During Donghyuck's sixth year of magical school—and his fourth year of living in a foreign country—Hogwarts hosts the Triwizard Tournament.
Though it's only been six years since he was first introduced to the world of magic, he likes to think he's picked up a lot of things. From what Jisung and Jaemin have said in passing, this particular competition is kind of like those end of year festivals his favorite idols do back in Korea: an amazing, ambitious crossover, except this time with a hint of magic and mischief.
"I think that's a bit of an understatement," Jeno tells him over Jaemin's bowed head; it's a bit of a tight fit today since all the Hogwarts students seemingly decided to converge at the Hufflepuff table, squeezing in to eat breakfast with their badger friends. "But this event is definitely for maintaining peace and healthy foreign relationships. All that fun stuff."
All of them glance at the other tables, where all the Beauxbatons and Durmstrang kids are accommodated. "It's kind of weird, though, right? I feel like bringing the outsider kids in only made us stick closer to each other." Chenle waves a hand distractedly, watching Jaemin gorge on all that food. "I've never seen all of us—the Gryffindors, Ravenclaws, Hufflepuffs and even the Slytherins—act so... united before."
"Don't you think it's weirder that it has to come to this," Jaemin says, lifting his head to steal the last of the chicken on Donghyuck's plate, "for people stop giving a shit about sitting by house."
Donghyuck is too full to protest, so he shuts up and lets Jaemin have this one.
On the other side of the table, Mark dares to challenge the beast. He snatches one of the fishcakes from Jaemin and says, "It's just tradition, Jaemin, it's not that deep."
"Not that deep?!" Ah, shit. Sitting at Mark's left, Renjun makes eye contact with Donghyuck and mouths, Here we go again . "That's so rich coming from you!"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
There's a bit of an awkward silence before Jisung takes pity on all his older friends and speaks up for the first time the entire morning. "What do you mean, what's that supposed to mean? Aren't you supposed to be like... the ultimate representation of breaking the mold? Of not living up to dumb stereotypes?"
Chenle snorts, then, mumbles something about Mark being one of those nicer alphas that Respect Women, or whatever the giggly first year omega girls are gossiping about these days. It makes Donghyuck roll his eyes.
"It's the twenty-first century, dumbass!" Jaemin, for once, ignores Jisung. "House discrimination is dead and we're all going to have to fit somehow with the Durmstrang and Beauxbatons kids coming in, anyway."
"Language," Mark simply comments before he takes a bite out of the fishcake and places what's left of it on Donghyuck's plate.
Donghyuck follows Mark's gaze to the Triwizard cup, smack dab in the center of the stage up front. All their other friends must do the same thing because they all shut up and stop arguing over what counts as cursing here in England. ("I mean, if you don't curse in English, no one can tell, right?" "Chenle... no.")
Despite provoking the older boy so much earlier, Jaemin is the one who speaks up. "Mark, you're the most well rounded wizard I know. Annoying kink for tradition aside, you're actually pretty amazing." Jeno, bless his heart, is the only one who laughs. "So you should do it. You should be our champion!"
When Mark doesn't say anything, just watches another Beauxbaton student walk up to the cup and deposit her name into it, Jaemin leans forward to pinch at the Slytherin's cheek.
"You're perfect for it, and you know you want to." He pauses dramatically. "You're also a competitive bitch, so of course you're going to do it. Right?"
The foul word very predictably snaps Mark out of it, and Chenle boos before he can tell Jaemin to stop running his mouth again. "Seriously, Mark! Use your bighead!"
Mark runs a hand through his hair, gives Jaemin his trademark goofy grin. Most people would read Mark's body language as nervous or awkward, but Donghyuck gets the feeling he's been waiting for someone to ask him.
That's the thing about Mark: everyone's got this particular image of him, a certain expectation of greatness that comes from being the youngest pureblood heir in a family of Slytherins. You'd think that all these things on top of being an alpha would make him a prime target for hostility, but Mark Lee likes to prove people wrong, it seems.
His silly disposition makes him everyone's favorite, his kind eyes and warmth lending him an unspoken Golden boy title. Underneath it all, Mark is just lovable, and everyone knows it.
It's obvious in the way people's eyes catch on Mark's figure as he walks along the Hufflepuff table, asking around for a spare piece of parchment. In how the Beauxbatons students sitting at the table next to theirs scramble to ask their new Hogwarts friends what kind of opponent Mark Lee could be.
Even the aloof, brooding Durmstrang student who's been stubbornly minding his own business amidst all the rowdy Gryffindors around him stares when Mark neatly writes his name with Chenle's lucky quill.
