Hey guys! Please send me all your good vibes this week as I have finals *sobs*. I hope you enjoy the chapter, and I look forward to posting more over Christmas break.

much love, doze

FYI: when I say pygmy in this chapter like fifty times, I mean pygmy puff. The little round fuzzy creatures that Fred and George bred.


Dear Guest Reviewer (who kindly left me no way to respond),

Thank you for making me aware that my story is not in the Crossover category. It was almost as if I had done it on purpose. My story is not written for the HP fandom, but for the Hetalia fandom and therefore is in the correct category. Have you contacted every Hetalia writer that has done this before me? And in your freetime, do you also contact people whose titles are in all caps or who use music lyrics not in the public domain?

I don't appreciate receiving such a rude and threatening review. If you plan on reporting me, just say it. It seems weird to me that you wrote this with the Guest feature. Do you have an account? If not, please stop policing the community. If so, wouldn't it have been nicer to PM me and share your concerns?

Put simply, the Crossover category is shit. Who wants to sift through such an unorganized and unhelpful category? I never claimed ownership over Hetalia or HP. My work is for the Hetalia audience exclusively.

Thank you for your unrelated comments.

Overwhelmed with affection, doze.

((Now you guys know if something happens to me, it's because of this person telling me about the high courts of FF authority. :)

Alfred stood next to Matthew and Toris, watching the blue-glowing fire in the cup with unbridled interest. Their homework was spread around them. Matthew was already through with most of it. Alfred hadn't even started. He couldn't keep his eyes off the tournament hopefuls who were putting their names into the cup. And neither could most of the school.

The stone walls echoed with laughter and whispers. Every house in Hogwarts had some loungers, keeping one eye on the cup. He was painfully aware of Arthur eating an apple surrounded by a crowd of Gryffindors, including Shelly and Gilbert. A few Gryffindor seventh years had just put their names in and were being celebrated by Arthur's crew. Gilbert enjoyed himself by trying to step inside the age ring and getting thrown back into Antonio's arms. Anyone under the age of seventeen was prevented from getting anywhere near the cup.

Francis and a spattering of Ravenclaws weren't far away from them. When they thought people weren't watching Francis and Matthew exchanged glances. Francis was glowing. But the joke was on them, because Alfred was always watching his best friend. He turned his eye miserably on Arthur, who playfully tossed his apple core at the age ring where it vaporized with a puff. Matthew was just no fun like this.

"Alfred," Toris muttered. "It's almost time for Care of Magical Creatures. You coming?"

Alfred got to his feet grumpily and threw his bag over his shoulder. Ever since Francis had nearly split his head open, things had calmed down in a dissatisfying way around here. He could really use some tournament excitement right about now.

They were studying pygmies today. The girls shrieked and giggled when it was their turn to hold a little furball. Alfred snuck one a few feet away in his robe pocket, then he sprawled on his back and set it on his chest. It wobbled around on tiny bird feet, trying to keep its plump round body upright. Every time he breathed in, it fell over, and he couldn't stop laughing.

He was just teasing it by blowing in its face when someone knicked it. "Hey! Give that…" He trailed off when he saw Arthur Kirkland holding his pygmy.

"You're supposed to be sitting with the rest of the class." Arthur said breathlessly. His cheeks were a little pink and his robes in disarray, suggesting he had run here. Late.

Alfred sighed. "The professor doesn't mind. In fact, I don't think he needs your help. I've got this."

Arthur rolled his eyes. "I'm just waiting for you to sit on one of these." He walked away to return the pygmy to the group and when he thought Alfred wasn't looking he raised it furtively to his lips and pressed a little kiss to its fuzzy head. Alfred scowled and rolled over onto his belly.

In the distance, he could make out the Quidditch pitch. Stormclouds appeared to gather around the highest hoops. It just infuriated him that Arthur could be so awesome, and like animals like he did, and still be such a jerk about what happened to Francis.


Alfred ignored him.


He didn't turn around.


"Oh, Arthur. His name is Alfred." The professor corrected. "Alfred!"

Reluctantly, Alfred got to his feet and joined the group. After class, the professor gave them tiny bags for all the pygmy poop. Alfred frowned at the squishy blue stuff, pinching one with his fingers experimentally.

"Going to eat it?" Arthur asked him with one eyebrow raised.

