<-- continued from
Right after Easter hols, Filch finally loses his temper.
"Right!" he goes, finding Mark in one of the second floor corridors, nestled with his books by a suit of armor and practicing his Color-Changing Charms on the small collection of Hogwarts mice he's lured to him with bits of squeaking mint from Honeydukes. "This is the last straw, you rotten lump! I've warned ye again and again about students doing magic in the corridors, but do you listen? No, yer kind never listens. I have had it. Get up, Zuckerberg, Imma taking you to the Headmistress, before I bring out the thumbscrews."
His jowls are practically quivering with rage, so Mark tucks his wand back into his robes and stands up. For a moment, he thinks Filch is going to drag him down the corridor by the ear, but Mark's taller than he is now and Filch notices, so he just grabs him by the elbow instead and marches him down the corridor, leaving Mrs. Norris behind to watch the multi-colored mice speculatively.
Except for seeing her at feasts, where she makes speeches and awards the House Cup and other various sundry, and except for every now and then when she's in the corridors or in the staff room, Mark has never actually been face-to-face with the Headmistress, and can't help but feel more curious than cowed. They stop outside the statue of the gargoyle, which is missing an arm and a wing and generally looks a little woebegone, like it's fought in a war (oh, wait, goes Mark's brain, catching up with him) and if he's not mistaken, it gives him a commiserating look when Filch bends forward to whisper the password into its ear.
Filch pushes Mark up the spiral staircase to the wooden door to the Headmistress's office, which swings open the second they step onto the landing.
Forgetting why he's here and not even thinking, Mark pushes past the caretaker into the office, his head craned back. Above him, rotating slowly and hypnotically, is the most perfect, miniaturized replica of the solar system he has ever seen. The kind of math and magic involved into going into something like that... he can't even wrap his head around that kind of complex spellwork, but the end result is breathtaking.
"Ah, Mr. Zuckerberg," comes a voice, spartan and dry, and Mark bumps right back down to earth.
Headmistress McGonagall had plainly been reading a letter when they'd interrupted her, which she now puts down on her desk and tilts her chin down to regard Mark over the rims of her glasses. It's probably mostly the positioning of the desk, he tells himself, but something about that gaze makes him feel very small indeed.
"Caught him doing spells in the corridor, ma'am," Filch offers. "Turning mice all kinds of unnatural colors. Repeated offense and all."
"Does he frequently turn mice into different colors?"
"Uh, no. I meant the spellwork."
"Oh? What's he done before?"
This earns a very sharply raised eyebrow. "Math?" McGonagall echoes.
"Yes, ma'am," says Filch, seemingly oblivious to the faint wryness that's entered the Headmistress's tone. "Spelled a whole bunch of equations and whosawhatsits on the wall outside the kitchens. Took forever to fade when I told him off, too."
"Arithmancy equations, professor," Mark butts in, even though nobody asked him. "It's easier to spell them into the air than it is to make number charts, because you can change spellwork if you spot a mistake, but it's harder to change ink."
McGonagall makes a noise in her throat and then dismisses Filch, who goes grumbling down the staircase, leaving Mark alone with the Headmistress for the first time.
"Have a seat, Zuckerberg," she says with a voice that brooks no argument, gesturing at the high-backed chair directly across from her. Putting his bag by the door, Mark sits down, bouncing his leg and automatically scanning the titles of the books on the bookshelves behind McGonagall's desk. Of all the portraits of previous Headmasters hanging on the walls, only a couple of them are awake, and they all seem rather disinterested in the proceedings anyway.
He stops bouncing his leg when McGonagall raises the other eyebrow, her gaze deliberately going to his footwear. He resists the urge to tuck his (inappropriately attired) feet out of sight.
"And why," she says mildly. "Couldn't you practice your Arithmancy in the Slytherin dungeons?"
Mark fidgets without meaning to. "They, ah," he says reluctantly, but a wave of the Headmistress's hand prompts him to continue. "They're not particularly fond of me at the moment, because I insulted Erica Albright's family and they all think it was unprovoked -- which I assure you it was most definitely not -- but they're all siding with her because she has big, pretty eyes and she's in Gryffindor, like they think being nice to a Gryffindor will earn them points with anybody." Belatedly, he realizes that saying this to the former Gryffindor Head of House might not be too bright, but he just sets his jaw.
"Hm," says McGonagall, without changing expression. "And you do realize that by insulting Miss Albright's family, by proxy you have insulted her uncle, who is a member of the Hogwarts faculty?"
Mark does flinch that time, but it's not like he can lie about it now. "Yes, Professor."
"And do you think that if there were any fault in Professor Albright worth insulting, either as a wizard or a professor or an Albright, that I would have hired him to fill the Transfiguration position?"
"... no, Professor," goes Mark, feeling smaller by the second.
McGongall makes another noise, but when she next speaks, her voice is a little kinder. "House politics are always more complicated than people give them credit for, Mr. Zuckerberg. Witches and wizards seem to be under the mistaken impression that just because the Sorting Hat reads one thing inside of you and puts you in a House, that means you must act a certain way for the rest of your student career. This is emphatically not true."
Mark thinks of the way the Winklevoss twins always try to be noble, even at their own expense, and the way the Ravenclaws wrinkle their noses when Mark gets top marks on his exams every year, like they can't believe he's earned it by his own merit. He thinks of how aggressively Christy tries to form bonds with other Houses, and how, when given a choice between sitting with Mark and sitting with the other Hufflepuffs in his year, Eduardo will choose him every single time. He lowers his gaze.
"Maybe we Sort too soon," McGonagall continues when he doesn't say anything. "But dividing Hogwarts students into Houses was never intended to be the deciding factor of their character. We Sort because we want students to grow into their magic with those who are most like them, to foster solidarity and to give them a fellowship to call their own."
"It's not like it matters at all, does it?" Mark blurts out, head jerking up.
She arches an eyebrow questioningly.
Mark takes a deep breath and soldiers on. "Houses, I mean. It's not like it really matters in the end. Isn't that what Voldemort taught us -- I mean, obviously he was wrong about very many things, " he adds hastily at the expression on her face. "But not that. We go into the workforce after we pass seventh year and then it doesn't matter at all, whether we were Slytherin or Hufflepuff or Gryffindor or Ravenclaw. A little competition is healthy, maybe, but we're all just witches and wizards in the end."
In the beat of silence that follows this, they both become aware of a very soft, tentative knocking coming on the office door.
It swings open, and Eduardo sticks his head in. Mark has never been more glad to see him and that ridiculous bumblebee-colored scarf in his life. "Excuse me, Professor," he goes. "But if you're done with him, can I have Mark back? We need him for study group."
