Actions

Work Header

love, war, and a few things in between

Chapter Text

Arya Stark hated Gendry Waters. From the bottom of her heart, she truly hated him.

She had always known him to be arrogant, one of those boys who was too handsome for his own good. Girls were constantly batting their eyelashes at him, giggling when he passed, and Waters carried on as if he was above even looking at them.

He was miserable on top of this, constantly scowling. During his first practice with the Gryffindor quidditch team, Arya had attempted to compliment him on a well-hit bludger and he had only stared at her, as if affronted that she had even dared to speak to him.

They had been teammates for three years now, and Gendry had hardly said ten words to Arya, and almost none of had been particularly warm or friendly. This was, of course, perfectly fine in her eyes, as she had always had her brothers and her friends and did not need a surly prick hanging around her.

For Arya, there was ample evidence that Gendry Waters was a self-important jerk. In the fall of Arya’s fourth year, Margaery Tyrell, Sansa’s good friend and one of the prettiest girls Arya knew, had asked Gendry if he might want to join her for a butterbeer during the Hogsmeade visit the following weekend. He had blinked at her before offering a rather blunt “No” and turning to walk away. Any boy who thought himself too good for Margaery Tyrell obviously had a deluded sense of self-importance, and Waters didn’t even have the good grace to be polite about it.

During his very first match with the Gryffindor quidditch team, Gendry had swooped in and told Arya to get over it and focus on the game when she had been justly arguing a blatant missed call by Coach Tarth. It had, in the end, been good advice, as she had gone on to catch the snitch within minutes, but his words had rubbed her the wrong way regardless. Robb, the captain at the time, was the only one who should have been bossing her around. Where did this surly rookie fifth year get off telling her how to play the game?

Then, around Christmastime last year, a few weeks before the Ramsay incident, the Gryffindor common room had been celebrating a particularly impressive win and Arya’s list of reasons to dislike Gendry Waters grew further. Arya had won the game before half of her team had even warmed their broomsticks, snatching the snitch from right under Ned Dayne’s nose within minutes of the opening whistle. She had tied the record for the shortest game in Hogwarts’ history, and the brevity of the match had given them ample time to prepare for a party. This allowed for Sansa to force Arya into a feminine blouse and for Meera to casually magic a few delicate wildflowers into her messy braid. Arya thought the flowers rather pretty.

Arya had felt alright about these modifications until she found herself behind Gendry and his friends, the excessively flirtatious Anguy and the endlessly obnoxious Tom. They were seated on a couch, Anguy and Tom passing a bottle of firewhisky across Gendry, who was nursing a butterbeer.

“See little Arya Stark’s got tits?” Anguy had asked with a wide grin.

“Don’t let her brother hear you say that,” Gendry had said dully, glancing around.

“Lucky you, getting to share a changing room with her every week,” Tom had said. He had nudged Gendry, who had scowled at the very thought.

“I don’t look at her,” Gendry had grunted as Anguy laughed.

“Well, you should look at her tonight,” the freckled git insisted, “Maybe try to find out if she’d be interested in some one-on-one practice sessions.” He had wiggled his eyebrows suggestively as he said this.

“As if,” Gendry had snorted, as though the prospect offended him. Having heard enough, Arya had swept away to go and find Alys. What did she care what he thought of her? She hadn’t left her dorm like this for him or his repugnant friends anyway.

Her list of reasons to dislike Gendry Waters grew longer still a few weeks later, when her quidditch season had been ended by a brutal, violent blindside swing of a beater’s bat to the back of her head from Ramsay Bolton. She had been toying the Slytherin seeker, Joffrey Baratheon, all match. Arya knew she could outfly him, so she spent much of the game feinting, diving after nothing, drawing Joffrey along on dangerous freefalls that almost caused him to lose control. Her hope was that eventually, when she did see the snitch, he would be so pissed off that he would hesitate to even follow her chase. Arya was playing with fire, but she also knew that throwing Joffrey Baratheon off of his game gave Gryffindor their best chance at winning. Ramsay Bolton and his beater’s bat proved her wrong.

When she had blinked her eyes open as she lay on the grass, she was met with the horrified faces of Coach Tarth, her teammates, and even a few of her friends from the Slytherin team - Asha Greyjoy had offered her a hand up, but Coach Tarth had told Arya to stay down. Jon had looked so concerned that Arya was sure he was about to vomit - he would not let go of her hand all the way to the hospital wing, even when Nurse Mordane had insisted she needed space.

The one exception to the general air of concern after her injury was Gendry Waters, who, on the contrary, looked completely furious. He had stalked away as soon as Arya had opened her eyes, not even bothering to look relieved. Gendry was the only member of the team that didn’t bother to come see her in the hospital wing, and he seemed to be in a worse mood than usual for the rest of the school year.

Gendry blamed her, she knew, for playing a risky game with Joffrey, costing the Gryffindor team their season. Jon had filled in as seeker in her absence, but he had never been quick the way Arya was. Gryffindor had lost the next two matches and Arya was positive that Gendry held her responsible. His scowls made that clear enough. The rest of the team had been sure to check in on her, asking about her recovery, reassuring her that Bolton’s stunt was unforgivably dirty, and that he was to blame for her absence.Gendry had barely even looked at her for the rest of the school year.

She hated him for that - as if her months of recovery were not punishment enough. As if her summer spent attempting to trust her turns on a broom, forcing her siblings to fling bludgers at her, was not frustrating enough enough. And now, on the first day of her sixth year at Hogwarts, Gendry Waters had gone a step too far.

-

The fact that Gendry had been named captain of the Gryffindor quidditch team was ridiculous in itself. Sure, he was in seventh year and she in sixth, but Arya had been on the team since her third year, and Gendry only since his fifth. Arya was the longest serving member of the squad, and she would have succeeded Jon as captain, who had succeeded Robb. It should have been hers. How was Gendry going to lead when he barely even spoke? Yes, he was easily the best beater she had ever played with, but he was also a selfish, arrogant, miserable jerk. And now he had gone and posted this downright insulting piece of parchment on the notice board. She pulled it off of the wall and stormed over to where he was standing with his little gang.

“Tryouts, Waters?” She spat, “For every position?” He straightened his shoulders and looked at her defiantly, an eyebrow raised. Anguy and Tom seemed to melt away under her gaze.

“Is there a problem, Stark?” Gendry asked haughtily, as if daring her to protest further. Lucky for him, Arya had much more to say.

“I’m the best seeker in this house and you know it,” she said through gritted teeth, “What’s the point in holding tryouts for any position other than the beater we’re missing?” He shrugged, as if he had expected this.

“Who’s to say there’s not someone better out there?” he asked, “I’m the captain and I don’t want any complacency on my squad. Players should earn their spots based on how they perform, not based on previous seasons or who their friends are or what their last name is.” He folded his arms and straightened his shoulders, as if wanting to appear more intimidating. Her mouth dropped open and she let out a hollow laugh.

“You think I’ve been Gryffindor’s most successful seeker since Arthur Dayne because my last name is Stark?” Arya couldn’t believe him. She had always thought he seemed stupid, but this was frankly outrageous.

“I’m saying I want you to prove that you belong on my team,” he said, his eyes hard and his brow still raised, “Will I see you at tryouts on Wednesday?” She narrowed her eyes at him.

“I’ll be there.”

-

The truth was, Arya Stark was scared. Nurse Mordane was capable of healing almost any injury in seconds, but the effects of Ramsay Bolton’s beater’s bat had lingered far longer than any physical pain. She had tried last spring to get back on her broom in time to salvage Gryffindor’s season, but every attempt her and Jon had made had ended with her nearly falling to the pitch every time Jon flew too close.

Arya hated it, hated feeling weak, hated being a liability. All summer she had tried her hardest to fix it. She had made progress, she was proud to say, though Bran and Rickon and, for one short-lived occasion, Sansa were not exactly the tier of beater she would face at school (Rickon did show quite impressive potential, she had to admit). And now she would put her training to the test in front of half of Gryffindor house, in front of a captain who clearly wanted her to fail, who was no doubt looking for an excuse to drop her from the team.

Gendry thought her a spoiled brat who hadn’t earned her place and he was surely holding on to some bitterness from last year. Arya wanted to show him, to prove to him that she could fly circles every other member of Gryffindor house. She just prayed that she could pull it off without flinching or faltering or falling to the pitch.

-

“Chasers,” Gendry called. The third and final day of tryouts had ended and dusk was arriving. Gendry was reading out the final roster. “Alys Karstark, Quentyn Martell, and Wylla Manderly.” Quentyn and Alys had both been on the team last year, but Wylla, a fellow sixth year girl that Arya was casually friendly with, had taken the place of Pyp, a good friend of Jon’s. Pyp scowled at Gendry and turned to leave, a handful of other hopefuls following suit. Wylla was good, and had outflown Pyp and the others during all three nights of tryouts. Arya couldn’t disagree with Gendry’s selections, though her stomach twisted nervously as her long-time teammate Pyp stalked away from them.

Arya had been the best seeker, she knew that. She had, as she had known she could, outclassed all of the competition by a large margin. No one was as quick as her, as deft, and no one had vision so sharp. Her one misstep had come earlier tonight, when a beater hopeful had accidentally sent a bludger in her direction as she was perched on her broom, watching the keepers warm up. Arya had dodged it, but only just, barely managing to hold on to her broom. She had spun gracelessly, grasping the handle with the tips of her fingers and hooking her leg back on. She glanced around, hoping that no one had noticed her near-fall. To her dismay, she saw Gendry watching her from the pitch, his head cocked slightly to the side. She grimaced remembering this blunder as the captain allowed Wylla a moment of excitement before he carried on with his roster.

“Beaters - myself and Lyanna Mormont.” Another new face, another one that Arya found that she approved of, having watched in surprise as the third year girl fiercely took on the large group of older, all-male hopefuls, who were all now slumping away. Some of them were muttering rather loudly about how Gendry’s tryouts were horseshit. His face hardened but otherwise showed no sign that he cared what they thought.

“Podrick, you’re our keeper.” Pod had been on the team for the past two years and though he was no Theon Greyjoy, he was a capable, reliable keeper and the most encouraging teammate Arya had ever flown with. Arya slapped him on the back and grinned at him, doing her best to ignore the knot in her stomach.

“And our seeker,” Gendry said, looking thoughtful, as if he wasn’t sure about his selection. Prick. “Arya Stark.”

-

“Told you,” she snapped, securing the snitch into the ball box. Gendry, who was holding a bludger down and sticking his tongue out stupidly as he did up the latch, looked up at her.

“I knew you were the best, Stark.”

The biting response she had ready got stuck in her throat. “What?”

“You’re the best seeker I’ve ever played with, probably the best I’ve seen play at Hogwarts.” He stood up and shrugged, “Still glad I made you prove it.” She glared at him, suspicious of his compliments. He had never talked to her so much without scowling, and she didn’t trust it.

“Well, you didn’t have to be such a jerk about it,” she said, rolling her eyes and starting her walk across the field towards the changing room. He followed, his long stride allowing him to catch up to her swiftly.

“And you didn’t have to throw a tantrum over the suggestion that someone else might deserve a chance,” he retorted. Ignoring the affronted face she made, he carried on, “I knew I was a better beater than both Gerris Drinkwater and Dickon Tarly when I was in fourth year, but no one gave me a chance to prove it.” Arya bit her lip.

He was right, she knew. Gendry’s addition to the team two years ago had made an enormous difference - his expert marking of the Ravenclaw chasers in his first cup final has been a performance for the ages, helping Gryffindor take home the championship in a blow-out victory. He should have been on the team long before his fifth year. But she wasn’t about to admit that he was right, so she said nothing.

“Thanks for helping with the equipment,” he said as they entered the changing room. She shrugged.

Arya stripped off her jersey and threw it in her bag and Gendry made a noise. She grabbed her towel and looked over at him. He was determinedly looking away from her and her bra. “What?” she demanded, “Thought you weren’t interested in looking at me.”

“Huh?” he asked, looking up at her now, confused, his cheeks still a little red from the tryouts. Arya rolled her eyes.

“Nevermind, Waters,” she said, stepping in to the girls’ shower room. “I’ll see you at practice.”

-

Arya practiced with Alys and Wylla, passing the quaffle around, catching practice snitches with ease, imitating Pod’s more unorthodox keeping tactics. Wylla was a lot of fun, and she and Alys were both happy to oblige Arya’s request for them to fling practice bludgers at her.

Unfortunately, the practice bludgers were nothing like the real thing, and Arya found it far too easy to avoid them. She needed someone who knew what they were doing, someone who wouldn’t go easy on her, who would work with her until this stupid, weak, irrational fear was chased from her. She grimaced as she lay in bed that night, knowing what she had to do, and hating the thought of it more than anything.

-

“I need your help,” Arya said, bringing Gendry to a sharp halt in the hallway. He was carrying a herbology book that was falling apart at the spine and his black hair was messy in a way that was clearly intentional. Arya found herself groaning internally at the prospect of spending more time than necessary with a boy who put effort into mussing up his hair.

“Pardon me?” he asked, as if he couldn’t believe his ears. She rolled her eyes.

“You heard me. Meet me at the quidditch pitch tonight. 7 o’clock sharp.”

“Is that a command, Stark?” Gendry challenged, and she ignored him, starting to walk away. She would be late for Defense Against the Dark Arts if she hung around any longer. Spinning back to face him, Arya saw him staring after her. He looked both confused and annoyed.

“Just… Be there.” Arya said, and she carried on to class, hoping he was willing to do what she needed him to do.

Chapter Text

“You want me to hit bludgers at you?” Gendry blinked at Arya. He sounded more than a little bit apprehensive.

“Trust me, you weren’t my first choice,” Arya grumbled, tightening her wristguard, “But you’re a decent beater and I need to get over this.” Arya had explained her situation to him as she had fastened her robes and tied up her boots, determined not to look at Gendry as she admitted that she was still not her old self on her broom. She didn’t want to see his accusatory gaze or, worse, any doubt in his eyes that she was stable enough to keep her position.

“Decent?” He repeated, affronted. She rolled her eyes. Of course he would turn this into an excuse to inflate his ego.

“If I tell you you’re good will you help me?” Arya asked, glaring at him. Gendry offered her a rare smile. It was foreign and very difficult to look at, sort of like looking directly at the sun.

“If I want to win that cup, I’ll need a seeker who’s on top of her game.” He picked up his bat and broom and opened the door for her. “Shall we?”

-

The first bludger he hit came at her so fast that she didn’t even have time to think. She spun automatically, dodging it, coming back upright furious. “What the fuck, Waters?” she yelled. “You agreed to help me, not take my bloody head off.” She saw him grinning from where he sat, a hundred yards away.

“Ready?” He called, as the bludger came back into his orbit and Arya was forced to dart frantically upwards to avoid impact. She breathed heavily, furious. She had thought they might start slow, seeing as she had outlined in detail just how difficult this process had been for her, but no, Gendry wasn’t worried about easing her into things. He didn’t want to bother offering her warning. She looped to avoid another one of his projectiles and she cursed herself for thinking this could ever be a good idea.

This was his idea of punishment, surely. Penance for ruining Gryffindor’s hopes last season. And she had willingly suggested the whole thing.

By the eleventh bludger, she had reached her limit and sped past the incoming ball, aiming her broom directly at Gendry’s before coming to a stop just before she would collide with him. He looked relatively pleased until he saw her scowl.

“What the hell is your problem?” She spat. “Are you trying to make me more jumpy?” His face fell.

“You dodged them all,” he said defensively, “Duck!” She flattened herself against her broom handle as he smacked the returning bludger away. She popped back up and narrowed her eyes at him.

“Barely,” she countered, “Some warning would have been nice.” Gendry shook his head at her.

“Doing it without warning is the whole point, though. You dodged all of those perfectly because you’ve got excellent instincts. I’m guessing that the fear comes from overthinking it.” Arya blinked at him, and he continued. “Figured it made sense to start out by testing your reflexes.” Gendry glanced behind her and she rolled to avoid the bludger speeding at the back of her head. “And those seem to be working just fine.”

Arya glared at him. “So what’s your next brilliant plan then?” He shot her a look of annoyance.

“I’ve got some ideas,” he said. “I think a bit more reflex testing is probably enough for tonight, though.” Arya rolled her eyes and flew off, wishing there was anyone she trusted more with a beater’s bat than the idiot she was stuck with.

-

“I don’t like being in debt to anyone,” Arya said as they walked back up to the castle.

“Okay…,” Gendry responded, awaiting an explanation.

“If you want something in return, let me know.” He raised an eyebrow at this. “I can pay you if you want.”

Pay me? Is that how your type says ‘thanks’?” Gendry asked.

“My type?” Arya tried to keep her voice level.

“Rich people,” he laughed, though it sounded a little hollow. She froze halfway up the front stairs. He stopped too, already looking exasperated with whatever she was about to say.

“Don’t act like you know anything about me, Waters,” she growled, “I know you think I’m some spoiled, entitled brat -,”

“Despite all the evidence to the contrary,” He muttered. She felt fury rise in her and forced herself to take a deep breath.

“Fine,” she spat, “If you want to be a dick, be a dick. Fantastic display of leadership, Waters.” She moved to enter the castle but he slammed his hand against the door, shutting her outside with him. “What is your -,”

“This dick is your captain, like it or not,” he snapped. His blue eyes were so aggravated that they were almost frightening. “It’s my job to make sure my team is ready to play, and that includes my seeker. I don’t want your money, or your daddy’s money. I want you to catch the snitch. I know you think you deserve this badge more than me,” Gendry pointed at the shiny golden C engraved into the Gryffindor badge that was pinned to his chest, “And I’m sure that half of the school agrees with you. I don’t care what you all think - I want to win.”

“So do I,” she said, not bothering to contradict the point about his captaincy. She hoped that he could physically feel the daggers she was staring into him.

“Then we have one thing in common,” he said, “If I can put up with your shitty attitude, you can put up with me being a dick. As long as we win.” He opened the door and left swiftly, leaving Arya to scowl at the gargoyle door knocker, the knuckles clutching her broom white with rage.

Regardless of what he had just insisted, she would not spend the year indebted to that prick.

-

Arya sat down at the Ravenclaw table for breakfast, grabbing a piece of toast as she watched Sansa finish reading the last paragraph of some Daily Prophet article.

“Hello Arya,” Sansa said, setting the paper down and smiling at her sister, “What do you want?”

Arya wasn’t offended - she and Sansa rarely ate meals together, and they both knew it was too early in the morning for Arya to be looking for any sisterly bonding.

“Have you got any classes with Gendry Waters?” Sansa looked surprised.

“Herbology and Defence Against the Dark Arts,” she said thoughtfully, “and Charms!”

“Which is he the worst at?” Arya asked.

“Oh, I’m not sure - he’s quite good at Defence, he produced the best non-verbal shield charm in the class last year!” Sansa offered. Arya rolled her eyes.

“What’s he bad at? He doesn’t exactly seem like the sharpest -,”

“Arya! Don’t be like that,” Sansa gave her sister a look of disapproval before turning her thoughts back to Gendry, “We’ve only had one class thus far, but he’s using one of Professor Smallwood’s spare old textbooks - I suppose he missed that title on his booklist. He does seem to be struggling a little with the outdated information from the old book. He had to restart his Wiggentree planting because the instructions said -,”

“Alright, that’s all I needed to know!” Arya stood up, “Thanks Sansa!”

-

Dear Theon,

Hope the city is treating you and Robb well, and that you’re both surviving in what is surely the most disgusting flat I’ll never step foot in. Miss you two dearly. I have a favour to ask - do you still have your copy of Weirwood’s Advanced Herbology? If so, are you willing to part with it? My useless brothers didn’t take N.E.W.T. Herbology and you are my only hope.

Also, when you next see Asha, tell her I miss her. The Slytherin quidditch team is far more detestable without her.

Love from Hogwarts,
Arya

-

She was in the library with Meera and Alys when he walked by, Professor Smallwood’s aging copy of Advanced Herbology in his hand and a scowl on his face.

“I’ll be right back,” Arya said, grabbing Theon’s book from her bag and setting off after Gendry. He was settling down at a table a few stacks away, setting some parchment and ink out. She dropped the book down on the table and he jumped. He looked at her and then at the book before letting out a noise of disbelief.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“You forgot to buy yourself a textbook, so I’m saving you the effort,” Arya said, “Now we’re even.” He shook his head at her, at a loss for words. “No need to thank me.”

“Who said I was going to thank you?” He snapped, “You can keep your book, Stark. I’m not a charity case.” Gendry pushed Theon’s book aside and opened up Professor Smallwood’s used copy. He flipped a page and it fell out. He sighed and closed his eyes.

“We’re even now,” Arya repeated, leaving Theon’s book with him and walking away.

-

“I’ve been partnered up with your sister in Charms class,” Pod said. They were stretching before practice. Gendry was showing Lyanna a wrist movement that helped prevent cramping while holding a beater’s bat. Alys and Quentyn were trying to convince Wylla to dye her blonde hair darker.

“Oh, perfect,” Arya said to Pod, “You can keep an eye on that creepy Professor Baelish for me. I swear he has a thing for Sansa.” She pretended to vomit but Podrick didn’t laugh.

“I always thought that Mockingbird Society of his was a little odd,” Pod mused, his brow furrowed.

“It is,” Arya agreed, “My mother has made me promise to attend, since Baelish is an old family friend, but I really hate those dinners. The parties are awful too, though at least there are interesting guests sometimes. Arthur Dayne was there last Christmas, which -,”

Gendry blew his whistle loudly.

“If we’re all finished discussing the exclusive parties we’ve attended,” he said with disdain, “I’d like to start practice now.”

-

Professor Selmy chose Arya to demonstrate the Impedimenta jinx in Defense Against the Dark Arts, bringing the enchanted test dummy to a dramatic halt and earning five points for Gryffindor. Arya grinned at Meera, who applauded her as she returned to her seat.

“Nice job,” said a friendly voice behind her, and Arya turned to see Ned Dayne raising his chin in greeting. She smiled back politely.

-

Snidget.”

“Sorry dear,” the portrait of the Fat Lady said apologetically, “The password changed this afternoon.” Arya groaned. Practice had gone long and she was desperate for the four poster bed that awaited her upstairs. She heard heavy footsteps and turned to see Gendry approaching. He gave her a funny look as he reached the portrait hole.

“Password’s changed,” Arya explained.

Flobberworm,” he grunted, and the Fat Lady swung open. He motioned for Arya to go ahead of him. Arya had reached the stairs to the girls’ dormitory when he spoke again.

“Thanks for the book.” The words sounded as though they pained him. He looked for a moment as if he wanted to say more, but instead he turned and headed up to his dorm, not bothering to wait for a response.

-

Sansa sat beside Arya at breakfast on Saturday morning, pouring herself some tea and stirring in some sugar, humming as she did so. Arya raised her eyebrows at her sister - she had applied lip gloss before she had eaten, which seemed odd, and it looked as if she had spent a long time on her hair, her loose auburn curls framing her face perfectly.

“What’s up, Sansa?”

“Oh, nothing,” her sister smiled, “Just wanted to see what was going on at the Gryffindor table today. How is the quidditch team shaping up?” Arya stared at Sansa. Sansa cheered for Gryffindor - except when they played Ravenclaw - and was always supportive of her more athletic siblings. But Sansa asking about quidditch directly? This was new.

“It’s fine, I guess,” Arya said, “Waters is an arsehole, but that’s no surprise. We’ve got practice shortly, actually - the rest of the team is probably already heading down at the pitch.” Arya hurried to finish her pumpkin juice and Sansa’s looked slightly dejected. She stood and picked up her cup of tea before pausing.

“Maybe I’ll come and watch!” She said, her eyes glinting with excitement. Arya froze, a piece of toast hanging from her mouth.

“Er,” she said, finishing her bite, “Sure, I guess.”

-

“You’re late, Stark,” Gendry said, as Arya rushed onto the pitch, pulling her hair back into a ponytail.

“Sorry, Captain,” Arya said, “My sister wanted to come watch us practice.” The team’s eyes followed Arya’s nod over at the stands, where Sansa waved to them cheerfully. Pod raised a hand and grinned.

“She’s not spying for Ravenclaw, is she?” Gendry said suspiciously. Arya scoffed, but it was Pod who answered.

“Sansa wouldn’t do that. Besides, she doesn’t know anything about quidditch. I had to explain what Haversacking was to her in Charms the other day.” This seemed to satisfy Gendry, who proceeded to go over a play he wanted the chasers to try out.

-

Arya had felt good during practice, at least until Gendry flew up beside her and asked her to stay behind to do some bludger work with him.

“You look perfectly comfortable dodging the bludgers when you know they’re coming,” Gendry concluded after Arya had spent a gruelling hour spinning, rolling, and diving away from his projectiles. She was still catching her breath in the changing room as Gendry spoke. He unlaced the top of his jersey and pulled it over his head. “There’s something I think we should try, but I’ll understand if you’re not comfortable with it.”

Arya’s ability to process what he was saying faded significantly as she stared at him. She had known he was fit - it was obvious even when he wore his school uniform, and even more so in his quidditch kit - but she had never actually looked at him when he was shirtless. It was categorically unfair that someone so undeniably attractive was so very unpleasant.

“Would you let me blindfold you?” He asked, turning to her now and Arya snapped her eyes away from his torso and up to his face.

“What?” She asked, glad that her cheeks were already red from their training.

“I’d call out directions, guide you and everything,” he said, slinging a towel over his shoulder, “I think it could help with the blindside stuff.” Arya found herself nodding.

“Sure,” she said quickly, grabbing her own towel and not looking at him, “Whatever you think will work.”

“Great. You free Thursday?” He asked, and she wished he would just go shower or put a shirt on. “Think we should try to do it before our game next weekend.”

“I’m supposed to go to one of those Baelish dinners,” she said, and he scowled.

“Fair enough, can’t miss your swanky -,”

“Which means that Thursday is perfect,” she cut in. “I’ve been looking for an excuse to get out of it.”

“Oh,” he said, frowning, “Alright, then. Thursday it is.”

-

“I cannot believe you’re making me go alone,” Sansa grimaced.

“You’re not alone, you’ll have Margaery and Meera!” Arya insisted, “Besides, it’s not like I’ll be having the time of my life with Waters.”

“I’d rather have bludgers hit at me for two hours than spend more than five minutes with Petyr Baelish. Any professor in love with a student’s mother should not be allowed to teach said student.” Arya agreed with that. “Ned Dayne’s going to be so disappointed.”

“What’s Ned Dayne got to do with anything?” Arya asked, utterly lost.

“Oh Arya, he’s had a thing for you since you stole the snitch from right under his nose last year. He’ll be miserable when he finds out you’re skipping the dinner to spend time with your handsome captain.” Arya’s face contorted in disgust at all of this.

“First of all, Ned Dayne does not have a thing for me. And second of all, ew.”

“Yes, he does. And come off it - Gendry’s hot.”

“Doesn’t mean I enjoy spending time with him.”

-

“That was easily our most fun Transfiguration class ever,” Wylla said, “I think I might just keep my hair like this.” Arya grinned at her. Wylla’s hair was a turquoise green - it looked like sea glass.

“You should! You look like a mermaid.” Arya’s own hair was a peachy orange that faded into white-blonde. She felt a little ridiculous, but it would wear off by the next morning. “I’m excited for next week when H’ghar shows us how to properly modify faces. I want to give Joffrey a pig’s snout.”

They reached the portrait hole as Anguy and Gendry were leaving. Gendry had blinked in surprise at their hair before carrying on down the hallway, but Anguy lingered, grinning at Arya.

“Whoa, Stark, you look hot as a blonde,” he said, raising his eyebrows at her. She rolled her eyes.

“We’re going to be late,” Gendry called back to his friend, who winked at Arya and hurried away. She immediately found a mirror and turned her hair back to its natural dark brown.

-

“Your hair’s normal again,” Gendry commented as they stepped onto the quidditch pitch on Tuesday evening for practice.

“Yeah,” Arya said, “send my apologies to your friend.” Gendry snorted.

“Anguy’s a prick,” he shrugged, “You didn’t look any better blonde.”

“Thanks,” she replied sarcastically. Gendry paused.

“No, that’s not-,” he started, but Arya didn’t want to listen to him pretend to be nice to her. They were approaching the rest of the team now, anyway.

“Leave it, Waters,” Arya said, rolling her eyes as she made to join Alys in cooing over Wylla’s hair.

-

Arya was paired with Ned in Defense Against the Dark Arts. They were supposed to be practicing non-verbal magic, but it quickly became clear that Ned Dayne had no intention of shutting up. Professor Selmy was busy assisting students across the room, and Arya wished he would come over and tell Dayne to focus on their lesson.

Ned was handsome, she noted, in a posh sort of way - he had the look of a prince, with high cheekbones and a heavy eyelids. His skin was a deep bronze, and it made his blonde hair appear golden. His eyes were a soft, dark indigo colour. It was too bad that he seemed to be a rather unfortunate combination of talkative and dull.

“Anyway, you know Robert and Cersei as well as I do, of course. No need to tell you how stunning their manor is. They hosted a party last summer - don’t think I saw you there -,” Ned’s voice droned on and on, as Arya focused on the silent shield charms she set up between them. She thought about the bludger training she had planned with Gendry that evening and groaned. Was she destined to spend all of her time with boys she wanted to use a permanent silencing charm on?

-

“Hey Arya,” Ned Dayne called, running to catch up to her after class, “Can I save you a seat at Baelish’s dinner tonight?”

Arya shook her head. “Sorry, I’ve got quidditch practice.”

“You can’t come after?” Ned asked, looking rather put out.

“I’ve got to stay on after and work on some stuff with Waters,” she said, hoping that her apologetic tone sounded somewhat convincing. Ned offered a groan of pity.

“That sounds awful,” he said. “Hopefully you can come to the next Mockingbird event!” Arya smiled falsely and agreed.

-

Arya ran into Gendry and Alys on her way down to the quidditch pitch. The evening was cool but clear, and she was eager to get on her broom.

She was listening intently to Gendry explain a shooting drill to Alys when a body collided with her shoulder, almost spinning her in a circle.

“Watch where you’re going, Stark,” Ramsay Bolton sneered, “Don’t want to hurt yourself again.” He began to walk away and Gendry pulled his wand out, starting after Bolton.

“Don’t be an idiot,” Arya snapped, grabbing his arm and bring his wand down, “It’s not worth the suspension.” Gendry looked at her apprehensively.

“Not sure about that one, Stark,” he said through gritted teeth. “What’s his problem with you, anyway?”

She exhaled, not sure that she wanted to discuss Ramsay Bolton with Gendry Waters of all people. Luckily, Alys was there.

“Arya’s dad arrested his a few years ago. He was big into dark magic - the auror office conducted this huge operation to bring him and his people down. Obviously Ramsay holds a grudge,” Alys explained. Gendry raised his eyebrows at Arya, who nodded.

“But he hasn’t attacked any of your siblings, has he?” Gendry asked.

“He tried to pick fights with Robb and Jon all the time when they were here,” Arya shrugged, “And he called Sansa a few horrible names at a party once. But I guess I was an easy target that day. Plus, I had been pissing his seeker off all match long.” Arya said it without thinking, and winced as Gendry’s eyes dropped and he scowled at the floor. She had forgotten how much her error in judgement infuriated him. None of them spoke again until they reached the changing room.

-

“Alright,” Gendry said, after practice had ended and their teammates had departed, “If this is too difficult, just call out to me and we can take it off.” Arya rolled her eyes. “I’m serious, Stark. This could be dangerous, and the last thing I want is to not have a seeker on Sunday.”

“Or for me to get hurt,” she countered. It was Gendry’s turn to roll his eyes.

“Turn around.” She did so. “I don’t have a proper blindfold, so I’m just using an old tie of mine.” Arya nodded and shut her eyes as he carefully placed the tie over them. He tightened it around the back of her head. “That okay?” He asked, and she was surprised by how close his voice seemed. She could feel his breath on her neck.

“Yeah,” she swallowed. It was a strange feeling, and she was sure it would be even stranger when she mounted her broom. “Alright, Waters, let’s give this a shot.”

-

It was bizarre and frightening and sort of fun. Gendry went easy on her at first, giving her exact descriptions of where his bludgers were in the air, and advising her on how best to avoid them. “Roll left,” he called, and she would do so, hearing the bludger whiz by.

He slowly cut back on how much information he gave her, forcing her to listen, to sense where the bludgers were coming from based on the crack of his beater’s bat and the high-pitched whistle of the balls streaming through the air. Without her sight, her other senses felt heightened. She dipped and rolled, occasionally hearing an impressed “Nice one!” from the other end of the pitch.

