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Making Clouds From the Ashes
Part Two

Masterpost * Part One

The news about Terry Grant traveled so fast that at lunch his death was the main, if not the only, topic of conversation at every table.

Terry's sister, Mia, was the Head Girl and the Hufflepuff prefect, so her absence in the Great Hall was hard to miss. She left the school right after breakfast.

“Come on, Nate,” Poke said, sitting in front of him. “Tell us what happened, because the rumors will soon state he was abducted by aliens and left by them as a warning for humans.”

“And who would start a rumor like that, Poke?” Ray asked. “Seriously, stop watching those Muggle movies, they are giving you ideas.”

“Fuck off, Person.”

“It was what they say it was,” Nate started, staring at his plate before looking up at Poke. All conversations in the close vicinity fell silent, people turning their heads to hear better. Brad could feel Nate tense more. “He killed himself two nights ago. He poisoned himself.”

Terry got Outstanding on his Potions N.E.W.T. last year. It was not a mistake.

“Do they know why?”

Nate rubbed the corner of his eye. “Mia said he just couldn't deal any longer. We had talked about his problems before, he... He started using drugs, because he couldn't sleep. He had flashbacks a lot, got angry at stupid things. After New Year she told me he stopped leaving the house.”

“Did they try to get him professional help?” Rudy asked.

Nate nodded. “They tried, but he refused to go the second time. They tried family interventions, too, but,” he shrugged, “it didn't work.”

“Every one of us has flashbacks,” Ray pointed out. “Half of the school has trouble sleeping, some get angry out of the blue. Should we be on suicide watch?”

“Aren't we already?” Poke asked instead. “Teachers monitor us more than ever before. Their shifts on corridors doubled. Every Head of the House wants to meet us regularly.”

Nate nodded. “The prefects were instructed to keep an eye on things, too.”

“Is there a lot of...” Ray stopped and Nate sighed.

“Define a lot.”

Ray opened his mouth like he was actually going to define it for Nate. Brad slapped him in the back of his head. “He didn't mean it, you idiot. Let it go.”

That earned him a grateful smile from Nate and a scowl from Ray.

“I didn't mean it out of sick curiosity, okay?” Ray said, rubbing his head. “I'm allowed to be concerned.”

The bell rang to let them know the classes were starting soon. They gathered up their things and rushed to the door.

“You're right,” Nate said to Ray. “You're allowed to be concerned. I just don't have all the answers you'd like to hear.”

Ray nodded. “I get it. I'm sorry if I pushed.”

“You didn't. It's okay.”

Brad was walking next to them, half-listening, but he was mostly busy being angry at Terry.

Terry was there last year with them, at the front line of the fire. He wasn't in Dumbledore's Army, but he showed up with the rest of Ravenclaws when the Battle began. He probably saved Brad's life that night by Stupefying one of the Death Eaters who was coming at him from behind.

And now he was dead, because he couldn't deal. Now he was dead, seven months after graduating Hogwarts and starting a new life. He was dead and they only just were getting better at it, at everything. Brad didn't have flashbacks for over two months now, he slept well and actually got some rest when he did. Everyone relaxed a little, taking the new year as a do-over. Cliched, maybe, but cliched for a reason.

Less than a month into this bright and shiny new year, Terry Grant committed suicide.

Apparently, he didn't get that memo.


The rest of the day wasn't really much better. Brad was irritated even more than usual and even Ray started to give him a wide berth. Which happened approximately twice a year.

Brad caught Nate's elbow to keep them behind when the rest was leaving for dinner. “Meet me tonight.”

Nate raised his eyebrows. It wasn't the way they were doing things. If they would even do anything more than making out.

Which they were about to if Brad was getting his way.

“Sure,” Nate said with a pleased smile. “I'll be at...”

“Not the tower.” Brad's fingers tightened around Nate's skin. “Pick somewhere more private.”

Nate's eyes widened for a moment, before he tilted his head to the left a little. “At ten in the prefects' bathroom.”

Brad nodded and let him go. “At ten.”

He was there seven minutes to ten. He wanted to hide behind the terrifying plant that looked like it planned to take over Hogwarts at some point (get in line, he thought before realizing he was addressing a plant), but in the end he couldn't keep still. He was trying to be as quiet as possible, but he was still pacing.

Nate came dressed in shorts and with a towel hanging on his shoulder. Brad wanted to fuck him yesterday.

Which he might have telegraphed to Nate somehow, because he wasn't wasting any time opening the door. Brad still crowded him from behind and as soon as the door closed, he pushed Nate against it.

“Fuck, finally,” he breathed out on Nate's lips, before pushing in with his tongue. One of his hands tangled in Nate's hair, keeping him in place, and the other was already under Nate's t-shirt, blunt thumbnail making circles around Nate's belly button.

Nate moaned and bucked his hips, his hands tightening on Brad's waist. His hard cock was straining his shorts and Brad didn't waste any time. He clasped his fingers around it and tugged, making Nate shudder and pull away his lips to catch a breath.

“Brad,” he whispered, voice uneven. “Brad, fuck...”

“It's only the first one,” Brad told his collarbone before biting it. “Just let it go.”

Nate's head rolled back, leaving his neck exposed. Brad traced the line of it with his lips while his hand snuck into Nate's shorts and he clasped his fingers on Nate's cock, hot and heavy on his palm.

Nate's fingernails were leaving marks on his sides, breaking skin. Brad just bit harder and jacked him off faster.

Nate came with a moan muffled by Brad's mouth on his. A minute later he tugged at Brad's t-shirt.

“Come on,” he said, still a little out of breath. “Off.”

Brad lifted his arms, letting Nate do the work, and then he wiped his hand, still covered in Nate's come, on his stomach. Nate's nostrils flared.

“There's a tub. Get naked.”

They both did, really fast. Nate went ahead of him to quickly draw the bath and Brad was left to stare.