Mark hasn't been invited to study group since the thing with Erica, and considering he just told the Headmistress about that, she probably knows it's a blatant lie, but when he looks up, McGonagall is smiling at him.
"Yes, I suppose you're right, Zuckerberg. Go on, then, and do try to remember your own advice, next time you get in trouble with your House."
There's a rule somewhere that if a professor doesn't show up fifteen minutes after class is scheduled to start, then the students are allowed to leave, but since all the faculty live on Hogwarts grounds, same as the students, there's really no reason for them to ever be that tardy. Mark has always figured that the rule was in place simply to tease.
Seven minutes in, and Professor Albright hasn't come in yet. The class is restless. A couple of the kids in the back are folding origami creatures and trying to charm them into life; the most anyone's managed to do is set one of the frogs on fire. The Hufflepuffs waylaid Eduardo when he came in, and now they're kind of in the middle of this rousing story, judging by the way their arm gestures are getting increasingly erratic to go with the volume of their voices ("-- but I wasn't quite sure how to turn it back into a chicken," Eduardo is saying, and one of his dormmates is laughing so hard it looks like he's going to be sick. "So I really hope Professor Hagrid doesn't notice one of them is missing.") Most of the time, Mark forgets the other Hufflepuffs in their year even exist.
He starts to doodle in the margins of his parchment, when Christy grabs the chair at the vacant spot next to him, yanking it out and sitting down. She crosses her legs in his direction and leans forward, saying seriously, "So."
Having not done anything recently that would require such aggressive cheerfulness on her part, Mark just widens his eyes at her and blurts out in surprise, "You're wearing make-up."
"Well-spotted," she goes, and he can tell she's being sarcastic. There's a ghosting of color around her eyes, and he knows her lips can't naturally be that shade. "Mark, I've been wearing make-up since the start of third year."
"Ah," Mark says, for lack of anything better.
"Hey." Christy scoots her chair a bit closer, and Mark fights the urge to push his chair just as far away. "Do you happen to know if Eduardo is, like, seeing anyone?"
"Wardo?" Mark echoes, wondering if maybe they're talking about somebody else. She can't be talking about their Eduardo, right?
She tilts her head at that. "I love how that's your nickname for him," she goes, tone suggesting that she really doesn't. "Whenever you say it, all I hear is 'weirdo.'"
Mark gives her a flat look. "Uh, no, I don't think he's seeing anyone. Why?" He lifts his eyebrows. "You're not --"
She ducks her head at that, covering her mouth with her fingers when she smiles, and Mark realizes that she's actually shy. It's probably the most surprising thing that's happened to him all week. "Well," she goes, uncrossing her legs and crossing them the other way. "I thought maybe, if there wasn't anybody else, that I should give it a shot. In the name of interhouse cooperation and all that. I mean, that's what Slytherins are supposed to be doing these days, right?"
Mark thinks about this, and offers, "Well, if you're going to go marry him and have mongrel children that will look horrible in both green and yellow and possess conflicting ideas on human integrity, you should probably be talking to him right now, not me."
This earns him a kick to the shins, which is more Christy's speed. "I don't want to marry him, you moron, I want arm candy," she says pointedly, and lowers her voice. "Have you seen how's gorgeous he's gotten? I didn't even notice until his skin cleared up and he stopped being so spotty. But now it's like woah."
"Um," Mark says intelligently. "You should probably tell him that."
She bites her lip. "You think?"
"I don't know." Mark lifts his hands in a helpless gesture.
"Ugh!" Christy goes disgustedly, and flounces up out of the seat, returning to her own.
"What just happened?" Mark wonders of no one in particular.
"Class is starting, that's what's happening, Mr. Zuckerberg," says Professor Albright, sweeping past his desk, robes snapping around his legs and coursebook tucked under his arm. Mark quickly checks the clock; fourteen minutes past the hour, and Merlin's balls, isn't that how it always works.
Eduardo slips into the seat next to him, flashing him a grin and flipping open Standard Book of Spells, Grade 4. Mark studies the side of his face longer than is probably appropriate, wondering just how much, exactly, textbooks fail to teach you about real life.
The week Mark discovers what it's like to kiss Eduardo is the first and only time he does below average on his schoolwork, which he figures is significant enough to count as a life milestone.
It's not like he hasn't thought about it before, because Mark takes pride in the fact that everything has crossed a mind like his at least once (from the potentially meaningful to the sleep-deprived and ludicrous, like wondering what kind of knickers Madam Pince wears) but the difference between thinking about it and actually doing it is a far, far greater divide than he ever could have guessed. The reality of putting his hands on his best friend staggers him.
It doesn't occur to him to think it's an odd thing to want to do, because he figures everyone's thought about kissing their friends at least once: he knows, for one, that in odd moments in class or the lull in the common room after midnight, he'll find himself wondering if Erica's hair is soft as it looks, or if there'd be any noticeable difference between Cameron's biceps and Tyler's if he put his hands on them, or what Christy would do if he leaned over and pressed a kiss to the wing of her shoulder blade, for no other reason than it was there.
But the first time he ever wants to act on it is the Hogwarts Express, at the start of fifth year. The train passes through the outskirts of London and Eduardo still hasn't found him yet, leaving him alone in a compartment with two first-years, who seem to be as content to ignore him as he is them.
He's bent over The Picture of Dorian Grey, which he swiped from his father's study when Mr. Zuckerberg insisted he wasn't old enough to read it yet, when Eduardo finally does slide the compartment door open.
"There you are," he goes, as if Mark is a pair of shoes he's misplaced under the bed, and everything's clear to Mark in an instant: there's a new badge pinned to the front of Eduardo's robes, honey-gold and black, with a stylized P right in the middle.
"You're a prefect," he goes, flat.
Eduardo's mouth quirks dryly. "I did mention it in my letters, you know," he says. "Twice."
He drops down next to Mark in that way of his that's always a bit too dramatic to be called sitting, a smile on his face. "Headmistress McGonagall tapped both Cameron and Tyler to be prefects as well, which threw everyone off a little, because Illyria Bagina's one, too. Three Slytherin prefects is kinda scary, but I guess she figured that the Winklevosses work better as combined unit."
There's an easy kind of affection on Eduardo's face, some sort of inclusion that Mark's not a part of, and he feels a flush of something run bright-hot all the way up his spine, turning everything in his gut to liquid and whiting out his vision, and he wants to ... he wants to take his thumbs and dig them into Eduardo's eyes, and he wants to grab onto the collar of his robes and pull him in so that he can put his tongue to the hollow of Eduardo's throat, wants both so bad his hands shake.
