“Don’t you agree?” Enjolras twists in his seat, looking to Combeferre for back-up. “It’s a ridiculous system!”
Combeferre huffs a long-suffering sigh. “Yes, Enjolras, we weren’t disagreeing. What Grantaire was trying to say is that it would be tactless to bring it up to, or in front of, the students and staff.”
“Actually, the word Grantaire used was ‘stupid’, and he meant it,” Grantaire mutters, fidgeting in his own seat. They’ve been in the air for nearly two hours now, and they’ve been assured that it won’t be long until landing, but that’s still too long considering Grantaire has previously sat on concrete blocks more comfortable than these carriage seats.
“As one of the most prominent schools of Witchcraft and Wizardry on the planet, I’m sure they’re aware of just how backwards and archaic a segregational housing system such as theirs is? For the amount of stock they’re placing in it, I mean. And besides, the qualities ‘particular’ to each house are present in every single person, there’s no way-”
“Enjolras,” Courfeyrac interrupts, tapping him on the shoulder. “I love you, I do. We all do. But I don’t think I’m alone in saying that if you don’t shut up just this once, we’re going to pick you up and shove you out of a window, and you’ll never even get to see Hogwarts. Unless, of course, we’re close enough that you briefly glimpse it as you plummet to your death.” There’s a murmur of assent from the students nearest them.
Enjolras shuts up with only the slightest of pouts, turning to look out one of the windows and watch the scenery blur past.
“I wonder who the Goblet will choose,” Jehan muses to Bahorel, sitting a few rows away from the others.
Bahorel snorts. “Who do you think it’ll choose, honestly. Like any of us are more capable than our Veela friend over there.”
“Oh, so he is Veela?”
“No idea, but it bugs him when you bring it up, so.”
“You’re turning into Grantaire.”
“‘cept I don’t fancy him, I’m just a dick.”
Suddenly a cry of excitement goes up from the students nearest the front. “We’re here!” Cosette calls back to her friends.
The excitement in the carriage is almost tangible, the air buzzing with chatter.
The time for the Triwizard Tournament has finally arrived.
Combeferre ignores the pointed stare Enjolras is giving him from the next table over in favour of overseeing the Ravenclaw student who’s checking over Bossuet. He’d jarred his ankle landing awkwardly in the series of tumbles he’d been set for entering the Great Hall, as is just Bossuet’s luck, really.
“I’m sure it’s fine, I’ve had worse,” he mumbles to the boy who introduced himself as Joly. He’s blushing slightly as the Hogwarts student prods gently at his injury with steady fingers.
“Better safe than sorry, right?” he says cheerfully, glancing up to grin at him. “I’ll see if Madame Pomfrey has an increased recovery patch on her. She should do, she’s always prepared for anything. I’ll be back in a moment.” With this he stands and heads off to the long staff table that spans the front of the hall, neatly skirting the newly aflame Goblet on its pedestal to do so.
“Combeferre,” Bossuet whimpers when he’s out of earshot.
“I know,” Combeferre replies, patting his shoulder soothingly.
“He’s got really nice hands.”
“Okay, getting a bit personal there, Lesgle.”
“Why did the nice medic boy have to be cute and foreign.”
Combeferre laughs. “Look, he’s coming back. I’m going to go see what everybody else is up to.”
Bossuet looks panicked, “No, Ferre, don’t do this to me, I can’t-”
Just then Joly reappears, bandage in hand and expression concerned. “Are you alright? You’ve been making some strange faces, is it hurting?” He crouches down to apply the patch and Bossuet looks stricken.
Combeferre disguises his laugh as a cough and excuses himself, heading over to where Enjolras is still staring at him. He has to weave his way through throngs of students; the Great Hall has been a buzz of activity ever since their arrival. Durmstrang marched in with fire-breathers and small explosions, while Beauxbatons’ entry was a swift display of gymnastics and acrobatics, tumbling and twisting and twirling down the aisles; ergo, Bossuet’s injury.
“Separate tables,” is what Enjolras greets him with, speaking in French.
“Be polite, Enjolras, speak English,” Combeferre gives him a warning look despite his jocular tone and sits opposite him. He takes in the dashes of yellow dotted about the table amongst the dark red uniforms of Durmstrang and the light blue of Beauxbatons, and hazards a guess. “Hufflepuff?”
The boy beside him, skinny and lanky with scruffy red hair and a multitude of freckles, nods eagerly. “Yep! The best house there is!” he beams, entirely oblivious to the look of sheer contempt Enjolras directs his way. “We’re the loyal hard workers, if you believe th-” his face suddenly goes blank, jaw falling open.
Combeferre frowns, about to ask him what’s wrong when suddenly he feels the slight weight of a hand settle on his shoulder before somebody drops lightly onto the bench between them.
“Hi,” comes Cosette’s voice, light and musical, and then it clicks. Of course, the kid has probably never seen a Veela-girl before in his life; Combeferre imagines it would be something of a shock. A nice shock, but a shock nonetheless, judging by the way he stares at her in awe when she does so much as reach forward to snatch a grape from one of the overflowing golden bowls on the table.
“I’m Combeferre, by the way,” he says to the boy, reaching around Cosette and extending a hand as a distraction. His eyes snap to him and he grasps his hand gratefully.
“Marius,” comes the reply, voice a little shaken.
Enjolras fidgets on the other side of the table before introducing himself, too. Combeferre turns to him, giving Marius and Cosette space to introduce themselves. “Your manners are despicable! How long have you been sitting here without even telling these people your name?”
A boy beside Enjolras chuckles when he shrugs. “Feuilly,” he says when they look at him. “To be fair, though, we didn’t introduce ourselves either. We’re pretty bad hosts.” He pauses to consider. “Although, having said that, you guys are kind of intimidating.”
“If you’re saying that now, I can’t wait until you see how competitive our lot are. Especially blondie here,” Grantaire glides past behind Enjolras, ruffling his hair as he goes. Enjolras makes to swipe at him, but he’s out of reach too fast to land a hit so he just settles for glaring instead.
“Cute,” comments Feuilly, giving Combeferre a pointed look then glancing between Enjolras and Grantaire.
“Isn’t he?” Combeferre plays along, nodding minutely, and Feuilly grins. “That was Grantaire.”
Feuilly replies by humming appreciatively, and Combeferre has to stifle a laugh when Enjolras narrows his eyes.
“What?” Combeferre widens his eyes innocently. “You don’t think Grantaire’s cute, Enjolras?”
Enjolras works his jaw as though trying to speak, frowns, then gets to his feet. “How would I know? I’m going to go… Find out about the other houses.” He slips away from the table, and when Combeferre looks over his shoulder he can see him making a beeline for the Slytherin table, where it just so happens that Grantaire is entertaining a beautiful dark-haired girl and a boy in a ridiculous top hat with Courfeyrac.
“Idiot,” he mutters fondly, and Feuilly raises his eyebrows.
“He doesn’t realise?”
“He doesn’t realise.”
It occurs to Combeferre briefly that he’s been saying that a lot recently.
“Feuilly called us intimidating? I assume he hadn’t met any Durmstrangs by this point?” Grantaire whispers incredulously. Enjolras shushes him, so he kicks him. They’re sitting in the Great Hall, waiting for the other students to finish filing in so the Goblet can make its choice, and everyone is still talking so there is no reason whatsoever for any shushing, Enjolras.
Grantaire glances warily at the Durmstrang students staring him down from the Gryffindor table. “Enjolras, they’re glaring at me. Enjolras I’m scared.”
“Stop staring at them, then,” Enjolras hisses at him, tearing his eyes away from the Goblet to glower at him too.
“Aww, look at the grumpy dandelion, all nervous about being chosen,” Grantaire teases, nudging him in the side.
“We don’t know who it’s going to choose, Grantaire. And I do not, even in the slightest, resemble a dandelion,” Enjolras retorts through gritted teeth.
Grantaire hmms, considering, then reaches forward and messes up his hair. “Now you do.” Enjolras thumps him in the shoulder. He laughs, then continues more seriously, “Really, though. If anybody is worthy enough to get chosen by the glowy cup of doom over there, it’s you.”
Enjolras’ gaze softens, and he bites his lip, letting the mask slip and allowing his emotions to play across his face. “What if I do, though? What if I get picked and then screw it all up?”
“Hey,” Grantaire nudges him with his shoulder. “Don’t worry. Enjolras? You couldn’t disappoint any of us if you tried. Believe me. We believe in you.”
Enjolras laughs nervously. “You say that as though it’s certain that I’m going to be the one chosen as champion.”
Grantaire raises his eyebrow. “You say that as though it isn’t. Now, shush, it’s starting.”
Enjolras prods him and grumbles, “You shush,” but speaking with Grantaire has lifted a huge, crushing weight from his shoulders and it’s a little easier to breathe as the Hogwarts headmaster gets to his feet to speak.
When his name flutters out of the Goblet on a piece of paper neatly folded to resemble a cockade, it’s Grantaire who cheers the loudest out of all of them.
For some reason, that makes it a little harder for Enjolras to breathe as he heads around the dais to follow the other contestants into the small back-room of the Hall.
It doesn’t help that he can’t get the look of pride on Grantaire’s face out of his mind.
Enjolras is sitting at the Ravenclaw table attempting to eat breakfast with Bossuet, Combeferre, Joly and Feuilly a few days later when a pair of warm hands lands on his shoulders.
“Wanna know what the first task is?” Grantaire’s voice whispers in his ear, and Enjolras suppresses a shiver that tries to run its way down his spine.
He spins around, finding his face alarmingly close to the other boy’s. He collects himself, then after a moment he hisses, “How would you know? Nobody is supposed to know!”
“Well, if that’s a no…” Grantaire trails off, grinning. He turns on his heel and glides out of the Hall.
Enjolras curses, curious now, and scrambles off the bench to follow him.
“What,” says Courfeyrac, dropping into Enjolras’ vacated seat, “was that all about?” He’s followed by two Slytherins called Eponine and Montparnasse and an Amazonian Durmstrang student named Musichetta, all of whom slide into vacant spaces around the table with various greetings to the wary glances of staunch Ravenclaw patriots.
Combeferre shrugs, nodding a greeting to the others as he helps himself to some toast. “Not a clue. But Feuilly and I are starting a betting pool.”
“The as of yet oblivious star-crossed lovers of Beauxbatons Academie.”
“Oh yeah, I need in on that.”
Meanwhile, Enjolras catches up to Grantaire in the courtyard and grabs at his forearm, spinning him around to face him. Grantaire’s grinning when his face is revealed.
“You took your time.”
“You shouldn’t know!” Enjolras says breathlessly.
Grantaire’s grin falters some. “Look, I just wanted to help if I could. Apparently all the other champions know, ‘Parnasse was telling me--”
“No, no, don’t say anything else, okay, but Grantaire - what if they find out you told me something and they ship you back home as punishment?” Enjolras asks, voice laden with concern.
A curious expression passes over Grantaire’s face. “You’re… Worried about me?” he laughs, loudly and incredulously. “You’re worried about me. Honestly, you’re about to face a dragon more or less unarmed and you’re--” he slaps his hands over his mouth, eyes shooting open wide.
“A dragon?” Enjolras hisses, pulling Grantaire aside to the shade of the wall so nobody will hear them.
“I should not have said that,” Grantaire’s voice is muffled through his hands.
“Okay, well, you’ve said it now!” Enjolras stares at him. “Dragons?” he repeats. “You’re sure?”
Grantaire mumbles something through his fingers that he can’t make out, so Enjolras swipes his hands away, fingers wrapped around his wrists. “Pardon?”
“I said, I’ve seen them,” Grantaire admits sheepishly.
Enjolras continues staring at him, waging an internal moral war as he does so. He comes to a decision with a thought of ‘fuck it,’ and says, “Show me.”
Grantaire’s eyes widen. “Seriously?”
Enjolras looks around the courtyard. The weather’s nice enough, but there’s not so many people around that they can’t sneak away unnoticed if necessary.
He returns his gaze to Grantaire and nods firmly. “If you wouldn’t mind?” he adds after a moment, suddenly hesitant.
Grantaire looks reluctant for a heartbeat, then grins. “Why the hell not? I mean, the worst that could happen is that we get caught and get sent home for it, so as long as you’re down with that.”
Enjolras matches his grin. “If you go, I go. And hey, the other champions already know, right? We’ll be fine.”
Grantaire shakes his head, laughing. “Boy, have I corrupted you. Alright, let’s-- uh, Enjolras. If you could maybe…?” He wriggles his fingers and Enjolras releases his grip on his wrists.
