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Jaebum’s been auror partners with Park Jinyoung for three months now and things are much better than he had previously anticipated.

Take, for starters, a gnawing need to kickstart his day with one of Jinyoung’s sunny smiles. There’s a bit of cognitive dissonance there, finding solace in pleasantries from a Slytherin, but there’s no point latching onto silly house prejudices at twenty four, is what he tells himself. Especially not when your auror partner’s just that devilishly handsome.

Lunch breaks are spent together and Jaebum’s quick to blush whenever Jinyoung’s sandwich order is easier to remember than his own. He knows Jinyoung well enough now to know his partner likes his coffee with mocha, dreads Sunday brunch with his prying sisters, spends more time fixing an outfit together than anyone else Jaebum’s met, his cousin Nayeon included.

And one has to admit, Jinyoung’s obsession with clementines is beguiling. Inspections and stakeouts aren’t all too tedious when he’s got Jinyoung and his bag full of fresh clementines as companions. They fall into this sweet routine - Jaebum peels his clementines, Jinyoung stuffs his belly with them and the juice clinging to Jinyoung’s lips and chin is hardly sexual anymore.

It happens far too often, pointedly cute now, and this is what he tells himself at five minutes to midnight, huddled against a wall with Jinyoung by his side. Jaebum’s wrapped in a thick quilt but even with that, the weather has him shivering. Jinyoung notices - he always does - and reinforces their Hot-Air charm, a gust of warmth forcing a sigh from Jaebum’s lips. He looks over at Jinyoung with a grateful smile, all soft and sleepy, and Jinyoung bites down a laugh.

Taking care of Jaebum is a far more thankful task in winter, his mum would always say, and Jinyoung seems to agree. Keeping an eye out for pesky criminals is only a romantic job for fighters of crime - Jinyoung leans in, a piece of fruit dancing between fingers, all slick with citrus.

“Open up,” he murmurs. His plump lips stay parted and Jaebum can’t think. He’s quick to obey, opening his mouth with far less grace he would’ve liked, staring dumbly at Jinyoung while the other just gazes on with incredible sweetness.

The fruit brushes his lips - Jaebum swears he can feel Jinyoung’s thumb against them too - before falling on his tongue. He closes his mouth. Chews. Terribly agape.

He doesn’t feel the stickiness of clementine juice at the corner of his lips until Jinyoung wipes it away. Jaebum’s certain all of this is a maniacal trick on his consciousness until a streak of white light shoots out from a house across the street.

Sexual tension is quick to fade when there are criminals to chase. He gets to his feet, offering Jinyoung a hand before apparating away to fight for justice with a noisy pop.

 


 

They’re a week into December when Im Jaebum realises, with startling clarity, that he might have an inconsolable crush on his auror partner.

Jinyoung’s ridiculously attractive and Jaebum’s thought so for years now. It’s what had him bumbling like a fool during their training months, had him tongue tied around Jinyoung for weeks into their auror partnership and it was easy to keep his infatuation under control once he realised that no, contrary to popular belief, Jinyoung wasn't an evil incubus in disguise. He was…ordinary, really, once you stripped him of his pureblood airs and Jaebum was a first hand witness to all of it.

He’s seen Jinyoung at eight o’clock on Monday mornings with little motivation to get through the workday, bags under his eyes and stubble unevenly dotting his jaw. He’s seen Jinyoung with splatters of ketchup all over his new robes, enthusiastically tackling muggle food. He’s fought with Jinyoung, for Merlin’s sake, over silly things like preferred colours of ink and organisation in their office and Jinyoung’s godawful lack of interest in hygiene. Jaebum’s had to force him into a bath several times, not because Jinyoung’s opposed to keeping himself clean but because he just…forgets.

He’s quite like that, Park Jinyoung. Jaebum’s an industrious worker too but Jinyoung takes the cake, abandoning all mortal responsibilities to maximise efficiency. He’s seen Jinyoung function perfectly well on less than an hour’s worth of sleep, filing through archives for assistance on their cases. Jinyoung could fight ex-Death Eaters like that too, Jaebum’s sure, but they’ve fortunately never had to risk their lives for that.

They were still auror fledglings. It was administrative routine to assign smaller cases to them while the big guys took on crazier ones. It pisses Jaebum off, sure, but it bothers Jinyoung on a whole different level.

