augustbird: (Default)
[personal profile] augustbird
Title: straight on til morning
Fandom: The Pacific
Rating: R
Word Count: 29,344
Characters/Pairing: Ack Ack/Hillbilly
Summary: In 1936, Edward Jones attends the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry Potter AU
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters--they are based off of the actors' portrayals of characters in HBO's The Pacific, not the real people themselves. Absolutely no disrespect is intended.
Author's Note: I have this tendency where I think "oh hey, that's a cool idea, I think I'll write 2k words about it before returning to the things I should actually be doing!" and end up vomiting 30k words into a word document. But considering this has happened twice now for Ack Ack and Hillbilly, I'm honestly not sure if it's just me or the sheer perfection of these two characters. This fic is entirely the fault of [profile] chargasm--if she hadn't encouraged me to take a second look at it, it definitely wouldn't have been written. <333 This fic also wouldn't have been possible without [profile] softshinythings who graciously allowed me to keyboardsmash at her throughout the painful week that it took me to write this. I have no idea how many times I whined about how much story there was to write. Massive amounts of love to [personal profile] skew_whiff and [profile] skylilies for all of their support. <3 This was written for Team Pacific in HBO War-A-Thon.


“This is right, isn’t it?” his mum asks, looking up at the column, “What did the innkeeper say again?”

“He said to walk right through it,” Eddie says, feeling uncertain.

His dad steps in front of the trolley and knocks on the brick, “It feels pretty solid to me, son.”

“Let me try,” his sister Susan pipes up, pushing past their dad’s legs. She doesn’t even hesitate, just runs forward—and disappears.

“That was incredible,” Eddie’s brother Kenneth says from behind him.

“Well,” Eddie says as he steels himself. He glances from his mum to his dad before breaking into a run with the trolley. He can’t help but close his eyes and flinch away as he expects the impact—and it culminates with crashing his trolley into some hapless victim on the other side.

“Sorry!” Eddie says, hurrying around the side to offer a hand, “Sorry, I didn’t see you.”

“Don’t worry about it,” the other boy says, pushing himself back onto his feet. He’s wearing a cloak and Eddie can’t help but stare—it hasn’t fully registered that he’s going to learn how to become a wizard. The other boy dusts of his robes and smiles at Eddie—which is really more than Eddie expected after running into him with his luggage.

“I’m Andy,” the boy says, offering his hand.

“Eddie,” Eddie replies, “Nice to meet you.”

Andy looks over Eddie’s shoulder where his family is coming through the wall, “First year?”

“Yeah,” Eddie says, feeling a spike of panic. Is it that obvious?

“I’ll help you take your luggage up,” Andy says.

“Oh,” Eddie says, “I mean—you don’t have to.”

“No big deal,” Andy says with another smile, “I’m already settled in.”

“Hello,” Eddie’s dad says to Andy, “Are you a student too?”

“Yes sir.”

“Making friends already,” Eddie mum says, putting her arm around Eddie’s shoulder, “Eddie, you’re going to have a great time.”

“Yes, yes,” Eddie says, edging away and glancing at Andy. Andy makes eye contact and grins like he knows exactly what Eddie’s thinking. “I’ve got to get on the train mum, I’ll write you all the time.”

“Are you going to be posting it or using one of those owls?” his mum asks and Eddie wishes desperately that she would stop talking.

“Are you going to write me too?” Susan asks Eddie.

“Can you really fly on broomsticks?” Kenneth asks Andy.

“Sure can,” Andy says at the same time that Eddie says, “I will write everyone.”

“I’m going to miss you, Eddie,” his mum says, pulling him towards her. Eddie hugs her back.

“I’ll miss you too mum.”

“Write us when you get there,” his dad says, clapping him on the back.

“All right,” Eddie says and he hefts one of his trunks off the trolley. True to his word, Andy grabs the other one and fires off a salute to Eddie’s father. Eddie tries not to feel envious at the ease with which the other boy handles the luggage.

“Are you a first year too?” Eddie asks they lug the trunks from the platform onto the train.

“Second year, actually.”

“What house are you in?”

“Hufflepuff. I love it but you’d be really well off in any house, really.”

“How do they choose which house you’re in?”

Andy grins at him, “What have you heard?”

“Am I going to—” Eddie gestures vaguely, “—have to use magic or something? Because truth be told, I’m really new at this stuff. I haven’t really had a chance to try anything except in the wand shop—”

“Relax, Eddie,” Andy says, “Nothing like that. I promise you won’t have to do magic.”

“I’m muggleborn,” Eddie says and feels stupid for saying it. His entire family had practically been shouting it out on the platform.

“A lot of us are,” Andy says, “Some of the best students at Hogwarts are muggleborn.”

“Oh,” Eddie says and looks quickly at Andy’s face to see if Andy thinks he’s as stupid as he sounds.

“You should sit with us,” Andy says, “I’m sure Everett would love you scare you into regretting you ever came to Hogwarts. Hell, he might even have some good advice for you by accident.”

“Alright,” Eddie says and tries not to sound too desperate. Andy grins at him.

___________


“Not too bad was it?” someone whispers behind him. Eddie whips around and the parchment he’s been trying to flatten rolls up again.

“Hello Andy,” Eddie greets.

“What’re you—oh Binns is making you write papers already?”

“Fifteen centimeters on the founding of Hogwarts. There’s something mesmerizing about Professor Binns’s voice. I can barely stay awake.”

“Don’t fight it,” Andy advises and takes the seat across from him, “Read the textbook instead. Binns doesn’t teach you anything except how to stare at a wall for two hours. I might say Hogwarts, A History would be better for this assignment though.”

“Thank you,” Eddie says and immediately sorts through his stack of books to see if he has Hogwarts, A History.

“How’s your first week been?” Andy asks, “How do you like your house?”

“I like it,” Eddie says, “I like Gryffindor too.”

“Are you going to try out for the quidditch team?”

Eddie fidgets with the parchment, “I’m uh, not really sure what that is.”

“Eddie,” Andy says, suddenly very serious, “You’ve never been on a broom before, have you?”

“Ah,” Eddie says.

Andy reaches out and rolls up Eddie’s parchment neatly, capping his quill with an efficient movement, “You need to come with me right now.”

Eddie packs his bookbag and sets aside the books he took from the shelves. Andy hefts it onto his shoulder when Eddie moves to put the books back and grabs Eddie’s wrist, pulling him towards the door, “You’ve finished your quota in the library for a week, come on.”

___________


“It’s a Cleansweep Three,” Andy tells Eddie, “It’s the latest model. It rides like a dream.”

To Eddie, the broom looks like a sleeker version of the broom his mum uses to sweep out the porch—but the tone in Andy’s voice tells him that they’re in two completely different leagues. Andy looks up at Eddie and grins, “I’ll show you how to do it first and then you have to try.”

“Alright,” Eddie agrees, dropping his bookbag onto the field. Andy swings his leg over the broom and kicks off in a smooth motion. The broom rises into the air slowly—and then Andy leans forward and the broom shoots forward. Eddie shields his eyes and watches Andy lean from side to side to control the turn and pull up on his body to come to a halt. Andy handles the broom like a natural.

“You play quidditch, don’t you?” Eddie asks as Andy touches down and dismounts.

“I’m trying out for beater,” Andrew agrees, and laughs at the confusion that must be showing on Eddie’s face, “It’s okay, I’ll tell you how everything works later. Right now, you have to try flying.”

He hands his broom over to Eddie who looks down at it and hesitates for a moment before throwing his leg over. He’s never been too terrified of heights but the thought of being twenty feet in the air on a normally inanimate object is giving him second thoughts.

“Promise you’ll love it,” Andy tells him. Eddie kicks off and the broom rises into the air. He leans forward a little bit and the broom accelerates. Eddie grins and leans forward more and the broom is tearing across the field. He hears a whoop from below. He does two shaky laps around where Andy is standing and almost crashes on his landing when he comes down too fast. Andy grins and helps him up.

“I’ll have to practice more,” Eddie says, handing Andy back his broom.

“I’ll lend you my broom. It’s better than the Silver Arrows the school uses.”

Eddie grins and picks up his bookbag. Andy shoulders his broom and grins back at Eddie as they head towards the castle.

___________


Eddie doesn’t know how Andy manages to find time to track him down to go flying a few evenings every week. When he passes Andy in the hallways, the other boy is always surrounded by friends in his own year but he always manages a smile and a nod for Eddie. Eddie has his own friends in Gryffindor too, but there’s something different about the friendship he has with Andy—something exotic about having a friend both a year older and in a different house.

“Quidditch season is starting up,” Andy whispers by way of greeting when he finds Eddie in his usual spot in the library, “Are you busy?”

Eddie closes his book, “Thank god you’re here.”

Andy grins and waits for Eddie to pack up, “You’ve learned levitating spells, right?”

“Hypothetically.”

“Let’s put it to the test,” Andy whispers and flashes Madam Wike the librarian a winning smile as she rounds the corner and frowns at them.

Fifteen minutes later, Eddie has barely managed to levitate small rocks to the height that Andy needs, much less the heavy wooden imitation-bludgers that Andy brought out. Andy had started out swooping over him in the air calling out encouragement but now he’s on the ground with his own wand out and occasionally correcting Eddie’s grip.

“No wonder I’ve been doing terribly in Charms,” Eddie mutters, letting Andy rearrange his grip slightly for the third time.

“No problem,” Andy says, “I couldn’t figure out how to hold it correctly until after the winter holidays first year and I had the advantage of growing up with magic my whole life.”

“You’re just saying that to make me feel better.”

Andy grins, “Is it working?”

“A little,” Eddie admits and flicks his wand at a stone on the ground, “Wingardium Leviosa.” The stone lifts into the air and hovers at a respectable height. Eddie follows it with his eyes before flicking his wand again and the pebble shoots off.

“Ready to try it on the bludgers?” Andy asks, hefting his bat.

___________


Sometime around Halloween Andy tells him how to get into the Hufflepuff basement through the barrels next to the kitchen and he laughs when Eddie relays the story of being doused in vinegar on his first failed attempt. He tries again the next day and finds Andy watering the plants in the common room. “Nobody else does it,” Andy offers as an excuse when he sees Eddie and finishes watering the purple flowers that giggle. Eddie’s had Herbology for almost three months and he’s still weirded out by moving plants.

“I hear we’re playing you in two weeks,” Eddie replies, eyes still on the potted flowers, “I’m not sure who to support.”

“You might get lynched if you support Hufflepuff in your stands,” Andy says, “I’d be touched but worried.”

“Who says I’d support Hufflepuff for you?” Eddie asks and Andy throws a pillow at hm.

___________


Andy,

I said I’d write over Christmas holidays so here I am. Things are going alright. My sister is a bit angry this Christmas because we’re not really celebrating this year. I didn’t realize how much Hogwarts tuition cost and the harvest wasn’t so good this fall. I spend most of the day exercising the horses and chopping wood since my brother got a job at the aeroplane factory. He’ll probably be back for Christmas though. We’ll have a dinner at least.
I hope your holiday has been going well.

Eddie

_____


Eddie,

I’m really sorry to hear about your holidays! What does your sister like? Maybe I can find something at Diagon Alley so Christmas isn’t a complete bust for her?
My holidays have been good. My mum keeps making me try her new recipes. I think she’s been bored. My sister graduated this year and I’ve been away at Hogwarts and my dad travels for the ministry. I fly a lot whenever my mum isn’t trying to stuff me full of food.
What is an aeroplane? Truth be told, I don’t know much about muggle things. You should teach me.

Andy

_____


Andy,

It’s okay, don’t worry about it. It’s nothing we haven’t dealt with before. She’s gotten over it before and she’ll get over it again. Thank you for offering though.
What has she been making? We eat with the seasons so it’s been a lot of potatoes and turnips right now. My mum makes a really great bread though, I’ll bring some when we get back so you can try it.
An aeroplane is this machine that allows us to fly in the air. It’s kind of like an automobile with wings but bigger. I don’t really know how it works and I’ve never been on one of them but I guess it’s the muggle equivalent of a broom. Have you ever heard of a television? I see them in the stores now. They’re like moving pictures I guess all pictures for you are moving, huh?
I’m sorry it’s not much but I enclosed one of my favorite books. I hope you like it. Happy Christmas Andy.

Eddie

_____


Eddie,

I started reading your gift! It’s great! I don’t know what some of the muggle things it talks about is about but half the fun is trying to figure it out from the context. I also really like reading your notes in the margins. Sherlock Holmes is a really interesting character. He reminds me a bit of this character from this wizarding book I read but I can’t remember his name. Bugger.
My mom has really been into pastries this winter. She just set down a blackberry and powdered sugar tart in front of me for tea. I’m afraid you might have to roll me across the platform come the beginning of the school year. Sometimes her baking is really good and sometimes you just have to pretend that it’s really good but either way I eat it all.
I would really like to see one of these aeroplane things! And also a television. I showed my sister the front cover of your book and she was confused why they didn’t move.
I’ll see you in a week! I have your Christmas present.

Andy


___________


“You’ll be alright?” Eddie’s mother asks for the fifth time, “Write home if anything happens, alright?”

“Hogwarts isn’t exactly dangerous,” Eddie replies absently, “I’ll be okay, mum.” He’s looking for a familiar face to appear on the platform.

“When can I go to Hogwarts?” Susan asks, hanging off the bar of his trolley.

“Maybe you’ll get a letter too,” Eddie replies just before spotting the line of Andy’s shoulders in the crowd. He’s talking to a group of Hufflepuffs, two of whom Eddie recognizes as part of their quidditch team. Andy must have said something funny because they laugh. Eddie smiles and looks back at his mum.

“Maybe we should get you an owl,” his mum says, “That way you can write home more often.”

“The school owls are okay, mum.”

“Hello,” Andy says as he approaches them, “Hi Mrs. Jones, hi Susan.”

“Hello Andy,” Eddie says.

Andy looks at him and he grins and says, “Hi Eddie.”

Eddie doesn’t know why but his chest feels tight and he grins back.

___________


The snow is still melting from the mountains and draining into the Great Lake when Andy decides that Eddie should accompany him on a run around the castle every morning. Eddie knows he’s in good shape but he has trouble keeping up with the pace of the other boy.

“You can’t possibly be this fast by flying a broom all the time,” Eddie says as they go for a cooldown lap around the quidditch pitch, “No offense but flying looks like a lot of sitting down on a broom to me.”

“Ouch,” Andy says, a little winded, “He goes in right for the kill.”

“But seriously.”

Andy turns his head to look at Eddie, “I’ve done a run every morning since last year. I like the quiet when no one else is out here. It lets me think about stuff.”

Eddie doesn’t know what to say at first, and then he can’t help but ask, “But you invited me…?”

“You know when to be quiet,” Andy replies, looking forward again, “And I like all of my other friends but the same can’t always be said about them.”

Eddie doesn’t say anything after that but he feels pleased.

___________


Eddie looks down at his watch and frowns. It’s nearly six o’clock and he’s sure that there was something that he had to do at six. He bends over his essay and scrawls another sentence on the medical uses of Singing Poppies when he remembers.

Five minutes later he’s walking briskly through the Hufflepuff common room—it’s a testament to how often he shows up that none of the Hufflepuffs even give him a second glance—and knocking on Andy’s door. He hears shuffling from inside and then Andy opens the door with an ink splotch on his cheek and smears across his right elbow.

“Puddlemere United,” Eddie says and Andy curses as he caps his quill and immediately starts rummaging in his trunk.

“You look like you’re losing the battle here,” Eddie says, looking at the crumpled papers on Andy’s desk.

“I’ll win the war, no doubt,” Andy replies and emerges with a miniature model of a quidditch field. He sets it on his bed and taps it with his want. Eddie closes the dormitory door and climbs onto the bed. Andy grins as the figures on the scaled model comes to life and raucous cheering fills the room.

“You aren’t busy, are you?” Eddie asks belatedly.

“Shh,” Andy says, looking intently at where the tiny brown-robed chasers are circling the tiny pitch, “Quidditch, Eddie.”

___________


It’s his eighth hour of studying and the longest that Eddie has ever stared at a book. Eddie gave up struggling through the material with the first year Gryffindors and left with promises to report back on what he learned from Andy. He’s holed up in a corner of the library with Andy and Everett and he’s ready to put his head down on his Transfiguration textbook and take a nap.

Andy taps the side of his head when he gives in to the urge and whispers, “Come on Eddie, up and at them.”

“Half an hour,” Eddie whispers back, “Or until dinnertime. Whichever one comes faster.”

“I could go for some food right now,” Everett says, finishing the sentence that he’s writing. Eddie learned the art of handwriting size from Everett—making it large to take up more space but small enough to not make his intentions obvious.

“I’ll walk you back to Gryffindor Tower if you want to sleep after dinner,” Andy says to Eddie.

“No, I need to study,” Eddie sits up, “I’ll come with you guys.”

“Alright,” Andy says as they start gathering their stuff.

Eddie stops briefly at the Gryffindor table to pass on advice that Andy suggested for the Charms final before taking a seat next to Andy at the Hufflepuff table. The boy sitting on the other side of him glances up and offers a polite smile before immersing himself back in his Herbology textbook.

He spends most of dinner mentally repeating Transfiguration theory to himself and staring blankly into space. He barely notices when Andy eyes his empty plate and starts adding food. After a while, Andy leans toward him and says quietly, “You okay, Eddie?”

“I’m good.”

“You’ve barely eaten anything.”

Eddie looks down at his plate, “Oh.” And then, “I just want to do really well on these exams. My parents are paying a lot for me to come here.”

“Eat,” Andy says.

Eddie stops drawing designs in his mashed potatoes and eats a forkful.

“You’re gonna be great,” Andy says, pressing his arm against Eddie’s, “You’re the smartest first year I know. You don’t have anything to worry about.”

___________


E,
If I sent you a broom this summer, would you try out for the Gryffindor team next year?
A

_____


A,
Where would I practice?
E
PS. My mum loves Artemis and won’t stop feeding her biscuits every time she arrives. I hope that’s okay with you.

