Nigel Creevey and the Fracturing Bones

This is a oneshot following my story, 'Blood of the Birds'. If you have not read the main story, please do so before reading this. It is concurrent with Chapter 18 - The Only One He Ever Deared.

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1. Nigel Creevey and the Fracturing Bones

Nigel Creevey always did as he was told. He was nothing like his friends, who were the epitome of bravery and strength. On the other hand, he took after his family: timid and quiet, but also loyal and good. He took direction well and tried as hard as he could to be kind to people. Unfortunately, his lack of courage and leadership made it easy for others to walk all over him, treating him with anything but kindness.

His family had given him a world of support throughout his life. Dennis and Natalie Creevey were the happiest couple Nigel had ever laid eyes upon, and his older brother Colin was somebody Nigel had always looked up to. The boys' parents loved their sons unconditionally, and if anything, Colin's being a Squib and Nigel's being gay only made their love for them even stronger. It was from them that Nigel had learned how to accept others for who they were, but it was also from them that he failed to learn that some people didn't share the same philosophy.

Upon entering the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Nigel was sorted into Gryffindor after a long stall, during which the Sorting Hat considered placing him in Hufflepuff. Nigel was surprised that the hat chose the former house, but was undeniably glad it did. In Gryffindor, Nigel met Hugo Weasley, whom he not only fell for, but who also introduced him to two of his same-year cousins, Lily and Roxanne. Together, they formed a foursome, and within it came the twosome that changed Nigel's life.

Nigel liked to believe that his feelings for Hugo hadn't come from just one moment, but rather from a series of teamed fights against Cornish pixies, galleons spent at Zonko's joke shop, and lazy days lying on the shores of the Black Lake. It wasn't until his third year at school that Nigel accepted his feelings for Hugo as more than friendship, and it was that same year that he told his parents about them. Unfortunately, Hugo hadn't been able to do the same with his own parents, and he even struggled to tell his older sister, Rose. Nigel had been patient with him, but now that it was the fall of his fourth year, he was beginning to grow tired of waiting for Hugo's permission to come out of the closet completely. Still, he never uttered a word of his frustration to Hugo, about their mutual secret or anything else. When it came to Hugo, Nigel merely did as he was told.

That was how Nigel suddenly found himself on the Gryffindor Quidditch team. It wasn't something he'd ever wished to be a part of, nor had he even considered that he might be good at the sport. In fact, he had always loathed the violence of Quidditch, having to turn away every time someone was hit in the matches that Hugo and Roxanne dragged him to. To be fair, he enjoyed watching Lily and the other players, as he was quite proud of his friend, but he couldn't bear the thought that often times an entire half of a team would end up in the hospital wing once the match was over. Of course, being that they were complete opposites, Hugo couldn't get enough of the blood.

Hugo had wanted to be a Beater for as long as Nigel could remember. The spot was first made available last year, but Hugo hadn't been prepared enough at try-outs to beat his older cousin, Fred, who had trained all summer with his father. Luckily, the other Beater spot opened up this fall, and Hugo was keen on taking it. All he had talked about this summer, with the exception of his father's Auror injury, had been the upcoming try-outs. When it came time to sign-up, Hugo was the first on the list, followed soon after by his mortal enemy and fellow fourth year, Bert McLaggen. Much to Nigel's dismay, Hugo also felt the need to add his best friend's name to the list.

It wasn't that Hugo was bullying Nigel. He probably didn't even realize quite how much Nigel resented the idea of throwing heavy balls at everybody in sight, but rather was just too scared to try out on his own. Plus, Lily was already on the team (she had become a Chaser the previous year), and Roxy was trying out for this year's Chaser position, so all three of his friends wanted Nigel there. After considering it, Nigel obliged, as he figured he couldn't possibly beat Hugo at try-outs. After all, he'd barely ever flown on a broom before.

But as it turned out, it was Nigel's inexperience that really won over the seventh year Seeker and team captain, James Potter. Though Nigel had a bit of trouble mounting his broom, it was a mere two seconds before he accidentally swung his bat at an incoming bludger and sent it flying for McLaggen, who was getting warmed up at the far side of the field. Nigel's fear of the ball continued to give him a leg up on the other contenders, as he'd whack the bludger with more force and acceleration than anybody else, just so that he could get the thing away from himself.

After the tryouts ended, everybody gathered on the field, most of them approaching Nigel in utter astonishment. At this point, he still hadn't realized just how well he'd done. When James announced that the new players for the season would be Roxanne as Chaser and Nigel as Beater, it all finally sunk in. Though Nigel didn't know what to do about the unexpected turn of events, Hugo was, naturally, furious.

Ever since that afternoon, Nigel had seen very little of his best mate, who seemed to sneak into their dormitory after Nigel was already asleep. Lily, who was clearly on Hugo's side regarding their paused friendship, had told Nigel to give Hugo some space, but it had been a full two weeks since try-outs and Nigel was beginning to feel lost. Hugo was like his other half; he didn't know what to do without him. So instead of trying to fix things, Nigel was just going along with what everybody else seemed to want, and for the moment, that started and ended with James.

Now, Hugo was walking down to the Quidditch pitch with Lily and Roxanne for practice. The three of them were exhausted, even though it was only noon. They had been practicing non-stop lately, and James had informed them that they would continue to do so until it came time for the upcoming match against Slytherin.

"Hey, Lil', was that really Mercy Golding who James was snogging back in the castle?" Roxanne asked curiously, waking Nigel from his reverie. He wasn't very interested in the girls' gossip, but it was better than being consumed by his own worrisome thoughts.

"Er, yeah, I think so," Lily replied lazily. Normally, she was always in the mood to gossip, especially when said gossip had to do with either of her older brothers, but romance wasn't her favorite topic these days.

"Wow, Caitlin must be jealous," muttered Roxanne. Caitlin, who was the Chaser on the Gryffindor team and another seventh year, had dated James most of last year. Apparently, he had since moved on to Mercy, who was perhaps the most sought-after female in all of Hogwarts. Caitlin, on the other hand, had been going through quite the 'romantic lull' this fall, according to Roxy.

Paying very little attention to her cousin, Lily responded with, "I guess." Luckily, not much more was needed, since by now they'd reached the pitch.

"Okay, everyone," James yelled as the team assembled around him, "Tomorrow, we're going to do a scrimmage, but for today, it's the usual training. You guys know the drill."

Right on cue, Roxanne and Lily bid Nigel goodbye and headed off with Rose Weasley, the Gryffindor Keeper, and Caitlin to train amongst themselves. Meanwhile, Nigel mounted his borrowed broom and caught up to Fred, whom he'd be practicing with under James's watchful eye.

Because Nigel seemed to have natural aim, most of the training was meant to get Nigel used to passing the bludger between himself and Fred. James would swerve around them while he yelled out plays, making the two Beaters work to dodge him. They did this for nearly an hour until James called everyone back down to the ground to discuss the game plan for the match.

