It was one of those moments that made Sawamura feel alive, made him feel as young as he actually was, made him feel like he was invincible. Perhaps that feeling was dangerous. Then again, so was sneaking into the restricted section their first night as prefects.
The light of his and Kuroo’s wand illuminated the rows of dusty tomes. Students were only allowed in the restricted section with a note from a professor. If you were under seventh year, you had to be accompanied to the section while you looked for what you needed. They had neither a note nor a guardian, and it was well into the deeper hours of the night.
This—their plan, the plan—was always something they talked about, ever since second year when Kuroo found that book that mentioned animagi. The plan had even earlier roots back in first year when they learned Bokuto was not completely human. But the specifics of the plan? Those started with that simple word: animagi.
Bokuto’s mother had been a nature spirit that, in an attempt to save her species, had a child with a human wizard. Bokuto appeared human most of the time. The rest of the time, he was an owl, a nature spirit. Kuroo called it his “feathery little problem.”
It was lonely for Bokuto. Kuroo and Sawamura could watch him fly, but they could not roam the forests with him.
At least, not yet.
Not until they became animagi and could transform into animals themselves.
“There,” Kuroo said suddenly, moving his wand to the left to light up to bookshelf.
There was no logical order to the restricted section, no dewey decimal classification clearly listing books by authors and numbers. There was magic that was dark, magic that was dangerous; it wasn’t meant to make sense. Sawamura didn’t know if animagi fell under the dark or dangerous category.
The only clue they had to the book's locations was from gossip. The previous year, Bokuto been in his owl form and was snacking in the owlery when two seventh-year Ravenclaws came up, talking about studying for their Transfiguration NEWT. One friend told the other where they could find a book on animagi. It was the only lead they had.
It sounded ridiculous, but so did illegally becoming animagi to roam the forests with their friend that could turn into an owl.
Kuroo waved his wand in front of the bookcase, which was filled with books with animals on the spines. A gold-leafed snake slithered up and down. A leather-etched bird spread its wings. A silver-inked cat blinked curiously at them.
“It’s the only one with words on the spine, right?” Sawamura asked. “What’s the title again?”
“Amatao Animo Animato Animagus.”
Sawamura reached up, stretching up onto the tips of his toes to reach, and pulled down a heavy tome several inches thick. They rested it carefully on a nearby table, reading over the Latin script on the spine and cover. Kuroo lifted the cover and the caw of a crow, the roar of a lion, the hiss of a snake, the bark of a feral dog, and the shriek of a primate screamed loudly at them.
The sound only lasted several seconds, thankfully. When the sounds of animals had stopped, Kuroo began to flip through the pages, looking at the chapter titles. There was one on the author, another on the history of animagi, and two whole chapters on what could go wrong during the transformation process. There were gruesome pictures of people stuck between human and animal, pictures of people with their insides turned out, pictures of people with animal heads and human bodies. Sawamura felt his stomach flipping at the drawings.
They knew it was dangerous. It was illegal to become an animagi for underage wizards and it highly unadvisable for people without a mentor to guide them. All animagi had to register with the Ministry or face going to Azkaban, but they couldn’t tell the ministry they were animagi without admitting they became them illegally.
Finally, at the top of a page, they read:
Chapter 5. How to Become an Animagi.
“Let’s go,” Sawamura said.
Kuroo was right there with him. He closed the book and tucked it under his arm, concealing it with the flowing excess fabric of his robe’s sleeve.
They swiftly made their way out of the restricted section to the main library, slowly closing the heavy gated door behind them so it did not make a sound.
Just outside of the restriction section, they found a familiar snowy owl. Bokuto was perched on the sign that said do not enter in large, intimidating cursive. Sawamura could hear the words in the librarian’s voice.
Owl-Bokuto tilted his head at them then flew off the sign. In midair, he began to shift, his wings elongated and becoming the black sleeves of his robes, his yellow eyes growing, and his feathers turning into strangely colored black and white stripped hair.
“What the hell was that sound?” Bokuto asked, bug-eyed, or owl-eyed. His eyebrows were still feathery and far too long, far too owl-like, a sign of panic.
“The book,” Kuroo said. He shifted his arm slightly, letting Boktuo see the edge of the tome.
“You got it?” Bokuto asked, clearly surprised.
“C’mon,” Sawamura said urgently. “We need to get back to our dorms.”
The three began to walk, Bokuto in between them.
Kuroo grinned. “Well, we don’t have to hurry back, Sawamura. We’re prefects now. We’re allowed out whenever we want.”
Bokuto groaned and tugged at his hair. “Yes, I know you’re both prefects and I’m not! Can you stop be annoying about it?”
“Never,” Kuroo said with a wicked grin.
Sawamura sighed. “It’s a serious job, Kuroo. You can’t abuse your power. Besides, we’re technically only allowed out when we have rounds.”
“It was your idea to tell the librarian we were supposed to have rounds in the library tonight. That’s way more an abuse of power than what I had planned.”
“What did you have planned?” Sawamura asked, not sure he wanted to know.
Bokuto suddenly tossed an arm around each of their shoulders.
“Well, thanks!” Bokuto said with a wide smile. “I can’t believe you guys would actually do this for me.”
