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The Best of Friends

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It's past midnight, the emerald water of the lake lapping against the thick castle walls a lulling sound that sets Jongin's eyes flickering close and shut every now and then, eyelids heavy with sleep, his tired feet aching from his trek up the West Wing to the Owlery this afternoon. He looks down to the book on his lap, the words swimming in front of him, passages of rune descriptions too long and complicated for his tired brain to comprehend. He wants to head to bed for the night but the warmth under his legs is making him stay.

Around him, a few seventh years are deep into their revisions, feet long of parchment strewn across tables, quills furiously writing essays and notes for exams months away. They are preparing for their N.E.W.T.s, no doubt, the expectations set on them very high. The Magical Monitoring of Young Witches and Wizards for the Greater Good by the Ministry (otherwise known as M.M.Y.W.W.G.G. or 'mywg' for simplicity and ease of pronunciation) has been in place for two generations, and each year they manage to add a new clause that makes his father smile tightly as he signs.

This year, it has been a ridiculous restriction on the number of fountains allowed on one's estate, how this will help curb young witches and wizard's desire for genocide is beyond Jongin. His mother has been devastated, as this means she would have to take down one of their five. Jongin has owled her a package of her favourite sweets from Hogsmeade along with a thick letter detailing his excitement to spend the holidays with her but according to a letter from his father this morning, she is still inconsolable.

Jongin could see that a few of the seventh years are as sleepy as he is, head nodding off as the scratches of their quills still and stutter, a few murmurs of a revised version of Rennervate thrown in sparsely for aid, the lamps overhead casting green shadows on their faces. It is evident that they are determined to get a straight Outstanding on all of their courses, lest their family's assets be frozen while the Ministry pretends to look for Dark Activities distracting them from their studies. Jongin sighs. His and his friends' families have learned to cooperate with a smile. The new rules and laws may be disadvantageous to them but remaining in the good graces of the wizarding community is much more important. Reputation is the highest form of currency, his father has told him. Jongin agrees.

Beside him on the couch is the only seventh year in the commons not buried in schoolwork. Kyungsoo is reading a book Jongin has sent him over the summer, filled with moving pictures and very few texts, the kind of book the older enjoys.

"How many times do you intend to read that, hyung?" Jongin asks as he moves to lay his head on the back of the couch, looking at the gentle slope of Kyungsoo's nose, a small smile set in place on the older's handsome face as he looks through the pages of his book, parchment and quill long forgotten beside him. Jongin can't keep the smile from blossoming on his own lips at the sight, the glow in his chest as warm as the one under his legs.

"Hm?" Kyungsoo hums as he looks up at Jongin, his glasses drooping down the bridge of his nose, black frames dangerously close to the tip. Jongin leans up and reaches over, pushing it back up, thumb wiping the ink smudge under Kyungsoo's right eye before he pulls away. Kyungsoo just hums again in reply as he looks back down to his book once more, smile still in place. Jongin just shakes his head in amusement as he stretches across the couch, rubbing his toes together, rearranging his legs propped up comfortably on Kyungsoo's lap, the warmth worth the late night stay.

The book has been a present from Monte Isola, where Jongin's family has spent their summer to get away from prying eyes, the Ministry’s reach not as far as they would like. The book is filled with pictures Jongin took of the place, travelling by broom to reach the farthest edge, the highest point, all to capture the beauty of the place and share it with Kyungsoo. Jongin has written little descriptions beneath each photo with the help of local wizards he has met. There were pages of photos he took from Mercato Luna, a wizarding night market in the valley where he ate good food, making sure to capture each bite on film, knowing Kyungsoo enjoys seeing delicacies from different places. There was some of the single-nave church of San Antonio, frescoes on the wall moving and alive with activity. But most of the pages are filled with simple photos of Jongin flying over the lake and around it, silly anecdotes filling the spaces in-between.

Jongin has enjoyed his vacation, despite missing Kyungsoo terribly after the older's refusal to come with them, the reason that he will be busy the whole summer the same excuse each year. Jongin has wanted to show Kyungsoo where his mother grew up, The Rosewood Cottage as beautiful as he remembers it when he was five, the house spacious and filled with light, the windows tall, some spanning whole walls, looking out to Lago Iseo, the lake reminiscent of Hogwarts's own. His mother has always loved bright and colourful things, a perfect match to his father who grew up in Alderley Edge, the beautiful gardens and plains of greens surrounding The Brickfield House of the Kims a childhood playground for Quidditch matches with friends.

"I've sent the letter this afternoon, hyung," Jongin says, a slight slur in his words, eyes lidded and vision a little blurry, but he doesn't miss the way Kyungsoo stills at his words, shoulders tensing, eyes stopping their movement across the page in front of him. "You can't back down anymore."

"Why would I?" Kyungsoo laughs quietly, the nervousness apparent in his voice, flipping another page as he acts the same as he always does, indifferent. But Jongin knows better. Six years of friendship has taught Jongin to read between the lines, has taught Jongin that Kyungsoo's fears are the same as his own. Acceptance.

Kyungsoo suddenly makes a move to stand up, sliding Jongin's legs down his lap as he does, Jongin's feet hitting the carpeted floor with a soft muted thud.

"Hyung," Jongin calls, some of the sleep shaking off him as he stumbles upright on the couch, following with his eyes as the older turns and disappears around the corner, quills and parchment forgotten, his book of Jongin's photos the only thing he has taken with him. Jongin frowns. Kyungsoo dislikes showing weakness, as everyone in the common room does. Jongin, too, is guilty of favouring facades than brittle truths. It is so unlike Kyungsoo to be this visibly affected but Jongin won't back down. He wants this. They need this. It is bound to happen sooner or later, and Jongin is sure this is the right time.

Jongin stands up, gathering Kyungsoo's parchment, quill and ink well with him as he heads the same way as Kyungsoo did, opposite of where his own friends are sleeping. Jongin enters the seventh year dormitory quietly, empty save for a small lump on the farthest bed, the gentle slopping of lake water against the tall windows casting a green hue around the warm walls.

"Hyung?" the lump remains still. Jongin moves forward with a sigh, footsteps sure of their path. He stops by the trunk on the foot of the bed, reaches inside his robe for his wand—a sturdy 10" beech wood with a unicorn hair core—and taps it on the lock, whispering the combination like he has done so many times before. Kyungsoo would often forget things in Jongin's dorm after revising together on the younger's bed, and so Jongin has taken to returning the assortment of parchment and various knick knacks to the older's trunk each time it happens.

The lid opens with a pop, Jongin reaching in to put away Kyungsoo's things, careful not to mess the organized trunk, very unlike his own.

Jongin stands up when he is finished, the lump on Kyungsoo's bed still unmoving. The younger shakes his head and like all the other times, walks over, toes his shoes off and sheds his robe to the floor. When Jongin sits on the bed, the lump finally moves, scooting closer to the wall so Jongin can slip under the covers.

Only when Jongin is settled, feet up and tangled around the older's under the warmth of the green silk, does Kyungsoo look over the blanket, eyes peeking out, adorably wide with a tinge of sleep. Jongin's chest fills with warmth at the sight.

"Hey," he smiles sleepily, Kyungsoo's cheeks lift with a smile.

"Hey."

"We're going, alright?" Jongin watches for the usual tension to spread across Kyungsoo's features, but this time it doesn't. Instead, he reaches over and holds Jongin's hand, the touch familiar, a sign of vulnerability he seldom shows even in private. It is a big deal, Jongin knows. Honesty always is.

"We are. We're going. I'm coming with you this time. I'm just-" Kyungsoo stops himself mid-sentence. Jongin turns his hand over and wraps his own fingers around the older's, squeezing in reassurance.

"My father already loves you, you know."

"Your mother-"

"-is afraid you will take me away from her, yes, but she will love you just as well, I am sure."

"Take you away-" Kyungsoo scoffs. "I don't- I would never-"

Jongin laughs softly, cheek pressed against the pillow, the silk a pleasant cool and smooth against his skin, fatigue washing over him as Kyungsoo's eyes narrow but is betrayed by the small smile playing on his lips.

