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You're a Wizard, Killua

Chapter Text

Everyone thought Killua would be a shoe-in for Slytherin. He just looked like one - sharp and angular and dangerous. His family was renowned for being Slytherins. It was borderline in the blood - the Zoldycks were house Slytherin, and that was just how it was. When his name was called and he stepped up to be sorted, the Slytherin table was making a space for him, shooting nervous glances at Head Boy Illumi. His glassy eyes betrayed no emotion.

 But when the sorting hat touched Killua’s head, the word it shouted was “RAVENCLAW!” And finally, the unease in the hall exploded into confusion. Gon - the other anomaly that night - was springing up from his seat. Killua’s eyes had widened so much that they were more white than blue, and the fear in him was obvious.

He’d met Gon on the train to Hogwarts. Something had clicked - neither boy had known anyone else, and it was by chance that they ended up in the same car. It had been a long trip, but when the train had ground to a halt, Killua had wished it could have lasted a little bit more. It had felt like he’d known Gon for years, though they’d met scant hours before.

Gon wanted to be a wizard like his father, who had disappeared years ago, abandoning him as a toddler. Killua thought it was an okay goal, even if his dad sounded like a big jerk. But Gon had made him even more anxious - he wanted to be sorted into the same house, but it seemed grim. He’d be a Slytherin, and Gon would probably be a Gryffindor. If that happened, it would be the worst.

Those that looked to Illumi quickly regretted it. He had always been uncanny, but now, he was cold fury.

Kurapika was the one who gently led Killua to the Ravenclaw table, a hand on his shaking back. Killua didn’t know how to respond, even to the older boy with the circular glasses that gave him reassuring thumbs-up from the Gryffindor section. He thought they’d spoken briefly on the train - his name was Leorio, he thought - but nothing in his mind was working quite right.

As soon as the feast had ended, Gon found him, and they sat together for a long while. Killua had started crying silently at some point - scared and overwhelmed, completely unlike Gon. Illumi’s dead eyes had followed them out of the hall, like he was memorizing Gon’s features.

With the way Gon had stepped up to the hat, his sorting had seemed obvious too - but it had been the first sorting that had brought whispers through the hall. The first sorting that had seemed wrong. Headmaster Netero had quickly reinforced quiet with just once glance.

Gon had turned out just like his father in the end, despite having never met him. Not yet, at least. 

It had been less than twenty years ago that Ging Freecs had stood in the hall - the first wizard in his family, and the second the hat had touched his head, a decision had been made. 

Gon had been the same way.

Holding on to each other in the corridor, Killua had pressed his face into Gon’s robes and whispered, “I was just getting used to the idea of being a Slytherin.”

Gon’s fingers stroked his hair, pressing down white tufts that sprang back up. “I know, Killua. But isn’t it good for you? You didn’t want to be a Slytherin. Kurapika is nice, he’ll take care of you. I talked to him a little on the train, before I sat down. Everyone says he’s going to be a prefect, you know.”

"Yeah," Killua mumbled, but his voice was still unsure. "But Illumi is going to be so mad. He’s so mad already." He didn’t say why it made him anxious, but Gon knew. He’d seen Killua hiding the signs of hexes under his clothes on the train as he changed into his robes, had burned with cold fury. 

But he didn’t know how to do anything yet. No one had taught him - all his magic was what he’d learned on his own, or from his aunt Mito. She’d been a Hufflepuff in her day - though it hadn’t been long ago - and she’d never cared for more dangerous spells.

It was better this way, Gon decided. He didn’t know Killua’s brother very well - the older boy had sat in the same car as them, staring at the back of Killua’s head for the entire trip until another boy had appeared to grab his attention. That boy had made Gon nervous - his red hair and slender build, the way his fox-like eyes had fixed on Gon. The upward turn of his mouth, ever-so-slight, but incredibly unsettling. 

The way Killua’s shoulders had relaxed as soon as his brother left the car had said volumes.

"I kind of hoped we’d be sorted into the same house, but we can still be friends. I like you a lot, Killua."

"Me too, Gon."

But eventually, Kurapika had come to find Killua, to show him to the Ravenclaw dorms, and they’d had to say goodbye for the night. Killua’s wave had been unsure, but Gon beamed at him and it was like some of the anxiety had slipped out of him.

As Gon padded down the halls to the dungeons, he chewed on his bottom lip. But rather than being nervous or afraid, he was just angry. Gon was ready for a fight if he needed to have one.

He knew when he entered the Slytherin dorm, Killua’s brother would be there waiting for him.

 

Chapter Text

People saw Gon step up to be sorted and the general consensus was “either a Gryffindor or a Hufflepuff right there”. Because he seemed so cheerful and relaxed, but with an undertone of solid steel determination. The people who were paying more attention said “Gryffindor for that one, he’s tougher than he looks”. 

They didn’t realize how wrong they’d been until he was walking to the Slytherin table amidst a hall full of whispers. They didn’t know. No one had known that behind that smiling face was an ambition for which he would go to ruthless means to fulfill. 

But Gon was one of the first Slytherins for many in Hogwarts to serve as a reminder what Slytherin’s house values actually were.

Cunning. Ambitious. They weren’t evil traits, but they could lead a person to do ruthless, painful things. They could lead a person to be flippant, callous, to fail to see another person’s suffering. 

They weren’t evil traits. but they were traits that could be found in many evil people. But nothing was exclusive.

And Gon was ruthless - it was sheer luck that most of the time, that ruthless stubborn spirit didn’t have another person as its obstacle. 

But one of the things he strongly believed in was that bad deeds had punishments. And if no one else would punish people who had done bad things, he could never forgive himself for letting it go.

Some could call him brave. But really, what Gon displayed the first time he sank a fist into an upperclassman’s gut wasn’t courage. It was recklessness. A willingness to put his goal - “evil people need to be punished” - over everything, including his own well-being. 

It was often said that Gon Freecs was a house traitor. He didn’t spend time with other Slytherins - he always was seen with Ravenclaw Killua Zoldyck - the other anomaly in his year, the Zoldyck who wasn’t. The first Zoldyck in centuries that had heard a word other than Slytherin shouted above their head.

Gon Freecs was a house traitor, they would say. 

This sentiment most commonly came from other Slytherins who he’d pummeled into the dirt - never with magic. Spells could be blocked, diverted, redirected, used against him. Gon relied on his fists. 

For most, their focus on combative spells - on the whole idea of magic as superior to all else - had been their downfall. By his third year, most people who had heard of him and felt they might one day be facing those fists had started to learn physical self-defense to some degree. 

But it was too little far too late. Gon was in better physical condition than most of the students overall, not just his year.

The only ones who had been able to take him in a fight had graduated shortly after he’d first come to Hogwarts - Slytherin Head Boy Illumi Zoldyck, and the enigma that was Hisoka. 

In the end, he never truly fought Illumi. The desire had burned in him, a cold hatred of the boy that made Killua’s body tighten with anxiety, made the hand that held Gon’s turn cold. Killua never said a word, never showed anything on the outside. Never did anything consciously to imply that his relationship with Illumi was anything more than slightly distant.

But Gon knew. He knew in his very soul that Illumi Zoldyck was someone who had done evil things. And people who did evil things needed to be punished. 

But Illumi was practical. Illumi was cautious. Illumi thought in the long-term, not the short. And Illumi Zoldyck was one of the few who could continue to elude Gon - one of the few who Gon couldn’t force to face him. Hisoka fought because he wanted to, because he had something to gain that was worth what he could lose.

Illumi did not benefit from fighting Gon Freecs. And so he did not.

The first time Gon had crossed fists with Hisoka had been a test. Hisoka had intentionally brought Gon’s wrath upon him. It seemed that Gon’s ambition had intrigued him, sparked a desire that was unsettling and intense. 

An older boy’s curiosity, a brutal fight. The first time Gon had lost, but not the last. And he would never stop trying. No one else would punish Hisoka, so it was up to Gon.

Gon Freecs was a house traitor, some would say. And Illumi Zoldyck would place a gentle but terrifying hand on their head, turn it to face him.

Those who knew how to read his face knew how much he despised Gon Freecs. But they also knew the words to never say in Illumi Zoldyck’s presence. “Gon Freecs is a house traitor. Gon Freecs is no Slytherin. Gon Freecs does not belong here.”

"What, exactly, about Gon Freecs makes him a house traitor? What about him does not suit House Slytherin?" His voice held no emotion, and only the words themselves betrayed the sentences as questions.

And Hisoka would appear at his elbow, leaning to be seen behind those cold, dead eyes. His lilting voice would speak, providing the words that Illumi would not.

"Cunning. Ambition. A willingness to do anything to achieve their goals. Are those not the values of House Slytherin? Perhaps I’ve been completely mislead about the house I’ve been living in for seven years. Gon Freecs is many things, but he is most certainly where he belongs in Slytherin. He is most certainly following the tenants of our house - you are just in his way, and his ambition has proven itself stronger than yours. Perhaps,” Hisoka would say, “Just perhaps, the ones who reject their own peers, deny the other proud members of Slytherin, are the true house traitors. After all… here, we’re your family.”

The day Hisoka graduated, Gon had fought him to a standstill, a mess of blood and bruises, but a burning fire that couldn’t be extinguished. The desire to right a wrong that he had been unable to do before, the knowledge that this was his last chance, had brought fists against faces, fingers broken and swollen from punching. Hisoka’s satisfied grin as he stared into the sky, missing several of his teeth. 

Gon, spitting a mouthful of blood onto the ground. And the words, “I paid you back.”

Chapter Text

They had been twelve the first time Gon had met the rest of the Zoldyck family - Alluka was not included. The train station, where they waited to collect Killua and spirit him away for the summer. Gon standing on top of his luggage, waving frantically to his aunt Mito as she made her way through the crowd. Killua biting his lips as they said their goodbyes, promised to write, fearing that his family wouldn’t let him.

But they had wanted to meet Gon, even if just to say hello. Despite how much he hated the boy, Illumi had spoken highly of him. A true Slytherin. Even if he was in the way.

And so Gon Freecs met the Zoldyck family.

Illumi, who he knew. Killua’s father Silva, his mother Kikyo. Milluki, he knew as well, another Slytherin. Milluki was distrustful of Gon. Kalluto, who hid behind his mother’s back and observed. Grandfather Zeno, who got along with Gon swimmingly from the very beginning. “He’s going to be a powerful wizard some day,” he’d said, nodding in approval. 

It had relieved Killua a little - if nothing else, Zeno’s praise and approval meant Gon was relatively safe from the rest of his family’s scheming. 

And Alluka, Gon did not meet.

She was kept locked away, as she always had been. Killua had started to whisper the truth to Gon in the bustle of the station, where he thought, perhaps, he could get away with it - that he had another sibling, a little sister - but he’d felt the eyes on him. Illumi’s eyes, his mother’s eyes, and his words had died before they left his lips. They were always watching. 

Gon had known something was wrong. He was smarter than he let on, and perhaps it was the Zoldyck family’s hubris that kept them from realizing - Illumi,MillukiKillua… Kalluto. 

A break in the pattern. 

A missing name.

But they couldn’t keep Alluka hidden forever. She’d get her letter soon, and nothing in the world could keep her from attending Hogwarts then. Even if they tried to keep her at a distance, she would attend Hogwarts and she’d be free. It gave Killua some courage. 

On the first day of their second year at Hogwarts, without his family’s eyes on him, he’d said to Gon, “You didn’t meet my entire family.”

And Gon had said, “I know.”

They’d talked, then. About Alluka, and why she’d been kept away. “She’s a prodigy,” Killua had said, vicious pride in his voice. “She can do whatever she sets her mind to. She learns spells so easily. She’s powerful. We knew from when she was little. Alluka’s been doing wandless magic, and no one ever taught her. But it’s like she becomes another person when she’s using magic… My parents think something is wrong with her. They’re the ones who are wrong.”

Gon had listened with real interest, and it had been then that Killua had realized he was walking a dangerous line.

They’re wrong. He had said the words himself. 

Parents keeping their child locked away from the rest of the world. Denying her contact with others. Keeping her alone and miserable.

Gon’s words.

People who did evil things needed to be punished.

And Killua had been afraid. Afraid that Gon would do something reckless. That he would sneak off Hogwarts grounds in the night, that he would bloody his fists against the doors to the Zoldyck mansion, that he would pick a fight that would end in his crumpled corpse.

Every Zoldyck knew the killing curse. Even Killua. 

He didn’t want to think about which members of his family were willing to use it.

"Gon, promise me right now.” His fingers had tightened around Gon’s. “Promise me you won’t try to do anything, not yet. No, not ever. Because… Because you don’t have to be the one to punish them this time. I’m going to do it. I’m going to fix it, so you have to wait until I can.”

It was the first time Gon kissed him, hands grabbing at the front of his robes to drag him forward. A chaste kiss between children, but with all the meaning and passion in the world. Gon was grinning when he pulled away, and he didn’t stop grinning as Killua gaped in flustered shock and tried to fix his tie with trembling hands. 

"Hey, Killua. If you’re going to do it, that means you have to get strong. Really strong, stronger than Illumi. Stronger than Hisoka. And I want to be strong too, stronger than I am now. So… let’s get strong together. I wanna be strong with Killua."

When Gon’s hand grabbed at Killua’s to pull him into the Great Hall for lunch, his hands were warm.

Chapter Text

In their first two years, Leorio was the greatest ally they could have had. Gon’s constant brawling had an obvious impact on his physical state, and he stubbornly avoided the hospital wing after the third time he’d gotten detention. 

"After all, if I’m in detention, that’s less time to fight."

"Stuuupid, that’s the point. They want you to stop fighting,” Killua had drawled, pressing just a bit too hard on Gon’s swollen nose as he wiped blood away. “You’ve gotta stop getting hit so much.”

"But Killua, I can’t just stop fighting." Gon’s speech was slurred after most fights. It was probably the result of getting battered so much - Killua had never been sure. He was good at jinxes and counter-jinxes, but didn’t know anything more than episkey, and he wasn’t very confident in it. 

"I didn’t say to stop fighting, stupid. I said… stop getting hit.

Gon had laughed at that, and occupied himself with preventing Killua from getting blood on his robes. That was when Killua decided he needed to learn some real medical spells.

Pattering around in the library, he had run into Leorio for the first time since he and Gon had been sorted. And Leorio was incredible. That was what he had thought to himself the first time he saw the older boy wave his wand and vanish several nasty-looking bruises from Gon’s face. Killua never admitted how impressed he was, but it had probably shown on his face. 

For Leorio, it had been a matter of years and years of practice, not innate ability. He’d had his goals, and his scores on exams proved how dedicated he was. He never cut corners - “When you try and use shortcuts with medicine, people die.” 

Perhaps it was because he was from a muggle family, but Leorio seemed to have a better grasp of things - he had books full of anatomical charts, words that were harder to read than any spell Killua had ever seen, pictures of horrifying-looking tools that muggles used. 

The people who called Leorio a medical prodigy were the ones who weren’t paying attention to how hard he worked. And before long, Killua was joining Gon in correcting those people. “Prodigy” made it seem like one day Leorio had been graced with his skills rather than spending years of his life to develop them. “Leorio works harder than anyone in this entire school,” Gon would say hotly, his cheeks puffed out in a pout as Killua corrected his notes. “And everybody says he’s ‘gifted’ and stuff. It’s not fair.”

They knew it bothered Leorio. He’d mutter under his breath and scowl, but it was never enough to irritate him into responding - usually. Leorio was a Gryffindor for a reason, and he wouldn’t back down from a confrontation when his pride was at stake. It was something both Gon and Killua liked about him - it might not have been the most intelligent character trait, but it certainly was endearing.

At first it seemed like Gon’s constant injuries and subsequent visits to the Gryffindor dormitories - where he would stand outside the entrance and yell for Leorio until he arrived - were an incredibly frustrating series of events. But despite all his blustering, Leorio never really seemed too upset. Despite Gon’s house alignment, they’d quickly developed a brotherly relationship. Leorio didgenuinely worry about the boy, and brushed off his apologies with a gruff “It’s good to have hands-on experience.” 

Even Kurapika liked Leorio, and Kurapika was distant from most people. It wasn’t that he was haughty - he was just withdrawn. Gon and Killua were the reason they’d come in contact with one another at all - as a prefect, Kurapika was the one who came looking for Killua when he slipped out of the Ravenclaw dorms to meet with Gon. They got in trouble when they were together, after all. It had gotten him in the habit of keeping an eye on Killua, and eventually it had become somehow second nature. 

That was why Kurapika started appearing outside the Gryffindor dorms when he couldn’t find Killua during the day. If enough time passed, he would appear with Gon, who would be cradling a bruised or broken arm, full of half-hearted apologies as Killua scolded him. And Leorio would stumble out of the common room with a quill behind his ear and his wand already out.

Leorio and Kurapika had had a rocky start. The first time they’d really met, they’d butted heads, and for a long time their relationship seemed needlessly confrontational. But something had changed eventually - the first time Kurapika had showed fear to them.

The first time Gon fought Hisoka. The first fight Gon had been in where spells had flown alongside fists. The first time he failed to deflect a curse. All of those things, in less than a moment.

Killua had sat in silence with his hands on his knees as Leorio worked, kneeling in the grass of the courtyard. He’d been afraid to move Gon and make things worse, so he’d been the one to run down the corridors, tripping over himself and banging his elbows on the walls as he turned corners too fast. He’d been the one who screamed outside the Gryffindor dormitory, and Leorio had practically exploded from out behind the portrait, robes disheveled in his haste. 

Ten minutes later, Kurapika had come flying in, his face pale, hair stuck to his face with cold sweat. It didn’t surprise Killua that he’d found out about the fight - terrified students had been scattering through the halls after the first hexes had begun to fly. He’d run to the Gryffindor dorms first, presumably to find Leorio, and by the time Kurapika was on the scene his panic was etched all over his face.

Things had changed then, unnoticed by the two first years hugging - and in Killua’s case, yelling furiously - on the grass. The subtle nod that Leorio had given to Kurapika, and the relieved smile he got in return. 

They sometimes could be seen in quiet conversation after that - Leorio’s muttered responses to Kurapika’s more lilting voice, their heads pushed together as they looked over a scroll. 

Kurapika’s hands adjusting Leorio’s grip on his wand to correct him in a summoning charm - his own specialty. The way his eyes had softened as the summoned roll of bandages thumped lightly against Leorio’s chest to fall to the ground.

Leorio’s laughter as Kurapika fiddled with a microscope, pondering how the magnification charm worked. The way Kurapika’s nose wrinkled in distaste when a bit of oil got on his hands from the gears of the device.

Leorio’s late nights studying gaining a regular interruption - the tea that Kurapika would brew in his own dorm, appearing for Leorio through ingenious use of banishing charms. 

And by the fourth time it happened, not a drop spilled.

Chapter Text

Today, Kurapika was a boy. 

Most days, this was the case - but not always. It wasn’t infrequent for that to change - some days Kurapika could be seen reading in the courtyards with her long legs crossed carefully under her skirt, but most days they were hidden by his trousers. And some days, he wore a skirt as well. It was a matter of what the badge adorning Kurapika’s chest said in the end.

The first year had been the roughest, really. Eleven years old, and unsure of everything, Kurapika had stepped into the Great Hall to be sorted with a sense of determination. He’d been expecting his letter and knew what house he’d be sorted into. It had seemed obvious. 

What hadn’t seemed obvious was what would happen when he reached the Ravenclaw dormitories. Where would he go? He’d heard something about the dorms being protected to keep boys from entering the girl’s rooms, and it was greatly concerning. He wished Pairo was with him, not for the first time. But Pairo was gone, and he was doing this alone.

It was surprisingly easy to hide his trembling fingers in the sleeves of his robes. No one noticed - and even if someone did, it could easily be attributed to a different kind of nerves. The other new Ravenclaws were mostly the same way - calmer than their counterparts in other houses, but still high-strung with anxiety. 

Kurapika didn’t know what to think or expect when the door opened. 

The common room was beautiful, but he didn’t spend time dwelling on it. His eyes were already searching, questioning, nervously darting around the room.

There were three sets of stairs, leading up to the turrets of the main tower. Each had a sign, floating letters that projected over the bottom step, declaring where they led. 

Boy’s dormitories

Girl’s dormitories

The last sign had other letters beneath it, bouncing ever so slightly. 

If those signs are a riddle with no answer in sight, these rooms are where you may spend your nights.

For the first time in weeks, Kurapika relaxed. He snuck up the stairs before anyone else, while most students were introducing themselves to one another. 

The dorm was far from empty, and it was reassuring - padding along the carpeted floors, he’d found his trunk laying at the foot of a bed, waiting for him. It was a while before other students filed past to the other levels, chattering about how they hadn’t seen anyone new come up to this dorm and how it was a shame. 

One of them had spotted Kurapika kneeling on the floor, frozen with his hands in his trunk, and everything stopped.

And then another nodded and said hello, and the world resumed. Later, an upperclassman had come down to check on him to see how he was settling in. They gave him a badge, and taught him how to change what it said to display which pronouns he’d like to use that day.

He’d spent hours in the night swapping it from “he” to “she” to “they” to “zie” and “sie”. 

Later he learned that the Hufflepuff common room was similar. Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs had potions together, and that was where he’d met Senritsu for the first time. She was a small, homely girl, and Kurapika could feel her eyes on him all during the introduction to the class.

She wasn’t nervous at all about approaching him, though, and though her words were very quiet, they were soothing. “I just wanted to tell you,” she’d said, her short fingers interlaced, “That your badge looks very nice. The Hufflepuff ones are nice too, but I think the bronze looks very charming.”

Senritsu was his first real friend at Hogwarts, even if later the details of their relationship would change. Many things did, after all.

Today, Kurapika was a boy.

But not always. 

Chapter Text

The first year without Leorio was also the first year with Alluka. 

They’d split up after the train ride, Alluka looking much more confident than Killua had felt. He’d gotten good at putting on a brave face for her sake. It had been years since she’d been outside the manor, and everything was bright and new and different. 

