Title: Five and a Half Times Anthony Goldstein Didn’t Notice Michael Corner
Spoilers/Warnings: HP books 1-6
Characters/Ships: Anthony/Michael (Michael/Ginny and Michael/Cho referenced)
Genre: Friendship mostly, with dollops of romance
Summary: Anthony’s attraction to Michael takes a long time to develop.
Length: 3,395 words
Notes: Thanks to cloverdew for beta-reading. This is my first Anthony/Michael and possibly the first slashy thing I’ve ever written. So, *gulp* ;) .
When you have to spend seven years sharing a dormitory with several other blokes, you learn what you’re allowed to notice, and what’s completely out of bounds. The first time Anthony Goldstein and his dorm mates got undressed for bed in the same room, on the night of 1st September 1990, Anthony noticed that Michael Corner, a skinny boy with dark hair and eyes, wore a set of blue and white striped pyjamas. Another skinny boy, Terry Boot, wore green pyjamas with yellow ducks on them. Terry’s cheeks turned pink when Corner took the mickey out of him for the pyjamas.
Anthony felt his own cheeks burning, but it wasn’t for Terry’s sake. He’d been in that situation himself more times than he could count at the Muggle primary school in Epsom, where some of the kids teased him about his ugly knit hat and his patched jacket. On this night, though, his cheeks burned because of Michael Corner. He hadn’t noticed how pale Michael’s chest was as he stripped off his shirt and pulled on his pyjama top, nor the way his long lashes almost shaded his dark eyes. A bloke shouldn’t notice that sort of thing about another bloke, should he? Especially not when he wasn’t quite twelve years old. Anthony was fairly sure he shouldn’t. And so he didn’t.
From their first days in classes together, Anthony noticed that Michael and Terry had quickly become fast friends. He envied them, in a way; both were outgoing and friendly and smart as whips, and their housemates seemed to instinctively like them. Anthony liked people who were smart as whips, so he wanted to be their friend too.
While other kids, especially outside of Ravenclaw, might have been intimidated by the boys’ sharp wits and quick thinking, Anthony found himself attracted to those qualities. He was smart, he knew, but not in a flashy way. At primary school he’d always been at the top of his class, but because he was shy and self-conscious, some kids took the mickey out of him for his high marks. At least that was what he’d always thought. Now that he was in a house full of smart kids, Anthony suspected he would not stand out for his brains. Would anyone notice him, a mousy little Jewish boy from the poor side of Epsom, amid all these talented witches and wizards? He’d only found out that he was a wizard a year ago, when Professor McGonagall appeared at his family’s flat to explain to them why Anthony had always seemed different from his three sisters and to offer him a spot in the next first-year class at Hogwarts.
It had been strange, going to Diagon Alley with his parents. He’d bought his school supplies, of course, and also gone to Eeylop’s Owl Emporium and bought a long-eared owl, which he named Horatio, after Admiral Horatio Nelson, a famous figure in history. He was just being practical, of course. He didn’t much like toads or rats, and while a cat would be a pleasant companion, he needed a way to communicate with his family. He didn’t want to send a school owl to them; he wanted them to know the owl was from him, and Horatio’s looks were different enough that he reckoned his mum wouldn’t confuse him with any of the owls Anthony had seen around home.
Michael and Terry had teased him slightly about Horatio. Anthony found he didn’t really mind, especially not Michael’s teasing.
“That’s a really different owl you’ve got there, Goldstein.”
“I think he’s unique. I’ve not seen any other long-eared owls coming into the Great Hall at mail time, have you?” Stroking the owl’s feathers, Anthony grinned and gave the bird an owl treat, then untangled the ties holding the parcel on the bird’s talons.
“What’s it got there?” asked Terry, leaning toward Horatio.
“Probably something from my parents for my birthday,” Anthony muttered as he unwrapped the parcel and opened it. The box was full of sweets, a new striped shirt and a smaller box that contained six cupcakes with chocolate frosting.
“Your birthday? Blimey. Gonna share your bounty, old man?” Terry raised an eyebrow, then grinned.
“’m not old, you tosser. Not unless twelve is old.” Anthony felt his cheeks burning now.
“Twelve’s a lot better than eleven,” Michael piped up, his eyes flicking toward the cupcakes. “I won’t be twelve for another four months.”
“Five and a half months for me,” said Terry glumly. “C’mon, mate. Be a sport. If you give me a cupcake, I’ll do your Potions homework for you tonight.”