"Alright, so Mother may be a little jealous that you're all I ever talk about since I was 11, but she's a woman full of love to give. She'll warm up to you in no time. Everyone else does, eventually."

They both know that's a lie and they share a look that acknowledges this fact. Not everyone, no. Some people are idiots, Jongin decides. But they have both chosen not to concern themselves with such trivial matters. The world is bigger than Hogwarts. Though it may be just as unpleasant outside of it, there are more to life than schoolyard bullies and house prejudice.

"Hey, let's sleep, hyung. You have Potions together with the idiots first thing tomorrow, right?"

Kyungsoo nods with a laugh.

"They'll seethe in hatred as you once again ace a potion they can barely finish. Tomorrow will be great."

"I don't understand how they're still taking N.E.W.T. level Potions when they're so rubbish at it. Last week, they blew up Professor Avery's supplies cupboard. He was livid, of course, as he should be. He has hard to acquire ingredients in the upper shelves, all blasted to smithereens in a second."

"You know how, hyung," Jongin answers seriously. Kyungsoo’s face softens.

"And there's nothing your father can do."

"None yet. They are working on it though, the families are. They want to pass a legislation soon. Father told me all about it last summer. Mother is worried, though. She doesn't want it to look like a rebellion."

"It isn't a rebellion, Jongin. It's restoring equality."

"Of course it isn't. But that's what it might look like. Hyung, we don't want another war. It's just so hard sometimes, being scrutinized for the littlest of things, being treated like you will be the next You-Know-Who at any turn," Jongin is too sleepy for this conversation, but it is so seldom that Kyungsoo is willing to talk about this, the older's secret keeping him from being fully honest.

Jongin knows Kyungsoo is always careful with what he says around him, when the talk steers to Jongin's pureblood family and the injustices they have suffered after the war, but he has always been there, supportive and caring in Jongin's times of need, a source of comfort and warmth in the cold castle walls. Jongin's father has been happy to know his son is not lacking in companions, but his mother has been less than happy to find out her little boy has grown attached too fast to someone else. Jongin is just glad to have someone who understands and accepts him for everything that he is.

Kyungsoo scoots over closer to Jongin on the bed, opening his arms for the younger. Jongin smiles as he moves and fits himself under Kyungsoo's chin, breath fanning across the older's neck. Jongin wraps his arms around Kyungsoo's torso, the softness of Kyungsoo's body and the sturdiness of his arms around Jongin a nice contrast that sets the younger's heart racing.

"Your father will find a way. The Ministry can't keep on treating you like lab rats. They can't keep acting like you need to be put in cages to protect us from you," Kyungsoo says softly, voice soothing, lulling Jongin closer to his much desired sleep. But he catches it. The clear distinction in Kyungsoo's words. The separation of 'you' from 'us'. Jongin's heart clenches, moist gathering at the corners of his eyes as he hugs Kyungsoo tighter to him. It must be because he is sleepy as well, that the older didn't notice the slip of his tongue, but it is there, true and plain as day.

It hurts being in the gray area of right and wrong, where principles and tradition meet with logic and responsibility. But they have come a long way now. Jongin wishes Kyungsoo will always understand.

"Thank you, hyung," Jongin murmurs against the soft fabric of Kyungsoo's shirt, "for being understanding."

"Of course, Jongin. You know I always have your back."

The smile that spills across Jongin’s lips is one of contentment, and for a second he allows himself to feel greed, to take what he has wanted for so long. But he stops himself. No, not now. Not yet. Not until all their cards have been laid down on the table. So instead he whispers, "Best friends?"

Kyungsoo's heartbeat quickens against Jongin's ears, loud and matching with his own.

"Best friends."

Jongin finally closes his eyes with a smile, allowing sleep to claim him.





The feeling of satisfaction that comes from brewing the perfect potion is incomparable, Kyungsoo thinks, as he ladles the pale pink liquid into a vial with a satisfied grin, Professor Avery's praises echoing in his ears.

Potions has always been the easiest for Kyungsoo. It is an exact science, no wand waving, no complicated spells. Brewing a cauldron full of luck, of love, of agony and relief, all of these can be accomplished with determination and concentration, following instructions as they are. It is much like cooking, something that Kyungsoo enjoys and excels in. It's an art, one that requires patience and understanding of your ingredients, to know their properties and how they react with each other, to balance their magic altogether.

Treat your ingredients with respect, his mother once told him when he was but a small child, perched on a stool to reach the kitchen counter, getting ready to cook his first stew. They are the exact same words Professor Avery, the potions master, have told him when he was a first year, leaning over his workbench in wonder, getting ready to brew his first potion. That day, Kyungsoo fell in love with potions making the same way he fell in love with cooking.

He corks the vial shut, careful that the harmful liquid doesn't spill. He sets it on the holder, clearing his worktable of his mess. He puts the Sopophorous beans back in their jar, capping it tightly, picking his leftover Valerian roots and setting them aside to return to the cabinet after class. It's when he was putting away his parchment and book that he hears the whispers. Kyungsoo stills for a moment, knowing they're talking about him with Professor Avery out of the room.

They're idiots, he hears Jongin say in his head. Kyungsoo agrees, so he chooses to ignore them, gritting his teeth instead. They're not worth it.

"Ah, it's a shame Kyungsoo is already done with his potion. Must have been a fun night with Avery," he hears the familiar jeering voice. Kyungsoo's ears turns red. "I'd love a one-on-one tutorial with the Professor as well, you know? But what can I do? I'm a mere Gryffindor."

They're not worth it. They're idiots. Kyungsoo continues to put away his things in his bookbag, carefully, calmly. His hands itch to reach for his wand in his robe, but Jongin's voice keeps repeating in his head. Not worth it.

"Ah Kyungsoo, what would poor Jongin say? He might die of jealousy to find out that you slee-"

The flash and bang was not loud, but it made the vials on the shelves rattle and the worktables wobble on their feet. All the students stop and stare, the lone Gryffindor in the class pinned to the wall, his robes flattened and spread behind him as if tacked like paper, Kyungsoo's wand pointed at him, the inflexible 11" of elm wood with dragon heartstring core steady despite Kyungsoo's shaking knees.

"Aw, did that get you mad, Kyungsoo? Jong-"

"Wands down in my classroom, please," Professor Avery's voice cuts in, the potions master re-entering the room with a vial in his hand, moss green robe swinging behind him as he strides by. When he reaches the front of the room, he turns to look at Kyungsoo pointedly. "Preferably now, Mr. Do."

Kyungsoo lowers his wand to his side with reluctance, leaning on his table to stop his knees from shaking.

"Thank you, Mr. Do. Now, who can tell me what potion this is?" the Professor asks the class, raising the vial for everyone to see. Kim Junmyeon raises his hand high up in the air in an instant, Kyungsoo suppressing the desire to roll his eyes at the eager Ravenclaw, trying to listen to him rattle off about Amortentia, but it's difficult when the Gryffindor, released from his bind, is now glaring at him across the room. Kyungsoo heaves out a sigh and opts to stare at his cauldron instead, tuning out the room. Idiots. He shouldn't have taken the bait.

"-well. Next week, you will begin brewing your own. 5 points to Ravenclaw. Class dismissed."

Finally. Kyungsoo moves to take his leftover supplies and put them away in the cupboard but before he can, the Gryffindor's hand shoots up in the air.

"Professor?"

Everyone in the room looks at the Gryffindor, who smiles at the attention. This time, Kyungsoo doesn't stop his eyes from rolling in irritation.

"I said class dismissed, Mr. Park. Or are you deaf?"

"I have a question."

The potions master lets out a long suffering sigh, his tired face noticeable even from afar. Kyungsoo feels pity for the man. He shouldn't have to deal with students like Park Chanyeol, who disrupts class with his incessant questions, blows up supply cabinets with his incompetence, who gets in a N.E.W.T level Potions class with his Acceptable because of Ministry rules while Slytherins need to maintain straight Outstandings on their O.W.L.s. It's unfair.

