Jungkook stopped and raised his head carefully.
The person who walked up to him was Min Yoongi, a senior Slytherin with a bloodline almost as ancient and noble as Jungkook's. Though Yoongi didn't flaunt his lineage like some of the older Slytherins did. It was for this reason more than anything else that Jungkook trusted the older boy. As a potential ally, if nothing else.
"Yes, hyung?" Jungkook shifted. He planned on studying in his room for the rest of the day.
"Old Sluggy's looking for you. I would avoid going down to the dungeons because I just saw him heading down there," Yoongi said as he continued walking past Jungkook.
"Oh." Jungkook's brow scrunched slightly in displeasure. Slughorn really wasn't letting this go.
Quickly, he spun around, but Yoongi was already half way down the stairs, humming some idle tune under his breath.
"Thanks, hyung!" Jungkook called down to him, wincing as his voice echoed and a few students in the hall looked over at him.
Below, Yoongi waved a hand without looking back. "Don't mention it, kid."
Always the cool guy, that hyung.
Jungkook turned away, smiling wryly. He was planning on finding another place to study until it was safe to go to the dungeons when he noticed a trio of Hufflepuff girls staring at him. Instinctively, he dropped his head.
He tightened his grip on his books and swept past the Hufflepuffs, ignoring how their whispers followed him down the hall. They were probably talking about how they'd seen the Slytherin outcast grinning by himself like an idiot.
Jungkook told himself he didn't care.
Kim Taehyung was having the time of his life.
"Hold on, hold on! Not yet!" Jimin whispered, an arm across Taehyung's chest to keep him back. They were around the corner of the corridor leading to the Great Hall, their heads peeking out past the wall. Other students walking by just shook their heads at the duo and hurried past so they wouldn't be involved.
"I just saw him I swear!" Taehyung shook the little vial in his hand. He was bouncing in place, unable to hold in his excitement.
"Yeah, but you know how he likes to weave around. He's going to pass through here, I just know it!" Jimin insisted.
They looked at each other and shared matching grins, cheshire cat wide.
Even though they were in separate houses, Taehyung and Jimin had maintained their close friendship since the day they met on the Hogwarts Express as first years. Jimin dropped his chocolate frog in horror when it started moving, and Taehyung, shocked to meet his very first Muggle-born wizard his age, accidentally let the frog escape their compartment. They got in trouble afterwards for chasing that chocolate frog from one end of the train to the other, yelling and cackling at the top of their lungs.
"Shoot! Just missed it!"
"Over there! Grab it, Taehyung!!"
"Hey, you kids! What on Merlin's beard do you think you're doing?!!"
After they got to Hogwarts, Taehyung was disappointed to find Jimin entering Gryffindor, especially since he had been sorted into Ravenclaw and was anxiously waiting for his new friend to sort into Ravenclaw too. Jimin later told him that the Sorting Hat had a very persuasive argument for a battered scrap of dusty cloth.
"And it's not like we can't stay friends right? House lines aren't law you know!"
Years later, here they were, just like Jimin said. Partners-in-crime and best friends for life.
Suddenly Jimin whirled around and Taehyung jumped back to avoid knocking into him. In the abrupt movement, the vial slipped out of his hands and they both fumbled for it at the same time, just barely managing to catch it in a net between their fingers.
"That was close...," Taehyung sighed, hanging his head briefly in relief. Jimin hurriedly closed Taehyung's fingers around the vial as he darted a look over his shoulder.
"Tae, he's coming!" Jimin whispered loudly, "I just saw him leave the Great Hall and he's heading straight here!"
They plastered themselves against the wall, Taehyung closer to the corner. He peeked out carefully and tried to spot their target around the students in the hall.
"We have a few seconds, do you see him?" Jimin said, mouth hanging open in excitement. He took an exaggerated dueling stance, giggling.
"Shhh, move back a bit. I see him," Taehyung muttered, eyes narrowing in concentration. He grinned and then moved back a few steps himself to match Jimin's pose, throwing arm back and the other outstretched in front of him, his wrists held limply like a foppish pure-blood. Jimin's chest started shaking with the force of his giggles.
The students passing by gave them strange looks. Taehyung winked at one first year that gaped at them. What was life without a little fun?
Just seconds later, their target flew around the corner well above the heads of the students in the hall. Taehyung threw the vial at hard as he could as Jimin cried out the incantation behind him.
