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augury_corner in augury_rpg

Seeking out a little affirmation

Who: Michael Corner and Ernie Macmillan.
What: Michael just wants to talk, but Ernie's got alot on his mind.'
When: After dinner; Tuesday, November 16th, 1997.
Where: Hogwarts Grounds, the forest-side of the Bridge.
Status: Complete.

Despite the wretchedness of the politics going on inside of the castle, Michael immediately saw a degree of perspective once he stepped outside of it. The snow falling was heavy, but not blindly. The clumps of frozen water looked to Michael like giants must have been having an enormous pillow fight and all the down and fluff was now falling from the sky.

It was amazingly, creepily serene outside. Michael could hear the pounding of his own heart and the sound of wind whistling through the trees. It was so soft, he could actually hear the snow impacting and compacting upon surfaces. It was no wonder that winter was his favorite season next to autumn, and no amount of death, torture or political intrigue could take that from him.

despite the beauty of the grey, wispy backdrop which obscured the forest and lake and beckoned him with their mystery, Michael's equally grey gaze did not fixate on the snow for long. He had come outside for a reason and that was to try and find Ernie. He had been nowhere in the castle, and finally Hannah pointed Michael outside by saying she saw Ernie getting his winter coat out.

That suited Michael just fine, who had run upstairs to get his heavy hooded navy blue coat and grey gloves. Now as the snow fell, he flipped his hood up and began to cross the bridge towards the glow of Hagrid's hut.

He didn't have to go far.


Ernie had been standing at the edge of the bridge, his gaze upon the stream below. It was mostly frozen, with the exception of a small crack that ran its entire length through which he could see the slightest glistening of water. It was nearly completely dark, and yet no moon had come out of hiding to light the area - there were far too many clouds for that. At least the roof of the bridge kept him from being snowed upon.

There had been such a mix of news today, from the terrible article in the Prophet that only made him hate his father more, to the wonderful news about Hannah being stricken from the list of those under suspicion. And then had come the encounter with Linus that had ended with Ernie running off to the Prefects' bath for a nice, long bit of personal time during which images of both Megan and Michael swam around in his mind's eye. And then, of course, came the fact that Owen was still captured and they hadn't heard yet what was going to happen to him.

All in all, he had much on his mind, so much that he only just registered the sound of somebody else walking upon the planks of wood that made up the bridge. Whoever it was, they could simply pass on in their own time - he had no intention of moving just yet.
He looked so serene standing there, staring down at the river. Michael gazed on, looking at Ernie's shape. He half-smirked, because Ernie had gotten a little more husky these days. But he seemed to be carrying it well. Michael wondered if he should disturb Ernie, having no idea that he was swimming around in the Hufflepuff's head.

Finally Michael decided to go ahead and venture over, before him standing there looked awkward. "Hi," he said with a gentle tone, his Bristolian accent curlling out even from that word. "How are you?" He asked gently, bending over to try and catch Ernie's eyeline. He even put out his hand and sort of waved it to try and get Ernie's attention. When he asked, his eyelids blinked in a strange, warm way- like he really cared when he asked.
"Hey," Ernie replied with a small smile, having turned his head at his friend's familiar voice.

How am I? I wish I knew. For the first time that he could remember, he actually paid attention to Michael's face as he spoke. He allowed himself to take in his friend's features, the tilt of his eyebrows and the gentle slope of the bridge of his nose, and finally the look in his eyes as he spoke to Ernie. Maybe, just maybe...

"Ups and downs," he admitted with a shrug. "I wonder if my Dad had something to do with that last bloody regulation they talked about in the Prophet this morning. But at least Han's been given a reprieve... thanks to friends in well-positioned places." He grinned upon thinking of what Linus had revealed to him about what he'd asked his mother to do.

"But aside from that, just thinking." Perhaps this would be a good time to test some waters. "For example, I was thinking about Meg and everything, and... thinking I might have finally come to a point where I was willing to try again, you know?"
Michael's eyes seemed to follow Ernie's gaze, like he might have been noticing Ernie's gaze. But in actuality, that wasn't it. "Oh..." Michael snerked, and then closing his eyes in a blink he nodded. A snowflake happened to wand on his eyelid, just missing his lashes, and disappeared as Michael opened his again. "Well thats better than just downs, I reckon." He managed to really smile then, like he was encouraging Ernie to too.

Michael turned his head and looked out, "I love the snow... its brilliant for thinking really. Even if you have nothing to think about at all. Just think about those billions of flakes. Each one unique. You'll never see one like it again." Michael shrugged, "So best enjoy it while you can, because there'll never be another time."

Michael's brow knitted then, "Oh. Ah well... I doubt it. To be honest. Your Dad's... he's a good man. He's just... pressured. I don't think anyone but You-Know-Who, and maybe Thicknesse is pulling the strings at this point." Michael's eyes dropped and then swept up to offer comfort in a shrug and smile. "Good news about Hannah though. I heard from Anthony. Couldn't chisel the grin off his face. Heh. Or hers, I imagine."

Again Michael's eyes shifted to the serenity before them. A frosty breath poured from his red lips and nose, filtering up in wisps. He turned his head and raised an eyebrow. "Wow, brilliant. Anyone I should... heh... pin down and give 'em the dissertation on why Ernie Macmillan is the gentleman's gentleman?" He grinned, his teeth baring in a half-smirk grin, "Only cost you about... ten quid. Twenty at the max. Well... what would I do with quid anyway." He shrugged, chuckled and looked down. "Anyway, if you're ready, then brilliant."
"We need all the ups we can get," Ernie countered.

He listened to Michael's thoughts on the snow and returned his gaze to the falling flakes. Enjoy it while you can? If only you knew how much your words were like Linus' right then, mate. "I remember when I was young, standing outside in the snow and trying to catch the flakes on my tongue. My Mum used to say they were made by magic, and so I thought the more flakes I caught, the more powerful a wizard I'd be."

He shrugged at the comments about his father. A part of him knew Michael was right, but he was still simply far too stubborn to see past his own lingering anger to admit it. "Han was relieved. I think she may go a day or so without downing a calming draughts, which is a good thing. I worry about her. I don't think it's good for her to drink them all the time."

Ernie's grin dimmed when Michael reacted to his final thought. There didn't seem to be interest on his own part, simply good wishes for Ernie whomever he was interested in. Maybe Linus was wrong after all. "Nobody in particular," he replied with a shrug. "Was just thinking that, if the opportunity ever did come up again, I think I'm finally at a place where I can move on. That's all." He paused. "Have you thought of it? Moving on, after Nott."
"Yeah." Michael nodded. "So come outside. Watch the snow. Maybe build a snowman. Or a snow fort." Michael suddenly grinned, "If we have time before the train, we should build a snowman before heading home. Haven't done that in years." He snerked, "Bristol doesn't get a ton of snow. Its more soup than snow."

Somehow, Ernie seemed to stimulate a memory in Michael, who slowly revealed his pink tongue from between his lips. He blinked, and flexed it as he caught a few snowflakes on it, which immediately melted on its warm, leathery shape. Finally he sucked it back in his mouth, "Thats brilliant. I just remember them tasting good. I swore they tasted like sugar. 'Course my Da said it was bollocks."

