Upon the first arrival at Hogwarts, one was bound to encounter many oddities that they’d never find anywhere else. Staircases moving at their own accord. Paintings snarling at every passerby. Creatures bubbling the lake into a picture of eerie, tranquil madness. Trees that could kill just as effectively as a knife sitting at one’s throat.
Yes, Hogwarts was - without a doubt - a home for many strange and bizarre things. They made your head spin and your heart sing either wonder or terror.
The Great Hall was a sight to see that evening. Like it usually was on the first day of school. The candles floating under the ceiling flickered in various shades of pearl and golden. The tables decorated with silver trinkets and plates and baskets full of fruit, vegetables, and candy. The Sorting Hat sitting proud and tall at the stool watching as the newly sorted students sank into the free gaps between older kids.
One student, in particular, caught The Hat’s attention. A young Gryffindor - taller than other kids but smaller in the space he occupied. The Hat recalled his name easily - Park Jisung.
The boy pawed at the sleeve of the older teenager sitting beside him. They knew each other, it seemed - cousins or neighbours maybe.
“And if they sorted me into the wrong house?” He asked anxiously, voice barely above a whisper.
The teenager turned to face Jisung and The Hat instantly summoned his name from the depths of its memory. Lee Taeyong. A picture of the ideal Gryffindor. The polished into perfection prefect badge pinned to the front of his chest was proof of that.
“The sorting hat has never made a mistake, Jisung,” He spoke calmly as if he said it hundreds of thousands of times. “Believe me when I say that sometimes the hat knows better than you do.”
Jisung shifted on his seat, his fingers fumbling with the edge of his sleeve.
“Maybe…” He replied, sounding everything but convinced.
Taeyong sighed, his eyebrows furrowing into a mild concern.
“And what's so bad about being sorted into Gryffindor?” He asked.
Jisung’s eyes widened. “N-nothing! Absolutely nothing!” he stammered.
Taeyong raised his eyebrow.
“It’s… it’s the opposite!” Jisung explained hastily, his eyes fixed at his fingernails. “I just… I’m not… I’m not brave enough!” he exclaimed, much louder than he intended.
And maybe because of the acoustics or maybe because half of the newbies had been eavesdropping on the conversation, the entire Gryffindor table fell silent. Jisung’s cheeks burned at the realization. Every syllable of his hesitance loud and clear in the Great Hall. Echoing the same exact words that crawled at the bottom of many young hearts. The silence rang in Jisung’s ear, almost as audible as the tiny whispers of utter embarrassment. His eyes met Taeyong’s and he watched him part his mouth to say something, words of reassurance most likely, when suddenly - out of thin air, quite literally - someone landed on the table, the shadow of their boots sinking into the fluffy souffle, the edge of their robes falling over the whipped cream.
Jisung’s lips parted in surprise as his gaze climbed up and up from the tip of this person’s boots, to the wicked quirk of his smile.
Many oddities one could encounter at Hogwarts and ghosts were one of them. Shadows of the past, memories of oblivion.
“Baekhyun,” Taeyong breathed out happily, almost relieved. “I was wondering when you’re gonna show up.”
The ghost smiled even wider. His eyes shifted from one face to another, taking in the changes made by the passing time, changes he’d never experience on himself. Not anymore.
“How could I ever miss the start-of-term feast?” he laughed loudly and jumped off the table. A few older students moved to make a space for him to sit down.
“First years, this is one of Gryffindor’s ghosts. Byun Baekhyun,” Taeyong informed as if it was a piece of common knowledge. “He’s been a seventh-year student for over ten years now.”
“Cause of death - being criminally handsome.” Giggled one of the sixth years’ students.
The Sorting Hat snorted from its perch at the stool. The Great Hall was starting to once again fill with murmurs and gossips flying across the tables with the speed of a snitch.
“Ah, you’re so lucky to see Baekhyun on your first day!”
“He hasn’t aged a day!”
“Idiot, it’s because he’s a ghost!”
Baekhyun, clearly unbothered with his persona being so openly discussed, grinned even wider. For a moment - though he was dead - he looked like he was sparkling with life. His eyes, his smile, his features. Everything about him screamed vital energy.
Jisung blinked. For some reason, he imagined ghosts to be sulky and depressed. He was about to lean over and ask Taeyong if it was true that, even though years had passed since The Battle of Hogwarts, Gryffindor still had three house ghosts when all of the sudden Baekhyun’s dark-paled-into-death eyes met his and every question he had died on the tip of his tongue.
“You. Newbie.” Baekhyun pointed at Jisung with an easy smile. “A little owl told me that you have a problem being a Gryffindor.”
Baekhyun clicked his tongue. “Spill.”
Jisung hopelessly looked at Taeyong but the older student simply shrugged. House solidarity my ass - thought Jisung bitterly. He forced himself to look back at the ghost, scared of the coldness he could see with his eyes. To his utter surprise, Baekhyun was still smiling - a welcoming smile of someone who had heard hundreds of self-doubting questions and thousands of insecure thoughts.
“I just…” Jisung bit the inner side of his cheek. “I just don’t think that I’m enough to be in Gryffindor… I...”
With a flick of a hand, Baekhyun encouraged - though it almost looked like a light-hearted demand - him to keep talking. The blush that was still resting at the top of Jisung’s cheeks spilled further across his soft skin.
“I… I don’t think that I’m… brave enough.” he finished, head dropped down in shame, his voice much more tender than before.
There was a pause, heavy and charged and it took Jisung a moment to realize that the sourness hanging in the air wasn’t coming solely from him. He looked up, his eyes wide and searching until they stopped at Baekhyun’s semi-transparent face.
“Brave?” the ghost echoed his smile nowhere to be found, his eyes slightly hazy, as if his thoughts were edging away from reality. A dead giveaway that death had already laid its final kiss upon his lips.
Jisung nodded a little bit hesitantly. Taeyong put a hand over his shoulder and leaned over the table.
“Baekhyun…” he spoke softly but Baekhyun dismissed him with a wave of a hand.
The Great Hall was still loud and full of warmth and yet the air around him cooled down, the oxygen freezing in the place. By nature, ghosts appeared fluid, constantly trespassing the thin line between present and past, trapped in the neverending cycle of memory and reality. Ghosts were fickle and distant, tied to the real world but disattached from its substance. They breathed their death, hooked on the shade of their long-lost life. Always away, even from up close, but sometimes - like right now, like right now in front of Park Jisung - they were utterly drowning in the sphere beyond reach.
Baekhyun’s lips moved slowly. So slowly that Jisung had to hold his breath in fear that the sound of his shallow exhale would destroy the slow staccato of Baekhyun's voice. The warm light coming from the candles chilled, the conversations flowing around them grew distant, the world in which they lived temporarily lost its shade.
Baekhyun licked his lips and carefully raised his gaze from his hands.
“If courage is what you think you lack, you can sleep soundly,” he said gently. “Not every Gryffindor is brave and not every brave person is a Gryffindor.”
Words like moonlight - impossible to capture and yet so real.
Baekhyun blinked deliberately, the patterns behind his eyelids as familiar as the back of his hand. The shapes of furniture and people and time blurring into shadows, sinking into a pleasant puddle of nothingness. He breathed, sharply inhaling the scent of burning candles.
He remembered candles. They were burning even brighter all these years ago...
The heels of his boots clicked against each other as he flew down the corridor, rushing towards The Great Hall’s door. His head was tilted to the back as waves of laughter bubbled up his throat like foam, leaving his soul sponge-soft with happiness and joy. The wand in his hand flicked - almost on its own - and a pile of papers flew high into the air; notes, and photographs covering the ceiling with a maze of letters and moving pictures.
Baekhyun laughed harder. High on freedom that magic was to him.
“Faster, ‘Myeon! Faster! We’re gonna be late!” he howled at his friend who was sweating buckets at the opposite side of the corridor.
“Merlin, Baekhyun, stop!” Junmyeon pleaded, trying to catch up.
Baekhyun laughed again. His broomstick took a sharp turn and - in an instant - he was back at Junmyeon’s side, his canines biting his bottom lip.
“Oh, come on! What’s the point of having a broom if I can’t fly whenever I want to?” he asked playfully, patting the badge at the front of Junmyeon’s robe. “Besides, one of the perks of being friends with the prefect is that I’m allowed to push boundaries from time to time, right? Those are the rules.”
Junmyeon glared at him. “One, I’m pretty sure you’ve never read any rules in your life and if you did you instantly wiped them out of your memory! Two, even if you read the entire Hogwarts’ statutes, you’d never find a notation about the perks of being prefect’s friends!”
Baekhyun rolled his eyes.
“That sounds boring.” he clicked his tongue and tucked his wand beneath his robe.
All of the sudden, the fire that ate candle wicks jumped higher, illuminating the corridor with brighter, more forceful light. Baekhyun’s eyes widened with surprise. He turned to Junmyeon, about to ask him if it was his doing when a new voice bit into the space between the two friends.
“No, that sounds reasonable.” echoed down the corridor.
The new voice, its sharpness, and coldness pulled Baekhyun to halt.
“Oh god,” Junmyeon whined quietly, apparently recognizing the voice. “That’s perfect, just perfect.” He quickly adjusted his badge and tie before turning around.
Baekhyun, still very much comfortable on his broomstick, looked over his shoulder with poorly hidden interest.
At the end of the corridor, basked in the silver moonlight, an opposite to warm candlelight, stood a boy. His hands crossed on his chest, his features twisted into a grimace, his eyes gazing at Baekhyun and Junmyeon with disapproval. His silver badge and green tie were standing out even in the gentle dimness of the night. Huh, another prefect. Baekhyun’s lips curled up in a mischievous smile, Slytherin’s prefect to be exact. Jongdae… was it? Yes, Baekhyun was pretty sure that his name was Jongdae. He was famous for something but for now, Baekhyun couldn’t quite recall what it was.
“Get. off. the. broom.” The prefect drew through his clenched teeth, his eyes boring into Baekhyun’s.
“Why? It’s yours?” Baekhyun replied easily, gracefully twisting around on his nimbus. “Oh, no, right. It’s mine. But you know what’s yours? Your business. You should mind that instead.”