Momentarily paralyzed with the force of it, Mark misses the opportunity to do either, because Eduardo turns away from him then, spotting the first-years and lighting up.
"Hello!" he goes, with that salesman grin, leaning forward. "You're new. Is it your first year going to Hogwarts?"
The kids both nod. Neither of them have any remarkable features, so for lack of anything better, Mark's been calling them Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dumb in his head.
"Excellent!" Eduardo says. "Now, no matter what anybody tells you, don't be frightened of the Sorting Hat. Sure, it likes to bite, and it's a bit toothy, but we've never seen anyone get seriously mauled, isn't that right, Mark?"
"You can't tell them that!" Mark protests, but he's startled into laughing, unable to help it.
So no, he doesn't kiss Eduardo then, but he does eventually, which is the point.
It's overcast and windy on the grounds the day of the first Hufflepuff-Slytherin match, autumn starting to settle in with sharp-edged teeth. Hufflepuff wins by the narrowest of margins, the kind of tip-of-the-finger play that you can't even call no matter how well you bet, and Christy Lee completely breaks decorum and leaps to her feet, screaming and cheering when the Hufflepuff Seeker comes back up, Snitch held aloft between his fingers, and she doesn't even notice the sour looks that the rest of the Slytherins throw at her.
Mark doesn't usually wait for the team to change back into their Hogwarts robes after a game, preferring instead to return to the castle and let Eduardo catch up, but this seems kind of like the day for an exception. He lingers around the Hufflepuff locker rooms, ignoring the way the Chasers eyeball him strangely when they come out. Christy waits with him a little bit, but she didn't bring a jacket with her and the wind is cutting, so she pushes herself up onto tiptoes and kisses his cheek, saying, "that's for Eduardo!" before setting off across the grounds.
"Hey!" Eduardo goes when he comes out of the changing rooms, his face flushed with victory and his hair still in disarray. "Do you want to come up to the Owlery with me?"
"Are you going to send a letter to your father?" Mark finishes the thought, pushing himself off the wall.
"Sure, he likes a good success story as much as the next person," Eduardo says, offhand, but there's an edge to his eyes that betrays him.
There's no decision to be made, no moment when Mark's mind goes through suggestion into every tangent and variable: there's just this moment, and the next, and then his hands are the front of Eduardo's robes, fingers curling around the badger clasp that holds them closed, and he pulls himself into Eduardo, pulls Eduardo into him in the same movement.
Their feet scuffle, and Mark's got his mouth on Eduardo's temple, the damp and the soft hairs there. He breathes in.
And Eduardo catches at him, hands gripping fistfuls of his robes, and he sighs, "oh, Mark." It's the barest movement of his lips against the side of Mark's face, but it's not a sigh like you'd think it'd be a sigh: it's his put-upon sigh, the same sigh he uses when Mark accidentally implies Alice's dress robes make her look like a gourd or when he forgets somebody's birthday. It's the sigh he uses when Mark has missed something incredibly obvious.
"Wardo," Mark replies, his grip tightening at the sensation of Eduardo's skin under his lips when he speaks.
But even now, somebody could step back, and Mark could laugh and say, "that's from Christy" and then they'd go to the Owlery and, after that, maybe they could find Erica and Alice and the twins for a game of Exploding Snap -- it'd be that easy.
And then Eduardo's hand is on the back of his head, in his hair, grasping so tight Mark hisses at the pressure, and he catches just a gleam of light reflecting off of Eduardo's eyes before his nose drags against his cheek and they're kissing.
And kissing, like it'll take more effort to stop than it is to keep going.
There are two things that immediately floor him, all his senses clamoring to tell him things at once: first, he hadn't realized until this very second just how close two bodies can conceivably get, a mixture of pulling and pushing and fitting, of holding on and not being able to hold on enough. His grip on Eduardo is white-knuckled; he's known this body for years, and it's never been like this, wrapped up in him, never been this warm.
Second, the way Eduardo pushes, hands on either side of his head, the way he doesn't even really wait for Mark to kiss him back before he's kissing him again, open-mouthed, tongue pushing in.
"Have you --" Mark tries, an impossible idea dawning on him, but he can't get the words out, as it's hard to talk into somebody's mouth and kiss them at the same time. He unwraps his arms from around Eduardo's neck, using his forearms to lever them apart a little bit so he can try again. "Have you wanted to do this before?"
"What?" Eduardo goes, gaze fixed on his mouth.
"I said, have you -- Wardo," he protests, but lets Eduardo pull at his lips some before reclaiming them for his own. "To kiss me," he finishes, and wonders if everyone feels this weird saying the word kiss after they've been kissed. He thinks this is the most peculiar he's ever felt since that one time Tyler Winklevoss hexed him full of helium. "Did you want to? Before? Have you ever?"
For someone who prides themselves on being hyper-articulate, he doesn't think he's doing a really good job of it right now.
And then Eduardo levels a look at him.
"Shit," Mark whispers, soft. He thinks about this, and Eduardo's hand drops to his waist; he can feel the warmth of his fingers even though his robes, and he wants to close his eyes with dizziness when Eduardo rubs a circle in his skin with his thumb, absent, like it's no different from all the times he's fallen in right beside Mark in the hallways, like there's no other place for him to be.
He thinks about it, and then he tilts his mouth up in invitation.
The grin this earns him is all Eduardo, who leans forward to kiss him soundly. "Come on," he says, stepping back. "I have to go send that letter, and then there's probably going to be a celebration in the Hufflepuff common room in honor of our victory. As Keeper, I did pull off a miraculous save, in case you missed it," he strikes a profile, and Mark can't help but laugh.
"Skip it," he tells him. His palms are tingling with the phantom sensation of Eduardo's hair, neck, shoulders underneath them. His mouth feels over-large.
The wind chases them up the lawn to the castle, but he isn't really paying attention.
"Yeah, okay," Eduardo gives in, easy, smiling so wide it has to look like it hurts.
So, yeah. After that, Mark loses track of a couple assignments and forgets to do some readings, and on Thursday in Charms, Professor Flitwick asks him a question and he's forced to say, "I don't know." Flitwick looks visibly shocked by this and has to take a moment to recover. Divya leans backward in his seat to feel Mark's forehead for a fever, faux-concerned, and Mark jabs him with the butt of his wand in retaliation.
"I don't get it," he grumbles later, after the third failed attempt to cast a Locomotor charm on the contents of his bookbag. His Herbology textbook flops over on its side and doesn't appear to give any indication that it's going to get back up and move around anytime soon, and it's frustrating Mark: he's never had a spell just not work for him. "How come you still keep up with everything?"
