sparsenicjade
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Jon has always been good, so careful, because for all that he's laid back, he's not irresponsible. And it's a big responsibility, protecting secrets that are not only his but a whole community's, a whole world's. If it were just him, he'd have told the guys when they offered him the position for now and ever. Of course he would have. Jon doesn't lie to them, not if he can avoid it at all.

So he's careful when he's playing to keep his emotions under control--his training was cut somewhat short by his need to move, his need to play, his need to be around people who understood the sort of magic that has nothing to do with wands. He's careful that if he ever needs to use his gifts, absolutely needs to, he does it somewhere none of the others can see. Because he isn't going to Obliviate his friends, he just isn't.

Jon is very, very careful, but Brendon is also very, very sneaky and really, Jon can admit that it was only a matter of time until Brendon accidentally came around a corner at the wrong moment, catching Jon with his wand out, mid-spell. And of course it's right in the middle of repairing his bass, of course it is. Because Jon could explain the wand, he could even explain how his bass is magically better despite the, erm, mishap with one of their temporary techs. He's done all that before.

But Brendon watches as the repair happens, clearly originating from the stick in Jon's hand. Jon really could kick himself for not just waiting, just using another bass, just taking it in to a repair shop. The problem is, the repair shops never manage it as well as Jon's magic. For that matter, the few other wizards that Jon still keeps in touch with from when he was attending school don't have quite the same touch. Jon's magic is just perfect for the job and due to that, he can't entirely keep himself from using it. Also, Jon doesn't want another bass. He wants his.

Brendon stares at him and asks, "Um. Bad time?"

Jon says, "Please. Please, Brendon, you can't tell the others."

"Tell the others what exactly? That you fixed your bass with the power of your mind and eight and half inches of wood? Yeah, I think that's probably a good idea, seeing as how they'll think I've completely fucking lost it." But Brendon sounds more freaked than pissed, and Jon can soothe a freaked Brendon, no problem.

"Brendon," he says. "It's not-- It's just something I was born with, like the way you sing, or the way Ryan writes."

"Okay, well, both of those things follow the laws of physics, but sure, I can see how it's similar."

"Magic has it's own set of natural laws. Not physics, but equally infuriating, I promise you."

"Mag--" Brendon looks at Jon's wand for a second. "Magic." But now he's starting to smile, slowly.

"Please, Brendon, really, this has to be our secret."

Brendon nods earnestly. Jon is totally screwed.

*


Ryan and Spencer are actually really, really good at acting like nothing has changed, but Jon has natural sympathetic magic--music and emotions, those are Jon's strengths. Tom can turn into a Russian wolf. Life is seriously unfair. It is in this area, though, that the lack of training can become a problem, kick in with a fair amount of kick. When he's nervous or tired or just not running up to speed, Jon can read other's emotions at a distance of twenty feet or more. It's worse with the other guys, because he knows them so well anyway, knows their tells, their tics.

Jon says, "Jesus, Brendon, I know you know the meaning of 'you can't tell anyone.'"

Brendon looks ashamed but he meets Jon's eyes as he says, "Ryan and Spencer aren't anyone."

It sucks, but Brendon has a point. Spencer is hurt, Jon can feel it right where his bass usually rests and Ryan is wary, in need of more information, hesitant to judge, hopeful that his fears are wrong. Jon takes a deep breath and tries to remember everything he was taught about tamping down on his own emotions, keeping his mind clean. It helps a little. He says, "I know, I know. I'm sorry, guys, really."

Spencer's eyes are a little hard when he asks, "Did you think we'd tell? Think we'd turn you over to some lab so they could put you in a cage and make you run on a wheel?"

"Okay, well, I'm pretty sure there would just be a lot of needles and electrodes, and if I was afraid of that, Spencer, none of you would remember any of this." Jon regrets the statement the second it is out of his mouth, but if he won't Obliviate them of their newfound knowledge of him, he's not going to do it so that he can pretend he doesn't say stupid things that he doesn't mean sometimes.

Ryan, too sharp, too observant Ryan asks, "Then why do we?"

Jon looks at him and says, "Because you're not just anyone."

Ryan smiles a little at that and goes back to the cereal bowl he was busy demolishing when Jon came in the room. Spencer, who is usually so much easier than Ryan, is not appeased. He pins Jon with an unimpressed look. "If that's true, why didn't you just tell us?"

Jon can't apologize for this, he can't. "I'm not the only one of my kind, Spence. We're trained, we're fucking brainwashed not to tell. You joke about labs and rats, but do you have any idea? Any idea? If people knew, Spencer, Jesus--"

"Okay," Spencer says softly. "Okay, I didn't mean--" Spencer tilts his head. "I didn't meant to scare you."

Jon has forgotten how the fear they drilled into him can feel, how it can wipe out everything else except the thrum of other people's emotions, frightening in their own right without a filter of personal calm. Jon shakes his head. "It's just-- I couldn't, okay? I couldn't."

Spencer nods. "Okay."

After a long few seconds of silence Brendon asks from behind Jon, "So, um, can you fix other stuff? Like, piano stuff?"

Jon asks, "You really thought we got a tech in here that quickly last August?"

"Our band," Brendon says solemnly, but with a chord of giddiness belying the posturing, "is actually magic."

*


Jon calls Tom when he's done tweaking Brendon's piano so that Brendon barely has to touch it, can almost think in its direction and get the desired results. Brendon is very, very occupied with his sort-of new toy. Ryan is watching, clearly already considering what this could do for their sound. Spencer is nowhere to be found, but sometimes Spencer likes to be left alone. Then again, sometimes Spencer likes to go off so he can talk with his boyfriend in peace, so that could be what's happening as well. Jon does his best not to pry, not even in a superficial sense.

He finds his own corner of the rehearsal space and dials memory two. Tom picks up before the first ring. Tom has a literal sixth sense about electromagnetic currents. "Hey."

"Hey," Jon says.

"Oh fuck, Walker, you fucking told."

Jon would suspect Tom of pulling some fairly high level legilimency, but a) he knows this to be untrue, Tom blows at the mind arts, b) Jon would have to at least be in the same state, and c) in the end, Jon knows that it's just too many years of friendship and the stress of shared secrets. Jon sighs, "Not exactly."

"How finely are we splitting hairs, here?"

"Brendon found me, okay? And you know, you know how I feel about Obliviation. On anybody."

"Which is a fucking waste. Even without full training, you're one of the strongest mind-magics wizards the States has seen since like, I don't even know, the sixties. And I think that might have been drug-enhanced."

"Tom."

"All right, fine, so Urie caught you and told the others. How the fuck did he catch you, exactly?"

Jon rubs his hand over his face. "Mind-magics might be a breeze, but defensive magics?"

"You've got to be kidding me. You put up faulty wards? Jon, come on."

"Oh, blow me. I'm not the one who got caught changing back into human form and had to Obliviate my entire band which I then, oh yeah, fucked up by adding a component of hostility to the wipe."

Tom is silent then, and Jon says, "Oh fuck, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm just--"

"Do you think they'll tell?" Tom asks softly.

"I know they won't." Jon does, too. He thinks they'd all allow themselves to be tortured before they gave information out that would end in Jon being hurt. The thought presses at his lungs, too intense to be processed in his veins all at once.

"Then just-- You have to keep them safe, keep them from being in that situation."

"I know." Jon has always known, even at fifteen, when he left for the parts of him that were bigger, still are bigger than the magic. "I wish I were better at defensives."

"I-- Look, you guys were going to break, right? After this next leg?"

"Yeah." Jon can't help the relief in his voice. They all need some time to unwind.

"You remember my Aunt Ammy?"

Aunt Ammy is in fact Amphitrite Conrad, Tom's father's sister. Jon's parents are both non-magic adepts, but Tom comes from a line of magic users so long it sprawls continents and spans centuries. Ammy is a particularly strong witch and known, throughout the family, as having a somewhat a somewhat wicked sense of humor. "How could I forget?"

"Yeah," Tom laughs. "Anyway, she's had this...on-again, off-again lover for years. I guess, I don't know that they're so much off as sometimes Ammy gets an urge to travel for a few years and then goes back to him."