When Mark stands up to leave his name in the cup, the hall quickly shuts up. There it is, in the sharp, strict line of his shoulders. There it is: a clear contrast, where this Mark—his Mark—separates from the Mark everyone knows. The Mark everyone loves.
When the goblet accepts the slip of paper with a flourish of flames, even the ghosts that have been lazily coasting along the Great Hall cheer for him.
The Mark that Donghyuck knows is rambly, his mouth not running fast enough to cover even a fraction of whatever he comes up with in his head. Five years of being exposed to the Mark Lee that laughs at inappropriate dick jokes, the Mark that blushes every single time Donghyuck leans in a little too closely to tuck some stray hair behind his ear, makes it easier to deal with Mark whenever he gets like this before a big stressful event.
"Do you think it's going to be, like, a life or death thing?" Mark asks with wide eyes, swinging his legs childishly from where he's sitting atop a relatively low tree branch. "I don't think they want to kill us right away for the first task... right?"
Donghyuck just lets him talk, most of the time. Mark is never truly nervous, not in the quiet, subtle way Donghyuck gets before a Quidditch match, hands slightly sweaty and all too eager to claim the Snitch for his house. No, Mark is just the type who needs to let it all out like this, to someone who'll just listen.
It takes a few minutes before Donghyuck realizes Mark is actually asking for his opinion, this time. He looks up from the baby thestral he's been feeding to find Mark looking at him expectantly, a small, faint smile tugging at the corners of his lips.
"You're not going to die, Mark." There's kind of still something I haven't told you, and Jaemin would give me shit if you die before that happens. "Of course it's going to be dangerous, but you've prepared as much as you could with what you have. You've got this."
Mark nods, satisfied with the answer. "Thank you," he says, suddenly jumping down from the tree. "Really, I feel a lot better."
Though Donghyuck could definitely tell apart Mark's lies from his more convincing half truths, it seems like Mark really does mean it, this time. As Mark gets closer, his familiar scent gets stronger: there's the overpowering ocean breeze, that slight hint of something flowery. There's no real trace of nervousness underneath it all.
Instead, Mark just seems—relieved. The strong waves of contentment take Donghyuck by surprise, and he's abruptly reminded of how much his opinion must mean to his best friend. He tries hard not to blush, but Mark starts smirking and Donghyuck starts hating how obvious his scent gets when he's flustered.
"Are you about done now? I'm so hungry, I could even help myself to the thestral food." Donghyuck snorts. Way to ruin the moment. "Really, Donghyuck. Even if it's raw... !"
"Don't worry, I just need to feed the mom thestral." Donghyuck points to the biggest living being in the clearing, a few yards away from where the two are standing. Its very same thestral that Donghyuck first saw all those years ago, when he was fresh faced and newly moved from Korea, where he left his siblings with a newly widowed mother.
"Here," says Mark, offering an open palm. Donghyuck's eyes catch on the lines crisscrossing and dictating his fate, a lucky hand foretelling a life of greatness.
"It's a few feet to the right of the big boulder over there." Their fingers brush and linger a bit longer than normal when Donghyuck gives him the last packet of food.
Mark still greets the thestral even though he can't see it at all. When he waves around the food in the general vicinity of the creature's mouth, Donghyuck can tell that the thestral is already quite charmed.
When Mark stumbles back, he lifts his arms excitedly, and Donghyuck is all too eager to give him a double high five. Somehow it morphs into a shorter rendition of their handshake that's been four years in the making.
Something akin to a stampede echoes in Donghyuck's ribcage, a whole zoo of animals thundering through the pathways of his veins. Donghyuck would compare all these feelings struggling to escape to some kind of animal: not quite tame, but something needy and noisy and sure to clamor for attention, all the same.
Mark smiles at him again, looking vulnerable and oh so young, in a way he never lets himself be seen nowadays. The invisible zoo goes feral at the soft, slow show of emotion.
Whatever Donghyuck needs to say could wait another day.
They do the full version of their legendary handshake the morning after, before Mark goes in for the First Task. "For good luck," Mark had said, eyes shining and scent stronger than it has been for weeks. If Donghyuck closed his eyes, he would have thought he was caught in the middle of a summer storm and he would be none the wiser.
Everyone stares when Donghyuck makes his way back to his seat, to let Mark and the other chosen champions talk to the officials.
And by everyone stares, Donghyuck just means the exchange kids. His fellow school mates must have grown used to the intimidating Slytherin and sweet Hufflepuff combination, but it's easy for him to forget how strange their friendship must be on the outside looking in.