Anthony disliked Potions, though perhaps it was the Potions teacher he disliked most. “That’s a tempting offer. All right. You can have a cupcake, Boot.” He handed one to Terry, who accepted it greedily.
“What about me?” Michael asked, giving Anthony a puppy-dog look. “You’re smarter than I am, so I won’t offer to do any homework for you.”
“I reckon I’ll give you one for being honest. Or else for sucking up to me, because I know I’m not a whit smarter than you are, Corner.”
He handed a cupcake to Michael, who stuffed half of it in his mouth. Anthony didn’t notice the way Michael licked his lips afterward. He was too busy feeling happy that he’d made two new friends.
The Three Musketeers That was how Anthony came to see himself, Michael and Terry in the next few years. It was a romantic notion, of course, but one that seemed logical to him. “All for one and one for all.” Anthony saw himself as Athos, the oldest of the three, and also the most serious and studious. Terry was Porthos, the hale fellow well-met, an extroverted bloke to whom friends and good marks seemed to come easily, though Anthony knew that Terry studied as hard as he partied. Michael was Aramis, darker and more complicated than Terry, though it was obvious early on that he liked girls a lot, especially girls who didn’t seem to have the time of day for him.
Individually and together, the three boys spent a lot of time in the Hogwarts library. Sometimes Anthony went to the library all set to study, only to find Michael hunkered down at a table, brooding about some girl. Late in fourth year, though, Michael seemed more chipper most of the time. One evening he returned to the dorm looking like the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland.
“What’s up?” Anthony asked, putting down his Charms textbook.
Pulling off his Ravenclaw jumper, Terry grinned as he tossed it next to his bed. “Mikey’s got a girlfriend,” he said in a sing-song voice.
Michael turned pink. “I reckon I do,” he admitted, running a hand through his dark hair.
“Who is she?”
“Ginny Weasley.” Michael’s grin split his face from ear to ear.
“No way.” Anthony was dumbfounded. “Everyone knows she’s only got eyes for Potter.”
Terry had a smug look. “Maybe she got tired of waiting for him, y’know? She’s pretty and fun and she probably figured there were too many fish in the sea to keep waiting for Potter to notice her.”
“Yeah, but how did Corner get her to notice him?” Anthony asked.
Michael cleared his throat. “I met her at the Yule Ball. Then we started talking in the Great Hall and now we’ve gone out a few times. She loves Quidditch even more than I do. I’d bet she’s a good player too, though she’s never tried out for the Gryffindor team.”
Anthony didn’t notice the bulge in Michael’s denims or how he seemed to have started filling out, now he was fifteen. He did notice how happy his best mate looked as he thought about his new girlfriend.
“Well, if you’re happy, then I am too,” Anthony said, clapping Michael gently on the shoulder.
Michael and Ginny’s romance lasted almost a year. In the autumn term of fifth year Michael continued to be upbeat and cheerful. Some of that was because of Ginny, some was due to the Defence Association. On the first Hogsmeade weekend of the term, which was the weekend before Anthony’s sixteenth birthday, Michael had dragged him and Terry to an organizing meeting at the Hog’s Head tavern. The pub was grimy and disgusting, and Anthony was afraid he might get in trouble for going, but he went anyway. Although he was a straight arrow who almost always followed the rules, Anthony joined the D.A. because he wanted to learn the defensive skills that Professor Dolores Umbridge, the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, refused to teach. Besides, it gave him one more thing to do with his best mates.
In late May the Quidditch season ended. Michael returned to the dorm after the last match and spent the night lying on his bed with a pillow over his head. Ravenclaw had lost and Ginny had dumped him, supposedly for being a sore loser.
Not knowing how to console his best mate, Anthony did what he always did when he wasn’t sure of what to do. He went to the library.
Anthony hadn’t liked fifth year at all. Umbridge’s reign had seriously affected him and his best friends, who had gone from happy-go-lucky teenage boys to anxious and secretive young men. Added to that, the Ordinary Wizarding Level exams at the end of fifth year were beastly. Anthony was quite surprised to get four O’s, three E’s and only one A, in Potions. Not taking Potions again was a relief, though he missed having class then with Terry, who’d got an O and gone on to NEWT Potions. So, in sixth year, Anthony had most of his classes with Michael, which pleased him. What didn’t please him, though, was Michael’s love life.