Kuroo tossed his free arm across Bokuto’s back, which had gotten wider over the summer again. Bokuto was going to be a terror on the Quidditch Pitch this year. Thank Merlin he was not a beater.
“You’d do the same for us, mate,” Kuroo said.
Kuroo kept the book, saying he would lock it into the chest in his dorm, which only opened in response to his bloodline. Purebloods had the strangest heirlooms. At least the chest opened to Kuroo. Maybe his ancestors never thought someone would dare break their blood purity. They had clearly not anticipated Kuroo’s pureblood father and his muggle mother.
Sawamura slept like a dead man that night, only waking when his roommates shook him and said they had thirty minutes before their first class started. He briefly considered going back to sleep. He hadn’t gotten back to his room until after midnight and the anxiety of preparing for their little heist had been driving him crazy.
Sawamura did not skip classes, but he also did not break into the restricted section at ungodly hours on a regular basis. He supposed missing the first day of the year would be bad—worse considering he was a prefect now.
Deciding he should abide by as many rules as possible if he was going to be breaking just as many, Sawamura quickly dressed, ran to the Great Hall, and filled his plate with food.
At the Hufflepuff table, Bokuto was sleeping on Shirofuku’s shoulder while she shoved pastries into her mouth at an alarming speed. Sawamura hoped she did not choke again.
Kuroo was wide-awake at the Slytherin table, talking to Daishou of all people. Just the idea of that guy left a sour taste in Sawamura’s mouth, but it was nothing a bit of apple juice and French toast could not fix.
Sawamura had long ago accepted that Kuroo and Daishou were friends, but he didn’t particularly like it. Daishou was everything that was wrong with a Slytherin while Kuroo was everything that was good about a Slytherin.
Sawamura thought Kuroo selectively chose which bits of Daishou to accept, ignoring the ones that were distasteful and keeping the rest so he could stomach calling Daishou his friend. Sawamura would never dare say that to Kuroo, who was probably smart enough to realize what he was doing but did not care because, to Kuroo, it didn’t matter why you were friends with someone.
After filling their stomachs with food, Sawamura, Bokuto, and Kuroo reconvened at the exit of the Great Hall and made their way up the stairs the Charms Corridor for their first class of fifth year.
“So I was looking at the book last night,” Kuroo said. He pinched the bridge of his nose, looking more tired than Sawamura had thought from afar, with nasty bags under his eyes. “Read the whole thing, actually.”
“How are you awake?” Sawamura asked.
“I found some invigoration draught leftover from finals last year. It was seriously sour. Anyways, I figured out a schedule for the process.”
“Yeah?” Bokuto said excitedly.
“Yeah,” Kuroo confirmed, oddly grim. “The minimum amount of time is three months, which is honestly better than we had hoped.”
“And the max?” Sawamura asked.
“Depends,” Kuroo said. “By the end of the year? There’re a lot of circumstantial things that need to happen. We’ll need lightning at one point and we have to bathe the potions in the light of the full moon for an hour twice. Before that, we need to keep a mandrake leaf in our mouths for a month. It’s the last ingredient to a potion before the second moon-thing.”
“No one said it was going to be easy or fun,” Kuroo said and Sawamura knew that too. “But before we do anything else, we need to find some potion ingredients. I didn’t even recognize some of them.”
Bokuto scratched his head. “Can you write all of this down? I’m not going to remember any of this.”
Kuroo reached into the inner pocket of his robe and handed both of them a rather thick scroll. “Before breakfast, I bugged my Quidditch captain for match dates. I know we haven’t made the teams yet this year, but I figured we’d be fine. Well, maybe not Bo.”
Bokuto shouted, “Hey!” and Kuroo laughed.
“I’m joking, mate,” Kuroo said with an easy-going smile. “You’re definitely going to make your team again. Anyways, match dates are on there, so once we start brewing, we can plan who watches the potion. There are ingredients that need to be added at very precise times.”
Sawamura tucked the scroll into his bag without looking at it. “Kuroo, can I read that book too?”
Kuroo nodded. “Let’s do it outside. The screaming draws a bit of attention.”
“How did you open it last night?”
“Silencing charm, but it was louder than I thought. I don’t want to know what my roommates thought I was doing.”
They walked into the Charms classroom, which had diagrams of wand techniques all around the room and several rows of tables with wooden chairs. The three of them sat in the middle of the room, a compromise for their preferred seating areas. Kuroo liked the front, Sawamura liked the middle, and Bokuto liked the back. This way they could still sit together without too much complaint. Sawamura was certainly happy with the arrangement.
The two empty seats to Sawamura’s left were filled shortly after they sat down. A girl from his own house sat next to him. Beside her was Shimizu from Hufflepuff.
Sawamura thought Shimizu was interesting. She could see the dead and not just the ghosts that chose to stay behind. She was a medium, a link between this world and the next. It was a bit creepy and she was quiet, but she wrote really good notes and never minded sharing them with Sawamura. She was quite beautiful, too, which never hurt anyone.
Sawamura looked at the girl from his house more closely, wondering why he did not recognize her. She had to be his year if she was in this class and he thought he knew everyone in his year, or at least their face and name.
The girl had short hair and large, round, brown eyes. She quietly pulled out a clean scroll for notes, an ink well, and a fluffy white quill.