Sighing, Michael nodded, "They're not good for you in the longterm. They're addictive for one thing." Michael grimly set his mouth, "Can't say I know much about them past that. I haven't really ever taken one."

The tall and wiry Ravenclaw smiled, "I think thats a brilliant idea Ernie. Megan was good but... you've got to keep moving with your life. I know what a big step that is for you. I mean here a month ago, you swore you'd never love again. I'm glad to see you're ready."

Michael was about to drop his head when Ernie asked his last question. He pursed his lips in thought. "Wow... uhh well. I guess I have. I've just accepted that Theodore and I aren't happening. Ever. I... was self-exiled from the idea for awhile. But if someone was interested in me, I'd think about it. I don't want to be alone anymore than the next bloke." Michael grinned, "But how many blokes out there want a six-one, skinny arsed bloke like me? I mean I don't have a nose, I've got a beak." Michael smirked and tapped his nose, which was admittedly large-ish. "I'm running out of options statistically. There's more out there, but they're hardly past the age of consent."
"No need to worry, mate," Ernie said with a smile and a shake of his head. "Aberdeen's just an Apparition away from Bristol. We can make a snow wizard in my front yard, and we can even use one of mum's old flower pots as a hat. Or even if you just felt like experiencing real winter again, you know where I'm at."

Ernie smiled fondly as Michael caught snowflakes on his tongue. However, the sight of the pink muscle reminded Ernie of the way Linus' had ran along his throat only hours earlier, and his face flushed in heat. Thank Merlin his cheeks were already red from the chill that his blush would barely be noticeable underneath.

Ernie nodded, accepting the fact that Michael was at least open to possibilities, however he started when his friend started speaking ill of himself. "Oh, give me a break, Michael. First of all, you know you have appeal. Ginny and Cho didn't date you for nothing - and yes, I know those weren't exactly exemplary relationships, but still, they wouldn't have even dated you if you weren't attractive to them in some way - and remember how Anthony was worried Hannah would choose you instead? Besides, six-one isn't that tall, and so what if you're skinny? It suits your frame." And anyway, you could always be fat like I'm getting. "And your nose has character. I'm sure plenty of blokes would shag someone with a nose like that. I would."

And thus Ernie had to force himself not to jump over the side of the bridge.
"Aye, and particyoo-larly apprroprrriate far the circumstances, consid'rin wed be beh buildin' a snow wih-zard. Back 'an Bristol, meh' look a bih' odd. Pay-ple migh' think yeh a bit off in yar hed." Michael butchered a Scottish brogue, all for Ernie's amusement. He really wasn't all that bad about it- except his brogue sounded Glaswegian and not of Aberdeen. He blushed, which hardly showed in the cold and scratched above his eyebrow before pushing his bangs behind his ear. "I'm always game to come up, you know that."

Unaware of the visual effect his tongue had on Ernie, Michael actually quite deftly moved his tongue to catch flakes before slipping it back into his mouth.

Michael's eyes got wider and wider as Ernie railed on about him. He tried to get a word in edge wise, but they kept getting cut short into funny little mm's and umm's. He grinned and clucked his tongue against the roof of his mouth. "Uhh... ha wow. Well... thanks mate." Michael's brow furrowed slightly and he scratched his nose. His eyebrows flared and he tilted his head. "That must've been so embarrassing for you to say!" He grinned and looked at Ernie. "I know you're trying to make me feel better about myself. But really, I'm fine. I think between the two of us, you're the one that's the catch." Michael shrugged and smiled over his shoulder. "Fancy a walk?"
Ernie rolled his eyes at the butchering of the brogue, and only just kept himself from doing the childish thing of scooping up some snow and throwing it at Michael.

He didn't know whether to be relieved or a little disappointed when Michael reacted to his comment. It had been embarassing for him, for certain, but not for the reasons his friend likely thought it to be. It truly dawned on him that Michael had often been the first to brush off Ernie's insecurities brought on by that kiss with Colin, had often told him that a single kiss didn't make for someone being 'that way'. Michael probably couldn't even fathom him genuinely having more 'diverse' interests other than for the sake of curiosity - would he even take Ernie seriously if he did as Linus suggested and laid his heart bare?

Perhaps he would have to work on that before he could ever consider anything more.

"This isn't about who is and isn't a catch, mate," Ernie argued, then gave up with a sigh. "All right, I could do with a walk. Did you have any place in particular in mind?" In preparation, he reached behind his head to pick up the hood of his cloak and raised it over his head, leaving his face open and available.
Michael, seeing Ernie roll his eyes but not smile, sort of shrugged inwardly. Ernie seemed scattered today, and Michael wondered if Ernie was perhaps still a little miffed at him. He was having a harder time getting Ernie to even make consistent eye contact, let alone smile. Something was certainly off.

In truth, Michael wasn't entirely convinced of Ernie's truest leanings. He so gently tiptoed around the issue of Colin that he'd never gotten a proper reading. Only recently, after Megan, had Michael felt even able to try and open Ernie up about his experiences. Before Megan, they were friends and rivals and many things, but the else of conversation, when it just flowed like a natural river of ideas and exchanges, that was comparatively new.

Michael had every intention of listening about Colin, but always on Ernie's terms and never his own. He didn't want Ernie to feel like Michael was pressing him into something. He also said, 'If an opportunity does come up like it, don't be afraid. Because its 99% the same.'

"Alright," Michael chuckled, holding back the fact that he wasn't sure where Ernie was going- only that Ernie seemed intent to argue. Michael was worried more now that indeed, Ernie was still a little sore. Yet he was clearly making an effort. "Look, I'd really like to apologize again for what I did yesterday." Michael said discordantly. "I should've been more... sensitive... to your feelings about Vaisey." He began, eyes glancing at Ernie earnestly. "Ah-anyway, umm... no I don't mean to deprecate myself or whatever. I'll be more careful with what I say. I'll still maintain though that uhh..." Michael breathed in and looked down, "That whoever you're interested in, if you are, is lucky indeed."

Michael shrugged, feeling the prickles of a blush on his cheeks that couldn't be seen. "Uhh... down to Hagrid's. Maybe?" Harry and the lot did ask we poke our heads in to see him now and again."
Ernie stuffed his hands in his pockets and shrugged, a smile upon his face. "I know you didn't mean anything by it. I'm sorry that I was oversensitive, but you know how protective I am of all of my friends. I wish you knew him like I do, you've got quite a bit in common - other than your magnificent taste in mates, that is," he added with a playful tug on his tie. "At the very least," he began again, his voice more serious, "you both want me to be happy."

He paused. "Oh, well, um, that's good then. And for the record, the same goes for you and anyone you might be interested in."

He nodded. "Yeah, I suppose Hagrid could use the company." He started leading the way down the path, but he simply couldn't get off the previous topic.