“Right. Sorry,” Enjolras tries to fight the blush threatening to spread over his cheeks. He had completely forgotten he was holding onto him.
“Okay then, let’s go,” Grantaire casts a cautious look around then begins striding towards the bridge onto the grounds, jerking his head for Enjolras to follow. “Act natural,” he adds.
Enjolras snorts, “Really? I was going to start dancing and reciting the opening act of Romeo and Juliet. You don’t think I should do that?”
Grantaire barks out a laugh, surprising even himself and causing a few heads to turn. “Oh, my god. Don’t do that again, I wasn’t expecting humour from you, you’re making me attract attention.”
“I’m sure you’re fully capable of doing that yourself,” Enjolras muses, nodding to Marius as he passes by.
“Well, I’m sure I have no idea what you could possibly mean,” Grantaire shoots Enjolras a sidelong glance and the expression causes him to burst out laughing.
[In the meantime, Marius joins the others at the Ravenclaw table. He gets a few odd glances for his Hufflepuff tie, but ignores them in favour of sitting with the others and catching Combeferre’s attention.
“That betting pool still open?”
All attention is immediately on him.
“What did you see?” Courfeyrac stares intensely at him.
“They appeared out of a dark corner and wandered off onto the grounds giggling at each other.”
Combeferre retrieves from his robes a quill and a piece of scribbled-on parchment.
“I’m raising the stakes.”]
“Those… Those are dragons.”
“That they are.”
Grantaire leans against a tree, looking at Enjolras instead of the dragons. Enjolras is transfixed, his eyes wide, and Grantaire can see the fire reflected in them. He’s breathtaking like this.
“Did Montparnasse say what it is that we’re supposed to be doing in this task?” Enjolras breaks his concentration, turning towards him. Grantaire hastily averts his eyes.
“Nope, he just spotted the girl from Durmstrang and their head looking shifty and decided to follow them, for whatever reason it is ‘Parnasse does anything,” there’s a shout from one of the dragon handlers, and they both turn to look again. “And they ended up here. I can’t imagine it’ll be anything too life threatening though.”
“As long as I don’t have to kill it,” Enjolras says faintly, and they both go silent for a second as a handler tosses what looks like most of a sheep into the air and one of the dragons snaps it up in one bite. He curses in a manner that seems to be half appreciation and half sheer terror.
“Well if you do, just remember--”
“Fire cannot kill a dragon?” Enjolras recites along with him. Grantaire’s jaw drops.
“You watched it?” he can’t stop the grin that spreads across his face.
“Of course I did, you wouldn’t shut up about it. I have to say, though. Muggle fantasy fiction is utterly bizarre.”
“Yeah, yeah. It is,” Grantaire’s looking at Enjolras in that curious way again, and it makes him feel warm to the core. “Come on, we should get going before somebody catches us here. Wouldn’t want to deny you the chance to get eaten alive, now, would we?”
“Oh, screw off.”
The morning of the first task finds Enjolras absentmindedly shredding toast at the Slytherin table. Combeferre, at his side, sighs and swaps it for his own.
“Eat,” he tells him. “You can’t fight dragons on an empty stomach,” he points out, tossing the now completely undesirable strips of carbohydrate onto Courfeyrac’s plate while he isn’t paying attention, and ignoring the “hey” of dismay when his action is discovered.
“I’m just going to throw this up,” Enjolras mutters, but obediently shoves half the slice into his mouth in one go.
“Chew, darling,” Courfeyrac says from across the table. Enjolras flips him off neatly and goes back to eating.
His eyes drift along the table to the doors at the front of the hall on occasion, though he doesn’t know what he’s looking for.
The others, however, do.
“Where’s Grantaire?” Feuilly asks, and Enjolras straightens in his seat, going rigid.
“Probably just slept in, you know what he’s like,” Courfeyrac says, but he glances anxiously at Enjolras.
“He’ll be there,” mutters Combeferre soothingly.
Enjolras titters nervously. “Why would it matter if he weren’t?” he shakes his head before Combeferre can chastise him. “No, I didn’t mean that. I know he’ll be there.”
Then their headmistress, Madame Lamarque, appears at their table and informs Enjolras that he needs to go prepare for the task. It’s a whirlwind of “good luck” and “see you out there” and “can I have the rest of your toast?” and then he’s outside in a tent with the other three champions, pacing around the canvas walls like caged animals. He begins to wonder why it is he ever wanted to be the school champion in the first place.
Then the headmasters are gathered there in the middle of the tent with the head judge, and then the head judge is holding out a bag to each of them in turn; the girl from Durmstrang reaches in first and pulls out a miniature version of the topaz yellow-scaled dragon Enjolras had seen the other day with Grantaire, and (god does Enjolras hope he’ll show up and he doesn’t know why it’s not like he’ll be able to pick him out in the audience and wait) now the Hogwarts boy is dipping his hand into the bag and retrieving a dragon of an ocean blue gradient and then it’s Enjolras reaching in for what he already knows will be the cherry red creature he saw snap up that entire sheep in one gulp and nearly set his handler aflame.
Enjolras doesn’t want to know how pale he is.
They’re told they have to retrieve this golden egg of some kind, it will hold a hint to the next task, and that a cannon shot will signal when each champion should exit the tent and enter the arena; first Hogwarts as host, then Durmstrang, then finally Enjolras for Beauxbatons. The judges all file out to the stands, and then the three of them are alone and the air is tense.
He learns the Hogwarts boy’s name is Cedric when he shakes his hand and introduces himself to them both before he goes out to the roar of the crowd (he vaguely recalls Marius saying something about him being from his house, bursting with house pride. Enjolras also vaguely recalls bristling at that). He has no idea how much time has passed before the Durmstrang girl exits following her cannon shot, only learning her name (Lagertha) through the faint voice of the announcer echoing through the canvas walls.
And then he’s alone, anxiously pacing the length and breadth of the tent over and over, the seconds ticking by too slowly and too fast all at once.
He almost jumps out of his skin when he hears a voice.
He spins around and his eyes dart along the material of the walls, finding the nearest edge and flinging it back. “Grantaire?” he tugs the boy inside. “Are you supposed to be here? What are you doing here?”
“I slept in, I’m so sorry- I wanted to wish you luck before you went on,” he says sheepishly, grasping Enjolras by his shoulders and squeezing firmly.
“Dragons, ‘Taire, I don’t… I can’t do this. I have to steal an egg, dragons, they’re so protective, ‘Taire, I--”
“Hey, where’d our fearless leader go? The guy who was gonna storm in here and protest the - what was it - ‘archaic housing system’?” Grantaire smiles and shakes him lightly. “You can do this, Enjolras. We believe in you. And, hey, if you don’t manage it- who the hell cares, anyway? Winning isn’t everything. The Goblet thinks you’re more worthy than the entire senior year of our school. That’s something in itself.”
Enjolras can’t do anything but stare as an undecipherable wave of emotion washes over him, and then he’s throwing his arms around his neck and pulling him tightly into a hug, his chin resting in the dip between Grantaire’s collar and neck, cheeks pressed gently together. It’s so reassuring, and safe, and warm, and it takes a moment but then Grantaire is gripping him just as tightly around the waist and whispering soothing things into his ear.
“Thank you,” he breathes into his shoulder, and it isn’t the words he’s looking for but it’ll have to do because that’s a cannon firing and he has to go, he has to leave even though there’s nowhere he’d rather be than here. He pulls away and stares at Grantaire for a moment more. His eyes are searching his face, and Enjolras doesn’t know what he finds there but it makes him crack a soft smile.
“Go get ‘em, Khaleesi,” and that doesn’t seem like it’s what he wants to say either but he does, then lets him go and nudges him towards the exit. “Go on, I’m expecting one hell of a show out there.”
So Enjolras squares his shoulders and goes, not looking behind him to see Grantaire watch him leave. The roar goes up too soon for him to realise he’s not afraid anymore.
And it turns out, he can pick out his friends in the stands.
“That was something else,” Courfeyrac enthuses, skipping around Enjolras and beaming on their way to the Great Hall for the post-task banquet. Honestly, if he had confetti to throw right now, or remembered that he knew the right spell for it, there would be so much confetti right now.
“It was innovative, truly, you’re totally deserving of that first place. And since when are you capable of producing a fully fledged Patronus, huh?” Jehan bumps him on the shoulder on the way past.
“I don’t know,” Enjolras says, clutching the golden egg to his chest, still a little dazed because, you know, dragon. “If I’d known I could do that I would have started with it, not throwing dumb sparks all over the place.”
“It was a phoenix, wasn’t it?” Grantaire asks quietly from behind him. Enjolras glances over his shoulder at him and nods, expression softening as he does so. Grantaire finds it fitting; a symbol of pure hope. “It was enormous, I thought it was a dragon at first.”
“Who knew that dragons despised phoenixes enough to go chasing after them like that?” Courfeyrac bounces on his heels and tears into the hall in front of them, closely followed by Cosette and Bahorel, all bubbling with energy and adrenaline after watching the task. Enjolras, on the other hand, is completely and utterly exhausted.
He follows the others in, smiling at anyone who calls to him with congratulations, and finds himself seated between Grantaire and Combeferre at what might well be the Gryffindor table; nobody cares at this point. If he leans against Grantaire a little, nobody’s mentioning it. He sets the golden egg on the table and stares at it blankly for a moment.
“Are you going to open it?” Feuilly appears and takes a seat beside Courfeyrac. Enjolras shakes his head.
“Not for a while yet,” he replies. “I don’t even want to so much as think of the next task for a couple of days, at least.” The others nod understandingly, and Grantaire knocks his knee against his supportively under the table. At this point, Joly and Musichetta appear with Bossuet in tow, both helping him along on his still-sprained ankle. The damage from the tumble had been worse than Joly had originally thought, but it was healed enough now that Bossuet was refusing to use his crutches anymore. (Not that either Joly or Musichetta seemed to mind being at his side all hours of the day.)
Their arrival effectively steers the topic of the conversation away from Enjolras, as Joly and Bossuet bicker over whether or not he should really have abandoned his crutches already, leaving Enjolras free to lean slightly into Grantaire’s side and think.
He plays back the task in his mind. He doesn’t know how long he wasted throwing sparks and strings of light up into the air as a distraction only to have the dragon turn her attention back on him just in time to nearly set him alight. It was with a final push of desperation that he’d conjured up the Patronus; he’d stared in disbelief along with the crowd as the enormous beam of light had taken shape and spread its wings to circle above the dragon. Its staggering power still had him reeling, as did the memory he’d called up to produce it.
[Combeferre asks him later, when he’s applying ointment to a scratch across Enjolras’ cheek, just what it was he’d thought of. He tells him he can’t remember, it was all over in seconds, but he’s lying. It hadn’t even really been a memory, because… Well.
He had said, “We believe in you.”
But Enjolras had heard, “I”.]
When they’re on their way back to their lodgings later that night, Jehan tugs Grantaire to the side. “Watching that nearly killed you, didn’t it?”
Grantaire’s grin is strained. “I never doubted him for a minute.”
“But?” Jehan isn’t stupid.
Grantaire eyes him warily and sighs; there’s no keeping any secrets from Jehan. He extends his hands and draws Jehan’s attention to his nails, bitten down to the quick. “I don’t know how I’m going to manage the next two, Jehan.”
Jehan inspects his fingers and grimaces. “I’ll find you some mittens.”
“I apologise in advance, I may eat your gloves.”
The egg, as it turns out, is more of an issue than they thought it would be. Upon opening it for the first time it had emitted such a heinous shriek that Enjolras had refused to pry it open again, and had already confiscated it from Bahorel and Courfeyrac twice for sneaking up on people and opening it right by their ears.
(He did, however, become less strict about it on discovering they were only doing it to people Marius had told them horror stories about. Nobody bullies a friend of Courfeyrac’s -- or any of theirs, for that matter -- and lives happily to tell the tale.)
Enjolras wonders briefly if either Cedric or Lagertha have figured out the clue yet, but immediately casts aside the idea of asking either of them for help. For one, it’s not allowed, and for two he’s determined to figure it out for himself, to a certain extent.
By which he means that he’s taken to carrying it around with him everywhere he goes and occasionally letting his friends play with it.
Which he is now regretting mightily.
They’re outside, a rare day of abnormally hot weather considering the season drawing them to the lakeside. Combeferre sits reading in the shade of an enormous oak tree beside Jehan and Joly, who are engaged in a morbid, in-depth conversation about death and the frailty of human life that Enjolras, in all honesty, is not going anywhere near, fascinating as it may be.