Killua had bought her chocolate frogs and treacle fudge and ice mice, all the candies he loved the most, and Gon had helped her catch the frogs when they jumped from her hands to crawl over the seats. They got along well, and it relieved Killua to see them laughing together. Even if Alluka wrinkled her nose suspiciously at the way they looked at each other.

Sitting in the Great Hall, Killua bunched his robes up in clenched fists. The new first years were filing in, but it wouldn’t be until the very end that Alluka would be sorted. His eyes scanned the crowd of nervous children, trying to search out her face.

But Alluka was the one who saw him first, and a tiny, pale hand popped up from the middle of the sea of first years to wave frantically at him. Gon was practically jumping out of his seat in response, and Killua wanted to storm over to the Slytherin table and smack him for it. They were calling too much attention to themselves already, but maybe that was inevitable. 

Instead, he made eye contact with his little sister and gestured to his neck to tell her that her robes were crooked again. It was the third time she’d fixed them that day, and it wouldn’t be the last, he was sure.

The new first years lined up to be sorted, one by one, and eventually they dwindled, and it was Alluka’s turn. Her name was called, and the attention of the hall was immediately divided. 

Eyes darted from seventh year Milluki at the Slytherin table, to Killua surrounded by Ravenclaws, to Alluka stepping down the hall with little ‘tap-tap-taps’ as her shoes hit the tiled floor, back to Slytherin where Gon was swinging his feet from the bench and grinning. 

And the Sorting Hat dropped over her head to cover her headband - it had smiling bats on it - and there was utter silence until the decision was made.

Later, with the sorting completed, he could turn around and pat her on the head from her seat at the Hufflepuff table. But with where he was sitting, it was easy for Killua to realize how many people were looking her way. It took Kurapika’s hand at his elbow for him to realize he’d been scowling.

Each glance he made towards the Slytherin table made things more complicated. Milluki had been making a concerted effort to brush off all comments on Alluka. He could see his brother’s mouth form the words “It’s not my fault you didn’t know I had a sister,” and his tense shoulders dropped.

In a lot of ways, Milluki’s time at Hogwarts had left him more mature than he’d been. When they’d gotten on the train, he’d even smiled at Alluka, even if it was barely. Things weren’t perfect, but they weren’t nearly as bad as they would have been if Illumi had still been a student. 

But Gon was also there, his fork and knife never slowing as he shoveled food into his mouth. There was very little that could stand up to that sight, and it relieved him more than he could have expected. 

When the feast ended, Killua dodged and weaved through the crowds to try and find Alluka before she was whisked away to the Hufflepuff common room. Gon nudged his way from behind a Gryffindor fifth year to grab Killua’s hand, and together they made their way through. 

They found Alluka with the other Hufflepuff first years. The prefects were there waiting for the last of the new students to make it to their respective groups to be led to their dormitories.

It gave Killua the chance to speak to her briefly, and it was more than he’d expected to get in the chaos of the first night at Hogwarts. He fixed her robes one last time, even as she huffed and insisted, “I can do it myself, big brother,” and Gon coughed at him when he considered kissing her forehead before letting her head off to her dorm. 

She turned and waved at him halfway down the corridor, and they watched until the group of Hufflepuffs turned a corner to vanish. 

Gon walked with him all the way to the Ravenclaw towers. “I want to say hi to Kurapika,” he said when Killua pointed out how out of his way it was. “I’ll head back to the dungeons after that, I promise.”

"If you start trouble on the first night I’m gonna be really mad.” Killua’s tone was already annoyed, but Gon’s hand found his and he couldn’t be too upset at the warm fingers wrapped around his. “I’m glad she’s in Hufflepuff,” he admitted, squeezing Gon’s palm as they walked.

"Hmmm, me too. If she’d been in Ravenclaw that would have been nice because you could be together, but everyone in Hufflepuff is really great. Ah, and Senritsu is there, and she’s really nice.”

"Yeah, she is." Senritsu was in the same year as Kurapika, and in some ways seemed to be his closest friend. Sometimes Gon and Killua would see them together, talking about all sorts of things. Both were prefects, Kurapika for Ravenclaw and Senritsu for Hufflepuff. They were strikingly different - Senritsu was short and chubby with fat fingers and worried-looking eyes, and Kurapika was tall and lean, willowy and confident. It didn’t seem to make any difference to them.

Gon liked Senritsu a lot, and he was always happy to see her with Kurapika. He said it was because Kurapika always seemed calmer after talking to Senritsu, and once he’d known to look for it, Killua realized it was true. She had that sort of effect on most people, and knowing she would be there to take care of Alluka was comforting. 

Answering the riddle to the Ravenclaw dormitories took seconds, and when the door swung open to admit him, Kurapika and the other prefects were at the end of their speech for the newcomers. His sharp eyes glanced to Killua and narrowed, as if scolding him for being late. 

When he was able to pull away from the little cluster of first years, Kurapika’s first comment was “Gon, shouldn’t you be in your own common room instead of being outside of mine?”

Gon grinned, swinging the hand that was holding Killua’s. “I was walking Killua over, see?” Killua yanked his hand away and scowled.

"You said you were coming to say hi to Kurapika," Killua shot back, crossing his arms over his chest. "Don’t lie."

"Well, if I said something else you wouldn’t have let me come with you," Gon replied easily, before turning to Kurapika. "But I did want to see Kurapika too, so it’s not like I was really lying.”

It seemed to make Kurapika a little happy. “Well, you’ve seen me, so now you need to go to your own dormitory before they send someone to get you. I’ll have to deal with that if they do, you know.”

"Riiiight!"

Even after the door closed behind Killua, he could hear Gon’s heavy footsteps as he ran down the hall. When they sat down on the couches, the first thing Kurapika said to him was, “You saw your sister, then?”

"Yeah," Killua answered easily. "She seems okay. Hufflepuff is probably the best place she could have ended up."

"But you’re disappointed?" Kurapika was incredibly sharp, and not one to mince words when it came to things like this. Killua had learned that no matter how much he beat around the bush, Kurapika wouldn’t ease up on him until he was honest. It was harder than lying or hiding.

"Not so much disappointed, as… well, I knew this would happen from the beginning. I just don’t like that I can’t be there to take care of her." He kicked gently at a table leg, just enough to threaten to topple the stack of textbooks on it. "But I know the prefects there are nice and there’s nothing to me to worry about. I just can’t help it."

Kurapika’s fingers laced together as he nodded. “Of course. That’s how family should be. But you’re right. My - … Senritsu will make sure she settles in without any difficulties.”

"Yeah. Either way, this year is going to be a huge hassle. Gon promised me he wouldn’t cause any problems tonight, but tomorrow is another…" Killua’s eyes narrowed and he trailed off as carelessly chosen words sank into his mind. "Your what?"

It seemed to take Kurapika off guard. “Excuse me?”

"Before. You were going to say something different from what you ended up saying." He’d been sprawled across the couch before, but now he sat up. Kurapika had one delicate eyebrow arched over brown eyes, and for a moment Killua wasn’t sure what to follow up with. "About Senritsu."

"Ah, sorry. I was going to say ‘my friend’, but it seemed unnecessary seeing as you already know her." Kurapika paused, uncrossing and re-crossing his legs. "Typically when I speak of her it’s in terms of being a friend and fellow prefect, so it’s sort of a habit to refer to her as such. But with you and Gon, it’s not something I need to do since you’re acquainted."

Killua nodded automatically. “Okay, yeah. You’re right. That makes perfect sense.” He waited until Kurapika’s slightly-tensed shoulders relaxed before continuing. “Because, well, I thought it was since you were going to call her your girlfriend because you’re totally dating I’m telling Gon!

That night Killua slept with a length of rope conjured by a flustered prefect tying him to his bedposts.

Chapter Text

Sometime during their second year, they’d started trading robes. Killua wasn’t sure when it had started, though he could recall the first time it happened.

"Killua, take your robe off," Gon said suddenly, putting his quill down with a little ‘tack’ noise. He stood up from the table in the library that they’d claimed that day as they did every day to do their homework and padded around to Killua’s side. Killua made a strangled noise, one that he quickly choked back so as to avoid drawing the attention of anyone, specifically the librarian. But Gon wasn’t deterred, and his hands were tugging stubbornly at Killua’s shoulders. 

"Gon, seriously? Quit it, what are you doing?" The black robes slid just enough to reveal his cardigan underneath, sending his tie askew. "Gon.”

"I wanna see if your robes will fit me," Gon said, as if it were a solid explanation for his sudden interest in stripping the other boy. For a brief moment, he paused, and then his own robes were yanked off and thrown across the table, sending ink splattering everywhere. 

Killua knocked him aside in one graceful motion and snagged his homework from the tabletop before it could be ruined. He was not so considerate as to rescue Gon’s. 

Gon made a noise that was both flustered and annoyed as he dove to save his textbooks, and for a moment the robe debacle was forgotten. But after he’d twitched his wand and sucked the ink from his papers and stoppered the pot of ink properly, it was back. 

This time Killua didn’t bother, and he unfastened his robes wordlessly and hurled them at Gon hard enough to make a puffing noise as they hit his chest. He fixed his tie, tucking it back into place under his cardigan. By that time, Gon had slithered into the borrowed robe, his own forgotten. 

Killua ignored him, choosing instead to return to his place in the astronomy text and continue filling out his star chart. It was only when Gon let out a contented little sighing noise that he looked up to see the other boy pulling the collar of his robes up to his nose.

"Gon. Why are you smelling my robes.” Killua felt his cheeks beginning to heat. Gon was so weird. He didn’t seem to care about things other people would consider embarrassing or unacceptable. Gon had even kissed him once - decidedly not a romantic action, since Gon didn’t seem to have any real understanding of romance. At least, not that Killua knew. Gon never talked about that kind of thing.

"Because they smell nice, like Killua." 

"Of course they smell like me, they’re my robes! Anyway, are you happy now? They fit you, basically. Were you expecting them not to? We’re basically the same size.” Killua yanked at Gon’s sleeve - his sleeve - and groaned when Gon’s fingers curled around the fabric stubbornly.

"Well, you’re taller than me, so I wasn’t sure. Look, the sleeves go a little longer, almost halfway down my palm." It was true, but the difference was so minor that it’d be impossible for anyone to notice unless they were looking for it specifically. Killua’s arms were longer than Gon’s, but Gon’s shoulders were broader, changing the what should have been about two inches of difference in sleeve length to barely one. Even with the height different between them, Killua suspected that it was negligible due to Gon’s thicker body.

He realized that no one would even notice. Something about it brought a tiny thrill to swirl in his chest. A secret no one could find out about, just between them. Killua didn’t ask for his robes back, and after about twenty minutes, Gon seemed to forget he’d stolen them. 

When the bell chimed to let Gon know he should have left to head to his class several minutes ago, he raced out of the library in Killua’s robes. And Killua, who had a closer classroom and more time to get there, was more relaxed about gathering his books together. 

The last thing he did was slip Gon’s robes over his shoulders, twitching them into place with a practiced grace that didn’t betray how his heart pounded. Killua knew that the tag on the inside of those robes read “Gon Freecs”, and he found himself bringing a sleeve up to his nose to sniff at it. 

It smelled like Gon. He’d known it would - he hadn’t been sure what he expected. But something about it was comforting. Gon smelled like fresh, green wood and dirt from running around the grounds, but also something more indescribable, the smell that wasn’t like anything else. Just Gon - the underlying smell of him that came naturally.

For the rest of that day, Killua felt calm. Every so often, he would turn his head to do something, to look somewhere, and the faint smell of Gon would fill his nostrils. It was a warm kind of smell. 

They could have swapped back after dinner that night, but neither mentioned the issue of the traded robes. Killua went to bed that night with Gon’s robes laying neatly folded on his trunk. He’d almost gone to sleep wearing them. Gon’s clothes seemed warmer than his own.

They stayed there for days, a tiny, innocent secret between them. He knew his own robes must have been draped over Gon’s bed, collecting wrinkles.  

Killua kept telling himself that they’d trade back if a day came that they were both wearing each other’s robes, but it seemed like it would never happen - one day he would wear Gon’s robes, only to see the other boy stumble into the Great Hall that morning in robes that fit him perfectly. And when Gon wore Killua’s robes, it was a day that Killua had just washed his robes and was wearing a fresh set. 

But he was unwilling to bring up the subject. It had gone on too long for him to talk about it. Even though Gon’s scent was almost gone from those robes.

It was Gon who made it continue, who didn’t let it die. It was Gon who showed up outside of the Ravenclaw dormitories half an hour before nightfall. In his hands were a poorly-folded set of robes, and his expression was sheepish when Killua looked at them. 

"Um, I figured I should probably give these back." His voice wasn’t as confident as Killua was used to. "You don’t have to give mine back, um. I washed them. Because. Well, you know."

Killua’s raised eyebrow made Gon look away, pink dusting his cheeks. “I’ve got yours, let me get them.” He brought his returned robes up with him, taking the stairs a little faster than normally. It gave him a chance to stand in the dorm for a few precious seconds, holding the clothes to his chest. But then he was out of time to leave Gon waiting, and Killua let them sit on his bed as he brought Gon’s own robes back down.

When he pressed them against Gon’s chest, the other boy grinned a little. Tanned fingers curled around the fabric, and his feet tapped against the floor in that uncontrollable way they did when Gon had too much energy. “Thanks, Killua!”

"Yeah, yeah. You need to go back to your dorm before you get in trouble, you know." Killua paused as Gon nodded and turned, and then asked the question that had been creeping up in his mind. "Why now?"

"Hmm?"

"I mean, why give the robes back now instead of a week ago?" Killua was astonished to see Gon’s ears turn red. "Did you forget about it?"

It seemed like something Gon might do, but the sudden hesitant look in the brown eyes that met his told him it was wrong. Gon scratched the back of his neck, shrugging in a way that wasn’t really genuine. “I dunno, I just thought it was going on too long for me to just pretend like nothing happened.”

It wasn’t the truth, Killua realized suddenly.

"… Gon. Why now?"

Gon looked down and bit at his lip a little. When he answered, it was barely more than a whisper. “I couldn’t get to sleep at night. They didn’t smell like you anymore.”

Chapter Text

Sometimes, Killua wondered about things that he’d never thought of in the past. Laying awake at night, staring up at the ceiling of the Ravenclaw dorms, the thought had crossed his mind. 

"What are we going to do after Hogwarts? Where will Gon go? Where will go?”

And then, following that thought, “What if we can’t go there together?”

It had made him stop. The realization that it had never crossed his mind. The consideration of why it was so important. He tried to imagine what things would be like if he went somewhere that wasn’t where Gon ended up. 

Killua’s hands pressed over his closed eyes, his heels digging in until stars formed and burst under his eyelids. He wasn’t sure if it would be okay. 

When he had been twelve, he’d needed Gon more than anything in the world. It would have been the worst thing in the world for them to have been dragged apart. 

During their fourth year, he’d started avoiding the other boy. Whether it was out of fear or stubbornness, he hadn’t been sure. By the time he’d turned fifteen, Killua thought he knew - and he thought that Gon had figured it out, and understood it.

He’d put distance between them just to prove that he could. To show himself that he could live without Gon, and that Gon could live without him. 

It had been important to both of them, to break that dependency that had become so commonplace. To have lives beyond one another. 

They had friends besides one another, even if they were friends they’d had in common. Kurapika had graduated, but Alluka was there, and that year Zushi had arrived, tiny and full of energy and immediately sorted into Gryffindor. He and Gon had become instantly close, despite the house rivalry. To Killua’s constant despair, the first year seemed to be developing a crush on Alluka. Zushi was someone Gon could get into scuffles with - he was short and small and completely willing to punch anyone in the face if he needed to.

Fifth year Pokkle, who was on the Hufflepuff Quidditch team, was idolized by Alluka for his flying skill. Sometimes Killua would see him practicing with Gon, who had no interest in Quidditch but had incredible interest in bludgers. Gon’s logic was that if he could take a bludger to the face without flinching, he could take any fist, and Pokkle had been the only one willing to throw them at him. The resulting howls could be heard across campus, but somehow it was one of Gon’s favorite activities. 

With him came Ponzu, another Hufflepuff fifth year and the Quidditch announcer - short and rambunctious and incredibly skilled with summoned creatures and potions. She’d taught Killua a number of tricks for drafting anti-venoms and how to harvest certain plants without drawing the attention of the animals that lived within them. And when he’d utterly failed at it, Ponzu was the one who laughed and showed him what salves to use on which insect bites.

There was sixth year Gryffindor Amane, who pretended to be colder than she really was, and fifth year Slytherin Canary, who seemed demure but really wasn’t. They were both skilled at dueling, and Amane was a chaser on the Gryffindor Quidditch team. He’d met Canary the year before in the hospital wing - him for a potion to help numb the blinding headaches he’d been getting, her as she visited with Amane after taking a bludger hit during a game. 

They’d spoken for several minutes before Killua had been able to place the strange familiarity he felt about her - a girl he’d played with sometimes as a child, her parents had been employed by the Zoldyck family for several years until their deaths. Canary had essentially lived at Hogwarts ever since, but expressed her interest at seeking employment with Killua’s family when she graduated. She was certainly good enough. 

He wasn’t exactly close to either of them at first, but it didn’t make him feel any less fond of them. During the holidays, Canary was at Hogwarts - she had nowhere else to go, and Killua staunchly refused to go back to the Zoldyck manor. They spent Christmas together that year - Canary braiding Alluka’s hair in front of the fireplace, playing chess and just talking for long hours. Alluka had held his hand as he brought her back to the Hufflepuff dorm and squeezed it when she said, “I’m glad Canary is our friend. I think if we had a big sister, she’d be like Canary.”

Killua had agreed.

And then the holiday break had ended and Amane had come back from her grandmother’s house, and seeing them together had given Killua another reason to like them just from the sparkle in their eyes and the way their hands linked together, Amane’s cheeks flushed from the cold and excitement. 

Every time he saw them together after that, Amane’s cheeks were dusted pink. At first he’d thought that Amane was embarrassed about it, but soon Killua had realized that she was just excited to be holding Canary’s hand. He liked how much they cared about each other and how willing they were to show it. It reminded him that inter-house relationships could be just as strong. 

It had been strange at first to spend the majority of a year without Gon - strange, and difficult, and painful - but when Killua walked down the halls into the dungeons to stand outside the Slytherin dorms, it had been because he wanted to, not because he needed to. And when they came back together, it was with a better understanding of themselves and each other.

Some things didn’t change, though. And some new things began.

They studied together every night, the way they had since their first year. Things that came easily to Killua were an effort for Gon, and they were both glad for the excuse to spend time together. Killua liked the feeling of Gon’s hands under his as he directed his wandwork, the way Gon’s back felt against his chest. The quiet hours together in the courtyard. Being kicked out of the library for making too much noise.

Sneak attacks from Pokkle, and the ugly laughter that escaped Killua every time he heard the solid thunk of Gon taking a bludger to the chest. He never asked how Pokkle had permission to use them - it was probably better that he didn’t know. 

Climbing the Whomping Willow, how Gon would latch on to a flailing branch and ride it as long as he could before being thrown off. Killua dodging and weaving between the limbs of the tree, trying to reach the top before being swiped away. Laughing together in a bruised heap when they’d both been tossed away like ragdolls. The way Alluka would come storming out onto the grass, her tiny hands curled into fists as she prepared to yell at them for being reckless. 

The way they’d pull each other to their feet, hands together for those brief moments. The unexpected uses of levitation charms in regards to throwing things at one another. Zushi’s surprising skill with deflection charms, and the way his shoes clacked loudly against the floors when he was anxious about a homework assignment but didn’t want to ask for help.

Candy spilling out of Gon’s pockets as he ran down the hall to the Ravenclaw dorm, having spent all his spare change on things for Killua. Diving in the lake even when the water was so cold it raised goosebumps on their skin and made their teeth chatter. Enchanting towels to snap at each other as they stood laughing in their underwear, dripping wet.

Detention, and detention, and detention. Gon’s bruised knees and banged elbows, the slips of paper they’d cast spells on and send sneaking to the other. “What do you wanna do after lunch tomorrow?” “Ponzu’s making some sort of fruit tarts, I want to steal one or seven.”

As the year passed, there were more and more things about Gon that Killua couldn’t help but notice. 

Gon’s warmth. Gon’s scent, green wood and fresh sweat and something that was just Gon. The bristling texture of his hair under Killua’s hands when he smacked Gon for ignoring him. Likewise, the feeling of Gon’s blunt fingers rubbing at his scalp when his headaches were particularly bad. 

Gon’s smiles - sometimes beaming, sometimes lazy. The way his eyes shone when he was excited, or the way they turned a darker brown when he was tired. How Gon fell asleep with his chin resting against Killua’s chest, making him shift to be able to read his textbook around the other boy. The way Gon looked when he’d just woken up, hazy and confused but content.

Gon’s tanned skin pressing against his, Gon’s lips and hands on him, so warm it felt like they were burning him. Touching Gon and kissing Gon, and -

And Killua, waking with a start, his eyes wide and heart pounding as the last dusty recollections of his dream faded. Feeling like his cheeks were hot enough to be a light source.

Realizing he had a crush on Gon Freecs.

Chapter Text

Since he’d first started Hogwarts - or maybe before, the memories were too hazy to really recall - Killua had suffered from headaches. Pounding, blinding headaches at times, but mostly a dull ache behind his eyes. It was something he’d learned to live with, even though he wished he didn’t have to.

Realizing his feelings about Gon was an entirely different kind of headache. 

It had been a distraction in the worst way. They had Defense Against the Dark Arts together, and lessons with Kite tended to get surprisingly hands-on. It was lucky that they weren’t having a practical lesson that day; even Killua recognized that his concentration was flagging. 

The third time during class that he found his eyes straying to Gon’s back - Kite had quickly caught on to the need to keep them in different rows, because if he didn’t, they’d get in trouble - Killua put his quill down with a tiny ‘tik’ noise and rested his chin in his hand. 

Kite’s eyes met his, and Killua quickly shook his head to indicate that he was okay. Their professor was perceptive if nothing else, and he was good at conveying a silent message without anyone else catching on.

Except Gon, of course. 