But then again, looks can be deceiving. Mark isn't actually a callous alpha, and Donghyuck isn't a pushover Hufflepuff, as his house's stereotype likes to paint omegas like him to be.
In truth, Mark and Donghyuck are a lot more alike than one would think. So Donghyuck just ignores the stares and sits with his friends—at Renjun's table this time, sitting amongst those with ties spun with blue fabric, surrounded by countless books spread where food does not occupy the counter top.
They all crack jokes, here and there, but all the nervous energy that Mark's supposed to be feeling must have transferred to all the Hogwarts kids. Jisung gets so fidgety that Chenle reaches out to take both this hands in his. There is an oppressive Jasmine scent in the air, no doubt coming from Renjun, who has been trying to calm down Jeno and Jaemin to no avail.
Later, when they all squeeze into the stands of the Quidditch Pitch, where the officials must have set up the First Trial overnight, Donghyuck finds himself afloat in a sea of green. He himself wore one of Mark's old sweaters to show solidarity, but he didn't expect everyone else to show up in Slytherin colors.
It must make Mark happy, because when he looks up into the stands when he enters the Pitch, his face splits into the most precious grin. He runs along the field, pointing and hollering at his school mates, boyish and fearless. Team Hogwarts eats it up, cheering.
Jeno and his other Hufflepuff friends are a little farther down the bench where he and Chaewon, the only other same aged omega who he can confidently say he's good friends with, are sitting. Jeno was the one who came up with the idea to make a really annoying, really embarrassing banner to support Mark: right now he and a bunch of other Hogwarts kids are trying to find a way to raise it without blocking anyone's view.
He presses a shoulder into Chaewon's, who has been giving him updates using her enchanted binoculars. "I think... I think Mark is going to face a lion."
A lion , Donghyuck wants to laugh. How fitting.
Chaewon reaches for his hand once the round starts, and Donghyuck gratefully laces their fingers together. She squeezes back everytime he unconciously clenches his grip, and when Mark finally gets the lion to fall asleep— How Biblical , Donghyuck thinks nonsensically—he claims the treasure or hint or whatever the lion was guarding for himself.
When Mark raises a fist and cheers at the crowd of green, Donghyuck lets himself pretend Mark's looking right at him. Though Mark can't see for shit, his eyesight even worse than Jeno's, Donghyuck mouths the words he's been trying to gather to courage to say.
Nothing changes, of course. Mark keeps cheering, the crowd keeps cheering. The lion still snores at their champion's feet. But it counts as something, right?
In hindsight, it's a bit amazing how it took one whole trial before someone asks the golden question.
Wong Yukhei is Durmstrang's champion, and also Mark's newfound English speaking friend. "Are you guys dating?" He asks in English, to Mark, but Donghyuck doesn't need to castle's communication charms to parse through to the meaning of the inquiry.
"Wouldn't you like to know?" Mark counters before Donghyuck can. He smiles cockily, slinging an arm around Donghyuck. "Why, are you falling in love with our Donghyuck after all that time you've spent together in the library ?" He does that thing where he waggles his eyebrows and Donghyuck wants to die.
"Shut up Mark," says Donghyuck curtly, shoving at his best friend before giving Yukhei an apologetic smile. "Sorry, but I have to go now. We can just talk more later, okay? And if you need anymore help and I'm not there you can always ask my friends, too!"
Yukhei waves dopily at the duo as they round the corner. Donghyuck senses there's something on Mark's mind, but it takes a few more hallways before he finally grabs Donghyuck's shoulders and makes puppy eyes.
"I can't believe you were — you were fraternizing with the enemy!" Mark laments, picking at the fraying thread off Donghyuck's collar. "And so close to the second trial, during my time of need... !"
"Oh, Mark." Donghyuck forgets how much of a Leo this boy can be sometimes. Still, Donghyuck thinks he can understand what Mark means by his pointed gaze, the frustrated twist of his lips.
"You have to know that... that I didn't mean to disadvantage you, okay?" He takes Mark's hands in his. "He doesn't really ask about the tasks, I promise. And I wouldn't give him any hints anyway, because I really want you to win."
Donghyuck feels Mark's fingers loosen in his grip, but the weird, unsettling feeling that still radiates off Mark in waves still remains. "There's nothing else for me to say because... because I didn't do anything else?"
Mark rolls his eyes. "Sure," he says lightly, and Donghyuck starts to fear that he's said the wrong thing when Mark wordlessly slides his hands out of his own.
"Mark," says Donghyuck, a little desperate.
