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Indulgent

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Len and Mick have at least thirteen stories about how they met. None of them are accurate, but all of them are more believable than the truth, which is that they met in the Hogwarts library, of all places.

It was two days into Len’s first year, Mick’s second; Mick’s looking for a place to hide away until after curfew because the teachers have taken to loitering around the door to the Hufflepuff common room (you light the Whomping Willow on fire one time and people get so antsy about everything – it’s not like anyone liked that tree, anyway, and it had the beneficial result of Mick getting the reputation of being willing to fight anything, which was true) when he runs across this bony little first year pouring over a book that’s larger than he is and at least thirty times as old.

Mick doesn’t have much time for nerds, but that book is a freaking tome, and Mick’s a little curious to know what the hell a Slytherin first year is looking up at the risk of breaking curfew two days into their first term.

“What’s that?” he asks.

Len squints up at him. “Law book,” he says.

Not what Mick would have guessed.

Law?” he says, disappointed. So the kid’s just a nerd after all. He’d been hoping for some really interesting curses. “Like, Hogwarts the History but on speed?”

The kid rolls his eyes. “I need to know what the law is before I risk breaking it,” he says. “And I don’t know what the penalties for theft are in the wizarding world. I was two inches away from being thrown into juvie if the teach hadn’t shown up and Oblivated the cops. I’m not risking anything like that happening here until I can make an adequate risk-benefit analysis.”

“You’re Muggleborn?” Mick asks, wondering what ‘juvie’ was. That’s gotta suck for a Slyth.

“Half,” the kid replies absently, looking back at his book.

“They say what the penalty for breaking curfew is in there?” Mick jokes. “’cause you’re about to.”

“Actually…” the kid flips back a few pages, runs a long, thin finger down the side of a page. “Hmmm…here. ‘Nor shalt ye impose unwont barriers or restrictions, being in kind perdifidous and malagrugrous; forsooth ye natural nocturnal perambulations of youth is most beneficial in the growth of ye magickal arts –’”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“Basically,” the kid says, wrinkling his nose. “It’s illegal for them to impose a curfew on anyone under the age of 18 in Hogwarts outside of a public crisis of some sort. At least until this law gets repealed, which as far as I can tell, it hasn’t been – of course, it also hasn’t been cited in 280 years…”

Mick stares at the kid for a second before bursting out laughing. “Okay,” he says with a grin. “I like you. You can stick with me.”

The kid sniffs. “You’re kidding, right?” he says. “You can stick around with me.”

Two days later, Mick ends up raiding the Slytherin common room to rescue Len from a gang of fourth year assholes using his fists instead of his wand like a “proper wizard” should, and that’s the story most people know about.

------------------------------

“Okay,” Lisa said, perched on a gargoyle with her Charms textbook opened up on its head. “I gotta ask. How the hell did you make prefect? Was it bribery? Tell me it was bribery. Or blackmail! What teacher do you have sexy photos of?”

“It wasn’t bribery, and I’m just gonna pretend the second half of what you just said didn’t come out of your mouth, because gross,” Mick bitched, head in Len’s lap as he practiced lighting fires with a snap of his fingers instead of a wave of his wand. “Anyway, I wasn’t even involved. It just happened.”

Len hummed and sketched something out on the map that was floating in front of him.

Both Mick and Lisa immediately stopped what they were doing and turned their eyes on Len. They knew that oh-so-innocent-and-carefully-noncommittal hum.

“Lenny,” Mick says, his voice rumbling low and dangerous. “You wouldn’t happen to know how I got picked prefect, now would you?”

“I can only imagine that your House recognized your many positive traits,” Len said peaceably.

He was definitely up to something.

“Positive traits like lighting the curtains on fire three times a week?” Mick said doubtfully.

“Consistency of effort is one of your House’s core traits, Mick.”

“Or like beating people up when they piss him off?” Lisa chimes in.

