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It's a Kind of Magic

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Two weeks before Stiles leaves for his sixth year at Hogwarts and gets to be with Scott almost every hour of everyday (he's going through withdrawals at the moment, despite living down the road from each other), he gets a call on the house phone from Melissa.

"He got bitten by something – he was babysitting the neighbor and –" she rambles in hysterics because it's magic related; Scott was whisked away to Saint Mungo's thanks to his managing to do some magic to grab the Ministry's attention.

His dad has long taken the mobile away from Stiles' slack grip, telling her that they'll be there before she can blink.

His dad takes his arm to Apparate and Stiles can never land himself right, stumbling into the nearest wall as his dad heads straight to Melissa, who's pacing in the waiting area with a crumpled tissue in her fist, muttering in Welsh.

"He was in the backyard, playing with our neighbor – sh-she's six, not magic, and this wolf just came out and it tried to –" Melissa chokes back a sob and his dad places his hands gently on her shoulders.

"Where did he get bit? Was the girl…?"

"She's fine, thank God – people came and – and took away her memory – obliviated or something, but – there was so much blood – the right side of his torso –" she starts talking in Muggle medical terms, which Stiles wouldn't be able to follow on a good day, and now he's dizzy and his head is humming with wolf

He brings a hand to his chest and collapses onto a nearby chair, forcing himself to breathe in and out. People have died getting bitten by a werewolf, some just don't make it – and if – Scott just can't die because he won'twon't

"Stiles!"

He barely movies his eyes up to look at his dad, still in his Auror garb since he had just gotten off his shift. Stiles has always thought about following in his dad's footsteps – he still can, but if Scott lives, will St. Mungo's still take him after they're done with Hogwarts? Protection for werewolves has improved throughout the years, but there's still prejudice and hate and will he be allowed back to Hogwarts?

Stiles shuts his eyes, tears escaping anyway and he forces himself to breathe.

"Stiles," his dad repeats, his voice sounding far away. "Scott's going to make it, he's going to be okay."

Stiles swallows thickly and manages to open his eyes, his chest heaving. "He's okay?" he manages to ask, voice high like a child's (like he's eight instead of sixteen).

"Yeah – he'll be out for a few hours, but –"

"I'll wait."

His dad smiles at him, running a hand through his close-cropped hair. He needs to buzz it soon. "I know. I need to go – start figuring out who did this." He gives Stiles a long, hard stare. "I will find out who did this," he says in English.

Stiles nods, clenching his jaw. "Okay."

After giving Melissa a comforting (yet awkward – it is his dad) arm squeeze, his dad turns the corner to meet with Healers and Aurors.

Melissa takes a seat next to Stiles, who is now shaking his legs, his original panic ebbing away.

"It'll be fine," Stiles says to her, nodding his head. "He'll – He'll have to take Wolfsbane Potion every month so he won't be like – so he'll have his wits about him during the full moon and." He takes a breath. "It'll be fine – there's that potion that's supposed to take away the pain of transforming – I know it's still in testing, but soon enough it'll be out and he'll take that and he's just have to worry about fleas."

Melissa snorts, wiping her face dry. "Fleas?"

"I don't know. I don't know if werewolves get fleas. I'll have to read about it." He's going to Diagon Alley right after he sees Scott for himself and he's going to research – he's already used to it for having to prepare for his OWLs.

"There's no cure?"

He clenches his jaw and ignores the stinging in his eyes as he shakes his head.

From the corner of his eye he can see Melissa hold back another sob. Stiles lets his head fall back and hit the wall behind him. They wait.

**

"Dude, check this out," Scott says when Stiles can finally see him in the early hours of the morning. Scott slowly lifts his hospital clothing to show the large bandage on his side. "They put silver and dit…something. Should be healed up in no time."

"Dittany," Stiles corrects him, only knowing it because he once slashed his hand open during Potions and Lydia Martin, being the person that she is, managed to apply it to his hand, leaving no scarring behind (although she did smack him in the back of the head for getting blood on her textbook).

He doesn't realize he's crying until Scott says, "Hey, it could be worse – I could be dead. Or Abby could've died – Muggles never survive a werewolf attack."

But there's so much shit Scott will have to go through and Stiles can't do anything about it. Scott is one of the best people Stiles knows – he's well liked – the most well liked Prefect ever – and really nice and thoughtful and one of the best Chasers Gryffindor has seen in years. He doesn't deserve this at all.

"I will literally murder people who look at you funny," Stiles says, stupidly earnest, which makes Scott smile.

"I know you have my back. Please don't kill anyone."

"I make no promises." Pause. "Can I give you a cwtch, or –?"

"Get over here."

Stiles does not sniffle and does not cry into Scott's neck as he hugs him as gently as he can.

He may not be able to do anything about Scott's new condition, and he won't be able to change everyone's minds with a simple Stinging Jinx or Bat Bogey Hex, but he can do what he does best: research.

**

By the time Melissa lends him what little Wizard money she has on her so he can buy Floo powder and use St. Mungo's network to get to Diagon Alley, the sun is above the horizon and he realizes just how exhausted he is, stumbling down the cobbled road (has it really been twenty-four hours?). His first stop is Gringotts and he winces as he takes out the last of his saved money and pockets it.

His first stop is Whizz Hard Books for Hairy Snout, Human Heart – he figures that's a good book to start with. He has to force himself to the register when he sees the most recent edition of Quidditch Through the Ages displayed since he certainly doesn't have the funds for that anymore.

Afterwards, he checks Obscurus Books, finding one text that covers more in depth about werewolves than Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but it almost depletes his savings.

"Stupid book, you better be bloody worth it…" Stiles mutters to himself as he trudges to Flourish & Blotts.

Luckily, he doesn't see any of his classmates as he weaves his way through shelves, periodically taking out books, frustrated when he reads the same information over and over again – hasn't anyone done any research?

"Stilinski?"

Stiles slams the book in his hands shut and turns to his right to see Lydia of all people, standing at the end of the aisle with an armful of books and a quizzical expression on her face.

"Lydia! Shw mae – ehm, I mean, hey, how are you? How're things? Summer good?" he babbles, trying to fit the book back on the shelf and utterly failing about it.

She narrows her eyes at him. "You look terrible."

"Oh, yeah. Up all night. It happens."

Her face softens. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah! Fine! I should dash. Gotta dash. Go – I'll see you at Hogwarts!" He focuses back on the shelf and finally puts the book back properly. It wasn't a good one anyway.

He has to go past her to leave, but she steps to the side and blocks him. He stumbles into her protruding arms and automatically holds his hands out to keep her books from falling.

"Stiles," she says quietly and oh no, she rarely calls him that unless it's serious.

"Please don't ask, please," he interrupts her, embarrassed at the distress trying to claw its way out of his throat. "I'll see you later."

Of all the damn times to bump into her in Diagon Alley – something he's always wanted since he first saw her being Sorted – it's the one time he doesn't want to be seen by anyone, let alone by the girl he fancies. And he definitely has so much soot on his face that he probably looks a fright.

"Fuck me," he grumbles as he heads over to the grates to go back to St. Mungo's.

**

"Stiles, you have to go home and sleep. You look more like crap than I do and I was bitten by a werewolf," Scott tells him as soon as Stiles comes into his room, books out and ready to be devoured.

"But –"

"No, seriously. Leave. And leave the books here and don't come back for a few hours," Scott insists.

"You do look terrible," Melissa adds.

Stiles scowls. "I can't sleep – do you know how much reading –"

Melissa glares. "Go home and sleep, Stiles."

Even though Melissa looks exhausted and more wrecked than Stiles undoubtedly does, she's still one of the scariest people he knows, and she's not even capable of magic.

"Yes, ma'am."

Melissa sighs and rolls her eyes.

"I'll be back in like, five hours," Stiles tells him.

"Alright, butt."

Stiles considers mentioning his run-in with Lydia, but refrains. Besides, Lydia has other things to do and worry about than to consider why he was acting like a weirdo in Flourish & Blotts – he supposes his eccentricities are a blessing in this case.

When Stiles makes it home and gives himself a proper wash, he sleeps uneasily, dreaming about Scott being killed and other things that make him wake up with a wet pillow case.

**

The most frustrating thing about researching werewolves is that nobody has been willing to go near them for fear of being killed or changed, so the only thing he reads that has any sort of significance is Hairy Snout, Human Heart since this man actually takes care to talk about the symptoms and everything else.

"I'll be taking the Wolfsbane Potion, it's not going to be that bad," Scott says when Stiles reads in an increasingly high-pitched voice about what happens when the sun sets.

"And McGonagall said Harris is going to be making it?" Stiles grimaces. "I don't trust him."

"No, you don't like him because he gives you detention for every time you don't pay attention, which was a lot last year," Scott points out. "It'll be fine. And thankfully the Ministry is required to supply me with it during the summer and once I graduate Hogwarts, so it won't be a financial strain on my mum."

"I mean, even if that was an issue, we would've helped out," Stiles answers with a scoff. "Your problems are my problems."

As Stiles is reading, he feels Scott's arm wrap around his shoulders and bring him in for a tight side-hug. Stiles pats Scott's hand resting by his collarbone and doesn't say anything.

**

"Stiles, can we talk?" Stiles' dad asks from the doorway of Stiles' bedroom.

Stiles looks up from his reading of the by-laws of the Ministry, taking notes of the ones that seriously need some revamping now that they're impending on Scott's rights to have a goddamn good life.

His dad sighs. "I know you want to be there for Scott – and he's going to need you. It's going to be…extremely difficult for him."

Stiles waits for his dad to continue, but after awhile, he prompts him with, "But…"

His dad sighs, aging a decade in the blink of an eye. "Scott, unfortunately…can be dangerous. I don't want you putting yourself in danger. And I don't think Scott would be able to forgive himself if you did."

"If you think I'm going to…risk getting changed then…don't. I won't," Stiles struggles to say, feeling like a dick because he's pretty sure Scott wouldn't even think twice about changing if Stiles were a werewolf and said he wanted his best friend.

Not that Stiles would be that selfish…right?

He doesn't sleep well that night.

**

Scott is surprised that he's still a Prefect come the new term and Stiles just rolls his eyes. Scott may start turning into a beast once a month, but that doesn't mean he stops being the best Prefect ever, in Stiles' correct opinion.

"I'll see you in a while, I guess – get me some cauldron cakes, don't steal them all for yourself," Scott says to Stiles with a frown.

"I may even get you a licorice wand because I like you so much," Stiles says, batting his eyes.

Scott brings a hand to his heart. "You do love me."

"You're the beaming light in my heart."

Stiles can hear sniggering and laughter and – yes, it's Jackson Whittemore and half the Slytherin Quidditch team. Frankly, he doesn't know why Jackson is even laughing at them since his best friend is gay as can be, with a proper boyfriend and everything (who's also quite nice).

Scott looks put out, as he has to be with Jackson in the prefects' carriage for half the ride and Stiles just grins and waves before going off to find a compartment to sleep in – getting from Cardiff to London the Muggle way is the fucking worst.

The first compartment he opens has Cora in it, reading a book. "Perfect, you can scare everyone away while I'll sleep for the first three hours of this ride," he says.

She looks up and scowls. "Hello to you too, Stilinski. Can't say I missed you too much."

"Such hurtful lies to hurt me." He dumps his bag at the end of the seat across from her and stretches himself out as much as he can, but he's too tall to fit comfortably. "I used to fit so well," he laments.

She snorts. "I don't know why you're complaining – you're tall – girls like that."

Stiles yawns loudly, cracking his jaw. "We'll see if this year's any different after I sleep for a few hours."

"If you snore, I'll kick you in the ballsack."

He makes sure to face to backrest and curl into himself more to protect the goods.

**

He's woken up by smack to the head. "Hey," he snaps, nearly falling off the seat in his haste to sit up.

"Anything off the trolley?"

Stiles glares at Cora before reaching into his bag, trying not to show emotion when he realizes his dad gave him almost twice the amount of money he's usually given for the Hogwarts Express.

**

As soon as Scott peaks his head into the compartment, Stiles chucks a cauldron cake at him. Scott catches it before it hits him in the face and grins.

"Thanks, butt, I'm starving, I am. My stomach kept rumbling the entire time. I think Jackson was going to throw me through the window."

"You should've let him – maybe that would've gotten him expelled."

"You wouldn't be able to function without Scott if he died," Cora points out.

"The only snag in the plan," Stiles agrees.

Scott takes a seat next to Cora, across from Stiles, and is opening his cauldron cake when he gasps. "Oh – so you won't believe what happened after the meeting. You're going to love this."

Stiles is sucking on a red licorice wand and garbles a response.

"Lydia asked me how you were doing."

Stiles nearly chokes on his red licorice wand. "She what?"

"Yeah! Said she bumped into you at Flourish and Blotts a few weeks ago. That you looked a bit haggard." He narrows his eyes and wants to say something else, but he stops himself short, eyes flicking toward Cora.

Cora looks up from her book, stares at the both of them and rolls her eyes. "I'll let you two have your stupid pow-wow. I hate when you start speaking Welsh. I'll see if I can find Malia." She gets up and leaves the compartment and as soon as the door is shut, Scott whispers, "Did you go that morning?" even though it's not necessary.

Stiles winces. "Yeah. I…well, no. I wasn't really thinking. I was desperate to do something. I didn't think I'd see anyone from school, let alone Lydia."

"Well, what happened?"

He considers telling him about nearly breaking apart in the bookstore and it was only day-fucking-one, how she exposed her vulnerability, which she never does, not really, not to anyone unimportant (what does that make him?), but Stiles says, "I said hi and ran out."

Scott has enough stress – he doesn't need him over-thinking about people figuring out his being a werewolf Because Stiles isn't strong enough for him.

**

Stiles hardly pays attention to the Sorting – he's too busy considering what he's going to eat first. And he's sneaking glances at the Slytherin table, checking out Lydia. This year he can see her face: she's politely clapping for a boy who's just been sorted into Slytherin, since he's heading to her table. Next to her is Jackson, her dick of a boyfriend, looking smug as ever –

"I think you need to calm down – your glaring is getting a little creepy," Scott mutters under his breath.

Stiles sniffs and looks down at his legs, which are jiggling up and down. He forces himself to still them. "You better beat the shit out of 'em."

Scott nudges his shoulder. "We have a Chaser opening now, y'know. And you scored some goals while Greenberg was getting his arms and ribs mended. You'll be a shoe-in."

"Yeah?" Stiles slips into Welsh excitedly. "Even though our resident elder Greenberg doesn't like me –?"

Scott pats him on the back and doesn't say anything.

"Let the feast begin!" Professor McGonagall says with a smile.

"Yes!" Stiles and Scott exclaim and McGonagall gives them a look. Stiles beams at her while Scott gives her a charming smile.

**

Stiles is in all NEWT classes, which he's been complaining about since he got his OWLs results back. He was half hoping he wouldn't get an E in Potions since Harris really does hate Stiles ever since he answered a question on an exam with a recipe for beef barley stew.

(One of the ingredients in a Cure for Boils potion is pungous onions and that just distracted him since it was right before lunch.)

"My dad tried to explain to him once about Muggle disorders and Harris still thinks I was fucking around," Stiles groans as they walk to the dungeons for first period Potions. "Do you remember first term when I was still working out my medication and I was staying up until three in the morning doing work?"

"Oh, I remember," Scott sighs. "I was up with you half the nights."

"You're the bestest friend."

"The very bestest."

"Are you sure you're supposed to be in any NEWT class with that kind of vocabulary?" Isaac drawls from behind them.

"Oh, hey Lahey," Stiles says.

"Isaac! How was your summer?" Scott greets him with more genuine cheerfulness.

"It was good – went to Ireland to see my grandparents. It was very green."

"Very much like its surrounding countries," Stiles mutters.

Scott shoots him a look and Stiles dramatically sighs before dropping back and letting Scott chat with Isaac. He spots Allison a few paces away and smiles.

"Struggling to make it to Potions, I see," she says.

Stiles smiles at Allison. "Well it's nice to see you!"

She furrows her brow and looks ahead to Scott talking with Isaac. "You're still going to behave like a baby about that?"

Stiles scowls, making her laugh. "How was your summer?" he asks.

She sighs. "It was fine – spent it in France with family. Although I've gotten used to thinking and speaking in French, so be prepared if I start answering questions in class in French."

"I'm sure I've said weirder things in class, I am. I got your back."

"I like the hair, by the way," she says, pointing to his hair.

"Thanks – I haven't had it this long since I was like, ten. Since I got Drooble's in it."

She smiles and her eyes stray to the back of Scott's head, the smile fading.

"You okay?" Stiles asks.

"Yeah, fine. Perfect." She gives him a quick smile.

He pats her on the back briefly.

"Allison!"

Allison and Stiles turn to see Lydia walking toward them, but when she notices Stiles, she blinks in confusion. "Oh, hi, Stiles – didn't recognize you – the hair," she says, gesturing toward her head.

Stiles runs a hand through the back of his head. "Yeah, thought I'd try it out."

"It looks good," Lydia states, like she's reciting a runes translation. She takes Allison's arm. "I need to steal my best friend for a quick minute."

"Yeah, ehm, see you soon."

He watches Lydia pull Allison ahead of him and tries not to be too mesmerized by the way Lydia's curls bounce.

**

"I'm literally going to drown in my homework, I am," Stiles announces as soon as they leave Herbology.

"Quit complaining, Stilinski, you don't know pain until you've had Professor McGonagall shelling out Transfiguration homework," Professor Longbottom calls out from the classroom.

"Receipts, Professor!"

"Oh, you don't want that – shut up and go do your homework."

Stiles waves a hand and Scott throws an arm around his shoulders. "So, I was thinking, we should play a game of chess before dinner, and then we can –"

"I can't – I need to meet with Madam Pomfrey about…you know…" Scott says in a whisper. "And then after dinner," he continues at a regular volume, "I'm meeting with the Quidditch team about holding tryouts." He brings his voice down to a whisper again, even though this time he's speaking Welsh. "We're thinking of holding Keeper tryouts along with Chaser – so, don't wait up, it'll probably be long and very painful."

"I expect tears – Donovan is a whiny baby."

Scott drops his arm from Stiles' shoulders and bumps his shoulder. "Stop, he's very sensitive, which is good, but. Not when he misses four shots in a row and can't get over it."

"Yeah, yeah."

"I'm sure you'll keep yourself entertained in the meantime."

"Most definitely, I will be entertained like nobody has been entertained before."

"Don't do anything fun without me."

"Never."

**

Stiles takes advantage of the library that evening and reads as much as he can about werewolves, but he doesn't have much luck and ultimately gives up.

"You were in the library most of the night – what were you doing if not your homework?" Scott asks.

"I was reading about the origin of Nifflers. They're so ugly they're cute, y'know?"

Scott nods in agreement. "Come on, help me with Transfiguration – you're always quick to get it."

**

Stiles should've probably been more considerate when he found his name listed on the final roster for the Gryffindor Quidditch Team, but hey, he's paid his dues – he's entitled to a little obnoxious cheering and Filibuster's Fireworks.

"You think you can be a little cool on this?" Scott says through gritted teeth as he leads Stiles out of the common room.

"Nope! Suck my cock, Greenberg!"

"Stiles."

Stiles grins nonstop for a few days and gets a detention from Harris because of it, but who cares.

**

Scott's first full moon is on a Wednesday at the end of the month and he's been losing sleep over it.

"And that potion is buzzing," Scott complains as they find a spot by the lake to do homework. "Like, I nearly vomited taking it this morning."

"I think that might also be nerves talking," Stiles says with a sympathetic wince.

"What if it doesn't work –?"

"Of course it works," Stiles interrupts him. "It's been tested enough times and I've done enough research – you've taken it everyday this past week, so. You're good to go. You'll be like a harmless puppy tonight."

Scott's crossed legs are bouncing up and down. "Right. I'll be safe."

Stiles claps a hand on Scott's shoulder. "It's going to be fine."

Scott shifts. "I just don't like that I have to be alone in the Shrieking Shack."

"It's stupid that you can't just be in an empty classroom."

"They're afraid of students potentially getting in," Scott says with a shrug. "People are still prejudiced against werewolves – less of a risk of being found out and potentially forced to leave."

Stiles nods and swallows, looking down at the grass and plucking a few blades. "Right."

"So you'll let me know what I miss on Thursday."

"Yeah, butt, of course."

Scott chews on his bottom lip. "I feel like shit," he admits.

"Yeah, but you don't look it," Stiles announces with pride. "That Glamor Charm of mine was bendigedig."

"Hopefully nobody noticed."

"Scott, you look like you always do when you're healthy. I didn't go overboard."

"No sparkly eyes or glowing skin?" Scott jokes.

"No, next time I can try to make you look like an anime character though."

"Please turn me into Sailor Moon next time."

"I'll work on it," Stiles laughs. "I can be your Tuxedo Mask."

"Or my Sailor Mercury."

Stiles points to him. "True."

Scott smiles and looks out at the lake. "If people ask, tell them that I had to go home for a doctor's appointment – everyone knows I'm a Muggleborn, so."

Stiles nods. "Okay."

"Some full moons fall on weekends, so that'll be easier. McGonagall said she's going to rework the Quidditch schedule so Gryffindor's matches don't fall on a full moon."

Stiles snorts. "She's just doing that because you're our top scorer and she's terrible at hiding her preferences."

"Probably."

"And those dimples – who can resist those dimples?"

**

Stiles wants to hug Scott badly since this is it – Scott's first full moon is going to start in a few hours and Scott needs to go now, take his last potion and then…become a bloody werewolf and Stiles can't do shit about it.

He eats maybe five bites of dinner before heading back to the common room, but he can't concentrate there, so he gathers his work, and heads to the library as a distraction. He just needs to sit somewhere that doesn't have a window because if he sits near a window, he's going to end up staring at the moon steadily rise and he'll worry even more about how Scott's bones are going to break and re-mend into something he's not

He finds Lydia at a table between two bookshelves of Arithmancy texts, situated just so he can't really see what's outside the closest window. He breathes a little easier; he's glad she hasn't noticed his standing there like a moron, breathing heavily like a creeper.

Stiles then gapes. "You – you have a laptop. That works. In Hogwarts," he hisses, nearly tripping on his own feet to sit across from her, leaning forward so he's half resting on a few of her open textbooks.

She raises an eyebrow at him. Maybe she did know he was standing there – shit.

"How?"

She sighs and flips her hair back. "It took a few years to work it out, but I still don't have internet access, unfortunately." She sighs, "Can you imagine how much the wizarding world would benefit from making knowledge universally and easily accessible?"

"I always thought it was stupid – wizards shit on Muggles when they've come up with the greatest inventions: the plumbing system and the internet. We stole the plumbing – why can't we steal the internet?"

Lydia smiles. "My thoughts exactly."

"So…if I were to bring my laptop back after Christmas break, how much would it cost to get you to make it work? I'd save so much money on parchment if I could just type out my essays first."

"I don't know," she draws out, "I was hoping to keep it a secret for a little while. From what I can tell, you can't keep a secret to save your life."

"That's not true," he retorts a little too sharply.

"From my view," she repeats coolly, focusing her full attention on him. "You were the first peer to point out how smart I am – are you doubting that now?"

He swallows thickly and tries to consider a means of escaping, but he's always had a hard time with her green eyes, how they contain so much magic. He never understood the pureblood mentality – if they got one look at her, they would know she defied the stereotype that Muggleborns barely hold a hint of it.

"What do you want me to say?" he asks her, barely above a whisper. "If you seem to already know?"

Her eyes soften. "You can start by telling me how you're coping?"

"How I'm coping?" He snorts. "It doesn't – I don't – it doesn't matter, it's Scott –" he cuts himself off.

"I've never seen the two of you apart from when I first bumped into you on the Hogwarts Express. You don't go where the other can't follow."

It's embarrassing how quickly his eyes well with tears and that's the problem, isn't it? What can he do to be with his best friend if he can't turn into what he becomes also?

"Stiles."

He clenches his jaw and forces himself to look at her. He appreciates the distracting sight of Lydia runs her tongue over her bottom lip for a brief moment. She's hesitant.

"What?" he asks, his voice a little rough before he clears it.

