at hand.

He had a problem.

Cutting out Arithmancy and Ancient Runes hadn’t been an issue, but that left him with only Muggle Studies, and Divination. Both weren’t all that compelling. He figured he knew enough about certain muggle ideas, cultures, and objects to not need the class. But the idea of him taking Divination was ludicrous.

“Howard?” Vince tried again, nudging him.

“I'm gonna have to take Divination…”

“That's no problem, I'll take it too”

“But it’s such an useless subject” Howard protested, ignoring the affronted look Naboo gave him for the comment.

“Maybe for someone like you” the odd Ravenclaw grumbled “I expect you won't get anythin out of the class, might as well take muggle studies”

“Hold on what’s that supposed to mean? It can’t be that hard, just a bunch of guess work. I’m sure in a few weeks I’ll be top of the class” He was well aware of how he sounded, but chose to ignore it and their unimpressed looks. He still marked down Divination and Care of Magical Creatures as his two classes for next year. Vince did the same, not caring two licks about the classes as long as he and Howard shared them. He tried to think of that as the only agreeable aspect of choosing Divination. It wasn’t hard with Vince grinning at him excitedly, as if he couldn’t wait for next year to start. He gave a smile back, it wasn’t as enthusiastic and he knew that Vince could tell.

“Come on it’ll be interesting! Might even be fun”

“Say that when your struggling with your star charts”

“As if, I’m already an ace in Astronomy. I bet I’ll be helping you next year!”

Howard wasn’t so sure about that, even if Vince was right.

He WAS better at Astronomy.

It was just another thing Vince excelled at.

He was so lost in thought about the upcoming year and how Vince was likely to surpass him in their new classes that he didn’t notice the Ravenclaw watching him intently, expecting a response to their ever present banter. Naboo and Leroy left the table biding Vince goodbye while McGonagall went about collecting their finished sheets of paper. He finally looked up and around when Vince passed her both their papers.

“You alright Howard? Your starting to freak me out” he commented, giving Howard a concerned look.

“Y-yes...yes I’m fine Vince, sorry. I was thinking”

Vince laughed “well that’s dangerous” his baby blues twinkled with mirth. With nothing to do and nowhere to be Vince began drawing on some spare parchment instead of finishing his homework. Tongue poking out in concentrating as he doodled strange creatures. The careless lack of responsibility towards his homework made Howard frown in disappointment.

Choosing to ignore Vince’s comment, Howard finally turned towards him. “Don’t you have at least two essays to finish?”

“Who are you McGonagall? I’ll finish them later, calm down” Vince responded, amusement still tangible in his tone.

“No you always do this, you leave it to the last minute, I never see you finish it and you somehow get good marks!”

Vince merely laughed and sat back fixing Howard with a smug smirk “alright, don’t nag. What do you care anyway? You get good marks too...mostly”

“Mostly? My last transfiguration essay was termed abysmal! She gave YOU a gold star” he knew because Vince had excitedly shown it off by sticking it on his jacket. “I don’t know how you manage it. Your clearly skilled, but you don’t do any work, and still get good marks”

“You think I’m skilled?” Vince asked looking up at Howard in amazement. He softened slightly with that look directed at him, he always did.

“Of course I do, your spell work is great, think about how fast you mastered the revealing spell! You did it perfectly, and you didn’t blow me up so that is a job well done in my book” He really was proud of the small Ravenclaw for his talent at spells, even if he was sometimes jealous.

Blushing, Vince looked back at his drawings and shrugged. “Flitwick thinks so too…” Howard could tell Vince still didn’t really believe it

“Exactly” Howard nodded fetching his own work to complete. “So you should do your work, it’s important for the future.”

They’ve discussed the future before, featuring either fantastical ideas on Vince’s part of down to earth plans from Howard. Every time, no matter where they envisioned themselves they always were together. Either traversing the globe in the name of magical discoveries, or being famous and joining Weird Sisters as front man, they were together. Neither questioned why nor how, it just was.

Howard watched as Vince shook his head and rolled his eyes, completely disregarding Howard’s opinion.

“Well fine, but don’t come crying to me when you fail your O.W.L.S and N.E.W.T.S and can’t get a decent job”

“Aw come on Howard, it’s still only second year, I’ll be fine” his tone was half comforting, half annoyance so Howard dropped it. Deep down he knew he was only worried that once they were done with school they wouldn’t be able to stay together. Vince apparently wasn’t worried, and why would he be? In his mind, he and Howard would always be friends, and a simple things like grades wouldn’t change that. Howard thought differently, not because he didn’t want to remain friends with the smaller boy but because he knew once he graduated his parents would expect something from him.