"I thought Ammy was in England?"

"Well, when she's not seeing the seven wonders and all that."

"Have I completely lost the point of this conversation?"

"Her boyfriend guy, he was one of Harry Potter's chums."

"Wow, go Ammy."

"Seriously, that's my aunt you're talking about."

Jon grins. "Just saying."

"Anyway, a few years back the guy, George, he offered that if I ever wanted to actually work within the wizarding community, he'd sort of introduce me around, get me the training I needed."

Tom finished at the Academy, unlike Jon, but he chose to pursue music as well, instead of getting himself into any higher-level vocational programs. Jon says, "Wait, let me guess, you think we can get one of Potter's crowd to train me, a complete novice?"

"You're not a complete novice and yeah, I do. George seems like the kind of guy who keeps his word, and that's what we need."

"He said for you, and he meant professional training," Jon argues. "And all of this is conjecture. Nobody's ever come after me, the wizarding community has been left in peace for decades."

"Yeah, but do you really want to gamble on that?"

Jon is silent. Tom says, "A month, Jon. I'll go with. I've been wanting to visit Ammy anyhow, and there's a transfig expert up there I'd like to talk to about some stuff I've been trying. It'll be like backpacking. Without the backpack."

"Or the hostels."

"Or the trains, really, so, not much like backpacking, but I'll buy you a curry."

Somehow, despite the fact that he should be too far away, Jon can hear Brendon playing his like-brand-new piano. He says, "Well, I'm a sucker for free food."

*


Jon doesn't tell the others until the last possible second, when Brendon drapes himself over Jon's back and says, "And you? What are you going to do all alone in the far-off kingdom of Chicago-land?"

Despite the mocking content of the question, Brendon sounds kind of sad. Jon tries to lie to him, tries to say, "Eating a lot of pizza." Jon misses Chicago's pizza. It will buy Jon time to get over to London, and possibly even more than that, since he doesn't have a land-line. He could, maybe, have them believe he's safely tucked away in Chicago for the full month that he's abroad. Jon opens his mouth and what comes out is, "I have to go to London, actually."

"London?" Spencer and Ryan both ask and Jon considers walking over to the nearest wall to bang his head against it. Instead he stays where he is. That would involve, among other things, carrying Brendon to the wall as well.

"Yeah, Tom asked me to go see his aunt with him."

"For a whole month?" Ryan asks.

Jon shrugs. "I've never really been in London when I wasn't working. She's going to show us the sights."

"We have a month off to actually sleep and you're going sightseeing?" Brendon laughs. "Jesus, Jon, not even I have that much energy."

Jon tries not to sigh. Given the choice, he really wouldn't be using the month to basically put himself back in school, either. He could really use some sleep, and a couple of days to himself. Spencer says, "You don't look very excited."

To say, "Just tired," would sort of give lie to the whole venture, so Jon smiles in Spencer's direction, and hopes that's enough. Spencer, Ryan and even, Brendon, who can't see Jon's face, but can see the expressions of the other two, all give off such heavy waves of suspicion and worry that Jon has to stop himself from asking them to relax. Instead he says, "Look, there's just, there's something I have to do, all right? Tom's aunt is going to help with that."

"A magic thing?" Brendon asks.

"A magic thing," Jon confirms.

"Is it because we know now?" Ryan asks.

"Not exactly." Jon really should know better defensives than he does regardless.

"But sort of, then," Ryan notes.

Jon gestures somewhat helplessly. Spencer looks at Ryan who looks at Brendon. Spencer says, "Like, we were sort of the catalyst."

"Sort of," Jon says meekly. This is going nowhere good.

"So, really, we should be there to help if anything goes wrong," Brendon says slowly, and Jon can feel the way he's still looking at the others. Spencer and Ryan are nodding in agreement.

"No, no, nothing is going to go wrong, and if it does, I'll have Tom there, and you guys really need some sleep and--"

"You need sleep, too," Spencer cuts him off.

"Why would Tom be able to help any more than we would?" Brendon asks.

"No, I just meant--"

"Holy fuck," Ryan says. Jon does his best to look completely utterly confused. Ryan asks, "Tom too?"

"Oh, that's just unfair," Brendon mutters.

"No, no," Jon says.

"But his aunt is going to help you out," Spencer points out reasonably. Jon decides that really, the only thing to do in this point is die quietly in his sleep. He'll work on that tonight.

"Still," Brendon says brightly, "you never know when we might be useful. We're resourceful guys."

"And I've never seen England when we weren't there on tour, either," Ryan says.

Spencer says, "Send me your flight plans so I can coordinate, okay?"

Jon bows his head in defeat.

*


Tom takes one look at the four of them, rolls his eyes at Jon and starts laughing. Jon sighs. Ryan flips Tom off. Tom holds his hands up in a gesture of innocence. Ryan has really sort of missed Tom. Not, I mean, clearly not as much as Jon or anything, but all the same. Tom has easy smiles and he knows his guitar and evidently, he can make magic with sticks. It's a nice combination, as far as Ryan's concerned. Tom says, "Seriously, Jon? This is why we couldn't Apparate?"

But Jon just looks at Tom and Ryan isn't afraid they'll get left behind, because Jon doesn't do that to them. "That, and I'm shit at Apparation, which you know. I don't want to spend the next month being healed from splinching."

Tom says, "Fine, but we're not all gonna fit in my aunt's flat."

"It's wizard-space, asshole," Jon says, and heads up to the ticket counter. Ryan follows him, Spencer and Brendon filing up behind him. Ryan whispers, "Um...wizard space?"

"It's mutable," Jon says. "And don't mind Tom, he just has issues with-- He just has issues."

"Well, that's new," Spencer says. Ryan smirks.

Jon smiles, "Yeah, okay."

Ryan somehow ends up next to Tom on the plane. That doesn't make any sense, since Tom is Jon's best friend, the whole reason why Jon is doing this--and vice versa. But Jon is sitting at the window across the aisle from Ryan's, Brendon on the aisle, Spencer one row behind them. Ryan asks, "Are you actually pissed at him?"

Tom just fiddles with the armrest holding his tray table. Ryan says, "You shouldn't be, we made him."

Tom looks at Ryan and asks, "Oh, really?"

Ryan's never really been this close to Tom, and he's sort of taken by the gold mixed in to Tom's changeable hazel eyes. Ryan has always been easily distracted by colors. He can stay with the conversation, though, feels like it's pretty important that he does, so he says, "Yes."

Tom laughs a little. It's not derisive, exactly, but it isn't kind, the way Ryan remembers Tom being. Tom says, "Believe me, Ryan, when I say that there's nothing in the world the three of you could make Jon Walker do that he didn't want to."

Magic or no, Ryan thinks that's sort of a stupid statement. It's a person's emotions and moral standards that drive him, not his abilities. Those are just used to augment the former. Still, he's curious to know, "Could you?"

Tom looks down at his knees. After a bit, he shakes his head. "Probably not. Maybe, I don't know. Not after the next month, hopefully."

"He didn't-- He didn't tell us exactly what he was planning to do."

"I'm not surprised," Tom says, and not a word more.

Ryan says, "We won't tell. We wouldn't."

"Things happen," Tom says so softly that Ryan nearly misses it next to the sound of the engines.

Ryan doesn't really have a way to negate that statement--mostly agrees, really--so instead he asks, "Wanna Twizzler?"

Tom nods, and Ryan roots around in his bag for the stash he carefully hid from Brendon. Tom will just have to see, just have to find out that Jon is safe with them. Ryan can see how that's a lesson that would really suck having to wait out.

*


Tom falls asleep with his head on Ryan's shoulder halfway through the flight. If it were Brendon, Ryan would shove him off, if it were Spencer or Jon, Ryan would just carefully shift them and bite back at his annoyance. Tom, evidently, gets special dispensation from Ryan's ire by dint of being really smoking hot. Ryan's not proud of this fact, but he can live with it. Tom is, objectively, a fine-looking piece of ass. Ryan purposely does not calculate the additional attractiveness factors of playing the guitar and doing magic.

