His morning starts with a rose.
He picks it up and sniffs at it, pulling away immediately at the smell.
He’s never really liked roses for their scent – they smell repulsive – but he loves what they represent.
He knows just who gave this to him, and he looks forward to the rest of the day’s surprises.
He hopes the others like his surprise too.
He sits down to a table of raucous housemates, quietly speaking his favourite dish to his plate. He doesn’t care that it’s not a breakfast dish – he tries every day in spite of it, the house elves should know by now.
It still surprises him when a steaming hamburg appears – but he quickly cuts into it, wondering if he is dreaming.
The perfect amount of melted cheese spills out, and he pops a piece into his mouth, almost melting at the taste.
It’s perfect. Cooked just the way he likes it, complete with the touch of a hand adept at preparing it.
There is no way a house elf prepared this.
He twists round to look at the Hufflepuff table, trying to spot the head of spiky hair he knows will be there. Yet no matter how hard he looks, he can’t seem to find him, so he resolves to make his present a little more exuberant, and digs into the remainder of his meal with gusto.
It’s kind of tiring to have to run between each class and transfigure paper cranes into flowers, but it’s worth it, every drop of sweat, every cramp in his legs.
The look on each of their faces when they receive another flower, added to the growing bouquet in their bags, the sweet smell of the flowers permeating the classroom, the looks of jealousy on their classmates’ faces and the rolling of the professor’s eyes–
It’s worth it. They’re worth it.
He looks at his boyfriends sitting at their different tables, happily munching on the treats he taught the house elves to prepare – Japanese style – and smiles to himself. It is worth every burn on his hands, every second of sleep lost, to see them this happy.
It is only food, but a common Muggle saying was that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”, wasn’t it?
He fingers a peony’s petals and thinks about its meaning, a small smile growing on his face.
Only five more hours to midnight.
They meet at the entrance, linking arms and approaching the Forest. They talk and laugh about their respective days, exchanging stories and banter until they reach the edge of the dark, all light swallowed by the imposing trees.
The others step back then, prompted by him, and he walks right to the edge, calling into the Forest’s depths – loud, awful shrieking that they are familiar with, though not comfortable with.
He pulls out packets of meat from his bag then, tossing them onto the ground, cooing gently at the creatures that approach to eat. He pets each of them in turn, then turns to smile at his boyfriends. “Come on.”
Two start forward, but the third holds them back, shaking his head and smiling. “Come to me first. I have something that’ll make this more enjoyable.”
He digs in his bag, and the fourth joins them, standing with the others in confusion. Finally, the first pulls out three bracelets from his bag – bangles, really – and passes one to each of them, emblazoned with their house colours.
“See that jewel? Press it and speak one of our names into it. Or all of them – whatever you prefer.”
The Hufflepuff lifts his bracelet first, pressing the shiny jet and speaking clearly. “Issei, Takahiro.”
The duo feel the slightest vibration from their bracelets, and the clear cadence of his voice echoing out at them. They gape at the bracelet, at each other, and finally at the smug Ravenclaw.
They jump him, screaming and crying and laughing all too loudly.
“You asshole, you made magical walkie-talkies!”
“You’re too smart for your own good, we should eat your brains to make ourselves smarter.”
“I love it, I love you, you brilliant, foolish, wonderful piece of trash–”
Iwaizumi stares at them and gapes, confused and uncomprehending. He does, however, understand that his best friend – his idiotic, genius best friend – created a device that mimicked the Muggle invention that allowed them to communicate though they were not in sight of each other.
He is in awe of his brilliance.
But he is still the most logical of them, so he walks towards the pile on the ground and pulls them apart, then slides his bracelet on for drama. “What’s the distance on this thing?”
Oikawa shrugs. “Not sure. Hopefully the size of a Quidditch field?”
The Gryffindor and Slytherin boys grin at each other, then click the bracelets shut around their wrists and haul them towards the Forest. “Let’s test them out then.”
They each tug their respective captive towards a Thestral – they had finished their snack – and dump them atop the horse, helping them fist their hands in their manes and familiarising them with the neck that they would cling on to.