Kuroo frowned and nudged Sawamura, who turned and looked at him.
“What?” Sawamura asked.
“Way to stare,” Bokuto said. He leaned across Kuroo towards Sawamura and whispered, “You into Michimiya or something?”
Sawamura looked back at the girl and saw the prefect badge on her breast. He looked back up at her and saw that her face was slightly red.
“You cut your hair last night,” Sawamura said, feeling rather dumb.
All of the prefects had met on the train yesterday, including them, the newly appointed fifth year prefects for Gryffindor. But on the train, Michimiya had had her normal long hair. It used to come down to her shoulder blades. She wore it up in a messy bun in Potions so it did not slid into her potion like that time in second year.
Michimiya nodded. “Yup. I made up my mind that I was going to try out for the Quidditch team this year. Long hair gets in my way when it’s windy, even when it’s braided, so I thought I’d cut it.” She twirled a slightly longer strand around her finger. “It’s kind of stupid now that I think about it.”
“It’s not stupid.” He paused. “It looks… nice?”
Kuroo snorted. Bokuto snickered in his hand.
Sawamura frowned, confused. Did they think it looked bad? It didn’t. It was just hair. It was just Michimiya.
While Bokuto was in Divination, which he was surprisingly good at (“Because he makes it all up,” Kuroo joked often, which Bokuto confirmed shamelessly), Kuroo and Sawamura found an empty courtyard and opened the book. Sawamura looked around as the book roared to life quite literally, but no one was there to stare at them.
The book was gruesome, now that Sawamura had a chance to look at it. Sawamura had spent many hours in the last two years reading human transfiguration books, back before they became serious about becoming animagi, back when it was a wild joke as they snuck out with Bokuto to watch him transform in the dead of night. Sawamura read books about spells and transfigurations gone awry, but nothing quite like this.
The pages were filled with misshapen humans, stuck between human and animal. Skin turned into scale or into feathers that poked through the skin and caused blood to run down your arms. Bulging eyes, missing limbs, extra limbs—it was truly horrific, far worse than the books Sawamura had read in the past.
The potion they needed to brew was complicated, but the book was well written and the instructions were clear. Potions was not Kuroo or Sawamura’s best subject, least of all Bokuto’s, but between the three of them, they could manage to brew it, though it would not be easy.
The first mistake often happened during the potion brewing, according to the text. People thought the month they had to keep the mandrake leaf in their mouth was a calendar month, but it actually followed the full moon, making it slightly shorter. They had to keep the leaf in their mouth from one full moon to the next, down to the exact hour.
The next mistake came after the majority of the potion had been consumed. They had to say a spell twice a day, every day, until a lightning storm came and they could drink the last of the potion. People sometimes forgot to cast the spell. If they continued on with the process after failing to cast the spell, the results were dreadful.
The itinerary Kuroo made was extensive and Sawamura double-checked every date with what was in the book. Kuroo’s instructions even had the steps to make the potion. It was correct, as far as Sawamura could tell.
They needed several hard to find ingredients, like dew that hadn’t seen sun or human feet. Kuroo had scribbled where to get? next to the ingredient, writing it next to several others as well.
They decided to gather the potion ingredients before doing anything else.
They sat in the warm grass of the western courtyard with their shirts untucked and ties loose for the remainder of the day. After Divination, Bokuto joined them, pulling jelly slugs and peppermint imps out of his bag to share.
One of the scrolls was spread out in front of them and they huddled around it, blocking out any curious eyes. Kuroo had a quill tucked behind his ear and Bokuto fiddled some sort of tiny bone in his fingers.
“So we’ll brew in the first floor girls’ bathroom,” Kuroo said, finalizing the decision.
“The haunted first floor girls’ bathroom,” Bokuto said, clearly still freaked out by the idea.
Kuroo gave him a look. “Bo, the entire castle has ghosts. It’s all haunted.”
“But that bathroom is really haunted! Toilets explode all the time in that bathroom!”
Sawamura sighed. “Bokuto, really, don’t worry. Moaning Myrtle is nice as long as you respect her.”
“Why should I respect someone that blows up toilets?” Bokuto asked, voice cracking like a squawking bird.
“Moving on,” Kuroo said loudly. “These are the ingredients we don’t have.”
“I bet we can find the dew in the forest,” Bokuto said. “I’ve seen a few caves while flying around. And I’m still not happy about the bathroom.”
“We can get the mandrake leaf from the second year Herbology greenhouse,” Sawamura said.
“We’re not talking about the bathroom anymore, are we?” Bokuto asked.
Kuroo took the quill out from behind his ear and began to write all of this down. He tapped an ingredient Sawamura did not recognize and said, “The biggest issue is this species of mushroom, the chameleon toadstool. They’re only found in subtropic areas. Even the greenhouses won’t have them.”
“How do you know that?” Sawamura asked.
“I asked Suguru. He has a key to all of the greenhouses, even the professor’s private greenhouse. He knows all of the plants housed at Hogwarts and said there’s no subtropic mushrooms. So the chameleon toadstool isn’t there.”
Sawamura and Bokuto stared at him, confused by the statement.
“Daishou has a key to the greenhouses?” Bokuto asked, skeptical.
Kuroo shrugged. “He crosses poisonous plants to make hybrids. He uses them to make antidotes for poisons.”
