Ren's invisibility cloak wraps around him like a lovers embrace. He's more confident now that he can slink into the shadows, free of the sideways glances from classmates that usually punctuate his strolls through Hogwarts's ancient halls.
Morgana is at his feet. He's the only sign that Ren is going out and not dutifully studying in the Slytherin common room like he's supposed to be, and even then only to the small handful of people that know about Ren's cloak in the first place.
Luckily, Sojiro's running detention, so Ren has more than enough time to make it back before his head of house can even know he's gone.
Still though, Ren trails a good 10 to 15 yards behind the rest of the 6th years going to Hogsmeade, just to be safe. The last thing he needs is someone like Akechi catching wind of the fact that Ren is technically breaking his probation by leaving school grounds outside of holidays.
It's honestly a miracle that Ren didn't have his wand snapped, much less was allowed to return to Hogwarts in the first place. After that incident....
Ren's so lost in his thoughts he nearly trips over Morgana.
"Careful!" Morgana hisses. "Do you want to get exposed?"
Morgana is an... interesting figure. A cat that used to wander the Hogwarts grounds who Ryuji once hit with a stray spell in their 3rd year. From then on, he'd been able to talk. Initially, they'd assumed that that was all the spell did, but Morgana kept insisting that he was actually a wizard who'd been trapped in the body of a cat. He was admitably capable of moving around small objects, but Makoto hadn't had any luck researching what the initial spell that turned him into a cat could have been, or a way to turn him back. Meanwhile the professors had been quick to dismiss Morgana's claims, insisting that whatever Ryuji had accidentally hit him with had just confused the poor thing.
They manage to reach Hogsmeade behind the others without incident, Ren making a beeline for the town square, where he, Ann, and Ryuji had all agreed to meet.
There's a thin layer of late-November snow on the ground as Ren approaches his friends. Ren taps Ryuji on the shoulder and stifles a laugh as the blond nearly shrieks and almost falls over.
"Dude, not cool." Ryuji says.
"Not so loud!" Morgana whispers "Do you want to him to be found out?"
"Sorry, man," Ryuji sighs, "but hey, at least you made it out! What do you want to do?"
"Obviously we should hit up Honeydukes before we go." Ann says. "Then we could get some lunch."
Ren shrugs, forgetting that no one can see him. "Sure, I'm down for anything."
They have a good time exploring the village, and finally settle into a corner table at the back of the Hogs Head Inn that can't be seen from any windows and from where they'll be able to see anyone coming in before they themselves are spotted.
Ren slips off the invisibility cloak and feels more relaxed than he has all year as the four of them slide into their usual easy banter. It's the first time since he had to stand trial that Ren's been able to just enjoy himself without the stares and whispers that follow him wherever he goes at school.
Eventually, Ann and Ryuji are called back by Kawakami to return to school, and Ren stays behind to pick up the bill.
The bartender's gone to the back, so the only ones in the pub are Ren and Morgana as they wait to pay.
Suddenly, a man apparates into the room and crashes into a table.
Ren rushes over to him. He's got a bowlcut and glasses and looks supremely shaken.
"Sir, are you okay?" Ren asks.
"I-I need to get to Hogwarts," the man mutters. "Where-"
"Sir, you've apparatrd to Hogsmeade. I need you to wait right there, I'll go get help."
"Ren, he's bleeding!" Morgana shouts.
Ren looks down to see that, indeed, a line of blood is starting to form along the man's robes.
"Morgana, get Ann, or Ryuji, or Kawakami or someone. I'm going to grab the bartender."
Morgana nods and darts off but before Ren can go into the kitchen, bowlcut grabs his arm.
"I don't have much time," he gasps, "but that man, Madarame-"
"You'll be fine sir, just-"
"There's someone else. Promise me you'll help them."
"I don't know who you're talking about, but I'll help both of you-"
"Ren! Get your cloak on!" Morgana rushes in, and Ren can see others coming behind him. Ren rips his arm back and throws his cloak on.
He's just in time too, as Kawakami comes in followed closely by Akechi, Ann, and Ryuji.
"Goodness!" Kawakami gasps. "Akechi, keep the other students outside." She immediately kneels next to the man and starts muttering spells under her breath. The pained look on his face eases a bit and Ren lets out a breath he didn't realize he was holding.
There's a lot of clamor after that as Kawakami sends the other students back to the school and Ministry Aurors arrive. Ren can't leave even if he wanted to through the throng of people. There's too great a risk that he'll bump into someone and he'll be discovered.
He overhears the name "Nakanohara" "St. Mungo's" so Ren can only hope the man is alive and being treated for his wounds.
It's just barely twilight when Ren makes it back to the castle. He races to the dungeons and into the Slytherin common room.
He almost runs smack dab into himself.
Ren watches his own face widen with shock, then look around frantically. "Ok, we're in the clear. Glad your back. When Takamaki and Sakamoto told me you were held up at Hogsmeade, I was worried you'd end up suspended."
"Wait," Ren takes a second to process what was going on. "Mishima?"
"Yep! Takamaki told me you'd be held up and said to use your stash of Polyjuice potion to take your place when you checked in with Professor Sakura."
Ren sighs. "Oh wow, I'd completely forgotten about that. Thanks, you probably saved my hide."
"No problem! But is everything alright?"
Ren hesitates. "I'll... let you know later."
Mishima frowns but doesn't press any further.
Ren doesn't get any rest that night, the day's events swirling around in his mind. The few moments he does manage to fall asleep keep getting interrupted by nightmares.
He almost saw someone die today.
He almost saw someone die today. Hell, for all he knows Nakanohara-- assuming that was in fact his name-- might have died at the hospital.
And the thought that those injuries might be blamed on Ren himself doesn't help him sleep either. If the Ministry somehow found out that Ren was the only one at that pub when he appeared, will they believe if him if he explains that Nakanohara's injuries appeared out of nowhere? That Ren was only trying to help?
