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Entwining Fates

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Extraordinary. Unheard of. Novel. Unprecedented.

These were the words tossed about to describe the first international exchange programme to be held at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. A select number of students from Durmstrang Institute and Beauxbatons Academy of Magic were to stay with chosen Hogwarts students and take classes with them for one semester. Never before had the wizarding schools gathered together for an event beyond the Triwizard Tournaments. With the defeat of You-Know-Who, the heads of each school had thought it pertinent to hold a cultural exchange as a way to promote friendly relations among the regions, especially because of the rather unsavoury reputation of one particular school that shall not be named.

As Hogwarts prepared to receive their guests, the entire school was abuzz with excitement; it was all anyone could talk about in the days leading up to the programme.

To Yuuri Katsuki, it would probably just be another semester in his life at Hogwarts.

When he said as much to his roommate, Seung-gil rolled his eyes. "Well it better be, we have O.W.L.s to study for."

Yuuri chuckled. Good old Lee Seung-gil. He had found the Korean boy's reception of his arrival to be lukewarm, bordering on cold even, and had resigned himself to tense, awkward silences for the rest of his school life. A year of interactions quickly taught him that the frigidity was merely frozen onto Seung-gil's expressionless face; the other boy did have a warm heart deep down.

"C'mon, guys, lighten up," Leo said, flopping limply across Yuuri's bed. "Some celebrity might show up, you know."

"Like players from the Russian team," Guang Hong supplied.

"You just want Viktor Nikiforov!"

Guang Hong's cheeks tinted pink ever so slightly. "I don't want him, I only want to meet him."

Yuuri watched as Leo sat up and tugged Guang Hong over to poke at his cheeks. Leo de la Iglesia and Guang Hong Ji: fast friends practically joined at the hip. Despite the fact that they were from different houses and in different years, they always managed to show up as a pair; one was rarely without the other. Idly, Yuuri wondered how the Mexican-American boy could possibly be so oblivious; Guang Hong's blush every time Leo touched him lit up like blinding neon signs that screamed, I really, really, really like you!

Leo ruffled Guang Hong's hair– somehow missing the shy curve of the other boy's lips –and turned to face Yuuri. "Do you want to meet Viktor too?"

Startled, Yuuri spluttered. That was not a question he wanted to answer and he was not a good liar. "I- uh, well…"

"Yuuri's got a muggle background so he doesn't follow Quidditch," Seung-gil said absently, flipping a page of the textbook he was reading.

Yuuri shot his roommate a grateful smile. "Yeah, yeah, I don't."

"That's too bad," said Guang Hong. "Viktor is wicked. He's the youngest seeker to play for a national team and it's a pioneer team for Russia and they were League Champions last year. All thanks to Viktor."

"You fanboy," Leo teased. "What are you gonna do if he's assigned to someone in my house instead?"

Seung-gil looked up from his book. "You know, this is a Ravenclaw dormitory," he said pointedly.

"I'm Ravenclaw," Guang Hong said with a pout.

"I was talking to him," said Seung-gil, nodding his head at Leo.

"Seriously, Seung-gil, I have a name," Leo said with a good-natured grin.

"Seriously, Hufflepuff," said Seung-gil. "Go back to your tower."

A warm heart, thought Yuuri. Very deep down.


"Yuuri!"

Yuuri halted in his steps and turned in time for his best friend to crash into him, nearly bowling him over. "P-Phichit!" he yelped as his books fell to the ground around them.

"Sorry, sorry," Phichit said with a laugh. Helpfully, he grabbed one of the fallen books and shoved it at Yuuri. "I'm just too excited!"

"What about?" said Yuuri, bending down to pick up the rest of his books.

Phichit Chulanont was his oldest and dearest childhood friend. They had met on Yuuri's family vacation in Thailand. Yuuri still recalled the memory of sobbing loudly over losing his family in a crowd of tourists, only to have assorted toys and sweets shoved in his face by a friendly little boy. The boy had stayed with him until he was reunited with his family, after which they exchanged contacts and, soon after, letters upon letters upon letters. He remembered their shared delight at discovering their magical abilities– Phichit had, literally, exploded his instagram feed (and consequently his cellphone); Yuuri had somehow animated a broom into spanking the bullies trying to shut him in the janitor's closet –the enthusiasm over their school acceptances. Phichit was Yuuri's human manifestation of a ray of light when Yuuri transferred to Hogwarts. With the state Yuuri was in at the time, he would have spiraled into an abyss without his best friend. Helped that Phichit was muggle-born too, just like he was.

Yuuri was just rising back up, books in arms, when hands clasped him tightly by the shoulders and shook him hard enough to rattle his glasses off his nose.

"Yuuri, Yuuri," said Phichit. "Yuuri, he's coming."

"Who?" said Yuuri, peering over the top of his glasses.

"Him. The guy. The one and only. Your idol."

Yuuri felt his heart skip a beat. Or it might have stopped working completely; it was getting hard to breathe. "You mean…"

"Yes," said Phichit.

Oh god.

"And I can help," Phichit continued. He puffed his chest out with pride, showing off the polished badge on his lapel. "Privileges of a prefect. I can work you in."

Oh god, oh god.

"Of course it'd be weird, considering I'm from Gryffindor and you're not, but I'll find a way, you know I'm good at that kind of stuff—"

Oh god, oh god, oh god.

"Uh, Yuuri? Are you breathing?"

Right, breathing. Yuuri inhaled. "Maybe. Kinda. Not really."

Phichit grinned. "So? Shall I do it?"

"Sorry, do what again?"

"Get Viktor Nikiforov assigned to you."

"No," Yuuri snapped. At the look on Phichit's face, he flushed. "No," he repeated in a softer tone.

"Yuuri," said Phichit gently. "That happened a long time ago."

"Not that long ago," Yuuri murmured, eyes lowering to his shoes.

A pause, then, "At least come to the welcome reception?"

Yuuri looked up into Phichit's earnest face and his heart squeezed tightly. "Thanks Phichit, but I'd rather not."

Phichit sighed, but he nodded understandingly. "I'll share the photographs, shall I?"

"I know you will."


Classes were cancelled on the day of the welcome reception, much to Seung-gil's disdain. Tittering among themselves, groups of students lingered near the entrance of the Great Hall, no doubt hoping to catch a glimpse of certain celebrated Russians from Durmstrang Institute. Leo and Guang Hong were probably in the crowd, cameras at the ready.

Yuuri heard the screams before he looked out the window to see the great Durmstrang ship break through the surface of the lake. Above, the Beauxbaton carriage soared across the sky, leaving shimmering silver trails in its wake.

"Barmy, the whole lot of them," said Seung-gil from his study desk.

"So you're not attending the welcome reception either?"

Seung-gil shot him a withering stare.

"Sorry," said Yuuri, laughing.

They settled into a comfortable silence; Yuuri gazing out the window, Seung-gil's head bowed over another textbook.

"Why aren't you going?" Seung-gil asked after a moment.

Yuuri turned to him, eyes wide. "What?"

"Why aren't you going," Seung-gil repeated.

"Same reason as you," Yuuri said, whipping his gaze back to the window.

"Rubbish."

Silent, Yuuri kept his eyes firmly on the sky outside.

"Look, everyone makes mistakes," Seung-gil started.

"I'm uh, going for a walk," Yuuri said quickly. Snatching his robe off the top of his chair, he sprinted out the door before his roommate could get in another word.

Yuuri was thankful for his friends' support, he truly was. But he wasn't ready. Not for the memories that had haunted him day and night; the traumatic flashes seared into his brain. It was on one of those sleepless, anxiety-filled nights that Yuuri discovered it: his own private room at the top of a tower; a room that, for whatever reason, only appeared when he wanted to be alone and hidden from the rest of the world. It became a place where Yuuri came to unwind, to meditate – and to dance.

Ballet gave him the freedom to express himself, to relieve the burden off his shoulders every time his feet took flight. Minako-sensei always told him that he "danced like a girl", which was quite a compliment coming from a former prima donna of the Japanese ballet world.

And so, tonight, Yuuri danced.

With twirls and twists and graceful arches, he poured his sadness, worries, his fears, all of it flowed through his body, moving silently to an imaginary tune. On an impulse, he raised his wand and breathed a spell. Wisps of silver flowed out to take shape; a shape that circled him in a gentle arc and joined him in his little impromptu performance.

Yuuri was proud of his Patronus. Not simply the fact that he was likely the only fifth year student who could summon one without much effort, but also its form. It inspired him; an animal recognized for its elegance and grace. Even now, it soared above him with all the majesty of a reigning emperor, an embodiment of the confidence he wish he had. Spinning on his toes, he joined his Patronus in the air for a final jump, before landing softly on the balls of his feet. With a raise of its wings, the charm dissipated in a small shower of silver sparkles.

As he tried to regain his breath, he heard a vague sound before he slowly realized – it was the sound of someone clapping.

Yuuri's neck snapped around so quickly, he could have sworn he felt something crack. Then he stared. Squinted. Then squinted some more. No. It was impossible. This was a private room, one that only he could seek out.

There was no way that International Quidditch star, Viktor Nikiforov, could possibly be standing at the door, decked out in full military Durmstrang attire, and giving him a warm applause.

No, it had to be a ghost from his hallucinating mind.

"Bravo, bravo," said the apparition, complete with a lilting accent to its English. "That was wonderful!"

Stunned, Yuuri didn't respond.

Drifting over– oh it had to be a ghost; no human could move quite so smoothly –the apparition stretched its hand out towards Yuuri. "I'm Viktor Nikiforov."

Yuuri blinked, owlishly, before taking the hand. It actually felt warm. "I know," he blurted out then promptly flushed.

The apparition laughed; a warm, open sound. "So you do ballet?" it asked, tilting its head to the side. Silvery hair flowed over its right eye with the small movement, blending just so with bright, turquoise irises.

Half-Veela, thought Yuuri, vaguely aware that he was staring. "Yes?"

"Are you not sure?" said the apparition, laughing again. His hallucination sure laughed a lot. Before Yuuri could react, the apparition closed the gap between them and took Yuuri's chin in its thumb and forefinger, raising it ever so slightly. "My mother was a dancer in her youth and I can very much assure you." It leaned forward, warm breath ghosting against Yuuri's lips. "You do ballet."

Yuuri felt the flush in his cheeks spread almost painfully down his neck. "Okay," he said breathlessly.

"And that was your Patronus?"

Yuuri nodded. "A crane. Symbol of longevity and good fortune in my country."

"Your country?"

"Um, Japan."

The apparition looked like it had more to say, but angry yells from outside caused it to pause. Among the punctuated Russian words, Yuuri recognized "Viktor", "where" and what sounded like a string of very crude expletives.

"Ah," the apparition sighed dramatically. "It seems I must return to give a thank you speech for my beloved school."

"Okay," said Yuuri, unsure of what else to say.

"I will see you again, my pretty balerina."

Pressing its lips to the back of Yuuri's hand– so very warm –the apparition turned and left.

Yuuri stared at the door, mind still whirring in an attempt to process the past few minutes. Why would a ghost feel so warm? Why now, of all times, did his brain decide to conjure up a very credible image of his Quidditch idol?

And why would a hallucination need to open a door to leave a room?

Slowly, Yuuri sank to the ground.

There was no denying it: he had just met the real Viktor Nikiforov.

Seung-gil, of course, was unperturbed by the turn of events.

"Sleep it off," he said simply. "You'll process it better tomorrow."

So Yuuri did just that. Or, at least, he tried.

"I had no idea he was half-Veela," Yuuri whispered from where he lay on his bed, heart pounding and wide-awake.

"I don't care," Seung-gil whispered back in the darkness.

"God, he's gorgeous, Seung-gil."

"Don't care."

"Isn't it weird how he found that room? Phichit's been trying and he's never found it."

"What about 'I don't care' did you not get?"

"Sorry, I'm just," Yuuri pressed his hands to his face, feeling the thrum of adrenaline under his skin, "So excited."

Seung-gil paused. "About time I suppose," he grunted. "Now go to sleep."


Yuuri woke up the next morning with a sudden realization: he had never introduced himself to his idol last night. He had no reason to do so, after all, having thought the other boy was a mere physical projection of his own desires. Bubble thoroughly burst, Yuuri decided to spare his roommate by shuffling down the stairs to the common room for a long sulk in one of the armchairs.

Except the common room was filled to the brim with students. Guang Hong's petite figure was noticeably climbing up a shelf, camera hanging from a strap around his neck. What was going on?

"Yuuri~!"

At the sound of a very familiar lilt on his name, Yuuri paused at the middle of the stairs.

Amidst a group of giggling girls, Viktor Nikiforov rose regally from an armchair, hand outstretched. "From today onwards, I will be your exchange student for the rest of the semester!"

Poor Seung-gil, was Yuuri's last rational thought, before the common room exploded into raucous cheers.

Chapter Text

"What class are we in again, Yuuri?"

Yuuri jerked as slender fingers slid down his arm to drape lightly across his wrist. "Um, Charms," he said, willing down the blush that fought to creep onto his cheeks.

Viktor beamed. Several students swooned, and one of the male Gryffindor students smacked his head onto the desk from leaning too far forward. "How exciting," the half-Veela said brightly, his silvery hair shimmering under the classroom lights. "I do so love watching you perform charms."

"T-Thank you," said Yuuri, desperately fighting a losing battle with that blush.

"Look at you," said Phichit, "Charming Viktor Nikiforov."

Yuuri turned to his other side to shove lightly at Phichit with his free hand. "Performing charms," he hissed. "I just showed Viktor some of my favourite spells."

Phichit snickered and shoved back. "On a first name basis already? Brilliant, Yuuri!"

"Oh, shut up."

"Hey, you owe me for this." The Thai student leaned back in his seat to grin at Viktor. "Isn't that right, Viktor?"

"Oh yes," Viktor drawled. Yuuri swallowed and gave in to that damn blush; it was hard to resist when those long fingers were idly drawing little circles on his wrist. "I wouldn't have found Yuuri without your help."

Phichit had recounted that story at least a million times to every one who asked. (And Leo really needed to stop asking.) Apparently after Viktor had returned to deliver his speech, he immediately made the rounds asking Hogwarts prefects if they knew of a certain dark-haired Japanese boy with mesmerizing eyes– "Mesmerizing, he said, mesmerizing," Phichit took care to emphasize –who also danced with the grace and enchantment of a full-blooded Veela. The sixth year Slytherin prefect, Christophe Giacometti, had tried to distract Viktor with his usual, sultry moves, but according to Phichit, the Russian star wasn't responding to any of it. And so Phichit, with absolute delight, shared Yuuri's name, whereabouts and size measurements ("Phichit," Yuuri had shrieked) with Viktor, who promptly showed up at the Ravenclaw dormitory even before the assignments were officially announced.

"You won against the Christophe with your charms," Phichit teased and Yuuri shoved at him again.

"Was that his name?" said Viktor. "I thought it was Christopher."

"Ooh, Christophe'd be gutted to hear that," said Phichit. He turned to his other side. "Reckon I should tell him, Seung-gil?"

"I was perfectly happy being left out of this conversation," Seung-gil replied.

"All right, everyone, settle down, please."

The clamoring died to a murmur as the Charms professor stepped up onto his stool in the center of the classroom. "As you might have guessed by the feather on your desk," he said, "We will be revising the levitation charm today. Remember: the charm will be on your O.W.L exam, so be sure to practice it as thoroughly as you can."

Viktor leaned in, his lips barely brushing against Yuuri's ear. "What's an owl exam?" he asked softly.

Yuuri's mind blanked, keenly aware of the other boy's breath on his skin. "I um, it's uh – it's –"

"You idiot, that was a fucking fire spell!"

Students broke out into laughter, as Yuuri turned his gaze to the desk on the opposite side of the classroom where a small blond boy in Durmstrang uniform was beating out the flames on what probably used to be a feather. His partner, leaning back in his seat with a smirk, simply shrugged. "The great JJ doesn't need to learn charms! He's already overflowing with it, if you know what I mean."

Snarling, the Durmstrang student rounded on the other boy. "For shit's sake, quit referring to yourself in the third person like a brainless–"

"Language, Mr. Plisetsky," the professor gasped. "And Mr. Leroy, we have been over this, Charms is a core lesson and a necessary skill…"

Phichit shook his head. "Poor sod. He's been perpetually miffed since he met JJ in our common room."

"The very best of Gryffindor," Seung-gil said dryly.

Yuuri laughed as Phichit swatted at Seung-gil. From the corner of his eye, he could see Viktor watching him thoughtfully, a long finger tapping on his chin.


Yuuri learned from Leo and Guang Hong that Yuratchka "Yuri" Plisetsky was, in fact, Viktor's very irascible, pubescent second cousin on his mother's side. A first year in Durmstrang Institute, his fierce ambition to surpass his cousin in every possible aspect had propelled him into the top ranks at school, both academically and athletically. Beautiful as he was, the more attractive features of his Veela heritage were heavily overshadowed by his fiery temper and foul, foul mouth.

"Speaking of which, where's Viktor anyway?" Leo asked, propping his feet onto the coffee table. "It's free period; shouldn't you guys be exchanging culture or whatever it is they're here for?"

"Quidditch practice," said Yuuri, settling further into the soft cushions of his armchair. "They practice every free period they can get."

Leo and Guang Hong bolted off their armchairs so quickly that Yuuri straightened up in surprise.

"Why didn't you say so!" Leo yelped. "Guang Hong, the cameras!"

"On it," said Guang Hong, scrambling up the steps to his room in a frenzied dash.

Rustles and loud thumps sounded above them, before Guang Hong reappeared, a camera in each hand. He tossed one to Leo and slipped the strap of the other round his neck.

"Seeya later, Yuuri!"

Yuuri barely got a hand wave in before the two boys had sprinted out of the common room. Sinking into the comfort of the cushions around him, he closed his eyes with a contented sigh. Since Viktor's arrival, it felt like ages since he had some peace and quiet. Everywhere they went, there was always someone coming up for an autograph, a photograph, or even just to stand in mute awe in Viktor's presence, all of which the star in question generously provided with no less than a brilliant, megawatt smile.