The oddest expression still flickers on Mark's face, but Mark just takes Donghyuck's chin in between his thumb and pointer finger, making Donghyuck's gaze skitter up from their feet, catching on Mark's tongue as he licks his lips—
"You can make it up to me by treating me to Butterbeer." Mark says, so unbearably smug. Donghyuck squirms, but refuses to break eye contact.
"So, so sneaky!" He comments in his most annoying, high pitched voice. Distantly, he hopes that Ten wouldn't be too ashamed at how he's been reduced to such a hot mess. He was taught to be better than this.
Well. When Mark laughs for real this time, Donghyuck supposes he'll let the dumb, stupid alpha have this.
While the Triwizard Tournament is important, life outside the competition goes on, of course. There are the other Important Cups that haven't been put on hold—there's the House Point one which Mark still contributes greatly to, with his impeccable academic output despite being busy with champion shenanigans. And there's the Quidditch one, which Mark also put a great dent to, but Donghyuck likes to think he's putting up a fair fight with how well he and his team are doing.
Because it's Donghyuck's sixth year, grades have become a more immediate concern. Some of his friends in his year have been studying in advance for their NEWTS, which Donghyuck himself is struggling to attempt, but it's harder to study when his most reliable study partner is so busy with additional responsibility.
Donghyuck doesn't want to bother Mark too much, and he's also trying to prove to Jeno that he's not that much of a clingy bitch, so lately he's been going to library even without Yukhei accompanying him there.
Unfortunately, all his advanced study doesn't always pay off, and it tends to bite him in the ass in the most frustrating ways. Case in point, this term's potions project, and how it was revealed to the class. The awkward moment went a little bit like this:
It's not everyday he and Chaewon enter potions class late, but this time as they made their way to the dungeons they were stopped by Professor Boa, their Care of Magical Creatures teacher. Of course they indulged their professor, because who wouldn't stop to talk to their house head?
Potions Master Changmin doesn't seem particularly impressed, however, and makes the two of them walk up to the front. Chaewon clings to Donghyuck's robe nervously, a flustered, tangy pineapple scent wafting along the classroom, and for her sake Donghyuck tries to keep it together.
In the back of his mind he remembers Mark saying that this particular professor had a soft spot for him, so he hopes their infamous friendship pulls through this time. (There he goes again, getting help from Mark even when the older boy's not there. Donghyuck needs to keep it together!)
Professor Changmin just gestures at the cauldron before him, a curious liquid bubbling inside it. "I guess your tardiness has decided who I'll be picking as a volunteer for this meeting." His eyes glint with amusement. "Tell me, Mister Lee. Does this potion smell particularly pleasing to you?"
Like a total dumbass, Donghyuck nods. And he doesn't just stop there, because he proceeds to say exactly why the scent that rises up from the mystery concoction makes him feel more at ease. "It smells like the beach," he says, closing his eyes and thinking of playing in the sun with his younger siblings, back home, back in the bright sand of Jeju. "There's also some kind of herb, I think, but I don't know enough about magical flowers to identify it. What do you think it is, Chaewonie?"
He says the last part in a quieter voice, directing it towards his friend, but she's refusing to make eye contact with him, blushing furiously. Behind their backs, one of the seated students wolf whistles. "Damn, me too, the fuck?" A voice that comes from the Ravenclaw side of the classroom continues in an obnoxious whisper, clearly trying to make fun of him. "Just like the rest of the omega girl population, honestly. Get in line, lover boy."
Their professor clears his throat when the class gets a little too loud. "Thank you, Donghyuck," he says, not unkindly. "You may take your seat now."
Donghyuck shoots Chaewon a concerned look, but she waves his off subtly and he goes to sit at their usual spot in the middle of the dungeon. Everyone stares at him as he fixes his things and preheats their cauldron, but Donghyuck doesn't realize how much of a fool he just made of himself until Professor Changmin asks yet another million dollar question.
"Just based on that information, Miss Park, what do you think our project this term will be?"
Oh, hell no. Donghyuck quickly glances at the other side of the classroom, where Renjun must have been trying to catch his attention all this time. Renjun face palms when they finally make eye contact. Here we go again , he mouths at Donghyuck. Idiot .
"Uhm, the scent reported by Donghyuck is quite... different from what I assume it to be. Because of the difference in what we recognize, I think that this is amortentia, which is a love potion."
Everyone but Donghyuck and Renjun laugh. Chaewon manages an awkward chuckle, while Professor Changmin is the loudest in the room, crowing so very delightedly. "That's right! And for that correct answer—" pause to look at Donghyuck "—and your honesty—" more dramatic, lingering pause just to watch Donghyuck squirm, probably "—I'm awarding twenty full points to Hufflepuff!"
