Kyungsoo Apparated smack into the middle of Diagon Alley, startling a flock of pigeons. He smoothed down his robes, put his wand away, and stomped in the direction of K. Kim’s Protean Potions – Jongdae swore the first K stood for Kendrick, his English middle name, but Kyungsoo knew it actually stood for King - without sparing his surroundings a glance. The glowing purple sign, which was as pretentious as the shop’s name, was impossible to miss among the sea of old-fashioned shop displays.
Kyungsoo slammed the shop’s door loud enough to drown out the sound of the doorbell. The clerk jumped in surprise, knocking his chair over, while the elderly witch he was attending to shook her head, tut tutting. Kyungsoo walked straight towards them, and only stopped when he reached the shop counter. He glanced at the clerk, who was gripping the counter so hard his knuckles were starting to turn white, and said, “Jongdae’s in the back, right.” Before the clerk could answer, Kyungsoo was already behind him, tapping the tiny door leading to the storage room with his wand. The door slowly became wider and longer, and then abruptly sprung open. He walked inside, darkness settling around him the moment the door closed. He gingerly put his wand back inside his robes and took a few measured breaths, counting to ten in his head. Once he felt more composed, he was able to make out the shape of the rows of shelves stocked up with a plethora of different ingredients, and moved towards the dim, flickering green light, emitted by a jar containing wild mercats’ eyes. Before he could grab the knob of the door right next to the last row of shelves, it opened, revealing Jongdae standing in front of him, grinning like a madman.
“Hannah said you might pop by.”
Kyungsoo groaned, pushing past Jongdae into the spacious living room. It was dominated by an orange sofa - the most disgusting piece of furniture Kyungsoo had ever seen, four huge bookcases filled to the brim with books, and a white pelt of fur cum carpet which was a valuable family heirloom. It shouldn’t work but, Merlin only knows how, the room was perfect.
Kyungsoo gave the sofa a look of disdain and plopped into his favourite armchair. Jongdae sat down opposite of him, enthusiasm not waning, and said, “Should I serve tea in that tea set that Kris bought me? Or would you rather I smash it for you first?”
“Don’t annoy me, Jongdae.”
“I know. I know. You had enough of annoying people at work.”
Jongdae’s grin was stretching his face to what must have been an uncomfortable degree. Kyungsoo had always thought his friend had moments when he looked like a serial killer.
“Did Hannah tell you everything already?”
Jongdae shook his head. “Please do the honours. Hannah can never do these exciting stories any justice.”
“Merlin’s balls, are you an asshole. If that babbling twat didn’t exist, I might have decided to hate you instead.”
“Nah, I’m a Half-blood. It wouldn’t do it for you.”
Kyungsoo buried his face in his heads. He could feel a headache coming. “Get that tea first.”
“Sure. Lavender should do just fine,” Jongdae said, patting him on the shoulder. Kyungsoo flinched, swatting the hand away, and straightened his back. He looked at his friend calling Googley over – he could still hardly believe that Jongdae thought it was a great name for a House-elf, even if said elf loved to stare at people wide-eyed – and sat with pinched lips, refusing to say anything more until the tea finally appeared.
“We were in Granger-Weasley’s office. I was talking to her about my project when those two came. Supposedly, they’re working on a case, and wanted to know if we had developed any new tracking spells. As if Granger-Weasley would tell them. And then that total dumbass got distracted by the colour-changing miniature snitches Granger-Weasley’s husband sent her last week, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes haven’t released them yet, you see, and knocked over the crystal vase I gave Granger-Weasley for her birthday,” Kyungsoo said, and looked at Jongdae, daring him to speak.
Kyungsoo huffed, noticing the corners of Jongdae’s lips trembling. It seemed to have been more than Jongdae could take for he started to laugh until he was wheezing and clutching his stomach. “You still call your boss Granger-Weasley?”
Kyungsoo raised an eyebrow and said, “Calling her Weasley would be an offence.”
“Why do you care about that? She’s a Muggle-born and Weasley’s a pure-blood. I don’t get your logic.”
Kyungsoo sighed and shifted in his seat. This was shaping up to be a very tiring evening.
“As I told you time and time again, I don’t hate Muggle-borns per se. Yes, pure-bloods are superior by default, but Muggle-borns can rise to the standard sometimes, as evidenced by Granger-Weasley. Calling her just Weasley would be an offence, because she’s more successful than her husband. And 90% of the wizarding world, at that. Also, there are too many Weasleys. If I could, I’d call her Granger, but since she’s married that would be plebeian.”
“You can call her Hermione. Or say ‘my boss’. You know… like normal people do?”
Jongdae leaned back, making himself comfortable in his armchair, and smirked. Kyungsoo knew what was coming. Sometimes he doubted his sanity, coming to his smug friend for help.
“Well, if that isn’t fascinating. So Chanyeol smashed your precious vase, then one of you cast Reparo, and that got your knickers in a twist, correct?”
“Nah, you’re just bitter he was the first Muggle-born to ever get sorted into Slytherin. If Kris had broken the vase, you wouldn’t have batted an eyelash.” Kyungsoo tried to interrupt him but Jongdae continued, ignoring the constipated look on his friend’s face. “Because he’s a pure-blood. And you have an unhealthy bias towards pure-bloods, which makes it a miracle you haven’t been accused of having Death Eater sympathies yet-” Jongdae paused mid-thought. “No wait, everyone knows you’re like a Yorkie: all bark, no bite.”
Kyungsoo stood up, hands balled up in fists. “Oh, stuff it. Park fraternized with Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors. He even trained for Quidditch with them. He barely even spoke to his housemates! Circe help me, was he a disgrace to Slytherin. He wore his bloody feelings on his face like he had nothing to hide!”
Jongdae shook his head, smiling in that patronizing way Kyungsoo loathed the most.
“Yeah, yeah, he offends your pure-blood sensibilities. Did you never question why Slytherin always won against Hufflepuff and Gryffindor when he was the Keeper?”
“That’ll be quite enough. Good day to you,” Kyungsoo said and stalked out of the room, barely avoiding knocking into a big jar of bubbling black goo and giving the clerk yet another heart attack. He Disapparated the instant he stepped out of the shop.
Kyungsoo landed in the Atrium of the Ministry of Magic, right next to the rebuilt fountain. He took a few deep breaths, made sure he hadn’t splinched himself, and stalked through the golden gates towards the lifts. It wasn’t the first time that he had come to the Ministry at such late hour, but the jangling and rattling of the lift, resounding in the silence, never got less jarring.
The lift came to a stop with a bang on the ninth floor. He stepped out of it and stomped towards the black door at the end of the corridor, which swung open the moment he touched it. He didn’t have to think about which door to choose next. The circular room – the center of the Department of Mysteries – confused only those who didn’t work there. He started to feel a weak pull of magic coming from the Time Room immediately after stepping over the threshold.
The Time Room was one of the few places Kyungsoo felt at home. The relentless ticking of the clocks that filled every available space of the room had a strangely calming effect. He didn’t mind the glow of the clocks, nor the clatter that the cabinet full of Time-Turners made every time it shattered. It was familiar and welcome; he wouldn’t have the Room any other way.
There was one particular place that was just his. It was located to the left of the cabinet. He touched the wall there and tapped it once with his wand, murmuring a string of spells. A strange clicking noise broke his concentration. He turned around and cast a few complex Revealing Charms. When they detected nothing wrong, he touched the wall again and continued casting the earlier spells.
A part of the wall glowed slightly and a second later it disappeared, leaving behind a hole big enough for a person to fit through. Kyungsoo stepped inside his office, said, “Lumos”, and sat down at the desk. One lonely Time-Turner – miraculously rescued from the shattering cabinet two years ago by Granger-Weasley – lay beside a tower of books on his right, constantly turning. He looked at it for a few minutes, then sighed, leaning back against his chair.
He wouldn’t be able to count how many times he’d had conversations about Muggle-borns and Chanyeol with Jongdae. It wasn’t as if he thought Chanyeol had never-ending luck or was completely stupid. It was clear that he’d had ulterior motives in befriending Quidditch players from other houses. He‘d always acted more carelessly and friendly around them than among his own housemates, and it hadn’t taken long for his friends to start viewing Slytherins as less threatening. It had been a great tactic; a number of years might have passed since the war, but Slytherin’s reputation remained partially damaged. And it hadn’t hurt that Chanyeol’s antics during matches distracted the opposite team at the most crucial moments.
Chanyeol’s friendship with Teddy Lupin had probably been his best move, catapulting his status among Slytherins overnight, ensuring that he was left alone. That was, however, where Kyungsoo drew the line. He detested the bright smiles Chanyeol sent his way during Potions every time the wanker “accidently” destroyed some poor Gryffindor’s potion, earning them minus points. Yes, it had helped them win the House Cup three years in a row, but Chanyeol’s manic grin was downright terrifying.
Kyungsoo sighed once again; he hadn’t come here to ponder upon trivial matters. He opened one of the desk’s drawers, pulled out a tiny, silver Time-Turner, and placed it on the desk. Then, he grabbed the thickest of the books lying around and flicked through it until he found the chapter on Hour-Reversal Charms. He double-checked which spells he hadn’t used on the device yet, pointed his wand at it, and slowly recited the spells, pausing every time the Time-Turner flashed blue. When he was done, he checked the time. He’d been in the Ministry for a little over an hour; it was perfect. He grabbed the Time-Turner and turned it once.
His surroundings began to blur until he couldn’t see them anymore. He felt a sharp pull at the back of his head, noticed lights rapidly flickering around him, and then the world abruptly rightened itself. Once again, he could see clearly and feel the sturdy armchair beneath his hands. Kyungsoo quickly pulled his wand out of his robes and whispered, “Tempus”. His shoulders sagged instantly; he had gone forty-five minutes back in time.
He’d been working on creating a new Time-Turner for over a year now. Weasley-Granger started on it alone after extracting the old Time-Turner from the cabinet. He had taken over when she had been promoted to the Head of the Department. No one else knew about this, and considering how dangerous Time-Turners were, no one would be finding out any time soon. Even the Unspeakables working with him in the Time Room were none the wiser.
It had been three months since he’d succeeded in going back in time. The problem was that, while one turn should take you back an hour, with the new Time-Turner it took you anything from an hour to a minute back. No matter what additional Hour-Reversal Charms he added to the device, the situation remained the same. Even his boss was at her wit’s end.
Resigned, Kyungsoo put the Time-Turner back into the desk, said, “Nox”, and headed out of his office. After putting a bunch of complicated protection enchantments on the wall, he left the Time Room and made his way home.
Kyungsoo paced around his office, narrowly avoiding bumping into furniture. The tall stack of books on his desk had dwindled down to one thin book, which he’d just finished reading. There was a long chapter on time travel in it, and yet the only novel thing he found from the book were Temporary Time-Freezing charms; nifty but currently useless.
He turned to look through the book again and collided with his chair. Swearing loudly, he made to hobble out of the office and take the rest of the day off, when he heard the buzzing of his Spherophone. Bugger Granger-Weasley, he thought, of course she’d need him now. He groaned but picked up the noisy ball that his boss had charmed to deliver messages just like the wretched things Muggles called mobiles. The Spherophone stopped buzzing, and he read the text flashing inside it. He could hardly believe his luck. Bloody perfect.
He sat behind Granger-Weasley’s desk, staring at a pile of new books she’d left him before she’d pretty much run to the Atrium to Apparate back home. Her son Hugo’s magic was anything but stable; it was like a tornado, sweeping away anyone unlucky enough to come into contact with it. He hoped the little bugger hadn’t transfigured himself into a potato by accident. Granger-Weasley was a skilled witch, but rampant child magic could be absolutely bizarre. There was only so long that Kyungsoo was fine with manning his boss’s office.
He looked at the books again and picked one at random, checking the index for any strange sounding spells. More Time-Freezing Charms. Perfect. Before he could contemplate throwing the book across the room and checking the sturdiness of the walls, Granger-Weasley’s secretary – Hannah - opened the door.
“Someone from the Auror Department is here. It’s urgent.”
Kyungsoo cocked an eyebrow. “Someone?”
Hannah didn’t have time to answer, however, because Chanyeol and Kris pushed past her uninvited.
“It’s fine. We know each other.” Kris smiled at her gently. Hannah blushed, opened her mouth, then closed it without saying a word and scurried away. So much for being married, Kyungsoo thought. Even Professor Longbottom, the celebrated war hero, doesn’t hold a candle to Auror Wu.
He glanced at the book still in his hand. He so could use it. It wouldn’t be aggravated battery, right? “To what do I owe the displeasure?”
Kris tried smiling again, but it only made him look constipated. It was good to know that forced happiness was so unbecoming on him; Kyungsoo had always thought the man too good-looking to be true.
“We’re here about tracking spells,” said Chanyeol, looking straight at him. Kyungsoo turned to Kris, who just shrugged.
“What we told you last time still stands,” Kyungsoo answered slowly. “Which means we’re not teaching you spells we haven’t finished trial testing yet. Even if we know they work.”
He watched the emotions playing across Chanyeol’s face. The other furrowed his eyebrows, fidgeting, before saying, “But Auror Potter-”
Kyungsoo huffed. “Auror Potter knows the rules. I’m so very sad to hear that unicorns are dying on your watch and someone is happily harvesting their bile, but I’m afraid I cannot help you. Now, I’d appreciate it if you saw yourself out.”
Kris shook his head, putting his hand on Chanyeol’s shoulder to stop him from fidgeting even more. “It’s utter rubbish, really. You Unspeakables should learn to share.”
Kyungsoo narrowed his eyes. “Pardon me? We should learn to share? Merlin’s beard, we will share, and willingly, when the trial testing is done. If something went wrong, it’d be our responsibility, not yours. Please do piss off.”
He could see Chanyeol start fidgeting again from the corner of his eye. “What the bloody Hippogriff’s anus is it, Park?”
“Can’t you come with us and cast it yourself?”
Kyungsoo inhaled deeply, and exhaled, counting to ten in his head. “Do you expect me to run around the country with you, putting tracking spells on anyone you deem suspicious, until the case is closed? Park, I know life’s been hard on you, but I thought you needed some intelligence to become an Auror.”
“Kyungsoo.” Kris’ voice sounded vaguely threatening but Kyungsoo had had enough.
“Yes, that is indeed my name. Now, if you want to discuss this idiotic idea, please do come again when Granger-Weasley is here. Good bye.”
They had known each other for ages, he and Jongdae. Distant relatives, he was told; Kyungsoo’s mum’s three-times-great-grandfather’s sister’s daughter married Jongdae’s father’s two-times-great-grandfather’s oldest son. Jongdae’s family moved to England in the early 1900s; Kyungsoo’s mother’s family sometime in the late 1800s. Although his mother wanted to go back to Korea, they stayed because of his father’s job. He knew, however, that he would have attended Hogwarts no matter what; his parents had always said that there was no wizarding school quite like Hogwarts.
They had been pretty much destined to be friends. Both horribly pure-blood (even if in case of Jongdae only on his father’s side), with so much inbreeding it was a miracle that barely anyone in the family was bonkers; fathers holding important positions in the Ministry, and mothers the personifications of social butterflies. They might have been two years apart, but in Slytherin you looked after your own. Well mostly, because he’d have been damned if he cared for Chanyeol.
They fought a lot, and Kyungsoo endured many a failed potions. He still had a thin, silver scar above his wrist, courtesy of Jongdae’s disastrous attempts to improve one of the Healing potions. With such a track record it was only natural for them to hold grudges for no more than a day.
He sat in Jongdae’s living room, listening to the clatter coming from his friend’s laboratory. He was drumming his fingers on the coffee table next to him, pausing only to nervously ruffle his hair. He’d been making no progress on Time-Turners whatsoever for a month now. His irritation was mounting daily, and it had become so bad last week that he’d been popping by Jongdae’s place every three days for a new dose of the Calming Draught.
Suddenly, a bang came from the laboratory and he jumped to his feet.
“It’s OK. It’s OK,” Jongdae shouted, stepping back into the living room. “I couldn’t find the bloody thing. Misplaced the bottles or something. Here.”
Kyungsoo took the potion, feeling the tension leave his body just with the sole touch of the glass.
Jongdae smirked. “You’re on your way to addiction at the rate you’re going, mate. No Calming Draught until tomorrow evening, if you know what’s good for you.”
Kyungsoo knew he should be going back. It was late and tomorrow was Monday. He could use less grumpiness, and getting no sleep wouldn’t help.
“You have that look on your face.”
Kyungsoo rolled his eyes. “What look?”
“The my-life-is-miserable look.”
“Work’s utter tosh. Park keeps accidentally bumping into me, and making puppy eyes. As if I’d break any Department rules for him,” Kyungsoo said, burying his head in his face. “And then Kris keeps looking at me like I killed his whole family. Bugger unicorns. What’s so special about them? They hate men anyway. So yeah, my life is miserable.”
Jongdae chuckled and patted him on the back. “There, there. Kris did say you’ve been acting like a total prick, but it’s OK. We understand it’s your way of life. ”
“Jongdae, do you have to?”
“Hmm…let’s see…yeah, I think I do.”
“Are you going to natter about Park again?”
Jongdae shook his head. The look on his face was unnervingly close to pity. “You work that one out yourself. It’s high time. Now go. I know you start work early.”
Kyungsoo stepped out of Jongdae’s shop and closed the door behind him. He took out his wand to Apparate and froze. The clicking sound was back, coming out from inside the shop. He turned around, but the noise had already stopped. He waited with bated breath for something to happen, yet the silence didn’t abate. He sighed. He just was being stupid, he thought. Clearly he must be so tired he’s hearing things.
He stood for a moment longer just to make sure. He could hear the wind pick up speed, making the shop signs rattle and fallen, dried leaves rustle. There was no other sound. Diagon Alley was mostly still. He Apparated.
Mondays - he used to enjoy them once upon a time, when work was a satisfying, quiet affair. Now that Granger-Weasley was tuning into his wavelength of cranky, work was as tedious as cleaning dragon dung.
He was lying down on his bed, massaging his temples. The Selwyn Manor – it truly was unfortunate that he might be somehow related to Umbridge – was quiet, since his parents were huddled together on the other side of the house, most likely continuing their never-ending discussion on whether Malfoys were redeemed enough to be invited to his mother’s famous Autumn Garden Ball or not. Kyungsoo was already on his fifth cup of lavender tea, but his nerves were still fried. He looked at the Calming Draught, wedged between a pot of lavender tea and three glasses on his bedside table, and grabbed it, resigned. Since it was already well into the evening, even Jongdae wouldn’t be able to berate him, he thought, and gulped down half of the bottle.
A piercing pain erupted in his chest, spreading to the tips of his fingers and toes with the speed of a wildfire. He rolled off the bed, and heard the sound of cloth being ripped apart. His bones cracked and ground together, while his skin itched in a way that made him think it were being stretched. The pain stopped as suddenly as it started, leaving him sweaty and breathing heavily, lying on the floor next to the fireplace.
It took what felt like hours before he finally managed to sit up. He looked down at himself and gasped. His robes were in pieces and his hands abnormally big. Kyungsoo scrambled for the Floo powder, praying his Floo extension still worked; he had absolutely no desire to parade around the house in the state he was in just to use the main Floo downstairs.
He threw the Floo powder into the grate, waited for the emerald flames to burst, and thrust his head into the fire, muttering, “Number twenty, Diagon Alley.”
The world spun, ash whirling around his head. He squeezed his eyes and lips shut, waiting for the spinning to stop. When the ground felt stable again, he spluttered, trying to get rid of the wayward ash that lodged itself between his teeth and coated his tongue.
Jongdae’s head peeked out of the laboratory, his eyebrows furrowed. “Kris?”
Kyungsoo massaged his temples, sighing. This was getting better by the second.
“OK. Kris doesn’t have such dramatic entrances. Who the bloody hell are you?”
“Jongdae, do you have a stash of Polyjuice Potion in your laboratory?”
His friend studied him for a moment, confusion plastered all over his face, before he gasped. “Kyungsoo? Oh bugger, this is rad.”
“Is this an experimental version of the potion? Am I royally screwed?”
“You’re safe, mate. Max twelve hours and you’ll be back.”
Kyungsoo didn’t even realise he was holding his breath. “You sure about that?”
Jongdae grinned at him. “Positive. You should be back to normal by the time you have to go to work. You can pop by later tomorrow. I’ll make sure I give you the correct potion this time. Night.”
Jongdae retreated back to the laboratory and Kyungsoo pulled his head out of the fireplace, choking on another mouthful of ash. He then stood up slowly, and walked over to the body-length mirror he had in the bathroom. He was visibly taller, and better-looking, although dismally less gloriously pure-blood; the Wu family had a hidden Muggle-born relative here and there – he’d looked it up. For a moment he entertained the thought of checking his nether regions, purely for science, but it seemed a bit of a stretch even to him. He quickly charmed a pair of his robes to fit him, put them on, and went to sleep.
Kyungsoo was sitting in his room, finishing his breakfast; his parents didn’t expect him to come down to the dining room on work days anymore. Thank Merlin for small mercies, because he was still looking very much like Kris.
He checked the time. It was nine o’clock in the morning and he had thirty minutes left until he had to be at the Ministry, and fifteen minutes until he stopped being Kris. He glanced at the offending bottle of potion at his bedside table and sighed. Lavender tea it was. Sometimes he wondered if one could build up resistance to herbs.
Kyungsoo checked the time again. It was twenty-five past nine. He swore, grabbed the bottle of potion, and Apparated to Diagon Alley.
He paced around Jongdae’s living room, ignoring Googley who kept encouraging him to try the Chamomile tea. It was nice to have been able to look down on Jongdae, but not only was he late for work, the Polyjuice Potion hadn’t worn off yet.
His friend walked into the living room, and stopped a fair distance away from Kyungsoo. He seemed to be collecting himself, looking surprisingly at a loss of words.
“Just spill it. It cannot get worse.”
Jongdae gulped. “It kind of can.”
Kyungsoo blinked. Jongdae was still standing on the other side of the room.
“Merlin’s baggy Y-fronts. Just say it, Jongdae.”
“There’s Unicorn Bile in the potion-”
“Isn’t that illegal?”
“Yes, and I don’t have access to it, but that’s not the problem.”
“Not the problem,” Kyungsoo deadpanned.
“No. The problem is that Unicorn Bile makes potions’ effects much stronger. And thus, it can take up to a year for the Polyjuice to wear off. Before you start shouting, there’s an antidote. But it takes from two to four weeks to brew.”
“Two to four weeks?”
Jongdae nodded, eyeing the fireplace.
“So basically you’ve never made the antidote, the antidote probably doesn’t even exist, and you’ll try to wing it. Do you even know what counteracts Unicorn Bile?”
“I do. Uhm…vaguely. I can’t imagine it taking more than a month though.”