Eduardo laughs at him, throwing his head back and exposing the slim line of his throat. Mark's wand movement stutters. "That's because I learned how to work around infatuation a long time ago," he says. People tend to underestimate just how smart and competent Eduardo really is -- McGonagall did make him prefect for a reason. However, he hangs around Mark all the time, and Mark has this bad tendency to outshine everyone without really trying. But Eduardo has the same perfect attendance score and never gets less than an Excellent on his exams, and a lot of people forget that. "You need to start from the shoulder when you say the incantation, by the way, not the elbow. It's like you're throwing a punch."
This time, the Herbology textbook leaps up onto its spine and trots across the table, its pages flopping like dog ears.
"Ha!" Mark says to nobody in particular, and Eduardo laughs again, reaching out to snag his wrist and tug him in. Mark casts a quick look around -- their corner of the library is usually deserted at this time in the afternoon, but members of the Magical Creatures Protection committee will start filtering in soon for their biweekly meeting, but they'll be gone by then, because the Hufflepuff Quidditch team has practice scheduled -- before straddling Eduardo's thighs and leaning in to get at his mouth.
This is probably what surprises him the most, every time; just how much magic and kissing feel the same. It's the same visceral swoops and dives, the pull inside his chest and the way it makes his head spin when it gets really good. Somewhere inside his mind, he starts to make the connection that maybe Eduardo is magic; it certainly feels like a spell, the way Eduardo slides a hand under his robes up to cradle the swell of his ribcage, so Mark had no choice but to breathe into him, and every part of him is Eduardo's for just that moment.
The preoccupation doesn't last for long, because if there's anything Mark has down to an art, it's time management. He can pull Eduardo into darkened classrooms for a kiss and still finish his homework. There's time enough for it all.
Winter comes, and with it, the announcement that all fifth years are required to make appointments with their Heads of House to discuss career options.
The Winklevoss twins are ecstatic.
"You have no idea what this means for us," Cameron says, grabbing Mark by the shoulders and punctuating his words by shaking him back and forth. He looks a step away from waltzing around the common room.
"Professor Slughorn knows all the big names in the Quidditch World Cup," Tyler adds, his eyes shining. "Just think who he could introduce us to if we prove to him that we're worth it!"
"Your dad practically owns the Quidditch World Cup," Mark points out, unable to help being the voice of reason here, although he knows that the Winklevoss brothers are more than capable of becoming professional Quidditch players on their own merit and not their family money. "He could probably get you the jobs whenever he wanted."
"Don't harsh their squee, Mark," Divya says dryly, coming up behind them to study the notice, too.
Being (always) last in the alphabet means Mark is the last Slytherin to get to schedule, so he winds up with some weird hour on Tuesday, and has to skiv dinner early in order to meet his appointment time.
"Ah, Mr. Zuckerberg," Professor Slughorn chuckles, folding his newspaper and tucking it next to him into the cushions of his armchair. He goes through the motions of offering him tea ("I've a particularly unique Brazilian blend, almost as good as their coffee, but I'm afraid I can't offer you anything stronger, ahaha,") and making small talk before finally he stops wasting Mark's time. "Well, dear boy, I daresay that you can do near anything you put your mind to, and excel at it too. Have you thought about maybe applying for a Ministry position? They could use a man of your brains."
"No," says Mark instantly.
Slughorn doesn't seem surprised. "I didn't think so. You don't strike me as the kind of man who takes orders well from superiors."
"Yeah, corporate ladders aren't really my thing. I'm kind of ... incompatible with ... um, people. You don't want me in politics."
"Mmm," Slughorn makes a neutral noise. "Well, there are still plenty of independent career options, and all kinds of apprenticeship options, if you were looking to go into a specialty field."
"I'm a Slytherin, sir," Mark answers. "I'll find my way no matter what."
This earns him a smile. "Well said, young Marcus."
Eduardo's interview is the week after that, and he's going to meet up with Mark, Alice, and Erica afterwards to see if they can't finagle warm, pumpkin-spice hot chocolate out of the house elves in the kitchen. He shows up after only ten minutes, same old bookbag slung over his shoulder. He never did adjust the strap on it so that it fit him better; he grew into it instead.
"That didn't take long," notes Mark, who's leaning against the wall opposite of the giant, still-life portrait. He uses the flap of the dust jacket to mark his place in The Book Thief. "The girls aren't even here yet."
"Yeah, we didn't really have much to say," Eduardo says, and there's a wry sort of light in his eyes. "Professor Sprout kind of just took one look at me and said, 'let's not kid ourselves, Mr. Saverin, the only path you're ever going to follow is whichever way Mark Zuckerberg is going.'" He tilts his head thoughtfully. "To be fair, she is retiring at the end of this year, so I think that's loosened her tongue a little bit, but I didn't get the impression that she disapproved. She had me pretty spot on, and I told her as such. After all, looking after you is a full-time job already, and Hufflepuffs are good at hard work."
Mark thinks a number of things, from, you're being ridiculous, to, please don't tell me Professor Sprout actually accepted that as an answer, but before he can voice any of them, Eduardo's leaning in, already smiling even as he cants Mark's chin up so they can kiss. They bump backwards, and there's an edge of teeth to Eduardo's grin, so Mark licks at him, just to get him to be serious for a second.
It's one thing to kiss your best friend, and it's another thing entirely to be kissed by your best friend like he has every right in the world to your mouth whenever he feels like it.
For the record, let it be said that Mark Zuckerberg's biggest blind spot is himself, and this is the first moment it occurs to him, just how deep Eduardo's devotion to him really goes, that he can take this (the kissing, the way Mark likes to put a hand on his hip for no reason other than it's there, the way Eduardo's smile reaches every part of his face when it's for Mark) and fit it easily into the linchpin of their friendship, like it's just another tumbler in a lock. And he can say to his Head of House, sure, yeah, my loyalty to my best friend is a career in its own right, but thanks for the pamphlets!
What do I do with that? Mark wonders, a flush of panic turning his palms damp. It strikes him, all of a sudden, that he could screw this up. That somewhere in their future, there's an Albright-Albrecht argument that will split them apart. There's going to be something, and Mark'll be anal-retentive enough to find it, because that's what he does.
"Hey," Eduardo goes, pulling back and settling a hand on his neck. "You're shaking. Why are you shaking?" He looks exasperated. "Please don't tell me you crossed the courtyard barefoot again. Spiking your drinks with Pepper-Up Potion gets tiresome after the third or fourth time."
