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Making Clouds From the Ashes
Part One

GK fic; Harry Potter AU/fusion;
Brad, Nate, Ray, and others, are starting their last year at school a couple months after the Battle of Hogwarts. It's a story about that year, and about figuring out how to move on after the war and how to deal with the rest of their lives coming up fast.

More info at the Masterpost

The Battle of Hogwarts had changed everyone. The whole war had, obviously. But for those who were there that night, for every student and every teacher, life seemed different since then.

It had been four months and the world liked to pretend it was back to normal. Brad didn't like to pretend anything and there was nothing normal about how he felt today, on a train back to what used to be his favorite place on Earth.

“Is it just me or is it weird?” Nate said, shutting the door behind him and fuck, Brad was not ready for this.


Nate shrugged. “Coming back.”

Oh. Okay then.

“I'm not as excited as I usually was,” Brad said and Nate nodded. “But we may just be getting older.”

That got him half a smile.

“Or we may be a little scared.”

Brad made a show of looking around the empty corridor.

“Shut your mouth, Fick,” he said. “Or we will take back your Gryffindor card, prefect or not.”

“I would love to see you try.”

“Is that a challenge?” Brad asked, raising his eyebrows. “Because you know what that does to us Gryffindors. Don't be a tease.”

Nate threw his head back and laughed, and Brad smiled, feeling his stomach tighten and relax. Maybe they could do it after all.

Maybe everything was going to be fine.


That was obviously a momentary, Fick-related insanity, because everything was not going to be fine. Everything was, judging from the looks of it, going to be a disaster.

Half the students standing in front of the main entrance looked outright scared, gaping at the castle with their eyes wide open or looking anywhere but there. The rest tried to maintain their game face, with varying effects.

Professor McGonagall was waiting for them, with her back straight and her head held high. Seemingly unflappable, but Brad knew better now.

“Welcome back,” she said to all of them, looking around as if checking if everyone was present and okay. “Hogwarts has missed you.”

And stupid thing was, it worked. Brad felt the muscles of his back relax a little, and he heard loud, uneven exhales from around him. A couple people even laughed.

They followed her inside like a big wave coming to a shore.


He stepped into the Great Hall and froze, causing Ray to bump into him. Bryan muttered something and shoved him to the side, but Brad didn't really register that because he was staring at the right side of the room, where the Gryffindor table was waiting for them. Where the bodies laid, after. He remembered a woman with purple hair, among others. He tried to forget about Fred Weasley, and Mike Atwood, and Laura Banks.

Cold fingers circled his wrist and pulled, making him look to the side, right into Nate's face with his furrowed brows and careful eyes.

Brad shook his head and followed him to their table. “What are you eating first?” he asked, changing the subject.

It was a tradition of sorts, a little reminder of their first night here, when they were amazed, and scared, and amazed again. “What are you eating first?” Ray had asked, right after he’d joined the Gryffindor table, the last boy from their train compartment, pushing in between Brad and Eric. They did this every year since then.

Nate went with it, like Brad knew he would.

“I've been missing that chocolate cheesecake for the whole summer. What do you think I'm going to do?”

“I think it's baffling that you haven't already combusted from all the chocolate you inhale.”

“There's not enough chocolate in the world,” Nate said and sat down next to Ray, shifting aside to make room for Brad.

“Amen, brother,” Rudy shouted from across the table as if they were deaf. "I can’t wait for the feast to begin. I’m going to eat all the chocolate cookies they will give us.”

“I hope you’re going to control him,” Ray said to Pappy, who shrugged.

“Relaaaaaax,” he said, half-smiling. “First, we just got here, let him have some. Second, I'm not his fucking mother.”

“I should hope so. Since I have seen you two in the dungeon's corridor that one time last year, and judging by the kissing while half-dressed, it definitely didn’t look like a parental relationship to me,” Ray said, but he was cut short by the arrival of dozens of scared dwarfs.

Also called the first year students.

Brad felt old, looking at them. There was nothing like seeing the Great Hall for the first time, nothing like being in Hogwarts for the first time. Brad remembered that excitement, fear mixed up with amazement, and he remembered thinking that since he was here at last, everything was possible now. This year Brad missed that feeling more than ever, it was never as far away from him as today.

“Is it just me or is it... weird? Different. I’m not really sure.” Nate whispered, looking away from the kids at the entrance to look at Brad with those green eyes wide open and bright.

“It's not just you,” he said, gripping his fork so he wouldn't do something stupid like reaching out and putting his hand where it didn't belong.

This year was going to be a fucking disaster.

The sorting ceremony felt like it was shorter than usual, like there were fewer kids than in the previous years, and he couldn't help but wonder how many would be there if it weren't for the war. Still, it gave them fourteen new housemates whose names and faces Brad was trying to commit to memory in between eating his weight in chicken wings, potatoes, and salads.

After awhile, when even Rudy was too full to eat anything, and the rest of them were too full to talk, Professor McGonagall stood up and came to the podium.

“We lost so much this past year,” she started and the sudden, complete silence was like an echo to her words, reverberating through the hall and everyone in it. “These past few years, even. We fought a war and we lost members of our families, our friends, our colleagues... Some of us lost faith, some lost hope, and some of us may feel like they will never be safe again. But we all have to remember that we fought a war and we won. We survived and we came back here, or we came for the first time, because we know we are not done yet. The war changed us, but it did not defeat us. We have to remember that. We have to remember that when it is difficult, when it is hard to remind ourselves about the good days. We have to remember that when we struggle, because I can tell you for certain, each and every one of us will struggle. We have to remember that we fought, that we won, and that we survived.”

When the clapping started, it was loud and strong. Many people were crying, most didn't even pretend not to. Brad's chest felt heavy and his arms felt even heavier when he lifted them to join the applause.


On the first night of the new school year, there was always a party. Every member of the Gryffindor House gathered in their Common Room to share stories of their summer and their plans for the next year.

For Brad, Nate, Ray, and Poke, among others, it was also the last year at Hogwarts.

“Can you actually believe that shit?” Ray asked, shifting on the couch. “Our last year here.”

“Don't be so sure,” Brad advised him. “It may not be, for you.”

“Fuck you, I will pass everything.” Ray's loud voice raised a few heads in their direction, but everyone but the first-years were used to him at this point, so they let it be.

“They will be so glad to have a chance to get rid of him, they will not waste it on failing him, Iceman,” Poke said from his end of the couch.

Brad nodded. “You have a point.”

