Bucky missed the great feast and the sorting of the new students, something he looked forward to every year and was expected to attend as the Head of Hufflepuff house, because two of his best students had arrived early with questions about their NEWTS.
It was going to be a tough year, and his Advanced Arithmancy class was already full. He’d had to turn away anyone without Exceeds Expectation and Outstanding – when the last three years he’d been able to squeeze in those with Acceptable too. Technically that was good news, but he still felt bad when he’d had to sit those who’d selected it and told them they hadn’t made it. He wasn’t the only professor with full classes that year – it seemed that the kids were getting more and more worried about the job market out there. It seemed unlikely that you’d get offered a job right out of school anymore – and Gringotts was expecting at least E in Advanced classes for their trainee curse breakers.
Natasha, DADA teacher and his best friend on the staff, was also struggling to keep her classroom from overflowing. She’d been at the Great Hall for the feast and promised him that she’d told the house elves to keep him a plate back as he carefully discussed the course requirements with his students. He worried that they’d taken on too much, and told them as much, but Peter just shrugged. He was taking 6 advanced classes, not including the electives of Magical Theory and Muggle Music, which Bucky personally thought was a bit much.
“Peter, just because you’re head boy doesn’t mean you need to prove a point, you know that right?” He said, looking at the class lists that Peter was trying to juggle. “When I was head boy I only took one elective and I still got accepted into the teaching programme at the Ministry of Education.” He picked up the scroll and looked over it again. “And you’ve already got an E in Alchemy; you don’t need to take it this year again.”
“But I need an O to get into the Theoretical Medicine at St Mungos.” Peter told him, looking a little frayed around the edges. Poor kid, Bucky thought – classes didn’t even start for two days and already Peter was spread too thin.
“Okay, Pete,” Bucky said, leaning back. “Drop Muggle Music, you don’t need it, you’re already learning more from the radio you’ve managed to charm into picking up the Top 40 – and no, I do not want to know how many rules you broke getting past the barriers put in place to stop that,” Bucky said, holding up his hand. “And I already know that Gwen is being real quiet about it because she’s managed to get wifi in the Ravenclaw girls dorms so they can watch Netflix.”
It had been Natasha who told him about that, how the girls had managed to get a hold of enough Muggle tech to get a signal. “I’m seriously thinking she should have been Slytherin.” Natasha had sighed, when the teachers had found out. “I’d do anything to get onto my emails through term.”
Gwen had the decency to blush a little, but good for her; she didn’t try to justify it. The kids a few years back had managed to get it to work in the Room of Requirement, but Gwen and her friends were the only ones who’d tried it within the actual dorms. Kid were getting smarter all the time when it came to Muggle Tech. Soon Bucky wouldn’t be able to keep up with them.
“But nothing.” Bucky said, handing the scroll back. “If you both drop Music you can come to the after-hours class I’m doing, and that’ll free you up for your Advanced Divination.” Bucky explained, and both Gwen and Peter slumped like a massive weight had been taken off of their shoulders. “It might be after hours, guys, but I still expect you to show up and I expect homework and attendance to be at the same level as my main class, you hear me?”
“Thank you Professor Barnes.” Gwen said, grinning hugely, as she gathered up her scrolls. She was going to go far, Bucky knew. Coulson was so proud that one of his students was Head Girl – almost as proud as Bucky was over having Peter wear that Head Boy badge.
“No worries.” He said, leaning back. “Now scram, you might still make it to the feast before pudding shows up.”
“Will you be at the tryouts for the team this year, Sir?” Peter asked as they gathered up their scrolls and put them into their bags. “I heard that David is looking for a new Chaser since Danielle left last year.”
“Have I ever missed a tryout?” Bucky grinned, getting to his feet. “Although I’m going to strongly suggest that with your class load, getting on a broom would be a bad idea.”
Peter grinned. “No way, sir,” he laughed. “I’ve got a poster made for Noh-Var. He’s going to try out for the Montrose Magpies when he finishes this year.” Peter grinned as they headed towards the door. “Might even make the Scottish National Team!”
Bucky was half way through the plate that the house elves had brought him when Natasha wandered into his classroom. “Well, you missed Fury scaring the hell out of the newbies.” She said, robes hardly making a sound as she moved. Bucky had a sneaking idea that she’d charmed them in order for her to sneak up on people. Her green and silver piping was a stark contrast against the deep black of her robes. “And the new Charms professor caused a bit of a laugh.”
“Oh yeah?” Bucky said, looking up from the teaching plan he still wasn’t happy with.
“Yeah.” She said, sitting across from him on a chair she charmed out of nowhere without flair. “He arrived with the first years and got as far as the sorting hat before anyone twigged.” She rolled her eyes. “Looks like he’s already popular.”