“Baekhyun, shut up.” Junmyeon hissed by his side but the burn in Jongdae’s eyes was enough for Baekhyun to mute the rest to the world.
In a split of a second Jongdae crossed the corridor - he was fast and it made Baekhyun wonder how would it feel to race against him - and rested the tip of his finger on the broom.
“Is it really yours though?” he asked innocently. “I don’t see your name on it.”
“No one would do that,” Baekhyun scoffed.
“Do what?” Jongdae replied easily as if that was the answer he was expecting.
“Put their name on a broom,” Baekhyun growled, patting his baby, trying to hide the shudder that wrecked him at the thought of tinting Nimbus’ perfect curves with his messy handwriting.
Jongdae batted his eyelashes, “I’ve seen it done.”
“No, you haven’t, prefect.” Baekhyun barked back, a little bit more forcefully.
“I’m pretty sure I did. You know, in an actual workshop.” oh, no. “In fact, I’m pretty sure I put a few names on the brooms myself.” Jongdae’s eyes shined happily as realization drew to Baekhyun.
Now he remembered what Jongdae was famous for. Not the kittenish curl of his lips. Or at least not only for that. He was also the sole heir of one of the first broomstick companies. And if Baekhyun wasn’t mistaken his broom was-
“But I think I must have skipped yours. It wasn’t self-customed, was it?” Jongdae pouted coyly but his eyes were bright with mirth. His fingers danced along the wooden line of the Nimbus, sliding up and up until they brushed against Baekhyun’s knee making him jerk with surprise, making it seem like an accident.
But it was enough for Baekhyun to lose his balance, his hands slipping off the handle, his thighs quivering at the hint of a touch. It wasn’t an accident, it was a thought-through ploy. A push and pull type of situation, in which Baekhyun pushed back and Jongdae pulled forward, easily snatching the broom and pulling it to his side. Baekhyun fell to the ground with a loud crash and growl.
Now it was Jongdae’s lungs that were filled with airly bubbly laugh, a mean sound that would shimmer beneath Baekhyun’s skin for days to come every time their eyes accidentally met in the corridors.
“Bastard,” Baekhyun hissed angrily.
Jongdae comfortably tucked the broom under his arm and leaned against the wall, arching his eyebrow. Mockery was tilting his lips into a smirk.
“I’m not even surprised that it wasn’t custom-made anymore. Your posture and balance suck. My father should hear about this, maybe we should launch a new policy to make sure our brooms aren’t handled by someone with butterfingers and…” Jongdae’s eyes flicked to Baekhyun’s thighs, “Well, butterfingers.” He cleared his throat, a faint pink of shade spreading across his cheeks. “Aren’t you Gryffindor’s chaser, anyway? I expected more from you.”
Something, maybe satisfaction, maybe pride, sculptured Baekhyun’s features into nonchalance.
“So you’ve heard about me then?” A question easily slipping past his teeth. “I’m fluttered really. I didn’t know I snatched Slytherin’s prefect’s attention! You should have told me that you’re a fan, I might just give you an autograph. An autograph in exchange for my broom, huh? What do you say?” He wiggled his eyebrows, wondering how much he’d have to push for the air between them to cackle with fire.
He was a Gryffindor after all, his fingers were constantly fumbling with matches as he searched for sparks to ignite them.
For now, the only thing burning was Jongdae’s cheeks.
“Oh shut up. I only know that because-” he spluttered, stopping himself mid-sentence as Baekhyun’s grin grew in size. “You know what? Eat shit.”
“What a crude language coming from a prefect! What would the professors say, I wonder,” he taunted lightly.
“They’d say nothing because, in the end, I was the one who confiscated a dangerous magical artifact,” Jongdae spat back, the strength of his thread slightly shaken by embarrassment that powdered his speech.
Baekhyun raised his eyebrow, clearly not impressed.
“A broomstick? Really? Dangerous? What are you going to do with it? Put it up your ass? Oh, wait. You already have a stick up there.”
That actually dragged a chuckle from Jongdae’s throat. An honest one. Baekhyun thought that warmth suited him better than that cold bite.
“Sorry to disappoint. I'm already interested in someone else but hey! Don't be discouraged! I'm sure that one day if you offer yourself nicely, someone will eventually say yes.” Jongdae stuck out his tongue. Baekhyun's cheeks flared up. “As when it comes to your broomstick... For now, I’m simply going to confiscate it,”
“What? Why?” Baekhyun screeched offensively.
“Because I can and because I don’t want to lose my badge on the first day. Flying around the castle is forbidden.” Jongdae huffed with annoyance. “And I think that your prefect friend can share my sentiment here. Hi, Junmyeon by the way.”
Right, Junmyeon. He was still here. Baekhyun looked at his friend with a mixture of unease and surprise. The message in his eyes was clear “agree or I will skin you alive”. And while usually, Junmyeon wasn’t a vengeful or aggressive type, this one time Baekhyun felt a shiver of discomfort run down his spine.
Okay, okay, he could do that.
He pulled himself to stand up properly, straightened his robes, and put a hand over his hip. A perfect picture of indifference. Jongdae’s eyes were reflecting the poorly hidden anger frying the edges of Baekhyun’s irises.
“And when can I get it back? The broom.” Baekhyun hummed but it sounded suspiciously similar to a hiss.
Jongdae’s lips curled up in a smile.
“When you learn how to use it with grace and respect. Let’s say Saturday morning by the Whomping Willow?”
“And have my ass whipped by that demonic tree? No thanks.” Baekhyun snorted.
“Dude, what is your obsession with butts? I mean, I guess it plays in my favour, right?” He turned around on his heel and made a strange-looking but awfully endearing wiggle. “Saturday, quidditch pitch, then. Would that be more suitable for you, Baekhyun?”
“Baekhyun? Baekhyun?” His name but spoken gently, without any wildfire and without a hint of taunt. “Baekhyun?” Once again his name.
Spoken by someone he knew but not someone whose voice he missed so deeply.
Baekhyun opened his eyes, folding the silver tendrils of his memory and tucking them at the back of his head. The pictures and records of conversation sinking easily into their right spaces in his heart.
The Great Hall was as loud as always. Filled with joy and laughter, and magic - oh, there was so much magic in the air. Baekhyun felt like sneezing. He dragged his eyes away from the wooden surface of the table and looked up, almost expecting to see Junmyeon frowning at him with concern.
But Junmyeon left this place a long time ago. Baekhyun tended to forget about that quite often.
“Baekhyun, are you still with us?” The boy in front of him asked carefully.
Baekhyun blinked, a name sliding down his tongue and he found a pinch of relief in knowing who that was.
“Taeyong,” he breathed out easily. “Yes, yes, I… got lost inside my head.” he laughed quietly and it didn’t sound convincing even to his own ears.
He blinked again and realized that there was another pair of eyes staring at him in a mixture of awe and horror.
“And you, kid,” Baekhyun leaned forward, his pale fingers reaching out as if he wanted to pinch round cheeks. (But he couldn’t.) “Remember, bravery is…” he swallowed the lump in his throat. “It has many faces. Don’t worry too much. Just believe in doing the right thing. Every good person has that in themselves.” he explained, one word tripping over the other.
Baekhyun knew a lot of good people but only one the best person. He quickly glanced at Taeyong.
“Do you by any chance that if-” he couldn’t bring himself to finish the question. Baekhyun knew many people, remembered many names but had trouble saying some of them out loud.
“He’s still there. From what I’ve heard.”
A wave of relief flowed through the ghost’s translucid body, causing his edges to blur and break into fog. He blinked once again, once, twice, and then - without waiting for a reply - left the hall. It felt too warm, too loud, too empty for him to be there.
Places like Hogwarts are built with a number of materials. Bricks to make them stand strong and tall. Mortar to keep them from crumbling apart. Magic to stitch people with a place in order to form a community. Memories to paint the walls with colors of the past and pictures appropriate for future generations. Mysteries to hide dirty, ugly secrets.
Byun Baekhyun knew many corners that ever so often went unnoticed by the professors, the students, all the inhabitants of Hogwarts grounds. Every corridor could be a hide-out if you made friends with light and shadow. It was easy to overlook a ghost in a place full of illusions.
With curiosity, Baekhyun was observing two students bicker as they walked down the corridor. A hint of warmth blossomed at the bottom of his heart. The kind of warmth he rarely experienced after his death. The feeling only grew as he noticed the colours of students’ ties.
“I don’t know, Doyoung, that doesn’t sound like a good idea,” Taeyong mused. He edged his voice into pensiveness but his smile was all-too-foretelling. “People are still prejudiced.”
“People who are rooted into the past, maybe,” Doyoung replied wistfully. “There’s no change without action. I think that Chenle is perfect.”
“He’s a good kid,” Taeyong agreed.
“Exactly. It’s going to be easy to push these two together. I need more Slytherin-Gryffindor friendships to get us the support in the Student’s Council.”
“It still sounds risky…”
“Have I ever suggested something that could backfire at us?” Doyoung rolled his eyes. “I’m ambitious, not dumb.”
Taeyong laughed quietly. “If you were that smart, you’d end up in Ravenclaw, and yet here we are…”
“We need more Slytherin-Gryffindor friendships,” Doyoung repeated sternly, disappearing behind the corner.
Baekhyun’s heart clenched in his chest as the words echoed inside his mind.
The last thing he needed was to be perceived as someone who befriends Slytherins.
And yet here he was. Rainclouds hanging above his head along with dozens of questions. Judging from the quirk of his lips, Kim Jongdae, the Slytherin’s prefect, seemed to be very well aware of Baekhyun’s inner conflict.
It was 8 in the morning, Saturday, and Baekhyun was grateful that every sane student was still asleep.
“I want it back,” he said simply, his hands reaching out for the broomstick.
But of course, it couldn’t be that easy. Jongdae moved like a cobra - an honest to god snake - jumping between him and the Nimbus in no time. Baekhyun’s fingers briefly brushed against the front of his shirt before he quickly withdrew his hand, fingertips tingling unpleasantly.
“Fucking prefects, so full of themselves,” he muttered under his breath.