Kyungsoo thought briefly about using the Entrail-Expelling Curse he’d learned about while sneaking into the Restricted Section at Hogwarts, but figured no Jongdae meant longer without the antidote.
“And this has now become a problem for both the Department of Mysteries and the Auror Department. Bloody great. Firecall Kris, Jongdae. I’ll contact Granger-Weasley.”
In the end, they gathered in Auror Potter’s office. It was a tight fit with six people, and Kyungsoo ended up squeezed between Kris and Granger-Weasley. Chanyeol was standing on the other side of Kris, shooting glances at Kyungsoo whenever he thought Kyungsoo wasn’t looking. It was unusually disconcerting as, for once, Chanyeol’s face was completely blank.
Potter was sitting behind his desk, holding his head in his hands. Kyungsoo couldn’t remember ever seeing the man look tired, but this time he appeared truly done with life. No one dared to say anything until he finally spoke.
“Let’s get this story straight. Mr. Kim, I can understand why you are in possession of the Polyjuice Potion, but one that turns you into Kris?”
Jongdae smiled sheepishly. “I collect people’s hair so that I can conduct my experiments. Kris gave me his permission. I do, however, label the potions with hair inside of them.”
“But somehow that potion was in the bottle labelled as the Calming Draught?”
“And you found out it had Unicorn’s Bile added to it, that you do not in fact possess?”
Potter looked straight at Kris. Kyungsoo figured somehow people who knew Kris could still tell them apart. “Once your current case is finished, you’re suspended, Auror Wu. I really have no words. You’re a public servant. You can’t just go around, permitting people to Polyjuice into you.”
Kris blanched. He opened his mouth as if to say something, but seemed to have thought better of it, and instead turned to staring at his shoes as if they were the most fascinating thing in the world. Chanyeol put his hand on Kris’ shoulder and sighed. Kyungsoo had to forcefully stop himself from gaping at him; Chanyeol never sighed. He now couldn’t help but think that the situation he was in was much more serious than he initially thought.
“Kyungsoo,” Granger-Weasley’s voice put a stop to his musings. “Have you noticed anything unusual happening around you lately?”
“Unusual?...I really can’t remember anything. Why?”
“It appears as if whoever is responsible for switching the potions, is most likely involved in our current case,” Potter replied.
Kyungsoo’s eyes widened. “Do you mean the illegal trade of Unicorn Bile?”
“Do you have any evidence to suggest the cases are actually related?”
“We made it difficult to smuggle or obtain the Bile, and pretty much impossible to buy it. It couldn’t have been a random person,” said Potter.
“But that doesn’t make sense. The Department of Mysteries refused to teach you the unauthorized spells. Why would anyone see me as a threat?”
Potter’s smile was lopsided. “I honestly don’t know. If the suspect went to all this trouble of finding out who your friends are and then orchestrating this ruse, you must be important to them.”
“Do you think it’s someone I know?” Kyungsoo’s mind was reeling.
Granger-Weasley glanced at Auror Potter and nodded. “We think it might be an Unspeakable or someone from the DMLE. It doesn’t have to be, but if someone was tailing you and you didn’t notice, then they must be well-versed in tracking and hiding spells.
“I think it’s better if you take sick leave from work. You can’t come in looking like this. The less people who know, the better.”
“I agree,” said Potter. “Can you stay at home?”
Kyungsoo shook his head. “Selwyn Manor might be big, but it’d probably take my parents no more than a few days to figure something’s wrong.”
“He could stay at Chanyeol’s.”
Kyungsoo turned towards Kris. The man was looking at Potter, refusing to meet Kyungsoo’s eyes. Merlin’s saggy right testicle, thought Kyungsoo, as if I haven’t suffered enough already.
“He lives in the Muggle part of London. Alone,” Kris continued. “If someone did pop by, they wouldn’t be surprised to see me there. Also, he blocked his Floo to anyone but me, a few senior Aurors, Teddy Lupin, Jongdae, and Draco Malfoy. It makes the most sense.”
“I see. Then, Unspeakable Do will stay with Chanyeol for as long as it takes to brew the antidote,” Potter said and turned to Jongdae. “I’ll notify Malfoy of the situation. You can consult him. As far as I can remember, he tinkered with Polyjuice Potion in the past-”
Kyungsoo sagged against the wall, tuning out. He looked at Chanyeol, catching him staring, worrying at his bottom lip. For a moment, Kyungsoo wished Chanyeol was grinning in his usual, carefree way. However, the other only creased his eyebrows slightly, sighed and looked away.
They stopped in the corridor next to Potter’s office. Chanyeol was still quiet, Kris kept smoothing his hair back nervously, and Jongdae repeatedly exclaimed how amazing it was that he would finally get to work with Draco Malfoy. Kyungsoo was really starting to develop a migraine.
Suddenly, Jongdae stopped blabbing about Malfoy and turned towards Kris with a wicked smile. “So why didn’t you offer your flat? Don’t you live alone?”
Chanyeol snorted and said, ignoring Kris’ sounds of distress, “Not anymore. He’s living with Cho Chang now. The Chinese wizarding community is very close-knit, if you know what I mean.”
Kyungsoo couldn’t help but gape. Jongdae beamed, and tried to unsuccessfully put his arm around Kris’ shoulders. “So you like older women, huh?”
Kris blushed, but refused to answer. Jongdae and Chanyeol cackled, while Kyungsoo tried to understand what was appealing in going out with someone a good fifteen years your senior.
“OK, gentleman, please excuse us. I need to have a quick word with Kyungsoo.”
Kyungsoo stared dumbly at Jongdae, letting his friend drag him into a secluded corner, still too flabbergasted to react properly. He couldn’t comprehend what was happening around him anymore; it appeared to him that he’d walked into someone else’s dream. What other explanation could there possibly be?
Jongdae released his wrist and looked around.
“What is it, Jongdae?”
“Simple. I need you to treat Chanyeol like a normal human being.”
Kyungsoo felt the reality crash into him at full-speed, blood shimmering in his veins. He narrowed his eyes, almost spitting the words out, “I do treat him like a human being.”
Jongdae shook his head, the grin from earlier completely gone now. “I said normal human being, not subpar. Be nice, Kyungsoo. Leave your mountain of prejudices behind, and give Chanyeol a chance. You can start by calling him by his first name.”
Kyungsoo clenched his fists, digging his nails painfully into his palms. “And what if I don’t?”
Jongdae moved closer to him and whispered in his ear, “You shouldn’t anger the person brewing potions for you, mate. You never know what might happen.”
He could feel the muscles in his back, taut like a string ready to snap at any moment. He closed his eyes for a moment, exhaling.
“OK. Whatever. I’ll try to be nice. I won’t call him by his surname.”
Jongdae grinned, patting him on the back. “Great. That’s what I’m talking about. Just treat it as an adventure. Have fun.”
Kyungsoo glared at Jongdae, but let himself be dragged back to Chanyeol. At some point during their exchange, Kris seemed to have disappeared.
“I’ll leave you to it then,” Jongdae said, still grinning. “Good luck, mate. If Kyungsoo gives you any trouble, just tell me.”
Jongdae winked at Chanyeol and walked away, whistling under his breath. Kyungsoo watched his friend’s retreating back, trying to ignore the heavy silence that settled between him and Chanyeol. When Jongdae disappeared behind a corner, he glanced at Chanyeol and saw the man playing with his fingers. Kyungsoo rubbed at his face, trying to think of something to say.
“Let’s just go to the Atrium. I’ll Side-along Apparate you to my flat.”
He almost jumped in surprise when Chanyeol started talking, but followed him to the lift without saying a word. It was strange to look at Chanyeol’s back without having to crane his head. They were almost the same height now; Kyungsoo might have been even a bit taller. He could see that Chanyeol’s ears were sticking out a little, peeking from beneath his messy hair – they seemed to have woken up both him and Kris, when Jongdae firecalled them earlier in the morning. When he took a closer look, he spotted a mole just beneath Chanyeol’s left ear; he didn’t think he’d ever noticed those things before.
The lift arrived at their floor, clanging loudly, bringing Kyungsoo back to reality. He stepped inside after Chanyeol, the man looking straight at him with an unreadable expression on his face. Kyungsoo took a deep breath and said, “I’ll behave. Don’t worry.”
Chanyeol cocked his head to the side, a small smile tugging at the corner of his lips. “I’m not worried. I’m trying to get used to you not being Kris.” Then, he leaned against the lift’s wall and grinned openly. “You’re somehow so much less threatening now.”
Kyungsoo blinked rapidly, rooted to the spot. Before he could say anything in return, the lift stopped on the eighth floor and Chanyeol walked out. People started to step inside immediately, rousing him from his stupor. He smoothed his robes and ran after Chanyeol.
He loathed Side-along Apparation. He was fine Apparating; it was a tad unpleasant at times, if he was angry and couldn’t concentrate, but nothing major. Side-along Apparation, however, made him feel as if someone was trying to squeeze him through a tiny tube. He, therefore, wasn’t surprised in the slightest when he doubled over and retched all over Chanyeol’s carpet the moment they appeared in the man’s flat.
He wiped his mouth, flinching, and muttered, “Scourgify”. The puddle of vomit vanished, leaving behind only a sickly smell in the air. He looked up at Chanyeol, who was standing right in front of him.
Kyungsoo nodded, but his mind was on something completely different.
“You don’t have anti-Apparation wards?”
Chanyeol laughed. “Course I do. It took me some time to do it, but the wards work on everyone but me. And people who Side-along Apparate with me. It comes in handy since I hate to Floo, and don’t want to give my neighbours heart attacks by Apparating into the hallway.
“Didn’t you try doing anything similar at your house? You did score an O in Charms, right?”
Feeling the nausea pass, Kyungsoo stood up and put his wand away.
“Yeah, I did. The Selwyn Manor is really old, though. I tried to change the wards some time after I became an Unspeakable, but the magic that went into creating them is just too obscure and complex. It’s not just anti-Apparation and –Disapparation charms. There’s blood and Dark magic involved too. I’d rather not change it, than have the thing collapse on my head.”
The trademark Chanyeol grin was back. He felt himself relax against his better judgment.
“Come on, let me show you around the flat.”
The flat was located a ten minute walk away from the Russell Square tube station on Marchmont Street. It was a short tube ride away from both King’s Cross and Diagon Alley, and The Brunswick Centre was only a block away. It was also a relatively quiet neighbourhood, if one ignored the UCL and SOAS students walking up and down the street at night during the weekend, completely smashed. Kyungsoo had to admit that he was impressed; the place couldn’t have been cheap.
They’d landed in the living room, which was separated from the kitchen only by a counter. The fireplace was its centre, with a big sofa, an armchair, and a table in front of it. Close to the fireplace was the entrance to a spacious corridor which led to the bathroom, connected to Chanyeol’s bedroom, and a cosy, little guestroom cum office. The guestroom had a desk facing a bay window, a sofa that unfolded, a coffee table, a well-used, portable potion-making station, and numerous bookshelves. The whole flat was painted in bright colours and was bathed in sunshine; it was quite like Chanyeol. Very Muggle.
Kyungsoo sat down on the sofa, pleasantly surprised that it was as comfortable as it looked.
“Do you want to go to your house to get some of your things? I figure you’re gonna spend some time here. I can Side-along Apparate with you.”
Kyungsoo cocked an eyebrow. “Are you kidding me? I’ll just call for my House-elf later. As long as I’m here, your wards will mean nothing to it.”
“Living the privileged life, huh?” Chanyeol said.
Kyungsoo huffed. “You could get a House-elf yourself if you wanted.”
Chanyeol shook his head. “It doesn’t feel right.” Seeing the look of confusion on Kyungsoo’s face, he added, “I guess it’s a Muggle thing.”
“Granger-Weasley would agree. S.P.E.W is going strong after all,” Kyungsoo said, rolling his eyes. Still, he couldn’t help but smile, thinking about his boss. Granger-Weasley defied all laws; he could never understand how her mind worked. He always thought it was probably why she was so brilliant; geniuses just had to be a bit crazy.
He looked at Chanyeol, leaning back against the desk and looking out of the window. Even now when Kyungsoo was taller than he’d ever been, the other man still made an impressive figure, his legs going on forever.
He realized that it had been the longest conversation that they’d ever had. Back at Hogwarts he hadn’t even feel the need to spend his time insulting the other man. He had been a fellow Slytherin, and quite popular among students, but it hadn’t changed the fact that he was a Muggle-born. Although his parents generally wouldn’t have said anything if they found out he was on friendly terms with a Muggle-born, if he’d told them he was going out with one or that his best friend was one, they’d have had questioned his sanity. As a result, he stayed away from Muggle-borns by default, and became well-versed in pretending Chanyeol didn’t exist; except when he whined to Jongdae.
He couldn’t shake off the feeling that Chanyeol was behaving like a completely different person. Even though he still grinned a bit too widely from time to time, he appeared somewhat subdued and less careless with his words.
“You’ve never told me why you find me less threatening now.”
Chanyeol turned back towards him and folded his arms across his chest. The small smile was tugging at his lips again; Kyungsoo thought it looked as if Chanyeol was laughing at a joke only he could understand.
“Well, you look like Kris now.”
Kyungsoo straightened his back and narrowed his eyes. He could feel the heat seeping back into his body. “How is that a valid argument?”
“I’m afraid I’m sworn to secrecy on that topic.”
Chanyeol’s smile widened. “What? No, nothing that drastic.”
“Then tell me,” Kyungsoo deadpanned.
“What will I get in return?”
Kyungsoo rolled his eyes. In return? What was that git even thinking. “Why would you get something in return?”
“Well, let’s put it like this. If you want me to tell you, allow me to ask you anything I want at any time I want in the future. Just once and it won’t be anything more personal than what I’ll tell you. What do you say?”
Kyungsoo was starting to see what Jongdae was hinting at every time they talked about Chanyeol. “How very Slytherin of you.”
“I learned from the best,” Chanyeol answered.
Kyungsoo was sure that agreeing wasn’t a good idea, but the curiosity was getting the better of him. “OK, deal. But don’t expect me to tell you anything about the Department of Mysteries. That one would be violating my contract.”
He stared at Chanyeol as the other man walked over to the sofa, and sat down next to him. Kyungsoo shifted away from Chanyeol on sheer reflex.
“Done. Kris will legit kill me if he finds out you know this, so don’t tell anyone else. Do you know anything about his past?”
“Not much. Jongdae told me Kris’ from Canada and a pure-blood. I also heard he moved to England because he wanted to work with Auror Potter.”
Chanyeol giggled. “Wanted to work with Auror Potter, huh? He was desperate for it, rather. I bet he’s at home now, crying. Disappointing The Boy Whose Arse The Sun Shines Out Of was definitely a blow.
“Well, anyway, Kris actually graduated from the Maple Ridge Institute of Magic with top grades and worked for the Canadian DMLE for a year. He was supposed to be promoted when he ditched his job and moved to England. He didn’t care he had to start from scratch. The moment Harry let him join the Auror Training, he was on cloud nine.
“We finished the training together and became partners. Our first mission was to go undercover. Into the Muggle world. Don’t get me wrong, Harry tries his best to ensure that Trainees learn the differences between our and the Muggle world. But Kris is a pure-blood and, as far as I can tell, most pure-bloods still live in the nineteenth century. So his efforts went sorta to waste there.
“At the time, I was still under the impression that Kris was mostly cool, so when I saw him walk into office dressed as a Muggle on the day we were supposed to go into the field, I was stunned. He was wearing striped red and white pants, black socks with sandals, a t-shirt, and a suit jacket straight from the eighteenth century on top of it. He also had some weird hat on that reminded me strangely of the Sorting Hat. He was more fit to work in Circus than try to blend in anywhere.
“I couldn’t really take him all that seriously afterwards. I mean, I still remember the whole outfit vividly whenever I look at him. So yeah, you can scowl and glare at me, but it’ll be just a huge waste of time.”
Kyungsoo was flummoxed. On one hand, he knew that some pure-bloods were extremely ignorant of the world around them. On the other hand, however, Muggle Studies had been compulsory at Hogwarts for the first- and second-years since the war. Kris might have not attended Hogwarts, but Kyungsoo had always been so certain that Canada caught up with the Muggle-loving trend when USA did: a good thirty years ago.
“Are you having me on? Isn’t Kris supposed to be one of the best Aurors the DMLE has?”
“Nah, that’s the general misconception. I’m the one who keeps this partnership from sinking,” Chanyeol said, smirking. Kyungsoo pinched himself. Chanyeol was still smirking.
“Well, it’s been nice talking to you but I still need to pop by the Ministry to finish some paperwork. Make yourself at home. I’ll bring us something to eat for dinner.”
Kyungsoo watched Chanyeol stand up, flash him yet another grin, and Apparate.
He was bored, and outrageously so. He’d already managed to call Sharpie over (his mother had been forbidden from naming House-elves ever since Sharpie happened), transfigure an empty shelf into a closet, hang robes in it, organise them by colour, length and level of formality, drink an assortment of different herbal teas, and recall exactly which books from the Manor he needed for work. He even Owled his parents; he spent a good hour trying to come up with a credible reason for vanishing for up to a month, but in the end gave up, and wrote that he had to go to Madagascar for work.
He was drilling a hole in the fireplace with his eyes, half-lying on the sofa in the living room. Chanyeol kept the Floo powder in a sack leaning against the fireplace, embroidered with threads the colours of a thousand rainbows. Kyungsoo tried to make out the patterns on it at first, but the sheer imagination required for the task was too great. He told himself to ask Chanyeol later if embroidery was his secret hobby.
He stretched, yawning, when he heard a sound curiously like meowing coming from Chanyeol’s bedroom. He tip toed to the bedroom door and put his ear against it. The meowing was louder now; there really was no mistaking the sound. He frowned. Chanyeol hadn’t said anything about having a cat.
Kyungsoo debated with himself for a moment how big of a privacy breach going inside the room would be, before he reminded himself that it was Chanyeol’s bedroom, and thus there was no need for him to be considerate.
The instant the door opened, a blob of silver zoomed past him. He turned around, catching the blob disappear under the sofa. A second later the bedroom door slammed shut under his nose. He tried to open it again, but it wouldn’t budge. Whatever had come out of the room could bypass the wards that Kyungsoo couldn’t. Well, he could, if he so wanted, but there was no point in wasting a few hours dismantling wards on the bedroom of someone he wasn’t even planning on shagging.
He gripped his wand tighter and creeped towards the sofa. He could hear the faint meowing again. It didn’t sound threatening in the slightest, so Kyungsoo kneeled on the ground and gingerly looked under the sofa. A big, fluffy Kneazle was curled into a ball, staring at him with bright blue eyes. It had magnificent silver fur with oddly ginger-coloured paws, tail and ear tips.
The pop of Apparation echoed loudly in the room. Kyungsoo stood up abruptly, and whipped around, nearly colliding with Chanyeol. He took a step back and grabbed the sofa to steady himself. Chanyeol looked at him, amused, and walked over to the kitchen counter to put the bags that he was holding on it.
“Why didn’t you say you have a Kneazle?”
Chanyeol cocked an eyebrow at him and said, “Wanted to see how long it’d take you to try and break into my bedroom.”
Kyungsoo groaned. “That thing can clearly bypass your wards.”
“All the better for you, I guess. Didn’t have to rescue the damsel in distress by force,” Chanyeol said, grinning.
Kyungsoo huffed and sat down on the sofa, glaring at Chanyeol busy himself with taking plastic containers out of the bags in the kitchen. He was rummaging through the drawers, probably trying to find cutlery, when Kyungsoo felt something warm settle into his lap. He looked down only to see the Kneazle kneading his robes to make himself more comfortable.
“That’s a surprise.” The instant Chanyeol started talking, the Kneazle made a sound very close to a huff and turned around so that its butt was facing the kitchen.
Kyungsoo stared at Chanyeol who was laughing, bent-over and holding the counter. Emotions played on his face like a movie – the mirth so palpable it couldn’t have been mistaken for anything else.
“Sorry,” said Chanyeol, his voice still breathless from laughter. “That thing hates literally everyone. It figures she’d take to someone as majestic and haughty as she is. ”
Kyungsoo could feel irritation hit him like a wave during high tide. He narrowed his eyes, trying to rein the anger inside, chanting his promise to Jongdae in his head. “Majestic and haughty?”
Chanyeol smiled wider than should have been humanly possible, showing Kyungsoo all of his annoyingly perfect, white teeth. “Your pedigree is flawless, and your facial expressions are the same as hers. You’re also equally dramatic. You can’t deny that.”
“Being dramatic is a pure-blood’s birthright. Along with sharp wit and at least one patented death glare.” The words were out of Kyungsoo’s mouth before he could process what he was saying. He couldn’t believe that the first thing that came to his mind were Jongdae’s words. The man was truly a nuisance.
“See? That’s what I mean. You forgot about being fluent in French though. But I bet you probably are, right?”
Kyungsoo grimaced. “My parents do despair at my inability to learn any language that isn’t English and Korean.”
“Well then, I can feel better about myself now, since I am fluent in French,” Chanyeol said, and ignored Kyungsoo’s flabbergasted expression in favour of finishing sorting his groceries.
Kyungsoo gently lifted the Kneazle off his lap and put her on a pillow on the sofa. He walked over to the counter and sat down on one of the kitchen chairs next to it.
“I-uhm…Why would you know French?”
Chanyeol closed the fridge and sat down opposite Kyungsoo. He opened the containers and handed him a pair of chopsticks. Kyungsoo cocked an eyebrow at him. “Thai food? Really? What a way to lower the standards.”
Chanyeol shrugged and dug into his Tom Yum, a stick of satay chicken in one hand and spoon in the other. “It’s good. Just try it.”
Kyungsoo watched Chanyeol’s Adam’s apple bob as he swallowed a prawn. “Don’t talk with your mouth full. What if you choke to death?”
“I have twenty one years of experience. I’ll be fine. Anyway, you wanted to know about French, right?”
Kyungsoo nodded, happily stuffing himself with green curry. The food really wasn’t too bad.
“I don’t think you know; given that I’m a Muggle-born, you never really cared to get to know me,” Kyungsoo opened his mouth to retaliate, but Chanyeol shook his head and continued, “Don’t deny it. I remember how stunned you were when I got sorted into Slytherin.
“Anyway, it’s not something I flaunt, but my family’s rich. We’re so-called Old Money. My father used to say he made money the old-fashioned way – he inherited it. I guess I’m quite the Muggle pure-blood. C'est l'ironie de la vie,” Chanyeol laughed grimly. “As you can probably imagine, there were standards I was expected to meet. My mum had been pretty much planning on sending me to Eton since she found out she was pregnant. I was forced to start learning French when I turned three. Because it’s posh.
