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i call it magic (when i'm with you)

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Here’s the funniest thing about how this whole thing starts back up again: he doesn’t actually say no.

Which, when faced with a wizard known for his considerable prowess on the Quidditch field and his legion of rabid fans who behave not unlike a shoal of bewitched piranhas on the stands, isn’t really a viable option, like at all. Still, Brett doesn’t look up. Takes a leisurely sip of Butterbeer as he glares at the countertop under his fidgety fingers. Anything to prevent the nigh inevitable part of this frankly ridiculous discussion where he answers with a yes.

“Sorry, what was that?” he says into his mug, because clearly, something’s wrong with his ears. Must be the aftermath of close proximity to that screechy soprano from the Frog Choir. Or the tuba blasting just millimeters away from his head after a failed music charm yesterday. Or the—

“I said,” coming from the man perched precariously on the stool beside him, syllables slightly slurred as they roll off the inebriated tongue, “please be my date to the Yule Ball. I mean, pretend to be my date. Partner. In the holiday fancy dancing. Yeah, that’s it, what I meant to say, heh.”

Gods, what a disaster. Brett forces himself to chug down another mouthful of his drink before answering, in the hopes it can drown out the phantom pains clawing at his heart. “Why in Merlin’s name would I ever do that?”

Eddy tilts his head like he’s actually giving this some proper consideration for once. For once in all the months of their strange, eventful acquaintanceship. Friendship? They’re probably long past that point, especially where Brett’s heart is concerned, and no, he is not going to go there, not while he’s dangerously close to being drunk. “Because—because you’re a kindhearted soul, and you wouldn’t think twice about helping a poor, desperate man out?”

“Nope, try again.”

This time, Eddy doesn’t hesitate. “Because you're the handsomest man in your year, and I need arm candy?”

Brett resists the strong urge to slam his tankard down and the even stronger urge to slam his own face down into the countertop. He resists rather valiantly, if he does so say himself. But also, he doesn’t fancy getting told off by Madam Rosmerta, and he doesn’t fancy visiting Madam Pomfrey anytime soon, so.

“Edward,” he says, and it’s a little cruel, relishing the tiny flinch that blooms on the other man’s features at that, but he’ll take whatever small victories he can from this situation that’s so heavily skewed in Eddy’s favor anyway. “We’ve already been through this. Why are you asking me?”

“Because I,” Eddy pauses for a moment, and in the span of a single breath, Brett can already tell he’s gearing for an attack Brett has no defenses for, the cheeky bastard that he is. The other man moves closer, and oh, that gentle touch at his elbow is just icing on the godsdamned cake. “C’mon, please? You promised.”

And, well. That’s the fucking kicker, now, isn’t it?

 

*

 

The first time he becomes aware of the existence of one Edward Chen, the boy had been a nobody. Or, truth be told, as much of a nobody as a foreign student from the esteemed Australian House of Chen can be, really, which is to say: he takes one step into Hogwarts, and already, half of the student body knows of him.

He’d felt a twinge of envy at the reception the other man had received, if he’s being truly honest with himself. Brett’s in the same boat as him, having also been a First-Year from Australia the year prior, and he never received the same treatment. But then again, he’s not the one who comes from an illustrious lineage of Quidditch royalty and got a Hatstall that had almost caused two Quidditch captains nervously watching the proceedings an apoplectic fit. Even the Headmaster had looked impressed, or as impressed as the grumpy old fart could ever look.

“You heard?” Ray nudges his elbow; Brett swats away the offending appendage without looking up from his book. “His mum’s the seeker for the Wollongong Warriors. Hell, I heard the Thundelarra Thunderers wanted ‘er too, but the Warriors just paid more.”

“Dad’s a healer,” says a Gryffindor girl seated further down the table, and no, he doesn’t think he’s imagining the dreamy look on her pale face. Merlin’s beard. “One of the best in the Antipodes with four potions to his name. His sister’s in Beauxbatons.”

Ray whistles. “What I’d give to have that bloody circus of a family.”

Oh, he’s gotta put a stop to this, or he’ll never hear the end of it. Brett pointedly turns a page in his tome with all the casual indifference he can muster. “What’s it matter to us, who or what he is?”

“Aww, don’t get your wand in a knot, you big baby.” Ray laughs, his pointed hat flopping about as he whirls to look Brett in the eye. “Tell me, did you ever tune into one of those post-game Quidditch shows on the radio back in Brisbane? You must’ve heard of him before.”

“No, I haven’t,” Brett says, too quickly, and by the amused smirk that follows, he doesn’t think Ray believes him at all.

But whatever. Edward Chen’s arrival to Hogwarts is but an insignificant blip in his personal timeline here at the school. He has dreams, the pursuit of becoming a professional musician a bright burning ember in his chest, and so there just isn’t any time or thought to spare for some kid with famous parents and a bright, albeit crooked, smile. He doesn’t expect to ever encounter the other boy anyway, worlds apart as they are. Separate years, separate houses, separate everything: yeah, he doesn’t think he’ll ever be seeing him, ever.

 

*

 

He manages, for four whole years, to completely ignore Edward Chen’s existence. Insignificant blip, as he’d said. He manages—until suddenly, he doesn’t.

The door to the compartment rattles open, jolting Brett into the air so violently, he almost breaks his glasses. A tall, lean body falls into the seat opposite him, limbs akimbo before the man manages to orient himself to sit up, hand on the latch of the door as he stares out into the train’s hallway. The identity of the man who had just thrown himself into the compartment doesn’t immediately register in his muddled brain, but when it finally does, he—he is—

“Um.” Brett blinks at him, watching the way Edward’s gaze turns towards him and lights up, as if he’d only just noticed the compartment had another occupant. “Hello?”

It takes a moment before the other man finally deigns to speak, and when he does, he only sounds slightly out of breath. “Hey, uh, hi!” Edward waves a hand at him. “Sorry, I’m a bundle of nerves right now, but—can I just—I’m running away from some hooligans, and I needed a hiding spot they’d never think to poke their heads in, and I just chose a random door without really thinking about it, and I’m sorry?”

Brett ignores the question mark at the tail end of Edward’s last statement, focusing on one word he can distinctly pick out from all the babble. “Hooligans?”

“Yeah, my friends. They’re a bunch of hooligans.”

Brett looks down at the binder of music sheets in his lap, clears his throat. He probably shouldn’t be giving wildly inappropriate advice to a stranger, let alone someone like Edward Chen, but: “Maybe you need better friends.”

There’s a pause. “Maybe I do,” Edward says, and Brett glances back up, because what is this man thinking, agreeing so easily with someone he doesn’t know? Is he bewitched? Cursed? Surely he must be. “Erm, sorry, I should probably introduce myself, hey? I’m Edward Chen, nice to meet you.”

It’s the bewilderment, the incredulity, and the aftermath of getting startled a hair’s breadth away from his heart giving out in his chest, Brett thinks, that makes him open his mouth and reply with the most embarrassing thing he’s ever said in his life thus far. “Yeah, I know.”

Edward’s face is unreadable. “You know?”

Fucking hell. “Well,” Brett stalls, casting around desperately for an excuse as to how, exactly, he knows who Edward Chen is, before his eyes alight on the silver badge pinned to the other man’s robes, marking him a Quidditch captain. He gestures towards it; Edward’s gaze follows the motion down to his own chest. “Hard not to.”

“Oh, right. Sorry.” Brett waves a hand as if to shoo his apology away; it just doesn’t feel nor sound right to be hearing Edward Chen saying sorry to him, and multiple times at that. “And. . . you?”

“I’m Brett Yang, Ravenclaw Sixth-Year.”

A pause, and then: “I know.”

Now it’s Brett’s turn to be confused and a little bit concerned that he’s known by this oddity of a wizard. “You know?”

“Hard not to,” Edward says, a twinkle in his eyes, and what the fuck.

“What does that mean?” No explanation is provided, despite the dark glare Brett brandishes in the other man’s direction for a few moments. “Well, fine, keep your secrets, I guess. I’ll just be here reading my notes, if you don’t mind.”

“I don’t,” comes the reply from the other end of the compartment. Edward sags against the cushioned seat, the sunrays streaming through the window and warming the color of his hair and his eyes, earthy brown and honeycombed. Brett blinks hard the next time he has to. “Please, go right ahead.”

He nods jerkily, shuffling through his papers and picking out one at random to peruse. Despite not looking up again, Brett can feel Edward’s gaze on him the entire time, and he never does manage to comprehend a single word he’s read for the duration of the train ride.

 

*

 

The encounter with Edward Chen on the Hogwarts Express is an anomaly, one he’s sure won’t happen a second time, because really, chance would be a fine thing. Not that he enjoyed himself whatsoever; it had all been a rather mild inconvenience, that’s all.

But then it turns out fate or magic or whatever higher manner of conceptual being wants to make him its plaything, because the encounter happens again. And in Brett’s usual domain, of all places.

“Hello, Yang-of-Ravenclaw.”

He startles, nearly drops his violin onto the flagstone tiles, which would’ve been disastrous if only because he’s been saving money for new robes, and getting the instrument fixed back up again at Dominic Maestro's would’ve been a pain in the arse. “Chen-of-Gryffindor. Maybe next time you can make a habit of knocking first, for Merlin’s sake.” Brett strokes his violin like a baby in his arms for a moment before he packs the instrument away; he’s not about to tempt fate by keeping it visible and vulnerable in Edward’s presence. “Shouldn’t you be, I don’t know, flying around chasing a ball somewhere?”

“Aww, you’re funny.” Edward grins where he stands inside the sigil on the floor Brett had charmed to contain the sounds he’d been making. He’s sure the other students practicing within their own circles haven’t yet noticed the Quidditch player lurking amidst them, but the second someone does, well.

Makes him wonder if he’ll finally get to hear his name in the rumor mills for something other than his soloist performances for once.

“Nah, I’m just, uh, hiding myself away again,” the other man continues. “Quidditch tryouts being what they are, and my hooligan friends have been taking the piss at me all day, so I had to make myself scarce.”

“I see.” He doesn’t see why Edward sought him out, of all people, but—yeah. Yeah, he sees.

Edward shrugs, apparently disinclined to provide an explanation on that point. “Oh, and in case you haven’t heard, I’m in the market for new friends. Got some good advice from the blue-bronzed eagle.”

Good advice, huh. “And how’s it going so far?”

“Oh, y’know, it’s coming along well. I’m trying to make profitable moves in that area,” Edward gestures to him with a flourish, “like so.”