Jongdae grinned, clearly catching the half-whispered insult. He didn’t seem offended at all. In fact, he looked like he enjoyed it.
“What am I doing here anyway?” Baekhyun asked, this time much louder.
“Not a morning person, huh?” Jongdae cocked his head, replying with a question.
Baekhyun sighed ostentatiously. “You either tell me what exactly am I doing here or I swear to god, prefect or not, I will report this as personal harassment of my time.”
“Because you have so many things to do, right?”
“Fucking yes, I do,” Baekhyun grumbled.
It was early morning, Saturday, and Baekhyun wondered when the hell was he going to be free. (He didn’t know back then, that the answer was never.) He had places to be (his bed), and errands to meet (his sweet dreams).
Jongdae looked at him thoughtfully as if the sheer absurdity of the situation was finally sinking in. Baekhyun crossed his arms on his chest. Just a minute or two and the prefect will get embarrassed and maybe if Baekhyun plays this out right, he’ll be in his debt and-
“I’m gonna be honest, I need a friend.”
Well, fucking shit.
“Excuse my language but what the actual fuck?” Baekhyun laughed nervously. Under other circumstances, he’d probably try poking fun, but it was 8 in the morning and his brain was still half-fogged with sleep. Perhaps, he had misheard.
“I need a friend,” Jongdae repeated sharply, avoiding Baekhyun’s gaze. He looked… as a matter of fact he looked like he wanted to ground to swallow him whole.
Baekhyun rubbed his temples. Merlin, give me patience.
“Is that some kind of a joke?” He spat angrily. “No, you know what. It doesn’t even matter. Don’t you have buddies in your own house? I have no interest in befriending a snake. I just want my broomstick back. I really don’t have time for your house’s pranks.”
“It’s not a prank!” Jongdae raised his voice an octave higher.
When Baekhyun looked at him, his eyes were shut tightly and the corners of his mouth - infamous corners of his mouth - were pulled down, his lips a thin line that somehow instead of making him look more serious, made him look almost desperate.
Although still a little bit wary, but maybe a tad more inclined to be persuaded, Baekhyun said carefully:
“Let’s say you mean it… I still don’t see why would I…”
Jongdae opened his eyes and took a step forward. The vulnerability was still there, dancing beneath his skin, but now Baekhyun could also see the shameful fire in his eyes. Slytherins were proud people and this one ( - Jongdae was it? Kim Jongdae - ) seemed to crash that pride under the heel of his boot. Now that Baekhyun could respect.
“Let me rephrase myself,” Jongdae visibly swallowed the thickness growing in his throat. “I need a Gryffindor friend.”
Jongdae inhaled sharply.
“Because my parents seem to be pretty sold on the idea of upcoming war?” he laughed humorlessly. “And I need a Gryffindor friend to prove them that if shit comes down I won’t murder them with cold blood. For whatever reason.”
Baekhyun took a tiny step back, suddenly questioning this man’s sanity. Jongdae rolled his eyes.
“I come from a family of Gryffindors. Proud Gryffindors. As in ‘our ancestors lived next to Godric for 4 years of his life, it’s a sign’ types of Gryffindors.” Jongdae squeaked out the last sentence in an obvious mockery. “And I happened to be sorted in Slytherin. So I’m more ambitious than a bunch of broom-makers, sue me. At least I’m good at it.” He poked the prefect badge. “Anyway, because of that, I’m considered… a black sheep of the family if you may. And it wouldn’t be that bad if they didn’t actually consider disowning me in fear that I’ll slit their throat in their sleep.” He finished with a bitter smile.
“It sounds nuts.” Baekhyun pointed out.
Jongdae shrugged indifferently. “Tell me about it. It was bad before but now that these freaks actually talk about His resurrection...”
Baekhyun understood the implications without having the hear the rest of the sentence. He didn’t give a crap about the Chosen One and his wack-ass adventures. Baekhyun’s interest in him didn’t go beyond him catching the snitch during the match. But obviously, he had heard the rumours. It was impossible not to. He just never considered what it could mean for someone like Jongdae. A Slytherin coming from an old bloodline of Gryffindors.
A few raindrops fell from the sky. The clouds seemed to be on the verge of breaking. How long did it take for insecurities to sink between family members? Was it crazy or just sad?
“So you need a Gryffindor friend in order to improve your image in front of your family?” Baekhyun summed up. It still sounded nuts. Jongdae nodded. “And what do I get from this?”
Jongdae laughed. “Jumping straight into your personal interest?” he joked even though his voice was slightly strained. “You sure you’re not a Slytherin by heart?”
“On the contrary to some people, I know that I should mind my business and only my business,” Baekhyun replied easily, completely ignoring the last jab.
“Fair enough.” Jongdae pulled a hood over his head. A single raindrop fell on the tip of Baekhyun’s nose. “Your flying skills.”
“I can help you improve your flying skills,” Jongdae explained simply. “You sure do seem to love flying and I know everything about broomsticks. I may share some… information you wouldn’t be able to acquire on your own.”
Baekhyun’s eyebrow flinched in interest.
“Spilling your family secrets? Naughty, naughty.” he shook his head, smirking sharply.
“If I asked my father I’m sure he’d say that he prefers to have his secrets spilled rather than his blood.” Jongdae pushed his hands into the pockets of his robes. “So, do we have a deal?”
“Is it a lifetime kind of agreement?” Baekhyun asked cautiously. “Until death do us part?”
Jongdae snorted, “Of course not, as soon as my parents realize that no war is going to happen, we’re done.”
“Then we have a deal. Temporarily.”
“You gain something, I gain something. It’s a deal.”
( Because neither of them knew that the war was very real, the friendship would be very real and that the death would do them part.)
Baekhyun’s eyes drifted to the end of the hallway where Doyoung and Taeyong disappeared a couple of minutes ago. Maybe he should stop them. He wished Taeyong well. Maybe he should drag him aside and tell him:
“There’s no use in making deals with Slytherins, it always backfires at you.”
His throat clenched uncomfortably.
The Hogwarts grounds were vast and wide and hid as many secrets as wizards’ pockets. There was a deep, dark forest that hummed with ominous whispers and rustled with sounds that made one’s skin crawl. There was a lake - its sheet as flat as a surface of an old mirror and just as murky and inscrutable. There was also debris - piling everywhere, some slowly swallowed by flowers and nature, others bare like whitening bones. No one dared to move them. It was too early, it would always be too early. Too many people died defending this place, too many bodies were never found. Debris like tombstones - silent and symbolic.
“The route to the quidditch pitch is easy once you memorized it,” Taeyong announced happily.
Jisung obediently nodded, trailing behind the older student. He was really lucky to accidentally run into the prefect earlier today. Jisung was the only second-year student who was recruited to the team this year. And even though he had already taken part in three practices, he still had no idea where exactly the broomsticks’ pavilion was.
They passed by a big pile of rubble. Stones and metal standing bold against the dandelion clocks.
“I’m sorry you have to take me there,” Jisung mumbled once again, his eyes respectfully darting away from the rubble.
He couldn’t tell if it was a grave for a body or a memory. He didn’t dare to ask.
“Oh, please! It’s his duty as a prefect!” Beamed a voice above his ear, making Jisung trip.
The soft grass made the fall only a little bit less painful. The boy groaned and at an instant Taeyong was by his side.
“Baekhyun,” the prefect chided the ghost who was hoovering a few steps away from them.
His lips were - as usually - spread in a jubilant smile.
“Oh, come on! It’s not my fault that the kid’s so skittish!” He joked lightly.
Taeyong rolled his eyes. “His name is Jisung. Park Jisung.”
Park Jisung? Park? Park… A different name, long forgotten, one that he hadn’t recalled in a while resurfaced in Baekhyun’s mind.
“Park Jisung…” he repeated softly. “Park.” He tried again, not sure if the way he phrased it changed or not.
“Y-yes… Park Jisung.” Jisung repeated, brushing blades of grass off his robe.
Over the past year, he had seen Baekhyun often enough to forget their first meeting. The Baekhyun that flew over students’ heads at the corridors, the one who joked with Gryffindors in the Tower, that Baekhyun was always so cheerful, so bright and lively - it was easy to forget that he’s a ghost. But now… suddenly, Jisung was reminded of the distant look behind Baekhyun’s eyes when he mentioned not being brave enough on his first day at Hogwarts.
“Park, Park, Park…” Baekhyun repeated over and over again, his long fingers pulling at his hair as if he tried to remember something, as if the memory was slipping out of his grasp. “And you’re so tall for your age…” he mumbled. “Are all Parks so tall?”
“But Park is so tall!”
Baekhyun took a sharp turn, flying towards the bench, the wheeze of wind almost completely muffling Jongdae’s complaints. It was only because he couldn’t look away from the curve of Jongdae’s kitten-like lips, he guessed what the prefect said. Weeks ago, he would fly away as soon as his feet left the ground, now he simply sat on the broomstick; the conversation somehow more important than flying.
“And why’s that a problem?” Baekhyun asked, leaning down to hear Jongdae properly. “You’re a prefect, Park Chanyeol’s bound to listen to you even if he’s a Hufflepuff.”
Park, Park, Park. Park Chanyeol. The name seemed to be tattooed on Jongdae’s lips at this point but it tasted sour on Baekhyun’s own tongue.
The wind hissed in his ears. It wasn’t a good day for flying but Baekhyun would rather skip a match than skip his Saturday’s practice with Jongdae. As much as he hated to admit that: Jongdae really knew plenty about brooms and flying techniques. With his tips and advice, the chance for Baekhyun to become a professional Chaser was growing rapidly.
“Why is he so important anyway?” he added, as Jongdae didn’t reply.
His nose scrunched at the blush growing on Jongdae’s cheeks. It didn’t sit well with Baekhyun. This blush. This embarrassment. In fact, it made him uncomfortable in a way an old and outdated Comet 260 made him feel when he had to use one of Hogwarts’ broomsticks last month.
“I wouldn’t use the word important… ” Jongdae looked away, the blush growing darker.
“Cut the crap, mister prefect,” Baekhyun rolled his eyes.