Fuck, Nate was a work of art.

“How can you be sure that nobody will come in?” He made himself focus on something else, and the tub looked like something anyone would have a hard time parting with.

“We've made a chart,” Nate said dryly, but somehow Brad believed him. “And I switched with Ginny tonight.”

Brad paused. “What did you say to her?”

“Do you really want me to answer that?” Nate asked coming into the water and looking up at Brad. “Now?”

“No, not really.”

They were best at not talking about any of it, after all.

He sat at the edge of the tub, ready to slide in, but Nate's hands on his thighs stopped him. Nate pushed his legs apart, coming between them, with the water up to his armpits. His lips were right in front of Brad's cock.

He slowly lowered his head, eyes not leaving Brad's, and clasped the base of his cock in one hand. Brad was ready to come right then and there and that was before Nate's lips touched his skin. The moment he felt Nate's tongue on the head of his cock, he buckled his hips, almost choking Nate in the process and almost landing in the tub. Nate backed off for a second, but came back, each slide down going deeper and deeper. The moment Brad felt Nate's throat, he groaned, threw his head back and came.

When the rush wore off, he look down again and saw Nate with his chin resting on Brad's thigh. He brushed his fingers through Nate's hair, playing with his ear, and then mapped out Nate's jawline with his thumb, before pushing the finger between Nate's puffed, red lips.

“I want to fuck you,” he said quietly.

Nate swore around his finger, before backing off a little to give him room to slide into the tub. Brad sat down on the step inside it and circled his arms around Nate's waist, pulling him closer. Nate moved to straddle his lap and they rested their heads into the other's neck for a long moment, silent but for their breath.

“Come on, then,” Nate whispered next to his ear, his tongue coming out to lick the skin there. “Come on.”

“Fuck, Nate,” Brad whispered back, his nails scraping at Nate's skin. He missed Nate's skin almost as much as twelve different things he missed the most.

Nate ground down, making their cocks slide along, eliciting a moan from Brad.

“Get me ready first.”

Brad reached out for the lotion on the edge of the tub. His orgasm slowed him down a little, made him relax, but Nate grinding in his lap was going to get him hard and needy pretty fast.

He kissed Nate at the same moment he pushed the first finger inside him and Nate shuddered above him. Brad moved to kiss him on the neck, licking and grazing with his teeth. Nate's hands were gripping Brad's head when he added the second and third finger.

“Now, Brad,” he said, breathing hard. “Now.”

Brad pushed in at once, probably too fast, but he couldn't help it. Nate tightened up and stopped moving.


“You okay?” Brad whispered, lips against his forehead.

“I need a moment.”

“Okay.” He closed his eyes and focused on breathing slowly.

“Okay,” Nate said after eternity, shifting a little. Brad jerked his hips without thinking.

“Sorry. Sorry.”

“No, it's okay.” Nate rolled his hips and Brad tightened his hands on Nate's sides. “You can move now.”

So he did. Slowly at first, but when he saw Nate responded to it, he quickened his pace. Nate was looking at him, eyes glazed and face red and sweaty, and he was so beautiful Brad could choke on it. Nate's head thrown back when he came was probably the most gorgeous thing Brad had ever seen.

He was too busy coming to say that out loud, which was probably for the best.

The reality hit him hard at the same time as the cold air after leaving the tub. He remembered what happened with Terry, what was happening all the time, and his shoulders suddenly felt heavier.

“What's wrong?” Nate asked, zipping his jeans, barefoot and covered in goose-bumps.

Brad shrugged, throwing his t-shirt on. “Nothing. We should go.”

“Listen,” Nate started, putting on his sneakers, but Brad didn't let him finish.

“Not now, Nate. Let's go.”

“What's going on?” Nate asked, following him out. “Come on, Brad, don't do this.”

Brad didn't say anything and just kept walking, focusing on how uncomfortable and cold it felt to have jeans stuck to his still wet skin.

He pretended not to notice when Nate stopped walking.


For the rest of February and the whole month of March, Brad seemingly couldn't stop. Couldn't fly fast enough, high enough. Couldn't hit the ball hard enough.

Nate hardly ever left the library.


“Bradley Colbert, the Headmistress wants to see you in her office,” the Fat Lady told him when he came down to the Common Room.

Poke whistled. “Well, well, Bradley, I guess you're finally going to pay for your sins.”

“I'm paying for them by living with the likes of you.”

“You're weeping for my awesomeness, Iceman,” he snorted. “Weeping.”

“Yes,” Brad deadpanned. “I weep a lot. I'm going away now just to curl up and cry in the darkest corner of the castle.”

“Have fun.”

Brad spent the time it took to get to McGonagall's office trying to come up with the reason for the trip. He didn't skip class. His grades were awesome. He didn't kill anyone. He didn't even threaten anybody this week.

Maybe he did need help, come to think of it.

“Come in, Mr Colbert,” Professor McGonagall said with a little smile. “Thank you for coming so quickly.”

“Good morning, Professor. I came as soon as I got the message.”

She nodded. “Very well. Please, sit down.” She showed him the chair and kept going when he took a seat. “You did nothing wrong, let's clear that up up front.”

Brad had to admit, even if only to himself, that he did relax a little.

“Remember when I told you you have a real talent for Transfiguration magic?”

“Of course I do, Ma'am.” He didn't forget things like that.

“That's why I asked you here today. I wanted to ask if you're considering it for your future career.”

Brad stared at her for a moment. It's not like she didn't tell him that before. She mentioned it during winter break. But today it made his breath catch and he could almost hear blood pumping faster in his brain.


“It's okay if you don't know yet, Brad,” she said gently. “I'm not asking for your blood... I'm not asking you to commit to anything you don't want to.”

He nodded.

“You're young and you're allowed not to know, Brad,” she said and Brad felt the tension in his fucking calves ease up.