Brett pauses, fingers frozen against the solid curve of his music stand. He’s gotta be joking. “Is that why you’re here? You think—you think we can be friends?”

Edward smiles. “Well, don’t you?”

It’s a ridiculous question. He doesn’t deign to reply, focusing instead on picking through his sheet music for something to practice later when Edward inevitably gets bored of whatever it is he’s playing at here and goes away. Maybe, if Brett thinks about it, wishes for it hard enough, it’ll even happen without a need for any spell to hasten things along.

There’s silence. Brett picks out a piece of paper from the pile, looks at it, shoves it back in again, and continues this process two more times. And then: “What’re you doing?”

Gryffindors: stubborn as they go. Figures. “I’m trying to fix some problems with the orchestral piece of Something Wicked This Way Comes. There’s something wrong with bar forty, and the violists keep coming into the second chorus late, and the original section written for tuba sounds like a hippogriff getting mauled, really.” Brett stops, only just now becoming aware that he’s been babbling, shut up. But then he just can’t resist trying to explain it. “Anyway, it’s because I play—”

“Yes, I know, you’re one of the soloists in the Hogwarts Orchestra. You play the violin and sometimes the cello, and you debuted in your third year with that classical rendition of You Charmed the Heart Right Out of Me,” Edward says, like he’s known Brett for years, and not, y’know, one accidental meeting on the Hogwarts Express. “Which, uh, I gotta admit—I prefer your version to Celestina Warbeck’s. Don’t tell anyone.”

And, well. He stares for a moment, fully aware that his jaw’s scraping the floor with how incredulous he is. No, his hearing’s decidedly not faulty, so—those words had definitely come out of Edward Chen’s mouth just now. Huh.

“I don’t know about you, but hearing all of that? Just this close to sounding a little creepy,” Brett says, measuring an imaginary short distance between his pointer finger and his thumb. It helps, just a little, to remember to start breathing again after the revelation, because what the flying fuck. “How do you know all that stuff about me?”

Edward shrugs, that easy smile still on his mouth. Brett’s caught between the desire to smack it off and the desire to—do other things. More violent things. “Because you’re a kind soul offering shelter to random fugitives, and I wanted to get to know someone like that a little better.” Edward spreads his arms out wide; the look on his face screams ta-dah! “Like I said, I’m in the market.”

“Well, I’m not exactly looking for a sale at the moment, sorry,” comes hurtling out of his mouth, and what the fuck, he’s not supposed to be acting like he’s playing hard to get here. Brett clears his throat and glances back at the sheet music in his hand. It offers no respite for him.

“Never said you were,” Edward shakes his head, “but I wanted to work towards becoming someone of value, let’s say.”

Of value, he says. The Quidditch captain, all-around dreamboat of Gryffindor, saying he’s trying to become someone of value? Brett shakes his head in disbelief. “Appealing to the Slytherin in me?”

“A little bit, but I was also thinking I’d appeal to the Hufflepuff in you by learning more about your interests and showcasing just how much of a good friend I’d make to any interested party.” He pauses, smile turning wicked on his lips. “Did it work?”

“You’re insane,” Brett chokes out.

Edward laughs, clearly reveling in how discomfited he is with the conversation at hand. “That’s me appealing to the Gryffindor in you, I bet.”

“And what about appealing to my own house?” Brett drops his gaze back to his papers, suddenly unable to keep looking the other man in the eye. A damn enigma dropped right into his lap by the Fates, and in a package of scarlet and gold. It’s maddening, trying to figure this whole thing out right here and now, and he can’t quite shake the thought that there’s something else going on. Why else would someone like Edward Chen be seeking someone like Brett Yang out? “I just. . . don’t think it’s a very good idea to become, erm, closely acquainted in that way.”

He doesn’t mean his statement to come out the way it does: defensive, flustered, this close to being hostile. When Edward replies, it is with a far more subdued tone. “Whyever would you think that?”

“We’re just,” the word sticks to Brett’s throat like tar, “different.”

Too different to be friends?”

Brett shrugs helplessly. “I haven’t really thought it through yet. It’s just—I just feel like it might be a bad idea, is all.” A bad idea not only for Edward himself and whatever might happen to his reputation if he starts hanging around with people who aren’t like the sporty, boisterous, flighty types he’s no doubt used to, but also for Brett’s own wellbeing; something about the very concept of friendship with the Gryffindor student feels a bit like repotting Mandrakes for hours without earmuffs on. Which is to say: it feels like it might be fucking lethal.

It’s not that he doesn’t want to make friends. It’s not that at all.

Some of his internal conflict must be written out on Brett’s face clear as day to divulge without need for Legilimency, because Edward blinks once, twice, and then his face softens in some sort of understanding, whatever that might entail. Hell if Brett knows what goes on in that head of his. “If I appeal to your Ravenclaw nature, show you it isn’t such a bad idea at all, will you at least consider it?”

Well. That. That makes sense, and Brett clenches his jaw at the slight sense of being bested somehow. “Only if you make the habit of knocking before entering, mate.”

“Ha! Deal,” Edward grins, and it feels a little bit like he’s signed himself up for something he is in no way prepared to deal with.

 

*

 

They become friends.

Or not-friends, in actuality. Not-quite-friends. Not-yet-friends? Truth be told, he isn’t exactly sure where he stands with the golden boy of Gryffindor, but they’re definitely something.

He just—can’t put his wand on what, exactly, that something is.

In any case, Brett’s in no rush to try and figure things out in that arena at the moment. Hallowe'en is soon to be upon them, and he’s growing a little insane trying to balance the heavy load of his classes and the impending performance at the Feast he has to practice for. He’s so caught up in the dizzying whirl of the cyclone of his responsibilities that he doesn’t even realize he hasn’t taken any notes down in his History of Magic class until two days before an important lengthy test.

“Fuck.” He rummages through his satchel, hoping against all hope that some form of scribbled information just magically appears tucked within the pages of his books even when he knows that’s a fucking ridiculous notion. “Merlin’s arsehole, Brett, you idiot—”

Three knocks ring out. “Hey, don’t call my friend an idiot,” comes from the doorway, and there stands Edward Chen himself, his Quidditch uniform askew and his eyebrows knitted in concern. “He’s the smartest bloke I know.”

“Edward,” Brett blurts out in greeting, entirely distracted by the other man’s words for a moment—smartest bloke he knows, really? And I’m the bloody Minister of Magic—before he comes back to himself and returns to his fruitless search. “Sorry, not now, I’m about to lose my mind over fucking History.”

Edward tilts his head, craning his head to catch a glimpse of the contents of Brett’s bag. “What do you mean?”

“It was bloody careless of me, I admit, but I just—I had an idea for a melody I just couldn’t let go without seeing it through, writing it down,” he rages, near-frothing at the mouth as papers toss themselves out of his satchel and float in the air, “and of-fucking-course it came in at the most inopportune moment, and so then I wrote music lines in class when I should’ve been focused on Uric the blasted Oddball—”

“Brett, relax,” Edward says, raising both hands up like he’s trying to pacify a dangerous beast. “It’ll be fine, see? How about you calm down and listen to me for just a second?”

Brett whirls around to face him, eyes wild. “Don’t you tell me what to—”

“Shh, c’mon, take a breather and see what I got you.” Casual as anything, Edward produces a neat stack of papers from behind his back and extends it forward for him to take. “Here. Can this help in keeping you sane?”

“What—what’s this,” Brett asks, and rather dumbly at that, because a quick skim through the pages reveals an extensive list of topics included in Sixth-Year History of Magic classes as well as various notes on each subject matter. The writing’s jagged and a little bit difficult to read, but it’s exactly what he needs.

“Appealing to the Ravenclaw in you?” Edward smiles. Brett is speechless. Edward keeps on smiling. “I noticed your notes weren’t as thick as they used to be, so I asked around and got them for you. No big deal, really.” He shrugs, expression suddenly sheepish. “I hope I’m not intruding or anything, but—I just thought you might need it. A bit of help, I mean.”

Help. It’s something he’s rarely heard before in regards to being offered some himself; it sounds like an altogether different word now. Brett glances down at the notes in his hand, the one Edward had gathered for him without asking, without any expectation of anything in return, and then glances back up. “I don’t know what to say.”

“Then don’t say anything.” A pause. “But a little thank you would definitely be awesome for my self-esteem and my reputation as an all-around do-gooder.”

Sweet merciful Merlin. “Thank you, Edward,” Brett says, throat tight with embarrassment and gratitude. “Really. This is great.”

“I’m glad I could help. And it’s Eddy,” he says, swaying back and forth on the balls of his feet as he beams. “Call me Eddy.”

Here’s the thing: calling him by a nickname sounds too close, too intimate, like sticking his hand into a fireplace, and gods, but Brett already expects to burn up sometime soon. He already knows it’s a lost cause trying to dissuade a Gryffindor anyway. “Edward—”

“It’s Eddy,” the other man interrupts. “Edward for acquaintances, Eddy for friends. And I think you can say we’re friends now, yeah? I appealed to your core nature and learned how to knock on doors just like you asked. Are you proud of me yet?” His smile is incredibly self-satisfied. “I bet you are.”

“Whatever you say,” Brett murmurs, rolling his eyes, but he does, in fact, start using that supposed name for friends from here on out.

 

*

 

So: they’re friends now. For real this time; proper friends and shit. It should be simple, or as simple as a Gryffindor Quidditch captain and a Ravenclaw violinist of the Hogwarts Orchestra striking up a friendship could ever be, but then the unexpected happens: Eddy and Brett adopt each other’s respective friend groups.

He doesn’t even know how and when it happens. All he knows is that the list of faces he can pick out from the crowd is suddenly longer than he thought it would be. More greetings are thrown in his direction when he walks into a classroom; more seats are filled around him at the table in the Great Hall. One minute, he’s walking down a hallway conversing with some people, and then the next minute, his brain’s registering the sea of Quidditch uniforms surrounding him. Brett knows Ray’s a Beater on the Gryffindor team already, so he doesn’t count, but he finds himself knowing the names and faces of other players on the team: Alex, Tijana, Phoebe, Emma. He finds himself getting more acquainted with other Gryffindors, more Hufflepuffs and Slytherins and other people who consider the name Edward Chen and other names associated with it to be companionable ones.

It’s a strange sensation, familiarizing himself with other people beyond the comforts of his own social circles. Good and entirely interesting, but strange.