"You know that there can be a way to…be with him. During the transformations," she says, voice low.

He shakes his head. "Even if I was capable of becoming an Animagus, I have to wait until I'm out of school, and even then, it'll potentially take me years –"

"Please – you're at the top of the class in Transfiguration. It wouldn't take you years," she scoffs.

He can feel his face heat up. "Well, I wouldn't be able to make the potion before I even got to my area of relative expertise," he continues.

"Well, that's where I come in."

He stares at her, waiting for her clarify or say something to break the intense pursing of her mouth. But nothing's happening and everything's falling into place in his mind –

"You want to help become an Animagus with me. Illegally."

She quirks an eyebrow. "I thought my NEWT classes would be more mentally taxing than they are."

He raises his eyebrows so high that his forehead hurts. "Are you serious?"

"Yes, they're quite boring, but. I want to help you."

"This is illegal –"

"We can register once we're of age."

It doesn't work like that – there's a process that wizards have to go through with the Ministry; they have to monitor the witch or wizard every step of the way to prevent freak accidents and things of the sort.

It's then he realizes she's not doing it to reassure him – he never gave a fuck about following the rules – what's the difference between a school rule and a Ministry-enforced law? – it's just a means to get him to focus on what's important. Sometimes he gets hung up on the stupid shit and she knows

He swallows. "Where can we make this happen?"

She gives him a smile that's a bit more like a smirk. Bloody fuck, isn't it bad enough that he fancies everything else about her, but now he has to contend with this?

**

Stiles is waiting by the Hospital Wing for Scott before breakfast even starts.

"He's resting," Madam Poppy tells him before he can open his mouth. Her face quickly softens. "Maybe he'll be awake by lunch."

He goes to the Great Hall dejectedly, plopping himself at the mostly empty Gryffindor table. To make up for his lack of a supper the night before, he piles eggs and toast and sausage onto his plate.

"Hey, Stiles."

He looks up from his meal and tries to smile at Kira Yukimura, his fellow Chaser. "Hey."

"Where's Scott?"

"Hospital Wing – he's fine," Stiles is quick to add when he sees her become immediately concerned (he has too many girls wrapped around his innocent little finger). "The Pops just prevented me from seeing him. So…sad. He always saves me extra bacon on his plate."

"Kira! I need help!" a Gryffindor down the table whines.

Kira gives Stiles an apologetic smile. "Sorry, got to go, but, if you see him before I do, tell him I hope he feels better."

"I will."

She rushes over to the third year – Stiles vaguely remembers her coming for Quidditch tryouts last year – and Stiles is about to go back to his meal in sullen peace when he catches Lydia across the hall staring at him.

He gives her a tired, crooked smile and she responds with a fleeting one.

**

"Here," Lydia says in lieu of a greeting at the end of the day, handing over a stack of parchment. "I figured your notes would be incomprehensible and mine would be more helpful."

Stiles briefly leafs through them. "I might just take them for myself – God, Lydia." He looks up at her. "Thank you. This is great."

She smiles at him hesitantly, eyes wide and soft. "You're welcome." She swallows and then says in a more down-to-business manner: "I started doing research and reserving some spaces to do what we talked about last night. I figured I could give you what I've found already and you would start your research tonight."

"Ehm, yeah, sorry, I would've started last night, but…" he trails off with a self-deprecating laugh.

"I'm sure Madam Pomfrey would've given you a Pepper-Up Potion."

Stiles dismissed her suggestion with a wave of his hand. "It's okay. Besides, it's nothing in comparison."

Lydia gives him a half smile and places a light hand on his arm. "Scott wouldn't want you to think that way." She quickly moves her hand away. "Meet me in the library tonight a half hour after dinner."

"Alright."

Even though there were layers of fabric between her hand and his arm, his skin still buzzes.

**

Stiles has never really been one for classes – he doesn't like learning things he has no interest in and he doesn't like the structure and dullness of a lot of assignments. But when it comes to subjects he does want to learn about? He's insatiable.

As much as Stiles loves Scott – like, he's willing to die for him without a thought – he doesn't really get that kind of drive. Which is fine, Stiles doesn't mind doing it on his own, but now that he has Lydia, who has the same kind of tunnel focus he has, he can't imagine doing it alone again. He likes having a partner.

"Don't dog-ear the pages – Headmistress McGonagall will have my head," Lydia tells him three weeks later, plopping a stack of books on the table.

He flips through the book, stopping every once in a while to admire the detailed art. "This is really great. I can't believe you got these – you're amazing."

She freezes for a moment. "Right. So, read up. Meet me in the corridor outside the Slytherin common room. I finally got us a place where we can work in peace."

(And if Stiles didn't know any better, he'd say she's enjoying herself too.)

**

"We have three chambers in the common room," Lydia starts explaining before he can greet her. "One has to be available for couples, the other two can be 'signed out' for whatever – sex, experiments, anything."

"Or both," he tries to joke.

She rolls her eyes. "I claimed one of the chambers for five months –"

"Five? The potion won't take that long! It only has to sit through three moon cycles!"

She says the password under her breath – he can't make it out, which is a shame.

"I've given us a window to mess up – it shouldn't take us more than five months to figure it out, right?"

"…I think you're overestimating me."

She whips her head to glare at him. "You're not the average wizard, don't be cowered by what dumber men have said."

It's high praise, it really is, but –

"We can do it," she states, so sure of herself that it's infectious.

He nods. "Alright, let's do it."

**

There's a reason why there are a set of laws and regulations in order to become an Animagus – it's fucking hard.

"Well, I did say I wanted a challenge," Lydia remarks dryly after an hour of trying to organize their work. They've barely filled a cohesive half-roll of parchment.

"Merlin, and this is just the potion – the actual transfiguring is going to take so long." He glances over her shoulder and points to a sentence at the bottom of the page. "That's going to cost us a bit of money." Money that he doesn't have at this point.

"Don't worry about money," she dismisses.

"But I can't just let you pay for everything," he stutters. "That's like…against all codes of gentlemanly behavior, or something."

She gives him a flat look.

"Or, I can just let you pay with a smile on my face and a 'thank you'?"

Now she smiles approvingly.

**

"Mate, what are you doing with Lydia Martin?" Scott asks two days before his next full moon.

Stiles is working on a glamor charm, focusing on his skin tone, which looks way too peaky. "Work."

"Like homework?"

"More like outside research."

Scott narrows his eyes. "On what?"

"Transfiguration stuff. It's nothing."

"Stiles."

"I think the more important issue at hand is that Lydia and I are actually conversing with one another –"

"Stiles."

" – which, come on, that's a miracle. And who'd of thought it would revolve around academics? Makes sense since she's a genius and I'm…well, not a genius, but I think I'm pretty intelligent, I am –"

"STILES!"

Stiles steps back in surprise and stops speaking, staring at Scott with wide eyes at his outburst.

Scott seems to realize himself and sits back down, loosening his fisted hands. "Sorry," Scott says, looking down at his feet. "I'm sorry, I am."

Stiles swallows and shakes his head, reaching out a hand to place it on Scott's shoulder. "Hey, it was bound to happen – I'm annoying as fuck, I am."

Scott laughs a little and they sit in silence for a minute.

"You're trying to find a way to help me, aren't you," Scott states rather than asks.

"To be fair, Lydia was the one who pushed the Animagus idea."

"That's illegal."

Stiles scoffs.

"Okay, useless argument with you," Scott sighs before fixing Stiles with a hard stare. "I can't stop you two, but please promise me you'll be careful."

"You know me," Stiles tries to say comfortingly.

"Exactly."

"Fine, you know Lydia – we make a great team."

Scott sighs. "Alright, just…finish what you were doing so we have time to at least grab some toast before Defense Against the Dark Arts."

"Okay, okay, I think I really did a fantastic job here, not to toot my own horn."

"I'm sure it's great."

Stiles smiles and gets back to work.

**

It's the first match of the season – Gryffindor versus Slytherin and Stiles is not nervous.

"Stiles, you need to eat something," Scott insists, handing Stiles a piece of a toast that he slathered with butter and jam, just the way Stiles likes it. "You did really well in that last game and you didn't have any warning!"

Stiles takes the piece of toast and looks to the Slytherin table, where Lydia is caressing Jackson's arm. Ugh.

"Embarrass Jackson – play well and embarrass him. Let your…hatred fuel you," Scott says in a low voice, desperate to get Stiles to stop jiggling his legs so much.

"Yeah…yeah, okay. It's going to happen."

(Stiles still has to throw up before the match, but Scott doesn't have to know that.)

**

Gryffindor wins by ten points – it's a high scoring game, thanks to both the Keepers getting knocked out of the game early. The strangest bit is Gryffindor's new Seeker Liam Dunbar – Fourth Year and way better than their last one – catching the Snitch because it was itching his leg. Stiles manages three goals, which is pretty good, but the best is when he steals the Quaffle right from Jackson's arm. Amazing. A highlight of his life. If he could produce a Patronus Charm, that would be a happy memory for him.

"Not bad, Stiles," Lydia says casually in the corridor and nope, he takes that back; this would be his happy memory.

**

"I think we can finish the potion in time for the new moon cycle on the ninth – it'll be easier to let it sit from now through the holidays and then we can take it come February…seventh. And in the meantime, we'll just continue with working on spells."

"That's four days from now."

She raises an eyebrow. "Problem?"

"No – I'm too familiar with going to class in the same robes two days in the row," he answers, cutting up a few more beetles. "It'll look a little weird if I'm coming from the Slytherin common room, though."

"That's not a problem."

This time he raises an eyebrow. "What about Jackson?"

She narrows his eyes. "He doesn't have control over my life."

He raises his eyebrow at her this time. "Very true, but he will take out that frustration on me."

She laughs a little. "Just do a Shield Charm – he has faster reflexes than you and goes on the attack, but you can do a Shield Charm wordlessly, right?"

"Yeah – how –?"

She looks at him like he's said something ridiculous like the ocean is orange. "We've been in Defense Against the Dark Arts for two months. It's hard to miss when someone else picks up something quicker than me."

He gives her a half smile. "If it makes you feel better – that was a fluke. I wasn't able to do it consistently for another week and a half afterwards."

She laughs. "Okay, I still win, then."

"And we no longer have to wonder if the universe will be imploding any second now."

"Do you mind stirring for a bit? Twenty more clockwise and then counter-clockwise fifty times."

He stops cutting and goes over to her side, taking the ladle from her. "I'll have to count out loud," he warns her.

"That's fine."

She doesn't seem too bothered by it – in fact, he catches her smiling a little once or twice.

**

The next three nights they're up way past curfew, adding ingredient after ingredient, stirring in between and changing the heat of the flame.

"I hope this is the worst part," Stiles complains at one in the morning.

"No, the worst part will be keeping a mandrake leaf in our mouths for a month," Lydia informs him.

He gapes at her. "What?"

"Relax – I think I can modify a permanent sticking charm so it won't actually rip out the roof of our mouth when we remove it," she says.

He grimaces and runs a hand over his face. "Ych a fi."

"…What did you just say?"

He clears his throat. "Ych a fi – it's like. You say it when something's disgusting. Like gross or yuck."

"Ych a fi."

"Yeah, not bad, actually," he says, pleasantly surprised. Also really bothered how lush it is.

She shrugs. "Yes, I'm fully aware it's going to be gross."

"So…when do we have to do that?"

"January – the month before we take the potion."

"Okay." After ten minutes of dozing, he suddenly says, "Jackson."

She gives him a concerned look. "What?"

"Jackson – I mean. You're together. A couple. You kiss."

"Are you okay? Do you need to move away from the fumes?"

He rolls his eyes. "No. I mean how are you supposed to be a normal couple with Jackson if you have a mandrake leaf stuck to the roof of your mouth – he's going to notice!"

She opens her mouth to retort, but she seems to understand the implications as well. "Oh." She clears her throat. "I'll figure something out when the time comes." She gives him a final confused look before going back to stirring.

Hey, if this actually causes them to break up, then he'll be thrilled, but. Lydia obviously seems to care about Jackson for some bizarre reason, and. Stiles cares about Lydia – he doesn't want her getting hurt.

"We have to wait for three hours before adding the last ingredient," she says tiredly as she falls backward onto one of the cushions on the floor.

He groans. "Great."

They're quiet for a few minutes and Stiles is considering on taking a nap when:

"So…what happened that day? With Scott being changed?" she asks quietly.

He's fully awake now. "Ah, well. He was babysitting his neighbor – a little Muggle girl. I guess an unregistered werewolf came out of the woods and Scott did the best he could – fending the wolf off while trying to protect the girl, but. Still got bit."

"The girl would've died," she says.

"I know. Scott doesn't regret it."

Stiles stares at the ceiling above them. Everyone always laughs about the Slytherins getting the cold, dreary dungeons, but Stiles thinks they're cool. It's kind of like being in the Batcave.

"That must've been so scary. I can't imagine almost losing Allison," Lydia says softly.

Stiles smiles without humor. "Pretty much had a panic attack." Wanting to change the subject, he asks, "How's Allison?"

"Okay. Sad – she misses her mum and Scott."

"Scott misses her too."

"They were an annoying cute couple."

Stiles laughs. "I know, right?"

Lydia laughs too and he likes this – whatever this is.

"Stiles?"

"Hmmm?"

She doesn't respond and he cranes his head to look at her, finding her staring at the ceiling while biting her lip.

"What?" he gently urges her.

She rolls her head to look at him. "Never mind. It was a stupid thought."

He leaves her be and they nap until it's time to finish the potion.

**

A week later, Stiles is wandering around the library trying to find a book for Potions (fuck Harris, seriously), when he finds Allison in a table tucked in the corner, reading a textbook while wiping her eyes.

He should leave – he knows that he wouldn't want anyone intruding and Allison never liked being vulnerable, but he remembers Lydia saying that she's sad and he likes Allison – he misses her a little. He walks over to the table, taking the seat across from her.

"Hey."

She jumps in surprise and quickly wipes her eyes again. "Hi."

He swallows. "Yeah, I cry whenever I do homework too. It's bloody awful."

She laughs a little, much to her own apparent surprise.

"I didn't get to say so last term, but I'm really sorry about your mum."

She looks down at her work and nods. "You lost yours too, right? Scott told me."

"Ehm, yeah. Different though – she was sick."

Allison looks up. "I'm sorry," she says.

"It's fine. I just…wanted you to know that I'm here, I am. If you want. And Scott – I know he still cares about you and is a great shoulder to cry on. Seriously."

She smiles, eyes watery. "Thanks, Stiles."

"I don't know how many times I cried on his shoulders about Potions. Which, I should probably get back to."

She laughs again and shakes her head. "What are you doing in the library anyway?"

Stiles shows her the slip of parchment. "Harris has it out for me, I swear."

Allison lifts up the textbook she's working out and huh, it's the book he needs. "I'll be done with it in…thirty minutes? You can keep me company."

"Done." He sprawls out onto another nearby chair, stretching out his legs.

"So," Allison starts casually, eyes back on her work. "I see you and Lydia are becoming mates."

"Did she tell you that?" he asks, trying to be cool.

Allison gives him a look letting him know that he utterly failed. "I have eyes. Besides, I do have to cover for some of her Prefect shifts when you two disappear to the dungeons."

He gapes at her. "Oh," he finally says.

"She won't tell me what you're working on – do I have to be worried?"

"The two of us are a dream team of excellent minds. We're fine."

She looks at him with disbelief. "Okay, then." Pause. "I always did think you two would get along. I'm glad that's happening."

"Oh, me too, Ally A. Me too."

**

The next day, to Stiles' and nearly everyone else's surprise, Lydia strides into the Great Hall and doesn't head toward the Slytherin table. In fact, she goes directly to the Gryffindor table and sits next to Stiles.

"Hi," she greets him.

He has toast halfway to his mouth.

"Hi, Scott," she says to Scott, who is sitting across from her.

"Morning, Lydia," Scott responds with a shocked smile.

Lydia takes the uneaten toast from Stiles' hand, inspects it, and takes a bite. "I put strawberry jam and butter on my toast too," she says when Stiles finally manages to shut his mouth.

"I perfected that piece of toast," he says weakly.

She shrugs and takes another bite.

"Not that I…mind this. I don't, I like it, I do, but. Ehm?"

"I'm going to head to Charms early – I need to ask Flitwick a question, I do," Scott says and dashes from the table.

Lydia twists in her seat to face Stiles. "You talked to Allison," she states. He's not sure if she's accusing him of anything.

"Ehm, yeah, bumped into her in the library…" He looks over to the Hufflepuff table and Allison meets his eyes, winks at him, and then carries on with a conversation with one of her housemates.

"I really appreciate it."

Stiles focuses back on Lydia. "It was – I mean. I know a little bit what it's like. She should know she's not alone, even though it may feel that way."

She places a hand over his – the one that's gripping the bench. "Thank you."

He nods.

She gets up from the table and takes the piece of toast with her. "See you in class, Stiles."

"See you."

Stiles watches her go back to her table and he scarfs down some eggs, burning the roof of his mouth before running out of the Great Hall.

**

"Dude!"

"I know!"

"Dude!"

"I know!"

"Would you two shut up?" Flitwick grumbles. "It's way too early for this."

**

"Mate, you're going to hate me," Scott says at the beginning of December.

"I could never hate you," Stiles insists.

"I can't come to the Ministry holiday party this year."

"…I hate you a little bit."

"The full moon is on Christmas Eve."

Stiles winces. "Oh."

"Yeah."

"Well…I…Merlin's cock, I can't even guilt trip you for missing this since you're suffering more. What am I supposed to do? Die of boredom?"

"You could actually drink this year?" Scott suggests.

"My dad would literally skin me alive the rest of the holiday if I got pissed in front of his coworkers."

"Well…" Scott trails off, looking across the Great Hall. "You could invite someone else?"

"Oh yeah? Like who? Greenberg? I'm not going near that wazzock."

"What about Lydia?"

"I'm not inviting Lydia!"

"You guys are friends, right?"

"Right…"

"Well, why not ask? You can go as friends."

It's an idea that keeps him properly distracted the rest of the day.

**

Later that week, Stiles and Lydia check up on the potion, relieved that it's the right shade of purple and steaming.

Or at least Stiles is relieved. Lydia looks like she's ready to commit murder.

"So, ehm," Stiles stutters, grateful that at least Lydia has focused her glare at the textbook and notes in front of her. He still concentrates on the wall past her shoulder. "I know this is kind of late notice, but Scott and I didn't realize that the full moon would fall on this date – there's a Ministry holiday party on Christmas Eve and usually I go with my dad – obviously, he's an Auror – and Scott, since I basically hate all the kids whose parents work for the Ministry. But he can't go, so I was wondering if maybe you'd like to go? With me?"

He sneaks a glance at her and she's stopped writing.

"I probably made it sound really boring, and it kind of is, except last year was really funny with Greenberg getting pissed and giving Finstock a lap dance, but," Stiles shakes his head to focus. "You can probably make all the connections you want to lay the groundwork for your becoming Minister for Magic, or whatever you want to be –"

"You're inviting me to the Ministry holiday party?" Lydia interrupts him, voice cracking.

He suddenly remembers with absolute horror that she has a boyfriend. "…Yes? I may have just remembered you have a boyfriend who has parents who work in the Ministry? And that you were probably already invited? Cach, I'm literally the dumbest shit on the planet –"

She smiles and to his surprise, a tear falls down her face. She wipes it away and nods. "Yeah. I'll go."

He stops talking, his jaw hanging open in surprise. "You don't have to be my – my date or anything," he finally manages to say, trying to be reassuring, but ultimately he's trying not to choke on air. "You'd just have to walk in with me and my dad and then you can go on your merry way –"

"Stiles."

"Yeah?"

She smiles with fondness, and maybe with a little pain. "I'll go with you."

"Really?" Stiles sighs with relief, smiling a little too brightly. "Great! Uh, we were going to Floo in, so if you want to…well, you live close to the Ministry, living in London and all, so it would make sense if we met you there. We can get you from the Atrium."

She nods, looking back down at her notes with a much softer expression than before. The corner of her mouth twitches with an aborted smile. "What color dress robes are you wearing?" she asks.

He blinks in surprise. "Grey – like, dark grey."

This time she smiles properly. "Alright."

He almost asks her if she plans on coordinating with him, why Jackson didn't invite her, what's going on with that, but he forces himself to keep quiet and instead asks, "Did you start that Potions essay because I can't for the life of me figure out where to start."

Lydia sighs and puts aside their Animagus research, but she seems a lot less angry than before, almost relieved when she says, "Give me your notes, Stilinski."

**

The rest of the month involves midterms and last minute Christmas shopping.

"I hope you didn't get Scott a jumper for his werewolf form," Lydia murmurs when they bump into each other in Hogsmeade. She has snowflakes caught in her eyelashes and it's distracting.

"Damn, I should've thought of that," he jokes. "I just got him a gross amount of chocolate and some Quidditch things. He's been needing new wrist guards for ages."

"Okay, good, because I got him one."

He gapes at him. "Did Lydia Martin just make a stupid joke?"

She sniffs. "I have a wonderful sense of humor."

He laughs. "Whatever you say. I gotta run to Madam Puddifoot's Tea Shop –"

"You do?"

"For the past few years, I've been getting Scott's mum tea from there. She really likes it," he says defensively.

"That's sweet of you. Do you want company?"

"Only if you order those sandwiches because I'll eat a dozen of them. They judge me when I order a lot."

Lydia throws her head back and laughs. "How did you end up trying her sandwiches? I cannot imagine you on a date there."

"You know Malia Tate?"

"Yeah, Fifth Year Slytherin, why?"

"During one Hogsmeade trip two years ago – do you remember that time when it poured out of nowhere?"

"Oh, I was in Three Broomsticks at the time, yes."

"Well, I was with Scott, Cora, and Malia and when it started raining, we just sort of…ran into the nearest shop and it was Madam Puddifoot's."

Lydia pats his arm. "You poor thing."

"It was decidedly awful. She assumed we were double dating and we were forced to sit at a table. The decorations are literally the worst, but the food is pretty great. And their tea. I've been getting Melissa – Scott's mum, like a year's worth of tea after that."

She smiles at him. "Sure, we'll order some sandwiches. I just have to meet Allison at Three Broomsticks at four."

"Not a problem. I think a half hour in that place is all I can stomach."

"Thinking about how nice of a person you're being for doing it should ease the pain."

"No, it doesn't. I just curse myself for being too nice."

She elbows him in the side. "You're such a shit."

"Cariad, you are not the first person to say so," he scoffs.

She laughs and shakes her head as they make their way off High Street.

**

(Stiles had gotten Lydia something, but he's too nervous to give it to her now, so he just promises himself to give it to her on Christmas Eve.)

**

"Happy Christmas, Scott," Lydia says to him on Platform 9¾. "Take care of yourself."

Scott hugs her. "I will. And…thank you."

It's the first time Stiles has heard Scott be grateful for what they're doing.

She pulls away and squeezes his shoulder before turning to Stiles. "I'll see you Christmas Eve. Is six okay?"

"Six is perfect."

To his surprise, she hugs Stiles too. She smells like cinnamon and he wishes he could envelop himself in her.

"I'll see you in a few days," she says in his ear and he's left gaping after her.

Finally, he manages to tear his gaze away and look to Scott, who's surprised, but also amused.

"Huh," Scott says happily before getting onto the train.

Huh, indeed.

**

"You invited Lydia Martin to go with us to the Ministry party," Stiles' dad repeats as they're eating dinner in the kitchen.

"Yes, I did. And more importantly, she said yes."

"Wow. I'm…wow. You owe me some backstory, mister."

"It's an inspiring story."

Sure, Stiles can't tell his dad everything since he's part of the Auror department and he's pretty sure his dad would drag Stiles by the ear to the Ministry if he found out what Stiles was trying to do. But he can give a good gist of what's been going on.

"Well, I have to say, I'm impressed that you're no longer making a spectacle of yourself. Maybe she's finally seeing the smart…quirky young man you are."

"Thanks, Dad. I'm glad you have such a positive opinion of me," Stiles says sarcastically.

His dad smiles and rubs Stiles' head. "Do you want to cut your hair while you're home?"

