Chapter 1: there's this tune i've found
Yuuri’s letter arrives while he’s at the Ice Castle for practice, working on his double flip. He doesn’t see the missed calls and texts from his okaa-san until he’s leaving the rink, thumbing at his phone to open the messages.
The owl’s in your bedroom!, it reads. It won’t let me take the letter, so please hurry home!
He sprints the distance back to Yu-topia as fast as his eleven-year-old legs can carry him.
When he bursts through the doors of the bathhouse, chest heaving with exertion, his otou-san sends him a thumbs-up and waves him to his room. “Don’t want to keep the school owl waiting!” he cautions, going back to stirring the katsudon curry.
Nodding, still trying to catch his breath, Yuuri runs the remaining distance to his bedroom, hurtling in to find a disgruntled brown-speckled owl perched on his desk.
“Sorry, sorry,” he apologises, gasping.
Wincing at the owl’s evil eye, he gingerly pries the letter from its talons, the cardstock heavy and fine. He sets the letter down on the desk, fishing around in a drawer for an owl treat. Holding it up to the owl, it shoots him a haughty look, snatches it from his hand, and takes flight out of the window.
Yuuri picks the letter up with nervous, eager hands, taking painstaking care when opening the envelope. It’s not a surprise to receive this letter, but he’s been waiting all summer for it, and when he unfolds the cream sheet of paper, he lets out a loud whoop.
Mari rushes in, banging the door open. He’d ordinarily be annoyed that she didn’t knock, but he grins and points at the letter in his hand, and Mari whoops too and swoops to pick him up and swing him around.
“Ma-ri,” he whines, because they’re not kids anymore - he’s eleven.
“Alright, alright,” she acquiesces, and makes grabby hands at the letter he’s holding. “Let’s see it, then.”
He hands it over to her, careful in the handling.
Yuuri’s shivering in excitement, young mind flying to thoughts of where he’s stowed his broom, should he take his robes out to wash again, he’s got to find Vicchan to tell him the news, and is now too early to start packing?
Dear Katsuki Yuuri-san,
We are pleased to invite you to board at the Mahoutokoro School of Magical Learning for your Fifth Year with us.
Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.
Term begins on 1 September. The storm petrels will depart from Tokyo Narita Airport, Terminal 3.14, at precisely 10am. Designated apparation zones are marked out on the map below.
We await your response by owl to be received no later than 25 July, and look forward to welcoming you back for another productive and magical year of learning.
Professor Kawashi Sabe
Chrysanthemum Order, First Class
Grand Sorceress to the Imperial Throne
Distinguished Member, International Association of Wizarding Academics
His parents throw him a small party the night before term starts, making him and Mari the largest katsudon bowls he’s seen in his life - and trust him, he’s seen a lot. Yuuri didn’t know they even made bowls that big that weren’t pots.
His okaa-san sighs happily at the sight of him wolfing down his meal, her eyes misty.
“It feels just like yesterday when you were starting your First Year as a day student,” she says. “And now you’re already boarding!”
Mari snorts, but her tone is light and there’s a proud smile on her face. “I’m so glad Yuuri can finally stop ferrying packages for me from you guys. He always drops them, and they’re damp and wet when I get them.”
Indignant, Yuuri forces down a bite of the pork to answer. “I’d like to see you balance one of okaa-san’s packages while on the back of a petrel!”
She smacks him lightly on the head. “That’s why I’m on the Quidditch team and not you, stupid.”
“Only because First to Fourth Years can’t try out!”
His otou-san cuts in then, chuckling. “Enough, enough. Focus on eating or one of you might choke and not make it back at all,” he teases.
When dinner’s done, and all the dishes washed and put away, okaa-san follows him back to his room, rattling off a list of things to check that he’s packed.
“And jumpers?” she says, “You need to bring more of those, Yuuri-kun, you know how cold you tend to get. And stationery? Did you pack enough pens? What about notepads?”
Yuuri hugs her tight around the middle, cutting her off.
“I’m going to miss you, okaa-san,” he says, and breathes in her scent, comforting and safe and home.
Her arms come up to wrap around him, and he’s enveloped in her warmth. “I’m going to miss you so much too.” She sighs, forlorn. “It’s going to be so quiet without you and Mari.”
Hands coming up to ruffle his hair, she tugs back to look at him. “You’ve grown so much so quickly, Yuuri-kun. I’m so proud of you.”
Ducking his head, bashful, Yuuri smiles boyishly at her. “I’ll be fine, okaa-san.”
There are tears in her eyes. “I know you will be, but let a woman fuss over her youngest, won’t you?” she sniffs, tone affectionate.
So he does. Yuuri goes through the entire contents of his trunk with his okaa-san, packing three extra jumpers and a whole pack of pen refills, and refolding his shirts just the way she likes it.
It’s past ten at night by the time she’s satisfied, and Yuuri’s exhausted, but the smile on her face as she tucks him in and bids him goodnight makes it all so very worth it.
The first day of term is a familiar routine he can recall having seen Mari do for years, having participated himself for the last four.
It’s worse this time round, though, because as a day student he’d only needed his schoolbag and equipment for the day, but now there are two trunks between them, Mari’s kneazle, Yuuri’s Vicchan, and the family owl Pizu. There aren’t nearly enough hands to hold on to everything and still hold on to their parents for side-along apparation to the designated zones at Narita.
They make it to Terminal 3.14 by nine-fifteen in the morning, joining the throng of harried parents and bright-eyed students making their way as inconspicuously as possible through the maj-less Terminal 3.
“Do you think they suspect anything?” he whispers to Mari, eyeing the people around them with their rolling suitcases and passports.
She rolls her eyes at him. “Of course not, MinMagic’s cast a notice-us-not for the maj-folk around the Terminal. They wouldn’t let us through here if it weren’t safe. We’re here, though, so get ready.”
Mari nudges him ahead of her towards a nondescript pair of white doors, now held open, which look like they lead into an ordinary service room.
Heartbeat speeding up, Yuuri takes a deep breath and adjusts the grip on his trolley.
He grits his teeth and rolls the trolley forward, feeling the familiar split-second jerk as he passes through, and then the trolley rattles as it hits a small curb and he’s looking up at a massive hall.
The soaring glass ceilings of the storm petrel eyrie open up to perfectly blue skies, and even now, he can see the petrels docked in numbered stalls on the ground for boarding, more circling overhead and coming in for the landing.
Yuuri’s doing this for the fifth time in his life, and the awe never abates.
Mari’s just stepping in behind him, cursing softly under her breath when her trolley catches on the small curb like his did. “Damn Greater Teleportation spells,” she complains. “They never get the doorways to line up right.”
Their parents come through, okaa-san holding Yurio, Mari’s kneazle, otou-san carrying Vicchan and Pizu’s cage.
“Ah,” otou-san grins. “It never stops being pretty, does it?”
Two boarding passes come hurtling towards them then, a paper ticket crashing into Mari’s forehead and the other into Yuuri’s arm, the passes animated and then stilling when they manage to get ahold of them.
“Argh!” Mari cries, swatting at and grabbing for hers. “These things are vicious, can’t they tone that down a little?” She peers at Yuuri’s pass, comparing both of their tickets. “Oh, you’re in Dock 8,” she says, and then waves at the pass in her hand. “I’m in 5.”
“Okay,” okaa-san says, shooing them towards the docking stalls. “Let’s get Yuuri onboard first, then you, Mari.”
The four of them troop over to the docks, slowly navigating through the crowd. It’s as overwhelming and thrilling as Yuuri remembers, the eyrie a whirl of sound and bright haori and all kinds of magical pets, school robes of every colour swirling past them.
Yuuri’s own robe is a deep forest green, a fact he’s incredibly proud of. He’s worked hard to get it to this colour, spending late nights forcing himself through textbooks and pouring over essays. If he keeps it up, he thinks he can get it to buttercup yellow by the end of the year.
Mari’s is burgundy, which she’s blasé about. “I’m going to help out at Yu-topia anyway,” she’d told him. “I don’t need perfect grades. I’m happy with this.”
The thing is, Yuuri knows she genuinely is happy, so he’s happy for her, too. It’s also a relief to know that his parents won’t have to keep on shouldering the burden of running the bathhouse between the two of them.
Dock 8 is fairly empty when they draw up to it, the only other people in the stall a tiny Amaterasu student in red robes, probably a second or third year, with his family. Spotting a fellow Housemate, Mari grins and goes over to talk to the boy, the Amaterasu lapel pin shiny on her robes, sword and jewel inlaid on a glinting mirror.
Otou-san helps load his trunk onto the carrier compartment on the storm petrel’s flank, okaa-san petting it on the head and cooing at how cute it is. The giant bird preens under her attention, nipping at the sleeves of her yukata in affection.
Baggage loaded, his parents come to stand in from of him, Mari recalled from her chat. Okaa-san brushes a hand down his robes, tugging it so it sits just right on his shoulders, her hand rubbing at the Mizuchi house pin on his lapel.
“Alright, now,” she says. “You be good. We love you. If you need anything, we’re just an owl away, and Pizu knows how to get to us.” She draws him into a tight hug, and then his otou-san hugs him too, and Mari’s rolling her eyes and telling him she’ll see him at the palace when they arrive.
Yuuri clambers onboard the petrel, the carriage magically strapped to the bird’s back. The Amaterasu student’s already inside, and he smiles at the boy - tiny and blond - as he takes a seat by the window and waves at his parents until they disappear in the crowd in the direction of Dock 5, off to get Mari on her way.
The silence in the carriage is awkward as they wait to depart, the Amaterasu boy alternating between fidgeting and sending Yuuri looks.
After five minutes, Yuuri clears his throat uncomfortably, asking, “Are you alright?”
The boy looks stricken at being caught staring, and he nods furiously before blurting, “You’re Katsuki Yuuri!”
Yuuri’s taken aback by the fervour in his tone. “Yes?” he responds, nervous.
“I saw all your Frost Wielding performances last year!” he says, face flushed. “I’m - I’m going to be a Frost Wielder like you too!”
Blushing down to his roots, Yuuri tries to sink further down into his seat.
“Th-thank you? That’s very kind. Good luck,” he wishes, now furiously dreading the rest of the journey to Mahoutokoro, hoping for a distraction, any distraction.
“I’m Minami Kenjirō!” the boy announces, and offers an eager hand in introduction.
Embarrassed by the recognition and praise, Yuuri reluctantly takes his hand and shakes it. He heaves a huge internal sigh of relief when another student bustles into the carriage, a Tenth Year in royal blue robes, green Fuujin house scarf looped around her neck. She nods to the both of them already in the carriage and sits by the window across from Yuuri, pulling out a pen and notebook to scribble in.
Taking this as his chance, Yuuri fishes his iPod out of his backpack, slotting his earbuds in. He’s caught up in the music of Dean Fujioka when their final carriage companion arrives just minutes before ten, an out-of-breath Amaterasu girl who Minami recognises and launches into an animated chat with.
At ten exactly, the storm petrels call in unison, and parents and family members at the docks move back to stand clear of the massive birds. They take off one at a time, each slowly spiralling upwards towards the eye in the distant ceiling, and with a lurch, their storm petrel launches into the air and they join the ascending spiral.
Yuuri spots his parents below and waves at them for as long as they remain in sight. Their storm petrel breaks from the cover of the glass dome of the eyrie and they’re gliding out into the balmy Tokyo morning, sunlight gentle and bright, skies clear and perfectly blue.
The journey to Mahoutokoro takes an hour and a half, two if the weather’s foul. Yuuri spends the time listening to the music on his iPod and reading Murakami’s latest, doing his best to ignore his carriage companions and avoid further conversation.
The formidable Storm Gate of Raijin comes into view in an hour and twenty-five minutes, and the four occupants of their carriage cluster around the windows on either side to catch the first glimpse of their school.
The petrel forges on, past the cloud cover that shields the inner gates and school grounds proper, and the Fuujin girl smiles excitedly at them when the Typhoon Gate’s visible in the distance, carved out of slate grey stone, the imposing form of Fuujin on its pillars, bag of wind held aloft in massive hands.
They’re getting closer now, past the magical barrier that keeps prying maj-less eyes unaware of Mahoutokoro’s existence atop the island’s peak. The winding school path extends further up the mountain, the petrel descending in gradual increments, and when the Great Wave Gate of Mizuchi comes into view, the dragon god carved in a silent, ferocious roar, Yuuri can’t help the swell of House pride in his chest.
They pass the final Sun Gate, Minami and the other Amaterasu girl enthusiastically shrieking and comparing their house pins, pointing out the jewel, sword, and mirror on the structure far below.
The path on the ground widens, the petrel gliding even lower, and they soar through a cluster of clouds, the moisture damp and cool on their faces.
The Jade Palace of Mahoutokoro is nearly blinding in the morning light, the pearly mutton-fat jade of the terraces and roof flawless, carved stonework resplendent with writhing dragons and soaring phoenixes.
The gardens of the Palace are pristinely manicured, the sakura trees lining the paths kept in full bloom throughout the year, rosy petals falling in constant gentle, languid swirls. The Golden Bridge shines just below, extending gracefully over Lake Kamuito, waters placid and calm.
There’s an awed, subdued silence in their carriage as they take in the sight of their school, quiet and reverent. The Palace has stood for centuries, unchanged and unmoved, peaceful and unsullied.
If the legends are true, the great beings Izanagi and Izanami themselves mined the very jade that formed the structure, Izanagi bringing the pristine stone to the island, Izanami weaving the pieces together to form the Palace. Yuuri’s almost inclined to believe the myth true, the jade on the Palace seamless and without join, impossible to envision being wrought by human hands and joinery spellcraft.
Their storm petrel lets out a call, shattering their moment of rapture. They scramble to gather their belongings as they begin the final descent to the landing paddock, Yuuri tucking his iPod and earbuds into his bag and looping his Mizuchi scarf around his neck. The petrel lands them deftly in a neatly-marked lot, barely jostling its passengers, and they hop out one by one, pausing to retrieve their trunks. Vicchan seems to have weathered the journey fine when Yuuri bends to check, his tail wagging and excited.
The carriages to take them to the Palace proper are awaiting their boarding up on the path, and the members of their petrel carriage disperse to find their own friends for the next leg of their journey. Minami yells an enthusiastic farewell, and Yuuri flushes but nods at him all the same.
Yuuri spots Guang Hong twenty feet away, attempting to juggle his trunk and owl cage. He calls out and Guang Hong looks up, waves, and his owl cage nearly tips over and onto the ground, inhabitant hooting furiously. He yelps and saves it with a wingardium leviosa, catching it just in time.
“Yuuri!” Guang Hong greets, smiling and wiping his forehead with relief just as Yuuri draws up next to him. “It’s so good to see you, how was summer?”
Side by side, they both trek to the nearest empty carriage. Vicchan bounds around and between them, practically vibrating out of his small body with excitement.
“Pretty boring,” Yuuri replies. “I couldn’t get much Frost Wielding practice done, but I did have a lot of time on the ice to just skate.”
Guang Hong nods. “Ah, yeah, that’s right, you live in a maj-less town.” He winces in sympathy. “That must suck, especially with the school team tryouts this year.”
They pile into the carriage, already occupied by three other students deeply engaged in their own conversation. Yuuri hauls the door shut behind them, and the carriage coughs into motion, picking up speed and joining the line of other carriages ferrying students to the Palace.
“Nothing to be done for it,” Yuuri shrugs, then gestures at Guang Hong. “What about you? Are you going to go for it?”
Guang Hong’s expression uncertain, he see-saws a hand and says, “Maybe, I don’t know. Leo said I should, but it’s a lot of time and my parents says I should work to get my robes to blue by the end of the year.”
Yuuri nods in understanding, then smiles when he recalls Guang Hong’s American pen pal. “That’s right, how’s Leo doing?”
Guang Hong brightens at the question, pulling out his latest letter from a pocket. “He’s really good! Leo’s taking his L.L.A.M.A.s this year, though, but he says he’s going to keep at Frost Wielding.”
At Yuuri’s baffled expression, Guang Hong shows him the letter. Lower Level American Magical Assessments, Leo explains in uneven and boyish handwriting.
“Oh, yeah,” Yuuri says, rubbing at his neck. “I forgot they had those over there.”
“It’s so unfair.” Guang Hong bobs his head, enraged on Leo’s behalf. “Can you imagine if we had to take national exams next year?”
They shudder in collective horror.
In the distance, the bells of Susanoo Shrine begin to ring, signalling noontime, its peals rising in pitch with each of its five tolls, then descending. The chiming of the bells puts an end to the conversations in their carriage, all of them looking forward to their arrival and welcoming banquet at the Palace.
When they disembark, Yuuri and Guang Hong levitate their trunks up the jade steps of the main entrance, pausing to greet Kawashi-sensei by the grand doors before drifting to the Mizuchi common room, spread out over a portion of the ground and lower ground floors of the Palace.
The common room is exactly as Yuuri remembers, and he smiles in contentment when they enter, the painting of Hokusai’s Great Wave - the original, mind you, not the maj-less copy - swinging shut behind them.
Yuuri inhales deeply, the faint smell of saltwater lingering in the air comfortingly familiar, and takes in polished wooden floors, the shoji screens by the windows, and the sea-blue armchairs and sofas that litter the expansive room. The sun filters in gently, casting the room in a soft, tranquil glow, the calligraphy and ukiyo-e prints on the walls subtly illuminated by the lambent light. Taking pride of place are the remaining thirty-five prints of Hokusai’s Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, each moving gently in their own frames.
“It’s good to be back,” Guang Hong declares from behind him, smile in his voice. They dump their trunks in their shared room before flopping down on one of the cosy sofas by the window, view overlooking Lake Kamuito.
It’s not long before their House Student Councillors are rounding them up for the welcoming banquet, making sure everyone has their Mizuchi lapel pins securely fastened and robes straightened before pronouncing them ready.
“Remember, we represent our House with pride!” Haruka Nanase reminds them, herding the lower years out.
When they get to the Chrysanthemum Hall, two of the three other House tables are already occupied. They take their seats at the Mizuchi table, students all round craning their heads and calling out to friends they’ve spotted. Yuuri sends a quick wave at Mari when he finds her.
Next to him, Guang Hong spies Seung-Gil at the Raijin table and waves excitedly, Yuuri sending a smile along. Seung-Gil rolls his eyes, but after a beat, waves back at them, and Guang Hong pumps a fist in victory when he looks away.
“He’s always so aloof,” Guang Hong complains, dropping back down into his chair. “He waved at us, though, so he must be happy to be back, I guess?”
Fuujin files in then, the final House to arrive, and once the scrape of fifty or so students taking their seats dies down, Kawashi-sensei taps her wand on the Head table, calling them all to attention. Her speech and short and to the point, and quick welcome back for old students and a warm welcome to the new. The Student Council President for the year is announced - Ise Nanao, from Mizuchi - and Yuuri cheers loudly along with his Housemates.
The Sorting Cup is brought out, the First Years nervously going up to sip from it, the Cup declaring their Houses after. Mizuchi gains eight new members, and Yuuri claps enthusiastically for each one.
Sorting over, the food appears, startling several of the First Years. The Mizuchi table is laden with all kinds of sushi, sashimi, teriyaki, and steaming bowls of ramen and don. Yuuri helps himself to a pork katsudon, thinking fondly of the ones back in Yu-topia. On his right, Guang Hong piles his plate with kushiyaki, happily munching as he reaches for more.
The rest of the day is a flurry of running into old friends, making new ones of the Mizuchi newcomers, unpacking, and making sure all their equipment is in order for the next day’s classes.
At ten, Yuuri collapses in his cubicle and on his bed, blocked off from Guang Hong behind a sliding shoji screen. The clamour of the common room is muted and subdued, the House winding down and expended after the energies of the day.
In the corridor outside their room, he can hear the hushed bantering of Kurasaki and Abarai as they make their way into the room across them. There’s the soft sound of a door sliding open, and their voices fade as it shuts. If he tries hard enough to listen, Yuuri can make out the faint chirps of crickets.
The scent of saltwater lingering in the air, Yuuri shuts his eyes to the sounds of home, the eddies of magic that permeate the ancient stones buoying him gently across a dreaming sea to deep, restful sleep.
By late October, the competitive season is nearly upon them, and Yuuri can hardly keep up with his classes, practicals, essays, and training. Juniors is a month away, and Yuuri’s barely managed to complete a full run of his routine without mistakes.