"So, for argument's sake, let's say you were interested in someone new. Would they be of a certain type, like Nott? Or... what is your type, or do you have one?"
"I-I just don't trust him, Ernie. He's got The Gift alright?" Michael forced himself to smile rather than grimace or sneer. "He knows words have power and he knows exactly how to use them." Michael rubbed the bridge of his nose, "Sorry I don't want to fight about it. I know how you feel about him, and fine." Michael breathed and paused, and then sighed, "I guess I'm a little worried that... oh Merlin. That you're going to be the next Theodore." Michael blinked, "That you're going to get wrapped up with someone bad who could lead you down a wrong way. Not that you're like Theodore. Its an irrational worry by me, I know."

Michael shrugged, "Well I definitely want you to be happy, thats for sure."

Michael's hands found his pockets and he glanced at Ernie from within his hood. "Thanks. If I find some bloke, you know I'll let you know. But to be really honest, I've given up on looking. When it comes down to it, Hogwarts is a small place. The chances just aren't good. I mean I know Creevey's gay, but I never much fancied him."

Michael fell into line just slightly behind Ernie and to the side. "Oh, I don't really have a set type. I like blue eyes, I guess. Blues and greens." He smiled a bit hammishly and shrugged, "Past that... I like smart... ethical. Someone who makes me laugh. Challenging... romantic. Gets me out of my books on occasion." Michael shook his head and scoffed, "What about you? While we're talking about it."
Ernie stopped and reached out to stop Michael as well. "Listen, you're right, I'm nothing like Nott. You said yourself there was darkness in him from the very beginning. But me, can you honestly say I have a dark side? If anything, I'm bringing him over to my side. I know his secrets because he can't trust those in his own house; when we spend time together, we can be ourselves..." He inhaled deeply before making his next reveal. "You can't tell anyone, but... he told me today that he spoke with his Mum, who's on the Background Check Initiative. He's the one who convinced her to strike Han from the list, because she's important to me. I never asked him, he simply did it because he's my friend."

A friend I happened to get a little too touchy-feely with a few hours earlier. Merlin, does it count as a snog if you never actually kiss?

They continued on, and Ernie managed to catch Michael's eye from within their hoods. "Not everyone knows who or what they are at seventeen, mate," Ernie began, trying to seem casual in his speech but likely failing. "And not everyone fits into categories. Let's say some bloke comes up to you tomorrow, and up till then he's only ever snogged girls. Would you turn him away, or give him a chance?" He chuckled. "If it makes your choice any easier, he's got a nice arse."

Ernie nodded as Michael spoke. Blue eyes? i've got blue eyes, mate. He mentally checked each 'item' off of an imaginary list, as if making certain he matched up, and much to his pleasant surprise, so far he seemed to be fitting the bill.

"Me? I, um, suppose there's a type. Tall, slim, dark hair," he listed off, realizing that the features fit both Michael and Megan. "Someone who can be a friend too, you know? But who can also inspire my dreams at night. Someone who makes me feel like I matter."

Perhaps it was a moment to gather some Gryffindor courage and take a little risk. "That's why things probably would have never gone further with Colin. He wasn't my type. My height, blond and all, almost like snogging myself, really... would have never worked. But..." And here I go. "...if I were to know a bloke who fits the equation, and who liked me in return, I'd go for it. I'm an equal-opportunity kind of bloke, you know. And after all, isn't Hufflepuff known for its fairness?"

At that last, he turned his eyes to Michael with a playful lifting of his eyebrows, but deep inside, he was nervous about what type of reaction his friend would have to his words.
Ernie made a fair point, which Michael had clinged to whenever that particular worry came up. Ernie had little in common with Nott. "I suppose not, apart from that rather vicious temper of yours when you're crossed." Michael grinned in a warm, disarming fashion just to show he was joking, while a lock of black hair felt from its place behind his ear and caught on his nose. Michael sputtered at it in futile fashion. Finally, he had to dislodge it with a brush of his fingers, and only enough to get it from tickling his nose.

He wanted to believe Ernie, and he did in some ways. He believed Ernie was recounting what he was told, one hundred percent honestly. The doubt laid in Linus and his power to affect that outcome. "Ern... he and his are benefiting from a system that is destroying lives, though. One act of compassion doesn't absolve them from being collaborators. Believe me, I am utterly thrilled beyond words that his Mum saved Hannah. She means the world to us- you and Ant especially. But until I see the droves of Muggleborns she has personally ferried away, I'm not going to label her as the next Schindler. There's a difference between philanthropy and ingratiation."

Michael shrugged and smiled, "I'm glad Hannah's safe... but what about Justin? Or Colin and Dennis? Dean? Hermione?" he waved his hands in a dismissive way, "Still its... its one person safe. Thats our credo isn't it? One person can change the world? Hopefully?"

As the boys began to move down the hill, Michael took his steps with greater caution, finding each earthen stair as they passed the megalith and headed down the mountain. "Nice arse... sort of straight but curious." Michael bit his lip. "Sure. If he fancies me, fits the bill. Smart and funny. I'd take a chance, probably. I'd be a bit worried that he'd go back to girls after our first shag or snog but... well... there's always that risk I reckon. They could go back to liking someone else... does it really matter."

Michael outright "Ha'ed" next, "Nice arse, well okay. Assuming he'd let me near it. Always figured a bi-curious bloke'd be a top before he was a bottom. Assuming he'd like the arse stuff at all." Michael chuckled, "Not that thats a problem. With Theodore, I bottomed more than topped."

Michael listened intently, subconsciously noting he fit some of Ernie's likes, but his mind went to girls like the Patils or even Parkinson. Or naturally, Megan.

The Ravenclaw listened in stunned silence when Ernie fully fessed up. "Well... thats pretty... incredible there Ernie. I never thought you really had that figured out. I wasn't going to press you. Seemed more of a sore spot for a bit. i wasn't sure what to make of it. I'm thrilled that you're that open-minded. I mean... Creevey's cute, sort of like... the family pet cute. Like a little blonde lab or something." Michael tried to chuckle, but he was distracted by the terrain, and his own thoughts. "So, dark hair, slim bloke who can be a friend... fess up. You ever fancied Harry, then? Even for a moment?" Michael grinned impishly, eying Ernie with his deep greys.

Michael's shoulder gently brushed Ernie's as they walked, accidentally as Michael made his way down the hill and onto the flat ground. "So, why all the questions anyway? Is there someone you like?" Michael held his tongue, not voicing the last part of his question, but it burned in him.
"All right, let's just... agree to disagree on the subject of one Mister Vaisey then," Ernie finally said in surrender. He hated having two friends who didn't like each other, but there was obviously nothing he could do about it. It was best to simply keep off the subject as long as they could.

He listened carefully to Michael's words, making note of certain things he wanted to ask about soon. He blushed as Michael commented on his little revelation, at least until it was suggested he fancied Harry of all people.

"Harry?! You can't honestly think that I'd have a thing for Harry of all people." He shook his head. "Merlin, he's my mate and all, and I'm loyal to him, but fancy him? Not in a million years."

He shrugged. "As I said, I don't fancy anyone right now. These are just questions I'd avoided for so long, but have finally begun asking, is all. Meg was the first person I ever really fancied, and now I find myself accidentally ignorant of so many things. I've got other questions, but... I don't know if you're in the mood for more as it is. Perhaps there's such a thing as too much curiosity. As always, feel free to tell me to shut up whenever you like."
Michael extended his slender, cool, pale hand to Ernie, "We have an accord." he said about agreeing to disagree. "I trust you, if that helps any. I trust your... decision. Respect it." Michael smiled in a tight lipped, acquiescing way.