Killua could see Gon’s shoulders tense - broad shoulders. Gon needed new robes based on the way they stretched over those shoulders. But it told him that Gon had noticed, and the way his fingers tightened around his quill meant he was fighting the urge to turn around. That was when he became the recipient of Kite’s silent gaze, and there was nothing to be done about it. 

He paid little to no attention to the rest of the lesson, but Kite didn’t press him. Everyone knew that Gon Freecs and Killua Zoldyck were still taking Defense Against the Dark Arts because they were required to, not because they were uneducated. They were some of the best students of the year when it came to the subject matter. 

And so Killua fidgeted through class, counting the minutes down and ignoring everything Kite said about confounding charms and how best to deflect them. He only snapped out of it when Kite’s voice rose at the end of the lesson, telling them that their next class would be a practical and he hoped they would take their time considering the information they’d learned that day.

Gon cornered him after class, his fingers closing around Killua’s wrist and dragging him off. Killua could feel the dull pounding of an impending headache begin, and only Gon’s intent stare kept him from pinching the bridge of his nose. But he knew, and whatever Gon had planned to say died away.

"Killua, you weren’t paying attention, were you. To Kite’s lecture." They never called Kite "Professor". Some students tried it at first, but one of Kite’s failings was that whenever someone said "Professor", he failed to realize they meanthim. So instead, he was Kite to them, or Professor Kite to those who couldn’t let go of politeness even in face of an incredibly blunt and impolite man.

"No," Killua admitted, fishing around in his robes for one of the tiny, sealed bottles he kept on him. The potions didn’t help much - the matron of the hospital wing, Madame Norton, had repeatedly told him that unless he had any real idea as to why he was having them, she wouldn’t know how to treat them more effectively. But they kept the worst pain at bay, and Gon’s eyebrows furrowed in worry as he watched the other boy uncork the bottle. His fingers let go of Killua’s wrist almost reluctantly. 

Killua didn’t want to admit even to himself that the headaches probably weren’t from stress or overworking. 

"Killua," Gon began, before pausing to consider his words. It wasn’t the kind of thing Killua was used to. Gon only took care with his phrasing when he’d really thought seriously about something. "I think I’m going to learn more about confounding charms."

If not for the aftertaste of the potion, if not for the ache in his forehead and temples, perhaps Killua would have asked why. But he didn’t, and instead he just nodded, not thinking about it. 

It only seemed to make Gon more concerned. Normally he’d push Killua to the Ravenclaw dorms and scold him to lay down and stop working his brain so hard, and that would have been the end of things. Gon’s words were slow as he continued. “I think… that if you get the chance, you should talk to Kite about what you missed today. If you don’t pay attention next class you could get knocked out.”

Even with the circumstances, there was no way Killua could have ignored that. “Gon, what’s up with you? You know better than anyone that I’m the best in our class at deflection.”

"Yeah, but." Killua felt Gon’s hand brush against his again, and he couldn’t help the way his fingers twitched. "Sorry, it’s just weird for you to zone out in class. I thought something might have been wrong, I should have realized you were getting a headache." 

Gon wouldn’t meet his eyes. Something wasn’t right, but Killua couldn’t put his finger on it. He thought he could see the tips of Gon’s ears turning red, but before he could speak the hairs on the back of his neck were standing up, and that was how he knew Professor Siberia, the Divination instructor, was there.

"Hello Professor," Killua said without turning. He wondered why she was there. Usually she came out of the Divination tower for very specific reasons, and it concerned him that she’d found them. Palm Siberia was a gifted clairvoyant, but she was… strange, and ominous. If she was seeking out a student, it meant they needed her - that she’d seen them coming to her for help, and so she was there. "Who are you here for?"

He thought he knew.

Gon kicked at the ground as he turned to face Palm, staring anywhere else. 

"Gon, you wanted to talk again?" Her voice was quiet, but without the hoarse quality it had during her lessons. Killua had almost dropped Divination, but something about the way Palm had looked at him the day he was planning to do so had stopped him. She’d known.

"Yeah. Sorry. Killua, I’ll talk to you later, I just… gotta talk to Palm about something." 

Some day they were going to get in trouble for calling all of their professors by their first names, but today wasn’t that day.

As he watched Gon walk away, something twisted in the pit of his stomach. It took him a moment to realize why he was suddenly so concerned. It wasn’t just that Gon had been so uncharacteristically pensive. It was something else.

The other boy was blushing.

Chapter Text

Gon Freecs had no interest in Quidditch matches, at least not at first. It seemed to defy most people’s expectations of him, but a closer inspection of the kind of person he was made it seem obvious.

The Slytherin Quidditch team had tried to recruit him several times as a beater, but Gon had stubbornly refused with increasing agitation. By his fifth year, most people had realized that trying to get Gon to play Quidditch was becoming a fast way of getting a right hook to the face. At that point, it was more the principle of the matter.

His initial reasons had been clear enough - “I don’t want to hurt people who don’t deserve it or aren’t ready for it,” though his later realization and acceptance of the fact that everyone playing the game was prepared to take a bludger to the face had changed that. 

Now, it was a matter of not wanting to be around people who refused to accept a rejection. In actuality, Gon had slowly come to the realization that he probably would have joined the team if not for the disregard his would-be teammates held for his opinion on the matter. 

But it didn’t really have any impact on him. After all, he played with the people who he wanted to play with. And he happily ran across the pitch when practices were being held - he wouldn’t join the team, but he was fully prepared and willing to help then. It didn’t matter what House it was - all of the captains had a sort of mad streak in them, and the general logic was that if the team could keep calm in the face of Gon Freecs with a beater’s bat, they could keep calm in the face of anything. 

It wasn’t so much about wanting to play. It was more about how the bat felt in his hand when it connected with a bludger. Gon liked that kind of thing - the solid feeling of a hit, the satisfaction of hitting someone who was prepared to be hit, who’d signed up for it. It was fun. He’d heard something about a muggle sport that was just punching each other, and Gon thought that sounded great.

There was also the fact that a lot of the Quidditch players were nasty, and it gave him a chance to whisper in their ears what that particular bludger was for after it had knocked them off their brooms. “That was for the first year Hufflepuff whose juice you put a Fizzing Whizbee in.” “That was for jinxing your ex when she broke up with you.” “That was for calling Senritsu disgusting.” 

But the biggest reason he ended up caring about Quidditch wasn’t any of that.

It was that Alluka Zoldyck had joined the Hufflepuff team.

More than anything, from the first day of flying lessons, Alluka had been entranced. Something about flying spoke to her. Gon had a feeling that it had to do with freedom - the freedom she hadn’t had for years until she first stepped into the Great Hall.

He tried not to think about it. Thinking about a family who locked their child away, isolating her from the world, made him too angry. If he thought about it too much, he couldn’t keep calm.

Killua had made him promise.

And so rather than dwelling on it, he watched her fly. At first she’d been bad at it, her skinny knees covered in bandages from falling off her broom, shoes scuffed from scraping against the ground. She’d begged Professor McMahon to let her use the brooms outside of flying lessons. He’d apologetically informed her that it was against regulations, before adding “I’m also not allowed to tell you that I keep the key to the broom shed in my office desk in the second drawer on the left and am not present to watch it during my classes.”

In her second year, Killua had bought her a broom of her own with his own money, and Gon wasn’t sure if he’d ever seen a child so happy in his entire life. She’d practiced every day, spinning and spiraling through the air, weaving through trees and turning huge loop-de-loops through the Quidditch rings, and laughing, and laughing. 

The next year, she’d been running across the pitch in black and yellow Quidditch robes, the new Hufflepuff seeker, her cheeks flushed with excitement. 

Killua was at every match, yelling louder than anyone. The other Ravenclaws couldn’t even get mad at him for cheering another team, because he was so enthusiastic about cheering on his little sister. Gon went too, and his voice joined the Hufflepuff chants with Killua’s, making them the loudest cheering section in the entire school, threatening to drown out Ponzu’s commentary. It echoed around the stadium - the Hufflepuffs in their section, Gon’s shouting from the Slytherin stands, and Killua screaming himself hoarse from Ravenclaw, standing up on the benches, prouder than anyone.

The first match that Hufflepuff won saw Killua almost climbing out of the stands and onto the field before catching himself. His eyes had been sparkling, fingers clutching the railing so hard that his knuckles were white. And Gon had run to him, tripping over his feet in his haste to throw Killua out onto the pitch and watch the mad dash that occurred as he bolted to hold his sister in the air like the prize she was. Her hands were raised over her head, waving the snitch as its wings flapped futilely, grasped firmly in her fingers. 

Even the Slytherin team, clutching their brooms and preparing to leave the pitch after their loss, had smiled at that. And they kept smiling, as everyone did. Even when Gon dashed out on the field after Killua. Even when the other Hufflepuffs were crawling from the stands to join the pandemonium on the field. Even when the professors were converging on them to drag them off the pitch, only to be held back just long enough by the head of Hufflepuff House, Professor Mackernassy, whose booming laughter rang out as the students scattered in joyful panic.

Even though Gon and Killua had detention for three weeks after that.

That was why Gon liked Quidditch. It wasn’t about him at all. It was about Alluka, and how happy she was, and how contagious that happiness was.

And also, it was about how happy Killua was, too.

Chapter Text

By the next time they’d had Defense Against the Dark Arts, Killua had figured it out. Had realized what Gon had seen before he did, why the other boy’s eyes had been narrow with worry and his fingers curled around his wand too tightly.

What Gon had been trying to tell him.

Confounding charms. 

Killua had figured it out, leaning over his textbook in an attempt to catch up with the lesson he’d missed. Confundo, the Confundus charm. His eyes had scanned over the words, something in his stomach twisting. 

Causes the victim to become confused. Befuddled. Overly forgetful. And prone to following simple orders, without thinking about them. 

Killua’s eyes, still fixed on the page. He looked at the text through blurring eyes, because there were more words there to read. Other books to read, more to learn. Confounding charms. Spells that took away their victim’s ability to resist. Other spells like it. Another spell.

Reading about that spell was the hardest thing he’d ever done.

The potential long term effects of repeated use on victims include: Memory problems. Confusion. Unfocused vision. Instances of powerful mental distress. Anxiety.

Persistent headache.

And suddenly, in Killua’s mind, a sobbing, shaking, angry, fearful relief. Things made sense.

Obeying Illumi without a second thought. His unease at the thought of going against him. 

"Kil, go back to your dormitory." And he had gone.

"Kil, don’t make a fuss." And he didn’t.

Even further back. 

"Kil, you know what you are." And he did.

"Kil, leave it alone." How he’d wanted to scream, but he didn’t. How he’d obeyed, and let go of Alluka’s hand. 

"Kil, you can’t have friends." And how, until that day on the Hogwarts express, he had believed it.

Gon’s voice, still the high voice he’d had before puberty, the voice he’d had when Illumi had still been at Hogwarts. “Why do you even listen to that guy, anyway? He may be your brother, but he’s a jerk.”

Leorio, expressing the same sentiments. “Don’t listen to a word he says, Killua! He’s a scumbag and he can’t tell you how to be.”

How Killua couldn’t find the words in his spinning brain. Unclear memories that he didn’t know he had, now swirling and spiraling in the front of his mind, blurring together and making his chest feel so tight he couldn’t breathe. 

How Gon watched him all through the lesson. How when their eyes met, Gon knew he’d figured it out. The pleading way Gon looked at Kite - “Don’t look at us, don’t pay attention to us,” - and their professor’s nostrils had flared and his shoulders rose in sudden realization. Killua’s head aching, his pulse pounding between his ears. 

The way he had stood up, his fingers curled around his wand so tightly it seemed like he would break it. Gon grabbing at his sleeve before letting go, his jaw set in determination and anger. 

Palm Siberia, standing with one hand in the doorway, her mouth twisted in a frown. 

She always showed up when one of her students needed her. And two of them did.

The lesson had stopped as Gon slammed his hands against the desk, pushing himself to his feet. Kite hadn’t made a single move to stop them from leaving, only nodding calmly when Gon said, “Sorry, Kite, we have to go,” while jerking his head in Palm’s direction.

They’d walked up the stairs to the Divination tower in silence, climbing the ladder without a word. Gon’s hand was curled up in a fist around the fabric of Killua’s sleeve. Killua only stared at the crystal ball sitting on Palm’s desk as she placed a cup of tea in front of him, not even watching her add milk. She dropped a cube of sugar in before pausing to consider it, and then added two more. Gon’s cup came next, with barely a teaspoon of milk and nothing more. 

"Killua," she said. He didn’t want to look up. He just wanted to stay there for a moment, Gon’s shoulder against his. "I can’t see into the past. And I don’t think you want to either."

Killua shook his head. “I think… No, I know. I should have realized it before. I just didn’t want to admit it. Didn’t want to look in to it, because I wouldn’t like what I found.”

Palm wasn’t the kind of person who would easily be seen as gentle, but in that moment there was nothing else in her but kindness. The words she spoke were regretful but firm - the words she knew he needed to hear, the ones that needed to be spoken to help him. She had already seen something about it, and was guiding things where they needed to go. 

"And what did you find?"

Saying it out loud meant he had to face it.

"I think," he said, his words dropping calmly and smoothly, like his mind wasn’t in screaming upheaval, like he was trying to make light of it in order to protect himself. "That my brother has been using the Imperius curse on me."

Chapter Text

Thinking back, Gon realized there had been no reason to be so foolish about the whole thing. He’d gotten too used to it, too close to see the problem until he stepped back. 

The five or sixth months - he had counted the days at first, but as time pressed on he’d let go - that he and Killua had been apart changed things for Gon.

It came on slowly, but as soon as he became conscious of it, it was everywhere.

Suddenly, Gon was realizing something that he wasn’t sure how to cope with. The way his throat felt tight seeing Killua in the halls, walking out of the greenhouses with Ponzu and fingers covered in stings. The way Killua’s eyes shone when he was watching Alluka during a match. 

It was jealousy, at first. Plain, simple jealousy. That Killua was so happy, without him. But that stupid anger faded, replaced by a dull ache in his chest whenever he saw the other boy. It was like a bruise - it hurt, but something about that pain felt good. Then, Gon was just happy. Killua was smiling, and that was the greatest thing he could see. Even if that smile wasn’t directed at him.

He thought Killua had to have his reasons. And as the second month passed away, Gon was glad for it. Though he wasn’t entirely conscious of it, he’d needed this. To back away and live his life - to learn how to be able to back away. Letting go was one of the most important lessons he’d ever learned. 

After all, if he and Killua were always there for each other, they’d never learn how to be there for themselves.

Running across the pitch with Pokkle, the dull thump of bludgers and the crack of broken fingers as he dove to punch them out of the air. Teaching Zushi how to kick over his head without pulling a muscle. Catching Alluka out of the air when she snuck out to practice and didn’t want Killua lecturing her. Getting a howler that screamed in Leorio’s voice, berating him for breaking six bones in one week. 

Living for himself.

And then, when Killua strode back into his life - never having been really gone, just a little far away - it was a different life than it had been. 

The ache he felt when he saw Killua didn’t go away. Gon had thought it would, that being close to him again would destroy the need for that feeling. 

It only got worse. 

He realized that he was watching Killua all the time. 

Killua laying on his stomach in the grass, his quill scratching against parchment. Killua hanging upside-down off a branch of the Whomping Willow, laughing at Zushi’s panic. Killua slapping a bludger out of the air and shaking his fingers like it barely even hurt, because he’d come down to make Gon do his homework and nothing was going to stop him. Sitting in class and thinking to himself that, wow, Killua was really pretty.

That was the first time he actively sought Kite out for something other than classwork. They’d ended up having plenty of discussions in the past. Kite was the head of Slytherin, and so it had started off as a relationship grounded in discipline. But Kite was a good person, no matter how gruff and standoffish he seemed, and it was only a matter of time before he was a more active part of Gon’s life. 

Kite wasn’t the kind of person who would sit down with a student and give them a cup of tea and wordlessly listen to their troubles. Kite didn’t even drink tea. And that wasn’t what Gon wanted from him. He wanted Kite to be blunt with him, because that was the only way he could sort things out. 

Kite was the first one who really sat him down and made him think about things. Was it really worth it to throw himself into things headlong, without thinking about them? Was it worth getting hurt over? 

At first, Gon’s answers had been immediate. “Of course it is!”

"And why?"

"Because no one else will."

"But why do you have to be that person? Is it because it’s the right thing to do, or is that what you tell yourself to justify it? What gives you the right to punish these people?"

That was when Gon had stopped. He’d had to stop, to take in the magnitude of those words. His hands had curled into fists on his knees. Gon thought about it, and what he found upset him.

He didn’t have an answer.

It was something he agonized over for days. Why was he doing what he did? Why had he appointed himself to be the dispenser of vigilante justice on Hogwarts grounds?

Did he just like to hurt people, and this was the only way he could do so without hating himself? 

How different was he from Hisoka, really?

But eventually, he’d dashed down to Kite’s office, his cheeks flushed and eyes sparkling. Because he’d found an answer.

"Kite," he’d said, panting and leaning against the doorway. "I figured it out. I’m doing it because I’m not a perfect person. I’m doing it because there are things about me that are bad and that I don’t like and I don’t want to think about. I get angry too easy and I’m good at hurting people, and it’s terrible. But there are other people who like hurting people, who will hurt people who can’t fight back. I’m doing it because I don’t want to be that kind of person.” The words had spilled out of him, uncontrollable and rambling but somehow exactly what he wanted to say.

"I’m doing it because I can take those things, all those bad things about me, and I can use them in good ways. I don’t know if I’m doing it for the right reasons, but I’ll never know that. And I’m doing it because even if I’m the one who’s wrong, even if it started because I liked it, even because punishing bad people felt good and I got lost in it, even with all of that! I can use it. It’s not wrong to hate evil people! But I… forgot. I forgot, that people are just people. And I’m just a person too. And the kind of person I am… is the kind of person who wants to stop bad things from happening. So I will.”

"So that’s your answer, Gon?"

"That’s my answer."

Kite had paused for a long moment, just looking at him, reading his face, his determination. And then he had nodded, and said, “It’s a good answer. Don’t ever forget it.”

Gon had thought that maybe that was what it was like to have a father. 

And so it was Kite that he went to, fidgeting and unsure. 

The professor had gotten up from his desk when Gon appeared in his office, closed the door behind him, shut the blinds. Just from Gon’s face it was clear that whatever was plaguing him was a serious matter in his mind. 

The seat he normally took wasn’t as comforting as it usually was, and his stomach fluttered nervously. Kite was looking at him with something that wasn’t quite expectation. His words echoed a little as he spoke, his coffee cup blocking his mouth. “If you don’t say whatever you want to say, then coming down here was a wasted trip.”

It forced the words from Gon’s throat.

"Kite, um. You’ll be honest with me, right? No, don’t answer that, it’s a stupid question. Er… have you…" His fingers tapped on the arm of the chair. It was hard to figure out what he wanted to say. "Have you ever d-da…ted someone?"

Coffee sprayed across Kite’s desk.

Slowly, he set the mug down, and their eyes met over the mess. “I think,” he said, “That I am the wrong professor to be asking these questions.”

Chapter Text

It had been the first time he’d really seen Kite flustered, and while the sight was almost comical Gon couldn’t bring himself to smile at it. His cheeks flushed, and Gon felt his fingers dig into the arm of his chair. It had been more embarrassing than he’d expected - logically there was no reason to get so tongue-tied over asking for advice, but once he was forcing the words out of his mouth it had been an entirely different matter. This was serious, after all. If he couldn’t ask Kite, who could he go to? 

The answer had come faster than expected, when one of the quills - splattered with coffee - on Kite’s desk began to shake and spin in place. Kite swore under his breath, yanking a drawer open and throwing a fresh roll of parchment on the desk before realizing there was still a puddle of coffee there. 

Then he was up, unfolding in that way he did, his lips drawn in a taut line of frustration. A quick wand movement later, a robe flew from where it had been draped over a chair and it settled on the desk, soaking up the mess there. 

Another parchment was slapped down, this time remaining unmarred until he picked up the flailing quill and set it against the paper. The quill began to move across the page on its own, writing words in a messy scrawl. Gon tried to read them upside-down, but the handwriting was too much of a disaster for him to process them. He wasn’t sure if he’d be able to read them the right way around either.

It didn’t seem to be a problem for Kite, probably because for him the letters were the right side up, but also probably because he’d gotten used to reading the hideous handwriting of so many students, Killua included. Killua’s handwriting was a train wreck - he wrote too fast and his letters ran together, and they slanted up the pages as his sentences went on. Gon had eventually started enchanting his parchment to have straight lines for Killua to use as a guide, and that had helped somewhat to tame the words. By contrast, Gon’s lettering was neat and consistent - but only by contrast.

Kite’s eyebrows furrowed as he read the words being scratched into the parchment, in the way he did when he wasn’t really annoyed, just paying close attention. It was an important skill to be able to read Kite’s frowns. When the quill stopped and fell motionless to the desk, he nodded. 

Gon opened his mouth to speak before considering that whatever was on the paper wasn’t necessarily his business. But Kite was rolling up the parchment and pointing it at him. “Professor Siberia’s asking for you. Go bring your romance debacle to her instead.”

And so he did, his fingers fidgeting as he walked down the halls and up the stairs. The idea of visiting Palm had crossed his mind briefly, but Kite had seemed like a better choice. Killua was a boy, after all, so it seemed odd to talk about him to a woman. But as Gon padded down the halls, he wasn’t sure why he’d thought that.

The Divination tower seemed like a place that should have been cold and sort of gloomy. That was the impression Palm gave to many students. And indeed, the actual classroom had that kind of feel - but Gon had realized quickly that it was part of an act, giving the students what they expected. He got the feeling that Palm had used to be that kind of dark, unhappy person, but she wasn’t anymore.

The place where students with worries could visit was a different matter entirely. He’d never been there before, and he wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting. There wasn’t anything special about the room, but Gon was fairly certain there was some kind of low-level enchantment on it that helped people relax. It felt like a welcoming place. When he walked in, the anxiety he’d been feeling melted away a little - not completely, but enough that he could think about it without feeling like his face was on fire. 

There was tea there, a cup that was already brewed and steaming slightly. It had been ready for several minutes - long enough that it had to have been prepared before the letter had been sent. 