“He doesn’t have much call for beating up Hufflepuffs,” Len points out, making another mark on the map. “And everyone likes to see other Houses get crushed under one’s own House’s bootheel – how else do you explain the popularity of Quiddich?”

“You are an uneducated heretic,” Mick informed him with the lazy confidence of someone who had grown up on a broom and was regularly sought after to join the Quiddich team when he wasn’t on academic probation (again). “But seriously. My grades are shit –”

“Everyone knows you kept behind a year on purpose, Mick.”

“–the teachers think I’m a menace to society –”

“You kind of are, Mick,” Lisa said thoughtfully.

“–I literally hate the idea of hard work –”

“Actually, I find that on subjects you enjoy – money, fire, that sort of thing – you’re really quite willing to put in the effort.”

“–and seriously, Snart, who did you blackmail?”

Len mock-pouts at him. “I don’t even get the courtesy of being assumed to have bribed people?” he asked.

“Lenny!” Lisa whines. “Tell us!”

“I didn’t bribe anyone,” Len drawls. “I just happened to mention to a number of people that Hufflepuff has a long and storied tradition of electing prefects rather than having them be appointed by the teachers, due to its fondness for teamwork and democracy and other such terribly non-hierarchical concepts. They presented the teachers with a fait accompli.”

“But why?” Mick asks, absolutely bemused. That makes even less sense than the idea of Len blackmailing a teacher into appointing him.

Len’s lips twitch. “I may – may have –” he allows. “–pointed out the benefits of having the biggest, scariest motherfucker on your side when it comes to laying down the law against the other Houses.”

“I can’t believe you,” Mick says, closing his eyes.

“You should be a politician when you graduate, Lenny,” Lisa piped up. “Have you considered world domination as a new hobby?”

“No, really, I can’t believe you,” Mick said, opening his eyes again and pinning Len with an upside-down glare. “You don’t do anything without a reason. What’s the reason here?”

Len looks down at him and smirks. “Two words, Mick,” he drawls. “Private. Room.

“Does that mean we’ll have a place to stash all our loot?” Lisa asks, all cheerful eleven-year-old glee.

“Yeah,” Mick says, staring up at a smirking Len, his lips gone dry. “Yeah, that’s exactly what it means.”

---------------------------

Len has been adopted by a gaggle of students determined to ensure that he pass his NEWTs. Mick personally finds this hilarious.

For the first week.

Okay, okay, the first two weeks.

…maybe three.

Len’s expressions were consistently amazing – somewhere between bemused, harassed, enchanted (because Len’s soft spot for kids is less of a spot and more of a soft gooey center that encompasses his entire being), and just plain old trepidation, because somehow he’s become the constant babysitter for the worst (best?) group of kids in the entire school.

…more than he already was, anyway.

It’s Lisa’s fault, of course. She was the one who decided she was starting a cross-House club (in honor Len and Mick’s partnership, of course) devoted to causing trouble. Officially, of course, it was a chemistry club, because it had taken Len all of a month his first year to figure out “Oh, it’s a Muggle thing!” was basically the magic spell that made teachers abruptly lose interest in what you were doing, because it was very bad form to be coming down on diversity and pro-Muggle tolerances after the Troubles, but honestly most of them had last interacted with the Muggle world (if at all) several decades back and were willing to accept the weirdest things if you use enough bizarre Muggle words to explain it.

Len had given Lisa the idea for the cover and she’d petitioned to use a classroom for her club; it was supposed to be just the three of them that first day, because Lisa hadn’t actually advertised the club to anyone yet (she’d had some thoughts about making people do ridiculous things to join) when Cisco Ramon had burst into the room with puppy dog eyes and a “Thank god, science! Sweet, sweet, glorious science!”

They’d all stared at him.

“This…is the chemistry club, isn’t it?” he’d asked, faltering a little. Trailing behind him were Caitlin Snow (another Ravenclaw) and their Gryffindor friends, Barry Allen and Iris West.