Slowly, gently, he felt the tension in his muscles unravel and melt away.

"I want a switch," someone hissed.

Yuuri's eyes snapped open.

One Yuratchka "Yuri" Plisetsky stood before him, hunched over, legs spread in an aggressive, open stance.

Nonplussed, Yuuri scrambled into an upright position on the armchair. "How, how'd you get in?"

Yuri rolled his eyes. "Some guys were leaving and they let me in. Did you hear what I said? I want a switch."

Thanks a lot, Leo and Guang Hong. "You mean you want to switch with Viktor?" Yuuri said, eyebrows furrowing.

The younger boy stared at him as if he had grown two heads. "Uh, yeah? Aren't you Ravenclaws supposed to be smart?"

Yuuri squashed a surge of irritation. "I don't think we're supposed to do that."

"Screw that," Yuri scoffed, "Have you met my exchange student? He's a measly, loudmouthed egomaniac."

"JJ isn't so bad," Yuuri said unconvincingly.

"He makes me wear his stupid clothes to promote his moronic JJ fashion style," the Russian boy deadpanned.

"Okay, but –"

"That includes underwear."

"Oh. Well –"

"And he calls me his 'little lady'."

Yuuri slapped a palm on his forehead and sighed in exasperation. He was clearly fighting a losing battle here; why anyone had assigned a student to JJ was beyond him. "Okay," he said slowly, dragging out the word as he considered what to say next. Leo and Guang Hong had spoken at length about Yuri's explosive temper; he had to tread carefully. Finally, he settled on the easiest and most obvious question. "Why me?"

Shrugging, Yuri sat down on the coffee table. "My cousin usually has something bad to say about everyone, but he sings only praises for you."

Yuuri flushed darkly. "Really? What did he say?"

Yuri snorted. "What, you another groupie of his?"

"No, just curious," Yuuri amended, probably a little too quickly because the other boy had rolled his eyes in response. He thought hard, trying his best to recall the other assigned students who had attended the formal orientation session. "Well, what about Emil from Hufflepuff? I've heard his student's brother is kind of mean to him, so he might want a change."

"The wimpy blond who looks like he's 35? Ugh, no thanks."

"Or um… Anya from Slytherin?"

"Georgi's madly in love with her, like, homicidal 'I will murder the next guy who talks to her' mad."

"Okay. Then uh…"

"Look," Yuri said with an impatient huff. "You in for the switch or no?"

Yuuri took a deep breath. Honest and direct was probably the way to go. "I'm sorry, but no."

He thought he saw Yuri wilt for just a split second, before the Russian boy screwed his expression into a deep scowl. "Fine. Stay with my cousin. Everyone always wants my bloody cousin anyway."

Yuuri didn't know what it was, but something in the younger boy's voice had struck a chord in him. He rose with Yuri as the other boy stood up to leave. "Wait," he said.

"What," Yuri snapped, turning his head away. Were those tears in his eyes?

"You have to stay with JJ in his Gryffindor dormitory and eat with his house during mealtimes, but..."

Yuri turned back, eyes widening.

"...you're free to join me and Viktor for any other times, like classes, free periods or Hogmeades visits," Yuuri continued. Feeling presumptuous, he hastily added, "If you uh want, of course."

There was a pause.

Then, "Yeah, sure," Yuri said, scuffing a shoe awkwardly on the floor. "Whatever."

Yuuri smiled. "You're welcome."


Thankfully, Viktor was in high spirits when he returned from his Quidditch practice, and he readily agreed to have his cousin join them. The younger boy had lingered for as long as he could in the Ravenclaw dormitory, before he grudgingly left to join JJ for dinner.

"Your school has a lovely training pitch," Viktor said, leaning his broomstick against the wall as he slid off his gloves. "Smaller, yes, but so private and well-kept. Your caretaker as well, ah, Mr. Filch, I believe? Bit of a sourpuss, but he has been remarkably accommodating."

"I'm glad you like it," Yuuri said absently as Viktor continued his steady stream of compliments for the training pitch. His eyes had flickered over to the other boy's broomstick, drawn like a bee to honey. The new Firebolt Extreme: lean and sturdy with clean bristles, streamlined for speed and dexterity. It was the latest in the trendy Firebolt series and a perfect fit for an international Quidditch player like Viktor.

Viktor paused. "Yuuri?"

"Hm?"

"Are you admiring my broomstick?"

Startled, Yuuri nearly fell off his chair. "No, no, no, I have no interest in broomsticks, none whatsoever!"

Viktor laughed, tossing his gloves onto Yuuri's study desk. "Why Yuuri, you're welcome to touch my broomstick anytime."

"I don't want to know what I just walked into," Seung-gil said from the door. Carrying a book bag, he stepped into the room with a disgruntled look on his face.

Yuuri felt his cheeks burn with embarrassment. "That was not what you thought it meant!"

"Hi Seungie," Viktor said cheerfully.

The Korean boy shuddered visibly. "It's Seung-gil. Seung-gil."

"Okay Seungie."

"And that's my signal to leave," said Seung-gil. Snatching a book from his desk, Seung-gil shoved it into his bag and swung it across his shoulders. At the door, he turned back to flash a smirk. "Have fun touching each other's broomsticks."

"Seung-gil!" Yuuri yelped, but the other boy was already gone. Since Viktor's unexpected arrival, Seung-gil had taken to spending most of his time in the library, presumably away from the constant stimulation that was Viktor's adoring fans. Today looked to be no different. Sometimes, Yuuri still felt a twinge of guilt at the thought. (Sometimes being the key word.)

"The offer still stands," Viktor said solemnly.

Yuuri dropped his head into his hands. "Really, Viktor, I'm not interested."

At the silence that followed, he raised his head curiously to see Viktor watching him with the same contemplative expression he had in Charms class, a finger resting lightly on his bottom lip. Yuuri felt his cheeks growing warm again; the Russian's gaze was intense, almost smoldering, when he was serious like this.

"Do we have another lesson to attend?" Viktor asked after a moment.

"No, we're done for the day."

"Ah. What time is dinner?"

"In half an hour." When Viktor's eyes lit up, Yuuri chuckled. "Did you have something in mind?"

Viktor's lips curved. He tugged his gloves back on, then grabbed his broomstick with one hand and clasped Yuuri's wrist with the other. "Come," he said with a wink– this blush was going to become a permanent stain, thought Yuuri –before yanking the smaller boy with him and out the door.


Yuuri looked out at the field, dozens of thoughts racing through his head. He had been avoiding the Quidditch pitches ever since his transfer to Hogwarts; Quidditch tournaments were the days when he would dance, far, far, away from the cheering crowds and the haunting memories of a past he desperately wanted to forget.

Now, here he stood, dragged here by none other than –

"Here we go," said Viktor cheerily, dropping a large trunk in front of Yuuri.

Yuuri blinked. "That's the trunk for the Quidditch equipment."

"Indeed," said Viktor, throwing the clasps off the side with a flourish.

"What are you doing with the Quidditch equipment?" Yuuri asked, a feeling of dread pooling in the pit of his stomach.

Wordlessly, the Russian boy whipped the trunk open. The trunk rattled wildly as Bludgers strained against their bonds, determined to escape. With delicate and precise motions, Viktor released the strap for the smallest ball and held it up, seemingly to examine it. Slowly, its wings unfurled and beat experimentally at the air.

"Viktor," Yuuri said warningly.

Viktor smiled, beautiful and terrifying under the light of the setting sun. "Yuuri," he breathed. "Catch."

And then he tossed the Golden Snitch.

Swearing, Yuuri dove forward, but the Snitch was faster; avoiding Yuuri's flailing hands, it darted to the side, then flew straight up and out of sight.

"That's school property!" Yuuri gasped. Beside him, Viktor was laughing heartily. "This isn't funny!"

"Then we'll just have to catch it, won't we?" said Viktor brightly. Positioning his Firebolt Extreme, he threw a leg over the broomstick and stretched out a hand.

Yuuri stared at him, glasses clouding over in shock. "No," he said, backing away. Images of a storm, crashing waves and a cliff's edge flashed across his mind's eye.

"Oh moya zvezdochka," Viktor said, before he reached out to give Yuuri's tie a sharp tug, pulling the smaller boy towards him. "Just this once?" he pleaded, dropping his forehead onto Yuuri's.

Yuuri swallowed and gazed into Viktor's eyes: a perfect blend of blue and green, almost like the sea – no, exactly like the sea, and just as chaotic and unpredictable. In mere days, this boy had blown into his life with the strength of a tsunami– "The worst storm to hit the Southern isles of Japan–" –truly, fate had a twisted sense of humour.

Inhaling deeply, Yuuri closed his eyes and nodded.

Viktor let out what sounded like a satisfied purr, before Yuuri felt strong hands lift him by the waist and set him firmly onto the back of the Firebolt. "Hold on tight," were the last words Yuuri heard, before he felt the familiar rush of air against his face. Wrapping his arms round the slender waist before him, he pressed his nose into the scratchy fabric of the Russian Quidditch uniform.

"Isn't this fun?" said Viktor, turning to grin at Yuuri.

"Eyes front," choked Yuuri, burying his face deeper into Viktor's shoulder.

Viktor's smile seemed to flicker, just a little, but he turned back as ordered. They drifted across the sky, flying gently on a straight course. The sun had almost set then, the last of its rays bleaching the clouds a magnificent shade of orange-blue. In stark contrast with the falling darkness, Viktor's silvery strands shone radiantly in the evening sky.

It was too bad Yuuri was filled with too much nerves to fully enjoy the beauty around (and right in front) of him. They were never going to find the Golden Snitch at the pace they were flying. Vaguely, he wondered if they had lost it for good and were in for some horrible punishment gleefully cooked up by Filch. Cleaning the fourth floor male bathrooms, for example. The things floating around in there –

"My mother abhorred flying," Viktor said suddenly, cutting into Yuuri's reverie.

"W-What?"

"My mother abhorred flying," Viktor repeated. He turned them in a lazy arc round a castle tower. "She thought Quidditch was a sport for wild barbarians."

"Oh," said Yuuri. "She's um, a dancer, you said?"

"Always and ever a dancer," said Viktor with a soft laugh. "Very much like you."

Yuuri frowned. He could sense the unspoken words hanging between them, but not their exact message. "Viktor?"

"Yes?"

"I don't hate flying, you know."

Yuuri felt the other boy's back straightening slightly. "Yet you don't seem very pleased about all this."

"Well it's… been a while."

Before Viktor could respond, something winked into Yuuri's field of vision, buzzing lightly and darting about in erratic patterns.

"Snitch!" Yuuri yelled, seconds before Viktor spun his broom with such speed that Yuuri very nearly bit into his tongue. And then they were diving, the ground rushing up towards them in a blur. Instinctively, Yuuri leaned forward and flattened his back; as he guessed, they took to shooting low across the field, so low that he could feel blades of grass against his cheek. A sudden jerk to the right, then it was up, up, up, and down again to the side, spinning ever so slightly to make the sharp curve. Pumped with adrenaline, Yuuri's body moved on its own accord, muscle memory reminding him which direction to lean in for the lowest resistance, the optimum position for a steady balance on the broomstick.

As quickly as it started, it was over.

Landing on the grass of the training pitch– when did they get back, Yuuri wondered dazedly –Viktor hopped off to show Yuuri his catch, fair cheeks tinged pink from exertion. "For you, my balerina," he said triumphantly, holding out the Snitch.

Grasping the offered prize tightly, Yuuri laughed. "You're mad."

"Oh," Viktor said, eyes sparkling. "You're laughing."

"What do you mean? I've laughed before."

Viktor plucked the Snitch from Yuuri's hands and leaned in, nose to nose with the smaller boy. "Not when you're with me," he said softly.

Yuuri opened his mouth to respond, but the Russian had pulled away and started towards the open trunk lying several feet away from them. In the vast field, Viktor's tall, slender figure had a shadow of loneliness trailing after it.

My mother abhorred flying.

Even gods had their demons.

Chapter Text

 

Yuuri thought it was his imagination: the whispers, the stares, even the sudden halt in conversations to stare – all of it directed at him. He distinctly remembered that in his previous school, though there was more of a malicious air back then; this time, it all felt almost like envy, perhaps even awe. Next to him, Viktor hardly seemed to notice any of it, cheery and generous as ever with his fans.

Whispers and stares, whispers and stares.

Just when Yuuri was starting to feel the fringes of paranoia set in, he received his answer in the form of a photograph.

It was silly, really, for him to have thought of the Snitch incident as a private affair. Not when the world was always curious about the happenings and whereabouts of his celebrity exchange student and especially not when said exchange student chose to take his assigned male partner on an evening, sunset flight.

The photograph was intimate, romantic - almost voyeuristic - capturing a single snapshot of the Russian pressing his forehead against Yuuri's as they gazed deeply into each other's eyes. So still were they that there was hardly any motion in the photograph; anyone might have mistaken it for a common muggle picture.

"What an excellent angle," said Viktor, peering over Yuuri's shoulder. "May I have a few copies for myself?"

Leo beamed. "Sure, Guang Hong and I have been making copies for tons of people! We're even thinking of turning this into a little business."

"You've been giving this out?" Yuuri said.

"A-Are you all right?" said Guang Hong. "You look like you're bricking it."

"Like I'm what?"

"Like you're losing it," Leo interpreted cheerfully. "We've got others if you're not satisfied with that one."

Yuuri spluttered incoherently.

"Am I the only one questioning why a Hufflepuff is joining our house for breakfast?" said Seung-gil.

Leo held up his hands defensively. "I'm just dropping by, I swear."

"Phichit's here too," Guang Hong said, frowning.

"I'm jusph here to see this infamous photograph," Phichit said around a mouthful of cranberry scone. "Also, that tiny first-year bloke in my houph wantph to know if you got any of jusph Yuuri."

"Kenjiro?" Leo flashed a thumbs-up. "Already gave him a hundred copies."

Groaning, Yuuri dropped his head on the table with a loud thump. There was no sense in even talking to these people.

"Now Yuuri," Viktor chided, "If you're going to do that then at least avoid your beautiful face."

A loud screech and something like an explosion resounded in the vicinity of the Hufflepuff table. Amidst the chaos that ensued, a female voice, high and distressed, rose above noise. "Mickey, stop choking him, he was only offering tea!"

"That's the other reason I'm over here," said Leo. "Hey, Otabek," he called, waving at a dark-haired boy walking stoically through the smoke. "The Ravenclaws have more sausages if you want some!"

The boy stared at Leo with a raised eyebrow, before striding away without a word.

"Just thought I'd ask," Leo said to no one in particular.

"Mickey, please, he's turning blue!"

"Remember when breakfast used to be quiet," Seung-gil sighed wistfully.


The walk to Care for Magical Creatures was torturous at best. The whispers continued, the stares, and the questions, always the questions: why him, why, why did it have to be him, why HIM.

Really, the problem was that Yuuri never had an answer for that.

As though sensing his emotional turmoil, Viktor kept a firm hand on the small of his back, weaving them expertly through the scores of students making their way to classes. It was uncanny how crowds would just part for the Quidditch player, like the biblical Moses parting the Red Sea. How did Viktor do it? How did he silence the voices outside and inside his head?

When they finally reached the edge of the forest, a small, irate Russian was waiting for them, leaning against a tree with his hands shoved deeply in his pockets – the very picture of delinquency. Beside him stood the source of his irritation, dressed in a coloured v-neck pulled over his Hogwarts robes, "JJ style" scrawled boldly across the front.

"The men of the hour," JJ said, grinning widely. "Though not every hour, because the rest of the day is dominated by King JJ, eh!"

Yuri made a dry gagging noise, while Yuuri cracked an awkward smile. He could hear JJ's unspoken answer to the voices, clear and confident: why not me?

"You are, ah, Jean-Jacques?" said Viktor, offering a hand.

"Non, non, call me JJ," said JJ. He accepted Viktor's hand with a firm shake. "You're every bit as handsome as your photographs, mon bel homme, but you need a little extra oomph for your fans. Ever heard of my fashion brand, JJ style?"

"Save me," Yuri mouthed silently.

"Um JJ," said Yuuri, "Don't you have Potions right now? It's a long walk to the dungeons."

JJ laughed. "You Ravenclaws, such academics! All right, but look after my Yuri-baby, will you? Isabella and I adore him so very much."

"I hate you and your crazy bitch," Yuri said.

"We love you too," JJ drawled as he strutted away. He blew a kiss at a group of passing Ravenclaw girls, who blushed and tittered in response.

"He's French?" asked Viktor, looking amused.

"French-Canadian," Yuri said with a scowl. "What the hell took you so long? Kissing under some tree somewhere?"

"Yes," said Viktor cheerfully.

"No!" shrieked Yuuri, his eyes darting round to see if anyone else was listening.

"Gross," Yuri said, rolling his eyes.

Grabbing the arms of the two Durmstrang students, Yuuri hurried them towards a clearing where Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff fifth years had gathered in a circle round the professor. Seung-gil stood near the front with a parchment and quill in hand; he raised an eyebrow when Yuuri joined him with the two Russians in tow.

"Starting a collection of exchange students, are we?" his roommate said wryly.

"Shush," said Yuuri.

"Got a real treat for you all today!" the professor's voice boomed throughout the clearing. "'specially for you Durmstrang lads, bet yer haven't seen these 'uns up close before!"

As if on cue, a creature stepped out from the shade of the trees and into the light. Several students reared back in trepidation; Yuuri had to stifle the urge to do the same. The creature had the shape of a horse but it certainly wasn't a horse: in place of fur, its fleshless, bony body was covered by leathery skin, large, bat-like wings sprouting from its back.

Beside him, Viktor murmured softly in Russian.

"What's going on," said Yuri, looking bewildered. "Am I supposed to be seeing something here?"

Seung-gil frowned, appearing just as confused.

"Better if you can't," Yuuri and Viktor answered simultaneously.

"You see it?" they said, again in unison.