"It doesn't smell too bad." Alfred replied, shoving it into the bag. "But I'm not that stupid."

"Are you sure?"

"Ha." Alfred wasn't in a hurry to head back for his Charms class, so he reclined against one of the nearby trees.

Arthur to his surprise didn't seem to be in much of a hurry either. He dropped the poop bags in the grass and pulled out a sugar quill from his pocket. Then he reached into his other pocket and pulled out a pygmy!

"Did you steal that?" Alfred hissed in amazement, leaning forward.

"No." Arthur lied as he offered it the sugar quill. It did the cutest little dance and they both chuckled. Stopping quickly and looking away from each other.

"I love pygmies." Alfred said quietly. "But our Head of House confiscated mine last year."

"Did you steal it from the Care of Magical Creatures store?"

"No." Alfred lied cheekily and Arthur's lips twitched.

For a while, they sat in silence. Arthur released the pygmy into the grass, where it promptly gave them another piece of poop to clean up. Alfred giggled boyishly, sprawling onto his back. "Before you interrupted me, I was doing this." He picked up the pygmy carefully and set it on his chest. He took a deep breath and its fat body toppled over. It righted itself, but by that time Alfred had already taken another breath, knocking it over.

"You're so cruel." Arthur murmured, rescuing the poor thing and placing it on the grass again. "I have a few at home. Mum let me breed them last summer."

"How can you tell which are girls and which are boys?"

Arthur sat upright a little more and held out the pygmy for him to see. "It's easy, see. The girls always have this tuft of fur at the…" He had gone into teaching mode, his shoulder pressed into Alfred's and his longish hair tickled Alfred's cheek as he held the pygmy under Alfred's nose, showing him the different features. Abruptly, Arthur remembered who he was talking to and straightened up with a cough.

To Alfred's surprise, his cheeks had gone faintly pink. "Pygmies are girls' pets, anyway." He said gruffly. "M-my mum just told me about that stuff. I don't really care." To prove his point, he tossed the fat pygmy on the ground, but with enough gentleness that it only bounced once and wasn't harmed at all.

Alfred frowned, reaching for it. "Well, I like them."

"You're not much of a man, Alex."

"Thanks." Alfred rolled his eyes, bringing the pygmy up to brush against his cheek. "I wish I could have magical creatures at home. My mom won't even let me keep an owl."

"Really?" Arthur asked despite himself. "How do you get your mail?"

"School owls." Alfred laughed weakly. "Not the most reliable things."

"Well, some of them are nearly 100 years old." Arthur said defensively. "The school overworks them, they do. Some of them are nearly blind! What they need is a…" He fell off again, cheeks reddening. "I mean, I've only seen them fly into things before, the idiots. I've never seen a more stupid animal in my life. I could never stand using one. I've got my own owl. She was 20 Galleons!"

Alfred ignored this and said, "What is it they need?"

"I…" Arthur scowled, taking the pygmy back without thinking. His fingers twisted gently through its fur and it chirped, nestling happily in the palms of Arthur's hands. "Nothing. I misspoke."

Alfred shrugged. "I feel bad for them, too. I think they get lonely. Since they don't really belong to anyone."

Arthur swallowed noticeably, his Adam's apple bobbing up and down. "I don't feel bad for them. They should just kill the damn things. They're useless."

Alfred knew he was lying then, but he didn't say anything. Arthur had gone back to feeding bits of his sugar quill to the pygmy. The back of his neck was red now too. Why was he so embarrassed about liking magical creatures?

"Don't you have a class?"

Arthur scowled. "Don't you?"

"Yeah, I'm going. I'm going."

0 0 0

Later that day, Alfred was on his way back to his common room from dinner when Shelly caught up with him.

"Alfred," She said tiredly. "Can I talk to you?"

He blinked, mouth still crammed with sweet roll. "Uh huh."

She looped her arm through his and began leading him down the familiar corridor towards the Gryffindor Tower. They walked in silence for such a long time that Alfred was beginning to feel awkward.

"What is it?" He asked gruffly.

"Nothing." Shelly admitted with a grin. "Well, there is something. I'm just tired of talking with dick boys all the time."

"Oh." Alfred laughed uneasily. "Like Arthur?"

"And Gilbert and Antonio and Francis." She rattled on.