“Issei, you’re lucky Hajime and I are practically blind in the dark.”
“That’s what I was counting on,” Matsukawa laughs as he mounts his own steed. “Besides, don’t you like riding fast?”
“Is that what your gift is?” Iwaizumi mumbles into a mouthful of mane. “A ride around the school in the dark?”
“Well, it is supposed to be a race around the school, but you’re pretty close.”
A shrill whistle and they’re off, shooting up and through the darkness, Iwaizumi trying not to scream while the others whoop with delight.
The body beneath him is slick and slimy, the mane smooth and too easy to lose his grip on. But as the flight evens out – as if the creature can sense his fear – he cracks an eye open to look at his surroundings.
There are spots of light gleaming below, lit windows in the castle, lighted lanterns along the path and on the bridge. He can just barely make out the shape of the Forest, of the greenhouses, of the Quidditch field at the far end.
He feels a little nauseous looking down through the Thestral's body, and tightens his grip, laying his head against unseen ridges. Like this, he can see the trio shooting forward, falling back, turning round in the air and doing barrel rolls. He wants to scream at them to be careful, but he can barely trust himself to speak, even with the device clasped around his wrist.
So he watches, and it’s disorienting to see them swooping through the air on nothing, but he can hear their joy, and that makes him happier than anything. He can tell that his Thestral wants to join its fellows, but he is too afraid to allow it free reign. He pets its neck awkwardly with his knuckles – he probably prodded it instead of petting it, if he was being honest – murmuring his apology that he isn’t brave like them.
He can feel the muscles bunching beneath his hands – did it toss its head? – and smiles into the darkness, deciding to try to enjoy the wind blowing through his hair.
They dismount at the Quidditch field, and he bids the Thestrals thank you and goodbye, feeding them another packet of meat before they go.
By the time he cleans his hands, the others have laid a mat on the field, and are lying down, looking at the stars.
He can hear Oikawa’s excited jabbering and Hanamaki’s teasing, and the comfortable silence between them that is Iwaizumi.
It is a type of peace, he thinks, as he takes his place beside Hanamaki – only to have him stick his icy hands under his shirt.
He yelps and shoves him, and then they are rolling on the grass, jabbing at each other, all-out wrestling that leaves them laughing and out of breath.
Hanamaki lifts his hands in surrender from where he is pinned, head lolling to the side to grin at the pair still on the mat. Iwaizumi rolls his eyes, but his lips are lifted in a wry smile. Oikawa is on his stomach, watching them like they’re a comedy he loves. (They probably are.)
They get up and dust themselves off, flopping back on the mat and huddling for warmth. It’s a quiet sort of comfort, to lie side by side, fingers intertwined, watching the stars blink above them, the Quidditch hoops tall and imposing.
Iwaizumi speaks first. “Happy anniversary.”
They echo after him, fading words and lilting whispers, fingers tightening on bare skin, backs hunched and legs curled to prevent too much heat from escaping. They exhale in thin white clouds, trying to breathe in unison but giving up because sometimes, it’s just impossible to be that synchronised.
“Does anyone think that this would be a great time for a selfie?”
“If Muggle cameras worked here, sure.”
“Just imagine it, then.” Matsukawa whispers, and they still to listen, to be enraptured by his voice. “What we would look like to others from the Quidditch stands, blue and yellow, green and red. Bronze and black and silver and gold, curled up against each other, as if our houses do not set us apart, as if there is no rivalry.”
“There will always be rivalry.”
“But friendly rivalry.”
“How about we just be friendly?”
“Are you going to let me talk or not?” He asks, amused, and they fall silent again, cold noses tucked into necks, eyes closed to let him paint a picture behind their eyelids.
“A friendly rivalry, but so much more, a peaceful truce with bonds forged tighter and stronger than the hardest metal…”
His voice is a lullaby, his words paint and ink, and they are lulled into slumber, dreaming of unbreakable bonds, of a celebration of their ties.