“You're all full of shit,” Ray told them.

Indeed they were. Everyone knew that Ray was actually surprisingly brilliant at some things, like Charms and Potions, and at least passable at others, with the History of Magic being the worst of it.

“Well, if nothing else, we can be quite certain that this year will be better than the last,” Eric Kocher said and the mood changed so fast Brad thought he could almost see it hightail from the room.

He was curious what it would take for them to forget. If they ever could, even. Not all of it, obviously, but it would be nice if it could get... a little easier to remember.

Brad remembered his flashback earlier in the evening, when they were going to dinner. He didn't have them often, only two or three a month during the summer holidays, but they were still there.

“To a better year, then,” Nate said, raising his mug.

“To normalcy,” Poke raised his.

“To Quidditch,” Eric said, smiling a little.

“To all the sex,” Ray stood up, holding his glass high in the air. “And by that, I mean to Walt,” he added, smirking, while they groaned.

“To the upcoming end of living with Ray,” Brad said, kicking him in the leg.

Ginny Weasley passed by, nodded at them and gave Nate a small smile. They bonded last year as prefects and Dumbledore's Army leaders, and she and Nate were good friends now.

She apparently heard their toasts, because she got that look in her face, that serious 'we'll go down fighting' look, and she jumped on to one of the high chairs in the room and shouted, “QUIET!”

Most of them were used to listening to her, so it only took a couple of seconds for all the conversations to die down.

She raised her glass and looked around the room, slowly.

“To those who died. To those who didn't make it.”

Brad could see her swallow up a choke, but she held on. She stood there, on the chair that was older than her mother, probably, and she held her head high, just like last year, so many times.

People started standing up and repeating after her, one by one, until the whole room had their arms raised for those who couldn't be here tonight.


Sitting in the classroom wasn't any less weird now than it was at the end of last year. They had never stopped going to class then, but for days after the Battle it felt completely surreal, like coming back home and realizing your bed didn't fit you anymore.

Now they were bombarded with talks about the NEWTs and how important these exams were, how essential for their future. They were expected to have everything figured out. They were told they were living in a new world and everything would be different now, better.

But instead they were reading about the Death Eaters' trials under the tables and avoided talking about the future after school. Everyone was mourning dead friends and fighting with those who were alive. Most of them couldn't concentrate on any book and couldn't sit still for longer than ten minutes.

They got to have Quidditch back, though. Brad felt it was surreal, somehow, to play again on Hogwarts' ground, but fuck, he had never realized how much he missed it. He’d played a little during the summer, but it wasn't the same, so he mostly stuck to flying alone. His mother was going crazy, but she knew him well. She let it be.

Now there were Quidditch try-outs and practice, and a structure for this, a purpose. A purpose that didn't have anybody dying over it. Always a bonus.

He was checking for his wand every ten minutes anyway. Just in case.

“Stop groping yourself,” Poke flied by and stopped a few feet to Brad's left. “Can't find the goods? Don't worry, you are still a growing boy.”

Over six feet tall already and towering over most of people, Brad snorted. “I'm good. But you probably need to keep telling yourself that to sleep at night.”

He sent the quaffle back to Rudy harder than before and nodded with satisfaction when Rudy scrambled for it.

He heard Ginny's laughter and turned in that direction. She grinned at him and showed him thumbs up. He grinned back.

“Stop flirting when Nate can see you. That's not cool, bro.” Poke shook his head.

“What the fuck?” Brad asked, eyebrows rising. “First of all, it's not your fucking business who I flirt with. Second of all,” he said a little louder to stop Poke from cutting in, “Ginny has a boyfriend, you might have heard of him. Third of all, what does it have to do with Nate, I can't fathom. And no, please, don't enlighten me, I don't want to know. And finally, coming back to the main point, none of this is your fucking business.”

Poke shrugged. “Whatever you say. You want to act like a moron, be my guest,” he said and flied away to where Gina were putting the snitch back in its cage.

Brad felt like hitting something, even if his arms burned, only just getting used to practicing with quaffles again. The rush he felt moments ago was gone and he was just really tired.

Of course that's when Nate appeared in front of him, his cheeks red, sweaty hair sticking to his forehead. “Damn. I didn't realize how much I missed it.”

Brad felt like he was hit with a bludger all of a sudden.

“Yeah. Yeah, me too,” he said, and Nate must have noticed something, because his smile disappeared. Brad wasn't feeling like talking, though. “I have to go. See you later.”


There was a fire in the Gryffindor Common Room, and the students were screaming for help and trying to get out, but the entrance would not open. The Fat Lady was nowhere to be found and the frame of the abandoned painting was starting to catch fire. All of them were trapped. Brad stood at the top of the stairs and looked down on the scene, unable to move. Ray ran past him, shouldering him, and joined Rudy and Olive, who were trying to stop the flames next to their only way out. Brad started to choke on the smoke, coughed once, twice, and again. He wanted to drop to his knees, less smoke there, he remembered, but Nate appeared next to him and he wasn't choking at all. He just looked at Brad, accusation visible but not explained, and Brad wanted to ask, he opened his mouth to do so, but the smoke was suddenly everywhere and he turned around just to see the fireplace explode, sending those close to it into the air and onto the floor.

His legs jerked as if he were falling and he opened his eyes to the darkness. His heart was pounding and it took him five long seconds to realize he was in his own bed, safe and sound. And drenched in sweat. He laid on his back and tried to calm himself, focusing on the sound of Ray's soft snores and breathing deeply. He felt his t-shirt clinging to his skin and gluing him to the bed, so he got up and took the shirt off before going barefoot to the open window. He looked down to see the castle and the grounds, and it turned out to be a horrible idea. The flashes of the battle kept coming up like fireworks before his eyes and he had to grab the windowsill to keep standing.

He had to get out. Outoutout.

He stumbled through the door and leaned against the wall, counting to one hundred. He didn't see the Common Room from where he stood, but he could see soft light coming from there. And he imagined it to be warm, warm on his skin, so he moved towards it. He came into the snoop of light at the top of the stairs and looked down to see the room (there was no fire, no flames, no screaming). There was only one person there and of course it was Nate. Nate who was trying to hide the book he was reading by putting it under him, and looking up at the same time, shifting under his afghan.

“Hey,” he said, flushed from the fire or embarrassment, or both, and Brad's stomach clenched a little.

“Couldn't sleep?” Brad asked and winced. Smooth. And observant.