Yuuri glides to a stop, chest heaving. Celestino-sensei shakes his head in dissatisfaction. “More height on the triple axel, less force on the takeoff for your double flip, and watch the ice - your landscape was melting towards the end. Again, Yuuri, from the top.”
Disappointed in himself for his lacklustre performance, Yuuri nods, and skates back to the centre of the portion of Lake Kamuito that they’ve frozen over.
The tripping, hopping music starts, projected from Celestino-sensei’s wand and a sonorous, and Yuuri breathes in deep. He steps into his routine with a smooth, curving glide, feeling and weaving the magic in the ice, moulding the flat surface into a snowy landscape, flurries whirling around him, the highest mountain coming up to his chest.
“Good,” Celestino-sensei calls. “Focus on the snow, don’t let it ebb.”
Yuuri launches into a triple axel and botches the landing, wincing when he notices the brief stutter in the gentle falling of the snow. He calls the magic back, coaxing it to bend to his direction, and the snow resumes, the landscape shifting around him. The mountains give way to a forest, animated deer and squirrels dashing through the scenery, and tiny robins dart about in the branches.
The music swells, and he leaps into a triple toe loop, nailing the jump.
“Great job,” he hears Celestino-sensei say, and Guang Hong cheers.
Music reaching a crescendo, Yuuri focuses on shifting the ice, the forest serenely folding into a bank, two miniature figures strolling along, a glistening, perfectly round moon of ice hanging in the air above. Sliding into a sit spin, he grits his teeth. The moon is heavy and magically challenging to keep aloft, and fresh sweat beads on his brow.
When the last, final note dies, Yuuri falls out of position, hands coming to rest on his knees as he bends over, panting.
“Alright, Yuuri, good work, that’s enough for today.”
Nodding in thanks, he skates back to solid ground, and Celestino-sensei unfreezes the Lake behind him. Joining Guang Hong and Seung-Gil, the former sends him a thumbs-up while the latter graces him with an short incline of his head.
They gather their training gear and trudge back to the Palace, Celestino-sensei calling out reminders that the next practice would be tomorrow at 7.30am sharp, yes, that’s looking at you, Guang Hong.
Exhausted, the day barely even begun, Yuuri and Guang Hong hit the Mizuchi boys’ showers, changing into their school robes.
Guang Hong flops down on his bed, the shoji screen on his cubicle left open.
“What do we have next?” he groans, hand thrown over his eyes.
Glancing at the timetable taped to the wall by their desks, Yuuri sighs. “Arithmatical Science in five minutes, Elementology at ten, Magical Ethics after, and then lunch.”
Guang Hong makes a disgusted noise, but gets up to gather his supplies, Yuuri doing the same. “Who do we have AS with?”
Yuuri peers at his schedule. “Uh, Raijin, I think. So we should see Seung-Gil.”
Guang Hong smiles, pleased, and then his expression falls comically when he remembers they have three hours of classes to get through before lunch, and there’s still half of the day left after.
The weeks both drag and fly by, and before Yuuri knows it, it’s mid-November, Juniors a scant two days away. Mahoutokoro is a flurry of activity, banners strewn up in cheerful support, all the Houses adorning their common rooms with pennants and flags bearing the school crest.
Yuuri returns to the Mizuchi common room that afternoon, classes over, to the sight of two Seventh Years precariously balanced on a two chairs on either side of the room, Nanao calling out directions as they work to hang even more bunting, school crest proudly displayed. One nearly overbalances, the bunting’s 16-petaled Chrysanthemum kikumon, with wand and open book to either side, smacking him in the face and causing him to sputter.
Feeling embarrassed by the fanfare, Yuuri asks if he can help, and Nanao waves him away. “No, no, I’ve got it under control.”
She then frowns, as if suddenly remembering something. “Oh, right, before you go to your room - ” she hops down from her perch, “ - you should probably know it’s been Expanded in anticipation of the inter-school unity initiative.”
Vaguely recalling Kawashi-sensei addressing the Mahoutokoro Frost Wielding team about it, Yuuri nods along.
Nanao accios a list to her, finger scanning the paper and tapping when she finds what she’s looking for. “There we go, you’re with - ” she adjusts her glasses and narrows her eyes at the list, squinting, “ - Victor Nikiforov?”
Yuuri inhales sharply, stunned. “You-you’re sure?” he asks, voice quavering.
Concerned, she lowers the sheet of paper and peers at him. “Do you know him? I can see about switching the pairings around if he makes you uncomfortable.”
“No!” Yuuri hastens to assure her. “It’s really fine! It’s great! I’m sorry I worried you.”
If anything, his zealous assertions serve to make her even more skeptical, but she eventually relents.
Yuuri walks to his room in a daze, heart pounding. Victor Nikiforov.
Even at thirteen, Victor’s broken records and sent shockwaves rippling throughout the Frost Wielding community, his performances flawless and masterful and pure poetry in motion. He’s taken home the championship title every year since his debut at the Juniors at eleven. At thirteen, everyone’s already talking about the history he’ll make when he makes his Senior debut.
It’s enough to make Yuuri dizzyingly envious and nervous all at once.
It’s not that it never occurred to him that Victor would be attending the Juniors as well, or even that he wouldn’t see him in person, what with Mahoutokoro playing host to the competition this year. It’s just that Yuuri never really thought about what it might truly mean to compete on the same ice as him, Victor always an ephemeral, distant legend.
Now, faced with the reality of Victor Nikiforov appearing in the flesh in scant hours, faced with the thought that he’d be rooming with Yuuri, sleeping and living next to him over the course of the next three days, Yuuri feels faint.
He’s lying on his bed, starting up at the ceiling, door of his cubicle drawn open, when Guang Hong bursts in.
“I got Leo!” he cries, dancing around their room in delight. “I can’t wait, I was so worried Nanao would forget to pair us together - they’ll be here in three hours, oh my god.”
Pausing midway through his elated spiel, Guang Hong sends him curious look. “Wait, who did you get?”
Yuuri flops onto his stomach to bury his groan of frustration in his pillow. Plopping down on the bed next to him, Guang Hong pokes him with an insistent finger. “Tell me,” he whines.
“Victor Nikiforov,” he mumbles into his pillow, hoping Guang Hong won’t catch it despite the fact that the boy in person would be shortly rooming with them.
Guang Hong gasps. “You’re joking.”
Resigned, he shakes his head, and Guang Hong cheers. “This is great! You’ve always wanted to meet him, and I can’t wait to actually get to know him!”
Geared up for the arrival of their guests, Guang Hong festoons their Expanded room - their two cubicles lining either wall now magically pushed further apart, an extra futon on each side - with a handmade banner and pennants magicked to display the three school crests of Mahoutokoro, Durmstrang, and Ilvermorny. He even gleefully brandishes two extra Mizuchi House scarves, unearthed from his trunk, and prods at Yuuri until he pockets one to gift to Victor at the welcome banquet.
At six-twenty, they join the stream of students heading to the Chrysanthemum Hall for dinner, the excited chatter of their Housemates stirring the anxious roiling in Yuuri’s gut.
All Houses present and seated, Kawashi-sensei taps her wand to quiet the din, and asks that they please be patient for the arrival of their guests. She reminds them of the school code - Integrity, Honour, Courage, and Curiosity - and to be mindful of cultural traditions and differences.
At precisely seven, the grand doors to the Hall are drawn slowly open, the athletes from Beauxbatons having arrived. Yuuri instantly recognises Christophe Giacometti, preening at the attention and welcome, a grinning Michele Crispino to his side. The lustre of their blue uniforms are illuminated to a sheen under the light of the bobbing lanterns of the Hall, and even someone like Seung-Gil would be hard-pressed not to admit that the Beauxbatons students look stunning.
Madame Maxime nods politely at Kawashi-sensei, her students curtsying and bowing in greeting, and they take their place at the front, waiting for the arrival of the rest.
The Ilvermorny contingent make an appearance shortly after, Guang Hong hopping about excitedly in his seat as Leo spots him and waves, the both of them grinning wide. There’s a brunette next to him, cocky and satisfied smirk on his face, and Yuuri assumes that must be Jean-Jacques Leroy.
Headmaster Calleron Boot bows at Kawashi-sensei in greeting, and his students wave and yell enthusiastic hellos, their cranberry and blue robes rich and deep in colour, the gold gordian knots fastening their robes glinting and catching at the corner of Yuuri’s eyes, even when he looks away. Greetings done with, they drift over to stand with Beauxbatons, and Yuuri notes the way Jean-Jacques and Christophe begrudgingly nod at each other in acknowledgement.
At seven-nineteen, Headmaster Yakov Feltsman strides through the doors, the white of his robes a stark contrast to the sombre brown of his students. There’s a buzz in the Hall and among the Beauxbatons and Ilvermorny contingents, a great deal of heads craning and twisting to glimpse the new arrivals.
Yuuri spots the shine of his hair first, the unique silver gleaming under the amber light.
He’s not going to say something as lame as their eyes meeting across the room, but their eyes catch briefly, and his breath is taken away by glacier blue irises that sear his young, impressionable soul. Even at the age of eleven, Yuuri knows Victor is stunningly beautiful. Victor wears the severe Durmstrang uniform like haute couture: the sharp cut complimenting delicates wrists, the heavy fabric framing the strong line of his shoulders. It’s as intimidating as it is entrancing.
The taller boy next to Victor must be Georgi Popovich, Yuuri concludes. The Durmstrang students stand together with straight, stiff backs, but Yuuri catches Victor glancing curiously around the Chrysanthemum Hall, wonder in his eyes. Headmaster Feltsman grunts a greeting, and they stride over to stand by Ilvermorny and Beauxbatons.
Arrivals finally over with, Kawashi-sensei stands, tapping her wand twice on the Head table. When she speaks, her voiced is magically carried by sonorous.
“Thank you for your patience, everyone. Mahoutokoro extends a warm welcome to all our guests from Ilvermorny, Durmstrang, and Beauxbatons,” she says, nodding at the Heads in turn, “at the momentous occasion of the 125th Junior Frost Wielding Championships, beginning tomorrow. Now,” she continues, smiling a little, “I know we’re all hungry and tired, so I’m not going to lecture you about the origins of the sport, except to say that Frost Wielding is a very challenging and demanding discipline that combines magical power, control, and physical prowess, and all the athletes competing over the next few days should be very proud of themselves for being here.” She claps warmly, the rest of the Hall joining in the applause.
“Without further ado,” she adds, gesturing at the guest schools, “I’d like to invite our Mahoutokoro students who’ve been chosen to take part in this inter-school unity initiative - President Ise-san should have been informed you who you are - to join your partnered student up at the front of the Hall.”
Glancing uncertainly at Guang Hong, Yuuri can feel the sweat forming on his palms. Guang Hong shrugs at Kawashi-sensei’s instructions, turning to nudge at Yuuri to stand. At the Raijin table, Seung-Gil gets to his feet, and a handful of other students from Fuujin and Amaterasu join them in making their way to the front. As he walks between the Mizuchi and Amaterasu tables and past Mari, she shoots him a thumbs-up.
Yuuri drifts towards the Durmstrang group, barely avoiding Guang Hong launching himself at Leo for a bear hug that has the Ilvermorny student staggering back and laughing.
He tiptoes, trying to locate Victor in the sea of students.
There’s a light tap on his shoulder, and Yuuri whirls around, overbalancing and smacking into a chest, hurting his forehead on a hard, brass button.
“Ah, sorry,” a voice says, hand coming up to steady him. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
Yuuri glances at the owner of the voice, eleven-year-old self too awestruck at the sight of Victor Nikiforov to form words. “It’s-it’s okay,” he eventually manages to say, stammering.
“I think you’re my partner?” Victor says, smile bashful. He’s holding a scrap of paper in his left hand, Katsuki Yuuri written on it in kanji. “I recognised you from the Castelobruxo Invitationals last year,” he adds, and Yuuri squeaks at his admission, face flushing with mortification.
Remembering that Mari’s watching, and knowing that he’ll be mercilessly teased for being a chicken if he wusses out of his partnership duties, Yuuri takes a determined breath and puffs out his chest in boyish bravado. “I am,” he says. “You’re in Mizuchi House with me now, so I got you this.”
Yuuri digs the House scarf from the pocket of his robes, and Victor’s eyes light up when he spots the sea blue of it. “Is that for me?” he exclaims, arms coming up to clutch at Yuuri in delight. At Yuuri’s nod, he loops the scarf around his neck with a flourish, turning to show it off to an exasperated Georgi.
Kawashi-sensei shoos them to their seats for the start of the banquet, the Heads of the various schools joining her at the Head table. Victor gasps in wonder when the heaping plates of food appear, taking bites of everything and declaring each one the best with loud proclamations of vkusno!
It’s fun, and Yuuri’s enjoying himself. He decides that Victor’s not that intimidating, even if he’s two years his senior, and when Guang Hong introduces Leo to them, they all end up talking about the Castelobruxo Invitationals, laughing their hearts out when Leo recounts how he’d hid behind a pillar to scare Mila Babicheva, the girl shrieking when he’d popped out and toppling over into a nearby bin.
“Oh!” Victor pipes up towards the end of dinner, gesturing at Yuuri’s robes. “I’ve been meaning to ask - why are all your robes so colourful? Do you get to pick which you like?”
Yuuri, mouth full of mochi, waves at Guang Hong to answer. “I wish,” he sighs, picking at a loose thread on his purple robes. “It depends on your grades. We start off at pink, and if you do well, you move to red, then burgundy, purple, blue, green - ” he points at Yuuri, “ - then yellow, bronze, and gold.”
Leo, listening in, sits back in his seat, blinking dazedly. “That’s a lot to remember.”
Swallowing his mochi, Yuuri shrugs. “We get used to it. Plus it sort of makes sense, when you think about it.” Victor agrees, nodding along.
The next three days are a whirl of activity that Yuuri can barely keep abreast with, shoving in practice alongside Victor insisting he show him around the grounds, hastily scribbling essays, wolfing down meals, and actually competing.
Yuuri doesn’t medal that year, but he comes in a respectable fourth place out of eight, given that this is his Junior debut.
If you asked him, years later, what he does remember of the Championships that year, he’d be able to recount to you, in minute detail, the entirety of Victor’s performance.
With words his younger self doesn’t yet have, he’d tell you of the way he’d stood, transfixed, at the way the ice itself seemed to shiver in Victor’s presence, eager and willing and malleable under the soft touches of his magic.
He’d tell you about the way Victor had leapt and danced and bowed in perfect grace, the gentle whip of his hair floating behind him through effortless spins and curves.
He’d tell you of the way Victor had the absolute, commanding attention of everyone in the crowd, his performance pure rapture.
But for now, he’s eleven years old, and he can’t tell you any of that.
Victor wins the gold, of course, and Yuuri leaps to hugs him amid the cheers of the students, the press clamouring for interviews with Frost Wielding’s golden boy.
The night before he departs, they make promises to keep in touch, and Yuuri takes Victor to the Owlery to visit Pizu. Vicchan bounds into their room that evening, finally gracing them with his boisterous puppy presence after having fooled the cooks out of numerous treats, and Victor coos and fawns over the poodle.
Yuuri and Guang Hong teach their guests to play butanoshippo, and after getting the hang of it, the four of them play long into the night, sitting in a circle and leaning on each other to stifle giggles.
They fall asleep in a heap of blankets and pillows on the two spare futons in the middle of the room, rolled and piled together in a snoring bundle by morning.
Right before they leave, Victor presses a scrap of paper into Yuuri’s hand containing his address, and makes Yuuri promise to owl over summer - and during termtime to Durmstrang, Yuuri-kun, don’t forget!
Guang Hong sniffles as the schools depart, and Yuuri’s lucky only his lower lip trembles.
Mari notices, because of course she would, but she doesn’t make fun of him, which is nice. She wraps him in a crushing hug that has him squirming to escape, ruffling his hair when he does.
“Don’t be silly,” she chides. “You’ll see him next year.”
It’s as good a prediction as any.
The next two years pass in much the same fashion, the Mahoutokoro team travelling to Beauxbatons, where he comes third and wins his first Championship medal, then Uagadou, where he wins silver.
Yuuri and Victor exchange a flurry of letters, several times a week during term time and nearly daily over the holidays. Yuuri amasses a pile of memorabilia from Victor, an animated photo of him holding up a peace sign behind Georgi’s back, another of him smiling companionably next to Mila, and one of Victor crushing a disgruntled, sulking blond boy that Yuuri doesn’t recognise in a bear hug.
For his birthday in his Sixth Year, Victor sends him a stuffed toy dog that looks exactly like Vicchan, and Yuuri makes Guang Hong take a photo of him hugging it to owl back.
In the summer before his Seventh Year, Victor invites him to Russia.
You’ll love it here, his letter reads. We have a pond out back we can freeze over to skate on, and Volskaya Arcade has the best ice cream parlour in the Wizarding World, I don’t care what they say about Fortescue’s. Mother says she can’t wait to meet you, and with you around, I won’t have to suffer through all of Father’s boring events alone!
So Yuuri asks his otou-san if he can go, gets directed to ask his okaa-san instead, and she pats him on the head and tells him they’ll miss him, and to be good.
Before he leaves, his okaa-san’s struck by a sudden thought.
“Yuuri-kun, are Victor’s parents magical?”
When he confirms that they are, his parents work themselves up into a tizzy, okaa-san proclaiming that him just showing up won’t do, there are traditions to be kept, and his otou-san is sent all the way to Tokyo’s Arizawa High Street to pick up the proper materials.
When Yuuri finally stumbles through the fireplace of Nikiforov Manor’s entrance foyer, it’s with a heaving backpack on his back and a carefully clutched bottle in his arms.
Mrs. Nikiforov - call me Anya, please - accepts the bottle of sake with delight, announcing that they’ll have it with dinner, and that his parents shouldn’t have gone to the trouble, really.
Puzzled, Victor questions him on it on the way up to his room in the North Wing. “Did your parents really make that homage brew?”
“Yeah,” Yuuri sighs, put out at the memory. “No cut corners, either - we were up the whole night to watch that. Eight hours of magical fermenting with a careful wand to get that bottle,” he says, jerking a thumb back in the direction of the entrance foyer. He bites his lip. “I hope your parents like it, though, I want them to like me.”
“They will!” Victor exclaims, fervent. “No one really thinks to bring homage brews to visit any longer, so Father will definitely love that. Plus you’re you, they can’t not like you.”
They pass a portrait gallery, and it’s clear from the innumerable paintings that Victor’s delicate features are inherited, the glacier eyes of his ancestors peering at them curiously as they walk through.
Victor’s long hair swishes behind him as he pushes open a set of double doors, bowing dramatically and ushering Yuuri in with a flourish, grin on his face. His room is expansive, light streaming in from the bay windows, four-poster bed against the far wall. The windows are drawn open, and the gentle breeze that flutters in shifts the green of his day curtains, the fabric rustling in slow, rippling movements.
“Oh, wow,” Yuuri breathes, impressed and not bothering to conceal it.
“Do you like it?” Victor pipes up, expression earnest. “Father had this room set aside for me when he found out Mother was pregnant. It used to be my nursery, but they re-did it when I was five.”
“It’s great,” Yuuri beams. “We live in a maj-less town, so I don’t have anything like this.” He nods decisively, twelve-year old head bobbing. “It’s cool.”
Victor shows him the Manor grounds, and they get bread from one of the house elves to feed the ducks at the pond. It starts to rain around midday, and they race back to the Manor, laughing, drenched by the time they arrive.
Anya sends them to dry off, and they sit with her in her parlour for lunch, Victor eagerly piling Yuuri’s plate with syrniki and pirozhki and various colourful and cavity-inducing pastila, insisting that he needs to try them all. Anya watches them with a bemused eye, hiding a chuckle behind an elegant hand while reminding Victor to let Yuuri finish chewing, please.
She asks after Yuuri’s parents, perceptibly curious. “I’m afraid I don’t know any Katsukis,” she apologises, “But we do have a relative who married into the Waseda clan, if you might happen to know of them?”
Yuuri perks up. “Yeah!” he exclaims. “Okaa- ” he catches himself, “ - my mum’s a Waseda.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful,” Anya says, pleased. “I must write to your Mother, then, to establish the connection.”
“What about siblings?” she asks, “Do you have any?”
Victor helpfully answers. “A bigger sister, Mari!” he grins at Yuuri. “I met her at the 125th Juniors, she goes to Mahoutokoro too. She’s scary.”