After he gave the Chasers their positions, James addressed Nigel and said, "I don't know how you're doing it, Creevey, but I think you're my newest star."

Fred patted Nigel on the back at this, causing Nigel to blush with a mixture of pride and guilt. When James opened his mouth once more, though, Nigel's pride was washed away and all he felt was guilt.

"Slytherin has no idea what's coming for them, and I want you to give them the biggest shock of their lives. I'm talking total destruction. Hit every player you can, in whatever order they come at you, except for Mercy, that is. If a bludger flies near you, just hit it somewhere, anywhere, and knowing you, you'll be good to go."

What James was describing was the last thing Nigel had ever thought he'd be a part of. In the back of his mind, a voice told Nigel to speak up, tell James how cruel he was being, then announce that he was quitting the team, but he couldn't say any of it. Instead, he just stood there and gulped, silently thanking the decision to not eat lunch before practice.

Before James let Fred and Nigel leave to change, he added one last thing by saying, "Oh, but Nigel, just make sure you save Scorpius for last." Scorpius Malfoy was the Slytherin Seeker, but Nigel also happened to know him fairly well, since he had dated Rose Weasley most of last year. Despite his family's reputation and his long-time Quidditch rivalry with James, Scorpius was one of the kindest people Nigel had ever met. And so hearing that he'd have to knock out Scorpius along with the rest of his team was enough to send Nigel running to the bathroom, quickly ridding of whatever food his stomach had left over from breakfast.

Thanks to his temporary sickness, Nigel was late to Muggle Studies. It was one of the few classes he and Roxanne had that Hugo and Lily didn't, since the two had decided years ago that they wouldn't bother taking any classes that weren't necessary to become an Auror. Nigel and Roxanne didn't share the same aspiration, Nigel determined to study wandlore after leaving Hogwarts, and Roxanne unsure of everything, with the exception of wishing she'd been born a mermaid.

Of course, the class still reminded Nigel of Hugo, since it was taught by the latter's grandfather, Arthur Weasley. The thought of Hugo's impending reaction upon seeing Nigel take out an entire Quidditch team in his first match was enough to distract him for most of the period. Before long, class was finished, though Nigel decided to stay behind to ask Professor Weasley about his grandson, whom he had grown quite close to as of late.

Arthur, along with Rose, was the only person at Hogwarts who knew about Hugo and Nigel's secret. Hugo had told him last year, and Nigel doubted the he had stopped talking to him about it. Curious to hear if they had spoken recently, Nigel walked up to the front of the classroom that was crammed with Muggle 'toys', and asked, "Professor, could I speak with you for a minute?"

"Of course, Nigel," Arthur smiled at him. He was Nigel's favorite teacher, and likewise, Nigel believed he was one of Arthur's favorite students.

With a deep breath, Nigel asked, "I was wondering if maybe you've talked to Hugo recently? He's been quite upset with me lately, avoiding me actually, and I'm a little worried about him… about us."

Arthur was taken aback by Nigel's statement. He had wide eyes and furrowed eyebrows as he shook his head and said, "No, I haven't heard anything about that. He's come to see me a couple of times, but he's been very quiet. Mostly, he just studies. I didn't want to interrupt his work, since I was hoping that maybe he'd finally changed."

Hugo had never been a particularly good student, since he hardly ever applied his clearly overt capabilities. Still, even Hugo couldn't hide his talent in History of Magic, and now that Arthur had mentioned it, Nigel realized that Hugo had seemed quite focused in his other classes this year as well. That would be a good change for him, but Nigel feared that more had changed than just Hugo's schoolwork.

"Yeah," Nigel sighed, "Maybe he has." Without another word to or from Arthur, Nigel left the classroom and slowly dragged himself up the moving staircases until he reached the seventh floor, on his way to the Gryffindor common room.

It took the tiny teen a while to get to the top of the castle. When he finally made it, he was just about to slothfully approach the Fat Lady portrait when he turned his head to the right and spotted Hugo coming from down the hallway. Next to the boy with the brightest ginger hair Nigel had ever seen was a large door embedded into one of the castle's stone walls, but it seemed to be disappearing as Hugo grew further away from it.

Curious, but not yet wanting to confront Hugo, who was rushing down the hall in the direction of the boys' lavatory, Nigel quickly hid himself behind a tapestry. When Hugo was out of sight, Nigel walked back into the center of the hallway only to bump into Lucy Weasley, one of Hugo's older cousins who was in Hufflepuff.

"Nigel," she said, picking up the books he'd dropped upon banging into her. "What were you doing hiding back there?"

"Me?" Nigel asked guiltily. "Oh, I just… wait, what are you even doing all the way up here?" Normally the only people this high up in the castle were Gryffindors and Professor McGonagall, since the Headmistress's office was situated at the end of the hall. Hufflepuff badgers tended to stay near ground floors. Even more curious about who had come out of the Room of Requirement just before Lucy, Nigel added, "And what are you and Hugo up to?"

Lucy seemed taken aback by all of Nigel's questions. Though he had always been curious, he wasn't usually so invasive. That didn't surprise Nigel himself, though; he hadn't been acting like his usual self in quite some time.

Sensing Nigel's anxiety, Lucy sighed and said, "I'm sorry, Nigel, but it's sort of a secret. You'll have to ask Scorpius about it."

Things just got more confusing by the second. "What does Scorpius have to do with anything?" Nigel asked. With the orders James had given him, Scorpius was the last person Nigel wanted to interrogate about Hugo, but it looked like he might not have a better choice.

"Like I said, I can't tell you that. Hugo and I have both been sworn to secrecy," Lucy said, this time smiling slightly. Whatever she and Hugo were doing for Scorpius, it didn't seem like a bad or dangerous thing, which was the one piece of good news Nigel had had all day.

"Look," Lucy added, this time with a rather urgent tone in her voice. "I've got to run. I'm supposed to meet Lorcan, and he's been a tight schedule lately. But you should go on and talk to Scorpius. Just think of a room with two long assembly lines and you should get in."

"Right," Nigel mumbled as Lucy hurried off. "Thanks!"

"Good luck!" she yelled back at him before vanishing down the stairs, off to meet this year's Head Boy, her boyfriend, Lorcan Scamander.

After regaining his thoughts, Nigel took a few paces across the hall in an attempt to be let inside the room. Though he didn't work the first time (he was having trouble focusing), the enormous doors opened wide upon Nigel's second try, and so he walked into an open room with two long tables on either side, one stacked with white paper, the other completely bare. Scorpius, much taller than Nigel even while kneeling over the paper-stacked table, his perfectly tailored uniform contrasting his badly cut blond hair that kept falling in front of his pale face, was busy scribbling something and so failed to notice Nigel's appearance.

"Scorpius?" Nigel beckoned rather quietly.

Scorpius was caught off guard when he turned to see Nigel there, but eventually walked closer to him and said, "Nigel. What's going on? How'd you get in here?"

"Lucy described the room to me," Nigel explained, but moved on to his question before Scorpius had time to respond. "What are you doing? And why is Hugo involved?"

