“expiarshus!” jeongguk shouts as he points the stick in his hand at the tree he’s running by, wind in his (too long, his mom says, but doesn’t she know that’s where his magic is?) hair as he goes as fast as his little legs will carry him.
several paces behind him, yoongi is giggling as he calls, “that’s not how the spell goes!”
“then why are the bad guys dying?” jeongguk yells back, not deterred as he zigzags around the next few trees, jabbing his stick sideways before yelling another gibberish word. at this point, it’s not about the pronunciation but the oomph behind it, about the feeling, about believing that he has magic running in his veins.
and—he does. both of jeongguk’s parents are magical, although both muggleborn which has led a few select children in the neighbourhood to tease him and call him names, to claim that his magic will be muddled and weak compared to someone whose parents come from a long-line of wizards. jeongguk, even at the age of three and a half, is going to prove them wrong the moment he begins magical school at eleven and becomes the greatest wizard/quidditch player/dueller/auror to ever live.
for now, though. for now, he’s just playing with his yoongi-hyung.
“jeonggukie, watch out!” yoongi calls and jeongguk squeaks as he dives sideways, pointing the stick upward toward the tops of the endless trees, shouting, “stufepy!” it does nothing, but in jeongguk’s imagination, the dark wizards he and yoongi are fighting are being taken down one by one through the efforts of their magic and quick thinking.
it’s jeongguk’s favourite game—playing aurors with yoongi. living in a small magical village near the sea affords them plenty of space for it, the village surrounded on all sides by vast forests whose trees lose their leaves in the winter. now, well into autumn, the boys run with crunching leaves underfoot, the pale sun overhead bright to their eyes without leaf cover to shade them. but this is the best time for games in the forest: everything is a little spookier, a little more real.
jeongguk and yoongi spend hours running around in the trees behind their houses, conveniently on the same street. they grab their ‘wands’ (really sticks chosen from the forest and whittled down by jeongguk’s father into something resembling the real wands they’ll one day have the privilege of owning) and chase after imaginary beasts and dark wizards, play acting at the role jeongguk one day hopes to truly have: an auror for the ministry of magic’s law enforcement, heading out across the country to capture the worst sort of magical criminals.
it’s every magical kid’s dream. or—it seems that way to jeongguk. yoongi, a whole seven-year-old, seems to think being an auror is a bit too much excitement and danger, and has thus decided to follow in his mother’s footsteps of being a healer. jeongguk doesn’t mind. he’ll need someone to tend to his heroic battle wounds, as he’s sure to get a few in his line of work.
and besides—yoongi indulges him in his games, lets jeongguk play the hero every time they take off into the forest clad in their coats and mittens. even as a three-year-old, jeongguk is almost positive that’s what love is. it’s a bit like when his mom gives his dad an extra piece of dessert even though jeongguk knows it’s her favourite. selflessness.
giggling, jeongguk watches as yoongi’s round face comes into view above him, holding out an arm to help him up from the pile of dead leaves he’s fallen into. once upright, jeongguk wipes at his sweaty brow. “thanks,” he says. “did we get all of them?”
“nope,” says yoongi. “one of them got away. but it’s okay, because i know where he went.”
“you’re so smart, yoongi-hyung,” beams jeongguk, leaning over to give yoongi a quick hug—even in the midst of catching bad guys, there is always time to hug yoongi. that’s how they recharge their magic, obviously.
“c’mon!” says yoongi, then, grabbing jeongguk’s hand and taking off again. his legs are longer than jeongguk’s, but he runs slower so that jeongguk can keep up, still giggling as he clutches the stick in his hand. he likes holding hands with yoongi. it might actually be the best part about playing aurors with yoongi—because yoongi makes sure that jeongguk doesn’t get left behind, makes sure that he’s safe and taken care of, unlike when they play with some of the other kids in their neighbourhood. jeongguk is by far the youngest, not including some of the babies who can’t even walk or talk yet. even though jeongguk’s brother is yoongi’s age, jeonhyun doesn’t take care of jeongguk the way yoongi does when they play games. to be fair, it’s probably because jeongguk has a wicked competitive streak when it comes to his brother and will bite him given the chance, but jeonhyun will bite him back, so it’s not jeongguk’s fault.
“look, there he is!” shouts yoongi, pointing ahead.
jeongguk gasps. “he’s going up the tree!” surely some wizards can do that—float. use magic like that. jeongguk can’t wait to use magic however he wants. with that thought, he lets go of yoongi’s hand and runs on ahead, picking a tree at random to be the one carrying the bad guy.
“what are you doing?” asks yoongi when they stop next to tree, watching as jeongguk appraises it. but there’s only one way to get a bad guy down from a tree—and that’s to follow him up.