That seemed to clash with everything Sawamura knew about Daishou. Kuroo had to be mistaken. Daishou was surely making poisons for some nefarious purpose. There was no way devious, slimy Daishou Suguru was making antidotes for fun.
But Sawamura kept his mouth shut. So did Bokuto. Kuroo knew how they felt about Daishou—how everyone felt about Daishou—and there was no point beating a dead griffin.
Kuroo had already defended Daishou once in the past. Sawamura was not eager to repeat that performance.
“So if they don’t grow here,” Sawamura said, “how are we going to get them? Can we order them?”
“Without drawing attention to ourselves?” Kuroo scoffed. “No way. It’d have to go through the ministry. I looked at some of my potions books and apparently these things are only used in the worst potions. The potions aren’t even named in the books they’re that bad. All I know is this mushroom is blacklisted.”
“Could you ask Daishou?” Bokuto asked.
Kuroo gave him a level look. “No. He’d figure it out, or want in. He’s one of the best in our year at Potions besides Michimiya—she actually is the best.”
Bokuto grinned at Sawamura, who furrowed his brow.
“Hey, you can ask Michimiya and see if she has any of these mushrooms!” Bokuto suggested. He waggled his eyebrows.
“Why would she have something like that?” Sawamura asked. “She’s not making any illegal potions.”
“You don’t know that,” Kuroo said. “She could be super shady. She cut her hair. She loved her hair. I sense she’s getting rebellious.”
“It was for Quidditch,” Sawamura said, not understanding his point. Quidditch and hair had nothing to do with brewing illegal potions. He tapped the parchment scroll loudly. “How are we getting these mushrooms?”
Kuroo paused. “Suguru had an idea. I didn’t tell him what we needed, only that it was rare. He figured that if anyone on grounds has them, it’s the Potions Master. We could steal from Nekomata.”
Nekomata was a wrinkly old man with a smile that made Sawamura nervous. He was head of Slytherin, which didn’t help. Not all Slytherins were like Kuroo. Some were like Daishou. Some were worse, believe it or not.
“Breaking into the restricted section was hard enough,” Bokuto said. “Peeves screamed while chasing us for four floors. Four floors! And the librarian barely believed you guys. If she figures out neither of you have an owl, she’s gonna wonder why the hell I was on your shoulder, Kuroo.”
“I can do it on rounds,” Kuroo said. “Suguru’s thought about this for awhile.”
“You mean, he’s been planning to steal from Nekomata for awhile,” Sawamura said, not asking.
“Don’t judge him. We’re thinking of doing the same thing right now. If we want to do this, we need to get these mushrooms.”
Sawamura sighed and rubbed at his eyes. He was going to have a migraine after this.
“We always have partners on rounds,” Sawamura pointed out.
“Who?” Bokuto asked. “Like, anyone? You could just go with Kuroo.”
“We’re assigned at random, but it’s usually with the other prefect from your year in your house,” Kuroo said. “The head boy and girl decide. We may be paired up eventually, but who knows when that’ll be.”
“Ask the head boy and girl, then,” Bokuto said simply.
The head girl was a quiet Hufflepuff who seemed to be very by-the-book. Unless they had a reason, Sawamura doubted she would put them together, especially since everyone knew they were friends. It wasn’t every day a Slytherin and Gryffindor were as good as friends as Sawamura and Kuroo were.
That left the head boy. His name was Arashi. He was a Ravenclaw and gave off a bit of a bad-boy vibe. Sawamura wondered how someone like him became head boy at all. Arashi seemed to be more relaxed and seemed more lenient. He showed Sawamura and Michimya the routes prefects took around the castle and grounds, cracking jokes about where students snuck off to snog.
If they asked, Arashi may put Sawamura and Kuroo together for rounds, especially if they made a joke about how being with a friend would make the task more enjoyable on nights when no one was out making trouble. (They would be the ones making trouble, but no one needed to know that.)
“Maybe,” Sawamura said skeptically. “Arashi might let us.”
“I’ll talk to Suguru and see if maybe he can do it by himself if I keep my rounds partner distracted,” Kuroo said. “I have a feeling that if we ask Arashi for a favor, we’re going to owe him and I don’t like owing people.”
Sawamura and Bokuto nodded. Kuroo was a judge good of character—Daishou excluded—and Sawamura trusted Kuroo’s gut instinct.
“Okay, what about this one?” Sawamura asked, pointing to another ingredient.
Kuroo nodded as well, explaining their plan for a particular type of root they needed.
Classes were more intense than ever. For four years, Sawamura listened to fifth years complain about OWLs and a small part of him always thought they were exaggerating for sympathy. They weren’t.
Sawamura had never spent so much time in the library and common room, hunched over his three-foot History of Magic essay and looking over their animagi notes. At least all of the fifth years were suffering together. The Gryffindor fifth years often holed up in the common room to review assignments the night before they were due, which was quite helpful.
It did not help that he also had his duties as a prefect. He spent at least three nights a week on rounds, walking the castle in a set pattern. So far, he had only been paired with Michimiya, though the head boy had accompanied them the first few times to make sure they knew the route.
They talked about classes and their favorite Quidditch teams and how their summers were. Michimiya was kind enough to bring invigoration draughts that she brewed in her cabinet to help keep them awake.