The wind started blowing harder. The sleeves of Baekhyun robes fluttered in the air. Sighing, Baekhyun jumped off the Nimbus and scooted back under the tiny rooftop where Jongdae was standing, his eyes stubbornly fixed at the ground. Carefully, Baekhyun rested his broomstick against the wall and, after a moment of hesitance, nudged Jongdae’s arm.
“Come on, tell me what it is.”
The flush was now spreading down Jongdae’s neck, creating a striking contrast with his dark robes.
“It’s just…” he scratched his neck. “You know how I like boys, right?”
Baekhyun’s heart stuttered. “So, you’ve mentioned… In passing...”
Jongdae’s eyes flicked to meet his for a second before they fell to the ground again. The seconds chased each other around the pitch, clustering into long minutes. Baekhyun’s thoughts were swirling in a tornado of frenzy. He had no idea when he started caring.
“Park Chanyeol is a boy.”
“O-oh…” Baekhyun breathed out when it clicked.
The wind was so cold today, he was glad that he decided to ditch the lesson today.
“Yeah.” Jongdae shrugged awkwardly.
For a moment they stood in complete silence, watching the crispy, autumn leaves fall into windmills in the middle of the pitch. Some of them were red like Gryffindor’s colours. Others still wore an echo of biting summer green - similar to the tie hanging around Jongdae’s neck. There were also a few golden leaves - the brightest of them all. Tiny, paper-like snitches in the shade of Hufflepuff’s heart.
Baekhyun wondered if his companion saw the similarities too.
“Don’t tell anyone, okay?” Jongdae asked, sounding meek.
In an act of boldness, an act of bravery of his heart, Baekhyun’s hand flew to rest on Jongdae’s shoulder. He could feel the tremble of his body even through the thick fabric.
“Of course. I’d never- I wouldn’t!” Baekhyun stammered anxiously. “I- Hufflepuffs may be the loyal ones but it’s Gryffindor who’s gonna defend your honor if anything happens.” He puffed out his chest proudly.
Jongdae laughed wetly. “It doesn’t make any goddamn sense, Baekhyun!” He lightly pushed away his hand.
Both of them had cold fingers but it still sent a spark down Baekhyun’s spine.
(It was the first hint of an upcoming catastrophe.)
“When have I ever made any sense?” Baekhyun’s eyes crinkled.
“Self-aware Gryffindor? That would be the first one!”
“Oh shut up! It’s not that bad!”
“Is it always that bad? For every ghost? ” Jisung’s voice was delicate and careful, afraid that he’d accidentally hurt a soul that was drifting beyond the horizon of the real world.
Taeyong shook his head. “It’s…. It’s getting worse. Year by year.” He sighed. “And from what I’ve heard it’s mutual.”
That year Christmas graced Hogwarts with a thick layer of snow and a shimmering kiss of winter printed over every window. The fire was crackling happily, watching the students pack their suitcases and travel bags. The dormitories were about to grow a little bit quieter. A little bit more drowsy. Books and quills falling into a soft slumber, worn-out corners of the pages rustling sleepily like the flames in the fireplaces.
Baekhyun had always been fond of Christmas. A perfect combination of warmth and chill. Because neither was perfect without the other. He appreciated the contrast.
“Are you sure that this is allowed?” Jisung asked quietly, slowly going down the stairs. His eyes were running from one corner to another as if someone was about to jump out and catch him red handed.
It was his second Christmas at Hogwarts but first visit in this part of the castle’s dungeon.
“Of course, of course.” Chenle brushed him off. “Taeyong and Doyoung do it all the time.”
Jisung scrunched his nose. “When you phrase it like that it sounds nasty.”
Chenle peered at him over his shoulder, his face - a perfect picture of utter disgust.
“If it wasn’t allowed I would have stopped you,” Baekhyun reminded, patiently trailing behind the couple. It was way past curfew. He should be dragging Jisung back to Gryffindor’s Tower.
He couldn’t. Not when he knew this corridor like the back of his own hand. Not when the ache in his heart grew weaker with every inch they covered. It was Christmas so he felt brave enough to grow a tiny sprout of hope in his heart.
“It’s not illegal to have guests in common rooms,” Chenle said as always ignoring Baekhyun’s presence. “We’re close anyway. It would be a waste if you turned away now without going inside.”
“But I’m a Gryffindor… ” Jisung mumbled.
“So?” Chenle stopped in front of a bare wall. “We’re friends, it gives you a free pass.” He lazily declared the password, his chest swelling with pride when Jisung’s eyes widened at the entrance to Slytherin’s common room.
The scent of pine and mint slithered through the opened door, along with the gentle glow of green flames licking the gigantic fireplace. Jisung bit the corner of his lips, trying to stop himself from smiling, as he stepped over the threshold, a childish snoopiness luring him inside. Chenle grinned as if he had just won a war.
The doors closed, the wall securing the entrance clicking into its place, brinks gluing to each other to feel the empty gap. The green glow - green, a colour of hope - vanished as quickly as it appeared.
Neither of the boys had realized that the door closed before Baekhyun stepped inside. (He wouldn’t anyway, even though he could go through walls, even if he was no longer shackled by something as mundane as corporeality, he wouldn’t step inside. Even if he wanted to. He was a Gryffindor after all, and though that in its nature was not a problem - he was also Byun Baekhyun.)
“But I’m a Gryffindor.” Baekhyun hissed drunkenly into Jongdae’s ear. His chest leaning heavily over his best friend’s shoulder.
“So?” Jongdae laughed with a hint of tears and bitterness smudging the sound with acid. “And I’m your drunk and heartbroken friend.” He stumbled over the final step. If it wasn’t for Baekhyun’s hand wrapped around his wrist, he would surely fall down. Or fall apart. Probably both.
“Gobstones.” Jongdae hissed at the wall, swaying slightly back and forward.
Baekhyun giggled. “That’s a piss-ass password.”
Jongdae shrugged, slipping through the entrance, confidently stepping into the common room on his wobbly feet. “At least we’re not trying to be posh . Just traditional. The hell is fortuna major anyway.”
Baekhyun giggled, stumbling right after him, his chest almost instantly colliding with Jongdae’s back. He took a deep breath in, feeling the valleys of Jongdae’s ribs. This was fortuna major.
“You should have eaten more,” Baekhyun mumbled into the crook of Jongdae’s neck.
He could hear the snort before Jongdae even made a sound.
“If I did that, I’d puke,” he pointed out, slurring the vowels, and fell on the couch. “ Ooof… ” the oxygen was forcefully pushed out of his lungs, as Baekhyun’s weight - all muscle and meat and drunken haze - flopped right on top of him.
“Then don’t eat…”
“Well, yeah! Duh,” Jongdae giggled again, his hands flying to his cheeks as if he tried to contain his laughter.
His eyelashes were wet with tears. He made no gesture to wipe them.
Minutes, maybe hours passed as they lied like that - tangled, weighty limbs, breaths that smelled like fire whisky, and senses rasped into blissful dullness. The common room was empty - for once - after all, it was Christmas Eve and the majority of students were cooped in their family houses, watching the snow and sharing stories with their parents and siblings.
This year Jongdae was not invited for Christmas to his own family house.
Baekhyun stayed behind in solidarity. He wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s been over a year since Kim Jongdae asked him to be his trophy Gryffindor friend. There was no point in pretending that it was something temporarily.
“It’s funny how you can’t see snow in here,” Baekhyun muttered into the safety of Jongdae’s neck. Neither of them minded the physical contact. Not anymore. “It’s really funny…” he slurred and laughed. The only thing that was funny was the warmth in his stomach.
You can read a lot from the reaction of someone’s body even before they say a thing. Words can be twisted into lies but the body cannot.
That’s how Baekhyun knew that Jongdae sobbed even if no sound left his parted lips. He wondered if Jongdae felt how his heart broke. If he sensed Baekhyun’s soul pushing its shattered pieces together to offer it in a sorry excuse of a joke.
“You know what’s also funny?” Baekhyun continued, quickly gluing his voice into something almost firm. “Park Chanyeol’s dumb ass.” This time Jongdae sobbed out loud. “It’s not even funny, it’s hilarious!” Baekhyun pushed further. “I know that snakes are slimy and you could easily wiggle your way out but- letting you go? Going as far as breaking up with you? Park Chanyeol’s an idiot!” he huffed, his lips pressed firmly against the base of Jongdae’s throat.
(No need to feel embarrassed - a tiny voice reminded him as his chest burned. He’d chide that voice to go to hell in the morning because now he knew how it felt to have lips on Jongdae’s skin and it was as much of a blessing as it was a curse. He was already going to war, the one with his own emotions, not the one hanging in the air, its metallic scent scraping words of fear in wizards’ hearts.)
There was a beat of silence, one-two-three heartbeats shared between them like a secret. A bitter-sweet moment during which a salty drop rolled down Jongdae’s cheek and a spark of anger fell from Baekhyun’s eye. (Maybe it would leave a mark on Jongdae’s skin, a reminder that Baekhyun would be there at all times.)
Jongdae’s eyes open abruptly at the wetness growing at his collar, where Baekhyun’s face was pressed. A single buzz of silence. A shy stutter of two hearts. Jongdae’s fingers slipped into the messy nest of chestnut hair. It was soft but sweaty but it was alright because Jongdae’s hand was sweaty too. Baekhyun raised his head, turning his face so that he could look into Jongdae’s eyes.
A single strand of affection. A red string of fate that made sure their bodies and souls fitted against each other like two puzzle pieces.
“I’m really sorry that he turned out to be an ass,” Baekhyun whispered, wondering if it would be weird if he caught every single tear welling in Jongdae’s eyes and secured them in a vial as if it was Amortensia or Felix Felicis or The Draught of Living Death. (It could be either of those.)
Jongdae exhaled loudly and Baekhyun grimaced at the sourness of his breath. It paid off because the corners of Jongdae’s lips almost inched upwards.
“I’ll get over it…” Jongdae said at last and turned his face away, fixing his eyes at the ceiling. “My Gryffindor family pushed me away, why would a Hufflepuff want me anywhere close?”
Baekhyun didn’t think much when his fingers found their way to Jongdae’s face, eagerly pushing into his soft cheeks, marveling at the growing flush of his skin.