Lisa and Mick looked at Len, who had looked back at them, then sighed and sat up from where he’d been draped over the teacher’s desk. “Okay, kiddies,” he’d drawled. “You can be considered for the club, but first you must answer me these questions three.”

Cisco nodded eagerly, but then again, he was a Ravenclaw.

“What is your name?”

“Uh, Cisco Ramon? I’m a Ravenclaw first year, and I’m a Muggleborn, and this is Cait and Iris and Barry, and–”

Len held up a hand to stop him.

What,” Len said, drawing the word out, “is your quest?”

Barry whooped loudly, then coughed when everyone turned to look at him.

“What?” he said defensively. “Monty Python!”

“Ohmigod, you’re totally right!” Cisco exclaimed. Caitlin and Iris had that familiar expression of polite pureblood bemusement. Cisco spun around, put his hands on his hips and declared, “Our quest is to join the chemistry club!”

Lisa was giggling. Mick crossed his arms and tried to look intimidating to balance her out, because he’d been forced to endure the Snart siblings’ taste in movies before and he knew exactly what was going on.

Len nodded solemnly, his deadpan expression not flickering once. “What…” his eyes narrowed. “…is the name of the best Star Trek captain?”

Cisco made a sound like he’d been stabbed. Barry looked like his puppy had been run over.

Lisa fell out of her chair laughing.

“But, but, but,” Cisco said, waving his hands.

Len’s cold façade finally cracked and he smirked. “You can join,” he said magnanimously. “That was the correct answer. I can’t stand purists.”

“Oh thank god,” Barry said. “My mom was a huge Kirk fangirl, but my dad always liked Picard, and when I was six I was totally sure it was Janeway and neither of them would talk to me for like a week so I’m never answering that question again.”

Mick wondered if the kid actually required oxygen and also if he always talked like a demented squirrel high on Pepper Up Potion, or if this was a stand-out incident. He had the sinking feeling it wasn't.

“Our first mission,” Lisa said, grinning, “is figuring out how to play movies inside Hogwarts. We’ve been going out to the dead spot at top of the Astronomy Tower to watch them so far, and I don’t know who’s been more annoyed – the people who we have to kick out because they’re kissing too loudly, or us when we’ve been interrupted twelve times by people looking for a make-out spot.”

“You are a queen amongst witches,” Cisco said very sincerely.

Barry nodded eagerly. “You have no idea how much I’ve missed TV,” he said effusively. “Uh, not that I’m not grateful to your dad and you for taking me into your house at Hogsmeade after the whole, uh, thing, Iris, but, man, television. I miss television. You don’t understand; it’s been like withdrawal. I miss my Saturday morning cartoons so bad.”

Iris shrugged. “Dad doesn’t really get Muggle stuff,” she admitted freely. “Shall we get started?”

Ever since then, Len had been the unofficial guardian of his little band of ne’er-do-wells – or, as Lisa had started calling them, the Rogues. They’d added in Cisco’s Ravenclaw Nemesis, Hartley Rathaway (pureblood as all hell but whose hearing problem could only be solved with Muggle-style hearing aids that his parents disdained, so he had a personal interest), plus two new first years, Jax and Wally, that had gravitated towards their club after they’d declared that their semester project was figuring out the type of magic that could be used to really soup up a racecar.

And then, somehow, halfway through their third year, the professors had gotten to them and convinced them that they ought to make Len passing his NEWTs their newest mission.

Mick personally blamed Professor Wells. He was sneaky enough. Ravenclaws.

Len hadn’t studied at all for his OWLs; he’d only sat them in the first place on a dare.

Mick could’ve predicted how that had turned out (anyone who’d ever seen Len draw blueprints from memory could’ve guessed how his Arithmancy score would look) and then suddenly all the asshole teachers who nodded to each other in hallways, whispering about that “poor Snart boy” and how sad it was that he was doomed to end up nowhere good doing nothing useful, all of them were suddenly all agog to claim credit for the kid who’d hit a record score without studying and wanted him to “make something” of himself.