In turn, Eddy befriends Hilary and Sophie and Jordon, Brett’s Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw colleagues from the Hogwarts Orchestra, as well as Hyung Suk Bae, the Slytherin cellist Brett had once dated for the brief span of two weeks before they’ve made the mutual decision to revert back to being friends—not that, well, anyone knows or needs to know that. More than once, he walks into the Music Room and catches Eddy chatting quietly with one of his friends at their respective areas, eyes bright with interest and mouth running a mile a minute, though none of the words ever reach anyone’s ears beyond the boundaries of the noise sigils. If familiarizing himself with other people feels strange, seeing Edward Chen himself trying his best to establish friendships with the people within his own circle feels even stranger. Good and entirely intriguing, but stranger and fucking mind-boggling nonetheless.

It all comes to a head when Brett finds himself sequestered within an inter-house hodgepodge of students at a table in the Great Hall. He’s never been in a social group as large as this in his entire stay at Hogwarts, aside from maybe the Hogwarts Orchestra itself, and it’s a little intimidating, not to mention Eddy’s stuck to his side at all times like he’d cast Epoximise on the both of them.

“I petition we call ourselves the House of Halfwits,” Ray declares to the table at large, five seconds before he gets verbally pummeled by a disembodied choir of boos courtesy of Hilary’s wand and the other Gryffindor students.

“That’s a fucking stupid name,” Hyung grouses, his left shoulder shaking under the weight of Sophie’s hand clasping it tight as she laughs herself silly.

“It’s catchy,” Ray protests, dodging underneath the Tarantallegra Emma sends sailing over his head.

Brett rolls his eyes, but the smile playing at the corner of his mouth probably betrays him to everyone around. “Sorry, Ravenclaw doesn’t want us here, so Jordon and I’ll just be heading on out—”

“Shut up, you’re staying with me,” Eddy says, grabbing his arm and tucking it under his armpit as everyone else implores Jordon to stay seated, and somehow—somehow Brett stays.

That probably means something, but for the first time in a good long while, he doesn’t try to pursue the solution to the mystery.

 

*

 

Here’s the funniest thing about how this whole thing actually starts off: when the other man says he has a proposition, Brett makes an inadvisable, life-threatening promise to see it through.

Case in point.

“I have a proposition,” Eddy says.

Brett stops playing, turning to look from where he’s stood at the foot of a tree practicing his scales. He’d been persuaded to try relocating his practice sessions from the Music Room to the Great Lake for health and wellness and the relaxing properties of close proximity with nature, but really, Eddy’s probably just fucking bored and needs someone to annoy. “Oh? Do tell.”

“I was wondering,” says Eddy, “if you’d be up to pretending that you’re dating me.”

Silence. In the distance, the Giant Squid is a leviathan shape peeking out against the surface of the dark waters. Brett stares at it until it disappears under the waves, his eyes glossed over and unfocused, before he snaps back to himself and starts packing his instrument away. “What the fuck?”

“Hey, wait, hear me out first,” Eddy begins with a bright smile on his face, but no. No.

“That is the stupidest, most moronic, most ridiculous idea I have ever heard in my entire life thus far. There are a million ways in which that shit could go wrong. But sure, fine.” He closes his violin case, waves a hand at Eddy to urge him to speak. “Pray tell, why would I be up to doing that?”

“Because I’ll make it worth your while.” Eddy comes closer, grass bending under his footfalls as he joins Brett under the boughs of the tree. “We do this, and I’m at your service. You want anything done, anything retrieved, anything bought, I’m here to be of use and of value, sir.”

“Okay, hold on, before you try and bribe me,” Brett glares, “how about you start with why you need a fake romantic partner in the first place?” He crosses his arms over his chest, tapping his foot impatiently before he realizes what he’s doing and stops. “Don’t you have a long queue of people from every single house just waiting, even begging to date you for real? If you wanted someone to date, why not just pick one of them?”

“Because I need someone I can trust,” comes the reply, and oh, that’s just rich.

“You’re sure you can trust me, huh, Chen?” Brett raises an eyebrow. “We’ve only just recently become friends, so how are you sure?”

“I don’t know, Yang,” Eddy retorts, “I think I can trust someone who helped me out on the train while we were strangers at that time.”

“Oh, not this again—any civilized person would’ve done the same!”

“Well, yes, but I like you, so that just adds more points in your favor,” Eddy shrugs, casual and amused as anything while Brett’s sent reeling at the bewildering and elusive occurrence of Eddy Chen saying that he likes you. It’s—it definitely feels like an odd something, like a potion that doesn’t sit well in your gut.

“And anyway, that’s just the thing—I’m sick and tired of all the admirers. Fans. Whatever you call them. I’m getting nothing done most of the time because they’re all hovering around, waiting to pounce, and even Quidditch practices are getting invaded by bystanders who rarely if ever respect my team as much as they claim to respect me.” Eddy shrugs, kicking at a rock near his feet, robes a whirl as he paces. “I don’t really have. . . anyone I like enough to actually date at the moment, and it wouldn’t be fair to date someone interested while I have half-assed feelings for them. So no, this is the best way: strike a deal with a friend to fake a relationship with me, the admirers get shooed away, and we’d both just have a lot of fun trolling the student body.”

When he puts it like that, well. Brett’s sorely annoyed it all makes sense to him inside his own mind. Just makes it that much easier to ultimately persuade him, and no, fuck, no.

“Look,” Brett begins, trying to tread on safe ground, “do you really think I’m the best option for this nonsense? You have a lot of other friends and—”

“Yes.” The answer is resolute, definitive. “You're the only one. We just met this year, so the evolution from acquaintance to friend to partner feels natural and doesn’t take way too long to happen. You’re smart and talented, and under the right light, you don’t look half-bad,” Eddy smirks as Brett bristles at the insinuation, “so it’s entirely plausible that I fell in love with you at first sight and then asked you out.” He pauses, a devious light in his eyes. “Oh, they’ll eat all of that right up.”

Merlin’s arsehole. He’d like Eddy to stop making so much bloody sense right now before Brett pops a vein in his forehead. “And if I get bullied by your admirers?

Eddy snorts. “When have you ever let anyone bully you, Brett,” he asks, and alright, fine, he has a point. Brett massages his temple as the other man continues. “But just in case, well, of course you have me to take care of you. Me and the Quidditch team. We have your back.”

“Bunch of big scary trolls, aren’t you?”

“It comes with the territory,” Eddy says, waving a hand in the air dismissively before fixing him with a look. “So? Are you in?”

Brett stares at him for a moment, at a loss. He knows, deep down where the sun never shines in the caverns of his chest, that he’s already been sold on the matter. Regardless of how stupid fake-dating Eddy might sound to his Ravenclaw sensibilities—drat it all, but messing with everyone around him sounds fun. And who knows? If all goes well, maybe even the attendance of the Hogwarts Orchestra concerts might bulk up a bit more if they hear Eddy’s hanging around the premises. That’s something logical to pursue, right? Right.

You behave, he tells his heart, and you steer the way, he tells his brain.

Brett sighs, tilts his head up to the sky and closes his eyes a moment before he nods. “Fine, yes, I’m in.” Gods, he’s going to have to lie down for a bit after this. His head hurts like a bitch, and he highly doubts anyone, even Madam Pomfrey, can sort him out. “But you’ll let me end things whenever I want and vice versa?”

Here, Eddy looks a little uncertain, but he nods. “That’s only fair. You have to let me know beforehand, alright?”

“Alright. And how do you propose we do it?”

“I’ve got an idea,” Eddy says.

 

*

 

And so the beginning goes a little something like this:

It’s the first match of the Hogwarts Quidditch season with the house of Gryffindor facing off against the house of Slytherin. Those of noteworthy attendance include the esteemed Headmaster, the honorable professors, and Yu-Chien “Benny” Tseng as designated Quidditch commentator.

The game is fierce. Slytherin asserts early dominance with a twenty-point lead before Gryffindor stokes the fire under the cauldron by gaining twenty points of their own. After hours on the pitch, Slytherin Seeker Nicole Greentree snags the Golden Snitch for her house, but with a final ten-point lead, Edward Chen leads his house to victory. “Gryffindor wins,” Benny announces over the din of the crowd, desperately trying to keep the smug grin off his face as he continues, “Gryffindor wins the first game of the—”

And then all eyes widen as the Gryffindor captain himself grabs a Ravenclaw student from the stands, hoists him up, twirls him around, and then snogs him in full view of the entire Quidditch pitch and the Headmaster himself.

 

(“Did you know about that,” Hyung asks, perched on his broomstick and looking only a little miffed his house lost the match.

“No, but trust me when I say I am absolutely ecstatic over this turn of events,” Ray replies, grinning from ear to ear as he glances over at the other player. “Good game, by the way.”

“It was, but I doubt anyone’s going to remember the game when we’ve got that going on.”

In a way, he’s right: the kiss sticks around the public rumor mill for weeks after. Eddy is rarely seen without sporting the brightest of grins. Brett holes up in the Music Room and practices like he’s never practiced before.)

 

*

 

They become a couple.

Or a fake couple, rather, but that’s something only the two of them know. It’s not so bad, despite his initial trepidation and the concerns he’d brought up everyday for a week, but then again, it’s only really because Eddy asks for physical touch like a consummate gentleman and doesn’t try to force any public displays of affection when Brett isn’t ready.

Still, they have to ramp it up a few more notches moving further along. Better that he builds up some immunity concerning the physicality of this relationship now so he can face the storm on the horizon.

Their friends buy into the charade completely and without question, strangely enough, and seem all too delighted at seeing them together as a couple. Ray makes kissy faces at them unashamedly when he thinks Brett isn’t looking, Hilary and Sophie coo over how adorable they are, the Gryffindor Quidditch team wolf-whistles every time they pass by Brett in the hallways. It’s odd how thoroughly accepted their supposed relationship is, but Eddy doesn’t seem all too concerned about it, so—maybe Brett should just leave that be too.

They do things couples normally do. For Christmas, an owl delivers Eddy’s present to Brett in Hogwarts: an expensive set of violin strings enchanted to never rust nor break. When Eddy comes back from spending winter break in London, they kiss on the front steps to a chorus of oohs and aahs. Eddy grows him a rose bush with the Herbivicus Charm for Valentines’ Day; Brett responds with a huge box of chocolates sent during Quidditch practice, of which Eddy had eaten only two of the thirty pieces of chocolate because he’d ended up feeding everyone on the pitch, which means it hadn’t been a complete waste of a gift, at least.