Bossuet has fallen asleep curled up by their feet, head on Jehan’s bag. Eponine and Montparnasse are stretched out a little way away in the sun, conjuring up little whisps of colour and different scented bubbles in the shape of various dubious items with lazy swishes of their wands. Marius and Cosette are sitting in the sun too, and Enjolras isn’t sure whether it’s sunlight heating Marius’ face or the near constant blush he seems to wear in the presence of the Veela-girl. Cosette thinks he’s sweet, so Enjolras doesn’t think too much of it. Feuilly is off tutoring somebody in the castle but he’s certain to show up eventually. Grantaire, Bahorel and Courfeyrac all stand shirtless, trousers rolled up to their knees, shin-deep in the lake water and skimming stones.
Or, at least, they had been.
“Guys, come on, I need that,” Enjolras protests weakly, but he doesn’t actively attempt to retrieve the golden egg from any of the three, who have started an impromptu game of piggy-in-the-middle with it. “Please don’t drop it.”
“You want it? You’re going to have to come and get it,” Bahorel grins and tosses it to Courfeyrac, who nearly lets it slip past his hands with an outraged squeak.
Enjolras sighs and sits down, succumbing to the heat and rolling up his own trouser-legs. “Just know that if I lose this thing, it’s entirely down to you guys.”
“Fair enough,” Courfeyrac says nonchalantly, and launches the egg at Grantaire’s head. Enjolras winces.
Eponine looks over at them, then glances further along the lakefront and snorts at what she sees. “Guys, check it out. You have groupies.”
The four by the waterside all turn and look the same way. A small gaggle of girls immediately turns and faces the other way, giggling.
“Can’t say I blame them, really. I mean, hot shirtless French guys? They don’t exactly make them like that over here,” Eponine continues, and Montparnasse shoots a spark at her in retaliation. “Hey! You know it’s true.”
“Granted,” Montparnasse replies, casting an eye of approval over the guys in the lake. “But still hurtful.”
“They don’t make them bad over here, though,” Bossuet mumbles, apparently not as asleep as they thought he was. Musichetta nods in agreement, and Cosette makes a noise of approval that has Marius blushing again.
“I wonder if they realise just how few of you guys actually swing their way,” Cosette muses. “Somebody should probably tell them.”
“Don’t you dare,” says Eponine. “Don’t go breaking their little hearts.” She pauses. “How many of of them is that, just out of interest?”
Cosette squints in the sunlight and points to her friends one by one with a daisy. “Grantaire, Enjolras, Bahorel - gay. Courf, granted, will try anybody once. [“I’d say I resent that, but it’s true.”] Jehan’s still deciding. Bossuet goes both ways, and me and Combeferre bring up the rear with our mindblowingly heterosexual ways.” Combeferre gives her a thumbs up without looking away from his book.
Their attention is diverted by Enjolras crying out “Grantaire, don’t you dare!” and they turn to see Grantaire wading deeper into the lake, golden egg held aloft, soaking the material of his jeans above his knee.
“But you’d be so much more chill if you didn’t have this hanging over your head!” Grantaire teases, grinning at him. Enjolras warily steps in after him.
“I’m warning you; give that back.”
Grantaire just continues grinning and hold the egg out in front of him, a challenge if there ever was one.
Enjolras launches himself at him with terrifying speed.
Grantaire, understandably taken by surprise, is knocked over with the impact and Enjolras’ momentum causes him to follow, and they disappear under the surface of the lake.
One of them, on falling, had managed to open the egg, and Enjolras braces himself for the shrieking he’d heard before; but it doesn’t come. Instead there’s a mournful voice calling through the water. Enjolras opens his eyes to see Grantaire staring in shock through the water at the golden glow emanating from the egg. As one, they resurface, then immediately duck their heads under again to listen properly.
[“What the hell are they doing?”
“Mating ritual. I’m calling it.”
“Feuilly, there you are!”]
Enjolras forces himself to watch the egg rather than the way the gold light filtering through the lake water plays with Grantaire’s features. Grantaire mouths the words just after they’re said, obviously committing them to memory.
“Come seek us where our voices sound,
We cannot sing above the ground,
And while you're searching, ponder this;
We've taken what you'll sorely miss,
An hour long you'll have to look,
And recover what we took,
But past an hour — the prospect's black,
Too late, it's gone, it won't come back."
Between them they get it down, and once they emerge for good they’re drenched to the bone, but Enjolras doesn’t care.
“Grantaire!” he laughs, struggling to his feet with the egg - now closed - clasped under his arm. He throws the other arm over his friend’s shoulders and squeezes tight as they stagger towards shore. “I could kiss you!”
Grantaire chokes a little. “Please --- don’t,” he manages. The two of them suddenly become aware of their entire group of friends watching them, but Enjolras doesn’t let go; if possible, he tugs him closer.
“We’ve got my clue!” he calls out to them, exuberant as they pick their way gingerly through the pebbled shore and onto the grass.
“Well?” Courfeyrac prompts, bouncing over and eyeing the egg expectantly. “What was it?”
Enjolras glances at Grantaire, who recites the earlier poem back at them. Jehan tugs his bag out from under Bossuet’s head to great complaint and retrieves a quill and parchment, hastily scribbling down the words as Grantaire speaks them.
“Cannot sing above-- so it’s mermaids,” concludes Joly.
“Merpeople,” corrects Enjolras. He glances back into the water behind him, considering. “Are there merpeople in this lake?”
Joly shares a frown with Eponine. “We have a giant squid,” Montparnasse offers, helpfully.
Feuilly laughs at them. “Well done, guys, great school pride we got going on here. Yes, we do have merpeople in our lake. Marius, you should know this -- why did you think our Prefect bathroom had merpeople lore all over the walls?”
“I thought that was just for decoration,” Marius mutters, scratching the back of his head.
“Regardless,” Combeferre waves the topic aside. “By the sound of things, that’s talking about spending an hour underwater. You’re going to have to figure something out breathing-wise.”
Enjolras nods and represses a shiver, his sodden clothes starting to have an effect on him. Grantaire feels it and looks at him curiously, then breaks away from his hold to go collect his shirts from the ground and offers one to Enjolras. He accepts it gratefully, setting the egg on the ground to peel off his own shirt as swiftly as possible and pulling on Grantaire’s. The sleeves fall well over his hands, and it smells comfortingly of his friend.
God bless him and his layering.
Beside him, Grantaire is still distressingly shirtless. Enjolras elects to ignore this.
“Breathing underwater,” Enjolras sighs. “How hard can it be?”
Not, apparently, as hard as he thought.
They stumble across a remarkably well sized - and apparently disused - room, and Enjolras sets it up as a base for preparing for the next task, away from the prying Hogwarts pupils in the library and the constant noise of their own temporary dorms.
They’ve tried to work out just what it was that Enjolras would “sorely miss”, but they were just drawing blanks at this stage, so he decided instead to focus on the whole staying alive underwater thing rather than the rest of the rhyme.
Combeferre offers up a few potential spells that he deems within Enjolras’ skill set. Marius produces a water tank from god knows where and they take turns filling it with water. They all have classes but filter in when they can, between lessons and during lunch breaks and after class. As champion, Enjolras is excused from all lessons, but it still feels odd being parted from his friends.
Grantaire is by far the most frequent visitor, and every visit leaves Enjolras feeling more triumphant, more hopeful, more likely to succeed than the last.
It’s Grantaire who’s there on the final day before the second task when Enjolras decides on the Bubble-Head charm, but faces difficulties with his wild mane of hair being captured inside the bubble.
“No, look, come here,” he pushes Enjolras onto a chair and stands behind him, separating his slightly damp hair into sections and then hastily tugging it into a relatively neat braid. He doesn’t notice the shiver that runs down Enjolras’ spine and the way he leans into the touch.“You, sir, are a nightmare.” He pats him on the shoulder. “There, all done. Try it now.”
Enjolras smiles, a hand reaching back to touch his braid as he heads over to the water tank. “You are a godsend,” he says absentmindedly, and then he’s conjuring up his bubble and dunking his head in the tank for what must be the hundredth time today. Except this time, Enjolras can actually breathe and see because he isn’t being throttled by his own hair.
He waves the bubble away with a swipe of his wand and turns to Grantaire, delighted. “It worked!”
“Of course it did,” Grantaire smiles warmly at him, expression fond and amused. “Just have to hope it holds up for an hour, though I highly doubt that if it didn’t they would honestly allow you to be in danger.”
“That’s reassuring, thanks,” Enjolras snorts, then sobers suddenly. “I don’t think I thank you enough for all the help you’re giving me, actually. So… Thank you.” He hesitates for a second, then crosses the space between them in a few short strides and hugs his friend tightly. He wonders briefly, when Grantaire returns the gesture, what it would be like to do this whenever he wanted. It’s a nice thought.
Enjolras steps back, blushing for reasons he doesn’t understand.
“No need to thank me,” Grantaire says quietly, smiling. “I do like being around you, you know. Even when you are being a grumpy dandelion.”
Enjolras pouts and Grantaire laughs at him. “You’re not really helping your case, here.”
Enjolras rolls his eyes, and his stomach chooses that moment to rumble ominously. Enjolras looks down at it in surprise.
“Yes, Enjolras, that is your stomach; most people have one of those. It’s telling you to eat,” Grantaire raises his eyebrow. “Please tell me you’ve had a proper meal today.”
“I…” Enjolras searches his mind. “Don’t know?” He admits guiltily.
“Best wizard of our school, ladies and gents; doesn’t even remember he needs food to survive,” Grantaire mutters, rubbing the bridge of his nose in an exasperated fashion. “Come on, it’s almost dinner time, let’s go to the Hall and play musical tables again.”
“But the task-”
“Is tomorrow. This is today. And today, you’re going to eat.” Grantaire spins him around, grabs him by the shoulders and forcibly begins marching him to the Great Hall. Enjolras laughs, digging his heels into the floor and swatting ineffectually at his hands.
“Stop, I can walk on my own, you know!”
“No, I don’t know, I don’t trust you not to walk straight back in there and turn yourself into a bubble again.”
“Grantaire, you-” Enjolras is cut off by another voice calling the same name.
“Grantaire!” Bahorel skids to a halt beside him. “Our lovely old headmistress requests your presence in her quarters.”
Grantaire raises his eyebrows, glancing at Enjolras. “Seriously? Why?”
Bahorel shrugs. “No idea, but she wants you.”
“Okay, then. I guess I’ll see you guys later?” Grantaire steps back falteringly and starts walking in the opposite direction, raising a hand in farewell. “Oh, and Bahorel; get him to eat something?”
“Will do!” his friend calls in reply, and they part ways, Grantaire slouching off to disappear around a corner within moments.
Bahorel wonders loudly what’s going to be served for dinner.
Enjolras, on the other hand, wonders absentmindedly why the hallways seems a little colder.
“Has anyone seen Grantaire?” Combeferre whispers, concerned. Grantaire’s bed, next to his own, had been empty when he went to sleep and remained unslept in when he woke up again.
Courfeyrac and Jehan are doing a circuit of the other tables asking the same question, and Combeferre is met with the worried faces of Joly and Marius. They both shake their heads. Combeferre lets loose a torrent of curses in French, and they look even more worried.
“Enjolras is going to be frantic,” he sits down with a defeated look settling across his features.
“He wouldn’t miss out on his task, ‘Ferre. He’ll show up,” Joly glances around to check just in case he’s appeared since they came in. He catches Courfeyrac’s eye and receives a shake of the head in reply.
“Maybe he’s with Enjolras?” Marius ventures.
Combeferre shakes his head. “Enjolras and Bahorel last saw him before dinner, and he’s not shown up since.” Just then, a double flash of blond appears at the door and then Enjolras and Cosette are making their way over.
“Nervous?” Marius asks Enjolras.
“Terrified,” he admits, glancing around. “Where are the others?”
Everyone knows who he means when he says “others”.
“Around,” lies Combeferre. “They’ll be there, don’t worry.”
Nobody else notices Enjolras’ face fall.
Combeferre clenches his jaw.
Grantaire, where the hell are you?
He still hasn’t shown up by the time they’re all settled in the stands above the lake, facing large screens projected up onto the thin air through the wand of a judge, waiting to show the champions’ progress through the water.
Enjolras looks over, shivering in his swim shorts as he scans the crowds for the faces of his friends. Combeferre catches his eye and gives him a thumbs up, but he knows that’s not what he needs.
The others are every bit as concerned as Combeferre is. Nobody has seen him, and everyone knows how important this is to him. How important Enjolras is to him.
The cannon fires, the timer is started.
Enjolras has one hour.
The champions dive into the lake.
Enjolras casts the charm on his way down into the lake, so that he can breathe and get his bearings as soon as he plunges into the remarkably warm water.