"Nah, I'm keen on it, I am."

"Me too."

**

While buying school supplies for the year at Diagon Alley, Stiles was manhandled into Madam Malkin's Robes for new dress robe fittings. Given the rate of his growth, she added extra length for him to grow into. Which ended up being smart since when Stiles tries them on for the first time since August, they fit almost perfectly.

All those nights complaining about growing pains were almost worth it. Almost. It was pretty fucking awful.

"I can't believe how much you're growing," his dad mumbles as he fixes Stiles' collar. "Please stop. We'll have to buy you new robes for your last year."

"I just want to be taller than a meter-seventy-four."

"…Dare I ask why?"

"I want to be taller than Jackson."

Stiles' dad shakes his head. "You might make it to a meter-eighty, if family history is anything to go by."

Stiles nods, victorious. "You keep up those pains," he says, patting his legs.

"Stop moving, you messed up storing this robe and I'm not the best at ironing spells."

"Sorry."

**

They arrive two minutes before six in the Atrium and Stiles is trying very hard not to fidget.

"Please stop elbowing me."

Stiles forces himself to stand still. What if she doesn't come? What if she had second thoughts and didn't want to be seen with a weird Gryffindor, who, to be honest, probably shouldn't be in Gryffindor –

"Wait here, I'm going to speak to the boss. Please don't break anything," Stiles' dad says, leaving Stiles alone and walking further into the hall to speak with Harry Potter.

Stiles steadfastly avoids them, not needing to embarrass himself again. As soon as he faces the fireplaces, one of them lights up green and Lydia steps out of it. The clock chimes six on the dot.

"You look…really beautiful," Stiles manages to get out once Lydia makes her way toward him in a cream dress with grey ribbon around her waist.

He can't believe she coordinated her dress to match his robes.

She smiles brightly, tilting her head to the side. Her long, emerald earrings glint in the light. "You look like a proper gentleman." She places a hand on his arm. "This looks really nice on you."

He can feel his face on fire. "Thanks. It's new. Outgrew my old one."

"Where's your dad?"

Stiles nods to the back where his dad is talking with –

"Wow," Lydia exhales. "It's so odd seeing Harry Potter in person. It's almost like he's not real."

"Your reaction is way better than mine was a few years ago – I was so embarrassing I still can't really look him in the eye," Stiles laughs. "He's really nice – basically a regular bloke. Want to meet him?"

He's never seen her look so shell-shocked before. "Really?"

He offers his arm to her. She wordlessly takes it and they make their way forward.

**

"I think there's a true meeting of the minds here," Stiles says to his dad and Ron Weasley as they watch Lydia and Hermione Weasley enthusiastically conversing a few meters away.

"It's scary – I couldn't imagine another person as brilliant as Hermione existing," Ron adds while shaking his head. "Is she your girlfriend?"

I wish, is his first thought, but Stiles says, "No, just friends."

Ron pats him on the back. "Been there, mate."

Stiles is about to respond when he catches sight of Jackson chatting it up with some snooty-looking employees from the Ministry. "Pen pidyn."

"Stiles," his dad says warningly.

Ron follows Stiles' gaze. "I don't speak Welsh, but yeah, he looks like a right prick." Ron lowers his eyes apologetically when Stiles' dad glares at him.

"Lydia's boyfriend. Or…ex-boyfriend. I don't know what's going on there. I don't think he wanted to invite her tonight," Stiles explains.

"Don't worry, I've got this." Ron pats Stiles' shoulder and walks with purpose towards Harry Potter. Merlin.

Not knowing what else to do, Stiles walks over to Hermione Weasley and Lydia. They stop talking once he's in earshot, but Lydia is beaming at him.

"Evening, Mrs. Weasley," Stiles says, thinking he did a great job on being casual.

Hermione shakes her head and smiles. "Hermione, please."

"Hermione was just explaining to me the texts and documents she has access to as a senior member of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement," Lydia explains with a pointed look, not losing her smile.

Stiles glances from Lydia, to Hermione, and back again, his face slowly breaking into a smile. "Really."

"I can owl it to you, if you'd like."

"Why do that when we can use proper Muggle means of communication that are a lot quicker?"

Hermione laughs. "Very true, Lydia, let's do that. Give me your e-mail address and I'll make sure to get it to you before you return to Hogwarts."

Stiles loops his arm with Lydia's. "Well, that would be swell. Very helpful indeed."

Lydia rolls her eyes at him, but he swears it's out of fondness.

"Well, I won't keep you – I think I saw your classmates sneaking out through the back door on your left," Hermione says with a wink before leaving them.

"I knew everyone snuck out to go somewhere," Stiles mutters.

"Well, let's go, then," Lydia says, turning them around so they can leave the party.

Stiles looks over his shoulder, but no one is paying attention to them save for Jackson, whose eye is definitely twitching as he's talking with some Ministry bore. Harry Potter is walking away from them and gives Ron Weasley a subtle low-five.

Stiles is about to say something to Lydia, but she's swiping glasses from a server's tray, handing him one.

"This is a good enough start," she says before downing the glass in one go.

Stiles does his best, but he almost spits it back up – he's never been good with Quintin Black, despite the claim that it's 'smooth.'

He feels heat rushing through his veins as he follows her down the corridor. Another server goes by with a different drink and Lydia swipes from the tray again. This time it's Firewhisky.

"Are you trying to kill me?" Stiles complains with a rough voice. This one in particular has burned his esophagus.

"Well, we probably have to catch up," she says, her hand on his arm slipping so they're holding hands.

The touching of their palms in combination with the alcohol is making his head spin. By the time they've caught up with their peers, he's pretty incapable of walking in a straight line.

"Welcome to the real party – care for a taste of our future product?" Erica Reyes greets them with a sinister smile.

"We've been developing a drink that will have you wasted in approximately two to six minutes, but we're working on the length of time. Right now, our longest period of intoxication has been two hours, but we're figuring out how weight and food consumption are factors," Boyd explains, handing Lydia and Stiles two shot glasses.

"Excuse me, why didn't you ask for my input," Lydia asks Erica. "I would love to be involved."

"I told you, Reyes," Boyd says with a shake of his head. "I did warn her," he directs to Lydia.

"I know you did because you're sensible."

"Speaking of sensible," Boyd starts, eyes drifting towards Stiles. "Stilinski," he greets. "Unlikely pair here."

"Well, y'know, sometimes…there are things you wouldn't think would be a good combination, end up turning out to be a perfect combination…" Stiles rambles.

Lydia raises an eyebrow at him. "Take your drink, Stilinski."

"Right, yeah." He takes the drink offered by Boyd. "Iechyd da," he cheers and downs it in one go. "Ooh, there's lovely! Like a peppermint stick!"

Boyd writes his comment down. "Which batch was that one?"

Erica grins and Stiles is a little scared and a little aroused. It's a typical combination of emotions to feel while dealing with Erica Reyes. "Have fun, Stiles."

Lydia sighs. "Is this the weaker batch?"

"No, this one is," Erica swaps Lydia's drink.

Lydia throws it back, and after five seconds, she waivers on her feet, bumping into Stiles.

"Liar," Lydia says without any heat. In fact, she starts giggling.

"Have fun, children," Erica says with a little wave.

"Hufflepuffs and Slytherins should never team up, they're diabolical," Lydia tells Stiles as she drags him further inside.

"Mbo, I think it's great," Stiles says loudly.

"What is mbo?"

"Dunno – short for swmbo, which is short for soi'n gwynbod," he yells over the music.

Lydia laughs. "Come on, let's dance."

**

Lydia is great, obviously, but drunk Lydia is fun.

She laughs freely and at some point, her hair comes out of her intricate bun and falls over her shoulders, hitting him in the face more than once. She touches him a lot, but then again, she touches almost everyone that comes over and says hello to her (and to him, weirdly enough).

"Mr. Popular," Lydia jokes after some Slytherins leave them after saying hi to both of them.

"Slytherins are my kindred spirits," Stiles yells, jumping up and down with the beat.

"You fit more than I do," she yells back.

"What?"

But she doesn't elaborate and he's distracted when the bass finally drops.

**

It's an hour and a half later when they finally start leaving the room. There are two young girls (Hufflepuffs, he thinks) doing quick spells to pull people together, but no amount of fixing up can possibly hide the fact that most of them are legless.

"Your face is super pink," he giggles, taking her arm.

"Yours is too," she whispers, snorting into his shoulder.

"D'ya think my dad'll notice."

She stares at him for a few seconds. "Nooo."

He laughs. "I'm so fucked, I am."

A server comes by with some pastry puffs and with a little flirtatious smiling and batting of the eyelashes from Lydia, the server lets them steal a few pastries to eat.

"So, what are your plans for the holiday?" he asks with a mouthful of pastry.

"Well, I spend Christmas with my mum and Boxing day with my dad. Then my mum and I will head to the Canary Islands."

"Fancy. And I'm jealous. I want to be going somewhere warm. Alas, I'll be home. Freezing."

"Cardiff, right?"

"Yeah – Radyr, more specifically."

"Never been."

"You're not missing much. It's no London."

They eat in silence for a little while, the food slowly sobering them.

"Oh, before I forget," he suddenly says, swallowing the last pastry and reaching into the pocket of his dress robes. "Happy Christmas," he says, handing Lydia her gift. "I don't know if you'll like it, but," he continues, but trails off when she starts sliding the ribbon off the box.

"Do you mind?" she asks, the ribbon dangling from her fingertips.

"Ehm, no. Sure, go ahead."

She unwraps efficiently, not tearing the wrapping once. He offers his hand and she places the wrapping in his palm before opening the box. She stares.

"I don't know if you'll –" he starts to stay again, but her smile stops him short.

"How do you say 'thank you' in Welsh?" she asks.

"Diolch."

She nods. "Diolch," she says, taking the simple flower studs from the box to look at them closer. "This is really thoughtful." She smiles at him again, but it's a sad one.

He doesn't want to know what Jackson did to ruin this.

"Well, I'm glad you like them. That's a relief. Seriously. I considered having backup gifts in case that failed."

"You what?"

"Ehm, yeah. I mean, I didn't since my savings have been utterly depleted, given…everything." He laughs and shakes his head. "Yeah, well. There you are."

"Well, my gift to you is I will set up your laptop for nothing," she says. "Bring your computer to school after the holidays. And we'll also begin carrying around Mandrake leaves in our mouths for a month."

"That's going to be so vile," he laments.

"I know. Maybe I'll lose a few pounds. Maybe even a stone," she considers thoughtfully.

"For the record, you don't need to be losing anything. You always look amazing."

Maybe it's the alcohol that's making him more talkative and therefore more honest, but he doesn't think about taking it back when she preens.

"Thanks, Stiles. You're sweet."

Then, then, she kisses him. On the cheek. It's lovely.

**

By the time they make it back to the actual party, Stiles is dead on his feet and Lydia isn't faring much better.

"Tired," he grumbles.

"Mmhmm."

They're trying to find his dad when Jackson steps in front of them.

Lydia blinks and right before Stiles' eyes, her mask is back on. She grips Stiles' arm tighter.

"I see you managed to manipulate your way in," Jackson says coolly.

"Funnily enough, I didn't have to manipulate anyone," she responds with false cheer. "My natural charm is always enough. Right, Stiles?"

"Yeah, totally. I mean I invited her, so. Very much enough."

Jackson glares at Stiles. "I know you're a moron, Stilinski, but I figured even you would know better than to avoid other people's girls."

Jackson isn't an idiot and he isn't weak – he's powerful and could probably kick his arse with magic and with fists, so Stiles is getting ready to ramble a thousand words a minute to attempt to diffuse the situation, but Lydia is glaring something fierce.

"I'm not a possession and I'm not your girl."

"Well, you're my girlfriend!"

"I'm not really sure about that since you didn't want me in the way. So why don't I just remove myself from the equation, yes? Come on, Stiles, I would love to speak with your father before leaving." She all but drags him away.

"Did you really just break up with Jackson?" Stiles whispers.

"Mr. Stilinski!" Lydia greets, ignoring Stiles. "I'll be heading home, I'm exhausted."

Stiles' dad narrows his eyes in suspicion. "I bet you are." He makes sure to give Stiles a pointed look. "It was nice meeting you, Lydia. Happy Christmas."

"Happy Christmas, Mr. Stilinski." She turns to Stiles. "Walk me to the Atrium?"

He can't refuse her. "Yeah, lead the way."

They're walking slowly, mostly because he thinks her feet are hurting. Those shoes do look very painful.

"Thank you for inviting me," she says, untangling their arms so she can wrap hers around his waist in a side hug. "I'm sorry about Jackson."

"Oh, I already knew he's a dick, no need to apologize for that. It wasn't a revelation."

She rolls her eyes. "I'll see you on the Hogwarts Express. Happy Christmas and Happy New Year."

"Yeah, you too. Nadolig Llawen – Merry Christmas. Blwyddwyn Newydd Dda – Happy New Year."

She lightly snorts. "That language sure is something."

They smile at each other and he considers kissing her cheek, is working up the nerve to do it, but she struts away, leaving him to stare after her for a good minute.

"You've got it bad, son."

Stiles sighs. "I know."

His dad pats his shoulder. "Let's go home. And don't think you're off the hook for getting drunk. I don't care if it was with Lydia Martin."

"It was worth it."

His dad pushes him forward. "We're side-Apparating. I don't trust you to pronounce anything correctly and I don't much fancy trying to find you."

**

Despite his exhaustion, Stiles vibrates with excitement until Christmas morning. He rushes over to Scott's home just when Scott is stumbling out of the basement, disoriented after spending a day as a wolf.

"She kissed me on the cheek!" Stiles says in lieu of a greeting.

"Hold on, I need to sit down. I'm not used to walking on two legs," Scott grumbles, patting Stiles on the back on the way to the sofa. Once he's collapsed on the sofa and stared at the ceiling for a few seconds, he freezes. "Wait, did you say that Lydia kissed you?"

"On the cheek," Stiles adds with a huge grin. "Happy Christmas to me!"

"Okay, you have to let me know how this party went because you look surprisingly like shit – are you hanging?"

"Kind of a lot, yeah. Hunker down, butt."

"Before you do, you might want to tell your dad to just come over for breakfast. My mum will make eggs."

"Brilliant, hold on."

**

"Dude!"

"I know!"

"Dude!"

"I know!"

"Boys, get your bums in the kitchen right now!"

"But Mum, Lydia kissed Stiles on the cheek!"

"What? Get in here so I can hear the story!"

"I feel so vindicated that Mamma McCall is supportive of my journey," Stiles sighs, getting up from the floor.

"I think she's more supportive of the fact that you're starting to see Lydia as a human being and not someone to be put on a pedestal. And she's pleasantly surprised that you still fancy her despite her flaws," Scott says, standing up and patting Stiles on the back, leaving him to gape in the living room.

**

It's a new year – filled with new possibilities and he feels it more than ever when he's on his way to Platform 9 ¾ with Scott.

"So, what's happening now with you-know-what?" Scott asks after they've said their final goodbyes to their parents.

"Well, we have to stick a Mandrake leaf in our mouths for a month –"

"Ych a fi."

"I know. And we have to take this gross-looking potion the first, fifteenth, and last day of the month."

"Then?"

"And then…spell work. It'll take us a while to actually be able to change, but I think we'll do well."

"I have no doubt," Scott says with a grin. "And who knows, maybe along the way…" he trails off suggestively.

Stiles beams, almost gaining a skip in his step. Frankly, he thinks he may even start whistling until he makes it to the platform, where the first thing he sees is Lydia kissing Jackson.

Stiles swallows and refuses to look at Scott. "Well, ehm, guess there's that."

Scott pats him on the back. "C'mon, let's get our trunks put away. I'll buy you enough cauldron cakes that the only pain you'll feel is in your stomach."

Stiles gives him a strained smile. "Thanks, butt, you're the best."

**

(Stiles eats his weight in cauldron cakes and everything just hurts.)

**

For the last hour of the trip, Stiles is in the fetal position in his compartment, muttering llond fy mol over and over when he hears the door slide open. "Scott, I'm going to kill you, I am," Stiles whines. "You shouldn't have given me that fifth cake."

"You think someone as smart as yourself would know better than to stuff your face with cauldron cakes."

Stiles can't lift his head, but he totally would if he could because he's surprised and embarrassed that it's Lydia.

"Don't look at me," he hisses.

Lydia tries to muffle her laughter and doesn't do a good job.

"Cruel woman."

She steps into the compartment, shutting the door behind her and she takes the seat across from him. "How was your holiday?"

"Cold. Uneventful. My dad got me tickets to the Holyhead Harpies and Caerphilly Catapults game in March."

"Which one is your team?"

"Holyhead Harpies – my mum's favorite team." Stiles groans. "Misery."

She rolls her eyes and curls a piece of hair behind her ear. He notices she's wearing the earrings he gave her and he manages to smile.

"How was yours?"

"A mild bit of sun poisoning, actually," she says. "Only got to enjoy the sun for a day."

"Sorry 'bout that."

"I did lose a few pounds, so, can't complain."

She doesn't mention getting back together with Jackson, which he can't decide is a good thing since he may just puke talking about him, or a bad thing – maybe they're not really proper friends.

**

The only change to his schedule for the new term is lessons for Apparating.

"Finally," Stiles says, skipping once as he and Scott walk to their first Transfiguration class of the new term.

"You better be able to focus enough to even do it," Scott nudges him. "Nobody wants to see you splinched."

Stiles shudders. "Ugh, no, definitely not. Have you ever seen someone splinched? It's nasty. I saw this one bloke – my dad and I were in town and suddenly, this disembodied leg pops up two meters away from me and I'm six, so this essentially scarred me for life."

He hears someone snort behind him and he turns to find Lydia and Allison trying to hide their faces and pointedly look anywhere but at him.

"You laugh, but it was fucking terrifying and I bet you can't beat that," Stiles says with a pout.

"I had a cousin who splinched and left both eyes behind when I was four," Allison replies in a light tone.

"Oh my – NO," Stiles wails and all of them laugh, the jerks. "I don't know such unsupportive arseholes," he sniffs.

"Aw, Stiles," Scott coos, looping their arms together. "You know if you had nightmares I'd share your bed," he adds seriously.

"The real question is, how often has that already happened?" Lydia wonders out loud as she walks alongside Stiles' other side.

Scott and Stiles stare at each other.

"Sometimes they push their beds together," Allison supplies.

"Not surprised," Lydia laughs.

"I told you that in confidence," Scott says, not nearly as upset as Stiles.

"Why did you tell her that at all? It's our special time."

"You're just making this so much worse."

"Hey, I cherish our late night chats and I appreciate Scott's warm feet sometimes," Stiles tells Lydia.

"This is way too much information for me, I'm leaving you." In a lower voice she says, "Meet you in the library after supper?"

"Yeah, later."

Merlin, does he love to watch her leave.

**

"I don't want to do this," he whines.

"We have to for a month."

He grumbles as she inspects the Mandrake leaves she ordered over the holiday, figuring which two they're going to be carrying in their mouths for the next month.

"Hey, Lydia?"

"Mmhmm."

"Ehm…what are you doing about Jackson? I mean, I saw…are you still with him?"

She exhales softly through her nose and looks up at him. "I am," she states in a steely tone, leaving no room for discussion. "I've told him I'm taking a potion for my teeth. He gets bored whenever I get into beauty magic products, so I knew he wouldn't question it."

"Ah, smart. As always."

She gives him a quick smile and looks down at the leaves again. "Alright, here is yours. Put it on the roof of your mouth."

He grimaces but follows her orders. He nearly gags at the first taste, but forces himself to breathe deeply through his nose. "'Kay."

She walks over to him on her knees and he almost laughs at how cute it is until she's suddenly right there with an arm on his shoulder and her other hand, her wand in between her fingers, holding his jaw. "Open up and stay still."

He swallows and tries to breathe evenly, even though her light perfume is starting to cloud his mind. She murmurs a spell and his mouth fills with warmth, like he just took a perfect sip of hot Butterbeer, but once she leans back and stands up, he starts to gag again on how awful it tastes.

"Lyds," he wheezes in between gags. "Thith tathes awful." He sounds like he has a speech impediment now, which is just brilliant.

She scoffs. "It can't be that terrible, you dramatic wanker."

He laughs before clearing his throat. "Can I eat or drink anything to get thith tathe out of my mouth?"

"Not until tomorrow morning, no." She places a leaf in her mouth, her nose twitching in distaste. "Your turn." She says to him.

He gets up and walks toward her, twirling his wand between her fingers. She looks down at his hands and back up at him when he's a few inches away. "Leth hope I get thith right," he jokes.

She glares up at him and opens her mouth.

He swallows again and gently takes her chin in his hand, steadying himself as he points his wand in her mouth. She exhales shakily and he swears she's blushing, but maybe not. He says the spell and the light is the correct color, so he mentally pats himself on the back for a good job.

Once the light disappears, she drops her head and immediately starts dry heaving. He laughs and pulls her in for a hug, his arm draped over her shoulders. "Told you."

"Thut up."

He laughs harder.

**

He gets used to it to the point that on occasion he has to check the roof of his mouth to make sure the leaf is still there. He doesn't see Lydia kiss Jackson beyond a peck, but he doesn't seem frustrated at all, which just makes him wonder what she's doing to keep him satisfied.

"Stiles, you need to stop thinking like that. First, it's creepy –" Scott lowers his voice even though the Great Hall is loud during the lunch hour, "Jackson's cock is none of your concern." Scott shakes his head, probably trying not think about that either. "Just focus on the Slytherin match for Saturday," he says in a normal volume.

"Right, I can beat him like the last match."

"Well, we don't need to win, we just need at least a hundred points to remain in the running for the Quidditch Cup."

"We'll earn double." He thumps Scott on the back and taking a half of a sandwich.

"That's the spirit. Much better things to think about."

"Yeah," Stiles says, trailing off when he spots Jackson looking particularly rumpled and Lydia looking flushed. He drops his sandwich back on his plate. "I know she loves him, but he's such a shit," Stiles whines.

Scott pats Stiles on the back and says nothing else.

**

The match – one of the last few days before the leaf can finally be out of his fucking mouth – is a bit of a disaster. They get over a hundred points – one hundred and forty, to be exact – but they lose due to Kira having an involuntary reaction to a Bludger heading her way. Terrified of being thrown off her broom during the horrible storm, she accidentally electrocutes the Slytherin Beater in question and their own Seeker, poor little Liam, happens to be brushing up against the Beater because he caught sight of the Snitch and gets electrocuted as well.

Slytherin gets one penalty shot since Finstock isn't quite sure how to handle penalizing a team that takes out one of their own to boot.

It's expected at that point that Cora catches the Snitch and frankly, Stiles is just grateful to get off this fucking pitch.

When he lands, he almost stumbles due to his feet being numb. "Bloody fucking hell."

"We might have to share beds," Scott says through chattering teeth.

"Please." They wrap their arms around each other as they make their way inside.

**

When they come down for dinner, Stiles is still cold. Scott, however, seems to be doing fine as he's sitting very close to Kira, who is so upset about electrocuting Liam that she won't eat anything.

"Liam would be pleased that you managed to knock out Matt, he's a creep," Stiles says across the table.

Kira frowns at him while Scott glares. Stiles mouths, what it's true, but Scott is not amused.

"He is kind of a creep," Kira mutters and Stiles beams.

"Hi."

Stiles whips his head to see Lydia taking a seat next to him.

"Hey, Lydia. You're looking unmarred by the foul weather," he says, noting that her hair is perfectly curled and her cheeks a pretty pink.

"It's amazing what beauty spells can do," Lydia responds. "Right, Kira?"

"Yes, typically. If the user isn't me," Kira says with a self-deprecating smile.

"You don't need them anyway," Lydia says easily, which makes Kira blush in pleasure. Lydia frowns in concern. "Are you alright, by the way? Don't feel too badly about Matt, he's doing just fine," Lydia says, "Plenty of guys and girls are keeping watch at his bedside so he can get back to flirting with everyone right away."

Scott sighs. "I have some stationary you can borrow to write an apology," he tells Kira, who perks up.

Stiles gets a chill.

She frowns. "Are you alright?"

