"You're kidding me!" His new roommate gloats, a grin stretching across his wide face like it'll split it in half— if the integumetary system was that flexible. "Both of us are doctors? In the same hospital?? You don't see that every day!!"
Seung-gil watches in disgust as his new roommate— was it something like LL? MM? JC?— peer at his boxes, watching him frown as he picks a box magically enhanced to be light, "Hey, don't—"
"Do you even have things in here?" Then the stranger has the audacity to rattle it; Seung-gil receives an urge to hang his roommate from the ankle, "Where are your textbooks?"
"They're already in the on-call room," He pinches his nose bridge, still standing outside the house on the little landing away from the S shaped pavement that leads to the gate. "And don't touch them."
JJ turns around helpfully, stacking on 6 boxes as it sways precariously above his head. Seung-gil's retinas are burning from the hideous maple leaf pattern of his pajama bottoms, bright red and offensive on top of the migraine that's definitely staying until he takes a swing of a headache remedy. "I was thinking I could help move them into your room, if you want."
"No thank you."
The accompanying sulk is fast, "Aw!" JJ recovers well, because once Seung-gil moves his last suitcase past the doorway, he leans against the mudroom and beams another face-splitting smile, "What department are you in? You said you've already settled?"
Seung-gil probes JJ's mind before pausing, finding nothing except a faint feeling of excitement and a mental image of a puppy bounding through a field. Odd, "...Neurosurgery."
A low whistle, "Don't see many of them every day."
"We're not an extinct species, thank you very much," He drags his suitcase further into the house and looks around before feeling the hairs on the back of his neck tingle. He stuffs all of his boxes into his room, kicks his luggage in and slams the door shut behind him before JJ blinks.
There's a resounding thud on the wood, "You seem shy! It's alright, we can bond whenever we're not on shift!"
Seung-gil grimaces and non-verbally casts a silencing charm at the door, pulling out his cellphone to see what penalties he has to pay for breaking his lease early.
"Maybe he's just excited to have another doctor as a roommate," Phichit tries to bite his smile down as Seung-gil scowls at his phone. Phichit's face freezes for a split second when Seung-gil attempts to push the boundaries of the internet router to no avail. He'll have to go outside his room and face JJ if he wants to peacefully talk to Phichit without either of them complaining about the connection every thirty seconds.
Seung-gil slumps against the door, "He doesn't know the concept of personal space." He feels someone brushing against the wards set up a meter away from his door. JJ must be getting ready for work if he's passing between his bedroom and their shared bathroom at an increased frequency.
Seung-gil snarls, watching the blue flames in the jam jars sitting by his bedside turn white before settling down, "He walks around shirtless only in his hideous maple leaf boxers and wears nothing but red shirts with the Canadian flag plastered on his chest!"
"Well, to be fair—"
"Do you know the entirety of the Canadian national anthem? Because I do! In both French and English!"
"Does he also chug maple syrup from the bottle? Because that's a sight I want to see."
Seung-gil calmly presses the end call button, tossing the phone back onto his bed and glaring at his medical notes from where he's squatting. He waves his wand absently behind him, the clothes in his laundry basket pressing themselves before they float to his closet like little soldiers. Life would be easier if he could have gotten a place near St. Mungo's, but of course the real estate market in that area is hot right now and the only thing he could afford with the combination of his muggle (not that he had much of it, being a pureblood) and magical money (that was not tied with his family's old money) was a shared two bedroom place eight blocks away.
All in all, not a bad location, with grocery a few blocks away. The Muggle entry of St. Mungo's is within walking distance too, not that it ever matters because Seung-gil has hooked the fireplace to the Floo if he didn't feel like Apparating. It's just a matter of leaving very early or on the verge of being late to avoid JJ.
"Consult with AP regarding mumblemumps," He tells his notes, going to his desk and dictating in a clear and concise manner, watching the words appear without his quill moving. "Patient seems to be recovering, but the family would prefer her to go back to Hogwarts as soon as possible due to N.E.W.T.s."
When the ink has turned matte, he closes his notebook shut and sees a pair of eyes glinting from his bedroom door.
Seung-gil feels his heart leap to his mouth, and causes the entire house to plummet into darkness.
"ARGH!" JJ screeches. An elbow to the gut makes Seung-gil wheeze, and the lights flicker back on as his attention breaks. There's something that smells like Christmas below his nose.
JJ is very warm and very present, sitting on his stomach as his bangs tickle Seung-gil's forehead. He's in his hideous maple leaf leggings again, a large red leaf over each buttock (he claims they double as leg compressors during his evening runs). His pupils are dilated, voice shaking, "W-Was that you?"
Very seriously, Seung-gil pulls his facial features into his best frown, "I thought you knew the house was haunted?"
When Seung-gil comes back from work the next day, there's an exorcist in the house, and he temporarily forgets about JJ erasing the wards around his room until much later.
"Your Muggle roommate saw you perform Nox and he called an exorcist the next day?" Chris hoots, slapping him on the back as mugs and a birthday cake float around their heads like meteorites in space. Seung-gil ducks to avoid a particularly heavy plate topped with an absurd mountain of whipped cream. "Classic. So he's a great guy?"
Seung-gil practices the philosophy he applies to his work, which was to be as succinct as possible while patients understand his words, "He's a pain in the ass. I regret signing the lease."
"Aw," Phichit slings an arm over his shoulder, the fumes from his robes smelling like sugar, pine trees and gochujang. "He doesn't sound that bad, maybe a little excited! But harmless!"
Chris swallows some cake; Seung-gil finally turns to the plate gently bumping against his free shoulder and takes the slice. "You've met him?"
"No, but he sounds great, doesn't he? You'll have your hands full with that one."
Seung-gil flicks what little whipped cream he has on his finger to Chris, who ducks as it splatters to the wall.
"Who dares?!" The wall shouts, slamming the cupboards in the small kitchenette furiously as everyone's lunches are tossed out of the fridge. Minami gets hit with half of a flying watermelon. Seung-gil instinctively dives for the floor to save his glass containers, earning himself a friction burn on his elbows, and forgets momentarily that he's a wizard with a wand, "This is a center where patients are treated! We must keep the hospital clean!"
"We're sorry, we're sorry!" Chris yelps. The muggle medical book Seung-gil is perusing through gets spat out of a cupboard, hitting Minami squarely on the face again, who goes down with a meek whimper of why me? Phichit, for reasons unknown, has managed to dodge all of the fridge's rioting and is calmly sitting in his chair polishing another slice of cake.
It takes a few minutes for the on-call room to resume to its normal state. Minami had to be sent to the ward when his nose wouldn't stop bleeding, and Seung-gil sends his personal bottle of Dittany around the room with a casual wave of his hand, watching the skin around his elbows turn from an angry red, to a faded pink. He then points to the polaroid picture that Phichit somehow took in the chaos (of him mid-dive to the floor), and sets it on fire.
When he comes home, he mumbles a homenum revelio under his breath. JJ is still out, and so he waves his wand towards his room and sends his bags there, sitting down on the little crate by the entry way as his laces undo by themselves.
Moving his way to the kitchen that's seldom used by the both of them (as far as he knows, since he doesn't come out of his room that much), he rinses and washes his containers as the teapot whistles after a little tap with his wand. He waves a spell to make the spoon stir the instant espresso grounds, blinking tiredness out of his eyes when JJ stares at him, shutting the front door behind him and wearing a black windbreaker over his scrubs as his coffee cup zooms into Seung-gil's awaiting hands.
"Hey yourself," JJ yawns hugely, molars showing. He walks towards the fridge, still holding his work bag in one hand and tossing a Tupperware container on the counter. He removes the lid and starts nuking his dinner in the microwave, the smell of garlic permeating the tense atmosphere. Seung-gil hurriedly shoves his wand down his shirt, where the tip gets caught in the waist band of his sweatpants. "Busy day?"
"Are you wearing scrubs with maple leaves all over?"
This comment seems to make JJ's day as he turns chipper, "They're great aren't they? My own design too. Do you want a pair?"
"Over my dead body," Seung-gil mutters, stalking towards his room again. "Goodnight."
"Sleep well my roommate! Don't let the bedbugs bite!"