He had never really talked to her before, not like he was now. Looking back, he didn’t know why. It was easy and far from unenjoyable.
Luckily, just a few weeks into the term, he had a break from classes and prefect duties, courtesy of Bokuto.
Sawamura felt very proud that he finally remembered Bokuto’s birthday. He was notoriously bad with dates. He had known Sugawara his whole life, but somehow still forgot his birthday every year. Sawamura blamed it on the fact that dates did not mean much to him. Days of the weeks were more important to students. Individual dates only mattered for assignments, like the Potions plan due tomorrow that he would have to wake up early to do.
Bokuto’s sixteenth birthday was Sawamura and Kuroo’s excuse for ignoring their assignments for the night and taking a break from their animagi plans to sneak into the kitchen and gather bottles of butterbeer and all of Bokuto’s favorite foods. They carried their spoils in their bags through the basement, up the steps, and outside, where Shirofuku Yukie from Hufflepuff was waiting for them.
Shirofuku was arguably Bokuto’s best friend, second to Sawamura and Kuroo. She ate nearly as much as him and was one of the few people that could bring him up from a bad mood instead of making it worse. She kept him in line like Sawamura and Kuroo never could. It was frightening sometimes, actually.
Once she saw them, she stepped away from the wall she was leaning on and walked towards them.
“Koutarou is in the library. We were studying, but I told him I forgot my book. He’s pretty bummed out. He thinks you all forgot his birthday.”
Sawamura glared at Kuroo. “I told you waiting until the afternoon was a bad idea.”
“It’s not like we could down fire whiskey at eight in the morning in the middle of the Great Hall," Kuroo replied.
Sawamura’s eyes widened. “Fire whiskey?”
He didn’t know if he liked the sound of that. They weren’t of age and they were out in the open.
Kuroo grinned. “Suguru got it from a sixth year. I have to take notes for him for History of Magic for two weeks, but it’s worth it.”
Sawamura had never had fire whiskey. He wondered if Kuroo had, or if Bokuto had.
He had seen seventh years and some sixth years drink it after Gryffindor won matches, or during the rare house parties that took place in the common room to relieve school-related stress near exam time. It was always fun to watch them get drunk and make fools of themselves.
Then he thought of Kuroo and Bokuto, both already outrageous in their own ways, with alcohol.
Merlin, this was going to be quit the mess, wasn’t it?
“I’ll grab him from the library and bring him,” Shirofuku said. “You’re still doing it at that willow tree by the lake, yeah?”
Sawamura and Kuroo nodded. Shirofuku waved and hurried off, moving faster than Sawamura had ever seen her. She was usually like a sloth, moving only for food, or to yell at Bokuto when he hadn’t given back her notes yet.
Sawamura and Kuroo headed to the willow tree down by the lake. It was cool out, albeit a little humid, like it may rain the next morning. But the moon and stars were bright, no clouds in sight, making it easy to see. Most students were inside this time of night on a weekday and prefects wouldn’t be by until after eleven, giving them a few solid hours by themselves.
They set out a large blanket under the drooping branches of the willow tree, setting out bottles of butterbeer and two bottles of fire whiskey along with several plates of food. It wasn’t a banquet, but it would be enough to fill their stomachs.
“Oh, almost forgot,” Sawamura said, reaching into his bag to pull out a small tin. “Suga make cupcakes.”
“Bless Sugawara for making me fat,” Kuroo said, putting his hands together in mock prayer.
They had just finished setting up when they saw Bokuto and Shirofuku coming down the hill. Sawamura and Kuroo sat on the blanket, waiting. Sawamura eyed the bottles of fire whiskey nervously, knowing it was a bad idea but not arguing, actually feeling himself get a little excited.
Bokuto came running down the hill, arms stretched out wide like he just might jump and hug them, but he didn’t. Sawamura was relieved. It would not have been the first time if he had chosen to do that.
“This is awesome!” Bokuto shouted. “I thought you guys forgot. Like really, honestly forgot.”
“Never,” Kuroo said, smiling. “Happy birthday, Bo.”
“Happy birthday,” Sawamura echoed.
Shirofuku, who had continued to walk down the hill like a sane person, finally reached the bottom. She squeezed Bokuto’s arm and said, “Don’t drink and fly,” and then headed back to the castle.
Sawamura and Kuroo gave Bokuto a curious look.
“You told her?” Kuroo asked, shocked.
Sawamura had never heard of this. As far as he knew, the only people at Hogwarts that knew about Bokuto’s feathery little problem were Kuroo and Sawamura.
Bokuto nodded, completely unbothered and unconcerned. “Yeah. Told her in third year. I was kind of down ‘cause it had been raining for a while and I hate flying in the rain. You know how I get jittery and itchy when I can’t fly? She noticed something was up so I told her.”
“Are you two a thing?” Kuroo asked bluntly, leaning back on his hands.
Bokuto shook his head, laughing like that was ridiculous. Sawamura didn’t think it was ridiculous. He was horrible at noticing these types of things, but with Shirofuku and Bokuto, it had seemed obvious. Apparently it wasn’t. Sawamura was worse at this kind of thing than he thought.
Kuroo made a small sound of surprise. At least Sawamura wasn’t alone.