Of course they won't, they wouldn't take his word for it when the only things on his record were glowing teacher reviews, near-perfect grades, and a successful teacher review.
Now that he's a "problem child" with a record, Ren doesn't stand a chance.
Eventually, morning comes, and Ren drags himself out of bed. He sits between Ann and Mishima, picking at his food.
Ren catches Makoto giving him concerned looks from the Gryffindor table and Ryuji whispering to Haru amongst the Hufflepuffs.
Futaba is the first one to address him directly when she takes her seat at the Slytherin table.
"Wow, you look like shit."
"Didn't sleep well." Ren mutters.
"Well don't fall asleep during Sojiro's class, he'll have your head."
"I'll try to avoid it."
Mishima coughs. "S-so, have you guys seen the Daily Prophet? Apparently, a man was assaulted at Hogsmeade."
Ren all but rips the paper out of Mishima's hands to scan the article.
Ministry official Natsuhiko Nakanohara was found in Hogsmeade yesterday with several wounds that would have been fatal if not for the timely intervention of visiting Hogwarts staff.
Nakanohara is currently being held at St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries and has not woken up yet. Aurors have provided no information as to possible motive behind this attack.
Nakanohara is employed in the Department of -
Ren scans through the article, but there's no mention of a black-haired Hogwarts student, or even anyone else at the scene. His heartbeat slows down once he reaches the bottom of the piece. Of course, not mentioning any suspects to the public might be an Auror strategy, so he isn't quite out of the woods, but he might be safe for now.
"C-can I have that back now?" Mishima asks.
"Oh, yeah sure. Sorry." Ren turns to Futaba and Ann. "Grab Ryuji, we need to meet in private." Futaba eyes them suspiciously, and Ann nods.
Ren finds Morgana, and they all meet in the library.
"Ok, what happened?" Ann whispers.
"Ryuji, can I see your copy of the Daily Prophet?" Ren asks.
He opens it up to Nakanohara's article. "While we were at the Hogs Head Inn, this guy apparated in saying he had to get to Hogwarts."
"But you can't aparate onto Hogwarts grounds, so why didn't he just use floo powder?" Ann asks.
"Don't know. He seemed pretty shaken though."
"He started bleeding out of nowhere." Morgana says. "One second nothing, the next a giant gash across his chest."
"He also mentioned someone named Madarame." Ren adds.
Ann perks up at the name but
"Well, there's a Madarame who's a famous artist." Ann says. "His works are on display all over the world."
"Really? Like a Muggle artist? Why’s a wizard upset about that then?” Ryuji asks.
“Maybe he does magic and non-magic art?” Ann suggests.
“Oh, I know just who we can ask!” Ryuji says, “The art weirdo!”
“You seriously don’t know him? Tall guy, Ravenclaw, our year. He’s always hanging around, so I’m surprised you haven’t seen him. Apparently, he’s like, totally into art or some shit.”
Ann nods. “Oh yeah! I know who you’re talking about. What’s his name again?”
“Uhhhh- friggin’ something? It’s on the tip of my tongue. Maybe we could ask some of the paintings?" Ryuji says. "It’s like his thing, he’ll chat with the paintings for hours."
“Let’s go look for this guy.” Morgana says.
They ask around, but in the end It's a painting of Ishikawa Goemon that finally gives them the answer they’re looking for.
"You’re looking for Yusuke Kitagawa." Goemon explains.
"Great, thank you! Do you know where I can find him?" Ren asks.
"He's probably in the Astronomy Tower right now."
The gang races off. In the Astronomy Tower, a slender young man in blue-accented robes is muttering to himself under his breath.
There's a canvas set up and art supplies scattered semi-haphazardly on a table next to it. Ren watches the guy-- who must be Yusuke-- pace the room, clearly unsatisfied with something. He's so lost in his thoughts that he somehow manages to trip over his own robes.
Ren moves forward and manages to catch Yusuke.
"Oh. Hello." Yusuke gasps. "T-thank you for- what brings you here?"
"I was looking for you, actually. Goemon said you'd be here. You're Yusuke Kitagawa, right?"
Yusuke nods. "And you're Ren Amamiya."
Ren frowns. "I see my reputation precedes me."
"Yes. I MEAN NO. I mean-" Yusuke stands up and clears his throat. "I'm not much for gossip. I mean just look at the stuff they say about me. If you just listen to the other Ravenclaws, I'm just a weirdo who only gets along with paintings." Yusuke laughs.
Yusuke rubs his neck. "So, why are you looking for me?"
“I want you to settle something for us.” Ren gestures to Ann and Ryuji. “My friends here are having a disagreement as to whether or not someone is a muggle artist or a Wizard one, and the paintings said you could answer that question for us.”
Yusuke frowns. “Goemon sent you here, didn’t he?”
“Um yeah? Is that a problem?”
“No, it’s just he sent you out of your way. A question he could have answered himself,” Yusuke explains, “because he loves watching me make a fool of myself,” he adds under his breath.
“What was that?”
“Nothing! Anyway, your question. Who are you asking about?”
“Ichirayuai Madarame.” Ann says.
“Oh.” Yusuke shrugs, “Well he’s famous for his art in both wizard and muggle worlds.”
“Really?” Ryuji asks. “Why though? Muggle paintings don’t move or anything cool, they just hang there. It’s boring. Why bother doing any of that?”
Yusuke glares at him. “Of course, someone like you wouldn’t understand.” Yusuke casts a spell and a book floats out of his bag. “A truly great artist can evoke a strong reaction regardless of whether the painting moves or not. See.”
Yusuke opens his book and shows them a portrait of a young woman. Her expression is unreadable but looking at it sends a shock down Ren’s spine.
“Woah.” Ren gasps.