“I know,” he said. Didn't stop him for wanting to, though. “There's an idea I have,” he continued, shrugging before shifting in his chair.

McGonagall raised her eyebrows. “And what is it?”

Brad looked at her for a few seconds. He didn't want to look around to see all those creepy former headmasters and headmistresses staring at him.

“What if I wanted to become an animagus?”

She nodded. “Somehow, it doesn't surprise me in the least,” she said, leaning forward to rest her elbows on the desk. “It's a lot of hard work, I hope you understand that.”

He did. “Challenge is not a deterrent for me.”

McGonagall smiled. “I thought it wouldn't.” His surprise had to show, because she continued. “Your actions and the company you keep seemed to suggest you like the challenge.”

Brad tried to contain a snort. “Ray Person is... special, but he is not that difficult, at this point.”

“Ah, Ray, yes. Him, too.”

And Brad was almost certain she was fucking with his head now. What did she mean by ‘too’?

“Anyway,” she said, opening the drawer in her desk and taking out a piece of paper and handing it to Brad. “Here's some basic information about the school you may consider if you decide to go that route. I wanted you to have it. The principal there is a good friend of mine, I'm always trying to send some talent his way.”

“Thank you, Ma'am. I truly appreciate that you thought of me.”

“You earned it, Mr Colbert. And all the praise you're getting. But don't get used to it just yet,” she said, still half-smiling. “I also have to suggest that you try not to break anyone's bones with the quaffle during the next game. You're not on the defense and we're not a violent team.”

“Yes, Ma'am. I'll try my best not to kill anyone.”

“Excellent. Try to score a lot, though. I got used to winning the championship.”

“That's the plan.”

“Good. Thank you again for coming to see me.”

Brad nodded, said his goodbyes and left. He ran down the stairs and stopped around the corner of the corridor. He leaned against the wall and stared in the dim light at the pamphlet he was gripping in his hand.

Maybe it really could happen.


The last game of the year happened in the middle of April and Gryffindor was playing against Ravenclaw. Brad was fairly certain they could beat the Ravenclaws by scoring, but he had to admit that their seeker, Katie, was better than Gina. Anything could happen.

“It will be alright, brother,” Rudy said, clapping him on the shoulder. “We're coming out there as warriors and we'll be leaving as victors.”

Brad had honestly no idea how anyone could talk like Rudy did and get away with it, worse even, pull it off, but he did. Brad was impressed, almost against his will.

“Let's go and kick their ass!” Poke shouted and that Brad understood much better.

They were the last ones on the field; Gina, Mike, Nate, and Ginny were already there. Brad wasn't going to stare, he avoided looking at him at all in the locker room, but now, in the harsh light of the sun, Nate looked terrible. Pale skin and dark circles under his eyes, which were half-closed when Nate didn't try to keep them open wider than usual.

It was Nate's MO to disappear around the time of the exams, not showing up for meals with the rest of them and generally becoming a hermit. Brad told himself that this was his excuse for not noticing sooner and not acting on it. But this was even worse and it was April, almost two months before they had to take any test. He should have known better.

“You have got to be fucking kidding me,” he murmured to himself.

Ginny, standing next to him and being hopefully the only person to hear him, looked at him with raised eyebrows. “Finally decided you want to dig your head out of your ass, then?”

“Shut up, Weasley, we have a game to win.”

“Well, at least you know how to handle that.”

The game was awful. It started raining half an hour into the match and the wind sped up. Mike and Nate were doing everything they could, but Ravenclaws apparently had a lot of pent up frustration to burn through, because they were hitting them left and right. It looked like they almost gave up on scoring goals and concentrated on keep Gryffindors from scoring instead.

Brad got seriously pissed off when the bludger flied just by his ear fourth time in ten minutes.

He got mad when Swenson, one of the Ravenclaw's chasers, ricocheted the bludger right into Nate, who, anticipating that the ball was going to be flung at Brad, was in a position that made it impossible for him to avoid an attack on himself. He got hit in the right arm so hard he let go of his bat and dived towards the ground involuntarily, before gaining control back and righting himself. After examining his arm, he waved at Madame Hooch to indicate he can only move one arm and he needed replacement.

When the game picked up soon after that, Brad scored fifty points in seven minutes. Katie caught the ball ten minutes later, but they still won by twenty points.

After the shower, Brad went straight to the Infirmary.

“Apparently human rights aren't respected in this building, did you know that?” Nate asked him the second he spotted him near his bed.


“Madame Pomfrey told me that. Apparently I do not have the right to leave this room until she decides I can.”

“Torture,” Brad said dryly.

“Don't laugh at me.”

“I'm not. I just think you should know by now that staying over for observation is a pretty normal thing.”

“I don't want normal,” Nate told him, resting his head on the pillow. “Fuck normal. I don't even know what that is anymore.”

Brad tilted his head and narrowed his eyes. “Are you stoned?”

“Slightly,” Nate admitted after a moment of consideration. “Which is why you shouldn't use normal things, while talking to me. Like logic. Don't use that. You should never try logic while talking with a slightly stoned person.”

I can't afford not to use logic while talking to you.

“Noted.” He got up from the chair. “I will talk to you when the drugs wear off, then.”

“Will you?” Nate asked, his eyes bright from the drugs. Probably.


He was injured. He was on painkillers. Brad couldn't.

“I miss you,” Nate said quietly, looking at his hands resting on the blanket.

Fuck it. Brad leaned in and kissed Nate softly, his right hand landing on Nate's neck as natural as anything. He pulled back after a few seconds and Nate strained to follow him and close the distance.

“Lie down, Nate,” Brad told him, nudging him gently back.

“I'm fine,” he said, catching his wrist and tracing Brad's pulse point with his thumb. “It's only my arm.”

“Right now it's also your brain. You're high.”