Nigel was having trouble looking Scorpius in the eye, though he did manage to see the sixth year sigh and put a hand to his face with exasperation. "Oh, I'm sorry," he said. "I should have asked you if you wanted to help as well. I'm sure Hugo would work a little harder that way, anyway."

"Help you with what?"

"With this," replied Scorpius, handing Nigel the piece of paper he'd been writing on. As Nigel perused the page, trying to understand the diagram that appeared to be a sketched map of Hogwarts with a designated route on it, Scorpius continued, "I'm planning something for Rose. A serenade, if you will. I think it's time I get her back, and I have this crazy idea to lead her through the castle and have all this magic follow us around, and I figured I'd need some help with it. Hugo's making paper snowflakes for me and Lucy's going to snatch some roses from the Greenhouse and cut off all the petals to make a pathway. I've got Fred trying to get his hands on some fireworks and Ilana working on a potion as well." Ilana Higgs was a seventh year Slytherin whom Nigel had met last spring and who happened to be a whiz with potions. "Everything's been so hectic lately, though, I completely forgot to ask you if you wanted to chip in."

"I'd love to," Nigel agreed without even thinking about it. He'd grown quite close with Rose last year, researching things on wandlore to help her solve a mystery, and so he'd do anything to help her reunite with Scorpius. Plus, this might be the only way he'd get to see Hugo without him running in the opposite direction.

"Great!" Scorpius exclaimed. "Why don't you meet us all here tomorrow afternoon? You can help Hugo with the snowflakes. And don't tell anyone, because I need to be sure Rose doesn't know."

"Okay," Nigel said. "See you then!" He then rushed out of the Room of Requirement and into the Gryffindor common room, hoping to avoid Hugo before he returned from the bathroom. He'd deal with Hugo's wrath tomorrow.

Exhausted, Nigel sunk into the nearest couch that was available, right in between Fred and Rose. Fred had his elbow on the armrest and was dozing off lazily to Nigel's right while Rose was sitting crossed-legged with a giant book in her lap to Nigel's left.

"Hey," the two said in unison once Nigel settled in.

"Hi," he said sulkily in return. He was happy to have found a way to get to Hugo, but he still dreaded the thought that his best friend was angry with him. Glancing at Rose, Nigel couldn't help but notice the reddened area under her eyes that had been there since the summer. She hadn't taken her break-up with Scorpius well, and Nigel only hoped that Scorpius's planned serenade would in fact woo her back. Those two deserved each other; they always had.

With a yawn, Fred examined, "Well, aren't we a happy bunch." His dark skin also looked slightly sad, though this Nigel didn't understand. Fred was usually abnormally jovial, content with his studies and always having a laugh with his girlfriend, Lila Jordan.

"Don't worry," Rose tried to comfort her younger cousin. "James will back off before too long. He can't possibly be serious about all of this." Rose had much better morals than James when it came to Quidditch, but she'd defend him until his dying breath. Much like Nigel, Rose always saw the good in people.

"He's a professional Quidditch player, Rose," Fred argued. James had been recruited to play for the Montrose Magpies last spring. "Which means that he's under the impression that he knows what he's talking about. I don't think he's joking about any of it." Fred had been proud of Nigel's success on the pitch thus far, but it seemed like James's plans for the upcoming match had gotten under his skin.

Seeing Rose's pained expression upon hearing from Fred, Nigel asked the latter, "You told her what James asked me to do?"

"Of course I did," Fred shrugged. "She's sub-captain. She's the only one who can do anything about it."

"But what am I supposed to do?" Rose responded. "I mean, I'll try talking to him, of course, but what if that doesn't work? You're the only ones who can decide whether or not you follow his orders."

"Nigel?" Fred nudged Nigel, insinuating that Nigel was really the only one who could do as Rose described.

"I – I can't," Nigel replied nervously. He had no options; as soon as he got on the field, he'd have to hit the bludger, whether aiming for a Slytherin player or not. Plus, while he would never want to injure somebody for his own benefit, Nigel couldn't help but be intrigued by the idea of people cheering for him… of a certain person cheering from him. After all, this was what Hugo had always dreamed of, so maybe Nigel's hidden talent was the key in letting Hugo experience that dream.

Sensing that Nigel was just scared to stand up to James, who was known to be rather intimidating to everyone except Rose, Fred patted Nigel's shoulder and said, "It's okay, mate. It's okay to be brave. Plus, it's not like anybody on the Slytherin team doesn't deserve it; they've been knocking us out for years. And until the match, I'll keep helping you train. Maybe we can make your aim a little worse before then."

Nigel chuckled slightly at this. He didn't like the position he was in, that any of them were in, but it was nice to know that he wasn't completely alone.

"That's true," commented Rose. Looking away toward the fire, she added in a whisper, "I just wish that it didn't have to include Scorpius."

"Mmm," agreed Nigel. "I wish that it didn't have to include anyone." But it did, because James had told him so, and because Nigel always did as he was told.

The week passed by quickly, and before long it was Saturday, the day of the match as well as Scorpius's planned serenade. James hadn't changed his mind about anything, as he was still adamant on using Nigel as his own personal machine gun. Likewise, Hugo hadn't forgiven Nigel, and had only spoken to him when necessary during their time helping Scorpius.

Now, with only twenty minutes left until the match was scheduled to begin, Nigel was walking through the stands of the Quidditch pitch with Roxanne, searching for Hugo amongst the crowd of students.

"I don't think he's here," Nigel complained. He didn't have much time left to look, since he wasn't yet in his Quidditch robes (James had ordered him not to be seen wearing them until the game started). "We should just go back."

"Don't be silly," Roxanne argued. "He's our best friend and this is our first match. He has to be here! Plus, you've got a lion hat to give him."

Hugo had always made fun of the lion-head hat he usually wore while watching the Quidditch games, but it was true that Nigel had secretly hoped that Hugo would wear it now. Still, that hope had been much smaller than his knowing expectation.

Once they had walked through every row of seats, Roxanne finally agreed to return to the locker room. On their way, though, they both caught a glimpse of Caitlin Finnigan standing underneath one of the bleachers, locked in a tight embrace with Aaron Goodall, a Slytherin Chaser.

"I guess she's not jealous after all," Roxanne commented before adding excitedly, "Gosh, Lily's going to hate that she missed this!"

At that, Nigel tugged on Roxanne's jersey and led her away from the two lovebirds and into the locker room where James was waiting anxiously for them. The captain was huddled in a corner with Fred and quickly called Nigel over to join them.

"All right, boys, just remember:" James started, a hand on each of their shoulders, "Don't get control of the bludgers right away. Make Slytherin think they have it in the bag and Nigel, keep your identity hidden for as long as possible. It's foggy enough out there that they shouldn't be able to tell who you are. When you do get the bludgers, never let them go. Just keep taking Slytherin out, in whatever order they come at you. Once they're gone, go to Scorpius."