If he weren't so shocked from the accidentally display of magic, Seung-gil would have shivered, but he closes the door with a click, casts a Muffliato, an even stronger ward on his door, and proceeds to scream into his pillow.
"There, there, sweetie," His mirror says placidly, "Don't sweat over the small stuff."
"Easy for you to say," He intones dully, stirring his pasta. He has some student reports to read through, but browses through the r/aww pictures Phichit has sent him. There are fifteen in total, and that's only in the last hour.
His cellphone buzzes, his mother wondering if he'll be bringing home a potential someone home for the holidays.
He thinks of JJ setting the apartment on fire, or sneaking in his room and plastering maple leafs over every surface, and types out, No umma, sorry.
He can feel her disapproval through the phone, and wonders if Phichit ever gets badgered about bringing someone home for the holidays since they're both at the age where they've ran out of excuses about climbing up the vocational ladder to ignore threats about continuing the bloodlines.
"You messed up again?"
Seung-gil slowly spins around, glaring under his lashes at Chris, who immediately takes a step back and holds his hands up. "Whoa, sorry. I said hi to you from the door but you didn't raise your head up."
"That usually means that I'm busy," Seung-gil reads the last line of a pamphlet titled How to Wipe Muggle Memories from the Ministry of Magic before grabbing the stack of patient reports he brought to his office to finish, and heading out. He spent all last night remembering that JJ somehow threw off his wards without his awareness and barged into his room several weeks ago. Seung-gil did not sleep well last night, "And not an invitation to read over my shoulder."
"What did you do?" Chris whistles, nodding at a few nurses passing by carrying inventory in carts. Seung-gil side steps a hurrying Healer and intern, before going to the nurse's station at the second floor and depositing the patient charts. He gives the folders a tap and watches as a black Confidential, Patient Sensitive appear in blocky letters across the file.
"Accio'd my coffee mug into my hands without realizing he was behind me, watching."
"You know, I don't think you're violating Clause 73 of the Statute of Secrecy that poorly. Maybe you can file a report to the Ministry and get their squad to deal with the Muggle."
Seung-gil pauses, looking down at his watch. It was a gift from his aunt when he left his hometown, a normal looking Muggle accessory that's only use is to tell time. For some reason he likes the mundane-ness of it all. "I'd rather not do that, it feels wrong."
"It feels wrong but would you rather let his suspicions build?"
He presses his mouth in a hard line, "Thank you, I'll take it from here, Healer Giacometti."
Chris sighs, knowing that Seung-gil is a lost cause for now, walking away, "I'll see you later then."
Miraculously, Seung-gil wakes up from a double shift from St. Mungo's three hours after his head fell onto his pillows. The tiredness that has fogged his brain throughout the day vanished, leaving only a calm alertness that he's familiar with right before finals week, back when he was still a schoolboy.
His floorboards creak when he shuffles into his house slippers, cracking open the door of his bedroom and going to the kitchen for some drink. His hand automatically goes to his sleeve, where he's tucked his wand, but by the number of shoes present near the front door, JJ must have came home after him and is probably sleeping.
He taps the teapot and watches as the steam fogs his reading glasses.
JJ finds him on the living room couch seven hours later, going through two weeks' worth of newspapers that hadn't been recycled, "Not working?"
His voice is lower and thick with sleep, Seung-gil's back twitching funnily. "No, I see that you have the weekend to yourself too."
"One of the rarer times I'm off. I'm usually on call for general paeds if they're short. Any fun stuff planned?" JJ is loud, already placing down a pan on the burner as he cracks four eggs with one hand, casually making conversation in boxers so red they might as well be used as a traffic light. And of course, they're patterned with maple leaves. "I never see you in the cafeteria or in the physician's lounge."
"It's a large hospital. Neurosurgery is far from the Pediatric ward."
"Still, I thought I'd bump into you by now, considering that we have similar schedules most of the time." Seung-gil is thinking of excuses he could use— but he doesn't know enough about the Muggle hospital JJ resides at because JJ is never in the neurosurgery department (this he doesn't know for sure) and Legilimens isn't a form of Google. If he gets caught lying, Seung-gil will have to Obliviate JJ. "We leave around the same time, come home around the same time, have similar shift schedules...."
"Bad luck then," Seung-gil pretends to be at peace, flipping the newspaper loudly because JJ is now whistling some Canadian song about how he's got Canada in his pocket, a little bit of history, while spreading cream cheese on his bagels. Then, for whatever reason, maybe the little caffeine in his blood, Seung-gil asks, "Any plans for you?"
"Not much going on today. Want to get some drinks? There's a few pubs just two streets over. I'm friendly with the owner and they have pretty decent food."
"I don't like bar food."
JJ rolls his eyes, chomping down on a third of the bagel in one monstrous bite, "It has vegetables, so it's decent to your standards. You'd probably like the salmon with roasted potatoes and greens on the side if you're trying not to watch your lipid panel."
As if on cue, Seung-gil stomach growls. He glares at the paragraph about the Olympics as JJ patters more around the kitchen. Not two minutes later, he hears a plate on the low coffee table in front of him and looks up, JJ beaming a smile as he offers two bagels with the cold cream cheese softening on the toasted surface, now wearing normal street clothes.
"I'll see you later this evening then, if you're good with the salmon."
"You're going to the hospital?" Seung-gil frowns, watching him shove his feet in battered runners that have seen better days. It's black, with a check mark logo on the sides.
"Nah," JJ waves from the doorway, a smudge of cream cheese on the corner of his mouth. Seung-gil wipes it off with a nonverbal cleaning charm from his seat. "I'm hitting the gym and then doing a grocery run. Bye roomie!"
Seung-gil shudders as the door closes. He grabs a bagel and continues his newspaper perusing, mindlessly keeping his tea warm with casual flicks of his wand.
"It's not usually this loud, I swear." JJ winces as someone bumps into his back, causing him to slosh his drink. They've grabbed the last standing table in the room, wedged in a corner far away from the bar. Seung-gil is tempted to cast a shield charm around them, toe throbbing. "I forgot that the college students are back in town this weekend for the start of the semester."
He tries to look on the bright side and finds none, "I'm going home after this drink."
"I don't think orange juice has enough ethanol to be considered a drink," JJ completely ignores what he said and upturns an entire shot glass of Tequila. "There we go. Now we have a poorly made Tequila Sunrise."
Seung-gil kicks his shins. JJ, a good sport, merely hides his pain with a grimace, "Ow! Just trying to loosen you up. You're not going to pick anyone up with that permanent frown on your forehead—"
Seung-gil smooths his forehead and downs his glass, wincing when the alcohol hits the back of his throat. "I can't be out too late. There are papers I need to write."
"Ah," JJ pokes his fry in Seung-gil's leftover chipotle sauce. While perusing the menu, he had ordered a fish taco with a salad on the side. "I also have to do that. I'm in charge of several med students and they have a research portion attached to their grades to be due at the end of their semester. I don't exactly remember what the topics they picked out were."
Seung-gil plucks an onion ring from a basket lined with newspapers and shakes a bottle of hot sauce over it. Technically, it was JJ's but he kept eating Seung-gil's fries so they traded sides. "Are you sure it not a sign of premature neuron death?"
"Are you worried about me?" JJ swoops in closer with a charming smirk. Seung-gil internally cringes but finds that he can't argue with himself, JJ does look good tonight, wearing perfectly fitted black jeans and a dark blue dress shirt rolled up to his elbow with the first two buttons popped like it's no one's business. He bats his eyelashes and says in falsetto, "I'm swoooooning."
"Your head is heavy," Seung-gil moves his left shoulder in tight circles to wiggle the fat head resting on him off.
Another laugh. Seung-gil bites his tongue, sending a little zap to the unfortunate hand that had groped his ass a few seconds before as the crowd continues to sway behind them, bodies pressing. JJ's blush is growing, "You need to mean it if you want to shake me off."
Seung-gil turns the words carefully in his head, but files it away when the hand cups around his bottom again. He turns, ready to snap back, when he comes face to face with none other than—
"And a good evening to you! Always so cheery, isn't he?" Phichit whispers the last part loudly to JJ, who is staring at his loudly patterned pink dress shirt of baby blue seagulls and cotton candy ice cream cones like he wants an exact pair in Canadian Maple Leaf Red. That shade is now ingrained in Seung-gil's memories and shows up in his nightmares, where he's chased through an endless hallway with articles of clothing in that exact shade of red.