_____


E,
Come to Bournemouth.
Send me some biscuits too.
A

_____


A,
I have to help my dad with the fields most days though. Can’t wait to learn how to Apparate.
I hope you like these biscuits. My mum made them.
E

_____


E,
The biscuits were delicious. My mum requests the recipe if that would be okay with your mum.
Do you need any help? Mum’s trying to stuff me full of baked goods again.
A

_____


A,
I think we’re almost done for the summer. Sometimes I feel like farming is a lot of waiting with short periods of really hard work.
My mum wrote a letter along with the recipe so they’re both in the attached envelope.
Also, I just finished reading this book and thought that maybe you’d like it too.
E

_____


E,
Just came back from France. I read the book on the train and really liked it.
My mum insisted on sending these glass flowers. I don’t know. I hope your mum likes them.
Also I’m sending you a broom because I can. See you soon!
A


___________


The package arrives the day before Eddie has to start packing: it’s a brand new Cleansweep Three. Susan actually gets to it first and tears apart the brown wrapping paper before Eddie comes in from the stables so he finds it on the living room floor.

“It doesn’t work,” Susan tells Eddie from the top of the stairs as he turns it over in his hands. He thought Andy was kidding.

“How do you make it fly?” Susan asks as she walks down the stairs.

Eddie looks up at her and grins. He doesn’t even mind that she opened it without his permission and grabs her hand, “Come on.”

There’s a clearing in the woods far away from their closest neighbors and he helps his sister up when she stumbles over the tree roots. He briefly thinks about the underage magic laws but the thrill of having a broom of his own is too much.

“Okay,” he tells Susan as he lets go of her hand and throws a leg over the broom, “Watch.”

She folds her hands behind her and rocks on the balls of her feet. Eddie grins and spirals lazily into the air. He’s had months of experience on Andy’s broom and this one rides just as smooth.

“Oh!” she cries, clapping her hands, “Eddie, can I try?”

He does a quick circle around the clearing before touching down onto the grass and dismounting. “Promise to be careful?” He doesn’t know what possesses him to agree, but he can’t help but grin at the expression on Susan’s face.

“I promise,” she says.

“Promise not to go too high?”

“I promise,” she repeats, holding her hand out for the broom.

Eddie hesitates but he hands the broom over, “Be careful.”

“I said I would,” she says and gets onto the broom slowly. She kicks off from the ground and even though she barely levitates a meter from the ground, her knuckles go white around the handle, “Whoa!”

Eddie grins and shields his eyes against the sun, “Yeah.”

___________


The moment right before dawn breaks through the mountains and scatters sunlight across the lake is Eddie’s favorite time of day. He likes to listen to the birds waking up and the sound of Andy’s breathing. He likes to listen to the sound of their shoes crunching against the dirt pathway and the sound of his heart beating in his ears.

“I didn’t run much in France,” Andy admits when they start their cooldown lap.

“Keep up old man,” Eddie replies, though he’s winded too.

Andy laughs, “I could outrun you any day.”

Eddie jogs past Andy, says, “First one to the castle,” and breaks into a run just as Andy yells, “Hey!”

Eddie grins and pushes himself to his limit, gangly legs eating up the distance between the pitch and the main doors. It takes a moment but Andy catches up with him and eventually passes him, slapping his hand on the front door barely a moment before Eddie touches it.

“What were you saying?” Andy asks, bending over with his hands on his knees.

Eddie laughs, which is painful because his body is screaming for oxygen and it comes out as this pained hiccup which sets Andy off. Eddie leans against the wall and tries to catch his breath but the expression on Andy’s face sets him off again until he has to wheeze out, “I don’t want to die by laughter.”

“Stop,” Andy wheezes back, clutching Eddie’s shoulder, “Stop.”

Eddie laughs more and even though it hurts, he can’t.

___________


Eddie flicks his wand at a stray button on his desk, muttering the spell under his breath. The button reshapes itself into a tiny teacup but doesn’t change color like Eddie wanted it to. He flicks his wands again and concentrates as he says the spell. The teacup reshapes itself into the button it was originally.

“Hi,” Andy says as he drops his Defense against the Dark Arts book onto the table across from him, “Transfiguration?”

“The new professor really emphasizes practice over theory,” Eddie replies, prodding the button with his wand, “I’m having a hard time getting the details right. I’m having trouble changing the color.”

Andy sits down and sets a scroll of parchment on top of his textbook before digging in his bag for his quill, “The book tells you to concentrate hard on whatever you want the thing to transform into, right?”

Eddie nods.

“I’ve found I get better results if I concentrate on what the thing might look like morphing from the first thing to the second thing,” Andy says, “It’s easier to control the transfiguration process so that if you think something’s going wrong, you can reverse it a tiny bit and fix it.” He uncaps his quill and smoothes out the parchment, looking at Eddie, “That’s what my mum suggested and it works for me. Try it.”

Eddie tries to imagine the sides of the button rising up to form the walls of the cup, imagines the teal intermediary between the forest green of the button and the pale blue of the teacup. He flicks his wand and murmurs the spell.

Andy grins, “Not bad, Jones.”

Eddie picks up the pale blue teacup and examines it from all sides before grinning back, “Not bad advice, Haldane.”

“Speaking of advice,” Andy says, his quill poised on parchment, “You know how I’m taking Muggle Studies?”

Eddie sets the teacup down, “I hope your professor didn’t catch you writing quidditch plays.”

“I am very discreet,” Andy assures him, “I sat in the back.”

“What’s this one on?”

“Sixty centimeters on muggle transportation.”

“What do you need to know?”

___________


“Eddie,” Andy says when they’re studying under a tree next to the Great Lake mid-October, “You should come back with me over Christmas holidays.”

“I don’t know if I’d be able to,” Eddie replies. He has a book balanced on his stomach but he’s been hovering falling leaves towards the Great Lake for the last fifteen minutes. “Since my brother’s gone, my dad counts on me to chop wood for the stove.”

“Oh.”

“I’ve got a better idea,” Eddie says, sitting up, “Come to our place for Christmas.”

___________


He borrows Andy’s scarf for the game. The Gryffindor stand is decked out in yellow and black—but Eddie knows it’s less solidarity with Hufflepuff than support for their win against the Slytherins.

It takes him a while to find his Gryffindor friends but they’ve saved him a seat. He shields his eyes against the sun and looks up at the sky where he can pick Andy out solely by the silhouette of his back.

“If Slytherin loses, we’ll be at an advantage for the cup,” Warren Muck the first year says to Eddie’s left while waving a Hufflepuff flag, “They need to be thirty points up though.”

“Slytherin’s defense was terrible in the Gryffindor match though,” Haney the sixth year turns around in his seat in front, “Their keeper isn’t very good.”

Eddie grins, “I think our chances are good today, boys.”

___________


“How was Hogsmeade?” Eddie asks when he hears his dormitory door open.

“How’d you know it was me?” Andy asks, “I could have been anyone.”

“Ron?” Eddie calls out without looking up from his book.

“What?” comes the curt reply. Eddie can’t remember the last time Ron Speirs left the room for anything other than classes and food.

“Power of elimination,” Eddie turns to look at Andy.

“Hello Ron,” Andy says, “I hope I’m not interrupting anything.”

“Hello Andy,” Ron says. Andy waits a moment to see if he’s going to say anything else before looking at Eddie.

“Hogsmeade?” Eddie asks.

“I got the peanut butter clusters you like from Hogsmeade,” Andy reaches into his robes and pulls out the bag of sweets, “And some butterbeer. I don’t know how you don’t have any cavities.”

“Magic,” Eddie says, tearing into a packet of the clusters.

“Like a bone strengthening charm?”

Eddie laughs, “No, I mean, I don’t really know. I’ve never really had the chance to eat candy. Are you going back to your room then?”

“I’ve got an Ancient Runes essay to write. Might go to the library.”

“Wait,” Eddie says, shoving the wrapper of the candy into his book to save his page, “I’ll come with you.”

“Sorry for the intrusion, Ron,” Andy says. Ron waves him off.

“Okay,” Eddie says shoving his books and quills into his bag, “Let’s go.”

___________


“It’s a good thing we haven’t moved your brother’s bed yet,” Eddie’s mum says, “We haven’t been able to have guests since Susan was born. What is that? Almost eight years now?”

“I’m nine years old, mum,” Susan says, fidgeting in her seat.

“Nine years then,” she amends, “We thought about converting your room into a guest, Eddie, but since you come back during the winters and summers, we decided against it. Your brother found an apartment in town so he doesn’t come back any more. It’s not a very big house, Andy, I hope you’ll be fine with the accommodations.”

“I’m actually looking forward to it,” Andy says. Eddie’s tucked in between Andy and his sister, legs folded up in front of him, looking out the window and wishing they could go faster despite the snow and ice.

“We installed an indoor toilet two years ago, though,” his mum says, “It beats having to go to the outhouse in the middle of the night during the winter. Your dad is very clever with plumbing, you know.”

“Oh stop flattering me, Helen,” his dad says as he turns into the long dirt road that would take them to the farmhouse. Eddie makes eye contact with Andy as if to silently apologize for his parents’ behavior but Andy just smiles back at him.

___________


When Eddie wakes up, Andy is already in the kitchen with his mother. He can hear the low hum of their voices and his mother’s occasional laughter as he pulls on his trousers and a new shirt and goes down the stairs.

“Eddie!” she greets him over the frying eggs, “Andy was just telling me about his uncle—Fairworth was it? Did you know that on wizarding farms, they cast spells during the growing season to protect the vegetables from frost? Have you learned any of those?”

“I can’t do magic when I’m at home, mum.”

“You should look into it anyway,” his mum says. Eddie picks up a piece of toast and crams half of it into his mouth.

“Good morning,” Andy says with a wry smile. He has a half empty glass of orange juice and he’s mopping up egg yolk from his plate with a piece of bread. He’s about to ask for eggs of his own when his mum lifts the pan and scrapes eggs onto a plate for him.

“Thanks,” Eddie says as she pushes the plate towards him.

“Your father went out to the lake to supervise the ice harvest. When you’re done, would you restock the woodpile?”

“Sure thing,” Eddie says through a mouthful of food.

“I’ll go get our coats,” Andy says.

“Oh Andy,” Eddie’s mum says, “You’re a guest.”

“I’d really like to help though,” Andy smiles and disappears up the stairs before she can protest again. Eddie’s mum cracks another egg into the pan and looks at Eddie.

“I like Andy,” she says, “He’s such a charmer. I’ve been talking to his mother regularly too—she has some great recipes.”

Eddie nods and pours himself some orange juice.

“He has such good manners,” she says, “I’m glad you have such nice friends, Eddie.”

___________


It’s hard to maneuver the wheelbarrow through the snow but Eddie knows the woods surrounding his house like the back of his hand. Andy wraps bright yellow and black around his neck and for a moment Eddie wonders where he got it—the scarf he borrowed weeks ago is somewhere in his dormitory in the Gryffindor towers.

“Everything is so open,” Andy marvels and his words come out on a puff of condensation, “My house is at the bottom of a hill, surrounded by woods.”

“I’ll come visit sometime,” Eddie says. Their shoes crunch on the snow as they near the woods. “In the summer, it’s not as open. Sometimes it feels like we’re drowning in a giant sea of wheat and the only pathway out is the path to the road. We don’t plant against the fence but the horses can barely fit anyway.”

“You could fly over all of it. You’ve got a broom. Your closest neighbors are a few kilometers away, aren’t they?”

“We get hired help in the summer sometimes. I’d be breaking some rule, I’m sure.”

“Wish you could come to my place. I love flying through the woods. My mum hates it, she thinks I’m going to crash into a tree.”

“I went flying here once,” Eddie says, “When the broom arrived. I took my sister into a clearing in the woods and we flew it.”

“Your sister flew it?” Andy asks.

“Just a couple feet off the ground.”

Andy turns and grins at him, “She’ll be coming to Hogwarts then?”

“Why?”

“Muggles can’t fly broomsticks. Or at least that’s what my mum told me.”

“Oh,” Eddie says, “Oh, wow. I don’t know how my parents will react.”

“They won’t be happy?”

“My brother will probably be disappointed,” Eddie replies.

They continue through the snow in silence for a while. Andy looks up at the sky and shoves his hands into his coat pockets.

“Hey,” Eddie says, “Did I ever properly thank you for the broom?”

“No need,” Andy replies, “I make you come out and fly with me all the time, don’t I?”

“It’s not exactly like you’re dragging me out.”

“It’s okay Eddie. It was just as much for me as it was for you.”

“Thank you,” Eddie says, “I wish I could do something for you, Andy.”

“You let me visit,” Andy says, “And you’re my friend.”

Eddie looks down at the wheelbarrow because he doesn’t know what to say. He can see Andy turn and smile at him.

“I think we have it pretty good, Eddie.”

___________


It’s been snowing since noon and the path from the house to the road has long been blanketed in white. Eddie has spent most of the day sitting on the couch reading ahead in his transfiguration textbook while Andy had been drafted into stringing together popcorn for the pine tree they had put up next to the fireplace. Susan had painted pinecones with red and gold paint and hung them up as ornaments since glass ornaments were too expensive. Andy hadn’t said anything except that she had done a great job. Eddie couldn’t help but wonder what kind of elaborate tree the Haldanes put up every year.

“Eddie,” his dad says after dinner, “Why don’t you go get your guitar? You haven’t played for us in a while.”

“You play the guitar?” Andy asks.

“Wizards have guitars?” Eddie asks in response.

“I want to hear the guitar!” Susan demands.

“It’s still in your room,” Eddie’s mum says, “I haven’t moved it at all.”

“You have no choice,” Andy concludes with a grin.

Eddie goes up the stairs to get the guitar and he’s coming back down when he hears his mother say, “He’s so shy about playing it but he’s got some natural talent.”

“Could have been a musician if he weren’t a farmhand,” his dad says, “Or a wizard, I suppose.”

“Not really,” Eddie says, “Don’t get your expectations up too high, Andy.”

“I’ll judge for myself,” Andy replies.

“He just listens to the radio and figures out what the notes are,” Eddie’s mum says, “Isn’t that right Eddie?”

“I can’t read music,” Eddie admits in a mutter.

“Play already!” Susan says.

“Okay, okay,” Eddie says and he sets the guitar on his leg and fingers the fretboard. It’s familiar weight in his hands and he can already feel muscle memory taking over. It took months of listening to the radio in the evenings and messing around on the guitar until he could finally pull his first shaky song from the strings and years after that for familiarity to guide his hands. The guitar had been passed down from his grandfather who had played for all of them. He died of pneumonia before Eddie was old enough to start working in the fields. Eddie doesn’t remember him well but he’s grateful for the guitar.

He tries to figure out what to play but then his fingers start moving on their and he only half recognizes the song that comes out—a swing song that he had translated to the guitar in between helping his father birth calves in the spring. The notes come out slower, the upbeat rhythm transformed into a moderate nostalgia. His playing is a little rusty because he hasn’t picked up the guitar in so long—but he can’t help but remember how to play.

Susan claps when the last note fades but Eddie’s looking at Andy. He knows what his family thinks, but they’re not sophisticated like Andy and they don’t take vacations to France or Turkey whenever they feel like it.

“It’s a little sadder than you usually play,” Eddie’s mum says, “But it was good, Eddie. What do you think, Andy?”

“Wow,” Andy says, looking from the guitar to Eddie’s face, “Eddie, you’re amazing.”

“It was a little too sad,” Eddie mumbles at his guitar because he doesn’t know how to take the compliment. He’s pleased though.

“Play something else,” Susan suggests, “Play something happier then.”

Eddie readjusts his grip, thinks for a moment, and then he starts to play.

___________


He feels stupid when he boards the Hogwarts Express with a guitar case. It doesn’t help that Andy’s been whisked away by the Hufflepuff quidditch team to discuss plays they’ve been planning the entire winter holiday. He’s not sure how Andy convinced him to bring his grandfather’s guitar. It reminds him too much of gaslight on the porch and wheat rustling in the autumn. It reminds him of a time when he thought his entire future was tied up with the farm.

He makes small talk with a couple of the Gryffindors before breaking away and finding Ron in a train compartment by himself. He slides open the door and the other boy looks up.

“Couldn’t wait to invade your personal space again,” Eddie says.

“Come on in, Eddie,” Ron replies, looking back at his book.

Eddie steps into the compartment and slides the door shut after himself. He’s half expecting Ron to mention something about not playing the guitar during school days but Ron keeps on reading his book. Eddie shoves his trunk under the seat and sprawls out across the seat opposite to Ron before closing his eyes.

If there’s one thing that Eddie likes about his roommate, it’s that he never expects Eddie to strike up a conversation.

___________


Eddie considers the table in the library next to the Arithmancy texts and the statue of Ulga the Unbearable their table—enough to the extent that he leaves his commonly used library books on one side and keeps extra scrolls and quills under a locking charm underneath the tabletop. He’s there enough that the other library regulars steer clear of it and Madam Wike doesn’t even bother to shelve the books any more.

“You should have been sorted into Ravenclaw,” Andy tells him as he procrastinates on an essay about muggle electricity by reading a book on quidditch, “You devour textbooks like a madman.”

“I think I’d go mad in Ravenclaw,” Eddie replies, “I’d hate all of the competition.”

“We would still have been friends. You could still outperform me, any day.”

“Could you imagine if I was sorted into Hufflepuff?”

Andy grins, “Well, we probably wouldn’t be studying in the library all the time.”

“I’d never get any work done.”

“Hey,” Andy says, “I’m not that distracting.”

“Shh,” Eddie says mock seriously, “I’m trying to write this Herbology paper.”

___________


“Hey Jones.”

Eddie turns around and sees one of the third year Gryffindors hurrying towards him. “Hello John,” he says.

“I’ve always wondered,” John says, “Why you didn’t try out for the Gryffindor team this year. I’ve seen you fly—you’re pretty good. And you have your own broom yeah?”

“Oh,” Eddie says, “I wanted to focus on my schoolwork.”

“Well from what I hear, you’ve been acing all your classes,” he claps Eddie on the shoulder, “You should consider trying out next year. I’ll be captain and I think you’d make a great addition to the team.”

“Hey Basilone!” someone calls out, “You coming to Transfiguration or what?”

“Think about it, yeah?” John says with a smile before he turns and hurries back to his friends.

___________


The first time that it happens, Eddie wakes up with a sharp gasp and whatever was left of the dream is chased away with the dim predawn light filtering in through the tower window. He rolls over to check that Ron’s still asleep before gingerly getting out of bed and grabbing a new pair of briefs and new clothes. He takes a shower just to wash away the unfamiliar feeling even though he knows he’ll be taking another shower after his run with Andy.

The fourth time it happens, Eddie remembers details. He remembers walking through the forest and Andy by his side. They’re not doing anything at all, just walking side by side, but Eddie feels an incomprehensible sort of joy that lifts his entire being, something all-encompassing and overwhelming and he doesn’t understand it at all. When he wakes up, the feeling stays with him until he blinks the sleep away and then it disappears. He has to take another shower.