He’s passionate, Jinyoung, and his energy’s contagious. Jaebum’s world has never been this vivid and he’s never felt this alive.

And there are moments, sure, when Jinyoung gives him hope too.

It’s Jinyoung’s twenty third stolen glance of the week and Jaebum’s never been more thankful for his hawk eye vision. He’s resisted temptation long enough, he decides, and turns his head in Jinyoung’s direction to catch his gaze.

He’s so deliriously soft for Jinyoung.

The tip of the younger’s ears turn pink again, dark eyes widening in embarrassment before he returns to his files. Jaebum resists the urge to smile like an idiot before shaking his head, letting his gaze travel to the window instead.

 


 

Mark Tuan is a lot of things Jaebum isn’t.

He’s got panache for someone so slight and quiet, sporting flaming red hair and a multitude of piercings with the kind of ease Jaebum’s job description doesn’t allow for. He’s not unfriendly (for a Slytherin, says the petty devil on his shoulder), offering Jaebum a small smile from across the room. It’s a combination of everything, from Mark’s glamorous dragonologist position to Jinyoung’s uncontrollable, almost childish glee, that makes the older’s presence just a little disagreeable.

Jaebum’s never seen Jinyoung like this. Smile tugging from one ear to the other, pretty pink staining plump cheeks. He holds Mark in tight embrace, gushing about things Jaebum wants to be recipient of, too. There’s a kiss to Mark’s cheek, fingers entwining with Mark’s, a promise of drinks after work and a trip to Mark’s favourite steakhouse.

“He’s so busy,” Jinyoung pouts and Mark gazes on fondly. Jaebum spots the curl of a tattoo at Mark’s wrist, disappearing under his shirt. If Jaebum twitches with mild irritation, nobody takes notice of it.

“I make it a point to visit you every couple of months though.” Mark pinches the bridge of Jinyoung’s nose and Jaebum forces himself to take interest in their office’s wallpaper.

Jaebum manages to busy himself with paperwork for the next ten minutes or so. The cheer in Jinyoung’s voice gets unbearable after that and Jaebum mutters a half hearted excuse of needing to use the loo. Jinyoung’s too distracted to comment on his hasty exit and Mark’s piqued brow goes unnoticed.

He just needs out, needs to fucking get away from all of that. It’s not jealousy, he tells himself. There’s electricity sizzling from the tips of his fingers but he’s not upset. Travers just looks on with slight worry when Jaebum dashes in, crouches by the sink, cups his hands under the faucet and drowns himself in splashes of water. He still sees red, flaming red, and there’s no way he can return to his office like this.

He doesn’t charm himself dry. Clothes dripping with water, he trudges towards an empty stall, bolts the door shut and only reappears an hour or so later. Mark isn’t around anymore, thankfully, but Jinyoung looks up at him, parts his lips hesitantly before reconsidering.

Jaebum doesn’t allow himself to read into it too much. He wraps up at fifteen minutes to six, barely sparing his partner a glance and promptly takes his leave.

 


 

“I need a date for the Christmas gala,” is the first thing he says upon apparating his way into Jackson’s apartment.

“Don’t I get a hello?” Jackson’s voice echoes from the kitchen. A bark follows and Jaebum braces himself for the impact, squeezing his eyes shut when he hears thumping against the floorboards. A force knocks into him, tongue licking fat strips all over his face and he groans, making a hasty attempt to push the dog aside.

“Can’t you put a leash on that thing?” Jaebum sighs once Pumpkin’s all calmed down, breathing drool onto Jackson’s floor. Jackson doesn’t mind the mess but Jaebum…well, it’s Jaebum, and he’s quick to clean it away with a wave of his wand.

“You love her,” Jackson croons back, popping his head from around the wall for an excited dance of fingers Jaebum assumes is an acknowledgment of greeting.

Jaebum doesn’t respond, just looks at Pumpkin looking up at him with wide, doleful eyes. She’s of fantastic proportions, even for a mastiff, and Jaebum definitely hadn’t seen dogs her size growing up. She continues looking though, nudging Jaebum’s knee gently with her nose and his sigh’s long and pronounced before he gives in.