"Still a bit cold, y'know. Playing out there for six hours wasn't exactly joyful."

She rolls her eyes. "You can do magic, you know."

"Last time I tried a warming spell while desperately cold I singed my clothes."

She laughs a little. "I hate to see what would happen if you tried to make a fire."

"Combustion. Nasty business."

"There's a reason why half my trunk is singed," Scott adds.

She shakes her head and pulls out a jar from her bag and casts Bluebell Flames, handing the jar back to Stiles. He hugs the jar and immediately feels warmth in his chest and spread through his limbs.

"That's much easier than the Hot-Air Charm."

She smiles. "You played well." Pause. "You all did," she adds a little too quickly.

"Nearly fell off my broom a few times," Stiles says.

"I know." She shakes her head. "You'll make me get worry lines before I turn twenty."

He purses his mouth to keep from smiling too hard. "Aw, Lydia, you care."

She narrows her eyes at him. "You're my partner in our little venture. I'll need you for part two."

He nods, trying not to grin. "Of course."

She exhales and shakes her head again, this time with a soft smile. "You're ridiculous." She nudges him before standing up. "Sleep tight."

"Nos da."

He drums his fingers on the jar as he watches her walk away.

**

"Today's the day!" Stiles says, practically skipping to Charms. "The leaf is removed from my mouth and I can finally drink Butterbeer without the vague taste of dirt tainting it."

"What happens next?"

"Well…hopefully the potion will be ready and we have to drink that for about two months based on the lunar cycle. So then hopefully after Easter holiday we can…y'know, start hopping to it."

"You think you got the potion right? I mean…it is you we're talking about."

"Lydia has strict control over that. I'm the brains behind the operation once we start Transfiguration spells."

"That's still frightening."

Stiles punches Scott in the arm and then Scott returns the favor.

"Don't injure that arm, Scott, we'll be in need of it come March," Lydia singsongs.

"Looks like you're both more than ready," Scott notes.

"I think Lydia has complained way more than Stiles and that's saying something," Allison says from behind them.

"I don't know, I find that very hard to believe," Scott replies, ignoring Stiles and Lydia's affronted gapes.

"You trying having something gross in your mouth that makes everything taste like you're eating food from the ground," Stiles grumbles.

Lydia nods furiously.

"You must really fancy her if you're doing this teeth thing with her," Allison murmurs under her breath near Stiles' ear.

Stiles stops laughing, partially out of shock – how does Allison not know? – and also…yeah. It's pretty pathetic, but…she's not wrong.

**

"Scott."

"Yeah?"

"I know you and Allison aren't together anymore, but…do you plan on telling her about…you know."

They're lying together in Stiles' bed, too exhausted to move. They'll probably end up sharing again.

Scott swallows and stares up at the ceiling. "I think about it all the time."

"I mean, you're kind of mates now, yeah?"

"Yeah, definitely. Just…her mum was killed by a werewolf while she was in those woods. Maybe it's selfish, not wanting her to see me as that kind of monster, but…she's also dealing with enough. Soon, maybe. I think. When I'm less of a coward."

Stiles reaches over a few inches to pat Scott's hand. "You're the bravest lion I know, Scott McCall. A quintessential Gryffindor."

**

It's a new moon and they are waiting for the moon to reach its highest point before removing the Mandrake leaves and beginning their first round of ingesting the potion, which is now dark, mimicking the night sky.

In the meantime, they're resting on the floor, but at least they brought extra blankets to stave off the chill.

"Do you have Valentine's Day plans?" Lydia inquires with a yawn.

"Just me and a large amount of chocolate from Honeydukes that I don't plan on sharing."

Lydia laughs a little. "That sounds rather nice, actually."

"Not looking forward to Valentine's Day?" he ventures a guess.

"Jackson hates it. Being the third year…it's just exhausting getting him to do something I want."

He swallows and rolls his head to stare at the wall. He can see a shadow of the cauldron. "I guess it's worth it."

"What?"

"Love – the effort put in, I guess. It's worth it."

She doesn't say anything for a while.

"Sometimes I don't know."

He takes his time moving his head to look at her. Her face is wet with tears and when she catches him staring, she immediately sits up and wipes her face.

"Hey, it's okay –" he starts.

"I don't need anyone seeing me cry," she says with a sniffle.

"Lydia – it's – you shouldn't care if people see you cry, alright?" he says, sitting up too. "Especially you," he adds without really meaning to.

She finally looks at him. "Why?"

He swallows. "Because, ehm…I think you look really beautiful. When you cry." He feels his face heat up. He runs a hand through his hair and focuses on the simmering flame of the cauldron.

He hears her walk toward him and take a seat beside him. Her face is dry and she rests her head on his shoulder with a sigh, like she's finally dropping a heavy load.

She talks and he listens.

**

"So how was it?" Scott asks as they're walking to breakfast the next morning.

"Weird," Stiles answers honestly. "It didn't taste that bad, but it makes our bones ache something fierce. Feels like growing pains, but different."

"Sounds kind of like what happens when I transform." Pause. "But really painful. Like, terrible."

"Yeah, it's not that level of awful, but I hope it goes away – it's been nonstop for the past few hours."

"When do you take it next?"

"Every full and new moon until April. After that, then it's the spell work and actually transfiguring."

"Hopefully it'll stop hurting." Scott pats his shoulder, but Stiles winces under the pressure. "Sorry!"

"It's a struggle carrying this bag, to be honest –" Stiles starts, but stops when Scott tugs Stiles' bag off his shoulder and takes it. "I love you."

"I know."

"Really, we need to make a pact that if we don't get married by thirty, we're marrying each other."

"Alright. Even though our parents would not be thrilled with that match."

"Why not? Why wouldn't they be? Don't ignore me, Scott! This is serious! Scott!"

**

While Valentine's Day is partially celebrated with significant others receiving gifts, chocolates, and flowers, most of the school plans on celebrating two days later at Hogsmeade. Scott is taking Kira on a date; Lydia and Jackson seem to be doing alright – maybe talking about it helped – and at this point, he may just ask Allison if she's willing to wallow with him.

"Actually," Allison says slowly while blushing. "I have a date."

Stiles blinks. "Oh. Well, that's…good! Who?"

Allison winces. "Isaac?"

He gapes at her. "You betray me."

"You're the only one who doesn't like him."

"The feeling is totally mutual!"

She sighs and shakes her head. "Well, you're going to have to put up with it. Sorry, Stiles." She squeezes his hand. "Thanks for the invite, though. You're a good friend."

"Wish I could say the same for you," he quips, but he's smiling.

So, he's alone, although he may have better luck with Cora or Malia.

"No," they both say at the same time.

He stares at them. "You two aren't…"

Cora grins. "Bye, Stiles."

"You didn't give me a straight answer! Ha, ha, straight…wait! Guys!"

He's left gnawing on a heel of a loaf of bread during dinner on Friday night when Erica plops next to him and coos as she pats his head.

"Poor, lonely Stiles."

"You want to have a snog? It'll make me feel better."

She shakes her head and nudges him. "Sorry, I'm in love."

"I know – what's that like?"

"It's really nice."

"You two are a dream team. How do you feel about adopting a pathetic child?"

"Sorry, I won't be adopting a child I snogged a handful of times."

He pouts. "Boyd wouldn't mind."

She thoughtfully looks at him. "That may be true, partially because you are particularly pathetic. Although you and Lydia seem to be getting on well."

"We are, she's just still with that arsehole."

"I know. Although, as someone who is living in the same House as her – I think that relationship has an expiration date on the horizon."

He leans in. "What the hell are you on about?"

She leans in. "They're fighting more in the open, that's all I'm telling you."

"Okay, but I could've told you that."

"Sorry, Slytherin loyalty. It's worse than Gryffindor loyalty because I'd kill."

"Excuse me, have you met me?"

"Yeah, true, but then again I always thought you were placed in the wrong House." She kisses him on the cheek and hands him a galleon. "Buy some Chocolate Wands and maybe suck on them while Boyd and I are in Three Broomsticks. I can still admire your mouth."

He grins. "I'll see what I can do."

**

His day in Hogsmeade is spent gorging on chocolates and giving Erica a show, much to Boyd's utter indifference, but he does catch Cora and Malia holding hands, so that might very well be a thing (unless they're trying to fuck with him – he wouldn't put it past Cora).

At one point, Jackson and Lydia are walking into Three Broomsticks and Stiles is walking out; he hands Lydia a jar of Pink Coconut Ice. She smiles and wordlessly hands him a bag of sandwiches from Madam Puddifoot's Tea Shop. Jackson eyes the interaction with disdain.

Stiles feels like he consumed over a dozen Fizzing Whizbees for the rest of the day.

**

Erica's casual comment about how wrong he is for Gryffindor is not the first one and it won't be the last. Even his dad, a proud former Gryffindor, sometimes looks at his son like he doesn't fit. Stiles knows his dad loves him and accepts him, but it still stings.

**

Almost a week later, they're stirring the potion and waiting for the right hour to consume more of it when Stiles asks, "Do you sometimes feel like we're Housed too young?"

She glances at him over the cauldron before looking down. "Sometimes. Why?"

"Just…been thinking about it lately."

"Hm."

Silence.

He shuts his eyes and takes a deep breath. "Sometimes I think I was put in the wrong House," Stiles admits quietly, but it feels like he screamed it.

"You do?"

He laughs a little. "I mean, I'm not a model Gryffindor – that's pretty obvious."

She laughs a little. "No, obviously that's Scott."

"And he's the quintessential Hufflepuff too – they love him more than some of their own mates. But that's probably why he was placed in Gryffindor. More place for growth, I guess."

"Maybe the same could be said for you," Lydia suggests. "The Hat wouldn't have placed you in Gryffindor if it didn't think part of you fit in."

"Well I guess the nerve and strength of will are things I have in spades."

She laughs again. "I'd say courage too."

He smiles. "Would my being placed in Slytherin just made me worse?"

"We could've helped with fine tuning the traits you already have." She stops stirring and sticks her wand in her pocket. "What about me?"

He sits up from his position on the floor and grins. "The thought of your intelligence increasing even more from being in Ravenclaw is very scary."

They smile at each other and don't say anything else until:

"Do you sometimes feel alone in your own House?" Lydia asks, barely audible over the crackling flame under the cauldron.

He nods and runs his tongue over his bottom lip. "Yeah." He swallows. "The Hat did fight to put me in Slytherin. Or Ravenclaw. But I just saw Scott at the Gryffindor table and I didn't want to be without him. I didn't care about anything else." He tries to laugh, but it gets caught in his throat and his nose and eyes sting. "Maybe that fucking loyalty won the Hat over."

She stands up and walks over and sits down in front of him so she can place her hands on either side of his face. "Do you know why Headmaster McGonagall stresses House unity?"

"Because decades of house segregation has had a significant effect on witches and wizards as evident by the latest war?"

She rolls her eyes. "That, but, at the end of the day, we're all Hogwarts students. We're all the same, despite the colors we wear. There's a bit of each House in all of us. You have nerve and you're daring, but you're also intelligent and strangely creative. You're unafraid of toil and you're clever and resourceful. You have bits of each House in you – that's what makes you a Hogwarts student."

He exhales shakily with a smile. "Your logical mind is a beautiful thing."

She smiles at him warmly and drops her hands, her fingers trailing along his jaw. "Although green and silver would've worked for you."

He snorts. "Right." He stares into her green eyes. "I haven't told anyone that."

"Not even Scott?" she asks, surprised.

He shakes his head. "I mean, he knows, I'm pretty sure, but. I haven't put…all that into words before."

She nods. "People say all the time I should've been in Ravenclaw. Since, you know…"

He remembers – the school's singular attempt at the equivalent of a Muggle school dance, which ended in utter disaster with Stiles' mildly drunk confrontation when double-dating with Scott and Allison (a dream come true) and Lydia was glaring at Jackson; they were experiencing their first 'separation.'

"Yeah. I never really apologized for going off on you," he winces. "It was none of my business."

"Well, I wasn't being agreeable, which wasn't fun for you. But, it's alright. I've been happier since then."

The timer goes off and she stands up.

"If you had a chance to go back to the first day and change things – would you?"

He takes a deep breath and shakes his head. "Not at all. You?"

"Not at all."

**

Stiles comes home for Easter holiday because it more often than not tends to fall around the time his mum died. He doesn't like the idea of his dad mourning alone. If it doesn't fall then, he gets special permission to Floo home – he wishes he could Floo back and forth all the time – it would certainly be easier than the hours-long train ride to London and another few hours in a car.

But since Easter this year falls before the anniversary, Stiles goes home with everyone else that Thursday, two days after Lydia's birthday.

"Here," Lydia says, handing him a hot thermos. "Careful not to touch the bottom – I've charmed it so the potion is simmering. Just stir it and," she reaches into her bag and pulls out a folded up piece of parchment and hands it to him, "there's the chart with the time. My number's on there in case you find an error."

"You? Making an error." He throws his head back and laughs. "Lame joke, Lydia."

"You think you're so funny, but you're really not." The train whistles in warning. "Happy Easter, Stiles."

"Hapus Pasg." Stiles looks back at the castle where Scott has to be tonight and bites his lip.

Lydia squeezes his hand. "We'll get there."

He fucking hopes so.

**

Easter Sunday is relatively quiet, mostly because the anniversary is in two days and his dad has long, back-to-back shifts.

Stiles knows it's about money, that supplies and textbooks for Hogwarts have only gotten more expensive, but he has a sneaky feeling that his dad has been trying to help Scott's mum out.

"I'll be back in the early morning," his dad says the day before, squeezing Stiles' shoulder. "If you need anything, Melissa is off tonight." He then leans over and kisses the top of his head. Stiles' throat closes as he nods.

For the next hour, Stiles talks on the phone with Scott, who has mostly been sleeping off his last full moon and making up for the past few months since Christmas. After that, he starts to catch up on the few Muggle shows he likes until he ends up dozing on the sofa.

At one point, the home phone rings.

It happens at a strange enough hour that Stiles pauses on the stairway, debating on answering it. On the second ring, he rushes back down to reach the phone in the kitchen. He doesn't recognize the number.

"Hello?" he greets, breathless.

There's a tinny voice asking about taking a collect call, which he agrees to because why not.

Silence. "Stiles?"

Stiles' eyes widen. "Lydia? How did you get this number?"

He hears her laugh a little. "You mentioned it once. I have an excellent memory."

"Oh. Right. Obviously." Pause. He thinks he hears her sniffle. "Are you okay? Where are you calling from?"

"Am I interrupting anything?"

"Ehm…no. I was just going to play some video games, what –"

"Could I come over?"

"I…ehm…" Stiles opens and closes his mouth a few times before saying, "Yeah, sure, let me, ehm…change." He looks down at his pajama trousers and ratty t-shirt.

"It's alright, I don't want to put you out –"

"Lydia, seriously, just get over here – I'm alone, my dad has a night shift –"

He hears the dial tone.

"Cach," he curses, hanging up the phone. Then he sighs, contemplating on calling her back, but the roar of the fireplace scares the pants off him and he loses his balance, falling onto the floor.

Lydia steps out and pats out the coal dust from her…amazing dress, fuck. The school robes don't do anyone justice, but it's criminal how they hide her body.

"What are you doing on the floor?" she asks, her head quirked to the side. Her eyes are red and her makeup is a little smudged.

"You scared the shit out of me," he gasps, slowly getting to his feet with a hand on his chest. Once he's steady enough, he asks, "Where did you come from? You look…fantastic. Seriously. The school robes are a disservice to you."

She shuts her eyes and shakes her head, but the corner of her mouth twitches.

"Not that…you look bad in the school uniform. You don't. If anything, you make them seem greater than they oh, I'm just shutting up. Or changing the topic, like…my being a hostess! Do you want anything to eat or drink? We have some crisps. That's pretty much the extent of it. Oh! No! We do have leftover pasta."

"I'll have tea, thank you," she answers, shifting from one foot to the other.

"Here, you can…" He pulls out the chair between them and gestures toward it.

She sighs in relief as she sits down, taking off her heels and rubbing her feet as he prepares tea. They don't speak for a few minutes as the kettle boils. He takes out two mugs – one is a plain green mug and another is the old mug he painted for his mum when he was six – it was blue and bronze and white with an ugly looking raven on it. Once the kettle whistles, he pours the tea and hands Lydia the green mug.

"That's a…that mug is something," she says, cupping her hands around the mug.

"I made it for my mum. It was her favorite."

Lydia frowns a little. "May I ask how she…?"

"Do you want sugar? Cream?"

"Yes, please."

Stiles gets up and searches in the fridge, grateful that they managed to buy creamer the day before. "She was a Muggleborn and she just…developed this brain…illness. Magic couldn't help her." He places the creamer on the table. "It was hard learning that magic couldn't fix everything," he admits, sitting back down.

She nods, pouring a splash of creamer into her tea. They drink in silence until Lydia says, "I hated it. Magic. I didn't understand what was happening to me. In primary school I loved maths and science. This…making flowers bloom out of nowhere and screaming so loudly that I broke glass…it was confusing. And my parents," she shakes her head and takes a sip. "They looked at me like I was a freak."

Stiles can't imagine what that must've been like. "I'm sorry."

She looks out the window, which faces the open garage where his Jeep is parked. "Is that your car? The one you talk about like it's your girlfriend?"

"The Jeep is my baby. And yes."

He watches her bite her bottom lip, which is a rosy pink from faded lipstick. She seems to be contemplating something for a minute until she asks, "Can we go on a drive?"

He glances down at his half-finished tea and then at her face. He places his mug on the table. "Let me just put some trainers and a coat on."

She smiles at him gratefully.

**

Never, in a million years, did Stiles ever think about having Lydia in his car.

It's quiet as he's driving through his town, which is small and only takes about fifteen minutes to circle. So he goes on a road that leads them out of the town – something winding and distracting and alone.

After a while, he turns on the radio, which is connected to his MP3 player and picks a song.

He remembers telling Lydia how he likes this; how he can feel stress and everything else slip away the longer her drives. Maybe this is what Lydia is looking for.

He looks over at her and she's watching the moonlit scenery go by with tears on her face. She's stopped wiping them away. He reaches into the backseat for his Holyhead Harpies jumper and gives it to her.

"What happened?" Stiles asks after she pulls his jumper over her head. From the corner of his eye he can see it ends mid thigh, past her dress.

She inspects the cuffs of his sweatshirt, worn and fading, and says, "My dad is getting married this summer."

"That...sucks?" he guesses.

"It wouldn't suck if he didn't make me promise not to tell her about what I am," she states flatly.

"How does he expect you to do that?" he asks after the shock somewhat wears off.

"Oh, it's easy - they're moving to Paris to be closer to her family. It will be very easy to fake my life from another country."

He winces. "What happened?"

She laughs, her breath hitching in her throat. "Oh, you know, broke all the glass in his flat. He looked at me like..." she shakes her head and stops herself.

"He doesn't understand."

"He doesn't want to understand. We put a name to this over six years ago, how much more time does he need to remember that I'm still me?" She covers her mouth with his sweatshirt-covered hand and tears soak the material. "I hate it, but it hurts. I hate it so much."

He wants to leave his hand between them so she can maybe take it, but his hand is resting on the stick and he doesn't know awkward it would be.

"Did you at least leave his flat in total destruction?"

She snorts. "Yeah. It was very dramatic of me. I'll have to go back and fix it."

"Maybe you should leave him to stew until the morning. He deserves it."

"I was supposed to stay over, so of course I left my phone and everything else at my dad's – hence the payphone call. And my mum is on a date to top it all off - don't really want to involve myself in that."

"I guess not." Pause. "Want to borrow the house phone and call someone? Allison?"

Lydia stares at him for a few moments before saying, "If you don't mind, could I stay with you? It is a ridiculous hour to be contacting anyone."

"You contacted me."

"Yes, well, I know you like to play stupid games with Scott, so I figured you were a safe bet."

Stiles laughs under his breath. "Fair enough. Alright. You can take my bed and I'll take the sofa."

"I couldn't -"

"Yeah, yeah, save your false offers."

Lydia smiles. "Thanks, Stiles."

He shrugs and gives her a lopsided smile. "Croeso."

At the next opportunity, Stiles makes a U and heads home.

**

"Never have I been more grateful to be of age," Lydia says when she steps out of the bathroom, face clean of makeup and has anyone ever seen her like this? He thinks he can see faint freckles on her nose and he is a fucking goner.

She looks down and he realizes he's been staring too long.

"Sorry, I just made that weird. You have freckles."

"And you just made it weirder."

"Mae'n ddrwg gen i."

She tilts her head. "What?"

"Sorry."

She rolls her eyes and sighs. "Which is your room?"

He kicks back the door behind him. "Right here."

She brushes past him and inspects it. Frankly, he's just grateful he wasted his day doing laundry, so all that's on the floor is his trunk (which, admittedly, is open and overflowing with displaced robes.

"I'm surprised it's not all red and gold," she says.

"I thought the banner was sufficient." He gestures towards the rather large Gryffindor banner on the wall opposite of his Welsh flag banner. Other than that, the room has various shades of navy and gray.

She purses her mouth in thought and he adds, "Well, I'll leave you to it. I'll be downstairs. On the sofa. Goodnight."

Lydia smiles and touches his arm, squeezing above his elbow before her hand slips down his forearm. He takes her hand with his without thinking and smiles back.

"If you told me at the beginning of last term that I'd be here of all places," she says, trailing off.

"I'd laugh too," he admits.

"I wouldn't even laugh – I'd probably ask what a Stiles was first," she says, giving him a teasing smile.

"Ha, ha, ha."

She squeezes his hand and finally lets go. "I'm glad, though. You're…"

"Awesome?" he supplies.

"…Sure. Nos da, Stiles."

He grins. "Pleasant dreams."

She shakes her head and goes into his room, leaving the door open just a little. He tries not to overthink it and heads back downstairs to the sofa.

**

Stiles wakes up to his dad gently shaking him awake.

"Hey – did you fall asleep watching the telly again?"

Stiles rubs his eyes and tries to remember why he's downstairs until he feels a blanket covering himself that wasn't there when he passed out and Lydia is in his room.

"Yeah, about that – Lydia's in my bed," Stiles whispers.

His father stares at him for a few seconds.

"Son, I know I'm bleary-eyed and knackered, but you still can't pull one on me," he answers in a normal tone.

"I'm not joking, go check!" Stiles hisses.

Just then, the floorboards creak above their heads.

"Why is Lydia in your room?" his father now whispers.

"She had a bad night and needed a place to stay."

"Wow…wow…okay…I'll go make some breakfast, then." He shakes his head and runs a hand through Stiles' hair on his way to the kitchen, a large grocery bag in his free hand.

Stiles falls back onto the sofa with a sigh and stretches his limbs as best he can with the space he has. He sighs again and eventually gets to his feet, scratching his stomach. "Gonna brush my teeth. Warn Lydia she's getting the Stilinski breakfast special."

He brushes his teeth first before gently knocking on his door. "Well, this is weird," he mutters.

The door opens and she's still wearing his Holyhead Harpies jumper, even though she's wearing makeup. "Heard your dad."

"He's making breakfast. It's good."

"He doesn't have to do that –"

"Yeah, he does, he makes great eggs. Anything you want. Except poached – that's kind of a hit or miss."

She looks at him, debating, but eventually sighs and nods. "Okay, sure. But I should probably borrow some trousers."

He inhales sharply. "Right." He gestures wildly to his drawers. "The bottom one."

**

She ends up wearing a pair of athletic shorts that should theoretically look terrible on her but of course, that's not his reality, and breakfast is…nice. Comfortable. Right. She fits in a way he didn't expect and now can't imagine otherwise.

After his dad goes upstairs to sleep, she hugs Stiles tightly, resting her forehead against his shoulder. "Diolch yn fawr."

He loves her learning Welsh. "You're very much welcome. Anytime."

**

Besides the amazing Holyhead Harpies match he sees with his dad, the Lydia Event isn't the only dramatic event to occur during the holiday.

"I told Allison," Scott says, his voice muffled by his pillow since he's trying to bury his face in it. His clothes are a little singed from using the Floo network.

"She didn't take it well," Stiles assumes.