“Your instincts are perfect,” he said. Arya jumped, not realizing he had flown so close to her. She gripped the handle of her broom tightly to keep from slipping. “I think you’ll be just fine this weekend, honestly. You just have to trust yourself.” She nodded, hoping desperately that she would be able to do that.

-

“Lyanna’s looking great, by the way,” Arya said, starting to untie her shoulder pads. “Doesn’t seem even a little bit nervous about her first game.” Gendry beamed.

“She's a tough little thing,” He said proudly. He began loosening his own shoulder pad straps, which Arya saw were falling apart.

“Whoa, Waters, think it might be time for a new pair of pads? How old are those?” She asked, her voice light. Gendry froze and scowled.

“Sorry, not all of us feel the need to get a new kit every single season, Stark,” he spat. Arya glanced down at her pads - they were all brand new. Her broom was the latest model of Firebolt and even her muddy boots looked shiny in comparison to his worn ones.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” she said defensively. Gendry ignored her, scowling deeply as he pulled his wristguards off.

-

They ran into Professor Seaworth on their way back up to the tower. Arya wanted to hold a grudge against the head of Gryffindor house for giving Gendry the captaincy, but Seaworth was far too likable to stay mad at for long. “How’s the team shaping up, Waters?” Seaworth asked.

Gendry shrugged, and Arya was surprised by how nervous he looked. He scratched the back of his head and searched for words.

“Excellent,” she answered brightly, “We’re going to bring the cup back to your office this year, Professor.” Seaworth smiled at her.

“You’ve got an extra Gryffindor tie wrapped around your head, Stark. You’re aware of this?” Arya hastily pulled Gendry’s old tie off and flushed. Seaworth nodded in farewell. “Looking forward to seeing the team in action, Waters.”

-

“You didn’t have to answer for me, you know,” Gendry snapped as they reached the portrait hole. Arya rolled her eyes.

“Oh,” she said, “I didn’t realize Seaworth was such a talented legilimens. Were you two having a non-verbal conversation I wasn’t privy to? Or were you shrugging out a message in morse -,”

“Alright, Stark. I get it. You’re clever.” Arya smirked triumphantly and turned to the Fat Lady.

Mumblemumps.

-

“How’s the bludger practice going?” Meera asked as she rolled up a completed History of Magic essay. Arya shrugged, not looking up from the star chart she was plotting out.

“He blindfolded me yesterday,” she said, and Meera made a scandalized noise. “Oh, calm down. He thinks I’m ready for Sunday, I’m not so sure. He might just be saying that so I don’t freak out.”

“You can do this, Arya. Gendry Waters doesn’t seem like the type who would be nice to you for the sake of being nice.” Arya agreed with that, and found that she felt a little bit better about the upcoming match.

Chapter Text

There was a sense of nervousness around Gryffindor tower as the first quidditch match of the year approached.

Half of the house was excited, the other half apprehensive. Pyp and a handful of other rejectees from tryouts were not hiding their disdain for Gendry’s choices, often loudly whispering about Lyanna Mormont’s height as they passed through the common room.

Arya stood up after one particularly unfair one, ready to defend her fellow undersized teammate. “Leave it, Stark,” Gendry said, though his fist was also clenched. She hadn’t even noticed him come through the portrait hole. “We can show them on the pitch.”

-

“Good luck!” Sansa called as the Gryffindor team passed her on their way out of the great hall after breakfast on Sunday. Her hair was tied up with deep blue ribbons and she wore her Ravenclaw shirt, but Arya smiled at the small Gryffindor pin on her chest.

“Thanks,” Arya and Pod said at once. Sansa beamed at them.

“But not too much luck,” she added, “Maybe aim for a draw.”

-

Gryffindor were winning, and Arya felt great. The hours she had put in with Gendry were paying off, though hardly any bludgers seemed to get close to her at all today. Her heart felt light - they were not going to touch her, she could sense it.

Arya floated a bit above the rest of play, searching for the snitch. Sarella Sand, Ravenclaw’s seeker, was across the pitch, watching Arya carefully. A smart tactic on her part.

Arya heard a whistling noise to her right and waited, ready to pull upwards to avoid the incoming bludger. However, as soon as she made to move, there was a body in her way, and a loud crack. She faltered, frantically grasping the handle of her broom to keep herself from falling. Gendry had sent the bludger flying in the opposite direction. Without any grace whatsoever, Arya hooked her leg properly back over her handle and exhaled in relief.

“You alright?” Her captain called.

“What the fuck was that?” Arya spat. “I was about to dodge it and you -,”

“You almost fell,” he said, looking bewildered. “I was looking out for you.” She stared at him, realizing now why so few bludgers had come near her.

“You’re babysitting me,” she said, “You’ve been focused on keeping them away from me all match, haven’t you?” Arya felt her heart sink, doubt creeping in. She did not want her success to depend on Gendry Waters’ protection.

“That’s kind of what beaters are supposed to do, Stark” Gendry said, his voice rising now.

“I thought you trusted me,” Arya said, louder than she needed to. He looked both shocked at annoyed at her words.

“I do trust you, I was just -,”

“Oi!” Podrick yelled from his hoops, “The game is still on! You two can yell at each other afterwards.” Arya remembered herself and was relieved to see Sarella still flying casually, the snitch nowhere yet in sight. If they lost this match, she was going to kill him. Or - at very least - give him a pig’s snout.

-

“Good win, team,” Gendry said, “Lots of room for improvement, but we flew well out there. We’re one step closer to bringing that cup back to Gryffindor tower.”

“No thanks to you,” Arya muttered, and Gendry clenched his jaw.

“Right, the rest of you can shower. Stark, I need a word,” Gendry said heatedly. He nodded to the door and she followed him, hoping he heard her exasperated sigh. Unfortunately, the crowd was still streaming out of the stands, creating a rather non-ideal environment for a serious conversation. Gendry grumbled. “Here,” he said, moving to the equipment shed. She followed him in, her arms crossed defiantly.

“What is your problem?” She bit, as soon as he had closed the door. It was dark, but enough light came through the cracks in the wood that she could see him blink in surprise.

My problem?” Gendry asked, “You’re the one with a problem, Stark. I went out of my way to keep you from dealing with bludgers today and this is how -,”

“You told me you thought I was ready and then you spend the whole match proving that you think the opposite,” she said, jutting her chin out. He narrowed his eyes and shook his head in disbelief. The shed was small, forcing them to stand quite close to each other. His blue eyes were full of disdain, much icier than Ned Dayne’s warm, ocean-like ones.

“I think you might be the most difficult person I’ve ever met,” he said, his voice heavy with exasperation, “I was trying to be a good captain.”

“Well try harder,” Arya spat, “And don’t tell me you believe in me when you don’t.” Gendry’s eyebrows shot upwards and he let out a bark of disbelieving laughter.

“If I didn’t believe in you, there is no way in hell I would bother putting up with you, Stark. Your attitude sucks and you’ve just insulted me in front of the entire team. If I didn’t think you were capable of winning us a cup, you’d be off this team in a second.” They glared at each other, his nose inches from her own. Neither spoke for a moment, and the sheer frustration they felt for the other seemed to fill the shed.

“Well, you scared me,” she said eventually, deciding that honesty was the best road to take, “I felt fine but you surprised me when you appeared out of nowhere, and that’s what caused me to slip.” His lips parted in surprise.

“Oh,” he breathed, and his eyes lit up with a realization. “Shit, Stark. We’ve been going about this all wrong. You’re alright with bludgers, it’s beaters that cause you problems.” Looking at his stupid face, Arya couldn’t help but agree wholeheartedly with the second half of his statement. “We’ve got work to do.”

“Fine, but only as long as you don’t spend the next match babysitting me,” Arya said, standing up straighter so that she felt less tiny across from his massive frame.

“Fine,” he snapped, “but you’ve got to stop undermining me in front of the team.”

“No promises,” she said, and he scowled.

“You are a nightmare, Stark,” Gendry said, opening the door of the shed and leaving. He glanced back at her briefly, as if unsure that he wanted to voice his next thought. “Nice catch today.”

-

“So what did you and Gendry talk about,” Wylla asked, and Alys leaned in. Arya sighed and moved a potato around with her fork.

“What do you think we talked about?” Arya asked, looking between them skeptically. “I was a bitch after the game because he was a dick during the game.” Alys and Wylla exchanged a glance. “Look, guys, don’t worry about it. We’re going to do our best to not let our mutual dislike affect the team dynamic.” Wylla smiled.

“There really is a lot of tension between you two,” she said, and Alys nodded.

“Maybe you need more private time to work out all of that aggression,” Alys offered.

“Well, I think we’ve got a new plan to help with my bludger thing,” Arya shrugged, “But you two really don’t need to worry about us - we’ll find a way to put up with each other and stop making it awkward for the rest of you.” Wylla and Alys both smiled.

-

The table that Meera had found at the Three Broomsticks was meant for two people, but all three of Arya, Alys, and Wylla pulled chairs up anyway. The pub was always this busy on Hogsmeade weekends, so they had to take what they could get. Arya went to the crowded bar to get them each a butterbeer.

“Hi, can I -,”

“Three Butterbeers, please,” came a deep voice behind her, and Masha the barkeep took his silver sickles and handed Gendry three bottles. Arya looked up at him, scowling, and he shrugged at her. “You could try being less short,” he suggested, smirking.

“You could try being less vile,” Arya said. He rolled his eyes.

“I think not being first in line for once might do you a bit of good, Stark. How many do you need?” Gendry asked and she glowered at him.

“Four.”

“Masha,” he called, “Four more, please!” Masha nodded.

“Thanks,” Arya said reluctantly, pushing the money to Masha as she set the bottles down.

“No problem, princess,” he said, and he was gone before she could tell him to fuck off.

-

“Hey Arya,” Ned Dayne called as Arya made her way back to the table, two bottles of butterbeer in each of her hands. She smiled, hoping to carry on, but he stopped her. “Great catch last week - you’re a pretty good seeker,” he said.

“Thanks, Ned.”

“I’m looking forward to going up against you again,” he smiled. A student pushed past her and she was knocked forward into Ned. He chuckled. “I didn’t it mean like that, but I’m not complaining.” She felt herself blush and she stepped back.

“I have to go give... drinks. My friends are waiting,” Arya stuttered nonsensically. Ned flashed her a blinding smile.

“See you ‘round, Arya.” Her cheeks were red and she moved to return to the girls. Glancing around for their little table, she spotted Gendry, who was sitting with Anguy and Tom and scowling at her. She scowled back and went to find her friends.

-

She told Sansa about Ned as they attached their letters home to the same owl in the owlery. Sansa giggled.

“He’s pretty cute, Arya. You should go for it.” Arya screwed up her face.

“I don’t know, Sansa. He was so forward, I don’t know if I was blushing because he was flirting or if I was blushing because I felt uncomfortable.”

“Maybe you should get to know him and find out,” Sansa mused. “Usually I would offer some tips on figuring boys out, but I seem to be a little bit off my game these days.” Their letters flew off and the sisters descended the stairs together.

“Who’s stupid enough to not like you back?” Arya asked, and Sansa only hummed nonchalantly.

-

Arya walked three laps around the bustling library before sitting down across from Gendry.

“It’s the only seat available,” she said, and he shrugged. His hair was still damp from the shower - he had obviously come straight from practice as well. It stuck to his forehead as he frowned at his parchment.

 

Arya shifted a stack of his notes to make room for her Ancient Runes textbook and paused.

“You spelled Harebell wrong. It’s A-R-E, not A-E-R. And Azalea is wrong too.” He jumped to his feet, snatching the parchment from her, his face red. “Have you got dyslexia?”

“Don’t see how that’s any of your business,” he snapped, stuffing the notes into his bag. She raised her eyebrows.

“I was only asking, Waters. Theon has dyslexia too, he used to get Sansa and I to look over his papers.”

“Oh,” Gendry said, sitting back down and relaxing his shoulders slightly. “I didn’t know purebloods could have dyslexia.” Arya snorted.

“What? You think pureblood witches and wizards have some evolutionary advantage? Didn’t realize you and Joffrey Baratheon had so much in common.” He rolled his eyes, but he was almost smiling at her joke.

“I just thought it was a muggleborn thing, alright?” He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly.

“Are you muggleborn, then?” Arya asked.

“Yeah,” he said, “We think so, anyway. My dad might have been a wizard. If he was, he never told my mum and she never heard from him again.” He glanced at her cautiously, as if she might think less of him after learning this.

“What a prick,” Arya said, “but I’d say you’re better off without that kind of guy in your life.” Gendry smiled.

“That’s what I used to tell my mum when she felt bad about... stuff,” he hesitated on the last word and then turned back to his essay.

They worked in silence for almost an hour, until Gendry spoke again. “Is ‘coreopsis’ spelled with three Ss or two?”

“Two,” Arya said, looking up from her book.

“Thanks,” he said, scratching out the word with his quill.

“Do you want me to proofread it?” She asked. Gendry looked up at her in shock, as if she had just suggested they set off fireworks in the library.

“You’d do that?” he asked quietly.

“Sure,” she shrugged, reaching across the table. He handed his parchment to her, still looking rather confused. “You don’t have to look so shocked, you know. I’m not a total bitch all the time.” Gendry looked as if he wanted to dispute that, but he bit his tongue.

“Thanks,” he said.

-

She scanned his essay on common wildflowers and their magical properties, tapping the page every so often to magically rearrange some letters. He watched her carefully, as if still a little bit surprised that she possessed the ability to be kind.

“I like what you say here about hellebores being used in both love potions and severe sleeping draughts,” she noted, dotting one of his ‘I’s because she thought she may as well. “They’re so beautiful, it’s sort of cool that they can be deadly.”

“Huh?” he asked, sounding a little dazed. Arya supposed he probably was bored, having nothing to do but watch her tap her wand against his essay. “Oh, yeah. They’re very pretty.”

-

They walked back to Gryffindor tower together. Gendry’s hair was dry now, and Arya was surprised to see that it naturally dried in a stupid and messy way. She had always been so sure he put effort into the tousles. Strange.

“Are you free for bludger practice tomorrow night?” He asked as they approached the portrait hole. “Dragonfire.”

“I’ve promised Sansa and Meera I’d go to Baelish’s thing,” Arya sighed as she climbed into the empty common room.

“Ah,” Gendry said, “Another get-together for Hogwarts’ elite.”

“They’re awful,” she groaned, “And it’s so creepy that almost all of his invitees are girls.”

“That’s what I’ve always said!” Gendry exclaimed, “I don’t even think I could name a guy in the club.” He shook his head in disbelief.

“That scumbag Joffrey shows his face when he feels like it. And Ned Dayne, too. He’s not so bad, though.” Gendry stiffened slightly.

“Well I hope you and Ned Dayne have fun at your little party tomorrow,” he said, a small bite to his voice. She blinked at him as he turned and headed up to his dormitory.

-

Arya was relieved to be paired up with Meera in Defense Against the Dark Arts, each of them succeeding in stunning the other without uttering a word by the end of class. Ned caught up with them both as they left the classroom.

 

“Hey,” He grinned. “Are you coming to the Mockingbird dinner tonight?” He made it very clear that he was talking to Arya, even though Meera was also invited to Baelish’s party. Arya shrugged.

“I think so.”

“Great, I’ll save you a seat,” Ned said, and he hurried along to catch up with a fellow Hufflepuff boy.

Meera raised her eyebrows at Arya and Arya shook her head. “Don’t,” she said. Meera smiled.

“I didn’t say anything.”

-

As soon as Arya walked into Petyr Baelish’s office, she was ready to turn on her heel and walk out. She had forgotten the sickly sweet smell of his scented candles, enchanted to float around the table. The dinner looked beautiful, yes, but rich and heavy and over-indulgent. She recognized a few new faces - Myranda Royce, wearing a tight, low-cut shirt and Sarella Sand, who smiled at Arya and Meera as they entered. Ned waved Arya down and pointed to the seat beside him. Meera shoved her forward.

Arya glanced out the window as she moved towards Ned and saw two figures out on the quidditch pitch. One was a tall, strong boy and the other was a small girl. Gendry appeared to be giving Lyanna tips on her backhand swings. She smiled to herself and turned to see Ned standing and pulling her chair out. He smiled back at her.

“Nice to see you, too.”

-

Despite Sansa, Margaery, and Meera’s encouraging glances and excited grins, Arya wasn’t sure what she thought of Ned Dayne. He was handsome, that much was obvious. And he wasn’t a totally miserable, moody prick who thought her a spoiled brat, which was nice. He was sweet, and she definitely would rather speak to him than listen to Baelish flirt with her classmates. But Ned did talk a lot.

When he wasn’t explaining his extravagant trips to various tropical locations in detail, he was showering her with compliments.

“You have a lovely smile, Arya, has anyone ever told you that?”

“You’re a great seeker. Probably the best girl seeker in the school.”

“I’m so glad Baelish has these dinners, I’ve been wanting a chance to get to know you better.”

Arya wasn’t sure whether the butterflies in her stomach had arrived out of attraction or discomfort, but she was definitely relieved when Baelish said that it was time to go to bed.

-

Alys and Wylla grinned at Arya as she laced up her elbow pads.

“Meera tells us you sat with Ned all night,” Alys said.

“And he told you he thought you were a great seeker,” Wylla added, “He’s such a hottie, Arya. Are you two -,”

“Right,” Gendry said, awfully loudly. “Enough about Ned Dayne stating the obvious. Let’s get out there.”

-

It was raining heavily and Arya was completely soaked through by the time practice was over. She wrung her hair out as she landed, Gendry nodding at her.

“You alright to stick around for a bit, Stark?” She stared at him.

“Are you serious?” she asked, and he shrugged.

“There’s a chance we’ll have to play in conditions like this. I’d like to get at least one of these sessions in before we play Slytherin.” His eyes darkened and Arya swallowed, looking at the ground. She didn’t want to talk about the upcoming match.

“Fine,” she said, envious of her teammates heading in for a warm shower.

“Right,” Gendry said, pushing his soaking wet hair out of his face and moving closer to her so that he didn’t have to shout over the wind, “I think we’ll have to try something sort of like tag. You’re excellent at dodging bludgers, but when a player enters your peripheral vision, you falter.” She looked away but nodded. “It makes sense,” he offered, “Since Bolton was the one that hit you, not his bludger.” Again, she nodded and refused to look at him. “You ready?”

-

The first time Gendry got too close to her, she froze up, her hand shaking slightly. He pulled back. “You’re alright, Stark. Best seeker since Arthur Dayne, remember?” She laughed and felt herself relax. He moved in closer and she carried on steadily for a few metres before dipping gracefully and swerving away from him. He let out a cheer.

“There you go! Let’s do it again.”

He kept Arya out in the rain for another hour, coming at her from all angles, and varying speeds. She almost fell a few times, but Gendry was always close enough to grab her elbow or her hand (or, once, her thigh). Though she knew there was still work to be done, Arya felt a marked improvement in her feelings towards the upcoming match.

“Nice work today, Stark.”

“Thanks, Waters.”

-

She was shivering when they stepped into the changing room and he shot her an apologetic look. “Probably not my brightest idea. Get yourself out of those wet clothes.” She nodded and began attempting to untie the knots on her shoulder pads. Her fingers were shaking and she made a noise of frustration. Gendry looked up. He had his pads off already, as well as his shirt.

“Here,” he said, and he stepped over a bench to stand in front of her. She swallowed, not sure if she would rather look directly at his bare chest or up at his face. She settled for turning her head to the side, away from the shoulder he was working on. He smelled like sweat and rain and warmth. He undid her other shoulder pad and then gently brought her wrist upwards, untying the tight knots she had made in her wrist guards. He repeated the motion on the other side. He didn’t look at her face, focusing entirely on the knots.

Arya no longer felt cold. In fact, she felt that the changing room was rather hot now.

“I can get my shoe laces,” she said as he pulled her elbow pad off and tossed it into the laundry basket. Gendry looked at her now and gave her a small smile.

“You feel okay?” He asked, and she nodded. “I’d feel like a pretty bad captain if I let my seeker catch a chill before the Slytherin match.” Arya wasn’t sure why he didn’t step away, but found that she didn’t mind. The warmth was nice, she decided. “Listen, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about something.” She swallowed and looked up at him, feeling a little funny. His voice was far softer than she was used to. “Bolton.” Oh.

She looked down and he stepped back slightly. “We don’t have to do that,” she said, pulling a strand of wet hair out of her face.

“I’m going to tail him on Saturday,” Gendry insisted, “I wanted to give you a heads up. I’m not babysitting you, I just can’t trust that -,” he paused, searching for words. She felt hot shame rise in her.

“That I won’t fuck up again?” she said angrily.

“What?”

“I know you blame me for last year, Waters,” Arya spat, and she could feel all of her frustration with him coming to the surface. Her words fell out of her frantically. “I saw the look you gave me when I woke up. I don’t care that you never visited me in the hospital wing, even though everyone else on the team came together. But I need you to know that no matter how much you want to hold it against me, no matter how mad you are, I’m madder. I know it was stupid to piss Joffrey off, but I thought it was worth the risk. It would have worked, too, if... look, just know that I blame myself more, alright?” She said all of this while looking at the floor, but she brought her chin up as she finished, finally ready to look him in the eye. He stared at her.

“You think I blame you?” He said, both offended and confused. “I thought you blamed me.”

“What?”

“It’s the beaters’ job to look out for the team, especially the seeker. Just like you said, I left you as an easy target for him. I let Ramsay get that close to you, thinking you were fine since there were no actual bludgers around for him to hit at you. Didn’t think he’d use his bat.” His eyes darkened and he scowled. “I could have killed him, I swear.” Arya stared up at him. Gendry had thought she blamed him?

“I never blamed you,” she said quietly.

“I don’t blame you either. I thought you were doing a brilliant job with Joffrey,” he said, “And I did visit you. You were just asleep both times.” He rubbed the back of his neck.

“Oh,” Arya said.

“So you’re alright if I tail Ramsay on Saturday? I trust you to catch the snitch, and I don’t want you to have to deal with any distractions from that dirty piece of shit.” She nodded and shivered again. “Alright, get into the shower, Stark. I won’t be able to live with myself if you get sick for Saturday’s match.”

-

“How was your extra hour in the rain?” Alys asked as they descended the stairs to the dungeons for Potions class.

“Wet,” Arya said. “Cold. Windy.”

“Are you two getting along any better?”

Arya shrugged, taking her seat. She thought about last night’s conversation and figured that it had been an overall civil one, though perhaps a shade more intense than necessary. She thought about his hands undoing the straps of her pads, his chest rising and falling slowly, a few inches from her face. She thought about his eyes growing stormier at the mere mention of Ramsay Bolton. “Arya,” Alys laughed, “A shrug isn’t an answer.”

“We’re fine,” she said. Ned Dayne provided a distraction by sliding into the seat on Arya’s other side.

“Apparently we’re learning about Felix Felicis today,” he said. “You know, lucky potion. It’s supposed to give you an amazing high.”

“Yeah, my cousin once took it and he smiled non-stop for a full day,” Alys said. “He said it felt like walking on clouds.”

“Probably similar to the feeling I get when there’s a spare cauldron next to you,” Ned said quietly to Arya, and she blushed furiously.

-

Arya and Meera found seats in the library at a table already occupied by Sansa and Margaery. The older girls had their potions textbooks open, but their discussion was decidedly not about potions.

“Marg was just telling me that Baelish is going to have half of the Wimbourne Wasps at the Christmas party this year,” Sansa gushed.

And a lady who raises dragons,” Margaery added. “Who’re you two going to bring as dates?”

Meera and Arya both looked at each other and shrugged. “How about Ned?” Sansa asked, raising her eyebrows playfully in Arya’s direction. Arya rolled her eyes, but couldn’t help but feel her cheeks heat up. Ned had been very chatty in the lessons they’d had together recently.

“Ned talks too much,” she said in the most casual voice she could muster.

“How about Gendry?” Meera asked, a twinkle in her eye. “He barely talks at all, and you two have been spending -,”

“Eugh, stop. I’d rather go into the Forbidden Forest and ask out an Acromantula than go with him,” Arya said. “He’d probably spend the whole time complaining or talking about quidditch.” Sansa gave Arya a funny look at this.

“Besides,” Margaery added, “Beth Cassel told me that Jeyne Poole asked him on a date at the start of the year and he told her that dating wasn’t really his ‘thing’.” She let out a short laugh.

“Well, we all know what that means,” Sansa said, rolling her eyes.

“Only looking for hook-ups,” Margaery sighed, “It’s too bad, face like that. We’ll find you someone better, Arya. Ooh, or maybe we can find out if any of the Wasps are single...”

Arya and Meera exchanged a look of exasperation as they pulled out their Charms textbooks.

-

“Come on, Stark,” Gendry said, “keep the hand out, pretend there’s a snitch.” He was making her practice flying one handed while he flew in her blindspots. It was difficult, and she kept dropping her hand back to her broomstick when he came too close. He shifted into her peripheral vision and she faltered slightly, grabbing her broom with both hands again and slowing her flight. He let out a noise of disappointment and she rounded on him.

“You know, that doesn’t help,” she said.

“Neither does snapping at me,” he retorted. “Try it again.”

-

Arya’s patronus stood at her side, a giant wolf as tall as her. Her silver fur glistened, and Arya felt the wolf’s warmth radiating through her. The Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom was overflowing with silvery, translucent animals. Meera’s frog hopped happily around her feet.

“Whoa,” Ned said when he saw the wolf. “Kind of freaky.” His own peacock strut beside him, its tail rather impressive. “It’s cool once you’re used to it, though,” he added hastily, when Arya looked at him sharply. “Pretty even. Intimidatingly so.” Ned was looking at Arya now, not her wolf, and he smiled. She rolled her eyes, but found herself offering a shy smile in return.

-

Arya arrived at the Halloween feast with Gendry, both of them dripping from the quidditch pitch, both of them too hungry to risk missing dinner, deciding to shower in their dorms after they had eaten something.

“Putting in extra work for Saturday’s match?” Joffrey sneered, leaving the hall as they arrived. He turned to Orell, one of the Slytherin chasers. “I think they’re scared.”

“Quaking in my boots,” Gendry said, looking Joffrey up and down, “Always had an irrational fear of what would happen if a flobberworm mated with a troll.” Arya grinned and Joffrey scowled.

“I’d watch your mouth, mudblood,” Joffrey said, turning to leave. Arya pulled her wand out and Gendry grabbed both of her arms, pulling her away from Joffrey and towards the Gryffindor table.

“No,” he said bluntly, “You are not getting suspended, not for this match.” She pulled herself free and reluctantly followed him to join the rest of the team.

Arya squeezed herself in between Pod and Quentyn, apologizing for her wet, grass-stained robes.

“How was training?” Quentyn asked, offering Arya some shepherd’s pie, which she scooped onto her plate greedily.

“Excellent,” Gendry said, “She barely even flinched today, even when I slipped up and almost actually hit her. Just looped around me and left me in her dust.” Pod grinned and clapped Arya on the back.

“Atta girl,” he said, and she smiled, briefly meeting Gendry’s eyes and finding that she was used to his smile now. It was a little goofy, as if he wasn’t totally comfortable with it, but it was genuine.

Chapter Text

Arya felt ill on the morning of Gryffindor's match against Slytherin, hardly wanting to touch her eggs. Wylla poured her a glass of pumpkin juice and scooped some fresh berries onto her plate.

“You’ve got to eat, Arya,” Alys insisted from across the table. Gendry was a few seats away, watching her carefully. Arya took a deep breath and bit into a piece of toast rather gingerly. It tasted like cardboard.

“Arya,” said a familiar voice, and she felt her stomach clench. Ned sat down beside her, forcing Quentyn to shuffle over. “I hope you’re feeling alright today. I bet it’s hard, given what happened last time. I’m sure it’s all you can think about.” She shut her eyes, wishing he would shut up. Ned put an arm around her and made to pull her into his chest for a hug. She pushed him away gently and did her best to smile politely.

“I’m fine, Ned, really,” she said, standing up. Arya glanced around at her teammates. “I’ll see you all in the changing rooms?”

-

Gendry caught up to her as she reached the front doors of the castle. “What’s the deal with you and Dayne?” he asked, his voice oddly casual considering how soon they would have to face the Slytherins.

“Nothing,” Arya shrugged, “I don’t know. Mostly nothing.”

“Alright,” Gendry said, looking a little confused by this response, “Well, just in case his babbling psyched you out, I wanted to remind you that you’ve prepared for this and you’re going to be just fine. And if you’re not fine, you can come visit me in Azkaban after I kill Ramsay Bolton. Deal?” She laughed.

“Thanks, Waters.”

-

Ramsay Bolton didn’t come within twenty yards of Arya Stark. He was far too busy fending off bludgers all match long. Gendry’s targeted marking of Bolton was unorthodox, and left the Gryffindor chasers exposed, but Arya made quick work of the game, grabbing the snitch from just under Podrick’s left boot. Joffrey had hardly started his dive by the time Arya captured the little golden ball.

-

The atmosphere in the Gryffindor changing room was jovial. Gendry patted each of his chasers on the back, thanking them for playing so hard without his coverage. He and Lyanna did a funny little beater’s handshake and he ruffled her hair, commending her for keeping the rest of the team unharmed while he focused on Ramsay.

“I was wrong about you,” Arya said as they headed back up to the castle, ready to join the rest of the house in celebration. Gendry blinked at her.

“I didn’t know you knew how to admit that you were wrong,” he said, mock impressed. She glared at him. “What were you wrong about?”

“You’re not the worst captain Gryffindor’s ever had,” she said.

“Did you ever say that?”

“Thought it,” she shrugged.

“You’re a bitch, Stark, you know that?” He was laughing.

“And you’re a bastard, Waters. What of it?” He stared at her, a funny smile on his face.

“Low blow,” he said after a beat, still grinning.

“Stop flirting and hurry up, you two,” Wylla called, “We’re going to miss the party.” Gendry’s shoulders stiffened and Arya felt a little bit like retching. Flirting?

“I wasn’t -,” he started.

“No, I know. Me neither.”

-

Sansa pulled Arya into a hug as soon as she stepped through the portrait hole. “I always want you to win, Arya, but it’s even more enjoyable when you make Joffrey look utterly useless.” Arya grinned, remembering how Joffrey had treated her sister when they had dated in their fifth year. Sansa was far better off without that arsehole in her life.

“Sansa,” Pod said, blinking in surprise at the sight of Arya’s sister, “How did the Ravenclaws get here before the actual team?”

“We didn’t have to shower,” Sansa grinned, pulling a blade of grass from his hair, “Though you seemed to have been in quite a rush, Pod.” The keeper’s cheeks went pink and he sputtered something about grabbing a butterbeer. Sansa watched him go, a little put out.

A pair of arms snuck around Arya’s waist, pulling her into an awkward backwards hug. “I knew you could do it,” Ned said into her ear. “I’m glad our little talk helped.” She snorted and turned to face him properly. His eyes were so genuine and encouraging that she couldn’t bring herself to tell him his talk did nothing for her.

“Thanks, Ned. That was sweet of you,” she said politely.

She glanced around and saw Pod explaining something about his hair to a bemused Quentyn. Alys and Wylla had their heads together, looking across the room at something, seemingly concerned. Arya followed their gaze and saw, over Ned’s left shoulder, Gendry on an armchair with Myranda Royce perched on the arm. She was touching his hair and, though he looked a little bit uncomfortable, he was letting her. Arya wasn’t sure what about it felt so gross, but it made her want to vomit. Gendry caught Arya’s eye and immediately blushed, pulling Myranda’s hand away.

Arya looked back at Ned and smiled her warmest smile. His face lit up. “That was a great catch today, Arya,” he said, making her blush yet again. Ned picked up her hand and she swallowed, surprised by how much she liked the way his thumb ran along it. “But I think I’ve caught hold of something even better than the golden snitch.” He brought her knuckles to his lips and kissed them softly. Arya’s lips parted in shock as she felt her face heat up. Ned looked at her hopefully and closed the gap between them.

“Arya, there’s been something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now,” Ned said, and she looked up at him, her heart beating rapidly. Ned brought his face to hers and she was frozen where she stood. It was an enthusiastic kiss, full of earnestness and desire. It was sort of nice, Arya thought, as Ned cupped her face. A little wet, but nice. He popped his tongue into her mouth and she stepped back, her face hot. Looking over his shoulder, she saw Alys and Wylla staring at her, both shocked and amused. She glanced over Ned’s other shoulder and felt her stomach drop.

Myranda now sat across Gendry’s lap. He was kissing her deeply, her hands roaming through his hair at will. It wasn’t as if this should matter to Arya - Gendry was hardly even her friend, let alone... whatever else he might be. Perhaps the thought of someone so annoying kissing anyone at all was enough to activate her gag reflex. Myranda ran her hand down and squeezed one of Gendry’s biceps. Arya felt ill.