Yuuri nods along in serious confirmation.
The conversation switches to Yuuri’s upbringing in Hasetsu, Victor chiming in occasionally with questions of his own.
“Yuuri says he lives in a maj-less town, мама, can you believe that?” Victor addresses his mother, wide-eyed.
“It’s not uncommon, darling, you know your Uncle Evgeni and his family live in maj-less St. Petersburg,” she chides.
“But how do you cook? And clean? And what about your house elves?” Victor cries, fourteen-year-old self bewildered at the thought.
“We run an onsen,” Yuuri explains. “It’s like - it’s a Japanese bathhouse? You go to visit the springs, and there’s a restaurant too. We just use a dishwasher to clean, or a washing machine, or sometimes we just do it by hand, since we don’t have house elves.”
“A dishwasher?” Anya repeats slowly, the unfamiliar word rolling strangely in her polished, cultured voice.
“It’s a - ” Yuuri struggles to explain, “ - a maj-less invention that washes your dishes for you. You just put your dirty dishes and cups in, and you press some buttons and add the right kind of soap, and when you shut it it’ll wash it all for you in an hour or so.”
“But they don’t have magic,” Victor asks, baffled, Anya nodding along in befuddlement. “How does it run?”
The rest of lunch is spent by Yuuri attempting to explain electricity to the two perplexed Nikiforovs to the best of his young ability. Anya sends for a house elf to bring paper so Yuuri can illustrate, and when Yuuri pulls a ballpoint pen from his pocket, the conversation turns to wonder at that invention instead, ending with Anya resolving to order some and do away with quills.
That evening, they have a proper dinner in the dining room, Yuuri glad his okaa-san thought to pack him a set of formal robes. He trails Victor into the grand, opulent room, intimidated by the sight of the table with chairs and space enough for thirty people, and the epergne at the centre, a beautifully wrought dragon coiled in battle with a small band of warriors, all magically animated and moving.
Yuuri watches as Victor throws himself into a hug with a distinguished older man, their eyes and shade of hair too similar for it to be anyone but his father.
Count Nikolai Nikiforov is domineering man, his shoulders broad and thick where Victor’s have favoured the slight frame of his mother. His hair is long and flowing, something Victor must have sought to emulate, and there’s no doubt that when Nikolai walks into a room, he commandeers all its attention through sheer force of presence. He’s still in his Ministry robes, cane - adorned with an ornate dragon at its head - in hand when he spots Yuuri by the door to the dining room.
“You must be Yuuri!” he booms, smiling widely, beckoning at him to join them.
Yuuri gulps and nods, and Nikolai pats him on the shoulder with a massive hand.
Victor, practically hopping with excitement, chirps, “This is my dad, Yuuri!”
“Now, now, you must call me Nikolai, da?” he says to Yuuri, who tries for a tentative smile in response. “And you have met my beautiful wife, Anya?”
The Count looks around, his face crinkling with joy when he spots her, sweeping in through the garden doors.
“Moi sladki!” he exclaims, sweeping her into a hug and lifting her in a circle.
Yuuri can’t help the smile that creeps across his face at the sheer love and warmth of the Nikiforovs, and dinner is a cosy and affectionate affair, the dining table laden with steaming bowls of borscht, tender skewers of shashlik, hearty klotski, and as a treat, heated glasses of sweet and flavourful sbiten.
That night, Yuuri tucked into the huge four-poster bed next to Victor, he tells him that he really likes his parents, and he’s glad he’s here for summer.
Victor beams at him. “I’m so happy you’re here too,” he says, and then picks absently, almost nervously, at the Egyptian cotton sheets. “I’m kind of worried we won’t see each other next year,” he confesses.
Yuuri frowns. “Why won’t we? You’re going to Hogwarts for Juniors too, aren’t you?”
“I don’t know,” Victor replies, mouth drawing down into an unhappy line. “Yakov says I should make my Senior debut since I’m going to be fifteen.”
‘Oh,” Yuuri says, at a loss for words. After several minutes of silence, the only sound the rustle of the trees and their breathing, he adds, “I’m going to miss you if you go.”
He’d have said I don’t want you to go, but even at thirteen he knows that isn’t fair.
“Me too,” Victor sighs. “But you’ll write and visit, won’t you?”
Before he can check the impulse, Yuuri surges forward to wrap him in a hug. “Of course,” he promises.
The next day, Victor asks his mother to freeze the pond over for them, and they spend hours just skating and playing on the ice.
Yuuri moulds a miniature ice Vicchan, making it chase a laughing Victor across the length of the pond, and in retaliation, Victor pulls up an owl, perfectly shaped and meticulously moulded, to distract Vicchan and swoop low over Yuuri. The casual display of such fine magical control takes Yuuri’s breath away, and not for the first time, he’s reminded just how good and powerful a Frost Wielder Victor is.
The two weeks Yuuri spends with the Nikiforovs pass in a blur of roaming the grounds with Victor in the morning, skating and Frost Wielding to their hearts’ content, then joining Anya for tea and lunch. In the afternoons, when their parents allow it, they escape to Volskaya Arcade for ice cream that melts sweet and cool on their tongues, arriving back in time for exuberant dinners together, giggling and sneaking around the Manor before bed.
It’s pretty perfect.
Yuuri’s Seventh Year dawns quicker than he expects, the idyllic summer months flying by. In no time at all, he’s back in the Mizuchi common room, going over mundane chore of choosing his N.E.K.O. - National Examinations, Ordinary Category - subjects with Guang Hong.
His robes are buttercup yellow now, and their room has significantly more personal mementos strewn about. On the wall in his cubicle, Yuuri’s magi-tacked up an assortment of photos, the one of him and Victor on the Manor pond, laughing into the camera and waving before skating off and flinging ice at one another, taking pride of place in the centre. Around it, there’s a maj-less polaroid of his okaa-san and otou-san in the Yu-topia kitchen, a photo of him, Victor, Guang Hong, and Leo at the Uagadou Finals, and another of him and Phichit at Castelobruxo. There’s a letter by his pillow from Victor, describing the nascent rampant popularity of ballpoint pens at Durmstrang.
Yuuri’s pouring over the subject guide and choice form at his desk, Guang Hong slumped in his own cubicle bed, lazily tossing a pen up in the air, catching it when it drops, and then tossing it again. Vicchan’s curled up in a ball on the floor by Yuuri’s feet, keeping him warm.
“What about Symbology?” Yuuri offers, knowing Guang Hong’s having a hard time pinning down what he’d like to do.
Guang Hong wrinkles his nose. “Is that useful?” He sits up to rifle through his copy of the subject guide, pausing when he finds the page on the subject.
“I don’t know,” he says, uncertain, “I’m not sure I’ll ever end up being a runemancer, cursebreaker, magi-inventor, or mediwizard.” He makes a frustrated noise and tosses the guide aside. “What are you going to take?”
“Uh,” Yuuri says, consulting his choice form. “Probably Cryomancy, Geomancy, Symbology, Magical Ethics, Transmutation Magicks, and Arithmatical Science.”
Guang Hong lets out a low whistle. “That’s going to be brutal, you know that, right? I know we have to pick six subjects, but you’re taking both Transmutation and AS, and that’s pretty crazy.”
“I’m aware,” Yuuri sighs, leaning back in his chair. He taps his wand on the desk for the time. 3.42pm, the projection from his wand tip reads. “We’ve got till five to submit the form, you really do need to decide soon, Guang Hong.”
“Okay, okay,” he relents, grabbing his subject guide and getting up from his bed to join Yuuri at the desk. He peers down at subject list. “So Cryomancy’s a definite yes because Celestino-sensei will kill me if I don’t, then probably Potions? I did okay in that last year, and Kuchiki-sensei’s fair, if strict.”
His finger trails down the guide. “I liked Herbology, so I’ll take that, and I guess Transmutation, Wizarding History, and Magical Ethics. There. Done.”
As Guang Hong lists off his choices, Yuuri helpfully ticks it off on his choice form for him.
“Huh,” Yuuri says, slightly disappointed. “We’ll only have Transmutation and Ethics together this year, then.”
“It’s okay, we’re still roommates, we’ll still see each other all the time,” Guang Hong reassures, smiling.
They hand their forms over to Student Council President Haruno - Nanao having graduated - and head for dinner, the listlessness at being back at school dissipating in the face of good food and the buoying company of their friends.
True to his worst fears, Victor makes his debut at Seniors in November, and Yuuri doesn’t see him at the 128th Juniors at Hogwarts. He is, however, reunited with Phichit, the two of them thick as thieves for the duration of the competition.
Yuuri wins his first gold that year, and Victor sends him an exuberant letter, complete with enchanted floating party horns that follow him around and toot in cheerful congratulations.
Back at Mahoutokoro, competitive season over, Yuuri struggles with the load of his demanding subjects, breathing a hefty sigh of relief when results are announced the day before the school year ends and his robes remain yellow. At his side, Guang Hong whoops with joy as his robes shift from blue to a deep, forest green, and Yuuri sends him a huge grin in response.
That night, Guang Hong snoring softly behind the shoji screen of his cubicle, Yuuri sits at his desk and pens yet another a letter to Victor.
I passed everything! he writes, drawing a smiley face. I’m not sure when your term ends, but we’re all going home tomorrow. I’m going to ask my parents if we can have you over for summer this year! I know Mari’s just dying to see you again, and my mum will feed you so many pork cutlet bowls, you won’t be able to move. I hope term ends well for you. I’ll write again when I get home!!!
He stuffs the sheet of paper into an envelope, making the trek to the Owlery to have Pizu deliver it. Realising he’s forgotten to address it, he fishes a pen from his pocket to quickly scribble Victor Nikiforov, Durmstrang Institute on the envelope. He has no idea where Durmstrang is - no one does, actually - but Pizu’s been ferrying letters between Victor and him without trouble, so Yuuri fastens the letter to his talon and sends him on his way with an owl treat.
Which is why, when Pizu returns the next morning amidst the last-minute packing rush, letter still clutched in his talons, Yuuri can’t help the creeping sense of worry that shivers down his spine.
Guang Hong notes his distress and tries to allay his fears, offering plausible reasons. “They might have done something to the magical barriers, you know how paranoid Durmstrang is,” he says, waving his chopsticks. “Or Pizu might have gotten turned around in a storm.”
“Yeah,” Yuuri agrees, frowning and reluctant. The final tumult of packing helps to keep the worry at bay for several hours, but even as they board the storm petrels bound for mainland Japan, there’s something Yuuri can’t quite shake.
Elbow on the arm rest by the window, watching the Jade Palace as it grows smaller with increasing distance, Yuuri remains pensive. His thoughts turn to the words of his okaa-san, the memory of her words faded with age but perfectly recalled.
“Yuuri-kun,” she’d said, bending to guide his six-year-old hand to gently stroke Pizu’s feathers, “If you ever need to talk to us and don’t know where we are, remember that you can always ask Pizu for help.”
At the mention of her name, Pizu swivels her head and blinks slowly at them.
“Magical owls aren’t like you or I, or any other animal - they’re special. Wherever we are, no matter the spells or runes, as long as you tell them who to look for, they’ll find us.”
He’d nodded earnestly then, promising he understood.
In her cage on the floor of the carriage, Pizu hoots, then settles, tucking her head down into her feathers and blinking drowsily.
Outside their carriage, the clouds are grey and heavy, and thunder rumbles in the distance.
There’s an electric feeling in the air, a tangible tenseness that presses at something visceral in his throat, an unquiet stillness that rolls his stomach and snaps noiselessly at his magic.
Yuuri tells himself that he’s being silly.
Staring out at the sky, splitting open to spew forth rain, something prickling under his skin, he’s not quite sure he believes that.
Two weeks later, when the letter comes, Yuuri hears the news from his okaa-san, her hands trembling and face pale.
He knows about the five stages of grief, the denial through to acceptance.
She wraps him in a hug and tells him that they’re there for him if he needs anything, Yuuri-kun, anything at all, before leaving him to his thoughts in his bedroom.
Yuuri’s just numb.
There’s a link on a Russian maj-less news site that he translates with the help of Google.
Count and Countess Voytolovo, Nikolai and Anya Nikiforov, Dead in Car Crash!
He doesn’t read the story.
And for all that he adores - adored - Nikolai and Anya, Yuuri can’t help but think, over and over: oh, god, Victor.
He writes and sends a letter that night, Pizu returning the next day, letter still clutched in her talons.
He tries again.
Seven letters return to Yu-topia, each as unopened and untouched as the last.
Mari tries to comfort him, telling him maybe Victor needs space, you doofus.
Yuuri waits a month, and then sends another letter.
When even that returns with Pizu, Yuuri cries quietly into his pillow, and at dinner that night, okaa-san wordlessly sets a katsudon bowl down in front of him.
The special treat fails to lift his mood, but he hugs her tightly in thanks.
He spends most of the summer before his Eighth Year skating slow, listless circles at the Ice Castle, avoiding concerned letters from Phichit, Guang Hong and once, Seung-Gil.
There’s no magical moment where the sting of Victor’s silence and the heartbreaking loss of the Nikiforovs suddenly starts to fade. But the aridness of summer gives way to the encroaching chill of autumn, the leaves turn yellow and red on their stems, and the Yu-topia yard slowly fills with the brittle detritus of the season.
The winds change, the tide ebbs and flows, and time inexorably marches on.
Chapter 2: that makes me think of you somehow
In which Yuri Plitsetsky is the world's tiniest chihuahua guard dog, Phichit is the best wingman, Victor is hot and knows it, and Yuuri's left with more questions than answers (as usual).
It's just gone past midnight on 29 November here in London! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, YUURI, YOU DELIGHTFUL KATSUDON MONSTER.
Sneaky references abound in this chapter! Also, if you're wondering why Frost Wielding seems to have so many more competitions than actual figure skating...you'd be right. Go along with it anyway for Plot Reasons™.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Midway through his Eighth Year, Phichit transfers to Mahoutokoro to train with Celestino-sensei. He’s sorted into Raijin, and Guang Hong throws a party in his honour, barging into the Raijin common room and commandeering Seung-Gil to help with decorations.
When they’re done, sweaty from hanging up the streamers and balloons and banner, Guang Hong takes in the common room with the critical eye and declares that it’ll do.
Yuuri’s delighted about Phichit’s transfer, of course, but the loudness and sheer ebullience of the House party is too much for him, and he has to retreat into one of the far nooks by the windows, nursing his plastic cup of punch.
It takes Phichit twenty minutes to find him there, and the newly-minted Raijin student settles himself into the nook next to him, expression thoughtful and measured.
“It’s really something, huh,” Phichit says, gesturing to the common room before them.
While Yuuri prefers the Mizuchi common room for obvious reasons, he can admit that Raijin’s isn’t awful. The walls are exposed stone, rough and solid, the mounted sconces thick and heavily wrought iron. The floor is perfectly smooth slate, unblemished except for the sharp, jagged, spiking lines across it, as if it had once been struck by lightning. Squashy armchairs in striking tartan - brought over when, in 1262, a group of Hogwarts students blew off course in an ill-advised attempt to fly their brooms across the Atlantic - dot the room, now overflowing with students.
“I heard about Victor’s parents,” Phichit says, and Yuuri almost sighs, weary of the pitying looks and fragile handling from most of his friends. He’s expecting an apology or condolences of some sort when Phichit sets his punch down and pulls him into a hug.
Drawing back, all Phichit says is, “I’m here if you need someone to listen.”
Yuuri’s fourteen, he’s not going to admit that he gets choked up at that. He nods in thanks, head bowed and staring into his cup.
After a minute of them sitting in companionable silence, Yuuri finds the strength - and will - to speak.
“The Nikiforovs were great,” he starts. “Really great people. Anya had this, this perfect sweetness, and Nikolai was so kind.” He has to consciously relax his straining grip on the flimsy cup of punch he’s holding. “They were so happy. Just full of life, you know? And they really loved Victor.”
He knuckles at his eyes, swift and embarrassed. “He’s stopped writing, and none of my letters are getting through.” Yuuri picks at a hangnail to avoid looking at Phichit. “And even after that, despite all that, I can’t help but feel saddest that he’s stopped, and not that two wonderful people have died.”
Yuuri inhales tremulously, hands unsteady. “I’m a horrible person.”
He thinks the worst thing anyone could do would be to placate him with empty words, false cheerfulness a hollow attempt to raise his spirits. At that moment, he has no idea what he expects Phichit to do.
Phichit doesn’t say a word. He sidles closer to Yuuri, arm coming around to rest on his shoulders, and for the remainder of the party he is a solid, steadfast rock in a tumultuous, rioting ocean of grief.
Yuuri’s robes stay yellow through most of his Eighth and Ninth years, and his medal count rises. He wins the gold at Juniors again, then the silver the following year, losing out to Phichit but unable to bring himself to be too upset about the fact.
The Durmstrang team that he sees every year is constantly devoid of faces he knows, and he wouldn’t call it painful, since he’s well aware Victor went off to Seniors, but it’s still jarring all the same. He spots the blond boy Victor’s tackling in one of the photo’s he’d sent Yuuri, but he doesn’t go up to introduce himself, terrified of the reception he might receive.
There’s talk of Yuuri moving up to the Seniors, but he politely turns down Celestino-sensei’s suggestion that he does so, citing the hope of gaining more experience at Juniors first. The press is mollified and backs off, buying Yuuri another year before he has to think about making the move.
He throws himself into training with a fervour that shocks most, and he knows Phichit and Guang Hong can guess at his reasons but both choose, in tacit agreement, not to mention it. Phichit prods him into regular meals and Guang Hong goes on exhausting runs through the palace grounds with him, and Yuuri’s fiercely, keenly grateful for his friends.
Yuuri signs himself up for extra Cryomancy tutoring at the start of his Ninth Year, determined to work on his control, and it finally feels like it pays off when he manages to coax the ice into yielding a pair of songbirds that flutter and weave in complex motions, and he succeeds in keeping them aloft for fifteen consecutive minutes.
The exhaustion is bone-deep by the end of that session, but it feels worth it when he’s met with applause and stunned glances for his feat of wandless magic.
He gets an Outstanding in all his N.E.K.O. exam subjects except for Arithmatical Science, which dips to an EE. Still, Kyōgi-sensei, his AS professor, tells him he’s done well, and that with the amount of training he’s been doing, achieving an Exceeds Expectations is something to be proud of.
Yuuri’s robes shift to bronze.
On the last day of the year, he writes Victor another letter, a single line of How are you doing?
He sends it off with Pizu, and when she returns with the note, he sets it on fire.
There are no more photos of Victor on the wall in his cubicle, all of them tucked away in a box deep under his bed.
The next day, before the carriages to take them to the storm petrel paddock depart, he tells Celestino-sensei he’ll make his Senior debut the following year.
That summer, he shuttles between Mahoutokoro and Hasetsu, returning to the palace via floo three times a week to train with Celestino-sensei.
Yuuri works himself to the ground.
There’s no sense of satisfaction when he lands perfect quad salchows, no feeling of achievement when he nails his quad toe loops. In the eye of it all - in the tense, pulling moment in the middle of a sit spin, in the vaulting, painful second as he leaps into a triple axel - there’s a mounting, rising, surging sense of if Victor can do this, you have to too.
When Phichit owls, mentioning that Victor executed a faultless quad flip at the Chancellor’s Cup, Yuuri asks for that to be added to his roster.
He trains on the school lake and at the Ice Castle in his own time, exacting excellence from his body and brooking no mistakes. Every flaw is harshly scoured, every fall internally admonished, every break kept shorter.
When he lands his first quadruple flip, he only nods at Celestino-sensei and asks to do it again.
In all of his dreams, he skates on a broad, icy expanse, the magic around him bending to his will, frost trailing from his fingertips.
The moon is low and luminous in the sky, and the air is unnaturally still. He slips softly across the plain, smooth and sure, and when he looks down at the clear, crystalline ice, he sees his reflection staring back, Victor gliding alongside him.
When he sees Victor again, there’s no accidental bump into each other, no fervently murmured words of apology, no romcom standing in the rain.
It’s an innocuous thing.
They’re both at the WizarDome in Berlin for the Summer Invitationals, one of the myriad competitions that lead up to the Grand Prix Finals in May. Yuuri’s fresh out of the locker room after a practice session the day before the competition itself, gym bag hoisted over a shoulder as he heads to the fireplaces by the entrance, ready to floo back home.