His hair’s still in the braid Grantaire put it in the night before, so nothing obscures his vision but the murky depths of the lake itself as he watches Lagertha and Cedric collect themselves and push on through the water. They seem to be heading towards a faint sound of singing similar to that emitted by the golden eggs, accompanied by a distant eerie glow of light. Enjolras shudders.
He’s glad he’s a strong swimmer, that’s all he can say.
He plunges deeper into the lake himself, following the others, vaguely aware of the cheering and revelry from the stands becoming more and more indistinct and distant as he propels himself down. It occurs to him that he has no idea how much time is passing as he goes, nor does he actually know what it is he’s looking for.
All he can hear is his own breathing, rapid heartbeat, and the distant haunting strains of merfolk song. Enjolras wrestles his wand out of the waistband of his shorts, lighting it in the hopes of being able to see any further, but it doesn’t do much good.
A dark shadow swiftly passes by just underneath him. Enjolras twists around trying to make it out, loosing a torrent of curses when another streaks by to his right.
Something in the back of his mind wonders where the giant squid is right at this moment. He swallows hard and quickly carries on in his descent, the water pressure increasing the further he goes. An object nearby hovers by his head for a second, reflecting the dim light flickering down from the surface; Enjolras correctly assumes his image is now being projected on the large displays by the stands. The object speeds away with a muted whirr, and he follows it.
Soon enough he reaches crumbling rock formations that must signify the furthest outreaches of the merfolk village, the song slowly becoming more and more distinct as he makes his way through the intimidating gloom towards the faint golden glow. He ignores the glowing eyes in the shadows and eerie screeching wails that shriek past, avoids the vast tangles of wicked looking plants that stretch up as though hoping to ensnare his ankles.
Suddenly there’s a figure in front of him and Enjolras pulls back, alarmed. With a greyish green face and long, matted hair the colour of leaf litter in autumn, the merman regarding him is nothing like the merfolk Enjolras has seen in stories, the sirens he’s been warned of that lurk within the Mediterranean. These are creatures of the cold, and it’s evident in their appearance.
Heart pounding, he tries to incline his head respectfully. The merman, wielding a long, twisted spear of a golden sheen seems to be sizing him up, eyes narrowed. Then he twists away, nearly knocking Enjolras out with a flick of his tail that Enjolras desperately scrambles against the water to avoid.
He glances back over his shoulder at Enjolras, who hesitantly makes to follow him through the rocky lakebed. It’s difficult to keep up, the sickly green water making it impossible to see much further than a few feet ahead of his face. A sharp rock edge grazes his shin and he curses, twisting to inspect the wound as a dark cloud of blood is released into the air.
He hopes to god this lake has nothing carnivorous lurking within its depths.
Enjolras cries out as a webbed hand firmly wraps itself around his forearm. It’s the same merman, his face now inches from Enjolras’ own. He points urgently towards the source of the glow, stabbing his finger towards Enjolras then the light.
Enjolras nods, dazed. The merman releases him and he kicks away, determinedly driving forward so he can retrieve what it is he sorely misses and just get out of here.
There’s a clearing of sorts up ahead. Around the outskirts Enjolras can see the entire tribe of merfolk; watching, unmoving apart from their mouths which part slightly to sing that haunting melody that drew him here. In the centre of the clearing stands an enormous stone statue of a mermaid that must stretch to a good fifteen feet tall; the source of the light that he’s been following. Its back is turned to Enjolras, he realises -- he must have gotten turned around, because he can just make out an entry on the opposite side of the clearing much wider than the one he emerged from, clearly the direction he should have come from. He sends a silent thank you to the merman who retrieved him.
Enjolras spots a flurry of activity at the statue’s base and makes for it. Rounding the clearing he can make out a shadowy figure floating with an outstretched arm. Coming closer he sees a bolt of white light emanating from the figure’s wand, illuminating their face; Lagertha. Something breaks, and then she’s tugging a smaller figure away from the statue. Enjolras’ eyes widen in horror. It’s a young boy, second year at the most, eyes closed, hair the same platinum blond and face the same collection of sharp angles of the girl hugging him tightly.
She catches sight of Enjolras and kicks away from the statue, pointing towards it before raising her wand upwards and muttering something that releases a flurry of bubbles, a spell that tugs her up to the surface as though she’s being pulled by a chain. Enjolras has just enough time to notice webbed fingers and gills on her neck before she’s gone. Part of him thinks to ask her later what transfiguration it was that she used, but it’s only a small part.
He pushes towards the statue and the shadows at its bottom, dread crushing him even more than the water around him. He had expected something to be taken from him, perhaps something from his home, a treasured possession of some kind, but having seen Lagertha and what could only be her little brother, he’s terrified.
Enjolras finally makes it to the base of the statue and lights his wand again, and then all the air is knocked out of his lungs as though he’s been hit by a wall.
Eyes closed, head tilted back, black curls splayed out in the water like the halo of a fallen angel, his ankle chained to the base of the colossal statue, is Grantaire.
Enjolras’ hands fly to his mouth, muffling the shriek that tries to escape his lungs. He’s at Grantaire’s side in an instant, reaching out to touch his face, grasping it between both hands. He’s alive but cold, so cold, and they must have knocked him out with something. Enjolras presses his forehead to the other boy’s and breathes in shakily.
“We’ve taken what you’ll sorely miss.”
He should have realised, should have seen this coming; it was stupid not to. He knows, he’s always known he cares for the boy, one of his best friends, but he hadn’t realised that-- Enjolras laughs, almost hysterically. He would come to terms with his being in love with his friend at the bottom of a lake, in the middle of a time-limited tournament task when said best friend was unconscious.
Enjolras kisses his forehead then pulls away, trying to regulate his breathing. Okay, he thinks, come on, Enjolras, you can do this.
He swoops down to Grantaire’s feet, carefully pointing his wand to the links of the chain furthest away from his ankle before muttering “Diffindo,” blinking through the bubbles released to see the white light emitted by his wand break the chain apart.
Enjolras gets a firm grip around Grantaire’s waist, tugging him close. He suddenly realises that there’s one final person chained to the base, a beautiful Ravenclaw girl that Enjolras recognises as one of Cedric’s friends. He’s torn between wanting to make sure Cedric manages to get her out and just getting Grantaire up to safety as soon as possible, but his decision is made for him when a streak of yellow abruptly pulls up beside him and dives down to inspect the chains.
Enjolras leaves him to it and kicks up for the surface, wishing he could remember the spell that Lagertha had used to hasten her ascent. It’s slow going, and Enjolras is concentrating more on keeping his grip on Grantaire than he is on moving at any speed.
And then there’s a sharp tug at his leg.
He lets out a cry of pain as hooked claws nip at the skin around his ankle. He looks down and sees a swarm of grindylows trailing after him, drawn by the cut on his shin. Enjolras kicks out desperately, jabbing his wand at the creature and yelling the first spell that comes to mind.
“Flipendo!” the creature is thrown back with a shriek, but there’s more coming and Enjolras can’t fight them without letting go of Grantaire and he doesn’t know how long this spell’s going to last and he needs to get them out and--
There’s another burst of light, then Cedric is in front of him, his friend held close to his side. He’s used the bubble-head charm, too.
He holds eye contact with Enjolras, carefully waves his wand surface-bound and clearly enunciates, so he can make out the word even through the distortion of the water and bubbles released.
“Ascendio!” he cries, and shoots up towards the surface.
Enjolras desperately copies him, relief flooding through him as the spell works and he and Grantaire are propelled up towards the air and away from the grindylows.
He’s even more immensely relieved when their heads break the surface and Grantaire immediately stirs, gasping in huge lungfuls of air and looking incredibly confused. “Enjolras? What happened, where are-- the task? Did I-- what?”
Enjolras laughs breathlessly, shaking his head. “They took what I would sorely miss, ‘Taire. More than anything else in the world.” It still doesn’t seem to click for him, so Enjolras grabs him by his drenched sweater and pulls him closer in the water. “You, you idiot,” he breathes, and then kisses him.
Grantaire starts for a moment and makes an almost wounded noise before he returns the kiss, lacing his fingers through the fast-unraveling plait at the back of Enjolras’ head.
The moment is only slightly ruined when a sizeable wave crashes over them and they part, choking. It’s then that they’re finally spotted by somebody at the stands and a cheer goes up from the Beauxbatons students.
“Come on,” Enjolras can’t stop the smile he flashes Grantaire, who still looks to be incredibly confused, but it’s a happy kind of confused. “We can finish this on dry land,” he says, then together they kick out towards the little dock where the other champions are gathered, huddled in towels and shivering.
“Second place ain’t bad,” Courfeyrac tips back a bottle of butterbeer and grins at Enjolras, curled up on a couch with his head resting on Grantaire’s shoulder, the other boy’s arm around his waist. Feuilly and Marius snuck them into the Hufflepuff common room after the task, and it’s there they now sit, a splash of light blue robes in the middle of so much black and yellow, warming in front of the fire.
Most of Hufflepuff have more or less accepted that these particular Beauxbatons students will continue to infiltrate their various living spaces. They’re incredibly accommodating considering their champions are competing against each other.
The rest of the house are all up in the Great Hall for the banquet and post-task celebrations, so for now their little group of mismatched witches and wizards have the comfortable space all to themselves. Joly, Musichetta, Bahorel, Jehan and Courfeyrac are all scattered across the floor, the latter two in beanbag chairs. Marius, Feuilly, Combeferre and Eponine occupy one couch and Enjolras, Grantaire, Cosette and Bossuet have claimed the other.
“You shut your face, second place is awesome; it’s not all about winning,” Grantaire replies, squeezing Enjolras lightly.
After placing first in the first task and third in the second Enjolras’ points bring him just above Cedric, who came second in both tasks, and just under Lagertha who came third then first. “I don’t care,” Enjolras mutters, “I just never want to go underwater ever again.” He shuffles closer to Grantaire, seeking his warmth over that of the fireplace. Grantaire rests his cheek on the top of Enjolras’ head. He smiles.
Feuilly sighs happily at the sight, dipping his fingers into one of the pockets of his robes and clinking his winnings together contentedly. Combeferre notices and laughs, not having done badly in the stakes himself. Courfeyrac looks a little put out, as he’d had his money on Grantaire cracking first, but he can’t bring himself to be anything but happy for his friends.
“Hey- Joly!” Enjolras starts, batting the young Ravenclaw away from his leg with an expression of dismay. “Don’t touch it!”
“Sorry,” Joly doesn’t sound apologetic in the slightest. “I just wanted to check your bandages.”
“They’re not going to have changed in the ten minutes since you last touched them,” Enjolras snorts, drawing his legs out of Joly’s reach and in doing so more or less shifting onto Grantaire’s lap. Not that either of them mind.
Joly shrugs, accepting defeat, and steals another butterbeer from the stash Courfeyrac brought with him, offering one to Musichetta. She declines.
“Actually, though, I am a little hungry,” she admits. “Anybody bring food?”
Feuilly and Marius both laugh, to the confusion of everyone else. “What?”
“The kitchens are literally-- no, I’ll just show you, Chetta,” Feuilly gets to his feet and offers her a hand, pulling her up. “Food raid. Come on, Marius; you too, we need more hands. Anybody want anything?”
“Surprise us,” Jehan contributes from the depths of a beanbag chair that appears to be trying to eat him.
As soon as the door has closed behind them, Joly rolls across the floor to Cosette and puts his chin on her knees, smiling up at her.
“So. Marius,” he says in a conversational tone. “Think he’s going to ask you to the Yule Ball, or are you going to have to ask him?”
Cosette laughs. “How long have you been waiting to ask that?”
Joly shrugs, unashamed. “Like, a week. He never leaves.”
She mirrors his shrug, tucking a strand of long, silvery hair behind her ear. “I’ll give him time to do it, then if he doesn’t get round to it I’ll just drag his butt along. I would just ask him now, but he’s adorable when he’s trying to work out what to say.”
“You cruel girl, you. Tell me, is that a French thing or a Veela thing?” Cosette thumps Joly on the shoulder for that.
“Probably a little bit of both,” she admits with a wolfish grin.
Grantaire, at this point, becomes aware that Enjolras has in fact fallen asleep on him. He nudges the boy to make sure of it, then huffs out a contented sigh and returns to holding him close, not having noticed that all eyes have turned to him. He does a double take. “What?”
“Are you,” Joly taps his knee for emphasis. “Going to ask sleeping beauty over here to the dance?”
Grantaire meets the curious gazes of his friends and blushes, Enjolras oblivious in his arms. He gives a one-shouldered shrug and glances down at the mass of golden curls resting just under his chin. “He’s the champion,” he says, softly. “I’ll let him work out what he wants to do.”