Gon wondered what Palm had seen, but she probably wouldn’t say. 

"I see you managed to shock Kite," she said instead, setting the cup in front of him. Before he could even open his mouth to protest, she was speaking again. "I know you don’t want it, but it’s only polite to offer it anyway."

"… yeah." He played with the sleeve of his robes, not sure how to continue. "I, um… do you know…?"

Palm shook her head a little as she sat down - not quite across from him, but close enough that they could speak face to face easily while still giving Gon the option of turning away. “I can see, but I can’t hear. All I know is that something’s bothering you and it’s not a problem that Kite knows how to deal with. I saw him reacting, so I had to wait until that actually happened before I could contact him.”

For a moment, Gon forgot why he was there. “What would have happened if you didn’t wait?”

"Well…" Palm tapped a finger against her knee. "If I did that, the thing I witnessed might not happen. I don’t believe it’s right to interfere with things that I’ve seen when they’re like this. My influence could change things for the worse, after all. Of course, if I see someone getting hurt, it’s another matter entirely."

He nodded slightly. It made perfect sense, though he wasn’t sure why. Convictions were strange in that way. “So…”

"I do have an idea of what’s bothering you, of course, but I think it’s better if you tell me." Her hair was falling into her face, long, scraggly strands. Palm’s pale fingers tucked it behind her ear, and Gon found himself watching them move. Her hands were sort of like Killua’s, and that brought him back to the issue at hand.

"Palm, um… How… did you realize you liked Professor Knov?" It was no secret. Everyone could see the way Palm’s eyes followed him - Professor Knov was the History of Magic instructor, and he was devastatingly handsome in a way no one could deny. But there was a sincere difference in the gazes of infatuated students and the look that was in Palm’s eyes when he was around.

Palm didn’t seem to realize how obvious it was, at least not by the way her cheeks flushed and her fingers dug into her clothes. “H-how- No, that’s not…”

And then they were both sitting there, red-faced over two different people and unable to look at one another. It took Palm less time to compose herself, though her cheeks still glowed. “That’s a… well, that’s something that’s hard to answer. I don’t think… that it’s so much something you suddenly know.”

"You just kind of slowly start to get it, and one day you think you just become aware of something you knew all along. Is… is that right?" Gon could feel the tips of his ears burning, but Palm was nodding.

"A good way of phrasing it. I don’t believe it’s an instantaneous thing, coming to realize that you care deeply for someone you’ve known for a long time." 

"So… how do you know? The difference between liking someone as a friend and liking them as… you know. A… b-boy…friend? Or… wanting them to be that." He’d never expected to feel so flustered about the whole thing. In the past, Gon had just been under the impression that it was nothing to be embarrassed about - liking people. He’d just thought one day, when he wanted to date someone, he’d be able to be confident about it the way he was with most things. 

Gon hadn’t expected the way his fingers shook or the tight feeling in his throat. He hadn’t expected the queasy feeling in his stomach when he looked at Killua - hadn’t expected how pretty Killua was. And Killua was pretty; it was something he’d known and recognized for years, but now it meant something entirely different. 

"I guess what I mean is… how do you know if you’re in love with someone?" Gon was a little afraid of the answer he might get. Or rather, the lack of answer. He was sixteen and that was too young to be thinking about being in love, really being in love and not the kind of infatuation teenagers were in. That was what he was afraid of hearing, because really, he already believed it.

But that wasn’t what Palm told him. “I think that if you’re questioning it so seriously, it doesn’t really matter. If you’re thinking about him and you aren’t sure, it means that he means so much to you that the exact way you care isn’t as important as the caring itself. We’re quick to try and slot emotions into categories, but that doesn’t mean they necessarily fit. And maybe the way you feel isn’t permanent, but it’s real right now, and that means that no one can tell you it’s not important.”

"But…" Gon didn’t know what else to say. The need to protest it was all he had. It couldn’t be that easy.

"The thing you should be thinking about isn’t whether or not you’re in love with someone. The thing you should be asking is what you want from him. Do you want him to love you? Or do you just want to spend time with him? Is it important to be loved back in the exact way you love, or are you happy with the way things are? But I don’t think you are." Palm pulled the unclaimed cup of tea over to her and took a sip before continuing. "If you were completely content with the way things are, you wouldn’t be so conflicted over it."

He nodded. It wasn’t wrong. He was happy to be with Killua the way he’d always been, but it wasn’t all he wanted. There was a nagging want underneath it, a desire for change. He was happy… but he could be happy in a different way, maybe a better way. “You’re right. It doesn’t feel like enough to just be the way we always are. And sometimes I… I see some of Killua’s friends, and they’re together and they always look so happy. Even when they’re mad at each other, you know they love each other, and I…”

Gon stared down at his hands. His chest felt tight, but something about admitting it out loud was a relief. “I want to be that way with Killua.”

It didn’t seem to surprise Palm, and he wondered if he was as obvious about Killua as she was about Professor Knov. If everyone else could see it, but the people who it revolved around remained blind.

"What do you feel like you need from him to make you happy? I think that’s the question you should be asking, and the answer you come to should be what guides what you’ll do next."

Before he left, with his heart feeling lighter than it had in days, Gon hugged Palm the way he’d hugged Mito when he was a child.

Chapter Text

He’d spent days running it over in his head, trying to find the words to say. Words that would be obvious, words with no room for misinterpretation. That was why he couldn’t just say, “Killua, I like you.”

But something like “Killua, will you go out with me?” seemed wrong too, though he couldn’t say why. It didn’t seem like enough, didn’t capture the way he felt. 

He couldn’t say, “Killua, I’m in love with you.” It was too much. Even if it might be the truth.

And so Gon sorted through jumbled words in his head, stuttering and stammering in his own brain.

"Killua, I really like you. I mean, I really, really like you. Not in a… not just in a friend way.” He couldn’t figure it out. How to tell Killua what he wanted. But that was close. That was so close. Saying that he wanted to stay friends, while also becoming something else entirely. 

Gon finally thought he’d sorted things out as much as he possibly could, and all he could do was wait for the right chance to speak. After all, planning things far in advance had never been something he was good at. Being on the spot was what made his brain work the best.

He never got the chance. The day he’d planned on speaking the words was the day things went wrong. Or rather, the day Gon realized what had been wrong all along, and the day he realized that his feelings weren’t the priority. 

Gon had never liked Killua’s older brothers. He’d never liked any of the Zoldyck family besides Killua and Alluka. They were cruel and calculating and twisted in ways he could barely fathom - didn’t want to fathom. 

But Illumi had been a different matter. He was controlling and domineering and distant, while at the same time trying to hold Killua back with him. And their parents let him, even seemed like they approved of it. Keeping Killua locked away in a prison like Alluka, but a prison of destroyed emotions and self-hatred. A prison that he couldn’t free Killua from just by opening a door. A prison that Killua had to stumble free from, scared and lost and with Illumi dogging him every step of the way. 

Illumi.

Gon hated him, in a way he wasn’t sure he’d ever hated someone before. Seeing him at the train station every year made something clench in his brain. Those blank eyes. That nonchalant expression. The way he looked at Killua, like he was still a helpless child. Like he was a doll to be manipulated, not a person with free will and the ability to make his own choices. 

And the fact that Killua listened to him, even though his face twisted up in displeasure and he looked miserable following his brother’s instructions. Doing things he didn’t want to do, because Illumi said so. 

Gon had wanted to run across the platform, to let his fists batter against Illumi’s face and knock him to the ground, and just keep hitting until he was gone forever, gone from Killua’s life. Every time he saw Illumi his body trembled with anger. He could never catch up to them. Every time he saw it, it was too late to chase after them.

And Killua had made him promise.

It made him seethe, knowing how little he could do. 

That was why he’d been happy that Killua had stopped returning home for the holidays. Hearing that he and Alluka had stayed at Hogwarts for Christmas had brought him a sense of relief, like letting out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding. 

Maybe it was because he could so easily see Illumi in the back of his mind that he realized it. That it wasn’t a matter of Killua listening to his big brother. That Illumi was the kind of person who would do it. 

Sitting in class and hearing Kite talk about confounding charms, and what they could do. And what they couldn’t do. “Of course, the Confundus charm can only make victims susceptible to following suggestions. If it’s something that the person the charm is used on would resist doing, the charm can’t force them to do it. There’s only one spell that can do that, and it’s an unforgivable curse for a reason.”

Killua hadn’t been paying attention. He knew, or else he would have seen how Gon’s quill snapped between his finger and thumb. It was lucky that Killua sat behind him. It was lucky that Gon sat in the front row, where no one but Kite could see the way his pupils dilated and his teeth clenched in sudden fury. 

Killua hadn’t realized.

He couldn’t lose control. Not like this. He didn’t even know for sure, even though everything in his mind screamed and screamed. 

You didn’t know he’d do it! But I did, I knew he was that kind of person! He would do it, he - but there was no proof, no proof that Illumi would go that farhe did, he did and you’re stupid, you’re so stupid, how could you be so stupid as to not realize it?  - but you didn’t know, you couldn’t have known, it’s not something you can just blame yourself for - but you’re going to.

Gon sat in the classroom with his hands shaking in rage and tears budding in his eyes. He wanted to scream. He wanted to slam Illumi’s head against the ground and hit him and hit him and hit him until there was nothing left where his emotionless face had been, until he was a bloody smear on the pavement and not a person anymore. No, he’d never been a person, had he? People didn’t do the things he’d done. Illumi wasn’t a person, he was evil and sick and twisted, and people couldn’t be like that, but they could and he was and all Gon could do was sit there.

Tears dripped onto his textbooks, and Gon spent the rest of the class focusing solely on composing himself. When he talked to Killua, he couldn’t be mad. When he talked to Killua, he had to keep calm and be there for him. Because he didn’t know how Killua would react. Could he just tell him? “Hey, Killua, I think your brother’s been using an illegal mind-control spell on you.” Gon couldn’t do that. 

He couldn’t just say it. But maybe it was better if he wasn’t there, if Killua realized it on his own. Would Killua blame himself if someone else told him? It seemed exactly like something Killua would do. To beat himself up over it, for being so pathetic - only in Killua’s mind, never, never in Gon’s - as to not realize it himself.

It wasn’t as if he could just let it go. Especially not if they had to practice defending against confounding charms and Killua realized it then, in a classroom full of students. 

Class ended, and Gon acted. He grabbed Killua by the wrist and dragged him out into the hall, out into the courtyard even in the chill.

He didn’t know what to say until he was saying it. 

"Killua, you weren’t paying attention, were you. To Kite’s lecture." Gon already knew the answer, but he asked anyway. It worked to ease his brain into the subject if nothing more, but Killua was reaching into his pockets and a stab of uncertainty raced through Gon.

"No," Killua said, and his voice was distracted and tired in that way he got when he was in pain. The tiny bottle in his hand that he uncorked and downed in one gulp. Headaches.

The queasy feeling in his stomach wouldn’t go away. But there was another feeling that began to bubble up underneath it. A feeling Gon hadn’t realized should have been there all along.

That something was wrong.

Killua worked too hard. That was what he always thought, being twelve and watching Killua’s hands press at his temples. Killua was so smart, so it had to be that his brain was just working too hard. It wasn’t as if Gon considered himself to be stupid - it was just that Killua was always thinking. 

That was why sometimes he had a far-off look in his eyes, like he was trying to focus on something that wasn’t there. That was why sometimes Gon would catch him doing something that he wasn’t conscious of doing. Tapping his quill against his leg and not noticing the ink that dripped down to stain his pants. Writing the same sentence twice. It was because Killua’s brain worked so fast that the rest of him sometimes couldn’t keep up. 

At first it had bothered him, but he’d grown numb to it the more he saw it. That was just how Killua was. 

But it wasn’t how Killua was.

Gon’s fingers let go of Killua’s wrist. “Killua,” he started, but his words failed him and he had to pause and kick his mind back into working. He was scared. Scared to broach the subject. Scared for Killua, for what could have been happening to him, had already happened to him. “I think,” he said slowly, “I’m going to learn more about confounding charms.”

Killua was making a face as his tongue slid around his mouth, trying to get rid of the aftertaste of the potion. He nodded, and Gon realized that the other boy hadn’t caught what he’d been trying to subtly get across. He had to try again.

"I think… that if you get the chance, you should talk to Kite about what you missed today. If you don’t pay attention next class you could get knocked out."

Something clicked in Killua’s mind, at least by the way his eyes narrowed. It relieved Gon a little. Killua hadn’t gotten there yet, but he had recognized that something had happened. “Gon, what’s up with you? You know better than anyone that I’m the best in our class at deflection.”

He was right, but that wasn’t the real concern. “Yeah, but.” Unconsciously, Gon started to reach for Killua’s hand, but stopped himself before his fingers could do more than brush against Killua’s. It seemed to startle him, and a nervous sort of guilt welled up in Gon’s stomach, tinged with embarrassment. He’d almost taken Killua’s hand. His ears felt hot. “Sorry, it’s just weird for you to zone out in class. I thought something might have been wrong, I should have realized you were getting a headache.”

Behind Killua, he could see Palm, and he knew he was supposed to leave Killua to his own devices. Even though he didn’t want to, even though he was nervous and scared. 

"Hello, Professor," Killua was saying, but he hadn’t turned to look at her and so Gon couldn’t break. "Who are you here for?"

Killua had to know, though.

"Gon, you wanted to talk again?" Palm’s expression was pained, the pain Gon wanted to show on his own face but couldn’t. She’d known he was about to shatter, maybe even had seen it and was here to stop it. 

"Yeah. Sorry. Killua, I’ll talk to you later, I just… gotta talk to Palm about something." 

Gon didn’t look back. He couldn’t look back, because if he did, Killua would see how his face flushed and tears slid down his cheeks. He didn’t want Killua to see him cry.

Chapter Text

Sitting in Palm’s office, with his head cradled in his hands. The way his mind reeled and spun, anger and horror and despair. What was Killua doing now? Gon had just walked away with with no explanation, unable to look at him. What had his face looked like? Had he been upset? But Gon hadn’t looked back. He’d made himself face forward, to look up, as if it would keep the tears from spilling over. 

It hadn’t. They dripped down his nose, leaving wet spots on his knees. Before, he’d been angry. He’d been so angry. Angry with Illumi, angry with himself, angry with everyone around him for not having seen it. Killua’s parents and Killua’s brothers, their teachers, everyone who hadn’t seen it. Should have seen it.

Gon stared at his knees and cried, and Palm didn’t ask. Didn’t offer what she had seen that had made her come to get him - though it had probably been this moment. When she finally spoke, there was something sad in her voice.

"This isn’t about what we spoke about before, is it."

"No," Gon whispered. His vision swam. "It’s worse. It’s bad, and I want it to stop, and for it to never have happened. Palm, is… is there a spell to do that? To stop something from happening that happened a long time ago? Can I… Can I undo something terrible? Am I allowed to do that? I want to…" His words broke off, and by the time he continued, they were sobs. "I can’t. I can’t do anything. Even if I had been there, I couldn’t have done anything. I still… can’t do anything at all.”

"Gon. Do you want to tell me what happened? You know you don’t have to."

"I can’t. I can’t tell you, because it’s someone else who got hurt. I wasn’t even… I didn’t even know him. I’ve never seen him back then, I don’t have any right to talk about it. He doesn’t even know. And I can’t fix it, it’s not something that’s fixable, it’s just something that happened and it’s terrible and I hate it. Have…” Gon swallowed, and his voice cracked. He wanted to scream, but all that came out was wavering sob after sob. “He hurt Killua, and I want to hurt him for it. Not just because it was evil. Because it was Killua, and Killua’s just… he’s like starlight and Illumi is just there, hovering around him and covering him up with clouds and keeping anyone from realizing how brightly he shines.”

When Gon looked up, his eyes were red-rimmed and the tears hadn’t stopped. Not yet. And Palm’s eyebrows were drawn together, her expression so sorrowful that he was afraid she would cry too. “I’m… I’m the worst.”

The hand on his shoulder wasn’t warm, but it was gentle, and it wasn’t a hand that belonged to Palm at all. He didn’t know when Kite had gotten there - maybe Palm had contacted him before she’d even gone to find Gon. Maybe he’d followed Gon out of the classroom, having seen his despair. Gon didn’t know. He’d been lost in his own mind.

His arms wrapped around Kite’s skinny torso, and he pressed his face against that thin chest, and he screamed. Gon screamed and screamed, until his voice was hoarse and his throat burned. Kite didn’t make any move to pull away, just letting him spill his rage and grief through his voice.

"I want to see Killua," he wailed, "I want to see him, and I want to see Mito-san, I… I want to fix it but I don’t have any right to do that. I want to hang out with Leorio in the hospital wing again. I want Kurapika to scold me for getting hurt again. I want to hold Alluka’s hand when she gets on her broom so she doesn’t lose her balance and I want to play Quidditch with Pokkle and I want to spar with Zushi and… I want things to go back to normal, but now I know they werenever normal, and…”

The realization hit him like lightning, and Gon could feel his heart start to hammer in a panic. “Alluka. What if… if he…” Even as the thought shook him, he knew it was wrong. Because it was Killua, and Killua would have put himself in the way of anyone who wanted to hurt Alluka. It didn’t matter what kind of spell was there. Killua wouldn’t have let it happen. 

So instead of anything else, Gon scrubbed the tears from his face even as new ones fell to replace them, and he sucked in deep, shuddering breaths, and he made himself let go of Kite. He’d never felt smaller in his entire life.

"Gon," Kite said quietly. His tone wasn’t comforting, but Gon didn’t want to be comforted and so it was okay. There was nothing that could make him feel better that he didn’t already know logically - there was no way to make him believe that he didn’t need to blame himself. And he knew Kite wouldn’t tell him anything like that.

"Kite," he started, his voice hoarse and shaking, and he had to stop and try again. "Kite, I… I… I said that I wanted to be a good person, and to… stop bad things from happening. But I… I thought about killing someone. Not just… I didn’t just think about it. It was all I could think about. I thought about hitting him, and hitting him, and hitting him, hitting him until he stopped moving forever. I wanted him to die, and I wanted to be the one to do it. I wanted to kill him. I still…”

"Do you remember what you told me about hating evil people?" Kite’s voice was low. He wasn’t making any expression in particular, but it told Gon enough. That he was keeping himself calm in a situation where it would be easier not to be.

Gon could see Palm out of the corner of his eye. She was wiping at her face. Guilt welled up in his stomach again, but he forced it away. “Y-yeah. I remember.” 

"It’s not wrong to hate evil people, but most people aren’t evil."

The words dropped from Gon’s lips before he could even process them. “He’s evil.”

That made Kite pause. The sheer conviction in Gon’s voice, even though it was barely a whisper.

"He’s evil," Gon said again, louder, even though it hurt to speak. "He’s evil, and there’s nothing I can do about it. He did something unspeakab-” He stopped. Considered his words. “He did something unforgivable.”

Kite understood it. He’d said the words himself, not twenty minutes before. Gon could see in the way Kite’s eyes widened and his lips set in a thin line that he understood. Why Gon had frozen, his quill broken beneath his fingers, ink staining his hands. The distraught expression that had crossed his face, to be replaced by rage. Why Gon had sat in his class and cried in silent fury.

It’s an unforgivable curse for a reason.

"Professor Siberia, could you leave us for a moment?" 

Gon didn’t look at her as Kite spoke. He couldn’t bear to see her face - scared to see his teacher cry. Palm’s clothes rustled as she nodded, as if she didn’t trust herself to speak.

When they were alone, Kite turned to him with a startling speed. There was something on his face that Gon had never seen before. Kite was angry - not frustrated, not annoyed. Angry. “Tell me,” he said. Gon shook his head. 

Gon. What you’ve told me gives me reason to suspect a crime has taken place. I need you to tell me.”

"I can’t. It’s not my - I don’t -” But he couldn’t bear it. It was too much to keep locked away inside of himself. “He hurt Killua. Kite, I want to kill him, I want to break all his bones and beat him until he doesn’t look like anything that was ever a human being. What he did to Killua - And I know! I know if I tried all that would happen is that I would die before I could do a single thing! But I still want to do it. I still want to kill him for what he did, because Illumi’s evil and evil people…”

Evil people needed to be punished.

But Gon wasn’t strong enough.

"Illumi’s been cursing Killua," he whispered. It was hard to see through his tears, and his fingers dug into his knees. "I can’t…  I can’t prove it. But Iknow it’s true. I should have known something was wrong from the start. I did know, but I couldn’t put the pieces together. Killua always just did what he said, even though he didn’t want to. Even though he hated it. I’m so stupid. I’m so stupid.”

"And what is blaming yourself going to do? How is that going to help Killua?"

It was like getting a bucket of ice-cold water dumped on him. Killua. “I tried to tell him. But… he doesn’t know yet, and I don’t know when he’s going to. And I don’t know if I can keep calm when he does. Kite, I - are you going to report this? You have to, don’t you? It’s breaking the law if you don’t… But I don’t want you to do it, not yet. Not until Killua… asks you to.”

It was asking too much and he knew it, but Kite was already nodding. “It would be breaking the law, and I would be risking my job. But if I did report it, I’d be doing something worse.”

Gon’s shaking fingers froze. Swallowing hard, he looked up to meet Kite’s eyes.

"Killua’s a strong kid. He’s a good wizard, and he’s only going to get better. That’s why I’m not going to report it. Because if I did, I’d take away his chance at closure, and he would never get another one. He has to fill in the blanks himself. No one can hand him these answers. Doing that would be one of the greatest injustices I could ever do to him." 

It was right, and Gon could only laugh in response, the hollow realization of it hitting him. It was right. It wasn’t about him. It was about Killua. Kite grimaced, and long, thin fingers mussed his hair hard enough to hurt. 

"I’ve been teaching for eleven years and this is the most irresponsible thing I’ve ever done. But it’s also exactly what your father would have done, and I’m not sure if that’s a relief or more annoying." Gon wanted to ask about that, but Kite didn’t give him the opportunity. "Here’s the last thing I’m going to say about this. Killua is going to get past this. He might stumble along the way or need someone to help him back to his feet, but he doesn’t need someone to hold his hand the whole way. So if you care about him and want to help him, trust him. Support him when he needs it, but trust that he knows how to find his own way.”