It’s a stupid thing to always notice first - but Victor’s taller than him, has always been taller than him - and Yuuri sees the flick of mercury hair in the corner of his eye, Victor in the middle of a flock of the press, cameras and recorders and microphones trained on him.
His hair is short now, his shoulders broader in an echo of Nikolai’s.
Yuuri’s approach draws little attention, his shoes noiseless on the floor. The members of the media that do notice him dismiss him immediately, the newsworthiness of Katsuki Yuuri hardly enough to draw them into his orbit.
Victor glances over at him, a flick of his ice chip eyes that dart away just as quickly. His face is blank as he turns his attention back to the crowd of reporters clustered around him, and he keeps them enraptured with wide, affable grins and easy laughter.
He doesn’t look his way again.
Yuuri walks on, gaze ahead, and the whole affair is anti-climactic.
His calm is an ocean, languidly rippling and serene, and they are two distant, transient ships passing in the long, dark night.
When he steps through the fireplace in Yu-topia, his hands are shaking, which he finds strange, because he feels fine. He sits himself in front of his desk in his bedroom, staring down at the trembling, offending digits.
Vicchan noses at his knee, whining.
“I’m fine,” he repeats to Vicchan, burying his hands in his fur, the movement disguising the shaking.
They curl up on his bed, his eyes focused unseeingly on the wall, Vicchan pressed to his side.
Yuuri grits his teeth.
The tremors continue.
Yuuri medals in Berlin, a bronze that’s hardly worth mentioning in his mind, but his parents proudly add it to their display case all the same.
His Tenth Year dawns, urgent and sweeping.
Boarding the petrels at Terminal 3.14 is routine now, and so is the rush of unpacking and reunions and the lively chatter of their first day back.
In a moment eerily reminiscent of their first day in Sixth Year, Yuuri finds himself once again at his desk, trying to narrow down his C.A.T. - Category: Advanced Testing - subjects for his remaining few years at Mahoutokoro.
“Definitely Cryomancy,” he tells Guang Hong, who nods and checks the box on the form for him. “My worst subject was AS, so not that…” he trails off, rifling through the pamphlet.
“Geomancy,” Guang Hong suggests, and Yuuri cocks his head in interest as he continues scanning the literature. “If you take it with Cryomancy, that’s a very strong Elementology base.”
“Eh, not Symbology?” Yuuri asks. “With Cryomancy, it’s a good specialisation if I want to go into runemancing.”
“Do you want to be a runemancer?” Guang Hong responds, question pointed.
“Maybe,” he replies, tapping his wand on the desk. At Guang Hong’s look, he shrugs, unrepentant. “I like Symbology!”
“Okay, so Symbology, then, jeez,” he says, rolling his eyes and ticking the corresponding box on Yuuri’s form.
Tucking his wand between his lips, Yuuri eyes the remaining options. “Mmm, put me down for Transmutation Magicks and Magical Ethics and we’re done - that’s four, right?”
“Yeah,” Guang Hong nods, handing him the completed form and stretching. He yawns into the back of his hand, and swipes his own form from his desk, waving it about. “Let’s go get this in before deadline.”
At the entrance to the Mizuchi common room, they pause to politely ask the Great Wave where the Student Council President is, and it undulates in the direction of the cellars. They track the President down, turn in their forms, and flop onto a patch of grass in the gardens, taking advantage of the last of the day’s sun. Phichit emerges from the palace soon after and spots them, coming over to join them in basking in the warmth.
“Hey,” Guang Hong says after some time, and Yuuri lifts a lazy eye open. “You’re really making your Senior debut this year?”
It’s something he’s trying not to think about. He doesn’t even know how to feel about it, the combination of eagerness, trepidation, resolution, and fear sitting uncomfortably in his gut.
“Yeah,” he confirms, gnawing at his lower lip. “I turn sixteen in November, so I thought it was time I should.”
“Do you think I should too?” There’s a thread of uncertainty in his tone.
Yuuri gives it some thought. “There’s no rush,” he says. “Georgi Popovich didn’t debut at Seniors till seventeen.”
“I mean,” Guang Hong picks up, “Leo’s already at Seniors, and Seung-Gil too. Phichit’s making his debut this year with you, and I’m going to be the only one left at Juniors with kids like Yuri Plisetsky, and I bet even he’s going to debut as soon as he hits fifteen.”
Phichit pushes himself up, sitting cross-legged. “We’re still going to be friends no matter what, though, plus we’ll see each at school anyway.” He plucks absently at blades of grass. “It’s really a question of whether you feel you’re ready?”
Yuuri nods along in agreement.
“I don’t know,” Guang Hong says, doubt colouring his tone. “I’ve barely gone on to the triples in my jumps, though, you know?”
“Did you ask Leo what he thinks?” Phichit asks.
Guang Hong’s face lights up, and Yuuri and Phichit exchange knowing looks.
“Yeah,” Guang Hong says, “Leo says he wants what I feel’s best, we’re going to be friends whether I skate or not. He’s invited me over for Thanksgiving!”
The three of them then launch into a discussion of the uniquely American holiday, Yuuri interested in the food and Phichit more intrigued by the idea of turkeys in weird hats, Guang Hong waving his hands in animated description.
Guang Hong doesn’t move up to Seniors that year, but Yuuri and Phichit get special dispensation from Kawashi-sensei to attend Juniors to cheer him on.
And when Seniors finally arrives, mid-May and in the thick of exam season, Yuuri makes his debut.
He comes third, which Celestino-sensei is ecstatic about, and when Yuuri ascends one step on the podium to accept the bronze, he doesn’t once look Victor’s way.
Vicchan dies while he’s away in Moldova for the Magawump Trophy in his penultimate season at Seniors.
“I’m sorry, Yuuri-kun,” his okaa-san says over the phone, tears in her voice. “He was just old. I’m so sorry. It happened so quickly, we couldn’t contact you in time.”
He’s in the locker room, medal ceremony over, bronze looped around his neck. He texts Celestino-sensei to tell him to head back first; I’ve been delayed by some fans, I’ll see you back at Mahoutokoro.
There’s a tingling numbness in his fingers, the tips cold when he presses them to his mouth from where they’d been unlacing his skates.
Yuuri sits there for hours.
The custodian comes in twice, startling the first time when he spots him, and then ducking out on the second when he finds Yuuri still there, but not before saying, “Hey, if you know any of the folks out there, can you ask them to leave with you? I need to close up, man.”
Yuuri nods absently.
He has classes the next morning. He’s in his Eleventh year, he has subjects and exams to study for. He has essays to write. He has - there are -
Vicchan is dead.
He goes through the motions of changing out of his costume and into his track suit, tucking the medal into his bag.
In the spur of the moment, he decides to leave via the rink, the hallway echoing with the sound of his footsteps, devoid of the throng and fanfare from mere hours ago.
He drops his phone when he pulls it out to check the time, jolted by the miniature brown poodles on the cover.
The clatter is hollow, the ensuing silence deafening.
In his approach to the doors leading out to the ice, he can hear the faint sound of blades, the shhhhk and thunk almost more familiar than the beats of his own pulse.
When he emerges, it’s to the sight of Victor landing a perfectly balanced quad loop, a bounding puppy moulded from the ice romping around him in excited, lolling circles.
There’s a crushing vise around Yuuri’s heart.
The puppy is a near-exact copy of Vicchan, masterfully and accurately rendered in ice.
In an incandescent moment, Yuuri is livid.
He strides up to the rink boards, finger jabbing. Victor notes his approach, slowing to a stop, expression blank.
“Is that Vicchan?” Yuuri demands, pointing.
Victor drifts towards him, one arm coming up to cross around his chest, the other stroking at his chin. “And if it is?” he asks, single eyebrow lifting. There’s a challenge in his eyes, in the tilt of his head.
“How dare you,” he seethes, and it’s not - that’s not tears in his eyes, it’s not. "He’s not yours, he doesn’t belong to you.”
There’s a wariness in Victor’s gaze. He glides to the rink exit by Yuuri, stepping onto concrete ground and affixing the guards to his blades. Vicchan’s magical copy recedes back into the ice with a flick of his hand.
“Yuuri,” he says, voice careful, and it’s humiliating to hear the concern in his tone, “Are you alright?”
Yuuri presses welts into his palms with his nails. “I’m fine.” He stares determinedly past Victor’s shoulder.
“Hey,” Victor says, gently, drawing closer to cup at his elbow, “Really, now.”
“It doesn’t concern you,” he insists.
Victor’s other hand comes up to grasp at his chin, tilting his head to meet his eyes.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Yuuri repeats, emphatic.
When Victor doesn’t back off and resists his attempt to draw away, Yuuri does the only thing he can think of and seals furious lips to Victor’s.
He can feel Victor stiffen in surprise and expects him to jerk away, but after a fraction of a second, Victor relaxes into it, and then presses forward, hands dropping to yank their hips together.
With a skilful mouth and an adept tongue, he coaxes Yuuri’s lips open and licks in, wet and slow, pulling back to nip at his lips before surging back to reclaim conquered territory.
There’s little Yuuri can do but weather the barrage of sensations on his assaulted senses. It’s good and hot and distracting, and in a fit of impulse, he breaks the kiss for a second, eyes darting to meet Victor’s, darkened with desire.
“Men’s room, come on,” he tugs, and they fall into a cubicle pressed together and trading filthy, long kisses, track jackets discarded on the floor by the locked bathroom door.
Yuuri’s never done anything more than a few innocent kisses and traded hand jobs with Phichit, and the pressure he gets when he grinds down on Victor’s thigh between his legs is sinful.
“Yobaniyi, Yuuri,” Victor groans, pausing to drag their track pants down, their clothes tangling at their feet.
“Victor,” Yuuri gasps, their cocks sliding together, friction delicious. He wraps a bold hand around both their lengths, tugging, Victor moaning low and loud.
Victor’s hand comes up to still his, and his eyes are stormy blue with promise. “Have you - can I - ” he makes a motion with his long fingers, and Yuuri nods violently, turning to face the wall of the cubicle.
Victor makes a frustrated sound, pulling away from Yuuri to fish through his dropped bag for his wand. Yuuri’s heart is hammering, his head pillowed on his hands against the wall, as he waits.
With a victorious yes, there we go, he returns to press up behind him. A muttered spell has Yuuri wet and slick, and Victor jerks him from behind with deft and sure strokes. His other hand works Yuuri open, fingers curling until they press just so and Yuuri can’t stop the curse that falls from his lips when he nails his prostate.
When Victor lines up against him and pushes in, Yuuri sets his teeth to his bottom lip, groaning at the stretch and sheer fullness of it when he bottoms out.
They fuck in hard movements, in sweaty thrusts that rattle the thin wall of the bathroom stall, in low moans that echo against the cold, plain tiles.
When Yuuri comes, he paints the cubicle wall with cloudy white streaks, and Victor’s breath hitches, mouth sucking bruises to the line of Yuuri’s neck as he follows, toppling over the blinding edge.
He eases out, and they lean panting against each other, their mingled, heavy breaths deafening the hollow room.
The aftermath is silent and uncomfortable, Yuuri sticky with come that trickles down the back of his thighs despite his best efforts at scourgify. The burn in his muscles is a distracting ache.
He’s saved by a text, his phone beeping from within his discarded bag.
It’s from Celestino-sensei, a disgruntled It’s nearly curfew, where are you?
Sorry, he types back. Ran into an old friend. I’m on my way.
Yuuri looks up, clearing his throat awkwardly. Victor’s fully dressed, washing his hands at one of the sinks. He looks up, their eyes meeting in the mirror.
Yuuri’s - he’s never done this before, never made stupid, impulsive decisions, never dared to let his feelings get the better of him like this.
“I should go,” Yuuri says, thumbing jerking towards the exit.
In the reflection, he notes the way Victor’s eyes go flat, sapphire hardening to cut glass. He pulls a paper towel from the dispenser, drying his hands in short, controlled motions.
“Well, I’m glad I could be of service,” Victor says, and Yuuri’s confused by the edge in his tone.
Yuuri makes for the door, uncertain and eager to escape. “I’ll, uh, see you at the Cup of Belgium?” His voice is hoarse, and Yuuri almost winces when he hears it.
“Sure,” Victor replies, dismissive.
Swallowing hard, Yuuri unlocks the door and makes for the entrance.
He doesn’t stop to let himself think until he’s stepping out of the fireplace in Kawashi-sensei’s office, away from Moldova and Victor and oh, god.
On his way back to the common room, the sky outside inky black with night, he slots himself into one of the palace’s many shadowed corners, breath heaving.
If he presses a hand to his neck, he can feel the dull ache of bruises left behind, and when he lifts the hem of his shirt, there are marks that would match Victor’s hand exactly. The inside of his thighs are still sticky, and when he shifts, a deep soreness begins to make itself known.
Yuuri slides to the floor and pulls his knees to his chest, digging the frustrated heels of his hands into his face.
He presses a hand to his heart and curls his fingers into the straining fabric of his shirt, smelling of Victor and sex.
There’s a strange feeling of dissonance, the palace around him unmoved and unwavering, students wandering its halls with the banality of homework and assignments and tests on their minds while Yuuri sits here, curled into a ball, the only one feeling the seismic shift that’s just shaken him down to his very foundation.
He doesn’t want to say they fall into a routine, exactly, but after the third time it happens, Yuuri’s ready to admit that they’re falling into a pattern.
They fuck in Milan, after the Trofeo d’Italia, Yuuri riding Victor in a deserted equipment closet, the both of them barely undressed.
They fuck in Johannesburg the night before the South African Invitationals, Victor shoving Yuuri into an empty training room, hitching him up onto a table and thrusting with hard, callous strokes.
They don’t fuck in Mombasa after Skate Kenya, but there are messy, sloppy, wet blowjobs traded in the disabled bathroom.
Yuuri keeps trying to muster the courage to talk to him, but the sting of returned notes and letters remains fresh in his mind, so he follows Victor’s lead.
They don’t write or text or communicate in the intervening months between competitions.
That year, Guang Hong makes his Seniors debut at the Seven Schools Championships, travelling with Yuuri, Seung-Gil and Phichit to Hogwarts for the duration of the tournament.
By the time they arrive, clambering out of their carriage and petting the storm petrel in thanks, Seung-Gil’s still grousing about having to stay away from Mahoutokoro for an entire week.
“It doesn’t make logistical sense,” he grumbles. “Wouldn’t it be easier if they didn’t have to work out accommodations for so many people? We could just floo in at the beginning of the day.”
Phichit rolls his eyes, the complaints all nothing they haven’t heard him say before. He holds up a hand, ticking off his fingers. “Because the flight here took five hours by direct petrel, because there’s only one open fireplace in Headmistress McGonagall’s office, and because this is an inter-school unity thing, not a compete and be unfriendly and not make friends thing, Seung-Gil, even if you could be champion of that.”
Seung-Gil huffs at the sass, and Yuuri and Guang Hong chuckle and pat him on the back.
The Mahoutokoro group gets a lot of raised eyebrows when they enter the Great Hall, their colourful set of robes standing out amidst the sea of Hogwarts black. They’re the first to arrive, and a polite Professor McGonagall directs them to sit at the Slytherin table, the Head Girl - Rose Weasley, but Rose will do, no need to address me as Head Girl - coming up to give them green and silver scarves as a gesture of welcome.
The Ilvermorny athletes get seated with the Hufflepuffs, Leo looping the yellow and black scarf that he’s presented with around his neck, and waving with all his might at a flushed Guang Hong. Jean-Jacques is by Leo’s side, arm bared as he shows off his newest magical tattoo - a curling, flashing JJ - to the blushing Hufflepuff girl next to him.
There’s the usual shocked awe when the Beauxbatons contingent arrives, cornflower blue robes swishing. Sara Crispino waves at their group when she spots their bright colours, elbowing Michele to do the same, and all of them send smiles and waves back except for Seung-Gil, who snorts and nods his head in greeting. Christophe, preening next to Michele, winks at various members of the student body, hat rakishly tilted.
Phichit leans over at Yuuri’s side, whispering, “I wonder how long it took him to get that angle just right in the mirror.”
“I’m just wondering how the hat’s staying on his head,” Yuuri replies. “I mean, aren’t they already angled to begin with?” They break out in low, stifled giggles, eliciting curious looks from the students around them. At the Head table, Professor McGonagall invites the Beauxbatons students to sit with the Ravenclaws.
Castelobruxo and Uagadou both field athletes, though the only one that any of them recognises is Otabek Altin in his bright green Castelobruxo robes. Both schools are ushered to the Gryffindor table and given the corresponding House scarf, Head Girl Weasley darting between students and tables, looking increasingly flustered.
Yuuri doesn’t want to say that he’s anticipating the Durmstrang arrival, but there’s a rabbiting of his pulse and clamminess of his palms that he can’t deny. He clasps his sweaty hands together, tucking them under the table and on his lap.
The Durmstrang contingent has grown this year, Victor striding into the Great Hall, strong and sure, on the heels of Headmaster Feltsman. Yuuri recognises Emil Nekola at his side, and Yuri Plisetsky on the other, though he hasn’t personally met either of them. There’s a redheaded girl to Yuri’s right, peering at the various groups curiously.
Yuuri ducks his head and turns to Guang Hong. “Who’s that?” he asks, making vague motions at the Durmstrang girl.
Phichit overhears his question and bends close to reply. “That’s Mila Babicheva, she’s with Senior Girls.”
Guang Hong nods in confirmation, then leans in to whisper, “Where’s Georgi, though?”
Seung-Gil, probably exasperated by their embarrassing gaps in knowledge, joins in to say, “He’s moved up to Professionals, you idiot.”
Guang Hong sends him a look of mock offence. “We’re friends, Seung-Gil, be nicer to me.”
“I’m only friends with all of you to meet my quota so people stop asking me if I have any,” Seung-Gil shoots back, perfectly deadpan.
The three of them exchange slightly horrified looks before Phichit whispers, “The worst thing is that I can’t tell if he’s joking.”
“Hey,” Yuuri picks up, struck by a thought. “Is the Equinox Ball tomorrow night, or after the competition?”
Phichit sends him a curious look. “Tomorrow, I think, why?”
“Just wondering,” he claims, suddenly wondering who Victor might attend it with.
At this point, they notice Celestino-sensei up at the Head table glaring at them for their none-too-subtle whispering, and chagrined, they settle back down for the ceremony.
Durmstrang gets directed to sit at the Slytherin table with them, though they’re seated down the other end, and Yuuri isn’t sure whether he feels relieved or disappointed by that development.
Professor McGonagall makes a short speech about the importance of international ties and inter-school relations, citing the Second Wizarding War. Rose Weasley swells with pride when her parents are mentioned. The guests are warmly welcomed, food appearing and weighing down the tables, and the feast passes in a blur of friendly questions from the Slytherin students around them and raucous laughter as a red-faced Headmaster Boot has to yell at Jean-Jacques to get off the table and stop trying to show off your tramp stamp.
Yuuri swears he sees Professor McGonagall hide an amused smile behind a sleeve.
Feast over, they’re led to the Slytherin common room in the dungeons, the Mizuchi students pleased at the underwater view of the lake from the windows. Phichit and Seung-Gil, however, seem ill-at-ease, the former asking, several times, if the common room is structurally sound.
Phichit’s still pouting about having to live underwater for the next week when the four of them are led to their room, the four-poster beds and thick, heavy verdant drapes warm and cosy. Head Boy Scorpius Malfoy - Malfoy’s fine, but not Scorpius, please - explains that Durmstrang’s just one door down from them, and fires off directions to the showers, kitchen, staff room, and Headmistress’s office before taking his leave.
Guang Hong flops straight onto a squashy bed in the middle, declaring himself exhausted, and Seung-Gil nods, saying he’ll turn in as well. In unspoken agreement, Yuuri and Phichit gather up their shower things and step out into the dim hallway, sparsely illuminated by sconces that glow faintly green.
Whispering with the awareness that their voices could carry, Yuuri says, pointing at a sconce, “I get that their House colours are green, but this can’t be good for reading.”
Phichit makes an exaggerated gesture with his hands. “So the lights are fine to find weird, but being underwater isn’t?”
Yuuri shrugs. “You’re just too used to the Raijin common room. I mean, Mizuchi’s faces the lake, so it’s not all that different.”
“Yeah, but it’s not under the lake,” Phichit sasses back.
As they round the corner at the end of their hallway, they bump - quite literally - into someone.