“Do you want to go for a walk, Ned? Find somewhere a little more private?” she asked, and his deep blue eyes lit up. Arya grabbed his hand and pulled him through the portrait hole, not sparing Gendry and his new friend another glance. This had nothing to do with him, anyway.

-

Arya spent much of November kissing Ned Dayne. It was nice, because he couldn’t talk her ear off when his lips were occupied, and she found that kissing was quite a fun activity. Ned was always keen - swooping in to kiss her cheek at mealtimes, pulling her in for a quick smooch after Defense Against The Dark Arts, pushing her against the door of an empty classroom. He was sweet and handsome and she liked the way he kissed her neck when they were alone.

Ned loved to tell her how beautiful she was, how cute she sounded when she laughed at her own jokes, how pretty she looked when she borrowed one of Alys’ skirts. Arya had never felt particularly pretty before, and it was nice to be told things like this. Ned insisted that they should practice quidditch together and exchange tips, seeker-to-seeker, but Arya brushed him off. She wasn’t about to put Gryffindor’s championship in jeopardy for any boy.

Ned was sweet. He liked to warm her up after quidditch practice with hugs and he spent most of their Potions lessons finding an excuse to touch her hand.

-

Gendry’s mood was fouler than it had ever been. The high from their win against Slytherin wore off almost immediately, and Gendry was all business again. They trained hard - in rain, in sleet, in a hailstorm that had poor Podrick shivering for hours after practice, doing his best to thaw by the Gryffindor common room fire.

Arya and Gendry’s private training sessions were also miserable, but they seemed to have made a silent agreement to exchange no pleasantries. At most, Gendry would nod in approval or shake his head and tell her to try the move again. Once, a “Great work!” slipped out, but his scowl returned swiftly to his face, and he immediately decided that it was time to call it a night.

-

It was nice to see Ned after spending an hour listening to Gendry shout brief, blunt instructions at her. Ned was always cheerful and talked about silly things, but at least he talked to her.

-

“I thought you two were getting along a bit better,” Sansa mused, as Gendry stalked past Arya at the Ravenclaw table and barked that she had ten minutes to be down at the pitch for practice. Arya shrugged at her sister.

“I think we were both able to put aside our differences because we wanted to beat Slytherin so badly,” Arya said. “Now that we’ve done it, we don’t have to pretend to like each other anymore.” Sansa raised an eyebrow.

“Quidditch? That’s what this is about?” She rolled her eyes and sighed. “Are all quidditch players emotionally inept?”

-

Arya didn’t know much about Myranda Royce, but she didn’t like her. She was beautiful, with perfect tits and long, sandy hair. Her lipstick was always flawless and she wore her Ravenclaw tie a little loose around her neck, keeping the top button of her school shirt undone.

What bothered Arya about Myranda, though, was that she suddenly seemed to be everywhere. Sitting in the stands during quidditch practice, waving at Gendry every time he flew in her general direction. Tucked in at the Gryffindor table, her head resting on Gendry’s shoulder. Once, Arya came across them in the back of the library, one of Gendry’s hands laced through Myranda’s hair, the other hitching her thigh up against him as he pressed her into the stacks of books. Arya had spun away before either had noticed her, deciding that she would rather study in the loud common room after all.

-

“Gendry, we don’t play another game until February,” Alys moaned, “do we really have to practice in this?” It was wet and cold and they were all exhausted.

“Don’t bother, Alys,” Arya said, “he’s too stubborn to be sensible.” Gendry paused.

“Alright, locker room. Except you, Stark, let’s work on your reflexes for another hour.” She scowled at him. The rest of the team did not need to be offered an escape twice. Wylla and Alys looked back at them hesitantly, whispering something.

“Your girlfriend didn’t want to come watch tonight?” Arya asked sweetly. It was Gendry’s turn to scowl.

“Not my girlfriend,” he grumbled, and Arya raised an eyebrow, remembering what Margaery had told her about him only being interested in hooking up.

“Oh?” she asked, “Just something to keep you occupied? How charming, Waters.” Gendry gave her a look of disdain and began explaining the drill he had thought up.

-

“I don’t have to stay when you tell me to, you know,” she said, stripping her shirt off. He looked up, his eyes briefly dropping to her chest and her stomach before meeting hers. She swallowed.

“And yet you always do,” he shrugged, grabbing a towel and heading to the showers.

-

Arya pulled Ned to the back of the library. “Here,” she said, leaning against the books and batting her eyelashes at him. Ned didn’t need to be asked twice, immediately bringing his lips to hers. She pulled his hand up and wove it through her hair. She guided his other hand under her school skirt, and he grabbed her thigh enthusiastically, holding it up against him the way she had seen Gendry do it.

It was stupid, Arya knew, but she hadn’t been able to get the image out of her mind. She was sick of her zoned-out brain bringing her here, especially when the thought involved someone she detested. She figured that experiencing the real thing with a boy she actually liked would get it out of her system.

She kissed Ned eagerly, liking the way his hands felt in her hair and on her thigh. She wondered how Gendry’s hands would compare. No, no, no. She pulled away briefly and drank Ned in. His blue eyes were soft and welcoming, not cold and stormy. His face was kind, not miserable. His hair was a beautiful beachy blond, not a dark mess of black. She kissed him harder. His hand moved from her hair to the hem of her shirt, his thumb running softly along her hip bone. “You’re so pretty, Arya,” he murmured into her neck before bringing his face to hers and kissing her nose lightly, “inside and out.” She was positive that Gendry Waters was incapable of anything so sweet.

-

“So, have you and Ned… you know?” Alys asked. It was only she, Arya, and Wylla in the locker room, a half hour early for practice. Arya blushed furiously.

“No!” she insisted, “Alys, we’ve been dating for hardly over a month.”

“And?” Wylla laughed, “When I dated that muggle last summer, she had her hands up my skirt on the second date.” She grinned at the memory. Arya shifted nervously.

“I’ve never been with anyone like that,” Arya shrugged, “I mean, I’m sure Ned would be perfect - he’s sweet, he would never pressure me into anything, I just...,” she sighed, trailing off. She had never thought too hard about doing that with Ned. They had done more than just kissing, which was strange and exciting and nice, but Arya felt funny at the thought of losing her virginity to Ned, at least anytime soon.

“I totally get it,” Alys insisted, “I’ve never met anyone I really want like that.”

“How far have you two gone?” Wylla asked Arya, and she blushed again.

“He had his hands under my bra the other day,” she said, remembering his touch fondly. Alys and Wylla giggled.

“Do you think Gendry and Myranda have done it?” Alys asked, and Arya was brought crashing back into the conversation.

“Probably,” Wylla said, “He’s hot, she’s hot, they’d both probably be up for it.”

“I’m not so sure,” Alys mused, “Remember when Tyene tried to hook up with him last year?” Arya had not been aware of this, so she listened intently. “It was after a quidditch game. She said he kissed her for a bit, but when she tried to unbutton her shirt, he got all nervous and told her they should call it a night.” Wylla threw her head back laughing and Arya smiled, feeling oddly relieved.

“Oh god, do you think Gendry is a virgin?” Wylla gasped, “No offence, you two, nothing wrong with being virgins. But Gendry Waters blushing at the thought of tits is bloody hilarious”

“I’m glad Ned isn’t scared of your boobs, Arya,” Alys laughed. Arya smiled and stood, finished with the laces on her boots.

“If we can move on from Ned and I’s sex life for a moment,” she started, hoping to discuss the cake they were going to surprise Lyanna with for her birthday next week. The words died in her throat, though, as the door had swung open and Gendry stood at the entrance, blinking at her. He looked rather pale.

“Hey Gendry,” Alys smiled, and Wylla bit her lip, clearing still thinking about the question of his virginity.

“Hi,” Gendry replied quietly, his eyes not leaving Arya, who had never felt so uncomfortable in all her life.

-

It was none of Gendry’s business whether or not she and Ned had slept together. There was absolutely no sense in drawing him aside after practice and telling him that they hadn’t done it. Arya had no idea why she had to talk herself out of doing so.

Besides, he had been in an especially awful mood, and really, she did not want to spend an extra moment in his company.

-

“Boy, what pissed Gendry off tonight?” Pod asked Arya as they sat down for dinner. She shrugged.

“He’s always like that.” Pod looked like he was going to respond, but an interruption arrived in the form of Sansa.

“Hey, you two,” she beamed. Her eyelashes looked especially long today, and her hair was braided delicately to one side. “I hope practice was fun! Arya, I wanted to check which dress you wanted to wear to Baelish’s Christmas party.” She looked over at Pod, who was cutting up a carrot. “You know, the one we can bring dates to, if we’d like.” Arya raised an eyebrow at Sansa.

“Yeah, I know the one, Sansa. I’ll be going with Ned. Who’re you taking?” Sansa sighed wistfully.

“No one yet,” she said, “Nobody’s really shown any interest.” For some reason, she glanced at Pod again. He had stopped cutting his carrot, and now looked rather unsure of himself. Arya snorted.

“No interest? In you? Come off it,” she pointed her knife at Sansa. “You could ask any of these idiots,” Arya waved her knife around. “I’d bet if you even mentioned that you didn’t have a date, they’d start lining up.” Sansa waited for a moment before sighing and getting to her feet.

“If only that were true, Arya. Let me know about the dress, will you?”

Chapter Text

In recent years, Professor Baelish’s Christmas party had never been Arya’s idea of fun, but the thought of going on Ned’s arm filled her with excitement. She would wear a dress - pink, because he had told her he liked how she looked when she wore a pink t-shirt the other day, and she realized she didn’t own much else that was pink. It would be a nice change. Sansa had been eager to offer up her wardrobe. She found a perfect rose-coloured silky one that fell just above Arya’s knee. The spaghetti straps weren’t all that wintery, but she knew Ned would love it.

Arya looked in the mirror in the sixth year dormitory, feeling rather pristine, a little bit unlike herself.

Meera fixed this by magicking a handful of snowdrops and tiny burgundy hellebores into Arya’s hair, which was already falling out of the updo Alys had helped her with. Arya smiled at her reflection, hoping Ned would like the flowers.

-

Arya passed by Pod in the common room on her way to meet Ned. “Coming tonight, Pod?”

“No invite,” Pod said gloomily.

“Aw, we should have had Meera take you. Or Sansa, I’m not sure if she ever found a date.”

“She did,” Pod said, looking at his feet.

“Well, the party’s overrated anyway,” Arya said cheerily, “Most of the evening will probably be spent keeping Baelish from leering at Sansa, so you’re not missing much.” A rare scowl crossed Pod’s face.

“Thanks, Arya. Have fun.” He turned and headed to his dorm, hands tucked into his pockets.

-

Myranda Royce looked stunning, her hair tied up in an elegant bun, her black dress sleek and sophisticated. Arya felt silly now, with flowers in her hair.

Myranda’s date looked uncomfortable. His suit jacket was a little small on him, his tie a little crooked. Arya could tell that he had tried and failed to fix his hair.

Ned, on the other hand, looked perfect. His hair was flawless, his smile dazzling. He wore a tasteful navy blue suit that brought out the colour of his eyes, and he plucked a snowdrop from Arya’s hair and tucked it into his breast pocket. “Real flowers,” he said, eyebrows raised curiously, before tracing his eyes down her dress and back up to her face. “You look beautiful, Arya.” He kissed her on the cheek.

Sansa arrived with Anguy, of all people. He was grinning around the room as if he had no idea how he had gotten there. Sansa looked rather bored. Arya watched as Anguy made his way to the punch table and Professor Baelish swooped in beside Sansa.

“I’ll be right back, Ned,” Arya said, not wanting her sister to be alone with their creepy Charms professor.

-

“The mistletoe is actually a rare variety from Italy,” Baelish was explaining to Sansa, who was not pretending to hide her disinterest. “It grows when there is, ah, tension. The more two people desire each other, the more it blossoms.” He glanced up at the mistletoe above them. It was but a sprig.

“How charming,” Arya said, leaning forward to kiss Sansa’s cheek, “It knows we’re siblings! Professor, I’m sorry to steal her, but I absolutely must show Sansa the shoes Meera Reed is wearing. They’re stunning!” She dragged Sansa away, both of them doing their best not to laugh.

-

Arya saw Ned at the punch table, speaking candidly to a seventh year Hufflepuff boy that Arya thought was named Dareon. Gendry stood behind them, his scowl deepening rapidly. Arya glanced over and snorted when she saw Myranda flirting with two members of the Wimbourne Wasps.

-

Ned pulled her under a bunch of mistletoe and Arya grinned as it began to grow, a couple of new flowers blooming above them. She kissed him delicately, his hands tracing the zipper at the back of Sansa’s silky dress. Arya thought that maybe tonight after the party, she might let him rid her of the dress entirely. She felt sort of giddy at the thought.

-

“Can I have a word?” Arya jumped. She had not heard Gendry approach her.

“Go ahead,” she shrugged, sure he was about to ask her about some quidditch drill he wanted to try out. Gendry sighed.

“Privately,” he said, “it’s about Sansa and Anguy.” She looked up at him curiously, and he motioned out onto the small balcony, closing the door behind them. It wasn’t cold - Baelish had enchanted little jars of fire to float outside, keeping her from shivering.

“What’s up between Sansa and Anguy?” Arya asked impatiently, “Make it quick, Ned’s probably looking for me.” Gendry swallowed nervously.

“It’s not about Sansa or Anguy,” he admitted immediately, and she frowned. “It’s about Ned.”

“What about him?” Arya snapped. Gendry let out a deep breath, looking as though he would prefer to jump from the balcony than continue having this conversation.

“He’s not... good for you. He’s using you -,” Gendry started. Arya scoffed, anger rising in her.

“He’s not good for me?” She spat, “What would you know about being good for anyone?” Gendry touched the brim of his nose, as if he had expected this. Arya continued, “And what is he using me for? Quidditch? Are you worried I’m going to tell him all about your little drills and secret plays? Worried I might be coaching him on how to be a better seeker?” Gendry blinked at her. “That’s it, isn’t it? You can’t possibly accept that someone actually likes me for me. Not everyone thinks I’m a bitch, you know, and just because you don’t think I’m pretty, Waters, doesn’t mean no one else -,”

“I’ve never said that,” he said, sounding almost wounded. She scoffed again, but he carried on. “It’s not about quidditch, alright? I know you wouldn’t tell anyone about our gameplans, and I don’t care if you teach him to be a better seeker. He could spend the next five years learning your tricks and he still wouldn’t be half of the player you are.” They stared at each other for a moment, Arya not sure why Gendry’s compliment seemed to fill her with confidence. “It’s about sex,” Gendry said, and his face was now the colour of a quaffle.

“Sex?” Arya breathed, “Ned’s not using me for sex, Waters, we haven’t even had sex.”

“I know that,” he said with exasperation, his face growing redder and redder, “because he was telling his friend at the punch table that he might have to break up with you because you’re a total tease who backs out every time he almost gets into your pants and he’s realizing that it’s not going to be as easy as he had hoped.” He spat this all out quickly, as if it tasted rotten in his mouth. Arya blinked at him.

“No,” she said, “Ned’s not like that. He wouldn’t say that about me, not ever.” Arya felt her stomach twist in knots. She wasn’t sure what Gendry would gain by lying, though. She thought back to last week, when Ned had tugged at the sides of her school skirt and she had giggled, telling him that she couldn’t, not when any of his dorm mates could walk in. She remembered the last time they had been in an unused classroom, when he had began to unbuckle his trousers, and she had kissed him soundly before lying about hearing footsteps approaching. But he had never been angry, never even a little bit upset. He had smiled and kissed her, telling her there was no rush. Gendry was watching her carefully and she refused to give him, of all people, the satisfaction of hurting her. “He’s not like that,” she insisted. “And what Ned and I do when we’re alone is the furthest thing from your business.” Gendry stared at her, disbelieving.

“Trust me, it’s not exactly high on the list of things I want to think about,” he snapped, “But I suppose if you’re too stupid to see that your boyfriend’s getting bored of you, that’s your problem, Stark.”

“And if you’re bitter because other people are happy, that’s your problem.” They stared at each other, their faces close together than Arya had realized.

“I’m not bitter,” Gendry spat, “I just thought you were smarter than this.” He looked down. “Do you even like pink?”

“I don’t mind it,” she said defensively, “Ned loves it on me.”

“Think Ned would prefer it off of you,” he snorted cruelly, and she shoved his chest in anger. He caught her by the elbows and held her still. They were frozen for a minute and Gendry‘s determinedly angry expression changed. “You put hellebores in your hair,” he observed. His grip on her elbows was not strong - she could have stepped away easily, had her body and her brain been functioning correctly. “Sort of fitting.” His voice was oddly quiet. Arya stared up at him, not sure what he was talking about. His eyes were a bit like the ocean, she supposed, if the ocean could be stormy and calm and icy, all at once. Gendry’s face shifted slightly and Arya felt herself tilt her face upwards. There was hardly any distance between them now. His eyelashes were long. His eyes flicked down to her lips and for a wild moment, Arya thought Gendry might kiss her.

The door slammed open and they jumped apart. “What are you doing?” Myranda snapped, “Standing under the mistletoe with her - what is this?” Arya looked up and saw a collection of mistletoe as large as a beehive blooming above her, new leaves and flowers still appearing rapidly. Gendry rolled his eyes.

“Oh, you and I are barely even dating, Myranda. Go back inside and talk to some quidditch player.” Myranda stared at him and Arya shoved his chest again.

“You’re a prick, you know that, Waters?” She looked at Myranda and regretted every unfair thought she had thought over the past month. Myranda had done nothing wrong. It was Gendry who was the problem. Always Gendry. “I’m sorry that you’ve had to put up with this arsehole, Myranda. You’re better off ditching him.” Myranda said nothing as Arya swept past, desperate to find Ned. Desperate to shake the feeling that, had Gendry moved to kiss her, had Myranda not opened the door and saved her, Arya might have let him. She needed Ned.

-

“Arya!” Sansa waved her over.

“We saw you go outside with Gendry,” Meera said, an eyebrow raised. “You look like you’ve had an argument.”

“I need to find Ned,” Arya said, “I think I might have sex with him.” Sansa choked on her gillywater and Meera’s mouth dropped open. Sansa was in the process of catching her breath but Arya didn’t want to hear any arguments for or against her decision. All she wanted was to find Ned. She wanted to prove Gendry wrong.

-

In her search for Ned, Arya walked by Margaery and Myranda talking animatedly over cocktails.

“I can’t be bothered being upset, honestly, Marg. He was a good kisser but we had nothing in common. Besides, that Wasp keeper is hot and he might actually be willing to fuck me.”

Margaery giggled and Arya smiled as she passed by, glad Myranda wasn’t upset over the way Gendry had treated her. She finally spotted Ned, deep in conversation with Professor Martell.

-

Ned wrapped his arm around her waist as they made to leave Baelish’s office. At the door they ran into Ramsay Bolton, who smirked. “How cute,” he said, “A little seeker-on-seeker action.” His eyes flickered down Arya’s body and his lip curled. “Enjoy that, Dayne.”

“Come on, Arya,” Ned said sharply, pulling her out of the room, not bothering to engage with Bolton.

-

Arya led Ned up the seventh floor corridor, pausing briefly to plant another kiss on him. Ned was nice. He was sweet. When she had suggested they go find a place to be alone, his eyes had lit up, and he had asked her if she was sure. He had been so patient, really. It was fair if he had grown a the smallest bit weary. She refused to believe that Gendry had heard Ned correctly. Perhaps he was eager, but he wasn’t pressuring her. Ned wasn’t a jerk, unlike some people.

She found the spot and a door appeared. Jon had told her about this place, though she was sure he wouldn’t have wanted her using it for this. Arya pulled Ned into the Room of Requirement, where they found a large four poster bed, a small harp magically plucking out a soft and delicate song in the corner, and a dresser littered with objects and books that made Arya blush. She turned to Ned and kissed him. Kissing him felt far better than thinking about Gendry’s words, his sneer about her dress, the way his face had shifted towards hers - Arya kissed Ned harder. She wanted this, she wanted to want him, wanted him to be the sweet guy she knew him to be.

“I like you, Ned. A lot,” she breathed, and he grinned into another kiss.

“I like you too, Arya,” he said, pulling the flowers out of her hair frantically, so that her updo fell around her shoulders. Ned pulled one of her straps down and kissed her collarbone. “You look so hot in this dress,’ he said, reaching back to find the zipper, “But you’ll look even hotter out of it.” She swallowed and let him pull the zipper down.

Think Ned would prefer it off of you.

The delicate silk fell around her feet, leaving her in just her bra and her underwear. Ned grinned at her. He moved to touch her but she held a hand up to his chest.

“Ned,” she said, “If I changed my mind about this, would that be alright?” His face fell.

“Are you serious?” he groaned, “Again? You can’t keep doing this to me, Arya. You can’t keep teasing me like this.” She bit her lip. Gendry hadn’t lied.

“I only wanted to know if you’d be upset,” she said, doing her best to keep her voice even, pulling her dress on again and doing up the zipper herself. Ned stared at her, confusion etched into every corner of her face.

“This was a test?” Ned demanded, annoyed. “It’s not as if I’m not going to force you into anything, Arya. I just don’t think it’s fair that you keep -,”

“I think we should take a break,” Arya said firmly, “You’re going home for Christmas tomorrow, I’m staying here. Let’s talk in January, alright.” Ned stared at her for a moment and then threw his hands up in defeat.

“Fine,” he said, “Have a nice Christmas, Arya.” He strode out, leaving her alone with the trodden-on snowdrops and hellebores that littered the floor.

Chapter Text

Ned stopped by the Gryffindor table to say goodbye to Arya at breakfast. He kissed her on the cheek. “I’m sorry about last night, babe,” he said, “I’ll see you in a couple of weeks.” Arya leaned away, not wanting his kisses.

“Ned, I think -,”

“Arya,” Ned said, a comforting hand on her shoulder, “Let’s talk after the holidays. We don’t want to rush into anything.”

He set down a small, nicely wrapped parcel and stepped away. Arya didn’t want to be with Ned anymore, she knew this for certain. Taking a moment to collect her thoughts, she turned to tell Ned this. But he was already gone, approaching the doors of great hall with a group of fellow Hufflepuffs.

Sansa sat down after watching the exchange and raised her eyebrows. “Last night didn’t go so well, then?” she asked. Arya frowned.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” she sighed. “I wish mum and dad were at home this year. I could do with a break from this place.” Sansa nodded. Their parents and Rickon were off to visit Bran at the specialized Seer school he was attending somewhere near Iceland. The Gryffindor table was almost completely empty now. Podrick remained, as well as a couple of third years and, scowling into his cereal, Gendry.

-

“You were smart to go to Baelish’s party solo, Meera,” Arya said, hugging her friend goodbye. Meera was headed home for the holidays and smiled sympathetically as Arya carried on. “Boys are so difficult. I can’t believe Ned is so sleazy and I can’t believe Gendry was such a prick about it. Well, I can believe that, actually.”

“He was right though, wasn’t he?” Meera asked, her eyebrows raised. Arya frowned.

“Yeah, but he didn’t have to be so… Gendry about it.”

“Regardless, it was the right thing to do,” Meera shrugged, and Arya’s frown deepened. “All’s fair in love and war, Arya,” Meera said, picking up her trunk. “I’m not sure which one this is, though.” Arya blinked at her and furrowed her brow. Meera only smiled as she turned to join the students heading for the train.

-

Pod was spending much of his time with Arya and - by extension - Sansa. The eldest Stark sister seemed happy to have someone other than her brooding sister around. Arya was pleased to find out that Pod was just as embarrassingly competitive about chess as Sansa was.

Arya had a large pile of homework that she hoped to complete before term resumed, so she was thrilled to leave the two of them crying out chess moves in the common room on Christmas Eve as she set off for the library.

-

The library was almost completely empty - she could have settled anywhere, really. But Gendry looked so alone by the window, and she felt she owed him something - maybe not an apology, maybe not a thank you, but something.

“Can I join you?” She asked, and Gendry started, caught off guard by the arrival of another living soul. He shrugged. She set her books down and took a deep breath “You were right about Ned,” Arya said, “We haven’t broken up yet, but -,”

Gendry snorted derisively and Arya glared at him, but she carried on. “I’m trying to say thanks, Waters. For looking out for me the other night.” He raised an eyebrow at her.

“So you know I wasn’t lying, then? You know what he’s actually like and you’re still with him?” The disdain in his voice made her feel a pang of shame. She hated it.

“We decided we should talk when he gets back from his holidays,” she said, “I was going to end it before he left, but -,”

“But what? Are you that desperate?” She shut her eyes, wondering why she had bothered speaking to him at all.

“I’m not desperate,” she said through gritted teeth, “though I’m sure to you it would make sense. Pathetic little Arya Stark, ready to jump on anyone crazy enough to call her pretty.” She scowled.

“What are you on about?” Gendry said, sounding genuinely lost.

“Nevermind,” she grumbled, “I only came over here to thank you for being a good captain, even when it sucked to do so.” He looked at her in surprise.

“Well, you’re welcome, I guess,” he said. Then he reached into his bag and pulled out a packet of writhing shapes. “Do you want some gummy worms? Tom got me a boatload for Christmas and I need a hand getting through them.”

-

“I can proofread that if you’d like,” Arya offered as Gendry finished the citations on his Charms essay. “We’ll be even, since you did me a favour the other day and -,” she paused at his raised eyebrow. “Or just cause I’d be happy to help.” He let out a short laugh.

“Sure thing, Stark,” he said, passing the parchment over to her. “I’d appreciate that.”

“Oh, Cheering Charms! Sansa was talking about finishing this essay today with Pod.”

“Are they together now?” Gendry asked, his eyes lighting up.

“Yeah, in the Gryffindor common room. None of Sansa’s friends are around, so she’s an honourary Gryffindor for the next week or so.” Gendry shook his head.

“No, not physically together. Together together. Like, dating.” Arya blinked at him and he laughed. “Oh, come off it, Stark. You’re blind if you don’t see their little…” he made some nonsensical hand movements that Arya couldn’t help but chuckle at.

“Oh god,” she gasped, thinking about it now, “Sansa’s totally got a thing for Podrick, doesn’t she?” Gendry nodded frantically.

“And Pod is so into her, he’s just totally incapable of letting her know. I sit behind them in Charms and it is painful to witness. She keeps flirting with him and he keeps bumbling around like a fool.” Arya shook her head, amazed that it had taken her so long to notice this. Sansa’s sudden interest in the Gryffindor quidditch team. Pod’s uneasiness towards Baelish’s club. His reaction when Sansa touched his hair. Sansa practically begging Pod to ask about the Christmas party.

“They’re so stupid,” Arya breathed. “One of them should just tell the other how they feel. The attraction is so obviously mutual.”

“Right?” Gendry exclaimed, “They need to stop dancing around each other and just admit that they wanna hook up!”

-

“So did you apologize to Myranda?” Arya asked as they collected their books. Gendry’s face grew stony.

“Not sure how that’s any of your business,” he said, before meeting her eyes and sighing. “Yes, I did.”

“Good. She had every right to be confused, and you didn’t have to be so rude to her.” Gendry almost looked amused by her reprimand.

“I know, Stark. If it makes you feel any better, I don’t think she cared.” It did make Arya feel better, until she remembered Ned kissing her cheek before leaving. When she broke up with Ned properly, she was certain he would care quite a bit.

-

“Why didn’t you go home for Christmas?” Arya asked as they made their way back to the common room, “Is your mum away or something?” Gendry let out a breath.

“My mum’s dead, actually. Died three years ago,” His voice was flat. Arya’s heart sank. He had no one to go home to.

“Oh, Gendry, I’m so sorry.”

“S’okay,” he said, “she was sick for a long time.” They paused in front of the portrait hole, Gendry looking downcast. Arya hesitated for a second before wrapping her arms around his midsection. She usually reserved this type of tight, earnest hug for Jon or her father, but Gendry looked as if he could use a proper hug. He stiffened slightly before relaxing and cautiously hugging her back. His chest was broad and strong, and he smelled like walking into a warm house on a winter’s day. It was nice, and he let out a contented breath against the top of her head. “Merry Christmas, Gendry,” she said as she stepped back. “I know I’m not always the easiest teammate - ,”

“You’re the most difficult by a large margin,” he said, but he was smiling. She rolled her eyes.

“Let me be nice,” she said, shoving his shoulder lightly. “You’re a pretty good captain, Waters.”

“And you’re a pretty good seeker, Stark.”

“Pretty good?”

“Decent,” he shrugged.

“Decent,” she repeated, crossing her arms.

“Yeah, decent.”

“Are you two going to give me a password or am I going to be forced to watch you flirt for another twenty minutes?” The fat lady demanded.

“That wasn’t flirting.”

Flitterbloom.

-

Sansa was asleep on Pod’s shoulder when they entered the common room. Arya and Gendry tiptoed past them, exchanging a grin before heading up to their respective beds.

-

Christmas Day saw the ceiling of the great hall turn a brilliant white, with fluffy snowflakes falling from the sky and disappearing a few feet from where the small collection of remaining students sat for breakfast. Arya, Pod, and Sansa ate together and Arya watched keenly as Pod poured Sansa some tea, adding the right amount of sugar without having to ask.

She looked around for Gendry, who needed to be informed of this development at once, but he was nowhere to be found.

Gendry was not in the Gryffindor common room either, and Arya saw no sign of him out on the snowy quidditch pitch. He was a surly, annoying prick sometimes, but no one deserved to be alone at Christmas.

-

She found him in the library again. He was surrounded by schoolwork and had his wand tucked behind his ear as he hunched over a textbook.

“Merry Christmas,” she said, sitting down beside him and making him jump.

“Hi,” Gendry said. He looked at her, frowning. “Where are your books?” Arya rolled her eyes.

“I didn’t come here to study, Waters. I was looking for you.” He blinked at her. “It’s Christmas!”

“I know that,” he said. “What’s that got to do with me?” Arya laughed.

“It’s Christmas and you’ve hidden yourself away in the library. You should be opening presents and watching Pod make Sansa tea at breakfast.” He raised an eyebrow curiously at this, his blue eyes lighting up. “He knows she likes two sugars. And I had no one to enjoy it with, since you’re apparently such a dedicated scholar.”

“I wasn’t hungry,” he shrugged, “but I’m very sorry to have missed that.”

“You should be,” Arya said. “You’re coming to the feast, right? Don’t leave me alone with them, Waters.” He sighed.

“Fine. You’ll need someone to roll your eyes with every time Sansa drops Pod a hint and he does nothing but sputter.” Arya chuckled.

“Get anything good?” She asked. Gendry looked confused. “For Christmas, I mean.” He looked back at his textbook.

“Gummy worms,” he shrugged. Arya swallowed. The sweater she was wearing had been knitted for her by Sansa - a thick, grey woollen thing. Arya’s mind went to the homework planner her mother had sent her, the dragonhide gloves from her father. She thought of the broomstick maintenance kit that Robb had given her, the Ever-Frozen Ice Cream from Bran. Jon had picked out a sharp, delicate little letter opener and told her to write him more often. Even Theon had mailed her some Fizzing Whizbees.

“You haven’t got your gift from me yet,” Arya said brightly, and Gendry looked at her, a little unsure and a little tired.

“Really, I don’t -,” He started, but Arya had already stood up.

“Come on, put your books in your bag. You’re going to love it.” He sighed and began to tuck his notes away.

-

It felt funny, leading Gendry up to the Room of Requirement. Had it only been a few days ago that she had brought Ned here, considering spending the night in his arms? She felt uneasy just thinking about it.

“Why are you taking me to the Room of Requirement?” Gendry asked. He sounded a little nervous.

“You’ll see. Just promise not to tell anyone about this, alright?” He nodded, glancing at her curiously before looking at the place where the door would shortly appear.

-

“Whoa,” he said, taking in the towers of clutter and chaos that stood before him. “What is this, Stark?”

“Everything you could never want,” she said brightly, picking up a broken stopwatch and watching its hands spin rapidly around for a moment. “Jon showed me. It’s just a bunch of lost things, broken things, things that don’t have a home anymore.” Gendry looked up at the damaged, elaborate chandelier that hung from the ceiling.

“Cool,” he said. “So you just steal this stuff?” He grinned at her and she rolled her eyes.

“It’s not stealing, I don’t think. This stuff doesn’t belong anywhere anymore.” He nodded, brushing some dust off of an old book end shaped like a house elf. “It’s like a treasure hunt,” she continued. “Only you don’t know what you’re looking for until you find it.”

-

Arya was sifting through a shelf of dusty old books. Occasionally she would read out a bizarre title and hear a bark of laughter from somewhere nearby.

Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches - do you think we should get that for Pod?” Arya called, and Gendry chuckled from the other side of an old cabinet. “Oh wait, Waters, I think I’ve found your gift.” She extracted the book and blew the dust off the cover. He stepped out from behind the cabinet and read the title over her shoulder.

Bael’s Guide to Unconventional Quidditch Drills: Non-Traditional Methods For Optimizing Your Squad,” Gendry read aloud, “Very funny, Stark.” Arya grinned up at him and opened it to a page that showed three players wearing blindfolds. She threw her head back laughing, knocking into Gendry’s chest. He couldn’t help but laugh too, taking the book from her and flipping through it.

“It’s perfect,” Arya said, still chuckling as Gendry furrowed his brow at a page with a diagram that looked rather like some sort of pagan ritual. “Merry Christmas, Waters.”

“Thanks, Stark,” he said, closing the book and tucking it under his arm, “Now we have to find something for you.” Arya shook her head adamantly.

“No, trust me, we don’t -,”

“It’s Christmas, Stark. You’ve got me something,” he said, nodding at the ridiculous book under his arm. “It’s only fair.”

-

Gendry inspected an old gramophone as Arya sifted through a wardrobe filled with heavy, furry coats.

“So,” he said casually, twisting a knob on the rusted machine. “What did your boyfriend get you?” Arya winced at the word ‘boyfriend’.

“He’s not - I don’t think we’re still -,”

“Did you break up with him?” Gendry asked, looking over at her now with an eyebrow raised. “Dump him via owl post?” Arya bit her lip.

“No.”

“Then he’s still your boyfriend.” Arya looked at the floor, not wanting to think about the conversation she would have to have with Ned when he came back.

“I haven’t opened his present yet,” Arya said truthfully. Gendry gave her a curious look as he tapped the gramophone lightly with his wand. A handful of small sparks burst out of the horn.

“What did you give him?” Gendry asked. Arya swallowed, thinking about Ned unzipping her dress. But Gendry wasn’t asking about that. He was asking about Christmas gifts.

“Nothing,” she admitted, “I gave him nothing.” Gendry nodded and frowned at the gramophone, apparently giving up on fixing it.

-

“Alohomora,” Arya heard Gendry say, and a little lock clicked open. She walked over to see him open an old, ornate box to a small collection of jewelry.

“Oh, it’s horrendous,” Arya said, picking up a gaudy bracelet decorated with far too many orange crystals. Gendry snorted and sifted through the pile, picking out a single earring shaped like a pear. Arya found a ring with a large, yellowing pearl on it, and made a noise of distaste as she tried it on.

“Careful,” Gendry warned, “This stuff could be cursed.” Arya rolled her eyes.

“Or it could make all of our wishes come true,” she said, setting the ring down, “Or it could just be some old, ugly junk.”

Gendry pulled out a chain and took the pendant in his hand, frowning slightly. “How about this?” He said, “It sort of reminds me of you.”

The pendant was small, about the size of Gendry’s thumbnail, and looked hand-painted. It was old, the colours of the paint a little faded. The face was white with a small acorn in the middle, surrounded by some blossoming thistles. It reminded Arya of the woods that surrounded her home, where she and her siblings would play hide and seek and where she would pick flowers for her father.

“Because of the thorns?” Arya joked, and Gendry smiled.

“Yeah, probably,” he said.

“I like it,” Arya said, “It’s pretty.” Gendry nodded. Without really thinking about what she was doing, Arya turned away from him and pulled her hair to one side, exposing her neck. There was a beat of hesitation before he reached over her and hung the pendant around her neck, his fingers brushing against her skin slightly as he did up the clasp.

“There,” he breathed, and she swallowed as she felt the word against her neck. She turned to face him.

“Thanks,” she said, looking down at the necklace and touching it softly. “It’s really - I like it a lot,” she said quietly. Gendry nodded. Arya glanced up and met his eyes. He swallowed and stepped away.

“We’ve been in here for ages. The feast is probably starting,” he said. “Don’t know if it’s safe to leave Sansa and Pod unsupervised for this long.” Arya laughed lightly at this, and they made to leave.

-

“That’s pretty,” Sansa said, nodding at Arya’s necklace. Arya looked down and smiled fondly. “Was it a gift?”

“Yeah,” Arya said, determinedly not looking to her left, where Gendry was seated. Sansa looked at Arya and then at Gendry but asked nothing more.

“It suits you,” Sansa said. “Pod, would you pass me the potatoes?”

Arya and Gendry spent the rest of the meal doing their best to be subtle as they observed their companions. Sansa squealed as a mouse jumped out of the Christmas cracker she and Arya pulled apart, prompting Pod to pat her shoulder comfortingly. Pod nearly choked on his ham when Sansa adjusted the paper crown he was wearing. Gendry gracelessly attempted to turn his snort into a cough as he watched Pod’s eyes widen and mouth drop open when Sansa casually scooped up some of her pudding with her finger and licked it off.

Arya insisted that Gendry wear the crown from his cracker, since she and Sansa and Pod had all donned theirs. He scowled as she placed it on his head.

“Your stupid hair is gonna make it crooked,” she said, brushing a strand out of his eyes. “There. Doesn’t he look festive now?” She turned to Sansa and Pod, who both seemed to have found Arya’s struggles with Gendry’s crown rather amusing.

-

The quidditch pitch was covered in a blanket of snow, and no one else was around to use it. Arya and Gendry flew almost every day. Sometimes they would focus on her reactions, Gendry tailing her and applauding her inventive ways of eluding him. Other days she would enchant snowballs for him to use as bludgers, and she would laugh as they exploded around him, dusting him with snow.

“You’re crazy,” he said, his nose pink and his teeth chattering. She was laying on the pitch making a snow angel and Gendry was staring down at her, rubbing his hands together and shivering.

 

“You can go shower if you want,” she said, looking up at the white sky and smiling, “I’m just enjoying the quiet while I can.” He stayed outside with her.

-

New Year’s Eve was a subdued affair in the Gryffindor common room, despite Sansa’s best efforts. She had put gold and silver streamers all over their common room and had hung a banner from the hearth. Arya chastised Pod for telling Sansa the password as she picked a piece of gold confetti from her hair and flopped onto the couch. “It’s a party!” Sansa said, tuning her radio so that the sounds of the Weird Sisters filled the mostly empty room.

“It’s four people and a lot of glitter,” Gendry said. He had been more of his regular surly self in recent days and Arya couldn’t blame him. She also didn’t want the holidays to come to an end.

As midnight approached, Arya and Gendry sat on opposite ends of the sofa, watching Pod and Sansa stand by the window, chatting. Sansa touched Pod’s arm casually as she laughed at something he said and Pod blushed.

“Think he does it?” Gendry asked. Arya looked over at him. “Kisses her at midnight, I mean.”

“Oh,” Arya said, “I hope so. I mean, she’s giving him ever signal possible.” As she said it, Sansa reapplied her lip gloss and Arya and Gendry exchanged a smile. The radio host began to count down from ten. Arya crossed her arms and glanced over to see that Gendry had done the same.

“Seven!” cried the host. Pod had his hands in his pockets, apparently fascinated by the snow falling outside. Sansa was twisting a lock of hair around her finger, attempting to look casual.

“Three!” Arya pushed a strand of hair out of her face and re-crossed her arms. Gendry fidgeted slightly.

“Happy New Year!” The host cried, and a familiar song began to play. Pod smiled at Sansa politely. Sansa smiled back and before looking forlornly out the window.

“Well, that did not go how I had hoped,” Arya said, and Gendry nodded, though he didn’t look at her.

“Me neither.”

-

Pod had insisted on walking Sansa back to the Ravenclaw dorms, leaving Gendry and Arya to take down the decorations.

“Think he makes a move?” Arya asked, waving her wand and forcing a roll of streamers to wind itself up. Gendry shrugged. “He should have just done it at midnight. What was stopping him?” Gendry folded Sansa’s banner and made a noncommittal noise. Arya carried on as she started a pile of items that had to be returned to Sansa in the morning. She was utterly bewildered by Pod hesitancy to kiss Sansa. “He should have just taken him in his arms and told her he liked her and - oh!” She had switched Sansa’s radio off and turned to find herself facing Gendry’s chest. He placed a sparkly headband that shot miniature fireworks beside the radio.

“I think that’s hers, too,” he said, a funny look on his face. Arya nodded up at him and smiled.

“You’ve got confetti in your hair,” she chuckled, standing on her tiptoes and lightly running a hand through the front of his hair to pull the little golden piece out. His eyes didn’t leave her face as she did this, though his lips seemed to part slightly at her touch.

“What else do you think Pod should have done?” Gendry asked quietly. “After telling her that he liked her?”

Arya found that she was having trouble remembering what else she had wished for Pod and Sansa. “Um,” she swallowed, glancing away from Gendry’s eyes - they were intense and sort of distracting. “Tuck her hair out of her face, I guess. He could have told her she looked nice.” Gendry nodded.

“And?”

“And then he should have kissed her,” Arya said, meeting Gendry’s eyes again. They were very blue, and rather close.

“She’d have liked that?” Gendry breathed. Arya nodded.

Cornish Pixies,” came Pod’s mopey voice, and Arya turned in time to see the portrait hole swing open. When she turned back, Gendry had stepped away. He was now waving his wand to sweep all of the confetti off of the floor. Pod looked gloomy as he bid them good night, leaving them to finish tidying up in silence.

Chapter Text

The holidays ended far too quickly. Arya had grown used the rhythm she had fallen into with Sansa, Pod, and Gendry. It was strange to admit, but Arya was fairly sure that she and Gendry Waters were now friends. They had gotten into the habit of exchanging a meaningful glance every time Sansa or Pod came close to admitting their feelings, which was rather frequently. Every now and then, she thought she saw Pod and Sansa exchange similar glances, and she wondered what secret they shared.

Arya had spent her days with Gendry in the library getting ahead on homework, or on the quidditch pitch, Gendry flying at Arya from every angle, forcing her to come up with new means of twirling out of his way. They often ate breakfast together, Gendry raising his eyebrow at how frequently owls would land by Arya’s porridge, bearing letters from her parents, her brothers, Theon, and even once a postcard from her uncle in Russia. At night, they found themselves by the Gryffindor fire, discussing quidditch and lessons and any other topic their conversations wandered into.

Arya noted that the more time she spent with Gendry, the less unpleasant she found him. She enjoyed his company, enjoyed his biting remarks, enjoyed the way smiled as he called her “Princess” anytime she was difficult, enjoyed how he would roll his eyes at Pod and the way he whistled when she pulled off an especially impressive dodge. This was concerning because Gendry was rather handsome, and anyone that good looking had no business being nice. His handsomeness was nothing new, obviously, but paired with less sulking and a seemingly newfound ability to smile, Gendry’s entire existence felt quite unfair.

Of course, none of this mattered. Gendry wasn’t interested in Arya like that. Arya wasn’t interested in Gendry like that - he was just her friend! Her tall, handsome, nicer-than-she-had-given-him-credit-for friend. Besides, though she did her best to forget it, Arya still had a boyfriend. A boyfriend who would be home very, very shortly.

-

When the rest of the students started returning, Arya felt her mood drop. She stood up after eating lunch with Gendry and Pod, hoping to get back to her dorm before -

“Hey, babe,” Ned said, and he dipped her into a deep and longing kiss. She winced internally, very aware that Gendry and Pod were getting a close-up view that they surely did not ask for.

“Ned,” she said, pushing him away, “Listen, -”

“I hope your Christmas was as amazing as mine, Arya” he said, grabbing her hand and pulling her after him, “I want to tell you all about it.” Arya pulled her hand out of his grip but continued alongside him - she wanted to get him alone for this. Ned glanced at her neck. “What’s that? It looks like something a grandmother would wear. Why aren't you wearing mine?”

“Your what?” Arya asked, clutching her pendant softly, momentarily distracted from her mental preparation. She was relieved that Ned’s comments on her necklace had come as they exited the great hall, with Gendry well out of earshot.

“My gift,” he said, scowling, “I left you with a Christmas gift, Arya.” She winced at his emphasis - they were technically still together, and she hadn’t even sent him an owl.

“Oh,” Arya said vaguely, feeling guilty for not remembering the parcel he had left her. “I... didn’t want to open it without you.” Ned’s face lit up and she winced, wishing she hadn’t said that.

-

“I know you like flowers,” Ned said with a smile, as Arya opened up his gift on a bench in the entrance hall. “So I got you something a little classier than actual plants.” The necklace was gold, with a diamond daisy the size of Arya’s fist hanging from the chain. It was loud and blingy and exactly the opposite of anything Arya would ever wear.

“It’s so... glittery!” She said, and his smile widened.

“Cost me a hundred and eighty-five galleons,” he said proudly, and Arya smiled weakly. A hundred and eighty-five galleons was a lot of money. “You’re worth every sickle.” She felt ill. He had spent a small fortune on a necklace she didn’t want and she had got him nothing except an ill-prepared spiel about how she didn’t think they should date anymore. She steeled herself.

“Ned, look, I don’t think I -,”

“Ned! We’ve got practice, mate!” Two Hufflepuff chasers were hurrying towards the castle doors. Ned stood up swiftly and glanced back at Arya.

“We can talk later, yeah?” And he was gone. Arya stared at the necklace on her lap and groaned. There were broomsticks that cost less than this gift.

-

Arya set Ned’s necklace by her bed and unclasped the chain Gendry had found her, holding it in her palm. She sighed as she glanced between them. The contrast was so stark. Looking at Ned’s made her think about breaking up with him - it made her stomach turn unpleasantly, and she could wait to get it over with, to never think about it again. Looking at Gendry’s made her smile to herself. It really was a nice pendant, thorns and all.

Arya heard Alys and Meera’s voices on the stairway and tucked Ned’s necklace into her drawer - she didn’t want anyone to ask about that thing. She clutched Gendry’s chain in her hand.

She held it tightly as she and her dorm mates discussed their days, lamenting the Charms essay they had been assigned and questioning some of Lady Melisandre’s crystal ball teachings.

Arya fell asleep with the necklace in her hand, leaving it safe under her pillow when she woke.

-

Gendry was in a foul mood again and practice was miserable. The snow had been replaced by wet sleet and the whole team was shivering.

“Stark, wait a minute,” Gendry called as they landed and started towards the showers. No way. She was not sticking around for extra training today. But Gendry was not demanding that she stay behind for a one-on-one session tonight. He looked a little nervous in fact. “So, you and Dayne are still together, then?” His voice was quiet, almost casual. Arya sighed, but she was almost relieved. She had been wanting to tell someone how frustrated she felt with Ned and with herself. Still, it was difficult to put into words.

“No. Yes, I guess. I don’t know. I planned to end things but then he gave me this stupidly expensive Christmas gift and -,”

“Oh,” Gendry said, letting out a hollow laugh, “Makes sense.”

“No, that’s not - it’s this ridiculous diamond necklace that cost him more than anyone should ever -,” Gendry scoffed, cutting her off again.

“Sounds like it did the job, though, if you’re still with him.” His tone was harsh now and she frowned.

“I never said it worked, only that -,”

“Only that he bought you an expensive gift and it stopped you from breaking up with him?” he laughed, glancing at her neck and frowning slightly, “I just want to get a clear picture. Guess I shouldn’t be surprised.”

“If you want a clear picture, maybe you should stop interrupting me.” She snapped, glaring at him. The freezing rain was needling her face, strands of her hair sticking to her unpleasantly. All of her frustrations with Ned that she had wanted to voice were momentarily set aside at Gendry’s last words. “What do you mean, you shouldn’t be surprised?”

“Oh come on,” he laughed, “Girls like you are pretty easy to impress, so long as his Gringotts vault is full. I mean, if he’s giving you expensive jewelry, how could you say no?” She couldn’t believe him. After all the time she spent with him over Christmas break, she had thought he might be alright.

“Girls like me?” she repeated furiously.

“Yeah,” Gendry said, giving her a look of sheer derision, “Girls who would rather have a new diamond necklace than a shred of self-respect.” Arya stared at him, her lips parted. It felt as though she had been slapped. Gendry shrugged at her and started towards the changing room.

“Better that than a boy who would rather be a prick than actually listen to what I was trying to say!” She called after him. If he heard her through the rain, he made no indication. Arya stood, soaking wet and absolutely furious.

-

Arya didn’t know how long she stood in the rain, but by the time she reached the school - still soaked and shivering and in her quidditch gear - the corridors were quiet. She had likely missed dinner, she realized miserably. As Arya approached Gryffindor tower, she saw Ned leaning against the wall and she groaned.

“Arya!” he cried, rushing to her side. “I’ve been waiting here for half an hour. Are you alright? You’re soaked!” He put his arm around her and she found that she was too cold to shrug it off. “What happened?”

“Nothing,” Arya lied, her teeth chattering. “Just wanted to try out a few things alone.” Ned frowned.

“That was silly, babe. It’s freezing out there!.”

“Don’t call me ‘babe’,” Arya growled, shrugging his arm off of her now. Ned gave her an apologetic look, but she wasn’t interested in his apologies right now. She wanted a shower and her bed and - Arya’s stomach growled.

“Did you miss dinner?” Ned asked, and she nodded. “Here,” he said, grabbing her hand, which she pulled back immediately. He sighed. “I know how to get into the kitchens, Arya. They’re right by the Hufflepuff common room. Let’s get you some soup.” Arya considered him and decided that right now, her desire for soup outweighed her distaste for Ned.

“Don’t hold my hand,” she said, and he obliged, leading the way.

-

The soup was piping hot and Ned didn’t speak as she ate it. She appreciated that.

-

Ned apologized to Arya for how he had acted before Christmas as he walked her back to Gryffindor tower. “It’s just that I want you,” he said, reaching out for her hand again, stroking her knuckles. “I want you so badly that I let myself get carried away. We don’t have to rush into anything.” He brought her hand up and kissed it. “Can you forgive me for being such an arsehole?”

“I don’t know, Ned.” Arya only wanted to be warm and dry and in her bed.

“That’s alright. You don’t have to know right away.” He nodded as they reached the portrait hole. “Take a few days if that’s what you need, babe.” Arya scowled at the nickname, climbing into the common room. She was excited to go to bed, where it was warm and dry and no boys could piss her off further.

-

“I need some boy advice,” Arya said reluctantly, sitting down at the Ravenclaw table for breakfast. Sansa continued to spoon her yoghurt gloomily, not even looking up. Arya sighed and pushed on. “How do you break up with someone?”

“Wouldn’t know,” Sansa hummed, “Joffrey cheated on me, Harry broke up with me with an owl, and Dickon told me he didn’t want a relationship as soon as he graduated. I’ve never had the chance to be the one doing any dumping.”

“Ouch,” Arya said, frowning at her sister’s words. “Boys are awful.” Sansa looked over at the Gryffindor table, her chin resting on her hand.

“Not all of them, Arya. Some of them are sweet and polite and gentlemanly,” Sansa sighed again. “Sorry I’m no help.”

-

“Take him somewhere private, so that he doesn’t feel exposed,” Wylla said. They were flying slowly side-by-side, waiting for practice to start. “Tell him you’re just not interested in being in a relationship right now, and that you think you’re better as friends.” Arya made a face.

“But I don’t want to be his friend. He’s a dick, Wylla. I just wish he could read my mind so I didn’t have to actually say all of this.”

Wylla laughed. “If only it were that easy.”

Gendry blew his whistle and they descended to join the team.

-

After an extra hour with her surly, silent captain, Arya had worked out exactly how she was going to tell Ned that they were over. She would thank him for his apology and for the gift, to soften the blow, and then tell him that she didn’t feel the same way about him, that she was hurt by how he had treated her, and that she no longer wanted to be with him. He would be upset, she was sure, maybe even a little bit annoyed to have wasted a hundred and eighty-five galleons on her, but he would get over it. Ned was handsome and rich and not bad at kissing, and there were other girls who could make him happy.

She rushed to pull her equipment off, eager to meet up with Ned and get it over with.

“You’re in a rush, Stark,” Gendry commented, untying his wrist guards. “Got a hot date with Dayne?” Arya scowled at him.

“Not your business,” she snapped, turning away and slipping on her regular sneakers.

“Suppose not,” Gendry agreed, but he carried on. “He buy you anything nice recently?”

“Fuck off,” Arya said, pulling a sweater over her head, still refusing to look at him.

“No pearl earrings?” Gendry carried on, “Not even a golden comb for you to run through his perfectly done hair?” Arya felt anger rise up in her.

“You know, Waters,” she spat, turning to him, “I had just started thinking you might be sort of decent.” He smiled, but it wasn’t the warm smile she had grown so used to over the holidays.

“And I had just starting thinking you might be more than a spoiled, shallow -,”

“I thought we were friends,” Arya cried, not wanting to hear him call her ‘princess’ again. He stared at her, taken aback by her outburst.

“If we were friends, you’d have trusted me when I told you that Dayne was a little shit,” he said bluntly. His eyes were icy and full of derision.

“Yeah, and if we were friends, you’d actually listen to me before passing judgement,” she shot back. He stared at her, looking almost as if he wanted to laugh, though his cheeks were flushed with anger.

“Guess we’re not friends, then,” he spat after a moment.

“Works for me,” Arya retorted. They glared at each other for a beat before she pulled her bag over her shoulder and stormed out.

-

Arya met Ned in a quiet corridor near the Hufflepuff common room, as they had planned. He barely had time to greet her before she covered his mouth with hers, kissing him forcefully.

“Whoa,” Ned said, “Good practice?” Arya shrugged, kissing him again. It felt good, as if she was exacting some sort of vengeance, as if kissing Ned was somehow a way to get back at Gendry for being such a prick. It felt bad because she didn’t want to be kissing Ned.

“Does this mean you forgive me?” Ned smiled between kisses. Arya shook her head, winding her fingers into his hair. It was so fine compared to Gendry’s thick mop of hair, it didn’t feel right. Ned pulled away again and she groaned internally.

“It means I wanna make out, Ned,” she said, and Ned considered this briefly before pushing her back against the corridor wall.

“Won’t say no to that, babe,” he smiled, and she placed a finger on his lips.

“Don’t call me babe.”

“What would you prefer,” he asked, kissing her neck. “Gorgeous? Darling?”

“Princess,” she breathed automatically, and she felt him smile against her neck.

“Alright, Princess,” Ned said, bringing his lips up to hers again. The word was sweet from his mouth, as if she truly was royalty. Arya wanted it to be barked at her, mocking and playful and biting. She kissed Ned back anyway.

“Want to spend next Saturday with me in Hogsmeade?” Ned asked a few moments later, running his hand up her shirt. She slid his hand back down but shrugged at him.

“Sure, Ned,” Arya said dismissively, moving to kiss him again.

“There’s this café girls like, it’s a little quieter than the Three Broomsticks - you’ll love it,” Ned said, pulling back with a smile. Arya knitted her eyebrows together, not sure what he meant by a ‘café girls like’, but he continued to nip at her neck and she decided to think about that instead, pleased that he finally seemed to be finished speaking.

Arya closed her eyes as Ned moved slowly down towards her collarbone. She replayed her and Gendry’s arguments in her mind. How stupid she had been to think Gendry was her friend. She had thought he might listen to her concerns, perhaps even offer her advice. But Gendry had shown her only judgement and disdain. He thought her spoiled and shallow, a girl without a shred of self-respect. What would he think of her now, her back against a tapestry as Ned sucked at her neck? Arya imagined Gendry furious, scowling like he had been in the locker room only moments ago. She lingered briefly on the thought of him angry at the thought of her kissing Ned.

She couldn’t stand him, though, really. She hated him and his words and she hated how handsome he had looked, glaring at her, telling her he wasn’t her friend. His eyes had been cold, his voice harsh. His jaw had seemed so sharp, so angry and stubborn and strong. Ned kissed the base of her neck, and Arya thought of the brief moment the other day when Gendry’s eyes had glanced down, looking for the pendant he had found. For the briefest of moments, she wondered what Gendry’s lips might feel like on her neck. Arya let out a tiny, involuntary breath.

“Feels good, yeah?” Ned asked, his lips at her collarbone. She gave a small nod and Ned brought his lips to hers. He kissed her hungrily and she kissed him back, thinking only about how angry she was with Gendry Waters.

-

There was a mark on Arya’s neck the next day. She wore her Gryffindor scarf to classes, but displayed Ned’s handiwork happily at quidditch training. Gendry cut practice short, citing the bad weather. It was barely drizzling.

-

“So you and Ned are back together?” Alys asked as they got ready for bed. She was looking pointedly at Arya’s neck and Arya shrugged. She flopped back onto her bed, feeling rather unwell.

“No,” she said, “I just… Gendry and I got into an argument and I wanted to take my mind off of it and I got carried away.” Alys raised an eyebrow. “And now I have to go on a stupid date to some tea shop Ned brings girls to.” She covered her hands with her face and groaned. “I’m an idiot, Alys.” Alys chuckled lightly.

“You’re not an idiot, Arya,” she said, “But you should probably break up with him.” Arya nodded and they lay silent for a few moments.

“Wait, just to be clear - you and Gendry fought and he got you so worked up that you decided to blow of steam by -,”

“Yes, Alys.” Arya said sharply. Alys chuckled again.

-

Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Shop was something out of Arya’s nightmares. It was lacy and frilly and filled to the brim with couples kissing and holding hands. She and Ned had sat there for forty-five minutes and he had spent each one holding her hand across the table, going on and on and on about how much he liked her. Arya had worn the necklace Ned had given her, figuring that this might be the only time in her life she would have the opportunity to wear something so ostentatious.

Ned seemed to have found renewed confidence in their relationship after Arya’s enthusiasm the week before. Arya was rather bored.

“Isn’t this place nice?” Ned said, “Every girl I ta- know has said they think it’s the cutest place in Hogsmeade.”

“Taken a lot of girls here?” Arya asked dully, not really caring either way. Ned had the grace to look sheepish before looking up at her through his eyelashes and smiling shyly.

“None like you, if I’m honest,” he said, “You’re special, Arya.” Arya offered him a brief smile before taking a sip of her tea. Ned carried on.

“You know, lots of people call your sister the prettier Stark, but I don’t think she’s that hot. At least not compared to you. You’re far spunkier, you know? You’re sort of rough around the edges, and I had to soften you up a little bit, but it worked out.”

“Soften me up?” Arya blinked. Now she was interested in what he had to say.

“Yeah,” Ned smiled, and Arya stared at his posh, perfect face, her mind reeling. “If you had told me at the beginning of the year that Arya Stark would be sipping tea with me and running up to kiss me in the hallway and wearing a pink silk dress and flowers in her hair for me, I’d have called you crazy. But you did. And look at you now in those diamonds, you’re so -,”

“I didn’t wear those flowers for you,” Arya said sharply, shaking her head at him. “You didn’t even like them. You pulled them out of my hair as soon as you could.” She stood up, and Ned looked utterly bewildered.

“Arya, sit down and don’t talk so loud, people are staring. What are you doing?” Arya pulled her coat on, fastening her buttons as quickly as she could.

“For the record, Ned, my sister is that hot, this necklace,” she tore it off of her neck and dropped it on the table, “is atrocious, and you could spend years trying to ‘soften me up’ and you’d still cut yourself. We’re done. Good luck losing your virginity.” She didn’t bother keeping her voice down. Storming out of Madam Puddifoot’s, Arya found that she was grinning. If she had known it would be this easy, this enjoyable, she would have dumped him ages ago. She hoped that Meera and Alys and Wylla would have room for her at their table in the Three Broomsticks.

-

The entire Gryffindor quidditch team had found a table together, little Lyanna Mormont at the head of it. Arya kept her eyes from looking at Gendry as she approached.

“How was tea?” Alys asked, as Arya reached the table and shook her head.

“We are going to destroy Hufflepuff next match,” she said, and the table cheered.

“Get Arya a seat,” Wylla cried, and there was some shuffling.

“Here, by Gendry,” Alys said, patting a small bit of available bench. Arya slid in, her shoulder pressed tightly against the captain’s.

“I’ll save you the time,” Arya snapped, “You told me so.” Gendry raised his eyebrows at her.

“Well, yeah, I did. But I was a dick about it, and I’m sorry.” She looked at him and he looked at her. He offered her his butterbeer and she took a sip.

“Don’t know why I was surprised,” she shrugged. “You’re always a dick.” And he smiled.

-

“Listen,” Gendry said as they waited near the bar, “I meant it when I said I was a dick. I shouldn’t have been so -,”

 

“Correct?”

 

“Harsh.” Gendry finished. The pub was loud, and he had to lean down so that she could hear him “What brought you to your senses, Stark?”

“I realized he didn’t like the flowers I put in my hair,” she shrugged, and Gendry’s eyebrows raised slightly, a small smile appearing on his face. “Well, that, and about a dozen other things, namely the fact that he really only wanted to date me so that he could lose his virginity.” Gendry sobered up at this.

“Right,” he said, a little pink now, “Well, I hope - If he… I’m sorry you had to put up with him.”

“He can find another girl for that,” Arya said, slipping closer to the bar as a group left with their order. When she looked back, she saw that Gendry’s smile had reappeared.

-

“Seven butterbeers,” Gendry called out, and Arya handed Masha the money.

“I could have covered it,” he said sharply and she sighed.

“Can we go five minutes without arguing, Waters?”

“Probably not,” Gendry shrugged, “but I’m willing to try if you are, princess.” She grinned up at him, doing her best to ignore the tingle that went down her spine at his last word. Maybe, just maybe, they could manage to be friends.

Chapter Text

The mood at Gryffindor’s following quidditch practices seemed to change drastically. Gendry was so optimistic, so sure of his squad, that he was smiling. For the entire practice. “It’s weird,” Arya said, floating over to the girls as they watched Gendry laugh with Pod by the goalhoops. “Why is he suddenly a ray of sunshine?” Wylla and Alys exchanged a look.

“Hard to say,” Wylla shrugged.

“Impossible to know, really,” Alys agreed. “He’s even more giddy than he was on Tuesday. Say, Arya, are you staying for a private training session with him today.”

“I am, yeah,” Arya said, “Why?”

“No reason.”

-

“Sweet shoes, Lyanna,” Arya said, complimenting her teammate’s new quidditch boots. Lyanna’s grandfather had bought her them for her birthday, and the little beater was very pleased with her new look. Lyanna smiled and she and the rest of the team left the pitch, leaving Arya and Gendry to themselves.

“Oh,” Arya said. “I suppose I shouldn’t have expressed interest in her shiny new boots. It’s awfully shallow of me.” Gendry turned to her, his eyes full of concern until they met hers. She was smirking up at him.

“Very funny,” he said. “For the record, Stark, I don’t actually think you’re shallow. I’m sorry I said that.” He looked nervous now, as if he had been awaiting this conversation. She raised her eyebrows expectantly.

“And?” Arya asked, folding her arms.

“And for everything else I said. Especially the bit about self-respect, that was… -,” he rubbed his neck, searching for the word.

“Shallow,” She said sharply. He swallowed and nodded. “Did you really think I was the type of person to care about a diamond necklace?” Gendry looked at the pitch.

“No, I didn’t,” he mumbled, “But you had taken off the necklace I gave - found for you and… I don’t know. You’re a Stark, Stark. You’re used to wearing diamonds, not stupid acorn charms.” Gendry looked at her nervously, as if she might take this as a slight. She frowned at him. He really was stupid.

“Have you ever seen me wear diamonds, Gendry?” Arya asked, and he sighed.

“No,” he said quietly, “I was being a judgmental prick and I’m sorry.”

“You were. In hindsight, though, I should have dumped Ned weeks ago. Or just never dated him at all.” Gendry nodded in agreement. “Friends, Waters?” Arya held out her hand and he shook it.

“Friends,” Gendry repeated. Arya grinned and mounted her broom.

“By the way, Gendry, I think it’s a nice acorn charm.” Gendry blinked and then smiled at her. He had a nice smile, she decided.

-

“Are you alright?” Gendry called, dismounting his broom and rushing over to where she lay on the overgrown pitch, still a little damp from the previous day’s rain. He paused when he saw she was laughing. “Don’t scare me like that.”

“Oh, relax, Waters. I’ve been trying to master the Forel Feint for years, it always ends like this.”

“No one can do the Forel Feint. Only Syrio Forel, that’s why they call it -,”

“I know that,” she said, rolling her eyes, “But it’s fun to try.”

“You could have injured yourself, Stark,” He offered her a hand up, which she instead used to pull him down to her. He landed in a heap beside her and scowled. “You’re not taking this seriously.” She groaned.

“Must you always be so miserable, Waters?” Arya asked, looking up at the cloud-covered sky.

“M’not miserable,” he grumbled, flopping onto his back to join her.