Ryan sighs, and carefully does not think in lyrics. He hates it when his lyrics are simply maudlin rather than somewhat cleverly depressed. He closes his eyes and, to his surprise, drifts off pretty easily as well. He wakes up to Tom touching his arm. "Hey, uh, sorry 'bout um--"

Ryan shakes his head. "We there?"

"Just about."

"You still pissed at Jon?"

"Just because you can't hold out against Smith for longer than three minutes at a time doesn't mean the rest of us are dickless, Ross."

"So, no?"

Tom says, "If you don't tell him, he might go on thinking I am for a little bit."

"And what do I get out of the deal?"

"Um."

"Make it good, Conrad."

After a second, Tom tilts his head and smiles in a way that Ryan knows is meant to be charming. Ryan is not charmed. Really, really he's not. Then Tom asks, "You like wolves?"

"Is this some sort of theoretical inquiry?"

"No."

"Because there aren't really a lot of wolves where I come from; they aren't something I have a close and personal relationship with."

"But if you, say, could."

"I-- I don't know, what the fuck, Tom? Don't tell me you have a wolf as a, what do you call it, familiar?"

"No, I haven't had a familiar in a while, they're conspicuous. Jon hasn't either, which is sort of a sore subject, just so you know."

"Uh, thanks for the warning."

"No, that's my animagus form."

"Um, your--"

"Animagus form. I can turn into a wolf."

Of course he fucking can. "Play fetch and you've got a day of silence."

"You drive a hard bargain, Ross."

Ryan stands firm.

*


Ammy greets Jon with her customary, "Hello there, midget."

Jon, who spent many fruitless, wasted years of his life trying to get her to quit using this particular appellative phrase, comes back with a warm, "Amphitrite."

"Oh, Thomas," she says in a rush of pleased breath, "you didn't tell me he'd grown teeth."

Tom rolls his eyes and kisses her cheek. "Hello, Aunt, thanks for having us."

"Who are all the other wee things you've brought me?"

Brendon says, "We represent the Lollipop Guild." Spencer snickers.

Jon says, "Ammy, these are my bandmates, Brendon Urie, Spencer Smith, and Ryan Ross."

Ammy raises an eyebrow. "Do you mean to tell me, Jon Walker, that you have brought me honest-to-goodness rock stars?"

"I wasn't enough?" Jon asks.

"Perhaps for some other woman, midget."

A man with only one ear that Jon can see, and hair that glints somewhere between shocking red and early silver, comes into the room and asks, "Have you brought young boy things to distract my girl, Thomas? I believe I warned you about that."

Tom sticks out his hand to shake, and the man takes it. Tom says, "Not-Uncle."

"Whelp," the man replies. Then he holds out his hand to Jon. "Jon Walker, I presume?"

Jon grips it. "George Weasley?"

The man smiles. Jon reintroduces the others and then George says, "You'll want to meet my brother, but first I suppose you can get settled. Tom said you were flying?"

"Bad at Apparition," Jon says, and nothing else.

George glances behind him to where the other three are standing and says, "Trans-Atlantic is a regular pain in any case."

Tom says, "We should, um, we should check out the room first, Jon."

Jon looks at him. George says, "So untrusting, I'm wounded," and Jon remembers everything he's ever read about George Weasley and his penchant for practical jokes. He says, "Yeah, all right." For a second he wonders which brother George was referring to him meeting, then realizes it doesn't matter. There isn't a Weasley--living or dead--who isn't known, in one way or another, for taking part in the Battle of Voldemort's Defeat. He says to the guys, "Give us ten minutes to, uh--"

"Decontaminate the room," Tom says. Jon makes a gesture of agreement.

Ryan says, "We'll just stand here and decorate the foyer."

Tom laughs and heads off toward a wall. Jon scurries to follow him right through it.

*


The brother in question is evidently Ron and he shows up with a man with close-cropped black hair and a scar on his forehead. Jon's met a fair number of celebrities in his life, some that he had really, really big brain-crushes on as a kid, but there's celebrity and then there's celebrity. He's just not sure what you say to a guy who actually saved the world. In the end he goes with, "Hello," and takes the hand Harry Potter offers to him, upon George saying, "There's your project."

Harry shakes his hand and says, "It's really pretty uncool of me to ask this, but I don't suppose you've ever met Dominic Howard?"

"Harry has a thing for drummers." Ron smirks.

"Me too," Spencer tells Harry evenly. Brendon laughs.

"I just like that band," Harry says. "Just because I have better taste in music--"

"You have Muggle taste in music," Ron says.

"So what if he does, Ronald?" a woman who is not Ammy asks as she moves in the room. She's wearing sensible shoes, navy slacks and a matching silk button down. Her hair is short and the curls are pinned back. Jon knows her at once. She is the third of the Three Heroes, Hermione Granger. He's seen her picture a million times. Well, a picture of her at eighteen, nearly nineteen. He has never once thought dirty boy thoughts. And yet, here she is, moving easily around these other two heroes, her voice a little lower than he would have expected, her smile the most natural thing in the world, maybe even more so than Brendon and Spencer's. Jon controls the urge to hit his head. She's Hermione fucking Granger. By the time she was twenty-one she had won awards for developing Muggle-Wizarding protocols. She revolutionized the system of tracking minors, allowing them their magic without endangering others. Also, she is a solid six years older than him, to the month. Oh, and Hermione Granger.

Jon says, "Hello," again. It seems to be his default for the evening. Brendon rescues him with, "We've met Muse, yeah. What was... Was that Reading last year?"

"Yes," Ryan confirms. Ryan is probably a little bit in love with Muse as a whole. "What's a Muggle?"

"It's the British term for non-magic adepts," Hermione says as Jon tries to figure out an answer that won't insult them. "It's not horribly politic, but it's not meant offensively, either. Both my parents are Muggles."

Jon doesn't think about the part where he used to want to be Hermione Granger, Hope of the Non-Descendents, when he grew up. It's possible he had her Bertie Botts card tucked inside the front flap of his Trapper Keeper the first day he went off to school, but he doesn't really discuss that.

"I should have been in a band," Harry says thoughtfully.

"You can't play wind chimes, Harry," Ron tells him.

Tactfully, Hermione says, "Your talents were needed elsewhere."

"Face it, Harry," George surveys him and then looks to the four of them, "you're just not pretty enough to be in a band."

Ryan scowls, Brendon laughs, Spencer looks wickedly knowing. Tom says, "It's all right, I know the feeling."

"Is that nephew of mine calling himself un-pretty? Referring to himself as though he lacks in prettiness?"

"Sorry, Aunt Ammy." Tom manages to sound decently chastised, despite his completely unrepentant smile. They have matching smiles, Ammy and Tom. Jon thinks that's probably why he's always liked her.

Ron asks, "Are we going to eat tonight, or just stand in this hallway?"

"Oh yes, do provide him with sustenance before he blows away," Hermione says, rolling her eyes.

"I'm kind of hungry, too," Brendon admits.

George's grin is a little too sharp for Jon's comfort. "Come along then, children."

*


The meal goes decently well. Spencer turns into a black bear for a bit and Tom has to change him back, since that's a combination of transfigurative and defensive magics, and Tom's just plain better at both. Spencer says, "I was pretty tall there, for a bit," and goes back to eating somewhat fearlessly as far as Jon is concerned. Ryan picks at his food a little carefully until Hermione points her wand at his and Brendon's plate and says, "You're both fine."

"Hermione," George says, reproachfully.

"Yes?" she asks innocently, which clearly takes all the wind out of his sails. Ron snickers. Hermione pretends she hasn't heard. She can keep her features amazingly smooth. Jon wonders what kind of havoc her and Ryan could wreak if they ever thought to join forces. She changes the subject before George can decide to pursue it after all. "So, you're here to learn defensives?" she asks Jon.

"That's the hope." Jon looks at the three people who have evidently been brought in to see to this and thinks that starting small might have been better.

"Do you have things that you would prioritize?" Harry asks.

"Well, I was sort of hoping you could tell me, but my wards could use some serious work."

Next to him, Tom snorts. Jon steps on his foot. Tom hits him with a jelly-leg jinx. Jon sighs. "Asshole."