When Jackson enters the living room with two bottles of butterbeer, Jaebum doesn’t look all that reluctant sitting cross legged on the ground, scratching Pumpkin’s belly while the dog’s tongue lolls out in bliss. Jaebum gives him a sharp, knowing look before Jackson has the opportunity to laugh at him - Jackson does anyway, taking a swig from his drink before plopping down next to his best friend.

“So. Gala. Date,” Jackson starts, joining Jaebum in the belly scratching, leaning forward to give his favourite girl a peck on the nose. “I thought you were going to ask Jinyoung?”

Jaebum had thought so too. It had been his giddy plan for close to a month now, right around the time he allowed himself to look at Jinyoung whenever the other wasn’t looking back (and not feel guilty about it). He has a feeling Jinyoung’s expectant of an invitation too, if his coy tentativeness around Jaebum’s anything to go by. He’s always been a good judge of behaviour but it’s just [i]difficult[/i] when he’s invested like this, so hopelessly smitten.

“I don’t…yeah, no, he’s not available,” is the conclusion Jaebum comes to, wayward mind replaying his unpleasant afternoon. Mark’s hair isn’t the only red he sees and he grits his teeth, stilling his hand on Pumpkin’s belly before sighing in exhaustion.

“…What?” Jaebum turns to look at Jackson, who just looks at him with a frown between his brows. “You’re sure he’s dating someone else?”

“Yeah, his name’s -“ and there’s the telling chime of Jackson’s muggle oven.

Jaebum knows it’s only Jackson’s second attempt at the appliance, the first potentially successful one, so Jaebum doesn’t blame his yelp of excitement. He jumps up from his spot on the ground and practically bolts for the kitchen, channelling all his seeker speed. Jaebum waits, Pumpkin waits with him and he sighs in relief when Jackson yelps again.

He’s a giggling mess when his head pops out from the kitchen again, excited brow waggles directed at the two lumps on the ground.

“It worked!”

Jackson’s overjoyed, Jaebum hurrahs and the energy’s infectious enough for Pumpkin to bark maniacally too. Amidst the hullabaloo, all talk of Jinyoung and his evil paramour are forgotten.

 


 

“How’s Mark?”

Jaebum doesn’t know where the question comes from. He looks over at Jinyoung and he’s apparently not the only surprised one - Jinyoung’s frightfully still behind his mug of hot chocolate, brow piqued. He blinks twice before shaking his head, unsteadily placing his mug on the desk.

“Mark’s…he’s fine?” Jinyoung has to clear his throat when he responds, as if he hadn’t expected an interrogation on his boyfriend. The thought in itself makes Jaebum defensive - he’s allowed to make small talk on his partner’s private life now at least, surely? He’s heard millions of scandalous stories from Jackson about the quidditch player’s teammates, ludicrous things Witch Weekly would pay hefty sums to publish articles on. If Jackson’s allowed that sort of brotherliness with his coworkers, shouldn’t Jaebum have the same luxuries?

The wreath in their office gapes mockingly at Jaebum now. He resists the urge to scowl at it and irately twirls a stirrer in his coffee instead.

“Is he enjoying his stay here?” Jaebum tries once more, only digging his own hole deeper. “I’m sure Romania or Bulgaria or wherever must be far more interesting than predictable ol’ London.”

Jinyoung’s chuckle sounds almost as forced as Jaebum’s. “Yeah but, I mean, he doesn’t get to visit family as often and it’s nice to have him around for a bit.”

That shouldn’t sting Jaebum as much as it does. There’s no way he can compete for Jinyoung’s affections now, not when Mark’s such an important part of Jinyoung’s life. He wonders what their adopted kids would look like, which one of their fathers they’d take after. Jinyoung would want a girl, he’s sure, he’s seen Jinyoung around Longbottom’s daughters and he’d make the best dad in the whole wide -

“He leaves on the 23rd, actually.” Jinyoung’s voice cracks through his reverie. “The day after.”

It’s Jaebum’s turn to blink owlishly now. Jinyoung’s words are almost offhanded and he scribbles furiously at parchment, mug precariously close to the edge of his desk. Jaebum distractedly charms it closer to safety, hot chocolate almost bumping Jinyoung’s elbow now.

“Won’t he be accompanying you to the gala?” Jaebum has to force himself to not sound too eager. Jinyoung looks up at him, curious, and Jaebum diverts his gaze with heated cheeks.

