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With Fangs Bared

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“I heard that you’re harassing a fifth year in your house,” Sawamura said.

“You’ll have to be more specific,” Kuroo replied, and Sawamura sighed heavily.

They were sitting in the western courtyard doing their Charms essays on medical magic, while Bokuto was in Care of Magical Creatures. The sun warmed their skin, cool from the early October air. Kuroo's cat Kenma sat snugly in Sawamura’s lap, and the pack of chocolate frogs in Kuroo’s bag was half empty.

It was a pleasant afternoon, until Sawamura decided to turn it into an interrogation.

“I think his name is Tsukishima,” Sawamura said. “He’s a beater on your team. The one that just joined this year.”

“Glasses,” Kuroo said, but he knew exactly who Sawamura was talking about. Tall, blond, and lanky like the Whomping Willow. “What about him?”

“Yamaguchi says all he does is complain about you. He's worried about Tsukishima."

“And which one is Yamaguchi again?” Kuroo asked, but he knew that too. “The red head or the scary one in Hufflepuff?”

“The freckled one in my house. Don’t try to change the topic by acting like you don’t know who I’m talking about.”

There was no running from this, Kuroo realized. Sawamura was a Gryffindor and lions were stubborn bastards.

Unless Kuroo stood up and actually ran, but he needed to finish his essay, and Sawamura would probably run after him and tackle him anyways. And it hurt when Sawamura tackled him.

“Kuroo,” Sawamura said, stern, and this time it was Kuroo who sighed.

“I kept him after practice to teach him how to block. I was helping him.”

“You bullied him,” Sawamura said flatly.

“I wouldn’t say bullied—“

“Yamaguchi said you used magic to keep him from flying away!”

“I just told him I did that. He wanted to stay—he just didn’t know it.” Sawamura looked doubtful. Kuroo put a hand to his chest and said, “I’m hurt that you don’t believe me. When have I ever lied?”

“Do you want a list?”

Kuroo had no doubt that Sawamura actually had a list, though he was sure it was shorter than Sawamura would like to think.

“What I do with my teammates doesn’t concern you,” Kuroo said, a little too coldly. “It was his choice to join the house team. It’s my job as his captain to make sure he doesn’t under perform and embarrass us during the first match.”

“Why’d you let him join if he’s so bad?”

“Because he was cute when I bullied him.”

“Kuroo!” Sawamura said, turning red with anger and embarrassment.

“I’m joking, Sawamura,” Kuroo said, honest, though Sawamura like did not believe him. “His base skill set is pretty good, but nothing to brag about yet. He’s tall so he’s got long arms. Good reach and all that. Once I show him some pointers, there won’t be a bludger he can’t deflect.”

Sawamura stared at him. Kenma stirred in his lap, demanding to be pet, and Sawamura obliged.

“Now,” Kuroo said, “can you tell me why regeneration of flesh in medical charms does not break the entire universe by ignoring the law of conservation?”

 


 

Kuroo found the fifth year pair down by the Great Lake. Tsukishima was sitting on the grass, hunched over a book with a silver and green scarf wrapped tightly around his neck despite the pleasantly warm autumn day, while his Gryffindor friend Yamaguchi wadded around in the lake with his pant legs rolled up.

He considered Tsukishima before walking over. Tsukishima was a fifth year while Kuroo was a seventh year; Kuroo had only heard of Tsukishima until this year, when they finally met at Quidditch tryouts. Since meeting him, Kuroo had never thought about Tsukishima as someone other than a teammate. He wasn’t as much of a sleaze-ball as Sawamura thought he was. But now that the thought was there, Kuroo couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Tsukishima had sharp bones like an elf, and large eyes like fire whiskey in the sun. He was fit, too, with decent muscle on his arms, though he failed in comparison to Kuroo's bulky build. Tsukishima needed to beef up a bit to be a formidable beater, but ignoring Quidditch…

No. Kuroo could not ignore Quidditch. He was a captain and Tsukishima was his player. There was a line that he could not cross.

Tsukishima was his teammate, nothing more, no matter what he looked like.

Kuroo stuck his hands in his pockets and approached the two fifth years, stopping next to Tsukishima, who glared up at him.

“Need a hand?” Kuroo asked, directing the question to Yamaguchi. He pulled his wand from his robes. “Or a summoning spell?”

“No, thanks, I’m just looking for some lily roots for Potions class,” Yamaguchi said without looking up. He paused, realizing he had no idea who he had just answered, and stood up, his feet splashing in the water. “Uh, Tsuki, that’s your captain, right?”

“Yes,” Tsukishima said, glaring daggers at Kuroo.

“So are you going to take the NEWT level?” Kuroo asked.

“If I can get the grade,” Yamaguchi said, glancing uncertainty between Tsukishima and Kuroo. “Professor Nekomata only accepts students who get an O on their OWLs.”

“I got an E, but I told him what I wanted to do so he let me in.”

“What do you want to do that requires Potions?”

“Curse Breaking.”

“Wow, that’s cool!”

Tsukishima stood up, grabbed Kuroo by the elbow, and began dragging him away.

They stopped by a nearby willow, Yamaguchi still in sight, still in the lake, staring. The Gryffindor really was worried about his friend, just as Sawamura had said. Gryffindors were always stupidly noble like that.

“What do you want?” Tsukishima asked. “We don’t have practice today.”

“What, I can’t come and see my favorite beater?” Kuroo asked in jest.

Tsukishima glared at him. “You’re the other beater.”

“Yes, and you’re my favorite after myself."

“If you’re done talking to your reflection, Narcissus, can I go?”

“You’re the one who pulled me aside to talk,” Kuroo said, hands in the air in defense. “I was being perfectly civil with your friend.”

“Stay away from him.”

Kuroo dropped his grin and his hands. “You’re acting like I’m some sort of monster." 

Without a word, Tsukishima headed back to the lake.

 


 

Kuroo was having a very pleasant cat-nap in a nice spot of sunshine in the prefects’ lounge when Sawamura bust open the door.

“Did you bother Tsukishima at the lake?”

Kuroo turned on the sofa, covering his ears with a pillow. He spoke into the cushions, his voice muffled, “Did you know that Bo keeps a box of bones, and feathers, and claws, and stuff from the animals he’s hunted?”

“I’m not falling for that,” Sawamura said. “You’re being too obvious.”

“He does, though. He keeps it under his bed for safe keeping. Ask him about it. He named his favorite skull Felicia.”

“Don’t change the subject.”

Sawamura tore the pillow off of Kuroo’s head. He stared down at him with the ferocity of a lion. Damn Gryffindors.

“Did Yamaguchi rat me out?” Kuroo asked.

“Yamaguchi said you just showed up and dragged Tsukishima away for awhile, and when he came back, he was in a fowl mood.”

Kuroo reached for another pillow, tucking it under his head. “It was Tsukishima who dragged me away, and it was only for a minute. Your precious, freckled lion cub is overreacting.”

“So now you’re bothering him outside of practice?” Sawamura asked, undeterred. “I thought we talked about it.”

“Talked about it. Didn’t set any limitations on when I can and can’t talk to my players.”

“At this rate, he’ll hex you. Or worse, quit the team.”

“You need to get your priorities straight,” Kuroo muttered. He finally sat up, too bothered to go back to sleep. He looked up at Sawamura. “Why do you care so much?”

Sawamura crossed his arms. “It’s our last year. You’re a prefect and team captain. You can’t keep doing this.”

“Doing what?”

“Playing with people.”

“I’m a Slytherin,” Kuroo said bitterly, “or have you forgotten?”

Sawamura frowned, arms uncrossing. “You know being a Slytherin doesn’t define you.”

“Is that why it bothers you that I’m harassing him?” Kuroo asked. “Because you think I’ll turn out let the rest of my house?”

“No, it’s not, because I know you’ll never be like them. I’m just worried that you’ll push him too far and cause tension in your team.”

Kuroo sighed and lied back down. “Sawamura, I know that you’re concerned, but can’t you just trust me not to push him that far? Tsukishima is the kind of guy who needs to be pushed.”

“Fine,” Sawamura caved. “But I’m keeping an eye on this.”

“You mean, you’ll be listening to everything Yamaguchi tells you.”

“Exactly. Now get up. We have Transfiguration in ten.”

 


 

When news of Kuroo’s latest prey reached Bokuto, the Hufflepuff was more than happy to help out.

“If you want to train your teammate, I’ll help!” Bokuto said. “You helped with Hinata and Kageyama last year so I owe you a favor or two.”

Last year had been a disaster, but Kuroo didn’t want to bring that up. Compared to the shrimp and the King of the Pitch, Tsukishima’s issues and short comings looked easy. Bokuto easily owed Kuroo a dozen favors after that fiasco. 

“I can even get Akaashi,” Bokuto added helpfully. 

“I’d bring Kenma, but I think he just got a new video game. Akaashi will work.”

“What about Sawamura?”

“I think he’d hex me.”

“Whoa—what happened?” Bokuto asked, obviously concerned.

Kuroo shrugged. “Nothing. He just disapproves of my after-practice study sessions with Tsukishima.”

Bokuto nodded sagely in understanding. “So do you just want us to show up after your team is done practicing?”

Kuroo imagined it now: a badger and an eagle showing up to a nest of snakes. They’d get eaten alive.

“No,” Kuroo said. “I have another idea…”

 


 

Kuroo grinned when he saw Tsukishima storming towards the Pitch, broom in hand.

“I found this in my cauldron,” Tsukishima said, tossing a folded up piece of parchment at Kuroo, who already knew what it said. He had written it that morning at breakfast before sneaking into Tsukishima’s room to place it. It was a note telling Tsukishima to arrive at the pitch at a certain time. 

“Weird,” Kuroo said, his face the perfect image of innocence. “But since you’re here, you should practice with us.”

“We had practice earlier today,” Tsukishima said, like Kuroo was stupid.

“Extra practice never killed anyone.”

Tsukishima stood in the middle of the Pitch, glaring at Kuroo. The heated anger in his eyes sent a shiver down Kuroo’s spine. Despite the unexpected chill, Kuroo met Tsukishima’s eyes and watched as Tsukishima’s gaze turned from anger to annoyance.

Behind Kuroo, Akaashi was picking at the twigs of his broom, while Bokuto hovered on his broom nearby.

“You practice with Hufflepuff’s captain and Ravenclaw’s star chaser?” Tsukishima asked, finally breaking the intense eye contact with Kuroo.

“I’m Bokuto!” the Hufflepuff shouted, tossing an arm around the Ravenclaw’s shoulders. “And this is Akaashi.”

Akaashi ducked away from Bokuto’s arm. “Nice to meet you, Tsukishima.”

Tsukishima flinched. “You know my name.”

“I know the names of all my opponents,” Akaashi said.

Bokuto laughed. “I know it sounds creepy, but it’s not. That’s just how Akaashi is. Kenma is scarier.”

“Your cat?” Tsukishima asked, looking at Kuroo.

Kuroo grinned. “You know the name of my cat?”

“Every Slytherin knows your cat. You let that beast run wild.“

“He has a friend named Kenma, too,” Bokuto cut in, jumping off his broom and bouncing over, closer, way too close. Kuroo saw Tsukishima tense—his shoulders shot up, his upper chest expanded as he inhaled sharply, and his eyes darted nervously to the side for the briefest of seconds. Oblivious, Bokuto went on, “He’s Ravenclaw’s seeker.”

Kuroo put a hand on Bokuto’s shoulder, reeling him back a step. Bokuto didn’t fight it—hardly noticed it. He got like that sometimes and after seven years of friendship, Kuroo knew how to gently handle him when he got into an overly excited mood. 

With Bokuto a few steps away, Tsukishima’s shoulders went down, slack without anxiety holding them tight, and his belly seemed to curve outward from his torso as he exhaled. He was calming down. 

“They’re on opposing teams,” Tsukishima said, looking at Kuroo. “Why would you train with them?”

“Training with the best makes you strong,” Kuroo answered. “Besides, Bo and I have been friends for ages. We could be in different countries and still find a way to play Quidditch.”

Tsukishima scowled. “I’m leaving.”

Bokuto grabbed Tsukishima by the arm, spinning him around. “Hey, hey, hey! Let’s not act rashly. There’s no reason to leave.”

“I can think of ten,” Tsukishima said. “No, eleven.”

Akaashi, who had been relatively silent until now, pointed at Tsukishima and said, “If you didn’t want to practice, then why did you bring your broom?”

Tsukishima tugged his arm away from Bokuto, not saying anything. He just looked at Kuroo.

“So you need to learn how to block incoming bludgers,” Kuroo said. He had to fight the urge to grin. “You’re decent, but you can’t anticipate where the other team will hit, and you don’t know how to hit a bludger back properly.”

Tsukishima did not nod, but he mounted his broom.

That was a start.

 


 

The first match of the season, Ravenclaw versus Hufflepuff, was widely anticipated by the entire school. Nearly everyone attended the game on Saturday afternoon, even the professors. Even Slytherins arrived, though most did not pick a side to cheer on.

Kuroo sat with Sawamura in the Gryffindor section.

“So are you cheering for Bokuto or Kozume?” Sawamura asked.

“Both. I bet that Kenma catches the snitch, but Hufflepuff wins.”

“You don’t think Ravenclaw can beat Hufflepuff?”

Kuroo looked sideways at Sawamura, his face serious. “Do you?”

“No,” Sawamura said honestly. 

Kuroo heard a “Sorry, Tsuki!” somewhere behind him and turned around. Moving to sit in the empty seats behind them were Yamaguchi and Tsukishima. Yamaguchi had his cheeks painted with black and yellow. Tsukishima had a scowl and looked like he was recovering from almost tripping over Yamaguchi.

“Hey, Yamaguchi,” Sawamura said.

Yamaguchi smiled and waved.

“Hey, Tsukishima,” Kuroo said.

Tsukishima glared and looked over Kuroo’s head.

In the end, Hufflepuff won, but it was Kenma who caught the snitch.

 


 

Bokuto would not stop talking about the party Hufflepuff held after their victory. Parties were the norm after victories—Slytherins had them too, but with more alcohol and debauchery than Hufflepuffs, of course.

“And this girl, she just kept giving me butterbeers,” Bokuto was saying, talking animatedly with his hands as they made their way to Charms. “She had on this stripped lipstick—yellow and black—“

“Of course,” Kuroo said.

“—so my neck looked all bruised in the morning. Hinata thought I was hit by a bludger!”

Kuroo laughed. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Bokuto said, a little dreamy. He leaned closer to Kuroo, whispering behind his hand, “Thank Merlin he didn’t see me in the shower.”

“I hope that lipstick wasn’t charmed. Remember the last time, when your dick turned—“

“We do not talk about that!”

“Not right in the ear, Bo.”

“Sorry, mate.” Bokuto clamped his hands over his mouth and pulled away. Calmly, Bokuto moved his hands and said, “So what’s the plan for tonight? You want me to grab Akaashi and you grab Tsukishima?"

Kuroo thought about it. Slytherin's first match of the season was against Gryffindor right after Halloween, which was fast approaching. 

As it stood, Tsukishima was going to be no match for Gryffindor’s beaters. Tanaka had a strong arm, and Yamamoto was a beast of his own. They had better control of the bludger than Tsukishima, in addition to having stronger builds. 

Right now, the only thing Tsukishima had going for him was his long reach, which didn’t mean anything if he didn’t know how to use it.

“Grab Akaashi,” Kuroo said. “I’ll corner Tsukishima after practice this afternoon.”

They turned into the Charms corridor and saw Sawamura standing right there, nearly walking into him. The Gryffindor had his arms crossed and was smiling too pleasantly at Kuroo.

“What was that about cornering Tsukishima?”

Bokuto yelped, clapped Kuroo on the back, and said, “Good luck!” before running ahead to class.

 


 

Akaashi and Bokuto were chasers, but they practiced enough with Kuroo to know how to hit a bludger in a beater’s direction. So practice went like this:

Akaashi hit a bludger to Bokuto, who aimed it at Tsukishima and Kuroo. Kuroo managed to block the incoming bludger, while Tsukishima attempted to block with little success. 

Kuroo knew the tricks. Tsukishima did not.

When Kuroo couldn’t get into the proper position to block, he knew how to come to a sudden stop and swing widely to hit the bludger with some portion of his bat. He did not care where the bludger went, so long as it wasn’t barreling towards his chasers.

Whenever Tsukishima tried to do the same, he nearly fell off his broom. On the rare occasions he did flying stop, he never knew what height to position his bat at to hit the bludger. Unless the bludger was right in front of Tsukishima, he was near useless.

Within an hour, the sun had gone down, and Tsukishima panted long, hot breathes into the cool autumn air.

Being a beater took more than people thought—sudden changes in velocity, long swings of the arm against high-speed objects, and sometimes taking a bludger to the arm or body—and Tsukishima was beginning to feel the pain and effort.

Kuroo flew up alongside Tsukishima, and Akaashi paused, wrangling the moving bludger against his chest with surprising grace.

“Don’t choke-hold the bat when you’re just trying to hit back the bludger,” Kuroo advised. “Only do that if you’re trying to aim.”

“But it hurts your wrist to hit a bludger when holding it at the end,” Tsukishima muttered. “Why would you hurt yourself?”

"It shouldn't hurt." Kuroo rolled up the sleeve of his robe and shoved his arm out for Tsukishima to see. “My wrist is twice the size of yours. You need to bulk up if you want to be a beater.”

“Or I could not swing wildly like you.”

“You think I swing wildly?”

“That’s what you’ve been trying to teach me all night, isn’t it?” Tsukishima replied coldly. “When you aren’t close enough to aim, you come to a stop, swing, and hope the bludger hits the bat.”

Kuroo pulled his arm back, gripping his broom. “Akaashi, Bokuto, send a bludger at Tsukishima. Tsukishima, don't hit it.”

Tsukishima stared, wide eyed, too shocked to say anything. Kuroo would usually grin, but he had a point to make.

“Do it,” Kuroo said seriously, flying to the edge of the Pitch.

Bokuto shrugged.

Akaashi flew back, released the bludger, and then flew forward, the sound of his bat meeting the bludger echoing across the Pitch.

CRACK! The bludger flew to Bokuto.

CRACK! The bludger was flying towards Tsukishima.

When Kuroo didn’t move, Tsukishima stared at him, and then began to fly to avoid the bludger. That’s when Kuroo flew.

The bludger twisted to follow after Tsukishima. Kuroo accelerated, leaning into his broom, and gripped the end of his bat. He turned sideways, letting his broom carry him like he was skidding, and with a broad wave of his arm, aimed towards the bludger, so dangerously close too Tsukishima, and—

CRACK!

Bokuto flew forward and caught the bludger.

Tsukishima, panting and wide-eyed, gawked at Kuroo.

“Still think I’m swinging wildly?” Kuroo asked.

Tsukishima clenched his jaw. “You could have been, for all I know.”

Kuroo grinned. Tsukishima was a stubborn bastard. He was cocky and arrogant, and he didn’t admit when he was wrong.

Kuroo always loved a challenge.

 


 

When Kuroo was a fifth year, he thought OWLs had been bad. Now he was in the library, with a pile of NEWT exam prep-books, half a bag of peppermint imps, and multiple vials of Invigoration Draught in his bag. Fifth year had been a piece of cake compared to this.

Halfway through his Transfiguration diagram, he ended up drawing Quidditch formations, and he could not find his Ink Be-Gone eraser to save his life (or his assignment). He had been hit by two bludgers at team practice, and took a Quaffle to the head at extra practice with Bokuto, Akaashi, and Tsukishima, who was beginning to understand that wide, broad swings did not mean swinging wildly. However, Tsukishima was still terrible at executing said swings.

Kuroo was about to pull out a new piece of parchment when he heard someone approach his table. He wondered if it was that Ravenclaw in his Arithmancy class, the one who tried to flirt when he was trying to study for exams.

“Ah, Kuroo?” a hesitant voice said.

Kuroo turned and looked up, spotting Yamaguchi. The Gryffindor was holding a few books to his chest.

“Everywhere else is full,” Yamaguchi said. “Do you mind if I sit with you?”

Kuroo kicked out the chair across from him then looked back down at his work.

He listened to Yamaguchi’s shuffling and fussing as he hurried to sit down, keeping his legs tight to his chair and his book as close to the edge of the table as possible.

“I’m a snake, but I don’t bite,” Kuroo said, not even glancing up.

He pulled out a new piece of parchment for his assignment, saving the one with his Quidditch scribbles for another time. Once Tsukishima got a little better at blocking, they could use some new formations. Maybe in the spring…

“I know not all Slytherins are mean,” Yamaguchi said, talking quickly. “It’s just that Tsuki talks about you a lot.”