"What is it?" the potions master finally asks.

"Why didn't you dock points from Slytherin?"

"What ever for?"

"You saw Kyungsoo, Professor! He bound me to the wall. I didn't even hear him mutter the spell! He was using Dark Magic, I am sure!"

"Mr. Park, I didn't see Mr. Do bind you to the wall. I did, however, see him with his wand pointed in your direction with you already bound to the wall. Who's to say you didn't bind yourself to the wall and he was being kind enough to unbind you from it?"

Kyungsoo snickers to himself, as a few students looking at him with dislike. The Gryffindor wasn't deterred.

"He bound me to the wall! This is blatant favoritism!"

"And what problem do you have with favoritism, Mr. Park? I favor students who excel in Potions, yes. If they bound incompetent students to the wall, I am sure they have their reasons."

"That's- that's so- so unfair!" the Gryffindor's huge ears are an angry red now, his face scrunched up. Kyungsoo feels a small amount of satisfaction but tries not to show it in his face.

"I'll tell you what is unfair, Mr. Park. Unfair is you taking N.E.W.T. level classes with unacceptable grades. It is not my duty to lower my standards in teaching to accommodate your lack of aptitude for the subject. If the Ministry is so keen in promoting house unity among the children, then act like you care instead of terrorizing Slytherins based on the principle that they're in a house you dislike. You are not a child, Mr. Park. Stop acting like one," Professor Avery's voice booms in the room, filling it like it does when he is angry, which is often with Park Chanyeol in his class.

Kyungsoo knows the potions master has been trying his best to keep his irritation under check. But the stress of making sure his students keep up with the course material and the lack of respect he gets for being related to a Death Eater has been taking a toll with him lately, especially with the constant Ministry visits he has been getting "to check up on your activities". Jongin's father gets them too, despite working in the Ministry. It's hard, living outside the walls of Azkaban but getting treated like a ticking bomb. Like any minute now, they would explode and turn Dark like their fathers did. Kyungsoo may be a muggleborn, his father an office worker in downtown Manchester and his mother a housewife, but he knows about the war, knows the mistakes and the sins, the crimes against witches and wizards like him, and yet Kyungsoo doesn't feel anger when he sees a Slytherin, like history books would like him to feel. Those Dark times were in the past. What Kyungsoo sees now is how the Ministry treats the new generation with contempt, as if doing so would keep them in line. In Kyungsoo's opinion, it could only serve to breed hatred for authority, and can instigate another war. Good thing the purebloods now know better. Jongin's father is a good man. Change will come, hopefully, for the better.

"If you have no more questions, Mr. Park?" Professor Avery asks but the Gryffindor just stands there glaring at his table. Kyungsoo knows this won't be the end of it, sadly. Experience has taught him to expect the worst. "Very well then. Class dismissed."

Sure enough, when Kyungsoo steps out of the room and up the stairs to the hall, he sees Park Chanyeol and his friend from Hufflepuff, the ever so nice Oh Sehun, waiting for him. Kyungsoo shakes his head. Do they ever get tired?

"Ah, our favorite Slytherin friend!" Park's voice cuts through the crowd as he moves towards Kyungsoo, Oh behind him.

Friend, Kyungsoo smiles bitterly. There was a time, back when he was a first year, when he sat on the train with Park Chanyeol, a little too loud and talkative for his liking. But the taller kid had been nice to him. Regaling him with tales of his childhood, about playing with friends on brooms and visiting wizarding villages up north. Kyungsoo had kept silent the whole train ride. He was not one to volunteer information about himself so freely. Always careful of what he says, Kyungsoo chose to nod and smile instead. The taller boy seemed content speaking by himself anyway. And so Kyungsoo let him, thinking he has found his first friend in this foreign and magical place. But Kyungsoo had been a bit naive, because the moment he was sorted into Slytherin, he saw Park Chanyeol's face glare at him from across the hall, whispering furiously with the fellow kids on the Gryffindor table. Kyungsoo's heart had sunk, but the following days has taught him to keep his mouth shut. Slytherins had a reputation, and the other houses dislike them by principle.

Kyungsoo often wondered if they would treat him differently if they knew he was muggleborn. But that only caused him to want to keep it from them, finding it absurd and illogical, not to mention impractical, to put a vulnerability out there in the open, to admit a weakness that so many can use against him. They judge him based on his house, who's to say they won't judge him for other things? Kyungsoo doesn't want their pity. He doesn't want their help. And so he chose to keep silent and let people assume, rather than correct them. He looks ahead where his fellow seventh year Slytherins are huddled to the side, waiting for their next class, a few of them looking at him and the two idiots trailing after him with a knowing look on their face. Yes, Kyungsoo decides, it's better this way.

Kyungsoo tries to walk past them, but they are taller than he is, limbs longer. They catch up with him easily, flanking either of his side as they walk along the corridor.

"Oi Kyungsoo, wait up! We're just walking you to your class. Avery might get mad if his favorite shag-" Park stops as Oh snickers, "- I mean, student gets injured on his way to Charms," Park quips beside him. Kyungsoo stops walking and turns to face the Gryffindor, seeing the satisfied glint in the tallers eyes. It almost makes Kyungsoo want to open his mouth but he opts to continue walking. Verbal sparring with Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs are as enjoyable as talking to a wall. At least the Ravenclaws knows how to argue.

"Are you ignoring us, Soo?" Oh pouts at his side, swinging his lanky arm around Kyungsoo's shoulders. Kyungsoo keeps a straight face as he makes his way towards his fellow Slytherins up ahead, some of them still looking, but most talking among themselves.

Oh Sehun was a kid he met on the platform on his 3rd year. He was a nice kid, much like Chanyeol was when they met two years prior. But the moment Jongin came bounding into their compartment, settling himself next to Kyungsoo and greeting him with a hug, wearing his Slytherin robes, Oh Sehun shoot up from his seat, grabbed his trunk and hauled it out with his pet rat in tow. Jongin had looked at Kyungsoo with sorry eyes, as if it was his fault parents taught their kids to be be prejudiced since they were little. Since then, Oh has set fire to at least ten of Kyungsoo’s homeworks out of spite and habit. Kyungsoo had made sure to tell Jongin it wasn’t his fault, indeed. Some people are just born arseholes.

Kyungsoo shakes Oh's arm off his shoulders, continuing to walk, but this doesn't stop the two idiots from following him all the way to his housemates, standing by the Charm's classroom. He stops when he reaches Daley, his partner for the class, who eyes the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff behind him with disinterest.

"I thought you already put away the trash from Potions, Kyungsoo?" Daley says, earning a few looks from the other Slytherins who smile in amusement.

"I did, Frank. Some must have stuck to the bottom of my shoe on my way out," Kyungsoo sighs, earning him a few chuckles in return.

"Oh so now you speak when you're with your fellow snakes," Park taunts with his massive grin. "Cowards."

Kyungsoo fake gasps, as the others roll their eyes, some going back to their own conversations. They've witnessed it more times than they can count, Park and Oh making a fool of themselves.

"I know Jongin always tells you it's not worth it, but please do go on, Kyungsoo. The entertainment is always worth it," Daley smirks at the side, leaning against the wall. This makes Park's face redden in anger, or embarrassment, it's hard to tell. Oh puts a hand on his arm but this doesn't stop the Gryffindor from opening his mouth.

"Well, I- I don't see you lot denying you are cowards."

"Rather than cowardice, I call it practicality. Something Gryffindors lack, obviously."

"Is that the excuse you tell yourself to justify sitting out the war?" Park spits out, the red on his face a clear indication of anger now. Kyungsoo stills for a second and glances at his housemates, all looking at the tall Gryffindor now, eyes narrowing in barely concealed hatred. "What? You have no answer to that, huh? At least Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs and even Ravenclaws died heroes while all you lot did was hide in the dungeons!"