“What’d the hat say?” Bucky asked, grabbing another forkful of the best mashed potatoes in the country.
“What you think after a stunt like that?”
“Five points to the teachers’ lounge.” She said, leaning back. “From what I hear, he was very popular at Salem, we were lucky to get him. He’s doing evening classes too – you might end up losing some of your kids.”
“I’ll take the risk,” Bucky shrugged. “I heard Fury wanted to add in more practical lessons for you this year.”
She shrugged. “I told him when I transferred here from Koldovstoretz that I wasn’t going to be teaching Dark Arts any more, it was one of my only caveats to my contract. He’s under a lot of pressure from the board after the whole terror attacks – parents are worried about their kids being unprepared for the real world.”
Bucky nodded. He knew why, but he also agreed that teaching kids how to torture or control others wasn’t the way to go about it – and Fury was popular enough with the parents that the board really couldn’t force him to add the Dark Arts back into the classrooms.
“I’d better leave you to it,” She said, standing up. “I’ve got to work out my seating plans now I know who I’ve got. I’ve got the Maximoff twins again this year, and I’m not having them anywhere near each other.”
Bucky couldn’t help his laughter. “Smart lady.”
“I knew their father.” She shrugged. “I should have known better.”
“If it makes you feel better,” Bucky said, pointing to where the chalk was moving over the black board, mapping out his seating, “I’ve got Teddy and Billy this year for OWLs.”
Her laughter drifted down the corridor for longer than he’d like to think about.
The first three days of class was always the worst, Bucky thought, as he watched the sleepy students make their way into the room. About half of his first years hadn’t even met him yet because he’d missed the sorting, and he could see a few of the girls perk up a little as they walked in. He’d always been a popular teacher, and he knew that some of that was down to the fact that he was (vanity be damned) a good looking guy. He liked Muggle fashions, and wore jeans and a black Henley t-shirt (which he’d sewn a yellow ribbon around the hemline for house pride) under his robes, which were currently on the back of his chair. Teachers didn’t have to wear hats, thank god, cause he’d always looked like a total dork in his. He remembered his Head Boy portrait – even after all these years it still tried to pull the damn hat off whenever anyone walked past it.
“Okay, settle down.” He said when it seemed everyone had arrived. “I’m Professor Barnes and some of you’ll already know me because I’m your head of house – for those I’ve not met yet, I’m pleased to meet you. Now, I know you all probably just rolled out of bed and half of you missed breakfast, so I’ll start with something fun before I pull out the hard stuff okay?” He smiled at the students who nodded enthusiastically. “Arithmancy classes don’t start till you’re in 3rd year, but Numeroligy is required because it’s always a good idea to have first and second years who know how basic math works.” He told them, flicking his wand carelessly so that the stalk of papers on his desk floated in neat lines in front of each student. “It’s one of those dull subjects that everyone hates until they get to the fun bits, okay?”
A few unsure laughs made him smile wider. “So, let’s talk about magic squares.”
Bucky watched as a few of the students from muggle families struggled with their quills and quietly made a note against their names. Although he never had any students really struggle with the drastic change between their previous schooling, he remembered what it was like to be the only wizard in his family, and how much he’d felt lost his first few months as he tried to fit into a world he’d had no idea even existed.
As he let his eyes scan over the bowed heads, he noticed that the student who’d walked past his classroom door three times already was making yet another slow pass. “Keep going,” He said, making his way down the neat lines of desks. “There’s a house point for the first person to correctly fill out the grid.” It wasn’t likely that the first years cared too much about house pride yet, but it was always worth showing a little incentive – and to remind people that he was the kind of teacher who gave out points for good results. It would help him settle the classes later in the year when they started sassing him back.
The corridor was empty, if you didn’t count the black robed student walking down the centre with a slowness that spoke of the truly lost. “You okay, kid?” Bucky asked, after a quick look back to make sure his first years weren’t about to take advantage of his stepping out of the classroom. A few of them were looking back, but most of them were still puzzling over the grid he’d given them.
The student stopped, and turned.
“Sorry,” Bucky said, holding out his arms wide. “The robes threw me. You must be professor Rogers.”
Professor Rogers was tall enough not to be mistaken for a first year, but Bucky was pretty sure that his third years would outgrow him by the end of the year – when he looked at Bucky he gave a wry grin that changed his whole face.
“Ah, call me Steve.” He said, walking back to where Bucky was standing – holding out his hand. “I’ve lost my classroom.”
Bucky was surprised just how strong that handshake was, Steve looked like he was made of bird bones, but his hands were large and solid, with calluses on his fingers that spoke of hours on complex wand work. He looked younger because he was practically wearing the same robes as the first years. Bucky wondered if anyone had told him that teachers didn’t have to stick to the dress code that was expected of their kids.