Phichit recovers first, smiling when he recognises who it is. “Hey, good to see you!”
Yuuri recognises the blond boy from a photo Victor sent, years ago now. “Oh,” he says, extending a hand, “You must be Yuri Plisetsky, nice to meet you.”
Yuri eyes his hand with thinly-veiled disgust, snorting in contempt that has Yuuri taking an unconscious step back. “Well, you’re a fucking idiot,” he says, derisive.
From the corner of his eye, Yuuri sees Phichit step forward, hackles raised. “It’s okay,” he tells Phichit, shaking his head. “You can, uh, go ahead to the showers, I’ll catch up with you.”
“You’re sure?” Phichit asks, near incredulous. At Yuuri’s nod, he backs away, but not before sending him a look that distinctly conveys we’re going to talk about this later.
When the sound of Phichit’s footsteps fade, he turns back to Yuri Plisetsky. He rubs the nap of his neck, uncertain. “Is this about Victor?”
Yuri sends him a glare of hostile disbelief. “What do you think you’re playing at?”
“Me?” Yuuri responds, taken aback. “I’m not doing anything!”
“Right,” Yuri seethes, “And all the times Victor mysteriously vanishes for an hour during a competition or is late back from one is just, what, a fucking game?”
At Yuuri’s horrified blush at being caught out, Yuri nods in furious triumph. “So, I’m going to ask you again: what the fuck are you playing at?”
Realising he’s being yelled at by a fifteen-year-old, Yuuri tries for composure. “Look, I don’t think this is any of your - ”
“If you say this isn’t of my business, I swear, right now, I will murder you with your skates, you get me?” Yuri raves, finger jabbing in aggression. “Do you think these past few years have been easy for him? You have no idea what he’s had to do.”
“What?” Yuuri says, reeling. “I mean, I know about Anya and Nikolai and the accident - ”
“The accident? Okhuyét, how stupid are you?” The boy inhales, livid. “His parents didn’t die in a car crash, they were murdered.”
Shaken, Yuuri presses a hand to his chest. From the end of the hallway, they can hear the approach of multiple footsteps and voices, the sound carried and echoing.
“God,” Yuri fumes, “I can’t believe you.” He storms past Yuuri with a violent shove, pausing outside the room allocated to Durmstrang to say, “You stay the fuck away from Victor, you hear me?”
Still shocked by the revelation, hands shaking, Yuuri scurries away from the hallway before any students can come upon him.
When he gets to the showers, Phichit’s waiting for him, anxious.
“Are you alright? What did that punk want?”
Yuuri mumbles an excuse that’s equally unconvincing to his own ears, and Phichit thankfully drops the topic, though he eyes him skeptically.
As they wind down for bed, Yuuri drawing the drapes around his four-poster tightly shut, he can’t help but think of Anya and Nikolai. He hasn’t let himself dwell on those memories for years, and - with his debut at Seniors and exams and school - he hasn’t, he admits guiltily, had the time.
There’s no easy way to think about the murder of two people as warm and wonderful as the Nikiforovs, and Yuuri’s mind swirls with questions he’s frustrated he can’t answer. He wishes he’d paid more attention to Victor when he’d talked about what his father did at the Ministry, and he wishes he’d been more observant, more keen-eyed, just more, at the Nikiforov Manor that summer.
He’s not naive enough to think he could have changed anything, but maybe if he’d just tried a bit harder -
Yuuri doesn’t get much sleep that night, tossing and turning and frowning into his pillow, angry with himself and the stifling dark.
The next day is a confusing jumble of trailing the Slytherins to all their classes around the frankly bewilderingly-designed castle.
The stairs move, the armours shift, the ghosts are less helpful than you’d think, and the fourth time they lose sight of their fellow Slytherin year-mates, even the perpetually sunny Guang Hong swears.
“You know what we need?” he says, throwing up his hands. “We need a map of this bloody castle, enchanted so we can see where everyone is so we can follow the Slytherins to their stupid classes.”
“I’m pretty sure that could be easily abused,” Seung-Gil notes, and then they all spot a flash of green and silver scarves two shifting staircases above them and are off running to try and catch up.
Lunch in the Great Hall is a harried affair, the Head Boy and Girl wandering around them with an army of prefects stringing up banners and streamers and aiming various enchantments at things. In between the rush of things and figuring out where to go, there’s no time for Yuuri to think of Yuri’s late night revelation.
“Don’t be late,” Malfoy reminds all of them on their way out. “The Equinox Ball starts at six sharp!”
The remaining classes of the day are distinctly infused with a sense of unenthusiasm, everyone excited for the Ball and not bothering to pay much attention. In Defence Against the Dark Arts, Professor Murray throws his hands up and declares the day a wash, instructing them to use the period for ‘independent study’.
By the time 5pm rolls around, the castle has worked itself into a tizzy, the mood back at the Slytherin common room giddy.
In their shared room, Phichit pulls his dress robes out from his enchanted and bottomless Trunk of Holding, shaking it off and picking minuscule specks of lint off it. It’s an eye-catching red and gold number, the lustre of the red deep and rich, the gold gleaming.
“Kind of Amaterasu, don’t you think, all that red and gold?” Seung-Gil says, sniffing in faux disdain.
“Really?” Phichit says, holding the robes away from him, eyeing them critically. “My mum had this sent over, I don’t think she realised.”
“I like it!” Guang Hong pipes up, lounging on his bed. “It’s very royal.” Directing his attention to Yuuri, who’s pouring over a textbook, he says, “Eh, Yuuri, what about you? Aren’t you going to start getting ready?”
Shutting the textbook in his lap, Yuuri stands, stretching. “I guess so.” He looks around their room, and has to do a double-take at the robes that Seung-Gil fishes from his trunk.
“Seung-Gil,” he says, voice carefully moderated. “Is that what you’re going to be wearing?”
Phichit, having caught sight of the offending garment, is staring along with Yuuri, wide-eyed.
“It’s, uh,” Guang Hong adds, “Very colourful.”
“Ah, good,” Seung-Gil replies, unsuspecting. “I like that.” When none of them look away, he huffs. “What?”
“Nothing!” Yuuri exclaims, hastily turning to rifle through his own trunk for his robes, hiding his amused smile.
Yuuri finds the dress robes his okaa-san’s sent him, a sharply-cut black number with silver accents. He strips out of his school robes and pulls it on, viewing himself uncertainly in the room’s mirror when he’s done.
Phichit whistles low from behind him. “Looking good, Yuuri!”
Guang Hong cheers along, wearing red and black robes that glitter when he moves.
“It’s not too plain?” Yuuri asks, unsure, turning around and craning his head to view himself from behind.
“Nah,” Phichit reassures, “You’re fine.” There’s a sparkle in his eyes. “Why, Yuuri? Hoping to impress someone in particular?”
“N-no,” he stutters, the room breaking out in raucous ribbing, thankfully dying down when it draws close to six.
Yuuri slicks his hair back with a quick spell and tucks his wand into a pocket. To his left, Guang Hong fidgets.
“You okay?” he asks, curious.
“Yes!” Guang Hong yelps, startled. “Sorry - it’s just, Leo asked me to the Ball with him, so this is all kind of new, you know?”
There’s a round of finallys between all of them, Guang Hong smiling sheepishly but more at ease.
“What about you two?” Guang Hong asks, gesturing at Yuuri and Phichit. “Are you going with anyone?” He doesn’t bother to ask Seung-Gil, knowing that he’d just snort and say he’s going stag, obviously.
Yuuri shakes his head, absently tugging at his sleeves.
“Nope,” Phichit confirms, and then glances over at Yuuri. “But I figured we might as well go together?”
Startled, Yuuri says, “Sure - uh. Why not?”
The matter settled, Yuuri still slightly baffled by Phichit’s sudden invitation, the four of them troop up to the Great Hall in time for six, arriving just as the Head Girl and Boy draw open the doors, ushering the gathered crowd into an enchanted winter wonderland.
“This is great!” Guang Hong chirps to Rose Weasley on their way in, the girl blushing and demurring.
The Great Hall is blanketed in a layer of enchanted snow, more floating gently from a ceiling spelled to look like a winter night sky. Two of the four House tables have been removed to make room for a dance floor, the remaining two pushed against opposite walls.
The tables themselves are laden with food, steaming platters of roast beef and gravy with piles of crisp Yorkshire pudding, delicate hors d’oeuvres with smoked salmon and duck rillette and Cornish crab carefully laid out amidst bunches of poinsettia and snow-covered pine branches.
Even used to the grandiosity of the Jade Palace, Yuuri can admit that the Hall is lavishly decorated.
Phichit fetches them both glasses of - literally - sparkling punch, the pinkish drink glittering. He’d been fretting about Phichit’s invitation, but as they settle back into the friendly cadence of their relationship, Yuuri laughing under his breath at Phichit’s numerous sassy comments, he shrugs the worry off.
Yuuri’s laughing at a particularly amusing line about Jean-Jacque’s purple skin-tight robes when the Durmstrang students enter, the crowd noticeably dipping in volume.
If you asked Yuuri later what the rest of the students around him were doing, he wouldn’t be able to tell you.
Victor’s in a red and gold ensemble, white shirt under a faintly militaristic jacket, golden epaulettes hanging off a shoulder in lightly swaying loops. He looks every inch the Count he now is, and the sight of him roots Yuuri to the ground, breath taken away.
With the lambent lights of the Hall around them, the eddies of ivory, enchanted snow, the gentle stream of classical music in the background - Victor looks ethereal, an untouchable ideal that Yuuri could never hope to hold onto. He swallows hard, unable to tear his eyes away.
Phichit must notice his gaping, because he pats him lightly on the arm and whispers, bemusedly, “You’re staring.”
The moment breaks, and Yuuri’s left blushing and scrambling to deny it.
As if the mere thought of him could summon the man, Victor spots them in the crowd. Yuuri notes the way his eyes alight on Phichit standing close to Yuuri, hand absently left on his arm, and when he smiles in greeting, his gaze is steely.
“Hello, Yuuri, Chulanont,” he says, nodding at the both of them.
Awkward, Yuuri clears his throat, surreptitiously sliding his arm away from Phichit, who eyes him with barely-disguised amusement and curiosity.
“Hi, Victor.” His voice is scratchy, but at least it doesn’t squeak. Yuuri doesn’t think he could handle the mortification.
Tone cordial, Victor extends a long hand, palm turned upwards. “May I borrow you for a dance?”
Yuuri glances nervously at Phichit, who returns his help me eyes with a look of dawning realisation. “Go ahead, Yuuri,” he says, smile evil. “I’ll go see what Leo and Guang Hong are up to.” He vanishes into the milling crowd.
“Hmm,” Victor murmurs, lacing their hands together as he draws Yuuri to the dance floor. “Chulanont must not be a very good date, then, if he’s willing to abandon you so quickly.”
“Ah - ” Yuuri sputters, brain nearly short-circuiting from the warm hand in his and their sheer proximity, “ - I mean, he’s a friend, and no one else asked?”
They reach the edge of the dance floor, Victor tugging him close, their fronts pressed together as they join the other couples swaying to the low music. His eyes are darkened, blazing sapphire ice as he rakes them down Yuuri’s body in a deliberate once-over.
“I’m not sure I can believe that, not with how you look,” Victor says, mouth tantalisingly near. Yuuri barely represses the shiver that threatens to run down his back from the warm breath that ghosts over the shell of his ear and the tender skin of his neck.
“I’m - uh - thank you?” Yuuri stammers, overwhelmed by the sensory assault and praise. “I don’t know how to convince you.”
Leaning in, hands framing Yuuri’s hips, Victor smiles, slow and wicked and entirely aware of his effect. “You could come back to the room with me.”
“What?” Yuuri’s stunned, and only the gentle pressure of fingers at his waist keeps him moving on the dance floor, gliding along with Victor to the faint strings.
Sensing his advantage, Victor presses. “Everyone’s down here, no one would notice us missing.”
There’s a moment where Yuuri’s brain shrieks what are you doing, nearly drowning out the fuck it, yes, why not -
“Yeah,” Yuuri says, meeting Victor’s gaze, lidded and ripe with promise. His tongue darts out to swipe at his lower lip, and Victor’s eyes track the movement with hunger.
They slip out of the Great Hall through one of the side doors, Yuuri’s heart pounding the whole journey back to the Slytherin common room.
Victor doesn’t give him time to think the minute they’re through the door to the Durmstrang room, pressing him back against the wood for a searing, blistering kiss. Their robes are shed in a fumble of buttons and unrelenting kisses and strokes, neither willing to stop touching the other.
Yuuri is nudged down onto his back on one of the four-poster beds, Victor coming to rest between his legs, nosing his way down his chest, laving at peaked nipples, then down to the sensitive skin of his stomach, sucking wet kisses until he hits the base of Yuuri’s cock, hard and shiny at the tip. With a smirk and swift move, he captures Yuuri’s cock in his mouth, enveloping him in perfect heat and pressure, and Yuuri has to throw his head back and moan.
Victor sucks him lightly, just enough to keep him on the edge and beading pre-cum, pausing to mutter a lubrication spell and then working him open with long, dexterous fingers. As he pulls off to nudge Yuuri’s legs further apart, he says, almost conversational, “You know, this is how I wanted our first time to go.”
Dizzy with pleasure, Yuuri can only blink up at him, flushed and panting.
“On a bed, like this,” Victor continues, bending to suck at Yuuri’s neck, pressing soothing kisses to heated skin as Yuuri whimpers when he slowly pushes in. “Not in a filthy cubicle in a men’s room.”
His thrusts are slow and measured, a constant burn of friction that’s perfect and blinding and not enough.
“Faster,” he insists, and Victor, with a huff of exerted laughter, obliges, his hips snapping and bruising, pace punishing.
Yuuri can feel the pressure building low and meteoric, a river thrashing and threatening to burst its banks.
When he comes, the pleasure crashes into him and leaves him winded, trembling and shaking and clutching onto Victor, holding on as he tumbles off the peak with him with a hoarse shout.
Their breaths mingle together, loud and warm, heartbeats thundering in tandem.
Minutes pass, and Victor eventually eases out, Yuuri left strangely bereft.
In the aftermath, gathering up his robes, Yuuri can’t stop himself from saying, “I’m sorry about your parents.”
Victor stiffens before visibly forcing himself relax, the smile he calls to his face not as convincing as he thinks it is. “It was years ago,” he replies.
And because Yuuri is a train wreck, the words tumble out of his mouth before he can stop them. “Yuri told me it wasn’t an accident.”
Yuuri’s almost wincing in anticipation of Victor’s anger when he sighs instead, running a spent hand through his mercury silver hair. “Of course he would.”
Victor brushes his robes off, looking for all the world as if he hadn’t just spent the last half an hour with - inside - him. “Look,” Victor continues. “Yuri doesn’t - he means well, but he doesn’t know everything.” Fully-dressed, he turns and heads for the door.
“Then tell me,” Yuuri says from the bed, frustrated and boiling over with years of unanswered questions. “Just let me in and meet me, here, where I am.” An embittered sound escapes his throat. “Why won’t you talk to me?”
At the doorway, Victor laughs at that, the sound bitter and sharp. “You don’t really get to ask that, Yuuri,” he says, fingers tapping on the doorframe with finality as he steps out.
With a final glance behind, face thrown into harsh profile in the viridescent light of the sconces, Victor’s expression is cold. “Not when you didn’t bother to write.”
He vanishes from view, and Yuuri is left reeling, confused and aching and utterly, completely lost.
Quick note on the sex in this fic: I deliberately waited until these two were both of age before introducing any sex scenes. So, yes, they're both still in school, but they're both legal and consenting. I literally had to Google 'age of consent in Japan' for this, so now the government probably has me on a watchlist. WORTH IT.
Chapter 3: and i play it on repeat
In which Victor is Not Subtle, Yuuri is an unintentional heartbreaker/super-sleuther, Mila and Yuri are the best friends anyone could want, and drama happens.
This chapter was so difficult to write, and I had to redo significant portions because I just wasn't happy with the way it was turning out. Ngl, this is one of the most challenging fics I've written, so I'm so glad I'm now done with it.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Yuuri graduates on a perfect summer morning.
The gardens of the Jade Palace are verdantly lush, the sakura trees in perpetual, delicate bloom. In the distance, the Golden Bridge gleams, and Lake Kamuito streams gently, its waters a faint, serene burble. Sunlight bathes the ceremony in an iridescent glow, colouring everything in warm, amber light.
His robes are gold.
In all his memories of the day in years to come, he will remember his okaa-san sobbing, waving a small Mahoutokoro flag, and his otou-san smiling proudly, tears in his eyes. He will recall Mari whooping as loudly as she can as he crosses the stage, and Phichit sitting next to him at the ceremony, sharing his hopes and dreams. On Yuuri’s lapel, above his Mizuchi House badge, he will recollect in flawless detail the tiny pin of Vicchan, sent by anonymous owl.
Yuuri has offers from two top Elementology colleges, Telcott’s bank, MinMagic’s cursebreaking department, and the Japanese National Frost Wielding team.
There’s no question which he’ll accept.
He’s eighteen, and figures that the rest of the offers will be there when he’s done with Frost Wielding or his body gives out, whichever happens first. His parents nod in supportive understanding when he tells them, and Mari hugs him and tells him she knows he can do it.
Their final day at Mahoutokoro is a whirlwind. Everything has to be packed, any broken items trashed, old schoolbooks given away.
Yuuri and Guang Hong’s shared room looks like it’s been hit by a natural disaster. Clothes are strewn about on every conceivable surface able to hold any, and their desks are buried - barely visible - under piles of textbooks, old essays, stationery, and all manner of detritus.
“How do we have so many things?” Guang Hong moans, flinging an exasperated hand over his eyes.
Yuuri, sifting through the clothes on his bed one item at a time, spares him a glance. “Less talking, more packing, come on,” he says. When he pulls out his wand to tap it twice against the cubicle frame, it reads 2.35pm. “We have less than three hours to sort everything out before the petrels leave.”
“Ugh,” Guang Hong sighs, disgusted, but he moves to his desk to begin demolishing the mountain of flotsam and jetsam across it.
By 4pm, they’ve made significant headway into the mess, most of Yuuri’s side of the room stuffed away in his bottomless Trunk of Holding. He cringes at the idea of the wrinkles some of his shirts must be getting, but figures he’ll deal with it all later. There’s little left for him to pack but the smattering of belongings chucked under his bed, so he crouches down on his knees to pull out what he can reach.
There are the usual assortment of stray socks, loose change, frankly worryingly large dust bunnies, and half-buried under a towel, a shoebox.
Yuuri settles back onto his haunches, gripping the frame of his bed for support, overcome with reluctance. With a sigh and a shake of his head - he’s being stupid, he’s not fifteen and naive anymore - he leans in to snag the box with a hand, making a face once he realises how caked with dust it is.
Behind him, Guang Hong rushes out of the room, muttering something about retrieving lost shoes.
Alone, he lowers himself to the ground, legs crossed, and settles the musty shoebox across his lap. With careful fingers, he tips the lid up, the light that spills in from the windows illuminating the carefree, laughing faces in the animated photos within.
He lets out a shaky breath. There are so many more than he remembers there being.
There’s the one of the four of them, Leo and Guang Hong and Victor and Yuuri, at one of their various Juniors competitions. They’re giggling into the camera, Victor’s arm looped casually over Yuuri’s boyish shoulders, Leo and Guang Hong waving enthusiastically at the photographer - yes, that’s right, they’d prodded Seung-Gil into taking the photo for them.
There’s another of Victor and Yuri Plisetsky, the latter sulking into the camera as he’s tackled into a crushing hug by a chortling Victor that lifts him from the floor, legs kicking.
There’s one of Victor and Yuuri at Beauxbatons in his Sixth Year, medals looped around their necks, the both of them beaming. Yuuri’s holding the stuffed toy Vicchan that Victor’d got him for his birthday that year, and in the photo, they both cradle the toy, pressed shoulder to shoulder, before Victor points to Yuuri’s bronze medal and gives a huge thumbs-up, Yuuri blushing and ducking his head.
Right at the bottom of the box, buried under the innumerable other photos, letters, and random assortment of memorabilia Victor had sent, is the photo.
It’s the one that has Yuuri’s heart lurching, the breath catching in his throat, his stomach flipping uncomfortably.