Yusuke smirks. “See? That’s the Sayuri. It’s the piece that brought Sensei fame in both the muggle and wizarding worlds.”
“Sensei?” Ren asks.
“Oh? Didn’t I mention? I’m a pupil studying under Madarame. I live with him when I’m not here.”
“Cool,” Ryuji says. “Hey, do you know a guy named Nakanohara?”
“…yes,” Yusuke says after a moment, “why?”
“He was in the news this morning, apparently he got attacked.”
“What?” With a word, Yusuke’s art supplies begin to pack themselves up. “I-I’m sorry, I have to go.” He glances at Ren. “I guess, if you want to talk later, we could,” he mutters.
“Thanks, I’ll probably take you up on that.” Ren says with a wink.
Yusuke turns away and runs out of the tower.
Ann sighs theatrically. “Another victim of the Amamiya curse.”
“He’s clearly got a crush on you. Your devilish charm and rugged good looks have claimed another young soul.”
Ren rolls his eyes. “Are you kidding?”
“No, he’s definitely got the hots for you.” Ryuji agrees. “Bet he’s been watching you during class and trying to work up the courage to talk to you.”
“Maybe it’s something you can use to your advantage.” Morgana says. “He clearly knows something. Maybe that ol’ Amamiya charm will get him to spill.”
Ren shrugs. “Alright.”
“Hey now. You can’t go around deliberately playing with someone’s feelings like that.” Ann says.
“It’s not gonna get too serious, I’m just going to be mildly flirtatious and ask if we can have coffee in the library.”
“Ren the heartbreaker, jumping at the chance to spend time with another pretty boy.” Ryuji chuckles. “It sounds like a plan. Not like we even know where to begin investigating.”
“I guess in the meantime, we should head to the library and see if we can’t find anything about wounds that appear out of nowhere.” Ann says.
Ren is all set to talk to Yusuke, but when he scans the Great Hall for him during lunch, the Ravenclaw is nowhere to be seen. It’s the same at dinner too.
The weekend goes by without Ren seeing Yusuke, so eventually, he just takes a plate full of pastries and fruit from breakfast and asks Goemon where Yusuke might be.
Following the painted thief’s instructions, Ren finds Yusuke pulling a canvas out of supply closet on the seventh floor across from the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy.
“Need some help?” Ren asks.
Yusuke yelps and nearly drops his canvas. “No, I’m fine,” Yusuke says after catching his breath, “what brings you here?”
“I noticed you weren’t at breakfast.” Ren explains, “so I brought you some food.”
Yusuke reaches for an apple from the plate. “Oh, thank you. I hadn’t even realized I’d been working so long.”
“On my piece. As one of Madarame’s pupils, I’m expected to provide artwork for his inspection. Between classes and homework, night and meal times are the best time to work.”
“I didn’t see you at lunch and dinner though.” Ren says. “When was the last time you ate?”
“Is that any of your business?”
“I guess not,” Ren says as he looks Yusuke over wearily. He’s very skinny, in a way Ren doesn’t like. “Anyway, can I see your piece?”
“No.” Yusuke says. “I’m sorry, but I’m not comfortable showing this to anyone except Sensei.”
“That’s alright. So, do you have any times when you are free?”
“I’m sorry, but I’m very behind on my submissions for Sensei. Anytime I’m not in class or finishing classwork, I have to be working on my art.”
“Oh, that’s too bad,” Ren watches Yusuke to gauge his reactions, “because I was going to say, maybe we could hang out, just the two of us some time. Coffee in the library, or something like that.”
Yusuke stiffens, and his gaze flicks down to the painting in his arm, and then back to Ren.
“I’d love coffee with you.” Yusuke says finally. “I might not make it through. Why don’t you tell me what time you were thinking of, and I’ll see if I can be there. Don’t wait up for me though.”
“How about immediately after classes finish.” Ren says. “That means you won’t have to leave in the middle of a painting session.”
“It’s just, I really wanted to get to know you better after the other day. But if you can’t come, it’s fi- “
“I’ll be there.” Yusuke blurts out. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“Really?” Ren gasps. “Alright then, see you later!” Ren promptly leaves before Yusuke can have a chance to rethink.
Later, Ren brings two cups of his best coffee to the library, where he finds Yusuke already there and drumming nervously on his sketchbook.
“Hey! Thanks for coming.” Ren says, offering one of the coffees to him.
“Thank you for inviting me.” Yusuke takes a sip. “This is quite good!”
“Thanks! Soji-- I mean-- Professor Sakura taught me how.”
“I’ll have to give him regards the next time I see him then.”
“Big coffee person?”
“Flavor is an art of its own, and I’m determined to master my understanding of all forms of art.” Yusuke says.
“Well then, glad I could impress”
“I’d expect no less form you. You’re quite exceptional.”
“Slow down with the praise buddy, it’s just coffee.”
“Ah, my apologies. I’m just of the belief that talent should be recognized when it’s found.”
“Speakin' of talent, I imagine you have to be quite the artist to have been taken in as a pupil by Madarame? What do your parents think?”
Yusuke shrugs. “They both died when I was young.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
Yusuke says nothing and just takes a sip of coffee.
Ren clears his throat. “So, are there any other pupils studying with Madarame here at Hogwarts?”
“No. I’m the only one left.”
“They’ve all gone off to start their own careers?”
“No, they had to drop out because Sensei’s requirements are quite rigorous. Just as not many have what it takes to become a truly great artist, very few can withstand Sensei’s teaching methods.” Yusuke explains.
“Is that so?” Ren asks. “And what methods would these be?”
Yusuke freezes for a split second, then smirks. “What kind of student would I be if I went around divulging all my teacher’s secrets?” He says coyly before taking another sip of coffee.
“Can’t blame me for being curious, right?”
“I suppose not.” Yusuke puts his cup down and stands up. “Thank you for the chat Ren, it was lovely but if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do.”