He owls his brother because he doesn’t know who else to ask. He can’t talk to Andy because he feels like there’s something strange about being woken up every morning thinking about his best friend with his cock half hard. Three days later, he gets a letter back that relieves him a little even if it doesn’t make him feel any better: don’t worry, it’s a natural part of life, Eddie, but it’s so strange to me that you’re growing up so quickly.

He writes Thanks, Kenneth and gets back, I realize that nobody has told you much about this so as your big brother, I will fulfill my duties. You’re at the age where you’ll probably start noticing girls now, so it’s better for you to know now than to flounder in your confusion later on. I only wish we could do this face to face rather than through a letter but I wouldn’t want to keep you agonizing until the summer. As Eddie reads more of the letter, he gets more and more uncomfortable until he finishes it and has to put it away immediately out of embarrassment.

One thing keeps nagging at him every time he starts to think about the contents of that letter: he couldn’t care less about girls. He keeps dreaming of Andy.

Common sense tells him to keep his mouth shut.

___________


“You’ve been studying too hard,” Andy whispers by way of greeting, “When’s your first final? Not until next Wednesday, right? Have you been eating or have you forgotten?”

“How do you know my schedule?” Eddie asks, and then, “Why aren’t you studying?”

“I studied,” Andy says, “I studied for an entire six hours and if I have to turn another chrysanthemum into a beetle, I think I might set my books on fire. Come take a break with me.”

“But,” Eddie replies, “Goblin uprisings. 1356 AD.”

“You haven’t eaten all day, have you?”

“Um,” Eddie says and five minutes later finds himself in front of the fruit painting near the passageway to the Hufflepuff common room entrance. Andy tickles the pear and Eddie resigns himself to taking a break.

___________


E,
My sister has been seeing a bloke from Greece for the last year and they’ve decided to get married in Crete. We’re taking a ship down because trans-channel apparition is too tiring for my mum. I’d tell you to come but you’ll be busy I suspect. I’ll bring you back olives or something.
A

_____


A,
I didn’t really like olives the only time I tried them but maybe that was because they weren’t prepared correctly. I’m sure you’ll have a good time in Greece and I hope your sister has a lovely wedding. My mum is already asking when you’ll be visiting this summer.
E

_____


E,
No olives but brother in law’s mum makes a delicious baklava. I figured they’d keep well enough to last until they get to England. Keep Artemis for a few days, will you? She’ll probably be tired after the long flight.
A

_____


A,
Susan really liked the baklava. I thought it was really good too.
I think Artemis has established herself as an authority over the wild barn owls we have here. We certainly have less mice in the stables than we did before. My mum wants to keep her forever.
My brother’s thinking about enlisting in the Royal Air Force because of the tensions with Germany. I don’t know much about it but I hear him and my dad talking about it sometimes. Everyone says that war is going to break out from the way that Germany is acting. Stay safe.
E

_____


E,
If war did break out, we’d definitely apparate home, via France. My dad works for the ministry and he says that Professor Dumbledore has been around a few times warning them about a German wizard named Grindelwald. I guess the conflict is crossing the wizard-muggle border.
I think what your brother is doing is great. If I were in his position, I think I would enlist too. I would really like to defend my homeland and keep everyone safe. I think that would be a noble sacrifice to make.
A

_____


A,
Are you home? Artemis doesn’t seem so tired this time around.
Do you want to be an auror then? I’ve always thought about becoming an auror when I graduate Hogwarts but I don’t know if I’ll have the marks for it. Something tells me I might be coming back to the farm anyway.
E

_____


E,
Yes, I am home!
If you don’t want to work the farm, you shouldn’t have to. And about the marks: you must be joking, Eddie. You could become an auror easy, and I think you should.
A

_____


A,
You should come visit so my mum stops asking me when you’ll be coming. I think she might be more excited to see you than I am.
The farm’s been with the family for ages so I’d feel like betraying my parents if I decided to leave. I don’t know though, graduation is still forever away so I don’t have to worry about it right now.
E


___________


“Eddie!” Andy calls out and Eddie turns around to catch sight of the other boy picking up his trunk and heading his way. Eddie grins and hurries over.

“You’re taller than me,” Andy accuses, “When did this happen?”

“Guess they don’t feed us the right stuff at Hogwarts,” Eddie replies—and it’s true, he’s taller than Andy for the first time. It’s strange to be looking down at him instead of up. He’s all limbs though—none of Andy’s wide shoulders and solid bulk. He holds his hands out to take the trunk from Andy’s arms but he gets shrugged off.

“Where’s your mum?”

“I don’t even get a proper hello?”

“You said your mum was more excited to see me than you were,” Andy grins, “I thought I’d return the favor.”

“Oh piss off,” Eddie grins back.

___________


“My mum really wants you to come visit,” Andy says, “She says I spend enough time over here and it’s unfair that she’s never gotten the chance to host you. She said she’d send over Lilith in exchange.”

“Who’s Lilith?” Eddie’s stretched out on the grass next to Andy, chewing on a piece of grass and feeling unusually lazy. The sun’s going down behind the woods and throwing dappled shadows over where they sit. It outlines the silhouette of Andy’s face in gold and Eddie keeps his eyes on it even though the brightness of the sun hurts his eyes.

Andy looks away and his voice drops into a mumble, “She’s um. Our house elf.”

“What’s a house elf?”

Andy looks up at the treeline, “Kind of like an indentured servant.” He’s kind of hunching his shoulders in and Eddie realizes that he’s uncomfortable talking about it.

“Oh,” Eddie says, “I’ll come when Puddlemere gets their act together and actually wins the league.”

“Ravenclaw’s got a better chance at beating Gryffindor than Puddlemere winning the league.”

“Ravenclaw’s chasers are terrible,” Eddie says, “Are you admitting your beloved team isn’t any good?”

“I’m admitting that we’re faring terribly this season,” Andy says, “If we got a new seeker, we’d be sweeping the league.”

Eddie snorts and closes his eyes. He feels the air shift next to him and then Andy’s arm is pressed up against his. There’s a moment of uncertainty when he worries that the line between his dreams and reality is blurring but it’s soothed away by the whisper of the wind across the grass.

“Basilone wants me to try out for the team,” Eddie murmurs.

“You should,” Andy says, “You’d be an amazing chaser.”

“I don’t want to.”

Andy shifts and Eddie opens his eyes to see the other boy peering at him. “What are you, mental?”

“I don’t want to,” Eddie says, “I don’t want to have to compete against you, Andy.”

“Can’t handle a little friendly competition?” Andy asks, but his tone is light.

“I like being able to watch your quidditch practices sometimes,” Eddie admits, “I’d probably be considered as a spy if I’m on the Gryffindor team.”

“Couldn’t have my best friend ruining our chances at the quidditch cup,” Andy agrees quietly.

Eddie smiles and closes his eyes.

___________


When Eddie arrives back at Hogwarts, he has to perform an enlargement charm on his bed so his ankles won’t hang over the edge. Ron doesn’t return to Hogwarts until after classes start and makes some excuse about needing to see a professor when Eddie asks him how his summer was. Eddie doesn’t press—Ron’s always been mysterious about his past.

“You’re taking Arithmancy,” Andy says when he arrives at their table in the library after dinner, “My question is: why?”

“It looks interesting,” Eddie replies, “I was always good at arithmetic.”

“For that, I salute you,” Andy says, dropping his own books onto the table, “Arithmancy is one of the hardest classes here.”

Eddie grins, “I’m not afraid of a challenge.”

___________


Her name is Elenora Steller and she’s a fifth year Hufflepuff. Eddie’s seen her around a couple of times but he’s never been properly introduced.

“I went on a date with her right before we left for summer holidays,” Andy says during their cooldown lap, “Everett said that she wanted to go on one but was too shy to ask. She found me again this year and she says she wants to try going steady.”

“You should,” Eddie says while looking at the Great Lake. He doesn’t know why he feels so intensely disappointed. “I think it’d be a good experience.”

“I’m a little apprehensive,” Andy says, “I don’t think I make a very interesting date. She doesn’t like quidditch that much. Last date we talked about classes and there’s only so much of that I can take.”

“What do girls even talk about?” Eddie asks, “My sister like talking about what the animals are up to.” He pauses then adds, “She’s also ten years old and on a farm though.” His heart is pounding faster than it should be and he’s peripherally aware that he’s just saying words without thinking them through.

“I honestly have no idea,” Andy says, “She likes talking about what other people are doing, I guess? That’s a pretty common topic of conversation, isn’t it? We talk about stuff like that, right?”

“I’ve never tried analyzing what we talk about.”

“I don’t understand,” Andrew says, “I’m fine with talking to girls in general but as soon as one expresses the tiniest bit of interest in me, I’m overthinking all of the conversations we could be having.”

“Don’t overthink it,” Eddie says and jogs faster.

___________


“This is the seventh day in a row Andy hasn’t burst into our room,” Ron observes while Eddie cleans his side of the room. Ron casts a scourgify on the floor where Eddie had spilled hot chocolate a few days ago and promptly covered in returned assignments. Eddie grunts a thanks as he upends the contents of his trunk onto his bed.

“Should I be concerned?” Ron asks.

“What?” Eddie asks, and then, “Oh no. He’s just been busy with this girl.” He starts sorting through the things he hadn’t bothered to unpack at the beginning of the year in effort to look for his spare quills. He’s gone through more quills in the last month than he has in the entire year previous. He doesn’t know what he’s doing differently but the tips keep snapping off and sometimes his normally tidy handwriting comes out blotchy.

“Andrew Haldane is going steady with a girl,” Ron repeats.

“Fifth year Hufflepuff. Elenora, if you know her,” Eddie starts to refold his winter cloak. He still has Andy’s Hufflepuff scarf. Without thinking, he lifts it to his nose. It still smells like Andy.

“Eddie,” Ron says and Eddie immediately drops the scarf and continues to rummage through the things in his trunk: old pairs of socks with holes in the heel and a sweater passed down by Kenneth that’s been patched up multiple times. “Aren’t you on your fifth quill this month?”

“I’m going to bankrupt my parents buying quills,” Eddie mutters.

Ron watches him for a few minutes longer before saying, “Borrow mine.”

“I don’t want to break it,” Eddie says.

“I’ve got plenty.”

“I—” Eddie says as he realizes that he really doesn’t have any more quills, “Bugger.” Ron holds out an eagle feather quill and he takes it, “Thank you, Ron.”

“I’ve got some advice for you,” Ron says sitting back down at his desk, “Breathe, Eddie. He’ll be back. These things never last very long.”

___________


On Halloween, Eddie goes with Andy and Elenora to Hogsmeade. In retrospect, it’s a bad decision.

“Let’s go to the Three Broomsticks,” Elenora suggests, “Maybe the barkeep will mistake you for being of age again.”

“I think he has a good memory, El,” Andy replies, “I don’t think he’ll make the same mistake twice. Where do you want to go, Eddie?”

Eddie shoves his hands into his jacket and shrugs. He doesn’t know why he’s feeling so on edge or why he keeps on wanting to looking at their joined hands. He keeps his eyes straight ahead. Elenora is alright, he tells himself, she’s very pretty with her dark curly hair and her small sharp nose and she has to be friendly or she wouldn’t have been sorted into Hufflepuff.

“Let’s go to Honeydukes,” Elenora says, “Could you buy me a cauldron cake, Andy? My birthday’s almost coming up.”

In Honeydukes, Eddie splits off with the pretense of going to examine the assortment of muggle candy but in reality he’s watching Elenora hold onto Andy’s arm as he bends down to look at the toffees—in reality he’s having a hard time keeping his heart from thudding out of his chest when she tilts her face up and kisses him on the lips because, because—

He can’t hear anything except the rush of blood pounding in his ears and his own voice when he says, “I think I’m going back to Hogwarts, I hope you two have a good time,” and he forgets to smile.

And he’s halfway up the hill when he hears his name, “Eddie! Eddie, stop!” and it’s Andy, of course it’s Andy. He quickens his pace but Andy’s always been faster—he’s seen the back of Andy’s head bathed in morning sunlight more times than he can count. Andy grabs his arm and he pulls Eddie around and he asks, “Are you okay Eddie?”

“I’m sorry Andy,” Eddie says and he doesn’t know what the words coming out of his mouth are but his throat feels choked up and it’s an effort to get the words out without his voice breaking, “I’m selfish, I’m sorry Andy. I’m sorry.”

Andy says, “What?” and “Eddie, what?” but Eddie is already pulling his arm out of Andy’s hand and for the first time he’s walking away.

___________


He’s grateful that Ron isn’t in the dormitory when he gets back. He’s collected himself during the walk but he still doesn’t talking. He changes into a worn shirt and shorts anyway before crawling into bed and closing his curtains. He breathes and keeps his eyes open in the dark and thinks about how stupid he feels, thinks about how irrationally he had just behaved and wonders if Andy will forgive him before he’s exhausted enough to fall asleep.

When he dreams, he’s walking in the woods again but Andy’s hand is intertwined with his. When Andy turns his head, it’s Eddie that leans up and kisses him—just a simple press of lips to lips but the emotion pushes into his chest and squeezes until Eddie can’t breathe. When he wakes up and kicks open a curtain, the sky outside his window has only begun to change from black to blue. Eddie feels sick as he sits up in his bed and puts his forehead on his knees, concentrating on his breathing.

One of his father’s old friends had been institutionalized for homosexuality. His dad had casually mentioned it over dinner once after returning from a business trip across the country. I hear electroshock therapy works for that, his mother had replied and they had moved on to a different topic of conversation entirely.

Eddie doesn’t want to be institutionalized. He presses his forehead into his knees and wills himself not to cry.

___________


He leaves Andy a note that his knees hurt and that he won’t be able to go for their morning run. He knows he can’t avoid Andy forever but he can’t look Andy in the face right now because he’s certain that the shame is written all over his own face. Andy sends Artemis with a note: I hope you feel better soon, Eddie and Eddie spends half an hour stroking her feathers and looking out the window at the mountains, trying to readjust his post-revelation mind back to caring about essays and practicals.

He spends the day looking blankly at the wall behind his professors’ heads, occasionally tuning in once in a while to jot down a keyword. He’s lost in his own thoughts, debating whether or not it would hurt more to have Andy in his life or out. Professor Dumbledore requests him to stay after class and asks him if there’s anything on his mind that he’d like to discuss. Eddie shakes his head and he doesn’t sound very convincing to his own ears, but Dumbledore lets him go.

Over dinner, a school owl drops a letter into his lap. It’s from his parents and it’s barely a paragraph long. Eddie reads it and then has to read it again before he folds it up and puts it into the pocket of his robes and stands up. Ron looks up at him and asks, “What is it?” but Eddie’s already turning away and walking out of the Great Hall.

“Eddie,” he hears his name. It’s always Andy. He stops at the foot of the stairs leading up to Gryffindor tower and lets Andy walk closer. He even lets Andy put a hand on his shoulder. Andy steps in close and he says, “Eddie what’s wrong?”

“My brother’s enlisted,” Eddie says except that’s not really what’s wrong at all. Andy is his only source of comfort at Hogwarts and he’s too scared, too scared to talk to Andy, too scared to even look him in the face.

“Oh,” Andy says and his arm settles warm and heavy across his shoulders and it’s not what Eddie wants, it’s not at all what Eddie wants and he’s only thirteen and it’s not fair and he never asked for any of this. Andy murmurs, “Eddie,” and Eddie wants to scream.

“I’m okay,” Eddie says and it sounds good so he says it again, “I’m okay.” He just needs to breathe and he just needs to control his emotions better and be more like his father, be more like his soldier brother. He wishes Andy had never followed him out into the hall because it’s hard to try and start bottling everything away now, to stem this stupid infatuation.

It’s just a phase, he tells himself, it’s just a phase.

“I’ll walk you up,” Andy says and Eddie wants to shove him away, wants to snap that they’re not going steady, he’s not some bloody girl and that this isn’t how they should be behaving. But he doesn’t say any of that and Andy keeps a hand at his elbow the entire way up.

___________


He doesn’t talk much during their morning runs any more. Andy doesn’t push him—half the time they run in silence and the other half Andy chats about quidditch. And at the end of every morning he always puts a hand on Eddies shoulder and he tells Eddie that he can talk to him about anything and Eddie smiles back and knows that he can’t.

He tells Andy that they’re spending Christmas as a family this year. Andy doesn’t even miss a beat, just smiles and says, “I understand,” and Eddie really doesn’t deserve him at all.

When Eddie’s mum asks if Andy will be visiting, Eddie tells her that Andy is too busy and she takes his word for it.

___________


E,
I’ve been researching the Royal Air Force in my free time (maybe it’ll come in useful for Muggle Studies) and I have to say that they’re very impressive. Give my regards to your brother and have faith that he’s in a truly extraordinary and competent group of men.
I decided to break it off with Elenora, so we are no longer seeing each other. It’s not really much of a loss. I think she wanted a boyfriend solely for the boost in social status and we were never serious. I’d rather have my free time back to focus in on what’s important anyway.
Eddie, I wish you could tell me what has been troubling you these last months. I feel as if I’m at a loss to help you because I don’t understand what’s wrong.
This is quite possibly the longest letter I have written in ages. I hope you are well.
A

_____


A,
I gave your regards to Kenneth and he said, “Yes I know,” and now he wants to know if you’re interested in joining. I tried to explain aurors to him but he doesn’t really get it, I think. As far as he’s concerned, wizards are apparently just people who can do anything and specialize in whatever they want.
Andy, as long as you’re happy, I’m happy. Please don’t worry about me. I’m just going through a very stubborn phase but I think I can see the end rapidly approaching. I’m sorry to have troubled you and I promise to be more like myself when I come back from Christmas holidays.
E

_____


E,
Happy Christmas Eddie. My mum insisted on sending biscuits (there is no time when she does not bake, I swear) so I hope that they get to you in one piece and that Artemis doesn’t figure out how to open the box. Keep her there for a while? She’s been getting antsy at home and bringing back all sorts of dead rodents from the woods around our house.
A

_____


A,
Thank you for the biscuits! Artemis has spent the last week cleaning our barn of mice which was much needed. I hope she’s calmer now.
I’m looking forward to going back. My brother’s back at training. He said it was lucky that they let him have Christmas off. I suppose if we need to beat Hitler, we should be glad for all the training that they are undergoing. I wonder how much less bloodshed there would be if wizards conducted the war. Wouldn’t it be easy for a wizard to apparate into Hitler’s apartment and coerce him into signing a peace treaty and a document that says he’ll be good? But the lure of the guts and bravery probably means that boys like us will never be in short supply. I wonder if in a different universe, I would have followed in my brother’s footsteps and gone to war too? I think I would go if I knew that people like you would be the kind of people I could rely on.
E


___________


Someone knocks on the train compartment door and Eddie looks up. Andy peers in through the window, hand raised to knock again and Eddie grins.