Phichit, for all of his great style, never took Muggle dressing well. Instead of blending in, he makes it a point to stand out like a sore thumb. The best Potioneer in the hospital he trusts dips his head, smiling too widely, "What a coincidence to meet you here, Dr. Lee!"
"I will kill you," Seung-gil murmurs as Phichit wiggles himself between him and JJ, an arm thrown around his shoulder as his head brushes against the shell of Phichit's ear. "And I will preserve your organs and feed it to my dogs at home."
"You don't even have dogs!" Phichit loudly gawks, then assumes the expression of someone who had been struck by lightning. Seung-gil wishes he had a Time-Turner. JJ, comfortable with the fact that a random stranger had slung an arm over his shoulders too, looks merely confused. "I-I mean. Don't you have cats?"
"Oh yes. Big ones. We have the ones that are amber with black spots."
"Your family are leopard-keepers?" Ogles JJ.
"Seung-gil has a strange sense of humor," Phichit is making the situation worse rather than better. He quickly grinds the balls of his heel into Phichit's toes. "What kind of wiz—owmytoe— I mean what kind of family keeps a wild cat in their estate, am I right?"
"Having a leopard at home would be cool, but they're endangered aren't they? Are your family scientists who breed them to keep them around or something?" JJ asks thoughtfully. "My brother does something similar, except he does it with lizards."
Finding a break in the conversation, the menace introduces himself, "Phichit Chulanont, I've known this man since we were in cots."
JJ shakes the hand with so much enthusiasm Phichit winces, turning to Seung-gil with an accusatory look, "You never told me you have friends!"
His eye twitches.
Phichit howls with laughter beside them, face purple. "I'll stuff that pepper shaker up your ass, JJ," Seung-gil vows.
"No thanks, there's a pretty doctor in the ED working tonight and I don't want her to know that I've been shoving foreign bodies up my anus," The way JJ laughs and says it casually might have missed Phichit, who is furiously using his muggle phone to text Chris about that great one-liner. Seung-gil feels like he's been doused with a Pepper-Up Potion, cheeks blushing madly.
"You never told me your roomie is a hoot," Phichit slyly says, winking. He says the next part out loud so JJ can hear, "You should meet his other friends. He'd get along with Chris and Otabek, don't you think?"
"I don't even think Otabek's saint-like patience will extend to him." Seung-gil drones, watching JJ make eye contact with the bartender and gesture to their table, mouthing orders. He drops his voice, a mental image of the two menaces (who were also his former classmates because Mahoutokoro is far closer to home than Ilvermorny) in Japan's Society of Potioneers flickering to his mind, "And not a word to Kuroo or Oikawa. I know how chummy you all are, and if they catch a whiff of this I'll teach the door of the break room to kick you out."
"You two go back then?" JJ asks, still poking his fries into whatever sauce remains in the little porcelain bowl. He has an odd look on his face. Seung-gil frowns.
"Family friends. We would see each other during school holidays, but Seung-gil never wants to play with me, so I hung around with Dae-hyun instead," Phichit recounts his tale, ignoring the warning looks Seung-gil is giving him. He nudges Phichit's leg under the table and receives a reassuring press on his thigh.
"You have a brother?" JJ asks, surprised. He seems to perk up at this news, and completely misses the sultry gaze a blonde several tables over is shooting at him. She turns back to her friends and tosses a curtain of sleek, candy floss hair over a shoulder, scoffing.
"It's not like it's earth shattering news. I never spoke about him to you."
"I have one too! And a younger sister. They're not so young now, I guess," JJ fondly smiles, having a moment in the middle of a crowded and packed bar full of hot bodies sweating and loud bass pumping. Seung-gil tests the strength of his shield charm and wordlessly adds a layer of temperature regulating charm over it, feeling the sweat accumulating on his nape cool. "Ooo, I'll show you their pictures."
The rest of the night goes well, with JJ and Phichit (horrifyingly) exchanging numbers with the promises to share embarrassing stories of Seung-gil (Phichit) and pictures of his family's St. Bernard back in Canada (JJ). It wasn't until that Seung-gil's stomach is warm and he's feeling giggly, that it occurred to him that Phichit wouldn't have appeared in Muggle London without a good reason.
"Phichit, wait," He darts forward and spins on his toes, aiming a wordless Stunning Spell at JJ, who freezes mid-step and stops. They're all under a street with barely any lamp posts to illuminate their surroundings.
Phichit blinks at JJ, still as a statue, and cocks his head, "What's up?"
"Did you need me for something tonight? Did the mumblemumps girl worsen? Did AP want consultation on one of my patients?"
"Nothing of the sort, it was a dead night and I finished the potions I was making so I left early. Yuuri should have everything under control back at St. Mungo's but well," His grin turns sheepish, "I was curious as to what he was like. Your roommate. Your brother told me that you seem stressed, so I was going to give the Muggle a few stern words."
They both turn to look at JJ, still half-frozen in the air. Phichit turns to smile at him, "But I can see that you two get along well."
Seung-gil has to look away from his friend, "Did you enjoy meeting him?"
"I did! He's funny."
"No, he isn't."
"Let the poor man go," Phichit chuckles, walking again. Seung-gil undoes the spell and follows Phichit, JJ hot at his heels.
For the next several days, Seung-gil doesn't see JJ. This isn't odd, since he's now on night rotations at St. Mungo's, but he comes home one morning to find a half read newspaper tossed onto the coffee table with haste, and sees JJ's name on one of the articles below a large picture of a child.
Orthopedic Surgeon Fails to Save Warbeck's Life
Without thinking about it, without thinking about his destination, a fatal flaw when Apparating, he spins in place and manages to land on the dusty rug in the on-call room of St. Mungo's, patting his body feverishly to make sure all limbs were in place.
Minami looks up from his mango and yogurt bowl with concern, "Sir? Did you forget something?"
"Is there a copy of the Daily Prophet lying around?" Everyone knows that Seung-gil had cancelled his subscription to avoid owls flying in and out of the house he shares with a Muggle. Minami levitates one over to him, and goes back to reading a giant textbook hovering in midair.
Seung-gil firmly sees his bedroom in mind, and flings his wand arm out, thinking of his hospital shoes touching the pristine carpet, "Wingardium leviosa!"
Miraculously, he pauses two inches before the hardwood, and switches footwear in midair before opening the Prophet with so much force it tears. He didn't need to look far. After the first page headline of "GRANGER SUCCEEDS SHACKLEBOLT", the picture of the same child appears again, though now this time, he's waving up to Seung-gil, a missing tooth apparent.
Last night the child of Celestina Warbeck had gotten separated from his mother in the heart of Muggle London. Looking for her, a drunk Muggle driving a semi had collided with him, and the boy was immediately rushed to the nearest hospital, where JJ and another surgeon had worked around the clock to save his life, to no avail. The article criticizes the actions of the Muggle healing community, and Seung-gil sees red before tossing the paper down. It's written by a slimy reporter that makes Skeeter look like an angel.
There's a knock on his bedroom door. Seung-gil opens it to see JJ bleary eyed, holding a towel. He hasn't said anything about a failed surgery, but it wasn't like they shared work stories on the regular. "Are you going to use the shower?"
"No," His words comes clipped, "No, go ahead."
Seung-gil rinses his food containers while JJ takes a shower, the quietness of the house punctuated with the faint sound of water running. There was usually singing, though there was none today.
Outside it started pouring. It matches his mood.
The rain hasn't eased up, and Seung-gil is craving kimchi-jjigae and hotteok in this weather, pursing his lips at his measly lunch of digestive biscuits and coffee. Autumn meant influenza season in the Muggle hospitals, but it meant also harvesting season, which equates to dangerous plants and an onslaught of patients suffering from the now curable Dragon Pox.
There's a knock on the door, and Seung-gil sees a familiar stature before unlocking the door with a flick of his wand, Otabek soaking wet from head to toe.