"Sorry?" Harry asks.

"Nothing," Jon says. George laughs.

"Wards we can definitely work with. Hermione tells me you have some pretty strong mind-magic, so we might want to see if you can bulk up in that area."

"Excuse me, I'm sorry, Hermione--" Jon looks at Tom. "Did you--"

"No," Tom says, and Jon knows from the look on his face that he's as surprised as Jon.

"You left school, Jonathan Jacob Walker. You left school with an enormity of untrained potential. There's not a Ministry in the world that doesn't have your name, doesn't watch when you come inside their borders," she explains.

"Holy shit," Brendon says.

"Seconded," Ryan adds.

"How enormous?" Harry asks.

Hermione sighs. "I know you're not going to want to hear this, but--"

"Oh no," Ron says.

"Ron--"

"No, no, no, no. Enormity of untrained potential and you want to hand him over to that git?"

"Ron," Harry tries, "Git is different than Death Eater. You know that."

"But--" Ron starts.

"Harry can't handle this kind of training, not really," Hermione tells him. "He could defend against Jon, but teaching him how to use his gifts to their full capability? Malfoy's the only person in this country, and probably quite a few others, who has that sort of knowledge."

"Draco Malfoy?" Jon asks, because yeah, he's read about him as well.

"He's-- He's not so bad as the books make him out," Harry says softly.

"Merlin, Harry--"

"Shut up, Ron," Hermione says, not sounding at all amused. When he opens his mouth again she reiterates, "Shut the bloody hell up."

Ron throws his hands up and goes back to eating. Jon tries not to act like he's watching a film he came into halfway through. He feels bad for the guys, who are all looking a bit like everyone stopped speaking English around them. Hermione says, "Anyhow, I'll get in touch with him, and in the meantime, the two of you can get started with wards and probably some of the basic offensives would be good."

Harry nods at this, and, after a few minutes, Ron joins him. Ron asks, "And what are you going to do?"

"See if I can get him off the list of World's Most Distrusted Wizards," Hermione says casually. Jon drops his fork. Spencer cracks up.

*


Draco Malfoy says, "So you're Granger's boy wonder mudblood," and three jinxes come right at him. His shields deflect all three, and Jon ends up having to shield Ryan, who's in the way of one of the rebounding jinxes.

Ron says, "Way to go, mate, your shielding really is coming along."

Malfoy rolls his eyes. Jon says to him, "I prefer the term non-Descendent, but basically, yes." He then turns to Ron, Harry, Tom, Spencer, Ryan and Brendon. "Guys, can we-- Ten minutes, okay?"

"My watch has a second hand," Spencer mutters in Malfoy's direction. Malfoy does not look intimidated. He should, Spencer has ways and means that even Jon knows are best to fear, but he's not going to tell Malfoy that. If he finds out, it will be on his own head.

Malfoy attacks the moment the others are gone, but to be honest, Jon's sort of expecting that, so he already has the mental defenses he knows in place. Malfoy is able to rip through them, which Jon also expects, and so he's done his best to leave the thoughts Malfoy can have open. Malfoy burrows deeper and that just pisses Jon off, since it's sort of playing dirty, what with Malfoy knowing he's supposed to teach Jon. Jon throws a stinging hex and Malfoy is evidently distracted enough by his own agenda and Jon's anger that it actually hits him.

Malfoy steps back a bit. Jon--who's never actually used a hex on another living being--says, "Oh, fuck, finite incantatum. Sorry."

Malfoy says, "Mm, ten points from Gryffindor," but he doesn't look as though he's really paying all that much attention. He asks, "When you front your thoughts like that, you realize it makes it obvious that everything else is underneath?"

Jon frowns. "I have another choice?"

"Well, for one we'll have to improve upon your completely pathetic defenses, but for another, yes. Nobody even began teaching you about mental layering?"

"I left before my fifth year."

"Even so, the talent had to have come clear before then."

If Jon had known there was magic, the talent would have been clear by the time he was six. "Right, but--"

Malfoy shakes his head. "Americans."

"Is it that you get a rush from being a complete asshole?"

Malfoy tilts his head in consideration for a second before laughing. "Mostly it's just easier than trying to find a place to fit with them."

Jon blinks at the honesty. Malfoy says, "If I have any secrets from you by the time this is over, then I've done something wrong."

"They would help you to fit. If you were to just try."

"The three of them--"

"I know," Jon cuts him off. "I know all about being three and one. I know that you don't get to be four unless you try. It can't always be them."

"And if they don't help?"

"If Hermione is to be believed, my sympathetic magic is some of the strongest in the known world."

"Let us allow that, on occasion, Granger has been right."

"They'll help."

"Think of one thing and one thing only--a color, a sound, something simple."

Jon thinks of the bass line for "Nine in the Afternoon". Malfoy says, "Now make it your whole mind."

Sometimes that line is Jon's whole world.

*


Tom is really, really soft as a wolf. Ryan only means to touch, just to see, but Ryan honestly can't remember the last time his fingers were in contact with anything quite that yielding. They just sink all the way down to the warm flesh below. Tom growls and Ryan snatches his hands back. When he looks at wolf-Tom, he has an expression of confusion on his face--Ryan can kind of see where he looks like the human version--and Ryan says, "Oh. That was a happy noise?"

Tom barks affirmatively and whines a little in what Ryan thinks might be an apology. Ryan settles into petting him once more and tells him, "Tom's not a great name for a wolf."

Tom bows his head and butts it against Ryan's midsection, pushing at Ryan until he falls backward onto the floor. Ryan snaps, "Hey!" but Tom just settles himself on Ryan's legs and looks up at Ryan expectantly. Ryan says, "Uh uh, no way, bad wolf."

Then Tom does something with his eyes. Ryan is strong though. He has held out against Brendon's puppy eyes numerous times. Too numerous to count. It takes roughly thirty seconds before he folds. "Fine. But I'm calling you Urchin from now on."

Tom nips at his fingers. Ryan bats him away. "I was going to give you a name like Romulus, but you ruined it with your antics."

Tom whines some more. Ryan says, firmly, "No," but he doesn't stop petting. It feels too good to stop. Jon finds them like that, Tom atop Ryan, Ryan's fingers buried deep in Tom's fur. Ryan pulls his hands to his chest and says, "I swear, I wasn't molesting him."

Tom takes his time transfiguring back into human state. Ryan can't stop staring. It shouldn't be sexy, it shouldn't be at all, but the liquid flow of it just kind of...is. He looks challengingly up at Jon. "How'd lessons go?"

Jon rolls his eyes. "You're going to regret all the times you've ever been an asshole to me soon."

"Talk is cheap, Walker."

"So is seduction by way of wolf, Conrad."

Ryan opens his mouth to protest before realizing what Jon is saying. He looks over at Tom, who's cheeks are slightly flushed. He says, "I gotta go," and does that thing that Ryan really fucking hates with the loud cracking sound and the disappearing. Jon runs a hand over his face. "I'm gonna follow behind him in a couple of minutes and apologize. I've just had a long day."

Ryan asks, "Jon, did you-- Do you mean it? About him liking me?"

Jon tilts his head. "Maybe I won't follow after him."

"I thought you were supposed to sense, um, things." Ryan isn't sure with how comfortable he is thinking of Jon knowing his every emotion. Clearly, Jon has never betrayed him despite this knowledge, still, he thinks he might have preferred not knowing.

"I don't actively try to read you guys. And that's one of the things I've been working on with Malfoy, is having my own mental space. Plus, I've been a little distracted."

Ryan nods. "I just-- Tom is-- He turns into a wolf." Somehow, Ryan is quite certain this explains everything.

"I know. Totally fucking unfair."

Ryan is in complete agreement, even if he thinks they have different problems with this particular trait of Thomas Conrad. "You don't mind?"

"You think I could find someone better for him?" Jon looks confused.

"Someone magic," Ryan tells him quietly. "I don't know, aren't there guys who turn into like, panthers and shit?"

"Probably," Jon says. "But they can't write lyrics or music. Which do you think is more important?"

Ryan says, "Panthers are pretty sexy."