Bokuto sat down on the blanket, looking at the spread of drinks and food, his eyes eventually landing on the fire whiskey.
“Are you two getting me drunk?” Bokuto asked, reaching for a bottle. He unscrewed the lid and took a whiff. “I’ve never been drunk.”
“First time for everything,” Kuroo said. “And you don’t have to if you don’t want to.”
“Oh, I want to,” Bokuto assured.
“Have you been drunk?” Sawamura asked, looking at Kuroo.
Kuroo shrugged. “Slytherins party a lot.”
“You’re so freakin’ cool,” Bokuto said. “Have you kissed people and stuff too?”
“And stuff?” Kuroo asked, amused.
“Y’know. Stuff. Snogging and touching girls’ under their shirts. I haven’t even kissed a girl, but girls talk about you like you’re so cool. I heard that last year, you snogged this sixth year in the library and had your hand under her skirt when the librarian caught you.”
Bokuto took a long swig from the bottle of fire whisky. When he pulled the bottle away from his lips, he shook and cringed, making a horrible, scrunched up sour face.
Kuroo laughed, falling onto his back, craning his head to the side to watch Bokuto take another swig with a similar reaction.
When Bokuto regained himself, he asked Kuroo, “Have you? We won’t tell.”
Kuroo smirked playfully. “Jealous?”
“Yes! What was it like?”
Kuroo placed his hands behind his head like pillows. “Trust me, I’d tell you if I’d done that stuff.”
“But you just said—so you haven’t done anything?” Bokuto took another long sip of the fire whiskey with a similar reaction. He was dedicated, that’s for sure. “Not even a kiss?”
“Girls aren’t really something I think about.”
“Seriously?” Bokuto sounded completely shocked. “Man, it’s all I’ve thought about since summer. Well, that and Quidditch. And the animagi thing, I guess. Have you thought about girls, Sawamura?”
“Is this what we’ve come to?” Kuroo asked. “Drinking and talking about girls?”
“Yes,” Bokuto said, no shame. “Sawamura?”
Sawamura shrugged. “I don’t know. Sometimes.”
Bokuto smiled. “Knew it!”
“Probably Michimiya,” Kuroo said, grinning.
Sawamura frowned. “Why her?”
“Seriously?” Kuroo asked in disbelief.
When Sawamura reached for a butterbeer, Bokuto stopped him by shoving the fire whiskey into his hands.
“It’s my birthday,” Bokuto said when Sawamura looked hesitantly at the bottle.
Sawamura sighed, not even putting up a fight. “Okay. It’s your birthday.”
The burn of the alcohol was exciting and foreign. Sawamura didn’t mind it as much as he thought he would and took a sip for several seconds before releasing the bottle. Kuroo and Bokuto whooped and hollered.
“Give me some,” Kuroo said, sitting up and holding out his hand.
Then Bokuto reached for the second bottle and Sawamura knew this would be a night he would likely forget yet remember forever.
“Merlin’s fucking pants,” Bokuto muttered the next morning in Charms. “Hangovers suck.”
“Don’t speak,” Kuroo said, resting his forehead against the table.
“If Suga finds out, he’s never letting us live this down,” Sawamura said. His head was pounding. His mouth was so dry. His stomach was about to throw a revolution.
“I think he’ll be pissed we didn’t invite him,” Kuroo said.
Bokuto laughed loudly. Sawamura and Kuroo kicked him.
Their scores on their OWLs determined what classes they would take the next two years, their NEWT classes. It was hard to ignore the exams when the professors spent the first few weeks giving them assignment after assignment, the essays longer than ever and charms far more complicated.
He was sure Kuroo had some ridiculously intense plan set up so he could make all his marks. Kuroo was too ambitious for his own good sometimes and was a bit of a bookworm, though he didn’t look it.
Bokuto would probably wait until the last minute, or would only study when the panic set in at random points in the upcoming months.
Sawamura thought he might just revise by himself until Azumane propositioned him.
“Do you want to study together?” Azumane asked on their way to Ancient Runes.
Azumane was certainly a friend, not to the extent that Kuroo and Bokuto were, but Sawamura would not hesitate to hang out with him or study together.
“Why me?” Sawamura asked.
Azumane rubbed the back of his head. His hair was getting awfully long. “I know you’re good at Transfiguration, which I’m not so good at it. But I’m good at History of Magic, which I know you struggle with. I was thinking we could help each other, just a a small session or two every week.”
“Sure,” Sawamura agreed, not needing to give it much thought. “How about we start after Quidditch tryouts? I’m guessing you’re trying out again too, right?”
Azumane nodded. Last year, he had made the Hufflepuff team as a fearsome beater.
Sawamura, Kuroo, and Bokuto had also all made their house teams last year. Kuroo was a beater. Sawamura and Bokuto were both chasers. This year, they were all trying out again.
Tryouts came later that week. The morning of, Sawamura found Michimiya at breakfast with Shirofuku from Hufflepuff and Mika from Ravenclaw. Girls seemed to cross the house-table barriers more easily, especially at breakfast on weekends when most of the castle was still asleep. The barriers were never something Sawamura, Kuroo, and Bokuto cared about.
Sawamura sat some ways away from the girls, filling his plate with eggs and toast, careful not to eat too much. He could still hear the girls, wishing he couldn’t. He felt like he was eavesdropping.