"Francis too?"

"He just hasn't been much company recently." Her chocolate eyes glimmered curiously. "There's a rumor that he spent the night in the Hufflepuff common room the other day."

"Ah." Alfred said, neither confirming nor denying. Matthew was too careful a person for him to be able to know. But he wasn't surprised to hear it.

She stopped Alfred in a quiet corner, her eyes serious. "I have to ask you a serious question. I know that Francis likes Matthew."

"Yeah." Alfred said for lack of anything to say. The secondhand embarrassment was otherworldly right now.

"But you don't like Arthur, do you?"

Alfred balked, his face heating up. "Him? Y-you can't be serious."

Shelly squinted at him suspiciously before relaxing. "Good. Because he hates your guts. Later, Alfred."

"Wait! That was all you wanted to talk about?"

She smiled sweetly. "That's all. Night!"

0 0 0

Alfred stepped into the Forbidden Forest, trailing at the back of his class. Arthur was there too, keeping an eye on him. Making sure he didn't get too far from the pack. The Care of Magical Creatures professor hardly paid either of them any attention anymore.

"Do you still got it?" Alfred asked when Arthur stepped on the back of his foot on purpose. Trying to get him to hurry along before they were left behind.

"What?" He scowled, giving Alfred a sudden shove. "Can't you walk any faster?"

"I'm slow and stupid. Of course not. And the pygmy? Do you have it?"

Arthur stopped pushing. "No."

Alfred turned around to face him, grinning. "Let me see."

Arthur looked like he might argue, but instead he sighed and stuck his hand into his robes. He pulled out the pygmy and Alfred laughed in delight.

"What have you been feeding it? It's crazy fat."

It had gotten fatter. You couldn't even see its little feet anymore. It had gone from the size of a baseball to the size of a softball in a matter of days.

"I don't know." Arthur said, surprisingly sheepish. "I mean, yes, I do tend to overfeed them, but I've never had one do this before."

"Maybe it has cancer." Alfred said seriously.

"Do they get like that if they have cancer?" Arthur asked, taking it back quickly and running his fingers around the belly nervously. "Did it catch something, do you think?"

Alfred carefully wrested the creature from Arthur's hands again, brushing it against his face. It chirped brightly. Its eyes were clear. There didn't appear to be any discharge anywhere. When you pushed on its stomach, it didn't react differently. "Nah, I think it's just fat." He laughed as he handed it back.

"Of course," Arthur said sourly. "Would you believe this thing though? She sings at night. Gilbert nearly found her the other day."

"That could have been bad."

"I know." Arthur agreed huffily. "But my sugar quills keep her quiet, so maybe that's why she's gotten er… plump."

Alfred laughed at Arthur's adorable manner. "Maybe she needs a little exercise. You've been keeping her in your pocket all day."

"She needs a lot of exercise, really." Arthur smiled, rubbing the pygmy underneath his chin where it made a happy clicking noise.

Alfred felt his cheeks heat up, and he had to look away. Damn, Arthur had such a great smile. "Does she have a name?"

"No." Arthur answered too quickly.

"Come on." Alfred pleaded, skipping ahead of him. They were alone in the forest. They had well and truly lost the group now. "I need something to call her when I ask you about it."

"You won't be asking me about her." Arthur responded gruffly. "No one knows, and I don't want them to."

Alfred cocked his head curiously, before shrugging. "It'll be like a codename. No one will know what we're talking about."

Arthur's jaw tightened. He turned his attention to the pygmy to buy himself time. Alfred was surprised to see him actually considering the idea.

"I call her Ella."

"Really?" Alfred laughed in delight, watching the red as it spread from Arthur's face to his ears. "That's awesome. You know what I'd call her though?"

"What?" Arthur rubbed self-consciously at the back of his neck. He seemed surprised that Alfred wasn't laughing more.


"You're a terrible gentleman, Alfred." Arthur said, smiling toothily as he brought the pygmy up and brushed it against his cheek again.

Alfred had to stop himself from pointing out that Arthur did, in fact, know his name. Instead he grinned at the forest floor and said, "So let's design a workout routine for Ella."

Alfred left Care of Magical Creatures that day with a wide grin. Talking about Arthur's fat pygmy was a lot of fun. Arthur lit up for the chance to rave about it. He had even managed to teach her a few tricks, which was notoriously difficult. When Arthur mentioned that he was running out of sugar quills, Alfred offered to donate some of his own.