"Thestrals," the professor revealed before either of them could say another word. The professor patted the creature's rump fondly. "Dead clever beasts, they are. Loyal, too. Get 'em on your side and I tell you, these beauties'll die for ya, no doubt about that. Thing is, though, only certain kinda folks can see 'em. Whodd'ya reckon these folks could be?"

There was a pause. Then, hesitantly, Yuuri raised his hand.

"Mr. Katsuki," the professor said, smiling encouragingly behind his massive beard. "O'course you would know the answer; saw 'em on your first day here, didn't you. Go ahead, share it with the rest o' your classmates."

Yuuri drew in a deep breath. "Only those who've seen death can see them." He caught Yuri's surprised expression, before the younger boy shot a furtive glance at his cousin.

"Well done! Ten points to Ravenclaw."

As the professor started on what seemed to be a passionate lecture on the Hogwarts threstrals and their historical participation in the Battle of Hogwarts, Yuuri felt a familiar, comforting press on the small of his back.

"I am sorry for your loss," Viktor whispered.

"Thank you," said Yuuri quietly.

("No storm will stop the Toyohashi Tengus! In fact, my sources tell me they're holding a trial game for new players–"

"–most nimble player we've got in a century; why, he flies like he's dancing, look at him dodging a Bludger right now, that flexibility–"

"It should've been you, it should've been–")

He shook his head as if to clear the voices clamouring inside. "I, I'm sorry for yours, too," he murmured, trembling.

Something flashed across Viktor's face: an unrecognizable, soft expression. Then, tenderly, the hand slid from Yuuri's back to his hip, drawing him closer to Viktor's side. It stayed there for the remainder of the lesson.

If Yuri or Seung-gil had any comments, they chose to keep it to themselves.


"Yuu~~~ri-ku~~~~n!"

Yuuri bit back a sigh. From the opposite end of the hallway, a petite boy was running at full speed towards them. The boy stood out clearly among the throngs of students thanks to the audacious red streak in his dyed hair.

"Another friend?" Viktor asked, cocking his head to one side. He had changed into full Quidditch gear for his free-period training practice, broomstick resting lightly on one shoulder.

"That's Kenjiro," said Yuuri. Around them, ever following them, were not-so-subtle flashes of cameras that served only to fray his rather thin nerves at the sudden appearance of the younger boy.

Yuuri liked Kenjiro.

One might even say he was fond of the chirpy little boy, who clearly wanted a human connection to his Japanese heritage. At the same time, he still had flashbacks of Kenjiro cornering him on the first day of school, blathering on in Japanese about how delighted he was to meet someone from his mother's birth country. ("But not just anyone, you're the famous Katsuki Yuuri," Kenjiro had crowed, before Yuuri cast a Silencio on him in sheer desperation, forgetting that people probably couldn't understand what he was saying.) He was not, however, at all keen for a conversation with Minami right now. Not in front of Viktor, anyway.

"Are you joining the Siberian Sirins for practice?" Kenjiro asked breathlessly in Japanese. He practically had stars in his eyes.

"No, I'm just accompanying Viktor to the pitch," Yuuri said with a nervous smile.

"You mean you're not flying? Why not?"

"Listen, I've put those dark days behind me - "

"Those are not your dark days," Kenjiro cut in indignantly. "You were bloody brilliant! Extraordinary! It was sheer art the way you played out there; every game was like a performance!"

Biting his lower lip, Yuuri shot a glance at Viktor, who was watching them with curiosity. This was exactly what he was afraid of: Kenjiro's tendency to gush and expose Yuuri's dirty, ugly secrets. He fervently hoped that the boy would keep speaking in their native language. "I'm not flying, Minami."

"Oh but you have to! I was so excited when you got transferred - well, bit a of a downer when you got into a different house - but still, Katsuki Yuuri in the same school as me, wowee!"

"I wasn't that good."

"No you were better. You would've been the best! Couldn't you just fly a few laps or something, do some aerial spins?"

"Minami, really..."

"Please, Yuuri-kun?" Kenjiro pouted. "I'd die for the chance to see you fly in real life!"

Yuuri froze.

After the photographs, the whispers, the lesson on death and thestrals and active efforts to suppress tormenting images that surfaced in his consciousness throughout the rest of the week, Kenjiro's thoughtless choice of words were the final axe to Yuuri's strained nerves.

Noticing the shadow crossing his idol's face, Kenjiro seemed to realize his mistake. His large eyes grew teary and, somehow, even larger. "I - I'm sorry," he stammered. "I didn't mean – I just meant that –"

Mutely, Yuuri brushed past the smaller boy and walked ahead with his back straight as an arrow.

Viktor caught up with him easily, long legs striding up beside him and falling in step. "What did you talk about?" Viktor asked quietly.

"Nothing," Yuuri said a little too curtly.

"He said something that upset you."

"It's not important."

"You are upset and that is important."

"Please," said Yuuri, eyes flicking up to meet Viktor's. "I don't want to talk about it."

There was that tender expression on Viktor's face again; a soothing balm that sent ribbons of warmth through his chest. "Then would you like to hear about the time we pranked our beater, Georgi?" the Russian asked.

"I would love that," Yuuri said gratefully.

"Well, Mila was feeling bored, you see, and…"

As he listened to Viktor, Yuuri allowed Russian's lilting accent to wrap comfortingly around him like a protective cloak, shielding him from the voices and flashes around them.


When Yuuri returned to his room in the Ravenclaw dormitory, he found Phichit sitting on the edge of his bed. By the look on the Thai boy's face, he must have heard about the incident with Kenjiro.

"Someone let you in?" Yuuri asked, though he already knew the answer. Phichit, like Leo, visited so frequently that the other Ravenclaws seemed to have an unspoken acceptance of them as honorary house members.

Both he and Phichit were well aware that he was merely trying to stall the conversation.

"Chocolate frog?" said Phichit, offering a piece.

"No thanks." Yuuri sank down slowly to sit beside his best friend. He dearly wished he had learned the ability to Apparate; there was no other way to escape when Phichit was determined to have a discussion with him. It had been a long day and the last thing he wanted was to face the demons lurking behind his emotions.

"You all right?" Phichit asked.

"Better," Yuuri said simply.

"What happened?"

"What did Kenjiro tell you?"

"That he made a real cock up of the situation."

"A real what," Yuuri said in disbelief.

Phichit chortled. "A real mess. Honestly, Yuuri, it's been a year, still not used to the way we speak here?"

"It's different," Yuuri said, flushing slightly.

"Right." Phichit inched closer and patted Yuuri's knee. "Kenjiro wanted me to tell you he's real sorry."

"… you're not going to ask why I reacted the way I did?"

"Do you want me to ask why you reacted the way you did?"

Yuuri sighed. "No."

"I thought so," said Phichit. He kept his hand on Yuuri's knee, a warm, reassuring weight. "He's shattered, you know, thinks his idol hates his guts now."

"I'll apologize," Yuuri started, but was cut off with a light punch to the shoulder.

"Don't dare you apologize," Phichit said, giving Yuuri another punch for good measure. "Kenjiro's a bit daft sometimes and he needs to learn some tact."

Wincing, Yuuri rubbed at his shoulder. "But you said –"

"Just tell him you don't hate him," said Phichit firmly.

"All right," said Yuuri, lips curving into a tiny smile. Bossy Phichit only ever surfaced when he was acting the role of a protective mother hen.

Phichit nodded, pleased. "So," he said casually after a beat. "What's going on between you and Viktor?"

"Um," said Yuuri. This, he was not expecting. "Nothing?"

"Bollocks," said Phichit with a loud snort. "I saw that photograph. You know wizarding photographs capture the essence of a soul in that moment, right?" He dug into his robe and tugged out the incriminating picture. "Look at this," he said, gesturing at the depictions of Yuuri and Viktor staring, unmoving, into each other's eyes. "I've never seen Viktor look at anyone like this in any of his pictures, not even his own family. I always thought his smiles in the papers look kind of fake, if you ask me."

"You actually got a copy?" Yuuri said, turning bright red. "Stop encouraging those two!"

"It's just the one," his best friend said with a grin.

"There's nothing between Viktor and me," Yuuri insisted. Then, without warning, he swiped at the picture with a quick motion, but the other boy whipped the photograph out of reach and shoved it straight back into his robe. Damn Phichit and his reflexes.

"Quarter-Veela and mixed bloods," said Phichit. "Your children would grow up wicked ravishing."

"Sod off, Phichit."

"Oh, those words you know."

To Yuuri's relief, his best friend moved on to prattle about the latest gossip on the Beauxbaton students, his stories focused entirely on Emil Nekola and the Hufflepuff boy's long-suffering experiences with what sounded to be a rather incestuous pair of twins.

Truthfully, Yuuri was curious: what was going on between him and Viktor? Why would a famous, beloved Quidditch player choose plain old him to be his exchange student? It had felt like some sort of whimsical choice at first, pairing up with a person the world would least expect – Viktor was always known, after all, for his element of surprise, even in a sport that was chock-filled with surprises. Yet, there was the evening flight, those kind, tender gestures, and yes, the photograph.

What was it Phichit said: wizarding photographs captured the essence of a soul? Yuuri knew that photograph wasn't an anomaly; Viktor, in every picture, would gaze down at him with the most affectionate expression, almost as if – as if –

" – he is just smitten, I tell you!"

"H-He is?" said Yuuri, eyes wide.

"Yeah, that Crispino bloke, the one who keeps trying to choke Emil." Phichit studied Yuuri's face keenly. "Who do you think I was talking about?"

"No one," said Yuuri quickly. "I mean, Crispino, yeah, Crispino."

Phichit grinned knowingly and chose to continue with his tale.

Listening vaguely, Yuuri allowed his mind to drift once more, back to shimmering blue-green eyes, soft and pleading: Oh moya zvezdochka. Just this once?

Maybe Viktor was different with him.

When they were together, Viktor was nothing like the smiles that surfaced in front of those blinding flashes, the unending cries for autographs and photographs and artificial kisses – those broad, brilliant smiles that stretched and stretched and revealed nothing but white teeth.

("Thank you for the ride," he felt obliged to say, as they walked back towards the Great Hall for dinner. "I had fun."

"As much as when you dance?" Viktor asked, looking almost hopeful.

"Yes," he said, a half-truth, if only to watch Viktor light up with pure, genuine delight.)

They had met in Yuuri's private room, the room he went to every time he didn't want to be found. For a while, it worked; the room kept him hidden from prying eyes and hostile whispers. Not even Phichit, who knew the castle grounds like the back of his hand, could find him and his special room.

Yet Viktor Nikiforov, with his ethereal beauty and mysterious air, an entire world wrapped round his slender fingers; Viktor Nikiforov, the beloved boy who seemed to have everything and wanted for nothing –

Viktor Nikiforov had found him.

If there was one thing Yuuri had learned since he discovered he was wizard: there was no such thing as coincidence in magic.

"Phichit?" said Yuuri absently.

His best friend paused. "Yuuri?"

"You've never figured out where my room is, have you?"

"Your private dance room?" Phichit shrugged. "No, not once. I even looked through old maps of the school, but there's nothing like it. You're absolutely sure it's on the seventh floor?"

"Positive," said Yuuri. His thoughts swirled about in a hazy mess, round and round and round. "So how did Viktor find it so easily?"

"Something to do with his Veela blood?" Phichit suggested.

"I… I don't know. But I don't think that's it."

"You weren't listening to a single thing I just told you about Emil and the Crispinos, were you?"

Yuuri shook his head. "Phichit?"

"Yes, Yuuri," Phichit responded patiently.

"What is love?"

For a second, Phichit didn't answer. And then, with a smile growing on his features, he slung an arm round Yuuri's shoulders and squeezed tightly.

"If you have to ask," said Phichit, "Then you probably know the answer."

 

Chapter Text

Yuuri sat in the ice-cold chair, fidgeting restlessly. The dim lighting of the dungeons and that one squeaky, swinging, light in the corner was adding to a strained atmosphere that was making him increasingly uneasy.

The skinny lady silently stalking him in circles like a ravenous vulture wasn't exactly helping.

"Um, Ms. Skeeter, was it?" said Yuuri meekly. "Shouldn't you be interviewing Viktor?"

"All in good time, my dear boy," said the reporter. A tremor ran up Yuuri's spine at the way she eyed him through the lenses of her jeweled glasses. "You are far more interesting to me."

The school had warned them as much at the orientation session: something about reporters wanting interviews, especially with the more renowned students. "There is one in particular who, as much as I would like to put on a permanent ban, has permission to enter our premises, and is quite likely to ask objectionable questions," the Headmistress stated with a disapproving frown. Yuuri had dismissed the warning with the assumption that reporters would have no reason to speak with him.

He was never more wrong.

"I understand you're a transfer student?" asked the reporter. With a wave of her wand, a quill and notepad floated out of her bag to join her side, the quill poised carefully above paper.

No sooner did Yuuri say yes that he heard the tell-tale scratching of the quill tip.

"Where from?" the reporter probed.

Yuuri hesitated– scratch, scratch, scratch –then thought it better to respond. "Mahoutokoro."

"From the far regions of the mysterious East," said the reporter, eyes twinkling. "How exotic."

Scratch, scratch, went the quill.

"Sure," said Yuuri, unnerved by the amount of writing growing on that notepad.

"So what brings you here to Hogwarts?"

"Well, um, a change of pace…"

"Poor boy," said the reporter, dripping with honeyed sympathy. "Didn't quite match up to the perfectionistic standards of your previous school?"

"What?"

"What colour were your robes?"

"Uh," said Yuuri, unclear on what direction this was taking.

The reporter's lips curled into the most frightening smile Yuuri had ever seen. "I've heard of the enchanted robes at Mahoutokoro. Rather humiliating, I've always thought, but who am I to criticize the draconian policies of a foreign school?"

She dragged over a chair to sit down, sending a loud metallic shriek through the quiet room. The notepad and quill floated obediently after her, latter still hard at work. "As I was asking: what colour were your robes?"

"Silver," said Yuuri, watching the quill with some suspicion. That thing was really writing a lot more than he was speaking.

"Oh." The reporter looked disappointed, but she recovered with a shrug. Behind, the quill appeared to strike something off the page. "Moving on," she said briskly. "You come from a family of muggles, am I correct?"

"Yes."

"Your friends are muggles as well?"

"Excluding the ones here, yes."

"How do they feel about magic? Are they in denial, perhaps? Upset? Afraid?"

Yuuri blinked. "My friends here?"

"No, silly, your muggle friends."

"Oh, my friends back home love magic. One of them, Yuuko, she always said my magic was a divine blessing from kami. Er, that's 'gods' in my language."

"Hmm," said the reporter. She was staring intensely at Yuuri again and he really wished she would stop.

"Why is your quill still writing?" he asked, hoping to turn her attention away from him.

"Ignore the quill," the reporter said dismissively. "Now tell me about your relationship with Viktor."

Yuuri nodded slowly. He had to be careful with his words here; Viktor's reputation was on the line. "It's going very well. Viktor's been very kind."

"And what of the rumours that the two of you are engaged in some sort of passionate, illicit affair?"

Yuuri felt his heart hammer loudly behind his ears. "I'm sorry?"

"My that's quite a reaction," said the reporter, revealing three gold teeth in a wide smile. The quill was writing furiously now, pouring words onto the notepad, which flipped its pages rapidly to accommodate its partner. "Do you play Quidditch at all, Yuuri?"

"Wait," said Yuuri, "I didn't get to respond –"

"Mahoutokoro has an outstanding reputation for Quidditch," she cut in brightly, "Surely you have dabbled somewhat in the sport as well?"

"That's not –"

"I have a statement from an ardent fan," she continued, "That you were, in fact, slated to take over the position of Chaser on the team of the previous League winners until a fairly unfortunate, ah, accident – "

Yuuri stood up abruptly then, his chair screeching across the dank stone floors. He didn't know what he was doing or why he stood up; all he knew was that he was suddenly seeing red. "Strike that off."

The reporter was startled enough for the quill to cease its movement. "What was that, my dear?"

"I said," said Yuuri in a low voice, taking a step forward to the reporter. He took satisfaction in the way she shrank back in her seat. "Strike that off."

She laughed nervously, a high-pitched trill. "You must understand, Yuuri. My readers are looking for news, you see, juicy, sensational news that lurks beneath the perfection that is Viktor Nikiforov. And you, this seemingly plain, unassuming, simple boy – for you to have such a deliciously hidden past in the very sport Viktor excels at… you are news."

Blind fury, coiling darkly in the pit of Yuuri's gut, built itself around the reporters' careless words into a roaring, deafening inferno. No one was to ruin Viktor like that, much less with his name. Consumed of all sense of rationality, he wordlessly retrieved his wand from his robe.

The reporter's eyes widened. "Now, boy, violent magic is grounds for expul – "

"Incendio," said Yuuri.


"Talk about stealing the spotlight," JJ guffawed loudly. "I have to hand it to you, Yuuri, King JJ is mighty impressed! Bon travail, mon amie!"

"Leroy," the Headmistress said sternly, "This is not a laughing matter." She looked past the rim of her glasses at the group of students seated before her, eyes narrowing. "I have called you here, as you may have guessed, to discuss about the incident with Ms. Skeeter."

Yuuri was told to sit facing his schoolmates, face burning with mortification. He kept his eyes firmly on the ground, shifting his feet every now and then. He had regretted his impulsive decision just seconds after he had cast the spell, but by then, the damage was done.

In front, Emil raised his hand.

"Yes, Nekola."

"As I understand it," said Emil, scratching lightly at his peach fuzz, "Yuuri was provoked. I don't think we should fault him for acting in self-defense."

"Self-defense? Self-defense?" The Headmistress reared up to full height. "I will say this once, and only once. You do not, under any circumstances, set another person's hair on fire."

"She had it coming," Anya piped up from the back.

Mentally, Yuuri agreed with her.

"That is not the subject on discussion here," the Headmistress snapped. "I believe we are all in agreement that that woman is quite a distasteful human being, but terrible character does not give us justification to act on impulse. You are all representatives of our school; as such, I expect you all to behave like mature adults with some semblance of good judgment and common sense."