"Oh..." Michael furrowed his brow. Oh okay.. so he doesn't fancy his mates then, Michael surmised. "Well... dark, slim, good mate. I don't fancy him either. Wouldn't in a million years either." Michael scratched his cheek and then reached further in to rub his neck. "Too famous. Too apt to get himself in serious trouble too."

Michael nodded and put aside his thoughts, breathing out a frosty, crisp breath. "No... I understand." He waved, his hair returning to his nose. Michael just ignored it. "I suppose I'd be asking these questions too. And I guess I kind of did. I just didn't really have anyone to ask them to. I had to figure them out on my own." Michael smirked to the side, "Your ways more efficient I imagine."

Michael stopped, gazing at Hagrid's Hut. The lights had noticeably dimmed since they began their trek down, but nonetheless Michael had to inhale deeply the scent of pine, spruce and crisp winter. "Ahhh Merlin, I love that smell." He whispered, his breath wisping again.
Ernie took Michael's hand, his own thick fingers sliding along his friend's palm. "It means a lot to me, mate," he admitted softly. "That you trust me."

Ernie snorted as Michael continued on with the reasons why Harry Potter would not make a good boyfriend. "Definitely trouble-prone. He's just a wee bit taller than me too. And his hair, it's always a mess no matter what he does. Not to mention that among his good points, extreme intelligence isn't one of them. If it weren't for the DA and that whole deal with the Hair of Slytherin, I doubt he and I'd have ever had a chance to talk. Don't get me wrong, I like him and respect him and would follow him to Hades and back, but... he's more like my commander than one of my best mates."

He felt so sorry that Michael hadn't had anyone to turn to when he had questions to ask. "I wish I'd been there for you, mate," he said sympathetically. "I probably wouldn't have helped much, but... I'd have been there, at least."

Ernie stopped alongside his friend when he stopped and breathed in deeply. He closed his eyes and did the same, curious about what it was that had so enthralled Michael. He could smell the evergreens on the crisp, winter air, and a small part of his mind quietly categorised the discovery for future use. He reopened his eyes and watched Michael.

"It's nice," he whispered back, not quite willing to break the moment by raising his voice. "I'm betting you don't get that much back home. Did you want to make a detour? Maybe go walk closer to the trees and take the long way around?"
Michael felt the slightest electric tingle when he took Ernie's hand, and it nestled itself in the low of his back.

"Trust me, mate. Being tall is not that great. You get names like Stretch. And everybody wants you to reach for things on high shelves for them. And lets talk about some of the older parts of the castle. Going up some of these circular stairs. Its a fuss, let me let you. You have to crouch and wind, like a snake. Fairly evident that six-one is about seven or eight inches taller than your average Englishman during the 11th century, I'll tell you that much." Michael smiled lopsidedly in amusement.

Michael chuckled as Ernie went on about Harry's faults. "Well, I'll give Harry a point in the sexy category with the hair. I quite like a bloke who isn't all fuss, maybe a bit of muss. Theodore actually annoyed me with how prim and such he could be with his habits. I wanted to reach over and muss up his hair sometimes." Michael slid his hands behind his back as they ambled along, "Neat freaks strike me as a tad unnatural. Where's the creative chaos and all?"

Michael smiled genuinely, intent on stifling an 'awww' at Ernie's wish. "Well, you helped me in other ways. To be honest, I wouldn't have been quite as intent on pushing past E's and getting O's if it wasn't for you. I was always quite happy with the idea of studying dragons and the like. Doing alot of writing and drawing, really. Playing the piano. I was quite unfocused. Still am more than you know." Michael's smile widened, "So you brought some focus."

Michael tasted on the air the smell of burning wood, which was probably the best of all. "Oh no, Bristol's well... Bristol's a big city. You have to drive awhile to even vaguely get into the country. Lots of industry there. Mucks up the place. But its getting a revitalization somewhat." Michael paused at Ernie's offer and nodded in barely disguised glee, "That'd be brilliant.

"Maybe up round near the Pitch." Michael commented, "S'on the way anyway." He shrugged, "You ever thought about joining up on the team, Ern? For Hufflepuff? Might make a brilliant Keeper. What with how tenacious you get." Michael grinned, "Lots of girls- and blokes- like a guy in uniform."
"So I'd have been average almost a thousand years ago then?" Ernie chuckled. "Brilliant."

He pouted, however, when Michael expressed annoyance at Nott's primness. Ernie himself had always taken pride in his personal appearance, if not the appearance of his bedroom, and he unthinkingly bristled at the criticism. "There's nothing wrong with taking care of one's appearance," he said softly, slightly defensively.

Ernie glowed a little as Michael expressed how he had helped in his own way. He didn't know what to say, and so he remained silent, though he did affectionately bump his shoulder against Michael's.

He nodded and followed along the newly altered route toward the Quidditch Pitch. "What, me, quidditch? I wasn't exactly born to play, you know what I mean? And..." He paused, leaning his head closer to his friend. "Truth is, mate, I don't even like to fly all that much. Am pants at it. Last time I got on a broom, I ended up upside-down and didn't know how to right myself back up." He shook his head. "No, I'd rather dazzle someone with my wits than my ability to stick a broom between my legs."
Michael chortled and snerked, "You would have, yea. I would've been some kind of gangly giant. Course we would've both been taken oddly." Michael grinned, "What with having our teeth and all, not bad even for us Brits. And these lovely clothes, all tailored to the specifics. And in expensive colors no less." Michael's smile widened, "No offense, but I would've been a tad more expensive. Indigo was a pain in the arse to produce." Michael again snerked, "Probably would've labeled us as poofters too. We like to bathe everyday or whatnot. That was unheard of back then. Kind of puts perspective in their thinking that when you became a Knight, you took a bath. It was an act of bravery on your part."

That led seamlessly into Ernie's next point, and Michael puffed out his cheeks in thought before he blew a wintery breath, "I'm not saying its that bad... just... there's an appeal to a roguish style. A sort of Bohemian quality to a bloke. Thats just me. Hell, I still liked Theodore and he was posh. Its not like it was that big a deal." Michael's eyes twinkled, "But he was fun to screw with at the same time."

Michael finally flicked that hair off his nose and took a moment to bring it behind his ear, "Posh isn't me. My Mum and Da... we're not rich. Middle class, mostly. I tried the hair back around Halloween. Too... well... just felt alien."

At Ernie's affectionate tap, Michael reached up and slung an arm around the shorter boy. He gave him a squeeze and then in time let his arm drop, back to swinging with his gait.

"Michael smiled impishly and shrugged, "I figured I'd ask. I never made the team. Roger and Marcus were the seniors. Terry was brilliant. Thats the Chasers for you. All I was ever good at. I can't Beat." Michael rolled his eyes and shrugged, "Well, can't Quidditch-beat that is. I'm rubbish at Keeping. And there's no way I'd have taken Cho's job up as Seeker."