“…Why would he?” There’s almost a challenge in Jinyoung’s voice.

This it it. This is going to confirm everything Jaebum’s dreaded for days now and he’s almost scared.

“You’re dating him, aren’t you?” It should be the most obvious thing in the world but there’s apprehension in Jaebum’s words. He can only hope Jinyoung doesn’t pick up on it.

Jinyoung stiffens. He drops his quill to his desk, folds his fingers atop paperwork and doesn’t shake his head until few beats of second pass by. He doesn’t reply though and Jaebum’s nerves are on fire now. He just can’t seem to shut up, apparently.

“I mean, it just seemed a bit obvious, I dunno, it isn’t my place to pry but with the way you were acting last week when he was here -“

“The way I was acting? Excuse me?”

Jaebum’s too charged up to notice Jinyoung’s irritation. “You kissed his cheek, Park, I just naturally -“

“Oh, I’m Park again?” Jinyoung’s hiss is pronounced enough for Jaebum to swallow his words, take a deep breath and finally look at Jinyoung.

Jaebum’s never seen Jinyoung look this upset. Ever.

“I’m not dating Mark Tuan, I will potentially never date Mark Tuan but -“ Jinyoung tuts noisily, making a weak attempt to compose himself. He huffs, managing a short chuckle. “I don’t really think that’s any of your business, Im Jaebum.”

“So, what. We’re not friends now?” Jaebum’s retort comes soft, broken.

He knows diplomacy isn’t his strong suit and that Jinyoung has the right to be upset with how he’s handled things but it surely can’t be that bad? “We’re allowed to talk about the ills of Hogwarts’ backward sorting system but getting to know you is suddenly off limits?”

“By your definition of friendship, I should be in love with you too,” Jinyoung huffs. Jaebum doesn’t notice the waver in his voice - the crazed thumping in Jaebum’s chest is deafening. “He’s invested in some high profile idiot anyway, not that…”

Jinyoung trails off, eyes gleaming. He looks up, everything in slow motion and Jaebum can hear the distinct edge in his voice. “What about you, Jaebum?”

Jaebum’s just a little confused. “What about me?”

“Is your boyfriend going to be at the gala? You’ve kept him a secret for far too long,” Jinyoung’s query borders on a sneer.

“I don’t…have a boyfriend?” is all Jaebum can stutter in response.

Jinyoung snorts, nodding his head. “Right. You can hold hands with someone around Diagon Alley and not call them your boyfriend and I kiss my best friend’s cheek and suddenly -“

“Jackson? Was that Jackson?” Jaebum can’t pay heed to the hurt in Jinyoung’s tone, not when he’s this desperate to clear up what seems to be a grievous misunderstanding. He pauses, takes a deep breath and looks Jinyoung straight in the eye for his proclamation.

“I’m definitely, in no shape or form, interested in Jackson Wang.”

Jinyoung doesn’t seem to be listening. He’s latched onto something Jaebum had said - Jaebum doesn’t know what - and blinks several times before clearing his throat, cheeks flushed. There’s a definite change in atmosphere now, tension dissipating. Jinyoung straightens his paperwork, fumbles for his cloak before scurrying for the door.

“I…I have to go?” He pauses at the door, cheeks ever bright. “I’m sorry for lashing out at you but - yeah, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow’s Sunday,” Jaebum replies, both confused and oddly chastised.

“And Monday’s the 23rd! Right!” Jinyoung nods absently, sighing. “Righto. The day Mark leaves. And then it’s the gala on the 24th. Fun.”

“Fun,” Jaebum echoes.

“If anyone asks, I had an indigestion emergency to attend to,” Jinyoung clears his throat, ears pink. “Nobody pries into those. See you, Jaebum.”

This is bizarre? “See ya,” he replies, offering him a weak smile.

Definitely bizarre.

 


 

Jackson’s in the process of fortifying his house’s wards, so Jaebum has to floo his way there instead. He steps out from Jackson’s fireplace in disdain, batting away debris and ash from his cloak. It’s Saturday night - meaning non alcoholic drinks, oven misadventures and trading gossip at Jackson’s flat and Jaebum’s just about to start his complaining for the night when Jackson beats him to it.

“You thought Jinyoung was dating Mark Tuan?”