“hold my wand,” says jeongguk, passing the stick over to yoongi before he returns to the tree and wraps both arms around it. he’s too little to get his arms all the way around—or even a quarter of the way around—but what jeongguk lacks in size, he makes up for in determination. screwing his little face up, he latches onto one of the lower-hanging branches and tries to haul himself up, using his feet as leverage. his sneakers slide against the bark of the tree, sticking his tongue out in concentration as he tries to pull himself up.
“jeongguk,” says yoongi, sounding both worried and exasperated. it’s certainly not the first time jeongguk has tried to climb the trees behind their street. “please stop. we can just get him with magic.”
jeongguk can only respond with a grunting noise as he manages to pull himself onto the lowest branch, scrambling to stand up on it and grab the next one.
“jeongguk,” says yoongi again, more concern colouring his words. “come down. you’re going to get hurt.”
“i’m a auror, hyung!” jeongguk calls. “i can do anything.”
“look, the bad guy is back on the ground.”
jeongguk ignores that, grabbing the next branch and hauling himself up with surprisingly strength. he doesn’t look down, although he’s probably no more than five feet off the ground. but he’s three years old. five feet is very high indeed.
“i’m gonna tell your mom,” yoongi finally threatens, and jeongguk reaches for yet another branch, trying to swing his leg over as he glances downward and—oh. oh, he’s actually quite high and yoongi has to crane his neck to look up at him, worrying at his sweater sleeves as he watches. “jeongguk, i’m gonna tell your mom and then you’ll get in trouble and have to clean doxies or feed the mandrakes or play with nothing but red caps for an entire year.”
“hyung,” says jeongguk, intending to tell yoongi to stop being silly because jeongguk is his mother’s favourite and she’d never—but then he loses his grip and goes crashing to the ground.
for a second, when he’s falling, suspended in the autumn air, jeongguk almost thinks he’s flying. almost thinks that somehow, magic will save him without him having to do anything about it—no spells, no brooms, no nothing. he’s a wizard. shouldn’t his magic just do it for him?
but then he hits the ground, landing directly on his right arm as he twisted awkwardly in the air, and he hears something crack, feels the very bones of his arm shift. for a prolonged moment, nothing happens. it’s like all of the sound has been sucked out of the world, jeongguk entirely winded and shocked from the fall, and maybe yoongi, too.
and then jeongguk feels the pain and immediately begins to wail.
it’s a sound he’s never heard come out of his own mouth, something guttural and heart-wrenching as he feels searing pain in his arm. tears begin to overflow from his eyes immediately, and he can vaguely make out shouting above his own crying, recognizing yoongi’s voice.
“jeongguk!” he’s yelling, rushing to jeongguk’s side as jeongguk rolls over and cries harder, cradling his right arm with his left hand. “jeongguk-ah, are you—what did you do?” suddenly, yoongi is kneeling next to him, looming over him and blocking out the sun so that his face is all jeongguk sees through the blur of his ears. he’s crying too hard to respond, wailing increasing in pitch and volume as the jostling to his arm only makes the pain worse.
“you’re okay!” yoongi shouts, although it’s unconvincing because yoongi doesn’t sound okay, nor does he look it. instead, he’s breathing very quickly, beginning to hyperventilate as tears spring to his own eyes watching jeongguk cry and writhe on the ground. “jeongguk, you’re fine!”
“hyung,” jeongguk cries, finally able to say that single word. “yoongi-hyung—”
“um,” says yoongi, hands flailing uselessly over jeongguk’s broken wrist. “um, we—i’m gonna go get your mom. don’t move!”
“no!” jeongguk practically screams, the idea of being alone terrifying him more than anything. but it’s clear that they’re both panicking, that yoongi doesn’t know what to do or how to make it better without getting an adult. jeongguk needs medical attention, is the thing. and with a simple spell, his wrist can be healed. with a simple potion, all of that pain will go away. within minutes, he and yoongi could be cuddling on the sofa and watching the jeon’s crup chase her own tails.
but jeongguk cannot fathom yoongi leaving him, not even for a second.
this demand is punctuated with another wail, even louder this time. “make it stop,” he cries, using his uninjured hand to reach out for yoongi, because—it’s yoongi. yoongi, who is a whole four years older than jeongguk. yoongi, who always knows how to fix everything. yoongi, who is jeongguk’s best friend and his protector and the one who wants to be a healer in the first place, who always knows how to take care of jeongguk even when jeongguk doesn’t even know how to take care of himself. “hyung, please.”