Did Tsukishima hate him that much that even his best friend was afraid of Kuroo? Well, obviously not too afraid, or he wouldn't be sitting across from Kuroo at the library.

Kuroo just thought Tsukishima was just stubborn and needed to be pushed…

Merlin, was Kuroo as horrible as Sawamura thought he was?

“Oh?” Kuroo said, sounding indifferent.

“Yeah,” Yamaguchi said. “He talks about team practice and the extra practice you have for him. He isn’t sure if the History of Magic essays will break his wrist first, or if your practices will.”

Kuroo imagined Tsukishima and Yamaguchi sitting somewhere together while Tsukishima complained, talking about Kuroo and nothing else. He grinned, not knowing why.

"I just expected you to be intense," Yamaguchi said.

"Only when it comes to Quidditch." Kuroo looked at his many books and notes. "And apparently, my course work."

Yamaguchi laughed, spreading out his books, a little more at ease. 

 


 

Halloween came a week before the Slytherin-Gryffindor match. After seven years of saying he would, Bokuto finally tried to climb into one of the giant pumpkins in the Great Hall. Unsurprisingly, he got stuck in the warm wax, and Sawamura and Kuroo had to get him out.

Slytherin was having a party to celebrate the holiday, even though it was Monday. It was mild as far as Slytherin parties went, with some first and second years roasting marshmallows by the fireplace and some fourth years trying to get the Giant Squid to shoot ink. The alcohol was minimal, as was the noise, since some students were trying to sleep down the hall. 

Kuroo nursed his apple cider and sat with some of his teammates. His seeker—a fifth year girl named Suzumeda that had been on the team since her third year—was eating crystallized pineapple and talking about her girlfriend in Hufflepuff.

“Hang on,” Kuroo said, interrupting her. “Accio fire whiskey!”

Half way across the room, a glass of fire whiskey shot out of his chaser’s hand. Kuroo heard her swear.

“We have practice all week!” Kuroo shouted.

“It’s Halloween, Kuroo, c’mon!” his chaser protested.

“No drinking until we win on Saturday.”

Half the common room heard him and loudly expressed their approval. Some shouted some things that had Kuroo’s blood boiling, mainly about a muggle-born on the Gryffindor team. Kuroo did not want to track down who said it and get into a duel tonight, but he kept the voice in the back of his mind for later.

Before Suzumeda could get back on the topic of her girlfriend, she caught sight of Tsukishima from across the room and called out to him. To Kuroo’s surprise, Tsukishima walked over.

Tsukishima was wearing casual clothes, which meant a shirt with sleeves that were too long for him and bunched at his hands. The sweater seemed so out of character that Kuroo laughed and nearly died choking on his apple cider. Tsukishima watched him with a condescending expression.

“Whatcha drinking?” Suzumeda asked.

Tsukishima had a brown bottle in his hand. “Cider.”

Suzumeda got close to his mouth and breathed in. “Is it alcoholic?”

Tsukishima jerked back then glanced at Kuroo, who had already set down the glass of fire whiskey he had stolen from their chaser’s hand.

“It has a little,” Tsukishima admitted.

“You know, as a prefect, I should confiscate that from you,” Kuroo said. “You’re not old enough to drink hard liquor.”

“It’s hard cider, not hard liquor.”

“Regardless, as your captain,” Kuroo went on, “I am confiscating it anyways. Accio—“

Tsukishima handed him the bottle. “Don’t even bother.”

Kuroo smiled, amused. Not a smirk, or a grin, just a smile.

Tsukishima didn’t seem to know what to do in response.

Suzumeda the seeker grabbed Tsukishima's hand and pulled him onto the sofa with her. Tsukishima squirmed, putting distance between them. And just when Kuroo thought they were going to have some peace and quiet as a team, another figure approached them.

Ah, that motherfucker, Kuroo thought.

Daisho had a glass of clear liquid, probably some cheap vodka. Kuroo remembered that he liked the brand One-Eyed Snake. Kuroo hated how that stuff tasted when Daisho kissed him. It was cheap, like the man drinking it, and left a bad aftertaste.

“I see you’re still stealing fire whiskey before matches, Tetsurou,” Daisho said. His voice dropped a bit when he said Kuroo’s name.

Tsukishima was staring. Suzumeda was eating her crystallized pineapple like it was popcorn, watching the two interact.

Kuroo tossed an arm around the back of the sofa. He gave Daisho a level look, offering no hint of emotion, especially not the annoyance that coiled in his stomach.

“Good luck against Gryffindor,” Daisho said. “I’ll be watching.”

Kuroo took a long sip from his cider as Daisho walked away. Kuroo watched him leave.

Tsukishima was gawking, obviously trying to figure out what was going on. Suzumeda took it upon herself to explain.

“Kuroo’s ex,” she whispered, grinning from the idea of gossiping. "Kuroo broke up with him last term." 

“You’re—“ Tsukishima didn’t finish the sentence because Kuroo quickly cut him off:

“You got a problem with it?” Kuroo snapped.

“No,” Tsukishima said, words careful and slow. “I just didn’t know.”

Kuroo cracked his neck then stood up. He handed his drink to Suzumeda and said, “I’m heading to the prefects’ bath. I’ll be back later. Make sure no one drinks, Suzumeda.”

“Gotcha, captain.”

Kuroo shoved his hands into his pockets, heading to the stone wall that led to the dungeons, and pretended that he didn’t see Daisho in the shadows, smirking at him as he walked by.

Chapter Text

The day of the Slytherin-Gryffindor match came and the stands of the Pitch were a sea of red and gold. Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff were openly supporting Gryffindor, which didn’t surprise Kuroo in the least. Things had changed, but Slytherin was never the most popular house. They were snakes, after all.

It was Kuroo’s first time seeing Tsukishima in his official green and silver Quidditch robes. They suited him, though the beater’s padding made him look smaller than ever, especially compared to Gryffindor’s beaters, Tanaka and Yamamoto.

Kuroo and Sawamura shook hands, squeezing so tightly it was as if each was trying to break the other’s hand.

“Good game,” Kuroo said.

“You too,” Sawamura replied.

This guy’s the cunning type, Kuroo remembered. Why the hell hadn’t Sawamura gone to Slytherin?

The referee blew their thin silver whistle and they took up to the sky, the wind rushing around them.

Kuroo flew by Tsukishima before getting into position. “Remember what we practiced.”

Tsukishima scowled, annoyed. “I’m not stupid.”

“You never know.”

Kuroo tapped his bat against Tsukishima’s broom then flew off.

 


 

There was no epic party in the Slytherin common room that night. Sawamura’s team did not just beat them, they annihilated them.

Tanaka and Yamamoto realized Tsukishima was the weaker beater on the team and aimed towards the chasers under Tsukishima’s guard. Their chasers were hit four times. One hit made them drop the quaffle, giving Gryffindor possession and the momentum to score twenty points. 

Kuroo stayed calm until the Gryffindor seeker caught the snitch. The final score was 210-50.

Suzumeda cried before they lined up. Kuroo rubbed up and down her back before saying, “Snakes have venom, not tears.”

“I’ll beat them next time,” she swore. “Even if I have to catch the snitch in my mouth.”

Kuroo grinned through his disappointment. “That’d be a sight.”

Suzumeda sniffled one more time then lifted her head, eyes determined and harsh as she marched to line up.

“Good game,” Sawamura said when Kuroo shook his hand with just as much force as before. He glanced at Tsukishima and quietly said, “I see what you mean though.”

Kuroo pulled his hand back. “We’ll beat you in our rematch this spring.”

Sawamura smiled. “You can try.”

The Slytherin team slithered their way to the locker rooms beneath the Pitch while Gryffindors flooded the grassy field to celebrate.

Before Suzumeda and the other girls on the team broke off to change and shower in a separate room, Kuroo clapped his hands together to get their attention.

“We lost,” he said, voice even, strong. “But we still have matches ahead of us. We’ll connect next time and win.”

There were a few nods, but no one was feeling what he saying was right now. A lot of people told Kuroo his ability to shift gears so quickly was scary, but that’s what made him who he was: a snake.

Tsukishima said nothing as he stripped out of his pads and robes, grabbing a towel to go to the showers. Kuroo watched him without shame, though it was not perverted. He was not staring at Tsukishima’s hips, or his groin. He was looking elsewhere.

Tsukishima took two bludgers during the match. There were angry red welts on his pale skin, one on his shoulder and another on his arm from when he swung and missed. Those would bruise purple and yellow by tomorrow morning, and they would ache for weeks if they weren’t taken care of. Hopefully there was no damage to the brittle bone underneath the flesh. 

Tsukishima caught him staring. “What?”

“I have an ointment that will help with your bruises. I can give it to you later.”

Tsukishima closed his locker. “I don’t need your help.”

“You need to care better care of your body.”

Tsukishima turned and walked away.

Kuroo would try again later, when their loss was not so fresh.

 


 

Kuroo took a long, long bath in the prefects’ bathroom. The warm water eased his muscles and the scent of lemongrass comforted him. The stained glass mermaid flirted with him and tried to comfort him with a song, but he was not in the mood. Besides, flirting with a picture was low, even for him.

Kuroo was heading back to the dungeons when his cat Kenma rubbed up against his leg. Kuroo reached down and picked it up, cradling it and scratching under its chin.

Kuroo looked up from his cat and saw the other Kenma, the human from Ravenclaw, standing a few feet away. His nose was buried in his PSP. Kuroo had never seen Kenma work harder than when he first arrived at Hogwarts and worked on getting around the no-electronics rule.

“Hey,” Kuroo said, walking over.

“Hey,” Kenma replied.

“Wanna go for a walk?”

He figured that’s why Kenma came. They didn’t see each other much, being in different years and houses, but Kenma knew Kuroo better than anyone, Sawamura and Bokuto included.

Kenma nodded silently.

It was after hours, but Kuroo was a prefect, and no one was going to tell the captain of the losing team to get back to his room. They dropped the cat off in the Slytherin common room then headed outside. They soon found themselves down by the Great Lake where they could see the bright lights in the Gryffindor Tower.

“Your seeker played well,” Kenma said.

“She did pull a good feint.”

Kenma hummed in agreement.

“She should have gotten the snitch, though,” Kuroo said, frustrated. “She was right there.”

“She was hesitant.”

“Huh?”

“She hesitated in diving in because she was worried about where the bludgers were. The other beater wasn’t doing a good job.”

Kuroo looked at Kenma, who was still staring at his game, clicking away. The soft blue glow illuminated his face.

Kuroo didn’t say anything. He believed Kenma, who was an outstanding seeker and could read people better than anyone else Kuroo knew. He would ask Suzumeda later, when she didn’t have red under her eyes.

 


 

Bokuto found Kuroo at breakfast that Monday. He sat in the middle of a crowded Slytherin table and piled a plate high with toast and sausage links.

“So are we doing practice tonight?” Bokuto asked, mouth already full. “Akaashi was asking.”

Kuroo was giving the team a few days off. They started practice again on Wednesday. They had a match against Ravenclaw right before winter break, after the Gryffindor-Ravenclaw match.

Kuroo shook his head. “I’ve got rounds and this massive number table for Arithmancy that I should probably do.”

“Hogsmeade this weekend,” Bokuto said, quickly changing topics. It was hard to keep Bokuto talking about one thing for a long period of time. “Thinking about asking this girl to get a butterbeer with me.”

“Who?”

“Lipstick chick.”

“The one who sucked your dick?” 

“Yeah, her,” Bokuto said, unbothered. “She’s cool. We’ve been hanging out.”

“You mean, you’ve been snogging.”

Bokuto smiled. “Amongst other things.”

Kuroo rubbed at his eyes with his palms. “It’s been so long since I got some. I forget what it’s like.”

“Then hook up. I’m sure someone wants in your pants. Anyone got your attention lately?”

Kuroo immediately thought of Tsukishima and his long arms. He had long fingers too.

His second thought was Daisho, which was not much better, but for completely different reasons.

“I think I’ll just marry my Arithmancy book,” Kuroo said.

Bokuto shrugged. “If you change your mind, I’ve got your back.”

 


 

Tsukishima’s bruises were gone by their next practice. Kuroo had checked while Tsukishima changed, just to be safe, and made no move to hide the obvious glances over Tsukishima’s skinny body. He needed Tsukishima to know that hiding injuries would get them nowhere.

Kuroo made sure their first practice after the match was brutal, as brutal as their loss had been. He had Suzumeda doing feints, the chasers doing passes and dives, and the keeper guarding against three quaffles at a time.

Then there was Tsukishima, who Kuroo was hitting bludgers to, one after another without pause. By the end of practice, both Kuroo and Tsukishima were panting and sweating, despite the cooling air.

They showered quickly, heading back to the castle at their own pace. It just so happened that Tsukishima and Kuroo headed back together.

Kuroo stuck his hands into his pockets, not saying anything. His shoulder was sore. Maybe he would swing by the Hospital Wing and get some cream, or a potion. 

As they walked up the hill to the castle, Tsukishima kept giving him these sideways looks. Kuroo pretended not to notice, but he did. He counted them, even, though he didn’t know what the glances meant. By the time they were at the top of the hill and the grass turned to cobblestone, Kuroo finally looked back at Tsukishima, catching him in the act.

“Something on your mind?” Kuroo asked, voice even. 

Tsukishima grabbed the strap of his bag, almost like he was nervous and didn’t know what to do with his hands. No, that’s exactly what it was.

Kuroo looked forward. He didn’t speak.

“You have bad taste in boyfriends,” Tsukishima said eventually.

It was condescending, but lacked the bite of his usual snarky comments. It felt like Tsukishima was treading carefully with this one. It was not like him to be careful like this. 

Kuroo laughed. “Yeah, apparently. That all you have to say about it?”

“I don’t care if you’re gay. I’m not a bigot.”

“Never said you were.”

“But you were looking at me, trying to freak me out, right?”

“You’re over thinking it.”

“Then why…?”

Kuroo slapped Tsukishima on the back, maybe a little too hard, and did not allow his hand to linger like he wanted it to. “Just looking out for my beater.”

“Like I would want the help of someone who makes horrible romantic decisions.”

Kuroo grinned. That was more like it.

 


 

Kuroo was lying in his bed, trying to get to sleep, when he heard someone knocking on the door. His roommates groaned and called out "not it" before Kuroo could think to. Kuroo groaned, admitting defeat, and got out of bed. He scratched at his bare chest as he walked to open the door.

Tsukishima was standing on the other side, holding Kuroo's cat, which jumped out of his arms and ran into the room. Tsukishima was staring at Kuroo, at his bare chest. Kuroo leaned against the door frame, trying to look cool. 

"Where are you looking, Tsuki?" Kuroo asked, teasing. 

Tsukishima pointed to Kuroo's arm. "There's a bruise on your arm."

"We moved the Devil's Snare in Herbology today and one got a little handsy. They really should have taken me out to dinner first. But I'm glad you're worried about me."

Kuroo smirked, just to annoy Tsukishima. He always enjoyed getting a rise out of people, but getting Tsukishima to react was different. Tsukishima was cocky and arrogant and practically begging someone as twisted as Kuroo to come along and break them. The fact that Tsukishima was stubborn made their banters even more enjoyable. 

"Worried you're a hypocrite," Tsukishima snapped, quick. "You were just critizing me the other week about taking care of myself."

"Your concern is noted. Also, thanks for bringing me my cat. He was gone for a few days and I was starting to worry."

"I was coming back from a walk when some Ravenclaw shoved it into my arms and said to give it to you."

"Ah, that would be Kenma."

"The one you named your cat after?"

"The one and only." Kuroo felt his entire body relax, his head rolling to the side to tap against the door frame as he said, "I am really tired, so if you want a reward or something, it will have to wait until tomorrow."

Tsukishima huffed and began to walk away. "Good night."

"Night, Tsuki."

Tsukishima picked up his pace. Kuroo grinned. Yeah, picking on Tsukishima was too much fun to stop. 

 


 

Slytherin had little time on the Pitch with the Gryffindor-Ravenclaw game coming up so Kuroo was determined to make every second of practice count.

As they practiced new formations, Kuroo kept an eye on Suzumeda. He noticed she was watching the match instead of looking around for the snitch. Rather, she was watching the bludgers.

He flew up beside her.

“Last match,” he said, remembering what Kenma had said, “you hesitated when going after the snitch, didn’t you?”

Suzumeda glanced at Tsukishima, who stayed in formation despite Kuroo’s absence, like the rest of his teammates. They all knew better than to abandon formation without a verbal signal. 

“My twigs got clipped a few points earlier,” Suzumeda said. “I pulled a feint and he wasn’t there to cover me.”

And when a beater sees a seeker dive, they aim the bludgers their way.

“I didn’t want to risk getting hit when I was actually going after the snitch. It was a calculated decision. It just didn’t pay off.”

“Are you going to tell him?” Kuroo asked.

She shrugged. “Figured it was your call, not mine.”

Kuroo nodded. He watched Tsukishima make a wide swing with the bat, the one they had practice, and Kuroo knew he made contact from the crack that echoed in the Pitch. He was improving, little by little.

“Keep it to yourself, for now,” Kuroo said.

Kuroo called practice short when it began to flurry snow, the first snowfall of the season. They weren’t dressed in enough layers and none of them had their goggles, and flying in snow was dangerous for more reasons than one. Kuroo knew they needed time on the Pitch to practice, but he also needed his players healthy. 

In the locker room, everyone was in the shower except for Tsukishima, who waited with his towel on his waist. Kuroo closed his locker and saw the blond just standing there, like he was waiting for something.

“Are you going to bug me to go to practice tonight?” Tsukishima asked. “You haven’t since the last match.”

“You want to practice in this weather?” Kuroo asked. That didn’t sound right. Tsukishima hated practice. Kuroo wondered if he even liked Quidditch. “The storm’s supposed to get bad after dark.”

“I wasn’t asking because I wanted to. I have a big essay due tomorrow for Care of Magical Creatures and was going to turn you down.”

“Right.” Kuroo nodded, short. “That everything?”

Tsukishima looked taken aback. “Y-yeah.”

Kuroo began to head to the shower. “You should wash up before dinner. No one likes to sit next to a sweaty Quidditch player, no matter how pretty you may be.”

Tsukishima gawked. “What?”

Kuroo laughed. “I’m messing with you, Tsuki.”

“You’re not very funny,” Tsukishima said, following Kuroo to the showers, “so it’s hard to tell.”

“Oh, I’m hurt.” Kuroo’s voice dripped with sarcasm.

"And stop calling me that."

"Calling you what, Tsuki?"

 


 

Slytherin did not win—they didn’t even play—but they celebrated Gryffindor’s loss to Ravenclaw. Kuroo thought that his house just needed an excuse to get rid of some of the end-of-term stress. They still had nearly a month until winter break, but for seventh years like Kuroo, the stress was overwhelming.

Kuroo sat with Suzumeda and his chasers, a glass of fire whiskey in his hand. He was on his fourth drink and he understood why fire whiskey was called fire whiskey. Sure there was the cinnamon and spice, but there was a heat that spread through him, and it demanded to be acknowledged.

“I’m gonna grab some water,” Kuroo said, putting a hand on Suzumeda’s shoulder to push himself up. “Be right back.”

He took his drink with him, taking a few more sips as he walked across the room to where a pitcher of water was. Halfway there, some third year knocked into him and the room spun like a carnival ride. No, he was spinning, his feet not moving where he wanted them to move. He stumbled and tripped to a corner, somehow holding onto his drink. The air was cool in the shadows, and the cobblestone wall felt reassuringly solid against his back. 

He closed his eyes then inhaled.

He felt someone move into his space. Feet pressed against his as a thigh slid smoothly between his legs, spreading Kuroo’s legs with confidence and ease. The pressure was not unwelcomed, but the person causing the pressure was.

Kuroo exhaled and opened his eyes.

Daisho stood right there, so damn close. He smelt of vodka and sharp cologne, the one that always stuck to Kuroo’s robes. Kuroo’s heart and groin throbbed at the familiar scent.

“Tetsurou,” Daisho said, voice low. “You looked like you needed a bit of help standing. Since when were you a light weight?”

Kuroo pushed his soldiers further into the corner but slowly rolled his hips forward against Daisho’s thigh. Daisho grinned and licked his lips, and Kuroo wondered what was so good about Daisho. The alcohol made it hard to remember. 

“Who said I was having trouble?” Kuroo asked.

He should push Daisho away, go back to his team, but Daisho was warm and his thigh shifted slightly every so often between Kuroo’s legs.