Possible a ministry position like his father.

Howard couldn’t stand the thought of working behind a desk, being nothing but a clerk or Merlin forbid an accountant. He wanted something more, something more...adventurous. There were potions to discover, spells to invent, and creatures to find. An sure if Howard managed those things Vince could and would follow along happily. Howard knew he would, nothing would change that.

“Hey Howard when we're done with school we'll live together right? Cause that would be genius!” said Vince as if reading his mind, again. Vince was always doing that. Voicing thoughts just minutes after Howard had thought them. He wasn’t sure if it meant that Vince had some sort of telepathy that he was unaware of or if they were so well synced up that Vince just had the same thoughts. Maybe his thoughts were just that loud? Anyway, he wasn’t sure if they would live together after school. Neither of them could know what the future held, and Howard was reluctant to answer.

Howard realized he had taken too long to answer and Vince was frowning at him, his dismay at not being answered clearly evident on his face. His bright blue eyes were downcast and he had turned away. The rest of the students were ambling past, on their way to more interesting hobbies. Feeling like he had lost his chance to answer -timely and truthfully- he stood up and tugged at Vince’s shirt sleeve.

“Come on, let's go outside, I fancy a visit to the quidditch pitch” He normally wouldn’t suggest it but he could tell that Vince needed a change of subject, otherwise he would ask again and again until Howard gave in and answered.

Vince followed wordlessly, though he gave Howard a suspicious look, like he couldn’t figure out if Howard genuinely wanted to visit the pitch or if he was merely trying to cheering him up. Howard suspected he wouldn’t care either way.

Walking the path towards the pitch Howard could tell that Vince was still feeling down.

“Hey, the last quidditch match of the season will be in a few weeks, Ravenclaw vs. Gryffindor, should be exciting” Howard said reaching over and delivering a punch to the smaller boys shoulder. It was meant to be playful so that it might break the tension but it turned out to just be awkward. Specially when Vince gave him an annoyed look. After that they were silent the rest of the way, Howard because he wasn’t sure what to say and Vince looked lost in thought. It wasn’t a look Howard normally saw on the smaller boy and it half concerned him and intrigued him.

By the time they arrived in the stadium and found seats among the empty benches Vince was firmly looking anywhere but at him. Which also was strange, usually he tried his hardest to meet Howard’s gaze. The late early spring air was chilly, and he could feel a breeze this high up. they’re breath even made faint clouds of steam as they sat there in the quiet of the late morning sun. Usually they would be discussing quidditch, or telling stories, even making up songs to distract themselves from the cold. They both remained silent, even when the breeze blew by sending shivers through them. Then all at once Vince stood up and focused on something far in the distance beyond the pitch.

“What? What is it?” Howard asked, standing and trying to see what the Ravenclaw could see but then all at once he realized he wouldn’t be able to. From the look in Vince’s wide eyes Howard knew it was another one of those skeletal horses, the Thestrals. “How many?”

“Just the one, at the edge of the forest” Vince informed him, trying and failing to point it out. They hadn’t discussed the Thestrals since the start of term. Howard figured it was better off left alone, at least at the time, now he wasn’t sure. Vince looked curious instead of disturbed now and it was giving Howard an idea. “They’re well graceful! I wish I could move like that” he said throwing his arms out, obviously imagining them as wings as he took a careful step along the bench.

He continued on like this for a bit. Balancing on tip toes, venturing far too close to the edge for comfort. Hoping to prevent what would most likely be a nasty fall, Howard stood and caught the sleeve of Vince’s jumper and pulling away from the edge to sit back down.

“Listen I was thinking, I bet we could find a book about them in the library” At the mention of the library Vince wrinkled his nose and rolled his eyes. After the being dragged there all last year he was sick of the place. “We could find out why you can see them and what they’re all about” Howard continued, ignoring the fact that he may be more interested in the skeletal horses then Vince at this point.

“Naboo said it was cause I saw someone die” murmured Vince, crossing his arms and bundling him self close, tucking his face close to his scarf so that his quiet answer was now muffled as well.