Relieved in a way he couldn’t understand, Gon nodded.

Chapter Text

Gon didn’t sleep that night. He didn’t return to the Slytherin dorms, even though normally it would result in Kite threatening to throw him in the dungeon. Not even the nice dungeon where the Slytherin dormitory was. The gross dungeon that used to be the potions classroom until an incident with potent acids changed things. But Kite turned a blind eye, just that once.

Instead of returning to the common room, Gon left the castle. He kept his pace as steady as possible, even though his tread was too heavy and he wanted to run, to just keep running until all the bad things that had happened couldn’t catch up to him. But it wouldn’t have helped, and Gon knew it.

Trust Killua. He knew he could, knew that Killua could handle himself. But it didn’t stop the anger inside of him. There was nowhere for it to go, after all. Letting Killua take control of his own situation was what needed to be done. So Gon had to direct his anger and anxiety somewhere else. Somewhere that wouldn’t hurt anywhere but himself. 

Standing in front of the Whomping Willow, he looked up at the stationary branches. They wouldn’t be still for much longer.

There really was nothing like being thrashed by a tree. 

For a while, Gon could forget. It was hard to pay attention to anything else when he was crawling up that swaying trunk, dodging limbs that hit harder than a troll’s club. And he knew what a troll’s club felt like. Professor Bine, who taught Care of Magical Creatures, liked to fight things about as much as Gon did. So he hammered his fists against bark, wrapping his fingers around branches that slapped at him and letting his body be yanked around by the momentum until he had whiplash. 

It hurt, feeling his palms scratched and cut and streaking blood across the tree. The branches lashing into him stung like whips, thin ones raising welts under his robes. Those were the ones he didn’t even try to dodge. In some way, the pain helped. Helped the adrenaline that had been coursing through him that had nowhere to go. The anxiety, the urge to fight. Gon could work it out now, could unleash it so it couldn’t rip away at his insides.

After all, from the second he’d realized the truth, his body had reacted as if it were in battle. The sick feeling in his chest had been equal parts horror, sorrow, and anger. And though the former emotions had been quelled somewhat by Kite’s words and the knowledge they’d brought back to him, the anger had to be released in a different way. 

So he fought, even as his knuckles bled and the skin on his hands tore. He fought and raged and cried, ignoring the crack of his bones breaking and the shuddering blows each branch landed against him. 

It wasn’t as if Gon could actually hurt that tree, after all. It was like a punching bag, just one that hit back, hit harder than he could hit it. Maybe it was masochistic of him, fighting a tree. Maybe it was utterly idiotic. But it helped.

All that mattered for that moment, waiting for the connections to be made, was doing what he could to keep himself sane. If it meant getting in a fist fight with a plant, that was what Gon would do. He could feel like a moron later, when his heart wasn’t pounding so hard he thought he would throw up. When the fire stopped racing through his veins and making every nerve in his body light up. When he could think about everything and not feel his mind shut down as rage put his body on autopilot.

When that happened, Gon would figure out where to go next.

It was two hours later, when the moon was high in the sky and the starlight shone down on him, that Kite came to drag him away to the hospital wing. Gon was grateful for that. He wasn’t sure if he’d be able to walk on his own. 

His hands were a ruined mess, his right arm bending at an angle it shouldn’t have been able to bend. He definitely had severe whiplash from being thrown so many times - like a fool, each time he’d been slammed against the ground, he’d gotten up again. The pain in his chest told him he had at least one fractured rib from being battered by branches. Every inch of exposed skin was a mess of scratches and bruises, covered in crusty blood smears.

Gon wondered if everything could be fixed overnight. He could explain away scratches, but his destroyed fingers and shattered bones were a different matter entirely. He had to look like he’d been run over by one of the horseless carriages that brought them from the train platform to the grounds, like he’d been trampled by a hippogriff. It wasn’t something Gon could shrug and laugh at, but he’d probably try it anyway. Even if it hurt his surely-broken ribs.

Then again, it wasn’t as bad as when he’d fought Hisoka. There were few things that could be compared to Hisoka.

It was strange how that was comforting. He’d already been through something worse. This was nothing, really. It was nothing and he would walk away from it. That was when he would be able to accomplish something. To make things… not right, but better.

He’d get up, and he’d walk.

And so would Killua.

Chapter Text

"I think… That my brother has been using the Imperius curse on me." Killua saw what would happen as soon as the words left his lips.

Gon’s teacup shattered between his fingers, and he was up, shards of porcelain slicing into his hand, blood dripping down his wrist, ignored. Tea soaked through Killua’s sleeves, and he barely noticed. His head hurt. It hurt so much that he wasn’t sure he was breathing, but he had to be because he was on his feet and grabbing at Gon’s back. 

They were running down the stairs together, Palm and everything else forgotten for that moment. Because Gon was running, and Killua had to chase him. It was his job - to keep calm when Gon couldn’t. To hold him back. 

But he couldn’t do it right now. He couldn’t stop the way Gon lashed out, his fists pounding against the walls, his anger at a target he couldn’t confront. All Killua was able to do was wrap his arms around Gon’s chest, holding on tight and trying - and failing - to pull him away as his body shuddered with each impact. Blood smeared across the bricks, Gon’s hands cut and bruised, and Killua’s face pressed against his back.

He knew Gon was crying. And he couldn’t do anything.

But that wasn’t what happened. Instead, the words dropped from him, and all that Gon did was lean harder against him, a silent reminder of his presence. It made his heart pound even harder than it had before. Killua sat silently, the pain of the headache building in him forgotten.

Why wasn’t Gon reacting? He knew the other boy had to have figured it out. But he was still, even though Killua could see his hands balled into fists and his shoulders straight and tense. 

"Gon," he managed. It didn’t make sense. He’d spoken expecting that, preparing himself for the task of subduing Gon. And there was nothing to subdue. Gon didn’t speak, just looked at his knees even as muscles jumped and twitched in his arms and neck. 

The pained smile Gon gave him instead of words made it all fall into place. Killua’s breath caught, and he couldn’t help the way he grabbed onto Gon’s robes and rested his forehead against him. “Stupid,” he whispered, though his voice shook. “It’s okay to react like you normally do. You trying to be strong about it, isn’t… s’not something I asked for…”

Gon’s hands were on his shoulders, pushing him away just enough so that they could look at one another. “Didn’t I promise? You said… back then, you said, you’d do it. And… you will. I know you will. So what I need to do is. Just. Let you do it. Because Killua’s the only one who can.”

He’d never wanted to kiss Gon more than in that moment, but he couldn’t make himself move. It wasn’t out of any sense of gratitude, nor an appreciation for anything. Killua wasn’t happy about Gon’s carefully suppressed reaction. It even seemed wrong, wrong for Gon to be so demure in the face of what he knew was an incredible injustice. 

But it also meant that Gon had pitted his trust against his instinct, and trust had won. Trust in him. 

The timing was all wrong. It was all wrong, even if everything in the way he and Gon were looking at each other screamed that it was his chance. It could be his only chance. If he just leaned forward now and closed the gap between them, he could - he could…

If Gon had done what Killua had expected, he could have died. The realization slammed into him, and the moment was lost. It was lost to the thought of Illumi standing over Gon’s corpse. Because Gon had known already - he’d known before Killua could have known to stop him. He could have already been dead, before Killua had even picked up the puzzle pieces. 

Slowly, in quiet snorts, he started to laugh. Or perhaps what shook him was sobs. Everything was crashing down in a series of blows, things that had happened and wouldn’t happen but could have happened. And the things that had happened, really…

"It wasn’t me at all," Killua laughed, though his voice broke and he couldn’t control the tears spilling over to run down his cheeks. "It wasn’t me! It was never me, all the things I did, they weren’t. They weren’t me! I’m not what he said I was, I…”

There wasn’t any laughter in his voice anymore. His head was full of Illumi’s words - years and years of being told what kind of person he was, what kind of person he’d always be. What he’d be good for. The only things that made him worthwhile.

You can’t have friends. You don’t deserve friends. 

All he’d be good at. 

Hurting people. 

"Let go of it, Kil."  - no, she’s not an it - and listening to Illumi. Always listening to Illumi. Alluka’s hand slipping from his fingers. The way she wailed, calling for him as he walked away. 

Casting the spells Illumi told him to. “This one next, Kil.” The way the corners of Illumi’s lips had curled up ever-so-slightly as he’d obeyed. How it had filled him with elation, that tiny sliver of approval.

"Kil, listen to me." "Kil, come here." "Kil." "Kil, be quiet and do as I say." "Kil, this is part of your training." "Kil." "Kil, this is what it means to be a Zoldyck." "Kil, do it." "Kil." "Kil." "Kill.”

Killua looked at his hands. Strained to think back. Palm was saying something, but he couldn’t hear it. His heart was beating too loudly. 

Every Zoldyck knew the killing curse.

How had he learned it? 

Spiders. 

Killing spiders. 

It had been spiders, their spindly legs curling as they fell to the ground. Where had the spiders come from? “Practice on these, Kil.”

The spiders he killed. Remember. He had to remember, because now he wasn’t sure. Spider legs curling… but the blurred, unclear images that rose to the front of his mind… Spider legs, curling… Fingers, curling. Spider legs, tattooed… on curling fingers… He knew. He already knew - knew what the figures in his memories were. But Killua wanted to remember it differently. Wanted to remember spiders.

… Killua," someone was saying, but he couldn’t tell whose voice it was. "Killua, you’re not making sense, what wasn’t spiders? Killua. Killua!

How many spiders had there been?

His lips formed the words over and over, even though he wasn’t hearing himself saying them. “They weren’t spiders. They weren’t spiders.

Chapter Text

When he opened his eyes, he saw Alluka.

Young, rosy-cheeked, smiling up at him from her crib. Killua would do anything for that smile. Learning to walk. The way she wobbled back and forth as she tried to stand. Babbled words that made perfect sense to him at three years old. The way her hands gripped his fingers with surprising strength as they stood together, both unsteady. Two pairs of bright eyes. Two smiling faces.

Her pockets filled with flowers that she’d plucked to give to him, stuffed there for safe-keeping. He was four years old. The way she tried to run over to him faster than her legs could just yet, and toppled over. Her eyes filled with confusion as she looked over, and then her mouth opening in a wail as Killua ran to help her up. Squashed flowers, but as she picked them up, their petals sprang back into place. How her smile returned and she held them out - “Bib bruvl, here!” Two pairs of bright eyes. Two smiling faces.

Dancing, with her feet on his. Five years old, not quite strong enough to pick her up yet. Running across the lawn together, yelling and shrieking in joy. Always running just ahead of her. The big brother was the leader, after all. Knees covered in mud from falling, his hands scratched.  Her crying face, barely visible in the darkness. The smoke that smelled like nothing, even though it brushed across his face and left him cold and shaking. Blinding light that hurt to look at. One pair of dark eyes. Two smiling faces.

Her chubby fingers stretched out to pull at his shirt. “Big brother, up, up!”  Six years old, with his little sister riding piggyback until they both fell over. Taking her by the hand instead. The way her fingers felt in his. One pair of bright eyes. Two smiling faces.

"Good, Kil, now come back over here."

One pair of bright eyes. No smiling faces.

"Big brother?"

The dazed feeling in his chest as he let go of that hand. 

The way she cried, confused and lost, standing alone in the room. Her hand gripping her skirt in bunches as one tiny fist was held up to wipe the tears from her face. Taking Illumi’s hand instead, and walking away. One pair of bright eyes. One crying face.

"Big brother!"

The big brother was the leader, after all.

The door that closed behind them, locking her away.

No pairs of bright eyes. Two crying faces.

"… Killua?"

One pair of dark eyes. Two crying faces.

"Big brother!"

When he opened his eyes, he saw Alluka. 

Killua hadn’t remembered closing his eyes in the first place. Before he could speak, she was snatching at his hands, leaning forward to wrap her arms around him. They were in the hospital wing, based on the smell - he couldn’t see around his sister to take a look though. “All- what?”

It felt good to hold her.

"Gon came to get me," she said, though her cheeks puffed out in annoyance. "They said you stayed up too late studying and passed out. You’d yell at me for doing that! So big brother isn’t allowed to do it either. But… I’m glad you’re okay."

His head hurt, just barely. “I… I’m glad you’re here.” Killua knew it had been a lie to keep her from worrying. Piecing together what had happened was beyond him at the moment, though his hazy mind strained. “Big brother just has a headache, I’ll be just fine.”

"Mm," Alluka said as she pulled back, her tone still scolding. Once he could take a look at his surroundings, he confirmed that he was laying in the hospital wing, propped up on pillows. They were in their own closed-off world there, shielded by a white curtain that circled the bed. "It’s not fair to do things like that!"

Killua’s mouth felt dry. “I’m sorry. Did you worry?”

"Of course I did!" She pinched him, and maybe his responding yelp was a little bit played up. Alluka looked around quickly before speaking again, this time in a too-excited whisper. "But Gon was upset, so you have to apologize to him too! Did you say something mean to him again?"

Gon. Things were swimming back up into his memory. Sitting with Gon in Palm’s office. Breaking down, just barely. Crying again, feeling bile rise in his throat and burning in his mouth. 

Killua knew that much had happened, remembered all of that. 

The pain in his chest that felt like he was being stabbed. Starting to breathe too fast and too hard, until barely any oxygen was getting to his brain. The numb, cold feeling in his hands and feet - he could remember that.

Gon’s hands on his, holding his fingers almost too tightly. Palm talking - not to him, to Gon. His stomach lurching.  The way his heart beat too fast, too loud, hammering away at his thoughts. The spiraling feeling of his brain trying to do too much at once. Gon’s hands on his, like a lifeline. He couldn’t let go of it. Couldn’t let go of her hand

Gon’s fingers trying to pull away. No explanation, just like then. Being on the other side of it. His own fingers twitching as he clutched harder. “Don’t let go,” he’d begged, even as Alluka’s crying face swam and twisted into another face in the front of his mind. It was his turn for someone he loved to let go of his hand.

Killua didn’t remember closing his eyes, but he remembered the world dimming. Thinking, “Serves me right.” He remembered that.

He swallowed hard, there in the hospital wing with Alluka’s hand holding his loosely. “Where is Gon?” 

Alluka leaned back onto her stool, tugging his hand with her. He let his fingers wrap tighter around hers, just watching her tug the curtain aside enough to wave a hand out. “Gon, he’s awake now! Are you done getting looked at?”

Killua’s eyes narrowed at the exact same time as a small, strangled noise rose from somewhere else in the room from Gon. “Gon,” he spat out, for a moment forgetting the fact that he’d landed himself in the hospital wing in vague circumstances. “Why are you getting looked at.

When Gon slid through the curtain to smile guiltily at him, he could see the other boy’s shirt was open to reveal lines and lines of bandages. Killua’s scowl slid off his face.

"Did I…?" He could barely get the words out, hoping Alluka wouldn’t understand what he was actually asking. Gon shook his head almost imperceptibly, and Killua immediately changed gears. "… not tell you about getting into stupid fights?"

"We-ell," Gon started, in the way he always spoke when he was stalling to gather his thoughts. But he didn’t seem to be getting anywhere, and so what had to be the truth spilled out. "I thought I could keep it hidden until my ribs healed all the way so you wouldn’t yell at me."

Alluka’s eyes darted between them. “He’s going to yell at you,” she said to Gon, half-warning and half-smug. It wouldn’t have been the first time she’d witnessed one Killua’s aggressive scoldings of Gon. Killua jumped on the opportunity immediately.

"Alluka, go in the other room so I can rip Gon a new one," he said, with more venom than he actually felt. She bounced to her feet, sticking her tongue out at him and Gon both.

"I’m gonna yell at you later too! You’re both super stupid! So you yell at Gon, and then when you’re done I’m going to come back and yell at you, because I yelled at Gon already." Alluka’s hands balled into fists as she let go, and she didn’t seem to notice the way Killua’s fingers twitched and reached for hers. 

But he didn’t speak and kept his expression screwed up in false irritation - though there was a little real exasperation at Gon for somehow breaking his ribs - to maintain the act. Alluka put her hands on her hips and scowled at them both before turning and stomping off with exaggerated anger. 

Killua wanted to be able to laugh at that. But right now, he needed to talk to Gon.

Chapter Text

When Gon twitched the curtain shut behind him, Killua let out the breath he’d been holding. The scrape of the stool as Gon took it was the only sound for a moment, Gon looking at him, him looking down at the sheets. Seconds ticked by, before Gon finally spoke.

"… hey."

"Hey." Killua’s hands felt cold. "What did…?"

"Um," Gon said, fumbling with the buttons of his shirt to hide the bandages there. He winced a little. The motion seemed to have hurt, and Killua didn’t know what to worry about. There were too many things. "Me, or you?"

"Both. But, you first. I didn’t do that, right?" It seemed like it wasn’t an incrediblyrecent injury, but Killua wasn’t sure how long he’d been unconscious. “Wait, no, before that. What time i- no, hold on. Let me think for a second.”

Killua,” Gon’s voice was a mixture of exasperation and concern. “I’m gonna answer the question anyway while you figure out what you actually wanna ask. I broke three ribs two days ago, it wasn’t you, and it’s almost 5pm. We’d just gotten you in here when Alluka showed up, and she’s only been here for about fifteen minutes.”

"… hm." He wished Alluka was still there with him, but there was no point in saying that. "So… what, not even half an hour. That’s… I don’t remember passing out."

There was a low scratching noise as Gon scooted the stool closer. It hurt Killua’s ears, and they both scowled at the sound. “You were hyperventilating.” His words were clipped, like he didn’t want to think about them. “Palm said it was a panic attack.”

"You thought it was a spell, huh." The sheepish look on Gon’s face told Killua he was right. "Don’t worry about that kind of crap. Illumi can’t do anything to me on Hogwarts grounds." Or so he’d thought. Now, he wasn’t so sure. 

"Well, it didn’t have to have been Illumi," Gon said stubbornly, and Killua felt the bed shake slightly as Gon kicked at a leg. "Or it could have been-"

"I know, I know. I get it. Did, uh…" Spiders. He banished the thought. "Did I say anything? I mean… when I was…"

Gon was quiet for a long moment, like he wanted to say something but he wasn’t sure if he could. Killua licked his lips nervously. Whatever Gon wanted to ask was pushed away for the moment. “Some stuff. You feel okay, though, right? Not like… Killua, I- dammit. I’m sorry. I knew something was happening to you, but I reacted all wrong.”

Killua wasn’t sure what he meant, but he didn’t speak. Gon’s eyes were red from crying, and he didn’t know how he hadn’t noticed it before. His heart hurt, and he wasn’t sure what to say. Gon was talking again, though, and so he latched onto those words.

"I just… assumed, I thought right away that it was. I don’t know. Something else. Something I could block or knock away. A spell, or something. Something I could stop. But I just made it worse. " Gon wasn’t meeting his eyes. "I’m sorry. I almost let go."

Gon’s hand pulling away from his. Don’t let go.

Slowly, Killua reached out for Gon’s hand. As soon as his fingers touched the back of Gon’s, the other boy flinched. But he grabbed onto Killua’s hand and held it tight, his lips set in a thin, white line.

"Gon, I wasn’t talking to you," Killua said quietly. "It was just… I was running over all these things. All these things that happened, that I was realizing… were Illumi."

He knew Gon wouldn’t press him, even though he wanted to know. Killua squeezed Gon’s hand. It was a stupid gesture, really. A poor attempt at reassurance. 

"I thought that I was a bad big brother," Killua said finally. His eyes hurt, and hot tears were gathering and threatening to spill over again. "I never wanted to talk about it to her. I was scared. I didn’t know how to apologize, because I… I couldn’t understand how I could be so horrible as to actually do what I did. I thought I was. Bad. But I didn’t want to apologize because I knew she would forgive me. And. I didn’t think I deserved it."

"But it was Illumi making you do it," Gon said, quiet and angry. Killua sighed a little, shaking his head. 

"I don’t know. It’s all a mess, I can’t distinguish it. I think sometimes I was just so used to listening to him that I did what he asked without needing any real persuasion." It occurred to him that he hadn’t given Gon anything resembling context before the other boy had defended him. It felt a little good, but also awful. "When I was… five, maybe, or six. Six, I think. That was when I - no, our parents locked Alluka away.”

Killua wasn’t sure he could say it. He couldn’t make his lips form the words. “When I was six, Illumi had me bring Alluka into her room. She wouldn’t go on her own, so I had to hold her hand and bring her there. She was four, and she wanted to go outside and play. I knew what was happening. I knew what they were going to do. I had to tell her to stay put and not follow me back out. I had to let go of her hand and walk away. And I did it. I let go.

Instead, what he said was, “I wasn’t talking to you, Gon. I was talking to me. I let go of her hand.”

Gon’s fingers twitched around his. He wanted to ask. Killua could see it written all over Gon’s face - the inevitable question that he’d been silently dreading for years. A question he didn’t really have an answer for, not one that was satisfying in any way.

"Why did they do it?"

Alluka, sitting alone in her room, full of soft plush toys and dolls. Why had she had to be locked away? What about this little girl was so dangerous, so worrying, that they’d cut her off from the rest of the world for as long as possible?

He didn’t know if he could lie to Gon. He also didn’t know the real answer, only scraps of information that he’d stitched together. That he’d never told anyone, because he’d been afraid for Alluka’s sake.

But this was Gon.

"My great-grandfather was… weird. I mean, my entire family is weird, but he was weird even for a Zoldyck. He liked to… fight things, I guess. Not because he liked fighting, the way you like fighting. More like… because he liked knowing he could beat whatever he was up against." Killua rubbed his thumb over one of Gon’s fingers, merely because he couldn’t keep his hands still. "He collected magical creatures - rare, dangerous things. So he could figure out how to kill them."

He heard Gon swallow in the sudden silence. He knew the other boy had to be running over every creature he knew about in his mind. Trolls, hippogriffs, doxies, kelpies. Acromantulas and unicorns and basilisks, chimeras and manticores and dragons. There were so many, too many. 