"Immaterialis!" The spell streaked through the air and hit the vial, making it glow temporarily.
Behind Taehyung, Jimin pumped a fist and shouted, "Yes!"
Peeves didn't have a chance to avoid the vial since he was flying too fast. For a second, Taehyung thought it would hit him straight in the face. Then it passed right through the poltergeist, making both boys' faces fall. The vial somersaulted through the air in a long arc, and Taehyung distantly heard someone say, "Oh, no," right before it fell on an unsuspecting Slytherin and splattered all over his head and shoulders.
Peeves exploded in evil cackles, jeered at the boys for their failed attempt to get him, and swooped out of there with calls for the nearest professor to clean up the mess in the hall.
"Taehyung, come on! Peeves is going to get the professors down here and if we get caught by the headmistress again we're screwed!" Jimin tugged at Taehyung's arm as the Ravenclaw slowly let himself be led away.
His eyes were stuck on the dripping boy down the hall, who was slowly wiping his fingers across his cheek to see what he was covered in. The clear liquid of the potion was darkening, going first pink and then red as it sunk into his skin, like reverse bloodletting.
Jimin was shoving at Taehyung now, loudly proclaiming the need to escape before authorities set upon them, and the Slytherin must have heard because he turned his head.
Large, soulful eyes caught Taehyung's across the hall. The boy didn't look angry, or embarrassed, even though the students around him were staring and pointing at his sorry state. The flattened line of his mouth was definitely unhappy though. Taehyung decided that needed to be fixed.
As he walked backwards, Taehyung took a deep breath and bellowed, "SORRY! WE MISSED. I'LL MAKE IT UP TO YOU LATER OKAY?"
He took some pleasure in seeing the boy's mouth drop in astonishment and threw a large wink. Then he turned and sprinted out of the hall like the hounds of hell were on his tail. Jimin swore and chased after his heels.
Inwardly, Taehyung wondered where he had seen the Slytherin before. He looked familiar.
A look of horror came over Jungkook as he started to come out of his daze. The red liquid on his fingers was evaporating but not quickly enough, and Jungkook was distinctly becoming aware of how his hair and robes were plastered to his skin. Some of the red stuff dripped off his bangs, syrup slow.
His eyes followed the line of it from his hair to the ground. To his vague fascination, the liquid turned clear again when it hit the stone.
Not the time, Jeon Jungkook.
Trying to ignore the stares and snickers of the students around him, Jungkook raised his head high and quickly walked out of the hall. He only broke into a run when he was around the corner.
Kim Namjoon jumped up in his seat on the couch when Jungkook stomped into the common room, looking harried.
"Hello," Jungkook bit out, not slowing down as he made a bee line for his room. The stuff he was covered in had mostly dried out and disappeared, but he felt sticky all over. He felt like jumping into the Great Lake.
Namjoon made a choking sound behind him that made Jungkook's stomach sink to his knees. "You walked around like that all day?!" The older Slytherin called after him.
As soon as he was in his room, Jungkook ran to the long full-length mirror beside his bed. What he saw made him stagger back, hand to his mouth.
His head looked like it had been dunked in a vat of dragon's blood. The hair glowed softly red like embers, almost fluorescent in the room's lamp light.
"No way," Jungkook breathed. He reached out to finger a strand. The hair was as soft as it was when he spelled it dry after a shower. Despite the stickiness, his skin looked as clear and pale as ever. Only his hair showed any evidence of the potion he had been hit with.
"Right," Jungkook said vaguely, staring at himself in despair. "Right then."
Resolutely, he turned around and headed for the showers. Since it was the middle of the day, the showers were free of any other students. Which was good for Jungkook. He spent an hour trying to drown himself in hot water.
Jung Hoseok, well-known Hufflepuff Chaser, was surprised to find himself pulled aside after Charms class by his professor.
Hoseok looked worried. "I didn't do that badly on my last paper, did I, Professor?" Flitwick chuckled so his whole body shook, reminding Hoseok of one of those tiny dogs that barked alot. The man's hair, what was left of it, even fluffed up in the back the way a dog's tail would.
"No, no, no, my boy! It has nothing to do with that at all! Although I do wish you had gone more into depth with that section on foreign wand movements. Found it fascinating, I did!" Hoseok turned pink at the praise from his Head of House. He scratched at the back of his head as he laughed sheepishly.