-

Gendry was in far better spirits now that Arya was no longer dating Ned Dayne. She figured this was fair - Gendry didn’t like Ned, and for good reason. Arya was Gendry’s friend. It made sense that he wouldn’t want them to be together.

Plus, she was sure that as Gryffindor’s captain, he was pleased his seeker was no longer dating her Hufflepuff counterpart, considering how important the upcoming match was.

Sometimes, though - after the evenings they would stay out extra late to practice evasive moves and high-speed dodges until dusk, on the days Gendry would eagerly clear his notes away to make space for her to study with him in the library, on the afternoons he would pull her aside in the hallway between classes to tell her how clueless Pod and Sansa were during Charms that morning - Arya thought Gendry might be happy that she was single for another reason, one that made her head feel light and her heart speed up. It was a silly thought, though. Gendry was her friend now, and she was content with that.

-

Meera and Arya sat with Margaery and Sansa in the library, albeit somewhat reluctantly. They both found it rather hard to get anything done while the older girls carried on conversations about every topic other than homework. On this particular Friday afternoon, they were fussing over what the following day would hold.

“I just hate being single on Valentine’s Day,” Margaery sighed, “Arya, you should have kept Ned around for another couple of weeks so you wouldn’t have to join us in the lonely hearts club.” Arya snorted loudly.

“I’m perfectly happy to be single,” she laughed. “Besides, we play Hufflepuff tomorrow. If I was still with Ned it would be sort of awkward when I beat him.” Meera grinned.

“I suppose that’s fair,” Margaery agreed. Sansa sighed to her left and Margaery patted her on the shoulder. “It’s just nicer when you’ve got someone, you know?” Arya and Meera looked at each other and shrugged.

“Is it too much to ask for one little romantic gesture?” Sansa lamented. “I’m not asking for anything over the top, nothing grand, just, you know, a kiss that sweeps me off my feet or something.” Arya managed to refrain from rolling her eyes at her sister. Meera didn’t.

“Who says you can’t be the one sweeping him off of his feet?” Meera demanded, and Sansa blinked at her before a rather determined look appeared on her face.

-

The great hall was covered in pink and red streamers at breakfast and the house elves in the kitchens had made pancakes shaped like hearts. Arya sat with the team, eager for the game. The team had been flying so well, she knew they could do this. Gendry sat across from her and raised his eyebrows at her stack of heart-shaped pancakes.

“Cute,” he said, as she folded a pancake into her mouth in a way that would have made Sansa gasp in horror. “You ready?” Arya nodded enthusiastically as she chewed.

“Arya’s about to ruin Ned Dayne’s day for the second time in barely a month,” Wylla said proudly, and Arya shrugged coyly as she took a sip of pumpkin juice. She was quite looking forward to it.

-

Sansa caught up to the team as they left the great hall to head to the pitch. “Good luck!” she said, patting Arya on the arm before moving towards the keeper. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Pod” She placed a hand on each cheek and kissed him soundly. Pod seemed frozen for a moment before placing his hand behind Sansa’s head and responding with enthusiasm. After allowing them a few seconds, Gendry coughed and Sansa stepped back. She smiled at Pod and skipped away. The whole team looked at their keeper, who was staring after her in shock, touching his lips gently.

Gendry grinned at Arya before clapping Pod on the back. “Don’t think you’ll need to pay attention to my motivational speech today, mate.”

-

“If we win today, we’re in the final. If we can win by over a hundred points,” Gendry reminded the team for the eight-hundredth time, “We give ourselves a huge advantage going into the final. Stark, remember -,”

“Don’t catch the snitch if we’re losing by more than fifty points,” the entire team repeated. Gendry scowled.

-

Podrick Payne would not allow a single quaffle through his hoops. Gendry flew by Arya after one of Pod’s more impressive saves and grinned. “Remind me to thank your sister, Stark.” She smiled and looped around him, just like she would in their training sessions.

-

“Are you and Waters a thing now?” Ned asked, and she rolled her eyes.

“No,” Arya said defensively, “Focus on the game, Ned.”

“You know, he’s -,” But Arya never heard what Ned had to say about Gendry. She was diving, lightning fast, miles ahead of Ned Dayne. She pulled up inches from the pitch, the snitch in her hand. Gryffindor won by two hundred points, and Gendry hugged her so enthusiastically that her feet left the ground.

“Nice catch, princess.” Gendry said loudly, so that she could hear him over the cheers from the crowd. Arya saw Ned Dayne’s scowl deepen as he passed by them on his way off the pitch. She couldn’t find it in her to care.

-

“Waters,” called Professor Seaworth, “A word, please.” He was standing with Coach Tarth, looking rather serious. Gendry let go of Arya and nodded to the team.

“I’ll see you guys at the party,” he said, ignoring their concerned looks as he turned to join Professor Seaworth.

-

Gendry arrived in the Gryffindor common room twenty minutes after the rest of the team. He looked a little dazed, as if a bludger had hit him in the head. Arya accosted him immediately. “What was that about?” Gendry blinked at her, a tentative smile forming on his face.

“The Montrose Magpies,” he breathed. “They sent scouts to the game. And to the Slytherin game.” He ran his hand through his hair, apparently still a little bit in shock. “They said they want me to tryout in the summer, they think they want to sign me. Arya, the amount they’re offering, I -,” he shook her head at her in disbelief. Without hesitation, Arya flung her arms around his neck, dragging him down into a tight hug.

“Of course they want to sign you, Gendry,” she said, pulling back and beaming at him, “You’re brilliant. God, they watched you tail Bolton? No wonder they want you.” He was smiling, though he looked rather confused by all of it. Arya grabbed his wrist firmly and he met her eyes. “You deserve this, Gendry,” she told him. And she meant it.

-

“Look at them,” Arya said, handing Gendry a butterbeer and moving to stand at his side. Sansa and Pod were cozied together on a couch, so enchanted with each other that Arya would guess they were completely oblivious to the party going on around them. Pod laced his fingers through Sansa’s and she leaned forward to kiss him lightly. “Disgusting.”

“It’s nice,” Gendry said, “A little cliché, hooking up on Valentine’s Day, but it’s a relief they’ve finally acted on their feelings.”

“Sansa’s always been a romantic,” Arya said, watching her sister giggle at something Pod said.

“And you’re not?” Gendry asked, and Arya looked at him sharply before realizing he had been kidding.

“Like you can talk,” Arya snorted, “Remember that time Margaery Tyrell asked you -,” He interrupted her with a groan.

“I was caught off-guard!” He insisted.

“Margaery Tyrell, Waters. The prettiest girl at this school! And you shut her down.” She elbowed him lightly in his ribs

“That’s not true,” he said, glancing down at her.

“I saw it with my own eyes, you definitely shut -,”

“No, not that,” he said, his voice sounding sort of funny now. “Arya, she’s not, -”

“Oh my god, is Wylla kissing Sarella Sand?” Arya said, pointing across the room.

“Oh,” Gendry said, “Yeah, I suppose she is.” Arya grinned and then looked up at Gendry.

“Since when do you call me Arya?” She asked, and he furrowed his brow.

“Did I?”

“Yeah, you did it earlier and then again just now before I noticed Wylla and Sarella. What were you gonna say, Gendry?” She emphasized his first name.

“Oh, nothing,” he shrugged, “Wanted to check what day worked for training next week.” Arya felt a pang of disappointment, though she wasn’t sure what for. A magical indoor firework burst above the pair of them, showering them with red sparks shaped like little hearts.

-

“You’re wearing that necklace again,” Gendry said, glancing down Arya’s neck to see the little pendant he had found for her. She did her best not to blush as she nodded.

“I like it,” she said.

“I do too,” Gendry said, “It’s pretty, even with the thorny bits.” She turned to look up at him, but he only stared ahead and took a sip of his butterbeer.

-

“It’s far thicker than I thought it would be. My hand can barely keep a grip on it.”

“Well, they come in different sizes. Mine is bigger than most.”

Arya took a practice swing with Gendry’s beater’s bat. “Alright, Waters. Toss me a bludger.”

Practice bludger,” he corrected, and she stuck out her bottom lip. “Sorry, princess. Can’t trust you not to concuss me.” He tossed the practice ball into the air and stepped back, allowing Arya to crank it towards the Forbidden Forest on its way down.

“Shit, Stark. Not bad.”

“That was painful,” Arya said, rubbing her shoulder as they descended. “Does it always shoot through your arm like that?” Gendry shrugged and nodded.

“You get used to it,” he said as he dismounted. They walked to the changing room together, Arya wincing slightly as she pulled her jersey off.

“Here,” Gendry said, leaving his own shirt on the bench and walking over to her. Standing behind her, he ran his thumb hard along the top of her shoulder, down her bicep to her elbow, kneading slightly. “Better?” He asked, and Arya nodded, very aware of how exposed she was in only her sports bra. “Sorry about that, I forget it can hurt the first few times.” She turned to look at him, his chest gleaming with sweat just inches from her face. Arya reached up and touched his arm, huge and strong and solid.

“Yeah, I can see how it would affect you less,” she laughed. “You’re built like a tank.” He took a breath and she met his eyes. They were bright - playful, even.

Wylla and Sarella giggled as they entered the changing room, the door banging open loudly. “Oh,” Wylla said, her smile widening, “Hello, you two. We were just… thinking about doing some extra training.” She glanced between Arya and Gendry, who had stepped apart hastily. Arya knew how it must have looked, both of them shirtless, standing so close together.

“Gendry was just showing me his beater’s bat,” Arya said, wincing slightly at the words.

“I was teaching her how to hold it,” Gendry clarified, “And use it properly. But her arm hurt, so I -,”

“I think they had the same idea we did, Wyl,” Sarella said quietly, a knowing smile on her face. She pulled Wylla out of the room, leaving Arya and Gendry alone, shirtless, and desperately avoiding the other’s gaze.

-

Arya lay awake, trying her best to get the image of Gendry’s bare chest and strong arms out of her mind. She did not mean to think about what they could have done had Wylla not barged in, what it might have been like if she had stepped closer, how it might feel to have him hold her close against his body. Maybe she did mean to think about what it might feel like to kiss him. Better than Ned, surely. His mouth was nice, even trained into a scowl, though she preferred it when he smiled at her. Would kissing her make him smile? And then there were his hands... She thought of his hands, strong and soft, working down her shoulder, and she wished they had never left her skin.

Arya snapped her eyes open and let out a heavy breath, staring at the top of her four poster bed. She realized then that she might have a small problem.

-

“I heard you were jerking Waters off in the changing room,” Alys said as she sat at the cauldron next to Arya’s. Arya spluttered, staring at her.

“What?” she demanded, her face hot, “That’s not - we were not - Wylla is a liar, I swear.”

“Arya, I’m kidding,” Alys grinned. “Wylla told me you two were adamant that nothing scandalous went down and we believe you.”

“Good,” Arya fumed.

“If you ever do, though, can you stick to the boys’ shower -,”

“Alys! I would never in a million years even think about - no, not happening. He’s not interested, I’m not interested. And even if we were, we wouldn’t - not there. Ew. Why are we even still talking about this?” Alys raised an eyebrow at her friend, and Arya was pleased to see that Professor Martell had stood up, ready to start his lesson.

-

They studied Amortentia that day. Alys thought it smelled like frosty mornings and leather and wine. Ned Dayne said it made him think of hot, sandy beaches and citrus juice. Arya smelled hellebores and gummy worms and a warm, familiar scent that reminded her of coming in from the cold. She felt a little bit dizzy.

-

“Alys said you guys did love potions yesterday,” Pod said, “Mine smelled of lemon cakes last year. Makes a lot of sense now.” Arya grinned at him.

“What did yours smell like, Arya? Alys told me hers smelled totally new, like no one she had ever met,” Wylla asked excitedly, kneeling down to stretch her hips. Arya avoided Gendry’s eyes, though she could feel him looking at her.

“Normal stuff,” she shrugged, hoping she sounded casual, “you know, flowers and sweets and all that. How about you, Quentyn, did you smell anything interesting last year?”

“Fire,” he shrugged, “Like hot, molton fire. Sort of freaked me out, to be honest. How about you, captain? What scent do you find completely irresistible?” Gendry looked at him and thought for a moment, his brow furrowing a little.

“The smell of you lot getting practice started,” he said after a moment, his tone convincingly light. He picked up his broom and the conversation ended.

-

“So what does Amortentia actually smell like for you?” Arya said, pulling her broom up beside Gendry’s. He gave her a tired look. She dipped under him to avoid a bludger, and reappeared on his other side once he had smacked the ball away. Gendry considered her, as if unsure of how much he wanted to say.

“Wildflowers,” he said, “and some other stuff.” And he flew off to assist Lyanna. Arya swallowed, a tiny sprig of hope growing in her heart.

-

The Gryffindor team sat together when Slytherin faced Ravenclaw - the winner would advance to the final. The less appealing result seemed inevitable, and Arya felt a little sick as she watched Bolton pound bludger after bludger at poor Sarella Sand. Wylla’s knuckles were white with fury, and Quentyn put a comforting arm around her. Arya could feel Gendry’s gaze as Joffrey pulled up victorious with the snitch in his hand, as Sarella clutched her bruised wrist and dismounted tearfully, limping off the pitch.

“That’s not going to happen in the final,” Gendry said reassuringly in Arya’s ear, as jeers and cheers erupted through the crowd. She nodded.

“I know. Gryffindor’s beaters would never let it happen.” She smiled up at him. He looked surprised by her conviction for a moment before he smiled back.

-

Arya was on her way to Transfiguration when she was swept up by a pair of large, familiar arms. “I got an O,” he said, letting go of her, “on that Herbology paper you fixed up.” Arya beamed at him. “I know we’ve both got to get to class but Arya, really, I cannot thank you enough. The textbook -,”

“Gendry,” Arya breathed, her face hot from his embrace, “it’s fine. It’s just a book.”

“It’s not!” he said, looking a little bit hysterical, “I couldn’t afford a new one. When I was made captain, I had to get myself a new broom and it meant I wouldn’t be able to afford all of my textbooks and I thought the school copies would be fine, but they weren’t and then out of nowhere you -,” he caught her eye and stopped talking.

“Gendry,” she started, her eyes wide. He looked rather uncomfortable now.

“I’ve got to head to class,” he said quickly, “See you at practice, Stark.”

-

The weeks leading up to the quidditch final were stressful for a variety of reasons. Gendry, Quentyn, and Podrick had to study for their N.E.W.T.s. These exams, thankfully, would be over before the final game. The rest of the team was also swamped with schoolwork, and tensions were running high among Slytherins and Gryffindors.

Quentyn was hexed in the hallway, forcing him to dance non-stop for three hours as Professor Selmy tested out various counter charms. Joffrey Baratheon was seen rushing down the Charms corridor, furiously covering up a pig’s snout. Arya swore she had nothing to do with it, which Gendry deemed “disappointing” and “the lowlight of her quidditch career”.

-

“You’re looking particularly surly today,” Arya said, sitting down across from him at a library table that overlooked the lake. Gendry only nodded in greeting and continued to stare out the window, his brows furrowed and his jaw clenched. He was very handsome when he did this, Arya noted, before remembering herself. She glanced out to see what he might be looking at, but there was nothing except the lake and the grass and the forest beyond. Arya opened her mouth to ask him what was up, but then he turned to her and spoke.

“What if I mess this up, Arya?” He said, “What if the Magpies realize they’ve made a huge mistake and take back their offer and I -,”

“Gendry,” Arya said, “Don’t be stupid. You’re ready for this. They know you’re good enough. I know you’re good enough.”

“It’s more money than I’ve ever even thought about, Arya. I could be someone, I could -,” His words died as Arya reached out and put her hand over his. He looked at their hands and then at her, but did not protest.

“You already are someone, Gendry. You’re already the best beater I’ve ever played with and no amount of money is going to change that,” she said, hoping her words could convey even an ounce of the belief she had in him. “You deserve every knut of what they’re offering, and probably a lot more. But our team adores you no matter how much the Montrose Magpies pay you, alright?” Our team, she thought, just a safe, platonic teammate-to-teammate kind of adoration. Nothing else. Gendry smiled at her and she automatically grinned in return before sliding her hand away and pulling out the Divination textbook she had come to the library to read.

They studied across from each other all morning, Arya doing her best to focus on her notes about tea leaves. This was rather difficult with Gendry glancing over at her every so often, not saying anything, always looking back down at his own work with a funny expression on his face.

-

“You don’t care that I’m poor, then.” It was a statement, not a question. Gendry scratched his head nervously as he and Arya approached the Gryffindor common room and Arya blinked at him.

“What?” She asked, bewildered. “Of course not. Why on earth would I care about that?” He shrugged, looking rather unsure of himself.

“Some people do.”

“Some people are shit, Gendry. If your worn-out shoulder pads are good enough to win us a championship, they’re the best shoulderpads we could ask for.” Arya gave Gendry a small smile and turned to the Fat Lady. “Fairy Dust

-

Gendry thanked the team for their performance at practice and turned to Arya. “You able to stick around? There’s something I want to try.” Arya nodded.

“Ooh,” Wylla called as the rest of the team started towards the changing room, “More blindfolding, Waters? Or are you gonna tie her up this time?” Alys cackled, and Pod and Quentyn chuckled along with her. Lyanna looked between them all, confused. Gendry and Arya were both red in the face.

“Ignore her,” Arya said. “What do you want to try?” Gendry ran his hand over his face.

“Well,” he started, blushing still more furiously.

-

“I can’t believe you’re actually trusting that stupid book,” Arya said, as Gendry tightened his tie around her wrists, securing her hands behind her back. “And I can’t believe I’m agreeing to it.”

“Hold still,” Gendry said gruffly, finishing up his knot. “We’ll stay close to the ground” Gendry said, and Arya did everything she could to ignore her body’s reaction to the way he spoke to her over one of her shoulders, his hands still at her wrists. “So that if you fall, you only fall a few feet.” Arya nodded and let out a nervous laugh.

“This is crazy,” she breathed.

-

The first few times Arya tried to complete a roll without her hands, she fell the three feet to the pitch and glared at Gendry, who was doing his best not to laugh. He helped her up, since she couldn’t use her arms, and got her back onto her broom. She looked at him apprehensively.

“If you can flip using only your leg strength, Bolton is gonna have a hard time knocking you off. You’ll be basically untouchable.”

Arya sighed and got back on the broom.

-

“I knew you could do this,” Gendry beamed, as Arya pulled off her third consecutive hands-free rollover. They were imperfect, but she had made progress, nearly mastering the hooking motion she has to make with her foot to pull it off successfully. Arya hopped off her broom awkwardly, her wrists still behind her back.

“I can’t believe I let you tie me up,” she said, shaking her head. “And I can’t believe it worked.”

“Means you trust me, I guess,” he said as she walked over to him and spun around, swallowing at his words. He untied his old tie and she felt herself shiver slightly as he ran a finger over the indentations left on her wrists. “Didn’t realize it was so tight,” he said, apologetic. His mouth was only inches from her ear and she felt a pleasant tingle down her spine at his words. “Tell me if it hurts next time.” She nodded, disappointed when he stepped away. She fell asleep thinking about his hands on her wrists and his voice in her ear.

-

“So what did the captain have you doing yesterday?” Wylla asked at breakfast, Alys leaning in to listen closely.

“Tied me up,” Arya said truthfully, not looking up from her porridge. Wylla laughed loudly.

“That was a good one, hey?” She said, elbowing Arya playfully, “God, imagine if he had. It’s like the start of some awful porno. What did you actually do?” Arya felt her cheeks heat up as she continued to stare at her breakfast, doing her best to keep her face casual.

“Oh my god,” Alys said. Wylla stared at Arya for five full seconds before throwing her head back in disbelieving laughter.

-

“Perfect,” Gendry said. Arya had looped underneath him with ease, twenty feet above the ground, one hand reaching out in front of her, the other held in a defensive position, her elbow out to the side. Neither was touching her broom . “You can catch the snitch, hold someone off, and stay on your broom all at once. Nothing is going to be able to stop you from getting that snitch, Arya. We’re going to kill them.” It was Easter break, and most of the rest of the team was away. Ned and Cateyn had once again left the country. This time, they had taken Rickon to learn about the ancient wizards of Egypt, leaving Arya and Sansa at Hogwarts. Arya didn’t mind.

“We are going to kill them,” Arya agreed. “Do I have your permission to try one more Forel Feint?”

“Absolutely not, Stark.” He had told her that morning that she could try as many feints as she pleased, but not until after they brought home the trophy. He didn’t want to risk an injury.

“As you command, Captain,” she said, rolling her eyes but rather enjoying the look of exasperation he gave her.

-

The team was flying so well at practices that Gendry barely had anything to say, aside from commendations on their hard work. Arya was supposed to be attempting to find the snitch, but she found that most of her time was spent watching the captain.

She regretted this when she tried to fall asleep, and all that she could think of was the way the breeze ruffled his hair and the way he whistled impressively as she dodged his bludgers.

One evening, she had been finishing packing up her things as he had exited the showers, his hair slicked back from his face and only a towel around his waist. He had started, surprised to see her still in the changing room. Arya had frantically thrown her sweater into her bag and given him a nod as she sped out of the door. She had done her best to not drink in the one rebellious strand of hair that fell in his face, the beads of water dripping down his chest, the way his towel hung low on his hips. She thought about this image of him a lot, sometimes when she wasn't even trying to fall asleep.

-

Arya and Gendry arrived for dinner together and sat with the team after their extra session of training. “What’d you two do today?” Alys asked with a smirk, “Hair pulling?” Arya choked on her sip of water and Gendry turned the colour of his tomato soup.

Pod rescued them, launching into a description of the study schedule Sansa had set out. Arya and Gendry avoided each other’s gaze for the rest of the meal.

-

They walked back to Gryffindor tower together. “I promise hair pulling isn’t part of any gameplan,” Gendry said with a playful smile as they climbed through the portrait hole. Arya raised an eyebrow at him and, without thinking, replied with the first words that came to her mind.

“Even if I ask nicely?”

Gendry froze, his mouth dropping open slightly. Arya felt her face heat up, immediately regret washing over her. “I’m only kidding, Waters!” she said, letting out as convincing a laugh as she could muster. He nodded, though he did not join in laughing. “Good night, Gendry!” And she turned on her heel, heading up to her dormitory, not wanting to look at his perplexed face any longer.

Chapter Text

Arya sent a letter off to Jon and skipped down the owlery steps. She was awake before most of the castle, and found the silent corridors rather peaceful. She was reminiscing about practice the day before. The sun had been out, and it was warmer than it had been in months. Gendry had wiped his brow with the bottom hem of his jersey, giving the team a view of his glistening torso. Arya had seen his bare stomach enough - both in person and in her daydreams - that she should be used to it by now, but she very nearly ran into one of Podrick’s goalposts.

“Smooth,” Pod had snorted, “you know, you two should just -,”

“So apparently you’re the best kisser my sister’s ever kissed,” Arya had interrupted casually.

“I - what? Me?” Podrick had stammered.

“Oops, has she not told you that?” Arya had giggled, “Maybe I was supposed to keep that to myself. Silly me.”

She grinned fondly, thinking about Podrick’s shocked look, when she turned a corner and ran right into a large body.

“Arya Stark,” he said, drawing her name out in a way that made her shiver, “How’s the head?” Ramsay Bolton asked.

She glowered at him and moved to step past him, but he grabbed her arm. “Let go of me, Bolton,” she spat, reaching for her wand, “before I make you.”

“By all means, feel free,” he smiled, his lips like pink worms against his pale skin, “Curse me, punch me, kick me. Either way, you’ll get detention and be banned from the match.” Her eyes widened and she tugged her elbow harder. His grip was strong.

“What do you want?” she asked, her free hand balling into a fist.

“Just to tell you how proud I am,” he drawled, “I’ve seen you out there with your captain, all those training sessions.” His smile curled upwards unpleasantly. “My bat’s bigger than his, if you were wondering. Maybe after the final match I’ll have you try it out. You’ll need something to cheer you up.”

“You are repulsive, Bolton,” Arya spat.

“Aw, Stark, don’t be like that. It has been heartwarming, though, watching you work so hard to not be scared of me.” He was doing this to freak her out, to throw her off her game. She would not let him.

“I’m not scared of you,” she said, her voice even.

“Maybe you should be, Arya. You’ve spent all year dealing with what I did to you a year ago. You have no idea what I have planned for you next.” Arya froze, her elbow going slack. She stared up at Bolton, her fist twitching, desperate to hit him. She knew it wasn’t worth it, that Gendry and her teammates and all of Gryffindor would hate her if she was suspended for this match. But she was running out of options.

“Arya?” Came a voice. Podrick was hurrying down the hallway towards her. Bolton released her arm and Pod stepped between them. “What’s going on here? Bolton, what did you do?”

“Nothing,” Ramsay shrugged, “Just wishing your seeker the best of luck in the final. She’ll need it.” He strode away and Pod turned to Arya, who gave him a half-hearted smile.

“I’m fine,” she said, and it only felt like a little bit of a lie.

-

“Right, I’m off to go kill him,” Gendry announced, grabbing his wand and standing up. The team was huddled in the common room. Pod and Quentyn both stood up to stop Gendry.

“If you touch him, you’ll miss the match,” Arya stated plainly, and Gendry paused. “And if you miss the match, we lose.”

“We’ve got a massive lead in the standings,” Gendry scoffed, “you guys can win this without me. I’m going to go beat Ramsay Bolton until -,”

“If you miss the match, he can do whatever he wants to Arya, win or lose,” Lyanna Mormont pleaded. “I’m not capable of marking him alone.”

Gendry sighed. He turned and smiled at Lyanna, “You’d do a better job than you give yourself credit for, kid. And as far as him doing whatever he wants to our seeker, I’m not sure about that. She’s pretty capable of looking after herself. Besides, who says he’ll be fit to play after I’m done with him?”

“Please, Gendry, don’t be stupid,” Arya said. “We need you.” He sighed as he looked at her. His eyes didn’t make sense - they were dark, stormy, completely furious, and yet as they found hers, they were equally soft and kind and full of understanding. Arya looked at him until the fury dimmed slightly and she was sure he wouldn’t go find Ramsay. She let out a sigh of relief as he sat back down, still frowning angrily.

“But if he pulls anything during the match,” Gendry started.

“You’ll have to race me to him,” insisted Wylla, the rest of the team nodding in agreement.

-

“He’s not going to touch you,” Gendry insisted as they walked onto the pitch for practice. Arya rolled her eyes. She wasn’t scared of Bolton, not really, but the confidence she had felt going into the final had been dented slightly.

“I know, Gendry. It’s all just scare tactics,” Arya said.

“I know, but I mean it. I’m not going to let -,”

“Gendry!” She stopped walking and grabbed him by the elbow. His eyes were angry again, so she offered him a calming smile. “I’m not frightened of Ramsay Bolton, I promise. I’ve spent all year training with you to make sure of that. We’re going to be fine.”

-

Arya hadn’t shared Bolton’s suggestion that she try out his ‘beater’s bat’ with the boys of the Gryffindor team, but she mentioned it to Alys and Wylla after dinner that evening.

“Okay, wait, why did we stop Gendry from killing him today?” Wylla asked, appalled. “We probably should have just let Gendry kill him.”

“Did you tell him this?” Alys asked.

“Gendry?” Arya said, “No, why?”

“Don’t. He’d lose his fucking mind.”

-

He’d lose his fucking mind.

Arya lay in bed thinking about Alys’ words. Gendry would lose his mind if Bolton had threatened anyone on the team, she was sure. There was no reason why those words specifically should make Gendry any angrier than he already was. And yet.

-

“You weren’t serious when you said we’d be fine without you, were you?” Arya brought her broom level with Gendry’s as he observed practice. He shrugged.

“We’re up by almost two hundred points. You’re going to have no problem catching the snitch, Pod’s been unbeatable since he and Sansa got together, our chasers are - why are you looking at me like that?” Arya had narrowed her eyes at Gendry, her lips parted in disbelief at his words.

“If you don’t think we need you, you’re an idiot,” she said bluntly. He looked a little taken aback by the seriousness of her tone, but Arya saw a small smile appear on his lips as he turned to watch Wylla, Quentyn, and Alys toss the quaffle back and forth.

-

Arya quizzed Gendry the night before his Potions exam. The library had been too busy for them to find a table, so they ended up in the aisles at the back. It was now getting late in the evening and Gendry was pacing as he recited the ingredients necessary for Draught of Living Death. “...then you need Valerian Sprigs, Wormwood, Sloth Brain, uh… juice of a Sopophorous Bean?”

“Yes!” Arya grinned, tossing him a gummy worm as a reward. She was sitting against the bookshelves, his Potions book in her hands and a pack of gummy worms at her side. “I think that’s everything.” Gendry exhaled and leaned against the stacks opposite her.

“I suppose I’m as ready as I’m going to be,” he said. She stood up, closing the book and picking up the gummy worms.

“You’re going to ace it,” Arya said, “And if you don’t it’s alright, cause you don’t need N.E.W.T.s when you’re a superstar quidditch player.” She grinned at him and he rolled his eyes.

“I haven’t even tried out yet, Stark,” he said, looking down. “They might not want me.” Arya tutted.

“They’d be crazy not to want you, Waters.” His eyes flicked up to hers, curious.

“Yeah?” He asked, folding his arms, a smile playing on his lips. “You certainly seem to have changed your stance on my usefulness.” Arya scoffed.

“I have always thought you were a good beater, Gendry.” He raised an eyebrow at this. “I have!”

“I seem to recall a very angry Arya Stark asking me what I would know about being good for anything on Professor Baelish’s office balcony,” he said. She rolled her eyes, hating herself for blushing.

“You know I didn’t mean that,” she said, aiming a half-hearted kick across the aisle at him. He shrugged, standing up straight now, stepping away from the bookshelves

“I dunno, Stark, you seemed pretty adamant,” His tone was playful. She shook her head at him.

“Maybe I was a little wrong about you,” she admitted with a smile, grabbing a gummy worm from the bag and biting into it. Gendry stepped forward again, his eyes not leaving hers as he approached. Arya swallowed. How many times had she thought about Gendry pressing her up against these bookshelves, his hand weaving into her hair? He stopped in front of her and reached into the bag of worms, pulling one out and eating half. He watched her as he chewed, as if he was trying to make a decision. He was too far away. Arya wanted him to step closer, closer until she felt the shelves digging into her body. He would taste like gummy worms, probably.

Two figures rounded the corner giggling. Pod had Sansa by the hand, grinning until he saw Arya and Gendry. “Oh,” Sansa said with a smile. Her eyes flickered between them and she clutched Podrick’s arm. “I think this aisle is taken, Pod.”

“What?” Arya said quickly, “No, we were just studying. I was asking him about -,”

“No, no,” Sansa said, dragging a grinning Pod away, “You two carry on. We’ll find another private corner.” Arya swallowed as she watched them go. Gendry had wordlessly stepped away, beginning to pack up his books. His cheeks were rather pink and Arya thought he looked slightly disappointed. The notion made her stomach flip.

“Thanks for quizzing me,” he said, his voice quiet and serious. He slung his book bag over his shoulder and they headed for Gryffindor tower, talking only of his Potions exam and the upcoming quidditch final. Gendry seemed rather determined to ensure Arya that he wouldn’t let Bolton within twenty feet of her. Neither mentioned Sansa’s knowing smile or the other one’s rosy cheeks.

-

He had wanted to, she was almost sure. He would have kissed her, had Sansa and Pod not interrupted them. Arya lay awake, her body feeling oddly light. She fell asleep thinking about the bookshelves at the back of the library.

-

Sansa slid across from Arya at the Gryffindor table. Her hair was pulled into a messy bun - she had her Herbology N.E.W.T. exam that afternoon. It was the second-to-last exam, and Arya could sense that Sansa and the other seventh years were rapidly losing motivation. They just wanted it to be over.

“So the other night after we interrupted you and your captain...,” Sansa said, lightly. Arya rolled her eyes.

“You didn’t interrupt anything,” Arya insisted, and Sansa raised an eyebrow.

“If you say so. Anyway, Pod was telling me you mentioned something about me thinking him a good kisser.”

“Yeah! He was thrilled to hear it!” Arya said, pleased that Sansa wasn’t here to grill her about Gendry. Sansa grinned.

“You’re right, and I’m glad he knows how I feel,” Sansa said with a smile, “It’s important to tell people how we feel.” Arya nodded, though now she was growing suspicious of where Sansa was going with this. “So, have you told Gendry you think he’s got nice muscles, then?” Arya scowled.

“What’s that got to do with anything?” Arya snapped. Sansa grinned.

“You’re not denying it, then?”

“What? No. He doesn’t - well, he does have nice muscles but there is absolutely no reason for me to tell him that.” Arya’s face was warm.

“I’m sure he’d be thrilled to hear it!” Sansa said.