To support each other’s interests, they make a point of attending school events that the other is involved in. Eddy comes to his concerts in dark formal robes with a bouquet of flowers and a starry-eyed expression after every performance. Brett comes to watch Gryffindor Quidditch practice and all the official matches. It’s not so bad, watching the sport and seeing his not-really-boyfriend speed across the pitch with all the grace of an Abraxan, and it’s not just because Eddy’s smile is the most radiant it’s ever been when he’s in his element.

He’s usually stone-faced in the stands whenever he watches Eddy play; everyone and their mother’s better off not seeing the worry that itches underneath his skin, hoping he never has to see Eddy get injured by a ball or a fall. And anyway, the one and only time Brett tries to yell out support for Eddy while he’s playing, the other man nearly falls off his broom in delight, so. He thinks it’s probably not a good idea to try that again.

Hyung, on the other hand, is ecstatic while watching this play out on the pitch, which might also be tied to that age-old rivalry between Slytherin and Gryffindor aside from plain old amusement, but that’s not really something Brett’s an expert on. “Merlin’s beard, he’s fucking whipped!”

He can feel the blush coming on, heat warming his cheeks like he’s standing in front of a furnace. Gods, but this is embarrassing. He wants and is ready to cast a few spells to physically sink down through the bulk of the stands and into the earth, but he made a promise to Eddy he’d be here, so that’s just a no go. “Shut up, shut up!”

“Don’t shut up,” Sophie cackles beside him, clapping her hands together as the team from her house scores ten points. “Hufflepuff will win if you keep this up!”

Brett buries his face in his hands, so very close to dissolving into nothingness right then and there, but Gryffindor eventually wins the match, Eddy stating that it’s all thanks to the ‘call of his clever eagle lover’, so he supposes there’s at least something to salvage from the situation, even if it makes him want to throw himself in the lake and feed himself to the Grindylows.

 

*

 

This fake dating thing: he thought he’d be able to handle it. They’d escalated things a little bit: now, there’s a few more shared kisses here and there, a few more acts of intimacy sprinkled throughout each day, the bulk of his free time now entirely taken up by weekend dates at Hogsmeade and shared study sessions and watching his boyfriend fly around the Quidditch pitch while he works through new music pieces with a quill. But ultimately, he’s fine with all of those. It’s not like he’s never experienced them before.

So, he thought he’d be able to handle all of that. That had been before the love letters started showing up.

The first time he receives one, he thinks it’s for someone else. For either Ray or Hilary, specifically, because they’ve both got their own fair share of admirers, and they’re seated on either side of him in the Great Hall when the owls start flying in to deliver the morning mail.

“No, but it’s got your name on it, though?” Ray squints at the pink-tinged envelope with barely-concealed confusion, his finger rubbing at the elegant scrawl of Brett’s name on the back of it. “Oh, wait, hold on—isn’t this a Lovebird to Love Note spell?”

Across from him, Jordon swallows down a mouthful of corn flakes before chiming in. “Fifth-Year Transfiguration?”

“It is,” Brett murmurs quietly; he’d been hoping no one would catch on to that little tidbit. “Why’d it be addressed to me, then? I’ve already got, y’know,” he pauses, mentally sorting through appropriate words and terms and picking the least dangerous one, “a partner.”

“Why don’t you just open it and see what it says,” Hilary quips, her toast momentarily forgotten as she peers at the letter with interest. “Go on!”

Well, what else can he do? Brett carefully breaks the seal of the letter, watching as it shifts, floating up into the air as it morphs into a form that looks like a Howler, but far more benign. The envelope’s mouth is smiling, for Merlin’s sake.

And then it begins to sing, and yep, this is definitely not like a Howler.

 

Oh, blue-bronzed eagle, you breathtaking soul,

The grace you exude is a thing to behold.

Who can come close to the spark in your mind

When I’m stuck on the hope you won’t leave me behind?

From the start, I’ve seen all the wonders of you,

And I hope you can see them inside of you too.

Now won’t you come give this lion cub boy

A kiss on the mouth to fill him with joy?

 

Backed by a chorus of awws from the surrounding audience, the letter bursts into a cloud of pink sparks and birdsong before it finally falls back down to the table, an ordinary envelope once more. Brett stares at it for a poignant moment of disbelief before he looks up to gauge his friends’ reactions.

Ray’s eyebrows have climbed to the summit of his forehead. He has a distinct look on his face that says he’s never going to let Brett live this down, ever. “Oh, that’s just bloody brilliant.”

“Really the cutest thing,” Hilary adds.

Brett glares at Jordon, willing him not to say a word in addition to everyone else before he turns around, looks over his shoulder at the Gryffindor table to see Eddy Chen give him a fucking wink.

Well. Alright then.

The letters keep coming. He receives another one for Christmas, tucked carefully between the folds of the fancy paper when he unwraps the parcel; it sings him Celestina Warbeck’s A Witch and Wizard's Wintry Wondrous Land for hours, crooning the lyrics I'm under your spell, and it's clear to tell that baby, you're under mine too so breathily that Brett’s cheeks refuse to give up their blush until the song stops looping. He receives one for Valentine’s Day, hidden amongst the leaves of Eddy’s rose bush. He receives one after every concert, congratulating him on his wonderful, stunning, amazing performances. He even receives one that makes the Headmaster himself chuckle when the letter reads itself too-loudly in the Great Hall.

 

Clever eagle, my dear,

Pay mind of the time;

Come on by to the pitch

To watch your love shine!

And before I forget,

No, this can’t go amiss—

When this man aces O.W.L.s,

Please grant him a kiss.

 

Brett’s not one for petty trifles, but even he wishes, just for a moment, that Eddy horribly flunks the exams. Just for a moment, before he comes back to himself and rolls his eyes at the dramatics. Really, now.

“This is getting out of hand,” he tells Eddy one day, having weathered the reactions of his classmates when the most recent love letter had sent itself to him in Charms. Even Professor Grawert hadn’t been immune; he’d spent more than a few minutes cooing at Brett and then waxing poetic about his long-lost Giantess love. Brett’s pretty sure a Hufflepuff girl had started to weep silently into her books at the climax of the story.

“It’s for the facade, Brett, just play along and be flattered,” Eddy laughs, slinging an arm over Brett’s shoulder as they amble down the hall. “Don’t you enjoy being reminded time and time again that you’re loved?”

And, well. He doesn’t know what to make of that.

 

*

 

Looking back, Brett can’t quite pinpoint the exact moment he realizes he’s absolutely fucked himself with the whole fake dating nonsense, but the broomstick ride—it’s a pretty close thing.

Brett’s parents had gone on a trip back to Brisbane for Easter break, and so when Eddy extends the offer of joining him and the Quidditch team on a short holiday trip to Cornwall, he finds himself without any excuses not to go.

“And besides, it’ll be fun, so you have to come,” Eddy tells, a look of determination in his eyes like he’s all too willing to argue with Brett about it on the off-chance he says no, and well, he’s just not going to give Eddy the satisfaction.

“Fine, I’ll come, but you pay for my room at the inn,” Brett says and turns on his heel to leave before Eddy can even think of suggesting they share the room instead, because, uh, no thank you. That’s not happening ever. Nope.

They travel by Portkey to the village of Tinworth near the coast, ostensibly to pay a somewhat-educational visit to Phoebe’s great-aunt who’s known for breeding and training squadrons of giant magical bumblebees. In truth, well: they visit the bumblebees, and then they go off exploring the sharp coastlines and jagged beaches of the southwestern peninsula. It’s a beautiful place, and something restless in Brett’s soul settles when he stands at the top of a sheer rock cliff staring out into sea, the ocean breeze stirring his hair and his heart alike.

“Enjoying yourself?” He doesn’t turn around; he’d know that voice anywhere. “I told you you would.”

“Yeah, yeah, you were right.” Brett closes his eyes, breathes in the salt in the air. Yeah, he’s really glad he tagged along for this holiday. “Fuck, but it’s gorgeous out here.”

“Mmm, I agree,” Eddy says, and Brett finally turns around to see him looking at him instead of the scenery around for a split second before he drops his gaze to his feet. “Anyway, uh, I was wondering if you’d fancy a ride?” He extends the broom in his grasp, the Firebolt Supreme he uses in Quidditch matches.

Brett raises an eyebrow at it. “Only one?”

“Well, you didn’t bring your broom, so we’ll have to make do.” He lets go of the Firebolt Supreme, settling on it comfortably as it floats in the air, before he reaches out to offer a hand in Brett’s direction. “Come along?”

He’s seemingly been given a choice between staying at the cliff or flying off into the darkening twilight. But in all actuality: there’s only one course of action here. Brett takes Eddy’s hand, hops onto the back of the broom as they begin to take off into the sky. “Hold on tight, then,” is the instruction, and then: flight.

Brett rarely if ever rides a broom to get around; he thinks the last time he’d ridden one had been for his Flying class so long ago. And it’s not like Eddy’s ever tried to invite him on a broom before today. But now that he’s up here, with the sky an endless tapestry of colors sequinned with stars above the inky waters of the sea beneath them, he comes to realize that he’s been missing out on a whole lot of shit.

He feels weightless and weighty at the same time, like he’s powerful enough to take on the whole world entire, both Muggles and wizards alike. It’s the same feeling he gets when he’s onstage, about to play a piece for the audience and the universe itself to hear. It’s heady, it’s magical, and if Eddy’s presence has magnified that feeling thricefold, well, he’s not about to spill secrets that easily.

In the moment, Brett feels a little bit of bravery, shuffling forward to share in the warmth Eddy seems to radiate. He’s so relaxed, he almost misses the words when they’re spoken aloud. “I’m glad you came along with us.”

“Mmm?” He keeps his eyes closed, leaning his head against the strong curve of Eddy’s back. “You thought I wouldn’t?”

“I wasn’t sure you’d want to,” comes the hushed reply. “You always seem so single-minded. So focused on accomplishing whatever it is you’ve set before yourself. I always thought you were a stone-cold creature, and your resting face didn’t really help matters.” Eddy breaks off into chuckles when Brett slaps his shoulder. “No, really. But then I saw you—playing onstage like you’re making stories with just the music, and I—it felt a little bit like magic, and you weren’t even using magic. It was all you.” He pauses; Brett’s lungs pause with him. “Just you.”

It takes a moment for Brett to think of an answer. None of the words he’s got could really compare to what he’s just heard. “I didn’t know you thought that.”

“Well, now you know I think you’re magic,” Eddy laughs. “And I guess I just wanted to give you some semblance of peace, whatever I can offer you, like the same peace you’ve given me.”