"Altin," Seung-gil pauses, "Or Plisetsky?"
"Still Altin, we kept our own last names," Otabek takes that as an invitation to step through the doorway, warily glancing around the office like he's going to set off a jinx or two. Slivers of water are running down the hunter green coat he's wearing, and his DMLE badge is clipped onto the front in it's waterproof sleeve. "I heard you're on your midnight snack break or dinner. Is there any way you would be willing to grab a coffee?"
Otabek is known for his tact and deadpan stare that apparently has the power to makes souls shrivel. One time Phichit called him a pseudo-Dementor and was stuck hanging from one foot from the ceiling, unable to get the curse off as it was Otabek's own invention. "Right now," Then he adds, "If you're not busy."
"I think the Leaky is closed," Seung-gil says, shedding his green Healer robes and donning on his black ski jacket and scarf, waving his wand over himself as his green pants turn into jeans. "And none of the shops in Diagon Alley are open..."
"We'll go to a Muggle cafe that's open 24/7," Otabek confidently says, grasping his arm in side-by-side Apparition. Seung-gil shuts his eyes in time and lands near the mouth of a dark alleyway a second later, rainwater immediately soaking his socks. Otabek releases him and peers around before pointing to a brightly lit cafe that's half-full of university students cramming for exams. He spots a nearby street sign.
"I didn't know you frequent Clerkenwell."
They dodge a zooming leaf that has fallen from a tree, "Hermoine Granger was the Deputy Head of the DMLE before becoming Minister for Magic," Otabek says, as if that was enough reason. Seung-gil follows him into the shop, feeling the warmth seep in as the coffee smells makes the sleep fog in his brain fade.
While Otabek goes up front to order, Seung-gil grabs a small table in the back corner perfect for a quiet conversation, though he doesn't know how much talking they can get away before being shushed by one of the nearby students. He checks his cellphone out of habit, waiting.
"This is a Javanese blend," A cup slides to him expertly, Otabek sitting down opposite of him, nursing what resembles a beer lager full of coffee.
As a Healer, he has no appreciation for coffee, and Otabek winces when Seung-gil gulps it without pausing to appreciate the fumes and color. The Head of the Auror Department casts several non-verbal charms to prevent eavesdroppers from listening in, as well as a shield charm.
Seung-gil notices the characteristic shimmer before it dissipates, "What do we need one for?"
"Habit," Otabek tiredly says, "Well, anyway, I'd like to catch up and all, but I have to run back to the office soon. I shouldn't leave Georgi with Lev," He takes a deep breath in, "Have you heard of Warbeck?"
"The squib son died a few days ago from a drunk Muggle driving a semi. Two muggle surgeons tried to save his life but failed."
"Right. One of the surgeons is currently missing," Otabek stares at his tumbler, the lines on his forehead creasing. Seung-gil is only a few years older than him, but Otabek is the one who looks like he was born a decade earlier, a result of his line of work, probably. "It could be a coincidence, but the DMLE thinks that article has sparked Muggle-hate crime, and—"
"And you think JJ is next."
Otabek nods, "I've put three of my men to tail him around the clock. One will be near him, invisible at all times in the hospital, and the other two are to be posted outside your home. But as they can't protect him on the inside, I want you to set up wards if possible. That or I can ask someone to transfigure a Venomous Tentacula to look like a house plant you put outside the door."
He decides to leave out the part where JJ threw down his wards one time, "Would you like to set them up yourselves or do you trust my wandwork?"
Otabek's stern facade finally cracks into a smile, "Of course I trust your work, you taught me wordless charms back in Mahou."
"Seemed like forever."
"Now you sound old," Otabek smirks, finished with what he has to say since he sits back in his chair and looks around. "I don't miss school."
"I'm in school everyday," Seung-gil complains, thinking of the research papers he has to edit and the presentation he has to sit through in a few hours before going home. "Why I chose Healer as my profession is anyone's guess."
"The Ministry welcomes you anytime."
"I'm not suited for people interactions, I like mine unconscious," Seung-gil grins, lips spreading when Otabek blanches at his Healer humor. He looks around the cafe and drops his smile, "Though I really need to get back."
"Giacometti told me that your breaks are half an hour long," Otabek watches him stand up, drinking the last dregs of the coffee and sticking his arms through his jacket. He almost sounds like he's protesting if it weren't for the fact that Seung-gil is always running to one thing or another when they were in school.
Seung-gil smiles warily, "Healers never rest, haven't you heard?"
He staggers to his feet, tossing the teaspoon into a cardboard box next to the door leading to a conference hall, labeled Used Portkeys.
"And there's the man of the hour!" Phichit cajoles, wearing a violent shade of shimmering green robes to compliment his sparkly eyelids, tackling Seung-gil, who sadly catches him around the middle before any of them can become one with the floor. Seung-gil sees alumnis and everyone from Professors to Healers to Potioneers, all standing around in a circular room with a high, domed ceiling. Food and drinks are levitating around, making a slow promenade through the bodies.
Several Healers from St. Mungo's nod at him, dressed in their very best. While the older crowd favors wizarding robes, Seung-gil and everyone around his age are wearing Muggle suits and dresses under their travelling cloaks. He gags when Phichit tightens his tie.
"You're not suppose to kill him before his gives his presentation," Chris tsks, a champagne glass next to him. "I want whatever he knows about Scrofungulus and the common influenza virus."
"The latter is mostly taken from Muggle research papers which you can access, Chris, because I know I showed you how to use the internet," Seung-gil scoffs, patting the inner pocket of his suit to make sure that his cue cards are still in place. He gazes around the audience and accidentally makes eye contact with menaces from his alma mater.
"Oho! Long time no see!" A voice drawls over the babble, Kuroo walking towards him with a too wide grin and an excited Oikawa right at his heels. "How are you— Hey! Don't run away from me!"
"Menace," Seung-gil greets the both of them. He unfortunately has to tilt his head up, but that has never stopped him from glaring at his underclassmen back in Mahou and dishing them detention. "How are we both doing?"
"Look at him dressed so well. I bet Phichit was the one who arranged your outfit," Oikawa smirks his way. His hair bounces with each minute movement of his head.
"You're not wrong," He says dryly.
"We're good, I'm still on my sabbatical, but Kuroo's teaching in school now," Oikawa pipes up. Phichit chokes on a slice of his pineapple cake, spraying crumbs all over Seung-gil's left side.
Kuroo scowls, "Rude."
"May Merlin bless your students," Seung-gil casually says, grabbing one of the floating pastries and dusting his left arm free of crumbs. "Will you be teaching or giving tutorials how to achieve your bed head?"
"It's flatter today," Kuroo grumbles, swallowing a chocolate tart in one go like one of those fishes that can unhinged their jaws. Oikawa snickers beside him, and Kuroo elbows him. "Anyway, have you seen? The Minister for Magic will be sitting in today."
Seung-gil raises an eyebrow, looking up at one of the balconies and seeing several of the war heroes sitting in attendance. He sees Oikawa's eyes lighting up at some person with long, red hair tied in a high ponytail, "Wonder what she's here for."
"Scrofungulus," Says a new voice, who turns out to be Otabek, more alert and rested. He's wearing his deep red Auror robes, Yuri standing a few feet behind him, talking to a Durmstrang alumni. "She was quite interested since Muggles can get it too. She wants to compare the detection methods between ours and theirs."
"Not much difference, I can tell you that. While they aspirate the fluid from their swollen lymph nodes and stain it to show mycobacteria, we can use a complex spell. Professor Flitwick and I have been trying to come up with an alternative diagnostic spell that would catch this early on when we do the initial Full Body Screening," He explains.
"Reminds me of our detention days, doesn't it?" Kuroo grins, nudging Oikawa.
"Feels like yesterday when both of them were geeking out over schoolwork."
"Remember when he used to sit on our detentions because he needed peace?"
Seung-gil snorts, "With a friend like Phichit, peace and quiet are hard to come by."
Phichit sulks, but then brightens, "Did you know that his Muggle roommate didn't think he had any friends?"
"HAH!" Chris barks, "Really? So you've met him then?"
Phichit blocks the wordless Tongue-Tie Jinx, blowing a raspberry in Seung-gil's direction. Oikawa's eyes are shiny and bright, "What's he like?"