There's a rustle behind him, someone standing up. It's Beatrice, the youngest Malfoy, grey eyes flashing in the dim light, "I seldom pay attention to you two because Jongin is right, you are not worth the trouble. I don't like fighting others' battles. I trust Kyungsoo is fully capable of that on his own," she stops to nod at his direction, Kyungsoo nods back, a lump forming in his throat. This is why he can't say anything. Will his fellow Slytherins turn on him too if they find out? Will they shun him as well? Kyungsoo pushes the fear down. Now is not the time for such thoughts.

"So what now? I struck a nerve?" Park laughs loudly, shoulders shaking, Oh smirks beside him.

"Oh no, not that. I just find it highly amusing that you seem to think so highly of yourselves simply based on your houses. Gryffindors, full of brave heroes. Hufflepuffs, the most loyal of friends. And yet what are you two doing now? Acting like cowards and being spiteful just because we're our father's daughters and sons. Didn't the war teach your grandparents how prejudice is a dangerous thing? Because it sure taught mine."

This shut Park up for a good five seconds, his eyes comically wide, mouth gaping like a fish, until Oh elbows him. He flounders for a moment, looking around him. All the Slytherins are staring at him in varying degrees of contempt. Kyungsoo knows the Gryffindor loves attention, but he would sure dislike this kind. It's hard to fight the smirk that crosses Kyungsoo's face, so he doesn't.

"Well, that doesn’t change the fact that you’re all a bunch of nancies!"

"Slytherins, we're loyal and brave to save our own. We can lie to the Dark Lord for our family, we can endure years of ridicule out of loyalty, we can put ourselves in danger if it's for the ones we love. We may not believe in the "greater good", but we do what's best for ourselves. And that's how we survive. We are ambitious because we have goals. And what do you have to show for yourself, Park? An Acceptable in Potions?" this makes the Slytherins laugh, the crowd in the hallway thinning as students enter their classes. "And you have the gall to make fun of Kyungsoo for excelling in something you are rubbish at? And out of us all, it's Kyungsoo you focus your dislike for Slytherin on. Funny, that," Beatrice finishes with a sneer. The laughter in Kyungsoo's throat dies out. Wait, does this mean they-

"What are you students still doing out here?" Professor Clearwater suddenly appears at the door of the Charms classroom, arms crossed across her chest. She sees the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff behind them, Park still fuming red, Oh with narrowed eyes. "And what are you two doing here? You are not in my class."

This snaps Park from his staring. Teeth clenched and face tight, he turns around and heads towards the stairs in a hurry, Oh running after him.

"How rude! A point from Gryffindor and Hufflepuff each!" the professor calls after them, but they have already disappeared down the hall. She turns at the huddled mass of Slytherin seventh years gathered by her door and instructs as she steps inside, her midnight blue robe flowing behind her, "All of you, inside, now."

When Kyungsoo sits down, he leans over Daley to whisper to Malfoy, but before he can say anything, she beats him to it, "Don't thank me. I didn't do it for you."

Kyungsoo smiles. Of course she didn't. Kyungsoo knows, but that doesn't mean he isn't grateful.

"I wasn't going to. I was wondering if you have a spare quill, perhaps?"

"Oh," Beatrice says, reaching for one inside her bookbag, handing it over when she found one. "Here."

Kyungsoo takes the quill and leans over again, "Beatrice?"

"What?"

"Thanks."

"I told you-"

"For the quill."

"Oh."

Daley chuckles at this, "Is Jongin okay with this? Should I report this to him? I don't think your boyfriend would be happy to hear you're flirting with girls over quills."

"What? I'm not flirting- and Jongin isn't my-"

"Not your boyfriend? Oh please. That wasn't what I heard the other night," Daley proceeds to moan silently in, what Kyungsoo supposes, is a rendition of Kyungsoo's own. His ears color with heat.

"That was- Jongin wasn't there!"

"Oh, so you were wanking to him then? Nice-"

"Piss off, you git!"

"Next time, don't forget the silencing charm, yeah? It was rather disturbing, though amusing," Daley chuckles. "I do hope you used a cleaning charm right after?"

"I swear-"

"Ehe-hem!" a loud cough from the front of the class alerts Kyungsoo and Daley to the fact that the entire room is looking at them. Malfoy included, a smirk on her face. "Would you two gentlemen please share what is so amusing about Conditional Spells so we can all laugh along with you?"

"Er-"

"Well-"

"I didn't think so. Five points from Slytherin for disrupting my class," Professor Clearwater says with finality as she turns to the board and begins writing incantations with her wand, the words' flowing script blooming across the surface in rapid speed. Kyungsoo reaches for the quill he borrowed and begins copying notes, Daley snickering silently beside him.

True, he did wank to Jongin last week. How could he not after spending the afternoon flying with him? It was a challenge to keep sane while Jongin does acrobatic twirls and dips in his Firebolt Ultimate Supreme, the handsome broomstick not as attractive as its rider. Jongin refuses to be a part of the Slytherin Quidditch team but Kyungsoo wishes we would relent and join, because despite his tall frame and broad shoulders, his arms and legs long, Jongin moves like fluid liquid, fast and gushing, a mere blur at times, the green of his robes like twinkling stars in broad daylight.

Kyungsoo thinks Jongin would make a great Seeker, as he has told the younger many times, but Jongin refuses, saying being good at the sport doesn't mean the position should be his. He has other priorities, and Quidditch isn't one of them. He says he prefers to fly for his own personal enjoyment, rather than anything else, not for points, not to chase after a ball, not to show off. But what Kyungsoo doesn't tell him is that it hasn't been for his own sole enjoyment for some time now. Kyungsoo would often invite Jongin to the stands, pretending the open air lets him study better, because he knows this means Jongin will bring out his Firebolt, the only rare occasion he does so, and spend the entire afternoon flying while Kyungsoo pretends to study, watching him from the stands.

Kyungsoo wishes he can tell Jongin the real reason he wants him to join the team, but he thinks it shallow to admit out loud, not to mention embarrassing, that Jongin riding a broom does things to him. There isn’t anything Kyungsoo wouldn’t give to regularly watch the younger play in real matches, high up in the air in his Quidditch uniform, the tight leather accentuating his lithe but toned body, screams following his every move, winning Slytherin the Quidditch Cup.

Jongin is beautiful in motion, and Kyungsoo wants the whole of Hogwarts to appreciate him.

But as it is, he can't tell him. So Kyungsoo keeps silent, smile in place while he watches his best friend fly about.

That day last week, Kyungsoo finally agreed to come home with Jongin for the holidays. It has been a long time coming, an invitation that has been extended since he met Jongin on the train six years ago. And for five years he has refused, saying he would like to spend his holidays with his own family. Jongin would pull his kicked-puppy look each time, and Kyungsoo had to endure them all and remain strong in his refusal. He wanted to be careful, not trusting himself to not let anything slip if he is in the company of a prestigious pureblood family. It would surely show, how unknowledgeable he is of wizarding customs and traditions. In Hogwarts, it's easy to blend in, easy to choose what to say and what to avoid. Kyungsoo has devoted the first year of his stay in studying and learning as much as he can to not embarrass himself. He has learned to lie by omission.

But this year, his last year, he wants to come clean. Well, to Jongin, at least, the only person he trusts in the world, the only person he would trust with his own life. Because Kyungsoo knows, somehow, that despite everything, Jongin will understand. Like all the other times he has.




Jongin hides half his face behind the scarf around his neck, the winter chill a bit stronger outside than it is inside Hogwarts. He has walked this path from the castle to Hogsmeade every winter, the way familiar as it has always been, but this is the first time he walked through it with a warm body pressed against the whole length of his right arm, a hand holding the side of his waist, close and guiding as they made their way through the snow and winter wind. Jongin thinks he could get used to this.

As they round a corner, he feels the tip of a wand press against his shoulder and a soft Recalfacio murmured to his side, feeling the immediate effects of the charm warm him up. He turns to look at Kyungsoo, bundled in his own thick winter robes, black wool around his shoulders, dwarfing him, the green Slytherin scarf around his neck, black rimmed glasses perched atop his reddening nose. The warmth that spreads across Jongin's chest at the sight is familiar to him now, but it still never fails to put a smile on his face.