Jon laughs. "I think there are some people out there who would tell you you're not so bad yourself."

"Let's hope Tom's one of them."

"Ry," Jon says, pulling Ryan into him, "Ry. I can sense these things."

*


When Jon goes to Hermione's office he brings flowers because, "I hear nobody's being nice to you." Also because totally spilling Tom's secret to Ryan has made him feel like maybe he owes it to Tom to man up and try where he might fail. Of course, he could see if failure is imminent, but that's cheating, and mostly Jon really tries not to cheat.

She smiles and stands to take the flowers. "Oh, these are very nearly worth the trouble. I love tulips."

"Excellent." Mostly, Jon just picked what he thought was prettiest. He's glad it's worked out for the best. "Is there anything I can--"

"You're not using your position as a member of a popular music ensemble to mind control large numbers of Muggles and force them to do your bidding, are you?"

"I can do that?" Jon asks.

"Probably, I really couldn't say."

"The American media might argue that my fashion chic white t-shirt fad starting is a form of mind-control."

"Oh, don't even joke," she says, but she's laughing as she says it. "Harry's pleased by your progress."

"Malfoy isn't."

"Mm, if you say."

"I have sympathetic magic, remember?"

"Sympathetic magic you aren't at all used to depending on. What am I feeling right now?"

"Hungry?" Jon asks hopefully, without even bothering to try and actually scout out an emotion.

She opens her mouth and then closes it. She tilts her head and says, "Actually, yes. Were you asking me to lunch, Jonathan Walker?"

Jon smiles his sweetest smile, the one Brendon tells him he is not allowed to use unless it is an emergency. This is most certainly an emergency. "I was, yes."

"I'll have you know, I'm not generally attracted to bad boys."

Jon laughs. "I'm sure you could reform me."

She grins. "Sure, are you?"

"You're also feeling confident."

"Oh, I am, am I?"

Jon hopes she is. He won't check, he doesn't want to know what she's feeling, not even if it's good. He's learned more than enough that he can allow her her privacy, and keep his. He'll have to thank Malfoy, if ever actually given the chance. "Very. And accomplished and gorgeous and far, far out of my league."

She raises an eyebrow. "I do believe it is your level of celebrity that is causing all of my problems, Mister Rock Star."

"Savior of the World."

"Has a nice ring," she agrees. "But it belongs to Harry."

"I know what he'd say." Jon does. He's part of a band. Nothing is accomplished by the efforts of a single person.

"Me too," she acknowledges.

"Lunch?" he asks softly.

"Gorgeous, you say?"

Jon nods. She asks, "You like pubs?"

*


When Ryan is able to find Tom again--and he gets the feeling it's only because Tom has decided he wants to be found--Tom says, "C'mon, I wanna show you something."

Ryan follows. He means to say something like, "Um, seduction by wolf is totally good, totally," but Tom's quiet demeanor undermines any thoughts he has of breaking the silence, so he just goes where Tom leads. He finds himself in a darkroom like any other darkroom he's ever been in, except the smell is different, not as chemical and there's no equipment other than a basin and some glass bottles. Softly, Tom says, "To be honest, I prefer non-magical photography and development. There's always more to the story in a non-magic photograph, you have to depend more on yourself, on your instincts in developing it. But there are times... Well, wait, okay?"

Ryan nods, knowing Tom can see him in the soft red glow. Tom sets to work then, darkening the room completely. He says, "You're not afraid of the dark, are you?"

"No," Ryan says. In his experience, there are more tangible things to fear. He can hear Tom in the dark, can hear him rolling the film--although what he's rolling it onto, Ryan's unsure. He didn't see any of the normal items. He asks, "Um, what are you rolling the film--"

"Not rolling it, separating it. The first step in magical development is making sure that each picture is it's own."

"Oh."

"Wizards place a bizarre amount of importance on individuality. It's one of the reasons Jon and I pretty much had to become best friends. Neither of us really-- We're both meant to be in bands. I mean, clearly he's better at that then I am, but, you know."

"The Academy can kinda be dicks," Ryan says, because they can, and he feels Tom should know it from someone who's not Jon.

Tom laughs softly. It's a displaced sound in the dark. Then he mutters something. It's not English. A few minutes pass, there's another couple of words that Ryan doesn't understand, and the soft red of the room reappears. Tom uncorks a couple of the glass bottles and pours a careful mixture into the basin, mixing it with the tip of his wand and more foreign words. Ryan asks, "Is that Latin?"

"Most English-speaking wizards use Latin," Tom says, nodding. "Also, French, Spanish, Italian, German and some Cyrillic languages. I'm not sure what the Cyrillic thing is about, and the German thing is a little odd, but the Romance languages it makes sense for."

"Did magic originate around the time of the Roman Empire?"

"They think pretty long before that, but it seems that that might have been when a lot of it began to be codified, at least on this side of the world. The Chinese have far, far older records from what I understand. They like to point that out to us, regularly, or so one of my professors was always complaining."

"Makes a certain amount of sense."

"Little bit, I suppose. C'mere."

Ryan comes and stands next to Tom. Inside the basin, a picture is forming. It takes Ryan a minute before he realizes that like the pictures George and Ammy have up on their walls, the people in the picture are moving. It still kind of weirds Ryan out. It takes him a second to place to the picture. It's from years ago, and he's seen it before, but in it's non-moving form. It's one of Jon's. In it, Ryan is playing the guitar, seated on Spencer's tiny drum stool with Spencer, the two of them back to back, fitting on the stool without even having to strain. Spencer is lackadaisically playing the drums. Tom can be seen in the background, watching.

Ryan's seen the picture at least three or four times, and it's always seemed like Tom is just watching them, just sort of staring blindly, listening, maybe. This form tells a different story. This form shows a Tom who looks away every time picture!Ryan looks at him. "Oh," Ryan says, because, yeah, that was a while ago.

"Oh," Tom says softly.

"Um. You never said."

"You're a hard read, Ryan Ross. Even in pictures. Even in magic pictures."

"But you-- Jon--"

"I don't ask him those things. And even if I did, he wouldn't-- Not with you guys, okay? He wouldn't."

"Even if--"

"Jon thinks most things should be done the old fashioned way."

Yeah, Ryan can sort of see that about him. He makes himself take a breath, makes himself ask, "And you?"

"Anyway that gets me what I want."

"Really?" Ryan asks, taking a step toward him.

"No," Tom says, but pulls Ryan in by his hips as he says it. He asks, "Yes?"

Ryan closes the gap.

*


By the time Hermione shows, Jon feels burnt down to his very toes, as if magic will never course through him again. He is just tired enough to really not give a crap. Jon is ambivalent on the topic of his magic, but he's never actually wanted it gone. It's part of him. Training like this, day in and day out, is enough to change his mind. He's training with Draco when she shows, Harry long gone.

She nods at Jon, says, "Evening, Draco."

Draco nods tightly. "Granger."

Jon can feel the tension in her for a moment, but she lets it go. "How is he coming along?"

Jon works to rebuild his shields. He doesn't want to listen to anything other than their words. Draco says, "Acceptably," and Jon feels a hint of pleasure before he manages to get his shields fully in place. He has noticed that once they're there, he doesn't have as hard a time maintaining them and they function with greater strength.

"I was promised dinner," Hermione says to Draco, "so unless there was something else urgent, I think I'll be on my way with him."

Draco looks at Jon. "Impressive."

Jon shrugs. He's getting there. "Would you like to come?"

Draco glances between the two of them. "I think not."

Jon rolls his eyes. "Suit yourself."

Hermione says, "You are welcome. If you-- You are."

Draco seems to be thinking about it for a bit, but then he shakes his head. "Perhaps another time. He's not here for very long, Granger. You should bother yourself to be selfish, for once."

She smiles slightly. "I'll take that into consideration."

Draco shakes his head before walking out. Hermione turns to Jon. "So, what are our plans?"

"You realize it's hard being romantic and exciting when the girl you're trying to impress is the native in the room and also, considerably smarter than you?"

Hermione is silent for just long enough for Jon to realize he's said something wrong. She says, "I realize."