Though Donghyuck's already got a pretty cringe-worthy track record, that love potion disaster definitely ranks in his top five most embarrassing moments since he came to Hogwarts—only coming closely behind the time he accidentally sent Mark a Howler, and that one Defense Against the Dark Arts class when his Boggart exposed his one true fear by shifting into a mirage of all his friends, all uncaring and unresponsive and so very unmoved, with Mark at the center of it all.
There's a lot to be said about the fact that most of his embarrassing moments involve a very particular person, but that's something to be unpacked for another time. Instead, there is another, more pressing matter to attend to.
"Does it really sound like such an outrageous, out of this world rumor?" Donghyuck asks Chaewon and Renjun as they walk away from their joint Potions class. "That I love Mark, I mean. Is it so weird that you would never believe it?"
Normally, Donghyuck would be too prideful to confess to these kinds of insecurities and would find a way to resolve them on his own. But these times have been rough on him; there's the Tournament and helping Mark and minding his own studies and helping himself and his sister is sick so he really needs to figure out how to send more money home soon.
So really, he could stand to lose less if he enlisted the help of these two particular friends. His last few remaining brain cells could use a break.
"I think they were all just being dramatic," Renjun says, surprising his Hufflepuff friends when he reaches out to take one of Donghyuck's hands in his. Though the skinship is sudden, Donghyuck accepts it gratefully, feeling Renjun's calming Jasmine scent wash over him. "If anything, I bet some of them were just jealous that the loving Mark agenda has been on an all-time high lately."
While Renjun understood Donghyuck's struggle by virtue of being a muggle born thrust into the politics of magical blood and tradition, Chaewon knows how to word things in the most palatable way: a figurative, diplomatic princess, the picture perfect omega in all the ways Donghyuck is not.
Chaewon bumps her shoulder against Donghyuck's and adds, "You know how everyone gets when nice stuff comes along Mark's way."
Donghyuck does. Though many people adore Mark, there are also those kids from snobbier, richer families that never cease in their crusade to smear the Lee name. It's a rather envy driven campaign, if you ask Donghyuck: those losers have spent a lifetime of privilege, never having to lift a finger to get anything they want. Not many can claim to have the kind of drive Mark possesses.
And if Donghyuck is being honest with himself, out of all the mean things people have said about him and Mark and all his friends, even, being in love with Mark is far from the worst implication anyone can ever make.
When the three of them reach the Great Hall and find all their other friends already eating dinner at the Slytherin table, Renjun doesn't hesistate in his dramatic retelling of how Donghyuck absentmindedly exposed the scent of his Amortentia.
"Hilarious," Jisung repeats over and over, giving Donghyuck his trademarked side eye glance. To add insult to injury, Jaemin makes a show of leaning into Mark and taking a nice, big sniff. "Donghyuck, in love with Mark?"
Everyone laughed rather heartily at that, but Donghyuck doesn't miss the way Mark's eyes shift downwards, how he starts picking at the chicken on his plate.
Later, when they all part ways at the big Hall doors, Donghyuck tries to make eye contact with Mark and fails. Renjun shoots him a sympathetic look, mouths a, I'll talk to him, okay? as the two of them head towards the Headmaster's office before they start their rounds as prefect and Head Boy.
Donghyuck tries really hard to pay attention to Chaewon as rambles on about how stressed she's been because of her cocky, almost reckless champion cousin from Beauxbatons, but he can't stop thinking of how it's been four years and not once has he breathed a word about the depth of his feelings for his best friend.
How do you tell someone you love them , Donghyuck wants to ask. Chaewon just smiles sadly at him, and as if she just read his mind, she tells him, "Isn't Mark supposed to be the tongue tied one? If I didn't know you so well, I'd think you guys have switched bodies, with how spacey you've been lately."
The worst thing that happened as a result of the now Unspeakable Potions Incident, in Donghyuck's humble opinion, would not be the spike of activity of the local rumor mill, or the slight increase in the subtle stares from strangers who know nothing about the real nature of the relationship Donghyuck and Mark have.
If anything, it's the actual relationship Donghuck and Mark have that's been rather unnatural. A whole week has passed and it's as if there are charged rain clouds hanging over their heads—for once, Donghyuck can't predict when the gloomy atmosphere between them will let up.
These days Mark is the one taking the initiative to meet up, and while this only confuses Donghyuck even more, he just keeps quiet and does his best to help his best friend as much as he can.
