"and that concludes the first match of the season! slytherin beats gryffindor, 980-830! an extremely close match, with excellent work from slytherin's seeker minho lee, if i do say so myself. not that i'm biased, but-"
"-mr. lee, that's enough-"
"i'm just saying professor, it was completely-"
"mr. lee, more and that will be ten points from slytherin!"
jaemin grins at his best friend, donghyuck lee, who sighs noisily and removes the sonorous charm from his wand. from his area in the commentator's tent, he spots jaemin and gives him a huge thumbs up. jaemin waves cheerily back, pointing in the vague area of the locker rooms, mouthing 'i'll meet you after.'
the locker-room mood is always good after they've won, of course. but there's nothing quite like the satisfaction of beating gryffindor, simply because gryffindor had won the cup last year.
"respectable show, ladies and gentlemen." the slytherin team captain, chaeyoung, says approvingly, "especially you, minho- wonderful work. and jaemin, good job keeping up with the points in terms of the scoring. if you hadn't made those last few shots, minho's catch would have been useless."
there's a tired but sincere scattering of applause, before she continues, "since we're all tired, i'm just going to leave it here for now. let's meet for practice next week as usual, and we'll discuss more then. also, i want to see all of you at the hufflepuff vs ravenclaw match, okay? observe all the players, their technique, everything. that determines who we'll be playing next."
"yes, captain!" the rest of them chorus, before slowly filing out of the locker rooms to go shower.
"hey, na- quick word."
jaemin turns back, "yeah? something up?"
"nothing much- just saw that cousin of yours looking a little down after the game." chaeyoung explains, "i guess he was disappointed. in case you want to go check up on him or anything."
"thanks for the heads-up, cap." he salutes, "will do."
"awesome. good job today. see you next monday for practice."
"uh, is it ok if i- or should i wait- or-" jaemin stands awkwardly in front of the gryffindor locker room, blinking at one of the beaters, jeno lee.
"jisung!" jeno calls into the room, "your cousin's here to see you!"
"a minute!" even from the distance, jisung's voice sounds downtrodden. jaemin sighs.
"good game today, na."
he looks up and sees jeno holding out his hand. jaemin shakes it, "you, too. thought you and yukhei were going to knock me out with those bludgers."
"yeah, sorry about that." jeno scratches the back of his neck sheepishly, "there was a close call, right? it really wasn't on purpose. mark already scolded me."
"it's all good."
they stand in silence for some more time, until jisung pushes past the doorway, bag slung over his shoulder and broom in one hand.
"practice on wednesday!" a voice that jaemin recognizes as gryffindor's keeper, mark lee, calls from inside, "take some rest, jisungie, good work today!"
"okay." jisung calls back, tone still low. he turns to the boy at the doorway, "see you, jeno."
jeno ruffles his hair, "you played great today, kid, don't beat yourself up. it happens."
jisung says nothing, but jaemin gives the beater a grateful smile and a wave, before he and jisung begin their walk back to the castle.
"good game, hyung." jisung finally speaks, about 10 minutes later when they're reaching the entrance, "you played really good. sorry i'm being so down."
jaemin's heart lurches for his little baby cousin, "you played well, too, jisungie. really."
"not well enough."
"there's still a whole season to go. the team has improved a lot, you can still make it to semis. finals, even."
"well, looking at how i totally disappointed the team this time," jisung sighs, "it doesn't look like we're going anywhere."
jaemin knows the feeling all too well. they spend hours out there on the pitch, practicing in every weather condition possible. and jaemin is quite sure that out of the entire team, the seeker and keeper feel the most pressure. the team could play horribly, but in the end people only blame the seeker. meanwhile, if the team plays well, there's plenty of praise to go around for all 7 members. and losing is never the best feeling- jaemin's glad the gryffindor team is so nice. they are a bit on the boisterously competitive side, but jisung has been playing with them since his second year, so he'll always be their baby.
"you were really good, jisung-ah. there's a whole season for you to show your skills. hyung's proud of you, okay?"
jisung sniffs a little, and then concentrates on the ground to hide is glassy eyes. jaemin's hear melts.
"aigoo, my jisungie, come here." he gives jisung a big hug right there, and jisung sighs a little and lowers his head onto jaemin's shoulder.
they stand like that for a couple of minutes, before the loud, dolphin-like shriek of "jisung!" breaks their silence.