“She cried when I got invited to Hogwarts. Her grand plan of me becoming a famous politician lay in pieces. If Hogwarts wasn’t so prestigious and my older brother hadn’t just been accepted to Harvard Law School, she would have had a mental breakdown.” Chanyeol sighed, looking forlornly at his soup. “Why on earth am I telling you all this?”
Kyungsoo put his chopsticks down, looking Chanyeol in the eyes. “I can’t say people have the habit of confiding in me, because I would be lying. On the contrary, they never tell me anything.”
Chanyeol snorted. “I’m hopeless around you, aren’t I?”
“Well, that does appear to be true. You’re getting better though. If you behaved more like this when we were at Hogwarts, I might have considered befriending you.”
Chanyeol grinned again and Kyungsoo had to duck his head to mask the smile tugging at his lips.
“Speaking of befriending people, did Jongdae ever tell you why I was so desperate to become friends with Max Wood?” Chanyeol said, wolfing down the remaining curry with the same abandonment as before.
“No. But who’s that?”
“Wow, you’re the hopeless one. Maximilian Wood? The younger brother of Oliver Wood? You know him. He used to be Gryffindor’s Quidditch captain.”
“Ah! The chart guy,” said Kyungsoo, finally remembering the tall guy, who used to stride down the corridors with arms full of notes before every Gryffindor team practice.
“Yep, that’s him. I heard about his strategy charts and so, after I earned his trust, I used to distract him a day before Gryffindor-Slytherin matches and borrow them. Once I copied everything, I put them back, and briefed the Slytherin team. It always helped us earn extra points.”
Kyungsoo choked on the water he’d been drinking, some of it escaping through his nose. He quickly Accioed a tissue, wiped his face and coughed the rest of the water out. “Be careful what you say. Merlin’s balls, I knew you were a riot but stealing? I take back everything I’ve ever said about you not fitting in Slytherin. Clearly the Sorting Hat meant business.”
Chanyeol gathered the food containers and threw them into the bin. His eyes were creased in the corners and he was biting at his lip, trying to keep his face blank. Kyungsoo looked over at the living room, noticing the Kneazle staring at them, her ears peaked.
“What’s her name? The Kneazle’s?”
Chanyeol shrugged, wiping his hands on his jeans. “She doesn’t have a name.”
“I wasn’t planning on getting a pet, ever. I got her by accident really,” Chanyeol said, looking at the Kneazle trotting towards Kyungsoo. “You see, we had this case. Some guy had an illegal menagerie. He imported animals in an awfully shady way. He treated them like shit. And he owned a few animals you can’t own without a license, which he of course didn’t have. Anyway, we caught him red-handed and closed the place down. The damn Kneazle wouldn’t go with the Magizoologists. At some point she glued herself to my leg and refused to let go. Had to take her with me or risk losing my leg to fierce Kneazle claws,” Chanyeol said, rolling his eyes. “She’s a beast, and so has no name.”
Kyungsoo took the Kneazle into his arms, petting her fur lightly. “I can’t believe you. No wonder she loathes you.”
Chanyeol patted Kyungsoo’s shoulder, taking a step back when the Kneazle hissed at him. “Well, feel free to use her as a bed warmer. I’ll survive.”
He yawned, walking into the living room, the Kneazle following him like a shadow. Chanyeol was standing in the kitchen, making breakfast and singing Celestina Warbeck’s “You Stole My Cauldron But You Can't Have My Heart” horribly off-key.
Kyungsoo froze, nearly tripping over the carpet. The events from last day hit him like a freight train, knocking his breath away; every cell in his body seemed to be screaming at him. He couldn’t believe he’d really told Chanyeol he fit into Slytherin, said he wouldn’t mind befriending him, and ate takeaway Thai food like a true, brainwashed Muggle-lover.
Chanyeol turned around, beaming at him. “Do you want your tea black?”
Before he could react, Chanyeol cursed, dropped the pan he was holding, managed to grab his wand and levitate the pan with his left hand before it hit the floor. Kyungsoo blinked, staring at the sizzling bacon and eggs, impressed and utterly distracted from his earlier thoughts.
“Oops,” said Chanyeol, giggling. “You got me by surprise. I’ve never seen Kris looking dishevelled and wearing pjs. He probably washes, dresses and combs his hair in his sleep. Anyway, any milk or sugar?”
“Milk. I’ll do it myself,” Kyungsoo said, still regarding the pan. He walked over to the counter, poured milk into his tea and sipped it, watching Chanyeol finish preparing their breakfast. The silence was prickling at his neck, making him fidget. He didn’t want to think about the situation he was in before he even had his first tea of the day. “So the sack you use for Floo powder. Is that your masterpiece?”
Chanyeol put the plates on the counter and grabbed his own cup of tea. “Nope. I suck at making pretty things. It’s a gift from Luna. Luna Lovegood. You remember the illegal menagerie I told you about?” Kyungsoo nodded. “The Magizoologists were pretty swamped with all the beasts. I’ve heard that Luna really wanted a Diricawl, so I offered to take one off their hands and give it to her. She made the sack for me to thank me.”
“You really do get around.”
“It’s called networking. Makes my job easy.”
Kyungsoo huffed, and gave the Kneazle some bacon. Chanyeol went back to eating, finishing in record time, Accioing his robes, and gulping the rest of his tea, before he Apparated to work. Kyungsoo looked around the room and sighed. He had yet another day of boredom ahead of him.
He spent most of the morning going through the books Chanyeol kept in the office. He had quite a selection, ranging from “Abracadabra: An A-Z of Spooky Spells” to “The Neverending Story” and “Freakonomics”. He picked up the “Guide to Advanced Occlumency” and re-read it for the fifth time; you could never stop improving at Occlumency.
It was a bit after lunch when he heard someone tapping on the window. He looked up from his book and blanched. His mother’s owl was standing on the window sill with a letter tied to its leg. The owl levelled what seemed very much like a glare at him, and tapped harder. Kyungsoo stood up, resigned, and went to open the window. The owl flew past him and settled on the arm of the sofa, immediately taking to the biscuits that Sharpie brought him earlier today. He untied the letter gingerly, and took a few steps back from the bird; it had a nasty temper and listened to no one but his mother.
He unrolled the piece of parchment and rolled his eyes.
I had a lovely chat with your father about Britain’s political ties to Madagascar. He cannot remember there having been any, other than in relation to the trade of fruits.
Now, I do realise an urgent matter must have come up, but I taught you to lie better than this.
Make sure to keep respectable company and bring us a souvenir suitable for having been in Madagascar.
Kyungsoo threw the letter onto the sofa and shooed the owl out of the flat; it pecked him with its beak at least five times during the process. He then stomped into the living room and plopped onto the carpet with a groan.
He stared at the white ceiling, thoughts running rampant through his head. He hated disappointing his parents. Their families went through a lot of trouble to fit among the British pure-bloods, and his parents had always reminded him to stick to the pure-blood ideals, so that they wouldn’t lose their status. They hadn’t been as radical after the war, but most of the pure-bloods still viewed Muggle-borns as necessary evil; you couldn’t get rid of it, but it didn’t mean you had to associate with it. If his parents knew he was staying with a Muggle-born, they’d throw a fit.
Kyungsoo sighed, running his fingers through his hair. It’d be stupid to antagonize his host. He’d have to spend a lot of time with Chanyeol during the next few weeks. He saw him quite often at work normally too. Being on friendly terms would help tremendously in the long run.
He sat up and leaned against the sofa, smiling faintly when the Kneazle settled next to him. He knew he was slowly beginning to warm up towards Chanyeol. The man was surprisingly easy to talk to. He would have never thought how similar their family situation was either.
His parents were far away, stuck in the Manor in Wiltshire. There was no way for them to find out where Kyungsoo actually was and with whom he was staying. Could he even disappoint them if they would never find out what happened? He might as well just follow Jongdae’s advice for now and have fun, he thought. There would be plenty of time for self-reflection once he was back among civilized people.
It was nearing five o’clock in the afternoon, when the fireplace lit up and Jongdae fell out of it in a cloud of soot. He stood up, beaming, dusted off his robes, and staggered towards Kyungsoo.
“Mate, you’re looking good!”
Kyungsoo rolled his eyes. “It’s been a day. What did you expect to find here? A corpse?”
“Close, but no cigar.”
“Why are you here anyway?” Kyungsoo folded his arms across his chest, keeping at a reasonable distance from Jongdae.
“You didn’t miss me? What a shame. I came to spice up your life, of course. And I come bearing gifts,” Jongdae said, waving an old, battered pouch. “I popped by the Ministry today to see the lovely Hermione and got all these nice, thick books for you.” His friend reached into the pouch and started taking out what looked like a dozen books. Kyungsoo was impressed; he had no idea how Granger-Weasley managed to find more books on Time Spells, since they had been sure they already got their hands on every possible one they could have.
“Thank you, Jongdae. Will that be all?”
Jongdae snorted and plopped himself onto the sofa, splaying his legs and ignoring Kyungsoo’s furrowed eyebrows. He once again reached into his pouch and took out a suspicious-looking bottle.
“So I figured you might need to relax a bit.”
Kyungsoo looked at the bottle more closely and sighed. “Jongdae, do you really expect me to drink Firewhisky with you at five o’clock?
Jongdae grinned, patting the seat next to him. “Don’t be shy. Treat it as your afternoon tea. You know you want to make some bad decisions.” He pulled out two glasses from the pouch, poured the Firewhisky into them until they were threatening to overflow, and thrust one into Kyungsoo’s hands. “Here. It’s one of the best I have. Nicked it from father’s cellar when I visited this summer.”
Kyungsoo snorted. “He’ll kill you when he finds out.”
“If he finds out. I’ll make sure he doesn’t. To pure-bloods’ hoarding habits!” said Jongdae, raising his glass.
It was dark outside when Chanyeol Apparated back home. Kyungsoo was on his fourth glass of Firewhisky, and halfway to lying on the floor. Jongdae was happily petting the Kneazle, sitting next to the sofa.
Kyungsoo turned his head in Chanyeol’s direction when he heard the familiar pop, and waved at him with a silly grin. Jongdae hiccup-giggled. Chanyeol rubbed at his eyes and pinched his arm.
“Are you really both drunk?”
After a moment of struggling, Kyungsoo managed to pull himself back onto the sofa. “Nope. Perfectly sober.” He hiccupped loudly, making Jongdae laugh.
“Ok, Jongdae. Let me help you Apparate back home,” said Chanyeol, running his fingers through his hair.
“That’s kind of you, but I’ll manage,” replied Jongdae, and dived back into his pouch just to take out a tiny blue bottle. “K. Kim’s Instantly Sober Solution.” He grinned and downed it in one gulp. “I’ll be going now. Take care of Kyungsoo. He’s a truly bizarre drunk.”
Chanyeol stood, rooted to the spot, watching Jongdae Floo home. Kyungsoo blinked rapidly, noticing the world around him blur. He slid down the sofa and burrowed his face in one of the nearby pillows. The Kneazle hopped onto the seat next to him and nudged at his head with her paws.
“Go away,” he muttered into the pillow, curling himself into a ball. A moment later, he heard the Kneazle huff angrily, and felt the sofa dip. He uncurled himself a bit, craning his head to see what was happening.
Chanyeol was perched on the sofa, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth. For the first time since Kyungsoo had been left with him, Chanyeol seemed unsure of himself. Kyungsoo frowned. “Why do you look like you don’t know how to act around me? You used to look like this all the time. Before I became Kris. And I’m still Kris. Didn’t you say that made me non-threatening?”
Chanyeol’s eyes widened. Kyungsoo’s frown deepened. “Why do you find me threatening anyway? You never took me seriously at school. You laughed no matter what I said.”
Kyungsoo used to last of his strength to prop himself up. “Why won’t you answer?”
Chanyeol glanced nervously at his hands. “It’s not a conversation for when you’re drunk.”
“Will you tell me when I’m sober?” Kyungsoo’s effort at sounding serious was ruined when he burped. Chanyeol shook his head, smiling faintly. “No. I don’t think so.”
“Then tell me now. I bet I won’t remember a thing come morning.”
Chanyeol hid his face in his hands. “I think I may be in love with you,” he muttered.
Kyungsoo tilted his head, blinking. He moved closer to Chanyeol, pretty much shoving his face into Chanyeol’s neck. “What was that?” he said, his eyes crisscrossing so he could watch Chanyeol’s cheeks turning red.
“Nothing. Nothing at all. Let’s get you to bed. You’re knackered.”
Kyungsoo made some vague protesting noises, but the moment Chanyeol tried to get him to stand up, the world started spinning so vehemently that he chundered all over Chanyeol’s carpet. Again.
The room was bathed in sunlight when Kyungsoo woke up; he’d forgotten to draw the curtains the night before. He cracked open an eye, before cursing and diving back under the covers. The sun was so strong his retinas felt as if they were burning, and the unrelenting pounding in his head wouldn’t let him string even one coherent thought together.
He heard the Kneazle meowing in the living room and groaned. Pain exploded in his head, making him bite his lip so hard he drew blood. He gathered the little strength he still had and concentrated on the Manor. He muttered Sharpie’s name under his breath, waiting for the sound of Apparation.
The House-elf appeared right beside his bed, her eyes wide and tearful. “What is happening? Is Master dying?!”
Kyungsoo chuckled, wincing at the pain the sound caused him, and said, “No. No, everything’s OK. Just bring me the Sobering Potion.”
The elf was back in a matter of minutes. Having drunk the potion, Kyungsoo felt much better. The sun was still a bit strong and loud noises induced a headache, but it wasn’t anything he couldn’t withstand since The Malfoys’ Emporium’s Sobering Potion was one of the best available, losing only to Jongdae’s Instantly Sober Solution. He would have been happy to use the latter, but having told Jongdae that he could never surpass Draco Malfoy, back when his friend was starting out, he’d been given a lifelong ban on the potion.
He hobbled out of the room, trying to recover his equilibrium. By the time he reached the living room, the world was still once again. He looked around, spotting the Kneazle lying on a pile of pillows that she’d made on the sofa, looking like the personification of laziness. He rubbed her belly absent-mindedly, yawned, and trudged to the kitchen.
He didn’t expect anything from Chanyeol; he could vaguely remember puking on the carpet and then promptly passing out next to it. It was, therefore, quite a surprise when he noticed a tall glass of water on the kitchen counter, next to which was a plate piled high with food – it was still warm from a Warming Spell. He smiled, grabbed a fork and a knife, and sat at the counter.
It was well into the afternoon when he remembered the books that Jongdae brought him. He found them stacked neatly on the desk in the office.
It was on a whim that he rummaged through the closet, looking for the robes he came to Chanyeol’s flat in. He found his Spherophone in them, stuck deep in a pocket with a wad of notes on Time-Freezing Charms. Kyungsoo tapped the ball with his wand, waiting for the list of contacts to pop up – all the Ministry workers who had been given a Spherophone were included in it. He wasn’t sure if Granger-Weasley had given the device to anyone but the Heads of the Departments, outside of the Department of Mysteries.
He scrolled down, eyebrows furrowed, until he found Chanyeol’s name. He tapped it, put his wand against his temple and concentrated on what he wanted to say. Then, he tapped the Spherophone once again and said, “Mitto”. The words flashed brightly inside the device: Sharpie wants to make dinner. Don’t buy anything.
Kyungsoo put the Spherophone back inside his robes and sat in the armchair, staring at the spines of the books on the desk, trying to make out the titles. He paused mid-thought, squinted and shifted closer. One of the older-looking, fairly thin books drew his attention; it was titled “The Fascinating World of Time-Turners: Myths, Speculations and the Truth”. He carefully took the book out of the pile, opened it, and flicked to the table of contents.
It was quite a comprehensive compendium, but most of what he found in it he’d already read in other books. Against his better judgment, however, he ended up re-reading the Speculations chapters. There was one dedicated to a children’s story that he’d never heard of before. It talked about a young wizard who had been known for his amazing skills from the moment he received his wand. The wizard had craved knowledge above all, and thus left his beloved at home one day to become Merlin’s student. When he’d finally come back after a couple of years, he’d found his village burnt to the ground and his beloved buried. From then on, he’d stepped onto the path to madness, obsessed only with turning back the time.
The wizard had learnt a simple Hour-Reversal Charm from Merlin; it had enabled him to go back in time but only as a passive observer. He’d spent years perfecting the Charm, casting it on a tiny, bronze hourglass he’d received from his beloved. The charms had grown more and more complex, until the wizard couldn’t improve on them anymore. He had been an old man by then, his hair had turned grey and his beard reached his belly button.
Knowing the time had come, the wizard had clutched the hourglass and kept turning it for what seemed like days. When he’d stopped, the world spun around him, spitting him out onto the floor of his village home. His beloved had sat at the kitchen table, looking at him, awed. His younger self had sat next to her. He’d raised his wand, thinking he was hallucinating and killed his older self.
Kyungsoo didn’t know if the story was made up or if parts of it were true. It seemed, however, that whoever wrote it knew that Time-Turners were nothing more but a bundle of Hour-Reversal Charms. This little detail lent some credibility to the story and so he decided to write it down. He would have to ask Granger-Weasley for the notebook he kept in his office in the Time Room - it listed all the Hour-Reversal Charms that he had discovered - and a new hourglass. It wouldn’t hurt him to try casting the spells on the Time-Turner again, starting from the simplest; if it worked, it’d be brilliant, if not, he’d just have to find a different way.
He looked up from the book, noticing the sun disappearing behind the rooftops of the building across from his room. He said, “Tempus”; it was almost time for dinner. He closed the book and walked over to the living room. Sharpie was already in the kitchen, preparing a feast more suited for a party than two people. He plopped onto the sofa, next to the now-awake Kneazle, and let her clamber into his lap.
The sound of Apparation came as a shock; sometime earlier Kyungsoo seemed to have fallen asleep. He stood up, accidentally throwing the Kneazle off his lap. She let out a hiss and disappeared beneath the sofa.
Kyungsoo rubbed at his eyes and watched Chanyeol’s retreating back as the other headed for the bathroom. He could have sworn Chanyeol hadn’t said a word to him, not even a simple “Hi”. Something was wrong; suddenly Chanyeol was acting as if being in the vicinity of Kyungsoo was the most uncomfortable thing in the world.
He waited for Chanyeol, sitting at the kitchen counter. He kept drumming his fingers on it unconsciously, causing Sharpie to send worried glances his way.
Chanyeol came back after half an hour, a towel draped carelessly over his shoulders, his hair dripping. He beamed at Sharpie, noticing the mountain of food, but refused to meet Kyungsoo’s eyes. Kyungsoo cocked his head, staring right at Chanyeol, and said, “Did I do something stupid yesterday?”
“I know I retched on the carpet again and I’m sorry for that. I figure you probably levitated me to the guestroom too. I don’t think that warrants such an excessive reaction from you though.”
Chanyeol finally looked up at him, eyes wide and mouth open. “I-uhm…that was fine, really. I mean, I don’t mind you did that. You don’t remember anything else?”
“No. Is there something else I should be remembering?”
“No. No. Not really. I was just wondering. Sorry if I’m acting weirdly. Work was tiring.”
Kyungsoo cocked an eyebrow, but let it slide when he saw Chanyeol grin at him. Whatever happened, he thought, couldn’t have been important. Jongdae had probably said something stupid again.
The next day, when Kyungsoo was sitting in the guestroom, flicking through a book called “Time: the Muggle-perspective”, his Spherophone buzzed. He took it off the desk and saw a message from Granger-Weasley – she was going to Floo him in an hour, and bring his notebook, and a new, un-spelled Time-Turner. He grinned and Accioed some ham from the kitchen, suddenly feeling like feeding the Kneazle.
He was sitting in the living room when Granger-Weasley stumbled out of the fireplace. She barely avoided falling onto the floor, straightened her robes, and muttered, “Scourgify”. Kyungsoo was immediately up on his feet, asking Sharpie to serve some tea, and showing his boss into the armchair next to the sofa. She sat down with a sigh, pushing stray hair off her face.
“It’s a madhouse without you. Hugo is set on transfiguring everything around him. Yesterday he turned his nanny’s nose into a turnip. Needless to say, the girl won’t be coming back. I can’t stay with him at home, since you’re not there to act in my stead, and the Polyjuice accident makes me trust no one else anyway. I’m hoping Molly agrees to look after him for a while,” Granger-Weasley said in one breath, then looked around and picked up the bag she placed next to the armchair. “Right. Here’s the notebook and the hourglass. I take it you made some discovery?”
Kyungsoo shook his head. “It’s nothing certain yet. I found an old tale and have a theory that I’d like to test. I’ll make sure to inform you immediately if it works out.”
Granger-Weasley nodded and took a sip of her tea. “Maybe I should just hide in here until Hugo grows up.”
Kyungsoo snorted. “That’d be unusually irresponsible of you. I’m not one to encourage such reckless behavior. You should go talk to Jongdae about it. Maybe Auror Potter. Although I think the old days of reckless bravado have been over for him for some time now.”
“That’s correct,” his boss said, smiling indulgently at Kyungsoo. “Harry is adamant at living the ordinary man’s life. Except when he disregards his Department’s rules and goes on missions by himself, because of a hunch or some such rot.
“Anyway, I do still have a Department to run of my own. As tempting as being irresponsible is, I think Ron wouldn’t survive Hugo’s antics for longer than a day.”
Kyungsoo beamed. He didn’t care much about other people’s families, but Granger-Weasley’s was one of the few that he genuinely liked. The older child, Rose, was every bit of the swot her mother had been, but was lost in her own world more often than not. Hugo was a riot, supposedly taking keenly after Ron’s twin brothers. Ron wasn’t all that bad either, and Kyungsoo found it highly amusing that the man thought him to be the more well-mannered and forward-thinking version of Draco Malfoy.
Granger-Weasley gathered her things and walked over to the Floo. “I almost wish I could Apparate from here. Floos are highly overrated.”
“I agree wholeheartedly. The soot-covered look is so last year.”
They laughed briefly, before Granger-Weasley eyed her hair. “I don’t have any more soot left in my hair, do I?”
“No. You look perfect. And it’s not like you’d miscast such a simple spell as Scourgify,” Kyungsoo said, watching his boss double-check her hair anyway.
“Well, stay safe and hopefully I’ll see you soon,” said Granger-Weasley, throwing a handful of Floo powder into the grate, and calling the Ministry’s address.
Kyungsoo stood in the living room, looking at the fireplace, for a few more minutes after his boss left. He run his fingers through his hair, sighing. He didn’t exactly miss the people at work, since he worked mostly alone. He did, however, help his colleagues from time to time, especially the ones in Spell Development. He also talked quite a lot with Granger-Weasley and Hannah. It might have been just four days, but deep down he knew that he missed them.
The Kneazle meowed loudly, nudging at his legs with her head and putting a stop to his musings. He petted her back and rubbed behind her ears, chuckling when she purred and craned her head towards him.