“You’re going to be fine,” Mika said reassuringly. “I’ve seen you play. You’re really good!”
“I wish you weren’t joining the house team,” Shirofuku said. “That way you could keep playing with me.”
Michimiya laughed. “You don’t even need teammates, Yukie. You catch the snitch so fast it doesn’t matter what the score is. And I can keep playing with you. There’re no rules against it, are there?”
“Don’t think so,” Shirofuku said.
Sawamura frowned, wondering what they were talking about. When would Michimiya have been on a team with her? There were only four teams, one for each house, and none of them had been on the house teams last year. Besides, they were in different houses.
Sawamura was a chaser last year for Gryffindor. He would have remembered playing against them.
Suddenly, Michimiya slapped her cheeks so hard Sawamura could hear it. She nodded, determined.
He ate his eggs and toast, eventually joined by Kuroo, who was quiet as he methodically spread jelly over his toast.
Kuroo sometimes got like this, serious and silent. He was like this before a match, or when they had a big test and he needed to cram for, or sometimes before Dueling Club met when he was scheduled to duel.
Kuroo was a cunning opponent, so cunning that Sawamura sometimes wished they were in the same house. He wished the same for Bokuto, too, who had been on his house team since third year. Bokuto was a monster of his own; he’d probably be captain next year.
At the same time, having strong people on your team meant you couldn’t play against them and that was half the fun.
Sawamura stood up to go down to the Pitch, but Kuroo did not follow.
“I’ll be down there later,” Kuroo said. “I’m waiting for Kenma. He’s trying out for Ravenclaw’s team and I want to make sure he eats something.”
That was news to Sawamura, who just nodded. “Don’t miss your tryout time.”
Kuroo grinned. “I’m not stupid, you know.”
“It’s hard to tell sometimes.”
Kuroo laughed as Sawamura stepped away from the table and began to make his way down to the Pitch. He somehow found himself following after Michimiya, Mika, and Shirofuku, who was hugging Michimiya’s arm and resting her head on the Gryffindor’s shoulder. Sawamura wondered how her jaw didn’t knock into her head with every step.
The girls didn’t seem to notice him until they all reached the broom shed. The shed was bigger on the inside thanks to a simple spell. Sawamura followed the numbered racks until he found his broom. His broom was a light colored wood, the shine of varnish long since worn off, with gold rings tying the darker twigs together.
He curiously looked over to see what Michimiya’s broom looked like. It was a sturdy model, a few years old, with dark wood and shorter twigs than his own that made turning easier but made her a bit slower overall.
It was a nice day—not too warm, with no humidity to warp the wood of their brooms, and a clear sky. The sun would be annoying at certain angles, but he had charmed goggles that removed the glare.
The Pitch was firm and familiar beneath his feet. He nodded at the Gryffindor captain that stood in the center of the Pitch; they had been teammates last year, but Sawamura knew that did not guarantee him a spot.
All three chasers from last year’s team, himself included, were trying out again. There were several others trying for the three spots. He was not a shoe-in. He had to show them all that deserved to be on the team again.
Michimiya stood next to him, looking far more nervous without her friends by her side. She tossed her broom from hand to hand, obviously a nervous habit, but Sawamura could only think how comfortable she looked with her broom. She had clearly been flying it for a while.
Sawamura wondered if he should say something to her. He decided not to. He wouldn’t know what to say even if he felt comfortable doing it. They weren’t friends, not really. Acquaintance was a better word. They had begun to talk more now that they often had rounds together, but it was almost always about classes.
The Pitch got much louder when fourth years Tanaka and Nishinoya arrived.
Nishinoya greeted Sawamura with a slap on the back. A year before Sawamura even joined the team, Nishinoya joined as keeper and had held the spot since.
Tanaka was someone Sawamura recognized from the common room, one of Nishinoya’s roommates and partners in crime, but he hadn’t tried out for the team before. Sawamura had to take ten points between the two of them and their gang for setting the common room carpet on fire just the other night.
“Ready, Sawamura?” Nishinoya asked.
“As ready as I can be,” Sawamura said. “It’s a good day to fly.”
“That’s what Ryuu said! He’s gonna be one of our beaters this year.”
“You sound really confident in him.”
“Ryuu is awesome! He’s totally going to kick some ass today.”
Tanaka and Nishinoya high-fived. Sawamura laughed and wondered if Tanaka was as good as his friend said. It’d be nice to have a strong beater.
Last year, the Slytherin beaters had completely demolished Gryffindor’s and Azumane from Hufflepuff had clipped Sawamura’s broomsticks more than once. Kuroo had been unbearably cocky for days after the Slytherin beaters out powered Gryffindor’s, even if Gryffindor had won the match in the end.
The captain blew his whistle and they gathered around.
Sawamura sat in one of the plush chairs in front of the fire in the Gryffindor common room, waiting for the captain to post the tryout results. Instead of doing his Arithmancy homework, he was recalling tryouts.
He had flown well, well enough to feel confident that he would have a spot. He wasn’t cocky about these things, but he was realistic. He scored several goals, pulled two good feints, and worked well with his makeshift team. What surprised him was how well he worked with Michimiya. It was easy to communicate with her and easy to toss to her and accept her passes.