"Better?" Kyungsoo asks him a little worriedly, that soft look that melts Jongin every time visible in his eyes.

"Better," Jongin answers, as they continue their walk in companionable silence, the kind that they enjoy the most, when neither of them needs to fill the space with mindless chatter.

Nearing the village, most of the students around them break off to the left towards the station to ride the train back to London, but some, like them, continue on to enter Hogsmeade, the first of its shops coming into view. Like always, even in broad daylight, the strings of enchanted candles are lit above the trees, hanging like twinkling Christmas lights, only this time, as it is nearing the holidays, someone has enchanted them in various colours, alternating in red, blue and green, sometimes yellow, others even a pretty shade of magenta pink. They cast a vibrant light to the roofs of the village, covered in pure white snow. Jongin looks to Kyungsoo at his side, who is staring in wonder at the changing lights.

"Never seen them before?"

"They only light them like this during the holidays?"

"Very near Christmas, yes."

"They're very pretty."

"I'd take a picture for you but my camera's in my trunk," Jongin says sadly, remembering their trunks shipped earlier on the train. He’d really loved to take a picture of Kyungsoo with the holiday candles, so he can develop two copies and keep the other one. It would make a great addition to his other photobook, one he has been making for himself, a collection of pictures of nothing but Kyungsoo over the years, to help Jongin cope with the older graduating this year. He won't have Kyungsoo with him in Hogwarts on his seventh year, he needs as much photos of the older as he can take, to tide him over next year.

Of course, Kyungsoo is not aware such a photobook exists. Not that Jongin plans to tell him about it.

"'S'okay," Kyungsoo says, still looking at the lights with a smile on his face, "We need to hurry anyway."

"Why hurry?" Jongin asks, boots catching on a cobbled stone, Kyungsoo's hold on his arm tightening.

"Careful now," the older says gently, steadying Jongin towards him as they continue their walk down the main street, passing by shops filled with afternoon shoppers. "Well, we need to hurry. You took too long packing your things. I don't want to keep your mother waiting. I want to make a good first impression."

Jongin can't help the silly smile that appears on his face at Kyungsoo's words, heart feeling light at how much the older cares and values Jongin's parents' opinion. Which is unnecessary, but very understandable. His mother will love Kyungsoo, Jongin is sure.

"Hey, hyung. No need for that. She'd prefer if we were a little bit late anyways. She probably isn't even done preparing dinner."

"Your mother cooks?"

"Well, she tries to," Jongin laughs, remembering all the disastrous dinners he's had to eat as a child. "They don't have house-elves in Italy like we do here, you know?"

Kyungsoo just nods, so Jongin leaves it at that, knowing when the older doesn't want to continue a conversation. It's one of the many reasons why they work so well together. They know when to talk and when to let the silence take over them, both finding simple comfort in each other's presence.

When they arrive at the Three Broomsticks, the crowd isn't thick as it usually is. They are immediately spotted by Madame Rosmerta, still as pretty and energetic as always as she bounds to them from the counter. Though as she nears, it is clear that she is not as young as she was, with lines around her eyes, and a little bit of volume around her middle. Still, the years has been kind to her, as they have been to her business.

"Jongin! And Kyungsoo!" she greets them by the door with a huge welcoming smile. "Welcome, welcome! Upstairs now, my children, upstairs now. I've been waiting, thought you might be late, extra preparations and all, what with Kyungsoo finally agreeing to go this year."

Jongin looks sheepishly at Kyungsoo, who's looking at him with sharp narrowed eyes. Madame Rosmerta notices this with a chuckle.

"How many people know you've been inviting me over every year, exactly? All the seventh years were teasing me since a week ago, you know?"

"Now, now, no need to get angry at the boy, Kyungsoo. He's been quite a handful since his first year, this one. Always whining about his "favorite person in the whole world" refusing to spend the holidays with him."

Jongin reddens at the reminder, "Madame Rosmerta! That was one time! And I was 11!"

"Well of course dear, you were. But you were 15 last year when you cried to my shoulder about it, correct?"

"I-"

"Well, now, enough about that, upstairs, upstairs, the both of you," Madame Rosmerta swats at them and leads them to the stairs, starting up the steps herself.

Jongin walks up behind her to the second floor sitting room, quietly, head bowed, the red on his face gone but the tips of his ears still pink. He feels Kyungsoo nudge him at his side. Jongin refuses to look.

"Hey," Kyungsoo nudges him again. Jongin is all shades of embarrassed. He did cry, but it wasn't outright bawling, as Madame Rosmerta has implied. He was just feeling emotional, is all. Kyungsoo has knitted for him a green and silver scarf to wear over the holidays, putting it around his neck as they bid each other goodbye on the steps of the castle. The scarf has smelled of Kyungsoo, and Jongin didn't part with it for the remainder of winter. That very scarf is around his neck now, still as comfortable and warm as ever. "I'm sorry."

Jongin turns looks at him finally, bewildered, "Huh? Why are you apologizing?"

"I should have gone with you earlier," Kyungsoo smiles at him, that soft look in his eyes again. "It's just that- I'm a little- you know?"

Kyungsoo sighs, the frustration evident in his face as he struggles with choosing his words. Kyungsoo was afraid to go, not yet ready to tell Jongin the truth. Jongin stops at the top of the stairs, reaching out to hold Kyungsoo's hand as the older stops beside him.

"I know," Jongin says, voice firm, hoping he can help ease Kyungsoo's worries away. "I know, hyung."

"You- you know?" Kyungsoo's eyes widen a little, the blackness of his irises more pronounced as ever, the most beautiful eyes Jongin has ever seen.

"I know," Jongin repeats, smiling, squeezing the hand wrapped in his gently. "You'll have plenty of time to tell me later."

"Jongin-"

Just then, Madame Rosmerta appears from a room down the hall, a pouch in hand. Kyungsoo bites his lips and Jongin coughs awkwardly, dropping Kyungsoo's hand. "Oh dear, did I interrupt something?"

"What-"

"No-"

She chuckles at them, walking towards the fireplace and pointing her wand at the logs, saying Incendio, where a roaring fire lights, "I'll take that as a yes. But now now, the Lady of the house must not be kept waiting. Come along now, the both of you,” she turns to Jongin and asks, “I suppose you've told him what to say?"

"Yes, Jongin's told me already," Kyungsoo says, a little pink in the ears, hand coming up to rub at the back of his neck. Jongin can only smile sheepishly at Madame Rosmerta's knowing smile, moving nearer as she opens the pouch of Floo powder in her hands.

Jongin has held Kyungsoo's hand plenty of times before, skinship coming naturally to them when they're together. Sometimes, they forget that others are looking but the Slytherins have gotten used to them, sprawled on the couch in the common room, with Jongin's legs atop Kyungsoo's lap, or curled around each other on Kyungsoo's bed for the night. Kyungsoo likes touching Jongin, little pats, slides down the arm, a hand on the small of his back, around his waist. Kyungsoo is a private person, words don't come naturally to him, so Jongin supposes his touches are his way of telling him what his lips cannot say. I care for you, I'm here for you.

Jongin smiles at the thought, looking at Kyungsoo, who's also looking at him with a mirrored look of softness in his eyes, always present only for him to see.

"I wouldn't mind if you snog first before your travel but I'm needed downstairs," Madame Rosmerta teases, throwing a pinch of the powder into the fire, which bursts a bright emerald green, engulfing the whole of the fireplace with its flames.

"Er- yes- right," Jongin breaks eye contact and stumbles forward, as Kyungsoo shuffles beside him, both of them stepping into the warm heat, like a summer breeze.

They nod to Madame Rosmerta in goodbye and shout together, "The Brickfield House!"

Jongin feels the familiar tug, and then the much stronger pull as the second floor landing and Madame Rosmerta disappears from view, the hot ash swirling around them. Jongin feels Kyungsoo's hand coming up to hold onto his arm, but Jongin moves to wrap his arm around Kyungsoo instead, pulling the older against his chest.

The next instant, there is a roar and a flash of green as they stumble forward together, arms around each other, out the fireplace and into the drawing room of Jongin's home.