"I was aiming for her notepad," Yuuri mumbled almost inaudibly.

"No excuses, Katsuki," the Headmistress said sharply, rounding on him. "I am well aware of your proficiency at wand work and it is doubly unlikely for you to misaim at such close range. And I must confess," she folded her arms across her chest, "I expected such reckless behaviour from Leroy – stop your preening, Leroy, that was not a compliment – but certainly not from you, Katsuki! You came to us with strong academic results and an exemplary disciplinary record, which you have maintained extraordinarily well since your transfer, and that is precisely why we had allowed Nikiforov's rather special request for you."

Yuuri drooped in his seat. "I'm sorry," he said miserably.

"Professor," said Emil kindly. "Just give the poor lad his punishment already."

Sighing, the Headmistress unfolded her arms. "Katsuki's punishment will be determined by the head of his house. Let this be a warning to the rest of you: students who engage in further risky behaviour will be punished and have 40 points taken from their houses."

Yuuri's gut clenched; Seung-gil was going to kill him.

"I have a question," said Anya, throwing her hand up in the air.

"Yes, Ms. Sokolov?"

"What happened to that horrid woman's notes?"

"Yes, well…." The Headmistress spared Yuuri a sympathetic glance. "In all the commotion, we hadn't paid attention to that."

As Yuuri sank deeper into his seat, JJ ambled up to him and slapped a hand on his shoulder. "Any publicity is good publicity," the tall boy said sagely.

"Thanks, JJ," Yuuri groaned.


By the end of the week, despite Yuuri's repeated corrections, the stories had morphed into an impossible tale of imprisonment, a daring escape, and something involving some kind of glass eye. ("Everything sounds more wicked with a glass eye," Guang Hong declared, while Leo ruffled his hair fondly.)

The whole affair was made all the more momentous by the mere fact that a Ravenclaw had pulled it off.

For days, Yuuri had to endure the sight of passing Gryffindor students giving him deep bows of reverence. Some pretended to tip imaginary top hats at him, Phichit included. Even the Slytherins now had grudging respect for him; a number of them actually addressed him by name instead of the usual "four-eyes". Christophe himself came up to shake his hand – and feel up his bottom, the minute he turned around.

Seung-gil, meanwhile, had decided he wasn't speaking to Yuuri.

Accompanying the heavy sense of guilt at disappointing his roommate, Yuuri spent the days filled with dread and trepidation, wondering just when the damning article would be published. At the very least, Viktor had not only been incredibly empathic, but the tactful Russian also didn't pry for details.

Viktor's cousin, on the other hand, was another matter.

"Spill," Yuri said, leaning over the crystal ball in front of him. "Did she scream? Did you see the bitch's face when you got her? Did she look scared? Tell me the bitch looked scared."

"I don't know," said Yuuri, surprised at the younger boy's vehemence. "It all happened so fast."

"It's no fun if you don't watch her face," Yuri scoffed, dropping back against his seat.

"Yura," Viktor said. "Sit up straight, we're having a lesson."

"You call this a lesson? We've been looking into a fucking glass ball for the past thirty minutes. What do muggles call this sort of bullshit again? Rocket science?"

Someone on the next table let out a snort at Yuri's comment.

Yuri turned to glare at the source: a stoic-looking boy with dark hair and shaved sides. Yuuri recognized him as the Hufflepuff student whom Leo described as the 'strong, silent type'.

"Got something to say, asshole?" Yuri snarled.

Unfazed, the student shrugged. "Actually, my name's Otabek."

Yuri and Otabek locked stares for several seconds, before the Russian turned away, rolling his eyes.

"Yura," said Viktor again, frowning. "Yuuri is in enough trouble without you adding to it. Sit up and stop antagonizing other students."

Yuuri flushed, feeling a combination of elation and deep shame at Viktor's concern. The other boy had no need to bear the responsibility of his idiocy – especially not when he was Viktor Nikiforov. He opened to his mouth to say as much, but Yuri beat him to it.

"Trouble? This damn school should be giving Katsuki a plaque. Hell, the whole of Europe should be giving him a medal," said Yuri. He slammed his fists on the table, ignoring the startled glances around them. "You of all people should be celebrating! The shit she wrote about you…"

Okay, thought Yuuri. That was nowhere close to what he was about say.

"I am more than familiar with Ms. Skeeter's work," Viktor said grimly.

"Then why aren't you happy about this? Huh? The old hag finally got what she deserved and all you do is sit in this stupid class, staring at this – this ball."

Silence fell. It was clear to Yuuri that no one was staring into crystal balls then; every single student was watching Viktor, waiting for his response.

"I think I see some sort of chicken," said Viktor after a moment. "What does that mean, Yuuri?"

Yuri gaped at him, open-mouthed, while the rest of the class collectively shook their heads and returned their attention to the task at hand.

"Um," said Yuuri, fumbling as he hurried to open his Divination textbook. "It says here that if the chicken is laying eggs, it could mean new opportunities are coming your way. I-Is it laying eggs?"

"I can't quite tell if that's a speck of dirt or an egg…"

"I'm surrounded by idiots!" Throwing his hands in the air, Yuri stomped out of the classroom, face red with frustration.

Yuuri rose to go after the younger boy, but was stopped by a firm hand on his arm.

"Leave him," said Viktor. "He'll calm down eventually."

Nodding, Yuuri lowered back onto his seat. Viktor should know his cousin best.

"Hey," said Otabek from the next table. "His name's Yura, was it?"


As they descended the Divination tower, Yuuri snuck concerned glances at Viktor. The half-Veela was unusually silent, staring ahead in a pensive expression. When Viktor failed to notice a girl's request for an autograph– poor girl looked utterly shocked and had to be consoled by her friends –Yuuri decided it was time to speak up.

"Viktor?" he said, laying a hand on the other's back. "Are you okay?"

"Hm?" said Viktor. He turned to Yuuri, face blossoming into a smile like a natural reflex. "Did you say something?"

"I just asked if you're okay," said Yuuri, eyebrows furrowing.

"Always so caring, moya zvezdochka. I'm fine."

Yuuri's cheeks tinted a slight shade of pink. One of these days, he was going to have to ask Viktor what that term meant. The Russian seemed to be using it with increasing frequency when they were alone, and from the way it rolled off Viktor's tongue, it sounded so very affectionate. For all he knew, it could mean something completely vile or disgusting.

He was thinking too much again.

Shaking his head, Yuuri persisted in his questioning. "But you looked like you were deep in thought."

Viktor's lips curved. "I do have deep thoughts occasionally."

"That's not what I meant," Yuuri corrected hastily, his cheeks darkening in embarrassment. "I just meant – "

"I know what you meant," Viktor cut in, chuckling. "I'm fine, I promise."

Yuuri nodded then, allowing his hand on Viktor's back to drop to his side.

"You never told me what your punishment was."

"Oh right," said Yuuri with a sigh. "It's detention. I have to help with repotting a fresh batch of mandrakes twice a week for the next month."

Viktor wrinkled his nose. "Your school certainly has interesting ideas for punishment. Does that begin today?"

"Yes. In an hour, actually."

"Wonderful," said Viktor, clapping his hands together. "Then I have a request."

"Sure," said Yuuri. "Anything."

"Will you dance for me?"


It felt strange, performing for another.

Yuuri used to participate in dance recitals when he was a child, prancing about the stage in handmade costumes and trying his hardest not to bang into props. Oddly enough, Minako saw talent in him, enough to spark her determination to focus most, if not all, her attention and energy on his training, almost as though she was grooming him to fulfill a selfish dream that was too late for her to attain. So Yuuri grew used to performing on stage, thousands of eyes following his every dip, arch and turn. Mahoutokoro was no different. The only difference was a change in setting: the freedom of anti-gravity over real, solid ground.

All that had stopped when he came to Hogwarts. Here, he danced alone: for he, him and himself, no one else.

But today –

Today, he danced for Viktor.

There was something to be said about a private performance. Though Viktor was gazing at him from a distance, it felt shockingly intimate, as though he was exposing all of himself for the other boy's scrutiny. So he showed Viktor everything he had felt in the last few weeks: joy, happiness, and perhaps– though Yuuri could barely understand it –perhaps even love.

He could only hope that Viktor liked what he saw.

Freezing in his final pose, Yuuri peeked through his bangs, breathing heavily. He realized, then, that Viktor was walking towards him, heels clicking against the floor. Unable to see Viktor's face, he straightened up with a nervous grin. "Viktor, what did you th – "

He wasn't at all prepared for the sudden embrace.

"V-Viktor?" said Yuuri, his voice muffled by thick fabric of the Durmstrang uniform. He felt Viktor's hair tickling his cheek, the other's nose buried in the crook of his neck.

"Thank you," Viktor breathed, sounding as though he was running out of air.

Yuuri swallowed, forcing down the lump rising in his throat. Slowly, he slid his arms round Viktor and squeezed his eyes shut, reveling in their shared warmth. They had hugged before, of course, Viktor being the tactile person he was. This, however – this felt different.

This time, Viktor was holding him as if they were the last survivors in a world that was crumbling to pieces around them.

Yuuri never wanted it to end.

"My balerina," Viktor said softly after a while. "What did Skeeter say to you?"

Yuuri stiffened and instinctively started to pull away, but Viktor's grip tightened.

"Yura was right," Viktor murmured. "I loathe that woman. She hurt the people I cared most with her lies and there was nothing I could do about it. My mother…" He paused, hesitating, then brushed his lips against Yuuri's skin, light and feathery. "Did she use me to hurt you?"

Yuuri shook his head mutely. She was using me to hurt you, he wanted to say, but he kept silent. There was something in Viktor's voice that he couldn't name; something so wistful and filled with tenderness that it made Yuuri's heart ache. He yearned to just tell Viktor everything, but he was afraid, no, terrified. Soon the world would learn the truth about him, then Viktor– Yuuri felt the hot sting of tears in the corner of his eyes –Viktor would turn away from him, just like everyone else.

"Yuuri?" Viktor probed gently.

"I wish you could stay with me forever," Yuuri sighed before he could stop himself.

For a beat, Viktor didn't respond. Then, he drew back to reveal turquoise irises shining behind a fall of silver. "As do I," he murmured. "Vmeste navsegda, moya zvezdochka."

Yuuri had no idea what Viktor said, but in that moment, he felt like he knew what love meant.


Three days later, Skeeter's article was unleashed.

Yuuri did the only thing he knew best:

He shut out the world.

Chapter Text

VIKTOR NIKIFOROV'S TWISTED LOVE AT HOGWARTS
by Rita Skeeter

Viktor Nikiforov, beloved Seeker of the Siberian Sirins, has chosen to shadow Yuuri Katsuki, a fifth year student, for Durmstrang Institute's exchange program with Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. On first glance, the simple Japanese boy may appear plain and unambitious, but behind the meek facade hides the sly ferocity and volatile temperament of a deadly predator.

Yuuri is, in fact, a former student of Mahoutokoro, the very school notorious for its unattainable gold standards. Though the boy claims to own robes of silver, the truth remains unknown, as the ever-enigmatic school in the East is not contactable for confirmation. It is worth noting that the boy is revered as a God among his muggle friends, an inflated lie that Yuuri asserts with pride and does not appear to deny. This author has also personally experienced the lad's terrifying temper.

Perhaps even more startling is the reveal by an anonymous source that Yuuri is a former Quidditch player with enough talent to play for the position of Chaser in previous League Champion team, the Toyohashi Tengus – the very same trial match in which Chaser Kota Yamashita, 19, fell to his gruesome death last year. Media reports suggest that a rogue Bludger is the cause, but many have questioned if this is truly the case: Yuuri's dodge was so impossibly nimble, so swift, that it was almost as though he knew of the Bludger's direction beforehand. Photographs capture Yuuri diving after Kota, yet clearly failing in his apparent "rescue" attempt.

" It was an accident," insists a fan who declined to be named. "Yuuri's got more than enough talent to get into the Tengus without knocking someone off!" One, of course, wonders about the veracity of a young fan with the passionate belief that his idol can do no wrong.

The question remains, then, is what Yuuri intends with the world's favourite darling of the sky, Viktor Nikiforov? What, also, has led Viktor to choose the one student in Hogwarts with arguably the most colourful past?

Numerous students strongly believe love to be the reason. The Seeker is reported to be incredibly affectionate with his exchange student: constant touches, hugs, and whispered sweet nothings. Many even wonder if they might already have shared a romantic kiss. Could all this tenderness be Yuuri's insidious manipulation for a chance to return to the Quidditch field? Or is our perfect Viktor himself not quite so perfect and hiding an odd eroticized mania for cunning Asian foxes?

Only time will tell.


"Tell me again how this helps with your, uh, flying?"

Yuuri rose from his stretch on the barre. "It keeps me steady, centered," he explained as he arched backwards, keeping his leg on the barre straight, foot flexed. "Helps me focus better."

"Huh," said Minako. Leaning on the wall, she was watching Yuuri perform his training exercises with her arms folded across her chest. "Nice to know you haven't lost it," she added.

"I had a good teacher," Yuuri said. Without looking, he knew Minako had a smirk on her face, delighted with the compliment.

This had become a regular routine for them: every summer break, when he wasn't with Yuuko and Nishigori or helping his family at the inn, Yuuri would train at Minako's dance studio under his former teacher's watchful guidance. When he started playing Quidditch at Mahoutokoro on his form teacher's recommendation, he quickly discovered that he far surpassed his teammates in terms of balance and agility – skills he had picked up from none other than ballet. Minako thought it to be an odd combination, flying and dancing, but she allowed him to practice as much as he wished, even joining him for a stretch on occasion.

"You have a trial game coming up, you said?" Minako asked, then gestured. "Flex."

"Yeah to play for the national team," said Yuuri. He was holding onto the barre now, one leg raised up and above his head. At Minako's order, he pointed his toes to the ceiling. "I really hope to get in, it's my chance to play against Viktor Nikiforov."

Minako flashed him a lewd grin. "Right, the handsome player."

Flushing, Yuuri flapped his hands at Minako in embarrassment. "I like him for his Quidditch skills!"

"Says the one who named his pet bird after the guy," said Minako. She ignored Yuuri's spluttering and flicked a wrist at him. "Move onto core exercises, you've been on the barre long enough."

"R-Right..."

They fell into a comfortable silence, Yuuri working through his ab exercises and Minako watching.

"Hey Yuuri," said Minako after a while.

"Yeah?"

"Show them what a dancer can do," Minako said fiercely. "I'll be cheering you on in spirit."

Yuuri smiled. "Thanks, Minako-sensei."


The storm was getting worse.

Blinking rain out of his eyes, Yuuri fought to keep steady as winds buffeted him at hurricane speeds in different directions. Quidditch and dance were the only times he used contacts, and though he didn't relish slotting the tiny lenses onto his pupils, he was somewhat glad for them this time – the storm would've ripped his glasses off in seconds. Even now he could barely make out the Quaffle in the torrent, squinting hard just to pinpoint the red dot being tossed about from player to player. At the moment, it looked like the opposition had their hand on the ball.

"Doing all right, Katsuki?"

He turned to see the Toyohashi Tengu captain floating lightly next to him as though they were playing in fair, sunny weather. "Bit hard to see," Yuuri shouted over the wind.

The captain laughed. "You'll get used to it," he shouted back, before he sped off to join the fray in the middle.

Yuuri inhaled slowly to calm his heart – a lesson he learned early with Minako for a proper centered pose. This was just a trial game, nothing but a trial game. All he had to do was play as he usually did. Breathing, he waited, watching the red dot in the distance while shaking hair out of his face, feeling vaguely like a wet dog that persisted on prancing around in the sprinklers.

Then, finally, the player with the Quaffle raised the ball far behind her head: the mark for a long-distance pass.

There.

Yuuri shot like an arrow towards the ball seconds after it flew into the air. Stretching an arm out, he caught the Quaffle then dipped downwards to avoid the opposition's attempt at snatching it back. Dodging players with bends and twists that would have made Minako proud, he sped to the goals and flung the ball through the nearest hoop with a full 360-degree spin for added momentum.

"Good shot," the captain applauded some distance away.

Yuuri's heart soared.

As long as he kept this up, his dream of playing on the same field as Viktor may actually be realized.

It seemed the existing Tengu players also noted his presence and were keen to test his abilities; the Quaffle was thrown his way mere seconds into the start of the next play. Swiftly, Yuuri caught the ball and hovered, eyes darting about for an opening.

"Over here, Katsuki," another Chaser yelled, waving his arms.

After a glimpse at his team's positions, Yuuri made his choice and directed his broomstick towards the Chaser, mentally running through the best ways to pass the Quaffle –

"Bludger!" someone hollered.

On pure instinct, Yuuri threw himself into a sideways spin, melding his upper body flush against the handle of his broomstick. (All that stretching with Minako paid off after all.) He heard a grunt of pain and the gasps around him, before he looked up in time to see the other Chaser topple over and off his broomstick, clutching at his chest.

Time slowed.

Yuuri felt a rush of blood; driven by sheer adrenaline, he plummeted down after the falling man. Vaguely, he heard people calling his name, but he ignored them and flattened his upper body on his broom to lower the wind resistance on his flight down. Faster, faster, he needed to be faster. Desperately, he threw a hand out and stretched towards the other boy – almost – so close –

"Katsuki!" the Chaser cried, reaching for him.

The next thing Yuuri saw – numb to the screams above him – was an image that seared deeply into his being.


A Bludger went rogue, reported the media. An unfortunate accident, papers declared. The public, however, seemed to have an entirely different opinion. Their hushed whispers followed wherever he went, drowning him in a sea of accusations and furious skepticism.

That Bludger was aimed at him, wasn't it?

Almost like he ducked on purpose… envy, maybe? Jealousy?

Look at him, acting aloof like he's too good for us now…

It's his fault, you know. The Chaser would be alive right now if it weren't for him.

In the end, it all started to sound the same, really.