"Not that I don't plan to try," he tells her.

Her smile is a little off and he says, "Hermione--"

"Just. There are a million things about me that seem to scare people off. Even the ones with intentions to try."

"Oh, well, no offense, but I live on a bus with Ryan Ross for considerable parts of the year, so you're really going to have to get in line."

"Ryan?"

"Most people find him a little intimidating," Jon understates.

"Oh. Um, really?"

"I don't get it either. Which is my point. Knowing you're smarter than me and being scared off by it are two entirely different things. And if I didn't know, I would have to wonder why you weren't wondering if I were delusional."

She laughs a bit. "Or maybe just think you were too polite to mention it in conversation."

"Now who's being foolish?"

"Oh, sorry."

"That's all right," Jon says magnanimously. "I forgive you."

*


"You're going to have to appear before a Wizengamot jury," Hermione tells Jon. "I can get them to relinquish your status, but only if you stand trial."

It's Ryan who finally asks into the silence, "For what? He hasn't done anything."

"Yes, well, American Muggle law is based on the precept of innocence until guilt is proven. Wizarding law in most of Europe and large parts of the rest of the world is based on a precept of if-you-think-someone-is-going-to-do-it-they-probably-are."

"That's completely fucked," Spencer tells her.

"If you were hoping for an argument, you've come to the wrong place. That said, sometimes you have to work within the system, and this is the system." She turns to Jon. "You can refuse to stand trial, but you will spend the rest of your life being watched."

Jon looks over at Tom and then back to Hermione. "And if I can't convince them, I will anyway, yes?"

"No, I'll just be back at square one. Chin up, young feller, I've helped to defeat a man with seven horcruxes."

Jon laughs. "So I've been told."

She smiles as well, but says, "Seriously, I'll find another way if this fails, but I ask that you, at the very least, give it a chance."

Jon considers it. He's seen pictures of the Wizengamot court; every wizard who went to school in the post-Voldemort era, even for a year, has. "I have a condition."

"And that is?" Hermione cocks her head.

"They be kept out of it."

"Oh, blow me so hard, Jon Walker," Brendon says.

"What he said," Ryan says. Spencer nods.

Jon presses his palms to his eyes in actual frustration. Hermione says, "He came here to protect you. You're doing a shit job of allowing him it."

"That's not a one way job," Spencer says, surprisingly calmly, given that Jon is reading just enough to keep tabs on the situation, and he knows Spencer sort of wants to kill something warm and moving.

Jon says, "Hermione."

"Yes?" The question is soft.

"Can I--"

She moves in, kisses the side of his mouth. "This is between you and them. Whatever you decide, I will make certain to see that you get your wishes."

Jon watches her move from the room. Brendon asks, "You guys--"

"Sort of," Jon says. He doesn't really want to discuss it just now.

Tom whistles. "Jesus, Jon."

"Tom, can we focus? We need to focus."

Tom says, "You should let them."

Jon feels a little bit like he's been hit by the stomach, even sort of knowing it was coming. He could feel which way Tom's support was sliding. "Tom--"

"No, listen, I'm not fucking choosing Ryan over you, it's not even that simple and if it were I still wouldn't be doing that, but this is all about you, Jon. I mean, I'll deny ever having said that later when people ask, but it is. It's about the fact that they want to stand by you if you're going to stand by them and they should. They fucking should, Jon." Tom's eyes are darker than usual, and Jon bites his lip.

"Tom--"

"Don't. Just-- Just let them."

Out of the corner of his eye, Jon can see where Ryan's hand has slipped into Tom's. Brendon says, "You'll keep us safe. You'll keep us safe, and we'll be your proof. Come on, if you were gonna hurt anyone, wouldn't it be us? I'm annoying and Ryan's monotone and Spencer's a bitch."

Spencer flips Brendon off. Toms snorts. Jon sighs. He crosses his arms and rubs at his shoulders. Finally, he says, "Okay, but if anything happens, I get to say 'I told you so.'"

All three nod solemnly. Brendon tells him, "You certainly reserve that right. You certainly do."

Jon suspects he shouldn't feel as good about having lost as he does.

*


Ryan says, "It's a court, this Wizengamot thing, right?"

Tom wrinkles his face, then takes Ryan's hand and says, "C'mon. I'll show you."

Ryan follows him into the room that is half-library, half-work studio. There are books everywhere, some neatly ordered on shelves, most not. There are the remnants of new Weasley products gone awry and the skeletons of ones yet to be given that chance. Tom casts a spell and lets his wand skip lightly over the various books until he finds the one he wants. He plucks it from underneath two others, flipping through it and saying, "Yeah, okay, here."

He sets it down on one of the counters and Ryan comes to his side to take a look inside. He stares at the picture in front of him for a few moments before saying, "Oh." It's the only sound he can make. He's kind of sure he's going to vomit. "That's what we put Jon up to?"

"He's expecting it. He's known what a Wizengamot was since he was eleven. It's an important part of the Harry Potter story, and you can't get through your first year of wizarding school without learning that."

The thought should make Ryan feel better, but it really doesn't. Tom's hands come to his shoulders. Ryan likes the way they fit, like Ryan is a guitar, like Tom knows exactly how to play him. Like Tom would leave everything he knows for Ryan. Tom keeps telling Ryan that magic is more than illusions, but Ryan thinks there's that element to it, too. Tom whispers, "This is nothing. It's like an audience. A small one."

Ryan shudders at the feel of Tom's breath making its way over his skin. Tom laughs softly, murmurs in Latin and Ryan gasps. "What--"

"Sh. You wouldn't believe how good I can make this."

Ryan whimpers. There isn't an inch, not a patch of his skin that isn't burning with a sweet sort of fire, isn't so ready to be touched he could die just from the desire. Tom draws a finger over Ryan's wristbone, up the length of his arm. Ryan starts to reach down, get his shirt off, because if Tom doesn't touch more of him, he's going to come apart, skin, then muscle, then bone. Tom laughs again, gently, and a soft divestio later, Ryan is naked. Ryan says, "Oh, oh," and he's really, totally fucked, because there's no way he can be anything more than a diversion to a guy who can do this, but it doesn't matter, not just now, not feeling like this. Tom touches his tongue to the spot where spine meets neck and Ryan goes down, melting into the floor. Tom catches him before he can crash. He lays Ryan down on a floor that should be hard and cold, but clearly Tom's done something, because Ryan might as well be lying in a bed.

Tom says, "Ryan Ross," his eyes wide and surprised, and Ryan doesn't understand, not really, but Tom's watching him like he might go away so Ryan reaches out and pulls him down to kiss him. Tom says the spell to strip himself of clothing into Ryan's mouth. Ryan moans at the first touch of body to body, moans and bucks and he really thinks he might come right then, which is going to be pretty embarrassing. He manages to hold on, just, and Tom rewards him by sliding down, the slope of his back arching so that he can suck at Ryan's nipples. Ryan screams. He doesn't mean to, he never has, but Tom's tongue combined with whatever he's done to Ryan's nerves is literally the best thing Ryan's ever felt, ever. He's pretty sure it's all downhill from here.

Tom pulls up to talk into Ryan's ear. "I wonder what would happen if we pierced those. There are some metals that conduct magic like electricity, you know?"

Ryan arches, his eyes going into the back of his head, which is how Tom's able to get in his sneak attack, able to suck Ryan's cock right into his mouth without Ryan foreseeing it, having any warning. Ryan stops breathing. He doesn't mean to, his brain just isn't able to process that much pleasure and keep basic life systems functioning all at once. Tom makes a pleased sound with Ryan still on his tongue and Ryan goes completely taut, just managing to form the word, "Tom, Tom," but once he's started saying it, he can't stop. He comes with the taste of its letters in his throat.

Tom, mercifully, releases him from the spell at that point, lets his body come down on its own. When he can, Ryan looks at Tom seriously and says, "I can't do that."

Tom shakes his head. "I don't care." He takes one of Ryan's hands. "Fingers, Ryan Ross. Play me."

Ryan slips one of his fingers in his mouth, sucking on it slow and sweet. Tom's breathing picks up. Ryan adds another finger. Tom breathes, "Ryan."