If Nate noticed his expression, he didn't mention it. He nodded, tugging his legs in and making room on the couch he was sitting on. Brad couldn't exactly go for the armchair now, so he sat on the opposite side of the couch, facing Nate and making sure they weren't touching, hopefully in a subtle way.

Fuck, where did this all go so stupid and awkward between them? Brad would like to go back and punch that moment in the face.

“Yes,” Nate answered, bringing Brad back. “Still on an adrenaline high after practice, apparently,” he explained, showing his self-deprecating smile. “Also, I'm so fucking sore.”

Brad was not going there. He was not going there. Just not. Going. There.

“It was fun, though, right?” Nate added and looked at him with raised eyebrows. Brad realized he was silent for too long.

“It was fantastic,” he agreed, showing teeth. “I feel every muscle group in my body going on strike, but it will pass. It always does.”

“Yes, it does.”

Something in Nate's voice made Brad suddenly remember how things went on after practice. How things had been going on between them since long before that, too.

“What are you working on?” he asked, ignoring the rest. “And don't tell me it's nothing. I saw those books you tried to hide when I came in.”

It was Nate's turn to wince. He ran his hand up and down his face.

“It's nothing, I just... I was checking up on some things for the next Army's training and I've heard someone coming, so I reacted as I always did before.”

Last year and even earlier than that. Dumbledore's Army was always a secret and even if it was a secret everyone knew about, the stakes were too high and the risk too grand to ever make it public.

Some of the teachers knew, obviously. They saw what happened during the Battle. But the secrecy was still going to be kept, even now when the war was officially over. Old habits and all that.

“It's two in the morning, Nate,” Brad chose to say instead.

“I know. But I couldn't sleep, remember? Decided to do something useful.”

And it felt like they were back, for a moment. The same old phrases, the same old responses. Knowing the other wouldn't change his mind, but be willing to say their lines anyway.

Sometimes it felt like they were having the same conversations over and over again.

“Just like old times, right?” Nate asked quietly and smiled, uncertain, as if Brad would snap or ignore Nate's attempts.

“Only better,” he responded with his standard line that at one time broke them into almost hysterical laughter. It was the middle of March, the war was long past being something new, and the thought of it being better than the past was... well, laughable.

Now it was different. The world actually was a little better. The problem was that they weren't, yet. At least not by much.

“Brad, listen...” Nate started and stopped, shaking his head.

And there they were, suddenly, on the brink of something, of the conversation Brad was unable to handle right now.

“I'm sorry about the practice,” he found himself saying. Changing the topic, but not really. Nate looked at him for a moment, his hand gripping the cushion next to his knee, before he nodded.

“It's fine.” Because it wasn't okay and Nate never pretended like that. He could bullshit his way out of almost anything, he perfected that art over the years, but somehow he drew a line on something being or not being okay.

But it was fine, and fine was enough for now. Definitely enough for Brad, whose headache seemed to go away, leaving behind persistent need of sleep.

“Are you going to bed?” he asked, standing up.

Nate smiled at that, his shoulders relaxing just a fraction. “Yes, dear.”

They climbed the stairs together and slipped into the bedroom without waking anybody. Nate's hand found Brad's elbow in the darkness and gripped it lightly.

“Good night, Brad,” he whispered before letting go.

“Good night, Nate,” Brad whispered back.

It was fine.


“I say we get drunk,” Ray suggested with a grin the second they left the castle. He pulled Walt closer and kept their hands together. Brad refrained from rolling his eyes.

“I say you are an idiot,” Poke said from behind them.

“Ten points to Poke,” Brad said to that, “and zero to Ray. Only because you're in my house and I don't want us to lose because of you. Any more,” he added with a smirk.

“Fuck you, Brad!”

“Don't go breaking my heart just because you want some Iceman action, Ray,” Walt said, trying to keep a serious face and failing miserably.

“I don't blame him,” Brad said with an understanding nod, “but I wouldn't be able to live with myself after that. Probably literally.”

“Nate!” Ray shouted, “Nate, where are you? Where is our fearless leader, our prefect, our Boy of Great Head...”

“Ray, I swear on my wand, I will kick your ass the next time you call me that.”

They turned to see Nate coming up to them.

“You wound me,” Ray announced, but threw himself – and Walt, because he still wouldn't let him go – at Nate with a spastic sort of hug.

“I would,” Nate affirmed, dislodging Ray from himself with a tap on the back of his head. “Listen,” he turned to the rest of them, “I spoke to Ginny and she said she was going to Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes to help George. I volunteered us, too.” He shrugged. “But we don't have to all go there if you made other plans.”

“Of course we will go,” Gina said, tucked under Poke's arm and smiling at Nate.

Everybody else nodded and turned left for the shortcut to the east part of Hogsmeade.

“I didn't know he decided to re-open it,” Brad said with a question in his tone.

“Not yet. Ginny said they just got him to go there again.”

Brad nodded. Hefelt a bit of dread going there, he couldn't imagine what George was going through. Fred's death was hard for everybody who knew him, even in passing. He became one of the symbols of the war, of what it took from them. But even if he didn't, Brad had a burning memory of the Weasley family mourning around his body, in the middle of the Great Hall, surrounded by others, dead and grieving, but somehow drawing the most painful picture. And George was there, in the middle of it, kneeling by Fred's side, and saying things that were impossible to be heard from the distance. Staring like if he’d looked at him long enough, Fred would’ve opened his eyes.

Brad hadn't seen George since the funeral and he hadn’t been inside the shop for almost a year. Suddenly Ray's idea of getting drunk started to sound more attractive.

Maybe he should...

But they were already there.

From the street it looked the same way it looked last year – the curtain in red and yellow stripes covering up the window and the sign on the door that originally read “We're out having FUN” that had been long ago changed by someone to “We're out having WAR”. No one had taken it off even now.

Nate knocked four times, loudly, before trying the doorknob. The door was open, so they all went in, Nate, Ray, Walt, Brad, Poke, and Gina, and quickly shut it behind them not to attract attention from other students.

The room was brightly lit, but that actually made it worse. There were boxes everywhere, opened and sealed, some of them half filled, some of them on the carpet, spilling gadgets on the floor. Someone had to use the cleaning spell, because there was no trace of dust, but somehow it still looked abandoned and lifeless.

Ginny came in from the second room, her eyes red but her smile grateful.

“Thank you all for coming,” she said, looking around the room rather than at them. “It means a lot.”

Gina came closer and gave her a hug.