"She just sat there. Like she became catatonic."

"So what did you do?"

"I said that I wanted to tell her now so she had time to process away from me and that I'd never talk to her again if she wanted and now here I am."

"And she didn't say anything?"

"No…well…she started crying and I just," Scott then starts groaning very loudly.

"Okay, don't have a meltdown on me yet, McCall, we can do some reconnaissance work." Stiles squeezes Scott's shoulder with one hand and reaches into his back pocket for his cell phone with the other.

From: Stiles Stilinski:
Has AA attempted contact? Report back ASAP.

From Lydia Martin:
Why are you texting me like you're on a MI6 mission?

From Stiles Stilinski:
Because it's more fun and this is what was intended when texting was created.

From Lydia Martin:
By whom? The loonies in Cardiff?

From Stiles Stilinski:
Whatever, fine, don't indulge me. See if I care.

From Stiles Stilinski:
Did AA attempt contact though actually 4real.

From Lydia Martin:
No, why?

"She hasn't heard from her yet," Stiles informs Scott.

Scott starts groaning again.

From Stiles Stilinski:
Scott told her.

His phone immediately rings.

"Hey," Stiles answers.

"Is he alright?"

Stiles holds the phone in front of him so Lydia can hear Scott make sad noises.

"Shit. Well, I'll let you know if she does. I think it'll be alright. She just needs to process and she'll realize Scott is still the same, wonderful person he's always been and this changes nothing."

"Yeah, okay."

She sighs. "I'll have to tell her about our plan, too, then. She may direct her anger towards me. I wouldn't blame her."

"Okay, I can't take both of you freaking out at the same time it's very distressing for me."

"Easy for you to say, you're in the clear!" Scott moans.

"If Scott just said something about how you're not going to face her wrath then I'll say it," Lydia says after a beat.

"Well that's lucky for you guys because I'll have to play messenger and we all know what happens to the messenger and I don't know, guys, something tells me that the girl who can proficiently use a bow and arrow in this day and age has a pretty good chance of ending it all for me," Stiles rambles in an increasingly anxious tone.

Lydia scoffs. "Bye, Stiles. I'll let you know. Tell Scott to be optimistic."

"Fat chance that will work." He hangs up and rubs Scott's back for fifteen minutes and gets him tea.

**

Luckily, they don't have to wait so long. Eventually, Allison texts Stiles and requests a meeting at his home, the most neutral place that everyone can meet. Stiles busies himself with making tea for everyone and throwing a box of biscuits onto the table. He eats a sleeve by himself.

Allison has been staring at her hands for the first five minutes in utter silence. Just when Stiles is about to break into another sleeve, but Lydia grabs Stiles' hand and squeezes it tightly over her stocking-clad thigh.

"I know…that people are attacked and made to be werewolves. I know," Allison says finally, congested. "I know the one that – with my mum. I know he was a terrible person. I know Scott isn't suddenly a monster." Her face crumples. "I just –" She looks up at Scott. "I was so close to losing you and I didn't even know."

Stiles' eyes sting and Scott just bursts into tears and Scott and Allison come together in a furious hug, crying.

"I know you're still the most amazing, caring person I love – that hasn't changed."

Stiles wipes his face with his free hand and Lydia gently tugs on the one she's still holding, leading him out of the kitchen so Allison and Scott can be alone.

"Well, this turned out alright," Stiles says, trying to smile.

Lydia smiles back with glassy eyes. "Yeah."

"You think she'll be raging that we didn't include her in our venture?"

"Maybe a little," she admits. "But she'll get over it. Besides, she has a lot of time to be with him."

He nods. "Yeah, they do. Although I hope there's a fucking cure soon."

The corner of her mouth twitches into something more of a smirk. "I think there will be."

"As long as you have a brain, you mean?"

"Exactly."

He smiles and wraps an arm around her shoulders, bringing her for a hug. "I wouldn't trust anyone else to find one in this lifetime."

**

Stiles knows this is supposed to be his area of expertise – the Transfiguration spell work – but this is all way more difficult than the shit he's seen for classes.

"Ffyc," he curses in his bed as he pours over parchment and printed sheets sent from Mrs. Weasley. It'll take him ages to break it all down.

Scott turns over in his sleep and Stiles frowns at the dark circles under his eyes. He focuses on the papers in front of him and begins working.

**

Scott and Kira break up amicably the first week of April. It's not really a surprise.

What is a surprise is Lydia breaking up with Jackson a few days after. Happy seventeenth birthday to Stiles.

Erica winks at Stiles from the Hufflepuff table and even though Lydia is also there sitting with Allison, who is doing her best to be sympathetic, Allison is glancing over at Stiles with pointed looks and secretive smiles.

It's also the best day ever because he's able to completely decode vital spell work for their project, but he at least has the brains to keep his emotions in check.

**

Even though exams are coming up in a few weeks, everyone is outside bathing in the sun, including Fifth and Seventh Years.

(Much to the annoyance of Derek the Groundskeeper, but Stiles is pretty sure nothing in the world can make that miserable Irish grump happy.)

Stiles himself is enjoying a nice little doze in the grass until he's disrupted by Cora plopping down next to him.

"I was enjoying myself," he grumbles.

"Well, now you get to enjoy yourself more with my presence."

He groans, but doesn't move and doesn't say anything else.

"The school is aflutter with chatter."

"Never talk like that again. And it's always aflutter with chatter. This school is still too small even with the moderate population boom post-war."

"I mean, people are wondering why the same year Lydia procures a new male best friend she also dumps her boyfriend of three years. For good."

"Is it for good?" he asks, a weird mixture of sarcasm but also honesty. It was, admittedly, his first thought when he first heard from Allison that Lydia and Jackson were done. After all, this has happened at least three times.

She rolls her head to look at him, face surprisingly serious. "I think so. She actually seems rather okay about it. Haven't you talked to her?"

"I'm seeing her tonight."

"Oh, right, your secret project. There are bets being held on what the project is."

"You'll never know."

"I'm sure we can figure it out."

"Scott has an incredible nose and will know when food or drink is tampered with."

"I'm creative."

He's a little scared, but he shakes his head.

"Well, I'm off. Malia and I have plans."

"You two are so perfect for each other, it's almost disgusting. Except your talk of murder, but even then you'd somehow make it romantic."

She smiles at him. "Sweet. There's not a threesome in your future."

"Hey, I was being totally serious with those compliments without any ulterior motive."

"Maybe a little."

"Like, micro."

She laughs and sits back up. "Whatever, Stilinski. Do you mind helping Malia later with her Transfiguration homework so we have more time to snog tonight? She would've asked you herself, but she has detention now."

"Yes, as long as she promises not to singe my tie like last time. I'm down to three now."

"I can't make that promise because I'm down to five. Cheers."

He laughs and shuts his eyes again, ready to go back to napping, except he feels a brush of robes and hears another body taking Cora's place.

"Please tell me you're Scott McCall."

He loves Lydia's little laugh. "Sorry to disappoint."

He smiles. "Are you going to doze with me, Lydia Martin?"

"Probably. I'm knackered."

"Bendigedig." So fantastic.

"Quick question, though."

"Alright."

"How are you friends with Cora and Malia? I mean, I understand in terms of personalities, but how did that come about?"

He opens his eyes to look at her in surprise. "Wait, you don't know the story? Our Second Year?"

"No, what?"

"It was a big deal! Like, it was the talk of –" She gives him an unimpressed look and he switches tactics. "Okay, fine. I went to the library and Cora and Malia took my table. I enforced my seniority on them –"

"You were twelve and they were eleven."

"And things got a little heated."

She raises an eyebrow.

"We had a fight and we knocked down two bookcases and destroyed the original, decrepit copy of Quidditch Through the Ages and got banned from the library for two months."

"Two months? How the hell did you even get anything done?"

"Scott did plenty of trips for me and I gave them my old notes. There's a reason why Cora is the me of the Fifth Years when it comes to Transfiguration."

She hums thoughtfully. "I can't believe that was you who knocked over the bookcases. But now that I think about it, I'm not too surprised. It certainly explains why Madam Pince stops what she's doing and stares at you whenever you come to the library."

"There you go."

They do end up dozing and it's nice.

**

A few nights later, they're on their way out of the Great Hall when Headmistress McGonagall stops them.

"Stilinski," she starts, startled and a little –

No.

"What happened?" he asks, his face numb and his body detached.

He hears 'your father' and 'mission' and 'attacked' and 'St. Mungo's' while being taken to her office. Lydia is moving him forward, asking questions that he can't seem to get out of his mouth.

His dad is on the first floor – for creature-induced injuries, but he'll be moved to the fourth floor soon after – for spell damage.

He goes to St. Mungo's through McGonagall's private Floo Network and he's almost surprised that Lydia came with him.

"Stiles? What's wrong?" Lydia asks, sounding muffled and far away.

"Panic – attack –" he starts, gasping.

She takes his arm and leads him away from the waiting room and into the nearest available loo, shutting the door behind them. "Stiles, you need to breathe – your dad is going to be okay. Think good things, positive things like – friends, family –"

He may feel like he's dying, but he manages to glare at her.

"I mean, not family –" she sounds frazzled. "Okay, just, try and slow your breathing to match mine."

"I can't," he gasps, feeling like his chest is on fire and collapsing over his heart and lungs and this may be his cause of death –

"Stiles," she says, her hands on his face. "Look at me, shh, Stiles."

His vision is blurry, but he can feel when her mouth is on his and the way his breathing stops.

While he has imagined kissing Lydia Martin on numerous occasions, he never considered it happening on the floor of a St. Mungo's loo. He also didn't consider it occurring while having a panic attack, which loses a lot of its pleasantness. But –

He shuts his eyes and feels his heart rate lessen. Her hands shift so her fingers are resting gently on his pulse points, probably counting. Once he feels grounded, but still shaky, he pulls back, staring at her.

"…How did you do that?" he whispers, swallowing.

She tucks her top lip in her mouth. "I…I read once that…holding your breath could stop a panic attack. So when I kissed you…you held your breath."

"I did?"

She nods. "Yeah. You did."

He can't keep his eyes off her. "Thanks. That was really smart."

She smiles. "I just…I don't know. I read it somewhere."

"Unsurprising. Although I wonder what brought you to the ICD realm of information."

"Honestly?"

He nods.

She looks down at the tiled floor, lightly tapping her fist against his thigh. "When you first talked about your disorder and meds and how you used to have panic attacks – I wanted to be well informed."

He smiles and places his hand over hers. "Thank you."

She looks up and smiles, beautiful and honest. "Can you stand up?"

He brings his legs in and begins to stand, using the wall to support himself. She meets him when he straightens himself out.

"It's going to be okay," she says, taking his arm.

**

When they're back in the waiting area, Harry Potter is whispering heatedly with the Minster of Magic, a gash on his arm bleeding onto the floor, but he's clearly a badass and is ignoring it.

Once they're in their sights, Harry Potter ignores the Minister and says to Stiles, "Your dad is going to be fine, he only got scratched, but it was a major artery. We temporarily stopped the bleeding enough to bring him here. The spells he got hit with were relatively minor."

Stiles almost collapses to the floor in relief, but Lydia's tight hold on his arm keeps him upright. "Thank you," Stiles says, voice croaked.

"Come on, let's sit and wait for the doctor – or Healer, I mean," Lydia says, leading him to the nearest set of chairs.

Harry Potter and the Minister leave to a more private area, Stiles assumes, and he hopes that someone will get him soon so he can see his father breathing.

To distract him, Lydia starts listing the periodic table and telling him about each and every chemical element. He doesn't know how the hell she can remember all the Muggle and magic shit, but he adores her for it.

On the thirty-third element (Arsenic), Harry Potter comes back and sits next to Stiles, explaining that the Auror Department had gotten word that a pack of rogue werewolves that were part of Voldemort's Army and hadn't gotten the hint, were on the move in eastern England and it was the perfect opportunity. The only issue was they miscalculated how large that army was.

Aurors had died and Stiles can see it in his face.

"We've captured them all," Harry Potter finishes. "Including the one who bit your friend over the summer."

Stiles' eyes widen. "You did?"

Harry Potter smiles and places a hand on Stiles' shoulder, squeezing it. "You should be able to see him in a few hours – he's on the fourth floor now. I know it doesn't matter when it comes to life and death, but, your father was a hero." He stands up and nods at both of them before meeting a pretty red-head by the doorway – Ginny Potter, wow, he saw her briefly during the Christmas party, but without makeup and baggy clothes, she looks hot –

"Maybe stop ogling at Harry Potter's wife before you start drooling," Lydia whispers wryly.

Stiles flushes and whips his head to look at Lydia. She's still prettier.

He smiles and after a moment, she smiles back. They hold hands as they make their way up to the fourth floor.

**

A Healer finally comes in at two in the morning to let him know that his father has been stabilized, but is sleeping. Lydia has to remain outside – family only.

"Go, I'll be here," she says.

Before he leaves, he briefly hugs her. "Thank you," he says in her ear.

She squeezes him back and doesn't say anything.

**

His dad is sleeping, but Stiles still takes his hand and tries not to think about his mum as he babbles about his classes, upcoming exams, Quidditch practices, and –

"Scott and Lydia will make sure I don't do anything stupid, so, just, get better. You're not allowed to leave me yet," he tries to joke, but he ends up crying a little. Too soon, maybe.

A different Healer eventually comes in and asks him to step out as they perform tests, so Stiles makes his way to the waiting room, where Lydia is dozing, still sitting up straight.

There's a rather large bouquet of flowers in the chair next to hers.

He carefully picks it up and rests it on his lap as he sits down, gently shaking her shoulder. "Lydia."

She blinks awake. "Stiles?"

Oh, he didn't need to know what she sounds like when she wakes up. He ignores the burst of arousal in his gut and says, "He's just sleeping. They're checking up on him throughout the night. He'll hopefully be awake later today."

"Are you staying?"

He swallows. "Yeah, I'm going to stay, I am."

"Okay. I'll take notes for you." She stares at the flowers on his lap. "Those are for your dad. Will you give them to him?"

"Yeah, 'course. That's really nice of you." He wants her to stay with him, but he'll never ask. "Let Scott know for me? Tell him I'll call his mum."

"Of course." She gets to her feet and sways a little. "I might need one of your Glamor Charms." She runs a hand through her hair self-consciously.

"How do you know I'm proficient at them?"

"Your work with Scott is fantastic."

Stiles grins and whips out his wand. "Might need to freshen it up again by lunch."

"Wow, really? That long?"

"I'm super proficient."

She rolls her eyes. "Okay, get at it."

He's a pro at working on Scott's face, so he can do it quickly, but for Lydia he takes his time, starting from her forehead to her eyes, brightening the dark circles under her eyes and tinting her cheeks pink. He might take a little too long on her lips, getting the right shade, but when he steps back, it's his best work yet.

She immediately takes out her compact and stares at herself.

"My best work yet, although you have a nicer canvas to work with than Scott, but don't tell him that."

She closes her compact and bites her bottom lip. "Thanks, Stiles. Find me when you get back to Hogwarts."

He nods.

She steps forward and hugs him. He exhales and holds her, shutting his eyes and matching her breath with hers. The scent of her shampoo is gone and her perfume has almost faded, but she smells comforting.

He just hopes he doesn't smell terribly.

He impulsively kisses the crown of her head before pulling back. "I'll hopefully see you tomorrow."

She nods takes a moment before leaving him.

**

Stiles finds the nearest payphone outside of St. Mungo's to call Scott's mum, who is upset and demanding a way to St. Mungo's, but they're not in the habit of letting Muggles – even parents of witches and wizards – visit.

"I'll find someone to bring you here," Stiles promises her. "I'm dying of boredom here by myself." His voice cracks. He swallows thickly and rubs his eye before he can cry again.

"Stiles, you're not going to be alone, find someone and do what you do best – pester the hell out of them."

Stiles smiles. "That I can do. Be ready to leave soon."

He hangs up, heads back inside, and pesters the next available Ministry worker. Melissa joins him twenty minutes later.

"Impressive," she says as she brings Stiles into a hug.

"Yelling in Welsh helped speed up the process."

She hugs him tighter and doesn't let go for a while.

**

After Melissa speaks to a sympathetic Muggleborn Healer regarding his dad's health, they wait. Stiles ends up falling asleep and wakes up with his head in her lap once the Healer comes over to let them know his dad is awake.

"Go. I'll come in later," Melissa says, cupping his cheek.

Maybe it's because Stiles is weary and exhausted, maybe it's because Melissa has filled in a little of that yawning space that he's had since he was eight, but he pecks her on the cheek.

Her smile burns away whatever embarrassment was beginning to fester in his gut.

**

His dad isn't very awake, but he's breathing and he smiles whenever Stiles speaks, so he'll count that as a win.

He places the flowers on his dad's bedside. He doesn't know how she managed to find such a pretty one here – the last time he visited the shop on the fifth floor while his mum was sick, all the arrangements were boring.

As the day goes on, his dad wakes up more and begins talking. At least enough to manage to say, "Get your arse back to school."

"You shouldn't be alone."

A Healer enters the room, runs her wand up and down his dad's body, and leaves.

"Not very alone," his dad comments.

"I'll come everyday after classes until you're home. Then I'm sure Melissa will hound you stay in bed."

"You bet I will."

Stiles looks to the doorway and grins at her.

"Were you alone?" his dad asks quietly.

"No. Was with Lydia, actually."

His dad raises his eyebrows.

"Yeah, I know," Stiles laughs a little under his breath. He nods at the flowers. "Those are from her."

His dad rolls his head to look at the flowers. "Huh. They're nice."

"She's – we're friends. Really good friends."

"I see."

Stiles takes his dad's hand again. "I'll be back tomorrow."

"Okay. I love you."

Stiles' throat closes and he leans forward, placing his hands on his dad's shoulders and kissing his forehead. "Love you too."

When he passes by Melissa, she says, "Don't worry, I called out of work. I'll stay with him."

"Melissa –" he starts.

"Don't argue with me. You heard your dad – back to school you go."

"Fine, okay, God."

But Stiles feels a lot better about leaving now.

**

He uses St. Mungo's Floo Network to arrive back to Hogwarts in Headmistress McGonagall's office. She's waiting for him when he steps out of the fireplace.

"You can visit your father after your last class of the day and you're expected to return for dinner," McGonagall informs him.

He nods. "Okay. Thanks."

"Now, get along. Dinner just started. Your friends will be wanting to see you."

Fuck, he's hungry – he hasn't eaten in twenty-four hours.

"Right. Yeah. Sustenance, good."

And he leaves her office before he can say anything more ridiculous.

He half-runs to the Great Hall, eager to eat and then hopefully fall into a food coma. He thinks he enters unnoticed, but he hears his name and he's suddenly in Scott's arms.

"Is he okay?" Scott asks. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, we're both okay," Stiles answers, hugging him back. "They got him," he whispers in Welsh lowly in Scott's ear.

Scott stops breathing. "They did?"

Stiles nods. "Yeah. He can't hurt anyone else."

If it's possible, Scott manages to hold on even tighter. Stiles can feel tears on his neck.

"You'll come with me tomorrow to see him," Stiles says in English.

He hears Scott sniffling before letting Stiles go. His eyes are red from exhaustion and his smile – dimples and all – just about calms him.

His eyes shift to Lydia and Allison. "Hey, guys," he says, "So do I get a cwtch from you or –?"

Lydia immediately rushes in and goes for it. He shuts his eyes and wraps an arm around her waist and his other hand trails to the back of her neck. "I'm so glad he's okay," she says.

His throat closes up. "Yeah." He takes a breath. "He liked your flowers, by the way."

He doesn't need to see her to know she's smiling. "I picked them myself. I mixed three different bouquets in the shop."

"Of course you did."

Lydia steps back, her hands resting on either side of him. "We're still on for tomorrow evening?"

"Obviously. I love being endlessly frustrated every other day."

Lydia grins.

Allison smiles at him unsurely and Stiles steps in to hug her too. He swallows. "The one that got your mum – he's dead. My dad wasn't sure if it was him who did it or someone else, but."

Allison backs away and stares at him with intensity. "You're sure? They didn't release names in the Prophet –"

"Yeah. They're sure."

She takes a deep breath, her jaw clenching. "Okay."

Lydia stands next to Allison and gently rests her head on her shoulder.

His stomach growls and he winces. "I'm hungry, I am."

"I made you a plate," Scott says.

Even though there's only twenty minutes left of dinner, Stiles manages to pack away enough to need to be assisted out of the Great Hall and back to the Gryffindor dormitory.

**

On average, it takes three to seven years for a wizard to become an Animagus. According to some of the old files Stiles managed to read while sneaking around the Ministry, Harry Potter's dad and his friends managed to have it down in three years while at Hogwarts, and they were considered some of the brightest of that generation.

Stiles is beginning to wonder how anyone does it under ten years.

Half of their meets end with Stiles nearly chucking his wand across the dungeon (he accidentally scorched a corner in one of his fits) and Lydia snapping in frustration with beads of sweat on her temples.

"I don't think we've made any progress," Stiles says flatly from the floor. He's decided to make it his home for the last twenty minutes of their scheduled time.

"That can't be accurate," Lydia retorts, but also sitting down beside him. "I never thought I'd say this, but I'm finding our coursework to be more satisfying than this – at least I can see the progress and final product quickly enough."

"But that's boring and you know it," he says.

The corner of her mouth twitches. "Yes, but it's a nice reprieve from this."

He sighs looks up at the ceiling. "I can't do the next two weeks – Quidditch practice every night until the Quidditch Cup."

"I know, it's fine."

"Will you cheer for me?"

"Maybe," she says with a shrug and a teasing smile.

"What do you want to do about final exams?"

"This is still reserved – we can take a break and study for our classes?"

"Do you actually need to study?"

"No, but I'm sure you'll need help with Potions and I could work on my other side projects."

"Like what?"

"Expect internet at Hogwarts as my parting gift to the school."

"You're my favorite."

She smiles.

**

As expected, the match is a dirty one. Scott's left arm is dislocated and he's balancing on his broom precariously; Liam's nose is broken and he looks frightening as he searches for the Snitch, fiercely glaring with blood down his face and staining his robes. Stiles has a black eye, which is quickly swelling shut (courtesy of Jackson) and Kira seems to be alright, although she keeps grimacing whenever she twists her body to throw the Quaffle.

(But they've returned the damage – Stiles got their Keeper good when he spun on his broom and impressively hit a Bludger directly at the Slytherin Keeper's broom, splitting it in half, so now he's riding on a Comet 360.)

It's almost a relief when the Snitch is caught, even though it's Slytherin who wins the match.

Scott is hugging Liam, who is obviously upset. Stiles pats him on the head and nods at Scott, who is looking past Stiles' shoulder with surprise. Stiles turns around to find Lydia shoving Jackson out of her way and heading towards him.

"Are you okay?" Lydia demands.

"I saw you cheering for me," he says instead of answering her.

She inspects his eye and sighs. "I'm sorry about him – this is my fault."

"We've hated each other for years. I'm surprised it took him this long to give me a shiner."

She shakes her head. "Well, get that looked at by Madam Pomfrey." She frowns. "I'm sorry you lost."

"It's…not fine at all, but I appreciate the sentiment, I do."

"Tell Liam there are some girls in Slytherin who are interested. I'm sure that'll cheer him up."

"I'll tell him." He nods towards the cheering crowd of Slytherins. "Go on, go make merry with your House. We need to stew in our sadness and failure."

"You're full of it." She hesitates for a moment, but then she leaves him with the rest of his broken team.

"My eye fucking kills," Stiles whimpers to Scott.

"Let's all go to the Hospital Wing," Kira says. "I think I have some cracked ribs."

"What?" everyone says at once.

"But…you scored the most!"

They argue on their way to the Hospital Wing and they're temporarily distracted by their loss, which will bite them in the arse later, but Stiles thinks they'll survive it. Besides, there's always next year and he plans on fucking winning.

**

Exams go by well enough, save for Potions, of course, but that was mostly due to Scott having to miss that day of finals because of his Time Of The Month. Making up for that was Lydia taking Scott's seat next to Stiles, which was nice. Really nice. The Best.