She was not the best—neither was he, not by a long shot—but she was skilled. She was comfortable on her broom and did not seem intimidated, even when an opposing chaser flew straight at her to shake her off course. Her opponent had to pull away before crashing into Michimiya, who didn’t react until the match was over.
“I thought she was going to ram me!” Michimiya had said, breathing heavily, eyes wide. “I was about to swerve! Thank Merlin she moved before I did. I messed up a lot already…”
He was so deep in thought that he jumped when someone sat on the sofa nearby. It was Michimiya in her pajamas, a mismatching t-shirt and baggy Gryffindor-red pants. She had her Potions book with her. She almost always had a potions book with her, either the one assigned to the class or one she found herself.
He glanced at her and her eyes shifted away to the cover of her book.
“You’re good at Potions, right?” Sawamura asked.
She went to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear, seemed to remember she no longer had long hair, and then scratched the side of her nose.
“My marks are good,” she said modestly, not quite meeting his eyes. Her cheeks were slightly pink. “And I like to brew for fun. Mika keeps saying I should sell my invigoration draught during finals week, that’d I’d make a fortune.”
“You should,” Sawamura said. Those potions were just about the only reason he could stay awake during rounds. She smiled slightly. “I was wondering… Do you have a chameleon toadstool, or know where I could get one?”
Michimiya's smile turned to a frown. “Why would you need that? Sawamura, those are only used in nasty potions. What are you making?”
He realized very quickly that asking had been a mistake. She was the best in their year at Potions. Of course she would know what kind of potions the mushroom was used in. Even if she had it—why would she?—she would want to know what he was making.
He was so very, very stupid.
What would Bokuto do? No. Don’t do that. Don’t even think about what Bokuto would do.
What would Kuroo do?
“My friend Suga collects different plants and things,” Sawamura lied.
He didn’t like lying. He was bad at it and it felt wrong. Kuroo could easily lie in the right circumstances.
“Suga? Is he in our house?”
“Sugawara. And ah, no, he’s my neighbor, but he goes Beauxbatons. His mom went there so he was accepted…” He tapped his quill on his Arithmancy homework, wishing he could stab it into his neck and get out of this situation. “I’m guessing you don’t have one?”
“No,” she said, seeming to buy it. “Sorry. It’s an ingredient in a lot of nasty potions so they’re not easy to get. I’ve wanted one, though! They change color and properties depending on what environment they’re in. If they’re in an aqueous environment, they start to look like seaweed or algae—it depends on the salt concentration. If they’re on grass, they look like a rock. Professor Nekomata let me into his ingredient room once and he pointed it out to me. He keeps his in a glass jar and they look like quartz.”
She reached up and began to push at her short hair. Her face was bright red now.
“Sorry for rambling.”
Sawamura frowned. “No, it’s interesting. You’re… really smart.”
She flicked her eyes away, looking down at her Potions book.
“Hey!” the Quidditch captain called. “I put up the names.”
Sawamura stood up quickly, followed by Michimiya, and they made it to the bulletin board before anyone else. There, under the title chaser, were their names.
At breakfast, Sawamura, Kuroo, and Bokuto all reported to one another that they had made their respective house teams and their teams would be the ones to win the Quidditch House Cup. After a flurry of insults between Bokuto and Kuroo, Kuroo told them Kozume Kenma had been made Ravenclaw’s seeker.
Sawamura didn’t know much about Kozume. He knew he was Kuroo’s childhood friend through some strange string of events and that the two were completely different. Kozume had relatively long black hair and easily faded into the background, while it was hard to ignore Kuroo. Kuroo was clearly a people person, whereas Kozume was always by himself. People from other houses usually didn’t like Slytherins, but Kuroo seemed to be a strange exception to a lot of people.
“By the way, I talked to Michimiya about the mushroom,” Sawamura said.
Kuroo stared at him over a basket of pumpkin muffins. “Are you an idiot?”
Sawamura frowned. “You’ve been talking to Daishou about this!”
“I told you, I’ve never told him the exact ingredient. He’d figure it out. Merlin, Michimiya’s better at Potions than him. Did you call it by name?”
“I lied and told her Suga collects plants.”
“What did she tell you?” Boktuo asked. “Does she have it?”
“No, but she said Nekomata does. Apparently, it’s called the chameleon toadstool because it changes its appearance in different environments. She said he keeps it in a glass jar so it looks like quartz.”
“How does that help?” Bokuto asked slowly, very confused. “Am I missing something again? Merlin, I’m missing something again, aren’t I? Ugh, I’m so—“
Kuroo put a hand on his shoulder before Bokuto spiraled. “Bo, chill. You’re not missing something, but I think that may help. Suguru and I had thought about this plan, but I knew it would never work since the name of the ingredient we needed is too recognizable, but if it looks like something else…”
“You know how to get it?” Bokuto asked.
Sawamura thought that's what it sounded like but looked at Kuroo for conformation.
Kuroo nodded. Sawamura and Bokuto broke out into wide, matching smiles.
“Now we just need to get the ingredients,” Kuroo said. “I think we’ll be able to start brewing by the end of October.”
“Wait,” Sawamura said. “How are you getting into his stash?”
Kuroo looked glum. “We’re going to owe the head boy a big favor.”