Jungkook had gone into Namjoon’s office at the coven house knowing that he was probably going to get shot down. But that still didn’t make the blow come any easier when Namjoon got that look on his face.
“You’re not going to like the answer,” Namjoon said with a sigh.
“But you’ve read a million books. How do you not know how to cast a protection spell?” Jungkook whined.
Namjoon was his mentor. Namjoon knew everything. Or almost everything.
“Jungkook, you’re asking for a very specific protection spell. For a dog. I’m not even sure you should do it at all. Casting spells directly onto living things is risky. You could end up doing more damage.”
“But Cloud’s going to be going on rescue missions. It’s not just for him. It’ll be safer for the people he helps, too.”
Namjoon’s face softened. He leaned back in his desk chair and smiled at Jungkook.
“You have a big heart, Jungkook. But I’m just not a fauna witch. I wouldn’t trust any other type of witch to do that kind of spell. Fauna witches are really rare.”
“But you’re the strongest witch I know,” Jungkook insisted. He knew he was grasping. Namjoon would have helped if he thought he could. But Jungkook had raised Cloud since he was a puppy. Even though Cloud wasn’t really his dog, he was still always going to be attached.
“I’m a hedge witch. It’s not the same. You know this Jungkook.”
“So doesn’t that mean you can protect a dog’s spirit?” Jungkook tried.
“Jungkook,” Namjoon scolded.
“I know, I know. Sorry. I guess I’m a little desperate.”
Jungkook still didn’t know what kind of witch he was going to be. He was really still just a witch in training—a hereditary witch, but he didn’t want to join his mother’s coven and she seemed okay with him wanting to branch out on his own. He wasn’t officially a member of Namjoon’s coven yet, but the older witch had taken him under his wing, and the others had accepted him with open arms.
At first he wanted to be a hedge witch like Namjoon, but it required a lot of concentration to communicate with the spiritual realm, and Jungkook lost his focus easily. Plus, their coven was small. They didn’t really need two hedge witches.
Namjoon was looking up at the ceiling, which was swirling with stars—never a good sign. He was either going to get lost in the patterns of constellations or he was stalling.
Namjoon cleared his throat.
Definitely stalling, then.
“There is one—but—nevermind.”
“No, who is it? Do you know someone?”
“Well, my mentor Sihyuk had another mentee around the same time as me. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of him, um, his name is, er, Yoongi.”
Jungkook froze in his seat. Everyone had heard of Yoongi. His curses were legendary. After a massive protest by workers who wanted to form labor unions, every smartphone company started selling cursed phones to the point where the entire industry in South Korea nearly collapsed. No one could trace the curse back to Yoongi, but it was pretty well-known in witches’ circles that he was responsible.
Even non-witch parents told their children stories about staying away from the house at the base of the Namsan mountain.
Most witches’ circles also held Yoongi accountable for the collapse of the Hanwoo beef industry, the fires that nearly destroyed two of the largest factories that built oil tankers, and the cancellation of Show Me the Money and Unpretty Rapstar. The last one for reasons no one could ever figure out.
Seokjin had joked it was because Yoongi tried out once and didn’t make it past the audition round.
It wasn’t just the big curses. Everyone had a story about a run-in with Yoongi, too. He gave donkey ears to a barista who messed up his order. If you made direct eye contact with him, you’d break out in zits the next day. If kids played too close to his garden, he turned them into frogs and lizards. He tripped an old woman who cut in front of him in line at Lotte World.
Of course, there wasn’t any proof of most of it. The lore surrounding Yoongi was so vast that Jungkook had always figured he was an old man, hundreds of years old, embittered by time—not someone who was mentored at the same time as Namjoon.
It wasn’t just rumors then. He must have been powerful.
And that meant he could help Cloud.
“He’s a fauna witch?” Jungkook asked. “How is that possible?”
“You mean because they’re rare or because he mostly casts curses against capitalists?”
“Both, I guess.”
“He was trained as a faery witch.”
“Oh,” Jungkook replied.