Kyungsoo almost falls, knees wobbly, but Jongin tightens his hold around Kyungsoo, whispering, "Easy now, I've got you."





Kyungsoo has never seen anything quite like The Brickfield House.

The drawing room in which the fireplace is located is spacious, the ceiling above them two floors high, a brightly lit grand crystal chandelier hanging down the middle with two smaller brass ones on either side. The room is a pleasant shade of off-white and gold, with hints of old rose in the curtains, fluttering in the invisible winter wind through the open window, where a vast garden of neatly trimmed green hedges form around a flowing fountain despite the cold.

"Mother likes open spaces," Jongin explains beside him. "She maintains the gardens too, complex heating spells all around the house, even out to the gates. She likes the fountains working even in winter. Oh, hyung! Remember, don't-"

"-mention the fountains, yes, alright," Kyungsoo nods, still staring at the room in wonder.

A wall is covered in paintings of various sizes, all depicting various scenes of relaxation and balls in, what Kyungsoo assumes, are different areas of the house, the moving images of witches and wizards providing Kyungsoo a glimpse of the past, Jongin's ancestors an image of wealth and power as they held garden parties in some frames, and large Quidditch matches in others. The other three walls are nothing but glass windows, looking out to the gardens, green and well maintained. Each window is framed by drapes, ceiling to floor in length, long and elaborate in design, with trimmed gold on top and silver all the way down, rose threads in its pattern. "Your curtains are very beautiful."

"Huh?" Jongin looks at him with a raised eyebrow.

"I mean, your, uh-" Kyungsoo walks to the window, a little sheepish at admiring something so mundane as drapes. "-curtains, they're very beautiful."

"Oh," Jongin walks to him, touching the curtain. "These? They've been here since forever. I suppose I should ask Kobby, he'd know a thing or two about them."

Just then, they hear a faint pop! behind them, a tiny gravely voice coming towards them, muted footsteps of bare feet on the thick red carpet.

"Young master, young master is home!"

Kyungsoo turns to see a house-elf, short, almost to his waist, with huge bulging eyes and a pointed nose, ears wide and flopping as he runs to where they are by the window, his dirty tea towel tied around his waist by a thin black rope. He looks happy to see Jongin, stopping a feet away from them and bowing deeply.

"Kobby! I was just mentioning you to Kyungsoo here," Jongin smiles widely, looking at the tiny elf and gesturing to Kyungsoo.

"Young master is nice, mention Kobby. Kobby thank master, very thanks," Kobby says with gratitude, the happiness evident in his voice. Kyungsoo smiles, knowing this means the house-elf is treated well by Jongin's family. The Kims are kind people, Kyungsoo has always thought, but it's nice to be reminded now that he's finally here to spend a week with them. The elf turns to Kyungsoo, an expectant look on his face as he bows again, "Kobby make young masters tea?"

"Would you like tea, hyung?" Jongin asks him, still smiling.

"Ah, no, no tea. I'd rather wait for dinner, thanks," Kyungsoo says politely. He wants to save room for Jongin's mother's cooking. But just then, Kobby looks up at them with moist in his eyes, distraught suddenly on his face.

"No tea, young master? No tea?" Kobby's voice a pitch higher, tight, a hiccup coming up right after, almost ready to cry.

"No, Kobby, but thanks anyway," Kyungsoo tries to say as kindly as he could, not knowing what is happening. He looks to Jongin for help, just as the house-elf lets out a loud wail.

"No tea! No! How is Kobby serve young master's true love! No tea!"

"WHAT? KOBBY! I NEVER SAID- I DIDN'T SAY-" Jongin looks at Kyungsoo in panic, his eyes almost as wide as Kobby's (maybe, maybe not but they looked like so to Kyungsoo), as Kobby continues to wail, loud and suffering, the elf crouching to his knees and thumping the floor with his little fists. "Wait, hyung, I never said that- that was-"

Kyungsoo looks on, bewildered, heart thundering loudly in his chest, not sure how to interpret the scene before him. True love, did the house-elf really say?

"Wait, hyung, let me explain- I never said-"

"Young master is say-" Kobby lets out between hiccups, "young master is bring true love home for Christmas-" hiccup, "Kobby is prepare tea downstairs, for young master's true love."

It takes a moment, but Kyungsoo eventually finds enough willpower to let his brain function back to normal, looking at the two before him—Jongin staring down to his feet, hands fidgeting with the silver drape, evidently nervous, and Kobby hiccuping on the floor on his knees, the wailing having had stopped, thankfully.

"So," Kyungsoo starts, looking between Jongin and Kobby, deciding who to deal with first, "How about that tea, Kobby? I think I'd like a cup now."

Kobby stops and stills, looking up at Kyungsoo with his huge bulging eyes, tear streaks running down the side of his face, "Really? Is young masters like tea now?"

"Yes, Kobby, I'd like some tea now," Kyungsoo says with a smile, bending a little, "And wipe your tears, please."

"Yes! Kobby is wipe now," Kobby reaches for the hem of his tea towel, dabbing his cheeks with the cloth daintily, in what Kyungsoo assumes is a copy of Jongin's mother, probably. "Kobby is go make tea now."

Kobby bows deeply before them again, face clear of tears and happy once more. He steps back and then disappears with another pop!

Kyungsoo straightens once the house-elf is gone, turning to look at Jongin who is still staring at his feet, hand still worrying the silver curtain, picking at nonexistent loose threads. Kyungsoo smiles and reaches for his hand, making Jongin freeze and his cheeks redden.

"Hyung- I really never said-"

"You're a shite liar, Jongin, you know that," Kyungsoo keeps the teasing out of his voice, heart still imitating drum beats in his chest. Kyungsoo knows how Jongin feels, how he hates having his feelings thrown out in the open, exposed, vulnerable. The two of them are so similar, so alike, Kyungsoo feels so much love in his heart. "Hey, I won't mention it again if you won't."

Kyungsoo squeezes Jongin's hand for good measure, seeing Jongin visibly relax little by little in front of him, shoulders dropping, tension in his arms disappearing, the coldness in his hand subsiding.

"Really?"

"Really."

"So, a tour?" Kyungsoo asks, wanting to change the atmosphere. When Jongin gets shy or flustered, Kyungsoo always takes charge of the conversation, leading the younger until he relaxes again. Jongin may be mature beyond his years, but he's still young, just like Kyungsoo is. They're both young, but they can be strong for each other when needed be, as they have been all these years. "You said you wanted to show me the library."

Jongin smiles and tugs him by the hand out to the hall.





Jongin is nervous.

He has shown Kyungsoo around The Brickfield House, around his home, the place where he grew up, every room a very special part of him. He showed Kyungsoo the stairs he bounded down from when he was 3, the spot he blasted a wall through when he got a hold of his father's wand when he was 6 and the fireplace on the 3rd floor landing where he lost a tooth after a failed Floo attempt when he was 10. He showed Kyungsoo the library, a vast room of nothing but books covering every wall, the Kim's family tree detailed in a full wall length parchment of portraits, names and titles written in silver and green ink. All of Jongin's ancestors have been in Slytherin.

(This is where Kobby has served them their tea, a delightful cup of Bulgarian High Blend, grown and made by house-elves in the southwest. Kyungsoo loved the taste and Jongin assured him he'd pack him a bag to keep at Hogwarts. Like he promised, Kyungsoo didn't mention the 'incident' in the drawing room. Jongin is both relieved and disappointed.)

There are so many memories for Jongin in this old house, so many things that has stories attached to them, little spots and places, from the Broomstick Hall located at the topmost floor, a vast room of nothing but broomsticks owned by the Kims over the years, to the sitting room overlooking the foot maze in the garden, hedges growing and regrowing, altering pathways every few minutes or so.

Kyungsoo has laughed at all of his stories, like he always does, amused at Jongin's mishaps and adventures when he was a young lad, running around the house and it's vast gardens and grounds. That is one of the uncountable things that Jongin likes about Kyungsoo, that no matter how silly or childish his jokes and tales are, the older never judges, always indulging him and joining him in his laughter and enjoyment.