"Anyways, my dear boy, I do have somewhat of a favor to ask of you...."
And this was how Hoseok ended up as a Charms tutor. Yoongi was not impressed when he found out Hoseok would be missing two out of three of their usual practice sessions because of his new tutoring duty.
"So on top of Quidditch practice, you're skimping out on our time to make awesome music together to tutor some Gryffindor kid stupid enough to be failing Charms?"
"Aww, Suga-hyung, I didn't know you cared!"
"Shut up, you useless flobberworm!" Hoseok laughed and then made kissy faces at his grumpy friend, making the Slytherin shove his face away with one hand.
At first glance, no one would ever have expected the easy-going Hufflepuff and the stone-faced Slytherin to be friends, but somehow they were. They had lived near each other their whole lives. Hoseok had memories of Yoongi laughing at him when he fell off his toy broom at seven years old, and then screaming for the house elves to save him when he fell from a considerably higher height a few minutes after.
Yoongi often said Hoseok was like a potent fungus, the kind that absolutely refused to separate from its host until they both died. Hoseok translated that to mean that Yoongi wanted them to be friends forever.
"So, where's Rapmon?" he asked blithely, leaning back in his seat.
"He's in the dungeons, working out a battle plan for next week's game," Yoongi replied and then gave him a dry look. "You don't actually have a secret weapon for the next match, do you?"
Yoongi snorted disdainfully. "I knew you just said that to freak him out. Hufflepuffs can never be trusted."
"Hey!" Hoseok feigned a hurt look. "This coming from a Slytherin?"
"At least Slytherins are up-front about being self-centered little bastards. We don't try to fake we're honest angels the way you badgers do."
Hoseok smiled cheekily. "Ever met a badger in real life? They're vicious animals when cornered." Then he reached over and punched Yoongi playfully in the arm, making the other scowl briefly. "But also the most loyal you'll ever find in the wild," he added gently.
Yoongi rolled his eyes, but when he went back to his notes his face was soft with contentment.
Yeah, Hoseok thought, it was strange for a Hufflepuff and a Slytherin to be friends, especially after the War. But here they were, breaking conventions like tissue paper.
Yoongi had time to kill until his next class, ("Muggle studies," he said disdainfully, making Hoseok sigh and kick him for the attitude), so he stuck around while Hoseok waited for the Gryffindor kid to show up. Eventually, he dozed off, head leaned into his fist, frown going slack.
Yoongi always claimed he had more inspiration when the moon was out so he almost never had the right amount of sleep hours to function properly through the day. Namjoon once commented that Yoongi might have a much sunnier temperament (pun intended) if he slept at night like a human being.
It would at least help Yoongi's reputation, Hoseok thought. Underclassmen still skittered out of his way when he walked through the halls.
True to form, when the Gryffindor burst through the doors, blathering apologies for being late, he immediately drew up short at the sight of Yoongi's ruffled hair and sleepy glare. To Hoseok, he looked just like an irritated bear woken from hibernation too soon. The Gryffinder looked like he wanted to flee the scene.
"What are you staring at?" Yoongi growled, sleep-heavy eyes narrowing to slits.
Hoseok opened his mouth to scold him for being rude when the Gryffindor sputtered, "M-min Suga," and then blanched like he had set his own death sentence.
Yoongi jaw-dropped. Hoseok laughed so hard he couldn't breathe, collapsing over the desk in front of him.
"S-suga! He called you Min Suga!!" he howled, banging on the desk with his fists.
"Shut up, Hoseok!" Yoongi snapped, all traces of drowsiness gone now. His rough tone made the Gryffindor step back warily, his round cheeks twitching.
For a moment Hoseok thought he would run, but like a true Gryffindor he stood his ground and firmed his chin the way children do when they were trying not to cry. Hoseok manfully pulled himself together.
"Hey, hey," he said kindly, smiling broadly when the Gryffindor looked hopefully at him. "Don't worry about Yoongi, he's just testy because he didn't get any sleep last night."
Right on cue, the Slytherin yawned. Hoseok chuckled, "See, he's just a big teddy bear, really."
"Shut up, Hoseok," Yoongi repeated lazily, his flare of energy gone now. His gaze cut to the Gryffindor, who was nervously dragging the toe of his shoe across the floor. "So, you know my name. What's yours, kid?"