“So you don’t want my help?” Daisho asked, grinning and as he ground his thigh up against Kuroo’s groin.

Kuroo made a low noise. His eyes and chest felt heavy, and his body thrummed with energy as his blood pumped south.

“Don’t need it,” Kuroo said. “Don’t want it either.”

“You sure about that?”

Daisho moved forward, warm like the fire whiskey in Kuroo’s blood, and nosed at Kuroo’s neck.

Oh, yeah, Kuroo thought absently as he tilted his head back, baring his neck. This was what was good about Daisho.

Daisho’s lips were soft against his neck, eager and experienced with their movement. His tongue teased, and his lips sucked, targeting all the places that made Kuroo hot. 

"Looking for some consent here," Daisho murmured.

"I'll give you something better."

Kuroo used his free hand, the one that was not holding his poison of choice in a glass, and guided Daisho’s mouth to his.

Daisho’s lips were firm and harsh as they moved against Kuroo’s, producing slick noises that Kuroo loved. Kuroo pressed his tongue forward, wanting more. Daisho continued on with just his lips, kissing and sucking on the tip of Kuroo’s tongue, toying with him. When Daisho’s tongue finally pressed back, hot and wet and firm, Kuroo moaned wantonly.

It’d been so long since he’d kissed someone in the shadowy corner that he almost forgot what it was like. How could he forget this, the feel of a warm tongue against his lips and a leg between his thighs, rubbing him just right?

Daisho’s hand was a little too tight in his hair, but it was nothing uncomfortable. He bet Tsukishima’s fingers could reach further, could cradle half his head with a single hand, guide him down to his knees and hold him there…

This was becoming a problem, wasn’t it?

Kuroo distracted himself with Daisho, who was always good for a distraction. He tossed his other arm around Daisho’s shoulders, his glass hitting the back of Daisho’s neck. Daisho flinched and tugged back.

“That all you got?” Kuroo taunted.

“You really haven’t changed, have you?”

“Guess not.”

Daisho smiled.

Just then, when Kuroo stretched out his neck to kiss him, he felt a sharp tug on his glass. He released his fingers and the glass left his hand completely. Someone had just summoned his drink.

Kuroo and Daisho broke apart to see where his glass had flown. Across the room, Suzumeda gave her captain a knowing look from the sofa. She was holding his glass.

Kuroo leaned back against the wall and ran a hand through his hair, suddenly feeling sober. The heat was gone. The fire was extinguished. 

“Well, thanks for that,” Kuroo said, clapping a firm hand on Daisho’s shoulder. “I needed to get rid of some stress and stupidity.”

He pushed Daisho away just enough so he could slip by, not looking back at Daisho's hurt face. 

He turned to his original object, the pitcher of water, but spotted someone staring at him from across the room. A tall blond with glasses and a half empty bottle of butterbeer.

Tsukishima.

The beater did not look away from Kuroo, who wished he could read Tsukishima’s expression, but he was too far away. He imagined it, though. Imagined Tsukishima's confused expression as he subtly adjusted his robes to hide the tightness in his pants. Maybe he would be annoyed with himself for getting hard from watching Kuroo kissing and rutting against someone. Maybe he would be angry, or jealous, or so turned on he didn't have time for other emotions. Or maybe, he was thinking of ways he could escape back to his dorm and relieve himself. 

Kuroo had no idea if any of that was actually happening, and realized that he needed to get out of the common room before he made two stupid decisions that night. Why the hell was he even imagining those scenarios? More importantly, why had he thought of Tsukishima when he was with Daisho?

The answer was obvious, but Kuroo refused to acknowledge it. 

Kuroo forgot about the water and returned to his room, his pants even tighter than they had been when Daisho had his thigh between his legs.

He was never going to drink fire whiskey again.

Chapter Text

On Monday after Charms, Sawamura and Bokuto each grabbed one of Kuroo's arms and led him up the steps.

“Hey, one at a time,” Kuroo joked, smiling. “There’s enough of me to go around, gentlemen.”

They dragged him halfway across the castle to the prefects’ lounge, kicking out the fifth year girls studying in there. They locked the door behind them and stood in front of Kuroo, arms crossed and expressions stern. Sawamura was far more intimidating than Bokuto, but the fact that Bokuto was trying to be intimidating meant something was up.

“Did I miss rounds or something?” Kuroo asked. “Did I overbook the Pitch?”

“Yamaguchi told me something interesting on Sunday,” Sawamura said.

Kuroo kept his mouth shut, in case they were bluffing.

“Daisho, really?” Sawamura said, sighing in disappointment.

Kuroo was going to kill that freckled lion cub. No, he was going to kill Tsukishima, who told Yamaguchi in the first place.

He wondered what Tsukishima said when he told Yamaguchi, what words he used to describe what he saw, what expression he wore, if he was annoyed, if he was blushing, if he was jealous. He wondered if Tsukishima had gotten off on the sight and hidden it from his best friend. 

He wondered why he thought about Tsukishima making those expressions in the first place, and why he didn’t hate the idea of Tsukishima being upset, among other things. 

“I told you that if you wanted to get some, I would help,” Bokuto said, arms spreading like wings in a grand, overdramatic gesture. 

“It was nothing,” Kuroo said. “I was drunk and Daisho cornered me.”

“Whoa. Cornered you?”

“Wrong choice of words.” Kuroo sighed. “It was consensual. Drunk consensual, at least. We didn’t have sex. It was just a snog. Suzumeda stopped it before anything happened.”

“Yamaguchi heard you two were practically having sex in the corner,” Sawamura said.

Tsukishima had obviously never seen two people having sex, then.

“It was nothing,” Kuroo repeated, frustrated. His shoulders felt tight. His wand felt heavy in his robes. He felt defensive over something he shouldn’t be. “I’m over it. I’m over him. It was just getting stress out.”

“He was bad news,” Bokuto said.

Kuroo inhaled sharply, annoyed that Bokuto felt the need to say that, like he thought Kuroo didn't already know that.

Kuroo had been friends with Daisho, he had dated him, and he had let Daisho twist his mind to think that violence and underhanded ploys were the best path to victory. As a Slytherin, Kuroo saw the merits of being sly and cunning, especially when you had the skills to back up anything you pulled, but Kuroo decided that was not the path for him. 

Kuroo had hurt his opponent in Dueling Club because of Daisho's advice, and Kuroo ended their relationship before Daisho's philosophy got further into his head. Daisho could do whatever he wanted, but Kuroo wanted no part of it after that incident.

He didn't need, and certainly did not want, Bokuto and Sawamura to lecture him about this.

Without thinking, Kuroo replied, “Says the guy who started dating some bird who blew him."

Bokuto frowned. “Low blow.”

Kuroo didn’t apologize. These two were attacking him right now, or at least it felt like they were. Like they had any room to judge. If it had been anyone but Daisho, they wouldn’t care. Bokuto would be asking for the details, and Sawamura would ask if Kuroo had feelings he wanted to talk about.  

“Are we done here?” Kuroo asked, short. 

He walked past them to the door, but Sawamura grabbed his wrist.

“We just don’t want him messing with your head again,” Sawamura said.

Kuroo felt something sharp his chest and tasted bitterness on his tongue. 

Kuroo tugged his arm away and left.

 


 

Kuroo was in the prefects’ lounge, lying on the floor in the sun with a pile of pillows and blankets and trying to forget his fight with Bokuto and Sawamura, when he heard Kenma’s voice.

“You hooked up with Daisho.”

Kuroo felt his cat Kenma crawl onto his stomach.

“How did you get in here?” Kuroo asked. “You’re not a prefect.”

Kenma the human sat down in a nearby chair, legs curled to his chest. Kuroo could hear the click, click, click of his game. Kuroo remembered that Kenma single-handled broke through the no-electronics rule and realized a lock to a lounge was no issue for him.

“Sawamura and Bokuto were worried enough to come to me,” Kenma said.

Kuroo said nothing.

“It was stupid,” Kenma said.

“I was drunk.” Kuroo’s cat lied down on his stomach, kneading at his chest. “And I know it was stupid.” He looked over at the Ravenclaw. “Are they mad at me?”

“I don’t know. I think they’re just worried. They’re used to your tantrums.”

“I do not have tantrums.” Kenma looked up from his game, a rare occurrence, but only for a second. Kuroo sighed. “Do I have to apologize?”

Kenma shrugged. “Shouyou would.”

“Maybe I’ll write Sugawara and get him to make them sweets. That’ll work.”

“Hmm.”

 


 

No one on the team mentioned Daisho. Everyone knew better than to bring it up, especially when they had a match to prepare for. The Slytherin-Hufflepuff match was right around the corner, and everyone on the team was eager to win. Kuroo couldn’t wait to see Bokuto dejected after losing to him.

Even though no one mentioned it, there were signs that people were thinking about it. Suzumeda smiled at him like usual, but her words were more cautious than normal. His chasers were trying way too hard to avoid the subject that it was almost comical. Then there was Tsukishima, who avoided looking at Kuroo and half-assed practice because he was distracted.

Kuroo was already in a bad mood because Sawamura and Bokuto were frustrated with him, Kuroo was frustrated with himself, and Daisho kept giving him these looks whenever Kuroo passed by in the common room. He felt like a potion cauldron ready to blow.

If it were anyone else on the team, Kuroo wouldn’t give a damn. As long as they listened to him on the Pitch, he could be a good captain to them. But it was Tsukishima, who claimed to be okay with Kuroo’s sexuality and who wouldn’t stop staring and making Kuroo’s mind go crazy.

It was Tsukishima, and that was the last straw for some reason.

After practice, when the boys headed into their locker room, Kuroo grabbed Tsukishima by the wrist and kept him outside. His teammates looked at them, curious.

“We’ll be done out here soon,” Kuroo said in his captain-voice, a little deeper and rougher than usual with no sarcasm or mirth. “Wash up and change.”

No one questioned him.

When the door was shut, Tsukishima tugged his wrist away and asked, “What do you want?”

“What’s bothering you?” Kuroo asked bluntly.

“Nothing.”

Kuroo walked towards Tsukishima. Kuroo was shorter, but he was thicker at every point in his body, and he could easily manhandle Tsukishima if it came to that, but it didn’t. Tsukishima backed up against the wall, pinned in by Kuroo, who was so close their feet touched. Kuroo didn’t even have to use his hands to keep Tsukishima in place. Tsukishima was being surprisingly docile.

“Is it because you saw me with Daisho?” Kuroo asked, head tilted back to look up at Tsukishima. “Do you have a problem with gay people, Tsuki?”

“I told you that I don’t care.”

“Seems like you do.”

“Then you’re jumping to the wrong conclusion.”

“Then what is it?"

Tsukishima eyes moved to the side. “You're thinking too highly of yourself. Like I would care what you do in your free time."

"You haven’t looked at me once since Saturday and we can’t keep practicing like this."

Kuroo leaned forward, getting closer to Tsukishima, who could surely feel the after-practice heat radiating off his captain. Kuroo could feel Tsukishima’s heat and could smell his sweat, along with the faint scent of broom polish.

“So it’s not that I’m gay, but this started with Daisho,” Kuroo said, thinking out loud. “Do you think I’m stupid for kissing my ex, and now you don’t trust me?”

Tsukishima shook his head, his eyes glued to the floor.

“Or maybe you think I’m loose?”

Tsukishima inhaled sharply. His eyes looked up and met Kuroo’s.

“So that’s it.” Kuroo laughed bitterly. “You're judging me just like Kenma, and Bo, and Sawamura." 

"I'm not judging you."

"Like you’ve never gotten stressed and gone back to an ex?”

Tsukishima pressed his lips together in a thin line. His hands twitched at his sides, restless, and Kuroo realized he was freaking the kid out. His eyes were blown wide, he couldn’t stand still, and his shoulders were so damn tight Kuroo wouldn’t be surprised if the kid had knots for days after this.

He knew personal space was an issue for Tsukishima, and here he was, crowding him up against a wall and talking about snogging and sex. 

There were at least ten things wrong with this situation, and Kuroo was to blame for all of them. This had to be sexual harassment, or damn close to it. 

He backed away immediately. Tsukishima didn’t seem to calm down.

“This was inappropriate,” Kuroo said, slow. “I’m your captain and I shouldn’t have talked to you like that, or gotten so close. I shouldn't have lost my cool."

Tsukishima didn’t say anything.

Kuroo rubbed the back of his neck. “Sorry.”

He turned and left, forgetting that he still needed to change. He’d stop by the dorms, grab a change of robes, and then head to the prefects’ bath to cool his head. Maybe he'd bang his head against a wall on the way. 

 


 

Sugawara was happy to make sweets for Bokuto and Sawamura, but he included a horribly embarrassing apology letter along with the cookies and cakes. The letter and sweets arrived at the end of the week. The letter must have begged Bokuto and Sawamura to forgive Kuroo because Bokuto tossed an arm around Kuroo’s shoulder while Sawamura laughed. 

Things were back to normal, and all was forgiven, and that’s all Kuroo could ask for, really. At least, things were back to normal with Bokuto and Sawamura. Tsukishima was another matter.

“Practice tonight?” Bokuto asked. “I’ll get Akaashi if you get Tsukishima.”

“You two are still doing that?” Sawamura asked.

“We haven’t in a week or two,” Kuroo said. “He needs to work on his blocking. We played you. You know how bad it is.”

Sawamura nodded, unable to deny it any longer. Tsukishima needed help, or Slytherin had no hope of getting the Quidditch House Cup this year.

“Slytherin and Hufflepuff face each other soon, though,” Sawamura said. “Are you sure you two should practice together?”

“We are perfectly civil during our extra practice sessions, thank you very much,” Kuroo said.

“Until we aren’t,” Bokuto added.

Sawamura sighed.

“I don’t even if there'll be a practice session,” Kuroo said. “I freaked Tsuki out.”

“How?” Sawamura asked.

“He saw me and Daisho, and he kept giving me these looks, so I figured it bugged him that I was gay. He said he was cool with it, but plenty of people say they are until they see it.”

Bokuto and Sawamura nodded, listening.

“I confronted him about it when I was stressed, and he freaked out, and I just—“ Kuroo rubbed the back of his head. “We haven’t had practice since then, and I haven’t seen him around. He’s probably pissed.”

“He didn’t tell Yamaguchi,” Sawamura said. “Or if he did, Yamaguchi didn’t tell me, so it can’t be that bad.”

“You gotta work that out before our match,” Bokuto said. “Beaters need to talk to each other on the Pitch.”

“I know,” Kuroo groaned.

"Sooner rather than later," Sawamura said. 

Kuroo looked around the Slytherin table for Tsukishima, but didn’t see him. He spotted Yamaguchi at the Gryffindor table, but still no blond beater. He could ask Yamaguchi if he knew where Tsukishima was, but things had not come to that yet. 

Kuroo stuck his hands into his robes, his stomach pleasantly full of pumpkin juice and Sugawara’s best treats, and headed down to the dungeons in search of Tsukishima.

He finally found the beater in the common room, sitting in front of the fire with a book on extinct magical animals and Kuroo’s cat in his lap. Kuroo made sure Tsukishima was aware of his approach by walking loudly and clearing his throat, and then sat down in a nearby chair. Tsukishima glared at him. Kenma the cat meowed. 

"Practice tonight?" Kuroo asked.

Tsukishima glared, but at least he met Kuroo's gaze. "Are you going to corner me again?"

There were a few ways to reply, but Kuroo went with that felt most natural. 

"Are you going to stare at me during practice? I know I'm pretty, but there's no reason to stare."

Tsukishima was silent for several long moments, likely trying to come up with a good response. He came up with nothing and grudgingly agreed to show up to practice that night.

That night, Tsukishima looked at him, listened to his calls, and even responded. Kuroo figured it could have been worse—Tsukishima could have jinxed him instead of aiming bludgers at him.

 


 

Kuroo and Tsukishima continued their nightly practices with Bokuto and Akaashi. As time passed, the tension between Kuroo and Tsukishima dissolved, and soon there was no trace of what had happened outside of the locker room. Kuroo tried to bring it up once, to apologize again, but Tsukishima had given him that look—all snark and bite with no real malice—and said, "You should be apologizing to the entire house for making them watch that horrible display at the party."

And Kuroo figured that things were back to normal after that. He still felt like he was treading on thin ice, but things were better.

Then one night, at practice, Bokuto canonballed through the ice Kuroo had so carefully created.

"Do you like Quidditch, Tsuki?" Bokuto asked.

Tsukishima glared at him, but gave a surprisingly honest answer. "It's a sport. I'm not obsessed with it like you, or your redheaded protégé."

"Oh, you know Hinata?" Bokuto asked. "Wait, not the point. Maybe you don't like Quidditch because you suck at it?"

Tsukishima nearly fell off his broom. Akaashi sighed. Kuroo remained silent, watching.

"My team won the Quidditch House Cup last year, so I'm better than you for sure, but I only started to like Quidditch recently. I had this moment when a shot I was practicing finally worked in a match. The keeper couldn't even touch the quaffle! With that one hit, it felt like 'my time has come.' If you have that moment, it will really get you hooked on Quidditch."

Tsukishima was silent, his eyes wide as he stared at Bokuto, taking in his words.

After a moment, Kuroo flew over and tossed Tsukishima his bat.

"Since you suck so much, Tsuki, we should practice before we face this guy's team," Kuroo said, pointing his bat at Bokuto. He grinned like a cat and Bokuto returned the gesture. "Because we will definietly beat him." 

Bokuto rose into the sky. "Akaashi, get in the goal posts!"

"I'm a chaser, not a keeper."

"Read the mood, Akaashi!" Bokuto shouted, gripping his hair and losing altitude. 

 


 

 

The first heavy snow of the season, Bokuto dragged Sawamura and Kuroo outside. Bokuto always got antsy in the snow, saying the nature spirit in him got restless. Kuroo didn’t question it. He had known Bokuto for seven years now, and he accepted long ago that he would never understand this side of his friend.

They circled around the Great Lake until they found a patch of unbothered snow, meaning no one had been there recently. 

“Just a quick stretch of my wings, then we can grab dinner, okay?” Bokuto said.

“I hope there’s pudding,” Kuroo said wistfully. 

“Don’t eat anything weird, Bokuto,” Sawamura cautioned. “I’m tired of hearing about your gastrointestinal issues.”

Bokuto smiled broadly. “No promises.”

Bokuto inhaled deeply and cracked his neck. Then, without looking away, Kuroo and Sawamura watched as their best friend began to change.

Bokuto’s white and black hair seemed to spread across his skin like feathers, and his eyebrows grew in size. The pupils of his unnatural yellow eyes grew wider and wider, and black rims appeared at the edges. His clothes fused to his skin, and before Kuroo knew it, he was no longer looking at a human, but a snowy white owl.

It had been seven years since Kuroo first saw Bokuto change, and it was still one of the most incredible, beautiful things in the world.

With a hoot and a flap of his wings, Bokuto shot up into the sky. With grace uncharacteristic of his human form, he flew off over the forest, before diving into the trees.

Kuroo and Sawamura melted the snow from a patch of grass and sat down, filling glass jars with tiny blue flames to keep them toasty warm and to keep the snow off of them. Kuroo had learned the charm after reading a book in first year, and they used it every winter to stay warm.

They were out there for thirty minutes, which meant Bokuto would be back any minute, likely with a mouse in his beak. Before Bokuto came flying over the horizon, they saw two figures approaching.

“Kuroo,” Sawamura said, alert.

“I know,” Kuroo replied lowly. “Think Bo will notice we have company?”

From a distance, Kuroo could make out a red and gold scarf, and a green and silver scarf. How many people in Slytherin were as tall as Tsukishima and had friends in Gryffindor? Not many. That meant—

“I didn’t expected to see you two so far out here,” Yamaguchi said.

“We didn’t expect to see you either,” Kuroo said with a too-pleasant, forced smile.

This was bad. Not many people knew about Bokuto, and Kuroo knew that Tsukishima and Yamaguchi were not on that exclusive list.

Tsukishima’s scarf was pulled up to his nose, but Kuroo could still see his rosy red cheeks. He looked miserable in the cold. 

“Why are you sitting in the middle of nowhere in a snow storm?” Tsukishima asked.

“It’s not really a storm,” Kuroo said. “More of a light flurry.”

Kuroo couldn’t see Tsukishima’s whole face, but he would bet good galleons that he was scowling.

“Just wanted some fresh air,” Sawamura said. “Are you cold, Tsukishima? We have enough jars to spare.”