Understanding the delicacy of the matter, the others let it go. And by the time the two Hufflepuffs and Musichetta have returned, arms piled high with food, the conversation has flowed on smoothly to a mild debate over whether or not muggle fairy tales are better than wizard ones.
Grantaire soon finds himself passionately arguing in favour of his muggle childhood after an offhand comment of “What kind of a name is Rumpelstiltskin, anyway?” from Courfeyrac. (“Okay, firstly: Babbity Rabbity and her Cackling Stump. And secondly, your name is Courfeyrac.”)
Enjolras smiles in his sleep.
As it turns out, their kiss in the water hadn’t actually gone entirely unnoticed. In the Prophet the next morning, there’s a snapshot of the act covering half a page, captions proclaiming it a “scandalous affair” of sorts.
The tacky journalist that’s been hounding Enjolras since the start of the Tournament appears at breakfast just as the papers start coming in and tries to question him about it. “What have you to say about these outrageous claims?” he gasps dramatically, and Enjolras doesn’t even resist the urge to roll his eyes.
He takes another look at the paper, glances at Grantaire, then turns his attention back to the journalist and shrugs.
“I don’t know what to tell you, I think the only thing outrageous about it is just how fucking cute we are.”
The journalist visibly deflates at this, and backs away muttering to himself as Enjolras swivels in his seat to deliver a swift peck to Grantaire’s lips.
The next day there’s a small piece accusing Enjolras of promoting profanities, and he just doesn’t care.
He has more important things to think about.
“I was the last time I checked. What’s up?”
“Hypothetically, how would you ask someone out?”
Combeferre squints at Enjolras with such intense scrutiny that he feels distinctly uncomfortable, fidgeting on his feet. “Aren’t you and Grantaire already an item?”
Enjolras makes a noise that sounds half pleased, half exasperated. It’s kind of impressive, really. “Yes, that’s not what I meant.”
Combeferre raises his eyebrows. “Yule Ball?”
Enjolras nods sharply.
Combeferre strongly resists the urge to roll his eyes. “Enjolras,” he says. “You’ve been freaking out over how to ask him, haven’t you.” It isn’t a question.
“I wouldn’t say ‘freaking out’,” Enjolras hazards slowly.
“You-” Combeferre breaks off, distracted into staring longingly at the palm of his hand, which he is so tempted to slap over his own face. Thinking better of it - all that would achieve would be to smudge his glasses - he collects himself and tries again. “You realise you could literally just walk up to him and say ‘Ball?’ in a vaguely questioning manner and he’d trip over his own feet to accept, right?”
Enjolras hesitates, actually looking uncertain. Combeferre’s eyes widen. He shakes his head and begins to shoo his friend away. “No, I’m not dealing with this. Go ask your boyfriend out, or ask Courfeyrac for help.”
Enjolras snorts. “I’m not that desperate.”
“Go ask your boyfriend to the Yule Ball or I’m telling Courf that you need his help.”
“No, ‘Ferre, come on, anything but -- no, okay, I’m going, for the love of Merlin, give me a minute.”
“Teach me to dance?” is what he asks Grantaire a couple of days later.
He agrees, of course he does, and they head back to the room they’d been using to train for the second task. Miraculously the door they stumble through opens out to reveal a beautiful, wooden floored dance studio, complete with gramophone atop a rickety old table.
The huge mirrors that span one wall from floor to ceiling give Grantaire a fantastic view of himself dancing in endless whirling circles with the most beautiful boy he’s ever known laughing in his arms.
Or, rather, they would, if he could tear his eyes away from said boy’s face long enough to spare the mirrors so much as a glance.
Enjolras isn’t clumsy, nor does he have two left feet, per se; but he’s a long way from graceful and seems to look on with something akin to envy as Grantaire demonstrates movements.
“You’re beautiful,” he sighs, after one such presentation. Before Grantaire can open his mouth to disagree Enjolras has closed the gap between them and is kissing him sweetly, stretched up on his tiptoes to reach with his arms flung around his neck. Grantaire has never felt the slight height difference so acutely before, and he’s grinning when they part.
Enjolras gazes up at him for a moment before huffing, “I hate you. Show me again?”
“Show you what again?” Grantaire’s voice is teasing and there’s an amused glimmer in his eyes as he crowds in closer to Enjolras, dipping his head so that they’re mere millimetres apart.
They stand there for a moment, neither daring to move first and break the sudden stillness in the air. Then Enjolras speaks, voice the barest of whispers, his previous request forgotten entirely.
“Accompany me to the Yule Ball?” In a corner of his mind he curses himself internally - that really wasn’t how he’d intended to ask him - but it is silenced as soon as Grantaire’s entire face lights up and his grin transforms into a shy smile.
“I thought you’d never ask,” Grantaire murmurs, and then one of his hands is tangled in Enjolras’ hair and the other is cradling his jaw and their mouths are slotting together and Enjolras melts in his boyfriend’s arms.
They don’t really get back around to dancing after that.
“Quit it!” Courfeyrac hisses, batting Grantaire’s hands away from where they’re fumbling uselessly at his cravat and taking it upon himself to tie it properly.
“Thanks,” Grantaire mutters begrudgingly. He doesn’t like dress robes, never has, and the unfamiliar fabric of this shirt is making his skin itch. It doesn’t help that he’s also relatively terrified of the fact that the champions and their dates are the ones to open the Ball to the rest of the guests. He doesn’t do audiences. “How did you get stuck with me, anyway?”
“I didn’t get stuck with you, I volunteered to be here,” Courfeyrac corrects, finishing off tying the cravat with a flourish and straightening Grantaire’s bottle green waistcoat before stepping back to admire his handiwork. “Also, Combeferre gave me that look of his that means ‘leave in peace or leave in pieces’. Naturally, I chose the former.”
“I still don’t understand why we couldn’t just all get ready together; this seems highly unnecessary,” Grantaire has been complaining since he woke up this morning and has no intention of stopping any time soon. Courfeyrac allows it, knowing he’s only this crabby because of the nerves.
“Because at least 80% of our group expressed their wishes to be present in order to see the look on your faces when you see each other, and seeing as we couldn’t all get ready together, this was the best alternative,” Courfeyrac reels off easily, moving to stand in front of the mirror to tug his own waistcoat back into place. His is of a lighter green than Grantaire’s, and is covered with swirls of floral pattern.
So very Courfeyrac, Grantaire thinks.
He turns back to face him again. “Ready?”
Grantaire just looks at him, and a flash of concern passes over Courfeyrac’s face.
“Hey,” he says, grasping Grantaire’s shoulder firmly with one hand, expression and tone as earnest and honest as Courfeyrac ever gets. “It’s going to be alright, ‘Taire, you hear me? Actually, scratch that; it’s going to be awesome. He’s crazy about you, you realise that, right? As long as you don’t let him lead in any of the dancing, you’ll both be fine.”
After a moment Grantaire nods jerkily. Courfeyrac bites back a sigh. It’s going to take a lot more than a twenty second pep talk to dispel his self-confidence issues, he thinks. I’ll work on that later.
“Right, let’s just go and get this over with,” Courfeyrac releases his grip to throw his arm around Grantaire’s shoulders, squeezing them reassuringly as they pass by the remaining Beauxbatons students still preparing for the dance.
“Courfeyrac?” Grantaire says quietly as they make their way towards the Hall.
“Any time. I mean it.”
Enjolras gives an undignified squeak as he tugs too hard on the waistband of his trousers and finds himself staggering across the room before he can rebalance himself. Marius and Feuilly had let them into their dorm room to get ready, so it’s a yellow and black bedspread that he’s about to tumble onto before he catches himself.
Combeferre shoots him an unimpressed look and stretches his hand out, offering Enjolras his waistcoat from where it had fallen as he shot across the room. “Relax, Enjolras.”
“I am perfectly relaxed, I’ll have you know,” Enjolras says indignantly, pointedly ignoring the way his hands shake when he takes the garment from his friend and slides it over his shoulders. Not only does the scarlet material of the waistcoat and its shining golden buttons compliment his hair beautifully, but it also makes him look vaguely like the Gryffindor house crest.
He doesn’t realise Combeferre has spoken and is waiting for an answer until his friend rolls his eyes and steps nearer, doing up the buttons of the waistcoat that - oops - Enjolras had just been staring down at blankly. “I’ll repeat that; are you actually going to tie that cravat for once in your life?”
Enjolras raises his hands to touch the simple black length of material, then lowers them again. “I’ll do it when we’re about to go in.”
“Sure you will,” Combeferre laughs, but he doesn’t push it. “Enjolras?”
His eyes snap up to his friend’s face. “Yeah?”
Enjolras does, dragging in a huge shaky lungful of air. Remarkably, it actually helps a little. Combeferre chuckles then freezes, some amount of realisation suddenly dawning on his face. Enjolras twitches his fingers nervously, waiting for him to speak.
“You’re nervous because this is your first real date, aren’t you?” Combeferre asks, but it isn’t really a question. Enjolras nods to confirm anyway. “Well, I can honestly tell you that if you’re worried about disappointing Grantaire, you really shouldn’t be. I don’t think you could disappoint that kid if you tried. Now put your shoes on.”
Enjolras immediately does as he’s told. Combeferre can see he’s still panicking, but he’s mellowed a little bit. He feels a little bad for sending Courfeyrac away like he did, but he’s known Enjolras long enough to know what his best friend needs right now is for someone to be firm and reassuring with him, and much as he loves Courf his boundless energy would just set him on edge right now.
Combeferre tugs on and laces up his own boots, then shrugs on his own waistcoat - powder blue with flecks of grey - and looks at Enjolras expectantly.
“Come on, you can’t be late; they need the champions to open the Ball, remember?” Combeferre nudges Enjolras gently and gives him an encouraging smile.
Enjolras’ answering one only wavers a little, and is cemented solid and true by the time they reach the corridor outside the Great Hall. Combeferre feels relieved. He knows Enjolras isn’t really okay with showing uncertainty in front of anybody, is uncomfortable displaying weakness when he’s vulnerable. He wouldn’t begrudge him his occasional need for solitude, but it does stress him out some too. Combeferre empathises far too strongly with his friends and it’s at its worst when its Enjolras who’s in need of him, because he’s known him so long and they’re brothers in all but blood.
They’re about to descend down a final set of stone steps when they pause, looking for and spotting their friends in a crowd at the bottom. Courfeyrac is the first to spot them and he grins and waves, eyes sliding from Combeferre to Enjolras, then turns and taps somebody’s shoulder to get their attention. He turns.
Even if Combeferre hadn’t been looking, he would have known it was Grantaire from the sharp intake of breath he hears from Enjolras at his side. He looks to his friend’s face and sees that his expression is one of sheer awe, mouth open in a slight O of admiration. Enjolras, for lack of a better word, appears entirely enamoured at the sight of his boyfriend at the bottom of the stairs. Enjolras’ usually glorious golden hair is even more perfectly tousled than normal, and the bright red of his waistcoat tied in with his gleaming white shirt and alarmingly skintight black trousers seem to set off his natural colouring perfectly, bright blue eyes almost glowing.
Combeferre’s attention then turns properly to Grantaire, who has frozen in place where he stands beside Courfeyrac. The others stand around him grinning, heads moving from side to side as though they’re watching an intense game of Quidditch in order to gauge both boys’ reactions at once.
Grantaire’s expression is similar to that of Enjolras’, but the light in his eyes is softer, as though feeling more accustomed to the strength of his feelings for the other boy. He looks, quite simply, as if his world starts and ends with Enjolras; and in that moment, it may well do just that. His jet black hair is as unruly and wild as ever, and the sharp green of his eyes is enhanced by the darker hue of his waistcoat. (And, Courfeyrac has managed to get him to tie his cravat. Wonders may never cease.)
Combeferre hears movement at his side and then Enjolras is striding down the stairs two at a time, Grantaire weaving through their friends to meet him midway. Combeferre wouldn’t have had either of them pinned as the type for PDA, but, well. In their defence - and from the totally subjective viewpoint of their Token Straight Friend - the both of them are strikingly gorgeous both individually and together. Others in the hallway who’d turned and looked upon Enjolras stood atop the stairs with admiration in their eyes now looked to the two of them together with something akin to envy -- of which boy they are envious, Combeferre suspects not even they know.
“Sickening, isn’t it?” Courfeyrac appears at his side with a grin. “And, god, just look at them. Their waistcoats are even Christmas colours. You’d think they’d planned this, but no, they’re just that disgustingly adorable together.” He shakes his head in mock despair. “Oh, speaking of clothes; have you seen the British and Scandinavian guys’ formal-wear?”