"chenle." jisung greets his best friend with a half hearted wave.
chenle, despite being in hufflepuff, is decked out entirely in a terrible clash of red, gold, silver and green. he's wearing a gryffindor scarf and a slytherin hat and overall, he looks like a mess. donghyuck appears behind him, grinning at jaemin's expression.
"see, chenle. i told you to just support gryffindor. i'm taking care of slytherin cheering, anyway."
"you're the commentator. you have to be neutral. so obviously i'm going to cheer for both!"
"thanks." jisung says dully, "but it's fine. i doubt i'll catch the snitch even if the whole school wears red."
"jisung," chenle smile droops a little, "don't say that. you've caught the snitch so many times. you're the best seeker ever."
"not better than minho."
"well, who cares about him." chenle sniffs disdainfully, "you'll catch it next time. you were great today." he turns his sweet smile to jaemin, "you, too, jaemin."
"thanks, le." jaemin ruffles the boy's hair, "you wanna take us to the kitchens?"
chenle looks a little unsure, but jisung perks up, so he sighs, "only to cheer up jisung." and jaemin and donghyuck cheer.
"is it ok?" donghyuck adds as an afterthought, "will your team want to eat together?"
jisung shakes his head, "we almost never eat as a team after games if we lose. if we win we celebrate. if we lose, most of the team just lounges around, and yukhei goes to ravenclaw tower."
donghyuck and jaemin exchange a perplexed expression.
"to see his boyfriend." chenle supplies helpfully, "he's dating that ravenclaw boy in your year."
"who?" jaemin asks with interest.
"ooh, he's cute. he's the one who's good at charms. he was top of the class last year."
"he's cute, huh? your type?" donghyuck nudges his side.
"he has a boyfriend, don't be stupid. and he's cute but not really my style...."
"jaemin hyung likes manly guys." jisung informs donghyuck and chenle, "like super strong guys with muscles who can say romantic things and protect him."
"excuse me." jaemin sniffs, "i can protect myself."
"this summer we visited our grandparents, and we watched some muggle movies, and jaemin hyung made his type pretty obvious."
jaemin and jisung are cousins through their mothers, who are sisters. muggle-born sisters, so of course their maternal grandparents are muggles. since the two boys had grown up visiting their grandparents, they knew all about the muggle way of living. they knew how to dress and how to get around in a muggle community- after all, they couldn't risk getting caught as wizards when they visited.
donghyuck and chenle, on the other hand, are both pure-blood wizards. chenle, especially, is from a very, very, very well-off, respected family. the kind of family that has a house elf and lives in a mansion. jaemin adores chenle's house elf. she was the happiest little thing. her name is tini, and whenever jaemin visits chenle's house over break, she would greet him excitedly and join them in a game of wizarding chess.
chenle's family is also extremely philanthropic. they had even been awarded by the S.P.E.W- thrice. once for excellent treatment towards their own house elf, once for rescuing three ill-treated house-elves, and once for a very generous contribution to the S.P.E.W. organisation. this is already a huge deal, as S.P.E.W. is enormously famous and was started by hermione granger-weasley, one of the revolutionaries who fought in the second wizarding war. jaemin has 13 of her chocolate frog cards. there's a rumour that for the third award, hermione met up with the zhongs personally and handed over the plaque herself. he wonders if it's true.
he's interrupted from his daydream by donghyuck nudging him.
donhyuck rolls his eyes, "i said, your ideal type sounds like jaehyun jung. the one who graduated last year."
"the old gryffindor beater?" jaemin pictures him quickly. tall, handsome, nice eyes, sweet smile, muscles- like, damn, those arms are to die for. he flushes, "yeah. that's pretty accurate."
chenle laughs, "good luck finding someone that perfect now that he's gone."
"doesn't it sound kind of like jeno?" jisung asks, "you know, right? the other gryffindor beater."
he sees jeno all the time. they're not exactly friends per say- they've barely talked for more than ten seconds. most of their conversations involved shaking hands after a game or wishing each other luck before a game. a nod at each other when they end up in the same class. formalities. jeno is handsome, sure- anybody with eyes could tell that much. but he'd never really thought about it.
"i've never really thought about that." jaemin says. he pauses, and then waves his hand dismissively, "whatever. it does't matter. this year is OWLS, so i don't have time to waste on other things like starting relationships."
jisung lets out a low whistle, "i forgot you guys had that this year."