On the night before the second task, the two of them sit at one of the windows of the Ravenclaw Tower, talking briefly about Mark's bubble head charm strategy before it peters off into awkward silence.
The look on Mark's face right now makes Donghyuck nervous. "What are you thinking about, hyung?"
He just wants to see a smile—even just a tiny quirk of the lips. Donghyuck struggles to think of a joke, something about the constipated expression on Mark's face, but Mark beats him to it.
"You," he says, honest and warm and only a little bit flustered. He comes closer; there's no room for interpretation when he lifts a hand, trails it along Donghyuck's arm before giving Donghyuck's bed hair a halting ruffle.
"You know you can rely on me too, right?" Mark's eyes waver between the hand Donghyuck somehow placed on his chest— when did that happen —and trying to catch Donghyuck's gaze.
"Even though I may not be much now," Mark pauses as Donghyuck scoffs, "I want to do my best to protect you. You have me as much as I've got you."
We feel the same way, right? A tiny voice asks in Donghyuck's mind. Beneath his fingers, Mark's heart beats steady and strong. You love me as much as love you?
It must show on his face, somehow, because all of sudden Mark reaches out. All of a sudden Mark is pulling Donghyuck's head to his chest.
Mark somehow knows to wrap his arms around Donghyuck, an embrace that lasts longer than it normally would have in the presence of others. But tonight it's just them, hiding out in one of the towers of the castle.
It's almost the perfect moment for a heartfelt confession; it would be if Donghyuck just gathers the courage to say it out loud. Instead, he closes his eyes. He decides to tell Mark tomorrow.
After the trial , the tiny voice repeats over and over. Love is a heavy burden that Mark, who could put Atlas to shame with how many responsibilities he already shoulders, simply can't afford to carry right now.
Donghyuck dreams of summer.
At least, that's how the dream starts out. There's water rushing in his ears, seaweed clinging to his legs, the sensation of a strong current. Something is pulling at him.
And that something is a someone, and that someone is none other than Mark. He's the first person Donghyuck sees when he opens his eyes, gasping for breath. For a while, Mark is the only one he sees.
"Oh my God," Mark's eyes wildly search his face. "Are you alright? Can you hear me, Hyuckie?"
Donghyuck nods, slowly deducing that he must no longer be dreaming. Not even in his wildest fantasies does Mark call for him the way he did when they were twelve and thirteen.
Soon, Mark tugs him towards the docks, which must have been set up for the trial in the early morning. None of the other champions are there yet, and when the spectators notice the two Hogwarts students struggling to get to dry land, they all start yelling.
"Coming in first is Hogwarts champion Mark Lee, rescuing Lee Donghyuck for the second task!" Chenle's voice booms from the commentator's box set up close to the docks.
"What was the second task?" Donghyuck finally finds his voice as he lets Mark pull him up to the wooden platform. "Were we wrong?"
"No," is all Mark can get out before he's swarmed by all their classmates, "don't worry, every spell we practiced together was so, so useful."
In a way, that's all Donghyuck really needs to know, so he accepts the explanation and simply watches as Team Hogwarts make their way from the stands to congratulate Mark. He folds his congratulations and praises under his tongue—swallows a stale confession, maybe not now after all —and reminds himself that the golden boy Mark Lee is meant to be loved, just not by one boy alone.
"Hey," Renjun says suddenly into his ear, and Donghyuck jumps as he realizes his friends have crowded around him, leaning in to wraps him in blankets, to towel dry his hair, to hand him a nice warm cup of hot chocolate.
"Of course you'd be what Mark would sorely miss," says Jaemin knowingly. "We should have known it was going to be you under the water when you didn't show up to wish Mark good luck this morning."
Jeno laughs and pinches Donghyuck's cheek. "You should have seen him, Donghyuck. He was panicking so hard! Then his face when he realized that it was a person, not an object, that he needed to save..."
And then Jisung mumbles something about it being too easy if it was an object, of course there has to be some level of danger to it all, but Donghyuck's no longer paying attention.
If Donghyuck is honest with himself, he's a little bit disappointed, and very very confused. Was all that Mark did last night—the skinship, the attention, the way he walked him back to the Hufflepuff dorm, clutching Donghyuck's hand tightly in his as he sweetly kissed him good night—a warning of sorts?
Was all of that Mark's way of telling him he figured out that Donghyuck would be singled out by the professors, to represent what the Hogwarts champion "would sorely miss?"
Because of course Mark would try to warn him. Of course Mark would do it in such an indirect way, not wanting to panic or stress him.
All of this would also explain why Mark was so uncomfortable with how Donghyuck exposed his Amortentia. Donghyuck doesn't know if this added context makes him feel any better. He sighs.