“Took you long enough,” Eddie says as he opens the door. Andy drags in his trunk and Artemis’s empty cage before shutting the door after himself.

“I almost missed the train,” Andy agrees, “Everyone’s at St. Mungo’s waiting for my nephew to pop out. Bloody hell Eddie, that sounds weird. I’m going to be an uncle.”

“Poor kid,” Eddie says and Andy jabs at him with an elbow as he lifts the empty cage to the shelf above their seats.

“Anyway, it took me ages to find the floo powder,” Andy says, “In retrospect, I probably could have had Lilith just apparate me here, but I’m apparently not clever enough to think of these things at the time.”

“Ought to clean your brain of quidditch muck once in a while,” Eddie agrees.

“That is probably more accurate than you intended it to be,” Andy says and drops onto one of the seats, “What I really hope is that they don’t name my nephew Perseus like my brother-in-law keeps threatening to. I think he’s joked about it so often that my sister’s actually warming up to the idea.”

Eddie grins because it’s as close to normal as they’re ever going to get.

___________


“I’ve been doused in confetti at least five times in the last three hours,” Andy mutters as he sits down across from Eddie, “How the hell did you avoid it?”

“I don’t use the main hallways,” Eddie says, looking up from his complex number chart, “I got hit this morning though, just as I was coming out of Gryffindor tower. I’m kind of avoiding it until I absolutely have to go back.”

“Valentine’s day. The most useless of holidays,” Andy runs his hand over his hair in a futile effort to brush the confetti out. Eventually he gives up and opens his Defense against the Dark Arts textbook and pulls a scroll out to take notes. Eddie picks pieces of pink sequin-like confetti from Andy’s bent head.

“I saw Edith talking to you in front of the potions classroom,” Eddie murmurs, “She’s really pretty.”

“Go for it,” Andy says while uncapping his quill.

“You could be on a date right now,” Eddie says, “But you turned her down. Andy, I’m serious, I really botched up last term. But it has nothing to do with you and I keep thinking that you think it does.”

“Well, this has nothing to do with you,” Andy says, “I just don’t think she’s my type.”

“You’ve already established a type,” Eddie says flatly, “After going steady with one girl.”

“Sure,” Andy says, “They have to like quidditch.”

Eddie laughs and picks out the last bit of confetti, “Set your standards low, Haldane.”

“You’d be surprised,” Andy says and starts taking notes.

___________


The Hufflepuff team captain blows his whistle and the players start to descend. Eddie caps his quill and tosses it into his book before shutting it and hurrying down the stands. The sun has set and it’s inching past twilight.

“Haldane!” the captain calls and Andy turns smoothly on his broom and lands next to the seventh-year. Eddie pauses at the edge of the field, watching the two of them talk. The captain keeps motioning at the pitch and Andy keeps nodding but Eddie’s too far away and the wind is drifting in the wrong direction for him to pick up any of their words. He gets out his wand and murmurs a lumos. Eventually Andy nods, shakes the captain’s hand and starts jogging towards Eddie with his broom slung over his shoulder.

“Ready for the match?” Eddie asks.

“Ready as I’ll ever be,” Andy says, “We’ll see if the Ravenclaws have trained their chasers any.”

“What were you talking about back there?”

“Oh,” Andy says and looks at Eddie, “He’s picking me to replace him as captain next year.”

“Quidditch captain?” Eddie asks, “Andy, that’s great!”

“I don’t think it’s really sunk in for me yet,” Andy says and then he grins, “Still half expecting to wake up and realize that he decided to pick someone with more seniority.”

“You deserve it,” Eddie says, “You’re more capable of leading than anyone else on your team.”

“Your unbiased opinion,” Andy jokes.

“I’m serious,” Eddie says.

Andy bumps his shoulder into Eddie’s and says, “Let’s get dinner before it ends.”

___________


Andrew’s door is open and Eddie can see him sitting at his desk but Eddie knocks anyway.

“Hey,” Andy says, turning around, “Oh, hey. It’s been a while since I’ve seen your guitar.”

“Are your dorm mates around?” Eddie asks, stepping into the room.

“Detention with Pringle for the foreseeable future,” Andy says, “I don’t bother to ask what they keep getting caught for any more.”

“Are they getting a caning?”

“No, just cleaning, I think.”

Eddie shuts the door and opens the guitar case. He sits on Andy’s bed and picks at the strings, tuning up or down solely by listening.

“I’m not interrupting anything, am I?” Eddie asks, looking up.

“Nothing that can’t be done at a later time,” Andy says, sitting backwards in his chair and leaning his chin on the back, “I’ve always wondered why you didn’t play as much anymore.”

“Sing something,” Eddie says.

“What?”

“Sing something,” Eddie repeats, “Anything, an old wizarding song your mom used to sing, anything at all.”

“Why?”

“I’ll accompany you,” Eddie says, “I feel like improvising.”

Andy leans back and watches Eddie smooth his fingers over the strings. After a moment, he leans forward and starts humming, eyes on Eddie’s face. Eddie listens for a moment and then he starts to pick out notes on the guitar. He chases down Andy’s melody at first before settling into a steady pace and predicting the next note, layers of thirds and perfect fifths weaving together. Andy smiles as he hums and it’s not long before the song ends for Andy but Eddie keeps playing, keeps building and repeating motifs. When he plays the last note and looks up, Andy is looking at him.

“Your dad was right,” Andy says quietly, “You could be a musician if you wanted.”

Eddie touches the back of his neck, “It’s just messing around on the guitar.”

Andy looks at Edde’s face and his words are so quiet that Eddie almost doesn’t catch them, “You’re a wonder Eddie.”

Eddie feels like his carefully constructed walls are slowly crumbling and he’s suddenly too scared to look Andy in the eye again so he looks back down at his guitar with the pretense of tuning it again. “What song were you humming?”

“Something my mum used to sing,” Andy says, “It’s in the old language and I was never good at pronouncing the words. I think my mum’s still disappointed I gave up on it.”

“Ancient Runes? Not the same thing?”

“Same linguistic family but not quite,” Andy says, “It’s a wonder the Haldanes aren’t inbred considering how far back my mum has traced our wizarding lineage.”

“I’m imagining you,” Eddie says, “But with buck teeth and a perpetual expression of confusion.”

“Not much of a change?”

“It gets funnier if you add a bowl cut,” Eddie tells him.

Andy grins and leans forward again, “Play another song.”

___________


“If you ever want to come home before the end of your three weeks, write us,” his mum says, “In fact, you should just write us anyway. Write us every day.”

“Okay,” Eddie says, “I’ll send Artemis when I get there.”

“Have a good time Eddie,” she says, hugging him, “I’ll miss you. Tell Andy that he should come visit again.”

The train conductor takes his ticket and puts his bag into the overhead compartment. He sits down next to the window and closes his eyes.

When he opens them again, it’s dark outside. The conductor is shaking his shoulder and asking, “Bournemouth, right son?” Eddie gets his bag and gets off the train. Andy is waiting for him with a tall woman. She has the same nose as Andy and her shoulders are pulled straight.

“I hope you haven’t been waiting for long,” Eddie says, and Andy takes his bag while his mother pulls Eddie in for a hug. She smells like cinnamon and vanilla and he’s a little winded when she finally lets him go.

“I’ve been waiting so long to finally meet you, Eddie. I feel like you’re part of the family already.”

“We’re floo-ing out of here,” Andy says. Mrs. Haldane keeps her hand on Eddie’s shoulder.

“Have you ever been here before? We have a house only a few kilometers from the coast—you boys could go swimming. Eddie, you should see Andy zoom through the woods on his broom—it gives me a heart attack sometimes. He gets awfully close to the trees.”

Andy leans in and whispers, “My mum likes to talk.”

“Don’t talk about me behind my back, darling,” she says, “I already like Eddie more than I like you.”

“Eddie hasn’t had the chance to give you grey hairs yet, mum.”

“Sweet, I don’t think anyone in this world could give me more grey hairs than you do,” his mother says as they enter a building. The receptionist in the lobby recognizes Andy and his mother and waves them in. “Now where did I put the floo powder?”

“Careful mum,” Andy says, “Don’t strain yourself thinking too hard now.”

“Be quiet darling,” Mrs. Haldane says, “The shrill sound of your voice is grating on my nerves.”

Eddie looks at Andy who grins back. Mrs. Haldane hands the two of them a pinch of powder each before throwing her own in the fire and calling out, “Haldane Manor.”

“You live in a manor?” Eddie asks Andy but the other boy is already stepping into the fire, repeating the destination. Eddie waits for the flames to die down before throwing in his own powder.

“Haldane Manor.”

___________


“Well,” Eddie says, “I can say I’m thoroughly embarrassed now.”

Andy shifts over on his bed so that Eddie can sit. Eddie hesitates but climbs up and leans against the headboard. “Why’s that?”

“Well,” Eddie says, “You’ve seen my house. We were excited about having an indoor toilet for god’s sake. And you live, well, here.”

“Hey,” Andy says, “I like your house, thanks.”

“Your mom had a difficult time trying to pick out what guest bedroom she wanted to put me in,” Eddie points out, “And we put you in my brother’s old bed where you had to share a room with me.”

“Eddie,” Andy says, scooting his head closer to Eddie’s leg, “I’m serious. I would take your house over mine, any day.”

Eddie has to consciously stop himself from touching Andy’s hair. He kind of wants to run his hands through it anyway, just to memorize the texture.

“How are you real?” Eddie murmurs, fingers locking over his own stomach, “I mean, how are you not completely spoiled and stuck up?”

Andy doesn’t answer for a moment. And then he says, “My mum was sick a lot when I was really young. I grew up with my great aunt on my mum’s side and she wasn’t very rich. My dad didn’t really have the time to take care of us with his job and all.” He reaches out and tugs on a loose thread on the hem of Eddie’s shirt. “She died when I was nine. My biggest regret has always been letting her live her last days out in poverty and not being brave enough to stand up to my dad.”

“I’m sorry Andy,” Eddie says and he settles a hand on Andy’s head, cards fingertips lightly through the soft short hairs behind Andy’s ear. Andy doesn’t seem to mind—he keeps picking at the thread.

“You’re going to unravel my shirt,” Eddie says softly and it’s impossible to keep his defenses up, impossible to look down at Andy and not find it difficult to breathe sometimes, to not be consumed with a fierce loyalty and deep affection.

“You can have mine,” Andy says without a change in his quiet inflection and Eddie can’t—he doesn’t know what to do with him. Andy looks up at him, fingers stilling as he smiles, “Everything I own is yours too.”

Eddie feels like he’s breaking perfectly apart and he can’t comprehend, can’t even hope to comprehend everything he’s feeling. He feels like he’s drowning in his own emotions, registering with terrible clarity that he will never find anyone in the world he will love as deeply as Andrew Haldane.

He swallows to steady his voice and he says, “You can’t just give that away to anyone.”

“Just you, Eddie,” Andy murmurs and Eddie has to leave before he breaks down, before he does something stupid. Does Andy even know what he’s saying? Eddie closes his eyes and collects himself before smoothing his thumb over the curve of Andy’s ear and scooting away.

“I should go to sleep.”

“All right,” Andy says, “I’ll see you tomorrow morning. We can go chop some wood if it would make you feel more at home.”

Eddie laughs and it comes out a shade hysterical. “Good night Andy.”

___________


“This is possibly the worst idea you’ve ever come up with.”

“Come on, Eddie,” Andy says, “Let’s live a little. When will be the next time you’ll have access to wine from the nineteenth century?”

“Pilfering your own wine,” Eddie mutters and Andy starts pulling out bottles.

“Would you prefer a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Chianti?” Andy pronounces the words with what reasonably sounds like the correct accent and Eddie keeps realizing just how out of his league he is.

“The second one,” Eddie says, “You realize that I can only recognize the difference between beer and whiskey, right?”

“I have no idea what this tastes like,” Andy says and drops it in the bag with the ham and cheese sandwiches Lilith made for them earlier, “So you and me both. Ready to go?”

“Don’t let your mum catch us,” Eddie says and follows Andy down the length of the courtyard. They slip into the woods and start following a well-trodden dirt pathway. Andy seems to know where he’s going.

“I’ve never been to a proper beach,” Eddie admits, “I’ve only really ever gone swimming in the lake that the river behind my house leads to.”

“First time for everything,” Andy says, “We should swim in the Great Lake sometime. Before I graduate.”

“We’ve got years,” Eddie says and looks up at the sky between the trees.

___________


The back of his neck is damp and he’s pretty sure that his usually curly hair is plastered unattractively to his forehead. He’s sharing a towel with Andy and passing the bottle of wine between the two of them. Eddie keeps trying to remind himself that this is a bad idea but the sun is warm against his shoulders and he’s feeling pleasantly buzzed from only a few mouthfuls of wine.

Andy is sprawled out, sand stuck to the skin of his legs and his arms. He has his eyes closed and he’s humming a song that Eddie doesn’t know.

“Hey,” Eddie murmurs after a while, “Where did you get that scar?”

“Hm?”

Eddie leans forward and touches it, a straight line of pale skin on Andy’s knee. He brushes away sand and traces the scar with his thumb.

“Fell out of a window when I was three,” Andy says, “I was kind of a dumb kid. Explains a lot now that I’m older.”

“And this one?” Eddie asks, surprised by his own daring. He outlines the puckering of skin halfway up Andy’s thigh with a fingertip, half mesmerized by tanned skin. He looks up at Andy’s face and sees Andy looking back down at him, the rise and fall of his chest perfectly calm. He can feel his own heart beating.

“Got shot with an arrow,” Andy murmurs, “Long story. The best part is that my sister gets guilty about it every time she sees it or someone mentions it.”

Eddie looks at the expanse of skin over Andy’s stomach and imagines what it would be like to put his hands there. He imagines what it would be like to trace his fingers over every rib, to press the side of his head to Andy’s chest and listen to the beat of his head. He imagines settling in close and warm and having Andy’s fingers at the back of his neck and just, simple acceptance.

“I’m going back into the water,” Eddie says, “You coming?”

“I think I’m going to take a nap,” Andy replies, eyes already closed.

“You’re going to get burnt.”

“I’m sure there’s a medicharm for that,” Andy says, stretching out, “How did you ever live without magic, Eddie?”

Eddie sprinkles sand on Andy’s chest and grins before adjusting his swimming trunks and wading back into the water.

___________


Dear Andrew,

Due to your outstanding leadership skills and your high academic standing, we are pleased to inform you that you have been selected for Hufflepuff prefect. This means that you will be given extra responsibility to support your fellow housemates at Hogwarts. Below is a list of your duties as a Hufflepuff prefect:
- Mediate conflict among your peers for peaceful resolutions
- Take away Hufflepuff house points for rule-breaking
- Give detentions to Hufflepuff for poor behavior
- Supervise younger students and act in a manner befitting of a role model
- Other duties as established by the Head Boy and Head Girl or the staff of Hogwarts

Attached to this letter you will find your prefect badge. You will be briefed about the daily duties as a prefect at the prefect meeting on the Hogwarts Express prior to your arrival at Hogwarts. Should you be incapable or unwilling to perform the duties of a prefect, please arrange a meeting with Headmaster Dippet at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely,
Headmaster Dippet


_____


Susan,
Happy birthday! Andy and I bought you a bracelet and we hope you like it. I hope you aren’t working too hard. I promise that I’ll be home soon to pick up my slack.
Eddie

_____


Eddie,
We have great news! Susan will be attending Hogwarts next year! Headmaster Dippet sent us the letter. Two magical children in one muggle family, who would have thought?
Mum


___________


“What if I get into a house that I don’t like?” Susan asks as Eddie slides her trunk under the seat. Artemis hoots softly from her cage and he lifts her to the overhead compartment next where she settles in with her head under her wing.

“You won’t,” Eddie says, “All of the houses are great.

“Where do you think I’ll end up?” Susan asks, sitting down.

“I don’t know,” Eddie says, “Gryffindor with me, maybe?”

“I don’t know if I’d like that,” she says.

“I see how it is,” Eddie says, smiling, “Maybe Andy’s house.”

“Hufflepuff? Where is he now?” she asks.

“A prefect meeting. He’ll be around later.”

“What’s a prefect?”

“They’re older students who supervise the younger students.”

“Oh,” Susan says, “He’d be good at that, I think.”

___________


Someone claps Eddie on the back as he walks through the hall. He turns his head and John Basilone points a finger at him, “I want to see you at tryouts, Jones.”

“We’ll see John,” Eddie replies as John flips him a casual salute and disappears into the crowd. He hurries along the hallway until he catches sight of Andy directing first years to their classes.

“Taking care of my sister?” Eddie stops to ask.

“She’s just as confused as the rest of them, it seems,” Andy says, peering at some first year’s timetable, “For Charms, you have to take the hallway on the left, walk all the way down, and take the staircase on the right up. It’s your first classroom to the right. Careful of the trick steps.”

The first year thanks him and a tiny pig-tailed girl holds her timetable up for Andy to look at.

“Want to tell me where Transfiguration is?”

“Piss off Eddie,” Andy says but he has a grin on his face.

___________


“Eddie,” Andy whispers as he takes a seat next to him at their library table, “Have you been keeping up with what’s going on in Eastern Europe?”

Eddie looks up from his book, “No, why?”

“It’s coming out in tomorrow’s edition of the Daily Prophet,” Andy whispers, “Apparently there’s been groups of wizards terrorizing rural muggle villages in Poland and Belarus.”

“Why would…?”

“They say that the wizard responsible is Grindelwald,” Andy says, “But nobody really knows who he is. He didn’t come to Hogwarts anyway.”

“How do you know all of this?”

“My mum wrote a letter,” Andy says, “Eddie, the reason why I’m bringing this up is because nobody knows how far it’s going to spread and my mum’s worried that your family is in danger. You and your sister are protected here and I doubt your brother is in any trouble but what about your parents?”