“O-oi!” Jongdae squeaked out but the rest of the protests died in his throat, cut by the look of cold determination in Baekhyun’s eyes.
“Listen to me. Carefully.” His nails dug harder into the skin. Jongdae didn’t seem to mind it a bit. “Screw your family. Screw Park Chanyeol. None of them is worth having you. You need someone…” Baekhyun’s heart burned in his chest and it felt like he was sealing his own fate. “Someone brave, someone who’s willing to take a bullet for you, someone loyal and adventurous and smart. And someone a little bit reckless to keep up with your messy perfect prefect’s ass.” He squeezed Jongdae’s cheeks one more time to emphasize his point, before forcing himself to let go.
Until that moment it didn’t occur to Baekhyun that his eyes were fixed on Jongdae’s lips, but now - as he looked up, to actually meet his eyes again, the implications of his slip slapped him right at the center of his heart, destroying every bit of stability he managed to build up.
Jongdae’s eyes were dripping into liquid at the rims. Bless the alcohol burning their veins. Tomorrow they would pretend they didn’t remember.
He didn’t say a thing but his hand gripped Baekhyun’s hair tighter and he pressed his face into the crook of his neck once again.
Because sometimes words can be twisted into a lie but the body cannot.
Jisung’s feet shuffled against the polished floor in the common room. He was excited but still - he didn’t necessarily want to be expelled for sneaking into Slytherin’s common room in the middle of the night. The only thing stopping him from running away was curiosity. The urges of his body, once again winning over common sense.
“Are you sure I can be here?” he repeated for the third time. Chenle rolled his eyes for the third time.
“Yes, yes, you can. Read up the rules. It’s not forbidden, you’re good.”
Jisung robotically sat down on a couch.
“But not even Baekhyun-”
Chenle hissed at him before he could even finish the sentence.
“We don’t say this name here.” The boy looked around anxiously. “The walls…” he leaned closer and motioned for Jisung to move forward. “The walls have ears and eyes. And when they start crying, they cry for days.”
The fire quietly crackled in the fireplace. It was funny, you couldn’t see the snow because Slytherin’s common room had no window. And yet, Jisung could feel a gust of coldness, a touch of something frigid running over his arms. The common room was empty, and yet - it didn’t feel like Chenle and Jisung were the only souls there.
Because Hogwarts was a home for many oddities. Some of the strange, other terrifying, and a couple of sad ones too.
When you watch everything from the high tower, the lonely princess complex grows and grows into you, until the core of your morality and your spine are entwined into one inseparable creation. Perhaps, it would be the case for Byun Baekhyun if it wasn’t for the fact that he knew - better than anyone - that even if he watched the world from above, he was ankles deep in a stream of innocently spilled blood.
He smiled bitterly at the memory, taking a shallow breath in. His eyes, as lost and hazy as they had been for a while, fixed at the avalanche of white smoke that was rolling towards the castle. It was a welcomed sight. The kind that offered comfort, the one that made one’s heart swell fondly. A distant picture it was, an unreachable one too. Everything beyond Hogwarts’ gates was unreachable. (And so were some places within its walls.)
The train was sweating heavy clouds of smoke. One train, two stations, soon the compartments would be filled with idle chatter and longing anticipation. Baekhyun’s smile slipped and he pulled his attention back to the students crowding in the hall. Only a handful of people were still wearing dark robes. It took him a moment to find familiar faces. Each year it was getting harder and harder.
“Remember,” Taeyong said, gently squeezing Jisung’s arm. “No funny business at home and at school. I may not be your prefect anymore but it doesn’t mean that I don’t feel responsible for you, okay?”
Jisung nodded, his teeth gnawing at his bottom lip. There were a few stray tears in the corners of his eyes. Baekhyun smiled softly. Jisung had grown so much in the span of the past three years but deep down he was still the same skittish, shy kid he was on the first day.
“It’s going to be strange… Hogwarts without you…” the boy mumbled, avoiding Taeyong’s eyes.
“You have Chenle,” Taeyong noted lightly.
“Are you implying that that rascal would be there to stop Jisung from getting into trouble?” beamed Doyoung, slipping his hand under Taeyong’s arm, hooking their elbows together. “It’s unavoidable for Gryffindor and Slytherin to not get into trouble.” His teeth spread in a knowing smile.
Jisung laughed awkwardly, the blush on his cheeks neither confirming nor denying Doyoung’s implications. It's quite ironic, Baekhyun thought. He still remembered that time when Taeyong and Doyoung decided to break into the Restricted Section at the library. He still remembered that time when Baekhyun himself along with, ah… When they got into trouble for trying to brew a fire whisky in a cauldron during potions class. Baekhyun shivered at the memory, warmth splashing against the corners of his heart as he melted inside. Foolish heart, foolish memories. It was dangerous to dwell into the past these days.
Baekhyun pinned his attention back to his favourite students.
“As long as they’re not getting into dangerous trouble, they should be fine.” Taeyong looked at Jisung sternly. “Remember the next year is going to be different. Your favourite prefect won’t be there to protect you if something goes wrong, do you understand me?”
The warmth in Baekhyun’s ghostly heart froze instantly, the feeling of dread turning his body even colder and less alive. Oh, it was cruel of life to remind him that he couldn’t escape fate even after delivering his last breath.
“This year is going to be different. I’m not a prefect anymore so if something goes shit for you, I…” Jongdae whispered, his fingers digging into Baekhyun’s chest in an attempt to keep a distance.
Baekhyun snarled quietly and rolled his eyes in case Jongdae hadn’t gotten the memo yet. They were currently squeezed against each other in the toilet stall in Hufflepuffs’ compartment’s bathroom, deeming it the safest place to meet. It hadn’t occurred to either of them that over a dozen students could have a similar idea. The difference? None of them, except for Jongdae, was a freaking Slytherin. He was not welcome here.
Something hit the thin wall between their stall and the stall next to them. Honestly, Baekhyun blamed Hogwarts and its stupid magic for this situation. If Hogwarts Express had normal toilets like the ones in muggle’s trains, this would never happen. Baekhyun exchanged worried looks with Jongdae. Another slam. Their concern turned into disgust as soon as they heard the first stifled moan. Jongdae made a show of gagging and shutting his eyes closed. Baekhyun hid his face into Jongdae’s neck in order to stop himself from giggling. It was good. For a moment it was all good.
“Baekhyun,” Jongdae’s whisper lingered in his ear.
“Mhm?” Gods, was there a charm that would allow for him to halt time?
“Please, please, don’t get into any trouble. I really… I don’t know what I’m gonna do if you get on Death Eaters’ radar...” If the trembling of his voice was any indicator Jongdae was positively freaking out. The fingers resting on top of Baekhyun’s chest curled as Jongdae gripped the fabric tighter.
Baekhyun had a feeling that it was partly because Jongdae could feel his racing heart. Maybe he was trying to lock him in his fist, hoping that it would stop the mortification growing in them as the train neared Hogwarts. The fear they shared was now binding them together in the way their happiness used to.
“I’m a Gryffindor,” Baekhyun said finally. “My odds of falling into their favor are pretty slim as they are.” He joked bitterly.
Something rattled against the wall between bathroom stalls. Baekhyun shifted a little bit, drawing his face away from the crook of Jongdae’s neck. When would he do it again? When would it be possible again? An innocent display of friendship between the two of them. Baekhyun’s jaw clenched. No, it wasn’t innocent, he hissed internally. Not on his side, at least.
When he looked at Jongdae, his eyes were dark and serious. Jongdae rarely looked at him like that. Without a shadow of merriness.
“You are not necessarily a Gryffindor. You are in Gryffindor.” He whispered pointedly. “So please, don’t be reckless, don’t do anything stupid.” The darkness in his eyes broke and they shined in pain and fear.
A loud moan reverberated through the wall separating their toilet stall and the toilet stall occupied by whoever was fucking next door. (In Baekhyun’s darkest dreams, the roles would be reversed, maybe.)
Baekhyun sighed, his expression pinched.
“I’ll try,” he said finally and the grip on his robes loosened. “Okay? I’ll try.”
“I just… I don’t know what I’m gonna do when I can’t help you.”
Brave at heart and daring by nature Baekhyun allowed for his fingers to trail down Jongdae’s arms in a poor attempt of comfort. If he was a little bit chivalrous he’d do it somewhere more romantic than a stinky bathroom stall. Maybe he’d even confess. Maybe not. (Probably not. He was not that courageous.)
“I promise that I’ll try to stay low,” Baekhyun repeated.
(And he did. He tried. But he also got into a fight on the first day. His knuckles scratched to violent redness and a bruise growing under his eyes. Nasty and bloody. Because, it seemed, that was how Hogwarts was supposed to look like now, under the new command. With a new headmaster. Everything was going to be nasty.
And it turned out that Jongdae knew exactly what to do. Naturally, he was the one to patch Baekhyun up in the second-floor girls’ bathroom as Moaning Myrtle sang songs about the upcoming Apocalypse.)
“We’ll try, okay? We’ll try…” Jisung promised, anxiously looking over his shoulder as the gates of Hogwarts were growing more and more distant.
Chenle swung his arm over Jisung’s shoulder. “Yeah! We’ll try to behave, don’t worry!” He flashed a toothy grin at Taeyong and Doyoung.
(Naturally, no one really believed them.)
Some people carry their scars like a trophy. Others hide them beneath their clothes like a secret. There are also people who put them in a locket and shamefully bury it six feet under the ground. But scars are always painted across tender flesh, so if you bury them they sometimes start to rot.
Usually, Baekhyun wasn’t one to help people. It wasn’t his job anymore. But something was rotting in him and he felt like he was dying, this time for real. And it was that sense of inner decay that pushed him to follow a boy with a green tie around his neck. It was the anguish on his face that made Baekhyun think - maybe he didn’t have to know the boy to understand what he felt.
“Chenle,” he called, barely above a whisper because he was in a dungeon and he was scared of waking up fairies. “Chenle,” he repeated a bit louder.
“Leave me alone,” the boy snapped.
It occurred to Baekhyun that it was the first time they talked alone. His breath hitched wondering if it was ever intentional on Chenle’s part, if someone had told him about Baekhyun before, if- He killed that thought before it evolved into a sliver of hope.