“I'm good for kissing, though. Not too high for it.” He nodded, sure of his assessment. “Definitely not.”

“Not sober enough.”

Nate tried to pull him in by the wrist he was still holding on to, but Brad didn't move.

“It's not like you don't know I consent to kissing you. A lot,” Nate pointed out.

Brad smiled softly. “I think we should try talking first now, for a change.”

“You want to talk?” Nate asked, widening his eyes. He let go of Brad's wrist to look at his own fingers from up close. “Just how high am I?”

Brad snorted. “Shut up.”

Nate opened his mouth, but Brad interfered.

“If you say something about how I can shut you up by kissing you, I'm not talking later on. I change my mind.”

Nate blinked.

“Liar,” he muttered, but didn't say anything else.

Brad turned around and left before he could break his own promise.


Brad came to collect Nate from the infirmary first thing next morning. He was fine, with broken bones fixed and the drugs out of his system. He smiled wide at Brad over the shoulder of Madame Pomfrey, who was checking him one more time.

“You came,” he said, almost jumping out of the bed.

“Yes.” Brad could swear he heard Madame Pomfrey's muffled chuckle and judging from the way Nate looked at her with accusation, he was right. But Nate was shirtless, so Brad was too busy staring to feel embarrassed.

“Can I go now?” Nate asked, reaching for his t-shirt with the previously injured hand to show he was fine.

“Yes,” Madame Pomfrey decided, stepping back and giving Brad a couple of seconds of great view before Nate put his t-shirt on. “But keep an eye on the symptoms of concussion.”

“I didn't even get hit in the head!”

“And take a nice, long nap,” she added, pointing a finger at him. “Don't think I didn't notice you look like you haven't slept in a week. And there are two solutions. Either you do what you're told and what you desperately need to, or I will bring you back here and won't let out before the next millennium. Is that clear?”

“Yes, Ma'am,” Nate nodded, standing up and stretching his arms above his head.

Brad stared some more.

“Brad!” Madame Pomfrey said in a tone suggesting it wasn't the first time she tried to get his attention.

“Is that clear?”

Nate's sleeping. Yes, of course, Brad can take him to their room and chain him to the... He shook his head. “Crystal clear, Ma'am.”

“Good. Now you can go.”

They stepped out of the infirmary and Nate let out a sigh of relief. “Finally.”

“Stop with the melodrama,” Brad told him with a mocking smile. “You were there for one night. Now come on, let's get you to the bedroom.”

“I'm not going to sleep!”

“You look like hell, Nate.”

Nate looked at him. “I've been looking like hell for over a month, this has nothing to do with yesterday.”

Brad had to fight the urge to get away, the itching to go in the other direction. “Yesterday didn't help.”

“I'm fine.”

“You're not fine, you said it yourself, you've been looking like hell for over a month.”

“Well, this,” Nate gestured at himself, “is as fine as I can get now.”

“That's not true.”

“What do you want from me, Brad?” Nate asked, opening the door to the Astronomy Tower and Brad wondered if he planned this. It was too windy to get out, but they sat down on the steps near the top.

“I promised you we'd talk,” Brad said after two minutes of silence.

Nate nodded. “I hope you didn't count on me not remembering that.”

“I didn't,” Brad said and actually meant it. That conversation was long overdue. “First of all, I'm sorry.”

Nate turned around to look him in the eye. “For what?”

Brad shrugged.

“For the last two months? And even before, fuck, the whole year maybe.” He took a deep breath. “I'm sorry I kissed you that night, the first night, during the Battle.” And he could see he was fucking this up, Nate was pulling away and Brad reached out to stop him. “Wait. Wait. I'm not sorry I kissed you at all. I'm sorry I didn't kiss you sooner. In better circumstances. Just... I wanted it to be different.”

“You wanted it, though,” Nate said and there was something in his voice that made it almost a question.

“Fuck, Nate,” Brad brushed his fingers through his hair. “Of course I did. I was imagining different scenarios for years. And then I went with a different one, the worst one, probably.”

“It wasn't the worst one,” Nate said, moving closer again, so their thighs were touching. “Hooking up and then dying during the Battle, that would be the worst one.”

Brad snorted. “True. But I also wouldn't put 'hooking up on the night of the Battle and then avoiding doing anything about it for months' on my top ten list.”

“Definitely not. But, you know, I could have done something, too,” Nate admitted, looking down at his sneakers. “It was a hard year for all of us, I guess is all I'm saying. We didn't make all the right choices, because we had other stuff to deal with.”

“Yeah, well...”

“And I guess I left it to you, made it your responsibility, because you seem to be handling all of this much better than me. Not this,” Nate gestured between them, “but the whole post-war, soon-to-be-post-school thing.” He looked up at Brad, taking in his eyes and lips, and eyes again. “You make all of it look so easy.”

Brad hold his breath for a long moment, unable to look away. You make all of it worth it, he thought, staring at Nate, a guy who was always just there, and then he repeated it out loud.

Brad knew and lived with Nate for six and a half years at this point and he had seen him happy, sad, scared, proud, excited, worried, angry, and about a hundred other things. He'd seen him drunk, high on painkillers, bloody, sweaty, he'd seen him naked and covered in come, he'd seen him crying over a dead body and he'd seen him fighting with Death Eaters. Brad thought that he had basically seen all of Nate, one way or another.

But Nate's bright green eyes wide open, his smile that had to strain his muscles, and the way he leaned into Brad, that was a new look. And it was definitely at the top of the list of his favorites.

He smiled back, half-hoping and half-scared that his face was showing Nate something similar. Because they got here. It took them time, too much of it, probably, but they were here now.

Nate kissed his cheek, before moving down to his lips. It was sloppy, because they were both grinning too hard, but it didn't matter. Brad put his hand on Nate's neck, his thumb caressing the jawline back and forth, and Nate scratched Brad's lower back with his fingernails. And somehow it felt different than all those other times when there were doing this. There were no bad memories or fear of death, no urgency and adrenaline.