Jaebum frown sets in place immediately. He proceeds warily, joining Jackson in the kitchen with a raised brow. “Yeah? I told you so.”

Jackson, for once, seems oddly disgruntled by all of this. He’s stirring something in a wok, the aroma of sesame oil heavy in the air.

“You didn’t - you just -“ Jackson outright sighs, as if Jaebum’s at fault here. He drops his spatula, letting out a small huff. “He’s not dating Mark Tuan, Jaebum.”

“I know, I was just going to tell you!” Jaebum exclaims. He’s very, very confused. “How do you even know about this?”

“Because I'm seeing Mark Tuan, you flobberworm,” Jackson groans, pressing his head against the wall.

Jaebum tends to his wounds first, zapping Jackson with a benign stinging jinx for the insult. He frowns later, not understanding any of this, propping himself onto the counter. Jackson’s offended yelp draws Pumpkin in, who just stands by the entrance before padding over to Jaebum.

“Explain,” Jaebum sighs, massaging his temples. This is far more drama than he’d ever braced himself for, never the type to find himself in sticky situations like this one.

“I was going to tell you,” Jackson mutters and Jaebum swears he sounds bitter. “Mark and I actually hooked up. A while ago, actually, when I was visiting my parents back home and he was in Hong Kong for work. We wrote to each other every now and then. It was super casual and nothing really worth mentioning to you because I didn’t think I was invested in the guy but…we met again, right here, and I think I have feelings for him, Jaebum. He’s leaving for Indonesia on Monday and…we didn’t really end things well last night?” Jackson sighs, eyes downcast. “I dunno, man. Why didn’t you ever warn me about Slytherins?”

“I always have, you Zhongli brat,” Jaebum retorts half heartedly, opening his arms for Jackson. The younger’s quick to embrace him, muffling a whine against Jaebum’s shoulder.

“And Jinyoung told Mark who told me and I honestly had no idea Mark knew you,” Jackson mumbles against his neck. “Or Jinyoung, for that matter. He likes to ‘keep things private’ or whatever.”

“Yeah, Jinyoung too,” Jaebum exhales, pushing Jackson aside gently a beat later to check on their food.

They just stand there in silence for a while, Jaebum idly stirring and Jackson idly petting his dog.

“No oven tonight?” Jaebum notices finally, turning around to look at the appliance. He sucks in his breath though - the oven was fried inside out, an abandoned heap by the sink and Jackson has the grace to look sheepish.

“Mark was over last night and I tried to get fancy with the muggle device. It really turned him on, for some strange reason? And…yeah, we burnt the food, sizzled the oven to pieces while trying to salvage the roast with some Reparos which, by the way, isn’t compatible with electricity at all.”

“Idiots,” Jaebum deadpans.

Jackson hits him with a stinging hex of his own and Jaebum almost knocks the wok over.

Tough luck.

 


 

Jaebum spends the whole of Sunday listening to Jackson wax poetry about Mark Tuan while hunting Diagon Alley for new robes. His standard olive ones weren’t fancy enough for the gala, Jackson had proudly declared, especially not if he wished to attract a certain bachelor’s attention. Jaebum really only could cringe at Jackson’s suggestive tone, shoving him aside with a loud groan.

Madam Malkin’s wasn’t fancy enough for Jackson’s sensibilities after an impatient perusal so they had to look elsewhere. The Weeping Wolf Outfitters isn’t a place Jaebum frequents much - he can only assume the price tags don’t fit his government job budget and the colourful designs were too outlandish for his sombre sensibilities. Jackson insists though, practically whines until Jaebum allows Jackson to gift him dress robes for Christmas and Jackson looks entirely too joyous about it.

He gets dragged into the store and Jaebum just stands awkwardly to one side as Jackson breaks into animated conversation with the store owners. They were from China too, just like Jackson’s parents, and Jaebum had to admit - it was a little endearing to watch Jackson converse in his native tongue with total strangers. There’s a lot of gesticulation from Jackson and giggling from the girls and Jaebum rolls his eyes good naturedly, clearing his throat. He points at his wristwatch, his polite way of telling Jackson that he needs to [i]stop fraternising already[/i] and Jackson’s adorable, sheepishly rushing to his side again.

