Chapter 6 : Scares and Maybes
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Connor said he had accepted the job to help advertise the campaign against the Ministry creating safer places for werewolves to turn because it was challenge for them. It not only tested their creative ability to produce quality work, but tested their objectivity to work on controversial issues. It wasn't about personal interest, he said, it was about what the client paid you to do.
It was bullshit and Hugo knew it; Connor didn't take the job because it was a challenge for the interns, he took it because Hugo knew that he would pick Hugo's campaign idea no matter what the others did. He took the job because it meant that Hugo would have to help the campaigners working against his mother, who had worked for months to get people to agree that safer places for werewolves to turn would be beneficial, so that people like Roxanne's boyfriend Aidan wouldn't get hurt or hurt anyone else.
Kelley McCarthy, Connor's father, was furious when he heard about it; he agreed with Hermione, worked with her many times, and it had caused the fair share fights between them. But he believed Connor when he said his intentions were all work related; that and the fact that Hugo was being punished was all Connor really cared about.
He deserved to be punished, Hugo knew that, but his mother didn't, and for that reason alone Hugo was following through with his plan. Once upon a time, collateral damage hadn't been his biggest issue, but even then it was only when he was the one doing the work. This was all Connor's doing and as much as he loved the man, as much as he accepted his need to be punished, Hugo wasn't going to let him hurt his family.
His eyes glanced across to the desk to where the old picture of him and Connor now stood; he never used to be this way, he was fun and open once his guard was down. He could tease and be mischievous, but he wasn't cruel.
People said he had spent too much time around Hugo; so, Hugo figured removing himself from the picture would bring the old Connor back.
I can do this.
Hugo went back to his work; his idea was simple, as he had suggested and Connor had agreed with. It made him sick to look at, but its disagreement with his mother's campaign was obvious while still being professional. Even Kelley would approve.
All the more reason to stick to my plan.
He pushed it away, he'd spend enough time looking at it over the weekend, and pulled another sheet of paper in front of him. He much preferred the second one; it was short and concise, saying exactly what he needed to say without going into too much detail.
Connor could ignore everything else, but he had to listen to this. And if he didn't, there was a copy on his computer ready to be sent to Kelley.
Nothing could stop him.
Hugo wished he could have made the letter more personal, though. He wished he knew that Connor would read an actual apology and believe it. But that was never going to happen and he knew it.
All he had was his memories. That would have to do.
His mind went back to the first time he had truly forgotten about his lie; it had started off bad, but the end result was so much better than he could have imagined...
It took the school till Halloween came by for them to fully accept that Hugo and Connor had some type of relationship; when they realized that Connor was still keeping his distance and Hugo was still a persistent ass, they stopped wondering what was going on. Their newfound friendship wasn't enough to turn the world on its axis and cause life as they knew it to end because nothing more was going to happen between them. Even Lily looked pleased and let Hugo's plan go.
The last thing people said about the subject was on Halloween night, after a prank gone wrong put a fourth year in the hospital wing with a slightly disfigured face; apparently, nothing was scary now that the school's social outcast was talking to the school's most notorious outcast.
The night came and went, the wind picked up with each passing day and with one holiday over everyone began preparing for the next one.
Hugo had spent most of Charms trying to persuade Connor that a date was the next logical step in their relationship, but the man wouldn't budge; he'd told Hugo in the beginning that it wasn't a good idea and he was sticking to it. Connor didn't date, he didn't have relationships.
Hugo was quick to remind him of Shane once, though neither of them were likely to forget him any time soon, but Connor told him that he'd hardly call it a relationship in a way that made Hugo suspicious and shut up for the rest of the day. Hugo made sure never to bring Shane Jordan up again; a weakness his accent may be, but Hugo found he liked listening to him talk. He could be very passionate when he opened up.
Connor left him for the library after Charms, wanting to spend his free period finishing his book while Hugo was in Arithmancy; he made a joke about them picking up their conversation where they left off in Defense, their last class of the day, and Hugo promised him it would happen, calling out to him as he walked away and left Hugo standing alone in the corridor.
Arithmancy passed by too slowly for Hugo's liking and he wished it would end just so he could get back to Connor. The thought made him frown and think about the direction his plan was taking him in. Connor knew about his internship application, knew what Hugo wanted and, though Hugo had lied, was willing to be near him because Hugo had said the job wasn't why he was hanging around with him.
He felt the need to remind himself that it was, that was all he wanted in the end. A date with Connor, maybe even getting him into his bed, was just a nice bonus. But that job was everything to him and if he had to lie and cheat to get it, then so be it. Lying and cheating was second nature to him anyway, it didn't mean much to him.
But he didn't feel like his was lying and cheating when he was actually with Connor; he did like him. Very much. That being true was what was starting to worry Hugo.
He couldn't let himself get distracted, he couldn't lose focus.
It'll be fine. Everything will be fine.
Hugo was out of his chair the moment the bell rang and left for Defense. With any luck, Connor would already be there and he wouldn't have to wait around, hoping Lily wouldn't ask how things were going and Shane wouldn't demand to know what his game was.
He breathed out in relief when he saw his current obsession sitting at what was now their desk, a book in hand. He was saddling the bench and Hugo wondered briefly if Connor was watching for him before telling himself that was impossible. Rationally, he knew that Connor would never do something like that, he didn't think of Hugo in any way that would mean watching him - he no longer looked for Hugo to avoid him - and while Hugo could admit that everyone had a part of themselves that one might call a dreamer, one that allowed them to hope, he considered himself a realist above all and he always listened to his rational side.
Hope was starting to get awfully loud, though.