"He spent years doing that, but there were always more things to kill. It should have backfired on him years before it did. The basilisk should have killed him, for one, but not only did he slaughter it, he made a wand using its skin as a core."

Illumi’s wand. He pushed that thought out of his mind.

"He was close to eighty when I was born," he continued. Gon’s teeth were pressing into his bottom lip as he considered the words he was hearing. "I don’t remember him at all, because he died while I was still in diapers." 

"I didn’t know how it happened until years later, when the dementors came."

Chapter Text

"Dementors," Gon said, carefully, like he was tasting the word. "You mean the soul-sucking, body-freezing, mindless, immortal dementors?”

Killua shrugged. Gon looked at the ceiling for a moment. He was sorting out what he knew and going from there. Killua let him think for a moment before speaking again. “He was really keen on dementors near the end. Probably because he’d fought so many things that he had brain damage or something. Maybe he was just getting senile.”

"Your great grandfather tried to kill a dementor." 

"He did a pretty good job." He pulled his knees up to his chest, looking at where his feet were under the blankets. Someone had taken his shoes off. "Dementors aren’t really alive. They’re more like a concept with a form. That’s why patronuses are one of the only things that can push them back. But you can’t kill them like that. You can sort of say that you can’t kill them at all. You can just… make them dissipate. And even then it’s not a permanent solution… sort of.”

"They’re kind of like smoke, right? I remember hearing something from Kite about that. You can sort of blow them away with a really powerful patronus, but they’ll come back together eventually." Gon’s hand was warm, and Killua found himself rubbing his thumb over the other boy’s tanned skin. 

"Yeah. There’s only a few things that work against them. But he noticed something and he was stupid enough to try it, because he was old and didn’t feel like he had much to lose. Wherever dementors go, they kill the lights around them. It gets dark. Candles go out. With that in mind, what would you think about if you were trying to subdue or kill them?"

Gon nodded a little, getting it. “Sunlight, or some other kind of bright light that they can’t extinguish. I guess you could get a bunch of wizards together to circle it and cast patronuses at them, so it has nowhere else to g- ah, no. They can fly. So if you could contain it?”

"That’s what he figured, I guess. No one really knows how he did it, or what it cost, but he put a dementor in a box - like a glass box, but it wasn’t - and put it in direct sunlight. Then when the thing blocked out the sun with clouds, he just started shining lights at it constantly. We don’t know if it was working or not." He paused, sighing. The Zoldyck family was a disaster from the start, probably. "All we know is that one day the box was empty. I mean, this is all hear-say really. I was a baby. My grandfather told me about it, but I don’t know if everything he said was right or if he was fudging details. And a lot of it I figured out afterwards."

"But, how does Alluka fit into this? I mean… dementors are cool, but… Well I mean they’re awful, mostly. I’m not getting it." Gon was responding to the little movements of his thumbs, and Killua could feel Gon’s fingers rub against his pinky. It was probably an unconscious thing, but it felt sort of relaxing. He squeezed back a little, and snorted when Gon seemed to realize he’d been doing it. "Sorry."

For a moment, the story was lost as they looked at each other, not moving. Slowly, their hands started to slide apart. And then Gon’s pointer finger was wrapping around Killua’s pinky finger and Killua’s pinky finger was curling around Gon’s pointer finger, both having decided at the last second not to let go just yet. 

Too much time passed between them for Killua to say anything about it. So instead of acknowledging what had just occurred, they both ignored it, even though Gon’s ears were red and Killua’s cheeks felt hot. “S-so,” he continued, glad that his voice didn’t squeak, “There was an empty box that used to have a dementor in it on Zoldyck grounds. Or maybe it still did. No one wanted anything to do with it, because my mom was pregnant and it really wasn’t the time to be making stupid decisions about potentially-deadly stuff. Look, what did Kite tell you about dementors?”

"Umm. They don’t have real thought processes, and they’re pretty single-minded about sucking the souls out of humans… they bring a cover of darkness wherever they go, and a supernatural chill… what else? They can increase in numbers, but no one really understands how it happens. And…" Gon’s eyes narrowed, as if he wasn’t sure if anything he’d just recalled was significant or not. "They… tend to congregate? And they feed on negative emotions."

"Bingo," Killua said dully. "My grandfather said what he thought happened was that there had been nothing for that dementor to feed off of for a really long time, so it became so weak that it was barely manifesting. But he thought it was still there, and that’s why he didn’t want anyone to touch the box. Around then, my mom collapsed, and-"

"Killua, uh." Gon interrupted, coughing a little. "This is really, really cool and interesting and it gives me a lot of insight into your family history… but I have no idea where this is going.”

For a moment Killua couldn’t speak. He ran over everything he’d said already in his head, and realized that almost none of it was relevant. He felt his cheeks heat up. “R-right, okay, I’ll make it super simple, b-because you have the attention span of a gnat. Recap: dementor, great-granddad’s an idiot, mom’s pregnant. Dementor gets loose, mom’s pregnant and collapsed. My grandfather gets us and drags us off to another part of the house while my dad and great-granddad stay with my mom. Something happens, and when the smoke clears and my granddad goes to check it out, the dementor’s gone and great-granddad’s dead. After that, things are okay. Alluka was born about two months later, and for years that was the end of it.”

"But it wasn’t."

"Yeah. Up until she was three, there was nothing extraordinary about Alluka in any way. We used to go out on the grounds and play, and everything was great until it wasn’t. I don’t really remember it too well. It was just us, but Illumi was always around somewhere. I’d always sort of known he was there but it had never made a difference until the day with the dementors." 

Gon knew about Kukuroo mountain, how it was a hotbed of magical creatures. That was why there were guard stations all over the mountain - to keep people away, and alive, as well as protecting the privacy of the residents. Killua didn’t think he’d ever mentioned that sometimes dementors would gather near the mountain’s base, but the idea seemed to make sense to Gon since he didn’t question it.

"When you’re five years old you don’t really question why a deadly monster is there. You grab your sister and you run. And if you’re me, you trip over something and down everyone goes. So I’m, I’m just scrambling, trying to push Alluka away, and she’s upset because I’m so scared."

For a moment, Killua stopped. He wasn’t sure how long he could keep talking about it calmly, because the more he thought, the more he remembered. “I was trying to do something - I didn’t have a wand, but I’d started manifesting magic in other ways. All that ended up happening was a whole lot of static electricity and that didn’t do shit. S-so, Alluka, she wasn’t scared. Even though I was trying to put myself in the way, so it would get me first. She just. She got up and she stomped over to it. She was mad that it was making me upset. I thought I was going crazy, because I saw Alluka walk up to a dementor and hit it, and it didn’t do anything.

He could remember it clear as day now. The way Alluka’s cheeks had puffed out, and the chubby fist that had swung out to collide with the slowly drifting black cloak. And suddenly, nothing. She’d turned to look at him, then, and the monster behind her hadn’t moved, like it was confused or unsure. 

But the girl who was facing him hadn’t been Alluka. It was the first time he’d seen the other girl, with her hollow eyes like dark pits that went on forever.

Killua realized he’d stopped speaking, and shook his head a little as if to clear away the memories. Gon was staring at him, a mix of confusion and awe and maybe a little fear. He felt tired. Talking about it was emotionally draining. 

"After that, my dad showed up. Illumi had sent sparks up, so everyone knew something was wrong. And it was… well it was all over at that point. But they’d seen - Illumi had seen, my dad had seen, and after that, Alluka… They knew something had happened back before she’d been born. Something happened with that dementor and what happened that day was proof that she was… different." 

The way Gon looked at him made it clear he wanted to say something, anything, but wasn’t sure what or how to phrase it. He was frustrated, Killua was sure. “That’s no reason to…” he said finally, before clenching his jaw around whatever words he wanted to say.

"I know. I thought she was just fine the way she was. I didn’t realize that I was the only one who thought that until they locked her away."

He could remember the way the other girl had called his name in the end. 

"Killua?

Alluka always called him big brother.

"I couldn’t do anything. I blamed myself for everything. I still… If I hadn’t fallen, we could have kept running long enough for my dad to show up, and. No one would have known."

"Killua, you know that’s not true." The finger curled around his tightened, and Killua swallowed hard. 

"I know," he whispered. "But that doesn’t mean I can make myself believe it."

Chapter Text

Sitting in the hospital wing with his ribs aching, Gon watched. Alluka had just arrived, her cheeks flushed and eyes wide. Someone had sent word to her about Killua - Palm, most likely - and her boots squeaked on the floor as she skidded to a halt in front of him.

"Gon! Is he- he’s okay, right? Professor Siberia said he was here, he didn’t get hurt, right?" She was out of breath and still in her Quidditch robes, hair tied back in a messy ponytail. That was when Alluka seemed to register the way Gon was wincing, and the worry on her face worsened. "Gon, are you hurt?"

Gon shook his head immediately - years of responding that way to Killua to delay a scolding had made it an instinctual response. Then he sighed, knowing it was no good. Alluka was as smart as her brother when it came to things like this. “I wasn’t being careful around the Whomping Willow, and carrying Killua made my ribs hurt again. A-ah, not that he’s hurt! Killua’s been staying up too late doing homework and stuff again, and so he sort of overworked himself.”

He’d practiced the lie in his head - the last thing he wanted was to tell Alluka that something terrible had happened, even if it was far in the past now. However Killua was going to tell her was his business, even if keeping it locked away made Gon’s chest ache. 

As soon as he looked at Alluka, he realized she didn’t believe him. Looking at her standing there with muddy knees and boots, strands of loose hair sticking to her face as her fingers curled into fists and trembled, Gon felt guilty. But nothing would come to mind to say to her, and he could only break eye contact to keep his emotions from showing on his face.

"He’s okay," Gon said again, though he wasn’t sure it was true. Alluka’s jaw set, like she was trying to keep her lips from trembling. Things were going wrong, over and over, and Gon didn’t know what to do. So he pulled the curtain back to let her see Killua. He was sleeping, but traces of panic and distress still distorted his features. Even unconscious, he was clenching his teeth.

"Big brother thinks too much," Alluka said quietly. "Even when he’s sleeping, he’s thinking about too many upsetting things."

"Yeah," Gon whispered. Killua’s eyelids twitched, and the way he breathed in was almost a sigh. Alluka set a stool next to his bed with barely a sound, and when she slid a hand over Killua’s, the death grip he had on the sheets loosened. 

He was glad, but something about the way Killua’s expression softened under Alluka’s touch - something he hadn’t been able to do - made Gon’s throat tighten. 

It was better that it was Alluka, really. He would have felt guilty if it were the other way around, being the one who was able to relieve Killua. Gon didn’t deserve to be that person, after all.

The whole situation had been one mistake after another. He couldn’t keep himself under control - the thoughts in his head that were showing up unwanted made him sick. Speaking to Killua in Palm’s office, trying to keep those inappropriate feelings from trespassing on the situation, but being unable to stop himself. Not realizing until his hands were on Killua’s shoulders that he’d moved to touch the other boy. 

Gon knowing that Killua wasn’t okay, that he was dealing with something awful, and yet being unable to think about anything but wanting to kiss him. The delusional voice in the back of his head trying to convince him that it would somehow help, that it wasn’t just his selfish desires taking over a situation that wasn’t about him at all.

How could he tell himself he cared about Killua when that was where his mind had gone?

It wasn’t fair. And things had only gotten worse after that - Killua’s fingers gripping tightly at Gon’s sleeves, his normally-pale face disturbingly white. Howagain Gon had failed, how his instinct - bolstered by guilt at the way his desires had invaded - had been to distance himself from Killua. To push Killua away from whatever was happening, unable to realize that he couldn’t be protected from himself. 

Gon could still feel the little sore spots on his hand where Killua’s nails had dug in. Little crescents of pink flesh, the skin almost broken there. He’d made it all worse. He didn’t want to think about it, the panicked way Killua’s voice had cracked on the words. “Don’t let go!

And he almost had.

He let his fingers rest over the indented marks on the back of his hand, and Gon wanted to laugh bitterly. It was a mess, all of it. He was a mess. Even now, he was only dwelling on his own mistakes.

"Gon." Alluka’s fingers had caught his sleeve, and she tugged at it in an attempt to bring him closer. "Me and big brother have secrets, so I know you have secrets with him too. It’s not fair if I try to make you tell. But I know right now you’re upset, so I wish I knew how to make you feel better."

Shaking his head, Gon sighed. “If anyone in here should be worried about less, it’s me, right? I’m fine. I don’t wanna think about me.”

"Mm-mm. Because right now, you’re feeling bad about yourself." Gon didn’t know how to respond. Alluka had closed her eyes and was swinging her feet a little on the stool, holding on to Gon’s hand as well as Killua’s now. "But you can only do that because you really, really know that right now, big brother is okay. That’s why I’m not so worried about him, because if something were really, really wrong, Gon wouldn’t be standing around beating himself up."

Something in his chest that had been wound so tight it hurt to breathe loosened. Alluka’s warm fingers covered up the little marks on his hand. 

"I think Killua would cry if he knew you were here in the hospital wing with him and it was me you were worried about,” Gon said finally, though what he meant was “Thank you.” Alluka seemed to get it, and for a moment she was smiling almost as brightly as she did when she was flying.

Only for a moment, though. What came spilling from her lips then reminded Gon what he should have been keeping in mind.

"… I want him to be okay again, like he used to be. Before everything got so hard. S-so, if you know how, please… When he wakes up, can you make him smile?"

He wasn’t the only one blaming himself. 

He squeezed Alluka’s palm, hoping it would reassure her somehow. Gon didn’t know if he could answer that request, and he considered his words carefully. “Hey… I think that, if Alluka wants that, you should be the one to make it happen. I think the best thing would be for him to be able to see you right now.”

"… are you sure?"

It hurt to make himself smile. Even though he knew it was the right thing to do. Even though he wanted to relieve Alluka and make her feel better. Even though he loved Alluka, not the same way as he loved Killua, but just as much. ”Of course. I don’t know a lot of things like Killua does, but I know that he loves Alluka. So you should keep holding his hand until he wakes up, okay? Killua loves you more than anything in the whole world.”

It was the truth, and that was good and beautiful. And Gon hated the dark voice in the back of his mind that laughed as it whispered, “More than you.

Chapter Text

She never wanted to see him crying.

It had always felt good to hold Killua’s hand. His hands were so warm and gentle. She had always known that, from back before she could remember. If she was scared or didn’t know where to go, if she was lonely or sad, she could hold Killua’s hand and he would make it better. Killua made things better. He always had. Killua had always been there, from the very beginning, even before she could speak the words she wanted to say.

She loved playing with Killua. Her fingers were clumsy and she wasn’t good at walking, but he would hold on to her hands and guide her footsteps and praise her when she was able to do things. She didn’t want to ask things of him, not the way she asked other people for things. Because Killua was nice, and she never wanted to do something that would make him upset.

Killua was warm and soft like starlight. He was loving and gentle and always did everything he could to keep her safe and happy.

That was why she never wanted to see him crying.

Killua had accepted her, even though she was different and no one else wanted her. Even before he knew anything, they’d laughed and smiled together, and she knew whenever she woke up he would be nearby.

She loved Killua.

She never wanted to see him crying.

But she had. And when she was scared or sad, when she cried, he would always tell her that it was all right. It had made it all right. They were magic words. So maybe it was her turn to say them for him.

“Killua, ‘s okay.”

She couldn’t speak well, so maybe that was why the magic hadn’t worked. Maybe that was why he had still been scared, why he hadn’t stopped crying. So she had to say them again, to cast the spell again, over and over until she did it right.

And then there had been light all around, not like Killua’s light at all. Harsh light that made her eyes hurt so much that she had to look away, to hide her face. By the time that light had faded away, Killua was holding her tightly, and she knew it was okay. He wasn’t scared anymore.

Her magic hadn’t worked, but someone else’s had. So it was okay, because Killua was okay. She would have to practice lots and lots, so that if Killua was ever sad or afraid again she could cast a spell and make it all better.

Killua made things better for her, after all.

So she never wanted to see him cry.

She would work hard and do her best to be strong. If it was difficult or made her sad, that didn’t matter, because it was for Killua. So she wouldn’t ask anything of him until she could do for him what he did for her. No matter what happened, she wanted Killua to be happy. No matter how hard it was, she could do it.

Good, Kil, now come back over here.

Killua wasn’t holding her hand.

Her fingers felt cold without his around them. She’d thought she could do it. She thought she could be strong, strong enough that Killua wouldn’t cry.

“… Killua?”

Now she was the one making him cry.

So maybe it was better to go away. Better for everyone if she let the door close behind Killua. Better to stay locked away forever. Maybe it was better.

Better for Killua.

Better for Alluka.

It would be better if she stayed locked away in that body forever.

That was what she thought, until she heard the crying.

“Come back, please… if you leave too, I don’t know if I’d be able to bear it! Hey, Nanikacome back! Please don’t go anywhere!”

Alluka was calling for her. She couldn’t cast the magic spell to make things okay. She wasn’t strong enough. But she could keep trying, until Alluka could smile. She was sad, but Alluka was sad too. It wasn’t better to stay locked away.

Hey, other girl.” Killua’s voice. A word she didn’t know. A word that meaned her. (He’s talking to you, not me.)“What’s your name? I can’t just call you Alluka, and I don’t want to call you the other girl anymore. So… do you have a name?”

Mouth shaked. (Shaking, it’s shaking.) Try to say word now. Ask. “Na… me?” Hard. Didn’t know word. (A name is what people call you.) “Name, no.” Didn’t. Just ‘other girl.’ Killua said. Other girl is her.

No? Okay. We’ll give you one, is that fine?” Killua’s hand. Warm hand holded her hand. Happy.  How does she say? (If you’re happy, smile. That’s how you tell him.)

Killua, okay. Name… ‘kay. Gimme name.”

Then it’s settled! So let’s come up with something together.”

'kay!”

Well, since you’re with Alluka, how about we call you Nanika? Does that sound okay?”

If you’re happy, smile.

She smiled.

'kay!”

She couldn’t talk to Alluka, not out loud. But whenever she didn’t understand something, she could feel Alluka there, and suddenly it made more sense. Nanika was her name, and because of Alluka she could understand that. Could understand who Alluka was, too. All she had to do was think about it, ask herself really, really hard, and Alluka would help. Alluka was her friend, even if they couldn’t be together at the same time. So she tried to help Alluka too. Picture books and toys, those were things that Nanika remembered. So she made them, copied things she could see.

Alluka learned how to read, but Nanika wasn’t so good at it. Words were hard. Sometimes she wasn’t able to figure out how to say the things she wanted to say. No matter how many times she tried, it was too hard to make the feelings and experiences - the things she felt and knew and was – fit into words. It was too big and it didn’t work right. She wished she could make other people understand the way she had with the big man, but that wasn’t how people worked.

Nanika drew pictures instead – smiling faces and crying faces and sleepy faces, because maybe one day they wouldn’t be alone in the room together, and she wanted to be able to tell people how she felt and what she wanted. And she learned words, as best she could. She found phrases that she could use to mean lots and lots of things, and she held on to them. Practiced how to make her lips move to say words, even though it felt weird.

Because when she saw Killua again, she wanted to tell him that she loved him.

Chapter Text

Alluka loved to fly. On a broom, she could go anywhere, see anything. When the wind whipped her hair around her and cut across her face, moving so fast it was hard to see, hard to breathe - those were the times she knew she was alive. That she was outside, in sunlight over green grass, surrounded on all sides by crisp air. Rolling and spinning, shouting just to hear her own voice. Nanika laughing, so happy she was crying, her fingers gripping the handle of the broom as they changed, back and forth, over and over. Alluka, then Nanika, like a coin flipping in the air but never falling to the ground, never settling on one side.

On a broom, they could smile together, forgetting everything else but the moment they were encapsulated in. Alluka and Nanika, seeing everything there was to see. The joy of each second there was something she would have given anything to show him.

Alluka knew her big brother wasn’t okay. She’d known it for a long time. Alluka could barely look at him some days, knowing that something horrible was worrying away at him inside. It was only worse because he didn’t realize it was there. 

But he wanted to protect her from things like that, so she pretended not to see. Big brother was trying, still. He had been trying so hard, for such a long time. Alluka couldn’t bear to tell him that during the times he hadn’t been able to be there, the things he’d been trying to keep her safe from had already found her.

She knew he would blame himself.

Being allowed to see her big brother again was one of the greatest moments of her life. She’d been so happy that she hadn’t realized at first that there was something wrong. Alluka hadn’t noticed it, when he’d picked her up and spun her around. She’d been so overwhelmed by it, big brother being there again, being able to smile and play with him like they’d used to. They’d go to Hogwarts together, her and Nanika and big brother, and they could see each other whenever they’d like. They would make friends. They’d see the world. 

Alluka hadn’t realized until she could hear Nanika sniffling in the back of her head that big brother hadn’t asked to see her. That had been when she could see something behind his eyes, something dull and very sad. 

That was when she had known something was wrong. Big brother was still big brother. He’d held her hand when they went to get school supplies, helped her with robes and books, fished through his pockets for loose coins to buy her candies. He’d smiled and he’d laughed, but there had been something in him that hurt whenever he looked at her.

Big brother had never said a thing about Nanika. Not when anyone was around. She had met Gon on the Hogwarts express, and he was amazing. Gon was bright and happy and loud, and being around him made her big brother very happy. A happiness that wasn’t covering being sad, the way it was with her. They’d eaten candies together, Gon catching the chocolate frogs that jumped off her hands and making big brother spill ice mice everywhere. 

Nanika hadn’t come out.

Later, in the dark of their first night at Hogwarts, he stood outside the Hufflepuff dormitories and spoke to Senritsu. She was a prefect, and very nice. She thought that maybe Senritsu was friends with her big brother. It would be nice if he had lots and lots of friends. Lots of friends who he could smile with.

He held her hand that night, and his eyes were full of tears that threatened to spill over when he asked Nanika to come out.

She didn’t know what they talked about. Alluka never knew what went on when Nanika was awake. She could only feel what Nanika felt, and sometimes she could give the other girl little hints. Nanika wasn’t very eloquent, and she didn’t understand lots of things, so sometimes she needed help. And Alluka loved Nanika, so she was happy to give it. 