“Who’d be thrilled to hear what?” Gendry asked, sitting down beside Arya, “You alright, Stark? You look hot.” He pressed the back of his hand to her forehead, and Arya felt as though she was on fire. “If you have a fever, you’d better see the nurse. You can’t be sick next week.” His voice was genuine and concerned, and Sansa’s eyes danced between them.

“Arya was just telling me about how -,”

“Much I miss Jon!” Arya said, jumping to her feet. “In fact, I’m going to go write him a letter now. Good luck on your exam!”

-

Arya was in the common room when Gendry, Quentyn and Pod returned from their final N.E.W.T. exam - Charms. They all felt that it had gone relatively well, though Quentyn had completely forgotten the wand movement for the Gemimo charm.

 

“Sansa’s still in there, of course. Perfectionist,” Pod said fondly. “You coming to the party, Arya?”

“Party?” Arya asked, setting aside her Muggle Studies textbook.

“Yeah, we’re celebrating the end of the N.E.W.T.s,” Quentyn grinned, “Some students have put the Room of Requirement to use and got a bunch of food from the kitchens. Apparently there’s a keg of Masha’s Mead.”

-

Arya wore a tight-fitting black shirt tucked into her torn jeans. It was slightly lower cut than she was used to, but she liked how it looked. “Very hot,” Wylla said, “You sure you don’t want me to make you blonde?” Arya shook her head, laughing. Meera was wearing overalls that Wylla cooed at enviously. Alys was magically shortening the hem of the red skirt she was wearing.

“Don’t you feel kind of bad?” Meera asked. “We didn’t have to take the exams, but we’re going to the party anyway.” Wylla snorted.

“I don’t think the seventh years will mind if four pretty girls want to party with them, Meera.”

Arya pulled the top half of her hair back into a bun. She tapped it with her wand, allowing a couple of forget-me-nots to weave their way into the knot. She tapped it once more, and two tiny hellebores joined the other flowers.

She thought she looked pretty. She couldn’t help but hope that Gendry would think so too.

-

The Room of Requirement was full of students - mostly seventh years, but a fair amount of younger students had found their way in. There was music playing and a huge spread of food and drinks.

“Do you think the teachers know about this?” Alys asked as the door disappeared behind them.

“As long as we keep it in this room and don’t cause any mayhem on the way back to bed, they’ll never know,” grinned Wylla. “Let’s go find some mead.”

-

“You look nice,” Sansa said. “Any particular reason?”

“I’m not dressed for anyone but myself,” Arya snapped.

“Fine,” Sansa said, “But I must say Gendry Waters certainly seems to appreciate the choices you made when dressing for yourself.” Arya followed Sansa’s gaze and saw Gendry leaning against a pillar, looking over at her. He stiffened when they made eye contact. She grinned and waved and he smiled back, nodding for her to come talk to him.

-

“What’s up, Waters?” she asked, stealing a sip of his drink. “Is that mead?” she coughed. Gendry laughed at her.

“It is. It’s an acquired taste, apparently.” He took a sip and grimaced. “I have yet to acquire it.” Arya snorted and accepted the cup as he handed it back to her.

“How does it feel to be done?” she asked, wrinkling her nose as she took another sip.

“We’re not really done,” Gendry shrugged, “Still got a month and a half of classes left. It’s nice, though, that they let us get the N.E.W.T.s over with. More time for other things now.”

“Like quidditch,” Arya said.

“Quidditch will be over this time next week,” he said, looking a little glum. Arya’s heart sank. She hadn’t thought about that. Next Saturday would be the last time she and Gendry would play a game together. There would no longer be a need for their extra training sessions, no longer any reason for him to stop her in the hallways between classes. He would never have a need to take his shirt off in front of her again. Gendry saw the dismay on her face and smiled. “Cheer up, Stark. We’ll be celebrating our victory.”

The thought of winning did cheer her up. She had already won the trophy twice, but she had never felt so determined to bring it back to Gryffindor tower. She wanted to beat Bolton, to prove that she wasn’t scared of him. Gendry’s thoughts seemed to have travelled a similar path.

“Do you think I could get away with punching out Bolton after the match?” Gendry asked seriously, causing Arya to chuckle.

“I’ll help,” she said, “I’m stronger than I look.” He looked at her, amused.

“I, of all people, know that, Arya. You’ve shoved me and elbowed me enough times,” he said with a laugh.

“Sorry about that,” she said sheepishly, “I was sort of a bitch.”

“And I was sort of a dick.”

“You’re still a dick, Waters.”

-

By her third cup, Arya found that mead wasn’t so bad. It made her want to laugh a little louder, and it made every glance Gendry gave her feel a little more significant, whether he was standing right beside her or catching her eye from across the room.

“Is one of you going to make a move or are we going to have to lock you two in a supply closet like Quentyn suggested?” Arya turned to see Alys raising her eyebrows at her and nodding at Gendry, who was standing by a speaker with Anguy and Tom, looking over at Arya a few times every minute.

“Don’t know what you mean,” Arya said, though she felt her cheeks grow warm. She finished the last of her mead. “I need another drink.”

-

Firewhiskey tasted far better than mead. It burned as it went down Arya’s throat, but in a pleasant way, a way that made her grin as she smacked her lips after the shots. Wylla poured everyone nearby another round, clinking her glass against Arya’s before they drank.

-

“Cool flowers,” Gendry said, smiling warmly as he sidled up beside Arya, watching Quentyn attempt to sink a gobstone into a collection of levitating cups. Arya turned to him and smiled. The firewhiskey had made any nerves she felt around Gendry fade away.

“Do you want some?” Arya asked excitedly. He looked briefly taken aback but nodded.

“Yeah, go on then.” She pulled out her wand and tapped at his ear. He closed his eyes nervously as a sprig of baby’s breath tucked itself in behind his ear. “Well?” he asked, “am I beautiful now?” Arya nodded enthusiastically.

-

Arianne Martell was so nice. Arya hadn’t spoken to the Slytherin chaser much in the past, but as soon as Arianne began to explain why Nymeria Rhoyne had been her favourite quidditch player as a young girl, she knew they would be friends.

“I named my dog after her!” Arya cried, and Arianne squealed.

“To Nymeria Rhoyne, the greatest broomswoman the world will ever know!” Arianne cried, and the girls drank to her.

“Is ‘broomswoman’ even a word?” Arya asked, giggling as Arianne poured them each another shot.

-

“Hey, you,” Arya said, flopping onto the couch beside Gendry, who raised his eyebrows at her, “You’re not doing shots with us.” Gendry laughed. He still had the baby’s breath behind his ear, and she swore his cheeks reddened when he noticed her glance fondly at it.

“Am I supposed to be doing shots with you lot?”

“You’re our captain, Gendry. You’re supposed to lead,” Arya grinned up at him as he shook his head at her, amused. “You’re so boring.”

“And you’re so drunk.”

“I’m not that drunk. You’ve had almost as much as me.” She poked at his shoulder and he chuckled.

“I haven’t had nearly as much as you and I weigh more than ninety pounds, Stark.”

“Arya,” called Wylla from the nearby table, where she was facing a couple of Ravenclaw boys in some game involving firewhisky, a spinning top, and a deck of exploding snap, “Sarella has abandoned me, I need a partner!” Arya made to stand but stumbled slightly, briefly using Gendry’s knee to prop herself up.

“Maybe you should slow down a bit,” Gendry said, a crease forming between his eyebrows. Arya rolled her eyes.

“I’m fine, captain.”

-

Arya and Wylla won the game, and the bottle of firewhiskey they had started the round with was empty. Sarella had reappeared in time for their victory, and Wylla kissed her in celebration. Arya grinned. She wanted to find Gendry again. She wanted to kiss Gendry. Just the thought of it made her head spin even more, in the most pleasant sort of way.

-

Anguy and Tom stood by a keg with their backs to her.

“Don’t know what his problem is,” Tom said. “Arya looks properly sexy tonight. Seen that shirt she’s wearing?” Anguy nodded.

“Gendry’s an idiot,” Anguy said, “It’s as if he’s waiting around for someone else to swoop in and hook up with her before he can. I’m half tempted to do it myself, if he wouldn’t kick my arse for it.” Tom laughed.

“Where is that prick, anyway?”

“No idea,” Anguy shrugged, “Probably went to bed, the miserable bastard.”

Arya turned, feeling stupidly giddy. They were so slimy, such boys, but she didn’t care - she couldn’t care. They had told her enough, and she felt a dizzying rush of glee. Gendry wanted to hook up with her. Gendry would hit Anguy if he tried anything. It sure sounded as if Gendry liked her. She smiled to herself, wondering if he truly was already in bed. Girls were allowed in the boys’ dormitories and everyone else was at the party - he would be all alone. Arya poured herself one last shot of firewhiskey.

-

“Hey, princess,” she heard as she stumbled out of the portrait hole. “Whoa, you alright?”

“Ned,” she said, straightening up. “I’m fine, thanks.” She made to walk away, but she was rather dizzy and found herself stumble slightly again. Ned reached out to steady her, a hand grabbing her forearm, his other arm wrapping around her waist. She pushed away from him lightly.

“Relax, Arya,” he said. “I’m just trying to keep you on your feet. You’re pretty drunk.” She rolled her eyes at him.

“I said I was fine, Ned.” His arm returned to her waist and she shoved him away again, harder this time.

“Arya?” came a voice, and she turned to see Gendry exiting the party, taking a few strides to close the distance between the door and Arya. He pushed Ned away with one arm and gently reached for Arya’s arm. “Are you alright?” She nodded. He turned to Ned, scowling.

“You keep your hands off her, Dayne,” Gendry growled, and Ned smiled, bemused.

“Relax, Waters, I’m not trying to cop a feel.” Arya was finding it rather hard to stay completely upright. Perhaps that last shot of firewhiskey had been a mistake. “I’ve had my hands in far more interesting places than her waist, though. Remember, prin-” Ned was up against the wall, Gendry towering over him, a firm grip on the front of Ned’s robes.

“One more word, you little shit,” Gendry said. Arya’s head was spinning as she watched the scene unfold. She knew that they shouldn’t fight, but all her mind seemed to register was that Gendry was strong. So, so strong. He still had her flower in his hair and she smiled as the sight of the two boys tilted slightly to the left.

Ned held up his hands in defeat. “Alright, settle down, Waters. I’m not trying anything with your girlfriend.” Gendry scoffed, letting Ned go and shaking his head.

“She’s not my girlfriend. It might be a foreign concept to you, Dayne, but you can be decent to girls even when you’re not trying to get into their pants.” Ned shrugged and rolled his eyes.

“Arya’s too frigid for it to matter, anyway,” he said and began to walk away. Gendry took a step after him, but Arya reached out for his arm. She stumbled against him as she tried to pull him back.

“Don’t,” Arya said, but the word sounded funny, as if it had come from a different person entirely. She was very drunk. Gendry looked down at her with a softness that took her breath away.

“Let’s get you to bed, Stark.” He said, motioning down the hallway. She took a few steps before leaning heavily against his arm to keep herself upright.

“Walking is hard, Gendry,” she murmured. He laughed lightly, watching her zigzag as she held on to him. After a few yards, he came to a halt.

“Want a piggyback?” He asked and Arya was sure she had never heard a more attractive offer in her life. She hopped on as he bent over, her arms wrapping around his neck and his hands clutching her thighs. She sighed contentedly. “That tickles,” Gendry said.

“Oops,” she breathed, and the tightening of his shoulder made her think that he didn’t mind her voice in his ear. She touched the baby’s breath tucked into his hair and smiled. She couldn’t wait to kiss him.

“I thought you had gone to bed,” she said.

“Nah, just got roped into some bullshit conversation with Quentyn and his friends. Then Tom and Anguy started hounding me.” He shook his head. The mention of his friends made Arya smile. They thought him stupid for not hooking up with her yet. She couldn’t help but agree, but she would make sure to remedy that tonight.

“Dayne didn’t try anything, did he?” Gendry asked, interrupting the vision she was having of his lips softly but eagerly meeting hers.

“No,” Arya said, “But if he had, I could have taken him.” Gendry laughed.

“If you could stand upright, definitely.”

“Rude!” Arya exclaimed, and Gendry chuckled even more.

“Keep it down, Stark, it’s past midnight. We don’t want to run into a professor.”

“If we hear footsteps, we can always hide in a supply closet,” she said with a giggle, quite liking the idea. Gendry let out a confused laugh.

“What are you on about, Stark?”

“It’d be a good place to hide, if needed,” she mumbled, not sure why she needed to explain this to him. “Or we could go to the library, way at the back.” Gendry turned his head to the side, glancing back at her.

“The library’s locked, Arya. How many shots did you take?” She hummed and wrapped her arms tighter around him.

“Not that many,” she said, though she knew that wasn’t true. The hallway was spinning, and her head felt dizzier than ever. She really hadn’t needed that last shot. Gendry felt like the only stable thing in the world.

-

The fat lady scowled at them as she swung open. “She’ll have a few dozen more interruptions before the night is up,” Gendry said, setting Arya down and immediately reaching out to steady her. The common room was empty, just as Arya had hoped it would be.

“Thanks for the ride, Gendry,” she said, stepping closer to him. She giggled as he blushed. “You’re pretty with flowers in your hair.” Gendry chuckled warmly at her words.

“You are too, Arya. Now let’s get you to bed.” He made to guide her towards the staircase, but she put her hands on his chest to stop him. She traced her hands up to his shoulders and around his neck. He swallowed.

“Arya, look -,”

“Gendry,” Arya said, doing her best to keep her voice even. Words were hard with this much firewhiskey in her system. “I sort of liked it when you shoved Ned against the wall.” She grinned at him and he laughed nervously.

“I liked that too, if I’m honest,” he said, “Had sort of been looking for an excuse. Now, you’re very drunk, let’s get you -,”

“I wonder what you’d do to Bolton if I had told you what he said,” Arya winced as she spoke, remembering that she hadn’t wanted to bring it up with him. Firewhiskey was not good, she decided as Gendry frowned at her. Not good at all.

“What did Bolton -,” but she placed a finger on his lips and he froze.

“It doesn’t matter,” Arya said, shaking her head. “I don’t want him like that.”

“Like what?” Gendry asked, his voice sharp now. She cursed herself for rambling on about Ned Dayne and Ramsay Bolton when she could have started on what she really wanted to do.

“Shh, Gendry,” Arya breathed, placing her arms firmly around his neck again, pulling her body tight to his. “I don’t want to talk about that.” She stood on her tiptoes and he blinked at her, his eyebrows raised and his lips parted. God, he was pretty. And sort of blurry. She blinked, bringing him back into focus. She could have counted his eyelashes now, had she wanted to. But that wasn’t what Arya wanted.

She tilted her head slightly and kissed him. Only his lips were no longer where they had been a second ago, and she ended up kissing his jaw. He had moved his face to avoid meeting her lips. “What -,”

“Arya, you’re drunk,” he said firmly, though not unkindly. “I don't want to - I don’t think we should... It’s not what I want.” Oh. She stepped back, staring at him.

You can be decent to girls even when you’re not trying to get into their pants. She was an idiot.

Arya was vaguely aware that Gendry was saying something else, but all she could hear was “It’s not what I want.”

“Arya?” he asked, looking at her a little nervously. She had been staring at him blankly.

“No, you’re right, that was - I just… a mistake,” Arya said, feeling rather hot now. The common room spun around her. Gendry was staring at her, his cheeks pink.

“Arya, it’s not -,”

“What you want, yeah, you said that. Me neither. I’m just really drunk and you’re… here,” she looked up at him. His face was confused now, hurt even. Arya felt the same on the inside. “I’m sorry if I made things weird. It’s…. Firewhiskey, you know?”

“Right,” he said, and his voice sounded sort of far away. “Firewhiskey.”

“Night, Gendry.” Arya spun on her heel and climbed the stairway without looking back.

“Night,” he said in that same far-away voice. She fell asleep with her clothes still on and wildflowers in her hair.

Chapter Text

Arya didn’t want to be alive, let alone awake. Her head hurt, her stomach hurt, and, more than anything, her heart hurt. She didn’t remember everything that had happened the night before - she knew that there had been plenty of firewhiskey and that Arianne Martell had proclaimed them best friends. She vaguely recalled winning some game with Wylla, though she had no idea what game it might have been. She remembered Sansa beaming on Podrick’s arm and Quentyn explaining something about dragons to her. She remembered Gendry, baby’s breath behind his ear, shoving Ned Dayne against a wall. Holding her steady. Carrying her to the common room on his back. Smiling when she called him pretty. And telling her he didn’t want her.

Arya groaned. She was not leaving this bed today.

“Whoever just groaned, I’m in total agreement,” Wylla said, her voice hoarse. “Why the fuck did you lot let me drink that much firewhiskey?”

Alys sat up and stretched, rubbing her eyes. “Well, I had fun,” she said.

“Never said I didn’t,” Wylla said, grinning as she slipped out of her covers and tucked her feet into her slippers. “I need the greasiest breakfast this place can offer me.” Meera, who had skipped on the firewhiskey and stuck to mead, was happily reading on her bed. She set her book down to join the girls in getting ready.

“Come on, Arya, get yourself sorted,” Alys said, “I’m hungry and I want to hear how you and Gendry made out last night. Walking back to the dorms, I mean.” They all giggled and Arya sat up, narrowing her eyes.

“What are you talking about?” Arya asked. She had sat up too fast and her head spun as she processed Alys’ words. How could they possibly know that she had tried to kiss him?

“Oh, come on,” Wylla laughed, “He left the party just after you, saying he wanted to make sure you got back okay.” Arya’s head hurt more with this new information. What was Gendry’s problem? Why was he so nice? Why didn’t he want her the way she wanted him? She really had thought he might.

“Well?” Alys prompted. “Did you get a little snog in then?” Arya winced and shook her head. She didn’t want to talk about it. She stood up and shook her hair out. The flowers fell onto her bed and she frowned.

“You’re pretty with flowers in your hair.”
“You are too, Arya.”

Gendry had called her pretty. Why had he done that when he didn’t want her?

“Arya?” Wylla said, “Did something happen between you two?”

“Why would anything happen between Gendry and I?” Arya laughed, as lightly as she could manage. She touched the pendant around her neck and carefully unclasped it, setting it beside her bed before she pulled her hair up into a ponytail. “Let’s get dressed and get some toast, I’m starving.” She didn’t miss the girls exchanging a look of confusion, but she ignored them. She didn’t want to talk about last night.

-

Her plan was simple - she would avoid Gendry at all costs for the next week, aside from unavoidable interactions such as quidditch practice. They would win the cup and then for the rest of they school year, they would maintain a distant, civil friendship that never involved making eye contact with each other. Then, he would go off and become some superstar professional quidditch player and get whatever girls he did want, and she would captain Gryffindor to another championship next season, never even thinking about him. They really didn’t have to speak again after this week. It was a simple, reasonable plan.

-

She ran into him as soon as she left the castle after breakfast. Arya had told the girls that she wanted to do her homework by the lake, but really she wanted to sit and stare at the water and feel sorry for herself. She didn’t even bother bringing her books with her - she just wanted to get as far away from the Gryffindor common room as possible. Arya had figured that Gendry would be spending the day inside with the rest of the upper year students, recovering from their late night. Of course, Gendry never seemed to do what Arya wanted him to do.

Gendry stood at the foot of the front steps, his broom slung over his shoulder. He was drenched in sweat, as if he had just undergone a heavy work-out. Arya did everything in her power to ignore the pleasant flush it had created on his cheeks and the dampness of his hair as it fell into his face. He froze as soon as he saw her.

“Arya,” he said, doing a funny little nod. God, she had ruined everything, hadn’t she?

“Gendry,” she nodded back, trying and failing not to blush. “Practicing?” she asked, nodding at his broom. He nodded.

“Just needed to smack a few bludgers around,” he said vaguely.

There was a brief pause before both started speaking at once. Arya motioned for Gendry to carry on. She hadn’t been totally sure what she had wanted to say anyway.

“Can we talk about last night?” He asked, and every atom in Arya’s body protested.

“Sure,” she said. He motioned towards the lake and she fell into step with him.

“Do you, er, remember?” Gendry started awkwardly, “Like, all of it, I mean.” Arya stared determinedly at the grass, though she could feel his eyes on her.

“Yes,” she said. It wasn’t wholly true. She didn’t remember everything, but she remembered her lips against his jaw after he had angled his face away from her and his apologetic eyes as he let her down easy. She remembered the bits that mattered.

“So,” Gendry breathed. He sounded quite nervous, and Arya sort of felt bad. She supposed she had put him in an awkward position, drunkenly trying to kiss him when they were supposed to be friends and, more importantly, teammates. The last thing Arya wanted was to make him think this would affect the team’s dynamic when they were less than a week away from the most important game of the year. “You, uh, know how I feel, then.” It’s not what I want.

“Yeah,” Arya said dully.

“And your feelings…,” He trailed off, his cheeks red as he glanced at her.

“What feelings?” Arya laughed, “I was drunk, Gendry. You said so yourself! I had far too many shots of firewhiskey and you were being a good friend. There are no feelings. We’re friends.” She said it faster than she had meant to. Gendry looked out towards the lake and nodded.

“That’s fair,” he said.

“The last thing I want is for things to be weird,” Arya insisted. Gendry nodded again, looking at her neck and then down at the grass.

“They’re not weird,” he said after a moment. “It’s fine, really.” He offered her a smile, but it wasn’t quite as goofy as it normally was. “Friends,” he said, and Arya gave him her best smile back.

They walked in silence for a few minutes. Arya didn’t know what she was feeling, but she knew she didn’t like it. Friends. At the beginning of the school year, being friends with Gendry Waters was the last thing she would have wanted. She felt the same now, she supposed, but for entirely different reasons. She glanced at him and saw that he was scowling - he looked as if he was thinking too hard.

When he spoke again, Gendry came to a halt. His voice was colder now. “Arya, what did Bolton say to you?” Arya stopped and looked up at him, surprised by his question. He looked impressive like this, his broom at his side and the lake sparkling behind him. His eyes were dark, his jaw set. She sighed.

“Gendry, it really doesn’t -,”

“It matters, Arya,” he growled, “and if you don’t tell me, I’m going to assume the worst.” He sounded more serious than she had ever remembered hearing him. It was almost frightening.

“Please, just let it go, Gendry.” She insisted, but his face was unflinching and determined.

“If he threatened to…,” he looked away from her, a muscle in his jaw twitching and his shoulders shaking slightly. There was a fury in his eyes that made her wonder - though she had seen it firsthand - how they could ever be soft and warm and friendly.

“He didn’t,” she said quickly. “He only… suggested stuff. Really, Gendry, it’s fine.” Gendry’s eyes snapped to hers.

Suggested stuff?” He hissed. “What does that mean?” Arya sighed. She really hadn’t wanted to tell him this. “Arya, what did he suggest?”

“He implied that he might like to fuck me. To ‘cheer me up’ after we lose. His... beater’s bat was discussed,” She felt her cheeks grow hot with anger at the memory of Bolton’s smile. Gendry’s face didn’t move for a moment. He was scary like this, she decided, and Arya wished she could reach out to him, put her hands on his face and her forehead on his until he calmed down. He took a breath, closing his eyes for a moment.

Arya’s reflexes had never been better. When Gendry moved to start back to the castle, her hand was on his arm before he had taken a full step. “Don’t,” she said through gritted teeth. “You’d be giving him exactly what he wants. You’ll get banned from the match.” Gendry ignored her and shrugged himself out of her grip, starting back towards the castle.

“Gendry!” Arya yelled after him, but he kept walking. She started after him. “If you get suspended, I’m not playing,” she called, and he froze. He turned slowly, giving her a tired, angry look.

“You’re not serious, Arya. They need you.”

“And I need you,” she said fiercely. “Don’t be foolish, please.”

Gendry looked at her for a few breaths, though it felt like an age. His eyes were annoyed and stubborn and even a little sad, but the rage had lessened.

“Fine,” he spat, turning away again, but walking without the purpose he had shown moments ago. Arya let out a long breath. Saturday couldn’t come soon enough.

-

The will to win was just enough to keep Arya from feeling completely miserable at practice. Just.

She did her best to focus on the drills, to focus on the fact that the final match was only a handful of days away. Her plan to avoid Gendry had been working - he seemed quite happy to avoid her in return, only really speaking to her about quidditch. But this didn’t mean Arya was able to stop thinking about him, and it certainly didn’t mean that she was able to get through practice without catching herself watching him. She felt a pang of disappointment in her chest every time he smiled.

Arya thought of him before she fell asleep and woke up as fond as she had ever been. He didn’t want her, but her subconscious didn’t seem to care. She wanted him more than anything.

-

“Nice flying today,” Gendry said somewhat tentatively as they walked to the castle after practice. He was trying to be nice, to make things normal again. She gave him a half-hearted smile.

“Thanks, captain. You too.”

-

Gendry nodded politely in Arya’s direction as they passed each other in the hallway between classes. Arya hesitated before offering a small smile and a wave in return, but then she heard giggling behind her.

Two pretty seventh years girls - a Ravenclaw and a Hufflepuff - had waved back to him and now clutched each other’s arms as they walked.

“He’s so dreamy,” the Ravenclaw said. “I borrowed his quill in Transfiguration the other day and there was definitely some eye-contact.”

“Shut up,” her friend squealed, “I wanted to talk to him before Herbology the other day but he was too busy reading his textbook.”

“He’s smart, too?” The Ravenclaw girl groaned with glee. Arya was relieved when she reached the Charms hallway and could turn to escape their conversation.

-

Arianne Martell stopped by the Gryffindor table at dinner, handing Arya a copy of Quidditch Through The Ages. Arya blinked at her.

“You asked to borrow it!” Arianne laughed. “On Saturday night, you said it always took ages to get out from the library.” Arya furrowed her brows. She had no recollection of this conversation - she vowed never to drink firewhiskey again. She shuddered to think what else she might have forgotten entirely. Arya thanked Arianne anyway.

“Hope you’re ready for Saturday!” the Slytherin girl said with genuine enthusiasm as she got up and walked away.

-

“Are you ever gonna tell us what happened after the party?” Alys hissed, pouring a vial of acromantula venom into her cauldron. Arya pretended to be carefully reading the instructions on the blackboard. Alys scoffed. “Come on, Arya.”

“Nothing happened, Alys. It’s not like that.” She kept her eyes trained on Professor Martell’s fanciful lettering, but she could feel Alys looking at her.

“I think couple of people missed that memo.”

-

Arya was eating her porridge on Wednesday morning when the post arrived. She grinned when she saw Crow, Jon’s large, dusky-feathered owl swooping down towards the Gryffindor table. She had always thought that Crow was a stupid name for an owl, but she was rather fond of the old bird. However, Crow was not interested in Arya’s affection today. He dropped a letter onto her placemat and flew a few metres down the table, landing in front of Gendry, who dropped his spoon in surprise.

Gendry stared at the bird, who was holding its leg out expectantly, a white envelope attached. Gendry looked around nervously before pulling the letter off. Arya reminded herself that he probably had not received a letter in years. Crow gave a hoot to thank Gendry and swept away. Gendry stared at his name on the envelope and Arya stared at Gendry.

“Why is Jon writing to you?” She demanded, and Gendry’s eyes grew wide.

“Was that Jon’s owl?” He asked. He looked almost frightened.

“Yes,” she hissed, aware that the seven or eight people in between them were listening intently. “Why is he writing to you?”

“I don't know!” snapped Gendry, a slight note of panic in his voice. He tore at the envelope and Arya watched him unfold the letter and begin to read before remembering that she had her own letter from Jon.

-

Dear Arya,

Good luck this weekend - I know you’ll win, and I can’t wait to hear all about the victory. Do me a favour and try to knock Joffrey off his broom. Sorry it’s taken so long to write back - I think Crow has trouble finding his way around up here.

In your last few letters you mentioned how fearless you feel around bludgers now - I knew you could do it, Arya. You’re going to have no problem catching that snitch in the final. I’m happy to hear that Gendry has been such a help. I know you weren’t thrilled when he was given the captaincy, but if he was willing to work with you all year he must be a pretty patient guy. I’m kidding (mostly). I’m writing to him to thank him for looking out for you - Sansa described how he kept Bolton far away from you when you faced Slytherin in the fall, which is definitely a tactic I approve of. He always seemed sort of quiet and moody, but I’m happy you’ve got a capable beater on your side - tell him to send a bludger at Bolton in my name, alright?

I’m almost fluent in Finnish now, I’ll have to teach you some when I visit this summer. The ancient magical history up here is fascinating - but I’ll save all that for another letter. You need to focus on quidditch for now.

Love you, pikkusisko,

Jon

-

Arya looked up at Gendry, who was still looking at the letter Jon had sent. His eyes were soft as they scanned the page, his mouth parted slightly.

“What did he say?” Arya asked, and Gendry swallowed before looking up.

“You wrote to him about me?” His voice was somewhat strained. She nodded and he smiled at her, looking a little bit breathless. She felt her face heat up under his gaze and she stood up.

“I have to… late for class,” she lied, and she left without a glance back at him. She sat in Transfiguration and ignored every word of Professor H’ghar’s lecture. Why did Gendry smile at her like that, in that stupid goofy way, looking at her as if she hung the moon and every single star in the sky? They were friends, just friends, but Gendry’s idea of friendship seemed awful similar to torture.

-

On the Thursday before the match, Sansa forced Arya to come to the final Mockingbird Society dinner of the year. It would be Sansa’s last event with Baelish ever, and she refused to let Arya skip out.

Arya was seated beside Myranda Royce, who looked stunning. She had straightened her hair and applied a sort of holographic eyeshadow that shimmered when she smiled. Looking at her made Arya feel funny. If shimmery and beautiful Myranda wasn’t enough for Gendry, who could be?

“So, have you and your captain hooked up yet?” Myranda asked, smiling before taking a sip of her gillywater. Arya blinked at her.

“What?”

“Gendry,” Myranda said, “Surely you two are a thing by now.” Arya swallowed, bewildered by the question.

“Why would you think - we’re not even - what?” Arya stammered, and Myranda knit her eyebrows, giving Arya a funny look.

“Professor Baelish,” she called, “that mistletoe at your Christmas party only grows if both parties are interested, right?” Baelish looked up from his conversation with a bored-looking Sansa.

“Yes, Miss Royce. Lady Smallwood procured some and I knew that I had to have it if my party was to be any fun.” Myranda raised her eyebrows at Arya, who felt more confused than ever.

-

He had wanted to kiss her, then. What had changed? Was she only desirable to him when she was wearing a pretty dress and attached to another guy? Was arguing just a turn-on for him? Or had their friendship gotten in the way of his feelings?

She scowled and flipped onto her side. Whatever had made Gendry change his mind, she wished she could undo it.

-

Professor Seaworth stopped Arya in the hallway the day before the match.

“Your captain spoke to me about Ramsay Bolton’s threat, Stark,” he said, and Arya scowled. “Now now, he was doing his job. I did my best to get Bolton banned from the match, but unfortunately there wasn’t enough to justify a suspension. I want you to know, though, that Coach Tarth is aware of Bolton’s words and will be watching him extra closely this weekend.” He offered her a warm smile. She did her best to return one.

-

“What are you playing at, telling Seaworth about Bolton?” Arya snapped as she cornered Gendry in the hallway. He put his hands up innocently, raising his eyebrows at her tone.

“Arya, he threatened you. I couldn’t just leave it -,”

“You should have, Waters. He’s going to find out about this and he’s going to think he won.” Arya glared at him.

“Won?” He frowned.

“He wants to scare me and I refuse to let him think I’m scared,” she snapped. Gendry shook his head, looking away from her.

“Well I am scared, Arya,” he bit back, meeting her eyes briefly before moving past her to get to his next class. “I care a little bit more about your well-being than I do about Ramsay Bolton’s opinion of me.”

-

The general mood of Gryffindor’s fans had changed drastically since the start of the year. The whole house was on their side, confident that they would bring the cup home. The team had become minor celebrities within Gryffindor tower, greeted with applause any time they entered the portrait hole. Quentyn had never had so much luck finding a date. A group of third year girls had started attempting to change their hair to Wylla’s sea-green shade of choice. Girls giggled and whispered loudly when Gendry walked anywhere.

“He’s so mysterious,” Arya heard one of them hiss to her friends the night before the match. Gendry had just stalked by, looking surly, “That scowl is so sexy, I can’t believe he’s single.”

“I call dibs at the celebration party,” one of the girls announced, and another protested loudly. The bickering continued until the first girl shushed them.

“Who says we can’t all have a snog? He’s the captain, he deserves to be rewarded.” The screeches that followed were enough to send Arya to bed before the sun had set.