"same." donghyuck groans, "it's only the beginning of the year. don't talk about it."
jisung ignores him, "i bet jaemin hyung will get an O in transfiguration. he's so good at transfiguration."
"what am i, chopped liver?" hyuck snorts, and jisung rolls his eyes.
"you're good at potions. duh."
they are finally standing in front of the giant portrait of fruit. jaemin is starving.
he stands back and lets chenle tickle the pear.
jaemin turns around to see gryffindors' quidditch team keeper, mark lee, heading towards him. jaemin jerks his head in way of greeting.
"just wanted to ask if jisung's feeling better." mark says, "i haven't seen him since the game on saturday. is he ok?"
jaemin can't help but smile at how sweet the sixth-year is. jaemin thinks he'd be a great captain. maybe next year.
"he's alright, thanks. he was a bit down for a couple of days, but i think he's fired up for the next game now."
"ok, cool. just wanted to check." mark pauses, unsure, and then says, "if you see him today, can you tell him jeno's looking for him?"
"jeno?" jaemin blinks, "why?"
"quidditch stuff." mark shrugs, "i guess. there's some technique he wants to think out."
"i'll tell him." jaemin smiles, "see you, lee."
"see you, na."
he finds jisung at the great hall half an hour later, sitting at the slytherin table with chenle and hyuck. jaemin wants to laugh at the contrast between the sea of dark green and the bright reds and yellows that the two younger boys bring.
"do you ever eat at your own tables?" he asks, sliding in next to hyuck, "don't your houses ever call you traitors?"
chenle looks scandalized, "no! why would they say that?"
"damn." hyuck whistles, "i forgot how nice you hufflepuffs are. what about you jisungie?"
"they never care." jisung shrugs, "i think maybe because me and jaemin hyung are cousins? it doesn't really matter anyway."
jaemin's heard stories from the wizarding wars, and they've learnt all about it in history of magic. the slytherin house used to have an awful name- only pure-blooded wizards, mainly death-eaters. and the animosity between them and the rest of the school had been unreal. he can't even imagine it. now, decades after the war, the houses get along quite well, and slytherin's reputation is more 'ambitious and shrewd' than 'evil'. he's glad he was born in this time rather than back then. it would have been so difficult.
"i met mark lee in the corridors." he tells his cousin, "he wanted to know if you're feeling better."
"that's nice." donghyuck half-smiles, "i always thought mark could be a good captain."
"yeah, me too." jaemin agrees, before turning back to jisung, "he also told me to tell you jeno's looking for you."
jisung blinks, "jeno? why?"
"dunno. mark said some quidditch tactic stuff."
"with jeno?" jisung looks absolutely perplexed, "today?"
"but we have practice tomorrow. with the captain. why can't he tell me then?"
"good lord." donghyuck sighs, "just meet the damn guy."
"okay, okay, i will. i'll probably see him in the common room after dinner, anyway."
jaemin notices that chenle hasn't said much more than a word so far. he nudges hyuck and raises his eyebrow at the hufflepuff. donghyuck frowns.
"you good, chenle? you're quiet today."
"hm?" the boy looks up, "yeah, i'm fine. just kind of preoccupied."
"he's doing bad at charms." jisung says helpfully, "professor said if he doesn't improve this year, his OWLS next year are going to be hell."
"in charms?" donghyuck repeats incredulously, "who sucks at charms?"
chenle looks at him miserably, "don't be mean. i can't help it."
"you are literally the only person i know who is good at herbology but bad at charms."
"don't be mean to him!" jisung snaps.
"hey, i have an idea." jaemin says in hopes of consoling the boy, "how about you ask a senior for help?"
chenle tilts his head, "like who?"
"remember i told you? the top of our class in charms is renjun huang."
"oh, yeah, yukhei's boyfriend!" jisung lights up, "i can ask yukhei to ask renjun for you, chenle!"
"but... he's a fifth year. he has OWLS and stuff." chenle looks uncertain, "won't it be too much of a burden?"
"you won't need help forever, chenle-yah." jisung says impatiently, "just to get you back on your feet. plus, fourth year stuff comes in OWLS, too. it'll be like revision for him."
"it can't hurt to ask. just see what he says."
"chenle sighs, "i guess..."
"perfect!" jisung beams, "i'll ask yukhei tonight."