They were here now.


It wasn't like they didn't know the anniversary of the Battle was coming up. They all remembered the date and if someone was somehow suffering from amnesia, they would still hear about it everywhere they turned for a month before the day.

It didn't prepare them, though. Brad didn't feel ready and looking at his housemates, he wasn't the only one. It was the eve of the anniversary and somehow the whole Gryffindor House was gathered in the Common Room.

“I'm not even sure what being ready is supposed to feel like,” Nate said, tilting his head back to rest on Brad's arm.

“Was it stupid of me to expect one day I would just wake up and be ready?” Ginny asked from the armchair next to the couch they were sitting on. “It worked last time. Well, almost.”

Brad shrugged. He didn't know. There were days when he expected that, too. When he got back home for the holidays last year, it was supposed to go away. When he got back to Hogwarts. When he stopped having flashbacks. When he and Nate got their shit together.

No such luck. It was getting better, though, so maybe that had to be enough.

“If there's anything that's going to be easier once we leave Hogwarts, it's probably that anniversary,” Nate said with his eyes half-closed. “A victory day, not the mourning.” He ran his fingers over the black bracelet on his left wrist, something all of them were wearing this week.

“Well, then maybe we should just start now,” Ray said, lifting his head from Walt's lap. He looked around at them and at the rest of the room. “Fuck this,” he added, standing up, and jumped onto the table. People turned to look at him and the room fell silent, everyone wondering what Ray was about to do this time. “We drank a lot this year for those who died. And that's good, that's great even. We should do that and I hope we will keep doing that in the future. But we forgot one very important toast and I think it's time to fix that.” He looked around and raised his glass. “To those who are still here.”

There was a long second of silence and Brad felt himself shift, but Ginny beat him to it.

“To those who are still here,” she said, raising from her seat. And one by one, all of them stood up and made the toast.

When they came into the bedroom two hours later, Brad caught Nate's wrist and stopped him from going to his bed, instead pushing him in the direction of his own, hoping against hope that no one would say anything.

They were living with Ray, though, so no such luck.

“No sex with us in the room!”

“Shut up, Ray,” Brad said, the curtain falling behind him and Nate. He took off his t-shirt and saw Nate do the same.

“Just saying,” Ray added, because he could never do what was asked of him.

“You wanted us together,” Brad pointed out loudly, throwing his jeans on the floor, and slipped under the covers, smirking at Nate. “Deal with it.”

“I'm dealing with a lot just looking at you mooning over each other all the time now. I don't want to have nightmares because you can't keep it in your pants.”

“Shut up, Ray,” Nate said, settling in next to Brad, and Ray did.

“It's like you're a magician,” Brad murmured into Nate's shoulder, spooning behind him. Nate shook with silent laughter and tightened his grip on Brad's arm around his stomach.

Brad kissed the back of his head and breathed in the smell of his shampoo. He felt the tension slipping out of his body and he closed his eyes.

“We're going out!”

Ray's words woke Brad up and it took him about three seconds to realize what was going on. He opened his eyes and saw Nate sitting between his feet, smiling at him. He smiled back.

“At last,” Nate said, crawling higher between Brad's legs. Brad opened them wider without a thought. “I was considering putting Silencio around the bed.”

Nate's head was right above Brad's very interested cock.

“And what were you planning on doing after that?” Brad asked, tucking his arms under the pillow and smirking.

“I will give you a hint,” Nate said and tugged at Brad's boxers. Brad obediently lifted his hips to help Nate take them off. Nate leaned down and licked Brad's cock from the base to the tip in one quick sweep of the tongue. Brad's hips moved involuntarily before he could stop it, but Nate didn't stop to complain. He just licked again, and again. He put his nose under Brad's cock and breathed in and out, slow and deep, tickling Brad's balls and making him insane.

“This is going to be over really,” Brad gasped, “fast.”

“Don't hold out on my account,” Nate said, smiling, and then swallowed him down.

Brad threw his head to the side and tightened his fingers in Nate's hair when he came few seconds later.

When the high passed, he reached out for Nate, who was still between his legs, looking up at him with a smile.

“Come here,” he said and Nate moved to lie on his side, tucking under Brad's arm, but he turned his face away when Brad wanted to kiss him.

“You don't want my mouth anywhere near you right now.”

Brad looked at him with raised eyebrows. “Yeah, that makes sense. Especially since you just had it on me and I wasn't complaining at all.”

Nate shrugged. “Your dick doesn't care about my morning breath. Not to mention...”

“And you think the rest of me cares?” he looked at Nate incredulously. “That's it, my dick is officially smarter than you.”

He lifted himself on his elbow and looked down on Nate, his flushed skin, red, full lips, and that smile Brad was still getting used to seeing. He leaned down and kissed him softly, ignoring Nate's laughing protest.

“Happy fucking anniversary,” Brad said with his lips still on Nate's. He dropped one hand down Nate's torso and lower. Nate's stomach shook from quick laughter.

“You realize it actually is our fucking anniversary, right?”

Brad's hand stopped with the tips of his fingers just under the top of Nate's briefs. Nate let out a small whine of protest, but Brad just put his forehead on Nate's collarbone and started to laugh.

“Fuck, this is so bad,” he said before he slipped his hand further down and gripped Nate's cock.

“Shut up,” Nate gasped, lifting his hips to meet Brad's rhythm, “it's awesome.”

He came five minutes later, choking on laughter and orgasm, and Brad was torn between admiring the look on his face or the new hickey he put low on Nate's neck.

Maybe they were going to be more than fine.


The day went downhill from there, which was, if a bit disappointing, not exactly surprising. The day that started with great sex was rarely able to improve, even if it wasn't the first anniversary of the biggest battle magical world had seen in years.

