It started when Christopher stabbed himself with an ink quill.

Okay, so, that's not technically the start, because for that you have to be all Oliver Twist – Christopher was born, Christopher was named Christopher and placed into his mother's arms, blah blah – and Christopher just doesn't have the patience for that kind of story, okay, so this is how it goes.

Christopher stabbed himself with an ink quill.

It's in the middle of Divination. Although it's easily the most boring class in the world, Christopher always takes notes and prophecies, or at least pretends to, because not once in their seven years at Hogwarts has Jalil let him sleep through it. Despite the fairly evil, Slytherin-esque qualities Jalil exhibits now and again – like not letting Christopher sleep through class, for instance – Jalil is a Ravenclaw. This is because no matter how tricky he is – and oh, can Jalil be tricky when he wants to be, the sneaky bastard – Jalil's also the most intelligent person to ever go through Hogwarts, like, ever.

Even so, Jalil is probably Christopher's best friend, though if Christopher ever told him that Jalil would probably run to the Prefect's bathroom and take a really, really long shower, because displays of emotion make Jalil nervous, before vowing never to speak to Christopher again. It wouldn't last very long at all though, because Christopher is very tenacious when he wants to be and he has an unsuspecting charm that sucks most people in before they're even aware of it. Christopher thinks that's mostly why he's a Hufflepuff. Even though a lot of people kind of look down on his house, he's totally okay with it. Because he's completely into fun and loyalty and friends and good times and, hello, their house mascot is a badger. Badgers are the shit, man, and nothing will ever convince Christopher otherwise.

Anyway, it's Divination, and Christopher's bored, and David Levin will not stop staring at him.

It's moved past vaguely unsettling and into creepy.

For a lot of reasons, really. First off, staring is generally a creepifying activity, a favorite of pervs, obsessives, stalkers, mental deficients, and other lowlife characters. Christopher knows this because Ganymede made sure to tell him (and half of the Great Hall) when he caught Christopher staring at him for the twelfth time that week. Which, honestly, was not Christopher's fault. Ganymede is part veela, and is therefore very pretty and unsettlingly shiny, and Christopher simply cannot resist shiny things. He can't.

Second, it's David Levin, who is not just a Slytherin, not just the bane of Christopher's very existence, but the ex-boyfriend of Senna Wales. It is entirely possible that David Levin is, in fact, no longer David Levin, but some weird magically animated thing that once was human. See, David and Senna used to have a thing, a big thing, where they were pretty and perfect and almost vomit inducing and entirely likely to rule the world except that they broke up for reasons that Christopher still doesn't understand. The Slytherins aren't breathing a word about it to anyone. April refuses to tell Christopher about it with typically Gryffindor pigheadedness and Christopher's afraid to ask Jalil. He's really afraid to ask Senna, because he's pretty sure she's part basilisk or siren or something, and looking into her eyes equals paralysis or death or, worse, complete and total infatuation, and if the thought of dating a girl makes Christopher queasy, the thought of dating Senna makes him want to jump from the top of the Astronomy Tower. The thought of asking David anything makes Christopher's stomach jump, and he's not gonna touch that one with a ten foot pole, okay?

Anyway, third, Christopher has the attention span of a gnat, and for anyone to spend this much time doing anything points to mischief of some kind, if not downright evil. He's paranoid, but as a Hufflepuff he's been the butt of enough jokes and tricks to view his paranoia as perfectly justified.

In essence, David Levin is a dark and creepy motherfucker and Christopher is starting to get really freaked out.

Professor Trelawney is moaning on and on about Inner Eyes and chakras and destiny and Jalil is taking notes entirely too seriously while Christopher is in the middle of a spazz attack so Christopher pokes him.

Here's the thing, Christopher starts scratching on the top of Jalil's parchment.Levin's been stalking me and it's starting to weird me out. Thoughts?

Jalil gave Christopher what he privately calls "the glare of doom" – presumably for writing on his notes – before reaching over to scratch on the top of Christopher's.

Just tell him you're not interested.

InterestedInterested in what?

Jalil then gave him his very best saved-only-for-special-occasions please-tell-me-you're-not-that-stupid look.

He likes you.

Christopher fell off of his stool. And, coincidentally, took most of the table with him, including the quill he'd been writing with, which he quickly and viciously stabbed into his own arm through complete and total incompetence.