Some maj-less, Yuuri knows, believe that a photo captures and holds a piece of a person’s soul, stealing something precious from you to keep, bound forever and free from the confines of time, a moment of your life on a single sheet of special paper with particular inks.
Picking up the photo with tender, deliberate fingers, Yuuri thinks he understands what they mean.
The two of them are side by side on the pond at Nikiforov Manor, laughing and waving at the photographer - Anya, Yuuri thinks with a painful sigh - before gliding over the frozen surface to chase the other, Victor bending to pick up some shaved ice to fling at Yuuri, and him retaliating with some of his own.
Their miniature figures are so lifelike, so vivid, so real that he can almost hear the distant sounds of their high, joyful laugher.
It’s a trembling, fragile moment, the sunlight warm and balmy at his back, the quiet sounds of the palace around him.
He thinks about the years he’s spent idolising Victor, the years spent as his friend, the years without, and the years as whatever the hell they are now. He’s followed Victor in his dreams, orbited him at every turn, trailed him in every performance and routine. He’s clung on to Victor, desperate and reaching, always keeping him in sight.
Maybe it isn’t fair, and maybe it isn’t right, but -
The realisation dawns blooming and soft, hard and vicious, and he knows, with an implacable, unwavering certainty, that what he’d told Phichit all those years ago in the Raijin common room holds true:
He is a horrible person.
Clutching the photo in a shaky, damp hand, he leans back against the bed frame, shutting his eyes in muted defeat.
Katsuki Yuuri is a horrible person, he knows, who loves Victor too much to let him go.
Yuuri’s debut at Professionals isn’t terrible, but it isn’t fantastic like he’d always envisioned. He comes fourth out of the six Frost Wielders present, and Miyagi-sensei, the National Team coach, tells him it’s a respectable finish.
He medals a month after at Skate Latvia, finishing third and adding a bronze to the trophy cabinet back at Yu-topia.
At the Cup of Singapore he comes fourth, then fifth at the Trophée de Montreal.
Yuuri skates to the selection of songs picked out for him, all of them pleasant and comfortable and mind-numbingly boring. He digs deep at the start of each performance to scrape, lacking and unable to summon feeling and emotion for the dance, the music doing nothing to coax him to greater Wielding heights.
“It’s just a slump,” Miyagi-sensei tells him, patting him on the back. “You’ll get over it.”
So Yuuri pushes on. He skates at the Phoenix Trophy in Beijing, then at the Trofee van de Nederland. He medals no higher than bronze.
By the fifth month of his Professional career, seven months after Mahoutokoro, Yuuri is tired.
He’s tired of the constant feeling of inadequacy that plagues his every waking moment, the uncertainty that curdles at the back of his throat. He’s tired of not being good enough - for Professionals, for himself, for Victor.
He remembers what it was like to win gold and craves.
The night before the Ilvermorny Spring Invitationals, he sits in his bedroom at Yu-topia, legs curled to his chest, head buried in his hands.
The floor is hard beneath him, the wood aged and solid. He can hear the faint sounds of the weathered bathhouse creaking and moaning, okaa-san and otou-san puttering around downstairs in the kitchen.
In an abrupt move, he stands and heads for his desk, resolved.
Yuuri yanks open several drawers until he unearths a pen and some parchment - not paper, he’s going to do this properly - and sits on the chair.
He falters on his first attempt to put ink to words.
Teeth set to his lower lip, he tries again.
Dear Victor, he begins.
It sounds silly, even in his head.
He tries to remember how easy it’d been to write letters to Victor as a child. The words had flowed, they’d been in sync, and he never had to worry about sounding stupid.
He can do this, he knows.
Inhaling deeply, he begins.
Victor, the words appear, stark and black on the parchment, It’s been some time since we last - Yuuri falters, unsure of what to write - saw each other, and I hope you’re well. How are the Russian Professionals going? I know you’re probably busy, but I was wondering if I could - he sets his pen down here, tapping nervous fingers on the desk.
Sighing and dragging a hand across his face, Yuuri makes himself resume. I was wondering if I could ask for your help in choreographing a competition routine for me. I will, of course, remunerate you for your time. I also understand that you may not have the time to do so, and ask that you merely write to keep me apprised.
Pen wavering, he signs off. Your friend, Yuuri.
Before he can question his decision, he stuffs the letter into an envelope and sends it off with Pizu, heart pounding.
The enormity of what he’s done sets in as soon as he loses sight of the owl in the mild night sky.
God. He sinks down onto his bed, discarding his glasses to press the heels of his hands to his eyes. This is insane.
He knows why he did it. He knows, on an intellectual level, that this is the push he needs, the spark that he prays Victor is willing to provide to rekindle his love for Frost Wielding that’s sputtered and died out.
If there’s one person who would understand him, where he is and where he’s coming from, flaws and glaring inadequacies and all, it would be Victor.
Yuuri’s not stupid. He gets that this is a slump, that sooner or later, he’ll probably be able to get his love for Frost Wielding back. He knows he could do it without Victor, but he thinks of photos in a dusty shoebox and of stuffed toy dogs, and he knows he’d rather do it with him than without.
A smaller part of him, the one that he keeps locked away with memories of a Manor and idyllic summer days, trembles. He won’t write back, it whispers.
Yuuri goes through the motions of getting ready for bed, vaguely aware that he has a competition the next day. He has a shower, changes into a comfy shirt and pyjama pants, and crawls under the duvet, adrenaline still coursing lightly through his veins.
He doesn’t know what to expect, but Pizu tapping irritably on his shut windowpane at two in the morning isn’t it. His eyes shoot open, heart thumping, and his fingers fumble in their haste to untie the response from Pizu’s talon.
Reply in hand, he absently gives the owl a treat, and Pizu takes off out the window, hooting.
The envelope is thick and heavy cream cardstock, unaddressed. When he turns it over in his hands, the wax seal across the pointed flap is stamped with a stylised, cursive N. He slits it open with careful fingers, mindful of the seal.
The reply is short, almost curt.
We can talk about payment later, the letter reads. I’ll need to stay in Japan for the duration. Send me the details and we’ll work something out.
It’s simultaneously infinitely better and worse than what he’d hoped for.
Yuuri flops back onto his bed, Victor’s reply clutched to his chest. He groans into the back of his hand, wondering, not for the first time, what kind of mess he’s gotten himself into.
His parents will insist that Victor stay at Yu-topia, he knows. He’ll be here, in the last sanctuary Yuuri has left that Victor hasn’t sieged, and whatever happens will forever colour this refuge.
Still. He’s - he’s not eager, because that would be naive, but there’s something skirting terrifyingly close to excitement thrumming through his blood.
Yuuri eyes the tiny lapel pin of Vicchan that he keeps fastened to the corner of his sheets, unable to keep the small, secret smile from spreading across his face even as nervousness and trepidation make themselves at home in his stomach.
That night, he falls asleep with the letter by his pillow, his dreams old and familiar.
There’s an echo of a hand in his, the faint recollection of moonlight on glittering, smooth ice, and the distant memory of a warm presence beside him.
Yuuri runs into Mila Babicheva at an international Frost Wielding conference in February, nearly barrelling straight into her as he rounds a corner. Victor’s due at Yu-topia in less than a week, and the anticipation and apprehension both weigh heavy on his mind.
“Ah, sorry,” he apologises, wobbling off-balance as he avoids the collision, before managing to right himself.
“It’s fine,” she laughs, brushing stray strands of her striking red hair from her face. She peers at him, and there’s clear recognition in her eyes. “Hey, you’re Katsuki Yuuri, aren’t you?”
It’s more a statement than an actual question, and Yuuri nods.
She beams. “C’mon, I’ll buy you a coffee.”
At Yuuri’s stammer and blush, she laughs again, the sound full and high, carrying and turning several heads.
“No, god no,” she corrects. “Not like a date, kotyenok, we both bat for completely opposing teams.” She tilts her head, eyes bright. “Victor’s your friend and I’m his friend, no? I just want to get to know you, then we can be friends. You must be special if he’s going to go to Japan for you.”
Relieved, Yuuri smiles, embarrassed, and rubs a hand on the back of his neck. “Sure, a coffee sounds good.”
“Great!” she chirps, leading him towards the exit of the conference centre. “I know just the place.”
Mila takes him to a tiny, hole-in-the-wall cafe just off a side street in Magical London. At his skeptical glance, she tells him, “Just wait till you try their coffee.”
He can barely stop himself moaning when he does, and her face is smugly pleased.
“Now,” she says as they settle into one of the small tables in the corner, “How long have you known Victor?”
Yuuri blinks at the abrupt direction of the conversation, but goes along with it. “Since we were kids - I was eleven, he must’ve been twelve or thirteen.”
“Yes, that’s right,” she says, resting her chin on a slender downturned hand, elbow on the table. “He used to talk about you all the time at school, you know.”
Startled, Yuuri says, with a disbelieving smile, “He did?”
“Oh, yes,” she says, expression light. There’s a glint in her eye that Yuuri can’t quite decipher. “Always, ‘did you know Yuuri is brilliant, he made these ballpoint pens’, or ‘isn’t it incredible how Yuuri lives in a maj-less town, did you know they use lightning to power things’, or ‘Yuuri says he’s worried about his tests, isn’t that silly, he’s so smart’. I don’t think anyone in Durmstrang didn’t know at least something about you.”
Yuuri laughs, tone edging on bewildered. “None of those things are true, I didn’t invent ballpoint pens. And machines don’t run on lightning.”
She waves his clarifications away. “The point is, Victor was obviously smitten.” Her eyes sharpen now, and her demeanour changes, the differences subtle and pointed. “Which makes it even worse when his parents died and suddenly his best friend Yuuri stopped writing.”
He can’t stop the swell of indignation that crashes over him, the hand he’s kept on his lap under the table reflexively balling into a tight fist. First Victor, now Mila - there are so many questions he wants answered.
Yuuri inhales deeply, centring himself. He knows Mila means well, but she’s still an unknown entity, and he doesn’t owe her an explanation.
“That’s not what happened,” he says, proud that his voice remains steady. “You don’t know what went on.”
She leans forward, one palm flat on the table. “And you do?” she asks, question direct, though her tone isn’t unkind. Her eyes are intent and searching on his. Something about the expression his face must satisfy her, because she nods once and leans back in her chair.
Mila watches him at length over the rim of her coffee cup, and Yuuri fidgets, unsure what she wants from him.
After an uncomfortably long minute, she says, “What do you know of the Nikiforovs?”
He sips his coffee, fingers tapping nervously on the side of the paper cup. “Not much? I know they were nobility - Nikolai was a Count, Victor inherited the title - and pureblood. They have a massive Manor in Voytolovo.”
She sighs. “I thought so.” With a glance at their surroundings, she pulls out her wand to cast a privacy spell around them.
“Look,” she says, “The Nikiforovs are a big deal in Russia. I’m talking - ” she flounders for a comparison he would comprehend, “ - like the Potters in Britain, or the Shimadas in Japan. That kind of old money, ancient lineage, powerful name, you understand?”
Yuuri nods along.
“I only know this because my mum works at the Ministry, but Victor’s dad was working on campaigning for Werewolf and Veela rights at the time, and was really close to pushing this Bill through. You can guess it made a lot of people very unhappy.” She grimaces.
He can guess where this is going, and he dreads what he knows she’s going to say even before she says it.
“There are - were - rumours about Evgeni Nikiforov being seen around the unsavoury parts of Volskaya Arcade, and then a month later, the Nikiforovs were dead, their car tampered with.”
She runs an unhappy hand through her hair. “So when Victor’s parents died, he was just fifteen. The vultures were just waiting to descend,” she says, her hand swooping down for emphasis. “Evgeni shows up and produces this Will, saying his brother’s left him everything - the Title, all the money, the Manor, all their estates and holdings. I don’t know the details, but things got ugly, and Victor…” she trails off.
Mila clears her throat, evidently uncomfortable. “Well, he had to claw his way back up, is all I know.”
“Wait,” Yuuri says, struck by a thought, brain rewinding. “You said were. What happened to Evgeni Nikiforov?”
Mila shrugs, her red hair bobbing with the movement. “He was found dead in a ditch outside St Petersburg two years ago. The Aurors never found out who did it. An avada kedavra, untraceable.” With a sneer, she continues, “No loss there, if you ask me.”
Dumbstruck, Yuuri struggles to find the right words, pressing the cold tips of his fingers to his mouth. He’s vaguely aware of Mila watching him closely, expression measured and weighty.
“Why are you telling me this?” he finally asks, hands clasped tightly together on the table.
Mila leans forward and takes his hands and hers, fervent. “Because no one was going to tell you, and Victor deserves someone who knows this,” she says, intense. “Because despite whatever may have happened between the two of you, Victor deserves someone who understands what he’s been through.”
“I don’t know if he - we aren’t - ”
She cuts him off with a quelling look, pushing her chair back and standing. Tossing her paper cup in a nearby bin, she turns back to face him.
“You should know that I’m taking a huge gamble by telling you this, and I trust you’ll do the right thing.” Yuuri opens his mouth to speak, but she holds up a finger. “But,” she continues, “If you break Victor’s heart again, I’ll murder you before Yuri gets the chance.”
Speechless, Yuuri nods, swallowing hard.
Mila’s entire body language changes, and he’s left facing the bubbly, cheerful woman who’d accosted him at the conference centre.
“Great!” she exclaims. “Are you done with your coffee? We should head back, there’s this interesting panel on the Physiology of Frost Wielding that I want to attend.” Tossing Yuuri’s empty cup, she wanders out the cafe.
At a loss for words and barely able to process everything he’s just heard, Yuuri follows.
In the years since he’s known Victor, Yuuri’s always meant to learn Russian. Sheer lack of time had put that plan on hold, and then Victor’d stopped replying to his letters, and he’d discarded the idea, heartsore and hurt.
Sitting on the floor in his bedroom at Yu-topia, Yuuri curses himself with irritation.
He ordinarily wouldn’t be so annoyed with his past self, except for the fact that all the articles and reports on the death of the Nikiforovs are in Russian and beyond his comprehension.
Google Translate spits the pages back out in garbled Japanese - and then English, when he tries that too.
And because Russian Wizarding Society - European Wizarding Society in general - is behind the Japanese one, all of the articles he unearths online are maj-less. None tell him anything he doesn’t already know, some with more vivid descriptions of the totalled Rolls-Royce than others.
In desperation, he rummages around in a drawer until he finds the scrap of paper with a scribbled string of numbers that Mila’d pressed into his hand post-conference.
“I’m not a luddite,” she’d said with a roll of her eyes. “Owl post is fine and all, but sometimes the maj-less have the right idea, you know?”
Grateful for her practical streak, he squints at the screen of his mobile, tapping out a text.
Does the Wizarding Vechernyaya Moskva have a website? He sends the text, tongue tucked between his teeth.
He doesn’t have to wait long. Within a minute, his phone lights up with a response. No, sorry. Why?
Yuuri purses his lips, unsure how she’d take his reply. Just wanted to look something up, he types, and hits send before he can overthink it.
This time, there’s a longer break between texts. Try WIZvestiya instead, they have an online version.
Thanks, he replies, and then sets his phone aside to call up the website in question. After navigating the labyrinthian maj-less webpage, he’s met with a wall of text that requires him to tap his wand to the screen to decipher. With the first tap, the text dissipates, reforming into legible Cyrillic script, and with the second, it switches to English.
“Yes!” he pumps a fist, tucking his wand between his teeth to begin research.
By the time it reaches one in the morning, he’s gone through every news report made by the publication on the Nikiforovs’ deaths, and there are several pages on the notebook beside him filled with his neat handwriting.
Shutting his laptop, he stands to stretch tired arms over his head, rubbing at his strained eyes. Leaning back against his desk, he picks up the notebook, a finger coming up to trail through the lines of notes he’s made. There’s nothing that stands out, the information he’s managed to find all correlating exactly with what Mila told him - tampered car, Evgeni Nikiforov claiming inheritance, and speculation about the veracity of the Will.
His finger stops when he hits a particular line, his brow furrowing in recollection. The article had been sparse, but it’d made a mention of Victor continuing to reside at the Manor during the period, bloodline laws giving him the legal right to do so.
Yuuri can feel the pieces of the puzzle drawing together, answers hovering just out of reach. There are puzzle pieces he doesn’t have yet, some pieces torn, others still face down so he can’t make out their design.
He sighs, setting the notebook aside.
With a flick of his wand, he turns the lights off, slipping under the covers.
The letters, he thinks. What about the letters?
Yuuri’s at the Ice Castle when Victor arrives at Yu-topia, skating slow double flips and loops on the ice, deep in thought.
It’s not till he spots the text from Mari on his phone that he sprints the distance to the bathhouse, panting and sweaty and exhausted by the time he makes it back.
Victor’s at the restaurant by the front, munching down on a katsudon, chopsticks held regally aloft.
There are no exuberant greetings, no warm reunions and hugs. Yuuri’s not disappointed, but it chafes.
Victor lifts the elegant line of his brow, the corners of his lips quirking faintly upward.
“Good,” he says. “You’re here.”
In an abrupt turn of conversation that might give Yuuri whiplash, Victor continues, “Why did you never tell me your family’s katsudon was amazing?” There’s an almost offended tone to his voice, and Yuuri can’t tell, with any certainty, if he’s joking.
“A-Ah,” he stutters, “I’m pretty sure I mentioned it before, though?”
Victor eyes Yuuri with a look he can’t quite interpret before shifting to beam at his okaa-san, the full force of his charm turned on her and making her blush. “Your son,” he says, “Did not do this culinary masterpiece justice.”
Okaa-san laughs giddily and demurs, and his otou-san behind the counter has an aww, shucks expression on his face. Yuuri wonders, for a brief moment, if Katsukis are somehow genetically susceptible to Nikiforov appeal.
There’s a patter of tiny feet from behind him, and Yuuri stiffens, because he hasn’t heard a sound like that in Yu-topia since Vicchan -
A brown poodle bounds over to where Victor’s sitting, cross-legged, by the table, hopping around in excitement and giving him wet, sunny licks across his face.
“Not now, Maccachin, I’m eating,” Victor says, nudging him away with a few affectionate pats to his head.
Yuuri makes a choked sound, unable to tear his eyes from this - this near-identical copy of Vicchan. He turns to head out of the room, into the corridor that leads past the kitchen and to their living quarters.
Victor must hear him, because he’s on his feet and after Yuuri down the hallway, hand wrapping around his wrist to stop him going further.
“Listen,” he says, “I know - ”
Yuuri shakes his head, breath unsteady and tremulous, and leans back against the wall of the corridor. Victor sighs, hand coming up to brace on the wall by his head, expression pained.
Before Victor can speak, Yuuri forces himself to say, “Maccachin’s adorable.” With effort, he compounds the sentence with a wan smile.
Victor’s face is shadowed in the dimness of the hallway, his eyes bluish-black in the light. A lone finger trails softly down Yuuri’s jaw, pausing by his lips.
Yuuri turns away. “I’m sorry,” he continues, “I was just startled. That was stupid of me.”
There’s a wry smile on Victor’s face, and he huffs and he takes a step back. “Alright, Yuuri,” he says. “We’ll do this your way for now.” With a glint in his eye, he disappears back to the bathhouse front, and Yuuri’s left reeling, adrift at sea.
Yuuri retreats to his room, pulse rabbiting, only emerging when Mari yells for him to help move Victor’s innumerable trunks and boxes into the banqueting room.
They’re halfway done - owner of said belongings nowhere in sight - when their otou-san enters the room, expression sheepish.
At their dad’s look, Mari turns her gaze heavenwards, expelling a long breath. “Don’t tell me,” she says. “The banqueting room’s been booked and we need to move all these boxes to a different room.”
When their otou-san merely shrugs and smiles in bashful apology before escaping their wrath, Mari lets out an argh of frustration, and Yuuri sighs but picks up the trunk closest to him to begin the move again.
As he nears the doorway, he realises he has no idea where they’re supposed to put Victor up now. “Uh, Mari,” he asks, “Where are we going to move all of this?”
There’s an evil smirk on her face. “He’s your guest, isn’t he, Yuuri?” She examines her fingernails. “And it just wouldn’t be right if we stuck him in an empty storage cupboard, plus all his things wouldn’t fit anyway.”
Most of Victor’s trunks and boxes end up in the storage room across the hall from Yuuri’s bedroom, the trunks Victor deems essential kept in the bedroom itself.
There’s a distinct gleam of interest in Victor’s gaze when Yuuri first shows him to his bedroom, spare futon now propped up against his closet.