"and don't forget-" jaemin starts
"-to meet jeno. okay, jaemin hyung. i got it, chill."
jaemin and donghyuck are lying down on the grass next to the lake, soaking in the little sun they'll get before autumn disappears. from the squabble of noise behind them, a high-pitched dolphin laugh pierces the air. donghyuck cracks an eye open.
"i can hear chenle zhong."
"when can you not hear chenle zhong?" jaemin snorts in response. as if on cue, the younger boy appears before them, blocking the sun and forcing both of them to open their eyes.
"guys, guess what!" he's practically bouncing, "renjun said he'll tutor me in charms!"
"that's great, chenle-yah." jaemin says sincerely, "mind getting out of the way, though? you're blocking the sun."
"oops, sorry." the hufflepuff flops down next to them, "jisung introduced me to yukhei and yukhei introduced me to him. and he said it'll be great practice for him to study this year, too!"
"what a true ravenclaw." hyuck intones.
"he's really nice." chenle ploughs on like he hadn't heard him at all, "and guess what? his grandparents are from china, too! and he speaks mandarin at home, just like me!"
"that's awesome." donghyuck ruffles his hair, "better be a good student, chenle."
"i will." he beams, "oh, yeah, by the way, jaemin. jisung's looking for you. he's at the owlery. he wanted to ask you about something."
"can't it wait till lunch?" jaemin groans, and chenle shrugs.
"up to you, i guess. i'm just the messenger."
eventually jaemin does get up, though (with a lot of annoyed complaining) and bids his friends farewell before trudging to the owlery to meet his cousin.
"is there a reason." he demands loudly, startling most of the owls into hooting and ruffling their feathers, "is there a reason that you made me walk all the way to the owlery when i was relaxing?"
jisung looks up from where he's tying a letter onto his owl's leg, "hey, hyung. didn't expect you to reach here so fast."
jaemin rolls his eyes, "have you been tying that since you saw chenle?"
"no." jisung scoffs, "i write my letters here. its' easier to write it and send it off in one shot. just give me a second."
jaemin sits down next to him and waits patiently for jisung to finish tying it. they both wish his owl a safe journey before letting her go. jaemin turns to him expectantly, "well?"
"okay, so you know how renjun's tutoring chenle?"
"yeah, he told us just now."
"okay, so. um." jsiung looks at jaemin sheepishly, "okay, hyung, the thing is."
jaemin narrows his eyes, "what did you do, jisung park?"
"nothing!" his cousin says frantically, "just listen for a minute! okay, so you know how jeno wanted to talk to me yesterday?"
"well, he's having a lot of trouble with transfiguration. and he's really worried, y'know, with OWLS and everything. so since you're the top of your year for transfiguration, and we're cousins, he asked me to ask you if he could maybe borrow your notes some time."
"oh." jaemin blinks. that's not what he was expecting at all, but he certainly doesn't mind, "sure, you can tell him that's totally fine."
"um." jisung coughs, "it doesn't end there. the thing is... he looked really worried. i guess he's really bad? and transfiguration is hard, and he has OWLS this year."
"jisung. get to the point."
"and notes won't help much in transfiguration!" jisung rushes on, "in the practicals part, at least. and jeno is really, really nice and he's good at all his other subjects, and he's taken really good care of me since i joined the team, and i don't want him to fail, you know-"
"- and after the four of us talked about renjun tutoring chenle, i thought it was a great idea, because- you know. and it'll be like revision for the teacher, too- teaching is the best form of learning. you can learn ten times faster when you teach someone else."
jaemin heaves a sigh, "jisung."
"so i might have... mentioned that you wouldn't mind tutoring him...probably? i didn't say you would, one hundred percent." jisung peers at him, gulping, "i basically said that it would work a lot better than borrowing notes. and that you would most probably say okay...?"
jaemin lets out a long breath, leaning back and closing his eyes.
"sorry!" jisung practically squeaks, "don't be mad, hyung! i'll tell him you can't if you don't want to."
"jisung-ah... you need to at least talk to me before you make these kind of statements."
"i know." the boy looks droopy, "sorry. i just thought it would be a good idea. jeno's really nice, hyung."
"i know he is, jisung-ah. it's just... with quidditch and all my other subjects as well, i barely have time to finish my homework, let alone study for OWLS. now tutoring on top of that?" jaemin sighs, "it's a lot. i know you meant well....i'll think about it, okay?"
"okay." jisung looks terribly guilty, and jaemin feels bad, "i'll tell him i'll let him now by the end of the week. and- and you can say no, too. i'll break it to him nicely."