At least, that's what Jalil would have said. Christopher still blames the shock.

Christopher was prone to stupid accidents, so normally this would have only been slightly pain-inducing, especially since he sharpened his quills once every blue moon, if not for the fact that at this particular point in time Christopher was using Hormgobblers Amazing Changing Ink, the active ingredient of which is Snoz-Wanger blood and is Not Fit For Human Consumption or Ingestion.

He doesn't quite remember the consequent trip to the Infirmary, but he gets to spend the next day and a half there waiting for the swelling to go down and his fingers to stop turning colors. April brings him Chocolate Frogs, Jalil brings him all his homework, and Christopher catches David lurking by the door twice – once just after class and once the next morning before breakfast. Christopher pretends to be asleep both times, and both times David inches right up to the edge of Christopher's bed, close enough to touch, even though he doesn't. Christopher's not entirely sure why he's waiting for that to happen, and he keeps trying to think of something to say when he opens his eyes, but by the time he does David is long gone.

By the time Christopher begs his way into Madam Pomfrey's good graces and she gives him the okay to leave it's halfway through dinner time. More importantly, it's halfway through dinnertime on a Thursday, which is pudding night, and although Christopher is a bit knackered and ready for bed there's no way he's passing up what time he has left to ingest large amounts of sugar. He skids into the Great Hall, drawing a minimum of attention to himself – although Professor Snape looks pained, that's really nothing new – and scrabbles for a place next to April at the Gryffindor table.

April O'Brien is the kind of girl that Christopher would marry if he were, in fact, planning on marrying a girl. She's very pretty, with pale skin and light freckles, and red wavy hair matched with big green eyes. She's got a wicked sense of humor, is probably his best friend right behind Jalil. She's been his fag hag ever since Yule Ball fourth year, and there's never been a better one anywhere.

"Christopher, hey." April's smile warms him quicker than a shot of butterbeer ever could. "Want some pudding?"

Seriously. Best hag ever.

Senna and April are half sisters, which is fairly surprisingly since Senna's a Slytherin and April's a Gryffindor. Most siblings end up in the same house, or at the very least comparable ones – Ravenclaw and Slytherin; Hufflepuff and Gryffindor; even Ravenclaw and Gryffindor. Christopher says that's because the Sorting Hat took one look at April's hair and mistook her for a Weasley. In reality, it's probably because Senna and April are about as different as two people can be – Senna is evil, and April nearly failed her Transfiguration O.W.L. because she didn't want to turn a turtle into a teapot.

Anyway, April can always be counted on to give Christopher pudding and solve his problems and give really, really good advice. Even about creepy stalkers like David Levin. But pudding first.

"Jalil's got this crazy-ass idea that Levin likes me," Christopher starts, after polishing off half a bowl of pudding. "Which is, you know, crazy-ass. I think all the studying and whatnot has been too much even for his humongous brain."

Galahad rolled his eyes. "Of course he likes you, Chris. Everyone likes you." The 'you stupid Hufflepuff' was heavily implied.

"Nooooo," Christopher insisted. "I mean likes me likes me."

April shrugged. "Well, I don't know about that…"

"Good," Christopher said decisively. Time for more pudding!

"… But he certainly thinks you're cute."

Christopher spilled most of his pudding down the front of his robe and made a noise a little like that of a baby nargle. Galahad slapped him on the back while April dutifully scooped him up another bowl of pudding.

"It's not like you're hideous, or anything," she said soothingly. "I'm sure lots of people think you're cute.

"Of course I'm not hideous." Christopher is offended at the very thought. "Of course lots of people think I'm cute! Just… David Levin?!"

April just blinked. "What about him?

Christopher set his new bowl of pudding down very, very slowly. There was no telling what was actually in it. It might even jump out and attack him. "I am officially in the Twilight Zone."


Galahad waved a hand. "Muggle thing." April nodded.

"Seriously. Is this whole school operating under some kind of Confundius curse? Have I stepped into an alternate universe? David Levin thinks I'm cute? He likes me? Are you people all insane? He's a Slytherin! I'm Hufflepuff! We might as well be… be nargles and unicorns!" Christopher's voice had risen at least two octaves, and his hands seemed to have taken on a life of their own. Most of the Gryffindor table had slowly but surely inched their way away from him, and the Ravenclaws at the next table looked as if they were considering it.