“It’s worth a try though, there might be more he didn’t know” Vince still didn’t look convinced “well it’s better than nothing?” he tried weakly, wrapping his cloak around him self. Vince finally gave him a bemused smile, maybe realizing that Howard simply wanted to provide him with an activity. Sure there was a learning aspect but when wasn’t there with the Slytherin?

“Awright fine, but we ain’t stayin”

Chapter Text

An hour later found them wondering through the library with Howard in the lead while Vince trudged behind him complaining under his breath.

“Every time we’re in here I swear my throat closes up, an all this dust is seriously messing with my hair”

“Vince, sometimes you have to sacrifice health and fashion to get your questions answered”

“Is that what happened to you? Spend to much time in libraries as a baby?” Vince said laughing at his own joke. Howard scowled at him but didn’t rise to the bait. He had a book to find.

It didn’t take him long to find at least four with the appropriate themes, three were on dark creatures and the last was the classic Fantastic Beasts and Where the find them. Which he had in his trunk, still to read.

Continuing to ignore Vince’s complaints, he took three of the four books to a nearby table and sat down. Vince sat next to him but didn’t make a move to help with the self inflicted research, instead the Ravenclaw decided to watch the coming and goings of the other students.

So invested in the viable information to be found, Howard failed to notice the two older girls near by watching and whispering.

He was already paging through the second book -the first having nothing but a small footnote describing the Thestrals as mysterious and dark- when he realized that Vince was no longer next to him. Gazing around he finally spotted the smaller boy entertaining the two girls that were undoubtedly older than them. They looked like Slytherins as well, though he didn’t recognize them. Vince was grinning and posing, ruffling his hair and genuinely showing off. It was something that Howard saw him do often around teachers, most likely manipulating them into giving him a good grade when he didn’t deserve it. Howard would wonder, for the hundredth time, if Vince had Veela ancestry. He could hear the girls whispering and giggling while Vince most likely told a tall tale.

Howard deemed it all unimportant and went back to his research.

fifteen minutes later Vince returned with a large grin, his mood having been lifted by the girls. He sat himself on the tabletop and faced Howard. Again Howard chose to ignore him and his flagrant dismissal of basic rules and manners.

“Find anythin?” asked Vince, managing to sound genuinely interested.

“Nothing”

“Shame. Sooo listen those two girls over there, did you see them?” Howard had seen them of course, giggling and making eyes at the Ravenclaw, but he shook his head no. “they were well fit! Their hair was genius! I asked how they got it to stay up like that and they promised to show me if…” here he paused watching Howard hesitantly. “....if we got them a book.” Howard frowned and sat back, confused at such a normal and anticlimactic request. “From the restricted section?” ah there it was.

“The restricted section?” Howard repeated, glancing back towards the gated and locked area of the library.

“Yeah! Only seventh years are allowed in right? Apparently they’re in sixth year”

“We’re in second! What makes them think we’ll be able to?”

“I don’t know, but I gotta know how they get their hair like that! It can’t be that hard, we’ll just sneak out after dark and have a look around”

“I never said it would be hard, only that it’s against the rules. We’ll get caught” he concluded turning back to the books on the table, conversation over.

“Look Howard, we both know I’m gonna end up going by myself and I’ll most likely get caught and tossed out of school”

“I’ll have to stop you then wont I?”

“Genius! Meet me outside the library at 9:30!I gotta plan what I’m gonna wear”

Howard barely had time to look offended before the smaller boy was jumping from the table and rushing out.

As he went about returning the books, which hadn’t given him any new information, Howard told himself that he WOULDN’T meet Vince outside the library at 9:30. He was NOT going to help the Ravenclaw with such a foolhardy venture. He didn’t care if Vince got caught and expelled, he didn’t.

“If he thinks I’m going along with this he has another thing coming”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

“I can’t believe that little tit talked me into this” Howard muttered, wrapping his arms tighter around himself due to the chill in the deserted corridor outside of the library. Unlike Vince he had no problems figuring out what to wear on a daily basis. It was easy when there was in fact a dress code. A dress code the Ravenclaw refused to adhere to most days. But that afternoon he had serious issues choosing what to wear to the late night...excursion. He refused to call it a break in. He hadn’t been sure if he should wear his normal cords and jumper, or his uniform and robes. He didn’t think either outfit would help if they got caught but at least in his uniform he would feel like he belonged there. In the end he chose a tasteful extreme nutmeg jumper and his uniform dress pants. He wasn’t sure what one wore to this sort of...activity, he was sure Vince would most likely show up in something completely unnecessary and bright.