"Single and ready to mingle!"
Otabek awkwardly stands in the circle of grown men giggling, looking at anywhere but Seung-gil, his husband's wandering eyes, or Hermoine Granger looking down the balcony to see what the racket is about. When Chris says a very entertaining yet vulgar sentence, Otabek takes that as his cue to mingle with his and Yuri's old Durmstrang friends.
Kuroo hangs his arm around him, lowering his voice and shooting Seung-gil a smoldering look, "Is he tall, dark and handsome?"
"One out of three. Tall, loud and annoying," He scathingly says. "And Phichit, do me a favor."
"Yes, Professor Lee?"
"Gossip about someone else."
"He's a Muggle, but a smart one. Very funny too, the kind that you can tease to your heart's content if you want," Phichit continues his report to Oikawa, who has grabbed hold of an entire tray of sweets and is in the middle of putting the fifth tiny pecan tart in his mouth, enraptured by the description of JJ.
"What a catch," Oikawa beams, nearly as bright as casting Lumos maxima. "You're single too aren't you? Isn't your mom worried that you won't get married with that attitude of yours, the one that sends suitors running away?"
Seung-gil tells Oikawa where he can shove his opinion, adding, "I'd rather spend my time researching diseases. You'll thank me one day if you get Scrofungulus."
"Professor Lee?" A new voice interrupts.
Seung-gil turns to see the newly appointed Minister for Magic smile. He can see some wayward baby hairs escaping the pins holding her hair in a low bun, "Minister," He greets. The menaces around him straighten up and start introducing themselves, offering hands, and in Oikawa's case, pecan tarts.
"I just wanted to say that I look forward to hearing your research, what you've found about this from the Muggle community," Granger continues to smile. Her husband is peering down from the balcony next to one of the professors Seung-gil has seen around Hogwarts, the one that has unruly, unkempt hair that defies gravity and a scar on his forehead. "And the work that you've done with Professor Flitwick."
"Thank you, Minister," He looks around the room and sees that all the trays have vanished, "It seems that it's starting soon. You should hurry back to your seat."
Granger nods, chirps about dropping him a letter about her thoughts afterwards, and leaves to go up to the balcony again. Seung-gil then says goodbye to his friends and speeds onto the stage, where he points his wand to his throat and casts, "Sonorus."
The Minister for Magic steals him away for fifteen minutes during the after conference dinner to exchange Floo addresses and contacts, saying that she'll be in touch with him regarding his studies, and more. He wasn't sure if he had just secured a fan or a sponsor for his other research projects, but it felt good to have approval from high places.
"Neville would be glad to join in the project with his thoughts," Granger reassures him, scribbling down more names and numbers, her writing becoming smaller and smaller on the piece of spare parchment she had to weasel from her husband. "He teaches Herbology at Hogwarts.... Who else shall I write down?"
"Hermoine, you're going to scare him off," The husband rolls his eyes, standing behind her with his sister and the sister's husband. Seung-gil wasn't sure how to act when faced with famous war heroes, so he just keeps his gaze on the Minister's hand flying away, wondering if he should offer his self-inking quill that writes when dictated.
"But this is important!"
"You're holding him up from dinner," Says the female red head, in a smug tone. The Minister stops, blushes, and clears her throat.
"Right," She hands over the parchment, "Right. Sorry to cut into your eating time, you must be starving—"
"I'm quite alright."
"—me know if you're stuck. I know several people from overseas who are brilliant with medical spells and the such," Her lips quirks up, as if telling herself an inside joke. Seung-gil tucks the folded piece of paper into his inner suit pocket, watching her smooth down the material of her dress pants. She chirps goodbye, and he bows after her, the door to the conference room clicking to a close.
There's a house-elf wearing a cotton grey dress, holding up what must be the dishes he'd missed when he walks into the room adjacent, finding his seat not by his name written in cursive on a little card, but by the absence of a person sitting on the chair. Several professors pat him on the elbow as he maneuvers his way, and he tucks into some salad sprinkled with berries and nuts while everyone is cutting through a steak.
"What did she want?" Kuroo says with his mouth full and spitting mash everywhere. Seung-gil barely masks his disgust before attacking him with a wordless cleaning charm.
"Exchanged contacts and told me several people I should ask for help if I ever need it."
"Speaking of contacts," Phichit leans forward, tilting his head towards one end of the table where most of the older wizards and witches were seated, "Several people have been asking for you."
"Wanted to offer their nieces and nephews for your hand in marriage."
Seung-gil balks and stares at his next appetizer, a pumpkin soup, "I wish they'd stop doing that."
"Should we do a public proposal?" Phichit teases, "I can just tell your mom that you're too focused on your career to pay any attention to me and we can split off a month later."
"Then both our parents will come after me," Seung-gil is definitely not turning his head towards Phichit's end of the table, speaking to his half finished soup. "Maybe I should start wearing a ring."
"Life must be hard when you're a successful bachelor," Chris laughs next to him.
Seung-gil looks around him at the faces nearby, the majority of the medical wizarding community around him as they talk about advances in their field of research and specialty, and at the friends that will take the next Portkey to him if he ever so much hints of being in trouble. He gives his bowl a brief smile, and engages Chris about the French Healer with dark hair who keeps looking in their direction.
Several Canadians on the other table were discussing what time they should leave to make it to their Thanksgiving dinners. Seung-gil thinks with a hollowness in him that has nothing to do with his empty stomach that JJ should be celebrating with his family back home, but instead, he's pulling through another shift at the hospital, alone.
"Pinky?" He stops the house elf from levitating his next dish.
"Is sir preferring another main course?" The elf blinks up at him with large, green eyes.
"No, that's alright, I was wondering if I could take the rest to go and leave early."
"Are you feeling unwell?" Half the table looks up when he stands, accepting the wrapped box that Pinky is handing him. She curtsies deeply and vanishes with a muffled crack. Chris frowns, "Is it the food?"
"No, I just want to go home," He accidentally makes eye contact with Phichit, and pats Kuroo and Oikawa on the shoulders, "I'll see both of you around in another conference. Send my regards to your partners."
Phichit holds back some of the professors that are jumping to their feet, winking knowingly at him as the door to the conference room closes. Seung-gil makes his way to the Atrium, stepping into the nearest fireplace.
When JJ comes home dripping wet, he gazes with wonder at the spread Seung-gil had put out on the dining table. "Wow, what's the occasion?" There's the steak from the Ministry dinner, but also tacos and onion rings from the bar they went to last time. And in the fridge cooling, are two chocolate puddings that Seung-gil had bought from the grocery, because the only area of magic that he's hopeless with is food magic.
"Thought it'd be nice to eat together, what do you think?"
JJ grins, boyish and pleased. In the golden light of their home, the dark circles below his eyes are less noticeable, the laugh lines more visible. He pulls back his wet bangs. Several strands flop towards the front, brushing his eyebrows, "Let me change and I'll grab a red for both of us."
It's the start of a trend, something that Seung-gil can incorporate into his routine. Every morning, Seung-gil sends some breakfast towards the guards stationed outside the house through his window, and Apparates to St. Mungo's. Whenever they arrive home around the same time and have nothing particularly important to do, he will grab dinner with JJ, or do their grocery runs together, where JJ will impulsively reach into the ice cream freezers just because he sees a sale while Seung-gil yanks his arm back with threats of don't you dare destroy the only bathroom in our unit.
He says a brief hello to JJ's mother through a video call. She has his mouth and eyes, and coos over him for several minutes in English before firing a series of questions in a French dialect Seung-gil doesn't recognize towards her son, who turns red and huffs away. Seung-gil attempts to teach JJ chess, and JJ tries to teach Seung-gil poker in return. They ultimately decide on a weekly night game of mahjong, every game reminding Seung-gil of his time in Mahou with the other exchange students in a circle, throwing back non-alcoholic rice wine as the end-of-year banquet looms closer.
He's confident in calling JJ a friend.
"Switch with me," JJ manhandles the heavy bags of groceries away from both his hands, giving Seung-gil the paper bag of bread instead. Their breathes comes out as puffs, soft and yellow from the street lamps above as London falls asleep. "I'm surprised you're not going home for the holidays."