Victor wanders over to his desk, eyeing his laptop with curiosity. He picks it up with a graceful flourish, turning it over in his hands.
“What is this?” he says, tone quizzical, after a few nudges with his wand yield nothing.
“Here,” Yuuri says, coming over to flip it open. “If you open it like this - ” he taps a few keys to wake the laptop from sleep, “ - you can use it to go online and read stuff, write to people, that sort of thing.”
Victor takes the laptop from him, peering down at it. “Go online?”
Realising that he has no frame of reference for the internet, Yuuri snags a sheet of paper from his desk, and for the next ten minutes, attempts to explain the wonders of the world wide web to an inquisitive Victor.
“Maj-less, uh, what’s the word - ” he looks to Yuuri for help.
“Technology,” he supplies, and Victor snaps his fingers and nods.
“Maj-less technology is fascinating,” Victor concludes, still absently pressing random keys on Yuuri’s laptop keyboard.
It’s nearly pushing six in the evening by then, and Victor asks if he can see Yuuri perform.
Startled, Yuuri blinks, but nods just as quickly. “Sure, if you like,” he replies, knowing that the Ice Castle would be closing up but confident that Yuuko’d be willing to let them use it after-hours.
Yuuko’s ecstatic to see him, winking none-too-subtly at Yuuri when Victor’s back is turned.
“You boys have fun now,” she teases, closing up behind her to return home to Nishigori and the triplets.
As Yuuri tugs on his skates and laces them, he takes a moment to cast both a privacy and perimeter alert spell around the Ice Castle. At Victor’s questioning look, he expounds, “Yuuko’s maj-less, so I’d prefer to be careful than have to obliviate her.”
Victor nods in agreement, then directs him to perform his Professionals short programme routine. “Just to get a feel of where you’re at,” he explains.
Yuuri obliges, skating to the centre of the small rink, before he realises that Victor doesn’t have his music. Grimacing at his error, he makes the split-second decision to hand his wand to Victor.
“Just tap it twice and it’ll play the right piece,” he says, biting his lip, slightly wary at entrusting something so personal to someone else.
Various expressions flit over Victor’s face as Yuuri hands his wand over, too fast for him to catch. “I’ll look after it,” he responds at length, and the uneasiness at Yuuri’s wand being in someone else’s hands abates a little.
He skates back to the centre, nodding when Victor calls, “Ready?”
The music is familiar and cheerful, a light tune that evokes youthful, bucolic days in the sun. The landscape he calls into being with his magic is a lush bank, woodland animals skipping and hopping as he glides around them.
Wary of Victor’s eyes on him, Yuuri misses his first landing, recovering quickly even as he berates himself. Brow furrowing, he shifts the landscape as the bar of music ends, moulding boyish figures zooming around on bicycles by a gently lapping ocean.
He manages to land his triple axel, and when the music rises and enters the second half, he nails his quad salchow and combination jumps, albeit slightly off-balance. As the music enters its final movement, the beach recedes into the ice, Yuuri teases the magic into yielding a flat plain, a flock of glittering seagulls taking flight.
Sweating profusely, he glides to halt, arms raised above his head in ending.
Chest heaving, he falls out of the pose, swiping at the beads of sweat on his forehead with an arm before glancing over at Victor.
Skating over, he accepts his wand Victor proffers with a gasping thanks, bracing both hands on the boards and bending to catch his breath.
“No emotion,” Victor states, voice almost clinical in analysis. “No passion. Your form’s not terrible - ” Yuuri winces at the faint but damning praise, “ - but if you’re not enjoying or feeling your performance, you can bet the judges and audience aren’t too.” He gestures at the ice. “This routine isn’t challenging you. It’s nice and pleasant and banal, and you’re not going to win the Grand Prix with this.”
Fingers held up to his lips, Victor inclines his head in a decisive, final gesture.
“I have something in mind, but I’ll need today to refine it. We start work tomorrow.”
Yuuri nods, anticipation and excitement building fast and low in his gut.
The training is demanding, challenging, and blows right past any limits Yuuri thought he had. His days are a blur of waking up, having a quick breakfast, running 5k to end up at the Ice Castle, skating practice, lunch, time at the gym, dinner, and then back to the Ice Castle for Frost Wielding.
There’s barely enough time to think, and by the sixth day, Yuuri’s beginning to wonder if Victor is his coach or choreographer.
When he broaches the subject with Victor, he simply shrugs, nonchalant. “I won’t give you the routine until you can perform it to perfection,” he says.
With a measured eye levelled at Yuuri, gasping for breath and sweaty from his run, Victor waves at him, as if to prove his point. “In your state as is, the routine is impossible for you.”
Yuuri grits his teeth but nods, and the weeks pass with startling quickness.
With hardly enough time to even think, sex is out of the question. Yuuri returns to Yu-topia with Victor in tow each night, collapsing on his bed and falling into instant, dreamless, fatigued sleep. They’ve done away with the futon on the floor, Victor sliding in warm and solid next to him, but that’s more out of convenience.
“There’s no point laying out the futon every night and then having to store it away in the morning,” Victor’d pointed out, fingers tapping on his chin. “Wouldn’t it save time if we just shared the bed?”
At Yuuri’s half-hearted protest, Victor’d simply sighed and said, “Yuuri, I’ve seen you naked. I’ve been inside you. Surely sleeping isn’t any worse.”
That had quelled any further objections, Yuuri sputtering and blushing too much to respond coherently.
By the third week, Victor deems him fit to begin work on the routine. Rinkside, Yuuri shifts anxiously from one skate-clad foot to another, eager and nervous to see the routine Victor’s choreographed just for him.
“Alright, cue the music,” Victor calls from the centre of the rink, and Yuuri, entrusted with his wand, carefully taps it twice against the boards.
When the notes play, high and insistent, it sends a thrum through his blood.
On the ice, Victor calls up a figure, a beautifully moulded woman who takes his hand. They fly across the ice, and the story is clear with the music - a Don Juan after his latest conquest, a Casanova chasing his newest love. Victor leaps into beautifully executed triple axel, the woman gliding around him, coquettish, then as the music rises, orbiting him, smitten and won. With a combination jump, the music soars, and Victor thrusts the figure away from him, Don Juan off to greener pastures. The woman spins away, sinking into the ice, and the music ends with a ringing, almost plangent, note.
It’s not challenging, it’s downright impossible.
Yuuri’s already shaking his head as Victor glides over to the boards, barely having broken a sweat.
“I can’t do that,” he says, tone fraught.
Victor eyes him steadily. “You can.”
“No. No,” he’s shaking his head again, almost frantic now. “That kind of magical stamina for the woman, the pure control to get her to move so naturally like that, the sheer amount of sustained power for a figure that size…” Yuuri trails off, clasping his hands together tightly. “I can’t do it.”
He makes to back away, but Victor’s hand comes up to snag his wrist, keeping him rooted.
“Yuuri,” Victor says, “Yuuri. Look at me.”
Shifting his hand, Victor moves to lace their fingers together. “I wouldn’t have put this routine together for you if I didn’t believe you could do it.”
With his free hand, Yuuri picks skittishly at a hangnail. “Well, you’ve seen me skate here once, and you haven’t really seen me at competitions, so I think you’re - ”
“I saw you skate at Mahoutokoro, Beauxbatons and Uagadou at Juniors, then at the WizarDome Summer Invitationals, Magawump Trophy, Trofeo d’Italia, South African Invitationals, Skate Kenya, and Seven Schools Championships at Seniors.” Victor’s voice is low and impassioned, his expression intense. “I know what you’re capable of. The way you skate, like your body is creating music. I wanted to create a high-difficulty programme to maximise that. And I know you can do this.”
Stunned into silence, Yuuri has to struggle to find his voice. “I didn’t - ” he clears his throat, “ - I didn’t know you were watching.”
Yuuri glasses are slightly smudged, and Victor gently removes them from his face to clean them on his shirt.
“Ah, Yuuri,” he says, and he’s little more than a blur of colours in Yuuri’s vision, “I know you didn’t.”
There’s a note in his voice that Yuuri can’t make out, and he blinks at the mass of grey, silver, and beige that Victor is, unsure of what he’s missed but certain that he has.
On the first of the days Victor allows him a break, they end up going on a long, winding walk, Maccachin skipping around their feet in typical canine fashion.
“Just show me around town,” Victor’d said, and okaa-san had prodded him into agreeing, so they’d went.
They have no destination in mind. Lunch is at old Takashi-san’s famous ramen stall, Victor devouring two XL-sized bowls in rapid succession, each with more rapturous, raving comments about the food than the last.
Sated and lethargic, they meander down to the footpath by the sea, at three in the afternoon deserted and silent but for their footsteps and Maccachin’s excited yipping. The sea rolls in slowly, almost lackadaisically, tide slow, and they pause to sit on a bank, sharing a companionable quiet, Maccachin between them.
Seagulls caw in the distance, their calls plaintive and ringing, and the sky is an overcast, dusty grey. The smell of saltwater hangs in the air, the breeze clear and crisp. Yuuri shuts his eyes, faintly homesick for Mizuchi and Mahoutokoro.
“You know,” Victor says, voice muted, cautious of breaking the fragile quiet, “The first time I saw the sea, I was thirteen.”
“Yeah?” Yuuri replies. “What was that like?”
Victor shakes his head and glances down, smiling at the memory. “You’d told me about Hasetsu and the ocean, and I so desperately wanted to see it that I made Mother and Father take me one weekend.” There’s a distant look in his eyes, and Yuuri knows he’s far away, thirteen and innocent and untouched by the world, Anya and Nikolai by his side.
“I couldn’t believe it. The water was - just - stretching out, in all directions - " he gestures at the far horizon, “ - and I couldn’t see the end. It was terrifying and breathtaking.”
Yuuri sends him a small smile. “And now?”
Victor smiles back, gentle. The moment spins between them, thick and warm like taffy, a respite in a raging storm. “It’s still breathtaking.” He sighs, and the sound is so soft Yuuri barely catches it over the crashing and ebbing of the tide. “I’m reminded of St. Petersburg when I hear seagulls in the early morning.”
“Is that where you live now?” Yuuri asks carefully, loathe to be the one to shatter the moment.
Victor traces absent patterns on the ground beneath them, nodding. His eyes are far away. “I never thought I’d leave that city, so I never used to notice the seagulls’ cries. They were loud, of course, when I first moved there, but it’s odd how soon it just faded into the background with the traffic and crowds.” He glances at Yuuri. “Do you ever have times like that?”
Yuuri dips his head. “Tokyo,” he says. “I’m there for the National Team, and I know they say this of all cities, but Tokyo never sleeps. They got me a place off Arizawa High Street, and even at two, three in the morning, there are lights on outside my window. Tokyo’s so bright, and I never even noticed until I came back home to Hasetsu.”
Victor nods. “It’s like this, then.” He strokes Maccachin with a hand, staring off into the sea. “I haven’t been back to the ocean since I was thirteen. I’ve seen it, I’ve been past it - but not here, like this. There hasn’t been the time, and I haven’t wanted to.” His voices hitches. “I think a part of me was always afraid that if I came back to the sea, I’d somehow overwrite the memories of coming here with my parents.”
Heart aching and weeping for Victor, Yuuri reaches out to take his hand, and their fingers lace together, pulses beating in tandem.
“My uncle hated the seagulls,” Victor says. “When he got that job at the Ministry, he’d have to floo through St. Petersburg to get to Moscow. If the floo lines were backed up, he’d complain about having to get a ticket number and wait around St. Petersburg for half an hour or so. The seagulls would drive him crazy.”
“The Ministry?” Yuuri asks, curious.
“Head of the Department of Wizarding Culture Preservation,” Victor replies, a curl to his lips. “He had friends all over.”
With a shake of his head, Victor visibly sheds the dark mood, tilting his head to smile at him. “I’m glad it’s you here with me, Yuuri.”
Smiling back, feeling the invisible, palpable shift between them in lines negotiated in the sea foam and cries of seagulls above, Yuuri says, “I’m glad, too.”
At eleven that night, the bathhouse shut, Yuuri slips away to the baths to steal some time alone for himself.
He doesn’t get into the pools, instead sitting by the bench along the wall, breathing in the clean, humid air.
There’s something that niggles at the back of his mind, a loose thread from his conversation with Victor that, if he could just snag, might tie it all together.
The answer eludes him for the hour he sits there, and with a sigh, he heads to bed.
At five in the morning, Yuuri wakes with a jolt.
The pieces fall together in his mind, slotting themselves into the gaps, filling out blanks and checking off boxes.
Evgeni Nikiforov at Volkaya Arcade - the Title, money and land - the letters - the job and connections at the Ministry -
Yuuri scrambles out of bed, patting a disgruntled Victor on the arm as he rolls over into Yuuri’s warm, vacant spot to continue sleeping.
He puts a fumbling call through to Mila - it’s eight in the morning in Moscow - to beg for assistance, then with newly-acquired number in hand, sends a text to Yuri Plisetsky, praying the boy’s annoyance at him will spur him to reply.
Fuck off, he receives in response, but shortly after, Yuuri’s phone beeps again. I’ll talk to my grandfather.
Yuuri doesn’t get any further sleep, and in the hours before Victor wakes, amasses an impressive pile of paperwork, printing off what he can on Yu-topia’s aged, cranky printer.
The three boxes of documents from a grumbling Yuri Plisetsky show up mere hours later via floo, and Mila comes through on her end, the thick, manila folder stamped CONFIDENTIAL - MM RUSSIA AUROR DEPT. EYES ONLY delivered by a harried looking tawny owl just after nine.
It all happens so quickly, and Yuuri’s deeply, fiercely grateful that Victor has friends who love him as much as they do.
In the first of the boxes that he has to steel himself to open, he finds them.
With shaking, trembling fingers, he picks out a letter. The envelope is open and torn. The sheet of paper - clearly ripped from a notebook - he draws from it is both painfully familiar and foreign, his boyish scrawl inked along the lines.
I passed everything! it reads, the smiley face next to his words uneven and lopsided. I’m not sure when your term ends, but we’re all going home tomorrow. I’m going to ask my parents if we can have you over for summer…
He drops the letter from between numb fingers, folding himself into a ball on the floor. He can feel the edges of a panic attack setting in, his breathing too loud, the rush of his blood thundering in his ears. With herculean effort, he scores dig welts into his palm with his nails, the sharp, shooting pain grounding him in the - the -
The banqueting room.
He’s fine, he can do this.
Unsteady on his feet, thoughts clamouring and loud and just shy of too much, he goes through the rest of the first box.
Someone had gone through all the letters he’d sent to Victor, made duplicates, and kept them in an evidence locker. The originals had been returned to Yuuri, and neither of them had been any the wiser.
By ten in the morning, Victor’s usual waking time less than a mere hour away, Yuuri thinks he’s got it. He has to brace himself against the long dining table, icy fingers pressed to his mouth, hand curled to his chest.
At ten-forty-three, Victor steps into the room, sliding the door shut behind him. “Mari said you were squirrelled away in here,” he says, stifling a yawn with a lazy hand.
Something about the way Yuuri’s holding himself, in the lines of his body, or in the pallor of his complexion, must tip Victor off, because his hand goes instinctively for his wand in his pocket, eyes jumping to a cautious readiness.
“What wrong, Yuuri?” he says. He pads closer to where he’s standing, sending a wary glance at the documents strewn about. “What’s all this?”
It’s a minute that spins between them, a thread fluttering in the wind, woven into being years ago on a chilly Autumn day at the Chrysanthemum Hall in Mahoutokoro, two boys meeting on the same playing field.
“I’m sorry, Victor,” he says, voice hoarse.
He notes the way Victor’s eyes alight on the manila folder on the table, hefty and thick. His grip on his wand tightens, and his lips flatten into a thin slash.
“I’m so sorry for what you had to go through,” Yuuri says again. “I’m sorry something so horrible happened to you. I’m sorry you thought you were alone. I’m sorry I didn’t look harder or know better. I’m sorry I couldn’t see past my own fears to know you’d never do that to me.”
Teeth set to his lower lip, hands forcefully steadied, Yuuri slides the first box over to him. “I wrote to you. For what it’s worth now - years too late, I know - I never stopped thinking of you.”
Victor picks up the first letter, turning it over in his hands. He picks up the second, then the third, and then he’s rifling through the contents of the box, eyes stormy and wild.
“Why would - who would do this?” his voice is splintered. Before Yuuri can answer, Victor whirls, stalking over to the windows overlooking the yard. “Evgeni,” he seethes, and his rage is palpable.
In the low light, Victor’s eyes are flint, an icy flame a kindle pitch away from blazing into an inferno. “Uncle Evgeni lived in a maj-less town before, I knew, so when he claimed the title and estate and everything, I sneaked away to ask around when I could. Turns out he liked cars - all kinds, maj-less or no - and used to frequently drop by the garages around the neighbourhood. And in a conversation with one of the owners, he mentioned Evgeni’d been poking around, asking about brake lines, about braking systems, that sort of thing.”
His hands are clenched fists, his body coiled and leashed with a furious, brutal anger. “I heard that, and I just knew. And I knew what I had to do. What had to be done.”
With careful, measured steps, Yuuri draws up to hug Victor, feeling the stiffness of rage in his limbs.
Victor’s voice is tight with emotion. “I thought I was - I’m still so angry. Evgeni’s dead, my parents’ Will restored, and I’m still - so - angry.” His hands come up to rest around Yuuri’s hips, fingers pressing hard into soft flesh. “The letters. Why would he keep them from me? He’d already taken everything else. Why that too?”
Easing away, Yuuri brings the manila file over to them, flipping it open to trace along the cover sheet until his finger stops at a particular line. “I don’t think your Uncle necessarily did that, for all the other things that he did. Sergei Pushkin - do you recognise this name?”
With a jerky, violent nod, Victor says, “Yes. He was one of Uncle Evgeni’s friends, an Auror. He died last year. Misfired spell.”
Nodding along, Yuuri darts away to sort through the pile of printed articles, returning when he’s retrieved the right one. “Here,” he says, handing the sheet to Victor. “That man - ” the photo in the report is blurry, the mangled body of the Rolls-Royce behind the figure grainy, “ - that’s Sergei Pushkin. He was the Responding Auror on the scene of the crash.”
Summoning a thick manual from the table to him with a quick accio, he flips it to a tabbed page, marked On the Jurisdiction and Powers of Aurors, exchanging the printed article in Victor’s hands for the book. “I knew that Aurors had the power to divert or stop mail if they deemed it dangerous to a witness, survivor, or detrimental to their case in general, and with Sergei Pushkin put in charge of your parents’ case…” he trails off, letting Victor arrive at the conclusion in his own time.
Victor stands completely still for long minutes, a perfect statue carved from hard, unyielding marble. With a vicious curse, he throws the manual in his hand at the far end of the room, the book hitting the wall with a thump and falling shut on the wooden floor.
With curt, brusque strides, he makes for the shoji doors, Yuuri left standing uncertainly by the windows.
“I need time,” Victor says over his shoulder, the words bitten-off and terse. His footsteps retreat into the distance, a staccato that matches the pounding of Yuuri’s pulse.
Unfolding himself from his position in increments, Yuuri clears the mess of papers on the table with a dissonant calm he doesn’t feel, blown off-course, foundation shaken.
He wonders if he did the right thing, telling Victor.
He thinks back to how he felt when he’d discovered the missing link in Pushkin, grimly acquitted of not writing, with physical evidence in his hands.
He thinks of words shared with Phichit in a conversation from bygone days in the muted light of his memories.
The enormity of what he’s done, the selfishness and unthinking quest for vindication, settles deep into his bones, taunting and overwhelming.
Outside the window, the sunlight glints off dewy leaves, and the wind shakes the boughs of the trees.
The room is silent and insulated, and his falling is a quiet thing, the admittance far more terrible.
I am a horrible person, he thinks.
That night, Victor fucks him for the first time since arriving at Yu-topia, fingers pressing dark bruises to the pale skin of his thighs, lips leaving purpling marks across his collar and chest.
Victor takes him roughly from behind, fingers long and thick in his mouth, stifling the moans and gasps that Victor ruthlessly pulls from his throat with each brutal, seeking thrust.
When Yuuri comes, it is violent and savage, a blow to his gut that leaves him whimpering and winded, Victor following with a snarl.
There are no words, and there is no speaking.
The weeks pass.