Tsukishima’s eyebrows pushed together as he looked at the ground near Kuroo and Sawamura. They had nearly a dozen jars of tiny blue flames. Kuroo grabbed one and handed it to Tsukishima, who took it hesitantly.

Kuroo saw Tsukishima’s chest expand as he inhaled deeply. His eyes widened, and something about it was so cute and endearing that Kuroo couldn’t help but stare.

“It’s so warm,” Tsukishima said, slightly in awe. “Do you learn this in NEWT Charms?”

Kuroo had never seen Tsukishima look happy. He almost laughed, because just how cold was Tsukishima to react like that to a flame in a jar?

The moment was ruined a second later when dead mouse fell from the sky. It landed with a thump and a wet slop right between them.

Yamaguchi squeaked, and Tsukishima jumped, while Kuroo and Sawamura were unphased. They looked up to the sky, heard the long hoot of an owl, and watched as Bokuto flew towards the castle. Kuroo figured that meant Bokuto would transform elsewhere and meet them at dinner.

“Why is there a mouse?” Yamaguchi said, practically shouting as he clung to Tsukishima.

“You don’t do well with dead animals, do you?” Sawamura asked.

“He didn’t take Care of Magical Creatures because we have to feed the creatures dead animals,” Tsukishima said.

Yamaguchi slowly pried himself from Tsukishima. “L-Let’s head back.”

“You’re the one who wanted to take a walk in the snow,” Tsukishima muttered, but he didn’t look like he was about to argue with Yamaguchi. Tsukishima did not seem like a winter person.

Tsukishima held out the jar of blue flames, but Kuroo didn’t take it.

“Keep it,” Kuroo said. “I’ll teach you the spell later, if you want.”

Tsukishima nodded, holding the jar close to his chest as he left. 

"It looks like you two are back to normal," Sawamura said. "I'm still not sure if he likes you, though."

Kuroo shrugged and began to gather their things. "He likes me enough to listen to me at practice. That's all that matters."

It was all that mattered, but it wasn't all that Kuroo wanted. He wouldn't dare tell Sawamura that. 

 


 

Yamaguchi was a good study partner. Sure he was only a fifth year, which meant he couldn’t help Kuroo with his work, but Yamaguchi was smart, and quiet, and rather funny once he finally trusted Kuroo enough to open up and relax around him.

Kuroo could sit in any corner of the library and he either found Yamaguchi, or Yamaguchi found him.

As Kuroo skimmed the Potions section for a footnote reference, he spotted Yamaguchi in a nearby chair, a chocolate frog in his mouth, and his nose pressed deep into a scroll.

“Poisons, huh?” Kuroo said. “Is Tsuki making you do research on how to assassinate me?”

Yamaguchi smiled when he looked up at Kuroo. “I don’t think he wants to kill you.”

“Ten galleons says I’m dead by the end of the year.”

“I’ll make sure to pay your ghost.”

Kuroo laughed. “You know, you should check out Randolph’s fifth volume on poisons.”

“That’s not on the required reading, though.”

“If you go into Nekomata’s office, he has the whole collection on his shelf. I borrowed one in fifth year and aced the poisons unit. I think the library has a set, too.”

“I’ll check it out,” Yamaguchi said. “Thanks!”

“Hey, you helped me find that Arithmancy book that had been misplaced. I still don’t know how it ended up in the Care of Magical Creatures section.”

“I only knew it was there because Tsuki complained about it all the time,” Yamaguchi admitted.

Kuroo could imagine Tsukishima going on a rant about how the book was out of place, and in his favorite section of all places. He would be red in the face, probably pacing, and likely avoiding his Defense Against the Dark Arts homework because it was his least favorite subject.

For the record, the only reason Kuroo knew all those things about Tsukishima was Yamaguchi talked about Tsukishima so much that Kuroo wondered if they had a thing.

He never asked. It’s not like it was his business. Kuroo didn’t care who his players dated, or who they didn’t.

Besides, once he asked, that was a line that couldn’t be uncrossed.

 


 

The Hufflepuff-Slytherin match came during the middle of a bitterly cold snow storm. Despite the weather, the match was set to go.

Kuroo put heating charms on all their robes—he didn’t trust anyone else on his team to do it—but left Tsukishima for last. After charming the beater’s robes, he held out his hand.

“Give me your glasses,” Kuroo said.

Tsukishima hesitated. “Why?”

“There’s a spell that makes any snowflakes and water droplets slide off.” Tsukishima reached up and took off his glasses. After casting the spell and handing back the glasses, Kuroo said, “You should invest in some sports glasses, or Quidditch goggles. Even I have a pair for heavy rain.”

The Pitch was cold, and the storm was brutal, with sharp gusts of chilling wind and limited visibility from the heavy snow. 

“At least canary yellow stands out against white,” Kuroo said to his teammates as they walked to the center of the pitch where the Hufflepuff team was standing. The crowds were chanting Bokuto’s name. 

Tsukishima walked beside his captain. “The shouting is annoying.”

Kuroo's heart sped up. He grinned. “Then let’s shut them up.”

Bokuto’s handshake hurt, and Kuroo was still grateful that strong bastard never became a beater. Still, a chaser with Bokuto’s strength had it’s own difficulties.

The two teams took to the sky. Kuroo gripped his broom tight to keep it under control in the wind. Bokuto's redheaded protégé, Hinata, was wavering in the wind like a flag, laughing until Kageyama shouted at him from the rings.

"Be serious, dumb ass!" the keeper shouted.

"I am serious!" Hinata replied, steadying his broom despite the strong incoming wind.

The referee blew their whistle, the quaffle was up, and the game was on.

Bokuto grabbed the quaffle and took off. Kuroo aimed the first bludger straight at Bokuto, who flashed him a smile as he corkscrewed and flew by. Kuroo grinned in excitement. Games against Bokuto were always fun.

Both teams racked up points quickly. Kuroo managed to intercept a pass from Bokuto to Hinata by knocking the quaffle with his bludger, which had everyone in the stands roaring, even though Slytherin was not the fan-favorite.

“Damn it!” Bokuto cursed, stopping mid-flight and grabbing his hair.

Kuroo held his bat up high. The chasers nodded and switched positions. Bokuto was dejected—this was their chance to score, score, and score some more. If they got a lead of over 150, which was no easy feat, they could win, even if Suzumeda didn’t catch the snitch.

But it didn’t come to that.

After nearly forty minutes, Kuroo saw Suzumeda begin her dive before he heard the commentator, “Suzumeda is diving! Has she spotted the snitch?”

Kuroo saw a flash of gold. This was no feint.

Tsukishima and Kuroo flew over, ignoring their chasers for the moment, to cover their seeker as she dove for the snitch. This is where they failed last match. Suzumeda had hesitated.

Now, watching her dive, straight towards the ground, Kuroo knew there was no hesitation. She was trusting Kuroo and Tsukishima, her teammates, her beaters, to keep the bludgers out of her way so she could catch the snitch without fail.

One bludger cut through the air, heading for the twigs of her broomstick, and Kuroo dove in, swinging his bat wide, not caring where the bludger went so long as it was out of the way.

The second bludger was aimed ahead of Suzumeda. Kuroo didn’t have time to circle around. Suzumeda didn’t change course. Tsukishima had to block her, or Suzumeda would have to move or be hit. If that happened, they would lose. 

Out of the corner of his eye, Kuroo saw Tsukishima turn sharply and head towards the bludger. As Kuroo circled back into position, the scene out of his line of sight, he heard the impact.

CRACK.

Kuroo froze when he realized the sound was not from a bat hitting a bludger. It was too dull, and nearly not loud enough. Kuroo felt a shiver go down his spine as he turned to see what had happened.

No.

No that.

Tsukishima’s arms had gone slack at his sides, hands loosening from his broomstick, as he curled to the side like a limp child's doll. He fell, sliding from his broom, his green robes flapping like Icarus’ melting wings. Kuroo’s heart stopped.

“Suzumeda has caught the snitch—Slytherin wins!”

Kuroo cursed the commenter. How could he report that when Tsukishima was plummeting towards the ground?

Without thinking, Kuroo dropped his bat, leaned into his broom, and took off after Tsukishima.

He didn’t have his wand, what was he supposed to do if he caught up? Catching him would cause even more problems. But shit, Tsukishima was getting closer to the ground. He had to do something! What could he do? 

Closer, closer…

Kuroo wasn’t going to make it…

The referee did have a wand, however, and slowed Tsukishima’s descent before gently resting him against the grassy Pitch.

Kuroo jumped off his broom instead of landing properly and ran towards Tsukishima, who had lost his glasses and was bleeding from his ear and temple.

“Shit,” Kuroo cursed, dropping to his knees and sliding towards Tsukishima.

He wanted to pull Tsukishima’s head into his lap, but he didn’t know if anything was broken. He settled for sticking his hand beneath Tsukishima’s nose.

He felt the tickle of breath and then exhaled slowly, breathing like Tsukishima. When had he stopped breathing? When has his heart started beating so fast?

Suzumeda and the rest of their team were there seconds after him, Suzumeda’s hand still wrapped around the fluttering golden snitch.

“He’s breathing,” Kuroo said, voice rough. 

The professors and referee were beginning to crowd around now. Kuroo looked up and saw Bokuto and the other Hufflepuff players standing nearby, looking horrified. Kageyama had a hand on Hinata's shoulder, keeping him still back to stop him from interfering. 

Kuroo felt a dull throb in his chest that was nowhere as painful as what Tsukishima was experiencing right now, but Kuroo felt consumed by it, unable to ignore it. His hands shook as he stared at Tsukishima, who lay silent and still in the snow. 

Chapter Text

The team was not allowed into the Hospital Wing, not until the healer was done. They sat in the corridor outside, brooding, with nothing to do.

Kuroo had paced for twenty minutes before sitting down. He kept his knees bent and his head hanging low. His neck ached, his knees felt stiff, and he was restless with energy, but he did not want to move. Ten minutes after he sat down, Kenma showed up. Without saying anything, the Ravenclaw sat next to Kuroo on the ground, playing his PSP and using Kuroo’s shoulder as a pillow.

“You’re shaking,” Kenma said. It would sound like a complaint to most, and it likely was, but Kuroo knew that was always Kenma’s way of expressing concern.

Kuroo ran through every medical charm he knew—ones to stop bleeding, others to repair bones, even those that can suspend a patient in a temporary time bubble to perform heart transplants. But remembering his NEWT revisions was only driving him crazy, making him feel more helpless. 

The adrenaline had stopped ages ago. His heart was no longer pounding, his breathing had evened, and now all he had was restless anxiety and spiraling thoughts.

Suzumeda seemed to be worse than Kuroo, who assured her Tsukishima's injury was not her fault. Quidditch was a dangerous sport. They all knew that, Tsukishima included. It was a beater's job to protect the seeker when they went after the snitch. But still Suzumeda sat surrounded by the chasers, her eyes red.

“Kuroo,” Kenma murmured suddenly, lifting his head.

Kuroo looked up.

The headmaster was walking towards the Hospital Wing and was followed by who Kuroo assumed was Tsukishima’s family. Kuroo faintly recognized the boy in the back, who must have been Tsukishima’s brother.

Kuroo jumped to his feet. Kenma and his teammates stared at him.

The doors to the Hospital Wing opened, and Kuroo intercepted the headmaster and Tsukishima’s family before they could enter.

“What’s going on?” Kuroo asked.

Tsukishima’s brother looked him over. “You’re his teammate?” He looked around at the team, who were all still dressed in their robes. They had flown over without changing.

“Captain,” Kuroo said. He looked at Tsukishima's parents. “I’m sorry for letting this happening. I’m the other beater, I should have—“

“Please, Kuroo,” the headmaster said, “let his family in. You can come in after.”

“So he’s okay?” Kuroo asked.

“Just be patient.”

That wasn’t an answer, Kuroo thought, angry.

Kuroo stepped to the side and let them walk into the room. The heavy thump of the doors made Kuroo jump.

He was so useless. That was his player in there. That was Tsukishima.

And then it hit him.

It wasn’t just the fact that Tsukishima was in the hospital. No, it was more than that. It was feelings for Tsukishima that Kuroo did not want to label, but acknowledged existed. Watching Tsukishima fall made something click into head inside Kuroo's mind. He liked Tsukishima as more than a player, more than a friend. 

“Shit,” Kuroo cursed as he sat back down. Kenma’s head went back to his shoulder, and Kuroo tilted his head against his. His voice was soft, so only Kenma could hear. “Shit."

 


 

By the time Tsukishima’s family had cleared out, it was dark. When the healer finally let them inside, Kenma headed out, saying he didn’t know Tsukishima and had no right to visit him.

Kuroo all but ran to the only occupied bed in the wing. The pristine white sheets were tucked around Tsukishima, who was unconscious in the bed, his eyes closed. Yet his chest moved up and down in a steady rhythm, and that alone calmed Kuroo down.

Kuroo stretched out his arm to touch him, but stopped. He dropped his hand to the bed and clutched at the sheets until his knuckles were as white as the bandages wrapped around Tsukishima’s head.

It was strange seeing Tsukishima without his glasses, but it was even stranger to see him with his head wrapped in thick white bandages. Kuroo couldn’t seem to get the image of Tsukishima’s blood out of his head no matter how hard he tried. He wondered if it would plague his dreams tonight—if he slept at all. 

“So,” Suzumeda said, looking at the healer, “what's going on? Is he going to be okay?”

“He took a hard shot to the head,” the healer said calmly. “We treated the bone fractures with some potions. The brain damage was another issue.”

“But you can fix it, right?” their keeper asked.

“Already did. It took some doing, but with a few anti-inflammatory spells and some time-altering charms, we were able to reverse the damage.”

“Time-altering?” Suzumeda asked. “Like a time-turner?”

Kuroo cut in, brain on auto pilot, “Localized time-altering charms cannot return lost body parts or fluid, or bring back the dead, but they can return living tissue to a previous, un-damaged state. The charms can only be used in a brief window of time and the use of the charms is highly restricted by the Ministry.”

“Smart boy,” the healer said, impressed.

Kuroo had thought about it in the hallway. 

“We woke up Tsukishima temporarily with a potion to determine if there was any permanent damage,” the healer went on. “From what I could see, there was no obvious damage, but he was very disoriented. He’ll wake up in his own time.”

“When can we see him?” Kuroo asked. “Visiting hours?”

“Yes. And I am afraid that now, visiting hours are over and Tsukishima needs his rest. You can come back tomorrow morning.”

As much as Kuroo wanted to help, wanted to stay, there was nothing he could do.

 


 

Kuroo went to the Hospital Wing first thing in the morning only to find that someone had beaten him there. Yamaguchi was sitting in a wooden chair next to Tsukishima’s bed, yawning as he revised his Potions homework. Tsukishima was still asleep, and Kuroo did not know why he was surprised that Yamaguchi had beaten him there. 

Kuroo stuck his hands into his pockets and approached—slow and calm, like he hardly cared about the boy lying in the bed. He sat on the edge of Tsukishima’s bed near his feet.

Yamaguchi jumped. “You—you came.”

Kuroo frowned. “Don’t sound so surprised.”

Yamaguchi looked at Tsukishima and smiled softly, a little sad. There were bags under Yamaguchi’s eyes, and Kuroo wondered if the Gryffindor slept at all last night. Tsukishima was his best friend, after all.

“He would be happy if he could see you here,” Yamaguchi said.

Kuroo reached into his pocket and handed Yamaguchi a box of candies. “Put them on his bedside for me?”

Yamaguchi nodded and put Kuroo’s candy next to a box of strawberry tea that Yamaguchi must have brought. 

Yamaguchi and Kuroo sat in silence, Kuroo staring at the flowers and sweets on Tsukishima’s bedside table while Yamaguchi’s quill scratched softly against his parchment. 

It was a quiet morning, until the doors slammed open and someone shouted, “TSUKISHIMA!”

Yamaguchi jumped again, nearly spilling ink on Tsukishima’s hand, and Kuroo almost laughed because the image of Tsukishima waking up with a black hand, thoroughly confused, was very, very amusing.

“Hinata,” Yamaguchi said. A little more surprised, he said, “Kageyama.”

The two Hufflepuffs came over to Tsukishima’s bed. Kageyama gave Kuroo a strange look, and then stopped Hinata from poking Tsukishima’s cheek.

“Has he woken up?” Hinata asked.

“Apparently he’s been in and out,” Yamaguchi said, “but he hasn’t woken up completely yet.”

Kuroo didn’t know that Tsukishima was friends with Bokuto’s prodigy and the King of the Pitch. He figured Tsukishima had friends besides Yamaguchi despite his cold personality. He just did not expect Hinata, who was like sunshine while Tsukishima was anything but. 

Hinata put several boxes of candy on the bedside and said, “Kageyama, your gift!”

Kageyama reached into his bag to pull out a book. There was a note that said he was only loaning it, and that if Tsukishima took it, he would hex him. It was a book on muggle dinosaurs.

Kuroo did not move from his spot on Tsukishima’s bed until Bokuto and Sawamura stopped by with gifts for Tsukishima and then dragged him away to get food. Kuroo reluctantly agreed to leave because staying would have seemed strange at that point, and he did not want to let on about his feelings.  

"You'll have time to visit later," Sawamura said as they left. "You skipped dinner last night so you need to eat. You'll be no help to Tsukishima if you pass out and end up in the bed next to his."

Kuroo rubbed the back of his head. "Yeah, I guess." 

"I'm glad Hinata and Kageyama got in to see Tsuki," Bokuto said. "They were really worried last night."

"I didn't know they were friends," Kuroo said. "I don't see them together very often." 

"I think they begged Tsuki to help them study for their OWLs," Bokuto answered.

Kuroo smiled. He imagined Tsukishima sitting in the library with Hinata and Kageyama, who were bent over their work while Tsukishima called them stupid and made sly remarks. 

Sawamura frowned at him. "Why're you smiling?"

Kuroo didn't tell them the truth. Instead he said, "Just thinking about how we beat Bo yesterday."

Bokuto shouted, distraught and grabbing at his hair. "Don't remind me! But remember this, because next time, we'll win!" 

 


 

Kuroo spent a lot of time drowning himself in his schoolwork to keep his mind off of things. He had a Transfiguration exam coming up, a new charm for Defense Against the Dark Arts to learn, a translation for Ancient Runes, and a potion brewing in the classroom that needed to be checked every three hours. 

He had more than enough work to keep his mind off Tsukishima, yet all he could think about was Tsukishima. 

He thought he was doing a damn good job at hiding his feelings for the boy, because neither Bokuto nor Sawamura said anything to him. No one asked if he liked Tsukishima, or had feelings for him. If Sawamura and Bokuto didn't know, Kuroo supposed that meant Tsukishima didn’t know how he felt either, which was probably for the better. 

Sawamura had told Sugawara about what had happened, and Sugawara had sent dozens of cookies and cakes to Kuroo, who ate more than he should in one sitting but he didn’t care because it was so damn good.

In the following days, more often than not, Bokuto and Sawamura were with Kuroo. Bokuto was down about losing the match (“I’m worried about Tsuki, too, though!”) and Sawamura took it upon himself to watch after the two while they were down.

They were in the library studying for their Transfiguration exam when Yamaguchi found them. The Gryffindor was panting and sweating, like he had run around the entire castle.

Sawamura went into protective-lion-dad mode instantly, sitting forward in his chair and dropping his quill to focus on his freckled lion cub.

“Yamaguchi, what’s wrong?”

Yamaguchi ignored Sawamura, looking at Kuroo, who understood what was going on. He stood up before Yamaguchi could get it out: 

“Tsuki woke up.”

Four days, Kuroo thought as he ran to the Hospital Wing with Yamaguchi. It had been four days since the Quidditch match. Four days since he had seen Tsukishima’s eyes. Four days since he had heard Tsukishima’s voice. Four days since he last had a good night’s sleep. Four days since he realized his feelings. Four long, horrible days.

Sawamura and Bokuto were on their heel, but Kuroo had never run faster in his life. They weren't going to catch up with Kuroo, not now. Bokuto could turn into an owl and he would not catch Kuroo. 

Tsukishima was sitting up in his bed in the Hospital Wing, a mountain of pillows behind him. The stack of sweets and cards on his bedside had only grown in the last few days. The healer was putting new bandages around Tsukishima's head, and didn’t even bat an eyelash when Yamaguchi and Kuroo came running in (or when Bokuto tripped on his way in a few moments later).

“Kuroo,” Tsukishima said, sounding unsure.

Panting, Kuroo grinned. “No need to sound so surprised.”

Tsukishima scowled. “I only said it because I don’t have my glasses.”