Christmas is tomorrow, but Seung-gil shrugs, the soles of his boots crunching against the heavy scattering of salt thrown all over the roads. Several puddles of slush lay ahead of them, reflecting the fairy lights and Christmas decor outside doors and gates. "It's not a big thing for us. Why aren't you going home?"
"You still have vacation weeks. Were you planning to carry them into the new year?"
"Nah," JJ shifts hands, "They don't work like that. And I'm the youngest surgeon in the pediatric orthopedic list, so I get to run the department while the others go home to their families," He beams, "At least I won't be alone, some of the poor residents will be keeping me company, and besides, holiday pay isn't too shabby."
They walk lazily across the zebra stripes, bumping into shoppers hurrying back home, several students getting out of a van with bottles in their hands. They watch a family around a half-decorated gingerbread house, an elderly couple watching the news, and a tired mother with a toddler on one hip unlocking her door. The yellow skies break and large, fat flakes are falling.
"Does Neurosurgery have stockings for anyone who's working during the holiday?"
"No, we're not close like that."
"Shame, you could do with more friends," JJ teases.
Seung-gil opens his mouth to retort, but instead yelps when JJ shoves their grocery bags to his chest, leaving Seung-gil to grapple at them blindly to save the egg cartons from smashing to the ground.
JJ whips off his toque and jams it onto Seung-gil's head, running several steps, laughing, into a speeding truck veering off the road, its headlights blinding and glaring.
Seung-gil doesn't think, he disappears, pushes JJ as hard as he can, and shuts his eyes as they land hard on the wet road, rolling and rolling. The air is knocked out his chest when they hit the ground, and Seung-gil feels his shoulder slam onto the curb, slitting his eyes open.
JJ's gasping in his ears, breathing shallowly like he'd been robbed. Seung-gil's ears are still ringing from the truck, and he climbs off JJ, gravel sticking to his legs. Their guard are undoing Disillusionment Charms, but Lupin has a hand out, half hidden in the shadows, watching.
"You—" JJ starts, pauses, glancing at the truck. "You...you were over there," His eyes, a funny blue-grey shade, akin to Ravenclaw's house colors, latches onto Seung-gil like he would disappear again.
With a squeal, the truck's engine lets out a whine, the driver back away slightly from the curb opposite, speeding away. Seung-gil crouches and swallows, looking around at the relatively empty street, knowing that one of the Aurors had gone ahead to wipe the truck driver's memory. Rules have been broken tonight in front of Ministry workers, and he cannot shimmy out of this one.
"Is your head bleeding?" His hand cards through JJ's two block cut, patting around the back to see if there's any swelling.
The lines around JJ's mouth harden, "Seung-gil, you were on the other side."
"You're confused," Lies, lies, lies. Please lie. Please lie. "You don't remember pulling my hand with you? I saw the truck come, so I pushed both of us out of the way."
JJ shakes his head, eyebrows pulled together. "No," He says slowly, beginning to frown, raising his voice. "I know what I saw!"
Seung-gil stops his acting and looks across at the wet grocery bag, several oranges rolling onto the street. There's a wet splotch on the corner of the paper bag. The eggs must have smashed. His wand appears, and he watches as JJ turns to see what is being held to his temple.
Otabek's face is passive, but his concern shows in the little twitches of his hand as Seung-gil briefs him during a coffee run from his floor.
"We caught the driver. Muggle. He's been dealt with."
"I dealt with JJ," Seung-gil passively states, staring at the board for the long list of coffee-related drinks, even though he has a list in his hand. Otabek is looking on the further board, the one with tea selections and other hot drinks. "I gave him a headache just to make sure he stays at home today."
"Thanks. Lupin told me everything that happened," The barista smiles at them and they flick their orders to her with a bit of wandless magic. Otabek tells her to put everything on the Ministry's tab, and Seung-gil shuffles to see several employees wave their wands around, liquids floating in the air.
He doesn't like lying. He doesn't like extracting memories and putting a block on them, his magic signature imprinted on JJ's memories as clear as a large, red X marking him. That could be the end of wiping memories, but what if JJ runs across the street again? Sees another accidental display of magic? How many Memory Charms can Seung-gil do before he can't look JJ in the eye anymore?
When did he start disliking lying to a Muggle to protect wizard kind?
"You look green," Otabek says, hand on his wrist, eyes worried. "Sick?"
Maybe this is why there's an entire department dedicating to wiping people's memories. They must do it so often that there are no second thoughts for them. To them, JJ will be another Muggle on a list of names that needs a little memory modification, not another human. He shuts his eyes, trying to drown out Otabek's steady but firm tone in his head when they fought several years ago about this matter.
"Owwww," JJ whimpers from the couch when Seung-gil closes the front door, snow melting on his jacket and hair, looking at the large man sprawled over the cushions. It's pitch black inside, save for the dim light coming from the lamp.
"Sorry," Seung-gil lowers his voice, frowning to get his eyes adjusted to the darkness before removing his shoes and depositing the cake on the table. JJ sits up, curious. "I brought chocolate cheesecake from the store. Is your headache any better?"
"It feels more like a concussion," Comes the grumble, but it sounds marginally more cheerful as JJ opens the box and smiles down. "Cheers."
"Is it okay if I use my cellphone flashlight?"
Seung-gil sinks into the couch, his dinner on his lap as he listens to a podcast from his earbuds, eyes half-closed. JJ is listening to some soft piano, slowly chipping away at the cheesecake while whining to Seung-gil that it's going to ruin his 'winter bod' and that 'summer bods are made in the winter!'
"So...yesterday was still a little bit blurry," JJ starts, looking up through his eyelashes, mouth pulled down, "What exactly happened?"
"I thought the car was going to hit us, so I tackled you and you accidentally hit your head on the pavement," Seung-gil sticks to the false memory he planted in JJ's head. The real one is hidden and buried, the false one purposefully hard to retrieve if JJ tries to recall it. He doesn't break eye contact, knowing that even blinking might make JJ sense his lie.
"Hm," JJ hums, turning back to his cake. "Alright."
Seung-gil stares at him, the dim yellow lighting hitting the side of his nose, the hollows of his cheeks, the curve of his jawline and the bangs that have gotten a little too long. His chest twists and yearns. He closes his eyes.
Something cool rests against his eyes. He blinks his eyes open to blackness, lifting the cooling eye mask with a questioning glance at JJ, who is standing up and looking down at him with a small smile on his mouth, chocolate smudged at the corners.
"I get tired eyes from surgery too. That's why you're listening to something rather than watching, right? The cooling mask helps, let it sit for several minutes."
Seung-gil allows the mask to sit on his eyes, feeling rather ashamed and guilt pricking into his skin. Will JJ continue to be this friendly when he finds out that Seung-gil tampered with his memory? Wasn't there a Muggle word for this— gas-lighting?
He falls asleep to a memory in his last year at Mahou, picking careers with Phichit as he crosses off Ministry of Magic.
Why'd you do that? Phichit had asked, surprised. You'd be good with taking no bullshit from other people.
I can't lie, and I don't like or manipulating people to get my way.
Otabek comes by his office again, this time when the sky is struggling to shine in the sky, an improvement to the two weeks of graveyard shifts Seung-gil had to sit through because it was his turn yet again.
"We're taking the guards away," Yuri announces through the door, not bothering to knock or check that Seung-gil had any guests, which he never does, but still. Otabek just gives a little sigh, following the tall blond through the door and taking a step back when he sees the state of Seung-gil hair and sanity.
"You look..." Otabek struggles.
"I know," Seung-gil retorts, at the same time Yuri says like a madman in a flat tone. "You're taking away the guards? Has the case been wrapped up?"
"Nothing of the sort, we're actually short-staffed right now," Seung-gil ignores the little bait, letting Otabek finish his explanation as Yuri finishes peering through the titles on his bookshelf and makes himself comfortable on one of the two seats facing his desk. "Lupin is being re-assigned to another case, Malfoy is taking a short vacation to visit his family, and Potter is—"
"Albus," Yuri chirps in, "The older brother is also tagging along on Malfoy's vacation. They're going to Egypt to visit Potter's mother's side of the family there. Something about enchanted mummies and tomb-hunting. Beka is scared that the sarcophagi are going to lock them in there for good."