"Christopher, sweetie," Aprils said pleasantly. "You're out-flaming yourself right now."

"Oh." His wrists did hurt a little. "Sorry."

"No problem." She gave him a comforting pat on the back and straightened his tie. "What else am I here for?"

"Remind me to buy you something really nice for your birthday."

"Duly noted."

"Okay, so." Christopher paused. "So. You think that he thinks that I'm cute and Jalil thinks that he thinks that he likes me and I think that you're all crazy for thinking that so… Where does that leave us?"

"Confused," Galahad said dryly.

"Yeah, no shit," Christopher said miserably. Even pudding will not solve these troubles. And when pudding will not solve troubles, Christopher has found, they are terrible troubles indeed. "April," he said weakly. "Help."

April wrinkled her nose at him. Christopher had a fleeting thought about how fetching it was and wondered if she practiced it in the mirror. "You've got three basic options here. One, you can ignore him like usual, which means he will probably continue to follow you around until he makes a move."

"No way, José." The stalking was getting on Christopher's delicate nerves.

"Two, you can go up to him and tell him you're not interested."

"Isn't that a bit presumptuous, though? I mean, what if he's not?" April and Galahad stared back at him blankly. "Or, okay, maybe it's totally fine."

"No," April said hastily. "It is kind of presumptuous."

Galahad leaned forward conspiratorially. "We just didn't know you knew that word."

Sometime there was just no love for Christopher.

"Or third," April continued cheerily, "you could ask him out yourself."

"Uh huh. Right. Option One, Christopher has a nervous breakdown. Option Two, Christopher potentially makes an ass of himself. And Option Three, Christopher makes an even bigger ass of himself. I mean, I know you Gryffindors are all about doing stupid things, but good God, I'm only a Hufflepuff, here. I can't take this kind of pressure."

April and Galahad exchanged A Look. Christopher ignored them.

"Now give me more pudding and tell me what I missed while I was in the Infirmary. I heard a rumor that Baldwin asked Etain out and she hexed him so hard he fell down the main staircase." Serves the dwarfish little bugger right.

It only took Christopher two days to crack. Two days of catching little glimpses of David out of the corner of his eye and around corners and sitting just behind him or next to him, always close but not too close, and then Christopher had started to wonder exactly why Senna and David had broken up and why David seemed to be so fixated on him because the liking thing seemed more and more likely with each passing day. And Christopher realized he had never been fixated on anything this long in his entire life so it was pretty understandable that he couldn't stop thinking about David even if it was starting to drive him completely fucking bonkers.

So when Christopher almost ran into David coming around a corner after Transfiguration, he decided to take his chances with complete and utter humiliation.

He grabbed hold of David's sleeve and asked "can I talk to you for a minute?" even though he didn't bother waiting for an answer before pulling David into the empty Charms classroom, locking the door behind them for good measure.

"Here's the thing."

David looked up at him expectantly.

"Jalil thinks the reason you've been following me around all the time is because you like me. I think it's because you have some sort of evil, nefarious, Slytherin plan in mind and are just waiting for the right moment to strike. April won't give me her real opinion because ever since the Levin-Wales Slytherin civil war she's been like a magical Switzerland."

"Okay," David said slowly, and looked as though he'd rather be just about anywhere else in the world at this moment, which Christopher quite resented considering it was his creepy stalking that brought this about in the first place.

"So I just want to know what you're up to so I can get on with my life and stop stabbing myself with quills and spilling my pudding and thinking about you in the shower," Christopher shouted. He then stopped, instantly replayed what he'd just said, and blushed. Goddamn his subconscious, goddamn it. "Ignore that last part."

Now David looked like he was holding back a smirk. A very evil Slytherin smirk. "Okay."

"So why are you following me!" Christopher shouted again. He really had to get a hold of himself. He was going to start flailing any minute and April wasn't here to stop him.

"I've been following you because I wanted to ask you something." David shifted from one foot to another uncomfortably. "And you're so popular, you're never alone. I just wanted to ask you…"

If he wore boxers or briefs? If Senna could use his heart to call herself up some demonic minions? If he knew the answer to question seven on last night's Transfiguration homework?