Yamaguchi sat in his chair next to Tsukishima’s bed and asked, “How are you feeling, Tsuki?”

“My head itches,” Tsukishima said.

The healer laughed. “Potion-infused bandages will do that. In a few more days, you can take them off. They’re to help with any swelling.”

Sawamura and Bokuto arrived and stood next to Kuroo, who felt like he was trembling. 

“Glad to see you’re okay,” Sawamura said earnestly. 

“Wish I could see,” Tsukishima grumbled.

Kuroo rubbed the back of his head. “About that… your glasses got busted pretty bad. We tried to charm them, but I think we made it worse.”

"Aren't you supposed to be a NEWT Charms student?" Tsukishima sighed. He moved to push up his glasses, but seemed to remember he couldn’t.

“Akiteru bought you a new pair,” Yamaguchi said. “He sent them by owl on Sunday. I’ll bring them later.”

The healer finished putting on the bandages, and then left them alone to talk.

“Our whole team feels really bad,” Bokuto said. “But we’re also really impressed by that save.”

You mean how he used his body instead of his bat? Kuroo wondered.

Sawamura saw Kuroo’s confused expression and said, “No one on your team told you?”

Kuroo shook his head. The team had not practiced since the match, and no one had talked the night they were waiting in the hallway outside of the Hospital Wing. 

“It was awesome!” Bokuto said, not reading the situation at all. Tsukishima's eyebrows pinched together while Yamaguchi looked nervous. “He was about to swing his bat when the bludger cut course, and he knew he wouldn't reach it with his bat, so he just kept flying. Suzumeda wouldn’t have caught the snitch if he hadn’t moved.”

Kuroo nodded slowly, looking at the sheets pooled around Tsukishima’s lap. 

Tsukishima, who Kuroo had to drag to extra practice, who didn’t even seem to like Quidditch, put himself in danger. And Tsukishima’s not a stupid guy. He knew the risk. Or maybe he moved without thinking?

“Uh, Tsuki?” Yamaguchi said.

Tsukishima had gone pale. He had a hand over his mouth and oh, Kuroo realized, he was going to throw up.

Sawamura called over the healer, who brought a pan for him, but Tsukishima shook his head. He looked defiant, like he refused to throw up, and Kuroo smiled in admiration.

“We should let him rest some more,” Sawamura said, putting a hand on Kuroo’s shoulder. “We have to finish studying anyways.”

“Don’t remind me!” Bokuto grabbed his hair in frustration. “Human-animal transfiguration is the wooorst!”

Kuroo laughed. The irony seemed to be lost on Bokuto, who could turn into an owl at will.

 


 

Kuroo wanted to go and see Tsukishima in the Hospital Wing, but every time he attempted to, something got in his way. He spent half a day cleaning out his workbench in the greenhouse when his plants were infected with festering fungi, and he had extra prefect rounds since half the sixth year prefects got dragon pox. Not to mention the end of term exams were approaching and Kuroo could not put aside his career goals to visit Tsukishima no matter how much he wanted to. 

He didn’t even know Tsukishima had been released until he spotted the blond in the Great Hall, surrounded by their teammates, who were talking animatedly. Kuroo sat next to Suzumeda and filled his plate with green beans, mashed potatoes, and lamb chops before even glancing at Tsukishima.

Tsukishima was wearing new glasses, but they looked the same as the old ones. He still had the bandages, and he kept itching at him, until one of the chasers knocked his hand away. Tsukishima glared at them like he wanted to stab them with his knife.

“How are you feeling?” Kuroo asked.

“The healer said I should be able to start practice after winter break,” Tsukishima said. “As long as I’m careful.”

“That doesn’t answer my question, but okay.” Kuroo smirked. “Good to hear you want to practice.”

“I may take my broom with me over break and have it looked over. I figured it took a bit of damage after I—“ Tsukishima looked down.

Kuroo felt like a thestral in wandlight. He had forgotten to mention it, and he knew that no one else would. He told his team that he would be the one to break the news to Tsukishima.

Suzumeda gasped. “You didn’t tell him?”

“Tell me what?” Tsukishima asked, hesitant, like he didn’t want to know the answer despite not knowing the question.

Kuroo poked at his green beans and said, “When you fell, your broom just kept going, momentum and all that. We were all so worried about making sure you didn’t hit the Pitch that no one grabbed your broom so it just—“

Kuroo stopped.

“We found it by the Whomping Willow,” Suzumeda said.

Tsukishima inhaled. He nodded slowly. Kuroo could sense the gears turning in Tsukishima’s head, riding up his anxiety to uncomfortable levels. His brain was in overdrive trying to process the information.

“Can you afford another?” someone asked. “If not, the school has some you could borrow. They’re older models, but they’re okay.”

Tsukishima looked deep in thought.

They switched the topic before he answered. Tsukishima looked relieved.

 


 

Bokuto had his face buried into his hands when he left the Transfiguration room with Sawamura and Kuroo.

“I failed,” Bokuto groaned. “I know I did.”

Sawamura patted his back. “I’m sure you did better than you think. We’ve been studying all month for that exam.”

“Isn't it worse if I study and still fail?"

Kuroo put an arm around Bokuto’s shoulder. “Hey, mate, just think about all the delicious food you’re going to be eating over winter break when we visit Sawamura. We’re going to get so fat.”

Bokuto perked up and looked at Sawamura. “You’re still cool with us coming over after Christmas?”

“Yeah, my mom is looking forward to it,” Sawamura said. “Suga is too. He says he likes having you guys in the bakery—that he can do less work.”

Kuroo and Bokuto laughed.

As they rounded the corner, Kuroo saw Tsukishima walking alongside Yamaguchi. The blond was scratching at the bandages on his head, but Yamaguchi swatted his hand away.

“Sorry, Tsuki, healer’s orders.”

Kuroo lit up. He ran ahead, pausing briefly to look over his shoulder and say, “Are we still meeting for Charms practice tonight?”

Sawamura nodded and Bokuto said, “Definitely!”

With that, Kuroo felt okay leaving them behind to run up to Tsukishima and Yamaguchi. He patted Tsukishima on the back, smirking when he jumped, and fell into step between them.

“Hey, Kuroo,” Yamaguchi said. “How’d your exam go?”

“How do you know he had an exam?” Tsukishima asked.

“We’re study buddies,” Kuroo said, waving his hand passively, like it wasn’t a big deal. “And it went fine.”

“That’s great!”

Kuroo nodded. “Glad it’s done with. Speaking of getting things done…” He looked up at Tsukishima. “You can take off your bandages soon, right? You should do it in the prefects’ bath.”

“Why?” Tsukishima asked.

“Because your hair is probably disgusting and the prefects’ bath is the only hope you have of not looking like you dunked your head in broom polish.”

Yamaguchi laughed into his hand. “Sorry, Tsuki, but it’s true. Your hair is getting gross.”

“I haven’t been able to shower,” Tsukishima murmured. “Anyways, I’m not a prefect.” He said it like Kuroo was stupid for not realizing that.

“What you fail to realize is that I am a kind soul and I will give you the password.” Tsukishima gave him a look. Kuroo put a hand over his heart. “That look is uncalled for. I’m always this nice.”

Tsukishima huffed. “Fine. What’s the password?”

 


 

A few days later, Kuroo grabbed a change of robes and then made his way to the prefects’ bathroom. Everyone else would be at dinner, which meant he didn’t have to share with any of the other guys. He could take a long soak, and no one could judge him for using rose scented salts, and he could finally get rid of those kinks he got while bending over his Transfiguration notes.

When he opened the portrait door, he had not expected to see Tsukishima, stark naked, messing with the many knobs and dials that surrounded the bath. 

“What the hell are you doing here?” Tsukishima snapped.

“Should have warned you, people that identify as the same gender can come in, unless the user specifics that they want to be alone.”

Kuroo rubbed the back of his head, pointedly not looking at Tsukishima. He had seen Tsukishima naked in the showers after practice, but he had never had the urge to look until now. He never wanted to trace Tsukishima’s hipbones with his eyes, or look long enough to see what he does with his hair, if he charmed it away or kept it. He was never curious if he could count and tap Tsukishima’s ribs with his fingers, or if his stomach would flutter when it was kissed.

It was inappropriate for a captain to look at their player this way, especially in the prefects’ bath, when it was just the two of them.  

Tsukishima grabbed his towel, quickly wrapping it around his waist. 

“I’m going to go,” Kuroo said.

“Can you show me how this bath works first?”

Kuroo inhaled. He shouldn’t. He really, really shouldn’t. Because Tsukishima was mostly naked, and they were so very alone, and Kuroo did not want Tsukishima finding out about his feelings because he got an erection while helping him in the bath.

His mouth betrayed his mind.

“Yeah, sure,” he said, walking over. He set down his things on a table, and then knelt on the ground next to Tsukishima. He didn’t look up, though it would be so easy, and he could probably see under the towel—

Kuroo’s heart thudded in his chest.

“So what do you want?” Kuroo asked, keeping his voice even. “Bubbles, or salts, or oils?”

“I don’t really care but… make it sweet-smelling.”

Kuroo nodded. He knew just the combination. He turned the blue coated knob clockwise, pulled up the bronze lever, pinched the red button, and then turned the silver knob counterclockwise four and a half times. Then he stood up and pulled the lever near the large spigot.

When the tub was half full with steaming water, large pink bubbles began to appear, filling the room with a fruity scent.

“The water will feel slick, but that’s just the oil,” Kuroo said as he stood. “It makes your skin soft, though. Try it out.”

Kuroo thought Tsukishima would stick his foot in. He did not expect the blond to drop his towel and slid into the water, swimming into the center of the large bath with an expression of bliss. It was probably Tsukishima’s first real bath since the accident.

Kuroo blamed the steaming water for the red heat on his cheeks.

“You good?” Kuroo asked.

“Yes.” Tsukishima swam back to the edge. With some difficulty, he said, “Thank you.”

“No problem. When I became a prefect in fifth year, I flooded this room. The mermaid was mad at me.”

“Mermaid?”

Kuroo pointed to the stained glass portrait of the mermaid, who had her chin resting in her hand as she gazed at the two. “Oh, don’t mind me boys. Pretend I’m not here.” She giggled.

Tsukishima’s face went as pink as the bubbles.

“She’s a flirt,” Kuroo said in passing. “Not the best place for a wank.”

Tsukishima didn’t say anything.

“Uh,” Kuroo said slowly. “I can go…?”

“I wasn’t going to!” Tsukishima sounded defensive.

Kuroo grinned. “Of course you weren’t.”

“You’re a pervert.”

“Anyways, just make sure to take off your bandages before soaking or swimming."

“Can you wait just another moment?”

Tsukishima had never asked so many things from Kuroo at once. Maybe the healer was wrong and there had been some type of brain damage.

Before Kuroo responded, Tsukishima reached up and began to unwind the bandages from his head. The hair underneath the bandages was flat and shiny with oil.

“Take these with you?” Tsukishima asked. “I’m sick of looking at them.”

Kuroo felt a pain in his chest. He wanted to ask Tsukishima how he was feeling, if he was dealing with this okay, but he didn’t. Tsukishima would only get mad if he asked.

“You look like you have horrible hat hair,” Kuroo said instead, grinning. The comment felt forced instead of natural. He wondered if Tsukishima could tell. 

Regardless, Tsukishima scowled.

“Make sure to wash your hair really well,” Kuroo advised as he began to gather his things, taking Tsukishima’s bandages with him.

When he reached the portrait door, he looked over his shoulder and saw Tsukishima floating on his back, his groin covered by bubbles. The blond looked at peace. His eyes were closed and his arms were stretched out. His chest rose and fell slowly as he breathed in the sweet scent of the room.

Kuroo swallowed hard. The words died in his throat:

Enjoy your bath.

The mermaid waved at Kuroo, moving her fingers one by one in a way that was meant to be suggestive. She smiled at Kuroo, who quickly left. His breathing was not the only thing that was hard as he hurried back to the dungeons.

 


 

The next morning at breakfast, Tsukishima looked clean and refreshed. His blond hair was fluffy from his bath and looked much better than it had when he took off the bandages.

Tsukishima looked up at saw Kuroo approaching, and Kuroo’s chest and mind panged with guilt. He had gone back to his room last night after running into Tsukishima in the bath, locked his door, and thought about Tsukishima while pushing his hand deep into his pants.

Jerking off to his teammate was far from his proudest moment, and it was awkward to look at Tsukishima after what he had done, what he had thought of. All Kuroo could think of was Tsukishima’s slick skin, the sweet scent of bubbles, his long fingers…

Kuroo sat further down the table by himself, ignoring the way Tsukishima’s eyes followed him as he walked.

Have to act normal, Kuroo told himself. Like he hadn’t come to the thought of Tsukishima.

 


 

Kuroo finished his rounds and found Kenma the human with Kenma the cat in the dungeons outside the Slytherin common room. Kuroo took his cat out of Kenma’s arms, frowning down at it as he scratched under its chin.

“How do you keep sneaking out like this?” Kuroo asked. “Do I need to charm your collar again?”

Kenma the human gave him a look.

Kuroo asked, “How long have you been waiting out here?”

“I knew you got off rounds around this time, so not that long.”

“Want me to walk you back to Ravenclaw Tower? You won’t get in trouble that way.”

Kenma reached into his bag and pulled out his invisibility cloak.

“Never mind,” Kuroo said. “You figure out what you’re doing for winter break yet? You said you might have some plans.”

Kenma began to fiddle with his fingers. “I’m going to Shouyou’s after Christmas. His family invited me.”

Kuroo smiled. “That’s great.”

Kenma nodded.

Kuroo’s smile grew. It was rare for Kenma to be excited about things, let alone for him to admit it.

“Thanks for bringing me my cat,” Kuroo said. “Try not to trip on your way back to your tower.”

“Yes, mother.”

Kuroo laughed.

 


 

Kuroo sat in the Slytherin common room on a large leather sofa in front the crackling fire. Kenma the cat was curled up at his feet as Kuroo read an Ancient Runes book. 

Kuroo was halfway through the chapter on using numbers in divination when a teacup floated next to him. The tea was pink and cloudy with copious amounts of milk. A moment later, Tsukishima sat next to Kuroo on the sofa and lifted the cup from the air.

“Sawamura has one of those,” Kuroo said. "The enchanted teacup, I mean. He never uses it.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“Because you sat down next to me with an enchanted teacup so I figured that was a good conversation starter. The charm is actually really complicated. It’s a modified version of the levitation charm we learned in first year.”

“You’re a nerd, aren’t you?”

“A nerd who is going to ace his NEWTs.” Kuroo looked into the teacup and wrinkled his nose. “Why is your tea pink?”

“It’s strawberry tea.” Tsukishima paused. “I’m not going to share.”

Kuroo laughed shortly then smiled. “Wasn’t going to ask for any.”

Kenma moved away from Kuroo’s feet, jumping up into Tsukishima’s lap. Tsukishima didn’t move after that. He remained sitting next to Kuroo, with Kuroo’s cat in his lap, and drank his weird strawberry tea. Kuroo glanced at him.

"So did you come out here for a reason or is a levitating book going to appear next?" Kuroo asked.

"Study break. I'm going back to the my room after I finish my tea."

Kuroo grinned, reaching over to stroke Kenma under its chin. "Kenma may not let you get up. He likes you." 

Tsukishima reached down to pet the cat, his fingers brushing over Kuroo's. Kuroo pulled his hand back, using it to turn the page in his book, and listened to his cat purr under Tsukishima's careful touch.

There was something comfortable about being near Tsukishima, even when they weren’t talking, but it was a luxury Kuroo could not allow himself to have. He could not allow himself to fall any harder than he already had.

Chapter Text

The day after Christmas, Kuroo was in his bedroom packing away all of his gifts. His mother had given him a wand polishing set and some money, while his father gave him a large potions kit to refill his stocks. He liked Kenma’s gift most of all, a book on famous Curse-Breakers and a twig-trimming kit for his broomstick.

As he finished putting the last of his gifts into his trunk, he heard his mother call out: ”Tetsurou, the floo is ready!”

Kuroo shut his trunk, slung his bag over his shoulder, lifted his heavy trunk with ease, and hurried downstairs. His mother was waiting in the living room with a cherry pie, while his father sat in his chair reading the Daily Prophet.

“This is for your friend’s family,” his mother said.

Kuroo carefully packed the pie into his bag then leaned down to kiss his mother on the cheek.

Kuroo had to duck in the fireplace, which was not meant for someone of his height. It was uncomfortable, but nothing he wasn’t used to. His mother held out a bowl of dry green powder, and Kuroo took a handful.

“Sawamura’s house.”

There was a bright flash of green, a tingling warmth, and then a puff of smoke.

Kuroo was no longer in his house, but Sawamura’s living room, which had numerous plush chairs, a well-decorated Christmas tree, and several trays of cookies. He spotted Sawamura and Sugawara, still dressed in their pajamas, on the sofa. The two were looking into a large, blue-tinted crystal ball. 

“Sugawara!” Kuroo exclaimed, carefully setting down his trunk and walking over. Sugawara stood up and Kuroo hugged him, clapping him on the back. Kuroo pulled away. “Didn’t know you would be here. Did you see my arrival in your crystal ball?"

“Daichi told me you were coming today, so I decided to stop by,” Sugawara said with a pleasant smile. He radiated magical beauty, and Kuroo felt no shame in staring. "And the ball is from my Fortunes class. I think it's similar to Hogwarts' Divination class?" 

“I’m going to tell my mom and dad you’re here,” Sawamura said as he stood up.

Kuroo took off his bag and pulled out his mother’s pie. “It’s probably not as good as Sugawara’s, but my mom wanted your parents to have this.”

When Sawamura left, Kuroo's pie in hand, Kuroo took his spot on the sofa next to Sugawara, who turned and began to ask a flurry of questions.

By the time Sawamura came back, Kuroo and Sugawara had already recapped Kuroo’s end of term exams and the entire Quidditch season, though they only touched briefly on Tsukishima. Kuroo wondered if Sawamura had included Tsukishima in his letters to Sugawara. Sawamura’s letters were always short compared to Sugawara’s lengthy, multiple page responses.

Suddenly, as Sawamura sat in a nearby armchair, there was a flash of green fire and a puff of black smoke from the fireplace. In the blink of an eye, Bokuto was standing in front of them, walking out of the fireplace. The striation in his stripped hair seemed more prominent, more feather-like, and his eyebrows were massive. He had partially transformed.

"You look like an owl," Sawamura said. 

“I panicked, okay?” Bokuto said, his eyebrows slowly shrinking back to their normal size. “I hate floo. Seems unnatural.”

“You can turn into a bird!” Kuroo said.

“I am a nature spirit.” Bokuto put a hand to his chest, looking very proud. “Hence, natural.”

Sugawara laughed. He came over and gave Bokuto a quick hug. Bokuto hugged him back, saying, “I missed my half-breed buddy.”

Kuroo and Sawamura exchanged a look and laughed.

 


 

Sugawara’s family owned two bakeries. One was located in the small rural town where Sugawara and Sawamura grew up. The other was on the corner of Diagon Alley, and attracted many customers throughout the year. A door from the main bakery in the countryside could easily access the shop at Diagon Alley—the whole process reminded Kuroo of the door from Howl’s Moving Castle.

They walked through the snow from Sawamura’s house to the main bakery in the nearby town, said hello to Sugawara’s father and a few of the other employees, and then walked through a bright yellow door at the back. When they exited to the other side, they were in the bakery located at Diagon Alley.

The bakery at Diagon Alley was bright with sunlight, crowded with customers, and sweet with icing. Sugawara’s mother was loading the display cases with tiny apple pies with thick globs of enchanted icing. The soft, whipped icing was forever cold and tasted like ice-cream. She stood up and kissed their cheeks in turn, smearing the red lipstick off Kuroo’s check.

“You boys are ‘eading to lunch?” she asked in a thick French accent.

Sugawara nodded. “Yup. The pub down the street.”

“Zey ‘ave ze best fish and chips. ‘Ave fun, boys, and be safe!”

With her approval, Sugawara led them through the front of the shop and out to the streets of Diagon Alley. It was not snowing here like it was at Sawamura’s house, just another reminder that they had jumped miles and miles by walking through that yellow door.

Though it was not Christmas day, the streets were packed. Sugawara skillfully led them down a back alley to a tiny, quiet pub where they were seated immediately.

“Now that we’re all together,” Sugawara said, briefly glancing at the menu he was handed, “we need to catch up. I’m sure there’s a lot Daichi hasn’t told me, or Kuroo forgot to mention earlier.”