“Yes, you’re the best. Now let’s go and see what I can do about the Time-Turner.”
Kyungsoo was sitting at the desk in the guestroom, one eye on the Time-Turner and the other on the list of spells in his notebook. He had only a page of Hour-Reversal Charms left to cast when he heard Chanyeol call him from the living room. He put his wand back into his robes, marked the last charm he used, and gingerly placed the Time-Turner on the desk. Then, he stood up and walked over to Chanyeol.
“You look even more tired than me. How come?” Chanyeol said, sitting at the kitchen counter and gaping at Sharpie with admiration etched into his face – the House-elf had been determined not to allow her Master to suffer any more mishaps, and begged Kyungsoo to let her make lunch and dinner for him.
He sat down opposite of Chanyeol and leaned back against his chair. “Work. I might have made some progress finally. Will probably find out tomorrow. If it pans out, it’ll be one of the best moments of my life.”
Chanyeol leaned closer, beaming. “You can’t tell me what you’re working on, can you?”
“No. Strictly confidential. Don’t try to rack your brain either. It’s nothing you’d think about.”
Chanyeol snorted. “Except I saw the books Jongdae brought you. It seems pretty clear to me you working on something related to time. Like Time-Tu-”
“Oh, bugger. Merlin’s floor-sweeping beard and his hairy toes-” Kyungsoo glared at Chanyeol, waiting for him to stop laughing before continuing. “Don’t say it out loud! I don’t want to Obliviate you.”
Chanyeol cocked an eyebrow, looking amused. “So it’s OK as long as I only think about it?”
“Yes. Low chance that someone will try reading your mind to find out if you know what I’m working on. I can’t believe Granger-Weasley hasn’t put Concealing Charms on the books.”
“She has actually. I think they wore out around the time I noticed them in the morning.”
“How utterly heart-warming,” Kyungsoo said, rolling his eyes. “Now, let’s forget this conversation ever happened and move onto the more important topics. Like the Kneazle’s name.”
Chanyeol started laughing hysterically, clapping his hands and reminding Kyungsoo curiously of a seal. Before he could say anything more, Sharpie levitated the food onto the kitchen counter, gave Kyungsoo a big mug of lavender tea and Disapparated. They dug into the food, Chanyeol with a bit less finesse.
Kyungsoo was halfway through his tea when he remembered what he wanted to talk to the other man about.
“So back to the Kneazle. I named her.”
Chanyeol looked up from his plate, mouth open, his fork suspended in the air.
“Don’t look so flabbergasted. I told you she needed a name.”
“I need to pinch myself,” said Chanyeol, lowering his fork onto the plate. “You’re so amazingly out of whack. It’s fascinating how your brain works.”
Kyungsoo huffed, folding his arms across his chest. “Please. How long have you had her?”
“A year, give or take?”
“Exactly. Any normal person would have named her already. How can you continue calling her ‘Kneazle’. Anyway, she now responds to Anabelle.”
A moment passed, without Chanyeol making so much a sound, before the man spluttered and guffawed. Kyungsoo drummed his fingers on the counter, shooting murderous glances at Chanyeol. “What? It’s a perfectly reasonable name.”
Chanyeol wiped the tears from under his eyes, sniffed and said, “True. It’s just so…so very aristocratic. I bet Anabelle is loving it.”
The Kneazle meowed approvingly from across the room, making Chanyeol snicker into his hand. “Who could have thought that this was the way to her heart? I’m eternally grateful, Kyungsoo.”
“You-You’re welcome,” stuttered Kyungsoo, suddenly feeling strangely faint. He grabbed his mug and turned all his attention to his tea, trying to tune out Chanyeol giggling every time Anabelle purred at him.
It was barely past noon and the sun was still managing to shine from behind the gloomy autumn clouds. The pavements were covered by a tapestry of leaves in hues of yellow and brown. Halloween was just around the corner, and the days were getting colder and gloomier.
Kyungsoo was eating his sandwiches, eyeing the Time-Turner that he’d left on the other side of the room. He’d cast the last charm minutes ago, and was planning on testing the device as soon as he finished his lunch.
He was having the last bite when he heard the familiar pop of Apparation. He frowned; it was hours too early for Chanyeol to be back home. He swallowed, flicked off the breadcrumbs of his hands and robes, and tiptoed towards the living room.
“Oh, there you are.” Chanyeol’s voice made him pause mid-stride. The man was standing in the middle of the living room, hands on his hips and a mischievous glint in his eyes. “I have this idea. I haven’t told anyone about it yet. You shouldn’t probably be told these things but I think you can help. And going out would do you good. Not that I won’t ask Harry for permission first, of course. I-”
“Stop. You’re talking too fast,” said Kyungsoo, massaging his temples. Chanyeol smiled sheepishly. He seemed to be bursting with energy as he watched Kyungsoo walk over to him. Kyungsoo grabbed Chanyeol’s arm and dragged him to the sofa.
“Sit down. I’ll give you a chance to tell me what ridiculous escapade you came up with, but start from the beginning.”
Chanyeol turned in his seat, so that he was facing Kyungsoo, and launched into his monologue again; this time trying to speak more slowly. “So the illegal potion smuggling case I’m working on now. The smugglers’ focus at the moment is the Unicorn Bile. It’s not their first offence. They’ve been active for quite a while now. We’ve managed to catch some members of the ring before, but they were always insignificant people, who didn’t know enough to help us crack the ring.
“We’ve doubled our protective measures since, though. We placed extra surveillance on Floos, International Apparation points and International Portkeys. It’s near impossible to try and smuggle the Unicorn Bile from abroad. If someone tried, we’d most likely be able to apprehend them the moment they touch the British ground.
“That said, we’re facing a slightly different problem right now. We might have contained the international smuggling of the Bile, but you can still theoretically get it here. We have three places in Britain where unicorn herds live and no means of monitoring them. There was a fatal attack on a unicorn just this week.
“This is where you’d come into play. As an Unspeakable you know a great deal of spells more than we Aurors do. While we can’t exactly ask you to teach them to us, since you’re on a leave from work right now, you could cast them yourself.”
Kyungsoo tilted his head and stared at Chanyeol without saying a word, all while Chanyeol was trying not to fidget, wide eyes full of hope. Kyungsoo turned away from him and leaned back against the sofa, feeling strangely powerless.
“Theoretically I could place some very effective Anti-Apparation, Anti-Disapparation, monitoring and tracking spells. However, I’d first need authorization from Granger-Weasley and Auror Potter. Also, Kris probably shouldn’t be involved. We could get him to Polyjuice into someone else, but we’ve seen how that can end. Basically, there’s a bunch of people you need to talk to before we can think about it seriously.”
Although he was certain that his insistence of compiling with the official protocol would slow Chanyeol down, he was proven wrong in the span of a mere hour. Chanyeol Apparated back to the Ministry the moment Kyungsoo stopped speaking, talked to Granger-Weasley, got her written approval, went with her to talk to Auror Potter, and then came to get him. As a result, Kyungsoo was once again stuck in Potter’s office, with Granger-Weasley on his right and Chanyeol on his left. Kris was standing next to Chanyeol, looking delightfully uncomfortable whenever he glanced at Kyungsoo. Potter, on the other hand, was positively radiating contentment.
“I think it’s best if Kris stays home when you go into the field. We don’t want to have to explain why he was in two places at the same time,” said Potter. “And Kris, please explain the situation to whoever you live with as vaguely as possible. You can insist it’s a high profile case and civilians can’t be told about it. Make something up. You’re good at that.”
Kris nodded, but was still looking very much upset. Chanyeol seemed to be finding his partner’s behaviour rather amusing, as he was constantly fighting a smile from taking over his face. Kyungsoo filed this away for later; he was going to get an explanation from Chanyeol, no matter what force would be required.
“Harry, I’ll discuss with Kyungsoo which spells would be the best to use. He was involved in Spell Development on numerous occasions, so I think we can come up with quite an extensive list, and quickly enough for him and Chanyeol to go tomorrow.”
Potter smiled at Granger-Weasley. “Great. The sooner, the better. I assume Unspeakable Do will be able to cast the said spells without any problems?”
“Yes. I’m pretty sure he hasn’t forgotten how to use them,” replied Granger-Weasley.
Kyungsoo barely stopped himself from rolling his eyes. “I haven’t, indeed. I helped invent almost all of the tracking spells. It’ll be a quick affair.”
“Well, that’s that then,” said Potter. “Chanyeol, double-check the location of the unicorn herds with the Beast Division before you leave. Keep me posted.”
Kyungsoo was sitting alone in Potter’s office. Granger-Weasley had given him free rein on choosing the spells for tomorrow, once Potter was out of sight, and he was now waiting for Kris to go home first, so that he could leave the Ministry of Magic himself without raising suspicions. Chanyeol had walked out with Kris who had been whispering furiously to him from the moment Potter let them go.
He let his eyes wander around the room, noticing a bookshelf dedicated to books on Dark Arts, a collection of the miniature snitches he saw in Granger-Weasley’s office, and a cluster of photos.
Curious, he pushed his chair closer to the desk and tried to identify the people in the photos. Most of them were of Potter’s children: James and Albus racing on their kid brooms, with Lily trying to catch them half-crawling; Ginny holding a newborn Lily in her arms, or James grinning and waving the Snitch he was clutching after his first Quidditch match at Hogwarts. Amidst these, three photos stood out - one was of Potter and the Trainees who passed the Auror Training with him, another of Potter’s last partner with his family, and the last one of him with Chanyeol and Kris.
Kyungsoo furrowed his eyebrows in concentration, maneuvering so that he could pick up that particular photograph without knocking the rest of the frames over. Once successful, he took a closer look at the photo, noticing the carefree way all three of them were laughing. Potter stood in the middle, his arms slung casually around Kris’ and Chanyeol’s shoulders. It did seem as if the rumours that the best Aurors the DMLE had at the moment were barely out of Training were true. Kyungsoo couldn’t imagine Kris and Chanyeol forging such a close bond with Potter if they were subpar.
Hearing someone approaching, he hastily put the photo back on Potter’s desk, and turned towards the door. A second later, the door swung open. Chanyeol was standing on the threshold, grinning like a maniac.
“Merlin’s balls, did you win a year’s worth supply of chocolate?”
Chanyeol snorted. “Better. So much better. Let’s get going.”
Kyungsoo stood up and followed Chanyeol to the lift, eyeing him with suspicion the whole way.
Immediately after they Apparated to Chanyeol’s flat, the man unleashed a waterfall of words at Kyungsoo.
“So before I went to have a talk with the lovely ladies at RCMC’s Unicorn Welfare, I talked to Kris. I had him promise he won’t go out tonight. So we can go out together instead.”
Kyungsoo opened his mouth, just to close it a moment later without saying a word. Chanyeol was looking at him expectantly, his grin still wide and blinding. As the silence stretched, Chanyeol’s smile began fading, giving way to furrowed eyebrows. Kyungsoo could taste the other man’s confusion and disappointment on his tongue; it was seeping into every nook and cranny of the flat, hanging above them like a dark cloud pregnant with rain. He forced the desire to roll his eyes deep inside of himself and said, “Where do you want to go?”
The smile bloomed on Chanyeol’s face once again, although this time it was considerably more subdued. “I wanted to take you to a Muggle pub. I know you’ve probably never been-”
Kyungsoo made a noise that sounded like something between a squeak and sob. “You cannot be serious. A Muggle pub?”
“Well, you can treat it as an adventure. It’ll be fun.”
Kyungsoo burrowed his head between his hands and tried to breathe, slowly counting down to ten. The words Jongdae had said to him beside Potter’s office were like a specter refusing to leave for the after world.
“Stop being so dramatic. You look like Kris. No one will ever know you’ve been to a Muggle pub. How could they. So what’s the harm?”
Kyungsoo dropped his hands and opened his mouth to retaliate, but once again came up short of words. As much as it pained him, Chanyeol had a valid point.
Chanyeol’s smile widened in realization. He put his arm behind Kyungsoo’s back and pushed him in the direction of the guestroom. “You’ll do it, right? Great. Great. Let’s get you into some Muggle clothes first.”
Kyungsoo was standing in the middle of the guestroom, waiting for Chanyeol to come back from his bedroom. All he could hear from across the corridor were sounds of things being thrown around.
Slumping against the desk, he stared at the barren trees outside. He was counting the leaves lying on the pavement that had not been swept away yet when Chanyeol entered the guestroom again. The man was holding a bundle of clothes that he thrust at Kyungsoo, before opening his closet.
“Why, yes, you can look through my things. You have my full permission.”
Chanyeol hummed and ignored him in favour of checking his coat.
“You know, I wanted to take you to a pub tomorrow. Since it’d have been Halloween, we could have dressed however we wanted and no one would have batted an eyelash. I figure though, we’ll be too tired come tomorrow, considering we have three National Parks to visit.”
Kyungsoo grunted, dropped the clothes onto the desk, and squinted at each garment, trying to decide how to wear them. He was tugging a cardigan on and frowning at his jeans by the time Chanyeol handed him a coat.
“You look normal enough. Hopefully, you’ll feel normal soon enough too, because you’re fidgeting like you want to get out of your jeans. That’d be hardly proper in public,” Chanyeol said, snickering.
Kyungsoo shot him a glare and smoothed the creases on his pants for the umpteenth time. He snorted when he noticed Anabelle standing in a corner, fur puffed up and teeth bared.
“Anabelle doesn’t seem to approve of what I’m wearing either.”
“Anabelle knows nothing about Muggle fashion. I’m quite certain she is allergic to the Muggle world at large. Now, stop stalling and let’s go.”
It was a blessing that the pub Chanyeol took them to was only a short walk away, because Kyungsoo was certain that sometime between three and five o’clock the temperature had dropped down to zero degrees. The wind kept smacking him in the face, gust after gust of what felt like a hundreds of needles, until it turned red and his nose became an icicle. The warm scarf that Chanyeol gave him proved to be utterly useless against the onslaught.
The pub was ordinary as far as London pubs went. It wasn’t too big and was only just starting to get crowded. They were quite lucky to reach it before the mass of white-collar workers attacked it after work; Fridays had never been good pub days unless one didn’t mind having to shout over the noise.
Chanyeol waved to the barman and dragged Kyungsoo towards a booth at the back of the pub.
“We should get something to eat since it’s pretty much dinner time. Believe it or not, this place has the best Shepherd’s pie I’ve ever had,” said Chanyeol, handing Kyungsoo the menu. “And we’re getting beer, of course. The Polish one though. British beer is piss compared.”
Kyungsoo cocked an eyebrow. “Piss? Circe help me, won’t a pint of such beer knock us out?”
“Nah, a pint won’t. Two or three might, but we’re not gonna have that much.”
“Well, I’ll have the Shepherd’s pie then. If I find it subpar, you’ll need to start worrying about the walls in your flat,” said Kyungsoo, slamming the menu close.
Chanyeol laughed. “What? Are you going to draw on them like a five-year-old?”
“Nope. I’ll paint your whole flat black and put photos of Anabelle and Jongdae all around it,” Kyungsoo deadpanned.
“I would. Now scurry along and place our order. And you’re paying.”
“OK. I admit, the beer is good. I still stand my case though that by the time I’m done with this pint, I’ll be out.”
Chanyeol cackled, dropping the chips he’d been holding into his mushy peas. Kyungsoo scrunched his nose and turned back to his pie to spare himself the discomfort of watching the other man make a mess of his food.
“It’s dark. Yes. But it’s not as strong as it seems. I swear.”
Kyungsoo huffed. “Only 9.5%, huh? Doesn’t Guinness have barely 4? Scratch that. Do you not realise I’ve been raised on Butterbeer?”
“Don’t think about it too much. You’re not drinking on an empty stomach. Or drinking Firewhisky, for that matter. That one did you in,” said Chanyeol and concentrated on smothering his chips with mayonnaise, while trying to put a piece of steak into his mouth.
“You know, I really have a hard time believing you come from a respected family. Your eating manners are atrocious.”
Chanyeol wiggled his eyebrows and licked off the bit of mayonnaise that was stuck to his fingers. “Around the end of fifth year at Hogwarts I decided I don’t give a flying Crup about my family. That included disregarding all the etiquette they drilled into me. Food tastes best when eaten with your fingers.”
Kyungsoo grimaced, grabbing his beer for distraction. The taste was so strong it managed to temporarily numb his brain.
“Why did you turn on them?” The words were out of his mouth before he realised that asking such a personal question might be considered rude. He bit his lip, praying the evening wouldn’t suddenly get awkward.
“Turn on them? Oh, they turned on me. My brother called me a useless freak. Repeatedly. My parents ignored the problem and tried to set me up with a girl my age whose parents were swimming in money. They thought they were being subtle, but it was clear they viewed me as a lost cause, good only for marrying into the right family.” Chanyeol laughed bitterly. “When I refused, my mother told me that if I’m doing it because I’m gay, I can always have a lover on the side. Can you imagine that?
“I spent my last two summers at Potters’ with Teddy Lupin after that. I was basically not allowed back home until I ‘reevaluated my choices’.” Chanyeol snorted and popped more mayonnaise-desecrated chips into his mouth. Kyungsoo fumbled with his fingers under the table, staring pointedly at Chanyeol’s plate. “When I came home after graduating, I found all my non-Muggle belongings gone. My dear brother set them on fire in the garden just a week before. Father actually seemed sorry, and my mother was delighted when she heard I was accepted into the Auror Training. I was done by then though. My brother moved out last winter, but I don’t visit them more than once a year.”
“Are you actually gay?”
Chanyeol gasped and started coughing, having choked on his food. “You really do focus on the important parts, don’t you?”
Kyungsoo felt his cheeks heating up and turned to studying the lint of his cardigan sleeve. “Sorry. You don’t have to answer that,” he muttered.
“It’s OK. It’s not a secret or anything. I wouldn’t say I’m gay. Rather I’m an equal opportunities kind of guy. I’ll go out with whoever I feel like, be it a woman, a man or a Hippogriff.”
Chanyeol shrugged. “I’m keeping my options open. Anyway, what about you?”
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“I’m asking what your sexual orientation is?”
Kyungsoo gaped. He didn’t even try to count how many faux pas they had both committed today. If his mother was here, they’d have sent her to an early grave.
“I’m not sure.”
Chanyeol cocked an eyebrow. “You’re kidding me, right? I mean, you’re twenty one already.”
“Why, yes, I’m twenty one. That has nothing to do with anything. I presume you find out what your preference is by experiencing sexual attraction towards other people. And that’s why I don’t know – I can tell when someone’s aesthetically appealing, but I don’t want to sleep with them,” Kyungsoo said, running his fingers through his hair. “Let’s change the topic. Please. I’ve had enough of it, what with having lived in dorms and my nagging parents.”
“But-” Chanyeol said, stopping when he saw the annoyance in Kyungsoo’s face. “OK. I mean, if that’s what you want. Uhm. Well…”
Kyungsoo sighed. “Just say it.”
“You remember how you agreed that I could ask you anything I wanted?”
“Yes, but this is much more personal.”
Chanyeol shook his head. “No, it’s not. Not really. Just hear me out, OK?”
“Merlin’s beard, go ahead then.”
“Have you ever been in a relationship? Just out of curiosity? I won’t ask anything else.”
Kyungsoo blinked. It wasn’t really a loaded question; not anything he felt uncomfortable answering. He could do this.
He straightened his back and looked the other man in the eyes. “Fine. I can answer this. It’s simple. I’ve never been curious, so no.”
Chanyeol whistled. “Wow. That’s...unexpected, to say the least. Can’t say I understand.”
“Of course you wouldn’t. You think with your prick first. I don’t. That makes for quite a different viewpoint.”
Chanyeol cackled and then went back to his steak and mushy peas. Kyungsoo studied him for a moment longer, but realizing that the man wouldn’t be pursuing the topic any further, he dug into his food as well.
He was still mostly sober by the time they finished dinner. His inhibitions were loosened, if his earlier behaviour was any indication, but he walked in a straight line. He didn’t bump into any furniture when they were leaving the pub either, only into a few people who were too fascinated by their beer to look where they were walking.
Once outside, he wrapped half of his face in Chanyeol’s scarf and peeked at the other man’s gloves in interest.
“Just put your hands in your coat’s pockets. I’m not giving you mine.”
He shot a glare at Chanyeol, but did as he was told.
“So did your parents buy your flat for you?” Kyungsoo wished he had bit his tongue in time; the Polish beer was quickly becoming the stuff his nightmares were made of.
Chanyeol laughed. “Maybe you should concentrate on walking, not talking. But yes, it was my eighteenth birthday present. The last thing I’ve ever accepted from them.”
Burping, Kyungsoo caught Chanyeol’s arm to steady himself. Out of blue, the pavement had become rather hilly.
“You ARE a lightweight. Gosh, you weren’t joking about the Butterbeer. Let’s get you to bed.”
Kyungsoo grunted incoherently in reply but allowed Chanyeol to half-drag him to a dark alley and Side-along Apparate them back home. Once he felt solid ground under his feet, he quickly disentangled himself from Chanyeol and leaned against the living room wall.
“Don’t tell me you’re going to be sick,” Chanyeol said, worry painted all over his face.
Kyungsoo laughed. “I’m tipsy, not completely wasted. I’m going to call Sharpie over, take the Sobering Potion, and check the spells for tomorrow. No beer will stand in my way, even evil Polish beer.”
“Yes, as sure as I can be. Go take care of yourself. Seriously.”
Chanyeol glanced at him one last time and then disappeared inside his bedroom. Kyungsoo slid down the wall, whispering Sharpie’s name. A moment later the House-elf was standing in front of him, Sobering Potion in one hand and a bunch of notebooks in the other.
“Thank you. You’re a life-saver, Sharpie. You deserve a whole room full of new cloth for this.”
Sharpie glowered. “Master will not give Sharpie her freedom. Sharpie is happy where she is.”
Kyungsoo couldn’t help but smile. “I know. I know this very well. If ever you feel like a new cloth though.”
He gulped down the Potion and stood up shakily. Gathering the notebooks, he told Sharpie to go back and retreated to the guestroom. Although he remembered each and every spell he helped develop, it wouldn’t hurt to actually go through his notebooks once more. It would take him an hour or two, but it wasn’t even nine o’clock yet. Better safe than sorry; you had to be prepared for everything when crime was involved, especially if the criminals in question were becoming desperate enough to attack unicorns under protection.
Kyungsoo stumbled out of his bedroom, yawning. He was wearing a peculiar combination of clothes; the bottom consisted of his pjs and warm socks, but the top was very much the cardigan from last night and the scarf wrapped loosely around his neck.
Chanyeol was already in the kitchen, helping Sharpie set the counter for breakfast. He looked up when he heard Kyungsoo trip over Anabelle.