Strangers, foes, and even friends – it felt as though all their voices blended together to form one single conclusion:

Should've been you, I think.

Yes, yes, yes…

Flashes of the Chaser's mother clawing at him, screaming, wanting answers;

Should

have

been

Y O U

Yuuri curled on his bed, clapping his hands to his ears.

"Sorry," he murmured, quivering, "I'm so, so sorry."


"Yuuri,
Haven't heard back from you, you all right?
Saw the news: I'm so sorry. Wish I could be there for you, mate.
Write back soon, will you?
-P"

"Yuuri,
One month is a long time to go without a letter from you.
Send some sort of sign that you're all right, please?
Or at least send Vicchan so I know you're reading these.
-P"

"Yuuri,
You're reading my letters!
Sent Vicchan back with a box of your favourite Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans.
Reckon Japan doesn't have too much of the stuff.
Keep sending Vicchan, will you?
-P"

"Yuuri,
Dropped by Hogsmeade this weekend.
Thought of sending you a casket of Butterbeer, but Vicchan probably couldn't manage the weight.
Got you some wicked stuff from Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes instead.
They're got a branch there now, did you know?
I'm all chuffed just thinking about it.
-P"

"Yuuri,
Yajirushi: Zero is out.
Bit daft isn't it, going backwards in numbers like that?
They'll have to go into the negatives for the next release.
Anyway, thought of you when I saw the announcement.
-P"


.

.

.

"Yuuri,
Happy birthday, mate.
I really miss you.
-P"

.

.

.


It was several weeks before the Headmistress of Mahoutokoro paid him a visit.

Headmistress Miyo looked ageless, snowy skin contrasting with dark tresses drawn elegantly into the knot of a high-ranking feudal princess. Her robes shone gold in colour, patterns of chrysanthemums and lilies drifting like clouds in the sky with her every motion.

"May I come in?" she said at the door, her voice tinkling like bells in the distance.

Lying on his bed, Yuuri nodded silently.

"Thank you," said the Headmistress. She glided over to sit on the edge of the bed. "How are you, Katsuki-san?"

Yuuri forced a smile. "Could be better, sensei."

"Yes," she said, folding her hands in her lap. "It most certainly could."

"Is this about my absences from class? Because I've submitted every assignment –"

Miyo held up a hand. "More the fact that you have hardly left your room since the Quidditch trials."

Yuuri didn't respond, passing a hand over his eyes instead.

The Headmistress flashed him a look of gentle sympathy. "The teachers and I are concerned about the extent of your social withdrawal, among other things."

"I have friends," mumbled Yuuri.

"Do you?"

"Just not here."

"Has that always been the case?"

Yuuri let out a faint laugh. "No, not until… recent events."

"I see. How very disappointing that loyalty is not a trait among your companions here." Miyo raised her head to gaze at the ceiling for a moment. "'With true friends, even water drunk together is sweet enough,'" she recited somberly. Then she turned her eyes on Yuuri once more: red pupils with golden flecks, the mark of a transformed kitsune. "Are your friends magic users?"

"My best friend is."

"Which school do they attend?"

"Hogwarts."

"You communicate with this friend in English, I presume?"

Yuuri thought of all the letters he had received in the past weeks, chest tightening. "Yes," he said quietly.

"Excellent." Miyo tilted her head to one side, elaborate hair ornaments dangling with the slight motion. "We have stronger affiliations with the Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in America, but I suppose Hogwarts is suitable enough."

Blinking, Yuuri raised his head. "Suitable enough?"

The Headmistress was already rising from his bed, robes spilling onto the floor. "Katsuki-san, given your psychological state, a school that can provide you with the support of friends would be the best option for your well-being."

Yuuri stared at her, uncomprehending. "Sensei, am I being expelled?"

In a sudden move, Miyo was above him, grasping and lifting his chin in a tight hold. Her fox eyes took on an almost predatory glint, gold flecks dancing with agitation. "Pay no heed to the words of fools, child," she hissed, long, sharpened nails biting into his skin. "You are Mahoutokoro's best, and I will not have our best insulted, not even by themselves. I am offering you a transfer for your next school year and it is not a reflection on your capabilities or who you are as a person. Is that understood?"

Transfixed, Yuuri nodded slowly.

Smiling, Miyo pulled away and smoothed down imaginary wrinkles on her pristine robes. "The decision is yours, ultimately," she continued, her voice reverting to its sweet, tinkling quality. "Write to your friend, weigh your options, then come to me when you are ready."

Again, Yuuri nodded wordlessly.

"I look forward to the day your robes turn gold," the Headmistress said, before she swept regally out of his room, leaving bewilderment and a scent of chrysanthemums in her wake.


There was tapping on his window.

Looking up from his suitcase, Yuuri spotted a raven through the glass, pure and snowy white, watching him patiently with its beady red eyes. With quick steps, he walked over to unlatch the window.

"Hello, Vicchan," he said fondly, stroking the soft spot under the raven's beak. The bird closed his eyes in satisfaction, leaning into his touch.

When he first brought home Vicchan, Yuuko was beyond herself with excitement. She had an excessive love for Japanese mythology, and according to her, an albino raven was a rare phenomenon and an auspicious sign. ("Amaterasu herself transforms into a raven for travel," she had all but shrieked into his ears. Her boyfriend, Nishigori, shook his head with amusement. "Oh my god, Yuuri, you have the Sun Goddess as a pet!") His family was just as awed, though thankfully, with far less fervour.

Delicately, Yuuri detached the small scroll tied to Vicchan's leg. "You must be tired, traveling such long distances," he murmured, giving the raven one last stroke. "Go, have a good, long rest."

Vicchan pushed his head against Yuuri's hand in a light nuzzle, before he spread his wings and took off into the sky.

Unraveling the scroll, Yuuri skimmed through the contents.

"Yuuri,
I can't believe you thought you had to ask.
COME TO HOGWARTS, YOU BLOODY IDIOT.

p.s. don't you ever do this to me again
p.p.s. you are a bloody idiot

-P."

Grinning, Yuuri returned to his suitcase and resumed packing.


"London, huh," said Minako.

"I don't exactly know where the school is located," Yuuri said. He spread his legs in a full side split and lowered his upper body to the ground. "But we take the train from King's Cross station in London."

"Sure," said Minako.

Yuuri was grateful that his family had chosen to skirt the reasons for his abrupt transfer. It probably had something to do with the look of utter despondence he had given them when they asked about his trial match. Instead, they simply fussed over him in their own respective ways: his mother asking him to please send Vicchan home now and then so she could send him little care packages; his father handing him an English phrasebook he found in his belongings; his sister reminding him to write more often now that he was going to be further away.

Yuuko didn't probe, either, focusing instead on updating Yuuri about her school life with Nishigori and their classmates.

Yuuri was grateful for that, too.

"Still going to play that Quidditch thing after you transfer?" Minako asked casually.

Yuuri stiffened but remained in his stretch, eyes lingering on a spot on the floor. The Chaser's hand reaching out towards him, eyes wild with terror – "No."

"I see," said Minako.

"I still want to train with you every summer, though."

"Sure kid," Minako replied, in a tone so unusually gentle that Yuuri's heart swelled with warmth. "You're welcome anytime."

They spoke no more of Quidditch, flying, or Mahoutokoro, and Yuuri felt, for the first time in weeks, like the world wasn't quite so overwhelming anymore.

 

Chapter Text

 

Phichit enjoyed gossip, usually, and the best place and time for gossip was when everyone was just as literally stripped bare and exposed to the world: the prefect's private bathroom. Normally he would join in the merriment, joking and mocking all the central figures in the latest scandal, especially if the figures included any of the other prefects.

This time, however, the talk was centered entirely on a certain article that involved his best friend, and he wasn't going to allow any outrageous statements to float about undefended.

"Can you believe that mousy little mudblood used to play Quidditch," snorted a scrawny-looking Slytherin prefect. "He looks like he'd fall off with the slightest wind."

"Mousy?" Phichit chortled, leaning back against the walls of the bath. "Have you looked in a mirror?"

The other prefects laughed as the Slytherin boy scowled. "You're just not playing this time 'cause Katsuki's your mate."

"And you're a lot sharper than I gave you credit for," Phichit replied with an angelic smile.

The prefect opened his mouth for a retort – a scathing one that would've made his own mother blush, no doubt – but he stopped when a hand dropped on his shoulder and Christophe sank into the bath next to him.

"Retract your claws, Chulanont," Christophe drawled smoothly as he swam over to join Phichit on his side of the bath, muscles rippling as he moved. The mermaid in the portrait flapped her tail flirtatiously above them. "I'm just as fond of Katsuki as you are and won't have him spoken ill of in my presence," Christophe added pointedly, beaming at the other Slytherin prefect.

Sulking, the boy rose out of the bath and left in a huff.

"Is it true that he's involved in the murder of that Toyohashi Tengu Chaser, though?" asked a Hufflepuff prefect.

"Death," Phichit corrected. "The death of the Chaser. Yes they played in the same trial match, if that's what you mean by involved."

"But the article implied Katsuki was responsible," pointed out a Ravenclaw prefect.

"Of course, we all know Ms. Skeeter to be a paragon of honesty and journalistic integrity," said Christophe with a quirk of his lips.

"Point taken," the prefect said, looking chastised.

"So what's happening with the Beauxbaton twins?" someone asked after a period of awkward silence.

Quickly, the prefects latched onto their favourite gossip of the term, with the Hufflepuffs delighted to be the star contributors for once.

Raising an eyebrow, Phichit turned to Christophe. "I appreciate this, but why are you helping Yuuri? You two have hardly spoken."

"I've always preferred supporting the underdogs," said Christophe, broad shoulders rolling in a shrug. The mermaid above giggled delightedly at the motion. "He also seems like a very lovely chap for a muggle-born."

Phichit whistled. "Another step and you might just become unsuited for your own house."

"Shocking isn't it," said Christophe, grinning. "But we are capable of goodness now and then."

"Not too much, I hope, or you'd turn Salazar Slytherin in his grave."

"I'm not sure Godric Gryffindor would approve of your clever wit."

"No one's perfect."

"No," Christophe said with a light laugh. "No one ever is."

They listened idly to the Hufflepuff prefects describing Michele Crispino's desperate efforts to share the same room as his mortified twin sister.

"How is he?" Christophe asked quietly.

"Closed off," Phichit replied, sighing. "Same as he was right after that horrible accident happened."

"He has Viktor now."

"You know," said Phichit, "I actually think that makes it worse."


It was as if the Russian exchange student had overheard their conversation.

Phichit returned to find Viktor standing in front of the portrait of the Fat Lady, who preened and fluttered her eyelashes at the boy as though it made any difference, the poor thing. A group of girls from different houses stood nearby, tittering among themselves and daring each other to be the first to approach him. Viktor didn't appear to notice any of the female attention around him.

Tucking his basket of clothes under his arm, Phichit cleared his throat loudly. "It's after hours," he declared. "I better not catch anyone loitering in the corridors at this time of night."

Instantly, the girls dispersed. Ah, the power of the badge.

"Hello," Viktor said, his distant look replaced a little too swiftly with a bright smile. "JJ gave me the directions to your common room, but I hadn't realized there would be a fixed password."

"Yes, we Gryffindors don't believe in using our brains needlessly," said Phichit with a grin. "Let's talk inside. That is, if the Fat Lady is done trying to seduce you into her two-dimensional sheets."

The portrait ceased her primping and rose up in indignation. "You can jolly well stay outside if you persist in your impudence, Mr. Chulanont!"

"Sorry," Phichit snickered. "Amor omnia vincit."

"Hmph," said the Fat Lady, turning her nose up, but she swung open for them anyway.

"Love conquers all," Viktor translated as he followed behind Phichit. "What a lovely sentiment."

"Yes, Yuuri said the same thing."

Phichit didn't miss the forlorn look that crossed Viktor's face.

Thankfully, there was only one person in the common room. Phichit was afraid he would have to use his badge again to quell the commotion that would have resulted from the appearance of the famous Quidditch player.

"Kenjiro, could you entertain Viktor for a few minutes while I put my clothes away?"

The small boy leapt out of an armchair, eyes bulging out of their sockets. "V-V-Viktor?" he gasped. "Yuuri's Viktor? What's he doing here? I-Is he mad at me? Is Yuuri mad at me?"

"Why don't you ask him yourself," Phichit suggested patiently, before he turned to run up the stairs to his room. Below, he could hear Kenjiro stammering a flow of apologies at Viktor without giving the other boy any chance to respond. Daft first-year. Shaking his head, Phichit greeted his roommate, flung his basket onto his bed and hurried back downstairs before Kenjiro's flustered nervousness imploded him inside out.

"I'm back," Phichit announced, grabbing Kenjiro by the shoulders and spinning him to face the staircase. "You can go now, Kenjiro, thanks!"

"Yes, wicked, I really am very sorry," Kenjiro babbled as he ran, tripped once, then scrambled frantically up the stairs.

"He's an odd little thing," Viktor said with a bemused smile.

"You have no idea," Phichit laughed, recalling the long hours Kenjiro spent talking his ears off about Yuuri. He gestured at the armchairs. "So what brings you to our humble common room?"

Nodding, Viktor sank into an armchair. "Well… it's about Yuuri."

"I thought as much." Phichit sat down next to Viktor. "He's avoiding you?"

"Not me. He's avoiding everyone else, even Seungie who's talking to him again," said Viktor softly. "But he's not exactly engaging with me, either."

Phichit rested a cheek in one hand. "He can't avoid you in the circumstances, being the dutiful person he is, so he's doing the next best thing. Does your cousin still join you for classes?"

"Yura has prudently turned to his new Hufflepuff friend for classes." The sad expression flickered through again. "And I wouldn't call Yuuri's choice the 'next best thing'."

"What does 'not exactly engaging with you' entail?"

"He speaks only when spoken to, he barely makes eye contact, he hardly laughs, no, never laughs anymore– " Viktor's head lowered, silvery bangs casting a shadow over his face. " –and he flinches every time I touch him."

Phichit gave Viktor a sympathetic look. "That's rough."

Viktor lifted his head to smile wearily in response. It was so unlike his usual smiles that Phichit wondered if the boy's mask was finally starting to crack.

If that was the case, then now may the time for the most pertinent question of all.

"What exactly are your intentions with Yuuri?"

Viktor blinked, momentarily surprised. (Good, thought Phichit.) "My intentions?"

"Yuuri's my best mate," Phichit leaned back, drumming his fingers together in his best impression of a muggle mafia boss that would have made Guang Hong proud, "So I want nothing but the best for him."

"Ah," said Viktor, lips quirking. "Rest assured, I care very much for Yuuri."

"Just care?"

Viktor merely smiled in response.

When it was clear that the other boy was content to stay silent, Phichit made a disgruntled noise. No wonder the media had such a difficult time pinning him down; Viktor Nikiforov was unfathomable when he chose to be so. He was going to have switch tactics. "What did you think of the article, Viktor?"

The Russian boy tilted his head to one side, silvery hair flowing almost ethereally with the motion. He was still smiling, but Phichit could see his jaw working beneath the skin, teeth grinding in agitation. "Nothing more than a pack of lies."

"What makes you so sure? You barely know Yuuri and even his friends in Mahoutokoro didn't believe in him."

"You believe in him," Viktor countered smoothly.

Phichit shrugged. "I'm his best mate."

"And he is of equal importance to me."

"So you say but why."

Viktor paused. "Phichit," he said gravely, then, "Please trust me when I say that I will never do anything to harm Yuuri."

Phichit fixed a piercing look at Viktor, who returned his gaze evenly, blue-green eyes glinting in the light of the fireplace. Yuuri would never let him hear the end of it– the compassionate Japanese considered the act akin to rape, which Phichit always thought to be a little dramatic –but the Thai boy was more than willing to go the distance for his mate and unveil the secret behind Viktor's impenetrable shields. Concentrating, Phichit allowed his mind to funnel through the bright turquoises, flowing into the other boy's mind like molten chocolate into a mold.

The last thing he expected was a labyrinth, the many paths blocked by layers upon layers of thick barricades that only loomed larger with each effort to slip past them.

"How talented to do this wandlessly at your age," Viktor's eyes slanted with mild amusement, "Unfortunately, Durmstrang trains us in Occlumency."

"Bloody hell." Withdrawing his mind, Phichit shot a glare at the Russian. "Is there anything you can't do?"

"I could never harm Yuuri," Viktor said, very quietly.

This was all turning into a pointless stalemate and Phichit Chulanont knew when he was defeated.

For now.

"Right then, let's get to the main reason you're here," Phichit finally offered, dragging a hand through his bangs. Viktor leaned forward, eyes intense. "Here's the problem. You might not believe any of the rumours surrounding Yuuri's responsibility in that Chaser's death. I don't, and neither do our mates. In fact, Seung-gil, like me, has known about it since Yuuri's arrival; the Korean side of his family likes to keep abreast of their regional neighbours. But Yuuri…" Phichit huffed in a sharp exhale of exasperation, "Our Yuuri believes them with all his heart."

For a beat, Viktor didn't respond. Then, he closed his eyes and dropped his head into his hands. "Oh moya zvezdochka," he murmured. "Of course you would."

"He's a bloody idiot," Phichit sighed. "Always has been."

Viktor laughed mirthlessly. "So what should I do then? Wait till he comes round?"

What could Viktor do?

Phichit knew from past experience that Yuuri would only open up when he was ready to do so, and that could take ages. His best friend had a stubborn streak that went longer than the Amazon River and he may not come around before Viktor had to return to Durmstrang, after which the bloody idiot would spiral into a deeper depression for parting with his precious Viktor on bad terms.

So what could a world-class Seeker do that a best mate couldn't?

Besides the obvious difference in Quidditch skills, Phichit knew there was just the one thing – something that he had come across in his research but hadn't had the chance to relay to Yuuri yet. Not before this stupid article got published.

"Find him again," Phichit suggested.

"What do you mean?" Viktor said, a fine eyebrow arching.

"You know that private room you found him in the first time? When he was dancing?"

"Yes?"