Nigel felt like he was about to faint. Hearing the task out loud was too nauseating for him to handle, even with Fred's forearm locked across his back in an effort to hold him upright. Nigel felt himself backing away quickly and all of the sudden he was running into the bathroom, where he vomited in a toilet before changing into his baggy robes.

Looking himself over in the mirror as the five-minute whistle was blown, Nigel was happy there was no food left in his stomach to be rid of. What had he gotten himself into? He was supposed to be a pacifist, not a masochist.

Nigel was busy wiping the tears on his face when someone knocked on the door. "It's Rose," came a velvety, female voice. "Can I come in?"

"Alohamora," Nigel said with a flick of his wand at the door. With it unlocked, Rose turned the knob and came inside, sitting next to Nigel, who was now on the floor with his back against the vanity.

"You don't have to go through with this," Rose whispered at him. She had such natural mothering qualities, always looking out for people.

Thinking aloud, Nigel responded with, "Last year, when Hugo told you that he was gay, did he say anything about telling your parents, or about coming out to the rest of the school?"

"He mentioned it," Rose answered honestly. "But he was scared. You know him, Nigel. He wants so badly to be accepted; he always has."

With a sniffle, Nigel said, "But he won't do it for me. I'd do anything for him, but he won't tell our friends the truth, not even if it means we could be together."

"He will tell them," assured Rose. "Maybe he just needs a little push first."

"I don't know how to push people, Rose. I'm the one who listens, not the one people listen to."

Rose laughed at this. Confused by her reaction, Nigel turned to her and waited for her explanation. Eventually, she bit her bottom lip and said, "If you pushed somebody, I bet you they'd listen. And trust me, Nigel, you know how to push people."

He was a natural, just like James had said. "And what about the people I push?"

After a couple of deep breaths, Rose said sincerely, "This is Quidditch. Getting bloodied up is part of the game. Maybe the best way for James to learn that he's taken things too far is to make him deal with the consequences."

"And Scorpius?"

"He'll forgive you. Don't forget, we live in a magical world. They'll all be healed within a day or two." Rose was speaking logically, as usual, but Nigel could still hear her sympathetic tone.

Sensing this, Nigel asked, "You still love him, don't you?"

"Of course I do. I never stopped." Rose paused before she added, "I just don't know how long I can wait for him to love me back, that's all."

Nigel knew exactly how she felt, but he also knew that at least for her, she wouldn't have to wait much longer. "Well, I think you should hold tight for a while," Nigel reassured her while trying not to give Scorpius's secret plan away.

"Yeah, you too," Rose reciprocated.

Only a moment later, James was yelling at them to come back out. They did just that, and all too soon Nigel was floating above the pitch on his broom. He was in the middle of a misty player's circle, Lily on one of his sides and Caitlin on his other. Across from him were the Slytherin Chasers and Beaters, all of whom he was trying not to make eye contact with. Luckily, the fog made it practically impossible to see any of them at all.

The snitch was released first, and it fired straight up through the circle and in front of the Seekers, James and Scorpius, before it disappeared in the opposite direction, off into the hidden, cheering masses of fans. Then Madam Bell tossed the quaffle and released the bludgers, and Nigel was quick to turn his face and fly toward Rose's goal posts with Fred so as to stay out of the initial action. They still kept on Slytherin's tails, though, Nigel flying right behind the new Slytherin Beater whom he recognized from his year, Arnia Samuels.

For the first ten minutes of the match, Arnia and her fellow Beater kept hold of the bludgers, passing them back and forth between each other in protection of their Chasers, one of whom managed to score as Nigel heard Lila, the Quidditch commentator, announce from the stands, "Mercy Golding scores the first goal for SLYTHERIN, taking an early lead of ten to none against Gryffindor!"

As soon as he'd heard the announcement, Nigel stalled on his broom and looked up to search for James. The Potter boy tended to keep his position above Rose while on the lookout for the snitch. The fog had cleared just enough for Nigel to see James lift a hand to his head, the signal he'd told Nigel would mean it was ready for him to begin.

Nigel didn't give himself even a moment to ponder his decision before he turned around and surged ahead, going after Arnia, who had just hit a bludger that collided with the quaffle and led the red ball into the arms of a large, seventh year Slytherin Chaser. Thinking fast, Nigel swerved underneath Arnia then, flying beside the Chaser and ready to get the rebound bludger. The ball came at him in a rush of fury, and Nigel immediately shot it back at the Chaser with as much power as his scrawny arms could muster.

It was quite the hit. The Chaser was keeled over on his broom at once, and by the time he realized what had happened, Nigel was on his other side and was hitting the bludger from the opposite angle. That knocked the Chaser out, but his broom was still supporting his body from falling off. When Arnia hit the bludger back at Nigel, the latter swung his bat in a direction unbeknownst to him and finally sealed the Chaser's fate. His broom was snapped in half and both it and he were falling to the ground momentarily.

Nigel was oblivious to the sound his bat had made against the heavy bludger, the lack of sound heard from the stands upon the Chaser's fall, as well as the stares from the entire Slytherin team. He blocked it all out, and his senses didn't return until a few minutes later, when Lila belatedly announced Gryffindor's first goal, made by Caitlin Finnigan, who had caught the quaffle after Nigel had forced it out of Slytherin's hands.

As soon as she scored, Nigel had made his way over to the Slytherin goal posts, where Fred passed over a bludger he'd gained from the other Slytherin beater. This time, Nigel had to take a second to prepare his aim, for he had to swing the ball upward in order to have it make contact with the Slytherin Keeper. He managed to aim perfectly, though, and the girl was on the ground before Fred had passed back the bludger, a much easier takedown than the Chaser had been.

From then on, the Gryffindor team seemed to establish a nicely flowing routine. Nigel and Fred, who were working well together, continued to go after the still conscious Slytherin players, most of whom had now relinquished any hope of winning and were merely trying to stay out of harm's way. In the meantime, Roxanne had finally let go of her nerves and was flying like a pro, scoring just as many goals as Lily or Caitlin, who were zig-zagging their way across the field with open range and no Keeper to block their shots.

"And GRYFFINDOR scores again, their newest Chaser, Roxanne Weasley, making the score at forty points to ten for Gryffindor!" And at that, Slytherin finally cracked. The Beater on Fred's side of the field, an older girl whom Nigel didn't recognize, suddenly became so fed up with the way the match had been going that she decided to steer herself right in between Fred and Nigel's path, hoping to catch one of the bludgers during a pass.

This didn't work. As soon as Nigel received a ball from Fred, he swung it straight at the Beater's chest, knocking her out instantly. Just when his bat hit the ball, however, Nigel nearly dropped the prop. He had been lost in his world so much that he'd failed to notice his entire body tingling, his hands shaking so much that he wondered if he was having a seizure. Every hit he'd made thus far was one more than he'd ever thought he'd have to make, and though his head had blocked all empathy out of the matter, his body was beginning to display it.