"Well, it wouldn't do good for them to get trapped, but at least one of their uncles are accompanying them."
"So you think it's safe to leave JJ alone when the case hasn't resolved itself?" Seung-gil feels uneasy, twirling a pen on his dominant hand. Yuri watches the little party trick, the pen now a blur between his fingers. "I'm in here for nearly twelve hours a day, two before my shift starts to review cases, eight for my actual shift, and two more afterwards to take care of my student's and resident's presentation and cases. I barely see him at home. I can't protect him."
That last part was a lie, but Otabek didn't need to know how Seung-gil and JJ wait until the other party comes back home to start dinner. At the least, it was a half truth since JJ will be starting his graveyard shifts again, and that will mean two straight weeks of not seeing JJ because their sleeping schedule will be the complete opposite.
"We're not asking you to be his security detail," Yuri says as though he's an Auror. Otabek seems to be content with letting him take the lead, jaw contracting to hide a yawn. "It's just that it's been four months since the Warbeck incident and so far nothing has happened to JJ, except for that Muggle driver which is completely unrelated. Otabek's been working around the clock to get suspects, but the ones that we're interested in are either serving sentence already, or are on probation with extra security around them."
"So there's no way of any of them to get to JJ," Seung-gil reiterates.
"None," Yuri promises.
The promise gets broken.
"Lee!" Minami screeches into the break room, momentarily forgetting that he's a resident and he shouldn't be calling Seung-gil by his last name like that, at least not while they're on their last minutes of shift, but Phichit appears next to Minami, grabs Seung-gil's hand, and hauls him out.
The bowl of instant noodle drops onto the kitchen floor, and the fridge starts its purge of all the containers inside, shrieking. "What's going on?" Seung-gil yells, nearly face-planting himself as his left ankle nearly crosses with his right. Phichit releases his wrist and Seung-gil pulls out his wand from the convenient wand pocket on his green robes, already knowing that it's an emergency.
"It's JJ," Phichit turns a sharp corner, and Seung-gil's eyes water when he cuts the turn a little too short and rams his hip bone into a levitating plant with a square pot. "Hit and run. Same Muggle driver. Otabek's over there, piecing together cases."
Seung-gil runs for the opposite direction, to where the Apparition area is, before Phichit spins him around and pushes him towards Critical Care, several nurses running back and forth between the room and the back storage where they keep extra plasma and blood.
"He's here?" Seung-gil runs towards the bed with the most activity, seeing JJ already stripped to his boxer briefs, body held in a Stasis Charm. The resident attending to him backs away and he takes over, murmuring a spell and watching as a glowing blue light spreads itself through JJ's body, darkening in places where there is damage.
"Anapneo," He casts verbally, pointing at JJ's mouth with his hand, removing a large chunk of coagulated blood from his mouth. He closes the bleeding with a wave of his wand, working from the head down. Phichit and Yuuri are working to create a mixture of Dreamless Sleep and Calming Draught beside him, taking note of JJ's weight. Seung-gil grinds his teeth together, "What happened?"
"Hit and run," Phichit repeats, "Otabek thinks the Muggle was under the Imperius Curse, or manipulated through other means. He was walking past a coffee shop Otabek frequents when the truck hit him and several other Muggles. Otabek sent him here himself before gathering his men to do damage control."
He watches as the blue light concentrates around JJ's chest, gently palpating the skin there, feeling his ribs shift. "Someone give him Skele-Gro by IV when I'm finished, and lay him parallel so his ribs doesn't shift any more." He tells the resident shaking in front of him to cast Ferula over and over again on the chest, watching her wand tip shake. "How many Muggles were hurt?"
Seung-gil takes a step back to let the nurses heal JJ's broken nose, siphoning the dried blood from his skin as Yuuri is feverishly grinding some small berries into a paste, adding it to a bubbling cauldron that Phichit is controlling the heat to with his wand. He watches the blue light flash near JJ's spleen, his thigh and knees, and the multiple shallow lacerations on his skin.
"Who here has a core made from birds?"
A Mediwitch raises her hand, as does Yuuri and a second resident standing stiffly at the end of the bed, holding JJ's clothes.
"Let me borrow it," He asks, watching three wands fall in his dominant hand. He tosses one of them up in the air to focus on the superficial cuts and bruises, a second to cast Ferula over the most damaged part of JJ's knees, the third to monitor his brain, and uses his own wand to draw the curtains around them so no wandering eyes glances over.
Hour by hour, he pieces together JJ's patella and femur, holding it in place with magic until Skele-Gro can heal the rest. JJ wakes up several times during the procedure, eyes hazy and rolling back when Phichit feeds him more potion to keep him under. Yuuri manually squeezes the bag containing the Blood Replenishing Potion, watching the red liquid enter JJ's bloodstream through a needle taped to his elbow. The spleen gets repaired, first by Seung-gil making a cut, then feeding Dittany to the ruptured spleen. He connects the arteries and veins coming to and from the organ, sweeps through the bloodstream to make sure no bacteria magical or non-magical got in before sealing the opening with more Dittany.
Phichit sits next to him, exhausted, watching JJ breathe calmly in his bubble. Seung-gil casts wary glances at the shield, testing it every now and then with his palm even though the charm is marked with his magic signature.
"You did some incredible magic with him," Phichit whispers, watching a small vial of potion containing a mother-of-sheen shine give off spiraling fumes next to JJ. Though the use of Amortentia has become stricter ever since Granger started climbing the ladder, it was approved in hospitals to relax patients, as long as there was a small ward around the actual potion vial. "You must be tired. I talked with the director and he's giving you a day off tomorrow."
"Thanks," Seung-gil murmurs, rubbing his hand over his face. His green Healer gown is on the back of the chair he's sitting on, and he leans back, black t-shirt rumpled. "I've gotten away with worse."
"Still impressive," Phichit says quietly, adjusting the temperature inside the Shield Charm with a flick of his wand. JJ stirs a little, shifting his leg before becoming still again. "Are you thinking of how much you have to wipe?"
Seung-gil stares at the space between JJ's eyebrows, "Yes."
Moonlight finally peeks through the curtains, casting the room in a white glow. Seung-gil stands up, knowing that it's useless to stand around a patient whose body has suffered so much damage and needed time to recover. He heads for the door, not intending to go far at all, but to stand guard outside the private room.
Otabek is waiting outside, hair wet, the water droplets running down his coat already making a small puddle on the pristine floors. Seung-gil vanishes that wordlessly and wandlessly, sinking into the chair posted outside the door.
Otabek hands him a bowl of good, hearty chili with a thick slab of whole wheat toasted in butter. Seung-gil eats half of it in one ravenous gulp before Otabek begins.
"Of course," Seung-gil casts his eyes downward, "Of course."
"...The guards will be back soon. You can head home and shower and sleep. We can talk later."
"Appreciate it," Seung-gil's mind has caught up to his body, answer becoming severely limited and halted. Otabek, for now, stands guard outside the hospital room, the Head of the Auror Department standing with his feet shoulder width apart, eyes always sharp. He just hopes that Otabek edits the memory quickly.
Seung-gil Apparates home, takes off his shoes, and falls asleep before his body hits the couch.
Seung-gil convinces the head of orthopedic surgery to adjust JJ's schedule with a lie that he's going on an impromptu vacation to Canada to visit his childhood friend's newborn that they've made his godson. He acts boisterous as the real JJ would under the guise of Polyjuice Potion, and waits in the public bathroom for his face to stop morphing before walking home in the sunshine.
The house is empty when he returns. The lid to JJ's old fashioned record player is open, and Seung-gil presses a button to spin the disk, and places down the needle, a burst of jazz filling the suite. He halfheartedly hums to himself the melody line, making too much lunch for one person, and doing the same with dinner.
"So you've been hiding here."
Chris is hovering at the doorway of JJ's room, doing rounds as Seung-gil sits on the chair next to the bed. His Shield Charm still encases JJ, though several people with the specific wand signature can pass to administer potions.
"It's not hiding if there's no one I'm avoiding."