Combeferre takes a closer look, and understands the giggle Courfeyrac is stifling. All of the pupils wearing dresses look spectacularly glamourous, but they’re not who Courfeyrac means. The Hogwarts boys are all decked in long dark robes and jackets with gawping, unnecessary frills and gaudy patterns that look like they were thrown together in the dark, whereas the Durmstrang boys are covered from neck to toe in identical military style maroon uniforms, the same colour as their school robes.
Combeferre whistles quietly through his teeth. “Well, they say that we French are the leading fashion figures in the world. But when you see what counts as fashion in other countries, it wouldn’t appear that we have much competition, really.”
Courfeyrac full-on snorts at this, and they make their way back down to the group where - thankfully - Enjolras and Grantaire have been prised off each other and are now being spoken to by Madame Lemarque.
“...Cedric, as home champion, will start the proceedings alongside his partner, then yourselves and Lagertha and her partner will join them. You are free to step aside when we headmasters have taken to the floor, but I’d recommend you stay on for as long as you feel comfortable,” she advises. Enjolras and Grantaire both nod, Grantaire’s arm snaking around Enjolras’ waist and hugging him lightly as they do so.
She pauses for a moment, then her gaze turns fond. “You boys,” she murmurs. “First non male-female couple to open a Yule Ball. I’m so proud.” She straightens up, head raised proudly. “Don’t take any shit.”
They’re left staring after her as she spins around and stalks away, skirts of her deep purple ball gown swishing magnificently as she goes.
“Go on, say it,” Grantaire says, faintly.
“She is all I aspire to be in life,” Enjolras replies. Grantaire nods, then they’re called off to stand with the other champions as the doors open, allowing the other students to flood into the space. It looks incredible, everything faux-icy and enormous Christmas trees and various decorations scattered all over the place. The floor itself looks like sheet ice, and it isn’t until Courfeyrac darts across it experimentally that they actually believe it’s merely an illusion.
Bossuet still manages to slip on it, though, only to be caught on each side by both Musichetta and Joly, who seem to have been expecting it. (There had been a relatively humorous moment earlier in the week where Joly and Bossuet had stood glancing anxiously between each other and Musichetta without speaking for a good five minutes before Musichetta just suggested, “You know, we could just all go to the Ball together.” and the other two had tripped over themselves to agree.)
The rest of the Beauxbatons boys - Jehan, Bahorel and Bossuet - are all dressed similarly to the others; namely with tight black trousers, crisp white shirts and bright waistcoats of varying different colours and patterns, usually with a neatly tied cravat.
Their Hogwarts friends don’t look too bad, either. Joly actually looks rather dashing in his strange English robes of dark blue, as does Montparnasse in his similar black robes, and Feuilly has foregone wizard-wear entirely in favour of a smart Muggle ensemble that has several of his schoolmates glaring with envy and many girls (and a fair few boys) looking over appreciatively. Poor Marius seems to have drawn the short straw, as his robes are too spectacularly awful to put into words, but he doesn’t seem to care because, miracle of miracles, he has Cosette on his arm.
The girls, for their part, are all stunning. Cosette’s floor length dress is of a silvery blue colour that compliments her hair - which is piled atop her head in a dizzyingly complicated braid - perfectly, crystals dotted across the surface of the material; her smile can only be described as angelic. Musichetta sports a jaw-dropping tight fitted scarlet piece that begins curiously by her ear at one side and winds all the way down to the floor in one smooth drop of fabric, with cutouts at her waist showing daring flashes of coffee coloured skin, hair neatly pinned up with only a few artful twists escaping. Eponine is wearing a sleeveless dress dotted with pearls on the bodice with a wondrously floaty skirt that cuts off just above the knee, and her hair cascades down her shoulders in a truly gorgeous wave of chocolate brown.
“Damn, we look good,” says Courfeyrac, and Combeferre can’t help but agree.
And then the music is starting and the champions are sweeping in onto the floor, Enjolras and Grantaire joining at the allotted time and managing to actually look rather presentable due to Grantaire’s leading. They don’t even try to keep a straight face, laughing and whispering to each other all the way through, not stopping even when the headmasters begin joining them on the floor.
Then the students get their cue to join and Combeferre finds himself waltzing dramatically out of time around the floor with a helplessly giggling Courfeyrac, nearly causing a headlong collision with Bahorel and Jehan who clearly have no idea what they’re doing despite having a lot of fun doing it. Cosette and Marius are almost as disgustingly sweet as Enjolras and Grantaire, whereas what Eponine and Montparnasse are doing could only be described as the exact opposite of sweet and technically verging on illegal. Feuilly has stolen Joly back from his boyfriend and girlfriend and they’re doing a rather impressive tango, given that the music is about ten times too slow to be appropriate. Musichetta, predictably, is slowly leading Bossuet around the floor in the closest approximation to the actual dance being done that any of them are achieving, despite Bossuet’s still tender ankle.
All in all, as a collective they are having way too much fun; and that’s the way it carries on for the entire rest of the night.
[There may, at some point, be mistletoe involved.
Courfeyrac kisses everybody, including a flighty Marius who actually has to be caught and restrained by Bahorel, then blushes a magnificent shade of red right to his roots when Cosette kisses him immediately after.
Everybody, that is, except Grantaire and Enjolras, who look like they may honestly consider murdering him every time he so much as glances their way while in possession of the dreaded plant.
He leaves them be.]
[And Enjolras never does tie that damn cravat.]
The only advice the champions are given for the next task is that they should brush up on their Defence Against the Dark Arts skills, so that’s exactly what Enjolras does for the next few months. He spends most of his time between that one room (which conveniently returns to its previous state as a training room as soon as they’re done dancing for the Ball) and the Hogwarts library.
Enjolras brushes up on jinxes and hexes he’s had no practical use for in all his years of schooling, and it’s actually incredibly fun duelling with his friends. They all take it upon themselves to train with Enjolras as much as possible, and Lamarque turns a blind eye whenever any of them skip their classes. Occasionally, it just turns into a complete idiot-fest and absolutely nothing productive gets done whatsoever.
This is one of those times.
Bossuet sent a swarm of murderous butterflies after Feuilly after he dared make fun of his dancing skills about five or so minutes ago (Enjolras is still contemplating what the correct collective of butterflies actually is. Swarm? Flock? Herd?) and as such the hysterically laughing Hufflepuff is now crouched under a table begging for mercy.
The rest of the Hogwarts students are sprawled out on the floor in varying states of distress, attempting to complete as much homework as their tolerance levels will take. Musichetta’s there too, but her homework seems to consist of a puzzle made from interlaced wooden blocks that warps and shapeshifts and lets out the odd hissing sound every so often that nobody else really wants to go near. (Marius tried. He claims it bit him. Nobody actually doubts it.)
Jehan and Bahorel are playing some variety of chess that apparently doubles as a drinking game, for which Cosette is acting as mediator -- as well as, incidentally, drinking them under the table. (There’s also a bet going on over on the floor as to just how long it’ll take Jehan to notice he’s accidentally coaxing various species of flowers up through the floorboards again, as it has been known to happen when he’s concentrating. They’ve no idea how he accelerates the growth, but you don’t really question Jehan, either.)
Combeferre sits in a window-seat (which curiously only seems to be there when he is) and flicks through various spellbooks, partially looking for anything that could be useful to Enjolras - which he immediately notes down on a nearby piece of parchment - but mostly just for his own enjoyment. Occasionally he’ll lift his wand and carry out a complex movement and something beautiful will appear in the air above him and everybody will take a moment to sit back to admire it with a smile before carrying on with whatever they were doing.
Courfeyrac stopped trying to be useful a while ago and fell asleep on a training mat in a patch of sunlight. To be fair to him, he'd been up late the night before duelling with Enjolras, and not everyone has the same endless supply of motivation and ruthless drive that Enjolras seems to stockpile somehow.
That very same Enjolras who was duelling with Grantaire until the other boy sent a tickling charm his way and has since collapsed into a heap in the floor, clutching his sides and laughing helplessly. Grantaire leans over him, grinning unapologetically. “Give yet?”
Enjolras gasps between laughs, tears streaming down his face as the others glance over, amusement etched on their faces. “N-no! You cheated!”
“Actually, our terms were, A: nothing too dangerous, and B: nothing undeflectable. Rictumsempra contradicted neither of these terms. So, I’ll ask you again; do you give, Enjolras?” Grantaire offers him his hand, leaning closer to do so.
Enjolras gives him a look laden with meaning then and hisses, only just loud enough for Grantaire to make out, “Oh, ‘Taire, you know I don’t give. I take.” Grantaire’s face heats at a remarkable speed and Enjolras takes the opportunity while he’s distracted to grab his hand and tug, sending the other boy sprawling to the floorboards beside him. Enjolras quickly scrambles to pin him down and ends up sitting atop his chest, arms folded and chin raised with a proud glint in his eye as he claims victory, the effects of Grantaire’s charm slowly fading off.
And then it all goes to hell when Grantaire discards his wand without a second thought and begins tickling Enjolras’ ribs manually. When he doubles over with a squeal Grantaire whispers to him through gritted teeth, “You’re going to pay for that.”
“I was counting on it,” Enjolras laughs, finally wriggling out of his grasp and darting away from him to the other side of the room, raising his wand as a warning. “Best two out of three? And no cheating this time.”
Grantaire gets to his feet, brushing dust off his clothes and collecting his wand as he does so, and mutters petulantly, “I wasn’t cheating.”
On the floor, Eponine quietly mutters, “They realise we could hear all of that, right.”
Joly nudges her quiet and clamps a hand over Montparnasse’s mouth before he can make the inevitable comment about Enjolras’ preferences in bed; Combeferre snickers quietly and sends a shower of pretty blue sparks into the air; Feuilly finally digs out his wand and conjures up a battalion of moths to combat Bossuet’s butterflies, and Musichetta abandons her puzzle to watch with interest. Oblivious to all of this, Courfeyrac snuffles and inches closer to Jehan in his sleep.
Grantaire raises his wand, and they’re off.
The night before the task, Enjolras and Grantaire are the only ones in the room, the others having decided to invade the Hufflepuff common room again in order to give them some privacy. And it’s times like this when Enjolras realises just how deeply his feelings for the other boy run.
They aren’t even doing anything, really; just lazily traipsing around the room or sitting together, leaning against each other, lacing their fingers together. But that’s enough, because everything Enjolras does with Grantaire is a thousand times better than on his own, or with anybody else. His very presence makes his heart flutter and whenever he catches his eye Enjolras is filled with an inexplicable warmth that takes over his entire being. He’s incredibly in love with the boy, and to him that’s more magical than any spell he could ever utter.
Enjolras goes to look out of the window and after a moment Grantaire’s taking his hand, spinning him with ease, and Enjolras laughs as he’s turned to face the other boy. Giddy with the feeling of lightness Grantaire takes with him everywhere he goes, Enjolras plants the palms of his hands on his chest to regain balance. It only takes a second’s shared glance and his hands are slipping up to clasp behind Grantaire’s neck, and he’s on his tiptoes and Grantaire’s hands are on his lower back and they’re kissing and he’s perfect and when Enjolras finally pulls back Grantaire’s blushing and--
“I love you,” he whispers.
Grantaire’s eyes shoot open wide, and Enjolras imagines his do too. He hadn’t meant to say it, but then… Why not?
“What?” Grantaire breathes.
Enjolras grins, reaches up to repeat the phrase, presses it against the corner of his mouth. “I love you.”
Grantaire just stares at him for a moment, and then the light that slowly spreads across his face makes Enjolras’ heart melt, his smile is blinding. “I love you too,” he whispers in return, and Enjolras is flooded with happiness. Grantaire pulls him close again and this kiss is deeper, more passionate, Grantaire almost lifts him off his feet and Enjolras laughs when he puts him down again.
“Wait, can I just,” Grantaire pulls away, dropping one of Enjolras’ hands to reach into his pocket with his left hand and draw out his wand. “I want to see if I can-- I’ve never been able to do it before, but I think--”
Enjolras watches in awe as the boy steels himself in concentration, blue eyes focussed on something he can’t see, impatiently tossing his head to knock a stray dark lock of hair away from his eyes.
He raises his wand and firmly utters the incantation, “Expecto Patronum.”
Out from his wand bursts a searing light that they both have to raise their hands to shield their eyes from for a moment, then by the time their eyes adjust the light has manifested into a corporeal form, and Enjolras gasps at what he sees. Hastily, he pulls his own wand out of his jeans and repeats the phrase, blinking away the afterburn of the light.