It was better than expected, though.

The afternoon classes were off, because the Minister was coming and the whole school went insane. Outside the castle journalists were running around, taking photos of every brick and every face, and trying to interview as many students as possible without being caught by one of the teachers.

From the bedroom window, Brad could see Nate and Ginny standing near the rows and rows of chairs. Ginny was half-talking, half-reading from the paper she was holding in her hands, most probably rehearsing the speech she was supposed to make in a few hours. Nate was mostly just nodding, commenting on something she said from time to time .

Brad wanted to sleep the whole thing off and wake up tomorrow morning, but he didn't let himself hope. As if sensing his thoughts, Nate turned around and looked up to see their window. From the angle Brad was standing, Nate couldn't be sure he was there, but he nodded anyway, before turning back to Ginny.

Nate had to be there and that meant Brad did, too.

When minister Shacklebolt arrived two hours later, they all stood up and kept standing until he made his way to the podium. He looked at them for a long moment, before he leaned forward and said, “At ease.”

Suddenly, there were chills running through Brad's body and he felt the silence like a punch to the gut. He could see Ginny, who was standing next to the podium and waiting for her turn, and her hands were shaking so hard she dropped her speech.

The Minister motioned for her to come up and speak, so she took the papers and came closer. She looked around at them, still standing, and closed her eyes for a second.

“I had the whole speech prepared, but,” she said, turning to the Minister, “now I just want to thank you. And I'm sure I speak for all of us here when I say, it's good to be home.”

Someone behind Brad started clapping and suddenly everyone did. The applause was loud and seemed to create an echo of itself, coming in and out as waves.

Shacklebolt waited before they sat down to continue speaking.

“It's truly an honor to be here today among you. I can't pretend to imagine how you felt last year, fighting that battle here, at your school, at your home. I won't try to tell you I understand how you felt after. How hard the year that passed since that day was for you.” He looked around. “What I can tell you is: it's okay to struggle. It's okay to have bad days. It's okay to wish the world looked like you remember it looking before the war. I can tell you that I struggle, that I have bad days, that I wish I still looked at the world the same way I did before the war. I can tell you that I have probably never been as proud of anything or anyone like I am of you. You can listen to it, accept it or reject it. You can laugh at that or not. But I wish you would believe me. I wish you would believe that your actions made me proud to be one of you, made me want to aspire to be like you. Fighting when it's hard. Fighting when it's easier to hide or surrender. Protecting your loved ones. Protecting what's right. And Merlin knows, I hope we will never have to fight again. But if we do, I hope I will be just like you. Thank you.”

The applause was even longer this time. Brad could hear someone sniff behind him, but he didn't turn around. He looked at Nate instead, who smiled and nodded. And when he leaned in for a kiss, Brad didn't even think of stopping him.

After that, the formal part was over and it pretty much turned into a picnic of sorts, only with the Minister, a few of his co-workers, and some journalists who just couldn't leave.

Brad was sitting under the tree with Ray and Walt, a little out of the way. They had the perfect watching space, but weren't bugged by a lot of people. Brad could see Nate and Mia talking with McGonagall and then being introduced to the Minister.

“You're staring again,” Ray elbowed him and moved away quickly before he could reciprocate. Walt snorted.

“I'm not staring,” he said, looking away for a second before coming back to looking at Nate.

“Sure. You're just, how's it called? People watching. Because you love people so much.”

“Adore them, even,” Brad deadpanned.

Suddenly, he could see Nate's head shoot up at something the Minister was saying and his posture straightening. Brad was up before he even thought about moving.

“Hey, what's going on?” he heard Ray say, but he ignored him. Nate was talking now, gesturing with his hands and the Minister was listening with his eyes firmly on Nate. It looked fine, but Brad felt... something. Something happened and he needed to check if everything was fine.

“... can't do what we can. Of course they would be uncomfortable with that,” Nate was saying when he came up to them.

“Brad?” Nate raised his eyebrows at him. He probably didn't expect him to move from the shadow the whole afternoon. “I'm sorry, Minister, this is Brad Colbert, he's a seventh-year Gryffindor, just like me.”

“Nice to meet you, Brad,” the Minister said, shaking his hand. “I was just telling Mia and Nate about the new Ministry department.”

“New division?” Brad asked.

Nate looked at him with a smile that was probably two times bigger than usual.

“Dealing with the relations between the magic world and the muggles. There are some things that need to be fixed there.”

“Nate was just listing them for me when you came over.”

Nate actually blushed a little. “I'm sorry, I didn't mean to...”

Shacklebolt raised his hands. “No, no, it's fine, honestly. Actually, I would love to hear more about what you have to say. Come see me after you graduate, if you'd be interested in a job.”

And there it was again, Nate's whole posture shifting. But Brad could see now that it wasn't a sign of trouble. Nate was smiling and shaking Shacklebolt's hand, and Brad couldn't stop staring.

He didn't see Nate so happy outside of, well, them, for a long, long time. It made him both glad and wary at the same time.

“It was good to meet you, Brad,” the Minister's words brought him back to the moment. He said thank you, he shook his hand and he watched him go.

“It's good we have a capable minister now, isn't it?” he asked, looking back at Nate.

At a starry-eyed, grinning Nate.

“He did a great job here today,” Nate said, trying for cool. “He said what we needed to hear.”

“Right up to offering you a job,” Brad pointed out. He should be glad for Nate. He should. And he did, he was happy that something made Nate so excited. And yet.

Something had to show in his voice, because Nate stopped grinning and raised his eyebrows. “What?”

“Are you going to take it?” Brad asked, as if he didn't see how Nate was acting right now.

“I don't know yet,” Nate said, smiling at Brad and shrugging. “We still have the NEWTs and we still have almost two months before we graduate. Everything can happen.”