The other man leans back a little like he’s adjusting his stance or maybe like he’s trying to get closer. “Your talent’s a gift that’s all your own, and I’m glad I’ve gotten close enough to see you use it. Don’t forget me when you’re off doing greater things,” Eddy says, like Brett’s the one who shines brighter of the two of them despite his own heritage, his own family name, his own skills and popularity and the entirety of him. It’s ludicrous.

In lieu of answering, Brett just tightens his hold on Eddy’s waist.

They return to the seaside inn they’ve been staying in, its proud and stately structure rising up from the rocks like a lone guardian over the coast. Brett gets down to the sand first, sighing contentedly as he wiggles his toes; flying might be a wondrous thing, but he still much prefers the dependable ground beneath his feet. He turns around, mouth open to say a joke or what-not, and—and.

Eddy’s looking at him with fondness in his eyes and his smile, or perhaps something deeper, something more, and in the sudden silence that descends upon them like a too-warm blanket, Brett opens his mouth and tries to stall whatever’s approaching.

“Well, that was—that was a wonderful broom ride,” he begins to babble, “and I had a great time. Awesome time, even. I can finally see why you like flying around on brooms so much, chasing balls or people or otherwise. And hey, maybe my newfound appreciation for flying might push me into signing up for the Quiddi—”

And here Brett’s speech and his mind fail him all at once; here, Eddy leans forward and kisses him.

He’s never taken a drop of Amortentia in his life, but he imagines this is what it would feel like in his gut: bubbly like boiling, Periculum and Bombarda shaking him to the core. Life-changing and life-threatening. And fuck, but Eddy’s a fantastic kisser.

Brett drags him closer by his collar as Eddy tugs against his bottom lip with his teeth and smiles like the bastard that he is when the action makes Brett moan helplessly. All too soon, he pulls back, and Brett’s eyes are caught at the shine of his kiss-battered mouth when the voices filter into his ears, and he remembers where, exactly, they are.

“Hey, Brett! Eddy!” Emma waves excitedly at them across the beach. “We’re making a campfire, c’mon over!”

“Stop canoodling if you want some s’mores,” Ray yells.

Merlin’s fucking cock. Brett looks away, trying to wrestle his thundering heart into submission before he makes an embarrassment of himself. From the corner of his eye, he watches Eddy disembark the broom and set his feet down steadily onto the sand. “So?” The other man flicks his head in the direction of their companions. “S’mores?”

“Yeah,” Brett says, not trusting his capacity for anything beyond monosyllabic speech at the moment. He watches Eddy stroll over to where the fire pit’s constructing itself and just barely resists the urge to throw himself into the ocean.

And so: yes. He is absolutely fucked.

 

*

 

When summer break comes around, Brett makes it his primary goal to rid himself of the unspoken thing that has yet to leave the vicinity of his chest since the broom ride under the starlight (and fuck it all, but it even rhymes).

The hypothesis: some extended time away from his fake boyfriend and the trials and tribulations of fake dating would do wonders about the intrusive, inconvenient feelings rattling around his ribcage. Yes. Good. All the Ravenclaw predecessors before him would surely accept this as recompense for being such an idiot and shaming the house by going along with Gryffindor nonsense in the first place. It’s an absolutely fail-proof plan.

Absolutely fail-proof, at least, until Brett steps out of Flourish and Blotts, singles Eddy out in the crowd, and immediately feels like he’s taken an Incendio to the chest.

Diagon Alley feels entirely too small now, like the world’s narrowed down to the man sashaying down the lane. He can’t let Eddy see him: not now, not when his plan is in motion and his hypothesis is dangerously close to being cancelled out. He has to get out. He has to get out of here right now.

Brett turns around, takes one step on his way to disappearing into the sea of bodies in the street. (The universe takes notice and laughs.)

“Brett!” The voice booms, rising over the din of the crowd, and then there’s the sound of loud footsteps pattering against the road. “Brett! Brett Yang, over here! Hey!”

He’d been seen; there’s nothing to it now but to stay. Fuck, Brett thinks, turning around and plastering a smile on his face as he meets the gaze that has haunted him for weeks. “Eddy, hey.”

“Darling, mine eyes have seen no better sight than thee,” Eddy crows, gathering Brett into a hug that threatens to make his heart jump right out of his chest and into a street gutter. “Thou is here, and the sun shines ever brighter!”

“It’s, uh, it’s good to see you too, mister poet,” Brett forces out, patting Eddy once in the back before untangling himself from those strong limbs, fighting hard to keep the heat off his face. “How was your summer?”

“It was great! My sister’s coming to stay in London until winter term,” Eddy muses, handing over an odd-looking drink that smells of tea leaves and milk. Brett sniffs it carefully, takes a sip, and then immediately wants three more cups of the thing. “Something about chasing a lead on some cursed diadem or whatever? I didn’t ask for the specifics, and she didn’t give up any details either, so, y’know. Intrigue.”

Definitely intrigue, considering Belle Chen’s occupation as a professional Curse-Breaker. “Sounds cool. Hope she finds what she needs soon.”

“Me too,” Eddy says, turning towards him and nudging him with an elbow. “And you? How was your summer?”

“Uneventful, I guess,” Brett says, succinct and straight to the point. He’s not about to expound on anything he’s been up to, the plans he’s been enacting. No one’s business but his own.

Eddy raises an eyebrow, and then a smile Apparates onto the curve of his mouth. “I missed you so bad.”

Brett’s heart takes it upon itself to spin around the rafters of his ribcage like a deranged bat. “Don’t say that.”

“It’s true, and you should hear it.” Eddy’s gaze suddenly wanders off to a point beyond Brett’s shoulder; his expression blanks out for a moment before he leans over, voice a low whisper in Brett’s ear. “Give us a kiss? I see Ray just down the street, and he’s making his way over here—no, don’t turn around. Kiss me, please.”

“You’re a bastard,” Brett complains, but he doesn’t, in fact, refuse him. Instead, he reaches up as Eddy reaches down, their mouths slotting together like puzzle pieces, and it’s glorious. There’s excited screaming coming from Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, spilling out into the street. Random passersby are jostling him hard as the world continues to move all around them. He couldn’t give two shits about anything else.

When they part, Eddy pins him with a heated look before he steps back with a mischievous grin. Brett turns around, ready to greet his friend, and yet—Ray Chen is nowhere to be found. He blinks, blinks again. Wait. Wait. “He’s—wait a minute, Ray’s not here.”

“So I lied. Maybe I just wanted a kiss, who knows?” The other man shrugs nonchalantly, his expression the farthest it could ever get from being innocent. Brett’s heart jackrabbits in his chest. “Anyway, c’mon, I gotta show you something.”

As Eddy pulls him into Quality Quidditch Supplies, he feels something click into place in his brain: a realization. The turning point, as it were.

 

*

 

Alright, so maybe the funniest thing is—the funniest thing about this situation is that—the funniest, laugh out loud thing about this debacle is this, listen up, listen close: he is a real fucking moron.

You’d have to be, to fall in love with someone who’s fake-dating you.

(He should’ve listened to the fucking school motto. Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus. Hell, but the dragon’s about to swallow him whole.)

 

*

 

He can act as good as the next bloke in line, but now that the foundations of his world have irrevocably shifted into strange and unfamiliar shapes, Brett knows that whatever he’s been doing to get through this playacting isn’t going to work this time. Not when his heart has changed its tune.

When they had made their deal about fake-dating each other, he had been so very sure his feelings wouldn’t wobble an inch from where they'd stood stalwart in his chest. And now, well. The circumstances have changed; he isn’t the same Brett who had so offhandedly thought a fake romantic relationship between friends would be all that there is between them. And if the casual, platonic understanding on which the very premise of their agreement has been built upon has changed, then that means this charade can’t go on any longer.

And so—and so.

He pens a letter, one that isn’t enchanted; these words are for the two of them alone.

 

Look, don’t be surprised. This was bound to happen sooner or later, and I just sped things up so we can get it over with.

I’m getting tired of being your trophy partner. I’m getting tired of being used as a shield to keep others away from making advances at you. Did you know most of them don’t ever talk kindly of me? They say the stupidest things behind my back, and try as I might to ignore them, they are stressing me the fuck out. I’m getting tired of not understanding what I feel about you, of being so unsure about where I stand with you, if friendship is really all that this is, and I —

I’m tired. I just want things to go back to the way they were before I ever met you.

So here it is: I’m fake breaking up with you.

Not that it really matters, yeah? We’ve established since the beginning that we could end things whenever we want to. This is the end of the stick for me. I’m sorry that I have to break things off through a letter that won’t even allow you the courtesy of having me look you in the eye, but it’s easier this way. Detached and dispassionate, see; it’s the better way.

And that thing about me being a stone-cold creature? Well, maybe you’re right. But it’s just how I am.

Don’t come near me. I don’t want to see you.

— B. Yang

 

Brett charms it so it’s received after suppertime, when the curfew forces everyone into their respective common rooms, and then immediately skips Quidditch practice the next day, not that he really had to be there even back then. Eddy doesn’t seek him out just as expected, and so the next time he sees his once-upon-a-time fake boyfriend, it’s at the Great Hall three days after the letter had been sent.

They don’t sit together at the same table, for starters. Brett feels a multitude of gazes pinned to his back as he forgoes sitting amidst the House of Halfwits and continues on walking until he finds a quiet spot at the end of the Ravenclaw table, the farthest he can get from his circle of friends.

Their eyes meet.

Eddy stares at him for a good long while until Benny jostles him on his way through, and then he’s turning away to stride out of the Hall without so much as a glance back over his shoulder. Something shatters in Brett’s chest, irreparable.

Well. That’s that, he supposes.

 

*

 

He hadn’t thought much on the timing of the fake breakup, desperate as he had been about escaping the situation with his heart somewhat still intact, and so it doesn’t occur to him how the other end of the stick—the other party, fuck— might’ve truly felt about it until he gets the news.

The library is deserted for the most part, with many of the students still congregating at the Quidditch pitch after the game between Gryffindor and Slytherin had just ended. Last year, he’d been right at the front of the stands, getting snogged within an inch of his life by an enthusiastic Gryffindor Quidditch captain.

This year, well. Suffice to say he’d just seated this one out.

“Did you hear?” Tijana starts it off matter-of-factly, her words hushed but firm as she bends closer from where she sits next to Hilary. “Eddy got hit by a Bludger.”

What?” Fuck, he’s too loud, the word echoing down the nearest aisle, but fuck. Brett clears his throat, forces his volume down as he repeats himself. “What—I mean—is he—is he alright?”