"Nothing, I'm fine," Mark says. And, "come here," he goes, tugging on his collar to get his mouth back. Eduardo doesn't taste like much besides his own breath, but Mark's thinking ahead, to when he can kiss him when he'll taste like pumpkin spice and chocolate.
Whatever it is, whatever Mark can do that will shake Eduardo's infallible faith in him, whatever will break their friendship -- this isn't it. This won't be it.
Oh, Mark thinks, and it's the most coherent thing that's ever crossed his mind.
After the last OWLs are finally, finally over, the only conceivable thing to do is to go outside into the sunshine and lay down in the grass by the lake and do absolutely nothing for as long as you can get away with.
Christy joins him shortly, padding barefoot across the lawn with her sandals dangling from her fingers. He's got an arm over his eyes, blocking out the sun, but when she drops down next to him with a soft whumph, he recognizes her magic; clinging to her less like a smell or a taste than a feeling, more potent than usual because the exams were grueling on everybody.
He wonders if there's a way to turn Christy's magic into math -- a code of some kind, maybe.
"You know," she says conversationally. "It's kind of cute how subtle you two think you're being."
"That's a very broad category of discussion," Mark deadpans. "You're going to have to narrow it down some."
"Well, for one, Eduardo's never come up to me outside the common room and greeted me with tongue," she returns, equally dry.
He lifts his arm and cracks open an eye to scrutinize her. "Why not?" he asks, and this time, she just rolls her eyes and ignores the question.
After a long beat, she goes, even quieter, "I never thought you had it in you," and there's something in her tone that prompts him into sitting up. She tucks a lock of her hair behind her ear, half-smiling from the corner of her mouth. "I thought you were all-Slytherin for the longest time, you know, thinking you were above the rest." She tosses off a laugh, self-deprecating, but Mark thinks he understands what she's getting at: she's always been the most socially-conscious of them all, the one who always thought that Slytherins need to make up for the role they played in the war against Voldemort. There's nothing she's ever wanted more than to break the stigma against their House.
He remembers being in Professor McGonagall's office, and reaches out, thinking about putting a hand on Christy's shoulder but deciding against it last moment. Instead, he just kind of knocks his knuckles against her arm. "We're all just witches and wizards in the end."
"Yes, I suppose," she goes, looking out across the lake.
"Besides," Mark adds, offhand, flopping back onto the grass and closing his eyes. "It's not like the entire year doesn't know that you and Alice used to kiss in the girl's bathroom behind the Muggle Studies classroom last year."
"That was for practice!" Christy yelps, and she whaps him in the stomach with one of her sandals. "It doesn't count!"
On the sixth floor, off the same hallway that leads to the spiral staircase up to the Divination classroom, there's a room that everyone seems to have forgotten about. To be fair, this might be because it's only accessible on alternate Wednesdays, when a dusty, cobweb-covered staircase materializes behind a dot-art painting and leads to a plain, unassuming door. Mark discovered it on accident his first year, when he asked for directions from a painting of Franciscan monks and they decided it would be funny to lead him to a dead end.
It's small, windowless, with only a handful of desks and a blackboard at the front of the room that's cracked right down the middle. He and Eduardo go through all the desks, robes held up against their mouths as they disturb an inch-thick layer of dust; the chalk crumbles when they pick it up, and pasted to the bottom of one of the chairs is --
"It's an advert for the Twelfth Night!" Eduardo exclaims, gingerly holding it up. Mark lifts his wand, light pouring across the yellowed paper. "Original casting, even. I think. Admittedly, my ye olde English could use some work."
"It is," Mark says, because medieval writing isn't that hard to figure out. "No one has used this classroom in a really long time."
"Good to know there were students sneaking out on Hogsmeade weekends to see Shakespeare even then," Eduardo grins at him.
So they basically make it theirs. Their respective common rooms (and in front of their friends) is out of bounds; Madam Pince likes them and can speak volumes to their responsibility, but spare a quick kiss or two, there isn't much privacy in the library; and Eduardo refuses to abuse his privileges as prefect and get them locked in the prefect's bathroom (except for once or twice, because Eduardo has a habit of giving in to Mark an argument or two before he should.)
"You know," Mark had said, catching at Eduardo's wrist underneath the sleeve of his robe in the entrance hall after dinner one night. "I think I know somewhere we could use."
"Uh oh," had been Eduardo's resounding support. "Because your ideas usually turn out so great."
"Your faith astounds me," Mark replied absently, trying to remember where, exactly, the hidden classroom he'd found in his first year was.
"What are you talking about, I have the upmost faith in you," Eduardo answered, so calmly that it made Mark blink at him a little.
The little abandoned classroom above the staircase on the sixth floor that's only available only every other Wednesday swiftly becomes one of Mark's favorite places to be. It's secluded and it's so easy to lose track of time and place in there, until he's nothing but Mark Zuckerberg, who is here to make out with Eduardo Saverin until their mouths ache and they taste the same. He likes straddling Eduardo in the rickety chairs, likes it when Eduardo tilts his head back to nose at every inch of his neck, likes it when Eduardo goes easily, spread out on his back on the desk at the front of the room. Things get even more brilliant when they finally remember that taking their shirts off is a part of making out too.
There are a hundred and one new places for Mark to touch, that Mark is allowed to touch, that he had no idea where to start. Eduardo is all slim, smooth angles like a greyhound, and more muscular than Mark would have guessed.
"Where did these come from?" he demands, stroking his fingertips down Eduardo's stomach, liking the way it jumps under his touch.
Eduardo squirms, but answers on level, voice wry, "I do play Quidditch, you know. There are some benefits to being on a sports team that takes its practices very seriously." He 'hm's in the back of his throat. "It's also probably why we routinely have so many fourth and fifth year boys trying out every year."
"Sex is the primary motivating factor for human behavior," Mark agrees, and bends his head to tongue at the hollow underneath Eduardo's sternum.
The reply comes out on the tail end of a gasp, "And money."
Mark makes a dismissive noise. "Only for weak people. You never need more than it takes to feed you and your dependents, and to have enough left over for the next Markus Zusak book."
"Not everyone shares your view."
"So the only remaining variable in my behavior is ..." Mark grins up the line of Eduardo's body.
A groan, and Eduardo reaches down, fumbling a little before grabbing hold of Mark's Slytherin tie in order to tug him up, muttering, "Yeah, yeah, I get it. Come back up here and kiss me already."
The Wednesday after the OWLs is the last Wednesday before the end of term, which lends an urgency to the way Mark's pulling Eduardo along that he usually likes to pretend he doesn't possess. The Franciscan monks leer at them as they go by.