"You're welcome," Allison singsongs by his ear in a stealth move while talking with Lydia about the exam.

After supper, Stiles visits Scott in the Hospital Wing, but Madam Pomfrey is quick to forbid Stiles from speaking about his exams.

Stiles pouts. "I'm just being chivalrous, I am. Adhering to my House's admirable qualities. Being a true Gryff –"

"Oh, stop it, Stilinski, if you want to be a true Gryffindor, then speak to Professor Longbottom."

"Just because he pulled the Sword of Gryffindor out of the Sorting Hat during the Battle of Hogwarts doesn't make him the only one who can be a true Gryffindor."

"Well, it certainly sets a standard, doesn't it?"

Stiles grumbles as Scott grins.

"Mate, I love you, but there's no way in hell you'd be able to pull the Sword of Gryffindor out of the Hat," Scott says.

Stiles sighs. "I know. I'm the worst Gryffindor, I am. I've accepted this with dignity. Hey, do you think Hogwarts would ever have trial periods for housing? Or like, 'study abroad' – you switch Houses with someone for a term or the year? That would be cool."

"What about Quidditch? Would players play for the house they're…'studying abroad' in?"

"Well, yeah, wouldn't that help with Hogwarts unity or some shit?"

"You're telling me you wouldn't mess around if you were playing on the same team as Jackson?"

Long silence. "Yeah, you're right, that's a stupid idea. Want some treacle tarts I stole from the Great Hall?"

Scott wordlessly holds out his hand.

**

While on the platform for the Hogwarts Express, Scott is snogging Allison, even though they'll end up seeing each other in a week or so, and Stiles is trying to find Lydia.

He feels a tap on his shoulder.

He whips his head and finds Lydia staring at him expectantly. "Looking for someone?"

"Not anymore," he quips.

"Just because it's summer doesn't mean we're slacking off," she states. "I think we should still try to meet as regularly as possible. Don't you think?"

"Me thinks so," Stiles agrees eagerly.

With the promise of seeing her over the summer, he's still a little surprised when she hugs him. "Don't splinch yourself – I know you'll be Apparating up and down the stairs."

"Excuse you, I passed the Apparition exam, as you well know."

She pulls back and reaches for his face, her fingertips touching his eyebrow by the corner of his right eye. "By a few hairs."

He almost gapes at her. Nobody noticed that – not the proctors and not Scott –what

"As I said, do be careful." She drops her hand, her fingers trailing a little down his cheek and she flounces away.

Scott and Allison find him standing in the same place a minute later.

"What happened?" she asks, concerned.

Scott only sighs and pats him on the back. "Come on, let's get you some cauldron cakes."

"What's wrong with him?" Allison asks, her concern morphing into disturbance.

"Nothing, he's just been Lydia Martin'd."

Allison rolls her eyes. "What did she do to get that dumb look on your face?"

"Oh, just, her smile," he stutters, not wanting to go into detail. Besides, he likes having something just for them, as corny as that is.

**

Stiles figured he would see Lydia at the end of the month at the earliest. Not three days later.

She appears behind him while he's cleaning his Jeep and he shamefully jumps a foot in the air, screeching.

"Lydia!" he gasps, bringing his hand clenching a sponge to his chest, soaking straight through his shirt. "You scared the pants off of me."

"Sorry, would've texted but this is urgent," she says. She walks forward and brings a hand to his wrist, lowering his hand and with a flick of her wand, his shirt is dry and a little warm. She furrows her brow. "Why are you washing your car without magic?"

"My baby deserves TLC after months of abandonment. What's going on?"

She blinks and she's back on track. "As I've mentioned, my father is getting married soon."

"Yes…"

"Well, I unfortunately planned on Jackson being my date at the time of the announcement. I don't really feel like spending an extended period of time with my ex-boyfriend in France."

"Are you asking me to be your escort?"

"Never say that again."

"Right, sorry."

"But I would like you to be my date, yes. I would've just taken Allison, but, well…I love her to bits, but, she's not the best when it comes to the non-magic world, not really having been exposed to it until dating Scott. I need someone who has their feet planted firmly in both of my worlds."

He hadn't really thought about what that would be like for her – growing up Muggleborn and not having close friends who really get it. Allison is one of the best people he knows, but he probably laughed for twenty minutes when she first asked Scott what a spork was.

"When is the wedding?"

She gives him her fake-charming smile. "Two weeks?"

He looks down at himself and then at her. "I need a tux."

"My thoughts exactly! My treat, we'll meet Allison at Oxford Street –"

"You just assumed I'd say yes? What if I had…banging plans that weekend? Like, a show, or a hot date?"

She narrows her eyes. "Do you have 'banging plans' on July fifth?"

"Not the point."

"Great! Is your dad home?"

"No, left for his shift an hour ago. He won't notice that I've been kidnapped by a meter-sixty-tall witch to get fitted for clothes."

"I was thinking we could visit him. Make up for the Christmas Eve party." See how he is, is left unsaid.

He didn't know she was so concerned about making a good impression on him.

The only place he's familiar with in London that he feels comfortable Apparating to is the outside visitor's entrance to the Ministry of Magic. They meet there and he's a little wobbly on his feet for his first long-distance trip.

She takes his hand with one and holds out the other for a cab. He wishes it would take them hours, but one stops in front of her after ten seconds.

He pats his pockets for Muggle money, but he only has two galleons and a handful of sickles.

Before his stomach could drop to his feet, she murmurs, "I said today was my treat. Besides, I kidnapped you." She reaches over to pat his knee.

They stop on the corner of Oxford and Regent Street. He can see Allison in front of Topshop along with –

"Traitor!" Stiles says, offended, pointing dramatically at Scott. "You said you had to babysit!"

"Look, it's just – you get weird when you clean your Jeep, I just didn't want to bear witness," Scott says, pained.

Stiles grumbles and wills his flush to go away.

They go into a shop for a rental. While he's being measured, he doesn't think he's imagining Lydia staring.

It doesn't take more than a half hour to find a respectable tuxedo for him to wear. He balks at the price, but Lydia coolly whips out a credit card with a small smile on her face.

"I still can't believe you called me a penguin. Me, a penguin," Stiles says as the exit the shop, glaring at Allison.

"Oh, come on, how you thought you'd fit in an extra tall is beyond me. You may be taller than some people," she says pointedly, Jackson's name unsaid, but obvious. He tries not to look guilty. "But you're not a giant. Now that we're done, I would like to get back to France. We were enjoying the beach."

"Traitor," Stiles repeats again, but he can't blame Scott. Although he could've just said he'd rather be on the beach with his girlfriend than watching his best friend wash his car. Which, now that he thinks about it, really doesn't sound that appealing.

"Does your dad like Starbucks? There's a bakery across the street that makes cake pops."

"What the hell is a 'cake pop'?"

"It's a guilty pleasure. I'll buy you one too."

She loops her arm through his. As they're walking, she takes out her phone to read a text and he can read Allison's name as the sender, but Lydia glances at the text quickly before shutting her phone. She's blushing.

He's not sure if his dad likes any of the specialty drinks here – he only has coffee when he's working, but prefers tea – so he just gets the simplest order and steals a few sweeteners. His dad may be a scotch/Swott Malt man, but he can have a sweet tooth.

The bakery across the street is really nice and the prices have him baffled, but Lydia buys quite a few cake pops – one in each flavor for him after the first bite because fuck, she's not kidding, it's a moist-ball of sweet goodness. On their way to the visitor's entrance to the Ministry, she drags him into a few shops to buy herself dresses, letting his dad's coffee get cold, but at one point, she hoists her purse up and murmurs into the cup. When he takes it back from her, it's piping hot.

The Ministry is always bustling, but the first week after Hogwarts is let out tends to be quieter with families taking time off to be with their children.

Stiles leads them to the lift and they get off at Level Two. Past the large oak doors, Stiles recognizes Tara leaving her cubicle. Stiles waves at her. "Hey, Tara. Did you miss me?"

"You mean did I miss catching you reading Ministry files before whacking you upside the head?" she teases. "You've gotten tall. And who's this?"

"Lydia Martin," Lydia greets her with a smile.

Tara gives him an impressed look before saying, "Your dad is in his office."

"Thanks. I promise to only break into one cabinet before I leave."

He gets hit with the stumbling curse and nearly falls on his face.

To say his dad is surprised is an understatement. "I thought you were washing your car all day."

"I'm a little concerned that this is something normal for you," Lydia says.

"We've come bearing gifts," Stiles says, ignoring both of them.

"That's…very nice of you…but why are you in London?"

"I needed a tux for Lydia's dad's wedding, which I was cordially invited to…two hours ago."

"Really." He looks at them and opens his mouth to say something before shaking his head, taking out the cake pop from the bag. "What is this?"

"Just try it, Mr. Stilinski. Your son ate three."

"I had to try all the flavors, is that really a crime?"

"This is dangerous," his dad says after visibly enjoying the first bite.

"Enjoy it because I'm making fish and steamed vegetables with a side helping of more vegetables tonight," Stiles says brightly.

His dad scowls, but Lydia looks perplexed.

"What time are you coming home?" Stiles asks.

"Probably around six, depending on the paperwork. I'll let you know if I'm late."

Stiles nods. "Alright, see you at home."

"Bye, Mr. Stilinski. I'm glad you're well."

"Thank you, Lydia." Stiles is about to argue, but his dad adds, "There's no way this was your idea and I know you forget to carry Muggle money for a month after school. Get out of here," with a smile.

"Fair, but still," Stiles mutters as they leave his office.

It's not until they're outside the phone booth does Lydia says, "I didn't know you cooked for your dad."

He blinks in surprise. "When I'm home, yeah, I try. Merlin knows what he's consuming when he's out of my watchful gaze," he jokes, but her face is serious, like she knows it's more than that. He sighs. "I just worry about his health. So I try to make him eat better."

"While you no doubt drive off and buy chips for yourself."

"I love curly ones, I do – sometimes Americans are so brilliant."

She smiles. "I like your dad. You're really lucky to have him."

"That I am."

She hugs him goodbye and he likes that this has become a constant.

"I'll pick you up from here at three. You can change at my flat."

"Do I need to bring anything else? I've never been to a wedding, actually."

"Just your sparkling personality."

"Hah, hah."

She grins and disappears with a pop. Once he's home, he begins prepping dinner while texting Scott soliloquies about the brilliance of cake pops.

**

A few minutes before Stiles plans to leave, his dad tells him he should be back by midnight.

"If you drink too much, I'd rather have you stay with Lydia and ground you for the rest of the summer than you attempting to Apparate or Floo, got it?"

"Yes, sir."

(They both seem to have their ways of protecting each other.)

His dad flicks his ear. "Go get dressed in clothes without holes in them."

Stiles does as told and changes into the nicest pair of jeans he has and his cleanest t-shirt. He double checks his wallet, which now has Muggle money in it – pounds and euros, since he's determined to be as prepared as possible – and his wand, safely tucked away.

He has a death grip on his dress shoes as he Apparates, afraid to lose them but absolutely unwilling to wear them quite yet. As promised, Lydia is waiting for him, wearing an interesting selection of clothes of mixed patterns.

"Ignore what I'm wearing – I'm just trying to get my hair to behave," she says as a greeting. She loops her arm through his. "I can bring you along. Just hold on tightly."

Before Stiles can argue, his ears are popping and he's standing in Lydia Martin's bedroom. "Impressive." He's not sure if he's commenting on her side-along Apparating, which usually takes about a year to master, or her room, which is very nice and a place he never thought he'd get to see.

"Thank you. I'm just trying to curl my hair, but you can watch telly if you'd like. Order a movie."

He puts on the telly, but he really watches her through the open bathroom door as she curls her hair with her hand, which is mesmerizing to watch. There are a slew of magic hair products on her counter, some he vaguely recognizes from his childhood when he'd sit with his mum as she'd do her makeup.

Occasionally she'll turn back to look at him and smile.

Once she's finished, she turns to him and asks, "What do you think?"

"Amazing," he blurts. "Ehm, beautiful. Really nice."

She blushes a little. "Good. It should stay this way for most of the evening."

She only shuts her bathroom door to change into her dress – it's long, soft green that goes too well with her eyes.

As she's putting on eye shadow, leaning in close to the mirror, he asks, "Why do you do some things with magic and others things by hand?"

"Magic makes hair so much easier to do and it comes out perfectly every time," she says, leaning back to look at her face, scrunching her nose, then leaning in again. "While the magic products are usually far superior in terms of color stay – I like applying it by hand. I like the process. And sometimes you can accidentally do something amazing, which wouldn't happen if I waved my wand and got the same result every time."

Stiles hums, watching her mouth part as she applies mascara. It would be so nice to kiss her, he thinks fleetingly.

"You're not bored?" she asks suddenly.

He shrugs. "I find it sort of relaxing. It's neat to see how Lydia Martin puts on her war paint."

She looks over at him with an unreadable expression.

He swallows. "And, ehm, there's nothing really interesting on the telly," he adds.

She bites her bottom lip and focuses her attention back to her reflection. After a minute, she says, "Jackson used to hate it. How long I'd take. I started solely using magic before we broke up," in a quiet voice.

He really hates Jackson.

"I mean, I'm sure if we were rushing, it might be downright annoying, but…it's part of your routine. You shouldn't…feel pressured to change it when you're with someone."

Lydia smiles, but it doesn't reach her eyes. "You haven't been in a relationship before, Stiles," she points out kindly. "Some things do have to change."

"Then maybe it's about finding someone who will complement you."

"Maybe."

Her alarm clock rings on her nightstand, scaring them both.

"Fifteen minutes until we have to go," she says, picking up a tube of lippy and quickly applying it to her mouth. Now he really wants to kiss her when she smacks her lips in the mirror. "Get dressed. We're staying at a hotel nearby and we flew in last night. We're being picked up in the lobby."

"Alright. What else do I need to know?" He unzips his tux from the garment bag and begins stripping.

"We go to school in northern Scotland – it's an advanced school, primarily renowned for their maths and sciences. Check in my nightstand closest to you, I have things you can review."

He quickly steps out of his jeans and into his trousers, feeling her eyes burning on to him. Once he's buttoned them, he goes into her nightstand pulls out printouts and even a brochure. "I never fucking knew Hogwarts had a website with all this shit," Stiles says in awe, skimming through the work. "This is incredible. Can we get shirts? Jumpers?"

She rolls her eyes. "I'm sure we can bring it up to Headmistress McGonagall and see what she has to say."

"Hey, you know what, I think she could be convinced if presented well enough. She has a lot of school spirit. We could at least convince her into having House pride clothes. I would pay to see her in a Gryffindor shirt with a cap."

Lydia snorts. "That will never happen."

He finishes getting dressed before the second alarm goes off. She's straightening out his tie and runs her hands over his shoulders.

"Perfect."

He beams. "Really?"

"Close to it, anyway," she teases, linking their arms together. "Alright, let's go –"

This time the trip is smoother – probably because it's been two weeks and she's further mastered it. They're on a random floor in the hotel and they take it down to the lobby.

"The ceremony is on land but the reception is on a boat."

He fist-pumps. "Nice. Hah, get it, Lydia? Nice, and we're in Nice."

She shakes her head. "I know we're docking well before midnight, so I'll have you home before anything turns into a pumpkin," she says, blatantly ignoring his brilliant pun.

"I do hope it'll be the shoes because I hate these."

She's still smiling even when one of the bridesmaids meets them in the lobby, not being subtle about her annoyance of having less time to get ready.

**

The ceremony is nice (hah), but boring. Stiles doesn't care about these people and he's getting a little restless. Lydia places her hand on his knee and keeps it there, which helps. But he's still grateful all the same when it's over. Lydia seems grateful too by the way she makes a beeline for the bar on the yacht.

"You okay?" Stiles asks.

Lydia finishes half her glass of champagne, but is interrupted by her aunt, whom Lydia had pointed out during the ceremony.

"Didn't your father look so happy?" her aunt sighs. "Really beautiful ceremony."

"Yes, very."

Her eyes drift to Stiles. "And who's this? What happened to Jackson?" He doesn't really like the way she seems to be judging him with her eyes.

"This is Stiles." She reaches across the small distance between them and grabs his hand. "He's one of the few people who can keep up with me. It's such a refreshing change."

Stiles is glad he's not drinking anything at the moment since he would've choked on it.

"Oh, well, that's nice. And he…goes to…your school?"

"Yes, he does," Lydia says pointedly.

Before this awkward conversation could go on further, her aunt is called away by whom Stiles assumes to be Lydia's grandparents.

She drops his hand. "Sorry," she says, finishing off the glass.

"It's fine. I said I'd be your escort," he says, his head reeling. "So, that's your aunt. She's…nice."

Lydia snorts. "She's a bitch. The fights she used to get in with my mum were spectacular during the holidays. Are you drinking with me? Let's get a drink."

He can't deny her much, so he orders a beer, taking a long pull, figuring this is going to be a long night.

**

It's exhausting, from Lydia's dad's side of the family wanting to 'catch up' with her since she's never around, to the bride attempting to make nice with Lydia for photographs. She doesn't seem like a bad person, just uncomfortable with her new husband's only child who is always away at school.

"Is this your boyfriend?" she asks eagerly, her French accent mild.

He holds out his hand. "Stiles."

"Stiles?"

"Nickname for Stilinski, my last name."

"That is quite a name. You don't go by your first?"

"Trust me, if you had my first name, you wouldn't go by it either," Stiles says emphatically.

She seems a little confused, but Lydia saves the moment by saying, "He's near the top of all our classes. Obviously not the best since that's me, but close enough."

"You're adorable." He turns his attention to the bride. "I'll have you know, I have the higher mark in English, I do," he tells the bride.

"Yes, well, that's a goal I'll have to work on next year, isn't it?" Lydia teases.

He scrunches his nose at her.

"You two are so cute! Maybe sometime before you go back to school we can have dinner with your dad!"

Lydia gives her a tight smile. "Maybe."

**

It's the Father-Daughter dance and Stiles grabs a seat at a table close to the dance floor with a fresh beer in hand, watching Lydia hesitantly approach her father. His heart hurts.

Her father is all smiles, bringing in Lydia close and smiling for pictures. Stiles can't see her face, but he's sure she looks picture-perfect. He glances at all the other pairings while drinking and thinks about this dance being outdated, somehow.

Especially since he's sure that if Lydia was to be 'given away' or dancing with a parent who is as loved as the lyrics to "Isn't She Lovely" suggest, then she'd give the honors to her mum.

He finds her through the father-daughter couples and she's in a heated discussion with her dad, judging by both of their pursed mouths when the other is listening – which are eerily identical. As soon as the song ends, Lydia gracefully walks off the floor, away from the party. Shit.

Stiles abandons his beer and weaves his way through the guests to catch up to her, which doesn't take much time since his strides are twice as long.

"Lydia?"

"We've been uninvited to dinner in August, since, apparently he's concerned about keeping our schooling a secret," Lydia says mockingly.

"Excuse him, but I was great – did you catch the English reference?" Stiles jokes.

She crosses her arms and her eyes fill with tears. She looks up at the sky to keep them at bay. "She's actually nice. I wouldn't mind getting to know her." Her hands are curling into fists and she's shaking with anger. "I just don't get it. If he's afraid I'm going to turn him into a fucking ferret then maybe I damn well should, that –"

The last thing he's ever expecting during this conversation is for her to drop her clutch and morph in front of his eyes into a cat.

They stare at each other for a moment before Stiles has a breakdown.

"Fuck, Lydia!" he hisses in Welsh in an utter panic. "You can't do this now! Fuckfuckfuck this is amazing, don't get me wrong, but fuck." He looks around him and nobody is nearby or paying attention to them, so without thinking, he picks up Lydia (so weird) and her clutch and Apparates into the (thankfully empty) bathroom he was just in fifteen minutes ago.

Lydia is struggling in his hands and she nearly scratches him. "Lydia, quit it!" He cracks open the door and nobody is in this room. Probably because it's where the gifts have been stored.

Lydia squeezes through and is running around in circles, clearly anxious.

"Lydia, you have to change back, like, five minutes ago," he demands in English, opening her clutch to find her wand. He should've expected it to be charmed to be bigger than it is, so he's almost got his entire arm inside before he finds it. "This was really inconvenient, you know." He automatically twirls her wand between his fingers as he puts it down on the floor by her. "I think you need to touch your wand –"

Her paw (still so weird) touches her wand and she's back to normal, a death grip on her wand. She's staring at her wand and then looking at Stiles. After a moment, she breaks into a triumphant grin.

"I did it!" she squeals and he smiles back, mostly out of relief, but she's so incredible for managing after a few months.

He has an armful of Lydia and her perfume is intoxicating. Just as he's about to circle his arm around her properly and breathe her in, her mouth is on his.

His reflexes are dubious at best, but right now they're working just fine as he kisses her back, one hand remaining around her waist and the other cupping her face for a better angle. His breathing is shaky, but so is hers as her tongue finds a spot behind her teeth that drives him mad. His mind is buzzing like champagne and why haven't they done this before, sooner, all the time, and it continues to fizz even when they stop to inhale, exhale.

"Wow," he exhales with a rough voice. His fingers are in her perfectly curled hair and it's so soft.

She only stays in his arms for a moment, but then she takes a step back, crossing her arms and running her tongue over her top lip, which makes his body flush hot. She only does that with him.

"Ehm, yeah," she stutters. He doesn't think he's ever heard her stutter.

She's looking anywhere but at him.

He swallows thickly and says, "Being around Lydia Martin when she makes a major accomplishment is clearly the place to be."

She finally looks at him a smiles. "No one else is around for most of them."

"I'm lucky, I am." Pause. He blinks as tries to be a professional. "You alright? What did that feel like?"

"Very…peculiar. You don't think you could possibly feel comfortable in any sort of body, but you do. We need to find the right mindset in order to transform."

"And yours at the time was, 'I need to scurry away and leave a trail of hair as I go'?" he questions, gesturing towards his labels, dusted with strawberry blonde cat hair.

She scowls at him. "I wasn't scurrying."

"You say tomato I say –"

"Shut up, Stiles."

He makes a face at her.

The tension in her shoulders fades and her smile is less forced. He opens his mouth and considers bringing it up, asking about it, but they're at her dad's wedding and she's probably feeling like shit, so he asks, "Want to share a piece of cake?"

She blinks. "Wedding cake is disgusting."

"It's still cake. I'm not being picky."

"Fine."

He motions for her to leave first. She adjusts her dress and takes out a compact, inspecting her face even though her makeup is amazingly pristine.

"You look perfect, let's go – I want a piece with a lot of frosting."

"All wedding cakes have too much frosting."

"Still. Plus I was hoping for one of those confectionery flowers."

She rolls her eyes and leads them out of the cabin, but he stops her with a hand to her wrist. "Wait, did you really threaten to transfigure your dad into a ferret?"

They laugh for the rest of the reception, which made it very difficult to eat the confectionery flowers Lydia stole from the rest of the cake that was left.

**

While everyone leaves the yacht, Lydia hugs her father and the bride – her step-mum, sort of – goodbye.

"Enjoy Capri," Lydia says. "It should be lovely."

"We'll send a postcard," the bride says enthusiastically. "And hopefully we can plan a dinner in Paris with the two of you."

Stiles looks at Lydia, who is staring at her father, who has a neutral expression.

Stiles can't helpful himself. "I'm down, I am. As long as there are no snails being served," he says.

Lydia smiles at him fondly. "We'll see if we can work something out," she says sweetly.

Now her dad is staring at Stiles and you know what, he has no qualm about keeping him happy. "Have a magical honeymoon," he says.

Lydia's hold on his hand tightens.

The bride beams. "Thank you – it was so nice to meet you, Stiles. Have a good night!"

Once they're a safe distance away, Lydia wraps an arm around his waist, slipping under his tux jacket, and pinching his side hard. "Ow!" he exclaims. "What was that for?"

"'Have a magical honeymoon?'"

"He's going to have to get over that word eventually. Might as well start sprinkling it into your vocabulary."

"You're a dolt."

"Yeah, but you like me anyway."

"Lord knows why. Or Merlin. Whichever."

"Lord and God are way easier to say than Merlin."

"You still say 'Merlin' though."

"Only really in school – hearing it more often."