“Chenle, wait!” Baekhyun called again. “You can’t just-”
“What? ignore you? I think I can manage, I did that for the past 5 years, leave me alone!” Chenle sometimes was like a butter knife and sometimes like a lethal blade. Tonight his voice carried the edge Baekhyun had never heard before.
“It’s not about ignoring me. It’s not about me at all! It’s about leaving Jisung behind.” Baekhyun could feel his tongue sharpen, and could see the surprise making Chenle’s shoulders tense.
He stopped. Both of them did. The air smelled like asphodel and rose thorns.
“Leaving him behind?” Chenle repeated. “He was the one who left me behind! If he didn’t keep that a damn secret, I wouldn’t- He kept me in a fog!”
“No, he was afraid to tell you,” Baekhyun explained patiently. It was hard to ignore the cold fingers of regret as they brushed off the hair on his forehead, trying to sink their claws into his brain to dig out every little sin from his past. It was very hard. “He was afraid you would treat him differently.”
“I know that and you know that.” Baekhyun stopped him impatiently. “But Jisung doesn’t. Now, who’s keeping who in the dark.”
The boy flinched. Cautiously, Baekhyun stepped closer, close enough to try reading emotions stirring in Chenle’s eyes. They cared for each other so much. It was sweet in a way that made his heart ache.
“He knows that I-”
“How can he know?”
Chenle shook his head. “I’m not too good at this.”
“You two are friends. He’ll understand if you tell him.”
“About everything? Is that what you would do?”
For that question, Baekhyun didn’t have an answer. His lips parted but his throat refused to produce a sound, an uncomfortable weight of truth sitting at its base, making it impossible to utter a word. Chenle’s eyes sparkled unkindly.
“Save it,” Chenle snorted, stopping in front of the door leading to Slytherin's common room. Baekhyun expected him to spit out the password and just disappear, shutting Baekhyun away. Instead, Chenle looked at him seriously one more time. “I know what you’re doing, you know?” he said. “Jisung may be oblivious but I know who you are and I know secrets you try to keep. Like every ghost, you’re trapped and you project your own experience onto others.”
Baekhyun was about to protest but even that was too many words to say.
“Like I said. Save it.” Chenle continued. “We can handle ourselves. Jisung and I. Murtlap tentacle -” he muttered the password. The wall rumbled as if it was crumbling inside, slowly revealing the secret entrance. “Eventually we always find our way to each other. We’re nothing like Jongdae and you. Because both of you are here. Still stuck.”
The door fully opened, raising goosebumps on Baekhyun’s skin. He shouldn’t look inside. He shouldn't peek. He really shouldn’t. But it happened so fast and he was out of breath already and his eyes traveled on their own. A sight to see, a dark room bathed in green hues and a flicker of pale light.
Just a glimpse. Nothing more. But dear lord, it was enough. Baekhyun's knees wobbled. But it wasn't enough. The final blow was yet to arrive, just like the last time he stood in this entrance.
“You know nothing about him and me, Chenle.” oh, gods.
A strangled whimper escaped from Baekhyun's mouth, despite the shameful seal he places upon it.
It was the first time Baekhyun had heard Jongdae’s voice in 15 years of his half-existence. A thick wall made of stone and wire entanglement and charms and spells was not enough this time. Not enough to put them apart even if that was what they wanted. Was he just as scared of saying Baekhyun's name as Baekhyun was of saying his? Has he ever wondered where Baekhyun was? Was he well?
The door closed as soon as they opened. And Baekhyun was - once again - alone in the darkness. His heart throbbed.
The room was dark when Baekhyun’s consciousness resurfaced, his heart hammering in the chest.
His bones and muscles ached and his head was still spinning. Perhaps, the pain would be significantly smaller if he knew what he was punished for. Other than being a Gryffindor with a particularly potty mouth. Hells, Junmyeon was almost a warrior of justice and still - it felt like Baekhyun was always treated with a special type of cruelty.
“You should find yourself a better man,” someone sneered and Baekhyun instinctively knew that it wasn’t directed at him. “I’m telling you that as a friend. Byun and you...”
“You know nothing about Baekhyun and me.”
The corners of Baekhyun’s lips twitched slightly. Even though Jongdae’s voice was harsh, Baekhyun’s name on his tongue still sounded like a pretty, little promise.
“I’m just saying… Even the Carrows are watching you because of that. Your family record does help either.” The other person said quietly. “I only wish the best for you.”
“Obviously.” Jongdae snorted. “Leave this to me, Sehun. Seriously. Don’t get involved. I can manage.”
It was followed by a loud, tired sigh and the sound of heels clicking against the cold floor. The door creaked, opened - snippets of conversations from the corridor falling inside - and creaked again, forcing the silence back into the room. Baekhyun opened his eyes. Jongdae was standing right in front of him. Peering at him from above.
“What have you done this time?” He asked sternly. “I swear to god. You’re not even the direct participant of opposition. How are you always the one who gets it worse than others.”
Baekhyun laughed, the sound coming a little bit broken.
“If I knew, I’d avoid it.” he grinned, tasting dried blood that was clinging to the corner of his lips.
“Yeah, right…” Jongdae rolled his eyes, crouching down. “Because you are ah-so-good at avoiding trouble.”
He pulled out a set of bandages and antiseptic. Both of them knew that he couldn’t risk using healing spells. Not when someone could check the wand's memory. Healing spell coming from Slytherin’s wand? It would be highly frowned upon.
“Give me your hand,” Jongdae murmured quietly, pouring the alcohol on the clean cloth. It didn’t smell half as nice as the herb-based potions in the Hospital Wing.
When Baekhyun made no motion, Jongdae sighed again - this time impatiently - and reached out to grab it himself. His fingers were careful, like they always were, but Baekhyun hissed anyway. The bruises around his wrists made it hard to endure any kind of physical contact. Jongdae started rubbing the cloth across tiny cuts on his forearm and wrists and tears welled in Baekhyun’s eyes. (They always went for the arms because if you couldn't flick your wrist, you were more likely to fail and if you failed they could punish you for that.)
“I used to think that your touch would never bring me pain.” He said after a couple of minutes because sometimes torture is like liquor or drugs. It makes you numb and spins you out of control.
Jongdae’s hand froze for a moment before he picked up an ointment and started applying it over the wounds.
“Well, I like surprising people.” He replied eventually.
Baekhyun laughed again. If he closed his eyes, maybe he would be able to pretend that they were on the quidditch pitch and Baekhyun had just fallen off his Nimbus. Maybe if he tried hard enough, the fantasy would last long enough to turn into something parchment-permanent. Something he could carry inside his pocket. The idea was swept under the rug before his imagination started filling the picture with colours.
“You should find yourself better friends, you know?” Baekhyun said conversationally.
Jongdae glanced at him, raising his eyebrow. “What do you mean?”
“That Sehun dude seems pretty shitty.”
“Ah!” Jongdae ducked his head down, meticulously wrapping bandages over Baekhyun’s wrist. “I see, you meant Sehun. I thought you were referring to yourself.”
Baekhyun didn’t have to see his face to know that he was smiling. He gasped expansively, easily following the trajectory of the joke.
“And leave you without any form of entertainment? My dear, until you met me you had no idea what a movie theatre was. That’s how much of a snob you were.” He raised his hand, swatting his fingers across Jongdae’s chest. It hurt like a bitch but for a split of a second, he could feel Jongdae’s laughter on his own skin. Totally worth it.
“Well, you had no idea what good manners were, so I’d say we’re even.” Jongdae started rolling the left-over bandages, securing them in his bag, between scrolls of parchment.
“You’re implying that now I know what good manners are?” Baekhyun grinned. “You’re either very sweet or your standards are very low.”
“Seeing as I’m friends with you, it’s definitely the latter.” Jongdae flipped him a bird and rose from the floor. “I gotta go. Wait at least ten minutes before you follow me.”
“Yes, sir!” Baekhyun saluted, wincing as his wrist hit his own forehead. He tried smiling it off but Jongdae’s wrinkled nose suggested that his attempts appeared rather pathetic.
“Careful with your left hand, jackass. It’s going to take a while until it fully heals.” The way he spoke was almost chiding but the way his fingers ran through Baekhyun’s hair was tender.
(Sometimes in his little masochistic heart Baekhyun asked himself if bullying could be a blessing. Because if he was never hurt then Jongdae would never touch him like he was the most precious thing, seconds from falling apart, he would never caress his wrists and pet him as if Baekhyun was his little lap dog. It was wrong of him to think that way. But then, there were many wrong and fucked up things with the world, with the reality he had to live in. People were dying. Some people were being forcefully forgotten. Others pretended to be the ones who forgot. So in that pile of bullshit, Baekhyun thought, entertaining the idea of required love seemed almost innocent, right?)
The doors closed. Jongdae left. The air no longer smelled like antiseptic. It smelled like the warmth of his skin and clean bandages that kept Baekhyun’s wrists from falling apart, that stopped the blood dripping from his opened skin.
“It’s going to take a while…” Baekhyun whispered to himself weakly, eyes fixed at the plain wall in front of him. He still needed a little bit more time to put his feelings into proper words.
Now, the dungeon smelled like the memory of Jongdae’s warmth and asphodel and rose thorns. No bandages wrapped around wounds and injuries. And yet. Someone was bleeding their heart out.
One feather can’t make you fly. You need to gather a lot of them, tie them together, cast a charm and hope that the sun doesn’t burn you to the crisp before you raise an inch above the ground. It was somehow fair, Baekhyun mused, humans had opposable thumbs while birds had wings.
And yet, it was the sound of quivering wings that he hated the most. He didn’t like what usually followed: thin sheets of paper covered with messages like spiderwebs, traces of someone’s soul enchanted with ink. Letters with no return address. Information with no return policy.
Jisung slid into the Gryffindor’s common room from his dormitory. The letter in his hand fluttering as he did so. Baekhyun rubbed his temples, trying to block out the sound.
“Baekhyun! Baekhyun!” Jisung called happily. “Taeyong asks about you in his letter!”
“Oh really?” The ghost’s eyebrow twitched.
“He also says he misses your shenanigans!”