“Before we talk, we should do gifts!” Bokuto said.

Sugawara smiled. “Alright, then,” he said as he began to pull boxes out of his bag, which must have been enchanted to be larger on the inside.

Before Kuroo ever met Sugawara in person, Kuroo was receiving Christmas gifts from him. Sugawara always gave the best, most thoughtful gifts—gardening gloves and magical crystals, or fancy quills and colorful ink. This year, Sugawara had given Kuroo the book his school used for upper level Charms.

“Wow, thanks,” Kuroo said, flipping through the golden leaf pages. “You guys cover completely different material. I don’t even recognize most of these wand motions.”

“There’s a charm that lets you establish a telepathic link for a short time,” Sugawara said. “I think it would be useful for you, if you ever work on a team as a Curse-Breaker.”

“Whoa!” Bokuto exclaimed. He was holding a pearly white skull with horns. Kuroo’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head.

“It’s a jackalope skull,” Sugawara said, happy that Bokuto was pleased with his gift. 

Sawamura sighed. “Do we really need to establish a ‘no giving skulls to each other in public’ rule?”

Bokuto looked like Sawamura had just insulted his Quidditch team.

When their waitress appeared to take their drink order, she saw the skull and shrieked. Kuroo was in favor of establishing in the rule effective immediately.

 


 

Despite it being winter break, Kuroo was kept busy at the bakery. It was good to be busy. Being busy meant his thoughts could not wander to other things, like how Tsukishima smirks at his opponents after hitting them with a bludger, or how he drinks disgusting strawberry tea.

Better still was the complete lack of privacy from sharing a bathroom with Sawamura and Bokuto. If he spent too long in the shower, Bokuto would barge in to use the toilet—Kuroo’s erections didn’t stand a chance.

Kuroo was wiping down the tables while Sugawara took orders, relaying them to his mother, who was teaching Sawamura and Bokuto how to ice cupcakes in the back. Bokuto occasionally shouted, but nothing had caught fire, so Kuroo figured everything was going well.

There was a chime at the door as someone walked inside. He heard two sets of feet against the wood floor.

“Welcome!” Sugawara said cheerfully.

Kuroo hardly paid the customers any mind as he finished wiping down the tables. At the front of the shop, he caught a glimpse of the shop’s reflection in the window. The last person he expected to see in the reflection was Tsukishima Kei, but there he was, all tall and blond and cute.

Yamaguchi was with him, and neither seemed to have noticed Kuroo. They ordered their sweets and then sat down at a table, eating their sweets in silence. Yamaguchi had a slice of blueberry pie with enchanted icing while Tsukishima poked at a thick piece of strawberry shortcake.

Kuroo pocketed the rag he used for cleaning and approached.

“Yo.”

Yamaguchi jumped, eyes wide as he stared up at Kuroo. Tsukishima looked up at him, mildly shocked but hiding it well.

“You work here?” Tsukishima asked, brows furrowed as he looked at the rag in Kuroo's pocket.

“Sometimes.” Kuroo shrugged. “You guys come here often?”

“They have good cake,” was Tsukishima’s short reply.

Kuroo grinned. He almost teased Tsukishima, but didn’t because he would come here for cake if he didn’t have Sugawara sending him sweets all year.

“How’s your head?” Kuroo asked.

“It’s okay.”

How are you? Kuroo wanted to ask, but didn’t. He doubted that he would get an honest answer in public. He wasn’t even sure he would get an honest answer if they were alone.

Kuroo glanced at Yamaguchi, who was staring at Sugawara, which was no surprise. Kuroo often found himself staring at Sugawara. Most people stared. Sugawara was gorgeous, unnaturally so.

“You’re staring,” Tsukishima said, frowning.

Yamaguchi jumped and turned red. “I don’t know why!” He didn’t look away.

Kuroo grinned slyly and said, “Don’t feel bad. His grandmother’s a Veela so he’s pretty by nature. His mother is beautiful too, but I personally prefer her son for various reasons."

Kuroo looked at Tsukishima, who shook his head, understanding what Kuroo was implying. Yamaguchi was too enthralled by Sugawara to fully understand what Kuroo had said. 

Yamaguchi shoved a giant spoonful of pie and icing into his mouth, and stared at his plate. His eyes kept flicking over to Sugawara, who smiled and waved. Yamaguchi nearly choked.

“He doesn’t go to Hogwarts, does he?” Tsukishima asked, calm and seemingly unaffected. “I don’t recognize him, but he looks our age...”

“He goes to Beauxbatons Academy. We only get to meet up during breaks. His mom owns this bakery, which is why I work here sometimes.”

Tsukishima poked at the strawberry on top of his cake, looking deep in thought.

Kuroo looked over at Sugawara, who waved his hand in passing, which probably meant he didn’t need Kuroo’s help right now.

When Kuroo looked back at the fifth years, Tsukishima was staring at him with an unreadable expression. It was a good look on him—dark, intense eyes with a hint of judgment and a sly remark on the tip of his tongue.

Kuroo shivered as Tsukishima stared, arousal growing in his stomach.

“So,” Kuroo said, needing to wipe that look off Tsukishima’s face before things got awkward, “have you found a new broom yet?”

“No. I was going to look today, but their newest models sold out before Christmas. Even the displays are gone.”

“But they said the stocks would be full again in two days!” Yamaguchi said helpfully.

“Do you want help picking a broom?” Kuroo asked. “I’ve been keeping up to date with all the models.”

“What makes you think I need your help?”

Kuroo replied smoothly, “Oh, so you know the different aerodynamic schemes of the new nimbus models, and can tell how well a broom can hold up in rain based on the arrangement of the twigs?”

Tsukishima scowled. “Do you actually know all that, or are you making it up to sound cool?”

“I did an entire paper on broomsticks when we studied applied magical mathematics in Arithmancy last year.”

Yamaguchi was beaming, looking very impressed, while Tsukishima looked like he ate something horribly sour.

“Fine,” Tsukishima said. “You can help.”

That was easy, Kuroo thought, as he gave Tsukishima a time and place to meet a few days later.

 


 

That night, Sugawara called a group meeting.

“But we’ve been together all day,” Bokuto said, confused.

“Yes, but we have things to discuss,” Sugawara said.

“I don’t like the sound of that,” Sawamura said.

“Don’t worry, Daichi, it’s not about you this time.”

“This time?”

Kuroo had a horrible feeling in the pit of his stomach that he knew what this sudden meeting was about.

Sugawara brought them up to his room and closed the door behind them with a charm. They all sat on the floor, grabbing several pillows and blankets that were scattered around the room.

“Kuroo,” Sugawara said, voice gentle, and Kuroo knew this was going to happen, “who were those boys you were talking to earlier?"

"Oh, Tsukishima and Yamaguchi. I mentioned them to you the other day. I study with Yamaguchi and Tsukishima is on my team."

"Which one was the blond one?"

Kuroo frowned, because he knew where this was going, but Sugawara's voice was gentle and non-judgemental, and Kuroo could never say no to him. He told Sugawara the blond was Tsukishima.

"And do you like Tsukishima, Kuroo?”

Kuroo tried to keep a straight face, but it was hard when Bokuto’s eyes were wide like his owl-form, and Sawamura’s head whipped so fast to the side that he had to rub his neck. Sugawara chuckled into his hand then gave Kuroo a comforting smile. 

Kuroo had wanted to take this to his grave. He was doing to bottle up his emotions and never tell a soul. If he said it out loud, that made it serious, made it harder to ignore, which he so desperately wanted to do. Even when he thought of Tsukishima in an intimate moment, Kuroo didn’t even dare say his name, biting his lip so hard he had to charm away the mark.

It was inappropriate for a captain to look at their player the way Kuroo looked at Tsukishima. If Tsukishima were a girl, everyone would say that he was taking advantage of a younger player. Why should that change just because of Tsukishima’s gender? What if they broke up and the team couldn't play well, or Tsukishima didn't return his feelings and Kuroo could never look at him again?

Beyond Quidditch, Kuroo was a seventh year that was graduating and he was likely never going to see Tsukishima again after that. The idea of getting close to Tsukishima just to leave him a few months later ached in a way that Kuroo could not describe.

There was no way for this to work.

 

Instead of answering Sugawara verbally, Kuroo rubbed the back of his head and shrugged.

Bokuto hooted and clapped Kuroo on the back. “I was so worried you were going to hook up with Daisho again. Congrats!”

“There is nothing to congratulate,” Kuroo said, annoyed that Bokuto had to bring Daisho into this and jump to conclusions. “Because nothing is going on.”

“But it could,” Bokuto said, hopeful.

“No, it won’t.”

Sugawara frowned. “But you obviously like him! I could tell just by watching you two in the bakery. What were you two talking about, anyways?”

“I was telling him that I’d help him pick out a broomstick.”

“Phallic symbolism?” Sugawara said.

Kuroo groaned. “No. He broke his broom and I told him I’ve been keeping up with the new models. I offered to help him find one.”

“Like a date?”

“Not even close. I’m his captain.”

“Have you jerked off to him?” Bokuto asked arbitrarily. Kuroo hid his face in his hands. Bokuto laughed and patted him on the back again. “Then you like him.”

“Or you are using him for his body,” Sawamura growled, finally speaking. “Kuroo, you said—“

“I didn’t let him join the team just because I like him, okay? I didn’t even think about him that way then.”

Sugawara hummed in understanding. “So when did this start?”

Kuroo didn’t know when it started, but he knew when he realized his feelings: when he saw Tsukishima plummeting towards the ground. His stomach twisted at the memory.

“I don’t know. It just did. But it’s not going to be an issue, because I’m not going to do anything about it.”

“But you have to!” Sugawara said, leaning forward. “You’ll regret it your whole life if you don’t.”

“I doubt that."

“Kuroo,” Sugawara said very seriously. “An idiot can tell how much you care about him.”

“Yeah, well, he doesn’t care about me, so this conversation is over.” Kuroo’s voice was cold and final.

Bokuto patted him on the back again with the intent to comfort, but Kuroo didn’t want to be touched. He didn’t want Sugawara’s pitying gaze, and he didn’t want Sawamura judging him for feelings that he didn’t want in the first place.

He didn’t want anything of this.

 


 

Kuroo was lounging in the back of the bakery, eating cupcakes while he did his winter homework, when Sawamura found him. Sawamura put his hands on his hips, and Kuroo glanced up, knowing a long speech was coming. Gryffindors loved their long, meaningful speeches.

“Are you serious about Tsukishima?”

Kuroo nearly choked on icing. That was not the way he expected Sawamura to start his lecture.

Sawamura sighed. “Suga had a talk with me about how he thinks I’m the reason you’re not confessing to Tsukishima. Is that true?”

“That is completely different from your first question.”

Sawamura moved his hands from his hips, instead crossing his arms, and Kuroo knew that was as serious as Sawamura got.

“I misunderstood your intentions when you first started training him,” Sawamura started. “I was wrong to think that you would use him for your own physical satisfaction.”

Kuroo leaned forward, interested. “Keep going…”

Sawamura’s eye twitched, but he listened and kept talking, “You’re friends in your own way and I can tell that you care for him. So if you did want to start a relationship, I wouldn’t hex you.”

“Sugawara hit you, didn’t he?”

“A few times.”

Kuroo chuckled. “Thanks, but I don’t think I’m going to tell him. I was serious about that. It wouldn’t be fair to either of us since I’m graduating this spring.”

“And you don’t know how it would affect your team dynamic,” Sawamura added, like that was obviously the most important thing.

Kuroo nodded. “That too. We have to win the Quidditch House Cup this year, after all.”

Sawamura uncrossed his arms and smiled. “That’s a good goal, but Gryffindor will win the cup.”

There was a knock at the door. Sugawara poked his head in. “Oh, don’t mind me. Just making sure no one is dead or hexed beyond recognition.”

Sawamura’s sigh was drowned out by Kuroo’s laughter.

 


 

Kuroo dressed warmly the day he was supposed to meet Tsukishima. He put on the nicest sweater he had packed, his old boots, and a warm hat with a giant poof ball Sawamura’s mother had knitted for him a few years ago.

“You look nice, Kuroo,” Sugawara said as they passed through the yellow door to the bakery in Diagon Alley. “I’m sure Tsukishima will think so too.”

Kuroo shoved his hands into the pockets of his coat. “It’s not a date, Sugawara. We talked about this.”

It was all Sugawara talked about, lately.

Sugawara smiled pleasantly as they walked into the main bakery, clearly not convinced.

Sugawara’s mother smiled when she saw Kuroo and clapped her hands together. “You look ‘ery ‘andsome, Kuroo! Do you ‘ave a date?”

“No, ma’am. I’m just meeting a friend.”

If Kuroo didn’t love the Sugawara’s as much as he did, he would hate them.

She waved her hand. “Go, go. ‘ave fun!”

Kuroo lingered in the front of the shop near the door so he did not have to stand out in the cold. When he saw a tall blond rounding the corner, he assumed it was Tsukishima and headed outside.

He was right in his assumption. Tsukishima was dressed heavily, with a thick wool coat, gloves, a hat, and a scarf that was tugged up over his nose. His cheeks were pink and Kuroo could hear his teeth clattering together.

“If you weren’t so skinny, you wouldn’t get so cold,” Kuroo said.

“Nice poof ball,” Tsukishima retorted, looking at Kuroo’s hat.

“I love this hat.” Kuroo reached up to touch it fondly. He glanced at Tsukishima’s scarf, noticing it was different from the Slytherin scarf he usually wore. “New scarf, huh? Was it a Christmas gift?”

Tsukishima adjusted his scarf. “From my brother.”

“I met him.”

“I know.”

“You’re great at small talk,” Kuroo said sarcastically. “We should probably get going, before you turn into a popsicle.”

Tsukishima glared at him. Kuroo smiled and began walking, Tsukishima falling into step next to him.

They went to the largest broomstick shop in Diagon Alley, and arrived just as the owner was opening. They recognized Tsukishima and ushered them inside, showing them the newest non-professional models.

The shop had three floors, but the second and third floors were a lofts with a railing, allowing customers to peer down. Brooms were hovering throughout the shop, though the most expensive models were kept inside glass cases. Some brooms were meant for travel, others were designed for children learning to fly, but most were made for Quidditch. The shelves were filled with tins of polish, Quidditch supplies, and numerous books on Quidditch and the history of flying. 

Kuroo geeked out over the twig arrangement on a broom called the sky hopper, and ran a hand jealously over the sleek handle of the nimbus models. Kuroo owned a study, non-professional beater broom called the thunderclap. If only he had broken his broom so he had an excuse to buy a new one…  

After some time—Kuroo gave input on every broom—Tsukishima decided on a three-year old nimbus. It was cheaper than the newer models and sturdier. The new models were meant for seekers, not beaters or chasers, Kuroo explained, so older models were better for players in their positions.

Tsukishima looked at the owner, asked, "Is he making that up to sound smart?" The owner laughed and confirmed Kuroo's assessment. 

While Tsukishima looked over which colors he wanted for the wood, Kuroo grabbed a pair of gloves and handed them to the owner, along with a handful of galleons and sickles.

“Wrap this with his broom, please.”

The owner nodded, smiling.

They arranged to have Tsukishima’s broom delivered to his house before the end of winter break. After paying, they spent another hour looking at gloves and goggles. Kuroo was very pleased to see Tsukishima liked the gloves Kuroo had bought him, and smiled at the thought of Tsukishima’s shocked expression when he opened his broom and saw the gloves sitting there.

When they left the shop, Tsukishima shivered. Kuroo was of age so he could easily cast a heating charm, but he doubted that Tsukishima would let him. The blond was stubborn beyond reason. Kuroo was surprised Tsukishima even let him tag along today.

Kuroo looked around and spotted a food vendor across the street. He jogged over and Tsukishima followed him.

“Two orders of chestnuts,” Kuroo said, holding up two fingers.

Tsukishima reached for his pouch of money, but Kuroo grabbed his wrist.

“My treat,” he said, handing the vendor two silver coins.

The vendor handed them each a bag of warm chestnuts. Kuroo sighed happily at the warmth seeping through his gloves to his skin, and he could tell that Tsukishima felt the same.

“Should you have paid for me?” Tsukishima asked as they walked away. He blew on a chestnut before popping it into his mouth. He hummed. “That’s good.”

“Each bag was only a sickle. I’m not that low on funds.”

Tsukishima frowned. Very seriously, he said, “Wouldn’t it make your boyfriend mad?”

Kuroo’s eyebrows went up. “Boyfriend?”

“The Veela from the bakery. Isn’t he your boyfriend?”

Kuroo laughed, tossing his head back with the force of it. He wiped tears from his eyes and then looked up at Tsukishima, who was scowling and eating his chestnuts with a sour expression.

“You didn’t have to laugh,” Tsukishima said, sounding like a child.

“It’s just funny. Where did that come from?”

“You called him pretty.” 

“I’ve called you pretty.”

“But you said you were joking,” Tsukishima pointed out.

Kuroo’s mouth moved before his brain could tell him how stupid he was, “Would you be happier if I was serious?”

Tsukishima stared at Kuroo, who looked ahead to make sure they didn’t run into anyone while they walked. Tsukishima didn’t say anything.

"I'm not dating him," Kuroo repeated. "But while you're being open and emotional—"

"I'm not."

"—can I ask you something?”

“You just did. Do I need to remind you of the definition of a question?"

Kuroo rolled his eyes. “Right. So I was wondering… You were in a fowl mood after you saw me with Daisho last term. Why?”

There was a moment of silence. Kuroo was about to change the topic, to say it didn’t really matter now, but Tsukishima began to talk.

“I’ll hex you if you tell anyone.” Kuroo said nothing, watching Tsukishima, who was staring very intensely at his bag of chestnuts. “I know there are students in same sex relationships, but I didn't know anyone… did those sort of things in public. I was surprised."

"So you stared at me?"

Tsukishima's fingers twitched around the bag of chestnuts, like he wanted to twiddle them together, the way he did when he was anxious, but couldn't. He glanced at Kuroo for less than a second, caught Kuroo's eyes, then looked back at his bag of chestnuts.

"I was going to ask you about coming out since you were so... open about things."

“Are you—?”

Tsukishima glared at him, which was as good as a verbal answer. 

Kuroo’s heart raced faster in his chest, and he felt like some second year whose crush just wrote them a note. What was he getting his hopes up for? It didn’t matter if Tsukishima was attracted to men.

It didn’t matter if Tsukishima could return his feelings. None of it mattered, because they were friends, and Tsukishima had just come out to him.

“I’m glad that you can trust me with this,” Kuroo said.

"Why? Because you're my captain and trust is important?" Tsukishima asked, short and cold, defensive.

"No, because you're my friend and I care about you. If you ever want to talk about it, I’ll listen. Does Yamaguchi know?”

“He's the only one who knows. He doesn’t understand, though.”

“Well, I do understand. So like I said, if you ever—“

“You don’t need to repeat yourself.”

Tsukishima chewed on his chestnuts, not saying anything for a while. Kuroo led them around aimlessly, not sure if Tsukishima wanted to talk more or not. They passed the pet shop with hooting owls, and the potions shop where Kuroo could spend hours looking at exotic ingredients. They were getting closer to Sugawara's bakery and Kuroo wondered what would happen when they reached the shop front. 

Kuroo could not say good-bye to Tsukishima when things were so tense. They would not see each other again until after break, and surely this tension would carry over to next term. The way things stood, they wouldn't be able to play Quidditch properly and who knows how this would affect their relationship off the Pitch. 

Kuroo had to say something.

Before it came to that, Tsukishima said, “There’s a tea shop I wanted to visit.”

“Can I come?”

“Why else would I mention it?”

Kuroo shrugged. “So you could blow me off and scoff at how stupid I am.”

Tsukishima looked down at him. He smirked and Kuroo was glad that Tsukishima's scarf was pushed down right now so he could see it. 

“If I was going to insult you, I would be more clever than that.”

Kuroo smiled. “Yeah, I would hope so.”

“And I wouldn’t have to try that hard to imply you're stupid, either—you do that yourself."

“There it is.”

Chapter Text

The first practice of the new term had Kuroo anxious. He wondered if his teammates had gotten rusty over break or worse, if he had gotten rusty. Then there was the issue of Tsukishima, who had not stepped a foot on the Pitch since his accident last term, let alone flown a broom. Kuroo kept his concerns silent and hidden. He was a captain and he had to be strong. 

As they left the locker room to the Pitch, Kuroo noticed Tsukishima was wearing the new gloves Kuroo had bought him. Tsukishima caught Kuroo staring and tugged at the new leather around his wrist.