"i'll think about it." jaemin repeats, "it doesn't mean no or yes yet. i know renjun is tutoring, and that's great- but renjun doesn't have quidditch right now. we both know how much time being on the team takes, right?"
"it's okay, sungie. you were just being a good junior. don't worry about it." jaemin has to admit, he has an extremely soft spot for his little cousin. he can't stay mad at him for long, "i'll tell you at the end of the week."
as it turns out, jaemin makes the decision earlier than the end of the week. and he doesn't need to send the message through jisung.
jaemin turns around, and to his surprise, jeno lee is hurrying towards him. his hair is windswept, and he's wearing his red and gold scarf. his eyes turn to crescents when he smiles at jaemin.
"hey." jaemin clears his throat. he's a little nervous. he's never been supremely good at turning people down for anything, and he hasn't quite made a decision yet about the tutoring. there are pros and cons, but he needs a couple of more days to think it out.
"um, so it's about the tutoring thing." jeno says scratching the back of his head sheepishly, "jisung said you asked for some time to think about it, which is totally cool. um, no pressure."
jaemin nods slowly, "yeah... cool. thanks."
"but, this is kind of like a warning? no, wait that sounds weird. it's just, i really suck at transfiguration. like, really."
"i mean, that's why you asked for tutoring, right?" jaemin cracks a half-smile, and jeno lets out a huff of laughter.
"no, but. whatever 'bad' you're imagining in your head now... it's probably a lot better than whatever i am."
"you know you're working against yourself, right? the more you tell me how much you suck, the less chance you have of me taking you up."
"i know." jeno sighs, "i just- don't want you to expect me to be kind of decent and then realize what you let yourself in for. like. i want to disturb you as little as possible, so i figured it's best to let you know that it probably won't be easy to teach me. so you can make a fair and informed choice."
jaemin's heart melts.
stupid grffindors and their stupid righteousness and chivalry.
jaemin hates how much he loves chivalry.
"you're sweet." his face breaks into a smile- a real, genuine one, the kind he gives jisung or chenle or donghyuck when they make him happy. jeno's eyes widen, and his cheeks flush a little. he coughs and lowers his eyes.
"um, so yeah." jeno attempts to look up again, "that's...yeah."
jaemin raises an eyebrow, "if you're really this bad, you don't stand much of a chance for the exam, you know."
jeno looks like he is going to cry at the mention of the exam, "i know."
i cant believe this, jaemin thinks to himself, but he still stands a little straighter, and looks at jeno with another smile. smaller, but still sincere.
"i don't mind tutoring you, lee."
jeno freezes, jaw dropping, "what?"
"i said, i don't mind. i'll tutor you in transfiguration."
"are you serious?"
jaemin can't help but laugh, "yeah. stop asking before i change my mind."
"wow- that's- wow. that's fantastic! that's- damn, thank you." jeno looks dazed, "you'll really help me?"
"can't have you failing, can we? and, not to boast, but i am the best in our year."
"yeah, you really are." the words fall out of jeno's mouth naturally, and jaemin feels his cheeks flush.
transfiguration, stupid. he's talking about transfiguration.
"so." jaemin hoists his bag higher on his shoulder, "i'll meet you in the transfiguration classroom on friday, around 9? we can properly talk and schedule some timings that would work for both of us."
"that's perfect. thank you so much."
jeno gives him a smile, too. and this one is different from the others- just like jaemin's, wide and sincere.
he has an eyesmile.
there's weird feeling in jaemin's stomach. he absolutely does not like jeno lee- they barely know each other-, but to be fair, it's been years since he talked to someone so attractive. it's weird, because he has never felt anything remotely close to this when they played each other in quidditch. or when they shook hands after a game. or when jaemin waited for jisung outside the locker room. not even once for the past five years.
curse that eye-smile.
as all good things do, the fluttery moment passes. they say goodbye to each other, and jaemin continues on his way to his next class. still, he can't help but feel that something is different. there's something that makes him think everything is going to change. when is the last time he got so blushy around a boy?
literally never, and he has three exes. not that those relationships lasted very long, but it's saying something when jeno's eye-smile made him swoon more than his exes ever could after weeks of being in a relationship. why did his heart race at jeno's eye-smile? why did jeno even have a stupidly gorgeous eye-smile? it just made everything complicated.
what has he gotten himself in to?