After the Ginny debacle, Michael had moved on quickly. He’d seemed to fancy her so much, yet when she dumped him, he suffered for a few days and then bounced back incredibly fast. Anthony didn’t know what to make of that. Before he could try to figure it out, he stumbled upon Michael snogging Cho Chang in a passageway that the Three Musketeers often used as a shortcut within Ravenclaw Tower. He’d known, of course, that Michael and Cho were going out, but for them to snog in a Musketeers shortcut just seemed wrong.
As Anthony hurried past the couple, he didn’t notice that Michael wasn’t concentrating fully on Cho. While her eyes were closed and her lips pressed firmly against his, one of Michael’s eyes followed Anthony as he left the passageway.
Back in the dorm, Anthony pulled out his Transfiguration text before flopping down on his bed. Terry was out somewhere, probably trying to pull one of the Hufflepuff girls; it seemed he’d taken a fancy to Susan Bones. Anthony figured he’d have plenty of time to study before either of his mates returned. He’d barely got three pages into his homework, though, when the door flew open and Michael entered, apparently out of breath.
“Hey, Mike, what’s up?”
Michael sat on his own bed, opposite Anthony’s. “I think you know what’s up, mate.”
“Me? What do you mean? I…Oh. Right.”
“Yeah. Right. Me and Cho, snogging. I know you saw us.”
Blood rushed to Anthony’s face, and he hung his head to avoid looking at his friend. “’S none of my business who you snog, mate.”
“I know,” Michael said softly. “But you seemed upset about it. Just wanted to make sure you’re okay and not angry with me.”
Anthony finally looked up. “Why’d I be angry with you? I just said it’s not my business who you snog.”
Michael pursed his lips. “You caught my eye as you rushed past us. You looked upset. If it’s not about me and Cho, then what?”
Leaning back against the bed, Anthony looked up toward the ceiling. Anything to not look at Michael. Heaving a sigh, he said softly, “Just seems wrong, you snogging anyone in that passageway. That’s our shortcut, Mike. The Musketeers’ special shortcut.” He shook his head, trying to will the image from his mind. “Now every time I go through there I’ll see your lips glued to Cho’s.”
When what I really want is to feel your lips glued to mine…
The thought rushed into Anthony’s mind unbidden – and he knew right away, in that moment, that it was the truth. His blush had just gone away, but now the blood seemed to have traveled far south, below his belt. Mortified, he rolled over quickly onto his stomach, burying his face in his duvet.
Michael seemed mortified too, though probably for different reasons. “’m sorry, mate,” he muttered. “Didn’t mean to gross anyone out, y’know? We thought we’d have some privacy there. I never thought – I mean, it didn’t occur to me that you or Terry might walk through there just then.” Anthony felt something warm through his shirt; Michael had laid a hand gently on his friend’s back, and Anthony wished he could melt into the duvet or, better yet, into oblivion.
“No worries,” Michael said, withdrawing his hand. “We won’t snog there again. So, erm, you want to sneak down to the kitchens for a snack?”
Anthony shook his head, hoping that Michael would just go away. “Not now, thanks. Maybe another night. I’ve actually got a bad, er, headache now.”
“Okay, I’m going to the library now. Hope you feel better soon.”
When the door closed as Michael left, Anthony finally rolled over. His boner was still there, and he needed to relieve himself. Casting a silencing spell on the room, he undid his trousers and set to work, all the while imagining Michael’s lips glued to… well, somewhere that wasn’t Anthony’s lips.
Anthony spent the next few months working hard not to fixate on Michael Corner. He made lists of reasons why fancying Michael was a very bad idea.
- Michael was one of his best mates.
- They’d known each other since they were eleven, and had been friends since Anthony’s twelfth birthday in October 1990.
- Michael was going out with Cho Bloody Chang, who was gorgeous, brilliant and very female.
- There was no hint, much less any evidence, that Michael had ever had any romantic or sexual interest in anyone male.
...and so on. Eventually Anthony’s list had 15 items. Whenever he found himself thinking of Michael too much, Anthony unfolded the parchment and looked at it, trying to use logic to will himself out of his infatuation.
Michael seemed blissfully unaware of all this, thank Merlin, but Terry was too observant not to notice that Anthony now turned away whenever Michael stripped out of his clothes in the dorm.
“Goldstein, I think you’ll be happy to hear that Corner and Chang are definitely not going to last,” Terry said one day in February as he and Anthony sat down to lunch at one end of the Ravenclaw table.