-

Despite retiring early, Arya hardly slept the night before the match. She skipped breakfast entirely, not wanting to watch girls coo over Gendry while she tried to keep her eggs down. She was waiting, ready in the changing room half an hour before she needed to be.

Arya hated herself for being more preoccupied with a boy than she was about the match. She felt confident about quidditch. Bolton’s threats aside, she felt good - she was the best seeker in the school on the best team in the school.

Gendry wasn’t as simple as quidditch. She had spent a full day thinking about Myranda’s comment about the mistletoe. He had wanted to kiss her! He had changed his mind. Perhaps he had realized that he could do better - the girls in the common room last night had all been very beautiful. Perhaps he thought that it wasn’t worth bothering with Arya, when he would have his pick of any girl once he went pro. Or perhaps he truly did just want to be her friend. This option was the only one that she could swallow, though it burned unpleasantly like firewhiskey on its way down.

The door opened and the team entered. Arya took a deep breath.

-

“You eat anything, Stark?” Gendry asked, looking a little peaky as he sat down on the bench across from her.

“Couldn’t,” she said simply.

“Me neither.”

-

Arya knew that she should have been worrying about Bolton. Bolton, who had sent her unconscious and bleeding to the ground last season. Bolton, who had very nearly ruined her favourite thing about school forever. Bolton, who had grabbed her in the hallway, threatened her, taunted her. Bolton, who would be trying his very best to enact some additional bullshit vengeance on behalf of his imprisoned father. But the knots in Arya’s stomach as she sat in the changing room had nothing to do with Bolton. She couldn’t be scared, not when the best beater she had ever - and perhaps would ever - play with was going to be looking out for her. She wasn’t scared because she had Gendry.

She looked at him, standing now as he tightened his wrist strap. Arya smiled at his shoulder pads - one of the straps was being held down with spellotape. This was probably the last time he would play a game in them. She felt a rush of fondness for him, on the verge of getting everything he deserved. Maybe being friends could be okay, she thought. Then he turned to her and caught her smiling. He blinked and then smiled back.

“Ready to go, princess?” Nevermind. She nodded and looked away, ready to get this over with.

-

Coach Tarth’s whistle blew and the Gryffindor team began to make their way out onto the field for the opening proceedings. Arya made to follow Wylla, but a hand around her wrist held her back.

“What?” she hissed, wondering what on earth Gendry had to say now. Their names were mere moments away from being read out with the rest of the Gryffindor line-up.

“Arya, look,” He sounded flustered, as if he himself was unsure what he was doing. He met her eyes and seemed to find his words. “I just want you to know that whatever happens today, you’re the best seeker I’ve ever played with.” Arya swallowed, feeling rather hot now. She was about to thank him, about to return the compliment and tell him he was the reason she could fly without flinching, but Gendry wasn’t done. “I’m sorry if I made things weird when I told you I liked you, but I -,”

“What?” Arya said. He froze, his eyes unsure.

“What?” He repeated. Coach Tarth had begun to announce the Slytherin roster.

“You like me?” Arya breathed, hardly daring to believe what he had just said. He stared at her, his eyes wide with confusion.

“Yes,” he said, blushing, “Of course I like you. I thought I made it pretty obvious when I told you that I had been thinking about kissing you since you called me a dick after our first bludger practice.” He sounded almost annoyed. Arya’s lips parted in shock. He had never said that, had he?

“When did you… oh my god. Oh, you idiot!” Gendry started, taken aback by the insult. “You told me you liked me while I was hammered?” Arya cried. Arianne Martell’s name was met with raucous cheers.

“You said that you remembered!” Gendry exclaimed. “I asked you if you remembered!”

“You didn’t exactly specify what I was supposed to be remembering, Gendry,” she said. Her head felt light, though not in a bad way.

“How is this my fault?” Gendry cried, his eyebrows disappearing under his hair. He looked utterly bewildered. “You’re the one who was too drunk to remember!”

“Sober enough to remember you telling me that I wasn’t what you wanted,” Arya said, crossing her arms. Gendry shook his head, his eyes not leaving hers. His face was wrought with concern now. Ramsay Bolton’s name was met with loud jeers.

“I wasn’t going to kiss you when you were that drunk, Arya. It’s not how I wanted to kiss you for the first time - or at all, frankly. You couldn’t stand upright!” He took a breath and looked at her, drinking her in. “Believe me, I want you. I really want you. But I would never have kissed you like that.” His eyes bore into hers, a tad desperate. Arya’s mind was reeling. Gendry liked her. He wanted her. He had told her so. And she had - oh god.

“I didn’t want to kiss you because I was drunk,” she said frantically, “I wanted to kiss you because I like you. I had been thinking about kissing you for the entire night, even before the firewhiskey. And for, like, months before that.” Gendry hesitated for a moment, as if he wanted to be sure he hadn’t imagined her words, before his face broke into a smile. Coach Tarth called out Joffrey’s name, and the stadium was filled with an odd mix of hissing and cheering.

“I don’t want to just be your friend, Stark,” He said. She nodded in agreement.

“How did you want to kiss me for the first time? Before I almost ruined everything,” Arya asked quietly. Gendry’s cheeks went pink.

“I mean… I guess I had been thinking if we won the cup, maybe I’d work up some courage. I kind of figured I would be so happy that I wouldn’t second guess myself and I’d just be able to go for it,” Gendry said, scratching the back of his neck nervously. Wylla’s name garnered a great roar of approval from the crowd.

“That would have been nice,” Arya said. Gendry nodded, and they both stepped forward at once. Her arms were around his neck and his hand was in her hair, the other pulling her tightly against him as he brought his face down to hers. He was kissing her, and for the briefest moment, there was nothing in the world except Gendry and his lips on hers, his hand woven into her hair just as she had imagined it for months. The door banged open and Arya jumped, turning her face to see a shocked Pod staring at them. Her arms were still around Gendry’s neck, holding him to her. His nose was now pressed against her cheek and she felt him exhale roughly, his breath frustrated and disappointed and hot against her neck.

“Seriously?” Podrick said. “Now?” Arya extracted herself from Gendry, knowing that her cheeks were the colour of her Gryffindor quidditch robes. Gendry still hadn’t moved. Pod stared between them, half amused, half exasperated. “We’ve sort of got a quidditch match to play, and I’m not sure I fancy our chances without our captain and our seeker.” There was a beat of silence before Gendry rolled his eyes and grabbed his broom, stalking past Pod and onto the pitch. Pod raised his eyebrows at Arya, who grinned and shrugged before following Gendry onto the field.

Chapter Text

Arya could feel every set of eyes in the stadium on herself, Gendry and Pod as they left the changing room. There were a few whistles and some cheers upon their arrival, and Arya blushed, unable to stifle a smile. Coach Tarth was unlatching the ball box and the Gryffindor team was huddled, waiting for the opening whistle.

“What kept you two, then?” Quentyn asked.

“Busy snogging, weren’t they?” Pod grinned, “What else would one be doing thirty seconds before the final match of the season?”

“Are you serious?” Alys cried, “You two finally kissed?” She and Wylla’s eyes were wide with surprise and hope.

“Yes,” said Arya.

“No,” growled Gendry, at the same time. They stared at each other.

“What?” she snapped, a little stung.

“Gendry, I saw -,” Pod started.

“It was barely even a kiss,” Gendry said with a shrug, “It lasted less than a second.”

“What are you talking about?” Arya hissed, not understanding why he was denying the fact that he had most definitely kissed her, however briefly. “You still kissed me.”

“I started to kiss you, until Pod decided to -,”

“Remind you that there’s kind of an important game to be played?” Pod cut in, indignant.

“It was still a kiss,” Arya said, and Gendry shrugged.

“Our lips touched. I’ll kiss you properly and then we can have this argument, Stark.” Arya blinked at him, her heart speeding up at the thought of him kissing her properly. She liked the sound of that. He gave her a small, cocky smile before Tarth blew her whistle for the captain’s handshake and he walked off.

Arya turned to the rest of the team, whose faces were all varying degrees of exasperated and amused.

“Maybe it’s good that they waited this long,” Quentyn said, “We would have had to put up with this all season.”

“We have been putting up with it all season,” Wylla scoffed. “They’re just doing it out loud now.”

-

Arya turned to Gendry to wish him luck as they mounted their brooms, but Gendry wasn’t looking at her. He stared straight ahead, his jaw set and his face etched with pure hatred. Arya followed his gaze and saw Ramsay, who was looking directly at Arya and smiling. Arya smiled back.

-

As soon as Arya kicked off the ground, Bolton had made a beeline for her, knocking into her shoulder and attempting to throw her off course. She held herself steady, staying by his side. She and Gendry had planned for this.

“Going to have trouble catching the snitch with me in your head all day,” Bolton said. Arya smiled. As if Ramsay Bolton could distract her from doing what she did best. She waited until Gendry had hit the bludger directly at her before pulling into a sheer dive, dropping out of its way just in time. Bolton cried out as the bludger smacked against his shoulder.

She pulled up and grinned at Gendry. “Nice one, princess,” he called. She thought, briefly, about how nice it would be when he kissed her properly. Their brief embrace had left her dizzy and breathless and overwhelmed. She wondered what a proper kiss would do to her.

The whizzing noise behind her grew louder and she rolled to avoid the bludger approaching the back of her head. Ramsay Bolton didn’t worry her, but Gendry Waters might prove to be a rather dangerous distraction.

-

Arya had figured that Bolton had stopped her in the hallway only to scare her, to put her on the defensive. Even if he had come up with some grand plan to injure her again, though, he would have a very hard time executing it.

It was not the cleanest game of quidditch Gendry Waters would play in his lifetime. In fact, it was very likely the dirtiest. It may also have been his best.

Bolton managed to evade Gendry briefly enough to knock into Arya’s shoulder again. “I could just do it again,” he said, twirling his bat in his hand. “I could go at it from another angle, knock a few teeth out.” Arya was smiling now. “Though I do sort of like your mouth pretty.” He was looking at her, not at the Gryffindor beater that was speeding towards them.

Arya had spend all year dodging Gendry, and she dipped gracefully underneath him as his shoulder knocked right into Bolton’s sending both beaters into a brief and frantic spin. They regained control and Bolton yelled at Coach Tarth about a blatant foul. She had not been looking in their direction and therefore could not award Slytherin a penalty throw. Bolton scowled at Gendry, who only shrugged.

-

Coach Tarth did not, however, miss the following three fouls the Gryffindor captain committed on Bolton. Slytherin scored on two of their penalties, and Gendry patted Pod’s shoulder in apology after each. The game was close, and Arya wanted to end it as soon as she could.

-

Gendry seemed to be everywhere, defending his chasers with Lyanna, cutting Bolton off with his broom, sending bludgers at every Slytherin in range.

Arya had space - less space than in previous matches, certainly, but enough to search for the snitch, keeping an eye on Joffrey’s movements as she did so.

She spotted it up by the Slytherin goal hoops and flattened herself to her handle, speeding upwards. Joffrey was across the pitch, there was no way he could catch -

Arya cried out in pain as her head jerked backwards, her ponytail held tightly in Ramsay Bolton’s grip. “What the fuck, Bolton?” He let go and she spun to face him. Coach Tarth was frantically blowing her whistle and insisting that they move apart.

“Penalty to Gryffindor,” she cried. “I will not tolerate play like that, Bolton. You touch her like this again and you’ll be watching the rest of the match from the headmaster’s office window.” Bolton scowled at her, about to protest when a bludger hit him directly in the thigh, forcing him to cry out in agony. “Waters!” Tarth shouted, spinning her broom to face Gendry, who was holding his beater’s bat, his eyes narrowed at Bolton. “Play had been paused! You cannot hit bludgers at opponents when the game is on hold. Penalty to Slytherin.” Gendry didn’t look the slightest bit sorry.

Both Wylla and Arianne scored on the ensuing penalty shots.

-

“I’m sorry I let him touch you,” Gendry said, briefly pausing beside her as she scanned the field for the snitch. “The chasers were -,”

“Gendry, you have six other teammates to worry about, I can handle Bolton on my own for a few minutes.” He nodded, and she smiled at the concern that remained etched on his face. “I guess we should have practiced hair pulling after all,” she said and he let out a bark of laughter.

“I’ll hold you to that, Stark,” he said, flying off to redirect a bludger at Bolton.

-

The longer the game went on, the more it felt as though they were playing two completely separate games - the chasers and the keepers and the other beaters were playing quidditch, and Bolton, Gendry, and Arya were fighting in some sort of bizarre triangle, where each boy wanted to seriously injure the other, and Arya just had to do her best to avoid being caught in the crossfire.

She was keenly aware that Joffrey was staying well away from this. It was the smart thing to do, and Arya did not want him to be rewarded for it.

-

The snitch was hovering only feet from the field and Joffrey had a few yards on her. He hadn’t noticed it yet, though, and that split second advantage was all Arya needed. She dove.

Podrick Payne was in the process of making a rather excellent save, but not even Sansa Stark had her eyes on him at that moment. Joffrey plummeted towards the pitch, almost neck and neck with Arya. He elbowed her and she shoved him back, taking a hand off of her broom to do so. As she made contact with Joffrey’s shoulder, the snitch moved to zoom away above their heads, but Arya let go of her broom entirely, reaching upwards frantically to intercept it. The movement threw her off balance, flipping her entirely. She hooked her foot around the handle of her broom as she had so many times with Gendry and flipped herself back upright, grabbing back hold of her broom with one hand, the other one raised in triumph, the golden snitch’s wings fluttering wildly in her fist.

-

As Arya raised her arm in triumph, Gendry followed suit, taking both hands off of his broom to clutch his head in disbelief. After a full match of being hounded by the Gryffindor captain, Ramsay Bolton had finally found a Gryffindor player he wanted to injure more than Arya Stark, and he did so immediately.

Luckily, Gendry was not flying far from the ground when Bolton cranked a bludger at him from mere feet away. Perhaps Bolton’s aim was marred by his fury over losing - he missed Gendry’s head and instead contacted the Gryffindor captain’s arm. The resulting crack was loud, but not as loud as Gendry’s cry of pain as he dropped to the pitch.

Arms are not supposed to bend the way Gendry’s arm bent.

-

Arya had not seen what had happened, but she had heard the bludger’s crack and Gendry’s yell. She spun her broom around in time to see Gendry land on his back, his arm jutting out in a horrifically unnatural direction, and to see Ramsay Bolton dismount, tossing his beaters bat away in disgust as he made to leave the pitch.

For a brief moment, Arya considered picking up the bat on her way towards Ramsay Bolton, but decided that her fists would serve her well enough. Coach Tarth was blowing her whistle at Bolton, demanding that he remain on the pitch for disciplinary purposes as she assisted the injured player. Bolton ignored her, and Arya closed in on him a few yards away from door to the Slytherin locker room.

“Bolton,” she yelled, and he turned on his heel.

“Stark! Here to defend your mudblood captain’s honour?” He looked her up and down, “Oh, how precious. I’d be terrified if you tall enough to reach my -,” He paused, confused as she reached him and placed her hands gently on his shoulders, batting her eyelashes up at him. He started to ask what she was doing when she tightened her grip on his shoulders and brought her knee up between his legs with force. He let out a cry of pain and doubled over. This gave Arya’s fist a perfect shot of his face. She did not miss.

-

“I think that’s enough,” Podrick said, dragging her away from Ramsay, who was now on all fours, spitting blood onto the pitch.

“Is Gendry alright?” Arya demanded, shaking out her fist. She glanced down to see that her knuckles were bloody - she wasn’t sure if it was her blood or Ramsay’s or both. It stung in the most satisfying way.

She was pleased to see that Gendry was propped up on one knee now, though he was still clutching his mangled arm rather gingerly. Coach Tarth was setting up a stretcher with Nurse Mordane, and the rest of the Gryffindor team was looking on nervously.

“They’ve told us to give him some space,” Pod said, but Arya had no interest in giving Gendry any space. His face lit up when he spotted her rapidly approaching, moving his bad arm out of the way so that his good arm could embrace her.

“There you are,” he said as she reached him, his unbroken arm wrapping around her midsection, his other hanging limp and awkward at his side. “Where - ,”

Arya brought her lips to his, kissing him the way she had been wanting to for ages. His lips grew more insistent as he pulled her close with his good arm and he let out a low, content hum as she pushed her unbloodied hand back into his hair. She cupped his face with her injured hand, angling him up to her - Arya was slightly taller than him for once, him down on one knee.

She knew what he meant, now, about a proper kiss. She felt as if every atom in her body was reacting to his arm holding her tightly against him, his lips moving eagerly against hers. She had imagined kissing him so many times - in her daydreams, with Ned Dayne’s lacklustre assistance, every night as she drifted off to sleep - but the real thing was so much better than she ever could have thought up.

“Miss Stark, please!” She pulled away at Coach Tarth’s exasperated calls. Gendry was looking up at her in awe, blinking as if he might have imagined her. “Alright Waters,” Coach Tarth said, “Stretcher’s ready. Nurse Mordane insists that it’ll be a quick process - you’ll be out of the hospital wing within an hour or two. Come on now.” Gendry was still staring up at Arya, seemingly unaware that Coach Tarth had spoken. Arya stepped back, joining the rest of the team, grinning at Gendry as he moved to shift awkwardly onto the stretcher that had been brought to his side.

-

“I suppose we just shower and change and join in on the celebrations and he’ll join in whenever he’s cleared,” Quentyn suggested to the subdued changing room. They all exchanged shrugs and began to take their pads off. They would celebrate with the rest of the house in the common room. It didn’t feel right to participate in their usual post-win locker room enthusiasm without their captain there. Arya did, however, do her best attempt at the beaters’ secret handshake with Lyanna, who laughed when Arya messed up the last fist bump.

Pod insisted upon bandaging up her bruised and bloody hand.

-

The common room was absolutely overflowing with people. The entered to raucous cheers, and Pod immediately dipped Sansa into a rather passionate kiss, Sansa clutching to the front of Pod’s shirt. Arya made a face at Alys, who raised her eyebrows. “As if you and Gendry didn’t just do the same in front of the entire school.” Arya blushed. She had forgotten that everyone else had been present in that moment.

-

Meera hugged Arya and placed a crown of burgundy hellebores and little golden daisies on her head. “Gryffindor colours!” She beamed.

-

Anguy placed a friendly arm around her shoulder and sighed. “I thought I had a shot with you, really, Stark,” he lamented as Tom rolled his eyes. “You’re far too good looking for our Gendry.” Arya laughed and dipped away.

-

She hugged dozens of people, smiled for photograph after photograph, and adamantly refused every shot of firewhiskey she was offered. The party was wonderful but it felt empty without Gendry there to celebrate alongside her. Arya wasn’t sure exactly how long broken bones took to heal, but she decided that she was sick of waiting for him.

-

She saw him before he saw her. Gendry was coming down the stairs from the administrative wing, and she waited at the bottom. He had his head down, thinking hard about something - whatever it was seemed to make him happy, because he grinned to himself as he reached the final landing. He looked up then and saw her, his eyes widening slightly with surprise before his smile grew even broader.

“Hey,” he said, taking the last few steps to stand in front of her. “Cool flowers.”

“Thanks,” she said. “How’s the arm?” Gendry swallowed as she reached out and ran her hand along his forearm.

“Perfectly fine. Better than fine, actually. Might be the happiest arm in the world.” She rolled her eyes but couldn’t help but smile. “You look nice,” He said, looking her up and down and causing a pleasant tingle to run down her spine. She wasn’t dressed up - she wore jeans and an old Gryffindor sweater - but he looked at her like she was wearing one of Sansa’s pretty party dresses.

“Thanks,” she said with a blush, “You do too.” She meant it. His hair was a mess, falling in his eyes with a blade or two of grass visible. He was still in his quidditch robes, still wearing his old shoulder pads. He smiled and blushed under her gaze before his eyes lit up.

“Did you see what happened to Bolton?” he said suddenly. “They brought him in as I was finishing my second cup of Marrow Mender. Apparently someone broke his nose!” Arya bit her lip, trying to stop herself from grinning at Gendry’s excitement.

“I heard that,” she said casually.

“Wish it had been me,” Gendry said seriously, “I was ready to…,” his sentence trailed off as he frowned at Arya’s bandaged knuckles. “Arya, what happened to your hand?” She chuckled, looking at the injured hand proudly.

“I told you, I’m stronger than I look,” she said, still laughing lightly until she met his eyes. He looked furious, his mouth open in mild horror as he stared at her.

“Do you have a deathwish?” he asked sharply. “Arya, Bolton is a psychopath who has already successfully seriously injured you and would happily do it again. Why are you giving him more reason to -,”

“Says the guy who spent all match pissing him off,” Arya spat. She couldn’t believe he was angry with her for hitting Ramsay Bolton.

“That’s different,” Gendry snapped. “I was looking out for you.”

“And I was looking out for you!

“Arya, he’s a violent creep who threatened -,”

“He broke your arm, Gendry!” Arya nearly shouted. “Was I supposed to just ignore that?”

“You didn’t need to give him another reason to want to hurt you,” he said, his voice low and angry. She glared at him and he glared at her. God, he was impossible.

“I don’t regret it,” she said firmly, crossing her arms. He sighed in exasperation.

“Do you always have to be so difficult?” Gendry grumbled, prompting Arya to scowl at him, her bottom lip jutting out defiantly. He scowled back, shaking his head at her slightly. “You’re just -,” His gaze flickered to her bottom lip and back up to her meet her eyes. His own eyes were steely, his frustration evident.

“Just what?” Arya asked sharply.

“A nightmare,” Gendry said, and then he was kissing her again.

One hand pulled her hips against his and the other was on the back of her neck, tilting her face up to meet his lips. She uncrossed her arms and clutched the front of his quidditch robes, letting out an involuntary moan as Gendry bit down lightly on her bottom lip. He smiled against her lips at the noise and she brought her hands up around his neck, lacing her fingers through the back of his hair as she pressed her lips to his. He moved his hand so that his own fingers were back in her hair, and she let out yet another little gasp as he clutched it tightly, pulling slightly against her scalp. He smiled again - he seemed to enjoy making her gasp.

“Is that what you were hoping for?” Gendry breathed, his nose still rubbing against hers. “We can put in more one-on-one practice time if you’d like.” Arya chuckled breathlessly, feeling her cheeks heat up. She looked up at him and only nodded before kissing his lips once more and moving to trace her mouth along his jaw. It was his turn to let out a little noise of pleasure, causing Arya to grin against his neck as she kissed it lightly.

“That’s not fair, Stark, we’re in the middle of the hallway,” he said, his voice huskier than usual. She pulled back, raising an eyebrow at him playfully.

“Everyone’s busy either celebrating or moping, Gendry. Though I’m sure there’s an empty broom cupboard somewhere nearby,” Arya smiled, tracing a hand delicately down the front of his quidditch kit. His eyes grew both softer and darker at her suggestion, and he expressed his approval by kissing her again. It was slow and purposeful, both of his hands now cupping her face as he leaned down to her.

A nearby cough made them both jump. They turned to see Professor Seaworth looking casually upwards, his hands clasped awkwardly behind his back. “Professor!” Arya said, fixing her flower crown and stepping away from Gendry, whose cheeks had turned a deep pink.

“Miss Stark,” Seaworth nodded. “Mr. Waters.” Gendry nodded back, rubbing the back of his neck uncomfortably. “I was hoping to update you on your detention, Miss Stark. I have been informed that Mr. Bolton is no worse for wear after a very brief stint in the hospital wing.” Arya didn’t express any interest in Bolton’s condition, and she swore she saw the professor smile slightly at her unchanging expression. “You’ll be tasked with cleaning out the quidditch locker rooms, no wand allowed. I’ll meet you there next Saturday to go over details.” Arya nodded - she had been expecting this, and she figured that cleaning out the changing rooms wouldn’t be too bad.

“That’s bullshit,” Gendry said bullishly. “It was one punch, Professor, and Bolton had it coming.” Arya and Seaworth looked at each other with curiosity.

“Mr. Waters, while I might agree with your sentiment, I can assure you that it was more than one punch.” Arya winced as Gendry whipped his head to face her. “Miss Stark kicked Mr. Bolton in a rather sensitive area before punching him in the face at least three times.”

“Five,” Arya said proudly, not looking at Gendry. She could hear his heavy, frustrated breaths.

“Five,” amended Seaworth. “And then she kicked him rather violently in the gut as he lay on the ground before Mr. Payne dragged her away.” Arya swallowed and nodded. There was a moment of silence as Gendry processed this.

“Right,” he said roughly, “Well it’s still bullshit, Professor. Bolton clearly fucking deserves to be -,” Seaworth held up a cautionary hand.

“Mr. Waters, I warn you. One more bad word and I’ll have no choice but to give you detention as well.” He looked at them both seriously, his eyebrows raised. “So unless you’d like to be helping Miss Stark in the changing rooms next weekend, I suggest you maintain a more civil tone.” Gendry watched the head of Gryffindor carefully.

“I think it’s fucking bullshit, Professor,” he said quietly, and Seaworth smiled, stepping back.

“Detention it is,” he said with a chuckle, turning to walk away. Arya finally looked up at Gendry, who was glowering at her.

“You kicked him twice?” He scowled, and Arya shrugged, glancing over to ensure that Davos had turned a corner before she wrapped her hands around Gendry’s neck.

“You’re hot when you’re angry,” Arya said quietly, and the scowl on his face was replaced by a look of surprise. “Like, really hot,” she breathed. She brought her lips close to his, her gray eyes not leaving his doe-eyed blue ones. He swallowed. “I’m looking forward to having the locker rooms all to ourselves next week,” she said, and his eyes widened further.

She kissed him softly, lightly brushing her lips against his, enjoying the slight tremble of his bottom lip. Gendry responded urgently, walking her backwards until she was up against a wall. He tugged at her lips and kissed her neck, one hand under the hem of her sweater and one laced through her hair, knocking the hellebores and daisies around her head a little bit off kilter. She decided that whatever Gendry had said about ‘proper’ kisses, their current state was unquestionably improper. She rather liked it.

-

They arrived outside the Gryffindor common room hand-in-hand. He straightened her flower crown and she smoothed out the front of his robes.

“I still think we should go take advantage of the empty library,” he said stubbornly, and she rolled her eyes.

“Gendry, you’ve just lead your team to a championship. I’m not letting you miss this party.” He made a sulking face. “You deserve a moment in the sun.” She stood on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek. “Felix Felicis,” she said, and the door swung open.

“Come on, captain,” she said, grabbing his hand again and pulling him into the party.

-

Wylla and Alys screamed when they saw Gendry, each of them pulling him forward and planting a kiss on his cheek. He blushed, and Quentyn reached up to ruffle his hair. Arya passed him the trophy, which he grinned at and hoisted, causing the common room to erupt with cheers.

-

Lyanna and Gendry showed Arya their secret handshake, the little beater pointing out exactly where the seeker had messed up earlier.

-

“We’ve been waiting for this since Christmas,” Sansa said, Pod nodding emphatically. “You two were adorable and so totally clueless.” Arya and Gendry exchanged a look of confusion.

-

“The hottest guy in the school, Arya,” Margaery Tyrell hissed excitedly. “I never knew you had it in you but god, I am proud.”

-

“You know, it’s sort of weird that we’ve just won the quidditch cup and all anyone wants to talk about is us,” Gendry mused. Us. Arya smiled at the word before she remembered herself and nodded.

“I agree,” she said, “though you yourself did want to skip the celebration to make out in the library.” He laughed sheepishly.

“I suppose that’s true. I’m still up for it if you’re interested,” he raised his eyebrows and Arya realized that he was serious. She laced her fingers through his and grinned.

“Lead the way, captain.”

-

Myranda Royce walked in as they were leaving and eyed their interlaced fingers. “Fucking finally,” she said, looking upwards in relief.

Chapter Text

“You’ve no idea how long I’ve wanted to do this,” Gendry said, hitching Arya’s leg up by his side and pressing her back into the shelves of dusty old books. For once, Arya opted not to bother contradicting him. Instead she smiled against his kiss and pulled him closer. They kissed slowly and urgently at once, his lips both soft and strong as they moved over hers. She liked the way his tongue felt against hers, the way his hand would grip her thigh slightly tighter when she rocked her hips towards his, the way he would occasionally pull away to look at her and grin, as if he couldn’t believe what he was doing.

“Stop that,” Arya said, her cheeks reddening rapidly. He bent to kiss underneath her jaw, and she closed her eyes contentedly.

“As you wish, princess,” he breathed, and she involuntarily let out a quiet moan. He paused, letting out a short breath of laughter against her neck. “Wait, do you like it when I call you that?” Arya nodded and bit her lip, a little embarrassed. Gendry shifted so that he was looking at her face. “I thought it pissed you off,” he laughed.

“It does,” she said. “You do. But I guess I like that.” She grinned as he brought his lips to hers again. Gendry kissed her hungrily, a hand in her hair and the other on her thigh. He nipped at her bottom lip and she gasped.

“You like that too, princess?” He looked smug - the princess thing had definitely gone to his head.

Arya pushed him and his cocky grin away and pulled her sweater over her head, leaving her in only her little black bralette from the waist up. She smiled when she saw that Gendry’s smug look had been replaced by a one of surprise. He stared at her, drinking in the view, his breath rather heavy now. Gendry had seen her in a bra countless times before and after practices, but this felt different. He was looking at her now, not turning away politely, not avoiding her gaze. He wanted to touch her and the thought made her feel warm from head to toe.

“Fuck,” he breathed, his gaze leaving her chest briefly so that their eyes met, “Finally.” He brought his hands to her breasts and she sighed with pleasure as he ran his thumbs over her nipples, separated from his touch by only the thin layer of lacy material. He kissed his way down her neck to her collarbone.

“Finally?” she asked, her eyes fluttering shut as he bent lower to kiss her between her breasts. He chuckled, his breath tickling her chest.

“Think about how many times I’ve had to watch you take your top off, Stark.” He brought his lips back to her skin softly. She opened her eyes and frowned, pushing him back and leaning against the bookshelves.

“I thought you didn’t look,” she said coyly, her hands on his shoulders. “You know, I heard you talking to Anguy and Tom about me last year. You said you didn’t want to look at me in the changing room.” Gendry blinked at her, confused. “They said I looked good that night and you basically scoffed.” She wasn’t angry - he had clearly changed his stance on her looks at some point and she was happy for it. But she figured it might be fun to tease him about his previous opinions of her. Gendry continued to stare at her until he let out a bark of laughter.

“You thought I didn’t want to look at you?” He said incredulously. She blanched, not expecting this response. “Arya, your brother was the captain, I wasn’t going to check out his little sister in front of him!” He laughed again, shaking his head. “I have no memory of scoffing at you, but I can promise that it would have been due to the fact that you’re so far out of my league that speaking to someone as pretty as you seemed like a fool’s errand.” Arya furrowed her brow and paused. He thought her out of his league?

“You thought I was pretty?” She asked after a moment, hating how the very thought filled her with happiness, “This entire time?” Gendry gave her a look of bewilderment.

“Of course I did, Stark,” he said, shaking his head and looking at her like she was speaking a foreign language, “You’re the prettiest girl I know.” Her lips parted in surprise at his words. He had said it as if it were the most obvious statement in the world. His fingers briefly grazed the pendant she wore around her neck as she stared at him.

“I thought you thought I was a stuck-up bitch,” she breathed. Gendry laughed again and touched his thumb to her bottom lip.

“Oh, I did,” he smiled, running his hand along her jaw now and bringing his face close, so close that his lips were almost on hers, “Doesn’t mean I was blind, though.” He kissed her and she melted into him, her body tingling with every touch of his hand against her bare skin.

She tugged at his quidditch jersey, pushing it upwards and breaking away from his lips to pull it over his head. “Fuck,” she said, biting her lip as her eyes roamed his torso hungrily and she ran a hand delicately down from his shoulder to his pec. “Finally.”

-

It was odd, Arya thought, how ready she felt to have sex with Gendry. It wasn’t so much an “if” as it was a “when” and she hoped that the “when” would be very, very soon. Sure, they had only gotten together that morning, and yes, they were making out against a bookshelf that was very much accessible to anyone looking for information on Ancient Magical Literature, but... Arya wanted him. And he wanted her.

She could see it in the way his bright blue eyes seemed to darken as he moved to kiss her. She could hear it in the little noises he made when she ran her hand through his hair. She knew he wanted her because of the way he couldn’t seem to decide where he wanted his hands to go - on her hips, up to her breasts, cupping her face, tangled into her hair, everywhere. She could tell he wanted her because she could feel him hard against her hip.

Arya grinned and looked down, biting her lip as she glanced back up at him. Gendry blushed, though his eyes didn’t look all that embarrassed. “Not the first time you’ve caused this,” he shrugged, and it was Arya’s turn to blush.