"She really doesn't need them." Arthur had said as he tried to conjure a measuring tape from his wand to measure her waist.

Alfred pouted. "Come on. You'll get her out. Let her run around some more. She'll love 'em."

Arthur had sighed. "Fine. Oh, I have to show you what she does with loose string. It's hilarious."

They had done nothing else all class session. Alfred was already looking forward to holding the pygmy again as he made his way inside.

Matthew met him for dinner. His friends had started a running complaint about Quidditch practice which they would be attempting to do in the dark that night. Last to get the pitch again. Alfred's mood was too high to be brought down over a little cold weather and a little night. Though he was extremely nervous that his Quidditch training wasn't paying off. He was struggling to coach the team. He was only fourteen and he wasn't quite sure how to go about it.

Matthew had suggested he ask Francis, but he had spurned the idea.

Even if they sucked, he wanted to be able to say that he was the captain not some pseudo captain to a sixth year Ravenclaw too clever for his own good.

Speaking of Francis, the boy himself snuck up behind Matthew, saying something joking in French. He received an elbow in the stomach for his efforts, as Matthew replied calmly in English, "I'm eating with my friends. Go be lonely somewhere else."

Francis pouted. "What are you talking about? These are my friends too."

Toris, Ned, and Lizzy wore unimpressed looks, so Francis turned on Alfred. "You're my friend, right Alfred?"

Alfred was saved the opportunity of answering, by a rather enthusiastic Arthur Kirkland. Arthur barely spared a glance Francis's way, grabbing Alfred by the shoulder. "I know what's wrong with Ella!"

"Ella?" Francis said, looking at Matthew, who shrugged.

"What's wrong?" Alfred asked seriously, beginning to smile as he felt all of his friend's confused looks. Arthur seemed to be enjoying himself too.

He leaned forward conspiratorially and said in a loud whisper. "She's pregnant!"

"What!" Alfred really was excited this time. He scrambled to his feet, unable to help himself. "How did you not notice before?"

"Well, she's fat, too." Arthur added sheepishly. "Really fat. But I realized why she expanded so quickly. She's pregnant!"

"That's awesome." Alfred enthused, bouncing up and down. "Do you know what to do?"

"Of course." Arthur grinned unabashedly. "Of course, I did it all this sum—

"What are you talking about, Arthur?" Francis interrupted them with a weird look on his face. "With Alfred?" He added pointedly, like Arthur hadn't realized who he had been all but bouncing up and down with in public.

And just like that, he had shut it down. Alfred could have punched him.

Arthur scowled. "Fuck off, Francis. This has nothing to do with you." But Arthur's cheeks had gone red, and he glanced uneasily at the rest of the dining hall. Peter was snickering because his older brother was acting like an excited little kid. In front of everybody.

And as Alfred had seen, if there was one thing Arthur couldn't stand it was public embarrassment.

"J-just wanted to let you know." He said lamely to Alfred. He turned quickly on his heel and strode out of the dining hall.

Alfred hesitated only a second, before taking off after him. He cornered Arthur by the tapestry near the hidden entrance to the kitchens. Arthur scowled fiercely at him, looking particularly unfriendly.

"Fuck off, Alex."

"What?" Alfred held up his hands. "Aren't you excited about this?"

"Of course not. It's just a stupid pygmy. The world has millions of them. They're notoriously easy to breed. There's nothing special about them." He kicked his foot angrily against the ground, but he seemed angrier at himself than at Alfred.

"Well, I'm excited." Alfred pushed, reaching up to scratch the pear on the tapestry. The hidden passage to the kitchens opened before them.

"Why did you follow me?"

Alfred rolled his eyes. "I didn't follow you. This is the way to the Hufflepuff common room, wise guy."

Arthur's red cheeks grew even redder and he glared rather helplessly.

"And anyway," Alfred continued, snagging Arthur's sleeve and dragging him through the passage. "Ella's eating for two, or ten, or twenty now. You've got to keep feeding her right. I'll bet the house elves have something good around here."

The portal slid silently closed behind them. A crew of smiling house elves met them and soon had them furnished at a small wooden table in the corner. Arthur didn't know what to say at all, so he pulled Ella from his pocket and let her wander around his plate, nibbling on whatever she pleased.