Michael stopped at a particular tree and stepped towards it, his hands in his pockets. He reached out for it only once he was within its grasp, his grey gloved hand running over its ancient bark. It was an oak, with all its leaves scattered and buried under the snow.
Ernie nodded, mollified about the whole posh bit, yet still wondering. Linus had suggested he impress Michael by dressing himself up. Perhaps he should be dressing down in this case. At first he balked at the idea of messing up his hair, but perhaps after some initial resistance, he could figure out something. And if he grew that beard, that would look roguish, wouldn't it? Of course, so far only two more hairs had popped out to join the initial three, but it was still a start.

"Posh isn't about how much money you have," Ernie explained in a sympathetic voice. "Take my family. We're definitely no Malfoys, or Boles, or" he shuddered "Bulstrodes, but we can hold our own. Probably helps that I don't have any brothers or sisters to have to share with. But my point is, you don't need a lot of money, all you need is good taste, and to know how to wear it." He took a moment, his eyes running up and down Michael's body and imgining dressing him into a nice, proper set of wizard robes that would be cut so much better than the school robes. His face flushed as he realized how unabashedly he was gazing. "Give me five minutes, and I could have you in a set of robes that would have nobody doubting you're 100% wizard through and through. Not that you're not fine the way you are, of course," he added with a fond smile.

When Michael's arm found its way around his shoulders, he found his enjoyment of their closeness to be distracted by his mind's new need to analyze every action of his friend's. However, the only conclusive conclusion he could come to was that it was far too short in duration.

Ernie chuckled as Michael specified he meant quidditch-beating, as his initial statement could have far too many meanings. He simply nodded his head as his friend enumerated the positions and why he couldn't play them. It was a shame, really, that Michael had never really had his moment in the sun.

He naturally followed Michael beneath the tree, whose limbs were bare and exposed to the winter snow. They did nothing to shelter them, instead the snowflakes drifted down slowly through the branches. He held his hand out palm-up, catching some of them and blinking as he tried to gather their shapes before they finally melted. "Have you ever thought of what you'd be doing if this were all over? If there was no war, we were done school, and free to live our lives as we choose?"
"Money helps though," Michael chuckled back to Ernie just before he shrugged. "But no I get your point. What I meant was, I wasn't really raised posh. I wasn't exposed to the style and sense. I mean most of my life, I lived in one of the 'suburbs," Michael, said accentuating the words with aired quotation marks, "Or in the more artistic neighborhood. Sort of surrounded by the starving artists of Bristols." Michael crossed his arms over his chest and smiled, turning at the waist to watch Ernie's face, "What with Mum and Da's jobs, I mostly heard about the drudge and dreg of society. Mom's a civil lawyer, thought about going criminal for awhile. But she does alot of pro-bono. Dad's a policeman, works mostly in the vice department." Michael chuckled and rolled his eyes, "We were probably the most hated family on our street. A bunch of artists and such, you know the type. And my Da's busting them for possession every other week or so."

Michael smiled, listening to Ernie talk about his family, and ultimately reaffirming that money didn't make the man. "Well you pull off posh quite well. And wizard." Michael grinned, several thin slices of hair falling over an eye from an errant breeze. "So what do you like on your potentials then? While we're on it? Are you fond of a person all Muggled up, or do you like them a paragon of Wizardry?"

"I like this tree..." Michael commented at first, looking up at it as he discerned where its growth had taken it. "Can you imagine all of the stuff these trees have seen, mate? Political upheaval, restoration, social change.... heartbreak, love. Who knows. In another time, someone not unlike Ernie Macmillan could have been leaning up against this tree doing exactly this. Hell, maybe he was snogging someone senseless too." Michael giggled, finally fixing his hair as his eyes flared mischievously. "Make our sad little blip of an existence seem sort of small and pointless."

Michael tapped his lip and slowly came to smile, "All the time, you?" He paused and pursed his lips, "And I have no idea. I love dragons. And working with them. But this whole war makes me think I should do something more in-line of my parents. Maybe an Auror or something." He blinked, and stepped over to Ernie. Looking down at him, he reached out and fixed a button of Ernie's robe, "Don't be daft and get sick... anyway. What would you do?"
Ernie bit his bottom lip as he tried to navigate through the words Michael was using. Why were the artists starving, he wondered. What was civil, and criminal, and pro-bono? And why would a police-man be involved with possession instead of an exhorcist? "That's really sad," Ernie said with a long face. "I would think everyone would feel safe knowing there was a police-man living nearby. One of our neighbours is an Auror, lives in a flat above Mrs. Campbell next door, and we all appreciate having him in the neighbourhood. He's not the nicest of blokes, kind of tough and all, but Mum says she thinks he's mellowed a bit since taking on a partner a couple of years ago. He only goes after Dark Wizards, though, not the possessed, so nobody has anything to worry about unless they're Dark."

Ernie grinned to himself when Michael went out of his way to say person - perhaps he was finally getting it. "I suppose there are good and bad things in all styles. The cuts of some wizard robes will make anyone look really good, and those who already look good even better. But then, some Muggle fashion can be a little risque... which isn't always bad," he added with a blush. "I like people to dress as they're comfortable, but who can also tell when to dress for a specific occasion." The grin fell from his face as he thought on the current 'occasion' of ill-will toward Muggles in the wizard world. "Though at the moment, it's more out of self-preservation that I'd want people to dress in proper wizarding garb. There are such Dark attitudes out there that the way a person dresses is just as indicative of their background as their family lineage, but more than that, shows their ability to integrate into our world. If dressing a little differently can save someone from being crucio'ed..."

Ernie listened to Michael's little speech and smiled. "Well, you're half right. My great-great grandfather on my father's side's name was Ernest, so once upon a time, there actually was another Ernie Macmillan walking these grounds. He was a Ravenclaw like you, and for all I know, he could have been snogging my great-great grandmother beneath this tree all those years ago. And just think, mate, maybe your grandfather once stood here, trying to decide what to do with his life and which world he should live in." He shook his head. "So you see, maybe small, but not pointless. Everything comes full circle. Everything we do, however small, has an effect on somebody either today or someday in the future. How could they have known all those years ago how their actions would affect our lives?"

Ernie smiled as Michael did up his button, thinking the action was sweet and thoughtful, and definitely a point in the favour of Linus' arguments. "I'll be fine, it's been colder than this before. Remember, I'm a native of these parts." He then returned to the subject at hand. "I don't know if I can picture you as an Auror. Perhaps by the time this is all said and done, you'll be tired of dealing with Dark Wizards. As for me, I haven't a bloody clue," he finished with a sigh. "I even bought a book back in Hogsmeade to help me figure out what to do, but it didn't help. Sometimes I think I lean toward becoming a healer, but I just don't know. I'd like to help people, but the thought of being able to do nothing and just sit there, holding someone's hand as they're suffering - I don't know if I have the strength for that."
Michael gaffawed and rubbed one side of his face with his fingers, "Merlin, I just completely lost you didn't I?" He blinked, scoffed and closed an eye with a squint. "Okay. Ummm... I don't know how much I lost you there. So... policemen don't deal with possession... he's in Vice, which is the arm of the police that tries to stop drugs- things like heroin and marijuana mostly- from entering and being distributed in the United Kingdom. So the possession of illegal substances. Like... dragon's blood, for example." Michael stumbled over his words for a moment, a goofy grin trying on his face, "Possession by ghosts, in the Muggle world, is mostly seen as a joke. Not real. I mean its more a job for a Priest... or some sort of Wicky-woo, crystal-waving type." Chuckling, Michael shoved his hands into his back pockets, tightening his trousers all around.