Trying not to think about it as Fred called out to him, Nigel looked up just in time pass a bludger back. Another one came shortly after, and at this point the two Beaters had steered Aaron Goodall into a corner near James, who knocked the boy straight into Nigel's bludger with the back of his broom. James was smiling at the feat as Aaron floated down to the grass, and Nigel realized that Roxanne had been right: Caitlin wasn't the one who was jealous; James was. Caitlin had found a new boy, and in return James had found a new toy.

With this thought, Nigel went after Mercy next. She was the sole Slytherin Chaser remaining, and the only other teammates she had left were Arnia and Scorpius. So when Mercy managed to grab hold of the quaffle and was speeding toward Rose in an attempt to score, Nigel motioned for Fred to follow her. Unfortunately, they didn't get the chance to hit Mercy, who was flying much too fast for them to catch. Instead, Nigel hit Arnia, who'd been waiting by the rings to try to protect Mercy.

This particular hit was the worst yet. Not only did Nigel feel an incredible sting in his heart as he knocked out a girl he'd known for over three years, but the ball had also hit Arnia in the upper back, quite close to her neck. Luckily, Scorpius stepped in at this point, moving from his spot above his own goal posts and flying underneath Arnia, where he caught her on his shoulders and lowered her to the ground himself. Scorpius had always been a loyal leader, and seeing him carry one of his wounded teammates off the field was the most painful sight Nigel had ever witnessed.

But even with the pain in his chest and the desperate gasps for air that Nigel was experiencing, the match went on. Scorpius was fast on Nigel's tail in heartbeat, and Nigel knew that Scorpius could fly ten times faster than he could. Still, in the short time that Nigel had a lead over Scorpius, Fred hit a bludger toward him that he then swung at Mercy. He had promised James not to harm her unless necessary, so he'd been gentle with this hit. Mercy was knocked in the shoulder and consciously decided to take herself out of the game.

"And Slytherin Chaser, Mercy Golding, has surrendered after suffering from a hit to the shoulder. That leaves Gryffindor with seventy points to Slytherin's ten, the latter team only having one player remaining. Captain and Seeker, Scorpius Malfoy, still has a shot of winning this match for Slytherin, but will he be able to before Gryffindor takes him out?"

Nigel turned around to face Scorpius then, but the Seeker swerved straight past him after catching a glimpse of the snitch. Scorpius was a brilliant flier, swerving amongst the Gryffindor Chasers and around the goal posts in a quick, clean path to the golden ball that could earn him a victory.

Fred and Nigel had no hope of catching him at this point, but James had apparently seen this coming. A plan in action, the Gryffindor Seeker soon caught up to Scorpius and then flew right underneath him, blocking him from going anywhere but up, which slowed Scorpius down considerably. When the two flew around one of the stand towers, Nigel knew that this was his chance. Flying over to the other side of it, he waited for James and Scorpius to return to the pitch.

James steered Scorpius straight into Nigel, letting the snitch fly down below him and blocking Scorpius from heading after it. At this point, Nigel was shaking furiously and could barely hold onto his bat. He liked Scorpius, respected him, and had been helping him this past week. He didn't want to hurt him, but like he had said to Rose, he hadn't wanted to hurt anyone. It was just part of the game.

And so with one deep breath, Nigel said in the most sincere manner possible, "I'm sorry, Scorpius," before hitting a bludger at his gut. Nigel froze as soon as Scorpius started to fall, his body a solid, motionless icicle slowly melting away with the tears that were now streaming down his face.

James caught the snitch effortlessly a few minutes later, and Gryffindor won with a grand total of 250 points. It had been a short match, but quite possibly the most gripping one Hogwarts had ever hosted. Funnily enough, Nigel was not at all pleased to be the one responsible for it.

In fact, Nigel was in such extreme shock after Scorpius had fallen that Fred had to haul him and his broom to the ground, since Nigel couldn't bring himself to move just yet. If the crowds were cheering, he failed to hear them as made his way to the locker room, where he quickly and silently changed into a pair of old pants and a Gryffindor T-shirt with the moving image of a roaring lion on it.

James seemed to be the only one on the team who was celebrating. Rose and Caitlin quickly left for the hospital wing, off to check on their respective loved ones, while Lily sulked lazily in a corner, and Fred and Roxanne stayed near Nigel in an effort to support and console him. None of that worked, though, and so Nigel soon shrugged the siblings off and ran out of the room, hoping that he could find the one person who might make him feel better.

However, his mission was interrupted when Nigel bumped into Ilana Higgs on his way outside. She seemed to be waiting for him, and Nigel didn't have a chance to ask why before she said, "We have to get things ready for Scorpius."

"What do you mean?" Nigel asked. He remembered that she was too was helping Scorpius with his planned serenade for Rose, which was supposed to happen tonight, but Nigel hadn't exactly thought that the plan would still be in tact after what happened during the match. "He's in the hospital wing."

"Oh, please," Ilana rolled her eyes. "This is Scorpius we're talking about. He'll be good to go in no time, and you know he won't want to wait." She was very strong-willed, and Nigel had been quite intimidated by her since the moment they had met. There was something about her long, wavy black hair that covered her face like the night sky, and the green eyes that shone like stars, that terrified Nigel. Looking at her was like staring into a black hole; he could just tell that she had the ability to reel a person in and never let them escape her grasp.

Still, Nigel saw her point. When Scorpius set his sights on something, he'd make sure it was achieved, especially if it involved Rose. "I suppose you're right," Nigel complied, and at that, the two started walking toward the castle.

"Did you find Lucy?" Nigel asked on their way up the hill. "She's got all the rose petals for the path."

"She's already in the Great Hall," explained Ilana. "She's laying out the roses now, and then she has to set a few spells in the Charms classroom. You might have to fill in for Hugo, though, because none of us can find him anywhere."

Hugo was in charge of both the snowflakes (along with Nigel) that would line the pathway with the roses as well as a Charms spell he was meant to perform when Scorpius and Rose arrived on the seventh floor. Nigel was rubbish at the spell, but he didn't tell Ilana that. Hopefully, he'd be able to find Hugo himself, if only to remind him that he had a job to do.

"Oh, and once you lay out the snowflakes, do you think you'd be able to fetch Scorpius?" Ilana asked. "I can distract the nurse while you go in there. He should be awake by then, so you can get him out of the hospital wing."

Nigel dreaded the idea of going anywhere near all the people he'd maimed. Then again, maybe he could apologize to them? They deserved it after all, and he wanted nothing more than to earn their forgiveness. "Okay," he agreed. "Sure."

For the next half hour or so, Nigel frantically spread the snowflakes across the floor of the Great Hall, which Lucy had emptied of any stragglers before he'd arrived. (Part of the reason Scorpius had planned for his serenade to be on the night of a Quidditch match was because most of the students were either celebrating a win or commiserating a loss in their common rooms. This way, Scorpius could walk the halls with Rose without too many bystanders there to bother them.)