Donghyuck shivers quietly under the weak sun. It's almost noon but it's as if the clouds Donghyuck imagined brewing between him and Mark materialized into being overnight. The sky is dark with the chance of rain.
Mark—and, perhaps, karma—finally catches up to Donghyuck as he's trying to make sense of his Potions notes. It's a poorly disguised attempt to avoid a particular person, and if Mark can tell he doesn't let it show.
"Hey," Mark says, breathless, smiling so dorkily at Donghyuck. "Could you spare a minute for me?"
Of course Donghyuck does, despite trying to make himself scarce for the past few weeks. As much as their friends like to tease Mark for being so very whipped for a certain Hufflepuff, Donghyuck himself is the kind of fool who would drop anything and everything for Mark.
He can just imagine Chaewon humming along to circus clown music right now, as Donghyuck makes space for Mark at his table. "What did you need? Do you have a lead for the next trial already?"
Mark simultaneously shakes his head while waving his hands in a vague x formation. Cute. "Nah," he says airily. "Don't mind that for now, it's not that important."
Total whiplash. "Not that important—?!"
"Listen!" Mark flinches, realizing he needs to speak softer if he doesn't want to get kicked out of the library for the third time this year. "I just wanted to ask you if you're still down to go to the Yule Ball with me? I know you've been really stressed with homework, so it's fine if you just wanted to sleep in..."
"Of course I'd go, I wouldn't miss it for the world." Donghyuck blinks. "But Mark, wouldn't you be better off asking Mina?"
Mina is one of Mark's family friends, a fellow Slytherin with pure magic pumping out of her heart. Everyone at school knows she's secretly locking lips with one of the Beauxbatons girls, but their families don't need to know that.
In fact, the Lees and the Kangs are a lot more interested in how nice Mina looks on Mark's arm. In how the two could continue their family's legacies if they are, possibly, interested in each other.
"I want to go with you." Too bad Mark is not one for pretense. For all his filial piety, this is one of the few things he doesn't bend for. "I'm not dating Mina, am I?"
"No, you're not." Donghyuck's voice is uncharacteristically faint. "I just thought.."
"Lee Donghyuck, thinking?" Mark gasps.
Donghyuck whines. "Shut up. You know what I mean."
And Mark just laughs, in the way Donghyuck loves the most. If only he could bottle the sound, keep it close to his chest. Save it for a rainy day.
"But seriously!" Mark gets serious again. "You've been working so hard lately... I don't know how I can help you at all..."
You can't, Donghyuck wants to say. "You don't have to worry about me so much," he says instead.
Mark gives him his puppy eyes and, really, there it is: why he's feeling the way he does, the reason why Potions class really drives him mad.
While a lot of time has passed since the frustration he felt after the second task, Donghyuck still feels like a whole human sized burden.
"Worry about yourself first." Donghyuck speaks with an air of finality. "That's how you can help me."
If Mark notices how Donghyuck's shoulders tighten up, he doesn't let it show.
And so Donghyuck carries the heavy storm cloud feeling all the way to the last trial.
All the champions have to brave some kind of maze; this is the only information the rest of the students have, because for once, this particular task isn't one that the public can spectate.
At the crack of dawn, everyone who bothers to wake up at such an early hour gathers before a clustering of hedges at the edge of the Forbidden Forest. They're all here to send off the three champions before they enter the vast, towering labyrinth.
Something in Donghyuck's chest flutters unhappily when he finally makes his way to Mark, whose first words to him aren't: fuck I'm so nervous, or I'm so hungry did you get me food, or—even a hello.
"You came," says Mark instead, and his eyes. It starts gossamer palpitations in Donghyuck's chest, reminds him of the hurricane that's been brewing between them.
And maybe it's too late to free the butterflies trapped between his ribs, but Donghyuck tries anyway.
He quickly pulls Mark away from the gaggle of first year girls ogling at the strange look on Mark's face. "Of course I would. What would make you think I'd miss this?"
"You seemed a bit... under the weather recently." Donghyuck tries not to stare when Mark bites his lip. "I didn't want to push, I know you've been stressed with homework lately..."
While, yes, the sixth year workload is definitely proving to be hell, in truth he has only been lowkey ghosting Mark out of dumb teen angst—which, okay, he knows better now and he's not going to repeat that again he really really really missed Mark his favorite person his best friend the person he loves—
It hurts, seeing how Mark had only been thinking of him.