To their surprise, the Gryffindor shot Yoongi a daring glance of reproof and mumbled, "I'm not a kid."
Yoongi huffed in amusement. He was leaning his head sideways on his fist as he stared at the Gryffindor, eyes appraising.
The Gryffindor cleared his throat and said a little more boldly, "I'm Park Jimin. Nice to meet you, I-I guess?" He was speaking clearly when he looked at Hoseok, but as soon as his eyes went to Yoongi he lost his nerve in a stutter. It was actually kind of cute.
"Min Yoongi," Yoongi introduced himself unnecessarily, and then smirked when Jimin sent him a quick, shy smile. Hoseok, bewildered to find himself forgotten, glanced between the two.
Well, he thought, this would be interesting.
Kim Seokjin, Ravenclaw Head Boy and Quidditch Captain, was deeply dismayed to find members of his own house cornering a Slytherin boy on his patrol.
"I hope you lot are ashamed of yourselves," Seokjin said after he gave them a scalding lecture. "Now scat!"
The Ravenclaws scampered, tails between their legs. Seokjin unfolded his arms as he turned to the Slytherin, who gave him a cautious look and thanked him quietly.
"Jeon Jungkook, right?" Seokjin asked before the Slytherin could walk away. He smiled when the boy gave him a startled look.
"You know me?" Jungkook said, tone doubtful.
Seokjin wasn't sure what he was supposed to know. He had a distinct memory of Jungkook being Sorted, because he had been the only pure-blood to enter Slytherin in his entire year.
A small, pale-faced boy with large, flat eyes. His name had hushed the Great Hall so efficiently that every step he took towards the Sorting Hat echoed across the room.
Tap, tap, tap, tap.
The story of Jeon Jungkook's Death Eater family was notorious. Everyone knew about how his family members front-lined the battles. Then also, how many of them had subsequently died or been dragged to Azkaban kicking and screaming. Their infamy extended to Jungkook, who had been conceived during the war by parents who must have been either fearless or insane to have a child while under service to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
Seokjin gave a grim smile and tactfully replied, "My family knew your family. I think we might share some very distant cousins."
"Oh," Jungkook said flatly. Everything about Jungkook was quiet, reserved and a little melancholy. It made the motherly side of the Ravenclaw want to gather him up in a tight hug.
"So," Seokjin started hesitantly. "Does that happen often? Before with those Ravenclaws," he clarified at Jungkook's glance.
Jungkook shrugged. "...Not really? It's about the same as usual." Seokjin's eyebrows drew together as his face darkened.
"Really," he said.
"Well, honestly this week has been worse than usual," Jungkook admitted with a disgruntled jerk at his hair.
Seokjin just then noticed that there was something off about the shade. Noticing his squint, Jungkook took a step out of the shadowed part of the hall. When the candlelight caught his hair, Seokjin gasped.
It was as scarlet as the Gryffindor crest, even brighter if possible. It was a wonder that Seokjin hadn't noticed it earlier.
"What happened to your hair?"
"Prank," Jungkook huffed, tugging at a strand again. He looked down, seeming embarrassed. "I can't get rid of the enchantment. And every time I try to spell the color back it keeps turning red again."
"Have you gone to your Head of House?" Curiously, Jungkook shook his head.
"And why not?" Seokjin was rebuffed when Jungkook gave him a look through his bangs.
Seokjin almost laughed. Of course, Slytherins and their secrets. Even though the Ravenclaw in him yearned to dig out all the details, Seokjin allowed the boy his privacy.
He insisted on walking Jungkook to the Slytherin dungeons though. It was late, and Seokjin was already unsettled at finding his own house members bullying the boy.
Last year the Slytherin common room was flooded by a bunch of industrious Gryffindors that claimed they were doing some "spring cleaning". Three years past, all the Slytherins were sent to the infirmary after being poisoned at the Great Feast, and one of them was transferred to Durmstrang because her family feared for her safety.
The War was supposed to have ended with their parents, but to Seokjin, it felt like they were still living it.
When they got to the entrance of the dungeons, Seokjin made a motion at Jungkook's hair and said jokingly, "At least this'll make it easier to keep an eye on you."
Jungkook made an odd twist of his lips before he thanked Seokjin again and vanished into his common room. It was only as Seokjin was walking away that he realized that that was exactly the problem.
He needed to talk to Namjoon, he decided.