“Of course,” she said simply, just like before.

Walt nodded. “Ray needs all the workout he can get.”

“Hey!” Ray elbowed him, but everyone smiled at that and breathed a little easier.

That is, until they saw George.

“Hi, guys,” he said, leaning on the counter. He looked like he hadn't slept in weeks and hadn't eaten in months. Like the idea of walking, or standing, was too hard to comprehend.

“Yo, George, my beautiful brother from a different mother!” Ray shouted and came closer to hug him.

Brad heard the whole group, himself included, hold their breath.

George widened his eyes for a moment and then hung his head, shaking it. That's it, Brad thought. The B-word has been used.

Before Ray reached the counter, George lifted his head and he was snorting.

“My mother would never bring someone like you into this world. She actually likes it.”

Ray threw his arms around George's neck and hugged him tightly. “You're just jealous. That's understandable.”

“You're the one who called me beautiful.”

“I always thought you were hot,” Ray said, before turning to look at the group. “That is, of course, until I saw Walt.”

“Touching,” Walt muttered, but Brad could see that he was biting his lower lip. Walt had this weird condition where he actually found Ray more adorable than annoying.

“And more age-appropriate,” George pointed out, still smiling and visibly surprised by it.

“You're not that old,” Ray said to that, patting him on the head before taking a step back and turning around. “But we can be, before we're done here, so let's get to it. Point me in the right direction and use me however you want.”

“Promises, promises,” George said but then he turned serious. “But you're right, let's get to it.”

So they did.

They worked for almost three hours before George called if off. “You came to Hogsmeade to have fun, not to clean. Go have fun.”

They protested, of course, but George was part of a big family with years of experience in getting his way. He sent them out, giving each of them a different item from the shop.

Before, they were planning to go to all the usual places, like Honeydukes Sweetshop or Scrivenshaft's Quill Shop, that had been finally re-opened. Brad was craving the cinnamon rolls for months now (he tried the Muggle ones one time, but he ended up throwing them out; they just weren't the same), and he knew Nate needed his chocolate fix like he needed his books – badly and often.

But after leaving George's shop, they went straight to The Three Broomsticks and ordered a pitcher of butterbeer. The noises around them seemed to be almost deafening for Brad and he rubbed his right ear, fruitlessly trying to somehow shield it from the incessant waves of sound.

Suddenly he felt a warm hand closing on his thigh and the pressure in his head seemed to be immediately a little less... all-consuming. Nate's fingers tightened for a moment before just resting there on his leg, giving off warmth through Brad's chilled jeans.

He didn't turn to him, he couldn't. He just quietly inhaled and exhaled, once, and twice, and one more time. It felt as if everyone in the room quieted down a little.

“Anyone else feels like we actually got lucky in this whole mess?” Walt asked, looking at the table instead of them.

“Yeah,” Ray said, throwing his arm around Walt's shoulders and sliding closer.

Brad nodded and he could see Nate and Gina doing the same. Poke looked like he was going to say something, but he just kept staring at Gina before nodding too.

There was probably no one in the magic community who hadn't known someone who died during the war, but no one in the group lost a member of close family or a close friend.

The standards of what was considered a good situation were near an all-time low, Brad suspected.


He told himself for the fiftieth time that he was not expecting anything but a great view when he was climbing the last steps to the top of the Astronomy Tower, but the hot burn of disappointment he felt when he stepped onto the empty balcony rendered this and other forty nine times to be utter lies.

The view was indeed spectacular, though. The light coming out from the castle made the Hogwarts' grounds partially visible even at this time of night. Brad looked out towards the Forbidden Forest and didn't think about the last year's fires at all.

The sound of the door opening startled him, but he didn't turn around.

“We didn't do this for far too long,” Nate said, leaning on the railing right next to Brad.

“We didn't do many things for far too long,” Brad wanted to say and found himself actually speaking those words out loud almost without thought. Because if he would stop to think about it, they would stay unspoken and buried, preferably forever.

“You’re right, we didn't.”

They stood in silence for a minute. Two. Three.

“Are we friends?” Nate asked and Brad turned to face him. “Are we... We had sex, sort of, it depends on... Never mind. We had sex and then we almost stopped talking and that was fucked up. Now it's sort of better, but not by much and I want to know. Are we friends and that's it? Are we friends who are having sex? Or are we not even friends anymore? Are we...” Brad kissed him before he could finish.

“I don't know,” he said with his lips touching Nate's, because he couldn't move away now, not now. He kissed him again, pushed his tongue into Nate's mouth and pulled him closer with the hand on the nape of his neck.

“Fine,” Nate whispered back, his fingers clasped on Brad's hips. They both moved so that Brad was crowding Nate against the wall and pushing as if Nate was supposed to melt into it or into Brad. “That's fine.”

And Brad had been wrong before, Nate was a bad liar, probably the worst liar Brad knew, but he didn't care now, because he missed this, even if he actually did have this just once. He missed everything they were before that, everything they could become then. He didn't know what choices they had left now, if any at all. If there was a way to not be distant and wary, and careful, because they were never that, not ever, not before the Battle.

So they kissed and kissed, hands seeking warm skin under sweaters and t-shirts, hips aligned so that they were rubbing off of each other. It was not fast or desperate, not like the last time. There was no mortal danger, no fires going around them or screams heard through the walls.

And Brad was torn between wanting this to be their first time, this slow, focused on one another make out session leading to an orgasm pretty fast anyway, and between never giving back that time during the Battle. The fast, rushed, we're-probably-going-to-die-tonight-please-don't-die exchange of handjobs and bite marks, and kisses. But it didn't matter now anyway. He got to have Nate under his hands again.

Nate came with a quiet gasp and Brad, Brad whispered into his collarbone before his teeth closed on his skin. And then Brad was done, shuddering and falling harder onto Nate's body, with his nose next to his ear and swallowed words to be left unspoken.

Neither of them spoke for a few minutes, unwilling to break the silence or to widen the space between them again. Nate put his chin on Brad's shoulder and breathed deeply; the only proof that he wasn't asleep was that his fingers were still underneath Brad's t-shirt, drawing patterns on the sweaty skin of his back. Brad was inhaling him with every deep breath, while the tips of his fingers were running along the edges of Nate's jeans.

“I missed you,” Nate said, finally, because he was always the braver one.


And if Brad would be inclined to think that would resolve all the issues, he would be sorely disappointed now. But since his view of the world was realistic at best, he knew better than to hope for such things.