That didn't exactly calm Brad down. “But you want to take it,” he pressed on.

“Brad, I don't even know what 'it' is. He's the Minister of Magic. Yes, I'm interested. Yes, I want to meet with him and learn more about it. This is an opportunity to do something important and something I didn't know was available, so of course I'm excited. But that's it for now.” He placed a hand on Brad's shoulder. “Besides, you're going to London, right? That would be...”

“Don't make it about me, Nate,” Brad cut him off.

“I'm not doing anything.” Nate tightened his grip on Brad's shoulder as if he would run otherwise. “But I'm also not going to pretend your whereabouts aren't going to influence my decision.”

“They shouldn't.” And someone should shut him up, because Brad obviously lost control of what he was saying.

Nate hung his head and the silence stretched for a long moment.

“No,” Nate said, looking up at him again. “They most certainly should. And they are. I'm sorry if that's uncomfortable for you, but that's the truth.”

And he withdrew, probably ready to just go away, but Brad's arms came up around his sides to stop him.

“Wait. I'm sorry. I do want you in London, obviously. I just don't want for you to, you know.”

“Waste my best years waiting for you and then leave when our tragic love affair comes to an end?”

“That's... not how I would put it.”

“But I'm not wrong,” Nate pointed out. “And I should be wrong about that, because you know me and you should know that I would never do something like that.”

Brad brought their foreheads together and sighed. “I know.”

“So, are you done freaking out and may I relive the part where the fucking Minister of Magic offered me a job?”

“May you? Well, I don't know, we still have the NEWTs and we still have almost two months before we graduate. Everything can happen.”

Nate laughed and Brad pulled him closer.

“Happy fucking anniversary,” he said before kissing him.


Brad would love to say that the NEWTs time was anti-climatic after everything that happened that year, but he would be lying terribly. It was two weeks of sleepless nights and short tempers, long hours of studying, and reading, and writing papers. Two weeks of falling to bed exhausted and waking up not rested enough to do it all over again.

It was two out of the three weeks left of his time at Hogwarts and Brad could come up with a lot of better scenarios for them than that. He should be having sex all over the place, literally. He should be partying and making some bad decisions, teenager style.

Instead, he was sitting in the Common Room with three books on his lap and trying to memorize them by looking at them.

The group of people coming back from the Potions exam was a nice distraction.

“We have survived the war. This has to be easier than that,” Ray said, falling down onto the couch in the Common Room.

“At this point I'm not sure it is.” Walt collapsed next to him.

“Yeah, it's only your future on the line, not the whole world's.”

“Comforting,” Walt muttered.

Brad snorted.

“Don't, Brad.” Ray pointed a finger at him. “Anyone who doesn't have any exam today isn't allowed to mock other people's pain and suffering for the whole day. I'm making this a rule until the end of NEWTs.”

Half of the room clapped and cheered. The other half didn't even raise their head from their books.

“This is a stupid rule,” Brad said.

“You're not mocking my pain today, Brad. Or tomorrow. Or, fuck, three days from now. Deal with it. Or, better yet, go deal with your boyfriend.”

Brad shut the book. “What happened?”

“He has a serious problem with taking breaks, you know. He left the room with us after the exam and then decided he was going straight to the library. We tried to change his mind, but you know how that goes.”

Brad knew really well. He sighed and got up, putting all the books under the armchair.

“Nate, come on,” he tried for the fifth time. “You can't keep studying twenty four seven.”

Nate looked at him with raised eyebrows and Brad snorted.

“It's not a challenge, you moron.” Brad kicked him under the table. “Come on, you know all of this already. Stop studying.”

“Hey, I'm not the one going back to school next year,” Nate pointed out.

“So what, this is your last chance to prove yourself? That's bullshit.”

“I didn't say that.”

“Nate, everyone knows you're brilliant already. It's not hard to figure out.” Nate shrugged, but Brad didn't let him speak. “Come on, we're wasting our time when we could be having sex in the dungeons.”

“You're a true romantic.”

“I try. But I operate on tight schedule, since you decided studying is a better way of spending your time than crossing things off our list when we still have a chance.”

Nate laughed, but he did close his book.

“Were you always this obsessed with sex?” he asked, standing up. He said it quietly, but Madhuri looked up at them with a smirk.

“No,” Brad answered shortly, putting his hand on the small of Nate's back and ignoring her.

Nate grinned and leaned back into the touch for a moment before he moved again towards the door.

So, okay, yes, maybe Brad was having sex all over the place.


No one practiced any spells at their last DA meeting. Instead they were sitting on the floor and talking about everything but goodbyes.

Someone proposed that the seventh-years would each give their best advice to the younger ones and Brad shook his head. “Come on, what do we know.”

“No, no, I have a piece of advice for the young and bright,” Ray cut in. He looked around. “Here it is: Don't die.”

And half of them laughed, but the other half nodded. Sometimes it was indeed just that simple.

“Don't stop training,” Ginny said. “Don't become lazy just because there's no war going on right now.”

“Work together,” Nate added. “Don't let House rivalry turn ugly. We're better and stronger when we're not fighting each other.”

“Gryffindors should not let that be their excuse for not winning another Quidditch championship, though,” Brad added and got elbow in his side from Nate. But he smiled, too.

“Take care of each other. And when you don't know what to do, get help.” Julia Smithson was the twin sister of Ramona, the girl who went home in the fall. She told them a month ago that Ramona got better and she was going back to school next year.

“Have fun.”

“... but study.”

“Make the next year here the best one for you.”

“Don't let the fear get the better of you.”

“Use protection.”

“Don't turn evil.”

And it went on for a long while, funny, serious, crazy, the best and the worst advice they were able to give.

After it was over and they were all going to dinner, Brad approached Shonda.

“You're not going to cry on me, are you?” she said, smiling at him.

“I'll try not to right now,” he told her. “But I'll probably cry myself to sleep tonight.”