"Fair enough," Chris takes note of JJ's heart rate, lung sound, and consciousness level by rolling a pen on the area where his thumb nail meets his nail bed. JJ twitches. He smiles down as he completes the patient report and walks out, closing the door behind him.
Seung-gil goes back to what he was doing minutes before Chris interrupted, settling down in the squishiest seat in the hospital to take a deserved nap. He's a few breathes from falling asleep when the door opens once more, Otabek standing at the doorway, solemn.
"Don't just stand there," Seung-gil says wryly, tired. He waves his wand to conjure another chair next to him, "Sit."
The DMLE badge is clipped onto Otabek's front. He's on duty then.
"How have you been?" His friend asks cautiously.
Just for good measure, Seung-gil throws up a mental block, though he trusts Otabek to not be scrambling around his thoughts without warning. "Busy, but I'm always busy. Why?"
"Don't walk outside. Apparate everywhere you go," There's a tick on Otabek's jaw, "Skeeter is after you, hoping that you'd give your side of the story."
Seung-gil flatly stares at him in his deep red Auror robes, sitting with his back ram rod straight, "There's no story," He says slowly, "JJ was targeted and hit, and would have died from blood loss if his ruptured spleen wasn't taken care of quickly, not to mention the amount of blood filling his mouth that would leak into his lungs if I didn't remove it in time. What story is she digging up?"
"They're saying I should have left him there," Otabek gestures to JJ's sleeping form with his chin, mouth in a thin line. "I should have left him to die, are what the anti-Muggle fanatics would have wanted me to do."
"St. Mungo's has never had a patient like him before. They've patched some Muggles in emergency situations, but well, you wouldn't want to hear the rest of my tirade anyway. I just wanted to make sure you're doing alright."
"I'm fine," JJ shifts in his magic-induced sleep, Seung-gil can see movement beneath his eyelids. "And I can handle myself fine with Skeeter. I think I have the faster reflex to give her a Tongue-Tie Jinx should she start following me around."
Otabek nods, updates Seung-gil on what he can tell him about the case that's won't cost him his position. The suspect is an unregistered Squib who took Kwikspell, hence why the DMLE kept allowing loose ends to be left alone, as they though the first incident of the Muggle driving the truck was completely unrelated.
"Eat," Otabek reminds him before leaving, the sun having moved from the wall to JJ's blankets, as if Seung-gil hasn't fended for him meals ever since he left Mahou and his family. He leaves Seung-gil with two squished packages of pumpkin pasties.
He opens one package and casts a Heating Charm over the food, knowing that the insides will be better when it's warm and oozing. He picks up a random Prophet Phichit must have left several days ago, and starts skimming the entertainment section. His favorite Quidditch team won another game, and MACUSA is holding a play about the history of Ilvermorny tomorrow night, with a list of Portkey schedules covering several paragraphs. He turns the page, tapping another package of pastry to be heated, casually looking away from an advertisement for Gillywater to see JJ watching him.
He stares back. Blinks. JJ copies him, rasping out, "Seung-gil?"
"How are you feeling?" He hastily puts the newspaper down, checking to make sure that the Metamorphosis Charm in the room still looks like the patient room from JJ's hospital and not the usual St. Mungo decor. He steps through the shield and pulls out a penlight, JJ leaning back against his pillows to follow his finger without being prompted.
"Good. Really...heavy. I got hit, didn't I?"
Seung-gil goes to a corner of the room to conjure a water jug and several glasses, pouring some into the glass and bringing it back to JJ. Otabek never told him how much he edited JJ's memory, nor the contents of the false memory he'd planted, so Seung-gil will do what he does best when he hasn't prepared anything.
Go along with it.
"You did, but you're fine now. The surgery was successful."
JJ finishes drinking the water, propped up slightly to survey the room. There's a brief flicker of shock, then a wry smile spreads.
"Not going to hide the Prophet from me?"
"You're not wearing your usual scrubs, the dark blue ones you always wear," JJ points out languidly, resting back against his pillows. While his face looks like he's been away from a decent sink and razor, stubble along his jawline, his eyes are sharp. Too sharp. "And I saw you reheating that hand pie with your wand. Also, green robes? I didn't think you would look good in it, but well, if the shoe fits."
He doesn't speak. His mind is whirling to every word Otabek had exchanged with him since the surgery. They never directly said that either of them altered JJ's memories. But it'll be fine. Seung-gil can do it. He has to do it.
"You shouldn't do that," JJ sighs. Seung-gil is already out of the bubble, wand in his hand. "It'll come back to me anyway, my brother and sister went to Ilvermorny. Every time they come home they're bewitching the furniture to chase me around, floating our family pet, and cutting corners in chores with their wands."
He lowers the wand, "You knew all this time?"
"I probably knew the moment you Apparated to push me away from the truck, but I can't remember," JJ confesses.
"You're not a wizard. I don't detect a magical signature around you, and you weren't carrying a wand or anything in your pockets, not even miniature items."
"I'm just a Muggle practicing medicine," JJ leans back against the pillow. Looking very mortal and studying the way Seung-gil is standing still, "I'm nothing special, I can't do the brilliant things you can."
Seung-gil doesn't know whether to feel appalled and irritated that JJ had made him dance around so much for the past eight months, or how relieved that he doesn't have to alter his memories because JJ will always remember that magic exists. He chooses to fall, the chair he was sitting on racing forward so he doesn't land on the floor.
He starts laughing, "I hate you."
JJ grimaces, sitting up from the bed and padding forward. Seung-gil feels pressure from the Shield Charm, and removes it wordlessly until JJ's bare legs are right in front of him, his torso and chest covered in a light blue gown all patients wear. "I have something to ask."
"Ask away," Seung-gil shrugs, still smiling and shaking his head to himself. It's the best solution for both of them.
"Can you...undo the Memory Charm? You know, the one where I hit my head on the pavement?"
"Right," He rises to his feet, watching the sunshine from the windows hit the back of JJ's head, haloing him. "Stay still."
JJ closes his eyes and tilt his head down slightly, letting Seung-gil enter his mind.
Immediately, memories rush by as if Seung-gil jumped into a Pensive. Flashes of it block him to his goal, JJ's thoughts and dreams and stills attacking his face like bubbles.
JJ, a pimply teen, arms around a girl. His brothers and sister wearing wizarding robes, laughing, making their family dog float in the air. JJ toodling after his father on a tricycle; staring jealously around a wizarding village as his little siblings run forward to a large building with wands in the display case; JJ graduating, degree in hand; JJ in scrubs, younger, exhausted, weedier; panicking at a single strand of grey hair to his mother over the holidays; laughing at something Seung-gil said; JJ holding a Weasley Wheezes product that he sticks onto the door of Seung-gil's door, not at all convinced that his brother is serious about how he can do fake magic now; JJ, adverting his eyes when Seung-gil Accio'd his coffee mug to his hands; staring at Seung-gil across the bar wistfully; receiving a call from his brother overseas about Granger's succession; JJ, pretending to ignore the Auror that had slipped in into his operating room; laughing at something witty Seung-gil had said; watching hopelessly at the truck advancing towards him before he feels pain.
Seung-gil clutches the falsified memory with desperate fingers, trying not to intrude too much with JJ's privacy and mind, destroys it, and undoes the actual memory, allowing it to resurface.
All the while, he feels a pair of lips press against his, warm. A pair of hands snakes timidly around his waist, and he comes back to the hospital room, overwhelmed by the peek of JJ's thoughts he accidentally saw.
JJ starts pulling back, shoulders slouching inwards, mistaking his frozen attitude for rejection, "I'm s—"
Seung-gil shuts him up, kissing JJ back as he feels the first rays of the spring sun on his bare arms.
"I wanted to ask," JJ says, pulling away hurriedly. He catches the hurt in Seung-gil's face, "Oh no, no no the kiss was awesome, but I'm paranoid that the thing I've been wanting to ask you will somehow get pushed further since I'm apparently a truck magnet—"
"I want to ask if you want to move in with me again next year?" JJ whispers, blue-grey eyes sucking Seung-gil in. He wonders when he started to see JJ in this light.
Seung-gil lowers his eyelids, grinning, "Of course. And I'll even do majority of the chores."