The whole time Nigel was there, he couldn't stop replaying the match over and over again in his head, and was soon glad that Ilana had suggested for him to visit the hospital wing. So, after he was confident that there were enough paper snowflakes on the floor, and once he got a handle on the tears and sniffling that seemed to keep coming and coming, Nigel left the hall, closing the doors on his way out, and headed off to apologize to his victims.

Rose was waiting in the hallway outside the hospital wing when Nigel got there. She quickly informed him that the nurse wasn't letting any visitors inside (which is why Caitlin had left some time ago), but Nigel didn't have such problems. Ilana had already sent a patronus to the head nurse to get her called out of the wing and the assistant nurse easily believed Nigel when he claimed to be Aaron Goodall's younger brother.

When Nigel stepped inside the room full of beds, his heart began to beat twice as fast as it had been beating before. With a single glance around the room, he took in all of the broken bones, bloodied lips, and pale faces. There were five Slytherins staring at him all at once, each with their own set of wounds.

Aaron was in the corner to Nigel's right, and his black eye made it seem as though his face had just been swept through a chimney. Next to him was the Keeper, who had a bandaged leg propped up in a magically floating support. She was beside the other, larger Chaser with olive skin, and he too had a leg propped up, but looked far, far worse than the others. Nigel could see precisely where each of his hits had wounded him, the first on his forearm, which appeared to be broken in more than one place, the second his chest, which was now bare but for a thick, red-stained wrapping, and the third to his leg. Nigel quickly averted his eyes from the Chaser, but it only made things worse.

Scorpius was in the bed across from the Chaser, and looked as if he had just woken up, since he was busy rubbing his eyes. He also had a bandaged chest, and beside him was the similarly wounded older Beater. As soon as Nigel laid eyes on her, she sat up and spat at him, "What are you doing here?"

And with that the sniffling returned, but Nigel tried to push it away. Picking himself up, he straightened his back and walked toward the broken girl while he said, "I wanted to apologize. I never meant to hurt you, but I was told that's what Beaters are supposed to do, you see." He then held out his hand for her to shake, but she refused to take it. Quickly growing terrified of the glare in her eyes, he added in a whisper, "Anyway, the name's Nigel Creevey. Please don't kill me."

When it was clear that the Beater had nothing to say, Nigel figured he'd move on to the next person. Stepping to his left, he noticed the presence of a newly awoken Arnia Samuels, whom he hadn't noticed was there before. She seemed to be okay, though, sitting up relatively quickly and looking fairly alert. Nigel had barely opened his mouth to speak to her when the nurse rushed over and pulled the curtains closed.

From there, Nigel went on to apologize to both Aaron and the Keeper, who were as unforgiving as the Beater had been, before getting to the badly beaten Chaser. Nigel was shaking all over again when he addressed him, trembling with fear of what this muscular wizard could potentially do to him.

After making himself croak out the same apology as before, Nigel extended his hand anxiously and was shocked when the boy took it and laughed. "Buck up, mate!" He said jokingly. "This is Quidditch; getting hurt is a part of the game. The rest of these blokes are just intimidated by you because you played so brilliantly!"

Nigel smiled. He didn't quite agree with the Chaser's words, but he was glad not to be hated by everyone. When he heard Scorpius's laugh in the background, he turned to the blond and said he was sorry all over again. Scorpius too took his hand willingly and joked about him being a 'badass' before hopping off his bed and pulling on a shirt.

"Do you know if everything's ready?" he asked, Nigel suddenly realizing that he wouldn't have to help Scorpius out of the room after all. "For tonight, I mean."

At first, Nigel wanted to say yes, to confirm that Scorpius's plans were in good hands, but something stopped him. When he'd left the Great Hall, Ilana still hadn't found Hugo, and Nigel was starting to worry that he might not be able to either.

When Nigel revealed all this to Scorpius, the latter seemed worried at first, but eventually shrugged off the thought. "Hey, don't think about him," he said. "For now, let's just make sure everything's in place for Rose. The best thing you can do for Hugo is give him some space, anyway. He'll show up; he always does."

Nigel considered this, but he a hard time believing it. "Yeah," he mumbled, hoping that Scorpius wouldn't overhear. "He'll show up for his sister, but that doesn't mean he'll ever show up for me."

But Scorpius did overhear, and so he responded to Nigel's worries with, "That's not true. He'll show up. And when he does, you'll just have to be brave enough to defend yourself, to apologize to him the way you just did to all of us."

When Nigel looked around the room, all of the heads were nodding along with Scorpius, even the ones who hadn't accepted his initial apology. So with that confidence boost, Nigel wiped his face and steered Scorpius toward the door while saying, "Come on. I'm not going to let myself ruin anything else for you."

Scorpius was surprised to see Rose waiting for him, and Rose was thrilled to see that he was okay. Nigel stood by the wall silently as he waited for them to talk. After Scorpius promised that he felt fine (though he hadn't exactly been discharged), he asked Rose to come with him, and she agreed. Using this as his cue, Nigel led the two to the Great Hall, where he opened the doors to let Scorpius begin his own apology.

Nigel's work was done at that point. He hadn't signed up to help Scorpius with any other part of his plan, though there was one thing that he still felt responsible for: he needed to find Hugo. Trying to think of where his best mate might be, Nigel considered the Room of Requirement, but he didn't think Hugo would use it knowing how many people might find him there. Then Nigel thought of the Muggle Studies classroom, but it would most likely be closed, since Professor Weasley Apparated home to Ottery St. Catchpole over most weekends. However, thinking of Hugo's grandfather made Nigel remember something Arthur had said about Hugo the other day.

And so Nigel was quickly on his way to the Hogwarts library, running down corridors as fast as his stubby legs would allow him to go. Luckily, the place was open late these days, since Madam Pince spent all her time working, a distraction from thinking of Filch, her late flame. She was at her desk when Nigel approached her and asked, "Excuse me, Miss? Do you happen to know if Hugo Weasley has been here recently? He's a Gryffindor fourth year."

Madam Pince scoffed in response, insulted that Nigel felt he needed to describe Hugo for her. "Only every day this week," she replied, rolling her eyes and pointing toward the back of the tall stacks.

Turning around to see where she'd pointed, Nigel thought, of course, the History of Magic section. Sure enough, Hugo was there, sitting on the floor next to a pile of textbooks, his hair spiked up in sharp flames above his burning freckles.

"I found you," Nigel sighed as he caught his breath from his run over. He had so much to say to Hugo, so much ground to cover, yet those were the only words he managed to formulate.

When Hugo turned to see him there, he shut his book sharply and lifted it onto the pile, which then floated upwards and put its own books back without a single helping hand. Meanwhile, Hugo was off, walking past Nigel and out of the library without a word in response.

Nigel ran after him, already exhausted but trying to push through. As soon as they were out of the library, Nigel yelled, "What were you doing in there? You were supposed to be on the seventh floor ages ago to get ready for Scorpius!" He didn't mean for the first thing he said to be an accusation, but he didn't know what else would make Hugo listen.