It was better, for sure, a little easier to be around each other, and talk, and touch. A little easier to reenact their usual play of doing things. But there were also times when Brad found himself suddenly craving Nate's skin under his hands or lips so badly he had to almost constantly keep his hands in his pockets, so he wouldn't just reach out and take, and take.

It will pass, he told himself and he wasn't wrong, exactly. He was already feeling a little better, more deserving of his fucking nickname. Not jumping out of his skin any time soon, or fantasizing about molesting Nate in the middle of the Common Room. Much.

They went back to meeting at the Astronomy Tower, just like they had been doing for over three years. Mostly it was just the two of them, but occasionally they ended up sort of hosting little, eleventh-person-is-sent-the-fuck-away parties on the top of the world (Ray's idea of a great name, of course; Brad was able to at least veto the capital letters).

“Some time during the fourth year,” Nate started speaking the moment Brad appeared in the doorway one day when it was just the two of them, “I became scared that there would come a day when I could look at this view and not be affected by it.”

“Was there ever a day like that?” Brad asked, leaning on the railing and looking around. There was no such day for him, that he was certain of.

Nate shook his head. “I'm starting to believe it will probably never come.”

“That's good.”

“I have to say, Voldemort knew where to attack,” Nate said after a minute. “If Hogwarts would fall...”

“It didn't.” Brad turned to Nate and put his hand on his neck, making him turn too. He looked him in the eyes. “It didn't,” he repeated.

“I know that,” Nate said, tilting his head, so that he could kiss Brad's wrist. “We would all be dead, if it did, anyway.”

“Yeah,” Brad breathed out, trying to get his heart under control. His blood was pulsing like it wanted to burst out of his veins.

Nate laughed suddenly, with his eyes bright and his head thrown back, accidentally dislodging Brad's hand. Brad let it drop to his waist instead, because he couldn't make himself break contact completely.

“What?” he asked, lips twitching. Nate's laughter always did that to him.

“I just remembered our first time,” Nate gasped, still laughing. Brad tightened his grip in response without thinking, which made Nate stop and smirk at him, before he went back to just amused. “First time seeing Hogwarts, you idiot.”

Brad shrugged, smirking as well. “Hey, you didn't specify.”

“And you went straight to sex.”

“I'm seventeen years old. I'm not ashamed to admit that a part of me is thinking about sex constantly.” Especially when you're around.

Nate's fingers twitched at the small of his back. And when did they get there? They were basically in each other's arms and the question should be how he was able to think about anything other than sex.

“Okay, I will shoot. What about our first time?”

Nate shrugged, still smiling. “Ray's crazy stories, which, by the way, made this little guy from a family of non-wizards slightly petrified,” he started, pointing at himself. “Poke almost landing in the lake...”

“He told me later that it was the first time he saw Gina.”

Nate scrunched his nose. “They are seriously too adorable to exist. I shouldn't even use the world 'adorable', but they're forcing me to.”

“Poor you.”

Nate pinched him hard. “I also remember this ridiculously tall, silent boy who helped me with my bags.”

“You were a midget back then, that's all.”

“I was a normal-sized eleven-year-old.”

“Normal for midgets, sure. At least you grew up out of that. You still can't pack, though.”

“You're destroying my precious childhood memories, just so you know,” Nate told him, trying for serious and failing completely.

Brad suddenly felt hot. He wanted... everything. This, and more, since he knew now there was 'more' he was allowed to have. He didn't know how to get it, though. Or how to keep it. How to make sure it wasn't going to break them again.

He stepped back, letting go. “Speaking of children,” he said, looking at the door, “aren't you supposed to make some rounds to catch those sneaking up little monsters?”

Nate frowned, showing his hands in his pockets. “Yes. Yes, I do, of course. I should go.”

Brad nodded. “I'm going to stay here a little longer.”


“Okay. Goodnight, Nate.”

Nate stood there for a second before leaning in for a quick kiss. He moved away as quickly.

“Night, Brad.”


It was bound to happen sooner or later. Actually, to be honest, Brad was kind of expecting it to happen earlier than it actually did.

Because someone had to break at some point. Every student from the second year up was here last year and they all remembered.

They got used to hearing screams at night.

They got used to the wary looks and tired eyes, and smiles that came a few seconds too late.

They got used to not doing anything in the dark, just in case.

They got used to trying to avoid sudden movements and surprising tackles.

Friends intervened when they noticed bottles or suspicious pills.

Or split lips and bruises. Or scars.

They were trying their best, both at dealing with their own shit and at taking care of others.

They couldn't help everyone, though.

Mike Rivers, a third-year from Ravenclaw, went home after he kept refusing to leave his dormitory for anything.

Two weeks later, Ramona Smithson from Gryffindor's fifth year was sent away after pulling her wand at Professor McGonagall.

The rest of them just kept going.

Dumbledore's Army helped, that's for sure. Going to the meetings gave Brad a feeling of being understood and these days he didn't get it too often. He felt on the outside of pretty much everything.

On the wall there was a list of names of DA’s members who died during the Battle (Samantha Perkins, Trevor McKinley, Laura Banks, Ted Stevens, Mike Atwood, Cassidy Johnson, and Phillip Willow; Brad felt the need to list them all in his head sometimes). There was also a second list, open to be filled whenever anyone wanted or needed to add to it, for fallen friends and family members. Fred Weasley was at the top of that one, and Brad had seen Ginny's eyes locked on it sometimes, before something or someone distracted her.

Their numbers grew, probably doubled up before the end of November. It was weird at first, but they got used to the new faces. There was no way they would tell someone no. Everyone wanted the same thing, after all.

They shifted, though. The core members became some sort of mentors to the new ones, teaching them what they had covered for the last year and a half. It slowed down the whole learning process, but in the end they knew it wasn't about learning new things for them anymore.

Brad was fortunate enough to not get a complete moron. Shonda was smart and capable, learning quickly, even if she did stumble on some spells.

“Fuck, not again,” she groaned as her spell bounced off the wall and took a chunk of brick with it. She quickly fixed the damage and tried again, this time doing it right and Brad nodded with approval.

“Have I earned a smile?” she asked, raising her brows at him.

“I don't know, ask that wall.”

“Ouch,” she said, dramatically placing a hand over her heart. “So cruel.”

“That's me,” he said, slightly amused. “And as a truly cruel person, I'm making you do it ten more times. Correctly. Leave the place alone, we need it.”