“You only just got here.” Ren points out.
“Another time then.”
After that, Ren continues attempting to strike up conversation with Yusuke. He usually opens with food and is quick to memorize Yusuke’s preferences.
Bringing up Madarame will always inevitably lead to Yusuke announcing he has work to do and running off, so Ren tries to ease them into it with other topics.
They fall into a routine of sorts. Ren finds Yusuke and gives him food, which leads to Yusuke taking the time to eat with him and converse.
This goes on for a few weeks, before Morgana asks the million-galleon question:
“If you’re not getting any info out of him, why do you keep hanging out with Yusuke?”
“He won’t talk about Madarame and Nakanohara, right? And there’s no one else we can ask. So why go through all the trouble of bringing him food and chatting him up?”
“Well, he doesn’t eat otherwise.” Ren says.
“You’re so whipped.”
Morgana pouts. “You know, while you were off flirting, Ryuji, Ann, and I found something about Madarame. It’s from an old tabloid section of the Daily Prophet, so I don’t know how accurate it is, but it claims that Madarame’s been plagiarizing work and abusing students.”
“Are you sure?” Ren asks.
Ryuji nods. “Yeah. I mean, that’s not a source most people would call respectable, but in a situation like that,” Ryuji glances at Ann, “not sure the victims would have many places to turn.”
Ann nods. “No luck on figuring out what happened on the magical front either. There are various spells and curses that could let you attack a person from afar, but-- not surprisingly—the library doesn’t have any books that go into any real detail about how they work, so we can’t narrow it down. Technically, we can’t even rule out that someone just had an invisibility cloak, waited for Nakanohara to appear, and attacked him then. No fancy magic or anything.”
“I think we can rule out anyone else being at the scene, even invisibly.” Morgana says, “if what we found about Madarame is true, surely he’d take the opportunity to frame Ren for the crime.”
“The only thing that might sort of be a clue is a guy named Basil Hallward.” Ryuji adds. “He came up in both our research but nothing that explained what his deal was. Like, one of the books about artists I was reading kept using him as reference point. There were sentences like ‘such in such is as infamous as Basil Hallward,’ or ‘who-gives-a-crap was a contemporary of Basil Hallward.’ All we know is that name also showed up when Ann was researching spells and curses- “
“-but again, nothing that really let us know what his deal was.” Ann finishes.
“Still, it’s the closest we’ve gotten to a clue this entire time.” Morgana says.
“If the author of that book expects the reader to know who Basil is already, I bet an artist might be able to fill in the blanks.” Ren says.
“Please just admit you like him.”
Ren rolls his eyes. “I’m going to grab some food from the kitchen.”
Armed with Yusuke’s favorite sandwich, Ren finds Yusuke asleep in front of a canvas. Ren takes a sharp breath when he sees the painting. Swirls of color dance across the canvas, mixing together in an almost sorrowful-waltz.
Ren almost reaches out to touch it before remembering himself. He nudges Yusuke awake.
He groans a bit as he wakes up. Yusuke’s gaze drifts from Ren, to the food, to the painting, which causes him to snap up and cover it with a tarp.
“My sincerest apologies, I didn’t mean to fall asleep.” Yusuke says.
“No worries. That piece is… amazing by the way.”
Yusuke bites his lip. “Thank you. And thank you for the food.” Yusuke sits back down and starts eating.
“I gotta admit, this visit comes with an ulterior motive.” Ren says as he pulls up a chair next to him.
“Let’s see If I can be of assistance then.”
“Ryuji’s researching artists and kept coming across the name ‘Basil Hallward.’ You familiar with him?”
Yusuke takes his time chewing before giving an answer. “He was a Victorian Era painter. A muggle named Dorian Grey was his muse, one he had strong feelings for, it seems. Hallward created a painting of Grey, and as long as the picture existed, all of Grey’s vices would transfer on to it. Grey didn’t age and could partake in all manner of debauchery without anything happening to him.”
“And if something happened to the picture?”
“Grey stabbed the painting and was discovered with a stab wound in his heart.”
“That’s some seriously powerful magic.”
Yusuke stares at Ren solemnly. “No one’s sure how he did it, possibly not even Basil himself. But dangerous people have tried to recreate Basil’s work. Hence why information on him and what exactly he did is so sparse.”
“How do you know all this, then?”
“Sensei has some old books in his library from before it was decided that the mystery of Basil Halward’s feat was one better left unsolved.” Yusuke explains.
“Do you think Ryuji could borrow them?” Ren asks.
“Absolutely not. Sensei’s very protective of his collection. I’ve never been allowed to touch those books, I highly doubted he’d loan them to a complete stranger. Besides, that’s not a story that should be getting out anyway. I’m not sure what Ryuji’s supposed to be researching, but he’s better off choosing a different topic.”
Ren nods. “Alright, fair enough. So, since that piece of yours is finished, want to go to the Quidditch match with me this weekend?”
Yusuke looks over at the covered painting wearily. “I’m not sure, I’m not really finished.”
“What? It looks pretty done to me.”
“Not this specific piece, I have to get working on the next one. I meant to get this stuff done over the summer, but I’ve been afflicted with terrible art block recently, and I couldn’t get anything done, that’s why I’ve been in such a rush to finish.” Yusuke explains.
“Come on. Surely it couldn’t hurt to take a day off before shifting to another piece. Let your brain reset, look for some more inspiration.”
Yusuke offers the tiniest of smiles. “I’d really like that, actually. I have to warn you though: I know absolutely nothing about Quidditch.”
Ren grins. “That’s fine! I love giving play by plays. See you then!”
At the game, Ren and Yusuke sit up front.