She never needed to tell Nanika that she loved her. They knew. It was nice, to be able to share their feelings in their purest form, passing them to one another. All either of them needed to do was feel it, and it was understood. Nanika loves Alluka. Alluka loves Nanika. We love each other. We love big brother - though Nanika didn’t call him that - and now we can meet other people who we’ll love too. 

When Nanika went away again, though, she was sad. She hunched over and hid away and scrubbed at her face with fists that shook. And Alluka couldn’t bear it. Alluka and Nanika were different, but they were the same in so many ways. Alluka could feel her crying, and it had made her want to cry too. 

"Big brother," she said, and tears streamed down her face, because Nanika was crying and Nanika was hurting and Alluka felt that pain. "What did you say to Nanika to make her cry?"

She hated the way her big brother’s eyes shone with tears. He’d said something horrible, she knew. Something that had made Nanika never want to come out again. She was curled up in the back of their shared space, sobbing and sobbing, and Alluka couldn’t say a thing to reassure her. 

Alluka cried that night, angry and sad. “Big brother can’t be nice to Alluka and mean to Nanika! I-if you don’t apologize, I’ll- I’ll hate you! B-because, you said you would always protect us! That you’d protect both of us! So you can’t do it! You can’t be nice to Alluka, and then say something awful to make Nanika cry! It’s not fair! If big brother loves me, he has to love Nanika too!”

Her big brother held her with arms that shook. “I’m sorry,” he said, and his voice was choked up with tears. “I’m so sorry. I’m sorry. Will you… ask Nanika to come out again?”

For a while, neither of them had been there. She’d been able to hear what he said during that, when she’d nudged Nanika forward even as they cried. 

"I’m sorry, Nanika. I’m sorry. I was wrong, and I said something horrible to you. I was scared. I was telling myself that I was trying to protect Alluka, but I didn’t - I didn’t have any right to hurt you to do that. So, will you please come out? So I can tell you I’m sorry."

That was when Nanika came out, and words and sensations melted away until all she was able to feel was waves of sadness and little streaks of hope. And eventually the sadness started to ebb away, and Alluka smiled. Because Nanika was still sad - but she was happy, too, and it was okay. She knew Nanika was smiling, and that she had been able to say what she had wanted to say for a very long time. 

When Alluka opened her eyes again, she knew that Nanika had been able to tell Killua that she loved him. And he was smiling, though his cheeks were wet and his nose was red. It wasn’t the sad smile he’d had before, either. It made her happy too - understanding that Nanika was happy, that her big brother was happy. It would be okay, from then on.

Alluka hoped that he could continue to smile like that. But it came to an end too soon. 

Chapter Text

Leaving the hospital wing with Killua was a mixed blessing. It wasn’t as if there had been any medical concerns for the other boy. At least, not anything that could be magicked away. There wasn’t a potion for trauma. Alluka met them on the stairway, running to hold her brother’s hand.

Maybe someone who wasn’t Gon would have been suspicious or at least curious of her after learning what he had. But Alluka was Alluka, and she had always been Alluka. So it didn’t matter. Nothing about her had changed. 

Gon sort of wished he could hold Killua’s hand as easily as she could. 

"Hey, big brother," Alluka said, swinging the hand she was holding on to a little. "Will you come watch my Quidditch practice today? Or do you need to do homework? Gon’s helping out today too."

Killua was grinning in that way he did when he was with Alluka. Even an idiot could see how much he loved his sister, and it made something in Gon’s chest twist. Killua looked so happy that it gave him butterflies in his stomach. Things had calmed down, so maybe…

"No, I’ll go. I think I need a break anyway." They’d reached the end of the hall, the potions classroom in one direction and the greenhouses in another. Gon’s shoes scuffed the floor a little, and he focused on that. Probably better to walk away and leave them to their own devices, he decided. He’d been selfish lately. 

When he turned away wordlessly, he heard the others’ footsteps halt. “Hey, Gon.” Killua’s voice was a little loud, and it only made Gon more nervous. “You not gonna say goodbye?”

"Big brother," Alluka said quietly, and Gon knew she was tugging gently at his hand. She was so astute it almost made Gon mad. "We’re going to be late for class."

"Sorry," he said, his fingers fiddling with the hem of his shirt. "I just figured I’d let you guys talk. Besides, I have potions next and you’re both going the other way."

Killua had charms, he knew, and Alluka was headed for herbology. If they didn’t hurry, she’d be late, though the other two had more time to spare. 

"Yeah, but," Killua started, taking a step towards Gon before gritting his teeth in annoyance. "Meet me in the library later, you almost failed the last history of magic assignment and I don’t have time to yell at you for it right now."

"Big brother,” Alluka said, a hint of childish annoyance in her voice. That was better, Gon thought. It was somehow cute to see her acting her age. “I’m gonna be late and we’re doing stuff with mandrakes today so if I don’t get there early all the nice earmuffs will be gone!”

"Sorry, Alluka. Okay, let’s go."

Gon burned his hand in potions after failing to pay proper attention to his cauldron. Professor Yorkshire scolded him and made him an example to the whole class before healing it. He’d actually expected worse. She wasn’t quick to irritation, but her tone easily turned severe. 

That was probably for the best, Gon figured. Potions could be incredibly dangerous, so it only made sense for her to be strict with everyone. It didn’t make him feel any better, though at least he had the blessing of having burned his hand on the cauldron itself and not the contents. 

Then it was out onto the pitch to help out with Quidditch practice. He’d limited himself to helping the Hufflepuff team, laughing at the other students who proclaimed it unfair that he was giving another house such an advantage.

Anyone who asked Pokkle how he felt on the matter would receive a slightly glassy stare. He’d been the captain of the Hufflepuff Quidditch team for half a year, and Gon was a double-edged sword to his players.

On the bright side, it meant the team was prepared for anything. Even Alluka was much tougher than she’d been starting out - she’d cornered Gon one day and demanded he not go easy on her, and he’d agreed. The logic was sound - taking the team’s seeker out of commission was a solid strategy that the Gryffindor team’s beaters employed, and Alluka looked like an easy target. Getting her used to that sort of thing was a good idea. It didn’t stop Killua from yelling at him from across the pitch to “stop targeting my little sister!” the first time he’d actively gone after her.

It had taken half the team and Gon hollering back at him, plus an irritated quaffle throw, to dissuade Killua from being a backseat-flyer. He still grumbled about it occasionally, but it was more a matter of stubborn pride than genuine concern. Alluka had never suffered more than being clipped by a bludger. She was incredibly fast and agile, a testament to the amount of time she spent flying. It also likely helped that the rest of the team loved her so much they were willing to intercept a bludger with their faces for her. Pokkle had broken his nose twice playing defense for her, even though he was a chaser. 

Gon knew it made Killua happy. He’d always known Alluka was incredible, but other people seeing it made him swell with pride.

That practice, though, Gon was nervous. Not nervous enough to be in any danger himself, but nervous enough to be hesitant. It was the first time he’d faced off with the Hufflepuff team after coming to realize he was feeling the stirrings of jealousy, and he wasn’t sure how he’d react.

It was awful, really. Gon had never expected the way his stomach would turn looking at Alluka. She was his best friend’s little sister, and seeing them together made him jealous. It was awful and pathetic, because Alluka was so sweet and kind, and it felt horrible to aim that sort of emotion at her. Being jealous of a fourteen year old girl was sad. 

The worst part was how senseless it all was. Gon was certain that it wasn’t a case of considering her a romantic rival - that was beyond absurd. It just made him upset, seeing how happy they were together. He’d realized how stupid it was, really. Gon should have been happy to see Killua happy spending time with someone he loved, but he wasn’t. He was hideously jealous and grumpy and that only made him angrier at himself. Couldn’t he just be happy about it? That was how it was supposed to work, he thought. Being in love with someone meant being happy when they were happy, no matter the circumstances. Wasn’t that right?

And he liked Alluka. Gon was an only child, but hanging out with her gave him an idea of what it was like to have a little sister. It wasn’t the same as how things were for Killua - he’d grown up with her after all, and that was different. Did siblings get jealous of each other? It only made sense, but he’d never seen that from Killua and Alluka. 

Gon was a little afraid he might take it out on her there on the pitch. He was glad Killua was watching. It kept him in line - Killua always served as a restraint to him, and he was grateful for it. He was able to relax a little that way, just concentrating on the bat in his hand and the heavy crack of hitting a bludger. By the time he’d worked up a sweat, Gon felt better. Better about himself, better about Alluka, better about Killua too. 

Maybe it was adrenaline, but Gon was sure he could confess now.

Chapter Text

The truth was, Gon really had almost failed a history of magic assignment. That wasn’t why Killua was holding him hostage in the library, though. It was because Gon was acting weird, weirder than he’d ever been. Of course, that was probably subjective - to some students, this may have been the most normal anyone had ever seen Gon Freecss. To Killua, though, it raised red flags everywhere.

It didn’t help that he was constantly watching the other boy. Ignoring the oddities was hard when Killua eyes kept being pulled to him. Gon was acting weird, and there was a nervousness that grew in Killua’s stomach every time he was reminded of it.

There was too much going on in his life, really. It was unfair, and his priorities kept shifting from one to another. Alluka, Gon, Illumi. What should he focus on? Who did he need to think about most? Next year, Kalluto would start classes. 

He’d tried not to think about that - what house his youngest sibling would be sorted in, what their parents had told him about Killua. Would Kalluto hate him? He wasn’t sure, but it didn’t seem likely. Even with the way he’d shunned them in the past two years, Killua knew his parents had only viewed his behavior as youthful rebellion. 

It might have changed with Alluka, but he didn’t know. Killua hoped they were worried. He hoped they were miserable, knowing whatever they’d tried to drill into his head hadn’t taken root. All the things Illumi had done were unraveling like a ripped stitch, and everyone had to have started to realize that. 

What would he do when he saw Illumi at the train station? What would Gon do? It was useless to try and figure it out in advance. Killua could only put his faith in the other boy, and hope it would be enough. 

It all seemed so distant, though. It would be months before he’d have to face Illumi again, to argue with his parents about how he wouldn’t be coming home this summer either. He’d spent the last one with Alluka, renting a hotel room in Diagon Ally. 

Maybe Killua could do that again. Gon had kicked at his feet on the train back from Hogwarts, whining that he and Alluka could come home with him for the summer. Killua had rejected it out of hand - he’d met Mito before, but he couldn’t impose on her hospitality with Alluka too. 

He sort of wanted to go, though. To see where Gon had grown up, how he lived his life outside of Hogwarts. 

It always came back to Gon, in the end. That was why they were there, together, in the library. Gon still had sweat on his face and dirt on his hands from playing Quidditch, and Killua frowned at him for it. “I would have waited for you to wash your face, you know.” 

Something about Gon had changed, though. Before, he’d been unnaturally withdrawn, but now he seemed like he was back to himself. Killua was glad for it, but he also wanted to know what had been bothering him so much before. “Yeah, but Killua wanted to talk to me, so I didn’t want to waste time.”

There wasn’t any point in dwelling on it. Killua scooted his chair closer to the table, leaning to rest his elbows on it. “Look. I’m not gonna skip around trying to be subtle. You’ve been weird lately.”

Gon paused in rubbing at his face with the back of his hand. It left a little smudge of dirt there, ignored. “What?”

Killua scowled in response to that. “I know you’re stupid, but not that stupid. If you’ve been worrying about me, I don’t want it. There’s no point in it if there’s nothing anyone can do just yet.”

For the first time in what seemed like weeks, Gon met and held his gaze. Before, the other boy had been looking away almost as soon as their eyes had met, and it was frustrating. But now that it wasn’t the case, Killua felt sort of self-conscious. Gon’s stare was intense, after all. Something was there, being communicated, but he wasn’t sure what it was. 

"Of course I’m gonna worry," Gon said frankly. His eyebrows had drawn together, and a hint of a frown marred his expression. "It’s unfair to tell me not to. I mean, Killua is… my friend, so I can’t not worry when you’re upset.”

Killua very carefully noted the way Gon’s words had paused, and then sped up too quickly. He’d almost said something else, and corrected himself… or maybe Killua was reading too far into it.

Killua remembered Gon’s hands on his shoulders.

He squashed the thought, forcing his brain back to the topic at hand. “Yeah, well. I don’t want you like… staying up at night thinking about it.”

"That’s not what I’m staying up thinking about." The words were so casual that he missed what they were actually saying. "I mean, I know Killua can handle it. You’re always good at taking care of people."

Killua gritted his teeth. It wasn’t right to protest that, no matter how much he disagreed with the statement. Gon was still speaking, so he kept his thoughts to himself. 

"Even when you think you’re doing a bad job, you’re really not. Alluka said something like that. She said you think too much. And you do! You’re too harsh on yourself. I think you’d be happier if you thought about all the things you’ve done right instead of focusing on what you didn’t do. It’ll make you feel better, I think."

"What, are you telling me you think about that kind of stuff? The stuff you messed up? I guess if you didn’t let it pass you’d be miserable all the time." It had been meant as a light jab, but the smile Gon gave him in response was a little pained. Killua swallowed, not liking that expression at all. He laced his fingers together, pressing the tips of his thumbs against one another. 

"Well, maybe." Killua felt bad, even though Gon had shrugged it off so easily. But then the smile was fading into something more wistful. "Hey, Killua. Have you ever been in a situation, like a really serious one I mean, where you thought about something really inane? Like, something out of place or really inappropriate. And then you feel bad about it, because then it seems like you’re making light of the thing that’s going on."

Gon’s hands gripping his shoulders in Palm’s office, how badly Killua had wanted to kiss him. The absurdity of how focusing on that had helped to subdue the panic in him, at least temporarily. Remembering it made his chest hurt. Taking advantage of Gon’s concern to make himself feel better was awful. An inappropriate thought in a serious situation.

"Yeah," he muttered. Gon’s stare was unnerving now, and he felt like he was being scrutinized. Killua wanted to look away. If he didn’t Gon would surely realize… what? 

It was clear that Gon wasn’t speaking out of some sort of hypothetical query. He was talking about something that had happened recently, to him. Killua wasn’t sure of a serious situation Gon might have been in lately that wasn’t about him. But that was being self-centered, wasn’t it?

Killua focused on the little spot of dirt on Gon’s cheek. He wanted to wipe it away, but then what else would he look at? He knew Gon was building up to something, but he couldn’t get his hopes up. 

Wanting to kiss Gon. Killua laughed a little. “I think it happens all the time, like, to everyone. Maybe. I don’t know. Like, when a friend is failing his class and you know you should be helping him. But all you want to do is kick him in the face for slacking.”

Right now, things weren’t clouded with a haze of panic. Right now, Gon wasn’t desperately worried about him. So… right now… Killua looked at the smudge of dirt. 

"What?" Gon leaned onto the table a little, his nose scrunching up. Did Gon not consider this a serious enough situation to count? Killua wasn’t sure. "Ah, crap. That’s me, huh." 

"Yeah, totally." Killua snorted. Gon looked cute with his face screwed up in thought. He tapped the textbook at his elbow, raising an eyebrow at the other boy. "It’s history of magic though, and that’s so goddamn boring that I almost can’t fault you. Without Professor Knov’s face to keep your focus, I mean."

It wasn’t embarrassing to say Professor Knov was attractive. It wasn’t anything like an admission, after all, because that implied he’d been trying to keep it secret. Killua hadn’t. It was an objective fact, not a matter of opinion or any indicator of romantic inclinations. Even Gon nodded in agreement immediately. 

"I fell asleep doing the assignment," Gon admitted, scratching at the back of his neck. Killua wondered if he was leaving another dirt mark there. He was getting genuinely annoyed by the little spot on Gon’s cheek now, and he wasn’t sure why he hadn’t told Gon it was there yet. "I know Professor Knov got annoyed, but I really did know the material. I just forgot to do the work in time."

"You think I’m going to believe that so easily? Write it down then. Do the assignment, right now." It felt good to be a little mean. After all, it was more normal for him to be rude to Gon when it came to things like this. Getting back into their routine was the best thing he could do, probably. 

If he could stop thinking about that obnoxious dirt smudge on Gon’s cheek, that would be even better.

The strangled noise Gon made brought a smile to his face. “Killua, I wasn’t done talking yet!”

"Yeah, yeah. Okay." It had reached peak annoyance. "You’ve got…"

Killua reached over the table to wipe the smudge away. Gon flinched very slightly, then rolled his eyes when he realized what Killua was doing. “You could have just told me it was there. Thanks, though.”

"Yeah, well. You’re welcome." With the ease of someone not thinking about their actions, Killua pressed his lips against Gon’s briefly and sat down again.

A second passed before Killua stood up without any ceremony and broke into a sprint, flying out of the library with his books forgotten.

Chapter Text

Her big brother was an idiot. Sure, he was incredibly intelligent even if he didn’t always apply himself to the work he should have been doing. Somehow, he was always more focused on making sure she did her homework than he was about his own. But when it came to himself, he was so clueless that she was amazed he wasn’t constantly tripping over his own emotions.

He and Gon were hiding something, Alluka knew. That, she decided, was fine. Of course she wanted to know, but there was something between them that she didn’t want to - not to mention couldn’t - intrude on.

At first she’d thought, seeing Gon skulking around the grounds, that they’d gotten into a fight again. Lately they’d been confrontational with one another. Alluka had wondered about it, constructing elaborate scenarios in her head to explain their behavior. Her favorite one to think about was “Big brother and Gon started dating, and Gon wants to tell people but big brother doesn’t, so they’re mad at each other even though they love each other.” Maybe that was just wishful thinking, but it was fun to consider. 

But then she’d seen Killua himself, and the look on his face as he walked to class was too serious. Serious, and more upset than angry. It wasn’t anything like what she’d thought. Alluka had wanted to call out to him, but suddenly she’d been too afraid to move. Inside, Nanika had sniffled, not quite waking up. Something was wrong with her big brother, and she didn’t know what it was.

Hours later, when the Divination professor came across the pitch, she could only worry more. Pokkle had stopped practice to speak to Professor Siberia, and eventually waved her over. Alluka’s fingers had trembled as she clutched at the broom Killua had bought for her - for them, her and Nanika both. 

She’d never spoken to Professor Siberia before. She was sort of scary, but up close, Alluka couldn’t think of her as anything more than pretty, and sort of melancholy.

"Professor?" Her voice quivered a little. Something in the professor’s face was concerned. 

"You can call me Palm if you’d like," she said, with a tone that was carefully calm. "Your brother and Gon do."

They were always calling professors by their first names. Alluka scowled a little at that. Gon didn’t know any better, she thought, but Killua had to know that calling a professor by their first name was rude. “That’s okay, Professor. Um… did you need me for something?”

She knew the rumors, of course. If Professor Siberia was around, disaster would follow. It had to be wrong, of course. Alluka didn’t believe that a Hogwarts professor could be a bad omen or anything like that. 

"Alluka, would you walk with me for a moment? I’m sorry to interrupt your practice." She really was very pretty. Somehow Professor Siberia reminded Alluka of a mermaid, but she wasn’t sure why. She didn’t look anything like the merpeople who lived in the lake with the giant squid. 

Alluka had tried to talk to them before, but outside of the water, their voices hurt her ears. Under the surface, though, they sounded beautiful. Maybe that was it - Professor Siberia’s voice made her think of rolling waves. ”It’s okay. You’re here because it’s important, right?” 

Professor Siberia sighed a little, turning her head to look at Alluka as they walked. “I don’t want you to think there’s anything like an emergency, okay? Gon and Killua are in the hospital wing, and Gon asked me to come get you.”

Even in such a lovely voice, those words made her afraid. Alluka stopped in the doorway before making herself walk again. There was no point in not keeping moving, after all. “Is my big brother okay?” 

"He’s just fine. I’m sorry if I worried you. Killua’s not hurt at all." Alluka fiddled with the hem of her Quidditch robes, realizing she had dirt on her. Was she tracking it down the corridor? She hoped not.  

"Oh. So, Gon did something stupid again." That wasn’t so odd. Gon was always getting in some sort of trouble. She’d heard that in his second year, he had climbed to the top of the Whomping Willow, but only after breaking both legs in three places.

Professor Siberia made a low noise that might have been a “hm” or might have been a laugh. “Well, not this time, I don’t think.”

Alluka nodded automatically, responding to Professor Siberia’s tone more than her words. “Um,” she said, chewing on her bottom lip. Nanika stirred in the back of her head, a faint little worried noise. “Then, my big brother?”

"Is under a lot of stress from classwork," the professor said hesitantly. Alluka looked at the floor as she walked, nervous and unsure. "Nothing’s wrong with him that a good night’s sleep won’t fix."

It sounded like Killua. But she didn’t think it was school he was stressed about. The way he’d looked earlier hadn’t been how someone worried about classes would look. 

Alluka didn’t like it when her big brother was sad. Nanika didn’t either - images drifted up in her head. It was easier for Nanika to communicate that way, and Alluka always knew what the other girl was trying to say even if she had trouble putting it into comprehensible thoughts.

(Killua’s face.) 

Yes, big brother. 

(A scraped knee.) 

No, not hurt, she didn’t think. Tired. He had to be very tired. 

(Killua again, fast asleep, his cheek pressed against the scroll he’d been trying to write on.) 

Yes, that was right. He’d sleep for a little while, and then he would be fine. 

(A scribbled crayon drawing of smiling face, and a faint “‘kay”.) 

Nanika went back to sleep. 

The professor seemed to notice the way Alluka wasn’t paying attention to her words anymore. She didn’t say anything - Alluka figured Professor Siberia thought she was just thinking. It wasn’t exactly wrong; Alluka was thinking. But it wasn’t just thinking.

She didn’t want to worry Nanika. It wasn’t as if she could hide things from the other girl, but Nanika didn’t always understand what Alluka meant even with their linked minds. This was fine. After all, it was probably nothing, or at least nothing that worrying would help with. 

It didn’t make Alluka feel better. Out loud, she asked, “Did he collapse?” 

That ‘hm’ noise came again before the professor answered her. “Yes, sort of. I think you should ask Gon what happened when you reach the hospital wing. He’ll be able to tell you more than I can.”