“Lost your classroom, or just the students in it?” Bucky asked, because this was Hogwarts, after all – you could never be too sure. He noticed that Steve has sewn a little red and gold ribbon onto the pocket of his robes and fought back a smile.
“Um, both at this point.” He said, sounding resigned. “I was making my way there, and then the staircase moved and... I’m not even sure what floor I’m supposed to be on anymore.”
Bucky grinned. “Well, it sounds a bit weird, but if the staircase moved, it moved you for a reason. Where are you going?”
“Room 645,” Steve said, looking around. “No one number their doors?”
“They tried once.” Bucky said, walking over to the door exactly opposite his. “Peeves took them all and started to use the numbers to leave rude messages in the toilets in code.”
He pushed open the door to the sound of absolute chaos. A streak of green and silver smoke shot past his head, disturbing the careful side part he’d checked in the mirror before heading out to his class. “You’ve got Teddy and Billy,” He said, before looking through the door and yelling. “Five points from every single one of you unless I see backsides on seats in Five, four... three...”
“Oh, hey Prof!” A familiar voice said, cutting over the mad scramble and scrape of seats being put back into the correct places.
“Billy,” He nodded before: “Two...” He turned back to Steve. “Split them up, and don’t let Wanda anywhere near her brother unless you want to spend the whole lesson trying to remove her wand from wherever she sticks it when he annoys the hell out of her. ONE!” He snapped, turning back to see everyone looking back at them with completely innocent expressions. In the air, a silver and green snake made of smoke was trying to wrap itself around a raven made of textbook pages. He had to admit, that was a pretty impressive charm, but as a teacher he was supposed to at least pretend to disapprove. “Five points from both houses.” He said, looking at the snake.
“That’s actually pretty advanced.” Steve said, from beside him, voice pitched low enough so that the students couldn’t hear him. His voice was so much deeper than Bucky was expecting, and he nodded. Without thinking, he winked at the shorter man. “They’re your problem now, Stevie.”
He should have known better.
“Hey Prof!” Billy said, as his third years spilled into his classroom. He’d taken the precaution of drawing up a seating plan for this particular class, and pointed to the board as he rolled his eyes.
“Billy, I see you’ve already managed to lose your hat.”
“Ah, that technically wasn’t my fault he said, trying to slip in to the seat next to his boyfriend and grinning wider when Bucky pointed to the seat on the other side of the classroom, “Professor Coulson turned it into a rabbit and it ran into the greenhouses. I’ve got permission to try finding it at lunch.” He said, pulling out a pink slip and waving it around. “And detention.”
Bucky didn’t even want to know, and told him as much.
“Ah, but it wasn’t even my fault!” Billy grinned, and the laughter around the room told Bucky that it was entirely Billy’s fault, but that it wasn’t too serious. The kid was a complete prankster, but a good kid – he never really crossed the line, and Bucky was pretty sure most of the teachers loved him. It was Bucky’s personal opinion that his outgoing personality was to cover just how much he’d been bullied back home for being gay, which Bucky understood perfectly. But he didn’t disrupt the classes once the lessons started, so Bucky was more than happy to let his loud entrances slide.
“Anyway, if I can’t find it prof Rogers said he’ll give me his, cause teachers don’t need to wear em.” He grinned widely at Bucky, and too late Bucky heard warning bells. “Cause I bet you’d like to get prof Rogers out of that uniform, eh, sir?”
The laughter was loud enough that Bucky knew most of the class was only laughing at the idea of Bucky’s embarrassment, but he did notice the way Billy flinched when he realised what he’d said, and the look of horror on Teddys’ face.
Bucky wasn’t ashamed of his sexuality, but he certainly wasn’t advertising it to his students – and both Teddy and Billy knew that. When Bucky had realised three years ago that his new first year students were struggling at home, he’d asked Coulson if he could have a word with them. He’d sat both Billy and Teddy down and talked to them about the LGTBIA society in the wizarding world, and the support that was there if they needed it. Not only that, but he’d written to their parents too, to let them know what was going on., and that Bucky was there if that had questions or needed help.
From the look of horror that was dawning on Billys face, Bucky was pretty sure that he was aware he’d probably just outed Bucky in the middle of a crowded classroom.
He grinned, trying not to let his feelings show. “And that’s enough from you all!” He said, clapping his hands together. “As much as I’m sure Billy’s missing rabbit hat is, I still expect some of you to be paying enough attention to pass your OWLs this year.”