"There's nothing wrong with liking pygmies." Alfred said to which he received an icy glare from Arthur.

"Yeah, if I was you, I'd gladly trumpet it to the world." Arthur ripped off a piece of bread with his teeth, glaring at the ground. "But I'm not you. Thank God."

Alfred snorted. "Are you kidding? No one would care if you liked pygmies. They all worship you."

"I know." Arthur responded brusquely. He said nothing else, tearing up his bread roll and watching Ella massacre his roastbeef. After she was done, he picked her up, rubbing his finger tenderly across her mid-section. He seemed incapable of talking about why he was so embarrassed. Alfred had no idea why he cared so much about his image. Arthur could have murdered somebody (almost did with Francis) and he would still be the school's golden boy.

"Do you want one?" Arthur asked finally. "That's why I told you. Do you want one?"

"One of the babies?"


Alfred broke into a huge grin. "Fuck yeah."

Arthur snorted, bringing the pygmy up again to snuggle beneath his chin. "I hope she has fat babies." He confided in barely more than a whisper.

Alfred snickered, reaching over to scratch Ella's head. "Me too."

0 0 0

"Are you ready for this?" Ned looked over their group excitably, rubbing his hands together. "One of us is going to be the Hogwarts champion."

Matthew rolled his eyes. "We're fourth years, Ned."

"Okay, not one of us. But one of us!" Ned waved his arm to encompass the dining hall at large, filled to bursting with Hogwarts, Beuxbatons, and Durmstrang students. It was the loudest it had ever been after that evening's feast. Alfred personally wasn't as interested as he thought he would be. He and Arthur kept catching each other's eyes. Ella should be giving birth any day now, and Arthur had had to leave her in his dorm room. He was noticeably on edge about it, snapping at Antonio for breathing too loudly.

The Headmaster called them all to order, and silence descended quicker than it ever had before. The only sound was an erratic tapping noise, which Alfred realized was the sound of Arthur's shoe against the stones. He wished there was a way he could reassure Arthur. Ella would be fine if she had to give birth by herself. Arthur had charmed his bedside drawer to be warmer than the surrounding room. He had ripped up some of his blankets for bedding and had littered the area with sugar quill pieces. She would be fine. Arthur had more than prepared for it.

"Alright, for the Beauxbatons champion…" The fire belched forth a name, which the Headmaster read and Alfred didn't really hear.

Arthur's foot continued to tap sporadically and he glanced at the door.

The hall swelled with cheers. Francis smiled flirtily at the French girl who walked by, which caused Matthew to frown.

"For the Durmstrang champion…" Another name was read. Alfred caught Arthur's eye and made a face. Arthur nodded in agreement, his eyes glittering with frustration. As soon as the ceremony was over, he was bolting.

"And the Hogwarts champion…" Both he and Arthur were pulled back into the room by the sudden shifting and excitement. Alfred saw the seventh year Hufflepuffs patting each other on the back, smiling nervously.

The fire flared up and a single singed paper drifted down into the Headmaster's fingers. He blew on it lightly, unfolding it with just his fingertips. For a moment, he said absolutely nothing. Frowning at the paper as if it were too difficult to read. Slowly, his hand fell to his side. He looked out at all the waiting students with an unreadable expression.

"Arthur." He cleared his throat. "Arthur, come down here please. Arthur Kirkland."

For a second, there was silence. And then the room exploded in whispers. Arthur had frozen, like a deer caught in the headlights. His friends were pushing at him, trying to get him to his feet. Some of them were laughing. They didn't seem that surprised, but judging by Arthur's inability to stand, Alfred knew it was a surprise for him.

"Are you serious?" Lizzy whispered, whirling around with most of Hufflepuff house to glare at the Gryffindor table. "Could he be even more of an asshole?"

"I didn't think it was possible." Ned said grimly.

"How did he get past the age line?" Toris murmured in amazement.

Alfred watched as Arthur dragged himself to his feet, following behind the Headmaster to the back of the hall. He looked almost lost, and he threw a look behind his shoulder, searching for some less-hostile face. His eyes met Alfred's, and Alfred didn't know what to do.