“First time I’m around to give you a hand with it, though,” she smiled, and Gendry nodded slowly, as if he was having sudden trouble processing what was happening. Arya brought a hand to the front of his quidditch pants and he let out a low breath. She tugged at his laces, pulling her elbow back and accidentally bumping into the books behind her, pushing a few of them back far enough to knock into the ones in the neighbouring aisle. There was a series of dull thuds.

“Who’s there?” Came Mister Pycelle’s wizened voice. Gendry and Arya froze, eyes wide, both biting their lips to keep from laughing.

“Catch,” Gendry hissed, tossing Arya her sweater as he went to go pick up his own. She couldn’t help but giggle as she pulled it over her head. Her flower crown was on the floor, too - she picked it up and placed it on Gendry’s head with a smile.

“Hello?” Pycelle called, and Gendry grabbed a book from the shelves, holding it casually in front of his midsection. The librarian rounded the corner and blinked in surprise. “What are you doing here?” He accused. They must have looked suspicious. Arya grabbed a book off the shelves.

“We’re doing some extra-credit work on, um,” she glanced at the title, “Magic in Muggle Mythology.” She smiled at Pycelle, who looked confused for a moment before smiling back.

“I’m pleased to hear it,” he croaked, “Every other student seems to be all worked up about some quidditch match today. I’m glad the two of you have more sense.” He glanced at Gendry. “Are you interested in taking that book out on loan, young man?”

“Uh… yes?”

-

“I can’t believe I had to check out a book on Notable Fictional Trolls,” Gendry grumbled as they wandered the deserted corridors on their way back to Gryffindor tower. Arya laughed. “Probably for the best that he interrupted us, though...” Gendry said with a glance sideways at Arya, who looked at him sharply. He rolled his eyes. “You know what I mean, Stark. We can’t… It’s not… I mean, in the library?” She smiled as he fumbled over his words.

“I suppose you’re right,” she sighed, “We’ll just have to think up a better spot for it.”

-

Between breaking Ramsay Bolton’s nose and very publicly kissing Gendry after the match, Arya couldn’t seem to go anywhere in the school without being on the receiving end of high fives, jealous glares, or intrigued whispers. She sported her battered and bruised knuckles proudly, offering Joffrey a rather purple two fingered salute when he suggested that Gendry needed his girlfriend to throw his punches for him. Gendry hadn’t been bothered by the comment, opting instead to grin at Arya’s stony face as she flipped the Slytherin seeker off.

Arya felt a little uncomfortable with the stares that she and Gendry received, the little smirks from passers-by in the hallways - she supposed that this is what she got for making out with him in front of the entire school. She liked kissing Gendry - a lot - but she preferred to do so when they were alone, with nothing holding her back from him.

The exception to this came when Arya found herself walking into the great hall for lunch behind the same seventh year girls who had wanted to snog Gendry after he won the quidditch cup.

“She’s alright, but she’s not Gendry Waters hot,” one said, annoyed. Another nodded in commiseration.

“He’ll get bored of her,” said the tallest one confidently, “Apparently she’s a total freeze, and I saw him smiling as he chatted up Arianne Martell in Potions this week.” The girls tittered excitedly.

“Well, she certainly isn’t a freeze,” the first girl offered with a snigger. Arya frowned.

“I just hope he’s unattached before term ends,” The tall one carried on, tossing her hair over her shoulder, “I’m hoping to give him a nice send-off before we graduate.” Arya spotted Gendry at the lunch table and hurried past the giggling girls to slide in beside him.

“Hey!” he started, “I -,” But Arya had pulled him into a deep kiss, her hands clutching the front of his school sweater as she did so. He brought a hand to her face and kissed her back with enthusiasm, smiling as she pulled away. “What was that for?”

“I like you,” she shrugged nonchalantly, reaching for a sandwich. He blinked at her, a little dazed, before remembering himself.

“I gave that book back to Arianne, by the way. She says thanks.”

-

“So,” Professor Seaworth said, “all things considered, I think you two have been landed with a fairly light punishment, taking into account the damage done to Mr. Bolton.”

“What’s his punishment?” Arya asked, “For breaking Gendry’s arm when the game had already ended.” Seaworth smiled.

“He’s cleaning out the dungeon toilets. Now, I’ll take your wands, you can come and get them in my office this afternoon. You’ll need to scrub the showers, sort out the lost and found, clear out every locker, and give those floors a good mop.” Arya and Gendry both nodded, handing over their wands. Seaworth turned to leave but hesitated before he did so, looking a little awkward. “Now I’m aware that you two are, well, an item. But I hope you know better than to busy yourselves with anything other than the tasks at hand. Understood?” Gendry flushed a deep red and Arya nodded, picking at the hem of her school skirt.

-

“I still can’t believe that worked,” Arya breathed as she tilted her head back against the lockers, exposing more of her neck to Gendry and smiling to herself as his lips moved slowly towards her collarbone. Both of their school shirts lay discarded on the benches and Gendry’s hand was gripping Arya’s bare thigh.

“Anguy loses his wand all the time,” Gendry murmured. “He’ll only realize it’s gone when I give it back to him.” Gendry had ‘borrowed’ his friends wand from their dormitory and given it to Professor Seaworth, keeping his own tucked into his sock. It had taken them about fifteen minutes to complete their assigned tasks, allowing them to spend time on more pressing matters.

“Seaworth would be so disappointed in us,” she mused, “I almost feel bad.” He brought his head up, looking at her.

“I do feel bad,” he said, “but not enough to stop.” He kissed her, drawing his hand further up her skirt. Arya ran her fingers through the hair at the back of his head and kissed him hungrily, letting herself melt into him. This was easily the best detention she would ever serve.

-

When Arya pushed Gendry away and reached back to unclasp her bra, the look of sheer awe and anticipation on his face was enough to make her pause. She chuckled when his lips parted in disappointment at her delay and his eyes met hers.

“Ned and I dated for over a month before I let him touch these,” she smiled, enjoying the look of mild confusion on Gendry’s face. “And I’ve only been with you for a week.” He swallowed and took a step back.

“If it’s too fast -,” he started, and Arya rolled her eyes, unhooking her bra and letting it fall to the freshly mopped floor. Gendry’s train of thought seemed to have come to an abrupt halt. His mouth fell open slightly.

“I was making a point, stupid,” she said, stepping towards him, rather liking the absolute awe that filled his eyes as he stared at her tits. “About how badly I want you.” She took his hands in hers, guiding them up her torso slowly. “How badly I want you to touch me,” she breathed as his hands reached her breasts and he exhaled, his eyes returning to hers briefly as he traced a circle around her nipples with his thumbs. Arya let out a soft gasp and her eyes fluttered shut, certain that nothing could ever feel as good as this.

She was proven wrong immediately, though, when Gendry decided to use his mouth. He caught her nipple in a delicate kiss before running the tip of his tongue over it. Arya whimpered, her hands digging into his hair. He paused, letting out a light laugh that tickled pleasantly against her skin. “Don’t really know what I’m doing,” he admitted.

“Well do more of it,” she demanded, her voice a little husky. She opened her eyes and looked at him. “Please.”

“If you insist, princess,” he smiled, bringing his mouth to her other side. Arya bit her lip and looked skywards, wondering - not for the first time - why they had waited so long to do this.

-

Her bare back was against the lockers and his lips were on hers when he put his hand up her skirt, sliding it up the inside of her thigh to her centre. Gendry paused at the noise of satisfaction she made against his lips. “That alright?” He whispered, and she nodded eagerly. “Just tell me what feels good.” Gendry sounded nervous - he had also never done this before. He began to stroke her gently and Arya whimpered.

His name, as well as a few ‘fuck’s and ‘please’s were the only words she managed, but he seemed to understand that her response was thoroughly positive.

-

“That was… wow,” Arya said, leaning against the lockers and breathing heavily as she recovered from the wave of pleasure that has overwhelmed her moments earlier. Her underwear was at her feet, her skirt hitched up high on her hips. Gendry looked pleased and Arya chuckled at him. “Proud of yourself, captain?” He shrugged and gave her a cocky grin, moving to kiss her.

“Call me that again,” he breathed against her lips. She smiled.

“Aye aye, captain.”

-

She started working on his belt buckle and Gendry paused, swallowing hard as he put his hands on hers. “Arya, I don’t want you to lose your virginity against the lockers of a quidditch changing room.” She stuck her bottom lip out and he rolled his eyes at her. “I mean it, it’s - neither of us have done this and I want it to be comfortable for you. And not in a room that constantly smells like sweat.” His cheeks were pink and she nodded as she leaned up to kiss one of them.

“We can save that for another day,” she agreed, her hands returning to his belt. He looked down at her fingers pulling his belt out of its loops and then at her, his brow furrowed. “Alys suggested something a little while ago and I’ve been wanting to try it out,” Arya shrugged. His pants dropped and she tugged his hand towards the boys’ showers.

-

“All cleaned up?” Seaworth asked. Arya and Gendry nodded, not looking at each other. They had spent over half an hour doing their best to look presentable. Arya had pulled her hair in front of her shoulders to cover up any evidence of Gendry’s mouth on her neck. Gendry’s hair was significantly messier than usual, which was saying something. The head of house handed them back their wands. “Good. In honesty, I didn’t think you two deserved any major punishment, considering Bolton’s threats before the match.”

“Thanks, Professor,” Arya said, “We worked together and even the hard stuff got taken care of without much issue, really.” Seaworth smiled and dismissed them.

-

“So, how was detention?” Wylla asked as the girls got ready for bed. Arya shrugged and pulled her hair aside to braid it.

“Not bad,” she said casually. “Did everything Seaworth told us to do pretty quickly.”

“Did Seaworth tell Gendry to give you a hickey?” Meera asked, a smile playing on her lips. Alys and Wylla giggled and Arya flushed, touching the place where Gendry had left a mark.

“Oh,” she said, her face heating up, “We had a little time to kill.”

“I think you’re gonna have to tell us everything,” Alys said, perching herself on the end of Arya’s bed. Meera and Wylla were listening attentively. Arya felt her blush deepen as she searched for words.

-

Dating Gendry was similar to being friends with Gendry. Arya still teased him about his scowl - though it seemed to appear on his face less and less these days - and he continued to roll his eyes anytime she was being difficult without reason.

They would still sit in the library together with a pack of gummy worms, though only Arya had exams left to write. Gendry would quiz her or doodle absent-mindedly. Arya occasionally caught him watching her take notes, which made her blush and earned him a light kick under the table.

“I’m going to miss this,” he said one day, as the late afternoon sun lit the library up pink and golden. Arya nodded. Things wouldn’t be the same next year without him around.

“Me too,” she said. “I can’t believe I wasted the whole year arguing with you when I could have been kissing you.” She laughed, but Gendry looked mildly devastated.

“You’ll write me, though, won’t you?” He asked. “And I’ll see if I can visit on Hogsmeade weekends. And maybe if I have a match over Christmas, you could come and watch.” He said all of this sort of quickly, as if it had been in his head for a while, itching to be spoken aloud. Arya grinned at him.

“This is assuming you don’t find some ultra-hot Magpies groupie to -,”

“Stop it,” he snapped, and she was surprised by how angry he sounded. He looked at her, a little hurt and rather annoyed. “That’s not going to happen and you know it.” She swallowed under his gaze and nodded.

“I do,” Arya said quietly, and then she reached out to hold his hand across the table.

“Sorry,” he said, “I just… I hope you know how much I like you, Stark.”

“At least half as much as I like you, Waters.”

Dating Gendry was similar to being friends with Gendry, only now when they bickered, the make-up was always punctuated by a good half hour of kissing each other senseless.

-

“By the way, I’m not waiting until Christmas to see one of your matches,” Arya said, taking his hand in hers as they left the library and headed to dinner. “The league starts in August, Gendry. There’s no way I’m missing your first game.”

Gendry looked down at their hands and then at Arya. Looking at his smile was a bit like looking directly at the sun.

-

“I think I know everything I could possibly know about Transfiguration and the exam is still two weeks away,” Arya whined. “Can we please take a break from studying?” Gendry was propped up against the trunk of a large beech tree by the lake and Arya sat in the grass nearby. It was early on a Sunday - much of the school hadn’t woken up yet. Gendry closed her textbook.

“Alright, princess. What did you have in mind?” She smiled at the nickname and moved to sit beside him.

“A few things, captain,” she said, lightly tracing the skin just above the collar of his shirt.

“When did you decide you liked that name, by the way?” He asked. A couple of strands of her hair had come loose from her braid and he tucked them out of her face. “I really did think it annoyed you.”

“It did,” she said, looking down. She couldn’t believe she was about to admit this to him. “I realized how much I liked it when we fought about the necklace Ned gave me. The time you called me shallow and easy and -,”

“I remember,” Gendry winced. “Not my proudest moment.”

“Well, it wasn’t mine either,” Arya carried on. “I had been going to meet Ned to break up with him but then you got me all frustrated and worked up and…” She bit her lip.

“And?” Gendry asked, an eyebrow raised.

“And I basically stuck my tongue down his throat. Kissed him as if there was no tomorrow. It was like -,”

“I get it,” Gendry grumbled, “No need for further details.” Arya rolled her eyes.

“The point,” she said, “is that he kept calling me ‘babe’ and I hated it so I told him to call me ‘princess’ instead. And I didn’t hate that as much.” Gendry’s lips parted in mild surprise. “When I kissed him all I could think about was you and how angry you had made me and how much I couldn’t stand you and how much I would prefer your voice calling me princess in my ear instead of Ned’s.” She blushed at the admission.

“You thought of me when you kissed him?” Gendry asked, as if he might not have heard her correctly.

“I mean, I didn’t admit it to myself right away,” she laughed, “but yeah, I did.” Gendry swallowed.

“And I’ve been fantasizing about you since the fall,” he said, almost to himself. “We’re idiots, Stark.” She laughed and nodded in agreement.

“I guess we’ll just have to make up for all of that wasted time,” she said, throwing a leg over his body so that she was straddling him.

“Whatever you say, princess,” he said as she brought her lips to his.

-

“What?” He asked as Arya giggled at him. She reached over and plucked a buttercup out of his hair before laying him back down in the grass and kissing him again.

-

Sansa sat at the Gryffindor table during breakfast on the last Hogsmeade weekend of the term. She serve Pod some porridge as he poured them tea.

“I was thinking that Gendry should try to plan his visit for the same week that Pod will be there in July,” she said. Gendry choked on his toast.

“I’m not - what?” He turned to Arya, “I’m visiting?” Arya frowned at Gendry, who was red in the face and spluttering.

“Well I was going to invite you, but if the notion offends you so much -,”

“No!” Gendry said, horrified, “no I… I would love to, I just…,” he glanced at Sansa. “Do your parents know that we’re dating? Do your brothers?” He suddenly looked rather concerned. Arya shrugged.

“Suppose I should tell them,” she said, “since I’ll have to introduce you all at graduation.” Gendry froze with his cup of pumpkin juice halfway to his lips. Pod and Sansa both looked as though they wanted to laugh but they refrained. Gendry fumbled around for words.

“Arya, if you don’t want to tell them we can always-,”

“Why wouldn’t I tell them?” Arya snapped, “They might already know, considering how many people watched the quidditch final and everything that came after.” Gendry’s eyes went wide.

“Jon’s going to kill me,” he said. “He wrote me that letter, thanking me for helping you, talking about how he was glad you and I were friends, asking me to keep an eye on Pod -,”

“Pardon me?” Sansa interjected.

“Because it’s his job as a big brother to be wary of anyone dating his little sisters.” Arya and Sansa both made noises of indignation but Gendry’s face remained wrought with dread. “Your brothers are going to hate me.”

“They won’t,” she said, rolling her eyes, “and even if they do, it wouldn’t matter to me.” But Gendry only looked more concerned.

“Your parents are basically wizarding royalty, Arya. I know you don’t care about me being muggleborn or not coming from much but -,”

“Gendry,” Arya said sharply, not caring that Sansa and Pod were watching them, listening intently, “do you really think I would give a shit if my parents didn’t approve of us?”

“Well, yeah,” he said with a frown, “they’re your family, Arya. Aren’t families, like, important to each other?” And his words broke her heart a little, because he had only ever had his mother and now he had no one. He had no family to fight with, no family to write home to, no family to piss off by dating someone they might not approve of. He wouldn’t have any family to introduce her to at his graduation.

“They are,” she said, taking the edge out of her voice, “but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t tell them to fuck off if they told me who I should or shouldn’t be with.” She put her hand on his shoulder and kissed his cheek. “For the record, though, my parents will love you.”

“It’s true,” Sansa said, “I’ve dated enough arseholes that by now, they’ll only really care that you’re nice. Plus, Dad was a beater, too, so you’ll have loads to chat about.”

-

As they made their way out of the great hall and towards the doors, they ran into Alys and Meera, who were planning on stopping by Honeydukes to stock up on chocolate frogs.

“We’ll meet you lot at the Three Broomsticks later, yeah?” Alys said.

“Yeah, Quentyn owes everyone a round since he lost the bet,” Pod beamed.

“What bet?” Arya asked, and everyone save Gendry exchanged a look. Alys laughed.

“The team placed bets on when you two would hook up,” she said. “Back in September. Sansa was in on it, too. Quentyn’s prediction was the furthest off the mark. He said you’d have snogged each other before Halloween.” Arya and Gendry looked at each other and then at the group.

“Well, who won?” Gendry asked.

“Lyanna,” Pod said, shaking his head, “She figured you’d only make a move if we won it all. Whole team said she was crazy for thinking it wouldn’t happen sooner, all those evenings spent alone together at your training sessions.”

“I had bet that you’d get together by Valentine’s Day,” Sansa said, sighing.

“Mid-November,” grumbled Pod.

“I was sure about Christmas until you hooked up with Ned,” Alys said. “Knew I was screwed when that started.”

“Did anyone think that maybe we wouldn’t get together at all?” Arya demanded, shocked at how confident they all had been.

“Wylla initially said you’d part as enemies, leaving your sexual tension unresolved until you meet up by chance five years from now and have the most mind-blowing one-night-stand of all time,” Alys laughed, “But then she changed her guess to March.”

-

Gendry held Arya back as the rest of the group departed for Hogsmeade. The entrance hall was emptying rapidly. “Listen, about earlier,” he said, “I just want to sat that I’d love to come visit you this summer.” Arya beamed.

“Good, ‘cause we’ve got a quidditch pitch to train on and I think you and I might stand a chance at beating Robb and Jon in a scrimmage.”

“You’ve got a quidditch pitch at your house?” Gendry said weakly. Arya nodded. “I was right about you,” he laughed. “You are a princess.”

“And I was right about you,” she said, folding her arms. “You’re a dick.” He only grinned.

“A handsome one, though?”

“Passable,” she shrugged.

“Fair,” he said, “I’m certainly punching above my weight on multiple fronts.”

“Oh, shut up,” she said, and she kissed him. He laughed against her lips and she chuckled with him before tugging him down to deepen their kiss. She had just opened her mouth to his when there was a loud whistle and a yell.

“Atta boy, Waters! Get in, mate!” Anguy hollered as Tom sent another wolf whistle in their direction. Gendry pulled away from Arya and scowled, holding two fingers up to his friends.

“Suppose we should go meet them all at the pub,” Gendry said glumly, and Arya smiled, watching Tom and Anguy head out the door and towards the village.

“I’ve actually got a far better idea.”

-

“I don’t think this is allowed, Arya,” Gendry said as she skipped ahead of him into the seventh year boys’ dormitory.

“Girls are allowed in the boys’ dorms,” she shrugged, “If I wasn’t supposed to be here, the castle would have some magic preventing it, surely.” He sighed and she knew she had won. “Which one’s yours?” She asked, and he nodded to the bed furthest from the door. The rest of the boy were in Hogsmeade for the day, leaving them with a few hours of privacy. Arya was hoping to making the most of this.

She walked over and sat on his bed, smiling at him as she patted the spot beside her. He walked over cautiously.

“Arya, are you sure that you -,”

“You kept it,” Arya breathed, picking up a sprig of baby’s breath from his bedside table. Gendry smiled.

“Of course I did,” he said quietly as he sat down beside her, taking the flowers from her hand and tucking them behind her ear. She felt her breath catch as Gendry ran his hand along her jaw. There was no way she wasn’t doing this now. Arya kissed him the way you kiss a boy who keeps the flowers you put in his hair.

-

Arya wondered if Gendry’s reaction to the removal of her bra would ever change. She hoped not. He smiled at her half naked form, his eyes roaming her body shamelessly. Arya wished he would use his hands for that.

“Stop drooling like an idiot and touch me, Gendry,” she said when the anticipation got to be too much for her. He grinned and appeased her, bringing his hands to her tits. He began to kiss her along her jaw as he did so, pausing when his lips were on her ear.

“Whatever you say, princess.”

-

She undid her jeans and slid them off, kicking them onto the floor. “Do what you did in the changing rooms,” Arya instructed as she guided his hand downwards, embarrassingly affected by the sharp intake of breath he made as he felt how wet her knickers were. He nodded wordlessly and moved to position himself atop Arya as he brought his hand to her, catching her first gasp of delight with his lips.

-

“I hear it’s better for you when the guy uses his mouth,” Gendry said. Arya stared at the ceiling, grinning as she recovered from his touch. “We could try that sometime, if you want.” Arya shut her eyes, imagining Gendry’s head between her thighs and nodded.

“We should,” she breathed. She turned and looked at him, propping herself up on her elbow. “But first...” she said, and she reached to unbuckle his belt. Arya’s heart fluttered at the desire evident in his eyes as he watched her unzip his trousers.

“Fuck,” he said as she took him in her hands. The word sounded like both a plea and a prayer.

“Tell me what feels good,” she said, but he only let out a little moan and chuckled.

“Everything,” he said after a moment, “Everything your hands do feels good.”

“I hear it’s nice if I use my mouth, too,” she said, feeling him grow harder in her hands. Arya kissed his tip and giggled, feeling rather silly. Gendry had his eyes shut, his breath coming out ragged as she touched him. “I’d like to try that sometime, if you’ll let me.” He let out a funny breath, somewhere between a groan and a laugh. She got the sense that he would happily let her try that one day. But not right now - right now she wanted him inside her, and soon. She told him as much as she moved to sit astride him.

Gendry looked up at her as if he couldn’t quite believe she was real, his hands running up her thighs and along her torso. He cupped her breasts briefly, smiling at the way she reacted to his fingers grazing her nipples. He then brought his hands back down to her hips.

“You sure?” He asked, though the answer was clear in her eyes. She nodded.

-

“I thought it was supposed to suck the first time,” Arya said after a little while, her head on Gendry’s bare chest. Gendry still looked sort of dazed as he shook his head absent-mindedly.

“That definitely didn’t suck,” he breathed.

“Maybe we did it wrong,” Arya said. “Maybe the first time only sucks if the boy’s on top.” Gendry considered this.

“That doesn’t sound as if it would suck,” he admitted. Arya shook her head in agreement.

“Maybe we should try it,” she said, biting her lip and looking up at him. “Just in case.” Gendry grinned and flipped himself on top of her.

“Just in case,” he repeated, leaning down to kiss her.

-

“Well, that did not suck either,” he said, flopping back so that they were both looking upwards now, breathing heavily. “I only wish it had lasted longer,” he added, turning to her sheepishly.

“Shush,” Arya said. She had heard about so many horrible first times, so much awkwardness and pain and disappointment. It had been awkward, sure, positioning herself atop Gendry at first. They had laughed a lot, and their limbs didn’t always seem to know where to go. There had definitely been some pain, but it had been vastly outweighed by pleasure. None of it had felt disappointing. “That was perfect,” she said, enjoying the way his face seemed to light up at these words.

“You’re perfect,” was all he offered in response. She glanced between them and saw that the sprig of baby’s breath had fallen out of her hair in all of their moving about. Arya picked it up and tucked the flowers behind Gendry’s ear.

-

They made it to the Three Broomsticks in the mid-afternoon, finding their friends huddled around a couple of tables pushed together. Arya squeezed in between Alys and Wylla, and Gendry pulled up a chair by Pod.

“Where have you two been?” Wylla asked with a raised eyebrow. They both shrugged.

“Zonko’s,” Arya said, as Gendry said “Scrivenshaft’s.”

“And the post office,” Arya added hurriedly. “And we walked over to the Shrieking Shack. We did everything.”

-

For once, Arya was dreading the final day of exams. It was usually a happy occasion, being finished with school for the summer. But this year it meant that she only had a couple of days left with Gendry. She wished that she was graduating with him.

She left her final exam - Herbology - and found Gendry playing a game of exploding snap with Lyanna in the Gryffindor common room. The young girl squealed in triumph as Gendry picked up a card that immediately erupted into a small and smoky explosion, dusting his face with soot and singing the ends of the hair that fell in this face. He looked up to see Arya laughing at him and he scowled as Lyanna gathered up her cards and skipped away to find another opponent.

“How was it?” Gendry asked as Arya sat in the spot vacated by Lyanna.

“Fine,” Arya shrugged, tapping his nose with her wand and clearing his face of the scorch marks. “You excited for Saturday?” Gendry looked unsure.

“I’m nervous to meet your parents,” he admitted, “And I’m not looking forward to saying good-bye to you.”

“It’s only for a couple of weeks,” she said, “You’re visiting in July and I’ll see you at your match in August and…,” she bit her lip. “And then you’ll write me horribly romantic love letters to tide me over until Christmas.”

“I wonder if the Magpies will be in need of a seeker anytime soon,” Gendry mused. “I sort of like having you around.”

“Oh, no,” Arya said with a frown. “Val Wilde has said that she’s retiring after next season because of her wrist issues, which means that Holyhead will be looking for a seeker as soon as I graduate,” she grinned. “Enjoy your one season of peace, Waters.”

-

The graduation itself was rather boring. The ceremony was held outside by the lake, and the sun was shining. Arya clapped politely for each student as they were given a ceremonial scroll and shook hands with the staff members. She sat with the rest of the students, though she waved at her brothers over where the families sat. Bran and Rickon waved back and Jon smiled before joining Robb in squinting towards the group of Gryffindor seventh years. Arya rolled her eyes and clapped for Margaery Tyrell.

-

Her father and mother both pulled her into a hug when she found them at the reception. Catelyn smiled at her. “I like the flowers in your hair, Arya,” she smiled, “You look lovely.” Arya hugged Jon and Robb and Rickon, but Bran was busy looking over her shoulder at Meera. He had fostered a crush on Arya’s friend since the summer Meera had come to visit.

Sansa arrived, looking as though she had just been crying. She beamed at them all as Catelyn pulled her into an embrace and Rickon handed her the flowers they had brought for her. Arya saw Pod hugging his own family nearby and surveyed the grounds until she spotted a tall, solitary figure by the refreshments table.

-

She dragged him over to where her family stood. “You’ll be fine,” she hissed, before pulling him forward.

“Everyone, this is Gendry,” she said, “my boyfriend.” Her father looked him up and down, and there was a brief flash of confusion in his eyes before he smiled and reached out a hand. Gendry shook it, not looking nearly as nervous as Arya knew him to be.

“Nice to meet you, lad,” Ned said, “What was your surname again?”

“Waters,” Gendry said, now looking a little unsure.

“And with an accent like that, I’d say you’re from the city, yes?” Gendry nodded. Ned looked him over again, looking as if he had a few more questions to ask, but he clapped Gendry on the shoulder instead. “Well you’ve got the beater’s build, son. Far more than I ever did. Arya mentioned in a letter that the Magpies are hoping to sign you. Great organization over there, I know the owner well, lovely man.” Gendry looked relieved to be talking quidditch and Catelyn sidled in between Sansa and Arya.

“He’s very handsome, isn’t he?” she whispered. Sansa nodded and Arya rolled her eyes. She couldn’t disagree, though. He looked like a man grown, enthusiastically telling her father about the catch she had made to win the quidditch cup. She would miss seeing his face every day.

-

Robb shook Gendry’s hand and gave him a hard look. “And to think, I always thought rather highly of you, Waters.” Arya narrowed her eyes.

“Not highly enough to let him try out for the team before his fifth year,” she spat, and both boys looked at her in surprise.

“I was only kidding, Arya,” Robb laughed. “Sheesh.” He turned back to Gendry. “If it helps, as soon as I saw you play I knew we’d been missing out. Not a surprise you’ve been picked up by a pro squad.”

“He’ll be the youngest beater in the league,” Arya said proudly. Gendry stared at her.

“Will I?” He asked. She nodded.

“Puddlemere has picked up one from Durmstrang, but he’s a few months older than you,” she explained. Robb raised his eyebrows, impressed.

“We’ll all have to come out for your first match,” he said, and Gendry nodded, looking sort of taken aback. “I’m sure even Sansa could be convinced to sit through that match.” Robb laughed and Arya and Gendry exchanged a look.

“Sansa has taken quite an interest in quidditch of late, actually,” Arya said, looking over her shoulder at her sister introducing Pod to her parents.

-

“You got my letter?” Jon asked as he shook Gendry’s hand. Gendry nodded. “Well, I appreciate you helping her out with the bludger stuff. As for the bit about keeping an eye on Pod…,”

“If it makes you feel better, I did look out for Arya when she was dating that Dayne prick,” Gendry said earnestly. Arya scoffed.

“Because you were jealous,” she said with derision. “You weren’t being some noble, brotherly figure. Besides, I don’t see how it’s any of either of your business who I go out with.” She folded her arms and frowned at both of them. Jon laughed at her and Gendry gave her a funny look.

“I think it sort of is my business who you go out with, actually,” he smiled, and Jon laughed harder.

“For now,” she scowled.

-

“So you can see the future?” Gendry asked Bran, who spared him a patient, tired look.

“You opted not to take divination in your third year, didn’t you?” Bran said, and Gendry’s eyebrows shot up.

“Yeah!” he said, “Whoa, how’d you know that?” Bran gave Arya a look of amusement.

“Intuition,” he said dryly. Then he looked Gendry up and down and smiled. “We’ll have a lot to talk about by Christmas after next, though.” Gendry blinked at him and then gave Arya a wary look. Bran winked at his sister, though she thought he might have meant what he said.

-

Arya hardly got a second alone with Gendry that day, though he did pull her aside for a moment to give her a quick hug. “Your parents are nice,” he said. “Your dad seemed quite interested in my parents, which got sort of awkward. Asked me what my father did for a living, though he didn’t seem weirded out when I told him I didn’t know my dad.” Arya frowned, not sure why her father would care about Gendry’s parents. She looked up to ask more, but Gendry was busy looking at the hellebores in her hair and the words died in her throat. She smiled at him and he smiled back before leaning down to give her a quick kiss on her cheek.

-

She kissed him properly when they stepped off the Hogwarts Express, before they passed through Platform Nine and Three Quarters and back into the muggle world. She heard a few sniggers and some pointed coughs, but she didn’t mind. They had already done this in front of the entire school, anyway, and she wanted to give him something to remember her by. They broke apart and he grinned at her.

“I’m gonna miss doing that,” she breathed, her lips still tingling pleasantly. He nodded.

“I’m gonna miss you, princess,” Gendry said.

“I’ll miss you too, captain,” Arya replied. He laughed.

“I’m not the captain anymore. I think that might be your title now, captain,” Gendry smiled. Arya decided that she liked it when he called her that.

-

Gendry was named the British and Irish Quidditch League’s First Year Player of the Year after helping the Montrose Magpies go from third-from-bottom to second in the league. They made the playoffs for the first time in four seasons and sweaters with 'Waters' stitched on the back became best-sellers in Montrose. He was equally popular among the male fans and the female ones, and frankly he wasn’t particularly comfortable with any of the attention he received.

When asked by a reporter from the Daily Prophet what it felt like to make such an impact as a teenager, he only laughed and told them to wait until they saw what his girlfriend did the next season.

-

Gendry’s Magpies made it to the league finals in his second season, only to be beaten by the ever-dominant Holyhead Harpies. His coach had pulled him aside halfway through the game to chastise his beating. “I know she’s your girlfriend, Waters, but you’re going to take her head off! Back off a bit, alright? You’re going to get called for a foul if you don’t let up.”

“With respect, coach, the last thing we want to give Arya Stark is an ounce of space,” Gendry had insisted. He had been right, and as soon as he had trusted his fellow beater to cover her for a moment, she was pulling out of a dive, the snitch in hand.

She gripped his hand tightly during the post-match handshakes. “Thought you were about to pull a Bolton on me,” she said, annoyed. “You were ruthless out there. I thought you liked me, Waters.”

“As if you would ever want me to go easy on you, Stark,” he said, matching her glare with one of his own. They stood like that for a few minutes before Arya smiled. She always liked making up with him after their little spats and silly arguments. Making up with him after this would be, if possible, even better.