The groan around the class wasn’t exactly comforting as their teacher. “Look, it’s not that bad,” He said, grabbing his wand and waving it at the board, which flipped around to show his plan for the year. “Let’s get this written down so you know what to expect, and then we can start working through what’s expected for the exam, okay? That way we’ve got no nasty surprises at the end of the year.”
He was half way through his lesson when he realised that Steve was standing by the open door of his classroom, watching as Bucky joked around with his students. He knew his class was hard, and that getting a good grade needed a lot of work, so he’d always tried to make it as fun as possible.
Steve gave him a smile when they made eye contact, but didn’t seem to need Bucky for anything. Bucky remembered how he used to watch other teachers his first year, seeing how different methods worked – and he wondered if Steve was doing the same.
“Okay, so this morning when you lot were trying to start fightclub in Charms,” He said, giving them all a stern look that was correctly taken as a joke by the chuckles around the room, “I was giving my first years a quick lesson in magic squares.”
“Aww man, I miss those!” Pietro said, head shooting up.
“Good cause I wanna show you what they actually are.” Bucky said, and with a flick of his wrist, his secondary board flipped over to show a complex grid that looked only vaguely like the version he’d given his first years. “Anyone want to guess why we might need numerology in complex spellwork?”
As the ideas were tossed back and forth over the class, Bucky leaned against his desk. He’d noticed that Billy had sunk low into his chair and hadn’t joined in the discussion, and that Teddy was doing his best impression of eager puppy. It was fairly typical for Billy to turn quiet and introverted when he felt he’d crossed a line, and Bucky shot him a wink before pushing off the desk and clapping his hands. “Well, I’m glad you all remember how to count,” He joked, “But these grids aren’t just games for kids like you might remember. Get out your books and have a quick read over the first couple of pages while I pretend like you all actually did the required reading before you came into my class.”
More laughter, and Bucky was pleased to see that Billy threw him a slightly shy smile. Good.
“You know, when I was told that Arithmancy was one of the most popular classes here, I have to admit, I thought I’d misheard.” Steve said, as Billy and Teddy wandered around the empty classroom. They’d hung back after the other students had left, straightening up chairs and shooting Bucky apologetic looks. Both of them jerked when Steve spoke, and Bucky rolled his eyes at them.
“Okay boys, I get it.” He said, walking over and ruffling their hair with his hands. “You’re both good kids. You don’t need to suck up any more.”
“I’m really sorry.” Billy said, looking about three seconds away from tears. Bucky hated when the normally outgoing kid was so stressed over something he did.
“It’s fine.” Bucky shrugged. “Now, I’m pretty sure there should be a hat on that head of yours, Billy boy, so go find the rabbit. And if you wanna talk after you finish your detention, I’ll be here till after supper, okay?”
The hug he got knocked the air out of his lungs, and he wondered (not for the first time) if he should ask about getting Billy transferred to Hufflepuff. The only thing that's stopping him is that he knows just how much Teddy needs Billy’s support too – and Teddy was a Ravenclaw through and through.
When they left, Teddy slipping an arm around Billy’s waist and whispering something in his ear, Bucky looked over at Steve.
“You didn’t think my class would be awesome? My classes are always awesome.” He grinned, waving a hand at the board which had some admittedly complex shit going on all over it.
“Is he okay?” Steve asked, looking over his shoulder at the two boys practically clinging to each other as they walked down the corridor.
“Yeah.” Bucky shrugged. “Misunderstanding at the start of the lesson.” He said, “He’s a great kid who lets his mouth get in the way of his brain sometimes.”
Steve looked at Bucky with those big blue eyes. “He certainly feels comfortable with you.” He said, with a smile. “He spent most of my class asking me if I was dressed like this for a dare.”
Bucky laughed. “Yeah, that sounds like Billy.” He paused. “Were you watching my class for a reason?”
Steve shrugged. “I’ve spent the morning listening to most of my students tell me how lucky I am that you’re just over the hall, I figured I’d try to work out why everyone thinks you’re the best thing since butterbeer.”
Bucky grinned, before grabbing his wand and clipping it on to the bracelet his sister had bought him a few years back. It was a simple leather band with a plastic clip that was just the right size to hold his wand, leaving his hands free. “It’s all the rage with the dragon trainers,” She’d winked. “It’ll help you look cool.”
“Well, I don’t think I’d go that far,” Bucky grinned, “But if you ever run into problems, I can pretty much guarantee that I’ve done it worse at least twice.”
When Steve laughed, Bucky tried not to look too closely. Steve was a new teacher who was trying to find his feet in the school and the faculty – starting any kind of flirtation would be stupid, and probably make Steve really uncomfortable if he had to say no.
“So, have you managed to find the teachers’ lounge yet?” He asked, heading towards the door. “I’ve got an hour before I need to be back here for my 6th years and their NEWT panic.”