"You know, I don't understand why you're so adamant that nobody finds out about us," Eduardo points out, letting Mark pull him up the trick staircase by the wrist. They haven't discussed whether or not Eduardo will be coming to the Zuckerbergs' over summer hols (and Mark's aware there'd be no problem if he does; sometimes he gets the feeling his parents might actually like Eduardo better.) And he knows the invitation doesn't extend the other way, which is fine, because he has no respect for Eduardo's parents whatsoever and it would be bothersome to have to pretend.
"I mean," Eduardo continues patiently. "It's not like our friends are stupid, and I'm pretty sure that the practice of lynching boys who kiss other boys went out of fashion several years ago."
"We probably have Dumbledore to thank for that. He was something of a trendsetter," Mark nods, tugging Eduardo through the door. He tangles their legs together while Eduardo is still off-balance, midstep, using it to pin him up against the door as it shuts (ignoring it as the door wheezes in protest, "oof, boys, do you mind toning it down a little? Not all of us are as youthful and vigorous!")
"Dumbledore kissing boys is a mental image I have never needed and will never need in my entire life," Eduardo informs him gravely.
Mark puts his hands on either side of his neck, pushing himself up on tiptoes some to get eye-level with Eduardo. To anybody who might be listening, he's still waiting to grow those few extra inches, please and thank you. "This is none of their business," he drops his voice, enjoying the way Eduardo's gaze drops to his mouth and back, the pupils swelling in the half-light. "I don't want them knowing because it's not theirs, they have no right to it, this is ours."
"Proof, ladies and gentlemen, that Mark Zuckerberg is capable of human connection," Eduardo remarks dryly. "Who knew."
"Are we talking or are we kissing?"
"Work, work, work," Eduardo sighs, but his hands land on Mark's spine and he pulls him in, tilting his head to get at his mouth.
They migrate from the door to the desk when the door politely insists, Eduardo's hands on his hips guiding him up to sit on its surface, pushing in between his thighs immediately. Mark's hands are buried in Eduardo's hair and Eduardo's tongue is in the back of his mouth somewhere, and it's taking up all the available faculties of his brain.
Which is probably why he doesn't recognize the footsteps and voices in the stairwell outside for what they are until the door goes banging open.
"Woah!" goes somebody, and Eduardo rips away from him so quickly it leaves him spinning for a moment, all sense of gravity thrown off.
There are two Ravenclaws in the doorway. Heart pounding, Mark goes for his wand at the same time they do, so three voices all say "Lumos" at once, light flaring up in the dusty room and illuminating everyone's faces. He recognizes the Ravenclaws as boys from their year, but as usual, their names completely slip his mind.
"Eduardo?" goes one of them, sounding deeply amused.
"Hi, Dustin. Hi, Chris," Eduardo replies, a little miserably. He lifts his face from Mark's shoulder.
"Dude, sorry," says the Ravenclaw, without sounding particularly sorry at all. He's Dustin, Mark realizes, abruptly placing his face. He's been in their Arithmancy class since third year, and will probably go on to take NEWT-level with them as well. "I didn't realize this room was already taken. Usually our study group meets in the empty room down the hall from Ancient Runes, but there was a pixie infestation and it's closed until they can fumigate, so Professor Flitwick told us to go ahead and use this one. And we asked the Franciscan monks at the end of the hall, and they seemed pretty sure no one would know about this room."
"Of course they did," Mark deadpans.
"Guys --" Eduardo starts in a careful tone.
"Wardo, they aren't going to --" Mark mutters out of the side of his mouth, keeping his voice down, but Chris beats him to it.
"Hey, man," he goes, holding up his hands in the universal gesture of peace. For someone they've known since they were eleven, Chris has always been fairly obviously twee, even before they really knew what that meant. "We're Ravenclaws. We substitute your reality for one of our own all the time, it's practically habit. We're fantastic at ignoring things we don't want to see. Your secret is safe with us, right, Dustin?"
"Forgotten it already!" Dustin agrees cheerfully. "Now, really, not to be a killjoy, but can we borrow your classroom?"
Something occurs to Mark, and he narrows his eyes. "Hang on," he goes, scooting forward to sit on the edge of the desk and pointing a finger at them questioningly. "We just finished the OWLs. What kind of study group is still meeting after that?"
Next to him, Eduardo groans.
It's raining when he leaves Cervish and Banges; a bitter, cold drizzle that falls just on the liquid side of snow, slicking the cobble-inlaid streets and icing on corners. The confines of the shop had been warm and narrow, and coming outside is a slap in the face. He sets off down the street, and it's only a couple of steps before there's rain and mud on his toes, making him slip inside his sandals as much as his sandals are slipping on the stones.
Across the street, standing under the awning of Zonko's with a bunch of the Gryffindors, Eduardo and Erica spot him and peel off with quick good-byes to her friends.
"How'd it go?" asks Eduardo.
"What did he want?" asks Erica.
As the turn off the main street of Hogsmeade, Mark makes a dismissive noise in the back of his throat. "He wanted to offer me a job, of course."
"But you're only a sixth year," Eduardo points out, his voice muffled under the folds of his scarf. His hair is wet and sticking to his skull: Mark wants to snort at the sight, because it's like he'd never heard of an impervious charm. "What, was he expecting you to drop out of school?"
"I honestly don't think the rest of my schooling was important enough for him to take into consideration."
"What's he been doing since he passed his NEWTs?" Erica wonders.
"Traveling," says Mark, sounding like it's more of a guess than a statement of fact. "His accent's gotten a little muddled -- wherever he goes abroad, he's plainly been trying to blend in, I'm not even sure if he knows. He came back to offer me a business proposition, said he was thinking of starting up a company, independent of the Ministry, and wanted my unique vision and intelligence," he drops his voice and adopts an accent that's not much of anything in particular. He doesn't much sound like Sean, but that's not the point. "He wants me to come work with him. Together, like co-founders."
This earns a derisive snort from Eduardo. "Sean Parker isn't interested in you as his co-founder of anything," he says. "He just wants you for your brain. In fact, I'm pretty sure if he could find a way to separate your brain from the rest of you, he'd do it. And maybe hold it, and lick it."
"I don't want Sean Parker to lick my brain," Mark says blankly. And then, "Is that why he stopped coming to our study groups?"
For a moment, both Eduardo and Erica give him patented, Mark Zuckerberg, you are too dumb to live looks, and it's a little bizarre to see them both wearing an identical expression, familiar as it is.
"Mark," says Eduardo patiently. "He was three years above us and already knew all the material we were covering. There was no reason for him to be hanging around with our study group, other than for you."