“Grantaire,” he laughs breathlessly. Grantaire can only nod.
Two beautiful phoenixes hover in the air, powerful wings beating silently as they regard each other with interest. Grantaire’s is smaller, with the more extravagant plumage that comes with the rare male of the species, whereas Enjolras’ larger, sleek female is exactly the same as it was when he summoned it all those months ago in the dragon’s arena.
“That’s incredible,” Grantaire murmurs, awestruck, as the two let out silent cries and start circling each other playfully. “What does that mean?” he asks, tearing his gaze away to look questioningly at Enjolras, who was already watching his boyfriend, adoration evident in his expression.
“I love you,” is all Enjolras says.
The patronuses glow brighter when he says it, then even brighter still when Grantaire repeats it.
“In the arena, your memory-” Grantaire begins to ask, and Enjolras silences him with a kiss.
“You,” is his answer. “It was always you.”
The day of the task dawns sunny and warm, and it’s the only task Grantaire had made it to breakfast for. He receives a round of applause for it, and gently smacks the back of Courfeyrac’s head for its instigation.
The atmosphere is an odd mix of emotion: there’s anticipation for the upcoming task, the excitement of the prospect of winning the tournament, and under all of it a bittersweet realisation that they only have a few days left with their newfound friends. Bossuet, Joly and Musichetta are, understandably, particularly subdued this morning. Grantaire tightens his grip around Enjolras’ waist when he’s reminded of just how lucky he is that he’s taking his partner home with him.
Enjolras gives him a tight smile in return, the only indicator that he’s more nervous than he’s letting on about this last task. Grantaire turns and presses a soothing kiss to his temple, whispering against his hairline, “Winning isn’t everything.”
Enjolras’ expression slips into a real grin at the now familiar phrase and Grantaire can actually feel him relaxing in his arms. “Thanks, ‘Taire,” he mumbles in return, leaning into his embrace.
All too soon, Madame Lamarque is whisking him away from the table while the others cheer him on, wishing him luck, and he’s mouthing “I love you!” over his shoulder to Grantaire, who blushes.
They end up in that same tent from the first task, and Enjolras greets his fellow champions with a nod. Cedric is bouncing with excitement and Lagertha looks as though she’s enough energy to scale a mountain. Which, as far as he knows, could actually be what they end up doing.
Or not, he thinks as they’re dragged out into what, Cedric informs them in a dismayed tone, used to be the school’s Quidditch pitch.
“I was wondering why they’d cut the season short,” Cedric mutters, glaring at the seemingly endless maze of towering hedges as though they’ve personally offended him. Lagertha seems even more annoyed than him, and Enjolras vaguely recalls hearing something about her being scouted for her national Quidditch team - a big deal for someone so young.
Their annoyance is cut short when the judges shuffle in. They’re informed that the task is to make it to the centre of the maze constructed from the hedges, where they will find the Triwizard Cup, and that they will have to face and fend off several obstacles along the way. They’re to send up a shower of sparks if they run into trouble and they’ll be pulled out of the task, Lamarque adds, and all the champions share the same glance; none of them intend to let this one go.
They’re all separated by so few points now that the times they’ll be allowed to enter the maze - in order from first to last - are barely a minute apart each. Lagertha will go first, then Enjolras, and finally Cedric, all from different points.
As the rest of the students all begin to crowd into the stands, a hovering ball zooms over to the champions and then their faces are suddenly being projected above the maze. The students cheer and Enjolras grins, waving up at his own face; when they catch on, Lagertha and Cedric laugh and join him.
There’s a cry of “Nerd!” behind him, and he turns to salute Courfeyrac with a flourish. His little ragtag band of friends have all snagged seats near the front of a stand, right by the staircase and in perfect view of the large projection. Grantaire blows him a kiss and he blushes, only just having time to return it before the head judge speaks up and their task is being announced.
There’s cheering and chanting and singing and the Hogwarts band is playing an upbeat tune as Lagertha is called to take her place beside the entrance to the maze. She turns to both Cedric and Enjolras in turn, kissing them both on the cheek and wishing them luck, usual sternness replaced with exhilaration at the prospect of the upcoming challenges.
Then the cannon fires and she darts into the empty space, the hedges closing in behind her and opening up in a different section to prepare for Enjolras’ entrance. He watches Lagertha on the screen; she runs down the narrow path between leaves, wand at the ready, and turns the corner only to almost sprint headfirst into a pit of salamanders. At the last moment she launches herself into the air and clears the pit by a good few feet, landing in a roll and receiving a huge cheer from the stands - and the other champions, for that matter. She takes a second to grin up at the camera-orb in acknowledgement and then she’s off again, running at full pelt, turning on instinct, a streak of red in the green that the camera struggles to keep up with.
Enjolras’ concentration is broken when Lamarque calls him over to take his place. He claps Cedric on the shoulder with a smile before he jogs over, slipping his wand out of his pocket as he goes. An earsplitting whistle sounds behind him just before his cannon fires, and he doesn’t need to turn to know Grantaire is on his feet and cheering for him.
He plunges into the maze and takes off at a run, narrowing his eyes as the hedges shudder shut behind him and the light dims considerably. The noise from the stadium is almost unsettlingly muted and as he proceeds deeper into the darkness. He’s vaguely aware of the buzzing camera-orb following his progress, but he ignores it, concentrating on not getting snagged on any stray branches. It isn’t long before he comes to the first fork in the path and hesitates, looking left and right and carefully weighing his options. The centre of the maze won’t necessarily be the dead centre of the maze, and Enjolras doesn’t even know how far the maze spans even if it is.
To his left the path is obscured by a thick black fog, and to his right the ground appears to be shimmering slightly. He hesitates, then cautiously approaches the shimmering light. As soon as he steps foot on it everything goes woozy and Enjolras stumbles. Everything in front of him is in fragments as though he’s seeing it through a kaleidoscope, and he has to fight back the nausea welling in his throat as he struggles through, squeezing his eyes shut and trying to breathe evenly.
He must reach the edge of the enchantment soon because suddenly the world rights itself and he’s able to clear his head again just in time to turn the next corner. Rounding it, he starts to run again, slower this time in case he runs into something dangerous. Just as well, because suddenly a swarm of pixies bursts through the hedge wall to his right and he just manages to duck out of the way before they slam full on into the side of his head. Enjolras curses, scrambling backwards on the ground.
He brandishes his wand at the swarm that make to dive on him and releases a rapid series of body-bind curses, making the small vicious creatures drop to the ground one by one, but not before one manages to bite through the material of his trousers and into his ankle. He lets out a cry and the thing is blown back in a bolt of red sparks. He’s distracted from inspecting the damage when he hears a cannon shot -- Cedric has entered the maze.
Enjolras pulls himself to his feet, using the hedges as leverage and quickly snatching his hands away when the creeping tendrils attempt to ensnare them. He proceeds with more caution now, stepping carefully around the unconscious pixies and setting off past them at a brisk pace.
In this way he covers a fair bit of ground, choosing which way to go at random and dodging or deflecting any obstacles in his path. He leaps over some form of fiery snail that tries to shoot tongues of flame at him, ducks through another thick black fog in which he’s assaulted by eerie shrieks and the feeling of somebody breathing at his neck. Roots and weeds snake out to try and wrap around his ankles and pull him down to the ground. Enjolras loses all track of time this way, the only constant his feet pounding against the ground, his own breath harsh and heavy in his ears, the staccato beat of his heart trying to burst free of his chest, and the looming tower of foliage that encircles him.
A mass of scuttling spiders meets the same fate as the pixies and Enjolras stops to flash a grin at the camera-orb that suddenly appears by his head as he carefully burns a path through the thick webs that obscure his path. He briefly wonders how the other two champions are doing, what the screens above the stadium are showing. He glances upwards but all he can make out is the gradually darkening sky, the maze now being lit in part by hanging lanterns suspended in the air.
The next challenge he comes across is in the form of a large beast that lies in the middle of a crossroads of sorts within the maze. At first Enjolras thinks it’s just a lion, but then when it turns his head to face him he sees it has the face of a woman.
“Hello, champion,” she says, and her voice is a rolling thunder that comes from everywhere and nowhere all at once without her even opening her mouth. She gets to her feet and stretches luxuriously before sitting directly in Enjolras’ path. “As you can see, I am blocking your path to… Well, anywhere that isn’t backwards. If you wish to pass, you will need to answer me three questions. Answer correctly, and I shall leave you be. Answer swiftly and correctly, and I will point you to the shortest route to your goal. Answer incorrectly… And you may wish to make a hasty retreat. You may go back at any time. Am I understood?”
Enjolras nods mutely, eyes wide in a mixture of horror and awe at this stunning yet dangerous creature.
“Excellent,” her eyes slide shut in one long blink, and then she opens them again to speak. “Question the first: at this school in which you are guested, the students are split in four. Tell me this; which House harbours those who are just and loyal, patient and true, and unafraid of toil?”
Enjolras hesitates, mind whirring frantically. He has paid little attention to the supposed differences between the houses, still thinking their sorting system to be wholly unnecessary and old-fashioned. His expression is one of dismay, and he can’t believe he’s going to have to turn back now when he’s so close-- and then he remembers.
Marius, before he’d known his name, introducing himself to Combeferre, beaming with pride. “The best house there is! We’re the loyal hard workers, if you believe th-” and then he’d trailed off at the sight of Cosette.
“Hufflepuff?” he echoes Combeferre’s questioning tone from that very first day. For a moment he thinks he’s remembered wrong, but then the majestic creature bows her head in agreement.
“Question the second,” she continues. “Many an animal in the world of wizardry finds itself in the most dangerous of rivalries with that of another species. Forever embroiled in such intense hatred, it is the most deeply rooted of instincts for these beings to despise and attempt to destroy their opponents at every opportunity. I ask you now, tell me this: what is the creature dragons despise above all else?”
Enjolras answers immediately, thinking back to the first trial and the dragon’s pursuit of his patronus, “Phoenix.” He doesn’t even have time to reprimand his own hastiness before the sphinx is nodding again and regarding him with a cunning eye.
“Question the third, and final,” she says, slowly. “I’ve always loved a good riddle, so let us have one. Are you ready to hear it?”
Enjolras clears his mind and nods. “Speak, please.”
The voice comes again. “As you wish,” a pause, then: “If a man carried my burden, he would break his back. I am not rich, But I leave silver in my track. What am I?”
“If a-” Enjolras frowns, then hisses in pain as a glowing ember burns its way through his shirt and sears the skin there. He puts the spark out frantically, cursing those damn lava-snails he’d encountered at the start of the-- wait. “Can you repeat that for me?”
The sphinx bows her head graciously and does so, and Enjolras runs it through in his mind again, grin that of a man on the verge of hysteria. “A snail! It’s a snail, isn’t it?”
The sphinx grins, bearing a set of truly terrifying fangs, and gets to her feet. Enjolras’ heart stutters as she moves closer and rears up on her hind legs. “Wait-!” Enjolras stumbles backwards in terror, heel catching on a root and sending him tumbling to the ground. He throws his arm out to protect himself, but it isn’t necessary. The sphinx merely digs her claws into the surface of a certain part of the hedge and tears it down to reveal a previously hidden passageway.
She purrs in amusement. “You entertained me, little champion. So I will let you pass. We had a deal, had we not?” She inclines her head towards the new entry. “Go, now. There should not be too many twists left in your path. I wish you luck.”
Enjolras bows respectfully, as is the correct way to respond to any and all mythical creatures. “Thank you.”
The beast disappears with a flick of her paintbrush tail, and he dives into the space she left behind. The light in this thin strip of path is of a blueish tinge, and Enjolras is so close he can almost feel the comfortable weight of the Cup.
He hastens his step, turns a corner, and freezes.
A vaguely familiar silhouette staggers towards him, letting out a haunting cry.
Enjolras’ wand slips to the ground and he sways on his feet.
“He’s doing well. Isn’t he doing well? Like, look how he handled those spiders, I’m so--”
“Grantaire, calm,” Combeferre chuckles. “Yes, we’re all very proud. We can see the screen just as well as you can.” The curly haired boy had nearly jumped out of his seat when Enjolras grinned through the screen projected on the sky, burning web behind him making his golden hair look like a halo.
It’s kind of adorable.
Now the screen is showing Cedric fending off a small army of bowtruckles, and the home crowds are cheering in encouragement; the atmosphere in the stadium is incredible. The small camera-orbs can just be made out zooming around above the maze, vaguely marking out where each champion stands. The screen focusses on one champion at a time for a good few minutes each.