“So, in Quidditch, each team has seven players. A keeper who guards the goal posts, three chasers who try and us the Quaffle – that’s the big ball that doesn’t fly – two eaters who try to keep the Bludgers – those two balls that do fly around-- from hitting their team and use bats to hit them towards the other team, and finally the seeker, whose job is to catch the Golden Snitch.” Ren explains. “You following so far?”
“Alright, so we can’t see the Golden Snitch right now, but it’s the small golden ball that automatically ends the game and nets 150 points for the team that catches it. All the seekers do is look for the snitch. The other players score by throwing the Quaffle through the goal posts at either end.”
“Can you score with a Bludger?”
“No, those just try to assault the players.”
“Ok. Who are we routing for?”
Ren shrugs. “Doesn’t matter. I have friends on both teams.”
“So, the only way the game ends is if someone catches the Snitch?”
“In regulation play, yeah, or by the captains reaching an agreement. In school leagues though the game ends automatically if one team has a 160-point lead to keep it from going on too long.”
They turn their attention to the game. The Hufflepuff team manages to score twice very quickly, but then the Gryffindor keeper manages to get the Quaffle over to Shiho.
She’s a speed demon, zipping back and forth and scoring before the Hufflepuff team can even blink.
Another Gryffindor gets the ball and is about to throw it to her, but Ryuji bats a Bludger at him, causing him to drop the Quaffle and letting the one of the opposing chasers to catch it.
The game comes to a gridlock as the Quaffle gets passed around but neither team can score. Just as it seems like someone might make the goal the other team pulls off an astounding play and possession of the ball changes again.
“You’re not about to jump out of the stands and join them, right?” Yusuke quips.
Ren blinks and realizes he’s practically leaning over the side of the stand trying to get a better look at the game. “Oh, sorry,” he says as he sits back.
“No, it’s fine. I like seeing you like that. Ever thought about playing?”
Ren’s shoulders fall. “I was gonna be the captain of the Slytherin team this year before the probation.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“No, it’s fine. I know your story, it’s only fair you should know mine.” He doubts anyone can hear them over the cheering crowd, but Ren leans in closer to Yusuke anyway. “I saw a wizard accosting a muggle woman while drunk. He tripped and fell, then accused me of using underage to do it. I got put on probation.”
“What, they didn’t even use veritaserum for your trial? They’d know you were telling the truth.”
“No, that guy… he had ties with a lot of people in the Ministry.”
“I know it’s hard to believe but- “
Yusuke cuts him off. “I didn’t say I don’t believe you.”
Ren stares at him. “Seriously?”
“Of course, I watch you a lot, you’re not the type of person to go assaulting people or would insist on your innocence this long after the trial.”
Ren leans back. “You watch me a lot?”
“I’m not following you, it’s just we both happen to be in the library or the Great Hall and you’re really hard to ignore.” Yusuke explains.
Ren snorts “Most people would say the opposite.”
“Well, I’m not most people.”
Ren’s about to respond when a ball whips past them. “Woo! Go Shiho!”
Yusuke takes the opportunity to move in closer to Ren as they watch the rest of game.
For their next lesson, instead of waiting for Ren in their usual meeting spot, Yusuke is in the courtyard with two broomsticks under his arm.
"Are you using those to paint?" Ren asks.
Yusuke smirks and tosses a broom to Ren. "No, you're going to teach me something. Show me how to fly a broom."
Ren looks between the broom and Yusuke before grinning “Alright.” Ren says. “First, you want to hold your broom like this.”
Ren helps Yusuke hover in the air a little, then teaches him how to steer carefully.
The wind whips through Ren’s hair and he laughs as he loops through the air. Yusuke is behind him following jerkily on his broom.
“Need help?” Ren calls.
“N-no! I’m fine. You keep having fun!”
“I don’t mind stopping-”
Yusuke shakes his head. “I-I must admit I was less interested in learning how to fly than watching you fly. You look like you’re in your element.”
Ren blushes. “Well, yeah. Flying is just kind of freeing. I feel like I can really think up here.”
Yusuke gives a fond smile. “It’s a lovely view.”
“You’re not even looking at the ground though!” Ren laughs. “C’mon, if you want a really cool angle of the castle-”
“That’s not what I meant. I meant you. You look so happy.”
Ren’s heart skips a beat. How has Yusuke managed to capture his heart like this over the course of just over a month? Part of Ren wonders if it’s some kind of spell, and the other part of him thinks if it is, he doesn’t want it broken.
Yusuke takes a deep breath. “Ren there’s something I’ve wanted to tell you for a while now. I lo-”
Suddenly, Yusuke winces in pain and clutches his head.
Then, Yusuke passes out.
He falls off his broom and starts plummeting to the ground.
Ren doesn’t waste a second, zooming forward to catch him.
There’s an irrational part of Ren screaming that he won’t catch him in time and Yusuke will die, but even having been banned from playing, Ren’s still a star Quidditch player, so he catches up to the falling wizard in no time.
Ren catches Yusuke and slowly guides them both down to the ground. Yusuke slowly blinks his eyes open.
“You passed out.” Ren says.
Yusuke frowns. “My apologies, I, um, forgot breakfast?”
“You can work on art without skipping breakfast.” Ren says flatly.
“So you’ve said.”
Ren sighs. “So, what were you saying?”
“What was I-” Yusuke’s eyes widen and his guys quickly dart to the ground. “I w-was saying, I lo- fancy you. I’d like to take you on a date some time.”
Ren’s breath catches in his throat. “I’d like that too,” he says softly.
Yusuke turns to face him again. “Really? That’s great I’d-” Yusuke winces again.
“My apologies, I’ll have to talk to you later,” Yusuke mutters as hurries back inside.
Thoughts swirl in his mind as Ren watches Yusuke go. He’s in love with someone.
Someone who could very well meet the same fate as Nakanohara if Ren doesn’t do anything.
Yusuke invites Ren to stay with him at Madarame’s over holiday break. Given everything he’s heard about the guy, Ren’s surprised he allows it, but he’s not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.