"Stand up," Ryan orders Tom. Tom doesn't hesitate. He isn't at his most coordinated, but he makes it, and Ryan really isn't keeping score. He gets to his knees, on eye-level with Tom's hips and bites gently into the crest of one. Tom puts a careful hand to Ryan's hair. Ryan says, "Hold on."

It hurts a little, which Ryan needs at this point, needs the balance as he drives one, then two fingers into Tom. He needs it when he lets himself lick teasingly around the head of Tom's cock, forces himself to take his time in swallowing Tom down, down to where Ryan can't breathe. He leaves Tom there until he absolutely can't and in the second when he lets go, Tom does, too.

Ryan wakes up warmer than he should be for all that he's still naked. His head is on Tom's chest and Tom's fingers are carding gently through his hair. Ryan says, "If you'd told me you could do that, I might not have made you play fetch."

"Liar," Tom says happily.

"Probably," Ryan admits.

*


Hermione Granger is not an easy woman to pin down. Ryan, Spencer and Brendon have been trying for a solid week, and it's as though she's never where she's supposed to be, or always has an exit right near when it's just the four of them. Ryan would suspect she knows what they are after, only Ryan has read up a little bit on her, on these other people he's been meeting, and if there is one thing he can say for all of them it's that they aren't cowards. No, Ryan finds it more likely that Hermione is simply grossly busy, but it's annoying, all the same. Finally he simply lies--without much hesitation nor any compunction--and says, "Can we have a few minutes, we have some questions on the procedure of Jon's trial?"

Then she's all ears. It's a good start, all things considered. Also, luckily, Spencer does have some questions, mostly about dress and their safety once in the Ministry. Ryan's glad. If they didn't have Spencer to think of those things he really doesn't know who would.

Brendon cuts in as soon as it looks like Spencer is winding down with, "What are your intentions toward Jonathan Jacob Walker?" He has his hands on his hips and a Very Serious Look on his face. He is kind of--Ryan can admit--adorable when he gets all protective.

Spencer sighs. "He just means--"

Hermione says, "He just means to ask if I intend to break your friend's heart."

"We were going to be more clever and mask it in more manly descriptions," Ryan tells her.

"I have no doubt," she says, quite seriously. Ryan has to turn slightly to the side so that he won't laugh. She's a little bit wicked. That's unusual for Jon, but Ryan kind of likes it. Jon could use a little something mixed in with his normal tendency toward sweet.

Brendon laughs. Then he forces himself back to his Very Serious Face. "If you hurt him, we'll--" He looks at Spencer for back up.

"If you hurt him there's nowhere on this Muggle earth where people won't know that you're a lying, sick, miserable excuse for a human being." Spencer has two ways of delivering threats: casually and with intensity. This is his casual version. It tends to be scarier.

Hermione tilts her head. "I believe that. Also, good technique. Go around your comparative weaknesses. I think I could like you, Spencer Smith. Out of curiosity, have any of my friends attempted to threaten Jon into behaving?"

Spencer looks at Brendon, who tries to shrug without making it look like he's shrugging. Ryan says, "I don't think so. He might not have told us, but I think he would have told Tom and I-- I don't think so."

"Hm. Interesting. Informative, really. I suppose I'll have to ask myself, then. What do you think Jon's intentions are toward me?"

"Jon Walker is an honorable boy," Brendon says, frowning. "Man. Honorable man."

"All right. But you'll be on the road quite a bit, I'd imagine, and I can't always be setting off from here, what I do is actually somewhat important, and there will be long stretches of time when it's simply not viable for us to see each other."

"Jon's had girlfriends who weren't on the road before. He's never cheated on them," Spencer says mildly.

"And I think--" Ryan probably shouldn't say this, probably not at all, but it's true and she hasn't acted like they're the enemy, just asked them questions about Jon like they would know, "I think maybe he likes you more than he liked them."

She's silent for a couple of moments. There's a small smile when she asks, "Did you know that he's so careful, sometimes it's hard for him to sleep because he worries that he'll accidentally take other people's dreams from them?"

"Jon," Spencer says, and rubs at his face.

Brendon asks, "Why-- Why was that what you told us?"

Spencer looks at her, the two of them just staring at each other for a moment. She motions with her hand, a sort of "go ahead." Spencer says, "It's her way of telling us she's in love with him."

Spencer has been in love with Bob for a long time now, and Ryan has just had to trust him on these things, but for the first time, it's not just Spencer's words that make him believe, but the fact that if he had to tell Spencer and Jon and Brendon one thing about Tom, it would be the way he plays at magic like music, and the way that tells Ryan what's important to him.

"Oh," Brendon says, and grins. "That's good, then."

Hermione laughs. "Is it?"

Ryan catches Spencer's eye. Spencer says, "Hope you like getting your picture taken."

*


Jon doesn't plan on saying anything, because Brendon looks like he's about to puke, and Ryan is so self-contained Jon's amazed anyone can still see him, and Spencer is probably about to set people on fire with his eyes, but it's possible he's bitten off more than he can chew. Jon has always known that he's short, hasn't really had any huge problems with that since he started playing in bands and people cared more about his ability with a bass than his stature, but Jon has never felt so small as he does at this moment, not even his first day at wizarding school when everything was new and big and scary.

Fuck's sake, Walker, pull it together. The voice in Jon's head is not Jon's and he shuts himself off immediately, so quickly that it takes him a second to realize that the voice belongs to Draco. He turns around to find him and gives him a sheepish smile. Draco rolls his eyes, but Jon has learned to tell the difference between true annoyance and tough love in Draco. This is definitely the latter.

Jon's smart enough to know that he should have been closed down tight to begin with, it's just not in his nature, not even after all these years of keeping secrets. It's harder to do when surrounded by the guys, even if they can't so much as feel the difference. Spencer says, "I should have asked earlier, but you have a representative, right?"

"Hermione."

"She can show bias?"

"She isn't part of the Wizengamot. Anyone can stand up for me, it's not-- We have lawyers but it's a different system. Trust me when I say she's better than any lawyer."

"I trust you." Spencer leaves it at that.

Hermione shows up early, if not as early as them. She warned him to be early and Jon maybe took the warning a little bit to heart. Even Ryan is starting to look bored in favor of ready to strike out at anything that disturbs his calm. She says, "'Morning."

"Still?" Jon complains. She smiles at him, utterly proper in her professional robes, curls drawn back tightly. He almost doesn't know her, except how he would recognize her anywhere. Jon thinks if she had an animagus form, he would somehow know that, too.

"Draco and Harry both spoke to you, yes?"

Jon nods. Each conversation had been terrifying in its own way. Draco's because of the way he was clearly worried and doing his best not to show it; Harry's because of his brutal honesty of what going before the Wizengamot could be like. She says, "Just keep your powers under control, let me speak, and if they ask you questions, be you. You're not a megalomaniac in the making."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence."

Hermione laughs just as the head of the Wizengamot brings down the gavel and calls for the session to begin. The Ministry is allowed to present its case first, and once it starts it really is all Jon can do not to laugh, at least at first. The case starts with a few reels of Panic shows, focusing mostly on the girls who are screaming his name or carrying signs for him. He can tell from the way Hermione's body language is relaxed that she has foreseen this course of events. He wonders if she has numbers about how many girls like Brendon more. That would be a little bit awesome.

The second part of their argument is a little less amusing. It deals with incidences when Jon couldn't control his magic, the times he did project nightmares or forced someone else to do what he wished, things that Jon has never known were anyone else's secrets but his. He can't bear to look at Hermione through this section, but he feels a pressure at his mind and when he opens just slightly enough to see what it is, it is pure, miserable anger radiating off each of the guys, particularly Tom, who has kept those secrets almost as long as Jon has. It takes Jon a second to realize that the anger is not at him and then it takes everything he has not to turn around and calm them, or, at the very least, send calming thoughts.