Their visit wasn’t just a social accomplishment. When he finally got Jackson to stop recommending jewel toned robes to him, their selection was actually not too far from Jaebum’s tastes. They were tailored to fit him like a glove, house elves bustling around just in case the fit required alteration, wands waving about to change hue and design as per Jaebum’s instructions.

They emerge from the store with a set of new robes for Jaebum and five for Jackson - his paycheck, unlike Jaebum’s, allowed for that. A swarm of fans finally find Jackson, ladies and gents alike, and Jaebum busies himself with Jordan’s Patisserie’s new display of confectionery. It’s been a while since he’s visited with Jinyoung and the thought sends a pang through his chest.

As if on cue, Jinyoung materialises in sight by Fortescue’s. He’s laughing about something, cheeks flushed, thick scarf wrapped snugly around his neck. Jaebum catches sight of Mark a second after and he swallows, eyes wide, and looks over at his best friend. Jackson’s still in deep conversation with his fans when Mark finds them. He nudges Jinyoung and Jaebum tries to look inconspicuous when Jinyoung’s gaze travels from Jackson to him. He’s leaning against a sign board declaring all of Jordan’s new Christmas specials when Jinyoung squirms through the crowd to yank him into Jordan’s and away from his best friend.

"What are you doing?” Jaebum exclaims, offering the owner a sheepish smile over Jinyoung’s head. Jinyoung drags him further inside, ignoring Jaebum’s protests and Jaebum just lets Jinyoung manhandle him until they’re comfortably out of sight.

“They need to talk,” Jinyoung huffs, hair a dishevelled mess, scarf coming loose from around his neck. Jaebum resists the urge to tuck it in place and scratches the back of his neck instead, wistfully eyeing Jordan’s new display of pastries.

“Are you hungry?“ Jaebum starts, just when -

“We need to talk too.”

Both of them blush at the same time and Jaebum just nods. They find a table and he nudges Jinyoung towards it, placing a discrete order of hot chocolate and an assortment of pastries before slipping into the seat opposite his partner.

“You went shopping?” Jinyoung asks, awkwardly clearing his throat. He smiles at Jaebum too, the apologetic little upturn of his lips that’s always been his preferred form of an apology.

“Yeah,” Jaebum nods again, still dazed. “Jackson insisted on buying new robes for the gala as his Christmas present to me.”

“The gala.” It’s Jinyoung’s turn to blush again and he nods, distracting himself with the table skirt. He plays with the fabric for a while and Jaebum lets him in silence, knowing Jinyoung’s got more to say.

“I’m…sorry,” Jinyoung finally exhales, unable to meet Jaebum’s eyes. “I was awfully rude to you about the whole Mark and Jackson situation and I left on the strangest note too.”

It’s sincere though, Jaebum knows, so he responds with a playful kick under the table, chuckling. “Don’t be daft. You don’t have to apologise for anything.”

“So, you do?” Jinyoung looks up at him now, playful right back at him.

Jaebum blushes too, words slipping hastily from his mouth. “No! I mean, yes, but it was just a silly misunderstanding and I was being childish about it.”

All chatter’s on pause when their waitress arrives at their table with their order. He catches the way Jinyoung’s expression lights up at the hot chocolate, the way his palms wrap around his drink in pure ecstasy and Jaebum’s awfully pleased with himself for it.

Jinyoung’s ruthless though, nudging Jaebum’s foot with his under the table while taking a tentative sip from his drink. He pauses, lets the sweet warmth of it soothe his senses, before turning his attention to Jaebum again.

“Why?”

“Why what?” Jaebum shoots back.

“Why were you being childish about it?” Jinyoung hums, gaze flitting to the window.

“You were being childish about it too,” Jaebum points out, defensive.

“Sure I was,” Jinyoung nods in agreement, smiling wickedly at him. “But I asked first.”

Jaebum sighs, not quite understanding how he’s managed to singlehandedly push himself into a tight corner. He knows his reasons but doubts it’s what Jinyoung wants to hear.

No, wait. He’s completely, hopelessly clueless about what Jinyoung wants to hear and he’s tired of all the running in circles and empty jealousy and keeping secrets of infatuation all to himself. He’s not much of a liar too, is what he tells himself, and since he’d initially planned to ask Jinyoung to the gala anyway, there’s not much to lose here.