“It was stupid of you to spend so much money on a gift,” Tsukishima said without being prompted. “What if I had gone back and bought them myself?"

“I figured you would have bought them when you got your broom."

“Are you expecting a Christmas gift now?"

Kuroo grinned. “Get me a graduation gift and we're even.”

Tsukishima nodded, oddly serious. Kuroo wondered if Tsukishima knew that he was joking.

Tsukishima and Kuroo were at the back of their team. At the overhang that led to the grassy Pitch, Tsukishima froze and did not follow his teammates. Tsukishima's chest expanded as he inhaled and his shoulders were farther back than normal, the muscles strung tight with anxiety.

The rest of their teammates were on the Pitch, getting the balls ready and mounting their brooms, while Tsukishima stood rooted like a tree.

Kuroo stopped and stood next to him.

“You don’t need to do this,” Kuroo said. He had expected something like this to happen.

“Shouldn’t you be telling me to play anyways, captain?”

Tsukishima was anxious and afraid, and he was using his sarcasm and arrogance as a defense. Kuroo realized this quickly, and did not get angry. He remained calm because Tsukishima was anything but. 

“As your captain, I should be. As your friend, I want to make sure you’re okay.” Kuroo did not look at him, knowing Tsukishima would only be embarrassed or even angry if he knew Kuroo was looking at him in a weak moment. “It’s your first time on the Pitch since your injury. It’s okay to be emotional.”

“I’m not emotional. I’m fine.”

Tsukishima began to move, walking at a normal pace to their teammates. Suzumeda clapped him on the back and talked about his new broom and gloves.

With a proud smile, Kuroo followed after him.

 


 

Kuroo and Tsukishima had been getting along surprisingly well. Before, Tsukishima insulted him and threatened to jinx him at practice. Now, Tsukishima still insulted him, but they would bicker back and forth, each trying to get in the last word. Despite their arguments, Kuroo didn't think they were vicious in their intent. 

Now there were times when Kuroo would find Tsukishima in the common room with a cup of tea, and Kuroo would sit next to him, studying for his exams until he had to leave for rounds. Once, they were in the common room and Tsukishima let Kuroo joking put his legs over his lap and neither of them had moved for quite some time. Kuroo stole strawberries off Tsukishima's plate as he passed by in the Great Hall and Tsukishima scowled. 

Kuroo brought it up to Kenma one day, when they were in the western corridor between classes watching the cold rain fall outside.

“Tsuki and I have been getting along,” Kuroo said.

Kenma didn’t look up from his game. “Are you finally going to tell him how you feel?”

“How do you know that? Only Bo and Sawamura know.”

“It was obvious after his injury. I thought you two had something going on before that, but you don’t talk about him enough to be dating him…”

Kuroo leaned against Kenma’s shoulder, watching him play his game. He ignored the fact that Kenma had off-handedly implied that Kuroo was annoying when he dated someone.

“So,” Kuroo said, “are you ready for our match this weekend?"

“I guess."

“Aren’t you the least bit excited?”

“Not really. I’m looking forward to playing Shouyou again; we face Hufflepuff after we face you."

Kuroo smiled, glad that Kenma was showing some emotion towards Quidditch. “Focus on my team first, or you’ll regret it.”

 


 

Kuroo was deeply focused on his Transfiguration notes when someone walked up to his secluded table in the library. Kuroo looked up, expecting Yamaguchi, who was late. Kuroo could forgive his lateness as long as he brought snacks because Kuroo was starving.

He did not expect to see Tsukishima standing in the Gryffindor’s place.

“Yamaguchi is sick and didn’t want you to think he was standing you up,” Tsukishima said, bored, like helping his friend was a bother. He glanced at what Kuroo was doing and lifted his eyebrows. Kuroo hoped that meant he was impressed and not thinking that Kuroo was a giant nerd.

“You make it sound like a date,” Kuroo said. He looked back at his notes, scribbling in the column.

Tsukishima hesitated. “Was it a date?”

Kuroo didn’t stop writing. He wanted to look up and tease Tsukishima, but he didn’t have time. NEWTs were right around the corner, and he needed to dedicate every free second he had to studying, even if it meant missing Tsukishima’s oddly attractive, confused expression.

“What, you think your friend would hide something like that?”

“Is there something to hide?” Tsukishima replied, quick like an accusation, like he had already made up his mind.

“You just avoided my question so I’m be avoiding yours.”

“You’re petty.”

“I’ve been told worse.”  

Tsukishima scowled. “Yamaguchi doesn’t talk about those things with me. He goes to Hinata or someone else. It’s not like I understand girls anyways.”

Kuroo looked up. He hadn’t expected an honest answer.

Tsukishima met his eyes. “Now answer my question.”

Kuroo dipped the tip of his quill into the ink well to give himself something to focus on instead of Tsukishima’s intense, curious gaze.

“It wasn’t a date. We just study together."

Tsukishima nodded, barely moving his head at all, and began to twiddle with his long fingers.

Kuroo put on the grin he used when he teased Tsukishima. “Don’t look too relieved, or I’ll get the wrong impression, Tsuki.”

“Like?” Tsukishima grumbled.

“That you like me.”

Tsukishima’s Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. He didn’t give Kuroo time to say he was joking, quickly asking, “Can I sit here without you being gross? I have work to do and I don't want Shrimpy and King finding me."

"Who?"

"Hinata and Kageyama. They're making me tutoring them for their OWLs, but they never go this far back in the library." Tsukishima looked annoyed. "It shouldn't matter if I sit with you if Yamaguchi was going to join you in the first place."

Kuroo exhaled, letting his ink dry and taking the brief moment of silence to still his heart. Every damn thing Tsukishima did, no matter how small—asking to sit with Kuroo, hitting a bludger right at practice with a technique Kuroo taught him, drinking tea in the common room—completely wrecked Kuroo.

His feelings were harder and harder to deal with. He thought winter break would diminish the emotion he felt, not make it worse. He over thought everything when came to Tsukishima, and it was driving him mad.

“I’m not going to stop you,” Kuroo said coolly. “Just be quiet and don’t work too hard—we have a match tomorrow.”

Tsukishima didn’t say anything. Kuroo glanced up, watching as Tsukishima carefully unloaded his books and quills onto the table and began to work with a diligent expression.

  


 

The Slytherin-Ravenclaw match was held at the end of the first week of February. Neither team had been given much time to practice after break so they were on equal grounds. The only difference was that one of Ravenclaw’s beaters was not playing their first match after a major injury.

As the Slytherin team walked onto the Pitch, Suzumeda looked up at Kuroo and asked, “Are we going to be okay today?”

Kuroo looked at Tsukishima’s back. His name and number were written in silver on his green robes. There was no hesitation in his step, and he held his new broom tightly. He had been doing fine at practice most of the time. But sometimes…

Sometimes Tsukishima flinched. Sometimes he hesitated in flying into a bludger’s path. Sometimes he missed because he was afraid to put his body at risk.

Kuroo had already decided how he was going to handle the situation.

“I can’t cover for him,” Kuroo said. “He may be on the team next year and he needs to push past it. You’ll have to trust him.”

“I don’t trust him,” Suzuemda said, “but I trust you and it’s your call.”

Kuroo nodded, appreciating her honesty, and stepped forward to shake the opposing captain’s hand.

Up in the sky, with the wind brushing Kuroo’s hair into his eyes, Kuroo did not have time to watch over Tsukishima and baby him. He had to do his job, and he had to trust that Tsukishima would play well.

If Tsukishima didn’t play well today…

Kuroo didn’t want to think about that.

Kuroo managed to keep Akaashi from scoring three times, and even intercepted a pass from Akaashi to another player by hitting the quaffle off path with a well aimed bludger.

Suzumeda and Kenma were circling the Pitch in opposite directions, looking for the snitch. Kenma pulled a good feint earlier. It was a good enough to trick Suzumeda. But even though it had been good, it was stopped by Kuroo, who hit a bludger into Kenma’s downward path and forced him to veer off course.

When the snitch finally was spotted, Kenma had a hard start on Suzumeda, who had to cut across the Pitch to get where she needed to be. She looped around Akaashi and the other chasers, never hesitating, never stopping.

Kuroo didn’t have a bludger near him. He couldn’t help, couldn’t do anything—

Then he saw it, Tsukishima flying from the goals to intercept a rogue bludger, hitting it without hesitating, using his full strength. The bludger flew straight towards Kenma without jerking off course, and Kenma had to move to the side so he wasn’t hit.

Those few seconds was all Suzumeda needed to swoop in and grab at snitch.

Suzumeda gave Kuroo a stunned expression, but he shook his head and pointed his bat to Tsukishima, who was being surrounded by their cheering teammates.

They had won.

They had won because of Tsukishima.

They landed after several moment. Before Kuroo shook the opposing captain’s hand, or joined his team in celebration, he approached Kenma and stuck out his hand. 

“Good game," Kuroo said. 

Kenma took his hand and shook it weakly. “Hmm. Tsukishima is getting better. We had plays that relied on him being out of commission.”

“Why aren’t you in Slytherin again?”

Kenma shrugged, eyes on the ground.

Kuroo put a firm hand on Kenma’s shoulder and then turned to join his team. Hinata likely had plans to cheer up Kenma so there was nothing to worry about.

Kuroo approached his team, standing next to Tsukishima, who was actually smiling, though it was proud and fairly arrogant (Kuroo had not bee expecting anything less). Suzumeda was the happiest of all, clapping Tsukishima on the back and even handing him the snitch.

Kuroo put an arm around Tsukishima’s shoulders. Even though Tsukishima was taller, their height difference did not make the position uncomfortable. If anything, Tsukishima seemed to slouch down to make it easier on Kuroo’s shoulder.

“Good job,” Kuroo said, grinning.

When everything calmed down and the team began to head towards the locker rooms, Kuroo still had his arm around Tsukishima’s shoulders. He leaned into Tsukishima, who continued to walk, undaunted by Kuroo’s heavy weight against his side.

 


 

Kuroo danced and drank in the common room that night, celebrating their first real victory of the year. The last time they won, Tsukishima had been in the hospital wing, and Kuroo did not want to think about that right now. So he pulled out his best fire whiskey, mixed it with some of that cherry liquor Suzumeda drank, and got to work on ignoring his thoughts. 

After one drink, Kuroo and Suzumeda were dancing to the loud music. The bass was heavy and vibrating. He was high on victory, and the alcohol warmed him from his core.

After two drinks, Kuroo found Tsukishima and the rest of his teammates. He sat with them on the couch, tossing his legs over Tsukishima’s lap, and bathed in the limelight their housemates were giving them.

After three drinks, Kuroo and Suzumeda were dancing again. They danced too sexually for a gay man and a lesbian woman. Kuroo’s body was warm, and his blood was thrumming with the music, and he liked the feeling of a warm body near him, especially when it belonged to someone he trusted. 

After four drinks, Kuroo spotted Daisho with his friends in the corner. Daisho waved and Kuroo ignored him, slithering over to Tsukishima, who was by himself. Kuroo sat next to him, dropped his head onto Tsukishima’s shoulder and nuzzled into his neck. He breathed in Tsukishima’s strawberry body wash. Tsukishima asked Kuroo to move, and he did, though he didn’t want to.

After five drinks, Kuroo was drunk. Suzumeda had turned in for the night, saying she had had enough, and Kuroo wondered if he could find someone else to dance with him. He wanted to be near someone. Not in a sexual way, though he wouldn’t mind that. No, he just wanted someone close to him, someone warm and real. He had always been a clingy drunk.

Tsukishima found him sprawled out on the sofa and grabbed his wrist. He tugged Kuroo to his feet with some difficulty. Kuroo was shorter than him, but heavier and thicker.

“You’re going to bed,” Tsukishima said.

“Oh,” Kuroo replied, grinning, “taking me to bed, Tsuki? You should take me out to dinner first.”

“You’re drunk.”

“Yes, I am. Never mix liquor, Tsuki."

Tsukishima rolled his eyes as he led Kuroo down the hallway to the boys’ rooms. Kuroo pointed Tsukishima to his room and pulled out his wand to cast the spell. Kuroo silently unlocked his door on the first try, the click audible. 

“So when you’re drunk, you’re able to cast spells, but you make horrible choices about hooking up with your exes. Good to know.”

Kuroo laughed and stumbled over to his bed. He crashed face first, tugging himself up towards his pillows. Tsukishima stood at his bedside.

“When will your roommates get back?” Tsukishima asked.

“I dunno.”

On a whim, Kuroo reached out and grabbed onto Tsukishima’s wrist, rubbing his thumb over his protruding bone and feeling his skin under his palm. Despite the extra practice Kuroo put him through, Tsukishima's wrist was still startlingly skinny for a beater. 

“Stay with me,” Kuroo said, shifting on his sheets to make room for another person. He tugged gently on Tsukishima’s arm.

The alcohol flooded his mind and judgment, and Kuroo didn’t know what he was requesting. All he knew was that he wanted someone warm against him, someone tall like Tsukishima to press up against him from behind and hold him while he slept.

Tsukishima reached down, pried Kuroo’s fingers off his wrist, and pulled his arm back to his side.

“Why not?” Kuroo asked.

“You’re drunk.”

Kuroo looked up at Tsukishima, the room spinning a little. “If I were sober, would you stay with me?”

“Go to sleep.” Tsukishima grabbed the throw blanket from the end of Kuroo’s bed and tossed it over him, stretching it out to make sure Kuroo was covered. “I’ll check on you to make sure you haven’t died.”

Kuroo smiled and laughed, snuggling into his pillows and tugging the blanket up to his chin.

“You’re so good to me, Tsuki.”

Kuroo closed his eyes. He heard the door click shut and his entire body seemed heavy with exhaustion. He fell asleep instantly.

 


 

Kuroo sat down next to Tsukishima the next morning at breakfast, groaning and rubbing at his heavy eyes.

“How much do you remember?” Tsukishima asked.

Everything.” Tsukishima sipped his morning tea. Kuroo reached for the eggs and sausage links, saying, “Thanks for making sure I didn’t die. Also, sorry for coming on to you. I get cuddly when I’m drunk.”

“It’s fine,” Tsukishima grumbled.

“Huh?”

Tsukishima adjusted his glasses. “You should eat something. I heard that helps.”  

As Kuroo poured himself a glass of orange juice, Tsukishima handed him the potatoes.

Kuroo practically moaned in appreciation: “I would be dead without you, I swear.”

“Probably.”

Tsukishima’s smile was hidden by the edge of his teacup.

 


 

The winter snow began to melt in early February. Dreary, cold mist made walking to the greenhouses for Herbology miserable. One day, on his way back to the castle, he saw Tsukishima walking down the hill with Hinata and Kageyama towards Care of Magical Creatures. Kageyama slipped in the mud, falling hard, and Tsukishima’s laugh echoed up the hill.

Kuroo saw Tsukishima that night on the Pitch, along with Bokuto and Akaashi. Tsukishima complained about the cold, but not about the drills Kuroo had him do. Tsukishima was improving by leaps and bounds, but he was far from where he needed to be if they wanted to win the Quidditch House Cup.

Their feet stomped through mud and slush as they made their way back to the castle. Akaashi and Kuroo had charmed their shoes to keep them dry and clean, and Akaashi had even charmed Tsukishima’s, but Bokuto seemed determined to track mud into the castle no matter what.

“You’ll lose points if the caretaker spots you,” Kuroo said.

Bokuto grabbed his hair. “Oh, shoot, I forgot about him! Akaashi, help me!”

Akaashi pulled out his wand, quickly casting the spell, and Bokuto thanked him profusely.

“How did you make it to NEWT-level Charms?” Tsukishima mocked.

Bokuto pointed his finger at Tsukishima as he said, very over dramatically, “I’ll have you know that I have been very preoccupied lately. I have a lot on my mind!”

“Apparently not charms,” Kuroo quipped. Tsukishima snickered into his hand, and Kuroo smiled.

“You’re ruthless!” Bokuto shouted. “But I really have been thinking. It’s my first Valentine’s Day with a girlfriend, and I don’t know what to do.”

“Take her to Madam Puddifoot’s,” Kuroo said easily with a shrug. “Girls love that place.”

“I do like their cake,” Bokuto said thoughtfully. 

“They have good cake,” Tsukishima agreed.

Akaashi looked up at Tsukishima, curious. “Have you taken someone there, Tsukishima?”

“I don’t need to take someone there to eat cake there,” Tsukishima said very matter of factly.

Kuroo laughed and Akaashi smiled, no doubt imaging Tsukishima walking into the shop like Kuroo was. Kuroo would bet good galleons that Tsukishima dragged Yamaguchi there on occasion, and that only made him laugh harder.

“Do you have plans for Valentine’s Day, Tsukishima?” Bokuto asked, getting very close to Tsukishima, who took a step closer to Kuroo.

Kuroo wondered how moving away from one person to another person helped Tsukishima’s anxiety, but he didn’t fight it. Tsukishima had taken a shower after their practice, though the scent of grass and mud lingered all around them and muddled the sweet scent of his body wash.

“I was planning to read a book in the common room,” Tsukishima said.

Kuroo and Tsukishima’s hands brushed as they continued to walk. Tsukishima’s knuckles were surprisingly dry on the back of Kuroo’s hands. 

“Maybe you and Kuroo can go on a date, then,” Bokuto joked. “Kuroo’s desperate. It’s sad, really. He’s been single since Daisho.”

Kuroo nearly hexed him for implying that. Bokuto knew how Kuroo felt. But Bokuto was not cruel—it was well intentioned, an honest joke, one he knew Kuroo could take.

Instead of hexing Bokuto like he should have, Kuroo rolled with the joke and tossed an arm around Tsukishima’s shoulders. Tsukishima’s neck was warm and damp against Kuroo’s upper arm. The taller boy radiated heat, and did not immediately fight the closeness.

“Been too busy with this guy,” Kuroo said lightly, with a playful grin. “I rebounded hard. Isn’t that right, Tsuki?”

“What?” Tsukishima sounded confused.

“So he’s your rebound?” Bokuto asked in jest.

Without thinking, because Kuroo never did think when he joked around with Bokuto, Kuroo said, “Yeah, we’re just fooling around. We’re keeping it casual, nothing serious yet.”

Bokuto laughed at the joke, but Tsukishima did not.

“As if I would date Tsuki,” Kuroo finished, sealing his own coffin.

Kuroo felt it before it happened. Tsukishima’s skinny shoulders tensed beneath his arm, and he straightened up, putting more strain on Kuroo’s shoulder, making it harder to keep his arm around Tsukishima.

It was the way Tsukishima acted around Bokuto, around people that made him uncomfortable, not the way he had been acting Kuroo lately.

Tsukishima shrugged Kuroo’s arm off his shoulder and slowed his pace, until he was no longer next to Kuroo. The rest of them stopped, turning to look back at Tsukishima, who had his hands balled into fists as he stared at the ground.

Kuroo could not see his face, could not read his emotion. He swallowed thickly. “Tsuki, what—“

“Don’t call me that,” Tsukishima said. “Stop joking with me. Stop pretending to be my friend, or whatever you’re pretending to be.”

Bokuto stared at Kuroo, who was too shocked to speak.

Tsukishima walked away before Kuroo could say anything.

When Akaashi began to follow after Tsukishima, Bokuto said, “Hey, Akaashi, you’re not going to follow him, are you? It kinda seems like he wants to be alone.”

“It’s dark and the grounds are covered in mud,” Akaashi said seriously. “It’s not safe for him to walk around by himself when he’s upset. I’m sure he doesn’t want to see Kuroo any time soon and Bokuto, anything you say will only make matters worse.”

Bokuto’s shoulders dropped, dejected. Kuroo felt like his gut had been punched, once from Tsukishima, and again from Akaashi’s harsh, true words.

Akaashi pulled out his wand, lit it, and followed after Tsukishima, who was too far away to see.

“Mate,” Bokuto said, “I think you messed up.”

Kuroo clenched his jaw. Messed up was the understatement of the century.

Chapter Text

Kuroo didn’t sleep that night. The next day, he looked for Tsukishima at breakfast, but did not see him. He waited for Tsukishima after fifth years got out of Care of Magical Creatures, but he must have taken a different path back to the castle because Kuroo didn’t cross his path.

Kuroo was on his way to Ancient Runes when Sawamura came up from behind him, saying, “Yamaguchi said—“

Kuroo picked up his pace but Sawamura stuck to him, eventually grabbing onto Kuroo’s bag and dragging him to a halt. Kuroo debated ditching his bag and going to class without it. Someone would lend him parchment and a quill.