That would explain both sides of the question. Jungkook didn’t know much about faery witches, but ever since he was a young boy, his mother had always warned him to stay away from faeries, and that was enough for him.
“Would he really help me?”
Namjoon shrugged. “He’s a fauna witch. If he knows you want to protect an animal, he’d have to help you. He keeps his house open to serious inquiries just like we do. I mean, I doubt he gets many.”
Like it was that easy. Sure, Jungkook would just walk up to Yoongi’s door and ask him for a protection spell for his dog. Just like that. No donkey ears, no transfiguration, no curse that would keep him from getting laid for the next 30 years.
Jungkook must have looked skeptical, or nervous, because he felt a touch of gentle magic settle around him. It had a calming effect.
“I only met him a couple times, but he wasn’t nearly as scary as everyone says,” Namjoon assured.
“But he’s the most powerful witch alive.”
“Oh come on, Jungkook. Magic doesn’t work that way. If he was really cursing people, then his magic would start to resist him. It doesn’t like being used for evil.”
“Not a single person was harmed at the shipbuilding factory,” Namjoon insisted, his eyes sparkling like he was ready for a debate to defend his position.
“You sound like you admire Yoongi a little, hyung.”
Namjoon blushed, his defensive posture drooping.
“Maybe I do a little,” he admitted.
“So will you come with me to see Yoongi then?”
“Um,” Namjoon started. “Well, I’m going to that conference on liminal spaces in Yanji.”
“I thought that was next week,” Jungkook countered.
“I’m going early?”
“Okay, if you must know. I might have broken Yoongi’s crystal ball when we were trainees. I’m not really interested to find out if he remembers.”
“Fine,” Jungkook sighed. “I’ll ask the others.”
He found Seokjin in the kitchen.
Seokjin was a kitchen witch, always having potions brewing on one side of the kitchen. He also liked to cook, which he assured Jungkook had nothing to do with the fact that he was a kitchen witch, so there was almost always something cooking on the stove, too. Today it smelled like a cooling potion on the cauldron and samgyetang on the stove.
Jungkook didn’t tell Namjoon, but he had actually gone to Seokjin first about protecting Cloud. Sometimes there was a potion that worked, and Jin usually asked fewer questions than Namjoon did if Jungkook had an out-of-the-ordinary request. Seokjin told him about the Draught of Shelde, which would have been great, except half the ingredients weren’t available except maybe on the black market. It also required a ward spell to be effective, and Seokjin wasn’t even sure it worked on animals anyway.
Seokjin was at the cauldron stirring, but he called out a greeting over his shoulder as Jungkook approached him.
“Do you think it would be safe to visit Yoongi?” Jungkook blurted out.
Seokjin dropped the bottle he was holding in his left hand. It was only a quickly murmured suspension spell from Jungkook that stopped the bottle from shattering and whatever murky contents in it splattering all over the floor.
“Are you kidding me? I know I’m in the kitchen a lot, but I do get out enough to know that Yoongi is dangerous.”
“Namjoon-hyung thinks I should go see him for a protection spell for Cloud.”
“Are you crazy?”
“Namjoon-hyung said he’s a fauna witch.”
“I had a friend at school whose older sister’s boyfriend’s cousin got cursed by Yoongi because he accidentally cut Yoongi off on the Han River bike trail. He got a flat tire every day for a month. He’s lucky it wasn’t worse.”
“That’s probably exaggeration and hearsay,” Jungkook reasoned.
“Another friend of mine’s sister is a teacher, and she took her class on a field trip to Namsan mountain. Her whole class got violently ill afterward, and she says it was because they stopped for a picnic near Yoongi’s house.”
“That was probably food poisoning.”
“They all had different lunches.”
“I’m sure there’s a logical explanation,” Jungkook said weakly, though that one was a little more damning.
“Yeah, Yoongi poisoned a bunch of school kids. Q.E.D. You don’t want to get mixed up in that, Jungkook. Even if he is a fauna witch.”
Seokjin went back to stirring his potion, murmuring the words of the spell that made it effective, so Jungkook slinked out of the kitchen.