"Its hard to explain... don't worry about it. Point is- not posh, more La Vie Boheme where I live." Michael grimaced toothily, feeling sort of out of place.

Ernie's dissertation on attire glaciated over Michael, and he listened yet he became keenly aware of his own clothes just then. He was wearing relaxed blue denims to block the cold, and sneakers. He was wearing a T-Shirt, under a hoodie, under his very Muggle-cut coat. Nothing about him screamed wizard, especially when compared to Ernie's winter robes and cloak. In fact.... Michael squinted in thought and unzipped his coat just a little to peer inside his hoodie. His t-shirt had a red emblem like a camera shutter over a silhouetted man in a suit carrying a gun- a classic Bond logo.

Michael blushed, though the cold still hid the bulk, and he looked himself over, "I could be in sixth form right now and you'd never know it." Michael admitted, biting his lip. "I scream Muggle, I suppose."

Michael tilted his head and considered this. He knew so little about his grandfather's life as wizard. He'd chosen a life in the Muggle world, clearly, after something forced he and his wife to move there. Michael couldn't say he much cared for the stories of his Grandfather's grandparents though. "He probably did at some point. Assuming he was even vaguely outdoorsy. I.... I don't know anything about him. I don't even know what House he was in."

Michael shook it off, realigning himself with Ernie's words, as he had sort of drifted. "Well you're right definitely mate. Still, in the span of time, we are just a blip. Though I wish I could say I wasn't living through one of the worst events of our time. Or worse, all-time." Michael shrugged and grimaced.

Michael smiled at Ernie as he fixed his button, a frosty breath lazily proceeded out of his mouth. "Well, native or not, you're not getting sick." He backhand pat Ernie's chest as he stepped away and resumed walking. "So do you have a kilt?" Michael suddenly interjected, his eyebrow raising in curiosity. He turned at the waist to stare at Ernie behind him as he walked slowly.

Michael stopped and waited for Ernie to catch up before he commented about Ernie's uncertainty in his life's path. "My sister Penelope is a nurse. Feel free to ask Anthony about her anytime. You don't want to go babbling that you're interested in the dating pool again to her. You'll have eight people knocking on your door by morning, all of them an ill-fit I assure you." Michael's teeth beamed in a smile, "Nursing's hard work... or well.. Mediwitching. You're there to keep their bodies working just a little longer. You're doing damage control and eventually you'll lose the battle." Michael turned his lips grimly, "But I'm not sure there's more nobler a profession."
Ernie nodded, finally understanding what Michael had meant about his father. "So your neighbours had these 'drugs', which are to Muggles like Dark Artifacts are to us, and he'd get them for it, and that's why he wasn't very popular. I've got it now. And possession is more common than you'd think, though most of the time it's not a case of evil spirits but of an Imperius curse gone wrong."

He nodded. "You do scream Muggle, but that's how you were raised. It's who you are... but unfortunately at the moment, who you are is against the way the Ministry wants them to be. It's kind of like painting a bull's eye on your back. You said yourself we needed to stay low-key and all, perhaps a little change or two might be wise in the name of self-preservation."

Ernie listened to Michael's words about his grandfather, and thought it such a shame that his friend knew so little about his own background. "Some day you'll find out," he assured. "We'll do some research, you and I, and get some answers. If I have to, I'll even ask my dad to get us permission to look at some of the Ministry's archive records... that is, once all of this is over."

He reached out to place his hand on Michael's upper arm, lending him strength and support. "It may be the worst, but it won't last forever. We'll make it through, and when we do, we'll get to tell the tale of how we did it. With some help from our friends, of course."

He followed along, nodding at Michael's question. "Of course. My Dad's one for tradition, after all. Had me start to learn gaelic when I was eight. I've a complete kilt, shirt and robes set in clan colours for special occasions, though I've also a more subtle set of dress black robes to wear over my kilt like I did at the Yule Ball a few years back." He paused. "And before you even think to ask, the answer is yes, the tradition in my family is to go regimental." By now, Ernie knew not to wait for the inevitable question to be asked about what was worn beneath the kilt.

"It is noble," Ernie agreed. "I just don't know if it's something I can do. I haven't the foggies what I'm best suited for. At least I won't need to make any decisions for some time yet."
Michael nodded, seeing that Ernie basically had the jist of the situation. "You're on the right track," Michael said encouragingly. "Except most of the people I'm around there don't mean harm by it. Its part of the culture. Numb out, expand your consciousness... sometimes kill the pain." He shrugged, "Our society does sort of put high expectations on its members. Don't show too much emotion. Keep a stiff upper lip. We're British after all." Michael smirked irreverently, "Guess they use it so they don't feel so dead inside."

"Yeah," Michael said, peering at himself self-consciously, sliding his hand up his arm, "Best Wizard it up a bit. Here I was thinking I was putting out a neutral vibe. Should probably go down to Hogsmeade this weekend and pick up some clothes. Or just wait until the Hols and visit Diagon."

Michael nodded to Ernie's offer, "Alright. Its a date," he drawled in his Bristolian.

"I know we'll make it through," Michael said without fully feeling the confidence. Who could in the world they were living in at this point. But it sounded comforting. "Harry's going to save us. We just have to hold up our end. And we are."

Poor Owen... if he had cold feet about leaving, I imagine he's got cold feet about staying now.

Michael had been curious about how Ernie wore his kilt, and 'oh-hohed!' when Ernie beat him to the punch. "I see! All the better to flash your bum at your enemy, I'm sure. Goad them in. Worked against us English a few times." Michael's arm found itself around Ernie's neck and with the crook of his elbow he gave him a squeeze, "Braggarts, the lot of you."

Michael began to stroll uphill, tucking his hands into his pockets. "Alright... what are you then? Boob... or... chest man? Legs man? Bum man? Whats your fancy?"
Ernie nodded. He could well understand the wish to escape, however, it wasn't something he himself would wish to do - though he did admit to himself some curiosity as to what it would be like. Perhaps like smoking gillyweed, not that he'd ever actually tried doing that either.

"Hols start next week, don't they? Christmas is a week from Thursday, so plenty of time for shopping... which reminds me, I need to plan out what to get everyone for Christmas." He sighed. "This will be a rather simple hol, I imagine. We'll all just be happy to have each other around and safe and sound, forget the presents. I know I'd be happy just to have Mum home."

"We're trying, anyway," Ernie countered. "Would be easier if things weren't so tense, and if things didn't keep going wrong, like with Owen. I wish I knew what was going to happen with him. You haven't heard any news, have you? Do we even know where they're holding him?"