“He’s okay,” Tijana soothes. “He’s in the Hospital Wing right now with a broken arm, but he’s okay,” she explains, and how in the seven circles of hell is a broken arm okay? He’ll never understand Quidditch players and their abnormally high propensity for being suckers for pain.

“Oh my goodness!” Hilary gasps, hands coming up to cover her mouth. “Did they get him to Madam Pomfrey immediately?”

Alex’s answering hum is muffled behind skin as he leans against the table with his face in his hands. “Yeah, we had to petition for a timeout ourselves because he thought he could keep playing, like the bloody idiot that he is.”

“How the fuck did that happen,” Brett demands, finally finding his words again. Gods, but he knows Eddy isn’t normally this reckless as a player, isn’t usually this careless with himself that he’d just—wander into the path of a Bludger. He’s too good of a player that he’d have to have known it was coming towards him.

“Well, he seemed kinda distracted? Like his mind was elsewhere.” Tijana’s fingers worry at the sleeves of her Quidditch robes; her gaze is pointedly fixed at not-Brett. “He looked out of sorts.”

“Mourning, more like,” Alex chimes in.

Before Brett’s stomach can muster up a sudden bubbling surge of grief, Tijana pins Alex with a disapproving look. “Don’t say that. Anyway, Brett, just know he’s fine and expected to recover tomorrow, and then he’ll be back on his feet in no time.”

“You don’t think,” Hilary glances at Brett for a split second like she’s hesitant to broach the looming topic he knows is about to be spoken aloud, Merlin’s fucking beard, “you don’t think the breakup caused the distraction?”

The two Quidditch players share a look, one Brett doesn’t know how to read. “Well,” Alex begins, “you might not want to hear us say that it was, but we can’t say it wasn’t either.”

“I think it’s safe to say it was a big factor,” Tijana adds, her tone diplomatic. “He’ll probably bounce back soon, though. Probably.”

“All the adoring fans visiting his bedside might speed things along. There were a lot of cute girls lining up outside the door, so who knows? One of them might cure his melancholy,” Alex smirks. Brett very carefully does not outwardly react to his words, even as something in his chest howls like a werewolf. Fucking hell.

“Shut up, Alex.” Tijana rolls her eyes, smacks the man on the shoulder before turning to Brett. “So yes, just wanted to let you know ourselves instead of you hearing it through the grapevine.”

“Thanks, Tijana.” It does feel better, hearing it from someone he knows and trusts rather than from who-knows-who. If he’d heard about it from some random student out in the hallway, who knows what he would’ve done. Brett nods at the both of them, mouth curling up slightly in gratitude, before he asks the question that had been at the forefront of his mind since they first showed up to see him: “Why are you two still talking to me? I thought you’d—I don’t know—hate me for dumping your friend.”

There’s silence around the table after that. Brett catches Hilary’s eyebrows climbing to her hairline with concern before a laugh redirects his attention. “There’s no taking sides in this divorce, Yang.” Alex shakes his head, an amused smile on his lips. “And you’re our friend too, c’mon. Don’t think so lowly of us, huh? Of course we give a rat’s arse if you’re hurting or not.”

“What Alex means is that we care for your wellbeing and respect your decision about the breakup.” Tijana reaches out and takes his hand in hers, her smile far more comforting than her fellow teammate’s. “We’re here for you both, even if, y’know, we have to support you two separately. That’s a promise not just from me, but from everyone on the team.”

It’s—an odd choice of words. Rather weighty, and far more serious than Brett had been expecting. But then it’s here that he’s struck with the cold, sobering reminder that their friends are treating this situation with the gravitas they think it deserves because they think the breakup’s fallout had been devastating. Not that it isn’t true—it’s dangerously true on Brett’s end—but. Of course they think Eddy’s distracted (mourning) and Brett’s fragile (hurting); it’s because they think the relationship had been real.

Gods, it’s all a fucking mess.

“Thank you. Truly, both of you,” he manages to choke out through the cloud of guilt and panic and, yes, hurt, squeezing Tijana’s hand before letting go. “I’m glad Eddy has you guys.”

“Hope he knows he should be glad too,” Alex grumbles, stretching as he stands, bouncing on the balls of his feet. “See you around, Mister Yang, even if you never visit us for Quidditch practice again.” He pauses, a twinkle in his dark eyes. “But I gotta say—if you ever get back together with Eddy, that’d be fucking fantastic.”

“Shut up, Alex,” Tijana says, shaking her head, but the damage has been done. Still, Brett finds within himself the wherewithal to offer one last smile. It’s the least he could do.

 

*

 

He doesn’t go visit Eddy in the Hospital Wing, in the end.

It’s for the best, he thinks. He’d probably have a much harder time at getting better if Brett had been in attendance anyway.

 

(“I’m sorry,” Phoebe says gently, like she’s trying not to startle a wounded creature, arrowhead buried in its hind leg. “He never—he never came by.”

“He knows, though.” Ray folds his arms over his chest. He had been ready to lie about it, had been about to say oh yeah, Brett totally came by, and he was really worried, and he may or may not have kissed your forehead while you were asleep, and it was sickening but cute, and don’t tell him I ratted him out, but. Well, where could they go from starting things off with lies and subterfuge?

“He knows, and he hopes you recover soon,” Tijana adds. Her gaze is dark, considering. “He says he’s glad you have us.”

There’s a moment there, brief but unsettling, in which Ray thinks the man on the bed might just burst into tears, but it passes, thank Merlin.

“But he never came by,” Eddy says, a pained chuckle wrestling itself from the confines of his teeth. Anyone with eyes can see the difficulty with which he lifts the corners of his mouth up in a feeble smile. “Well. That’s alright. And he’s right. Thank you, everyone, for looking after me.”

Five pairs of eyes look to and fro each other, an unspoken message passed between glances, before Emma changes the subject and asks about any new changes to the schedule for Quidditch practice.)

 

*

 

Of all the probable scenarios he’s tried to imagine meeting Eddy’s sister for the first time, having tea with her at Madam Puddifoot's is probably one of the strangest, most unexpected instances he’s ever entertained. Like, somewhere in the actual hundredths place, swallow-your-wand-whole kind of unexpected instance. It doesn’t help that she looks pristine, resplendent in a white mink coat and with not a single hair out of place, and he looks—well. Like someone who dumped a guy and spent more than a few sleepless nights tormented over it would look like.

She’s here, she claims, to ask him to take Eddy back, for lack of a better term, and really, a lesser man would call it begging, but he’s not an arsehole, and also Belle is quite possibly the nicest person on the planet, even if she is in fact related to Edward fucking Chen.

“If you’ll allow me to speak frankly, I think asking me out to meet you here of all places is the worst thing you can do if you want me to—what was it? Take him back?” Brett glances over his shoulder on a whim; he notices several heads swivel around when he sees them surreptitiously watching. Damn busybodies. “People will talk.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that.” She takes a dainty sip from her teacup, all picture-perfect poise and posture, and for a split second, Brett is struck with a flash of blinding hate. He doesn’t know what in Merlin’s name the Chen siblings have been feeding on when they were but mere babes to make them such exemplary adults, but he is definitely questioning why he’s never had a taste of the magical breastmilk or whatever-the-fuck. They all hail from the Antipodes, don’t they? It’s entirely unfair that he gets the short end of the wand here.

“Why wouldn’t I worry? I look like I dumped Eddy to get with you, which, uh, is never happening, let’s be very clear there.” He doesn’t know how to be any clearer short of cutting open his own chest and showing Belle her brother’s name etched against every coronary artery he has, but he can at least say so. “It does look like that right now, though, and I don’t fancy being accused of callously playing the field.”

Belle smiles indulgently, and it’s mildly concerning how distracting it is to see the same smile he normally sees on her brother’s mouth. Face. Anyway.

“But we both know that’s not true, and if I were to be very honest with you, Brett, you are too young, too headstrong, and very pointedly not my type.” She pauses, stares at his face for a moment before nodding. “You’re most certainly Eddy’s, though.”

She doesn’t mean Brett is Eddy’s—something something significant or other. She can’t be. He clears his throat, takes the safer route. “His type, you mean? That’s a load of rubbish, pardon me saying.” Brett takes a hasty gulp of tea; it’s all he can do to keep from choking on the words trying to claw their way up his throat. “And anyway, he’s not my type either, or I wouldn’t have dumped him, now, would I?”

“Hmmh.” The elder Chen sibling studies him, not that Brett thinks there’s anything left of his face and appearance to study at this point. He knows he looks bedraggled and miserable, and anyone, anyone could see that. “Something tells me you’re saying this, but nothing could be further from the truth. I think you ended your relationship with him for a reason, but not because you didn’t—well.”

A chill runs down his spine, its touch like ghostly fingers, and for a brief, terrifying moment, he forgets Belle doesn’t know the supposed relationship he’s had with her brother had been all fake, through and through. Does she see something between them? Had she figured him all out? “You,” Brett begins, hesitant to start pointing fingers but unable to continue this discussion if he’s at a severe disadvantage here, “you’re not reading my mind right now, are you?”

To her credit, Belle only laughs at him. “I’m not a Legilimens, if that’s what you’re worried about, but I’m flattered you think I’m one.” She places her teacup down on the saucer, folds her fingers together on the table as she leans forward. The dark of her eyes seems vast, almost limitless, and for all that he prides himself on standing his ground, something in that gaze makes him want to squirm about like a flobberworm. “Call it a woman’s instinct. My instincts tell me you’re in love with my brother.” She pauses, the corners of her mouth turning downward in a frown that doesn’t fit her countenance at all. “And you don’t think he feels the same way.”

So. Maybe she really had figured him all out. Merlin’s saggy left ballsack.

Brett says nothing, opting instead to look at the gaudy pink bows lining the walls of the tea shop. He doesn’t want to have to say it out loud. Speaking the words that would make it real, near-tangible in the air—well, there’s a certain kind of magic to it, like some kind of curse that would inevitably seal his fate, for better or for worse, and he’s man enough to face it: it’s probably going to be for worse. Regardless of his own personal views on the subject, Belle’s probably smart enough to figure out what his silence means anyway.

Which she does, if the sigh that escapes her lips is of any indication. “Look, I apologize for being so forward. I didn’t—I never wanted to have to confront you like this, not when I finally get to meet you for the very first time, but Eddy’s not cooperating with me, and I thought I could try to get through to you instead.” Her entwined fingers clench, skin suddenly pale against the tablecloth. “I’m so very sorry. I shouldn’t have said—”

“It’s fine, don’t you worry about it.” Brett shakes his head, making a sad attempt at smiling casually the way he’d done earlier today when he greeted her. He’s not quite sure he succeeds at it. “And you’re right, anyway. It is as you say. Not like I’ve any reason to deny it when you’re so undeniably accurate about everything.”