She rolled her eyes, but went back to the exercise anyway. Brad was busy observing her, so it took him a minute to notice Ginny standing nearby.

“Everything okay?” he asked.

“Yes, everything's fine,” she said, coming closer. “Didn't want to interrupt. I just wanted to make sure Nate's okay.”

“Nate?” Brad noticed, of course, that Nate wasn't there at the beginning, but he assumed he was just running late.

“He's not here,” Ginny said, shaking her head when he was looking around. “He asked Walt to let me know he wasn't going to show today. And it's fine, obviously,” she shrugged, “I'm just worried. It's kind of my thing now, worrying.”

Brad nodded.

“It's probably fine,” he said, to her and to himself. “Maybe he's just tired. I don't think he's stopped doing anything even once since we got back.”

“I've noticed.”

Ginny and Brad dated for awhile in their fifth year. It was something that, to an outside observer, might have looked like a perfect match. But they knew better, agreed that it was a good thing they tried, but it wasn't ever going to lead anywhere. Brad had never looked back and he was sure Ginny didn't either. And while they never became close friends, they always understood each other really well. Too well, maybe.

Somehow she ended up being friends with Nate, instead. Brad had problems understanding that, but right now he felt fucking good about it.

“Are you working with anyone right now?” he asked. She shook her head. “Would you mind taking care of Shonda for me? I would... go. And check. To make sure everything's fine.”

“Of course,” she smiled, like she expected it. “Let me know if I can help.”

“Sure,” he said, but he wasn't really listening anymore. After saying goodbye to Shonda, he scanned the room for Walt. He located him near the windows. It looked like there was smoke coming from his partner's wand.

“Is it safe?” he asked, curiously tilting his head.

“No,” Walt answered before addressing the guy, fellow Hufflepuff from the looks of it. “Try again.”

“Where did you see Nate, Walt? Ginny said he talked to you.”

“Where else could it be? In the library. I swear, even the entire Ravenclaw isn’t spending as much time in there as he is.”

“He has missed the meeting so he could study?” Brad asked incredulously. Even for Nate, that was extreme. They had a lot of time until the exams and teachers seemed to take it easy on them lately.

“Make him eat something, Brad,” Walt said, crossing his arms and shaking his head at the Hufflepuff.

Brad was going to force Nate to go to dinner if he had to.

He found him at the far end of the library, with three books open before him and another two waiting on the chair next to him. Brad lifted the two, so he could sit down. “Hi.”

“Hi, Brad,” Nate said, distracted. “Is everything okay?” he asked, not looking up from the paper.

“You tell me.”

“Huh?” he lifted his head, his brows furrowed and his mouth opened. “Oh. The meeting. Yeah, I needed to get this done.”


“Yes,” Nate bit his lower lip. “I forgot.”

“You forgot?” Brad was trying not to sound so surprised, but it was unusual, to say the least. Nate Fick did not forget his homework, ever.

“Yes, Brad,” Nate said, his voice sharp. He winced a second later. “I'm sorry. It's obviously not your fault and I'm taking it out on you. I forgot to write the essay for Professor Lipkin. I need to do this now.”

Brad rapped his fingers on the books he was holding. “Okay. We have an hour before dinner, I will wait.”

“No, it doesn't make sense. You don't...”

Brad shushed him. “Be quiet and keep writing. You have an hour.”

And Brad was going to make sure that was it.


Holiday break caught Brad by surprise every year. He was looking forward to it since the middle of November and then suddenly it was a week before, or three days before, and he forgot to buy presents again.

He wasn't going home during the break, though, so at least he still had a chance to buy something in Hogsmeade before meeting his parents there on twenty eighth for Hanukkah dinner.

He was walking through the empty hallway, debating what kind of book his mother would enjoy the most, so he didn't see Professor McGonagall coming from his left until he was stopped by her hand on his shoulder.

“Careful, Mr Colbert.”

“I'm sorry, Proffesor. I didn't see you.”

She tilted her head, looking at him. “I was surprised to learn that you are staying here during the break. Not counting last year, you've never did before.”

Last year almost everyone stayed in. That was when people still believed Hogwarts was the safest place for them to be.

This year there were maybe twenty of them, and less than a half was staying by choice.

“Seemed like the best option, Ma’am. Some of my friends are staying, too.” And it was their last chance to do so.

She nodded. “I understand. I always loved spending winter holidays here,” she smiled a little, Brad thought but wasn't sure. It was difficult to say with her, sometimes.

He smiled back just in case.

“Since we're meeting, I wanted to congratulate you on your last Transfiguration essay.”

He looked at her in surprise.

“I hope you're considering your future in this field, Colbert. You could accomplish great things.”

“I... Thank you. That... means a lot.”

He had no idea about his future in any field, at this point, but it was still damn good to hear. Transfiguration was his favorite class, after all.

She nodded again and left him standing there, looking at her back before she disappeared in the dark corridor. She was looking better, like the rest of them were. Last year, she was almost invisible, tired and looking older than ever, avoiding Professor Snape as much as she could. Now, she was their Headmistress and she stepped up to the task, with her head held high and her strong voice that left no room for argument.

Brad smiled, continuing his walk back to his bedroom.


Eating in the almost empty Great Hall was weird. Brad stopped having flashbacks about dead bodies lying on the floor every other week after about a month and a half, but he felt... uneven tonight, with so much empty space. Sitting with his back to the most of the room didn't help either. He kept shifting and turning around.

Nate leaned in towards Brad. “What's going on?” he asked, frowning. “There's no one else coming.”

“I'm not waiting for anybody. I'm just not... comfortable. With the empty space. Behind me.”

Nate nodded, turning away to stare at his potatoes swimming in gravy. “I get it. It's weird without all these people, right? I feel like the room is three times bigger than normal.”

“At least there are no bodies,” Brad murmured, half a second later hoping Nate didn't hear anything.

Judging from the way he did a double-take at the empty room behind them, it was unlikely.

“Are you still having flashbacks?” Nate asked quietly, so the others wouldn't hear. Brad didn't even stop to wonder how he knew. He learned a long time ago that Nate was probably the most observant person he'd ever known.

“No,” he said, shaking his head. “It doesn't mean I don't remember, though.”

“I don't think we're going to forget it any time soon.”

And Brad saw this as an acknowledgment of many different things, but one of them was that simple understanding that it was going to take time. That it was okay not to be in a perfect form yet.

He let his shoulders relax a little bit and took a deep breath. “Probably not.”

“I would pay money for all of those memories to go away.”

