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a friend, not a burden

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Pete was one of the few who genuinely enjoyed school. He liked learning new things, liked expanding his knowledge. But even though he went to his nine o’clock Charms class with a smile on his face and spent extra time in the greenhouses after Herbology, he still needed a break from time to time.

Luckily for him, the next Hogsmeade weekend had come, and he got his chance to relax. The first flakes of snow had just begun to fall, so he was bundled in his black pea coat, yellow and black striped scarf wrapped twice around his neck.

Walking arm and arm with Wayo, he smiled widely as they strolled past all of the shops. Despite being in the same house, they didn’t get to see each other as often as they liked. With different electives and their free time spent with their boyfriends, the only time they had to talk was at meals and late at night in their dorm room. It would be nice to spend the first half of the day together before joining the others for drinks.

The only hitch in their plan was the sulking Slytherin trudging beside them.

“Sorry that Ming had to crash our girls’ day,” Wayo said. “P’Kit didn’t give me much of a choice.”

“I’m an absolute joy to have around, thank you very much,” Ming retorted before deepening his pout. “It’s not like I want to be with you two honey badgers anyway. P’Beam was complaining that I’ve been taking up all of his best friend time lately and took P’Kit away for the day.”

“So he complained to me until I let him come with me,” Wayo said dryly with a roll of his eyes.

Pete could only give him a sympathetic smile. Ae hadn’t been too thrilled about the two of them being separated for the day either. He’d managed to get Kongpob to take him to look at the newest broomstick models, but his boyfriend still didn’t look the least bit happy. Hopefully, the assortment of candy he’d purchased from Honeydukes would be a good enough peace offering. Otherwise, Pete would just have to offer him something sweeter.

“I don’t know about you two, but I’m freezing,” Wayo said, hugging himself closer to Pete to keep warm. “And I already got the new quills I needed. So should we go meet the others? Butterbeer sounds so good right now.”

“That’s the best idea you’ve had all day,” Ming said, ruffling Wayo’s hair. “Now I remember why we’re best friends.”

“Oh, ha ha.”

Pete giggled. They were just about to round a corner when a dark pair of boots cut off their path. Eyes trailing upward, Pete swallowed at the sight of green robes and a familiar slimy smirk.

“Well, well. Who would have thought I’d run into you here?” Trump said as he took a step closer. Pete subconsciously curled into himself, refusing to meet his eyes. “It’s been a while since we’ve seen each other, hasn’t it, Ai’Pete?”

He could feel Ming and Wayo’s concerned eyes on him, but he said nothing. Retaliating would only make things worse.

Trump’s eyes flashed to the bag in his hand. “That sure is a lot of candy you’ve got. Probably a good few Galleons worth.” He held out his hand, palm side up. “Why don’t you just hand it over to me?”

Wayo, small but never one to take anything from anyone, held on to Pete a bit tighter. “And why should he?”

“Don’t get your friends involved and give me the bag,” Trump hissed through his teeth. Pete could tell he was getting angry, but he was frozen in place.

“Leave him alone,” Ming said, taking a single step in front of Pete. “It’s people like you who give Slytherins a bad name. So do us all a favor and walk away.”

Never one to be patient, Trump leaned in even closer. “I’m giving you one more chance to give it to me before I get really angry.”

Both of his friends were pulling back on his arms, trying to get him away. But Pete was so tired of running from people like Trump. He wished that he had some of that Gryffindor bravery in him, but there was a reason the Sorting Hat hadn’t even considered that an option for him.

All he could do was look up from underneath his eyelashes, brown eyes lowered in a glare. “Just go away,” he said, voice shaky and far from confident. But even so, it was enough to break whatever little restraint Trump had.

Scooping a handful of snow in his hand, Pete had barely blinked before it hit him square in the face. “I told you to give me the bag!” Trump got louder, more aggressive, continuing to hit every centimeter of him with snow.

He could vaguely hear Ming shouting back at him, fists curling and ready to fly, but it was the loud shout of ‘hey!’ from down the path that caught his attention.

Arthit marched towards them, robe fluttering around his legs. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he asked. Prefect badge shining against his chest, he stepped in front of his three underclassmen. “Just because we’re in the same house doesn’t mean I’m against giving you detention. So walk away before I do.”

With little choice, Trump stomped past them, but not before threatening, “This isn’t over.”

Once he was gone, Arthit dropped the glare from his face, turning towards them. “Are you alright?”

With all three of his friends looking at him, Pete felt incredibly small. Everything had happened so fast, and his mind was hazy. All he knew was that he was cold, wet, and thoroughly embarrassed.