He found Taehyung and Jimin outside in their garden, naturally. They were green witches. Jimin was an herbal witch, and Taehyung was a flora witch, and their garden was divided exactly in half. Beautiful colors on Taehyung’s side that looked like a thick tapestry of flowers, and deep Earthy smells from all the herbs Jimin grew on the other. The garden was Jungkook’s favorite place in the house. Part of him wanted to be a green witch, but if he was, then he’d have to pick a side between the other two and he’d rather put his hand in a box full of angry rattlesnakes.
“You can’t go see Yoongi,” Taehyung said as soon as he spotted Jungkook.
“It’s too dangerous,” Jimin echoed.
“How did you even know?”
“I keep telling you all I have the sight and no one believes me,” Taehyung said.
“The kitchen window is open and we heard your conversation with Seokjin-hyung,” Jimin responded, rolling his eyes fondly at Taehyung.
“But Yoongi’s the only one who can help me,” Jungkook insisted.
“Do you really need a protection spell on Cloud? You trained him to be smart and to follow orders,” Taehyung replied.
“I know, but he’s still young. And sometimes he’s overenthusiastic. I can see him putting himself needlessly in danger.”
“That sounds like someone I know,” Jimin muttered.
“I don’t needlessly put myself in danger!” Jungkook exclaimed.
“What about the time you nearly threw yourself off a cliff to reach the last camellia blossoms of the season for Seokjin-hyung?”
“I have great balance,” Jungkook insisted.
“I heard Yoongi’s house has a repelling charm on it. It gives you a sunburn if you get too close,” Taehyung said.
“Namjoon-hyung said he keeps his wards open,” Jungkook countered.
“I heard that his chimney was emitting smoke so toxic, the Ministry of Environment came in to investigate and he hexed them all with an infertility curse,” Jimin said.
“That’s ridiculous,” Jungkook replied. “The government should be way more worried about industrial pollution than what comes out of one witch’s chimney.”
“I’m just saying,” Jimin replied. “It might not even be safe to be near his house, let alone go in.”
Jungkook pinched the bridge of his nose.
“I’ll take this all into consideration, I guess.”
“You should,” Taehyung replied. “We’re older than you.”
So the next day, Jungkook did what he did best and ignored the advice of everyone else.
He headed to Namsan in the morning, not too early to wake the witch, but not too late to risk interrupting lunch. Jungkook had thought about bringing Cloud along, but he didn’t want to put him in any danger. And it wasn’t like Namsan was that far away for him to bring Cloud back if Yoongi agreed to help.
When he got to the park, he had to go in the opposite direction from the tourists to get to Yoongi’s house.
It wasn’t exactly hard to find, but it wasn’t overly welcoming either, tucked back into the trees. It was clearly a witches house—quaint, built with wood and stone that looked like it was part of the mountain. The small garden out front was well-tended but also not welcoming—stinging nettles, briers, and a couple carnivorous plants Jungkook didn’t know the names of and didn’t think were native to Korea.
Jungkook stood outside the low iron gate for a minute, trying to build up his nerve to go up to the front door, which was painted a repelling black color, so dark it was almost like you were looking into a bottomless pit. He couldn’t see the chimney, because it was hidden behind a giant strangler fig tree that looked like it was about to swallow the house. But he couldn’t see smoke either, so at least that was one toxic possibility dodged.
Jungkook suspected that Yoongi rarely got visitors. Even though, like Namjoon said, he did have the customary bundle of rosemary hanging above the door indicating that, in spite of all outward appearances, it was a house one could go to for healing.
“The worst thing that happens is that he says no,” Jungkook muttered out loud. Or poison you, he thought.
Jungkook felt the wards tingle around him as he stepped through the gate. They weren’t that much different from the wards around Namjoon’s coven’s house—simple wards that would let in people or other witches who had good intent, and detract those who didn’t.
Nothing stopped Jungkook from walking up the path to the front door, though he steered clear of the more aggressive looking plants. He kept trying to think of Cloud, wishing the dog was by his side. But the risk of Yoongi turning Cloud into a frog in a fit of rage was just too great.