“salazar,” yoongi whimpers, voice wavering, and when jeongguk tries to focus on him, he notices that yoongi is wiping at his own eyes, like he’s trying to be strong. like he’s trying to be strong for both of them. but still, his breath is coming too quickly, mind racing when he can’t think of what to do, and jeongguk won’t stop crying and his wrist is at such an awkward angle and he’s in so much pain and yoongi just wants to fix it, wants to protect jeongguk and make him better, and so yoongi just—does the first thing he can think of.
he grabs jeongguk’s arm, leans over, and presses a kiss to the broken wrist.
the action is so tender and unexpected that it shocks jeongguk out of his crying, breath catching in his throat as he stares at the top of yoongi’s head. when yoongi pulls away, looking up to jeongguk with an almost sheepish look on his face, jeongguk lets out a choked sob, another few tears falling onto his wet cheeks. he prepares to keep crying at the pain, at the situation, but then—he realizes it doesn’t hurt anymore.
bewildered, jeongguk looks down at his wrist and finds that it’s… not broken anymore. it looks as though it was never broken at all, perfectly fine where he’s holding it in his other hand. the bone is fine, his wrist is straight. the only pain lingering is of the phantom kind, the memory of the pain, and even that is fading quickly to a dull ache, and jeongguk sniffs roughly as he stares down at himself.
his wrist is completely healed.
sniffing again, jeongguk raises his eyes to yoongi, offering his wrist to him. yoongi, too, stares at it in utter confusion. and then, quietly, he asks, “did i do that?”
see, for all of their pretending, their botched spells and stick waving, neither of them has actually shown any signs of magic—nothing substantial, anyway. they’ve known since they were old enough to understand magic that it would come, that they would join the rest of their families as wizards. yoongi’s parents are both purebloods, after all. but there was still just a sliver of possibility that it wouldn’t be true, that one or both of them could end up magicless in a magical world.
and now yoongi has just healed jeongguk’s broken wrist, perhaps not unintentionally, but without much preamble. without anything but the pure magic flowing through his veins.
his first sign of magic was healing jeongguk. was taking care of him, was protecting him.
jeongguk lifts his good arm and wipes at his wet cheeks with a tiny fist. “hyung,” he says, voice small. and then, because he’s not very good with words and maybe there aren’t any words to say what he feels anyway, jeongguk sits up and pushes himself against yoongi, burrowing into yoongi’s chest and wrapping both arms around him in a tight hug.
he doesn’t know how yoongi did it—if he even meant to heal jeongguk’s wrist, or if he just wanted for jeongguk to be okay so badly that his magic had no choice but to listen. (and maybe that’s love, too.) he doesn’t care about the logic of it, though, because it’s magic. and yoongi took care of him. so he just holds yoongi as tightly as he can, a fresh wave of tears spilling over onto his cheeks. not from pain this time, though.
he feels yoongi return the hug, holding jeongguk’s smaller body close to his. “are you okay?” he mumbles into jeongguk’s wild hair.
“yeah,” sniffs jeongguk. “now. because of you.”
“i told you that you were okay.”
it’s a very yoongi thing to say—passing off his own achievements, downplaying what he’s done. making it seem as though he didn’t just do real magic for the first time in his entire life, pretending like this isn’t a moment that the two of them will fondly remember and retell constantly for the rest of their lives: the time that yoongi’s magic woke up because jeongguk cried loudly enough.
because jeongguk needed him.
they stay like that for a long time, until jeongguk stops crying and his tears dry on his cheeks, until the phantom pain of the bone break disappears entirely. until they begin to get uncomfortable, bodies sore from being crammed together so hard. finally, when jeongguk pulls away, the air has gotten cooler. he inspects his wrist again, just in case—but there’s no sign of a break at all, and it’s not even sore. it’s like yoongi didn’t just heal it, but reversed time so that it was never broken in the first place. jeongguk told him to make it stop and he did.
“sorry we didn’t catch the bad guy,” yoongi says. “maybe next time.”
“i don’t want to catch bad guys anymore,” mumbles jeongguk. he clambers to his feet, holding out his hand for yoongi to take when the older boy gets up, too. “think i wanna just go home and eat ice cream. and hug more.”
yoongi grins at him. the best thing, maybe, about all of this is that jeongguk has always known that yoongi is magical. he’s felt it every time yoongi looks at him or smiles at him, every time they hold hands, as they do now when they begin walking home, heading back through the wondrous forest to their familiar street and its familiar houses. he’s always known that yoongi is the most magical thing in the world, and maybe it has nothing to do with magic at all.
in the end, he’s still just yoongi-hyung. and one day, jeongguk will do magic, too. and then they can be magical together.
and maybe that will be love, too.