The village where Madarame worked was a quaint little place. Yusuke takes him to the absolute edge of town and proudly presents a shack at the edge of town which seems… structurally unsound, even by the merits of a society who can use magic to make buildings stand up.
The old man welcomes them with a pleasant smile, wrapping Yusuke in a big hug.
“Welcome home! I missed you.” Yusuke smiles, but says nothing, and Madarame turns his attention to Ren. “You must be the famous Amamiya. Yusuke’s told me so much about you. Apparently, you’ve been quite the source of inspiration.”
Yusuke blushes. “Sensei…”
“I’m just joking my boy!” Madarame laughs. “Yusuke, why don’t you bring Ren’s things up to your room.”
"So, Yusuke tells me you've been helping him with his art.” Madarame asks when they're alone.
"S-sorta. I'm mostly just making sure he eats once in a while," Ren mumbles. “He’s really determined to finish his pieces you know.”
Madarame nods. “Well, any student of mine has to be dedicated wholly to their craft.”
“You wouldn’t mind talking to him though? I don’t think he’s had three square meals a day since the school year started, and he’s definitely missing out on sleep. Surely that goes above and beyond what’s needed of him.”
Madarame sighs. “You worry too much, though of course someone not as well versed in the arts wouldn’t understand. And besides, if you care about him so much, I can count on you to make sure Yusuke takes care of himself, right?”
Wow. Ok. I see your bullshit.
Ren gives a pleasant smile. “Of course, sir.”
At that moment, Yusuke comes down the stairs and loops his arm around Ren's.
"If you'll excuse us, I'm going to show Ren around town."
"Alright, you two have fun, and don't lose track of time Yusuke!"
Yusuke practically shoves Ren out the door. The closer they get to town the calmer Yusuke seems to be. And by the time they've reached the square, Yusuke is practically giddy as he shows Ren around.
"I do a lot of good people watching here, you can buy really cheap art supplies from that shop down there, oh! Let's go here."
Yusuke leads Ren to a small cafe. They order coffees and settle in.
"So, what do you want to do?" Yusuke asks. "Maybe the winter market? Lots of amazing work there. And-"
"Yusuke, breathe. I'm down for anything as long as we do it together."
Yusuke frowns and takes a sip from his coffee. "There’s tree lighting. It's tonight. We can go after dinner."
They finish their lunch and stroll through the winter market, where local artisans have set up booths. There’s a glass blower making figurines out of colored glass that catch the light beautifully. Ren custom orders a fox to give to Yusuke as Christmas present.
When they return to Madarame's shack, Yusuke quickly hurries off to work on some paintings. Madarame has locked himself in the basement, so Ren sneaks off into the library.
Ren doesn’t bother looking at the books on display instead making a beeline for the desk tucked away in the back. There’s a locked cabinet.
Unfortunately, a spell doesn't get it to open.
Fortunately, wizards will think to guard against unlocking spells, but not lockpicks.
After several minutes of tinkering, the cabinet door opens, and Ren finds a single book with old, worn pages.
On the first page, “Property of Basil Hallward” is written in fine script.
Ren takes the book, locks the cabinet, then packs the book into the bottom of his bag.
After dinner, Yusuke takes Ren back to the town square. The moon pokes through the dark clouds.
As people gather, a group of wizards gather around the tree. With a wave of their wands, lights begin to dance through the courtyard.
The lights' ballet swirl overhead, changing colors and making fun shapes. Soon the wind picks up and petals join the dance too.
"Gorgeous, right?" Yusuke whispers.
"I’m glad you-"
Ren cuts Yusuke off with a kiss.
When it finishes, the tree is decorated with brilliant blossoms and a string of lights, a sight that takes Ren’s breath away.
He slips his hand into Yusuke’s. "Thank you, Yusuke.”
After break, Ren meets with his friends in an empty classroom to pour over the book.
It’s part sketchbook, part journal. With the first mention of Dorian Grey the notes become obsessive as Hallward reflects on the man’s beauty. They take a turn for the somber as Basil notes he’s grown distant from Dorian, then end rather unceremoniously.
The most interesting part though, are notes written in the margins. Notes that were obviously written much later than the journal are written into the margins, clustered most heavily in the section where Basil began working on his final portrait of Dorian. It offers theories and guesswork as to how Basil might’ve pulled off his feat.
Some notes are theories are crossed out or have different notes dated later mentioning that they don’t work.
“The pieces are starting to come together.” Morgana says once they’ve read through everything.
Ann nods. “Madarame is trying to recreate the picture so he can live forever, but he isn’t sure how it happened.”
“If what happened to Nakanohara is anything to go by, he may be experimenting by creating portraits of his pupils, but they don’t work the way he wants them to. He can clearly still injure someone with their painting, but not make them stop aging.” Ryuji adds.
“Maybe he’s testing them out on Yusuke?” Ann suggests. “I mean, if the portrait did work, Yusuke could make art as long as he wanted without starving to death, maybe that’s why he keeps working himself to the bone.”
“Yusuke is definitely bearing the brunt of the not eating problem, so I don’t think that’s the case,” Ren muses, “though if Madarame is threatening him with the painting, that might explain why he doesn’t talk to anyone about the plagiarism.”
“So, you think he knows?” Ryuji asks.
“He has to.”
“Do you want to try talking to him?” Ann asks. “Maybe if we tell him what we know, he’ll let us help figure something out?”
Ren nods. “It’s worth a shot.”
Ren spots Yusuke in front of the Ravenclaw common room. He waves to him, but Yusuke doesn’t smile when he sees him.
“I’ve been looking everywhere for you! Want to get lunch?”
“I got a letter from Sensei after Christmas.” Yusuke mutters. “A book of his had gone missing, one from his private collection.”