He rolled his eyes at his friend's teasing, though he secretly reveled in it. "Well, we Scots do have quite a bit to brag about, so we can't quite blame you lot for being distracted," he teased back. "If the occasional flash can temporarily disarm the enemy, then who are we to refrain from such successful tactics? If only that would work against the Death Eaters - wear my kilt to battle and flash them into submission. Not an ounce of bloodshed to be had. Now that's a way to win a war."

"Me?" he asked, a little surprised at the question. "Um, well, I guess I've developed an appreciation for legs, but it's hands that I really like. Their shape and length, how they move, how the fingers wrap around an object like-" He then caughed and turned a bright shade of red that had little to do with embarassment. "Yes, well, I suppose we've all got our little quirks. What about you?"
"Aye, yea," Michael said with a quirky, boyish smile. "Next week we have Hols. Christmas that Thursday." Grey eyes lingered on Ernie as he spoke about his family and Michael tried to picture the Macmillans all together in front of no doubt a massive Christmas tree. "Lets hope so. I think we could all do with a bit of simple this time 'round. I'd sod presents for the rest of my life if it meant the war was over in our favor." At Ernie's words about his mother coming home, Michael's kindly eyes got a bit liquid and squinted. He smiled warmly and clapped Ernie's neck, "I know that means a lot to you."


"Oh Owen..." Michael stalled, taking a breath deeply into his lungs and looked up. "Merlin Ernie, I didn't sleep last night, mostly because of that. Been going over it. I for the life of me can't figure out how he could have possibly made it back. Anthony and I were in the middle of the ruddy forest, well clear before we even transfigured them back. They were a couple of underages. Even if Owen had managed to learn how to illegally apparate, Origin-Negative Apparation is extremely dangerous. The danger of splinching... well... its almost guaranteed." Michael sighed and frowned hard. "I followed my gut to the Infirmary after class, and Pomfrey said Cauldwell wasn't there- never had been."

Michael chuckled at Ernie's bravado, slowly breaking into a snickering, dirty little giggle. "Someone's got a high opinion of his bits and pieces. Not that I ever heard Megan complain, mind you. I suppose I could ask Hannah about it, if I was that curious. She's probably balk at me, bring up our cock measuring contests too."

Michael grinned, "I'm technically Welsh ancestry... my lot just crossed the border during the Civil War. We're a more sensible people." Michael grinned wickedly, "But no less hung, I assure you. Not that you really want that information, of course."

"Hands," Michael nodded, "Good answer. Diplomatic." He said, bringing out his, flexing his fingers in his gloves. "I quite like hands myself actually. If i was going to be flat out honest though, I'd have to say bum."
"It does sound right fishy," Ernie said with a shake of his head. "You don't think it's a trap, do you? What am I saying, of course not. If it were, they'd have made some big announcement in the Great Hall in an attempt to catch us out or something. I suppose we'll have to wait and keep our ears to the ground."

He snorted. Not that Megan ever got a good look at my tackle, mate. Got a feel maybe three times, but that's it. I don't suppose I impressed her much. "Yeah, Han would definitely demand you drop trou immediately so she could get out the measuring tape, so it would be better not to go there with her. You'll have to simply wait till the next time I wear my kilt to find out." That's if you even want do find out, though it would be kind of nice if you did. If so, and you asked nicely, just maybe...

"S'not diplomatic, Michael, it's just what appeals to me." He shrugged. "I've never once looked at someone's bum, whether a bloke or a bird, and thought that I wanted that. Did with legs though." He smiled at the memory of Megan in a blue and white dress at his party over the summer, the sight of which had sent him stumbling to the ground with his arms full of self-folding napkins. "Hands, though. You look at them and imagine where they'd been, where you'd like them to be..." As he spoke the words, his eyes accidentally strayed to Michael's gloved fingers, long and slim and graceful-looking, and imagined them sliding along his skin... He quickly coughed again. "Though you're right, many people have a thing for bums. I've always wondered what makes one nice and not another. Probably just something I'll likely never get, I suppose."
"Does it matter if it is?" Michael asked, raising his eyebrow while he turned to look at his mate. "He's still a boy in trouble. I just.... I can't think of any way to help him. I haven't a clue where they're keeping him, since you asked. They've been keeping quite alot of the detentions in the Dungeons, and some up on the third floor- that area Filch sort of has off to himself." Michael adjusted his bangs quietly, his tell that he was thinking, "When I used resonance charms on some of the mice there, nothing came up."

Michael watched as Ernie's snorted, and he presumed about Megan having no complaints. "What, she didn't like it? Or did you two not really get to that point?" Michael grinned then, "Well we could have it out right here in the snow, but whats the point? Too ruddy cold." The boy kept grinning, and it was obvious he was joking. "I can't say size ever mattered much to me." he said seriously and sincerely, his eyes blinking as he spoke. "Sort of pointless to base judgment on liking someone on what their tackle's like."

And with a crunch of snow under Michael's feet, he pressed on.

"Alright well, legs then. What constitutes good leg, in the mind of Ernie Macmillan?" he grinned over his shoulder as he walked. Michael had to smile and admit a 'ha' when Ernie talked about hands. "Well, bless. I can see that. Hands are nice. They can do things. They speak without words. Even the right hold or touch from a hand says how you feel."

"Its entirely subjective with bums." Michael announced, "There's no definite, static thing that makes one bum nicer than another. You have quite a nice bum. Nicer than Theodore's, I'll wager. Probably because you dance. But the best bum I've seen on the grounds..." Michael blushed and scratched his nose after an eyeroll, "... Ron Weasley takes the cake on that one. That things a work of art... don't have a sodding clue what he does to get it either."
Ernie grimaced at the thought of poor Owen stuck in the dungeons somewhere. He made it a point to ask Linus to look into it when he next saw him, as he would not only know the dungeons better due to their proximity to Slytherin House, but perhaps his position in the Inquisitorial Squad might give him access to more information. He didn't, however, voice this to Michael for fear of another argument between them.

"Well, let's just say that Meg got a decent feel for the situation, but never commented one way or the other. Whatever she thought, it certainly wasn't enough to keep her with me, so it doesn't really matter, I guess."

He chuckled. "A good leg? I never really considered it, I just know what I like. A pleasing shape, I suppose, nice and long that make you want to follow them all the way up."

He looked down at his bare hands. "You're right. We don't often touch those we don't like. And even with those we do like, some we touch more than others, and in different ways." It all brought to mind that conversation in the kitchens a month ago brought on by Hannah's simple question. "Maybe sometimes they say more than words do, because while we often pick and choose our words, our hands work on instinct, on our subconscious thoughts and desires and emotions, even ones we try to repress or deny."

Had he been drinking or eating, he would have surely choked at the thought that Michael held Ron Weasley's arse in such high esteem. He did, however, unreasonably feel like strutting a little because Michael thought his was nicer than Nott's. Another point for Macmillan. "It's probably a Weasley thing," Ernie concluded with a shrug. "The important thing is... you think I have a nice arse." He smirked. "I always knew you fancied me, Corner," he repeated their seemingly ages-old tease, however this time it felt a little different rolling off his tongue - perhaps because this time there was the thought that just maybe it was true, in some small part at least.
With talk of Owen fallen silent again, Michael had a hard time letting it go quietly himself. So many unanswered questions, though the fresh possibility that this was a trap, stemmed from Ernie, gave the entire situation a whole other facet. The DA had laid low and pretended to not exist, but the administration was keenly paranoid enough to assume of its existence. Owen couldn't tell them anything, but a captured member of the DA could.