Brad turned right and felt Nate moving closer behind him to see Lisa, who looked up at them and shrugged.

“I wasn't eavesdropping. You're not exactly quiet and I don't have anybody to talk to.”

She was one of two Ravenclaws who stayed in and the other one, Sylvia, was flirting with Maria from Hufflepuff on the other end of the table.

“You can talk with us,” Nate offered with a smile Brad didn't even have to turn to know was there. “Or with me. Brad here is not all that great at conversations.”

“I've noticed,” Lisa said, smirking a little.

“Then you are both terribly misguided,” Brad told hem, rolling his fork between his fingers. “I'm great at conversations. When I feel like having them.”

“Somehow I think you don’t feel that way very often,” Lisa said, raising her eyebrows at Nate as if seeking confirmation. She apparently got it, because she sat back with a winning smile.

“I tend to avoid feelings in general.”

“Unless it's irritation,” Nate said. “Or feeling murderous. Or helplessness in the face of overwhelming stupidity.”

“It's not my fault that people are stupid. It's not like I enjoy those feelings.”


Lisa laughed at them and didn't even try to hide it. The left side of Brad's mouth twitched.

“Hey, we're planning on having... well, party would be stretching it, seeing like there's four of us Gryffindors, so a get-together in our Common Room later on,” Nate said, smiling. “You should come.”

“Bring snacks,” Brad added. They were almost out. Again.

“My mom sent me her cinnamon rolls. I'm willing to share.”

“You should definitely come, then.”


Somehow, two hours later they all ended up in Gryffindor's Common Room. Lisa brought Sylvia, who brought Maria, who brought the remaining four Hufflepuffs, including Walt. At that point Nate made a trip down to the dungeons and came back with nine Slytherins.

Brad blamed it on Christmas. Holidays made people do weird things.

But he wasn't complaining. People brought food. Someone brought alcohol, and Nate and Mia both left their Head Boy and Head Girl hats somewhere else and didn't say anything.

Brad was kicking Mike's ass at chess and didn't really pay attention to what was happening in the room, other than looking up from time to time to see where Nate was.

If he was still talking to Tina by the fireplace, that was.

“Stop staring at him and make your move already,” Mike said, rolling his eyes.

“My last move cost you your queen. It's your turn,” Brad pointed out, ignoring whatever Mike implied.

Unfortunately, Mike was a stubborn guy. “Do you plan on taking your head out of your ass and actually get together with him?”

“That conversation is ridiculous.”

“You both are ridiculous. How many years have you been pining after one another already?”

“And what are you, the ghost of Christmas past?” Brad asked, raising his brows.

“I'm the get-your-shit-together-and-do-this-already voice of reason.”

“Why exactly do I have to be the one to 'get my shit together'? Or is Nate getting the same lovely parental talk?”

Mike looked at him, tilting his head to the left. “Are you sure he didn't? Or maybe you just didn't notice it?”

“How the hell should I know if I didn't notice it?”

“So let me tell you. From where I'm standing, it looks like he's making a move every other day. You... not so much.”

Brad looked at him with narrowed eyes. He didn't think Mike was drunk, but the stuff coming out from his mouth was making a pretty strong case.

“Are you standing on another planet, then?” he asked, sitting back. Brad won the game anyway, Mike had three pieces left. “Where it's dark?”

Mike actually threw his hands in the air. “I honestly thought you would get your asses together last year.” So he didn't know, Brad thought. That was good. Probably. “But you apparently only put your brave pants on when it's time to fight the bad guys.”

Brad really didn't want to be reminded of the times he had to put his brave pants on last year. He felt his muscles tense and he tightened his grip on the arm of his armchair.

“That's really not...”

“Are you seriously still trying to win the chess game with Brad, Mike?” Nate asked with a crooked smile. “You should really let this go.”

“I'm from Gryffindor, I don't let things go,” Mike said gravely before he smiled back. “Besides, when I play, nobody tries to get me to socialize with strange people.”

Nate wasn't phased by the implication. “You’ve known most of these people for over six years.”

“Yes, that's why I can honestly tell you that I know they are strange.”

“And Brad is normal?” Nate asked, raising his eyebrows and looking between them.

“Brad is fucked in the head...”


“...but that's one of his best qualities.”

“I'm not sure if I should be flattered or offended right now,” Brad admitted with a dry smile.

Nate laughed at that. “That's Mike's specialty.”

“Well, I'm sitting here with you, aren't I?” Mike pointed out.

“There's that,” Brad nodded. “But it can also be a form of torture.”

“I guess you'll never know,” Mike deadpanned, standing up. “I'm going over there. And by there, I mean wherever the alcohol is.”

Brad watched him go for a long moment, before he stood up as well and looked around the room. “I think I'll just go to bed early. Make that my holiday gift to myself.”

“And abandon me to all this?” Nate waved his hand around.

“You can go to bed, too.”

Nate snorted.

“Yeah, because us going up together won't start any rumors or anything.”

“Well, Mike would pop open the champagne.”

Nate winced. “Was he harassing you about this?” he asked, pointing between them.


“Not really.” He paused. “You?”

“At least once a week. He may actually have that penciled in in his calendar or something.” It was Nate's time to roll his eyes, but he smiled softly at Brad. “Don't worry, I'm not going to harass you about this.”

“Me neither,” Brad offers and pauses. “Should I?”

“No. Not until you figure it out.”

Brad had trouble believing this conversation was really happening. And since it happened the second time this evening, he should definitely go to bed. “It's on the list.”

“Let me know when,” Nate said, taking a step back. It made Brad realize they not only were having this conversation, but it also was taking place in the Common Room. He took the step back, too.

“Since I'm not as young as I used to be,” he said, making Nate crack a small smile, “I think it's time to sleep.”

“Maybe not as young, but definitely as anti-social as ever,” Nate pointed out, but he was still smiling. “You did good, though. Bravely resisted for,” he looked at his watch, “over three hours. Impressive.”

“I'm a real fighter,” Brad snorted.

“Go to sleep, old man. It's presents time tomorrow.”


He went back to their bedroom and kept thinking about Mike's words and Nate's behavior. He would certainly notice if Nate was indeed making moves on him all the time. Right?

Nate acknowledged what was going on, or wasn't, and told him to take his time. It didn't feel like a move, more like stating the facts and awaiting an outcome.

And if Mike was the Ghost of Christmas Past, was Nate the Ghost of Christmas Present? Did that make Brad his own Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come?