"Catch him in that room again and he'll talk to you."

Viktor stroked at his chin thoughtfully. "We are together most of the time, though."

"When is he not obliged to be with you?" Phichit asked. "Sorry, just trying to think when he might go to that room," he said apologetically when the other boy winced at the blunt words.

"Free periods, I suppose," Viktor recovered quickly. "Or whenever I have Quidditch practice."

"Then skip a practice. Go find him in that room, he'll talk then."

"You really think that will help?"

Phichit leaned back in the armchair, crossing his legs. "I know it will help."

Viktor breathed a sigh of relief. "Very well then. Thank you." The Seeker rose from the chair to leave.

"Oh and Viktor?"

"Yes, Phichit."

The Thai boy smiled charmingly. "You may have won this round, but I will jinx you up to next month if you hurt my mate."

Viktor nodded. "Understood."


"Room of Requirement?"

"A little secret shared by the house elves in the kitchens," Phichit said with a triumphant grin. "I drop by all the time for some chit chat and biscuits, so they adore me down there."

Sitting on the edge of Yuuri's bed, Leo folded his arms across his chest in mock ire. "You prefects, man, you guys can go anywhere. It's not fair."

"We'd get much better photographs with a badge," Guang Hong agreed, dropping down to rest comfortably in Leo's lap.

"You are a corrupting influence," said Seung-gil from his bed, as Leo snaked an arm round the smaller boy's waist and raised his other hand to slap a high-five with his partner in crime.

"We'll be gone by the time these lovebirds are fifth years," Phichit pointed out.

"Thank the heavens for small favours."

Guang Hong pouted. "Hey!"

"Wait, we're getting off tangent here." Leo rested his chin on Guang Hong's shoulder. "What's this Room of Requirement thing?"

"It's a room on the seventh floor that's across from the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy." Phichit pulled out the chair from Yuuri's desk and plunked onto it. "Apparently, it only appears when you really want it and in exactly the way you want it."

Seung-gil snorted. "So if some fool walks past wishing for a place to take a piss, it'd appear as a bathroom?"

"Yes but said fool would also have to walk past it three times," Phichit explained while Guang Hong and Leo sniggered at the image.

"That's what Yuuri's been using then," said Seung-gil, shooting a concerned glance at his roommate's bed. "He probably wished for a place to be alone."

"Poor guy," Leo said, shaking his head. "To think he kept all that to himself for a whole year."

"Viktor will save him," Guang Hong said firmly. "That's why you asked him to find Yuuri's room, right, Phichit? Through the power of love?"

"Rubbish," scoffed Seung-gil. "Love is not magic. There has to be a rational reason for Viktor's ability to locate Yuuri's room."

"Love is a form of magic," the Chinese boy insisted, cheeks puffing, "Especially when your partner is Viktor Nikiforov."

"Is this something I should be jealous about?" Leo said, raising an eyebrow.

Guang Hong giggled and patted Leo's knee reassuringly. "Our love is magic too, Leo."

Brightening, Leo pushed the tip of his nose against Guang Hong's in a light eskimo kiss. "Why thank you, querido."

"They were bad enough without your asinine matchmaking efforts," Seung-gil muttered.

"I know," Phichit said smugly. "I'm just too good for this world."

"Not a compliment, Chulanont."


There were many uses for his prefect badge. The shiny little thing offered a great number of privileges that Phichit wasn't above using when he had the chance, such as sneaking into the kitchens during his night patrols or entering restricted sections of the castle on the pretext of checking for unwanted students.

Phichit loved his badge. Unfortunately, as his favourite comic hero was told: "With great power comes great responsibility".

It was with this thought in mind that the Thai boy forewent the last leg of his free period to run after a Hufflepuff student, who in desperation, had sought out the nearest prefect he could find for some scuffle occurring near the Ravenclaw dormitory on the fifth floor.

When Phichit arrived, the parties involved were still grappling at each other on the stone floor, snarling and swearing. There were bystanders, as always, gathering to watch and egg on the brawl. Phichit quickly recognized one of boys to be the notorious Crispino twin while his opponent was an unknown from Hufflepuff.

He was considering the best option to separate the two when his trained eyes spotted the conspicuous spark of magic; the Hufflepuff boy had managed to get his wand out and was obviously about to cast some sort of jinx.

Right, no time for thinking now.

"Expelliarmus!"

The second Phichit sent the wand flying, the fighting ceased, both boys staring at him with wide eyes.

Tucking his wand back into his robes, Phichit strode up to haul them up to their feet. "All right, lads, let's hear your excuses now," he said cheerfully then turned to the students lingering around them. "The rest of you lot can clear off before I start issuing detentions for loitering."

Obediently, the students left with faint grumblings of "spoilsport" and "no fun".

"He said Nekola could do a lot better than my sister," Crispino snarled through a cracked lip.

"No," the other boy dragged out the word slowly, glaring through a swollen eye, "I said Emil could do a lot better than you."

"Well that doesn't make any sense! You're obviously trying to obfuscate the situation so it doesn't look like Nekola's making the moves on Sara!"

"And you're just proving to me what a stupid git you are!"

"Enough," Phichit said sternly. Mentally, he filed away the information for future discussion in the prefect's bathroom; this had enough fodder to fuel their gossip-loving hearts for the whole year. "Whatever your reasons may be, violence is off-limits, much less using magic to jinx another. I'm docking fifteen points from Hufflepuff."

Crispino shot the Hufflepuff boy a dirty look. "Coward."

"As for you, Crispino," Phichit said loudly before the other boy could hiss a comeback, "You're not a Hogwarts student so I'm unclear on the disciplinary protocol for you. I'll have to take you to the Headmistress and she can decide your punishment. Who's your exchange student?"

"Him," Crispino jerked his head at the Hufflepuff boy.

"Hardly," the boy snorted. "He's never with me, just trails after his sister and poor Emil all the time."

"Well your mother is a f –"

"Crispino," Phichit pushed the angry boy firmly in the other direction, "Headmistress. Now. Don't forget to pick up your wand before you go for dinner," he reminded the Hufflepuff boy as he started to walk Crispino away.

That is, until a certain bloody idiot showed up, walking towards them with a shy smile on his face.

In Phichit's mind, multi-coloured fireworks were exploding in celebration – it felt like years since he last saw Yuuri. The other boy looked pale and so very tired, but more importantly, he was here and they were talking again.

"Hey," Phichit said, beaming.

"Hi," Yuuri murmured. "I thought I heard your voice outside." His eyes flickered to Crispino. "Um, bad time?"

"No, never," Phichit responded without thinking. Then, recalling his duty – stupid, stupid badge – he shook his head. "I mean, not right now, but we'll talk after?"

Yuuri nodded. "My room?"

"Mine. I want to talk to you without having to wait outside till someone solves your bloody house riddle for me."

Yuuri laughed and Phichit's chest warmed at the sound. "Or you could try solving one on your own for once."

"Not a chance. I'll be right back."

"Oh, and um," Yuuri gave him a small smile, cheeks dusting pink, "Thank you."

"Yeah," Phichit's face split into a grin that he figured was going to stay on for the rest of the week. "Yeah, anytime."

"What was that about?" Crispino asked as they descended a spiral staircase to the lower levels of the castle.

"Love conquers all," Phichit replied then added, "Ask Nekola, he'll explain it to you."

Ignoring Crispino's look of puzzlement, Phichit led the way to the Headmistress's office, a light skip in his steps.

His best friend was back and all was right with the world.

 

Chapter Text

Breathing heavily, Yuuri stared at the ceiling above, back laid flat against the cold, stone floor. The day's routine felt almost mechanical to him now: wake up, wash up, eat, filter people's questions and ogles throughout classes and lunch, withdraw to private room for an intense dance session, eat, shower, complete homework, then finally, restless sleep – only in preparation to repeat the same, exhausting process over and over and over again. Given a choice, Yuuri would very much prefer to remain in his room as he had in Mahoutokoro. That way, he could pretend that people didn't exist; the world didn't have to exist.

Except this time, there was Seung-gil… and Viktor.

Seung-gil wasn't a real problem; his roommate understood when another person wanted their privacy. Yuuri didn't miss the concerned glances Seung-gil snuck in when he thought Yuuri wasn't looking, but the Korean boy's attempts at engaging him were few and carefully worded.

Viktor, on the other hand, seemed to think that behaving as though nothing had happened would forcibly revert the situation back to normality. All the smiling and cheery greetings and so much touching

Frankly, it was starting to get on Yuuri's nerves, and he had never been more relieved about the Russian's Quidditch practices, which allowed him his much-needed reprieve.

Sighing, he rose, achingly, to a sitting position and reached for his discarded robes.

"You're not dancing."

Yuuri froze.

The door creaked shut – when was it even opened? – and heels clacked against the stones, the approaching sound beating like a faint echo against the heavy pounding in his ears. Then, it stopped, just as the familiar scents of amber, sandalwood, and thick, thick Russian cotton threatened to suffocate his senses.

"Can we talk?" Viktor asked softly. "Please?"

Stunned, Yuuri turned as the older boy sank down beside him. "But – your training – "

"Doesn't matter."

"How did you find me?"

Viktor cocked his head to one side. "Phichit told me to seek you out. I simply returned to the room where we met."

Yuuri stared, speechless in the face of Viktor's nonchalance. Not once but twice: this was definitely not a coincidence.

"So," Viktor gazed back, unwavering, "Can we talk?"

Quickly, Yuuri broke contact, eyes darting to his feet. "What about?"

"You."

Tremors ran up his spine at the low tone; trust a half-Veela to make a single word sound like the whispered promise of something salacious. "There's nothing to talk about," he managed after a breath to calm his mind.

"On the contrary, I think there is a lot to talk about."

Yuuri snorted. "You certainly don't act that way," he muttered before he could disguise the bitterness in his voice.

Viktor blinked. "What do you mean?"

"Uh, I, I mean…" Yuuri flushed, surprised at his own audacity, "That is…." Mentally, he considered his options: he could backpedal or he could stay on topic. The better choice was one that would effectively steer them away from the ticking time bomb that led them to this conversation in the first place.

Right, on topic it was.

"You're always so different in public," Yuuri started, "Like you have to make everything about you just… perfect." He laughed nervously, tongue darting out to lick at parched lips; he really should bring a water bottle to his dance sessions. "But then I guess you are perfect, so…"

"My mother would certainly disagree with that."

Yuuri raised his head to the sight of Viktor's wistful smile.

"She wanted me to be a dancer, because that was tradition within the Veela community. Dance was how we expressed ourselves; dance was how we lured in partners for descendants and survival."

Yuuri made a vague choking sound, which Viktor seemed to ignore. "She thought I was a fool for starting Quidditch," the Russian continued, peering into the distance. "As though it weren't enough that I was born male, I had chosen to forego a Veela's natural vocation. She reminded me constantly of what a disappointment I was, with the short temper befitting of our race."

"Did she…?"

"No," Viktor's lips curved at Yuuri's hesitancy, "No, she never hit me. But words can sometimes be so much more excruciating."

Should've been YOU –

Yuuri felt his throat start to burn. "Yes… they can."

Viktor shot him a piercing look.

"What happened with your mother?" Yuuri asked hastily before the other boy could change the subject.

"We are Veelas," said Viktor, raising an eyebrow knowingly but choosing to return to his narration anyway. "Naturally, we were both too proud and stubborn to give in to one another. The more my mother lashed out at me, the more determined I was to prove to her that Quidditch could be just as graceful a sport as dance."

"So I trained, hard. Day and night, I lived and breathed the sport like it was the very air that gave me life each day. With my talent and constant practice, it wasn't long before I was invited to form the national team for my country, and soon enough, I was in the League."

"None of that impressed my mother. None of it. I wasn't expecting it to be easy, of course, but time was passing and my mother wasn't getting any younger. Worse, she seemed to be getting frailer by the day. So when we won our match with the Tengus and became the new League Champions…"

Viktor paused here, the shadow of an expression so rare across his face that Yuuri, without thought, reached out and touched his hand. Almost absently, Viktor flipped over his hand to lace his fingers through Yuuri's.

"… when we won, I brought the trophy home for my mother to see, and the entire time, I imagined, anticipated, the look on her face… realization, understanding, perhaps even pride of some sort. But instead, she took one glimpse at me and the trophy and – and she died."

Yuuri's breath hitched. "So those articles in the Daily Prophet…"

Viktor drew in a shaky breath. "Skeeter never found the truth but she did hit the raw gist of my fears with her vile writing. It turned out my mother was ill, very ill, but she was too proud to mention it to any of us. Rationally, I knew it was coincidence: it happened to be her time. Yet, I couldn't shake the feeling that her death was like her final rejection of my choices – of… of me."

Silence fell.

Viktor was being so open and vulnerable. It was so unlike the charming celebrity in the media and Hogwarts halls that, frankly, Yuuri wasn't entirely sure how to react. So, he said the first thing that came to mind.

"Viktor," he murmured in wonder. "You're crying."

"Am I?" Viktor lifted a hand to his cheek. "I've forgotten what the sensation feels like." Turquoise eyes, bright with tears, shone in the dim lighting. "Am I still so very perfect to you, Yuuri?"

Yuuri bit his lower lip. Yes, he wanted to say. Knowing that you are human, as human as you can be as a half-Veela, just makes you so much more perfect to me.

Instead, in an uncharacteristically bold move, he leaned forward to cup the older boy's cheek, swiping at tears with the pad of his thumb. "You even cry pretty," he noted quietly.

Face gentling into a smile, Viktor leaned into Yuuri's touch. "I've never been anything but perfect. For my mother, for the world…"

"Well you don't have to be that for me," Yuuri said firmly.

Viktor chuckled. "I will remember that, moya zvezdochka."

"Um," Yuuri leaned back, flushing, rubbing the back of his neck. "Why do you call me that, Viktor? What does it mean?"

"'My little star'." Viktor's voice dipped low, tinged with a hint of pride. "Because that is what you are to me."

Pink darkened across Yuuri's cheeks. In less than an hour, they had expressed far more intimacy than in the months they had been together. Here they were, holding hands, Viktor gazing at him with the most tender expression. This was not at all what he expected when the Russian boy intruded into his private room.

"I don't see how I'm deserving of being a star," Yuuri lowered his eyes shyly.

Viktor made low humming noise of amusement. "The evening before the Championship game two years ago, Mahoutokoro hosted a festival on its grounds, did it not?"

"Yes they do that every year, but what does that have to do with your nickname for me?"

"I was there."

"That doesn't answer my… question. . ."

Trailing off, realization dawned on Yuuri and swelled gradually into abject horror.

No.

No way.

He made to bolt, but Viktor kept a tight grip on his hand.

"I was there," he repeated in a quieter tone; blue-green eyes met widening brown, "And I watched a performance by a dancing crane."

Oh god.


Grinning dementedly, Phichit tore it from beneath a heap of clothes in his suitcase. "Is this the infamous crane outfit?"

Yuuri's face burst into a bright shade of red. "Phichit," he yelped, snatching fruitlessly at the robe.

"If only the wizarding world had social media," Phichit lamented as he nimbly danced away, holding the shimmery item just out of Yuuri's reach, "This would get so many likes."

"Phichit, I don't want anyone seeing that!"

"Bollocks to that, I want to see you in it. C'mon, put it on, show me some dance moves!"

"Seriously, would you stop – !" Yuuri choked on his words when the door started to open.

"Chulanont, you blighter, why do I hear your voice in my room – "

Everything happened in a span of seconds.

Phichit overstepped on a toe twirl, falling onto a bed with his arms flying up, the costume soaring into the air. Yuuri's mouth fell open in a mute scream as he reached for the outfit, only to have it, in slow motion, land squarely on the boy storming through the door.

" – and now I've gone blind," the boy said, his dry tone slightly muffled by the silvery blue material draped over his head.

"I, I'm so sorry," Yuuri stammered, "You must be Seung-gil. I'm, uh, Yuuri, your new roommate."

"Charmed, I'm sure," Seung-gil muttered under the fabric.

It took Phichit a full ten minutes to stop laughing.


Yuuri was mortified. If it weren't for Viktor holding onto his wrist with the grip of an octopus, he would've bolted for the doors.

"You knew?" he said, voice high-pitched and cracking. "You knew this entire time?"

"Not the first time we met, no." Viktor shifted closer, eyes burning with intensity. "But I had my suspicions. A Japanese ballet dancer with a crane for a Patronus… I had to find out for myself."

"That's why you asked for me to be your exchange student," Yuuri croaked. Somehow, he couldn't get his vocals under control, especially not with Viktor giving him such a penetrating look.

"You have no idea how disappointed I was to learn that you weren't on the House team, nor did you show any interest in flying." Viktor leaned in, silver strands falling, and Yuuri's heart stuttered in his chest. "Until that evening with the Snitch. No passenger, not even one with experience in flying, could have ridden a broom quite as smoothly or gracefully as you did."

"So I gave myself away?" Yuuri gasped softly, all too aware that Viktor's nose, among other things, was inches away from his own. "Why didn't you say anything?"

"I was hoping you would."

"I– I was hoping you'd never find out…"

"Why? Because of the accident?"

Instantly, the spell broke: this was the discussion he wanted desperately to avoid.

Again, Yuuri move for the exit was halted by Viktor's hold on his wrist, which tightened further when Yuuri twisted sharply in an effort to break the vise-like grip. "Viktor let go – "

"Your past doesn't bother me," Viktor cut in firmly, "Because it's not your fault."

Blinking rapidly, Yuuri turned to will away the strong burning sensation in the back of his eyes. From compassion to shock, and now: deep, searing dread. Viktor was inspiring a rollercoaster of emotions and Yuuri wanted off this crazy ride.

What did Viktor know about his past anyway? What did anyone know? The only two people involved in this "accident" were he and Yamashita, and one of them was dead and physically broken in ways that he never knew was humanly possible.

"Yuuri, look at me."

He shook his head, squeezing his eyes shut in an effort to block the images filtering through his mental walls.

"Yuuri."