Mark stares at him, silently digesting this. On his other side, Erica says approvingly under her breath, "I think that's the most unforgiving thing I've ever heard him say." Then, she nudges her elbow into Mark's side to get his attention. "So why did he insist on meeting you in Cervish and Banges, if all he was going to do was offer you a business proposition? They sell wizarding hardware there. It would have made more sense to meet up in the Three Broomsticks."
"There were too many eyes and ears in the Three Broomsticks," Mark explains -- he'd asked the same thing. "And not enough people who are capable of minding their own business. He didn't want anyone to take his business plan and claim it as their own. I think he's developed a rather acute sense of paranoia since he struck out on his own, personally."
"Can you blame him?" Erica goes, quiet, and that shuts them up.
Sean Parker had been eleven years old and just starting at Hogwarts the year that Severus Snape took over as Headmaster, the year that Death Eaters took teaching positions and tortured their students for the joy of it. It'd probably be enough to turn anyone a mite jumpy, and Mark supposes this is the consequence of dragging schoolchildren into an adult's war: they grow up always looking over their shoulders for shadows.
One of Hogwart's horseless carriages is waiting at the end of the lane when they reach it, because the rain has thickened enough that making students walk all the way back across Hogwarts grounds would be absolutely miserable. Mark's a little grateful, because he's fairly sure his toes are turning blue.
"So are you going to stay the rest of the year, then?" Eduardo wants to know, as they join the line of other students waiting for the next carriage to come around. He shakes the water out of his hair.
A bit put off by the non-sequitr, Mark blinks. "What?"
"Are you going to stay for the rest of the school year, or are you going to drop out and take off with Sean to wherever he wants you to go for this job?" There's a note of something unidentifiable in Eduardo's voice; it sounds a lot like challenge, but Mark dismisses that because it makes no sense.
"I'm not going anywhere with Sean Parker," he replies, like this should have been obvious. "He tried to use the Imperius Curse on me to get me to agree to his proposal."
The reaction is immediate.
"WHAT?" Erica and Eduardo cry, loud enough to attract stares. They crowd into Mark's space, their eyes wide and intent. "Wait, wait, wait," Eduardo lowers his voice, speaking urgently. "The Imperius? Are you sure?"
"A milder form of it, yes," says Mark, leaning away. "I think it's one of the more common spells they use in America, mostly by parents to get their children to obey minor household instructions the first time they're told. It's from the same family as the Imperius, but it doesn't take free will away, so it's not illegal, here or there."
"So he just pulled his wand on you in the middle of Cervish and Banges?"
"No!" Mark goes, insulted by the slight to Sean's intelligence. "He cast it when I first walked in. The spell had his taste all over it."
Their eyes, if possible, go wider.
"Qu'est-ce que c'est?" says Erica, after a beat. "Taste?"
"Yes." They continue to look completely lost by this, and something impossible occurs to Mark. "You do know what I'm talking about, right? Everyone casts magic a little differently, so all their spells will have a different kind of signature. The older a witch or a wizard get, the more distinct their magical signature is, like a fingerprint. Can't you feel it when someone you know really well has recently cast a spell?"
"No," goes Eduardo softly. They're both staring at Mark.
"Are you serious?" Mark goes, staring right back. "It's plain as day to me!" He huffs out a breath. "It's because your magic becomes part of you when you grow up, when you receive formal training and learn how to control it. The neuromagical centers of your brain are always the last to completely settle, but once they do, your magic is an irrefutable part of your biological code. So when you do wandwork, it's got your biological code all over it."
He's talking very fast by this point, frustrated by the lack of comprehension on their faces.
"Are you ..." Erica begins, hesitates, and starts over. "Are you saying you can tell who casts a spell from the ... biological signature?"
Mark throws his arms up. "It's just math!" he goes. "It's just code! I'm good at code, I know code. Everything is made of numbers, numbers are made of everything, and magic is just another form of numbers, and everyone's got a different set of numbers, and I've got a head for numbers and I remember what their spells look like and feel like." He gestures. "Sean's spell wasn't entire comfortable with him and a little off-tasting -- i.e., he hasn't used it very often, which means he just learned it, and if he thinks he can get away with a suggestive-implant, it wasn't one he learned in Britain: the Ministry has been a bit mental about those since the war. So what part of the world has recently made leaps and bounds in the field of mind control spells? America and China. Where is Sean more likely to go? America, therefore it's an American spell. Is this making any sense to you?"
"Hey," Eduardo says, grabbing him by the wrist and stilling it. Mark drags in a deep breath through his nose and meets his eyes. "We believe you. God knows if there's anyone who can figure out the code for magic, it's you."
"I thought it was obvious," he goes, unable to help feeling a bit mulish.
"We get it, you're a genius, no need to rub it in," goes Erica, but she's smiling as she says it.
"Come here," Eduardo adds, tugging a little on Mark's wrist, and Mark, thinking he's going to do something horrible like go in for a hug right in the middle of the street, immediately tilts in the opposite direction. But Eduardo just rolls his eyes and lets him go in order to unwind half of his scarf from around his own neck. They make Hogwarts scarves unnecessarily long -- the Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors say it's so that you can share it with someone who's forgotten theirs, and the Ravenclaws and Slytherins say it's so you can have enough length to strangle someone without having to touch them.
He lets Eduardo wrap the extra fabric around his neck, connecting them with a pattern of yellow and black. "Your nose is running," he says, sounding weirdly happy about it, like Mark's running nose is a fabulous thing.
"Or you could just cast a Warming -- you know what, never mind," Erica lifts her palms. "Scarves work just fine."
When they get back to the castle, they mount the steps to the entrance hall, and Eduardo bumps their shoulders together to get his attention.
"So ..." he starts, questioningly.
"I am going nowhere with Sean Parker," Mark affirms, a little impatiently given he's already said this once. "Not until he can come to me with an idea he's confident enough about that he doesn't feel he needs to use an Imperius on me to get me to agree."
There's no password required to get into the Hufflepuff common room.
"Why would we want one?" Eduardo had said to him, way back in first year, when Mark had first commented on it. What stopped anyone from walking right in? "Passwords imply exclusivity and secrecy, and Hufflepuffs have nothing to hide. Why would we want to turn away anyone who wanted to visit us? That's stupid. You should come hang out the next time you forget your own password, there's plenty of room for you!"
"I never forget a password," Mark'd replied, affronted, although Sean Parker used to like to tell him fake passwords just to get a laugh from his mates.
In the entrance hall, he runs into Erica, almost literally bumping into her as they turn the corner at the same time. She's wearing a headscarf the color of olives today and she laughingly grabs hold of his arm as he tries to duck around her. "Hey, no, wait, I was looking for you. Divya and the Winklevoss-squared are looking for you -- they said they wanted me to tell you when I saw you that they really want your help. They seemed pretty excited about something."
