Rating: E+ (Mild Suggestive Humor)
The sound of tapping is what draws her from the world of alchemical equations and compositions. Blinking blearily — Quidditch practice had dragged on, despite the torrential downpour, leaving her with no choice but to sacrifice what little sleep she could have gotten in order to study — Moth peers at the window. At first, she sees nothing, and returns to deciphering the scrawled writing of Nicolas Flamel. Then it comes again, more persistent this time, so she drags herself from the cozy confines of the armchair to investigate properly; when she lifts the latch, she’s greeted by an irate screech that is sure to have woken her housemates and talons digging into her shoulder. She croons quietly to the disgruntled owl, reaching up to stroke between its eyes as she shuts the window and returns to her chair.
Nyos lifts his head with an inquisitive burr when the owl, Max — or, as Moth likes to call him, much to the eternal bemusement of his owner, Maximilian — tugs on his tail. Then the cat curls up, tucking his tail under his paws. There’s a scroll tied around Maximilian’s leg, one that she regards with a mixture of anticipation and hesitation. As much as she would love to find out what the writer has to say, she knows that it will probably involve her being dragged from her studies and possibly into a near miss with serious trouble, which as Head Girl she cannot afford. Part of her has always wondered if Professor McGonagall gave her the position in the hopes that she could, like Remus Lupin years ago, act as a sort of calming influence, or if the Headmistress had simply decided that, as Head Girl, she could at least keep the more important rules from being broken. Either way, she needs to focus on this assignment.
Still, she unties the parchment and fishes a treat out of her discarded robes to give to Maximilian, and then she unfolds the scroll, smiling at the familiar scrawl. Let me in.
While still technically frowned upon by students and teachers who believe strongly in each House having its own space, the regulations about having students in common rooms not their own were relaxed after the infamous Battle of Hogwarts twenty years ago. So Moth feels no regret, other than at having to once more leave her comfortable seat, when she crosses the room to open the doors. On the other side stands a young man in Slytherin robes, his tie lazily done and his arms folded across his broad chest, black eyes regarding her with their seemingly perpetual amusement and his hair in its usual state of disarray. Estarossa grins at her, all boyish charm, both of them ignoring the mutterings of the irate knocker that he’d no doubt been antagonizing while he waited. Neither of them say a word as they return to the hearth, and Moth watches as he moves her scribbled notes and Flamel’s research to the coffee table before collapsing onto the sofa, his arms outstretched in silent invitation.
“How was practice?” he asks by way of greeting. Moth shrugs as she clambers into his lap, letting him rearrange her until both of them are comfortable.
His fingers catch a lock of her hair and tuck it affectionately behind her ear. Nyos hops onto the cushion next to them, and Estarossa strokes his fur absentmindedly while Moth gathers her things and finds a textbook to place under her parchment. “It was fine,” she answers. “Guila had new maneuvers she wanted us to work on, so she kept us out there for hours.”
Estarossa grunts. “No wonder you look exhausted.” When Moth stares at him, he adds, “Beautifully exhausted. A vision of ethereal fatigue.”
“Oh, shut it.” Her lips twitch as she tries to keep up the pretense of irritation. Estarossa gives her a crooked smile as his hand comes to rest on the back of her neck, his thumb gently stroking the beat of her pulse.
The silence they lapse into is as comfortable and familiar as the warmth of him against her back, the soft sound of his breathing soothing as she returns to the problem of transmuting lead into gold. There are spells, of course, but those are more illusory, temporarily changing enough of the metal’s properties for it to pass as gold without it actually becoming such, only for it to revert to its original form after a certain amount of time has passed. In order for a fully realized transmutation, one that is both real and permanent, everything about the lead would need to be changed, including its molecular structure. The only thing capable of doing so, Flamel’s infamous Philosopher’s Stone, was destroyed twenty-six years ago by Flamel himself after it nearly fell into the hands of Voldemort. Because Flamel was the only one to successfully create a Stone, scholars everywhere turned to his notes, and were disappointed to find them written in a nearly indecipherable code.
“Change lead into gold?” Caim’s ochre eyes study her curiously. “Science can’t do it, no. But magic doesn’t adhere to the rules accepted by the scientific world, does it? So maybe the issue is that you’re trying to approach it as I would, instead of with the tools at your disposal.” He smiles as Nemain drops a kiss to the top of his head, and Moth’s eyes are drawn to the the pictures on the wall, which, unlike those in her school, are stationary. “I know you’ll figure it out.”
By the time she looks up from her work, the clock on the mantle reads three. Moth groans as she sits up, her spine cracking and popping as she does, and turns to wake Estarossa. To her surprise, he is already awake and watching her, his eyes half-lidded and unusually warm, and she opens her mouth to ask if everything is alright only for him to pull her back to his chest, tucking her head beneath his chin. Before she can even think to worry about her work getting crumpled or spilling ink, he moves them to the end table before wrapping his arms securely around her waist. His heart is a steady rhythm beneath her ear, the fabric of his knitted vest soft against her cheek. It doesn’t take long for her to begin drifting off; vaguely, she registers Nyos clambering into her lap, purring loudly, and the rustle of feathers as Maximilian comes to rest on the back of the couch, and then there is nothing but warmth and sleep.