“Oh, there you are! I’m glad I didn’t have to wake you up. You’re pretty violent when you’re tipsy. I didn’t want a repeat from last night.”
Kyungsoo raised an eyebrow. “Violent? As far as I can remember, I elbowed you a few times and nearly head-butted you when you tried to Side-along Apparate us, but that’s it.”
“That’s plenty. Thank you very much,” Chanyeol said, massaging his side with a grimace on his face. “I take it you’re not hungover?”
“No. Surprisingly, I’m absolutely peachy.”
Chanyeol snorted. “Grumpy, you mean.”
“Uhmm. Grumpy.” Chanyeol grabbed his wand and levitated two mugs of tea to the counter. “Here. Drink it and shine.”
Rolling his eyes, Kyungsoo zigzagged to the counter, doing his best to avoid stepping onto Anabelle again – she seemed to be craving an unusually high dose of skinship.
When he finally had the mug in his hands, he took a sip and smiled.
“And this proves there’s nothing tea can’t fix,” said Chanyeol, snickering.
“Ugh. It’s too early. I can’t deal with you. Would you mind closing your gob and focusing your energy on that cuppa you’re holding?” Kyungsoo imagined the impending headache as a black pile of human-shaped goo, standing behind him with a hammer in head, waiting for the right moment to jump onto his head.
Chanyeol smiled at his tea mug and turned back to admiring Sharpie.
He was chewing on the last piece of bacon, deciding if he had any space left for the beans, when Chanyeol banged on the counter with his fist, yelping. Kyungsoo swallowed, tasting copper on his tongue, and glanced at the man. “What, pray tell, prompted you to do that?”
Chanyeol gulped, gawking at the soggy tomato that he catapulted off his plate and onto the counter seconds earlier. “Uhm…”
“Are you still half-asleep?”
“Maybe. Uh-Sorry. I just remembered that-Well…We need to decide which park we’re going to first,” Chanyeol said, while focusing his attention on levitating the tomato back onto his plate, his tongue peeking out.
Kyungsoo popped the last few beans into his mouth and put down the cutlery. Anabelle was trying to squeeze herself in between his feet and the kitchen counter. He picked up the scraps of bacon fat he cut out earlier, grimacing – he hated the sliminess of fried, cold fat – and threw them onto the floor tiles. They were gone in an instant, for Anabelle was a true Kneazle vacuum cleaner.
“Let’s get to it then. Just let me get dressed,” he said, pausing mid-thought. “Actually, you could use an extended date with your hair comb too.”
Chanyeol nodded, still having a silent battle of wits with the tomato. “Yes, yes. Go ahead. I’ll think about the combing thing.”
He was back half an hour later with a couple of pages listing useful spells. Chanyeol appeared not to have moved from the counter, yet the dishes were gone and his hair wasn’t sticking in every possible direction anymore.
“So which parks are we going to?”
Chanyeol looked up from the map he was studying. “Snowdonia, Brecon Beacons and Cairngorms. The first two are located in Wales. Cairngorms’ in Scotland.”
“Then it’d make sense for us to go to the ones in Wales first. What were they?”
“Snowdonia and Brecon Beacons.”
“Yeah. Anyway, I assume they aren’t small. We can’t go around the whole park, putting spells, can we?”
Chanyeol grinned. “They’re huge. The unicorns keep to certain areas though. The Unicorn Welfare figures that as long as we strengthen the surveillance in the key areas, we’ll be good.”
Kyungsoo hummed and leaned over Chanyeol’s shoulder to take a look at the map. It showed the location of the National Parks; the habitat of the unicorn herds was marked with glowing, red dots.
Chanyeol pointed at Brecon Beacons. “I think we should start here. It’s closest to us and I got a Portkey for that place. We could start at the peak of Fforest Fawr and follow Afon Hepste from there to the Sgwd yr Eira waterfall. Then, we’d need to move to Waun Rydd moorlands. The unicorns love moorlands.”
Kyungsoo frowned. “That sounds like a long trek, Chanyeol.”
“If you figure a way to put spells around Afon Hepste – it’s a river – from Fforest Fawrs to Sgwd yr Eira, then we’d only have to go to those two places and the moorlands.”
Chanyeol turned around to look at him, his eyes brimming with hope. Kyungsoo had to stifle a laugh. The mountain trekking seemed to terrify the man more than it did him.
“There are a few spells I could use for that. I guess we should go to Fforest Fawr first, and I’ll see what I can do.”
“Great. Let me get the Portkey then,” said Chanyeol and started rummaging through his bag. He took out a small, reddish rock and an old, crumpled newspaper, and scrunched his eyebrows in thought. Then, he put the newspaper back into the bag, slung the bag onto his arm and thrust the rock in Kyungsoo’s direction.
“On my count: three, two, one-”
Kyungsoo lurched forward, landing face down on the ground. He pushed himself up, spitting out bits of dry soil. Chanyeol was standing next to him, looking way too amused.
“Don’t just stand there! Help me get up.”
Chanyeol laughed, hoisting him back onto his feet. “Well, here we are. Fan Fawr in its grim glory. One would think a drought happened here, what with the sad-looking grass. Anyway, there on the left is the river that falls right into Afon Hepste.”
Kyungsoo studied his surroundings for a moment; the place resembled a desert with its brown soil and beige-coloured grass. He took out his list of spells and double-checked every page, before he started casting one spell after the other, while walking around the Fan Fawr up until the spring of Afon Hepste. Once he was finished, he put the list back into his robes and tried to locate Chanyeol.
Well, there he was.
“What is it?”
“We need to put on the Disillusionment Charm,” Chanyeol replied from behind him. “Can’t risk running into the ANPA.”
“Association of National Park Authorities. The ladies from Unicorn Welfare told me those twats will glue themselves to us, just so they can get a chance to pet a unicorn. One of them is supposedly a unicorn magnet, but it seems they’re still better avoided.”
“Well, if Ms. Brown told you that, then it’s true,” deadpanned Kyungsoo. Seeing Chanyeol nod, he cast the Disillusionment Charm on himself and said, “Can you Apparate us to the waterfall?”
“Sgwd yr Eira? Yeah. No problem.”
Chanyeol grabbed his arms and, after a moment of strong nausea, they were now standing right beside a tree, covered in yellow leaves. A feet or so further, the ground was palpably rocky, lined with moss and a plethora of fallen leaves, and was giving way to a narrow stream.
Kyungsoo could hear the waterfall clearly, and when he moved closer to the bank, he was able to spot Sgwd yr Eira on his right.
“OK. Let’s come as close to the waterfall as we can. I’ll cast the spells there and then will try to establish a connection between this place and the Fforest Fawr.”
It took a while to reach the waterfall, since the ferns grew thick around the bank and so did the trees. The view was spectacular, however, with both the ferns and the trees changing colour from green through orange to red, and Kyungsoo promised himself he’d visit the place during the summer.
After casting the necessary spells, he squatted on the ground, closed his eyes and touched the rocks with his hands, while clutching his wand. He tried to visualize Fan Fawr and the Afon Hepste, and then thought about the unicorns. Taking a deep breath, he concentrated on the ground beneath his fingers and whispered, “Unicornis Semita Revelio”. For a while he felt buzzing at his fingertips, which then spread into the ground and shoot forward, supplying Kyungsoo with an image of a long river going up the slope, until it reached a mountain peak. Without moving his fingers, he went through the list of the spells in his head again. When he reached the last one, the image of the river flashed in his mind and vanished. He opened his eyes and slowly stood up.
“Did it work?”
“Yeah, I think it did.”
Chanyeol whooped. “Maybe we’ll finish this before nightfall after all. OK, let’s visit the moors next.”
Kyungsoo felt like a robot, casting the same spells over and over again on the bleak moorlands of Waun Rydd, then after Apparating to Snowdonia, on the peak of Rhobell Fawr, the Migneint – a large expanse of moorlands - around Llyun Conwy, and the B4407 road that crossed the moors. By the time they were preparing to Portkey into Cairngorms National Park, he was exhausted.
They landed in the Rothiemurchus Forest right next to Loch a' Garbh-choire. Kyungsoo released his grip on the newspaper Portkey and looked around. It was nearing seven o’clock in the evening, but the sun still hadn’t set completely, illuminating the majestic Caledonian pine trees. He gaped at the deep blue lochan and the tall, blooming purple heather covering the ground. It was one of the most beautiful places he’d ever seen.
“It’s wonderful, isn’t it?” Chanyeol said, his voice bringing Kyungsoo back to reality. “It’s no wonder the unicorns love this place. Seems like the Muggles who notice them think they’re just mountain ponies. They’re more careful on the moors though. They only venture there at night.” He smiled, his hair turning a warm red shade in the setting sun and his cheeks flushed from the cold wind, and continued. “Cathar Mor, the last place we’re going to, is quite beautiful too.”
Kyungsoo sighed, his shoulder slumping. “I wish we had time to sit down. I don’t fancy trying to cast complex linking charms in complete darkness though.”
“Take your time. We’re almost done and we won’t be able to Portkey back home today anyway.”
Kyungsoo did a double-take. “What?”
“I’m Apparating us to Aberdeen to a friend’s place for the night, once we’re done. We can Portkey from there tomorrow afternoon.”
“Well, I wasn’t able to get an Emergency Portkey for London yesterday. My friend managed though.”
Kyungsoo huffed. “The Ministry and its bureaucratic tosh. Why am I not surprised? Alas, if we’re staying the night in Aberdeen, let me finish here and we can go to the moorlands tomorrow.”
Chanyeol cocked an eyebrow. “Oh really?”
“Yes, really. I’m knackered. I can’t remember the last time I cast so many spells in one day. I’m pretty flummoxed I still have any energy left at all,” Kyungsoo said, glaring at ground. Seeing Chanyeol bite his lip in the corner of his eye, he took a deep breath and willed himself to calm down. “Better for me to finish tomorrow than botch up the spells, Chanyeol.”
His magic seemed erratic, bursting out of him in short spasms. He had to repeat some spells more than once, because his magic would halt right before the last syllable rolled off his tongue.
He was done after two hours. By then, it was pitch-black and pouring down with rain. His cloak had effective Rain Repellent Charms cast on it, but his hair was plastered to his face, obscuring his vision, and his pants were soaking wet from trudging through the heather, which came up to his knees in some places.
“Chanyeol, where the bloody hell are you?” His voice sounded weak, as if the rain created an impermeable barrier between him and the rest of the world.
He racked his brain for the right spells, clutching his wand so tightly it was threatening to break. He pushed his hair out of his face and said, “Homenum Revelio”. Feeling a pull to his right, he whispered, “Lumos”, and plodded slowly through the moor. Soon, he spotted the flickering light of Chanyeol’s wand. The man was standing still, focusing on something in the distance.
“Why did you go off? I feel like I’m going to drown now.”
Chanyeol turned towards him, a blank look on his face. “Huh?”
Kyungsoo stepped forward and waved his hand in front of Chanyeol’s face. “You still here?”
“Oh. Oh! Sorry. I saw a couple of unicorns passing by just minutes ago and got distracted.”
“OK. OK, fine.”
Chanyeol smiled sheepishly. “They were magnificent even in the dark. The unicorns, that is. I wish you’d seen them too.”
“There’s still tomorrow. I might seem them in Cathar Mor.”
They Apparated to the front of what reminded Kyungsoo of the ancient summerhouse his parents owned in some remote place in Ireland. It was too small to be called a mansion, but too big to be a cottage. There were tall trees all around them, obscuring the house from peeking neighbours and proving a great shelter from the rain.
Chanyeol straightened his back, messily brushed his sopping hair with his fingers and knocked on the door. Kyungsoo traced the movement of Chanyeol’s fingers with his eyes, watching the rain pellets bounce off them, as the other man clenched and unclenched his hands while staring at the doormat.
A few minutes passed in silence before Kyungsoo heard footsteps coming from inside the house and forced himself to look away from Chanyeol’s hands. The door opened a second later, revealing a smiling Teddy Lupin, wearing a pink bathrobe and sporting a mess of blue curls.
Kyungsoo shot up, knocking the pillows off his bed. He looked around the room for the source of the bang that woke him up, rubbing at his eyes and coughing. His throat was raw and itchy, as if he had swallowed a handful of feathers, and his muscles were unusually sore. He felt as if he’d run a marathon and climbed Mt. Everest right after; classic magic overuse. He groaned, frustrated at making such a rookie mistake, but only ended up coughing more. When his throat finally settled down, he noticed Chanyeol lying next to his bed and groaning.
Chanyeol rolled around to face Kyungsoo and cursed when he managed to bang his head on the edge of the bedside table. “Fell off the bed, hit my head really hard, and now hit it again.”
“Any brain cells left?”
Chanyeol rolled his eyes, carefully rearranged his limbs and stood up, this time without knocking into any furniture. “Plenty. Do you know that you snore?”
Kyungsoo gasped, throwing his duvet off himself and jumping off the bed. “I so do not.”
“You so do though.”
Chanyeol laughed, stretching his arms and cracking his knuckles. He ruffled his hair, making an even bigger mess out of it, and said, “It’s cute snoring. Like little-baby-puppy snoring.” Before Kyungsoo could retaliate, the man grabbed his wrist and pushed him towards the door. “Let’s get breakfast and then go to Cathar Mor. Work won’t do itself.”
They were stepping over the threshold of the room when Kyungsoo froze, suddenly hit with the memories from the previous night. He had been so knackered, standing in Teddy’s hallway, swaying mindlessly to and fro, and staring at Teddy’s navy blue curls in awe, barely saying a word. At some point he’d glanced at Chanyeol’s wrists, and done a double-take while making a weird gasping noise. From then on his eyes had stayed glued to Chanyeol, and he’d only stopped being an embarrassing mess when he’d blacked out.
He felt a blush shoot up his neck and light his cheeks on fire. He had actually blacked out.
“Did you carry me to bed?”
Chanyeol turned towards him, his eyes crinkling at the corners. “Sure thing. You definitely didn’t try Apparating yourself.”
The blush on Kyungsoo’s face was now reaching the tips of his ears. “I will never live this one down,” he said and buried his head in his hands. “And in front of Teddy bloody Lupin. Please tell me you didn’t carry me bridal-style.”
Chanyeol winked, trying to keep a straight face but ending up chortling. “Nah, I threw you over my shoulder.”
Kyungsoo looked up at him from beneath his fingers at him and gasped, covering his eyes with his hands once again a second later. “Merlin’s balls, I better get a pay rise out of this, what with my dignity in shambles.”
The moorland in the middle of Cathar Mor was breath taking. The area was bowl-shaped, fringed by a coniferous forest. It was covered by a thick carpet of heather in different shades of purple and violet, which turned a rusty red colour the closer one got to the forest. Here and there one could see patches of green grass and bunches of what looked like hay but was probably just the type of grass they saw yesterday on Fan Fawr.
Kyungsoo walked over to the forest, stopping right at its border, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath.
“Are you okay?”
He opened his eyes and turned around. Chanyeol was frowning, his eyebrows scrunched up.
“Why shouldn’t I be?”
Chanyeol ruffled his hair and licked his upper lip, looking at a spot above Kyungsoo’s shoulders. “Well, uhm…you did black out yesterday. And-well, I didn’t expect that? I utterly forgot it could happen if you overworked yourself. I don’t know what I was thinking. I-”
Kyungsoo chuckled. “It’s OK. Really. It’s OK, Chanyeol. It was my own fault.”
“My own fault, yeah? So forget it and let me get to work.”
Chanyeol looked as if he was going to argue, but in the end he only shook his head.
“Go ahead then.”
After casting the last spell, Kyungsoo took out a small crystal ball out of his pocket. He tightened his grip on the ball and repeated all of the spells he had used so far. Then, he said the names of the places he’d cast them on out loud. The ball glowed red for a moment, heating up in his palm, before the light it was emitting went out. Kyungsoo put his wand and the crystal ball away, and stretched, moaning in approval as his vertebra popped back into place.
“Should we go back to Aberdeen to have lunch?”
“You want to?” said Chanyeol.
Kyungsoo nodded, grinning. “We’re done! And I’m starving so, yeah, would be great.”
“Oh. OK, fab. Teddy told me about this one place-”
“Intruders! Intruders! Intruders in Loch a’Garbh-choire!”
Kyungsoo gasped, startled by the noise coming from the crystal ball, now glowing red and burning him even through his robes. Chanyeol was blinking rapidly, looking back and forth between Kyungsoo’s face and the pocket of his robes that the ball was in. Kyungsoo quickly took out the ball and his wand, and said, “Chanyeol, hold onto my arm. Now!”
The moment he felt Chanyeol’s fingers gripping his forearm, he pointed his wand at the crystal ball and said, “Teleportus”.
They landed among wet heather in a pile of flailing limbs, right in the same place they had yesterday. Kyungsoo pushed Chanyeol off himself, struggling to catch his equilibrium and stand up when he heard the clicking noise again, followed by the pop of Apparation. He cursed and shot up, only to slide on the heather and fall down on top of Chanyeol.
“What was that?”
“Someone must have attacked a unicorn nearby and they fled before we had a chance to react,” Kyungsoo said, slowly standing up again. Once he felt there was no danger of him slipping, he grabbed Chanyeol’s hand and hauled him up.
“Fuck, look at that!”
Kyungsoo whipped around to look in the direction the other man was pointing in, only to slip on the ground and painfully knock into Chanyeol.
“Merlin’s baggy Y-fronts, this place will be the end of me,” Kyungsoo muttered, ducking his head low so that Chanyeol wouldn’t be able to see him blush. Kyungsoo had a limited tolerance for skinship and had definitely exceeded it in leaps and bounds over the last few minutes.
Chanyeol chuckled, helping Kyungsoo straighten himself up. “I think there’s a unicorn lying under that tree. Let’s walk over there. Slowly.”
The unicorn was magnificent, even lying on mud and soggy leaves. Its mane looked smooth as silk and its horn glistened in the sunlight.
Kyungsoo halted in front of it and crouched down. The unicorn glanced in his direction but didn’t move. Letting out a breath, he shifted forwards and gingerly touched the unicorn’s abdomen. There was a deep gash right where its gallbladder was supposed to be.
Kyungsoo looked up, catching Chanyeol mid-crouch. At some point the unicorn must have turned in the other man’s direction, and was now pointing its horn at Chanyeol’s chest.
Chanyeol took a step backwards and tentatively sat down on the ground. The unicorn huffed but lowered its horn. Then, it shifted towards Kyungsoo, laying its head onto Kyungsoo’s lap.
“I see how it is,” said Chanyeol, cocking an eyebrow.
“Tell anyone and you’ll wish you were dead.”
Chanyeol’s eyebrow rose higher.
“Circe help me, I’ll punch you in the face. Instead of having this dumb convo, I suggest you Portkey to London and get us some medical help asap, yeah?”
“Sure. Sure, OK. Don’t get your knickers in a twist, mate.”
“These are all of the Unspeakables’ files?”
“Yes,” said Hannah, batting her eyelashes in what was probably supposed to be a subtle manner. “Well, we do technically have more, but they’re classified. These are just general pieces of information – names, dates of birth, education, parts of the department the people work at. Nothing that needs to be kept secret from the DMLE.”
Kyungsoo groaned inwardly, trying to imitate Kris’ gentle smile without telling Hannah to get it together. Kris might have been handsome but he wasn’t that handsome.
“Thank you. Have a nice day.”
“My pleasure.” Hannah beamed at him.
Kyungsoo levitated the stack of documents he’d been collecting for last two hours off Hannah’s table and hurried to the lift. He got out on the second floor and went straight to Potter’s office. He kicked its door open, dumped the documents onto Potter’s desk, and slumped down into the nearest chair. He felt as if he hadn’t slept for ages, when in fact he’d been at Teddy Lupin’s just a few hours ago.
“You managed to get all the files?”
Kyungsoo rubbed at his eyes sleepily before forcing himself to look around the room. Chanyeol was splayed on a chair next to him, staring at Kyungsoo in what looked surprisingly like awe.
“I know how to charm the ladies.”
Chanyeol snorted and then turned back to watching Kris pace back and forth.
“It’s been barely two days and Kris has already gone mad. Should I expect you to follow in his footsteps soon? I mean, you’re still gonna be stuck in my flat for some time.”
Kyungsoo yawed, shifting in his seat so that he was half-lying. “Nah, I’m good. Anabelle’s great company.”
“And I’m not?”
“Hmm…you’re decent, I guess.”
“You done chit-chatting?” Kris said, putting a stop to their conversation.
Kyungsoo rolled his eyes and sat up properly. “Yes, mum.”
Chanyeol sighed, rubbing at his face. “OK, so let’s try and go over it again. Who could have been able to Disapparate that fast?”
“Well, it was a bloody complex Anti-Disapparition Charm that I put on the place so I’d say Unspeakables and the Heads of Departments.”
“No one else?” asked Kris.
“No. We don’t really share such advanced spells with just anyone.”
“Well, that narrows things down somehow,” Kris said and cast a spell on the stack of papers that Kyungsoo brought with him. Around one quarter of the pile flew up in the air and fell down onto the floor.
Kyungsoo chortled. “Graceful.”
Kris rolled his eyes and cast another spell to make the papers form a neat pile.
“Well, this is great but that pile’s still huge. I really don’t fancy reading all these files with you two on a Sunday evening. Especially since we don’t know what to look for anyway,” said Kyungsoo and stood up, moving towards the door.
“So you’re just gonna go?”
“Kris, this isn’t actually my case. And I’ll help when I can, but right now I definitely can’t.”
From the corner of his eye, Kyungsoo saw Chanyeol walk over to Kris and throw his arm over the man’s shoulder.
“He’s right, you know? It’s frustrating, but let’s face it, we’re stuck. Let’s go ask Harry if he wants us to tail all these lovely people and in the meantime Kyungsoo can go home, yeah?”
Kris furrowed his eyebrows, shooting a glare at Kyungsoo, before grunting, “Fine. OK. Yes. Whatever.”
Chanyeol patted Kris on the back and turned to Kyungsoo. “I’ll be back in the evening, probably. Take a rest. If you come up with anything, just tell me tomorrow. Don’t want you collapsing on me again.”
“I’m not a fragile princess.”
Chanyeol snorted. “Of course you’re not. Especially not when you look like Kris. But that’s not the point. You’ve just administered first-aid to a unicorn and survived a grilling by Harry and Hermione. Hell, you’ve been levitating piles of documents left and right for the past hour, and it was only yesterday that you overused your magic. I have the right to be concerned.”
“Fine. I’ll put a warming charm on dinner for you, you twat.” Kyungsoo muttered, walking out of Kris’ and Chanyeol’s office and stomping towards the lift.
It was pitch black outside by the time Chanyeol was back. Kyungsoo had only planned to lie down on the sofa in the living room for a few minutes, while waiting for Sharpie to finish cooking dinner; somehow that turned into taking a nap, and here he was, splayed on the sofa, still half-asleep, and staring at Chanyeol taking off his robes in the middle of the room.