They have toured most of the house, tomorrow, they will tour the grounds.

But there is still one place they are yet to visit—the kitchen.

Jongin is very very nervous.

"Okay, hyung, so remember what I told you-"

"Don't mention the fountains, yes, I remember. You've reminded me a hundred times today, Jongin, I doubt I will ever forget," Kyungsoo says with a chuckle, patting Jongin's arm.

"Hey, I just thought, maybe, you know-" Jongin mumbles, hand gesticulating wildly between them, "Just to make sure, of course. I mean… what if-"

Kyungsoo's reaches for Jongin's hands, holding both in his own to steady him. Jongin breathes.

"Jongin, I'm the one who's supposed to be nervous, not you."

"I just want you to like my mother," Jongin pouts, looking at their hands between them, Kyungsoo's strong and calloused hands from handling potions ingredients wrapped around his soft ones, more used to wand waving and incantations, Jongin being more skilled in Charms and Runes.

"What? I want your mother to like me," Kyungsoo says, disbelief in his tone.

"Well, I want the both of you to like each other," Jongin declares, a bit petulantly, a childish whine in his voice. "I just want two of the most important people in my life to like each other."

Jongin raises his eyes to look at Kyungsoo, who's looking at him with that look again, the one that melts Jongin's fears and insecurities, that casts a warm glow around his heart, pleasant heat spreading around his chest, a look so soft and tender that makes Jongin weak in the knees.

"Jongin, you know how important you are to me too, right" Kyungsoo asks, sincerity in his voice, in his eyes, on his face. Jongin would believe everything Kyungsoo says, today is no different.

"I know, hyung," Jongin says with a smile, the heat in his chest enveloping his entire body from head to toe. He turns his hands in Kyungsoo's hold, wrapping his fingers around the older's instead, squeezing the warm hands dwarfed in his own. "I know."

Jongin watches a flurry of emotions sweep past Kyungsoo's eyes, changes in varying degrees of so many feelings that might as well be a mirror of Jongin's own. But at the very end, there is a look that hardens in them—determination. Kyungsoo has come to a decision.

Jongin knows what is about to come.

"Jongin, listen. I-"

"I can hear the both of you from down here, you know?"

Kyungsoo's eyes widen into saucers, almost the size of Kobby's, Jongin's own probably not too far off behind. They spring a step back from each other, hands dropping to their sides, cheeks flush, hearts thumping loud.

Second time in one afternoon. How lovely, Jongin sighs, just lovely.

"Come now, down here, Jongin."

Kyungsoo's already making his way down the stones steps to the kitchen, Jongin following silently behind. When they step down on the landing, the floor evening out, they are met with a brightly lit underground kitchen, ceiling high, the room white and spacious, windows charmed to look out into the gardens above ground.

It is just as Jongin remembers it, the walls lined with pots and pans, the counter brimming with fresh ingredients and produce, the stoves always with a fire roaring, heating cauldrons of soup or some other, Jongin never figured out. Jongin has always admired the way his mother always manages to make the kitchen look so homey and alive.

His mother loves to cook, sadly, it never did seem to love her back. This never deterred Jongin's beautiful mother, however, always spending time down here, cooking a meal for him and his two sisters and their families when they visit, as well as his father who never complained about the taste of his wife's cooking.

"Where is my hug, Jongin?"

Jongin smiles and moves past Kyungsoo, running up to her mother, enveloping her in a tight hug, spinning her in a circle before putting her down, a chuckle escaping her lips as her feet touches the ground.

"Good afternoon, mother," Jongin says, bending to kiss her cheek in greeting. He turns to Kyungsoo behind him, eyes asking the older the step forward, "This is Kyungsoo, mother, the best friend I have been telling you about."

Kyungsoo has a smile on his handsome face, the one that sets Jongin's heart beating too fast each time. He holds out a hand which Jongin's mother takes, bending down to kiss the back of her hand. "Good afternoon, Lady Kim," Kyungsoo says, voice deep and velvety smooth. "Thank you for having me."

Jongin smiles at the gesture, looking to his mother to see her smiling too, already completely charmed, just as Jongin predicted. But as Kyungsoo lets go and straightens, the smile is gone, a neutral look back on her face. Jongin shakes his head in amusement. Typical Mother.

"The pleasure is ours. My son here has been wanting of your company over the holidays for years," his mother says, but then turns and asks with a raised eyebrow. "Friend, Jongin?"

"Yes, mother, my best friend," Jongin emphasizes, not liking the way the corner of her mouth has curled into a smile again, but a different one this time, a little knowing, a little teasing.

"Well, if you say so," she says with a shrug, turning back to her stirring, wand in hand. She glances at the stairs that leads down to the kitchen. "Though I must say, I am not deaf, dear."

Jongin coughs, just as he sees Kyungsoo's cheeks colour, "Right, mother, right. Uh- so, what's for dinner? Hopefully not turkey."

His mother turns sharply at him, "Why? What's wrong with turkey?"

"Nothing! Just, last time, it has been a little-"

"Bland? Tough? Overcooked? Over-seasoned?"

Jongin wracks his brain for the right adjective to describe how the turkey last time he dined with his mother and father over the summer tasted but the only word coming to him was 'terrible' and he knows he can't say that out loud. He can't afford to be grounded with Kyungsoo here. He needs to show him around Wizard Woods and Alderley Edge.

"Uh-" Jongin looks to Kyungsoo for help, who's looking at him with a barely concealed smirk. "Uh, Mother! Have I ever mentioned, that Kyungsoo hyung here is excellent in the kitchen? He’s cooked me plenty of late night dinner at the Hogwarts Kitchen, though don’t tell Father. It’s usually off-limits."

This seems to distract his mother from her interrogation, who turns to Kyungsoo with a look of interest in her eyes. Jongin sighs in relief.

"You cook?" she asks, cautiously, as if afraid to like Kyungsoo too much if the answer is 'yes'.

"Yes," Kyungsoo says with a smile, that charming smile of his back on his lips again. "My mum taught me when I was young. I wouldn't say I am good, but I know my way around."

Jongin watches his mother’s eyes light up, face brightening. Jongin knew instantly that she is hooked, line and sinker. "Oh how delightful! Wonderful, wonderful! Are you really?" she asks again to Kyungsoo, who nods, smile still in place. "Well, then, what are we waiting for? We have a dinner to cook!"

"Wait, what? We?" Jongin asks, pointing to himself, surprised at the sudden turn of events.

"Why yes, Jongin. We. Your father will be arriving from the Ministry soon, we need to finish all of these dishes," she says, gesturing at the long kitchen table set in the middle, overflowing with plates and bowls of what Jongin assumes are food, yet to be cooked. "Now, here, Kyungsoo, I need your help with this broth."

Kyungsoo, who has been looking at Jongin with an amused smile in place, immediately jumps to Jongin's mother's side, "Yes, Lady Kim!"

"Oh hush, child. Call me 'mum'. I've always wanted two boys, you know?" she says with a wistful look on her face, stepping aside on the counter to make room for Kyungsoo, who peers down the cauldron, of steaming liquid. "But Seungho only wanted three children. Well, what can I do? But I suppose I'd soon have two, when you move in, of course. Though that won't be for another few years, what with legislations about marriages still-"

"MOTHER!"

"Right, right, where was I?"

"THE BROTH!"

"Oh, no need to shout, Jongin. I'm not deaf, remember?"





The cool winter night air is crisp and sharp on their faces, despite the bundles of cloaks and winter scarves they've dressed themselves in. Kyungsoo reaches over to smooth the crease on Jongin's cloak, despite it being too dark to be seen. Jongin smiles at him.

They've just had dinner, a wonderful affair. He's always imagined Jongin's family, a pureblood of prestigious descent, to be quiet around the dinner table, talking about politics and other serious events in hushed voices as they sip their wine and observe proper table etiquette with their 9 spoons and forks arranged around their plates and saucers. Kyungsoo was prepared to embarrass himself, though he did read up a bit on proper wizarding meal table manners in Madame Luciel's Guide to the Fools and Idiots: Dining Table Edition Volume IX.