Guila stands over her, her arms crossed and her brow cocked. “The least you could do if you’re going to watch their practice is tell us what strategies they’re using. We do have a match coming up soon, you know.”
Moth shrugs. “I’m going to spend time with Estarossa, not engage in some version of Quidditch espionage.” When Guila doesn’t relent, Moth snaps, “Would you go watch Jericho practice and then use what you saw in our match against Hufflepuff?”
Her captain tenses, her mouth twisting with her displeasure. “I suppose not,” Guila replies stiffly. Then she turns on her heel and marches back to the castle doors, where a young woman with lavender hair is waiting.
Moth watches her go, clutching her books to her chest. It’s rare for the two of them to disagree, but sometimes Guila’s dedication to Quidditch — more specifically, Ravenclaw winning the Quidditch Cup — borders on the obsessed. Jericho shoots her an irritated look, which Moth returns with a nonplussed one of her own. She waits until they’ve returned indoors before beginning the trek to the Quidditch pitch, where she can make out the flashes of green that indicate the Slytherin team has already begun. One of the streaks is more aggressive than the others, and she smiles as she watches it flash from one end to the other, sometimes dipping out of her vision behind the stands and others nearly colliding with another smudge. Estarossa has always favored the more brutal tactics, toeing the line without ever crossing it fully to avoid penalties, and it seems that he is just as merciless when it comes to practicing with his team.
Also in the stands when she arrives is a familiar, statuesque blonde. Gelda nods cordially, which Moth returns as she settles onto a bench nearby. Though not particularly close, the two of them get along well enough, and often sit together at matches where Ravenclaw isn’t playing. Moth lifts her eyes to the players, making out a black and green blur as Zeldris rockets by. The youngest of the Euron brothers, he has always been calculating and quietly fierce, more reserved than his elder siblings yet no less present. Like Estarossa, he lives in the shadow of Meliodas, yet where Estarossa seems content with carving out his own way, Zeldris wants to overcome and prove his worth. The few times he and Moth had spoken, she found him respectful towards her, if a little incredulous about her relationship with Estarossa, and he is polite whenever they pass in the halls.
“Kevrim!” The bark draws her attention to the air in front of her. Estarossa sits on his broom, his eyes wild and his grin sharp, and she arches a brow as she stands and makes her way to the edge of the railing. “Come to see how real athletes play?”
The rest of the team halts, watching the two of them curiously. She knows all of them by name, has spent hours in their common room, yet the distrust at having a member of an opposing team at their practice is the only thing she sees on their faces. “No,” she disagrees quietly. “I just came to see you. That’s all.”
“Right. I’m sure this has nothing to do with the upcoming match.” Estarossa’s smile is mocking. “I’ll see you after practice. Get outta here.” His voice is loud and carries clearly across the pitch. Moth feels her ears and eyes burn, her skin prickling uncomfortably with her embarrassment. He has never sent her away from one of his sessions, the knowledge that she spends most of the time he practices with her nose in a book keeping her clear of any accusations of foul play. But now he is harsh, cold, and she feels her irritation flare at this public humiliation.
“Fuck you,” she says with equal force.
Moth catches the way his eyes widen in surprise as she turns, snatching her bag from the bench and stalking out of the stands. Her shoes clomp on the stairs, the tears she’d held back under the scrutiny of his entire team falling freely. She is an angry crier, always has been, but that does not make it any easier to shove aside how much she hates crying whenever her temper flares. The castle seems too confining, so she turns and heads towards the lake instead, wondering if she has anything to give to the squid and what the hell Estarossa’s problem is. A package of crackers in her bag answers the first question, but the second remains elusive and nagging as she tears open the cellophane and tosses the crackers one by one into the lake. The sun is beginning to set by the time she feels settled enough to return indoors; when she moves to begin the trek up the hill, her eyes catch sight of Estarossa leaning on a tree, obviously waiting for her.
He reaches for her when she passes, his eyes narrowing as she ducks out of his reach. “What the hell, Moth?” Her lips press together, her eyes remaining on the castle in the distance, and he huffs as he falls into step with her. “You pissed about me kicking you out of practice? I didn’t realize you were that petty.”
“Petty?!” Moth whirls on him suddenly. Estarossa pauses, taking a half-step back as she jabs his chest with her finger. “Not once have I ever given you a reason to accuse me of spying on you, yet you decided that I must only want to be there to do so and you treated me like a . . . Like a pest! So you can piss off!”
“Moth, it wasn’t —”
“If you finish that with, ‘a big deal,’ then I’m going to bludgeon you with a bat,” she snarls. “What do you think it says about how you view me, how much you trust me, when that’s how you treat me in front of your team?”
Estarossa gives her an exasperated look. “Every time I try to sit in at your practices, your captain runs me off the pitch.”