“Why do you believe in the worst possible scenario here? I grew up with Eddy, so I can say with utmost certainty that you’re reading him and his feelings wrong. I know my brother.”

“Well, I know he would’ve said something by now like a fucking Gryffindor would.” Brett stops, breathes in deep; it feels like a phoenix blew up inside his ribcage. “I’m sorry. Let’s just—agree to disagree, please?”

He’s entirely happy to leave it at that and to move on to different topics, less heart-jab subjects of discussion, or to get to know her as a person beyond what little he knows of her from her brother, or to maybe even eat a damn cupcake or something, but Belle has other plans. “Do you know the two houses involved in my brother’s rather infamous Hatstall?”

“No.” He’s—never given the matter much thought since his second year. “I assume one’s Gryffindor, obviously, and the other one’s Hufflepuff, given his hard work and dedication to his sport. Or at least, that’s what I’m guessing.”

“That’s a good assumption, yes, but—no. No, it was Gryffindor,” her eyes flicker up from her tea, “and Slytherin.”

And oh. Huh. That’s—huh. “Slytherin?”

Belle nods affirmatively, her gaze growing distant as she delves within her own mind into a past only she can see. “My brother’s not like me. I got to where I am in life by strong-arming my way through every situation thrown at me. On the other hand, well, Eddy had figured out a good balance of give and take, of learning when to push and when to retreat. He’s good at that. But sometimes, his courage battles his self-preservation, and it doesn’t always win out, especially not when it matters most.” Her fingers tap an unsteady rhythm against her teacup; it’s as loud in his ears as his own heartbeat. “I have reason to think it’s never won out where you’re concerned.”

Since the fake breakup, it’s as if he’s stepped into an alternate universe and left everything familiar behind, because clearly, Brett’s the odd one out here. He doesn’t know how Belle believes it, how their friends see it, how the entire student body still whispers about him and Eddy like getting back together for good is inevitable. Is this a testament to how skilled of an actor Eddy is in supposedly being in love with him, or is everyone just taking the piss? It’s maddening, mind-boggling, and at this point, well, he doesn’t think he can handle much more of fucking—possibilities and beating around the bush and what-not.

“I don’t—I don’t know that I’ve ever seen that reason in action at all.” Brett forces himself to shrug as nonchalant as possible. “But that’s enough. I’m nowhere near convinced enough to make up with Eddy anytime soon, so really, what else would you have me do?”

Belle’s gaze is hooded for a moment before she finally gives him a nod. “Alright. If you can’t make up with him, I ask that you at least give him a chance. To explain, to apologize, to win you over again. Whatever it is he’s done to make you leave him, I’m sure it’s nothing a good long talk between the two of you won’t solve.” She pauses, eyes brightening as if something important had just occurred to her. “And maybe a few Anti-Alohomora Charms, knowing you two.”

Merlin’s beard, but he doesn’t know how to—and can’t ever try to—explain that Eddy hasn’t actually done anything because that’s the whole point of this fucking debacle. He’s done nothing to show Brett’s feelings are in any way truthfully returned because nothing about their romantic relationship had been real in the first place, and oh, but that thought still hurts like a bitch.

Still, he’s not about to go mouthing off the truth to Belle anytime soon, so Brett shrugs, hums a vague confirmation that he’s heard her terms but is only, at the very least, willing to think about them. He verbally offers up something non-committal, because he’s not ready to sign his own death warrant just yet. “I’ll think about it. That’s the most I can promise you, and I’m only doing it because you asked me to.”

“It’s all I could hope for.” Belle nods demurely; Brett answers with the sharp downward jerk of his chin. “Thank you, Brett. Current circumstances aside, you’ve been a most wonderful influence on my brother. Long before you ever met him, in fact.”

Oh? What a load of bull. That thought’s still not something he’s willing to voice out in the woman’s presence, so he settles for a laugh tinged heavy with disbelief. “Now you’re just pulling my leg. He didn’t even know I existed until this year.”

Belle snorts. It’s the first unladylike thing she’s done in his presence. “Oh trust me, he was very aware you existed.”

And.

He blinks, leans back against his chair like a deflated balloon; the creak of its legs beneath him punctuates the churning in his gut. Fuck all if he knows what to make of that.

 

*

 

Belle leaves a sealed envelope under the teapot when she takes her leave of him. The final nail in the coffin, as it were. He’s not the type to so easily accept a bribe, but this—he’d have to be fucking petrified not to feel something about this.

Because here’s the funniest thing about Belle’s visit to come see him: she’s left him a treasure trove that moves his heart enough to stop just merely thinking about hearing Eddy out, but to start considering it properly. Which he’s aware is a dangerous and inadvisable course of action, but.

In his hand: the envelope, perfumed with primrose and hand-signed by Belle, a Pandora’s box he’d assumed had been relatively harmless before it had been opened and its contents unleashed. It’s filled with old concert tickets, edges a bit tattered and the printed text faded and worn. These are tickets to almost every concert he’s ever played with the Hogwarts Orchestra since he first made his debut as an aspiring soloist. And get this, because this is the truth that ruins him: Edward Chen is printed on every single one.

Every single memory he has of playing onstage for the orchestra is now recalled and remembered in a new light, in the eye of his mind. Every concert is a treasured moment, each performance a reminder that he’s pursuing his dreams with great success, one step forward in front of the other as he reaches out to the future he’s building for himself. And now, to think: all this time, Eddy had been going to see him play since the very start. And now, to think: Brett can imagine the man sitting in the audience, looking up at him onstage with that dark gaze, knowing him long before they’ve ever spoken a word to each other—

It’s earth-shattering. He hasn’t stopped looking at the concert tickets since he’d first opened the damn thing, and oh, but he’s sure Belle had known he wouldn’t be able to.

I think, she’d written on the envelope in the same elegant, looping scrawl Brett’s seen her brother use in his Herbology notes, he’s been waiting to meet you for a very long timeDoesn’t that mean anything to you?

It does. It really fucking does; that’s the crux of the problem. It means a lot, rattles him and shakes him up enough that the next time Eddy takes it upon himself to nonchalantly hover at the doorway to the Music Room like the world’s most inconspicuous wizard, Brett doesn’t immediately start running in the opposite direction.

Well, here goes nothing. “Hey,” Brett says.

Eddy jumps nearly a foot in the air at his approach. “Brett! Um, hey, I was just, uh—I was just passing through and I saw you—or I mean, not you, but someone else, another friend—a friend, and I just wanted to, uh, say hi. To them. Not you.” He winces.

“Oh, well, that’s a shame, then.” It doesn’t feel right, seeing the golden boy of Gryffindor reduced to a bumbling bundle of nerves, and only because of, what, Brett’s presence, of all things? Nigh unthinkable, and yet. “C’mon now, why are you so nervous? It’s only me.”

“There’s no only you, Brett Yang, that’s the whole point,” Eddy sighs, but his shoulders relax, and Brett counts that as a win, confusion at what exactly his words mean aside. “Sorry. I am here to see you and only you, you know that, right?”

“A little, I guess.” He pauses, tries to joke around the way they used to do so. “If only because your other musician friends aren’t here to say hi to, hey?”

True to form, Eddy’s eyebrows knit into indignant, jagged shapes on his forehead. “Well, that may be so, but I was actually—”

“Yeah, I know. It’s alright.” Brett smiles, inclines his head towards the room and his noise sigil within. “Well, come on in, then, if you’re coming around to say hi to me. I know you want to.”

It shouldn’t hurt that Eddy hesitates, but it does. “Are you—are you fine with me doing that? Coming around to your space?”

“Yeah.” He sighs, puts a hand on the doorframe to steady himself. If there’s a right time to apologize and ask for forgiveness, it’s right here, right now, without too many eyes looking their way. Brett takes a deep breath and glances up at Eddy. “Look, I’m sorry. I was a huge arsehole to you and—and I shouldn’t have written the letter I sent you. If anything, I should’ve faced you like a man, like a brave one, but maybe it’s just that you have all the bravery in this relationship, so. I’ve always been at a disadvantage here.”

Eddy’s expression is tight, his mouth a thin line. “Brett, please don’t—”

He holds up a hand to stall the other man’s words. “No, shut up. Sorry, just—let me apologize, please.” He pauses, gathers his thoughts again. “All the slander I wrote about you: none of it was true. It was a shitty move to break things off like that, and I shouldn’t have done it. I’m so very sorry, Eddy. I don’t know if you can forgive me, but—well. I just wanted you to know all of that’s on me. You were never in the wrong.”

There’s a pause, lengthy enough that his stomach begins to churn violently, and then Eddy steps forward and offers him a smile. “I forgive you, Brett. Of course I forgive you.” He pauses, looking down at his shoes. “And thanks, I—I really needed to hear you say those words.”

The guilt continues to drip acid into his gut. “Sorry it took me so long to say them.”

“It’s fine. No lasting harm done, yeah?” Eddy smiles, extends a hand in his direction that Brett takes. “Friends?”

“Yeah,” Brett replies; he can only hope that that holds true.

 

*

 

They become friends. Again.

Or not-friends, in actuality. Not-quite-friends-again. He still isn’t convinced this whole thing isn’t going to blow up in his face like a Dungbomb anytime soon, but by the gods, he is trying. They fall back into their old routine, the one they had before any talk of fake dating had ever come up between them, and it’s—good. Decent. Brett shoves his heart into a chest, shouts Colloportus at it every chance he gets.

It’s enough. It has to be.

And so maybe it’s why he doesn’t say no when Eddy makes his plea concerning the Yule Ball. Can’t say no, really. He isn’t allowed to love Eddy the way his heart wants him to, but he does love Eddy as a friend, and that’s acceptable, that’s the truest thing, and if he can make Eddy happy by fake-dating him just one more time, then he can be happy about doing Eddy a favor too.

It’s just a matter of mindset, is all. And at least he doesn’t have to suffer through watching Eddy dance and canoodle with someone else for the entirety of the night, so. Small victories.

“C’mon, please?” The other man’s gaze implores like nothing else Brett’s ever encountered in his life, and it’s maddening. “You promised.”