No matter what Namjoon said, there were way too many stories about Yoongi to ignore. Namjoon was brilliant, but even Jungkook realized that sometimes he was a little naive about the world.
The front door looked slightly less like a black hole up close, and there was a black knocker on it shaped like a snake eating its own tail.
Jungkook took a deep, calming breath and knocked.
Moments later, the door swung open slowly with a loud creak, and Jungkook peered into the room before stepping across the threshold. At first Jungkook thought he was alone in the room, but standing half behind the door, waiting for Jungkook to fully enter, was a man.
He was shorter than Jungkook had pictured in his mind, with smooth, ageless skin and jet black hair that looked impossibly soft. But he was very clearly scowling and not at all happy to see another witch entering his house.
The most remarkable thing, though, was that Jungkook could practically feel magic crackling off of him.
So this was the infamous Yoongi.
“What do you want?” The witch asked in a low, rough voice.
“Um,” Jungkook said, still a little shocked, maybe a little terrified.
“You made it through the wards so I know you’re not here to sell me Girl Scout cookies.”
Who didn’t like Girl Scout cookies? Maybe he really was evil.
Jungkook took a hesitant step forward further into the room.
It was dark, the front windows were covered in heavy curtains. There were shelves along every bit of wall, filled with books and jars of ingredients, except the far one, which had a massive fireplace cut into it, bricks going all the way up to the high ceiling. There was a pretty standard cauldron in it, but the fire wasn’t lit. The main feature of the room was a massive structure near the center that contained hundreds of little drawers.
There were also two arm chairs positioned on either side of a small table in front of the windows, but Yoongi didn’t ask him to sit down.
Jungkook realized it was taking him way too long to answer.
“It—it’s for a dog,” he stammered out. “I—he—Namjoon-hyung said you—you liked dogs. I mean, um, that you were good at animals—with animals. Fauna witch.”
Jungkook’s voice was shaking. In fact, his whole body was shaking. The other witch stared at him, unimpressed. But he had raised an eyebrow in recognition at the name Namjoon.
“Do you want to try that again?” Yoongi asked drily. “Maybe breathe this time.”
Think about Cloud. You’re doing this for Cloud, he told himself.
“I train dogs. It’s my, um, day job. For like, to be service animals. And I have one who’s going to be joining the Park Service rescue team in Bukhansan, and I wanted to give him a protection spell.”
“So where’s the dog?”
“Um, at home. I thought I’d ask first, before—”
“Before I said no and turned him into a frog because you came traipsing in here interrupting my meditation time?”
Jungkook didn’t care what Namjoon said. Yoongi could definitely read minds. He needed to get the fuck out of there and fast.
He was about to offer an apology and hightail it to the door when a sweet voice called out from somewhere else in the house.
Yoongi’s face twitched slightly. Jungkook froze.
“Where are you my sweet baby angel-faced kitten,” the sing-songy voice continued. Jungkook couldn’t have left if he tried. His feet felt heavy, like they were rooted into the floor. The voice was so beautiful, like a melody floating on the air that it almost didn’t register to him what the voice had said.
Kitten? If Yoongi did animal magic it made sense that there would be kittens around.
“In here,” Yoongi called back, his voice much less gruff, sounding almost fond.
Jungkook shook his head, his thoughts still swimming in the lilt of the sweet voice. He started looking around the room, wondering how he could have possibly missed that there was a kitten there the whole time. Maybe it was a black kitten curled up in the corner or on one of the shelves.
A man appeared in the doorway that must have led into the back of the house. He had a wiry frame and dark hair, like Yoongi’s, but there was something magnetic about him, something almost unearthly, not quite human. He smiled at Jungkook, which made Jungkook flush, before focusing on Yoongi.
“There you are,” he said, walking right up to the witch and leaning in to plant a kiss right on Yoongi’s lips.
“Hi, babe,” Yoongi replied almost sweetly. “Did you get what you needed?”
Babe? What was happening?
“Yep,” the other man replied.
“How’s your mother?” Yoongi asked.