Long fingers slid under his chin and gently, forcibly, twisted Yuuri back –

Viktor's lips were full, warm, and so very, very soft.

For what felt like eternity, Yuuri's mind went blank, filled with nothing but white noise, and the burn of Viktor's mouth against his.

That is, until the Russian pulled back to smile beatifically at him. "Better, moya zvezdochka?"

The noise shifted to confusion.

This was not how Yuuri envisioned his first kiss – his first, real kiss. Sure, he had one when he was in kindergarten, but it was Yuuko, and it was just a sweet, platonic peck on the cheek for Valentine's Day. Any other day, he might have combusted at the mere thought of his idol kissing him – for real, on the lips – but today was not that day.

Not when said idol was using the kiss like he was nothing but some – some –

A surge of indignation broke through his confusion like a battering ram, releasing a hot stream of tears.

"I am not one of your fangirls," Yuuri hissed wetly.

If he weren't so angry, he might have relished Viktor's look of complete befuddlement.

"That wasn't my intention," said Viktor, sweeping his bangs back in what appeared to be a nervous gesture. (There were just so many hidden aspects of the Russian, Yuuri realized beneath the simmering feelings of hurt.) "I just thought – "

"You just thought a kiss would wipe out the memories of Yamashita's death? Of seeing his brains dash across the rocks? His body shattering into pieces?" Viktor opened his mouth but Yuuri plunged ahead, the tears falling faster, harder. "Everyone blamed me for his death and they're right. He wouldn't be dead today if I was just a little faster, if I had thought to use my wand like a proper wizard, if I had – i-if I had – !" He swiped at his cheeks, words lost in a heavy sob.

"Yuuri, you did all you could – "

"No I didn't – "

"There's nothing more you could've done – "

"How would you know that?" Yuuri snapped. "We'll never know for sure, and even without the constant nightmares of Yamashita begging me to save him, that one thought alone is enough to haunt me for the rest of my life!"

A beat.

Then, exhaling, Viktor ran a hand through his bangs again. "I'm sorry, I… I don't know what to do or say in this sort of situations. I'm familiar with anger but any emotion beyond that…" His lips pursed together in a troubled expression. "Yuuri, tell me what you'd like me to do."

Viktor's right; he wasn't perfect.

No, the Russian Seeker, beloved by all, was a monumental idiot.

Yuuri swallowed back a hiccup and glared at a blurry vision of Viktor through his tears. "I don't need pretty words or a celebrity's kiss," he sniveled, snort dripping ungracefully out his nose, "All I want is for you to stay by my side."

For a moment, the blurry vision didn't move. Then, slowly, tentatively, it loomed closer. "Would you also like a hug?"

Mutely, Yuuri nodded.

As Viktor drew him into an embrace, Yuuri closed his eyes and cried: a release from the anguish he had buried deep inside for the past year, suppressed through dance and sheer will.


Yuuri was working on his essay on the properties and uses of the Moonstone when a shadow fell over his parchment. He raised his head to see a petite Ravenclaw boy with a heavy textbook in his arms.

"Hello," the boy tried meekly, "You're Yuuri, right? Phichit said you're jolly good with Charms."

Yuuri set down his quill, smiling. Despite being one of the top students in Gryffindor, it wasn't the first time his best friend had sent a student his way for academic assistance. "Did you need help with Charms homework?"

"Yes, thank you!" the boy exclaimed, before he glanced around the library, embarrassed by his raised voice. Then, he dropped the textbook on the table and took a seat next to Yuuri, legs swinging inches above the ground.

"So um," Yuuri closed the cap on his bottle of ink, "You're a friend of Phichit's?"

"Blimey, forgot to introduce myself, haven't I," the boy blushed. "I'm Guang Hong, a first year."

Yuuri chuckled. "Nice to meet you, Guang Hong. So what's the assignment?"

"Something to do with the Lumos spell…"

"Guang Hong, Guang Hong, Guang Hong!"

Several students made irritated shushing noises while a brunette in Hufflepuff robes rushed up to the small boy and shook him vigorously by the shoulders. "Did you read the Prophet? Did you see that article on Nikiforov?"

"No," Guang Hong whispered, eyes wide. "What did it say, Leo?"

"It was about – " Leo paused to flash an apologetic look. "Oh geez, I'm sorry, didn't mean to interrupt you two."

Yuuri schooled his expression into what he hoped to be a polite smile. "You're fine, go ahead."

"Hey, you sound American," Leo grinned.

"We study American English in Japan," Yuuri explained.

"Then the Japanese are doing it right," Leo joked, ignoring Guang Hong's indignant smack on his arm. "Well, it's a pleasure to meet a fellow 'Yank', as they say here," he added with a wink. "I'm Leo."

"Pleasure to meet you, Leo. I'm Yuuri."

"Hang on, what happened with Viktor," Guang Hong demanded, picking at Leo's sleeve.

"Something about his mother-"

Yuuri cleared his throat. "You know what," he said, facial muscles growing tight from the frozen smile across his face. "Why don't you catch up with Leo, Guang Hong, and I can help you with Charms later?"

"Oh," Leo and Guang Hong exchanged glances.

"You sure?" asked Leo, eyebrows furrowing.

"Quite sure." Yuuri swept his belongings into his satchel and nearly tripped in his haste to leave before he could hear another word about Viktor Nikiforov or anything related to Quidditch.


"M'sorry about your mother."

"I've come to terms with it."

"M'sorry I got your robes wet."

"It will dry out."

"M'sorry I yelled at you."

Viktor laughed softly. "Yuuri, how many times are you going to apologize?"

Yuuri buried his face into the thick fabric now soaked with his tears. "Until I feel a little more grounded?"

"Hmm," and he felt the vibrations of the bemused hum this time, reverberating comfortably against his skull, "Are you not sure?"

"You said that the first time we met," Yuuri hid the smile threatening to emerge.

"Did I? All I remember is being thoroughly enthralled by your beautiful dancing."

Yuuri lifted his head from Viktor's shoulder. "Why are you so nice to me?" he whispered.

"Because, moya lyubov, you gave me hope when I thought there was none." Lightly, the Seeker brushed hair out of Yuuri's eyes. "And now it is my turn."

Again, after a steep drop, the rollercoaster was coasting up once more, warm tendrils of happiness unraveling the tension in his shoulders, spreading slowly through his chest. Briefly, Yuuri wondered what this new nickname meant, but rather than ask, he rested a hand on Viktor's sharp jawline and surged upwards.

He wasn't sure what he was doing or why he did it. His inexperience was painfully obvious; his lips landed a little off-center, against the corner of Viktor's mouth, rough edges on smooth, unmarred skin. (Yuuri really wished he had brought a water bottle with him.) If Viktor cared, he showed no sign. Instead, a hand glided to the nape of his neck, pressing him closer, and Viktor's mouth, wet and insistent, slid over his, deepening the kiss.

Viktor breathed his name into the kiss, and a whimper escaped from Yuuri's throat before he could catch it, fingers dropping down to bunch the fabric round Viktor's shoulders. The Russian tasted of honey and peppermint, his favourite tea flavours. Why didn't he notice that the first time?

When they parted, Viktor was smirking, eyes at half-mast, lips dark and swollen. "So now is okay for a kiss?" he teased.

"I didn't do it to stop you from crying," Yuuri huffed, eyes flickering away to avoid staring at the other boy's mouth.

"Fair point," Viktor laughed quietly, before he brushed his lips against Yuuri's temple. "You never fail to surprise me, Yuuri Katsuki."

Struck by another bout of bashfulness, Yuuri shifted to the side for a position that didn't involve looking the handsome half-Veela in the eye.

They stayed like that for a while, Yuuri's head tucked in the crook of Viktor's shoulder and Viktor's hand on his waist. His head felt like it had been stuffed with cotton, but Yuuri felt incredibly refreshed. Come to think of it, he actually hadn't shed a single tear since the trial game – maybe this release was what he needed all along.

The nightmares might remain, but at least the pressure of living had lightened.

It was Viktor who broke the silence. "Yuuri."

"Hm?"

"No more secrets? I want to know you – all of you."

Yuuri's heart fluttered at the conviction in Viktor's voice. Viktor accepted him; Viktor Nikiforov was willing to accept all of him. Not even he was ready to accept all of him. "I want to know you, too," he murmured. "The real you."

"That's perfect," Viktor pressed a kiss on Yuuri's forehead, "Because I need you to find the real me."

Yuuri sighed contentedly. Whatever Viktor meant, it sounded lovely and he wasn't about to ruin the moment with more inane questions.

"How are you feeling?"

"Oh um," Yuuri paused, lifting his head from Viktor's shoulder. "Better, I think."

Viktor smiled. "Ready to face the world again?"

"If…" Yuuri hesitated, then, "If you'll stay close to me."

"Gladly."

When Yuuri felt the other boy rise to his feet, panic twisted at his insides and he grabbed at the thick fabric. "W-Wait, how did people take to the article, exactly? I haven't really paid attention to what everyone's been saying to me these days…"

Viktor crouched down to tug Yuuri's hand off his uniform and drop a kiss on it. "You are loved, Yuuri. By the people who matter."

"I guess Phichit and Seung-gil understand," Yuuri said, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth. "But Leo and Guang Hong and… and Yuri…?"

"Leo and Guang Hong adore you. Yura hates that you are ahead of him in Quidditch, but will be rather pleased to know that you care about his opinions."

"Oh," said Yuuri, eyes wide. "But, um, but what about – "

Viktor stood, pulling Yuuri up with him and effectively cutting off the smaller boy. "Come," Viktor said with a gentle smile, "Your friends are waiting for you."


"I would really prefer to rest before our match with the Tengus."

"Relax," Mila hooked her arm through his, "I've heard this is the show to watch in Japan. Plus, it showcases up and coming players, so we'd get first look at potential rivals!"

"I am relaxed," Viktor said, his smile not quite reaching his eyes. He pushed up his sunglasses and adjusted his cap into a more stylish tilt; disguised or not, it was still important to look good in front of the public. They may be standing among throngs of Japanese carrying assorted Tengu merchandise, but there could well be a Sirins fan hidden within the crowd.

"It'll also take your mind off things," Mila cut through his reverie quietly.

Viktor swallowed the emotions that threatened to swell up his throat. "I'm fine, Mila."

"Vitya…"

Whatever Mila said next was drowned out by the roar of the crowd when someone, likely the host of this show, fired off an announcement in rapid Japanese.

"What did he say," Viktor raised his voice over the din.

"Probably introducing the first act," Mila shouted back. After some digging into her bag, she tugged out a pamphlet and flipped it open. "Says here it's the, um, 'Tsuru no Mai', which means 'Dance of the Crane'."

The announcer added a couple more words, before bellowing something that caused excitement to thrum so vigorously throughout the stadium, the ripples hit Viktor like the heavy beats of a bass drum. He knew the feeling all too well: it arose every time he was in the air, shrieks of fans echoing around him.

Only an extraordinary performance would inspire such anticipation.

Then, following a fanfare of trumpets, a bolt of blue shot into the sky in a flurry of white feathers that showered over the spectators, stirring their fervour to greater heights. It was a boy, Viktor realized, probably no older than he was, dressed in tight robes that hugged his lithe figure, sleeves long and flowing with the breeze. Covered in a mix of blue, white and silver, the boy might have blended seamlessly into the clouds if not for his jet-black hair, artfully slicked back in a sleek look. He was hovering on a Nagareboshi – an older broomstick than the popular Yajirushi, but better known for its maneuverability.

"He's a student like you," Mila informed, nose buried in the pamphlet, "Trains with the Mahoutokoro Quidditch team as a Chaser and – "

Again, the crowd's screams surged over Mila's voice like a wave. The boy had taken a sudden plunge, diving downwards in a twisting spiral, before curving back up in a smooth arc and, without pause, entered multiple aerial spins that softly carved patterns into the clouds. Viktor was mesmerized; he could not stop watching – did not want to stop watching – his eyes tracking the boy's every movement even as he felt the edge of dizziness coming on. No one moved like that in the air, all agility and sharp angles; no one could unless –

" – says he's a ballet dancer in his muggle hometown – "

Viktor's inhaled sharply.

The boy was swinging down towards the people now, a hand stretched out as far as he could go, back curled at an impossible angle. As one, hands reached out to touch his as he flew past in a full sweep of the entire stadium.

Without thinking, Viktor raised his hand.

For a brief second – a long, brief second – blue eyes met brown.

Krasivaya, thought Viktor.

And then, the boy was spiraling back upwards, sleeves trailing behind him like a wisp of silvery smoke. He stopped in the center of the stadium, where he gave a deep bow, so deep that he sank past the handle of his broom.

There was a whistling sound, a loud bang of fireworks exploding, and, as suddenly as he appeared, the boy was gone.

"Hey!" Mila yelped.

Viktor grabbed at Mila's arm, yanking her close. "Who is he?"

"What," said Mila distractedly.

"The boy, the performer," Viktor demanded sharply, "What's his name?"

"I'd tell you except I just lost our pamphlet! Some idiot bumped into me – wait, Viktor – !"

Ignoring his teammate's cries, he pushed his way through the crowd, heart hammering in his ears. He had to know this boy's name, this boy who flew like a falcon and danced with all the grace and elegance of his Veela ancestors. Maybe if his mother met this boy, maybe then – only then – she could understand

But the stand was empty.

Blankly, Viktor stared at the slots where the pamphlets used to sit, adrenaline draining out of him like air from a pierced balloon. Gone, gone, all gone – just like his dancing crane in the clouds.

"E-Excuse me," said a tremulous voice.

Viktor turned: it was a young girl, surrounded by wide-eyed friends.

"Are you Viktor Nikiforov?" the girl ventured timidly.

Eyes closing, Viktor inhaled a deep breath.

It was still important to look good in front of the public.

"Why yes," he removed his sunglasses, white teeth flashing in a dazzling smile. "Would you like an autograph?"

As the group of girls squealed shrilly, Viktor ignored the familiar sting of sorrow prickling in his chest.

So close and yet so far...

My beautiful balerina.

Chapter Text

Viktor had been to many balls.

Russia's magical community was notorious for extravagant celebrations in grand, oversized castles. His countrymen were only too happy for the chance to throw on their finely pressed dress robes and shimmery gowns, symbols of their apparent wealth. As a celebrity of sorts, he had the privilege of escorting numerous young ladies of noble status: the daughters of local landlords, counts, barons, and once, the princess of a visiting monarch.

Contrary to the needling of his teammates, Viktor was never nervous about his regal escorts. He hadn't particularly enjoyed the dancing aspect of balls, yes. Nevertheless, social class made no difference in his interaction with them; fans were fans, and all of them shared the same expectations of Viktor Nikiforov being charming, attentive, and chivalrous.

And Viktor Nikiforov was never less than perfect for his fans.

This ball, however: this ball was different.

To celebrate a successful end of the exchange program, Hogwarts revived the Yule Ball, an old tradition of the Triwizard Tournament. All students were permitted to attend, with special invitations extended to participants of the program. So special, in fact, that each pair was also expected to open the ball with a dance, or so went the tradition.

Gazing at his reflection, Viktor tugged at the collar of his Durmstrang uniform, the material strangely constricting round his neck.

He was familiar with ballroom dances; really, it was the only form of dancing he knew, and one that he performed fairly well despite it all, judging by the fawning letters he continued to receive from previous escorts.

Yet, he still felt…

"Nervous?"

Viktor turned.

Clad in dress robes of rich charcoal grey, Seung-gil raised a questioning eyebrow. "You've been staring into that mirror for the past ten minutes."

"A little," the Seeker admitted with a light laugh. "I'm not quite grasping why Yuuri insisted on changing in separate rooms."

"He's an enigma," Seung-gil said with a shrug, "Or a prude."

"Perhaps both." Viktor returned his gaze to the mirror, lifting a hand to adjust the heavy cloak across his shoulder.

"Right, that's enough of that." Before Viktor could ask what he meant, the Korean boy had grabbed him by the arm and yanked him roughly out of the room. "We're waiting for Yuuri and Phichit near the hall entrance."

Without protest, Viktor followed Seung-gil down to the Great Hall where the Yule Ball was to be held. Already, students were milling about, chatting among themselves in small groups. Yura was there, standing tall in their uniform and deep in conversation with Otabek, dressed in an impeccable military uniform of forest green. In deep purple robes, JJ was also nearby with a girl in a pink gown – presumably his "crazy bitch girlfriend", as Yura so eloquently described. Georgi stood out as well, hovering protectively over his precious Anya, dressed in a gown of luscious red, a bold slit running up her leg.

"As usual, we're the first of our merry little band," Seung-gil sighed.

"It is fashionable to be late, as they say," Viktor remarked.

"And who's 'they'? Chulanont?"

"I heard that!"

They looked up the large staircase to see Phichit descending the steps with a big grin. The boy looked like a personification of the sun in his bright orange top, maroon pants, and white, knee-high socks. A wide belt on his waist held down the golden sash slung across his chest as he bounded down in his black dress shoes with the exuberance of a gleeful puppy.

"Well?" Phichit said, twirling on the spot after hopping off the last step. "Thoughts, comments, compliments?"

"Like a broken traffic light without the green," Seung-gil said dryly.

Phichit rolled his eyes. "You just insulted my national costume, you prat."

"I think it's lovely," Viktor said politely.

It was then that Phichit's face split into a smirk that would've rivaled a Cheshire cat and the Russian's earlier nervousness returned tenfold. "Oh, I wouldn't use that word just yet, Viktor." Spinning, the smaller boy cupped his hands round his mouth. "Yuu~ri," he hollered, causing a few heads to turn in his direction, "Come on down!"

"I'm not going down after that," hissed a voice at the top of the stairs.

"Presenting Yuuri Katsuki, our resident Charms extraordinaire, dancer, and – "

"Phichit."

"Well come down and I'll stop!"

"You're making it worse!"

The two boys continued bickering vigorously at a distance as more students gathered to watch the spectacle occurring right before the hall entrance.

JJ tossed his head back with a loud guffaw. "Isn't that thoughtful, Isabella? A pre-dinner show!"