“Does he now? You can tell him that he was no better than me a couple of years ago.” Baekhyun smirked into his folded hands.
Jisung was now standing right next to him. He was much taller than Baekhyun. His personality and maturity slowly growing into long, lanky limbs, filling up the spaces between the skin and bone with muscles and logical thinking.
“Do you want to see it? The letter?” he asked but before Baekhyun could protest - and he would protest - he slapped the letter onto the table.
It was only by coincidence that the first word Baekhyun saw happened to be his own name.
His thoughts like potpourri spun out of control, rising above the clouds only to end up in the land of a storm.
That day was rainy, marked with golden lightning and heavy streams of tears. The owl’s beak was covered with ink. Dark drops dripping onto the table. The letter must have been written and sent in a rush. It wasn’t fully soaked yet. Baekhyun anxiously tore the envelope, fingers greedy to learn all the secrets.
We had a temporary deal.
Both of us kept our ends of the bargain. You were my friend, I learned your clumsy ass how to fly.
Consider the deal terminated the moment you receive this letter.
That was all. The letter fell, words clattering against the floor, vowels and consonants sinking into the dust. Baekhyun's heart fell too.
He leaned down and wrapped its pieces with bandages, the way he had seen Baekhyun tend his wrists and forearms. The parchment was sucking in every tear that rolled down Baekhyun’s cheeks. He cried soundlessly, curled under the blanket, sheltering what was left of him from the world.
(They stopped talking. They stopped acknowledging each other's presence. Baekhyun was not bullied as much as he used to be but he was also alone.
Baekhyun was not blind either. He could see that Jongdae’s always alone too.)
“Baekhyun? Baekhyun? Do you want me to pass him a message?” Jisung tried shaking his shoulder but of course, he couldn’t. His hand went through Baekhyun’s incorporeal body
Baekhyun sharply shook his head.
“I don’t do letters.”
It hurt more every day.
They were under the same rooftop, refusing to interact and longing for contact.
They were under the same rooftop, refusing to interact and longing for contact.
It hurt just the same.
The most significant events of our lives don’t need a build-up. They are like one of the gifts we find sitting beneath the Christmas tree. We know that one of them beats all the others but we don’t know which, we don’t know when it’s the right time to open it. Long meters of nice, silky ribbons and layers of tissue paper - and we wonder: is it a good gift or a gift that’ll give us nightmares.
Jisung unfolded the map not like a gift but like a treasure.
“I can’t believe you actually snatched it!” Chenle explained, draping his weight over Jisung’s back. “Who would have thought that you had it in you!”
(Of course, they found their way to each other. Just like Chenle assured.)
“It wasn’t so hard,” Jisung puffed out his chest, visibly swelling with pride.
“Still!” Chenle whistled. “You do understand that you’re the first one in possession of this map in years? That’s quite impressive.”
Jisung was positively glowing now. Baekhyun chuckled quietly. It occurred to him that six years ago it would never even cross this kid's mind to attempt stealing something from Filch’s office. Let alone dare to take the Marauder's Map.
The parchment was in the colour of whitening bones, drops of tea and potions spilled here and there, forever trapped in the fickle delicacy of the paper. Jisung shyly slid the map towards Chenle.
“You know the spell…” he murmured, blush high on his cheeks.
Chenle frowned. “You stole it. It’s only fair for you to use it first.”
“I… I don’t know, should I?”
“Merlin! Just do it!”
Jisung pulled out his wand. 10” long, rowan wood, unicorn hair at its core. He tentatively tapped the parchment, as if he was afraid that it would blow up in his face.
“I…” The greetings graced the paper, letters curling on the white sheet as if inviting Jisung to continue. “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”
The pictures on the map formed like they were led by a snake, one path, one corridor at a time. The lines carved their way in the paper, dark ink rolling across the tiny bumps. They overlapped and took sharp turns and they looked like magic which should be obvious but somehow wasn’t. The familiar corridors, towers, and classrooms started building themselves right in front of their eyes, and suddenly no safe space was safe anymore. No one could go into hiding, the map stripping everyone from their mysteries. Places were first, the footsteps appeared second. Tiny little feet running across the map, worming their way into the sheet, hoping that they would leave a permanent mark.
“Hey, Baekhyun! Look, it's you!” Jisung pointed excitedly, his finger tapping the Gryffindor’s Tower.
Zhong Chenle, Park Jisung, Byun Baekhyun
His name was much paler, a little bit blurry but it’s there. A proof of his existence.
And then his breath hitched.
“Hey, who’s at the entrance to the common room?” The frown was audible in Jisung’s voice.
Baekhyun felt like couldn’t breathe. His lungs had technically been empty for years but now - only now - he realized how much he was missing the air.
The letters are wobbly, a thin line curling and folding and crinkling and crimping as if it wasn’t sure of the name it wanted to present.
In front of the entrance to the Gryffindor’s Tower.
There was nothing. Just white noise in Baekhyun’s ears because it didn’t feel possible, it barely felt real. Why would he come here?
“Baekhyun,” it was Chenle speaking and it might be the first time he addressed Baekhyun by his name. “What are you waiting for? Go.”
“Lead miss Parkinson and the rest of Slytherin's house from the hall.”
“Exactly where I’ll be leading them to?”
“The dungeons will do.”
The words echoed in Baekhyun’s head but he couldn’t move, not even when he was watching them disappear at the entrance of the Great Hall. What the hell was he doing here? Someone had told him a while ago that he was on the right side, that he had his heart in the right place. But surely. It couldn’t be the only reason. Because Jongdae… Jongdae was so much better than him and yet he was the one being sent away. Because of the stupid tie around his neck.
There was a loud murmur. Important people, people who mattered were discussing stuff like survival and winning the war and all Baekhyun could think about was that Jongdae was supposed to be with him. Far away from this place. Screw the war. History would forget both of them either way.
The anger boiled beneath Baekhyun’s skin. Has anyone ever stopped to think how difficult it must have been to choose a side if your family cast you out and they claimed to be the ones who were right?
And then, against his own will, Baekhyun was pulled into the frenzy, pushed down the stairs and up the stairs, being told that he should fetch something from one room or another, handing out broomsticks to people whose names he didn’t remember. And his heart was beating so fast and so hard, crashing his ribs in fear, as his fingers and lips trembled every time he heard someone call his name.
The hell broke out pretty quickly. Quicker than anyone anticipated. The formations were breaking one by one - like twigs - people were falling on the ground and there was so much blood and so much darkness and so much death.
Baekhyun rolled up the sleeves of his shirt. His wrists were wrapped with bandages even though the wounds had healed a long time ago. He liked how the fabric seemed to hold him together.
“Byun, go! What are you waiting for? Go!” Junmyeon pushed him forth and Baekhyun stumbled through the open gates of the castle.
He wanted to ask him, his friend, but where should I go? But Junmyeon was already at the other side of the yard, his wand spewing sparks of magic left and right. Their eyes met for a split second.
Do you need my help?
Go, just go.
So Baekhyun did, knowing that they may never see each other again. He didn’t have the luxury to panic over that. His soul was away and so was his heart but his body knew the way. He allowed for his feet to lead him through the school of witchcraft and wizardry, firmly believing that it was magic that drove him further into the castle. Because there were corridors and passages that he learned by heart and his heart was bewitched (the sparkling type of magic, the red one). There were places that he hadn’t visited in months because they served as a painful reminder that he was alone.
The halls were echoing with screams but none of them made Baekhyun flinch, only occasionally he turned to point his wand and utter a spell at someone, anyone, that was on his way.
He remembered dungeons as a quiet place. Now, they were stuffy with cries and profanities and orders barked out with breathless voices.
Just because Baekhyun was a Gryffindor didn’t mean that he never felt fear. He ducked into the dark corners every time he heard footsteps. He curled into the breaks in walls whenever he saw a shadow of someone running down the corridors. He didn’t have to look at their faces to know that there were a lot of bad people in the dungeons. He didn’t have to look because he’d recognize Jongdae by the pattern of his breathing.
The air smelled like blood and spilled potions, the deadly, the poisonous, and the sweet ones. Baekhyun’s stomach made a flip as he stepped over a lifeless body. Eyes and mouth wide open. It felt disgusting to sigh with relief when he realized he didn’t know that person.
One step, two steps, out of habit his wrist flicked, a Petrificus Totalus on his lips because he had just stepped over the second body and he didn’t have the desire to become the third one. Not yet, even though he felt like he was tip-toeing on the thin line between life and death.
(If he didn’t find Jongdae soon, his poor heart would give up completely because the now-sooty bandages were little of comfort. He needed Jongdae to be present by his side.)
The entrance to the Slytherin’s common room was opened, doors ajar but no green light was falling at the floor on the corridor. Baekhyun gripped his wand tighter, nails digging into the wood. He could feel the beating of the dragon’s heart core beneath his fingertips. With one swift gesture, he kicked the door to open wider.
Jongdae wasn’t there. Someone else was.
If Baekhyun thought hard enough maybe he’d even recall their name. The greasy smile, ashen cheeks, hollow eyes and pupils like needles - Baekhyun had seen this person before.
“A Gryffindor?” They asked and it sounded like an insult. “Wait no… not some Gryffindor. You’re Byun Baekhyun. The one in cahoots with Kim.” They spat out with so much venom that it made Baekhyun flinch.
The ground shook beneath their feet.
Baekhyun could recognize Jongdae by the pattern of his breathing.
“Used to be in cahoots.” The voice came from so close, it was as soothing as it used to be. “There’s nothing between us now.”
He could twist his words into lies but not his body. Never his body.
That was why Baekhyun knew better when Jongdae’s arm wrapped around his middle and when he pointed his wand at Baekhyun's head, its tip digging into the skull. As if it was a gun and as if he was about to shoot Baekhyun down. It didn't even cross Baekhyun's mind that he'd do that. Jongdae would never.
“So why won’t you leave him to me, so that I could finish him off, Pike?” Jongdae held Baekhyun from behind, his warm breath tickling his ears as he talked about the possibility of murdering his best friend.
The Slytherin - Pike apparently - shook his head, his teeth at full display.