Ren stops, and Yusuke pulls a book out from his bag. “This is that book. Why was it with your things?”
Ren tries to laugh it off. “When we went to visit, I spotted it on the shelf, and bought a copy.” He drops his gaze to the ground. “I just wanted to impress you by showing off some art knowledge.”
Yusuke laughs. “You’re quite the skilled liar, Ren. Then again, I shouldn’t be surprised given you’ve been apparently lying to me our entire relationship.”
“Yusuke wait-” Ren looks up, but Yusuke’s already sprinting away and the staircase moving away.
Ren watches Yusuke disappear down a corridor, then sprints back to the Great Hall.
“Guys! Yusuke found the book,” he pants.
“What?” Ann gasps, “how?”
“He found it in my bag. We need to find him, explain things.”
“Is that worth the risk?” Morgana asks. “I mean he already knows we have the book; we don’t want him telling Madarame everything we know.”
“He won’t if I just talk to him.” Ren insists. “Please, guys.”
The others nod and split up. Ren races through classroom after classroom for any sign of Yusuke.
“No sign of him in the astronomy tower,” Ryuji says when they all meet up.
“I can’t find him in the west wing, or the library.” Ann adds.
“He didn’t circle back to the common room either.”
Ren hums. “I might have an idea. Meet me in the dungeons in an hour.”
Seventh floor, across from the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy.
Ren paces the halls three times over, thinking ‘I need to find Yusuke.’ Just as he’d hoped, on his third pass through, a large door appears.
There’s music playing as he enters, and Ren sighs in relief once he sees a familiar head of blue hair at the piano bench. Yusuke is engrossed in his piano, unaware of Ren’s presence.
Quietly, Ren walks over to him and takes a seat next to Yusuke. All of his worries are forgotten as he watches Yusuke’s elegant fingers dance across the ivory keys. Ren is transfixed by the curves of Yusuke’s face, the way his eyebrows knit together when he’s focusing, how his hair frames his face.
Yusuke really is beautiful.
“I wanted to be alone,” Yusuke says, snapping Ren out of his reverie.
Reminded of what is at stake, Ren straightens. “Well, I needed to find you.”
“Why?” Yusuke says, not looking at him. “I assure you; you’ve gotten all the information you can out of me. I’m quite useless to you.”
“Yusuke, it’s not about that.”
Yusuke finally stops playing. “Oh, I’m sorry. I guess learning you’ve been using me gave me that impression.”
“Don’t lie to me!” Yusuke snaps. “One of the paintings overheard you talking. ‘I’ll just sweet talk that art kid for info! It won’t be anything serious.’” Ren’s never seen him this angry.
“Look,” Ren sighs, “It started out that way, I’ll admit it. I started talking to you because you were Madarame’s pupil, and I knew-”
“Oh, you knew, did you?”
“-I knew that he was behind the incident! And I know you do too! But that’s not why I said yes when you asked me out. That isn’t why I fell in love with you!”
Yusuke scoffs. “Oh, save it.”
“Yusuke, you have to believe me!” Ren begs. “You will die if this goes on! I know Madarame- “
“No, I don’t have to do anything!” Yusuke says. “You don’t know anything, you’re just the man who wasn’t satisfied with just breaking my heart but had to drag it through the mud. What evidence do you have that sensei is even behind any of this? You’re own assumptions? Some slander in the Daily Prophet gossip column?”
“What is this then?” Ren grabs Yusuke’s arm and rolls up the sleeve to reveal a bruise. “That wasn’t there 2 hours ago! You have injuries that just come from nowhere-”
“I’ve told you I’m accident prone!”
“Yusuke that is utter bullshit! You’re one of the most graceful people I know. You’re in pain all the time, you’re trying to work yourself until you die for no reason!”
“My health is none of your business. I don’t owe you an explanation.”
Ren wants to tear his hair out. “Yusuke, are you serious? Madarame has a shady corner of his house he doesn’t let anyone go to! His former pupils are all practically disappear off the face of the earth, and he’s been trying to recreate-”
“No!” Yusuke’s knuckles are clenched tightly at his side. “I’m not listening to another word of this. You think a bunch of teenagers have figured out a case that’s been plaguing the Department of Magical Law Enforcement for months, based on nothing but inconclusive and circumstantial evidence. I won’t just stand here and allow you to shout baseless rumors about the man who raised me.”
“You can’t be this dense, Yusuke! Something is wrong! You know it, I know it, why are you in denial?”
“Madarame took me in when I had nothing, out of the goodness of his heart. I’m sorry if I’m more inclined to support him, than the delinquent who goes around assaulting people in the dead of night who I met this year and has been lying to me the entire time I’ve known him!”
Ren opens his mouth to say something but thinks better of it. Instead, he turns to leave. At the door, he pauses, but doesn’t look back.
“I don’t care if you never want to speak to me again after this. That’s fair. I just want you to be safe. Remember that.”
Just as Ren’s about to close the door, Yusuke calls out to him.
“Wait.” Yusuke walks over and pushes something into Ren’s hands. He looks down and realizes it’s the glass fox from the winter market. “That was expensive. You should reuse it on your next victim.”
With that, Yusuke turns back to the piano.
The door slams behind him. Ren meets with the others by the Slytherin common room.
“How’d it go?” Ann asks.
“Yusuke didn’t believe me.”
“I guess that isn’t surprising,” Morgana sighs. “Now what do we do?”
Ren shrugs. “Isn’t obvious? We’re breaking into Madarame’s house.”
They land their brooms a little ways away from Madarame’s house, and sneak around back. Ryuji helps Ren and Ann climb up to Yusuke’s window, then they quietly make their way downstairs.
Ren tries to pick the lock, but it’s a different than the one for the desk cabinet, and he can’t.
“Step aside Ren, let a true master through.” Morgana leaps on Ren’s shoulder then to the door and starts fiddling with it. “This is harder with paws.”