“My parents wouldn’t leave,” Eddie says, “We’ve been on that plot of land for ages.”

“My mum wants to send security warlocks to set up protection spells.”

“I—” Eddie “But the fighting is in Poland. Who says it’ll even reach Britain?”

“Wizards can apparate, Eddie,” Andy says, “Wizarding wars have always been chaotic and fought over huge expanses of land.”

“I’ll write home,” Eddie says.

___________


“—conducting a series of attacks in northern Romania. Experts suggest that they are not linked with any official entity and no state has come forward to claim responsibility for the actions. We will transmit from a village that has been ravaged by attack, directly after these advertisements.”

“Do you have family in Eastern Europe?” Ron asks.

“Not that I know of,” Eddie says, “But I’m muggleborn.”

“Ah,” Ron says, “The whole magic is might stuff we’ve been getting a whiff of?”

“Maybe I’m not as immersed in wizarding culture as them, but I’m pretty willing to bet that a shotgun is pretty mighty too,” Eddie mutters.

“I don’t think that they’ll come to Britain,” Ron says after a while, “Britain is more populated with wizards and it’s smaller. They’ll be likely to find more resistance here.”

“Let’s hope,” Eddie murmurs.

___________


“Eddie,” Susan whispers, “I need your help?”

“What’s going on?”

“I can’t figure out how to flick my wand right,” she whispers, looking around the library as if expecting someone to be listening in on their conversation, “I tried to ask Andy and he helped a little bit but then he had to go to quidditch practice.”

“Hey,” Eddie says, “If you have any problems with your classes, you come to me, not Andy alright? He’s got enough on his plate.”

“Okay,” Susan says.

“I’m serious. He’s been really stressed out about having time to study for his OWLs on top of his prefect duties and being quidditch captain. Don’t put more on his plate.”

“Okay Eddie,” Susan says, clearly annoyed, “I know.”

“Come here,” Eddie says, “Show me how you hold your wand.”

___________


Dear Mrs. Jones,

We will be visiting your premises on December 27th at 2:00PM to determine an estimate of costs for a full protection ward. We would appreciate it if you kept your schedule open during our appraisal in order to answer any questions we might have.

Sincerely,
Darryl Blanke
Blanke Wards Co.


___________


Kenneth gets leave for two days so they have to celebrate Christmas early before he gets shipped back to base. Eddie’s mum unwraps the ham she’s cured in late November and they set up a new tree with the pinecone ornaments that Susan painted years ago. Andy promises to arrive the day after Christmas. “Trust me,” he had said, “I’d rather be at your place than my dad’s Christmas party but my mum insists that I go.”

Susan talks about Hogwarts to their parents—she gives them all the details that Eddie hadn’t thought to provide—but when Kenneth comes home, the topic of conversation reverts back to farm activities.

“I’ve missed this,” Kenneth tells Eddie as he swings the axe to break apart firewood, “You and me out in the woods, chopping branches.”

“It’s peaceful,” Eddie agrees. Kenneth laughs.

“Don’t talk to me about peace. I bet you that within a year, we’ll be at war with the Germans.”

Eddie sets a block of wood down and swings his axe, “Are you scared?”

“Scared of what?”

“Being in the air,” Eddie says, “Fighting the Germans.”

“Not really,” Kenneth replies.

“I’m scared,” Eddie says.

“Why should you be?” Kenneth asks, “You don’t have anything to fear.”

“I’m scared for you.”

Kenneth laughs and chops another piece of wood, “Don’t be.”

___________


“Eddie,” Kenneth says the next day when they’re stacking up firewood against the back of the house, “Do you have a girl at Hogwarts?”

Eddie touches the back of his neck. He’s been avoiding asking himself similar questions, in hope that everything would smooth out on its own. “Not really.”

“None of them pretty enough?” Kenneth grins at him.

“There’s some,” Eddie says.

“You’re too young, huh?”

Eddie shrugs and smiles. He wishes that were the problem.

___________


“Hello Mrs. Jones,” Andy says as he pulls off his boots at the front door.

“Andy!” Eddie’s mum says, “I’m so glad you’re here! Just in time too. I’ve been fretting about the appraisers coming this afternoon—what if they ask me a question I won’t know how to answer?”

Andy glances over at Eddie who’s brushing the snow from his shoulders, “I doubt I know any more than Eddie does about these sorts of things.”

Eddie shakes his head.

“Do you think they’ll be able to make it today?” his mum asks, “It’s snowing pretty hard, isn’t it? How was your train ride Andy?” and to Eddie, “I hope your father didn’t slip on the roads. It gets awfully icy out there.”

“I’m an excellent driver, Helen,” Eddie’s dad says as he comes up the porch steps, “The roads aren’t too bad yet. We won’t be able to go into town tomorrow though.”

“It’s a good thing I made a trip to the store yesterday,” his mum says, “I hope we won’t run out of food. Well you boys know where your room is. I’ll let you know when the appraisers show up.”

“She’s been excited about this all week,” Eddie tells Andy as they go up the stairs, “I guess this is her first time seeing real magic.”

“I’m coming to the realization that I would be a terrible muggle,” Andy says as he dumps his bag on the bed.

“Eh,” Eddie says, “You’re doing alright.”

___________


Eddie takes the last few steps of the porch with a jump. The snow is unbroken in all directions and the night sky is clear, illuminating the white fields with moonlight.

Andy stops next to him, shoving his hands into the pockets of his coat and looking up at the sky.

“I’ve still got your scarf,” Eddie realizes.

Andy looks over at him, “What?”

“From second year. You lent it to me for a quidditch match and I never gave it back to you.”

“Oh,” Andy looks back at the sky and Eddie feels stupid for wanting to wax poetic about Andy’s profile against starlight. He’s terrible with words anyway. “Keep it. Can I have a Gryffindor one then?”

Eddie pulls off his scarf and holds it out towards Andy who looks down at it in surprise.

“I didn’t mean—I was just jo—aren’t you cold, Eddie?”

“Let me borrow yours then,” Eddie says.

Andy unwinds his scarf and drops it into Eddie’s hand, taking Eddie’s in the process. Eddie drapes it around his neck and shoves his hands into the pockets of his coat, starting out across the field.

“Where are we going?” Andy asks, falling into step.

“Anywhere,” Eddie says, “Where do you want to go?”

Andy doesn’t answer. Eddie’s about to turn around when something cold gets dumped down the back of his neck.

Eddie freezes. “You didn’t.”

“Hmm,” Andy agrees.

Eddie scoops up a handful of snow of his own and lunges towards Andy, managing to grab the back of his jacket as he turns away and shoves the handful down Andy’s shirt. Andy yelps and tackles him into a snowdrift, sitting on his back and laughing.

“Let me up,” Eddie demands, his voice muffled by the snow, “I hate you, let me up.”

“Lies,” Andy says, “Don’t lie to me, Eddie.”

Eddie squirms out from under Andy and Andy realizes a minute too late because Eddie flips him over and pins his bare wrists against the snow.

“I win,” Eddie says with a grin. Andy grins, relaxing under his grip causing Eddie to falter for a moment—and then Eddie finds himself on his back, Andy’s face mere centimeters from his face.

“What were you saying?” Andy asks, the words ghosting across Eddie’s cheek. Eddie suddenly can’t think, he’s focusing in on the way that Andy’s eyelashes brush against his cheek when he blinks, about how easy it would be to lift his head and press his lips to Andy’s—but the distance between the two of them is uncrossable,

“Let me up,” Eddie murmurs. Andy looks down at him and then he rolls off, dropping into the snow next to him.

Eddie looks up at the sky and tries to catch his breath.

“What’s your new year’s resolution?” Andy asks after a while.

“I don’t like new year’s resolutions,” Eddie says, “They set unrealistic goals that end in disappointment more often than not.”

“Set more realistic goals,” Andy suggests.

“Like what?” Eddie asks, “What are your resolutions?”

“Hm,” Andy says, “I resolve to find the courage to stop keeping secrets.”

Eddie looks at Andy, “You have secrets?”

Andy looks back at him. “Doesn’t everyone?”

___________


Lady Haldane,

After an overview of the premises at 6 Albright Rd., it has been determined that the final cost of the protection ward would normally be 216 galleons and 15 sickles. This elevated cost is in part because keystones will need to be set before the foundation spellwork can be completed. Because you have been a loyal patron of our services for years, we offer the reduced price of 189 galleons and 5 sickles. We are able to start within the next month following your confirmation.

Best regards,
D. Blanke
Blanke Wards Co.

_____


Mr. Blanke,

I have instructed Gringotts to allow you to withdraw the amount you require. Please start as soon as possible.

M. Haldane


___________


“I’m going to pretend I didn’t see you here.”

“Hello Andy,” Eddie says, “Hall patrol today?”

“My favorite prefect duty,” Andy agrees, “What are you doing up?”

“Sending off a letter,” Eddie lifts the envelope he’s carrying in his hand, “I guess I didn’t realize how late it was.”

“I’ll come with you to the owlery,” Andy says, “I don’t know why they even bother patrolling the Charms corridor. I get duties to patrol it once a month and you’re the second person I’ve seen here.”

“Too busy trying to get up to the astronomy tower,” Eddie says and they fall into step, “You should start bringing your books on dull patrols.”

“I’m sure there’s a rule against that,” Andy says, “And if there’s not, I’m sure it wouldn’t be befitting of a prefect who must stay vigilant in his duties.”

“Oh no,” Eddie says, “We can’t have our prefects studying.”

“Don’t worry,” Andy grins, “My time spent here isn’t entirely wasted. I’ve already perfected the art of memorizing quidditch plays.”

___________


Eddie doesn’t plan it. The opportunity presents itself and he breathes in deep and takes the plunge.

“Hogsmeade?”

All he knows about Lena Riggi is that she’s a fifth year chaser for the Gryffindor quidditch team and she seems tough. He’s not nervous but the fact that he just asked her on a date seems worse and worse by the moment. He doesn’t want anything serious at all, just something to test the waters, and he’s already feeling guilty about leading her on.

“It sounds like it could be fun,” Lena says after a moment and she smiles, “It’s a date, Jones.”

___________


“I don’t know what possessed you to think that was a good idea,” Ron says later on when they’re walking up to Gryffindor tower, “You’re just asking for death and that death comes in the form of John Basilone.”

“What?”

“I admit that you may be the only student in Gryffindor tower who is less concerned with gossip than I am,” Ron says, “But the fact that even I know this should give you some indication as to the fact that it’s common knowledge that John Basilone wants to go steady with Lena Riggi but he hasn’t gotten the spine necessary to ask her.”

“Oh,” Eddie says, “Oh, I didn’t know.”

“Your infatuation with books and Haldane really limits your perspective,” Ron observes flatly.

“I don’t—” Eddie starts, and then he doesn’t really know what to follow it up with.

“Merlin,” Ron says as he crawls through the portrait hole, “But in all honesty? I thought you were going steady with Haldane ever since he stopped seeing that Hufflepuff.”

“I—what?”

“Eddie,” Ron says as he opens the door to their room, “I am seriously reevaluating your level of intelligence right now. I’m going to finish this Arithmancy problem set, please don’t talk to me.”

Eddie’s vision is swimming and he takes a seat on his bed. He sorts out the silent panic in his head and is so still that after a few minutes, Ron looks up from his number charts.

Eventually he gets up and goes to the library.

___________


There is a psych ward at St. Mungo’s. Among the fifty-three disorders that it treats, both muggle and wizarding illnesses are listed. Multiple personality disorder is listed alongside Long-term imperius syndrome. Homosexuality is not listed as an illness.

At L’hopital du Sorcier in Paris, Eddie finds that a part of the psych ward is dedicated solely to the recovery of memories for obliviated victims. He finds suggestions for schizophrenia treatments and recommendations of psychia-witchs for insomniacs but he can’t find homosexuality listed as a disorder.

Eddie wonders if he’s going mad, if he had just dreamed up the entire conversation between his mum and his dad.

___________


“So I hear you unwittingly walked into a feud with John Basilone,” Andy says as they’re stretching for their morning run.

“How is it possible that you know about this already?”

“Between you and Basilone, I’m not sure I’d bet on you,” Andy says, “Hate to say it but it’s the truth.”

“Thank you for the show of solidarity,” Eddie says, “I will remember this moment when I write my will before I go meet my fate at the hands of John Basilone.”

Andy grins and they take off running. Eddie likes the way that the burn in his lungs and legs takes away all of his other thoughts. He keeps his eyes on the back of Andy’s head and all he thinks about is putting one foot in front of the next.

During their cooldown lap, Eddie can’t help but jog alongside Andy, touch his elbow and look at him with their feet still hitting the pavement and ask, “Is this okay?”

Andy looks back at him and Eddie knows that they’re on the same page. For a moment it almost seems like Andy wants to look away but then he smiles and says, “More than okay, Eddie.”

___________


“So,” Eddie says while he and Lena walk down to Hogsmeade, “I’m half expecting John Basilone to ambush us on our way there and challenge me in a wizard’s duel.”

Lena laughs, “That would certainly be an interesting first date. I don’t think you should be worried though, John knows better than that. He’ll probably wait until you’re alone in some secluded corner and make his move then.”

“Wow,” Eddie says, “Thank you for the words of reassurance.”

Lena tilts her head and Eddie wishes that he could really want to be with her. She’s beautiful in her dress, hair swept back from her face in a half bun. She’s intelligent and Eddie can see why John likes her so much.

“You’re real cute, Eddie,” she says with a smile.

Eddie doesn’t know whether to feel guilty or pleased.

___________


Lena likes to study outside in a clearing of benches and stone tables usually reserved for Care of Magical Creatures. She tells Eddie that the air outside helps her think better than being stifled in the library or the Gryffindor common room.

The second time he goes to study with her, he reads the same two paragraphs in his Herbology textbook five times before he works up the nerve to blurt out, “I’m not really serious about us.”

Lena looks up from her textbook and she smiles at him. “I know,” she says, “It’s the only reason why I agreed to date you in the first place.”

Eddie doesn’t know what she means by that so he ducks his head and looks back at his Herbology book again. He doesn’t work up the courage to ask her about it until he studies with her again two days later, “Why did you agree to the first date?”

“Because,” she says, “We both know that we’re not meant to last. But let’s have some fun along the way.” She smiles, “And we’ll end up as friends, which will be more than what would have happened if I had said no.”

___________


“Puddlemere looks good this year. New seeker,” Andy says during one of their morning runs, “If the league doesn’t get disbanded with the impending war this year, I think we’ve got a good chance of ranking high.”

The war. Eddie hasn’t thought about it in a while and it surprises him.

“How’re you guys training for your match next Friday?” Eddie asks.

“Good,” Andy says, “Slytherin’s weak on defense still. As long as we get the quaffle first and keep it, we should be fine.”

At the end of their run, Andy wipes the back of his neck with his shirt and without turning around he says, “I know how you felt.” Eddie knows exactly what he’s talking about but he doesn’t know how to reply.

They jog for a little while longer and then Andy says, “I’m really sorry, Eddie.”

___________


John corners him in the hallway one day after lunch. He doesn’t have his usual friends with him. He takes Eddie by the arm and pulls him down the hall into a more private area and Eddie’s half afraid that Lena had been right all along, that John’s going to deal with him where nobody can see.

But John just turns to him and he says, “I just need to make sure that you’re treating Lena right and that you don’t have any bad intentions towards her.”

“No,” Eddie says, “None at all.”

“Don’t make her cry, Jones,” John says, “If you make her cry, I’m going to make you cry. And it won’t be nearly as pretty.”

“I won’t,” Eddie says.

John looks at him for a long moment before he nods and turns to leave.

___________


The first and only time he kisses Lena, they’re sitting on a flat rooftop near Gryffindor tower. It’s accessible only through a door at the top of a hidden staircase and Eddie hasn’t done enough exploring of Gryffindor tower to find it. They can see the entire Hogwarts grounds from the rooftop, the wide expanse of the Forbidden Forest crawling from the edge of the manicured grounds out into the mountains.

He turns his head to say something and Lena puts a hand on his cheek and kisses him on the lips, close-mouthed and soft. When she pulls away, Eddie swallows and can’t meet her eyes.

“That bad, huh?” she asks.

“No,” Eddie says, “It was nice.”

“But you wouldn’t do it again.”

Eddie breathes through his nose and still can’t meet Lena’s eyes. “No.”

Lena leans against the shingles and shrugs, “I understand.”

Eddie draws his knees up to his chest and looks out over the whole of Hogwarts again.

“I come up here to watch the sunrise sometimes,” Lena says, “Sometimes I see you two running around the lake.”

Eddie wraps his arms around his legs and tucks his chin in behind his knees.

“Why aren’t you with him now?”

Eddie takes a while to answer, “Where I’m from, what I want is viewed as a mental illness.”

“The muggle world,” Lena clarifies.

Eddie doesn’t respond. He looks down at the grounds and traces the path that he and Andy take every morning.

“It’s not,” Lena says, “It’s not and if anyone ever tells you different Eddie, they don’t deserve to know you.” She touches his shoulder and moves closer.

“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you,” Lena says, “You can’t choose who you fall in love with.”

___________


Andy’s sitting at their table in the library. Eddie wonders how many times he’s sat there alone.

“Hi,” he says and Andy looks up. He smiles and Eddie has half a mind to turn around and walk away because he doesn’t know what he did to deserve someone like Andy.

“Hey Eddie,” Andy says. Eddie takes the seat across from him and pulls out a textbook.

“I, um,” Eddie says, “Lena and I decided to be friends.”

Andy looks at him. Eddie can’t tell what he’s thinking and he hates it. “Are you alright?”

“Yeah,” Eddie says, “Better than alright.”

___________


Eddie,
I don’t know how much muggle news you get but Winston Churchill was just sworn in as the prime minister yesterday. There was some uncertainty about it before but this means for sure that we will be going to war. I know you probably don’t want to hear this but, Eddie, if I somehow don’t make it back home, I want you to swear to me that you will take care of mum and dad and Susan. I know that you love them just as much as I do and maybe you find this letter irritating but it makes me sleep easier, knowing that there will be someone to take care of the family if I am no longer able to do so.
I hope you have having a good year. I hope to see you soon.
Kenneth


___________


The Hufflepuff common room is full of students reading and whispering to one another when Eddie arrives after dinner. Andy isn’t among them so Eddie heads to the dormitories.

He knocks on the open door and Andy says, “Come in,” without even looking around.

“You weren’t at dinner,” Eddie says.