Chanyeol smoothed down his hair and grinned. “Hey. The unicorn’s fine. The Magizoologists said we were just in time. A bit longer and it would’ve died.”
“That’s great,” Kyungsoo said. He got off the sofa and pushed Chanyeol towards the kitchen. “Sharpie made dinner. Let’s eat.”
“You haven’t yet?”
“Nah, I passed out on the sofa.” Kyungsoo yawned and sat down at the counter, immediately grabbing his cup of tea. He hummed in approval, feeling the hot liquid soothe his throat, and glanced over at Chanyeol, unsurprised when he found the other man gobbling the food up as if it were the last meal he was ever going to have. “Did you make any progress with the case?”
Chanyeol shook his head. “You saw the files yourself. We might have narrowed it down but it’s still a lot of people we have to look into. We’ve managed to clear the Heads of the Departments, that one was easy, but the Unspeakables are a different matter.”
“We must have missed something.”
“Missed something? We cast every possible spell we could have on that place. There was no trace of any unique magic, no dropped belongings. Sometimes the bad guys just know what they’re doing. Sometimes they are actually a step ahead.”
Kyungsoo furrowed his eyebrows. “You really think so? You think it’s a hopeless case?”
“I don’t think it’s a hopeless case. But it’s not an easy one and I’m afraid it’ll be a while before we solve it.”
The flat was quiet when Kyungsoo woke up; he could only hear the wind outside and Anabelle’s meowing. In the week he had spent at Chanyeol’s flat, it was the first time he got up after Chanyeol went to work.
He hoisted himself off the bed and traipsed to the kitchen, Anabelle trailing behind him. He ate his lunch, took a shower, put on his robes and went back to the guestroom.
The Time-Turner was tucked safely inside his old pair of robes in the wardrobe. He took it out and sat at the desk, his fingers shaking slightly from anticipation. He’d forgotten all about the device during his crazy trip with Chanyeol, but the only thing he’d been able to think about since he had woken up today was finding out if the Time-Turner worked.
After checking the time and making sure it had been more than an hour since he had woken up, he gripped the Time-Turner tightly, took a deep breath, and turned it once. The world spun around him, his surroundings blurring until he couldn’t make out a single thing. No matter how many times he used the device, the spinning never got less confusing. When it finally stopped, he stumbled, and only avoided falling down because someone grabbed his arm. He turned towards the person to thank them and gasped. Standing next to him was Kris – or more precisely another Kyungsoo polyjuiced into Kris – wearing his bathrobe, with hair sticking in every direction and Anabelle peeking from behind his legs.
They studied each other for a minute or two, neither breaking eye contact, before the Other Kyungsoo grinned. “So I did it? Or should I say, we did it?”
Kyungsoo smiled back, feeling the tension leave his body at once. “Let’s see,” he said and checked the time. “Exactly one hour. We did it indeed. Considering there’s two of us here, everything is now working just as Granger-Weasley said it should.”
The Other Kyungsoo hummed in agreement and sat down on the sofa. Kyungsoo followed his steps, stifling a laugh – Anabelle had been looking back and forth between him and the Other Kyungsoo since Kyungsoo had appeared in the living room.
“I wonder if we’re messing the future up by being in the same place at the same time though, even if neither of us is freaking out.”
The Other Kyungsoo scrunched his eyebrows in thought and said, “Can we really mess anything up if we’re stuck in this room alone? There’s no one we could directly influence. Well, except Anabelle, but I think she’s fine.”
“I guess you’re right. You know what I’m really curious about though?”
“What will happen to me once the hour is up?”
Kyungsoo nodded. “Yeah. Granger-Weasley missed that moment every time she went back in time. I think we’ll be the first people to ever find out.”
“The first people to find out and live.”
Kyungsoo snorted. It was nice to talk to someone who thought exactly what he did - must be what having a twin would have been like.
The Other Kyungsoo smiled at him lazily and asked, “Do you want a cup of tea while we wait? Sharpie’s still around and I need to eat lunch anyway.”
“Yes, please. Never enough tea, right?”
They were chatting away, the Other Kyungsoo cleaning the dishes when he began to fade away. At first, he appeared slightly less solid, as if he were losing colour, but as the time passed he became see-through – like a ghost.
“Does it hurt? Do you feel like anything’s different?” said Kyungsoo.
The Other Kyungsoo shook his head, unable to make a sound. A second later he seemed to flicker and then he was gone, dissipating into thin air.
Kyungsoo took the last gulp of his tea and stood up. Anabelle was still staring at him with distrust in her eyes. He ignored her and went back to the guestroom, where he rummaged through the desk’s drawers until he found the old Time-Turner he had spelled wrongly. He looked at it for a last time, memorising the scratches on the glass and tracing them with his fingers, before saying, “Evanesco“. Glancing at his empty hand, he muttered, “And now the faulty Time-Turner is gone.“
The brief, clicking sound, barely audible although the flat was utterly silent, made him drop his wand, his eyes widening. The damn clicking sound, he thought, the same as when we landed in Cairngorms, and back at Jongdae’s…and in the Time Room.
He cursed, picked up his wand and Apparated to Diagon Alley.
After casting a plethora of spells on the door to Jongdae’s shop, on Jongdae and on himself, Kyungsoo plopped onto the sofa in Jongdae’s living room, grimacing.
“Shush Jongdae. I’m trying to fit this ginormous body onto your bloody sofa without setting it on fire. I definitely prefer being more compact.”
“Compact?” Jongdae cocked an eyebrow. “You mean tiny.”
Kyungsoo groaned and shifted so that his legs dangled off the sofa a bit more comfortably. “No, compact. I am not tiny, and never will be.”
“Whatever helps you sleep at night, mate. So what’s the deal?”
“Oh, what isn’t. I can’t believe it took me so long to notice someone was monitoring my every bloody movement. There are spells on the door to your shop that trace who goes in and out, a bunch of tracking spells I’ve never heard of, and the Taboo spell on both me and you.”
Jongdae’s eyes widened. “Taboo? You mean that spell that You-Know-Who used?”
Kyungsoo nodded, leaning further back and staring at the ceiling. “Bingo. I bet it’s the same at my office. Merlin’s balls. I need to check it too.” He sat up and started to rummage through the pockets of his robes. “That idiotic Spherophone. Can never find it when I need it…Ah ha!”
Jongdae shook his head, snorting. “Knock yourself out and use the sofa as long as you want. You can Floo from here to the Ministry too.”
Kyungsoo was pacing around Granger-Weasley’s office when Chanyeol opened the door with a bang, hugged him, lifting him off the floor, and said, “Knew you’d crack it!” Noticing Hannah side eyeing them from the hall, he quickly extracted himself from Chanyeol and slammed the door shut.
“Be careful, idiot,” Kyungsoo hissed, making sure to put some distance between himself and Chanyeol. It wasn’t the first time that Chanyeol made him feel as if someone set his blood on fire – it’d become a worrying regular occurrence ever since the fourth year at Hogwarts, but it never got less disconcerting. Every place that Chanyeol had just touched tingled, his nerves blazing.
Chanyeol smiled sheepishly. “Sorry. Forgot myself there for a second. So anyway, what’s up?”
“Someone put tracking spells on Jongdae, Jongdae’s shop, me and my office. They also included a modified Taboo spell which alerted them every time Jongdae, I, or anyone in our vicinity said the words ‘Time-Turner’, ‘Kyungsoo’, ‘Unicorn Bile’ and ‘Hour-Reversal Charms’.”
“What?” Chanyeol gaped at him.
“Yes. Seems like the person who caused me to Polyjuice into Kris is actually after the Time-Turner I’m working on.”
“Fucking hell. But I thought no one knew about it apart from you and Hermione?”
“I thought so too. Clearly, I was wrong. Granger-Weasley went to talk to Auror Potter-”
Chanyeol nodded. “Told me to get you. We need to go to Harry’s office. Kris is already there.”
Kyungsoo scowled. “Right. Bloody Hippogriff’s anus, I can’t wait until I’m back to looking like myself. This whole sneaking thing is horribly annoying.”
“Where’s Harry and Hermione?” Chanyeol said, transfiguring one of Potter’s pencils into a chair.
“Went back to work and said to use the office for as long as we need to,” Kris said, looking far less tense than the last time Kyungsoo saw him.
“Hmmm…so did they decide on anything?”
“Yeah. Harry said we should first determine who from the Unspeakables could be responsible for this whole mess.”
Kyungsoo regarded the two men for a moment before sitting down in Potter’s chair. Kris pressed his lips into a thin line and appeared to be digging his fingernails into the palm of his hands. Chanyeol glanced at Kris, confused, before looking over at Kyungsoo and laughing. “Well, you sure are making yourself feel at home.”
“No need to waste time and energy, when there’s a perfectly good and empty chair right here,” Kyungsoo said. “Anyway, we’re looking for Unspeakables who either work in Spell Development or were involved in it at some point. Going back one year in time though. Before that we didn’t really understand how the Taboo spell works.”
Kris unclenched his fists and put his hands on his legs. He seemed to have been trying to stop himself from scowling, which only made him look constipated. Kyungsoo snickered and bit his lip, seeing Kris half-frowning in response.
“What crawled up your arse and died, Kris? Let’s take this moment to have a heart to heart, yeah?”
Chanyeol snorted, kicking Kris in his shin. “Stop it, man. You’re looking ridiculous.” He turned to Kyungsoo and continued. “Kris is just really, really invested in this case and he’s worried you’re stealing his spotlight. Don’t mind him. He’ll get over it.”
“Stealing his spotlight? It’s not like anyone but you, Jongdae, Potter and Granger-Weasley will ever know I was involved in this case. Kris, get off your high Hippogriff, for Merlin’s sake.”
“This is pointless. Less talking, more working. And I’m not worried. I just don’t like outsiders to get involved.” Kris said, rolling his eyes.
“Outsiders?” Kyungsoo could feel the irritation bubbling under his skin.
“Anyone not from DMLE, alright? It’s strange working with someone who’s not Chanyeol or my superior. Don’t take it personally.”
“Whatever,” Kyungsoo grunted and grabbed a handful of the Unspeakables’ files.
“How many people do we have in total?” Kyungsoo said, chewing at a pencil he stole from Potter’s desk.
Kris levitated the files they didn’t need off the desk and quickly flicked through the remaining ones.
“Excellent. Pass them over to me, please.” Kyungsoo put down the pencil and took the files from Kris. “Let’s see…Hannah only helped with one spell. It was pretty basic and she didn’t have access to the main laboratory anyway. James deals with a branch of spells irrelevant to this case. Aurelia’s the same. Caroline moved to Canada a month ago, so I really doubt it’s her. Greg is pants at tracking spells. Joyce helped improve the tracking spells so she’s worth considering. Oh. OH!”
Chanyeol perked up. “What?”
“You know, I worked in Spell Development for almost two months. They don’t have too many people and needed someone to help with strengthening the Anti-Apparation and –Disapparation charms. I got to know those people pretty well. And this guy,” Kyungsoo waved one of the files. “is the best Spell Development has ever had. He loved to experiment too. I’m absolutely sure he was tinkering with the Taboo spell when we worked together, because he explained some of the theory behind that spell to me.”
Kris grabbed the file, eyes widening. “Otis Asquith?”
Kyungsoo nodded. “Yeah. He’s a relative of Jagiełło’s wife.”
“Jagiełło? The Head of the Department of Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures?”
“Yep. I heard Mrs. Jagiełło adopted him after his father died. I think she was his only surviving relative? Her maiden name was Asquith so that’s why the surnames don’t match.”
“That won’t complicate things, right?” Chanyeol said.
“It…shouldn’t,” Kyungsoo replied. “Jagiełło is very strict, from what I’ve been told. He doesn’t play favourites. If you arrest Otis because of plausible reasons, I think he’ll just let you do your job.”
Kris scowled. “It would have been too easy, if the guy was a nobody, huh? What about the rest?”
Kyungsoo looked through the files once again. “Well, you can still look into Joyce and Algernon. Maybe SooKyung too? She’s relatively new, but she’s amazing. I’m positive she’d be able to modify advanced spells successfully.”
Kris nodded and took the relevant files from Kyungsoo, while casting a spell on the unneeded ones so that they formed a neat stack. “Thank you. I’ll bring the documents back to Hannah. You can go home first.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. If we need anything more from you, Chanyeol will tell you. It’s background checking and tailing awaiting us now. Standard procedure.”
Kyungsoo glanced at Chanyeol, his eyes stopping on Chanyeol’s hands for a moment before he looked up at the man’s face. Chanyeol was looking back at him, head tilted to the side, worrying at his bottom lip. Kyungsoo swallowed and quickly turned towards Kris. “Well then, good luck. Don’t stay up too late,” he said, wiping his palms on his robes. His hands were feeling strangely sweaty as he dashed out of the office, Chanyeol’s gaze burning a hole into the back of his head.
Although he’d gone to bed well past one o’clock in the morning, Kyungsoo hadn’t heard Chanyeol come back last night. When he woke up sometime before eight o’clock the next day, Chanyeol was already gone too.
Kyungsoo ate his breakfast in silence, not even bothering to give Anabelle the bacon scraps. He nearly slipped in the shower, and kept fidgeting while reading “How to Charm Your Enemies. The Compendium”, even though he’d learnt all of his favourite spells from that book. He gave up on trying to pretend he wasn’t going to start climbing up the walls at any moment from restlessness after lunch and Flooed Jongdae.
He landed on the carpet with a bang, covered in soot, his face millimetres away from Jongdae’s feet.
“What a lovely surprise. Would you care for some tea?”
Kyungsoo rolled over onto his back and rubbed the ash off his face, spluttering. “I hate to Floo so so much. Who even came up with this tosh?”
He blinked, making the rest of the ash fall off his eyelashes and was finally able to see Jongdae clearly. His friend was grinning, wearing his laboratory apron and a purple headband, the sleeves of his shirt rolled up to his elbows.
“You gonna stay on the floor, mate? I know this carpet’s rad, so I won’t judge.”
Kyungsoo rolled his eyes and stood up, smoothing down his robes. “Nice headband, wanker.”
“Nice manners, prick. I can still kick you out.”
Jongdae cocked an eyebrow. “Oh really now?”
“Really. Let’s have tea and chat. Like we did around your doll tea set when we were but wee lads.”
Jongdae sighed, but took off his apron and called Googley over, asking her for tea and scones. Kyungsoo smiled, plopping onto the sofa. He loved Googley’s scones; she served them with world’s greatest lemon curd and perfectly whipped cream.
“So what’s up, freak?”
“Does anything need to be up for me to come over and see you?”
Jongdae snorted, shaking his head. “Yes. Yes, it does.”
“I’m just antsy, OK? I’ve been running around, helping Chanyeol and Kris for the last two days, and now I’m stuck at home with nothing to do.”
“Hmmm… Is that so?”
Kyungsoo frowned. “Huh?”
“I don’t think you’re antsy because you’re stuck at home. You’re great at entertaining yourself, mate.”
“OK?” Kyungsoo said, setting his tea cup back on the table. “So what is it, pray tell, that is making me antsy?”
“Shouldn’t you know that?”
Kyungsoo gaped. “No? If I knew how to fix whatever is going on, I would have done it already.”
“It’s Chanyeol-related, isn’t it?”
“Not everything revolves around Chanyeol.”
Jongdae laughed. “Could have fooled me, mate.”
“Well, it’s not Chanyeol- I..I don’t know, OK? I’m just so horribly restless,” Kyungsoo said, running a hand through his hair. “What about the antidote?”
“Ah hah, change of topic. I see how it is,” said Jongdae, smirking. “The antidote’s not done yet, though it’s coming together. If we’re lucky, I’d say, one more week and you’ll be back to looking like yourself.”
“Is Malfoy still helping you?”
Jongdae beamed. “Yes. Yes, he is. He is amazing.”
“Disgusting,” Kyungsoo muttered, going back to sipping his tea.
“Is your face.”
“Nah, your Malfoy boner.”
“I do not have such a thing as a Malfoy boner, my dear friend. Just deep appreciation for people with power,” said Jongdae and raised his tea cup. “Cheers.”
Kyungsoo managed to stumble out of the fireplace in Chanyeol’s living room somewhat gracefully, avoiding tripping over Anabelle, his robes in only slight disarray.
“You’re right on time for dinner.”
Kyungsoo looked up abruptly, startled by Chanyeol’s voice, and collided with an armchair. “Fuck, that hurt.”
Chanyeol snickered, hiding his smile behind his hand. “Where were you? At Jongdae’s?”
Kyungsoo walked over to the other man, glancing at Sharpie levitating plates onto the kitchen counter. “Yes. I’m not wasted though. We only drank lavender tea.”
“It’s my favourite.”
He glanced at Chanyeol, catching him staring at Kyungsoo unabashedly.
Kyungsoo looked away, focusing his attention back on Sharpie. “Of course not. Honey utterly destroys it.”
He heard Chanyeol laughing and then felt him put a hand on his shoulder.
“But it’s so bitter without honey.”
Kyungsoo shivered, forcing himself not to shake Chanyeol’s hand off. “Says the person who takes their tea with two cubes of sugar and a litre of milk.”
“Is not true,” Chanyeol muttered. “Only one third of my mug is milk.”
Kyungsoo huffed and started to pick up imaginary lint off his robes. “One third too much. Bitter lavender tea is the best. End of discussion.”
Kyungsoo hummed, pulled out his usual chair and sat down. He focused all his attention on the roasted carrots, cutting them obsessively into perfect cubes.
“We did a background check on Otis.”
Kyungsoo put down the cutlery and finally met Chanyeol’s eyes, which were crinkled in the corners and shiny with mirth. He didn’t enjoy it much – Chanyeol looking like there was something Kyungsoo didn’t know, something so utterly amusing. And Kyungsoo had the feeling the other man’s good mood had nothing to do with Otis.
“Do you know who Otis’ father is?” Chanyeol said.
“No. Not really. It never came up when I talked to him.”
Kyungsoo tilted his head to the side, frowning. “Sounds familiar.”
“He was a Death Eater.”
“No way.” Kyungsoo’s eyes widened, his dinner completely forgotten.
Chanyeol chuckled. “Yeah, I was flabbergasted when I found out. And, you know, Macnair’s still alive. He’s in Azkaban.”
“I guess that makes sense? I don’t think Jagiełło would have liked people to know he was taking care of a son of a Death Eater. I wouldn’t be surprised if he told Otis not to tell anyone about this.”
Chanyeol nodded and swallowed a few chunks of chicken before continuing, “Exactly. We want to check if Otis visits his father in Azkaban though. The guards keep records of people going in and out, and you won’t be allowed inside unless you’re a relative of the prisoner or an official with a permit.”
“Do you think his father’s involved somehow?”
“Who knows,” Chanyeol said, his fingers covered in grease and mindlessly poking at a chicken leg. “I figure Macnair knows a lot of shady people. He might have dropped some names. To be frank, Otis is the only person from Spell Development who has any connection to a criminal. I don’t know how the others could have got mixed up with a Potion smuggling ring.”
Kyungsoo sighed, pushing the carrots half-heartedly around the plate with his fork. “This is surreal.”
“Hey, it’s not a certain thing yet. Are you friends?”
“Sort of? We don’t really meet outside of work, but we do get along pretty well. I figure Otis would have had plenty of opportunities to cast all those spells on me and my office. He knew who I was closest to as well.” Kyungsoo paused and ruffled his hair. His right knee kept bouncing and his thoughts were running amok. “It seems logical for it to be him. But I don’t get the motive.”
Chanyeol stared at him for a moment, then shifted in his chair and put his hand on top of Kyungsoo’s. “We still don’t know if it’s him. Don’t worry, alright?”
Kyungsoo bit his lips, slipping his hand from under Chanyeol’s and scooping some of the mashed potatoes with his fork. Neither of them said anything else for a few, tense minutes, until a question that had been nagging Kyungsoo for a while carelessly tumbled off his lips. “Why were you so adamant at getting my attention back at Hogwarts?”
Chanyeol swallowed, blinking. “Huh?”
Kyungsoo quickly looked down at his lap, mortified. “Sorry. Don’t know where that came from.”
“No, no, it’s fine. I just thought you never noticed me when we were at school.”
“Was hard not to notice you.”
Chanyeol beamed, polishing the rest of the chicken off his plate. “You know, I knew near to nothing about the wizarding world when I first came to Hogwarts. I sat with a few other Muggle-borns on the train and so was unaware of the reputation Slytherin had. I actually thought it wasn’t a big deal that I got sorted into that particular House. So you left quite an impression on me, what with you death glaring me through the whole welcome feast.
“How did you know I was a Muggle-born right off the bat anyway?”
“Well, the wizarding community is quite close-knit, as you must have noticed. If you were a pure-blood or had at least one parent who was a wizard, I would have heard your surname before. So yeah, I was at least 95% sure you were a Muggle-born.”
“Hmmm…makes sense,” Chanyeol said. “I noticed rather quickly that you were pretty much the embodiment of a perfect Slytherin. When I found out your heritage was impeccable, I was a bit impressed. At that time my parents’ brainwashing was working very effectively, so for me you were everything my parents would have ever wanted in a son. I basically wanted to be like you, and wanted you to like me.”
“Are you serious? You went about it all wrong. Circe help you,” Kyungsoo said, grinning. “I mean, I noticed you, but I definitely didn’t want to befriend you. I was actually quite terrified of your manic grin. Although some of the things you did were ingenious, and single-handedly responsible for us holding the House Cup for so long.”
Chanyeol’s smile widened. “Exploding cauldrons during Potions, eh? I was amazing at sabotaging Hufflepuffs during Care of Magical Creatures too. Those were good years.”
“I don’t know. I still wanted to skin you alive half of the time.”
“You didn’t though. That must count for something.”
Kyungsoo snorted. “Yes, for how strong my self-control is.”
“Wanker. I bet you secretly liked me, but were too concerned with your social standing to talk to me.”
“In your dreams. It’s pretty clear that you liked me, not the other way round. Anyway, shouldn’t you have stopped this whole act in fifth year though? What with your parents and everything?”
Chanyeol coughed, lowering his eyes so that he was looking at Kyungsoo’s plate rather than his face. “I still thought you were cool back then. Conditioned response maybe? But yeah, trying to get your attention was something that came naturally after so many years, and I just continued to do it. I was sure you were fun, no matter what everyone said, since you had such bizarre friends.”
“You mean Jongdae, huh?
“Yeah, him too. But remember Eleanor Nott? She had a death glare even yours couldn’t rival.”
Kyungsoo smirked. “Ah, Eleanor. It’s a shame she moved to Italy with Blaise.”