The other man laughed, it was like another handful of music notes spilling into the room. Jungkook started to feel his mind go soft again.
“You can ask her next week when we go for my sister’s nest blessing ceremony.”
“Oh quit being so grumpy, my sweet little honeybun.”
That’s when Jungkook realized that the other man wasn’t a man at all. He was a faery. Oh goddess. The last thing Jungkook wanted was to get mixed up with a faery. Everything his mother had taught him about faery magic was running through his head. He had to get out of there.
But his feet just wouldn’t move.
“Who’s this?” the faery turned back to him, like he was an afterthought.
Jungkook’s jaw was still hanging open in shock, frozen in place under the faery’s scrutinizing gaze. He felt a chill run through him.
“He wants to put a protection spell on a rescue dog,” Yoongi replied calmly, like he was totally unaware that the faery was holding Jungkook in place with his faery magic. Or whatever it was.
“Oh how precious. You’ll help him, won’t you?” The faery turned to Yoongi and then looked back at Jungkook. “What’s the dog’s name, sweet boy?”
Jungkook could have sworn he heard Yoongi mutter, “He's not your sweet boy” under his breath. That was when he realized the faery was talking to him.
“Cloud,” Jungkook said, surprising himself by the clarity with which the answer came out. It was almost like the faery had pulled it right out of him.
“Cloud,” the faery repeated sweetly.
He held Jungkook’s gaze for a what felt like a solid minute before he turned back to Yoongi. Jungkook’s whole body relaxed when he did, like the faery had finally let him out of his grip.
“You can give him a protection potion, can’t you, my darling? It’s just as effective, right?”
“I’d rather just do the protection spell myself on the dog. If I give this kid a potion, there’s no telling what’ll happen to it. He’ll lose it. Spill it. Drink it himself. Break the vial.”
“Hey!” Jungkook interjected, finally feeling like his bearings were starting to return. And somehow he knew that last comment was directed toward Namjoon.
“Oh, but I have the solution,” the faery replied in his pretty voice.
He glided toward Jungkook, who tried to subtly back away from the approaching faery now that he could move his feet again. But terrified as he was, he didn’t want to seem rude, so the faery quickly caught up to his subtle backward shuffling.
Jungkook held his breath as the faery got closer, but he could feel his heart pounding in his chest. It was so loud the faery surely noticed it, too. Jungkook was biting on the inside of his check so as to not cry out when the faery reached for his shoulder.
But all he did was pluck a white hair off Jungkook’s jacket and then held it in front of Jungkook’s face.
“Cloud’s, I presume?”
“Yes,“ Jungkook answered, his tongue thick in his mouth.
“Now the potion will only work on Cloud,” the faery said, gliding back toward Yoongi as if he was dancing on air, and handing him the dog hair. He slid his other hand up Yoongi’s arm to rest on his shoulder, giving it a noticeable squeeze.
“He might still—” Yoongi started to say.
“I won’t drop it!” Jungkook said, immediately clamping his hands over his mouth afterward, still terrified of being turned into a frog by Yoongi and then eaten by the faery. He wasn’t sure the fae still ate humans, but he wasn’t about to find out. So far it seemed like the faery was convincing Yoongi to help, and Jungkook didn’t want to ruin it.
Meanwhile, Yoongi started counting the drawers of the massive cabinet in the middle of the room, finally stopping when he got to the one that was sixteen over and three down. When he pulled open the drawer, Jungkook was half-expecting to see a genie pop out, or some other spirit, but nothing happened. Yoongi just reached in and pulled out a glass vial that contained an opalescent liquid.
“I mixed this last week,” Yoongi said, as he uncorked the vial and dropped the piece of Cloud’s hair inside it. He recapped the vial and gave it a gentle shake as he murmured words too low for Jungkook to hear, but Jungkook felt the crackle of magic in the room as he did. “This is the Draught of Shelde. It’ll be potent until the full moon. Have Cloud drink the whole thing and it will ward off danger. It bonds to his mitochondrial DNA, so it shouldn’t wear off for a few years.”
He reached the vial out for Jungkook to come forward and take.