Andy frowns and looks at his watch, “When did it get so late?”

“I brought you food,” Eddie says and sets the box down next to his Potions textbook.

“Thanks Eddie.” Eddie produces a fork as Andy opens the box.

“How’s studying going?”

“I have no idea how I’m going to manage an E on the Potions OWL,” Andy says through a mouthful of food, “It doesn’t help that Slughorn’s practically hand-picked who he wants in his advanced class and I’m certainly not one of them.”

“Didn’t you receive outstanding marks on the last sleeping draught you made?”

“Pretty sure that was a fluke,” Andy says.

“You don’t give yourself enough credit,” Eddie says and takes a seat on Andy’s bed.

___________


Susan catches him in Great Hall when they are leaving from dinner. “I need help,” she says, “I’m hopeless at Herbology. I can’t memorize all of these stupid plants.” Eddie takes her by the hand and they go to an abandoned classroom.

“You’re good with plants at home,” Eddie says, “Herbology is the same thing, isn’t it?”

“There are too many plants,” Susan says, “And I’m learning them from a textbook, not from the woods.”

“Have you tried writing them down?” Eddie asks, “Sketching them out and labeling them and then writing their properties underneath?”

“I wish I could see them in real life,” Susan says, “Not just the pictures in textbooks. How are we supposed to know how big they are? What they really smell like?”

“You should ask Professor Beery if he’d let you into the greenhouse.”

Susan fidgets with the hem of her shirt, “Will you come with me? I’m too scared to ask by myself.”

Eddie thinks about his paper on the Mermish Treaty of 1301 that he hasn’t started writing yet. “Sure. Do you want to go now?”

“In five minutes?”

“Alright.”

Susan fidgets with her clothes a little more before she blurts out, “What if Kenneth dies?”

Eddie wraps an arm around her shoulder, “Have you been worrying about this all along?”

“What if Kenneth dies and the Germans drop a bomb on our house and mum and dad die too?”

“That’s never going to happen,” Eddie says, pulling his sister in for a hug, “I promise you that’s never going to happen.”

“What if Grindelwald’s wizards come to our house and kill mum and dad?” Susan has her chin pressed against his shoulder, “What if we go home and they’re not there any more?”

“Susan,” Eddie says, “Do you remember the wizards that came to our house last winter?”

She nods against his neck.

“They came a lot more times after that, didn’t they?”

“Mum wouldn’t let me out on the days they came.”

“They were setting up protection spells,” Eddie says, “Even if a bomb were dropped on our house, it wouldn’t even matter because the wards would stop it. Grindelwald’s wizards won’t even be able to find the place.”

Susan clings to him tighter.

“Susan,” Eddie murmurs, “No matter what, I’ll be here. I’ll take care of you.”

___________


E,
OWL results came out. I scored an A in Astronomy (I might have been expecting that one, to be honest) but everything else was E or O. I even scored the E I needed in Potions so I guess I get to see Slughorn’s face for another two years.
I hear that the bombing up north is getting worse but the muggle military is doing a good job fending them off. I think I’ve gotten used to the anti-aircraft gunfire and explosions every once in a while. I think the part that bothers my mum the most is the food ration because she can’t bake when she’s stressed any more. Right now, she’s stressed approximately all the time. I’m sorry for the lack of letters but I’m afraid Artemis is going to get caught in the crossfire if I send her out too often.
Stay safe Eddie. I’m keeping your brother in my thoughts.
A


___________


“Take your ration ticket,” Eddie’s mum says, “We won’t need it here. Are you sure that this floo network is safe?”

“Safer than the train, mum. I’ll be able to come back any time.”

“Mail us when you get the chance. And let us know when you’re coming back, will you? I’ll mail you if something happens here. They do get muggle post there, don’t they?”

“I’ll let you know,” Eddie says and throws his floo powder into their fireplace.

___________


It rains in Bournemouth for the first two days after Eddie arrives and clears up on the night of the third. Cabin fever sends them into the woods despite Mrs. Haldane’s protests. The sky is hazy with smoke over England but nothing flies over Bournemouth except the silhouettes of RAF planes heading towards London. The moon is full and lights their way through the trees.

They reach an outcrop of rocks on the hill overlooking the Haldane properties and the dark metropolis of Bournemouth and Poole. The sea forms the horizon and Eddie imagines he can almost see France on the other side.

“I wish there was accelerated training for becoming an auror,” Andy says, “They say that Grindelwald is working with the German government.”

Eddie drops stones off the edge of the cliff and keeps his eyes on the horizon.

“I’m scared that the war is going to tip in favor of the Germans,” Andy continues, “And I’m scared that I won’t be able to do my part. I kind of envy your brother, Eddie.”

Eddie looks back at him.

“In ten years, when people ask where I was during the defense of England, what will I tell them?” Andy asks, “You don’t think about it, Eddie?”

“I think about it,” Eddie says, “I think about it and I concentrate on learning as much as I can now so when the time comes, I’ll be useful for this country.”

“You’ve always been practical, Eddie,” Andy says and climbs down the rocks until he’s sitting next to Eddie at the edge of the cliff.

“My mum doesn’t want me to be an auror,” Andy says quietly, “She has Elizabeth, but the Haldane lineage has always been patriarchal.”

“You want to be an auror,” Eddie says, “Isn’t that all that matters?”

“How about you?” Andy asks. He reaches out and takes Eddie by the wrist, thumb sweeping circles over the veins tracing down the inside. “Have you decided what you want yet?”

“I want to be an auror,” Eddie says, “But my mum and dad, they’re getting old and they can’t do all the farmwork themselves.”

“You want to be an auror,” Andy echoes with a smile, “Isn’t that all that matters?”

In the distance, a formation of airplanes drones closer. Eddie watches them fly over and wonders if his brother is among them.

“Eddie,” Andy says, “Do you remember when I resolved to stop keeping secrets?”

Eddie looks at him in the moonlight, silver highlighting his eyelashes. He’s still holding Eddie’s wrist but his thumb has stilled and Eddie realizes just how close he is, realizes just a moment before it happens—

Andy leans in and presses his closed lips to Eddie’s. Eddie can’t breathe, wonders if he’s dreaming again—and then he parts his lips and pulls Andy closer. There is a tightness building up in his chest and Andy opens his mouth, breathes him in slow and steady.

“Is this?” Andy asks and Eddie answers by touching his neck, tracing the curve of his ear, nose against his cheek and his voice is shaky when he says yes, yes.

___________


Dear Edward,

Due to your outstanding leadership skills and your high academic standing, we are pleased to inform you that you have been selected for Gryffindor prefect. This means that you will be given extra responsibility to support your fellow housemates at Hogwarts. Below is a list of your duties as a Gryffindor prefect:
- Mediate conflict among your peers for peaceful resolutions
- Take away Gryffindor house points for rule-breaking
- Give detentions to Gryffindor students for poor behavior
- Supervise younger students and act in a manner befitting of a role model
- Other duties as established by the Head Boy and Head Girl or the staff of Hogwarts

Attached to this letter you will find your prefect badge. You will be briefed about the daily duties as a prefect at the prefect meeting on the Hogwarts Express prior to your arrival at Hogwarts. Should you be incapable or unwilling to perform the duties of a prefect, please arrange a meeting with Headmaster Dippet at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely,
Headmaster Dippet


_____


REGRET INFORM 267490 KENNETH MICHAEL JONES DIED DOVER 20 AUG 40 CONFIRMATION FOLLOWS ARTILLERY RECORDS DOVER


___________


“Madame,” Lilith says to Mrs. Haldane during tea, “A man is waiting for you at the front door. He is saying he has a telegram.”

“What is a telegram?” she asks but Eddie’s already rising from his seat and he knows.

“Eddie?” Andy asks but Eddie’s already halfway to the door. By the time Andy reaches him, he’s staring at the slip of paper in his hands. It’s from his mum. Andy reads it over his shoulder.

“Oh,” Andy says and he puts an arm around Eddie’s shoulders, “Eddie, I’m so sorry.”

Eddie doesn’t feel like crying. He doesn’t feel angry. He doesn’t feel anything at all.

“I need to go home.”

___________


Susan doesn’t give anything other than monosyllabic replies when Eddie gets home. The longest sentence she says is a day before they drive down to King’s Cross: “I don’t want to go to Hogwarts.”

“Susan,” their mum says, “You have to go to Hogwarts.” Susan refuses to pack so Eddie helps his mum pack her trunk and load it into the car for the next day.

Eddie leaves Susan with a group of her friends and hopes that she’s more willing to talk to them than she is to Eddie or their parents. He slides his trunk into the prefects’ compartment before doubling back on the train and looking into the compartment where his sister sits. She’s sitting by the window and looking out and her friends are talking with each other. He steps back along the corridor and looks out the window. He doesn’t know whether he wants to leave her alone or take her to a different compartment.

Someone touches his arm. He doesn’t have to turn around to know that it’s Andy.

“She’s taking it a lot harder than the rest of us,” Eddie says.

“When you were younger, you probably thought that Kenneth was going to be there forever,” Andy says, “But you’ve known for a while now that nobody is invincible.”

The scenery speeds past.

“I want to become an auror,” Eddie says.

Andy’s hand slides down his arm and Eddie opens his hand. Andy’s palm is warm against Eddie’s.

___________


Eddie starts pushing himself harder during their morning runs. He runs until the entire world is the burning inside his lungs and the heartbeat in his throat, until he pushes past the pain in his legs into numbness. Andy doesn’t ever say anything, just keeps up as best as he can. Afterwards, they use the prefect bathroom before dawn even hits, trading slow kisses under the spray of the shower, mapping out slippery skin with the span of his hand and Eddie lets himself forget about coursework and duty and his future.

___________


“—possible indication that Grindelwald’s forces are working alongside the German Wehrmacht although nothing has been confirmed. However, officials from the disbanded French Ministry of Magic have indicated that there are wizarding forces working alongside the Forces Françaises Libres though they remained silent on the number. Although we have confirmed sightings of British wizards fighting with the rebel troops in France, the Ministry of Magic advises that all wizards and witches remain at home in case we are called upon to defend our homeland.”

“How can you listen to that and not be itching to leave?” Ron asks.

Eddie turns the radio down and looks at Ron.

“I almost didn’t come back to Hogwarts,” Ron says, “My dad’s gone out to fight in France. I wanted to join him but then I realized I’d just be a hindrance. All of us here, we would last three seconds in a real fight.”

“Are you going to leave?”

“They don’t teach enough offensive spells in Defense against the Dark Arts,” Ron sets down the textbook he had been reading, “And honestly, Eddie, what good do you think a stinging hex is going to be against the killing curse? Nothing is fair in war and Grindelwald’s forces won’t be relying on leg locker curses.”

“Dark magic corrupts the soul,” Eddie recites.

“Maybe there are some sacrifices worth making.”

___________


Eddie rounds the corner of the shelves and stops. Andy has a hand on his sister’s back and Eddie can’t hear what he’s saying but he can see that his sister has been crying. He debates between letting them finish their conversation or finding out what’s wrong before deciding on the latter.

When Eddie approaches the table, Susan looks up, wipes her eyes and says, “Thanks Andy. Bye, Eddie,” and picks up her bag. Eddie’s about to grab her by the arm and ask what’s wrong but Andy reaches out and puts a hand on his knee, shaking his head.

“What’s wrong?” Eddie asks.

“She’s worried about your parents,” Andy says, “She hasn’t been writing them or hearing from them often because of the one-owl-a-week policy so she came to ask if she could borrow Artemis.”

“Andy,” Eddie says, “You didn’t. What about the fighting?”

“Artemis is a smart bird,” Andy says, “She’ll be fine.”

“I could just give her my weekly owl,” Eddie says, “You don’t have to.”

Andy leans forward over his textbook, looking Eddie in the eye, “Do you remember a long time ago when I said that everything I owned is yours too?”

“I—” Eddie’s mouth is dry, “Merlin Andy, I didn’t think you would remember it, much less actually mean it.”

“I mean it, Eddie,” Andy says. Eddie stares, a sudden wild feeling rising in his throat before he leans forward and fits his hand at the back of Andy’s neck, pulling him in for a kiss.

Andy grins against his lips. It’s the first time they’ve kissed in public.

___________


“Attacks on Tretheway in the far southwest. I hope you don’t have family there.”

“No,” Ron says, “And it’s also not Grindelwald. Not his style. Probably just a bunch of amateurs”

Eddie looks up, “Grindelwald has a style?”

“It’s always to send a message,” Ron says, “For the greater good. He’s been focusing on attacking towns where there have been historical incidences of wizarding oppression or persecution. What has Tretheway done?”

“You can’t tell me that the records of every town in England are spotless,” Eddie points out.

“True,” Ron shrugs and drops his bookbag on his bed, “I don’t know why he hasn’t attacked here yet. Maybe he’s gathering his forces. Only time will tell.”

___________


They don’t kiss at the train station because Eddie’s father is standing at the end of the platform. “I’ll see you after the holidays,” Andy says with a smile.

Eddie doesn’t know how he’s going to face the silence of three weeks at home by himself but he smiles back and says, “I’ll see you, Andy.”

The car ride home is silent. Susan stares out the window and their father keeps peering up at the sky through the windshield. Eddie knows that he should start a conversation, ask about the harvest, ask if there’s any damage to the house, ask how they’ve been holding up but every conversation will lead to the one that they didn’t have before Susan and Eddie left for Hogwarts and Eddie wants to put it off as long as possible.

The house looks exactly the same as it always does. Their mum doesn’t greet them at the door when they arrive and it feels strangely empty even though Kenneth hasn’t lived there for years.

Eddie wants to leave already.

___________


The woods are silent. Eddie figures the birds have been driven away by the war. He gathers firewood by himself, the thud of his axe magnified between the trees. He spends all day gathering firewood so he doesn’t have to be inside and by the time he’s been back for a week, the stack behind the house could last for well over a month. His arms ache and his fingers shake a little when he drafts a letter to Andy.

The radio tells him that Grindelwald’s forces occupy most of France and that they would likely be looking towards England next.

Their mum cures a ham for Christmas but it’s smaller than it was last year. During Christmas dinner, Susan says, “I really miss Kenneth,” and Eddie watches his mother’s face crumple as she turns away from the table. His dad puts an arm around her and says, “Shhh, Helen,” while Susan looks like she’s about to cry too.

“Susan,” Eddie says, “Let’s go up to our rooms.” He guides her up the stairs with a hand on her elbow and shuts the door behind them so they can’t hear their mother’s muffled sobs.

“I didn’t mean to make mum cry,” Susan chokes out and bursts into tears. She beats her fists on her desk until Eddie grabs her wrists and she’s shouting, “Why does there have to be war? I hate it, it’s not fair!” before Eddie pulls her into a hug and she cries into his shoulder.

___________


Eddie has barely finished putting away his luggage when Andy opens the door. Eddie turns around to say hello but Andy pushes Eddie into the corner of the train compartment where nobody can see them and kisses Eddie slow until someone slides the door open—and promptly shuts it again. Andy laughs and presses his forehead into Eddie’s cheek while Eddie looks at his watch and says, “Come on, we’re supposed to be patrolling the train.”

He lets Andy steal another kiss before fixing the prefect badge on his robes and following Andy out the door.

___________


“How was the lesson?” Eddie asks as Andy sits across from him in the library.

“I’m surprised that the Ministry can even afford to send out an Apparition instructor considering how most of their resources are tied up in panicking about Grindelwald.”

“I think it’s a good investment to make, teaching your future aurors how to apparate.”

“Technically,” Andy says, “I’ve been able to apparate since my mom taught me years ago. I’ll teach you this summer.”

Eddie shakes his head but he can’t help but smile, “I’m going to get splinched, aren’t I?”

___________


Eddie draws the short straw.

“Ouch,” Carwood says, “Bad luck there Eddie.”

“Thank you, Carwood,” Eddie says.

On Valentine’s day, Eddie patrols the corridor leading to the astronomy tower, calling out once in a while, “I see you there Heckathorn,” or “Somewhere else tonight, Stier.”

“Fancy seeing you here,” Andy says as he appears at the end of the hall, bookbag slung over one shoulder.

“I hope that you’re on patrol too and not just out of bed.”

“Heading straight back to Hufflepuff.”

“Oh,” Eddie says and Andy is suddenly far too close to be considered professional. “Just coming back from a date?”

“I wish,” Andy murmurs, “My date stood me up. Turns out he’s stuck on patrol duty. I had to spend my evening reading about transfiguration theories instead.”

“Shame,” Eddie says as Andy practically backs him into a wall. He desperately hopes that nobody shows up as Andy grins centimeters from his face.

“You hate that you’re enjoying this,” Andy says, delighted.

“Piss off,” Eddie says, shoving at Andy.

“I’ll see you in the morning,” Andy says with a grin.

___________


“No new attacks?” Eddie asks as he slings his bookbag over the back of his chair.

“Everyone’s exceptionally busy in Africa,” Ron says, “But still nothing in England.”

“Maybe Grindelwald just doesn’t care about England.”

“I don’t think he’d conveniently ignore the Witchcraft Act of 1735,” Ron says, “England is just as guilty as the rest of them. It’s only a matter of time.”

Eddie lies down on his bed and toes off his shoes. Ron’s quill scratches across the parchment.

Eddie thinks he hears Ron mutter, “Just wish they’d train us better,” but then he’s asleep.

___________


“Eddie?” Andy says as he knocks on the open door.

“Ron’s not here,” Eddie says, “He’s got patrol duty tonight.”

Andy closes the door and looks at the piles of books around Eddie’s chair, “I suppose you just realized that your OWLs are coming up.”

“I am so far behind in my Ancient Runes class right now,” Eddie says, flipping back and forth between the runes chart and the problem set, “I was supposed to start writing my Potions protocol an hour ago but then a fight broke out among the second years and I was the only one there—“

“Hey,” Andy murmurs, settling hands on Eddie’s shoulders, “You’ll be okay. You always pull through.”

Eddie scribbles the last of his problem set, “Have you seen my sister recently?”

“Sat with her at lunch today. She seems like she’s a lot happier. She talked more than at the beginning of the semester anyway.”

“I think my mum’s getting better too,” Eddie says, “If the lengths of her letters are anything to judge by.” He blows on the ink on the parchment to dry it before rolling it up.

“What about you, Eddie?”

“Don’t need to worry about me,” Eddie says, shutting the Ancient Runes book and standing up. He smiles at Andy, “I’ve been doing fine for ages.”