Michael thought then to his secret cache, and the bottles of cloaking potion he still had from a month ago. Perhaps it was time to open that old chestnut again. "Well, if we can do something, we should. But not without informing others first."

Michael chuckled just after Ernie when it came to his legs comment, "alright, I can see the appeal to that. I mean calves and thighs can be sexy I suppose. Never saw the appeal of feet though."

Michael paused, his own thoughts paralleling Ernie's, as he thought of the kitchens and Hannah's words a month ago. "I... think thats a possibility..." He said carefully, smiling in a way that seemed uncertain. "Body language in general can. Sometimes its trying to tell us something that ummm..." Michael looked down at Ernie and accidentally caught his eye. His grey gaze lingered on the blues before him, "Umm... something that we're not really aware of. Or afraid to face." Another such subconscious signal came from Michael then... he darted his tongue out with a quick flick, to moisten his suddenly dry lips.

Ernie's last line sort of hung in the air, going unanswered. I knew you always fancied me, Corner.
Ernie's eyes met Michael's and a tight, almost suffocating feeling came over him and stealing his breath away. The flickering of Michael's tongue uncsonsciously drew his eyes, which lingered there far longer than was proper.

His final tease went unanswered, making Ernie wonder what was going on through Michael's mind. Had he gone too far? Said the wrong thing? Made Michael feel uncomfortable, what with their current conversation? He swallowed hard, his eyes returning to Michael's and feeling an overwhelming need to break the silence between them.

"It's funny, you know, how we've gotten pretty close lately, but we still don't know so much about each other. I know you like white roses, for example, but aside from that and your appreciation of fine derrieres, how much else do I know?" He sighed and broke eye contact. "Don't mind me, I'm just being silly. It's getting late, maybe we should head back to the castle..."
Meanwhile, Michael had been studying Ernie's face, trying to discern his own answers. Ernie had been acting oddly, and for a brief moment Michael thought he understood why. All the talk about subconscious body movements and touches... his tastes and wants.

It all culminated in Michael beginning to just slightly tilt his head, the kind one does to avoid smashing your nose into another's. He felt his throat get so dry, and so he swallowed hard. His hand fidgeted at his side, wanting to take Ernie's robes in a gesture but somehow it just failed to move.

Then words shocked Michael out of an further movement and he felt his entire body prickle. Oh Merlin! I was about to kiss him wasn't I?! Michael bellowed out in his head. On his face, a bright blush came across and Michael closed his eyes as he virtually stumbled and collapsed under the sudden need for words. "We... don't. Do we..." He mumbled incoherently, and mentally his head was careening towards the flat surface of a wall or desk.

He managed a laugh, forced it past his airless, stolen lungs. "Its.. its cool. We should head back. Curfews... soon. They'll have us in the klink if we're late."
Ernie, completely unaware of Michael's thoughts or wishes to slam his head against the nearest available surface, smiled softly and nodded. "Well, we've plenty of time to learn all of those little things, I suppose. But it can wait until another time, when we're warmer and less tired. Last thing we need to do is tempt fate, what with them looking for excuses to do us in already."

He turned and started leading the way back to school. He would spend much of the night thinking, no doubt, comparing what he'd gleaned from this conversation with Michael to what Linus had said earlier. Hopefully, Linus wouldn't be too disappointed that Ernie hadn't simply, what had he said? Oh yeah, bent Michael over and took him then and there. He chuckled aloud to himself, imagining poor Michael's face had Ernie even tried such a thing.
"Yeah, definitely," Michael managed, his wit finally recovering enough for him to at least sound intelligible. "Best head off... don't much fancy spending the night under Filch's care. Though I guess it would get us a step closer to knowing where Owen was." He shrugged.

Ernie had his own mind full of thoughts, as did Michael. He squinted in relief that Ernie hadn't noticed his second act of weakness in a month. Weakness, or sheer stupidity- Michael wasn't sure which one it was. Either way, it was thankfully over and no one was going to get hurt.

His eyes darted to look at Ernie when he chuckled aloud, "What was that about?"
Ernie flushed warmly. "Just something a friend told me today. It's nothing important."

Most of the rest of the journey was spent in relative silence, however, as they neared the castle, Ernie felt it was his absolute right as Michael's friend to tease the bloody hell out of him. "Now, Michael," he said softly, leaning over to whisper lowly in his friend's ear. "Before we go inside, I need to know... Do you need one last look at my backside to do you the night, or will you be fine with memories of Ron's till morning? As your friend, I just can't let you suffer all night, you know that," he finished, only just managing to keep a straight face, though even that was ruined as he choked down a chuckle.
"Oh. Must've been some joke then," Michael uttered back with a head tilt and a slow to manifest smirk. "Care to share?"

Michael felt Ernie's whisper against his ear as he stood a bit higher on the slope than he, his grey gaze turning to the closeness of his friend's face to his. He blinked, and adjusted his hair from obscuring his eyes.

He stepped up onto the even slope with Ernie, again making the near foot difference in their height apparent. He was smiling, looking down at Ernie. "You're all cheek, Macmillan." He teased with a smirk. Then he poked Ernie in the chest gently with his long, expressive fingers, "Try not to stare at my legs too long while I walk past you."
"Not tonight," Ernie replied with a shake of his head. "But maybe another time..."

His smirk was almost challenging when Michael turned his head then moved up a little higher so that while their feet were even on the incline, their heads were not. Despite this, Ernie continued standing tall as if he were actually of Michael's height, if not taller.

He felt the finger poking him in the chest, and had to quickly hold back the desire to feel it moving up to undo his tie and begin the process of disrobing him. He did, however, waggle his eyebrows at the 'all cheek' comment. "Won't happen," he replied arrogantly, "not unless we get you a kilt too so I have something to look at."

He then held his left arm out, as if inviting Michael to head inside first.
"Ahh a private joke then," Michael discerned with a raise of his eyebrows. "Well, must be a good one. Maybe another time, yea."

The waggle of Ernie's eyebrows forced Michael to smile, before he pushed his tongue against his cheek. He scoffed and rolled his eyes, "That'll never happen..." He remarked back with a velvety scoff in his throat. His eyes flared their greyness and he grinned, "See you tomorrow, Cheeky." He stated, wondering if Ernie would pick up on the double entendre there.

He followed Ernie's gesture up to the castle, take the lead role. He placed his hands behind his back as he walked.
Ernie watched Michael pass with a fond smile. So there it was. He'd gained his intelligence, and things appeared as if they'd go in his favour. Now all he had to do was look within himself to see if this was something he truly wanted to do. Yes, he had admitted to both himself and Linus that he had developed and attraction for his friend, but was that even enough? They'd both been hurt in the past, and that could either work for or against them.

He'd wait and see. When the time felt right, he'd do something, and until then, he'd simply enjoy the friendship he'd come to cherish so dearly.