“She did that once because you were pelting everyone with snow!”
“Fine.” His lips curl. “I’m an ass. I’m so sorry, princess.”
Moth glares at him, and he returns it just as fiercely. Neither of them move, and slowly her brain catches up and recalculates. His tone had been sharp, but harsh banter between them is common when it comes to Quidditch, to the point that many first years think they loathe each other and are genuinely surprised to see them acting affectionately in the halls. He’d also been at practice, which meant in the zone, which meant fierce and competitive. With a match coming up, his team would have been trying out new maneuvers that they wouldn’t want anyone else to see, so if he hadn’t asked her to leave, Monspeet certainly would have as captain. On top of all of that, she knows she’s been stressed due to her final project, because she is making almost no progress on Flamel’s research, which has left her short tempered and far more sensitive than usual. It doesn’t excuse his behavior, but he’s dealt with her being snappier than usual without much of a complaint, so she takes a deep breath.
“Sorry,” she mutters. Estarossa scoffs, and she bites back on a sharp retort. “I am. It’s not fair of me to take my frustration out on you.”
She watches the tension drain from his shoulders, though his gaze is still heated. “You aren’t working tonight. And before you start, no. You need a break. So, tonight, we’re going to find somewhere private and you’re going to rest, or I’m going to lock you in my dormitory until dawn. Which is it going to be?”
Moth frowns. “You’re an ass.”
“You love me for it.”
At that, she rolls her eyes. “Don’t mistake me liking your ass for me liking you being an ass.”
“You like my ass?” Estarossa feigns astonishment. “I had no idea you were so dirty, Kevrim.” His voice drops to a low rumble that has a different heat rushing to her cheeks. “Tell me, what other secrets do you have? Maybe we should use my dormitory after all.”
“Ass,” she mumbles, and he laughs and tugs her to his chest, dipping his head to press a kiss to the corner of her mouth.
Nastily exhausting wizard test, indeed. Moth stumbles from the Great Hall, her head pounding and fingers cramped. Estarossa, who had been waiting outside, quickly gets to his feet and draws her close to him, his arm wrapped tightly around her shoulders. Thankfully, he says nothing, simply leading her silently through the halls until they descend into the dungeons. The cool damp makes her shiver and shift closer to him, and he responds by shrugging out of his outer robe and draping it around her, his eyes concerned and his lips pressed tightly together. She doesn’t catch the new password, nor does she notice the disdain some of the other Slytherins watch her with. All that matters is Estarossa at her side, his body firm against hers. As they head towards the dormitories, Fraudrin calls out the beginnings of a sharp reprimand, one that dies out under the harsh look Estarossa levels at him.
He sits her on the edge of his bed, then kneels down to pull off her loafers and socks. Moth drops her bag next to him, too tired to be concerned about possibly shattering the ink bottles within. “That’s four, right?” Estarossa asks, and it takes longer than it should for her mind to process his words.
“Yeah. Three left.” Moth smiles, but she knows her exhaustion shows. “Then I just have to wait to see if I’ve passed everything.”
Estarossa snorts as he stands and pushes her back onto the bed. Moth waits for him to make a pass or crack a naughty joke, but all he does is arrange them so he is on his back and she is curled up against his side, her head resting on his shoulder. His fingers run through her hair, along her shoulder, the steady strokes so soothing that it isn’t long before she is entirely limp, awake but her body both heavy and weightless. She doesn’t know how long they remain that way, minutes or hours, nor does she care. Tomorrow she has another round of grueling exams, Transfiguration then Potions then Defense Against the Dark Arts, and she is so exhausted that reviewing would be pointless because she wouldn’t remember anything she tried to read. It isn’t until Estarossa tilts her chin up that she realizes his hand is no longer in her hair, and she peers at him sleepily.
“You still planning on going to the Ministry?”
Moth blinks. “Yes. I’ve already spoken to Mister Potter and confirmed my second appointment with him. July 25th, remember?”
“Mm.” His face is grave as he takes her in, his fingertips tracing the arch of her brow, the slope of her nose, the curve of her lips. “Have you found a flat yet?”
“No,” she sighs. “What’s on your mind?”
“Live with me.” The words are quick, sharp, and Moth would mistake it for irritation if not for her familiarity with the fact that worry makes him short. Then she smiles when she realizes that he’s worried she’ll say no.
“With your family?”
Estarossa shakes his head. “I have a place of my own. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s close to the Ministry and Diagon Alley, so you wouldn’t have to worry about a commute. And . . .” He hesitates. Moth reaches up and smoothes the crease between his brows, and he exhales slowly. “I want you there. I want to do this every day. I want to come home to you, and wake up to you, and see your things on the shelves.”
“One condition.” She props herself on her elbow so she can reach his mouth with her own. “You have to give me a kiss every day. Even if it’s just the one. Starting today.”
He grins, his arms curling around her back. Then she is beneath him, his lips slanting over hers, and Moth cards her hands through his hair, her heart pounding in her chest.