“I wish you’d think about yourself once in a while,” Andy says, “I can’t be the only one doing it.”

“You do a good job,” Eddie says, pulling a Charms textbook out from underneath a pile of papers, “Read on my bed? Did you bring your books? Do you want to help me study for my OWLs?”

Andy snorts but climbs onto Eddie’s bed anyway, “Unless those are euphemisms, your seduction technique needs some serious work.”

Eddie settles next to him, tucks his head against Andy’s chest, and cracks open the Charms textbook. Andy opens his folder of quidditch plays with one hand and settles the other into Eddie’s hair.

The war seems far away.

___________


Andy is waiting for him outside his Defense Against the Dark Arts OWL with two brooms. Eddie grins at him when he sees him.

“I see you broke into my room.”

“For a good cause,” Andy says, tossing him his broom, “You’re done with your OWLs. Let’s go flying.”

“You have your Transfigurations final tomorrow.”

“I’ll be fine,” Andy says, “Come on, Eddie.”

___________


“Eddie,” Mrs. Haldane says, “It’s such a pleasant surprise to see you this early on in the summer.”

“Hello Mrs. Haldane,” Eddie says, smiling.

“Oh Eddie,” she says, pulling him in for a hug, “I think we’ve known each other long enough that we can forego all of these formal titles, can’t we? Call me Madeleine, please—or mum even. That would please me more.”

“Stop attacking Eddie with your eccentricities, mum,” Andy says as he climbs out of the fireplace, “You’re making everyone feel uncomfortable.”

“Darling,” Mrs. Haldane says, brushing soot from Andy’s shoulders, “Your abrupt presence and cutting remarks are the only things making people feel uncomfortable. Please refrain from engaging in any delinquent activities I know you are already planning.”

“Yes ma’am,” Andy says.

Mrs. Haldane sniffs and straightens Andy’s robes before sweeping across the room, “Well come along then. Let’s get you settled into your room, Eddie.”

___________


“I haven’t said anything,” Andy says, sitting in the chair at his desk, “I swear Eddie.”

“I believe you,” Eddie says, dropping his bag and leaning against the bed, “But she just put us in the same room without prompting?”

“My mum reads people really well. Whenever I got into trouble, I wouldn’t have to even say what I’d done. She’d just know by looking at me.”

“What do we do?”

“She obviously doesn’t think it’s a big deal,” Andy says, “I never thought it would be a big deal for her, to be honest. My dad—he might be angry, but he’s never around.” Andy takes a deep breath and moves to stand up, “I’ll go talk to her.”

“No,” Eddie says, “Let me talk to her.”

___________


Lilith directs him towards a wing of the house that he’s never been down. Most of the doors are closed but the one at the end is open. He steps into the doorway and raises his hand to knock but Mrs. Haldane catches sight of him in the mirror, “Come in Eddie.”

“I, um,” Eddie starts and clears his throat as he steps into the room, “I was just wondering what exactly you thought my intentions towards your son were.”

“Oh Eddie,” she says, sitting up on her chaise and slipping a gold bookmark into her book, “Nothing but the purest, I hope.”

Eddie doesn’t know how to interpret her answer. She motions for him to sit next to her.

“From the moment that my son brought you home, I knew you were a Haldane,” she says, taking his hand.

“I’m sorry, I don’t—”

“My son may not seem like it,” she says, “But he has issues with trust and abandonment. After all, both myself and his father betrayed him at an early age.” She sighs, “I wish my health had been better, Eddie. There are many things in my life that I regret.”

“I’m sor—”

“He walks into other people’s lives,” she continues as if he hadn’t spoken at all, “And he gets to know them very well, Eddie. And people, oh people are selfish creatures. They’re so self-absorbed that they don’t realize that my son knows so much about them but they don’t know anything substantial about him at all.”

Eddie hasn’t realized—he doesn’t know what to say.

“But you know my son, don’t you Eddie? You know him better than his own mother does.”

Eddie wants to protest that it isn’t true because it would be the comforting thing to do. Mrs. Haldane looks him in the face, his hand still in hers, and he realizes that she doesn’t want words of comfort, that she’s only observing the truth.

“My son doesn’t love lightly,” she says, “And that’s how I know you’re a Haldane.”

___________


“How’d it go?” Andy asks as Eddie closes the door. Eddie pulls Andy up from his chair and kisses him.

“Do I even want to know?” Andy asks as Eddie pushes him back onto his bed, “I’m afraid to ask what she said if it got this reaction out of you.”

“Shut up,” Eddie instructs, “And take your clothes off.”

Andy pulls his shirt above his head, tossing it onto the other side of the bed. Eddie stares at him as he unbuttons the top of his trousers and Andy tilts his head back, revealing a wide expanse of neck, looking at Eddie with smirk, “Aren’t you going to do the same for me?”

Eddie pulls his own shirt off and climbs onto the bed, thumbs sweeping along Andy’s jaw as he kisses him. Andy fumbles with his trousers but doesn’t break the kiss as he shrugs out of them, working on Eddie’s next. He barely manages to get Eddie’s trousers to his knees before he loses patience and slips a hand under the waistband of Eddie’s briefs. Eddie breaks the kiss with a gasp, eyes squeezing shut.

Afterwards, Eddie trails his fingers across every square inch of Andy’s skin, touching the inside of his elbow and the backs of his knee. Andy’s cock twitches with interest as Eddie gets to the soft skin of his inner thigh and Andy laughs quietly, sprawled out across his bed, looking down at Eddie and half falling asleep. Eddie breathes against his hip and then his stomach and keeps going until he’s level with Andrew’s shoulder. He splays a hand across Andy’s stomach and closes his eyes.

___________


“Eddie!” his mum says coming down the stairs of the porch, “We’ve missed you!”

“Hello mum,” he says, pulling his bag out of the automobile, “I’ve missed you too.”

“Are you hungry?” she asks, pulling him in for a hug and a kiss, “It’s late for lunch now, isn’t it? How was your train ride? I wish we kept our fireplace hooked up to that floo thing, you wouldn’t have to spend so long on the road.”

“It’s better we’re not hooked up,” Eddie says.

“Let’s get tea started, Helen,” his dad suggests, “Where’s Susan?”

“In her room, I think,” his mum says, “I’ll go make tea.”

Eddie looks up at their house and he’s grateful that things are slowly getting back to normal.

___________


E,
Mum sat dad down for a discussion of me and you. She said it’d be better to do it quick rather than stretch it out forever. There was a fair bit of yelling but eventually mum got her way. I’m not even expected to produce an offspring or anything because she found loopholes in the ancient magic (or whatever determines how magical lineage works) that would transfer the bloodline to my nephew. It’s so strange to write that: I have a nephew. I don’t know how I feel about being relieved of the line. I guess nobody can stop me from becoming an auror now.
A


___________


“How does it feel to be in your last year of Hogwarts?”

“Terrifying,” Andy answers while pinning his prefect badge to his robes, “Too many NEWT level courses. Slughorn is going to eat me alive when he realizes all of the successes I’ve had in Potions have been flukes.”

“Pretty consistent flukes, if you ask me.”

“But what’s really important is that I’ll lead Hufflepuff to a quidditch victory this year,” Andy says, “And possibly also qualify to be an auror.” He leans in and presses a quick kiss to the corner of Eddie’s lips. “Have a good patrol,” and he’s gone down the corridor of the train.

___________


“Eddie,” Professor Dumbledore says, “Would you come with me for a moment?”

Eddie glances at Andy before following Professor Dumbledore out of the Great Hall.

“I’m sure you’ve noticed the absence of Ronald Speirs on the train today,” Professor Dumbledore says as he turns around to face Eddie.

“Do you know where he is, sir?”

“If I were to take a wild guess, in France perhaps,” Professor Dumbledore answers, “Or perhaps still here in England, getting ready to go to France. I tried my hardest to convince him out of it but Ronald seems to be a man of action, as you well know.”

“He—actually left.”

“He was an exceptional student and I am certain he will fare well for himself,” Professor Dumbledore murmurs, “Yet one cannot feel as if Hogwarts has failed him in some fundamental way. All of the students here are gifted, but it takes years of experience to gain the maturity necessary to greet war with perspective. I sincerely hope that you are not considering following in his footsteps.”

“No.”

“For that, I am grateful Eddie. It’s important for our younger students to see Hogwarts as a touchstone and a source of stability in these troubling times.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Since Ronald is taking a hiatus from his studies, it has been decided that your large shared room will be reassigned to the first years,” Professor Dumbledore says, lifting his wand and drawing a shimmering diagram of Gryffindor tower, “We’ve reassigned you to a smaller room in Gryffindor tower since you will be living alone. I hope you will regard your new accommodations as comfortable.

Eddie looks at the room that lights up in the diagram, “I’m sure they will be, sir.”

“Please do let me know if you have any problems,” Dumbledore says, sweeping the diagram away and smiling, “I’ll leave you to enjoy your feast now, Mr. Jones.”

___________


Eddie’s almost asleep when Andy speaks. The vibration of his voice makes Eddie open his eyes and shift his head.

“I wonder where he is now.”

“Who? Ron?”

“I wonder what he thinks of it,” Andy says, “I wonder what he’s done so far.”

Eddie looks at the night sky through the open window.

“He told me once that he would be willing to cast the Unforgiveables if the situation called for it.”

Andy runs a finger along Eddie’s spine and traces the outline of his shoulderblade, “I can see it being appropriate in certain situations.”

Eddie takes a few moments to reply, his voice quiet, “I wish you didn’t.”

“Between me and you, Eddie,” Andy murmurs, “I’d choose you.”

Eddie turns to face him, sliding a hand across Andy’s jawline, “Don’t say that, Andy.”

“It’s true,” Andy murmurs, “But I know you can take care of yourself. I can’t see the situation arising so easily.”

“I’m never going to put you in that situation,” Eddie promises.

___________


Reducto,” Eddie says, “Reducto, reducto.” Pieces of rock explode off the boulder from the force of the spell and Eddie reflexively puts up a shield charm and the stone shrapnel scatters harmlessly away. “Diffindo,” he points his wand and three branches fall from the pine tree.

“Bugger,” he mutters and takes up a stance again, “Diffindo,” Only one branch falls this time. He walks closer to inspect the jagged cuts and doesn’t see the figure diving towards the edge of the woods where he’s standing.

“Troubles?” Andy asks, dismounting from his broom.

Eddie looks back, “I’m suddenly having issues with precision. Everything is coming out too strong.”

“I think that happened to my sister during her last year here. Kind of like shooting up five inches in two months.”

“I’m not too fond of the fact that it decided to show up during the academic year,” Eddie says, “I don’t know when I’m supposed to find the time to recalibrate.”

“From what I remember, she improved a lot by focusing on low-powered spells.”

“So,” Eddie says, “The exact opposite of what I’m doing now.”

Andy grins, “Pretty much.”

“Are you going back inside?”

“Dinner?”

“I’ll come with you,” Eddie says.

___________


Susan catches him in the hallway, “Eddie. Can I talk to you?”

“What is it Susan?”

She looks around the mostly-deserted hallway where only the last few Ravenclaw stragglers are hurrying towards their classes. She grabs his arm and pulls him towards an alcove before looking at him.

“So, two months ago, my friends were talking about the boys in Hufflepuff—and they were trying to tell me that you and Andy were going steady,” Susan says, “And I didn’t believe them and told them that they were wrong. But this morning I was listening in on a conversation that the fifth-year girls were having and they were saying things like that too.”

“Shit,” Eddie says, “Fuck.”

Susan steps back from him her eyes going round.

“No sorry, I didn’t mean to swear,” Eddie says, “I mean, I’m just angry because that’s not how you should have—I should have told you and I don’t know why I didn’t—Susan, I’m sorry I never told you.”

“You,” she says, “And Andy.”

“Yes,” Eddie says, “Yes.”

She looks at him for a long moment and then she turns and starts down the hall.

“Susan!” Eddie calls and hurries after her. She breaks into a run and whips around the corner and by the two Eddie reaches the end, she’s disappeared.

___________


“I think I just royally fucked up,” Eddie tells Andy.

Andy’s finishes conjuring a set of silverware onto Eddie’s desk and looks up, “What happened?”

“I didn’t tell my sister about us,” Eddie says, “She overheard it twice from other people before confronting me.”

“Why aren’t you talking to her now?”

“I don’t know what I’d say.”

“Where is she?”

“I don’t know. Merlin, probably writing a letter to my mum and dad.”

Andy shakes his head, “Don’t think so lowly of your sister, Eddie.”

“I can’t!” Eddie yells—and then his voice drops back down, “Andy, I can’t help but think of the worst case scenario. I’ve been thinking worst case scenario for the last four years of my life and I don’t know anything else.”

“Why do you think so lowly of your family?” Andy demands.

“I love my family. I think lowly of the beliefs held by the muggle world that they’re a part of.”

“That—” Andy says, “It’s partially your world too.”

Eddie presses the back of his hand to his eyelids and takes a seat on his bed. He’s tired. “I know.”

___________


“Did you hear about the bombing?” a Gryffindor asks Eddie at breakfast. “The Japanese must be mental.”

Eddie takes a copy of the Daily Prophet. The headline reads “ATTACK ON PEARL HARBOR” and below that “What Does This Mean For Grindelwald?”

“It’s about time the US joined in anyway,” the Gryffindor says but Eddie looks at the moving picture of President Roosevelt and all he can think about is Kenneth.

___________


Eddie has an hour off train patrol so he finds the compartment that he put his things in and stretches out over the seat. He puts his arm over his eyes and he’s about to go to sleep when the compartment door slides open. He sits up, “Susan?”

“Hi,” she says and takes the seat across from him.

“Are you okay? Do you need something?”

“No,” she says, “I just wanted to talk.”

“Alright,” Eddie says, “What do you want to talk about?”

She looks down at her knees, “I’m sorry.”

Eddie gets up and sits down next to her, “What for?”

“Being angry at you,” She looks up at him, “Making you worry.”

“It’s alright, Susan.”

“I was in love with Andy,” Susan blurts out, “And I was really angry for a long time that he picked you over me.”

“Oh,” Eddie says.

“It’s okay,” she says, “He really likes you and he doesn’t know that I exist at all.”

“He knows you exist. He likes you.”

“But never in the way that he likes you,” Susan says, “It’s okay, Eddie.”

She gets up and turns to leave but Eddie catches her by the sleeve, “Susan. Do me a favor.”

She looks back at him, “What?”

“Don’t tell mum and dad.”

She tugs her sleeve out of his grip, “Not my secret to tell, Eddie. See you.”

___________


E,
Mum’s expecting you this holiday. What do I tell her?
A

_____


A,
After New Year’s. I’ll come by train.
So my sister has been harboring an unrequited love for you for god knows how long. I honestly have no idea what to do or say. I can see her already preparing herself for some sort of tortured carrying-the-torch scenario. I hate to add more to your plate but could you please nip this in the bud come next semester?
E

_____


E,
I don’t know whether to laugh or feel terrible. Let me know what train you’re taking.
A

_____


Andrew Haldane,

Because of your high academic performance and your exceptional leadership at Hogwarts, the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and the Auror Office would like to preemptively extend an invitation to the Auror training program contingent on your performance on your NEWTs. Because we believe your endurance and good character as well as your interest in becoming an Auror all speak for your potential as an elite member of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, we will accept performance on your NEWTs above the 80th percentile.

Due to the unusual circumstances following the need for increased security in our homeland, this is the first year that these invitations have been distributed. You are one of the few students to receive such an invitation. We understand that the decision to become an Auror is a difficult one to make and urge you to think carefully about your choice. Please reply with an indication or denial of interest at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely,
Alan Bibbins
Head of the Auror’s Office
Department of Magical Law Enforcement
Ministry of Magic


___________


“Sometimes I find it a bit odd that you’re in my room more often than I am.”

“I can lock myself in here,” Andy says, “No sixth-year girls asking if I can tutor them in Transfigurations. No Hufflepuff chasers demanding to know if I’ve made any revisions to the play. Merlin knows I love my house but I need to focus.”

“I don’t know whether I should be flattered or insulted to not be considered as a distraction,” Eddie drops his bag and presses his thumbs into the muscle at the back of Andy’s neck, “Think maybe I should make more of an effort.”

Andy leans back against his hands, “I think I’d try to stay away entirely if you stepped it up. Except I’d cave in after a few days and resign myself to my fate of never becoming an auror. Lower?”

Eddie complies, digging his thumbs into the space between Andy’s shoulderblades. Andrew has stopped writing altogether. Eddie grins, “What were you saying about me being a distraction?”

“Don’t stop,” Andy begs, “I can write at the same time.” He writes another two words. The second word trails off in a line of ink.

Eddie lifts his hands back onto Andy’s shoulders and leans down so he’s speaking into Andy’s ear, “I’m going to leave you to your notes. Let me know when you’re done and maybe I’ll give you a proper backrub.”

___________


Eddie is supposed to be studying the advanced properties of defensive charms but for the last fifteen minutes he’s been staring blankly out his window, running his quill in between his thumb and forefinger over and over again. Andy is away and it’s been a long time since he’s had the room to himself.

Kenneth’s plane was shot down over the sea and Eddie knows it’s stupid but he can’t help but wonder if his brother will show up five years after the war ends, recovered from amnesia. He knows that it’s childish and that it will never happen but Kenneth’s death doesn’t feel final.

___________


“You’re leaving in a month and a half,” Eddie murmurs. Andy turns his head to look at him in the dark.

“I know it’s selfish,” Eddie continues, sliding his hand along Andy’s bicep, “But I really don’t want you to leave.”

“I’ll be back whenever they let me,” Andy promises.

“It’s strange,” Eddie whispers, “I was terrified for my brother when he went off to war and even though he’s dead now, I’m not scared for you. It’s stupid, isn’t it?” Andy touches his face, thumb against his temple and Eddie closes his eyes, “It’s stupid because it’s illogical and cliché but I honestly can’t imagine a world without you.”

Andy laughs softly, presses his lips to Eddie’s forehead and stays there, saying quiet words into Eddie’s hair, “We’re kind of a forever deal, aren’t we?”

___________


“Bartee feints left but Beachy seems to have anticipated it because she’s right on his tail as he tears down the pitch for the Ravenclaw goals—nice shot by Haldane sends the Ravenclaw chasers scattering—Bartee shoots and—oh was that just the snitch?”

Eddie shields his eyes and looks up at the seekers who are streaking towards the bottom of the Hufflepuff goalposts. “Come on Dilks,” Eddie shouts.