A moment later, at least fifteen minutes after their agreed upon time Vince arrived just as Howard expected. His hair ridiculously re-done and perfectly feathered. A bright pink shirt that could be seen from down the hall, and shockingly clean white cowboy boots that in no way match the aesthetic of Hogwarts. At least he managed to stick to the late night ideals by wearing black flares, though his shiny belt glinted at Howard even without the wall lanterns being lit.

“Hey you made it!” exclaimed Vince as he approached. Twirling his wand between his fingers as was his habit. He looked so carefree in that moment, probably not a least bit worried about what they were about to do. Filch could come around any moment and then they would both be in big trouble, but that didn’t bother Vince.

“Yea well, didn’t have much on did I?” Howard’s sarcasm was evidently lost on Vince who simply grinned happily and aimed his wand at the locked library door.

“Alohomora” the whispered spell worked perfectly and the heavy wooden door before them clicked open, literally charmed by Vince’s spell work. Slipping inside, easy enough, unlocking the gate that separated the restricted section from the rest of the library was also easy, suspiciously so. Howard thought it would’ve had a stronger locking spell on it, but here they were standing in the dark dusty space, breaking curfew and fifty other school rules.

“So which book then?” somehow he never thought to ask, but if they could find it quick enough he might get a decent amount of sleep.

“Don’t know, Ebola said it had a star on the cover” Vince answered taking off down a random isle with his wand lit, the bright light shining on the spines of the books.

Howard stared after him in horror. Here they were risking their school careers and Vince hadn’t even had the presences of mind to ask what the bloody book was called, oh but he knew the names of the girls.

“What sort of name is Ebola?”

Her parents were either very cruel or thought they were being funny, possibly both.

“It’s not her actual name, come on Howard, she named herself that. I think it’s genius! Maybe I’ll invent a name for myself” Vince babbled loudly, his voice echoing in the dark. “Something dark, mysterious. Obsidian...Blackbird...Mcknight” each word was said carefully an apparently with a lot of thought. Ignoring the Ravenclaw’s chatter Howard lit his own wand and started looking in the other direction. He had never been in the restricted section, owning to the fact that all the books were about subjects way above his grade and that only older students could check them out. Each book on the shelf looked exactly like the one before it, and all of them had chains attached. He wasn’t sure how successful they would be tonight.

He hadn’t gotten very far before there was a girlish shriek and then a loud blast followed by a riot of multi-colored lights, like fireworks, erupting a few isles away. Rushing in that direction was not his first instinct, but the thought that Vince might be hurt urged him on. When he arrived he found Vince huddled on the floor behind a chair with his hands over his head, most likely protecting his hair rather than his body. Considering the amount of brightly colored fireworks that were exploding from the open book on the floor between them Howard figured it was a good idea, less the dirty blonde locks went up in flame.

“What did you do!?” he yelled out over the noise.

“Nothin!! I just opened a book!” Vince yelled back.

“We have to close it before someone shows up!” The fireworks, though small didn’t seem to be stopping any time soon.

“Be my guest!”

Howard REALLY didn’t want to be the one to do it but Vince hadn’t moved from his crouched position. Taking a huge breath hoping to psych himself up, Howard bounded forward into the blaze of exploding magic, grabbed the edges of the book and slammed it shut. Immediately the colors and sounds cut off, leaving a deafening ringing in his ears.

He stumbled backwards into a desk and held the book tightly.

In the silence all he could hear was his own frantic breathing.

Without the display of colors the darkness was almost blinding, he could barely make out Vince across the way slowly getting to his feet. Before either of them could speak a new light broke through the inky blackness. A lantern floated into view, being held aloft by the castles caretaker Mr. Flich. His cat Mrs. Norris trailing behind him with wide excited eyes.

“Wot’s all this then! Students out of bed! Causing a ruckus in the library!?” he snarled looking at them each in turn before grinning evilly. “Ohhhh you two best come with me, don’t you think about running neither I know all the passageways and shortcuts. Come on then” he demanded turning away with a flick of his head “it’ll be detention for the both of you”

With an agonizing groan Howard set the offending book down and followed the grizzled old caretaker, but not before giving Vince his best disappointed glare. The Ravenclaw only rolled his eyes and followed after him. It was going to be a long night for them both and Howard lamented the lack of sleep he was surely going to get.