The year progressed pretty much as expected. Bucky was pleased to see that Peter and Gwen were coping much better with their modified schedule and Billy hadn’t gotten more than a couple of detentions and a few uniform violations – the kid had the same aversion to pointy hats as Bucky, and Bucky felt a kick of shame every time he had to remind him that it was part of the uniform. He could practically feel his head boy picture glare at him.
That wasn’t the only thing though. Steve had stopped dressing like a first year, and Bucky was starting to wish that he’d go back to the shapeless robes – because Steve Rogers was a walking beacon of hotness, and Bucky really was struggling to keep his eyes in his head whenever the other teacher would grin at him over the corridor. The guy wore jeans with suspenders for crying out loud, Bucky wasn’t equipped to deal with that – and when he was making papers, the little asshole wore glasses.
Bucky was in hell.
And hell was populated with hundreds of pairs of eyes.
“So,” Natasha said as Bucky carefully went over his marked papers and made notes on who was struggling with certain problems. “I hear that your title for hottest teacher in the school is being hotly contested in the girls second floor bathrooms.” She said grinning at him over mug of coffee before taking her seat beside him. The teachers table in the great hall was never more than half full at the weekends, but Bucky liked it. It reminded him of when he’d been a student and he’d glance over to see his teachers marking papers and looking sleepy and so normal – and how he’d decided that if he had the option of never leaving Hogwarts he was going to take it.
“Really?” Bucky mumbled, not really bothered. “That’s nice.”
“Don’t you wanna know who’s stealing your hotness crown?”
“Is it you?”
Her laugh was bright and sudden and Bucky didn’t hear it often enough. She punched his arm playfully, before grinning wider. “No, idiot, Steve.”
Bucky blinked. “Yeah, that would make sense.” He said, looking back down at his papers. “He’s got that whole, hipster thing that’s really popular with muggles right now.”
“It’s popular with everyone.” She pointed out, as she pulled out her own marking, and he had to agree. “You wanna come grab a beer at Three Broomsticks tonight? I’m gonna ask Tony and Pepper too.” She asked after unrolling the first scroll. “I think I’m going to need it after this.” She sighed. “I asked my second years for three feet on why Giants are impervious to certain spells, and I’m pretty sure they think that leaving an inch of space between the lines counts.”
“I’m sure that must suck,” Bucky said, remembering when he used to pull stupid crap like that thinking he was being smart too. Going on the expression on his best friends face, he was pretty sure she knew exactly what he was thinking. “And sure, I’ll buy the first round.”
The Three Broomsticks was a nice, welcoming type of pub, and was popular with teachers outside of the school trips to the village because of the lack of students. Bucky normally went a few times a year to kick back and relax with Natasha and a few other teachers. You could normally tell when it was nearing exam time when the drinks would change from Butterbeer to Firewhiskey.
He was almost out of the grounds when Billy jogged over with a tearful first year Hufflepuff asked if he could spare a few minutes to talk about something private and there was no way Bucky was going to refuse either of them.
“You guys go ahead.” He said, waving them off and turning toward his students. “Maybe next time?”
"Sure thing," Pepper said, smiling at Billy. "You go do your thing."
Bullying wasn’t all that common at Hogwarts, Bucky was pleased to note, but that didn’t mean it didn’t still happen. Like most places where kids from all over the country were crammed into one place, there were different ideals that some brought from home.
“And then Billy said maybe I should talk to you.” She said, sitting in one of the plush chairs in his office. Billy was standing by the fire looking furious but also a little resigned, like he’d heard it all before and would probably hear it all again. He was probably right.
“Well,” Bucky said, “I’m going to say two things. Firstly, you never, ever need to worry about disturbing me, okay? I keep my office door unlocked even when I’m not here, so if someone is giving you trouble you just come here and take a seat,” Bucky said. “And wait for me.” He looked at Billy, who nodded solemnly at Cassandra.
“He’s right, I used to come here all the time when I was in first year.” He said, and the young girl nodded like hearing it from Billy was all that mattered. Bucky was sure that he’s make a great prefect when he got to 5th year – Head Boy material too, if Bucky had any say.
“And secondly, you don’t need to worry about me making things worse, okay? I know what it feels like, when people call you names for stuff you can’t help, and I sure as hell know what it feels like when someone starts making a fuss because it looks like it’s only going to make things worse.”
Cassandra nodded tearfully and Bucky was sure Billy was going to end up knocking a few heads together if he didn’t get things smoothed out quickly.