There are strange herbs peeking out of Mark's messenger bag, a strange good luck charm hanging from the bracelet Chenle gave Mark last Christmas. Mark must have gotten help to prepare all of this, but still. The thought of Mark being too stubborn to ask Donghyuck for help because he thought his boyfriend was already too stressed...
Mark interrupts before Donghyuck can apologize, his smile watery and knowing. "Anyway, it's okay. I'm just so glad you're here now."
When Mark offers an outstretched palm, goes, "For good luck?" Donghyuck forgoes the handshake and just laces their fingers, bringing their fate lines together.
Donghyuck shamelessly watches as Mark swallows, the bob of his Adam's apple. "I'll be back, baby. Don't worry about me."
The way Mark says it almost sounds like a reprieve, a permission. But Donghyuck worries about him the whole day, anyway.
He worries about him when he's sitting in the Great Hall for breakfast, staring morosely at the goblet. When he and Gowon finally brew Amortentia later during potions class, the scent of summer and sweetness permeating the dry dungeon. Even when the evening starts to seep in, as he feeds the thestrals all by himself.
It's about time he stopped looking for excuses, for signs. Because if Donghyuck is going to be honest with himself, everything reminds him of Mark, his kind eyes, his warm smile. The way his desire to be more than his name makes Donghyuck want to rebel against his own blood, his nature. The way he's always pushing Donghyuck forward, making Donghyuck have no choice but to push back, just like this:
Later, when it's just them, sitting at Ravenclaw Tower by the same window they did all those weeks ago, Donghyuck starts with a: "Congratulations, by the way. I always knew you could do it."
"God, I know." Mark blushes prettily. "I could hear you, even though you were so far away from the maze exit. You screamed it so many times."
"Yeah, but, still." When I said that I was just thinking of the golden boy, the absolutely fully capable Mark Lee. "I just wanted to say it again, to you. Personally, and without any extra teasing remarks. Because I don't want you to think I was just joking…"
Mark's gaze drops to Donghyuck's clasped hands (when did he do that?) and he laughs. "Yeah, I know," he repeats, and his eyes on Donghyuck feel so warm, warm, warm.
"It's so cute when you get like this." Mark considers Donghyuck's red face, which is now smooshed in his palms. "Everyone knows you as this mischievous brat but in reality, you're really just as hopeless as I am. Maybe even more."
"And that's our little secret," Donghyuck concludes testily, his tone a sharp contrast from the way he leans into his best friend's touch. Mark giggles again.
Donghyuck loves the sound. It means Mark is happy, doesn't it? He wants to keep hearing it, again and again.
It doesn't even need to be like this; Donghyuck is not picky, nor is he particularly possessive. There are countless things that make Mark happy, but they all make him happy, just the same.
It doesn't need to be this particular laugh, the one Mark saves just for him, when they're pressed together like this. It could be the charming, boyish chuckle that gets carried by the wind as he zooms past him on his Firebolt, determined to beat Donghyuck into the ground and maybe win the Quidditch match while he's at it. Even the soft snort of a Head Boy struggling to maintain a cold image endears Mark to Donghyuck so endlessly.
Donghyuck just loves all of him, all of these different sides. Donghyuck wants to keep loving all of Mark Lee —
Mark gasps suddenly and he realizes he must have thought at least some of that aloud, like a total dunce.
"You heard me." Can't turn back now. "Mark, I'm not just saying this because you won the tournament. Maybe something about the danger of it all did influence me, somehow, but you need to— have to—know this has been a long time coming."
Deep breath. "And I know your parents won't be happy if they found out you spent half your time dating me, and I know I can't really afford to get distracted from studies if I want to keep supporting my family... but, Mark, I just really. I love you so much. Thank you for being with me, up until now. I hope I can keep supporting you, by your side, for a long time."
"I love you too," Mark blurts out. "Sometimes it feels like you just. Take all the words out of my mouth. And I don't know what to say, that you already don't know."
"Just say it again, then."
"What?" From before Donghyuck's very eyes the flustered, fumbling Mark shifts into the charming, confident one. Ah shit, here we go again. "That you make me speechless?"
Close, but not exactly that. "I love you," says Donghyuck, unwilling to back down. "Say it back." Aren't you enjoying this a little too much?
Mark laughs, clearly having the time of his life. "And I love you."
Donghyuck closes his eyes when he realizes that Mark has been inching closer and closer. One of Mark's hands shifts to cradle the back of his head, while the other trails down, down, down, to grasp one of Donghyuck's. Mark holds him like this, in his hands, the same way he always has.
Six years of magic, Donghyuck thinks to himself, as their fingers kiss and lips touch. And here's to more.
x x x x x x x x