Okay, he can’t say no, but maybe he really does need to get drunk just to get through this. “So I did,” Brett mutters, wiggling his fingers in the air to signal for another refill of his tankard. “Do you want our robes to have complementary colors? You have to let me know now so we don’t show up looking like a pair of mismatched Fwoopers.”

Eddy’s mouth falls open; his hand hovers at Brett’s elbow like a lost bumblebee for a moment before it falls, and no, Brett is not sad to see it go. “You’re really—you’re seriously in on this. This, here: this is actually you accepting.”

“Keep questioning me about it,” Brett glares, “and I might just listen to the tiny voice telling me this is a very bad idea.”

“You didn’t listen to the tiny voice back then; you wouldn’t listen to it now.” Finally, Eddy pulls back to a more comfortable, safer distance, perching on his seat with a smile that speaks of relief. “Train your ears on me instead, hey?”

Brett doesn’t know how to say I’ve been training my ears on you above the music for the longest time without sounding like he’s wading in the loony bin, so he opts to say nothing.

Eddy continues, unperturbed by his silence: “I promise it’ll be worth your while and more this time around. I’ll dance with you however many times you like, or we can just sit around and eat all the food and judge people, whatever you want.”

“Alright, alright,” Brett says; thankfully, he can muster a laugh at that. “Worth my while, huh.”

“And more. And more.” Eddy nods, suddenly serious. “I hope.”

“Alright.” They’ve gone from becoming friends again to fake-dating again. Out of the frying pan and into the fire, as per usual. Brett resists the urge to sigh and empties the last of his Butterbeer into his belly, might as well. “So are we wearing complementary colors or not?”

 

*

 

On the night of the Yule Ball, they stick to each other’s side and dance only with each other. They’re supposedly back to dating again, after all.

Ho ho ho, we am so fucking glad you blokes are back together, ho ho ho,” Alex and Ray singsong upon meeting with them in the ballroom, Tijana and the other girls clapping their hands in mock applause as Eddy bows exaggeratedly in their direction. Jordon winks at Brett, Hyung flashes him a self-satisfied smile, and alright, this is just getting ridiculous.

They escape the teasing by dancing to the slow music that The Hogwarts Orchestra had finished playing, and they hadn’t really needed him tonight, so he’s free to twirl around the ballroom as many times as he wants.

And it’s magical. Caught in Eddy’s arms as they whittle the night away, Brett can pretend that all of this: all of this is real. For one night, he can pretend, and he’ll be all fine and dandy the next day when things go back to the way they were.

He’ll be fine. He has to be.

Eddy steers them towards a deserted balcony to rest their tired limbs and maybe hide away from their friends a little while longer. Brett sighs, looking back towards the open doorway into the castle for a moment before he turns back and spies the unease on his partner’s face. “What’s wrong? You look like you’ve seen a Dementor.”

“No, it’s just,” Eddy sighs, leans against the balustrade as he gazes out into the night. “Hear me out. Please? Don’t run away screaming your head off for once.”

“What does that mean,” he laughs, but then Eddy simply pins him with a steady look, and it’s here that Brett feels a sense of dawning realization. “Well, alright,” he says, quietly.

“In your letter,” Eddy begins, and fuck, here it is. Here it comes. Brett closes his eyes, breathes in deep as the rest of the words come. “When we supposedly broke up, in your letter, why did you—what did you mean when you said you didn’t understand what you felt—what you were feeling towards me?”

Oh, he remembers every single word of that bloody letter. He knows what Eddy’s referring to. (I’m getting tired of not understanding what I feel about you, of being so unsure about where I stand with you, if friendship is really all that this is, and I —)

Brett clears his throat. “It doesn’t mean anything.

“It can’t have meant nothing if you ran away after saying it.”

“Ran away?” He laughs; the sound is bitter in his ears. “Oh, yes, exactly like the sad coward I know myself to be! I ran away because people were irritating me with their gossip. Happy?”

Eddy stalks forward, red sparks licking at the heels of his feet. “You ran away for something as irrelevant as—”

Brett glares at him, waving a hand to put out the flames threatening to ignite. “Look here, you moron, since you still somehow don’t get it. Of course I didn’t run away because of what people think; I couldn’t care less! I ran away because I was falling in love with you!”

And there.

There it is, right there, are you happy, Merlin and all the fucking wizards in the world

Frozen where he stands, Eddy gapes at him. “What?”

“I was falling in love with you,” Brett says shakily, “and it wasn’t something I wanted in the first place.”

The awed expression that had been tentatively forming on Eddy’s face slides right off at that. “What does that mean?”

“Because the two of us, we’re—”

“What? Too different?” Eddy shakes his head, whirling around to face the school grounds like he can’t bear to look at Brett any longer. “No, you’ve already used that excuse, it’s not going to work this time.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“Then what?”

Merlin’s arse, this is going nowhere. Brett stops, straightens his shoulders as he reorients himself for a moment. He has to let Eddy know. He has to make Eddy see. “I’m,” he pauses, squeezes his hands into fists, squeezes them tighter, continues. “I’m scared.”

Eddy slowly pivots on his heel to look at him again, confused. “Scared? What the fuck is there to be scared of?”

And with that question, what else is there to do but speak his truth? This here is the breaking point; Brett might as well let go of everything here at Eddy’s feet. One last time: there’s the funniest part about all this.

“I’ve always thought love was dangerous. It is uncontrollable, it is unpredictable, it is—it’s pretty fucking close to madness. Love is not for the good of the mind, and I’ve always wanted to have the best up here,” Brett grinds out, finger to his temple, “for my sake. I had dreams, I had a future I wanted to build for myself, and for the longest time, it was all I ever wanted.”

He covers his face with both hands, laughs weakly into the skin of his palm, despite his fingers shaking. “But ever since I met you, I—you’ve been spinning me ‘round in circles, Eddy. You make me feel wild and overemotional and so—so fucking free of all the burdens I’ve been stacking on my shoulders since day one.” Brett shakes his head and lets his hands fall, looking up at who could very well be the love of his life, despite his qualms about calling it as it is. “I’ve never known a love like the one you’ve sparked in me. And that’s what scares me.”

There’s silence, a quiet world all their own beyond the noise and chatter streaming from the doors to the ballroom. Brett crosses his arms over his chest, cradling himself to keep from shattering onto the flagstone tiles.

Eddy places a hand on his chest. “Just take it.”

What? “Take what?”

“My heart, take it.” He clenches the fabric above his chest tight within his fist. “It’s only ever beaten to your rhythm since the first time I saw you onstage on your debut. I was there in the audience, surrounded by all sorts of wonders and splendor, and you were the only thing my heart has ever gotten stuck on.”

Even after having seen the evidence that proves the truth of Eddy’s words, the fact still hits him like a punch. “What do you—”

“I’ve loved you for a very long time. Now that I hear you say you feel the same way, you don’t want to see where this could take us both? C’mon, let me appeal to the Ravenclaw in you again. Take my heart, and take some of the bravery my house says I have with you.” He breathes in and out deeply, raggedly. “If we share the bravery, then maybe—maybe we can work this through. We can—we can just be together.”

Brett blinks hard; his eyes sting. “And if somehow, it all goes wrong?”

“Then you use that beautiful mind of yours to sort us both out. We can share our heads and our hearts, how about that.” Eddy smiles a watery smile, brushes away the hair plastered on Brett’s forehead as he leans ever closer. “I’m not giving you up, Brett Yang, not now nor ever, and if you say you’ll do the same for me, then you’ll just have to live with the fact that you’ll make me the happiest wizard in the world.” He presses a small kiss to Brett’s brow, smiling as the tiny gesture sends shivers down Brett’s spine. “I love you. It’s been so long since I gave my heart away, and I still love you.”

(And so what do you say to words you’ve been waiting to hear for a very, very long time?)

“And I you,” Brett tells him, tightening his hold on the other man’s fingers. “I love you. I’m fucking scared, but I swear—I won’t be giving you up any time soon either.”

Eddy’s smile widens into a grin. “Thy words are a soothing balm to my soul. You’ve made me so fucking happy just saying that to me,” he says, and yes: yes, Brett sees what love can make of him. Of them, together.

He breathes in deep, musters the courage he needs to speak the truth he’s known since the beginning: “From the very first moment I saw you, I knew my heart was irrevocably lost. I’ve always known.”

“There’s my clever eagle lover, you know-it-all,” Eddy whispers against his mouth, and oh, but it feels just like flying under the starlight again.

 

*

 

Brett finishes the last of the drink the Muggles apparently call bubble tea and then makes the cup in his hand disappear, sighing happily. “So you’ll come visit me every now and then?”

Eddy snorts as he takes Brett’s freed hand in his own, striding down the streets of Diagon Alley. It’s crowded and swarming with activity, as it always is when August comes around. “Sweetheart, you’d have to get a restraining order from both the Ministry and MACUSA to keep me from flying over to see you.”

“Flying?” Brett tilts his head, eyebrows furrowed. “Over the Atlantic Ocean? On your broomstick? Don’t be daft.”

“I was kidding, Merlin’s beard, I don’t know why I bother,” Eddy grouses, and Brett laughs and laughs and laughs. Gods, but he’ll miss him when they separate at the start of the new school year at Hogwarts, though it’s only for a year until Eddy graduates and joins Brett in the world of the adult working class. Even so: any time spent apart is unbearable, but he’ll have to make do. They can make this long-distance thing work; they can, and they want to.

It’s important.

He waves a hand in the air. “Why’d you have to say you were flying, then?”

“Why’d you have to take it so seriously, like you actually believed I’d do that? And here I thought you were the smart one.”

“Sorry, I left a few chunks of my brain in your porridge to keep you company, so I’m not really myself right now.” Brett smirks. “Maybe my brain chunks can help you ace your N.E.W.T.s, hey.”

“Excuse you, I don’t need your brain to ace my N.E.W.T.s, oh ye of little faith.” Eddy shakes his head, tugging Brett closer until he’s tucked into his side. “Just remember, you’ll owe me a kiss when I do pass it with flying colors.”

“I’ll add it to my schedule,” he says, looking up into the far-stretched blue above and thanking anyone who could hear about the wondrous thing that his own life has become.

Brett Yang, the youngest wizard violinist to ever grace the international stage. Brett Yang, who travels the world and spreads his love of music to the next generation of youngsters looking to follow in his own footsteps. Brett Yang, who loves and is beloved. Imagine that.

At the sudden snort of laughter that escapes him, Eddy glances down. “What’s so funny?”

“Nothing,” Brett grins, tilting his face up towards the sun, warmed and honeycombed. “Nothing at all.”