Well, he was definitely pessimistic enough.


Everybody came back for the New Year's Eve. The halls weren't silent anymore, the tables during dinner were full again, and everyone was talking about either their break, and the presents, and food, or about the party that was going to happen that night.

“I'm going to ask Gina to marry me,” Poke said, definitely breaking the pattern. They were sitting in their bedroom, shooting shit before the party.

“What?” Ray shrieked.

“You heard me.”

“I did, but I'm still hoping I misheard you,” Ray said, getting up to pace around the room. “You're seventeen!”

“I'm eighteen in two months.”

“Yeah, yeah, you're seventeen and three quarters, whatever. Real mature.”

“What Ray is unsuccessfully trying to say,” Nate broke in, sending Ray 'shut the hell up' look, which was apparently a magic weapon of some kind, because it actually worked, “is that although we are all sure you and Gina are a great couple and you will be that for years to come, it is really, really early to get married.”

“We're not getting married tomorrow, for fuck's sake.”

“You're still pretty young for an engagement,” Brad pointed out, leaning back on his bed.

“I was pretty young for fighting a war, too. Let's see how that turned out.”

There was a sudden silence in the room, mood shifting fast.

“Last year before the Battle I promised myself,” Poke said after a moment, looking at them one by one, “that if we survive that fight, I'm going to propose on the next New Year's Eve.”

That made an impression. Brad noticed in a detached way that Poke played the one card that pretty much ended all discussions.

“Shut up and show us the ring already, geez,” Ray said, hovering above Poke suddenly.

Brad avoided looking at Nate until it was time to leave for the party.


He was going to have to kill himself over this music. Two and a half hours of this and he had never wanted to use Silencio so much in his life. The fact that the entire school was gathered in one big room didn't help either. He tried hiding, but it was kind of counterproductive. He could still hear the damn whining coming from the speakers, and avoiding conversations meant there wasn't anything to drown it out.

“Have you seen Nate?” he asked, coming up to Ray, when he located him finally near the cake.

“He left, like, thirty minutes ago. Where were you?”

Trying to escape Laura Ripkin. And Molly Stark. And Luc Stark.

“Around. Getting bored out of my mind.” He paused and then furrowed his brows. “Wait, Nate left here alone?”

Ray rolled his eyes.

“No, he took that tall, blue-eyed blond he'd been lusting after forever back to our room. Oh, wait.”

Brad decided, again, that there was no greatest accomplishment in self-control than being friends with Ray Person and not killing him for over six years.

“Fuck you, Ray.”

“Sorry, bros before... bros,” he shrugged. “Anyway. You and me, not happening. You and Nate, not happening either, that's true, but not because of the lack of wanting on either side. I actually honestly have no idea why you are still not fucking, seriously, how many years a girl should wait for you? And by girl I mean Nate. And that was very sexist of me, I retract that comment. That was probably also a little heteronor...”

“Shut up, Ray.”

“Yes, thank you, that's probably a good idea. Go find Nate. I will go... somewhere else. Maybe I will drown myself in that punch. It looks radioactive enough.”

Brad decided he had enough. He turned around, but Ray caught him by the wrist. “If you don't kiss him at midnight, you are not only an idiot, Brad,” he said, quieter and without a smile. “You're a coward, too.”

And with that, he disappeared into the crowd. After a minute of staring after him and two minutes of trying to push through the mass of the entire population of Hogwarts trying to grind into each other or anything at all, Brad left the Great Hall behind.

The corridors weren't deserted, not by a long shot, students had to have their make out sessions somewhere, after all, but it was still much more quiet than the pulsing noise of the party.

He wondered sometimes what they would be like if they knew he and Nate actually hooked up already. More than once, even. Would they let it go? Unlikely, he decided. They would probably make him pick an engagement ring at this point.

He checked their room, just in case, before going up the stairs to the Astronomy Tower.

Nate was sitting cross-legged, leaning against the wall, having the perfect view of the stars.

“How the hell is this place not swamped with horny teenagers?” Brad wondered, sitting next to Nate and stretching his legs with a quiet groan. “Not that I'm complaining.”

Nate smirked at him with his eyebrows raised. “I'm not the Head Boy for nothing, Brad.”

Brad threw his head back with laughter. “You cock-blocking piece of shit.”

“I prefer to call it enjoying the perks of the job,” Nate said with a shrug and a smile.

“Well, apparently it's all the same to you.”

They sat in silence after that, looking up at the stars.

“You didn't enjoy the party?” Brad half-said, half-asked quietly without taking his eyes off the sky.

“I did, at first. But then I didn't, so I left.”

Talking with Nate was sometimes like pulling teeth. And Brad knew he wasn't a great example of a conversationalist himself, but everybody knew that. Nate was different. Which made Brad's life difficult when Nate was like this, because he wasn't good at getting anybody to talk.

“Did something...”

“Nothing happened,” Nate said, his shoulders slumped. “I kind of wish it did.” He paused for a moment. “Well, no, obviously I don't. I'm just tired of reacting badly to things that aren't there. Nothing happened. I should be fine and downstairs, having fun.”

“You should allow yourself to have bad days,” Brad said, like the hypocrite he was, and looked at Nate who was picking at his lower lip with his teeth. “Everybody has them.”

Nate shrugged. “We are all screwed, then,” he said dryly, and then he started to laugh, loud and hard, with his head thrown back and shoulders shaking.

Brad looked at him for a few seconds, but then he felt his own laughter building inside him and it poured out of him as well. They had to look like lunatics, laughing so hard Brad's stomach was starting to hurt. But it was so good, too, and Brad didn't want it to end.

It did, after a while, obviously. They were sprawled against the wall and each other, breathing loudly.

Nate checked his watch and they both could see it was a minute to midnight. Nate lifted his head from Brad's shoulder and looked him in the eye before looking at his lips. He kissed him then, leaned up and kissed him, soft and warm. Brad opened his mouth and let him in. He pulled at Nate's arm, so he would straddle Brad's lap, and they kissed and kissed, and kissed. Nate was running his fingers through Brad's hair at the nape of his neck and Brad's hands were under Nate's shirt, pulling him closer.

The first fireworks startled them both and made them pull away, but when they saw it was nothing bad, Nate whined into Brad's mouth and came back to kissing him.

“Happy New Year,” Brad whispered with his face buried in Nate's neck, his lips touching skin.

“May it be the best one yet,” Nate whispered back with a smile in his voice and bit his ear.


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