And they’d recruited Lisa and her Rogues to do it, too.

Mick was all in favor of Len getting the respect he deserved, but between Iris’ uncanny ability to be everywhere, Cisco’s increasingly off-the-wall inventions that needed immediate supervision lest they explode, Jax and Wally wanting advice, Caitlin’s well-meant regular check-ins and book suggestions, and the fact that Mick honestly believed that Barry’s Animagus form was a lightning bolt, he and Len hadn’t had a second to themselves for weeks.

Neither of them was going to be the one to explain why they needed some uninterrupted “private time” to a bunch of thirteen year olds who almost certainly already knew why, so it was actually a giant game of social embarrassment chicken that he and Len kept losing.

Len was starting to look murderous.

“Have you considered a thesis project?” Caitlin asks cheerfully from where she’s got another three books – seriously, the library has got to be almost out by now. “Arithmancy is your specialty, of course, but your scores in Transfiguration are nearly as high; you could do something with that.”

“I’ve been working on something already, Cait,” Len says, his voice long-suffering. Not as long-suffering as Mick, because every free minute Len doesn’t spend surrounded by the kiddies he spends on some sort of secret project. Which had better be a thesis project, because if it turns out Len’s been ditching him for anything less than that, he’s going to…well, he doesn’t know what he’s going to do, but it’ll involve sulking and fire.

“But a thesis could be very useful when applying for jobs,” Caitlin says, eyes big and wide. “You’re a seventh year, Lenny, you have to think about your future.”

Len looks a second away from bashing his head into the desk when suddenly he brightens. “You know what, Cait,” he says. “You’re right.”

“I…am?” she says, her eyes narrowing. Caitlin’s a bit gullible, but she’s learned enough in the last few years to know that you should never trust Len about anything when he's being agreeable.

“Yep, you’re right,” Len says, nodding seriously. “I just need to finish up my other project and I’ll be able to turn to doing a thesis just like you want me to, but unfortunately, I’ve been so busy with all my classes, it’s taking longer than I expected.” He puts on a tragic face. “If only there was a way I could convince my teachers that I was attending classes for a whole day, I could finish it up, no problem.”

Caitlin frowns a little. “Well,” she says dubiously. “I think we still have some leftover Polyjuice that we made for Cisco’s centrifuge and Barry’s wide spectrum chemical analysis last week…”

“You know, that’s a great idea! I think that just might work,” Len says in such a bright and cheery voice that Mick has no doubt this was what he was going for the whole time. “Do you think you could recruit the rest of the Rogues to be in on it? Obviously we don’t want any of you to miss a whole day of classes, so maybe you could take turns?”

Caitlin thought about it. “And you promise you’ll do a thesis project afterwards?” she says.

Mick caught Len’s eye over Caitlin’s head and nodded frantically.

“Sure, I promise,” Len says, the expression on his face saying that he’s almost certainly going to regret it later. Caitlin brightens up and practically skips out of the room.

“So I should plan on skipping class tomorrow, is that what I’m hearing?” Mick drawled, smirking at Len.

Len made a face.

That was not a “yay, let’s do this!” face.

That was definitely not the right type of face.

“Len…” Mick says warningly.

Len winces.

Lenny…”

“I really do need the day off,” Len says apologetically. “I promise I’ll ditch them and ward the doors; we’ll have all evening, okay?”

“You keep saying you’ll do that and you never do,” Mick says, crossing his arms and glaring. What’s the point of having a private room with soundproof walls if you don’t use it on a regular basis? “You’re too worried about Lisa needing something in the middle of the night.”

“I promise I’ll actually lock her out this time,” Len says. “One more day, okay?”

Mick huffs and stomps off.

He dutifully attends class the next day, if only because as smart as the Rogues are, they’re still not seventh years, and while Len’s reputation for being a cold jackass is strong enough to make most teachers not call on him, total silence might be a bit suspicious and this way he can sneak answers to them in notes. Plus, teachers have this tendency to get worried whenever they see Len or Mick without the other.