Chanyeol gaped, putting his elbow right into a bowl of mashed potatoes. “Shit fuck. Jesus. Blaise Zabini?”
“Those are some plebeian curses, Chanyeol. There’s no Jesus for you anymore. It’s all about Merlin, remember that.
“And I know what you’re thinking; Blaise is much older than Eleanor so it’s strange. They work though. I heard they seduce unsuspecting innocent tourists together. Possibly boys under the age of eighteen. You’d have to ask Jongdae for details though. I’m not that up to date,” Kyungsoo said, eyes glued to the layer of mashed potato that was now covering Chanyeol’s elbow up until his wrist.
“Huh?” Chanyeol looked around the counter, finally noticing how close his hand was to the potatoes. “Oh, thanks. I’m a bit clumsy sometimes.”
“A bit? Maybe if a bit means a lot.”
“If I were clumsy a lot, I would have never made it through the Auror Training,” Chanyeol said, wolfing down the rest of the mashed potatoes straight from the bowl.
Kyungsoo poked mindlessly at the few remaining pieces of carrot on his plate. “So what? You magically become clumsy around me?”
“No. I’ve just been easily distracted lately.”
“Distracted?” Kyungsoo narrowed his eyes. His knee was bouncing again and he knew he was being utterly ridiculous, trying to read too much into a simple statement; he didn’t even know why he cared in the first place.
“Yeah. I guess? I’m probably just tired. It’s nothing.”
November was proving to be unusually cold, the temperature dropping down to zero degrees almost every night. Kyungsoo wasn’t a big fan of the winter weather, but he wouldn’t have minded getting some snow to go along with it. So far, however, all that lay on the streets were decomposing leaves, and they were much more likely to get a Brown Christmas rather than a white one.
Kyungsoo sighed, head propped on his hands, half-lying on the desk in the guestroom. He inhaled deeply and exhaled, trying to blow the Time-Turner off the desk. He was bored. Again.
The last two days had passed in a blur. Chanyeol had been spending almost the whole day at work, leaving before Kyungsoo got out of bed and coming back just before his bedtime. They had barely spoken a word to each other, and for the first time in forever Kyungsoo was starting to crave human interactions. It didn’t help that Jongdae was locked up with Malfoy in Malfoy’s laboratory, finishing the antidote; he had no one to pester.
Kyungsoo sighed again, leaning back in his chair. A moment later he cried out, toppling down onto the floor, when he heard his Spherophone buzz in his pocket. He cursed, scrambled off the chair, and hoisted himself up, using the desk as leverage. He took out the Spherophone and smiled – Chanyeol was coming home early tonight.
“Are you sure his favourite food is Thai? Just because he gobbles it up, doesn’t mean anything. He could eat an elephant if he was served one.”
Teddy Lupin cocked an eyebrow, looking unimpressed. “Are you his best friend or am I?”
Kyungsoo scowled, his grimace worsening when he inhaled a cloud of ash. “Those buggering Floos. Sometimes I think Muggles are onto something with their mobile phones. Firecalling is utterly impractical.”
Teddy laughed, dragging his fingers mindlessly through his now-baby blue curls. “I agree wholeheartedly. But Chanyeol’s favourite food is still going to remain Thai. He may love to eat, but it’s only Thai that he truly inhales.”
“Anything in particular?”
“Nah, everything is fair game. Just make sure it’s authentic Thai food and spicy as hell.”
Kyungsoo sighed. “I can’t believe I’m doing this.”
“He has that effect on everyone,” Teddy said, smiling fondly. “There’s only so long one can resist his charm.”
“Charm? Merlin’s beard, he has none.”
Teddy chuckled. “You know he does. Otherwise you wouldn’t be trying to do something nice for him right now.”
“It’s nothing. I’m not even the one cooking. No big deal. And don’t you dare tell him. I promise I’ll personally drag you to hell if you do.”
“No big deal, huh?”
“Yes, it’s absolutely nothing. Nothing at all.”
Teddy laughed, the curls bouncing with his every movement as if they had a life on their own. “OK, I’ll keep the secret. Now go and have fun.”
Kyungsoo said his goodbyes and pulled his head out of the fireplace, toppling sideways onto the floor. He rolled onto his back and rubbed the soot off his eyelids, before pointing the wand at himself and saying, “ Scourgify”. One would have thought that after using the Floo so many times, he should have got the hang of it already, but Kyungsoo was still utterly hopeless, no matter if he Flooed or firecalled.
He spotted Sharpie sitting on a stool in the kitchen and got up. “We’re having Thai today. You can make it spicy.”
Kyungsoo was reading a random book when he heard the pop of Apparation. He waited until Chanyeol was done showering to finally come out to the kitchen.
Chanyeol was half-lying on the kitchen counter, smiling stupidly at Sharpie. He looked as if all of his biggest dreams had just come true. Kyungsoo tried stifling a laugh, but ended up letting out a giggle that had Chanyeol whipping around, nearly falling off the stool.
“Enjoying the view, aren’t you?”
Chanyeol grinned. “Yes! Thai is my favourite.”
“It’s good Sharpie wanted to make some today then, right?”
“Hmmm…wasn’t that your decision?”
Kyungsoo walked over to the other man, biting his lip to keep himself from smiling back at him. “Absolutely not. It’s always up to Sharpie what we have for dinner.”
“I see. Well, since you’re here now, let’s eat, yeah? I’m starving.”
“Sure,” Kyungsoo said, looking at Chanyeol inhaling the papaya salad. He shook his head, more amused than irritated, and dipped one of his spring rolls in sauce.
Once Chanyeol was done with the salad, he put his plate away and glanced at Kyungsoo. “So I have some good news.”
“Yeah. I haven’t been home because we’ve been tailing Otis. Turns out he’s awfully close with one of the guys we know is definitely a part of the Potion smuggling ring. He also seems to be quite partial to hanging out in front of your office.”
Kyungsoo’s eyes widened. “No. You’re kidding, right?”
“Afraid not. We’re pretty sure he’s our culprit. Now that we’re familiar with his daily routine, we’re going to plan on how to catch him red-handed.”
Kyungsoo sighed, poking mindlessly at some of the grilled prawns. “That’s it then. Now I just need the Polyjuice to stop working.”
Chanyeol beamed at him, waving a half-eaten spring roll in the air. “And that’s where the good news part comes in. Malfoy came over today and said the antidote should be ready by tomorrow. It’s possible it may not work out yet, but he sounded quite optimistic, so I think it should be fine.”
“No way. Merlin’s saggy testicles, this is fabulous!”
“I know. I really don’t know how you’ve managed to stay reasonably sane stuck here, being Kris. The Kris part is probably the most traumatizing one, I guess.”
Kyungsoo snorted. “Oh, you have no idea. I may be tall and good-looking now, but I have Muggle relatives.”
Chanyeol hummed, wolfing down the green curry, then coughed, seemingly only just having understood what Kyungsoo meant. “Kris’ not a pure-blood?”
“No, he’s a pure-blood alright. His extended family, however, is a bit mixed.”
“I can’t believe you checked his background. Scratch that, I can’t believe you’d say this-No, wait, I can believe that. It’s you we’re talking about.”
Kyungsoo huffed, trying to keep a straight face, but failing utterly. “I was curious, OK? But to be frank being Kris hasn’t been that bad so far. I’ve always wanted to see how it’d be to be so tall and uncoordinated, and now I’ll definitely appreciate being compact more. Also, I got to finally know you,” Kyungsoo said, digging his fingers into his thighs, suddenly feeling a bit queasy.
“Yeah,” Chanyeol said, biting his lower lip and ducking his head. Kyungsoo stared at him, rendered speechless, letting a strange kind of tension seep into the room. He made a strangled noise, before grabbing a spoon and stuffing his mouth full of curry. It seemed fairly possible to him now that the Polyjuice might have made him barmy.
Chanyeol coughed and ruffled his hair. “We’re going to remain friends, right?”
Kyungsoo swallowed the pile of rice in his mouth, before nodding. “Sure. I don’t mind.” He glanced at Chanyeol, catching him sighing in what seemed like relief, before the man grinned at him, showing Kyungsoo all of his teeth. “Close your mouth. You have carrots stuck in between your teeth.”
Chanyeol cackled, grinning even wider. “Well, there’s no one else here. Why should I care, right?”
They spent the rest of the evening on the sofa in the living room watching TV – Chanyeol’s lap serving Kyungsoo as a footstool. It was nice, even if they continued to have moments when things would get awkward - one of them freezing up and stuttering, or hiding behind a pillow to lessen the mortification at his own behaviour (though that one was mostly Kyungsoo).
“Have I ever told you what happened when my magic first manifested itself?”
Kyungsoo cocked an eyebrow. “No?”
“Well, it’s quite the story. I think I was like five years old and my family was visiting one of my aunts. Muggle, of course. There’s no one that I know of in my family who’s a wizard.
“Anyway, me and my brother were playing around with our cousins, having a splashing contest in a pool in the garden. At some point, I slipped and landed in the pool facedown. I panicked so badly that all the water turned into cotton candy. My brother is allergic to sugar so he got a really bad reaction and ended up in the A&E. When they got him out of the pool, he looked like a beetroot and was scratching himself silly.”
Kyungsoo gaped. “You are truly a walking disaster, Chanyeol. Cotton candy? Really? Merlin’s balls, all I did was make one of my bears fly around the room. You’re a riot.
“I guess we have an explanation now for your brother being a dick though. A life without sugar sounds quite horrific.”
Chanyeol snorted and leaned closer to Kyungsoo. “He doesn’t do well with chocolate either. I used to eat all my sweets in his room just to spite him. He’s been a proper wanker since the day he was born. I never felt sorry for him.”
Kyungsoo fidgeted a bit, trying to stop his legs from sliding off the sofa. He shifted in his seat, ending up a few centimetres away from Chanyeol. “Oh? What did he do to you when you were a child?”
“I don’t remember much anymore. I know he threw out my favourite teddy bear after I got better grades in primary school than he did. He also used to hide spiders in my bed quite regularly, until I got over my fear of them and it stopped being funny to him.”
Kyungsoo choked on air, turning away from the TV to look Chanyeol in the face. “Are you bloody kidding-” he stopped mid-thought, his eyes widening. They were a hair’s breadth away – Chanyeol’s arm splayed on the back of the sofa, his fingers touching Kyungsoo’s shoulders and his back bent so that he was hovering over Kyungsoo.
Kyungsoo swallowed, suddenly overly conscious of how dry his lips had become. His heart was beating furiously, setting his nerves on fire and making his brain turn to mush. “Are you bloody kidding me?” he finally managed to say, cursing internally at how high-pitched his voice sounded.
“No, my brother was a true devil’s spawn.”
Kyungsoo nodded, unable to look away from Chanyeol who seemed to have inched even closer, now pretty much sharing his breath. As the other man’s gaze fell onto his lips, Kyungsoo’s brain seemed to have kick-started, making him slide to the very end of the sofa and break the eye-contact.
“Well, look at how late it is. You should go to sleep earlier tonight. Get a good night’s rest,” Kyungsoo said, smiling lopsidedly.
Chanyeol stared at him for a moment, then shook his head and stood up. “You’re right. I’m knackered. I’ll see you in the morning. Good night.”
“Good night,” Kyungsoo said, watching Chanyeol disappear inside his bedroom, before he slumped heavily against the sofa. He unclenched his fists and rubbed at his face. He could still feel Chanyeol’s breath on his face and the place where their thighs had collided itched; it felt almost as if the other man’s touch had been inked into his skin.
He sighed and curled himself up in the fetal position, burying his head in one of the pillows. He didn’t move until he heard the unmistakable sound of the shower being turned off. Then, he waited until he was sure Chanyeol was in bed, and tip toed towards the guestroom, closing the door softly behind himself. He glanced at Anabelle, who was lying at the bottom of his bed, and threw himself down next to her. She huffed and pretended to scratch him, but in the end let Kyungsoo run his fingers through her soft fur.
When he woke up, the sun was high in the sky, spilling into the room and making him squint. Anabelle was still beside him, curled into a ball with her head tucked under his arm. He scratched her behind the ears, stood up and took his robes off. Then, he shuffled to the living room which he found empty and felt his shoulders sag with relief. He didn’t think Chanyeol was planning on confronting him about last night; nothing had happened between them after all. Still, he couldn’t help but be anxious.
He sunk down into the sofa, not feeling particularly hungry, and tried to think about what he was going to do today. Looking around aimlessly, he noticed a piece of paper lying on the coffee table and hesitantly picked it up.
I have to go to work today. Will be back late.
Thanx again for the food :D
PS. I’ve been tinkering with the wards recently and now you can Apparate in and out of the flat on your own.
Kyungsoo groaned and slumped back against the sofa, burying his head in his hands. It was all too much, the note being the icing on the cake. He couldn’t stay in the flat all alone with only his thoughts for company. He needed to get out.
Putting the note back on the table, Kyungsoo stood up and Apparated straight to Diagon Alley.
Although the living room was empty, Kyungsoo could hear voices coming from Jongdae’s laboratory. He stood awkwardly on the threshold, staring at the orange sofa, until the door to the laboratory opened and Jongdae stepped out into the living room.
“Kyungsoo? What are you doing here?”
Kyungsoo shrugged and tried to smile but only ended up grimacing.
He sighed, hearing the concern in his friend’s voice. He didn’t want to do it. He didn’t want to talk about why he wasn’t OK. He didn’t even want to think about the fact that he wasn’t OK. Not now. Not ever. “Yes. Yes, I am. Just bored. Chanyeol’s working today again.”
“He is? Really?”
Kyungsoo narrowed his eyes. “Why do you sound so surprised? They almost cracked the case. Of course they need to work overtime now.”
Jongdae stared at him for a moment, frowning. “Look, I’m working on the antidote with Draco right now, but I’ll join you once we’re done. Have Googley fix you something to eat. Unless you’ve eaten?”
“No, I haven’t.”
“Good. Good, do it then. And make yourself at home. Not that you ever don’t,” Jongdae said, snorting.
Kyungsoo rolled his eyes. “Like you’re any different when you visit me. I’m going to go to your study, alright?”
“Sure. Just stay away from the carpet and the books with food. Those are proper antiques.”
“Excuse you very much. It would do you good to remember that I’m much more familiar with antiques than you will ever be. I know what to do, so go and continue flirting with Malfoy.”
Jongdae coughed. “Shut up! I’m not flirting with Draco.”
“Oh, I see. You’re on first name basis now. Whatever you say.”
“Mate, he’s married with kids. Seriously. Be quiet.”
Jongdae joined him in the study in the afternoon. His hair was messy and his clothes rumpled; he looked tired as he sunk down into the nearest armchair.
“Are you OK?”
Jongdae nodded, splaying his arms and legs. “Yeah, just a bit tired. The last eight hours have been a challenge. We couldn’t take our eyes off the antidote.”
“Is it finished now?”
“Almost. It needs to simmer on low heat for another few hours. Depending on what colour it becomes, it’s either going to be a success or an utter failure.”
“So it’s not a certain thing?” Kyungsoo said, eyebrows scrunched.
“Mate, there’s nothing certain about experimental potions. And especially not about experimental antidotes. It’s been going well so far, but the truth is anything can happen.”
Kyungsoo groaned. “If I have to do this any longer, I’m going to go insane.”
Jongdae looked at him for a moment before a grin bloomed on his face. “It’s a miracle you survived for so long. I actually had a bet going on with Hermione about how long you’d last before you attempted to take Chanyeol’s life.”
“What?! With Granger-Weasley?”
“Yep. I lost, by the way. Thought you’d be done by day three. Yet here you are, eleven days and counting. I’m proud of you.”
Kyungsoo gulped down his tea, grimacing at how cold it was. “I can’t believe Granger-Weasley made a bet with you. Over me, to boot.”
Jongdae laughed. “Really? Weasley’s a handful. I figure she needs to have developed a sense of humour at some point in her life or they wouldn’t have lasted this long.”
“They’re a mystery. You would think they were the worst matched couple in the world.”
“And yet they’re still in love with each other, right?”
“They can be truly disgusting. I don’t think my parents have kissed as often ever since I was born, as they kiss in one day,” Kyungsoo said, chuckling. “That said, you’re going off topic. How many days did Granger-Weasley bet on?”
Jongdae smirked. “You sure you wanna know?”
“Wouldn’t have asked otherwise, arsehole.”
“At least a month.”
“Well, at first she said ‘forever’, but I told her to be more specific.”
“Mate, it’s only you who said you hate Chanyeol. Everyone else thought you were just pulling his pigtails.”
Kyungsoo gaped, before grabbing his tea cup and downing the rest of his freezing, over-brewed tea. “Preposterous.”
It was past dinner time when Kyungsoo Apparated into the middle of the living room, stumbled on the carpet and collided with Chanyeol. He groaned inwardly and pushed himself off the other man.
“You alright there?”
“Yes, perfectly fine,” Kyungsoo said, glancing at Chanyeol. The man was wearing pjs, holding a mug in his hand. His hair was all over the place and, for the first time since Kyungsoo had known him, he was sporting some impressive eye bags. “Actually, it’s probably a question I should be asking you instead.”
Chanyeol smiled weakly, looking down at the tea mug. “Yeah, I guess? Work’s catching up with me.”
“Any progress?” Kyungsoo almost bit his own tongue in the haste to stop himself from babbling. There really was no need for them to talk now that things between them were still horribly awkward.
“Yeah. We gathered enough circumstantial evidence to try and get a search warrant.”
Chanyeol looked up from his mug, his stare gaining in intensity the longer they held eye contact. Kyungsoo gulped, feeling his palms get sweaty. “Uhm, well, I-I visited Jongdae today and he told me that…uhm…The antidote should be done by tomorrow morning. H-he’s going to come over sometime before noon.”
“That’s great, isn’t it?”
Kyungsoo could feel panic settling in. He didn’t like how forcefully cheerful Chanyeol was sounding or how focused the other man was on him. It felt as if Chanyeol was trying to cut him open with his stare and see under his skin.
“Yes, fantastic. Hopefully, it works. But-I…well, I don’t want to keep you up. You’re clearly still sleep deprived. So…good night!” Kyungsoo squeaked and dashed for the bathroom.
Kyungsoo was sitting down on the sofa in Chanyeol’s living room, fidgeting, while Jongdae nattered on about the antidote. He’d tuned out completely from the moment Chanyeol had sat down next to him a few minutes ago.
Since morning, Chanyeol had been acting as if the last two days hadn’t happened. He’d made breakfast instead of Sharpie, chattered away about work and Kris, laughed in the typical over exaggerated way of his and invaded Kyungsoo’s personal space every chance he got.
Currently, Chanyeol’s arm was resting on the back of the sofa, his fingers skimming down Kyungsoo’s back. Kyungsoo wasn’t sure if he wanted to punch the other man in the face or stand up and start screaming; he didn’t think he could concentrate for long enough to actually make a decision, not to mention land a successful punch.
“So Kyungsoo, how do you wanna do it?” Jongdae’s voice brought him back to reality.
“Oh! Well…It’s going to hurt, right?”
“Yeah, mate. I reckon it’ll be as painful as when you took the Polyjuice.”
Kyungsoo stood up. “Then, I guess I’d rather just sit on the carpet, OK?”
“Sure, here’s the antidote,” Jongdae said, pulling out a small vial from his bag.
Kyungsoo took a deep breath, grabbed the vial, uncorked it and sat down in front of the fireplace, his back to the two men. The antidote smelled faintly of grass and something nauseatingly sweet. It was silver in colour, but it glistened like the unicorn’s horn had in the sunlight.
Closing his eyes, he counted to ten under his breath and downed the contents of the vial. A first it made his throat tingle for a few seconds, an unusual warmth spreading down his body, before it turned into a fire, setting all of his joints ablaze. Kyungsoo slid down onto the floor, curling up onto himself, biting his lower lip so hard that he drew blood. He could hear himself groaning in pain and Chanyeol talking to Jongdae, urgency lacing his every word, but the sounds came to him as if from a distance, muffled by an invisible wall.
It felt like forever, although Kyungsoo was sure it couldn’t have been more than a minute or two, before the pain settled down into an unpleasant shimmer, sending occasional sparks up and down his spine. His body continued to tingle all over and he could feel himself shrinking, the robes billowing around him, until it all stopped as abruptly as it started, leaving Kyungsoo lying on his back, staring at the ceiling.
“Mate, how do you feel?”
Kyungsoo took a few deep breaths, making sure his equilibrium was back to normal, before he pushed himself off the floor and stood up, his legs trembling as if he were a baby giraffe learning to walk.
“Do I look normal?” he said, his voice cracking in a way it would have had after a long period of disuse.
“Yes-” Jongdae started to say, but his answer was cut short by Chanyeol’s scream of joy.
The next thing Kyungsoo knew, he was being lifted off the floor, squeezed so hard he thought his bones were going to get pulverised, and spun around. He vaguely heard Jongdae throw a handful of the Floo powder into the fireplace, before Chanyeol tripped and they toppled onto the floor, Kyungsoo landing on top of Chanyeol. A moment later, he felt himself being pushed back into an upright position, his nose colliding painfully with Chanyeol’s collarbone. He gasped, gripping Chanyeol’s arms tightly, waiting for the world to stop spinning. When he finally came to his senses, he realised that he was sitting in Chanyeol’s lap, the other man’s breath sending shivers down his neck. He closed his eyes for a second before hesitantly craning his head so he could take a look at Chanyeol’s face.
He wasn’t sure what had happened afterwards. His thinking seemed to have switched off and the tension in the air had grown so thick he could have easily cut it with a knife. Just like that, in a blink of an eye, the rest of the world had faded into the background and Chanyeol had become the sole thing he could focus on.
Chanyeol leaned towards him, their noses touching and breaths mingling, making Kyungsoo sigh and close his eyes. Then, all of a sudden, they were kissing, their lips sliding tentatively together.
Chanyeol’s hand glided up Kyungsoo’s neck, his fingers tangling in Kyungsoo’s hair, pulling Kyungsoo’s head gently to the side and deepening the kiss. Kyungsoo gasped and slid his hands up to Chanyeol’s chest, bunching up the other man’s shirt in his fists. The moment their tongues touched, Kyungsoo’s eyes flew open and he pushed himself off Chanyeol, landing painfully on the floor. He scrambled blindly for purchase, grabbing at the fireplace and pushing himself into a standing position, his back plastered to the wall behind him. His chest was heaving, hands shaking and thoughts running a thousand miles a second. He couldn’t recall the last time he had been so terrified.
After admiring the ceiling for a few tense seconds, Kyungsoo finally turned towards Chanyeol, digging his fingers painfully into his palms. “Yes?”
“Why did you kiss me?”
Kyungsoo shivered, pointedly looking at the other man’s shoes. “I didn’t kiss you,” he said, words barely audible.
“You did kiss-”
“I did not!”