The students were released in a swirl of speculation. No one knew how Arthur had managed to get his name into the cup. Almost everybody had a theory though, one that included a lot of bashing of Arthur's reputation. The seventh years especially were not happy. A glory-digging sixth year from a snobbish pureblood family had won the title. Of fucking course.

Alfred found that he couldn't manufacture hostility. He was still thinking of Ella and hoping that Arthur would be back in time to see her give birth.

They settled around the fireplace with a stolen bottle of fire whiskey to speculate that night. None of the prefects seemed to care that the younger students were drinking. The school was reeling from this episode. Matthew passed on the whiskey without drinking any and raised an eyebrow when Alfred did. But Alfred's mind was in other places.

He felt strange. Usually the entire school was on Arthur's side and he floated along with them. A couple of bitter Hufflepuffs that made up his friend group were the only ones who really got upset about Arthur. But the world had shifted in some fundamental way. Arthur still had his diehards, but he'd lost others in the rush. There was a lot of anger in the room.

Eventually, Alfred needed to take a walk. He slipped out of the portrait hole when no one was looking, ambling towards the kitchens with a weak Lumos spell. The fire whiskey was stronger than he expected and he was having a hard time walking a straight line. He only got so far when a high-pitched squeaky voice scared the living daylights out of him.

"Master Alfred?"

"Who's there?"

He turned stupidly, heart racing.

"I is Delfie the house elf, Master Alfred."

Alfred looked down slowly and relaxed. "Oh. Haha. You scared me there."

"Will Master Alfred be coming with Delfie please?"

"What's going on?" Alfred allowed the house elf to take his hand and lead him along. "Are you turning me in for breaking curfew?"

"Master Alfred is needed, Delfie thinks." She stopped abruptly and he walked into her.


"No more of that fire drink, promise?"

"Fire whiskey?"

"No more."

Alfred sighed, wondering how good of noses house elves really had. "Promise."

She led him around and around. Everything in the castle looked different after dark. He only knew they were going up a lot of steps. Eventually, she tugged him to a halt.


Alfred jumped when he recognized the sound of the Fat Lady. This was Gryffindor Tower. "What are we doing here?" He hissed but Delfie ignored him.

"Lux et via."

The portrait swung open to a relatively abandoned common room. None of the Gryffindors looked up when he stepped in. He glanced down at Delfie uncertainly, but she only kept walking, leading him through to another small room off the common room. And magically none of the remaining Gryffindors seemed to notice him. He wondered if he was dreaming.

When they got to a bookcase, Delfie instructed him to pull the green book on the fifth shelf. He did, gaping when the bookcase shuttled sideways to reveal a cramped set of spiraling stairs.

"This is where I am done." Delfie exclaimed. "Go up there, Master Alfred. You'll find what we is looking for."

Alfred didn't see much of another choice. As soon as he stepped into the passage, the bookcase slid back into place. The air was musty and heavy. As he climbed the stairs, it felt like they would go on forever. His legs grew tired, and the silence pressed in on his ears. It took him a minute to realize that there was a noise coming from above him.

The stairs swept around one last time before dumping him in a small office like space. Bookcases lined the walls, and a small window in the stone let moonlight filter in. Small golden instruments perched on every available surface, whizzing and clicking. They looked fascinating, but they didn't hold Alfred's attention. Delfie couldn't have been any clearer if she'd smacked him.

He would have recognized Arthur anywhere, even in the strange blue light of moonlight. He'd spent far too much of the past four years, memorizing every detail. He suddenly felt young and stupid. He was only fourteen and Arthur was sixteen. A world of difference, or at least it felt like it most of the time.

Alfred clumsily made his way forward. The sharp tang of fire whiskey nearly overwhelmed him as he sank to sit on the rug beside Arthur. Arthur had his head in his arms, knees drawn up so that his face was hidden. A nearly empty bottle shimmered in the moonlight next to his dirty trainers.

"Hey." He said gruffly and scared the wits out of Arthur.

Arthur jerked away from him wildly, cocking his head violently to the side. "How did you get in here?"

"A little house elf told me where to find you." Alfred picked up the bottle of firewhiskey and set it safely out of Arthur's reach. "And then led me here at gun point."

Arthur didn't understand his muggle-ism. He just massaged his wild hair back and groaned. "Delfie can't keep her nose out of things."

Alfred shrugged. "You don't look too hot. Are you okay?"