Right?

He needs to brace himself for this. “I might…” Jaebum starts, then shakes his head.

He reconsiders and decides to be brutally truthful all in one breath.

“No, I definitely wanted to ask you to the gala myself when we were informed about it and I was working up the nerve to when the whole thing with Mark happened and I was slightly bummed out, you see, for obvious reasons and…I still do.” He pauses, clears his throat and finally looks at Jinyoung. The other’s expression is unnervingly difficult to read and Jaebum’s come this far, so. Might as well.

“Want you to be my date to the gala, I mean,” Jaebum wraps it all up. He’s frightfully nervous about the whole thing and can barely meet Jinyoung’s gaze again when -

“Then ask me.”

“What?” Jaebum snaps his gaze towards Jinyoung again, heart in his throat.

Jinyoung’s almost…bashful, hands in his lap, teeth worrying his bottom lip. “Ask me, Jaebum.”

“Uh…” He vocalises dumbly, blinking. “Okay, um.”

Jinyoung giggles, sweet and innocent, and Jaebum groans. “You can’t distract me then, stop that.”

Jinyoung’s an obedient thing, shushing himself. He pulls an imaginary zip across his lips, flinging the key over his shoulder.

Merlin, he’s adorable.

“Would you be kind enough to accompany me to the Ministry’s annual Christmas Eve gala, Auror Park?” he asks, trying valiantly not to grin like a fool.

“And what about my line of devoted suitors, Auror Im?” Jinyoung giggles, hiding his smile behind a palm.

“I doubt any of them could peel your clementines as expertly as I do, though,” he comments offhandedly, dancing a little jig on the inside.

“You’re right,” Jinyoung nods decidedly, lips pursed. “The clementines are of utmost priority.”

“That’s settled then,” Jaebum nods right back. “You’re my date for the gala.”

“And you’re mine,” Jinyoung continues nodding. His lips twitch delightfully and Jaebum can’t help his smile now. They’re both rosy cheeked and bashful, and Jaebum’s just about worked up the nerve to envelop Jinyoung’s hand with his own when Mark and Jackson burst through the room, grinning madly from ear to ear.

“We’re gonna get married!” Jackson squeals, wrapping a tight arm around Mark’s slighter frame.

“Eventually,” Mark offers, drastically calmer but he’s still caught Jackson’s crazy bug, tilting Jackson’s face towards himself for a kiss to his jaw.

What -“ Jinyoung and Jaebum exhale at the same time, eyes saucer wide.

“Sit down. We need to talk,” Jaebum hisses sternly, getting up to drag Jackson to his side.

Both of you,” Jinyoung adds, doing the same with Mark.

Jackson mutters something patronising to Mark in Mandarin. Mark bursts into peals of laughter, joke lost on both the aurors, and Jaebum attempts to kick Jackson’s foot under the table.

“Ow!” Jinyoung curses instead and Jaebum’s too concerned about Jinyoung’s wellbeing to notice what he’d just done - he’s caught leaning across the table, hand over Jinyoung’s own.

Jaebum gives Jinyoung’s hand a tentative squeeze but doesn’t pull away. Jinyoung doesn’t either, and it’s terribly satisfying.

“It was just a manner of speaking, by the way.” Jackson offers finally. “I really like Mark and he really likes me back so we’re going to try this.”

“The whole long distance thing,” Mark continues, “But properly this time because we like each other.”

“A lot,” Jackson nods. “And we have both of you to keep an eye on us.”

“As babysitters?” Jaebum frowns. Jinyoung shifts their hands around to entwine their fingers though and he isn’t all that grumpy anymore.

“Our parents,” Jackson croons, leaning over to give him a sloppy kiss on the cheek. Jinyoung’s fingers tighten painfully around his and Jaebum yelps, pushing Jackson aside with a grimace.

It’s been five minutes into their courtship and Jinyoung’s territorial already. Jaebum’s such a goner.

Anyway, what’s that?” Mark hums, jutting his chin towards their entwined hands. Jackson nods in agreement, the imp, grin widening. “Yeah, what is that?”

Jaebum doesn’t know where to start, so his auror partner and future boyfriend does his work for him instead.

“Mind your own bloody business,” Jinyoung snaps placidly, taking a sip from his drink, and everything falls into place just like that.