Once they allow Hermione to start, though, for the first time since this all came up, Jon knows there isn't going to be a problem. For one thing, she doesn't just have numbers about relative popularity, she has cultural surveys and picture statistics and really, he has no idea where she had time to collate all the information she has. Behind him, Jon can practically hear Brendon and Ryan's embarrassment, as well as Tom's amusement. At one point, Hermione glances apologetically at him, but Jon's hot girlfriend is totally wiping the floor while defending his right to freedom and Jon's never really cared about being the fan's favorite. If he did, he would have tried to become a lead singer. He has to control a smile at the thought.

Hermione morphs into an argument about the fact that he did complete several years of school and points out--with examples--that incidences of accidental magic happen to everyone, even fully trained Aurors. Finally, she says, "I suggest, before condemning him that you speak to him yourselves," and oh, Jon really, really doesn't suggest that, but they seem to think it's a good idea, so before he knows it he's on his feet, staring up at people who were probably taller than him before being given a huge podium.

A man who is all in black--which seems to suit his disposition, and not in a Gerard Way sort of way--requests that Jon be challenged so as to understand the depth of his control. Jon knows that he has no say, not in who puts forth the challenge, nor what it is. He isn't wholly surprised when Harry calls out, "I challenge him."

The Wizengamot looks unsure--Harry is Hermione's friend--but also seems aware that it would be impolitic to suggest that the Hero of the British Isles would let a psychotic go free, given the chance to stop him.

Jon has not fought Harry yet, but he knows the stories. He also knows that Harry fights with the strength of his love. Jon steals a glance over at Tom, at Ryan, Spencer and Brendon, at Hermione, and then turns to face Harry, who has made his way to the center. He says, "Challenge accepted."

*


Harry attacks without warning or mercy, but that's okay, because a challenge has been set and this isn't about being polite, it's about them seeing what Jon can and will do--or, alternatively, can't and won't do. Harry's abilities are far beyond anything Jon has ever felt and for a moment he's tempted just to ride along them, see where they take him. Then he remembers where he is, and what he has to do. Still, the very concept gives Jon an idea, because if he can feel nothing else in Harry's power--and he can feel quite a few things--the most striking is the way Harry has carefully placed his powers within boundaries. He doesn't want anyone in this room hurt. Jon sympathizes. So instead of fighting Harry, he hooks his own abilities inside the attack and uses Harry's control to delimit his. Then he hides, hides inside the power that Harry's exerting. Draco has taught him that most fighting is not about brash moves and daring attacks but rather about knowing one's strengths and options. Jon has always been the guy who fit in, who could blend in without people taking much notice unless he wanted them to. His magic is no different. His magic is, has always been, and always will be, part of him. He can feel Harry trying to root him out, trying to provoke him into action, but Jon is safe where he is and he doesn't need to be victorious, he just can't lose himself.

It feels like a long time before the magic surrounding Jon dissipates, but he senses it has only been a few minutes. Harry smiles at him, a small, approving smile. Jon knows he's beaming back in the way he can usually count on Brendon to respond to compliments that mean something. There are soft murmurings and for a second Jon can feel the disquieted and yet somehow reassured rush of the room's emotions. Then he shuts his wards down, and there is nothing but his own peace of mind, the way Hermione is holding back a grin that's meant for him, the way Spencer is muttering, "Take that, fashion victims."

"If I may," Hermione says, and Jon can well tell from her tone of voice that she knows she may, "I would like to call a vote on a verdict in this matter."

*


Hermione waylays him on the way to the celebration gathering that Ammy and George are hosting at their place, literally grabs him and apparates him to a place he's never seen. He says, "Um, Hermione--"

"My office," she tells him, and then, "divestio."

Jon would laugh, but her mouth is on his, and he'd rather be kissing her. It's really not fair, he'd very much like her to be naked as well, but he's a gentleman, and actually, having stood his own against Harry Potter or no, Hermione Granger is not someone he wants to piss off. Ever. Instead, he does things the old-fashioned way, because she had a legendary romance with Ron Weasley and having known Ron for some time, now, it would not surprise Jon if he never thought to do it this way, one button at a time, one nip at her skin after another.

She pleads, "Jon," but she doesn't ask for anything else, and she's the kind of woman who knows how to ask for what she wants, so Jon's pretty sure he's doing just fine. She pulls him back up to her mouth when he's finished, when she's nothing but thigh-highs, and Jon's not going to mind if she wants to keep those on. They tease him just the right amount.

She pushes him up against the door and mutters something against his skin and Jon feels his arms being tugged up, held gently but inexorably above his head. He doesn't have to look up to know that he can't see what's holding them there. She says, "Loosen your wards."

Jon looks at her, says, "Hermione," and she says, "I won't take advantage."

He shakes his head. "I just-- I don't want it to be too much."

The corner of her mouth quirks and he says, "Yeah, okay," and lets his hold go ever so slightly. She slides to her knees and says, "Close your eyes." He takes one last look at her, toes pointed in their stockings, hair soft, eyes clear. Then he closes his eyes, and allows the mingling of her pleasure in performance, his pleasure in her, take over. She is skilled in the way he would have expected if he'd thought about it, practiced and confident and Jon knows he will beg, but he wants to wait, wants to give her time to show off. When he can't resist anymore he sends a tendril of his own desperation her way.

She gasps and it's everything Jon can do to hold on. His arms fall to his side and he doesn't even have to think before he's gathering her to her feet, picking her up and settling her on the desk. She opens to him, the same way he has opened to her. There's more flesh involved but it's no less intimate. He has one hand in her hair, but the other he places between them, uses to find the spots that make her mind swim with the yellow of the sun. He comes bathed in that color, pulling her into it.

*


When they show at the party, Tom just rolls his eyes. Harry says, "Funny. Hermione used to be so prompt," and looks at them both knowingly.

Hermione smiles innocently and says, "There were some last minute papers that the Wizengamot was demanding if the decision was to be upheld."

Ron laughs. "I remember the way you do paperwork." Jon focuses a pins-and-needles hex very carefully on Ron's ears because a) he happens to know how unpleasant it is there, and b) that's totally his girlfriend Ron is bagging on. Ron smacks his ears and says, "Ow, bloody--" but he eyes Jon with appreciation and Jon thinks, oh, okay.

Harry laughs again and tells Jon, "That was impressive, how you chose to fight me. I wouldn't have thought of that."

Jon has read the histories, he's not so sure, but he smiles. "Thanks."

"This means we get to have you back, right? Right?" Brendon's asking the question as much of Hermione as he is of Jon.

Hermione says, "He's all yours," and the sentiment isn't without a hint of regret to it. Jon will have to talk to her about it later. He might blow at Apparition, but she doesn't.

"Good, because, I gotta tell you, I'm not sure our plan to get you out of their sights was gonna work."

"You're a doubting Thomas, Ryan Ross," Brendon says disapprovingly.

Spencer asks, "Does that get confusing in bed?" Tom shoves Spencer. It's pretty much a free-for-all from there, until Ammy pokes her head inside the room and says, "Children. I didn't order the best catering the wizarding world has to offer for you to eschew my hospitality."

"Yay, food!" Brendon says and disentangles himself from both Ryan and Spencer in order to get to the promised bounty. Ron's not far behind. The others file out as well. Tom sends a quick look back at Jon for a second and Jon catches the thought, we'll save you seats, before he snatches Ryan's hand and pulls them from the room.

Jon turns to her and says, "You know we travel all the time. You just have to tell me where you want to find me and I'll-- Or tell me where you want me to be in advance and we can see if we can work the tour schedule around it."

"I know all that," she says.

"Oh." Jon frowns.

She kisses him. "I just sort of want you all the time."

And yeah, Jon sort of agrees with her there. But he'll take her only some of the time, if that's how he can get her. He says, softly, "Thanks for not letting them keep me under surveillance, even if maybe that would have been better for you."

Hermione smiles a little, shakes her head. "That wouldn't be the you I'd want."

"Still," Jon says.

"And if I'd done that, I wouldn't get to be the girlfriend of a rock star."

"There is that." Jon laughs. Even if he can't tell people, his girlfriend helped save the world. He thinks he knows who's getting the better end of the deal.

She says, "We should celebrate."

"Yeah," Jon says, "we should." He doesn't move.


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Skin by egelantier, photo by microbophile