Grantaire’s eyes are glued to the screen and Combeferre knows he won’t be getting any sense out of him for a while, so he turns to the others; half of whom are engaged in a terrifying game of exploding snap, and the other half appear to be having a hair braiding party. There are flasks of hot chocolate involved. Combeferre’s going to miss Feuilly and Marius’ kitchen access. There’s a pang in his heart every time he thinks about leaving, so he tries not to think about it. (But that’s difficult for somebody who never stops thinking.)
Courfeyrac nearly loses his eyebrows when he’s distracted by Grantaire squawking and Bahorel slaps his hand down on the pile of cards, which causes an impressive explosion. He blinks in shock, smoke curling around his face, and the others burst out laughing.
Onscreen, Enjolras is facing an enormous sphinx with a look of vague alarm on his face. Combeferre wishes for a moment that the cameras had speakers attached. Grantaire seems content just to see him before it swaps to watch Lagertha again. Feuilly taps their shoulders to get their attention.
“Guys, we were thinking,” here he indicates his fellow Hogwarts students. “We should visit each other during the summer. I mean, it’s the Quidditch World Cup, right? Eponine’s got contacts who can probably get us all cheap tickets, what do you think?”
Grantaire and Combeferre share a glance and then grin. “Fourteen idiots camping, what could possibly go wrong?”
Feuilly laughs. “Yeah, that’s the general idea.”
There’s a sudden hush over the crowd and Feuilly’s face falls, eyes widening and darting skywards.
Grantaire spins around with a sickening pit of dread forming in his stomach, hoping against hope that he’s wrong.
A fountain of light blue sparks the exact colour of the Beauxbatons robes is visible hanging in the air above the maze.
As they fade out, the only sound in the stands comes from Grantaire breathing, “Enjolras?”
Enjolras struggles to stay on his feet as the figure stumbles forward, dread flooding his stomach. “Joly?” he whispers, horrified. One part of his mind is crying out that no, it can’t be, he saw him getting into the stand with the others, but it’s being drowned out by the much larger part that can only think of the fact that he’s covered in blood and clutching at his stomach.
“Joly,” Enjolras takes a step forward, then freezes. Joly’s mouth opens with a gasp, and then… He’s not Joly anymore. His eyes shift and glimmer a brighter colour and his hair turns pale and then Marius is falling to his knees, one bloody hand reaching out for Enjolras. He covers his mouth to muffle a shriek of dismay as he sees Marius shift into Feuilly, then Musichetta, then Montparnasse, Bahorel, Eponine, Jehan and Bossuet in quick succession.
Enjolras forces himself to stagger forwards, crying out at the sight of Cosette dropping to the ground writhing in pain. Ice shoots through his veins and his limbs feel like lead as he collapses to the earth beside her, he’s shaking and reaching out for her and then oh no don’t please--
Courfeyrac is crying out and he’s drenched in blood and his eyes are wild and Enjolras is crying because this isn’t real, this can’t be real but it’s happening and he’s shouting his name and calling for help but nobody can hear nobody can help and he’s clutching Courfeyrac as close as he can and it’s getting worse, how can it get worse and Combeferre’s eyes are glassy with pain and his face pale and drawn and Enjolras is screaming but he doesn’t even realise it and Combeferre won’t look at him and he can feel himself going numb and the world is blacking out around the edges but it’s not done yet even though he’s so cold, he’s so cold and his best friend is colder in his arms and then--
His body is wracked with sobs and he screams himself hoarse because no, why is this happening, Grantaire’s eyes should never be this lifeless and his skin should never be this pale and he can’t have lost that much blood nobody can lose that much blood and Enjolras is clutching at his shirt and his face is buried in his chest and there’s blood everywhere and no, Grantaire, come back, I love you, don’t leave me, please, Grantaire, this can’t be real, this can’t be, please, no, and he’s pressing his forehead to the other boy’s but he’s cold and unmoving and Enjolras wishes he could take his place and he can’t breathe, can’t think, all he can see is the beautiful boy covered in blood and--
Is that somebody shouting his name? Enjolras doesn’t know, he doesn’t care, doesn’t feel Lagertha shaking his shoulder and doesn’t stop her from retrieving his wand where he’d dropped it and pointing it into the air to fire off his designated SOS sparks, he just curls in on himself and lets the dark fog wash over him and it’s strange because he was certain he’d avoided all the fog and why is it so cold oh no oh god why god why…
Enjolras comes to as he’s being hoisted to his feet by Madame Pomfrey and a Hogwarts professor, having simply blasted their way through the maze to his side. He struggles ferociously, determined not to leave Grantaire there, but then he looks and there’s nothing there, his boyfriend’s gone, and he looks to Madame Pomfrey with desperation in his eyes.
“Enjolras, please try to breathe calmly and listen to what I’m telling you,” she says, not unkindly, as they guide him out of the maze with tight holds on his arms, and the gaps in the hedges slowly fill in behind them. “What you experienced in there was a Boggart attack. None of it was real. Everything you saw was merely a nightmare in daylight. Are you hearing me?”
Enjolras blinks twice, three times in rapid succession, tears still streaming down his face, throat raw. “You mean--” he whispers, not daring to hope. She nods.
He shakes his head rapidly, the terror and pain and sheer hopelessness still very alive inside of him, his heart still chilled to the core. “Show me,” he croaks.
“Enjolras,” Madame Pomfrey begins to chastise, wanting to get him back to the champions’ tent to give him a proper look over, but the professor stops her with a hand on her shoulder.
“Poppy,” she says. “Let him go. You saw what he encountered, he needs this.”
Madame Pomfrey hesitates for a further moment then nods, and begins to redirect Enjolras towards the main stands.
As they emerge into the main area a relieved cheer erupts from the audience, but Enjolras doesn’t hear it. He’s scanning the crowd frantically, where he last saw them, and there’s two Beauxbatons professors blocking the stairs so that nobody can reach the pitch and he can just make out somebody shouting at them but then they’re being motioned aside by Madame Pomfrey and--
They’re there. All of them. And right at the front-- Enjolras tears away from the medic and sprints to the stands, and Grantaire meets him halfway, crashing into each other’s arms at such speed that they would be sent flying if it weren’t for their having such a firm grip on each other.
“God, you’re okay, we saw the sparks, they wouldn’t let us come down,” Grantaire is babbling and he sounds terrified but he’s alive and his fingers are clutching at him hard enough to bruise and he’s warm and there’s no blood and Enjolras is still sobbing and he thinks Grantaire might be, too and since when are they on the ground?
“Boggart,” he chokes out between full-body convulsions. “You were… All of you, there-- there was so much blood, I couldn’t do anything, you were so cold, Grantaire, so cold…” he trails off with a whimper and Grantaire’s arms tighten around him as he buries his face in his neck. He’s vaguely aware of the others crowded not far away, blocking the view from the stands along with a few professors, for which he’ll be grateful later.
None of them speak as Madame Pomfrey coaxes them to their feet and begins to herd them towards the tent, staring down any professor that tries to direct them back to the stands. Enjolras doesn’t let go of Grantaire once and keeps glancing around to make sure all of his friends are in fact okay, terrified that at any seconds his encounter with the Boggart will repeat itself for real.
His friends commandeer the rest of the beds in the tent and sit quietly, filling the space with idle chatter, and that in itself is enough to reassure Enjolras that everything is okay and everyone is safe and he can breathe.
Enjolras is still shivering despite the warmth of the tent, and Grantaire gratefully accepts a blanket from Joly and drapes it across them both. Accepting the fact that he isn’t going to allow himself to be parted from his friends for the time being, Madame Pomfrey sets to examining him as best she can with him still clutching Grantaire. Grantaire manages to coax him into peeling himself from his side so the medic can gently check for any potential bruising or breakages along his ribcage.
He still holds his hand throughout, and returns to curling up with his head under Grantaire’s chin as soon as she’s done. He’s finally beginning to calm down and stop shaking, Grantaire persuading him to take a drink, when the cannon goes off one last time and a huge cheer erupts around the stadium. Enjolras starts at the sudden noise, but it’s only a brief shock and then he’s okay again.
Everyone is pointedly not looking at him, and that right then is enough to bring back some semblance of his usual self.
“I take it I’ve not won, then.”
There’s silence for a beat and then everyone is swept up in bouts of relieved laughter.
Enjolras takes a shaky breath and Grantaire smiles down at him, squeezing his shoulders reassuringly.
That’s when he starts believing it’s all going to be okay again.
Enjolras casts his gaze around the Great Hall with a faint smile. It’s their last day at the school, and all classes have been cancelled so everyone can make the most of it. They’re at the Slytherin table this time, but it isn’t really the Slytherin table anymore. There are splashes of dark red and light blue at every single table, as well as faint dashes of red, gold, green, silver, yellow, black, blue and bronze; the tables are barely distinguishable from each other, now.
The most busy table is, understandably, that of the Hufflepuff students, with people from all houses and schools crowded around it to try and get close enough to celebrate with the Tournament’s grand winner. Cedric’s still beaming in disbelief, as he had been ever since that night when Enjolras joined him and Lagertha (to another relieved cheer from the audience) to announce the winner officially.
Both Lagertha and Cedric have already dropped by at the table to see how he’s doing. It’s bizarre, thinking back to that first trial where they’d all stood stiff and awkward until it was their turn to compete, winning the only thing on their minds. Now he is fairly certain that he owes Lagertha his sanity, and he wouldn’t begrudge Cedric his win for all the world. They’re both terrific people, and they both deserved to win every bit as much as he did, if not more.
He knew he’d placed last as soon as he reached the medical tent, but it just didn’t seem important to him any more. He’s reevaluated a lot of the things he’d thought on arriving at the school. He’d thought that he had to come here to compete in the Tournament, and that he had to win, that no other outcome was acceptable. He was certain that the house system was ridiculous and archaic and had insisted upon its stupidity and pointlessness. And he hadn’t even put thought into anything as insubstantial as a relationship.
But now, he realises how wrong he’s been. Winning isn’t everything, as Grantaire has reminded him so frequently and truthfully, and it doesn’t even feel as though he’s lost anything because he’s gained so much since he arrived. Glancing down the table, he feels as though he’s known these people for many lifetimes rather than a mere few months. It’s going to hurt having to go across the ocean from so many incredible people, but it won’t be as bad for him as it will be for some of the others.
Marius and Cosette have already arranged with Cosette’s father for Marius to pay a visit during the summer, and Marius is working on a return to England for Cosette with his grandfather. Joly, Bossuet and Musichetta have already laid down plans to all move in together after they complete their final exams; Joly is going into medicine, Bossuet intends to teach Defence, and Musichetta already has a promising future as an auror mapped out if she manages to get the grades. (She will.) And then there’s the Quidditch World Cup, which Eponine has confirmed she can totally get them passes for. She can’t guarantee the quality of the seats, but it was the unanimous opinion that as long as they were all together, they could be sat facing away from the pitch and it wouldn’t even matter.
As for the house system, Enjolras has conceded that there is more to it than he’d thought. The people in the houses seem to take such pride in their placements and, once you get into it, they’re more like families than houses. And now, when he looks around, Enjolras notices what he didn’t see before: there is no division. Everyone is united under this roof, even the foreigners from Durmstrang and his own school.
Finally, well, as far as relationships go? Maybe he’d never expected this, but he’s honestly never been happier. Granted, he wishes he hadn’t had to discover his feelings for Grantaire in the circumstances which he had, but then it will make one hell of a story to tell when they’re older.
And that’s another thing: he knows it will, there's no doubt in his mind. His feelings for Grantaire are anything but insubstantial; he’s the person he treasures most in the world, his worst fear is to lose him, and ever since that night where Grantaire cast his first patronus he’s never been able to imagine a future with anyone else, without him.
“What are you grinning about?” Grantaire whispers in a conspirational manner, bringing Enjolras back down to earth with a kiss to the temple.
Enjolras shrugs, still grinning shamelessly, and leans into him. “I seem to have accidentally fallen in love with the world at some point in the last few months. What a travesty.”
Grantaire sighs theatrically. “I guess you can’t win everything, can you?” he nudges Enjolras affectionately.
“Mmmm,” Enjolras hums. “Well, as somebody deceptively intelligent once told me, there are more important things in life than winning.”
Grantaire nods, a mockingly contemplative expression on his face. “Sounds like a clever guy. Have I got competition?”
Enjolras laughs and elbows him. “No, I wouldn’t worry about it,” he smiles and leans in to press a chaste kiss to his lips. “I’d rather have you, anyway.”
They settle down to watch the festivities around them, Grantaire muttering a fond “dork” into Enjolras’ hair as they do so.
The Triwizard Tournament is over, that much is true.
But so much more is about to begin.