With a lack of response, Arthit pulled Pete from between Ming and Wayo, securing his own arm around him. “Everyone is already at the Three Broomsticks. Let’s go meet them, alright? We can talk about it after you get warm.”

Pete felt his stomach drop. This wasn’t going to be good.

“Ming is going to be pissed when he finds out you let Ai’Forth spend the day with us,” Kit said, crinkling his nose when Beam wrapped his arms around his boyfriend’s neck and tugged himself closer into his lap. “I still don’t understand why he couldn’t come with.”

“Because if he did, I would have never gotten to hear all the juicy details about you two,” Beam said. “You wouldn’t have told me nearly half of what you did if he was around. Even getting that much out of you was a struggle!” He pinched Kit’s cheek. “Best friends tell each other stuff like this, Kitty-Kat.”

“Not all of us are as shameless as you,” Kit pointed out, shoving Beam’s hand off of him. “I know way more about Forth and his oh so impressive length than I ever wanted to.”

Beam shot a glare to his best friend before moving it towards a laughing Ae and Pha. “You two don’t think that’s what your boyfriends are talking about? They wanted to spend the day alone together too.”

Pha shook his head, taking a sip of his drink. “If you want details about our personal life, all you have to do is ask Yo. Doesn’t matter if I’m there or not. I’m not sure about N’Pete though. He seems too shy to talk about those kinds of things.”

“He is,” Ae agreed before smirking. “But I’m not. What do you want to know?”

Kongpob shook his head at all of his juniors. “You’re all terrible.”

“Hey, it’s not our fault your boyfriend would give you detention if you even implied that you’ve kissed him,” Beam said. “Does he honestly expect us to believe that he’s still a virgin? We caught him with your tie on when he came to dinner just last week!”

Smiling far too proudly, Kongpob sat back in his chair, raising his glass. “My lips are sealed,” he said before taking a swig. “But if you’d like detention, you can ask P’Arthit yourself.” He nodded towards the door, raising his hand to motion his boyfriend over but stopped when he saw the downturned expression on his face. “What’s wrong?”

The rest of the table turned in their seats, sharing in Kongpob’s concerns. It wasn’t until Arthit stepped aside, revealing his three underclassmen, that any of them moved.

“Pete?” Ae asked, chair screeching against the floor as he pushed it back. He quickly moved to his boyfriend, noticing how soaked he was. “What happened? Why are you wet?”

He could vaguely hear the others going to their respective boyfriends, but all he could do was focus on the boy in front of him. Pete wasn’t speaking, only looking to the floor with an absolutely shameful look on his face.

Pushing back his wet bangs, Ae tried again, “Did someone do something to you? Who were they? Where did they go?”

Pete shook his head quickly, blinking away tears that were building in his eyes. “Pete, talk to me,” he said, feeling helpless. There was clearly something wrong, and Pete wouldn’t tell him what that thing was. “Tell me what I can do.”

Ae’s arms wrapped around him as soon as he fell forward into his chest. He rubbed over his back as he cried, whispering soft reassurances into his ear. He could get the story later. Right now, there were more pressing matters at hand. He had to hug his boyfriend until he didn’t have a tear left to shed.

Pete could feel multiple pairs of eyes on him, but he didn’t dare look at any of them. He had finally managed to stop crying; seeing how worried all of his friends were would only bring the tears back.

He huddled under the warmth of Ae’s jacket. Ae had given if to him after he’d peeled off Pete’s own wet one. It was too small for him, as he was only able to blanket it around his shoulders rather than slip it onto his arms. But his boyfriend’s arm around his shoulders helped keep him warm.

Ming and Wayo had explained most of what had happened, but he knew that he would have to be the one to fill in the plot holes. Reluctant, he just shook his head whenever anyone asked him something.

“We just want to help you,” Kongpob stressed, leaning across the table to try and catch Pete’s eye. He only ducked his chin more. “N’Pete, please.”

“At least tell us who this Trump guy is,” Wayo offered. “None of us have ever seen you two together before.”

“Why would Pete ever hang out with such an asshole anyway?” Ming said, crossing his arms over his chest. “He better hope I never run into him again. Or I swear, I’ll–”

“Ming, stop it,” Kit said, comforting thumb rubbing over his boyfriend’s knuckles.

“I’m serious! That guy is stereotypical Slytherin through and through, which means he’s the worst. And his face is so punchable. You saw him, Yo; you can’t say I’m wrong!”