Chapter Text

The next night found them back at the library, only this time Flich accompanied them. Leering at them from his seat as they sorted and re-distributed all the misplaced books, of which there were many. Howard couldn’t figure out how Madam Pince, a woman he once thought to be very organized, would let the library fall into such disarray. He said as much to Vince as they passed each other, both laden down with stacks of books. Neither of them were permitted to use magic to complete the task. A fact that Vince complained about for a whole hour before Howard told him to stuff it.

They were meant to return to the library each night for a week until the library was in sufficient order. At the rate they were going however, it might take more than a week. Something neither of them were looking forward too.

It must have been hours since they started and Howard had taken it upon himself to venture to the far end of the room to return some heavy volumes when he realized he hadn’t seen nor heard Vince in quite a while. With a heavy sigh he made sure the large books were properly placed before returning to the last place he saw Vince. Flich was soundly asleep, slumped in his chair. Mrs. Norris laid curled in his lap, her big bushy tail lazily sweeping back and forth as she eyed Howard wearily. He chose to ignore her, after all she was only a cat what could she possible do? He continued on into the shelves and the cart full of books they were meant to organize.

“Vince?” he called into musty gloom of the library “Vince I swear if you’ve bailed on me I’ll never speak to you again” He heard an amused snort from somewhere off to his right. Following the noise he finally found Vince huddled on the floor, back against a shelf with a large tome open in his lap. The smaller boy didn’t look up as Howard approached but he didn’t object when Howard joined him on the floor.Though he did smile when Howard managed to place himself directly against his shoulder so that they were pressed close.

“as if, you always say that but then end up talking at me like a some demented parrot” Vince told him once they were settled comfortably.

“You’re the chatterbox not me. What are you reading?”

It wasn’t often he caught Vince reading anything beyond Witch Weekly so he was curious about the large book in the Ravenclaws hands. At the mention of the book Vince’s smile vanished to be replaced by an almost fearful grimace. After a long moment the smaller boy looked at him, even in the dim lighting Howard could tell that Vince’s usually bright vibrant eyes had dulled to a grey blue. Something that only usually happened when he was tired or scared.

“Found what you were looking for yesterday, about the Thestrals?” somehow knowing that this was important Howard only nodded in understanding and waited for more. “It says what Naboo told us, only there’s more an I ain’t sure how I’m feeling about it”

“Whatever it is we’ll work through it together, I’m here for you, all the way” He hadn’t meant for it sound so cheesy but it was out there, besides the smile Vince gave him was bright enough that he didn’t regret his words.

“You really mean that Howard?”

“Course I do, if I didn’t I wouldn’t be sitting here with you while we’re in detention would I?”

“No I guess not”

“Go on tell me what it says then”

It took another moment more but finally Vince took a deep breath. “It says that a Thestral can only be seen by a person who has witnessed another person die”

Howard nodded. “yeah, that's what Naboo said”

“Yeah but Howard it says that you've got to remember it. You've got to remember...watching someone...die” Vince looked ill at the thought. He didn’t remember, he had said as much the first night he saw the spectral horses. “You've got to remember and know that's what you've seen or you won't be able to see the Thestrals” he continued.

Howard felt lost and confused. He was also a bit cold from sitting on the floor in the dark but he could tell Vince was truly troubled by the new information and if Howard knew anything it was that Vince should never be troubled.

“what...what does that mean for you exactly?”

“don’t know but I was thinking, didn’t you tell me that there were spells that could erase your memory?”

Howard hadn’t been expecting the question and at first he gave Vince a confused look but then shrugged and nodded.

“Yeah the Obliviate spell” he remembered telling Vince about it one night while Ravenclaw tried to helped him with charms at the beginning of term. At the time Vince had been intrigued, stating that a spell like that would definitely come in handy. Howard remembered how he disagreed and informed Vince of the number of wizards, witches, and even muggles who had been obliviated without consent. It was a powerfully useful spell and scary in the wrong hands. He wasn’t sure why Vince was bringing it up till now until he remembered what Vince said about the Thestrals. You had to remember seeing the death occur. “Vince are you suggesting that you’ve been obliviated?” it was mad to think of course, who would want to take the memory of a young boy? Especially a young boy as naive and innocent as Vince? It just didn’t add up. It was distressing to think that it might be true.

“Well how come I don’t remember seeing someone die but can still see them?”

“Your sure you don’t remember?”