"… if you wanted to go to the Yule Ball with me."


Wait, what?


"I mean, April wants to go with Galahad, which she can't do if she's pretending to be your date. And if you went with me, you'd actually be out instead of pretending to be something everyone knows you're not. Plus, Senna hates you with just about every fiber of her being."

Christopher had a sudden mental image of Senna cursing him into little bits. Teeny, tiny little blood-and-bone bits. Snape would probably help. He'd use the Christopher-bits for potion parts. "That's a plus?"

David shrugged. "Well, you like pissing her off."

"Ah. True." Ever since that rather nasty Quidditch match in fifth year where half of the Hufflepuff team had ended up in the hospital due to an unspeakably embarrassing hex that Senna had cast, and by the end of the week half of the Slytherin House had joined them through the efforts of a full-scale Hufflepuff rebellion. Christopher had been the one to release badgers in the Slytherin Common Room. Things probably would have gotten much uglier had summer vacation not beckoned with its loving, sunshiny ways.

And Christopher is spazzing again. Okay. Back to the problem at hand.

"But mostly," David continues, as though Christopher had not taken a trip into La-La Land, "the real reason is that I do like you."

Oh, God, Jalil was right again. He was going to be insufferable.

"I think you're annoying as hell sometimes and you never shut up, but you're smart and funny and cute and a surprisingly good Quidditch player." Christopher was almost offended, but the feeling was tempered by David's shy smile. "Plus, when you released the badgers in the Common Room last year, Senna turned purple."

Man, Christopher wished he could have seen that. "Purple? Really?"

"Purple," David said firmly. "And she shrieked like a banshee."

"It must have been awesome."

"It really was."

They stared at each other for a moment and Christopher got over his general shock enough to look at David. Really look, because he was pretty sure he hadn't, at least not for a long time. Probably because David had always been one of the nicer Slytherins – the kind that didn't go around calling people Mudblood or hexing Gryffindors or pushing the younger students down the stairs. Christopher'd never paid much attention to David at all, in fact, even though David had suffered through Divination and Potions and Transfiguration with him for seven years, and even once served detention in the Forbidden Forest with him and the rest of the Hufflepuffs for throwing snowballs at Snape after a particularly foul potions-ingredients expedition. And even though David was on the House team, he never really tried to hurt anyone with the Bludgers like some of the other Beaters did. And he liked April and April liked him, and he hated Senna and Senna hated him, and he liked pudding, and Chocolate Frogs, and he'd come to see Christopher in the Infirmary twice after Christopher'd been stupid enough to stab himself in the hand with a quill, for God's sake.

"Anyway," David said suddenly, breaking up Christopher's sudden and surprisingly deep introspection. "I've got to get to Arithmancy. Maybe I'll see you around sometime."

"Yeah, sure thing," Christopher said blankly. "And, um," – please, God, don't let him totally regret this – "I'll go to the Yule Ball with you."

David's eyes lit up, and Christopher had previously thought that Slytherins were not able to look that happy and hopeful. "Really?"

"Really," Christopher said, and then hastily backpedaled when David took a step towards him. "But, um, mostly because I want April to be happy and I like annoying Senna."

And it really shouldn't have hurt that much when David's eyes dimmed.

"And maybe," Christopher stuttered, and cleared his throat a little bit. "And maybe a little because I think you're cute."

And oh dear God, Slytherins shouldn't be able to smile like that either. Christopher was learning all sorts of new things, and, okay, mind out of the gutter, Hitchcock. You've got DADA in ten minutes. "Yeah?"

"Yeah. But only a little. Honest. You're not my type."

This time, David didn't look the teeniest bit crushed. "Really."

"Yeah. You're too… tall. And dark. And, um, Slytherin. Very Slytherin, with your slinky, mysterious ways."

The corner of David's mouth quirked in way that was totally, completely, definitely not sexy. "Sounds awful."

"It is. My poor Hufflepuff constitution can't handle it." Christoper hopped off the desk he'd been sitting on and picked his bag up off the floor. "So, Defence Against the Dark Arts is totally on the way to Arithmancy. Wanna walk with me?"

"Yeah," David said softly, and slipped his hand into Christopher's. It's was really, really presumptuous of him, but Christopher was going to let it slide.