“I am never going to get over the lockpicking cat.” Ryuji whispers.
“We are freaking wizards! Giant snakes live in the plumbing! Birds catch fire! There are invisible undead pegasi hanging around! Why is the talking cat the thing everyone draws a line at?” Ann hisses.
“Because cats already exist, and they don’t talk.”
“Not a cat,” Morgana says as he drops to the ground, “now let’s go.”
The storage room door swings open, and they make their way down the old wooden stairs.
“I can’t see anything,” Ren hears Ryuji mutter from behind him. “Lu- “
There’s a smacking sound and Ann chastises him. “We’re outside of school dummy! If you use magic now, the Ministry will be here in a second and have our heads.”
Near the bottom of the stairs, Ren finds a lantern and lights it with a set of matches from his back pocket.
The hallway is long and narrow, and leads to bigger, square room. There are paintings stored along the walls, with names written on them.
“Guys, look.” Ann pulls out a paining labeled N. Nakanohara. Ren brings the lantern as close as he dares to inspect it and finds fine cuts on the painting where Nakanohara suffered his injuries.
“Holy shit, we were right.” Ryuji gasps.
“We have to find Yusuke’s portrait though.” Ren insists. “This isn’t proof enough on its own.”
“Smart thinking, boy. Impressive for someone foolish enough to break in here.”
Madarame is standing behind them.
“We know everything.” Ren says.
“Really?” Madarame says. He pulls out one of the portraits and Ren gasps when he sees Yusuke’s face. “Then I don’t think you’d want me to do this.” Madarame pulls out his wand and lights a flame at the tip of it.
“You wouldn’t dare.”
“You really think so?” He touches the flame to the painting.
Ren watches in horror as Yusuke’s face turns to cinders.
“You-“ Ren flies forward, connecting his fist to the old man’s jaw. Madarame is knocked back, and Ren doesn’t let up. Tears are streaming down his face.
Arms pull him back, and a calm voice is whispering in his ear.
“Ren. Ren stop, please.”
Ren stops breathing. “Yusuke?” He whispers, not daring to turn around.
“But I thought- “
“That isn’t my picture.”
“But you do have one.” Ryuji says. “He really is making portraits of is students and using them to hurt them.”
“They’re just insurance. Most of my pupils knew their place and didn’t require such drastic measures to keep the m in line.” He looks at Yusuke, whose gaze drops to the ground. “Yusuke would you like to tell them the truth of the matter?”
Yusuke sighs. “I told you dangerous people were looking to recreate Hallward’s feat. One of them was my mother.”
“Your mother tampered with things she should have known to avoid.” Madarame explains. “The Sayuri was a beautiful piece, I would have liked it to be shared with the world. Alas, that woman’s experiments meant it had to be hidden away lest someone follow in her footsteps.”
“Your mother painted Sayuri?” Ann gasps. “But you displayed it under your name.
“I had hoped that people could still appreciate it’s beauty but feared if the true creator was discovered someone might go looking where they shouldn’t.”
“And the rest of the paintings?” Ren asks.
“Like I said, insurance. It hurt me to have to meddle with such things, but I couldn’t run the risk that anyone who stayed here might find the truth.”
“You understand now right? I must pay for my mother’s crimes.” Yusuke explains. “I owe Sensei for taking me in, and for keeping my mother’s secrets.”
“So, it’s OK that he works you to the bone?” Ren asks. “That he’s making you do his art for him so much you’ll die?”
“Yes. It is.” Yusuke says. “Tell me you understand that, please”
“Why are you telling us this, anyway.” Ryuji asks.
“Because Yusuke is going to wipe your memories, and then escort you back to Hogwarts, at which point he will return here. Clearly, letting you attend in the first place was a mistake.”
“Sensei you can’t- “
Without looking, Madarame pushes his wand into a covered canvas behind him, and Yusuke winces in pain.
“I thought you understood how things worked Yusuke. Now, would you please Obliviate them.”
“Yusuke, please don’t.” Ren pleads. “If what Madarame has said is really the truth, then you don’t owe him anything. You don’t have to pay for what your mother did.”
“Don’t make this hard, please.” Yusuke says. “It’ll be alright once you’ve just forgotten about all of this.”
“Stop wasting time, Yusuke. Do it.” Madarame says.
Suddenly, Morgana darts out past Madarame’s feet. While he’s distracted, Ann casts a spell to send his wand flying and Ryuji surges forward to grab Yusuke’s painting.
Ren grabs Yusuke’s arm and pulls him down the hall and up the stairs with them. Ann shuts the door behind them and locks it, then moves some furniture in front of it for good measure.
“What are you doing?” Yusuke demands.
“Look, he can’t hurt you anymore, Yusuke.” Ren says. “He made those paintings of the other pupils, not your mother. He’s the one who hurt Nakanohara. You still have Hallward’s journal, we have the painting. We can turn him in, but only if you help us.”
“Could you uncover the painting.” Yusuke whispers.
Ryuji does, revealing The Sayuri.
Yusuke gently touches the gray part at the bottom. “She’s looking at me,” he explains. “Sensei covered it up, but that’s my painting. If you just.” He presses on it, and a bruise shaped like his fingers appears on his face.
Ren reaches for his hand. “Yusuke…”
Yusuke swats Ren aside. “I wonder if it’s changed at all.”
Yusuke sighs. “You should be getting back to Hogwarts. It’s almost dawn. You’re in big trouble if you get caught. I’ll go to the Ministry and explain everything.”
“How do we know you won’t just turn around and give this straight back to Madarame?” Morgana asks.
“Ryuji and Ann may accompany me, but Ren is the most at risk. He’s broken his probation several times over during all of this.”
Ren nods. “Alright.”
“When we see each other again, maybe we can talk about… us.”
Ren smiles. “I’ll be waiting for you.”