Anthony made a shushing motion with his finger. “What gives you that idea?” he asked softly.
Terry took a bite of shepherd’s pie. “I heard them arguing near the Quidditch changing rooms,” he said blithely. “Cho was giving him hell for not being supportive enough during Ravenclaw’s matches. Corner looked pretty down about it.”
Anthony gave his mate a sideways glance. “So why’d you think I’d care about them arguing?”
Terry seemed to suppress a snort. “Goldstein, this is me, Boot. I know you and Corner almost as well as I know myself.” He lowered his voice so that Anthony just barely heard him above the din of the lunch crowd. “No worries, your secret is safe with me. I think it’s sort of sweet that you fancy him. The girls seem to fancy him a lot too, even if he always seems to fancy the wrong ones. ‘m not saying you’d ever have any chance with him. Dunno if he even likes blokes at all. But I also think he’d not hex your nuts off if you let him know how you feel. He might be embarrassed about it but I reckon he’d get over that soon enough.”
Anthony sighed. Terry made it all sound so easy. “But what if even the thought sickened him?”
Terry raised an eyebrow. “He’s not that sort, believe me. He’s got nothing against boys who like other boys. He even told me once he stumbled on some blokes snogging under the bushes in the courtyard outside the Great Hall and he had a stiffie for half an hour.”
Anthony chuckled softly. It was just like Terry to do something like this to cheer a friend up, especially one of his best mates. “All right, you’ve made your point,” he said, biting his lip in thought. “I’m not saying I’m going to tell him any time soon.” If at all. “But if he finds out, it won’t be the end of the world.”
Finishing their meals, Anthony and Terry split up; Terry went to the library before his next class, while Anthony went back to Ravenclaw Tower to retrieve a notebook. Entering the sixth-year dorm, Anthony didn’t notice Michael leaning against the wall at the far end of the room.
Michael cleared his throat.
Anthony jumped six inches.
“Bloody hell, you could let a bloke know you’re in the room,” he gasped, clutching his robes as he sat on the edge of his bed.
Michael strolled across the room until he stood in front of Anthony. He looked amazingly calm, considering the fight he’d just had with Cho.
“Cho and I just broke up,” he said flatly.
Anthony blinked. “Did you? I mean... sorry, mate. That’s got to hurt. You’ve had rotten luck with girls, yeah?”
Michael shook his head. “Didn’t really hurt, y’know? It was a mutual decision. Things just weren’t working out.”
“Ah… well...” A bubble of relief grew inside Anthony’s chest. “I’m glad you’re not hurting, then. Better to break up now, when you know it’s not working, than to drag things on and hope they do, right?”
Michael nodded. Then he sat next to Anthony on the bed and surprised him again. “I’m sort of tired of girls right now, actually.”
Now Anthony nodded in sympathy. “I’ve got three sisters. I know they can be pains in the arse.”
“That’s not what I mean.”
Somehow Anthony didn’t notice Michael’s hand on his knee, or his arm around his shoulder. It all happened so quickly, all he had time to notice was long, dark eyelashes as Michael’s face approached his own. Then Michael’s lips were on his, soft yet firm, sweet yet tangy, and Anthony noticed he was clutching Michael’s robes, not wanting to kiss to end.
When Michael finally pulled away, Anthony gave him a shy smile. “Was I that transparent?” he asked softly.
“Not really.” Michael’s usually pale cheeks were very pink. “At least not until after you’d caught me with Cho in the passageway. My relationship with her was already going sour by then. It was only a matter of time until we broke up. And to be honest, she and I argued about you recently, you and Terry anyway. She said I spent too much time with my mates and not enough with her. I told her she might not always be my girlfriend, but you’d always be my best mates.”
Anthony now allowed himself to notice everything he could about Michael Corner – the crinkly corners of his eyes as he smiled, the weight of his hand on Anthony’s knee, the way his eyelashes shaded his dark eyes. “Thanks for saying that, mate. It means a lot to me.”
“You mean a lot to me.”
“Yeah, you too.”
“See you in the library in a few minutes, okay?” Michael said, making to leave.
“Yeah, I’ll see you then.”
There was nothing more to say at the moment. Anthony was fairly certain, though, that he and Michael would resume this conversation, and perhaps have more of a snog, later on. Michael knew that Anthony fancied him, and he didn’t mind. Maybe he even fancied Anthony too.
That might be too much to hope for, but Anthony didn’t care. He still had both of his best mates. Life was good.