"Yeah, well, you're the one who was so eager to help," Hugo yelled back. Hearing his voice again was somehow comforting to Nigel, regardless of its sinister tone. "My bad if I assumed you could handle it on your own."

They were coming to the hall of the moving staircases now, and upon looking through a window, Nigel realized just how late it was. It was already pitch black outside, making Nigel think he must have spent more time in the hospital wing and then thinking of where to find Hugo then he'd thought. This wasn't good for Rose and Scorpius either; they were supposed to be upstairs right now, and with the direction Hugo seemed to be going in, brushing through the rose petal and paper snowflake-laden path that led upstairs, he and Nigel were about to run right into Scorpius's parade.

Hoping to stop him before it was too late, Nigel screamed, "Would you just stop for a second?"

Continuing onward without a hint of hesitation, Hugo argued back, "You're the one who just had to come remind me what I'm supposed to be doing right now! Because we all know I'm not allowed to do what I want. I just get to be the nurse or the secret keeper or the slave to everybody else!"

"You're being ridiculous!" replied Nigel as they neared the top floor. He didn't know what on earth Hugo was complaining about, and in the meantime was growing increasingly worried that they might interrupt an important moment for Rose and Scorpius. Trying to steer Hugo off course again, Nigel added, "And you have to stop. You're too late for Rose and Scorpius; they'll probably be gone by now, anyway."

"Oh yeah? See if I care!" Hugo fired back in retaliation. He had reached the seventh floor by now and was disappearing from Nigel's sight.

Nigel could still hear Hugo's voice as he ascended the last flight of stairs, but he couldn't actually make out what he was saying or if anyone else was there. Either way, Nigel wasn't going to just stand by anymore. He wasn't going to let Hugo get away without listening to what he had to say first.

That was why Nigel forced his cramped legs to go just a little further, why he forced his chest to stay upright rather than keeling over, and why he opened his mouth and yelled louder than he ever thought was possible, "STOP RUNNING AWAY AND LISTEN TO ME!"

And as soon as Hugo responded, turning back around from where he was standing in front of the open portrait hole that led to the Gryffindor common room, Nigel let his back curl toward the floor to rest. He caught a glimpse of Rose and Scorpius standing beside Hugo along with the crowd of kids steadily flowing out of the common room to see what all the ruckus was about as he whispered repetitively, "Please just listen to me."

When Nigel came to once more, he stood up to see Hugo in front of him with crossed arms and a look of defiance, Lily and Roxanne standing beside Hugo in a show of support, and Fred walking toward Nigel and then whispering in his ear, "It's okay to be brave, remember?"

He had caught his breath by now, but the thumping in Nigel's chest failed to subside. He tried to ignore it, along with the heat that was sure to be emanating from his ears by now (they turned bright red whenever he was the least bit nervous, meaning they'd look like firecrackers at this point) as he looked straight at his best friend and said, "I'm so sorry, Hugo. I never wanted to be on the Quidditch team; you know that. I would never purposefully take something from you, not something you'd owned for a lifetime, nor something you'd always wanted. I would never purposefully hurt you."

But Hugo kept his tense stance with his arms crossed. He didn't budge, though Roxanne already had a smile on her face and pouty, furrowed eyebrows. But it didn't matter. Hugo still rolled his big blue eyes at Nigel's words, and so Nigel found his own eyes quickly filling with fresh tears. But he didn't want to cry. He didn't want to be weak. He didn't want to have to apologize again. He wanted to be brave. He wanted to stand up for himself.

"But you've been hurting me, Hugo," Nigel continued, this time even more seriously than he'd spoken before. This was what Hugo really needed to hear, what he really needed to understand. "You walk around this school like you own the place, and that's fine. But you don't own me. You think it hurts to feel like a nurse, or a secret keeper, or a slave? Well, that's how I've felt this entire year, thanks to you."

Nigel's mind was suddenly flooded with memories of all the things he'd done for Hugo… all the things he'd agreed to help him with, combined with all the things he'd done on his own in an effort to impress the youngest Weasley. Thinking that it was about time Hugo paid any attention to Nigel's efforts, he explained, "I've been there for you whenever you've needed me, researching wandlore for days on end to figure out what happened to your wand even though you hardly ever joined me, and letting you stay at my house this summer even after you spent the previous fall convinced that my brother was a murderer." Hugo had believed for quite some time that Colin had murdered Argus Filch. When Nigel had tried to tell him that that was impossible because Colin was a Squib, Hugo had refused to hear a word of it. Even so, Nigel had opened his arms to Hugo when the latter felt the need to escape his own life this summer.

"I've let you drag me around, watching every Quidditch match with you even though you knew how much I hated them, and then trying out for the team only because you didn't want to do it alone," Nigel continued. And finally, he took an incredibly deep breath and let himself listen to the fierce sound of his heart for a moment so that he could say exactly what he was feeling. "Worst of all, I've had to keep my own secret from all my friends just so that you can keep yours."

Nigel didn't notice all the curious heads or the whispering amongst the crowd as he finished, "You're my best friend, Hugo, but you make me feel like I have nothing... like I amnothing."

It was a split second before Hugo fired back, "NOTHING? You have everything! You are everything!" His face was as rounded and explosive as a balloon filled with fire and his eyebrows had squinted into a single singeing scar as he stepped forward and went on, "Don't you get it? Wandlore is your passion, your talent. You have a future, whereas I can't see a bloody foot ahead of me." Hugo had wanted to be an Auror for as long as Nigel had known him, to follow in his father's footsteps. But last year, Hugo had come to the conclusion that his skills with applied magic would never be good enough for such an occupation. As it turned out, he was more like his mother in that way, probably better suited for a Ministry job.

"You have a family that knows who you are and loves you for it, whereas I have to lie to mine every day to be sure I'm making them proud," Hugo continued. It was true that Nigel's family had accepted him just as soon as he'd told them the truth. Hugo hadn't even tried to tell his own family, but he seemed to be convinced that his father would never approve.

"You hate Quidditch because you see it as more than just a game, whereas I'm only interested in the plays and the hits. You're a great Beater, whereas I can't seem to swing a bat.Best of all, you're confident enough to tell your secret to the whole world, whereas I can barely tell it to myself," Hugo concluded, rubbing his face with his hands to keep the tears away.

And in that moment, Nigel finally understood. He understood why Hugo hadn't spoken to him in weeks, why he always treated him disdainfully unless they were alone, and why he felt the need to push Nigel around in whatever way he pleased. It wasn't because he was angry, or a bully, or even because he thought Nigel was pathetic. It was because he was scared, and all the things he feared most were all the things that Nigel embodied: compassion, kindness, and honesty.

Stepping closer to Hugo, Nigel told him, "You can tell people. You can tell everyone. You're the bravest person I know. You can do anything." And it was true. Hugo could do anything, but maybe he just needed somebody to believe in him first.

But Hugo wasn't convinced so easily. He flung his hands out at Nigel with frustration, screaming back at him, "No, I CAN'T!"