“Wow. I—really?” Jungkook asked, taking a hesitant step forward.
“You doubt me?” Yoongi asked, pulling the vial back in to his chest.
“No, no. I just—you’re going to give this to me? How much do you want for it?” Jungkook asked, stepping forward until he was within arms reach.
Yoongi wrinkled his nose.
“I’m a fauna witch. I’m doing this for Cloud, not for you. Animals can’t pay me.”
“But it’s so generous of you. The Draught of Shelde has phoenix feathers and dragon scales in it.”
“You really want to repay me?”
“Then tell your friend Namjoon to send me a new crystal ball. It’s been eight years.”
“Okay, yes. I can—I can do that,” Jungkook said, grabbing the vial from Yoongi’s hand and then taking a few quick steps back. He didn’t care what Namjoon had said about magic and power, Yoongi’s magic was palpable. And terrifying.
“Is that all?” Yoongi asked.
Jungkook chanced a glance at the faery, who was casually leaning against the giant cabinet, amusement dancing all over his face.
The sparkle in his eyes was unnerving.
“No, um—I—thank you so much Yoongi-si. I—um, will—Namjoon and the crystal ball. I’ll—make it happen.”
“You do that,” Yoongi replied dryly.
“Thanks for stopping by,” the faery called out. He started moving again, either to usher Jungkook to the door or to eat him, Jungkook wasn’t about to find out, so he hurried out of the shop and down the front path, breaking into a run as soon as he was clear of the creepy, chomping plants.
“Why did you do that, Hoseok-ah?”
“Mmm…” Hoseok replied, as he came over toward Yoongi and wrapped his arms around the witch’s waist, burying his nose in Yoongi’s neck. “You smell so good, honey boy. Were you picking honeysuckle in the garden this morning?”
“Don’t avoid the question.”
“What did I do?”
“You know exactly what you did. You set the wards on the house, you knew there was someone else in the room with me.”
“But you are my sweet baby angel-faced kitten,” Hoseok replied, pulling back far enough to throw an exaggerated pout toward Yoongi, knowing full well that Yoongi was completely and utterly powerless against the pout.
“You’ll ruin my reputation.”
“Your reputation of being a crabby old witch who eats children and puts curses on anyone who looks at him wrong?”
“I’ve worked hard for that reputation. Everyone leaves me alone. People let me cut in line at the coffee shop because they’re afraid I’m going to hex them—don’t even say it. It was one time. And she deserved it. She was embezzling from a charity for battered women.” Yoongi argued. “Not that it matters now. That kid is going to go tell everyone that I was helpful and that I have a faery partner who calls me his angel-faced kitten.”
Yoongi crossed his arms in a vain effort to get some distance between himself and Hoseok.
Of course it didn’t do any good. Hoseok just laughed and cupped his hands around Yoongi’s face. He leaned in to kiss him delicately on each eyelid in turn and then the tip of his nose.
“Baby, you’re not really mad, are you?” He murmured against Yoongi’s lips. “Even if the kid tells anyone what he saw, you know no one is going to believe him. Witches don’t bond with faeries.”
“This witch does,” Yoongi replied.
Hoseok pressed his lips against Yoongi’s softly.
“And you’re still a mean, scary witch, kitten. I promise.”
Then he kissed Yoongi’s neck, right below his ear, in the exact spot that never failed to make a shiver run down Yoongi’s spine in want.
Yoongi tried not to melt—he did—but in the end he was so weak for Hoseok and the ridiculous pet names he gave him, and Hoseok knew it.
“I did something good, though. I helped the dog, didn’t I?” Yoongi asked quietly.
“You did,” Hoseok replied.
“So I should get a reward for that, don’t you think?”
“I don’t know. You were kind of rude to that sweet boy.”
“That’s because I’m your sweet boy,” Yoongi huffed, throwing his arms around Hoseok’s neck.
“Yes you are,” Hoseok replied with a laugh. “And I suppose sweet boys deserve sweet things.”
“That’s better,” Yoongi said, before he pressed in for a deeper, lingering kiss.
They didn’t need words after that.