“Are you talking about Trump Phurin?” They all looked up to see Tin standing beside their table, an oblivious Can at his side licking Butterbeer foam from his lips. “That kid who’s been picking on Pete since first year?”

“Ai’Tin,” Pete hissed.

“Don’t Ai’Tin me. That hasn’t worked since we were children,” Tin said, pulling out a chair to sit in, Can falling easily into his lap. “I told you to tell them about this years ago, and you refused. Now it’s come to bite you in the ass.”

“You’ve known this guy since first year?” Wayo asked, blinking between Tin and Pete.

“And why exactly do you know about this and we don’t?” Ae asked, dark eyes lowered in a glare. Pete rested a hand on his arm, trying to tame the fire growing inside him. His boyfriend only looked at him with raised eyebrows, accusatory stare to his eyes. “You told Tin about this but not me?”

Tin rolled his eyes, waving Ae off. “Calm down. You Gryffindors are always so quick to jump to conclusions.” Securing an arm around Can’s waist, he explained, “He didn’t have to tell me anything. I caught Trump cornering him outside our Transfiguration classroom three days into first year. One good punch had him running. He knows not to come near me anymore.”

“Is that why you walk Pete from the greenhouses to the Great Hall for lunch?” Can chirped.

Tin shrugged. “It’s the only time he’s not with anyone else. The only time that Trump kid messes with him is when he’s alone.”

“Why didn’t you just tell us that?” Ming asked. “We could have helped! We could have made sure one of us was always with you. Or at least beat him up enough to get him to stay away from you.”

Their worries, while sweet, were what Pete had feared. He hadn’t told anyone about Trump or the bullying, because he didn’t want to involve anyone else in his troubles. It was why he had made Tin swear his secrecy.

But he was stuck now. With little choice, he whispered, “You all have a lot going on. Quidditch or studying or anything else. I didn’t want to bother you with something I already had handled on my own.”

“Bull shit.” It was a surprise to hear the outburst come from Kit. “Those are lousy excuses, and you know it. We’re friends for a reason. Get over your Hufflepuff selflessness, and tell us when something is wrong.”

“Not exactly the way I would have put it,” Kongpob said, looking to Pete with a softness in his eyes. “But he’s right. You’re never a bother to us, N’Pete. You’re our friend. And we want to help you. So give us the chance to. Okay?”

Everyone was looking at him, some degree of fondness to their faces. He could feel Ae tighten his grip on him, hand rubbing over the curve of his shoulder.

He sniffled, quickly wiping at his eyes. He refused to cry. There was no reason to; this was a happy thing. After waiting so long, he finally had friends who cared for him.

“Okay." 

The entire walk back to Hogwarts was silent. Ae didn’t trust himself to be rational, and Pete refused to even look at him. So they opted out of talking.

It was incredibly awkward, and Ae absolutely hated it. Everything about Pete made him feel so comfortable, so right. Now he just felt angry. The fact that Pete had been hurting for so long and Ae hadn’t done anything to fix it – even worse, he hadn’t even known was something was – weighed heavy on him. What kind of boyfriend was he?

Stopping outside of the Hufflepuff common room, Ae finally found his voice. “You should have told me,” he said, tone harsher than he intended it to be. He had never been good at controlling his emotions.

Pete peeked up at him from beneath his lashes, eyes glassy and fluffy cheeks flushed. He took a step closer to him, desperately trying to fix his mistake. Even if he was angry with Pete, he’d be even angrier with himself if he was the reason behind his tears.

“I’m your boyfriend,” he tried to reason with him, voice firm but far less hostile. “I’m the person you’re supposed to come to with things like this. You know I’d do anything for you, don’t you?” Pete nodded. “Then why did you keep secrets from me?”

“It’s like I said, I didn’t want to be a bother,” Pete murmured. Then, voice thicker from built up tears, “I didn’t want Ae to see me as a burden.”

Quick to cup Pete’s cheeks and wipe the tears from his lashes before they could fall, Ae shook his head. “You could never be a burden to me. I want to help you, no matter what the problem is. That’s what a good boyfriend does.”Tilting his head up, he offered him a smile. “You need to tell me when people are treating you badly, so I know who to beat up.”

“Ae,” Pete scolded him in that whiny way he did. “You’ll get in trouble.”

His fingers went to pinch his cheeks, and his smile only grew when Pete giggled. “I’m serious. I’d take all the detentions in the world for you. Next time I see that asshole, I’m going to punch him so hard that even Madame Pomfrey won’t be able to fix him.”

“Ae.”