“You’re not broken,” He said, holding out his hand. “It’s okay not to know if you want to date boys or girls, and it’s okay to not want to date anyone too.” When she took his hand he felt the same sense of rightness in his bones, that this was just as an important part of his job as the part where he stood in front of a class and taught numbers. “Not everyone is Billy and Teddy, you know?” He grinned, looking up at the older boy. “Not everyone meets someone they love and know its forever. Some people never quite figure out what they want – and it’s really important that you know that's okay too.” He said, smiling. “Sometimes it’s just confusing and other times it’s really obvious.”
“But I told her and she said I had to pick a side.”
“Hey, look.” He said, giving her hand a squeeze and feeling like they got younger and younger every year. “People are always gonna say stuff like that. It’s not cool, and it’s not true. You can like both boys and girls and you can like them in different ways, you know? I used to date a girl, long time ago, and I loved her a lot. She was great, we were happy. And when we broke up I met a guy – and it wasn’t the same kind of love, but it was still there.” He said, leaving out the part where the girl was now his best friend, and a fellow teacher. “And maybe I like guys more some days and girls more other days, but that's okay because there isn’t a rule about feelings. No one has the right way to love someone written down in a book somewhere.”
There was a gentle tap against his door about half an hour after Billy and Cassandra left. Bucky was drained and disappointed with the world, but he felt like both students left feeling a little better. “It’s open,” He called out, looking up to see... “Hey Steve.”
“Hey.” The other man said, holding up a couple of actual beers. “The door was open earlier, sorry; I caught a bit of your conversation and thought you might want a drink.” He must have seen the look on Bucky’s face, because he held up his hands and smiled. “I didn’t hang around and I didn’t see who you were talking to, so don’t worry – I just thought...”
“A drink would be great,” Bucky said, reaching out for the proffered bottle. “Days like this can suck my dick, you know?”
“I bet.” Steve agreed, sinking into the chair opposite, where Cassandra had been perched with her watery eyes and stiff upper lip. “I gotta say though, having a teacher like you would have meant a lot to a young Steve Rogers, that’s for sure.” The other man said, leaning back and taking a drink.
“Yeah?” Bucky asked, looking over. Steve was looking into the fire, but he glanced over at Bucky and smiled softly at the question.
“Oh yeah. I felt like the only gay wizard in America for the longest time.”
“Welcome to Hogwarts,” Bucky grinned holding up his beer. “Where you’re not alone.”
Bucky didn’t think too much about it, but over the next week he noticed that Steve started adding little additions his wardrobe and classroom. Bucky didn’t even notice at first, but the little rainbow sticker that glowed when people walked his door never failed to make Bucky grin.
“Merry Christmas Bucky,” Steve said, pushing a neatly wrapped parcel across Buckys perpetually neat desk. There was a large trunk charmed a few inches off the ground, bobbing drunkenly behind him.
“You going back to the States for the holidays?” Bucky said, looking at the parcel and blinking. He felt a little ashamed for the state of his own wrapping, when he reached down and pulled out a slightly bashed box out of his desk drawer.
“Yup.” Steve nodded. “Getting the train to Edinburgh then a flight to New York, should be sitting eating my mom’s home cooked dinner in about 18 hours.” He grinned. “Give or take.” He caught the parcel that Bucky tossed him, thankfully not commenting on the shoddy wrapping. “You didn’t have to get me anything.” He said, looking pleased as he tucked the box into the deep pockets of his travel robes.
“Yeah, same.” He said, nodding at the parcel on his own desk. “Have a safe trip.”
It was a pair of fingerless black leather gloves – the type Bucky wore when he was refereeing the house quiddich matches, except a hell of a lot nicer. The leather was butter soft and fit perfectly, and Bucky heaved a massive sigh of relief. They were expensive, and when he pulled them on, he could feel the telltale buzz of a charm in the leather. He smiled, and ran his finger down the centre of his covered palm. Although the leather was smooth, Bucky could feel the resistance. “Nice,” He murmured to himself. “Anti-slip and probably waterproof too.” He grinned. It would have taken a lot of work to add them without damaging the leather.
“Those are nice.” Natasha said, glancing over from where she was reading the book on 18th century curse makers he’d tracked down for her. “Kind of makes the small fortune you spent on his wand holster seem a little less extreme.”
“He’s been holding duelling lessons,” Bucky explained, not for the first time. “And everyone knows a holster means a faster draw.”
She rolled her eyes at him. “And a top of the line, custom made duelling holster is exactly the type of thing a high school charms teacher needs to get the edge over 12 year olds.”
Bucky grinned. “And these are personally modified, world cup approved...” He grinned. “Everything a high school quiddich referee needs to get the edge over the next Krum.”
“You’re both as bad as each other.” She said, holding up a set of vintage solid silver vampire stakes. “Look what Clint sent me from Romania.” She said. “He’s an absolute gent.”