It almost looks like the two seekers are both going to crash into the pole and at last moment the Ravenclaw seeker pulls into a sharp climb—the Hufflepuff seeker slamming into the wall of the stands. Dilks tumbles off his broom and rolls over a few times with the force of the crash as Madame Freda runs out onto the field, wand at the ready. Dilks struggles to sit up after a moment of not moving and then he holds his hand, fist around a glint of gold.

“Dilks has caught the snitch! Hufflepuff wins, 210 to 90!”

___________


Eddie is waiting for Andrew when he finishes his last NEWT.

“I didn’t even break into your room,” he says, tossing Andy his broom, “Mostly because you left your broom in mine.”

“I’m always happy to assist in reducing the crime rate at Hogwarts,” Andy says with a grin, “What a strange turn of events. I’m obligated to point out that you have an Astronomy final in less than twelve hours.”

“Couldn’t care less,” Eddie says, “Let’s go flying.”

___________


Andy walks in and closes the door. Eddie stops packing his trunk to look at the envelope in Andy’s hands and he feels his stomach drop.

“Moment of truth?” Andy asks with a smile but his hands are shaking as he slits open the flap. Eddie moves around the bed to read over his shoulder as Andy pulls it out and smoothes the creases.

After a moment of silence, Andy drops the letter with a laugh and Eddie drags him in for a kiss. Andy is grinning against his lips and Eddie holds Andy tight. He doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry, both elation and loss struggling in his chest. And then Andy isn’t smiling any more, he’s pushing at Eddie’s shirt kissing him hard in desperation and Eddie can’t help but respond in kind, fingers fisting into the hair at the back of Andy’s head, kissing with teeth and nails because he needs this to last, needs a reminder of this to last for as long as possible. Andy understands because he shoves at Eddie’s trousers, shoves him on the bed and scrapes teeth along his jaw before biting at the junction of his neck and Eddie digs his fingers into Andy’s back, gasps and needs more.

And it isn’t until after Andy’s bruised Eddie’s hips and left bite marks over the length of his spine that they slow down, Eddie pressing butterfly kisses to the bruises on Andy’s hips, and mouthing I love you, I love you against Andy’s neck. Andrew holds him close and breathes into his hair, skin pressed to skin.

___________


E,
Arrived at auror training camp. I have no idea if it’s usually this intense but I have never been more grateful to have run every morning at Hogwarts. Learning a lot of defensive spells that we never covered. I’m beginning to understand just how much of a rudimentary education Hogwarts is giving us. Not sure how often I’ll be able to write but I’ll try my best.
A

_____


A,
My dad listens to the muggle radio constantly and I don’t know why I’m losing patience with it. There are American troops stationed here temporarily while they open more camps closer to the channel. It’s like I’ve stepped into an entirely new world where war isn’t so distant any more.
Good luck with your training. I know you’ll excel at them as always.
E

_____


A,
My dad drove down to London on business and I stopped by Diagon Alley to get an owl. I think it’s long overdue, isn’t it? I named him Apollo and I hope it appeals to your sense of cliché. If not, then I refuse to apologize.
Harvest looks good. As long as Germany stays out of English skies, I think we’ll be fine. Grindelwald still hasn’t touched England, but the protection wards are holding up. Hope things are going well with you.
E

_____


Eddie,

Hello, darling. I hope you will forgive me for writing a letter out of the blue. You see, Andy hasn’t been particularly apt at replying to my letters in a timely fashion and it worries me so terribly. I suppose I should stop being so neurotic and comfort myself with the thought that he is away undergoing very difficult training and has no time to answer his mother’s silly notes. Unfortunately, I have no such tendencies to be entertaining such rational thoughts. Perhaps we could form some kind of support club where we complain to each other about how insensitive my son is? If such a suggestion does not appeal to you, perhaps I could just ask how your holidays are going and if your family is well.

Madeleine

_____


Hello Madeleine,

I would join you in complain-about-Andy’s-insensitivity club if only for the expression on his face when he hears that such a thing actually exists but unfortunately, I don’t know if I know enough about his insensitivity to complain about it. He’s usually very prompt about answering your letters so I would definitely pin his lack of response to being preoccupied with his training right now.
My mum and dad are doing well, thank you for asking. I hope you are doing well yourself? I never hear much about Elizabeth from Andy, I hope she is doing well as well?

Eddie

_____


Eddie,

Your commitment to my son is commendable and I am left wondering if you are actually this good of a person or if you are scared that I am testing your loyalty somehow. Perhaps you are scared that I will share all of your unsavory sentiments with my son? Let me assure you, darling, that neither of the latter are even in the slightest bit true. We can form a pact of silence if it would placate you—no? I suppose I should be delighted that my son has found such an upstanding human being and should not at all be disappointed in the loss of a potential griping partner.
I am doing quite well, Eddie, thank you for inquiring. The rapidity with which I have responded to your letter is a perfect example of the boredom I seem to be experiencing on a regular basis. I suppose you are now looking at this letter in horror, wondering what you have gotten yourself into. Do not worry, Eddie—although you are also my son, you do not have to shoulder Andy’s responsibilities. There are few people who can replicate all of the hostile things he says to me with such an air of affection and I am willing to wait years for your disillusionment to mature before I hold you to such high standards.
I’ve always been a little disappointed in the distance between Andy and his sister though I don’t think it’s any fault of theirs. They were brought up in very different backgrounds with very different people. Elizabeth takes on after her father of whom, I suspect you already know, Andy is not very fond. Our unnecessary family drama is incredibly tedious and I hardly want to subject you to such a thing.
I hope you have a good time at Hogwarts this year. Please do let me know if Andy starts replying to your letters so I know when to drown him in post.

With love,
Madeleine


___________


“How are you going to survive this year without Andy?” Susan asks once their father has left and they’re lugging their trunks onto the train.

“Contrary to popular opinion, my life doesn’t actually revolve around Andy,” Eddie says.

“I mean, do you even have any other friends? Without Andy, you’re just that one prefect that everyone respects but nobody really knows well because he’s always hanging out with that Hufflepuff. And I didn’t make that up, it’s pretty much how all of my friends think of you.”

“Your friends aren’t in Gryffindor,” Eddie points out.

“I have friends in Gryffindor,” Susan counters, “And they pretty much say the same thing.”

“I—” Eddie starts and then, “Go find your friends, Susan.”

Later when he’s patrolling the train, Susan finds him and says, “I didn’t mean it Eddie.”

“No,” Eddie agrees but it doesn’t change the truth.

___________


E,
I didin’t realize how quickly months could pass. I’ve discovered new levels of exhaustion and I’m starting to find the limits of my magical capacity. I’m sorry I haven’t been writing as often as I should. The normal auror course is usually three years but they’re trying to get us out in [CENSORED] so we can join the forces combing [CENSORED]. I’m excited to be doing something useful but at the same time I can’t wait until the war is over. Thinking of you always.
A


___________


“Detention, Boettger,” Eddie says, “And detention for you too Hackley.”

“I wasn’t even involved,” Hackley scowls, “Why am I getting detention?”

“Egging Boettger on doesn’t count as not being involved,” Eddie says, “Both of you report to Pringle tomorrow at 6 o’clock sharp.”

“I can’t believe we have to listen to a mudblood like you,” Boettger spits.

“Another detention, Boettger,” Eddie replies without a change in voice and then looks at Hackley, “Do you have anything to add?”

“No,” Hackley mutters.

___________


Eddie finds himself with more free time than he’s ever had before. He still runs every morning and finishes reading Advanced Numerology Theory and the last bit of Guide to Advanced Transfiguration within a month of his return.

“You’d like a more advanced textbook,” Professor Dumbledore repeats.

“Yes sir,” Eddie says, “Preferably something that will go into depth about the theory behind conjuration. I never fully understood that.”

Professor Dumbledore looks at the shelves behind his desk before pulling one out, “You could try this one, Mr. Jones. Take as long as you need with it, just return it to me when you’re done.”

“Thank you sir,” Eddie says.

___________


The first petrification happens in late November. Her name is Jeanie Laursen and she turns out to be one of Susan’s friends.

“I don’t want you walking around the halls by yourself,” Eddie tells Susan, “Promise me you won’t walk around the halls by yourself.”

“I promise,” Susan says.

“I’m serious,” Eddie says.

“I get it,” she says, “I just can’t believe it happened to Jeanie.”

“Madame Freda just has to make the Mandrake root draught. It’ll take a few days,” Eddie puts a hand on Susan’s shoulder, “She’ll be all right.”

___________


Eddie knocks on the door of the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. Professor Merrythought looks up. “Hello Mr. Jones. Can I help you?”

“I was just wondering if I could keep the book I’m borrowing from you over Christmas holidays,” Eddie says, stepping into the room.

“You certainly have an appetite for knowledge,” she says, “I wish more of my students were like you these days, Mr. Jones. Would you be interested in another book, by chance?”

“I’d be interested if you’d be willing to lend it.”

“Lending is what books are for, isn’t it? I’ve got a good defensive charms book here,” she pulls a medium sized book from her bookshelf and holds it out to Eddie, “You want to be an auror, don’t you Mr. Jones?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I think you’d be well suited.”

“Thank you, ma’am,” Eddie takes the book, “I’ve been talking with a friend of mine who’s training to be an auror right now—”

“You mean Mr. Haldane.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“I’m glad they took him. He’s also very well suited,” she waves, “Anyways, do go on.”

“Some of the things he’s saying—I’m concerned that the stuff covered in the Hogwarts curriculum won’t prepare me well enough for the kind of auror training that they’re doing for the accelerated program.”

“Well,” Professor Merrythought says, “It’s certainly a good thing that you’re reading outside the Hogwarts curriculum then, isn’t it?”

“I mean no disrespect, ma’am.”

“None taken,” she replies, “You have legitimate concerns. However, I don’t think anyone of your caliber should be overly concerned. There is a reason that the Auror Office only takes on students who have demonstrated exceptional skill. Worry about your NEWTs more.”

“I will,” Eddie says, “Thank you.”

“Let me know what you think of the book,” she says, looking back down at the papers on her desk.

___________


E,
I am sorry I can’t make it back for Christmas. We’re finishing up our first field missions and they’re thinking about shipping us to [CENSORED] for half a year so we can get acclimated to the conditions we will have to work in. Everything moves from theory into practice so much quicker here than it did at Hogwarts. I’ve discovered that what I originally thought were the limits of my magical capacity were actually just the first barrier. You really learn so much more about yourself as a wizard.
I heard about the petrification and I hope that it doesn’t occur again. It makes me anxious to think of the idea that Hogwarts isn’t safe.
Thinking of you always.
A


___________


Eddie’s mum cures the largest ham that she can fit into the icebox and doesn’t let Eddie out of her sight except to chop firewood. She bakes two pies and brings out their good china for Christmas dinner. “It could be your last Christmas at home in a while,” she tells Eddie, “When you’re away at training, I want you to have good memories of home.”

“How do you know about training?” Eddie asks.

“I’ve been writing Andy’s mum. She’s such a lovely woman—she gave me the recipes for these pies.”

Eddie wonders how much Andy’s mum has said in her letters and feels guilty for not being able to say it himself.

“She’s been awfully sad that Andy wasn’t able to come home this Christmas,” his mum says, “And I thought, what if Eddie won’t be able to come back next Christmas? Have some more ham, Eddie.”

Susan meets his eyes across the table before she looks back down at her plate. Eddie takes the ham.

___________


There’s already someone sitting in the prefects’ compartment on the Hogwarts Express when Eddie gets to the door. He knocks on it as a courtesy before sliding the door open.

“Tom Riddle, isn’t it?” Eddie asks.

Tom looks up, “Edward Jones.”

“I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced.”

“I suppose not,” Tom says with a smile, “But Hogwarts is fairly large, isn’t it?”

Eddie takes a seat across from Tom and looks at the book in the other boy’s hands. The cover is in German.

“What are you reading?”

Tom looks up again before flipping the book closed and regarding the cover, “Grindelwald has been circulating this among his forces for a while. I managed to get my hands on a copy of it.” He smiles, “Know thy enemy.”

“For the greater good,” Eddie says, “That’s all I need to know. He’s justifying the torture and killing of muggles based on some bent idea of the superiority of wizards.”

“Ah,” Tom says, “But aren’t wizards superior solely through the magical powers they possess?”

“Humans are humans,” Eddie says, “And murder is murder.”

“Tell me, Edward,” Tom says with a smile, “Are you muggleborn?”

“Does that discount my opinion?”

“Not at all,” Tom says, “Just a curious observation to make.”

Eddie falls silent and looks out the window at the passing scenery. When he has to go back on patrol again, it’s a relief.

___________


E,
I promise to be back between your graduation and when you depart for training. Barring any changes to the schedule I have now which details the next year of my life, I should be able to make it. I have already asked for leave during that time.
Thinking of you always
A


___________


The second petrification happens in February. Eddie is so stuck between textbooks and note taking that he doesn’t realize that it happened until after the student is revived.

The third petrification is his sister. Professor Dumbledore summons Eddie to his office where he says, “I’m sorry Eddie but your sister has been found on the third floor,” and Eddie’s stomach drops.

“You’re free to visit her in the infirmary at any time. Madame Freda is already in the process of brewing a Mandrake root draught for her.”

“Sir,” Eddie says, “Do you know what has been causing all of these attacks?”

“All of us at Hogwarts are trying our best to solve that problem,” Professor Dumbledore says, “We have a couple of leads but to be honest, Mr. Jones, nothing very substantial at the moment.”

___________


Eddie spends three days reading up on any spells that could cause paralysis while sitting in the uncomfortable chair next to his sister’s bed. He leaves only for classes and meals and sleeps with a book propped open against his stomach.

“Mr. Jones,” Madame Freda says the second time she catches him napping at his sister’s bedside, “Would you like a bed?”

When his sister wakes from the effects of the draught, Eddie is half dozing and half putting together experimental counterspells in his mind. She says, “Eddie,” which wakes him, and starts crying, “I promised you, I’m sorry Eddie, I should have been walking with my friends.”

“It’s okay,” Eddie says, holding her hand and wiping her cheeks, “Don’t cry Susan. It’s over now.”

___________


A,
I don’t know if Apollo will even find you but I need to talk to somebody or at least write this down and I don’t know anyone else I’d trust enough to talk to. Susan was the last petrification victim and I need to be studying for the NEWTs but I can’t bring myself to care about them when my sister could very well be in danger of being attacked again. Andy, I don’t understand it—the only similarity between all of the victims is that they’ve all been muggleborn and yet nobody is looking at the Grindelwald sympathizers in Slytherin? I can’t help but be judgmental, not when my sister’s well being is at stake.
I’ve tried to speak to professors but so few of them are willing to admit that the circumstances are dire since all the victims so far can be cured with a mildly complicated potion. If their family members had been petrified, I think it would be a different matter entirely.
I’m sorry to be unloading onto you, Andy. I hope that you are well. I’m looking forward to your return.
E


___________


Susan studies with him in the library for a week after she recovers enough to leave the infirmary. She writes the papers that she had missed and banishes buttons into a chalk circle that she draws onto the top of the table.

“You really miss him, don’t you?” she says on the third day, sweeping all of the buttons into a pile next to her before she starts banishing them again.

“I’ve been studying,” Eddie says, “How did you draw that conclusion from me studying?”

“You’ve just been a lot quieter this year,” Susan says, “Even during Christmas holiday. And you’ve been reading a million books.”

“I don’t know about your logic,” Eddie says with a smile, “But you’re right.”

“I don’t know why you won’t just tell mum and dad.”

“I will,” Eddie says, “When the time is right.”

___________


Eddie is in the middle of his second NEWT the moment that the announcement is released schoolwide: “All students are instructed to return to their respective houses immediately. Prefects, please gather in the Great Hall for instructions.”

Headmaster Dippet stands at the front of the hall with his hands behind his back. Eddie looks at the rest of the prefects—some of them are still carrying uncapped quills and he’s still half thinking about Herbology.

“A student has been killed today,” Headmaster Dippet announces when they’ve all assembled, “Due to these tragic circumstances, we have no choice but to send all of the students home as to not put any more lives into danger. As prefects, your duty is to support your fellow students in these trying times.”

Eddie stares at the Headmaster. Not Susan. Not Susan.

“Hogwarts is no longer safe,” Headmaster Dippet says, “Until the mystery of the attacks is solved, Hogwarts will no longer operate.”

___________


Tom Riddle catches the culprit—a boy in Eddie’s house that Eddie would have never even suspected. Eddie watches him walk up to the front of the Great Hall and accept his award amidst wild applause and he can’t help but remember the way that Tom had asked, “Are you muggleborn?”

___________


Edward Jones,

Congratulations on graduating from Hogwarts. Below are your NEWT results.
Course Percentile
Ancient Runes 92nd
Arithmancy 95th
Astronomy 91st
Charms 96th
Defense Against the Dark Arts 98th
Herbology 91st
Potions 92nd
Transfiguration 98th

If you wish to forward official copies your results to employers, please contact the British Wizarding Education Association. Each copy of your records will cost 2 knuts.

British Wizarding Education Association

_____


Edward Jones,

The Department of Magical Law Enforcement and the Auror’s Office are pleased to have received your auror application and NEWT results. Due to your outstanding performance, we would like to offer you a spot in this year’s accelerated Auror training program which begins June 23rd. Please reply with an indication or denial of interest at your earliest convenience and we will forward you details.

Sincerely,
Alan Bibbins
Head of the Auror’s Office
Department of Magical Law Enforcement
Ministry of Magic


___________


“Eddie,” his mum says when he sets his trunk down in the entrance to wipe his muddy shoes on the porch, “An owl just came for you.”

She hands him the letter and all it says is I’m home. He turns and starts walking down the porch stairs as his mum calls out, “Eddie, why don’t you eat something before you go? You must be hungry from traveling all day!” He breaks into a run across the wheat fields, to the edge of the woods where he reaches the end of the protection ward and he disappears with a crack.

When he reappears, he looks at the paved road leaving up to Haldane Manor. He starts running, slowing down once he catches sight of the house. The door opens when he’s at the bottom of the porch stairs and Andy’s looking down at him.

“Hello Eddie,” he says.

“Hello Andy,” he says and crashes into him with a hug.

“I’ve missed you,” Andy says into Eddie’s shoulder, “Just another year, Eddie. Just another year and maybe a year after that.”

“I’m ready,” Eddie says.
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