"No, I'm not okay." Arthur snarled, attempting to sound angry and failing. He just sounded miserable and uncertain.

"Did you put your—

"No, of course I didn't put my name in the fucking cup, Alfred. You'd think I'd know it if I did. You'd think I'd know about it." He hiccupped, wiping his mouth with his sleeve. "Give me back that bottle. It cost me a fortune to smuggle in."

"You're already drunk."

"Not enough." Arthur groused.

Alfred waited in silence for a few minutes before asking, "How's Ella?"

"She's not in labor yet." Arthur responded. "I checked not too long ago."

"She'll be fine." Alfred said reassuringly.

Arthur didn't say anything else.

"Do you think one of the other Gryffindors put your name in?"

"I don't want to think about it." Arthur leaned his head back against one of the bookcases. "For all I know, it was you."

"And you don't want to be in the Tournament?"

"Well, I have to, now."

"But you don't want to?"

Arthur scowled nastily. "I just told you it doesn't matter whether I want to or not. I have to act like it was all my idea."

Alfred blinked. "Why?"

Arthur groaned. "You're such an idiot. There's only one way this can work out for me. If I act like I did it all along, then maybe I'll be fine. If I start acting like a pussy, I'll just get eaten by a dragon in the tournament and roasted alive in the social sphere."

Alfred didn't honestly know what he meant by half of that, so he just nodded.

"Fuck, this just f-fucking…"

Alfred blinked in horror when Arthur's voice wavered. He wasn't going to cry, was he?

"People die in the tournament, Alfred." Arthur said desperately like he was willing Alfred to understand. "People die. I… I don't want to do this. I didn't sign up for this. The Headmaster told me I couldn't back out. But I didn't do it! It's some joke. Someone's playing a joke on me! Do you understand?"

Alfred swallowed. "Yeah, Arthur. It sucks. I'm sorry." He didn't know what else to say.

"I'm going to die in the tournament," Arthur whispered.

Alfred scowled. "Don't say that! No one's died in like seventy years or something. No one's died since…"

"My great uncle, I know." Arthur said in a dead voice. "I know. But he died, didn't he? No one thought he would die."

Alfred sighed, but in the dark he could tell that Arthur was serious. Maybe it was the fire whiskey compelling him to spill all his secrets. He inched closer so that his shoulder was pressed against Arthur's. He could feel the other boy shaking. Despite Delfie's orders, he silently handed Arthur the whiskey bottle again.

"You're not going to die, Arthur. You're too clever for that."

Arthur nearly choked on his swig of whiskey, laughing bitterly. "Who told you that? The fan club?"

"You don't have to do this by yourself." Alfred added softly, trying to impart some of his warmth on the other boy. Arthur continued to shake.

"Oh yeah, and who will I go crying to? Who would actually help me?"

Alfred frowned. "Well, I would." A lot of people would. Wouldn't they? Arthur was popular and well-liked.

"Great. A fourth year dimbo is going to help me conquer the Triwizard Tournament."

His words were meant to hurt, but they didn't get so far. Arthur's voice cracked at the end and he raised the whiskey bottle quickly to his lips, guzzling down as much of the burning substance as he could stand.

Alfred kicked his shoe against the rug. "Well, it isn't much, but it's better than being alone."

Arthur finished off the last of the bottle, tossing it with a muted thud. He burped into his palm, leaning his head back to look out the single window. "Delfie brought you hear to tell me that bullshit?"

"I guess so."

"Christ, you're a sap."

"And to stop you from drinking, I think. But I gave up on that."

"Maybe I'll become an alcoholic. Would the Headmaster kick me out then?" He sounded vaguely hopeful. Obviously drunk.

Alfred grinned. "Sounds like a plan to me. You can run a pygmy farm and grow out a rad-ass beard."

Arthur snickered, bumping his head into Alfred's shoulder. "You know what I'm really going to need tomorrow?"

"Hangover potion."

Alfred laughed. "You're out of luck, then. Neither of us can even brew first year potions."

"Why did Delfie send me someone so useless?"

They kept on like that into the wee hours of morning. Until Arthur passed out. And Alfred decided he would spend the night in the Gryffindor common room. He wasn't sure if anything had really changed but he hoped Arthur would be able to face Hogwarts with his head up tomorrow.