“What did you get him?”
“Hunting bow made from the personal specifications of Van Helsing.” She beamed. “I found the specs in the restricted reading section here.”
“You’re both as bad as each other.” He grinned. “Although I can almost hear his girlish squeals now.”
“I know,” She agreed, touching the small silver arrow she kept around her neck. “I really wasn’t expecting to find the notes – they were misfiled in a diary from one of his trainees.” She paused, and looked over. “You do think he’ll like it, right?”
Classes were due to start that day, and the breakfast tables were full with the returned students, when a bright red howler arrived. It wasn’t unusual for parents to send one after their kid got a detention for something stupid, but the first day of school would have meant that it must have been sent before the kids even left home.
The owl dropped off the message, which floated around before heading towards... “Oh my god.” Bucky said, trying to keep the unadulterated glee out of his voice, when it stopped directly in front of Natasha. She was glaring at the letter as though she could burn it with her eyes. “This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.”
Steve leaned over. “Wha-”
The letter opened itself, and Bucky squirmed in his seat. “This is the greate-”
YOU ARE THE GREATEST GIRLFRIEND IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD – A VAN HELSIGN ORIGINAL? ARE YOU INSANE? I AM IN LOVE WITH YOU.
The howler screamed.
“Oh this is amazing.”
NATASHA ROMANOV, I WANT TO MARRY YOU. NO... WAIT... HANG ON! I DO. I REALLY DO. NATASHA ROMANOV, WILL YOU MARRY ME?
“I’d ask you to be my valentine,” Bucky said, leaning on the door jamb of Natasha’s office and holding out a heart shaped card, “But I hear you’ve got that covered.”
She glared at him. “That joke was old two months ago.” She told him, before looking past him. “Hi Steve.”
“Natasha,” he said from where he was trying to hide behind Bucky. The floating hearts bobbing around his head kinda made it a little hard. Bucky had spent a good half hour laughing his ass off at the sight before Steve threatened to hex him. “I see you also managed to avoid the more... overzealous... of our students.”
She grinned at him before winking at Bucky. “So you lost your crown this year, huh?”
“I sure did.” Bucky sniggered. “Although I hear that it came down to a fist fight in the 5th floor boys bathroom.” He beamed. “I may have also heard from no less than 4 of my homeroom students that I got the entire Hufflepuff vote, so I’ve not to be too heartbroken.”
“What are you talking about?” Steve asked, looking between them. “What vote?”
“Every year, in complete secret, the students have a vote for the hottest teacher.” Natasha grinned. “None of us know about it, of course.”
“Top secret.” Bucky added, with a smirk.
“Votes are hotly contested,” Natasha advised, “But they’ve got to reach a decision for the Valentine Ball.”
“Because of the dance.” Bucky beamed.
“And the award.”
Steve turned pale. Bucky grinned at him. “Hey, it’s okay, it’s a nice award. Every year the prefects get together and make something special – and all you gotta do is dance the first dance. It kinda opens the whole party.”
“Last year, Bucky did a lindyhop with the Fat Friar.”
“I sure did.” Bucky beamed. “Good times.”
Steve blinked. “Wait, you knew?”
“Well, duh.” Bucky shrugged, before poking at one of the pink hearts floating over Steve’s head. It let out a little burst of perfume and glitter. Probably Gwen’s work – when Bucky found out for sure he’d throw a house point or two to the caster, it was some nice spellcasting. Some of the hearts sounded like lovesick sighs when you tapped them, when Steve walked it sounded like a gaggle of teenage girls were swooning over him. Bucky might even bump it up to ten points, just for that. “I’ve had a crown of my own every year since I started teaching.”
Bucky grinned as Steve walked into the Great Hall to a roar of applause. His crown had mostly faded through the day, and Bucky knew how long they normally hung around so he was also going to assume that the spellcaster had worked in a timing charm too – 15 points at least.
Steve looked mortified, but sharp as hell in his dress robes, and Bucky joined in with the cheers from students. He looked... well... really, really good. Bucky certainly agreed with the student body over Steve’s crown.
Bucky thought that the cheers from the Hufflepuff corner were a little subdued, and grinned even wider. Fist fights over a silly vote were nothing to be happy about, but Bucky couldn’t help but feel a swell of pride over how fiercely his kids had defended his crown as ‘hottie of the year’.
“Speech!” Someone yelled, and Bucky was pretty sure that it was Coulson, over on the other side of the teachers table. He was pretty fond of Steve.
“Uh, well...” Steve said, looking flustered. “I um...” He coughed as he met Bucky’s eye, and Bucky winked. “Well, I’d like to say thank you for the, um, for the crown, it’s very nice.”