His hands still frozen in the air, Hugo slowly lowered them to his sides, looked away from Nigel and to the cold marble floor, and said sadly, "I'm not as brave as you think I am, okay? I'm only smart if I'm taking my mother's advice. I'm only funny if I'm telling my father's jokes. I'm only cool if I'm walking by Lily's side. And I'm only brave if you're holding my hand."

Nigel's heart skipped a beat at Hugo's last line, because he had nearly done it. He had nearly admitted his true feelings, and Nigel couldn't help but think that perhaps Rose was right. If he just gave him a little push…

"That's not true," he said. "I happen to know that your marks have been the top of the class this term, and these days, you spend every waking minute in the History of Magic section of the library." It had taken years for Hugo to realize that it was okay to be somebody different from his father, and Nigel knew that Ron would be thrilled to see his son finally succeeding at school.

"I know plenty of people who laugh at your jokes, and I know for a fact that some of the ones your father tells came from you first." That summer, Ron had been injured after defending the Creevey house from an attack and Hugo had sat by his side while he healed. Nigel had visited a couple of times himself, and he vividly remembered Ron telling him jokes that Hugo had already covered.

"I know that every other fourth year looks up to you over Lily, because they put in hours of work into your birthday celebration every single year, and not because they're asked to." Being one of the most popular kids in the school meant that Hugo just had to have enormous birthday parties. Plus, everybody loved Hugo. He was funny, sarcastic, and completely adorable… how could they not love all that?

With this in mind, Nigel inched ever closer to the boy on fire and said, "And you are the bravest person I know, because it's you who has made me brave enough to do this..." and in one fail swoop, Nigel took a step closer, leaned toward Hugo, and kissed him on the lips.

Initially, he had no idea what he was doing, and merely tried to listen to his instincts. He'd wanted to kiss Hugo for years now, but he never imagined he'd be the one to initiate it. And at first, Nigel wondered if his initiation had been a mistake, since Hugo's lips were unmoving under his own. But then, just when Nigel was beginning to doubt himself, Hugo's arms were around him, pulling on his sweater to bring him even closer to his warm body. For the longest moment, it was just the two of them, locked in their embrace, surrounded only by the floating snowflakes that Hugo was accidentally levitating with his wand.

When Nigel and Hugo simultaneously ran out of breath, they broke apart to get some air and smiled at each other from cheek to cheek, one pair pale but blushing and the other covered in sandy freckles. They would have kissed again if they weren't bombarded with people right away. Fred kept a hand on Nigel's shoulder and shook him in excitement while Roxanne ran up to Hugo all while squealing with joy. Rose, James, Caitlin, Lila, and most of the other Gryffindors addressed them as well, giving their most sincere congratulations alongside enormous bear hugs.

The only person who didn't make her acceptance known was Lily, and Nigel could tell from Hugo's wandering eyes that he was looking for her. But she never came, and as the crowd slowly dissipated, Rose and Scorpius off to continue on their path and the Gryffindor students heading back into the common room, Nigel and Hugo were left in the hallway to see that Lily had long since disappeared.

Still, Nigel didn't feel the need for her support and even though Hugo surely did, he didn't say so to Nigel. Instead, the two held hands and walked through the common room and up to their dormitory, which their other roommates had courteously abandoned so that Hugo and Nigel could be alone.

For a while, they sat on Hugo's bed, their hands interwoven, and stared at each other. After being just friends for so long, it took some adjusting for the two to see the other with the knowledge that they could kiss them any time they pleased. Once they both grew used to this idea and after a little more innocent snogging, they started talking, filling each other in on everything they hadn't said over the past few weeks.

When the conversation came to the topic of Quidditch, Nigel immediately said, "I'll quit the team. You can have my spot." Nigel would give it up in a heartbeat, especially if Hugo still wanted it.

"Don't be silly," Hugo disagreed, much to Nigel's surprise. "You were a bloody beast out there! You can't just give that up!"

"But what if I don't want to be a beast?" Nigel asked nervously, hoping that Hugo would understand where he was coming from.

Hugo thought about this for a moment, and Nigel knew that he was in fact taking Nigel's statement seriously. Eventually, Hugo smirked and made the face that he always did when he'd just come up with a cunning plan and said, "Well, who says you have to be?"

"James," Nigel answered.

Hugo laughed at this and then mumbled, "You're cute."

Confused, Nigel waited for Hugo to explain. He did just that, saying, "It was a rhetorical question. Anyway, what I'm getting at is that you're the best Beater James has ever had, so he has no right telling you what to do. He needs you more than you need him."

Finally understanding, Nigel realized that Hugo was right. All this time that Nigel had let James tell him what to do, he hadn't had to listen. For once in his life, he was unbelievably and miraculously good at something, and that meant that he had the power to do what he wanted with his talent. He didn't have to just give it away.

Sensing Nigel's readiness, Hugo hopped off his bed, held out his hand for Nigel to take, and said, "Come on."

Nigel put his hand in Hugo's apprehensively and let Hugo lead him out of the dormitory and down the spiral staircase, into the common room that had been decorated in Gryffindor banners and that held all the Gryffindor students, loudly and excitedly celebrating their latest victory.

The two found James standing in a corner and staring at Caitlin, who was sitting with Fred and Lila on a couch by the fire. Everybody would be able to overhear Nigel if he confronted James now, but Hugo reassured him that having so many witnesses was a good thing.

When Nigel grew tense upon seeing James, though, Hugo squeezed his hand and said, "You can do it. You're the bravest person know."

Nigel looked back at Hugo and nodded, trying to convince himself that Hugo was right. Then he let go of Hugo's hand and whispered, "Thank you."

He was just about to address James when Hugo pulled him back around, gave him one last kiss and said, "I'll tell my parents. I'll tell them at Christmas. I promise."

That was all the confidence Nigel needed. Hugo believed in him, or rather, Hugo believed in them, just as Nigel did. With that in mind, Nigel really could do anything.

James looked confused as Nigel addressed him, but the barely five-foot tall Creevey boy didn't give the six-foot tall Potter son a chance to ask what was going on before Nigel stated fiercely, "That was the first and last time that you ever get to tell me what to do."

"Nigel, wh-?" James tried to respond, but Nigel cut him off.

"I'm your star player, right? Well, if I'm going to stay on your team, then it'll be on my terms. That means no more injuries, no more hits, no more violence. Period. Fred and I are going to be the best defensive Beaters you've ever seen, and if you ever ask me to carry out you bidding again, I'm out, and you'll have to find a replacement with no advanced notice."

As soon as he'd finished his speech, Nigel had turned back around, leaving the ever-shocked James behind and walking back to his proud, smiling boyfriend. In the background, he could make out the claps coming from the three Gryffindors on the couch that slowly turned into cheers from the entire common room. This was the first time that Nigel Creevey didn't do as he was told. He had finally found his courage, and he was only wondering what took him so long to look for it.

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