"Huh?" goes Mark, puzzled. Then -- "oh, right, yeah, I saw them already. And no, they never have anything interesting to tell me. I forget what it is already."
Erica rolls her eyes, letting him go. "You're an asshole, Mark."
"And you're a bitch, Erica," he returns. It's the closest to affectionate they come. She lifts an arm in good-bye, heading in the opposite direction. Mark salutes back at her, ducking through the small, nondescript door to the side of the main staircase, trotting down the steps that lead to the entrance to the Hufflepuff common room.
Though technically on the same subterranean level as the Slytherin dorms, Hufflepuff is about as different as you can get and still be part of the same castle. The walls are made of earth like a burrow, not stone like the Slytherin dungeons, and the deeper you go, the more you see naked, twisting roots breaking through the ceilings and snaking down the walls, which makes Mark think they must be under the forest. Everything is narrow and homey and warm like honey and chocolate, the armchairs plump and comfortable and low to the ground and large enough to sit two students, easily.
Every single time, it reminds Mark of Tolkien's universe, and over the years he developed a habit of referring to the Hufflepuff burrows as the Shire, and Eduardo's dorm specifically as his hobbiton.
He finds Eduardo in one of the armchairs by the fire, lanky legs thrown over the arm and dangling, his head crooked into the hollow of his elbow. He's not asleep, because Mark can see his foot tapping along to whatever song he has stuck in his head.
"Budge up," he says by way of announcing his presence, dropping his bookbag to the carpet and poking at Eduardo's shoulder.
Eduardo grunts something unintelligible, sitting up enough for Mark to sit down and then immediately claiming his lap again, settling in with far too many bony elbows and shoulders in soft places.
"Ow, Wardo, watch where you're putting your bones, they're sharp," Mark complains.
This earns him another grunt, irreverent, and Eduardo nudges his head up against his ribs. Mark's fingers go to his hair without any direction whatsoever from his brain. Eduardo makes another subvocal noise that could mean anything and opens his eyes, going, "oh, hey, that reminds me --" how, Mark wants to ask, confused, "-- Cameron and Tyler and Divya were looking for you. They wanted to ask you something."
"Does everyone know what's going on in my life before I do?" Mark wants to know, a little put-out. "And yes, I've talked to them. They were going on and on about something I didn't care about."
"Please don't tell me you told them that. They looked so excited."
"Um," says Mark.
Eduardo sighs. "I'm not apologizing for you again."
"I'm not asking you to," Mark fires back.
At this, Eduardo sits up with a frustrated noise, twisting around so that he's half-seated on the wide, cushioned arm of the armchair, one arm looped around the back. Up close, the firelight does soft things to his face and the way his hair is still feathered from where Mark was unintentionally petting him.
Next year, Mark thinks. Next year is the ten-year anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts. They've asked Harry Potter to come and be the keynote speaker at the memorial service. Mark's thinking of attending: Harry Potter never got any NEWTs, but the general consensus is that defeating the darkest wizard in magical history is possibly more nastily exhausting than any classroom test. Mark remembers the war only fleetingly, and the kids in the years below him even less than that.
Next year, Professor McGonagall is probably going to ask Eduardo to be Head Boy. He might be Quidditch captain, too, as he is the senior member of the team and well-liked by everybody with a pulse (and the majority of those without one, sparing Peeves and the Bloody Baron, who don't like anybody.)
For the first time, the thought of it doesn't stab him with jealousy.
Eduardo stares off into space, sort of watching a couple of the second-years playing a game of Gobstones (which seems to involve more shrieking and giggling at one another than it does strategy) and sort of not looking at anything at all.
"Hey," Mark goes, quiet. He wants Eduardo to look at him -- Eduardo has always been so big on eye contact, on looking right at people like you know them, and Mark unconsciously picked it up from him. He wonders how many of Eduardo's mannerisms are now his own, and visa versa. If they line their wandarms up against each other, how similar would their spells be? Would their magic be the same? They've always learned together, practiced together, given together and taken together: how homogenous does their magic taste by this point? Mark doesn't know his own code, but he knows Eduardo's, and he thinks it wouldn't be such a bad thing, if they were indistinguishable from each other.
"Hey, listen," he says, and Eduardo lifts an eyebrow curiously, because he always listens to Mark, no matter if he's half-asleep, annoyed, or busy doing a hundred things. "I have this idea. It's big, Wardo, it's bigger than any project we've done for a class."
"So it's not for our NEWTs prep stuff?"
He shakes his head. "No, it's bigger. It's more. Dustin and Chris are already in on it, but to get it going, above all that, I'm going to need your help. Your magic, specifically. Wardo --" and he leans forward, touching Eduardo's hip to make sure he has his attention. It's a rush when it works, a shiver skittering up his spine as Eduardo focuses directly on him. It's the best kind of power trip, the idea that he could reach out and have Eduardo at the end of his fingertips, always. "Wardo, do you want to hear what my idea is?"
There's a beat, right after he finishes talking, where Mark swears all air leaves the room. It reminds him, inexplicably, of the time before Hogwarts, before he made it snow inside his mother's wardrobe looking for Narnia, when a boggart took up residence in the dark space under his bed and Mark didn't notice it. He went to bed every night for a week to the whispers of loneliness and nothingness and worthlessness, and thought it was just a particularly bad kind of nightmare, until his mother went looking in his room for The Phantom Tolbooth and found the boggart, and explained to Mark what it was. She let him watch her destroy it, laughing in the face of Death Eaters reaching for her.
He supposes he should be glad that his greatest fear isn't a Bludger. Seriously, have you seen one of those things coming at your face at a hundred miles an hour? Any reasonable person would be terrified of it.
It feels like being a child all over again, his fears murmured in his ear, but it's less than a heartbeat, and then Eduardo is speaking.
"Yeah," he says. "Yeah, Mark, absolutely. Tell me."
Edit: This fic now comes with amazing art, courtesy of lovestories and quick_rape! You girls are fabulous and I don't deserve you.
1. This colorful, fantastical header by lovestories
2. The rest are from quick_rape, ahhhh, hearts in my eyes:Slytherin!Mark and Hufflepuff!Eduardo sketches
3. Mark and Eduardo sharing the Hufflepuff scarf
4. Eduardo and Hal the ornery toaster, Mark and Eduardo spelling Arithmancy algorithms, and kissing
Edit #2: This story also now has an additional part/sort-of sequel: five things that never happen to mark zuckerberg, internationally-acclaimed wandmaker (and one that does)