Across the hall, America Chavez was high-fived by a few students. Huh. “Fifteen points to Slytherin,” Bucky said under his breath, and behind him he heard the counters fall into place. A few students noticed, and Bucky gave the 6th year student an impressed nod when she looked over at him, beaming.
“I’m afraid I’m not much of a dancer, so can we just skip that part and get on with the party?” He said, hopefully.
“Not a chance.” Fury muttered, just loud enough for the teachers to hear, causing them to stifle a few laughs. Nick might have a fearsome reputation, but he understood that students were proud of their achievements, and the Secret Vote for the ball was one of the only traditions that they had which didn’t involve any adults at all. It was important to them, and therefore important to Nick Fury.
“You gotta dance!” Someone called out, and Bucky couldn’t place the voice, so not one of his sulky students. “It’s the rules.”
“Professor Barnes always danced.” One of his third years called out, to a rumble of agreement from the Hufflepuffs.
“Uh, right,” Steve said, looking over at Bucky.
“Go save him.” Natasha muttered, elbowing him in the ribs. “He’s hopeless, and they’ll eat him alive.”
“Right.” Bucky said, agreeing. “Well!” He said, stepping forward and clapping his hands together to draw attention away from where Steve was starting to look a little green around the gills. “It looks like I lost my crown fair and square this year,” Loud enough to be heard by the whole room. “Seems only fair that I get to pass on my excellent dancing skills too.”
Students started cheering, and Steve looked like he was about to pass out with relief as Bucky made his way across the room.
“Thank you,” He said, when Bucky was close enough. “I don’t know what to do.”
“Hey, just follow my lead.” Bucky grinned, before bowing to the band. “Play me a tune, boys.”
“This isn’t really how I thought our first dance would go,” Steve said as Bucky gently rotated them around the floor. It was already starting to fill up with other couples, and from the corner of his eye he could make out Fury and Natasha gracefully twirling around the floor.
“You thought about it, did you?” Bucky grinned, happy with the world. He had Steve in his arms, which was what he’d wanted since the day he’d laid eyes on him, and it didn’t look like any of the students had a problem with it.
Steve was blushing under his almost gone crown of hearts, and Bucky grinned wider. “I thought about it a little.” The smaller man said, after a few moments. “Wasn’t sure if asking you to be my valentine was a little too cliché.” He admitted. “Or if I was maybe reading too much into it.”
“No,” Bucky said, looking down at the man in his arms. “Definitely not reading too much into it. Reading just the right amount into it, I’d say.”
“Yeah?” Steve asked, tipping his head up so that his mouth was only a few inches away from Bucky’s, he could feel the warm puff of breath on his skin.
“Yeah.” Bucky breathed, leaning down slightly, forgetting about the rest of the room and pretty sure that he didn’t care if the entire place was shooting them sly glances.
“Good to know,” Steve said, before pushing up, lips finding Bucky’s with perfect accuracy.
When Bucky had thought about kissing Steve Rogers, he’d always thought that he’d see stars, fireworks, and the whole 9 yards.
The actual fireworks were a bit of a surprise.
“So the entire student population had a bet that we’d kiss at the Valentine Ball?” Bucky said, watching the cupid swoop over his head before landing on a cloud hovering above his ear. When he touched it, the little guy aimed his arrow and shot him in the face with a teeny tiny glitter bomb.
“Yup!” Natasha grinned. “The bet was only good till midnight, and they charmed Steve’s crown accordingly.”
Steve also had a little cupid fluttering around his head. Whenever they stood too close, the two of them would hold hands and skip around both of their heads, making kissy noises, or shoot fireworks into the air.
Headmaster Fury had taken 20 points from each house for betting on the sex lives of teachers, before completely ruining it by giving each house 50 points for ‘sheer gall’. America also got detention for making the crown, and rumour had it that she’d spent the hour playing lawn darts with Fury and a commendation put into her school record. She deserved it, Bucky thought, watching as Steve got glitter bombed on the face for trying to push the cherub out of his eye line. The glitter was made up of little pink hearts. They both looked ridiculous.
“Did anyone say how long it was going to last?” Bucky asked, watching Steve glare. He knew he was in too deep when the sight of Steve glaring at a cherub was enough to make him feel all gooey inside.
“Eh, not really.” She shrugged. “It’s only been a couple of days.”
“Two days too long.” Steve grumbled, trying to wipe the glitter away with the sleeve of his shirt, and Bucky wondered how much trouble he was going to be in when Steve found out that Bucky had already been told how to undo the charm by America... the night of the ball.
He looked at the pink hearts dotting across Steve’s face like freckles and decided he’d cross that bridge when he got to it. It was worth it just to say that every time they kissed he saw fireworks.