"Get lost?" Connor asked once Hugo to their table.
He shook his head, all of his worries pushed to the back of his mind as he spoke; Hugo had his plan, but he could also like Connor. It wasn't going to change. He sat down and, as promised, went back to his list of reasons why they should go on a date.
"I can hide us so well, the press won't know for as long as we want."
"So can I; it's called not dating you in the first place," Connor countered, sound bored. "Next?"
Hugo did love a challenge.
"Give me one reason why we can't do out on a date," Hugo demanded to know as they walked away from the classroom. "It has to be a good one, no bullshit about my rep and you not dating. Give me a real reason, Connor, and I'll stop."
Connor stopped them in an empty corridor, covered his mouth with his sleeve when he coughed. Hugo watched him, a little worried; as it had gotten colder, his asthma had gotten worse. His breathing was shallow and his cough had become persistent. But he said nothing about it, keeping his inhaler on hand. He said it was working when Hugo asked in class, that it wasn't an attack; Hugo believed him only because he had to. There was no way he could know for sure; he wasn't Connor, he didn't know what the man was thinking or feeling.
"You promise?" Connor asked him. Hugo had a hard time focusing on their present conversation with Connor wheezing so much. He nodded shakily.
He waited for the inevitable blow to his ego, the obstacle he'd have to get past without Connor noticing before they went out, but it didn't come. Only when Hugo turned around, did he understand why.
Shane Jordan found them and, with them being alone, he could be as loud and as annoying as he wanted. He hoped Connor wouldn't mind if he ended up breaking his ex's nose.
"Connor, we need to talk," he snapped, his eyes narrowed.
"No," he replied, barely getting it out before another wave of coughing came over him. He didn't seem to notice when Hugo grabbed hold of his arm in case he needed the support.
"Yes," Shane growled. "Get lost, Weasley."
"Fat chance," Hugo scoffed. "Something tells me I'm involved in this conversation and I want to hear it now. That way I don't have to go looking for you to beat the crap out of you for insulting me."
"You shouldn't even be near Connor! Everyone knows you're trying to use him for something, he just can't see it yet."
Connor moved to stand between them, breathing hard and with some difficulty. "I am standing right here and I am neither blind nor deaf. Shane, go away. We have nothing to say; it's over, deal with it."
"It's not about us," Shane yelled. "I don't pretend to know why you dumped me and I would like an explanation one day, but this about the fact that you're with him now. Connor, he's not good."
"You have no say in who I can and cannot see," Connor stated softly, pushing Hugo back when he started to talk. This was between them now, he knew that. "This is my business and if I want to see Hugo, then I will see Hugo. Now go a-"
He never finished his sentence; the cold air in the castle bit into their skin and the coughing started again, worse this time. Hugo grabbed him by the arms, moving him to the wall so that he had something to lean on, and lowered to the ground with him.
"Connor?" Shane asked hesitantly, concerned for an entirely different reason now.
Hugo didn't care; Shane wasn't welcome in his eyes. "Get out of here. Leave!"
Shane left, running down the hall and out of sight. Connor whispered a thank you and grabbed his inhaler, taking deep breaths in and out while Hugo cast a warming charm around him. It seemed to work; he was still wheezing, but it was lighter than before and the coughing seemed to have subsided for the moment.
Hugo ran his hands up and down Connor's arms, his left moving further up to cup his cheek and get him to look up.
"That looked like the start of an asthma attack," he murmured.
"How would you know?" Connor asked curiously.
"Al's little boy has asthma, I've seen it a few times," he admitted. "It scares the shit out of Al every time. Now I know how he feels."
"I'm fine," Connor promised him. "It always gets a little worse during the winter. I know how to manage it, you just distracted me," he teased.
"So, this is my fault?" Hugo tried to play along, but his question seemed so genuine and his tone so sad, that Connor had to shake his head and assure him that it was because of the cold.
Hugo leaned forward, resting his forehead against Connor's and moving his hand into his hair. Connor shut his eyes, seeming to relax against his touch.
"Sorry," he said anyway, his voice unable to go higher than a whisper.
It was his breath on Connor's lips that startled him into opening his eyes and realizing that Hugo had his hands on him, was straddling his waist to sit so close. He froze, Hugo felt it under his hand, and pushed him away gently. He stood up slowly, Hugo watching for a reaction.
Would it be another step back? Hugo didn't know. As long as Connor was alright, Hugo didn't care.
"Thank you," he said gratefully. "I should go back to my dorm, since it's warmer there, but I feel a little better. Maybe because I'm calmer."
"Want me to walk with you?" Hugo asked cautiously.
Connor shook his head a little too forcefully; he looked freaked out. Hugo wondered when the last time someone had actually touched him was.
"No, I can get there myself."
Nodding, Hugo started to walk away, knowing it was up to Connor what happened next; everything had changed so suddenly with one touch, he had to decide what to do.
"To answer your question," Connor called out suddenly, making Hugo stop. He remembered quickly what the man meant; his reason for not dating him. "I can't think of one. That scares me a little, but I don't have a good reason to not go on a date with you."
"Then I won't stop asking," he answered with a smile, just a little smug. "Saturday, 7 o'clock, at the restaurant in Hogsmeade."
Connor turned, walking in the other direction, and left Hugo speechless. He couldn't believe what he had just heard. It had to be a dream; he pinched himself three times to make sure that it wasn't.
Maybe. It wasn't a yes, but it was a hell of a lot better than a no.
He walked to his dorm, shocked and amused. The date was on his mind, the plan was not.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed this new chapter. Please let me know what you think. :)
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