“OK. OK, fine. Why did you let me kiss you then?”
“Nothing happened. Forget it,” Kyungsoo spat out, his breathing becoming progressively more shallow. “You can’t be my first kiss. A Mudblood can’t be my first-” Kyungsoo’s breath hitched the moment the words were out of his mouth and he abruptly looked up at Chanyeol’s face, watching confusion give way to anger.
“Mudblood? Really? Really now? Do you even know what you’re saying? Do you ever think about anything you’re doing?”
Chanyeol stood up, his fists clenched and muscles tense. “No, I’m the one talking now. I should have said those things to you ages ago. You’re such a fucking hypocrite. You act like you’re this big shot, but you’re just a coward. Nothing but a pathetic coward, hiding behind all the idiotic, bigoted things your parents taught you. You know very well what’s wrong and what’s right, and yet you’re too afraid of being yourself. You’d rather act like an arsehole because it’s easier. Because it doesn’t make people question you. You’d rather live a lie. Fuck, look at you, you’re fucking terrified of what your parents would say if they knew you might have feelings for someone who’s not a pure-blood, and you’re an adult, not some confused teenager with no place to go.
“Why won’t you try thinking for yourself? Why won’t you just take a step back and try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes? Do you even know why you’re so against Muggle-borns? Because, fuck, I’m so sure you actually have no valid reason for the shit you do.”
“No. No. No. Don’t you dare say anything before you’ve worked it out. I’m tired of making up excuses for your behavior. I’ve been doing it since fifth year when my hero worship of you turned into a love so blind I continued to act like a clown just to get you to notice me. Hell, that seems to be all I’ve been doing up until now. Trying to explain to other people why I let you walk all over me regularly,” Chanyeol paused and took a deep breath, his eyes never leaving Kyungsoo’s. “I know you’re not a bad person. I know that at this point, I’m probably one of the few people who know the real you. And it’s great to know you trust me at least to that extent. But you can’t just drop this shit on me. Especially not when it insults me and the world I come from. We can’t be friends, we can’t be anything, if you’re going to be a total fucking wanker about my bloody heritage. We’re both human beings. This drivel shouldn’t matter. At all.
“And even if we put that aside. Do you…Can you say you have feelings for me? Can you admit to that?”
Kyungsoo swallowed and opened his mouth to answer but no words came out.
Chanyeol groaned. “Why are you so-”. Then, he shook his head, looking more tired than angry, and stomped to his room, slamming the door behind himself.
Kyungsoo slid down the wall and buried his head in between his knees, trying to stop his heart from going into overdrive. His muscles felt taut, as if stretched to the limit, and all he wanted was to claw at his skin until he’d feel nothing but physical pain.
It had taken mere minutes for him to pack. Kyungsoo looked around the guestroom for the last time, petted Anabelle and pussyfooted towards Chanyeol’s room. He knocked on the door and waited with bated breath for the door to open, but ended up being ignored.
“Chanyeol? I’m sorry. I…I’m going home. S-sorry,” he said, tiptoed to the living room and Apparated back home.
Kyungsoo had spent the rest of the day buried under the duvet in his room, refusing to see anyone but Sharpie. Although he’d successfully evaded running into both his parents, he knew that eventually they would find out he was back; Sharpie didn’t have to tell them anything but she couldn’t lie if asked a direct question.
No matter how hard he’d been trying not to think about what happened in the morning, he couldn’t erase the memory of Chanyeol standing in front of him, shoulders sagging and disappointment written all over his face. He could still hear Chanyeol calling him a pathetic coward over and over again. Kyungsoo might have had similar arguments with Jongdae, but it had never cut this deep, never rang this painfully true. Chanyeol’s words seemed to have wormed their way under Kyungsoo’s skin and made themselves at home.
Kyungsoo woke up a bit after his usual breakfast time to the smell of lavender tea and freshly baked bread. He sat up begrudgingly and took a sip of the tea before stumbling out of bed and towards the bathroom. He closed the door behind himself with a sigh and stepped under the shower, leaning his head against the wall and letting the hot water paint his skin red. He felt tired in a way he never had done before; his bones ached as if from overuse, his body weak.
He toweled himself roughly and reached for his toothbrush, glancing at the mirror. He grimaced, seeing how red-rimmed his eyes were and turned on the tap to splash some cold water on his face.
He got dressed in absolute silence, ignoring Sharpie who was waiting for him next to his bed. He fixed his hair and took a couple of deep breaths before saying, “Mother knows, doesn’t she?”
Sharpie looked at him with wide, tearful eyes. “Yes. Sharpie did her best but she had to answer.”
Kyungsoo sighed. “I know. Don’t worry. I don’t blame you. I take it she wants to see me?”
“Yes. She’s waiting in the library.”
“OK. I got it. I’ll go see her alone.”
He’d barely stepped into the library when he heard his mother’s voice. “How was Madagascar?”
Kyungsoo closed the doors behind himself, walked over to where his mother was sitting and sat down in an armchair opposite her. “It was nice.”
“Nice? Is that all you have to say?”
“Well, what did you get me as a souvenir?”
“I didn’t get you anything.”
“Sweetheart, what is going on?”
“Mother,” Kyungsoo interrupted, hands clasped so tightly his knuckles were turning white. “How would you know you were in love?”
“Oh, Kyungsoo. Come here, dear,” Kyungsoo’s mother said, beckoning for him to sit next to her on the sofa. “In your case, just the fact that you’re asking me about this means you are most likely in love.”
Kyungsoo’s mother shook her head and put her hand on Kyungsoo’s arm. “Dear, I know you’ve never had any romantic interest in other people. Just because it used to be that way, however, doesn’t mean it can’t change.
“If you’re catching yourself thinking about that person more often than about anyone else. If you’re happy just by being next to them. If you’d rather never leave. If that is how it is, then you’re in love.”
Kyungsoo sighed and looked up. “It’s a man, mother.”
“Well, that’s unorthodox, isn’t it?”
Kyungsoo gaped. “Unorthodox? Is that all you have to say?”
“I was losing hope you were ever going to find anyone. I’m just glad it’s not a Hippogriff.”
“Merlin’s beard, what is it with you people and Hippogriffs…,” Kyungsoo muttered. “He’s also a Muggle-born, mother.”
“Yes. That’s probably a bit too unorthodox, isn’t it?”
“I have to admit it is. Slightly. Father won’t be pleased.”
“Won’t be pleased? Mother, he will be furious.”
Kyungsoo’s mother smiled. “Dear, I know that we brought you up very strictly. We instilled the pure-blood ideals in you to make sure you’d fit right in with the other pure-blood families. And you have done that and more. I do not, however, want you to stick to those ideals at the expense of your own happiness. If you want to be with someone who’s a Muggle-born, then I won’t protest.”
“Are you sure father would say the same thing?”
“No. But you have two parents and if need be, I’ll choose you. If need be, I’ll try and persuade him.”
“Thank you,” Kyungsoo said and looked down at his lap. “He works for the Ministry.”
“The man that you like?”
He felt his mother gently brush the hair off his face. “Is he a good person?”
“Well, that settles it then, doesn’t it?”
Kyungsoo was finishing his breakfast when Granger-Weasley’s head appeared in his fireplace.
“I’m so glad I’ve managed to catch you. I heard the antidote was successful. Is everything fine?”
Kyungsoo swallowed and put down his cutlery. “Yes. I’m so sorry I didn’t notify you. I wanted to take a short break. To get used to this. Again,” Kyungsoo said, pointing at himself.
Granger-Weasley laughed. “I can imagine it must feel quite different, especially after such a long time. Can you come to work today though? Kris told me he really needs to talk to you.”
“Is it urgent?”
“It seemed to be.”
“I’ll come then. I’ll finish here and go find him.”
“Great. Come over to my office later,” said Granger-Weasley, smiling, and waved before her head disappeared from the fireplace.
Kyungsoo closed the doors to the Auror Headquarters and looked around the room, spotting Kris in one of the cubicles; Chanyeol was nowhere to be seen. He walked over to the other man and stopped at his desk.
Kris looked up from the report he’d been writing. “I can see that.”
“So what is it?”
Kris snorted. “Eager to run away, aren’t you? Don’t worry, it’s not about Chanyeol. It’s Otis.”
Kyungsoo tilted his head to the side. “I don’t understand.”
“Look, we went to Otis’ flat yesterday to search it and we found Unicorn Bile, amongst other things.”
“Amongst other things?”
“Not that important. Anyway, we have the guy in the interrogation room and he’s willing to confess. The thing is he wants to talk to you first.”
Kris sighed. “Yeah. He wouldn’t say why. Are you up for it?”
“Well…I guess? What if I refuse?”
“It will be considerably more difficult for us to get any information from him.”
“So basically you don’t really need me but it’ll make your life easier?”
Kris rolled his eyes. “Yes. Also, I won’t give you shit. Because of Chanyeol.”
“Oh, wow, how could I refuse then,” Kyungsoo said, huffing. “Let’s go and get this over with, please.”
Kris stood up. “Sure. Let’s go.”
They were standing outside of the interrogation room, waiting for Otis to be brought from the holding cell. Kyungsoo was fidgeting, trying to think of something to say and Kris kept glancing at him, looking smug.
“I won’t give you shit. Not really. But you’re still a dick.”
Kyungsoo spluttered. “We’re not talking about it. Did you tell Jagiełło you arrested his son?”
“Yes, he already knows.”
“Did he give you a hard time?”
“No, not really. Seemed rather unsurprised, to be frank. I don’t think there’s any love lost between the two of them,” Kris said, smiling.
Kyungsoo snorted. “Do you think he’s glad to be rid of Otis?”
“Oh, I’m pretty sure he’ll be very glad if we actually charge Otis. That man’s a true pain in the ass. I can’t believe you’re friends with him,” Kris said and then widened his eyes comically. “No wait, you’re a pain in the ass too. It would work.”
“Merlin’s balls, can you stop maybe?”
“Then do it. You can continue this fascinating conversation with Jongdae. He’ll be able to appreciate it much more than I would.”
“It truly baffles me that Chanyeol likes you,” Kris said, laughing. “Oh, look, Otis is here.”
Kyungsoo turned around, noticing Otis standing behind him, looking even more sullen than usual.
“Well then, let’s do this,” Kris said and opened the door to the interrogation room, showing them inside. “You can take as long as you want. Me and another Auror will be waiting for you outside. Kyungsoo, if at any point you feel threatened, you should press this red button under the table. When you’re finished, just stand up and walk to the door. Otis is under Veritaserum which should start working in approximately one minute. Since this is how he wanted to confess, everything he says will be recorded. Are you fine with that, Kyungsoo?”
Kyungsoo nodded. “Yes, I am.”
“Great. Have fun.”
Kyungsoo glanced at Otis before walking to the table in the middle of the room and sitting in the chair closest to the red button Kris had mentioned. He clasped his hands together and watched his friend sit down in the other chair. They looked at each other in silence for a few minutes until Otis’ upper lip started twitching. Kyungsoo narrowed his eyes and opened his mouth to say something, only to have Otis howl with laughter.
“Is being arrested a laughing matter to you?”
Otis stopped laughing and leaned closer to Kyungsoo. “Oh no, not a laughing matter. It’s disappointing that I’ve been caught, but what’s funny is that you’re here.”
Kyungsoo cocked an eyebrow. “Didn’t you ask for me to come here?”
“I did. I didn’t expect you to grace me with your presence though.”
“Why are you being such a bloody prick?”
“Oh, Kyungsoo,” Otis said, sneering. “You can be so naïve. It’s quite amazing for someone who’s as intelligent as you are. No understanding of how real life works maybe?”
“Stop this tosh and tell me what you did and why you did it, or I’m walking out.”
Otis leaned back against his chair, legs splayed. “OK, OK. No need to get all pissy on me. I will tell you everything.”
“Why did you put all those spells on my office door, me, Jongdae and Jongdae’s shop?”
“Well, it’s a long story. Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?” Otis smirked and Kyungsoo shrunk back. “I hated you from the moment you became an Unspeakable. You were no one, fresh out of Hogwarts, with good grades but absolutely no experience. Yet, it was you who was chosen for Spell Development, even though everyone else had to work their ass off for at least a year to be allowed to create any of the advanced spells. Then, to top it off, you were transferred to the Time Room and asked to work on the Time-Turner. Instead of Hermione. Out of all the Unspeakables she chose you. You who were completely green compared to the rest of us in Spell Development.
“You think I’m the only person who disliked you? I’m pretty sure the only people who tolerate you in the Department of Mysteries are Hermione and Hannah. You’re just a stuck up prick who gets by because he kisses his boss’ arse.
“Anyway, earlier this year I decided I had enough. The moment I was sure you were in fact working on creating a new Time-Turner, I tried to locate your office. I planned on breaking in once you were done and destroying the finished product. In the meantime, I visited my dear father in Azkaban and got him to introduce me to the leader of the infamous smuggling ring the Aurors have been after since ages. They helped me get a few rare ingredients I needed to strengthen my tracking spells and explained to me how the Taboo spell works. In exchange I agreed to help them with obtaining the Unicorn Bile. It was a great partnership. I should have known you’d ruin it.”
Kyungsoo counted to ten in his head, digging his fingers into his thighs. “If anyone ruined anything here, it was you.”
Otis rolled his eyes. “Ah, but of course. How could I have done anything illegal? And to a friend! Oh my.
“Look, I only got close to you so it’d be easier for me to destroy you. I couldn’t care about you any less, to be frank. You’re like a piece of gum stuck to the sole of my shoe that I can’t get rid of.”
“Well, I reckon you’ll be rid of me permanently once you end up in Azkaban. With your father,” Kyungsoo said, standing up.
“Oh, I’m afraid that won’t happen. In fact, I expect to walk out a free man. There’s a lot of information I can give the Aurors because I know the right people in the smuggling ring. Although I’m still hoping to never cross paths with you again.”
“The feeling’s mutual,” Kyungsoo spit out and stomped towards the door. The moment Kris opened the door, Kyungsoo dashed down the corridor. He didn’t, however, manage to get too far before Kris caught up with him, grabbing his arm.
“Wait. Please, wait.”
Kyungsoo groaned, shoulders sagging. “What do you want?”
“I’m sorry about this. Don’t take what he said to heart, alright? It’s not true.”
Kyungsoo snorted. “Not true? That’s rich coming from you.”
“Look at me,” Kris said, pulling at Kyungsoo’s arm. “I don’t hate you. You can be an annoying prick but you’re a good person. Jongdae and Chanyeol really trust you. That’s enough for me.
“That said, I need you to talk to Chanyeol, OK? I don’t know what happened between you two, but he’s been a wreck. Please fix it. Promise me you’ll go and talk to him. Please.”
Kyungsoo sighed. “It truly is none of your business, Kris. I’ll talk to him though. I promise.”
Kyungsoo stumbled out of Jongdae’s fireplace only to find the living room empty. He went over to the laboratory but the door was locked. “Jongdae,” he shouted. “Googley?”
“Yes Master Kyungsoo?” The house elf appeared before him a moment later, carrying a tray with a teapot and two tea cups.
“He’ll be here in a moment. I was told to bring you some tea.”
Kyungsoo lay down on the sofa, eyeing the tea pot. “Is it lavender?”
“No, chamomile. Master Jongdae said you’d need to relax.”
“Oh, did he?”
Googley nodded, her expression earnest. “Yes, he did. Now if you will excuse me, I will go prepare lunch.”
Kyungsoo sighed and ruffled his hair, mussing it up beyond repair. It seemed like Kris had managed to contact Jongdae much quicker than Kyungsoo thought possible. The wanker actually understood how Kyungsoo worked quite well.
Propping himself up on the arm of the sofa, Kyungsoo sipped his tea, letting the cup warm up his hands. He was barely halfway through the first cup before he heard a loud bang and saw Jongdae stagger into the living room.
“Mate, it’s great to see you!”
Kyungsoo rolled his eyes. “We’ve seen each other just three days ago.”
“Still a pleasure.”
“Cut the crap, will you? Chamomile tea really won’t do it. This is a perfect occasion for having some of that liquor you stole from your father.”
Jongdae gaped at him for a moment, before collecting himself and grinning. “Now, let’s not make hasty decisions-”
“Jongdae, I already decided everything I needed to decide. I don’t want your pep talk. All I want is for you to get wasted with me.”
“Are you sure?”
“As sure as I’ll ever be.”
Kyungsoo hiccupped and giggled, slapping Jongdae’s arm. “So basically mother gave me her blessing. Never thought I’d see that day.”
Jongdae laughed and put his arm around Kyungsoo’s shoulders, almost tipping over his glass of Firewhisky. “Well, now you can try doing what you want for once. As the great Oscar Wilde used to say: ‘Be yourself; everyone else is already taken’,” Jongdae said, raising his glass.
Kyungsoo scrunched his eyebrows. “The fact that you’re quoting Oscar Wilde at me again is disturbing. I can’t be ‘myself’ though. I’ve always been someone else. I-I have no idea who I really am.”
“Well, I’m probably too shitfaced to give you proper advice, but I reckon you should just do whatever you feel is right. Don’t think whether your parents would approve or not. That most likely would be what being yourself is?”
“Are you asking me?”
Jongdae snickered and laid his head on Kyungsoo’s shoulder. “Nooooooo. Maybe? Be spontaneous! You can’t pretend you’re someone else if you don’t think about what you’re doing!”
Kyungsoo guffawed. “Spontaneous! Yes, I should do that!” he said, standing up and throwing his glass onto the floor. “It was great talking to you, you awful prick. I’m afraid I must be going.”
“To spontaneity!” Kyungsoo said and staggered out of Jongdae’s living room and through the storage, barely avoiding a collision with a row of glass jars, glowing red in the semi-darkness. He giggled, opening the storage door which was clearly visible from the inside, and sashayed outside, past a spluttering clerk.
The cold wind hit him like a freight train, sobering Kyungsoo enough for him to pull out his wand and Apparate straight into the middle of Chanyeol’s living room.
Kyungsoo yelped and swayed in place for a second, before catching his balance and looking around. Chanyeol was standing in the kitchen, blinking rapidly, a spatula in one hand and a pan in the other. Kyungsoo grinned and stumbled towards him, zigzagging around Anabelle. “Chanyeol!”
Chanyeol put the pan and spatula down onto the counter and crossed his arms across his chest. “What are you doing here?”
“Being spontaneous!” Kyungsoo shouted, before dissolving into a fit of giggles.
“Are you drunk?”
“Yes! Drunk on the beauty of your eyes.”
Chanyeol cocked an eyebrow. “Oh really?”
“Absolutely,” Kyungsoo said, wiggling his eyebrows. A second later he grabbed the counter, steadying himself, before doubling over and throwing up all over Chanyeol’s floor and shoes. Then, he promptly passed out.
Kyungsoo woke up to sunlight so strong he dove right back under his duvet. He yawned and snuggled closer to Anabelle who was tucked into his side. Sighing contently, Kyungsoo closed his eyes only to open them a second later and shoot up, throwing the Kneazle off the bed, who then hissed and dashed out of the room through the half-closed door.
Groaning, Kyungsoo pinched himself, hoping against hope that he would suddenly find himself in his own room. When that failed, he threw off the duvet, got off the bed and started pacing around the room. Considering that he felt sober and woke up in the guestroom, and not on the kitchen floor, he was sure that at some point last night Chanyeol must have given him a Sobering Potion and carried him to bed. Also, considering that he’d managed to actually Apparate into Chanyeol’s flat, the other man still hadn’t changed his wards. Which Kyungsoo figured was probably a good sign. If Chanyeol truly hated him, he would have changed the wards, wouldn’t he?
Hearing the footsteps in the corridor, Kyungsoo halted his pacing and tensed up. His breath hitched when Chanyeol stepped into the guestroom, hair messy, eyes rimmed red and bathrobe askew. The man sighed and said, “What are you doing here, Kyungsoo?”
Kyungsoo gulped and tugged at his robes. “I-uhm…I woke up here?”
“You don’t remember last night?”
“I do. I got plastered and Apparated into your flat.”
Chanyeol let out another sigh and leaned against the wall, running his fingers through his hair. “Why did you come here, Kyungsoo?”
“I-well, I-I guess I want to give this a try.”
“Give what a try?”
Kyungsoo clenched his fists, trying to calm his racing heart down. “Us.”
Chanyeol cocked an eyebrow. “You mean you want to go out with me?”
Chanyeol laughed wryly, clapping his hands. “Well, that’s a splendid joke. Good job.”
“I’m not joking!”
“Why should I believe you?”
Kyungsoo took a deep breath. “I talked about you to my mother.”
Chanyeol titled his head to the side. “And?”
“She’s OK with this. Father obviously isn’t, but.”
“Look, I think I’ve probably always liked you a bit. Ever since Hogwarts. Possibly first year? And it scares me – this relationship thing. You know I’ve never been with anyone. I have no idea how it works. I’m not sure if I love you, since I don’t really understand what love truly is. But I want to try. I want to try to change, and I want to try and see if I love you. I-”
Kyungsoo’s eyes widened. “Chanyeol, please-”
“Why should I give you a chance? I’ve given you so many already. Why should I do this again?”
Kyungsoo shrunk back, barely keeping tears of frustration at bay. “Because you love me? And because this is the first time I actually have any idea of what’s going on? Please.”
Chanyeol scowled, before crossing the room and stopping right in front of Kyungsoo. “What if I kissed you now?”
“No,” Chanyeol said, shaking his head. “You kiss me. Show me you actually mean it.”
Kyungsoo hesitantly craned his head up so he could look Chanyeol in the eye and inhaled sharply, aghast at the intensity of Chanyeol’s gaze. He took a step forward, closing the remaining distance between them, and put his trembling hand on Chanyeol’s neck.
Kyungsoo could hear alarm bells ringing inside his head, a cacophony of horrified screams vying for his attention. He knew that if he hesitated now, the screams would only get louder and more illegible, and turn into his father’s stern and disappointed voice.
He watched his hand slip, sliding down to Chanyeol’s collarbone. Feeling the racing pulse under his fingertips, Kyungsoo looked back up at Chanyeol, got on his tip toes and entangled his fingers in Chanyeol’s hair, before giving him a chaste kiss. He drew back a second later and unconsciously licked his lips. Chanyeol blinked and groaned, grabbing Kyungsoo by the waist and crashing their lips back together. Kyungsoo gasped but immediately closed his eyes, linking his arms behind Chanyeol’s neck.
Kyungsoo’s mind went blank; the only thing he could hear was the rush of blood in his ears. He sighed and parted his lips, sliding his tongue against Chanyeol’s and letting out a moan.
They parted to come up for breath, their lips still millimetres away, Kyungsoo’s hands clutching Chanyeol’s shirt.
“Yes,” Chanyeol whispered, smiling.
“Yes, I will give you another chance.”