It’s actually pretty interesting; he can tell which kid is impersonating Len – Cisco seems to think that Len struts everywhere, Iris spends a lot of time poking at herself and trying out bad pick-up lines from the other side (they work because, well, let’s be real, most girls aren’t paying attention to what’s coming out of Lenny’s mouth anyway), Caitlin actually pays attention in class, and Barry is basically a little Energizer bunny no matter what body he’s wearing (so. weird. Not Len at all) and it’s so weird to see Len kick ass and take names at flying class. Not that Len’s not a good flyer – he’s excellent – but he never really puts in the effort around other people, so Barry’s really making a name for him here.

When Mick gets back to his room, he fully expects – most likely scenario as opposed to best case scenario – for Len to be there with an apology and an excuse. Worst case scenario, same thing, but no Len and there’s a note.

When the painting opens up, Len’s sitting on the bed, so things are already on the good side. Mick is not appeased, though. “So, what’s the problem this time?” he asks archly. “Got another study session to go to?”

“Nope,” Len says. “My evening’s all clear, and I’ve told the Rogues to buzz off.”

“Even Lisa?” Mick says doubtfully, but he’s starting to hope that tonight’s not going to be a total loss.

It looks like it pains Len to say as much, but he nods. “Yep, even Lisa.” He holds up one of his Arithmancy wards and spells it onto the door. It’s a good, strong lock; even a group of mischievous thirteen year geniuses would have trouble breaking in.

Now that’s the sort of thing Mick likes to see.

“You know,” he says, pulling off his robes and yanking off his tie. “It’s been so long since we’ve had any time together, I think I’ve almost forgotten what to do next.”

Len sniggers. “Hopefully not,” he says, but he’s not making any move to get undressed. “Uh, before we start…”

“What now?” Mick’s whining. He knows he’s whining. He doesn’t care. Shame is for people who are actually getting laid.

“I got you something,” Len mutters.

Mick blinks. “What’s that now?”

“I got you something,” Len says, eyes fixed on the floor and a flush starting to fill his cheeks.

Mick’s got a right to be surprised; Len’s never “got” him a proper gift before – little things, sure, lighters he could steal or candy from Honeydukes, or things he could make himself, heists that were things of beauty or spells custom-made or dug out of some dusty old tome to do just what Mick’s been wanting – and Mick’s never minded, he knows how Len’s dad takes away any money he manages to earn and what’s left is used up on Lisa; knows how Len has turned poverty into a point of pride in an attempt to salvage something of his dignity. So for Len to say he got Mick something, and to very clearly mean a gift…

Mick grins, very effectively distracted. “What is it?” he asks, rocking up and down on his heels. Present! He already knows he’s going to love it; Len’s never given a bad gift in his life.

Len pulls out a large box from under the bed and toes it over to Mick.

Mick opens it up and gapes.

Dragonhide – a warm green jacket in the style of a Muggle fireman’s suit with the sleek, tightly-knit scale-like hide of a Romanian Longhorn, glistening gloves and boots made of the Hebridean Black while the tough looking trousers, built with pocket upon pocket, are clearly drawn from the Ukrainian Ironbelly. Mick runs his hands over the outfit dreamily; he can feel the fire-repulsing spells woven in thick under the surface layer, enhancing the already fireproof skin a hundred times over. He could stand in the middle of a conflagration in this and watch it go; a bomb could fall straight on his head and he’d come out the other side without a flinch.

“This must’ve cost an arm and a leg, Lenny,” he says, awed.

“Maybe a few more body parts than that,” Len admitted, hands twitching a little. “Seriously, don’t ask. I’ve been saving up for it since fourth year.”

Fourth year was the Fire Incident Of Which They Do Not Speak.

Mick reluctantly puts the box down on the ground. He could probably spend all night looking over his new acquisitions, but – well.

They’ve got a locked door, no pesky kids, and his partner just got him an anniversary present.

He’s got better things to do.