Lydia checks her watch and says, "Five minutes until midnight. Your father won't ground you."

"I will continue to have freedom, yes. Well, I have to say, this evening surpassed my expectations of insanity, but I'll take it."

"I transformed," Lydia says in awe, which he doesn't think he's ever heard before.

"You did! Into a beautiful cat."

Lydia preens. "You'll have to take a picture the next time I manage without emotion surging my magic."

"I will. Now that we know your animal, I wonder what mine will be."

"I'm sure it'll be a parrot because I can't imagine you not talking in any state of being."

"Well, at least I won't leave dandruff," he retorts, pointing to his tux. There are still a few stubborn hairs on his lapels.

"There only a few of them, it's not like it was half a coat!"

"I'm sure it would've been a lot more if given more time."

"Maybe you'll be a slug."

"I sincerely doubt that."

They find an alleyway that has enough darkness for Lydia to Apparate them to her bedroom.

"Where's your mum?" Stiles asks. Smooth.

"Vacationing in Monaco. I'll be joining her tomorrow."

"Oh. Okay. Well, sleep well. Have fun gambling and…stuff."

She smiles a little. "I'll speak to you when I get back."

"Sure, no problem. Ehm, bye."

He Disapparates and feels like a moron.

**

He gets back a minute after midnight, so his dad doesn't kill him, but he gets a look all the same.

He wants to tell Scott what happened and dissect it for the next five hours, but once he's changed out of his rental, which, shit, he left his clothes at Lydia's flat with his favorite pair of trainers – whatever, he collapses onto his bed and doesn't get up.

**

Someone has Apparated in his bedroom and it's not even six, who the bloody fucking shitbag –

"Stiles, stop planning my murder."

His eyes fly open and Lydia is standing in his room with his clothes neatly folded along with his trainers.

It takes him a minute to collect his thoughts and remember English. "You didn't have to do that," he grumbles as he sits up, rubbing his eyes.

Her eyes flicker to his bare chest and then at his face. He brings the comforter up to his armpits.

She smiles at him warmly. "I know you like these disgusting trainers. I thought about setting them on fire and getting you a new pair."

"I wouldn't have been adverse to that."

"No?"

"No, as long as they're the exact same kind in your hands."

"I'll keep that in mind," she says dryly.

"So, ehm. Thanks. Safe flight?"

There's a tension that didn't exist before and he half hopes, half fears her coming closer.

"I'll speak with you soon," she says softly and leaves.

**

"Dude."

"I know."

"Dude!"

"I know!"

"There is not a good enough reason in the world for you two to be screaming at this hour!" Scott's mum yells from down the hall.

Scott winces. "Sorry, Mum!"

"Lydia and I snogged!" Stiles adds.

Silence. They hear creaking down the hallway before Scott's bedroom door opens to reveal his mum still in her nursing scrubs, her eyes slits. "What."

"She kissed him at her father's wedding. This may actually happen," Scott explains more succinctly than Stiles could at this time. Scott is bouncing a little on his bed.

Melissa is a little more awake, managing a smile. "That's great, really, Stiles. But please keep your voices down until noon. I just had a long overnight shift. And you do not want me to come back in here again," she finishes with a threatening tone.

Once she leaves, Stiles whispers, "Your mum may not be a witch, but she's still really scary."

**

Apparently, even though Stiles and Lydia are not dating, Lydia's mum doesn't believe them when they say oh we just lied at the wedding, we're just friends, we're not going to do anything in her bedroom

Lydia sighs, staring forlornly at the door half open. "Guess we're not working on our project."

"Guess not."

They stare at each other.

"Maybe we should do something outside," Lydia suggests, eyes wide.

"Sure, yeah, let's."

She takes him to the Tate Modern and they both loathe every second of it, but they have some good laughs.

**

His happiness lasts for all of two weeks until his dad finds out about the Animagi Project and confronts him after his shift at two in the morning.

It's accidental – Stiles has found himself holding his tongue a few times around his dad and he's almost used to it, but that doesn't mean everyone else is so practiced. Ronald Weasley may have been Harry Potter's second in command in that horrible war, but that doesn't mean he can hold up to Father Stilinski's glare and demands at a questionable slip up involving an innocent question regarding ‘Stiles' animal project.'

Stiles has met Ron's father – Arthur Weasley – a few times at Ministry gatherings and he's a little strange, taking a fixated interest on Stiles at one party when he was ten and he brought a Nintendo game with him that stopped working once he stepped foot in the Ministry. But beyond that, he seems nice and maybe a little bit deviant, if judging by his wife's exasperation.

So maybe Ron Weasley thoughtlessly assumed that Stiles would've said something to his own dad, since they're inevitably close.

But it all doesn't matter because his dad is furious – has never seen him so angry – and he's telling him to go to Scott's and stay there (the threat to stay away from Lydia is obvious).

It should be embarrassing at this point to burst into tears when confronted with Melissa's tired, concerned look at the door, but it happens and she's whispering comforting nonsense into his temple as she rubs his back.

"Stiles?" Scott asks, looking so much like his mum in that moment.

Melissa sends them upstairs and Stiles can hear her using the phone, calling his dad.

"He knows," Stiles says, eyes darting all around Scott's room. "He found out about Lydia and I trying to be an Animagus. I've never seen him so angry." Stiles sniffs and wipes his nose on his sleeve.

They can hear Melissa's muffled yelling. Stiles has a stash of Extendable Ears, some of which are hidden in Scott's closet, but neither bother to get them.

"I should tell Lydia I might very well be thrown into Azkaban by my dad –" Stiles starts, pulling out his phone.

"You're not going to prison," Scott says confidently. "Your dad loves you and he'll forgive you."

"Doesn't look good that a top Auror's son is going against the fucking bloody law." Stiles shudders. "He was yelling about Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew, how that fucked them all up for months after that was all revealed. That the laws were in place for a reason."

"No one's going to argue that or the fact that you tend to think of rules and some laws as guidelines," Scott says wryly. "And I probably should've tried harder to stop you, but…Stiles, you're my best friend. We're basically brothers. I know you wouldn't use it for anything bad."

And maybe that's it – maybe it's his dad fearing what Stiles could do with that unregistered ability; he's only seen it at its worst and there's no way in hell that would ever happen again, at least not with him and Scott.

"Here," Scott stands up and goes to his drawer, pulling out a thermos. "It helps me sleep when it's close to the full moon. Just have a mouthful. I think Lydia made this a little too strong."

Stiles didn't know Lydia did that for Scott.

The full moon isn't for another three weeks. Stiles doesn't really want to drink it, anxiety crawling under his skin, but Scott is looking at him expectantly and there's no fighting that face, so Stiles takes his drink and it's seconds later when he passes out. Too strong, indeed.

**

By the time he's woken up and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, Scott is telling him that Lydia is downstairs with her mum, Melissa, his dad, and Headmistress McGonagall. Allison is sitting by the closet, untangling some Extendable Ears.

"Oh, fuck," Stiles says in a croaky voice. "Think I should make a run for it?"

Scott gives him an unamused look. "Just brush your teeth and probably change out of your clothes. You drooled."

Stiles keeps a stash here – nothing very nice, just two old pairs of jeans and a worn Holyhead Harpies shirt that's probably a little too tight in the shoulders now (yes). It takes him all of two minutes to do everything, but Scott basically shoves him down the stairs.

"Unnecessary," Stiles mutters, rubbing the back of his head as he looks around the McCall kitchen table. It's beyond strange to see Headmistress McGonagall in his kitchen where half the time Stiles is in his pants.

Scott takes a seat next to his mum and Lydia's mouth is pursed in resignation. Her mum seems rather confounded, but Stiles has no idea how she even got from London to Wales in such a short amount of time. Stiles swallows, wanting to apologize, but his dad is telling him to sit down, so he takes a seat between Scott and Lydia.

Headmistress McGonagall sighs. "Alright. Mr. Stilinski, Ms. Martin. I suggest you start from the beginning."

Stiles jumps at the chance to make Lydia less involved, but Lydia seems to quickly pick up what he's trying to do and she stomps on his foot.

"Sorry, Headmistress. Stiles is attempting to be noble. It was my idea for us to do this."

"I was more than gung-ho to do it," Stiles adds.

"That's not helpful," Lydia hisses.

Headmistress McGonagall glances up at the ceiling, probably searching for strength. "I'm assuming that Ms. Martin was in charge of the potion and Mr. Stilinski was in charge of the spell work."

Stiles nods.

"And Mr. McCall, is it safe to assume you knew from the beginning?" Headmistress McGonagall inquires.

Scott winces. "For the most part, yes."

"I don't need to impress upon all three of you the seriousness of this. You're some of the most intelligent people of your Year – you're more than aware of the dangers and the reasoning behind these laws."

Lydia's mum is staring at Lydia like she's unrecognizable. "Laws?" she repeats in disbelief. Scott's mum seems grateful to have someone on the same page as her.

Lydia flushes, but says nothing.

"It's illegal to become an Animagus – that is, develop the ability to transform yourself into an animal – without the supervision and registration with the Ministry of Magic. As they all know from recent history, there has to be regulation," Stiles' dad explains, ending with a pointed look at Stiles.

Stiles blurts out, "I hate that Scott's alone doing this and I can't do shit because there's no surety that the Wolfsbane Potion is a hundred percent effective. And it's not like the Ministry is really working hard to improve anything and you know it, Dad." He looks at Headmistress McGonagall. "So I'm not really sorry about any of it. He goes, I follow, no matter what."

Lydia and Scott find his clenched fists on his thigh and rest their hands on them at the same time.

His dad pinches the bridge of his nose and sighs.

Headmistress McGonagall gives them both a rare smile. "You're sounding like a true Gryffindor, Mr. Stilinski."

"Something was bound to rub off."

"And I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that the brightest witch of this age should feel the need for a challenge," she says to Lydia.

Melissa narrows her eyes. Lydia flushes, but keeps her gaze steady. "Scott's important too."

It's probably ridiculous that Stiles settles on being in love with Lydia by her proclaiming her caring about Scott, but hey, Scott is the most important person besides his dad. The whole McCall family is.

He unclenches his fists and laces his and Lydia's fingers together. Scott looks at Stiles like he knows.

"Ms. Martin has sent me their notes and I must say, this is quite extraordinary work," Headmistress McGonagall tells his dad and her mum.

Lydia squeezes his hand.

"Lydia always was years ahead of everyone else," her mum says weakly.

"Luckily, our Minister for Magic is more than familiar with the last group of misfits who have done this behind the Ministry's back. If asked once you've left Hogwarts, you will say you were working under my direct supervision and you were selected by me and approached by me last summer." She gives them a piercing look. "Is this understood?"

They both nod frantically.

"No points will be taken from either of your Houses given the discretion. Mr. Stilinski and Ms. Martin will serve detention once a week through supervision with me so to guide the rest of the process of their transforming," Headmistress McGonagall says to everyone. She directs her attention to Stiles and Lydia. "Once you have passed your NEWTs, registration will be effective immediately. Given your career goals, Mr. Stilinski, we'll determine whether your form will be of use to the Auror Department if not publicly listed."

Stiles has to tap Lydia's leg because she's squeezing his hand so tightly that she might break a few bones.

"What about me?" Scott asks a little nervously. "I mean, I knew about it and didn't think to stop it or tell anyone." His eyes are glassy and Stiles hates when Scott hurts. Scott looks down at the table. "That was really selfish of me."

"You're not –" Stiles starts.

"Mr. McCall," Headmistress McGonagall interrupts him, "If there's one thing I have learned throughout my career at Hogwarts is that friendship is not inherently selfish." She smiles at him fondly. He's never seen that kind of look on her face and for once, she actually seems her age, which he assumes is a thousand.

Scott clenches his jaw and nods.

"Ms. Martin," Headmistress McGonagall suddenly says. "You mentioned that you've managed to transform once?"

"Yes, it was," Lydia clears her throat, "I was emotionally…stressed."

"She turned into a cat," Stiles adds. "It was pretty wicked."

Melissa blinks in surprise while Lydia's mum's mouth drops and her eyes comically widen. Lydia gives him a side glare, but the corner of her mouth is twitching.

McGonagall smiles, he's sure of it. "Once the term starts, we'll resume this work. Until then, don't try anything. Am I making myself clear?"

"Perfectly," Lydia says.

"Yep, absolutely."

"And I'm sure Ms. Argent will be trusted not to share this with any of your peers," McGonagall adds, eyes flickering to the ceiling.

After a moment of silence, there are a series of long and short beats, like Allison is hitting the floor with her hand. His dad snorts in amusement.

"Good. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to pay the Prime Minister a visit." McGonagall places a hand on his dad's shoulder before Disapparating.

"That's so unfair she knows Morse code," Stiles grumbles.

"QSL – she's saying she's acknowledging the message," Lydia explains.

"Oh, come on!" Stiles throws his hands up in the air in disbelief.

"I only know a few things, it doesn't interest me very much." She pats his leg.

Stiles swallows and looks at his dad, who is resting his head in his hands. "I'm sorry, Dad," he says. "It was admittedly one of the more reckless things I've done in my seventeen years on this planet, but I couldn't not doing anything. I really didn't need much encouragement."

"I'm sorry, too," Lydia says solemnly. "It was supposed to be an academic challenge, but," she shrugs. "I grew rather fond of them," she stares at Scott and Stiles, but lingers on Stiles. "As long as my fur remains perfect I don't see why Scott can't have more company."

Scott smiles while his mum wipes her eyes dry. "Thanks, Lydia."

Allison joins them and says, "I suppose since I was left out, I'll have to catch up after school." She smiles at them.

His dad clears his throat and stands up. "Anyone want breakfast?"

"Isn't that my line?" Melissa asks with an eyebrow raised.

"Why don't we go to the pub," Stiles suggests.

"You all can go to the pub, I'm going to bed," Melissa announces. She looks at the four of them and smiles. "I'm relieved you're all so supportive. I may not completely understand magic, but I know it's good you have each other."

Stiles drapes an arm around Scott's shoulders. Melissa heads up stairs, not before squeezing his dad's arm. She says to Lydia's mum, "If you want to talk about our kids going to magic school, which is absolutely crazy, I'm available," with her calming nurse smile that puts everyone at ease.

Lydia's mum smiles a little. "I might take you up on that."

Stiles' dad sighs and looks at the four of them. "Alright, you can't do anything illegal in the next twenty years." He reaches into his robes for his Muggle wallet, shelling out a few bills. "Here, on me."

Stiles plucks the money from his dad's hand. "Thanks."

His dad muses his hair and gives him a smile. "Alright, let's let Melissa rest. And I need to take Natalie back to London."

"I think I'm going to stay here for a little while," Lydia answers her mum's expectant gaze. "If that's alright."

Stiles has no idea if her mum really understands everything that's going on – Melissa can keep up because Scott has always known about magic because Stiles could never keep his big mouth shut, especially at six years old, and it was easy to ease Melissa into this world since Scott was making his action figures float in his room at age seven, the last bit of proof she needed that the weird shit going on around her son wasn't random.

Lydia's mum just looks like she knows the facts, but hasn't had them sink in yet.

"Okay, I'll see you later, then," Lydia's mum says, glancing at them all and lingering on Stiles before focusing back on Lydia.

Allison leads Scott out by the hand and Scott in turn grabs Stiles and Stiles takes Lydia's arm. As they all step outside, Stiles' dad casually calls out, "By the way, no Jeep for the rest of the summer."

Stiles chokes like he's been gutted in the throat. "What?!"

"We'll walk," Lydia says. "I can walk for miles in wedges," she adds.

Allison shrugs. "Let's walk, then."

So, they walk to the pub. It's almost like a double date – Scott and Allison have their arms around each other and Lydia and Stiles have been brushing their hands for the last few minutes. Stiles eventually takes hold of Lydia's hand and watches her smile brighten while conversing with Allison.

It's going to royally suck not driving his baby and he's sure that's going to sink in later today, but for now, he's pretty fucking happy.

**

The next day, Stiles gets post from a rather hyperactive owl that he wishes he could keep forever. He gives the owl some water and food and opens the letter, surprised there's a Weasley Wizard Wheezes giftcard wicked.

There's a parchment folded with it:

Stiles –

I'm SO sorry for outing you. As consolation, please accept this WWW giftcard. Again, very sorry.

Good luck with Lydia – seven is a lucky number for a reason.

- Ron

P.S. Please do not tell your dad about this – he scares me. CHEERS.

Stiles laughs a little and incinerates the parchment for good measure.

From Stiles:
Guess who received a 50 galleon giftcard to the most magical place in all the world???

From Scotty Boy <3:
What did you have to do to get a giftcard to WWW and do I have to lie to my mum?

From Stiles:
Well, technically, it was Ron Weasley who fucked us all over and this was his apology gift. They'll just have to be super secret purchases.

From Scotty Boy <3:
When is the absolute soonest we can go to WWW???

From Stiles:
2MOROW

From Scotty Boy <3:
♥ ♥ ♥

**

But before they can run off to Diagon Alley, Melissa and Stiles' dad sit them down in his kitchen and inform them that they weren't the only ones keeping a secret. Granted, theirs was much more dangerous and illegal than their parents pursuing a romantic relationship, but still.

"And why did you two decide to wait until now when we're almost out of the house," Stiles says with a shake of his head, an odd mixture of disappointment and just pure happiness. "We could've been actual brothers!"

"We could've had a bunk bed," Scott adds sadly.

Melissa and Stiles' dad share an exasperated look.

"You guys are happy though, right?" Scott asks. "Like I know we talked about it as a joke –"

"Yeah, hun, we are," Melissa says softly. She turns to Stiles. "Are you okay with this, I know –"

Stiles doesn't want her to say it. "Yeah, I mean. You – I can't imagine anyone better than you, so." He stares at his dad. "Are you okay? This is good, right?"

His dad nods.

Stiles' throat hurts and maybe his heart aches a little; he's always going to miss his mum, but Melissa is good, really good.

"Does that mean you're going to be the maid of honor?" Stiles asks Scott.

"Let's take this one step at a time, kiddo," Melissa sighs at the same time Scott says, "Obviously."

**

From Stiles Stilinski:
Llongyfarchiadau on getting Head Girl, Lydia Martin!

From Lydia Martin:
How the bloody hell did you know I got it?

From Stiles Stilinski:
Because Scott just got his in the post and I figured you must've too.

From Lydia Martin:
I could've very well not have gotten it. There were plenty of other viable candidates.

From Stiles Stilinski:
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

From Stiles Stilinski:
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

From Stiles Stilinski:
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

From Stiles Stilinski:
Really funny, Lyds.

From Lydia Martin:
You're RIDICULOUS.

From Lydia Martin:
Do you want to take me out for a celebratory drink?

From Stiles Stilinski:
Ydw when do you want me over Head Girl?

From Lydia Martin:
Give me an hour.

From Stiles Stilinski:
;D

So what if Stiles maybe spruces himself a little bit – he can dress to impress for the new Head Girl, right?

**

While they're out drinking (and yes, maybe they do drink a little more than planned), Lydia takes him back to her flat and she somehow plans their trip to Paris with her quasi step-mum over the phone. Stiles has no idea how she is managing a coherent conversation when the room is spinning

"You're free that day, right?" she asks sometime later, lying down next to him on her bed.

He doesn't remember which date she gave, but he's sure he is – it's not like he has any banging plans before heading back to school, so he nods.

She hums. "Sleep."

"Can't, need to get back," Stiles says sadly.

"Stay."

He smiles. "Trust me, Lydia, there's nothing I want more."

Her eyes are fluttering shut and he's tempted to touch her face, but he forces himself to get up. He tries to find a blanket to throw over her, but there's nothing except a stuffed bear in the corner, so he takes that and puts it by her before Disapparating.

He just hopes Jackson didn't give it to her.

**

Stiles wakes up at the crack of dawn to find Lydia by his bedside, gently placing the stuffed Golden Snidget he got ages ago from his parents that he still keeps on his desk.

The sun is in his eyes and he can't see her face really well, but he thinks she's smiling. "I thought I'd return the favor," she says softly.

He rubs his eyes and smiles.

"A Golden Snidget, though, really?"

"Granddad was a Seeker. Tell you the story when I can think in English better," Stiles croaks.

"Say something in Welsh," she requests softly.

Stiles may not be as brilliant as Lydia, but he's smart enough to know not to say anything too revealing, like a movie cliché.

"Rydych yn ‘n bert," he says. Maybe it's still too honest to even tell her that she's pretty, but it's not like she doesn't know anyway.

She smiles. "Diolch."

He exhales slowly, his limbs still heavy and his eyelids fluttering shut.

"Is your dad home?" she asks softly.

It takes him a moment to get his mind in order to answer her. "No – work."

She wordlessly maneuvers herself onto his bed to rest along the free half of his bed. They fall asleep together, at least that's what he gathers when he wakes up a few hours later and Lydia is still in his bed and surprisingly, it's almost normal. A good normal. Really good.

She moves a little closer towards him in her sleep.

The best, honestly.

**

He thinks about talking about it with Scott, this love thing, but Scott and Allison were essentially love at first sight at eleven and sure, they broke up last summer, but, that wasn't meant to be forever – everyone knew that.

It was essentially love at first sight for Stiles with Lydia, but it wasn't reciprocated and it really wasn't love, not in the way he understands it now. It's different and hard to explain, but can at least rely on Scott's shoulder to be there for his head when he just wants to rest, and maybe be held a little.

**

If there's one thing Stiles learns during dinner with Lydia, her dad and her quasi step-mum is that wine makes everything easier and better.

Lydia's cheeks are flushed and she smiles brightly at Stiles without reserve. He considers holding her hand under the table, but he's not drunk enough to work up the nerve to do so.

The dishes are left in the sink and everyone is taking turns yawning into their last glasses of wine.

"I've made up the guest room for you two," her step-mum says.

"For Lydia," her dad corrects her. "Stiles, you'll be sleeping on the couch."

Lydia narrows her eyes and begins speaking in French, which is all kinds of hot, and the three of them almost seem like a family, the way they bicker. Stiles finishes off the rest of his drink.

Lydia sighs, "Fine," in English. "Good night, Stiles," she says, placing a hand on his shoulder and leaning in and kissing his cheek.

He smiles after her until she closes the door of the guestroom behind her. When he focuses back on the table, her step-mum is smiling at him fondly. "I'll get you a pillow and some blankets," she says.

**

Stiles is not used to city noises at one in the morning.

He's used to the suburbs – he's used to it being silent at night. There's also the matter of this couch not being quite long enough to house his entire body.

He sighs and rubs his eyes, standing up and nearly falling back over, lightheaded. He treads to the kitchen and searches through a few cabinets until he finds glasses. He slowly takes out his wand from the pocket of his pajama trousers, muttering Aguamenti into the glass.

(He likes his own water – it doesn't make him a snob.)

He puts his wand away and shuffles back to the living room, deciding to go out onto the balcony. He's as quiet as he can be unlocking the doors and shutting them behind him. He exhales deeply and looks down over the edge, watching cars and bikes go by. He considers texting Lydia to meet him outside, but the door opens behind him and he nearly drops his glass over the railing in surprise.

"Sorry, didn't mean to startle you," Lydia's dad says. He's wearing a robe that looks very expensive and holding a highball glass with scotch.

Stiles shakes his head. "It's fine."

"Couldn't sleep?"

"Nah, not used to the city noise. Cardiff is very quiet," Stiles answers. He takes a long drink from his water, feeling painfully sober.

"I've never been to Wales."

"You're not missing much, sir. We're a small, but proud country."

Her dad hums and sips at his drink. "Are you like Lydia?" he asks abruptly.

Stiles blinks a few times. "What do you mean?"

"I mean – did you…find out the same way we did?"

Oh. Stiles swallows and then clears his throat. "Ehm, no, I always knew. My parents – my dad always knew. My mum grew up like Lydia, not knowing. So I grew up with both," he explains, finishing off the rest of his water. He eyes her dad's glass.

Her dad nods, looking out at the cityscape.

"Y'know, I'm sure Lydia would be more than happy to answer these questions," Stiles adds quietly.

Her dad's jaw clenches before he downs half of his glass.