“That's sad. Maybe try something else before bed,” she said, looking left to where Nate stood, talking with Louis.

Brad smacked her in the back of her head lightly. “Leave Nate alone.”

She pouted. “Spoilsport.”

“Okay, I'm done,” he told her, taking a step back. “See you never, hopefully.”

“Okay, okay, wait.” She threw her arms around his neck and held on for a long moment before letting him go. “Now you can go.”

Brad walked up to Nate, who finished talking with Louis and was waiting for him.

“We're never having kids,” he told Nate firmly.

He was met with stunned silence, but Nate shook it off pretty quickly. “That's good. I'm not sure those hips were meant for childbearing.”

Brad suddenly felt frozen in place, just standing there and staring at Nate.

“Oh-o, I see you’ve just realized what you said.” Nate tugged him by the wrist and pushed him towards the door. “Don't worry, I won't hold it against you.”

Brad blinked quickly a couple of times, but didn't protest when Nate started leading him down the corridor. “It's...”

“Brad, I'm serious. I know what you meant and I know you weren't proposing to me or anything. Breathe.”

He did. In and out, once, twice, and a third time.

“Shonda is evil,” he said, starting again with what he should have said.

Nate nodded. “I have to agree. Those poor walls. Maybe she really holds a grudge against them for something.”

“She wasn't a total disaster, though,” Brad felt the need to defend her and his teaching skills.

“She's one of the best youngsters and you know it,” Nate smiled at him. “When she does hit her target.” He paused. “She'll be fine.”

“I know. I hope.”

“You can always send her angry owls to keep her in check.”

“No way. She would send one back and I would have to listen to her screams about my heritage, my people skills, and probably my sex life as well.”

“You have to learn how to live with an empty nest, then,” Nate told him. He tried to keep a straight face but failed miserably.

“I hate you,” Brad told him.

“Come on, don't be like that or I'll have to send you an angry owl.”

How was that Brad's life, he wanted to know.


If the last two weeks were the NEWTs weeks, this was the week of goodbyes and Brad suddenly wasn't sure he wouldn't trade them off. They had the last DA meeting, the last Quidditch practice just for fun, now there was the last trip to Hogsmeade.

Brad, Nate, Ray, and Walt went to the Weasley's shop to see how George was doing and they were surprised to see it open. The red sign said “WELCOME” and people were going in and out all the time. They were lucky there was a big group of third-years leaving just as they wanted to come in, so they sneaked in without problems.

The store looked totally different than the last time they came by. The big room was filled with warm light, shelves full of toys, smiling people, and loud voices. George was behind the counter dealing with the endless line of customers, joking with them while packing their stuff. Brad also noticed Ron, George's younger brother, showing a group of boys something that looked ready to explode.

“The greatest graduation gift ever!” Ray announced, and he and Walt disappeared into the crowd to buy out half of the shop, probably.

“We've lost them for hours,” Nate said with a laugh.

“Don't be too happy about this, somehow they always come back.”

“You'll miss them terribly,” Nate told him and Brad refused to acknowledge that he probably meant something different than the next few hours.

“Come on, let's buy something before there's nothing left.”

After spending a small fortune at Weasleys' and the second one at Honeydukes, he and Nate sat down on a park bench to drink their smoothies and rest. They could see people, mostly Hogwarts students, going in and out of stores and coffee shops in a hurry, probably wanting to make the most of the trip here. Brad had thought he would’ve liked to go to a couple more places, but now he preferred to just sit there and rest, watching the people pass them by.

“It's not like we're dying,” he said suddenly. Nate looked at him.

“No, we're not.”

“And Hogsmeade isn't going anywhere.”





-- epilogue --

They knew about this beforehand. It was hard not to, some of them had older siblings, some of them friends at higher years who would spill the beans. The graduation ceremony was the worst kept secret in history.

Brad still felt like he was punched in the gut when he saw the boats on the lake shore.

“This is the last Hogwarts tradition you will experience,” McGonagall said, standing before the group of all seventh-years. The towers of the castle were visible behind her. “The founders believed in the full circle of life. You will leave the school grounds the same way you came here for the first time. I hope we will meet again, someday, but for now, may the life be good to you. Be brave, be kind, be smart, and be loyal.”

And with that, she took a step back and motioned them to take their places in the boats. Brad and Nate, Ray and Walt, and Poke, Poke without Gina, because he somehow understood what they were after. They found themselves in the same boat, just like seven years ago. They had to sit closer to each other and the boat seemed much smaller, but they made it work.

“Don't fall out this time, Poke,” Brad told him with a smirk.

“You make it sound like I actually did fall out last time.”

“Hagrid saved your ass.”

“Well, now I'm counting on you. Aside from Ray, maybe...”


“... whose skinny ass would probably just fall out after me.”

“Thanks for the confidence, man.”

But they fell silent after the boats actually left the shore. They were all staring at Hogwarts and the figure of the Headmistress, getting smaller and smaller. Brad felt a little numb suddenly, so he grabbed the seat under his thigh and tightened his fingers around it. He looked at the guys in the boat, at Poke who was looking at Gina, of course, and at Ray who was laughing quietly at something Walt was whispering to him, both relaxed in an embrace. He looked at Nate in the end, who was looking back at him with a smile that still amazed Brad even after seeing it every day lately.

“Are you going to help me with my suitcase this time?” Nate asked quietly, leaning on Brad harder.

“You aren't a midget anymore,” he said with a chuckle.

“But you are still a nice boy, aren't you?”

Brad laughed at that. “I think you've got it all wrong.”

Nate grinned. “No. I've got it just right.”


End Notes: I have to give the credit to JKR for coming up with the idea of the graduation ceremony that includes riding the Hogwarts boats back across the lake as the students leave. I've found out about this during research and I loved the idea so much I had to use it in the story.
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