"Idiocy," Yura snorted, while Otabek observed the pair with an impassive expression.

"Should I fetch him?" Viktor asked, bemused.

"Do it before I commit murder in front of all these witnesses," Seung-gil muttered.

Chuckling, Viktor took to the steps, two at a time, cloak swaying behind him. The little comedic interlude – ("And now Viktor has to go up to get you!" Phichit yelled before he was punched in the arm, "Shut up, Chulanont,") – had done wonders for his anxiety, shifting the uncomfortable emotion into something closer to excitement. It had been weeks since Yuuri rejoined the world, but trust his insecure little star to have so much trouble showing up before a large crowd in a – in – in….

Viktor's mind froze.

Silver, white, and blue glimmered on tight robes that clung almost hungrily to the slender figure, sleeve tails long and trailing, hanging inches from the floor. Up close, Viktor realized that the white came from the sash secured round a narrow waist, the silver from sequins dotting a thick diagonal line across the lean chest and down the left arm in an exquisite asymmetrical pattern. Even the feet, those small, dainty dancer's feet, looked delicate in fabric shoes adorned with small, flowery designs.

"Hi," Yuuri said shyly, eyes half-lidded.

Never in his wildest fantasies did Viktor ever imagine that Yuuri would don his performance outfit again, much less for an opening dance in front of the entire school. And then there was the matter of how well the costume fit him.

Phichit was wrong; this wasn't lovely.

It was heavenly.

Pride and desire swirled in a fusion of emotions, and Viktor's fingers twitched, itching for a feel of the blue fabric stretched taut across dancer's muscles. "That's…"

"Yeah." Yuuri flushed, plucking at his sleeves. "I-Is it okay? I thought, you know, if I wanted a new start, I needed to, um, accept the past, and this is… sort of… well, part of the past, so uh – "

As a younger boy babbled on, Viktor felt a fierce rush of affection. Reaching out, he tugged Yuuri close to press dozens of light kisses on Yuuri's temple, nose, cheeks, before sweeping down to claim his lips and swallow the rest of his words. Though his little star used to stiffen so very tensely in their initial kisses, now, he melted into them with breathy little noises, hands sliding to his shoulders.

"I take it you approve?" Yuuri murmured after they parted.

"Very much," Viktor breathed, tracing a thumb over Yuuri's bottom lip.

Yuuri's lips curved, and when he raised his chin, Viktor eagerly closed the distance –

"God, can't you just get a damn room?" Yura groaned.

Instantly, Yuuri jerked away, stammering apologies. Viktor squashed a twinge of irritation that rose with the interruption; his dear cousin had the worst timing. "What is it, Yura," he said in a tone sharper than intended.

"Yule Ball's starting," Otabek supplied quietly by Yura's side. "The Headmistress wants program participants to form a line at the door. Everyone's present but the two of you."

"Great, thanks for letting us know," Yuuri said, cheeks stained red.

Viktor followed compliantly when the Japanese boy grabbed his hand to pull him hastily down the steps; Yuuri was clearly still flustered about public displays of affection. It was kind of cute, honestly.

"I still don't see why I can't dance with you," Yura grumbled behind them in the line.

"I'm not a participant," Otabek said, sounding gentler than he ever had.

"Not to worry, Yuri baby, you'll see your boyfriend inside," JJ said cheerfully as the stoic Hufflepuff strode away.

"B-B-Boyfriend!?" Yura shrieked.

Sweeping in, the Headmistress of Hogwarts appeared at the doors, patting self-consciously at her bunned hair. "Oh good, Katsuki, you're here with Nikiforov, I thought I might have to – Plisetsky! Stop kicking your partner and take your place, please – thank you. Are we all here? Splendid. Now then." The Headmistress straightened and smiled broadly at them. "As representatives of your schools, I expect all of you to be at your best behaviour – as well as to open the ball with a lovely waltz. When the doors open, you will walk down the aisle, pair by pair, to the center of the Great Hall. The music will not begin until all of you have gathered. Are we clear?"

When heads nodded, the Headmistress waved her wand in a circle.

As the heavy doors started to creak open, Viktor felt Yuuri squeeze his hand. "This is really happening," Yuuri said in disbelief, "We're really going to dance before all of Hogwarts."

Viktor returned the squeeze. "Together, with each other."

The tender look Yuuri gave him warmed Viktor's heart to its very core.

"Ladies and gentlemen," the Headmistress's voice boomed through the hall, amplified by magic, "May I present our esteemed guests from Durmstrang Institute and the Beauxbaton Academy of Magic, joined by their Hogwarts partners."

And so it began.


"Stop touching her!"

"How am I supposed to dance the waltz without touching her?"

"Mickey, quit bothering us!"

"But Sara, he has his filthy hands all over you!"

"It's a bloody waltz!"

"They don't stop, do they," Yuuri whispered.

Viktor smiled as they spun slowly past the arguing pairs, the Crispino boy's partner looking nearly as homicidal as Seung-gil did before the ball. "We should applaud their self-control; there hasn't been any explosions yet."

"True," Yuuri laughed, and Viktor couldn't think of a sound he loved more.

They spun some more, round and round the center of the Great Hall, Viktor's feet moving mechanically to the beat of Georgi's deep voice echoing in his mind: up-side-together, up-side-together; 1-2-3, 1-2-3.

(" – made me a laughingstock, in that ridiculous getup, on that ridiculous broom – ")

"How's my dancing?" Viktor asked abruptly.

Yuuri blinked, long eyelashes fluttering over wide, captivating eyes. "It's good," he said. "Why?"

"Slow dances are all I can manage."

"I don't have much experience with ballroom dancing, but it's pretty hard to mess up a slow waltz," Yuuri assured. "I think you're leading well."

("A disappointment, is what you are, a useless wretch – ")

Viktor pulled the smaller boy flush against his chest. "High compliment from a professional dancer," he purred close to Yuuri's ear.

"Viktor," Yuuri gasped softly, "Let's not draw attention to ourselves."

"Why not," Viktor dug his fingers into Yuuri's hip, "Everyone's mesmerized by you as it is."

"Or I just look way too ostentatious in these robes," Yuuri let out a wavering laugh.

Ever so apprehensive – when will his little star learn that he shone like a beacon on the dance floor, drawing admiring gazes everywhere they turned?

"You are beautiful, moya zvezdochka, inside and out."

"Thanks," Yuuri said, his responding smile twisting Viktor's stomach in a way that he didn't dislike, not at all. "I'm that much closer to believing every time I hear you say it."

Viktor's eyes softened. "Yuuri…"

The music changed then, signaling the end of the opening dance. A different band took to the stage; the vocalist crooning a modern, snappy jazz tune to the brass sounds behind her.

Participants started to leave for other students to take the floor – Yura vanished so quickly it looked like he had Disapparated – and Viktor and Yuuri were just parting to follow suit, when Viktor felt a tap on his shoulder.

"Hey there," said Leo brightly, dressed in a sharp, maroon suit, "Mind if I steal your partner for a dance? Mine's too busy with his shift as school photographer."

When Yuuri nodded his assent, beaming, Viktor passed the boy's hand over to Leo's. "Not for too long," Viktor said with a wink.

The Seeker left the dance floor with quick strides, breathing a sigh of relief. As confident as he was with slow dances, there was something about the act of dancing that drained him. Spotting Yura by the buffet table, he headed towards his cousin, who arched an eyebrow as he approached.

"Did you just give the nerd to another man?" asked Yura bluntly.

"It's just for one dance," Viktor shrugged. "Are there drinks?"

"Yeah, some kind of pumpkin thing," Yura pointed to the large bowl behind him. As Viktor ladled the drink into a cup, his cousin nodded at Yuuri on the dance floor. "So, uh, how is he?"

"Fine," Viktor sipped at the drink. "As fine as he can be."

Yura frowned. "That bad?"

"He's not whole, Yura." Viktor gazed down into his cup, observing the ripples as he swirled the drink in small circles. "And neither am I."

His cousin shot him a penetrating look. "Voices again?"

"Just the one."

It looked as though the younger boy had something to add but thought the better of it. "Better not say anything like 'two halves make a whole' or some bullshit like that," he snorted instead.

Viktor's lips twitched. "Is Otabek not your other half?"

Yura's reaction was instantaneous. "Wha- wha – wha – " he spluttered incoherently, a dark blush spreading rapidly across his cheeks.

"You spend an inordinate amount of time together," Viktor pointed out. "And you smile every time you mention him, which is all the time, really."

For a brief moment, Yura appeared to be on the verge of bursting like a very red, horrified balloon. And then, slowly, gradually, the small boy deflated, air releasing in a long, weary exhale.

"I don't know if he likes me that way," he muttered in a voice so faint that Viktor strained to hear.

For all his angry bravado, Yuratchka was still very much a child.

Viktor hid his smile in his cup, knowing that his peevish cousin would have mistaken it for mockery. "Now might be a good time to ask," he suggested.

"Yeah," Yura sighed again. At the edge of the dance floor, the boy in question was beckoning vigorously for him, even as he remained expressionless, back straight in proper military poise. Yura's face softened into a smile. "Yeah, maybe."

Gently, Viktor nudged Yura forward, until Yura made his own faltering steps towards his friend – or perhaps, more than a friend. From what little interaction he had with Otabek, Viktor found the boy to be a grounding influence for Yura, and his lonely little cousin deserved happiness.

Taking another sip of his drink, Viktor sighted Yuuri within the throng of dancing students, waving at him when their eyes met. The Japanese boy lit up instantly, so full of joy and radiance, like Viktor was an oasis that gave him life.

In that moment, Viktor felt incandescently happy.

They might be broken, the both of them, filled with scars from troubled pasts and yearning for love – real love. Somehow, somewhere, some force had brought them together, and here they were, entwined with their flaws and imperfections: two halves making a whole.

Ah, if Yura could hear him now.

"Viktor," Yuuri called, "Come have one last dance with me?"

("Viten'ka, you insolent child, come here before I – ")

Setting his cup down, Viktor swept to the dance floor and spun Yuuri by the waist in the air, cloak swinging behind him. Around them, students cheered, Leo whooped, and Guang Hong darted about, snapping photographs on his camera.

"Viktor!" Yuuri laughed breathlessly, "What was that for?"

"Ty dopolnyayesh' menya," said Viktor, low and tender.

"W-What," said Yuuri, flushing.

"It's nothing," Viktor murmured, running his hands down Yuuri's sides, committing the feel of that lithe body to memory. "Now, how are we to dance to this music? I'm not familiar with this one."

For a moment, Yuuri didn't respond, studying Viktor with slanted eyes. Then, gently, he reached up to take Viktor's face in his hands. "Whatever you said, I think I feel the same way," he said, and Viktor's heart swelled with adoration.

("Kiss him!" Phichit yelled from a distance away, before Seung-gil crammed a fried dessert in his mouth.)

So this was what it felt like to be loved.


The ball was a success.

They had taken photographs, so many photographs – some with a traditional wizarding camera, others with an odd muggle device that Phichit called a 'cellphone on a selfie stick'. ("That's a lot of big words for some rectangular thing on a stick," Yura remarked, Otabek smirking beside him.) There were a few with Phichit's prefect friend – Christopher, or something to that effect – who managed to find some way to touch Yuuri in every shot. ("Bugger off before Viktor sticks a fork in your smug face," Phichit muttered, shoving the Slytherin boy away.) Even the hyper little boy called Kenjiro joined in later, turning positively catatonic with bliss when Yuuri laid an arm round his shoulders.

Viktor collected several copies of various sizes: physical memories of his time at Hogwarts, and more importantly, his relationship with a certain Japanese dancer.

Parting was extremely difficult the next day.

The group that gathered at the Durmstrang ship was sizably large; fans, understandably, predictably, wanted a last glimpse of their world-renowned Quidditch Seeker. Girls and boys expressed great distress, wailing and sobbing at the thought of losing him.

Viktor always thought it peculiar as he smiled, posed, and waved: after all, they never had him in the first place.

The one who did, on the other hand, looked fiercely determined to keep his tears in.

"I'll write," Yuuri said, bottom lip trembling. He lifted his chin as if the very act would quell the shaking. "I'll write every week."

"As will I," Viktor murmured, resting a hand on Yuuri's shoulder, mindful of the other boy's embarrassment with public affection. "I will write every day."

"He does have O.W.L exams, you know," Seung-gil pointed out plainly.

"Oh do shut up," said Phichit mildly, elbowing the Korean to the side. He stuck out a hand, which Viktor accepted for a firm shake. "I expect we'll see each other again real soon, on account of Yuuri being my best mate and all."

"We will," Viktor promised.

"It's been a real pleasure," Leo said with his affable smile, arms wrapped around a weepy Guang Hong in a consoling hold. "Sorry about this one, he's like a leaky faucet with goodbyes. Should've seen him when I went home last Christmas."

Viktor smiled fondly as the small boy blubbered his farewell through his tears. "I've enjoyed getting to know you both."

"Vitya," Yura hollered from the top of the gangplank, "It's time!"

Otabek was striding down and away with a melancholic expression, his cousin's red, puffy eyes noticeable even from a distance away. No doubt Yura wanted nothing more than to leave now, rather than drag the pain out longer than necessary.

"Vitya?" Yuuri asked curiously.

"Oh," Viktor said, heart stuttering in quiet shock. Hearing his name from the mouth of his little star shot a bolt of electricity straight down his spine. "That is my informal name."

"You have different names?" said Phichit with interest.

"We have several. A formal name, an informal name, and other, ah, I believe the word is 'diminutive' forms."

"Um, what's a 'diminutive' form?" Guang Hong asked with a hiccup.

"I suppose you could call it a term for more… intimate relationships." Viktor hesitated, chest constricting. "My mother used to call me 'Viten'ka'."

A beat.

And then, before his friends, before the frighteningly ardent fans, Yuuri, his timid, easily abashed, fearless little star, tugged him close for a kiss.

It was a simple kiss that ended as quickly as it began, a soft brush of lips against his, but it was the balm he desperately needed.

"Viten'ka," whispered Yuuri, and again, it was as if lightning had struck him deep to the core, sharp and hot and oh, so very right.

"Say it again," said Viktor, drawing Yuuri in by the waist.

"Viten'ka," Yuuri obliged, brown eyes shining behind his spectacles.

"Again," Viktor sighed, pressing his lips against Yuuri's neck, reveling in the boy's shiver.

"Viten'ka…"

"Oh for the love of – like it's not enough I've had to witness Georgi sucking face with his woman!" Yura bellowed above them. "Get up here or we're leaving without you!"

"And with that crude little interruption," Viktor chuckled, dropping a gentle kiss on the crown of Yuuri's head. Was that screams erupting from the watching crowd? "Dasvidaniya, moya zvezdochka. I will miss you greatly."

Yuuri pushed his glasses up and swiped furiously at his eyes. "I'll miss you too."

With a final kiss, Viktor pulled away from the smaller boy, nodding at the rest of the group – for some reason, every single one of them was sporting devilish grins on their faces, Phichit's the largest of all – and, with slow, heavy steps, rolled his suitcase up the gangplank.

As he took his place by Yura, his cousin cupped his hands round his mouth. "Hey, nerd!"

Below, Yuuri looked up, surprised.

"Next time we meet, I'll be kicking your ass hard in the air," Yura declared loudly.

And then Yuuri – his Yuuri – smiled with an unrecognizable fire, burning ever so brightly under the hot mid-day sun.

"We'll see about that."


"Dearest Viten'ka,

Congratulations on another solid victory in the European playoffs! You were magnificent, as always. I'd go on, but I'd much rather do that in person.

Things haven't changed much at Hogwarts.

Seung-gil's still upset that Phichit was voted valedictorian despite earning the top marks in his N.E.W.T exams. Doesn't help that Phichit was also made Head Boy. Their rivalry will probably continue beyond graduation. Speaking of Phichit, the secret club he started with Leo and Guang Hong has grown exponentially since its founding, though why people are so passionate about our relationship, I'll never understand. Even Seung-gil is a member. They're using my dance room now, or what used to my dance room, plastering photographs of us all over the walls. Phichit said it has something to do with our love being 'pure and true', but as they say over here, I think he's 'off his rocker'.

The Ravenclaw Quidditch captain has asked me to return as their coach of sorts. He's eager and very persistent; he even managed to get Professor Flitwick to approve this unusual request. They seem to think the team wouldn't have won the Quidditch Cup this year without my guidance. Apparently Ravenclaw hasn't won the Cup in over two centuries! The team has been so patient about my reluctance to fly that I think it's worth a consideration, if only to repay their kindness. Kenjiro's just made it on the team, too – a Beater, I think – so I'll probably be badgered into saying yes eventually.

And maybe, just maybe, it might take me back onto a broom someday.

My family is excited to meet you, by the way. Mom, Mari, and Yuuko think you're a stud, and Minako-sensei also seems a little too keen, so fair warning: the women in my life are slightly insane. They've hung up my Mahoutokoro robes, hoping to see the silver turn into gold. I think they'll be waiting for a long time.

Also, don't let my dad coerce you into drinking with him. Just don't.

I don't expect a response, since Vicchan would probably deliver this to you a week before your arrival. I hope you've received the calamus powder my mom grounded out for you. It doubles as an herb, so it smells a lot nicer than the nasty Floo powder they use in Britain. I've written several times to the Japanese Ministry of Magic to confirm a proper connection between our fireplaces; you won't believe the bureaucracy in my country. Make sure to enunciate: "Yuu-to-pia A-ka-tsu-ki".

I can't wait to see you again.

Love,

Your little star

P. S. Please thank Yura for the surprise gift. His grandfather does make the best pirozhkis."

Drawing his trenchcoat around himself, Viktor pulled his suitcase closer, nervous excitement thrumming through his veins. Delicately, he tossed a pinch of powder into the fire, watching as the flames flared once, before simmering into a pleasant shade of green.

"Yuutopia Akatsuki," he said, stepping into the fireplace.

Blue eyes met brown; two halves – slender arms flew round his neck, his own winding round the small waist – of a whole.