“No can do, Kim. It’s nothing personal, I just don’t trust you.”
The fingers' on Baekhyun’s waist tensed before they quickly let go and Baekhyun was once again stumbling, tossed aside like a doll, against the wall. The wand slipped away from his grasp.
Hundreds and thousands of sparks flew into the air, all shades and all colours of magic. The spells and incantations were falling from Jongdae’s and Pike’s lips with the speed of light. Some of them familiar like Accio, others unknown or long forgotten. Something cracked beneath Jongdae’s shoe.
It was Baekhyun’s wand.
A lot of things happened at the same time.
Jongdae’s eyes met Baekhyun’s. Baekhyun pulled himself to stand on his feet. Somewhere in the distance, with the corner of his eye, he saw a green light. It meant hope, right?
One spell - not really a spell but a curse - was seethed through clenched teeth.
The green light grew brighter and - like a fool - Baekhyun realized that it didn’t mean hope.
And because he was only human, human first and Gryffindor second, he squeezed his eyes tight because he saw at whom the curse was directed. And he was terrified at the prospect of dying now - heart weak and cowardly. The body never lies and his body had been drained with terror for way too long for him to move.
He was waiting for the curse to reach him, dust him with magic, slip under his skin and stop his heart. A clean cut.
The hit never arrived.
Instead, a heavy weight collapsed on top of him and he recognized it instantly. His eyes flew open, arms catching the body out of habit because Jongdae crashed into him hundreds of times and Baekhyun was always there to secure him before he fell. It had always been like that for them: Jongdae falling down like an asteroid and Baekhyun falling apart, coming undone.
There is no time for goodbyes when you are struck by the killing curse.
“Fucking idiot.” Was the last thing Jongdae said to him before death clouded his eyes and kissed his lips open.
Time stopped and so did Jongdae’s heart.
Baekhyun died a few minutes later and because they hated him more - they made him bleed out.
“Fucking idiot, go.” Chenle looked like he was about to strangle a ghost. “Do you know how rare it is for him to leave the dungeon? Do you think it’s an accident that he’s here?”
Baekhyun knew that it wasn’t.
Fucking idiot Byun Baekhyun. A Gryffindor but still not courageous enough to apologize to the person who died for him, hoping to save him without as much as a second of a doubt. There is no protection charm from the truth Baekhyun. No avoidance of the shiver of death and horror that, after all these years, was still sitting low in Baekhyun's stomach. Baekhyun was dead. Jongdae died for nothing. And Baekhyun didn't have the guts to apologize for that. He preferred ignorance over the harsh truth. (That maybe Jongdae hated him for that.)
“I don’t think I’m brave enough…” Baekhyun hid his face in his hands.
“Weren’t you the one who told me that bravery has many faces?” Jisung said suddenly. “That you just have to believe in doing the right thing? Well, we all know what’s the right thing to do.”
Baekhyun looked at the door, he looked at the map. The name was still there. Nothing changed, except for the fact that the letters stood a little bolder. He got up, carefully nearing the entrance.
“He’s still there?” he asked breathlessly.
Chenle and Jisung nodded in a union. Baekhyun closed his eyes, his heart beating unevenly in his chest as if he was still alive.
“per aspera ad astra.” Gryffindor's passwords were always so posh.
The door opened and Baekhyun squeezed his eyes tighter.
“He’s still there? ” his lips moved but no sound came out.
And suddenly there was a body crashing against his, a paperweight on his chest because it’s impossible for the ghosts to be heavy. And it wasn't warm either. Because ghosts have no body heat. And it felt like nothing Baekhyun had ever felt before but at the same time, it was so familiar.
He choked on his tears, a dry sob leaving his lips.
“He’s still here.” Goosebumps broke on Baekhyun’s translucid neck. The tickling of Jongdae breath against his skin enough for his non-corporeal matter to fall into old habits.
His hands rested on the delicacy of Jongdae’s fleeting substantiality.
They were never stuck, they were just waiting for each other.
Hogwarts looked beautiful when spring was in its wake. The grounds were splattered with flowers and the lake looked like an azure eye of the universe. Every spring was a promise of a better time, year by year covering the deep scars left by history. Dandelions decorating nameless graves, poppy seeds growing in the holes created by destruction.
Chenle and Jisung were curled under the tree, giggling as they watched footsteps on the map.
“What fho you fhink they’re doihg?” Jisung’s mouth was stuffed with chocolate candy.
“Flirting? Bickering? Catching up? For them, it’s probably all the same.” Chenle shrugged, tearing a paper off the lollipop.
Jisung nudged him in his ribs. “Say… Do you know what it was all about? Why were they…”
Chenle clicked his tongue. “All I know is that they were both unhappy. And that the last thing Jongdae did was saving Baekhyun. That’s what all Slytherins know. We always assumed that he regretted it. That he blamed Baekhyun for his death but-”
“It didn’t seem that way.” Jisung finished wistfully, licking the chocolate off his fingers. “Do you think we’ll ever know? What happened?”
“It's my last year… I don’t think I’ll ever hear the full story.” Chenle admitted, trying to ignore the nasty pit in his stomach. “But… you have one year extra. You have to squeeze them like lemon and tell me everything after your graduation.” He raised his little finger. “Do we have a deal?”
“We have a deal.” Jisung laughed and hooked his little finger over Chenle’s.
Tentatively, Baekhyun hooked his finger over Jongdae’s. They were sitting on the top of the Astronomy Tower. The Hogwarts grounds at their feet. It was spring. He died in the spring. But it was a long time ago.
“I’m sorry,” Jongdae said suddenly and maybe it was a good thing that both of them were dead because otherwise, Baekhyun would surely fall off the Tower.
“Excuse me?” he wheezed, eyes wide as he watched Jongdae squirm. “You’re sorry? That’s what you have to say?”
Jongdae looked away, his eyes were burning. “I tried to form a perfect apology for years but that’s all I have. I’m sorry.”
Baekhyun let go of his finger and rested his palms on Jongdae’s shoulders, forcing the ghost to look at him.
“Are you insane ?” he laughed with disbelief. “You have nothing to be sorry about!”
“But I do. I broke your wand if you had a wand...” Jongdae whined quietly. “You’d survive. And don’t even get me started on how I was the reason you ended up in the dungeon in the first place.”
Now, Baekhyun kind of wished they were both alive because if they were, maybe he could slap Jongdae back into sanity.
“Are you dumb?” he asked instead, trying to follow the idiotic trail of thoughts that Jongdae apparently believed in. “You tried saving me. Technically you saved me.” his voice softened when he noticed the trembling of Jongdae’s bottom lip. “You died to protect me. You have nothing to apologize for.”
“If I don’t- then why you never came to me. I was waiting for you. For years.”
Oh, god, he wanted to slap Jongdae so hard. Preferably in the mouth. With his own lips.
“Again. Let me repeat my previous statement.” Baekhyun breathed through his nose. “You died because of me. And it went for nothing because I died either way. I was sure you hated me... I would hate myself… I hated myself.”
Jongdae pushed Baekhyun’s hands off his shoulders. His fingers lingered on the bandages wrapped around his wrists.
“I owed you that.”
“You owed me dying?” Baekhyun jumped to his feet.
“I made you miserable.” Jongdae shrugged, his voice perfectly even, void of emotion, eyes paled into blinding pain. “Last year. I made you miserable. I broke our friendship, I… I broke your heart.”
Discomfort pinched Baekhyun’s heart.
“I… You broke our friendship for a good reason. It- it wasn’t even like we broke up, right?” He laughed awkwardly. “It was, ekhem, a truce. From friendship.”
“A truce from friendship?” Jongdae echoed. “You looked like death. You looked like I devastated you.”
“Don’t flatter yourself.” Baekhyun joked weakly. He fixed his gaze at the front of Jongdae’s robes. It was only then that he noticed the tiny prefect badge. Cute. It sweetened the bitterness eating his guts. “It would take much more for you to break my heart, you know?” it was now or never. “I loved you. I still do. Like let's spend the eternity together kind of love.”
Because he was looking at his chest, he saw how Jongdae stopped breathing upon hearing the confession. (Silly, they didn't have to breathe at all.) And because he refused to look anywhere else, he didn’t see the disbelieving smile that broke upon Jongdae’s face.
“I love you.”
Jongdae pushed himself off the ground. It looked like he was flying. He could have - he was a ghost after all.
“Say that again,” he asked, his hands resting on Baekhyun’s shoulders.
Their eyes met.
“I loved you back then,” Baekhyun said carefully. “And I still do.”
“And you’re telling me now?” Jongdae screeched.
Baekhyun’s hand itched to slip beneath Jongdae’s robes, feel the coldness of his body, sense the truth beneath his skin.
“You really are a fucking idiot.” Jongdae declared as if he was stating the universal truth and under other circumstances, Baekhyun would argue but then Jongdae's lips were on his and there was a whisper floating between them like a puff of smoke.
“I love you too.”
Jisung patted the seat, inviting the kid to sit next to him, offering a gentle smile.
“Why such a sad face?” he asked, upon seeing the frown on young Gryffindor’s face.
The kid mumbled something quietly.
“You have to speak a little bit louder. I can’t help you if I don’t know what’s the problem.” Jisung tried again.
Another barely audible mutter. Oh god, where did Taeyong find the patience to do that?
“Once again, I’m a prefect, maybe I can help you. Tell me.”
The boy looked at Jisung, his eyes big and sad.
“I’m in Gryffindor and my best friend was sorted into Slytherin.”
Jisung frowned. “And how’s that a problem?”
“Everybody knows that Gryffindors and Slytherins don’t get along too well…” the boy’s shoulders hunched.
Jisung pushed away his plate. The mashed potatoes had to wait. He wasn’t the Head Prefect for nothing. He looked around, trying to spot two familiar figures. Ah, there. Side by side. Bathed in the warm candlelight. Jongdae was laughing. Baekhyun looked like he was glowing. Two ghosts sitting in a room full of people and yet, lost in their own world, surrounded with magic that was forbidden to everyone by them.
Jisung ducked his head, he didn’t want to intrude on their little moment. He pinched the bridge of his nose and turned his attention back to the boy.
“Let me tell you a story…”