Kuroo turned to face Sawamura, furious at Sawamura for stopping him from going to class and at himself because he knew what Sawamura was about to say.

Kuroo’s eyes felt heavy, his spit felt thick in his throat, and his palms were hot. He didn’t want to hear that he had messed up again, that he upset the person he cares about so much.

Sawamura didn’t pity him enough to be silent.

“He said Tsukishima is really upset this time,” Sawamura said with a serious expression, his voice low so no one else heard. “Bokuto said you called Tsukishima a rebound, and that you would never date him.”

Kuroo rubbed the back of his neck. “It was a joke. I like him—obviously it was a joke.”

“But Tsukishima doesn’t know that, and you did tell me you didn't want to date him."

Kuroo dropped his arm to his side. “I would date him if the circumstances were different."

"Are you using the circumstances as an excuse?"

"Merlin, you make me sound so pathetic when you say it like that."

"Have you even considered how Tsukishima may feel?"

"Do you—“

Kuroo’s words stuck in his throat. There were only a few explanations for Tsukishima's peculiar behavior, and maybe Kuroo was getting overly excited about one possibility in particular, but how could he not be when the other was so horrible?

Because as he saw it, there were only two plausible explanations. Either Tsukishima knew Kuroo liked him and was freaked out, which was the worst thought on Kuroo’s mind, or…

Or Tsukishima had feelings for him.

Shit,” Kuroo cursed, heart pounding. “Do you think he—?”

He couldn’t finish the question. It sounded stupid, saying it out loud, made him look too eager and childish. Slytherins were smart, cunning, and did not jump to conclusions like this.

“You need to handle it, one way or the other,” Sawamura said.

Kuroo saw one of his classmates run past. He was late to class. Sawamura nodded at Kuroo, who turned and headed to class.

 


 

Kenma found Kuroo lying on the floor in a stream of sunlight in the prefect’s lounge. He sat down next to Kuroo’s hip, tapping away at his video game, and didn’t say anything. Kuroo shifted, curling around Kenma’s legs, resting his head on Kenma’s bony thighs.

“You need to gain weight,” Kuroo said. “I don’t care if seeker’s need to be small. You’re too skinny.”

Kenma frowned. “Don’t use my legs as a pillow if you’re just going to complain.”

“Sorry,” Kuroo said quickly. He sighed. “I’m an ass.”

“So I’ve heard.”

“Hinata?”

“Yes.”

“So he’s talked to Tsukishima?” Kuroo asked.

Kenma shrugged. “He was just telling me that Tsukishima is kind of mopey—his word, not mine.”

Kuroo closed his eyes. “Tsukishima either thinks that I am sexually harassing him, or he likes me and thinks I’m an ass.”

“Have you talked to him?”

“He’s avoiding me.”

“Try talking to Shouyou, or Kageyama. Actually, isn’t he always near a Gryffindor?”

That was the issue, Kuroo thought. Tsukishima and Yamaguchi were usually together. He hadn’t only failed in finding Tsukishima, he had failed in finding Yamaguchi. He even asked Sawamura, who said Yamaguchi wasn’t spending much time in the common room since the incident. At least Tsukishima wasn’t alone. The thought should have made Kuroo feel better, but it didn’t.

“I’ll try to find Hinata and Kageyama,” Kuroo said.

“Can I go, then? I need my charger.”

Kuroo sat up. “Yeah. Thanks.”

“Hmm.”

 


 

The next day, after unsuccessfully trying to track down Tsukishima, Kuroo lingered around the Hufflepuff team’s practice. He made sure not to watch because cunning and slyness did not equate to cheating, no matter what the other houses thought. 

When the team was done, Kuroo waited near the exit to the Pitch for Kageyama and Hinata. Kuroo heard Hinata’s voice before he saw the duo. They were walking side by side; Hinata talked animatedly while Kageyama nodded. When they saw Kuroo, they stopped, staring.

“You!” Hinata said, pointing at Kuroo. “What did you do to Tsukishima?”

“I’ll ask him if I can find him,” Kuroo replied. He slid his hands into his pockets and met Kageyama’s eyes. He had the feeling he’d have more luck with Kageyama than Hinata. "But I'm having issues with that." 

“Have you tried waiting outside his classes?” Kageyama asked.

“I’ve tried everything short of using a summoning charm and sleeping in the hall outside his room.”

“Then ask Yamaguchi,” Kageyama said with a shrug. He began to walk away, Hinata following.

Hinata stopped after a few feet, though, and looked back at Kuroo over his shoulder.

“If you hurt him,” Hinata said, surprisingly serious, with intimidating eyes, “you’ll regret it.”

Kuroo felt a shiver go up his spin. He forced a smirk to hide his innate fear. “Got it.”

Hinata nodded and then walked up the hill, telling Kageyama how he hoped there was ice-cream at dinner.

 


 

After rounds, Kuroo left his patrol partner and headed to the prefect’s bath, which was blissfully empty. He stripped, not caring that the mermaid was awake. She brushed her hair with a spiky shell and watched him pad around the tiled room, completely naked, bending over to turn knobs and pull levers.

Kuroo dipped into the bath when it was half full. He dunked his head under the water then resurfaced.

“Something bothering you?” the mermaid asked. "You usually say hello..."

Kuroo pushed his hair out of his face and swam to the edge, his arms crossed on the cold marble lip of the bath. He looked up at the stained glass mermaid.

“Have you seen that boy?”

“I see quite a few boys. Some I see more than others.” She giggled. “Do you mean the blond one?”

“You have a good memory.”

“He came back without you and spoke of you quite often, though only when he thought I was not in my portrait. Well, it was not so much speaking as… moaning?”

Kuroo turned red. He sunk a little deeper into the water and the mermaid giggled again. Just the thought of Tsukishima touching himself was enough to get his blood moving and heart racing. The idea of Tsukishima touching himself to the thought of Kuroo had him going crazy.

He restrained his pounding heart, telling himself not to assume. 

“You don’t usually tell people these things, do you?” Kuroo asked.

“I was fibbing. I thought it was obvious! Unless…” The mermaid covered her mouth, blushing. “Do you think he likes you? Do you like him? You don’t have to lie to me. I don’t gossip like the other portraits.”

Kuroo’s heart plummeted. He was glad the mermaid had not seen Tsukishima in his private moments, but he was devastated. He was back to square one, with no idea how Tsukishima felt about him. It was still possible that Tsukishima had no feelings for Kuroo whatsoever.

Kuroo ran a hand through his wet hair. “I like him a lot, but I think I messed things up. I’m trying to find him so I can talk to him, but he’s avoiding me. Have you seen him?”

“Not this term, no. The password changed and he is not a prefect, is he?” Kuroo shook his head. The mermaid waggled her finger. “Naughty boy, giving out the password to my bath without my permission.”

“I won’t do it again.”

“I’ll forgive you if you walk around my bath like you were earlier.” She smiled, flirty, and leaned forward like she was peeking. “I’m only joking, of course.”

“Of course.”

“Honestly!”

Kuroo laughed. He kicked off from the wall of the bath, spinning onto his back, and floated in the warm water. There were no bubbles to cover his body, but he did not care. He closed his eyes, breathed in the heavy, sharp scent of lemons, and tried to think of something other than Tsukishima.

 


 

Tsukishima and Yamaguchi managed to avoid Kuroo for nearly a full week.

Kuroo was beginning to wonder how this would affect the team. Would Tsukishima stop showing up to practice because Kuroo was a jerk? Would Kuroo graduate and never see Tsukishima again all because he couldn’t keep his mouth shut for five seconds?

Kuroo groaned in despair as he left the Great Hall after dinner. When he reached the stairs to the dungeon, he saw Yamaguchi coming up the steps.

“Kuroo,” Yamaguchi said in surprise.

“Hey, do you—“

“We just left the kitchens.”

That would explain why Kuroo hasn’t seen him in the Great Hall. Relief washed over him because at least Tsukishima was eating and not wasting away. That boy was skinny enough already.

“He should be in the dungeons now,” Yamaguchi went on, very calmly. “If you hurry—“

“On it,” Kuroo said, jumping down the steps two at a time, flying past Yamaguchi.

Kuroo was half way to the common room when he spotted Tsukishima. Kuroo ran faster, sprinting, not caring how stupid he looked.

Six days—six days since he last saw Tsukishima. Kuroo couldn’t run faster if he tried.

Kuroo grabbed Tsukishima’s shoulder and spun him around. Tsukishima nearly fell over, grabbing blindly at Kuroo to keep his balance, his long fingers wrapping around Kuroo’s forearms. When Tsukishima realized who had spun him around and who he was clinging to, he released his grip on Kuroo’s arms.

“We need to talk,” Kuroo said, panting.

“I don’t need you to tell me that I misunderstood and made a fool of myself.”

Kuroo felt his chest tighten. Tsukishima hadn’t misunderstood. Kuroo had just been a coward—he had been too afraid to say it, using excuses to cover up his own fear of rejection. There was a reason he was in Slytherin, not Gryffindor.

Kuroo was done with excuses. He was done pretending. He was done lying to himself and to Tsukishima.

“You didn’t misunderstand,” Kuroo said.

The time it took for Tsukishima to respond was merely a second, but it felt like an eternity inside of Kuroo’s head.

“I understand that you were joking just fine,” Tsukishima replied. 

“I’m not joking."

Kuroo stepped forward. Tsukishima stepped back.

Kuroo's heart thudded dully in his chest. The words were thick like honey and hard to speak, but he got them out, eyes locked with Tsukishima’s as he slowly said, “Tsukishima, I like you.”

Kuroo could hear Tsukishima inhale. His pale hands balled into fists and his cheeks went red.

“I’m sick of this,” Tsukishima muttered. “Your sense of humor is horrible.”

Kuroo heard footsteps coming from down the hall. If someone else showed up, Tsukishima would run away again. Kuroo had to get them alone so he could explain.

Kuroo grabbed Tsukishima's wrist and began dragging him down a dimly lit, unused hallway that branched from the main corridor. Tsukishima stumbled after him, not even trying to dig his heels into the ground or yank on his arm to free himself.

When they were a good ways away from the main dungeon corridor, Kuroo pushed Tsukishima up against the cold cobblestone wall, trapping him with a hand on either side of his head. Tsukishima’s knees were bent and for the first time, Kuroo was at eye-level with him. Tsukishima’s shoulders were tense in defense and his jaw was so tight Kuroo could see the tendons in his neck.

"Do you honestly think I'm just pretending to like you?"

“It’s the only explanation that makes sense.”

“Why would I do that? It would hurt the team; it would hurt you." Kuroo watched as the gears turned in Tsukishima’s head. “Is it that hard for you to believe that I would like you?”

Tsukishima remained stubbornly silent.

“Why is it so hard to believe?” Kuroo asked.

“Because you’re—“ Tsukishima wet his lips. “You’re always joking! Why would you be serious about this of all things? Why would you be serious about me?"

Kuroo wanted to find whoever made Tsukishima think like this and hex them to oblivion. Who the hell made Tsukishima Kei feel so inferior? Kuroo felt his expression show on his face, his eyes going dark and jaw tense, his nostrils flaring out in anger. 

“Your face—“ Tsukishima said. His eyes were wide and his voice lacked it’s usual snark and false confidence. He looked scared.

Did he think Kuroo was going to hurt him? Kuroo would never dream of it. He dreamed of pining Tsukishima to a wall under different circumstances, of worshiping his lips and body until his skin was flushed rose, of treating him like a goddamn king.

Kuroo would mark Tsukishima’s pale skin until no one else dared to look at him. He would tie him down until he was lost in thoughts of Kuroo. He would whisper words of love until Tsukishima finally believed them because goddamn it, Kuroo would mean it.

Tsukishima thought Kuroo would hurt him? Oh, what Kuroo planned to do was far, far worse. Kuroo would dig his fangs in and never let go.

Kuroo's voice was rough when he said, “Don’t you know, Tsuki? This is what a snake looks like with its fangs bared.”

“The snake metaphor is cliché.”  

Kuroo narrowed his eyes. “You still think I’m joking around, don’t you? I like you. I've liked you for a long, long time, but I've been a coward and never told you."

"I don't believe you."

"I wish you would."

Kuroo moved his hands. In a single, slow motion, he put one hand on the back of Tsukishima's neck, cradling his head and pulling him down, and slid the other hand up into his unruly blond hair. He wanted to give Tsukishima the time to run, to move, to knock Kuroo back, but he didn't move, letting Kuroo touch him. 

"I won't do anything you don't want," Kuroo said quietly. "Tell me to stop and I'll stop. I'll drop it. I'll never mention it again. But I would really like to show you how I feel about you because words aren't enough."

Kuroo slowly moved in. Tsukishima didn't try to move away, but he did not react either. Kuroo eyes met Tsukishima's gaze, then closed his eyes, and sealed their lips in a firm kiss. 

Tsukishima closed his eyes and grunted, but he didn't push away. After several moments, Tsukishima's long fingers found their home on Kuroo’s waist, tugging at and gathering Kuroo's robes until he had bunches of black fabric in his hands. Then Tsukishima's lips went soft and pliant, but Kuroo only felt the change for a moment before Tsukishima opened his mouth and Kuroo felt the hesitant slide of Tsukishima's lips. Tsukishima was responding; Tsukishima wanted this just as much as Kuroo.

Kuroo moaned, pushing forward for more, the force of his movement straightening Tsukishima’s bent legs. Tsukishima groaned but did not resist, letting himself be pushed up the wall just so Kuroo could press his body flush against his. Tsukishima bent his head down, his spine curving so he never broke the kiss, putting more and more of his weight against Kuroo.

Kuroo’s thick thigh pressed between Tsukishima’s legs and shifted up, putting enough pressure against Tsukishima's groin to make Tsukishima gasp and his entire body flush with a wave of heat. Kuroo maneuvered Tsukishima’s head to the right angle and deepened the kiss, pressing his tongue into Tsukishima’s mouth. Kuroo felt his robes tugging and shifting against his skin as Tsukishima grasped and clawed at his sides.

After weeks with his hand down his robes imaging what Tsukishima would feel like pressed up against him, Kuroo finally had the real thing, and it was so much better than anything he ever imagined.

Tsukishima’s glasses were askew as he breathed sharply through his nose, trying to catch his breath. His hips sputtered against Kuroo’s insistent leg, slowly gaining a steady rhythm. His low moans were muffled against Kuroo's mouth. Kuroo could feel Tsukishima against his thigh, hot and hard, a sharp contrast to the softness of Tsukishima's lips and the gentle press of his tongue. 

Minutes passed before either of them spoke. It felt like hours to Kuroo, days even. Merlin, why hadn't he done this sooner? 

"Kuroo," Tsukishima gasped.

Kuroo opened his eyes and saw Tsukishima's face, his eyes closed, brows knitted closely together, his cheeks a rosy red. Tsukishima tugged at the thick sides of Kuroo's torso, trying to drag him closer, to feel more of his body, but there was no space left between them to remove. Then Tsukishima's hips rolled down hard against Kuroo's leg and Kuroo would never forget the expression on Tsukishima's face.

A spike of possessiveness pierced Kuroo’s gut as he wondered if he was the first person to kiss Tsukishima like this, to see him this way, to get him so riled up that all that remained of his carefully placed walls were scattered pieces. Merlin, he hoped he was the first. No one else deserved to hear Tsukishima’s small sounds, or feel the cautious yet eager press of his inexperienced tongue, or see that look on his face. 

“Kuroo," Tsukishima repeated, just as breathless. 

Kuroo closed his eyes and mouthed at Tsukishima’s jaw, giving him the chance to talk, to catch his breath, but Tsukishima merely panted, his mouth hanging open. His breath burned hot and wet against Kuroo’s temple. Kuroo wanted so badly to slide his mouth down and mark up Tsukishima’s neck, but he held strong and limited himself to moving up his jaw towards his ear.

“Hmm?” Kuroo prompted. Tsukishima's head tilted, his slick lips dragging across the skin of Kuroo's forehead. "What is it? Cat got your tongue?"

Tsukishima's hands moved. He shoved at his chest and Kuroo backed off, moving just enough to be face to face with him. He stared at Tsukishima’s blown out eyes, his flushed cheeks, and his jaw that glistened with Kuroo’s spit. Kuroo swallowed hard at the sight.

Then reality hit him. He just snogged Tsukishima. He did the one thing he swore he would never do.

Shit,” Kuroo cursed softly, but he did not move away, his body still intimately close with Tsukishima's. “I didn’t mean to do that.”

Tsukishima frowned. His eyes looked hurt and Kuroo knew where his thoughts were going.

Kuroo moved his hand out of Tsukishima’s hair down to his jaw, cradling his face, his rough thumb rubbing over Tsukishima’s bottom lip.

“If you didn’t mean to,” Tsukishima said, breath short and lips dragging along Kuroo’s thumb, “why did you?”

“Because I like you and words weren't working so well at the moment.”

“You’re shameless.”

“Is that a bad thing?”

“Horrible, in fact.”

Kuroo stepped back and ran a hand through his hair. If he didn’t put distance between them, he would press Tsukishima back against that wall. If he didn’t keep his hands busy, they would find their way back to Tsukishima.

There was no taking back that kiss, those touches, this feeling of heat and wholeness. Kuroo had spent months avoiding this situation. He hardly thought about what he would do if he ended up here, hard and panting and wanting more.

“Not now,” Kuroo said. “That’s what I meant. I didn’t mean to do that now. I need you to understand that I didn't find you just to touch you. I don't want you just for your body. I like you, Tsukishima."

Tsukishima adjusted his robes, and Kuroo was glad to see he had to adjust his pants a fair bit to hide the work of Kuroo’s insistent thigh. Was that what made Tsukishima stop? Had it been too much? Kuroo's heart thudded at the implication.

“So,” Kuroo said, licking his lips. “Now what?”

“I thought you were supposed to be smart.”

Kuroo grinned. “Keep talking like that and I’ll push you back up against that wall.”

Tsukishima tilted his head and pushed up his glasses. His posture screamed cocky and arrogant, and made it hard for Kuroo to think about anything.

“I’d like to see you try.”

 


 

“Yamaguchi said that Tsukishima is acting weird again,” Sawamura said.

“You’ll have to be more specific,” Kuroo said, and Sawamura sighed heavily.

Sawamura, Bokuto, and Kuroo were sitting in the prefect’s lounge doing their Transfiguration assignment. Sugawara had sent them care packages to cope with their upcoming exams, which was very much appreciated by the three seventh years. The tins of sweets sat half-eaten between them, the crumbs mixing with their notes and quills.  

“Yamaguchi just said weird,” Sawamura said. “He said it started last week. I have a feeling that you’re to blame.”

“Why am I always to blame?” Kuroo asked.

“It started the day after you said you talked to him and worked things out.”

“Besides, when it comes to Tsuki, you usually are to blame,” Bokuto said. Kuroo gave Bokuto a hurt expression that was only partially fake.

“What did you do this time?” Sawamura asked, stern.

Kuroo ran a hand through his hair and contemplated everything he had done with Tsukishima in the last week.

They had spent hours together on the Quidditch Pitch during practice, with Kuroo laughing and Tsukishima scowling. They were determined to defeat Gryffindor in their upcoming rematch. After practice, Kuroo and Tsukishima kissed behind the broom shed when their team wasn’t looking, their palms slick with sweat and the scent of grass on their skin.

Some nights they practiced with Bokuto and Akaashi until they walked back to the Slytherin dorm together, shoulders bumping and fingers flirting together but never quite lacing at their sides. Those nights were innocent as they said good-bye with a squeeze of their hands instead of their lips.

One night they spent in Kuroo’s bed, curled up and kissing for hours. Tsukishima’s long fingers fit perfectly at the curve of Kuroo’s skull—just like Kuroo imagined—and his sickeningly sweet strawberry tea did not taste so bad on his tongue. Tsukishima left before Kuroo’s roommates could return, and Kuroo had hated to see him go.

Tonight, Kuroo and Tsukishima were going to walk around the lake. Spring was finally coming, and with the warm weather, Kuroo was aching to be outside. He planned to bring a blanket and some food from the kitchens, and spend the early hours of the night with Tsukishima underneath a large willow tree. 

Kuroo expression must have given away his thoughts because Sawamura and Bokuto’s eyes widen comedically in unison.

“Did you—“ Sawamura started, but Bokuto jumped to his feet and cut him off, “Did it happen? Did it happen? Tell me it happened!”

“Some events may have transpired this past week,” Kuroo replied vaguely, with a wicked grin. “And for the record, Sawamura, he is cute when I bully him.”