But he discovered that his preparation was not needed. Despite the affluent house—four floors, a west and east wing, roof almost the size of half a football field, 100 rooms, 6 staircases and 150 doors—the Kims are simple people. Each room, though decorated lavishly with expensive furniture (the drapes in the drawing room, Kyungsoo learns, is made from France in the 1900s, woven with silver and gold thread), still managed to look homey and welcoming, thanks to Jongin's mother who likes keeping each space open, vibrant and colourful.

When they sat down for dinner, Kyungsoo wasn't as nervous as he was before he met Jongin's mother—now, Mum, as she insists to be called by Kyungsoo, much to Jongin's displeasure who stubbornly wants to stick to calling her Mother as he has been accustomed to—having had helped her prepare the dinner down in the kitchen, with Jongin delegated to peeling potatoes and chopping onions and carrots.

Mr. Kim is as handsome as Jongin, perhaps even more so, tall with broad shoulders, his midnight black robe carrying an obvious display of power and wealth. He tells Kyungsoo the family name Kim doesn't hold the same weight as it used to, though it still does get recognition, and a fair bit of favour over the others, simply for maintaining their good reputation after the war. He tells Kyungsoo all this while waving a piece of potato about, skewered to the end of his fork.

Throughout the meal, with Jongin laughing, his father telling them stories of his day at the Ministry and his mother telling jokes, Kyungsoo felt right at home.

"Heating charms alright?" Jongin asks, burying half his face beneath his scarf, the one Kyungsoo knitted for him as a present last Christmas.

"Already cast about five downstairs and I still feel a bit chilly," Kyungsoo mumbles, rubbing his hands together.

"Well, get on the broom then, let's warm each other up," Jongin hops on the broomstick he was holding, this one a bit longer than Kyungsoo is used to. "It's a two-seater. Called, er- the LoveCouch. It's Father's and Mother's but, well- never mind the name! Hyung, get on, get on!"

Kyungsoo chuckles a bit, struggling to get up at the hovering broomstick. Jongin bends his knees to lower the height, allowing Kyungsoo to swing a leg over.

"So, how will this work?" Kyungsoo asks, balancing himself on the handle, the cushion soft beneath him.

"Well," Jongin turns to look at Kyungsoo behind him on the broom, reaching out blindly for Kyungsoo's hands. "You just wrap your arms around me."

"Oh," Kyungsoo does as Jongin says, winding his arms around Jongin's middle, scooting over closer to him. "Like this?"

Kyungsoo's chest is pressed up against Jongin's back, hands clasped firmly around Jongin's waist, face pressed comfortable against Jongin's shoulder. Kyungsoo is certain Jongin can feel the thundering of his heart against his back. He tries to slow it down but to no avail.

"Yeah, exactly like this," Jongin whispers, voice a little scratchy, Kyungsoo notices.

"You alright?"

"Er, yeah, of course!" Jongin says a little too loudly, stepping up accidentally, sending the broom flying up a few feet in the air with a sharp whiz. Kyungsoo's arms tighten around Jongin instinctively, pressing himself even closer against the younger.

"What the- Jongin!" Kyungsoo shouts when Jongin has managed to stabilize them in the air, the broom flying ways away from the rooftop now, the dark below them illuminated by the moon and stars above. "Careful! You know I don't like flying."

"But you love me flying."

"I love watching you flying. I'd prefer to watch than be a part of it."

"Aw, hyung, you really don't like flying?" Jongin suddenly sends the broom zipping up, the wind whipping against their faces. But it isn't the abrupt frightening motion of before, rather, it's a pleasant drop of his stomach as the younger steers the broom around in a circle, flying higher and higher in the air, until Kyungsoo can no longer make out the Brickfield House save for the brightly lit fountain up front. "How about now?"

Kyungsoo chooses not to respond, resting his chin on Jongin's shoulder, squeezing his arms around him instead. Jongin seems to get the message because soon, he is flying over Alderley Edge, the Muggle village a dotted pattern of streetlights and cars twinkling below them. They pass by the Wizard Woods, full of oak and beech trees, the kind that Jongin's wand is made of. The breeze has become warmer now, still a bit chilly but manageable, Jongin's body heat in front of him helping tremendously. Above them, the stars are out, bright and plenty, dots of yellow and white against the inky dark midnight blue. It's silent save for their breathing and the broom's tail as Jongin does dips and turns every now and then.

Kyungsoo thinks the right time is now.

"Jongin?"

"Hm."

"I have something I need to tell you," Kyungsoo swallows the fear in his throat. His heart is beating a mile a minute in his chest, his nervousness unhideable from the younger. Jongin doesn't say anything so Kyungsoo continues, "I'm muggleborn."

Jongin still doesn't say anything.

"I'm- I'm not a pureblood like you and Malfoy, nor a halfblood like Daley. I'm- I'm just Kyungsoo. Do Kyungsoo. I live in downtown Manchester in a small flat with my dad who works in a Muggle office, my mum who looks after the house, and my older brother who's currently in college, taking up Business Administration. We're as boring as all Muggles come. I-" Kyungsoo breathes, "- I don't know why I'm even in Slytherin."

Kyungsoo hides his face against Jongin's back, even though the younger cannot see him. Kyungsoo feels cold all over, but not from the wind. Years and years of hiding, gone in a moment. Up here in the air, with Jongin and a broom holding him up, Kyungsoo feels close to falling. He isn't crying, but his eyes are heavy. He clings to the younger's waist, hoping, wishing.

Jongin still isn't saying anything, then a dip and a turn and a few more feet high up in the air, above the clouds now, the moon shining next to them. Jongin stops.

"I know why," Jongin says, voice soft in the winter breeze. "I know why you're in Slytherin, hyung. It's because you're destined for great things."

"Jongin-"

"It's because you belong with us, in great company," Jongin turns his head, a small smile in place, torso twisting and looking Kyungsoo in the eyes. "It's because you're a great wizard, with great power and great ambition. And Slytherin is the house that will help you achieve your goals and your dreams.

"But I'm not a pureblood-"

"But the hat placed you in Slytherin, hyung. It means despite being of Muggle parents, without years and decades of magic in your ancestry, the magic you are born with is great enough to be put with us," Jongin is looking at him with the most sincere eyes, Kyungsoo knows he isn't lying. Kyungsoo knows he's telling him what he truly thinks. Kyungsoo's heart swells in his chest. So much love, so much love for this boy. "You're a Slytherin, hyung, through and through."

“You’re not mad I didn’t tell you sooner?”

“How can I be mad? Secrets are weaknesses. I don’t want you stripping off your armor. We all have something to hide, something to keep us intact inside despite not being whole. I don’t mind you broken, hyung. We all are.”

Jongin’s eyes are shining so bright under the moonlight, tender and so so warm, with his windswept hair and the scarf that Kyungsoo knitted for him around his neck flying in the breeze behind him. Kyungsoo is certain he has never seen anything so beautiful in his life.

It's Kyungsoo who leans forward, but it's Jongin who tilts his head and kisses him. The angle is a bit uncomfortable, the wind in their ears too cold, the strain a bit tiring, but Kyungsoo doesn't mind. He kisses and kisses and kisses. Jongin's lips are soft, as soft as his hands are, the most wonderful kind of soft, plush and giving against Kyungsoo's own. It's a press and glide of nothing but softness. Kyungsoo is addicted.

It's only when the broom wobbles, hundreds of feet above the air, that Jongin stops and leans back, eyes lidded.

"I really really want to land right now so I can push you against something solid and snog you senseless."

Kyungsoo chuckles, breathless and in love, so young but oh so in love, "Then why don't you?"

"Don't mind if I do."

Jongin steers the broom down down down, Kyungsoo’s arms wrapped tightly around him.

“Hyung?” Jongin shouts over the wind as they descend.

“Yeah?”

“Boyfriends?”

Kyungsoo can’t help the chuckle that escapes from his lips, the sound carrying over the wind, happiness bubbling in his chest as he shouts back.

“Boyfriends!”