Alluka nodded a little to herself. Gon wouldn’t tell her the truth, probably. “Professor, you don’t need to walk me the whole way there. I can make it on my own, and I’m sure you have work to do.”

It took a moment before the older woman answered. “I’m sure you understand why I shouldn’t just leave you, right? So since you know that, I think it’s okay. And, if you ever get upset about anything, you can always come to the Divination tower and talk to me about it if you’d like. Now, go see your brother. I’m sure he’ll be glad.”

Professor Siberia was very nice, Alluka decided. 

Chapter Text

As soon as the professor was out of sight she broke into a run, dashing up the stairs to the hospital wing with her robes flying out behind her. She skidded to a halt in front of the wide double doors to push them open, and Gon was sitting there with his shoulders slumped.

Her thoughts were spilling out of her mouth before she could pause to put them together properly. “Gon! Is he- he’s okay, right? Professor Siberia said he was here, he didn’t get hurt, right?” That was when she really looked at Gon. He wasn’t slumped because he was upset; he had a hand pressed against his stomach, like he was trying to hold his organs in place. “Gon, are you hurt?”

The way Gon shook his head was a knee-jerk response. His sigh had a bit of a wince in it. “I wasn’t being careful around the Whomping Willow, and carrying Killua made my ribs hurt again. A-ah, not that he’s hurt! Killua’s been staying up too late doing homework and stuff again, and so he sort of overworked himself.”

He’d fractured a rib. Somehow it was a relief, but not much. Gon was trying to reassure her. He had to know she’d realized already that half of his words had been lies. It made her a little angry, but not as much as she was upset that there was something to lie about. Alluka’s curled her shaking fingers into fists in the hopes that it would stop their trembling.

Gon wasn’t meeting her eyes. He knew she didn’t believe him. Somehow, his profile looked sad. “He’s okay,” Gon said, like he was trying to convince himself it was the case.

Alluka swallowed. She wanted to say something, but wasn’t sure what would come out. Nanika was stirring again, roused by Alluka’s emotions, and she had to grit her teeth as she reassured the other girl. Big brother was fine. When Gon left, she would let Nanika see for herself. Was that fine? (‘Kay.)

Gon pulled the curtain aside as if he was trying to show her nothing was wrong. But the way his eyes stayed on Killua was telling. She didn’t think it was just a matter of Gon liking her big brother. He was mad at himself for something.

Killua looked upset even in his sleep. The space between his eyebrows was creased, and she could tell he was clenching his teeth. Her big brother looked very small and sad, laying there on the hospital bed.

She hated seeing that look on his face.

The first time she saw it, she thought, must have been just before she’d started at Hogwarts. He’d asked her to write the alphabet for him, to make sure she knew how. For some reason he had seemed very concerned about it, but when she’d written all of her letters all of the nervousness went away. At the time, she’d been proud and hadn’t thought of why it would worry him.

Alluka had realized why later on, after her second class had another professor sigh in mild relief at her neat lettering. She’d asked him - Professor Knov, who taught History of Magic - why he and her previous professor had been so nervous about her turning in her paper. “Have you seen your brother’s penmanship? It’s a disaster, not at all like this. The first time he handed in an assignment, I thought he’d never written anything in his life up until that point.”

She’d seen that face the first time she’d fallen off her broom, when he’d dashed across the grass to make sure she wasn’t hurt. Alluka had pushed his hands away with a pout, because she was a big girl and could take care of herself. It didn’t occur to her how genuinely worried he was. She’d seen it when he was rooting around in his pockets for pain relief potions, when his head was hurting so badly that she thought he might cry.

Alluka had seen that face when he’d been walking to class earlier that day.

"Big brother thinks too much," she whispered, her fingers clutching at the hem of her robes. "Even when he’s sleeping, he’s thinking about too many upsetting things."

"Yeah." Gon’s voice was so quiet she could barely hear it. Alluka hated it. Gon loved her brother as much as she did, she thought. Whatever had happened, he was hurting inside. She wasn’t sure what to say. She thought about it as she pulled a stool over to the bedside.

Killua’s hands were curled into fists around the sheets. Alluka carefully placed one of her hands over his, and was relieved to feel him relax a little. When she looked at his face, it seemed less tense than it had before. Alluka didn’t know if it was that it was her hand, or that her big brother just didn’t want to be alone, even sleeping.

Gon had turned away, and she took the chance to let Nanika slide forward in her head. Just for a little bit, not enough that Gon would notice. She had felt the other girl fidgeting, and she wanted to relieve her as much as she could.

Maybe it helped Killua too. When she opened her eyes again, Nanika was bright and happy again, and the look on her big brother’s face was much calmer.

It wasn’t the same way with Gon. He didn’t even seem to realize she was looking at him. Alluka wasn’t sure she’d ever seen Gon this upset before. It worried her a little. He’d done something - or hadn’t done something - that made him feel regretful.

She didn’t want to ask him what it was. Well, she did, but she knew it wasn’t necessarily something she could know about. That wasn’t fair, to Gon or her big brother. Even though Alluka wanted to know, desperately wanted to know so that maybe, she could do something to help. Gon was her friend, and seeing him so sad made her sad too. But he wouldn’t tell her what was wrong, because that was how he and her big brother were.

It was stupid, and she wanted to cry. It wasn’t fair. There were so many things that weren’t fair.

The back of Gon’s hand was red, like he’d been scratched. He was holding it, too, his fingers pressed lightly against the skin there. She wondered if it was something from the Whomping Willow, but he didn’t seem to have any other cuts or scrapes.

Alluka reached out, snagging the sleeve of Gon’s robe. Maybe she could get him to let go of his hand that way, so she could look at it. “Gon,” she said, tugging at his clothes to get him to look at her. “Me and big brother have secrets, so I know you have secrets with him too. It’s not fair if I try to make you tell. But I know right now you’re upset, so I wish I knew how to make you feel better.”

It didn’t seem to help much, if at all. Gon shook his head at her, his lips set in a thin line. “If anyone in here should be worried about less, it’s me, right? I’m fine. I don’t wanna think about me.”

Alluka wondered if he really believed that. She looked at Killua again, asleep in the hospital bed, and clenched her teeth. Gon was wrong, and she wondered if he knew that. “Mm-mm. Because right now, you’re feeling bad about yourself.”

The surprised look on Gon’s face told her he wasn’t aware of the almost literal aura of misery surrounding him. Her fingers moved from his sleeve to grab at his hand, squeezing it a little the way Killua did when he was trying to make her feel better. She closed her eyes, kicking her feet a little as she tried to figure out what to say, how to put what she knew into words. “But you can only do that because you really, really know that right now, big brother is okay. That’s why I’m not so worried about him, because if something were really, really wrong, Gon wouldn’t be standing around beating himself up.”

Alluka let her eyes open again, watching the way Gon’s shoulders relaxed. She could feel little dents under her fingertips, like someone had dug their nails into his skin there. She wondered if he’d done it himself. Gon was the kind of person to unconsciously do things like that when he was upset. He didn’t even seem to notice the pain a lot of the time.

Maybe it had helped. She hoped so.

"I think Killua would cry if he knew you were here in the hospital wing with him and it was me you were worried about,” Gon said, a little teasing, and she knew he was feeling better. Alluka smiled at that, but when her eyes found Killua again, she knew she didn’t have anything else to focus on.

Gon always made Killua feel better. The way he smiled and laughed with Gon was the way she wanted him to be all the time. Alluka could feel tears starting to form in her eyes, and she tried to will them away. Nanika had picked up on it, and the other girl was sniffling in sympathetic misery. Somehow, it made things worse, in some sort of melancholy feedback loop.

Her voice sounded so weak. “… I want him to be okay again, like he used to be. Before everything got so hard. S-so, if you know how, please… When he wakes up, can you make him smile?” 

Gon was quiet for a moment, but he squeezed her hand. “Hey… I think that, if Alluka wants that, you should be the one to make it happen. I think the best thing would be for him to be able to see you right now.”

She wasn’t sure how to respond. Did he mean that, or was he just trying to make her feel better? Alluka wanted to believe it was the truth. “… are you sure?”

Something about his expression was pained, but Gon answered her anyway. ”Of course. I don’t know a lot of things like Killua does, but I know that he loves Alluka. So you should keep holding his hand until he wakes up, okay? Killua loves you more than anything in the whole world.”

It made her feel so much better than anything else that had happened that day. So she held on to Killua’s hand even after Gon let go and closed the curtain around them. When her big brother woke up, she’d be there.

Chapter Text

He couldn’t help but run. It had been instinctive - Killua didn’t know what to do, so he fled. He’d kissed Gon. Why had he kissed Gon? Was he crazy? Killua pressed his hand over his mouth as he ran, not even knowing where he was headed. The dorms, probably. If he made his way into the Ravenclaw dorms, Gon couldn’t follow him.

And Gon was following him, he knew. He could hear the other boy’s footsteps echoing on the floors. Did he really want to run away? Killua would have to confront this eventually. He wasn’t sure if he could convince the other boy that it had been a fluke.

Killua ducked into the nearest alcove, hoping Gon would and wouldn’t spot him there. He was faster than Gon, so it was giving him the chance to catch up… maybe. Maybe, Killua thought, he was just sick of running away from everything. 

He sank down, wrapping his arms around his knees and pressing his face into them. A small comfort, but a comfort nonetheless. His chest hurt, and he was out of breath. Killua couldn’t run away from this, even though he was scared and wanted it to go away. So he sat there, listening to Gon’s footsteps getting louder, and wondered what would happen next.

Gon spotted him. At first he didn’t look up, didn’t meet Gon’s eyes. Killua wasn’t sure what kind of expression Gon was making. He looked at Gon’s feet instead, and muttered, “Sorry.”

"Why?"

It was a good question for Gon to ask, Killua figured. Why kiss him? It wasn’t as if Gon had known the way Killua felt. There was no way to give him a solid answer without saying that. ”I just, I dunno. Didn’t think about it. It, hey. It didn’t mean anything, okay? Forget it ever happened.”

It wasn’t what he wanted to say, and it annoyed him that he’d let it slip past his lips. Killua gritted his teeth, furious with himself. He didn’t want to run away anymore, and that meant facing this. It meant confronting the fact that he liked his best friend, that he’d kissed his best friend and he’d done it because he wanted to. It meant facing the fact that it hadn’t been a mistaken and ithad meant something.

Before he could open his mouth to take it back, Gon was speaking, madder than he’d ever heard the other boy in his life. ”Didn’t mean anything? Don’t fuck with me.”

Killua wasn’t sure he’d ever heard Gon swear like that before. 

And then Gon’s hands were on him, taking fistfuls of his robe and pulling him to his feet. For a split second, he thought Gon would hit him. He grabbed at Gon’s arms, his fingers gripping tightly around his wrists. Gon wasn’t that kind of person. When Killua met his eyes, he realized what he should have from the second Gon had spoken.

Gon was mad because it had meant something to him.

He didn’t get a chance to think about it any more than that before Gon was kissing him, almost viciously. It hurt, but Gon’s mouth was warm. He let his lips part almost subconsciously, and his fingers fell limply from Gon’s wrists to scratch against the stone wall. Gon was kissing him and Killua was kissing back, tasting Gon’s saliva and feeling the heat of his tongue. 

When Gon let go of him, his legs gave out and he fell to the floor, catching himself at the last second. Something about the way Gon looked down at him made his heart race. Gon’s cheeks were flushed and he was licking his lips.

"That meant something," Gon said, and Killua could only nod, unable to even think of how to respond. He stumbled back to his feet, eyeing Gon almost critically. It seemed like the other boy was going to say something, but Killua didn’t care. He yanked Gon by the shirt, slamming him against the wall hard enough to shake the candles outside the alcove.

Gon only managed to take a surprised breath before Killua was kissing him again. It was rough and desperate, their teeth clacking together painfully. Gon’s hands grabbed at his face to hold him there, and Killua could feel the other boy trying to reverse their positions. They spun in place for a moment, both trying to press the other against the wall, before Gon wedged him into the corner of the alcove and trapped him there. Somehow in the confusion of that moment, Killua had tangled his fingers into Gon’s robe with his arms around his shoulders. Gon’s thumb brushed across his jaw, and he shivered in response.

Gon made a noise that could have been his name, but it was swallowed by their joined lips and lost. He wanted to touch Gon more. It burned inside of him, a thrilled kind of desire that came from reciprocated emotion. He wanted to kiss Gon more, to feel more of him, just reveling in contact. Killua could feel heat pooling in his stomach. Gon’s fingers against his cheeks and neck felt too hot, like he was standing too close to a roaring fire.

Abruptly, Killua realized they were making out in an open corridor where anyone could walk by. Could the paintings see them? It was the middle of the day. How had they gotten away with it for so long? 

Gon caught his sudden hesitation, and they separated regretfully. “Hey?” Gon said, not letting his hands fall from Killua’s face. His cheeks were flushed and his lips looked too red, and Killua couldn’t help but get distracted by that. He wanted to kiss Gon again and he ran his teeth over his bottom lip, not quite biting down. Killua realized he was staring at Gon’s lips, and made himself stop.

"Hey." When he let his eyes flick back up to meet Gon’s, he realized the other boy was doing the same thing. Knowing Gon was watching his lips form the syllables made something twist gleefully in his chest. "We’re in the middle of a corridor, you know."

Gon’s eyes met his and widened slightly, before narrowing again as he started to grin. “Yeah, we are.”

He could feel Gon’s breath against his skin. It tickled a little, and Killua was barely able to contain the little snort that threatened to break free from him. But then, there was no reason to, was there? Gon finally let go of his cheeks at that point, wrapping his arms around Killua’s middle and resting his forehead on his shoulder. His shoulders were shaking, and Killua realized he was trying not to laugh. It made him cave, unable to choke back his own laughter but still trying his hardest.

For a moment, all that could be heard echoing in the corridor was the sound of two teenage boys snickering uncontrollably, and then their voices rose into genuine laughter. Killua’s head tilted back to bump against the wall, and it only made him laugh harder. All the stress and anxiety from the past week was draining out of him, and he wondered if it was the same for Gon.

When they managed to contain themselves, Killua realized he hadn’t said what he needed to say. No, what he wanted to say. 

"Hey, Gon. Gon, I like you." It felt liberating to let the words out. "I really, really like you."

Gon’s arms around him squeezed a little harder, and he pulled away enough to meet Killua’s eyes. He was embarrassed, Killua realized with a pang of delight. Gon looked downright bashful, and it might have been one of the greatest things he’d ever seen. One of Gon’s hands pulled away from his waist to scratch at the back of his neck.

"Meant to say it first," he mumbled, his cheeks so red Killua was worried all the blood in his body was there. His excitement had changed to elation. The words were out and accepted, and returned to him. "I meant to tell Killua ages ago. That, you know, I liked you a lot. Not a friend kind of like, I mean, not just a friend kind of like? You know.”

It was hard to not laugh at Gon stumbling over words. But it would be too mean to just watch him trip over his own thoughts. Killua found the hand that was still on his back, bringing it forward so he could run his thumb across Gon’s palm. “Yeah, I know.” Killua laced their fingers together, so that Gon’s knuckles pressed against his palm. “This kind of like.”

Gon’s breath hitched, cutting off his words. Somehow, this was more intimate than kissing had been to Killua, and Gon seemed to think the same thing. “Hey, Killua? Will you go out with me?”

Killua ran his tongue over the back of his teeth. “I think I already am,” he said.

He liked the way Gon smiled.

Chapter Text

Seconds passed after Killua had exited the library with a loud bang and a flurry of papers. He’d been up and gone so fast that Gon almost thought the other boy had broken every rule and somehow apparated out of the room. But that thought only briefly crossed his mind before he was on his feet as well, almost tripping over himself in his haste.

Killua had kissed him. Killua had kissed him. Killua had kissed him. It was almost too much to take in - Gon had thought he was about to lose the opportunity to confess, and then that had happened. Could he still do it? This messed up his whole game plan. 

His shoes sounded too loud on the corridor floors. Normally he had a much lighter step, but the last thing he could focus on was walking quietly. Which direction had Killua gone? Probably towards the Ravenclaw dorms out of instinct, Gon thought. He wondered if Killua expected him to follow.

The look on the other boy’s face had told him that Killua hadn’t planned to do what he’d done. Somehow that made it more exciting - Killua had done it without thinking about it. It had been too brief for him to realize it in time to stop him from running away. 

When he passed Killua by, he almost missed him. The other boy had ducked into an alcove and was sitting there, holding his knees and looking miserable as he caught his breath. He had to know Gon was there, but he didn’t look up as he mumbled, “Sorry.”

It made Gon’s heart hurt. “Why?” What did Killua have to apologize for? All he’d done was what Gon had wanted to do for weeks and weeks. 

Killua seemed to misunderstand his response too. “I just, I dunno. Didn’t think about it. It, hey. It didn’t mean anything, okay? Forget it ever happened.”

That was worse. It hurt more. Gon was spitting the words out before he knew it, his voice bitter. “Didn’t mean anything? Don’t fuck with me.”

He grabbed Killua by the front of his robes, yanking him to his feet. Gon’s heart was hammering, a mix of anxiety and pain plus the exhilarated rush of running through the halls. Killua’s hands clamped around his wrists, seemingly almost instinctive.

He crushed their lips together almost hard enough to bleed. Killua made a startled noise against him, his fingers loosening and then falling from Gon’s arms. It was rough and careless and not romantic at all, but Gon was pushing Killua against the wall of the alcove and holding on like his world depended on it. 

He couldn’t tell if the way Killua responded to him was intentional or not. The other boy’s lips parted beneath his, and Killua’s mouth tasted almost as sweet as the candy he was always eating. Gon normally didn’t like things that were too sweet, but this was the best thing he’d ever tasted. He heard Killua’s fingers scrabbling against the wall, the faint scrape of fingernails scratching against stone. 

When Gon let go, Killua slid down the wall to fall on his ass. Somehow, it made him really happy knowing Killua was too flustered to stand.

"That meant something," Gon said. Wordlessly, Killua nodded, before standing on unsteady legs. The way he looked at Gon made him feel like he was being studied, and for a moment he was nervous. Before Gon could say anything, Killua’s hands were on him, dragging him forward. His back slammed against the wall, almost winding him. 

Gon was only able to pull in one shaking breath before Killua’s lips were on his, that sweet taste on his tongue again. He kissed back too eagerly, grabbing at Killua’s face so the other boy couldn’t pull away. Gon wanted to be the one pushing. His heart was beating so fast that it had to be audible. 

Killua fought him a little as Gon attempted to spin him around to press him against the stone. It made Gon’s footing seem unstable, and they seemed to trip over each other for an instant. Together, they struggled, Killua’s arms wrapping around Gon’s shoulders and his fingers tangling in his robes. It ended with Killua pressed into the corner of the alcove, their mouths still working against one another. 

Something like lust stirred in the pit of Gon’s stomach as Killua shivered from his touch. He wanted to speak, to call out Killua’s name, but it was more important to keep memorizing the feel of his lips and tongue. Under his hands, Gon could feel the way Killua’s jaw moved. It felt right, something he’d wanted for a long time. He’d wanted Killua, for a long time, and Killua… Killua wanted him back, maybe. 

Suddenly, though, he could feel Killua’s shoulders tense, and he wondered if they’d gone too far, too fast. Gon pulled away with a twinge of guilty regret, not sure what had suddenly changed. Killua’s cheeks were heated, and he looked almost dazed. “Hey?” Gon asked carefully, trying not to get carried away in that expression. 

"Hey," Killua said in response, and Gon found himself watching the way his lips moved when he spoke. He could see a sliver of Killua’s teeth on his bottom lip, like he was halfway to biting it. "We’re in the middle of a corridor, you know."

It took a second for Gon to process that. The grin that spread on his face was uncontrollable, and he felt giddy. He’d kissed Killua, and Killua had kissed him, and things were wonderful. “Yeah, we are.” 

They were still close enough that their noses could have easily brushed against one another. When Killua snorted, Gon could actually feel the little puff of air. His face hurt from smiling so hard, but he was glad for it. He wanted to hold Killua tight and never let go. 

And Killua was laughing, not a mocking kind of laugh, but the kind of laughter that came from being really happy. He was trying to hold it back, but it was no good. Gon let his hands fall from the other boy’s face so he could snag him by the waist in a loose embrace. Something gleeful was bubbling up in his chest. Gon’s forehead bumped against Killua’s shoulder as he started to laugh as well, not even trying to contain it anymore. 

Killua’s voice sounded best when he was laughing, Gon thought. He heard a little thump as the other boy leaned back, and suddenly Killua’s laughter was even louder and it was infectious. Gon felt lightheaded, and for a moment they were both trying to calm down and catch their breath.

"Hey, Gon. Gon," Killua said, his chest still shaking with little snickering chuckles. "I like you. I really, really like you."

Gon felt his cheeks heating as he realized he’d never managed to confess. His arms around Killua’s waist tightened, before he made himself pull away to meet Killua’s eyes. How had Killua managed to get the words out before him? The back of his neck tingled a little, and he reached back to scratch it before speaking. “Meant to say it first,” he replied, everything a mix of awkwardness and relief.  “I meant to tell Killua ages ago. That, you know, I liked you a lot. Not a friend kind of like, I mean, not just a friend kind of like? You know.”

Did Killua know? Did he sound like a complete idiot? This was exactly what he’d tried to avoid, but the words were just spilling out of him like water. Gon wondered how red his face was. Normally he wouldn’t care about making a fool out of himself, but with Killua it was different.

But Killua was reaching for his hand, his thumb rubbing over Gon’s palm. His touch was gentle somehow. “Yeah, I know,” Killua said, and then his fingers were sneaking between Gon’s, his palm cupping the back of Gon’s hand. “This kind of like.”

 It made his breath catch. This was different from kissing Killua, somehow. Closer, maybe. Gon swallowed as quietly as he could. He had to ask now, right? This was the only time for it. 

"Hey, Killua? Will you go out with me?" He couldn’t just assume, and something in Gon really wanted to ask the question. He wanted to hear what Killua would say, to confirm that answer. 

Killua was smiling at him when he spoke, not looking nearly as flustered as Gon felt. “I think,” he said, “I already am.”

Gon couldn’t keep the smile off his face.