“Yes” the smaller boy answered, closing the book with a slam creating a dust cloud that sent both boys into a coughing fit. There was a sudden shout from the main area, indicating that Flich was awake, most likely due to the slam of the book. Howard gave Vince a look and got to his feet.

“Look I don’t know if you’ve been obliviated but if you were I don’t think there is a simple way to find out, try and forget it?” He was distinctly aware how it sounded to tell the smaller boy to forget something when it was clear he already had.

“Oh that’s easy for you to say! You didn’t have your memory wiped out for some reason” it was clear the idea, the revelation, was bothering Vince more than Howard thought.

“Listen, I promise we’ll figure it out, maybe not tonight and maybe not any time this year but we will alright?” This earned him a bright yet tired smile. Another shout from the caretaker forced them to abandon their hiding spot and return to returning books.

Though he had promised a resolution, Howard managed catch Vince reading the book he found many times that night and many more times the rest of the week.

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Their detention lasted more than a week and soon it felt to Howard as if they had been trudging to the library after dinner for a month. At least the shelves and books were in better shape at this point, a student might be able to find what they were looking for finally.

Vince never did get an answer from the two Slytherin girls who had persuaded him to fetch the book for them. They only laughed condescendingly at the Ravenclaw when he attempted to ask them again, on the grounds that he had tried to find the book and got at least a month's detention for the stunt. Howard reminded him that he could just as easily find the spell or potion in any number of books. Vince scoffed at the notion, and Howard made another mark on his ‘things for Vince list’ the first item being “‘figure out birthday and get perfect gift’. It was becoming a long list. Howard wondered how long it would be in a few years if he never accomplished anything on the list.

He hoped he would. Vince deserved a good birthday gift.

The rest of the spring months went by in a blur. It was a mess of lessons, exams, and when not in class hiding from bullies in the Room of Requirement. Their hiding space was never discovered and they both hoped it would stay that way or they would be forced to find a new spot. .

“Do you think next year will be better Howard?” Vince asked him one afternoon before dinner. They had been exploring the room of requirement for no other reason than boredom. The end of the year feast was in a weeks time. The smaller boy had been unusually quiet the whole day and Howard wondered if there had been an incident Vince hadn’t told him about.

It was a particularly melancholy question which wasn’t something that Howard heard from Vince very often or at all. It made him frown worriedly from his position on the floor, kneeling next to an overflowing chest full of all sorts of odds and ends.

“What do you mean better?”

Vince was across the way opening and closing a series of drawers that looked like they might’ve held potion ingredients at one point.

“Just, hasn’t been the best year is all” he answered, shrugging and keeping his gaze fixed on the drawers in front of him.

Standing and abandoning the chest Howard approached Vince. “Besides the incidents with Graham and the ill fated library break in, the year hasn’t been so bad really?” it was meant to be an affirmation, a way to ease Vince and lift his mood. Instead it came out unsure and a little anxious. They didn’t work like this, with Vince upset and moody. He was meant to be happy and positive about everything. It was hard for Howard to attempt to cheer him up when he himself was rarely cheerful. He knew realistically that it was unfair to expect Vince to always be sunny and bright, but he had begun to rely on Vince’s positive outlook to buoy his own attitude.

“I’m tired of the bullies Howard” he whined, finally looking up, blue eyes dull and sad “I’m tired of not fighting back. We’re wizards can’t we curse ‘em or somethin?”

“That’ll only get us more detention little man, it’s not worth it, they aren’t worth it” At least that’s what he had been telling himself since last year. Vince didn’t respond. Instead he went back to investigating the multitude of drawers as a way to avoid replying. Howard sighed tiredly. “Next year will be better, I promise Vince” This prompted Vince to glance up, his eyes sparkling happily.

“Yeah?”

“Of course, there will be new classes plus trips Hogsmeade, you’ll love Hogsmeade Vince, theres a sweets shop”

Howard watched the smaller boy’s eyes alight in interest and finally Vince beamed at him.

“Yeah? Yeah I guess next year will be better, thanks Howard” he said, almost seemingly shy for his honest response. But his smile was still wide and eyes still bright so Howard considered the whole cheering up thing a job well done.

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The trip home was an easy affair. Howard found himself sitting comfortably in a compartment with Vince, Naboo, and Leroy. They had the windows open, to let in the cool late spring air. The slight wind ruffled Vince’s hair making him correct it constantly with an irritated scowl before focusing back on his magazine. The quiet content atmosphere of the compartment brought a smile to the Slytherin’s face.