He hates looking at her father and seeing his own during those dark years when a bottle of scotch was his dad's bedmate. "You won't find the answers at the bottom of that glass, I can tell you that much," Stiles says a little too sharply.

He looks away, not wanting to see her dad's reaction.

After a few moments of tense silence, her dad says, "You're not really dating my daughter."

Stiles stops breathing.

"I may not seem like ‘father of the year' to you, but I do see her on holidays. I've met Jackson a few times. I know her. And I know guys like you."

Stiles shakes his head. "You don't know me."

"I know you fancy yourself in love with her."

Stiles wants to say a lot of things. He wants to say that he would die for the people he loves and that list is exclusive, that he'd kill without hesitation for them. That he doesn't love easily like Scott does. Maybe that's why it hurts more than it probably should.

He wants to say that her dad doesn't know Lydia, not if he thinks seeing her a few times every year is enough.

But he swallows it down and just asks, "Do you want some water?"

Her dad furrows his brow. "What?"

Stiles holds out his hand expectantly.

Her dad hesitantly gives Stiles his glass.

Stiles reaches into his pocket and slowly draws out his wand. Her dad noticeably flinches. "No wand is alike," Stiles explains, ignoring her dad. "Mine is eleven inches, made of mahogany with a dragon heartstring core. It's good for Transfiguration – turning things into other things." He points his wand into the glass. "Aguamenti," he whispers. He would laugh at her dad taking a few steps back into the wall if it weren't so sad.

He holds the glass out to her dad, but he doesn't take it. Stiles sighs, tilts the glass into his own mouth, but grimaces. "Ych a fi," he coughs. "Leftover scotch," he says, unceremoniously dumping the rest of the water over the balcony. He refills it again and sips it tentatively. "Much better." He hands it to him. "It's not poison," he adds.

Her dad gives him a look, but slowly, very slowly, steps forward and takes the glass. It takes him another minute to bring it to his mouth.

"Huh. It's better than my filtered water," her dad admits with surprise.

Stiles grins.

**

After they say their goodbyes and they're a block away, Lydia says, "I heard you and my dad last night."

"…Extendable Ears?"

"You and Scott have way too many."

"You can never have too many."

She tries to smile, but it's forced.

"I wasn't prepared for his asking questions," he says, looking down at the sidewalk.

"I know you weren't."

"He was hitting a few nerves. I'm sorry."

"Don't apologize," she says, biting her bottom lip. "I'm sorry he talked like that to you. And you were right."

"About what?"

She grabs his arm to stop him. She looks at him with fierce eyes. "He doesn't know you."

He can only nod. "He doesn't know you," he says back.

There's probably more to say, but they leave it at that.

**

Stiles has snuck out of his house and is heading towards Scott's house, but he bumps into Scott halfway through his yard. Since it's a relatively warm night, they lay in the grass and stare at the stars.

They don't talk a lot, but then again, they don't really have to.

**

So here they are – Stiles, Scott, Allison, and Lydia – standing at Platform 9¾, heading to Hogwarts for the last time.

"This is sad," Allison says softly.

Stiles' throat tightens and he nods.

Lydia's eye look suspiciously bright when she says, "Well, Scott and I have to go up front. Save us a good booth, yes?"

They haven't had a discussion yet about whatever they are, but Stiles can wait.

Besides, she's wearing the earrings that were his Christmas gift and she's looped her arm with Scott's as they head towards the front of the train.

Allison grabs him by his sleeve. "Let's go."

**

Isaac comes up to Scott and Stiles after the Great Feast and says without warning, "I know what happens to Scott every month. I figured it out over the summer."

Scott looks like a deer in the headlights and Stiles is ready to pull Isaac under one of the tables and silence him.

"I don't care, obviously," he continues, not caring about either of their reactions, "I just wanted you to know that it doesn't matter to me. You're still one of my best friends," he says to Scott.

Stiles would be touched except he still hates Isaac. But at least Scott is happy, which is what's important. He lets them have their stupid hug and when they're done, Isaac says to Stiles, "You have food on your cloak."

"Alright, we need to get back to our dorm," Stiles grumbles as he wipes off some crumbs from the pastries he consumed.

Scott just laughs and wraps an arm around Stiles' waist. "C'mon, butt. I'll give you the last cauldron cake."

**

It's not as fun having clandestine meetings with Headmistress McGonagall supervising them. Granted, they're learning things a lot more quickly with the guidance, but he misses taking breaks and having random conversations with Lydia.

At the end of their third lesson, they're walking so closely that their hands keep occasionally brushing. "This kind of sucks now that it's above board," Stiles sighs.

"I did enjoy the forbidden nature of it. But you have to admit, this does make our project a little more directed and structured."

"Yeah, it's boring."

She swallows and doesn't say anything.

He really misses her, more than anything. They haven't seen each other without other people being present – in the Great Hall, in classes, now these lessons with the Headmistress –

"Well, I'll see you tomorrow," she says.

Right. They've reached the end of the corridor and have to go their separate ways.

"Yeah, ehm, right." He smiles at her and starts to walk away until he hears:

"Stiles."

He stops and turns around and Lydia hasn't moved. There's probably some sort of symbolism in her conflicted expression and the split of the corridor in front of her.

He holds his breath, waiting, but she ends up saying, "Never mind. See you at breakfast."

And she goes down her corridor.

He stares at her retreating figure until she's out of sight, very confused.

**

At lunch the next day (he overslept and missed breakfast), he heads for the Hufflepuff table and shoves a Second Year down the bench so he can sit next to Allison.

"Sorry about him, he forgets his manners," Allison says to the Second Year, who is stuffing his face with a roll, already forgotten. "What's up with you, weirdo?" she asks.

"Okay, I'm not the weirdo right now. Well, whatever. Lydia is acting like the weirdo."

She blinks. "Okay."

"I mean, ever since we got back, with McGonagall and everything – it's been weird. And I actually don't think it's me."

Her eyes flicker to the Slytherin table then back at Stiles. "Maybe you should confront her."

"Maybe," he sighs.

Allison smiles at him and begins filling his plate with all his favorites. "It's not about your project. It stopped being about that since Christmas. So get that nasty little thought out of your head. You're both different people from last year. Now I forgot, do you actually like meat pies, or do you disgustingly pick at it?"

"Mushy carrots are not natural."

"Okay, no meat pie for you. I'm not watching that."

He smiles at her. "Thanks, Allison. I'm sorry about not –"

She shakes her head. "Don't. It's – I understand. I don't know if I was in the right place for anything like that a year ago." She curls her hair behind her ear. It's starting to grow out. "Besides, it was a nice opportunity for you two to actually see each other the way I see you. I was always rooting for it, but that's need to know."

"Oh, Ally A, I wouldn't give Scott up for any random bum."

She shakes her head and spears a piece of her meat pie. "I know you'd have polygamy if you could."

"Don't worry, I'd leave the bedroom stuff to you –"

"Even when you get cold?" she asks innocently.

"Maybe we can alternate. Or we could get a large bed and share – Scott could be in the middle."

"No, thanks, I'd rather alternate." She sighs. "Alright, we're changing this topic since I'm uncomfortable about participating in it like it's a possible reality."

"You'd have to pry my marriage status with Scott out of my cold, dead hands."

It takes her a moment to remember Facebook. He's sure soon enough she'll be a natural in both worlds. "You keep the marriage status and I get profile picture."

"Fine."

"Alright. So, did you actually start Harris' assignment yet, or are you risking it?"

"I've always been a risk taker."

**

Lydia manages to consistently transform the last two weeks of November. Which is fantastic, despite the awkward hug the first time she managed to do it since July.

Actually, that was quite terrible, he wants to hold her for way longer and not have McGonagall standing there, clearing her throat awkwardly after two seconds and he wants

(He wants a lot of things, too many things – he wants his mum alive and present before she got sick; he wants to turn back time and save Scott from being bitten; he wants to be better at Potions just so Harris can get off his fucking back. He wants Lydia to look him in the eye and be comfortable the way she was when they were sharing the same bed. Rwyf am, rwyf am, rwyf am. The only difference is that he's comes to terms that most of these things can't change – only they, this can.)

**

"Hey, Lydia?"

"Hmm?"

"How's that – your plan to bring the internet to Hogwarts?"

She sighs. "Difficult. Probably worse than this project. You think you have all the security measures, and then you discover more. It's exhausting."

"Put it away, Martin, you're so loving it," Stiles jokes with a laugh.

She squints her eyes at him but smiles. "Alright, fine, yes."

"Are you working in our old space?"

"Of course. I see the scorch marks on the stone and think of you fondly." Her eyes soften and she tucks her upper lip.

"I miss you," he admits, his throat tight and his hands fisted in his robes.

She nods, shrugging her shoulders helplessly. "I don't know…" she exhales in amusement. "You've become one of my best friends. I don't –"

"I know it's not easy, Lydia."

She crosses her arms.

"You know about my mum – I don't tell people about her because wizards always say that Muggle illnesses are weak. That she must've been weak. Nobody knows that but Scott. You know about my panic attacks, you helped me through one, and…you know shit about me that nobody else knows about."

She bites her bottom lip and nods. "Yeah."

"And I like to think I know you a little bit too."

"You know too much, to be honest."

"Not enough, really."

She stares at him intently.

He shrugs. "There's always more to learn. I mean, do you think you know everything about me?"

She swallows. "No."

"Okay, then. So, we'll learn more," he concludes, a little confused but mostly hopeful that they'll stop being weird

"There's an area where we're severely lacking knowledge in," she says, taking a step closer.

Oh. "And what's that?"

"You're terrible at playing dumb," she points out, but she's still getting close enough that their chests are brushing.

"There are worst things to be terrible at."

"Like your paying attention in Potions?"

"Okay, yes –"

"And your singing – you're a little tone-deaf."

"Okay –"

"And –"

"Alright, I get it, I do," he interrupts her. He swallows. "You know what they say, Lydia."

"Who says what?"

"Once is chance, twice is coincidence, three times is a pattern." He wets his bottom lip. "Are you willing to make this a pattern?"

She raises an eyebrow. "Dwi'n barod."

His eyes widen.

"Beth amdanoch chi?"

(What about you – like that's even a question.)

His brain is still short-circuiting, but he does manage to say, "Yeah, I'm ready."

Hopefully in future occasions where there will be snogging, he will be more prepared at first, but after the first second or so, he forgets about it and just reacquaints himself with her mouth and how her face feels between his hands.

**

Stiles is walking with Scott down the corridor to the Great Hall for breakfast and he sees Lydia walking with Allison, heading in the same direction. While they snogged for quite a while and did confirm they were to meet that night to work on the Internet Project, he didn't ask about labels

Allison and Scott greet each other with a peck and Stiles and Lydia stare at each other.

He plans on speaking a complete sentence, preferably in English, but he ends up just saying, "Girlfriend?" in an awkwardly choked voice.

Lydia looks at him like he's grown an extra head. That's dumber than the one he has. "Boyfriend?" She tilts her head to the side.

"Yes!"

She purses her mouth, trying very hard not to smile.

"Did you two actually confirm being in a relationship in three words?" Allison asks, confused, but clearly thrilled.

Scott is gaping.

"I'm going to pretend you asked me to be your girlfriend as a proper question and I gave a proper, affirmative response," Lydia says, taking Stiles' hand. "I'll deign myself at the Gryffindor table for today. But the rest of the week I'm going over OWLs questions with Fifth Years, so you'll have to bear without me."

"Okay."

"You could always help."

"Do you really think I'll have the patience for that? Who do you think I am?"

"Fair point."

**

It gets about the school rather quickly that Lydia and Stiles are now involved in a romantic relationship. Most people seem to take it in stride, except Jackson, who just stares. It's creepy.

He thinks about asking Lydia about it – if he has to take precautions in his dorm, but he forgets whenever she pulls him in for a kiss or smiles at him. Absolutely absurd, but he'll forgive himself – he's a bit in love, after all.

**

Once Stiles gets his head out of his arse, he sends a letter to his dad about the change in relationship status, to which he gets the response ‘I knew there was something happening,' which isn't what he was hoping for, but there's also, ‘I'm happy for you,' which is much better.

The best is getting post from Ron Weasley two weeks later with a singing card that keeps howling CONGRATULATIONS, which is very annoying, but there's another giftcard, so he's pretty thrilled.

**

When Stiles finally manages to transform for the first time the month before the Christmas holiday, he may or may not fall to his knees and make a war cry once he changes back.

McGonagall is staring at him, unimpressed, and Lydia has her face in her hands.

"…Well done, Stilinski," McGonagall finally says after a few moments of awkward silence.

Stiles clears his throat and gets to his feet. "That was quite the positive development in our study –"

"You can stop talking, Stiles," Lydia says.

"Right." He clears his throat again. "So! What was I? I think I was a dog of sorts," he asks eagerly.

McGonagall and Lydia glance at each other. "We're not sure," Lydia says first.

"We're unfamiliar with the exact breed," McGonagall adds.

"Well…did I look ferocious? Like I could rip a man's throat out?"

Lydia rolls her eyes. "I don't know about that."

McGonagall quickly excuses them, muttering something about needing to retire, and ushers them out.

"You totally know what I turned into," Stiles accuses her once they're a safe distance away from her office.

"Okay, fine, yes, I do, I just figured that you should get all your reactions out of your system and not further embarrass yourself in front of the Headmistress."

"You really do care about me."

She gives him a flat look. "Do you want to know or not?"

"I want to know, I do."

Her eyes flick to the ceiling and she shakes her head. "A dingo," she says, like it pains her.

"…A what?"

"A dingo. They're from Australia – they're wild dogs."

"A dingo. I'm a dingo?"

"Yes."

"Dingo ate my baby? That dingo?"

"This is why I withheld," she sighs.

"The dingo ate my baby – I'm the dingo, I am!"

"Get it all out while you can."

"The dingo ate my baby."

"Yes, you ate the baby."

"I'm the dingo who ate the baby."

Lydia suddenly laughs, head thrown back and she slaps a hand to her mouth to muffle it. She turns her head and rests her forehead against his arm, still laughing. In shock, he says, "I don't think I've ever heard you laugh that much."

"You're such a muppet," she says, pulling back. She has tears of laughter in her eyes. "And yet I'm a little in love with you, I am," she teases.

His smile fades a little. "What?"

She steps in front of him and straightens his tie. "Have you finished all your work?"

"Yeah, why?"

She gently tugs on his tie. "Come along, then."

She leads him to the Slytherin dorms and she signed out their old dungeon. It's really rather romantic, it is. He tries to tell her as much, but it's one of those instances where he's not prepared for snogging and he ends up going with it.

"Rwy'n dy garu di," he says in between kisses, her hands in his hair and his hands on the bare skin of her waist, having slipped under her untucked shirt.

"Little formal, isn't it?" she gasps.

"Thought it appropriate," he murmurs against her neck. He drags his lips down to her collarbone. "How would you say I love you, then?"

"Isn't it –" she stops, distracted as he further unbuttons her top. "Fi'n caru ti?"

"How are you learning Welsh, by the way?" He finally gets off that offensive garment and runs a finger along the lacy edge of her bra. "I doubt there are books lying abo –oh fy duw –" he pants when she unbuckles his belt and slips a hand past his trousers and pants.

"Listened to you and Scott. Your little lessons were helpful too," she answers casually, like having her hand around him isn't killing him.

"Okay, I can't –"

"Gorau prinder, prinder geiriau," she recites. The best shortage is a shortage of words – a fucking Welsh proverb – she's proper lush.

He kisses her properly to hush her. They can discuss her acquiring of the Welsh language in more detail later. In the meantime, he'd like to come and also make Lydia come a few times – he's rather fascinated by the concept of girls being able to have multiple orgasms back to back. Since sex and experiments are typically used for these spaces, he'd like to be able to do both simultaneously. He's got that Slytherin drive. That rising ambition, if you will. His Gryffindor sword –

Stiles laughs while he's pushing up her skirt to reveal her pretty knickers.

"What could you possibly be laughing at right now?" Lydia asks, frustrated, gasping as his fingers dance along her hip.

"Dick jokes, pretty much," he admits, fingers curling into her knickers.

She groans. "You're such an idiot. Please focus your attention on something more productive."

He drops his head onto her stomach and laughs harder.

Her stomach clenches under him and her body shakes with suppressed laughter. "This is not funny! I want to get off!"

"We can absolutely do that – w-with –" he laughs again, unable to finish his joke.

Now she doesn't bother to smother her laughter. "What is so funny??"

"W-with my Gryffindor sword," Stiles blurts out, tears escaping his eyes.

"That's so stupid," she says, but she's still in hysterics.

He likes watching her back arch, how she throws her head back and laughs with her whole body. He pulls himself together first, mostly because he's distracted by the soft skin of her hips and how her knickers slide off so easily and eventually, as he kisses his way up her inner thighs, she stops laughing too.

**

"Stiles, that's not going to work," Lydia sighs. "Think of it like bandwidth - that small amount of space is not going to be enough when a thousand plus students are all trying to get on Facebook at the same time after classes. It'll take way too long."

Stiles groans, his fingers resting on her knee tapping incessantly in thought. "What if we moved the opening every hour? I'm sure there's a formulation to make it random."

"Possible, but McGonagall will never allow that kind of a lapse in defense. Also, that's going to annoy everyone to death to have interrupted connections."

"It's better than nothing."

"You'll be raging about it too," she says knowingly with a teasing glint.

He loves when she adapts some Welsh slang.

"Fine."

His fingers slip to the inside of her thigh as they read through old texts on home defenses. It's not like they can have access to Hogwarts' defense spells - that's some high level security information that students wouldn't have access to willy-nilly.

"Hey, maybe you can take advantage of your nice pen pal Hermione Weasley," Stiles thinks out loud. "I'm sure she has some specs."

"Stiles?" Lydia says lightly.

"Hmmm?"

"Your hand?"

He looks at her face, which is pink, very pink, and oh, yeah, his hand has migrated north. He immediately removes it, face flushing and maybe his dick is a little interested, but they're in the library and there's no way –

"I didn't say you had to move," Lydia comments off-handedly.

Stiles freezes before slowly checking his surroundings. They have this aisle to themselves, and there's about forty minutes until the library closes and Madam Pince doesn't do her rounds for another ten minutes –

"Stiles. That was an invitation."

"What?"

She sighs impatiently. "Look, it's been almost three weeks."

It's true – it's hard to find time when there are still lessons with McGonagall and Lydia's Head Girl shifts and his Quidditch practices, and –

"Alright, ehm –"

She scoffs. "Just go back to researching – you were doing just fine before."

He scrunches his nose at her, but does as he's told. He brings his hand back to her knee, automatically slipping up her leg a little, taking time to feel her soft skin under his fingertips. He reads one of the parchments on the development of the Shield Charm.

He's never been one for split-focusing, so he stops reading as soon as his hand squeezes up her thigh, his fingers gently pressing her inner thigh, trying to spread her legs apart. In his peripheral, he can see Lydia sit back in her chair, which creaks in protest, and pulls it closer to the table, her legs spreading just a little.

He tries to keep his breathing even as his eyes wander aimlessly around the page, his hand inching higher up her thigh, her skirt bunching awkwardly over his wrist. He encourages her to spread her legs apart a little more so he can pass his thumb over her through her underwear, which are the nice, satin kind – it's like she fucking planned it, somehow.

Now he's really determined.

He moves lightly and slowly, working up a rhythm of dragging pressure. Her breathing is a little irregular, but that's not what he's looking for. He bends his wrist to get more room and slips a finger under her underwear, sliding up against her skin where she's just starting to get wet towards her clit.

She whimpers from the back of her throat and his collar is too tight and hot and his face is warm. He may not have had as much experience with sex as Lydia, but he fancies himself a quick study. At least when it comes to her.

She shifts so he doesn't have to bend his arm as awkwardly to slip his fingers over her. He's dizzy by how wet she is and he can't even think about looking up to see if anyone is passing by. He's sure this looks painfully obvious, even with the pounds of black fabric that make up their cloaks.

He twists his hand to slip a finger inside her and there's that noise again that he's obsessed with. While he's aroused how can he not be? it's not enough to get him hard; he's still a little too self-conscious about being in public, but Lydia seems to have no issue regarding their location as he presses inside her.

"Stiles," she hisses as his finger crooks up and his thumb rubs against her clit.

He finally chances a glance at her. Her cheeks are flushed and she's looking up at the ceiling, and huh, her quill has snapped in half, when did that happen? He adds a second finger and she tries to roll her hips to meet him, but it's difficult with the angle she's sitting. He does his best to touch her clit and move, but he hasn't quite mastered that dexterity with his fingers. So he makes do and focuses on pressing into her, fingers curled up and the heel of his hand hard against her clit.

A pair of students pass by at the end of the row he can't even tell how old they are or their gender, but it inspires him to move faster, fuck into her harder. Her legs spread indecently wide to accommodate him better and it's such an obscene image his hand between her legs under the table.

He leans in close and says something in her ear he doesn't know if he says her name or something absolutely filthy in Welsh, but she comes around his fingers. She squeezes her thighs together around his hand and wrist, and moves a hand down to her lap to keep him there as she rides it out, trying to keep her breathing deep and even through her nose. Finally, she relaxes back into her chair and opens her legs a little, allowing him to pull out.

"You freaked out when people walked by, didn't you?" she asks, sitting up straight and crossing her legs, only the deep pink of her cheeks giving herself away.

"Yeah, hurried it up a bit," he says with a rough voice.

"Hm."

"Sorry if that was unacceptable," he says sarcastically.

"Oh no, it was quite alright," she teases. "Besides, they weren't paying attention - they were too busy talking about Harry and Ginny Potter being pregnant with their third child."

"Wait – what? How how were you even ?"

She leans in and kisses his cheek. "Don't worry, that was the last thing I heard."

He grumbles and in that moment, Madam Pince walks by and informs them that the library is closing in a half hour.

He smiles smugly. "Aren't you glad I didn't drag it out?"

"You owe me a new quill," she responds as she begins collecting her belongings.

"That's not happening before this term ends because I'm down to my last three and I usually end up taking at least two of Scott's and one of Allison's before the end."

She rolls her eyes.

"Hey, this is not the attitude I expected for acquiescing to your request to make you come in the library," he says lowly.

"Oh, don't worry, you'll end up owing me by the time I'm done with you next time," she answers offhandedly and he has to stay seated for an extra minute or so before his cock calms down.

**

She's so bloody fucking right.

**

A week before exams, Stiles and Lydia are sitting in the Great Hall at the Hufflepuff table, waiting for Scott and Allison to join them. He's trying to cram for the Potions exam and she is quickly going through their Charms review.

"Hey, we really need to go through Potions," Allison says in lieu of a greeting as she sits across from Lydia.

"Yes, I agree," Stiles says without looking up.

"Okay, fine, but Defense Against the Dark Arts " Scott starts.

"Scott, are you kidding? You were the first person to get the Patronus Charm in class," Stiles scoffs, looking up just to roll his eyes at him. "Pick another subject."

"I wouldn't mind going through it," Allison says.

"We'll do Potions, Transfiguration, Defense, Charms, then Herbology. Scott and I will worth on Arithmancy and Stiles and Allison will work on Alchemy," Lydia announces, not glancing up from her work.

"You take Alchemy too," Stiles points out.

"I'll catch what you two are discussing."

Stiles sighs and shrugs his shoulders. "Alright. Then once that's done, Operation Bring Internet to the Poor Folks at Hogwarts can be continued."

"I'm still waiting on my dad to send me his research – he's coding it just in case," Allison says. "It might be another few days."

"I thought of another plan that involved Derek's hut as a signal point," Scott adds.

"Wait, we need to talk about this right now let's change the agenda," Stiles pleads to Lydia.

She sighs and shakes her head, leaning a little into his side. "Alright, fine, fifteen minutes and then it's studying."

"Bendigedig," he exclaims happily.

Allison furrows her brow.

"Fantastic," Scott explains to her.

"It's a mess of a language," Lydia adds.

"Says the person who is now fluent in said language," Stiles drawls.

She uses the feathery side of her quill to poke him in the face. "You're eating into your fifteen minutes."

"Alright, let's go," he says quickly.

They all lean forward and begin.