Yuuri learns the choreographed routines as best he can.
On a chilly day in May, Victor deems his job done.
He refuses all payment, sends all his belongings ahead by floo, and as the sun goes down over a sleepy Hasetsu, presses a rueful kiss to Yuuri’s lips and apparates away.
It’s not worse this time round, because Yuuri always knew the end was in sight, but the hurt is tender and raw, and for the first time since the revelation, he thinks -
He thinks he might love Victor enough to let him go.
In the ensuing months, Yuuri medals in rapid succession, putting up enough valid competition points to qualify for the World Professional Grand Prix Finals in Sochi.
Miyagi-sensei is ecstatic, and Celestino-sensei even owls his congratulations, telling him he’s proud.
Phichit calls and screams excitedly over Skype, and Guang Hong and Leo send a joint letter filled with countless exclamation points. Seung-Gil sends a photo of a grumpy cat face, and a ‘you did alright, I guess’ card. Mila sends a !!!!!! text, and Victor doesn’t write, but Yuuri gets a tiny note in the owl post, an unmarked card with nothing but I knew you could do it written across it.
To absolutely no one’s surprise, Victor qualifies too, and goes into the competition the hot favourite.
Yuuri’s nervous. Of course he is.
He’s made it - arduously, laboriously, and finally - to the pinnacle of his Frost Wielding career. He is days away from victory, the medals all minted and tucked away in velvet cases, waiting to be claimed and adorned on triumphant shoulders.
The Iceberg Skating Palace in the Imeretinsky Valley at Sochi is an imposing building, curving over a vast distance in a long, undulating wave of solid glass and steel.
The Finals aren’t, given the maj-less venue, actually in the main rink itself, but are accessible via lifts that drop unsuspecting maj-less off on the second floor, and all other maj-folk at the Baryshnikov Frost Wielding Rink with a tap of a wand on the button panel.
The spectators are an endless sea of 20,000 wizarding folk from around the world.
When Yuuri peers out at the rink from behind the holding room doors, the blinking of thousands of cameras flash at him, and the din of the crowd roars in his ears. His heart rate accelerates, his palms grow moist, and his breathing shallows and quickens.
Behind him, Jean-Jacques stretches in ostentatious poses, Christophe next to him, the both of them disgruntled in their attempts to outdo the other. Yuri Plisetsky sends him a glare from across the room, nodding in curt greeting after a second. Phichit is off to the side, speaking in hushed tones to the Thai National Team coach.
It’s too much.
All of this - the pressure, the crowd, the cameras, the sheer thought of millions of eyes on him -
He can’t. Yuuri can’t.
Victor enters the room then, and the noise level dips as people notice his arrival. He waves cheerful greetings at the various Wielders, gaze snapping to Yuuri as soon as he spots him, sick with nerves and curled up on a chair in the corner.
The way he circulates the room is effortless and adept, a master comfortable in his own house. In the approach, his eyes never leave him.
“Yuuri,” he says, a warm hand coming up to rest on his nape, solid and grounding. “I heard you’re up first.” Victor’s thumb is gentle on the sensitive skin by his ear, stroking small, soothing circles. “You can do this. Ignore the crowds.”
“I’m not ready,” Yuuri breathes, trembling under Victor’s sure touch.
The hand leaves his neck, sliding round to grasp firmly at his chin. “You are,” Victor murmurs, his voice imbued with heat, eyes heavy with promise. “When you’re under the lights, out on the ice - ” he surges forward to seal their lips together in a searing, licking kiss, “ - remember this, and don’t you dare think of anyone but me.”
Victor’s drawn away by the beckoning of the Russian National Team coach, and Yuuri’s left in the corner, bereft and shaky, but with a nascent, firming resolve.
As he’s ushered through the doors to the rink, the crowd riled for the beginning of the competition, Yuuri withdraws further into himself, the whirl of faces and lights a distant echo from him.
He strips out of his track jacket, costume black with silver accents, a stylised copy of his dress robes from the Equinox Ball. He’d been very specific about what he wanted, and the costumer had obliged. Miyagi-sensei divests him of his skate guards, and as the announcer begins calling out his name, Yuuri sets his blades to the ice.
It’s surreal, the tens of thousands in the stands, the camera crews, the glare of the lights. It’s almost unbelievable.
From the corner of his eye, he spots Victor slip out of the holding room to stand rinkside.
The announcer winds down, and he gets the signal to skate into position.
Distantly, he recalls the past weeks with Minako, the hours spent reteaching his body how to move, the days spent pushing his body into new positions, the weeks of uncertainty and doubt.
He’d thrown himself at her feet, knowing that there’d been something missing in his routine, for all the medals it’d gotten him. She’d watched him perform once and had snapped her fingers, telling him he was envisioning it all wrong. She’d prodded and poked and manhandled him into shape, and he’d bent and followed and hadn’t broken, and he’s going to re-perform this routine here, and it’ll all be worth it.
It has to be.
He’s self-aware enough to know he didn’t do all that for anyone but himself, for the gold medal he yearns and dreams and craves for, but -
The music strikes up.
He cocks his hip, tilts his head, flicks his chin, and blows a kiss.
With a deft turn of his wrist, the movement sensual and sultry, his magic calls into being a man made of ice, the cut of the figure’s jacket and lightly swaying epaulettes unmistakable. Taking his hand, they glide in nimble curves and exacting lines, the music providing a heart-pounding counterpoint to their intricate footwork. Yuuri is pure seduction given form, the elusive femme fatale. With flicks of his wrist and arches of his fingers, men offer their love and women curse his name.
The notes insistent at his heels, he launches into a triple axel, landing in perfect balance. The ice figure of Victor orbits him now, drawn in by his magnetic allure, reaching out for grasping touches that he slips out of, untameable and free. His quad salchow is flawlessly executed, and the music builds, frenetic, Victor pursuing, enraptured and past being pursued.
Pulse hammering, muscles straining, magic waning, Yuuri launches into the final combination jump, nailing the quad toe and triple toe. The music crescendoes, and he thrusts the ice figure away, an amorous lover spurning her pleading flame, off to conquer her next heart.
Arms wrapped around himself, chest heaving, the notes fade, loud and ringing in his ears.
The crowds surge to their feet, cheering and screaming his name. Flowers rain down from the stands.
When Yuuri finds him, Victor’s eyes are blown with desire, lone finger pressed to his lips.
In a bold, unthinking move, he blows Victor a kiss from across the ice.
At the Kiss & Cry, Yuuri puts up a score of 107.65, blazing past the 100-point mark and breaking his personal best.
The next day, he scores 203.32.
With a margin of 0.04, he beats Victor.
With a margin of 0.04, he wins the Grand Prix Finals.
Back home at Hasetsu, the festivities and celebrations for the day over with, Yuuri escapes to the beach.
He’d just -
It’s still surreal.
The clamour of the reporters, the congratulatory hugs and handshakes, the praise shouted at him -
He just needs some quiet.
The sea welcomes him with nothing more than frothy waves crashing slowly to shore, the tide rising with every passing minute.
In the sky, miles above, seagulls call. The sun sinks low into the horizon, shimmering molten gold across the rolling water.
Yuuri hears footsteps behind him, and he shakes his head, startled out of his reverie.
“I thought this was where you might be,” Victor says, drawing up next to him.
“Oh,” Yuuri says, “You’re here.”
Somehow, he thinks a part of him always expected this.
Victor ducks his head, a rueful, almost mournful smile across his face. “When I agreed to choreograph that routine for you,” he begins, “I could think of nothing but how I’d get to be by your side, and to watch you perform something that everyone in the world would know only I could choreograph. You’d come to me, and I was the only one who could give you a routine that satisfied you, that knew you.”
He runs a hand through his hair. “Then I watched you perform yesterday, and that figure, how could I not recognise that? You just - ” he laughs, a small, fractured huff, “ - You never fail to surprise me. Ever since Mahoutokoro, you’ve been a never-ending chain of surprises, and I don’t know how to keep up.”
With a sigh, Victor turns to the ocean. “I don’t know what you want from me, and I don’t know if I have anything left to give.”
Struggling to find the words, Yuuri curls his fingers into the fabric of his shirt, willing away the hot pressure of tears behind his eyes. “You don’t - ” he needs the words, needs them to be right, “ - You don’t have to say anything. I don’t want anything from you, I don’t want you to be anyone else. I just want you stay who you are, and I want you to stay by my side.”
Victor’s eyes are measured on his, blue and unrelenting. With a secret, blooming smile, he entwines their hands together, bringing it to his mouth to press a kiss to his fingers.
“Ah, Yuuri,” he says, gaze steadfast and clear, “When you put it like that, it’s almost like a marriage proposal.”
Yuuri returns the smile, the edges turning sly.
The threads spin together, the tide rises towards them, the seagulls return to roost, and he doesn’t say it isn’t.
Shit, fam, this was SO hard for me to write. I am mentally drained and completely exhausted, but I'm also so satisfied.
I think the biggest thing for me in this chapter was to make it clear that they've both changed - and been changed - because of each other, and that growing up with (and because of) someone is a profound experience. I had such a tough time wrangling that in a way that made me content.
Look, I never do this with any of my fics, but for this it's important to me that readers understand that with a complicated history, the ending was always going to be coloured by everything they've been through. You don't come away from years - some of them your most formative - with someone sailing off into the sunset, and that's something I wanted the ending to be clear on. I wanted the ending to be hopeful and anticipative, but also clearly acknowledging that they still have issues to work through.
As a final request, I'm going to ask that constructive criticism please be withheld. For those of you thinking 'wow astoryaboutwar just wants us to say nice things', that's not what concrit is - it's still entirely your prerogative if you want to comment just to tell me you hate something. Concrit is pretty specific, and I've had horrible, awful experiences with it in the past, and I'd rather just not deal with it again in my unpaid writing.
Don't get me wrong, though, I love comments, and comments are ALWAYS welcome.
In any event, this work has been cathartic and so, so close to my heart, and this has been such a wild ride. Thank you so much for bearing with me and coming along for it! If you like, I'm on Tumblr. *blows kisses*
Chapter 4: Glossary and Guide
A TOTALLY UNOFFICIAL, PARTIALLY CANON GUIDE TO THE WIZARDING WORLD
(Except for where I've copied JKR's description of Mahoutokoro, everything else is a blend of canon and pure fiction (i.e. NOT canon). Read at your own peril!)
The precise description of Mahoutokoro, taken directly from JKR’s Pottermore is:
This ancient Japanese school has the smallest student body of the eleven great wizarding schools and takes students from the age of seven (although they do not board until they are eleven). While day students, wizarding children are flown back and forth to their homes every day on the backs of a flock of giant storm petrels. The ornate and exquisite palace of Mahoutokoro is made of mutton-fat jade, and stands on the topmost point of the 'uninhabited' (or so Muggles think) Volcanic island of Minami Iwo Jima.
Students are presented with enchanted robes when they arrive, which grow in size as they do, and which gradually change colour as the learning of their wearer increases, beginning a faint pink colour and becoming (if top grades are achieved in every magical subject) gold. If the robes turn white, this is an indication that the student has betrayed the Japanese wizard's code and adopted illegal practices (which in Europe we call 'Dark' magic) or broken the International Statute of Secrecy. To 'turn white' is a terrible disgrace, which results in instant expulsion from the school and trial at the Japanese Ministry for Magic. Mahoutokoro's reputation rests not only on its impressive academic prowess, but also on its outstanding reputation for Quidditch, which, legend has it, was introduced to Japan centuries ago by a band of foolhardy Hogwarts students who were blown off course during an attempt to circumnavigate the globe on wholly inadequate broomsticks. Rescued by a party of wizarding staff from Mahoutokoro, who had been observing the movements of the planets, they remained as guests long enough to teach their Japanese counterparts the rudiments of the game, a move they lived to regret. Every member of the Japanese Quidditch team and the current Champion's League winners (the Toyohashi Tengu) attributes their prowess to the gruelling training they were given at Mahoutokoro, where they practise over a sometimes turbulent sea in stormy conditions, forced to keep an eye out not only for the Bludgers but also for planes from the Muggle airbase on a neighbouring island.
JKR didn’t list the precise order of colours that the school robes would go, so I pretty much just looked at the rainbow and went…that would be hilarious. Because of that glitch in my sense of humour, in this fic the colours go from faint pink, red, burgundy, purple, royal blue, forest green, buttercup yellow, bronze, and then finally, to gold.
There were no mention of any Houses that I could find in any of the official literature, and I wasn’t going to have any - except having Houses turned out to be an easy way for the characters to interact, and added a layer of nuance to interactions that I really liked.
- Namesake: the Sun goddess, one of the major deities in the Shintoist pantheon (the Japanese Imperial Family is thought to be directly descended from her, and her sacred mirror is kept at Ise Shrine as part of the Imperial Regalia)
- House colours: red and gold
- Lapel pin crest: a jewel and sword inlaid on a mirror
- Characters in this House: Mari, Minami Kenijirō
- Namesake: the great folkloric Water Dragon (though it’s never made clear if Mizuchi refers to one dragon in particular, or just all water dragons that terrorised humans - traditional Japanese mythos contains both)
- House colours: sea blue
- Lapel pin crest: a stylised version of Hokusai’s Great Wave
- Characters in this House: Yuuri, Guang Hong
- NB. It has been pointed out to me that Hokusai’s Great Wave is not a painting, a fact that I am actually very aware of! In retrospect, this was my fault and I should have made it clearer - I made the Great Wave a painting because a) continuity reasons with the original HP verse, and b) hanging a woodblock literally across a frequently-used entrance seems like a horrible recipe for disaster. Plus I’ve headcanoned magical art exchanges, so I figure Hokusai (who was obviously a wizard) would’ve picked up European techniques while at Hogwarts/Beauxbatons or something and dabbled with them.
- Namesake: the Shintoist god of lightning and storms (commonly referred to as Raiden in Western culture - looking at you, Metal Gear Solid), frequently depicted with and challenging Fuujin. He has three fingers on each hand for the past, present, and future.
- House colours: light grey
- Lapel pin crest: a circle of interconnected drums with a tomoe (for those of you who watch Naruto, think sharingan) in the middle
- Characters in this House: Phichit, Seung-Gil
- Namesake: the Shintoist god of wind, described as red-headed and green-skinned and usually portrayed with a bag of wind in his hands, also commonly depicted in art together with Raijin. He has four fingers on each hand for each of the four directions.
- House colours: green
- Lapel pin crest: A bag of wind, arching long and thin over a four-fingered hand in the centre
First off, I’m actually aware that the Japanese school year begins 1 April, so right off the bat I’m sorry for the inaccuracy.
I figured that since British, French, and Russian (Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, Durmstrang) schools start in September, American (Ilvermorny) schools in August/September, Brazilian (Castelobruxo) schools in February, and Kenyan (Uagadou) schools in January…for the sake of my sanity I’d standardise everything to September, so I wouldn’t drive myself crazy trying to match up term times.
Mahoutokoro students are day-schooled from ages 7 to 10 (First to Fourth Year), then board from 11 to 18 (Fifth to Twelfth Year).
From their First to Fifth Years, they study a broad range of subjects: Elementology, Wizarding History, Magical Ethics (in some European schools, known as Defence Against the Dark Arts), Herbology, Potions, Arithmatical Science, Symbology, and Transmutation Magicks.
In their Sixth Year, students are required to choose six subjects to study at a higher level, and can choose from the range above, with the exception of Elementology, which is now split into five specialisations - Allomancy, Cryomany, Pyromancy, Geomancy, and Zephyrmancy. These subjects are studied for three years and examined at the end of their Ninth, where they sit for the externally-administered National Examinations, Category: Ordinary (N.E.K.O.) exams.
Upon receiving their N.E.K.O. results, the grading of which follows the British system (Outstanding, Exceeds Expectations, Acceptable, Poor, Dreadful, Troll), students beginning their Tenth Year are required to narrow down a further four subjects they wish to pursue at an advanced level. These subjects are studied for their remaining few years at Mahoutokoro and examined at the end of their Twelfth Year at the national leaving examinations, the Category: Advanced Testing (C.A.T.) exams.
There are seven known Wizarding Schools in the world. Mahoutokoro excluded, these are: Beauxbatons (in France), Castelobruxo (in Brazil), Durmstrang (somewhere in Eastern Europe, though I’ve assumed Russia), Hogwarts (in Britain), Ilvermorny (in the USA), and Uagadou (somewhere on the African continent).
Of these, Mahoutokoro is the smallest, the enrolment numbers of which I’ve estimated to be around 400, and Uagadou is the largest (the enrolment numbers I’m unsure of, but must be greater than 1000, since JKR mentioned that Hogwarts has 1000 students).
The schools listed are not exhaustive; it is mentioned that Africa has several other smaller Wizarding Schools, and it can be likely assumed that there are more scattered across the other continents. Notably absent are any Wizarding Schools in China, Australia, the Middle East, and South East Asia - which was why I had Phichit end up attending Mahoutokoro.
Widely considered one of the most demanding of the Wizarding sports, Frost Wielding requires precise magical control, stamina, and no small amount of physical prowess. Numerous Quidditch players who have been annoyed at the sport’s reputation for difficulty have attempted Frost Wielding to varying degrees of injury, ranging from sprained ankles, concussions, pure magical exhaustion to - once - a broken neck.
Competitive Frost Wielding begins at the Juniors level, which allows athletes from the ages of 11 to 17 to compete, though those that do are usually already well-known faces around the myriad friendly tournaments for younger ages. Athletes are fielded for the Juniors via their schools, with qualifying competitions held at various locations around the world and the Finals hosted by one of the seven Wizarding schools in late November.
Athletes are allowed to compete at the Seniors level from the age of 15, with the upper age limit capped at 20. Few athletes make their Seniors debut at 15, most usually choosing to delay their progression until they are at least 16. Frost Wielders do not traditionally stay long at Seniors, with most making their debut in their final few years of school and moving on to compete at Professionals once they graduate.
Should they wish to pursue a career in Frost Wielding, an athlete may apply (if he or she has sufficient points in valid competitions) to move up to Professionals as part of a national team. Most athletes at the Professional level, however, are personally issued invitations by their respective nations.
An athlete need not be a citizen to compete for any particular nation, but he or she must demonstrate a sufficiently strong connection (such as attending school, being descended from parents of that nationality, marriage, or a child of that nationality) to the nation in question.
Japanese Wizarding Society
Like their British and American counterparts, Japanese witches and wizards have adopted their own terms to refer to their non-magical brethren. Where Britain uses ‘muggle’ and America uses ‘no-maj’, Japan utilises the term ‘maj-less’.
The magical community is, in that same vein, referred to as ‘maj-folk’.
Supplies and Shopping
The main magical shopping district is Japan is located at Arizawa High Street in Tokyo, somewhere in the Shibuya area. In Russia, the equivalent is Volskaya Arcade in Moscow.
Located on Arizawa High Street are numerous shops selling all manner of wizarding supplies, including Telcott’s Bank, Gringott’s greatest rival in the Asian wizarding financial markets.
Technology and Maj-less Inventions
While the European wizarding community has been slow to adopt maj-less technology for their own use, their Asian counterparts have no such qualms, and happily adapt inventions that have proven to make their lives much easier. Of these inventions, the most common ones found across Japanese Wizarding society include mobile phones, laptops, ballpoint pens, and spiral-bound notebooks.
Cars are also widely in use, though this is not limited to just Asian Wizarding society, with Europe eagerly modifying the machines for their use. While sales of flying Ford Anglias have plummeted since the Whomping Willow incident in the 90s, Toyota attributes a good 30% of its global annual profits to wizarding flying car sales.
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
From Chapter One
Okaa-san: Mum, mother (Japanese; informal)
Otou-san: Dad, father (Japanese; informal)
Ukiyo-e: A traditional form of Japanese art - printed on wood blocks - which is made by an artist designing the prints; the carver, who cut the woodblocks; the printer, who inked and pressed the woodblocks onto hand-made paper; and the publisher, who financed, promoted, and distributed the works.
Мама: Mum, mama (Russian; informal)
Moi sladki: My sweet (Russian; term of endearment)
From Chapter Two
Yobaniyi: Fuck (Russian; slang)
Okhuyét: What the fuck (Russian; slang)
From Chapter Three
Kotyenok: Kitten (Russian; endearment, slang)
Vechernyaya Moskva: A major Russian national broadsheet.
(W)Izvestiya: Another major Russian national broadsheet.