He must have been staring at Vince instead of reading his book because when the Ravenclaw glanced up at him his scowl deepened, even though amusement twinkled at him from beneath a blonde fringe.

“Whotcher Howard, stop staring, creeping me out”

“Wasn’t staring at you, you vain pixie, I was thinking very deep thoughts about my book” he responded, feeling his face flush with embarrassment. He really hadn’t meant to stare at the Ravenclaw like that. He returned his gaze back to his book, and thus missed Vince shake his head at him in disbelief. He also subsequently missed the look Naboo and Leroy gave each other in response to his and Vince’s short piece of banter.

Arriving at Kings Cross was hectic and loud as ever but it was a different type of mood. Wheres the beginning of the year held excitement and a nervous sort of energy. The end felt more like dismay, but also tired and happy at having finished another school year.

Howard spotted his parents through the crowd easily enough and meant to head in their direction but suddenly he realized that Vince had stopped walking altogether and was staring off in another direction.

“What? What is it?” asked Howard, ridiculously expecting a Thestral to be about. But Vince only sighed and nodded to a couple at the end of the platform, speaking to a platform employee.

“My foster parents, I didn’t think they would show up” He didn’t sound happy. Howard glanced back at his parents for a second before tugging Vince forward along the platform.

“Oi watch the jacket!”

“I want to meet them Vince”

“Meet them? Why? They’re boring! And hate me”

“They don’t hate you, if they hated you they wouldn’t have taken you in. It’ll be fine”

“Wots with you?”

“Nothing, it’s polite is all” He wasn’t lying, though he did see this as an opportunity to learn some things about his best friend.

Vince’s foster mother, Trisha if he remembered correctly, was moderately pretty with tight black curls that framed her face. Her eyes were dark but but had warmth about them. She was smiling excitedly when she caught sight of them.

“Vincent! How was the trip?”

“Fine” Howard was startled at the monotone aspect that Vince had adopted whilst talking to Trisha. He had never heard the Ravenclaw speak that way in the whole time he had known him.

Vince’s foster father on the other hand barely paid him any attention, he was focused on the still steaming Hogwarts express with interest. He had on a nice looking suit, dark hair that matched his wife’s and some of the biggest eye brows Howard had ever seen.

“How on earth does a steam train traverse Britain without being seen!?” he exclaimed to no-one in-particular.

“Who is your friend Vincent?” Trisha asked.

“Its Howard Trisha I’ve told you about him remember?”

“Oh well you know it’s hard to keep track of you and the others, never mind your friends dear.”

“Why are you here?” asked Vince, crossing his arms.

Trisha sighed in frustration “to take you home of course” she didn’t offer any further explaining and Vince didn’t probe further. He only shrugged and looked away. “Vince why don’t you take Chris and find your belongs?”

With a roll of his eyes Vince turned to Howard with an apologetic look

“Guess I gotta go, see you here in a few months yeah?”

“Oh yea sure” he nodded and smiled, Vince smiled back and left with his foster father to find his trunk.

Suddenly Howard and Trisha were alone, the moment Howard had been looking for.

“I don’t know if Vince said or not, but I’m Howard Moon. It’s nice to meet you, I’d like to ask you something real quick because I really have to go as well” It was said in a rush and he hoped it didn’t seem too rude.

Trisha smiled at him “Mr. Moon, Vincent has indeed mentioned you a few times. It’s nice to finally meet you. I’ll happily answer as long as it’s not too personal you understand” she replied, fluffing her hair distractedly. Howard never expected Vince’s fosters to be so….posh but they were, and probably high class as well. It was an odd thing to discover, but it made sense.

“I hope it’s not, but if anyone knows it would most likely be you. Do you know his birthday? He wont tell me and I was hoping to buy him a present” he frowned when Trisha laughed to herself.

“Strange that boy loves presents, its actually in a few weeks. June 20th”

Howard couldn’t believe how close it was and he still couldn’t understand why Vince hadn’t wanted him to know the date but now he knew and could act accordingly. He already had some ideas.

“Thank you mam. I’ve got to go now” He wasn’t sure how to wish her goodbye beside simply waving so that's what he did before running off towards his parents.

He couldn’t wait to see Vince in a few months time.

His ideas were becoming solid tangible plans that he knew would delight the Ravenclaw for days afterwards.